Target Shooting & Marksmanship Category

Thursday, December 19, 2013

That was an excellent article from Josh B. on Marksmanship. But as Gary D. pointed out, following those principles under stress can be a challenge. I thought I'd recommend a few stress inducers that I practice, which have improved my shooting skills.

Before I begin, I'd like to note that I'm an US Army Infantry veteran. That should not imply that I am an expert. In fact, the more I practice and learn about shooting, the more I've come to realize how little I learned back then. Yes, the taught me the fundamentals, but I've since realized there is always so much more to learn.

From my perspective shooting falls into two categories: short and long range. The definition between short and long range may vary between different people, but what I am talking about can be summed up as: snapshot vs time for getting into a natural point of aim. Training for each is very different. Most of what Josh B's article refers to is establishing a Natural Point of Aim (NPOA), controlling breath, squeeze, etc, so I won't rehash what he already wrote. BTW, when I talk about 'snapshot' I extend the definition into the type of target engagement that is usually covered in IPSC.

Let's start by knowing the baseline. For snapshots, and for NPOA shooting, before adding stress, it would help greatly to identify how you shoot without stress. How long does it take you to shoot accurately? Write it down, with times and average MOA of groups. You should not rely on the feeling of improving. You should be able to see the numbers as you improve. X seconds quicker target engagement, Y MOA more accurate, and Z difference between stress and non-stress situations.

Stress training for NPOA shooting, can be as simple as picking a range lane next to the local 'Rambo' trying to shoot as many .308 rounds as possible while you try to shoot sub-MOA. Another stress could be added by having a friend randomly smack/tap you while shooting. Or better yet, have your wife tap you every time she thinks you are about to pull the trigger, and ask if it's time to go home yet? If you can shoot sub-MOA with that going on, you're a better man than me.

For snapshots, a buzzer really helps. Personally, I randomly have a snapshot target - about the size of the B zone in a IPSC target, placed from 25 to 100 meters out. Now, if you are using a buzzer during a busy range day, that can cause issues with recording the time difference, and at minimum it can just be darn unfriendly to your lane neighbor. A friend can better help with a tap and a timer, but there are other methods to improve snapshots.

If your range is limited, try the appleseed challenge targets at 25 meters. But if you are lucky your local range has a version of IPSC. That will be about some of the best practice that you can get. My local range has a version of IPSC that only allows for rifle or pistol at one time (different days). These challenges often include a change of target layouts, good guy/bad guy targets intermixed, different starting points including having to pickup and load a rifle after the buzzed rings, reloads, and other challenges such as having to pie a corner, or week side drills, often within the same target set. All of them are timed, and points taken off for misses and other procedural issues.

Under these IPSC like conditions you really get to see how much time is consumed via a messed up reload, or what stress does to your overall times. What's your balance between speed and accuracy? Are you faster with your M1A or your HK91? Does a week and hold over the barrel improve your shooting, or hurt it? These things might be rifle dependent, but without real comparison times you are up to 'guessing' at the answer. In addition you can see how much you improve in time and accuracy when making gear changes.

Now a days, there's probably more written about how to shoot, and how to improve shooting, than any other time in history. I don't agree with everything written, but studying up on different styles of shooting, and trying them, can help you improve your overall rifle/pistol skills.

Here a are a few books and videos that I recommend:

1. Magpul Dynamics DVD series (Precision rifle, carbine, and pistol)
2. The Home Schooled Shootist: Training to Fight with a Carbine - by Joe Nobody. (There are some really great drills in this one. I just wish I had the land available to do them all); I'm also a fan of his 'Holding Their Own' novel series.
3. The Art Of The Rifle by Col. Jeff Cooper
4. Leather Sling and Shooting Positions by M/SGT James R. Owens (Ret)
5. Sight Alignment, Trigger Control & The Big Lie M/SGT James R. Owens (Ret)
6. Combined Arms Operations in Urban Terrain, FM 3-06.11. (A good overview of room clearing, and other urban specific shooting challenges) - BTW - great FM/ATTP for us veterans who still remember what the Berlin wall looked like. There's been lots of advances in urban tactics since the good old days. And this manual covers many of them.

What kind of practical results can you expect? Since I started seriously studying, and practicing, a number of the drills from the list above, my results went from the middle of the pack in my local IPSC, to what is now usually between third and first place. That's usually a jump of 15-20 positions. IPSC doesn't focus too much on the use of cover, so it is important to remember that, and scarifies time for cover (in my opinion).

More important to me is that I have learned where I need to improve, and specifically how to improve. For example: my hardest target to get a A zone hit is after I have shot one target and have to transition to a second at a distance greater than about 2 meters. Even if there are more than one transition targets, it's almost always that first transition that gets me. I just keep either over or under compensating. But I've gone from a "mis" to a D zone, to a C-B zone hit, within the same length of time. Dry fire transitions help the most here. Getting your body to stop on the second target, and have that stop point be sight aligned, turned out to be quite effective. Now I just need to time the trigger pull correctly.

Last, I've learned that when I think I shot way too slow, I usually end up with my best times, and best groups. That's all about learning to compensate for adrenaline, and how it impacts your perception of time. There's no way I could have identified specific skill set issues, and develop a plan to improve them, without practicing within a stressed environment.

Merry Christmas to all, - Robert from North Carolina

Monday, December 16, 2013

Dear Sir,
When stockpiling ammo, should one focus on FMJ and soft nose/hollow points or FMJ only?  FMJ is a better value per bullet, plus it's supposed to be a lot more accurate and reliable than SP/HP, but of course, it sometimes comes at the cost of stopping power.

I'm packing a semi-auto in 308/7.62x51, and to my knowledge, there haven't been many complaints about the stopping power of the 7.62x51 ball cartridge in military circles; many complaints come mainly from the kick and weight.  Add to that the fact that after TEOTWAWKI, shooting through cover and mass fire will become the norm and FMJs look pretty appealing.  Not to mention the fact that most bulk sizes of ammo only come in FMJ.

I've been stocking both so far, but with money getting a bit tight, I'm looking at switching over to just FMJs, so is this a good idea?  Your input is appreciated.

Oh, one more thing: Do you know of any places that offer tracer rounds and which brands are the good ones?  My rifle bolt doesn't lock back when the magazine is empty, so I'm wanting to emulate the fictional Doug Carlton from Patriots.

Sincerely,  - D.S.C.

JWR Replies:

As with all of your other preps, balance is the key. There is no point in buying all premium ammo. Logic dictates that you will need some inexpensive ammo for target practice and some "middling" quality ammo, for barter.

For handguns I current recommend this mix: 80% jacketed hollow points (JHPs), 18% FMJ (aka "ball"), and 2% exotics (tracers, frangible, KTW or Arcane AP, etc.)

For most military caliber rifles I currently recommend this mix: 70% FMJ, 10% spire point soft nose, 10% Match (preferably HPBT), 5% AP, and 5% exotics (such as tracer, incendiary and API.)

For most civilian (hunting) caliber rifles I currently recommend this mix: 90% soft nose, 5% Match (preferably HPBT), and 5% AP handloads, if bullet weights, bullet diameters, and bullet point styles are compatible with pulled military AP bullets. Note, for example, you cannot use pointed bullets in tubular magazine lever action rifles, even if the bore diameter and bullet weight is correct.

Some of my favorite ammo sources are:

Dan's Ammo,
Lucky Gunner,
Sunflower Ammo
Cheaper Than Dirt,
and Keep Shooting.

I also buy some ammo directly from manufacturers, mostly here in the American Redoubt. I recommend:

Black Hills Ammunition
BVAC Ammunition and Components
HSM (aka The Hunting Shack)
Buffalo Bore Ammunition
and Patriot Firearms and Munitions

Oh, and by the way, SurvivalBlog's Editor at Large Michael Z. Williamson recently mentioned that one of his favorite sources is (They currently have a good deal on Federal 5.56 ball.)

The Talon brand tracer ammo is decent, but given the uneven burning of the tracing composition, the accuracy of virtually all tracer ammo accuracy will never be quite comparable to military ball. The Lake City arsenal tracer ammo is excellent, but it is hard to find. The last time I checked, Lucky Gunner had some, as did UNAC.

There is a great on-line reference site now available, for comparison pricing: Be sure to check it out!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Dear JWR,

The article on marksmanship by Josh B. was an excellent one and discussed all of the basic principals of good marksmanship except, in my opinion only, one. I have several years experience with three Law Enforcement agencies in training other Officers  how to shoot and have come to realize that the biggest factor in shooting accurately is mindset.

In a real shooting scenario, you will most likely have no control over your breathing, your  posture, your grip or your trigger squeeze. You may be out of breath, your heart rate may be through the roof, you may be proned out or shooting with your off hand from your off side and your grip may be wet or sweaty. That does not mean that you will be unable to shoot accurately. Yes, having all of those things certainly makes the process much easier but it does not mean that you are doomed to failure.

Proper sight picture and sight alignment is, of course, absolutely necessary. The gun is going to place the bullet on the spot where it is aimed at the time that it is discharged, regardless of how the shooter gets it there. Please don't misunderstand, I'm not finding fault with Josh's article, the points that he makes are all valid and are the ones that instructors are taught to watch and correct if a shooter has accuracy problems. The factor that isn't taught, however, is mindset.

New and inexperienced shooters are often seen to jerk or pull the weapon in different directions, throwing the rounds off target at random. This after lengthy discussion of all of the points mentioned in Josh's article. Even experienced shooters often throw rounds even after practicing all of the six points Josh mentions. This usually occurs because they have, maybe only briefly, lost mental control.

What I am calling mindset in this letter is difficult to describe, much less teach. To me, it is a combination of confidence, peace of mind and even a little arrogance. The shooter must have confidence that the weapon will perform as it has hundreds of times before, that he (the shooter) is satisfied that he is doing the correct thing when firing his weapon and is in control of the weapon and situation  and KNOWS that he has the ability to accurately place the shot. New shooters need to be taught that they have fired the weapon numerous times before without problems and that the weapon will make a loud noise and that it will move around in the shooter's hand.  The shooter needs to recognize these things and to remove them completely from their mind as they prepare to fire. Experienced shooters should be reminded that they have fired numerous bullseyes before and that they can certainly do it again and that they are qualified  to place the shot with perfect accuracy.   

Again, great article by Josh and, with practice, all of us will improve our shooting ability. Prepare as if your life depended on it.  - Gary D.                                   

JWR Replies: The way to overcome stress while shooting is to intentionally inject some stress into your training. Go to high power matches. You will probably find yourself quite nervous at your first couple of events. Go hunting--a lot. "Buck fever" is a real phenomenon. Learn to overcome it. If you have access to a truly private range, for advanced training, set of firecrackers just a pace or two behind the shooter's' feet while they are shooting prone.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Basics

There is a huge focus on stocking firearms, spare parts and ammunition, but using firearms and learning the fundamentals of marksmanship seem to have a little less importance. Not necessarily that it is not important to learn the fundamentals of marksmanship, but more to the fact that it takes quite a bit of dedication and on going training to become proficient using them. I find, being an NRA and USMC instructor, that some people share the idea that they are proficient because they “have been shooting their whole life”. Some of these people assume that they understand proper marksmanship simply because they've shot guns since they were kids, but in fact they know very little about the techniques involved in shooting accurately. Once the fundamentals have been learned correctly, then it is far more understandable to assume that they do in fact know how to accurately shoot a firearm. That is not to say that because they learned how to accurately shoot when they were younger, or recently, that the skill has not diminished from lack of actually shooting, and shooting correctly. I harp on shooting correctly because there are really three ways to shoot: Correctly, incorrectly, and somewhere in between these two where people get lucky by shooting the way they want to.

There is an acceptable series of fundamentals common to most shooting, and they are as follows.
-Sight Alignment
-Sight Picture
-Breath Control
-Trigger Squeeze

Some other factor when shooting rifles and shotguns include:
-Stock Weld
-Forward Hand Placement
-Bone support

Since this is a “educational” column, I will break down each component, and by the end of this and with a little practice, you should improve your marksmanship skills enough to pass this article on to your friends, or print it out and keep it as a reference!

Lets start with Grip. I comfortable, firm grip on the firearm is required to fire more than one shot. There are cases where a grip out of the ordinary can be accurate, as Bob Mundin displays during his exhibition shooting, but ask bob to shoot two aspirin flung in separate direction while holding his six-shooter upside down and surprise surprise he can't do it. Your hand should be a little high on the back-strap, but not so high that you get slide-bite or cannot maneuver the hammer. The lower your hand is, the more room there is for the firearm to pivot. The higher the better!

Sight Alignment
Next we have sight alignment. Sight alignment is actually quite easy. Looking down the sights stare at the front sight. Take the tip of the front sight and line up the flat tip with the flat two notches in the back. Whilst staring at the front tip, keeping it flat with the rear sight, ensure that there is equal spacing on each side of the front sight in relation to the rear sight. Since we are presumably reading this article from a computer that has a keyboard, I'll use the keyboard to give you an idea of what this should look like. Look at the letters F-G-H. Imagine the letter “G” is the front sight, and the letters “F” and “H” are the rear sight. You can now see that they align perfectly horizontally, vertically, and have equal spacing on each side of the letter “G”. If you've happened to be in the military, you may remember this: Sight alignment is: The clear tip of the front sight centered bother vertically and horizontally in the rear sight aperture sir! REMEMBER AIM WITH THE TIP OF THE FRONT SIGHT.

Sight picture
Sight picture seems to be one of the two biggest contributors to bad shots. I usually ask if someone can give me a quick guess to what sight picture should look like, and usually the answers is as expected, the exact opposite of what sight picture needs to be. So sight picture in a nutshell: The sights of the firearm, aligned on a target, while focusing on sight alignment. We know in sight alignment we have to focus on the front sight, and keeping it aligned to the rear sight. So how do we focus on 3 different things at the same time you ask? We don't! Instead we use something that God gave us upon our creation: our imagination. I describe it as imagination because in my opinion it is. We focus on the front sight, we have some peripheral vision to help align the front sight to the rear sight. We then align our newly aligned sights and place them on the target, using some peripheral vision and our imagination. If we understand what our target is, then we can imagine where we need to place our sights to get a good hit, whether it be in the x-ring or the pumper. I've been called crazy before, until I take someone to the 3 and 6-hundred yard-line and they start popping balloons. It's really quite amazing to see the excitement when someone pops a balloon at 3 and 6 hundred yards, just seconds after they say they can't even see the balloon. Military Gurus: Sight picture is: THE CLEAR TIP OF THE FRONT SIGHT POST, CENTERED ON THE TARGET WHILE MAINTINING SIGHT ALIGNMENT, SIR!

Breath control
Breath control is a pretty easy step to get used to. You don't hold your breath while shooting because after a few seconds it can cause tremors, and your body is in a uncomfortable muscle flexing posture. Go ahead and take a deep breath and hold it. You may notice that your actually flexing your abdomen and might even notice a hand tremor, or your sight beginning to blur. These are a couple reasons not to hold your breath. Instead, take a deep breath and let it out slowly, the time in between the breath you just let out and your next breath is your natural respiratory pause. It is during the pause that you must focus on taking the shot with a slow steady trigger squeeze.

Trigger Squeeze
Trigger squeeze is another fundamental that can perish without practice. Proper trigger squeeze is achieved by depressing the trigger to the rear of it's cycle without interrupting sight alignment and sight picture. There are several tools that aid in achieving good trigger squeeze beyond using a firearm. I like to use a strength gripper that has individual fingers that can be depressed, like guitar finger strength training aids. Even a simple spray bottle can help, it provides some resistance and pivots rearward just like a trigger on a firearm. Something that I've mentioned before is an air-soft gun, nothing fancy, preferably a cheap one from “Wally World”, ebay, or a sporting goods store. The key in training for trigger control is to depress the trigger to the rear while minimizing movement on the firearm. Simply watching your finger while using one of these training aids can help you understand how much extra movement there can be if there is little focus on trigger squeeze. Once the trigger “breaks”, engages the action after a set point, there should still be a slow steady rearward pressure on the trigger until you're ready to start the cycle again. The break of the trigger should be somewhat of a surprise to the shooter, unless you know exactly how many PSI you put on the trigger and are a human pressure gauge, then the trigger should break at somewhat of a surprise. At this point we move on to Follow-through

Follow-through is the point that which the shot has been fired and you recover and start the process over for another shot. There should still some rearward pressure on the trigger, the sights may be a little out of alignment because of recoil, you may start to breath after your natural respiratory pause, and you start the shot process after your have reacquired the target. Follow-through is important because it is basically the foundation for a continuous shot process. The greatest example I can think of for shot process, is the bullseye rapid-fire portions of high-power rifle competitions. These guys have 60-70 seconds to fire 10 shots at the bullseye with a magazine change. Typically these shots are dead on, all kill-shots at 200 and 300 yards. There is also the infamous Rattle Battle at Camp Perry during the Nationals every year, this competition is quite the spectacle.

Stock Weld
Stock weld is the relationship of the shooter's head, to the stock. Typically we don't see the greatest shots from people without stock weld while shooting a rifle or shotgun, they usually just get lucky. Think of a sniper laying prone at 700 yards stalking his target. He's hunkered down in his sniper hide, has his M40 resting firmly in his shoulder, and his head resting on the stock firmly but not so firm that it's canting the rifle. That sounds like good stock weld to me. Now imagine your average terrorist walking around in the middle east firing at troops from the hip. Most likely he isn't hitting much because not only is he missing stock weld, but most likely he has basically no marksmanship skills and fundamentals at all.

Forward Hand Placement
I'm not going to harp too much on forward hand placement, because each and every person has different abilities depending on their body. I wills ay that while shooting a rifle in the prone, you may have a little better luck if your forward hand is further from the action to support the weight of the rifle. The closer your hand is to the action of the rifle, the more off balance, and pivot-like movements you may encounter. You may also use a sling in combination with your forward hand placement as the military once taught the benefits of making a “loop-sling”, they've recently steered away from some of these traditional sling skills because of different equipment. My personal feelings are that they really are doing a disservice to the newer generations of soldiers by not instilling marksmanship skills into them like had been taught for so many years.

Bone Support
Bone support is pretty basic. It's better to hold up the weight of the rifle by using your bones in a fashion that the rifle is naturally held up. The more muscle you use, the quicker your muscles tend to fatigue and twitch. Good bone support can be achieved by placing your support elbow in the crook of your knee, or in a sandbag. You're basically making a bipod for the rifle using some angles that your arms will make without much effort or muscle support. Fatigued and twitching muscles aren't the greatest for supporting rifles for long periods of time. Try holding a rifle out in front of you level to the ground. It won't take much more than 30 seconds for you to notice some twitching or trembling, burning muscles, and maybe even some sharp pains. It doesn't matter how big you are, it's only a matter of time before you get fatigued.

Final Thoughts
Let me give you an example of how my shot process works, it's not perfect by any means, but pretty darn close! Assuming I am ready to go and my safety is off:
I start out by identifying my target and what's beyond/surrounding it(sounds sort of like a safety rule....) I then get a good grip on the firearm, I align the sights, align the sights on the target, take a deep breath and let it out slowly. I typically start my trigger control during my breath out, and move onto my respiratory pause at which point the trigger breaks. The firearm goes bang, at that point my trigger is still depressed and I begin to take another breath simultaneously releasing the trigger as well as starting to depress the trigger, then acquiring my sights and target, finally picking up the cycle once more.
There is plenty of information on marksmanship out there, it just needs to be sought and learned. Far too often someone buys or builds a firearm from watching youtube videos and then magically they are an operator(military type operator, not a phone operator) If you take anything from this information at all, please take this small bit of advice. Find an instructor that is providing training for a skill you desire to learn. Check their credentials, and give them a chance if they check out. Most likely (if they are experienced and knowledgeable) they can spot good and bad fundamentals you may have picked up along your path of learning how to shoot.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

It's not every day I get the chance to visit with a TEOTWAWKI survivor - but when I do, I listen up. That opportunity presented itself yesterday, when I was privileged to interview Paul.
An individual of small frame yet sizeable strength of mind and determination, Paul experienced the end of the world he knew and lived to help create a new one. Not only did he survive the collapse, but he proved to be a key leader and connector in his community as it struggled through the extended period of political upheaval, economic failure, widespread violence, and nefarious pillaging. Paul also dealt with treachery from friends and neighbors, epidemic disease, death threats, cessation of trade, prolonged lack of necessary supplies, and international contempt – as well as the death of two children.

Fortunately for me, he was not shy about sharing his story.

Exceptional leadership grabs my interest, and I had many questions for this extraordinary gentleman. Right away, I wanted to know: to what do you credit your survival? What were the most important things you did to ensure that you, your family, and your community would make it through the collapse? What lessons can you teach us?
His answer was most unexpected.

Preparing for Liberty

When I think of how I’d survive a collapse, my mind jumps to things like stockpiling supplies, starting a garden, learning to shoot, being able to live off-grid, or having a strategic bug-out location. All of those did indeed come into play, and were critical components of survival for Paul and his community. However, I soon realized he had a completely different perspective than most preppers with whom I’ve spoken.

As I heard Paul’s story, it became obvious to me that while we often have a laser focus on preparing to survive the impending collapse, his community had gone farther and made preparations for survival after the collapse. In other words: yes, he had to have practical necessities and skills to make it through whatever came his way – but what then? After the world as he knew it ended, was his community prepared to help create a new one?

As it turns out, they were indeed as well prepared as they could be, for they had men among them who knew very well what they were about. They wasn’t preparing merely for survival; they were preparing for liberty.

I wish you could all sit down in a room with Paul and listen to him relate his own story and the lessons learned from it. Unfortunately, that will not be possible. Paul died in 1818, 43 years after his famous midnight ride warning the colonists that the British Regulars were out to seize their gunpowder. However, we can still hold conversations with him, and the others in his community who survived the end of the world as they knew it, if we become students of history.

Liberty: Dead or Alive?

The spirit of liberty was alive and well in the hearts and minds of Paul Revere and his fellow American colonists in the 1770s as they endured the horrors of war and worked hopefully, against great odds, toward a new future, seeking to preserve freedom and secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and their posterity.
What about now, and what about us? As you look around in your family, your neighborhood, your city, your state, and your country, do you see the spirit of liberty alive and well? Quite frankly, I don’t.
This begs the question: how do we plant and nurture the seed of liberty in the hearts and minds of our fellow Americans?

Allow me to present to you the LibertySeed, a branch of Project Appleseed of the Revolutionary War Veterans Association.

From Appleseeds to LibertySeeds – A New Option

Project Appleseed, a national organization and activity of the 501(c)(3) Revolutionary War Veterans Association (RWVA), is gaining recognition for its rifle marksmanship clinics held all over the country. In addition to learning the best fundamentals of traditional marksmanship, participants at an Appleseed shoot are treated to a re-telling of the events of April 19, 1775 – the day the American Revolutionary War began, and the day our heritage was born. 

Until recently, those interested in hearing the history presented at an Appleseed event had to attend the two-day clinic at the range. Now, you have a 90-minute alternative option: the LibertySeed.
A LibertySeed is an indoor event consisting of the history portion of an Appleseed shoot. An RWVA instructor will come, free of charge, to your location and present the events of April 19, 1775 in a manner suitable for your group. You can request a presentation at a church retreat, a Boy Scout troop meeting, a gun club luncheon, a grassroots political meeting, a homeschool book fair or conference, or even a group of your family and friends gathered in your home.

Think of a LibertySeed presentation as a conversation with a TEOTWAWKI survivor: you get to hear vivid accounts of the preparations made, the networking put into place, the brilliant minds who sparked fires of liberty, and the faithful men who carried on and endured more pain than we can imagine. As you hear this fascinating history – your story – you will begin to understand why our nation’s government was set up the way it is. You will regain motivation to make the best possible use of the freedoms you have been given. You will come to understand that our forefathers used the bullet box to set up a system of government which we can influence in much easier forms: through the ballot box and the soapbox .
All this you get at a LibertySeed, as you hear of men who “knew very well what they are about.”

Men Who Know Very Well What They Are About

Before April 19, 1775, Lord Hugh Percy of the British forces held the colonials in disdain, considering them inept, uncouth backwoodsmen. However, after observing their skill and resolution that day, he wrote home with a completely different opinion: “Whoever looks upon them as an irregular mob, will find himself very much mistaken. They have men amongst them who know very well what they are about.”
He was talking about men like John Parker, captain of the Lexington Training Band – a man dying of tuberculosis who chose to spend his last days burning resolute determination into the souls of his men as they faced off against far superior forces, instead of considering himself exempt from serving…

Men like Isaac Davis, captain of the Acton Minutemen, who raised his sword at the North Bridge when a charge was deemed necessary and declared, “I have not a man who is afraid to go!” – and women like his wife, 29-year-old Hannah, who let him walk out the door that morning leaving her with four deathly ill children and a sickening premonition that was realized a few hours later when his corpse was carried into her parlor, a musket ball having pierced his chest and taken his life…

Men like 80-year-old Deacon Josiah Haynes, who turned out with the militia and set a rapid pace on the road, leaving the young minutemen panting behind him, until he was killed during the Regulars’ nightmarish retreat from Concord – killed while leading his townsmen from the front…

And men like Paul Revere, who became famous for words he never spoke (instead of, “The British are coming!” he actually called out, “The Regulars are out!” since everyone at that time was British), while key facts about his midnight ride– such as his capture by a British patrol before he reached Concord—remain unknown to most Americans…

As a LibertySeed presentation offers the gripping stories of these and many other men and women, it helps you to educate your children and your community on their nation’s heritage. You can play an important role in the survival of the spirit of liberty in our country simply by scheduling a LibertySeed presentation.

How To Schedule a LibertySeed

To schedule a LibertySeed presentation, simply contact the RWVA through the site A volunteer instructor in your area will work with you to organize the details of the presentation, creating an event tailored to your needs.

A typical LibertySeed presentation is often 90 minutes long and includes all Three Strikes of the Match – the three encounters between the colonial militia and the British Regulars on April 19, 1775 that culminated in the beginning of the Revolutionary War. However, the timeframe and contents can be adjusted.

For example, the RWVA has conducted LibertySeed presentations at elementary and junior high schools, political club meetings, church retreats, convention workshops, prepper expos, gun shows, backyard picnics, or even around a restaurant table after a ladies’ range day. You may request a luncheon speaker who will give a condensed history in 20-30 minutes, or a female volunteer who can address your women’s group, or a presenter who is experienced at working with children to tell the Three Strikes in an engaging and interactive format for a homeschool co-op. Your event can be private – only for you and your friends, or public – posted on for your community to attend.

There is no charge to you or your guests for a LibertySeed event. RWVA volunteers consider it a pleasure and an honor to reawaken their fellow Americans to our shared heritage of liberty, and they give their time generously in an effort to bail out the sinking ship that our nation has become.

How Are You Preparing for Liberty?

Perhaps it’s too late to save America. Perhaps the ship has already sunk too far and a complete national collapse is inevitable. Or perhaps not, if we are zealous to reawaken the spirit of liberty in ourselves and our countrymen.

As you're preparing for the survival of TEOTWAWKI, consider a conversation with those who've been there already. Sure, learn survival skills and be wise about stocking up necessary supplies for whatever may come your way. But don’t forget about the real goal of prepping – not just getting through, but keeping the spirit of liberty alive and well. It may be that, among all the seeds you want to have for your survival, the LibertySeed is the most important. Be sure to get yourself one.

Friday, November 29, 2013

What follows is what I’ve done and why I did what I did. As they say, “At least have the sense of an old cow; eat the hay, and leave the sticks.” I hope there is some hay herein. I have links to vendors/manufacturers/forums/whatever, which I have found to be useful/interesting.

Precious Metals:
Sb - Sn - Pb aka 51, 52, and 82. These are the atomic “names” and numbers on the Periodic Table for Antimony, Tin, and Lead, respectively. Most people think of AG and AU, 47 and 79 on the Periodic Table, Gold and Silver respectively, as precious metals. If you are into “cast boolits,” as cast bullets are affectionately known, then “Red-Neck Gold” is lead, aka Galena. The silver stream which makes bullets. I’m not going to get into the details of lead and lead alloys other than to make a few observations.

For some reason when I think of lead bullets, I think of Mel Gibson’s character in the great movie, The Patriot, crouched over a fire, melting down lead toy soldiers and casting musket balls with a simple hand mold, in his furious effort to exterminate as many Red Coats as possible. Lead casting can be that simple.

Lead melts at 621 degrees F. Tin melts at 450 degrees F. Antimony melts at 1,167 degrees F. Fortunately, you can “dissolve” small bits of antimony into lead, so you don’t need some super-hot foundry, just a small electric melter. Regardless, antimony is toxic and a pain to deal with so most casters start with a lead alloy already containing antimony. Bottom line, you want about 2% tin to get your bullet mold to fill out nicely and to make the lead harder and more malleable. Also, varying amounts of antimony, depending on how hard you want your lead alloy to be. A tiny amount of arsenic can be a benefit, but again, a dangerous substance to alloy. These three elements combine to make a fantastic and useful alloy. The lead bullet can expand/mushroom in a target and give the maximum energy dump, or be hard enough to shoot through most any target.

There are free sources of lead alloys in the form of Clip-On Wheel Weights (“COWW”) and Stick-On Wheel Weights (“SOWW”). Scrap yards sell linotype, monotype, plumbers lead, roofing lead, etc. at decent/great prices. If you can find a tire shop which will give wheel weights away, you will have a free source of a lead antimony alloy which just needs a dash of tin to make great bullets. You can also “mine” for lead bullets at shooting ranges, both indoor and outdoor, smelt the lead cores, and sell the copper jackets for scrap and make a potential profit.

For the average person, you will probably have to purchase your lead/alloy unless you have access to a free source. As a commodity, lead is currently selling for about a dollar a pound (Presently, $.95 per pound.) Tin is far more expensive at around $17 per pound. The tin price would normally include shipping from a reputable source like RotoMetals. Lead alloys will cost anywhere from $1.50 to $3.00 per pound delivered. You can buy pewter from thrift stores which has a high percentage of tin and alloy with that, but for me it has too many other “ingredients” so that I would rather just get some pure tin. But you can save some money by using pewter. Also keep an eye out for tin solder which can save you some $$$. 

The following is the short version of how I accumulated 500 plus pounds of lead alloy for around $700 including about 20 pounds of tin: I just got 50 lbs of COWW for $57.00 – that is a great deal from a great vendor. I traded an old reloading press and other items that I was not using for about 60 lbs (50/50) of “soft” lead and COWW. The lead/alloy was worth around $75.00. I found a local scrap yard that had some lead and got 160 pounds of various types of lead/alloy: fishing sinkers, a large chunk of lead, wheel weights, etc., and best of all, 50 lbs of “Magnum Shot” with 5% antimony and some arsenic. The two 25 pound bags of shot were worth $100.00. I paid $80.00 for the whole 160 pound lot. A great source for “Hardball” (92% lead, 2% tin and 6% antimony) is Missouri Bullets, where you can get 66 pounds delivered for around $150.00. This is certified foundry alloy and a good deal. I got 66 pounds of the Missouri “Magic Alloy” as they call it.  I also purchased three 25 pound boxes of COWW for $1.50 per pound delivered from another vendor. I have three more coming. Smelting costs for the lead/alloy into ingots for future use in your melter can run anywhere from around $.03 per pound to around $.08 depending on the efficiency of your propane burner. Casting energy cost is approximately $.27 per thousand bullets using 700 watt melting pot. Cost can be zero using wood/coal to smelt/cast. It is much harder to control your pot temperature using wood/coal/propane for casting as opposed to smelting where the temperature is not as critical. Casting/smelting can be low tech as it gets, perfect for hard and crazy times.

Realistically, I will not make a lot of money on my stash of lead/alloy short of TEOTWAWKI, but I will not lose money in a stable societal environment. I could sell it all within a week and get my money back, and then some. But the real value is in the ability to cast my own bullets exactly as I want them. Using a 150 grain bullet as an example, each pound consisting of 7,000 grains of lead will produce 45 plus bullets. So 45 x 500 = 22,500 150 grain bullets. That is about $.03 per bullet. That is sweetness. The end result of my smelting will be 96% PB 2% SN 3% SB. I’ll get more into the costs below.

If you want to learn about bullet casting you can read the articles in this link from the Los Angeles Silhouette Club including the fantastic free e-book “From Ingot to Target: A cast Bullet Guide for Handgunners” by Glen E. Fryxell / Robert L. Applegate.  There are many great articles on the LASC site. Also, there is Lyman’s Cast Bullet Handbook, 4th Edition which I highly recommend. I also recommend Beartooth Bullets’ web site with much good information, resources, calculators, and articles. Finally, I would strongly recommend spending many, many hours on the Cast Boolits web site. There is much to study and learn in the “sticky” threads and the various forums. One serendipity, is the fact that both Beartooth and Cast Boolits sites/forums are owned and operated by Christians, and both have Christian sub-forums, “Cross-Wire” and “The Chapel,” so there is much prayer, in response to prayer requests, going on, along with cast bullet/firearms talk.

Here is a recipe for 100 plus pounds of 96/2/3 lead alloy that would serve you well: Lead Pig Ingot 52-55 Pounds-99.9% with Free Freight $112.00 from RotoMetals plus two 25 pound bags of Magnum shot from Zip Metals with 5% antimony for $98.98 delivered and two pounds of tin from RotoMetals at $17.49 per pound, $34.98 delivered for a total cost of $245.96. We will call it $2.50 a pound for top of the line alloy with no fuss or scrounging and you get 4,666 150 grain bullets for approximately $.054 per bullet, around a nickel a bullet. That is sweet. If you want a harder alloy, 93/5/2, use 100 pounds of magnum shot and two pounds of tin for about the same cost. But there is really no need as you can heat treat or water quench the “softer alloy” and get it as hard as any sane person could want.

Now I personally enjoy the entire process, sourcing the lead/alloy, smelting, casting, lubing, sizing, and reloading, as much as the shooting, and I am not alone. I also feel the independence is invaluable. But setting all that aside, I can save a bundle by reloading.

I recollect an article on SurvivalBlog regarding the economics of reloading and the conclusion was that the savings were minimal. Nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s compare apples to apples. From Midway USA Remington HTP "High Terminal Performance" 158 grain .38 Special +P Lead SWC HP $29.99 for a box of 50. That is a time proven round. Also under consideration is the same style of bullet from Buffalo Bore in standard pressure which has similar ballistics to the Remington HTP. According to Buffalo Bore their version “…utilizes a 158gr. very soft lead cast, SWC-HC gas checked bullet … designed to expand and then penetrate quite deep. (Approx. 14 inches) This bullet is gas checked and will NOT lead your barrel.” Again, that is a time proven effective round which costs $24.99 for a box of 20. Buffalo Bore has been reviewed repeatedly on SurvivalBlog and for good reason. BTW, If you have the money, don’t cast or reload, spend it on Buffalo Bore, or Underwood, or Cor-Bon ammunition. Underwood seems to have come out of no-where to make a splash, and manufactures incredible ammunition. But I digress, you can spend $.60 per round for the Remington or $1.25 per round for the premium Buffalo Bore, or roll your own for about a dime, or less if you get free lead/brass, that is every bit as good or even better than ammunition costing 8 to 10, or 25 times as much. I have not included shipping costs/taxes for the store/internet bought ammunition which can be crazy. About a dime a round for ammunition is sweetness.

There are a number of reloading cost calculators out there, including this one from the Beartooth Bullets’ site under the Ballistician’s Corner. I will start with “Hazmat” shipping fee, around $27.00, for 1,000 primers and 8 lbs of powder. That will be less than $.01 per round, but we will go with that. Clean once fired brass (nothing wrong with that, many vendor sources) figure $.01 ( $.10 per case with 10 plus reload life expectancy) powder $.015 and primer $.025 and gas check (deluxe add-on) $.02 and bullet/lube $.05, using for total cost of $.12 per bullet. Add $.01 in energy cost for smelting/casting cost per bullet and we are at $.13 per “deluxe” projectile. That is sweetness. Better yet, that bullet is sized exactly for my gun and has the exact lube I want, the exact bullet shape I want, the exact hollow point/meplat I want, the exact ballistics I want…It is exactly what I want for far, far less money.

So what are the downsides of Leadcentric Survival? First off lead is crazy heavy. A Small Flat Rate Box weighs 25 pounds when full of lead, and a Medium Small Flat Rate Box can weigh 60 + pounds. Such a good deal for shipping lead via priority mail at around $6.00 and $13.00 respectively. When a “box” arrives at my mail place, the staff is all-a-twitter about my “boxes.” There was even speculation that I was receiving gold, I wish. I opened up a couple boxes just to prove to them it was Redneck Gold. Now until you actually handle a 25 pound SFRB of lead, you have no conception of the density. Heavier by a bit than a box of gold, for my friends at my place information. It is surreal. One plus to the density; a few hundred pounds of lead takes up little space. Be careful, one fellow had so much lead in his garage that he cracked his slab. And for sure don’t drop a box on your foot.

Another, and more pernicious threat, is governmental regulation. The last lead ore smelter in the U.S. was recently forced out of business by EPA regulations. Lead COWWs are outlawed in California and New York so the supply of lead wheel weights is diminishing as the two big gorillas in the room have affected the market. If you a business making wheel weights, why manufacture different wheel weights for different states? California, a cauldron of many stupid laws and regulations, has just outlawed lead bullets for hunting. But lead is a long, long, way from dead. The only reasonable substitute is copper which is three times as much money per pound and is less dense.

Lead is toxic, so wash your hands whenever you touch it. Most harmful lead exposure for shooters is from primer fumes emitted by shooting in enclosed spaces/ranges. Smelting/melting lead emits fumes which are to be avoided. Lead fumes are to be avoided period as that is the most dangerous form when inhaled. Proper hygiene/ventilation will eliminate any threat of lead accumulation in your body. So don’t fear having lead around, just use common sense and it is absolutely no problem

At higher velocities, say north of 2,500 fps, jacketed bullets, aka “J-words” are a better choice. But for most every purpose nothing beats lead. It is far easier on you gun’s bore, and uses less gun powder, and due to lower friction, functions at lower pressures. The Brinell Hardness Number (BHN) of the lead/alloy needs to be adjusted to the velocity/pressure of your particular round. Lead is around 6 BHN and lead alloy can be heat treated way north of 20 BHN which will cover you up to 50k psi loads. This description from the Beartooth Bullets web site FAQs gives one an idea of what can be done:
“This brings us to the reason that we use a 3% Antimony alloy at Beartooth Bullets. Although we too heat-treat our bullets to a BHN 21-22 hardness, this low antimony alloy retains the ductile toughness of the un-heat-treated alloy. This alloy, is hard, and tough, not brittle and prone to breaking or shattering like the alloys containing twice to four times the antimony content of our alloy. Our bullets have proven themselves on moose, grizzly bear, Asiatic water buffalo, African cape buffalo, elk, nilgai, zebra, wild boar, moose, eland and multitudes of other heavy boned game animals the world over... usually with complete penetration, and what few bullets have been recovered, most are near perfectly intact, retaining 90-100% of their original weight when fired at handgun velocities and retaining 70-100% original weight when fired at rifle velocities.”

The joy of independence/insulation from bullet/ammunition shortages, and making the exact ammunition you want/need is priceless. Go to the “BuyMart” store right now and try and get ammunition in .22 LR or 9mm or .308 or whatever. Not a whole lot of choices, if any. The ability of being able to manufacture ammunition for barter in a time of chaos is invaluable and could save your life. Shoot it, sell it or trade it in TEOTWAWKI situations. Be aware of the fact that merely manufacturing bullets for sale/trade, as opposed to personal use, requires a 06 FFL and paying the yearly ITAR fee of $2,500.00. Not only shootable ammunition, just the projectile alone. Rest assured the Feds will be more than happy to prosecute.

I have settled on five calibers: 9mm and .38/.357 and .223/5.56 and .308/7.62 x 54 and 12 gauge. Why, because they are the most popular calibers and will have the most demand under any circumstance. Further, they cover all ranges and applications from zero to 1000 yards and any threat. I have everything I need for these five calibers; Four types of primers, SP, SR, LR, and 209. I have four powders that cover the whole range as well, Unique, Blue Dot, RL7 and RL 15. I have various bullet molds, smelting and casting equipment, reloading equipment and components (even some J-words aka jacketed/copper bullets) to reload tens-of thousands of rounds of ammunition.

I’ve settled on 94% lead and 3% tin and 3% antimony as my favorite alloy, but most/many would say anything more than 1 to 2% tin is a waste. I like tin, and it will hold a softer lead bullet together better upon impact and subsequent expansion. If you don’t want to cast your own bullets, then there are many cast bullet manufacturers out there including Beartooth Bullets. It took me about a year to accumulate all the accoutrements for lead/alloy smelting and bullet casting and reloading. You are never really done accumulating “stuff.” I would encourage anyone prepping to consider casting their own bullets and will recommend leadcentric survival to all interest persons as a means to self-defense, self-reliance, and as a means of barter/income when there is a societal breakdown.
May God Bless you all richly.

Monday, November 18, 2013

I cut my teeth on the military M14, way back in 1969, during my basic training at (now closed) Fort Ord, California. I learned to love it, and I qualified "Expert" with it - loved shooting that rifle. Later on, while working full-time for the Illinois National Guard, I joined the Illinois State Rifle & Pistol Team, and was issued a match-grade M14 (and 1911A1) along with all the ammo I wanted - those were the days. I shot in many competitions, and always winning in my classification with that M14. I always wanted an M14 of my own, however, they were, and still are a hard-come-by rifle, and are an NFA weapon - and I don't care to jump through the legal red tape to own a select-fire weapon.
Over the years, I've owned a few Chinese-made M14 clone rifles, they were okay, some better than others, and they all functioned just fine. [JWR Adds: See the warnings on soft Chinese M14 bolts posted by walt at Fulton Armory.] But they still weren't an M14. Almost three decades ago, Springfield Armory came out with their semi-auto (only) version of the M14 and dubbed it the M1A - it was, and still is a big hit for Springfield Armory. I've owned several over the years, and found them to be outstanding shooters. Well over a year ago, I reviewed a Springfield Armory M1A SOCOM II, that was set-up in a very compact bullpup configuration, that rifle -- loaned to me by the good folks at US Tactical Supply -- is called the Juggernaut. I was totally blown away by how compact this set-up was. However, for my own personal use, I decided I just wanted a SOCOM II as it came from the factory. Prior to testing the Juggernaut set-up, I had actually been searching for a SOCOM II at my local gun shop. They had a couple brand-new ones come in the shop, but I couldn't afford the price.
About a month after testing the US Tactical supplied M1A SOCOM II Juggernaut set-up, my local gun show picked-up a like-new SOCOM II in a trade at a gun show. I was able to work a deal on a trade to get it - and cost me two M4-style rifles to get it! My sample was probably 98% as-new, too - but with no box, and the fellow who traded the gun, forgot the magazine. A quick trip to US Tactical Supply, and I was in business - they carry the outstanding, and mil-spec Checkmate Industries ("CMI") brand of M14/M1A magazines - both 20 and 30 rounders - and the Checkmate 30 round mags are the only 30 round mags that I've found that will function 100% of the time. Over the years, I've tried some no-name 30 round mags, and there was a reason the maker didn't stamp their names on the magazines - they didn't work!
A quick rundown on the M1A SOCOM II is in order. It has a 16-inch barrel, compared to the full-sized M1A that comes with a 21-inch barrel. It is also capped with a muzzle brake, a very effective one, at keeping the muzzle down for faster follow-up shots. The rifle fires either .308 Winchester or 7.62x51 NATO rounds. The trigger is a 2-stage military set-up, with a trigger break between 5-6 pounds, but it feels lighter than that. Springfield Armory supplies one 10 round magazine with new guns. The front sight is the XS Sights post with a Tritium insert for night or lo- light shooting. The rear sight is an enlarged military aperture (Ghost Ring) adjustable for windage and elevation. The gun weighs 8.8 pounds and the overall length is 37-25-inches - every so slightly longer than an M4 with the telescoping stock fully extended. And, the 8.8 pounds - well, that's actually lighter than many M4s I've handled - with so many added-on accessories - the guns were weighing in at a lot more than the SOCOM II's 8.8 pounds. There is also an accessory rail on the top of the SOCOM II - should you want to mount some type of red dot sight up there - I didn't!
When I got home from picking-up some magazines for this little beast, it was pouring down rain, and I didn't go to my usual shooting spot, but I was determined to at least function-test this rifle. All I had on-hand, were a couple boxes of Russian-made .308 ammo - I loaded-up two magazines, and cut loose in my back yard - no functioning problems at all. Ah, one of the joys of living in the country - I can shoot my guns on my own property. However, I rarely do that, as I don't like disturbing the neighbors - so I usually make a 5-6 minute drive up a mountain, to a couple shooting spots that everyone uses.
I contacted Black Hills Ammunition and Buffalo Bore Ammunition for some .308 ammo - some GOOD .308 ammo, to run through the SOCOM II. In short order, I received from Black Hills, their outstanding 168-grain Match Hollow Point load - that keeps on winning long-range shooting matches all over the country, and their 168-grain Hornady A-Max load, which is a great hunting round. From Buffalo Bore, I received their 175-grain JHP Sniper loading, and that one is known as a great long-range, flat-shooting load.
With my targets set-up at 100 yards, and using the a sleeping bag as a rest, over the hood of my car, I set out to see what the M1A SOCOM II could do - with open sights. Okay, for long-range, precision shooting, the XS front sight isn't my first choice - it's a bit large. And, no matter what I did, I couldn't break 1 inch on the target, with 3-shots. I came close, very close a few times, but no matter what, that large front sight wouldn't allow me to break 1 MOA. I believe the rifle is capable of sub MOA with a scope or a smaller front sight. The Black Hills loads tied each other - neither one was better than the other. The Buffalo Bore load shot a tad higher, which I expected, with the slightly  heavier bullet, and even with this load, I simply couldn't break one inch no matter how many times I tried, and I went out several times over a month and just couldn't do it - I believe the rifle can do it - with a smaller front sight, though.
I also fired several hundred rounds, rapid-fire, through the SOCOM II with a mixed variety of various foreign-made military surplus ammo - and the gun functioned 100% of the time - never had a failure of any sort, with any ammo, nor any problems with the Checkmate 20 or 30 round magazines. My local gun shop once gave me a no-name 30 round magazines - it was junk, I couldn't fire more than a few rounds without rounds getting hung-up in the magazine.
Okay, one of the first things I learned was, do not shoot the SOCOM II over the hood of my car, without a blanket under the muzzle of the rifle. The very effective muzzle brake, has horrendous muzzle blast, that was magnified off the steel hood of the car. I placed a blanket on the hood, and that absorbed a lot of the muzzle blast. While I appreciate the effectiveness of the muzzle brake in keeping the felt recoil down, I didn't much care for the muzzle blast. I checked around, and at some point, I'm going to replace the muzzle brake with a flash suppressor, and that will take care of the terrible muzzle blast. It was strong enough that I could feel it on my face.
So, where does the SOCOM II fit into the scheme of things? Good question! The SOCOM II could easily be used as a big game rifle, with a 5 round magazine - Oregon requires a semiautomatic rifle to hold no more than 5 rounds in the magazine - not a problem. It is a fast-handling rifle, no doubt about it. I can easily see the SOCOM II being used by law enforcement - especially rural sheriff departments, when back-up is a long time coming, and you might have a suspect firing on you, from behind heavy cover. A short, fast-handling "carbine" like the SOCOM II, firing powerful .308 Win rounds, will get the job done. I don't see the SOCOM II being used in a building clearing scenario - not with the muzzle brake attached - if you fired it in a room - heck, in a big house, the muzzle blast would be too much, and there is the chance of over-penetration with the .308 round, too. In a survival situation, I can see the SOCOM II being an outstanding weapon to have, especially in the wilderness. And, needless to say, in a combat situation, I would love to have this rifle - short and easy to handle, but it still is shooting a powerful round, that can easily take out an enemy soldier beyond 500 yards or farther.
Now, while I like the XS front sight post with the Tritium insert, I would replace it with a standard GI front sight, or an M14 match-grade front sight - if I knew I had to make some long-range shots - the XD front sight is too big for precision shooting beyond 100 yards. And, as mentioned, the muzzle brake would be replaced with a flash suppressor of some type. Other than that, I wouldn't make any changes. The SOCOM II also comes with a poly stock, so there's no worries about it swelling in wet weather - and that is always a concern in the western part of Oregon, where we get a lot of rain! Wood stocks can (and do) swell, and that can affect the accuracy of your rifle, especially at long-range shooting distances.
Before this article was complete, US Tactical Supply, sent me an X-Products magazine, 50 round M1A/M14 magazine for testing. This is a very compact 50 round drum magazine. All internal parts are machined out of steel and aluminum, for a sure-fire magazine that won't fail you. It also loads easily and it is designed to work in semiauto and full auto rifles. (It is capable of cycling 950 rounds per minute without failing.) Best of all, it is the same length as a 20 round box magazine - yes, it's much wider, needless to say, but it doesn't stick out from under your M1A or M14 any more than a standard 20 round magazine does. I fired a good number of 7.62 NATO rounds through the X-Products 50 round magazine, and I also mixed in some Russian-made poly coated .308 rounds, and some of the Black Hills and Buffalo Bore ammo - and the magazine never once stuttered - it just kept firing - and I'm telling you, I put hundreds and hundreds of rounds down range, as fast as I could pull the trigger and reload the magazine - the SOCOM II got hot - VERY hot, but it never missed a beat. Of course, the loaded 50 round drum magazine added some serious weight to the SOCOM II. However, if I were in a combat or survival situation, this is the magazine to have locked and loaded in your gun - for some serious, initial fire-power down range when lead is flying your way. The X-Products M1A/M14 magazine runs $275 from US Tactical Supply - and it's worth every penny, too.
The Springfield Armory SOCOM II is a real winner in my book, and I know it has sub MOA accuracy there, if that front sight is replaced - and that's easy to do. And, in my humble opinion, the muzzle brake needs to go. (Yes, it does what it is supposed to do, but the muzzle blast was just too much for me, especially during a long shooting session.) I'd like to see Springfield Armory offer the SOCOM II with either a muzzle brake or a flash-suppressor to give the buyer a choice, and I'm betting a lot will prefer the flash-suppressor over the muzzle brake.
I won't even attempt to give a price on the SOCOM II - as they are a hot-seller, and always in demand. And, we still have a buying frenzy going on these days, which only adds more to the cost of military-style rifles. Check around on Gun Broker and see if you can find a SOCOM II of your own. If you see one, then snap it up. They are one super-nice little .308 carbine.   - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

The weather at Knob Creek was great, the dust was minimal and the travel was above average.  The car ran fine, I didn’t die a fiery death and the CV joints only started making noise and going bad after I got home. Yeah!

Best price I saw on .308 ammo was Military Shooters Supply, Inc. with PMC and Lake City (the 2 loose packed boxes I examined all had 2005 head stamps, (de-linked I imagine) for $340 per 500rd. They had PMC 55gr .223 $389/1000 and 68gr 5.56 $429/1000. Brown Bear 7.62x39  $119/500. Pat’s Reloading prices were not as good as a show or two ago and was a little higher than usual with most of their Israeli .223 tracers coming in the $$00-450/1000 range (last time I bought some it was cheaper than all the ball ammo).  5.45 commie ammo was still exorbitant compared to a year ago at $220/1280 tin, $440 case of two tins (this was relatively strange as either J&G Sales or Century has it on their web site currently for $179 a spam can).  7.62x54R is still hanging in there at $90/440tin, 2 tins for $160. Pat's Reloading had some Israeli 9mm SMG ball and tracer but all I remember is thinking it was a little high and I would wait for the next show.  Either Pat's or Military shooters had some .30 Cal Carbine Lake City for $199/500 and the 20 rd boxes looked old and worn so they couldn’t have just come from sealed spam cans.

No .22 rimfire to be seen except for one forlorn guy selling American Eagle .22 for $50 a brick by the entrance gate. In my home area I have found some here and there for $25- $35 plus tax.  Haven’t seen much for a while but there was some pallets of .303 British and 8mm Romanian Mauser that must have come out of some dark corner of a warehouse. I think the spam can of 8mm was $240/$420 for a case from Century and a few others. That’s enough to give you a nervous twitch in your eye, but where else are you going to get it? A lot of places, soon, I hope.
I heard one dealer tell another (neither of whom were selling ammo) that the prices of ammo were dropping like a rock and all the dealers were afraid of losing their u know what. That should be somewhat encouraging for the readership.  I saw a bunch of small dealers with a couple of cases holding out hope that someone would pay $475-$600 for a case of .223 good/better stuff.   On my return trip I passed through a Scheel's superstore that had Federal .223/55 gr for $430/1,000. A Gander Mountain store had the same stuff as far as I could see, for $599/1000. The Scheel's also had federal .308 $360/500, so there is some price differences to be taken advantage of depending on your locale. Apex Gun Parts (or someone next to them?) was selling USGI M118 sniper ammo for $660/600 and had a pallet load of it.

Someone must have unloaded a warehouse full of Sten gun stuff out of the Middle East,  Mk II kits that were selling for $400 are now $120 from APEX.  Centerfire systems also have a ton of converted 20 round Sten mags for $5 that are not all that bad for having sat in crates for 40 years.  These mags are exactly the same length as the standard 32 rd mags and have 4 brass pins driven through them. The two at the top are through the magazine housing and I don’t know what their function was other than if the mag body and the feed lips and mag stop may have been two separated pieces and locked into place by two brass pins that are ground off flush with the outside and inside of the mag body. Two other pins were driven through the mag body about an inch to an inch and a half from the bottom of the magazine. The protruding parts of the pins are then bent flush with the mag in a rounded fashion.  I believe that these two bottom pins can simply be removed and the magazine easily restored to their full capacity glory. The only thing that would make this impractical is if some Middle East armory worker snipped the mag spring as well and used the two pins as a base to rest the mag spring on. That seems like a disaster waiting to happen but how often do you find a finely designed and operating piece of equipment that comes from the Middle East? The answer: Outside of Israel, never.

Another fine piece of sage wisdom was proffered by someone’s mother or grandmother working the Centerfire table as I looked through the boxes of Sten gun mags. She interjected several times to tell me “their all the same” as if I had requested her advice. Ah, I beg to differ, blue haired fount of SMG wisdom, all mags are not created equal, as you can plainly see, all those rusty ones there look like hell. And when they stop making feed lips that get bent out of shape I will lend some credence to your overbearing, annoying and unsolicited advice and hovering.

A word to the wise here, I don’t know how they got this stuff in the country (other than the barrels are obviously missing), but I wouldn’t wait for the prices to go up again.  Less desirable Sten Mk III kits are still hanging around at the $79-89 and full 32rd mags seem to be close to $20. This large lot may put some pressure on the prices, which would be welcome, but who knows?

Bad news for all FAL owners, DSA has run out of used Austrian metric FAL mags. They claim to have no more left in the warehouse and sold the last two 1000 mag crates to a dealer at the show who consciously sold them for $5 (where they should be).  To that dealer in the back to whom I gave $200, you’re my hero.  Here I spent the last couple of updates complaining about DSA’s $10 used mag prices and you made my dreams come true: 2006 pricing on FAL mags. Unfortunately, they are probably all gone by now. DSA had a few used things here and there, but is seems to be all new production for FALs for the foreseeable future. DSA marked 20 rounders were $20 and 30rounders were $25.  I am sure that there are some minor stashes of used FAL mags out there but they are going to much smaller and harder to find.  I did buy some trigger US compliance parts from DSA last show. When I got home, all of them were plainly marked USA/DSA markings except for one package. I have no idea whether they were imported parts or USA ones and I forgot to bring it back this show to exchange. The parts looked new but who wants to take a chance with the current crazed imitations of law enforcement on the prowl out there.

Copes Distributing had noticeably less AR mag product available versus last time and no Checkmate ("CMI") M14 mags. However, they did have a blow out on Gen 2 Magpul mags for $10 (everyone else had them for $13-14) Their Gen 3’s with the nifty little attached dust cover were $14 ($20 from the manufacturer).  I made a tactical shopping error in only getting ½ dozen of the Gen 2 ones in favor of the D&H Tactical aluminum mags with the Magpul no-tilt followers also for $10 bucks. When I went by a couple hours later, the couple of cases Magpuls were all gone. I like the Magpuls, troops returning from the sandbox swear by them, but, I can’t get the disappointment of Thermolds and other synthetic Canadian and Israeli mags out of my mind (I still have a dozen or so of them with various cracked body parts that I was going to cannibalize), therefore, the D&H fixation, I can pound a dent back out of those magazines. I did see several dealers with small bags of the Magpul no-tilt followers for retrofitting those crappy black, orange and sickly green USGI followers of the last few years. They came in a 3-pack for $7 which seems kind of steep and daunting when you’re looking at retrofitting 100 to 200 mags.  I am sure that somewhere out there they can probably be purchased by the 100 or a gross for a lot less money. Long live the no-tilt follower, anyone without them will just have to suffer from inopportune jams. (Seriously, I wouldn’t even think of not using these when my life was on the line or in snowy or sandy areas.)  Centerfire Systems had some Korean AK mags new for $9 and someone else had some used Polish mags for $20.  Last show some mathematically challenged individual refused to be convinced that 3 AK mags for $30 on sale was a totally different final price when you purchased 6. The guy exhausted me and made my brain hurt and I finally gave up and took the 6 mags back home for a buddy for $30.

More bad news for FAL owners, Dan the FAL guy sold off all his stock to some undetermined derelict somewhere (who will undoubtedly quadruple the prices) and has almost nothing left. They told me the Steyr barrel on the table was the last one they had.  So I guess he no longer has any nomenclature to identify him, other than Dan the Zombie t-shirt seller or Dan the purveyor of Dominican cigars. Until we can get some FAL’s past the anti-freedom coalition in Austria and Australia and not have them cut into pieces, the heyday of FAL building is a thing of the past. You could build one from scratch using DSA and other manufacturers, but there is a whole lot of difference between $600 and $1600. The only real kits out there seem to be the Argentinean ones for $500-600 (some do not come with barrels) so you’re looking at $800 to start for an ordinary retail individual to build one.

CMMG out of Fayette, Missouri had the best prices on lower parts kits for AR’s at $50. Most others were $60-69 and I have to believe that in its basic form, all the pins and springs come from the same place.  So I’m looking at AR parts at the J&T table and I run into a show dealer friend of mine and inquired why he used J&T.  “I like their quality and they treat me right, and they should, I bought almost a million dollars’ worth of stuff through them (I assume since he has been in business?). Ok, then as he is leaving with several armfuls of upper assemblies, he tells the guy there to treat me right, that he (meaning me) is with him. So I asked for a 6 position stock and all the rear end of the gun with an ambidextrous sling washer thingy.   The guy brings it all over and puts it together and is hemming and hawing between $60 and $70 something. I have a $50 in my hand and hold it out to him and he said “alright, $50 bucks”.  So I probably saved $50 bucks by that guy vouching for me. Of course I could have saved $50 in gas by staying home and paying full retail online, but whatever, that wouldn’t have been much fun.

One table had some CETME kits (minus the barrel) for $125, which one dealer nearby said was about a hundred dollars too much since he thought G3s/CETMEs were a horrible mechanical mess. That kind of deflated my interest and I reaffirmed to myself that a I was a FAL and M1A guy and to not get distracted. I don’t know for sure, but this would lead me to believe that one could possibly purchase a receiver in the $300 range and do a CETME build for under $500? Someone else may have more direct knowledge of this than I do.


I saw lots of cases of USGI spec MREs for $50 to $69 each.

I found some 7.62 (147 gr) API projectiles from a dealer that were listed for $1.25 apiece. Most of the bags were 250 or 500 packs. But in digging around I found 3 baggies that had odd numbers of projectiles. One of them only had eight in it (don’t ask me why) and together they added up to 72. I talked the guy down to $50.

I moseyed up to a private sale going down as I spotted a fine FAL specimen begging for attention. This guy had a nicely put together Argentinean FAL on a Coonan receiver and was asking $850 by the sign hanging off the barrel. What piqued my interest was when the owner said to a potential purchaser “you’re gonna queer this deal over $25?” Not me, I was all ears, he had me at sight of a FAL and “$25”. I lustfully caressed the weapon with my eyeballs as I waited for these two schmucks to head off into the sunset. Alas, it was not to be as the other guy finally talked his friend into it as I was nearing exasperation.

I did have a first at this show. As I am talking to this ex-Green Beret sniper, he reaches out past me to tap this geezer with a WWII veteran hat on, and making his way with his walker, to thank him for his service. To both of our surprise he said he didn’t serve in the US military. When he said he was from Canada, I just had this feeling he was going to say he served in the Wehrmacht. But he didn’t, he served in a Canadian Regiment and was in one of the first waves at Juno Beach on D-Day. I resisted the urge to ask if Sean Connery played him in The Longest Day and we found out that he was there to shoot some Lewis and Bren machineguns before he died. A pleasant experience to have met him and his wife, to say the least.   

This Green Beret was telling me that when President Bush came to his base for Thanksgiving, he sent all the FBI and Secret Service guys over for a good time at the range not too far from the mess hall where the President was serving dinner. Fast forward to 2010 when the great imposter shows up at the base he was stationed at. The bolts were taken out of every gun on the base and put under lock and key. Even the guards out front at the gates didn’t have a functioning weapon. You have got to give this Marxist his due he knows his audience, and the history of tin pot dictators who were disposed of by prompt military action by a group of motivated Colonels.

So this Green Beret is discussing some guerrilla warfare with me and he offers up his opinion that The Powers That Be won’t give a fig about what happens out in the countryside, they know that whomever controls the cities controls the country (as you can obviously see the Marxist cities of America are currently in control of the political class.)  He also said that they would probably send the starving hordes of urban slum dwellers out into the countryside to fight the decent people in order to get food rations issued to them. Left unanswered due to customer interruptions, was how The Powers That Be would feed this assortment of human debris that would be used to suppress freedom without controlling substantial portions of food producing areas or incentives for farmers to sell (beyond food raids and coercion, of course.).

Shotgun News’s drawing for free weapons took place in the afternoon before I got around to registering. Too bad, I would have liked to have a .50 cal BMG rifle. Lance, the purveyor of exotic books and videos was a no show on Friday but there was an empty spot so I don’t know if he came later. I was talking with some fellows about Century and J&G Sales. They used to bring a ton of products and really move it. Century used to have a large area and racks upon racks of Mosins, Mausers, Nagant pistols, etc. You would see tons of people with them slung over their shoulders 3-8 in a bunch. I haven’t seen that for six years and I hear their overseas sources of product are drying up. J&G doesn’t seem to bring nearly the quantity of products they used to and neither them nor Century seems to set the bottom price like they used to. Oh well times change. Speaking of that the elevated observation deck with stands on top of the building is no more and another level has been added and the stands are now off to the side. The huge machine shed is gradually being encased in concrete pads and block. The place is beginning to lose its free for all flea market look. In a certain way it’s starting to resemble a regular large gun show except for some of the product for sale and the occasional blowout or bargain bin at prices you just have to buy some for.  For me it’s still a one stop shopping experience and I am bound to find things I won’t locally.  The number of visible Kentucky militia and re-enactors has noticeably dropped. I especially noticed the absence of the WWII American camp outside the gates complete with vehicles, machineguns and howitzers. There is usually only one Huey giving helicopter rides anymore. It’s still a good time and one you should try if you ever get the chance. - E.T.

Monday, October 21, 2013

I actually got started writing back in 1983, when I reviewed books for a Christian bookselling company. These were soon-to-be-released books. My "pay" for reviewing the books, was that, I got to keep the books. I built-up quite a library of Youth Ministry books over a couple years. I had help along the way, with my meager writing efforts, and I still don't consider myself any sort of writer, per see - but I hopefully can communicate with my readers, so they understand what I'm trying to convey to them.
It was 1992, before I started writing firearms articles, and it was as the insistence of the late Col. Rex Applegate - I worked for the good Colonel for three years and I will be forever grateful to him, for all he taught me. Now, when Applegate told you to do something - you did it - not out of fear, but rather, out of respect. Applegate told me to start writing firearms articles, and he opened a lot of doors for me in this respect. I met the late Chuck Karwan, who was a fantastic writer, and for quite some time, Chuck was my personal editor - checking over my articles before I submitted them. It was Karwan, who told me to just write the way I speak - easy-going. When I first started out, I was overly technical in my articles. "Thanks" Chuck - for all you did for me - you are missed! I met the great Wiley Clapp, who I had admired for years - we worked together on the very first video that Paladin Press put out. I also worked with Tommy Campbell, on this same video, and he was the top shooter, at one time, for Smith & Wesson. Peder Lund, who owns and operates Paladin Press - he published one of my books, "SWAT Battle Tactics" that I co-authored with my late friend, and Hall of Fame martial artist, Master John McSweeney.
Col. Applegate always taught me to give credit where credit is due. Don't take credit for someone else's works - acknowledge when someone has helped you along life's road. So, it is with this attitude, that I would like to introduce SurvivalBlog readers to Jeff Hoffman, who owns and operates Black Hills Ammunition with his wife, Kristi. It was actually Chuck Karwan, who introduced me to Black Hills ammo back in 1992, and to Jeff Hoffman. If you've followed my firearms articles on SurvivalBlog, or in the gun magazines over the past 20 years (I no longer write for gun magazines) you'll be familiar with the brand-name of Black Hills Ammunition. I use the ammo in just about every firearms article I write.
I believe it would be safe to say, that in more than 20 years of writing about firearms, I've easily fired at least a hundred thousand rounds of Black Hills ammo - maybe twice that amount - I've lost track. Jeff Hoffman told me, when I first start using his ammo, to never let my ammo locker run dry - and he's been supplying me with his outstanding ammo for all these years. Without his help, I wouldn't have been writing as many firearms articles as I have - I simply wouldn't have been able to afford to purchase all the ammo I've shot while writing those articles. Black Hills is now one of the big names in the ammo industry, too.
One thing that Black Hills Ammunition does, that no other big name ammo company does, is that, they hand inspect each and every round of ammo before it is packed. No other big name ammo company does this! I have never had a bad round of ammo from Black Hills in all my years of shooting their ammo. I wish I could say the same of some other big name ammo makers - in particular, Remington. I've found numerous bad rounds of ammo from their boxes - many times primers were upside down or even sideways in a shell - and many dead primers, too. Jeff Hoffman assures us of the best quality control out there - if you want lesser quality ammo, you can find it, but you won't find lesser quality ammo from Black Hills.
Jeff Hoffman, isn't just an ammo maker, he's also a part-time cop, a sniper on a SWAT team, too - and he's authored a few magazine articles on the topic of long-rang shooting, too - he knows his stuff. He won't settle for anything except the best ammo money can buy. Hoffman takes his job very seriously - he and Kristi are Black Hills Ammunition - along with all their knowledgeable and capable employees and staff.
I can't possible cover all the different ammo that Black Hills Ammunition manufactures in this article, however, I wanted to touch on a few calibers in particular. First up is their .223 Remington and 5.56mm calibers - and no one, that I'm aware of, makes a wider assortment of .223 Rem ammo than Black Hills does. They have the bases covered from their 36-grain Varmint Grenade loading, to their heavy 77-grain Sierra Matchking Hollow Point - and everything in between. And, most folks aren't aware that, Hoffman makes a proprietary round for ALL of our US Special Forces units - it's a 77 grain 5.56mm round, that is proven very effective for longer shots on the enemy. I've only, in the past year, have been able to get my hands on some of this ammo for testing in my AR articles - it's always in demand by our troops, so I didn't mind waiting, until there was a few rounds that could be shipped to me - I prefer our SF guys get it before I did! If you can't find a Black Hills loading in .223 Rem or 5.56mm rounds that shoots well in your AR rifles, then it's the gun - not the ammo! Simple as that! You should also be aware that, Black Hills has a pretty extensive line-up of remanufactured ammo, too - not just their red box new ammo. We all have our favorite loads, and if I were to pick one .223 Rem round from Black Hills, it would be their 68-grain Heavy Match Hollow Point loading - it shoots great in any AR I've run it through.
In the 9mm department, I have two favorites, and I don't know if I could nail it down to just one of these rounds as my favorite. I like the 124-grain JHP +P load, that is coming out of full-sized duty guns at about 1,250 per second. I like the 124-grain bullet because they penetrate a little deeper and expand well. It's a great load. I also love the 115-grain Barnes all-copper Tac XP +P load - this load is coming at about 1,200 feet per second, and it penetrates deeply and stays together - no matter what it might hit. Many years back, we didn't  have such a variety of 9mm self-defense ammo - the few JHP loads we had, just didn't perform all that well, that's why the FBI and many police departments switched the .40 S&W load - they wanted a load that would penetrate deeply enough to do some damage, and a round that held together, too. An interesting turn of events is now taking place with many police departments in that, they are dropping the .40 S&W round and going back to the 9mm with high performance JHP ammo. Many police officers aren't into shooting, and don't practice on their own, and they have a lot of misses and low qualifying scores with the .40 S&W round. When they went back to the 9mm - their qualification scores really shot up there, and they are getting the same manstopping results on the streets in real life, that they were getting with the .40 S&W rounds. What's old, is now "new" - all over again.
Black Hills has a 140-grain Barnes all-copper Tax XP .40S&W round that I really like. It is coming out of the barrel at around 1,100 feet per second, and once again, the Barnes all-copper, hollow point bullets penetrate deeply and stay together. If I had to pick one Black Hills .40 loading to carrying in my handguns in .40S&W, this is "the" load of my liking! It is controllable, and will get the job done. 'Nuff said!
When it comes to the grand ol' .45ACP, Black Hills has a good selection, but once again, I have my preferences. For self-defense, I like their 185-grain Barnes, all-copper, hollow point, TAC XP load that is rated at +P. However, I've found this load to be very controllable, too. It will penetrate deeply, and the bullets stay together - this is important! This round is coming out of a 5" Bbl 1911 at about 1,100 feet per second. For everyday shooting, I like the Black Hills .45ACP 230-grain FMJ load - while not advertised as a "match" load, I've always had match-grade results with this loading, and wouldn't hesitate to use in in a competition - it's "that" accurate. And, don't forget, Black Hills also manufactures reloaded handgun ammo for all your paper-punching needs.
In the .308 Winchester round, I love the 168-grain Hornady A-Max loading - this is just a great all around big game loading, as well as being an outstanding "sniper" load, for those long range shots. If I had to pick one .308 Win loading for my big game hunting needs, this would be it. They also produce a 180-grain Nosler Accubond loading, and this is great for long-range shooting at big game, like elk or moose.
I don't do much reloading these days, I simply don't have the time any longer. However, when I do reload, I only reload .300 Win Mag rounds, and I'm very proud of a load I came up with. Enter the Black Hills .300 Win Mag 190-grain Match Hollow Point load - this load is used by snipers all over the world, and it is, without a doubt, the most accurate .300 Win Mag load I've ever fired - in any rifle chambered in .300 Win Mag. Given a good rifle, and a good shooter, it will do all you ask of it, and routinely shoots sub MOA. My own .300 Win Mag reloads equal this load, but I can't beat it - not matter how hard I've tried - I've tweaked my .300 Win Mag loads every which way I can, but I can't beat this Black Hills loading - I can only match it!
So, these are only a few of my favorite Black Hills Ammunition loadings. I'm betting you'll find something to your liking, if you take the time to go through their web site. Just be advised, the great ammo drought is still going fairly strong, and you may not find everything you want at Black Hills these days. Jeff Hoffman, has worked very hard at keeping me supplied with his outstanding ammo for my articles, and even so, he's out of certain calibers and types of ammo these days. I'm dying to get my hands on some of the .45ACP 185-grain Barnes all-copper TAC XP +P loads, but they are out-of-stock right now - but Jeff has me on his list, to send me some, as soon as they get more made.
Look, if you want a lesser ammo, then go to one of the big box stores and buy it. You'll be getting good ammo - but you won't be getting ammo better than what Black Hills Ammunition is making these days. If you want some of the best ammo on the planet, then check out what Black Hills has to offer. One word of advice, though - you'll be spoiled, and the ammo from the other big name ammo makers won't be up to your expectations, after using Jeff and Kristi Hoffman's ammo. You've been warned! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, October 14, 2013

Dear Editor,
I have some comments to follow up on the letter from Kent from Illinois. I specifically left out mentioning match primers, salvaging brass with swaged primer pockets, etc., as this article was on the basics, barely touching upon a few advanced techniques.

As to touching the primers: My handloads suffered from maddening duds occasionally, until I tracked down the cause. An old timer told me about skin oils and primers. I, being a young know-it-all, could not find this old timer's story mentioned anywhere (this was way before broad public use of the Internet), so I set off to test his hypothesis for myself. I took a brand new tray of primers and opened the drawer one row. I poured the primers onto my work surface and used a clean tool to put five in my hand. I then seated these five, and then seated the other five without touching them. I later fired all ten, sans powder and projectile. The five I had kept in my palm clicked on duds twice. That is a forty percent failure rate. That was unacceptable. The other five popped off one hundred percent. The only thing differing was not touching the control batch. I recommend you try this experiment for yourself, as perhaps primers have gotten better. That was some time ago, but it proved the concept to me. Once I got a specific priming tool the problem vanished. [JWR Adds: I use an RCBS brand primer-flipping tray with a concentrically-grooved surface, and then pick up the primers with a primer feeder tube. That way my fingers never touch the primers. But I have doubts that the high failure rate that you reported was solely due to skin oils. There must have been another factor.]

As to the length of the loaded round, If you will check some SAAMI specs on specific calibers you will note that most will have at least an eighth of an inch of leeway (the distance from minimum to maximum length) in overall length, in many calibers (.357 Magnum, for instance, MIN: one point four zero five, MAX: one point five nine. This is well over an eighth, point one two five. I think most can measure to a sixteenth with a [machinist's] ruler). This can hardly be considered a critical measurement, in an article where sometimes, as in the die interior, one thousandth of an inch is critical. [JWR Adds: I disagree. Lining up a cartridge alongside ruler allows for variances from 90 degree alignment with your eye. (Bullets are tapered, so their tips will not be right along side the ruler markings. Physically calipering removes that error, and is far more accurate. Bullet seating depth can also affect accuracy, and it is crucial for getting a good crimp that properly engages a bullet's s cannelure.]

And as to the tapping on the case and bullet, I did forget one important detail: A small wooden block (and care to tap and not pound) should be used to prevent damage to the case or bullet, as in the Lee loader instructions. I also should have listed this block in the basic equipment. Thanks for noticing and allowing me to improve the article. - Ken from Montana

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Mr Rawles,

I'm writing to make a few points about the article Ken in Montana wrote about reloading, as there are some issues I have with it. I've only been reloading since 1999, but . . . .

First, Winchester primers are also brass in color, so anything other than silver doesn't automatically mean they're Remington. Additionally, people who are just getting into reloading should ask around about the reliability of the primers they're going to use, as some primers have harder cups and don't detonate reliably. I generally only use Winchester and CCI.

I'd be interested to know where Ken is getting his "dies." I've never seen a die sold for $2--even at an estate/garage sale. Ken's description sounds more like the Lee loading tools sold for people who do not have reloading presses. Those don't even sell for that price, and are extremely slow tools to use for loading--even slower than using a single stage press.

If you want to clean your range brass and don't have a tumbler, the best way I've found is to soak it in a sink or pail full of water, then run it under a tap or hose in a mesh bag to flush away the debris.

If you use a lubricant for your cases, take care not to get it into the mouth of the case, as it will contaminate the powder and could make it fail or only partially ignite. A best practice for those not using something like Hornady One Shot would be to clean the cases a second time after depriming.

Ken left out one category of primers--match primers. Match primers are generally a bit more sensitive than regular primers, to decrease issues when firing precision rifle and pistol matches. More on this in a bit, but most people will not need match primers for general purpose applications.

For magnum primers, readers should be aware that the reason there is more priming compound is to consistently ignite the generally larger powder charges found in magnum loads. Additionally, some companies, like Winchester, make the same primers for normal and magnum pistol loads.

My main issue with the article is in the primer handling and seating section. Unless you have a great deal of dirt or oil on your fingers, simply touching a primer will not cause it to fail. I've been using my fingers to flip primers for well over a decade with no bad results. Novices should not discard primers simply because they've touched them.

When seating a primer, a primer pocket loose enough to simply press primers into with hand pressure is probably one loose enough to have the primer shake loose under recoil. I would probably discard a case like that.

Additionally, because of the prevalence of surplus brass on ranges and in purchased ammunition, a reloader should NEVER strike a case mouth the seat a primer--this is an inherently dangerous practice, since primers are detonated in firing by impact. Military brass primers are crimped into place, and the crimp makes the primer pocket mouth smaller. Trying to seat a primer into a crimped primer pocket by striking the case could detonate the primer. There are multiple tools designed to remove the crimp from primer pockets. Many surplus cartridges can be identified by a circled cross on the head stamp (the base of the case where the manufacturer, year of manufacture, and caliber are stamped). Additionally, striking the mouth of the case could deform it, requiring resizing the case mouth or discarding the case if it is damaged badly enough.

When selecting a loading manual, novices should really buy one published by a powder or reloading equipment manufacturer, rather than by a bullet manufacturer. Contrary to the writer's claim, all bullet manufacturers do NOT publish load data--this is especially true for regional manufacturers and those who make bullets that are not jacketed. The reason I say this is because powder and reloading equipment manufacturers will publish data for a type of bullet (like a 230 grain full metal jacket), as opposed to a specific model of bullet (like a Hornady 230 grain XTP). While it's generally acceptable to use load data for bullets of the same weight and type by different manufacturers, novices may not know that.

The author's method of seating bullets is a little suspect as well. Tapping it into place with a mallet could lead to placing the bullet off-center, potentially damaging the case mouth. Additionally, if the case mouth is not belled during the loading process, you may shave the jacket or some lead off of the bullet. This could change the bullet's profile and potentially lead to issues with headspacing (especially for pistol bullets) if not the shavings are not cleaned off. Finally, I've noticed the author doesn't cover crimping the case mouth, which is very important. Bullets not crimped into the case can pull under recoil, and not crimping the case mouth can cause failures to feed--especially in cartridges that headspace from the case mouth (like the .45 ACP).

The author's rather cavalier attitude about overall length is slightly less alarming than his attitude about priming. Bullets seated too deeply into the case can also cause excess pressure and damage the gun and injure the shooter. A ruler is not accurate enough, and different bullet styles will not look similar enough to judge proper seating by eye. Get a set of calipers which show the measurement to the thousandth. Sincerely, - Kent from Illinois

Friday, October 4, 2013

With the current shortage of ammunition and the consequent high prices, it makes more sense now than ever before to learn how to reload your own fired brass casings.  I even suspect that in the future, this may well be the only way for the ordinary citizen to obtain ammunition. It's not at all difficult, it only requires a little understanding of the process, and the ability to follow directions. This will become very important later, as each caliber requires its own set of powders, charges, primers, and bullets. No one can learn them all, there are millions of potential combinations. But the data has already been compiled for you in hundreds of tables in loading manuals(more on these later...) and on the Internet.

As a reloader of my own ammunition since 1977, I have come to think that it is not nearly so mysterious as people make it seem. There are many miscommunications, even down to so basic a concept as the “bullet”. Despite what you hear on television and see in the movies, the bullet is the [projectile] part that flies downrange, the actual projectile itself. The complete loaded round consisting of the case, the primer, the powder, and the projectile (or bullet) is actually known as a “cartridge”, or simply a round. This terminology might seem unimportant at first glance, but it is as necessary for the reloader as the words “engine”, and “transmission”, are for a mechanic. The brass case, usually made of brass, is the part ejected out of the gun after the round is fired from a semi auto action, or manually extracted from other firearms. The “primer” is the little silver-colored (or gold-colored if Remington brand) round thing pressed into the center of the rear portion of the brass case, known as the case's “head”. The firing pin strikes the primer in order to fire the round. This is for centerfire cartridges. Rimfires, such as the .22 Long Rifle, are not reloadable and so will not be discussed here.

The open end of the case is called the “mouth”. The gunpowder is measured (or weighed) and poured into the mouth of the case, and then the bullet is seated into the case, on top of the powder. There are a few basic tools required such as a rubber or wooden mallet, a small funnel or piece of paper, and perhaps a punch and a pair of pliers.

There are also a few specialized tools needed, but they are quite cheap at the starter level. A good gunpowder scale that will measure in grains will usually be needed. A lab scale that measures in milligrams will work, but the result will have to be converted to grains, and a math mistake here could have serious consequences later. The powder charge needs to be quite precise. Real powder scales that measures in grains directly can often be found at swap meets and flea markets for $20. They are about $40 to $100 brand new. The one other indispensable tool is the die, specific to each caliber you wish to reload. They are around $2. I recommend buying dies new, at least until you become experienced enough to recognize a damaged or worn out die just by looking inside it.

This die is a round piece of hardened steel, with a hole in the center machined the exact size that the cartridge should be, according to the specs published by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute, or SAAMI (pronounced “sammy” in true acronym fashion). Pushing the case into this die will swage(squash in diameter) the case back down to the proper size, after firing has expanded it. The case is fed into the die, mouth end first, and then tapped into the die with a mallet, or pressed in, if one owns a reloading press. This process is known as “resizing” the case. This die will usually also contain a pin, known as a “decapper” which will push the spent primer out of its recess (known as the “primer pocket”) in the case head.

CAUTION: before this is done, the dirty case should be cleaned in some way, as gritty cases will cause excess wear in your die, and a big enough piece of debris  might even scratch your die, rendering it useless. Well, maybe not quite useless, but it will scratch your brass cases from then on, and sometimes cause them to stick in the die, meaning more time lost as you clear the die with a punch or some similar tool. There is no buffing the scratch out, as that would make the inside of the die oversize, and then it will not do the job of resizing. Even a thousandth of an inch matters here. A rag and some solvent will clean the grit off the cases nicely. There are also special tumbling or vibrating washtubs, similar to rock polishers, that clean many cases at a time, making the job quicker and easier. After the case is cleaned, it should be lubricated so that it won't stick in the die. The reloading component manufacturers make special lubes for this, and they only cost a few dollars for enough to do many thousands of rounds, but any type lubricant will do.

Now, with a sized and decapped case, the next step is to replace the spent primer, as this will ignite the new powder charge. Primers are bought in trays of 100, or cases of 1000, in most any sporting goods store. They come in four basic types: small pistol, large pistol, small rifle, and large rifle. All four types also have a “magnum” primer as a subtype. The small and large refer to the actual size of the primer. Some cases have a small primer pocket, and some a large. Usually, smaller cartridges will use small primers, and so on as one would expect, but not always, so be sure to look up the primer size of the cartridge you are loading before you buy. Or just tell the clerk what caliber you intend to load and if he doesn't know offhand he will certainly have the ability to look it up.

The rifle and pistol refers to the steel cup the priming compound is housed in. Rifles operate at much higher pressures than pistols, so require a more robust primer cup in order to withstand these high pressures without rupturing. But pistols do not hit the primer hard enough to set off the thick, tough rifle primers. They require thinner and softer primer cups, which is fine at the pistols lower pressure levels. This is another of the detail areas. Make sure never to mistake a pistol primer for a rifle primer. A rifle primer in a pistol will only lead to dud rounds, but a pistol primer in a rifle case might well lead to a pierced primer when fired, which would then allow muzzle blast to come out the rear of the chamber. Not a good situation. Many loading mistakes can generate excessive chamber pressures, but modern firearms have a large built-in safety margin, and also mechanisms to divert the hot gases away from the shooter, even if the primer or case head should rupture.

The magnum moniker just means that the primer contains more priming compound, thus giving a bigger flame, to set off the large charges of the very slow burning powders needed by the large capacity magnum rifle rounds. In my experience pistols don't need magnum primers, not even in the large magnums like the .44 Magnum or .454 Casull. It doesn't hurt to use magnum primers in a non magnum case, but they do cost more, which seems a waste, unless it is needed for proper ignition.

When handling primers individually, it is important to use small pliers, tweezers, forceps, or something similar to keep from touching them with your skin. Even chopsticks or toothpicks will work, if you are good enough with them. The slightest amount of any oil, including your skin oils, will deactivate the pressure sensitive material within, leading to dud rounds that won't fire. The primer is placed on the primer pocket, and simply pressed in. If one does not have a reloading press, I found the best way was to place the new primer, open side up, on a semi firm surface, such as a thick piece of solid(not corrugated) cardboard, or a hardcover book. Then place the case, mouth up, on top of it. Then simply tap the mouth of the case down unto the primer until it is flush with the case head. Care must be taken not to strike so hard that the primer will be set off. If you do, it will sound like a large cap from a cap pistol, but unless you happen to be looking down into case at the time, it is unlikely to cause injury. But it will waste the primer and then you must start over again. Besides, loud noises are scary when you are reloading. Dump the whole tray of primers out on a sheet of light weight cardboard, after folding up the edges to make a shallow box (there are plastic "primer flipping trays" for this, $5 or less) so they won't all roll around. Then turn each one open end up--either by swirling a primer flipping tray, or manually with a small tool. Then I use a needlenose pliers to transfer them one at a time to the surface of the book and seat that one, and then so on until I'm finished priming.

Now, it is time for the scale. A measured charge, of a specific amount, of a specific powder,  must now be added to the case, on top of the primer you just pressed in, under the bullet which you will seat in the next step. This article will only deal with smokeless powder, or guncotton. Black powder is that “other gunpowder” (more misconceptions) that is used in flintlocks and such, that throw out the huge cloud of white(the powder is black, the smoke is white) smoke when fired. Make sure never to confuse black and smokeless powders. There are many different grades of smokeless powder, by many different manufacturers. The primary difference between them is the rate at which they burn. A fast burn rate is for small cases and short barrels, such as pistol rounds. The larger the caliber's powder capacity, the slower the powder will need to burn, and also the firearm will need a longer barrel to take advantage of the extra powder to generate the higher velocities. This trade off is why pistol calibers are commonly short and fat, whereas rifle rounds are generally much longer and with much heavier bullets, even though the bore diameter might be the same. For example, the .35 Remington rifle cartridge will take up to a 220 grain bullet, whereas the .357 magnum pistol round, with the exact same .357 inch bore, has a 158 grain bullet as the heaviest available.

One can look up charge weights for different calibers and bullets on the Internet (search for: “loading data .45 ACP”, to get loads for the 45Aauto, for example), but the most convenient way is to have a book known as a “reloading manual”. These run about $25 (new) and each bullet manufacturer produces their own manual for the bullets that they make. They are all full of great general information and loading tips, but the bulk of the manuals are dedicated to tables showing which powders are for which caliber, and exactly how much of which powder for the particular bullet you wish to load. As a rule, the heavier the bullet in a given caliber, the less powder one must use. Heavier bullets will have more momentum because of their extra mass, but they will also push back harder on the expanding gases driving them up the bore. This will generate higher pressures, so the powder charge must be reduced, giving less velocity than a lighter bullet. Thus we note that the bullet and powder charge are co-dependent upon each other, and must be selected together. The easiest way to do this is to select the bullet that you want to use, and then go “shopping” in the manuals(or on the web) for powders that will work for that bullet in your caliber. Then pick the one that generates the most velocity with the powders that you have available. Once a powder, charge weight, and bullet has been decided upon, it is simply a matter of weighing it out and using a small funnel, or a small cone made of paper, to pour it into the case mouth without spilling any(remember, the powder charge should be precise).

Now, all that is left is to seat a new bullet on top of the powder, and you will have a round ready to fire! To do this you place the new bullet, flat side down, into the case mouth that you just filled with powder, and then simply tap it home with the mallet. You need to make sure that the newly loaded round is not too long, but the very scientific process of TLAR (that looks about right) works pretty well. When it looks about right, check the overall length against the SAAMI specs (on the web or from the loading manual), to make sure it is not too long. A ruler works fine for this, as the previous precision is not needed here. Too short is seldom a problem, as around the point of minimum length the cartridge usually begins to look strange. Even if the bullet is seated too deeply, usually the only adverse effect, other than a reduction in accuracy, is potential feeding malfunctions. If a round is too long, it will either fail to go in the magazine, fail to chamber, or worse it could seat the bullet into the rifling, thus creating excess chamber pressures which could even damage your firearm. In any case the overall length specification has a fair bit of leeway in most cartridges. It is fairly easy to get the length between the minimum and the maximum specs, often just by eye. Many bullets will have a “cannelure”, or crimping groove, around their circumference. These bullets should be seated until this ring is lined up with the case mouth.

Once all these steps are complete, the round is ready to fire. However, if it is to be fired in a semi-auto action, it should undergo one final step, the bullet should be taper crimped into the case. This requires yet another die, but this step is optional. The worst that will happen to uncrimped bullets is that the rounds in the bottom of the magazine might become seated deeper into the case by recoil, and get below the minimum overall case length. In manual actions crimping is not usually necessary.

Of course, this has been vastly simplified, as there is a great deal more than these simple basics. An experienced reloader can make his own bullets, and even make his own black powder, but smokeless powder is too dangerous to manufacture outside of laboratory conditions. They can even make cases, and thus load ammunition, for calibers that no longer exist. There are professional reloaders who do just that for a living. Mostly due to the sport of cowboy action shooting, which often uses calibers that have not been manufactured for decades. Also, it is sometimes far cheaper to use another cheap case, as the basis for a more expensive caliber, such as making 300 Blackout brass from the 5.56mm military surplus case.

This, of course, is only the beginning as one can purchase many accessories to make the job easier and quicker including presses, priming tools that hold a whole tray at a time and never require you to touch the primers at all, digital and automatic scales, and "powder measures" that, once set for a particular weight of a particular powder, will continue to measure out that amount at the pull of a handle. So much quicker than weighing each charge! One can even purchase multiple station presses that will do each of these operations, to many separate cases, all at once. These, once set up, will drop a loaded round for you, each time you work the press handle. One can even buy automated presses with no lever, that only need to be monitored and fed reloading components. These will do all processes by themselves, feeding cases, decapping, repriming, adding powder, bullet and crimp, and dropping loaded rounds, one at a time, with no input from the operator, and continue for as long as they have components. These are very expensive though, and still require a highly experienced operator, as all complex machinery does.

One big shortcut that I can heartily recommend is a product called the Lee reloading kit. Lee is a brand and no, I am not, nor have I ever been, affiliated with them. It is just the way I started loading way back in the 1970s, and it always worked well for me. They are for only one caliber, but they are cheap, they last virtually forever (unless you feed enough dirt into the die to scratch its walls, but that is true for any die, from any manufacturer), and they are easy and simple to use. They include the size die for whatever caliber it is, the decapping pin, small plastic powder measure(like tiny measuring cups with long handles) to cover a range of powder charge weights, and instructions with tables telling you what measure to use for which powders and charges, and tables with some loading data to get started with. With this kit you won't even need the powder scale that I listed as an essential. All you really need is in that kit, but you will find many more items that you will want, quickly enough. For example, with only the plastic powder measures you will be extremely limited in the types and weights of powder you must use, but it works fine. In fact, it is the most foolproof way to load, as there is no scale that could be misread, no measuring chamber to set or calibrate, etc. All one needs to do is look up in the tables provided which measure you want for the powder charge desired, select that measure, dip it in powder to fill the measure, and then use a flat object, such as the back side of a knife, to level the measure off, as one would do while measuring flour. Then drop it into the case, seat a bullet, and a loaded cartridge is completed.

From here, the sky is the limit as your experience increases. Soon you will find yourself wanting a scale so you can use any powder and charge, not just the few listed in Lee's tables. With a scale you can still use the Lee measures, you will just need to fill one with the unlisted powder you want to use, and then drop it on your scale and weigh it to know what size charge that size of measure throws with that particular powder. A single station press will probably be wanted next, as the tapping with the mallet method is slow. Don't get me wrong, this method is not difficult, just time consuming. A couple of hours will only produce 20-40 cartridges. Not really practical for shooting 500 rounds from a semi-auto, for example. At the other end of the spectrum are the multi stage progressive presses that can load up to a thousand rounds an hour. There is even a press that is built for working in your lap using both hands, so you can have a portable reloading setup!

All the loading data, ballistic charts, burning rates of various powders, bullet types, and more can all be found in the loading manuals. There is such a wealth of firearms related information in them that I would recommend every shooter have one, even if he never has any intention of reloading. All of the equipment, supplies, and components are sold in most any sporting goods store. You might need to ask the man behind the gun counter, though, because the reloading stuff is often kept in the back, or at least behind the counter. A good gun shop will also be glad to answer any other questions that might arise. They are generally happy to help a beginning reloader, as reloaders usually shoot much more than non-reloaders, meaning more sales. While it is true that reloading your ammo is much cheaper than buying factory, I have found that whatever money is saved, is generally spent on more components. Thus the reloader really gets to shoot lots more for same money, rather than actually saving any. Of course, if you only want the savings they are there, as reloaded ammo generally runs 25-50% of the price of factory ammo with the same bullet. This is 50 to 75% off! Quite a sale! That didn't work for me. I found that whatever I saved, and usually more besides, got spent on ammo anyway. I just ended up shooting a lot more!

Well, that's it, that's all the basics. The rest is up to you. Either way, cash savings or more shooting, it's really your choice. The main point is; there is no real need for all the expensive equipment that most will want to sell you. That equipment is nice to have, but not necessary. Also, the more complex the equipment, the more knowledge is required to use it. Thus I recommend starting with the simple and cheap equipment, and then progressing to more elaborate gear as budget and your level of reloading knowledge dictate.

Reloading is not dangerous when done properly, but it is unforgiving in certain areas. For example, if you misread a scale, or get interrupted while dropping the powder in the case, forget when you return, and then put another charge in the same case, that could easily damage a firearm. Accidentally reading a table incorrectly and using the load for a .30-06 110 grain bullet, when you are actually loading a 220 grain bullet can easily do the same, as the stiffer powder charge for the light bullet will probably be too much with the heavier bullet. Reloading is not difficult, but certain aspects of it, particularly reading the information from the tables, is not forgiving. The writers of the manuals know this and arrange the data to avoid errors. Still, one needs to be methodical and double and triple check the crucial steps of reading the data, and measuring and dispensing the proper type of powder and matching it to the bullet. Nothing will blow up a gun quicker than accidentally using Bullseye or Unique (both fast burning pistol powders) with loading data for something like IMR3031(a slow rifle powder).

Except perhaps for mixing different powders together. Some old timers(older even than me) say that they made good loads that way, but I suspect that was with black powder which only has one real burning rate. Never confuse black and smokeless powders as they are two very different animals. Every time I have seen mixed smokeless powder used it blew the gun up. They were always quite worthless firearms and triggered remotely so no one was hurt, but the way some of them blew, I was certainly glad I was not holding it at the time! But if one can follow the proper data, and do so carefully, then there is nothing to fear. I am not a detail type of person, but I haven't had any loading “accidents”. It is just a matter of knowing that at certain stages, reloading is a detail task, and there is a very large difference between 32 grains of IMR4831 powder and 32 grains of IMR2400 powder!
Good luck, and happy reloading!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Just wanted to amplify the recent contribution on Airsoft which focused mainly on Airsoft battle rifle emulations.

Our concealed carry instructor had mention Airsoft handguns as CQB/indoor training and drill options. In particular he thought well of the "GreenGas" Blowback emulations of semi-auto handguns. I filed this under someday and didn't begin to investigate Airsoft handguns until the recent spike in ammo prices. 

The propellant, Green Gas, is propane with a bit of silicon oil added for a lubricant. Adapters are available so you may use larger (lantern and torch size) propane tanks which are more economical.You can purchase silicone oil separately and add a drop to the intake before you fill in this fashion. Airsoft pistol magazines in addition to holding the ammo have a tank to hold the propellant gas. I looked in particular at green gas "blow back" pistols. (With these, the slide cycles with each trigger pull.) The action is very realistic while the projectile is non-lethal. Noise levels indoors are tolerable without protection unless you are in a very live hard surfaced room; outdoors noise is not stealth but negligible.

There are some excellent handgun emulations. Some manufactures have licensed emulations of their handguns to airsoft manufacture. These include trademark logos and other details . Others have merely looked the other way as long as the emulation is fairly generic and avoids logos, trade names and proprietary features. Glock has been extremely aggressive in suppressing any appearance, including descriptions, that a particular pistol is "Glock-like." You will however find some models of a G 19, 17, 16 or something pistols available that look very like an un-named 9mm handgun from a certain manufacturer.  Mine came in a plain cardboard box (turned out to be the original Taiwanese box refolded inside out). BTW most all airsoft manufacturers are in Taiwan.

A major pistol manufacturer is KWA/KSC reputed to produce reliable high quality airsoft pistols. (From what I have been able to discern they are in many cases the same company. That is, there is no discernible difference in like airsoft pistols labeled KWA or KSC manufacture.)

I purchased a KSC, "G" from and a KWA M9 PTP from (the latter is a Beretta 92F in all but name). The "G" features the safety trigger that Glock is known for. Both pistols take down in the same fashion as their gunpowder counterparts. They weigh the same within a fraction. This includes the magazines which weighs the same as a fully loaded standard version of the respective model. The Beretta clone is all metal and the "G" is plastic and metal in the same places as its "no-namesake".

Since the form factor is reasonably identical, I can use my normal Glock carry holster which is leather IWB but holstering tends to cycle the slide unless I hold my thumb on the rear. The slide spring required in these devices is necessarily weaker than that of a full blow cousin and the firm grasp of this holster is a bit much for it. I have other holsters (who doesn't have a drawer full?) but I'd rather train with what I normally wear. Thumb on the rear of the slide or the sight does not seem likely to lead to adverse consequences.
Recommend at least one additional mag when you purchase a pistol (ensures compatibility). They are not inexpensive as they contain a propellant pressure tank, valves etc in addition to ammo feed. The mags are heavy (emulating fully loaded mags) and they have touchy parts... Therefore, you do not want to drop them on the floor, rocks etc. doing mag change drills.

These devices are a great training aid within the limits previously mentioned by JWR. (Namely: Keeping the correct mindset on cover versus concealment and effective range.)

Disclaimer: I have no relationship with the previous mentioned suppliers. I chose them based on comments I found on the net that indicated they were reliable. They filled my orders but I have had no occasion to test their customer service beyond that simple relationship. - Dollardog

Sunday, September 22, 2013

To many people, Airsoft is just a toy gun that annoying 12-year olds spray at each other with plastic pellets in the back yard.  But to the military and creative survivalists, it’s a training tool that saves lives.

The Japanese invented Airsoft in the 1990s and militaries worldwide soon discovered that the inexpensive, safe Airsoft guns are a realistic method for training tactical movement, magazine change drills, building clearing, and much more.

What is Airsoft?

There are a myriad of different types and styles of Airsoft guns, but the common attractive feature is that they are modeled in size and appearance on real handguns, shotguns, battle rifles, and sniper rifles. While most are lightweight but sturdy ABS plastic, the higher end models use the same wood and metal construction and approximate the true weight and feel of their real-life counterparts.

Airsoft guns shoot 6mm hollow plastic pellets anywhere from 200 to 500 feet per second (FPS). This is fast enough to project a level shot for up to 40-50 yards, but slow enough with a very light projectile to avoid injury. Still, face and eye protection are a must.

The beauty of Airsoft training is that it’s easy to acquire used or new guns, no matter how remote your location. Craigslist, eBay, and sporting goods stores have a wide variety of Airsoft guns and accessories. If you have an AK-47 or AR-15 as your weapon platform, you can find any variety of Airsoft to closely match your bang gun’s configuration:  tactical lights, scopes, and collapsible or folding stocks. Airsoft guns are made to function exactly as the weapon it’s modeled after; this means the magazine release, accessory rails, and fixed sights are exactly the same. In fact, many Airsoft components such as optics and handguards are interchangeable with their parent weapon.

Types of Airsoft Guns

Spring Action

Airsoft comes in many shooting styles – spring loaded, battery powered “automatic electric gun” (AEG), or gas blowback (GBB). Typically, spring guns are the least expensive, as they require the spring to be cocked back with each shot. This is fine for smaller children, as the velocity is quite slow, at 200 FPS or less and unlikely to cause damage at close range.

Battery Powered

But for older children and adults, AEG or GBB are the ways to go. AEG has the advantage of a lower cost to shoot, as long as the battery holds out. Happily, battery chargers are inexpensive and readily available. The disadvantage is the lack of felt recoil, reducing realism.

Gas Blowback

GBB uses either the inexpensive hand-held propane canisters which charge the magazines, or the small CO2 cartridges you can get at any sporting goods or department store.  Different GBB guns require different gas, and they are generally more expensive than AEG both for the weapon and cost to shoot. The advantages to GBB are that the gas systems work similar to real guns, working the bolt or slide, and simulating real action with each shot. This adds realism to firearms training, but without as much felt recoil as the real thing.

GBB is very effective for marksmanship training, especially with folks who have a difficult time or are intimidated by the report and recoil of real firearms. GBB Airsoft allows the trainee to feel the weight of the real weapon, and shoot in the comfort of their own home or back yard without the noise, recoil, or ammo expense. This is especially useful for handgun accuracy.  A simple cardboard box with a target in front and curtain or rags at the back to catch and drop the pellets and you can practice any dry-fire exercise with real shots and not make a mess of your house.  Just be sure to discard all spent ammo, as re-firing Airsoft pellets can damage your gun. Your child, spouse, and even you will be a deadeye shot before you know it.

How to Purchase

Now that you know the value of Airsoft, how do you go about acquiring the guns? Wal-Mart and many other sporting goods stores carry all varieties – from $29 el cheapos to $500 for tricked out, souped-up models. For training in firearm handling, familiarity, and drills, you don’t need the baddest, fastest thing out there that lets you spray pellets all over. You would never be doing that in a real-life situation anyway. You also don’t want the cheap plastic lightweight spring guns where the pellets drop out of the air after 30 feet. You want something in between, like the $125-to-$250 range if you buy brand new.

Our group decided to shop the models that were closest in weight and feel to whatever we would be carrying in the field. For most of us, that meant AK-47 and AR-15 rifles. Some prefer shotguns, so they looked for units modeled on Mossberg or Remington. Most of us are on limited budgets, so we looked on Craigslist and eBay, the two most prolific classified ad and auction sites on the internet. And we weren’t disappointed! Larger cities and environs have more used equipment to choose from, so if you find someone who is selling their guns, face masks, pellets, slings and assorted other gear all at once, that can be a great deal and worth the drive.

Horse trading for Airsoft can be a real hair-pulling experience. Remember that most sellers will be teenagers and very young adult males who need money for other interests. They will inadvertently give you wrong or incomplete information about the guns, unless you ask very specific questions and even guide them along. Many don’t know what make or model they have, even when serial or other identifying numbers are clearly marked on the side of the gun. Get this info before you make a drive to see it so you can estimate value and see user reviews on the internet. Just punch the numbers into an internet search and you will get more data than you can handle.

If you go anywhere but the seller’s home –meeting at a halfway point or a neutral location – be careful! These guns look absolutely real and gun haters and other uninformed rabbits may call the police on you. Nothing will happen to you since they’re perfectly legal and considered toys by many, but it could be inconvenient and embarrassing. All Airsoft guns are required to be equipped with a bright orange tip when sold brand new in order to identify them as Airsoft. Since many people paint or remove these tips, just be aware that since Airsoft guns look so real, to be discreet in a public setting - the same as you would be with any firearm.

Airsoft Ammo

Next is ammo, which typically is 6 millimeters in diameter. While many of the cheaper guns use the lightweight .12 gram pellets, they are so light that inaccuracy after a few yards becomes an issue. Also, in better guns with more power and higher FPS velocity, these fragile pellets can sometimes break into pieces inside the gun and damage or ruin it.

Your best bet is to select the heavier, more stable and accurate .20 gram and heavier pellets. The heavier they are (.25, .28 grams and more), the farther they will travel in a flat line, increasing realistic accuracy out to 40-50 yards or so. However, the advertised FPS ratings for Airsoft guns is almost always for the lighter .12 gram ammo. For example, a rifle rated at 375 FPS will likely get 330-350 FPS with .20 gram pellets and less with the heavier ones. While this is plenty of velocity for realistic training, you don’t want to go much below 325 FPS for open field or woods training. But for close quarters combat (CQB) training or home defense and building clearing practice, less FPS is better for safety.

Where to Train

The last thing you need before you can open fire is a place to train. You will need more than a back yard, so some acreage is optimum – the more land, the better. This will give you varied terrain, opportunities to use your land navigation and patrol skills, and the ability to train in multiple “what if” scenarios. If you want to train in buildings and rooms, they can be quickly simulated with cardboard, large canvas or plastic drop cloth walls, etc.

Another bonus to Airsoft training is that finding acreage will be easier than locating friendly live fire practice grounds. Airsoft is very quiet and you can even wear your camouflage gear. While our group plans to do their bugouts in subdued civilian clothing to blend in and not attract attention (but packing our camos so we have them when needed), Airsofters are almost always in camo when they play, and folks are accustomed to seeing that. If anyone asks what the heck you’re doing, just say you’re playing Airsoft with the kids to get them out of the house for some exercise. Everyone, including leftists, can relate to that.

If you or the friendly landowner whose property you’re training on asks what will happen with all those spent plastic pellets all over the place, you’re in luck. With the rapidly growing popularity of Airsoft, commercial Airsoft parks especially have addressed this concern by using biodegradable pellets. Usually only available in .20 grams and heavier, they are about 25% more expensive than their non-green counterparts. But they promise to dissolve and go away completely in 6-9 months, making environmentalists and landowners alike very happy.

Training Basics

Okay, now you and your clan have Airsoft rifles and ideally, decent pistols as backup just as you would have in a real-life survival situation. You have some training acreage, ammo, and your gear. Now the fun begins. You can create simple scenarios such as a family attempting to move through an area, avoiding simulated road blocks, ambushes, and confrontations.

Even before the shooting fun starts, it’s notable how someone who has never hoisted any kind of gun before feels completely clumsy and awkward with it. Carrying harmless but realistic Airsoft rifles with some heft to them is a great way to learn shooting positions, how to fall quickly to the ground without discharging the weapon or impaling yourself, crawling, and all those other enjoyable activities. Last but not least, perfecting muzzle discipline where the most serious incident will be an annoying shot to the butt of the person in front of you will make everyone more at ease and ready to learn.

Bring in the Kids

Children, especially, take to Airsoft like ducks to water. If the child is sufficiently mature and follows direction, eight years old is not too young to train them in firearm use, patrolling, security, etc. Even if their real gun is a lightweight .22 carbine or if they have no gun at all, this training will make them competent and safe with firearms, and a valuable asset to any family or group.

When children see they get to have fun, run around, sneak and peek, and shoot stuff, even the most difficult of them become amazingly attentive. After all, they want to be like the “big kids” and they don’t want to miss out on the action. And kids are knowledge sponges anyway, so go ahead and load them with information and tasks. If they falter, dial them back a bit to their last level of competence. They will rise again quickly.

Don’t be surprised if children in your group study and practice diligently and become more skilled than some of the adults. Even children who are shy or uninterested at the beginning will see how much fun their siblings and friends are having and will soon want to join in. Kids gobble up responsibility to their highest ability and will pleasantly surprise you with their eagerness to please and to be useful.

Ready, Set, Train!

Once your group is comfortable with the Airsoft guns and demonstrate safe practices (same rules of firearms safety as with real guns should be practiced rigorously until it’s second nature), it’s time to work on those group movement, recon, communications, and other skills in either staged scenarios or spontaneous reactive drills. Useful exercises include taking cover under fire (with real Airsoft pellets zinging around), combat medical response when someone is hit, covered retreat (can you move and find cover without being shot?), intelligence gathering, find the sniper, etc.

Snipers, Stealth, and Vehicles

Speaking of snipers, Airsoft is a great training vehicle for those budding long-range shooters in your group. From developing effective camouflage, preparing hides, learning patience, sighting through a scope, to scooting to safety after making the shot, they can efficiently practice these basic skills.

Sniper Airsoft rifles are bolt-action, just like the real ones. They are also the only quality Airsoft rifles where spring operation is optimal. Airsoft sniper rifles use powerful springs designed for one long distance shot at a time and often require a bit of muscle (usually teenagers and adults only) to pull back the bolt. Sniper rifles fire at 450-550 FPS, so they can be dangerous at closer than 100 feet. They fire straight line for up to 100 yards, depending upon the quality of rifle and spring. For safety, shoot these at long distance only, please.

Conversely, “man down” drills for the team under sniper attack, along with searching out the sniper so the group can continue movement, are also valuable training.

These skills can also be utilized in group vehicle movement, something sorely lacking in many prepper training regimens. What happens if your convoy comes under fire? What if the lead vehicle is disabled and you need to evacuate everyone safely to another vehicle? What about the rear vehicle? For many, just rapidly exiting a vehicle without getting their weapon tangled in their gear and dropping magazines is a challenge in itself. Better to practice and find out your capabilities in a safe environment before it really counts.

Reality Check

While many Airsoft guns are capable of auto fire at 10-13 pellets per second, our group works to “keep it real” by using semi-auto only, just like our regular firearms. And while most Airsoft magazines hold 100-500 pellets, we use the honor system to limit ourselves to 30 shots or so before we are required to reload the magazine or exchange for another. This forces shot discipline and marksmanship. But at the end of training, we usually do something with full auto just for kicks, because it’s really fun and fast. This is the part the kids love the most, too.

There are even groups out there that have, as instructors, former military personnel who are Airsoft enthusiasts. They practice and train real-world military maneuvers and tactics.  Look up “Airsoft milsim” (military simulations) in your search engine for all sorts of info and links. There are good youtube videos, too. Check your local area for this fascinating aspect of Airsoft. If you’re starting from scratch, this could be a great way to get basic training from guys who have been there and done that.

The Best of Airsoft

Now that you see the value of Airsoft, let’s review the advantages and versatility added to your training:

  • Economical – shoot plastic pellets instead of scarce ammo
  • Safe – accidentally shot by a hollow plastic ball beats a .223 any day
  • Realistic – simulate your carry weapon in form and function
  • Discreet – quiet without attracting attention
  • Family Friendly – the kids are all right
  • Tactical training from experts

There are infinite situations and scenarios you can practice as a group without the inconvenience, danger, and expense of live fire training. Use your imagination and the possibilities are endless. Happy Airsoft!

JWR Adds: As I've previously mentioned, Airsoft and paintball are fine for learning some aspects of camouflage and small team tactics. The fatal flaws of both, however, are that:

1.) Since paint balls and Airsoft pellets have hardly any penetration, players start to subconsciously equate concealment with cover.

2.) Because Airsoft pellets and paint balls only have limited range, people start to subconsciously think of anything beyond that range as "safely out of range" (for maneuver in the open.)

If you can regularly remind yourself about those shortcomings and adjust your training regimen accordingly, then you'll find that they provide somewhat worthwhile training. But it is essential that you integrate high velocity ballistic realism. This means perfunctorily declaring anyone who stands up in the open at 50+ yards "dead meat." Ditto for anyone who mistakenly takes "cover" behind bushes or small trees. Always remember: concealment is not cover!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dear Jim and Readers,
I want to start out with a little bit of pre-history. About five weeks ago I had my first heart attack, and the doc installed a stint. That was a wake-up call! Wow. Of course the subject by the doc was diet, lose the lard, get exercise. I started losing by cutting back, but I needed a bit more help. Work would be nice, it would help with my activity level plus I needed some extra finances to come in as some big bills were hitting all at once. So when all these things begin to get out of control I prayed. "Hey Lord, I need to lose all this fat, and I need enough money to pay my bills. YOU have never ever failed me, could you help me out on this one please"? Less than an hour later I got a phone call from our troops Boy Scout Master, who just happens to be our Scout Camp Ranger at Camp McLaughlin in the Crater Lake Council. "Hey Dave, are you free for the next four weeks? I got a job that pays a thousand dollars, ya want it?” Immediately I thought - Hmmmmm, that was sure quick Lord thanks! And answered - “Yes I will take it! What is it? (I really didn't much care even if it was cleaning toilets, they get really messy there.) He said “You're an ol' sarg, could you help run the BB gun range, it would be a lot of fun?" " Let me see-- hold on a minute". A short pause and short question to my dear loving wife, “Can I go away for a month and help run a BB gun range at the scout camp?” Her response, "I'll help you pack!". Back to the Camp ranger. "Yes she wants me to get some exercise, and start recovering from the heart attack, and doesn't want me to get shot, when do I start?" "Be here tomorrow morning at seven and meet the boss and staff. And bring enough stuff to last you at least 4 days. You’ll be on 4 and off 3 days during the month.“ A few thoughts like “ Hmmm 0700, I haven't gotten up that early in months, ahh I guess I can do that.” “Sure I'll be there.” At 0500 I got up, showered, packed, and was out the door by 0545 with a cup of coffee. My go bag had most of my stuff, so the packing was easy.

It was a beautiful drive down the highway, with the sun coming up the drive across to the Crater Lake Highway. Up and across the valley to West Side Road was absolutely gorgeous. What a beautiful day to be on the flower side of the roots. It could have very well been the other way around. I was very thankful to our loving God. The time with Him and His beautiful creation was a real treat. "Thanks again, Lord". Sixteen miles on West Side Road, to the 140 road to Medford, up the mountain about nine more miles and a mile south to the scout camp. The camp sits on the beautiful Lake of the Woods. Sixty one miles on the button, and ten minutes to spare. Hmmm, a bit over 55, but not much. I met my Scout Troop Master and my new boss, hmmmm younger than my 33 year old son. They were very appreciative that I would even consider the job." Glad to do it, if it’s for the boys. They need good guidance and this helps me to get out from under my wife's feet." A bit later I met my new mentor, a fine retired Master Chief also named Dave. A bit older than me, and we hit it off quickly. I was his new shadow. We discovered we had something in common - we both had heart attacks within days of each other and both shared the same doctor.

We went to the range to prepare for the next group of cub scouts and almost an
equal number of parents. More groups started coming down a couple of hours later. Dave sat me down to read the Boy Scout BB gun range master chapter, and all the rules, etc. Not difficult, but it was sure hard to not call the BB gun a weapon, a BB a round and change from open the breach or chamber. The boy scout terminology is OPEN THE ACTION, BB gun, or rifle. But it's not rifled. So BB gun works nice. After passing a test that was actually pretty easy for me once I learned the terminology of the Boy Scouts. I was issued a BB gun range officer certification. Wow, an ol’ retired guy, an expert marksman from my military days with the M-60, M-16, M-79, Ma duce, and not so expert at the time with the 1911A1, but now I am, and can add the SKS to it too. And now a BB gun. The first day was the safety spiel, the following two days was practice, competition and when possible chatting and shooting a bit with some real marksmen, and moms of the boys when time permitted.

I struck up some new friendships with some dads who had some of our readers common interests. There were several who were of like mind. In the evening after retreat, a few of us had time to talk. One told me it was really hard for the boys to correlate the big board we had with the sites and site picture painted on it to the actual site picture. So I said I would bring it up to other Dave, and we put our heads together. Our idea, was to take a BB gun and line the sites up on the target on the range exactly where the gun would hit the target for the bull. We did this with the sand bags. Then we took Dave's cell phone and took about a dozen pictures trying to get just the right sight picture. When we finally got it, he went home and made copies of the best one and we laminated them so they could be handled over and over. We did enough for each firing position.

Next we presented the idea to a large group of scouts and their dads. There were two police officers in the group. Their eyes lit up, and one hollered WHAT A GREAT IDEA! He looked at the picture and wondered why no one had ever done that before. My past life I worked in a research lab as an engineering development tech, and helped develop lots of really great ideas ( like our automatic blood pressure cuffs), so my little synapses still work now and then, especially when I think something could be improved on.

Our first day with the photographs made our day so much easier. We used the picture before the first BB was ever fired and had the parents or ourselves hold the picture up in front of the barrel aligned with the sites. The boys would look and see what they were supposed to see in the picture and it worked great for the boys to find the correct site picture when they were aiming the rifle. Our day was very long but extremely satisfying. Our kids had a great time. We gave out tootsie rolls for ever hit in the X or that broke the line. By the end of two full sessions, three days each, we ran out of tootsie rolls. The candy chewers were really making our job easier. Of course we had to sit down with many boys to help them in learning how to hold the BB gun, get their breathing right, their cheek and shoulder weld the same each time, and squeeze the trigger, instead of jerking it. LOTS OF FUN for us old guys teaching these skills. I really enjoyed it.

All of our guns, and bows and arrows are all provided by grants from the NRA (a little plug for them). Even though I'm not a member, I'm now considering it. We also beg for grants from anyone who will help. There is a great need for positive role models to work with our youth.

OK, now to the meat of what I want to talk about. I had a lot of time to sit down at the table and check sites and put a lot of BB's down range at about 31 feet. It gave me lots of time to practice. PRACTICE. I can't afford to get 22 ammo right now at a cheap enough price that I want to blow money practicing my marksmanship. The thought came to me that this would be a good subject for Survivalblog. I was able to work on my breathing, concentration, site picture, sighting with all of the rifles, and most of all my trigger pull. These little guns can be used in almost any back yard, with a low hanging clothes line, a piece of old tent canvas to catch the BB's and some good targets hung with cloths pins. Hmmm, my wife still uses them. Mom's do you remember how to hang a shirt on the line? I was surprised how many kids that had never seen a cloths pin and the response was usually. ‘Nah! my mom uses a dryer.’ Well folks break out the cloths pins, line and start drying out side again. Oh you don't need starch when you hang clothes on the line either. BB's are cheap. The guns we used were about $50 dollars. You can copy targets off on your own printer.

I started cleaning out the bulls eye in 10 to 15 shots.

Another thing, add clothes pins to your trading larder for when the SHTF. All those boys moms are going to need them. I wonder how many. 22 rounds you could get for a pack of them.
I have really enjoyed having time to shoot, and enhance my skills, and cleaning up some bad habits. The boys were all a real blessing to work with. They were all great youngsters. They are our future leadership. If you ever get the chance to work with youngsters take it. The pay is very low, accommodations rustic (minus 5 stars) and food, worse than a bad GI mess hall, but that’s the FDA’s fault. Oh it is also a good way to meet like-minded people. I made several new friends who need some help with communications, my usual subjects. Looks like new opportunities are just around the corner.
Thank you Lord for the help and fun, I left 15 pounds and 4 inches behind too. Blessings to you all, - Dave of Oregon

Saturday, July 13, 2013

With the continuing ammunition shortage, inexpensive firearms practice has become impossible.  .45ACP centerfire pistol ammo, when available, pushes a dollar a round.  I haven't seen .22LR for a lot less than fifty cents a round either.  Ridiculous!  However, there are replica, 1:1 scale copies, air or gas powered guns and ammo that simulate the M1911 firearm shooting experience in every respect except the noise and recoil.  You can practice indoors, in any weather, without disturbing a sleeper in the same room with a "weapon" indistinguishable from the real thing at a price that isn't just low but down right cheap!
Notice I said indistinguishable.  There are jurisdictions where mere possession of these replica guns can get you arrested, fined, jailed or even killed.  I have the clippings!  Do your own research on local laws and for heaven's sake use good judgment and discretion when transporting, displaying or using these items, even in the privacy of your own property.  These guns shoot actual projectiles, so eye protection is a must as well.  Remember the lament Ralphie heard in "A Christmas Story"!  Noise is generally not a factor.  "Silenced" shots in a movie are not noticeably louder.
This article will focus on the M1911 pistol but there are a staggeringly impressive variety of air-powered clones for most of the favorite prepper firearms including M4geries, 870s, M1A, Glocks and Rugers.  Plus, they can be amazingly inexpensive.  A basic plastic M1911 Airsoft spring pistol goes for less than $15.  A similar Airsoft M4gery rifle starts at around $30.  5000 Airsoft "rounds" are about $15.  You can equip yourself for some very long practice sessions for less than $100.  You can also go overboard too, so watch that.  Electric motor powered full auto Airsoft M4gerys start at $120 or so but can jump into real firearm prices at nearly $500.
Introducing new shooters of any age to safe gun handling, proper trigger control, and focused sight picture has never been easier with these non-lethal guns.  You or a friend can critique your own performance as well.  I quietly judge new shooter friends' gun handling safety awareness with these guns before we go to a real firearm range.
Keep in mind that the various air gun ammo types have different ballistic capabilities.  Lead pellets are far better for actual marksmanship at significant distances, for example.  Like paintball, but less messy, Airsoft ammo was developed for live fire gaming against other human beings and is safer, but not absolutely SAFE to be hit by.  BBs fly straighter and farther than Airsoft pellets, but not quite as accurately as lead .17pellets.
Airsoft guns started in Japan like pellet guns in Europe and seem to have been developed for exercising the fun parts of shooting and to sidestep national gun control measures by not being classified as firearms.  Airsoft ammo are plastic spheres of various colors 6mm in size and from .12 grams to .28 grams each in weight.  Lead airgun pellets are typically .17 caliber cones with some kind of mushroom shape on top. (That shape varies according to purpose.)  BBs are generally zinc plated steel, silver balls 4.5mm in diameter.  This article will discuss mostly M1911 clones for each type of air powered ammunition.
Similar to paintball, Airsoft free fire zone ranges and supply stores are found in most metro US cities.  Various tactical games are played at these indoor and outdoor facilities.  Made from light plastic, Airsoft ammo generally leaves the gun at less than, usually far less than, 500 feet per second (FPS).  2-300 FPS is more typical.  Assuming clothing, getting hit with one below the head will sting and might leave a welt, but no worse.  Commercial ranges generally have chronographs and a maximum FPS limit allowed.  Safety headgear, goggles and face-mask are mandatory there as well.  In your own basement or living room, firing at a pellet trap only, eye protection from ricochet is sufficient.
Airsoft M1911s, like all Airsoft weapons, are distinguished by a bright orange barrel tip and come in a huge variety of models, some more accurate copies of the M1911 than others.  Plastic, part plastic or all metal guns, working grip safeties or not, working slide safeties most of the time, traditional or more modern sights, etc. are some of the features to watch. The least expensive are single shot spring powered pistols.  That means you have to rack the slide before each shot.  Magazines with extras usually available but specific to each gun model,  hold 16 or so rounds.  They vary in price from about $10 for a springer to perhaps $30 or $40 for gas models.
For example, a simple starter package, the Crosman Airsoft Stinger Challenge Kit includes 2 plastic pistols, dartboard style target and 1,000 rounds in 2 colors for less than $40.   A heavier all metal and therefore more accurate simulation of an M1911A1 is the UTG Sport Airsoft 1911 Full Metal Spring Pistol with 2 Mags  for around $25.
Moving upscale in Airsoft M1911s, I must mention the "GBB" for gas blow back repeating models.  There are many models, but all are powered by 12 gram gas cartridges.  The gas allows for reciprocating slides and semi-automatic firepower just like the real deal, called Real Steel by Airsofties.  Some even field strip very similarly to the real M1911.  The Elite Force 1911 TAC CO2 Metal Airsoft Pistol runs about $125 is one of several top examples.  These models tend to have  modern custom features such as Novak style sights, ambidextrous safeties,  and checkered fore-straps too.
Besides being more mechanically complex and using an additional consumable the GBBs, like any gas powered gun, require the operator to lubricate the cartridge to gun O ring seal with silicone based Pellgunoil or similar.  By the way, 25 gas cartridges runs about $20.  Gas powered guns are dependent on ambient temperature.  The warmer it is, the faster the pellets fly.  Subsequent shots release more gas from the cartridge which condenses and cools the cartridge area of the gun, slowing FPS as much as 20% for later pellets or BBs.  You might expect to get about 80 shots per cartridge.
In between in price from the GBB models and spring guns are the NBBs.  These guns are usually metal and definitely gas cartridge powered but the slides don't move.  NBB stands for "non blow-back".  Since the gas isn't powering the slide movement, more pellets can be fired per gas cartridge.  The SIG Sauer GSR CO2 Metal pistol is a good example for $60.
Leaving the Airsoft universe behind, .177 Pellet guns, on the other hand, are more serious guns.  Traditionally pellet rifles are used for target shooting sports, hunting and pest control and can fire over 1,000 FPS.  Pellets, properly placed from these rifles can be lethal for rabbit and smaller mammals and birds.  Pellets run about $10 for 500.  Keep in mind that pellets are cheap for practice, but quite dangerous to be hit with and think safety, appropriately.
The Colt-licensed 1911A1 Air Pistol is an elegant training weapon.  Actually it is a gas cartridge powered revolver packaged in M1911 clothing.  A pricey $200 is still far, far less than an actual firearm or even a .22LR converter.  The pellets leave at a rated 395 FPS.  The slide doesn't move, but the other controls work as expected.
The Beeman P1 also available at Amazon and elsewhere, fires pellets up to 600 FPS and has M1911 similarities but is balanced entirely differently and is mechanically dissimilar at the stratospheric price of $480.  Crosman's not quite released MTR77NPC is a .177 pellet 1,000 FPS M4gery rifle and will retail for less than $200.
I don't know why the steel BB was developed.  I suspect it was for boys of all ages.  I don't want to be hit with one of these either, so confine them to a basement or garage range indoors and away from windows and valuables of any type anywhere.  That said, there are a number of M1911 style CO2 gas cartridge powered BB guns available.  
To start, there is the inexpensive Colt Defender. For about $50 you get an Officer sized all metal pistol.  The downsides are that none of the controls are really M1911 operational.  The grip is thicker than standard to accommodate the gas cartridge, too.  OTOH, for draw, aim, fire exercises it works just fine.  There is no separate drop out magazine.  18 BB’s are manually loaded next to the gas cartridge.  Cleverly, the grip panels and mainspring housing slide open as a unit when the mag release button is pressed.

The $90 built by Daisy, Winchester 11 is rivaled by the slightly more expensive "Tanfoglio Witness" M1911 as very accurate copies in almost every respect to a real, operating M1911A1 firearm.  The slides move, triggers are the proper shape, safeties both thumb and grip  work as expected.  The left grip panel on the Winchester pries off with a fingernail to reveal the gas compartment.  There is a clever lever system built into the mainspring housing to tighten and puncture the gas cartridge for use.  The magazine is a very thin unit released by the traditional button.  The "Witness" model isn't on Amazon as a BB model right now, but is easy to find online.  Additionally, I don't know why they named a M1911 clone the "Tanfoglio Witness" either, as the actual "TW" firearm that I remember is only distantly related.
Original military issue M1911A1s have marginal sights.  The ASG STI Duty One CO2 BB pistol imitates its namesake and has all the modern features of a custom .45 except for the non standard trigger shape for $100 and the slide moves too.
If you can wait a little while, or want to order direct from Hong Kong, Cybergun / KWC, the Taiwanese manufacturers of the "Tanfoglio Witness 1911" are coming out with a "tactical" version for around about $100 that has Novaks, ambi safeties, grip safety and a correctly shaped trigger.  It is available now in Canada from
In Conclusion:
By the by, no one is compensating me to mention any of these representative models of these various practice weapons.  Worse luck, I'm now somewhat embarrassed to admit that I have this plastic and pot metal arsenal.  Still, I can practice at home anytime without undue expense.  
Amazon is hardly the only online source either:  Try  or among many others to do your comparison shopping.  Wal-Mart, Dick's Sporting Goods, Gander Mountain and similar chains will have some of the huge selection available and basic air gun shooting supplies.  There even might be a dedicated specialty shop nearby if you are unfortunate enough to still live in a major city.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The term Air Gun brings to mind the classic Red Ryder BB gun to many. It is often met with the question “You mean Airsoft and BB guns?" Those are not what are being discussed here. We are talking about weapons that are capable of taking deer, bear, buffalo, and two legged predators. We are talking about weapons that can take squirrels from 50 yards with Hollywood like quite. We are talking about weapons that can make ammo from a tire weights, previously fired bullets, or any other source of lead. We are talking about weapons that you can shoot for 2 cents per shot even at today’s inflated ammo prices. We are talking about weapons that are not dependent on primers or gunpowder (neither of which 99.99% of people can make).

AirGuns, obviously, use air to propel a projectile. There is no fire or explosion involved in moving the projectile. There are several different ways in which airguns create the required air pressure to more the projectile. These different ways of creating the pressure divide airguns into different types and generalized attributes. The major types are single stroke pneumatic, multi stoke pneumatic, spring, precharged pneumatic, and CO2. Rifles and pistols are available in all these types.

Single stoke pneumatic (SSP) airguns use a single stroke of a lever to create air pressure in an internal reservoir. This air is stored until the shot and all the air is released to propel the projectile. This type of power plant is generally limited to target weapons, or very small game. Projectiles leave the barrel at about 500 fps and weight about 7 grains.

Multi stoke pneumatic (MSP) airguns work just like SSP, but they allow for additional strokes to store additional air, and thus more power, in the internal reservoir. Most MSPs release all the air at once when shot, but there are a few that only use some of the air and save more for a second or third shot. These are usually called Air Conserving Pumpers (ACP). This type of power plant is limited by the amount of effort the user is will to put into pumping for each shot. Projectiles leave the barrel at about 700 fps and weight up to 30 grains. These are capable of taking up to rabbit sized game effectively.

Spring guns use a single stroke of a level (or the barrel) to compress a large spring inside a hollow cylinder. At the front of the spring is an air tight seal. The trigger releases the spring and compresses the air in front of the seal. The compressed air what pushes the pellet down and out of the barrel. There is a great amount of heat created during the compression of the air, but it is dissipated quickly as the air expands. There is a dual recoil in these weapons that first recoils forward as the spring finishes expanding and a second smaller rearward recoil as the pellet move down and leaves the barrel. This recoil behavior does require a good scope. Most quality scopes do not have a problem on spring guns, but cheap scope will break quickly because the optics are not supported during the forward recoil. Make sure to get a scope that is airgun rated. This type of power plan can produce a wide variety of power. With pellets leaving the barrel at 1000 fps and weight at 7 grains and different versions causing the pellet to leave at 800 fps and weight 30 grains.

Precharged pneumatic (PCP) use a reservoir of high pressure air from 800 PSI to 4,500 PSI. Each shot uses an amount the stored air. This allows a number of shots before having to refill the reservoir with air. Since the air for several shots is stored follow up shots, there are models that are magazine feed and bolt action as well as magazine feed semi automatic. There are even a few fully automatic (unregulated federally) models. This type of airgun is the most powerful and can range from target use to taking any game in North America. There are airguns that shot a .308 caliber 158 grain projectile at 900 fps. There are others that shot a .357 caliber projectile at 800 f.p.s. There are airguns that shot a .50 caliber 500 grain project at 700 fps. For those familiar with firearms projectiles and speeds, these are slower, but make no mistake they will take down any predator (2 or 4 legged).

PCPs require a method to fill the reservoir. Shop compressors are good to about 200 PSI at the most. This is enough. These weapons usually require a 3,000 PSI fill. There are two methods to do this; a tank (that must be filled) and a hand pump. There are several models of hand pump that will pump 3,200+ PSI of air. This is not a task that kids can do, but any adult in decent shape should be able to pump a gun from empty to full in about 15-20 minutes. There are air compressors you can get for between $600 and $4000 to fill the gun or tank for you without effort, but they need more maintenance than a hand pump. The pumps need only a few small o-rings and a small amount of lubricant to be rebuilt and usually last a long time between rebuilds.

Most airguns come is a relatively small number of calibers; .177, .20, .22, .25, .357/9mm, .308, .458, .50. Each caliber has a purpose.
1. .177 is the most common and used mostly for target and small game (up to rabbit with head shot)
2. .20 is the least common and used mostly for target and small game.
3. .22 used to be the “big” size and is still the most common small game hunting caliber.
4. .25 is the current “big” size for small game, up to fox or small coyote size game.
5. All the other sizes are called big bore and use cast ammo just like some firearms.

Making airgun ammo is just like making firearms bullets, with the exception that soft lead is preferred.
1. Melt the lead (which can be done over an open fire outside).
2. Pour the lead into a mold
3. Open mold and drop out bullet
4. Repeat 1 to 3 until you are out of lead, or have enough bullets.
5. For the most accurate shooting, size the bullets through sizing die.
Tire weights, reclaimed bullets and pellets from targets, lead fishing weights, and any other source of lead can be melted for airguns bullets. The softer the better.

[JWR Adds: Don't expect to be able to buy a bag of "BB" size shot made for shotgun shell handloaders, and have it work in a BB gun. The dimensions are different!]

Below are a few types of airguns and models in each category to start your research.

1. Beeman P17 – cost $40 – pistol – excellent for target practice and plinking
2. There are currently no rifles produced in this category.

1. Crosman 1377 (or 1322) – cost $50 – pistol – good for small game and fun/easy to modify
2. Benjamin 397 and 392 – cost $150 – rifle – good for small game, and should last a lifetime
3. FX Independence – cost $1800 – rifle – excellent self contained MSP/PCP. High quality, but complicated to maintain if it breaks.

1. Gamo (various models) – cost $100 to $300 – rifle – good for small game, moderate quality
2. AirArms TX200 – Cost $700 – rifle – good for small game, excellent lifetime long weapon
3. HW97 – cost $600 – rifle – good for small game, excellent lifetime long weapon.

1. Benjamin Marauder – cost $475 – rifle – good for small game with bolt action repeating
2. Airforce Talon SS – Cost $575 – rifle – lots of power in a take-down package that can go in a backpack.
3. AirArms 410/510 – cost $1,000/$1,200 – rifle – excellent weapon that should last a lifetime.
4. FX Independence – see above.
5. Quackenbush .458 LA Outlaw – Cost $700 – Rifle – Big game capable, low volume production weapon that can be a little hard to get, but worth the effort.
6. Extreme BigBore airguns – Cost $1,200 – rifle – Big game capable, low volume production weapon.
7. Croman Rogue .357 – Cost $1,300 – Rifle – Big game capable, has built in electronics that run on AA batteries, but is readily available from many distributors and shots standard firearms size .357 bullets in hard or soft cast lead.

These are just a few of the models to choose from. The hobby of airguns is vast and there are many models to suit most budgets and requirements. It is a hobby that is mostly unhindered by the ATF and firearms laws.

A long term survival situation that requires hunting (and fighting) can be well served by a collection of airguns to supplement firearms. The gun fighting is best left to firearms, but if you run out of powder or primers, a big bore airgun will do much better than a knife or bat. Small game hunting with an airgun is very stealthy and can be done without anyone knowing you were there. The airgun ammo is easily replenished much longer than firearm components will be available.

As always check local laws ordinances before purchasing or shooting to ensure you do not end up on the wrong side of the law.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Dear Jim,
I notice that 5.56 is again getting an unrealistically bad rap.  It's not as powerful as many other rounds, but some online epithets seem to suggest you can hide behind a sheet of paper and be safe.

As a reminder, I'd like to repost the following demonstrations from the fine folks at Box O' Truth:

There are certainly better rounds for long range and heavy targets (I like 8mm Mauser, myself), but don't dismiss a threat because he "only" has 5.56mm.

Oh, and off topic, but of interest: How .410 revolvers stink as defensive weapons.

- Michael Z. Williamson, SurvivalBlog Editor at Large

Friday, May 31, 2013

Dear Captain Rawles,
I would like to thank Al H. for his letter on the importance of studying Guerrilla Warfare tactics and also for his mention of one of my book, Contact!: A Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival

There were two purposes in writing 'Contact': firstly, to pass on tactical self-defense information to aid the survival of law abiding prepper folks in a post-SHTF situation. The second was to give information on how to tactically fight a resistance campaign, although at the time I left some of the reasons for the tactics a little unsaid. Its all in there, from the tactical side of a resistance fight.

I would also like to make your readers aware that I recently opened up my tactical training site in West Virginia. I have begun running weekend courses and more information can be found on my web site here and testimonials and AARs from recent training can be found here. I hope this shows Al H. that some are stepping up to the training plate.

I am providing West Virginia and East Cast based training, and John Mosby, also known as Mountain Guerrilla, is based in the Idaho/American Redoubt area.

I also publish information and free tactical training articles on my blog.

I also have a novel available, titled Patriot Dawn: The Resistance Rises. The book was designed to 'bring to life' the tactics in 'Contact' and it describes what an insurgency might, or could, look like. It may be an eye opener for some. The book has a newly redesigned cover which is currently showing on the Kindle version on Amazon, not the paperback, as catches up. As well as the tactics, the role of the auxiliary is portrayed around the general setting of a resistance campaign.

I hope this helps. Live Free, Die Hard. - Max Velocity


Hello James,
I just wanted to write a brief response to Al H.'s Studying Guerrilla Warfare Tactics. Responding or replying to anything of this nature is not generally something I would do in the name of anonymity. However, I would like people out there to know that most of what Al says is true, but I, and many others, have and will continue to be preparing for and studying mobile guerrilla operations, including but not limited to recruiting, training, setting up communications, auxiliary and hit and run operations. With the hopes that these skills will never be needed, I and others that I have met, have received preliminary training in person from ex-military who are the experts, in mobile guerrilla operations, hit and run tactics, and force multipliers. There are many like-minded people out there; I believe they just don't broadcast. With the preliminary training that I had received in the past, I then had the option to continue studying/training on my own (in small groups) or forget what I had learned.
Again, I believe most of what Al has said to be true, but there are more of us out there than people think. Sincerely and Gratefully, - S., RN


You've mentioned it many times in your blog, but the foundational training for both regular and irregular warfare is marksmanship training! And you've also made many mentions of the [Project] Appleseed shoots [organized by the RWVA]. I can't think of more cost-effective way to instruct Citizen Soldiers than to do a few weekends of Appleseed shoots and an Appleseed boot camp. Only then, after you have laid down that important groundwork, go on to take yourself some top-notch training from an outfit like Gunsite, if you can afford it. Train, train, and train some more! With My Best Wishes, - Gandy D. (Warrior, semi-ret'd.)

JWR Replies: I concur. Knowledge conquers fear, and fearless warriors conquer tyrants.

Monday, May 13, 2013

I'm writing in response to: Selecting a Prepper's Firearms, by Frog. First I can say that I like the idea of adding a Bushnell red dot to a few of my 'tools' - I wanted to add one with out getting stuff that would fail, and have been unwilling to buy anything overly expensive due to today's crazy market with it's inflated prices.  Red dot scope for say a 10-22 with a folding stock would be perfect match. (and it's around $100) - totally good call.

I only see a few issues with selection of firearms like the glock pistols and Remington 870 ( I have one - love it too.) - just one thing about Glocks I didn't like, and it might very well be my fault because they were my first reloads back a few years ago...- these are great accurate shooting pistols with stock factory ammo. I gave my reloads (that worked great in my Ruger P95DC) to a friend to shoot when he ran out of ammo, his Glock choked on them, badly enough that my friend had trouble clearing the ammo with out the aid of my leatherman.  That was not a good day, for him...glad we were only putting holes in paper.

It is just worth mentioning that some pistols have tight tolerances, and reloaded ammo might cause issues... When times are bad, reloads might be more prevalent might not work in them as well as stock factory ammo. Almost all ammo has a warning on it saying not to use reloaded ammo.

Being as it was one of my early loads before I started using a 'case' gauge, it could have been all me... reloaders might want to take note and invest in case gauges to prevent that same pop a finished round in the case gauge to test the brass for fit... if it fits in the gauge it should work in anything standard for what your testing. This should be one of the last steps before storing rounds you've reloaded up for use.

I started loading ammo back in 2003 or 2004- and like I said even if his Glock didn't like reloads my used Ruger would eat them all day.  This issue is why I have gauges for 9mm, .223, .308, .30-06 - and anything else I'm planning on loading I would plan on buying now, before things get bad...I'm not saying don't buy a Glock, or one pistol is better then another, any pistol is better then no pistol at all - I'm just saying be aware that some pistols and rifles are finicky in what you can use in them. How you use that information is your call - like be prepared and have a good supply of stock ammo, and only feed it stock ammo if you already know reloads might have issues. You should take the time now in good times to figure out will your selected defense weapon work with reloads, because in the future... (Ah you got me...  ammo is already scarce!) you'll want to know.

[JWR Adds: Glocks are notoriously temperamental with cast lead bullets and copper washed lead bullets in reloads, and the occasional expensive and potentially dangerous "Glock Ka-Boom" can be expected with their use.]

The other note is the first thing a guy/gal should do when buying an 870 is get an aluminum tube replacement for that little plastic piece that pushes the shells up in the shell holder... the plastic ones wear out at the worst times- so that is worth mentioning too.  Someone I know gave me this advice when I got my 870 home defense shotgun. Good advice is worth repeating.

And finally, sure! - if I could afford a PTR91 with lots of cheap mags I'd have purchased one already... that weapon was close to $2,000 before the prices inflated, it's probably way out of my price range now. Get what ever you can get, learn how it works, practice with it, take care of it well.- Fitzy in Pennsylvania

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Like a lot of guys I did some shooting and hunting while growing up, only to set it aside in early adulthood as the frantic task of making it in life overcame interest in such ‘boyish’ pursuits.  When I returned to shooting later on it was with an emphasis on self-defense, particularly pistol shooting, which provided a fresh and stimulating way to ease back into it, as I had previously never fired a pistol.  I quickly settled on the Glock models in .45 ACP, keeping it simple and relatively inexpensive, and have kept at it steadily ever since, wanting above all to maintain proficiency and competence should I ever need to defend myself, my family, or other innocents.

This along with a shotgun or two kept me busy and satisfied for a while, until I decided I should get a rifle to work with, and the AR-15 seemed the logical choice.  It was then I started to learn more about our rights and freedoms, our direct link to the American Revolution, and the threats we face by those hostile to the whole idea of citizens as ‘people of arms,’ and my responsibility and role in exercising, preserving, and defending those freedoms.  It was an eye opener.  In retrospect it’s easy to see I was naive, one of the ‘sheeple’ we often allude to, but having always hated and successfully avoided fighting situations in my adult life, like many modern people the idea of needing to fight with a gun seemed remote and distant, and years of martial arts training filled what would otherwise have been a void in my defense needs.  But suddenly I recognized that ‘gun rights’ are really human rights, rights that are always at risk by forces that never quit.

And so I got the bug and started reading a lot as well as shooting regularly, enjoying my new hobby and the educational experience, always with an eye towards what is practical, limiting my interest to common types of firearms in common calibers.  When I first picked up Boston’s Gun Bible by Boston T. Party, I figured I’d read only parts of it, treating it as a reference, as it is a large book and covers a wide range of subjects.  But I must have read the whole thing several times.  I was especially fascinated by the main body of the text, having to do with .308 (7.62x51mm) semi auto Battle Rifles.  He goes into it in exhaustive (and exhausting) detail, comparing the three main versions, and while some parts of it are more interesting than others, he explains his reasoning and motivations, and he’s a good writer.  Many of you, perhaps most, are already quite familiar with it, and I won’t rehash any of it here.  If you haven’t seen it, and are interested in Battle Rifles, it can serve as a good reference, particularly if you’ve yet to choose a particular rifle type (or ‘platform’) or make a first purchase.

As lengthy as Boston’s book is on the subject, it is not the final word nor does it provide a complete picture as to the options presently available to us.  New models and manufacturers have come on the scene since the book was written, and all of these have an evolving track record potential buyers should be aware of.  I actually own at least one version of each of the three types, as well as a couple of other types, all acquired in recent years.  And while I do have preferences I enjoy shooting them all.  I like getting to know them, understanding the different mechanisms, keeping them running, troubleshooting problems as they invariably arise, and learning their strengths and weaknesses.  They can all do the same job almost equally well.  It is the magnificent capability and proven track record I admire and appreciate; shooting comfort and enjoyment is secondary – choosing a good, solid weapon comes first, and then I learn to get comfortable with it.  So I won’t be praising one type of rifle and disparaging the others, as you often see on various forums.  I’ll do my best to give them each a fair shake.

Briefly, let’s look at some of the reasons why a citizen would consider a .308 Battle Rifle worthwhile or even essential to have at their disposal.  The rifle, in general, has been called ‘liberty’s teeth,’ and with good reason.  Just as we all have rights to life and liberty, we all have a responsibility to safeguard and defend our lives and our liberty: rights and responsibilities go together.  And while a pistol or shotgun may suffice for personal or home defense, any broader mission, whether it’s defending our immediate community or something larger, requires a group or populace armed with rifles.  So part of having a rifle – as a weapon – is just a matter of good citizenship.  And among the capabilities of rifles of all sorts, there is little that a semi auto .308 Battle Rifle cannot do.  Ballistically similar to the .30-06, the .308 can punch through cover that the 223 (5.56x45mm) cannot, and a Battle Rifle, with its 20-round magazine, can be used to hit man-sized targets in excess of 500 yards as fast as you can aim and fire.  Nothing else can hit that hard, that fast, and with such a reach.  In my opinion it is the ultimate hand-held weapon, the most powerful weapon a citizen can wield.

So the goal of this article is to provide a useful review of the rifles and my experiences with them, to help you navigate your options in order to find the right fit for you or your group, and in general hope to give you an interesting read, regardless of your level of shooting experience.  And while any prepping subject can seem overwhelming at times, with firearms and shooting it’s possible to keep it simple and fun as we acquire our expertise and our gear.  It’s the fun and thrill of a great discipline, a treasured freedom and legacy of our Revolution.  And even if you are working in isolation, as we often are in our prepping efforts, without a lot of helpful or sympathetic people around, you can make progress in your shooting.

Knowing how to shoot a rifle accurately is of course more important than what kind of rifle to get, so we’ll start here.  The road I took was instigated by a chapter in Boston’s book, where he recommends Fred’s Guide to Becoming a Rifleman, available at  In Fred’s Guide you will find instruction on how to successfully complete the Army Qualification Test (AQT) with a score ranking of Expert, making you a ‘Rifleman’ (and until then you’re just a ‘Cook’), along with a lot of other interesting information, articles, and some rudimentary targets.  (Shooting instructions are also available on the site for free: Shooting Tips and Errors.)  You can also order AQT targets which include reduced sizes allowing the course of fire to be conducted at 25m (or 25yd, as the difference is very slight), a service sling for the support arm, and a simple shooting jacket with padding for the elbows and shoulder.  You can find pictures and videos showing how to loop up with the service sling on the net.  This is the type of training taught in the excellent Appleseed Project shooting clinics that appear all over the country.  Due to restrictions of time and mobility I have not had the opportunity to attend one of these events, but I trained using the method with the materials and information available.  (There is also an online weekly Rifleman radio show.)  It can all be done with a semi auto 22lr at a range of 25yd; a timer is helpful for scoring.  You can do it too.  In fact, if you get a chance to go to an Appleseed, it would greatly improve your chances of making Rifleman if you do some work beforehand.

Marksmanship fundamentals for rifle shooting are well described in Fred’s Guide.  They include: physical posture to relax and achieve natural point of aim (NPOA), sight alignment, sight picture, respiratory pause, eye focus on the front sight (if using irons) while keeping the sight on the target, squeezing the trigger straight back (trigger control) to get a surprise break, keeping the eyes open so you can ‘call the shot’ when the hammer falls (taking a ‘mental snapshot’), and holding the trigger back (follow-through).  Fred tells you exactly what you can expect to achieve with a Battle Rifle and, by following the steps, exactly how to do it.  Equally important, he insists that you can do it and that it’s not that hard.  What more can we ask from a guide?
I got a shooting mat and set up for dry practice in the basement.  On the other side of the room I set a target, shrunk in size to correspond to a 1in square at 25yd, and learned to hold the sights steady inside it while prone, which is the rifleman standard.  One inch at 25yd is about 4MOA (minutes-of-angle), which would be about 4in at 100yd, 8in at 200yd, etc.  Other positions include sitting, kneeling, and standing, but the prone is probably the most challenging one to get into and get comfortable with.  It’s also the most satisfying since it is the steadiest and allows you to shoot the most accurately.  It just takes a little time to get used to.  I’ve had lots of trouble with neck and upper back pain, and was surprised I could stand it at all, let alone get reasonably comfortable with it.  I can’t do it for very long without getting fatigued, but I can do it long enough to make hits, as I’ve demonstrated at the range.

For most of my training I use a semi auto 22lr, what the Appleseed Project calls the ‘Liberty Training Rifle’ (LTR) at 25yd.  The 22lr ammo is of course much cheaper than .308, allowing us to put lots of rounds downrange economically, and also it has the benefit of letting us avoid sensitivity to recoil and flinching.  At 25yd we can develop most of our basic shooting skills.  Important factors left out are range estimation and wind drift.  To some extent range estimation can be simulated on reduced size targets, while windage effects cannot.  The classic example of an LTR is the Ruger 10/22, though just about any good semi auto 22lr rifle will do fine.  The 10/22 dovetails nicely with the Army tradition and feel of the M1 Garand and M14/M1A, and can easily be modified with aftermarket parts to operate almost identically to the M1A.  I have a 10/22 Compact Rifle with a Hogue OverMolded stock, which works okay but is a bit lightweight for precision work.  I think a better choice would be something like the full length Sporter, or maybe a Target.  The other 10/22 models have a band attaching the barrel to the stock (including the new Takedown), and if you put a rubber stock like the Hogue on it you might pull the barrel off zero when shooting using the tight service sling; it’s something to consider.  I always like to eliminate sources of shooting error where possible, and the rifle I have lets the barrel free float.

I wanted to train with a pistol grip rifle, so I got a dedicated 22lr upper for the AR-15.  A simple conversion kit for the 223/5.56x45 is cheaper than a dedicated upper, but not as accurate, and not accurate enough for our purposes.  So I got an upper, and put a free float tube on it so I could use a tight sling or bipod.  I bought it from a well-regarded manufacturer, and yet I had trouble – rounds wouldn’t go where I aimed them.  Part of my problem was just that I was naive about ammo; I thought the popular CCI Mini-Mags should give acceptable accuracy.  It just did not occur to me that ammo could be inaccurate enough not to hit a squirrel in the head at 25yd!  Silly me.  I went to the manufacturer’s forum and looked up the ammo threads, and found over half a dozen pages, virtually all of it dedicated to cycling, not accuracy.  But someone pointed out to me that the ammo was high velocity plinking ammo, and suggested alternatives for greater accuracy.  I tried CCI’s Target ammo, which helped some, but I needed better, and the manufacturer (Spike’s Tactical) kindly offered to replace the barrel, so I took the opportunity to upgrade to a more accurate barrel.  That did the trick.  Suddenly I was in the black, putting all my rounds in a 1in dot at 25yd.  I only recount this story here because you might find yourself in a similar boat, wondering why your rounds aren’t going where you think they should.  There are a lot of reasons why that can happen, and shooter error is usually considered the default culprit, but it’s not always you that’s at fault, and we want to zero in on the culprit and solve the problem and move on.

One piece of gear that has proven quite valuable for me is the 3-9x Leupold EFR Scope.  The Extended Focus Range feature lets you set the parallax anywhere from a range of 10m to infinity.  This eliminates any parallax error at the short range of 25m.  This can be important: I have a good quality 1.1-4x CQB (Close Quarters Battle) scope, and when I tested it by eye, looking through it at the target and moving my side to side to move the line of sight off the center axis, I could see the reticle move enough to affect accuracy on the 1in target.  This explained why my zero seemed to change when I’d take a break and come back to the firing line.  A little change in cheek weld position and parallax moved the reticle.  The EFR scope eliminates this source of error.  And although it is marketed as a rimfire scope, it is built to the same toughness as other Leupolds, and can be mounted on an AR-15 or a .308 Battle Rifle as well.  I use scope rings with quick-release levers, and a couple of quick-release riser rails, and this allows me to use the same scope on all my rifles.  I keep a data book so I can zero it quickly when I make a switch.  (The one thing I don’t like is the adjustments have to be made with a coin or screwdriver, rather than just turning the turrets by hand, but this is a minor quibble.)  The risers are a little pricey, but it beats buying a scope for each rifle, and getting the right scope height helps keep my neck and back from screaming at me.
With the scope I can not only call the shot, but I can see where the bullet went.  Calling the shot means you know where the sights/crosshairs were when the shot broke.  Provided your trigger pull and follow-through are good, the bullet should go pretty close to the point of aim if your rifle is zeroed.  Just how close depends on the accuracy of the weapon.  This is how I was able to diagnose ammo and equipment contributions to the error.  With the scope at 9x and the target at 25yd (the limit of my local indoor range) I could see exactly how steady my hold was, which is within about 1/4in, or 1MOA.  So now, for example, if my group size is 3/4in (3MOA), then I know the accuracy of the weapon (rifle & ammo combination) is 2MOA, since the group size is the sum of shooter wobble and weapon spread.

It’s important to be able to distinguish these two contributions to group size: weapon (i.e., rifle & ammo combination), and shooter.  It took me a while to shake the notion of blaming the shooter first.  This notion seems to be somewhat ingrained in our thinking, and my being a beginning shooter and lacking in confidence didn’t help matters.  But with the scope I had the feedback I needed, and I learned to believe what my eyes were showing me.  I should emphasize that ‘iron sight discipline’ and proficiency is always an important skill to maintain.  We should know how to use and adjust the irons for windage and range, out to the effective limits of our weapons.  But clearly the scope, besides being a force multiplier on the battlefield, can also be a very useful training tool.

A final word on use of the shooting sling.  There are other methods of training with a rifle, not all of which include a sling.  And in tactical prone shooting a bipod or rest of some kind is the normal type of support.  The few WWII and Korean War veterans I know, who carried the M1 in combat, trained with the sling but never used it in combat and never saw it used by others.  However, it is a good method of training, and the marksmanship fundamentals learned will carry over into any type of shooting.  The sling joins you ergonomically to the rifle in a way that a bipod or other rest does not.  There is less bounce of the rifle from shot to shot.  It can also be used in positions other than prone such as sitting or kneeling, which are often necessary when prone is not feasible due to terrain or other conditions.  In the field, a bipod is fragile and a rest is not always available, but a sling can be fashioned from belts, paracord, or even rags.  Moreover, there are ‘hasty’ methods of slinging up that are very quick and don’t require a tight cinch.  For example, one method I found makes use of the ‘Ching Sling,’ a sling that attaches to the rifle’s studs, but consists of a long loop extending from the front back to about the midpoint.  The shooting support is effected by simply slipping the loop up behind the upper part of the support arm; it’s very fast, and while not as tight or as steady as the service sling method, it does aid in accuracy.  I found a simple way to improve on this.  Rather than just slipping the loop up, I stick my left arm through it and then out to the left (I’m right handed), and up and over the top of the sling, and place my palm up under the rifle’s foreend.  Again, not as tight and steady as the service sling, but better than before, and more accurate than no sling at all.  It’s a good feeling, slinging up and steadying your aim, so if you haven’t tried it yet give it a shot, as it were.  It’s a good skill to have in our toolbox.  It’s also widely used in shooting competitions, such as NRA High Power Rifle.

The focus here will be on the three types of .308 Battle Rifles that were initially fielded by the Western powers.  (The powers have since replaced Battle Rifles with assault rifles such as the M4, and many of their Battle Rifles were subsequently sold off to third world countries.)  These were select fire (capable of full auto) weapons, but the ones chiefly available to us today are semi auto, and include: HK91/PTR91, FAL, and M14/M1A.  The major commercial manufacturers in the U.S. are PTR91, DS Arms FAL, and Springfield Armory M1A.  These are the ones I have and will discuss here, except that instead of Springfield’s M1A I have the LRB Arms M14SA (M14 Semi Auto).  I will also discuss the AR-10 types and the Saiga .308.  And although there are a number of other, more ‘modern’ semi auto .308s now available (FNAR, FN SCAR, SASS, etc.), we are mainly concerned with the three ‘traditional’ Battle Rifles, for several reasons.

First and foremost, they have been around a long time and are well proven in terms of ruggedness and reliability, and while like all rifles they have their weaknesses, we at least know what they are and how to compensate for them.  Parts and magazines are widely available and inexpensive relative to their more modern counterparts.  The rifles themselves are generally less expensive as well.  These are the considerations that are important to us as preppers and survivalists.  We can stock parts and magazines for weapons that are well understood, and keep them running even in times of stress, when outside support is not available.

It is particularly important to stock up on magazines, so price is definitely a factor.  The magazine is the weak link in any semi auto rifle; they can break, wear out, get damaged or bent, or discarded in the heat of battle.  How many is enough?  Well, the more the merrier.  You just never want to run out of them, ever.  At least a couple dozen per rifle is ideal, but you can get by with less.  As with everything else having to do with prepping, consider your mission requirements, and likely scenarios, to determine your needs.
A survival group can adopt a particular Battle Rifle type that all members use, ensuring uniformity of parts, mags, and expertise required to keep everyone armed and ready.  Using a common rifle platform among members has the same benefit as it would for an army in the field.  They can form rifle teams that can coordinate fire in a multiplying effect: the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts.  In fact, this is one of the best ways to employ the Battle Rifle.  A three person team can send 60 rounds of .308 aimed fire downrange in 60 seconds at distances out to 500yd+  before the first mag change.  This is some pretty decent firepower.  Multiple teams firing from different directions multiply the effect even further.  Having a common rifle platform has obvious benefits.

Barrel Length.
  While a 16in barreled carbine in .308 makes a great, hard hitting CQB weapon out to 300yd+, and they are quite popular these days, I do not recommend one as your primary Battle Rifle.  The reason is that too much velocity is sacrificed in going to such a short length.  It certainly has enough velocity to be effective at the ranges we are interested in (though you’re subject to greater drift from windage, and this effect is more pronounced the longer the range), but the trouble is that estimating the range and compensating for it becomes more difficult in the range window of 300-500yd, which Fred calls the ‘Rifleman’s Quarter Mile,’ and he figures this is the ideal distance at which to engage targets.  Keeping such a distance from the enemy exploits your rifleman’s skill – something the rank and file shooters among the enemy may be unlikely to have, making their return fire less effective – while taking advantage of the full reach and effectiveness of the .308 Battle Rifle.  According to Fred, the three components involved in making hits on targets may be arranged in decreasing order of difficulty as: target detection, range estimation, and making the shot.  That is, range estimation is more difficult than making the shot, so it behooves us to reduce the margin for error as much as possible.  One way to work on range estimation is to carry a laser range finder: guess the range to an object, then see what the rangefinder says.  Trust me, your estimates will improve quickly!

On the other hand, an 18 in model gives up roughly only about 7% of velocity relative to a full length version of 21or 22in.  We can expect a comparable increase in bullet drop to go with the velocity loss, so the effect on range estimation is slight.  Moreover, all things being equal, the shorter barrel is sometimes more accurate than full length as there is less barrel whip.  While I wouldn’t count on better accuracy with the 18in, it makes sense for us to trade a little bit of velocity for a little bit more accuracy.  The .308 round is combat effective well beyond 500yd, but a rack grade Battle Rifle does not have the accuracy to exploit the .308’s full potential of 800yd+.  So if we can squeeze a bit more accuracy at the cost of a 7% loss in velocity I think it’s worth it.  And of course we also have a shorter overall rifle for ease of a handling, and we’re only talking about 2in longer than the 16in carbine.  Many people feel that 18in is the sweet spot.  What we have available is 17.7in for the HK91/PTR91, 18in for DSA FAL, and 18.5in for the M14/M1A.

If you already have a .308 carbine, and/or consider ranges beyond 300yd unlikely for your needs, you’ll still be well served with your weapon.  Also, mapping out ranges at your retreat in advance is a good idea in any case.  If you’re sure of your ranges then barrel length is less of a concern.  Bear in mind, though, that the carbine is quite loud, and if you have muzzle brake on it (instead of a flash hider) the muzzle blast will be downright brutal, especially for anyone who happens to be alongside you.  While the muzzle brake makes it easier to shoot (less muzzle climb), it does not help conceal your position the way a flash hider does, so a flash hider is much preferred in a combat weapon.  If you don’t have a Battle Rifle yet, consider getting one with at least an 18in barrel.

  The typical Battle Rifle is over 9lb unloaded, and a good scope will likely put it over 10lb.  Some commercial versions have heavier weight barrels (medium contour, bull barrel, etc.) for increased accuracy and steadiness.  The tradeoff is that the extra weight is a hindrance for carrying in the field, and for movement between positions during shooting engagements.  Most Battle Rifles should give acceptable accuracy without a heavier barrel.  Under rapid or sustained fire the barrel heats up, and the groups will tend to string slightly and/or expand more with the lighter barrels.  But whether this would really make a difference in a fast moving combat situation is debatable.

I have found I need to resist the temptation to go for the heavier, more accurate rifles.  In these pre-SHTF times we can go to the range and shoot at our leisure, we drive there and back, not needing to carry the rifle very far, and when we shoot we like to see tight groups on the target.  Tight groups are satisfying.  But I think of the Battle Rifle as a field weapon, something that can and may need to be carried all day, and can be handled effectively in combat even when the shooter is tired, weak, and scared, at times moving rapidly from one position to another, trying to stay out of harm’s way, trying to catch his or her breath.  And while a heavier rifle is easier to shoot accurately and more controllable, I don’t think it’s worth the drawbacks the extra weight imposes.  The rifle should be a friend to the shooter, not a burden.

So we are not just interested in range accuracy, but combat accuracy, which depends on a number of variables.  The shooting sports can provide a good testing ground for our combat capabilities, such as the 3-gun Heavy Metal competitions, where the rifle used is a .308 Battle Rifle.  This can help give you an idea what kind of rifle handles well for you in terms of weight, etc.  But be aware that competition rules don’t always conform to sound combat tactics.  If you use the competition to conscientiously train for combat your scores may suffer for it.  “Those motivated by a desire to improve their gun fighting skills, as opposed to a quest for trophies, must be willing to bleed ego on the match results to avoid shedding real blood in combat.”  – Andy Stanford, in Surgical Speed Shooting

  As mentioned, a good scope will likely put your rifle over 10lb.  You can keep the weight down using a CQB scope like an ACOG or a red dot sight with bullet drop compensator (BDC), but you want to consider the target detection advantage scope magnification gives you.  Remember that according to Fred, target detection is the most difficult task: more difficult than estimating the range or making the shot itself.  Once the shooting starts, people will want to show as little of themselves to their adversaries as possible, and some decent magnification and field of view can go a long way toward helping you see what you need to see.  Considering the effective range and our combat needs, something like 3-9x40mm seems about right, not too much magnification, not too little; not too big a scope, not too small.  But as always, consider your mission requirements to determine what’s best for you.

Accuracy & Ammo.
  Despite some of the wild claims you might see on the internet, any good Battle Rifle should give you 4MOA or better with military surplus or military grade ammo (147gr ‘M80’ ball rounds); that’s the basic standard.  While accuracy depends on a number of factors, a reasonable expectation is about 2-3MOA.  The ammo I use most often is Prvi Partizan.  (I have no financial stake in it.)  It is commercial production, almost always available, and fairly consistent from lot to lot.  Prvi also makes relatively inexpensive Match ammo in 168 and 175gr.  I get the best results with the 168gr; all my Battle Rifles do 1-2MOA with it.  You can experiment with different types of ammo to see what your particular rifle likes.  Visiting the forums can also give you some idea what to expect.  Much of the military surplus you see out there was produced years ago, probably being brought out now to be sold at a profit, and whether your rifle likes it or not is hit or miss.  And when the supply dries up you have to find something else.  That’s why I like something like Prvi, where there’s a steady supply.  Buying in case lots of 1,000 is by far the most economical, but the up-front cost is high, so try some before you buy, if possible.

Part of the enjoyment of Battle Rifle shooting is being able to put a lot of hard-hitting rounds downrange without breaking the bank, and the ability to sustain a rapid rate of fire against multiple targets is a vital part of our skill set.  The M80 ammo is the Battle Rifle’s meat & potatoes diet, accurate enough to hit a man sized target out to 500yd+, and among the least expensive choices available.  However, the effective range can be extended with match ammo or handloads. Excellent match ammo is more than twice as expensive as M80.  (Prvi match is not as good but costs only about 50% more.)  It’s a good idea to have at least a small supply of ammo of this type, either for extended range or increased accuracy, in case you need it.
Many people use steel cased ammo which, though often not as accurate as brass cased, is less expensive.  I’ve only used it in my Saiga .308, as the rifle was designed for this kind of ammo.  The only manufacturer’s warning I’m aware of is from DS Arms, which says not to use it in their FAL rifles, period.  People use it in the HK91/PTR91 and  M14/M1A apparently with no problems.  Steel is harder than brass (although the steel used is said to be ‘soft’), so it may put a little more wear on the extractor, but otherwise there seems to be little or no risk involved in using it.  Still, I’m only comfortable using it in the Saiga.  I suggest you do your own research on it before using it in your rifle.

.308 vs. 7.62x51mm.
  For the most part we can consider these two to be equivalent, both safe to use in our rifles.  The only exception I’m aware of is some types of commercial .308 which use higher pressures than normal, hunting ammo for bolt action rifles, that would not be safe to use in our semi autos.  The military rifles were chambered for 7.62x51mm, which has looser tolerances and harder brass, as the rifles were designed to operate in full auto and with tracer rounds, and the ammo has been produced by a number of different countries, which varies in consistency with respect to the tolerances and general quality.  If you see a good deal out there for a case of this stuff, do a search on the forums before you buy – make sure it will cycle in your rifle, have decent accuracy, and not gum it up with tar, lacquer, or powdery filth (unless you think it’s worth it).

Most modern, commercially produced Battle Rifles are chambered in .308 Winchester, or just stamped ‘7.62.’  Similarly, much of the current production commercial ammo, such as Prvi, is in .308.  This corresponds to tighter tolerances than the military surplus, for generally better accuracy and consistency and, with few exceptions, no loss of reliability in cycling.  But there is still surplus ammo out there that could be quite accurate in your rifle.  For example, Santa Barbara works well in the M14/M1A.  So look around, know what you’re buying and know your rifle.

Ammo vs. Gear.
  Most people I know are not preppers and do not stock up on cases of ammo.  But we recognize the importance of doing so – .308 ammo as well as 223/5.56x45, shotgun, and pistol ammo, etc. – any weapon we might trust our lives to must never be allowed to run dry.  You never want to run out of ammo or magazines; there is no such thing as too much of either.  And yet, dropping $500 for 1,000 rounds of .308 here and there hurts.  Perhaps the biggest impediment is thinking what else we might buy with the money.  There are always more guns we’d like to buy, scopes to put on them, all kinds of cool gear, items or ventures that give us pleasure.  Crates of ammo sitting around just isn’t very sexy.

But I find it satisfying.  Once acquired, it cannot be taken away easily, so there is some sense of security in that.  We could experience significant inflation in the near future; I do not have to worry about the price of ammo getting beyond my reach.  I have plenty for my practice, plenty for the future, whatever the future may hold.  And if the future turns out to be benign, and the ammo is not needed for fighting, it can be passed on to future generations of preppers and patriots.  It’ll still be good long after I’m gone.  Or it could be used for barter.  It’s like gold or silver, only I think it’s even better.  It has a function, it will do a job for you, and the price of ammo has not been bid up nearly so much as precious metals.  A home invader may be willing to smash my skull for a gold bar he can grab and carry off.  But half a ton of ammo?  Good luck with that.  Ammo may eventually achieve such precious status, but that will only mean my investment was sound in more ways than one.  Lead.  The other precious metal.
So I would say, don’t skimp on ammo.  Take the pain now and you will find lasting comfort knowing it’s there for you, just like your rifle, standing by, lending potency to your vigilance.

We will be concerned here with the modern commercial versions: PTR91, DSA FAL, and LRB M14SA (or Springfield Armory M1A).  Their pros and cons have been debated elsewhere.  But our focus will be through the eye of the prepper and survivalist.  Reliability, cost, ease and speed of operation during a firefight, are of first importance.  And while there is no perfect Battle Rifle, if you look carefully, you will likely find one that is close to ideal for you.

When it comes to Battle Rifle selection, most people seem to prefer the FAL or M14/M1A, with the PTR91 a close third.  The M14/M1A has the most accuracy potential; the PTR91, to the extent it reproduces the HK91’s quality, would be the most reliable; the FAL is often regarded as the sweet spot between the other two, with its ergonomic friendliness among its chief attractions.  However, the PTR91 has become popular with the prepper community, as it is a good value and can be counted on to keep working under tough conditions.
From a strictly utilitarian point of view all three rifles do pretty much the same thing and do it well.  And it is a matter of ‘respect and gratitude’ for what they do that guides this article.  You can find plenty of forums where people will praise one and bash the other two, but this is not the place for that.  I like them all because I deeply appreciate the job they can do for us.  These are survival tools, not weekend joy sticks.  If one feels awkward I just try to adapt to it and make it comfortable to handle and shoot.

At the risk of oversimplifying I would like to borrow a slogan from the real estate business, in which the value of a property depends on three things: location, location, location.  And that is that a Battle Rifle’s reliability depends on three things: parts, parts, parts.  We already know that the designs of these rifles are sound.  Usually they are assembled properly.  That leaves tolerances and quality of parts.  The manufacturers are all good and they all offer good warranties, but from a survivalist point of view this just means they can afford to replace defective parts and still make a profit.  Sometimes military parts dry up and new ones have to be made, some parts get outsourced, or production errors happen.  So it’s a good idea to keep up with any news on the user forums and the manufacturer’s web site.  (I found a recall notice for one of my FAL lower receivers just by chance on DSA’s site; even though I am the original owner I was not notified of the recall.)  If you’re buying used, review the history for the serial number range of the rifle before you buy.  Some details on PTR91 changes are discussed below.

I first bought one of these because it was such a spanking good deal.  It was not my first choice in a Battle Rifle, but it shares the ruggedness, durability, and reliability of the HK91, and magazines are inexpensive (sometimes only $1 each).  Its poor ergonomics are well known, but it does its job and doesn’t complain, and I’ve wound up liking it more than I thought I would.
Like the FAL it was initially designed to be used with a bipod, and the charging handle is on the left side.  And like the DSA FAL, the barrel is not chrome lined.  I got one with the Bull Barrel, which seems more like a medium than a heavy weight barrel, and metal handguard which is drilled and tapped for rails.  This allows mounting a bipod, vertical grip, sling stud for use with a service sling, or other accessories.  Tension applied to the handguard through the grip or sling does not affect the point of aim since the barrel is free-floating,  an attribute that contributes to the excellent accuracy of the HK91/PTR91.

[There is some confusion in the web-sphere over the free-float nature of this rifle, but this can be explained fairly simply.  First of all, there is no gas system so there is no need to attach anything (such as a piston tube) to the barrel (‘delayed blowback’ mechanism).  The only thing that is attached is the ‘tri-ring:’ the bottom ring is on the barrel, the top ring encloses the front sight post, and the middle ring encircles the end of the cocking tube –  but is not fastened to it.  You can see this by removing the end cap from the middle ring, exposing the hollow end of the cocking tube, to verify this.  Now, the handguard is attached to the cocking tube, not the barrel, and while tension on the handguard will cause the cocking tube to flex slightly, it is not enough to bring it into contact with the tri-ring and affect the point of aim, at least not on any of the rifles I looked at – PTR91F, PTR G.I., PTR32KF.  (However, a laser mounted to the handguard could be pulled off zero by the tension.)]

Now on to the shooting.  The forward sling loop is attached to the barrel, so to avoid putting tension on the barrel I attached a rail to the underside of the handguard, and a sling stud (from Yankee Hill Machine) to the rail.  When I first started shooting it, slung up and using iron sights, the feeling I had can best be described as claustrophobic.  The way I tend to shoot, with my nose down and cheek well forward on the comb, I was treated with a good stiff punch to the cheekbone by the hump on the buttstock.  The first time I just kept firing anyway, since the range was about to close and I didn’t want to take the time to find a new groove.  I got a decent bruise out of it, but my groups showed I did not flinch, even though I knew it was going to hurt me – a challenge for my ego I couldn’t resist.

So obviously I have to keep my chin up and head back away from the hump, which feels claustrophobic and awkward.  Even with that I still got a slap on the cheek, rather than a punch to the cheekbone.  It was an improvement, but I was still in an abusive relationship with my rifle.  However, when I put on a Brügger & Thomet scope mount, and a canvas cheek riser pad, presto!  No more pain.  In fact, it’s quite a comfortable shooter in this configuration.  The felt recoil may be stiffer than for the other Battle Rifles, but shooting a few mags at a time is not bothersome, nor is there any noticeable pain afterwards.  (I weigh 175lb so I don’t have much natural padding.  The only padding I have is on an inexpensive shooting ‘jacket’ from Fred’s.)
This rifle is plenty accurate with good ammo (sub 2MOA groups with Prvi Match 168gr), and the setup I described is solid, comfortable, and versatile.  I thought I would just buy this rifle and then forget it, save it for when I might need to be humping a rifle through the swamp for months on end.  And here it turns out to be the cat’s meow!  I guess you just don’t know until you give something a fair shake.

The ‘PTR’ in PTR91 stands for ‘Precision Target Rifle.’  I always thought this was odd, as the HK91 was designed to be a Battle Rifle, not a semi auto sniper rifle.  Then again, I’m not in charge of marketing the thing, and I suppose ‘Pretty Darned Accurate Battle Rifle’ doesn’t have quite the same ring.  The rifle differs from the HK91 in one important respect: the barrel.  It’s a heavier profile for one thing, and although it’s called a ‘bull barrel’ it seems closer to a medium weight.  But more important, it has shallower chamber flutes than the original design.  This may have been to reduce felt recoil, and/or to tighten tolerances for better accuracy.  (The flutes are grooves cut into the chamber to aid extraction; it’s a necessary part of the blowback mechanism.)  But from our perspective the important question is whether this makes it less reliable than the original.  The answer is apparently no, unless you’re using lacquer coated, or particularly tar-sealed ammo.  Many of us may not care to use this type of ammo in our rifles, as it produces a gummy residue that’s hard to remove, but a ‘true’ HK91 can handle it and we expect a PTR91 to do so as well.  In response to this PTR91 recently came out with the GI version.

Aside from the furniture it appears virtually identical to the HK91.  They were offered on CDNN for $900 new (compare this to a used HK91 for around $2300).  It’s easy to see the difference in the chamber flutes between the different PTRs: the GI’s are much deeper and more distinct.  This is a welcome development, as many people regard the HK91 as the ultimate TEOTWAWKI weapon: no matter the ammo, the environment, or the duration of the crisis, it won’t quit on you.  So, for good reason, the PTR91 GI is getting a lot of attention among survivalists and preppers these days.

I thought all PTR91 models were now being made with the deep chamber flutes, not just the GI version, but I have been unable to confirm this.  (Note, chamber flutes are not to be confused with barrel flutes, which are on the outside of the barrel, for aesthetics and heat dissipation.)  I know for a fact the new PTR32 (in 7.62x39) has them.  The issue is important, because some folks might want the heavier barrel for better accuracy and heat dissipation, but only if they can get it with the deep flutes.  [Can JWR or someone else chime in here with a reference and settle this question?]  Also, some PTR91 models come with a scope rail welded to the receiver, which is better than the bolt on type, but I haven’t seen it on the GI version.
I haven’t scoped the GI rifle yet, but the groups I get are similar to what I get with the other PTR91 using iron sights, and in any case the GI should give whatever accuracy we can expect from the HK91.  The GI is lighter and felt recoil is naturally stiffer but I didn’t find it uncomfortable (with padded jacket); it just needs a little padding on the shoulder or buttstock.  I like the challenge of using it just the way it is brutal, tough, simple – with iron sights, even though I’m a little nearsighted.

Reloading the PTR91 can be a bit slow, at least in comparison to the other Battle Rifles.  A paddle mag release can be installed, but this is a gunsmithing job.  There are good quality 50 round drums available which look great, but they’re expensive.  Are they worth it?  It depends.  If you’re light on riflemen (or working solo) and you think the drum would help sustain fire in the fight, then maybe.  It’s a heckuva capability.  As always, balance your mission requirements with the resources you have.

Okay, some of the cons.  Bore is not chrome lined, but this is in the interest of greater accuracy.  It’s the stiffest recoiling of the Battle Rifles, due to the blowback mechanism.  However, this can be tamed in a number of ways, chiefly with a little padding and optimal positioning on the shoulder.  As a general matter I don’t think recoil should be a game changer when it comes to selecting a Battle Rifle, unless you have some special need (shoulder problems, etc.).  There’s a huge industry out there serving the needs of shooters, and they’re always trying to dream up new types of gear to make our lives better, and it’s probably just a matter of time before someone makes a new buttstock or other gizmo that helps with the recoil.  Remember, the actual momentum transferred to your shoulder is the same no matter what rifle you use (the momentum is the bullet mass times muzzle velocity).  What we want is to smear out the force transferred to us during the recoil impulse, making it more like a shove than a kick.

I had a couple of minor problems with my rifles.  The first one suddenly started failing to extract.  This was due to a bent extractor spring, which was probably bent during factory installation (which is pretty easy to do).  I straightened it out and put it back in and it worked fine until I got some new springs.  They are inexpensive, and a necessary item in your spare parts kit.  Another thing that happened was both rifles had the flash hiders come loose, easily remedied with blue loctite.  Though minor, these are pretty stupid problems to have.  PTR91 really ought to do better.

There are more serious issues to be aware of.  A limited number of rifles were manufactured using wrong sized pins which could result in cracked trunnions.  Check the serial number of your rifle against the serial number range posted on PTR91’s web site, and if yours matches, check your trunnion for hairline cracks.  If you’re buying used, avoid those in the affected range.  I’ve also seen one or two reports (with photos) of cracked bolt heads, and while it appears to be rare it’s a very serious failure.  There is some question as to whether the metal being used is hard enough.  There may have been a change in manufacturing, or a shift from surplus to domestic made bolt heads (my GI’s bolt head has ‘PTR91’ stamped on it, while the one from the older rifle has no markings).  Some people like to swap out parts for original German ones (bolt head, carrier, trigger parts, etc.), but this can be expensive.  It’s a good idea to keep an eye on the ‘bolt gap,’ which is related to the head space, and it’s easily checked using a feeler gauge set like we use to check spark plug gaps.  If it’s shrinking rapidly, and goes under spec, that would indicate a problem.  On the good news front: in 2012 PTR91 announced a lifetime warranty on these and all other internal parts.

Before leaving the subject of PTRs entirely I want to mention the PTR32.  This is a new model rifle chambered in 7.62x39mm, with a 16in ‘bull barrel,’ aluminum handguard, and deep chamber flutes.  While it does take AK47 mags, most of the common steel ones do not work well – polymer mags are recommended.  Though I like AKs well enough, I like the PTR32 because of the better sights, the handguard is all ready to go for rail attachments, and the barrel is free-floating as with the PTR91.  It’s heavier than an AK (a GI profile barrel might have been better) but feels well balanced.  Shooting it is a dream, as the recoil is more like a spongy push than a kick.  It comes with a fixed stock, but can be fitted with one of those retractable stocks which, while quite a punisher when used on a .308, would work nicely on this one and make it more portable.  If you like the PTR platform and you’re looking for something to throw in the truck, it’s something to consider.

This was my top choice, at least initially.  It was a bit of a toss-up between a DS Arms FAL or an M14/M1A.  My preference was tilted toward the FAL for several reasons.  (1) I was impressed with the quality of DSA, which offers FAL models as good or better than the original.  (2) Scoping the FAL is simple: just order it with a railed top cover (I like the extended scope rail version).  (3) The ergonomics is similar to the other rifles I have, such as pistol grip and safety position.  (4) It can be cleaned from the breech end (I’m spoiled).
Before I really got into Battle Rifles I got a DS Arms SA58 16in carbine with the medium contour barrel.  Those of you who have had the chance to shoot one of these know what a sweet, handy little piece it is.  And although it’s only a 16in and therefore not technically a Battle Rifle as defined here, it’s a good hard hitting CQB weapon.

My first DSA FAL Battle Rifle had an 18in medium contour barrel, fixed stock, and Robar NP3 coating on the bolt & carrier, which has a silky, teflon-like feel, requiring little or no lube, something which could be important in a SHTF situation.  The heavier barrel adds a little bit of weight, which I thought I would not mind for the sake of greater accuracy, but as we’ll see I eventually settled on a different model.  I still like this one but it is better suited for shooting from a fixed position with a bipod.

To further enhance accuracy and to allow the use of a tight service sling, I installed an aluminum “free float” foreend.  While not strictly free float, since it clamps to the thick base of the barrel instead of the receiver, it does the job required of it, which is to isolate the barrel from sling tension and contact with the bipod.  However, the foreend as provided by DSA suffers from several drawbacks, the most serious being the open top design, which exposes the piston and spring.  The tube is open on top so it can clear the front sight block on installation.  But instead of an uninterrupted piston tube, DSA’s has a long gap which, while good for ventilating fouling gas, exposes the piston and spring.  With the foreend attached this is actually visible, not only exposing this part of the action to the elements but also allowing gas and barrel heat to rise into the line of sight and in front of the scope.  This is absurd – DSA really needs to get its act together on this.  I would have preferred a (ported) solid piston tube instead of the open design, but all that’s actually needed for the foreend is a top cover, and so I made one from a galvanized steel cable organizer.  Bending it into a suitable shape took some doing (a vice and set of aluminum barrel blocks came in handy), but it came out nicely.  Another drawback of the foreend is the lack of any drilling and tapping and supplied rails, but this is easily remedied.  I put a small (Yankee Hill) rail segment on the bottom front for a quick detach (QD) bipod, a sling stud farther aft, and a pair of screws securing the tube to the lower barrel clamp to prevent the tube from rotating.

The result is a bit heavier than I would like – what’s really needed is a lighter free float foreend – and while it would be hard to find a more accurate FAL, like many accurate semi auto rifles it’s too heavy to be considered a ‘carry friendly’ field weapon, which is our main focus in this article.  Still, I love the damn thing and I’m keeping it.

I’ve since picked up a DSA PARA FAL rifle – folding skeleton stock, Robar NP3 coating on internals, sand cuts on bolt carrier (now standard on all new DSA FALs), extended scope rail.  The barrel is 18in, but unlike the other rifle it’s standard weight.  I’m considering putting my free float tube on this one but for now I think it’s heavy enough and fine the way it is.  The primary advantage of the folding stock is enhanced covertness and ease of portability – you can put it in a suitcase instead of a gun case, for example – and yet, unlike a partially disassembled rifle, the stock can be unfolded and the rifle brought into action quickly.  If you think that feature would be important for you it’s worth considering the PARA.  Also, in the event of a jam the PARA action can be opened up immediately, but this may not be the case if you have a fixed stock, which has the ‘rat tail’ (a thin rod attached to the back of the carrier) extending into the buttstock during cycling.

However, folding stock is an additional expense over the fixed version, and while it looks ‘cool’ it is not as comfortable to shoot.  For one thing, the recoil spring mechanism is different (note that it is not easy, nor is it inexpensive, to interchange folding and fixed stocks on a rifle), and for another, the folding stock butt is all aluminum and thus hard as a rock – definitely could use some rubber back there.  In fact, the difference between shooting the PARA and shooting my Saiga .308, which has the ACE folder that includes a hollow rubber pad on it, is substantial; the Saiga is much milder.  If you do put on a thick rubber pad, the PARA stock can be cut shorter by the user, in order to maintain the same length of pull.  Something like this will probably be necessary, at least for me.  It’s a superb weapon, don’t get me wrong, and I really like it.  But if someone asked my advice about getting a FAL, I would  say DSA’s 18in, standard weight barrel, fixed stock, with or without Robar, would be a good bet.

Besides the extended scope rail option, I like the Hampton lower, which has a rear sight just like that on the AR-15.  All my FALs have Hampton lowers, as well as the Speed Trigger upgrade.  I haven’t had a chance to fire a rifle with a stock trigger, but I can tell you I would not want anything less than the Speed Trigger, which gives a lighter, shorter, crisper pull for enhanced practical accuracy.  I consider the trigger upgrade and scope rail to be the most important upgrades you can get for the FAL.

And finally, some pros and cons.  The FAL is unique in that it has an adjustable gas system, allowing you to tune it to your particular ammo, and this is generally regarded as a good thing.  It helps reduce wear and tear on your gun as well as your shoulder.  But you wouldn’t want to go into battle with it on the wrong setting, which could render it a single shot rifle. [JWR Adds: Ditto for assembling the rifle with the gas plug installed upside down.]

Like the HK91/PTR91, it has the charging handle on the left side (which is what most right handed shooters seem to prefer), as it was designed to be used with an integral bipod.  It is a ‘non-reciprocating’ handle, meaning that it does not move during cycling (unlike the M14/M1A), and consequently does not allow for a forward assist should it be needed (which could happen if the rifle gets dirty enough).  Last time I talked with DSA in mid-2012 I was told a forward assist option (similar to that on the Israeli heavy barrel FAL) might be offered in the future, as a number of people had been asking about it.  You might be able to make this mod yourself (or you might consider getting an M14/M1A).  Most people don’t seem to think it’s necessary, but like a lot of things, having it and not needing it is better than needing it and not having it.

The charging handle knob itself is made of hollow aluminum, and it can break (don’t ask me how I know).  Just don’t drop it on a rock.  Barrel is not chrome lined, but this is in the interest of better accuracy.  DSA ordered a recall on a range of lowers a few years ago.  I was not notified (I noticed it on their web site), even though I’m the original owner and they have my email address.

Having decided in favor of the FAL I figured I had no need to get one of these.  Besides the expense of the rifle itself, I like to stock mags and parts for the rifles I have, and the cost for this system is unfortunately high.  But it was the one thing missing in my collection, and in many ways it can be considered the best of the bunch.  So about every six months I would get a real hankering for one, even start having dreams about it.  Finally I could take it no longer.  I bought an M14SA, LRB Arms hammer-forged receiver, the rest of it is USGI M14 parts except bolt (TRW) and barrel (Criterion, chrome lined).  This is not a match rifle, but it’s about the best plain Jane semi auto M14 you can find, and at the risk of comparing apple to oranges, I consider the quality on a par with DSA’s FAL.

It came with a beautifully restored USGI walnut stock, which I immediately replaced with a fiberglass one.  Being able to swap stocks is one of the advantages here, and the USGI fiberglass can be repainted in any number of camo patterns.  Because I like the extra rigidity and strength of the old ‘big red’ birch stocks I bought one of these too, and refinished it.  I had to get several new tools for cleaning and working on the rifle.  I will accumulate more mags and parts as opportunities arise.

Because I’m a little nearsighted I installed a National Match (NM) rear sight, and dropped in a corrective lens from B Jones Sights.  This allows me to see the target well enough while still keeping the front sight in focus.  I also put in a front globe sight, which shrouds the front sight in a small cylinder, reducing eye fatigue and minimizing the effects of lighting.  (As a side note: the rear sight with lens is legal in NRA Service Rifle competition, but the front globe sight is not.)  This allows me to shoot almost to the rifle’s potential (less than 1.5MOA with Prvi 168gr).  If you like shooting with iron sights this is a great setup.  Being able to shoot this rifle very accurately using iron sights is one of the most fun things about it.
I was not planning to scope this rifle, due to the high cost of the better mounts, and the reported problematic nature of doing so.  But then I heard about the Bassett Machine mount ($150).  The High model allows use of the iron sights.  It goes on and off easily with a hand tool, with minimal torque needed – only the weight of the rifle is used to tighten it – and boasts a return to zero within 1MOA.  It sounded too good to be true, but I read enough endorsements from users to take the plunge.  Though my experience with it is not very broad thus far, it does perform as advertised, so if you’re shopping for a mount check this one out.  Naturally, whatever mount you may choose, if you are using a scope you’ll probably want a cheek riser to help raise your line of sight.  I use a removable soft pad on my birch stock so I can switch back to using iron sights easily.

This rifle is a very comfortable shooter, the softest recoiling among the three traditional Battle Rifles, and with the familiar feel of the hunting rifle and shotgun.  Probably the biggest drawback is the lack of a pistol grip.  Particularly in prone, where the elbow of the trigger arm is down, the angle the trigger finger makes with the trigger is not ideal.  Also, the wrist is bent back – not good for relaxing.  However, it doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would, and the rifle delivers exceptional accuracy.  Many a good sniper, after all, has made do with this type of traditional stock on a scoped bolt action, so it should be no obstacle to most of us on our Battle Rifles.  There are of course after market stocks that feature a pistol grip, but good ones are expensive, often require bedding, such as the McMillan (and occasional rebedding, depending on how much you shoot), and may add substantial weight, such as the J Allen Enterprises stock.

For a “field grade” stock I like the USGI fiberglass.  (Some shooters reinforce the foreend to make it more rigid, but I haven’t yet found this necessary, even when using a tight sling).  The only mod I made was to install a Sadlak heavy duty bipod rail in front of the sling loop.  With this setup using a bipod, scope, and cheek riser, you’d essentially be equipped just as many of our troops are fighting overseas with the M14.

As far as available ‘upgrades’ for this weapon – stocks, parts, accurizing, etc. – the sky’s the limit, but then so is the price.  I plan to do some basic accurizing, but that’s about it.  It already does what it needs to do, and what I need to do is spend time shooting it.
It’s easy to see why people’s objectivity breaks down when it comes to this rifle.  It has the look and feel of a traditional rifle; it’s designed for use with the service sling, with controls on the right hand side; iron sights are superb; recoil is gentle; and it has the home team advantage, as it is the only American Battle Rifle, and a direct descendant of the revered M1.  Very much a rifleman’s rifle, user friendly in all important respects.

More recently I got a tanker version, built on an LRB M25 receiver which has the scope rail built in, with a number of upgrades.  This was to be my go-to Battle Rifle, my pride and joy.  But it doesn’t work – numerous cycling problems, and I have to send it back.  It’s an excellent builder that made it so I have no doubt they’ll make it right.  But it just goes to show that you can run into problems no matter what you buy, even in the high end market.

AR-10 & Variants
This platform has a lot going for it – the same excellent ergonomics of the AR-15, outstanding accuracy, modularity, ease of customization.  The rifle has gotten better, as more manufacturers have come out with more choices, and magazines aren’t as wildly expensive as they once were.  It is unfortunate that, unlike with the AR-15 parts, particularly mags, are not standardized, but this is a fairly minor concern.

It may be argued that it also shows some of the weaknesses of the AR-15.  But as long as we know what they are, we can make an informed choice as to whether the AR-10 is appropriate for our mission.  Certainly we would want to make sure we have plenty of lube since, while fouling may be an issue with the direct impingement mechanism, it can get pretty dirty and not quit, provided you can keep it wet.  Keep plenty of spare parts on hand, and know how to rebuild a bolt.
But I think where the AR-10 really shines is as a semi auto sniper rifle.  You can easily build one with sub MOA accuracy, and if you have a need for such a capability this would be an excellent option.

SAIGA .308
This is a good, robust budget Battle Rifle, but with certain drawbacks.  It’s available only in 16 in and 21in barreled models; many say the 21in is markedly less accurate due to barrel whip.  It is not threaded for a flash hider, and with the front sight positioned all the way out at the muzzle, no easy way to thread it (see instructions at Dinzag Arms), though some sort of bolt on device may be possible.  No pistol grip, crummy trigger.  Mags – both factory and hi-cap – are expensive.  But factory mags are 8-rounds, so you could think of this as roughly equivalent to a .308 M1 with detachable mag, which ain’t bad, unless of course you lose the mag.  And though it can be upgraded (see below), for the cost involved I would suggest you take a hard look at a PTR91 instead.  If you like the Saiga the way it is you’re in good shape, though I consider a trigger upgrade a must.  It has a side mount for a scope rail which is inexpensive, so scoping it is simple.  The iron sights are the usual lousy AK type, so for excellent aftermarket peep sights check out Tech-Sights.

Like the AK47, the Saiga .308 has relatively mild recoil.  However, there is one difference in the action that bears mentioning.  There is an extra lug on the bolt to handle the higher pressures of the .308.  It’s on the bottom, and it rides directly over the case of the top cartridge in the magazine, and depending on how sharp the lug is, it puts a good dent in the case shoulder on the return stroke, particularly when the top round is on the left side.  This could be an issue in performance, especially if you’re using brass cased ammo (steel cased won’t dent nearly so much), as the case could be punctured before firing.  There is only one way to see this effect.  Firing the round irons out the case and removes the dent.  Therefore, start with a full 20-round mag (for maximum upward pressure), making sure the top round is on the right.  Load, and fire the first round.  Then remove the mag, extract the chambered round, and inspect.  My rifle made such a severe dent I sent the bolt back to the distributor to have it filed down.  When it still made a big dent I sent the whole rifle back and they worked on the bolt some more.  They did it free of charge, although with a note saying it shouldn’t have been sent in since it had been converted to the pistol grip configuration – voiding the warranty.  As if the pistol grip has anything to do with the bolt!  Anyhow, it helped, enough so that I’m no longer worried it might actually punch a hole in the brass.  I’m still not too crazy about the design, with the lug riding over the case and bumping the shoulder.

As for the pistol grip conversion, there are a few differences from the Saiga 7.62x39.  The mag well is farther aft due to the longer round, and the trigger guard I got for it needed to be squeezed and shaped a bit, and a new hole in the receiver for the front screw.  If you’re putting in a fixed stock there’s not much too it.  But for a folding stock, where you cut off the rear tang, you’ll need to drill and tap holes in the receiver to secure the receiver block, as the two holes on each side used for this purpose when converting the 7.62x39 or Saiga 12 are absent on the .308.  I used the block that comes without these holes already in it; that way I could just drill the receiver and block together so things line up easily.  I also needed to cut the cross bar off the bottom of the block, and do some grinding on top edges to provide clearance.  Lastly, there was a hole in the bottom of the receiver near the back where I put another screw into the block.  I used an ACE folding stock.  The result is very solid and looks great.

One other thing I should mention about this rifle is that I had to grind the receiver rails a little bit in order to get the bolt and carrier group in and out smoothly.  It works smooth as grease now, but when I first got it I couldn’t see why it didn’t behave just like all the AKs I was used to handling.  So if you have trouble with yours, take a careful look at the receiver rail clearance, and if you must take a dremel to your receiver, go slow, taking off only a little bit at a time, trying the bolt & carrier insertion and removal as you go.
Overall I like this baby (I have a 16in).  It shares the good traits of an AK-47 – simplicity, reliability, light weight, mild recoil – in a semi auto .308.  With the folding stock, it’s hard to see how you could get more firepower in such a small, light weight package.  So if you like the AK platform, and don’t mind doing a little work and tweaking to get it the way you like, give it a look.

No Battle Rifle is perfect, but it’s possible to find something that is ideal or suitable for you, your group, your family.  All of those discussed here will do the job and will serve you well.  Selecting a Battle Rifle is like becoming part of a club or community.  You can avail yourself of the tremendous amount of information and help online from others using the same platform.  There is so much experience and expertise on these weapons out there, and it’s constantly being updated on the forums.  Being a part of it is one of the most satisfying benefits of Battle Rifle shooting.  But the best of all, of course, it the shooting itself.

One final note.  As preppers, we have long been concerned with the state of our world, its fragility, and the various means and trends that threaten it.  Now suddenly we have a new threat to our freedom and culture, to our right to life and liberty, the specter of infringements to our right to keep and bear arms.  We have already seen a lot of panic in the marketplace.  But as preppers we do not panic, we take heart.  Despair is not an option for us.  While we may have to adapt to new circumstances, we are secure in our faith and our mission, and remain active in the face of change and adversity.  We all know this won’t be the last crisis we’ll have to deal with.  But we are here now, in this time and place, for a reason.  We are the beginning of a new America and a new freedom, remembering and recapturing the old, but with an eye to building a new future, a vision to be admired and remembered to the end of days.  The way is tough, but that is always the way of the pioneer.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sorry to be late on my Knob Creek roundup I was indecisive as to the interest level in the past, as it concerns those mostly east of the Mississippi.
Arrived Friday morning and was shocked at how sparse the crowd was compared to past events. It was still a good sized crowd but I could actually get around and wasn’t standing room only. I am guessing that a couple of rain fronts that came through in the week previous dampened enthusiasm, along with the economy and people have been on an ammo buying spree for over a year, reduced the turnout somewhat. The sound of automatic weapons and cannons in the background was as constant and loud as ever. Didn’t spot any celebrities but usually that happens on Saturday.
1st order of business, hit up Model 1 Sales out of Texas for my 5.45x39 AR-15 bolt and carrier to complete my upper conversion build I started a few years ago. I decided against having some machine work done to a standard 5.56 bolt and went with the product designed for my purpose. These bolts are currently listed as out of stock on their web site but my past experiences and a sweet Texas Belle at their HQ let me know that there was a good chance they would have some at the creek. Purchased the bolt and carrier and engaged their resident guru in some debate, to the point, he said their bolts had an altered inside diameter firing pin hole and pin which allows the firing pin to travel much further than the 5.56 pin in order to give consistent strikes on communist ammo that seems to be all over the map in terms of primer seating production standards. So no need for a heavy duty spring to give it some umph. We shall see if this holds true. He also said that the extractor and firing pin were different from standard. Enough said, add a few of those to my bag. As soon as I got home I used an electric engraver to try and label the bolt as 5.45 for posterity. The hardened steel was resistant to my idea but I finally managed to make a dent in the parkerization if not the steel.
2nd order of business, DSA for some FAL compliance parts and adjustable rear protected leaf sights and miscellaneous parts. Apparently they were not in a mood to negotiate much since I only managed to save $40 over retail after saving several hundred last year. I must remember to dress more shoddily and practice my pitiful face for spring. While at the table I observed two elderly gentlemen drop cash for 12 DSA AR uppers. Go figure.  DSA’s $3-4 FAL mags in excellent shape are a thing of the past and a wooden crate full of cosmoline and abused metric magazines  a  5 for $45 was the best they had. After myself and another passerby spent a large amount of time sorting through this mess, we sweet talked the kid into getting another crate out of the truck. And finally, some minor pity as the kid let me grab 12 for $90. That probably averages out to somewhere around $7.75 per mag. Used inch pattern mags were $20 and their new USA made 30 rounder’s in metric were $25 apiece. The crotchety old guy who you had to talk to for parts and had a definite resemblance to the Soup Nazi on the Seinfeld television series has thankfully retired. That was always an extra special treat after 8 hours of travel through the night and cash in your hand.
On to Ammo. I went to Pat’s Reloading out of Ohio as they are one of my favorites. Got Aquila .223 for $318 a case and PMC for $330. Later I saw that much of their stuff had been bought by the pallet load by machine gunners or dealers. I am sure they probably brought in another load for Saturday but at the time there wasn’t much selection left. They did still have some 1,000 round cans of Israeli 9 mm loose packed SMG ammo for $199? I went around and didn’t really see anyone prices were that much better. 7.62x54 R seems to be holding steady at $75-85 a spam can and $150-165 a case. 5.45x39 communist ammo is still the best deal going for Semi-Auto self-defense rifles at $275 a case. That’s 2,140 rds for less than the price of  1,000  5.56 rounds (exponentially that is 3,000 of 5.56 for $1,000 versus 6,500 for $825). Hence, having the uppers in this caliber for your AR. Not to mention that the Russian and Chinese troops currently reported to be in Denver and Texas will likely be using this round. So that is where you go to resupply yourself.  Another dealer had Privi-Partisan new .308 by the sleeve for $200 per 250 rounds. Uggh, that’s $800 per case, although I am sure there was a discount for case purchases, I didn’t ask. I was mainly there for hardware not software.
Having said that. I then went over to see Lance with all his obscure and foreign war films and books. I had to repurchase my copy of the Finnish war 1994 movie “The Winter War” which disappeared in a buddy’s divorce proceedings seven years ago. While there, I picked up a 2011 French movie with subtitles about communist members of the Resistance assassination teams in Paris during WWII called “Army of Crime”. Has been pretty good so far. Then I picked up a title from a Korean outfit? Called Well-Go entertainment.  Called “Warriors of the Rainbow”. I had previous purchased a title by this group called “My Way” at my local Target store (of all places) for $12 which was the true saga of some Koreans who were drafted into the Jap army, captured and sent to the gulag by the USSR until they needed bodies, captured by the Germans and sent into a far east battalion to Normandy, and finally captured by the Americans who no doubt wondered how these guys got there. An epic on the scale of “Saving Private Ryan” with great cinematography. If you thought I liked that one, I bought the 2011, 4-½ hour international version of “Warriors of the Rainbow” for $30 and I cannot say enough great things about it. If you like war, adventure, combat movies and don’t turn into a prima donna over subtitles or beheadings, You have to put this movie on your bucket list. Just simply amazing and as good of cinematography as you are going to see. It is the true story of the subjugation of the headhunters of the interior of Taiwan when the Chinese ceded it to Japan by treaty and Japan set out to exploit it and strip it of its resources. The head hunter tribes gave better than they got but were eventually subjugated in the early 1900’s. They bided their time and finally after all the abuse they struck in 1930. Using captured Japanese weapons and their swords  a little over 300 headhunters brought the Japanese forces to their knees and were only subjugated by the use of planes and poison gas. It is a movie about the last stand of a culture and has similar elements to the Last Samurai, the Alamo, etc. except is all done in the native tongues of the characters in the movie. At one point before the rebellion starts, a young lad sees the chief who is now 40-50s on his porch and goes over to him and engages in some small talk. The young man says “My grandfather says you were  a great hero when you were younger” the Chief turns and looks right through him and says “What makes you think I ever stopped being a hero”. Enough said. Go watch this epic and  you won’t regret it.
Picked up military issue Celox and Quik-Clot 3 packs for $25 with 2013-2015 expiration dates (which probably are good for a long time after) and some various medical equipment. Went over and picked up springs and some spare parts  as well as other things. There was a character there and his company was called Forbidden Ideas who had a truck full of Mountain House cans, Wise food buckets, Aqua Rain filters etc. But I got a Civil Defense charger (recalibrator) and 2 Bendix 200 milrad dosimeters ($12 each) from him for $50.  He had a package deal going for a bag of stuff with all the manuals of radiation meters, dosimeters, chargers and other stuff for $115. Recalibrating your radiation detector will cost $80 (according to this guy) and these have already had it done from some outfit in Texas.
On the way back after 24 straight without sleep, I went over what I had observed. The difference between the number of people loaded down with carts, ATVs, army mechanical mules and red Radio Flyer wagons filled with ammo was startling since last fall, but as I explained at the start, I think there is a logical reason for it.  The most startling thing was the number and volume of young men 25-50 plunking down $600-1000 in this economy and being fitted for full scale body armor and ceramic plates that can withstand multiple rifle strikes. I saw multiple groups weighted down with multiple sets of the plates at a minimum of $275 a set and one table was busy all day fitting people. I actually began to feel quite under protected with multiple police style vests and titanium trauma plates.

I was actually quite moved driving down the highway at what a horrible thing this meant, as to what we have come to as a country and what is coming. It also gave me a great sense of pride that many (not enough), I do believe are preparing for battle, when it is finally brought to our doorsteps, and don’t intend to go quietly to the FEMA camps. Pastor Lindsay Williams states that there is one thing the elites have learned in the last years, they can do anything to the American people and we will do nothing in response. I hope that is not true. Other than constant prayer for the spiritual battle in the heavens going on, as always, keep the mottos of our ancestors, Sic Semper Tyrannis and De oppresso liber safely enshrined in your hearts. - B.T.

I would like to add a little information and advice to Louie's excellent primer on the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot. As a former local who still attends semi-frequently (currently living behind enemy lines and soon moving to the American Redoubt) it's always great to see folks from around the country that attend this. I once had a problem with  immigration /customs crossing into Canada and the CBP Agent's familiarity with the shoot is what got me across. No joke. He believed my story because I could give him details on the shoot and had the accent to match. He's an annual attendee. Awesome. I swear the nicest people believe in armed civilians. Now for the info and advice:

1. Accommodations. 
The show is outside Shepherdsville Kentucky but this is just past the suburbs on the south side of Louisville. You've never heard of Shepherdsville and maybe never heard of Louisville so Mapquest it. No offense intended, most people I run into ask me what states are next to Kentucky. There are a few motels in "Shep" but as you go north into Louisville there are motel/hotels galore. Louisville is a convention hub and hosts The Kentucky Derby so it is well prepared for more visitors that the shoot will ever bring.

2. Parking. 
Bring a 4x4. Much of the parking is in a field down by the creek. It's soggy bottom land. It will not appear to be a problem on the first morning. The grass is all pretty and glistening with dew. When you leave and many cars have had a chance to spin that field into a mud hole...let's just say it isn't pretty anymore. A way to avoid this is to camp there. Then you can get better parking with less traffic on higher ground. You might even have a handful of gravel under your tires. Friendly, local rednecks make some decent go-to-town money by hauling sedans out of that field. The first time I went I was one of those sedan people. Completely embarrassed was I since I'm from there. The girlfriend had the 4x4, scout's honor. BTW, most of them pull you for free as long as you're the guy who crawls through 18", or deeper, mud to attach the chain. I drove home in my BVDs. I swear I had to scuba dive under the front bumper.

3. Firearms. 
You can bring your firearms to this show just like other shows. It gets inspected (for empty chamber/mag) and a zip-tie safety seal installed through the open bolt. So if you're interested in selling or trading by all means bring your toys. You will often see a little home made Wiley E Coyote sign sticking up from the muzzle of a slung rifle that says For Sale/Trade. This is a great idea. I highly encourage folks to bring their weapons for sale or trade...particularly considering Note 5.

4. When to get there. 
Get there early on the first day. If you are looking for ammo, lower parts kits, or other items that fly off the shelves...well they fly off the shelves. If you get arrive at lunch time on the first day you will be hard pressed to find 5.56, 7.62, .45, or 9mm ammo Deals. Believe it or not pallets of cases of ammo can go in a couple hours. Locals know the shoot is coming, know deals are to be had, and many come just for that early morning purchase. It can be like Black Friday. Expect prices to change on the fly for high demand items as the stock gets close to empty. Gouging does happen. I showed up looking for a lower AR parts kit for a build I was working on a couple years ago. I had been waiting for months because everywhere online was back ordered indefinitely. Ridiculous. I showed up at 10 AM and found just one table with Rock River AR parts kits. They had two empty pallet boxes (30 inches deep), and a third box that was half empty. If you show up early you can get real savings over what you will find at online retailers and in stores. Our usual plan is to get there in the morning and shop, and then return for the night shoot. Also, at the end of the day on Sunday you can find deals from vendors who don't want to lug their stuff home. The selection will be limited but you can find gems.

5.  Purchasing Firearms. 
If you buy firearms from the tables under the roof, most of them are FFL dealers, not private individual they will be going through the usual NICS check procedures.. If you're looking for person to person sales you pretty much have to work outside of the covered area. As a matter of principle I like to avoid NICS [background checks] when possible. It's none of their dang business what I do with the dollars I earn. I suggest you do the same, and let them enjoy their revenue decline. Watch for the signs displayed by private sellers. 
6. The Main Store. 
Louie is right. The staff at KCR is very knowledgeable and they have everything you ever wanted. Looking for a Barrett. I don't know about during the show, but during normal times they provide discounts for shooters who are current or retired soldiers and marines. They are friendly but come with a thick skin. There is good natured chop busting to be had in the store. 

7. Shooting the Toys.
Nothing to add there. Louie covered this like a champ. 

One Last Piece. Bring a wagon. A good old child's red wagon will save you from strain on your feet and back. Especially if you intend to buy ammo. 

Thanks for letting me submit this. I also want to thank Mr. Rawles for including the Fort Knox area in his latest novel in his book series. That's my old stomping ground and I can tell you it's populated to behave in that exact manner. Once you escape Louisville you run smack into old-timey prepping. Not necessarily up to date on the movement, heck not much Internet access, but provident living is in the DNA. If it wasn't so close to major population centers, and Fort Knox, I would stay for life. That was sub-MOA accuracy sir. Wet boots and dry powder 'yall. - InvisibleSoul

Friday, October 19, 2012

Dear SurvivalBloggers:
This past weekend (12-14 October, 2012) was the Fall Knob Creek machinegun shoot in West Point, Kentucky.
The Knob Creek ("KCR") shoot is normally a bi-annual event, held in April and October each year. It is the World’s largest machine gun (MG) shoot and machine gun show.
Although none of our group are really “into” machine guns this event was on the “bucket list” of one of our party. With the spring shoot canceled last April because of heavy rains washing a bridge out, we were determined to make this one.

Web sites were checked, reservations made, bags were packed and off we went. N and V, father and son left a little later than M and me. From our home area in southern Ohio we had about a 3 ½ hour drive, and arrived at KCR around noon on Friday.

The event costs $10 per day for everyone over 11 and $5 for those under 12. This fee gets you in the event. Parking is free and a shuttle is available every 15 minutes or so. Camping is also available but I lack details on this.

The entry fee gets you into the gun show, the public shoot and the amazing gun store. The gun show is mostly under a large shelter house that I estimate at 150x500 feet. It is literally crammed full from one end to the other with guns, MGs, parts, ammunition, surplus goods, fireworks, knives and any number of other items. Outside of the shelter house are many booths and tents set up with vendors for many other items, including “Survival” type foods.

The gun store is amazing. It has more firearms than I have ever seen at one place at one time. There is also a cafeteria in the same building. Several food vendors are located outside of the gun store.

KCR MG Shoot facilities consist of two ranges. (Although I am positive there are many more ranges available during normal business hours.) The upper range is to your left as you come into the area proper. It is fenced off and has a covered shooting area. This range is for owners and dealers who demonstrate their various guns. There is room for approximately 50 shooters.
There are some bleachers available, but with very limited seating. I would not advise taking lawn chairs to this area as it becomes very congested during the shooting times. Keep your chairs in your vehicle for when you need a rest. I would also pack a cooler with drinks and snacks. Need I say that alcohol is not okay to have. Drinking around guns is as stupid as drinking and driving.

The lower range is for rentals. The first part is the shotgun walk area. The next area has two vendors who have machine guns for rent (more later). Lastly there is an area for the jungle walk shoot.

Saturday morning found the four of us waiting for the rentals to open up.  We were there early and close to the front of the line. The fees are graduated "per magazine, drum or belt" depending on the MG you wish to shoot. A magazine for a submachine gun will start at $35, a drum at $65. Full machine guns are about $40 per magazine.
(NOTE: A submachine gun is a gun that is capable of full automatic fire in a pistol cartridge. A machine gun is a gun capable of full automatic fire in a rifle caliber.)

Examples of what we shot:
BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) 30-06,  20 rounds for $35, 40 for $60
Thompson Model 1928 (Tommy Gun) .45 caliber, 30 round mag for $40, 2 for $60, 50 round drum for $60, 2 for $100
HK-G3 .308 caliber, 20 round mag for $35, 2 for $60
M60 and Browning 1919  .308 caliber, belt of 50, $65 for one, and $100 for 2
Uzi 9mm, $40 for magazine of 32
Suggestion: When you go through the payment line purchase tickets for everything you want to shoot. One of the vendors gives extra shooting for over $200 spent. Also it will save time not having to go through the lines again. Some of the lines were close to 3 hours long. (It is still worth it). Shooting is limited to those age 16 and up. Waivers must be signed before shooting

The Shows
Every couple of hours there is a ["Mad Minute"] show. This is where the owners and vendors all shoot at the same time. They will shoot for about 45 minutes. Their targets may be old cars, boats, appliances, wire spools or whatever. Fires erupt as these items catch on fire. There are also explosions as gas tanks or gas cylinders are hit.

This range is the old Naval gun range once owned by Uncle Sam and part of Fort Knox. The range is about 400 yards deep.

I should state here that ear and eye protection are a must. As the daylight fades the tracers become more and more visible.

As I said, there were four of us there for N.’s Bucket List item. We are already making plans for next year to take our children and grandchildren. We are also talking it up at work and have several people very interested. Who knows, maybe I’ll see you there next time. It really is fun!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hi Jim,
You were spot on in your response to he article by "Retread".
However, for anyone who does choose to use .22 LR for self defense, like the writer of the article, I would go with the Mexican Aguila brand ammo. Due to necessity, they've had to invent some man-killer .22 LR (It's legal for people there to own .22 LR, but not anything else. Not that people down there don't own AR's and AK's, anyway).
My favorite solution for this man is the Aguila 60-grain rd., marketed under the name "Sniper Sub-Sonic" (SSS).I think the only reason they market it that way is simply because they couldn't get a .22 Short shell crammed full of powder to move a 60-grain slug any faster than 900 fps.
This unjacketed 60-grain lead slug is just plain mean, and all of Aguila's .22 ammo is Eley primed, which are some of the best primed rimfires (The primers are British, hence Aguila is actually owned by them). Also, the SSS round only loses approx. 100 fps at 100 yards, which means it doesn't leave the barrel very fast, but it's still moving at 100 yards (out of a 16-inch barrel).
Also, their "Supermaximum" cartridges (both solid and hollowpoint) move at about 1,750 fps, roughly 130 fps faster than US made Stinger .22 LR. Since I don't like putting a rifle cartridge into a pistol (particularly .22 Magnum), I wouldn't recommend putting Supermax into a pistol, since the excess energy makes it very inaccurate. - Joe Snuffy

I applaud Retread in recognizing that each of us needs to assess our own circumstances as we age. From arranging the garden to minimize issues with "questionable" knees and backs to financial realities as we move into our later years. Firearms and ammunition can put a pretty good strain on the budget when trying to maintain skills over the long haul. However, I strongly agree with your assessment of [the unsuitability of] .22 LR as a defensive round. It definitely has a place in the survival battery but not in that capacity. I believe that handguns are a practical compromise when out and about working or otherwise conducting business that makes toting a long gun impractical. With that in mind I believe most of us subscribe to the bigger we can handle the better when we are away from our long guns. I have heard it said  the best we can hope for is to be half as good in a violent confrontation as we are at the range. To me that precludes depending so heavily on the accuracy required to be effective with a .22. My research and minimal experience leads me to believe the .38 or 9 mm are the smallest handgun rounds suitable for the task. Yes, I would want a .45, .357 or .40 S&W on my hip all the time but the cost of proficiency climbs as you work your way up the caliber chain. I have all of these stocked up but my mainstay for a potential SHTF scenario is the 9mm. I don't know which model's Retread experienced but a polymer  compact or full size pistol is easy to carry on the hip all day and a breeze to shoot (not most sub-compacts though). The ammo cost is more than the .22 but in bulk it is by far the cheapest of any other weapon you can carry. Besides your stockpile its common enough to supplement/barter after the flag goes up too. One more thing, an extra weapon in the configuration of your "full" caliber weapon but chambered for .22 is an excellent idea. Sight alignment, sight picture, grip and trigger pull are identical and differences in recoil between the .22 and 9 mm are negligible. - William J.

Mr Rawles,
One thing I'd suggest for someone looking for a firearm with less weight or recoil then a .22 rimfire would be to look at calibers smaller than 9mm. .380 ACP, .327 Federal Magnum, 7.62 x 25mm, or 9x17 Makarov would be (marginally) better choices than a .22 rimfire, simply because the bullets' weights and velocities would make them more forgiving of less-than-perfect shots on either the head or center of mass against a threat target.

I generally tell people to shy away from these calibers, but they're better than nothing.

If the shooter can get past the price and marginal trigger, a really decent alternative to .22 rimfire is the FN FiveseveN (5.7x28mm centerfire).

Cheers, - Kent C.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Soon after the Hurricane Katrina disaster we discovered Survivalblog and have since read thousands of (for us) Heaven sent articles. These last seven years has changed our lives for the better. We are dedicated preppers, now living on our new-to-us farm/retreat. We are busy setting it up properly for SHTF, and making good progress. We cannot thank you enough Mr. Rawles. 

Prepping is preparing for the day things change for the worse. In all our planning, it never occurred to me that it might be me that changed. I seem to have hit that spot where I was forced to recognize that I simply cannot do (as well) all the things I used to do. I am in good shape and pay attention to my intake, nevertheless a few of my body components are not up to spec anymore. I am 60+ years young and I work hard six days a week on our little farm/retreat. But somehow those hay bales seem to be heavier this year. My smart alec doctor suggested my aches and pains are the price I must pay for the indiscretions of my youth (skiing accidents, etc). 

There is little I can do about this, other than to (finally) pay attention to my body and plan for being a bit less able. With that in mind, I soon realized that shooting my pistol had become a bit of a chore rather than the weekly fun shoot of 50 rounds, and once a month, 100. My marksmanship was really not what it should be either. 

I offer the following as a different viewpoint, not as a recommendation per say. I've been carrying a pistol all day, every day, for almost two years. For serious full time concealed carry these factors are crucial: Pistol size, weight, recoil, and accuracy with that weapon in an adrenaline-rushed shooting situation. 

When we first realized the time for us to carry full time had come, I already owned a big ol' .45 semi-auto. So I strapped it on and went about my business. I could hardly wait to take the darn thing off by the end of that 16 hour day. So I searched the Internet and found a small and light weight 9mm, bought one locally and carried it on my hip for almost two years. It was so comfortable to carry, sometimes I simply forgot I had it on. Our local Post Office lady reminded me that if she can't carry in there, then I can't either. Oops.

However, as with all firearms, the lighter it is, the less mass it has to counter recoil. That little 21 ounce 9mm kicks like a mule. Its not fun to shoot anymore after just a few rounds, not nearly enough for the weekly stay-in-shooting-shape routine I found myself avoiding. 

What I needed was a pistol for full time carry that had a balance between size, weight, and my ability to use it expertly. So I searched the internet looking for input from professional gun folks. I was looking for thoughtful consideration of easy-to-carry-all-day (16 hours or so) and easy-to-shoot-well pistols for each of us, as opposed to "bigger is better". I was surprised to find quite a few good quality articles addressing my concerns written by well qualified professionals. They often pointed out that shot placement is, 100% of the time, the most important factor in any shooting, not the caliber of the bullet nor the power of the cartridge, though these are important factors. They also pointed out some facts in favor of (believe it or not) the humble .22 LR (Long Rifle)... for some folks, in particular those that cannot handle something bigger. The .22 LR can be effective if the shooter does his/her part, which means a lot of practice, no matter the caliber. 

In the time I've been carrying full time I learned a thing or two. For all day carry, size makes a huge difference. A large pistol gets in my way frequently (working on my farm or sitting at my desk), and it is quite difficult to conceal. A small pistol is much, much easier to conceal on my person. The weight of the pistol is a big deal too, the lighter it is the less of a problem it is (like keeping one's pants where they belong). Way to many folks go to all the expense, hassle and time to get their CCW, only to wind up not carrying because of the discomfort and inconvenience of carrying their chosen weapon. 

Another important factor for me is the monthly cost of replacement ammunition, not to mention ammo availability from time to time (remember 2008?). I believe in having quite a bit of ammo stored for the time it is not easily available, if at all. Having 1,000 rounds sounds pretty good till you do the math. For me, that is only a four month supply. I once read that 5,000 rounds per weapon, per person, is an absolute minimum. Prices are not going down, so this makes sense on several fronts. At about $240 per case of 1,000, five cases is $1,200. Add my wife to the equation, and we double that. To be absolutely honest though, having twice that much ammo is where we are comfortable. That is $4,800 for just pistol ammo (20,000 rounds, is a three+ year supply for the two of us). 

Ammo for our rifles was a whopper too. But prepping is not only about defense of course, we all need to plan for, get and store properly, our beans, band aids and bullets, plus train and practice with that same food, water, gear, etc - it never seems to end. We budget, plan and apply what we've learned, but we still have to make tough choices, often. Stocking 20,000 the rounds of .22 LR for our pistols was less than $750. Add to that spare magazines (five per weapon, bare minimum), cleaning supplies, spare parts, etc, it is still expensive, but less than 20% that of our previous pistols. Now that we have light, good quality .22 LR pistols (Ruger SR22), we both actually shoot like we should, in terms of marksmanship and frequency. Plus shooting the .22s is still fun and doesn't hurt. We are not getting any younger, it is only going to get tougher as we continue to age.

At 4 cents a round, together we spend about $20 a month on replacement .22 LR, and we are much better shooters. After shooting 100 rounds insequence, the only thing that hurts is my face, from grinning. Also, with my vastly improved shooting skill, my confidence in all things pistol has greatly improved. 

Now for the effectiveness of the .22 LR in self defense. A few years ago I read a study written for the FBI on the wounding characteristics of just about every pistol caliber (see this web page for the full study). Briefly, the study included several thousand real life shootings over a number of years. The end result is that no caliber stops a crazed criminal instantly. A hit to the heart will kill for sure, but a crazed person (or someone loaded with drugs) can function for up to 10 seconds before death. That is a very long time if that crazy person is still shooting at you. 

The single exception to this finding is when the bullet disrupts the central nervous system: either a hit to the upper spine, brain stem, or brain. The study went on to point out that a hit to the central nervous system from any caliber of pistol, from the .44 Magnum all the way down to the lowly .22 LR will have the same result: instantly stopping the aggressor. Shot placement is, 100% of the time, the most important factor in any shooting. 

Training classes in self defense teach us to aim for center-of-mass, the chest of your attacker. Our self defense shooting will be aimed for the center-of-head. [The "ocular window."] There are a lot of good counter arguments to this, especially the difficulty of aiming well while under the very high stress of a shooting situation. I am not discounting the tried and true of the experts, I am trying to make the .22 LR work for our aging bodies. Center of mass for a .22 LR is more than likely not going to be effective, thus the brain is our only logical choice.

One police officer I interviewed told me about the one time he was in a gun battle. Rather than the Weaver stance, he hid behind the fender of his patrol car to return fire. He told me that from that day forward he practiced two more methods of hitting his target. The first is point shooting (not aiming per say, but pointing the pistol), the other is flash aiming

Whatever the method of aiming a .22 LR in a self defense scenario, my intent is to triple-tap the aggressor's face. It will be what I'm looking at anyway, that could save me a microsecond or two over shifting my sight to center of mass. The brain is much bigger than the heart, and it is not covered with heavy clothing (a factor with most pistol calibers). But a glancing hit to the skull will not work, one must make a direct hit.

Of course I wish our bodies and budget would allow us to carry something bigger. What we've done is figured out a way we can still defend ourselves. A .22 LR pistol for self defense is nearly worthless without constant and thorough practice, including moving targets and moving through various as-real-as-I-can-make-them scenarios.

Well there you have it, my thinking on practical all-day-carry and self defense with a pistol for us. Knowing that shot placement is, 100% of the time, the most important factor in any shooting, we had better be excellent pistol marksmen above all other pistol shooting factors. 

You and your family will remain in our prayers Mr. Rawles. Thanks again for your hard work and devotion to preparedness and survivalism.

JWR Adds: While I do not recommend any .22 rimfire for self defense, if you feel you must, then make it one with a large magazine capacity, such as a Kel-Tec PMR-30. It weighs just 13.6 ounces, unloaded, which makes it suitable for all-day carry. With 30 rounds of .22 Magnum available, you'll at least have a fighting chance. And BTW, the point shooting approach that you mentioned is not compatible with your goal of getting central nervous system hits with a .22. That requires deliberate, aimed fire. Carrying a .22 rimfire for self defense will take a tremendous amount of practice. (Many thousands of rounds.) I suggest that you do nearly all of it from 3 to 30 yards using human silhouette targets, taking exclusively head shots. Train like you'll fight! Thankfully, your training ammo costs will be relatively low.

Also, keep in mind that if you do any dry practice, you will need to keep a fired piece of brass in the chamber. (Unlike centerfire guns, any rimfire can quickly have its chamber galled by dry practice with an empty chamber.)

Monday, August 13, 2012

I don't care how many times I tell students who are coming to take a firearms class from me to bring hearing protection and eye protection. And, more often than not, at least half the students don't bring either eye or hearing protection. I keep a box of soft foam ear plugs and safety glasses on-hand at all times, for those forgetful, or maybe they are neglectful students.
My eye doctor tells me, there is no cure for blindness. And, for hearing loss - well, it's something a lot of people learn to live with, with either hearing aids, or they are always saying "what did you say?" because they didn't hear what you said. I know I'm guilty of having a hearing loss. When I was young and dumb, I often didn't wear hearing protection when I was shooting, and I'm paying for it now.
I used to ride motorcycles a lot, matter of fact, it wasn't until six year ago, that I sold my last two motorcycles. When I got my first bike back in 1970, I did wear sunglasses during the day, and no eye protection at all, when I rode at night. I can't tell you how many pairs of sunglasses got broke or the lenses cracked, when a rock or other road debris came flying at my eyes. Luckily, I never had a foreign object actually penetrate the sunglasses and hit my eyes. However, more than a few bugs hit my eyes, and if you ride bikes, you know about bugs in your teeth. It wasn't until about 10-12 years ago, that I started wearing safety glasses when riding my bikes, as well as wearing a helmet - as required by law in my state. Anyone who rides a bike without an approved DOT safety helmet is only asking for a serious injury. My regular UPS driver recently wrecked his bike. As a matter of fact, he was almost clinically dead on the scene. A nurse who witnessed the accident actually performed CPR on him until an ambulance arrived. Luckily, my UPS driver was wearing a helmet - and after two months, he's finally back at work.
I recently received a pair of BTB sunglasses, and you really need to check out their web site to see the wide selection of sunglasses they carry. I guess what I like most about their sunglasses is that, they don't have a one-size fits all - they actually come in different sizes, for different size heads. I received the BTB 800 series polarized sunglasses for testing. And, needless to say, they are polarized, which comes in mighty handy when you're out in the bright sunlight or fishing over water - they really cut the glare down. You even receive a micro-fiber pouch to carry your sunglasses in - this helps prevent unwanted scratches on the lenses.
A little background on BTB Sport Optics is in order. For more than a year, BTB were test marketed at professional events, trade shows and retail establishments, gaining valuable insights and feedback from the marketplace. The market message was clear and consistent. Due to the economic times and increasing education of the consumer, high priced sunglasses were not selling. High priced sunglasses retailing between $75 to $200 plummeted and inventory levels of the perceived "high quality" industry leaders steadily rose in the retail sector. Understanding this trend, BTB wanted to introduce a line of sport and recreational sunglasses that provided, superior optic quality, complete UVA and UVB protection, frame construction materials of the highest quality and durability, complimentary styles and formed fit for comfort and aggressive and an affordable price point. And, as SB readers know, I like to spend my money wisely, getting the most out of every penny.
Some of the features of the BTB sunglasses are: lenses provide 100% optic clarity, frames are made from Grilamid TR-90 and designed using an 8 to 10 base curve, the sunglasses are "formed fit" for comfort, temples and nosepieces are made from hypo-allergenic material and coated with an anti-bacterial agent for heavy perspiration environments. They also exceed ANSI, OSHA and military impact specs, and the lenses are "ballistic" rated. Okay, that last one "ballistic rated" caught my attention. Watch the short video and see how these sunglasses were tested. Very impressive - they took a hit from 30-feet away, with birdshot and there was no penetration. Now, don't go thinking these sunglasses will stop a 9mm round - they won't. No sunglasses will. However, where these sunglasses shine would be, for our military personnel, who might get hit in the face with shrapnel or other debris - it can make the different between saving your sight, or losing it because you didn't wear any eye protection. Take note!
I've been wearing my sample BTB 800 sunglasses for two weeks now - fishing, shooting and driving, and they actually do fit like a glove - very comfortable. I like the wrap-around fit, too - if you've ever been hit in the face or eyes with flying brass, from a shooter next to you, then you'll appreciate the wrap-around design - that empty brass can't hit your eyes from the side, unlike other sunglasses that only provide frontal eye protection.
I counted no less than 16 different styles of sunglasses on the BTB web site - so they will have a style for just about anyone. And, as I mentioned, they comes in different sizes, too. So, it's not like you are forced to wear a pair of sunglasses that fit your wife, but are too small for you, or a pair that fits your husband, but are too big for your face. I've easily spent $50+ for Foster Grant sunglasses, and while they looked super-cool, they didn't afford my eyes protection from flying objects that would hit them - especially when riding a motorcycle. The BTB sunglasses afford you not only ballistic eye protection, they also are very stylish and afford full UVA and UVB protection from the sun.
The BTB web site described their product as "the best $100 sunglasses for $50 and under..." and I can't find any fault in that. My sample 800 series retail for $49.95, and easily worth double that price. BTB also offers free shipping  on orders over $40.00. And, I'm betting you'll find a couple pair of BTB sunglasses that you'll want, for yourself and your spouse.
I can't tell you how important it is, to wear some type of eye protection when your out shooting, or riding a bike down the highway. You only have one set of eyes, and you need to protect them as much as possible. If you're in the military, or you have a loved one who is serving, get them a pair of BTB sunglasses - they'll thank you. They really will. You could spend a lot more for sunglasses of this quality, but you simply won't get any more for your money, nor will you get better protection. Spend your dollars wisely, and check out the BTB web site. I'm betting you'll find a style that will catch your attention, and you'll be doing your eyes a favor, too.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Since my review article on the new Springfield Armory XDs was posted I've heard from no less than a dozen SurvivalBlog readers, who were having "problems" with their XDs .45s - most of the problems were related to light firing pin strikes. I've also had two SurvivalBlog readers live nearby come to me for this problem, and I was able to get the problem "fixed."
Here's what you're looking at with the XDs: First of all, we have a sub-compact .45 ACP pistol. It is very small and light-weight - only 21.5 ounces empty. And, it has a polymer frame. So, as it is with all polymer frame handguns, you have to have a firm grip on the gun - NO limp-wristing it. If you limp-wrist the XDs, the slide doesn't go fully into battery - it will be out of battery by a few thousandths of an inch - which means, the barrel isn't fully locked-up, and when you pull the trigger, the striker hits high on the primer - 'causing a misfire because it is not hitting the primer dead center - it will be hitting too high on the primer. [JWR Adds: And if the slide is not fully in the battery position, then the firing pin will not impart all of the intended energy on the primer.]
Additionally, the XDs is a very tight handgun - this contributes to the match-grade accuracy of the little pistols. So, when you first get your factory-new XDs, make sure you clean-off the rust-preventative oil. This is not intended as daily use lubrication, as many suspect. Then, properly oil the mating surfaces on the frame and the slide with a good lube like Break Free CLP, and be a little bit generous, initially. The XDs needs a little bit of a break-in period with some of the guns because they are so tightly fit - again this contributes to the outstanding, match-grade accuracy.
So, you have two things to address: One is, no limp-wristing the XDs - it's a sub-compact, polymer frame handgun, that needs a tight grip on it, in order to properly function and feed rounds into the chamber. Secondly, add enough lube to the contact areas, this means the slide rail recesses and the small contact areas on the frame, that holds the slide onto the frame.
Dave Williams, the head of Springfield Armory's Custom Shop, says he tells people who call, until he is blue in the face, that you have to follow the above steps, if you want your XDs to function 100% of the time. And, like many new handguns, that are tightly fit, a little bit of a break-in period might be required as well. I've mentioned this in numerous articles, that you should run at least 100-rds through a new handgun (and preferably 200-rds) to make sure the gun will function 100% of the time.
The folks I heard from, who were having problems with "light" strikes on the primers, didn't contact me again, after I explained the above procedures to them - their guns are working 100%. And, the two SB readers, who came to me for assistance - their guns are working 100% of the time.  So, don't think you have a "defective" XDs if you are getting light hits on the primers - you're not! Get a good grip on the XDs and make sure you have lubed it properly, and your XDs will just keep perking along. To date, I now have well over 1,000 rounds through my XDs and only one failure to fire - a Winchester USA-brand 230-gr FMJ round - and I put it back in the magazine and tried to fire it several times - it wouldn't go off. It was just a dud round - it happens with the best ammo, every now and then.

JWR Adds: I witnessed a the same problem first hand with a XD(M) .45 Compact. In this case it was one of the models that has a two-column magazine. This was a brand new gun, shooting 230 grain ball factory duplication handloads. As with the other pistols that Pat mentioned, the problem turned out to be insufficient lubrication. Just a squirt of Break Free CLP on the slide rails and barrel assembly immediately solved the problem. In the event of a light primer strike, your "tap-rack-ready" clearance drill should be executed. If you are a well-trained pistol shooter, this drill should become so ingrained so that you do it hardly without thinking, to get you pistol back "up and running."

Friday, July 27, 2012

“You’ve got to work on that draw Ski,” barked my friend Tom.  He was already an experienced shooter and competitor in IPSC and KPDL (Kentuckiana Personal Defense League).  There are benefits to competing in IPSC events including emphasis on safety, accuracy, speed, and identification of “good guys” versus the bad guys.  It had to be painful for him to watch a “newbie” in shooting struggle along.  He was patient and persistent.  We became shooting buddies competing against each other in these organizations.  Tom is not only a natural shooter, but he works on each phase of competition and is ever looking for ways to save seconds in his style and performance.  As we practiced together he imparted many of his skills, not all though.  He had to maintain an edge on his new rival.

This article will discuss some practical skills for pistol performance regardless of competition or personal defense.  Grip, stance, draw, sight picture/sweet spot, cadence/transition, and mag changes are the areas I will attempt to address.  I will also try to include some sites that will give you a hands on look at some of these skills.  These skills can be applied to all handguns; however, I have done most of my practice and competitions with 1911 style .45 caliber single stack and double stack weapons.

A prefatory note regarding my holsters.  I use a CR Speed for competitions and for my concealed carry a Blackhawk Serpico retention holster.  So, regardless of holster, the same basic skills will be used.  In addition, if you are shooting on your own you will always be thinking safety.  Make sure the range is “clear”.  Think of the commands used during competitions….”Load and make ready”(pull your unloaded weapon from the holster and insert a loaded magazine.  Charge the weapon, put the safety on, and place back in your holster).  “Shooter ready” (at relaxed or surrender position), then the buzzer sounds.  Even shooting alone, I follow mentally the commands typically used in a competition: unload, show clear, slide forward, hammer down, holster.  In a self-defense situation what you have practiced is generally what you will do.  So, you want to have your muscle memory trained well in order to respond without having to think about what you’re doing when it comes to firing your weapon.  This doesn’t mean you won’t have to use split second judgment regarding your particular circumstances.  The 71 year old gentleman in Florida recently showed us that regardless of great skills, he was successful in preventing bloodshed by using his quick judgment in his intervention of an armed robbery.

When it comes to gripping your weapon, do be sure to forget as quickly as you can anything you have seen on television especially shows or movies from the 70’s thru the 90’s and beyond.  Actors typically are seen resting their shooting hand on the weak or support hand and firing.  You absolutely need to drop that style if you’re using it.  From a “surrender” or “relaxed” position, you will move your hand (for me my dominant hand is my right, so I will make reference accordingly) to the handle of the weapon.  On my .45 I make sure the web between my thumb and index finger ride high on the beaver tail grip safety.  The reason for this is to provide the best support as the weapon discharges and ensures proper extraction, ejection, and reloading of the weapon.  A weak grip can result in “stovepipes” in which the expended brass gets stuck in the ejection port and sticks up like a stovepipe.  Once the weapon is drawn the left hand is moved to the grip with the fingertips of the right hand butted up to or into the meat of the left hand just below the thumb.  The fingers of the left hand then wrap over the fingers of the right hand. Make sure to have a tight grip but not a ‘death grip.’

There are different stances that shooters make use of.  A couple of the better known are the Weaver stance and the isosceles stance.  I suppose I use a hybrid and you will have to develop the stance that fits your personal tastes.  In my relaxed or surrender position, I typically will have my feet right about shoulder distance apart and the left foot about 6 inches forward of my right foot.  Knees have a slight bend and weight is leaning slightly forward.  This gives me not only stability, but support for the recoil and reacquisition of the target.   If you’re a lefty, everything just goes in reverse.

Regardless of whether you are doing your draw from a surrender (hands up just slightly higher than the shoulders) or relaxed (hands relaxed at your side), you will still grip your weapon the same.  Now, upon moving the right hand to grip your weapon, you will be simultaneously moving your left hand to right in the middle of your torso.  As you remove your weapon from the holster, moving toward your left hand, you will now join the left hand before your arms are extended.  With the weapon maybe a foot away from your torso, both hands now gripped with the weapon, the weapon is extended.  You will not lock out your arms when you extend your weapon, but will leave a slight bend.  Your finger is NOT inside the trigger guard on the draw.  You will be moving your trigger finger to the trigger between the full gripping of the weapon and extension. So far, this has not been rocket science.  Do work on your grip, stance, and draw.  Compete and watch others as well as ask questions.  Watch various matches on YouTube and learn those basic techniques.  As you progress, do be sure to do “dry fire” practice.  The more you work on your draw, the more your muscles will “remember”.  You will increase in your speed and competence.

This might be part of your draw; however, I have chosen to make a separate issue of this.  As you prepare to draw you weapon, you will have your eyes fixed on your target.  Once the weapon is drawn and you are linking up right hand and left hand, you are going to bring your arms and weapon and sights up to the plane of your eyes.  You bring the sights to your eyes.  You are not watching the draw or grip.  That is automatic.  Your eyes are riveted on your target and you bring the sights to where your eyes are looking.  This is the sweet spot and as you look down range thru the sights, with sights aimed at the target, this is your sight picture.  You are always bringing the weapon up to the spot where you’re looking (sweet spot).  You are seeing the target thru the sights (sight picture). 

My friend Tom pointed out the idea of cadence to me and showed how a smooth cadence versus the typical “double tap” is faster.  He put up four IPSC targets arranged in a circle type configuration…i.e. the first target on the left at 9 o’clock position, second target at 12 o’clock, the next at 3 o’clock and the last at 6 o’clock.  He had me double tap and timed my performance.  Not bad.  Then he showed me by his example to eliminate the double tap (two quick shots in rapid succession) and pull the trigger in a more calculated and deliberate manner.  Instead of looking like: bam bam……bam bam…..bam bam.…bam bam… would look like: bam..bam..bam..bam..bam..bam..bam..bam.  See the difference?  So, I shot the same targets in a more consecutive, repetitive type of pattern without the distinct “double tap.”  I felt like I was going slower and was astonished to see that my time improved substantially.  I shot the stage once again using a double tap to the best of my ability to beat my non double tap time.  Not a chance.  So, Tom said try the way I showed you again.  I did and to my amazement the time was once again, unquestionably faster than my best “double tap” time.  This is cadence.  Give it a try and work on it.  The transition part is moving from target to target with your eyes moving to the next target as you polish off the previous target.  You have fired your first round and just as you’re firing your second round, you’re moving your eyes to the next target. You follow with your weapon movement to the “sweet spot” on the next target and so on.  So, in this manner you are “transitioning” from target to target in a smooth, but fast manner versus robotic and jerky movements.  To each his own.  You may find this doesn’t fit your style and that is all right.  In competitions, cadence and transition are areas where the competitor can pick up time.  Fractions of seconds are important and the difference between winning a stage and match and the alternative.  In real life situations those fractions of seconds could translate into life and death.

Changing your magazine is critical in competition.  In life or death scenarios I suspect a magazine change is going to be critical as well.  IDPA incorporates the use of the “tactical” magazine change or “retention” magazine change.  One would not be wrong to develop this style and skill.  This type of magazine change simply requires that rather than just dropping your empty mag, you retain it while placing a full mag in your weapon and tucking the empty or nearly empty mag in a pocket or your mag pouch.  IPSC rules do not mandate this particular style.  For me the situation will have to be the determining factor.  If it were a hot situation, I’m dropping the mag to maximize my speed and ability to continue to firing.  I can get that mag later.  The enemy is my main concern and I want to neutralize the bad guy and worry about the mag later.  If the situation were such that I could grab or retain my empty mag I would do it.  My double stack mags with extended base pads are expensive.  I suppose this could be an argument to go back to a single-stack M1911. 

Okay, your mag change is going to take practice and lots of it.  Here goes with the basic mechanics of the mag change.  As your slide locks open with the last round being fired, you will keep your weapon arm extended while pushing your mag release button.  Your right arm and weapon are going to be close to the position of your sweet spot.  Your left hand is already reaching for a mag once the last shot is fired.  The mag drops from your weapon or you can give it a slight flick, but ultimately you will rotate your weapon to a 1 to 2 o’clock position.  The weapon is angled for the insertion of the full magazine.  Upon inserting the mag and reacquiring your grip, operate the slide release which allows the slide to come forward and chamber a new round.  The ideal situation is to change mags before running dry.  This way you won’t have to waste time with the slide release.  Remember, seconds matter!! 

These practical pointers when practiced will help you develop your skills with a pistol.  With increased skill development and muscle memory comes confidence.  Hopefully none of us will be confronted with a situation that demands an armed response, but the next time you’re at the “movies”, you’ll be ready, if the situation arises.  Think of the different type of outcome if there was just one individual carrying a concealed weapon in the theatre in Aurora.  The following are a few videos that you may wish to access to get a visual of the skills I have just mentioned:


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

For many of you blacksmithing reminds you of your father or grandfather, it takes you back to the smell of the coal forge and the hum of the blower pumping oxygen into the nest of the forge. I've met many of people who are interested in blacksmithing, mainly for fun and to make Christmas gifts for their loved ones. Not many of these people actually obtain a forge and anvil and use it. Many of people have their grandfather's anvil sitting unused in their shed or barn. My father has been blacksmithing for the majority of his life and has passed the trade down to me. The trades that can be expanded into after the basics of blacksmithing are many, from knife making, to fabrication, and tradition tool making are just a few of the trades that can be expanded into.

In the first years of my father' blacksmithing, he used a old, rusty elevator weight as an anvil. Anvils today are sometimes few and far between, I recoil in horror every time I see Wylie Coyote try to drop a anvil on Road Runner. The anvil is one of the most important pieces of the blacksmith's tool set. There are many brand of anvils that were once produced. Two of renowned anvils made were Peter Wright and Hay-Budden. A person can purchase a brand new anvil from a farrier supply company, of course those can cost in upwards of $300. Then again a Hay-Budden can cost $7 per pound! At a 150 pounds that would be $1,050. If your lucky you can find someone who does not know what they have and pick it up for $200. I am sure that many people through out the years have used something other than a anvil, such as my father and the elevator weight. A piece of railroad track would work great in a TEOTWAWKI situation. If you insist on having an antique anvil then there are certain things for which you should look. The recoil test, a good anvil should have some recoil to it, meaning that when you drop a ball bearing on it the bearing should bounce up and leave the anvil with a ring. An anvil without this quality has either been modified or lack true quality. Look at the markings on the anvil, the markings are so many that a person could write a book on it, I highly recommend that you do research on this aspect of anvils. A book concerning the types and manufacturers of anvils is Anvils in America by Richard Postman. Another thing to look for is gouging or other intended harm done to the anvil.

The second most important tool to the blacksmith is the hammer. In a TEOTWAWKI situation a basic claw hammer could be used to push metal around, but a more blacksmith designated hammer would be more beneficial. A person can pick up a blacksmithing hammer at a farrier supply center. Ball peen hammers also have their place in a blacksmith's arsenal, I mainly use them for shaping ladles and spoons but they can be used as a general hammer. Most people overlook the importance of how to use the hammer. I use a push and pull method, which means I push the metal forward and pull the metal backwards, using firm but not overly brutal strikes to the metal. Many beginners make the mistake of striking the metal so hard that they punish themselves. Another item that is just as important as the hammer is a pair of gloves. A good pair of leather roping gloves made of goatskin, are for me, the most comfortable. The third piece of equipment for the blacksmith is the forge. There are many antique forges on the market, but there are also many do it yourself alternatives such as brake drum forges. Brake drum forges are a excellent entry level forge for beginners. It uses a basic forge design, using a (You guessed it!) a brake drum and some sort of fan, to provide oxygen to the nest. I use a simple rivet forge for my small needs such as S-hooks, spoons, nails, and knives. One thing to keep in mind when choosing a forge is how hot it gets. My rivet forge will sometimes reach temperatures in excess of 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit. Now that is hot enough to smelt metal. Another thing to consider is what are you going to burn in your forge? I have been struggling to find coal for some time now. Our wonderful Government has decided to put even more restrictions on some of the coal mines. Even the mines with permits are selling their coal to China. You can still find coal today at some farrier supply centers, though it is low in quality it is still coal. I burn a 5 gallon bucket in two days of heavy blacksmithing, So it really does not take a lot of coal to work on a project.

To go with your forge you will need a blower. A blower is a simple piece of equipment which pumps oxygen into the nest of the forge, it is a vital piece of equipment as it raises the temperatures in the forge by several hundred degrees. Again your blower can be a rare antique or a home brew, do it yourself project. Some of your major blower makers were Royal, Tiger, Champion, and Buffalo were just a few of the many blower manufacturers. On the antique blowers I have seen them run anywhere from $40 to $300 at flea markets. Now as far as home brews go people have converted squirrel cage fans into blowers as well as car heater fans. You are only limited by your imagination when it comes to building your forge and blower.

A vise is a invaluable piece, it works as a second set of hands and a rock solid anchor point for grinding and welding. If there is a piece of vintage equipment that I recommend you buying it is a blacksmith's vise. The blacksmith's vise is designed to be open and closed quickly, so that you spend more time working the metal and less time letting the metal cool. the vises vary in size and price, they usually start right at $50 and go up into the hundreds.

If you manage to collect all the pieces of recommended equipment I highly suggest that you learn how to use them.

Fire, as most preppers are familiar with, is a simple task. A coal fire is slightly different, one must first start with tinder (I generally prefer newspaper, as it holds a flame longer) and kindling in the nest of the forge. Get a small fire going, but not blazing. Before it is blazing you must pile coal or coke, the byproduct of burnt coal, on the kindling, make sure there is enough on to absorb the heat, but not too much as to smother it. Keep supplying a large amount of oxygen to the fire via the blower and voila you successfully crafted a coal fire.

The one thing people ask me a lot is, “Where do I get the steel?” There are quite a few commercial steel yards across the U.S. One of the major ones is King Architectural Metals. Of course if the balloon goes up you won't be able to run out to the store and get whatever you need. Scrap yards are a fantastic place to go and find steel, most of them will sell you useable steel at a little above scrap iron prices. I have seen many fine knife blades out of spring leaf steel. [JWR Adds: SurvivalBlog reader C. Mike recently sent me this: Turning a Railroad Spike Into An Awesome Knife. It shows how even a home barbeque ca be turned into a forge with a brief service life.]

As I stated earlier you must learn to push and pull the iron, much like working clay between your thumb and index finger, your index finger being the anvil and your thumb being the hammer.

There many blacksmithing techniques, so many as I cannot cover them all in this one article, but I will go over a couple of them.

Drawing a point out seems simple, but to do it fast and efficiently is another story. Start out by bringing your round stock to a red hot temperature, which is about 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit. Rest the steel on the far side of the anvil and lock your arm into place. Strike once pushing the metal away from you, rotate the steel 90 degrees and strike again, pushing forward. Rotate back to your first strike and repeat the process. Keep in mind that you should only be striking on to sides of the steel. Repeat the whole process until you come out with a needle sharp point.

Forge welding is a slightly more advanced process, but would be well worth the difficulty in a TEOTWAWKI situation. First start out by bringing the rod to a again red hot temperature and rest it on the face of the anvil. Slightly flatten the steel and and sprinkle a good amount of flux onto the metal. Many farrier supply shops carry commercial flux, but for many years we have been using plain old borax, that is used for laundry. Reheat the metal to a not just red hot, but a glowing orange temperature. When the steel hits the sparkling orange range that opens the window to forge welding. Start the fold over on itself and proceed to strike the steel with force, but not with brutalizing strength. Through this process Damascus steel can be made, fire pokers can be crafted, and metal mended. With these simple tools and equipment you can start blacksmithing on your very own.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Good Morning Mr. Rawles,
I too suffer from color deficiency and have had first hand experience with Trijicon, ACOG and other illuminated optics.  For me the red and green reticles "disappear" on any background other than white. 
With the assistance of many a friend and family member we have done extensive testing to be able to determine what works for me. The answer to my color woes is amber reticles. No mater the background the amber stands out brilliantly.  I've had the opportunity to view the amber reticles against woodland, desert, tiger stripe, Multicam, ACU and a dozen other types of camouflage and have yet to find a color or pattern (including natural backdrops) that caused the amber disappear.  I'm blessed in the fact I didn't have to waste hard earned money trying to find what works for me and haven't had to play the "return and restock" game with any distributors.  

I've also recently found a manufacturer that builds optics specifically for color blind shooters. The company is called Browe, Inc. I'm currently saving up to purchase one of the BCO optics from them with their blue reticle technology as blue seems to be the kindest color to those of us with color deficiencies. I will say this in closing as well, I do not rely solely on illuminated reticles, I have plenty of "standard" scopes with crosshairs, mil-dots and BDC reticles to be swapped out "when the batteries won't charge any longer" and all of my weapons have iron sites if the scopes get damaged.
Thank you for a great blog site! - Terry in Denver

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Mr. Rawles,
Recently a reader responded to a recent post titled 'Improving Your Shooting Skills Without Spending a Fortune on Ammo' and inquired whether or not it would be a good idea to shoot without eye and hearing protection in order to get a feel for 'real world' shooting conditions if subjected to such. You wisely responded that doing so is ill-advised.

I would like to make note that in a real world shooting experience a phenomenon known as 'Auditory Exclusion' often occurs. Auditory Exclusion is the lack of awareness of the loud report of firearms one would normally hear at the range when the firearm is being used in a real life situation. Readers can do a web search on the term for more information.
Hunters, police, and military all report this phenomenon. The very sound which leaves ones ears ringing at the practice line is neither heard at the time nor is there the after effect of ringing in the ears once the event is over.
I have personally experienced it numerous times, along with the total lack of awareness of recoil from a .30-'06 rifle when shooting a deer.
The same shot that kicks violently and would leave my ears ringing at the range without ear protection is totally un-felt and unheard.
There is no reason to not wear the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment at the practice line.
Thanks for SurvivalBlog, and may God keep you and yours. Cordially, - J.S.

To solve the SHTF hearing problem there are several products on the market that are small, lightweight, unobtrusive that let normal levels of noise in but block louder gun shop type noise.  My wife (a retired USAF Nurse Colonel with PhD in nursing) and I use Surefire’s Sonic Defender Plus EP4 Hearing Protectors.
As an NRA Pistol Firearms Instructor, I find these work very well BUT I always wear “double” ear protection when at the range.
( I have no financial interest in the SureFire Co other than helping their profits by all the money I have spent on their excellent line of personal and tactical lights)
Keep up the good work. Stay safe. - Hook

Saturday, June 30, 2012

I read this post in SurvivalBlog with interest. Shooting can get expensive. Thanks W. for those tips and tricks.

I have a question for Mr. Rawles and others: Do you recommend practicing shooting without eye and ear protection, even for a little while? In a real world situation I doubt if a person would be wearing these during an incident involving live fire in a SHTF scenario. Maybe glasses or sunglasses but probably not shooting glasses. Wearing hearing protection while on a small unit patrol or just around the retreat does not seem practical, either. Should we get used to shooting while hearing the true noise generated? I do not mean all the time; hearing damage would definitely be a concern. But at least see what it is like.

Seeing the combat footage from Iraq and Afghanistan it seems most soldiers on patrol were wearing some sort of glasses or goggles, but not hearing protection. I did see hearing protection worn by troops in fixed positions, like artillery and mortar batteries.

At the range one time I had slid my hearing protection back while there was a lull in shooting to change targets. I forgot to put them back in place before the next round of firing began and was surprised at how loud it really is. My ears were ringing for some time. This seems like it could affect accuracy, concentration and communication between group members during said incident. But we should get used to it, right?

Thanks, - Mike in Atlanta

JWR Replies: I don't recommend shooting without ear protection--even for just "a little while"-- for two reasons:

1.) Hearing loss is cumulative. Don't accelerate the process unnecessarily.

2.) The sharp sound of unmuffled gunshots can actually induce a flinch, which can be difficult to overcome

Friday, June 29, 2012

I am a retired IPSC, IDPA, Three Gun, Bowling pins, Trap, and Skeet competitive shooter. I have spent countless hours practicing in both dry fire and live fire sessions. I’ve competed at local, regional, and national levels. One of the most effective and the least costly methods I used for practice was dry firing [, also known as dry practice.] 

Dry firing is an excellent way to improve your marksmanship without expending expensive ammo. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing like live fire practice however dry fire drills can make live fire practice much more effective. The other benefit of dry fire is you don’t have to travel to the range to do it. You can do it at home. I used to dry fire in an unused office at work. My boss is open-minded!!

Dry firing in its simplest form is the repetitive activity of simulated firing of your gun by dropping the hammer on an empty chamber. At one time pulling the trigger on an empty chamber may have damaged a firearm. Not true with today firearms. I have dropped the hammer on the empty chamber of revolvers, auto pistols, shotguns, and rifles many thousands of times without problems. My IPSC guns have been dry fired too many times to count and still are 100 percent reliable. If you are worried about damage there are several types of dummy rounds (“Snap Caps”) on the market in many calibers that are designed to absorb the impact of the firing pin when the hammer is dropped. Snap caps also offer a good way to practice loading without handling live ammo.

Why dry fire? In my early days of competing in shooting sports I dry fired a half hour every night for more than a year. Dry fire practice did several things for my shooting ability.

  1. I became very familiar with the handling and feel of the firearms I was using to compete. In stressful situations familiarity helps prevent firearm operator error. Have you ever short stroked and jammed a pump shotgun? Can you clear a jamb under pressure without thinking?
  2. By switching the type of dry fire drills I was doing on a regular basis I built skill and familiarity in a variety of shooting situations. I’ll get into that more later on.
  3. I improved my ability to gain a proper sight picture quickly.
  4. My target to target transition improved greatly.
  5. My shooting confidence increased dramatically.
  6. I Built muscle memory, a key element to accurate and consistent shooting. Muscle memory also helps prevent operator error as mentioned in #1.
  7. My point shooting skills improved greatly. Point shooting is shooting by pointing the firearm in the direction of a target and not using the sights, typically a close quarters method. It takes some practice and muscle memory too point shoot effectively.

How to dry fire: Applies to Rifle, Pistol or shotgun shooting
First and foremost is safety. Is your gun unloaded? Check again! Remove all live ammunition from your dry fire practice room. Do not dry fire in a direction where people may be or where a bullet could go through creating a danger to someone. I always pointed toward the cement walls in my basement. When you are handling your firearm you should concentrate on a few of safety practices. 1. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. This is a good practice anytime you handle a firearm. 2. Don’t ever point the gun in an unsafe direction. Yes, I know you made sure it isn’t loaded, without checking again are you so confident that your firearm isn’t loaded that you’d point it at yourself and pull the trigger? (Please don’t) Why chance it!  3. Be aware of where the muzzle of your firearm is pointed at all times. Everyone reacts to stress differently, good gun handling habits help ensure you won’t accidentally shoot someone.  

Dry Fire drills: What you do and for how long is up to you. I usually practiced for about a half hour at a time. This gave me enough time to warm up and get enough repetitions to make the practice drills worth while. Any duration of time is better than none. Keep a record of the types of drills you practice so you can repeat the drills again later. Doing a drill once and never again has no value. The following is a list of basic drills that can be used by anyone and are general gun handling skill builders.

Dry fire drills:

  1. Draw and fire from a holster. Use the holster you plan on carrying. Wear a jacket over the holster and practice how you will move your jacket to gain access to your holstered firearm. If your drawing hand is injured and you can’t use it now what do you do?
  2. Draw and fire off a table, out of a drawer or door of a cabinet.
  3. Start with an empty gun, load and fire ….. Use snap caps! You won’t believe how long this can take if you don’t practice it or are under stress. Use snap caps not live rounds to simulate loading your magazines.
  4. Draw from under a chair or car seat. Mix it up you will never know when or where you may need to access your firearm.
  5. Don’t limit any practice to just pistol, work with your rifle or shotgun.
  6. One handed and both hands. What happens if you have a broken right hand (or left) can you shoot with the other hand? Can you shoot one handed? Always try to use both hands as your main foundation for grip on the firearm and practice one handed and weak handed alternatives.
  7. Reloading – Tactical and dropped magazine. A tactical reload is when the expended magazine from your firearm is retained in your control during a reload. In IPSC we always dropped expended magazines on the ground. IPSC is a game and not the best practice for real life self defense. Practice retaining the expended magazine as part of your reloads. The one round left in a retained magazine could save your life later not to mention you don’t want to leave a magazine behind if you don’t have to. Also practice accessing magazines from where you store them on your body. Magazine pouches? Pockets? I put a snap cap in each magazine for practicing reloads. This helps protect the feed lips of the magazine and in single stack pistols is helps guide the magazine into the magazine well just as live ammo would.
  8. Practice clearing jambs. You can use a snap cap to simulate a jammed firearm or treat the gun as if jammed and clear it by working the action of the gun as you would expect to in the case of a real jamb.
  9. Use small targets as aiming points. In the Mel Gibson's movie The Patriot the protagonist tells his sons to “Aim small, shoot small” when engaging a British patrol. What he meant was to pick a point of your target and aim at it, don’t aim at the whole target. The discipline of picking a point of aim a.k.a. “calling your shot” builds accuracy. If you practice this enough you will be able to aim at a target, shoot and without looking know where your bullets hit. It works!
  10. When using iron sights concentrate on seeing the front sight every time you pull the trigger. The biggest mistake many shooters make (besides jerking the trigger – more later) is pulling the trigger before they have a proper sight picture. If you see the front site when the gun goes off and have even close to proper sight alignment you will likely hit the target you are aiming at. I was working with one shooter who keep missing the target (in this case a deer) so after one of many missed shots I asked him what he saw just as he pulled the trigger, His response was blue sky! I told him then and kept reminding him all day to not pull the trigger unless he sees brown. He got the next deer he shot at. When asked he said he saw brown. If you don’t see the front site you will likely miss.

A note about Electronic Red Dot Sights: Red dots sights are a wonderful invention and can make shooting much easier. I strongly recommend learning to shoot properly and effectively with iron sites and not rely on red dots as your only sighting platform. Learning iron sights first will make you a better shooter and won’t leave you high and dry and guessing if your battery dies.   

  1. Trigger control. Of all shooting mechanics this is the hardest to learn and the most likely to make you miss what you are shooting at. Proper trigger pull is a combination of what part of your finger contacts the trigger and how you pull the trigger. I find that the centering the pad between the tip of my trigger finger and the first knuckle makes for the best finger position on the trigger. You want to be able to pull the trigger straight back toward the grip of the gun. Inserting your finger to far in the trigger guard causes the gun to move slightly because you are not pulling straight back on the trigger. A 1/16” shift in the gun can mean six inches or more on the target. When you pull the trigger you need to pull evenly from start to finish. The trigger should break unexpectedly, this is not the same as accidentally, squeeze, don’t jerk or yank the trigger. In other words pull slow and easy until the gun goes off. This takes some getting used to and will speed up with practice. If you practice this it is will become second nature and your shooting accuracy will improve greatly. One way to tell if your trigger pull is being done properly is to balance a coin on the barrel of the firearm you are using to dry fire and pull the trigger. The coin should stay put….yes even on a round barrel. You can practice this way if you like. If your gun is properly sited and your shots are consistently left, right, low or high of the point of aim there’s a good chance it is due to how you are pulling the trigger. If you are having this problem try different finger positions and or use the coin on the barrel to see if you are jerking the trigger. Stop and figure it out or you will install a bad habit and it will be hard to correct.
  2. Point shooting. One way to practice this is to look at the target, close your eyes then bring up your firearm and point it (eyes still closed) at the target. Open your eyes and look where your firearm is pointed. Is it on target? Developed muscle memory will put your point on target with out using the sights. Point shooting can be fast reaction shooting albeit not the most accurate.
  3. Shoot on the move. One thing that 10 years of IPSC taught me was how to shoot and walk (and sometime run) at the same time. Yes it can be done accurately however it takes a lot of practice. To do this you need to think of your upper body (roughly the waste or belt line and above) and below the waste as being on a swivel and independent of each other. Practice holding your sights on target while walking. Your lower body needs to work independent of your upper body to absorb the shock of foot falls and motion while keeping your upper body steady so as not to bounce your sights. It takes some practice and is easier than it sounds.

Bad practice makes for bad habits!
When you perform dry fire drills your focus should be on accuracy and consistency of movement for a given drill. In other words do the drill the say way every time. Do practice more than one type of drill on a regular basis. Doing the same drill every day, day after day will limit you and make other activities with a firearm feel awkward. Try to get comfortable doing many types of drills. Practice your drills in a way that best represents what conditions may occur in your situation. Having the ability to draw from a holster and hit a target in ¾ of a second probably doesn’t have a real life practical application unless of course you are planning a gun fight at the OK Corral. Pulling a gun from a drawer quickly and safely does.
Live Fire Practice:
Because ammo is very expensive I recommend having a plan worked out prior to going to the range to practice. More than any other type of practice it is easiest to practice bad habits while doing live fire drills. I pick two or three areas where I need practice and work on these exclusively. I also recommend setting a limit to how much ammo you will use during a given practice. I usually limited serious practice to 200 rounds. This may seem like a lot to some and not enough to others. I found that by the time I reached 200 rounds I was starting to tire out. Be aware of how your body is reacting. Fatigue may not be the same as feeling tired and might show up as diminished ability to accurately hit the target. When competing I was well conditioned for shooting and fired thousands of rounds annually and still would tire after a couple hundred rounds. Your fatigue point may be a lot fewer rounds or a lot more. Be aware of what your body is telling you. I guarantee that if you are tired you are wasting ammo and possibly practicing bad habits. Frequent trips to the range are better than long stays. Also take breaks between shooting drills, it will help you stay focused and get the most out of your ammo. Quality not quantity!  

A few things to try at the live fire range:
1. Shoot in low light conditions – do your sights work? What does the muzzle flash do to your vision? Low or no light adds a whole new dimension to shooting.
2. Try shooting with you rifle turned on its side. My AR hits 12” high and 12” right at 100 yards when I do this. When shot normally it is dead on.
3. Aim small, shoot small - Thanks, Mel!
4. Shoot your rifle or shotgun left handed (my left hand is my weak hand, I’m right handed) or right if you are a lefty. This is very awkward for most people.
5, Shoot pistol with your weak hand
6. Shoot pistols at longer ranges, 25 – 50 yards, doing so forces the need for good sight picture and trigger control if you want to hit anything. Aim small, shoot small.
7. Don’t just shoot .22 rimfire because it’s less expensive. If you don’t at least know what to expect from your centerfire rifle, pistol, and shotgun you are in for a surprise just when you don’t need it. Shoot at least a little of each when you live fire practice.

One final point on live fire practice; never practice without eye and ear protection. Using protection may not be real world if you have to defend yourself however not using it to practice has two dangers. 1. You could lose your eye sight and or damage your hearing. I know many IPSC shooters who have bullet fragments imbedded in various parts of their bodies from fragment bounce back. It can happen any time in any shooting situation. I’ve personally had cuts on my hands, face, and legs from fragment bounce back. I know of one guy who got hit square in the chest by a 12 gauge slug that bounced back off a steel target, fortunately it had lost most of its energy although it did bring him to his knees. Okay, enough war stories. Eyes and ear drums don’t grow back. Use protection! Finally, you can acquire a bad flinch, a bad habit built in when you shoot without ear protection. The flinch comes when you anticipate and react to the really loud and painful noise that you know will happen as soon as you pull the trigger. I was helping a shooter who was complaining that he couldn’t hit a thing with his 7mm Magnum deer rifle. I set him up at the range and told him to take a shot down range. He got set up and was getting ready to take aim when I stopped him. He wasn’t wearing any protection. I asked if he always practiced that way to which he responded yes. I had him put on glasses and ear muffs, his flinch went away immediately and he was back on target, not to mention happy that the problem wasn’t his rifle.


Gun reliability and maintenance:
A few years back I was shooting on the pistol range of a local gun club. I couldn’t help but notice the guy next to me take a shot with his Glock then bang the back of the slide on the loading bench then take another shot. Curiosity got the best of me so I asked him what he was doing. He explained that his gun kept jamming and wouldn’t go into battery (slide fully closed). On closer inspection the gun was so filthy and dry (no oil) that I was surprised it worked at all. Nice firearm, poor maintenance. Would you bet your life on a gun in that condition? A tight M1911 that dirty probably would have stopped running. A good cleaning and some much needed oil and that guy would have had a fully functioning gun that I bet would have run flawlessly. If competitive shooting teaches you one thing it’s the limitations of your firearms. I’ve spent many hours scrubbing guns before a match. Keep it clean and oiled.

Gun oil:  Don’t use WD-40 to lube your firearms. WD-40 evaporates and leaves little to no lubricating film, at least not enough to keep a firearm running under extreme conditions. Have you ever shot your firearms in 10 below zero temperatures, extreme heat or dusty conditions? I use FP-10 gun oil for all of my firearms. I’ve used this oil in below zero weather and dusty ranges and as long as I didn’t let it dry out it never failed me. Some oils will thicken in cold weather which can cause malfunctions.

Detachable box magazines:
I’m betting there is more than one prepper out there who has a pile of shiny, new magazines still in the original wrapper put away for a rainy day. (Note: Some people call magazines clips). I highly recommend taking every new magazine to the range at least once and loading it full and shooting until empty. I recently returned three new hi-capacity Glock 23 magazines to the seller because none of them would work in my gun. I also have two new 20 round AR magazines that won’t work in my rifle. One of these days I’ll try giving them a tune up. Shiny and new doesn’t guarantee function. Don’t forget to clean your magazines. Grit and moisture inside a magazine can cause malfunction and failure. Most magazines have a removable base plate that slides out releasing the spring retainer plate, spring, and follower. Use a soft brush or cloth to clean the inside of the magazine body being careful not to bend the magazine body or feed lips in the process. Wipe any grease, dirt or grim off the spring and follower. Do not oil any part of your magazines. Oil will attract dirt and dust and is not needed for function.

Gun embellishments and other fancy stuff:
When I first started shooting IPSC the game was basically an equipment race. From fancy fast draw holsters to custom tuned extended high capacity magazines and everything in between. This stuff is fine for fun and games but I personally stay away from it on my SHTF firearms. The more stuff you have hanging on your gun the more there is to go wrong or impede the function of the gun or shooter. Not to mention a good prosecuting attorney can turn a fancied up gun into a murder with premeditation weapon even if it was used in self defense. Keep it simple!

Recoil compensators:
Several of my competition guns have recoil compensators. A recoil compensator is a machined part that is attached to the end of a rifle or pistol barrel and has grooves cut to redirect the exhaust gasses from the burnt powder upwards helping counter act muzzle rise during recoil. Compensators do make shooting easier however they do have some negatives. 1. They are extremely loud and often redirect the noise back towards the shooter. 2. In the right conditions such as shooting with your gun barrel along a wall or through a port hole can force the gasses back in your face. Even with safety glasses it burns your eyes.

Sighting systems:
Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to sights for their firearms. IPSC is hard on equipment and quickly separates what will hold up and what won’t. Sights are often a matter of opinion and personal preference. For that reason I will not attempt to tell you good from bad however I will tell you what I prefer. My personal SHTF firearms are set up as follows:

AR -15 – Flat top with EoTech (red dot) with quick detachable mount and alternative rear flip up peep sight with standard AR fixed front sight. My sights don’t co-witness although I wish they did. (Co-witness means you can use the iron sights while looking through the EoTech. This would save having to remove the EoTech if it stops working.

M1911 Pistol –  the rear sight is a BoMar adjustable rear site and the front a dovetailed blade with fiber optic. Some might say the adjustable BoMar is too fragile however it hasn’t failed me after many thousands of rounds.  IPSC is an action sport where firearms can be exposed to bangs, dings and dents. Make sure your dovetailed sights are staked so they can’t work loose. Note: my front sight still works even if the fiber optic breaks and falls out.

A note on fiber optic sights: I’ve broken many fiber optics rods that were mounted on my sights. If I didn’t bang the sight it broke from repetitive use. Best to have plenty extra fiber rod on hand or use a site that doesn’t have the fiber optic feature.

Shotgun (semi-auto and pump) – My semi-auto is a Winchester SuperX2 Tactical that has a Picatinny rear sight rail (V-notch rail) with an optional flip up buckhorn sight for more pinpoint work and a fiber optic front bead. The sights still work even if the fiber optic is knocked out. My pump (a Remington Model 870) has a factory stock, a white-painted front bead and a vented rib with a groove in the rear receiver. If it is not broken, don’t fix it.

I would have Tritium sights on all my SHTF firearms if I could afford it.

Laser and red dot sights – Personally these are not for me. I once shot a night match with my EoTech (Lighted Red dot sight) against a laser sited AR. I smoked the laser sighted rifle because I could acquire the target and fire so much faster. The laser shooter spent too much time looking for and positioning the dot on the target. Practice serves me better than a laser sight. My 2 cents.

A few shooting facts I learned in competitive shooting
1. No less than three tenths of a second is typically how long it takes for the average person to start to react to a situation.  
2. Muscle memory starts to set in after about 1,000 repetitions.
3, If you pull the trigger on a live round and your gun makes a funny poof sound, then stop! You may have a squib load. A squib is a light or no powder load that doesn’t have enough power to push the bullet out of the barrel. Shooting another round without clearing a squibbed bullet will blow up your gun and hurt you. I’ve had squibs and was lucky to never have blown up a gun.
4. Limp-wrist shooting can cause your semi auto pistol to jamb. Limp-wrist shooting is when you don’t lock (hold rigid) your wrist allowing the pistol muzzle to flip up in excess under recoil. The excess muzzle flip counteracts slide momentum which in turn limits the distance the slide needs to travel to properly eject the spent shell casing. When this happens the case hangs up and gets caught in the gun instead of ejecting clear. Not real common but it does happen.

Happy and safe practicing, hope you don’t need it!

Monday, June 18, 2012

I'll start this review by mentioning that I've never really cared for the vertical fore-grips on my ARs or AKs, and for good reason: Many of them are just plain junk! I've tried several fore-grips on rifles over the years, and they all had one thing in common - they would either break or get so loose that they were of no use to me. I had several of the fore-grips completely break off the rail on ARs over the years, and I attempted to repair them with epoxy, all to no avail. While I believe a fore-grip is a good idea on tactical-type rifles, I had all but given up on finding one worth the money.
Enter US Tactical Supply and their Mil-Spec Grip Pod System. I've written about some of the products that US Tactical Supply offers, and I can assure you, everything that they sell is the best-of-the-best when it comes to quality. They don't sell junk - plain and simple. About 90% of their customers are government agencies, and they have pretty strict guidelines as to what they are looking to purchase. As an example, the State Of California, their Dept. Of Corrections, has something like a 7 or 8 page list of attributes that certain products must have, if you want to sell anything to them.  And, most state and federal government agencies also have similar guidelines - as does the US military. We can't afford to have our troops buying inferior products - not when their lives might depend on their gear - we don't want that gear to fail them when they need it most. So, while it may seem like a real hassle selling anything to government agencies, there is logic to it all.
The Grip Pod System is a revolutionary vertical fore-grip, integrated with a very strong and stable bipod that is hidden inside the fore-grip. Now, I've tried cheap Chinese knock-offs of the Grip Pod System, and they were junk - I should have known, because they were inexpensive to start with. US Tactical Supply told me that one of the selling points of the Mil-Spec Grip Pod System is that, when they take it to trade shows and gun shows, they deploy the hidden bipod legs from the fore-grip, and proceed to place a full-sized man on the top of the gun - with the gun resting on the ground - and the legs do NOT fail in the least. Well, I honestly didn't believe this test - until I tried it myself. Now, while I've recently lost 40 pounds of unwanted extra weight, let's just say that I'm still well over 200-lbs. I was sure the bipod legs would fail when I stood on my M&M 762 AK-47, with the Grip Pod System attached to it's quad-rail. Nope! Nothing happened - the bipod did not fail, nor did the Grip Pod System fore-grip break or come loose - I was impressed, to say the least. I tried the same test with a Chinese knock-off, and it broke the bipod legs as well as the fore-grip breaking right off the quad-rail.
I guess what I really liked about the Grip Pod System is that the bipod readily deploys if you need it, when going prone to do some long-range shooting, or if you just want a more stable shooting platform to work from - I like that. And, the bipod also readily slips right back up inside the Grip Pod System fore-grip when you don't need it.  Honestly, the system doesn't look to be as stout and well-made as it is - but it's actually stronger than it appears, which is obvious from my standing on the AK with the bipod legs extended. I can't think of a better test than this.
US Tactical also sent me a Light Rail Module (LRM) for the Grip Pod System fore-grip .bipod. The light rail module adds a single or double rail system (I was sent the single rail model for this article)  to the Grip Pod System and allows the user to have a tactical light or laser at their finger tips - securely attached to the Grip Pod System. It only takes a minute to attach the LRM to the Grip Pod System Grip Pod, too. I like simple - simple doesn't fail, compared to some more complicated products.
Both the Grip Pod and the LRM are made of reinforced polymers - not cheap plastic like the knock-offs are made out of. Both the Grip Pod and LRM are available in black or tan. The GPS02 is the military model, and it sells for $149 and the GPS-LE is the law enforcement model, and it sells for $95. Personally, I'd go with the Mil-Spec model. Yes, it's a lot of money, but you won't have to replace it because it won't break on you. The LRM is $29.95 for the single rail model and $31.95 for the dual rail model - very affordable if you ask me.
I've mentioned many times in my SurvivalBlog articles, that if you buy junk, you'll have to buy it again. If you buy top-of-the-line products, you normally only have to buy once. I don't claim to be any sort of expert. I like to call myself a serious student of lots of things. And, I've learned a lot over the years when it comes to buying the best I can afford. In the long run, when I buy the best I can afford, I don't have to buy a replacement for it, because it didn't fail me. I hope I've been able to save SurvivalBlog readers a few bucks, and some headaches by doing these articles. I'm learning, and  hope you all learn a little something from my articles. I hear from SurvivalBlog readers daily, and if there is one thing I have learned from you all, its that, you are all a very intelligent bunch of readers.
I have no vested interest in US Tactical Supply, but I do enjoy doing business with them. They are a small, American-owned company, that sincerely cares about their customers and their customer service is second to none. If their customers aren't happy, then they aren't happy. If you're looking for cheap, poorly-made products, then don't bother looking at the US Tactical Supply web site, you're not going to find what you're looking for there.
If you own an M14 or Springfield Armory M1A rifle, then you need to check out some of the newest and high-tech stocks they carry for these rifles - you are going find something you'll want .I haven't tested any of their M14 stocks, but I've sure checked them out at the US Tactical Supply store - and I was absolutely blown away by what they carry. Give them a call if you have a special need in this area - bet they'll have exactly what you're looking for.

A note on finding Lanolin, for making Ed's Red bore cleaner:
Lanolin is readily available in the breast feeding supply section at most big box department stores, or baby specialty stores. A full tube the (last I checked) is $8-9 but it lasts a very very long time. (And I once scored an unopened, factory sealed tube at a garage sale for 25 cents.) - Alyssa

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dear Mr. Rawles,

Here is the definitive test to determine whether ammunition is corrosive or not.  The procedure is credited to Small Arms Review publisher Dan Shea. This test is simple, quick, cheap and conclusive.


1. Take a suspect round, pull the bullet and dump out the powder. I like to also take a known corrosive round as well for a benchmark.

2. Take a few brand new "brite" (i.e. non-galvanized) steel nails with a head size just large enough to fit into the case mouth. Degrease the nails in acetone or other and roughen them slightly with sandpaper. Drive the nails into a block of wood.

3. Slip the empty cartridge cases over the nail heads, and taking appropriate safely precautions (shielding, eye protection, gloves, etc) pop the primers with a punch and hammer.

[Dan Shea recommends the following additional safety precaution: Take a piece of wood and drill a hole large enough diameter to accept the case head, about 1/2" deep and not all the way through the wood. Then drill a small hole (to accept a small nail or punch) in the center of the larger hole, all the way through the piece of wood.  Place the larger hole over the case head and insert the punch or nail through the smaller hole.  Use this assembly to pop the primers.]

4. Leave the cases undisturbed on the nails for 24 hours in a warm place (I usually leave them on top of the water heater) and then examine the nails.

If the nail looks black and smoky, then the ammo is noncorrosive. If the nail has red flecks, then the ammo is corrosive. It will be obvious - but doing a known corrosive ammo as a control is helpful.

Cordially, - John N.

JWR Replies: Thanks for sending that. For some important priming data on U.S. military arsenal loadings, see this SurvivalBlog reference page. (It provides the lot numbers and cut-off dates to determine if military ammo has corrosive (mercuric) or non-corrosive (styphnate) primers. If in doubt, then use the brite nail test.

Monday, June 11, 2012

For the past several months, Tim Sundles, who runs Buffalo Bore Ammunition has buried me in some of his newest ammunition offerings. Somehow, I think he doesn't like me. He just keeps coming up with more and more new loads for hunters and for self-defense use, for me to test. Seriously, I don't know of any ammunition company, that is as innovative as Buffalo Bore is. Some of the big name ammo companies might come up with a couple new loads each year - if that. Most are content to sit back on their past accomplishments - not Tim Sundles!
If any ammo company is coming out with more newly developed loads than Buffalo Bore is, I'd sure like to know who it is. I like that a small, American-owned ammo company is taking the initiative, and taking the time and effort to come out with so many new caliber loadings. And Buffalo Bore doesn't produce "plinking" ammo - all that they produce is top-of-the-line premium hunting and self-defense loads. On top of that, Sundles adds a flash suppressant to his self-defense loads to help maintain your night vision, if you are forced to shoot at an attacker in low-light. (Which of course is when many self-defense shootings take place.) Are there many other ammo companies doing this yet?
One of the newest loadings I tested from Buffalo Bore is their .380 ACP +P 80 grain Barnes TAC-XP load - for those not familiar with the Barnes bullets, they are an all-copper hollow point design. These Barnes bullets retain 100% of their weight, as well as penetrating deeper than other conventional JHP bullets do. This is my carry load in my Ruger LCP .380 ACP back-up pistol. Tim Sundles tests all his loads in actual firearms - he doesn't use test barrels to hype the velocities. I'm getting about 1,050 FPS from my little LCP with this load. It's a bit stout in this little Ruger, but it can handle it. I believe the .380 ACP caliber is best reserved for use in a back-up gun capacity. However, with this load, I think it really boost your power factor quite a bit. So, with that said, it might be acceptable to use this round by Buffalo Bore if this is going to be your main concealed carry gun.
Next up are the new 9mm loadings, and these are both +P+ rounds, one is a 95 grain Barnes TAC-XP load at around 1,550 FPS and the other is a 115 grain Barnes TAX-XP load, at 1,400 FPS. Screaming? You bet! Once again, the Barnes all-copper bullets will get the job done, in either caliber. As a rule, I don't like going below a 115 grain bullet in a 9mm round. However , the 95 grain Barnes bullet will get the job done because it will penetrate a bit deeper than a conventional bullet of this weight will do, and stay together. What I really like about this load is that even though it's a +P+ load, it doesn't feel much different than a conventional standard velocity load does. For me, this is a no-brainer, this is the load to put in your "house gun" that you have in your nightstand - it's easy to control and will take care of the bad guys - and the recoil isn't what you'd expect from a +P+ 9mm loading - it's very controllable. The 115 grain Barnes loading is great for your carry gun - it will penetrate, hold together and get the job done. There is a bit more recoil with this +P+ loading, but nothing you can't control in the least. My new Ruger P95 loves this load for some reason. Make sure you test any +P or +P+ loads in your guns to make sure they will function 100% of the time with 'em - in this case, I tested both of these loads in numerous 9mm handguns, and had no problems at all. Great loads!
Back when I lived in Chicago, and worked as a private investigator, I usually carried either a S&W .38 Special snubby or a Colt .38 Special snubby of some sort, as a back-up gun - one of these guns was usually carried in an ankle holster. There were times, when I (only) carried a .38 Special snubby of some sort. One time, when working for an alarm company - I installed alarms on the day-shift, and answered alarms at night - I carried a .38 Special snubby. While this wasn't a big problem working the day shift - it wasn't the smartest thing to do when answering alarms at night - all alone. This became a reality to me one night, when I answered an alarm and was confronted with searching a huge warehouse by myself. I realized if someone was too far away and started shooting at me, that little .38 Special snubby wasn't gonna be of much use - I went out the next day and purchased a 4" barrel .357 Magnum Colt Trooper Mk III revolver. Okay, back to the snubbies in .38 Special:
Most people don't understand how much velocity (thus "power") you lose when loading a 2" .38 Special snubby revolver compared to the power you get from a 4" barrel or 6" barrel .38 Special revolver. It is very significant - so much so, that more often than not, a JHP round won't expand when it hits an attacker - which then makes that bullet nothing more than a solid - passing through the body and not doing as much damage as you'd expect. Enter the Buffalo Bore "Standard Pressure" short-barrel, low-flash 110 grain Barnes TAC-XP round - and this baby will give you about 1,000 FPS velocity from your snubby .38 Special revolver - enough velocity to make that bullet expand. Best of all, this round is very controllable. This is "the" round you want if you carry a .38 Special snubby revolver for self defense. And, I believe, the .38 Special needs all the help it can get.
Also, in the .38 Special line-up from Buffalo Bore is their .38 Outdoorsman +P round. If you carry any kind of .38 Special out in the boonies for self-defense against critters - this is the round you want. The 158 grain Hard Cast Keith bullet, at 1,250 FPS from a 6" barrel or 1,150 FPS from a 4" barrel revolver will give you plenty of penetration - which is what you want and need when facing critters in the wild. If you look at those velocities, you'll note that they are right on the heels of many other makers .357 Mag rounds - what's not to like here? While I would personally look at carrying a .357 Mag revolver if I were in dangerous country, if all I had was a .38 Special of some sort, this is the round to carry.
Not to be left out, if you carry a snubby .357 Mag revolver, and you're out in the boonies, take a close look at the Buffalo Bore .357 Mag Barnes 140 grain XPB round - this is a different bullet than the TAC-XP - the XPB bullet is designed for control expansion, and it will penetrate deeper than the TAC-XP round will against wild animals. This is the round you want in your .357 Mag snubby if you are carrying it for self-defense against critters out in the wild. Once again, a very controllable round, at around 1,150 FPS. I really liked this one.
Are you a big bore fan? Yes, me too! I really love shooting the .44 Magnum revolvers - and I can sometimes be "caught" using a .44 Mag when I'm out deer or black bear hunting. The .44 Mag is really quite a caliber - you can load it up, to super-charge it, or load it down to .44 Special velocities for plinking fun or self-defense. If forced to own one revolver, this would be the caliber I'd choose over all others. Tim Sundles does a lot of handgun hunting - he does this for several reasons, one is because he loves to hunt, and secondly, he gets to test his new round that he comes up with against real critters in the wild. How many big name ammo companies get out there and actually tests their ammo? Not many.
A new .44 Mag loading that Buffalo just came out with - and I've only limited testing with - is their 200 grain Barnes XPB load, which should be an excellent load to use against deer and  most black bear. I usually prefer a heavier load to use against black bear, but this load will get the job done with the XPB bullet because it penetrates a bit deeper and stays together. Coming out a 4" barrel revolver, you can expect over 1,500 FPS from this round. And, best of all, even though this is a .44 Mag round, it is more controllable than you think - this is because of the 200 grain bullet. Most folks stick with 240 grain bullets for much of their .44 Mag shooting - and they "kick" a lot more than this 200 grain Barnes bullet does. From an 18" barrel rifle, you can expect over 1,800 FPS - that's screaming! If you look down at this Barnes XPB bullet, you'll get lost in it because it looks sooooo deep. If you are hunting bigger game, check out some of the heavy .44 Mag from Buffalo Bore - they have something there you're gonna love!
These next two calibers that Sundles sent me - I didn't have firearms for - so I had to borrow a couple of guns. The new buffalo Bore  .357 SIG, 125 grain Barnes TAC-XP low-flash round will be, in my humble opinion, "the" round to carry if you depend on a .357 SIG for self-defense.  If you want a .357 SIG load, that uses an expanding bullet, that penetrates very deeply, this is the round for you. I admit, I've only had limited experience with the .357 SIG round, and I've never actually personally owned a gun in this caliber. There's several good reasons for this, first of all, for some reason, this round just hasn't caught on - at least, not in my neck of the woods. Secondly, .357 SIG ammo is hard to find - once again, in my neck of the woods. Lastly, .357 SIG ammo is more expensive than other calibers - like the .40S&W is. This is slowly changing, as I've noted that prices are coming down a bit - especially for FMJ practice ammo.
What we are looking at, with the .357 SIG round is a .40 caliber case, that is necked-down to take a 9mm bullet. One thing I like about these types of rounds is that, they are very reliable when it comes to feeding from the magazine to the chamber.  Tim Sundles tells me that, his .357 SIG round, will roughly penetrate 20+ inches of flesh and bone, and expand to about .55 caliber! Yes! During testing, this round is coming out of a SIG Sauer P229 at about 1,300 FPS - screaming! What I've found, is that, the .357 SIG is just about the same as a +P+ 9mm round in power and velocity, but without the excessive recoil that you expect from a +P+ loading - and it's easier on the gun - it doesn't get battered as much, as a 9mm +P+ round would do to a pistol.
What I'd like to see Buffalo Bore come up with, is a super-deep penetrator round (FMJ) in .357 SIG - this would be an outstanding round to carry out in the boonies - it would give you all the deep(er) penetration you'd need against critters. And, knowing Sundles, I'm sure he'll be coming out with this type of round - he's done it with the 9mm, with his "Penetrator" round, and he'll do it with the .357 SIG round - watch and see. I'm really impressed with the .357 SIG - from my limited shooting of this caliber over the past year or two, and one of these days, I'm gonna lay-down some hard-earned cash and actually purchase a handgun in this caliber.
I almost "hate" Tim Sundles, for coming up with this next round for me to test. I've been a fan of the .41 Magnum round for about 25 years. My late friend, Tim Caruso, from Colorado Springs, Colorado actually turned me onto this caliber. While not quite the power of a .44 Mag, the 41 Mag round will take care of many of the same tasks that a .44 Mag will, and with less punishing recoil. On top of that, I've always thought the .41 Mag would make an excellent self-defense round with the 175 grain bullets instead of the 210 grain bullets. Well, Tim Sundles just came out with a 180 grain .41 Mag Barnes all-copper hollow point load, and this bullet is coming out of a revolver at around 1,500 FPS - depending on barrel length.
I had to borrow a .41 Mag revolver from a friend to test this load, and it makes me "hate" Tim Sundles all that much more - I haven't owned a .41 Mag revolver in several years. Why? I have no idea! I love the S&W Model 57 .41 Mag revolver - and I guess I'm now gonna have to get another one - one of these days. Of course, Tim Sundles is on my wife's "I'm gonna kill him list..." since he is "forcing" me to go out and find a new .41 Mag S&W Model 57 or 657 revolver one of these days. I keep telling my wife "I only need one more gun..." and she keeps reminding me: "You said that last time...." to which I reply "it's still true...I only need one more gun."
This Buffalo Bore 180 grain Barnes bullet is the XPB style - great for hunting medium to medium-large game - it will penetrate deeply and has controlled expansion as well. It would prove a great deer round, if you ask me. If you've never fired a .41 Mag handgun, you owe it to yourself to at least try it - you'll find just as I did, that the round is a lot more controllable than the .44 Mag is, and it can do "most" of what a .44 Mag round can do. The .41 Mag has always been a bit of a red-headed step-child if you ask me - never getting the credit it deserves. If you have a .41 Mag of some type, you really need to lay claim to a box or two of this new Buffalo Bore .41 Mag ammo.
As I mentioned at the start of this article, Tim Sundles, has been burying me in new ammo to test. Yes, shooting new rounds is always fun and challenging, and quite often, I'm one of the first to get these new loadings - I appreciate this. And, SurvivalBlog readers are often the first to get real-life, first-hand test results on new Buffalo Bore Ammunition. I've heard from several SurvivalBlog readers, asking me if any of the ammo or gun companies pay me to promote their products. Never happened - never will! If anything, I should be billing Tim Sundles for my time and effort in shooting all the ammo he sends me! LOL!!
Seriously, if you are into handgun hunting and take your self-defense needs to heart, you want the best-of-the-best, when it comes to ammo. You're not gonna find any cheap plinking ammo from Buffalo Bore - they only make hi-quality, self-defense and hunting loads. Sure, Buffalo Bore ammo is a bit more expensive than ammo from the big name ammo companies. However, what Tim Sundles is offering - you can't find from any of the big name ammo companies, period. Sundles puts in a lot of time and effort to come up with these new loadings, and he also tests all these new loadings himself, too.
Like I said, Buffalo Bore is an American-owned company (in Montana), and it's a small company, that is rapidly carving itself a real niche in the self-defense and hunting calibers scheme of things. You won't find another ammo company, of this size that is producing and developing a more vast line-up than Tim Sundles is doing. There are lots of "good guys" in the firearms and ammo fields - I've been doing business with them for more than 20 years as a writer. However, Tim Sundles is, without a doubt, one of the really good guys and he's working hard to give us something no one else is giving us. He deserves your business, checkout his web site - and I'll be reporting on even more new rounds he's working on for us all.
Now, I'm waiting for the spring monsoon rains to stop in my area, so I can get out there and test the new Buffalo Bore, .40 S&W, 140 grain Barnes TAC-XP "standard pressure" rounds in my Glock 27 That .should make a great combo - with this round coming out at approximately 1,300 FPS in a slightly longer barreled gun. But I'm thinking, this will be a controllable round in this pocket rocket pistol from Glock. 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

In a TEOTWAWKI situation, the ability to shoot accurately from a distance could be the difference between eating healthy high protein game, and not eating at all, or it could be the difference between protecting your loved ones, and being raided and attacked by bandits.

Beyond just being able to shoot accurately, learning to be a marksman teaches focus, patience, determination, and consistency – valuable skills for any survivalist and in any survival situation.

In marksmanship, the goal is to minimize the input of your body on the firing action of the gun. Imagine that you are relaxing your muscles and building a stack of solid, stable bones to rest your rifle on. The only muscular input should be the slow and steady squeezing of your trigger finger.

Contrary to popular believe among many recreational shooters and hunters, myself at one point included, the primary purpose of a sling is not to carry your rifle over your shoulder. The primary purpose of a sling is as a support to steady your rifle without the use of a tripod.

There are several types of slings, and a lot of different ways to use them. I’ll go over two variations on how to use them. The first is fast and can be easily be transitioned to while on the move, while using the sling to carry your rifle. The second takes more time to set-up, but is much more accurate.

While your sling is attached at two points, on the forestock and near the butt, pick up your with the sling loosely dangling over the outside of your forward arm. Slide the elbow of your forward arm into the sling and hold it at angle that puts tension on the sling and stabilizes the rifle. Adjust the length of your sling to get the right amount of tension.

To set up a more accurate shot, remove the sling attachment from the butt of your rifle, slacken the sling inside the buckle and slide your forward arm through the loop created by loosening the buckle. You want to use this loop so that pulling on the rifle will tighten the loop and keep in it place. Place the loop as high on your arm as possible. Your forward hand should slide in between the sling and the forestock of the rifle, and when in position the sling should be taught against the back of your forward hand to create a secure position.

There are a variety of different positions that you can intelligently assume while firing a rifle. Your choice will largely depend on a combination of time and distance. The most accurate positions take more time to set up, and the least accurate positions take less time to set up. At shorter distances to your target, you are more likely to have been seen, and more likely to be in a hurry. At farther distances to your target you are more likely to be un-detected and have more time to set up your shot.

If you are having any trouble lining up the sights while you are in any of these positions, you may need to check your eye dominance. Just because you are right handed doesn’t mean that you are right eye dominant. To test your dominance hold both hands out in front of you with your arms straight. Overlap the fingers of your right hand with the fingers of your left hand, and overlap the thumb of your right hand with the thumb of your left hand. There should be a hole that you can see through, put an object at a distance in that hole. With both eyes open, bring your hands closer to your face until your hands hit your face, keeping the object centered in the hole. Your hands should end up coming to one eye or the other. That eye is your dominant eye. If your dominant eye is your right eye, your right hand is your trigger hand. If your dominant eye is your left eye, your left hand is your trigger hand.

There are two things that you should do in all positions. First, the forestock of the rifle rests on the open palm of your non-trigger hand. The rifle should rest more or less along the lifeline crease in your palm. You want to minimize your input on the rifle, gripping the forestock introduces unnecessary and unstable muscular support into your firing system. Second, crane your neck forward and place your cheek on the stock of the rifle. You should be in a good position to see the sights, and when the rifle recoils, your head should go up with the rifle, instead of the rifle bashing into your forehead. It’s especially obvious when someone with an improperly setup scope forgets to do this step, usually a newbie at the beginning of shooting season. They end up with a circular scope shaped cut on their forehead. Don’t let this be you, setup a consistent, safe, and repeatable position every time.

The most basic shooting position is the standing position. In the standing position I like to put my feet a little bit wider than shoulder width, to make a good solid base. The elbow of your trigger arm should be up, and your trigger arm should be parallel to the ground. Try it. You’ll notice that as you lift your elbow, your shoulder creates a nice pocket to hold the butt of your rifle firmly in place. The last thing you want to happen is the rifle to slide off of your shoulder from recoil as it’s fired. Your shot will be terrible, and you might end up hurting yourself. Plant your foot on your trigger side. Pivot your front foot around to make adjustment left to right. To move altitude adjustments, move your front foot out and in, or adjust the placement of your hand on the forestock.

The next shooting position is the sitting or kneeling position. There are a lot of variations in this position, and I recommend you practice getting up and down with your unloaded rifle to figure out what works best for you. The overall principles remain, create a solid stable base, with loads on your bones, not your muscles, to set your rifle on top of. I’ll go into the position I use the most, and is arguably the best sitting position. You will need to wiggle around and make adjustments to make any seated seated position work for you. Cross your feet with the trigger side foot in first. Ideally, your boots should support your legs in this position. The back of your upper arm, just above the elbows should rest on your thighs or knees. If you try to rest the pointy part of your elbow on your thighs or knees you’ll slide around it you won’t be able to fire a consistent shot. If you are having trouble getting into this position, begin to uncross your legs, and even put them out in front of you with your knees up in the air if you have to.

The most accurate shooting position is known as the prone position, because you’ll be lying prone on your stomach in this position. Rest your elbows on the ground, and put your forward non-trigger elbow as directly under the stock of the rifle as possible to minimize horizontal movement. You’ll find that you shoot in a diagonal pattern when your elbow is not directly under the stock. Place your trigger-side elbow in a comfortable place that allows you to make a hand-shake grip on the trigger. The trigger-side leg should be bent up as high as possible, while your non-trigger-side leg should be straight in line with your body. This configuration will put you a bit on your side and create some space under your stomach so that your breathing doesn’t lift you off the ground and move your position around. Use your trigger-side elbow as your pivot point and move the rest of your body around to find your aim.

Gun Safety
Before we get into firing the rifle, no marksmanship survival guide would be complete without a gun safety lesson. If you aren’t handling your rifle safely, and accidentally injure yourself or those around you, you’ll be compromising your chances of survival.

The most important thing to remember is never point the muzzle of your rifle at something that you are not prepared to destroy, be it a wall, plant, wildlife, or human. As long as you do this, you’ll be safe, even with an accidental misfire of the rifle.

When your rifle is not in use, it should be unloaded, the bolt should be open, and there should ideally be a chamber flag in the chamber so it is clear and obvious that there are no rounds in the chamber or magazine.

When your rifle is loaded, your finger should never be on the trigger until your sights are on the target.

This is by no means a complete list of safety considerations, but basic guidelines to help keep you safe. It’s more intended as a reminder to people with shooting experience. If you have no shooting experience, I recommend getting some basic training at your local range or gun store.

Steps to firing a shot
The Appleseed firearms training organization does a really good job of breaking this down into six steps, the most important of which, and the one which will make you better than 95% of all other shooters out there is to squeeeeeeeeze (not pull) the trigger, and hold it back - more on that later.

First step is sight alignment, how this actually looks will vary based on the types of sites you have. Basically, this means line up the front and rear sites while you are in a shooting position.

Next, create a sight picture. Again, there are a few different ways you can do this, but I prefer the six o’clock hold. In a six o’clock hold you put the target directly above the front site. The benefit of putting the target above the sight is that you can always see the target, even when the target is 400 meters away. With a center-mass hold, with a target at 400 meters, your sight will likely cover the target, making it difficult to see when you are aiming high.

Once you’ve got your sights aligned and a sight picture, it’s time for a respiratory pause. The best time to pause is at the bottom of your exhale. At this point in your respiratory cycle, your body is at its most relaxed and you will fire the most consistent shot.

Next, focus your eye on the front sight while you focus your mind on keeping the front sight on the target. The saying here is “shoot the fuzz,” because your target will be fuzzy. Learn to get comfortable doing this. It’s the most accurate way to shoot, and one of the most difficult parts of firing a shot to master.

Now you are ready to begin firing the shot. Start to squeeze the trigger with the pad of your index finger. It should be in more or less a “C” shape, and the only part of the trigger finger that should touch any part of the gun is the fingertip pad below the first knuckle. It’s common to catch beginners and experienced shooters alike, dragging the side of their finger along the stock, also known as, “dragging wood”. I say you are ready to “begin” firing the shot, because you never decide it’s time to shoot. If you are squeezing the trigger properly, the actual fire of the shot will be a surprise. It will just happen whenever you’ve squeezed enough to fire off the shot.

Finally, just because you squeezed the trigger and the round is going off, doesn’t mean you are done. It takes time for the powder to burn, the gas to expand, and the bullet to leave the end of the rifle. During that time, you can’t be influencing the rifle or you will be throwing off all of the hard work you’ve put into the shot. So what do you do? Hold the trigger back! This possibly the single most important thing you can do. Keep the trigger in the pulled position until you are ready to fire again. And while you are doing that, look at your sights and call where your shot went. You might learn something.

Natural Point of Aim
Natural Point of Aim is the position your body is in when it is completely relaxed while holding the rifle. This is the direction the shot with fire naturally. It’s the most stable, consistent, and reliable position you can use over a course of fire. Any position where your muscles are used to keep the sights on target is not your natural point of aim, will not be as accurate, and will lead to unnecessary fatigue over the course of fire.

The best way to find your natural point of aim is to get in position, put your sights on target, close your eyes, relax, take several deep breaths, and open your eyes again. If your sights are still on target, you are likely in your Natural Point of Aim. If not, adjust your body position until you are on target again, and repeat the process until you remain on target after closing your eyes and relaxing.

One great way to test your Natural Point of Aim, that Appleseeders will certainly be familiar with, is “Carding the Sights”. You’ll need a friend to hold a credit card or driver license between your sights after you’ve lined up your sights on target, while you repeat the above drill but with your eyes open. You may find that you get more honest results this way, as you’re not subconsciously pulling the sights back on target.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

While we are all preparing for something most of us are not financially secure there for we must stretch our Dollars as long as we have them as a form of currency. 

Here in falls the concept of reloading your own ammunition.  Because face it we need to practice and we need to store for when the supply runs out.  Let’s start by doing a little math, Ammo 9mm Luger Winchester USA 115 Grain FMJ 1190 fps 100 Round Box $21.11 x 10 = $211.10 bought online.  Now let’s order the individual component parts online and see how much we save Winchester Bulk Bullets 9mm 115 grain FMJRN = $105.10, Winchester Small Pistol Primers 1,000 = $29.95, Powder 1 pound about $20.00, Winchester Bulk Brass 9mm = $176.30.  Ok total to load your own 1000 rounds of 115 Grain FMJ = $331.35 now you’re saying to yourself that’s $120.25 more than if I just bought it already loaded there’s no savings to heck with this idea right?  Wrong!  Take a look around next time you go to the range or your favorite outdoor shooting spot how much 9mm brass is just laying around.  LOTS and LOTS all you have to do is pick it up, and as for the powder on average you can load 1200 to 1400 rounds of ammo with just 1 pound.  Hmmm, so let’s take just the price of brass $176.30 out of the equation that will leave us with a grand total of $155.05 for 1,000 rounds of loaded ammo that is a savings of $56.05 or roughly 27%.  Greater savings can be had by buying plated and lead bullets. (If you shoot a handgun with a Polygonal rifling such as a Glock DO NOT USE unjacketed lead bullets!)

I think if you have made it this far into the article you are now saying to yourself but the equipment is expensive.  This statement is true for the most part however there are many different manufactures to choose from thus making it a matter of figuring out how fast you want to load your 1000 rounds.  You can get a RCBS ROCK CHUCKER SUPREME PRESS you will need to buy Dies (single stage) for MSRP $ 202.95, or a Lee Breech Lock Challenger Press you will need to buy Dies (single stage) for MSRP $94.00 or a Lee PRO 1000 9MM LUGER (progressive press includes Dies) for MSRP $254.00. Another option is the Dillon Square Deal 'B' (progressive press includes Dies will not load Rifle ammo) for MSRP $379.95 or the Dillon RL550B you will need to buy Dies (progressive press loads Rifle ammo) for MSRP $439.95.  I can go on and find all the presses that are available and put prices in here but then I might as well just open a store and sell the stuff too. (Note to self, find investor open store)  Ok do some more research on your own talk to friends other people at the range find out what they like and WHY.  Before we get too much further I am not employed by nor do I receive any kickbacks from any of the above mentioned Manufactures, however I was at one time employed by Dillon Precision.  Yes I do like there products I have used them for over 10 years and the Lifetime "No-B.S." Warranty is great!  Links to some key manufacturers mentioned are listed at the bottom of this article.

You will need to buy Reloading Dies for most of the machines listed.  The Dies range in price from about $29.95 to $63.95 depending on which company you go with.  If you by a Lee reloader and Dillon Dies you may need to buy 1 more Die for the system to work correctly and yet if you buy a Dillon machine and Lee Dies you may not use 1 of the Dies. My strong recommendation is to use Dies made by the same company that made your Reloader.

Most of the companies also have some sort of case prep Deals (i.e. Starter Kits) these kits should include a Scale that weighs in Grains (the industry standard unit of measure), a case tumbler (the thing that cleans the brass), media (the actual cleaning material), a bottle of polish (so the brass is shiny again), a set of dial calipers (used to measure the dimensions throughout the loading process), and a Reloading manual (this is where we find all the data needed to make SAFE ammo).  On a side note your-cousins-sisters-boyfriend once used X amount of powder Y on a ### grain bullet will cause you to BLOW UP your GUN, HAND, FACE, and other things you DO NOT want to BLOW UP!!!  If someone gives you a recipe for a load look it up in a RELOADING manual before ever trying.  Your Best friend in reloading is your RELOADING Manuel get lots of them cross reference them with each other if it’s not in a book DO NOT TRY IT!!  Most powder manufactures put out FREE manuals every year or so. BUY multiple Manuals from different manufactures they are worth it, lots of research has gone into them so you will not hurt yourself.

Your initial investment will be around $1,000 for one caliber this is a lot of money.  However if money is no longer good for anything other than fire starter then having it will do you no good. Invest in Heavy Metals (lead) keep a comfortable amount on hand.  Set a minimum and maximum number of loaded rounds that you want to keep on hand then set a minimum number of projectiles, primers, and pounds of powder that you want as your supply.  Remember that powder and primers are the only parts of the ammo that may go bad if not stored properly or for too long.  Powder should be bought and rotated often if you buy 2 pounds every time you stock up use 1 from your old supply and put the 2 new ones into your reserve.  Then the next time you buy powder use the ones on the shelf to load and put the new ones in their place on the shelf.  This practice is much like rotating your stored food. 

Loading rifle ammo is a little more complex than handgun ammo but the primary principles are the same with a few added steps.  Rifle brass has to be identified as boxer or Berdan primed, brass cased or steal case.  The Berdan cases have two off-center flash holes and are difficult to de-prime because of this without special Berdan tools and very time consuming.  I have heard of steel cases being reloaded however I strongly recommend against it due to the case being more rigid than brass and possibly having unseen cracks that would cause a catastrophic failure.

The principal steps of reloading handgun ammo.  You will start by acquiring your brass, and then separate it by caliber.  The next step in the process is to clean and polish it this is accomplished by using a tumbler and a medium such as crushed corn cob or crushed walnut shells and adding in a polishing compound.  The polishing compound is not necessary but it does make the brass look almost new again.  Step number three is to separate the media from the brass.  In step four you will start the transformation from fired case to loaded ammo by sizing the brass using hopefully a carbide re-sizer for the appropriate caliber being loaded.  If not you will have to lubricate the brass before sizing.  In step five you will be flaring the case mouth, this makes it easier to insert and seat the projectile.  Step six is adding the proper amount of gun powder for the chosen load.  Be very careful to not over or under charge the load this too can cause a catastrophic failure.  In step seven you will be placing the projectile in to the top of the case so that the properly adjusted bullet seating Die will press the projectile into the case.  Step eight is to crimp the brass and remove the bell from the case mouth, so that the bullet will be held securely.  This will keep the projectile from being pushed back into the case in a semi-automatic handgun or shaken loose in a revolver.  Step nine in this process is to use your micrometer to check the overall dimensions of the loaded round.  The best part of this process is finally here you’ve made several small batches with different powder weights.  You’ve placed them in separate containers and labeled them accordingly, you now need your reloading log book (this is just a notebook that you keep) with the load data entered onto different pages the only thing missing is in the results section.  Now it’s time to go to the range and find out which batch works best in your gun or guns. Don’t forget to enter your results!

The difference between rifle and handgun ammo reloading comes at the beginning of the case preparation.  Rifle brass will need to be measured prior to loading if it is too long you will need to trim it to within the specifications listed in your loading manual.

The reason to reload is so you will be able to resupply yourself and your group with quality low cost ammunition for training and during a SHTF scenario the ability to stay in the fight.

I hope this article has given something to think about and give you another option for procuring one of the three primary supply that are needed in TEOTWAWKI: Beans, Bullets, and Band-Aids you can never have enough.  As always stay alert and Prepare for the Worst and Pray for the Best.

Online Vendor Resources:

Friday, May 18, 2012

Introductory Note: I am not an employee of RWVA, Appleseed Project or any company I might mention in this article. I am however a volunteer Instructor in Training for Appleseed. I receive no remuneration for my service.

My introduction to the Appleseed Project was different, than for most SurvivalBlog .com readers.

I have had an avid interest in firearms from the time my uncle came to live with us during my high school years. Uncle Dick had several rifles, shotguns and pistols (of which I have since inherited). My first after school job was at a hardware store that just happened to have the largest gun display in our little town of 20,000.
I spent as much of my paycheck on firearms and ammunition as my parents would allow, while still saving for college and paying for my own personal expenses.
Early in 2010 I was thinking of how I could take a Ruger .22 rimfire Model 10/22 and make it look like an M1 Carbine. And so I did a web search on the phrase  “Ruger 10/22 M1 Carbine”.  I was surprised to see something pop up. It was E.A. Brown’s web site. They had a stock, sling and sights that would allow me to do exactly what I wanted to do.
But they also had in the description, a reference to the term “Liberty Training Rifle”. I had never heard of this. What could it mean?
Back to Google, which then directed me to Appleseed Project, child of the Revolutionary War Veterans Association (RWVA).

I was intrigued with what I read:

Marksmanship and Heritage.
Shooting skills and Patriotism.
Tales of the Revolution.

It seemed too good to be true.
As I read more I wanted to learn more. For you see, I too believed that our country was on the edge of an abyss. Our ship was floundering about to sink. But how could marksmanship help? I mean without using it to force our government to come to their senses?

And as much as I disliked the actions of those in Washington D.C. and our state capitols, I didn’t think that armed revolt was the answer.
But wait, Appleseed did not suggest such. As I dug deeper into whatever I could extract from the internet, I never found such reference.
I decided it was time to find out for myself what Appleseed was all about.

The nearest event to me would be in a couple of weeks at a club range about 40 minutes away, close in Southern Ohio standards.
I decided to not pre-register but to take my chances that they weren’t sold out. On that Saturday morning I registered with cash and only part of my name. You see, I figured I was already on enough “lists” without adding myself to another…NRA, CCW, BSA, etc. If this was a militant or subversive group, I didn’t particularly want them to have my personal information.

I also made a mistake that day, one that I repeated 60 days later.  I only enrolled for Saturday. You see, I was of above average intelligence, and had been shooting for over 40 years, a better than average shot, with a lot of knowledge about guns and targets. I had volunteered at the Rifle Range at the nearby Boy Scout summer camp for over 20 years. I had NRA Expert status in small-bore. What could they really teach me? So I concluded that I would only need one day.

I sat down and waited for it to start. Several of the “Orange Hats” (more about this later) tried to make me feel welcome. Coffee and doughnuts inside…help yourself. Where are you from? How did you hear about Appleseed? We’ll get started in a few minutes, have a seat.

I sat down at a picnic table away from everyone else…don’t want anyone to really get to know me or who I am. I can leave anytime…its only $40 (one day). I looked around at the flags hanging around the shelter…Gadsden, Liberty, all of the flags of the American Revolution.

Soon we started. Introductions, range rules, first aid and emergency information…then an invocation and Pledge of Allegiance….okay…so far so good.
Next came some basic safety rules and how to make your rifle safe. Rifle, not weapon. That didn’t sound very military to me. Also we went over range commands.
Okay everyone to the parking lot. Bring your gear to the equipment line. Next carry your cased rifle to the firing line. With the muzzle (the bangy end) downrange, take the rifle out and place it on your mat. Make sure it is safe. Remove the case and everything else (including magazines) from the line.
We are handed  targets with five different sizes of shapes in red. They are called “RedCoats”.
Prepare as many magazines as you need to have 13 shots.
We shoot our first target of the day and keep it for future reference.
I won’t go into the instruction that we received that day…I couldn’t do it justice. Let me just say that it was great. The volunteer staff was wonderful. And surprise… much of the staff were women and teenagers. And they knew what they were about!
The end of the day brought a second RedCoat target. This was a way to compare and check improvement. (My second was about 30% better. 30% improvement in one day…WOW!)
Interspersed throughout the day were stories of our forebears, those brave men, women, and boys who gave all for us. And now for the closing… the Benediction…the challenge to take what we learned and do something with it.

I didn’t shoot Rifleman (210 or better out of 250 possible), though I was fairly close.  I couldn’t go back the next day…other commitments, but I knew I would go back and I would take those I loved back with me for the History, the Heritage, the instruction, and yes, for the fun.
And go back I did. I made Rifleman as did two of my sons. My youngest son and I “picked up the Orange Hat”, volunteered to become “Instructors in Training”.

Would I recommend you going to an Appleseed event? Oh Yeah! I do to most everyone I know. Men, women, and children who are old (mature) enough to listen and follow instruction. Maybe listening is the most important thing to do at an Appleseed.

At my second Appleseed I was talking to an Orange Hat. He lived about halfway between the range and where I live. We talked long after the event of many things. Soon we were talking of books that we enjoyed and books that affected our lives. He mentioned “Patriots”, by James Wesley, Rawles. Had I read it? No. You should. I did.
And so I found Over the last few months I have read much. You see, I have been a prepper most of my life. But reading “Patriots” and SurvivalBlog reawakened me towards being prepared much as Appleseed reawakened my concern for our country.

Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scout movement, was once asked what Scouts should be prepared for. You see, the Boy Scout Motto is “Be Prepared”. Lord Baden-Powell said, “Just any old thing.”
Any old thing…read everything.  Be prepared…for life, for death, for travails, and for Appleseed.

And so I would like to take a few minutes to help you prepare for your first Appleseed. On the Appleseed web site you will find a list on “How to Prepare for an Event”. Let me repeat it here along with some footnotes and opinions.

How to Prepare for an Event

What to bring to an Appleseed Event
Not everything listed here is necessary. This list was compiled from the experience of those who have attended an Appleseed. It includes those things that did or would have made their experience more enjoyable. Remember that you need to bring whatever it takes to learn to shoot better.

There is also a short video on YouTube called Project Appleseed: What Should You Bring?

Personal items

  • A teachable attitude (most important thing) ** (I agree. Listen and learn. Ask questions and be willing to humble yourself to become a better person. It is all about improvement)
  • Ear protection Muffs and plugs ** (You don’t want tinnitus, trust me)
  • Eye protection ** (Don’t be stupid. Mandatory for minors)
  • Elbow pads or shooting Jacket (By the end of the weekend you will wish you had something on your elbows. Soft elbow pads like for skateboarders work well. Avoid the curved hard plastic kind; they let your elbow roll. You can even cut the toe out of a pair of thick socks and put them on your arms.)
  • Ground cover (Rug remnant will work) (Again some padding between you and the ground. Note, don’t make it too thick or soft – you want firmness to get a steady sight picture.)
  • A hat (To keep the glare out of your eyes or the sun off your neck)
  • Little notebook (those little 2.5 X 3.5 work well) (please take notes or write down questions. Also very important when recording corrections to sights.)
  • Pen (Or Sharpie)
  • Sun Screen (I forgot once…but never again!)
  • Lots of water (Must stay hydrated) (Eyesight and steadiness are some of the first things to go when you dehydrate.)
  • Light Lunch (Sometimes provided for nominal charge...check flyer)
  • Snacks (You need to keep your energy level up)
  • Folding Chair (not necessary but nice)(Its nice to sit for a minute while you prep your magazines)
  • Wet wipes (A quick way to refresh yourself, and to clean your hands before that snack)
  • Bug spray
  • Aspirin or Ibuprofen (especially at the end of the 1st day and beginning of the second day. You will be sore in places you have never been sore before)
  • Necessary clothing for any kind of weather (Be prepared. Expect the worst.)

** Very important things

Rifle specific preparations (Appleseed is a long distance rifle marksmanship course. When there is a known distance range, 100 or more yards, we prefer to use it.  However, due to cost of ammunition and rarity of distance ranges, most Appleseed events are shot at 25 meters. Everything you learn at 25 meters will apply at any distance. Even with the distance ranges most shoot at 25 meters on day one and Known Distance (KD) on day 2.)

  • See the Appleseed Liberty Training Rifle document: Word Doc or PDF
  • Rifle preferably zeroed for 25 meters (Any sights )
  • 400+ rounds of the same type and brand of ammo (Its best to use same brand, type and LOT of ammo. Lessen the variables.)
  • Sight adjustment tools (Depending on your sights, this could be a screwdriver, a drift punch and mallet, or a sight adjustment tool.)
  • GI style web Sling (as seen here at the The Appleseed Store) (Bring what you have, but if you need to purchase a sling please get an USGI web sling. You will never regret it.)
  • Two magazines, 10 rounds each. Bring extra mags. If you have them. 20 round magazines work well if State law allows
  • Gun cleaning supplies and lube (You will need to do some maintenance cleaning)
  • Instructions for your rifle (if you have them) (At least be familiar with the rifle you bring. Know how to tear it down, clean it and put it back together.)
  • Know your rifle (See above)
  • Something to cover your rifle to keep blowing sand or rain off it. (This can be a rug, a plastic trash bag, or if your mat/carpet remnant is long enough, you can just fold it up and over.)
  • Staple gun (Make sure it works. Need one for every 2 people in your group)
  • Staples (I recommend that you use at least ½ inch staples. You want them to go through the cardboard backer and not have the wind blow the target off in the middle of an AQT.)
  • Know the laws of the State you are going to and only bring that which is within the law (This is really important if you are traveling across a state line for your Appleseed. Don’t become a victim of ignorance.)
  • Back-up rifle, if you have one. ("Two is one and one is none.")

Ready Your Equipment


Be prepared for blowing sand and dust, rain, mud — all those weather conditions a rifleman would have to generally put up with. (I might add snow, ice, cold, heat, sun, insects…)


In event of blowing sand and dust, you'll need to totally degrease your rifle. Any lube should be a dry lube, like graphite. Be ready to protect your rifle with a plastic rifle bag or a simple waterproof wrap for the action.


Be ready to protect ammo and mags from the same weather. Ziploc bags are great for this.


Again, be prepared. You should function-test your rifle and, if possible, have it zeroed for 25 meters or 200 yards. You can also adjust your sights so your group prints 3" above point of aim at 100 yards, and mark your sights with paint, magic marker, or fingernail polish. Doing so will leave you properly sighted for the 25 meter AQT.


It's a good idea to get down into the prone position and dry-fire ten shots "by the numbers" (click here to print out the steps from Fred's Web site). If you will do this three times a week, you'll be way ahead of everyone else. Hey, while you're at it, put a GI web sling on your rifle, and get it adjusted so it supports the rifle in prone, too.


Practice at home is a great way to prep for arriving at the range. By doing so your range time will be far more productive.

Whenever  a family member or friend decides to attend an Appleseed I will give them some advice. I recommend that they practice the prone and sitting positions. You will find that if you stretch your body into these two positions several times a day, increasing the length of time each day until you can stay in it for 10 minutes or so, that you will not be as likely to need the Ibuprofen. I practice my positions during my television time. I get on the floor in the prone or sitting position and watch television. (I don’t hold a rifle, just in the position to stretch my back, legs and arms.

Note: Even if because of physical limitations you can’t get in a particular shooting position, please go ahead and attend an Appleseed. This is not a competition. We have adaptive Appleseeds all the time. Do what you can. Appleseed is ALL about improving.

It really helps to know your rifle before you show up at an Appleseed. Know the controls – safety, magazine release, how to clear a malfunction, etc. But it’s alright if you are borrowing a rifle and have never seen it until that day.

There is no official Appleseed Rifle. We will see almost anything on the firing line. Bring what you have and normally shoot.
That said, I’d like to offer my opinion on a reliable, safe rifle. The Ruger 10/22 is very dependable and accurate. I have owned (and still own) several over the years.

To get the most out of the gun there are a few accessories that I would recommend to have my Ideal Liberty Training Rifle. Please note that any changes may void your rifle’s warranty.
The first would be a set of 1-¼ inch quick detachable sling swivels (such as Uncle Mike's) and a USGI sling.

Secondly, I would replace the stock sights with sights from TechSights or a decent telescopic sight. The stock sights are difficult to adjust.

Lastly, if you are proficient at all in the anatomy of the 10/22, there are a few internal changes to make it better (IMHO):

  • Replace the stock hammer with any of a number of target style hammers (roughly $35). This will lower your trigger pull from 6-7 pounds to about 2.5-3.5 pounds.
  • Replace the bolt release with an automatic bolt release. This allows you to close the bolt with one hand instead of two. It is also possible to drill out the larger hole yourself. There are YouTube videos on how this is done.
  • If you have an older Ruger 10/22 you may have the short magazine release. This can be replaced with one that is longer. This allows you to change magazines in a timelier manner. There are many available from $5 -30, depending on manufacturer and material.
  • I prefer to replace the stock bolt buffer with one made of polymer. This quiets your rifle and relieves some of the stress on the bolt.

The 10/22 comes with one 10-shot magazine. You will need at least one more. I try to bring 4-5 magazines. That way I have a spare if one fails or someone needs to borrow one, and so I can prep my magazines when I have time and not be rushed. I do not like using the extended magazines for Appleseed. When you are wearing a sling the magazine can get in the way of your arm, preventing you from obtaining a proper position. At Appleseed you never need more than ten shots at a time anyway. Make sure that all screws are tight, maybe even using green Loc-tite. My shooting at my second Appleseed suffered greatly due to a loosened takedown bolt. I repeat, make sure screws are tight.

A second rifle can be a lifesaver if something happens to rifle number one. However, loaner rifles are sometimes available.

It would be advisable to know what brand of ammunition your rifle likes, and to have it sighted in, preferably at 25 meters (27 yards).  Then make sure you have 400-500 rounds of that brand ammo.

If you are fortunate enough to attend an Appleseed that is held at a range that has a Known Distance (KD) range, be sure to take your center fire rifle. I have seen people shoot the entire weekend with an AR or Garand, but that can be pretty expensive. Use your rimfire while learning some basics and then carry them over to your center fire and distance.
When you get to your Appleseed you will be advised to leave all firearms in your vehicle until told to retrieve them. This includes your carry gun. Please leave it in your vehicle while you are at Appleseed. This is for safety’s sake.  If, for example, you are in prone position with your pistol on your side, you would be sweeping everyone behind you, every time they walked by.

Appleseed is family friendly. Many of the students are women and children. Most of the staff at the first Appleseed I attended were teens and ladies.
The cost is very low – check the web site,  for the price in your area. (Some of the ranges charge a modest fee to use the range.)
Appleseed does not take the place of a combat type courses like those offered at Thunder Ranch, Front Sight, etc. It is basic riflemanship at a very fair price.
In closing, I would highly recommend attending an Appleseed regardless of what your level of expertise. You will never find better training, from such qualified instructors at such a fair price almost anywhere in the country.  Not one near you? Find a range and we’ll come to you!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

In reading Don's response to my first article, I'm going to write about a subject I was saving for next month, but I think is germane now. And I'll probably forget it by then. Let's talk about reloading, which also gets short shrift in a lot of books.

Note--I'm not going to go into a great deal of technique here. There are books on that. If you like, I can provide my e-mail address and would be willing to answer questions that way. I'm also not going to tell you what brand of press or dies I use. If you want to know, or want my opinions, let JWR know, and I'll get you a private message.

First off, let me dispel the notion that reloading will save you money. I can almost guarantee you it will not. You will wind up spending more initially (on equipment and your first batch of components), then probably the same amount on components as you previously spent on ammo. Here's an example:

A box of generic factory-loaded 230 grain FMJ ball .45 ACP generally costs $25 at a big box store. If you use plated bullets (more on that later), you'll probably spend about $140 per thousand, or $.14 each. A pound of generic pistol powder is about $23. There are 7,000 grains of powder per pound. If you use five grains per round, you get 1,400 rounds out of a pound of powder for a per-round cost of $.0164, which we'll round up to $.02. A sleeve of 1,000 primers is about $32, or $.03 each. If you're cheap like I am and salvage brass from the range, you wind up spending about $.18 per round, or $9 per box of 50. Without averaging out the cost of equipment, you can make just over 100 rounds for what you'd pay a factory to load 50. So, why not just double your shooting for the same cash? Note this doesn't take into account what your time is worth. That's up to you, so I can't put a price on it. That's a really roundabout way of saying you'll be doing the ballistic equivalent of dollar-cost averaging.

There are items I didn't discuss, like buying jacketed bullets (more expensive), moly-coated lead (about the same as plated or just a bit cheaper), or casting your own (time-intensive, but potentially cheaper in the long run--like after you pay for the casting equipment). I also didn't discuss buying brass, which can be really cheap ($.05 per round or even less) or really expensive (brand name brass can cost as much as $.25 per round).

Now we need to discuss setting up to reload. There's need-to-have equipment and nice-to-have equipment. Then there's equipment that depends on your intended volume of reloading.

At the most basic level, you need a press, dies, a powder measure, scale, and a priming system. (Yes, I realize there are volume systems which allegedly obviate the need for a scale. I don't trust them. Tread at your own peril.).

Dies have four basic functions. They make the case round again and eject the spent primer. They "bell," or expand, the case mouth to allow you to put a bullet into it. They seat the bullet to the required depth (more on that later). And they crimp the case into the bullet. There are many quality dies out there at a variety of prices. I personally recommend against Forster or Redding, unless you're loading match-grade (read: sniper-grade) ammo. I have a mix of Lee, Hornady, and Dillon. RCBS also makes quality dies. Any of these four companies are quality makers. Note: Lee dies come with a shell holder for a single-stage press, the others do not. All of them come in handy storage cases.

One of the things you'll have to have is a set of calipers, to measure the overall length of the finished round. Bullets seated too long won't chamber. Bullets seated too short might cause excessive pressures in your chamber. You don't need to buy a set from a reloading supplier (Harbor Freight Tools, Lowe's, and Home Depot also carry them), but make sure you have a set.

The press is what the dies and shell holder screw into and provide the leverage to do the functions mentioned above. There are four basic types of presses. Hand presses are portable and are intended for low volume loading in the field, like for hunting ammo or doing load development.

Single-stage presses are what most people use to start. You perform a single function on the press with one die, then switch dies to change functions. Most people do all of their sizing and decapping first, then move to expanding the case mouth, etc. I have one of these for my low-volume operations, like magnum pistol and all of my rifle loading. Many single stage presses are sold in kits with all of the must-have pieces of equipment.

Turret presses allow you to mount all of your dies on the press at the same time, and switch dies by turning the turret. You could perform all four functions on a single case until you've produced a round of ammunition. I've never had one, so I can't say whether it's worth it.

Progressive presses are the opposite of the turret press, in that you mount all of the dies simultaneously, then the case moves from station to station to complete each step. This is for high-volume reloading and requires a somewhat large dedicated area to do it. Most progressive presses have on-board priming systems and powder measures, which takes care of a bunch of other steps and minimizes equipment requirements. Many people switch to a progressive press to increase their loading rates. I started out on a progressive press, because I was getting into USPSA shooting when I started reloading. Some progressive presses are sold in kits with the most-needed extras.

A powder measure puts the requisite charge of gunpowder into the case. Progressive presses have powder measures on the press itself. For single-stage reloaders, you'll have to mount it separately on your bench. Lee Precision dies come with a dipper to measure powder (I've never used one, because these types of "one size fits no one" solutions don't appeal to me--your mileage may vary).

ALL powder measures work on volume. That's how you can use multiple powders in the same measure. This brings us to the need for a scale. You can use digital or a fulcrum scale, but you need something to measure to a tenth of a grain. I use a digital scale, but you might want a spare in a Faraday cage or a spare fulcrum scale if you're sweating an EMP.

The final basic piece of equipment is the priming system. If you're using a single-stage press, there is a variety of priming systems to use on a press, or you can buy a separate hand primer. I tend to use a hand primer, but that lets me sit on the couch and prime brass while watching a movie or TV (Note: for all of my single-stage reloading, I'm a "coffee can" reloader, more on that in a bit.). Progressive presses have priming on board the press and prime on either the up or down stroke (relative to the movement of the ram or shell plate assembly. I prefer priming on the down stroke, because it gives me more feel for the primer seating. Your mileage may vary.

One thing I didn't mention is a reloading manual. Some are printed by powder manufacturers, others by bullet companies. Lee Precision includes a set of recipes in their die sets (Note: the recipes are pretty conservative, so you won't get maximum performance, but you'll be safe). I prefer the powder manuals, because you get an idea of how the powder performs against a wider variety of bullet types than those made by the bullet companies (who publish against the types of bullets they manufacture, rather than a generic bullet). Some have a variety of manuals and cross-reference them. I tend to use one brand of powder, so I don't have to do that. (Note: Hodgdon Powder is a Christian-owned company, and that's the main reason I use them. That's my only stated preference in this article.)

A couple of other notes. If you buy carbide dies, you won't have to lubricate most handgun brass. If you are reloading long handgun brass (like .500 Smith and Wesson Magnum), handgun brass with a bottlenecked case (like .357 SIG or 5.7x28), or are reloading rifle ammunition, you'll have to lubricate the brass, regardless of the type of dies you buy. Some lubricants will compromise your powder and primers, so I generally relegate those to my single-stage operations. Aerosol lubricants are easier to use than those in a bottle, which you normally lubricate by rolling across a pad.

I also referenced "coffee can" reloading earlier. When I use a single-stage press, I do each operation separately and move the brass between coffee cans during each operation. So, I clean my brass, then put it into a container. Then I size and de-prime, moving from one container to another. If I had to lubricate the brass, I clean it again and put it into a container. Then I prime it, taking from one container, priming the brass, then putting it into another. Then I charge with powder, seat and crimp a bullet, then put it into a container for transport the range.

Now for the nice-to-have equipment. I like to have a bullet puller to correct my mistakes and salvage bullets and brass. I also have a tumbler to clean my brass and save wear and tear on my dies, but you can get the same result by putting your brass in a mesh bag (like the kind ladies buy to wash their delicates) and running them in the dishwasher. Some people have bullet and case feeders for their progressive presses, but I find them too expensive to buy at this time (maybe if I ever win a lottery). The last thing you probably want to have is a case block. At its simplest, this is a block of wood with a series of holes drilled into it to keep them together and keep you from knocking them over and spilling your powder all over the place. You'll only have to do this once to understand.

There are other considerations, but this pretty much covers the basics. If you can, have a friend walk you thru the process and give you suggestions, or check out a book at the library.

To address Don's basic question, I still buy some loaded ammo, even though I reload. Rimfire isn't reloadable, so I buy that, obviously. I don't reload shotgun shells (although I'm considering starting to, so I can generate my own supply). I buy some rifle and pistol ammo to ensure I always have a ready supply, in case I don't have time to reload ammo before I need it. So, the simple answer is, if you're reloading, keep a supply on hand to supplement your reloading. Figure out what you have on hand for components, then buy about half that much in loaded ammo. Use only reloads for proficiency shooting.

For my purposes, I have components for about 500 rounds of ammo to reload at all times. Some, like 9mm or 5.56, I have at least a thousand (I have 3/4 of a five-gallon bucket of 9mm brass, for example). I also have a growing supply of factory-loaded ammo.

I also try to limit my purchases of odd-caliber weapons. 9mm, .40 S&W, .357 Magnum, and .45 ACP are the most common calibers of handgun ammunition in America. .223, .308, .30-06, and 7.62x39 are the most common rifle calibers. Your survival weapons should be in those calibers for defense against humans or taking game larger than rabbits (use .22 Long Rifle for that). If you have hunting weapons not in those calibers, I'd recommend keeping at least 200 rounds for each weapon you intend to employ.

Aside--I recently purchased a self-defense rifle in .300 AAC Blackout, mostly for close to midrange work and the wide variety of bullet weights it can employ. I have 200 rounds for it and plan to get that up to at least 1000.

One thing to remember is that .308 Winchester and .223 Remington are not the same as 5.56 and 7.62x51 NATO, respectively.

A final set of notes-much of the supply of foreign-manufactured ammo is Berdan primed, and is not reloadable (because of how the primer pocket is formed). If you want your factory-loaded supply to be reloadable, look for Boxer primed ammo. Also, steel-cased or aluminum-cased ammunition should never be reloaded. Steel-cased ammo will gall your dies. Aluminum-cased ammo will be compromised after the first firing. Neither will work for you, regardless of primer type.

Good luck, and I wish you happy reloading!

Monday, May 7, 2012

I've been a firearms instructor for a lot of years. I attended the US Army Marksmanship Unit, Rifle Instructor and Coaches Clinic way back in 1970, and I've been an NRA Certified Rifle, Handgun and Person Protection In The Home, instructor for about 20 years now. It's safe to say, I've trained numerous people over the years in firearm use and safety.
More than anything, before I'm done with one of my firearms students, they have to demonstrate firearms safety to me - marksmanship skills are secondary in my class. However, everyone walks away from my class being a better shot than when they started. No, I'm not some magical instructor or anything like that. I just present sound instruction in the safe and effective use of firearms to my students - tried and proven methods.
We do a lot of gun handling in my classes, as well as plenty of lecturing. One thing I'm always short on are, dummy guns for students to handle. Yeah, I have a few of those "blue guns" that are made out of rubber, but I never have enough to go around during a class. And, firearms safety is my number one priority - a person must prove to me that they can safely handle a firearm. I'm happy to report, that in all the years I've been instructing folks in firearms use and safety, we've never had an negligent discharge (ND) or any other safety concerns in my classes.
I was contacted by Train Safe and they wanted to send me some samples of their Train Safe barrel blocks, that they manufacture for a number of semiauto pistols, as well as some shotguns and rifles. The Train Safe firearm block (plug) is a simple piece of orange plastic that fits inside the barrel of your firearm. With the block installed, you can NOT load a live round into the chamber. So there's no fear of leaving the block in the barrel, forgetting about it, and then loading a live round into the firearm, pulling the trigger and causing a ND.
The Train Safe block easily installs into your firearm, if you know how to disassemble your firearm, you can install the block in a minute or two. The orange-colored block sticks out the front of the barrel of your firearm, just enough, so that you can see the plug, and instantly know that the firearm is not loaded with a live round. The orange-colored block really catches your attention, too - you can't miss it - so you know the gun isn't loaded. A great visual indicator!
The Train Safe block is a great idea when dry-firing your guns, for practice in trigger control, and sight picture. It also allows you to manipulate the action during dry-fire practice. This is also a great idea for gun shops for displaying their firearms in their display cases - the gun shop and the customer know that the gun is not loaded and safe to handle. I think the block would be a great thing for gun shops to sell with each gun - the customer wouldn't mind paying the $5.00 (retail cost) of the Train Safe plug, so they have a tool to use when dry-firing and working the action of their newly purchased firearm.
So, what we have with the Train Safe block is another one of those "Gee, why didn't I think of that..." inventions, that is inexpensive, and can be a real lifesaver when handling a firearm. It makes for a great training aid, too. Train Safe is a small (father and son team - John and Steve Carlin) company, who are producing an American-made product (always a plus in my book). They saw a need, and filled that need. They deserve your business, since they have a great little product. Check out their web site for a list of firearms they are making the block for, and if they don't have a block for your particular firearm, contact them and see if they can help you out.
Gun safety is our responsibility - one we must take seriously!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

More than a year ago, I bought a PTR91 MSG clone of the HK91 for my primary SHTF rifle. I thought I'd pass on some information collected after about 3,000 rounds down range. 

Note that I have no economic or personal ties to PTR Inc.

PTR as a company was responsive when asking questions about what mil-spec parts could be replaced and what could not.  You'll have to email them about your specific rifle though.


• Almost day one, I chipped the barrel paint taking off the hand guard - be careful, slide the handguard forward at an angle, after removing the attachment screw.
• S/F indicators on the safety side paint started to fade out after about 1 year. Indents for the S and F are still there and fine.  Probably my chemicals for cleaning stripped off the paint. No impact with using the safety.
• If you live in a humid environment keep an eye on the flash suppressor and the trunnion pin.  Easy to rust. I clean after every use, apply lots of BreakFree CLP, use dehumidifiers and still I got spot rust there.
• Speaking of flash suppressor, mine came loose after the first week - had to Locktite it. There was no flash suppressor pin like on the original HK91/G3 rifles.
• Other than those cosmetic issues, the rifle has been very robust, no cracking, no breaking of parts.

Ammunition and Accuracy:  

• I often see a 1 MOA -to- 2 MOA drift from a cold bore shots and a hot barrel. Typically this drift is 1 MOA high once the barrel heats up, and takes about 3-5 rounds to stabilize. On average I shoot 100 rounds at a sitting. So I am not sure if there is any additional drift.
• My primary ammo is American Eagle 150 grain - for accuracy with a 10 power scope, I can get around 1 MOA.  Not always, sometimes less than 1 MOA, more often it is up to 2.5
• Although I do not reload - friends of mine that do seem to think that the casings are about 80% re-loadable - with 20% too dented to reload.

Add-on Parts:

• I installed a bayonet adapter and discovered that the MSG model has a different hand guard length which prevents the use of a bayonet on the rifle. Win some, lose some.
• Surplus Steel SEF Lower from a G3 fits fine (clipped and pinned), and personally I find it to be more ergonomic.
Fleming HK Ambi Selector - for Steel lower, fits but is a little too loose. Too easy to drop to the fire position for my liking. I'm right handed, but I chose this for the ability to 'AK' style  position selection as a secondary option, along with a larger normal selector on the left side of the receiver. Also, if you haven't see one, there is a tiny c-clamp that goes on the right side to hold down the right side safety selector. It just makes me wonder how long it will be before I lose it.
• The safety selector for the stock plastic lower will work on a Surplus Steel SEF lower, and has a better grip on the positions than the Fleming HK Ambi Selector.  There will be a little overhang on the Steel lower right side, but nothing that impacts usability. 

Optics and Sighting:

• I have two optics for this rifle, both with quick release mounts. One is the new Aimpoint PRO, the other is a IOR M2 with 308 CQB reticle.  The Aimpoint came with a mount, but I replaced it with the LaRue M68 mount.  The IOR has a set of Leupold QRW high rings.  Note about the Leupold QRW high 30mm rings: with the IOR's  limited eye relief along with the iron sight drum installed, there is very limited flexibility as to how the scope can be usably mounted. You might not want the Leupold QRW high mounts if you have an IOR M2 and plan to keep the iron sight drum installed.

• On a side note, I ran across the IOR M2 while reading Boston's Gun Bible.  I can not recommend this scope though.  The eye relief is horrible for me. I need to be very close to the scope in order for a full field of vision, and to me this is not what I want for a CQB optic. Heck, not just CQB, but any type of scope. Midrange is okay, but that eye relief takes too much time to get lined up. This is one of the main reasons, I ended up getting the Aimpoint Pro. 

• I keep two optics, along with the Irons, available for this rifle because I expect the engagement areas to change from short range to long, and back to short during a SHTF situation, depending on timelines.  The irons I keep zeroed to MPBR using the number 2 position.  Thee armorers manual of the G3 rifle states that position 1 is for close quarters, and 2 is for a 100/200 meter zero, but out of personal preference, I keep number 2 to MPBR.  At 11 MOA wide, anything beyond 400 meters is going to be a rough shot anyway.  

• For the AimpointPro, I also keep this zeroed to MPBR.  Since the PTR91 MSG has an adjustable stock cheek piece, both scopes work to the same adjustment, and are easy to transition between.

Web Gear US Army Surplus:

Two G3 Magazines - fit well into a US Army surplus  M16 3x30 round ammo pouch. There's some head room but they are not too tight to remove, the magazines are tall enough to easily grab,  and not too loose to make noise.

This allows for a very inexpensive web gear configurations for a HK91/G3 clone rifle.  Each M16 ammo pouch goes for about 4-12 dollars each, and the LC-2/3 web belt price range is about the same. Adding a H-Type harness is another 12 dollars on average, allowing for a four ammo pouches, with belt and harness for around $44 plus tax and shipping.  This configuration also allows for a M17A1 gas mask bag for used as a dump bag. 

Although there are many new styles of web gear, I find the older style ALICE / LC-3 gear to be the most practical for my terrain: woodland southeast.  Chest rigs don't work so well crawling through mud, and at 103 degrees in the summer, that chest rig might as well be an oven, and access to magazines may be an issue in the prone position.  

Hope this helps some. - Robert B.

JWR Adds: As previously mentioned in SurvivalBlog, one of the great advantages of HK91 clones is that spare magazines are presently very inexpensive. (Under $3 each for alloy magazines.) Two great sources are and

Friday, May 4, 2012

Mr. Rawles,
I am writing in reference to Frog's post about the Mosin-Nagant rifle. I have owned several Mosin-Nagant rifles myself. They were designed to kill enemies of the Soviet Union. They were not designed to necessarily be the safest rifle around. If you're not very careful while using a Mosin-Nagant rifle, it can blow up and injure you. I learned that lesson the hard way in 1998. I also learned about the importance of eye and ear protection while shooting as well. No one should ever fire a Mosin (or any firearm) without eye and ear protection. When my Mosin blew up, I suffered severe burns and shrapnel penetrations of my face. Fortunately, a skilled eye surgeon was able to remove the larger pieces from my eye (there were over 200 pieces in all) and my sight was undamaged. I had an eye hemorrhage and a partially detached retina. I lost 25% of the hearing in my left ear and have lived with tinnitus since. I would only recommend this rifle to someone who had no other options. - Joseph E.

Regarding the article A Second Look at the Mosin-Nagant Rifle, a few months ago we put the Mosin-Nagant Low Profile Side Combo rail for $39.97 on a 91/30. This was an earlier model of the mount currently for sale, and although they said a straight bolt would still work, that would probably only be with a skinny military scope. It would be better to say that it's for bent bolt and make it a half inch lower, but it's still pretty good.

The mount has a groove that hugs the side of the receiver, so getting it on straight was not an issue. We used the the first and third of the three screw holes, and drilled all the way through the receiver. This made tapping a bit easier, The stock was inlet a half inch with hand tools.

We sawed off the bolt and the knob and drilled a 1/4" hole straight down the nub of the bolt handle, all the way through the bolt body. The new bolt handle was a 1/4" stainless steel rod bent in a vise. We filed off the bottom edge of the bolt handle nub to accommodate the inside radius of the new bent bolt handle. The ball was also drilled and re-used. It was all soldered together with silver solder and a small acetylene torch with a tiny blue flame. As a finishing touch, we also drilled a small hole through the bolt handle nub at a right angle to the new handle, drove in a finishing nail as a pin, and soldered that in. The handle will never come off. The feel of the action is greatly improved, and it's like a new rifle. I would say that a lot of the "stickiness" of the Mosin-Nagant is because of the
short straight bolt handle which is much shorter than the Mauser bolt handle.

All this was done for free by a retired machinist with a good drill press and experience using taps, so it worked the first try.

For the iron sight, I put on a Mojo aperture rear sight only. And to improve the stock length I added a size small Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad.

I won't brag that the gun was a bargain - I paid about $120 at a gun shop where I got to pick the best of about eight guns. Some were really beat, some had terrible triggers. This one seemed good. The bore is very good, although the crown shows some wear. A little polish and a shim job on the trigger (as seen on Youtube) got the trigger pull down to about 3.5 pounds and is fairly crisp.

At this point I called it quits because costs were approaching $300 (even with free labor) for the mount, scope, pad, sight, and rifle. But if I had a pile of Mosins, I'd want one with a scope. And the bent bolt will probably outlive the rifle, if I don't care about matching numbers. Be sure to check the headspace before firing.

Sincerely, - Hardy Citrus


Mr. Rawles,
Frog’s article on the merits of the Mosin Nagant was a well written piece, and effectively drove home the main point of having one or two: they’re inexpensive.  At the same time though, there are a couple points he makes which seem a bit optimistic.  He mentions that with a good quality optic, 1 MOA accuracy is not uncommon.  This is true.  I have friends who have achieved such accuracy, but only when using high-quality, modern manufacture ammunition, a good optic, and a good bench to shoot from.  Achieving the same results under field conditions would be quite the feat indeed.  Bearing in mind that the whole point of the Mosin is cost effectiveness, I would argue that an optic of high enough quality to achieve such accuracy will probably run 2 to 3 times the cost of the rifle.  He also asserts that a Mosin is a great budget sniper rifle.  This may be only a difference in definition of terms, but in American sniper doctrine, a sniper rifle is made to be employed beyond 600 meters.  Russian sniper doctrine focuses more on shorter range urban precision shooting, like in the siege of Stalingrad portrayed in the film Enemy at the Gates.  This makes the Russian sniper more comparable to the western Squad Designated Marksman, a role which focuses on targets 300-600 meters out.  Beyond this distance, Russian sniper rifles simply are not built to maintain practical accuracy, nor is the ammo made for them made to such tight tolerances as their western counterparts.  To truly turn a Mosin into a sniper rifle that is up to western standards, one would have to invest much time, effort, and a bit of money into working up hand loads to maximize the available accuracy of the rifle, or buy much more expensive factory ammo.  As Major John Plaster would say, consistency equals accuracy.  Accuracy is everything to a sniper, and in the area of consistency, the Mosin requires so much improvement to raise it to true sniper grade as to negate the initial cost effectiveness.  To be fair, the Mosin really is a fine budget hunting rifle, and a passable mid-range battle rifle.  To the survivalist with extremely tight budget constraints, it would make a decent general purpose long gun.  But to those of us who would take on the role of group sniper, there are far better offerings to be had from Remington, Winchester, Savage, and others.  Surely not as inexpensive, but much better. - John in Spokane

JWR Replies: I must concur. The real bargain tack-driver in today's market has to be the Savage Model 10 series. Used ones can often be found for around $275 to $325 at gun shows (sans glass.) We have a Savage Model 10 Tactical .308 here at the ranch, and love it. The only change we made to it was having a Holland's of Oregon muzzle brake installed.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

As C.K.’s article points out almost all of the publications that cover prepping acknowledge the need for self-defense, but very little ink gets spent on developing or maintaining real proficiency.  His suggestion that readers consider either practical shooting (USPSA) or defensive pistol shooting (IDPA) really hits the target.  The follow-up letter by Sean from COS advocating hunting as another way to develop and maintain skills also hit the mark.

Many articles and even most of the survival fiction stories provide descriptions and explanations for the “right” guns to buy.  “Survival Gun Selection” on the left side of is an excellent overview of the equipment and rationale, but even this article avoids two other gun issues that are critical, especially for those of us with a wife who carefully monitors our combined survival investing.

Those two issues are:

1.) How many rounds should be put aside for each type of weapon for self-defense or hunting assuming TSHTF and ammo is no longer readily available?

2.) On some kind of rolling forecast, how many rounds should be budgeted for maintaining proficiency for each year between now and when TSHTF?

My wife knows that I would rather buy an extra 500 rounds of 40 S&W than another two cases of Mountain House Chicken a la King.  But seriously, how would you make the argument for the number of rounds to keep on hand?

For example, we have four hunting rifles in .223, .243, 7mm-08, and .308 for most North American hunting plus a .375 H&H mostly for bear.  Following the same reasoning as in Sean’s letter, we draw for resident permits each year and usually get a deer and an antelope and occasionally an elk.  Even with pre-season practice and testing my own hand loads, it is really hard to justify more than 40 to 50 rounds per year for each of the bigger calibers.  The .223 with a big NightForce scope sees a lot more action since it is used for varmint hunting throughout the year.

Our primary carry pistols are all in .40 S&W.  Without participating in regular matches as C.K. suggests, we do extended shooting sessions about twice a month with 40 to 50 rounds per gun.  Just for skill maintenance, we go through 600 or more rounds per year per pistol.  We also have several 1911s that have been displaced by the high capacity polymer pistols, and they probably see no more than 100 rounds per year apiece.  At those same practice sessions, we also shoot at least two 30-round magazines of 5.56 through our M4rgeries.  For the pistols and the ARs, we use the drills we learned at Front Sight at the 4-Day Defensive [handgun and rifle] courses.  (Very inexpensive course certificates, thanks to eBay, and highly recommended.)

In your novel "Patriots", shortly after most of The Group gets to the retreat in Idaho, the characters perform an inventory of their supplies (food, tools, supplies, clothing, guns, and ammo):   “As for ammunition, we are in excellent shape – in all nearly 300,000 rounds, almost half of which is .22 rimfire.   …Joe Schmo on the street probably only has a couple of hundred rounds on hand, on average.”

On my first reading of the book several years ago, I thought this was a bit excessive.  Now, I am not so sure. 

Take out the .22 LR (150,000 rounds) and divide the remaining 150,000 rounds by 12 or 15 people.  That leaves 10,000 to 12,500 per person.  Split that number between hunting (maybe 10% - 1,000 rounds across all hunting guns), defensive pistol (say 30% or 3,000 rounds) and defensive rifle (the remaining 60% or 6,000 rounds).  If half of the defensive pistol ammo was intended for skill maintenance, those 1,500 rounds would last for only 4 or 5 years of practice.

When my son and I attended the 4-Day Defensive Handgun Class at Front Sight earlier this year, we each went through 720 rounds in four days.  A year ago and prior to the classes, it would never have occurred to me that the two of us would chew through almost 1,500 rounds in just four days – in practice!.  Then, I got on the phone with my oldest boy who had served with the 1st Marines in Fallujah.  I was stunned to learn how many rounds went through the average rifleman’s M4 in a single firefight.  He told me that he usually felt under-equipped with only eight 30-round magazines on his gear.

My next thought is that we are talking some serious money.  Let’s say 3,000 rounds of 5.56 primarily for practice at $350 to $400 per thousand plus 3,000 rounds of higher quality 5.56 at $500 to $600 per thousand.  The AR-15 ammo could set you back $2,500 to $3,000.  Assume roughly the same cost per round for .40 S&W (9mm a little less and .45 ACP a bit more) for practice and for high quality defense rounds for your carry pistol, and we can add $1,250 to $1,500 for your primary handgun.  The hunting ammo will likely run $20 to $30 per box of 20 except for the .223 which in a pinch could also use the ammo for your AR.  The 1,000 rounds of good quality hunting ammo could set you back another $1,400 to $1,600.  Enough ammo to feed the whole battery can easily nudge into $5,000 or $6,000.

My wife’s reaction was that much money could buy a whole lot of beans and band-aids!

How about the benefit of your wisdom for all of us in that same predicament?  How many rounds is a reasonable budget for skill maintenance?  Assuming as I do that ammo will be one of the very first things to disappear from stores, how many rounds of quality defensive ammo is enough?

Your current thoughts would be greatly appreciated. - Don M.

JWR Replies: I've always made a distinction between ammo for target practice, and ammo for TEOTWAWKI. The latter is always kept in reserve. Aside from target practice ammo, I consider 1,000 rounds per handgun and 2,000 rounds per battle rifle a bare minimum. Here at the ranch, one entire wall of JASBORR is lined with heavy duty ammo can shelves, but much of that ammo is for training or is intended for eventual barter.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Over the past month or so, I've received quite a few requests from folks who want me to test and evaluate their products. I enjoy testing products for SurvivalBlog, and reporting back my findings to SurvivalBlog readers. Some of the companies that contact me, have a lot of questions, and I'm happy to answer them. Some companies ask me if I can guarantee that I'll write an article on their products - and the answer is "yes." Then, they ask me if I can guarantee them that the article will appear on SurvivalBlog - I refer them to Jim Rawles, as he's the editor, and gives the final yea or nay on if or when a piece runs. And, lastly, some folks ask me if I am going to give their products a "positive" review in my article. My answer to them is "no!" I will never guarantee anyone that I will give their products a positive review - I report my findings as fairly and honestly as I can. If those products aren't up to par, or as advertised, that's the way I will report my findings.
When I was publishing and editing a little newsletter called "Police Hot Sheet" many years ago, I was contacted by a fellow who made an impact device, and he told me if was more effective than a hit from a 12 gauge shotgun. Needless to say, I was more than a little skeptical of those claims. Still, I promised to have one of my writers, a well-known martial artist test and evaluate this product. Of course, his findings were that this impact device wasn't as effective at stopping an attacker as a hit from a 12 gauge would be, and the product took quite a bit of training and practice to use properly and effectively. The fellow who sent me that product threatened to sue me if I ran the review, but I ran it! And, in fact he didn't sue me. So, please, if you want me to give you a guarantee that I will give you products a positive review on SurvivalBlog, then don't bother contacting me or Jim Rawles - that's not the way we do business. SurvivalBlog readers deserve a fair and honest review of products.
The newest product under review today is called the "Original AR-Rest" and is being produced by Montie Gear. The folks at this company contacted me several weeks ago, and asked me to review some of their products, one was their new sling-shot, they were out of stock, but promised one would be coming in a few weeks. The other product is their AR-Rest, which arrived quickly, as promised. I've got to admit, I've never heard of Montie Gear before they contacted me, however, they have quite a few products on their web site, that should be of interest to SurvivalBlog readers - check them out.
Okay, the AR-Rest, gee, let's see, what's "new" about a rifle rest, that hasn't already been done? Well, the Montie Gear AR-Rest is portable. It comes apart and goes back together in a matter of seconds, and it can be carried in your shooting box or your AR rifle case. The AR-Rest only weighs about 19-oz, so it's very lightweight, you won't even know you have it in your shooting box or AR rifle case. The AR-Rest is made out of sturdy aluminum, that is industrial-grade black powder coated. There is a spring-loaded stainless-steel (wire attached)pin that holds this tri-pod together, too. The "rest" portion of the AR-Rest has soft rubber covers in the "V" of the rest, so your rifle won't be damaged or scratched. The legs on the rest have grooves machined into - so when shooting over a bench rest or going prone, the rest really digs in and remains stable. There are also additional rubber covers for the bottom of the legs - for using the rest over the hood of a car - so you don't scratch the paint on the car.
When shooting rifles for accuracy, I try to wring out as much accuracy as I can - without resorting to a "mechanical" rest of some sort. I usually shoot over the hood of my car, using a sleeping bag, rolled-up jacket, a soft, padded rest of some sort - or whatever I have on-hand. It gives me better results than just using an elbow to steady a rifle. The Montie Gear AR-Rest will give you a  more stable and secure rest, for those of you who want the most accuracy you can squeeze out of an AR-15 style rifle. And, this rest isn't just designed for use with an AR, I also tested it with an AK-47, and even with it's longer 30-rd mag, the rifle was still not touching the hood of the car. The idea behind the AR-Rest is that, you can use it with long magazines in your rifles, without the rifle "mono-podding" on the magazine - and the AR-Rest delivers in this respect. You can also use the rest for benching other rifles as well. Montie Gear makes several other models of rests, but I think the AR-Rest will meet most of your needs.
I did find that, my groups did tighten-up more with the AR-Rest, than with my AR over a rolled-up sleeping bag, so the rest delivered as promised, and the height of the AR with a 30-rd mag in it, didn't allow the magazine to touch the ground - and as already mentioned, the same goes for an AK-47 with a 30-rd mag installed.
My one minor complaint with the Montie Gear AR-Rest are the rubber covers that are included, for installing on the bottom of the legs of the tripod. The rubber caps are a bit too small and don't completely cover the bottom of the legs, nor do they stay in place when shooting. An instruction sheet is included, that states you can use Super-Glue to secure the rubber covers on the legs. You shouldn't have to do that! The rubber covers that came with the AR-Rest appear to be an after-thought, and maybe purchased from an outside source - as an a quick fix to a minor problem. After firing several rounds through my AR on the AR-Rest, the rubber covers would slip off the bottom of the legs. And, "yes" I did try to Super-Glue the rubber covers on - and it didn't work. I would suggest using rubber cement - that would hold the rubber covers on better. Of course, you only need to use the rubber covers if you're shooting over the hood of a car and don't want to scratch the paint job. When shooting over a bench, or going prone, you don't need the little rubber covers. I'm not alone in my one minor complaint about the AR-Rest. You can view similar complaints on the Montie Gear web site - and I do applaud Montie Gear, for posting those comments from customers - most companies wouldn't post negative comments. Thank you, Montie Gear, for your honesty!
I believe that Montie Gear should replace the little rubber covers, with something that is specifically made for their rest - it shouldn't cost them very much. Another alternative would be to use some of that "plastic" dip - that you can get from most hardware stores. You dip the end of your pliers, or other tools into it, and it gives you a firm gripping surface. You can do the same thing with the AR-Rest, just dip the bottom of the three legs of the tripod into this solution, and it will work beautifully.
A lot of people shoot their rifles, over a bench, when shooting for accuracy at a target, so the little rubber covers won't be needed, same goes for going prone on the ground. All-in-all, I was very pleased with the Montie Gear AR-Rest, it performed as advertised - it provided a solid rest for a rifle, so a person can wring the most accuracy out of their long guns when shooting long-range. I don't see the AR-Rest falling apart - it's very well-built, and it should last you through a lifetime of target practice. The rest retails for $59.95, and the price seems more than fair - especially for an American-made product. Pick one up, and watch your long-range shooting scores improve.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Another thought on going beyond training day in and day out on firearm proficiency. Besides joining a club, hunting is a great way to practice firearms proficiency. There is the obvious aspect of practical shooting, especially when chasing small game and birds but even large game hunting is illustrative. Most people (including myself with five years active duty experience and the associated firearms training) rarely ever shoot at a live moving target. Shooting at a walking elk at 200 yards is a whole lot different than punching holes in paper. I thought I was good and what can be easier than shooting an animal with a kill zone at least 10 inches in diameter? I hit it solidly on the first shot but in four subsequent shots (to ensure it died quickly and close) I only hit it two more times and only once more in the kill zone. This after printing 3-inch groups at the 100 yard range three weeks previous. The real world is a whole lot different than where we practice.
Beyond that, hunting requires the understanding and mastery of numerous skills including firearms safety, processing of wild game, understanding of the outdoors in general and land navigation in particular as well as good all around discipline and op sec (just try to sneak up on a deer). Additionally, it is a great way to bring the family together to practice skills that the whole family will need in any sort of social unrest or collapse. Add camping to the mix and the number of practical skills that can be learned or practiced on a weekend is outstanding. - Sean from COS.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I'm going to talk about an aspect of survival that may or may not have been covered already. I haven't seen it so far in SurvivalBlog, and it only gets a passing nod in many books.

An important aspect of just about everyone's preps involves guns of some sort. You can see a lot of that in shows like "Doomsday Preppers." I'd guess (because I haven't seen every episode and I'm too lazy to do an exact count) that about 90% of the preppers featured on the show have or talk about having guns. Handguns, rifles, shotguns of a wide variety of shapes, sizes and calibers. Some of the episodes give a passing nod to gaining some level of proficiency with them, some episodes showcase the number the prepper has (probably to emphasize the degree of obsession the featured guest has with TEOTWAWKI). JWR's novel "Patriots" talks about some of the characters taking classes at Front Sight. (Although I'd have picked a better school than that, like Gunsite or the Magpul guys).

Few people, blogs, books, or television shows talk about maintaining a level of proficiency. We all kind of talk around it, but it can be a grind, just training, training, training. It gets old quickly, it burns money for ammo (or components--if you're not reloading, shame on you; but that's another show) you'd probably spend on another prep, and it burns that most precious commodity, time.

So, what's a prepper to do? How do you get past the monotony of just training? How do you introduce variety and keep the training dynamic?

I'd recommend getting involved in one or two sports. Yes, sports. Think about getting into either US Practical Shooting Association (USPSA) or International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) matches at your local club.

I know what you're thinking, and you're right. Neither is a substitute for real training. You still need to learn and practice the truly tactical stuff--room clearing, setting sectors of fire, dismounted patrolling, etc. Those are all things neither USPSA or IDPA will teach you.

Both games may also teach you a few bad habits, if you let them. USPSA lets you dump partially loaded magazines wherever you want, stand in doorways, eschew the use of cover or concealment. IDPA mandates slide lock reloads (unless you want the time penalty of a retention reload), considers concealment to be the same thing as cover, and mandates "tactical priority (if you have three targets arrayed near, far, and mid-range from left to right, you have to shoot near, mid, then far, even if it's smarter to shoot left to right to because you can get effective hits faster)."

Both games also have some scoring methods which play to the game aspects (Virginia for USPSA and Limited Vickers for IDPA) and the courses of fire sometimes mandate stupidity (strong hand only shooting when you'd normally use two, etc.).

Finally, both games have ridiculous magazine restrictions to negate competitive advantage for people from states where they don't limit you to a 10-round magazine. I shoot Custom Defensive Pistol in IDPA, where a .45 caliber is mandated, but I do it with a Springfield XD45 (my carry gun). Because I shoot CDP, I'm limited to an 8-round magazine, to negate my advantage over 1911 shooters. I sometimes shoot Production in USPSA with a Springfield XD(m), and am limited to 10 rounds, even though the gun holds 19 rounds of 9mm.

The other thing you're probably thinking is that it's too expensive to get into. USPSA, in particular, has a bad reputation for needing multi-thousand dollar guns and a lot of specialized equipment. IDPA is marginally better, but there is a division where folks shoot guns on the upper end of the cost scale. I can assure you that's not the case. You can get into either game by buying a decent (Lorcins need not apply) gun and making sure you have at least five magazines, a holster, and magazine pouches/holders. You can use a decent concealed carry belt (web or leather, it's your option) and you're good to go.

The last criticism is that both sports are handgun-centric. While that's true, both sports have long gun rules. The constraint is most the fact that few clubs have ranges large enough to accommodate long gun matches. But they are out there. If you can find one, you can get the same benefits with a rifle and shotgun, too.

So, what's the true value?

There are four primary benefits.

First, you get trigger time in a dynamic environment to reduce the monotony of training. I burned about 300 rounds just this past weekend over the course of about six hours and was never bored. I shot two USPSA matches. In most areas of the country, there's a USPSA or IDPA club within driving distance. You can probably find at least two matches a month to shoot for a minimum of expense (most match fees for club matches are less than $20). I live outside of St Louis, and within a three hour drive, I could shoot eight matches in a month, expending right around 2000 rounds each month. That would be a lot of shooting. It would be a lot of quality time with your gun. Learning its strengths and limitations, what kinds of ammo it likes, whether your handloads are worth a damn or not. And you get to do it in a fairly dynamic, and dare I say, fun environment.

Second, you learn to manipulate your chosen gun at speed. Regardless of how seriously you take the competitive aspects of either game, when the timer beeps, Type A people are going to move quickly. I'd wager most preppers are Type A's. Why would you bother to prep and take all of the precautions to protect your preps if you weren't? The clock-induced stress helps you learn how to draw, to do reloads, shoot, and deal with malfunctions when you're not expecting them and when you're distracted by other things. That translates into being much more confident with your gun and having practiced multiple repetitions of doing fundamental things under stress. You learn to manipulate the gun around walls, through ports, off-balance. Do you expect to always have the opportunity to get set in a perfect stance with a perfect grip when things go badly? Neither do I. One of the benefits of IDPA for concealed-carry guys (which I assume most of us are) is you learn to use your self-defense gun from concealment in this environment.

Along with that is the third benefit--handling your gun safely. Above all things, the rules for both sports emphasize safety. In one of the episodes of "American Preppers," there's a prepper dad who took his kids out to the desert to shoot. At some point, this jackwagon blows off his thumb, because he wasn't handling his gun safely. While neither USPSA nor IDPA are, pardon the pun, silver bullets for keeping you from blowing off parts of your body, you learn to be very aware of what condition your gun is in and where the dangerous end is. At the very least, you forfeit the match if you're unsafe. It's also extremely embarrassing. Most important, it's a self-critiquing event--you become a much safer shooter as a result.

Finally, you learn what acceptable combat accuracy really is. Many folks practice shooting groups and shrinking that group size to be as small as possible. But they don't practice getting lead on a target as quickly as possible while still making effective hits. In USPSA, this translates into getting A-zone hits. In IDPA, this translates into being down nothing at the end of the stage. When you're under the clock, you don't have the luxury of absolutely perfect and clear sight alignment. You're getting the front sight post into the notch, knowing there's a cone of vulnerability at the end of your gun for the target, not a laser beam.

Like I said earlier, neither sport is a panacea for all of the training you need to fit with your guns. But neither are they totally useless. IDPA guys like to make fun of USPSA guys by saying IDPA is training for a gunfight. That's nonsense. You can train, train, train to learn how to employ your gun, but you can only learn how to gunfight by doing just that (and I am, in no way, advocating going to look for opportunities to use your guns in a real world situation).

Like martial artist Bruce Lee said, "Absorb what is useful." Shoot a few matches, find out what you're really capable of doing with your guns. I'm a middle-of-the-pack USPSA shooter, so I'm not awesome at anything. But, I can draw my Model 1911 and shoot two aimed, combat-effective shots in less than two seconds, reacting to an external stimulus. I can execute a reload and fire an aimed, combat-effective shot in less than one and a quarter seconds. I instinctively react to malfunctions and go into remedial actions now.

Can you?

I have my sport shooting to thank for that.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Many, many years ago, when I started wearing reading glasses, I found that I wasn't seeing the sights on some of my handguns and rifles as clearly as I would have liked. With age, comes reading glasses for many of us - just a fact of life! Now, while I could see the sights on my rifles - without reading glasses - the sights were a bit fuzzy! With my reading glasses on, the sights were sharp, but the target was blurred. Grrrr!
I did find though, that rifles with peep sights were much easier to get a good sight picture without resorting to reading glasses. I talked to my then optometrist at the about this - and he was also a member of our shooting club, and an avid shooter himself. He told me that there was just "something" about looking through a (rear) peep sight that caused us to get a better sight picture with open sights. I got to thinking about that, and started doing a little unscientific experimenting myself, with military rifles that had peep sights. Well, I'll be, sure enough the rifles with peep sights gave me a better sight picture than other open-type sights, especially the old buckhorn style of open sights.
Skinner Sights are hand crafted in Andy Larsson's small shop in St. Ignatius, Montana, machined from sold steel, stainless steel or brass bar stock. All the parts are hand-fitted to close tolerances. Andy says he works hard to design sights which are not only extremely functional and rugged, but to also complement the firearms they go on. He makes a limited number of high-quality sights, at a reasonable cost to the customer. The sights are inexpensive, but they are not cheaply made, and his customer service is second to none, too. If something goes wrong with your Skinner Sight, at any time, and need to be repaired, return them to Andy and he will make it right - at no charge.
Now, I like shooting a lever-action rifles, like Marlin, Winchester, Rossi and many other brands of lever-action long guns. While not my first choice in a SHTF situation, they would serve to fend-off some bad guys, as well as filling the stew pot, too. But all these guns have Buckhorn-style open rear sight - they are okay, but I can't do my best shooting with these types of sights. Sure, you can scope most of these lever-action rifles, but it detracts from the overall appearance of these guns, in my humble opinion.
I was first told about Skinner Sights by Tim Sundles, who operates Buffalo Bore Ammunition some months ago. Andy Larsson and I had a bit of a time connecting for a while - mostly due to something going wrong with my e-mails to some folks. For some strange reason, a lot of e-mails didn't get delivered since last December. Matter of fact, I'm still getting returned e-mails after more than three months - just didn't get delivered for some reason. Computers and the Internet - they are wonderful inventions, when they work as planned. In any event, Andy Larsson and I finally connected, and he sent me several of his sights for test and evaluation.
I received the Skinner Sights "Tactical" rear sight for a Marlin Model 336 - and Andy also sent along a fiber optic front sight to go with the rear sight. I also laid claim to Skinner Sights, rear sight for the Marlin Model 39 - and Andy also sent me a brass front sight to accompany the new rear sight. Now, the Marlin Model 336 rear "Tactical" sight is a peep sight affair, but it has "wings" on either sight of it - to help protect the peep sight from knock around damage. The sight is fully adjustable for windage and elevation, too. The no-snag profile and protective shape of the sight assures quick-handling and performance in the most demanding situations.
Many military battle rifles and many dangerous game guns, have been fitted with peep sights for the last 70 years. There is a good reason for this. They are the fastest and most accurate iron sights you can put on a rifle. Not all peep sights are equal, either. The Skinner Sights will not shoot loose and afford a great sight picture, too. Skinner sights are easy to install, they fit the current screw holes on the guns they were designed for - and screws are included with all sights.
A very close examination of the "Tactical" rear peep sight for the Marlin Model 336 shows the attention to detail, and how well-made the sights are that Andy Larsson is making. We're talking super-tough sights. No fears of these failing you, period! The front red fiber optic sight that came with the rear sight, gives you an outstanding sight picture - very fast to pick-up, too. What's not to like here?
The Marlin Model 39 sights I received were every bit the equal in high-quality construction as the Marlin Model 336 sights were, with the exception that this rear sight didn't come with protective "wings" - it's just a simple peep sight - well, "simple" isn't being fair - they are very strong and well-made, to be sure. I elected for the blue steel rear sight instead of the brass one - just thought it would give my eyes a better sight picture. Most of the time, Larsson says that this rear sight will work with the factory front sight height. However, if you have problems, consult the Skinner Sights web site, it's a wealth of information that you can use. The removable .096" sight aperture allows marksman to use a fine aperture or a much larger ghost ring. Other size apertures are available from Skinner Sights.
Skinner Sights are designed to give you the same sight picture as the M-16/AR-15 line of military and civilian rifles - as well as many other military rifles. No wonder these sights seem like an old friend to my eyes! When you look through (not "at") a peep sight,  you automatically focus on the front sight - which is what you are supposed to do. It simply makes one a better shooter, and isn't that what we all want to be? Better shots?
What the consumer is getting in a Skinner Sight, is an American-made product, produced in a small shop, by a fellow who really cares about the shooter, and is mighty proud of the products he is turning out. He's also offering an outstanding product, at decent prices. The Marlin Model 336 blued rear peep sight sample I received sells for $75 and the front fiber optic sight is $20 - those are bargains in my book. The Marlin 39 blued rear peep sight sample sells for $59 and the brass front sight is only $16. Again, a bargain if you ask me, for the quality you are getting.
Andy Larsson has a lot of different sights for various rifles, and is developing newer and more exciting models. He's not sitting on his rump - he's busy experimenting with new sights. He's proud of his company, and proud of the quality of sights he's producing. Tim Sundles at Buffalo Bore Ammunition told me I'd really like the Skinner Sights - and I do. I plan on reviewing more models for different long guns in the future, and I'll keep SurvivalBlog readers updated.
If you want a superior sight for your lever-action (and other) rifles, then take a close look at Skinner Sights - they have a web site just loaded with all the information you could possibly want - one of the better web sites to offer the consumer information they want and need if you ask me. Remember, Skinner Sights are American-made.  - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Monday, March 5, 2012

As many SurvivalBlog readers know, I like getting as much value for my hard-earned dollars as I can. One of my favorite knife companies that provides value for my dollars is Columbia River Knife & Tool (CRKT). CRKT has been value driven since their inception about 16 years ago. Their owner, Rod Bremer, continues along those lines today. On top of it all, CRKT has one of the biggest selection of knives and tools on the market today, just check out their latest catalog of more than 95 pages of goodies.
Another thing I like about CRKT is the fact that they were one of the first knife companies to do collaborations with custom knife makers. Rod Bremer is always asking me to keep an eye out for some hot new talent out there, that might be of interest to CRKT. I've introduced Bremer to a couple custom knife makers, and they are now doing collaborations with CRKT. What do you, the consumer, get in a collaboration of this type? Well, you get the opportunity to purchase a knife designed by some of the top talent in the knife making field, and you can get that knife or other tool at a price point that is very affordable. Certainly when compared to buying a custom made knife, at hundreds of dollars more. And, make no mistake, CRKT is producing top-quality knives, at very affordable prices.
CRKT teamed up with Crimson Trace Corporation a year or two ago, to produce a couple of quite handy tools. Crimson Trace is the leader in lasers for firearms, and their lasers, unlike some other makers lasers, are all turned on "instinctively" - meaning you don't have to "think" about turning the laser it - when you grip a firearm properly, the laser comes on. I've tested dozens of Crimson Trace products over the years, and have been very impressed with 'em all. And, for those of you who are aware, the guy handling the PR/Marketing for Crimson Trace these days is Iain Harrison - if his name sounds familiar to you, its because he was the winner of the television show "Top Shot" a couple years ago. I've talked to Iain and have found him to be a very down-to-earth guy, who loves shooting. And, he's doing a great job at Crimson Trace promoting their products.
I chose to review the Crimson Trace/Columbia River Knife & Tool, Picatinny Tool for SurvivalBlog readers for this article. My only regret is, I didn't review this tool sooner than this. Sometimes, reading the copy in a catalog or looking at the photos just doesn't do it for me, so I passed on requesting a Picatinny Tool sample when CRKT first came out with them. That was foolish of me!
If you own an AR-15 style rifle, with (or without) a Crimson Trace laser on it, you need this tool. I'll quickly go over what all is on this tool, there is a knife blade, partially serrated, AR ejector pin punch, 8mm wrench, scraper, hex bit driver with small flat head, Phillips, Torx 20 and Hex 3.32 bits .028 and .50 Allen wrenches and a pocket clip. All of this is in a very compact folding knife that easily clips to your pants pocket. And, you don't need to have a Crimson Trace laser on your AR-15 style rifle to appreciate this Picatinny Tool, either.
If you have a scope on your rifle, the 8mm wrench will help you keep the screws tight on your scope mount. The interchangeable driver bits will also help keep things tight on your rifle as well. If you happen to have a Crimson Trace laser on your AR, then you have two Allen wrenches available to you to adjust the laser's aim.
One part of an AR that most folks completely neglect is keeping the tail portion of their bolt cleaned up. Now, I have lost track of the number of ARs I've seen, that have been well-maintained and properly lubed, with the exception of the tail of the bolt - where carbon builds-up. Sooner or later, that carbon build-up is going to cause a serious malfunction, putting your out of action. I've seen some AR bolts where the carbon build-up on the tail was so thick and so burned on, I couldn't clean it off, no matter how hard I tried - when that happens, it's best to simply replace the bolt. Honestly, it only takes a minute or two, to scrape the carbon off the tail of the bolt each time you clean your guns, so there's no reason not to do it. One thing I've seen people do is use a brash bore brush for cleaning the carbon off the bolt. Don't do this! Many folks have lost their gas rings on the bolt - the brass brush catches on the gas rings, and sure enough one or more of the gas rings goes south, never to be found again - putting your AR out of action until you replace the gas rings - and everyone who owns an AR should have three or more spare gas rings.
The Picatinny Tool's scraper makes quick and easy work when it comes to scraping the carbon build-up off an AR bolt. I know, some folks like to use a fired piece of brass - and it works - but the new Picatinny Tool, with the scraper tool makes the job faster and easier. For this one tool alone, it's worth the price of the Picatinny Tool.
I've also had Crimson Trace lasers get out of adjustment - it doesn't happen often - but it does happen. And, for the life of me, it takes me forever to find the Allen wrench in my pile of Allen wrenches, to find the right size to adjust the aim on the laser. I have several dozen Allen wrenches, and its a chore to find the one I need. With the Picatinny Tool, you have the size you need on-hand, in your pocket, at all times.
The knife blade on the Picatinny Tool is a combo edge, as already mention. The blade length is 2.75", which is handy for a lot of small chores. Ever drop your AR on the ground and get a burr on the pistol grip or the stock? Yeah, I've do it once or twice myself - I don't baby my firearms, they are tools. When you get a burr on one of the plastic parts on your AR, you can use the knife blade to cut that little burr off, so it doesn't irritate your hand or cheek. I know, you say you can take care of this when you get home with a small file - but what if you can't get home? Yeah, that's what I thought...
The fold out pin on the Picatinny Tool - great for clearing jams, or for pushing out stiff take-down pins, too. There's just a lot of different uses for the Crimson Trace/CRKT Picatinny Tool, and you really should have one, if not in your pocket, then at least in your shooter's box or tool kit when you go to the range.
I always like to save the best for last, and that's full bolt retail - it's only $50, and like all CRKT products, you can usually find them deeply discounted at various outlets. I plan on getting a couple more Picatinny Tools for each of my family members - I think it's "that" important to have.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

There are many states and cities where people are not allowed to have modern pistols, without massive red tape by state and local governments. But replicas of old frontier pistols of the cap and ball type slip under most restrictions and can still be ordered through the mail, and no BATF paperwork is required. (Be sure to check you state and local law before ordering one!) But what most people don't realize is the fact that most of these good quality reproductions of the old cap and ball revolvers of the mid-1800s are very accurate and potentially as deadly as any modern cartridge revolver, once you learn how to use and maintain them.
I'm the first to admit, their a real pain in the rear to load and maintain, but once you learn the basics of loading and cleaning the old style revolvers, you have a very good defense weapon, living where options are limited. There are many types and styles that were developed from 1836 into the 1870s, many of the later cap and balls were later converted to cartridge revolvers to speed up the loading process, and allow the pistolero to keep the feel of the original revolver.
Colt was one of the first to build a reliable cap and ball revolver, starting with the Patterson, it was a 5 shot, in .36 caliber, With no attached loading lever, took forever to load, but was quite an advantage over the single shot pistols of prior use and production. But most of Patterson's shortcomings were corrected with the Walker Colt. Which had a 60 grain chamber, in .44 caliber, making it the forerunner of the .44 Magnum in power. Then came Colt's Dragoons first, second, and third model, a scaled down version of the Walker, but still more of a saddle pistol than a hip pistol but maintained the large chamber capacity. Then came the baby Dragoon in 1849, a .31 caliber with about 10 grain chamber capacity, that was very popular in the gold fields of California, because of it's smaller size. Then in 1851, Colt finally got it right with the .36 Navy and the .44 Army.
The 1851 model is one of the most natural pointing handguns I ever picked up, And was the life long favorite of James Butler (Wild Bill) Hickock, in .36 Navy model. They have a 30 grain chamber capacity, same as the .44 Army, which is essentially the same revolver with bigger cylinder holes. Then In 1858, Remington came out with their cap and ball revolver in the same calibers as the Colt's, and about the time of the Civil War, Colt came out with the 1860 model, which has the same size cylinder, but a longer grip for the people with bigger hands. I don't feel the 1860 has near the good feel of the 1851 models, but they are good shooters. At one time or another I've owned each one of the above mentioned reproduction revolvers with the exception of the Patterson.
I have one rule about a pistol before I'll carry it, it has to be accurate enough to hit a rattlesnake in the head out to 25 feet, and each one of these revolvers I've had were well capable of this requirement! Now if you consider going this option, I'd stay away from the brass frame copies, as prolonged shooting will loosen the rod the cylinder rotates around. They make good wall hangers, but I don't feel they are near the quality of the steel frame copies.

And one suggestion I'd make, due to the long time involved in loading these old timers, it's best to buy a pair, if you can afford it. There was good reasoning for the old timer packing two cap and ball revolvers. And if you see the movie, "The Outlaw Josey Wales" Clint Eastwood was packing 4 or 5 of these revolvers. I've got several books on Orrin Porter Rockwell, a frontier marshal in the Utah Territory, according to these books Port carried a pair of 3rd model Dragoon 44s in saddle holsters, a pair of 1851 short barreled .44s on his hips, and a couple Derringers, along with a bowie knife, skinning knife and a rifle in a scabbard on his horse, and there was mention of a 10 gauge shotgun he took along on his buggy trips and wagon, when he was hauling freight and the mail from Missouri to the Utah Territory. Porter was another frontiersman who packed the 1851 models until he died in the 1870s of natural causes. Well, enough history! Lets get to the fun part.
If you buy a cap and ball revolver, you'll also need a nipple wrench, a powder flask, a straight line capper, a good set of gun screwdrivers, a small brass hammer or rawhide mallet. You'll notice there is no back strap on the Colts, the barrel and loading ram are held on the gun with a wedge through the lower portion of the barrel. This wedge is also what keep the gun tight, as it's tapered and  too hard a tap will make the gun too tight for the cylinder to turn. It takes a few times to get the feel of the right wedge position. I'm looking at the copy of the 1851 .36 right now, so that's what I'll use for an example.
The chamber holes are tapered towards the nipples. Most of the Colt style flasks come with a 30 grain spout on top, to throw a powder charge, you put your finger over the end on the spout, turn the flask up side down, open the lever on the side, filling the spout with powder, then release the lever, turn the flask right side up and the spout should be full of powder. The tighter you press the ball into the cylinder on the wad and powder charge, the better the explosion, remember the chamber holes are tapered. Before I learned about the Bore Butter soaked wads, about 18 shots was all I could get out of a pistol, the powder fouling would get so bad, it was hard to cock the hammer. But the wad serves two purposes, keep the fouling down, and prevents cross fire, I'll get into that one later.
At this point let me inject that I file the spout down to where it throws a 22 grain charge for .36 and 25 grain charge for .44 caliber, as I use a felt wad soaked on T-C Bore Butter over the powder, then ram the ball down on top. Then after all six chambers are loaded, use the straight line capper to install the cap on the nipple.  Never put the cap on the nipple first, as you ram the ball home, the flash hole acts as a vent hole to allow the air out of the chamber hole when loading. Then on the back of the cylinder you'll notice there are little pins on the islands between the nipples, and notice a small groove in the bottom of the hammer where it strikes the cap. Set the hammer down on one of these pins, a very good safety feature, and it can be carried safely with all six chamber holes loaded, and doesn't have to have an empty chamber to set the hammer on, as with the Colt SAA .45.

You'll notice there isn't too much for sights on these revolvers, a post similar to a shotgun bead for the front sight, and a notch in the top of the hammer for rear sight. Most of the frontiersman that used these pistols were point shooters, shooting half way between the hip and shoulder, but unconsciously sighting down the barrel. Then If you have seen any of the old western movies made back in the 1930's, you may have noticed most of the old cowboys threw the pistol back over their shoulder to cock it, then looked like they were throwing lead! Well, by cocking the gun back over the shoulder the spent percussion would fall off the nipple and down behind you, and not fall off down into the action and lock up the action!
I had an uncle that shot pistol this way, "throwing lead" I'd throw a marble out and he'd shoot it just as it hit the ground, he tried to teach this method to me, but I never could get the hang of it! But he never aimed and never missed a marble! But this way of shooting originated from the cap and ball days.
Now the dirty part... Cleaning these pistols isn't easy, make sure all chamber holes are empty, then take the mallet or brass hammer, and tap the wedge out to the left, the wedge should have a little spring retainer that has to be depressed to completely take it out, but it will come out far enough to remove the barrel forward and off, you might use the loading lever to press the barrel off if it's tight, just turn the cylinder to where the lever in on the wall between the holes.  Sometime the fouling makes this come off with difficulty! Then slip the cylinder off.
Take the nipple wrench and remove all 6 nipples, I usually take the nipples and drop them into a cup of hot soapy water and swirl it around. (Incidentally, I take the nipples and chuck them up in a drill and take a file or fine emery paper and sand the nipple to where the cap will slip on without cracking and can be slipped off with a fingernail), Then take a black powder solvent Hoppes #9 Plus or TC #13 and swab the barrel out, then swab the chamber holes out, wipe the rest of the gun down with the solvent. I've always use Hoppes #9 but any solvent you prefer will work. Make sure you dry the holes in the cylinder really well, light solvent then wipe dry.
Now take the nipples out of the hot soapy water wipe them down good with solvent. Blow through each one making sure the flash hole is dry and open, then I take a small drop of Hoppes and drip it on the nipple threads, careful not to get it into the flash hole, then screw them back into the cylinder snug but not tight, and once again holding the cylinder up to the light and make sure all flash holes are clear then reinstall the cylinder in the center rod and snap the barrel back in place and tap the wedge back in place, and your ready to load it again! About every  5th or 6th shooting, I disassemble the whole pistol and put all the parts except the grips, into hot soapy water and clean them all as above mentioned! Then put it all back together, without any extra parts left over, don't laugh, it happens sometimes!
Note: Some Italian copies have #10 nipples and some have #11 nipples, be sure if you get two pistols they both have the same size nipples. I've had some that the nipples were very crude, and half way between sizes, these are the one I sand down to fit the cap properly then coat them with cold blue to prevent rusting.
Now for the cross fire. This is when the ball isn't seated tight enough, or the sprue from a cast ball, isn't seated straight up when rammed in with the loading lever, or too much gap between cap and nipple. One old collector told me it was common for the originals to have hairline cracks between chambers, from improper cleaning over the years, causing crossfire's when fired! But it's when two or more chambers go off at once! I have never experienced this mishap, but have talked to people who have, and it's very scary, especially when all 6 go off!  back in the 1960s when I first started shooting cap and ball revolvers, my buddies told me to put Crisco over the end of the holes after you seat the ball to prevent crossfire's. Well out shooting on a hot summer day, I had Crisco running out of the holster, down my pant leg down into my boot. So rather than put up with this mess, I went to a .454" diameter ball mold instead of the regular .451" diameter, shearing off a lead ring from every ball seated. This was a real bugger to seat, as I put the bottom of the grip on my thigh when I ram the balls home, and by the end of the day, I always had a bruise on my leg! Then when I started going to the Mountain Man rendezvous events, I learned about the felt wads preventing crossfire's, then learned about the Bore Butter cutting down the fouling. Ahh, back to the .451" ball and no more bruises on the leg!
I had to get a pair of 1851 Navy .36 calibers just to see what Hickock's fascination was with this model. Less recoil right off, and just as accurate as the .44s, a real pleasure to shoot. Plus I can buy .375" Balls instead of having to cast them. You can also buy the .451" balls, but I have always cast my own. I can see that some of the shots Hickock was supposed to have made with these guns were very possible.
One word of warning, all these replicas are made strictly for black powder, or Pyrodex, never, ever use anything but black powder, as they will not take any nitrocellulose powders, the pressure is much too great. Black powder comes in 4 granularities, FG which is Cannon or large bore musket grade, FFG, which is rifle grade, FFFG which is pistol grade and small caliber rifles, And FFFFG which is the finest grade priming powder for flintlocks. I just buy FFFG and use it in everything from .58 caliber rifles down to the .31 Colt pocket pistol, and use it in some cartridge rifles and pistols. Cuts down on confusion, and with reasonable charges, works well in all calibers.
Now don't get the impression that I'm strictly a cap and ball pistolero. I bought my first Colt 1911A1 .45 automatic when I was 16, and have never been without one since! Also love the S&W line of revolvers. But knowing what cap and ball revolvers are capable of, this might be a good alternative for the peppers who live in the non-gun zones, as these guns seem to slip through the cracks in the liberal laws. And they are inexpensive to shoot, for the price of a box of .45 ammo today, you can get a couple hundred shots for the same price with a cap and ball.

I recommend only buying the top of the line models. Though I haven't bought from them, I see Cabela's sells quite a few of these models. I get most of my supplies from Dixie Gun Works in Union City, Tennessee. There are several mail order houses that handle cap and ball revolvers, just judge the quality by the price. I have also picked up good quality cap and ball revolvers at a good price at pawn shops.

This might be a good alternative for some. And of course they are a lot of fun to shoot, if you are allowed to shoot at all in your locale. - J.M.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

I have recently been introduced to survivalism, preparedness, and TEOTWAWKI - The End Of The World As We Know It.  It was my father who first got me interested in the subject (although I had stumbled upon a survivalism web site years ago when web searching, of all things, how to cook and eat giant salamander - more on that later, possibly).  I have, over the past couple months, picked up lots of cool skills.  For example, I can now cook food that didn't come in a box! That is a big deal.

I have also learned to shoot the paper that the target is on (most of the time) and I have begun taming the deer that live in the nearby woods.  It pays to plan ahead.
That said, I realized that I do have one thing going for me that, sadly, most Americans don't.  From 2007 to 2011 I worked at an athletic club.  During my time there, I learned everything from the correct way to pick up a treadmill with one hand and vacuum under it (yes, that IS possible) to how to make a positively sinful chocolate ganache that is also low-calorie, and, with a little stretching of the truth, you can even claim it is healthy.  All of which, mind you, is my very elaborate introduction to my survival advice: fitness

I know that working out is hard.  It can be boring.  Probably, if you are anything like me, you are literally thinking "I don't wanna!"  Well, you don't have to be a muscle man to be fit. Me?  I'm 5'9", and weigh around 145 pounds and, BTW, I'm a girl.  That said, I'm more than halfway to my goal of 50 consecutive, standard push-ups!  When I started working toward my goal I could do... yes, I'll admit it: 3.  Three push-ups.  That lands right up there in the healthy range for a toddler. So what did I do?  What should you do?

1) Start Small.

No matter what your goal is (and having a goal is a great idea) you need to start small.  Do something easy.  Put 1 less teaspoon sugar in your coffee or tea.  Stop buttering your toast.  Circle your couch once before you sit on it.  I'm not kidding.  The little stuff makes a big difference.
I started by not putting sugar in my tea.  I lost 5 pounds in less than a month.  That is literally the only thing I changed that month.  Not kidding.  Of course, I was a 3 teaspoons of sugar girl, so it made a big difference.  I cut out butter on my toast - which sucked because toast is so dry without butter.  I ended up not even eating toast.  Suddenly, 10 pounds of body weight was gone. 
I used to eat a lot of toast. 

Choose a specific plate, or bowl, to be yours.  You can label it if you want.  Put all the food you want on it once per meal, and then leave a little on the plate when you "finish" eating. 

You care about your health, right?  Eat three meals a day.  No more, no less. If you skip a meal you teach your body that you are literally starving to death.  Then, anything you eat gets magically turned into fat.  Fat, technically, is like canned goods for your body.  Unfortunately, your body has lost its can opener, which means before it figures out how to use all that fat, it is going to eat (not joking) your muscles to stay alive.  So, no skipping meals.

Start switching foods you only kind of like (or foods you like) that are bad for you with good foods.  Anything you eat that contains sugar can be replaced by a fruit.  Fruits are awesome.  Guess what?  Fruit is a natural food.  That makes it healthy.

Replace any carbohydrates you eat with vegetables.  My favorite vegetables are potatoes, because they are also a carbohydrate!  (Wait a minute...) 
Onions are yummy if you cook them.  Garlic is good, too.  There are all sorts of health benefits for onions and garlic, but I like them for the taste.  Celery is one of the few foods that burns more calories to eat than it contains. 

One more tip for starting small:  eat meat. I know animals are cute and most of them are furry and they generally have eyes that stare at you (what else would they use them for?) but - meat is the ultimate food.  It contains protein, which makes muscles and bones, and, yes, it even feeds your brain.  You brain is pretty much the most important part of your body.  You will die without it.
Protein is most easily accessed by eating meat.  Yes, you can find protein in other places, like legumes (beans) gluten (wheat) and, tofu (soy) but get this: meat is the only source of complete protein.

Beans, grains, and nuts contain partial proteins.  Think of it as puzzle pieces.  If you get all of the pieces, maybe your body can flip them around and put them together.  Possibly.  If you only get some, though, your body just throws it away. Meat has complete proteins.  The full puzzle, already put together.  Unless you carefully pair incomplete proteins, they are nutritionally incomplete, and your body cannot utilize them. Fortunately, meat is delicious.

Oh, and in case I forget to bring this up later: quit eating so many grains. I know bread is awesome.  I love carbohydrates too, but they will make you fat.  We use grains to fatten livestock like cows, sheep, chickens, and all those other tasty animals.  It works just the same when we eat it.  Unless you want to get fat (which, I suppose, is one way of preparing for food shortages...) you should stop eating grains. Instead, eat fruits and vegetables which taste good and contain vitamins.  If you're anything like me, you will be much happier getting vitamins from food than taking them in pills.

2) No Slacking Off

You need to make a commitment to yourself, to your health, and to your body.  That means no slacking off when you "don't feel like it".  (Okay, fine, you can skip working out Sundays.)  Make your health choices into a habit.  Every morning, every evening, or every whenever-you-have-time-during-the day, you need to get in a little something extra.
I started out with a few push-ups, crunches, a little jump-roping and a whole lot of asking myself why I was doing this.  I have skipped a total of 5 days.  (That is approximately one out of every ten days, and then an extra because honestly I just didn't feel like it today so I am writing about it instead.  That counts, right?)
Even if you don't have time to do your full routine, do something.

I mentioned rope jumping before.  This is important.  Jump ropes are cheap, and people give them to thrift stores regularly.  Buy one, now. The ideal jump rope is long enough that you can stand on it and the handles will come up to your arm pits.  If it is a little long you can tie knots in the end.  If it is a little short, well, that's harder but you can deal with it. 

Jump ropes take up little space (about as much space as one shoe) and you can use them almost anywhere.  I bring mine along when I travel, and get out of the car to jump every time we stop for gas.  You can jump indoors (unless you have annoying neighbors who complain about the noise) or on pavement, or on grass.  You can jump any time.  There are also jump rope tricks.  I watched little kids do a major jump rope performance that involved flips in the air, multiple people per rope, multiple ropes per person, jumping rope while doing push-ups and, of course, gratuitous amounts of 1980s era rock music.  For the first time in my life, I was jealous of third graders. So, jump ropes are a great investment in your health, and if you keep at it you can astound people will your abilities.  (There is probably a way to convert your jump rope into a weapon for TEOTWAWKI, too, but I haven't learned that yet.)

By the way - you don't have to do an "exercise" to work out.  Anything that uses your muscles counts as strength training.  That means when you haul wood, or carry things upstairs, you can count it as your workout.  Anything that works your heart and lungs is aerobics.  So, running, walking the dog, etc. 
Plus, you can always do a little of what my dad calls "Rambo Skills."  This is anything that you can picture needing to do in a survival situation.  So, like, climbing trees (presumably to survey the land) or punching a punching bag or karate (or pseudo karate). 

Practice presenting the pistol from several different positions. You know, those guys in the cowboy movies make it look easy, but it's tough.  That gun gets heavy fast.

Use an unloaded gun that you've disabled.  [JWR Adds: Do you own a Glock? Then buy a training barrel. That is very inexpensive insurance for 100% safe practice. You can also buy a special dry fire training trigger from Southwest Shooting Authority. These eliminate the need to cycle the slide each time between dry fire presses. The same company also does some great grip reduction work.]

Pick a target with a safe backstop. Practice drawing from the holster, bringing the gun up, and lining up the sights. 

Just like the push-ups, you need to train your body.  You are working on coordination, yes, but you are also training your muscles for strength and endurance.  The goal is that you will be able to automatically bring your gun up (through kinesthetic memory) to aim at the target you are looking at.  Look.  Raise the gun.  Aimed. 
Practice this with open sights, and with a scope.  Yes, you can do this with a scope.  The magnification doesn't change how you hold the gun, it just changes how far you can see when you hold the gun.

My dad can bring it up and have it aimed exactly.  I can't, yet, but if I practice enough, just like with the push-ups, I can.
Plus, just from the little practice I've done, I know it works your deltoids (shoulder.  Ladies!  You want this) and pectorals (chest.  Men!  This is for you) and that one along the side of your ribs that I can never remember the name of (everyone wants to work that muscle). 
BTW - look at your target, not your gun.  Move the gun so that the sights line up with the target without shifting your gaze.  You need to be able to trust your aim, and aim quickly.  That 6-point buck isn't gonna wait all day.  Neither are the zombies.  Just saying.

3) Build On It

I started with 3 push-ups.  I did some crunches and jump roping too, but push-ups were my weakness, so that's what I focused on.  On Day One I did three standard push-ups.  Then I collapsed on the floor for a while, and then I did a couple one-knee push-ups,  a few both-knee push-ups.
Now, Day Forty-Two, I can do 30 standard push-ups consecutively!  That means no breaks.

Add a little more each week or so, and you can reach your goal too.
A bit of advice about building up: your body doesn't understand math.  This is pretty cool, actually.
You know those light bulbs that are 50, 100, and 150 watts?  When you go from low-level to middle, it seems like a quite perceptible difference, but when you go from middle to high, it's like "Meh, so what?"  Ever wonder why that is? This is why:  Your body sees 50 watts.  Okay.  So far so good.  Then, you see 100 watts and that is twice as much! Then 150 watts is only half-again as much, which seems marginal.
When you up your reps (repetitions) you need to factor this in.  Going from 4 push-ups to 5 push-ups is going to seem the same, to your body, as going from 20 push-ups to 25 push-ups.  Both times you are increasing by the same percentage.  Your brain knows that 1 more push-up is much different from 5 more push-ups, but you muscles don't!  Remember that.

Once you decide that your workout is easy enough to amp it up a little (when you start to feel bored while counting your reps) take the time to do a little math.  Pick a percentage that feels safe (like 10%) and figure out how many reps that is.  The next time you are working out, add that many. Re-do your math calculation each time you increase your reps.  That way you can trick your body into doing more for you.

Oh, and if push-ups are too boring, then stand up between each one.  This is what Uncle Sam does to train Navy Seals. It works, too.  Stand up nice and tall, then get down on the ground.  Flat on the ground.  Then get up, and stand up nice and tall.  I wanna hear your back crack.

4) Find Yourself Some Awesome Music

Because, believe me, if you listen to fun stuff when you work out, you feel happier, and less bored.  The optimum music choice is between 100 and 150 beats per minute.  "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees is 100 beats.  It is also the theme song for CPR so it should definitely be on your workout tunes list.

5) Don't Let Go

I'll admit it, sometimes I just don't want to work out.  I figure, I can do 30 push-ups, so I deserve a break, right?  Wrong.  If I let myself skip a day, or two days, or maybe, you know, like, just a week... next thing you know I'll be back down to three push-ups.  It's tempting to slack off, but you have to be tough on yourself.  Someday this work is gonna pay off.  Trust me.

Friday, March 2, 2012

In regard to the recent SurvivalBlog article The Defensive Pistol, by W.R.B.: In the aspect of training, he states that you should not to seek out local trainers
Well, as of last December the NRA broke the 80,000 mark of certified instructors, and while the majority teach the basic rifle, pistol and or shotgun courses, there are a number of them that teach more advanced courses.
NRA offers Personal Protection courses (read that as defensive handgun) for both in the home, and outside the home.
A limited number will soon be offering a new course titled Defensive Pistol, which is a pretty intense pistol fighting course.
It may well pay to check out your local trainers, and see what they offer. I would rather see people get some training locally, than none at all, if they can't afford one of the expensive schools, and some of those local guys can be pretty sharp.
I've never been to Front Sight, or Gunsite, but I've trained with some of the bigger names, including Massad Ayoob, Blackwater, Todd Jarrett, Larry Vickers and Ken Hackathorn. There is nothing wrong with professional training.
But if your skill set is lacking, you can be over your head very quickly in a "professional class", whereas a local trainer can help you build a strong foundation, that when you take an advanced class you actually come away with something.
Something else the large schools have a formula, that they teach classes by, it is like a cookie cutter, same approach to every student, a friend of mine who is in a wheelchair attended the school that "trained" 60,000 people in one year, they just put him on the line and expected him to do everything the rest of the class did, ever try lateral movement in a wheelchair?
For preppers on a budget, can they afford $900-$1500 for 3-5 days of training?, plus transportation, lodging, meals, and ether shipping or paying above normal prices for ammo on site? When there may be a local trainer or a regional school a couple hour drive away that will charge half that?
There are also nationally known trainers that travel, Tom Givens from Rangemaster, Massad Ayoob, John Farnham, Ron Pincus, are some I can think of off the top of my head. If you do not have to buy airline tickets, and pay for rental cars you might afford more than one class. It is also good to take courses from different instructors, if you keep going to same guy, you keep learning the same thing.
The old axiom "You get what you pay for" applies to firearms training, I'm always suspect of free or lowball priced classes.
Quantity does not make up for quality
As to firearms choices, while Glock is a good choice, it is not the only choice, and as long as the caliber is 9mm or bigger you'll be okay, you just need to learn your gun.
As to caliber I highly recommend 9mm, for several reasons, one being price, if the ammo is affordable you'll practice more, 40 S&W cost about 40% more and 45 is about 70% more costly. Also less felt recoil, the less recoil the less you'll have a tendency to flinch. Also over years and years of shooting that repeated recoil does a number on your joints. Todd Jarrett has pretty much retired from professional shooting his wrists and elbows have worn out.
"It is not what you hit them with, it's where you hit them with it, that counts"
"The purpose of fighting is to win. There is no possible victory in defense. The sword is more important than the shield and skill is more important than either. The final weapon is the brain. All else is supplemental. " - John Steinbeck
You will be well served to put as much time into this, as you do shooting, and I'd recommend a starting point of reading "On Combat", by my friend Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (retired), as he says "Amateurs talk hardware, professionals talk software".
The mind is the ultimate weapon, the gun is just a tool, not much different than a socket wrench, or a car jack.
But you have to use the tool on a regular basis to become proficient with it, if you only drove your car twice a year, you would likely not be a good driver, if you only shoot twice  a year you likely won't be skilled in the use of arms.
75 percent of the learning takes place after the event, unless you take what you learned in class and apply it to your training, you will only get 25 percent of what you paid for.
As I tell my students I sow the seeds, it is up to them to water and fertilize what they learned, for it to come to fruit.
As I am one of the "local" guys, two retired cops came here, both had 30 years in, and both said they learned more from me in three days than they had in 30 years of law enforcement. - J.D.F.


As a Certified Instructor in more than a dozen disciplines for more than 25 years, I agree with much of what W.R.B. wrote. I do however, take issue with more than a bit of it. 

The large corporations charging hundreds, or thousands of dollars per class, which you boast of traveling to, and attending several times a year, are beyond the reach of many who may be seeking help and guidance here. To imply that only they are capable of proper training, is an insult to the innumerable Instructors who may not have the corporate presence, but are equally, or better qualified nonetheless. I do not believe that the thousands of students who have taken my self defense course's over the years are any less capable of defending themselves, or protecting those for whom they are responsible, than you apparently think you are. Practice is the key to performance. You've been taught that, and they are taught that. There is far more to self defense training than putting 1,000 rounds downrange in the shortest period of time with the most expensive gun you can afford. One of the major differences is, my students have access to me 24/7. If they require help, or guidance, they simply have to call. Any day. Any night. Anytime.

Do you have the home phone numbers of your very expensive corporate instructors? Will they speak with you in the middle of the night, should you need them? I think not. But I can assure you, were one willing to do so, you would be receiving a bill in the mail for their time, and the inconvenience you caused them.

A word to the wise... There is a glaring and distinct difference between confidence, and overconfidence. In my experience, the latter will usually get you killed.

[Some deleted, for brevity.] Regurgitating the mantra of the corporate entities and framing it as "advice," does not, in and of itself, constitute the necessary credentials to dismiss, or discount those who are not national corporate entities, but that are equally qualified. You do the readers here a disservice, and deserve to have been taken to task for it. - R.F.D.

This is in response to the article "The Defensive Pistol" by W.R.B.  I must respectfully disagree with W.R.B.'s statement that "full metal jacket ammo is just fine."  My first point is this:  in recent ballistic tests, 9mm ball out-penetrated .223 bullets in sheet rock and ballistic gel.  I think it is safe to say that it will perform exactly the same in humans.  I wholeheartedly agree with W.R.B. that we must get training.  But I find it hard to believe that any competent trainer would miss such an obvious oversight in ammunition choice.

I just recently completed a DTI course with John Farnham, and this exact issue was discussed in his opening lecture.  We do not get to pick where our gunfight will happen.  What if it is at your local mall?  What if it is in a restaurant?  Or at the parking lot of a State Fair?  These are all densely populated locations in which our full metal jacket round could over-penetrate our perpetrator and kill an innocent bystander.  

You are responsible for your bullet and its final resting place.  Alan Korwin and Mas Ayoob have educated the defensive shooter adequately in this regard.  You will be prosecuted and serve jail time if you can't articulate why you chose full metal jacket ammo, when defensive ammo is provided for the marketplace, for these very reasons, i.e. over-penetration.  You are carrying a defensive handgun to stop an attacker as quickly as possible.  Your life and the lives of your family may depend on a one-shot stop.  Corbon, Hornady Tap, and Speer Gold Dot defensive ammunition are fast-expanding ammo designed to stop the fight.  Full metal jacket was never designed to be used in a fighting or defensive gun, except as outlined by the Geneva Convention (which is why our soldiers are forced to use it.) 

I think W.R.B. needs to do some legal homework.  He has the tactical part down, but has missed the legal implications of carrying the wrong ammo.  This could be very misleading to a lot of people!

Thanks for providing the best blog on the net! - Belle Ringer

Thursday, March 1, 2012


My purpose in writing this piece is to further ones knowledge on the subject of the defensive pistol as a survival tool.  To say there is one best gun or best caliber would be ignorant of the facts. To quote Ignatius Piazza of Front Sight: “Any gun will do, if you will do.”  There is more to it than just the gun.

I will focus on what I have learned during the course of my life as to what the role of the defensive pistol is or would be in a SHTF situation, what types of weapons and calibers are best suited, and what you need to do to be prepared to defend yourself.

I do not consider a SHTF situation to necessarily be the end of the world as we know it.  I consider a SHTF situation to be any situation that requires immediate and possibly decisive action on your part, to survive and/or protect your family and/or friends. In other words “your back is against the wall and if you don’t do something... you’re gonna die.”

Role of the Defensive Pistol:

The normal role of a defensive pistol is as a Secondary Weapon System used to back up a Primary Weapon System, or more precisely, a rifle.

It has been said many times that you use a pistol to fight your way to your rifle. I see this as a somewhat limited scenario, and something that applies in a war zone or other militaristic venue or even a cataclysmic event. Point being there is other shooting going on around you so you need to rifle up as soon as possible, and barring that your pistol will have to do.

In today’s everyday real world of McDonalds and Wal-Mart, you must consider that you may not be able to get to a rifle when you need it most.  You can’t very well go through life with a rifle slung over your shoulder, and it will probably be at least as far away as your car in the parking lot which isn’t going to do you much good if the lead is already flying. Your pistol or more properly your wits will have to do.

Avoidance is always the best remedy to a potentially deadly situation. Being alert and aware of your surroundings at all times can and will keep you much safer than any gun will.  Knowing escape routes and being ready to exit at the drop of a hat when the first signs of trouble manifest, are much better ideas than having to carry a gun full time. Even if you have a gun, exiting stage left and avoiding using said gun will get you out of trouble better than engaging in a gunfight. Especially if you have your family with you, as it is not a real sound survival strategy to include your wife and kids in a gunfight.

Keep in mind that if you use your gun your life will be changed forever and there is the distinct possibly that you may even end up in jail as a result.  The only time you can use a gun to defend yourself is if your life or the life of your loved ones is being threatened by a credible threat. In your home that is an easy call, at Wal-Mart it is a very different story.  If it is proven that there were other viable options for you to avoid this confrontation you may be held responsible for just plain killing someone.  I live in Southern California and this is a very distinct possibility as we tend to have a little more liberal mindset in our government and justice system. Always consider that the liberal mindset will still convict you even if you were doing the right thing, just to make a point.

A word to the wise here, to repeat. Avoidance is always your best option!

If all else fails and you need to go for your sidearm because you are out of options, it would probably be a good idea if you had a reliable one, in a major caliber, that you actually know how to use, and are willing to use.

What type of gun should I have?

Well, you need to have a gun that you are very good with, that you have trained extensively with, and can actually hit what you’re aiming at, with. Under pressure!

This eliminates about 98% of the people who carry guns right out of the gate. Re-read the point above about “avoidance” as the most viable course of action.

No matter which gun you have, when the bell rings you will revert to 50% or less of your capability on your best training day if it was just yesterday. If it was several months ago, deduct some more.

If you are a 90% shooter at the range under time pressure then you will be a 45% shooter under dire stress. This is not the end of the world as 50/50 is not horrible odds. Do remember you are betting your life here. However if you are a 50% shooter at the range you need to seek other options as at 25% effectiveness you are giving away a 3:1 advantage to your opponent and divine intervention maybe needed to save you. Betting on this option to prevail is not a real sound survival strategy.

Here’s a hard fact.  If you are untrained then you have no business whatsoever carrying a gun!

You are a danger to yourself and more properly, to others.  I have nothing but contempt for the individual that thinks they have got what it takes when they haven’t got a clue! They haven’t even been to a school or have only been to a range and shot the gun a few times and then get a Concealed Carry Permit and start carrying a gun.  They are uneducated and dangerous!  I actually know people like this and I can tell you without reservation they are all fools!

I used to believe that I could think my way through any situation like this. I’m a smart guy, and I can solve problems quickly etc.  I was so wrong!  In fact, when faced with a simple tactical scenario the first time I failed miserably, so miserably in fact that I almost cried. And this was just a training drill!  What it taught me is the only way to live through this type of event is to train often and with good supervision. Learn how to cope with the stress involved.

I go to Front Sight training academy two or three times a year, and I really need to go more.

But, I digress, so back to the topic of what kind of gun to use:

For a defensive pistol I recommend a semi-auto pistol in either .40 S&W or .45 ACP for men and 9mm or larger for women depending on the individual’s ability to control the recoil and most women can handle a .40 caliber gun easily.  As far as the brand I’ll make it real simple.  Buy a Glock! I’m sure there are those that will argue for many other brands of guns. However the one to get first is a Glock.  More police use Glocks than all the other brands combined, and there are several very good reasons why.

First and most important, the Glock pistol is by far the easiest pistol to train someone with.  You can only do three things to a Glock.  You can insert a magazine, you can rack the slide, and you can pull the trigger. There are no safeties to disengage (other than the trigger which takes care of itself), and finally there is only one weight of trigger pull to master. You draw the gun from the holster and fire. It is the same way every time.  The last thing you need is a complex gun that requires you to have a long double action trigger pull of 10-15 pounds for the first shot and then a light single action trigger for the rest of your shots.   You can pretty much guarantee giving away your first shot.  With the Glock you simply draw the gun, acquire the target, and press the trigger. You do the same thing every time. This breeds familiarity and familiarity breeds competence. This competence comes quicker with a Glock than any other pistol. It is as simple as that.

There are certainly other similar guns, S&W M&P, Springfield Armory XD, Ruger SR9, but they are all just different versions of the original.  Believe me Gaston Glock got it right, and got it right first.  The Glock is a tool, made by a tool maker.  Most don’t know the Glock 16 was an Entrenching Tool made for the Austrian Army .That’s how he got in, in the first place. The Glock 17 was the first gun he ever designed. Once you learn how to run a Glock then you can branch out into other more complicated firearms, however by that time you will probably see no reason to do it. For the intended purpose there is nothing better.

Whatever gun you chose you need to shoot it a lot and you need to get professional training to learn how to run the gun and use it correctly.  This takes practice and there is absolutely no other way. When bad happens you will not have time to think, your actions must be rote.


Yes, you need professional training.  You need to get it from the best possible source.  I recommend one of the large firearms training academies.

Virtually anyone can be taught to operate a pistol proficiently in as little as 3-5 days at a firearms training venue such as Gunsite, Front Sight, Sig-Sauer etc. Note: I did not mention your local firearms instructor. You need to go somewhere that teaches lots of people how to shoot, and the reason why is because they have more experience teaching all types of people than your local guy does. They can break through even the most stubborn of bad habits, and produce someone who is able to draw his gun and fire two well placed shots into a target in less than 2 seconds every time.  Your local guy may be able to do this, but face it; you are not going to be training with him 8 hours a day for 3-5 days, and shooting 800-1,000 rounds of ammo. You may get 1-2 hours a week at best. You need the intensive training that only a large outfit can deliver

The key is intensive and consistent training, without attitude, done in a specific sequence of events that takes you from not knowing which end of the gun the bullets come out of, to very proficient quickly and safely, and produces consistent results.  Any of the above mentioned outfits can train you up to a competent level in very short order. As an example Front Sight ran 60,000 people through firearms training classes last year alone.  You can’t argue with that kind of success and those numbers.

I can’t stress this next point enough.

I personally feel that if you are not willing to spend the time, effort and money to get trained up to a competent level you have no business carrying a defensive gun or for that matter even owning one.  Guns are serious tools and if you are going to own one you need to know how to use it safely and effectively.  This does not mean having the guy who sells you the gun show you how to load it.  This means getting professional training.

I have a neighbor who is the Armorer for our counties Sheriffs Department. He tells me that they can not even get the deputies to shoot more than once or twice a year because the county won’t pay for ammo.  This to be the height of stupidity.  You have people who have chosen to carry a gun for a living and yet they are next to incompetent when using it, and not willing to spend a few bucks to improve! The same holds true of the concealed carry person. He needs to shoot at least once a month (after receiving training) and get retrained at least once a year at a school to maintain proficiency.  I feel you have a moral obligation to be proficient if you are going to carry a gun full time.

After all it’s your life you are protecting.

Believe me when I say those skills you get by going to a training facility, are very perishable skills indeed.  I had not been to a pistol class for nearly a year when we finally went last November. (We took rifle classes last year, instead)  It took me until noon the second day and 300 rounds of ammo to get back to where my draw was consistent and I was getting good hits. If I had gone to another pistol class earlier in the year then I would have been back up to speed by lunch the first day. Believe me it goes away fast and the older you are, the faster it goes.

A word about ammo:  

In my region, Wal-Mart has the cheapest prices on ammo.  You do not need high dollar hollow points in your gun.  You do not need Personal Defense ammo that is $30 for 10 rounds.  Regular FMJ bullets will do just fine.  I think most people would agree that if you hit anyone with anything it is going to ruin their day. But there is a reason why you are taught to shoot twice into the chest. That reason is that only 65% of first round hits do the job, so twice that is 130% which is a nice safety margin.  Solids work just fine for this.

If that doesn’t work then you are trained to put out the lights.  It is called “failure to stop.”  A round between the eyes stops anyone.

I want to talk about Mindset:

Your mindset is everything. Everyone no matter how sophisticated or crude has a moral code they live by. How you choose to live your life may not  be understood by someone else. For some, killing you is no big deal. For you, killing a person could mean mental anguish the likes of which you are unprepared for. My point here is that you need to have all the moral stuff figured out well before you need to fight for your life.

You must have already established the lines in the sand that will result in you fighting with deadly force. You will not have time to mull this over when you are dodging bullets. It must be pre-ordained, and it must be rote.  Once you start fighting you must never quit until you have won, if you start to lose you must fight harder.  You must etch this statement  into your mind, and live by it! 

“I will never quit!”

Your life and the lives of your loved ones depend on it.


The last component of mindset is called “willing”

You have to be willing to kill someone.

Rule #1 of firearms safety is “treat all guns as if they were loaded”

Rule # 2 is “never point a gun at something you are not ‘willing to destroy’”

So if you are not willing to kill someone you shouldn’t point a gun at them.

If you are not willing to point a gun at them, then you might just as well leave it at home.

If this is true of you, then refer to “avoidance” above. It is your only viable option.

Always remember Your best survival tool is your mind.” You’ll always have that with you when you need it!     God willing.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Much has been written about what particular guns are best for home defense and SHTF, but I haven’t seen much about taking care of these weapons when gunsmiths are not around.  Let’s look at what typically causes firearms to fail. 

As a gunsmith, the main cause of firing malfunctions I see is dirt.  This can be crud built up from dust collecting in oil forming a grease-like substance, or rust, or build-up from burned powder (carbon), or residue from the casings or shells.

The second most encountered problems stem from magazines, or broken or weak springs.  Lost pins or screws, and broken extractors or firing pins tend to be the next [most common] group of failures.

So how do you prepare for these problems?  First, if you don’t have an owner’s manual for your gun, go to the manufacturer’s web site and download one.  It will give you information on proper operation, how to field strip the gun for cleaning, and lubrication instructions.  If it is an older gun, you may be able to find a manual at  The next document you should have is an exploded parts list and instructions on disassembly and assembly of the firearm.  Many of these are also available at 

The next thing you will need is a good cleaning kit.  Be sure you have lots of patches, and extra bore brushes for your particular caliber.  A chamber brush is also helpful.  There are all types of bore cleaner solvents.  Pick your flavor.  Here is a recipe for a great bore cleaner that you can make up yourself.  It was invented by C.E. ''Ed'' Harris. You can always bottle some of it for barter later.  It is the widely-used “Ed’s Red” (ER).   This cleaner has an action very similar to standard military issue rifle bore cleaner, such as Mil-C-372B. Users report it is more effective than Hoppe's for removing plastic fouling in shotgun bores, or caked carbon fouling in semi-automatic rifles or pistols, or in removing leading in revolvers. It is not as effective as Sweets 7.62, Hoppe's Bench Rest Nine or Shooter's Choice for fast removal of heavy copper fouling in rifle bores. However, because "ER" is more effective in removing caked carbon and abrasive primer residues than other cleaners, metal fouling is greatly reduced when "ER" is used on a continuing basis.  It is inexpensive, effective, provides good corrosion protection and adequate residual lubrication so that routine "oiling" after cleaning is rarely necessary, except for long-term storage of over 1 year, or harsh service environments, such as salt water exposure.

CONTENTS: Ed's Red Bore Cleaner
1 part Dexron II, IIe or III Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF), GM Spec. D-20265 or later.
1 part Kerosene - deodorized, K1
1 part Aliphatic Mineral Spirits, Fed. Spec. TT-T-2981F, CAS #64741-49-9, or may substitute "Stoddard Solvent", CAS #8052-41-3, or equivalent, (aka "Varsol")
1 part Acetone, CAS #67-64-1.
(Optional up to 1 lb. of Lanolin, Anhydrous, USP per gallon. It is okay to substitute Lanolin, Modified, Topical Lubricant, from the drug store)


[JWR Adds This Warning: All of the usual precautions for handling caustic and flammable solvent fluids must be taken, such as wearing goggles and rubber gloves.]

Mix outdoors, in good ventilation. Use a clean 1 gallon metal, chemical resistant, heavy gauge PET or PVC plastic container. NFPA approved plastic gasoline storage containers are also okay. Do NOT use a HDPE container, which is permeable, because the acetone will eventually evaporate. The acetone in ER will also attack HDPE, causing the container to collapse, making a big mess!

Add the ATF first. Use the empty ATF container to measure the other components, so that it is thoroughly mixed. If you incorporate the lanolin into the mixture, melt this carefully in a double boiler, taking precautions against fire. Pour the melted lanolin it into a larger container, rinsing the lanolin container with the bore cleaner mix, and stirring until it is all dissolved. Divert a small quantity, up to 4 ounces per quart of the 50-50 ATF/kerosene mix for optional use as an "ER-compatible" gun oil. This can be done without impairing the effectiveness of the remaining mix.

Label with necessary SAFETY WARNINGS: RIFLE BORE CLEANER, CAUTION: FLAMMABLE MIXTURE, HARMFUL OR FATAL IF SWALLOWED. KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN.  Flammable mixture! Keep away from heat, sparks or flame. FIRST AID, If swallowed DO NOT induce vomiting, call physician immediately. In case of eye contact immediately flush thoroughly with water and call a physician. For skin contact wash thoroughly.

The lanolin can be found at better pharmacies like CVS or Walgreens.  Ask the pharmacist, they usually have it in the back, not out on the shelves.

Ed’s Red will not dissolve copper fouling, so have some copper remover solution on hand.  Be aware that the ammonia in the copper remover can damage stock finishes, and will dissolve brass bore brushes.  Have some extra brushes on hand, or use a stainless steel brush.

The next item to have on hand is a quality gun oil.  They are all pretty good.  Note above that you can make your own from ATF/kerosene mix.  If you want to improve on this, add a little lanolin.  The lanolin provides longer term protection, since some of the other ingredients will eventually evaporate.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR USING "Ed's Red (ER)" Bore Cleaner:
Open the firearm action and ensure the bore is clear. Cleaning is most effective when done while the barrel is still warm to the touch from firing. Saturate a cotton patch with bore cleaner, wrap or impale on jag and push it through the bore from breech to muzzle. The patch should be a snug fit. Let the first patch fall off and do not pull it back into the bore.
Wet a second patch, and similarly start it into the bore from the breech, this time scrubbing from the throat area forward in 4-5" strokes and gradually advancing until the patch emerges out the muzzle. Waiting approximately 1 minute to let the bore cleaner soak will improve its action.

For pitted, heavily carbon-fouled guns, leaded revolvers or neglected bores a bronze brush wet with bore cleaner may be used to remove stubborn deposits. This is unnecessary for smooth, target-grade barrels in routine use.

Use a final wet patch pushed straight through the bore to flush out loosened residue dissolved by Ed's Red. Let the patch fall off the jag without pulling it back into the bore. If you are finished firing, leaving the bore wet will protect it from rust for 1 year under average conditions.

If the lanolin is incorporated into the mixture, it will protect the firearm from rust for up to two years. For longer term use Lee Liquid Alox as a Cosmoline substitute. "ER" will readily remove hardened Alox or Cosmoline.
Wipe spilled Ed's Red from exterior surfaces before storing the gun. While Ed's Red is harmless to blue and nickel finishes, the acetone it contains is harmful to most wood finishes.
Before firing again, push two dry patches through the bore and dry the chamber, using a patch wrapped around a suitably sized brush or jag. First shot point of impact usually will not be disturbed by Ed's Red if the bore is cleaned as described. It is always good practice to clean your guns twice, two days a apart whenever using corrosively-primed ammunition, just to make sure you get all the corrosive residue out. [JWR Adds: If in doubt about the priming used in any batch of military surplus ammunition or any ammunition of any description that is made in Eastern Europe or China, clean your guns repeatedly!]

Remember, after cleaning, you can apply a thin layer of oil to protect from rust.  Blued or parkerized finishes will still rust.  But notice, I say “thin”.  Excess oil will attract dirt, and can freeze an action in very cold weather.

Now, for spare parts.  Replacement spring sets are available for most guns, usually for about $10 to $20.  They are inexpensive, and can be purchased from  or   The other items I would recommend are replacement pin kits, a spare firing pin, and a spare extractor.  If you have an odd or old gun, you may be able to find parts from Numrich at  Some guns like an AR-15 have critical spare parts kits available for around $35.  Even if you don’t feel comfortable replacing some of these parts, gunsmiths will be around, and if you have the parts, and diagrams, they can fix it for you.

Recommended tools would include a basic gunsmithing screwdriver set, some pin punches, a plastic faced or rawhide hammer, needle nose pliers, and some sort of vise, with padding for the jaws.  Specialty tools might be a broken shell extractor for your caliber rifle.

Battery powered optical sights are great, but be sure to have spare batteries, and some sort of iron back-up sights in the event they break.  Extra magazines are also essential.

I don’t want to get into specific guns to buy, but I would recommend a “reliable” one.  Cheap or worn-out guns should be replaced now.  You can keep old ones for barter, but don’t rely on them for yourself.  Also, some guns can cycle reliably on any ammo you feed it, while others are very sensitive to different loads and brands.  You may not be able to have the luxury of buying the exact brand that you like in a SHTF situation, so maybe it is time to trade for one that is happy with anything.  Most new guns need at least 500 rounds run through to properly break them in.  Another good reason to practice!

Another good source of information on particular firearms are the gun forums online.  For instance,,,, or You will learn pretty much all that you need to learn from them.  Just remember, as with this and any info you find on the internet, use common sense applying it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I have been a “gun nut” for some time now and I think that everyone should own a firearm of some sort whether it for personal carry or just home protection.  With everything that has been going on in today’s world, I can see no better time to own a firearm. There comes a big responsibility with owning a weapon of any kind and you must make sure that you are up to taking on that task.

I believe that good shooting skills are going to be needed very soon to come.  We are set in the front seat to possibly see a major change in life, as we know it.  When the less fortunate have nowhere to go they are going to come for you. Buy a firearm and learn to use it.  You can already see this happening every day, from people with handguns robbing convenience stores to home invasions. Buy a firearm and learn to use it.    There are approximately 14 million people (at least that is the number that the Government is putting out) out work in the US.  Desperate people will do desperate things in times of need especially when there is a family involved, Buy a firearm and learn to use it.  I think I said that earlier somewhere?  Here is where I step in and hopefully help you learn for use it.

I would like to start something here at SurvivalBlog that I hope everyone will find helpful in their firearms training.  I would like to pass on my training and experience to everyone in this community.  I would like to start making a post at the first of every month with firearms training exercises for beginner, intermediate and advanced shooters. I know that I will/should be under scrutiny from Mr. Cascio, since he teaches firearms training.  I would expect nothing but the best for the people here!  It will start off slow because I don’t know any of the ability levels of any of the readers here.  I DO NOT want anyone getting hurt trying to push too hard to fast.  Hang in there.  By posting every two weeks, it will give people ample time to work on the exercises with whatever time they have set aside for weapons training (hoping that everyone has this time set aside on a regular basis.)

Of course, I cannot tailor the training exercises to everyone’s specific weapon but the core fundamentals are still the same – proper breathing, trigger squeeze, trigger control, barrel action, sights (fixed/iron or optics), etc.  Most of the exercises that I will post will be more focused around iron sights.  Optics makes things easier but what if there was an EMP or your batteries die and your EO-Tech won’t turn on?  Do you have the same confidence to make that shot with iron sights?

I could think of no better time to begin than right now to start! 

Here are some basic fundamentals to remember when shooting:

Take your time and work the fundamentals so that you do not start making bad habits that are going to be hard to break later on.  Repetition is your best friend when shooting and can be your worst enemy.  This is why it is key to work on the proper ways to do things.  I recommend dry firing your firearm on a daily basis (check with your manufacturer to see if it will harm your firearm first.) For the most part, centerfire weapons are okay to dry fire.  The most affected by dry firing are .22 rimfire guns.  The reason or that is the firing pin will actually hit the back of the chamber, which will flatten the tip of the firing pin or in some cases, even break it. [JWR Adds: See the many safety warnings about the clearing procedures, ammunition separation discipline, and use of a safe backstop for dry practice! Limited dry practice with a rimfire can be accomplished without damaging the gun if you insert a piece of fired brass in the chamber. But generally, you should do your dry practice only with centerfire guns.]

  • Holding a pistol is like shaking someone’s hand.  If you squeeze too hard then you will harm what you are trying to accomplish.  The hand that you are holding the grip with (considered your strong hand) should be light and your supporting hand should do most of the squeezing (strong hand ~30/40% and your supporting hand ~60/70%).  Be sure not to over squeeze because you will hurt your result. See: Travis Haley on Proper Grip Technique.
  • Trigger control or Resetting the trigger is key to being able to place multiple rounds on target with better speed.  What is resetting the trigger? When you fire a round keep the trigger back.  Slowly let up on the trigger (after the slide has cycled) until you hear it “click”.  At this point your trigger is reset and ready to fire again. (If you are dry firing you will have to rack the slide for the trigger to reset).  If you are firing rounds downrange, concentrate on your front sight and keep it on target while you are resetting the trigger.  Your next squeeze will be shorter than the first one.  For dry firing, rack the slide and put you sight back on target and start resetting your trigger.  Every shot should be made in this way! See: Resetting The Trigger.
  • You have to have a good strong base to manage the recoil and get back on target for multiple shots.  A good stance will also help your steadiness when aiming.  Your feet should be approximately shoulder-width apart, with the right foot (lets assume everyone is right handed) slightly back.  The ball of your right foot should be should be lined up somewhere in between the arch and the back of your left heel.  Your right foot should be pointed slight out. (Lefties: your stance will be the exact opposite).  You should have a slight bend in the knees and slightly at the waist. You want to have your weight over the balls of your feet.  This will give you the ability to move in all directions quickly and be able to maintain sight picture.  Your chest should be squared up to the target so that you maintain a “modified” triangle with your arms and the point being the pistol.  Your elbows should be slightly bent outwards, not downward and your shoulders rolled forward.   When you shoot the weapon will be pushed more straight back than up.
  • When you present your pistol to the target make sure that you are pushing it straight out and you are not raising it up with your arms locked out.  When you draw your pistol from its holster make sure that you keep it tight to your body keeping your wrist and forearm inline until you get to your chest and then you pick up your supporting hand and press straight out.  While you are pressing out slowly take out the trigger slack so that when you are at full presentation your next squeeze goes bang! See: Draw from holster and present Pistol
  • Breathing is another key to accurate shooting.  You have to control your breathing if you want to make accurate shots on target.  It doesn’t matter what position you are in, if you are winded then your sight is moving up and down as you inhale and exhale.  The best time to make an accurate shot is at the bottom of your exhale.  There have been people that have argued with me on this point saying that they shot better at the top of their inhale.  Try it out for yourself.  I have been taught to shoot at the bottom of your exhale and here is what I was told:  When you inhale your body naturally tightens up, your chest moves and can slightly raise your arms up pushing your weapon up or push against your butt stock, all causing you sights to move.  When you exhale, there is a natural pause before you inhale.  At that very point your body is at its most relaxed position where there is no movement. 

There are a couple of things that, in my opinion, everyone should have to help assist in his or her shooting with any weapon:

  • A good sling.  If you are going to have a sling on your weapon then why not make it a multi purpose tool?  I currently have Viking Tactics slings on all if my rifles.  Knights Armament makes small blocks that mount on a Picatinny rail system that has a swivel and a push button quick release loop to detach the sling (Push-Button Swivel & MWS Forend Rail Mount). See: V-TAC Sling Instruction & Part 2
  • Good Optics.  There is a plethora of different optics to choose from.  You should find one that is comfortable and you shoot well with it.  Most are expensive but if your life depended on it would yours to fog up or not work?  For my battle rifles I have went with EO-Tech since they are AR-15s.  An M4/AR-15 is really only a 200 meter gun (I will cover later because I know that this comment kicks a hornets nest).  An EO-Tech is made so that if it is mounted (without a detachable mount) directly to a flat top and the center of the sight window will be inline with your Iron sights.  So if your batteries die, you can still have a clear line of sight to use your iron sights.  I can use my EO-Tech just fine at 200 meters but not as effectively at 300 meters.
  • Setting your sights.  For pistols I like to zero them at 25 yards.  Depending on what you are shooting you might hit slightly higher at 5 yards but it is not even enough to worry about.  For an battle rifle (lets look at the M4/AR-15) I like to set my zero for the event that might occur.  I bounce between a 50m and 100m zero.  I always use a 62gr. round with a penetrating core, so I know how may clicks to move my sights to get to each setting.

Side Note: With an M4/AR-15 if you set your zero at 25m your POA (Point of Aim) and POI are the same (minus wind of course) as 300m.  Zero at 50m and your POA and POI is again the same at 200m (with a 5.56mm 62gr. Bullet).  In a combat situation would I take a 200 to 300m shot with an M4 if there were no sniper around. YES, only if the situation called for the shot(s) to be taken.  In a collapse/grid down of the US would I take that same shot? NO!  Why is there a difference you might ask?  In a collapse/grid down situation, I would want to remain as hidden as possible even if I had my sniper rifle.  I would want to stay as hidden as possible not to bring attention my way unless I could not help it.

  • A timer of some sort.  I recommend a digital one from Competition Electronics.  They are pricey at $129.95 USD but they are well worth it to improve your shooting.  The way they work is when you push the start button there is a buzzer that sounds at random intervals so you don’t know when it will go off.  Once the buzzer is sounded, the timer will record the times of your shots.  That way you can see how long it takes you from shot to shot.  You can learn so much from these timers.  I know that many people will/can not buy one of these timers so as long as you can use a stop watch or something to time your draw to last shot.

Lets keep it simple to start off.
Exercise #1

  • Beginners
    • Pistol: Dry fire for at least one hour every day and work on the fundamentals of breathing, front sight post on target, your grip and trigger control.  When your setting there on your porch aim at something 5 yards away or why your watching television or whatever, aim at a stationary spot and practice good habits.  It doesn’t matter whether you are sitting and standing.  If you can practice more then that is better.
    • Pistol and Battle Rifle: At the range, work only from the 5 yard line.  Work on the same fundamentals as dry firing but with live rounds.  TAKE YOUR TIME!  Make accurate shots!  Run your gun dry.  Learn to know what it feels and sounds like when your firearm is empty (more for the battle rifle because you can’t immediately see if the bolt locks back).  Practice your reload without taking your eyes off of your target or be looking at your next. Watch as Travis Haley demonstrates just what I am talking about.
    • Work on getting tight groups.  Don’t worry about speed--it will come.  Stick with the fundamentals.  Muscle memory is what you are working on right now.
  • Intermediate
    • Pistol: Dry fire at least one hour every day.
      • Set up 2 bullseye targets roughly two feet apart.  At 5 yards from the ready, draw your weapon and fire 3 rounds at each target.  Complete within 6 seconds with all rounds inside the 8-ring.
      • If you do not have silhouette targets just used bullseye targets.  Place 4 targets (2 targets one on top of the other and same for the other 2.  Preferably 2 different sizes with the lower one the bigger) two feet apart.  At 5 yards from the ready, Failure Drill: 2 rounds to the chest (bottom target) and 1 to the head (top target).  Complete within 7 seconds with all rounds in the 7-ring.
      • Run each drill each drill at least 5 times so that you have to at least reload during shooting.
    • Battle Rifle
      • With your current zero, shoot from 5, 15, and 25 yards to get a point of aim (POA) and point of impact (POI).  Write it down for later review.  Write down all of your POA and POI for future review to be put in the memory bank.
      • Same as above drills at 5 yards and then from 15 yards.  Using iron sights, account for the POA and POI and place all rounds inside the 8-ring.  Complete within 5 seconds from 5 yards and 8 seconds from 15 yards.
      • If you do not have silhouette targets just used bullseye targets.  Place 4 targets (2 targets one on top of the other and same for the other 2.  Preferably 2 different sizes with the lower one the bigger) three to four feet apart.  At 5 yards from the ready, “Z” Drill: 3 rounds center mass/lower target, right to left and then place a single round in the head/top target of each target starting with the right.  Keep all rounds in the 8-ring for time.
      • Run each drill each drill at least 5 times so that you have to at least reload during shooting.
  • Advanced
    • Pistol: Dry fire at least 30 minutes everyday.
      • Set up 2 bullseye targets roughly two feet apart.  At 5 yards with your back to the target, turn and draw your weapon and fire 3 rounds at each target.  Complete within 6 seconds with all rounds inside the 8-ring.
      • Set up 2 bullseye targets roughly three feet apart.  Load 8 rounds in 2 magazines.  At 15 yards, start walking to the targets.  Fire 5 rounds at one target, take a knee, reload and fire 5 rounds at the other target.  Shoot for time.
    • Battle Rifle
      • Same as above pistol drills.
      • Set up 5 bullseye targets roughly 3 feet apart.  At 15 yards from the ready, fire 3 rounds per target while moving laterally from both, right to left and left to right.  Keep all rounds in the 8-ring for time.

Happy shooting, everyone!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

R.F.D. is spot on with the write-up, on .22 LR and to take this a step further,  everyone should do their own "field tests". Most people (My estimation) can not or will not spend enough range time to be proactive in having the hands on experience to get not only the right weapon but equally important the right caliber for them and/also the first hand knowledge of what they can do to both living tissue or objects.  I have over my learning period of 50 plus years and hundreds of thousands of rounds shot, understood that I wanted several calibers and types of guns for my use. For distances under 50 yards, maybe a hyper-velocity .22,  under a 100 a .223, up to 200 yards a .30-06, over 200 yards  my caliber of choice is a .375 H&H magnum.  Again my choices. 
I differ in my opinion about the .22 rimfire round, be it a Short, Long, Long Rifle, or the hyper-velocity Long Rifle hollow point.   In first hand experience at a shooting range in Kansas City, Kansas years ago I saw first hand an accidental shooting where one shot to the chest with a standard 22 LR bullet that entered and exited a man's chest killing him on the spot.  My years of outdoor shooting and hunting with most calibers and types of firearms allowed me to to make my own choices on what I determined worked for me.   As everybody has an opinion, the old adage "Do not believe anything you hear and half of what you see"  has worked for me.  As an example take a unopened Number 10 can of any type of food that has gone bad and use it for a target, lets say 20 to 30 yards,  using a .22 pistol or rifle (several barrel lengths in the same caliber would give you a hands on demo of velocity loss in short barrels)  and using a .22 LR CCI Stingers (which is considered to be a hyper-velocity hollow point)  watch what happens to the can when hit.  Its going to enter the front of the can with a pencil size hole but on the backside it will either split the can by exploding the contents or at the very least exit with a slightly larger hole (due to expansion of the hollow point bullet) with a bulging of the can due to energy transfer and a not so nice effect on the contents of the can.  Also try one-gallon plastic jugs filled with water, etc and you will get a  impressive result also.
In tests I have used .25 caliber, thru 9mm and .38, on junk yard autos in comparison to hyper-velocity 22LR ammo. Most automobiles are like tanks on the first round hits sometimes it will penetrate sometimes it will not.  I have been amazed that a standard 9mm and .38 Special round may not even penetrate the glass on the first round, though subsequent rounds may.  On metal and even plastic they can be even more limited.  But taking the same vehicle, and given it a hose down with CCI Stingers will be impressive.  I used to ask people if you had a situation where two combatants where only armed with pistols or were at a 100 yard distance shooting at each other one shooting a .22LR with Stingers versus the other armed with a 9mm or .38 Special, then who do you think is going to come out the winner?  My vote is for the person with the .22 LR every time. 
I have in my past poached deer at night for food, using a .22 LR hyper-velocity hollow point ammo. A double tap to the head at no more than 20 yards and I never had a deer that survived.  A body shot to the torso, might take one down, but as a hunter the only method is to humanely harvest the animal [with head shots].  In a worst case situation, I am not worried about being humane, just putting the threat down or out of action.   So my advice is make your determination through actual field testing in order to get it right for you. Bottom line, any gun that shoots is better than no gun. Furthermore, shot placement is also a big factor, with several rounds to ensure the outcome is on your side. 
Happy Trails, - John in Arizona

Saturday, February 18, 2012

No one, myself included, would recommend a .22 caliber handgun as the ideal defensive weapon. For that matter, I wouldn’t recommend any handgun at all as the ideal defensive weapon. We carry handguns because most of us find it a tad inconvenient to carry a tactical shotgun, or main battle rifle as we go about our daily lives, and most folks tend to get a little upset when you get on the bus with one. If I knew a fight was coming my way, my preference would be a crew-served weapon, preferably with the ‘crew’ in tow. So, a handgun, any handgun is at best a compromise. But then, we’ve all been around long enough to understand that life is a never ending series of tradeoffs. 

I will not debate the .22 vs. 'whatever' for self defense. If, by choice or circumstance, your only viable option should happen to be the .22 rimfire, so be it. I have no problem with my students who choose the .22 for self defense, regardless of the reasons. They all know that I advocate using the largest round you can handle easily, afford to practice with, and shoot well. But, we do not live in a perfect world. 

Rule #1 of gun fighting, is to bring a gun, and any gun will always beat no gun. I will spare you all the inane arguments, wives' tales, urban legends, and witticisms. Suffice it to say, the little .22 rimfire has been a heart breaker, and a life taker for more than 150 years. 

Shot placement will trump caliber, every single time. Since no one in their right mind wants to get shot with anything, fast, accurate, multiple hits with any bullet, including the .22 (which is the easiest round for anyone to shoot quickly and accurately in a close quarter engagement), will take the fight out of anyone. The most common stop is psychological, not physical. Most miscreants will cease their aggressive behavior after taking a well placed hit, or two, or three. With a lighter caliber, such as the .22, the heaviest, fastest bullet will usually produce the best results. The short barrels of most handguns employed in this role will not generate the velocity necessary for reliable expansion of most hollow points, since these cartridges are primarily designed for use in rifles. Penetration then, must be the primary goal, combined with rapid, multiple, well placed hits.

A 40 grain bullet making around 880 to 900 feet per second (FPS), or more from a 2" barrel (and there are several excellent choices available) will consistently produce penetration depths of twelve to fourteen+ inches in tissue after passing through 4 layers of denim. Most heavier .22 bullets will begin to tumble in the medium they’ve entered following impact, creating a larger wound channel. It matters little whether the round is a solid, or hollow point, since as noted in many previous articles, the velocity is insufficient to cause reliable expansion. 

Function trumps form. Choose a heavy for caliber (40 grain) round that functions flawlessly in your gun. .22 firearms are notoriously finicky about the ammunition you feed them. Bullet design is secondary. A perfectly mushroomed round which penetrated five to seven inches will rarely be as effective as a round that didn't expand, but penetrated to two, or three times that depth. Very fast and light bullets are impressive on small game and in gelatin tests, but the lack of penetration limits their usefulness in a defensive role. Therefore, I would not recommend any of the hyper velocity, or super fast light bullets that are so popular for small game, since they tend to disintegrate before they can penetrate to a depth of any consequence, and don't provide the weight/mass to penetrate as deeply if they hold together. They were designed and intended for use in rifle length barrels, and will probably not meet your expectations from a short handgun barrel. 

According to the FBI Ballistic Test Protocol, the performance standards are simple. A handgun bullet must consistently penetrate a minimum of 12 inches of tissue in order to reliably penetrate/strike/damage vital organs within a human target, regardless of the angle of impact or intervening obstacles such as arms, clothing, etc. More than twelve inches is even better, and multiple wound channels will always beat a single wound channel.

Let's put it all in perspective: A triple tap to center mass with a proper (40 grain) .22 caliber bullet would be the equivalent of being run through to the hilt 3 times in rapid succession with a 14 inch screwdriver, or taking three quick bolts from a powerful crossbow. Think about that for a minute. These are, at the very least, debilitating, and often, life ending injuries. That's three chances to pierce the heart and/or lungs, or to nick or pierce a major artery, or to strike the spine. All of these hits have proven to be fight stoppers. 

A fast, controlled triple tap with three 40 grain .22s will result in putting 120 grains of lead, and about 220 collective foot pounds of energy on the target virtually simultaneously, with 3 separate wound channels and penetration sufficient to damage/destroy vital organs, and/or the central nervous system (CNS)--in the case of the spine. Were they not sufficient, a second string in the face of your attacker, where the bone is thin and fragile, could result in central nervous system strikes, and bring an immediate end to the altercation, or at the very least, cause him to reassess his rapidly dwindling options. We tend to worry, and argue ad infinitum about knockdown power and one shot stops, but the truth of the matter is, people just don’t like getting shot, especially more than once. The secret to increasing the effectiveness of any bullet in multiples of 100% is as simple as firing another one. So unless you’re facing Sasquatch, even the diminutive .22 can, and does, get the job done quite well, as long as you do your part.

Learning, and practicing to shoot strings of triple taps quickly and accurately at 7 yards or less with a .22 and the correct ammunition is very easy to do, and will provide a great deal of comfort to those who, for a myriad of reasons, have chosen, or been limited to the .22 for self defense. [JWR Adds: While I'm definitely in the "use enough gun: camp and tend toward .45 Automatics, I've had two consulting clients with wrist problems that precluded them from shooting anything more powerful than a 5.7 x 28 or a .380 ACP. My advice: If you are thus limited, then make up for it with the very best training that you can afford (be willing to travel to do so) and and practice very frequently, to achieve masterful speed and accuracy.]

Almost every maker of firearms has one or more .22 caliber semiautomatics, or revolvers in their line, and for good reason. This little cartridge has been going strong for 154 years. .22 rimfire handguns are for the most part, relatively inexpensive, lighter in weight, smaller in the hand, and easier to manage than their centerfire counterparts. Most reputable dealers sell their firearms for twenty, to twenty-five percent less than the MSRP, and well-cared for used guns are abundant and fairly priced. Although many .22 semiautomatics are usually less expensive than revolvers, users may not have the strength to manually cycle the slide to chamber a round, or clear a malfunction on a semiautomatic due to physical limitations, or disabilities, which is the reason they’ve gone to a .22 in the first place. The elderly may have weak hands from arthritis or other conditions, and these folks are generally the ones who are most likely to need a dependable, low recoiling, easy to operate defensive weapon. Human predators, like all predators, target those whom they perceive to be weak and easy, and therefore the weak are more likely to suffer at their hands. For these people, the double action revolver is usually the better choice. Modern .22 double action revolvers chamber from 6 to 9 rounds depending on the size and manufacturer. Generally speaking, the higher quality the revolver, the lighter, and easier to use the double action trigger will be, although rimfire revolvers usually have heavier trigger pulls than center-fires due to the need for a heavier hammer drop for reliable ignition. The lightest and smoothest double action trigger I’ve found to date, is on the new Ruger LCR-22. Your mileage may vary. Revolvers have no slide to cycle, no magazine to break or lose, no manual safeties, levers, or buttons to operate, save the cylinder release latch. They can sit unattended in a drawer for 20 years, and will perform as needed when called upon by simply acquiring the target, and pressing the trigger. 

There are two options available in the semiautomatic format that provide an end run around the problem of having to cycle the slide in order to chamber a round. The Taurus PT-22 (double action only, available with both alloy and polymer frames), and the Beretta 21A (double action/single action), both employ tip-up barrels, and allow the loading of the chamber without having to cycle the slide. However, should a failure to fire, failure to feed, failure to eject, or double feed occur, the slide will have to be cycled to clear that weapon, and therein lies the rub. If you should own one of these two, and it runs flawlessly with the proper ammunition, it may be a viable alternative to the revolver. Magazines can occasionally be the cause of malfunctions. Always have at least two spare magazines on hand for any semiautomatic. Having more magazines than that is better.

Never put a semiautomatic handgun into service in a self defense role without first having broken it in, and/or checked it out, with 200 to 300 rounds, regardless of the caliber. No one should ever bet their life on an unproven gun. If problems develop during the break-in period, and do not rectify themselves before it ends, the prudent choice would be to repair, or replace that gun.

We must balance power, weight, size, and recoil before deciding upon the ideal, or at the very least, an acceptable handgun. A handgun must always be within reach, it must be easy for the owner to operate, and it must be comfortable and easy to shoot well.  A .22 in the hands of a skilled and practiced operator is far more deadly than a .357 Magnum being wielded by someone who couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with it. For the price of 100 rounds of centerfire, you can put 500 rounds of rimfire downrange in training. That familiarization and training is a priceless asset when your response must be instinctive and immediate.

Bear in mind, .22s are dirty rounds and it is imperative that you always keep your gun clean and lightly lubricated. A dirty, or over lubricated gun may fail you when you need it most.

Cheap practice ammunition .22 rimfire is notoriously unreliable. If your life is going to depend on the gun going bang every time your press the trigger, I would urge you to purchase the highest quality, most dependable ammunition you can find that will run flawlessly in your gun. You may have to try a number of different brands before you find the one your particular gun loves. When you do, stick with it. In my experience, CCI Velocitors and Mini-Mags are manufactured to a very high standard and have never failed me. Aquila Interceptor rounds are Eley primed, are even faster, and have proven to be equally dependable. There are a number of other excellent rounds as well. Do not be concerned with 25+ yard accuracy. These rounds are for self defense, and that means an engagement at 7 yards or less, usually much less. Keep your gun clean, start slowly, and practice, practice, practice until you are able to place those strings of 40 grain triple taps into a 6 inch circle at 5 to 7 yards very quickly. Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. Start at the beginning, and in time you will become a force to be reckoned with.

The .22 Magnum cartridge is a more powerful, and therefore more effective choice (generally, a heavier, faster bullet) if you have the option of choosing. The difference in operation between the two on any given platform is for all intent and purpose, identical. The number of semiautomatic handguns chambered for this round is limited. The Keltec PMR-30 with its 30 round magazine is worthy of your attention. There are quite a few excellent revolvers available. The S&W 351PD is a gem, albeit very expensive. The difference in perceived recoil is negligible. The cost of the ammunition is higher, but it is, on average, manufactured to a higher standard, more powerful, and offers a higher reliability factor. Collectively, three excellent attributes. In longer, rifle length barrels the difference between the Long Rifle and Magnum can be dramatic, in short, handgun length barrels, not quite so dramatic. The major difference is the fact that several companies offer .22 Magnum rounds specifically designed to be used in short handgun barrels (Hornady Critical Defense comes to mind, and would be my first choice). These jacketed hollow point rounds are designed to both penetrate and expand at the velocities provided by short-barreled handguns, and are therefore a superior choice in a self defense encounter. On average, they are putting more foot pounds of energy on the target than a .22 Long Rifle from a short barrel, without the attendant recoil of a centerfire.

If you already have a .22 rifle in the loop (and you should), then moving to another caliber may not make financial sense to you if your have a substantial inventory of ammunition on hand (and once again, you should). You must however, resist the urge to use inexpensive, bulk pack ammunition in a self defense scenario. The higher quality ammunition recommended will function fine in your rifle, and will offer you the maximum chance of prevailing in an encounter with a handgun.

Both the .22 Long Rifle and .22 Magnum will serve you well as long as you understand their limitations, and learn to do your part without hesitation.

Above all, do not be discouraged by the armchair commandos decrying the virtues of the .22 as a defensive round. Most of them will probably pass away in their Lazy Boy with a beer in one hand and the television remote control in the other. They know not of what they speak. If, due to finances, disabilities, age, ailments, recoil sensitivity, or other circumstances, you find yourself limited to a .22 handgun as your only viable option to defend your life, and the lives of those you love, then learn to use it quickly and well. Maintain that weapon as if your life depended on it, because it does. Sleep soundly in the knowledge that you have done what you can to provide the means to preserve and defend innocent life as God intended.

Always remember, your gun is not the weapon. Your mind is the weapon. Your body and your gun are simply the tools your mind uses to bring your acquired skills into the fight. It will never be the gun... It will always be the gunner.

Practice equals competence. Competence equals confidence. Confidence equals winning. Make 'em count.

A Viable Centerfire Solution

Should you, or a loved one already own a centerfire revolver that can no longer be used due to recoil issues, that gun can be brought back online with ultra-light recoiling ammunition. I would urge you to consider the .32 Long wadcutter for all those old .32’s that have been sitting around forever in drawers, boxes, and attics. Several companies offer this light, mild shooting, and effective loading. These 98 to 100 grain wadcutter bullets can be fired from any five, six, or seven shot revolver chambered for the .327 magnum, .32 H&R magnum, or .32 Long. The recoil of this mild target load is about on a par with the .22 magnum in a steel framed gun. The bullet is on average, twice the weight of a .22 magnum with a 30% larger diameter, and at least the equivalent foot pounds of energy on the target when leaving the barrel around 700 to 750 FPS, and they will penetrate to at least the depth of the best .22’s. These advantages combined with the reliability of a centerfire cartridge, provide a viable option for individuals who cannot deal with standard, or high velocity loads, and already own a revolver chambered in .32.

If you already own a .38 revolver, but cannot handle even the lightest reduced recoil loads, Mastercast in Pennsylvania produces a 100 grain .38 Special wadcutter load that is the exact ballistic equivalent of the .32 Long wadcutter referenced above (100 grains at 750 FPS from a 2 inch barrel). The recoil of this round in a steel framed .38 revolver is virtually nonexistent. 

If you know someone who foolishly purchased an ultra-light, or air-weight alloy frame centerfire revolver without ever firing one because it was just so darn light, but then found that they couldn’t hold onto it, or control it when firing, even with reduced recoil rounds, the cartridges being discussed here might be the answer for getting that gun back in the loop as well. These rounds offer no expansion capability. They are designed to punch clean, caliber sized holes in whatever they hit, and they do it perfectly every time. These bullets cut instead of pushing a wound channel, and that’s a good thing. Their saving grace is penetration, which runs far out of proportion to what one would expect given the velocity at which they’re running. Prior to the advent of the hollow point design, those in the know replaced their round nose cartridges with wadcutters for social work. They knew even then, that the design just plain works for self defense.

Although these rounds would not be my first choice for the centerfire calibers being discussed in a self defense encounter, they offer us the opportunity to bring a gun that may already be owned, but cannot be used, back online. Any day you can convert a paperweight into an effective self defense tool, is a good day. When recoil is above all else, the determining factor in what is, and is not acceptable, then we must embrace the compromises that allow us to adapt the gun in question into a manageable, and viable alternative. A firearm suitable for self defense by someone who otherwise would have to remain unarmed, unprotected, and afraid. 

Are the huns that I've described the perfect solution? No, but, few things in life are. The line between suitable, and perfect is very narrow indeed, when lives may be saved, or the quality of a life may be improved exponentially by adding a means of self protection, and a little peace of mind, for those souls who previously had neither.

There are few of us without elderly, or infirm family members, or friends in our lives who cannot be helped with these options. The confidence and peace of mind that comes with self reliance is something to which we are all entitled, and if that gift of empowerment is within our capacity to give, we must exercise that responsibility whenever, and wherever we can. 

Should you take umbrage with my observations, opinions, or conclusions, then I would urge you to re-read Rule One.

Be well and stay safe.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

J.S. did a pretty good review of multi caliber weapons ("Introduction to Multi-Caliber Guns by J.S.") but he forgot the time honored Thompson-Center (T-C) Encore and Contender, now owned by Smith and Wesson single-shot firearms.  
The Encore and Contender firearm lines not only allow changing barrels but to convert from pistol to rifle and back again by not only switching barrels but stocks, forearms and grips.  Encores are the larger frame and can handle almost any cartridge that you can.  You can buy barrels from 12 gauge to sub-caliber Hornet based wildcats and with either an offset barrel or a modified firing pin assembly even .22 LR, Long or Short.  There are also muzzleloading barrels in several calibers made for them.  
The Contender now being sold in the G2 version is a smaller frame than the Encore that switches between rim and centerfire cartridges with the flip of a lever on the hammer.  Earlier Contenders are not as strong as the G2 version and need to be checked for stretched frames if bought used.  The contender is a 20 gauge and smaller firearm with many common rifle and pistol rounds chambered in the many barrels that have been made for it.  Barrels are interchangeable between Contender and G2 Contender frames but not between the Contender and the Encore frames.   
T-C has just introduced a new multi cartridge rifle that is a magazine-fed bolt action repeater with a three-round magazine called the Dimension that has interchangeable barrels, magazines and bolts from .204 Ruger to .300 Winchester Magnum.  It is an interesting firearm that fills some needs. - Lowell K.

Captain Rawles,
I just wanted to add to the very well thought out and well-written article, Introduction to Multi-Caliber Guns by J.S. 

He mentions that the .454 Casull can also handle .45 Colt, the new Smith and Wesson .460 S&W Magnum revolver will fire .460 S&W Magnum as well as the .454 Casull and .45 Colt cartridges.   That gives you three options if you were considering a large bore revolver.
Keep up the good fight. Thank you - Brad M.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

I ran across the info on your sight about the Kel-Tec SU16. I wanted to share my knowledge of the rifle with you. First of all, let me state that I have AR-15s and I enjoy them so I am not telling anyone to ditch their AR.

I have the SU16A model with a Trijicon Accupoint 2-10 power 56mm scope on it. The rifle cost me $570 including tax. When you take the rifle apart you realize it's a hybrid between an AR-15 and an AK-47. The first thing I did was replace the extractor with a heavy duty DPMS extractor for an AR-15 as some of the parts are interchangeable with the AR-15. The trigger configuration is all AK, which means you could drop the thing out a tenth story window in to a vat of pig swill and it will still work. I use cheap ammo, Wolf 55gr FMJ. I have put about 2000 rounds through this thing and not one misfire, mis-feed, jam or any other problem. I haven't had any problem with any AR mags I have used in it.

For the accuracy I find it to be excellent. At 50 yards I can put the bullet in almost the same hole sometimes, and I am not exaggerating with that statement. At 100 yards center-mass is a breeze. I have a competition AR from Bushmaster that I used to use constantly, I now use the Kel-Tec all the time, it is my go to rifle. I can't attest to the other models' durability but the A model is extremely durable, you could easily use it for butt stocking, but it may not work that well due to the lightness of the gun as it only weighs about 4.5 pounds unloaded, so you definitely will not become fatigued from carrying it around.

I love ARs, but a good one is upwards of $1,500 to $2,000. With the price of this rifle and it's reliability and accuracy I would urge people to add it to their bag of tricks. Also there is no recoil, a little bit of muzzle flip but nothing horrible, I would suggest a JP Recoil Eliminator on the end and the darn thing won't even move. The "C" and "CA" models come with a threaded barrel so install is really easy with some [green] Loc-Tite.

I just wanted to share this with you and your readers since I have a lot of range time with this weapon and definitely trust it. I would add though that these rifles are getting really hard to get. - Jon G.

Friday, February 10, 2012

There have been dozens of articles on survival firearms on SurvivalBlog, and many of them focus on the “bare minimum” and/or doing the most with the fewest firearms.  None of us wants to fall into the trap of over-emphasizing firearms at the expense of food, water, arable land, and other supplies for balanced preparation.  We all know of “that guy” with 100 guns and a case of MREs who considers himself prepared for anything.  This is especially important when you’re looking to bug out WTSHTF; it’s very difficult to reconcile leaving firearms behind and, say, 50 long guns + 50 handguns + ammo & accessories can easily fill a truck all by themselves.

I wanted to focus on firearms that can either fire multiple calibers without modification or with fairly minor modification --- no unscrewing of barrels with special spanner wrenches, etc.  There are two purposes behind multi-caliber guns (or MCGs) for the prepper:  to increase the flexibility of the firearm to use found or bartered ammo, and to increase the utility of the firearm (reduced recoil, hunting a larger variety of animals, etc).  The big reason behind most of these for the non-prepper is cost of shooting, which is related to the prepper concern of cost of stockpiling.

I am splitting MCGs into two categories, those that require no modification and those that do.  Some of these are basic knowledge to old hat gun nuts, but talk to any gun store employee and they will tell you there is no such thing as “common knowledge” when it comes to guns.

If I get anything wrong please let me know!  I’ve shot plenty of these but far from all, a lot of this is research.  If in doubt, read the manual that comes with the gun, manufacturers are getting quite savvy at covering their butts with warnings against cartridges that will chamber but aren’t meant for the gun.

MCGs not requiring modification:

Most MCGs that don’t require modification to shoot multiple calibers typically just fire cartridges of the same bore diameter but differing power.  Less powerful cartridges are often cheaper and put far less stress on the weapon (increased longevity).  I list the longest cartridge first.

.22 Long Rifle (LR) / .22 Long / .22 Short:  Nearly all revolvers and tube-fed, non semi-auto (bolt, level, pump) rifles that fire .22 Long Rifle will fire their older, weaker .22 Long and .22 Short cartridges just fine.  Semi autos designed for the .22 LR won’t cycle these weaker cartridges but can be used as a single shot.  The utility is questionable as .22 Long and .22 Short are much, much less common than .22 LR.  .22 Short is fine for pest control in built-up areas but in a true grid-down SHTF scenario I think subsonic .22 LR will be much, much more useful.  Also, the shorter cased .22 Long and .22 Short can build up lead in the chamber (making shooting .22 LR difficult until cleaned) and worse, with continued use can fire-cut the chamber directly in front of the case and ruin it for .22 LR shooting.

***I am not aware of a single firearm that can safely and accurately shoot .22 LR and .22 Magnum (also called .22 WMR) without modification due to the wider case of the .22 Magnum.  .22 Magnum won’t chamber in a .22 LR gun, and while .22 LR will slip just fine into a .22 Magnum chamber, it will cause split cases, jammed cylinders, and other problems.  There are a number of revolvers that can shoot both with a cylinder change that I’ll dig into later in the article.

.357 Magnum / .38 Special:  Probably the most common MCG combination.  Any .357 Magnum revolver and lever / pump action rifle will fire .38 Special.  Both are extremely common.  From a prepper standpoint, I believe one should always get a .357 Magnum versus a .38 Special gun, it’s going to be built much stronger, fires both rounds, and will be just a fraction heavier / larger.  Most .357 Magnum semi autos will not cycle with .38 Specials.  The newer Coonan Arms .357 Magnum pistols are built to use .38 Specials with a special weaker recoil spring.

The most unique variant of the .357 Magnum MCG is definitely the Phillips & Rodgers Model 47 Medusa revolver.  These were low-production in the late 1990s and are exceedingly hard to find and expensive when you do run across one.  They were designed to fire just about any non-bottlenecked pistol bullet (rimmed or not) in the .355-.357 bullet diameter range.  This is 25+ cartridges and includes the .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .380, 9x19mm, .38 Super, etc.  They are still in use by the Navy SEALs as they can be fired underwater.  I consider this the ultimate long-term SHTF centerfire handgun, although parts are hard to stock up and a single gun might run you $1500 or more.

.44 Magnum / .44 Special:  Pretty much the same dynamic as the .357 Magnum / .38 Special, although .44 Special isn’t very common and not a discount from “Wal-Mart” .44 Magnum for the shooter/stockpiler.  .44 Special is much more tolerable and easy to shoot than full-bore .44 Magnum loads if you’re considering how to arm your less gun-savvy or smaller-statured friends WTSHTF.  The only .44 Magnum semi-auto pistol I’m aware of, the Desert Eagle, won’t cycle .44 Special.

.327 Magnum / .32 H&R Magnum / .32 S&W Long revolvers:  The new .327 Magnum will fire all three while the .32 H&R Magnum can also fire the .32 S&W Long.  None are very common, the main selling point of the .327 Magnum is that the guns typically hold 6 cartridges versus a snub nose .38 Special or .357 Magnum that holds 5.  Not much SHTF utility here.

.410 bore / .454 Casull / .45 Colt:  There has been a recent crop of .45 Colt revolvers that can also fire .410 bore shotgun shells (Taurus / Rossi Judge series, S&W Governor, etc).  I’ve had the pleasure of shooting an early Judge and think it’s a great pest control gun but fail to see the utility in it WTSHTF.  Perhaps more useful are .454 Casull / .45 Colt revolvers as the .454 can be used on medium to large game along with predator protection while the .45 Colt is a better fit for self defense against two legged varmints.  If you’re convinced you need a shotgun revolver, get a S&W Governor as it will fire .45 ACP as well, kind of a poor man’s Medusa in .45.  The Taurus Raging Judge will fire .410, .454, and .45 Colt but is a big handgun and weighs more than 4 pounds, empty!

While any .454 Casull will fire .45 Colt, don’t try .454 Casull or .45 Colt in any .410 bore shotgun unless it explicitly calls for it.  A good rule is any smoothbore .410 shotgun is only designed for .410 shotgun shells; you’re not going to hit anything smaller than a bus with a .45 Colt out of a smoothbore, and a .454 Casull round just might blow your gun/face up. (It has five times the maximum pressure of a .410 shotgun shell).

MCGs requiring modification:

The sky is the limit with MCGs that require some modification to shoot additional calibers.  New cylinders, barrels, upper receivers, etc turn one firearm into two or more.

.22 Long Rifle conversion kits for semi-auto pistols and rifles:  This is such a great concept that nearly every popular centerfire pistol and rifle has a conversion kit.  Originally popular with military forces for cheap target practice, this has bled over into the civilian shooting community that likes cheap practice too.  For the prepper, this allows one to use one gun for defense / big game hunting and quickly convert to hunt small game.  Also, one can easily and inexpensively stockpile tens of thousands of .22 LR, in a long term SHTF scenario you can keep your guns running longer.  I’d sure rather have a Model 1911 in .22LR versus a butcher knife spear for example.  Below I have listed some common guns that have kits available.

ARs chambered for 5.56x45mm / .223
Mini-14s chambered for 5.56x45mm / .223
AKs chambered for 7.62x39mm
FAL and clones
G3/HK91 and clones
HK93/33 and clones
Beretta/Taurus 92-style pistols
Browning Hi-Power
SIG-Sauer P series
CZ-75 series

.22 Long Rifle / .22 Magnum switch-cylinder revolvers:  These are revolvers that will shoot both calibers with a simple spare cylinder.  The most common is the well-made Ruger Single Six Convertible.  Harrington & Richardson makes a cheaper knockoff that lacks the transfer bar safety and polish of the Ruger.  Great utility to use two very common cartridges.

.357 Magnum or .38 Special / 9x19mm switch-cylinder revolvers:  Perhaps less well known are the switch cylinder .357 Magnums to fire 9x19mm (although more common in Europe).  Ruger makes a convertible Blackhawk single action.

.45 Colt / .45 ACP switch-cylinder revolvers:  Ruger also makes a Blackhawk convertible for these two calibers.

Rossi Wizard Series:  A couple of years ago Rossi came out with a line of single shot long guns that, with a barrel change, could convert to a large selection of rimfire, centerfire, muzzleloader, and shotgun cartridges.  Now one rifle could be an inexpensive .22 LR, a deer-slaying .30-06, a muzzleloader for that hunting season, and a 12g shotgun for birds --- or anything in between.  Of course, the drawback is it’s a single shot, but the utility is hard to ignore, especially the youth models.  Find out what the most popular calibers are in your area and get a Wizard with those barrels just in case.

7.62x25mm Tokarev / 9x19mm switch-barrel conversions:  Although they can be tough to find, most pistols in 7.62x25mm like the CZ-52 and Tokarev clones have had 9x19mm barrels made for them.  Great way to make these handguns more useful in a SHTF scenario as 7.62x25mm isn’t all that common.

.40 S&W / .357 SIG switch-barrel conversions:  Most popular pistols in either caliber have a barrel available for the other.  If you have one, get the barrel for the other caliber.

I am aware of switch barrels to convert Glocks and SIGs in .40 S&W or .357 SIG to 9x19mm, not sure if there is another pistol this conversion is available for.

10mm / 9x25mm Dillon switch-barrel conversions:  There are 9x25mmD barrels available for 1911s and Glock 20 pistols (perhaps others but I’m not aware of them).  9x25mmD was designed for competition shooting and produces enormous flash and noise.  It does not have much SHTF utility, in my view.

In addition to 9x25mm Dillon, there are switch barrels for the 10mm Glock 20 for .40 S&W, .357 SIG, and even special order .38 Super (these are NOT the same as the stock Glock barrels for their respective models but are special fit for the Glock 20).  The Glock 20 is a pretty amazing gun that can fire 5 calibers with a barrel change and has a .22 LR conversion kit too.  And, since it shares the same frame as the .45 ACP Glock 21, you could get a complete .45 ACP slide & barrel for your Glock 20 to make it a Glock 21 (and then, naturally, get a .400 Cor-Bon barrel for it, see below).  Or go the other way and start with a Glock 21 and get all the Glock 20 stuff.  Great pistols, not a huge surprise they are so popular.  Apologize if anyone went cross-eyed trying to follow this explanation!

.45 ACP / .400 Cor-Bon switch-barrel conversions:  Many pistols chambered for .45 ACP have .400 Cor-Bon barrels available.  Most of the time these don’t require a new recoil spring.  The .400 Cor-Bon is a poor man’s 10mm and is simply a .45 ACP necked down to a .400/10mm bullet.  .400 Cor-Bon never gained much popularity, but there are some that convert their .45 ACP to a 6” barrel .400 Cor-Bon for hunting and predator defense.  For preppers, not sure it’s truly worth the money unless you want one handgun for human and predator defense.

SIG P250 Pistols:  The P250 is a pistol from SIG that can change calibers (.22 LR, 9x19mm, .357 SIG, .40 S&W, .45 ACP) by changing the slide and barrel assembly (and magazines) much like an AR upper.  More expensive than, say, a Glock 22 with a .40 S&W, .357 SIG, and 9x19 barrels but throw in the .45 ACP which a .40 S&W Glock can’t do.  With all of the kits you have a handgun that covers almost every common pistol caliber.  I’d still rather have a Glock 20/21 will all the accessories as described above.

The less common EAA Witness full sized pistols can switch between .22 LR, 9x19mm, .38 Super, .40 S&W, .357 SIG, 10mm, and .45 ACP by changing the slide assembly and magazine.  Each kit is about $200.

AR Upper Receivers:  I saved the best for last, this is where most of the MCG action has been in the last 10+ years.  An entire new family of cartridges has been created around the constraint of the AR-15 magazine well width and AR-10 cartridges like the .243 Winchester have gained popularity as well.  Buying an upper is almost always going to be less expensive than a complete rifle, and if you put a lot of money into a lower with an aftermarket trigger, high-end stock, and grip why not stretch that out to several platforms?  Of course, the big drawback is one lower, one shooter --- bad if you need to defend your retreat and none of your buddies bring a rifle.  Some may come to the conclusion that 2-3 complete ARs are better than one lower and 5 uppers.  If you’re going to make the leap, I am of the opinion that a 5.56x45mm base rifle + pistol caliber matching your sidearm + 6.5 Grendel long barrel with scope + .22 LR conversion kit would be the most effective and efficient setup.  Note that, even pinching pennies with lower end upper assemblies, this will be almost $3,000 before optics.  For $2,500 you could buy a basic AR, an inexpensive pistol carbine like a Hi-Point or Kel-Tec SUB2000, a budget long range .308 bolt action rifle, and a .22 LR kit for your AR (or basic Ruger 10/22 rifle) and have 3-4 complete guns.  It’s not for everyone and your mileage may vary.  I honestly don’t see much utility in multiple uppers for AR-10s as, beyond .308 and .243, the cartridges are just not all that common. 

Now, the newly announced Colt CM-901, with its lower receiver that can adapt to both AR-15 and AR-10 size uppers, will be a great SHTF platform if it works as advertised.  You could have a CQB 5.56mm carbine and a long range .308 in one platform.

Upper calibers for AR-15 type guns (available non-custom):
5.56x45mm / .223 (of course)
.22 Long Rifle (although the conversion kits are going to be cheaper by a long shot)
5.45x39mm (super cheap surplus ammo but filthy and often corrosively primed!)
6.5 Grendel (great long range cartridge)
6.8x43mm SPC
.300 AAC Blackout (great for suppressed rifles)
9x19mm (also great for suppressed rifles)
.45 ACP
.40 S&W
.50 Beowulf
.450 Bushmaster
.458 SOCOM
.30 Remington AR
.243 WSSM (Olympic Arms)
.25 WSSM (Olympic Arms)
.300 OSSM (Olympic Arms)
.204 Ruger
.50 BMG single shot (not sure how great these are, but they’re available)
And more…

Upper calibers for AR-10 type guns (not all are current production):
7.62x51mm / .308 Winchester (of course)
.243 Winchester
.260 Remington
6.5 Creedmoor
.338 Federal
.284 Winchester
.450 Marlin
.358 Winchester
.257 Roberts
Entire WSM family
Entire SAUM family

I hope this detailed look into multi-caliber guns gives good food for thought, especially if you’re looking to build a small battery of flexible SHTF firearms that’s highly portable versus a huge, difficult to move stockpile at your permanent live-in retreat.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Anyone casting lead must understand that Molten Lead and Water or Perspiration don't mix!
Just One Drop of Water in the Lead Pot and…BOOM, an instant steam explosion.
Casting lead is hot business.
Standing over the pot you feel one drop of perspiration run down your brow, down the bridge of your nose right to the tip and in the pot.
By the time you realize what just happened, well… it’s too late.
That one little drop of sweat will most likely cause a violent explosion of molten lead all over you and every thing in the area.
Causing severe burns, maybe blindness and possibly a fire. That sweating glass of iced tea, or even a runny nose can put you in a bad situation. Wheel weights can hold a drop of water just under the clamp. Don’t drop them in the pot to save time.
A couple other good safety items would be sweatbands for the forehead and wrists and a full facemask instead of just safety glasses.
I personally believe melting lead in the kitchen on the stove is particularly hazardous. There are water sources everywhere…not to mention lead contamination in the kitchen.
You don’t use the turkey fryer in the kitchen, so why cook lead in the kitchen? 

Oh, by the way, I found a great on-line site for casting lead. About anything regarding casting lead is there.
Be Safe, - Bill in The Northern Neck of Virginia

Dear JWR,
I wanted to comment on the excellent article, Melting Lead for the Meltdown, by Charles J.

I would like to add just a few small things that I have picked up in 25 years of casting. The safety gear comments are spot on. Leather boots are very important, just make sure that your pant legs are on the outside of the boots. Take it from someone that learned the hard way, it is difficult to get a chunk of hot lead out of a boot while dancing around like a fool. Likewise, a face shield, or at the minimum, safety glasses, must be worn at all times when around molten lead. When my lead pot is on, a sign is on the door to the casting room reads that NO ONE is allowed entrance without at least safety glasses. The last safety item is that no liquids are allowed in the casting room when the pot is on. No soda, no coffee, no beer (which you shouldn't be drinking anyway when dealing with molten metal). A small amount of liquid will cause a large splash of hot lead.One last hint would be that if you are casting more than one variety of bullet, do them both at the same time. Fill one mold, then set aside. Fill the second, set aside, open the first, re-fill and set aside. Repeat. When you get into a good rhythm, you can really crank out the cast bullets. Bullet casting can be very relaxing. Just be careful doing it. - Mr. M

Friday, February 3, 2012

As an avid competitor in IPSC and local pistol competitions, a number of years ago I decided to reload ammunition on my own.  I felt this would pay for itself over the long haul as well as allow me to work up loads that would have the correct power factor, accuracy, and excellent feeding for competitions, not to mention self-defense.  In addition, after the passing of the Brady Bill, I took on another task of casting my own bullets with the possible specter of either the government removal of ammunition from store shelves or some other legislative means of taking away guns via restrictions with powder, USEPA restrictions with lead and so on.  I wanted to be relatively self-sufficient and have an asset that might be marketable in light of a possible economic, social, or political meltdown.

T his discussion will specifically address bullet casting 185 grain semi-wadcutter bullets and 200 grain semi-wadcutter bullets for the .45 ACP or “melting lead for the meltdown.”

It helps to have a good source of lead and other metals for the “melt.”  The “melt” is what you have in your melting pot to pour bullets.  This comes from your source and supply of metal.  My brother initially supplied two 5 gallon buckets of discarded used wheel weights from the garage he worked at.  In addition, I have purchased on eBay “linotype” which makes a very good melt for cast bullets.   Wheel weights generally have an appropriate mix of lead, tin, and other metals that give a reasonable hardness with cast as bullets.  The ratio noted in the Lyman manual indicates the following alloy and the hardness factor for their own recipe called Lyman #2 alloy: 90% lead, 5% tin, and 5% antimony giving you a hardness factor of 15 (Brinell Hardness Number or BHN).  The linotype mentioned (which comes from the printer’s shop and generally available via eBay) has a hardness factor of 22 due to having more antimony and a bit less lead.  The wheel weights had to be sorted and melted into ingots and put aside until there was enough to start the casting process.  I also had to weed out any weights that smacked of zinc as this will be a negative factor in casting.

My bullet casting started with primal tools and has worked to a little bit more efficient tools.  I started with a cast iron pot, ladle, kitchen stove (really makes the wife happy) and a Lyman #2670460  200 grain semi-wad cutter mold with a four bullet capacity.  The handles are RCBS which work with the Lyman mold.  My second mold is from Magma Engineering which can be checked out at their web site, a 185 grain semi-wad cutter bullet with a two bullet cavity.  Again, I went with RCBS handles.  

Other tools of the trade include: a hickory handle to break what is known as the sprue, a stainless steel spoon for stirring into the melt either Brownells Flux or a pea size chunk of paraffin wax, a heavy duty kitchen glove or mitt, a heavy duty box to plop newly cast bullets into, and a small pan to place excess sprue into.     

Later, after learning some of the basics and wanting to speed up the casting process I graduated to a Lee Pro 20 Series melter.  There are numerous other melting pots on the market that you might check out at Midway USA or other outlets.  I also picked up Lyman melt thermometer to keep track of the temperature of the melt. But, wait, there’s more!  So, to get started with your melting, you need the following:

1. A 2 cavity or 4 cavity bullet mold (mine are the Lyman #2670460 4 cavity 200 gr. Semi-wad cutter and the Magma Engineering 2 cavity 185 grain semi wad cutter).
2. A pair of RCBS mold handles.
3. Lee Pro 20 Series Melter

4. Safety Equipment: Face shield, apron, long sleeve shirt, gloves, and leather boots
5. Miscellaneous: hickory handle, stainless steel spoon, flux/paraffin wax, kitchen glove, and container for bullets.

Those bullets have to be sized and lubed before they can be reloaded.  This is what I wanted to be able to do.  So, the additional tools you’ll need for the sizing and lubing from your manufacturer of choice, I picked a:

1.  Lyman 450 Bullet Sizer/Lubricator

2.  A Midway Lube Heater (which is mounted under the Sizer/Lubricator)

3.  Lube (Alox or Blue Angel -- the latter needs the lube heater)

4.  Lyman top punch sizing die.  The sizing die and top punch size the bullet (in my case to .452 diameter) to the right diameter for the .45 ACP.

I might add it would be helpful to have a manual handy for the whole process such as the Lyman Reloading Handbook.  A handbook for bullet casting should also come with the bullet sizer/lubricator.  There may be something on YouTube as well; however, I have not checked it out.  In addition, I believe there are videos available to assist you.  I have never used or purchased a video but I think it would be helpful.

So, in a well-ventilated workspace, let’s fire up the Lee Pro 20 melter.  I take the ingots that I have made from the wheel weights and/or the linotype and place them in the melter.  There is a gauge on the melter for the approximate temperature and as you become better experienced you will likely be able to drop the melt thermometer.  You want at least 650 degrees and you want a small fan or a vent hood to dispel any lead fumes.  As the ingots slowly melt, add a teaspoon of flux or the pea size piece of paraffin wax to draw the dross to the top of the melt.  Skim off the dross with your stainless steel spoon (and duct tape the handle end to prevent burns) and discard in something non-flammable. While the ingots are in the pot melting, you will want to heat your bullet mold.  I just set mine on the edge of the melter and rotate it to try to heat it with some uniformity.  When the melt has reached temperature, place your mold under the valve or spigot where the melter will allow the melt to flow out and lift the handle to allow the flow of the melt.  As you fill each cavity let an additional amount pour to have a good break when the sprue plate is popped open.  At the top of the bullet cavity is the sprue plate which has to be hit to shear off the excess melt providing a nice flat base on the bullet.  Once the sprue plate is knocked back with your hickory handle, break the mold open, gently tap if needed, and drop the bullets into a non-flammable container. 

Use your spoon to scoop up one of the bullets to see if it is well formed.  Generally, it takes me maybe 4-to-5 pourings to get nicely formed bullets.  This is due largely to the molds having to get up to temperature. When the bullets are coming out well formed then continue the process of pouring, breaking the sprue plate open, dropping the newly molded bullets, and so on.  If you notice your bullets coming out looking “frosty” then you will need to back off on your temperature or let your mold cool off a few minutes. When a bullet “frosts” it becomes brittle and that isn’t good while moving down your gun barrel at 850 fps.  Keep constant check for that.  50 pourings with a four cavity mold will give you 200 bullets.  You can get this in maybe an hour or more depending on your skills and experience.  As you  consume the melt, you will have to put in more ingots.  This will take a few minutes to melt and come to temperature.  I like to size and lube during these breaks  while my ingots are initially starting to melt.  I try to finish up my bullet casting when the depth of the melt in the melter is about an inch deep (measured by my spoon) and after I have gone thru enough melt to cast 400-500 bullets.  Time to unplug the melter and let the remainder cool down. 

With free wheel weights a good bit of money has been saved.  The equipment will pay for itself.  The time is well used and for me a bit therapeutic.  I like seeing things come out right that I actually had a part in.  A box of 500 bullets is now close to $50.  When I was competing regularly I was going thru 300 bullets per week which isn’t a lot.  I still was knocking at the door of A class in IPSC with the 300 rounds per week in practice.  So, for me, buying 300 rounds a week at Wal-Mart was not going to work.  Casting and reloading my own ammo has worked out well.

Now, we’re not quite finished yet since the cooled bullets have to be sized and lubed.  Generally speaking, you would want to “slug” your barrel to confirm the size you need to get your bullets to.  I didn’t do that and never have had a problem.  I just made sure I had the .452" top punch/sizer.  I am assuming you have your sizer/lubricator and heater mounted at this time so I am dispensing with further instructions.  If you use Lyman Alox or other lubes that don’t need heating then don’t plug the lube heater in.  If you go with “Blue Angel” hard lube then you will need to crank up the heater, place your lube in the lubricator and run a bullet thru.  You will likely have to adjust the sizer/lubricator to ensure the bullet is being completely sized and that the bullet lube fills the lube groove on the bullet fully.  You can crank out the sized and lubed bullets and place them into whatever container you’d like.  I have used Betty Crocker icing containers, small boxes suitable for holding 300-500 bullets, and a large plastic canister that held psyllium husks from NOW foods.  These bullets are ready for reloading, storage,  packaging to sell or barter. 
In conclusion, this has been a basic how to to melt for the meltdown.  You will have to experiment as you go along.  Talk with others who cast bullets as well and you will get tips and pointers that will be helpful.  I can’t leave without leaving a couple thoughts as to a spiritual side of bullet casting.  One is that when the lead ingots melt, there is a tremendous heat and I actually ponder a place called ‘hell.’  I cannot imagine being there and as a child asked Jesus Christ to forgive me of my sin and trusted Him as my Savior.  Thankfully, I will never have to face an eternity as hot or hotter than the melted lead in my melter.  Second, as a believer, Proverbs talks about the “fining pot and the furnace.”  It can apply to the lives of Christians who are going thru the “heat” of trials in this life.  After you skim off the dross from the melt, the melt is mirror-like when you look down into it.  You can actually see your reflection.  It makes me think that when the “heat” is on in my life, the Lord wants to skim off the dross and see a reflection of Himself as He looks on.  And, He wants the world to see His reflection as well.  God bless you and keep you safe.  May he give us all the wisdom we need in the event of a “meltdown.”

Sunday, January 29, 2012

I was trying to come up with way to write down all of things that I have been going through lately as a concerned husband, son, uncle, and brother.  A little background on me: I am turning 36 tomorrow.  When I was 24 I joined the U.S. Army.  I was fooling around in college (still) without a good source of income.  My three year relationship was coming to an abrupt end as my girlfriend was graduating college and moving into the next phase of her life (kudos to her making the tough decision to do what was best for her, which was to keep me from holding her back).  So, as any rational screw up in my situation I went to my local recruiter’s office and signed up for five years in the Army.

During my six years on active duty I grew up a lot (I reenlisted once to go to Korea rather than have a very good chance of going back to Iraq. That is where my sixth year comes from).  I learned a lot.  I became much more self-reliant.  I became more aware of the national political scene.  Some of this maturing process may be simply due to me getting a bit older, but I truly believe the Army gave me a huge shove in the right direction.  My priorities finally began to shift from adolescent ridiculousness, to bigger picture themes not revolving completely around me. 
While I was active, I came to notice that no matter where in the world you may be, kids are always the same.  Kids want to have fun and play.  They don’t hate indiscriminately.  That fact in itself tells me that we (adults) are obviously the problem.  Kids are kids.  We turn them into hateful versions of ourselves.  I got a chance to visit a few different countries during my six years, which tends to give you a great perspective on life at home, and how truly lucky we all are to live in such a wondrous place like the good ol’ USA.

I got out of the Army back in the summer of 2006.  I was lucky enough to come back home and get hired by a privately owned company having nothing to do with anything in my background.  Sometimes things have a funny way of working out.  My wife and I met about 18 months before I was discharged from active duty.  Being on the other side of the planet had its difficulties, but in the end it couldn’t have worked out any better and we have now been married over 3.5 years.  No kids yet, but you never know. 

When I was getting out, I spoke to my wife about my wanting to get my concealed carry license and owning firearms.  This had nothing to do with prepping at this time, but I think you kind of get used to having something by your side in case something unfortunate does happen. Living in Florida, getting your concealed carry license (CCL) and purchasing firearms is pretty easy.  My wife was fine with it until I explained that I wanted her to become as proficient with any weapons we have as possible.  She, like most people that haven’t been around weapons their whole life, has this innate fear of guns. 

We started her out slow with some simple instructions on my first purchase, a Glock 23 (law enforcement version) that I had fired many times before.  There seem to be two types of people, those who love Glocks and those who hate them.  For me, and for the money I had at the time, I couldn’t ask for a more reliable weapon to have at the house (for carrying I ended up with a SIG P238 [.380 ACP] to slip in a pocket holster).  So, my wife and I went through all of the basics of handling any weapon, treat it like it’s loaded, muzzle awareness, etc.  She took to it like a pro.  At the range, the bigger the caliber the more she enjoyed it.  She was forced to load all of the magazines she used.  She would break down the gun when we got back home (practicing her disciplines, of course) and clean it and put it back together all by herself.  I told her that I needed her to be competent enough that we not worry if she is home alone and the worst case scenario happens.  We came up with situational plans on how she would react to different situations depending on where she is in the house at the time.  Most of them ended with her locked in a bathroom with a gun and a phone (if possible) and her willingness to put a few rounds through the door at the least, if someone came inside.

Over the past few years, I have noticed many of the same things you all discuss and write about on this site.  Things seem to be getting worse, no matter what the talking heads might say.  I think most of us can “feel” that things just aren’t right.  When I tell this to my wife she gets a little freaked.  I have been doing a lot of research over the past 6 months on prepping, food storage, BoBs, etc.  This site has been a God send and I thank Mr. Rawles and the rest of you for all of your hard work.  All of the information I crave is there for the taking.  I have already paid my one year “donation” and will look to do more soon. 

Here is where we get to my prepping so far.  We live in a very large metropolitan area in south Florida.  Both of our immediate families are within 30 minutes of us.  (If money were no object, I would already have left for the American Redoubt and ordered my custom home and bunker to be built with years of supplies waiting for us.  Obviously, that is not where we are finnacially, yet.)  As I have been doing my research I have begun to stock up and put my plans and lists together.  I have assembled a get home bag that each of us keeps in our cars.  I have also put together a BoB for each of us that is at the house.  My wicked “arsenal” now consists of my carry weapon, my Glock 23, and an AR-15.  I have hundreds of rounds for each and plan on really bumping up my number of magazines.  I also plan on expanding my weapons to include a longer range, larger caliber rifle and a shotgun at the least.  I am working on getting my wife trained up on the AR-15 as we move along.  I haven’t taught Basic Rifle Marksmanship (BRM) in a while. 

As for my food and supplies at home, I am currently working on our “stash”, which includes some basic foods like white rice, canned goods, bottled water, etc.  I have also purchased a Katadyn Pocket, and a couple of filtering Camelbaks.  I have 3 cases of Mountain House dry foods also to get started.  I also have items to help with fire, shelter, water hauling, etc. 
My biggest dilemmas up to this point (besides limited finances) are the following:

  1. My wife freaks out if I talk about prepping. I explain that I don’t think the world is going to end on December 21st, but I think generally people are not as bright as I would like.  Regardless of what happens, the news and every television show will be talking about that date.  Food prices are rising now, but just wait until panic sets in.  Why not put some essentials aside and protect ourselves as much as possible.  If nothing happens, no harm, no foul.  I am trying to keep her focusing on that rather than what I think is happening with the global economy, etc.  That may not be fair to her, but I am working on her slowly.
  2. How do I get more family members involved without them thinking I am crazy?  My younger brother also spent five years in the Army.  My older brother works for the Sheriff’s department in our county.  He isn’t a police officer, but we all have our CCL and own a few firearms and have received training.  I have come up with a plan of where we could all meet in a TEOTWAWKI situation.  I have picked the home easiest to defend, with the most space for materials, and it is the most central.  The only problem is they have no preparations, nor are they aware of any plans that I have.  I also have a plan for just my wife and I which involves bunkering down at home as a last resort, as well as a G.O.O.D. plan if needed.  The problem is that no one is privy to these plans but me.  How do I broach the subject?
  3. We live in a very heavily populated area in South Florida.  There is almost no where without people outside of the everglades.  There are some places we could go in the everglades if we had to that isn’t just a swamp, but the local population will be tough regardless.

I am currently working on getting my FFL to be able to purchase firearms at a discount and slowly begin a home business.  I am curious if any others have similar situations, and how they dealt with those issues.  I am continuing to get my stuff together for me and my wife, but I can’t just abandon everyone else.  My family is full of people that would be very helpful in a SHTF situation.  My wife is a trauma nurse.  My older brother is an auto mechanic by trade, and he and my dad are utterly handy.  My younger brother is a trained intelligence officer, and currently works as a civilian for the military in that capacity.  My two sisters-in-law are both teachers which would be useful for the kids.  My dad is a machinist by trade, and one of the hardest workers I have ever met. 

I fear for all of us, but I can only do so much.  I have brought this up to my younger brother briefly in conversations, but not much has come out of it.  I will continue to move forward with my preparations as planned.  I am hoping the rest will come to me soon.  Hopefully, before it is too late.

Mr. Rawles,
I'm a regular SurvivalBlog reader.  I have your books and own the archive (Kindle edition).  Every once in a while I come across a post so genuinely correct I must comment on it.  Mr. White is absolutely correct.   Often times people will spout such utter nonsense on this subject it would be funny if it weren't so dangerous.  And because so many aren't well versed in this area, they buy it hook, line and sinker.  
I can tell you from my own experiences; Mr. White’s advice is spot on.  I know this information to be factually correct.  This is how it’s done.  Kudos to Mr. White for taking the time and effort to bring this to the masses. Anyone following this advice will be better prepared, (Technically, Mentally, Legally and Morally) than 99% of the public, (to include LEO, Military etc…).
Lastly, my own comment is to seek competent training and then practice what you’ve learned.  Shooting on a static range won’t cut it.  Learn to shoot, reload and clear malfunctions on the move, (it should be automatic), under different environmental conditions, (dusk, dark, rain etc…).  IDPA, IPSC, USPSA shooting matches are great for this kind of thing.  There are enough competent schools of instruction that most anyone can take classes from.  That market is booming and the training available to the general public has never been better. - Rob C.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I'd like to offer a quick bit of follow up on Pat Cascio's review of Buffalo Bore ammo. I'm a big fan of their ammo, and have quite a bit of experience with it. I recently ordered and tested some of the .45 Auto Rim +P 225 grain hard cast wad cutters, as well as the 200 grain version in .44 Special. I shot the Auto Rim in a 325 Airlight 2.5" Smith & Wesson, as well as a Model 22 4". This is stout ammo, pushing the big flat point bullet at over 1100 fps. I have to admit that it was not fun to shoot in the lightweight snubby, very much like shooting full house .357 ammo in a lightweight J frame. I believe that I will order some of the non +P version (1,000 fps) for the 325, and reserve the +P version for the all steel revolver. It was very controllable and accurate in the Model 22, and I'd feel very confident and well armed with it against two or four legged predators. The .44 Special version pushes a 200 grain bullet about 1,000 fps, and was a joy to shoot in a 3" 629. There is a .44 Magnum version available that pushes about 1300 fps. These big wadcutter loads harken back to Jim Cirillo and the "man stopper" loads he used on stake out duty with the NYPD. While somewhat "retro", they provide reliable stopping power and penetration without relying on a hollow point that may or may not expand. I believe they would be excellent carry loads for the backwoods.

As Pat mentioned, what I really like is that Buffalo Bore creates ammo that maximizes the potential of the case capacity, with bullets that meet real world needs, and tests their ammo in real world guns. Each cartridge description includes real world velocities for actual firearms, not long test barrels.

I also recommend their .357 Magnum "Low flash, low recoil, tactical" 158 grain jacketed hollow point ammo, which I've found to be an ideal load for a S&W 327 Nightguard snubby. In my .38 Specials, such as the Detective Special I'm carrying, I use their 158 grain lead semi-wadcutter hollow points. I've never found any problems with the BB ammo, finding them to be accurate, powerful and reliable. Much of their line is available at Cabela's, but I normally order directly from the Buffalo Bore web site, and have experienced quick and reliable shipping.

I'm just a satisfied customer, have bought all my own Buffalo Bore ammo, and have no interest in the company. Thanks, - S.M.O.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I like companies (and people) who think outside the box. I think this comes from my days as a Private Investigator, or when I was in law enforcement. In order to solve "mysteries" I had to think outside the box many times. So it is with firearms and ammo companies - if they want to stay in business, they have to keep coming up with different ideas, in order to pique their customers' interest.
Some months ago, I review some of the ammo that Buffalo Bore Ammunition ( produces. Tim Sundles, who owns Buffalo Bore, told me he was swamped with orders from SB readers as a result of that article. That's a good thing, I like to see smaller, American-owned companies rise in this day and age. Sundles isn't one to sit back and rest on his past accomplishments. Nope, this guy is always thinking outside the box, and coming up with new and better loads in some of the old standby calibers.
The grand ol' .38 Special has never been what it should be. Most ammo companies produce some pretty sedate loads for this old round, and I've always thought (knew) it could do better. Buffalo Bore has come up with a new hard cast "Outdoorsman" load for the .38 Special. This new Buffalo Bore load was designed for those who need a deep penetrating load to be fired from lightweight alloy .357s and .38 Special revolvers. Sundles discovered that alloy .357s developed multiple problems firing their heavy 180 grain .357 Magnum hard cast turbo charged ammo, or for that matter, any make of full-power .357 Magnum loads.
Many folks wanted a deep penetrating load for outdoor use, when carrying their lightweight pocket .357 Magnum revolvers. This new .38 Special +P 158 grain hard cast load is safe to shoot in all .38 Special and .357 Magnum firearms of modern design, in normal operating condition. I think there is only maker who says to not use +P loads in one of their particular super lightweight revolvers - that's Taurus - and it's only one of their revolvers.
Buffalo Bore never uses extra long test lab barrels to produce their advertised velocities, they use real firearms for all their readings. Sundles used a Ruger GP 100 with a 6" barrel in .357 Magnum and was getting velocities around 1,250 FPS - that's screaming for a .38 Special +P load. Sundles also used a S&W Model 642 1-7/8" barrel snub by revolver and was still getting velocities above 1,000 FPS. I tested this load in a couple guns, shooting into water-filled milk jugs, and it easily penetrated completely through 3 jugs. This is a great round to carry when you're in the boonies, with a little .38 Special snubbie in your pocket or on your belt.
Okay, do you want to turbo charge your .357 Magnum revolver, with a lead-free heavy .357 load? Here it is! Buffalo Bore developed a load using the 140 grain Barnes all-copper hollow point load using the Barnes 140 grain bullet. I've been doing a lot of experimenting with various all-copper hollow bullets from Barnes, and I'm very impressed with them . They open-up nicely and penetrate deeply.
Sundles recommends that you ONLY use this load in an all-steel .357 Magnum revolver. It should NOT be fired in the lightweight alloy framed revolvers. You can also use this load in any of the .357 Magnum chambered rifles. If you are looking for a real man-stopper of a round, this is just the ticket.
Tim fired this round through a S&W Model 66 2.5" barrel revolver - a snub by - and was getting almost 1,400 FPS out of the gun. Moving up to a 4" barrel revolver, we are looking at better than 1,500 FPS. In a Marlin Model 1894, with an 18" barrel, Sundles was getting almost 1,950 FPS. We're talking serious velocity from this round. I fired this round through one of my .357 Magnum rifles, and found it to be very accurate, and the recoil was mild in my humble opinion.
I previously tested the Buffalo Bore 190 grain JFN 30-30 heavy load in a Rossi rifle, and it would make a great round for just about all game on the North American continent, given the limitations and range of the 30-30 round. However, that round might be a bit too much for some medium-sized game, like smaller sized deer. Buffalo Bore to the rescue! The new Buffalo Bore heavy 30-30 150 grain Barnes TSX round will not only penetrate deeply (and hold together) on deer and elk, it will mushroom very nicely. This load would also be great for black bear, too.
What's nice about this load is, if you are going from deer hunting, to elk or black bear, you don't have to readjust your sights, as you'd normally have to do when changing from one bullet weight to another. Nope, you can use this same 150 grain Barnes TSX bullet for much of your .30-30 hunting needs. However, if I were up in Alaska, where the really big bears are, and moose, I'd go with the other Buffalo Bore 190 grain JFN hard cast 30-30 load, for deeper penetration.
In a Winchester .30-30 with a 20" barrel, Sundles is getting 2,271 FPS. And, even in a little 16" barrel Trapper, he is still getting close to 2,200 FPS. This is a great all 'round load if you ask me - so long as you're not up in Alaska looking for the big bears or moose.
The last load Buffalo Bore sent me is their new 45 auto rim +P 225 grain hard cast wad cutter anti-personnel load. Now, I said this is a full wad cutter bullet - not a semi-wad cutter bullet. The loaded round actually looks a bit "funky" to my way of thinking. However, this bullet will penetrate 30" of flesh and bone, and makes a horrific permanent crush cavity because of it's profile. This load is safe to use in all modern .45 ACP revolvers. (Not in converted antique .455 Webleys!)
I wasn't able to personally test this load, as I don't have a .45ACP revolver in my meager gun inventory. However, I'll take Sundles word on this round...He used a S&W Mountain Gun with a 4" barrel, and was getting 1,122 FPS out of it. And, using that hard cast (not lead) bullet will really get a bad guy's attention in short order. I also think this would be a great load to carry when you're out on the trail, it'll take care of two-legged and most four-legged critters in short order.
Once again, Tim Sundles is thinking outside the box, and providing shooters with some serious upgrades to some old calibers. If you want the same ol' same ol' from the major named ammo companies, then buy their products. If you're looking for something a bit different, and hotter in these older calibers, then you owed it to yourself to try some of these "upgraded" rounds from Buffalo Bore.
Sundles is always telling me that "more ammo is coming your way...." and he is still experimenting and coming up with better loads, for those of us who demand the most and best we can get from our firearms. I'm looking forward to seeing what Tim comes up with next. And he does a lot of hunting, and is always testing his loads in the field.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Today I'm reviewing the new Springfield Armory XDm 5.25 9mm Competition handgun. I carried a Springfield Armory XD .40 S&W handgun for close to two years, and I found the gun utterly reliable and very accurate. The only drawback was that it was an early-production XD, and the finish wasn't very durable and tended to easily rust if you didn't pay attention and kept the gun clean and with some kind of preservative on the metal parts. The XDs made today have a very durable "Melonite" finish on the metal parts, and it really holds up extremely well.
The Springfield Armory XDm, is their new and improved version of the XD, and it really shines, if you ask me. The gun is more sleek, very stylish, and it has a better trigger pull, which is not only shorter, it also has one of the shortest resets of any polymer handgun on the market. What we have with the XDm 5.25 is a 9mm (it is also available in .40 S&W and .45 ACP as well) is an outstanding handgun with a 5.25" barrel - only .25 of an inch longer than the barrel on the grand ol' 1911 Government Model. Additionally, the front top of the slide is cut out, to reduce the overall weight and balance of the 5.25, which, by the way, balances nicely. The barrel is match grade, out of hammer forged steel, too - and fitted perfectly.
The front sight has a red fiber optic in it, which makes it easy to focus on, and when teaching new shooters how to aim their handguns, I always tell them "front sight, front sight, front sight..." they get tired of hearing it, but after a while, they are focusing on that front sight, and the XDm 5.25 makes that easy to do, in bright light, the red fiber optic really jumps out at you, and even in low light, you can see the front sight. The rear is fully adjustable for windage and elevation, too. My 5.25 sample only needed two adjustments of windage to the right, and one adjust of elevation to get it shooting where I wanted the bullet to go. You also get replacement fiber optic sights, should you manage to break the one in the front sight - you get a spare red, and a spare green fiber optic rod. They are easy to replace.
The trigger pull on my XDm sample is between 5-6 pounds, however because if the guns ergonomics it feels a lot lighter than that. Additionally, the trigger pull is smooth. As already mentioned, trigger reset is very short after each shot is fired, so you can get off additional shots extremely fast. The trigger itself has a trigger safety lever in the center - the trigger is "locked" against accidental discharge - you have to place your finger in the trigger to disengage the safety lever in order for the gun to fire. And, we have a grip safety, just like the good ol' 1911 has. There is also an internal safety, that prevents the gun from accidentally firing should it be dropped. Springfield Armory calls the safety system the USA  the "Ultra Safe Action."
The XD line-up of handguns -- and there are a lot of different models -- all have a loaded chamber indicator on the top of the slide, that you can see or feel, to know if there is a round in the chamber. There is also a slight protrusion on the back of the slide, to let you know if the gun is cocked or not. Again, you can see or feel it. Neat!
You can also have the XDm 5.25 Competition model with a brushed stainless steel slide. I elected the Melonite coated slide for "stealth" purposes - don't want opponents seeing my gun before they need to see it. There are angled and deeply grooved grasping grooves on the front and rear sides of the slide, so it's easy to manipulate the slide to chamber a round, or to clear a malfunction. Overall, the gun looks very futuristic to me. Empty weight is 29 ounces not too heavy and not too light.
I elected to get my XDm 5.25 in 9mm because it holds 19 rounds in the magazines - currently, Springfield Armory is providing three mags with this gun, but I've heard that's for a limited time - after that, you'll get two mags with the gun. Let's face facts, when you're dealing with a horde, you want lots of rounds in your gun, and it's sure hard to beat 19 rounds of 9mm. I find I can also shoot the 9mm faster than I can a .40 S&W or .45ACP. And, recovery time, from shot-to-shot, is very fast - you are right back on target extremely fast. Of course, I recommend using top quality JHP ammo when you carry a 9mm for self-defense.
All Springfield Armory XD handguns come with XD gear in the case with the guns. You not only get an XD or XDm in the polymer carrying case, you also get a holster, double mag pouch and magazine loader, along with your one or two spare magazines. What's not to like here? Speaking of the magazine loader - when you first load 19 rounds into the 5.25 magazines, you'll appreciate the loader. I could load up to 16 or 17 rounds using my thumb, however, the last few rounds required the use of the magazine loader to get 19-rounds fully loaded in the mag. Early Glock magazine used to be extremely hard to fully load when new. What I did was, get those magazine fully loaded, and let 'em sit that way for a couple of weeks. After that, the spring has compressed and I could load the magazine to full capacity without the magazine loader. And, it's the same way with the XDm 19 round 9mm magazines. After I let them sit for a couple weeks, I could then fully load them without the magazine loader. However, the springs are still pretty stout, and some folks will still want to use the magazine loader for the last few rounds. A stout magazine spring is a good thing in a 19 round magazine - it gets those rounds up there so they feed easily.
I contacted Tim Sundles, who owns and operates Buffalo Bore Ammunition  and requested 500 rounds of his outstanding 9mm +P and +P+ ammo for a bit of a mini torture test of the 5.25 9mm. I believe this gun can take a steady diet of hot 9mm, it's very well made and brutally strong. I requested three more mags for my sample gun, so I started out with six fully loaded, 19-rd magazines for my mini torture test. When I first got the XDm 5.25 I took it out for a function test, as well as an accuracy test, and I found the gun functioned 100% with various ammo, including Black Hills Ammunition's ( various 9mm loads, and some Winchester 9mm ammo. Shooting over the hood of my SUV, at 25-yards, I found the gun to be a 1.5 - 2.5 inch shooter if I did my part. However, the gun is capable of better 'cause I had a couple groups slightly over one inch - I couldn't do it all the time, but I did it a few times.
I breezed through the first three magazines loaded with the Buffalo Bore ammo without any problems. After that, it got to be work, firing as fast as I could pull the trigger - my trigger finger got tired after a while. However, what really slowed me down was reloading the magazines after they were empty. That really slowed me down in the mini torture test. I guess it was a good thing, as it allowed my trigger finger to rest, but my thumb got sore from loading all those magazines.
I had zero malfunctions with the XDm 5.25 nor did I expect any. The gun easily digested all the hot Buffalo Bore +P and +P+ 9mm I fed it. I could feel the recoil impulse differ when firing the +P ammo, as opposed to the +P+ 9mm ammo. Not a big difference, but I could still feel it. The empty brass was flying out of the slide as fast as I could pull the trigger, and the brass was going about 12-15 feet to my right and behind me a bit.
When it comes to shooting hotter ammo, it doesn't always prove to be the most accurate ammo, at least in most guns. The Springfield Armory XDm 5.25 really loved the Buffalo Bore 124-gr JHP +P ammo the best. When I was done with the torture test, I used some of the other Buffalo Bore ammo I had stashed away to see which would give the best accuracy. And, it turned out that the 124-gr JHP +P load was shooting the tightest groups. The "worst" groups were with the Buffalo Bore 124-gr  +P+ FMJ flat nose "Penetrator" rounds - but they were still giving me 2.5" groups. BTW, Tim Sundles recommends this load if you are going out in the boonies, where you might run into some big critters in the wild - it'll really penetrate when needed. Sundles also said that when he carries some kind of 9mm handgun, he has the top several rounds in his mags loaded with JHP ammo, and the remaining rounds are the "Penetrator" rounds. Tim's way of thinking is that, if the bad guy hasn't gone down after the first several rounds are fired, then the bad guy will probably be behind some type of cover, and you'll need to really penetrate that cover to hit the bad guy. I don't think I totally disagree with Tim's rationale on this, as he might be onto something.
The XDm 5.25 might be billed as a "Competition" handgun, and it can easily be used for this task. However, I believe this would make one dandy carry piece. If you can carry and conceal a full-sized 1911 Government Model, you can carry and conceal the XDm 5.25 just as easily, if not easier than a 1911. The manager at my local gun shop is the one who actually turned me on to the 5.25 when he insisted I take his 5.25 out and test fire it for him - he hadn't even fired it. I was more than willing to shoot someone else's gun and use their ammo. I was absolutely shocked at the accuracy from his 5.25. And, one of the sales guys at the gun shop also owns a 5.25 in 9mm and he says his gun is super accurate as well. So, that's three XDm 5.25 samples that are outstanding shooters - what's not to like here? Springfield is doing the XD line right. The guns are actually made in Croatia and imported into the US by Springfield Armory. However, each gun is checked over by Springfield Armory before they are sold to the public.
I haven't been able to find a full retail price on the XDm 5.25 Competition model, but I checked around, and it looks like they are going from around $799 to as high as $850. While the XDm 5.25 is more expensive than the XD and the standard XDm models, you get a lot of gun for the money, and one that is a natural pointer and very accurate..
Any more, after writing about firearms for 20 years or so, I don't get easily excited by new guns. However, after shooting the sample XDm 5.25 that the gun shop's manager insisted I test for him, I was absolutely sold on it. As a matter of fact, an e-mail went out to Springfield Armory that very afternoon, begging for a sample of my own. The wait was worth it, too.
When the SHTF, and I have to bug out, the Springfield Armory XDm 5.25 Competition 9mm will be on my hip, along with plenty of spare, fully loaded 19 round magazines. A person could do a whole lot worse if you ask me. A super accurate gun, that holds plenty of ammo, that is easy to handle, fast shooting and totally reliable? I've got mine, now go out and get your own. I plan on getting another XDm 5.25 later on - after I pay for this sample - but the next one will be in .45 ACP - just because I love the .45 ACP round.
So, if you're in the market for what might just be the ultimate high capacity 9mm handgun, you might want to seriously look at the Springfield Armory XDm 5.25 for your next purchase. If I sound like I'm really liking this gun, I am. It's always a joy to shoot an accurate handgun, and one that is totally reliable, and one that also holds a lot of rounds.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mr. Rawles, 
In many of your posts, and the posts on other sites, I see a recurring theme to practice with weapons using your "off-hand", but I don't see this same advice put out for any other activity.

All right, so a bit of background: I’m a pretty hard-wired preparedness guy, I prep, I practice, and I thought I was pretty well covered for just about anything until just recently.
I was at work and while transiting from one area to another I slipped and slammed my hand in a large steel latching mechanism on one of the blast doors in our facility. Now, I didn’t have an ice pack available, but the temperature was pretty low, so I just took my glove off, cursed a bit, and went easy on my hand until I got home.
Fast-forward to the next day when ice packs, elevation, and compression have done nothing to ease the swelling or pain, and I figured “Maybe I should see a doctor about this.”
Turns out, I had broken the second metacarpal in my right hand (the bone in the big part of your hand connected to the index finger). Now here’s the bad news, I’m right hand dominant, and the cast they put you in for that sort of thing immobilizes your index finger, middle finger, and wrist. Plus it tends to get in the way of what little grip you do have with your ring finger, pinky and thumb.  Also, even though the cast is fiberglass, the padding can’t get wet, so you have to try to keep the whole thing dry.
Basically it renders your right hand useless. And that’s where the lessons started:
At first I thought that other than slowing down my typing, I’d be good to go. I was wrong. You see… turns out pretty much everything is built for right-handed people. Want to start your car? Cool, be ready to lean in to the passenger seat so you can reach the ignition to turn the key. Want to use the pen pocket on your jacket? Too bad, it’s on your left forearm. Want to get something to eat? All right… open up a can. Wait, the can opener takes two hands to run (one to hold it closed, one to turn the crank). Okay, Plan B… use the can opener on your Leatherman…. Huh…it’s set up so that if you try to use it left-handed the body of the tool gets in the way. Fine, just use the darned thing upside down. Well, crud! Now how do you hold the can still? (hint: it involves sitting on the floor with no shoes on.)
And the list goes on and on; now I have practiced shooting off-hand, and even reloading and like one-handed… but it had never occurred to me to try to shave left handed, or tie my boots with one hand, or make dinner one handed, or for the love of all that is holy in this life, open a jar one handed. 
In this case, there was no real emergency, just a huge inconvenience for me, and a good deal of cheap entertainment for my friends. But had this been a critical situation, I wouldn’t have had the luxury of time to get the learning curve smoothed out, or the ability to just run down to the store when I broke half my glasses trying to wash them.
So what did I learn? I learned that I should always plan for the eventualities.  In a bad situation, a mechanical injury to your hands or arms is a distinct likelihood. And even the short term, partial loss of use of a hand is a huge limiting factor; more so if it is the dominant one. Meanwhile taking a little extra time out of your day to do something like shave with the other hand, or open a pop-top soda can one handed, or even just cut an apple with the “wrong” hand will give you valuable insight into your own abilities (or lack there of) and will help to reinforce the skill should you need to use it.
And frankly, I’d say it would be time well spent. - Jim S.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Even though the idea of prepping "on a budget" or "in urban or suburban areas" may be common themes, it seems (to me, at least) that more often than not, the lovely people that contribute their knowledge, advice, and expertise to the topic of prepping seem to, somehow, have more capability than most when it comes to logistically and financially supporting these ventures. They may have lived on a farm for most of their life, they possibly inherited land from a relative, they may be able to work from home and have time to spare, they may be older and in retirement, or they may simply have been doing it for years and already have their stock in place and their plans set in stone. While I am undoubtedly grateful for their input and knowledge that they give to novices (like myself - no rich relatives leaving land behind and I have never lived on a farm), I have had trouble finding attainable short term goals inside of the wonderful long-term goals they are normally discussing.

I am 29 years old and, with my wife and two daughters, 8 and 3, live in a suburb of a mid-sized city. I don't consider myself a person who would be completely lost in a survival situation. I have always been somewhat of a minimalist, finding 'pleasure' in getting by with less. I am handy and I enjoy camping and the outdoors. I am always up for a challenge and I seem to work well under stress. I understand basic security and tactical ways of thinking.

But those characteristics are about as far as my qualifications go on giving preparation advice. Unless you count living with my three ladies every day, I haven't really tested my survival capabilities. I haven’t lived in the desert without shoes and I have never lived with an African tribe of any kind.

My family and I are regular people who live modestly but comfortably- basically paycheck to paycheck- trying to build our future out of the little that we have to work with. For the past few years, we have focused on our finances by reducing our debt and trying to make the best choices with our money. Unfortunately, despite our hopes and dreams (and my gut feelings), our budget for prepping seems to remain stagnant on the list of immediate necessity.

My wife is what I would call "cautiously supportive" of my TEOTWAWKI preparations. She playfully suggests, at times that we're cleaning out the garage, that we keep certain items "for the apocalypse" and she helps me save all of our nickels... but she doesn't necessarily share my views on the urgency of the potentially serious situations we could soon face. We have similar goals and we have good plans but realistically there is no way we could presently afford to make any heavy investment for what is essentially a second household of supplies and goods. On top of that, we wouldn't have anywhere to put it! Additionally, with our busy schedules we rarely have time to spend a quiet evening together, let alone tend to livestock or build our heirloom vegetable garden- though all of which we aspire to do sometime in the near future!

So I asked myself: How can I prepare as much as possible on a daily basis no matter how much my financial and logistical situations limit me?
The more knowledge you gain on a subject, the more you realize that there is much more that you didn't know – another point to the old adage that "ignorance was bliss."
Ignorance may indeed be bliss for some, but personally, I don't care to see that same "bliss" knocking on my door when the SHTF. Just the same, I don't want to be that person knocking on someone else's door because I waited too long to make the right moves. I have a family that I have to take care of and it's hard enough with the level of crazy in this world as is... if we aren't prepared for something worse then there is no point.

In order to avoid this, over the last year and a half I have jumped in head first, soaking up as much knowledge as possible- knowing I will never learn everything but hoping that I will have the time to learn enough. I make material purchases when I can; some MREs, storage containers, ammunition, first aid kits, batteries, and other odds and ends that I can potentially use in an uncomfortable future but I know that these things are just a drop in the bucket compared to things I really need but can’t yet acquire. I know that one is none and two is one, but when one creates problems immediately, it puts a serious speed bump in my plans. While my internal clock wouldn’t mind a second mortgage in order to invest in a fully stocked underground shelter, my life (or my wife) simply won’t let it happen right now. So I push for knowledge as much as possible, researching at work on my lunch break and reading prepper material and blog sites such as this fine example you’re visiting right now.

I feel that if anything is going to be well executed, it has to have adequate planning and practice before it works efficiently, so I am constantly filtering through the plans and getting good ideas in order to be ready for action the moment I am able to do more. Although it is likely that every other contributor to these topics has more experience than I do, I still feel compelled to share the few things I have learned while doing my research, in case there is another poor soul trapped in suburbia looking for a place to put his only case of MREs.

Many people, including Mr. James Wesley, Rawles, have preached that knowledge of anything is only half as important as actual hands on experience. Muscle memory is key to survival in any situation... because in stressful circumstances there is no time to make sure you're doing it right... only time to do it right. Therefore, I try to visit the local gun range as much as possible in order to try to build my weapons experience with my slowly growing collection of firearms. Although I love my piles of gun magazines and gun books, I know that actual training is the only thing that will matter when it comes to using any knowledge I may acquire. My wife has even joined me at the range on a few occasions and she just recently signed up with me so we could take our first official firearms training class together (which can also be a fun date night.) Dry firing, drawing from a holster, and reloading techniques are done in practice in my living room (safety first, of course.)

I have quit smoking cigarettes. I am in the process of getting myself in better shape. Knowing that energy and strength could become a scarce commodity in a bleak future helped me kick start the drive to end a 15 year habit like nothing else had done in the past. (On a side note: If you do smoke, I heavily suggest that you do whatever it takes to stop. I used the pill and it worked for me. It's worth it.)

I look forward to finding some firewood to split myself this winter instead of simply buying it pre-cut. I have done it in the past and nothing seems to work more muscles out of hibernation than chopping wood and it is always fun to have a Rocky 4 montage playing in your head while you do it. Taking walks around the neighborhood with the family is also more quality time together that always yields better results than sitting in front of the television.

I have a neighbor a few blocks away that has managed to keep about two acres of prime subdivision real estate away from developers over the years and has built a wonderful mini-farm, probably the only one like it within a 10 mile radius of our neighborhood. I didn't know him at all but one day I decided to knock on his door and simply tell him that I am interested in learning some tricks to gardening and if he would be willing to show me a few things, I would be willing to do some labor for him if he needed it. It has only been two occasions that he has taken this complete stranger up on a random offer, but I have already gained knowledge that will surely help me in the future and would have been impossible to acquire by simply reading books.  

My aunt is also an avid gardener. With every visit I am inquisitive about her techniques and she is always happy to share her secrets, as well as her latest harvest. Other family members and friends have various skills in many areas; one cousin is a fellow prepper and another is a Krav Maga instructor with whom I plan on attending some classes in the near future. I have friends in the military that share training techniques and philosophies and I have my father, a jack of all trades, continuously feeding me knowledge like he always has, although in the last few years I have been more inclined to listen. 

My book collection is growing exponentially as well: Boston's Gun Bible (Boston T. Party), SAS Survival Handbook (John “Lofty” Wiseman), Patriots (James Wesley, Rawles, Strategic Relocation--North American Guide to Safe Places (Joel and Andrew Skousen), The Encyclopedia of Country Living (Carla Emery), and many others are all on my book shelf. It seems one book leads to five more… making it impossible to have enough books on various useful subjects.

Of course, we all know that the internet is the most abundant source of knowledge- though, as with anything on the web; there is a small learning curve to be able to sift the good products and services from the junk. By the way, I have just started my three-ring binder collection of articles as was recently suggested by another survivalblog reader… a simple but great idea.   
While television, for the most part, is something I don’t normally rely on, I will admit that there are a few programs which have taught me quite a bit. Without going into detail of the actual shows, a few which have actually made my life better by the knowledge they have given me are:
The Colony- a show that aired on the Discovery Channel for two seasons and is currently available on Netflix. I highly recommend this just to see how things are built and used in an apocalyptic scenario... water filters, solar panels, windmills, am radio transmitters, and manual washing machines. You can also see some other variables that can come up that have a notable effect on conditions and morale, such as intruders and thieves, people going missing, and personality conflicts. Very cool stuff.

Dual Survival
– No-nonsense guys (Dave Canterbury and Cody Lundin) who really do know what they are talking about. While some of it understandably may still be staged for the camera, I can stand these guys much more than some of the other so called “survival” shows. Discovery Channel and Netflix.

Personal Defense
- George Wheby takes you on specific scenarios with firearms training and offers great advice from Thunder Ranch trainers and others. Regular guest notables are Clint Smith and Massad Ayoob. Sportsman Channel.

So while all of this so far, in my humble opinion, is decent advice from a self-admitted newbie, it is certainly not all inclusive and it is definitely nothing new. I’m sure that you could find it all relatively easy on a few web searches for preparing.

So the last thing I will share with you is what I personally believe ties all of it together.

I have thought of it as a way to train your brain for the possible effects of a TEOTWAWKI scenario. After all, the mind is something that needs training just as much as your core or your trigger finger… maybe even more. Many people focus on range time, securing their home, collecting materials, or other physical additions but rarely focus on the mindset and mental stability that will be needed to see all of these things through. If they are the primary person in their family that is making these preparations, as it is in my case, it is even more important to try to train your mind and lead by example on some lifestyle changes that may simple come from thinking differently. Some of it may be a bit corny sounding and some of it is common sense, but nothing has changed my family’s daily habits more than this way of thinking.

It started with the thought of the stereotypical life of a dedicated farmer. He gets up very early, seven days a week and works continuously until the day’s work is done. That is his farm and hopefully he will reap the benefits of his hard work by an abundant harvest.

I thought of my little suburban life with my daily routines. My wife and I had our conflicting schedules, the house was never clean, home maintenance was falling behind, everyone was always worn out and tired even though it felt like nothing ever got accomplished. How would we ever survive a catastrophic change to our lives if we can’t even get it together normally?

I applied the farmer’s way of thinking to my daily life. This is my farm. These chores, my job, the daily grind… these are my crops. I work hard for an end result, a paycheck, a clean and orderly house, and a repaired fence, whatever it may be. I will do simple things like doing some of the dishes by hand instead of throwing them in the dishwasher. We have washed some of our clothes by hand, just to know the details from actually doing it. Now I wake up every day no later than 6:30 a.m. regardless if I have to go to work or not. It’s amazing what only an extra hour or two will do for your day. Suddenly I have time to do extra things that I never had time to do before. Time is not as rushed anymore, so I am less stressed.

My family has also taken hold of these practices (as much as their respective ages allow them to) and we enjoy each other’s company much more in a clean house and without mundane tasks haunting us in the back of our minds. My three year old girl can actually appreciate the feeling of a clean bed room after cleaning it all by herself (which may not sound like much if you have never attempted to make a three year old clean.)

Kids are still kids and nobody expects perfection, but these days hard work is now rewarded instead of punishment being handed out for work that was not completed, which leads to a more productive way of life. Daily chores are shared and responsibility has a way of making everyone appreciate the more important things in life, which is more than a father can hope for.
What does this self-help mumbo jumbo have to do with preparing for a bleak future? Everything!

Imagining a time when everyone is tired, hungry, thirsty, and constantly on the lookout is a scary thing regardless of who you are with. It would be a complete nightmare if it were with four people who can’t get along or keep the dishes clean on a normal day. A disciplined family goes a long way with planning for emergencies. My eight year old knows exactly what to do in the case of an earthquake, fire, severe weather, or a break in/burglary while we are at home. She knows exactly where our guns are located, how serious they are, and she knows that if she ever has a question about them she can talk to me at any time.

Children especially need extra preparations for their thought processes. I feel that this is an overlooked part of many discussions. While kids may be resilient and adaptable to change… it is still not fair to them or to their parents to simply hope that they will make the right choices and not shy away from having to work for something when they have never learned the importance of it. If bad things keep happening and kids start to lose their patience, it is important for them to be grounded enough to know what really matters instead of them pitching fits because the Disney Channel is no longer available. In order to protect them, you will have to trust that they will understand the importance of listening when they need to and following directions when they have to. It could possibly mean the difference between life and death. Just consider it another form of training and helping them develop their muscle memory, whether they realize it or not.
My wife and I can look forward to our future with our new daily habits because whether this apocalyptic scenario actually happens or not, we plan on using our “farmer’s mentality” with our new home we are working towards, complete with our garden, livestock, and all of the added chores that come along with them. We are still busy every day but we seem to feel better on a daily basis which makes the time we do have to spend together more important.

Nowadays, small power outages are not the dreaded inconveniences that they used to be, they are now chances that we all take advantage of in order to test our supplies and our mentality… even if it is something as simple as passing the time for thirty minutes without a whimper that the power is off.
These common sense things that normal people do every day may be ridiculous points to even have to mention to some reading this, but this is also meant for the people who are trying to figure out how they can swing their family in their direction without being labeled as the dreaded “paranoid” or “conspiracy nut.” By simply adapting a more responsible work ethic in life, you can not only become more productive and achieve your goals faster; you can do it without anyone around you giving it a second thought.
Do I want a secure, energy efficient house that is off of the grid located within the beautiful areas of the American Redoubt, with self-sufficient gardens and orchards, and with the closest neighbor at lease a mile away?

Do I want a roomy underground shelter that accommodates twenty of my closest friends and family, complete with enough food, water, and supplies to outlast an ice age?

Do I want a weapons cache that would’ve made Charlton Heston jealous?

Yes, those things are all of my ultimate goals. But for now, I will keep learning, training, and adapting with my single case of MRE’s shoved in our small pantry, hoping that I still have time to grow before the Schumer comes full force. Good luck and may God bless you all.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Over the past several months, I have been asked by many SurvivalBlog readers which AR-style rifle is the best. And, many readers mistakenly believe that some civilian brands of ARs are 100% "mil-spec." When I explain to them that their civilian ARs, no matter who made them, are NOT mil-spec, and the facts to reinforce my argument, I don't hear back from them.
So, let me explain why civilian ARs are not 100% mil-spec. Some AR makers mistakenly (intentionally?) advertise their ARs as being mil-spec, when in fact, they are only partially made up of mil-spec parts. Even Colt, who makes the M4 for the military, doesn't produce a totally mil-spec AR-style gun for civilian use. One point of my argument is that, mil-spec guns are made to be select-fire, whereas, civilian M4gerys are semi-auto only. Secondly, mil-spec guns of the M4 variety usually have a 14.5" barrel, and civilian guns, must by law, have at least a 16" barrel. Additionally, if you look at the bolt carrier in most civilian ARs, they are not of the full-auto design, nor is the fire-control group. I could go on and on, but I don't wish to receive hundreds of e-mails from readers wishing to debate this topic.
I've also heard from SurvivalBlog readers, who claim that only ARs made by the big-name gun companies are worth having, and the smaller, no-name ARs aren't worth having - that they'll blow-up in your hands, or they'll fail when you need 'em the most. I'll not argue that some ARs are better made than others, I concede that fact. However, just because your no-name AR only cost you $600, as compared to someone who has a similar Colt that easily cost twice that much, doesn't mean they have a "better" AR than you have. Also please note, when I use the term "AR or AR-15" I'm using it as a generic term - everyone calls their AR-style guns by different names..
Most folks are shocked to learn, that most big name gun companies simply don't manufacture every part they use in their guns - they contract many parts out. And, when it comes to ARs, and their parts, almost all of the AR makers have many of their parts made by someone else - who is also selling the same parts to a competitor down the road, or to a no-name AR maker. So, odds are, some of the parts in your brand-name AR, are from the same vendor that sold the same parts to the no-name AR maker. Once again, I'm not saying there aren't better parts in some guns, or that some barrels are more accurate than others. Sometimes you get what you pay for, other times, you are over-paying simply because of the big name gun company selling a similar AR.
Over the years, I've probably owned more no-name ARs than those made by the well-known makers of ARs, and that's a fact. I can only recall having a problem with one AR that I've owned over the years. This gun was made by Olympic Arms - however, someone put a different bolt/bolt carrier in the gun - they assumed, as do many folks, that it was simply a drop-in affair - it's not! The after-market bolt and bolt carrier were over-sized and caused functioning problems. This was not the fault of the Oly Arms, it was the fault of the idiot who just dropped the parts in. I finally got the parts fitted properly, and the gun was 100% reliable after that.
I decided to do a mini torture test, on an no-name AR that I recently purchased at my local gun shop. This gun was manufactured by Superior Arms, and I had to do some research on the company. They've only been in business a few short years, but most of the reports I read on their guns were very favorable. This gun was used when I got it, well-used. The only thing I did to the gun was clean it and lube it, and check the orientation of the gas rings on the tail of the bolt - everything looked great.
I contacted long-time bud, Jeff Hoffman, who runs Black Hills Ammunition and requested 1,000 rounds of his 5.56 mm NATO factory seconds ammo, 55-gr FMJ. This ammo normally isn't available for sale to the public. What we have with the Black Hills Ammunition factory seconds are reloaded rounds, and the cases might have tiny dents, or are discolored for whatever reason - they were picked out of the final inspection and classified as "seconds." To be honest, you'd have to look very closely at a lot of the rounds to see why they were pulled during the final inspection process - which is a testament to how well Black Hills Ammunition inspects their finished products.
The reason I specifically requested the Black Hills Ammunition factory seconds was that I wanted to see if the Superior Arms AR would be up to the task of shooting this ammo. I figured if there were gonna be any problems, the factory seconds would cause them. Before heading out to do my mini torture test, I loaded thirty, 30 round magazines, which gave me 900 rounds of ammo to burn through, without having to reload more mags. Yeah, I know, I had 1,000-rds of ammo, but I just plain ol' got tired of loading magazines, my thumb was sore!
Instead of going out to one of my usual shooting sports near my home, I headed deep into the Cascade Mountains - far from where people could hear my shooting. I didn't want someone calling the local sheriff and reporting there was a shooting war going on near their houses. So, I was at least 15-miles from the nearest house for my testing.
The Superior Arms AR was clean and lubed at the start of my testing and no further cleaning or lube was done during my testing. I started out burning through the first couple of mags firing as fast as I could. I knew I couldn't keep-up this pace for long - unless there was a Zombie hoard coming my way. So, I slowed down my pace, and towards the end of my 900 round test, my trigger finger was pretty tired, to say the least. It took me about an hour and 15-minutes to burn through all those magazines - maybe a little longer. Like I said, towards the end of the shooting, my trigger finger was tired, and the gun was extremely hot - even the trigger.
During my testing, there was not a single malfunction or failure with the Superior Arms AR, and no problems with the Black Hills Ammunition factory seconds that I was using. Every round went off when the trigger was pulled, and every round sounded the same - no dudes or any problems of any kind. So, what did I learn in my mini torture test? Well, that it's a lot more work than I thought it would be - starting with loading all those magazines, and then shooting all those rounds in one shooting session. I thought the gun might malfunction or have some kind of problem when it got extremely hot - but there were no problems to report with gun or ammo.
As an aside, the area I was shooting in, was about a 35-minute drive from my house - and the gun's barrel was still very warm when I got home - so that hummer really got hot during my testing. Needless to say, it took quite a while for me to get the gun clean after that shooting session. Everything inside the gun looked good to go, for another shooting session, too. Oh yeah, I've gotta get back out to the area where I was shooting and police-up all that empty brass - one of these days. I suspect it'll still be there when I get to it.
So, what did I learn? Well, this was only one gun, from a no-name AR company - so I can't speak for all the other no-name ARs that are out there, as to if they'll hold up to this sort of mini torture test - but I'm betting they will - assuming you start with a clean gun, that is properly lubed and in proper working order. I've gone out and shot 200-to-300 rounds at a time through an AR in the past - and that was fun. However, this shooting session was work, and it just killed me to "waste" all that Black Hills Ammunition .223 ammo, too. Jeff Hoffman has been supplying my ammo needs for 20-yrs now and always fills my requests when I tell him I'm just gonna "waste" ammo. Black Hills Ammunition are good people to give your business to.
My Superior Arms AR has the 11" barrel on it, with a permanently attached 5.5" flash suppressor on it. On a good day, I can hold about a 3" group with this shorty barrel. And, a couple days after my shooting session, I tested for accuracy again, and it was still about a 3" group gun - which is about as good as you'll get with the shorter barrel. I just happen to like the look of this set-up with the shorter barrel and longer flash suppressor on it. I also know that it reduces the effectiveness of the .223 round much beyond the 150 - 200 yard mark, too.
So, if you are on a limited budget, don't think you have to settle for second best when you look at buying a no-name AR. Check the gun over carefully - take it apart - and if a gun shop won't let you do that - take your business some place else. Try the charging handle - see if it operates smoothly, and try the trigger-pull as well - not that most ARs are known for outstanding trigger pulls. Don't be afraid to buy a no-name AR just because your best buddy has a $2,500 AR of some type that he is always hyping. Odds are, when you go out shooting with your buddy, your no-name AR will shoot just as well as his expensive AR does - if not better.
There's nothing "wrong" with ARs made by the big name gun companies - and I've owned quite a few spendy ARs over the years - some shoot better than others - but not a whole lot better. Sometimes it depends on the ammo you're using - many guns will shoot one brand of ammo better than another - so don't be afraid to experiment if you aren't getting the accuracy you'd hope for. I want to give an example of a big name AR maker - I recently purchased one of the Carbon-15 ARs that is made by Bushmaster - I liked the look of the gun and the light-weight. However, this gun simply would not group - it was more like a shotgun - it "patterned" instead of grouping. I traded the gun back to my local gun shop the next day and told them about the gun. They sold it at a gun show, and told the new owner, that the gun didn't group well - he still bought it!
The only ARs I tend to shy away from are the parts gun -you know the ones I'm talking about. Someone bought an upper receiver parts kit, and then a lower receiver and put it all together themselves - those guns scare me at times - I've owned a few - they worked, but I still wasn't 100% sure they would keep working, or had any knowledge of the person who assembled the gun - if they knew anything about how ARs work.
So, if you're on a budget, take a look at the no-name AR that might be half the price of the big-name AR next to it - you might be surprised how well-made the no-name AR is, and how well it shoots, too. - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Regarding to the recent post by John concerning tight budget armaments I have a few suggestions. Over the past year I have acquired a small collection of Hi-Point weapons and I absolutely love them! They are american made, reliable and oh-so economical.

Mother's day before last I was looking for a unique gift for my wife (who also happens to be the mother of our five children!). I began thinking handgun. But, with the five kids and an aspiring 40 acre farm/retreat, budgets are almost always tight. Add to this the fact that my wife is a new shooter and I was not certain she would take to it, I didn't want to drop a big load of cash on a fancy piece that stood a 50/50 chance of becoming a paper weight. So, after a bit of research I settled on the C9. What a neat little gun! She loved it! Unfortunately, so did I. To avoid being an Indian Giver I was forced to buy a second one for myself, which has become my everyday concealed carry piece.

Both guns have shown near flawless performance. In fact we have had only a couple of mis-feeds, all with Bitterroot Valley Ammunition Company (BVAC) hollow points made from once fired brass. All other ammo has been perfect, and the more we shoot them, the smoother they get. As a side note, they love any and all +P rounds. I should note that in general I really like BVAC's ammo, but have relegated the reloads to practice, and keep something new and nasty in a +P self defense load in the "Serious" magazines.

The best part: Brand-New retail on these bad boys is less than $170, so you can get pistol, holster and a couple of spare mags for about Two Bills.

Next up in the Hi-Point product line is the TS9 carbine. I can't say anything bad about this one either. It is light, handy, surprisingly accurate, and has not had a single problem with any kind of ammo. I added a stock mounted magazine holder (carries two spare 10 round mags, one on either side of the stock) and other than that left it as is. This little carbine is a great home defense weapon, an excellent trunk gun, and light enough to carry forever. With good +P hollow points it is more than able to bring down mid-size game (think feral hogs and black tail deer) at open sight ranges. As an added bonus the carbine magazines also work in the C9 pistols, which is a big cost saver when stocking up, and handy in a tight spot! Brand-New the TS9 carbine runs just a shade over three hundred, and if you haunt the pawn shops you can find them in the two hundred range. If you don't mind the "Planet of The Apes" look, the original version can be found even less expensively.

Last on my list of super bargains is the Maverick 88 12 gauge pump action shotgun. These are built by an offshoot of Mossberg, and with the exception of the placement of the safety they are near identical to the 500 series pump guns. Mine has an 18.5 inch barrel, and a 5+1 tube. Stocks are black synthetic, and it came with a full stock and a pistol grip ("cruiser style"). The pistol grip went in the parts bin after the first box of shells, the "cool factor" was not enough to offset the "Oh god, I think my thumb is broken" factor. I have been very pleased with the gun so far and have fired everything from 2 3/4 field loads to magnum turkey loads, as well as all manner of slugs and buck shot through it. On sale at a little gun shop in North Carolina I picked it up new for $249. It is a tasty little "Zombie Gun" at a price that most budgets can absorb. If I were in a TEOTWAWKI situation and could have only one firearm, I'd take this one. The versatility of the 12 gauge is unbeatable- small game, large game, hominids of questionable intent, or the walking dead are all susceptible to one load or another!

I have been very pleased with the Maverick as it came out of the box, but if you want to trick it up and rail it out, it will accept most of the multitude of accessories made for its cousin the Mossberg 500.

These are my top three suggestions for the budget minded or financially-challenged prepper. With a bit of huntin' and peckin', you should be able to pick up all three for less than $800 (about half the cost of a single top shelf M4gery). Compounding the savings, this combo leaves you with one caliber and one gauge of ammo to stock, and only one type of spare magazine to buy (although I recommend a small number of the original 8 rounders for the C9, they fit flush to the grip). This arsenal would also be light enough to add to a "Camper-Hiker-Survival-Bugout-Kit."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

James Wesley:

I agree wholeheartedly with your recommendation to seek affordable training through the Appleseed program. My wife and I were privileged to participate in the Appleseed event presented at the NRA Whittington Center a couple of years ago, and found it to be excellent marksmanship and safety training as well as a wonderful historical learning experience. At the end of the program, the range master told the story of a "dangerous old man" in the Revolution, and presented Rifleman patches to me and another "seasoned citizen". One of the many Boy Scouts in attendance blurted out: "Wow, look, two dangerous old men!"

I also agree with the recommendation to consider a WWII era bolt action military rifle as a cost-effective Main Battle Rifle. However, such weapons, while powerful, are also heavy, bulky and may be difficult for a new shooter to master. I'd like to propose some other ideas:

For a primary learning, small game hunting and "survival" tool, I'd propose a semi-automatic Ruger 10/22 rifle. I'd look for a used rifle in good condition, which should be available for under $200. A used rifle may be found with a scope already mounted for little additional expense, although a scope is not really a necessity. A simple nylon strap sling is an important accessory, as are extra magazines. I'd recommend sticking with original Ruger factory magazines rather than after-market, for best reliability. The 10/22 will function fine with inexpensive "bulk box" Federal or Remington .22LR ammo available at Wal-Mart and other discount outlets. I've had better luck with the Federal brand, personally. A 10/22 is easily customized if desired, but is perfectly capable in it's standard format. My wife used a 10/22 with an upgraded trigger and Tech Sights ( military style aperture sights at Appleseed. While a .22 caliber rifle is not ideal for self defense, it is light, easy to carry, accurate and puts out 10-25 rounds (depending on magazine capacity) very quickly. In a self-defense scenario, just remember to aim carefully and shoot till the threat is stopped, which is good advice whatever the weapon used. I personally believe that this is the first weapon any new shooter should acquire.

Next, for personal defense, I would recommend a handgun in a caliber of at least .38 Special. While a semi-automatic Glock or similar weapon in 9mm, .40 S&W or .45 ACP might be ideal, they are still in the $450+ range, and can be somewhat complicated for new shooters to learn to operate. In this case, I would keep an eye out at pawn shops, gun shops and gun shows for a used but not abused Ruger Security Six, Service Six or Speed Six 4" barreled revolver in .38 Special or .357 Magnum (the .357's will also chamber and fire .38 Special ammo, which is less powerful, lower recoil and less expensive for training ammo). Smith and Wesson .38 Special or .357 Magnum revolvers can also be found at fairly reasonable prices, particularly "police trade in" Models 64, 65, 10 or 13, as well as the Ruger GP100 in .357. I'd recommend the medium framed, six shot, 4" barreled service weapons over a smaller five shot "pocket" type revolver. I wouldn't overlook a good deal on a six shot Ruger or S&W with a 2.75" or 3" barrel, although they usually command a premium over 4" models. I found a dirty but very functional Ruger Service Six stainless steel 4" .38 Special at a gun show for $225. Once it was cleaned and polished, it looks and functions like new, is very accurate and is one of our primary "house guns". Service size revolvers like these were the main sidearm of law enforcement and security officers for many years, and still provide a simple, durable, reliable and inexpensive personal defense weapon for a new shooter. The heft and barrel length are sufficient to dampen recoil to a manageable level, while providing the accuracy necessary to learn to shoot well. Ammunition cost can be moderated by using the most inexpensive .38 Special lead or full metal jacketed ammo for training, and buying more powerful .38 Special +P (or .357) hollow points for self defense use. A wide variety of ammunition is available in either caliber and such revolvers are generally reliable with all types of ammunition of the proper caliber. A 4" barreled service revolver can still be carried concealed in a well made "pancake" or "belt-slide" high ride belt holster, and rapid reloads can be facilitated using HKS or Safariland Speedloaders or Bianchi or Tuff Products "speed strips". Again, it's important to remember that handguns are low powered weapons and "one-shot stops" are basically a myth, so accurate shot placement and multiple shots must be expected to stop a threat. For a definitive primer on shooting a double action revolver, see this excellent new book by Grant Cunningham: Gun Digest Book of the Revolver.

For hunting and self-defense, another inexpensive and versatile weapon to consider is the 12 gauge shotgun. Available ammunition ranges from relatively light recoiling "bird shot" loads up to heavier recoiling buckshot loads for self defense to very stout recoiling rifled slug loads for deer, bear or other large animal hunting. Do not use bird shot loads for self defense, as the small, light pellets simply don't penetrate reliably enough to reach vital organs. I recommend the "tactical" 2-1/2" eight-pellet 00 buckshot loads as best for self defense, while reserving bird shot loads for practice and bird hunting. Used Remington and Mossberg pump action shotguns (generally with a capacity of three to five rounds) should be available for under $200. An even less expensive and simpler alternative is a single shot, break open shotgun such as one made by H&R. These should be available used for around $100. Be aware that either version, but particularly the lighter single shot, will exhibit fierce recoil with the heavier self defense loads. For survival use, a simple sling is a useful accessory, along with a butt stock mounted "ammo cuff" or a receiver mounted (pump version only) "side saddle" ammo carrier to hold extra ammunition. Barrel length should be no shorter than 18.1" to remain legal in the U.S. Many pump action models have replaceable barrels, allowing the user to switch between a longer barrel for bird hunting and a shorter barrel for self defense. Consider the "youth models" also, which generally have a barrel length of 20-22" and a shorter butt stock, which make them light and handy to carry and use, as well as being a better fit for smaller statured shooters. My son, now a grown man, grew up shooting a single shot H&R youth model shotgun, and can still make amazing wing shots with that little gun! See the YouTube video of Clint Smith for his ideas on using a simple, inexpensive shotgun for self-defense. I highly recommend Clint Smith's series of videos as training tools for a new shooter interested in self defense.

Finally, in lieu of a bolt action or semi-automatic battle rifle, I'd suggest that a new shooter consider looking for a good used lever action .30-30, either a Marlin 336 or Winchester 94 model. You can sometimes find old "house brand" versions of the Marlin, such as the Montgomery Ward "Western Field" at very inexpensive prices. I personally prefer the Marlin 336. These rifles are smaller, lighter, quicker into action and easier to carry than a WWII bolt action rifle. The .30-30 cartridge is superior ballistically to the 7.62x39mm AK-47 round while exhibiting lower recoil than the larger WWII rounds such as the 7.62x54R, and is available virtually anywhere rifle ammo is sold. The lever action rifle can be a very viable personal defense tool as well as a big game hunting tool, and has the advantage of not being a "military" weapon that might bring undue attention from authorities. As with the shotgun, a buttstock mounted ammo cuff and a simple sling are useful accessories. For personal defense, I don't recommend mounting a scope, although scope mounting is simple on the Marlin version. See Clint Smith's video on "Learn to Use the Gun You Have":

There are many different opinions on this subject, and you've just read some of mine. I'd like to emphasize that it is not a question of what is the "best" weapon, but what weapons can you afford to purchase and provide with adequate ammunition in order to learn to shoot them well enough to defend yourself if necessary. Don't obsess over the "power" of the particular ammunition or how many rounds of ammunition your weapon can spew out. Concentrate on learning to operate your weapon reliably while placing however many rounds available on target accurately and consistently. These suggestions will allow you to achieve this goal without spending too much money, and provide you with a lot of fun in the bargain! - S.M.O.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hello Captain,
Greetings from one of your neighbors in the American Redoubt. I couldn’t help but be bemused when I read the article about the elderly couple being beaten and robbed of their gun collection. Not because they got hurt or robbed of course. But because of a couple other points:
She yelled for her husband to "Call 911!" I guess that goes to show that wisdom doesn’t always come with age. Were that scenario to happen at my home, my wife wouldn’t answer the door. And I can’t remember the last time I answered the door without my ,38+P caliber AirLite in my hand. As I’m sure you are aware, it is a rather small gun. And I have rather large hands so it’s not hard for me to keep it out of sight in my right hand behind my back as I open the door with my left. No threat, the gun slips into my back pocket and the visitor never knows it was present.
If I’m not home? On the nights that I go to my night class, when I come home I find the door locked. As I unlock the door I say in a fairly loud voice, “It’s me honey.” You see, I don’t want to get shot. She wouldn’t open the door if she didn’t know who was there and I always notice when I come in that she has her Glock 34 on the couch with her.
The other thing I found funny was where the article says the couple “have since joined their daughter on the East Coast.” Nothing like jumping from the frying pan into the fire! At least in Colorado he had the right to self defense even if he didn’t exercise it. On the East Coast, he not only gets to get beat up but he also gets to get prosecuted if he tries to fight back.
Since I’m at it, I thought I would make another point. I see many people on this sight talk about being armed, what’s the best gun, best round, how they would use their gun to defend themselves in an attack, etc. I have even seen some talk about how they think they’re safe because they went to some gun class or school and spent an unbelievable amount of money to have some prima donna spend two days teaching them how to use a gun for self defense.
I have worked with guys, and being a commercial mason all my life I’m talking tough guys, that say they would simply shoot the bastard if he attacked their family members, or them, or broke into their home as the above referenced article reports. I invariably ask them, “Oh yeah, where do you keep your gun when you are at home? (I keep my AR-15, shotgun, Glock, 1911, and my Sog Fusion tactical tomahawk all in different strategic out-of-sight areas in my home when I’m home along with my AirLite in my pocket; call me paranoid? we’ll see who’s paranoid and we’ll see who’s dead when the bad guys come) Of course the answer is almost always, “I keep it in the gun safe” or “I keep it on my nightstand” or “in my nightstand.”
Then I ask, “So you think if someone kicks in your door while you’re relaxing on the couch watching television that you’ll be able to get up, run in the bedroom, grab the gun, and shoot the intruder, before he can get to you? Even if you did get to it in time, what makes you think you’d be able to hit him? Do you think that if you were lucky enough to round the corner on your way to the bedroom without getting shot first that the assailant wouldn’t grab your wife and put his gun to her head or knife to her throat? Then when you step back out into the room with your gun will you have the guts, the confidence, to take the shot? Or will you immediately drop the gun as the assailant will command you to do because you don’t want to risk shooting your own wife or aren’t good enough and/or don’t know exactly where to shoot to cut his brainstem so he doesn’t cut her throat or pull his trigger on his way down?”
(Don’t think for a minute that a gunfight will be like in the movies. FBI crime stats say that a man who is well oxygenated and pumped with adrenaline can keep firing on you for 14 seconds after his heart has been blown clear out. You better know how to brainstem him or your gun will likely be useless to you. Look up Ferfal on the Web. He has lived it in Argentina and he explains all about how the first thing the home invasion robbers will do is take a hostage.)
“Oh, I’d be able to hit him, don’t you worry about that!” they say.
“Yeah, right. Good luck pal.”
You see, I’m rather well trained with handguns. And I have a couple of police officer friends who are tactical trainers who have blessed me with a bit of tactical knowledge. I have come to realize that most men think that the ability to use a gun is an inherent quality bestowed upon them just by virtue of the fact that they are male. The fact is, and I know you know this Captain, that that is an insane fantasy that has no basis whatsoever in reality. When a man (or woman) realizes his life is on the line and may end within seconds, and gets the accompanying instant and massive overdose of adrenaline, he will lose, at a minimum, 50% of his motor skills immediately.
With my back to the target and in surrender position (hands over my head) with the target nine feet away, I can turn, draw from my tactical holster, and place two shots in center mass in just under a second. I can do “Smoke and Hope” (do a web search on "Steel Challenge") in just over 4 seconds. I can do Vice Presidente in 5.5 seconds (three targets, two feet apart, two shots on each target, reload, two shots on each target). Not all alphas but all 12 shots on the targets.
The point is, these things are all done through psychomotor. They are done through programming. The conscious mind is only in the game long enough to make the decision whether or not my life is in jeopardy, whether or not to draw and fire; once the conscious mind makes the decision, the conscious mind is out of the game and the rest is done by the programming. The programming comes from constant practice. Similar to driving a car down the highway. You don’t have to consciously think about shifting, clutching, throttle, steering, it’s all handled by your subconscious mind.
I point this out to suggest to your readers that male machismo is not going to save you in a real gunfight. Two days of high priced training at some tactical school is not going to save you. If you want to survive a real deadly attack, you must train until these skills become psychomotor skills just like driving a car. As they say, owning a gun doesn’t make you armed anymore than owning a guitar makes you a musician. If you do not practice these skills to the point of transforming them into psychomotor skills, it is almost a guarantee that when you face death you will fumble the gun, miss the shot, freeze in place, fail to seek cover, fumble the reload, die.
My friend who is a cop, tactical trainer, and gun store owner has a sign on the wall of his store:

If you don’t truly believe that and act upon it, all the guns and ammo in the world won’t help you. You will fail when the moment of truth comes.
The best way to acquire these skills? United States Practical Shooting Association (USPSA). After several months of shooting USPSA matches a couple times a month your handgun will become like a trowel in a bricklayer’s hand, like a hammer in a carpenter’s hand, like a scalpel in a surgeon’s hand.
Then you will know, like me, that if you kick my door in, I may get shot, and I may die, but I guarantee you two shots in center mass — with my doubletap splits down to 0.18 seconds — before you can blink your eyes! And I guarantee you that if you take my wife hostage, gun or knife don’t matter, if you are within 30 feet of me, and you’re going to tell me to drop my gun thereby giving me time to set up on you, I will take the shot, I will brainstem you.
Oh, and by the way, I nor my wife will be dialing 911. No need. There won’t be an emergency. We’ll simply dial dispatch and tell them they got a mess to clean up. Kicking in my door will be the worst — and the last — mistake the Mutant Ninja Home Invasion Robbers ever made.

God bless you and all your readers Captain, and may none of us ever have to drop the hammer on another human being. - Maddog

Thursday, November 3, 2011

To follow up on the recent article in SurvivalBlog on State Defense Forces (SDFs), an article at The Strategy Page provides additional details on SDFs including a list of states with active SDFs with a description of their current units.

Thank you, - Jeff W.

Monday, October 31, 2011

I think many of us grew-up, with a .22 caliber rifle of some sort, as our first gun. I still remember getting my first .22 rifle when I was down in Kentucky, back in 1967. My grandmother took me down to Sturgis, Kentucky to visit her sister, whom she hadn't seen in 40 years. I met all manner of country cousins that I didn't know I had. I remember walking through the tiny downtown area of Sturgis, and I stopped in the Western Auto store. I was surprised to see that they carried all manner of firearms. I was literally like a kid in a candy store.

I was only 15 years old at the time, but I spied a bolt-action .22 rifle for only $19.95 - I had that amount in my pocket and then some. I told the man I wanted to buy that rifle. I still remember what he said to me that day "boy, I don't think I know you, are you from around here? I explained who I was, and that I was there visiting my Aunt Catherine. Little did I know at the time, that she was one of the richest people in town, and owned the coal mine - where most of the folks worked at the time. The man called my Aunt Catherine, and told her I was there and wanted to buy a rifle. She asked the man, "does he have the money?" And, he told her I did, she said "well, then sell him the gun..." Remember back then, we didn't have the 1968 Gun Control Act, and it was easier to purchase firearms. You simply paid your money and walked out with a gun.

I honestly can't remember how many rounds of .22 ammo I fired through that bolt action rifle during the two weeks I was down in Kentucky. However, I believe it's safe to say, I easily put a couple thousand rounds through that gun - hunting rabbits and birds, and "killing" all manner of tin cans and rocks. My two favorite country cousins, Mo' and Abner taught me how to shoot and took me shooting all over the countryside. I also shot my first 1911 .45ACP during that visit, as well as a couple of rifles.

My own two daughters were both given .22 rifles when they were only four years old, and they are still avid shooters to this day. So, I still believe a first gun for a child, or even an adult, is a good ol' fashion .22 rifle of some sort. And, if you are serious about survival, you need to have some sort of .22 caliber firearms in your battery.

I received an ISSC M22, .22 LR handgun for Test and Evaluation for SurvivalBlog. Upon first opening the box, I was struck at how closely the M22 resembles a Glock Model 19 9mm handgun. The gun not only looks like a Glock 19, but it also feels very Glock-like as well. The M22 has a 4" barrel inside of an alloy slide, mounted on a polymer frame. The gun weighs 21.4 ounces empty, without a magazine in it - again, very Glock-like. The magazine holds 10 rounds of .22 LR ammo. The rear sight is adjustable for windage, and the front sight can be easily removed and replaced with (supplied) front sights of different heights to change your elevation - I found no need to change the front sight that was installed on the M22.

The trigger-pull on the M22 is smooth and broke at a nice even four pounds. The Glock line-up of pistols have what the BATF calls a double-action only trigger (it's not - really). The M22s trigger is single-action only. There are several safeties on the M22, some are visible and some are passive in nature. You'll note the slide mounted safety and the trigger safety right off the bat, the others are passive in nature - this is one very safe handgun to be sure. When you apply the slide-mounted manual safety, if also (safely) drops the hammer. So, when you are ready to fire, you'll need to put the safety in the fire position and thumb cock the hammer - not a big deal!

One thing I really liked about the M22 was that it felt like a "real" gun - it didn't feel toyish, like many .22 handguns do. The frame has finger grooves on the front strap - again, a nice touch! The polymer frame has texturing for a secure grip. There is also a Weaver-style rail on the frame for mounting a laser or light, as well.

I was anxious to get out and fire this pistol - I just knew I was gonna like it. The gun didn't disappoint me or my wife, who also loved it. We put many brands an varieties of .22 LR ammo through the gun with zero malfunctions. The gun shot to point of aim at 25-yards and you can't ask for better than that. While we didn't measure any groups on paper, the gun hit whatever we were aiming it at - we "killed" all manner of rock, tin cans and other targets of opportunity while testing this gun. It was just plain fun to shoot.

If I had one complaint it would be, the gun only came with one magazine. It would be nice to have had a second mag with the gun. However, your  dealer should be able to order additional mags for you - they run around $25 to $30 each. I found the M22 also fit most holster designed for a Glock 19 pistol, too. Again, this is a nice touch, so you should be able to easily find a good holster for the M22.

Now, I wouldn't carry any manner of .22 caliber handgun for self-defense on purpose. However, I wouldn't hesitate to carry the M22 afield for small game hunting and plinking. And, if push came to shove, the M22 with 10+1 rounds of .22 LR ammo would sure make a bad guy wish he were some place else if he were shot with this pistol. While the grand ol' .22 caliber isn't known as a man stopper, I think it's safe to say that thousands of people have probably been accidentally (or on purpose) shot and killed with this round since in was invented. Still, having the M22 on your hip is better than a pocket full of stones or a handful of sticks to use in a self-defense situation.

The ISSC M22 is manufactured in Austria - just like the Glock is. I honestly couldn't find anything to fault with the M22. It performed perfectly with a wide assortment of .22 LR ammo with no malfunctions of any type. It hit whatever I, and my wife were aiming at. And, it comes with the accessory rail on the frame for a laser or light. The gun is lightweight and easy to handle, too. The only minor drawback I can report is that, ISSC says to not use Break Free Powder Blast on the gun, it will cause the finish on the slide to start flaking or it can discolor the slide. I guess if it were me, I'd steer clear of using any sort of spray cleaner on the M22, just to be safe.

In all, I put more than 500 rounds of various .22 LR through the M22 - and some of the ammo was dirty and corroded, and there were no problems encountered during my testing - that's a great gun in my book.

You can get your M22 at your local FFL dealer. Full retail is only $299.99, but you will usually find the M22 discounted. So, if you're in the market for a well-made and good performing .22 handgun, take a serious look at the ISSC M22, I think that you'll like it. - Pat Cascio, SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor

Sunday, October 30, 2011

I advocate that you seriously consider incorporating state organized militia service as a key element of a developing or ongoing personal preparedness strategy.  At this time, twenty-two states have some form of active state sanctioned/sponsored militia organization, all of which are incorporated into each of those states’ military organization.  Generally, these state organized militias are collectively referred to as State Defense Forces (SDFs), though the various states refer to their organizations within a narrow range of naming conventions.  Some examples include, the Texas State Guard, Virginia State Defense Force, Ohio Military Reserve, etc. Though state defense forces are official elements of state militaries, they cannot be called up for federal service, may not be deployed outside of their state (unless the members volunteer in some unique circumstances), and may not be deployed outside the United States under any circumstance.  The military formations are prohibited by law from serving under direct federal military command and cannot be activated into federal service.  Individual service members with potential federal service obligations may be called into federal service, though the issue is moot as they would already be called into service regardless of membership or not in state defense forces. 

Each of these state defense forces are legitimate military formations recognized under the United States Constitution, the State Constitutions of the various states, and relevant laws at both the state and federal levels.  Their missions generally focus on disaster response, emergency management, and/or homeland security.  I am a member of the Texas Maritime Regiment of the Texas State Guard.  The Texas Maritime Regiment trains and operates with the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife (man-tracking and boat patrols on Texas rivers and lakes); the Texas Forestry Service (heavy equipment operations for wildfire containment and natural/man-made disaster support); the United States Coast Guard (homeland security waterborne patrolling and natural/manmade disaster waterborne response).  Each state defense force will have missions that lean heavily toward disaster response or emergency management, the nature of which will be dependent on the unique nature of the state’s environment and needs.  Regardless, in most cases, state defense force training, experiences, resources and associations can be advantageous to those preparing to thrive after a disastrous or catastrophic event.

Advantage - Training

Some SDF programs are more robust and developed than others, so, depending on the training standards and program quality of a particular state defense force, the value of service based training can vary broadly.  However, from a preparedness standpoint, service in your State Defense Force may offer multiple advantages for the individual seeking development of new skills or retention of known skills.  Since disaster preparedness on an individual basis shares a common theme with disaster preparedness on a community basis, there are skill-sets, knowledge bases, and resources that are equally valuable in both circumstances.  Some examples include emergency medical training and equipment access, communication training and equipment access, map-reading and land navigation, survival skills, tactical skills, weapons training, etc.  Based on discussions I’ve had with members of other SDFs and reviews of various sources, the quality and nature of training can be fairly divergent from unit to unit within a state defense force, and also from state to state.

As a rule, to become proficient, those who do not already have such skills from prior federal service or other experiences have to spend money on obtaining such training, as well as develop and dedicate resources on practical skill maintenance.  The quality of privately obtained training or individually developed experience may not always provide adequate value for the expense.  In general, relevant training in these and other skills are part and parcel of state defense force service at no, or minimal, out-of-pocket expense. 

Some, though not all, of otherwise expensive training presented throughout my ongoing service in the Texas Maritime Regiment at minimal cost, if any, to me include: land navigation, first aid, advanced first aid, CPR and AED, combat medic, ASP baton, scuba diving, Taser, active-shooter (ALERRT), emergency response base camp establishment and operation, human tracking, boat operation, tactical employment, personal security detachment operations, vehicle licensure for federal military vehicles (various), military emergency management specialist courses, Ham radio certification, rappelling and rope work, swift water rescue familiarization training, etc.  Much of this was complementary to my prior federal service in the USMC. In some cases, it simply allows me to keep relatively current on some skills, while some were completely new for me. 

Naturally, as in most things, you get out of it what you put in.  For those who hit the ground running with the expectation of taking advantage of every opportunity to develop themselves, the training should be available somewhere.  In some cases, there are expensive training options wholly paid by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  An example is the instructor course for Incident Response to Terrorist Bombing, a four day course in New Mexico for which DHS pays for round-trip air fare, car rental, course tuition, lodging, and a meal stipend.  For this and other such courses, I know I like to feel like some of my tax dollars are directly benefiting me in a positive way.  There are other examples that are pretty much closed to those who are not part of law enforcement, emergency first responders, or part of the Homeland Security infrastructure.  For some examples of courses available to state defense force personnel, go to My view on this is that I have already spent the money in the form of taxation, now its time to get back some of what I already paid out.

Advantage – Experiences

Due to the nature of the missions of SDFs as most significantly applicable to natural disasters or large scale emergencies, SDF activation is most likely under those or similar circumstances.  In the states along the Gulf of Mexico our most frequent full activations are associated with hurricanes.  Operating in areas devastated by hurricanes with no running water, no electricity, no retail fuel sources, no retail food stores, no restaurants, etc., gives one an increased appreciation for some of what may be faced in a full grid-down environment.  There is literally no amount of simulation that can compare to operating in such an environment for an extended period.  Rather than trying to strain your brain to guess what might be faced and what the best responses are, reality is all around you to absorb and store as personal experience.  Recent events with large scale wildfires that have destroyed thousands of homes and disrupted the lives of thousands of Texans also provide us with the opportunity to experience some of what might be faced at various times.  Additionally, we gain experience with oil and chemical spills on those unfortunate occasions when Man’s plans don’t mesh well with God’s reality. 

Since we are not simply spectators from afar in these disasters and emergencies, we gain critical experience in how to respond in these situations, what equipment, resources, training, and techniques are most useful.  Essentially, state defense force personnel operate in the realm of hard reality in disaster areas, the value of which cannot be realistically substituted.  Though I have no experience with other states’ forces, my best guess is that every state with an SDF has some sort of practical operational application that will provide real world added value experience, be it tornados, earthquakes, flooding, etc.

Advantage – Resources

In some cases the state provides access to resources that would otherwise be unavailable or prohibitively expensive.  The first thing that comes to mind is bottled water and MREs.  During activation for disaster response, we are provided practically unlimited access to MREs, both for our use and distribution to impacted civilians.  At the conclusion of the disaster or emergency response, state officials have always indicated a preference for total distribution of these meals, as the effort to return them to storage represents additional and needless expense, particularly as these are provided by the federal government as part of the emergency management process.  As a lifelong taxpayer whose experience has seen money flowing one way, away from my pocket, I consider this legal and authorized retention of provided resources a reasonable partial return on prior payments.

Another element that might be seen as valuable to some is the first line access to vaccinations for pandemics for state military forces personnel and our nuclear family members.  Because of reported issues of major side-effects from vaccinations, I recognize everyone may not want one, but for those who do, we are provided first access as emergency response personnel. 

Some of the other advantages are federal income tax deductions for service associated equipment purchases such as gear, ammunition, uniform clothing, etc.  This, in and of itself, has a direct value for those who are still developing or deepening their preparedness resources.  In Texas there are some providers, vendors, or retailers who offer military discounts on non-military items.  Though there are many others, one example is the McDonald’s restaurant chain.  While this might not seem immediately relevant to a prepper, my perspective is that every dollar I don’t spend elsewhere is one more dollar that can be focused on preparedness needs and saving where possible is another element to improving one’s overall position.  Along this vein, we have college tuition reimbursement programs, discounts for various state or other government services, free vehicle registration, etc.  All these can pile up and represent a fairly tidy sum to apply toward your own disaster preparedness program.

Another resource consideration not to be overlooked is early access to critical decision-making information.  I was at one time assigned to the intelligence section of our unit, during which time I joined the National Military Intelligence Association which provides a regular open source compilation of daily news that might be of interest in improving situational awareness.  Also, because the state defense forces are integrated at the top levels with the national military and emergency management structure, to be effective in responding to a developing situation the personnel must be “brought on line” before an event reaches a critical point.  In the event a grid down collapse develops as opposed to occurs suddenly (such as a CME or nuclear incident), military personnel will receive warning orders or pre-activation notification.  Such information may provide sufficient lead time to activate your personal program, getting you and/or your family away from the immediate threat area if possible.  What I’m picturing is getting your family, friends, constituents, or group members rolling to a bug-out location immediately on receipt of such a notice, beating mass evacuations and/or roadblocks not yet set up.

Advantage – Association

While this is a bit intangible with pretty wide opportunities for success or failure, in my case it is directly responsible for being invited into an existing retreat plan.  As one inevitably discusses issues and events with those closest to you, there is a very good chance of interacting with like minded people who may have an interest in developing a closer association.  In my case, gaining access to a working ranch with an ongoing and relatively well developed program represents an immediate savings of thousands of dollars, hundreds of hours, and may ultimately save the lives of me and my family.  While I don’t expect everyone to experience the same process exactly, I hope the value of interacting with military personnel with the same or similar understanding of threat probabilities is apparent to everyone.

Advantage – Legitimacy

Without getting into discussion of the Constitutional merits of independent non-aligned militias, my view is there are particular values relative to the legitimate exercise of authority in disaster environments through membership in a state sponsored militia.  The value of bearing a state issued and officially recognized military identification when moving in a developing threat environment can be extraordinarily high.  Military identification allows one to move legitimately in areas and along routes that are otherwise denied to the population at large.  This in and of itself has value in that during evacuation, if one were to be caught up in one, travel along otherwise restricted roadways greatly enhances the speed at which one can reach a particular location.  In my experience, approaching a roadblock in uniform with orders and ID in hand results in the removal of the roadblock before even coming to a full stop.  As a member of the state military forces, you are seen to be part of the legitimate response structure because you are a legitimate part of that structure.  All of the elements are designed to operate together to improve the overall response so, just as we might be manning a roadblock and move it aside for a law enforcement officer, a truck full of firemen, etc., the same benefit accrues to the SDF member.

An additional benefit to being a credentialed member of a state defense force in a post-collapse environment is there is naturally an ingrained unwillingness of most people to initiate hostilities with an apparently organized, uniformed, armed, military force moving through their environs.  While it is likely this would not always be the case, an increase in probability one can avoid conflict is an increase in the probability of eventual success in getting wherever it is you might be trying to go.  Secondly, in the likely event there are problematic persons or groups in an area you may be in, there is an increased probability legitimately credentialed military personnel could expect and receive greater assistance from an otherwise non-aligned populace.  In other words, people would be more prone to help out in forming a posse to crush some roaming gang if the request were to come from Gunnery Sergeant Smith and troops of the State Military Forces, than from Bob Smith, the guy who lives in the farm down the road with his friends and cousins.  Questions of authority and competence will likely be reduced in the first instance, whereas one can imagine folks wondering who in the heck this Bob guy thinks he is to come around trying to form a posse or whatever.

Furthermore, short-term post-collapse society may still include those do not grasp the extent of changes and whose prior positions and responsibilities in law-enforcement drive them to consider arresting openly armed persons.  In such a circumstance, were one to be traveling or operating with or without a group, being well-armed, uniformed, and credentialed should alleviate most concerns such a former law-enforcement individual might have.  My consideration is that SDF personnel are more likely to be welcomed as potential help, or even viewed as an opportunity to enlist into an apparently functional remnant of social stability, than be viewed as a potential threat justifying attempting an arrest.

Because most folks I speak to are more interested in thriving over the long-haul versus barely surviving, and recognize there are clear advantages to working as part of a community to achieve those aims, the likelihood of success is enhanced by an effective armed organization that can serve as the basis for community defense.  As in most things of a preparedness nature, early beats too late.  Joining your State Defense Force as soon as one reasonably can will provide the opportunities to gain from the advantages previously discussed.  Space limitations prevent me from expanding this discussion further, though in reality the advantages are extensive for preparedness minded folks.

Advantage – Oath Keeping and Honor Maintenance

One of my rules in life, but particularly regarding preparedness, is that most actions or decisions should have multiple justifications.  Service in state defense forces should not be simply to improve one’s preparedness posture, but also to serve our fellow citizens and work to improve society.  It is in our nature as decent people to help others in need and do our part in protecting what is great and positive in our nation and among our people.  We take oaths to do so, and desire to serve with honor and distinction.  The potential exists, however, that conflicts might arise regarding one’s duty to God, to self, to family, or to the state and fellow citizens.  One example that comes to mind is a need to focus on family in the event of a serious long-term illness.  Thankfully, most if not all state defense force services have an avenue should such an instance develop.

In general, the laws governing state defense forces provide personnel the option of resigning prior to completion of an enlistment period.  As a rule, enlistments are “open-ended” in that there is no cut-off date at which one must re-enlist to maintain active status, so when one is ready to discharge from a state defense force a resignation is performed – essentially a request for honorable discharge.  My research suggests past practice is, barring criminal activity or some heinous violation of the state code of military justice, honorable discharges are essentially immediately in effect upon resignation and officially granted as the paperwork gets processed.  By providing this option of resignation, a personal mechanism of control for the maintenance and assurance of personal honor and sense of duty exists that federal service members lack.  Federal forces do not have that luxury, but must generally fulfill their full terms of enlistment.

Disadvantages – Expense

State Defense Forces are usually not paid for training, and what they are paid for periods of activation are normally not much.  Because the budgets for state active service in militia units is fairly small, organizations that want to have an aggressive training program need to be inventive and willing to explore training opportunities both internally and from “non-traditional” training sources.  Fire departments may provide rappelling training, local police departments may offer training in SWAT tactics, Army National Guard units might help with land navigation, while an Air National Guard unit provides communication training.  The point is, unlike federally subsidized military forces with training bases, budgets, and large cadres of trainers and instructors, state forces frequently have to be more adaptive to practically non-existent training budgets to develop useful skill-sets and knowledge bases in their personnel.

Though there may be slots in the state budget for uniforms and gear, the reality is that most, if not all, of the necessary military uniforms and equipment must be privately purchased.  One of the mechanisms found to help mitigate the personal impact on this is creating a non-profit that accepts tax deductible donations from businesses to help defray large expenses.  This can be particularly helpful in areas that strongly support state defense forces.  Regardless, ideally everything purchased for service should be dual use as part of a personal disaster response plan, so the expenses are what one would already be spending anyway on preparedness supplies. 

Finally, many employers do not support their employees with paid time off for state military service, though my understanding is that in Texas there are laws that provides the same level of job protection as that afforded to personnel in federal or National Guard service.  On the other hand, some employers provide full pay and benefits while attending training or on active service deployments.  That would definitely be something to explore prior to joining a state defense force.


In my view based on my experience in the Texas Maritime Regiment of the Texas State Guard, from the standpoint of value in enhancing a personal preparedness strategy, the advantages of membership in a state defense force far outweigh the few disadvantages of cost.  I strongly encourage those who have state defense forces active in their states to seriously consider membership as a means of dramatically enhancing their preparedness posture.  For those in Texas who might wish to explore this further, please go to  If you reside in a different state, Wikipedia has a complete list of states with active state defense forces, most with links to discover more from the official web sites.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

In a recent article, Jerry M. mentioned:

“One more thing worth mentioning is the small rifle and small pistol primers are the same size cups, same as the large rifle and large pistol primers are the same size. The cups on the pistol primers are a little thinner than the rifle, for obvious reasons, most rifle firing pins hit a lot harder than pistols do. I have used rifle primers in pistol rounds, and they seem to work fine. You might run into problems on S&W revolvers, using rifle primers, if you have the spring tension screw backed off to get a lighter trigger pull, but this could also happen with pistol primers, if backed off too far. Men sometime do this for wives who have trouble shooting double action, don't! Your taking a chance on a misfire when you do this. And never use a pistol primer in a rifle round, the cup is too thin and if the firing pin penetrates the primer, you will get gas back in your face.”

To add emphasis and a clarification to Jerry's warning: Rifle and pistol primers may have the same diameters, but they don't have the same height. Using a large rifle primer in a pistol case will cause the primer to protrude above the case head, since large rifle primers are deeper (taller) than large pistol primers.  Worst case, a semi-auto pistol (like a Model 1911) could be “slam-fired” or even double (go into uncontrolled full auto fire).
Please use the correct primer for the cartridge you are reloading! - J.B. in Tennessee

Friday, October 28, 2011

Having spent my teenage years in my dad's commercial reloading shop, circa 1955 to1958, I learned quite a bit about reloading ammunition. Back then we loaded mostly .30-06, .30-30 Winchester, .270 Winchester, .300 Savage, 250 Savage and other old calibers that were excellent deer and elk rifles. Long before the magnum mania came about, these rifles were killing big game, and doing it quite well.

Many today find this unbelievable, but back when the silver certificates were money, and fiat currency was only a dream of the globalist bankers, you could buy a pound of DuPont 4895, a box of 100- .30 caliber JSP bullets, and a box of 100 Large rifle primers for less than $5! And the best Winchester and Remington .22 Long Rifle cartridges were 50 to 60 cents per box of 50!

But those days are long gone now, and JSP bullets of all kinds now run well over $20 a hundred, and $30 for the specialty bullets. And today the gun manufactures are under the illusion that you have to come out with a new caliber every year, just like the auto industry, to sell guns to the public. This one has a little more destructive bullet and is 30 FPS faster than the last caliber that came out, But I'll guarantee you the deer or elk has no idea how fast the bullet was that took him down, whether is came at 1,600 FPS, or 3,500 FPS, he's just as dead. And remember, before 1900, all bullets traveled at less than 2,000 FPS, and many were in the 1,200 to 1,500 FPS category, and  they killed everything that walked the American continent.

Most people on fixed incomes are always looking for alternatives to the high prices of ammo when making other preparations for the coming collapse. Well, a bullet mold for each rifle and pistol caliber you own is a good investment. And some old advise from Elmer Keith, always get the biggest bullet that will function in the calibers you shoot! And I feel most of the time, this is very true, especially with cast bullets. But there are exceptions with mold and bullet designs. I like the Lee mold 121 grain plain base truncated cone in the 9mm, which I find also works well in the .380 ACP. But I shoot the 195-200 grain dome bullet in the .38 Special.  I still have the first mold that I bought for  $6.00 complete with handles, a Lyman 357446 Semi Wadcutter (SWC) 160 grain. And I wouldn't shoot anything less than a 230 grain in the 45 ACP, I've seen too many failures of the lighter weight JHPs. But that's a personal choice. In the old S&W .45 ACP revolvers (Model 1917 and 1934 Brazilian) I like the 255 grain Keith SWC with 5 grains of Unique powder, which seems to drop badly if shooting over 150 yards out of the Commander size M1911 autos.

By the way, don't get caught up in the gun writers in the gun magazines. They are writing for the money, and get most of the things they write about from the factory for just writing an article about it. I use to get a kick out of Charles Askins, one article the revolver is much superior to the auto loader, the next month or so, the auto loader was better than the revolver! It was just a matter of who sent him what at the time, which was the better gun.

If you are just starting out with your preps, Watch the yard sales and pawn shops for bargains on reloading equipment. I suggest an old Lyman lead pot that can be used over a fire, along with their dipper. The electric pots work great, as long as you have electric power. I have an old Saeco 20 LB. electric pot that I had repaired several times over the years when the wiring got too hot and shorted out, last time I just tore it apart and now use just the pot in a wood monkey stove, as it fits good in the top front wood feed hole. And seems to heat faster than it did with electric power.

Now after years of loading ammo, I say there is no round that can't be reloaded if you have the proper tools. I have reloaded the steel Russian 7.62x39 rounds, that they say are not reloadable, But with inflation today, you pay more per primer for the 550 mm Berdan primer package of 250 primers, than you do per loaded round for the surplus 7.62x39 ammunition! But I do keep a couple packages around just for drill! Also note that the Berdan primers come in several sizes, so you have to figure out what you've got before you buy a package of the wrong size. But RCBS does make a good decapping tool, that works better than filling the case with water and [hydraulically] popping them out with a stick the right size!

Getting back to the cast bullets, a friend who lives in California just told me you can't shoot lead bullets anymore in California, because the California Condor is swallowing them when eating dead game and dying of lead poisoning. And if you believe that one, I have some beach front property near Las Vegas, Nevada I'll sell you, real cheap! I think the liberals and bunny huggers slipped one over on the hunters and shooters of California.

I cast a Lyman .311041 179 grain gas check bullet, for use in the .30-30, also shoots well in the .308 Winchester, .30-06, 7.7 Jap, 7.65 Argentine, and .303 British. It has a flat nose and feeds without danger in Winchester and Marlin tube feed magazines. I prefer the old Lyman .311314 -180 grain gas check bullet In the military rifles as it's a spitzer shape and doesn't drop as fast as the flat nose for longer shots. But my favorite bullet for .30-06 is the Lyman .311224- 220 grain gas check bullet which comes out of my mold at about 225 grains. For the newcomers, a gas check is a small copper jacket that goes on the base of a cast bullet, if there is a recess for a gas check. It seals the gases that might blow by on a plain base bullet. I use beeswax for fluxing the lead pot, keeps the metal melted so the tin or hard metals don't float to the top and get skimmed off as slag. or candles work well too if you can find them cheap, but will catch fire if pot gets too hot. in fact I make all my own bullet lube, melt bee's wax in a coffee can, add graphite, and a wax toilet seal ring found in most plumbing shops, Wal-Mart, or Home Depot. And pore it into the bullet sizer hot. The only bullet lube I buy today is SPG Black powder bullet lube and TC Bore Butter from Dixie Gun Works in Union City, Tennessee. They also have many other black powder shooting supplies.

Now for the survivalist, the one powder that can be used in any rifle,  pistol, or shotgun is Unique. You can come up with a shootable loading for any rifle, pistol or shotgun using Unique. Incidentally, I use Bullseye in the small pistol calibers .25 ACP (a totally worthless caliber) the .32 ACP, and the .380 ACP. And in case this nation gets into civil war, after the fiat dollar collapse, Bullseye pistol powder has a very high burning rate. You really have to be careful when using this powder, I've seen lots of good S&W and Colt revolvers over the years, missing the top half of the cylinder and the top strap folded up, from people starting out reloading, and thinking 3.0 grains of Bullseye couldn't possibly be enough powder, like the book says, and triple charge it. I believe you can get something like 15 grains of Bullseye in a .357 mag case and still set the bullet on it, but if you do, you have just turned your favorite handgun into a hand grenade! (Very dangerous!) So don't exceed what the reloading manuals says as a maximum charge with any powder. That brings up another good point, get a good reloading manual, I've got dozens I've bought over the years, but always seem to go back to the Lyman Reloading Handbook as it seems to cover a lot more than most.

I have made many of my own powder dippers, as in survival reloading you can't take along a powder scale and measure if you have to bug out. I use to keep a Lee hand press and set of dies with dipper and powder, bullets, and primers in a .50 caliber ammo can, with a hundred cases and bullets, (my grab and run box) when I worked nights at the sheriff's office as dispatcher. On a quiet night I could load a hundred rounds of .38s or 9mms and sometimes .45 ACP. It sure beat watching television!

To make my dippers, I take a fired cartridge case close to the size powder charge I need, pound a 5 inch piece of brazing rod flat on one end and solder it on the base of the case, then take an old piece of antler, preferably a contoured tip, cut it off, and drill a hole in the cut off end, and epoxy the rod into the antler. Then start dipping powder, and using your scale weigh it, and file off the opening until it gets down to the powder charge you want, then run the burr remover around the inside and out side of the case mouth to remove the burrs. I find this is just as accurate as using a mechanical powder measure, once you get the hang of dipping powder. Lee also make a kit full of plastic dippers, but I prefer to use my own, in case I don't have a pair of glasses handy to read what's on the plastic dippers, to make sure I have the right dipper.

Paper patching - This never took hold in our military, but was quite common in all of Europe back in the 1800s. Our Buffalo hunters did get into the paper patch bullets from the Sharps rifle company. To paper patch, you use an under sized bullet and cutting a parallelogram out of cotton bond paper, dampen it then starting half way down the bullet wrap the paper, the cuts should come out together, meaning the first wrap should have a wrap of paper over it, but have it come out to where the last wrap butts against the first with no overlap, Then twist the paper hanging over the bottom to where its flat against the base of the bullet,then trim off the excess.  It will tear when you stick it into the case if the cuts overlap on the sides and cause a bump. I have several molds I've had made for paper patching, but never used them yet, other than the 460 grain 45/70 bullet, over a charge of 58 grains of FFFG [black powder] with a felt wad soaked with Bore Butter. Loading black powder is a whole different science, and if you get into it, you'll find some very accurate ammo can be made up with black powder loadings.

The art of paper patching can be a benefit in survival conditions as you can patch up a .243 bullet to shoot in the 6.5 mm, the 6.5 mm up to 7mm, the .270 bullet to shoot in a 30 caliber, or the .30 caliber to shoot in the 8mm Mauser, and it's all in cutting the right [thickness] wrap out of cotton bond paper.  That is if you don't have the right bullets for the right caliber!

Something I might mention for survivalists is chamber adapters. I have adapters for most of my .30 caliber rifles that will shoot .32 ACP ammo from a .30 caliber rifle. This is legal, but very quiet, as you fire a .32 ACP out of a .30-06, as the bullet travels down the barrel some of the gas bleeds around the chamber adaptor, lessening the report, plus the fact that the 32 doesn't break the sound barrier, you don't have the loud supersonic crack that is normal for the .30-06. Good for shooting rabbits while deer hunting. I'm loading a Lee Mold 100 grain cast round nose in the .32 ACP over 2.0 grains of Bullseye, and I think I might be a little hesitant about shooting the 71 grain FMJ down the .30 caliber barrel, as most are .312 to .314 Diameter. I have a confession to make here, a while back a guy gave me a hand full of very old .32 ACP ammo, with steel jackets. I wanted the brass but was to lazy to use the puller, and took an old Mark 4 British .303 out with the chamber adaptor and started shooting up the .32 ammo, about the 5th or 6th shot, shooting at a 6" rock about 75 yards out, I didn't see any impact, so I shot 2 more rounds and then the lights came on after seeing no impact, maybe I should pull the bolt and check the bore. Well I had about three of these stuck in the barrel about 4" from the muzzle. I tried in vain to knock them out with a rod and mallet, no dice. so I took the rifle over to our local gunsmith to see if he could get them out. No way, so I now have [shortened it to become] a British .303 carbine with no flash hider! A lesson learned the hard way, no Jacketed bullet use in the adaptors, from then on!

Accuracy - No question in my mind after years of shooting cast rifle bullets, if you use the right bullet material combination, lead, tin, antimony, and good bullet lube, the right powder charge, you'll find cast bullets can be just as accurate as any of the expensive jacketed bullets on the market. Most shooters know every rifle barrel has it's own vibration, and finding the vibration of your barrel can be tricky. I had an old 1903 Springfield sporter with an old 4X Weaver scope on it, and the Government ammo would shoot a 3" group at 100 yards, I started loading a 165 grain JSP-BT (Jacketed soft point boat tail) and pulled that down to 2" I started backing down the powder charge 1/2 grain at a time, and got down to 45 Grains of IMR 4895 and it was breaking one hole! This is an impossibility for most old military Springfield's. But at 45 grains I found the rifle barrels vibration point.

I experimented with cast bullets in a Ruger Mini-14 .223, all I had was a 44 grain gas check round nose mold so I started experimenting with powders and loads. When I got it up to where it would cycle the action, I was shooting about a two foot group at 100 yards, and the barrel was leading something fierce. So I started backing it down to where I was shooting a 6" group and working it like a bolt action! I gave up. So I found an old Rockchucker .224 bullet forming die and press, at a very good price, so I bought it, including about 1400 .224 copper jackets. Well, having a metal lathe, I took a 7/8x14 hardened bolt annealed it and bored it .225, and made a .217by 4"  post with a shell holder base, re-hardened the bolt and base, and now I make .224 jackets from .22 Long rifle brass. It's a long, slow process to make bullets this way, but it will function the autos, and it's very accurate. You have to find clean 22 brass, anneal it in the oven for 3 hours on "Broil", CCI stinger nickel plated brass makes pretty bullets. About another hour in the oven, but you have to check them close for cracked and overlapped tips. those shoot okay in a .22 Hornet or .223 at lower velocities, but not in full house loads. Then you have to cast the cores, I cut the core mold into the back side of an old .50 caliber ball mold that was rusted I found at a yard sale. I take the cores slip them into the .22 LR jacket, tap them with a rubber mallet to set them into the bottom of the jacket, then run them into the die to form the .224 bullet. Then after you make up 500 or so, put them in the brass tumbler for a couple hours to clean them up. they come out 62 grain, the Stinger brass come out a little heaver, almost a hollow point. The home made bullets from .22 LR brass seem just as accurate out of the AR, Mini-14 and .223 bolt rifles and shot out of the .22-250 at around 3,400 FPS--very accurate.

Now I'm working on developing a similar die set for .30 caliber. One more thing worth mentioning is the small rifle and small pistol primers are the same size cups, same as the large rifle and large pistol primers are the same size. The cups on the pistol primers are a little thinner than the rifle, for obvious reasons, most rifle firing pins hit a lot harder than pistols do. I have used rifle primers in pistol rounds, and they seem to work fine. You might run into problems on S&W revolvers, using rifle primers, if you have the spring tension screw backed off to get a lighter trigger pull, but this could also happen with pistol primers, if backed off too far. Men sometime do this for wives who have trouble shooting double action, don't! Your taking a chance on a misfire when you do this. And never use a pistol primer in a rifle round, the cup is too thin and if the firing pin penetrates the primer, you will get gas back in your face.

Well reloading in my case is a necessity, being on Social Security I can't afford to buy anything but .22 Long Rifle ammo. But I think over the years I have loaded enough ammo to keep my grandkids shooting for life. Keep a good supply of powder and primers, and bullets if you can afford to buy them in bulk. My main powders are IMR 4895, 3031, Unique, 2400, and Bullseye, yeah, I'm old school. Bullseye is good for .38 Specials, using the 200 grain cast dome bullet with 3.5 grains of Bullseye I get 2,000 loads from a pound of powder. I have tried most of the new powders, but always go back to my old mainstays. (I hope I didn't insult anybody by saying the .25 ACP was worthless!) I load 0.7 grain of Bullseye with the 50 grain FMJ for my daughter in law, she has an old Colt Junior that her dad gave her, and she loves it. But in most cases the .22 Long Rifle is a much better choice than the .25, and lots cheaper! Incidentally, loading that .25 ACP with 0.7 grains that comes out to 10,000 rounds from a pound of Bullseye. And about 3500 rounds of .32 ACP from a pound of Bullseye. And if you buy these powders in the 4 or 8 pound containers that's a lot of reloading! I just wish the 4895 would stretch that far, but I get something like 145 rounds of .308 from a pound, depending on which bullet I use. I really like the Sierra 168 grain JHP-BT, that's about as close as I've come to the 173 grain FMJ military match bullet.

One main thing about reloading, keep in mind that alcohol and gunpowder is a bad mixture, and pay attention to all the operations, if somebody comes in and wants to talk, quit loading and talk. And over load is bad, but a round loaded with no powder is much worse, the primer, most of the time has enough power to put the bullet into the rifling just far enough to chamber another round! And if you don't catch the mistake and fire the following round you blow the barrel, and possibly ruin the action! Not to mention part of your face! So pay attention, and follow the manual closely, and don't use a load from memory, always look it up and make sure it's right! And never shoot somebody's reloads that you don't know, better to pull them down and reload them yourself than take a chance on blowing up a gun!

Survival reloading may come sooner than we'd like. I have Lyman 310 [hand reloading press] tools for several calibers but I don't care for the neck sizing only, and the load aren't interchangeable from one rifle to another of the same caliber. I much prefer the Lee Hand Press that will take your regular die sets. the only problem I've had with the Lee was there is no hole for the primers to fall out of the ram, and If you don't dump it regular it gets so many primers, that you can't pull the shell holder out of the ram. I drilled a hole in the front of the ram, and that solved the problem. Then I pulled one apart removing a sized .30-06 case from the die, the hand press is engineered for push action, and not pulling. When I got the replacement part I poured fiberglass resin with patches of aluminum screen in the hollow, and so far haven't pulled it apart again!

I've seen some reloaders mount a reloading press on the back bumper of their pickup, this is okay out in the country, but It wouldn't fly in the big cities where the anti-gun crowd lives, and driving on dirt roads doesn't do the press parts any good, plus they have to unscrew the handle every time it's not in use! Just watch the yard sales, pawn shops and junk stores and mainly estate sales, relatives that aren't into shooting usually have no idea what the dead uncle had invested and what everything is that he had in his shop! Many times you can buy a fortune in ammo brass and loading equipment for pennies on the dollar at these sales! And I have picked up loads of reloading stuff at sales from people who have no idea what the stuff was used for, and when you tell them it's for making bullets, they don't really want it around for fear the kids might get into it and get hurt.

One final note on cast bullets and killing game. I brain tan deer and elk hides. And if the animal is shot with a cast bullet, there is no blood saturation or fragment holes on the hide. Just a small size hole through both sides. When people offer me a hide, I ask what the animal was shot with, and if they say a .300 Magnum or 7mm magnum, I tell them no thanks, too much bullet damage, I've tried to save some that had about a 12" circle of small fragment holes and blood saturation around the exit hole, and I end up losing most of the bullet exit side of the hide! So when the dollar fails and you were too late to buy more ammo, I hope you were wise enough to buy the dies and molds for the guns you have. Plus the pot and dipper. And the dozens of other tools that expand you capabilities in reloading.

Monday, October 24, 2011

When I entered Basic Training at Fort Ord, California, in August 1969, we were issued M14 rifles. I was a wimpy 17-year old weighing 135 pounds. I found the M14 was extremely heavy for me to carry, but I learned to love that rifle, and I still do! The M14 fires the 7.62 NATO round - it's akin to the civilian .308 Winchester round. It's a great all around caliber for (most) big game hunting, as well as defending your home or retreat. When I left Basic Training, and went on to my Infantry school at Fort Lewis, Washington, I bid farewell to the M14, and was issued an M16A1 - which weighed three pounds less than the M14.
During Basic Training, I earned my Expert badge when I qualified with the M14 - one of the few in my unit to get Expert, and no one in my unit could field strip or reassemble an M14 faster than I could. Strange thing is, when I fired that M16A1 for qualification, I only earned my Marksman's badge. I told my Drill Instructor from the get-go, that there was something "wrong" with my M16A1, but he wouldn't listen. It just didn't make sense that I could fire the bigger, and harder-kicking M14 and get an Expert's badge, and only get a Marksmanship badge with the M16A1. I still believe to this day, that the M16A1 I had fired for qualification had a shot out barrel. While the M16A1 was a delight to carry compared to the M14, it just didn't instill a lot of confidence.
I've owned several Springfield Armory M1A rifles over the years. The M1A is a semi-auto only version of the M14, and the be sure, when the M14 was fired on full-auto, it was a handful, and after the second or third shot, you were completely off target due to the recoil on full-auto. When I was on the Illinois State Rifle & Pistol Team, we were issued match-grade M14s to shoot in competition, and they were sure sweet-shooting rifles, and I rarely walked away without taking first place in the matches and categories I competed in.
Sad to say, I presently don't own a Springfield Armory M1A, but I'm waiting for one to come into my local gun shop, at which time, I'll snap it up in a trade of some sort. However, I do own a Chinese clone, which is stamped "M14/S" on the receiver - even though it's only a semi-auto version, with no provision for full-auto fire. This is a Chinese PolyTech clone of the M1A, and I've owned several of these over the years, and all were really good shooters. One complaint I've had with the Chinese clones is that, their stocks are overly bulky and thick. It's an easy fix to replace those stocks with a US military surplus M14 stock, that only takes a little bit of fitting, and filling in the hole in the stock where the full-auto selector switch goes, and you don't even have to fill that hole in, if you don't want to.
In the past, I've tried several imported M1A scope mounts, and I wasn't satisfied with any of them. Some of these mounts didn't even look good when I received them - they were poorly made - and some were returned. The cheap mounts I did try were just junk and several of 'em even broke under recoil when placed on an M1A or clone, plus, they wouldn't hold their zero for long - some only held a zero for a mag full of ammo - not acceptable. I've also tried some of the better M1A mounts, and while they were much better than the pricey mounts were, I soon abandoned them as well, 'cause they wouldn't hold a zero after being removed and replaced on the gun. [JWR Adds: The PolyTech is not a true clone of an M1A, since they had some dimensional differences on some parts. The PolyTech M14/S rifles also had notoriously soft bolts. Retrofitting the bolt with a USGI bolt will solve that problem, but to be done right, the receiver geometry must be corrected to match the bolt. Fulton Army does that work.]
Enter Bill Bassett and his company, Bassett Machine, and his answer to the M1A/M14 scope mounts. I was contacted by Bill, asking me if I'd like to test his mounts, claiming they are the best in the business. Needless to say, I had to accept his challenge, and in short order, Bill sent me several different models and configurations of mounts suitable for use on the M1A/M14 line of rifles and the clones. At present, Bassett Machine, is producing four types of mounts. One is the Standard High scope mount, another is the Standard Low scope mount, and we have the Picatinny Rail scope mount and the Picatinny low scope mount. I received the Standard High, Standard Low and one of the Picatinny Rail mounts - though I'm not sure if I received the standard or the low mount.
All the Bassett Machine mounts are expertly machined out of Aluminum, with zero flaws - so, upon first inspection, I was pretty impressed with the product samples I was sent. Bassett also includes a torque wrench with each mount, with specific instructions on how to torque down the mounts, and this is something I haven't run across before. Bill says that you shouldn't torque your mount down any more than 22-inch pounds, and I thought this seemed to be a bit light. In the past, I torqued down M1A scope mounts a lot tighter than that. So, I expected the mounts to work themselves loose under recoil, in short order - didn't happen!
I experimented with all three of the mounts I was sent, over a period of several weeks. Yeah, I wanted to give these hummers a good work out to see if they lived up to the claims they made. There are numerous comments on the Bassett Machine web site, from very satisfied customers, all praising the mounts. The mounts fit my Chinese M14 clone perfectly, just a great fit, and they are so easy to remove and re-mount, even a young child can do it, following the instructions for getting the torque just perfect. the torque wrench also has a new feature, and that's a bolt greaser built into it - those of you who own an M1A know what I'm talking about - handy little device for keeping the bolt properly greased on your rifle.
My Poly Tech M14 clone is scary accurate, so I was expecting some good test results from the Bassett Machine mounts. I only mounted an el cheapo 3X9 Simmons scope on the rifle for this test and evaluation period - for serious work, I'd permanently mount something much better on the rifle. Over the course of several weeks, I used all three of the mounts Bill Bassett sent me, moving the scope from one mount to another and back and forth. I honestly lost count of how many times this scope was moved from mount-to-mount, and how many times, I removed the mounts, fired the rifle without the scope and mount, and then placed the scope and mount back on the rifle rifle - safe to say, it was dozens and dozens and dozens of times. It was work!
I found that the mounts pretty much held their zero after being removed and placed back on the PolyTech. Most of the time, the point of impact only changed about half an inch, if that. Now, that's confidence in your mount if you ask me. And, as many times as I took that scope off of one mount, and placed it on another mount for testing, the scope was pretty much dead-on, from one mount to another - other than a slight change in elevation due to the differing heights of the Bassett mounts - but nothing worth writing home about.
You might also find of great interest, the testing that was done using the Bassett Mounts down at Ft. Hood, Texas for the Advanced Marksmanship Unit. Using a single Weaver T-10 Scope, and the Bassett Standard scope mount unit to test 160, M14 rifles, for accuracy, three times a year, for two years- this lone Bassett Mount never failed - that's 19,200 rounds fired through the various guns, using the same scope and Bassett Mount. The Bassett Mount was found to be the most useful tool in testing the rifle's accuracy!
Quite frankly, I gave these mounts more of a workout than I had ever given any mounts. Bill Bassett claims he makes the best M1A/M14 mounts in the business and I have no doubts about this claim. I had a favorite mount, that is the Standard High scope mount, that allows you to continue to use the iron sights, should your scope fail you.
Now, as to pricing on the mounts, as I've said over the years, quality never comes cheap. However, if you buy quality, you don't have to buy it again...whereas, with cheap products, you have to keep replacing 'em over and over again. The Standard High mount is $97.50 as is the Standard Low mount. the Picatinny Rail mount is $149.50, and the LOW Picatinny rail mount is $159.50. Now, that might seem a bit high, but you only need to purchase any of these mounts once - they will last you as long as you own them, of that, I have no doubt. And, should you have a problem, Bill Bassett will be there to make it right with you.
When I received the mounts, I got a short letter from Bill, with his cell phone number, house phone, his daughter's cell and his wife's cell phone numbers - and, or course, the business number - should I have any questions or problems - Bill wanted to be available to be there for me. I've never had anyone make themselves so available to me, should a problem or question arise. I didn't have a need to call any of the numbers.
I could get into the technical aspects of Bill's M1A/M14 mounts, but it would probably bore you. If you want to know more about these outstanding mounts, be sure to go to the Bassett Machine web site, and you'll probably find out all you need to know. As for me, my extensive and almost exhaustive testing answered all my questions. Bassett Machine is busying turning out these mounts as fast as they can - when you place your order, you can expect to get your mounts in 2-to-4 weeks.
If you're in the market for an M1A or M14 scope mount, that won't fail you, then give Bill Bassett your business. Even though I've never met Bill or talked to him, I can tell he is one of the Good Guys, and deserves our business. He made a claim to me, that he makes the best M1A/M14 scope mounts in the business and I took him up on his challenge. He was right!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Many SurvivalBlog readers have been prepping for awhile and are comfortable with their plans.  However, the process can be overwhelming for people who have recently “woke up” or who are trying to convince loved ones who aren’t sold on the need or desirability of prepping.

This shouldn’t be minimized or downplayed.  It can be very disturbing when you first realize you aren’t   self-sufficient.  It is easy to become overwhelmed with the scope, cost, and time necessary to prepare.  The concept of TEOTWAWKI can be troubling and concerning even to completely self-sufficient preppers. 
Even the possibility of angry mobs trying to fight off starvation, heavily armed gangs running wild with little or no law enforcement, and rampant disease and poverty seems like something out of a Mad Max movie.   We have been raised in the “land of plenty”; these things happen in other places, not here.  It is troubling enough that a person’s mental processes can shut down as the normalcy bias kicks in.
People then convince themselves that things won’t get that bad.  If you raise these ideas in certain social circles, you will be met with looks that suggest you belong in a mental institution.  It is easy to feel embarrassed and unsure of what to do, or have fear, doubt, uncertainty, and anxiety cloud your judgment.
Based on my own recent experience, I have a few suggestions for people who are just starting out.

What I’ve listed below is a mental framework for how to approach your survival planning.  I found it is easier to develop a strategy if you utilize this framework.  It is also easier to explain to loved ones or friends who may not be sure that prepping is necessary or advisable.
Please keep in mind that the three categories below are not hard and fast rules but a general conceptual approach.  Many prepping activities can be classified in more than one category.  Depending on your circumstances, you may have to make adjustments in your planning for the three stages.
The first step for prepping I recommend is to prioritize your needs into three categories: immediate, mid-range, and long term survival needs and goals (I refer to them as Steps 1, 2, and 3).

Step 1 is for short term needs.  This is the easiest for both the prepper and those people he is trying to convince.  I also call it “natural disaster prep”.  Many people live in areas that may be prone to natural disasters or at least heavy snowfalls that can take out electrical power.  Many people have survived these events or have heard stories from those who have.  Therefore, Step 1 is not mentally or emotionally difficult to accept and prepare for.
This step involves thinking about no electricity or modern conveniences.  Emphasis is on stockpiling water, MREs, batteries, etc.  You should purchase a water filter, and be prepared to cook without electricity for awhile.  You should also maintain a “stash of cash”.   There are many good resources to help you plan for what may befall you following a natural disaster.  Even many “ostriches” can see the need for this.

Step 2 is for intermediate needs.  I also like to call this “economic insurance”.  It’s a bit harder to prepare for mentally, but is still not too alarming or threatening if you approach it (and communicate it) correctly.
The idea is to accept the fact that we are living in a tough economy.  It is easy for people to lose their jobs, or to have to take a pay cut.  Inflation is also a concern.  Sadly, over the past few years, most people no longer have to be “pushed” into seeing this.  Food and gasoline prices have obviously gone up; it doesn’t take much imagination to see things could get worse.
The solution?  Stock up on food and supplies!  The method I use is to point out that my family is self-employed.  If we should have to shut down, and it takes awhile for us to find new jobs, I don’t want to have to worry about the grocery bill.  I want to have plenty of food and supplies on hand.  We will need the money for other items.
Most people see the wisdom of this.  If you handle the situation correctly, you can get loved ones to “buy in” and over time become supportive.  Being self-reliant is a trait that people instinctively feel good about.  Over time, you and your loved ones can gain confidence and knowledge as you continue prepping.

Step 3 is for long term needs, and is primarily for either TEOTWAWKI, or at least some pretty ugly circumstances.  This involves building a very deep larder, and includes items such as seeds, 5 gallon drums filled with wheat, canning equipment, etc.  It also involves wrestling with the idea of “bugging out” if things get too crazy, or establishing a deeply stocked, remotely located retreat.
I believe this is a psychologically and emotionally difficult process for most people.  The idea of societal collapse is something most folks are simply not prepared to deal with.  It is very easy to become depressed or overwhelmed after taking a serious, realistic look at what the world would look like and what one would have to do to survive TEOTWAWKI.
I believe that prematurely confronting the difficulties of Step 3 is what causes many people to go into denial or become depressed and quit preparations.  This step shouldn’t be seriously considered until someone (at a minimum) has mentally and emotionally accepted Steps 1 and 2.  It is best if they have done their research and gained some practical experience with their preparations.

A few general guidelines when starting:
When prioritizing needs, I would first obtain firearms and ammunition.  This can be easily explained as part of Step 1 preparations; you are defending against potential burglars and post-disaster looters.  I place this item first because given our current political climate, it is almost certain that the current administration will do everything possible to make firearms more difficult to obtain, or more expensive through regulation. 
Obtain as much training as you can.  If you take classes in firearm training, first aid, canning, etc. you not only are gaining survival skills, but you can also find a new hobby.  Don’t think of it (or describe it) as trying to “fill up” holes in your skill set, but a chance to grow and develop as a person.
Learn what things cost, and what they are truly worth.  In order to combat inflation, I recently began to use couponing strategies.  You can save quite a bit of money, and it’s also a good way to stock up on barter items, or additional supplies for charitable giving.
Study economics.  It is difficult to make concrete plans if you have no idea of the economic forces at work around you.  Try and learn not only about basic economics and free-market principles, but what is happening in the world and the likely results. 
It is very difficult for most people to understand that fiat money is not wealth.  It is even more difficult to accept (after a lifetime of “education”) that numbers listed on an “IRA” or “mutual fund” account statement can only provide for a person under certain economic conditions.
During periods of hyperinflation or currency collapse, re-education will be terribly painful as people realize that actual, useful goods (food, tools, seeds, guns, ammunition) are the only true forms of material wealth.  If you can accumulate some gold, silver, and goods that can be easily bartered (Survival Blog has many excellent examples of these) you will be far ahead of most people.
Develop flexibility and realism in your plans.  You may not be able to afford a retreat property, or be able to live there full time with your current job.  You may not have enough money or time to purchase all the items you want or the skills that you need.  Bear in mind that there is no “perfect plan”, and that everyone faces shortcomings of some sort.

Make the best plans you can under your circumstances, and keep a constant eye on the world around you (and at large) to see if you have to make revisions.  If you combine a can-do attitude and self-sufficient mindset with even modest planning and accumulation of needed goods, you will be in far better shape than most other people.
As you go down the path of your prepping journey, at some point you must confront many things you do not want to believe or are afraid of, such as economic hardship or TEOTWAWKI.  Don’t allow this to dominate your life or make you live in fear.  (This can happen if people try to do too much too fast or don’t mentally establish some realistic guidelines of what they need to accomplish).

Continue to go to school, spend time with family activities, and enjoy life to the fullest.  Maintaining a sense of balance in your life will help you develop the mindset and traits you will need should everything come apart.

Most of all develop your spiritual life.  Put your faith in the Lord, and trust in Him.  Develop firm beliefs about how you will behave and live your life, even if things grow difficult.  If you take even a casual glance backward at history, you will see many instances of ordinary people surviving extraordinary times with faith, courage, hope, and mental and spiritual toughness.  Don’t allow despair or fear to cripple your mind or destroy your plans.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Twenty years ago, when I first started writing about guns, I also edited and published a rag called "Police Hot Sheet." It was a pull-no-punches magazine reviewing firearms, ammo and gear. The very first companies to supply me with their products were Black Hills Ammunition and Taurus Firearms and to this day, both companies keep samples of their products coming my way.

Over the past 20 years, I have easily fired hundreds of thousands of rounds of Black Hills Ammunition, and not once did I have a problem with any of their ammo - reloads, factory seconds or their brand-new ammo. I wish I could say the same for some of the big-boy ammo companies out there, like Remington and some of the others. A little over a year ago, I had my youngest daughter out for a shooting session with a Beretta M9 - for some reason, the US Army didn't seem fit to give my daughter any handgun training - even though she's a Combat Medic. I had one of the bulk boxes of 9mm FMJ from Remington on-hand for her shooting session. We were a bit disappointed in the quality of the Remington UMC ammo - we had about 5 or 6 problems with that 250 rounds of ammunition. Most of the problems we had were either dead primers, or primers that were put into the shell sideways - yes, you read that right - the primers were placed sideways! Obviously, there wasn't any close final inspection of the ammo before shipment.

As I said, I never encountered a single problem with Jeff Hoffman's Black Hills Ammunition in more than 20 years of shooting it. I've watched Black Hills Ammunition grow from a very small operation, to where they are now - located in a huge plant with dozens and dozens and dozens of employees. For those of you who aren't aware, Black Hills provides a special 5.56mm round to our Special Forces guys - no other ammo company is producing this ammo that I'm aware of - only Black Hills is producing it. Our Special Forces guys demand the very best for their missions, and Black Hills is helping out with special ammo for them. I'm also told, and I believe it's true, that Black Hills is now producing some of the "standard" 5.56mm ammo that our other troops are using 'cause the other ammo makers can't keep up. To be sure, ammo for our military is produced differently than commercial ammo is. For one thing, the bullet is sealed around the neck to waterproof it, as is the primer.

I shoot more Black Hills than any other ammo! Yes, Jeff Hoffman, keeps me well-supplied for my test and evaluation in the many firearms I've tested over the past 20 years, and he always tells me to never let my ammo locker get too low. And, as soon as I place an order for some more ammo, it usually goes out in the next day or two - that's service! I've probably fired more of the Black Hills factory-new ammo, than their reloads or factory seconds, too. As good as their reloaded ammo is, I'd have no problems carrying it for self-defense, using their JHP ammo, of course. That says a lot in my book. Factory seconds - I've had some of this - and it has been dirty or dented .223 Remington ammo - I'm not sure if this stuff is available to the general public. Jeff would rather see us worthless gun writers burn this ammo up, instead of destroying it - thanks Jeff!

To be sure, Black Hills is what I call "Premium" ammo - I think their brand-new ammo is a step above what you get from many of the big-boy ammo companies. Each round of ammo is personally hand-inspected before it leaves the factory. And, Hoffman only uses the finest components to produce his factory-new ammo. I have tried, many times over the years, to roll my own ammo, to see if I could equal or exceed the accuracy of Black Hills ammo. I only came away equaling the Black Hills .300 Winchester Magnum load - remember, I said I equalled the accuracy of the Black Hills .300 Winchester Magnum load - I didn't exceed it. That says a lot! I don't do as much handloading these days as I used to, just not enough hours in the day. I've always found reloading to be very relaxing - but maybe that's just me! In any event, with all my years of experimenting with different loads, I've never once exceeded the accuracy I get from Black Hills.

The Barnes, all-copper JHP bullets - they have the deepest JHP cavity I've even seen on any JHP bullet. To be sure, make sure you keep small children and pets away - they might fall into that deep bullet cavity, never to be heard from again. Ok, I'm joking about that - but these bullets do have the deepest JHP cavity I've ever seen.

Black Hills has you covered with most calibers, especially self-defense loads. They also have you covered with FMJ handgun rounds for target practice, using either their reloads or factory-new ammo. When I carry a 9mm handgun for self-defense, I like to load my magazines with +P or +P+ JHP ammo, and I believe the 9mm can use all the help it can get to penetrate deep enough, and the bullet needs to expand enough to get the job done. Black Hills has you covered with several different loading in 9mm. They have a new 9mm load. that has the all-copper JHP from Barnes Bullets called the TAC-XP and it's a +P load. I only just received this one, and I haven't had a chance to do much testing, but the results look very promising.

I have shot the Black Hills .40 S&W 140 grain Barnes TAC-XP load, this is another JHP load, produced using all-copper - no lead at all. These bullets won't come apart when they expand - that's a good thing - as a lot of JHP bullets come completely apart when they start to expand and/or hit bone. The Barnes TAC-XP bullet won't come apart. This round is coming out of my Glock 23 at around 1,100 FPS - that's moving along and the recoil isn't too bad, either. In my limited and unscientific testing - shooting into water-filled milk jugs and various other liquid and semi-liquid targets [such as pumpkins], I'd estimate that these bullets are penetrating at least 25% deeper than conventional JHP do - and once again, the bullet stays together.

I've also used the .45ACP 185 grain TAC-XP +P from Black Hills, and this baby is coming out of a full-sized 1911 at right around 1,000 FPS - you know you've touched-off some power in this round. Again, this bullet appears to penetrate about 25% deeper than conventional JHP bullets do, and I haven't had one bullet come apart - they all expand nicely and stay together - what's not to like here?

The Barnes-loaded rounds are only available right now from Black Hills in 9mm, .40 and .45 ACP. However, I expect they'll expand this to include other self-defense calibers as demand increases. I'd like to see this bullet offered in .380 ACP - that would really give that little round some extra "oomph" that it needs. I believe a .380 ACP is best reserved as a back-up to whatever my main gun is. Now, you don't have to fire-off a lot of e-mails to me about this - it's my personal opinion on the .380 ACP round. I know, I know, lots of bad guys have fallen to this round, but I just prefer something a little bit bigger these days. Yes, in the past, I've carried a Walther PPK/S in .380 ACP as my one and only carry gun - but that was many decades ago.

The Black Hills Barnes TAC-XP ammo is spendy, to be sure. I'm not gonna quote prices here, as each dealer sets their own selling price. If you order directly from Black Hills, they can give you a price. Again, this is "Premium" handgun ammo, and expect to pay more for it. Then again, I don't expect you to go out "target shooting" with this round. You'll want to make sure it functions in whatever guns you want to stoke with this great ammo, before you trust your life to it. And it's always a good idea to fire at least 100-200 rounds of a particular brand and type of ammo through your self-defense carry gun, to make sure your gun will function with it. I used to tell my firearms students to fire at least 200 rounds through their guns before trusting them to function with whatever ammo they wanted to carry in their guns. However, with the price of (good) ammo today, I think 100 rounds is a fair test. And, I have tried this new ammo with the Barnes bullets in several different handguns, and had zero problems with feeding and extraction.

Now, many shooters get carried away with numbers, and folks like big numbers when it comes to velocity and Foot Pounds of Energy (FPE). Don't be fooled by a lot of the gun writer hype when it comes to numbers. Faster doesn't always mean better. There are a lot of factors at work when a bullet hits a body. In the case of the Black Hills 9mm round, they are showing 368 FPE from the Barnes bullets, in the .40 S&W 416 FPE and the .45 ACP is at 411 FPE. There are many factors going to work when a bullet hits a body - it depends on the clothing and/or winter coat someone might be wearing, as to how deep a bullet will penetrate and expand. It depends if a bullet hits bone, or if the attacker is high on drugs. There's no magic bullet that will guarantee that with one shot, it will stop an attacker in his tracks. I always tell my firearms students to keep shooting until the threat has stopped being a threat. It is simple as that!

If you're in the market for more conventional JHP rounds for your carry gun, Black Hills has you covered with any number of rounds to pick from. And, keep in mind what I just said in the above paragraph, there are no magic bullets - you still have to place your rounds on-target and hit vital organs and/or blood vessels to stop an attack. And, for a lot of years, conventional JHP have been doing the job nicely. I've taken a lot of small to medium game with Black Hills handgun ammo using JHP rounds. But I think Black Hills is really onto something with their new line-up using the Barnes all-copper JHP bullets. Time will tell if I'm right, and I think I am - this time around.

Jeff Hoffman, over at Black Hills Ammunition deserves your business, he honestly is one of the "Good Guys" in this business. He and his wife Kristi, have worked hard over the years, to give the shooter the best ammo they can produce, at a good price. And, if it matters to you, Jeff Hoffman is also a part-time law enforcement officer in South Dakota - he gives to the community - so that's another reason he deserves your business. Give Black Hills a call, or check out their web site. I'm betting good money, you'll find a lot of different types of ammo you'll be able to use. And, as an aside, they are producing one of the widest assortments of .223 Remington ammo that you'll find. They have FMJ, JHP, Hollow Points and Soft Point rounds that will take care of you and your AR-15.  They have light bullets and heavy bullets - if you can't find what you're looking for at Black Hills, then you won't find anyone else who is making a .223 Remington round that you're looking for.

I can't speak highly enough about Black Hills Ammunition. In 20 years of using it, I've never once been disappointed in the performance and the high-quality of their ammo. They are good people to do business with - and anyone who says other wise is looking for trouble from me! - Pat Cascio, SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mr. Rawles,
I searched the blog, and found no mention of a tidbit I find useful.

Political campaign yard signs made with corrugated plastic and H-style wire posts make very useful target backers for posting targets when you don't have easy access to your own range. I like to make use of National Forest or National Grasslands, and these work wonderfully. Use a stapler to post the target. The plastic takes quite a beating before it needs to be retired. They also stand up fairly well to wind.

Have fun in choosing your targets, and get out and practice!

Also, don't wait until after the elections, as many of these get recycled for other uses, and rapidly get scarce.

Thanks. - K.B.

JWR Replies: Growing up in the 1960s in Northern California, many local campaign signs were still made of 1/2-inch fiberboard. Rather than going to the local landfill, these were actively collected after each election day, and often put to creative use. I once saw a livestock shed with walls entirely sheeted with campaign signs. It was very colorful, inside! These days, of course, less substantial materials are used, and most signs are designed to be disposable. Thanks for suggesting a truly practical way to "re-use, re-purpose, and recycle."

Monday, October 10, 2011

H.R. here, to follow-up to one of the responses to my article:

In no way do I divert from the baseline of “Shoot, Move and Communicate”.  They are the very core for any affective operation.  If you take any or all of the three capabilities out of the mix than you have severely disrupted any operation!

There is a core concept to everything that should be thought about in anything that life throws at you…Crawl, Walk, Run.  When shooting you must make sure that you can complete a “Phase” before you move to the next one!  Let me break down what I feel is a complete graduation from each “Phase”.  I am strict in the way I expect my members to perform because I am putting my life in their hands and their lives in mine.  If there is any one failure then there is a potential life lost!

Note: All members advance together!  If anyone fails to complete the following tasks the whole group is held back.  “You are only as strong as your weakest member”.  Members that complete the tasks help out the members that do not until everyone completes the tasks.  ANY round out of the suggested zones is considered to be a failure and the task must be run again.

Crawl Phase:

  1. With Pistol and Battle Rifle, each member has 10 seconds to place 10 rounds in the 9 ring from 5 yards with a Winchester target from Wal-Mart SKU# 2905737004.
  2. Same as above, 15 seconds from 10 yards.
  3. Same as above, 20 seconds from 15 yards.
  4. With each, Pistol and Battle Rifle, from the ready, fire 2 rounds for 3x IPSC targets.  Impact must strike within the upper ½ of the A zone given 10 seconds from 5 yards. (2 ft. spread from edge to edge of targets).  Half of the El Presidente drill.
  5. Same as above, 15 seconds from 10 yards.
  6. Same as above, 20 seconds from 15 yards.
  7. With Battle Rifle at the ready, each member has 10 seconds to place 3 rounds in the upper ½ of the A zone of an IPSC target then transition to Pistol and fire 3 rounds in same zone.  This is done from 5 yards.
  8. Same as above, 15 seconds from 10 yards.
  9. Same as above, 20 seconds from 15 yards.
  10. With Battle Rifle, Iron Sights, each member has 10 seconds to place 3 out of 5 rounds in the RED of the Winchester #2905737004 target from Wal-Mart at 15 yards.
  11. Same as above, 20 seconds, 3 out of 5 from 25 yards.
  12. With Battle Rifle, Optics, each member has 7 seconds to place 3 out of 5 rounds in the RED of the Winchester #2905737004 target from Wal-Mart at 15 yards.
  13. Same as above, 10 seconds, 3 out of 5 from 25 yards.

Walk Phase:

  1. Same as Crawl Phase 1-3 with 5 seconds less for event 1, 10 seconds less for event 2 and 15 seconds less for event 3.  Target is replaced with IPSC target and rounds must impact the upper ¼ of the A zone.
  2. With Pistol and Battle Rifle, run a failure drill (2 rounds to the chest and one to the head) on 3x IPSC targets (2 ft. apart edge to edge) and all chest rounds must be in the upper ¼ of the A zone and the head round must be in the perforated rectangle (considered to be the A zone for the head).  At 5 yards, each member has 10 seconds with Battle Rifle and 15 seconds with Pistol.
  3. Same as above, 12 seconds, 20 seconds from 10 yards.
  4. Same as above, 15 seconds, 25 seconds from 15 yards.
  5. With Pistol and Battle Rifle, each member starts with their back to the target and at the sound of the buzzer must turn and place 3 rounds, center mass (X and 10 ring) on a FBI Silhouette target within 5 seconds from 5 yards.
  6. Same as above, 10 seconds from 10 yards.
  7. Same as above, 15 seconds from 15 yards.
  8. With Battle Rifle, while walking straightforward, place 2 rounds per 3x IPSC targets in upper ¼ of the A zone and repeat until member reaches 5 yard line.  Once at the 5 yard line, each member must place one round in the head per IPSC target.
  9. With Pistol, start at the 10 yards line.  Walk straightforward to the 5 yard line while placing 2 rounds in the upper ½ of the A zone of 3x IPSC targets.  Once at the 5 yard line, place one round in the head per IPSC target.

Run Phase:

  1. Same as Walk Phase 1-9 but targets are replaced with life-like paper targets and all rounds must impact the kill zone (equivalent to the upper ¼ of an IPSC target).  I would stay away from hostage targets for this drill.
  2. With Battle Rifle, from behind cover #1 (shooter cannot see the targets), at the sound of the buzzer lean out (keeping your body behind cover) and place 3 rounds in each of 3x life like paper targets and then run to cover #2 (remember to put your safety on before you move).  At cover #2 place 3 rounds in each 3x life like paper target.  All shots must be kill zone shots.  This drill starts at the 25 yard line (cover #1) with cover #2 at 15 yards and there is no time limit. I would stay away from hostage targets for this drill.
  3. Same as above now add 2x targets to be shot while moving from cover #1 to cover #2, 2 shots per target while on the move. I would stay away from hostage targets for this drill.
  4. With Pistol and Battle Rifle, from the 7 yard line, eliminate the hostage taker with one shot to the A zone of the head within 2 seconds.  You will only get one shot … make it count!
  5. With Pistol and Battle Rifle, place 3 out of 5 rounds in the RED of the Winchester #2905737004 target from Wal-Mart while shooting one handed.
  6. With Pistol, run the El Presidente drill with one hand. (2 rounds per 3x targets [I suggest life like paper targets], reload one handed also and run it again)  I would also suggest only loading 6 rounds in the magazine so that the gun is dry when you do your reload.  Run it for time and try to improve your best.
  7. With Pistol and Battle Rifle, run the El Presidente drill off handed (opposite hand).
  8. Same as above but one handed.

Rifles are zeroed on Winchester targets SKU# 2905737008.  Reason for zeroing on a square grid target is because the grid lines make 1” squares or 1 MOA.  Most of the optics that you buy today is adjusted in 1/4 MOA.  Which it takes 4 clicks to make 1 MOA.  This is calculated at 100 yards.

These are just some of the drills that we run.  There are many more that I have created that we continually work on.  All of these drills are run from 25 yards and closer.  We also do the “Run” phase from 50 and 100 yards.  We also add other variables in the mix; body armor, “dummy rounds and the “9 Hole Rifle Drill” We enjoy shooting to begin with so it becomes a bit of a competition to better each other.  We all know in the back of our minds that we may very well have to use these skills some day to save our very lives so we are all very serious on the range.

If you have the land and a little cash to spare, I suggest getting some old cars, car doors, all with the glass intact, to see how your bullet react when shot them from different angles.  Also you can study the cars and see just where you need to be, when using it for cover, to put as much material between you and your attacker(s).  And yes, the 9 hole drill will help you when shooting from behind a car.  All those odd angles are put in there for a reason. Happy Shooting, - H.R.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

That was a great article on marksmanship and very relevant for me as this last weekend I participated in an Appleseed shoot.  The instructors are volunteers who did a great job (and refused any monetary tips).  It is a great organization!  They covered many of the topics you mentioned in this article.  For the first time in my life I feel like I finally have the fundamentals necessary to be a skilled shooter.

I've grown up plinking with BB guns and .22 rimfires all my life and have always been a decent shot.  Assuming 95% of your readers will say 'duh!' to one of my biggest lessons learned over the weekend but when acquiring the target I would keep the sights exactly on target throughout my breathing cycle.  I was using a lot of muscle control to keep it on target.  I learned to allow the sight to drift up during inhalation and as I reach the bottom of my breath it should naturally fall back precisely where I wanted it. 

I had also always looked at a sling as just a way to carry my gun and have my arms free.  The instructors took us through a variety of methods that used the sling to stabilize the gun while shooting.  My favorite is to detach the sling from the stock, create a loop and slide it over your upper arm. This technique made the gun extremely stable. 

Not only do you get to practice shooting but they also give great stories on American history.  We were amazing marksmen back during the War of Independence.  The British wore their redcoats as did the officers but the officer's colors weren't nearly as faded as the typical solider and so the officers made for easy targets.  The disproportionate number of officers lost in battle was a testament to the militia's marksmanship.

I started the weekend shooting fairly well and by the end of the day I was shooting much tighter patterns.  One woman thee had never touched the gun and as we were going through safety at the beginning of the day she asked what the muzzle was.  Her first shots were all over the target.  By the end of the day she was doing very well.  Check out the Appleseed program.  I wish this country was full of marksmen again! Regards, - James K.


I feel compelled to respond to the post regarding rifle marksmanship. Sticking with the M16/AR-15/AR-10 family, my major points of contention include the reloading drill, malfunction handling, trigger-pull advice, and accuracy standard.

Firstly, the reloading drill described is that which is commonly taught for pistols, raising the weapon into your "workspace", while allowing you to use your peripheral vision to guide the magazine into the pistol without taking your eyes off the target. Not only would raising a rifle in this manner be awkward (even with practice), it will be slow - much slower than with a handgun. Further, the difference between tactical and combat reloads should be discussed. A tactical reload is executed before the weapon runs dry, whenever you feel you have a second to top off the rifle with a spare mag. It is not done when a bad guy is staring at you, so you have the luxury of retaining the mag either in a magazine or dump pouch. The fresh magazine should be in your weak hand before you release the depleted mag in case your situation rapidly don't want to have a bad guy pop around the corner when the mag well is empty and you're still reaching for another magazine. A proper tactical reload involves gripping the depleted magazine, releasing it with the trigger finger, immediately inserting fresh magazine, then securing depleted or empty magazine, and it is easy to hold two AR/M16 mags in one hand using a "index finger and thumb" grip on the full magazines (bottom of magazine in your palm), and grabbing the partial mag between your index and middle finger This nearly eliminates the time you are standing there with, at best, one round in your rifle. The combat or speed reload is to be used when the weapon runs dry and a threat still exists in your immediate vicinity - drop the magazine using your trigger finger as soon as you feel the recoil buffer lock to the rear, while reaching for a fresh magazine with your weak hand. Better to lose or damage a magazine than catch a round in the chest because you took an extra second or two to fumble with your pouches.

Both of these drills should be executed with the weapon still in [the pocket of] your shoulder, pointed down range. Please note that he tactical reload works well with an AR-15/M16 because the magazine is easy to grasp with the support hand before it is released and falling through the air; it is not advisable for handguns or non-AR family rifles that don't allow you to use your otherwise unoccupied trigger finger to eject the magazine.

Next, I take issue with the advised malfunction drill. "Immediate action" is sufficient to fix many malfunctions (failure to feed being relatively common, as it is possible to bump the mag release on
cover/obstructions). The memory aid we use is "tap, rack, bang" - slap the bottom of the magazine with your support hand to ensure it is fully seated, charge the weapon with the same hand while canting the weapon to take a quick glance at the ejection port/chamber area - and if you see no brass traffic jam, pull the trigger. If no "bang", execute "remedial action", releasing the magazine into your support hand, tilting the ejection port 45 degrees toward the deck, and operating the charging handle three or four times while shaking the weapon in an effort to clear a double feed or other malfunction. If one were to attempt an immediate action as advised, and the magazine has not been seated, "pulling the charging handle several times" will not solve your problem, as the bolt will continue to slide over the top of the next cartridge in the magazine. If the weapon experienced a partial-feed, pulling the charging handle once should eject a round and chamber another. If it double-fed or experienced another sort of jam, you have probably just made the problem worse with your multiple (and unnecessary) charging attempts. If "tap, rack, bang" doesn't work - and it takes about 1.5 seconds to execute - take cover and pull the magazine for remedial action.

As for trigger pull, short-stroking is well and good for match shooting or firing deliberately on a target that is not poised to kill you, but it is not for saving time - if you're trying to save "precious
milliseconds", the implied condition is that your life may be saved by shortening the time between shots. If fractions of a second truly matter, trying to "slowly" short-stroke a trigger is counter-productive
and failing to reset it properly may get you shot. Slightly "jerking" the trigger is not likely to impact accuracy to a degree that will make a difference on a human-size target inside 100 yards. Short-stroking is
a deliberate shooting technique that should not be integrated with "combat marksmanship" training - it violates the "KISS" method.

In zeroing, I'd advise beginning at 25 yards/meters in order to ensure you're at least "close", especially if you don't have the luxury of a 5'x5' target board. It's not necessary to fine tune at this range, but
if your rifle's sights are significantly out of adjustment, you may be "chasing the paper" for a bit at 100 yards. Typically two or three rounds at 25 yards is sufficient before moving out to longer range. I am
worried that many inexperienced shooters will be discouraged by the 1 MOA "standard" in the previous letter - we are preparing for the unpleasant possibility of shooting people with an AR-15; if your weapon comes from the factory capable of firing 1 MOA, great. However, a 4-5 MOA battle-rifle or carbine will pretty consistently put a round in someone's torso out to nearly 500 yards - which will be under rare circumstances anyway. More accuracy is better, but don't beat yourself up over it - you're not going to be required to shoot for the ten ring when a bad guy is down range trying to kill you. We are not talking about taking 800 yard head shots with our .308 "sniper" rifles. If you're shooting for score, tight groups take a higher priority. If you just need to put a 5.56 through somebody's lungs at 200 yards, don't sweat it that you shot a four inch group on the range last week. Semper Fi, - Missouri Marine

Hi Mr. Rawles,
 I really enjoyed reading the Basic Rifle Marksmanship article.  It contains a large amount of good information but if I may I would like to offer a different take on some of what the author states.  He states that in your stance your dominant or strong leg should be slightly forward.  It has been my experience in both handgun and long gun shooting that your strong or dominant leg should be slightly behind your non-dominant leg.  This is a much more comfortable shooting stance and helps to keep your balance while absorbing recoil.  As for magazine changes he recommends pointing the rifle muzzle towards the sky while keeping your eyes on target.  I would advocate keeping your eyes and muzzle on target while executing your mag change.  Magazine changes can be critical to winning a gunfight and should be practiced often with your weapon of choice.  Many weapons are constructed so an empty mag drops free and why catch an empty mag when milliseconds are critical?  Let it drop and be reaching for your reload.  As for malfunctions I didn’t see anything about the most common malfunction which is a stovepipe.  A stovepipe, which is an empty shell casing that didn’t fully eject and usually sticking out at about a 90* angle is easily cleared by sweeping it out with your hand.
Lastly, I would like to offer a different approach when shooting from behind cover.  The author recommends getting up tight to the cover and placing your support hand against the building and using it to support your rifle.  When you brace against the building consider that your muzzle will be extending beyond the corner you’re shooting from and you can’t see around that corner.  This will leave your muzzle hanging out there subject to being grabbed.  When you get close to your cover it also becomes necessary to expose more of yourself to return fire.  Next time you go to the range try standing off 2-3 feet off of your cover.  The cover isn’t any less effective now that you’re a few feet behind it rather than right on top of it. You’ll find that less of you is exposed as you slice the pie and address targets from the outside in.  It also eliminates the opportunity for someone to grab your muzzle from the other side of the cover or barricade.  These are just another way of doing things.  I don’t claim to have the way just another method for our readers to try. - Carl L.

JWR Replies: I'd only add the proviso that those who are preparing to survive a major societal disruption (like most Rawlesian preppers) have more of "Third World" view of logistics. Unlike current circumstances--where there is a reliable supply of replacement magazines on short notice--we may have to adapt to an economy of scarcity. Magazines will become priceless and almost irreplaceable. A magazine that gets lost or scrunched will be cause for alarm or even mourning. I therefore recommend:

A.) Practice using a dump pouch, for empties. In TEOTWAWKI, saving you magazines will be worth that extra second, in all but the most dire lead conversations.
B.) Buy only top-quality magazines, selected for strength and durability. (For example, if you own an AR-15, your primary "carry" magazines should be HK steel "Maritime" magazines rather than the relatively fragile USGI alloy magazines, or buy PMAG polymer magazines which are famous for their strength.)
C.) Stack your spare magazines deep. You can never have too many. (And any that are truly excess to your needs will be very desirable for barter.) and,
D.) If you have an M1 Garand or other rife that automatically ejects clips or links off into the weeds, then buy a very large quantity of spares.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

To be the best at something we must start out at the basics.  But in marksmanship, what are the basics?  The basics don’t start when we put the magazine in our rifle.  The basics start well before we fire the first shot.  We don’t want our first marksmanship test to be when we absolutely have to fire a shot in defense or necessity.  Marksmanship is something that many don’t come by naturally.  It must be worked on.  For those who it comes naturally to, practice makes perfect and some things need to be discovered in practice before they are discovered too late to correct or save your own life.

The first thing in rifle marksmanship is knowing the weapon that you are using.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a bolt action, a semi-auto, or any other type of action.  In this article we will focus on one of the more popular weapons and in my opinion one that is extremely user friendly.  We will focus on the AR-15, M16, M4, "Black Rifle", or whatever name you want to call.  I use a Bushmaster in 6.8 SPC for a little more power than compared to the 5.56 mm.  Caliber really isn’t a huge issue when it comes to marksmanship because even a well placed shot from a .22 LR will do enough damage to stop someone or something.  We don’t need to cover the components of the rifle with their proper name, but we must know how the rifle functions.  We must sit down with our rifle and become 100% comfortable with its feel, action, and handling. 

Everyone knows how to walk around their own home or apartment.  We feel comfortable with the situation if anyone comes into my domain, I will be at an advantage because I know the terrain.  Walking around the house with no weapon in hand, not worrying about being harmed, and at our leisure is much different than holding a rifle while trying to protect ourselves as the defender, and protecting anyone that we reside with.  It is much like a vehicle, we must know how to handle our weapon in a vehicle with a seat belt on, opening the door, and exiting the vehicle.  Our homes are no different than dismounting a vehicle without knowing how to get our rifle out with a seat belt on. 

I have walked around my house with my rifle in hand clearing the stairway, a bedroom, etc. It is just like urban combat, but we are in our own home, not a war zone or a shoot house.  My house looks entirely different with a rifle held at the ready, I know most people would feel the same way.  A few dry runs may seem ridiculous at the time, but when it comes to a time when your life is at stake, feeling comfortable with your rifle and your domain is a very important part of marksmanship.

Moving on, we get to see the function and actual handling of our rifle to our own body.  We will focus on magazine changes, malfunctions, and overall non-live fire procedures.  Lets start at the sling.  There are all types of slings on the market, there are one point slings, two point slings, and even three point slings.  The one point sling is practical with a chest rig or body armor, but isn’t the best when wearing just a T-shirt or a jacket.  A three point sling is the least practical because the sling itself passes in by functioning parts of the rifle, the bolt release, the magazine release, and the charging handle.  The two point sling is preferred and one that adjusts is the best option.  A two point sling that adjusts by pulling on part of the sling to lengthen or shorten the overall length of the sling. 

The magazine change is an important part of marksmanship because running out of ammunition and not being able to effectively reload puts the shooter at a very big disadvantage.  A magazine change should be simple, quick, and effective.  When ammunition is getting low or completely gone the first thing to do is raise your rifle up at an angle where the magazine well is at eye level and the barrel is putting towards the sky.  Using the trigger finger to press the magazine release and grab the magazine with the non-firing hand.  Place the empty magazine in a pocket or a drop pouch and grab a full magazine with the same hand.  While keeping your eyes on your target, or down range, looking past the magazine well, place the magazine in the magazine well until it seats with a click.  Press the bolt release and allow the bolt to slam the next round into the chamber.  Immediately raise your rifle to firing position which should be a quick movement because your eyes should have never left your target.  The key to effective magazine changes is not looking at your magazines, but continuing to look at your target so you can adjust your next shots and never lose sight of your target.

Malfunctions are a fact of life.  No matter what rifle you are firing, someday you will have a malfunction.  Clearing a malfunction is much like a magazine change.  Your actions need to be smooth, quick, and once again effective.  By knowing your rifle’s action you will know when the recoil or any thing else is not normal for your rifle.  When your AR type rifle malfunctions it is a simple fix, in most cases.  Simply leave the rifle on your shoulder while maintaining a grip with your firing hand.  Quickly reach back with your non-firing hand and charge the weapon several times.  The expended brass should be ejected and rounds should be fed into the chamber of your rifle.  If there is a double feed, or a feed when two rounds or more try to enter the chamber at once, you must drop the magazine, allow the rounds to drop from the magazine well, replace the magazine and continue firing.  Clearing a malfunction is possible without ever having to take your eyes off of your intended target.  Practicing with dummy rounds (fired rounds with a bullet replaced) will make clearing a malfunction second nature and quite possibly save your life, or the life’s of your loved ones.

As stated before, marksmanship begins before any live round is fired from a weapon.  With a magazine placed in your weapon get into a steady firing position.  Feet shoulder width apart, dominant leg slightly forward.  Keep your back straight, but bend slightly forward to help control the recoil of your weapon.  You should raise the rifle to your head, not put your head to your rifle.  Your non-firing hand needs to be as far out on the rifle as you can safely hold.  Holding your rifle this way eliminates the “wobble” zone between your two hands.  No matter what position you start in, prone, kneeling, or standing, your rifle and eyes are always on the target.  When going from standing to prone, you should squat, place your non firing hand flat on the ground and quickly kick both legs behind you simultaneously. Grab your rifle with your non-firing hand, as far out as you can.  Your non firing elbow, magazine, and firing elbow should all be on the ground while in the prone position.  Getting to your feet is the exact same thing you did to get prone, but in reverse order.  Remember, your eyes and rifle will always be pointed towards your target.  For kneeling, the basic premise is that you do not want your elbow on your knee, or bone to bone.  You want to place your non firing elbow into the thigh of your non-firing leg.  By doing this, you reduce even more “wobble” in your firing position.

Firing from cover from any position is also very simple and uses the same fundamentals as any other firing position.  If using a wall or any type of barrier, there are things to do that can steady your shot and make you much more effective.  No matter what position you are in, you simply place your non firing hand on the barrier.  Make a “C” with your thumb and fore finger.  Your remaining three fingers should be flat against the barrier.  Grip your rifle with your “C” and get behind your rifle like you are in any other firing position.  By using the barrier, your hand, and a steady firing position your rounds are extremely effective.

The hard parts of marksmanship are the ones that take the most conscious effort:  Breathing control and trigger squeeze.  Mastering these two can make a world of difference in how well a person shoots.  Breathing control is the hardest of the two.  You must exhale and inhale normally while concentrating on doing it.  Sounds a little strange, but try to control your breathing with a conscience effort and you begin to hold your breath too long or not long enough.  You want to fire on your normal pause between an exhale and an inhale.  That slight pause is the most effective time to fire a round in.  If you hold your breath too long, your body will begin to shake, which makes firing effectively extremely difficult.  If you can control your breathing you are on your way to becoming effective with your rifle. 

The next thing is trigger squeeze.  The operative word is squeeze, don’t pull.  By squeezing the trigger you apply constant pressure backwards until the trigger breaks and the round lets go. [The following is true for most semi-autos:] Do not release the trigger all the way back to the front!  By doing this you reset the trigger and must take the time to pull the slack out of it again.  Slowly release the trigger until there is a definite click, then stop.  Your trigger pull will be significantly shorter if the trigger does not completely reset.  This requires constant attention, but is easily mastered.  A shortened trigger squeeze will save precious milliseconds and will make a substantial difference in your shooting.

Finally we get to the good stuff.  Making ourselves effective shooters using live rounds.  This is sometimes a time consuming, ammo consuming, but fun and exciting experience.  I love getting behind a rifle and firing live rounds.  I don’t fire the old school 3 rounds, adjust, 3 round adjust, 3 rounds, Done.  I fire strings of 5 rounds, observe, 5 rounds, observe, 5 rounds adjust.  Start out at 100 meters or yards it really doesn’t make a difference.  Get in a good prone firing position and fire your first 5 rounds while aiming center mass or at the bull’s eye of the target.  Walk to your target and observe your group.  If it is tight (within an inch or so) you are good, if it’s loose, don’t worry, 5 more rounds and we will see.  Fire 5 more rounds. Observe your target.  We want our rifle to be zeroed at 200 meters so at 100 meters your rounds will be 1 inch high above the bulls eye or the center of your target.  If your group is acceptable to you (that’s your call) you can move your target out to 200 meters or yards.  The process repeats itself over and over again until you as the shooter feel comfortable with your firing.  I have seen people I have trained need over 250 rounds to get good at 200 meters.  What is acceptable to you is your call, but at 200 meters a group should be under 2 inches in diameter.  Since our point of aim is center mass, our point of impact is going to be center mass.  Point of Aim/Point of Impact.  After this is complete you can move onto bigger and better things.  A great exercise that I found to be fun and helpful is an easy one to accomplish.  While standing at 25 meters, fire a shot.  If it hits move back to 50, then 100, 150, 200, keep moving to backward until you miss a shot.  It’s a fun way to test your standing shot ability.  Another exercise is to move between two barriers at a rapid pace while engaging different targets at different ranges.

You may say this all good if you have open spaces, but what about a person who is confined to an indoor range?  The same principles and fundamentals apply to a person inside or outside.  Every indoor range I have used has allowed prone firing.  Move the target as far back and possible and execute the fundamentals and fire.  The same goes for those who do not want to spend the money on the amount of ammunition needed to train effectively.  Go through the dry fire exercises I've mentioned and when you go to the range with a few rounds you will be comfortable with your abilities and will be effective on that day.  Every little bit of practice makes a difference when it comes to being effective behind a rifle.

In closing, a little about myself: I was an United States Army Infantryman for seven years.  For two of those years I was an Infantry Drill Sergeant at Ft. Benning, Georgia.  I spent countless hours on and off a range teaching soldiers how to shoot effectively.  I have been trained by the Asymmetrical Warfare Group’s Combat Application Course, and my company was the pilot company for integrating that block of instruction into basic training throughout the Army.  I cannot tell you how many rounds I have fired on a range, but every one has been "a blast."  Hopefully this article will help you understand the importance of being effective in every aspect of your weapon. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

I also thoroughly enjoyed The Art of the Tactical Carbine DVD as an instructional video to become more proficient in carbine operation.  I also agree, Chris Costa's drop pouch explanation is hilarious but at the end, he makes a more important point: "You, the shooter, have to determine what you want to do."

In most of the training I've taken with tactical carbine and pistol operation, the emphasis has generally focused on winning the fight without much consideration for long term logistics.  This has given much credence to the practice of emergency reloads - dropping the mag to get the fastest possible reload and more rounds on target.  This has merit as civilians when we can just go out and buy new kit we've lost or soldiers and security contractors who can just go to a quarter master to replenish lost stores. 

In an "End of the world as we know it" scenario, AR-15/M16 and Model 1911 magazines likely will be worth their weight in gold as there probably will be few if any retail shops or bin rats available to resupply anyone.  If you watch the extra footage drill Chris Costa and Travis Haley perform, you'll count no less than three mags dropped in under 60 seconds.  There's no guarantee you'll be able to win a fight and be able to collect your kit and even if you do, dropping mags does add fatigue that can eventually cause them to break or malfunction.

To that end, it's important to consider that while dropping your empty magazines (or any kit for that matter) may allow you to perform a reload a few seconds faster right now, it may also turn your semi-automatic carbine or pistol into a single shot, breech loader six months in the future.

While there's strengths and weaknesses to both the emergency/speed reload and tactical reload/reload with retention, it's a good habit to get into not taking for granted the ability to replenish your kit and training yourself to recognize what circumstances would merit either techniques.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

I'm writing to contribute my first hand experience to the recent review of the Para USA P14.  After desiring one for 20 years, I became the very disappointed owner of a US-made model nine months ago.

First,  P14s for the last few years have the Power Extractor (PXT), which is a non-standard 1911 extractor. This means you're stuck with it. You can't readily replace it with off the shelf 1911 extractors and you can't tune it.  Mine broke at under 200 rounds.  Although Pat summarily dismisses this as mere 'Internet lore', where there is smoke, there's fire - and there is a lot of smoke on the Power Extractor.  I have even spoken with a former Para USA gunsmith that admitted they see a large number of broken extractors. They have dropped the Power Extractor and added a fiber optic front site and called it a "classic" (which Pat didn't mention).  I'll be curious (and pleased) to see if Para phases out their remaining PXT models.

Second, I'm shocked to hear of Para shipping Mec-Gar magazines and curious if that is normal.  My US made P14 shipped with US magazines that work flawlessly.  I purchased four additional factory magazines and the ones that showed up were Canadian. They fail early and fail often.  All four of them.  I ended up parting with them recently and replacing them with Mec-Gar magazines that seem to work well so far (a few hundred rounds). [JWR Adds: Mec-Gar is the dedicated subcontractor for several pistol makers, including Beretta. When you buy "factory replacement" magazines, they often are actually made by Mec-Gar. They have a very good reputation for quality despite their very large production volume. So pleased don't be "shocked" that any pistol comes from the factory with Mec-Gar magazines.]

Third, on the theme of smoke and fire, Internet Model 1911 boards are too frequently seeing postings from disappointed new Para USA owners with a variety of quality problems.  Most seem to stem from the use of metal injection molding (MIM) parts (such as the Power Extractor) that fail early on.

Fourth, Para Kote finish is known for wearing off quite easily from light normal use - and I can back that up. Mine's only seen a holster on a few occasions and has around 1,000 rounds through it and the finish is starting to go.

Other than reliability (is there an "other than reliability when it comes to defensive firearms?"), the P14 has certainly performed well in the accuracy department and it's a very fun pistol to shoot.  It's unfortunate that Para USA continues to use critical parts made out of MIM to save money. It would seem like they'd be better off buying steel tool parts and considering it an investment in public relations.  If I were to look to purchase another double stack 1911 then I think I would give the Springfield XD a try on the low end  of the price range and an STI 2011 on the high end and steer clear of the Para, or at worst make absolutely certain I didn't get stuck with a pistol equipped with a PXT extractor.

Finally, on a related note, I think a warning is in order with regards to the Blackhawk Serpa holsters. There have been a disproportional number of negligent discharges with people using these holsters due to the positioning of the trigger finger [to release the retention latch] in relation to the trigger.  I owned several of these and never had a problem, but they have now been banned from several well known firearms training schools and there have been several very public negligent discharges by well-trained individuals in addition to newbies.  Since SurvivalBlog isn't catering only to experts, I think I would shy away from these holsters and instead recommend something like the Safariland ALS. That is what I replaced my Serpas with.  They seem to be of a bit higher quality and use the thumb instead of the index finger to release the retention mechanism.

Friday, September 16, 2011

As many people who are presently watching local and global events I have a heightened concern with our general social situation on many levels. As part of my preparations I had identified some potential deficiencies with my actual ability to use firearms in a defensive manner if it were to be necessary.  Like many, having the time, funds and opportunity to attend formal instruction in utilizing a rifle in a tactical manner just was not coming together in a timely manner. To my advantage I have actually spent time in the Marine Corps (combat veteran) and Coast Guard (boarding team, special capabilities unit member) and so have had both military and law enforcement type rifle/carbine training. Though even with that I still felt I was lacking something in the real how to do it if or when it is needed in my present environments. With this in mind I began a quest to find some good solid instructional training materials in various media formats. During this adventure (and with all that is out there it is an adventure trying to find quality material) one company and set of DVDs kept appearing on my radar, that is Magpul Dynamics and their The Art of the Tactical Carbine DVD set. So with great hesitation (though from clips I had seen on internet I believed I would be getting a good product) I made the step and spent the approximately $35 and purchased it.

Magpul Dynamics is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Magpul Industries who manufacturer tactical accouterments in the United States. Finding a vacuum in the training available in the US for effective/efficient tactical rifle usage they took their programs and advanced into to video arena. The instructors on the DVD are Chris Costa (former USCG Tactical Law Enforcement Team member and instructor and government security training contractor) and now presently CEO of Magpul Dynamics and Travis Halley (former USMC Force Recon [Marine Special Ops], security contractor, former CEO Magpul Dynamics) and now founder of Halley Strategic Partners ( ) who together bring some serious real world experience to their program.

This is a three DVD set. Discs one and two contain the training specific portions; disk three contains a detailed breakdown of the many drills that are utilized in the training program and also a series of informational clips on weapons, sights, accessories, etc. and an out-take reel. (The latteris actually pretty hilarious). The combined time is over four hours of material. Being a little cost conscious and a comparison shopper that comes to under ten dollars for each hour of material compared to on average other DVDs which provide approximately one hour of training at an average cost of nineteen plus dollars. While I like the bang for buck value of the set, the true determination of true value is what they teach and how. Beginning with a mandatory safety brief they roll into the basics of how to load your rifle. Utilizing their core training doctrine of “Reality, Consistency, and Efficiency” it moves forward from there picking up speed as it moves uphill. From how to properly get into basic positions to correctly sighting in your rifle, to how to move, to how to perform speed and tactical reloads, to the whys of each action. The entire filming is done from a point of that you are almost there on the range in the class with them. Loud and rapid they present a mass of information all the time explaining that why they teach each method and/or technique. They readily acknowledge that sometimes your method will differ because life and other factors will affect your use of techniques and skills in a dynamic situation and that will determine what is most efficient and effective for you. Performing drills the entire time there is so much information provided there is no way to get it all in one viewing.

During the training they constantly push people to their failure point in drills believing (as I have found in my personal experience is very true) that amateurs train till success, professionals train past success till failure (as that shows you where you need to go to further improve your skill sets). After watching the DVDs for the first time all I could say is wow! Though my background may have paid a part in how I viewed their production (I am very use to loud, direct, and effective training) the details and logic of what they teach had me amazed.  At this point I have viewed it over five times and am still pulling nuggets of information each time I see it. Even with my experience the information and techniques they present left me wondering even how much more about utilizing a rifle/carbine I did not know.

Though the DVD is called ‘The Art of the Tactical Carbine’ do not expect tactical type techniques such as house clearing in this presentation. The ‘Tactical’ in the title comes in the form of the description of the weapon; the ‘Art’ is the proper handling and use (firing) of the weapon. I believe as they teach that it is much more important to have a solid base of basic skills before you move upward and this DVD set does that. House/room clearing is an important skill however being able to efficiently use your carbine during such activities is much more critical. Though they do an excellent job on teaching movement to cover and shooting around various obstacles which is the stepping stone to advanced ‘tactical’ type actions and movements. Key information presented in the DVDs which I found extremely useful in my situation includes a wide range of subjects they presented starting with good tactical sling selection, to improving my tactical shooting stance. During the section(s) on firing positions the urban prone stood out as one I needed to acquire the skills for as that the ability to shoot efficiently and accurately under obstacles is one which I could readily identify use of in my present environment. Throughout the DVD the mechanical precision which the instructors move through each step of each technique or skill is amazing but expounds on their key core training philosophy of consistency. By achieving consistency you improve efficiency which means in reality you have a higher chance of coming out alive. They also build on the training throughout, for example: taking the basic administrative type reload and using the steps there to teach how to properly perform an tactical reload to how to perform a combat type reload (yes there are major differences in each) then taking those techniques and integrating them into how you handle weapon malfunctions, all in one package. Nothing in this training seem to be left to chance, everything they seem to show or explain rolls right into another step or procedure. There is very little waste of time in the presentations again with them staying with those core principals they utilize of reality, consistency, and efficiency. Contrary to other training programs I have experienced in my life these boys definitely believe in the old saying of ‘practice what you preach’. However, nothing in their mannerisms or instructional techniques makes it boring and even when they are using humor during their presentations to make a point it flows almost perfectly making watching the DVDs more of an adventure than an ordeal.

Chris Costa’s explanation of some of the weaknesses of using a ‘dump pouch’ to keep your primary weapon magazines in, which is now commonly known as his “1911 mag, Twinkie, Twinkie, cupcake, primary weapon magazine” speech has now become a legend in some shooting circles (and hilarious to see). The training presented does focus on the AR-15/M4 type platforms though they do try to integrate many of the variables of those configurations into the training (and do a reasonable job considering the amount of configurations out there). Unfortunately they don’t really address other types of rifles and utilizing them (though one of the students has an AK47 type platform in the DVD), realistically by the time they finished adding wide range AK47s or 74s, Mini-14s, FN/FALs, SKSes, et cetera. The DVDs would be forty plus hours. However, the ‘basic techniques’ they teach are effective with all platforms and can be easily incorporated into your training by thinking it out and using their core principals of reality, consistency, and efficiency.

Since purchasing and viewing Magpul Dynamics The Art of the Tactical Carbine   I have purchased some other weapon training type DVDs from other name brand instructors/companies and none compare to the information and knowledge presented by Chris, Travis and their team. Recently I have integrated this DVD into the training of my family and associate’s, each having a different level of rifle/carbine experience and from the lowest most basic shooter to the highly experienced everyone has come away learning something. What more can you ask for? Personally, I highly recommend this DVD set for anyone from starting out to those seeking further improvement (as Travis and Chris say) and desire personally raising themselves to the next rung in the ladder of excellence. Looking at their other DVDs now, hmmm, Magpul Art of the Dynamic Shotgun, I hear you calling to me.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Dear Sir,
I've been a fan ever since I read your novel "Patriots" a couple of years ago.  I'd like to point out that with regard to the "Making Your Range Time Real Time – Train as You'll Fight!" post, the ability to shoot and move and to shoot while moving should be included in your training.  Furthermore, the use of cover versus concealment should be included.
I bring this up because for years in federal law enforcement we qualified every three months, we did use silhouette targets, but all the shooting was done from a static position at varying distances.  I only recently got involved in IDPA shooting and while my target scores are very good, my times stink to high heaven, and it is not all due to age.  The sad fact is that for over 20 years, my shooting was always stationary shooting, adding movement to it throws all sorts of new wrinkles into it which makes me wonder about the practical use of the training I did have.
Keep up the good work. - Signcutter

Thursday, September 8, 2011

When you go to the range, whether it is in your or a friends backyard, at a local indoor or outdoor range how do you practice?  What do you practice?  Do you just put lead downrange as fast as you can in hopes that it hits the target because people are around and you want to sound like you know what you are doing (this is way more common than you might think)?  There are some things that I would like to put out to everyone that I hope can help you out in your range training.

There are many people out there that can tell you how you need to shoot.  I am not one of those people.  I just want to give you some very basic things that may help you out and make the best out of your range time.

  • Safety!
  • Know Your Weapon!
  • Target Identification!
  • Know Yourself!

I am not going to hammer hard on safety but just touch on a few key points because everyone that has a weapon/firearm should know the basic rules of safety.

  • Muzzle Control!  Know where you weapon is pointed at all times!
  • “Red is Dead” That is still the same as it always has been that I can remember.  Meaning that if you see a red ring on your safety, your weapon is “Hot”!
  • Never point any weapon at anything that you are not willing to destroy (loaded or unloaded).  Enough said!
  • Do not rely on a mechanical safety … Keep your finger off of the trigger until you are drawing down on your target!

Know Your Weapon
Whatever your weapon might be, you must know it to the smallest detail.  If there is a problem with your weapon you need to know what it is and how to fix it.  That might mean that you have all night or you might have to fix it right now.  It could be the difference between life and death!

  • Run Malfunction Drills. I cannot harp on this enough.  If you have never experienced a miss-feed, a stovepipe or an over stuffed magazine how are you going to fix it?
    • Buy “dummy” rounds.  Dummy rounds are made in nearly all calibers.  They do not have powder or a primer in them but they look and are weighted just like a real round (the older ones actually had a real slug instead of the colored slug).  I recommend getting some and putting them into your allotted range rounds.  Close your eyes when you load your magazines.  There is such a great value added to your training time by using just a few of these mixed in.  There are so many things that you can learn from trying to shoot one of these rounds.
      • First and foremost – You know that there “might “ be one (depending on how many you have mixed in) in your magazine(s).  This psychological aspect alone will disrupt your mindset!
      • With dummy rounds there is the “Oh Schumer” moment that you may have not had when the round doesn’t fire.  This will show you many things.  The main one being that you push the muzzle down “anticipating” the weapon going off.
      • If the round doesn’t go off what do you do?  Maintain Situational Awareness (SA) and stay calm.  Know how to remove that round from your weapon and be able to stay in the fight.  If you train this it will become second nature.
    • Run Reload Drills.  This falls into routine and malfunction training.  There are many aspects of each that you should train on.
      • Let a “member” load your magazines and place them in your kit and you do the same for another member (with dummy rounds included maybe?).  Don’t load full magazines.  Maybe one magazine you load (weapon dependent) 10 rounds and the next you load 3 and next 8, etc.  You have to think on your toes!  More of that whole psychological thing going on.
      • Know what it feels like when the bolt locks back.  A matter of seconds could mean life or death!
      • Learn to count your rounds fired (work on it all the time).
    • Know the ballistics of your weapon.  If you live in a neighborhood where houses are feet apart it is probably not a good option to shoot a high-powered rifle at an intruder coming into your house.  Houses are made very cheap these days.
    • Be able to reload your weapon without taking your eyes off of your target.

Target Identification
Know your target!  Simple as it may sound there are many problems with this in the heat of the moment.  There are many factors that play into this:

  • Know beyond your target (know your weapon).  If you are shooting a rifle at a target 10m away and there is “someone” 10m behind the target, you are going to shot that someone behind the target.  That someone might just be a friendly?
  • Use plywood silhouettes (4x - 3/4inch think) with targets behind them to get a sense of what your weapon will do at different ranges.
  • Use paper targets that look like real people.  Get away from running drills on “bullseye” targets.  Zero your weapon on bullseye targets.  Why you might ask … more of that whole psychological thing.  You are now pulling the trigger on what looks to be a living, breathing person.  I don’t see people running around with bulls eye’s painted on it for you.  It is a time and again proven thing that certain people hesitate to pull the trigger in the heat of the moment, which can be catastrophic to the rest of the “members” because they can not over come the fact that they are going to shoot a person.

Know Yourself
This is the final milestone that you must cross.  With all the above stated and trained to total perfection and the hand that you might be dealt and your faith in God will you have a second thought?
There are many companies out there that you can locate to get firearms training from but I would suggest using the Internet to your advantage!  YouTube is a great one for firearms training and drills.  Not only can see what is being done you can watch it as many times as you want and even download the videos with YouTube Downloader.  I would suggest looking at the Viking Tactics (VTAC) videos that are available via YouTube.  I have had the privilege to taking a class from retired SGM Kyle Lamb.  His classes are fast passed but very informative!  It would be a great thing to get your group to go through.  He also has instructional videos that can be purchased.

JWR Adds: At least one member of each retreat group should shell out the big bucks to take a professionally-run course from an organization like Gunsite, Thunder Ranch, or Front Sight. That individual can then go home and cross train their fellow group members. (All of the best schools are run in a "train the trainer" format, these days.) And once you are at home, practice, practice, practice. Shooting skills are perishable, so regular practice is essential. Continuously increase your knowledge. Instructional videos (such as Magpul's Art of Tactical Carbine series and Art of the Dynamic Handgun series) are well-worth adding to your library.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

This article is intended to assist our fellow preppers with marksmanship. I have realized that with all the new interest in the prepper movement we have those that have never handled a firearm among us!  I will start at the very basic level to help form a good foundation to build upon. For some this will be too basic or boring, however, they may see something of use. Some of this will also be story telling. I want the reader to get the "feel" for shooting, not just the science.

If you are new to firearms or less than an expert please give the following a read and see if you can give it a try. By building the proper skills with better methods you can be shooting better, sooner, and for less money. The skill of marksmanship can become a hobby, put food on the table, and save you or your family from those that would do harm so lets get some training going.

Why should you read this and follow what is suggested? Long ago, in a place far, far away I had the great honor of an assignment to the USAMU (Army Marksmanship Unit, or Army Shooting Team). For the sake of OPSEC some details will be skipped but lets say I had some experience along the way. I have to add that the Army did help polish my marksmanship skills but I arrived there an expert and it was all self taught to that point. The marksmanship instruction at basic training was unfortunately lacking back then. The final polish came from the coaches and peers at the elite USAMU.

I must give the safety brief: Misuse of a firearm is dangerous. It can result in property damage, serious injury and death. Always use hearing and eye protection. Treat firearms as if they are loaded. Keep firearms pointed in a safe direction and have a proper backstop for the ammunition being used. If you do not have a basic understanding of firearms and safe use of them then you should seek a basic safety class or other qualified training.

Terms used in this article include:

  • Sight (s) - the fixtures or attachment which is viewed through to aim at the target.
  • Sight Picture - the alignment of the sights and target as viewed by the shooter.
  • Trigger - the lever or device which will initiate the discharge of the firearm.
  • Bullseye - the very center ring of a target, maximum score area.
  • Group - a set of bullet holes on a target, usually 3 or 5 to a set.
  • Recoil - the rearward propulsion of the firearm as the bullet is fired.
  • Flinch - an involuntary reaction to the recoil of a firearm.
  • Safety - usually a push button or level which prevents or allows a firearm to be discharged.

It has been my anecdotal observation that we humans want the best, coolest, and biggest goodie. Functional and practical need not apply. We also want it new and we want it now. This is true of me too! Unfortunately this is usually the wrong way. That "arm chair commando" with a Barrett .50 BMG can't hit a target at 200 yards but my .308 will reach out and touch someone at 800 yards. Skill wins. That skill starts by learning basics and building a solid foundation: Crawl, walk, run.

Get started with a BB gun or an Airsoft gun. Why get a BB gun? You can shoot it in your house if you live in an area that is not suitable to shooting outside. It is quiet. It is very inexpensive to shoot. There is no recoil to cause you to develop a flinch. I suggest a spring cocked BB gun such as the Daisy Buck or a manually compressed air type like I learned on, the Crosman 760 Pumpmaster. We are not looking to take big game just yet...what you need here is not fancy or powerful. This is the time to learn sight picture and trigger control. Oh, and if you learn on iron sights (not an optic) you can always advance later. If you start on an optic it will be difficult and frustrating to go back to the irons. Also get a proper target. There are hard foam target blocks and metal traps for BB gun shooting.

Now that you have acquired a functional BB gun let's look at the sights. A blade sight has a single post in the front and two blades in the rear (also called a notch). For proper sight picture the top edge of the front sight should be placed between and even to the rear sight blades (or in the notch). The top of the three should be even and then placed in the center of the target. A peep sight will be similar except the rear sight is a circle. The top edge of the front sight goes in the center of the circle and that is then centered on the target. This sounds unusual, however, you now focus on the front sight. You should notice that the rear sight is slightly out of focus and the target will blur. This is crucial for later and you need to build the habit now. The issue is that your eye will focus to a specific distance like a camera. An object closer will be clear while one in the distance will be blurred. For practical marksmanship the front sight is clearly in focus while the rear sight is slightly out of focus and the target is not in focus. Simply center the sights in the blurred target.

Holding your BB gun in the beginning should be done from a comfortable position. A good method at this point is while seated at a table. Just place your elbows on the table about shoulder width apart. Keep your finger off the trigger. Now with the stock against your shoulder you should look down the sights and see where the BB gun is pointed. Set your target up at that height about 10 feet away. We will see where the sights are set.

Verify you have a safe backstop and there is no one at risk and nothing there to get broken. Use eye protection. Use hearing protection if appropriate. Follow the loading instructions and use the lowest power setting possible. Don't forget the safety. Place the center of the first pad of your trigger finger on the trigger. From a normal full breath, let the breath half way out and hold. Aim and then draw the trigger straight back while keeping the sight picture. Trigger control, also called trigger squeeze, is crucial. If you hold your breath too long you will start to shake and maybe get blurred vision. Just start over. After this first shot you need to verify the BB is somewhere on the target. If not, check that you loaded a BB in the gun. You can maybe move the target closer or add additional targets around the first (making a larger target) to see where the BB is going.

When you locate the hole from the BB and see that it is anywhere on the target you should shoot 3 more times. These three shots should be in succession and will be a "group". At this point you should be able to follow the instructions to adjust the sights if the group is not centered around the bullseye. If the group is a bit wide or erratic you should not be concerned. With repeated practice and following the fundamentals the group will get smaller in size (called tight). When you get the group tight, maybe 1 inch, then move the target back another foot. Repeat the process. Add more power or pump the pressure higher as needed for the distance.

You are now getting three things from this basic exercise: 1. maintaining proper sight picture while you 2. practice trigger control and 3. shooting without developing a flinch. These are the rock solid foundation of marksmanship. The more time you invest in building these good habits is the better a marksman you will become.
Once you feel confident, you can move on to other firing positions such as prone or kneeling, and later advance to a larger caliber. I very highly recommend stepping your way up to the desired caliber, such as .22, then .223, then .308 or a similar size. Come back to a small caliber sometimes to keep the fundamentals working for you. What can happen by moving to a larger caliber too fast is that you will develop a flinch.

To polish your skills and find what you are doing wrong:
Reduced size targets: Instead of moving your targets further away, just make them smaller. A great example is the 25 meter M16 zero target. The target is a 300 meter target scaled down to be used to 25 meters. IMHO you can learn a lot more seeing your hits and misses at 25 meters instead of having no idea what happened 300 meters away. Once you master the smaller target then you can move your targets out further.

Checking trigger control: When I was in the Army there was an exercise to check your trigger control. It was called the "dime and washer" drill. The drill required an assistant. Verify your rifle is unloaded and cocked. Take a prone position holding the rifle like you are ready to shoot. Your assistant inserts a cleaning rod into the barrel 10-15 inches with a few inches left exposed. The assistant then balances a dime on the cleaning rod and lets go. You should be able to pull the trigger (audible click) dropping the hammer on the firing pin without the dime falling off.

Checking for flinch: There is a product usually called a "snap cap" and also sometimes called a dummy round. They can be used several ways but for this practice you should be at the range and ready to shoot. Have an assistant load the magazine for you without you seeing. The snap cap should be mixed in with the live ammunition. When the person firing gets to the snap cap and squeezes the trigger everyone will see how much flinch they have developed. Small caliber practice and dry-fire drills with the snap caps can be used to correct the bad habit.

FWIW: I had no formal firearms instruction as a youth. I got to shoot a few rounds through a relatives handgun once and shot a BB gun a few times. The big event came when I was given a BB gun as a gift. It was  Crosman 760 PumpMaster. With no formal instruction I was left to learn the concepts of trigger control and sight picture on my own. The Crosman had an excellent trigger and no recoil so I did not develop bad habits while shooting it. Many years later, right around the time of a major competitive event, my Mother asked me if I remembered how I learned to shoot. I was a bit puzzled because no one taught me to shoot. She said "you used to shoot the bees". I had forgot that we had a problem with the wood boring bees around the old farm house when I was growing up. I practiced and learned to shoot the bees out of the air!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Whether you’re using a gun for home security, hunting, or whether you just enjoy shooting, there are some basic guidelines for gun safety you need to follow. You’ll hear these guidelines in every gun safety course, and you’ll see them printed on the instructions of almost any new firearm you purchase.

The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of negligent discharges happen because people fail to follow these basic guidelines. It’s always worth taking a few minutes and refreshing them in your mind, just to make sure you’re following them at all times.

Here are five of the key guidelines for gun safety:

  • Don’t point at something you don’t want to kill or destroy. This is essential. About 30 percent of hunting accidents come from self-inflicted injuries. This means that the barrel or muzzle was pointed at a body part. Know where your gun is pointed at all times, and look far enough out to see what might get hit if the gun goes off.
  • Always assume a gun is loaded. You should treat every gun as if it’s got ammunition in the chamber. Get in the habit of treating your guns like that all the time, and you’ll never have to worry about a negligent discharge.
  • Keep away from the trigger until you’re ready to shoot. The trigger guard is there for a reason. Keep your finger outside of the trigger guard until you’ve aimed and your gun is pointed at something you intend to kill or destroy.
  • Store your gun safely. Generally speaking, your gun and ammunition should be kept separate. If you intend to use your gun for home defense, consider a gun safe or gun box with a keypad lock that lets you – and only you – get in and get your gun fast.
  • Don’t mix alcohol and ammunition. Never handle a weapon if you’ve been drinking or using drugs. Watch out for prescription medications that can dull the senses, slow your reflexes, or impair your judgment, as well.
  • Diligently follow these five guidelines and you’ll avoid almost every conceivable gun accident scenario.

    (Madison Parker writes on subjects related to home security systems. You can read more on her blog:

    JWR Adds: The late Colonel Jeff Cooper also included this rule in his list: "Be sure of your target. Know what it is, what is in line with it, and what is behind it. Never shoot at anything you have not positively identified. Be aware of your surroundings, whether on the range or in a fight. Do not assume anything. Know what you are doing."

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011

    After reading the recent MBR article by Zorro, it seems that all the amateurs still fuss over the 5.56/7.62 or 9mm/.45 debate. At our police agency here in the Southwest, we focus on increasing our trigger time via the SIRT laser training pistol, practicing fundamentals through live and dry fire, working through scenarios (lessons learned) and practicing "range fitness".

    A great resource for range fitness is Rob Shaul speaks of high percentage shooting positions based upon the experiences of combat veterans, as well as developing the fitness needed to put the gun in the fight.  It seems that whenever I'm selected to attend firearms training courses it's at the worst possible time of year. The temperature for my shotgun course in February was 20 degrees with howling winds. I had to decide between wearing gloves that got stuck in the elevator of the weapon when doing slug manipulation or just letting them go numb. Now I will attend a Rifle course in August as the temperature is officially 110 degrees in the shade. Hydration, heat effect, and laying on the hot ground to zero or practice prone positions are all on the menu. In other words, when we find ourselves in need of deploying the main battle rifle (MBR), its usually at the worst time with factors like weather, visibility, and fatigue affecting our ability to utilize the weapon.  So before a person picks a side in the great ammo/rifle debate, can you run a half mile, do 20 burpees, assume a firing position with your main battle rifle (MBR), acquire targets, squeeze off accurate fire, "change your return address" (i.e. move off the line of attack to better cover), change magazines, and then put the gun back in the fight? I still can't and yet I train for it. I'm considered a reliable shot. I practice, watch videos, and seek out the help of others because I know my life depends upon it. 

    My advice is to find a good rifle in a caliber that's readily available. What's a good rifle? (I can hear people leaning in as I write this), Any rifle from a reputable company (Remington, Colt, Winchester, etc) in a caliber you can find at a stocking sporting goods store (.223, .308, .30-06, .22 LR) at a price that you can live with.

    Inevitably, you'll purchase other firearms in other calibers as you gain experience (trust me). Seek out competent instruction in your area and practice firearms safety religiously. Improve your level of physical fitness as you improve your firearms skill set. For example, today I will go to the range on my way to work and practice "snapping in" on a target with my AR. I won't fire a single shot [in these particular drills]. Just bringing the weapon up, on target, and acquiring a sight picture. Yesterday I practiced drawing, acquiring a sight picture, and speed reloading with empty magazines for 10 minutes.  Live by the four firearms safety rules, improve your skills, and have fun.

    In response to Zorro: Yes the M1 Garand is a great rifle compared to the AR/M4, but I'm partial to the 1903 Springfield because the US Marines wouldn't be known as "Devil Dogs" without it. Just had to say it! Thank you, - Bretmail 

    Friday, July 29, 2011

    I am getting along in my years but, I recognize that I may need a high power Main Battle Rifle  (MBR) in the future if significant issues surrounding our standard of living within the US remain unresolved. So, what rifle should I choose Let me start by saying that a 5.56/.223 in a AR-15 or any other light caliber rifle does not qualify as a MBR with me. The 5.56/.223 55 grain round requires 2,800 fps at impact to produce a large wound cavity. When shot from a  20" barreled  AR-15 the round is below that impact velocity at about 150 yards and from a 16" barrel at 75 yards.(1). I own a AR-15 and I like it but, I limit it to defense and close quarters use mostly. My wife and daughter can shoot it comfortably but, it is more a ‘multipurpose utility’ type weapon. Because you can kill game efficiently, shoot through large cover (12" diameter tree), and drop the enemy well beyond 600 yards I choose a MBR that shoots the 7.62/.308/.30-06 round. As Boston T. Party says, “Boys, give up your carbine toys for a real man’s weapon-a .308 battle rifle” (2). Murphy’s law of combat applies: INCOMING FIRE HAS THE RIGHT OF WAY (3) . The AR-15 debate can rage elsewhere.

    Many rifle designs are available using the .308/7.62 x 51 round , even the venerable M1 Garand. DPMS and Armalite make AR style rifles in the .308 ( the bolt locks into the barrel chamber instead of into the receiver like the M1/M14) and, they are very accurate. Also, DSA makes FAL type rifles which are very good as are the HK91s. But, I want an American forged and assembled  rifle capable of shooting an American caliber bullet. Okay, I am biased. Consequently, the FAL and HK were not considered. As for the .308 AR style rifles - they have too many serious negatives with the direct gas impingement system, the design complexity, and  parts availability. The AR-10 (et al) is just not rugged enough for a prolonged unsupported survival situation. Besides, I have shot the Garand and M14 many times in the military. I know and I like them- familiarity means quite a bit. Also, the Garand and the M14 are rated as the best two MBRs available today-  ahead of the FAL, HK, and the AR-10 (4) ( DPMS was not rated and if their customer service rapport is any indication of their product then I can see why !)  It is the Garand and the M14 (called the M1A by Springfield of Illinois) that I will discuss, compare, and from them make a selection.

    I learned the Garand during my ROTC days and could disassemble and reassemble it quickly and do this blindfolded. Owning one for many years I have shot the rifle and admire its’ simple design. My experience with the M14/M1A  is less than that with the Garand but, I have shot  hundreds of rounds through this rifle on several occasions over the years. I really like it’s handling and smooth recoil. The two rifles are very comparable in weight with the M14 being around a pound lighter than the Garand (unloaded with wood stocks) but about the same when loaded . Both have the fewest parts of any MBR out there - 62 for the Garand and 61 for the M1A/M14. Incidentally, the AR-15 has about a 119 parts (5). This is significant! I have always examined mean time between failure (MTBF) for components my life depended on - the more parts the more failures-an easily understood and an important fact. Parts for all MBRs  are abundantly available now but, will they be should "The End Of The World As We Know It"  (TEOTWAWKI) occurs? Probably not!

    Further consideration of the Garand and its' son the M14 brings us to another controversial issue. The military Garand  receiver ( not to be confused with the commercial variety  receiver serial # 7,000,0000 and above) was made to mil spec which means # 8620 steel forged and heat treated to a hardness of 60 on the Rockwell scale at the US National Armory in Springfield, MA - (not the corporate armory at Springfield Armory, Inc. of IL.) (6). As one writer states: “After July, 1942, receivers used WD Steel No. 8620 Modified, the same as for the bolt. The receivers were then heat treated. They were carburized 0.012" to 0.018" at 1600EF followed by an oil quench temper for one hour at 480E. The resulting hardness was Rockwell D 59 to D 67" ( 7 ).       

    In metallurgy, hardness is defined as the ability of a material to resist indentation by an applied load and within limits the strength of a metal increases in proportion to hardness (8). This Rockwell hardness scale was used for the military M14 also but, very few civilian M1A/M14  manufacturers ever made forged receivers - most are cast. We know the story: military Garands are readily available; military M14s are not. However, forged M14s are currently made by LRB, and the James River Armory (using the old TRW US contract M14 specifications). As I recall details from structural engineering I know that cast steel is not forged steel. “Forged Metals tend to be harder, stronger and more durable than cast forms or machined parts. The reason why is simple: pressure alone forms the steel into the right shape, and the metal's response to such overwhelming force tends to align the grain. That means you get more cogent internal structure and a far greater ability to withstand warping and wearing”. (9) Smith Enterprises - probably by others too- reheat M14 cast receivers to Rockwell scale 55 readings (10). This process can encase 'Beachmarks'  which are clamshell marks seen in fatigue failures of materials. Overtime these marks shorten fatigue life which is defined as the number of cycles required for a material to fail at a certain stress (11). Furthermore : Pre hardened and tempered (uncarburized) 8620 can be further surface hardened by nitriding but will not respond satisfactorily to flame or induction hardening due to its low carbon content (12 ).  The process of carburizing steel is applied to increase the carbon content of the surface, so that by suitable heat treatment the carburized surface will be substantially harder than the core (13 ). Reheating these cast receivers makes a hard surface but, a defective core remains unchanged.

    Caveat Emptor-  the M1A cast receivers and  parts from the modern Springfield  Armory, Illinois (SAI) are not unanimously recommended. Their M1As are not made with forged steel nor, are those parts reheated to milspec standards.  Some complain that the parts are rough and that some bolts stamped TRW are fake (14 ). Other reports state that SAI  used Chinese made parts in their rifles recently- the Chinese often do not use # 8620 steel. Nonetheless, many strongly recommend the M1A and consider it an accurate and reliable MBR (15 ). Some reports of  failures in the M1A receivers are cursory. In 2001, a report clarified what was believed to be another report of a  M1A receiver problem when the failure was actually induced by the barrel threads ( 16 ). Regardless, forged steel has greater laminar cohesion than cast steel and because of this it is stronger and  harder. Should you have a choice for a MBR then, make that choice after analyzing the facts as well as the costs. A forged  James River Armory M14 costs $2,295 and the LRB M14 costs  $ 2,495 ; a similar configured SAI  M1A costs around  $1,700.  Also, do not forget the Garand.  A excellent  8620  mil-spec made  M1 Garand will cost around $1.400-$1.500 from the Garand Guy with excellent used milspec GI parts and a  new barrel (17 ). "Get the best battle rifle for you, cost be damned".“If you are truly serious about battle rifles then you should eventually get into a forged receiver which will last you at least 75,000 rounds  (just like a real M14)”(18). I agree.

    Of course, the venerable Garand wins the cost / milspec contest  hands down. When you need parts to work hardness means greater MTBF and, that is what I want in TEOTWAWKI  when the 'Bad Guys' show up. A soldier’s adage:  “Works good lasts a long time”. To me that means a military Garand serial number at or  below 6,099,905 which was the highest and last milspec Garand serial number). But, if I get richer quickly then a James River or a LRB semi automatic M14 would be a outstanding choice and for some even a better one. Since my MBR will be used in austere circumstances (post SHTF) I want it forged.

    The Garand is restricted to a 8 round en bloc clip and, the clips are inexpensive. Many clips can be purchased for a hundred dollars and, they can be stored loaded without weakening anything. Conversely, the M1A/M14 has a detachable 20 round magazine which is expensive (around $25 to $40 each). Besides, the magazines need to be rocked into place and, this can be fussy for the unpracticed. Though the fire power from the M14/M1A is greater than that of the Garand I  tend to believe that the Garand clips are more reliable than M14/M1A magazines so, I regard this as only a small to moderate advantage in favor of the M1A/M14. Consider this: 5 loaded  8  round en bloc clips weigh less than 2 twenty (20)  round M14 magazines (types of magazines weighed is unknown) (19) . As one expert reminds us “A calm and focused M1 Rifleman can get the job done just about as well as with a M14."(20 ).

    The real problem with the Garand is the gas system and it is a serious one if ignored. The Garand has a fixed gas system which ports enough gas to the op rod to cycle the mechanism that  ejects the spent brass and that loads another round into the chamber. The .30 US  caliber (.30-06) military ball ammunition for the M1 is made with fast burning powder to keep the ported gas pressure on the op rod head at a level that will cycle the rod without unduly over stressing it (early produced op rods did fail at times ) . Nonetheless, this action tends to be somewhat violent. Most commercial .30-06 ammunition on the other hand is made with slow burning powders that will port too much gas to the op rod causing it to bend or even break during firing and possibly damaging the receiver too. The heavier the commercial bullet the stronger the ported pressure. The Garand was made for 30 Caliber M2 Ball and AP. Their ballistic characteristics were detailed in Hatcher's Notebook pages 29-30 excerpted in the following table:(21)

    Comparison of Various Military .30-06 Bullet Types



    Muzzle velocity Velocity
    @53 Feet
    @78 Feet



    (ft. lbs.)

    Cal. .30 M2 152 2,805 2,755 2,740 2,556
    Cal. .30 A.P. M2 168.5 2,775 2,730 2,715 2,780


    So, ammunition for the Garand should be restricted to the bullet performances stated in this chart. Hornady is a commercial producer that makes specific M1 Garand ammunition- 168 grain A-Max match. Federal American Eagle also makes a 150 grain .30-06 round that works well as does PMC. But remember this as one blogger asked: 
    “Hmmm... I didn't realize you couldn't use just any .30-06 ammo in a Garand. So, I can't just pick a popular hunting round to use for hunting, target shooting, etc. without checking to see if it can safely be fired in it? Short answer..... NO!” (22).

    However, a fix for the M1 gas plug is available so most commercial rounds can be fired safely. The Shuster (a set screw allows settings to be adjusted) and the McCann ( must install 1 of 5 independent jets) gas plugs are available for less than $50. These are adjustable and useful especially in austere conditions when any ammo available may have to be used . An M14/M1A does not need these devices since the M14M1A gas system is highly refined, self adjusting and one of the best made. This is a very important feature which at this point makes the M14 a better TEOTWAWKI choice. But wait, not so fast!

    The nice aspect about the M1's .30-06 chambering is that the M2 ball ammo is a specific application of the .30-06 round. This means that the cartridges have the same head spacing specifications.(23). Fix the gas problem in the Garand and you are ready to go with most ammunition available. This is not true for the .308 and the 7.62 x 51 rounds which are different (beware some Garands shoot this too). Clint McKee of Fulton Armory, has a very good discussion on the differences between these cartridges on web site.  His companion Walter Kuleck says :”Most of the time it's a distinction without a difference. But if you intend to shoot .308 commercial in a military arm chambered for 7.62MM, first check the headspace with .308 commercial gauges first. You may get a surprise” (24). In another discussion in these same paragraphs  Clint further states : I completely agree with Jerry that if you have a chamber with headspace much in excess of 1.636 (say, 1.638, SAAMI field reject), you must use only U.S. or NATO Mil Spec Ammo (always marked 7.62mm & with a cross enclosed by a circle) since the NATO mil spec calls for a far more "robust" brass case than often found in commercial  (read .308 Winchester) cartridges”(24 ) . So, if you are having a .308  made or buying a MBR made for the .308)  then remember ,“ that 1.631-1.632 is a near perfect headspace for an M14/M1A or M1 Garands chambered in .308 Winchester. But I think that it also near perfect for 7.62mm NATO!” (24). Any reputable gunsmith can check head space. One more caveat- the Garand when fitted or refitted to the .308 / 7.62 x 51 cartridge may also require the Shuster gas plug or the McCann gas plug adapter depending on the brand of ammunition you are shooting. The .308 (oddly) at times produces more chamber pressure than the .30-06 (25)  and, op rods respond only to the ported  pressure so, I recommend the gas plug adapter with this modification especially if you are going to shoot enhanced commercial .308 rounds. The  M14/M1A, of course, does not require this modification.

    The overall length of the Garand  is 43.6" while the M14/M1A is about 44.3".  The standard Garand is equipped with a  24" barrel without a flash suppressor while the standard  M14/M1A has a  22" barrel to which you must add 3 - 4" for the specific type flash suppressor attached to  your gun - resulting in a barrel length of about 25". This is an important consideration in a tactical environment. As one author states, “the lack of a muzzle flash is much more tactically important on a semi-auto than a muzzle brake”(26).( I will add that this is true for standard weapons). But, before we press- on  know that the T-37 pronged flash suppressor is available for the Garand at the Fulton Armory for about $36 without installation . The T-37 is about 2.5" in length and making the Garand 46.1" (2 inches longer than the M1) in overall length when added (27).

    This information is about the standard model rifles but, not all Garands or M14/M1A’s are of standard length. The venerable M1 does have a variant known as the “Tanker” model. This weapon sports a 18.5" barrel as does the LRB M14 which is called the same name too. Also, not all Garands have to shoot the 30 US caliber (.30-06) which is hard to find and relatively expensive. Modern means optimum length. “If  it’s going to have a .308 barrel, why choose a 24" when something closer to 19" is better ? All in all, a .308 “Tanker” Garand is precisely the flavor of  M1 best suited for the 21st Century rifleman”(28 ).

    The loss of energy from a 19" barrel is not significant for the .308.  Many have said  that if you cannot do it with a .308  then a .30-06 will not make any difference. This line of reasoning holds true for the M1/ M14 debate . The “Tanker” Garand  , however, does have a muzzle blast issue and a muzzle brake is recommended. This device can be purchased for about $150 from Smith Enterprises. Remember, it is a brake not a flash suppressor. Nonetheless, if  I were to choose the Garand - it would be the .308 Tanker model.        

    Yes, the simple things are hard. This is true when justifying optics for rifles that were made to be shot with iron sights. All of us fall into this consumer oriented trap. We buy expensive optics to bypass what we really need to learn; that is- ' how to use iron sights'! The Garand  and the M14/M1A have excellent iron sights. The former are calibrated in yards while the latter are in meters. Both have front sight posts that transverse about  20" at 250 yards so, if the bad guy is no thinner than your front sight post 'shoot'  him. However, a Battle Sight Zero discussion shall be left for another time.

    All this is not to diminish the value of enhanced optics when the iron sights are mastered for these weapons. The M1 has some ability to accommodate scopes although limited and , several manufacturers make a scout rail for the Garand and the M14. The M14 has a better ability to mount optics. In  fact, LRB makes a M14 receiver (M25) with a built in rail for a scope, or a red dot device. SAI also has a scout version for their  M1A. The scout rails designed for the Garand require a barrel that has a military taper (contour) for an easy fit although a non standard Garand barrel can be fitted with a scout rail it will be at added cost. Because the “Tanker” barrel follows a GI taper to a point before it changes shape costly modifications are required for a scout rail (29).  The point is check the  rifle barrel taper before buying a scout rail. Garand scout rails can accommodate Extended Eye Relief scopes, and lights. Remember however, that this discussion is about use in TEOTWAWKI . If you believe that, “Two weeks after the Balloon goes up, iron sights will rule the world ”(30) then a scout rail is redundant. Save the money and buy  night vision equipment. You should consider ruling the night too.

    If the enemy is in range, SO ARE YOU       
    This statement is not necessarily true for the M1/M14/M1A shooters. The Taliban can confirm this. If getting a  MBR is important to you then most lightweight calibers should be unattractive. The choice for me is between the Garand and the M14. Manufacturers and sellers of these weapons are numerous. The CMP, the Fulton Armory, the Garand Guy, Orion, the James River Armory, plus a few others make or refurbish milspec forged receiver Garands and, they do a great job. Forged M14s are currently made by LRB, and the James River Armory as discussed.

    After considering all and because I am not getting younger I must say my choice maybe  different from yours. The milspec M1 receivers are easy to get, but the .30 US caliber ammunition is drying up fast. The .308 Garands are really nice but, by the time you add accessories then the price is around $1,700- 2,000 dollars ( 17). Also, we are talking about receivers that were last forged in 1957. So, because of the age of the milspec receivers, the fact that we do not know how close to the fatigue life we are with these refurbished receivers, that a M1 scout rail modification is subject to barrel contour, that a muzzle brake and magazine adapter are needed, that a gas plug may be required and because we will be operating in a non-support environment the .308 Garand is my second choice. The LRB M14 is my first choice with a  M25 receiver in the scout version with a 18.5 barrel. With this choice I get a new forged receiver, a scope or enhanced optics ready weapon, and no worries about the remaining fatigue life of the receiver. Costs will be around $2,700. Note that the cost of a  SAI  squad scout M1A is ($1,900). With the LRB choice I can, without reservation, pass this weapon down to my kin knowing that the receiver service life started with me and should be good to 75,000 rounds because it was forged.

    Not  all of the available MBR choices were examined. I restricted the field to the weapons that I thought were the best. If you have a FAL, HK, Galil  or whatever and, you can use it well, then nothing I stated should change a thing. I also cannot emphasize enough that when you buy a MBR especially a M1/M14/M1A  you must check the headspacing, the throat erosion and, the muzzle wear particularly, if it is used. A bright and shiny bore means nothing but, it is so often advertised as a standard by those who are unaware of what makes a gas gun work. A gun that can hurt you or, those around you if the tolerances are worn beyond limits. This discussion also was for a TEOTWAWKI era.  In this period simplicity, durability, and quality equal reliability and those facets weigh heavier than they would during normal times. So does caliber choice which is why I want a .308. Although I choose the expensive MBR your choice can be the “Tanker Garand” and little will be sacrificed. Regardless, the choice means little if you do not practice with it. Practice using the iron sights until proficient, store up some spare parts and ammunition, and then get some optics if you need them.

    1& 2. Party, Boston T.Boston's Gun Bible,  USA ; Javelin Press, ed. (2002 -2009)  p. 9/5 & p 10/3

    3."Murphy's Laws of Combat". From the Fulton Armory web site,  M1 Garand FAQ;M1 Garand Information Place-bottom of page.
    4. Party, Boston T. Boston's Gun Bible,  USA ; Javelin Press, ed.(2002 -2009) , p 10/34  and chapter 11.
    5. ibid., p10/9

    6. ibid., p 11/36

    7. The History of the M1 Garand — Springfield Armory and World War II Production ,

    8. The definition of Hardness., www.Scribd ENG1108 -L3- HARDNESS- IMPACT-CREEP _ FATIGUE- OH”S.
    9. Forged metals. Metal Tidbits, Forge. Forge Group,
    10. Party, Boston T. Boston's Gun Bible,  USA ; Javelin Press, ed.(2002 -2009),p 11/37.

    11. Beachmarks and Striations. Reed-Hill, Robert E,and Reza Abbaschian. Physical Metallurgy Principles. 3rd ed. Boston: PWS Publishing Company,1994.

    12. 8620 case hardening steel.

    13. The Process of Carburization for 8620 steel.,

    14. Party, Boston T. Boston's Gun Bible,  USA ; Javelin Press, ed.(2002 -2009),p 11/38.

    15. Pat's Product Review: Springfield Armory M1A.,, July 18, 2011

    16. Most Horrendous M1A/M14 kB! Ever. A comprehensive metallurgical report courtesy of Fulton Armory. Dr. William J. Bruchey, 509 Tome Highway, Port Deposit, MD 21904., April 5, 2001.

    17.Tanker Garand." Tony Giacobbe"., Monday, July 11, 2011 4:49 PM,
    To:  author."The tanker with a standard Criterion barrel (they do not make a chrome-lined
    tanker) is $1300 after the $100 rebate, and the scout rail, muzzle brake & adjustable plug would be an additional $450". 

    18. Party, Boston T. Boston's Gun Bible,  USA ; Javelin Press, ed.(2002 -2009), Affordability p10/25. "How good is the cast M1A. made by Springfield Armory"? p11/38.

    19. ibid., M1/M14 mag to gun.  p 11/8.

    20. ibid., M1. p 10/26

    21. Hatcher's Notebook,  Julian S. Hatcher, Major General, U.S. Army, retired, The Telegraph Press,1947. p 29-30.

    22.".30-06 ammo for a Garand". tools and technologies, rifle country, Swampy's reply to SteveW13. Oct 1, 2003.

    23. "Headspace for a M1 Garand"., email to Boston asking about .30-06/30 US caliber headspacing. June 9, 2011, 8:35 PM.

    24."What's the Difference between .308 Winchester & 7.62x51mm NATO?". Clint McKee and Walt Kuleck,, M14 frequently asked questions.

    25. "What's better in an M1 Garand: .308 Winchester or .30-'06?. Clint McKee., M1 frequently asked questions.

    26. Party, Boston T. Boston's Gun Bible,  USA ; Javelin Press, ed.(2002 -2009). p 11/12 (top).

    27. M1 .30 Caliber Rifle 21, 2004 – Length, M1: 43.6 in (1107 mm) M1C, M1D: 46.125 in (1172 mm).

    28. Party, Boston T. Boston's Gun Bible,  USA ; Javelin Press, ed.(2002 -2009). p 11/14.

    29. "Tanker Scout Rail Question" . Tony Giacobbe ( Garand Guy)., Monday, July 11, 2011 4:49 PM.. reply to author. "If you want the scout rail for a scope, an Installment would be cheaper (about $150 , compared to $150, + $100 fitting for the scout rail).

    30.Party, Boston T. Boston's Gun Bible,  USA ; Javelin Press, ed. (2002 -2009). iron sights.  quote from Clint Smith. p 8/11.

    Sunday, May 22, 2011

    First, thank you so much for such a worthwhile resource for prepping and other useful information.
    Regarding the recent article on M1911 series pistols, I could not help but cringe when I repeatedly read to release the slide and let it slam on an empty chamber.  It is my understanding that there is no better way to mess up a trigger job than repeated slamming the slide forward on an empty chamber.  The action of releasing the slide without a round being stripped off of a magazine to buffer the force will cause damage to the surfaces of both the hammer and the sear.  Since a nice and crisp trigger pull heavily depends on these surfaces being precise, it is in the 1911 owners best interest to not allow the slide to fall on an empty chamber repeatedly.
    With that being said, it is required to release the slide on an empty chamber while performing a function check of the 1911.  The checks should be performed before purchasing any used 1911, and probably any new 1911.  No factory or gunsmith will produce 100% perfect firearms 100% of the time!  Please make sure that you have asked the firearm’s owner for permission to perform these checks before running through the list. 
    The procedure to function check the 1911 is as follows:
    1)      Ensure that the firearm is unloaded.  Remove the magazine.  Lock the slide back and visually inspect the chamber.  Put your pinky finger into the chamber.  Make absolutely, positively sure that the firearm is unloaded!
    2)      Still treat the firearm as if it is loaded, being aware of muzzle position at all times.  Safety, safety, safety!
    3)      Basic firing test: Slide forward and hammer cocked.  Hold firearm as if you were going to fire.  Pull trigger.  Hammer should drop.  If you repeat the test with a pencil inserted into the barrel eraser side first, the pencil should be propelled out of the barrel when you pull the trigger.
    4)      Half-cock notch test: with slide forward, and hammer in released position, pull hammer back until you hear the first click.  This is the half-cock notch.  With safety disengaged and firearm gripped as if to fire, pull the trigger.  The hammer should not drop, unless it is a series 80, in which case the hammer will drop, but not with enough force to fire.
    5)      Sear reset and engagement test: Perform the basic firing test above, but continue to pull back on the trigger.  Fully pull back on slide and release.  Hammer should be fully cocked, and should not follow the slide forward.  Release trigger and pull again- the hammer should fall.  To test the sear’s engagement, lock the slide back and grip the pistol normally.  Release the slide with the slide stop, allowing it to slam on the empty chamber.  The hammer should not follow.
    6)      Thumb safety test:  Hold pistol in normal firing grip with slide forward, hammer cocked, and thumb safety engaged.  Pull the trigger.  The trigger should not move much, if at all, the hammer should not fall and there should not be any movement of internal parts.  The trigger should come to a hard stop.  If it is mushy, there may be sear movement.  Release the trigger and disengage the thumb safety.  The hammer should not fall.
    7)      Grip Safety Test: With the hammer cocked, slide forward, and thumb safety off, hold the pistol so that you are not depressing the grip safety.  Pull the trigger.  Trigger should not move much, if at all, and the hammer should not fall.
    8)      Disconnector Test:  Grip gun in normal firing grip with slide forward, hammer cocked, and thumb safety disengaged.  Pull slide back ¼” with other hand.  Pull trigger – the hammer should not fall.  Repeat the test, but pull the slide fully to the rear.  Allow the slide to move forward slowly, pulling the trigger every ½” of slide movement.  The hammer should not fall until slide is fully forward.
    9)      Barrel Lockup:  With the slide fully forward, attempt to push in on the barrel hood.  There should be very little movement, if any at all.  Try to push the muzzle to the rear.  There should be no discernible movement.
    10)   Slide Lockback on Empty Magazine: Start with slide fully forward.  Insert a magazine that you have verified is empty through look and feel.  Pull slide fully to the rear and release.  The follower on the magazine should trip the slide stop, and the slide should stay locked open.  Repeat the test with each magazine you will be using with this pistol.  Note: some magazines will not function correctly with one pistol, but work perfectly fine with another.  Find out which ones your pistol likes!
    11)   Magazine drop test:  Load a verified empty magazine into your pistol.  Depress the magazine catch button.  The magazine should drop freely from the pistol with no drag and no harsh scraping sound.  Repeat with each magazine you will be using with your pistol.
    If your pistol fails any of the preceding tests, there is probably something wrong with the internals and it should be checked by a gunsmith ,ASAP. 
    Now everyone should celebrate the 100th anniversary of this wonderful pistol and go purchase one as soon as you can! - Don in Virginia

    Friday, May 20, 2011