Ending 2012 on a bright note, or with a bang. Or both.

I was torn as to the topic of my final blog post of 2012. It needed to be topical, but I'm a little burnt out on the politics of gun control which currently dominate the shooting world. Not that it's unimportant, mind you, only that I've adopted a "wait and see" attitude: wait until Congress reconvenes and then see what it is we'll have to fight. I'm resigned to the fact that we will most certainly need to fight some kind of draconian gun control bill, but that's tomorrow.

Today, I want something a little lighter, something which illuminates some forgotten corner of firearms history. How about another one of those crazy gun combo things - you know, like the gun knife or the gun cane or the gun hat. How about a gun….flashlight!

From Gizmodo comes the story of the gun flashlight, a combination of a seven-shot .22 Short revolver and a battery operated torch (as Piers Morgan, the Brit ex-pat gun grabber we all love to hate, might call it.) (See how I worked current events into this seemingly unrelated story? That's the kind of scintillating writing that you can only find on my blog! Well, maybe a few others. OK, anybody could have done it. I'll just go sulk in the corner.)

Apologies for the digression. This circa 1920 contraption was supposedly made for security guards and night watchmen who presumably had need to illuminate things while simultaneously pointing a gun everywhere they looked. Today we recognize this for the very bad idea it was, but have we made any progress?

Only technologically. We have the same thing today, only the gun part is bigger and the flashlight part is a whole lot smaller. Think about this: if you were to attach a 'tactical illuminator' to the rail of your pistol, you’d have exactly same thing. More efficient, certainly, but the concept is the same. And, I dare say, just as silly for the majority of users.

(Don’t get me wrong - there is a place for the weapon-mounted light, but not on a handgun in the possession of someone who isn’t intimately familiar with both its application and its risks. In other words, it’s not a general purpose tool.)

On that note, I hope you enjoy your New Year's celebration this evening, and remember to do it safely! I'll see you on Wednesday with another exciting episode!

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Talk shows where people really talked.

There was a time, believe it or not, when one could actually become educated by watching television. There were great plays, shows that deeply explored various musical styles (hosted by real musicians, composers and conductors), documentaries about art and architecture, and programs which discussed the issues and topics of the day.

In the latter category sat Dick Cavett. Cavett's show was renowned for being intelligent and probing. His guests included actors, scientists, artists, writers and political figures. His was the only show where you could watch Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer argue about their relative contributions to the intellectual fabric of society, as opposed to trailer trash unwed mothers fighting over a shared loser of a boyfriend. Cavett was witty, informed, and a consummate interviewer.

It is that skill which
he recently discussed in an interview on Co.Create.com. In it he goes into detail about how he prepares to interview someone, how he deals with difficult subjects, and how to keep a conversation going.

Well worth reading, if for no other reason than to develop an understanding of the difficulty of the job. Just because he makes it look easy doesn't mean it is!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Hypocrisy, thy name is journalism.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas with family and friends!

There is just a ton of stuff to talk about this week, and my "ideas for the blog" bookmark list runs into the hundreds. I want to take today, however, to point out the hypocrisy of the press - and how at least one of the members of the increasingly sanctimonious Fourth Estate has learned that what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, courtesy of the emerging Fifth Estate.

The Journal-News of White Plains, NY recently published a list of gun permit holders in and around their area. After the Sandy Hook murders their staff decided (of course) that guns were the problem, but the trouble is that they can only advocate for more Second Amendment limitations. They want to do more - to make a difference, you understand.

How about intimidating gun owners? Yeah, that's something they can do! After all, intimidation works to keep people from voting - maybe it can work to keep them from buying guns!

Off to the local County Clerk's Office they go, Freedom Of Information Act request in hand, and they returned with a list of all the permitted gun owners in their area. It was a given that they'd publish the information, but dead trees don't have the social impact they once did. They moved into the 21st century and augmented the published list with an interactive map on their website. All one need do is point and click to find out which of their neighbors has guns to steal!

Now they admitted that the reporter who wrote the story, a Mr. Dwight R. Worley, owns a Smith & Wesson 686 revolver for which he has a permit. Somehow, though, his address didn't make it into the published database (surprise, surprise) nor the interactive map.

What the editor and staff at the Journal-News failed to understand, however, is that freedom of information works for regular people too. It wasn't long before someone made their own inquiry and Mr. Worley's information was made public. As near as I can tell it was the blog of Christopher Fountain, a retired lawyer, which broke the news. (If someone else actually got it out first, my apologies.)
Mr. Fountain has Mr. Worley's address, telephone number, and even a picture for your viewing pleasure.

This was information the paper felt free to release about everyone else except one of their own, and when Mr. Worley's address was plastered all over the 'net the Journal-News tried to clean house. As I write this, Facebook posts that contain his information are quickly being sanitized by Facebook staff. It seems that the paper considers itself to be a step above the people they serve; kind of like politicians, no?

Have a look, share it with your friends (particularly those in New York), and do your part to let the Journal-News - and other media - know that their elitism is not appreciated by the unwashed masses.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Focusing on the positive for a little while.

I wanted to write about the politics of gun control today, to dissect the NRA's press conference from last Friday, to discuss the image of gun owners in society - but I really can't work up the enthusiasm this morning. There's only so much my little brain can deal with at any one time, and I'm just about at overload. Instead of focusing on the coming fight, I'm going to take the next 36 hours and focus on the things which matter: friends and family.

Yes, we have a fight coming. But not today nor tomorrow; those are reserved for the people we care about.

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Everyone talks about the weather….

…but this time, maybe there is something we can do about it.

Where I live the weather is a constant issue. Since we do so much outside, and we depend on the weather for crops (especially fruit), getting an accurate bead on tomorrow's weather is imperative. Since the rural area in which I live has its own little micro climate and no forecaster from the big cities bothers with those of us in the sticks, I've been forced into learning more about weather. I’ll admit that it is a fascinating, and at times frustrating, field of study.

I’ve learned one thing very well: predicting the weather is incredibly difficult, especially in our region, and running the models to make predictions taxes even a powerful computer.

It's that last fact which is the basis for today's story: I had no idea that the National Weather Service wasn't the best in the world. Seems they don't have enough computer power to make really good models, and they slip further behind each year. No wonder they're usually the least accurate forecast in the Pacific Northwest!

I found
an interesting weather blog which has a great article on the subject. It's not often I find myself on the "spend more money!" side of things, but I'd be willing to take some of the funds we use to support hostile regimes around the globe to pay for the much-need upgrades to the NWS. That would be a very good investment for our country.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Breaking news - my new book is shipping!

I have another book on the shelves at Amazon and your local bookstore: the Gun Digest Shooter's Guide To Handguns!

This is a general reference book on handguns and shooting them. In it you'll find information on calibers, shooting tips, competition, hunting, self defense, optics, and even a bit of history!

It's available on Amazon right now, and if you order soon you'll get it in time for Christmas!

Click here for the paper version

Click here for the Kindle version

-=[ Grant ]=-

Practical responses to school attacks.

Since the horrific school murders last week it's become clear that our collective responses to these attacks is insufficient. The reports I've read indicated that it took police 20 minutes from the initial call to arrive; that's a lot of time for a madman to be loose in a victim-rich environment - no matter what he's armed with.

While the national debate rages about gun bans and mental health records, there are some logical, plausible, no-nonsense things that we can do right now to help keep our kids safe.

I'm going to ask you to watch these two videos by Rob Pincus about unarmed responses to a spree killer, and then to share them with everyone you know.

The first is from a
Personal Defense Network video on the subject:

The second is from a seminar that he taught just yesterday to a group of kids. (You can't get more timely than that!):

This second video features excerpts from a 30 minute course presented to a group of children ages 7-17. The topic was practical responses to an attacker in their school. Rob, through his company
I.C.E. Training, is offering this seminar program, free of charge, to schools wanting to present their faculty and staff with options to be used in the face of a worst case scenario school attack. If you represent a public or private elementary, middle or high school and are interested in hosting a course, please check the link to his site and then email him for details: rob@icetraining.us

Finally, Rob has offered to any elementary or high school teacher who legally carries, or will commit to legally carrying, the chance to attend a
Combat Focus Shooting course for free - that's right, free. Rob says “more teachers need to fight for the right to carry at work. I am willing to provide the training, but they have to take the first steps. I am interested in changing/causing the conversations and policy changes at the administration level in as many schools as possible.”

As a Combat Focus Shooting certified instructor, I’ll match that offer!
Contact me for more information.

There isn't any single thing that's going to make our schools safe. Instead, it's going to take a number of things working in concert to do that job. We need to consider an interlocking approach, including student's response and ultimately the presence of countervailing force, to do that. Let the politicians do the finger-pointing and hand-wringing while we - both gun owners and non-owners - get together and actually tackle the problem.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Some thoughts after a horrible week.

I can't begin to describe my sorrow after the events of last week. We dealt with our own Mall attack here in Oregon, only to turn around and witness the same event - only with more horrific results - in a Connecticut school. My heart grieves for the families, friends, and community of Hook Elementary School.

There is a lot of activity swirling around this event, and frankly it would take me weeks to write enough to cover it all completely, so I'll limit myself to some brief commentary about various aspects.

- There seem to be a lot of British busybodies filling the comments on news sites and Facebook with their sanctimonious hand-wringing. Myopia appears to be even more endemic to their country than poor dental hygiene, and it's ironic that those who chide us for being ignorant about the rest of the world are themselves incredibly ignorant about the gigantic failures of gun control in their own little island cesspool.

- It came out last week that our Mall killer here in Oregon broke off his attack because
a licensed concealed carrier drew his own gun in response. The bad guy made eye contact, saw a good guy's gun pointed at him, and ran like the coward he was.(*) I think this stands in stark contrast to the killings in Connecticut, where the school staff could not avail themselves of efficient protection. The drastically different outcomes are of course due to many factors, but it's plausible - and even likely - that a legally armed teacher could have done what Mr. Meli did in Clackamas Town Center. This is a story you need to share, because the mainstream media is “conveniently” ignoring it.

- After any such attack there are always emotional appeals for more gun control. I'm seeing a lot of people on news sites and Facebook arguing the topic, and I'd like all of those who support the Second Amendment to tone it down. When you're dealing with someone whose opinion is based on emotion, arguing with them - either from an emotional or an intellectual basis - usually results in a strengthening of their resolve. However, I've also found over the years that most people become more rational after time has passed as long as they haven't cemented their initial emotional reactions into a decision. In other words, if you argue with them now, when their heads are hot, you won't be able to change their minds later. Let them vent now, and once tempers have cooled you can go back with the rational arguments and stand a better chance of making a change in their opinions.

- When the teleprompter readers in the media go off-script it's painful. I've heard too many comments from on-air bimbos of (both sexes) about mass murders becoming "more common these days" - comments which are repeated by their viewers and listeners across the country. As it happens they are most assuredly becoming neither more common, nor more deadly.
A story in National Review debunks the idea.

A true family story of mass murder from Robert Farago. It has a direct parallel to today.

An analysis of the psychosis of the recent Arizona attacker; there are some parallels with the Clackamas Town Center killer, and it will be interesting to see if there are any with the Connecticut murderer.

- Some sort of draconian gun control measure will definitely be introduced in Congress, and will probably make it through the Senate (the House is another story.) Remember what I've been saying over the last few months about welcoming shooters who don't necessarily tow your party's line? Remember what I said about having Democratic friends of the Second Amendment in Congress, and how important they might be if we got into a serious fight for our rights? In light of what we're going to face come January, don't you think
today might be a damn good time to tell divisive people like Cope Reynolds, the owner of Southwest Shooting Authority in Pinetop, Arizona to shut the hell up?

- There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle, but ultimately we have to remember this: when people have free will, sometimes they will choose to do something bad. That's the other side of freedom of choice, and if you want to have a free society you can't eliminate all risk. This is a truth which seems to be lost on so many people (particularly our British friends.)

-=[ Grant ]=-

( * - I suspected this was the case when I listened to a Deputy Sheriff answer some questions in a news conference right after the incident. It wasn't what he said, it was how he said it that made me believe this had happened. I shared this information privately with a few people, and was gratified to find that I was right!)

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Carlo's masterpiece.

It's been five years since I brought you
the story of the famed Moto Guzzi 500cc V8 race bike - the audacious otto cylindri. The motorcycle it was intended to replace - but never did due to Guzzi's withdrawal from racing in 1959 - was my favorite Moto Guzzi of all time, the bicilindrica.

bicilindrica was a 500cc v-twin designed by Carlo Guzzi himself in 1933. It would go on to be one of their longest-lived and most successful racers before being officially shelved in the early 1950s, though privateers would continue to run them for a few more years.

bicilindrica had an inline v-twin engine with the cylinders splayed 120 degrees apart, the front one laying parallel to the ground. (Ducati would later copy Guzzi’s layout, but their cylinder angle would be only 90 degrees.) It was light, fast, maneuverable and reliable, exactly what was needed to win races.

Over the years the frame would change dramatically, from solid to a sprung frame in 1935 to a fairly modern arrangement in the postwar period. The engine would be tinkered with during its production run, with varying valve, carburetor and cam configurations, but in most other respects it was still the same successful design.

The 500cc class, called 'Senior', was that era's Superbike and attracted the best and most famous riders. Moto Guzzi was the winningest Grand Prix motorcycle company in the world at that time, and they got their pick of the crop: riders like the infamously outrageous Omobono Tenni and the more sedate but still formidable Stanley Woods, among others, rode for Guzzi. It would be Woods, in fact, who would ride the
bicilindrica to a stunning win in the 1935 Isle Of Man TT - the first non-British bike to ever win the race. (He also took the Lightweight 250cc class on the Island that season - a double Guzzi win.)

bicilindrica is now a rare beast, and if there are any in this country I've not heard of them. There are very few still running around Europe, and Moto Guzzi has at least two of them (plus some incomplete spares, I'm told.) Until I ran into this video on YouTube I'd never seen one actually running. This is a late model - note the postwar leading-link forks and the aerodynamic hammered fuel tank - but still runs like a top. Oh, the sound! If I were made of money I'd own one. Alas I'm not, and must console myself with this video. Enjoy!

-=[ Grant ]=-

On the Oregon mall shooting.

I'm not going to say much here, mainly because we don't really know a lot yet. I can say that the coverage I'm seeing in the national media, especially CNN, is largely unsubstantiated and sensationalistic. Many of the "eyewitnesses" are giving wildly inconsistent reports, and I question the veracity of more than a few of them.

Many people have asked if Clackamas Town Center is "posted". Oregon does not have an exclusion law for licensed concealed carriers the way that most states do. Many malls post no weapons signs, but they carry no legal meaning.

This mall used to have little "please don't bring guns here" signs in the corners at the entrances, but I haven't been there in a few years and don't know if they're still present. In other words, it's not the legislated helpless victim zone that you'd find in many other states.

I'll post more when we have a complete picture of the event. That may be days or weeks from now.

-=[ Grant ]=-

The myth of situational awareness, illustrated.

This story has been making the rounds over the last few days, and some people in the training business have been using it as an example of why situational awareness is So Very, Very Important: "if this guy hadn't been texting and been aware of his surroundings, he'd be alive today!"

Bull twaddle.

Frankly, I think it's a perfect illustration of a
controversial piece I wrote for the Personal Defense Network nearly two years ago. In it I explained why situational awareness simply isn't the magic wand that everyone wants it to be. Not that it's bad or completely useless, mind you, just that it doesn't do what you think it does.

In that article I point out that if the attacker is sufficiently motivated (i.e., there is enough reward in the crime relative to the risk he’s taking) he'll simply wait you out until you eventually succumb to a distraction. Since then I've expounded on that concept, but it boils down to the fact that sooner or later you're going to stop being 'aware' and start living your life. Whether it's reading the menu or watching your kids swing or admiring the form of the Hot Thing walking past, you will become distracted many times every day no matter who you are. The savvy criminal knows that innately and will simply wait for his opportunity unless something better comes along.

In this case we have a professional gang hit. The shooter, as we found out, got to that parking space several minutes before the victim and waited for him to pass. This suggests that there was active surveillance and that they were in contact with the killer. Short of a round-the-clock five man protective detail, there was very little chance this guy was going to survive that level of dedication to his demise.

He could have had his "head on a swivel" and been in "condition orange" all he wanted, but at some point he would have looked down at his watch or stopped at a store window or done something that would have allowed his attacker to pierce his invincible cloak of situational awareness. He was very obviously a high value target, his attacker was skilled and motivated, and it was just a matter of time before he got nailed.

This isn't an example of why situational awareness is a great thing; it's an illustration of why it's not the panacea so many make it out to be. Just so we're clear: this doesn't mean it's completely unimportant or that it has zero value, only that it needs to be understood in context and subject to critical analysis instead of defended with clichéd one-liners. (Or color codes.)

-=[ Grant ]=-


Monday Meanderings: Liberals, Cowards, and free stuff.

Some things that have crossed my path over the last few days:

- My publisher, Gun Digest, is having a Twelve Days Of Christmas Giveaway - a different prize every day! They're giving away a lot of neat stuff this week; on Friday is a drawing for a Gerstner pistol case! If you haven't seen one, they are gorgeous. Gerstner, of course, is the old-line wood tool chest manufacturer renowned for their quality. They're still in business, still making great stuff, including the aforementioned case. I'm not eligible to win, sadly, but you certainly are - go enter!
Here's the link the the Giveaway.

- James Yeager is a fairly well-known instructor who's also something of a bomb-thrower. He's been all over the net lately challenging people who call him 'coward' to do so to his face - and has issued threats about what would happen if someone did. Now I know people who've known him for a lot of years, and they insist he's really a nice guy and that this is just a publicity stunt for his school. Perhaps, but he's doing a great deal of harm to the image of gun owners and shooting instructors in a time when we really can't afford that kind of nonsense.
Please go read PDB's assessment, whose opinion in this case mirrors my own.

- I recently found
this piece by Terrell Prude Jr. Mr. Prude** is a self-professed liberal who is also a Second Amendment supporter and a member of the NRA. If you've been following the blog, Facebook, or any of the podcasts I've been on lately you know that this is a hot issue with me. I don't believe that someone needs to be of a certain political persuasion in order to be a gun rights advocate, and I certainly don't believe that just because someone voted for President Obama immediately means that he or she is my sworn enemy. Please read Mr. Prude's essay for the other side of gun ownership, one that we're far too eager to dismiss. Take the time to read it, especially if you’re not a ‘liberal’.

-=[ Grant ]=-

( ** - In the interest of full disclosure it should be noted that many years ago I did business - and a bit of socializing - with Mr. Prude's father, who he mentions in his essay. One might suggest that this would predispose me to agreeing with him, but given my public stance I think it's clear that I'd agree with him even if I didn't know his Dad.)

FRIDAY SURPRISE: It's raining in Oregon. Surprise, surprise.

Here in the great state of Oregon we're known for our rain. Despite the fact that more than half of the state is desert, everyone thinks of Oregon as a wet place.

West of the Cascade Mountains, where the vast majority of the population lives, that's certainly true. I don't think there's anyplace on the west side of the mountains that gets less than 34 inches of rain a year, and most places get noticeably more. At my house we'll pass 80 inches this year; we got a solid foot of rain in three days just last week. Just a few miles away there's a spot that gets nearly ten feet of the wet stuff every year. Ten. Feet.

In Oregon we know rain. Well, some of us do anyhow, and in an area where rain is almost a constant I'm surprised no one came up with this: art that is visible only when it rains. Artist Adam Niklewicz made the installation in Hartford, CT, a town which certainly gets its share of rain - even if they don't measure up to Oregon standards.

Check it out.

-=[ Grant ]=-

P.S.: Despite our damp climate, Oregonians - the real ones, not transplants - generally eschew umbrellas. The running joke with members of SNOB (Society of Native Oregon Born) is that you can tell the California emigres by the umbrellas they feel necessary to wield in even the slightest mist.

Someone actually thought this was a good idea.

Monday I brought you the sad tale of a silly article in the Shooting Times Personal Defense 2012 Annual. The silliness doesn't stop with the content, however - the way that the article was presented casts a blot not just on Shooting Times and the author of the article, but on the shooting community as a whole.

The pictures for the article were taken by the author, one J. Guthrie. All of them - several pages worth - were of a youngish bikini-clad woman displaying her wares, along with the guns, in suggestive poses. There was even something for the foot fetishists in the audience: six-inch stiletto shoes. Black, of course, to match the bikini.

Now understand that I'm hardly a prude. I rather enjoy looking at the female form, and have been known to peruse pictures of scantily clad women from time to time.* I’m also not what you’d call politically correct, as my wife will readily attest!

Even with my barely submerged neanderthal tendencies, my first reaction when I saw the article was one of disbelief. Surely, I thought, no one could be that out of touch in this day and age. I was wrong.

I'm sorry to break this to the misogynists out there, but an article on defensive shooting in a gun magazine is not the place for bikini babe pictures. Those kinds of images are a throwback to gun rags of the '70s and '80s, where no effort was made to appeal to (let alone understand) the female shooters in this world. Depictions of women as mere ornaments for the gun are what I'd thought the industry had gotten away from, but the author and his editors at Shooting Times are apparently stuck in a time warp and haven't yet figured out that the rest of the world has moved on.

Now you may be thinking that I'm over-reacting. I thought about that possibility, so I shared this with some people in the industry. They ranged from famous to barely known, male and female, but everyone had the same reaction I did: they thought it was disgusting.

In an age where the industry is finally getting a large cadre of confident and competent women who are both good shooters and terrific spokespeople (think Jessie Duff, Julie Golob, and Randi Rogers - and there are lots more where they came from) the article in question is simply inappropriate. It's particularly ironic that in a self defense magazine (which women should be reading), in an article on .380 pistols (which women do tend to purchase in disproportionate numbers to men and thus need the education), the author and editor would go out of their way to do something so patently offensive to them.

The message from J. Guthrie and Shooting Times is clear: women and guns are okay, as long as they're paired in a superficial and stereotypical manner that trivializes their relationship and doesn't threaten the egos of the male readers. It's sad that the article was written and illustrated the way it was, and even sadder that it was published.

-=[ Grant ]=-

( * - I will admit to becoming more selective as I get older; bleached hair, tattoos and excessive makeup are not particularly attractive to me, but I certainly do enjoy the, uh, other parts.)

When will the silly defensive shooting techniques stop?

After my article on
not falling for a technique simply because someone of authority promotes it, a reader sent me an alert about an article in the Shooting Times Personal Defense 2012 magazine. The article is titled "Fight With A .380" by one J. Guthrie. (Had I written this article, I'd probably be embarrassed to use my full name too. You'll see why.)

Mr. Guthrie bases much of his article on conversations with Ed Head, the industry veteran who most recently was chief of Gunsite. The article was pretty lackluster until Guthrie got to the part where he described Ed's practice and recommended use of the .380 pistol: he carries two of them, draws them simultaneously, and shoots them alternately at the target. Yes, you read that correctly: one in each hand, blazing away Hollywood style.

Guthrie calls this "unorthodox". I call it something else which I’m ashamed to repeat in a family blog.

If you've not fired one of the uber-small .380 pistols, they're a bit of a handful. Shooting them one-handed guarantees that your balance of speed and precision will suffer greatly compared to getting both hands on one of them. It does not matter how much you practice, you will always be less able to shoot one-handed than two-handed. Also no matter how much you practice, one of those hands will always be worse than the other. *

Shooting them alternately means that not only do you have much diminished control, it means you need to switch your attention between them constantly. You're using precious time and energy re-aligning each gun on target for one shot, which is much more difficult than aligning one gun after successive shots. What's more, even when you’ve spent that time and energy half of your shots will be slower and less precise than the other half, and all of them will be slower and/or less precise than shooting with two hands!

Wouldn't it be better to draw one gun, get both hands on it and achieve a superior balance of speed and precision, then if needed drop it and draw the next (a 'New York reload')? Yes, I believe it would. The .380 is not the complete weakling some make it out to be, and I think you'll find Greg Ellifritz's data show that where it's used six or seven rounds of .380 often end the fight. The faster you can get those rounds onto the target, the faster the fight is going to end. Alternating the shots from two guns simply makes that process longer.

While the article doesn't specifically say so, the genesis of the technique centers around Head's assertion that the small .380 pistols cannot be reloaded easily. He seems to believe that having two guns eliminates the need for a time-consuming reload. There might be some merit to that belief, IF the guns were used successively and the New York reload done when one ran dry.**

Doing this sequentially would at least mean that if you ended up running one dry and needed to access the second gun, you'd already have been able to put a full ammunition load into your attacker far faster and with greater precision than shooting one-handed alternately. You're more immediately disrupting his activity and lessening the amount of time you're exposed to danger.

Shooting the guns alternately simply gives the bad guy more time to hurt you - and, I submit, it's a whole lot MORE time. I can deduce absolutely no upside to this method.

Well, according to Guthrie there IS one: it makes you look like Antonio Banderas. No, I'm not kidding - he really said that. He calls the effect "impressive", without ever explaining exactly why or how shooting less precisely and more slowly is impressive.

That, then, is really the crux of his presentation - it makes you look cool!

I'll say this as plainly as I can: if you choose your defensive shooting technique because it makes you look cool you are simply foolish. That's also the best word to attach to this technique. I'm surprised that anyone would write a glowing article about such nonsense, and I'm surprised that Shooting Times would publish it.

But the bad judgement doesn't stop there! I'll talk about that on Wednesday.

-=[ Grant ]=-

( * - There are people who insist that they shoot "just as good" one handed as two, or that they shoot weak hand "just as good" as strong hand. Remember that shooting is always a balance of speed and precision; shooting as precisely but slower is not as good, and shooting at the same speed but with less precision isn't as good, either. Only if you can shoot with the same balance of speed and precision one-handed as two-handed, or weak-handed as strong-handed, can you claim to be "as good". I've yet to meet the person who can.)

( **
- Personally, I'd need to test that assertion for myself before I accepted it, and that's before factoring in the complication of realistically practicing the technique. I have done such a test with two revolvers, and found that the New York reload has very little advantage. I believe the results would be less persuasive with two auto pistols, given their reloading efficiencies.)

FRIDAY SURPRISE: I’m feeling abandoned again.

It occurs to me that I haven't done a recent post about one of my favorite topics: abandoned places. For those just tuning in, I love to explore places that are no longer in use; places that have been left to rot away for whatever reason. Old houses, mine shafts, factories, military installations, railroad trestles - you name it, I like wandering around in them.

Sadly there aren't many of those kinds of places in my geographical area. I salve my disappointment by looking at other people's pictures of their wanderings, and today I'm
linking to the work of Amy Heiden, courtesy of Fstoppers. The bowling alley is my favorite.

Check 'em out, but
be sure to visit her website - she’s got a lot more where those came from!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Task fixation in critical incidents.

One of the concepts that we talk about in
Combat Focus Shooting classes is that of task fixation: the diversion of attention to a particular sub-activity during an attack. We discuss this specifically relating to looking at the gun while reloading.

The concept is clearly illustrated in this video of a very dynamic simulation during a Craig Douglas ECQC class (one of the few on my "short list" of classes to attend.) Note that the gun fails to fire and suddenly the defender's entire attention is diverted to getting it running again, rather than dealing with his attackers. Craig even mentions that to the student at the end of the exercise, and the student admits to a fatal task fixation.

Many trainers maintain that the best place for the gun is in front of the face so that you can see both it and the threat while you reload. I don't believe that's a rational expectation when the body's threat responses have been activated, and believe instead what will happen is the task of reloading will divert attention completely from the threat in the way that a malfunction did for this fellow.

In the couple of seconds that any normal person is going to take to reload their pistol the threat can shoot or stab quite a few times, or cover a lot of distance to bring himself into contact with the victim. During that time it's more important that you avoid being shot/stabbed/beaten than it is to get a small (and theoretical) advantage in reloading speed. The first order of business is not getting hurt or killed in the process of defending yourself! That sounds silly, but the popularity of techniques that increase your exposure to danger rather than decrease it make it necessary to point such things out.

Instead of looking at the gun, we teach making the reload process a strictly mechanical activity that can be done with the gun out of the direct line of sight to the threat. (The specific ways to accomplish that are beyond the scope of this post, but it's not difficult to do for either autoloading pistol or revolver.) While the gun is being reloaded in that repeatable, mechanical fashion the defender is able to keep an eye on the threat and move, seek cover, or do whatever else is necessary to avoid becoming a casualty.

This is also why we approach the act of malfunction clearing similarly to that of reloading the gun, teaching a non-diagnostic approach to the problem which doesn’t result in the kind of attention diversion that happened in the video.

With the gun in front of the face, as some recommend, I believe (and this video supports my contention) that what will happen is fixation on the reload rather than on the threat. There are other downsides as well, some relating to the perceptual distortions that accompany the threat reaction and how they affect the “look at me” type of reload, but that’s another topic for another time.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Cyber Monday shooting and self defense deals!

It's Cyber Monday - the day when everyone shops from the comfort of their chair! There are some deals out there for shooters and those interested in personal defense, and here are just a few.

First off, a DVD that I've been recommending for some time is "Lessons From The Street" by Tom Givens. I consider it a must-have for any personal defense library, because Tom distills the lessons from the nearly 60 shootings his students have experienced. This DVD contains some really important information that counters a lot of the misinformation that's often encountered in the defensive training business.
It's available from the I.C.E. Store.

What's the deal? If you use the code "ICEXMAS" at checkout you'll get 20% off this DVD - in fact, any of the DVDs that you order from the I.C.E. Store will be 20% off! There are a lot of terrific titles available, so don't miss this opportunity to stock up!

Speaking of DVD deals, the Personal Defense Network is running a Cyber Monday special: sign up for a PDN Premium Membership and get 3 free DVDs - over 3 hours of training. The PDN Premium Membership is one of the best-kept secrets in the defensive training world; for the price of a typical DVD you get access to tons of streaming training videos, many of which are available only through PDN. The DVD offer is like icing on the cake!
Click here for the PDN Cbyer Monday DVD Deal.

Not to be outdone, the
Gun Digest Store is offering an additional 10% savings on top of their already-great holiday discounts. Take a look at the long list of titles, make your pick, and use the promo code "GDCYBER12" at checkout to get your additional 10% discount.

Do you know of any other shooting or self-defense Cyber Monday deals? Tell us about them in the comments!

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: An old code is a good code.

When I was in grade school, before the internet and the Kindle, there was the Scholastic Book Club. A couple of times a year the SBC would roll into the library, where students could peruse the offerings and order their choice of books. The orders would be delivered to the school a few weeks later.

One such fifth-grade order found me in possession of a book on codes and ciphers. This was fascinating to me, especially the part on code breaking. Finally a practical use for all that math I'd been studying! With that book I taught myself to break the most common historical codes, and even at one point challenged my classmates to produce a code that I couldn't crack. The efforts were almost comical - simple substitution ciphers, mostly - but every so often they'd throw me a curve. I managed to break every one, however.

Cryptography has remained an interest ever since. Though I haven't tried to invent - or crack - a code since I was a kid, I still follow stories of code breaking with keen attention. If they're combined with historical lore, so much the better!

It should not come as a surprise, then, that I found this WIRED Magazine article so intriguing: a
250-year-old code from a secret society. It's as if that Scholastic Book on codes and ciphers morphed with another childhood reading favorite, the Mad Scientist's Club, and time-traveled to the screen of my iMac. I couldn't NOT read it!

-=[ Grant ]=-

My new PDN article: sight-seeing!

I've got another new article up at the Personal Defense Network, and those of you who are pushing 40 (or pulling 50) will be particularly interested. It's called
"I Can't See My Sights!"

It's the distillation of all the things I've learned over the past few years about how to adapt to vision changes, particularly those related to the march of time. If you have contrast or color blindness issues, or if you wear bifocals, this article will likely have something of special value for you.

Please go read it, and be sure to share it with your friends and family!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Don't fall for it!

(Note: I am omitting names in this article, not because the information is secret but because I want to focus on a concept. The incidents I talk about are public knowledge and can be found with about 15 seconds of Googling; if you really want the nitty-gritty details, feel free to do the searching - but please don't bring that information in to any comments here, as I want the discussion to center on the ideas not the players. Thank you.)

This last week two seemingly unrelated events came to the attention of the shooting public. First, a trainer whose background is supposedly Russian special forces (Spetsnaz) violated some cardinal safety rules and shot an assistant instructor three times; second, a well-known shooting retailer published an article on their blog that promoted what is universally considered to be an unsafe act when holstering a gun.

In the first incident, the trainer in question has produced some videos (one of which I've seen) that show techniques I find rather dubious from a safety aspect. They're presented under the guise of being "real world" special forces training and aggressively sold to people in the private sector.

In the second incident, the writer (whose pictures and videos show a certain laxity with regard to trigger finger discipline) presented a technique for "safely" reholstering guns like the Glock. This technique required the the shooter to put the trigger finger into the trigger guard behind the trigger to ostensibly keep if from moving backward if caught on something. It was supposedly developed by a Marine-turned-police officer, whose "secret" work necessitated anonymity.

Fans of the instructor who shot his assistant tried to downplay the negligent shooting by invoking nonsensical terms such as "big boy rules" and "real world" safety. Because the instructor was formerly a special forces soldier his methodology, we were told, would be different and we needed to apply different standards of safety to him and his methods.

At the same time, the author of the article in question defended the technique by invoking the inventor's status as both a Marine and an undercover cop. Because of his undercover work, we were told, his technique was "real-world" and needed to be judged under a different standard of safety.

The linkage between the two is obviously safety, but it goes well beyond that. Both incidents are infused with a liberal amount of the logical fallacy of 'appeal to authority' - that is, the material being presented is valuable (or not unsafe) because of the position of teacher/inventor. What concerns me is that so many people will actually fall for that.

Just because someone was a special forces soldier, Marine, or police officer doesn't automatically make a technique or an opinion correct in all cases. First, because of context: just because it's valuable in a war zone doesn't mean it's applicable to you in your home; second, because the authority (real or perceived) that someone receives from his job doesn't mean that his opinions are infallible. If you assume either (or worse, both) of those you can end up adopting wholly unsafe and inappropriate techniques, not to mention the loss of valuable time training and practicing them.

It's up to you to look at everything you read, see, or experience in a class with a critical eye. Just because someone is famous or holds a certain position doesn't mean he's right! You need to ask yourself whether what you're seeing is safe, applicable to your own life, and addresses a plausible need.

More importantly, the person who is promoting that technique or idea must be able to give you more justification and explanation than simply "I'm special forces/SWAT, and unless you are too you’re not in a position to question!"

Whenever you encounter a technique justified only (or at least primarily) by the status of the person who invented or is promoting it, you should immediately question its validity. Anything you learn with regard to defensive shooting has to make sense, it has to address a real need, and above all it needs to be safe. If there isn't a rational explanation forthcoming, if all you're given is appeal to authority, then you should be extremely wary of both the material and the person feeding it to you.

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: The last days of an adventure.

There was a time when Cape Canaveral (Cape Kennedy, for those who grew up in the late '60s) was the center of national and international attention. That's where all of our manned space launches happened: the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo projects, as well as the Space Shuttle missions. It drew throngs of tourists and resulted in a long-lived boom in the region. It was a place where real magic happened.

With the close of the Shuttle era, however, the infrastructure of Cape Canaveral is being idled. The thousands of technicians, engineers and scientists who worked there have dwindled, and along with them the tourists. The Cape is slowly turning into a ghost town, complete with empty attractions and shuttered businesses. The structures on launch pad LC-39B at the Kennedy Space Center were demolished in 2011, while the fate of sister pad LC-39A is uncertain.

Photographer David Ryle has spent some time there chronicling the decline of what has been called "Space Coast".
A selection of his pictures are up at Fast Company, and are worth a look if you - like me - were ever fascinated by the idea of human beings being rocketed into space.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Reader request: my defensive flashlight choice.

A regular reader and Twitter user asked me about my favorite flashlight configuration for carry in non-permissive environments. I'll get to the specifics in a moment, but first a little recap on my reasoning for the flashlight as a self-defense tool.

There are many cases where carrying a lethal tool isn't possible - on an airplane, for instance. A Kubaton would normally be a possibility in such areas, but the powers-that-be have gotten wise to those innocuous little rods and they are now often verboten. A small flashlight, however, is still allowed everywhere despite making a pretty good impact tool. In addition the super-bright beams of today's lithium-powered lights make a good distraction device, one which I've personally used - twice - to interrupt the activities of would-be criminals.

The flashlight also makes a good tool for proactive safety, allowing you perform such tasks as checking the backseat of your car before getting in. Their powerful beams even make it possible to look under a car long before you get anywhere close, in case you're worried about someone waiting to grab your ankles (or trying to steal your catalytic converter, which is probably more common!)

For these reasons I'm a believer in the utility of the high-performance flashlight as an aid to personal safety, and my favorite carry light is the
Elzetta ZFL-M60. I've carried other lights from far more well-known manufacturers, but the Elzetta is simply the best-built flashlight on the market. It uses Malkoff LED modules, which are as close to bulletproof as you get in the lighting business. If you've ever blown an LED module in a "Brand S" light, you'll understand.

The Malkoff modules are built into a solid machined brass heatsink, then "potted" - the electronics are embedded in epoxy, a time-tested method of making a circuit darn near indestructible. The result is an LED module that is impervious to just about anything short of anti-tank munitions. Nothing in the lighting world, and I mean this to be declaratory, is built like a Malkoff. Or an Elzetta, for that matter!

Elzetta starts with the Malkoff module of your choice (Elzetta stocks standard and flood beam modules, and more are available direct from Malkoff) and machines their flashlight bodies to fit those modules precisely. The key to LED longevity is getting rid of the heat they generate, and the Malkoff's brass construction combined with a tight fit to the Elzetta body results in a combination that dissipates heat quickly. No other light that I've seen has the kind of heat sinking that the Elzetta/Malkoff combination does.

One of the great benefits of the Malkoff/Elzetta combination is that the module can be easily and rapidly changed. With LED technology progressing as rapidly as it does, the Malkoff solution means that you can always have an up-to-date flashlight. (There is actually a thriving second hand market for used Malkoff modules, as they last forever and fit into some "Brand S" light bodies. Those bodies don't have the heatsinking or build quality of an Elzetta, however.)

While Elzetta sells both 2- and 3-cell light bodies (using 123-type lithium batteries, of course) I prefer the 2-cell version. The 2-cell is small and light, surprisingly small if you're used to the Surefire 6P-size lights, and fits a belt holster or a pocket easily.

Elzetta makes several different bezels (heads) for those bodies: crenelated, standard, and compact. Many people pick the crenelated bezel for increased effectiveness as an impact weapon. While I have no doubt the crenelated version would be better as a defensive tool, how MUCH better is still an open question.

If there were no downsides to carrying the crenelated bezel I'd pick it just for that extra 'edge' - but there IS a downside: they're often frowned upon by TSA screeners. Given the cost of a good flashlight I'm unwilling to take the risk, and so choose to give up a little (theoretical) effectiveness in order to be able to actually have it on my person in all environments.

Their compact bezel is a relatively new product which was unavailable when I bought my Elzetta a few years ago. I haven't actually handled one yet, but were I to buy another light strictly for carry I might consider it just for compactness. The standard bezel, however, is good looking and is larger in diameter than the body; I believe that step-up from the body to the head helps keep the light from sliding in one's grasp when used as an impact weapon. The standard head also features prominent anti-roll geometry, another point in its favor. Those two attributes also aid in-the-dark identification of the working end, yet another reason I prefer it.

If the light is to do general duty (in the house next to the bed as well as carry) I much prefer the M60F module, which has a wide flood beam compared to the standard module. When used in a house the flood beam is far less likely to produce glare from smooth or light-colored surfaces, and lights up an entire room without needing to "paint" the area like you would do with a narrower beam. It's simply a better choice for an indoor light, and I’ll gladly give up a bit of distance capability outdoors for the better indoor performance.

However, if I had a dedicated house light with a flood module and the Elzetta was to be used primarily for carry, I might choose the standard beam to get the extra throw outdoors. (Then again, if I were doing that I might bite the bullet and special order an M61SHO module which puts out a whopping 385 lumens! Of course, I'd need a larger battery budget - making lots of light sucks batteries dry pretty quickly!)

Elzetta offers several tail caps with different switches. The two I recommend are the rotary (push to turn the light on momentarily, rotate to lock on) and the standard clicky switch (press for momentary, press further to the 'click' to lock the light on.) My personal Elzetta has a rotary cap, mainly for a) durability and b) non-surprising operation.

The rotary switch is simply constructed; there is nothing to fail. I've seen many "Brand S" flashlights with failed clicky switches, but I've never seen a rotary switch break. With most clicky switches it's also too easy to press the switch past the momentary on in the heat of the moment, resulting in a light that remains on when you remove your thumb pressure and expect it to turn off. A rotary switch can't do that - press for on, release for off, and nothing else.

My preference, however, may be changing. I've handled an Elzetta clicky tail cap and talked to the folks from the company. They tell me that their switches are significantly more robust than those used by their far-more-well-known competitors, and I've got to say they certainly feel that way. The click action is far more positive and noticeable, and has a great feeling of solidity. Their switch also has a much longer throw to the click point; it's nearly impossible to click on without considerable effort. That translates to a switch that couldn't be inadvertently activated during a stressful situation.

For those reasons my next Elzetta will probably have a clicky in it, which will be a big first for me! If it were any other manufacturer I probably wouldn't take the risk, but Elzetta has always delivered on their promises. If they say their switch is better than the competition's, I'll take them at their word.

(I didn't intend for this to be a commercial for Elzetta! I own lots of expensive flashlights because I'm something of a flashlight nerd, but the reader asked which one I carry on a daily basis and why. It's simple, really - my Elzetta is the light I grab when it absolutely, positively has to work under all conditions. They didn't pay me to say any of this, have never given me anything, and did not seek me out -
*I* found *them* and spent my own money because I wanted the best I could get. I've been happy with my choice, enough so that I will buy more of their products in the future.)

-=[ Grant ]=-

The pink gun trend. Again.

Some time ago I railed about how firearms are being sold to women: by adding pink grips to wholly inappropriate guns and peddling them to the “little ladies”. That just frosts me, because I want women to have the same thing that men have: a gun which they can actually use efficiently to deal with a threat. Part of being able to use it is being able to train and practice with it, and a gun that doesn’t fit well isn’t conducive to doing so.

Putting cute little grips on one of the Airweight Smith & Wesson's doesn't make it into a woman's gun - it makes the thing impossible for all but an expert to shoot. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for non-traditional colors and finishes to appeal to a wide variety of shooters, but the gun needs to be right for the job before those final touches are added. If they're all the product has to offer it's nothing but window dressing. And just a little insulting to the intended audience.

As it happens, I'm not alone in my disdain of frippery engineering; Laura Burgess thinks it's silly, too.

Who is Laura Burgess? She runs a marketing and PR firm that serves the shooting, hunting, and outdoor industries - it's one of the top firms in the business, in fact. Laura's a shooter too (as are her family members, who are also active in the industry) and knows a little bit about the subject.

She recently wrote a piece for The Truth About Guns on this trend to "pink it and shrink it" (wish I'd come up with that, but she's the pro.) It's very much worth reading.

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Cool for the sake of cool.

This video was done as something of an experiment by the developers of a Quartz Composer plug-in to showcase what their patch can do. It simulates the effects of a rolling shutter (sometimes called "slit-scan") but with far more control.

As the developers say: "The idea is very simple: the first line of the video is realtime, the second line is late of 1/60s, the third is late of 2/60s, etc. It's like a very long rolling shutter."

This sort of thing has certainly been done before, but this software brings a professional level of quality down to the consumer level. It’s amazing what someone with an HD camera (which are getting downright cheap), a little software, and some creativity can now do. Very cool!

timeRemapExportHD from Adrien M / Claire B on Vimeo.

-=[ Grant ]=-

My obligatory political article.

At the SHOT Show last January I was having dinner with a group of industry people. Talk turned to politics, as it usually does with gun folk, and the discussion revolved around the race we concluded (well, more or less) last night.

At that point in time the Republicans didn't have a clear front runner, yet I confidently predicted the President would handily win re-election. The assembled group said that I couldn't possibly predict the result this far out, that there were too many variables, and that I was assuming a defeatist attitude.

None of that was true.

There was only one variable in this election: the willingness of the candidates to pander to an America that wants to be like the rest of the world, with large intrusive governments and poor fiscal responsibility. The records of the reds and the blues are little different in that respect; only the details vary.

The incumbent always has the edge in this kind of situation, controlling the treasury as he does. The challenger can only hope to be more charismatic, and on this point my prediction was ridiculously easy: none of the Republican field had nearly the charisma that President Obama does. On that alone it was a sure bet. I didn't even buy the judicial appointment argument, because there was absolutely nothing in Mr. Romney's past performance (which is the only reliable indicator of future behavior for a politician) which indicated any actual philosophical difference from the President when it came to appointing judges to the bench.

My point is that, if Mr. Romney had been elected, our status as a nation wouldn't have changed in any fundamental way. The transfer of wealth from Main Street to Wall Street would continue unabated; the looming derivatives mess would still be looming; our interventionist foreign policy would still be the order of the day; judicial activists would still find their way to the Supreme Court; our young men and women would still be dying in third-world hellholes; and the determination of the prohibitionists to whittle away at the Second Amendment would not have been reduced.

It’s that last point this blog is concerned with. The threats we face today are the same ones we faced yesterday, and the ones we face tomorrow would not have been materially altered by electing the other side of the common coin. We still have to defend the Second Amendment, and it's high time that we get together with Second Amendment supporters from both sides of the aisle to make that happen.

Yes, there are "gun people" who don't have an 'R' after their names, and we desperately need their support. It's time to make sure that we stand united for gun rights regardless of party affiliation, and the only way we can do that is for every one to reach out and shake the hands of those gun owners who didn't vote the same way that you did yesterday - regardless of exactly what that was.

We have work to do. Let's get to it.

-=[ Grant ]=-

The next 72 hours and you.

No matter who wins the election tomorrow there will be large numbers of people who will feel disenfranchised. Twitter has been abuzz with users claiming to be ready to riot if the President does not win re-election, and even if he does the "Lakers Effect" (so named because of the propensity of Los Angeles Lakers fans to riot when they win) may come into play with nearly the same results.

As I noted last week, the slowly improving mess in the northeast will not help matters, and in fact may prove to be the flashpoint for anything that does happen. I still believe that the potential for the spread of violence to other urban centers around the country remains very high.

Because of this I think it's prudent for those who live in urban areas, or who may find themselves in an urban area over the next few days, to think a bit about how to deal with mob violence. Given the increasing probabilities I feel it’s something that you should spend a little time getting to understand.

It must be said that I've never been in a riot. I've seen them on television, certainly, but they've not been something that this good ol' country boy has had to contemplate. Luckily for us, Greg Ellifritz has been in a riot. More than one, actually, and he has some great tips for staying safe.

Go read Greg's article right now - you might thank me come Wednesday!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Saturday Extra: win a copy of my new book!

I've got a new book coming out, and my editor is giving you a chance to win a pre-release copy!

The Gun Digest Shooter's Guide to Handguns is all about the kinds of handguns available, how to use them, how to pick ammunition, and much more. It's due to hit the shelves at the end of the month, but you might win a copy before it's even in stores!

Click here to go to the Gun Digest entry page, but hurry - the deadline is Tuesday at midnight!

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Which, as it happens, isn’t all that much of a surprise.

As I'm sitting here looking over the list of Friday Surprise topics I've collected, none of them seem "right" for this week. This week has been dominated - fairly or unfairly - by the destruction wrought on the eastern seaboard.

News reports are full of stories about long gas lines, fights over food, people dumpster diving just to get sustenance, union thugs turning away non-union utility crews, and much more ugliness. The most astonishing thing, though, is the number of reporters and anchors who proclaim on camera their shock that "things are getting worse, not better."

No kidding.

To those of us who study this kind of thing (I actually pursued an emergency management degree a few years back simply because this stuff interests me) this comes as no surprise. The initial damage to a complex system like a metropolis invariably cascades and the result is a level of damage that might not have been predictable at the outset. Fukushima should come immediately to mind.

The trouble is that this stuff may not be completely predictable, but it's not a surprise either. A local weather blog (this is Oregon, remember) noted the unprecedented potential of the east coast storm many days before it hit land. People knew this was coming and it still caught them off guard.

Luckily this disaster has ignited an interest in 'prepping', which is a good thing!

But the country is still not out of the woods. Not only is a new storm now threatening the east coast, there is a very real risk of massive riots breaking out in that region in wake of next week's elections. Think about it: you have millions of people already pushed toward their breaking point, large gangs of organized looters reportedly descending on darkened neighborhoods all over the hard-hit areas, no gas, no food, no heat or water, and a very large entitlement mentality amongst all the players. It’s only going to get worse this weekend as a stricken New York City, under the control of people who don’t have to live in the dark or dumpster dive for their food, diverts precious recovery assets to putting on a gigantic marathon.

It's a powder keg, and when you throw in the results of a very contentious presidential race the possibilities are downright frightening.

We could see riots that make the 1992 Los Angeles event look like a birthday party. Given the disaffection I've seen all over this country, it's not a stretch to believe that they could spread across the nation. It's not predictable, but if it happens it should not come as a surprise.

As I told someone yesterday, next week will be very interesting - in the (purported) Chinese sense of the word. Don't let yourself be caught off guard.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Ramifications are everywhere. Especially in being prepared.

The storm that hit the NE part of our country was more devastating than I expected - and I expected it to be severe. The original projected pressure of 939mb turned out to be very close to the actual 940mb recorded - the lowest ever for the eastern seaboard. When I saw that forecast pressure a week ago I knew it was going to be very bad, but even I was shocked at what eventually transpired. My thoughts are with our countrymen at this hour.

Watching the news from the area I was struck by a reporter's comment: she saw hordes of people wandering the streets looking for food. They didn't show any video, but I can imagine in an area where seven million homes and businesses are without power (and not expected to get power restored for many days yet) there would be a lot of scavengers. It becomes a survival tool. I can't, however, think of anything I'd want to do less than roam the streets looking for scraps and warmth.

That's why we prepare. Everyone reading this faces dangers simply by virtue of living, and while the ways in which we each prepare might be different the goal is the same: survive the event so that we can bring ourselves and our communities back to something resembling normal. Sometimes, though, in our preparations we forget the little things that turn out to be bigger than we expected.

After my Monday post about prepping I got an email from a reader who related the story of a friend of his. Seems this lady turned her hall closet into a canned goods pantry, which was probably a good idea given that she lives in hurricane country. The next hurricane wiped out her electrical service for a few days, but this time she was ready! Well, except for a little problem: seems she didn't have anything other than an electric can opener, which of course was inoperative. All her food was locked in those pesky metal cylinders!

Now you or I may have used a knife to gouge open the cans, but that didn't occur to her. Yes, adaptation and flexibility are important aspects of being prepared but there is a more important point in this tale: if you make decisions about your preparations, you need to think through all of the ramifications of those decisions. Simply investing a buck or two in a couple of hand-operated can openers was all she really needed, but didn't think of doing.

I was struck by this same problem watching the news footage from the East Coast prior to landfall. In one scene a gas station was being mobbed by people filling up their gas cans in advance of the power outages. Most of them had a couple of tiny 1-gallon plastic cans; how long would that stash run their generators? A couple of hours, if they're lucky. Then they're right back where they started simply because they didn't think their plans through. Generators need fuel, and you have to think in terms of hours of power. How many hours might you expect to be without power and how many gallons will the generator use per hour (or vice-versa) will tell you how many gallons of fuel you need. It's more than you might think.

So you've got a generator and plenty of fuel? Great! How do you plan to get that power where you need it? Most people have extension cords, but they're typically too short and almost always of too small a gauge to be safe. The generator by necessity sits outdoors, and the run of extension cord into the house is also by necessity long. The longer the run of wire, the greater the diameter of that wire must be. If you're going to use extension cords with a generator you need the heaviest gauge your can get for both safety and usability. (I'm
partial to these, which are both tough and easy to handle, because they stay flexible in the cold.)

Better yet is to have your electrician wire in a cutover panel and a special outlet into which you plug your generator. He can also wire up the super-heavy-duty cable you'll need to feed the output from your generator into the panel.

You do know that your generator, unless it's quite large, is unable to power your electric oven and range, right? In fact, depending on the size of the generator it may not even be able to run your refrigerator, lights, and microwave at the same time. How are you going to cook your cache of canned food?

How about a good, old-fashioned suitcase-type Coleman stove! Cheap, easy to use, safe, and if you get the propane type the fuel is readily available and stores for years. (Do you have a way to light the Coleman stove? How about one of the long spark-type igniters that you can find for a few dollars in the camping department of any outdoor store? Get several.)

Think through all your preparations; look for the weak points. Remember that just because you have a piece of equipment that works under a specific set of circumstances doesn't mean that you can ignore the support equipment necessary to utilize it properly. Sometimes, like our lady with the can opener, it means analyzing every single step of the problem and actively questioning your assumptions. Looked at in the proper frame of mind it might even be entertaining!

OK, maybe not entertaining…but you get the point!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Managing scarcity - it's an important part of safety.

As I write this the storm formerly known as Hurricane Sandy is bearing down on the East Coast. The remnants of Sandy are merging with a winter storm, sucking frigid air from Canada, and coalescing to form what's being called a "superstorm". The forecast is for extremely high winds, double-digit inches of rain, feet of wet and heavy snow in the mountains, and water level rises as much as 11 feet in some of the bays in the region. Current predictions say that many millions may be without power for an extended period of time - days, certainly, perhaps weeks in some areas.

This storm isn't just powerful, it's huge. Looking at the maps of predicted impact reveals possible tropical-storm force winds as far west as the Mississippi River, and from South Carolina up through Maine. A blocking high pressure region to the northeast means that the storm will stick around for at least a couple of days, perhaps through Wednesday. If you live east of the Big Muddy and north of Florida your weather for the next week is likely to be dominated by this event.

Given the incredible, almost unprecedented scope of the storm some people are very likely to die. It’s a sad thing to contemplate. For my friends, family, clients and readers in the impact zone I hope that you ride out this event as safely (and calmly) as possible. Please don't take risks, and make sure your families are as safe as you can make them.

I realize this is an emerging story but I think it's important to use it as a springboard to talk about the larger context of personal safety. I run into a lot of people who spend large sums of money on guns and ammo, but very little on other things that will keep them safe. I know folks who have very impressive gun collections but no generator and only a day or two of food. Yes, you might need those guns to keep yourself safe from the looters who scurry in after any major natural disaster - but you have to survive the disaster to even begin to be worried about the looters!

Personal safety isn't just about handling bad guys; it also means keeping yourself safe from auto accidents, burns, disease, diabetes, strokes, electrocution, and all the other things that can maim or kill you. I know it's hard to keep perspective because guns are shiny and shooting them is a whole lot of fun, but if you're serious about your safety and survival you need more.

The trouble is that no one has unlimited time, money, or energy to do everything. Even if you're in the top 1% of wage earners in this country your resources are finite. Preparing for an emergency, be it criminal or meteorological, requires managing those scarce resources to provide the best return for the most likely circumstances.

Instead of signing up for yet another Ultra-Advanced Warrior Operator Level 3 Ninja Team Houseclearing course (Walter Mitty, Instructor), how about using that money to buy a generator or take a class in trauma care or outfit a pantry with shelves and stock them with food? Needing one (or more) of those is probably just a tad more likely than having to clear an office tower of 'tangos'.

It's really easy to get caught up in the fun of Barbie-dressing yet another AR-15 while ignoring the fact that you have no trauma kit (and no training in how to use it.) In the final analysis a lever action rifle and a month’s worth of stored food beats the crap out of the latest red-dot equipped flattop AR and an empty refrigerator.

This week is going to be very bad for a very large number of people. If you're one of them, my thoughts are with you. For the rest of us this should serve as an object lesson in preparedness. Remember: preparing is all about managing scarcity. Do so wisely.

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: The future of education?

When you think about it, the art of education hasn't changed much over the centuries. Sure, there have been advances in what is being taught, and in the technologies used to facilitate that teaching, but in general the process itself hasn't seen much advancement over the generations.

While one could argue that the authority-based methods used today are necessary to maintain some known level of consistency and quality, another could argue that it's not actually happening; it's possible to go into virtually any institution and find someone teaching something that is either demonstrably wrong or severely skewed because of a radical personal viewpoint.

Might there be another way?

Fast Company published an article about a new project that's aimed at bringing post-secondary education into the twenty-first century and simultaneously making it available to everyone. Called P2PU, it's an online collaborative university. It's a radical way of delivering education, and while it's still very much experimental (and unaccredited) it's definitely intriguing.

Will it work in the long run? I don't know, but it's exciting to contemplate the possibilities.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Testing gunpowder, circa 1850.

One of the modern conveniences which we take for granted is smokeless powder. It's stable, predictable, and stores for a very long time. It's also not hygroscopic, meaning that it doesn't readily absorb water - a really good attribute for a propellant!

This wasn't the case with early gunpowder, which we now refer to as black powder. (Even that's not quite accurate, as the black powder of today is considerably more reliably formulated than that which was available in the 19th century, let alone before.) In the days of percussion arms, powder was not as consistent as today - and that's before factoring in the non-dessicated storage conditions! As a result it was often necessary to test a keg of powder to determine how good it was. How do you do this without things like piezoelectric pressure transducers and electronic chronographs?

The answer was the eprouvette. While the form might vary from country to country (or from maker to maker), the idea was to fire a measured charge the suspect powder in a device that had a known amount of resistance. The amount of resistance that the powder charge could overcome was used to compare to other, known lots of powder.

Firearm Blog recently showed some great pictures of a Belgian eprouvette, and the concept is very easily grasped. These are quite rare today; they were made in very small quantities compared to firearms. Have a look and marvel at what our ancestors went through just to keep from blowing themselves to pieces!

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Parks and recreation.

Of all the great photographers to come out of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) project, none was as enigmatic as Gordon Parks. Parks (born Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks; and you think your name is long) got his start as a young piano player in a brothel, and would go on to work as a composer, writer, musician, and film director. It was his work as a photographer, however, that would establish and cement his creative reputation.

Legend has it that he got his first camera in a pawn shop. When the film was developed, the clerks supposedly told him he had talent and should seek work as a photographer. Whether that story is true or not, Parks did have a tremendous eye. His photos, even those of gritty subjects such as the gangs of Harlem, have a style that can only be described as 'tasteful'. He handles his subjects with a deftness and, yes, class that shows through. Rich or poor, famous or infamous, his subjects are treated the same way: as human beings. Even his landscapes and cityscapes are presented with a respectful air.

Next to Parks, the excellent work of Ernst Haas seems to be clumsily reaching for meaning and approval. It's not that Haas was bad - quite the opposite - but rather that Park was just that good. He occupies a rare niche in image making.

Unfortunately he has not been as well recognized as he should be. For too long he's been pegged as simply an "African American" photographer, a label which I think is unfair to both him and his work. He was a photographer, period, and it's about time that he got recognized for being among the very best that has ever been.

That time may finally have come. This fall a
five-volume retrospective of his work is being published, a collection that I believe will finally bring him recognition outside of the insular world of photography. The New York Times LENS Blog has a selection of some of those photographs, and they're well worth viewing.

Gordon Parks would have been 100 years old next month, but his images are timeless. Have a look and see if they don't strike you as the work of someone with grace and style.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Panic in the streets: ammo edition.

For the last couple of months I've been hearing rumblings about stocking up on ammunition for, well, whatever: zombie apocalypse, riots after the election, natural disasters, what have you. (I actually heard a non-gun-person refer to the "zombie apocalypse" just the other day. This is now getting out of hand.)

Rob Tackett over at the TacStrike blog has an
interesting article about panic buying and hoarding of ammunition. It's worth a read, and he presents an interesting point of view.

At the same time, I think we need to consider the possible actions of the prohibitionists who may try back-door gun control via ammunition restrictions. While I don't think ammunition can be outlawed altogether, a steep tax or purchase limits - either of which would likely pass Constitutional muster - would severely hurt our ability to train or engage in any favorite shooting sports. A stash of ammunition, properly stored, serves as a sort of buffer against such artificial supply constraints.

That buffer allows us to continue our favorite activities without worrying where our next box of hollowpoints are coming from. Think of it as a pantry; we have pantries so that we don’t have to go to the store every time we want so much as a snack. (Like a food pantry, an ammunition pantry - when purchased at normal cost - is also an inflation hedge, but not so much when bought at price-gouging panic prices.)

It's all a matter of perspective and priorities. If you're hungrily stacking cases of ammo in anticipation of widespread civil unrest, ammo that you're just going to sit on and fear the expenditure of even a few rounds, that's probably not terribly rational. If, however, you're buying moderate amounts on a regular basis with an eye toward having a back stock that allows you to train and practice without worrying about running completely out, I think you have your head set squarely on your shoulders.

-=[ Grant ]=-

A little something about some little guns.

When I was visiting with
Massad Ayoob up at Firearms Academy of Seattle last spring, he mentioned that he was doing an article for GUNS Magazine about the hammerless S&W J-frames, and asked me for some opinions. Gail Pepin took some pictures, and today you can see the results over at GUNS Magazine.

Click here to read the article.

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Here today, gone tomorrow.

Collectors have a word for things that were never meant to survive: ephemera. Stuff like advertisements and cocktail napkins and business cards were expected to be used for a short time, then discarded or destroyed. Unlike a toaster or a car or a camera, they were never intended to be saved for posterity. Yet they are, because they survived.

Now we find ourselves in the digital age, preoccupied with technology and all of the neat things it can do. We can make photographs and videos more easily (and more cheaply) than has ever been possible, but they're rarely put into an actual tangible form; they're stored as digital information, sometimes not even in our possession. What happens when the works get screwed up?

This neat little video - all of two minutes and forty-eight seconds - explores this question. It's beautifully done and quite thought provoking, and somewhat ironic in that you’re viewing it as a stream from some web server someplace.


LOST MEMORIES (French, English Subtitles) from Francois Ferracci on Vimeo.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Excelsior. Look it up.

Richard Rohlin writes a neat blog called The Gentleman Adventurer. (Great name; I feel all tweedy just reading his masthead!)

A week or so ago he put up a post titled "
Excelsior: A training manifesto". Aside from the fact that I'm mentioned in the post (thanks Richard!), it's a good article about his personal evolution in defensive shooting.

(For those of you who have not yet Googled "excelsior", he explains the word and why he's chosen it for his manifesto.)

It's a superb article, and I highly encourage you to go read it right now.

-=[ Grant ]=-


Texting for safety.

Kelly Muir, developer of the
Wrong Woman integrated self defense course, has some great ideas for using text messages to bolster your personal safety.

When I was doing search and rescue some years back, one of the mantras we repeated was "always tell someone where you're going and when you'll be back." Texting makes this easy, and with group texting (which I understand not every phone supports), you can easily let a number of people know where you are and who you're with.

Watch the video. Heck, make sure your kids watch it too!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Internetus interruptus.

Lack of connectivity yesterday. Hope I didn't miss anything fun!

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Socket to me, baby!

I suppose you have to be of a certain age to understand the humor in today's title. Still, that's what today's Surprise is about - sockets. As in sockets that go onto socket wrenches.

Most men have a collection of sockets; I certainly do, as it seems I'm always working on something around our place: cars, trucks, tractors, lawn mowers, you name it. The primary tool for all of them is the socket set. I use mine constantly, but have never given a thought to how the things are made.

Thanks to the miracle of television, I've found out. The show "How It's Made" visited the Snap-On tool factory and filmed the production of sockets. I wish they'd have done some slo-mo on the broaching machine, but at least it shows how the process works.

(Since we’re on the subject, I’m going to put in a plug for my favorite all-American maker of sockets and ratchets,
Wright Tools, and my favorite place to buy them - Harry Epstein, Inc.)

-=[ Grant ]=-

Misogynists - ya gotta love ‘em. Or not.

Several months ago I read a discussion about teaching women to shoot. In it was this gem (written, obviously, by a male of the species) about what a “woman’s class” should entail:
"I would put a greater emphasis on field stripping, taking the gun down and putting it back together. Our society doesn't encourage women to mess with machines, demystifying the gun as a machine instills confidence." This comes from the same mindset that says a really important part of a shooting class is a drawn-out explanation of how the primer ignites the gunpowder and the difference between rimfire and centerfire.

As I've said before, it's silly to think that a woman who has mastered the complexities of driving can't figure out what a slide stop lever does. To take my automobile analogy a bit further, it's silly to think that a woman needs to know how to take an engine apart to "instill confidence" in her driving ability.

Don't get me wrong - if she doesn't have someone who will do the job of cleaning and oiling her gun, she needs to learn to do it herself. The gun has to be maintained, and someone has to do it; it's simply part of shooting. However, to label that maintenance as "demystifying" the gun and "instilling confidence” is nonsense. If she doesn't have confidence from proper training and regular practice, knowing how to field strip her Glock isn't going to give it to her any more than knowing how to replace a crank seal is going to make her a more confident driver.

I think it's more important for her to spend her limited training time and money learning how to defend herself efficiently, how to make the bad guy go away with the least expenditure of her defensive resources, than it is to repeatedly practice the disassembly of her pistol.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Defensive handgun choices.

Well, it appears my editor over at Personal Defense Network finally did some actual work! Rob Pincus wrote
a great article about choosing a defensive handgun, and why you should look for certain characteristics.

I'm gratified to see the defensive shooting world coming to some of these same realizations. While there are some folks out there who are still stuck with outdated beliefs, like the .45ACP being the "ultimate" defensive cartridge despite the lack of corroborating objective data, the movers and shakers in this business have long since moved on. Even some of the old guard have evolved to the realization that the 9mm cartridge and the modern striker-fired (MSF) pistol are the most efficient way to deal with criminal attacks, and now recommend that combination.

There was a time, more than a decade ago, when I espoused the .357 Magnum as the ultimate self defense cartridge. Even then, though, the data was a little hazy as to its effectiveness versus the .38 Special +P. After talking with a lot of people who'd actually had to shoot bad guys with those cartridges, I discovered that they all fired about the same number of rounds to get the bad guy to hit the pavement. It came down to a simple equation: if I'm going to need to fire x-number of shots regardless of the cartridge, wouldn't it be better to get those rounds into the bad guy as quickly as possible? Why was I putting up with the reduced controllability of the Magnum when the Special (with proper loads, of course) would do the same job?

That question caused me to switch to the .38 Special +P for carry, and today all of my revolvers are sighted in for that round - none of them are sighted for Magnums. I went through the same evolution with the 1911 versus the 9mm. Remember that I started out with the 1911 and the .45ACP for my autoloading needs, but quickly shifted to the 9mm and then almost as quickly adopted the MSF pistol (the Glock 19, specifically.) When I carry an autoloader, it's a compact 9mm loaded with Speer Gold Dot +P rounds.

Today, luckily, the choice has been made easier;
the study that Greg Ellifritz did, for instance, puts better numbers to my informal research and gives a much better picture of the overall performance of the common self defense cartridges. I believe it to be the best data we have on a very difficult-to-quantify subject, and you should read the linked article. (It's important to actually read what Greg wrote; if you just look at the charts, you'll be missing some very important information.)

Back to Rob's article: he makes some specific gun recommendations, most of which I agree with. I'll add, based on my own experience, the Steyr M9 and C9 series, which we've owned for nearly a decade now and have proven to be very reliable. However, since ours have the Steyr trapezoidal sights I'll add the caveat that the recommendation stands only if the gun is ordered with the optional night sights, which are of a conventional post-and-notch arrangement. The trapezoid sights, with which I was initially enamored, have shown themselves to be less efficient and usable than the standard variety. (I'm not big on night sights generally, but on this gun they're the only way to get a conventional sight picture.) That being said, I think my next gun will be the new Caracal, which I like even more than the Steyr.

You'll note that Rob also recommends small revolvers for carry. The revolver shares some surprising characteristics with the MSF pistol, including efficiency (no controls other than the trigger to manipulate in order to shoot) and reliability. Of course, as he points out, there are compromises: the reduced capacity and the harder-to-master double action trigger. Still, the MSF pistol can really be considered the ultimate evolution of the revolver, which is why they're both the best choices today!

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Pioneering color.

Early color photography was focused (if you'll pardon the pun) on using what is known today as "additive" color: that any color can be produced by combining specific amounts of red, green, and blue light. The idea was that you could expose three pieces of film or glass plates through red, green and blue filters. Once processed, they could then be viewed simultaneously through their respective filters and the results would (in theory) produce realistic color.

This was difficult enough with a still image, but imagine trying to make it work while the films are moving through a projector! The earliest successful color motion pictures, known as Kinemacolor, exploited a trait of human vision called "persistence". Persistence simply means that once an image is viewed, it takes a little bit of time before it disappears completely in the viewer's mind.

Persistence is why motion pictures of any sort work: each still frame is projected for a fraction of a second, and while your visual system is clearing itself the next image, ever so slightly different than the first, is projected. Your mind doesn't see the extremely small time gap between the two, and the result is what looks like continuous movement.

Kinemacolor used persistence in a novel way: the individual frames would be exposed through a rotating filter that was synchronized with the shutter. The camera exposed the first frame through a red filter, then the next through a green filter, the next red, the next green, and so on. It also ran the film through the camera at double the rate of a normal black-and-white film so that each frame pair would take the same time to pass as a single frame of black-and-white.

When the film was projected, the reverse happened: the synchronized filters projected the first (red) frame through the red filter with which it was exposed, the second frame through the green filter, and each successive frame pairs were done the same way. Persistence and the high frame rate combined to fool the mind into seeing a single color image.

Kinemacolor wasn't perfect, however. Aside from registration problems which led to color fringing, it also didn't reproduce all colors very well because of the missing blue spectrum. Still, it was successful enough that quite a number of very early British films were made in the process.

As it happens, Kinemacolor wasn't even all that revolutionary. Turns out that it was a simplified version of a
system worked out by London photographer Edward Turner. His system, conceived in 1899, used all three additive colors to produce very lifelike images. In 1901 and 1902 he made some test films using his process, but he died suddenly in 1903. A fellow by the name of Charles Urban acquired his work and used it to “invent” the much simpler (and cheaper) Kinemacolor process. In 1937, Urban donated a large archive of his work, including the Turner films, to the London Science Museum.

The Turner films weren't recognized for what they were until just a few years ago, when the Museum decided to unlock the secrets of the odd looking movies. Those test films were never seen by the general public, but just a few weeks ago the Museum’s hard work paid off: you can now - 110 years after they were shot - view them as Turner intended.

-=[ Grant ]=-

How about a change of pace?

After all the political/social talk of the past couple of weeks, I think it's time for something a little different - for you AND for me.

Now regular readers will know that I don't think much of the 1911 pistol as a practical defensive gun, but I do like to take one to the range every so often just for fun. I do that with a lot of guns I'd never carry, like the Czech CZ-52 in 7.62x25 (can you say BIG fireball?) It's not as though I avoid the things entirely, just that I relate to the 1911 the same way that Matthew Quigley related to the Colt revolver:

I am, however, a big fan of quality engraving, particularly that of
Weldon Lister. He sent me this picture some time back, and I think today is a good day to share. Look closely - you'll see engraving in areas where you normally don't, and it's all of the same uniform quality.


Weldon is one of the best, and it's a pleasure to show you what he's capable of doing!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Some of us aren't getting it.

Last week Rob Pincus
posted a photo on his Facebook page of him teaching Khloe Kardashian how to shoot. (I'll admit to the necessity of Googling the name to find out who she is. I am unabashedly unhip.) Though I'm not a fan of “reality” television (I studiously avoid “Top Shot”, for instance), I'm glad she took the time to find out about the shooting world from someone who knows it quite well.

There, I thought, it sat. Until this weekend, when Rob posted this:

"Gun People" chasing away potential new shooters with their Ignorant Behavior

I was kind of surprised at the number of negative comments that the picture of teaching a pop-celebrity how to shoot garnered earlier this week.

The fact is that, for all the TALK about expanding the ranks of gun owners and reaching younger people & more females, the kind of ignorant responses that some have offered aren't going to encourage a twenty-something year old girl who happens to follow the Kardashians or Justin Beeber or who will vote for Obama to come to a shooting range and give it a try. In fact, some of the comments might downright chase them away from even being open to trying shooting or wanting to be part of the 'gun community'.

The Biggest Offenders have actually suggested that I should have taught her to shoot herself and/or attacked her looks and/or suggested that it would've been better if she had been wearing a bikini in the picture.

Those types of retarded comments aren't going to anything to sway someone who is on the fence about going shooting to imagine that they will be welcomed with open arms at gun store or shooting club and, in fact, could push many people away.

Whose side are you guys on??

I went back and looked at the comments, and sure enough there was a lot of negativity. Instead of embracing another (potential) crusader for the cause, a certain segment of the shooting fraternity had already written her off. That's hardly a welcoming attitude!

During the RECOIL debacle I opined (either in print or on
Doc Wesson's show) that the younger generation is not likely to embrace the NRA as it exists today. There are simply too many in that organization, and in some of our defensive training and hunter education organizations, who are intolerant of people who are different than they. Whether it's the guns these newcomers use or what their voting preferences are or the tattoos and piercings many of them sport, our community too often finds ways to make it clear to them that they're really not "one of us" and can't be, until they become just like us (“us”, of course, being a variable dependent upon the sociopolitical hangups of the individual doing the judging.) I think a lot of them are just going to say no, and may say no to shooting altogether. That would be a great loss.

I once asked someone who lived in a seedy area what it was going to take to clean his neighborhood up. He responded with “quite a few more funerals.” He didn’t mean that people needed to be killed; rather, he meant that attitudes tend to go with one to the grave and only the natural turnover in population with births and deaths would lead to the change he hoped for. Trouble is, we can’t wait for the dinosaurs to die off. If we do we’ll lose the people we claim to want to attract and possibly lose our political advantage over time. Yes, we need to encourage younger shooters - but we can’t do that if we’re sending out signals, both subtle and overt, that we don’t like them!

A single blog post by a single person isn’t going to change things, but if we can get more bloggers and people of influence aboard perhaps we can make some headway. If you agree with this, if you believe that we need to attract and hold onto the young guns, you can help: forward this to the blogs and forums you frequent, post it on your Facebook and Twitter accounts, and generally talk it up. Perhaps - if enough of us voice our support for the newcomers to the fold - we can bring the shooting world to understand that the next generation of shooters is ours to lose. Lose them we will, if we allow these inane and wholly inappropriate attitudes to exist.

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: A guitar is not an axe.

Only an axe is an axe, and here is a cool video of the making of one - by hand, the old fashioned way.

Yeah, I want one too.

-=[ Grant ]=-

"Dude, it's mil spec!"

I was going to share this with you last week, but then the whole RECOIL mess came up and pre-empted my planned programming!

Over at the Vuurwapen blog is the entry "
Why I Don't Care If Military Or Police Use Certain Items", and it's all about the silliness of picking a gun (or anything else for that matter) because a particular police or military group uses it. It's a good read.

There are a bunch of logic failures associated with that kind of aspirational marketing or consumption, but unfortunately people fall for them constantly:

- Let's say you've got one police agency using a specific gun (like, oh, the Kimber) and you make your decision based on that. What if another agency that picks, say, the HK P7? They can't both be "best", so how do you make your choice with such contradictory endorsements? What usually happens is that people actually end up arguing about which agency is the best/toughest/most respected, as if that somehow validates their choice - and therefore yours.

- Use of a specific product by any group isn't proof that it is superior to any other choice under all conditions. In fact, it isn't even proof that it's a superior choice for any specific conditions! The testing and procurement process is byzantine in complexity and subject to many kinds of coercion and meddling, from kickbacks by vendors to top brass intervening in the process to influence the selection of their personal favorites. That a product manages to survive that process isn't proof of any intrinsic superiority. Our cops and our troops often end up with inferior gear and supplies, but for some reason the private sector looks upon the failures as having the same stamp of quality as the successes. (CLP, anyone?)

- The presence of an NSN doesn't even mean the product is even being used by the people who are presumably using it. Lots of products that have an NSN aren't actually wanted or needed by the people on the front lines, but they're invariably sold to you as being "the choice of our brave men and women!" Look at the marketing of gun cleaning and lubrication products; when any product claims to be in use with Navy Seals, complete with the NSN, it's probably bunk. And even if it were true, that still doesn't mean it's the best choice for THEM, let alone you!

- Finally, remember that the procurement process (when it works) is designed to get a product that is minimally acceptable for its purpose at the lowest cost to the agency. It's useful to remember what the late, great Alan Shephard once said: "It's a very sobering feeling to be up in space and realize that one's safety factor was determined by the lowest bidder on a government contract." Not very reassuring, is it?

You need to make your purchasing decisions based on an honest assessment of your needs and the product's suitability for your purpose, not internet loudmouths going by names like Geck045 who drone on about how their gun "must" be the best because "LAPD don't buy junk!"

Yes, they do. Very often.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Picking up the pieces, post RECOIL.

RECOIL Magazine
certainly took a heck of a beating last week. The editor, Jerry Tsai, resigned on Thursday after a long list of advertisers cancelled their support of the publication, and on Friday the publisher "suspended" Associate Publisher Joe Galloway - likely for his ridiculous spin attempts (and perhaps some alleged astroturfing that was tried on Facebook.)

Now what? They may survive, they may not; I don't think anyone can really predict their fate, at least not now. If they want to survive, however, the first thing they're going to need to do is to appoint a new editor who is both a young iconoclast AND a knowledgable defender of gun rights. It will need to be someone who the 20- and 30-something readers of RECOIL can accept as one of their own, someone who knows (and is known in) the industry, and someone who can retain the talent that actually put the magazine out. That's a tall order.

The publisher is going to need to come out with a strong commitment to the Second Amendment. Not a tepid, "we stand in full support" kind of statement that politicians everywhere spout, but a real, here-is-exactly-what-we-think-about-the-tough-issues statement. He's also going to need to come to grips with the internet and social media, which the whole affair (delayed statements, flip-flopping, alleged astroturfing, and leaked internal emails) showed not to be the case. They're a print entity and it seems they didn't quite understand how quickly things move in the electronic world, let alone how easy it is for people to find out if someone is lying.

Once those things are done the magazine is going to need to rebuild its advertising base. That's going to be a tough row to hoe, because the advertisers have been burned and are probably quite shy of any association. This is where the new editor is going to have to press the flesh and make the personal appeals necessary to woo those companies back into their pages. Any whiff of insincerity or suggestion of hesitation on their new mission, and those ad dollars will leave for good.

As a community we're going to need to support those advertisers if and when they return to RECOIL. A continued boycott won't do any of us any good, least of all the under-represented shooters for whom RECOIL was intended. It's time to put down the pitchforks, folks, and get busy putting RECOIL back on the newsstands - assuming, of course, they show that they're deserving of that support. The community will need to be both immediate and visible so that the advertisers understand they won't be penalized for going back to RECOIL.

Why? Because, as I’ve
already pointed out in this blog and on The Gun Nation, the magazine is important to the shooting community’s future.

The industry is just now getting their heads wrapped around the very place of RECOIL in the panoply of firearms publications. I don't think many people in the business yet "get" the purpose of the magazine (the online criticisms of their content are painfully hilarious to read), and very few consumers outside of their target market understand the new gun enthusiasts themselves.

As the story unfolded I wondered aloud about their political connections and ownership. I had the facts correct, but my concerns, I think, proved to be misplaced. It became very clear as the ship started listing to starboard that the magazine existed not as a tool of subtle political manipulation, but simply as an example of how people’s interests are not always going to be in line with our preconceived notions.

This weekend, for instance, I was listening to a gun talk show and the host couldn't understand how someone could be both an enthusiastic gun owner and in favor of gay marriage. (Apparently he is not aware that there is a significant, yet quiet, subset of gay gun owners whose passion for gun rights easily equals his.) These young shooters very often are supportive of both concepts, and it's something those people in leadership positions who see the political spectrum in black-and-white must face up to.

Here's the key to understanding the RECOIL reader: they are not one-issue people or one-issue voters; they are not gun rights activists first and foremost, whose points of view are shaped by that. And, though it may cost me some readers, I'm going to say for the record: THAT'S OK!

They don't have to be rabid gun rights activists to support the Second Amendment. They simply need to be educated as to what the Amendment means, why it's important to them, and how it is perfectly compatible with their desires for "social justice". We are not going to turn them into "conservative" voters, we're not going to stop them from voting the way they want to vote, and it would be hypocritical of us to try to do so or to abandon them because they won't. We have to accept that they're not going to vote gun rights exclusively, that they’ll consider them as one part of their whole world view, and that they're often going to support candidates who sport a "D" after their name.

If we as a community are serious - really serious - about broadening the support for firearms ownership in this country and ensuring the continuation of all that we’ve fought for, we have to accept the RECOIL readers for who they are. Our job is to move the Second Amendment up on their scale of importance, but we can’t do that if we can’t reach them. RECOIL was one very good way of reaching them.

There is a whole generation out there whose members like guns and would likely become the Second Amendment leaders of tomorrow, as long as we don't leave them blaming the "fudds" for taking away their voice. By taking an active interest in what happens over at RECOIL, we can ensure that there is a real outlet for those gun owners who are not well served (if served at all) by the existing publications and organizations.

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: It's not the arrow, it's the archer.

Way back, when my hair was thick and dark and my eyesight was 20-20 and I struggled to put weight on rather than keep it off, I taught photography classes. One of the things I always reiterated to my students was that if their pictures were no good, a new camera wasn't what they needed. None of them believed me, of course, because when their pictures were bad they went right out and bought a new camera or lens. The cycle would then repeat itself until they had huge bagfuls of equipment, yet their pictures still sucked.

The ultimate illustration of this point comes to us in the form of some wedding photographs from a photographer named Kim Thomas. Now I will admit to having some prejudice against wedding photographers, having historically considered them one rung up the ladder from the folks who do school photos, but there are some real artists in that field. Ms. Thomas is one of them, and she recently proved it by shooting an entire wedding on - get this - an iPhone and processing the pictures through Instagram.

Photo courtesy of Fstoppers.com

They're pretty darned good, and you should
run over to the FStoppers blog and have a look.

(The comments to the article are predictable. There are several who criticize the photographer, stating something along the lines of "what happens if they want nice, sharp prints?" Reminds me of my argument with a Kodak VP many years ago who disagreed with my then-radical assertion that electronic cameras would one day take over photography. "Nonsense", he said, "people will always want to hold their memories in their hands!" Look how well that worked out for them…)

-=[ Grant ]=-

Dead Magazine Walking.

(If you haven't been following the erupting story about RECOIL magazine,
read my recap from Monday.)

Up until now we've heard only from Jerry Tsai, the editor of RECOIL. FIrst he said that he stood behind what he wrote, but that he simply worded it unclearly. (Remember that one of the reasons he cited for the gun being unavailable to "civvies", and with which he agreed, was that it served “no sporting purpose” and was bad for cops and soldiers - both common refrains of the Sarah Brady crowd.)

When the industry started taking notice he wrote a second "apology" where he claimed that what he printed was just what HK told him. I sincerely doubt that any company the size of HK uses words like "civvies" and "scumbags"; even a first-grader can read the item and see that it wasn't written by the maker of the product. The words were Jerry's, through and through, only this time he claims they really weren't.

The exodus of advertisers was swift; I named some of them on Monday, and in the intervening days many more have jumped ship - including industry behemoth Magpul, who virtually defines the modern concept of "shooting style". If you're aiming at the twentysomething crowd, and you don't have Magpul on board, you're nothing.

Apparently that reality has yet to occur to Joe Galloway, who is the Associate Publisher of RECOIL. He sent this communique (in its entirety) to advertisers this morning:

RECOIL Magazine’s Position:

In light of some of the comments and complaints made about a paragraph in a recent article about the Heckler & Koch MP7A1, Recoil wishes to make the following points clear:

· It is simply not credible for anyone to question Recoil’s support for, and commitment to, the Second Amendment. Recoil is first and foremost a gun lifestyle magazine, aimed at the modern shooting enthusiast.

· The opinions in the paragraph in question accurately reflected those of the manufacturer, and should have been reported as direct quotes. Recoil acknowledges the way the paragraph was written has caused unnecessary confusion.

· Jerry Tsai, a passionate gun enthusiast and the visionary behind Recoil magazine, will remain as editor of Recoil.

We thank you for your support and understanding.

Quite honestly, if you read the article, it was one paragraph that was actually quoted from the manufacturer and we did not state it that way. Recoil has 26,000 likes on face book and the magazine has only been out for three issues and issue number 4 is just hitting the streets. I honestly believe that this will not hurt the magazine. I have not lost anyone as a result of this and do not expect to.

Joe Galloway
Associate Publisher
5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
Phone 813-675-3493
Fax 813-675-3557
Email joe.galloway@sorc.com
Assistant: Jennifer Conklin 813-675-3507

Several things stand out. FIrst, Tsai admitted writing and agreeing with what was published in his first "apology". Now his publisher says Jerry didn't write it, an assertion which directly contradicts what his editor said. Then he has the temerity to claim that the magazine "has not lost anyone", despite the number of companies who have publicly cancelled their involvement with them.

As I said on Monday, the new generation of shooters needs their own magazine. This one, bankrolled by someone whose political associations are highly suspect, may not be it. The shooting fraternity still needs a magazine like RECOIL, but it needs to be one which doesn't compromise on the Second Amendment. Could RECOIL become that magazine? I have my doubts, especially after their publisher dug in his heels to support the status quo, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt if they truly repent.

In the meantime,
please read this well-reasoned counterpoint from the Breach, Bang, Clear blog.

-=[ Grant ]=-

RECOIL Magazine's Waterloo.

Over the weekend a major firestorm erupted over
RECOIL magazine's review of the HK MP7A1. In the article, the editor of the magazine - one Jerry Tsai - penned this:

“Like we mentioned before, the MP7A1 is unavailable to civilians and for good reason. We all know that’s technology no civies should ever get to lay their hands on. This is a purpose-built weapon with no sporting applications to speak of. It is made to put down scumbags, and that’s it. Mike Cabrera of Heckler & Koch Law Enforcement Sales and veteran law enforcement officer with SWAT unit experience points out that this is a gun that you do not want in the wrong, slimy hands.”

Sounds just like something from Sarah Brady herself, doesn't it? Of course it does, and it caused more than a few Second Amendment stalwarts to go nuclear, like in this open letter to RECOIL from Rob Pincus (who first alerted me to the debacle whan I was on the range teaching a Combat Focus Shooting course - ah, the power of the iPhone!):

“DEAR RECOIL MAGAZINE,In reference to: “Like we mentioned before, the MP7A1 is unavailable to civilians and for good reason. We all know that’s technology no civvies should ever get to lay their hands on. This is a purpose-built weapon with no sporting applications to speak of…”

To say I disagree with your thoughts on the MP7 would be a gross understatement.

In fact, the ignorance of that statement is amazing to me. In case you didn’t notice, the only reason Glocks, M&Ps, and probably most of the guns that are paying for advertising space in your rag are built is to put down bad guys.

People may find “sporting purposes” for them… but gun games aren’t why they exist. If Wired or Maxim had said what you did, I wouldn’t care. You should’ve known better.

The vast majority of firearms that have been designed and built in the history of the tool have been built for defensive or offensive use. Regardless of the intended role, military, law enforcement or civilian, the overwhelming majority of firearms on shelves in gun shops and shown in the pages of your now incredibly disappointing magazine are designed for use by people against people. While the “shooting sports” label may be a banner that has hung over our industry for political and (sometimes) marketing reasons, your young magazine hasn’t exactly catered to the waterfowl or skeet crowds.

Personally, the MP7 is one of the few guns on the planet that I would rush out and pay H&K Retail Price for, if it were ever offered for civilian sale. I’ve had the pleasure of shooting them many times and training teams that use them. It is a great tool, but didn’t possess any magical power that made it reckless, dangerous or inappropriate for any responsible firearms owner to possess…. for whatever reason they desire.

I had high hopes for your publication. Now I expect people to stop reading it, advertisers to fade away and your writers to submit their work to other publications that actually understand the industry they are covering.

-Rob Pincus
-I.C.E. Training Company”

For his part, Jerry - sensing an imminent backlash from readers and advertisers alike - came back with what he perceived to be damage control on RECOIL's Facebook page:

Hey guys, this is Jerry Tsai, Editor of RECOIL. I think I need to jump in here and clarify what I wrote in the MP7A1 article. It looks like I may not have stated my point clearly enough in that line that is quoted up above. Let’s be clear, neither RECOIL nor I are taking the stance on what should or should not be made available on the commercial market although I can see how what was written can be confused as such.

Because we don’t want anything to be taken out of context, let’s complete that quote and read the entire paragraph:

“Like we mentioned before, the MP7A1 is unavailable to civilians and for good reason. We all know that’s technology no civvies should ever get to lay their hands on. This is a purpose-built weapon with no sporting applications to speak of. It is made to put down scumbags, and that’s it. Mike Cabrera of Heckler & Koch Law Enforcement Sales and veteran law enforcement officer with SWAT unit experience points out that this is a gun that you do not want in the wrong, slimy hands. It comes with semi-automatic and full-auto firing modes only. Its overall size places it between a handgun and submachine gun. Its assault rifle capabilities and small size make this a serious weapon that should not be taken lightly.”

Let’ also review why this gun should not be taken lightly. In the article it was stated that the MP7A1 is a slightly larger than handgun sized machine-gun that can be accurately fired and penetrate Soviet style body armor at more than 300 yards. In the wrong hands, that’s a bad day for the good guys.

As readers of RECOIL, we all agree that we love bad-ass hardware, there’s no question about that. I believe that in a perfect world, all of us should have access to every kind of gadget that we desire. Believe me, being a civvie myself, I’d love to be able to get my hands on an MP7A1 of my own regardless of its stated purpose, but unfortunately the reality is that it isn’t available to us. As a fellow enthusiast, I know how frustrating it is to want something only to be denied it.

Its manufacturer has not made the gun available to the general public and when we asked if it would ever come to the commercial market, they replied that it is strictly a military and law enforcement weapon, adding that there are no sporting applications for it. Is it wrong that HK decided against selling a full-auto pocket sized machine gun that can penetrate armor from hundreds of yards away? It’s their decision to make and their decision they have to live with not mine nor anybody else’s.

I accepted their answer for what it was out of respect for those serving in uniform. I believe that we as gun enthusiasts should respect our brothers in law enforcement, agency work and the military and also keep them out of harms way. Like HK, I wouldn’t want to see one of these slip into the wrong hands either. Whether or not you agree with this is fine. I am compelled to explain a point that I was trying to make that may have not been clear.

Thanks for reading,
– JT, Editor, RECOIL

Naturally, this looks-like-an-apology-but-really-isn't-when-you-actually-read-it-and-won't-someone-PLEASE-think-of-our-brave-boys-in-blue did nothing but stoke the fires, causing several prominent shooting industry partners, including
Silencerco, ITS Tactical, and Panteo Productions, to publicly cancel all their ads in the magazine.

Tsai, now realizing that the survival of his emerging empire is in serious jeopardy (“Zumboed”, I believe, is the operative term) penned another apology on the RECOIL Facebook page that says he Really, Really Means It This Time:

I’d like to address the comments regarding what I wrote in the MP7A1 article in RECOIL issue 4. First and foremost, I’d like to apologize for any offense that I have caused with the article. With the benefit of hindsight, I now understand the outrage, and I am greatly saddened that it was initiated by my words. Especially since, I am an unwavering supporter of 2nd Amendment Rights. I’ve chosen to spend a significant part of both my personnel and professional life immersed in this enthusiasm, so to have my support of individuals’ rights called into doubt is extremely unfortunate. With that said, I retract what I wrote in the offending paragraph within this article. It should have had been presented with more clarity.

In the article, I stated some information that was passed on to me about why the gun is not available for civilian purchase. By no means did I intend to imply that civilians are not responsible, nor do we lack the judgment to own such weapons, if I believed anything approaching this, clearly I would lead a much different life. I also mentioned in the article that the gun had no sporting purpose. This again, was information passed on to me and reported in the article without the necessary additional context. I believe everything published in RECOIL up to this point (other than this story), demonstrates we clearly understand and completely agree that guns do not need to have a sporting purpose in order for them to be rightfully available to civilians. In retrospect, I should have presented this information in a clearer manner. Although I can understand the manufacturer’s stance on the subject, it doesn’t mean that I agree with it.

Again, I acknowledge the mistakes I made and for them I am truly sorry.

Jerry Tsai

Basically, it's an "I'm not a bad guy, just horribly incompetent and lack basic reading comprehension skills" sort of passing-the-buck
excuse apology. I find that odd coming from an editor! Having worked for a number of editors, and knowing the hawk-like attention they pay to what comes out on their watch, it seems rather incomprehensible that one would blithely regurgitate a manufacturer's inflammatory talking points while simultaneously adding his own clear and obvious agreement.

Many people, including yours truly, might have bought it - except for this a little bit of information a reader over at The Truth About Guns uncovered: RECOIL is owned by Source Interlink, an investment firm bankrolled by one Ron Burkle.
Burkle is described in an article at Mondotimes.com as "...a prominent Democratic party activist and fundraiser. He is a close friend of former President Bill Clinton, and investments in Yucaipa made by Clinton and his wife Senator Hillary Clinton have generated millions of dollars in income for them. “

Now it must be pointed out that I'm not a supporter of either political party; I despise all politicians equally. And, as I've reminded some of my more myopically partisan acquaintances, the "R" in "NRA" does not stand for "Republican." Still, one has to wonder about those ties.

My only knowledge of RECOIL comes from poking around on their website; the editorial direction is much too young and "extreme" for my tastes. However, I think it's important for the shooting community to have fresh outlets like this magazine to which the under-40 generations can relate. What appeals to me, as well as those before me and those just after me, is very different than what appeals to the 25-to-35 demographic. We don't need to push them away with the fuddy-duddies in Guns & Ammo or Shooting Times; they need THEIR magazines, with writers who talk to them in terms they're used to hearing. RECOIL was very obviously aimed at doing just that, and I think it's great - even if I'd never choose to read it myself. (I've got to admire their graphic sense, however!)

But at only four issues into its life, and given the nature of its ownership, I have to wonder: does the magazine really exist to get a certain demographic to think of guns not as something to
aspire to owning, but rather to admire from afar in movies and videogames? Has anyone read all of their issues with a keen eye, looking for that kind of subtle editorial manipulation?

Perhaps Tsai's mistake wasn't what the magazine wrote, but rather a lack of subtlety in writing it. Discussion in the comments is encouraged, particularly because I've admitted to having never paid attention to the magazine until now. If you've read RECOIL, I'd like to hear your thoughts.

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: A running mystery.

As a Sheriff's Detective once told me, it's the idiots in this world who assure his continued employment - the really smart criminals are rarely captured. Luckily, there aren't a lot of them around.

Though not usually rising to the level of criminal, there are a lot of smart people who manipulate systems and institutions for personal gain. Not monetary gain, mind you, but for psychological or emotional gain. Take, for instance, the number of people who craft an identity based around meritorious military service. Why go to all that trouble just to massage an ego?

At The New Yorker this week is the story of a marathon runner who, apparently, has been faking his impressive finishes - to the point of inventing a non-existent marathon in which he was the first place finisher! When cornered by a reporter, his “explanations” sound an awful lot like Joliet Jake's attempt to keep from getting shot by his ex-wife:

It's a pretty interesting article that's got me wondering: just HOW is he doing it?

-=[ Grant ]=-

A look at how barrels are rifled.

There are a number of ways to cut spiral grooves in metal tubes, but the oldest is the cut rifling machine. A cutter is pulled through a barrel, simultaneously cutting and rotating as it travels. How is the tool guided and controlled? Why, by the rifling machine!

Truth About Guns posted this very cool animation of a sine-bar rifling machine at work:

Notice how the cutter is rotated by the sine bar as it travels (which controls the twist rate); the barrel is rotated between passes (which controls the number of grooves - in this case, it appears to be a five-groove barrel); and the bump stop moves forward to push the wedge further in, which increases the depth of the cut (the cutter can't dig out the full depth of the groove in one pass; it must take off only a very small amount of metal, measured in ten-thousandths of an inch, at a time and needs to be adjusted on each pass to do just that.)

Now, imagine instead of the straight sine bar you had a curved one; you could make the cutter rotate more at the end of the cut than at the beginning, which is how gain twist rifling is made. Cool, huh?

The animation is based on a mid-19th century Robbins and Lawrence machine. Slightly more modern machines, like those from Pratt & Whitney or Diamond look somewhat different - though if you watch closely you’ll be able to pick out all the functions shown in the animation. Here’s a real Diamond sine bar rifling machine in action:

Today these machines are hard to find and very expensive. The Diamond shown in the video may look fairly new, but we know it was made sometime between 1890 (when they adopted the form of their name shown on the machine) and 1926 (when the company went out of business.) It’s possible, however, for a suitably skilled machinist to build one in his garage, and many have. There are even people selling plans and DVDs that will show you how to do it!

-=[ Grant ]=-

I would buy one of these.

In a heartbeat.

Ian over at Forgotten Weapons
came up with another interesting gun, and this one is so freaking cool that I'm seriously entertaining the idea of reverse-engineering the thing.

The gun is the Hotchkiss Universal, and if you think the crappy Kel-Tec folding carbine is neat just wait until you see this!

Be sure to watch to the end when he deploys the thing at speed. ME WANT!!

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Jazzed for the weekend.

It's Labor Day Weekend, and the unofficial end of summer. Many of you will be having picnics, perhaps some of you taking a short trip, and what better way to start a holiday weekend than listening to some music?

A few weeks back I linked to a rare video of a performance from the Wolf Trap Dizzy Gillespie tribute, and today I have another from that event. This one is a performance of "Fiesta Mojo", and features an....eclectic group of musicians.

Standouts include Arnie Lawrence, one of the most underrated and sophisticated saxophonists in jazz; Sam Rivers, the pioneering free jazz improviser who gives a suitably restrained (for him) solo here; David Amram, the multi-instrumentalist who surprises everyone with a dual pennywhistle solo; and at 7:50 is Candido, who brings the house down with a conga solo that serves as a master class on how drums can be both percussive and musical at the same time. Immediately after him is a drummer whose name was immortalized in the film "Blazing Saddles", and I'll leave it to you to figure out how. (For some, this may be the first time the joke has ever made sense!)

With that, here's Dizzy and Fiesta Mojo. Have a great weekend!

-=[ Grant ]=-

An independent review of a Combat Focus Shooting class.

Fellow Combat Focus Shooting instructors
Matt DeVito and Jeff Varner recently taught a CFS class in Nevada. One of their students was the guy who writes the Zombie Tactics blog, and he made an unsolicited after action video report of his experiences in that class.

Sounds like a great course, doesn't it? Maybe, even, one that you'd like to attend? Well, I still have a couple of spots open in the
Combat Focus Shooting course I'm teaching on Sept. 9th in Canby, Oregon (just outside of Portland.) Drop me a line for more information!

-=[ Grant ]=-

The Open Carry movement is being hijacked.

I'm on record, going back at least a couple of years, of not being a fan of open carry for political purposes. My stand is simple: you cannot open carry in an area where it's legal to "fight for your rights", because the right already exists. If it already exists, then it comes under the principle of exercising the right responsibly.

The rabid open carry advocates, those who carry with video cameras and actively seek conflicts with police officers, are not exercising their rights responsibly. I believe it's up to the rest of us to call them on their bad behavior, and not fall victim to some misplaced notion of brotherhood.

Rob Pincus is of like mind, and is calling on the normal, responsible, non-attention-seeking open carry practitioners to stand up and be counted. He asked me if he could post a short plea on my blog. Here's Rob:

Irresponsible Open Carry Activism Jeopardizes The RKBA

Guns should be carried for personal defense, not Activism. The best way to do that 99% of the time is Concealed Carry.

Even if people do choose to Open Carry, they shouldn't do it to provoke confrontation nor be uncooperative with the police while doing it. It makes gun owners look bad, turns cops against us, wastes their valuable time and certainly isn't going to make it more likely that people will think "oh, gun owners are normal people, not trouble makers."

Spread the Word. Most people have realized that the time for "solidarity" through tolerance of the guys carrying guns with video cameras has come and gone. Their bravado is jeopardizing our RKBA and should be seen as an embarrassment to responsible gun owners. When the OC Movement started, people carrying while going about their daily business to show responsibly armed people are part of everyday life, it made some sense... but, the extremists have spun out of control. Let's make sure that the firearms community is condemning this behavior.

I am not calling for a change in laws or for us to ostracize people who carry openly in a responsible, civil manner. Perhaps responsible OCers should be most concerned and the most openly critical of those who are using their guns to get (inevitably negative) attention?

Obviously, I am a proponent of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and do not want to to see OC made illegal, but I fear that will happen more and more often, in more and more places (as it already has it one state), if the confrontational actions of a very few reckless people continue.

-Rob Pincus
- I.C.E. Training Co.


A sad weekend.

As you might have heard, the shooting industry suffered a terrible loss: Mark Craighead, founder and owner of Crossbreed Holsters, died unexpectedly on Friday.

Mark was an honest, upbeat guy who was not only a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, but put his money where his mouth was when it came to educating people about guns, shooting, and self defense. I enjoyed our interaction during the relatively short time that I knew him, and I'm saddened for his employees and his family - which, from all accounts, were nearly indistinguishable. That’s just the kind of person he was.

Rob Pincus knew Mark for some time, and penned
a touching eulogy over at The Truth About Guns. Please go read it in honor of a great friend to all shooters.

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: A four-wheeled namesake.

Many years ago I visited the now-defunct Harrah's automobile museum - the real, original one, not the neutered National Automobile Museum that currently bears the "Harrah Collection" monicker. It was amazing; I saw
cars from companies that I didn't even know existed. One of the more interesting activities was having my picture taken with the two cars that bore my names: A Grant and a Cunningham. I had no idea those cars existed until I was standing next to them.

Grant company sold what were apparently unremarkable vehicles, and was in business for a scant nine years. Cunningham, on the other hand, was a storied firm with an impressive pedigree.

James Cunningham, Son & Company of Rochester, NY was founded in 1862 as a
carriage manufacturer. In fact, they became one of the largest such firms in the country. They were known for quality above all else, and were usually among the most expensive coaches available. They made the switch to automobile production in 1908, making both gasoline and electric models. They maintained their well-received focus on quality, and their first models sold for a whopping $3,500!

By 1916 they'd developed a 442 cubic inch V-8 engine which would become their trademark. By 1921, their town car model was selling for $8,100 - when a Ford Model T Runabout could be had for $370 and their four door sedan for only $725!

Around 1928 Cunningham's interests changed to aviation, and they dropped auto production entirely in 1931. In 1938 the company was reorganized to build electrical switching apparatus, which they did until the mid-1960s. The
aircraft division, a joint venture between Cunningham and a fellow named Robert Hall, continued in business as an aircraft component maker until being closed in 1948.

Today all Cunningham cars are exceedingly rare and do not come up for sale very often. I've not seen another outside of the Harrah museum. In their heyday, though, driving a Cunningham - whether horse or mechanically powered - was the mark of sophistication and style (and a not-insignificant income!)

Here are a couple of videos of Cunningham autos; this first I included just because I like the word “Phaeton”!

-=[ Grant ]=-

This one's worth watching.

I just realized that I'd not alerted you to this - how neglectful of me!

Mark Craighead, owner of Crossbreed holsters, has put his resources behind a new shooting show: Trigger Time. He's put together a great team of professionals to bring you the latest training, information, and shooting techniques. It's broadcast on the Pursuit Channel, which is available on some cable systems as well as DIsh and DirecTv.

If you don't have one of those services, however, don't fret! Craig is a child of the modern era, and has seen fit to post all of the show's segments on the
Trigger Time website immediately after they're aired! I wish more broadcasters would join us here in the 21st century - {COUGH}OutdoorChannel{COUGH}.

No, I’m not on the show; that would be too much awesomeness even for Craig to handle. But the other guys are pretty good, so be sure to check it out!

-=[ Grant ]=-

P.S.: Confidential to Sigspace - be careful what you wish for, as it may come to pass. Soon.

Monday Meanderings: Taurus wants more, and I (again) get some nice press.

The Truth About Guns alerted me last week to the new Taurus ad campaign. It’s the gun industry version of the sappy and vaguely patriotic campaign commercial, complete with an insipid soundtrack and earnest voice-over by the candidate. Well produced, but it’s going to take more than glitzy PR nonsense for me to take Taurus seriously as a defensive handgun maker.

Instead of telling us how they’re going to be great, I’d be more impressed if they just went out and did it. As much as I admire Jessie Duff, her presence doesn’t tell me anything about whether the guns actually work. I am, however, keeping an open mind. With me, it's all about the quality: if their guns get better, I'll recommend them. If not, I'll continue to tell people to stay away from them for any serious use.


In his blog over at American Rifleman,
Wiley Clapp gives a nice review of my Gun Digest Book Of The Revolver. I'm very pleased that it continues to garner great reviews, and to have someone of Mr. Clapp's reputation appreciate my modest contribution to the shooting world is immensely gratifying.

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: My hometown, 1936.

I've written before of the depression-era Farm Security Administration (FSA) and their photographic propaganda campaign, of whose results I'm a big fan even if I decry the manipulative intent behind them. Their photographers roamed the country and produced phenomenal documentation of both urban and rural areas that would not exist were it not for their efforts.

A couple of them made it here to Oregon, and I've seen some of the photos they made. However, I was completely unaware that on July 4, 1936, the great Arthur Rothstein had been in my little hometown: Molalla, Oregon, population (at that time) about 700. Then, as now, the big event in town was the annual rodeo - the Molalla Buckeroo - and Rothstein was in attendance.

He made this picture of what he identified as a Warm Springs Indian at the old Buckeroo Grounds, which was near the middle of town. (The grounds were demolished and new ones built outside of town when I was a teenager, hence the "old" designation.)

The fence behind the gentleman ran the circumference of the grounds and was regularly maintained right up until the demolition. It’s entirely possible that at least a few of those boards survived to the early 70s, when I helped paint them in preparation for the annual festivities. (They sure seemed like they had been there over four decades, but then anyone over 18 seemed ancient to my young eyes.)

-=[ Grant ]=-

P.S.: Please, no partisan comments on how great FDR was or how his programs allegedly saved the country. This time, I'll be deleting them.

Do you really need to train?

My latest article is up at the Personal Defense Network:
"The Training Industry's Dirty Little Secret". Check it out!

-=[ Grant ]=-


My Adult ADD strikes again!

I had a number of things I wanted to talk about this morning, but something shiny (and Italian) caught my eye and I've forgotten about everything else!

Forgotten Weapons posted an amazingly cool video of a Lorenzoni Flintlock Repeating Pistol. These things are almost mythical; I'd seen a drawing of one, but never any really descriptive pictures let alone an operational video. Ian got his hands on one and shows it off; I now have a much better understanding of the design and operation.

What struck me was the quality of workmanship. Remember that this thing is circa 1700, long before modern machine tools. Notice how precisely everything fits; listen to the sound of the barrel being unscrewed, which gives you a feeling for how exact the threads are. This is amazing for any era, let alone three centuries ago!

Note also the attention to detail; at the 42 second mark, where he's showing off the magazine, you can see the little "bump" of wood on the stock which matches the hinge protrusion, serving to keep the hinge pin in and also preventing the hand from contacting a metal edge. The maker could have simply rounded off that end of the hinge and staked it so the pin couldn’t come out accidentally, but that wouldn't have been nearly as intriguing!

Looks like you don't need CNC machining equipment to do good work! (Which reminds me: I really need to do an article on the misconceptions which abound about the capabilities of CNC. Most people really don't have a clue and use those three letters as an indicator of quality. 'Taint necessarily so.)

-=[ Grant ]=-


Warning: I'm probably going to piss a lot of people off. If your identity is firmly rooted in what you do for a living and you’re convinced of your position in society, stop reading now!

The most important job in the world, as far as I'm concerned, is that of the farmer. They feed us and to a large extent clothe us, and without them we'd be hungry and cold. Every other job in this country pales in comparison, including my own. I'm able to peddle my wares only because of a lot of people get up early every day to plow, milk, feed, and harvest the food that powers me and my clients.

No matter how important you think you are, you're not as important as the men and women who labor to feed you. Without them, you'd simply cease to function - and it's pretty hard to climb the ladder of corporate success while comatose. While you're striving to become Vice President of Northern New Jersey Sales, there are a whole lot of people out there who are working their butts off so that you can have that impressive power breakfast with the Senior VP who holds the keys to your advancement. Think about that as you butter your English Muffin tomorrow.

Why am I so adamant about this? Because I don't believe that we give our farmers and ranchers enough recognition. Perhaps, having grown up on a farm, I have a different perspective than some; the derision which I sometimes see heaped on the "redneck" farmers and ranchers is enough to make my blood boil, and I think it's about time we started thanking them instead of insulting them. What better way to do so than to recognize those who have been farming the longest?

Here in Oregon we have an award given to farms that have been operating, in the same family hands, for more than a hundred years. The award is called Century Farm, and if you drive our backroads you'll occasionally come across a modest black-and-white sign designating an honoree. It's not an award that is easy to get, or to keep, but carries with it a certain distinction that the fashionable denizens of our cities will never understand.

Some local farmers achieved that status this year, out of only 16 statewide. I'd like to take a moment to recognize them for their achievement, and to thank them for growing the delicious food which sits in our refrigerators.

Excuse me while I eat my breakfast, knowing full well where it came from.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Inventing in your garage.

The other day over at Forgotten Weapons,
Ian wondered why there isn't more garage gun-building going on. Not in terms of putting together Franken AR-15s from parts kits - that's not "building", it's merely assembling - but actually constructing guns from scratch, inventing new ways of approaching the mechanics of firearms function. It's legal for an individual to do (you should research the laws yourself, but it boils down to not building an NFA weapon and not selling what you make), but very few people actually do it.

I really liked that article, and I was stunned to realize that I'd not thought about it before. He's right: this country has a proud history of the lone inventor working in his or her garage, and guns certainly are a part of that history. (To the men that Ian mentions I'll add that Karl Lewis, one of the country's most prolific and yet little-known gun inventors, came up with the idea and early prototypes of what would become the Dan Wesson revolver in his garage.) There are lots of amateur gunsmiths and hobbyists out there with pretty impressive machine shops tucked away in garages and basements, and yet we're not seeing new designs or concepts emerging.

Firearms aren't like automobiles, in the sense that they've become so sophisticated that a single person couldn't possibly design one. Guns, even the most complicated variety, are still relatively simple mechanisms. An individual - heck, even a pair of individuals - would have no problem engineering a new design. Putting one into mass production entails far more people (metallurgists and polymer engineers, just for starters) but prototyping can still be done without hordes of people.

Although he mentions CNC equipment, even that's not needed if you're doing prototypes. The price of manual mills and lathes has dropped like a rock in recent years, to the point that they're actually worth nearly as much in scrap value as they are as working machines. Even a modestly-heeled enthusiast could easily acquire all the equipment needed to craft an idea in metal.

Me? I'm not nearly creative enough. I probably possess the machining skills, but I'm not good at coming up with original ideas. (All of mine look suspiciously like Colt Pythons. Go figure.) Somewhere out there, however, there are no doubt people who can - but for some reason don't. Like Ian, I wonder where they are and what they're doing instead.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Over-react much?

Over at the Schneier On Security blog, Bruce Schneier talks about the
concept of risk in relation to the Aurora movie theater attack. I found his analysis interesting, inasmuch as gunnies everywhere are talking about how they'd respond - and how they're changing their response preparation - to such an event.

Some of the blogs, Facebook posts, and some forum discussions I've seen in the wake of the Aurora shooting are almost comical. There are people who suggest that concealed handgun carriers change their ammunition, their carry gun, and their training regimen to reflect the possibility of facing a crazed gunman in a movie theater through thick smoke. Some are suggesting carrying extra backup guns to arm other movie-goers, some are recommending spending more time on long-range handgun shots, and some are considering trading in their "low capacity" guns for something that will carry 15 or more rounds - all based on an event which is extremely rare, even considering its conditional probability.

Remember that none of us has the unlimited time, energy, or money to train for everything that could
possibly happen; we have to make choices to most effectively apportion those resources, and not understanding the nature of risk can lead us to making inappropriate choices. The Aurora shootings may have slightly expanded the range of possible risks we might encounter, but it really hasn't changed the likely (probable) risks of everyday life.

Read Bruce's article, and remember that your chances of being mugged or car-jacked in the theater parking lot are still far greater than facing a lone shooter with smoke grenades bent on wholesale destruction. Prepare by spending your limited resources accordingly.

-=[ Grant ]=-

P.S.: I'm waiting for the first training facility to buy a smoke machine and include 75-yard shots in low light conditions as part of their "vital skills" curriculum. It will happen.

FRIDAY SURPRISE: A quick musical interlude.

Back in 1988 there was a special Wolf Trap concert held in Dizzy Gillespie's honor. Broadcast on PBS, it featured a veritable "who's who" of the jazz world at that time. I videotaped the broadcast, but over the years that tape has become unplayable. Too bad, as it contained some truly wonderful performances.

A small subset of the musicians invited would gather together in a group and perform a song or two from Dizzy's repertoire, then the next group would do the same, and so on - for nearly three hours of broadcast, if memory serves!

One such group consisted of Flora Purim, Freddie Hubbard, Airto Moreiro, Nicky Morero, Eddie Gomez, Kei Akagi, Michael Shapiro, and Dave Valentin playing an exciting arrangement of Dizzy's famous "Tanga".

Their video was up on YouTube a couple of years ago, but was pulled because the PBS station which recorded it objected to copyright infringement (as if they were making huge sums of money selling DVDs that
no one knew existed if not for the YouTube file!) Someone recently put it back up, and I encourage you to catch this great performance before it once again gets removed by short-sighted bureaucrats.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Style over substance.

I recently learned of a blogger and wanna-be instructor, a member of the disturbingly superficial "I'm cute and have a gun - read my blog!" trend, who wanted to have her picture taken with a well-known trainer who was visiting the area. Note that she didn't want to take the excellent class that he was teaching, she just wanted a picture to post on her blog to make people think that she had a connection with a Famous Gun Instructor!

At least she was honest about her intent; not everyone is.

Somewhere in the last week I was directed to an article titled "
Races, Journeys, and Certifications”, written by one Jacob Steinman. While intended for a martial arts audience, it's very applicable to those of us interested in defensive shooting: it talks about people who take classes for reasons other than learning.

I've seen this in action, instances where people attended a defensive shooting class (either as an end user or as an instructor candidate) only to get the paper, not to actually increase their knowledge or to develop new skills. It's diploma chasing: acquiring yet another geegaw to hang on the wall, another piece of external validation that serves to impress the impressionable, without actually absorbing the material. (As it happens, some of the worst teachers I’ve known have had the most impressive diploma walls!)

The ultimate manifestation of this would be the ditzy blogger referenced above: not even pretending to go through the motions but getting the benefit anyhow. Is she really any different than the person who acquires the certificate without having bothered to actually learn anything? Only in degree, I would argue. The result is the same.

The "money quote" from Jacob: "The certification process should not be an end point; it should not be something you do so that you can say it's done. It should be a marker--a waypost along the journey."

Read the whole thing. It's pretty good.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Combat Focus Shooting class coming up!

If you're in Oregon or Southwest Washington, I'll be teaching a one-day
Combat Focus Shooting class in Canby, OR (a few minutes south of Portland) on Sunday, September 9th. There are still a small handful of spaces left, so if you'd like to attend let me know ASAP!

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Going for the Gold. Or not.

I haven't done anything on abandoned structures lately, but when today's subject popped up...well, it's perfect.

Have you ever wondered what happens to the grounds of large events, like a World's Fair -- or, say, the Olympics? Sometimes, like Lake Placid, they continue to be useful. In other cases, like the site of the 2004 Games in Athens, they simply stand as a monument to wasted resources.

In eight short years, the site of the 2004 Olympic Games has gone from showplace to eyesore. The Greeks spent tons of money to build a very impressive venue, and today it stands empty -- a tribute to the human desire to outdo our neighbors.

How many other Olympic sites around the world have suffered the same fate? I don't know, but I have a hunch that Athens isn’t alone.

Head on over to the NYTimes Lens Blog, where
they've showcased the Athens pictures of Jamie McGregor Smith. Smith has a reputation for photographing abandonment on a large scale, and his pictures of the Greek mistake are superb. The Blog has links to his website, where you can view his other projects -- including some great pictures of our own gigantic and growing abandonment, Detroit.

Excellent images!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Built like a Swiss watch. Literally.

Perhaps it's my background in watchmaking, but I've found myself gravitating to Swiss products over the years. The vast majority of my precision measuring tools are Swiss, as are many of my screwdrivers and assorted precision hand tools. Their products are not frilly, but purposeful and built to an incredibly high standard. Though my Austrian Emco-Maier lathe is a perfectly serviceable machine, I still lust for a Swiss Schaublin 120-VM (or, dare I say, an SV-130 Mk. III ?)

Given my fetish for fine machinery, you can imagine my delight that Forgotten Weapons is doing "Swiss Week" - a multi-part look at Switzerland's lesser-known entries into shooting history.

Take, for example, the LMG25. This magazine-fed medium machine gun is chambered in 7.5x55 Swiss, the same cartridge used by the (relatively) common Swiss Karabiner Model 1931 (K31). Like the K31, the machining of the LMG25 is exquisite - which is readily apparent from the photos. I can't stop staring at it.

Ian even did a tear-down video. Even the magazine port cover is precisely made and nicely blued. Listen to the action sound as he cycles the bolt - smoooooooth.

Now I want a Schaublin even more. Damn you, Ian!

-=[ Grant ]=-

My weekend.

Lots of stuff going on and lots of things pulling me in different directions this weekend - all of them shooting related, in some fashion.

On Saturday ace gunsmith and all-around good guy Todd Koonce and his fiancee Amanda Anson were married. Sadly I had a prior commitment and couldn't be there, but I'm happy for the new couple. (Todd's the guy I pictured hovering over his bluing tanks in the Book Of The Revolver, and is soon to be seen in another book. Shhhh - I can't talk about that just yet!) They're great people and I hope they have a long and wonderful life together.

Sunday my wife and I made our way up to
Firearms Academy of Seattle. I was there last weekend teaching Combat Focus Shooting with Rob Pincus, but this weekend we were there to catch up with Massad Ayoob and Gail Pepin, along with Marty and Gila Hayes and several other folks that we don't get to see all that often.

Rob was able to stick around to take Mas' MAG-20 (classroom) course, and came away with a sentiment
similar to that which I've offered on many occasions: it is really a "must" course for those who are serious about keeping a firearm for defense. It covers all the “stuff” - the legal, practical, and ethical things - that you aren’t exposed to in courses that teach you to shoot. Mas is still THE GUY for this kind of information, and you should seriously consider signing up for that class.

Several people came up to me during the breaks to express their thanks for this blog and my book. Most bloggers are obsessed about the number of people who read their work, and it's easy to forget that it's not about the numbers - it's about how you can reach and help other people. It's really quite humbling to know that somewhere out there are real folks who appreciate what you do.

We arrived home at 1:AM this morning, tired but very happy that we've been privileged to know the people we do!

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Red flags. And blue ones, too.

For some reason, I recently found myself looking at a picture of our state flag (for those who don't know, that would be Oregon.) I've seen this flag my entire life, and today it dawned on me: our flag is ugly.

Ugly and boring.

Our flag is also the only one in these 50 states whose reverse side is different than the obverse side - and the back is even uglier and more boring than the front. As if that were even possible.

I know that not all state flags are so ugly and boring, so I went to Wikipedia to find out if we are saddled with the most ugly and boring flag in this Republic.

You know what? If we don't have the ugliest and most boring flag, all we have to do is turn it over - then we do. Yeah for us!

Our neighbor to the north, Washington, can't be accused of having a particularly interesting entry, but it's still more interesting than ours (and at least it's unique in having a green field.) Alaska's is simple - simpler than ours by far - but at least makes one think about the heavens. Nevada's isn't particularly inspiring, but at least it's the same on both sides. I'm not sure why, but I expected a better effort from Vermont - and they still outdo us. Texas is surprisingly lame for a state with such a large personality, but not as lame as Oregon's.

Some state flags are really cool. Maryland gets my vote for the neatest state flag, and Arizona's isn't far behind. I love New Mexico's minimalist design, while Rhode Island's appropriately small entry is bright and nautical. Ohio gets huge style points for being the only burgee (swallowtail pennant) format, a refreshing break from the quadrangles used by every other state. Florida's makes a bold statement with their red "X" and state seal, while Alabama uses just the "X" - they don't need no stinkin' seal on their flag.

Have a look at the Wikipedia entry, and ask yourself: is my state's flag as ugly and boring as Oregon's?

I doubt it.

-=[ Grant ]=-

P.S.: You can also get the stories behind each state’s flag at http://www.netstate.com/state_flags.htm

One word: wow.

Over the last year or so I've become acquainted with the work of engraver
Weldon Lister. It started when one of my clients sent a gun to him to be engraved, and we've been corresponding off-and-on since. Every so often he sends me pictures of his work, some of which I've posted on this site's Facebook page. I find his style quite attractive, as he understands how engraving should match the style of the gun being engraved, and particularly appreciate his deft handling of color and tone.

He recently sent me pictures of this gun, but I didn't get the story behind it until it was featured as the Gun Of The Week on the Blue Book of Gun Values website:

Head over to the Blue Book of Gun Values site to see more and read the whole story. It's fascinating.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Readers of my blog get a PDN discount!

Last week I announced the new Premium content over at the Personal Defense Network. I hope you've had a chance to check it out, but if you're still on the fence about signing up, maybe this will help tilt the scales for you!

When you sign up at this link, use the discount code "FBSAVE30" - it will chop a whopping 30% off the subscription price!

Remember that a subscription gives you exclusive and unlimited access to members-only content, including step-by-step lessons and full-DVD-length training videos. With 30% off, why not give it a try?

(If you haven’t ‘liked’ the PDN Facebook page yet,
how about heading over there and doing so?)

-=[ Grant ]=-

An update on lubrication.

Last week I got a great email from a fellow who works for one of the major oil companies as a lubricant specialist. He complimented me on
my article on lubrication, and said it was "the best and clearest explanation I have ever read." That's nice to hear from someone who does that sort of stuff for a living!

He related the tale of searching for lubricants for his shotguns, and found that none of the many oils or greases his company makes (a huge oil company whose name you would instantly recognize) were suitable for the job. He spent "several months" talking to his company's scientists and came to the conclusion that he, too, needed to go to a speciality lubricant company that makes food-service oils and greases.

What was most interesting to me, however, was that through that speciality company I managed to get a copy of the certification letters for their food-grade lubricants. I did not know this, but one of the criteria for getting certification is that the product must be able to do its job (lubrication, wear and corrosion protection)
after being wiped clean from the surface being lubricated. I've mentioned before that the "miracle" lubes which claim to work even after being wiped off aren't doing anything that a food grade lube couldn't do, and now I have solid proof of my assertion!

This only reinforces my recommendation: if you want the best lubrication for your guns, use oils and greases made for food processing machinery. Their needs are the closest to ours, and they have the additional advantage of being non-toxic and non-staining. They're also a screaming bargain compared to the products sold to an often credulous shooting public.

-=[ Grant ]=-

A surprise from the Personal Defense Network!

I'm pre-empting today's Friday Surprise for one from the Personal Defense Network (PDN) - because it's one I'm excited about and have been waiting for!

As (I hope) you're aware, PDN has become a premier site for personal defense information, articles and videos. I've contributed a number of articles (with more to come), and there are a ton of videos there as well. What's great about PDN is that the content isn't from any one point of view; there are a number of different perspectives from a wide variety of personal defense experts. Our managing editor, Rob Pincus, has gone to great lengths to make sure that there is a great variety of different opinions represented in the content. That's what makes PDN unique and uniquely valuable.

This week they've announced a big upgrade: Premium Memberships. For only $4.99 a month (or $34.95 a year) you can have access to defensive video tips and techniques, step-by-step training drills, feature length videos, complete personal defense courses, and full streaming DVD presentations. The videos are exclusive to PDN and all in HD video. The topics are timely, the information is authoritative, and the quality is superb.

I've watched a number of the Premium videos, and they're all good - in fact, they blow away a lot of the training DVDs you can buy. With DVDs running anywhere from $39 to $85 these days, I think that makes the $34.95 for unlimited access to all of PDNs Premium streaming content a great bargain. Of course, the Premium content is accessible from your computer or your iPad (guess I'm going to have to break down and get an iPad now), and you'll still have access to the huge and ever-expanding library of free PDN content - and there's much more to come!

Click here to check out the Premium Membership at PDN.

-=[ Grant ]=-

A sadly forgotten gun designer.

Forgotten Weapons is a blog that should be read by anyone who is serious about the history of firearms. You'll find articles and information there that you just can't find anywhere else.

Take, for example,
their recent story on the gun of one Henryk Strąpoć. Henryk had the misfortune of being a budding gun designer when both Hitler and Stalin invaded his native Poland. He joined one of the many resistance groups, and their need for weapons prompted him to design an indigenous - and very novel - submachine gun.

Strąpoć, having no real education in engineering or gun design but possessing a blacksmith's practicality, came up with design for a stamped-steel machine gun that fired from a closed bolt - decades before the HK MP-5. Working with little more than hand tools (his lathe and drill press were hand-cranked) he constructed the first gun himself. The underground arranged for the "Beha" (as it would become known) to be made by employees of the Zakłady Ostrowieckie metalworks, but apparently only 11 were completed before the Red Army invaded that area. Today only one remains, in the Polish Army Museum in Warsaw.

The gun is remarkable, not just because of the conditions under which it was produced but because of its modernity. Strąpoć's design was truly inspired, and it would be many years before his various innovations would be copied by various firearms companies.

After the war he simply disappeared behind the Iron Curtain, and even the date of his death is unknown. He was obviously and incredibly talented designer, and it's sad that he apparently never made another gun.

The article at Forgotten Weapons has much, much more and there is some great historical discussion in the comments as well. It is
highly recommended reading even if you’re not into submachine guns. (If you think the sun rises and sets on John Browning, it will serve as a reminder that there have been people with that level of genius who didn't have the fortune to live in a country where it was allowed to be nurtured.)

-=[ Grant ]=-

Monday Meanderings: Nice book review, and a new blog.

You can read a nice review of my book, the Gun Digest Book Of The Revolver, over at
the Sigspace blog. (And no, the name isn't what you think it is.)


Ian at
Forgotten Weapons (one of the coolest gun blogs going) has started a new blog: GunLab. In his words, it's about "firearms design, engineering, and fabrication." He's decided that his ultimate goal is to build reproductions of some odd and rare guns, and to that end he's started taking classes to become a machinist. GunLab will chronicle his journey, and along the way look at how guns are invented and produced. If it's half as good as Forgotten Weapons, it's going to be terrific.


-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Lights out in Mayberry.

One of my favorite television programs has always been "The Andy Griffith Show". Not just because of Andy himself, mind you, but for the bucolic world he created and the phenomenal cast which he assembled to help him bring a piece of Americana to the airwaves.

Andy had an eye for talent and brought some phenomenal musicians and character actors to his show. Of course there was Don Knotts, but don't forget the immensely talented people like Howard McNear, Hal Smith and Howard Morris who made Mayberry come alive. Being a musician himself, Andy hired singers and other musicians and often featured music as part of his storylines. The Dillards, for example, played the Darling Boys in the show, and one of the very few on-camera performances of the great Jack Prince was aired on the Andy Griffith Show.

Andy got his start as a stand-up comic, and his schtick was telling somewhat modernized (if not perfectly accurate) tales of history and literature. His version of Romeo and Juliet is a classic, but the one I like most is his story about the American Revolution - and how he uses it to get the Mayberry boys excited about studying history. You know, with all them guns and muskets and stuff!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Revolver malfunctions, Part Four.

Very often an autoloader fails to function as a result of design. The reciprocation of the slide is governed by a combination of spring pressure, cartridge power, and system friction. The parameters inside which that system operates are actually pretty narrow, and it's a testament to both design and care of manufacture that today's modern autoloading pistols work as well as they do - which is to say, generally very well. Short of a non-externally-caused catastrophic parts failure (which is quite rare for either autos or revolvers), today's autoloading pistols are fairly reliable. Still, design-induced failures will occasionally occur.

The revolver, being powered by the operator and a very mature technology to boot, doesn't usually suffer failures directly related to its design. It is a very fault tolerant system, and given a modicum of maintenance (including attention paid to screws) it will continue to operate under relatively harsh conditions.

The major exception is the S&W internal locking mechanism, which has been reported to self-engage in some cases. I've written about this on numerous occasions; some people opine that it isn't an issue, but I've collected many first-person accounts of inadvertent activation of the lock that renders the gun useless. It's sufficiently common that I recommend not using a revolver so equipped for self defense.

Ruger's revolvers do have a pronounced false reset in their trigger system, causing many users to short-stroke their triggers and momentarily tie up the gun. This is, as I've mentioned, more a training issue than a design flaw, but occurs more often with their guns than any other. Design flaw? You could make the case either way, so I'll mention it here.

The propensity for Colt revolvers to break firing pins might be considered a design flaw, and I'd probably agree with that assessment, but the problem is easily avoided by the use of snap-caps during dry fire.

Save for the aforementioned Colt firing pin issue, parts failures in revolvers are very rare. Other than things like hammer spurs being broken from impact or cylinders being blown apart by faulty handloads, broken parts are few and far between. The only major exception that occurs to me is the hammer block safety in very recent Smith & Wesson "J" frame revolvers (those with external hammers only - the shrouded hammer Centennial series does not have that part.) This part is relatively thin and S&W decided to make it with the MIM (metal injection molding) process.

I’ve written previously about my opinions of MIM parts (I'm OK with them), but this particular part was a very bad engineering choice. Long, thin objects are not good candidates for MIM production, and S&W engineers should have known that. They break with some frequency and can tie up the gun. Again, the Centennials don't have that part and as a result are preferred for a defensive arm.

That's it for my more-or-less comprehensive look at revolver malfunctions. Maintain your revolver properly, feed it reasonably decent ammunition, and it is quite unlikely to ever fail you!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Revolver malfunctions, Part Three.

There are really only two "malfunctions" that can be attributed to shooter technique, and they're both easily avoided.

The first is a failure to properly reset the trigger. This is especially common with autoloader shooters who pick up a Ruger revolver: used to resetting the trigger until they hear or feel a "click", they do the same on their revolver and...the trigger locks up! The trigger won't compress until it's allowed to travel all the way forward, to its rest position, and then the trigger stroke may be restarted.

This is simply a case of bad habits. The correct way to use a revolver's double action trigger is to let the trigger return completely before commencing another shot. There is no such thing as "riding the sear" or "catching the link" with a revolver; trying to do so will simply cause the gun to not function in the expected manner. It's a user problem, not a revolver problem.

The second user induced malfunction is a case caught under the extractor (star). This is generally attributable to bad reloading technique. The muzzle of the gun really needs to be vertical when the ejection stroke is started, and the ejector should be operated one time only. Violating either of these dramatically raises the chance of a case being jammed under the star and tying up the whole gun.

This isn't to say it's impossible to happen with the right technique, only that making sure the muzzle is vertical and slapping the ejector rod once dramatically lowers the chances of it happening. This is why I teach the reloading method I do: it guarantees that the muzzle is going to be completely vertical when the ejector is pushed, which is the key to avoiding this dreaded jam.

On Wednesday I'll look at the final type of revolver malfunctions: mechanical or design failures.

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Not so far out. And not so real.

Last week's Surprise was about space, so I thought "why not keep the theme going?"

The Space Shuttle, as you probably heard, has been grounded forever. In total, we built six of them: The Enterprise, which was used for atmospheric tests only and never made it to space; the Columbia, which broke up on re-entry in 2003; the Challenger, which blew up shortly after lift-off in 1986; and Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavor, which were all retired and are even now in the process of being moved to museums.

There was one Shuttle, however, which preceded even Enterprise. It's been sitting, nearly forgotten, in an unlighted warehouse in Downey, CA since 1972. There's now a movement underway to restore it and put it on display.

So, why doesn't anyone remember it? After all, it was the model - literally - for all that would follow. If you can think of a word that rhymes with "follow", and put it together with the other clues I’ve worked into this post, you’ll get the rest of the story. Alternatively, you could take the easy way out and just
click on this link and read about it at the Los Angeles Times.

It’s more interesting, at any rate!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Revolver malfunctions, Part Two.

In the first installment we looked at revolver malfunctions caused by ammunition. (I've edited that entry to consider dirty ammunition, which can also cause stoppages. I recommend that you go back and re-read it for that discussion.) It's important to note that ammunition failures are not the fault of the revolver and they're not unique to the revolver (they happen to autoloaders too.) They do, however, account for the majority of revolver failures and thus must be understood and dealt with.

The autoloader shooter who gleefully points at an ammunition-induced stoppage as "proof" that "revolvers break too" is not terribly discerning, for these are common malfunctions which can occur to any gun (including rifles and shotguns.) I used to try to educate such people, but now I just shake my head and go about my business. (Sometimes, in a fit of enlightened self-interest, I suggest that they buy my book. It may not help them, but it sure makes me feel good!)

Today we're going to consider the second most common cause of revolver malfunctions: user maintenance. I've often said that the revolver is quite tolerant of neglect compared to the autoloader, and it is; a revolver that sits in a nightstand for several decades will usually function enough to discharge the rounds in its cylinder, while an autoloader similarly treated usually will not. However, if the user performs maintenance poorly the revolver can suffer premature failures, ones that its fault-tolerant design would otherwise shrug off.

The major maintenance issue is simply making sure the gun stays reasonably clean. Far too many people spend inordinate amounts of time getting the last little speck of dirt out of the barrel - an objective which is both difficult to meet and of no importance. It's better instead to settle for "good enough" in terms of barrel cleanliness, and spend the freed time attending to other parts of the gun. (I should point out that if the barrel is leaded, time should be spent to remove all traces of the lead fouling. That is something which cannot be allowed to remain, as the lead will build up again when fired. If you do not shoot lead bullets, this will not be an issue.)

The cylinder window in the frame should be thoroughly cleaned, as should the underside of the extractor (star) and the recess into which it fits.

The lubricants used on the gun can have a dramatic affect on function when the gun is stored for any length of time. Never, EVER use WD-40 on any gun! The stuff dries to a sticky goo in short order, and can gum up any gun - even a revolver. I've lost count of the number of revolvers I've opened up that had the telltale WD-40 shellac, and there's no reason for it. DON'T USE WD-40 ON YOUR GUNS!

Finally, part of maintenance is checking the gun's physical and mechanical condition. Check all screws and firmly tighten any loose ones. On S&W and Colt revolvers, check that the ejector rod is tight; this is especially important for S&W guns, as even a slight loosening can bind the cylinder very tightly. On a Colt, it's usually more of a nuisance. If a S&W rod is found loose, it's best to drop into the local gunsmith and have him tighten it with the special tool made for the purpose; a pliers will simply mar the ejector rod and may even deform it enough to require replacement. While you're there, make sure he puts some thread locker on it (either LocTite #222 Low-Yield or Vibra-Tite VC-3; I strongly favor the latter.) That's also a good idea for the screws.

A timing problem that results in the gun being unshootable is, I believe, a user maintenance issue because it's both predictable and preventable. The revolver should be checked frequently for proper timing; if you don't know how to do so, there are many resources online that will give you instructions. (I keep promising myself that I'll make a video of the procedure, and someday I will, but in the interim I'll suggest that you let Google show you the way.) I've written many times that Colt revolvers are more sensitive to timing errors, and Colt owners need to be more vigilant and precise about this than owners of other revolvers. If there is a timing issue, get it fixed immediately instead of shooting it!

Next Monday we'll look at malfunctions initiated by the shooter while the gun is in use. There aren't many.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Screaming Good Deal Alert!

This is such a good deal I want everyone to take advantage of it!

Gun Digest is having a warehouse sale, and for a limited time
you can get a copy of Gila Hayes' "Personal Defense for Women" for only $8.00 !!

This is the book I personally recommend for women who are new to or thinking about adopting a self-reliant life style. I've not read a better book on the topic than Gila's, and this is a chance to get it at wholesale pricing. Buy extras to give away to friends and family - it's that good.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Revolver malfunctions, Part One.

I received an email last week, a sort of complaint that I don't write much about revolvers any longer. Well, I wrote an entire book - isn't that enough?? OK, OK, you win - let's talk about revolver malfunctions.

I've mentioned before, in more than one venue, that the revolver typically will have a longer mean time between failure than an autoloader (we're talking unique failures, which automatically discounts those due to ammunition problems - which can affect either platform equally.)

The usual response from the uninitiated is "well, I've seen revolvers fail too!" I've tackled this specific inanity before, but suffice it to say that there is a heapin' helpin' of confirmation bias at work in that type of statement. It's a grade school playground argument.

Still, there are failures that can happen to a revolver and it's important to understand what they are and how they can be prevented.

The possible failures can be classified in roughly decreasing order of frequency: 1) ammunition irregularities, 2) maintenance related problems, 3) user-initiated malfunctions, and 4) actual mechanical or design failures.

The last category, save for one specific case, is frankly quite rare with revolvers. Design and functional failures are more common with autoloaders, which is really my point: revolver malfunctions are avoidable to a greater degree than autoloader malfunctions.

Let's start at the top: ammunition failures usually boil down to high primers and squib loads, and both are almost always the result of handloaded ammunition. That isn't to say that they can't happen with factory ammo, only that I've personally never seen the case where they were. (I'm not going to talk about catastrophic over-pressure failures, those where the gun is destroyed, as they go well beyond “malfunction”!)

High primers can jam the cylinder rotation by taking up the small area between the case head and the breechface, and usually require a good "whack" to get the cylinder open. A high primer on an unfired round can be avoided by checking the ammunition before use (simply open the box and run your finger down the rows; a high primer can be easily felt.)

Those that occur after firing are usually the result of a too-light load. The primer is usually forced backwards out of the primer pocket by the pressure in the case, but normally the recoil of the cartridge against the breechface reseats the primer and allows it to pass. Light loads often will not generate enough recoil to do so.

Squib loads are the bane of revolvers and autos alike, as they can result in severe damage to the gun. A squib is a load with an insufficient (or non-existent) powder charge, which is insufficient to drive the bullet out of the barrel. Squib loads are always a possibility with any ammo, though I've never seen one that wasn't the result of handloading.

A squib which pushes the bullet into the bore but not clear of the muzzle is a danger if a full-power round is fired behind it. The least that will happen is a bulged (ruined) barrel; the worst is a catastrophic cylinder failure. Bullets lodged in the barrel occur most often with jacketed bullets and very light loads; jacketed slugs offer more frictional resistance than do plain lead, and need to be loaded to higher velocities to reliably clear the barrel. Jacketed bullets should never be used with light loads.

When the squib is the result of no powder at all the bullet often ends up stuck in the forcing cone with part of it still in the cylinder. This is actually the preferred squib, as the gun won't fire another round because the cylinder won't turn! This type of squib is easily rectified by tapping the slug back into the cylinder with a cleaning rod, then opening the cylinder and clearing the chamber.

Ammunition which does not burn completely, leaving powder flakes in the barrel and cylinder, can (and often will) cause a stoppage. The unburnt flakes can get under the extractor star, which keeps it from fully retracting. The effect is much like a high primer and is dealt with similarly. Unlike the high primer, this problem will recur immediately unless the extractor is cleaned, and repeatedly until the ammunition problem is sorted out.

If you’re a handloader, you should pay attention to your powder and be vigilant for unburned flakes. Sometimes this is a function of an insufficient crimp, so make sure that the rounds are firmly crimped. Some powders, however, just don’t work well in the low-density loads typically encountered with large revolver cases. The solution is to pick a powder that gives a higher load density or doesn’t mind low densities. This often means a slightly slower-burning powder, thought not always.

For instance, I’ve found that Hodgdon Universal Clays is a superb, clean-burning powder for the 9mm Luger cartridge (or any autoloading cartridge, actually) but will not burn completely in a standard-pressure .38 Special. (Don’t even bother with the .44 Special!) For that reason I switched to Alliant Red Dot for the Specials, which burns far more cleanly in the bigger cases. In fact, I’ve found all of the “Dot” powders to be very clean.

On Wednesday we'll look at user and maintenance failures.

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Far out. For real.

In the fall of 1977 I was starting my junior year in high school (we had actual high schools back then; no junior high nonsense, and we didn't refer to ourselves as being in the "eleventh grade".) I was something of a math and science geek, and along with that came an abiding interest in space travel. NASA was like Mecca.

For anyone who followed the goings-on at Cape Canaveral, it was an exciting time. The launch of the
Voyager space probes - Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 - was imminent. They were destined to do exploration of Saturn and Jupiter and hopefully give us new information about those planets, information which we couldn't get from telescopes on earth.

The launch went perfectly and the Voyagers did their jobs at both planets. We learned many new things from their close fly-bys, but the machines were still operating.
NASA extended both missions, with Voyager 2 being sent to Uranus and Neptune and Voyager 1 being sent on a mission to explore the outer limits of the sun's influence. Voyager 2, if it were to be operating after the passes over Uranus and Neptune, would join that mission.

Today Voyager 1 is the furthest man-made object from earth: 1.8x10^10 kilometers, or 120 astronomical units, or roughly 11,154,696,873 miles. It is now in a part of space that we've never explored, a region known as the heliosheath. This is the narrow area between our solar system (heliosphere) and interstellar space, where solar winds slow and cosmic rays start to penetrate. This was an unimaginable achievement when the Voyagers were launched, and unless Voyager 1 collides with something it is
expected to reach the heliopause - the very boundary between the solar system and open space. When? We don't know, because we don't know how thick the heliosheath is. That's something else the Voyager missions will be able to tell us!

Voyager 1 is expected to continue to function until about 2020, at which point it will be 43 years old and its systems will finally run out of power, many years past its original design life. We may not have been able to make very good automobiles back then, but we sure knew how to make spacecraft!

-=[ Grant ]=-

You'll never look at a shopping bag the same way again.

I'm not creative enough to be a criminal. Whenever I study their behavior, the ways that they invent to bilk or attack the innocent, I'm often impressed with their originality - and occasionally just a tad frightened that I didn't anticipate the tactic.

This is one of those instances. On Greg Ellifritz's blog this week he has
a primer on the ways that criminals can use shopping bags to conceal weapons, and the ways to spot them. It's definitely worth your time to read.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Apparently they're looking at the pictures.

One of the most common compliments I get about my
Gun Digest Book Of The Revolver regards the pictures. People tell me that they appreciate the photography, and I'm happy that they noticed - I went to a lot of effort to make sure that the photos supported the text, that the reader could look at them and get the point easily. Apparently, the goal was met!

My publisher, Gun Digest Books, was so taken with them that they've put up a gallery on their site
featuring 20 of the photos from the book. If you haven't yet gotten your copy (you haven't?!?!?), here's a taste of what you'll see.

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Something for the younger crowd.

My wife and I were having dinner with another couple recently, and I made a casual joke about "chocolate cake for breakfast." My wife got the reference, but the others - somewhat younger than us - just stared. "Bill Cosby?" I said; they just shook their heads.

So, for those folks in the audience who are of an age where they don't recognize the significance of chocolate cake for breakfast, I give you this video from the days when Bill Cosby was actually funny.

Now, if you’re old enough to get chocolate cake for breakfast but don’t understand the significance of “who is this - really?”, I give you one of the classic comedy routines of all time:

-=[ Grant ]=-

OODA Revisited.

There is a strong tendency in the world of shooting to apply concepts and techniques from the military to private sector self defense. I've written about this concept of context mismatch before, and the upshot is that it almost always works poorly. Just because the military uses guns and we carry guns doesn't make the two worlds analogous!

One of those misapplications is the work of Colonel John Boyd, particularly his OODA Loop (also called Boyd's Loop or Boyd's Cycle.) There are a lot of scholarly works on his theories which I'll leave the uninitiated to discover on their own, but the OODA Loop has been applied to everything from fighter dogfights to football teams - along with defensive shooting.

The issue is that it's not a good fit. A defensive response to a criminal attack doesn't allow for the kind of maneuver-to-advantage thinking that the Loop covers. "Getting inside your opponent's Loop" sounds great and tacticool as all get-out, but when an encounter's duration is measured in seconds that's simply not realistic.

Some years back I started an email conversation with Rob Pincus, who at the time I didn't know but whose writing had impressed me. I was then studying the ideas of stimulus-response and their application to defensive shooting, and over the next few years - first by email and then in person - we talked about that. Rob, like I, was convinced that application of the OODA Loop was incorrect in the context of private sector self defense and the criminal ambush attack. As his understanding of the brain's processing of information and how it uses pattern recognition to make non-cognitive decisions grew, he evolved a different way of looking at the subject.

He just wrote a new paper called "Evolution of the OODA Loop", and it's a highly recommended read. (There's a ton of background information from the world of neuroscience that's implicit in his conclusions, and if you're interested in a readable layman's introduction to some of the topics, I suggest the book "Blink' by Malcolm Gladwell.)

-=[ Grant ]=-

The Treeby Chain Gun.

Forgotten Weapons is rapidly becoming my favorite firearm blog, simply because they cover neat stuff - usually, stuff that I've never before encountered. Take the Treeby Chain Gun, for instance. How else would you increase the firepower of a rifle during the era of muzzleloaders?

What struck me about this design (other than how close they got to the centerfire self-contained metallic cartridge) is the resemblance to a belt-fed machine gun. The chain is nothing more than a connected belt of linked muzzleloading cartridges, and they could have easily designed it to use a longer chain length - or even a split chain, giving them in effect a belt fed muzzleloader.

If the Henry was the rifle "they load on Sunday and shoot all week", Imagine the reaction to a 100-shot repeater!

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Found treasure.

I've written previously about my general fascination with the photography of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) and its successor in documentary imagery, the Office of War Information (OWI.) The FSA was really nothing more than a propaganda machine for the Roosevelt administration, and the head of the FSA - Roy Stryker - was diligent in his job. He hired good photographers and artists, gave them cameras and film, and sent them all over the USA to get the shots necessary to help the President sell his various make-work, wealth redistribution, and nanny state schemes.

The plan worked, and the photos they made were carefully archived in Washington. Apparently, though, Stryker was not all that trusting of his employer. He sent a second archive of 41,000 images to the New York Public Library for safekeeping, where they sat until 2005 - when someone decided to actually catalog them.

Now this story wouldn't be at all interesting without a twist. After all, the entire FSA catalog is in the Library of Congress (LOC) and available online. Who cares about the duplicates sitting in the Big Apple? As it happens, they weren't all dupes; there were about a thousand images in the New York collection that weren't in the LOC. They're now seeing the light of day once again.

New York Times Lens Blog has a slideshow of 19 of those missing images, along with the rest of the story.

-=[ Grant ]=-

The bullet jump controversy.

I got an email recently from a reader who asked about .38 Special accuracy when fired in a .357-length chamber. There is, as he noted, a lot of speculation on the topic: some saying they're less accurate, some saying it doesn't matter, and others saying that there is no way we'll ever know for sure.

I'm not at all convinced about that last one, but the first two opinions are both correct - under some circumstances. Some years ago I experimented with this, and what I found comes under the heading of "it depends."

The concern is that the unrestrained jump of the bullet from the shorter Special case causes instability and thus inaccuracy. A Magnum chamber is longer from the rim seat (the area at the back of the cylinder where the rim makes contact) to the chamber throat (the narrow area at the front of the cylinder that guides the projectile into the barrel.) When a Special cartridge is inserted into the longer chamber, the bullet has to travel a distance (called "jump") before it reaches the narrower throat. In this distance, it's thought, the bullet can yaw slightly.

I've done up this little graphic (greatly exaggerated and not to scale) to illustrate the situation:

Notice the area between the bullet and where the chamber mouth begins - that's the freebore area where the bullet's travel is unrestrained and, according to theory, starts to wobble to the detriment of accuracy.

A number of years back I did some experimenting by loading the same bullets in .357 Magnum and .38 Special cases, and adjusting the velocity so they matched. I found that sometimes the Specials did show a loss of accuracy, while at other times they didn't. (I had one case where accuracy with Specials actually improved.) Why the variance? If the bullet jump is responsible for accuracy degradation it should be consistent, and it certainly wasn't.

The answer is that the freebore is only part of the equation.

As I've written before, one of the most important contributors to accuracy in a revolver (and the MOST important when shooting lead bullets) is the chamber throat. Assuming that the bore diameter is correct, a throat which fits the bullet precisely will deliver greater accuracy than one which is oversized (or undersized to a great degree.)

If the throat is larger than the bullet diameter - say, .001" or better - accuracy drops off. If the throat and bullet match, accuracy will generally be at its best. If the throat is slightly (up to .001") smaller than bullet diameter, jacketed bullets will usually show a falloff in accuracy but lead bullets usually won't, at least not to the same degree. (More testing is needed in this area, however, as I don't have enough data points with smaller-than-bullet throats to reach a definite conclusion.)

When the throat diameter was the same as the bullet diameter, there was generally little to no difference in accuracy between the long and short. When the throat diameter was larger, however, the Specials were usually less accurate than the longer cases. Someone doing the same experiment but not taking into account throat/bullet diameter matching would probably reach different conclusions, which I believe is the source of the varying opinions and the reader's confusion.

More experimentation should be done, however, to eliminate other variables such as the angle of the transition between chamber and throat and any surface irregularities in that area.

I also would expect the same dynamics to apply to larger calibers such as the .44 Magnum and Special, though I have no experimental data to prove my supposition.

-=[ Grant ]=-


Evidence in the Trayvon Martin case - and how it affects you.

The Armed Citizen's Legal Defense Network (of which
you should be a member) has published an interesting look at the Martin/Zimmerman case in their June newsletter. The Florida courts, as their law requires, released all of the evidence related to the case a couple of weeks ago. In his article, Marty Hayes looks at a portion of that released evidence and makes some observations which might be useful to those who carry a firearm for self protection. I recommend you read the article.

One of the more intriguing bits was the condition of the area around the entry wound on Martin's body, leading to some speculation about the exact distance from muzzle to contact. This will, as Marty clearly points out, require ballistic testing of the gun and identical ammo to determine at what distance the test matches the evidence.

Since the court will likely not let the remaining ammunition in the gun be shot (that would be destruction of evidence), they'll need to get exemplar rounds (rounds which match exactly the ammunition used) to make those tests.

I point this out because there is still a vocal subset of people who insist that carrying handloaded ammunition for self defense is a perfectly good thing to do. (I do not know if Zimmerman did or did not; that probably won't be known until the testing progresses.) If Zimmerman did the smart thing and carried factory ammunition, all the defense will need to do is contact the manufacturer and get a box or two of the same ammunition, preferably with the same lot number. The results from firing that ammo in his gun should then match the results from the shooting, which will allow the defense to precisely determine the distance from which Martin was shot.

The testing could help validate Zimmerman's claim of self defense. Given his recent tribulations over bail revocation, he may need all the objective help he can get.

If this were a case where the shooter handloaded his ammunition, regardless of how carefully he kept records, the results of the testing would likely not be allowed into evidence. I won't go into detail as there is copious reading material available on this subject, but the bottom line is that the courts generally don't allow the defendant to manufacture evidence for his/her defense. If someone in a similar situation used reloaded ammunition, he'd be at a double loss: not only would the courts not allow the ammo in the gun to be used to support his claim, they wouldn't allow any other self-manufactured ammo to be used either.

It's not about what's "legal", it's about the rules of evidence - and they work differently than you might expect.

The supporters of handloaded ammo constantly repeat the refrain "if it's a clean shoot, then the ammo won't matter." Is the Zimmerman case a "clean" shoot? At this point I don't think anyone would be stupid enough to say that it was. It may turn out that he was completely justified (or not - we won't know until a jury comes back), but the arbiter of a "clean" shoot ultimately isn't you, or me, or the cops, or the DA - it's the jury. A shoot isn't "clean" until a jury says it is, and the ammunition used is going to be one factor in their determination.

It's something of a Catch-22: in a clean shoot the ammo wouldn't matter, but we don't know if it's a clean shoot until the jury has decided it was, and part of their decision making may involve having the ammo tested, which means the ammo DOES matter. See the problem?

This is why I only carry factory ammunition in my guns. I use my considerable reloading skill and experience to craft practice rounds that duplicate my carry ammunition in bullet weight, velocity, recoil, and point of impact, which I use only for practice or training. When I load the gun for defensive use, I put in ammunition made by someone who can supply a certified duplicate of what I've used should I need to shoot someone. Their word about the composition of the ammo will be accepted by the court, where mine wouldn't. This way I can practice cheaply and still have the backing of a reliable third party in case I need it in court.

This is also why I only carry ammunition from a major manufacturer. I don't carry "boutique" ammunition, the kind made by small speciality manufacturers, because a) those companies tend to go in and out of business with disturbing frequency; b) I don't know if they have the resources or motivation to keep samples of every lot produced in case it's needed by a court; c) I don't know if they have a credible witness who can get on the stand and testify to both the composition and chain of custody of the evidence they've provided. I know Winchester, Federal, Remington, and CCI/Speer can and do, and so I load my guns with their products.

(I also never use ammunition made by a company which is not a member of SAAMI, but that's another article for another day!)

-=[ Grant ]=-

Ed Harris Friday: Testing .22 Ammunition

Editor's Note: Here's Ed again, with some data and procedures on testing .22 LR ammunition for best results. I've found that .22 LR is the most finicky of all calibers, both in terms of accuracy and function. I've seen numerous cases where a .22 rifle or pistol will shoot horrendous groups with one brand/type of ammo, and turn into a tack driver with a different brand or type - and cost isn't always a good predictor of success! The same is true for functional reliability; some guns simply won't run with some ammunition. Even guns of the same make and model will have drastically different preferences for ammunition; I've seen identical Ruger 10/22 rifles, for instance, that had different results with different ammunition: what worked in one gun failed in the other, and the same was true for accuracy. Ed has some guidelines for testing your .22 to get the best results for the money you spend!

Inexpensive Doesn't Mean Inaccurate: test samples and buy a bunch to get the best .22s for the buck!

By Ed Harris (Rev. 5-24-94)

If you don't live near a well-stocked gunshop, your only source of .22 LR ammunition may be the local hardware or discount store. Old stock in small stores may have been around a long time, but if the bullets are not oxidized, buy it if the price is right. It's probably OK. Chain stores always have "fresh" ammo, but seldom carry anything but "High Velocity" .22's. Standard velocity is generally more accurate, but is difficult to find except at gunshops catering to competitive shooters.

Most .22s sold are fired in semi-automatic rifles and pistols by casual shooters. Mass marketers gear their pitch to the shooter who is not technically sophisticated, but simply wants the most "bang for the buck". "High Velocity" long rifle "solids" outsell all other rimfires combined.

There is little difference in manufacturers' suggested retail price between "High Velocity" and "Standard Velocity" .22's, but considering availability and discount pricing, "High Velocity" ammo is generally cheaper, unless you order standard velocity in case lots from a major distributor.

The average user has no control over ammunition manufacturing variables, except to test batches and to buy the most promising lots. Therefore you should pay attention to "lot numbers." and shoot an entire box of ammunition "for group" in your own rifle before stockpiling a large quantity.

"Lot numbers" are used on almost every manufactured item you purchase. An ammunition "lot" usually indicates a day's production, and indicates to the manufacturer such things as the year and day of manufacture, the shift during which it was produced, and the loading or packing machine used. Lot numbers are used to identify process control data, and can facilitate a recall if a problem is discovered after the product is shipped.

Most .22 rimfire ammunition is far more accurate than we give it credit. Ammunition manufacturers operate heavily automated production lines which can produce huge quantities. This has kept prices low, so .22 rimfire ammunition is still a bargain.

The manufacture of .22 rimfire ammunition involves dozens of machine operations. These include progressive die stamping of the brass cartridge case, stress relief, annealing, then cleaning and priming; swaging bullets from lead wire; and assembling completed rounds, by metering the powder charge, inserting, crimping, knurling and lubricating the bullets. There are also numerous quality checks of weights and dimensions, and firing of functional and ballistic tests prior to packaging.

Given its inherent complexity, even low-priced "promotional" ammunition must still be subjected to the same basic operations and inspections as "regular" ammunition. Bargain ammunition is so only partly from lower-cost packaging, and long production runs which permit economies of scale. Omitting non-essential operations, such as plating of the bullet, reduce cost only very modestly.

The most important factors affecting accuracy of .22 rimfire ammunition are bullet quality and uniformity of the cartridge case. The bullet must be round, as close to permissible maximum diameter as possible, have its base square to its axis, and not be damaged in handling or in the loading machines, particularly the crimper. The web thickness of the brass through the rim section affects the distribution of primer mix, controls primer sensitivity, reliability of ignition, and uniformity of the dimensions governing headspace, all crucial to accuracy.

Bullet weight and powder charge variation, within normal manufacturing tolerances, is of only minor significance, if the above factors are controlled. Standard velocity and sub-sonic ammunition have somewhat less wind deflection, but in terms of pure accuracy, whether the ammunition is "Standard Velocity" or "High Velocity" doesn't matter, if "all other factors are equal".

Industry standards require .22 Long Rifle ammunition average 3" or less extreme spread at 100 yards for 10-shot groups. US ammo producers easily maintain 2" as a product average. The best lots will average 1-1/2" or better at 100 yards from the test barrel, and these are the ones you are seeking! Some US producers test rimfire ammunition at 50 yards rather than 100, but indoor rimfire test groups are usually proportional to the range.

"Average" Standard or High Velocity .22 LR ammunition should average an inch for a series of 10-shot groups at 50 yards. The best .22 ammunition should do 3/4" or better from a SAAMI dimensioned "Match" chamber, in a target rifle with telescopic sight, fired by a skilled shooter from bench-rest, or by a Master competitor prone with a sling.

"Sporting" rather than "Match" chambers (in which the bearing surface of the bullet is engraved as the cartridge is chambered) usually produce groups up to about 1.3 times larger than the test barrel, though some individual rifles will give surprising results. US production .22 Long Rifle ammunition will usually average an inch or better for a series of 10-shot groups at 50 yards from an accurate sporter. Specialty ammunition such as CCI Green Tag will often do better, frequently under 3/4" at 50 yards, from heavy target rifles, or high grade sporters with "match" chambers.

When testing, shoot a full box in five consecutive 10-shot groups, without excluding any data. It is common for even poor ammunition to shoot occasional "good" groups, as normal random variation. Results which appear meaningful to casual observation very often are not. You cannot arbitrarily discount individual bad shots or groups, because these are part of the random dispersion and you must look at the entire body of data as a representative sample.

Age is not critical if the bullets haven't oxidized or the lubricant dried out. I have used 20 year old .22 rimfire match ammo that still produced 1/2" ten-shot groups at 50 yards. The limiting factor is evaporation of the volatiles from "grease" bullet lubricants, and oxidation of the lead bullet itself. Minor oxidation may affect accuracy for serious competition, but it is insignificant for other uses if it doesn't cause leading.

High grade match ammunition with oxidized bullets can be salvaged if carefully re-lubed with EP lithium grease, and the excess wiped off with a patch.

In my experience a freshly-chambered rimfire match barrel doesn't "settle down" into its best grouping for several hundred rounds. Consistency of firing technique is VERY important. Firing several hundred groups from the bench with a .22 rimfire will teach you a great deal about "bag" technique, more cheaply than burning out a Hart barrel on your heavy varmint IBS bench gun!

Some inexpensive ammunition may shoot very well indeed, but high price is no guarantee of accuracy. So, it pays to test lots of any ammunition before purchasing in quantity, to find the most accurate ones!

Book reports.

I got two very nice compliments on my book (the
Gun Digest Book Of The Revolver, in case you're just tuning in) this week.

The first was from a lady who chose a revolver for her own personal defense needs, and was pleasantly surprised to find that my book helped her learn how to handle her gun when her auto-shooting CHL instructors fell short. She said some very kind things in her email, and I'm glad that the book was available to help her in her quest for self-reliance. Knowing that I've been able to help someone from afar is a great motivator!

The second came in
a book review from Greg Ellifritz, over at his Active Response Training blog. Greg's been writing for a while now - though his entry into the blogosphere is relatively recent - and is one of the few people who isn't afraid to buck conventional wisdom. His "Alternate Look At Handgun Stopping Power" made waves when he released it last year, as it dared to attempt to quantify something that a lot of us have suspected all along: there isn't a whole lot of difference in effectiveness between the major handgun calibers. His conclusion? There isn't, and he's got the evidence to prove it.

In short, he's my kind of guy. His review was quite complimentary, and I'm gratified that someone of his experience and standing in the industry appreciated what I had to say.

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Color as the means to an end.

The photography of Ernst Haas has always been enigmatic to me. Unlike the work of many other photographers, his images don't draw me in; I don’t feel a desire to look at them.

A Joel Meyerowitz image, for instance, almost begs me to stop and take it in. A Haas image, in contrast, seems aloof and uninviting - yet at the same time oddly compelling. I don't want to look at his work, but something tells me to do so anyway. It attracts me on an intellectual level, rather than an emotional one.

Haas is known for his pioneering work in color photography (though he did publish a book of black-and-white images made early in his career.) He uses color as a primary element in his compositions, but not like others do; in the Haas world, color exists as an element unto itself. It can be argued that Pete Turner does the same thing, but his photos use color to redefine objects; Haas doesn't care what the object is, because it's the existence of the color itself which is important to him.

FStoppers has an interesting display of his work, centering on New York in the 1960s. Enjoy your holiday weekend!

-=[ Grant ]=-

History really is written by the winners.

The history of firearm design is fascinating, but even more interesting to me are the beliefs and assumptions that we make about the designs we see. Why do some designs persist, while other - sometimes quite promising - ideas never see the light of day?

It's often held that certain gun designs succeed in the marketplace (the military and police being a skewed adaptation of a market) because they're the "best". It's true that in some form any given design must win over others to succeed, but "winning" needs to be understood in context for it to have any meaning at all. Too many people assume that the winner is the best performer, and that's not always (if it ever really is) the case.

"Winning" means not just physical performance: the gun shoots well, is reliable and durable. It also needs to be economical to manufacture, easy to repair, use a minimum amount of resources, and not intrude upon political or social contracts. Sometimes it’s those political concerns which trump all.

Take, for instance, the case of the M14 rifle. The testing and adoption of the M14 was convoluted at best, with charges of test-fixing, tampering of the data, not a small amount of military pressure on our allies in NATO, and a strong dose of nationalism. Many people today hold that the FN Herstal design - essentially a FAL in American clothing - was the actual winner of the physical tests, but political pressure by Springfield Armory (which had been the origin of nearly all of our military's rifles up to that point) won over the more meritorious design. Regardless what one believes about the two designs, it's clear to all but the most myopic that there was more than just the rifle's shooting qualities that went into the decision to adopt the M14. The same could be said the of that gun's successor.

A military or police trial is not necessarily a good indicator of merit, even if it is run fairly and squarely. The easiest way to explain this is the old joke about the two guys being attacked by the bear; one says "gee, I'm glad I wore my running shoes!" The other guy says "are you crazy - you can' outrun a bear!" The first guy looks at him and says "I don't need to outrun him, I just have to outrun you." The winning design in a trial only needs to perform better than the others in the design pool to win; if all the designs are crap, it's simply the least crappy which gets the crown.

The entity which runs the trial can establish a performance floor through firm goals and requirements, but that's still not definitive. In the case where an entry meets spec just enough to win, it's helpful to remember the adage: "what do you call the guy who finished dead last in medical school? 'Doctor'!" Just because something completes a trial successfully doesn't mean there isn't something better out there that didn't even get entered - or wasn't allowed to because it didn't come from the right place.

-=[ Grant ]=-

It's deja vu all over again.

Long-time readers may remember that I'm a big fan of the
Shorpy Historical Photo Archive site. In fact, it's one of the few that's in my "favorite" RSS feed tabs in Safari. I never get tired of seeing what they've come up with!

Last Friday they showed a picture taken in 1909 of a gentleman (I assume it was a man) dressed up in protective clothing and holding a pistol. Labeled "
dueling with wax bullets", it strongly resembles what today we refer to as "force-on-force" training. Everything, it seems, has been done before!

Photo courtesy of Shorpy

Check out the Shorpy site for a very LARGE version of the picture.

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Does Mammoth Falls ring any bells?

When I was just a young lad one of my favorite books was
"The Mad Scientists' Club." It was the collected stories of a group of kids in the fictional town of Mammoth Falls (out near Strawberry Lake) who were, as the title suggests, very much "into" science and technology as a hobby. The characters were inspiring to me, as I too was a techno-geek. (I had a chemistry lab perched in the rafters of our farm's shop, and my bedroom was full of electronic bits and pieces that I'd repurposed into a hi-fi system.)

These were kids to which I could relate, which was encouraging - because almost no one in the logging/farming town in which I grew up was anything like me. In retrospect, that was probably a good thing for rest of the citizenry - who knows what destruction a small tribe of Grant clones could have wrought?

I checked that book out of the school's library so often that my name was the only one on the checkout card. (We didn't have library cards in school - we signed our name to a checkout card which sat in a small envelope attached to the inside back cover. When the card filled up, a blank one was stapled to it for more capacity. I think there were three stapled cards in this book, with my name filling two of them.)

It's been a long time since I thought about that book, but
Alibris - the source for used and out of print books of all descriptions - has many copies. Turns out the book was reprinted a few years back, though I suspect that most of the buyers were of my generation, attempting to recapture some of their mis-spent youth.

I think I'll do the same thing.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Moore’s Patent Revolver.

Not sure how I found this civil war blog (Uncle? Tam? Someone else?), but it has a
great article on Moore’s Patent Revolver - the first revolver with a swing-out cylinder (though not quite of the kind we're used to.)

It's also interesting in that it was one of the many guns which violated Rollin White's bored-through cylinder patent. History buffs may recall that White was a Colt employee who first presented his idea to allow a revolver cylinder to chamber metallic cartridges to his boss, Colonel Colt. Colt rejected it out of hand. White knew he was onto something, and left Colt to market his patent.

Messieurs Smith and Wesson, enterprising and astute gentlemen that they were, knew a good thing when they saw it and licensed White's patent. This agreement was really the foundation of their new handgun company, and they used it to produce their first revolver - the Model 1. That patent made Smith and Wesson rich, allowed them to grow like crazy relative to Colt, and should have made White rich too. It would have, if he'd bothered to consider the fine print.

You see, the licensing agreement required White to pursue all litigation against infringers himself. Moore, like many others, used White's patent without license - and White was obligated to go after his revolver and his company. White would sue, win, and then Smith & Wesson would somehow end up acquiring the infringing guns - which they would sell themselves. (I've never read the licensing agreement, so I can't be sure exactly how that transpired, but Moore's case isn't the only example.)

Ironically, Moore's company survived and was purchased by White's old employer, Colt, in 1870. More ironically, while Moore survived White's fortune didn't; his defense of his patent cost him nearly everything he made in royalties.

I'm thinking of a writing a firearms industry soap opera: "As The Cylinder Turns."

-=[ Grant ]=-

Monday Meanderings: hi-cap revolvers, Rhode’s life, and I’m no anglophile.

- Not sure where I got this, but it's pretty interesting:
a three-barrel revolver. What will people think of next?!? (<--that’s humor, people.)

- Seems that Kim Rhode, ace Olympic shotgunner and ambassador for the shooting sports,
has a blog. Hope she finds time to post more often. (Who knew she was a fan of bacon-wrapped meatloaf?)

- Speaking of Kim: I'm still a little miffed that they removed her original event - women's double trap - from the Olympics, but left the men's division. Why? No one knows for sure, but likely because some of them uppity females were beatin' the menfolk. There are lots of countries represented on the Olympic Committee, not all of them known for their enlightened attitudes regarding a woman’s place in society.

An article in The Economist (a magazine which often displays a raw anti-American bias, yet is revered by Americans who somehow consider themselves unbiased for having read it) talks about gun ownership in the U.S. It states that while gun sales are way up, the number of households owning guns has declined steadily since 1973 - the implication that guns are being purchased only by those evil "gun nuts." Their position doesn't square with my observations, and I've yet to find any corroboration for it. Can anyone comment authoritatively on their claim?

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Technology ain't what it used to be.

One of my little obsessions is simplistic technology. This usually means older technology, that which is less complicated and (ironically) many times better for us and our environment.

It was with tremendous joy, then, that I stumbled upon a great website devoted to Luddites like me:
Low Tech Magazine. There you'll find articles on simple technology, obsolete technology, and even technology myths. It will probably vie for a large portion of my recreational time; well, when I get any it certainly will.

(Yes, I realize the contradictions inherent in extolling the virtues of old technology on a computer network. I consider such juxtapositions an art form.)

-=[ Grant ]=-

Some thoughts on round counts and reliability.

What follows came up in a discussion about the reliability of 1911 pistols, but is actually universally applicable: to Glocks, SIGs, HKs, rifles, shotguns - and, yes, revolvers.

The context of the discussion was the validity of looking at failures during a training class as indicative of larger problems. It usually takes a form similar to "I'm not going to fire 1,000 rounds in self defense, so a gun problem in a class proves nothing; my gun is reliable enough for the 10 rounds it's going to take."

The statement is valid - no one is going to fire 500 or 1,000 rounds in self defense - but the conclusion isn't.

A gun which is carried for self defense continuously deteriorates in terms of its operational condition. Lubricants ooze out and evaporate, while lint and dirt work their way into and onto the operating surfaces. A gun which has been carried without stripping, cleaning and re-oiling for a few weeks may in fact be at the same level of cleanliness, and the oil and grease at the same level of lubricity, as a gun which has just fired 500 or more rounds. (Yeah, yeah, I know - you clean your gun every night and twice on Sundays. You get a gold star that says "I'm the extreme exception!")

Now you might say that a failure at 600 or 700 rounds is immaterial because you never will shoot it that much in real life, but consider this: the gun that's been riding around in its holster for a while may in fact be a lot closer in terms of operational condition to that 600 round mark than you might believe. Since malfunctions are, at some level, random, that gun may be at the brink of malfunction with the first round - or second or third - that's fired in defense of its owner. The shorter the interval between malfunctions, the more concerning this becomes. Different story now, isn't it?

This is why it's important to test your self defense gun thoroughly, and yes - that means a days where you shoot 500 or more rounds through it without cleaning, oiling, or otherwise pampering the thing. It's not to prove that the gun will shoot that many rounds without malfunction; it's a way of helping you determine whether the gun will function in the non-pristine condition in which it probably always exists. The goal should be zero malfunctions, because that's what's necessary when our lives are on the line.

Regardless of the make or model.

-=[ Grant ]=-

An opportunity for a discussion.

Over the weekend Rob Pincus - never one to shy away from a firestorm (I was going to say another kind of storm, but this is a family-friendly blog) - posted a video on YouTube. In it, he details the failure of yet another compact 1911-pattern pistol and expresses his disdain for the breed in general.

The online response was immediate and predictable. Many people agreed with Rob, but a very vocal portion of the shooting public disagreed vehemently. I don't have a problem with the disagreement, mind you (Rob and I discovered some time ago that we share the same feelings about the 1911 pistol, which is probably why we get along), but I do have a problem with the nonsensical responses given by those who disagree. Here are a couple of the most annoying, and they apply not just to the present discussion but all discussions about guns, cars, or darned near anything else on the planet.

More to the point, they apply to the kinds of responses I receive when I talk about the virtues of the revolver versus an autoloader as a defensive tool; I've heard these same arguments to my opinions, gotten them in emails, and seen them plastered over the 'net. That's probably why they're annoying.

"My is perfectly reliable, so your opinion is baseless/stupid/meaningless." Aside from the issues with making claims about an entire population based on a single data point, there are a couple of problems with this statement. First, the two sides may not agree on the definition of "reliable". I've proposed one such definition, but not everyone agrees.

I had a fellow once who told me his particular AR-15, a brand for which I don't care, was "completely reliable". I picked it up, inserted a magazine of fresh factory 55gn ball ammunition, and it failed to feed the fourth round. "Oh, it doesn't run with Federal ammo. That stuff is crap, and everyone knows it." Really? Seriously? If an AR-15 can't feed SAAMI-spec ball ammo (XM193 in this case), it's not reliable - period. The owner disagreed, his definition of "reliable" obviously divergent from my own.

The more interesting facet of this argument is that partisans frequently have selective memories. This is closely related to the phenomenon of confirmation bias: a person simply forgets those data points which disagree with his/her position. I've watched, more than once, a shooter clear a malfunction and promptly forget that he had one. When later he claims that his gun is perfectly reliable, and then is reminded of the incident(s), he can't/won't acknowledge that they ever happened. I don't watch much television, but one of my favorite lines from a TV show comes from "House": "everyone lies." Perhaps not intentionally, but they do.

I was in a class some years ago with a guy who had a malfunctioning Para-Ordnance. (This is not a shock to me, as I've never seen a reliable Para. Please, don't write and tell me about how Todd Jarrett's Paras are so reliable that he made a YouTube vid; he's a sponsored shooter, and both he and his handlers have a vested interest in making sure those "demos" go without a hitch.) A couple of weeks later he was on a forum talking about the class, and mentioned that his Para ran without a hitch. Funny, what I remember was picking up the live rounds that he was ejecting every few minutes!

Remember that there is a difference between extrapolation (from one to many) and representation (one of the many.) Picking a single example to illustrate a broader concept that has statistical validity, as this video does, is not the same as using a single example as the basis for a self-referential supposition. The former has data behind it; the latter has no data other than itself.

"All guns can fail." This is a particular favorite of mine, because it combines a lack of understanding of both engineering and statistics with a dollop of third-grade playground bravado. This statement attempts to get people to focus not on evidence, but on speculation; sadly, it works - as any political candidate can attest. If all devices can fail, then logically it doesn't matter which one you own, correct? If all cars break, why bother to look at repair statistics? Of course it matters, except when the partisans and fanboys get to talking - then the logic just flies out the window.

Yes, all mechanical devices can potentially fail. That's not the point. The point is that some devices fail more than others, and we can chart and often predict those failures based on past experience.

(I hear a variation of this when I talk about revolvers: "I've seen revolvers break too!" So have I - probably an order of magnitude more often than the person writing/talking. The difference is that for every mechanical failure I've seen on a revolver, I've seen hundreds on autoloaders. There is a difference which cannot be wished away.)

might break is a very different thing that what actually does. When we look at failures, patterns emerge that help us make both buying and engineering decisions. Smith & Wesson, for instance, looked at failures of their Model 29 .44 Magnum and made running engineering changes that dramatically improved the longevity and reliability of that gun. They couldn't have done so had they not looked at the pattern of failures that field experience had provided.

Availing ourselves of field data, from people who have seen more of it than us, is one way we can make good decisions. Striking out at the messenger because the message disagrees with some silly loyalty one has developed makes no sense at all.

(Oh, BTW - I do have some experience with short-barreled 1911s in the form of two Detonics CombatMasters, which some day I'll sell to one of those rabid 1911 fanboys. And laugh all the way to the bank.)

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Country pride.

My morning routine is pretty consistent; I get up between 5:30 and 5:45, start a fire in the woodstove, grab a cup of tea, and sit down with Tyler The Overindulged Rabbit to watch a program on PBS called "America's Heartland", which comes on at 6:am.

The show celebrates the people in this country who do the hard work to provide us with food, clothes, lumber and all manner of other products. A simple fact of life on earth is that everything we have, everything you see around you, was either grown or mined. This show celebrates the growers (and sometimes the miners - they had a segment on salt mining not too long ago.)

I'm proud of having grown up with loggers, farmers and ranchers, and it's time they got some good press. America's Heartland exists to do just that, and you don't need to tune into PBS to watch it -
their website has every one of their episodes, spanning seven years, streamed. You can even search for segments that were filmed in any particular state.

After today's segment on peach growers I'm a little hungry. Thanks to the farmers, I'm going to have breakfast!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Maybe we don't have it so bad after all.

If Monday's post got you a little envious, today's should fix you right up.

I got an email the other day from a reader in Thailand (of all places!) He had read my book and was looking for some recommendations with regard to a home defense gun. He also shared with me the gun situation in his country.

In Thailand, you must have permission from the authorities to purchase a gun. You have to submit to a fingerprint check and give them bank statements, plus have letters of recommendation from your employer. The waiting period starts at three months, and that's if you're asking to buy a common caliber (.22, .38, or 9mm.) If you want any other caliber, particularly if it's larger than 9mm, the wait time goes up.

Guns and ammunition are, according to the email, incredibly expensive. A plain ol' Ruger SP101 is the equivalent of $2,700! Once you've bought the gun (and it's very likely you'll only be able to buy one in your entire lifetime), you have to feed the thing - and if you want quality (U.S. made) ammunition, it'll run you $3 per round. For the plain stuff.

So, stop whining about how ammo in this country is getting expensive and how much guns cost these days. Our friends in Thailand have it much worse off, and yet they persevere to give themselves the most efficient self protection tools they can.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Even I'd buy one at that price.

I had something else planned for today, but it wasn't nearly as cool as this!

Over at Forgotten Weapons is a story about
visiting a gun show in Belgium. Now I know we all have a vision of Europe as being devoid of gun ownership (or at least so restricted as to make it impossible to own anything cool), but it would do us well to remember that Europe is the land of the cheap and readily available suppressor.

Compare that to the file-your-paperwork-and-$200-and-wait-six-months ordeal that owning a simple muffler entails here in The Land Of The Free.

That's not the only thing about which (some) Europeans are more enlightened. Take a look at the mounds of full-auto military hardware for sale at the aforementioned Belgian show - then look at the prices. Yes, $1250 for a Dror machine gun. I don't follow the Class II world at all, but even I know that in comparison to the U.S. that is a screaming, unbelievable, unfathomable deal. And there are lots more where those came from!

Of course there is the other side of the coin, and on Wednesday I hope to be able to present it to you. In the meantime, though, may you dream pleasant dreams of cheap Thompsons.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Ed Harris Friday: Blackpowder Revolvers

(Editor's Note: I'll admit to knowing nothing about blackpowder arms, so this article from Ed was quite enlightening! If you've thought about getting a cap-and-ball revolver but weren't sure about how to use it, Ed's article will tell you everything you need to know!)

Handling Cap & Ball Revolvers
By C.E. "Ed" Harris

Learning to shoot a cap & ball revolver requires common sense and attention to detail, but these guns are effective and satisfying. Safety, reliability and accuracy of a black powder revolver all depend on care exercised in loading. Doing this correctly requires 2 or 3 minutes. It cannot be done hurriedly. Think of your cap & ball revolver as being little different from a modern one, except that it has its own reloading press attached. If you give it the combined attention you do in shooting, plus reloading ammunition, AND at the same time, you will be OK.

Dry each chamber thoroughly prior to loading and ensure the nipples are clear of oil or debris. This is done by "snapping caps" on each nipple, and observing the disturbance of a leaf, paper or other light material near the muzzle. In a hunting situation when you don't want to risk scaring game, dry the chambers thoroughly with patches. Use a straight copper wire to clear each channel. Hold the cylinder up to the light and ensure you can see daylight through each flash channel, then degrease the chambers with a light volatile solvent such as Outer's Crud Cutter or Birchwood Casey Gun Scrubber and dry with patches. When this is done, the revolver will be sure-fire.

If despite your best efforts, a chamber has misfired, clear the flash channel with a wire, re-cap it and try again. If this doesn't work, the safest way to clear a misfire in a cap & ball revolver is to carefully pry caps from all nipples with a small screwdriver, while wearing safety glasses and pointing the muzzle in a safe direction. Then remove the cylinder. Unscrew the offending nipple and carefully pick out the powder with a copper wire or other nonferrous object until you can freely insert a 5/32" diameter straight punch into the chamber until it solidly contacts the base of the ball or bullet. Then carefully tap out the ball from behind.

Round balls are still the best choice for general use in either light or heavy loads. They are extremely easy to cast, accurate, and effective for small game. A round ball attains 900-1000 f.p.s. in a full load and is a better killer and more accurate than the slower conicals. I don't use the conical bullets in cap & ball revolvers, because they offer no advantage in game killing power or accuracy. The 200 and 250-gr. Lee R.E.A.L., H&G #130BB or Saeco 131, cast soft, are better options for heavier bullets in the .44 and .45 revolvers. The Lee R.E.A.L. is also available in the .36 caliber, and can be used in cap & ball revolvers of that bore size with the same charges used for round balls.

I recommend a starting load of 20 grs. of FFFg or the same volume of Pyrodex P in the .44 cap & ball revolvers and 16 grs. on the .36 cals. Then work up the load as needed to get best accuracy. Best target accuracy is usually obtained with 18-20 grs. in the .36 cal., and 20-25 grs. in the .44. Full service charges are 24grs. in the .36, 28 grs. in the brass frame .44s, and 35 grs. in the steel frames.

A wadcutter bullet like the R.E.A.L. is sized and pre- lubricated like a conventional bullet, eliminating the need to apply grease over the ball. I lubricate REAL bullets for my Old Army in a .454" sizer, and use a .450-.451" for the replicas. You can either use your favorite black powder lube, or do simply tumble the bullets in Lee Liquid Alox.

Firm compression of the charge is necessary for best accuracy. With charges less than 20 grains bulk measure in the .44 replicas or 25 grains in the Ruger Old Army, the stroke of the loading lever is inadequate to compress the charge unless a wad or filler is used. I thumb an Ox Yoke wad over the powder as I load each chamber. This also avoids the risk of an inadvertent double-charge or seating a ball with no powder under it. The wad also avoids spilling powder from adjacent chambers when seating the ball or bullet, keeps the bore cleaner and improves accuracy too.

If you cannot feel the charge compress slightly before the end of the rammer stroke, you may need to also pour a bit of Farina, Cream of Wheat or corn meal to take up the empty space in the chambers. I dispense mine from a catsup bottle. Cream of Wheat or Farina do not cake in wet weather, but do not compress, so the amount needed must be carefully determined, to leave enough room for seating the ball. Corn meal compresses and is more forgiving if you use a bit too much.

Hodgdon Pyrodex is more difficult to ignite than black powder, so it is doubly essential that the charge be fully compressed to eliminate all airspace, otherwise hangfires or misfires may occur. "Hot" caps such as CCI give the best results with Pyrodex. With black powder, failure to compress the charge results in lower velocities, greater velocity variation and vertical stringing.

Seating a wad over the powder, combined with a tight fitting ball or bullet positively prevents "flashovers", but applying lubricant over round balls is essential to keep the cylinder from binding due to fouling. It also aids accuracy, reduces leading and makes the gun easier to clean afterwards. I use either Lee Case Lube or Hodgdon SpitBall, with no particular preference to either, both work well.

Its OK to load and cap all six chambers when target shooting at a range, when the revolver will be fired immediately. In the field never load more than FIVE chambers. Always carry the hammer down on the EMPTY one for safety! The substantial hammer notches between the chambers of the Ruger Old Army are much better than the puny "pins" on original Colts, but Sturm, Ruger cautions to load 5 only, and I agree with their advice.

Black powder folklore says pure lead is a must for bullets. It is best, if you can get it, but certainly not essential. I routinely use backstop scrap from .38 wadcutter and .22 rimfire bullets, 8 BHN, containing 1.5% antimony and 0.3% tin. I expect a good load to group 2" at 25 yards. My best ones do better.

With black powder, a consistent bore condition is critical for accuracy. Serious black powder competitors dry brush the bore and chambers when they reload. An effective lube such as Hodgdon Spit-Ball combined with Ox-Yoke Wonder Wads also helps you shoot longer before needing to clean. Using Hodgdon Pyrodex rather than black also helps. I have found that when using Pyrodex I can fire 60 continuous shots or more without brushing and the last group is as good as the first.

The top black powder competitors buy as much of one lot of powder as they can safely (and legally) store and work up their most accurate loads with it. Once they find an accurate load, they measure velocities, but only to provide a working baseline. They emphasize that it does no good whatever to measure velocities while working up a load unless groups are concurrently shot on paper, because uniform velocity does not guarantee accuracy. Velocity measurement is most valuable after an accurate load has been found, because it defines a measurable parameter and gives at least some chance of being able to approximate the same good results.

Pyrodex is more consistent from batch to batch than black powder, and I prefer it for target loads because it seems more consistently accurate and produces less fouling. It is also more readily available in some areas than black powder because it can be shipped and stored under the same regulations which apply to smokeless propellant. Pyrodex is NOT noncorrosive, and requires the same attention to cleaning that black powder does. The cleaning methods and materials which work with black powder are also effective with Pyrodex, and vice-versa.

Cleaning a black powder gun isn't the drudgery you have heard about. There are plenty of easy-to-use black powder cleaners for those who shun water. If you don't want to mix your own "Ed's Red" and want a store bought product, you can get fine results cleaning black powder guns with any of the various "waterless hand cleaners" sold in hardware and auto parts stores. These have an appearance and consistency like mayonnaise and are an emulsion of petroleum distillates, water, soap and lanolin, occasionally with surfactants or anti-oxidants added.

Never use brands which contain pumice or other abrasives! Brands such as "Go-Jo" or "Goop" sell for about $2 per 14-oz. can, and work extremely well.

To clean the revolver, remove the cylinder and unscrew the nipples. This enables the wire core of a bore brush to clear the nipple threads so the bristles will reach clear to the bottom of the chambers. Scrub the chambers well with hand cleaner on the brush. Then pack each chamber with paper towel, patches or tissue and use a 2" long, 5/32" punch to push the packing out. This leaves the chambers bright, clean, and lightly lubricated to prevent rust.

Scrub the bore with a bore brush and hand cleaner and wipe dry with patches. Use a toothbrush similarly to scrub the frame crevices and nipple seats. Wipe the exterior dry with a rag, lightly oil the cylinder pin, gas ring and ratchet, place a drop or two in the hammer pivot and reassemble. This cleaning method is effective with both black powder and Pyrodex and is quick and easy.

Use the waterless hand cleaner while at the range to clean your hands after a shooting session. It also makes a good expedient lubricant over round balls.

So, who says cap & ball revolvers are too much trouble? If you try it my way, you'll be convinced that they do most sporting jobs as well as a modern cartridge gun!

McMillan followup.

chronicled here on Monday, the McMillan companies were told by a VP of Bank of America that their business was no longer desired by the bank - specifically because they manufactured firearms. Several things have happened since then:

- The story went national on the Cam Edwards and Glenn Beck shows, as well as all over the internet. Everyone, it seems, is talking about this. McMillan has garnered a lot of support, much of it newfound. (I’ve never watched Glenn Beck, but he makes some very good points - particularly about the bank’s possible political motivations. Aside from his obvious partisan stance, some of the things he says about BofA makes one wonder.)

- BofA has posted a spin-doctored and unattributed statement on their Facebook page which suggests Kelly McMillan lied about the whole thing, that they really do support gun owners, and that they support our troops and hire veterans (not sure what that has to do with anything.) The feedback on their statement has been voluminous and critical, as McMillan is a company known for ethical and honest behavior, while BofA is - well, not so much.

- McMillan reports that they've had a number of banks call on them to get their business, and will be making a decision soon. Seems that there are banks which would love to do business with an upstanding manufacturer like McMillan, and they may in fact have a new problem: too many good banks to choose from!

It’s worth noting that this whole thing started on Facebook and is being played out there, which in my mind solidifies the value of social media as both a source of breaking information and a vehicle for grassroots action. I think that’s fascinating.

Oh, and don’t bank or do business with BofA.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Bank of America: just say "no".

In case you've missed the flap, last week Kelly McMillan (of the companies which bear the family name) posted to Facebook that he'd been visited by a senior VP of Bank of America, the company that's handled his company's banking needs for more than a decade. Seems that they no longer want his business because he makes evil guns. In Kelly's words (which I copied from his FB page, but I don't think he'll care):

McMillan Fiberglass Stocks, McMillan Firearms Manufacturing, McMillan Group International have been collectively banking with Bank of America for 12 years. Today Mr. Ray Fox, Senior Vice President, Market Manager, Business Banking, Global Commercial Banking came to my office. He scheduled the meeting as an “account analysis” meeting in order to evaluate the two lines of credit we have with them. He spent 5 minutes talking about how McMillan has changed in the last 5 years and have become more of a firearms manufacturer than a supplier of accessories.

At this point I interrupted him and asked “Can I possible save you some time so that you don’t waste your breath? What you are going to tell me is that because we are in the firearms manufacturing business you no longer want my business.”

“That is correct” he says.

I replied “That is okay, we will move our accounts as soon as possible. We can find a 2nd Amendment friendly bank that will be glad to have our business. You won’t mind if I tell the NRA, SCI and everyone one I know that BofA is not firearms industry friendly?”

“You have to do what you must” he said.

“So you are telling me this is a politically motivated decision, is that right?”

Mr Fox confirmed that it was. At which point I told him that the meeting was over and there was nothing let for him to say.

I think it is import for all Americans who believe in and support our 2nd amendment right to keep and bear arms should know when a business does not support these rights. What you do with that knowledge is up to you. When I don’t agree with a business’ political position I can not in good conscience support them. We will soon no longer be accepting Bank of America credit cards as payment for our products.

Kelly D McMillan
Director of Operations
McMillan Group International, LLC

If you have accounts with BofA, may I suggest that you close them?

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: And we thought we were SO hot back then.

It's fun to go back in time and revisit our earlier lives. I can remember leisure suits (though thankfully I was only a teenager when they were popular), when gas prices hit $1 for the first time ("a dollar for a gallon of gas? What's this world coming to?"), the first "brick" cel phones (only the truly important, really rich, or incredibly vain carried them), and looking at computer magazines drooling over 5mb hard disk drives. ("Five megabytes, all in one place!? What a wondrous time to be alive!")

I remember when the first PCs came out with a hard drive as a very expensive option. The Shugart ST-506 drive was 5mb capacity and cost something like $1500; it was soon replaced by the ST-412 10mb drive which was considerably less expensive and thus far more popular.

When MS-DOS v3.0 came out it supported a FAT16 file system architecture, which allowed drive sizes up to 32mb. There was a sudden jump to the larger capacity, and there were several 30mb or 32mb drives to choose from.

Up to then drives for microcomputers were all of the 5.25" size. When 3.5" disks debuted we thought that it was a miracle of miniaturization! Little did we suspect that things would get much smaller and of much higher capacity very quickly. What a wondrous time to be alive!

That was nothing, though. For some time I had a DEC PDP-11/70 in my garage, complete with a
DEC RM02 Hard Disk Unit. That hard drive was the size of a dishwasher, weighed over 400lbs, used a removable five-platter disk pack measuring 14" in diameter, and held - get ready for it - a grand total of 67mb of data!

Today I have a couple of 1tb drives in a RAID the size of a box of graham crackers. What a wondrous time to be alive!

Ten years from now I'll probably be laughing at that statement.

This was all brought to mind by a
neat article on the downsizing of computer storage at the Colganology blog. (For those of you who aren't familiar with Colganology, it's...different.) Lots of great pictures, too, though I notice he doesn't have any of the RM02....pity.

-=[ Grant ]=-

I've updated my class schedule!

There are now
two new classes on the schedule, and both of them right here in Oregon!

I'll be teaching my Dynamic Revolver Fundamentals class on July 1st, and Combat Focus Shooting on September 9th. Both classes will be held in the picturesque town of Canby, Oregon, which is in the beautiful Willamette Valley - a short drive from Portland International Airport, for those of you from out-of-state! To enroll in either of these classes, drop me an email.

Of course don't forget my classes in College Station, Texas in May. I'll be teaching both Dynamic Revolver Fundamentals and Combat Focus Shooting on the weekend of May 19th & 20th. To get into either (or both!) of these courses, send an email to Greg Taggart at GKTTxAg@aol.com

I'm looking forward to meeting you on the range!

-=[ Grant ]=-

The shake-up at Taurus.

The Truth About Guns published a piece about the new Taurus CEO, Mark Kresser. I found his avowed commitment to change at the company interesting, especially since reports are that he replaced quite a number of the "old guard" folks when he took up his new position. To quote a line from my favorite movie, "that could be either good, or bad."

Good if it brings new thinking and new dedication, bad if it scuttles existing industry relationships. From what I hear, there's been some of the latter - and aside from their formation of a new shooting team with Jessie Harrison, we've yet to see much of the former.

The TTAG piece is something of a coincidence because just a couple of days ago I was looking at the traffic reports for this site, including the search terms which bring people here. A HUGE percentage of the people who come here from Google do so because of a search about Taurus guns. My piece "Why I don't work on Taurus revolvers" has become the single most-read page on this site.

In fact, if you Google "Taurus gun reviews", this site is #6 in the result. Same for "Taurus revolvers". "Are Taurus revolvers any good" has me in the #2 spot, and "Taurus revolver reviews" puts me in first place!

This shocked me, because when I wrote that piece I wasn't thinking about search rankings - just addressing the very real issues of Taurus quality and why it's not worth my client's money for me to work on the things. The comments on that blog entry are a mix of "I think they're great and you're an idiot" to "you're right and I'll never spend another dime on one of their products."

We don't really know what Google's algorithms for search results are, but one speculation is that they adjust over time to reflect (among a whole host of other things) those sites that are the most often visited for any given search term. If that's true, Taurus definitely has an image problem in the marketplace - an image problem that isn't wholly undeserved.

It should be clear, based on my comments over a long period of time, that I have something of a love-hate relationship with Taurus. I like some of the unique things they do (except the freaking Judge line, of course), but I'm continually let down by their random quality control and indifferent engineering. Their revolvers are probably the best thing they make - I've heard very little other than horror stories about their autoloaders - but even those need serious attention if they're going to be considered in the same league with Ruger and Smith & Wesson.

I hope Kresser can make headway at Taurus, as I'd like to someday be able to brag about having one in my holster.

-=[ Grant ]=-

A new security blog.

Over the last month or so I've started following a new blog devoted to security.

Though his focus is on information security and the technology behind it, Bruce Schneier also has some very interesting thoughts on security in general. His perspective is pretty intriguing, and so his
Schneier on Security blog has been added to my daily RSS feed.

Not many blogs make that grade, but his is good enough that I look forward to reading it regularly.

A recent entry deals with the idea of
bomb threats as a denial-of-service tactic. This hits home, as a local college faced just this scenario a few weeks ago.

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: A very important...ooooo, shiny!

I’m easily distracted. For instance, I was going to write about something else for today’s post, but in the process of doing the necessary research I saw a sidebar on some website that mentioned something about a television show doing “a modern re-creation” of the chase scene from the movie

My slightly-post-baby-boom hackles were instantly raised; I mean, how can you re-create a Steve McQueen film without Steve McQueen? Or at least a Mustang Fastback? The nerve of those whippersnappers!

Of course that sent me straight to YouTube to find video of the REAL Bullitt chase scene. Ahh, I feel better now!

Called by many one of the greatest car chases in the history of cinema, for me it's notable for one thing - or the LACK of one thing: a sound track. In virtually every car chase you'll see today there's a pulse-pounding sound track to convince the viewer that what they're watching is somehow exciting, as if they couldn't decide that for themselves.

(It's a little like the insipid heavy metal music you'll find on many shooting videos, about which I've commented before. Many times.)

Bullitt didn't need a soundtrack, because it had V8 engines. Big ones. And good camera placement. That TV show? They’ll probably do their scene with a Prius. A chase scene in a hybrid is just wrong, so they’ll need to distract the viewers. Soundtrack time!

Even if they don’t use a collective-middle-class-guilt car, they’ll still need to do something to hide the fact that today’s automobiles are oh-so-politely-quiet. Soundtrack!

Now I can't remember what I was originally going to write. Damn you, internets!

-=[ Grant ]=-

A Gallic Wednesday.

The Forgotten Weapons Blog has a
great video about the two most common French Ordnance revolvers: the Models 1873 and 1892. I know, I know, they're French - but you have to remember that at one time France was a major military power and arms innovator in their own right.

(Never heard of the
Model 1897 75mm cannon, an artillery piece so advanced that they justifiably considered it to be a state secret? Or the first high velocity smokeless powder rifle round, the 8x50mmR, aka "8mm Lebel"? Or how about the first autoloading rifle adopted by any military - the A6 Meunier? Or perhaps the first autoloading rifle to be in general service in any military - the Model 1917 RSC? Yes, all French. The toadying, indolent France of today is nothing like the truculent, innovative France of the early 20th century. Not everything ballistically innovative has come out of Utah or Springfield, and it would do us well to remember that.)

I've held - though never fired - both models, and must say that I was impressed with both the workmanship and design (given the vintage, of course.) I was particularly intrigued by the 1892, as its makers managed to construct a modern double action revolver with a surprisingly small number of very well made parts. The script engraving is, to my eye, quite fetching and makes them almost decorative.

The Model 1892 is fairly common, with nice examples selling for around $250-300. The Model 1873 is much scarcer, with very good specimens fetching north of eight bills. Very neat guns!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Training (and some self promotion.)

First off - check out the video announcing the start of the PDN Spring Training Tour!

Second - if you're not already subscribed, run out to your local magazine stand and check out the May issue of
SWAT Magazine. Turn to page 68 and read the article therein - you'll find someone you know (ahem) mentioned in that article!

Happy Monday!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Ed Harris: America's Greatest, The All-Around .30-'06!

(Editor’s note: Today I’m pleased to bring you another Ed Harris article - this time all about the .30-06 cartridge. As you’ll soon learn, Ed is a HUGE fan of the ’06 and has probably done more experimenting with it than any ten people you’re likely to find. In it are Ed’s recommendations for bullets and loads for an incredibly wide variety of uses. As always, any reloading data is used at your own risk; always start 10% below the listed charges and work your way up, watching carefully for pressure signs.)

America's Greatest, The All-Around .30-'06
By C.E. Harris (Rev. 7-8-94)

The most popular deer camp discussion for generations has been that of the proverbial "All-Around Rifle". What would be YOUR choice if you could have only one rifle? Forget the apocalyptic, "Red Dawn" scenarios and consider only the present, and the realistic future. For me, the answer is plainly obvious. A .30-'06 bolt-action, because there's not much a skilled rifleman and handloader can't do with it.

Some years ago I was invited with a group of gun writers to a "bring your own rifle" hunt in Texas. One of the scribes was intent on doing a survey of what the "experts who could pick anything their heart desired" did, in fact, choose. The fellow doing the survey had built his own wildcat, just for the occasion. Of the dozen or so "experts" in attendance besides our wildcatter, one was a fancier of the .270 Winchester, and the rest of the rifles in camp were all .30-'06 boltguns. Now THAT would have made an interesting article, but the wildcatter, who had embarked with other ideas, never wrote it, a shame to be sure.

My gun rack currently holds six .30-'06 rifles, if you don't count the half-dozen or so extra barrels for my switch-barrel silhouette, target and bench rifles. My first .30-'06 was a DCM M1903A3. My second was an M1 Garand. My third was a custom Winchester Model 70 target rifle with Hart barrel and stock by Roy Dunlap. I'm sure my early exposure to highpower rifle competition, ROTC, handloading, DCM ammo, a particularly fine lot of TW54 Ball, and some even better LC63 National Match ammo had something to do with my love for the .30-'06. But, 30 years later, as I inspect and care for the brass I've hoarded, it still makes sense.

The variety of factory loads in .30-'06 is greater than for any other American cartridge. When handloading options are added, the possibilities are simply staggering. To keep it simple, five classes of .30-'06 loads cover all possible uses for a rifle. These are: small game and gallery loads; light varmint and target loads; service rifle loads; long range loads, and big game loads. There is, understandably, some overlap, as a "service rifle" load with match-type bullet becomes a fine "big game" load, with the substitution of a hunting-type bullet.

I recommend the .30-'06 handloader keep a limited selection of powder and bullet types which have flexibility for multiple purposes. One "reduced load" powder, one "service rifle" powder and one "long range or big game" powder will do it all. Similarly, for bullets, one light cast bullet plinker, a 160-180- gr. gas-checked target bullet, a "general purpose" 150-168-gr. jacketed hunting or match bullet, and a heavier 180-200-gr. target bullet for the serious hunting or long range shooter rounds out the whole menu. This enables you to produce economical, safe, and effective ammunition without accumulating odd lots of components which cause problems for storage or disposal later.

With this goal in mind, I'll describe each load class, and make some recommendations based upon my experience.

SMALL GAME AND GALLERY loads are quiet and low-powered, intended for use at 25 yards or less. I use them for indoor target shooting, and camp meat for the pot. They are also fine for easing the transition of youngsters from a .22 rimfire to a big game rifle. Cast bullets are best for this purpose. Light, jacketed bullets may be used, but require caution, to ensure that the bullet's bore-exit is totally reliable.

Most rifles produce 3/4" groups or less at 25 yards or in proportion to 100 yards. A few shoot ragged holes at 50 yards after load refinement. Light .32 revolver bullets can be used, but more satisfactory are heavier bullets from 130-170-grs. I cast these of soft backstop scrap, and shoot them tumbled in Lee Liquid Alox, without sizing or gascheck. I use the same NEI-52A, Saeco 322, or Lee .312-155-2R bullets I normally use, but without the gascheck. The Lyman #311291 and RCBS 30-150FN also work well for these light loads. Typical charges for plainbased loads are 5-6 grs. of Bullseye, SR-7625, W231, Red Dot, Green Dot or 700-X.

You can safely increase these charges up to 2 grains as needed to get best accuracy, but they will lead above 1300 f.p.s. unless gaschecked. Some individual rifles with smooth barrels shoot quite well up to 7 or 7.5 grs. of these powders, but best accuracy is usually obtained when velocities are kept subsonic.

I generally look for a velocity of 1080 +/- 30 f.p.s. These loads will usually shoot 2-1/2" to 3" groups at 100 yards using minor visual defect culls, which is OK for practice. The minimum safe load which will always exit the barrel for indoor gallery work is about 4 grs. of the above powders.

More caution is required when assembling subsonic loads with jacketed bullets, because there is some risk of the bullet becoming lodged in the bore at near-subsonic velocities. You should not attempt to use less than 6 grs. of the above pistol or shotgun powders when loading jacketed bullets unless you check the bore after every shot and keep your hammer and ramrod handy!

There are important safety considerations for all reduced loads. I don't recommend heavier charges with pistol powders (even though some manuals list them) unless the particular powder is bulky enough (like Red Dot), that an inadvertent double-charge fills or overflows the case so an error is immediately obvious on visual inspection. Extreme caution must be used with dense powders such as W-W231 in reduced loads, because even a double charge is hard to see with all that airspace, so an error is not apparent. If you use fast pistol or shotgun powders in reduced loads, ensure the charge is light enough that a mistaken double- load will only blow primers, rather than destroying the rifle!

Spitzer bullets generally give poor accuracy below about 1600 f.p.s. due to gyroscopic instability, blunt round- or flat-nosed bullets are best. The 100-110-gr. .32-20, .32 H&R Magnum and .30 M1 Carbine bullets are often suggested for small game loads, but in my experience won't produce 1" groups at 50 yards, my accuracy criteria. Any decent .22 rimfire will shoot 1" groups at 50 yards, and a center-fire small game load should do as well, right?

The most satisfactory jacketed bullet reduced loads are assembled using my standard 200-yard target charges used with gaschecked cast bullets. Accurate boltgun practice loads which will shoot "on" at 200 yards close to your normal 600-yd. sight dope with either 150-175 gr. pulled GI bullets or 150-200 gr. cast, gaschecked bullets are: 12-13 grs. of Red Dot, Green Dot or 700X, 15-16 grs. of #2400, 18-20 grs. of 4227 or 21-23 grs. of 4198.

My favorite jacketed bullets for reduced .30-06 loads are the bulk Remington 150-gr. .30-30 soft points. This is because I keep them around to load .30-30s, but they are highly accurate at minimum velocities and are also suitable for mild '06 deer loads with 35 grs of 3031 or RL-7, which approximates .30-30 ballistics.

The 123-gr., 7.62x39 spitzer FMJ bullets give good plinking accuracy above 1600 f.p.s., using the above listed "200-yd. Target" charges.. Grouping is improved by increasing the charge, not to exceed 27 grs. of #2400 or 30 grs. of 4227 which approximates 7.62x39 ballistics. With 150-gr. .30-30 bullets, do not exceed 25 grs. of #2400, which gives 2100 f.p.s., a nice deer load for youngsters, women, or elderly hunters with pacemakers who can't take the recoil of a full '06.

"SERVICE RIFLE" loads approximate the performance, and accuracy of military "ball" or "match" ammunition for target shooting over the National Match Course. It is important that the powder charge, bullet type, and ballistic parameters not vary significantly from arsenal ammunition, in order to ensure they function as intended in semi-automatic, quasi-military arms.

The ballistics of Ball M2 service ammunition, (2740 +/- 30 f.p.s.) with a 150-gr. spitzer, flatbased bullet are approximated in GI cases with a charge of 47.5 grs. of current Hodgdon or IMR 4895, or 50 grs. of IMR-4064 or Olin's W-W748. Accurate Arms 2015BR and 2495BR are also suitable using the charges recommended by them. In commercial brass these powder charges intended for GI cases may be increased 1 grain. These are fine match loads for offhand and 200 rapid in the M1 using the 150-gr. Sierra MatchKing or the new 155-gr. "Palma" bullets.

Prior to the introduction of the 168-gr. Sierra MatchKing, the 125-gr. spitzer was favored for 200-yd. offhand and sitting rapid-fire stages of the National Match Course. These are highly accurate, and ideal for the reduced scale courses for use by junior shooters, to reduce costs and minimize recoil. The charges for 150-gr. bullets, listed above, function the M1 rifle and are accurate. They also make dandy woodchuck loads.

WITH 168-SIERRA OR PULLED GI MATCH BULLETS a charge of 46 grs. of 4895; or 48 grs. of 4064 or 748 approximates .30-'06 M72 match ammunition (2640 +/- 30 f.p.s). With 168-gr. match bullets, these charges may be increased 1 grain, but if the 180-gr. Sierra MatchKing is used (a GREAT 600-yd. bullet for the M1) they should be REDUCED the same amount. I do not recommend slower powders or heavier bullets for the M1, because heavier charges of slower powders operate the mechanism with more force than service ammunition, and may damage the operating rod or other parts. You are free to use the "long-range" loads below in your Springfield or M1917, and they also work well for hunting loads in bolt- action rifles, using soft point bullets of the same weight.

"LONG RANGE" loads are heavy target loads for bolt-action match rifles, intended for use at the 600-yard stage of the National Match Course, and for longer ranges, such as 1000 yard events. The loads which follow are for use in bolt-action rifles only. (Semi-auto and slide-action rifles should be used with the "service rifle" charges listed above).

I consider it routine for all long-range target loads in boltguns to uniform the flash hole diameters with a No.2 long center drill, and the primer pockets, using the Whitetail Match-Prep tool. In addition, I neck turn all cases to 0.011-0.012" neck wall thickness, and check-weigh all cases to +/-3 grains to ensure uniform powder capacity. I used to check cases to +/- 1 grain, but while this is appropriate for a small case like a .223, in the '06 it is "measuring with micrometers while cutting with axes! Uniforming flash holes, primer pockets and neck wall concentricity gets you the most improvement. Weighing cases is only used to isolate the extremely "heavy" or "light" ones.

These can still be used for load development, or for slow-fire standing stages. Don't pitch them. In boltguns cases should be fire-formed in the particular rifle they will be used in, and then neck-sized only, using a Jones sizer with .330" ring or Lee collet and dead-length seater.

It is entirely unnecessary to weigh every powder charge if you use a good powder measure and consistent technique, but you should always verify the measure setting with a scale when you set up. My favorite powders for long range loads in the .30-'06 are either IMR or Hodgdon 4350. Accurate Arms has their own brand of 4350, which works well using the loads they recommend. With Hodgdon or IMR 4350 powder, using commercial cases with an average weight of 185 grs., and either Winchester WLR or Federal 210M primers, I use 56 grs. with the 180-gr. Sierra MatchKing, 54 grs. with the 185 Lapua, or 53 grs. with the 190s at 600 yards. For windy days at 600 and for 1000 yards I use 52 grs. with a 200-gr. Sierra MatchKing.

Overall cartridge length is 3.40", or adjusted to clear the lands upon chambering by 0.010" to 0.030". You should avoid "jamming" bullets into the rifling, but "jump" should not exceed 1/10 of the bullet diameter. These cartridge exceed magazine length and are intended for single-loading only. If using these charges for hunting loads with softpoint bullets, to be magazine fed, reduce the charges 1-1/2 grains. Powder charges should also be reduced 1/2 grain for each 5 grain difference in average case weight to compensate for heavier military brass.

Some people like slower powders such as 4831 for long-range loads in the .30-'06. While I have found that 58 grs. of H4831 works well with a 200-gr. bullet, it doesn't group as well for me as 4350 with the lighter 180-190-gr. bullets. Always pick the best grouper over whatever the chronograph says. If grouping is equal, for matches pick the bullet which is the better wind bucker. The 200-gr. Sierra Matchking is the best choice in .30- '06 boltguns for 1000 yards or for windy days at 600.

"GAME LOADS" for deer and larger game can be based on the target charges above, with seating depth and powder charge adjustments for magazine feeding of hunting-type bullets. While heavy bullets are preferred for elk, moose or bear, the average hunter after deer will be best served with one load, which he knows well. I want my hunting loads to approximate factory ammunition, so if I run out and must buy a box somewhere, I'll not have to check my zero, and scare all the game away.

With a 150-gr. spitzer soft-point, 52 grs. of IMR-4064 or W-W 748 in commercial cases approximates the factory 2800 f.p;.s. velocity. With a 165-gr. boattail, 56 grs. of 4350 is a dead ringer for Federal's Premium load. With the 180-gr. Nosler Partition, 55 grs. at 3.30" overall cartridge length, in commercial brass, approximates the 180-gr. Federal Premium load. With either load reduce charges a grain if using GI cases. For larger game such as moose, elk, or bear, the "long range" loads above work well with premium big game bullets of the same weight.

In semi-auto or slide-action .30-'06 hunting rifles the "service rifle" charges listed above should be used. These are somewhat less than maximum, and provide very satisfactory game loads with a hunting bullet of the same weight.

Summing up, the .30-'06 is the most versatile American center- fire cartridge, and has not been improved upon. If you have leftover pistol or shotshell powders around, you can load .30-'06 practice loads with it and have alot of fun for not much money. If you keep Red Dot or 700-X around for loading skeet and trap loads for your 12-ga., or if you have #2400 or 4227 around for loading .410 skeet loads or a magnum caliber handgun, you don't need to buy another powder for reduced loads. The same is true if you keep 4198 around for your .222 Rem.

Of all the rifle powders, 4198 is the best reduced load powder for the .30-'06, from 1300-2000 f.p.s. because it bulks up well, and is not position sensitive. If you don't load need to make minimum subsonic small game or gallery loads (4198 doesn't work for these) and you don't already have other suitable powders available, and want to buy the best rifle powder for moderately reduced rifle loads, 4198 is my recommendation.

The "Real .30-'06 powders" for full loads are 4895, 4064 and 4350. IMR-4895 replaced IMR 4676 for military ball ammunition about 1944 and was the standard propellent for military .30-'06 Ball and Match ammunition. It is adaptable to a variety of cartridges. If you want just one rifle powder to use for everything 4895 is "it". Some target shooters feel that "long grain" powders like 4064 and 4350 give better grouping than "short cut" powders like 4895, which are preferred for machine loading. Even though coarser powders don't measure as well, they are highly accurate. If this is your choice, substitute 4064 for the 4895 and you won't be disappointed. For maximum loads in .30-'06 boltguns it's hard to beat 4350. I've tried other powders, but I keep coming back to 4350, because its consistent and always predicable, just like my .30-'06.

That's why I like the .30-'06. It's like an experienced old horse that always knows its way back to camp, so you can just do the job and relax. What else do you want in a rifle?

Smoke detectors and your rifle.

I recently read an ongoing discussion about red dot sights on defensive rifles, and it got me to thinking about their utility to the defensive shooter.

First off, I like red dot sights when I'm shooting. My eyes are unable to focus cleanly on the front sight of a 16-1/2" barreled AR-15, and the red dot makes it easier for me to shoot. Not that I can't shoot with irons, only that it takes a little more effort. Red dots are a great invention, and they’re fun (and almost obscenely easy) to shoot.

Despite that, none of the rifles that I use for serious purposes carry red dot sights. Why? For the same reason that most building codes don't allow battery operated smoke detectors in new construction.

Hard wired smoke detectors have been required in new buildings for nearly thirty years (depending on the locale.) It's not that battery operated detectors don't work, but rather that they require maintenance. It's not a whole lot, mind you: check the batteries twice a year, replace once a year. Despite not being a huge burden, it often doesn't get done and the consequences are dire. Hard wired detectors eliminate that maintenance and guarantee that the devices are always ready to operate at any time. They should still be tested, but the risks associated with not doing so are reduced to nearly zero.

The cost (in terms of effort and attention) of keeping a battery-operated detector operational is therefore higher than that of the hard-wired variety. Not a lot, but it's enough that lives are routinely saved. Because of that cost, the predictability of operational readiness is lower with the battery operated detector than with the hard wired variety. (This predictability is the reason the trucks and engines in your local fire station are hooked into "shore power" when they're not in use, even with trained firefighters there at all times to check them.)

The same principle applies to the red dot sight. Yes, some models have batteries that can last years, but that means one has to remember to check them frequently. There is a risk it that the batteries will have failed since the last check, or that the electronics may have failed even if one has been extremely vigilant about the batteries. Though I handle my handgun on a daily basis, it's often many months between the times I pick up the rifle and thus many months can elapse between the necessary maintenance checks.

Here in rainy Oregon, we have increased risks due to the climate: when in use, optics occasionally get obscured by water drops and we're often discovering that a device's waterproofing has failed. I could go on, but you see the point: unpredictability.

Iron sights suffer no storage degradation nor do they suffer unexpected or unpredictable failures. Unless they're damaged to the point of not being usable (in which case I can tell before I fire a shot that they're not working), there is no doubt that they'll be there and ready to work when I need them. They're predictable, and predictability is a Good Thing in defensive firearms.

It's not Luddism, just an admission of the increased difficulty of keeping a complex device ready for use at all times and under all conditions. I want the rifle to be ready, now, regardless of the last time I checked the batteries or remembered to turn it off/on or any electrical/mechanical faults it may have suffered since I last shot the thing. I'm not claiming that I'm "just as good" with irons as with the scope, only that the mechanism of the iron sights is more reliable under more conditions for a longer period of time.

I can hear the refrain now: "but guns break, too!" Yes, they do. We accept that as part of the risk of using the things, but I see no reason to compound that risk by an order of magnitude (maybe several) for what is really a small benefit.

I like red dots, I like shooting them, my eyes thank me when I do, but for the gun that has to be capable of being run hard without warning or preparation? Give me iron sights.

-=[ Grant ]=-

The Martin/Zimmerman case.

I've gotten a few emails and Facebook messages asking what I think of the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman shooting. My answer is simple: I don't know the facts of the case.

The important thing to remember is that no one does. All we have is piecemeal information released by sources of varying veracity and - here's the important part - reported by the media, filtered through whatever biases they have at the time.

It's amazing to me that so many in the "gun culture" (regular readers know how I despise that term, and I use it here precisely because I do) are quick to believe anything the media tells them when it's in Zimmerman's favor, but not so when it's in Martin's. The opposite, of course, is true for those on the "other side".

Having dealt with media for many years and having relatives inside that industry, I know that they couldn't report the time correctly if you handed them a watch. Aside from the intentional misrepresentation or fabrication of fact (which happens so often it’s almost expected), there is also the unintentional skewing of information that comes from personal and corporate interests. In short, you can't believe anything you're told - and it doesn't matter if it's from NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, CNN, or anyone else.

Everything we “know” about this case has come through the media, and the media isn’t reliable. How can anyone have a fact-based opinion under those conditions?

I'll wait for the court case, thank you very much, where there are rules of evidence and people are held accountable for what they say. Zimmerman might be guilty as sin or Martin may have been evil incarnate, but right now I'm comfortable saying that I simply don't know.

One thing's for sure: I'm not going to decide this case based on what the media is telling me, because the one thing I do know is that they can't be trusted.

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Death of a legend.

I received news last weekend that one of the most important musicians of the twentieth century had died. I'm willing to bet that you don't know who it was.

Don't feel bad, because unless you were a devotee of classical music - and particularly music of the baroque era - you would have no reason to know.

Confused? That should clear up momentarily.

I'm speaking of the great trumpeter Maurice Andre. Andre was born in 1933 in a French commune northwest of Marseilles. He showed early musical talent and was sent to the conservatory, but his career there was not terribly impressive - he was thrown out for a certain lack of dedication to his studies. He roared back just a few weeks later and gave an amazing performance of Arban etudes (some of which I've played, and they ain't easy!) He went on to win the Geneva music competition, and from there his fame grew quickly.

Although a virtuoso on all trumpets Andre became an early proponent of the piccolo trumpet, an instrument pitched an octave higher than a standard trumpet. They were originally designed to make playing the tough parts in certain Bach and Handel pieces a little easier, but outside of those specific pieces were not in wide use. Andre realized the potential of the piccolo trumpet in the broader field of Baroque music, and became known for playing it in his performances. He also commissioned transcriptions of flute and oboe pieces for play on the piccolo trumpet.

His career spanned a little more than fifty years, during which time he made a very large number of recordings. His tone, the bell-like clarity of his playing, and his technical facility astounded audiences the world over. It's fair to say that by the 1970s he was the most important trumpet player in classical music, with the possible exception of Timofei Dokishizer in the Soviet Union. He was the trumpet equivalent of Luciano Pavarotti - only with far greater consensus on his talent. (Yes, that was a dig at Pavarotti.)

I was privileged to attend one of Maurice Andre’s concerts in the early '80s, when he appeared with the Oregon Symphony in Portland. It was a highlight of my musical life and one which I remember to this day. His playing was always joyful; he was at his best in baroque music, which most closely matched his natural style.

Here he is playing the first movement of Haydn's "Trumpet Concerto in E-Flat". This showcases the wonderful tone and phrasing that made his playing instantly recognizable:

After all the talk about piccolo trumpets, I have to leave you with this - Maurice Andre playing the finale of George Philipp Telemann's "Sonata em Ré M para Trompete." This is superb piccolo technique; most players produce a thin, reedy tone on the instrument. Andre’s tone is full and solid, yet he still manages to play in the light, airy style that brings the piece to life. That was Maurice Andre in a nutshell. Enjoy!

-=[ Grant ]=-

I still think a .410 revolver is silly.

I think I've made my feelings clear regarding the concept (if not the execution) of the Taurus Judge/S&W Governor revolvers. As self defense guns, which is how they're marketed,
they make no sense for a wide variety of valid reasons. What's amazing to me is that people will say "that's all true, but I think they still have a place for snakes and carjackers."

I've talked about the former already. A large portion of my family lives and ranches in rattlesnake country, and I spend time there on a regular basis. I can tell you for a fact that a) the preferred snake gun is a .45 Colt using CCI shotshells, and has been for decades; and b) it's rarely used - only if a snake is found in a yard, around a house, or in a work area where the chance of encounter is extremely high. People who live in snake country already know these things and visitors to snake country have no business shooting snakes, so the Judge doesn’t make sense. (Even with the amount of time I spend in snake country, I not only have a never shot a snake I don't even bother to carry snake loads. If I see a snake, I just put distance between us and have done so many times.**)

The carjacking scenario is just as silly. Aside from the fact that very few have practiced deploying any gun - let alone a Judge - in the confines of an automobile, what makes this gun any better than any other gun for the purpose? Trolling some of the less sophisticated gun forums will reveal comments like "a .410 shotshell to the face would make any carjacker think twice." Umm, yeah, a .22LR would do the same thing. Just about any gun would make just about anyone "think twice." What's the point, again?

The consensus of Judge fans seem to think that the close ranges of a carjacking scenario are ideally suited to the .410 shotshell, but their reasoning is missing. Do they believe that the shotshell will make it easier to hit their assailant? At that distance it's no more sure than a single, more effective, projectile launcher. Will it have more immediate effect? Unlikely, since it has less penetration than a single projectile. No matter how I look at it, I cannot find a rationale for the .410 from a revolver making a better anti-carjacking round than any other, but it's one of the most common justifications for the things.

I've practiced the use of a handgun from inside a car, and I can't see where a Judge/Governor would especially useful. Yet the concept inexplicably lives.

(My anti-carjacking strategy? I drive a vehicle that no one in their right mind would ever want to carjack, and I keep the doors locked. From my research those two things eliminate more than 99% of the potential threats. For the remaining 1%, I have a non-shotshell-firing handgun with which I practice regularly and realistically.)

-=[ Grant ]=-

** - true story: my wife and I were at one time considering buying some property in a very rural part of south-central Washington state, which is rattlesnake country. We were looking at an old homestead which was along - we didn't know this at the time - "Rattlesnake Creek". We were tramping around, looking at an overgrown corral area, when I spotted something on the ground. It was green, spotted, and looked for all the world like one of those plastic inflatable snakes one sees in carnival midways. I thought it was a discarded childrens' toy when I noticed its head move. I was perhaps three feet away at this point, uncomfortably close, and slowly backed away. It was a green rattlesnake!

I'd never seen one of that color, and this one seemed content to stay where he was. He was fully stretched out, not coiling or hissing or rattling, even though he knew I was there. He didn't mind me, and so I didn't mind him. I squatted down to get a closer look while at the same time motioning to my wife to freeze where she was. After a while I got tired of staring at a snake who wasn't doing anything, so I went on my merry way. The snake, for his part, slithered off to do whatever it is green rattlesnakes do.

When I got home I checked out a herpetology site from one of Washington's universities. It turns out the snake I saw was a very uncommon subspecies of the North Pacific Rattlesnake, and is noted for a peculiarly non-aggressive behavioral trait: it tends to stay motionless until a threat has passed, the snake equivalent, I suppose, of ostrich behavior. This lack of a self-defense initiative would tend to explain why they're rare.

I did not feel a need to shoot the thing.

Everyone's getting on the bandwagon.

Last Thursday came the news that Ruger was forced to suspend orders because they were swamped. According to them, in the first quarter of this year (which has ended yet, mind you) they've received orders for over one million firearms. Think about that: one company, in less than three months, pre-sold one million guns.

That's huge. So huge, in fact, that Ruger can't ramp up production fast enough to meet demand, so they're suspending new orders until May. (I feel their pain, or perhaps now they feel mine!)

There's no single explanation for their sudden fortune, other than perhaps uncertainty: economic (we're still in a recession, no matter what the Beltway Boys say); political (it's an election year, and the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue isn't terribly popular with gun owners); and there may be a few people in there who actually believe the Mayan calendar nonsense (in retrospect, I should have written a book on "how to survive the end of the world with your revolver". Bet that would have sold even better than
my terrific book!)

As one might expect, Ruger stock was way up on this news (13% on Thursday alone.)

I expect retail prices of Ruger guns to go up as supplies get tight. I'm also hearing rumblings about the beginnings of another ammunition run, so if you plan to take any classes this year (
from me or anyone else) now might be a good time to get the ammo you're going to need.

Interesting times.

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Glow in the dark.

National Geographic photographer Gerd Ludwig has been traveling to Chernobyl since 1993, chronicling the site and the people's efforts to rebuild.
FStoppers.com has published some of his photos, and digitalphotopro.com has a great interview with him - including the explanations behind some of the pictures.

Great stuff.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Texas classes scheduled!

For those of you who’ve been asking for classes in Texas, you’re in luck! This May I'll be teaching two open enrollment courses in the College Station, Texas area!

Saturday, May 19 I'll be teaching my own
Revolver Fundamentals class, where you’ll learn everything you need to know about running and living with your double action revolver!

Then on Sunday, May 20, I'll be teaching a one-day
Combat Focus Shooting class, the nationally recognized course that teaches you the most efficient methods to counter a surprise criminal attack. (This class is open to both revolvers and autos.)

If you'd like to register, or need more information, contact Greg Taggart at GKTTxAg@aol.com

-=[ Grant ]=-

Picking a gun the wrong way.

We have a lot of trite phrases in the defensive training world, and one of them sets my teeth on edge: when someone asks how they should choose a gun for personal protection, the usual answer is to "pick the biggest caliber you can shoot well."

It's nonsensical, and I'm tired of hearing it.

The problem is how to define "well". Are we talking in terms of accuracy? If so, I contend that anyone can shoot any handgun caliber "well" - at least for the first shot. If we're talking group size, given sufficient time between shots I'll hold to my contention: anyone can shoot any handgun "well" if they have enough time to regroup between presses of the trigger.

I've heard the variation "....the biggest caliber that you can handle." Same thing - what do you mean by "handle"? I've seen many guys at the range who claim to be able to "handle" large-bore Magnums, but it's clear they have significant trouble with recoil control. Obviously there's a difference between what I consider control and what they do, which illustrates my point. Without criteria, there's no way to evaluate whether the person can "handle it" or not. Again, most people can handle any gun for a single shot. What about the second, third and fourth?

Some have apparently figured out that "well" and “handle” don’t mean anything and say instead to "pick the biggest caliber that you can shoot quickly and accurately." How quickly? How accurately? With any gun/ammo combination, given a specific set of environmental variables, there will be a certain balance of speed and precision which the shooter can achieve. A .454 Casull will have one, and a .22 LR will have another. Which one should the person pick? Which balance of speed and precision is best?

As one goes up in caliber or power, at any given level of precision the shooter's speed will decrease. How far along that line should the shooter travel before settling? There are many examples of arbitrary tests that people take to determine these things (so many shots in so many seconds with a minimum score), but they're contrived. Take a 12-gauge and a 20-gauge shotgun; any given shooter may be able to use the 12-gauge and pass a qualification, then logically conclude that it's the largest gun that he can shoot quickly and accurately. However, if that same person shoots the same course with a 20-gauge, they'll find that they can shoot it faster with the same level of precision. Which, then, is the better choice?

Starting to get the idea? These statements - and their variants - sound profound, but they're not. Unless very specific criteria are defined they mean nothing.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Ed Harris on Metallurgy

(Editor’s Note: Ed’s back with an incredible article on firearm metallurgy! This originated as a reply to an email from a “DG”. Ed gives some phenomenal information on the metals used at his employer, Sturm Ruger, to build their guns. I think you’ll find it very interesting, if a little complex!)

DG: A toolmaker friend wants to know what types of metal are used in a revolver. Having read your posts, I figured you would probably have the answers. Please feel free to be as technical as necessary...(Editor's Note: remember, folks, he asked for it!)

EH: At Ruger chrome-moly revolver frames are typically 4140LS blended at the mill to specific (and proprietary) chemistry to give the desired structures in the cast parts. Mostly this involves holding the sulphur within very stringent limits which are lower than those used by other manufacturers, and having additional restrictive requirements to eliminate silicates or phosphorous to the extent that they are below the detection limit by x-ray diffraction. There are some other elements which are manipulated to get specific properties related to the casting process which I am not at liberty to discuss, but suffice to say the investment casting process varies depending upon whether you are working with CM (chrome moly) or SS (stainless steel.)

The stainless is vacuum melted and poured under controlled atmosphere, such as in argon or nitrogen, whereas the CM can be poured in ambient air, though oxidation protection is provided by pouring a powdered antioxidant over the open mould sinks after the sprue is full.

All of the steel used at Ruger is ordered in 100-ton heat lots and produced by a continuous casting process which ensures uniformity in the billets produced. The billets are then cropped, and rolled per Ruger's specs.

Cast parts generally incorporate about 50% virgin material, and 50% remelt scrap which results from Ruger's own operations. Scrap is kept separate by machining line and is tagged by heat lot and type of material so heat lot integrity can be maintained as long as they are running that batch. A sample of every lot of material cast in the foundry is sent to the lab for analysis, generally 4 times per shift.

The cast parts are visually inspected, annealed, straightened, then gaged, sorted and either x-ray or ultrasonically tested. Rough machining is done in the annealed state. Finish machining is done after final heat treatment.

Barrels and cylinders are not machined from castings, but are produced from bar stock or forgings, depending upon the gun model. Barrels and cylinders are generally heat treated to Rc35 Min at Ruger, whereas other makes are typically 20-24. Ruger frames are generally Rc 28-35, whereas a lot of S&W frames used in the Model 10 and similar guns won't even register on the C scale, but may be around 80-90 on the B scale.

The stainless material used for revolver frames and cylinders is a 410 series, whereas barrel stock is a modified 415. Lockwork is a 300 series stainless in both blued and stainless versions. Critical parts like barrels and cylinders are 100% Magnafluxed using the wet method with circular continuous magnetization.

After final assembly proofing is done with standard military HPT or SAAMI specification proof cartridges, one per chamber. I might note that some other makers do not proof all six chambers of a revolver, but try to cut corners on the proofing. If all six chambers are not proofed the cylinder is not equally stressed and you may not detect flaws such as secondary piping, or nonmetallic inclusions or laminations which might occur in the melt shop at the steel mill because the fellow cropping the billets was having a "bad hair day".

We set up our steel specs and receiving inspection on barrel and cylinder steel to pretty much eliminate that type of problem by specifying ingot position, and requiring on-line ultrasonic and x-ray testing of the bars, which were also bumper straightened and checked with eddy current for flaws before the mill length bars were loaded onto the trailer.

When we received a shipment we'd take samples, cutting the ends off of a specified number of bars, based on a statistical sampling plan, and run them into the lab to verify the structures and chemistries against the mill cert. We'd send the driver off to a local hotel for a steak and a shower on us while it was going on so he wouldn't be as unhappy if we rejected the batch and told him to take it back (which we did a few times when I was there).

When I was there only two mills, Timken and SKF, were able to consistently produce 4140LS to our specs for cylinder blanks and Mini 14 receivers and bolts. This material is almost identical to Navy-nuclear pressure vessel grade material, and exceeds normal gun-barrel quality. Similarly, the stainless was vacuum melted, argon-oxygen decarburized and ladle refined similar to a Navy-nuclear or aerospace bearing grade of material.

Most of the other makers buy standard AISI grades in gun barrel quality, typically 1137 for shotgun, blackpowder and .22 rimfire barrels and 4140 for centerfire barrels. Most stainless target rifle barrels are made of 415 or 416 series stainless, but both the re-sulphurized CM and the free machining SS (which produce "mirror finish quality") have sulphur or selenium additives to improve machinability. If the distribution of these elements is nonuniform, the clumped inclusions can form stress risers which impair ultimate strength. For this reason they cannot be used in applications such as M14 or M1A barrels which have complex exterior machining which might produce stress risers. Nor can they be used in hammer forging of barrels which will undergo significant reduction and elongation. Generally, steels used for cylinder blanks or for hammer forge barrel applications cannot exceed 0.006% max. S or Se.

We spent a lot of time and money at Ruger developing tooling, coolants and processes which would permit machining to good interior finishes with materials giving the maximum ultimate strength and ductility. We had our own vacuum heat treating facilities in-house for stainless, and gas furnaces for CM.

Some types of stainless, such as used for Mini-14 firing pins and barrels and Redhawk revolver cylinders, would get a nonconventional cryogenic stress relief rather than the usual low temperature (1045-1050 deg F) "bake" to normalize. This, combined with the particular chemistry we used, resulted in firing pins which were file hard but which you could bend into a pretzel shape without any cracks, and barrels you could elevate to cook off temperature with 180 rounds of full auto fire then set up a bullet-in-bore obstruction and fire a proof load in the hot barrel without it bursting. Try THAT with an M16!

We converted entirely to synthetic coolants, such as Trimsol 6-8% concentrate in distilled water while I was there and got all the chlorinated paraffins out of the shop entirely. We ran hourly refractometer readings on the coolant used in the CNC machining centers and had thermocouples at the machining stations to monitor the incoming coolant temperature and the exit coolant entering the scavenger pumps, and fed the used coolant through filtration, centrifuges and heat exchanging equipment before putting it back into the pipeline. We also set up our own water treatment and recycling plant to purify city water to remove the chlorine, because we could not use it to mix machine coolant. This also permitted us to recycle machine coolant water and dispose as hazardous wastes.

This is not really a blog post.

After nine straight days of blogging - a new record for me - I'm talked out. Oh, I've got a lot of things to say, but I'm too tired to say them right now. Maybe later.

-=[ Grant ]=-

The Professional Instructor: some personal thoughts.

This is the concluding entry in my multi-part exploration of the “Code Of The Professional Defensive Shooting Instructor”. If you missed the opening article of this series, which has some background and a link to the Rob Pincus article where the Code was originally published, click here to read it.

It’s easy to think of the Code we've been studying as a condition, a state of existence at some point in time, of the professional defensive shooting instructor. Others on the signatory list may disagree with me on this, but I don’t believe it is.

A code, like the Code Of The Professional Defensive Shooting Instructor, is by its nature aspirational. It's a description of an ideal, a list of traits that other Professionals agree are desirable and laudable. It's not necessarily always achievable.

I don't know any instructor who is 100% on all of these, all the time. I'm not sure such a person exists. The difference between the Professional and everyone else is that he can go down the list and admit where his weaknesses are: "I wish I followed that one all the time; I need more work on that one; this one I'm pretty good on, but could always be a little better;
D'OH! ", and so on. There is always room for improvement, for progress, for evolution, and the Professional understands that. He doesn't stand still.

The Professional will look at these Seven Tenets and agree with all (or at least the majority) of them, while at the same time admitting to himself that he doesn't always live up to them.

Being a Professional isn't a destination at which one arrives, it's a journey one makes. It never ends. A Code, like this one, is a guidebook for that journey.

If you're a student of defensive shooting, it is what you should expect of your instructor. If you're an instructor, it comprises the things that you should
want to do -- to better yourself, better serve your students, and move the industry as a whole forward.

As I said, it's a journey. Who's ready to go?

-=[ Grant ]=-

The Professional Instructor: Tenet #7.

This is an entry in my multi-part exploration of the “Code Of The Professional Defensive Shooting Instructor”. If you missed the opening article of this series, which has some background and a link to the Rob Pincus article where the Code was originally published,
click here to read it.

"I believe that the best instructor is an avid student, and I will strive to continually upgrade my own skills and knowledge. As part of this belief, I understand that my own teachings need to be subject to critique and open to evolution."

I think every instructor I've ever met espouses this belief. I can count on one hand that number that I know to really live it. How do I know this? Because they're the only ones who ever change!

If someone is really putting themselves out there to learn, sooner or later their opinions or beliefs are going to change - unless they’re just studying the same things over and over.

Being an avid student doesn't mean just signing up for another class from one's favorite guru, nor does it mean taking a class from someone whose methodology is largely consistent with one's current worldview. It means seeking out new information and different approaches; being open and receptive to new ideas and giving them full (and honest) consideration.

One reason this doesn't happen is ego, particularly when we're dealing with schools of thought that are of the, shall we say, more testosterone-laden variety. It's hard to admit that one doesn't have all the answers, or one's chosen school/guru might be demonstrably wrong about something. This is why Tenet #2 is so important, because clinging to something out of pride, emotion, or misplaced loyalty instead of logic and reason serves as an impediment to being a student. It keeps one stuck in the same place with the same people doing the same things for the same misplaced reasons.

If an instructor is truly interested in broadening his knowledge and skills, he needs to get beyond that rut. He needs to be able to compare what he knows now with what he'll be learning, and come to a decision that's based on fact, not emotion. Sometimes he'll find that what he's doing is in fact the best thing for his students. However, if he finds that not to be true he owes it to himself (and his students) to change.

There is a caution here: this doesn't mean that an instructor should put himself into this new environment if all he wants is to get validation for his already strongly held opinions - and not listen to anything which doesn't do that. I observed just that kind of person a couple of years ago in someone else's class, and the results were very ugly. This particular instructor was so determined to listen only to those things that he already agreed with that he actually failed to heed the common safety precautions he was given. Luckily no one was hurt (unless you count some ego bruising), but it illustrates the danger of applying this tenet inappropriately.

You have to be open to change. You have to be willing to evolve. You have to look at your curriculum honestly, and be willing to admit that maybe, just maybe, you don't have all the answers. Someone else may have one that you'll need for next week's class, and if you don't seek it out it's your students who suffer.

Being an avid student is intellectually risky. This tenet begs you to take those risks.

More than anything, I think, this tenet serves as a sort of litmus test for the professional instructor. Professionals in other fields, like medicine, engineering, law, architecture - heck, even electricians and plumbers - are required by their associations or professional licenses to have a certain number of continuing education hours every year. The idea is that they'll be exposed to the latest knowledge that their fields offer, so that they can put that new knowledge to work immediately. In the training world we don't have that - yet - and it's up to the individual to do it him or herself.


That's it for my exploration of the Code of the Professional Defensive Shooting Instructor. I hope you've found it interesting, but I also hope that you see the value in the tenets of which it's comprised. Tomorrow I'll have some closing comments, and on Wednesday we’ll be back to the normal schedule here on the blog.

(For your convenience, I’ve put direct links to all of these entries in the original
“What is a professional?” article.)

Thanks for reading!

-=[ Grant ]=-

The Professional Instructor: Tenet #6.

This is an entry in my multi-part exploration of the “Code Of The Professional Defensive Shooting Instructor”. If you missed the opening article of this series, which has some background and a link to the Rob Pincus article where the Code was originally published,
click here to read it.

"I believe that it is valuable to engage my peers in constructive conversation about differences in technique and concept, with the goal of mutual education and evolution."

This tenet is almost self-referential, as drafting and sharing this Code has been an act of constructive conversation!

The field of defensive shooting has for too long been dominated by warring factions. I've even heard stories from some of the senior people in this business about certain high profile trainers refusing to talk to other high profile trainers when in the same room! It seems to have calmed down a bit in the last decade, but we still have a few rock-throwers (and their attendant partisans) here and there.

As new blood has come into the field I'm seeing a lot more civil discourse happening, and this is all to the good. Being able to talk to another professional about what we do, and finding out why they might do something different, is the basis of professional interaction. People in other fields do it, and it’s about time we made that a normal part of our activities as well. Thats why this tenet is a vital part of the Code.

Of course (as I've mentioned more than once) understanding what we're teaching and why we're teaching it is a prerequisite; it's very difficult to tell someone why we teach something if we don't know ourselves!

Every professional interaction I've had with other instructors has been an opportunity to learn, even when our approaches were quite different. In each of these I've come away with something that made me a better instructor - if only because it gave me an opportunity to advance my ability to articulate what I do.

Professionals talk to each other - they don't throw rocks. This tenet is all about not throwing rocks!

-=[ Grant ]=-

The Professional Instructor: Tenet #5.

This is an entry in my multi-part exploration of the “Code Of The Professional Defensive Shooting Instructor”. If you missed the opening article of this series, which has some background and a link to the Rob Pincus article where the Code was originally published,
click here to read it.

"I understand that Integrity and Professionalism are subjective traits and I strive to maintain high levels of both. I am capable of, and willing to, articulate the reasons for the way I conduct my courses and how I interact with students & peers."

Growing up in a small town, it was pretty much assumed that your parents would make you answer for anything you did. If they did not happen to be present in the moment, any adult could fill in for them - and the kids all knew it. I think having to answer for oneself has a chastening effect, which makes one a little more cognizant about that "whats" and "whys" of daily life.

If you knew that you had to answer to someone, do you think you'd run your classes a bit differently? Yes, I know that ultimately we're all accountable to our students in a financial sense, but actually having to answer questions - from them or someone else - about how we behave and how we conduct ourselves definitely serves as a moderating influence.

Professionals in other fields have boards of inquiry or standards that ask those questions and censor those who come up short. We don't have that in the defensive shooting world, and I’m not sure we’d want it, but each of us should behave as though we do. We should commit to being above board with how we run our businesses, how we treat suppliers, students, and colleagues. We should do it voluntarily, not because someone is waiting in the wings to take away our license to practice if we don't.

This tenet asks us to be self-motivated rather than having someone in authority push us into doing the right thing. We need to be willing not just to be accountable to our students and our colleagues for everything we do, but to ourselves as well. Each of us should judge our own conduct against high standards and be open to constructive criticism when we come up short.

-=[ Grant ]=-

The Professional Instructor: Tenet #4.

This is an entry in my multi-part exploration of the “Code Of The Professional Defensive Shooting Instructor”. If you missed the opening article of this series, which has some background and a link to the Rob Pincus article where the Code was originally published,
click here to read it.

"I will encourage my students to ask questions about course material, and I will answer them with thorough and objective explanations."

This is my favorite of all the Tenets, mainly because it's one of my "hot button" issues. I’ve experienced first hand what happens when an instructor doesn’t follow this, and can tell stories about many more that I’ve observed. I'm sure you know folks like this, too.

It's actually very easy to discourage students from asking questions! Think back to when you were in college: how eager were you to ask, in front of people you barely knew, what might be seen as a 'stupid' question? Anything that the student perceives as being dismissive of their questions, or worse belittling of their state of knowledge, will put a damper not just on their desire for clarification - but the rest of the class as well.

In order to encourage students to ask questions, it's imperative to make sure that the environment is conducive to inquiry. Every student needs to feel comfortable asking any pertinent question, and moreover it's important to always prompt for those questions. The students need to know that they can ask even the most probing questions about the material without being made to feel that they're unworthy.

A contributor to that kind of atmosphere are the answers which are given. Answers need to be complete and based on fact, logic, and reason. Too often I've seen instructors give the flimsiest answers to even simple questions, using flawed logic (all too often
Appeal To Authority), unsupported conjecture, and incomplete or out of date evidence. An answer should never rest on what someone else says or what the instructor's personal preference might be. Neither of those is factual or objective. There should be a good reason - preferably several - for every answer that's given.

The very worst situation is when questions are answered with dogmatic sound bites: pithy statements that contain no fact at all, but designed to be memorable and boost the instructor's ego. In one of the first classes I took, many years ago, the instructor had a particular stance he wanted the students to use. When asked (not by me - I was too intimidated!) why he didn't use another specific stance, he barked "because it's not a FIGHTING stance." That was the end of the discussion as far as he was concerned! There was no reason behind the statement, no definition of just what "fighting" meant or how it was determined or who determined it, just a sneer delivered with the kind of body language that signaled no further inquiry would be allowed.

That is the polar opposite of what this tenet aims to promote.

Student questions, to be sure, are dangerous because they can quickly expose an instructor’s weaknesses. If he doesn’t really know the material, why he’s teaching it, and how it fits into his student’s lives, any but the most superficial questions will reveal his lack of knowledge to the class. Remember when I said Tenet #2 was critical to adopting the tenets which follow? This is a perfect example of why! Discouraging questions isn’t just a sign of poor communication skills; it may be an indication that the instructor really doesn’t know himself why his material is important.

The professional gives the students plenty of opportunity to ask questions. He maintains an atmosphere in which discourse about the topics is not only allowed, but encouraged on a continual basis (once at the beginning of class isn't enough!) The answers to all questions are respectful of both the material and the student, and are based on provable and supportable facts - never opinions or sound bites.

-=[ Grant ]=-

The Professional Instructor: Tenet #3.

This is an entry in my multi-part exploration of the “Code Of The Professional Defensive Shooting Instructor”. If you missed the opening article of this series, which has some background and a link to the Rob Pincus article where the Code was originally published,
click here to read it.

"I recognize that defensive shooting skills, along with the drills and gear used, are inherently specialized and usually distinct from those of target shooting, competition and hunting endeavors."

One Sunday when I was eight or nine years old my family went to visit relatives. My uncle's Army buddy and family had just moved to Oregon, and he wanted our family to meet them.

Sometime during the festivities I found myself, along with my mother and some other kids, in the Army buddy's station wagon; his wife was driving. She was headed up a narrow gravel road at a higher-than-advisable rate of speed, and on a turn managed to get the car sliding sideways. All the kids screamed, of course, as the car hit the shoulder and spun to a stop. I believe it was my mother who advised the woman to slow down, and I've never forgotten the answer that came back: "Don't worry - I've driven the streets of New York City for thirty years!" What traveling on a paved street at slow speed in heavy traffic had to do with navigating a winding gravel road I couldn't fathom then, and to this day still can't.

In her mind a gravel road in the sparsely populated mountains and the streets of a major city were the same because the vehicle was the same. It seems silly, but the same type of mistake is made by too many firearms instructors: the jobs must be the same, because they all involve guns.

It should be self-evident that the tools used in defensive shooting are different than, say, skeet shooting. It may be less obvious that there are equipment differences between self defense and IPSC or IDPA shooting. What many don't recognize at all, like our friend with the car, is that there are significant differences in the
skills required, differences which lead to variations in the drills required to develop them.

It’s not simply about being pro-competition or anti-competition. The professional instructor needs to understand what, where and
why the differences occur, and be able to articulate them clearly if he/she is to give the students what they need. This goes beyond the obvious stuff; it's necessary to understand the nuances, the seemingly little things that actually require big adjustments in curriculum. This only happens if the instructor isn't wedded to one point of view and if he/she really understands what defensive shooting is about.

The key with this tenet, I believe, is realizing that context drives what is used and taught. What makes sense in the context of a hunting trip or a shooting match or a self defense incident will at some level be different, and the instructor needs to be cognizant of that if the student is to be well served.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Speed vs. efficiency: what's the difference?

Check out my new article at PDN for an answer!

-=[ Grant ]=-

The Professional Instructor: Tenet #2.

This is an entry in my multi-part exploration of the “Code Of The Professional Defensive Shooting Instructor”. If you missed the opening article of this series, which has some background and a link to the Rob Pincus article where the Code was originally published,
click here to read it.

"I believe that it is my responsibility to understand not just what I’m teaching, but WHY I’m teaching any technique or concept, or offering specific advice."

We had quite a discussion about this particular tenet! It's deceptively simple, yet difficult to put into practice without some work and introspection on the part of the instructor. It's also important to the rest of the Tenets, because unless this one is dealt with properly those which follow cannot be adopted with integrity.

It's been my experience that few instructors really know why they're teaching or recommending something. What I mean by that is they haven't spent a lot of time asking (and answering) probing questions about their material: is this relevant to my student's actual needs; does it make sense; is it supported by objective evidence; is it consistent with everything else I teach; can it be understood; am I capable of explaining it in a way that can be understood?

For instance, if the answer to "why do I teach/recommend this" is "because that's the way I learned it in the Army/Navy/Marines/the NRA/my instructor development class", or "my guru/famous shooter does it that way", or "I read it in a book by a renowned author", then that person doesn't really understand why. The answers "because it works for me" or "because I prefer it myself" are no better.

Here's the tricky part: whether the technique or concept happens to be correct for any random student is not the point! That's teaching by chance, and the occasional success isn't relevant if the instructor doesn't understand why it is. The whole point of this tenet is a deep understanding of what's being taught before it's ever presented to the student, so that each one gets what they need and can apply directly to their own situation. It's always about the student.

The right answer to the "why" question is "because it's the best thing for the student, and here are the rational reasons which support it.” Every technique, every concept, every recommendation has to be considered by that measure. Is it any wonder why I think this is the most difficult - and, next to safety, the most important - of all the Tenets?

-=[ Grant ]=-

The Professional Instructor: Tenet #1.

This is an entry in my multi-part exploration of the “Code Of The Professional Defensive Shooting Instructor”. If you missed the opening article of this series, which has some background and a link to the Rob Pincus article where the Code was originally published,
click here to read it.

“I am committed to the safety of my students, and hold that the expected benefit of any training activity must significantly outweigh any known or perceived risk of that activity.”

Safety, for both our students and ourselves, is always our first priority. Why, then, isn't this tenet a recitation of safety rules? Because without the instructor having the proper frame of mind, even the best safety rules can and will fail.

We all know that shooting guns in a training environment involves some level of danger. We minimize our exposure to that danger - our risk level - by taking precautions. There is, for instance, always the danger of hearing damage whenever guns are fired. We reduce that risk by wearing hearing protection, allowing us to engage in shooting practice without having to worry about our ears.

If we didn't do that, the damage to our ears would outweigh the benefit of the training. By using ear protection, the benefit of the training is greater than the risk of hearing damage. We require our students to wear hearing protection so that the benefit of their training greatly outweighs that particular risk.

All of our safety rules should serve to reduce the risk of the activity, and we should require that our students follow them. Sometimes that's not enough; sometimes there is no rule or procedure that can make a particular activity safe in the way we've defined it. If that happens, then the activity needs to be modified or eliminated so that the risk/benefit ratio is maintained.

This isn't a cookie cutter or paint-by-numbers approach to safety because as instructors, it's our job to understand safety at a higher level than that; it's our job to understand it as a concept. We need to know how to apply the concept in ways that keep our students safe, and we do that by having rules and procedures that are relevant to the student’s needs and abilities. We need to look at all of our activities and drills and ask hard questions: what is the real benefit, is that benefit relevant to our student's lives, and does that benefit
really outweigh all of the risks we're taking?

The student only needs to focus on what to do, while the teacher needs to focus on why they're doing it. That understanding is the difference between the teacher - the professional teacher - and the student.

-=[ Grant ]=-

What is a "professional"?

Those of you who've been reading my work for any length of time might have noticed that I don't spend a lot of time talking about calibers, stopping power, or any of that nonsense - especially as it relates to self defense. That's because I believe that there are more important things with which to be concerned, things beyond those trite topics which are the staple of gun magazines and online forums.

I approach teaching with the same attitude; I tend not to get wrapped up in learning some trendy new technique to show off to my students, but instead I spend time learning how to be a better teacher, how to communicate more effectively, how to bring concepts and ideas to life for my students.

Stan Kenton once said of Lee Konitz that he was someone who was in constant study; perfection was not enough, and he was intent on achieving even greater heights. Konitz is an inspiration to me for that reason.

A chance encounter a few years back put me into contact with people in the defensive shooting world who share those same ideals. One you know, and one you should: Rob Pincus and
Omari Broussard. Their passion for teaching is infectious, and I'm lucky to be able to rub shoulders with them.

Several months ago an interesting email conversation started between us, and it’s a conversation that today is causing ripples in the defensive shooting community. Rob was intent on getting a handle on the slippery notion of what constitutes a professional in this field. He was interested in statements, in descriptions, in measurements of what a professional instructor believes and how he/she puts those beliefs into practice

He started the brainstorming session by offering up a few ideas. Omari and I gave our feedback and some ideas of our own, and before long we had seven statements that we believed described the essence of professional instruction. It wasn't just us, though - they were shared with some of the most respected and progressive people in the business, who each gave their own feedback (and sometimes justified criticism.) Soon those statements, through the oversight of many, had become principles - tenets - of defensive training.

I wrote in my SHOT Show recap that there had been an informal meeting of some of the training field's best and brightest teachers. It was at that meeting that these tenets were revealed for the first time to a large group of people, and I must say that their reaction was almost unbelievably positive. We had people who espoused many different positions on
what they were teaching, but who quickly found solid common ground on how they should teach and on what an instructor should be. We all signed the same document that said, in essence, "this is what I, too, believe."

Last week, in an article over at Downrange TV,
Rob formally unveiled the "Code of the Professional Defensive Shooting Instructor" to the world. If you haven't seen it yet, go read his article. Many people in the training community are now coming forward and saying that they agree with the rest of us, and that they too strive to be professionals.

This is just the beginning. More great things are coming, and soon.

I'm proud to have played some small part in what may be a seminal event in the defensive shooting world. We have agreement from a wide range of professionals not about guns or calibers or stances or reloading techniques, but rather the important stuff: how we teach, how we evolve, how we behave, and how we bring the best we can to our students.

As I said, go read Rob's article and the Seven Tenets. Then, for the next seven days, I'll be exploring each of those tenets here. I'll explain what I think about each one, why I thought it should be included in the Code, and how it affects what I teach and why I teach it. (That's right, seven back-to-back days of blogging - and you won't want to miss a single one!)

In case you got here from an outside link, here are the links to the individual entries (updated as each one is posted):

Tenet #1: “I am committed to the safety of my students, and hold that the expected benefit of any training activity must significantly outweigh any known or perceived risk of that activity.”

Tenet #2: "I believe that it is my responsibility to understand not just what I’m teaching, but WHY I’m teaching any technique or concept, or offering specific advice."

Tenet #3: "I recognize that defensive shooting skills, along with the drills and gear used, are inherently specialized and usually distinct from those of target shooting, competition and hunting endeavors."

Tenet #4: "I will encourage my students to ask questions about course material, and I will answer them with thorough and objective explanations."

Tenet #5: "I understand that Integrity and Professionalism are subjective traits and I strive to maintain high levels of both. I am capable of, and willing to, articulate the reasons for the way I conduct my courses and how I interact with students & peers."

Tenet #6: "I believe that it is valuable to engage my peers in constructive conversation about differences in technique and concept, with the goal of mutual education and evolution."

Tenet #7: "I believe that the best instructor is an avid student, and I will strive to continually upgrade my own skills and knowledge. As part of this belief, I understand that my own teachings need to be subject to critique and open to evolution."

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Neither snow nor rain...

The United States Postal Service has been in the news lately as they struggle to find a place - and make a profit - in the digital age. (
I've already told them how they could turn that situation around, but it's worth noting that they haven't listened to me. Yet.)

How fortuitous, then, that The New York Times Lens Blog should unveil a great little collection of
pictures from small-town post offices by photographer Kristoffer Tripplaar. They’re not what you might think - have a look!

-=[ Grant ]=-

What I did at SHOT Show: now it can be told.

In my SHOT Show recap, I mentioned that there was an informal meeting of movers and shakers in the defensive training field.
Rob Pincus has posted over a DRTV about that meeting, and what came out of it. I think you'll find it interesting!

-=[ Grant ]=-

There is beauty in workmanship.

Forgotten Weapons recently featured some pictures of an extremely rare Japanese autoloading pistol: the Hino-Komuro from 1908. It's intriguing because of its blow-forward design (the only other examples of which I know are the Mannlicher of 1894 and the Schwarzlose of 1908), but not a lot is known about it. There were only 1200 made, and only a handful survive.

Until this post, I'd never seen a picture of one - only line drawings in Pistols Of The World (Hogg/Weeks.) When I saw the image I was intrigued not just with the rarity, but with the obvious quality of the gun's manufacture (and the incredibly good condition!) Head over to FW and look at the great pictures.

Note how the grip screws fit precisely into their ferrules; how the wood of the grips mates with the contours of the metal, and the precision of the checkering pattern. The bluing is very nice, and see how the grip safety fits into the frame. There was a lot of care and talent that went into making this pistol.

It's easy to look at late-war examples of Arisaka rifles, with their poor machining and fitting, and forget that the Japanese were quite capable arms makers when they had the resources. This is a beautiful example of what they could do.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Safety rules. Again. Until everyone gets them.

From a
new-to-me blogger comes the story that a woman in South Carolina was 'accidentally' shot by an off-duty sheriff's deputy during a class to get her concealed weapons permit. The deputy was the instructor.

What's interesting to me are the blogger's comments: Jeff Cooper's rules, he says, "are not flexible". Oh, really? I'll refer you back to
my original article on the detestable Rule #1 for clarification. I think they’re tremendously flexible, which is precisely the problem.

There are three issues with his conclusions: 1) Labeling rules with meaningless numbers (rules need to be in words for people to be able to understand and follow them); 2) deifying those rules by reverently invoking the name of the person who wrote them (‘appeal to authority’, a logical fallacy), thus preventing criticism; and 3) doggedly hanging onto the first rule which does nothing - repeat, NOTHING - to make anyone safer and in fact leads to exactly the accident covered in his story. That's because, as I keep saying, people feel free to do stupid things with guns that they THINK are unloaded.

Safety rules that actually work:

- Always keep the muzzle pointed in a generally safe direction ("generally safe" means that should the gun unintentionally fire, it will not hurt or kill you or any other human being.)
- Always keep your fingers outside the trigger guard until you are actually ready to fire.
- Always remember that you are in control of a weapon, and if used negligently it may injure or kill you or someone else.

No equivocation, no ambiguity, and if all anyone remembers is the first one they (and everyone around them) will still be safe. The same can never be said for Traditional Rule #1.

Respect the man, challenge the material.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Ed Harris Friday: My Observations on the Ruger Mini-14

My Observations on the Ruger Mini-14
by Ed Harris

(Editor’s Note: Today Ed candidly talks about the Ruger Mini-14, a gun with which my wife and I have a love-hate affair. She likes the size, the handling, and the appearance, while I like that it uses a round which I already have in abundance! When we went looking for a rifle for her, we acquired and quickly disposed of several examples as we couldn’t find one that was both accurate and reliable. Now that Ed has identified the cure for its accuracy woes, and Ruger is finally making reliable high-capacity magazines, perhaps it’s time for us to revisit the Mini!)

When I was at Ruger I tested hundreds of Mini 14 rifles of all configurations, conducting audit shoots of normal production, as well as R&D testing of the full-auto AC556, AC556 and the experimental XGI rifle in .308 Win, and assisting in the development of the Mini Thirty in 7.62x39.

To be COMPLETELY honest I was disappointed with its accuracy when compared to the M16A1 and A2 rifles, with which I am very familiar. The Mini 14 gives reasonable performance for an American-made rifle in its price range, and is safe, serviceable and reliable. It just isn't all that accurate. You can find individual rifles which shoot well, but these are statistical aberrations.

We tried to test a large enough sample of rifles to pick "good" ones, then painstakingly took them apart and gaged every part to see if we could tweak tolerances or make design changes which would significantly improve accuracy without increasing production cost. It couldn't be done. We did learn a few things, however.

The long run average group size for standard Mini-14 rifles fired from a test stand is about 4-5" for ten-shot groups with M193 or M855 ammunition of "average" quality, producing an acceptance Mean Radius of 1.6-1.6" at 200 yds from a test barrel. The M16A1 or A2 do this at 200 yards from a machine rest. I believe the biggest factor in Mini-14 accuracy is irregular contact between the gas block and the face of the slideblock, welded to the slide handle (aka operating rod).

If you disassemble the rifle and inspect the face of the slide block and the rear of the gas block assembly, you may find that the face of the slide block strikes one side or the other of the gas block, rather than making a uniform and symmetrical imprint. This asymmetrical contact causes fliers. The fit-up can sometimes be improved by grinding 0.005-.010" off the face of the slide, so that with the slide fully forward, a .001" shim can be inserted between the slide block and gas block and be clear all the way around. This way the forward motion of the slide is stopped by the right locking lug in the cam pocket of the slide handle, rather than by the slide block slamming against the gas block, as is the case with the M1 Garand rifle.

I caution against removing the gas block, because these are installed in a fixture at the factory to insure proper alignment. There is a small bushing in the gas block which locates it on the barrel. You must be careful not to lose this. This is why the gas block screws are staked in place on newer guns.

The condition of the muzzle crown is important as well as the straightness of the barrel. Sometimes the barrels are bent when pressing the front sight on. Usually they catch this at the factory and they correct them if it causes fliers in the range, but since they only shoot indoors at 50 yards, for a 2" group, the accuracy standards are more in keeping for a plinking rifle than for the serious accuracy enthusiast.

The Mini-14 chamber conforms to U.S. dwg. #8448649, which is used for the M16A1 chamber. It has a .225" cylindrical ball seat with a slight freebore. I do not believe the GI chamber causes any inaccuracy in this type of rifle, because I have fired thousands of rounds in heavy test barrels with this chamber which gave fine accuracy.

For an accuracy load I suggest 21-22 grs. of 4198 (either IMR or Hodgdon) with the 52 or 53-gr. Sierra bullets loaded to 2.25" OAL, or 23-23.5 grs. of H322. The 52-gr. Nosler solid base also is quite accurate.

The Mini-14 Ranch Rifle was also made in .222 Remington for the export market to France, Belgium and Italy where civilians are not allowed to own firearms of military caliber. Overruns were sold in the U.S.

Not much to say today.


But take heart: this Friday I'll have another of Ed Harris' great articles for you!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Monday Meanderings: safety TV, Tam's funny, and an important video.

Over at Sharp As A Marble comes the revelation that
gun safety was front-and-center on a primetime broadcast show. I'm glad to see shooting becoming more mainstream, or more precisely returning to the mainstream status it enjoyed when I was a kid.


Funniest thing I've read this morning, from Tam on the subject of Whitney:
"I'm also waiting for the first spotting of a Velvet Elvis portrait of MJ and Whitney side-by-side, busting beatific poses, à la a Byzantine icon, perhaps with Dale Earnhardt and Lady Di at their shoulders and the mighty host of Celeb Heaven gathered behind them..."

Soon to be seen at all the better streetcorner vendors, no doubt.


Recently a county right here in Oregon produced a quality
video that aims to reduce misconceptions about officer-involved shootings. Titled “Hollywood vs. Reality”, it counters many of the common misconceptions about shootings in the line of duty. When you remember that some of those misconceptions often persist in private sector self defense, the value of a myth-busting video like this one should be clear. Definitely worth watching!

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: Zip-a-dee-doo-dah.

Yesterday marked the birthday of a talent that died far too young. Once called, by one of America's greatest producers, "the best actor, I believe, to be discovered in years", this African-American performer delighted millions and recorded an incredibly well-known song before an untimely death.

No, I'm not talking about the drug-abusing, self-destructive Whitney Houston. I'm talking about
James Baskett, one of the pioneer performers in film history.

The name may not be familiar to you, but his most famous role certainly is: he played Uncle Remus, as well as providing the voice of Brer Fox, in Disney's "
Song Of The South". Baskett made famous the song Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, a tune so familiar that it's become almost a symbol of Disney itself. (Oh, the quote about him being the best actor? From none other than Walt Disney - a man who knew talent when he saw it.)

Baskett started out to become a pharmacist, but the financial needs of college led him to the stage. He started in Chicago but his career soon took him to California and famous roles in radio before he tried out at Walt Disney Studios. When Disney saw his audition (which, ironically, was for a voice - not a live character) he was hired on the spot. He was Disney's first live actor.

It was his role in Song Of The South that cemented his place in American cinematic history. His performance, created from sketchy scripts and with very little direction, was so good that he became the first black actor to be awarded an Oscar. The resulting film was a tour de force for both Disney and Baskett.

Ironically, one of the most important actors in film history couldn't attend the opening day of what would be his major work. The film was premiered in racially segregated Atlanta, where he would not have been allowed to participate in any of the activities. Baskett died of a heart condition just two years after the film was released.

Sadly his film is not available in the United States, as it is today deemed as racist. The flap? That Baskett's character is happy - he doesn't sufficiently portray the horror of slavery in the south (despite the fact that the film is clearly set in the post-Civil War period.) The NAACP made the original racism charge, and even though today they have no official position on it the film continues to be restricted by Disney.

I find that about as logical as censoring films that portray any women in the days before suffrage as being happy.

The Disney organization professes to be considerate of people's feelings about racism, which is their reason for not selling copies of the film. Apparently their altruism stops at our borders, as it is widely available, from Disney, in the rest of the world. Thanks to the internet, today you can easily buy a DVD of this important work.

Is the film racist? I don’t see it, but then again I’m not a person who actively thinks about anyone’s race. I enjoy Baskett’s role in Song Of The South simply because he was incredibly good at what he did, and watching it gives me the pleasure that he obviously wanted it to. I’ll leave the arguments about intent and subtext to those who are wound a little tighter than I am and just appreciate the film for what it is.

I find it sad that one of America's great actors, a true pioneer in film, is unable to be seen in his most important role in his own country. I hope that someday that changes, but until it does here is the incomparable James Baskett, singing what would become his (and Disney's) signature song. Happy Birthday, Mr. Baskett!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Sights for autopistols.

I was reading about the
Kimber Solo over at The Firearm Blog the other day, and something struck me as odd. No, it wasn't the anachronistic thumb safety (on a double action, striker-fired gun) nor the smooth front and back grip straps (which make it impossible to control in anything resembling realistic defensive fire.) It wasn't even the incredibly specific ammo requirements (the likes of which we haven't seen since the introduction of the Seecamp LWS 32.)

What I found odd was the rear sight. Now most people will probably look at it and think that there's nothing at all odd about its vaguely Novak-like profile, but that's exactly my point. That 'low profile' design has been around forever, but still makes no sense in terms of functionality. That something so superfluous is nearly ubiquitous is amazing.

The design is said to be less prone to snagging, one of its major selling points. The problem I have with this concept is that it is non-snag in the direction of holstering, not in the direction of drawing! It seems to me that snagging the rear sight while holstering isn't really an issue, where snagging during the draw might (note I said 'might') be a problem. So why the huge ramp on the front side of the sight?

The design has no real function, but does present a problem where the shooter needs to operate the slide one-handed. The rear blade is now snag-free in the direction that we need it not to be - there is no hook or shelf on the slide which the shooter can catch on a belt (or the edge of a holster) to help manipulate the slide. Net result: a "feature" which actually has less than zero purpose.

Admittedly, the likelihood of needing to operate the slide one-handed is slim. Still, why design that possibility out of something when there is no compensating gain to be had?

(Hmmm...thumb safety. Low-profile "snag free" sights. Extremely picky about ammo. Hey - they've managed to recreate 1985!)

-=[ Grant ]=-

Tongue tied.

Over the weekend I came up with a topic for today's blog. Unfortunately I didn't write it down at the time, and have now forgotten what it was! Trust me on this - it was great.

I did want to comment on this, however: a couple of weeks ago,
The Firearm Blog did a review of a Taurus .454 Casull model that sports a ported 2" barrel. They've got video of the gun being shot, which leads me to wonder why they didn't try a rapid fire sequence? Heck, I tried it with a very similar gun - a Ruger Alaskan in .454 - and I lived to tell the tale. My elbows hurt for a month afterward, but I did it! (No, I'm not doing it again. I may have a crazy streak, but I'm not stupid.)

-=[ Grant ]=-

Ed Harris: Building an accurate .22 field rifle!

(Editor's Note: Ed Harris is back! He recently sent me a big archive of his older articles, and there are some real gems in there. I'll be featuring one of these treasures every other Friday! Today Ed talks about rebarreling a .22 rifle to turn it into a budget tackdriver. Some of you may remember that I love playing with .22 rifles, and you can bet I was taking notes as I read this!)

RE-BARREL YOUR 22 BOLT ACTION AND... Make an accurate smallbore silhouette or squirrel rifle!
by C.E. 'Ed' Harris (Rev. 3-1-94)

The idea of an accurate, .22 rimfire rifle weighing 7-1/2 or 8 lbs. with scope, having the same sleek good looks and steady handling as my center-fire varmint rifles was very appealing. We could have used any quality .22 bolt-action for this project, but my Ruger M77/.22 rifle was a natural choice. It was available, and while serviceable, it was an ordinary grouper. Arlington, VA gunsmith Jim Coleman suggested a heavier barrel with SAAMI-dimensioned "Match-type" chamber, and pillar bedding and minor tuning up. The result is very satisfying, and more useful than the original rifle.

My customized Ruger is highly accurate, being capable of 3/4" 10-shot 50-yard groups with good high velocity and approaching 1/2" with the best match ammunition. (See the article "Getting the Most from Your .22 Rimfire" in the 1992 Gun Digest for more details). It weighs 7-1/2 lbs. with a hunting scope, or 8 lbs. with my 10X Unertl, handy enough for field carry when after squirrels or close-range woodchucks. It is now the most-used rifle in my gun rack. I am truly surprised that Ruger still hasn't offered a heavier-barrel M77/.22 with match chamber.

Rebarreling a sporter with a heavier barrel can be done economically if you can find a good used target rifle barrel. Used .22 target rifle barrels with bright, sharp bores, in serviceable condition, can be set back and rechambered successfully. These can often be found at gun shows for $10-40, depending upon local supply and demand, but some luck is involved.

If you know a gunsmith who rebarrels rimfire target rifles, ask him to save you a used Remington 40X, Winchester 52, BSA-Martini or Anschutz barrel. Even if it has been shot a lot, when cleaned up, carefully inspected, set back, rechambered to a SAAMI-dimensioned "match" chamber, and cut to a handy length, a used target rifle barrel will yield a stiff, accurate, 22-24" steady-holding sporter barrel which will group well.

Setting back the typical 26-28" target barrel to 22-24" barrel will remove all of a worn or eroded breech, and leaves plenty enough to cut and recrown the muzzle, giving a handy field gun which is heavy enough for proper balance. However, if you want a flyweight tack driver, this can also be done. My buddy Nick Croyle put a piece of used Hart target barrel on his M77/.22 and had Jim Coleman turn it to the proportions of a buggy whip, and that 5-1/4-lb. rifle with 19" barrel will shoot 1/2" , ten- shot bugholes at 50 yards with Eley Tenex, his squirrel load!

Rebarreling .22 rimfire bolt-actions with threaded barrels such as the Kimber 82, Remington 40X, or Winchester 52 are done much the same as a center-fire rifle, except that excessive tightening of the barrel must be avoided. Otherwise the smaller shank on the softer rimfire barrel (typically 1137 steel of Rockwell B80-90 hardness) may become constricted at the root of the thread where the barrel shoulder stops against the receiver.

For non-threaded barrels, such as Anschutz, the barrel pins must be removed to free the old barrel. The ends of the pins are often polished before bluing cheap rifles, and may be hard to see. They are obvious on Anschutz and other European match rifles.

The Ruger M77/.22 barrel is the easiest to remove, and is accomplished by removing two cap screws which hold the barrel retainer. The Ruger M77/.22 barrel is retained in the receiver by a V-block shaped retainer held by two cap screws. The retainer engages a 45 degree cut in the underside of the barrel. You can copy the old barrel fairly easily. The retainer slot can be rough cut with hacksaw and filed to final dimensions or machined in a milling machine or using the milling attachment in the lathe. The Ruger 10/.22 autoloader barrel is attached similarly, but requires careful attention to the chamber for safety reasons.

The barrel shank at the breech of non-threaded replacement barrels should be turned one half a thousandth of an inch (0.0005") less than the diameter of the barrel hole, so that it is a snug fit, without having to force it home. You should be able to insert the barrel by hand with slight resistance, pick up the action with the barrel in place, and shake it without loosening. A "forced fit" must be avoided because it may cause a constriction near the chamber which will hurt accuracy.

The looser fit of .002" less than the barrel hole, as found on factory Ruger barrels is normally satisfactory, but may influence accuracy if heavy stock fore-end pressure, common as the rifles from the factory) exerts pressure against the barrel. For that reason we prefer free floated barrels.

Nearly all .22 rimfire barrels require clearance cuts for the extractor and cartridge supports. These can be cut by hand with a hacksaw and finished with small files, but it is best if they are done in a milling machine, or using with a milling attachment in a lathe. Extractors and cartridge supports are semi-circular in shape, and factory clearance cuts are radiused, not straight as a file cut would be. These cuts are located by coating the extractor and cartridge support with lipstick or Prussian blue, and gently inserting the bolt and closing it only enough to "mark" the points of contact to show where the cuts are to be made, which then copy the factory barrel.

Best accuracy in bolt actions with a variety of ammunition requires the use of the .22 Long Rifle SAAMI-dimensioned "Match" chamber. Testing indicates that the "Match" chamber gives a truly dramatic improvement in grouping compared to the common "sporting" chamber. To prove to ourselves we took two match-chambered barrels of established accuracy and reamed them to the normal "sporting" chamber, with no other change. The average extreme spread of fifty consecutive 10-shot groups at 50 yards, firing ten groups each with five different ammunitions, actually doubled when a match chamber was enlarged with the sporting reamer!

Semi-auto .22 rifles can also be rebarreled successfully, but it is dangerous to use the tight SAAMI-dimensioned "Match" chamber in an autoloader, because it WILL slam-fire and blow case heads off. However, the typical "Sporting" .22 LR chamber is too large in diameter, and also too long for best accuracy. In an autoloader the "Winchester 52D-Type" chamber (discussed in my article "Building an Accurate .22 Autoloader" in the 1993 Gun Digest) is what you should use. If you plan to do all types of.22 rimfires, boltguns, autoloaders and handguns and only want to buy one reamer, get the "Winchester 52D-Type." JGS Precision, 1141 South Sumner Road, Coos Bay, OR 97420 can provide these.

If the barrel is to be pinned permanently in place, rather than using a Ruger-type retainer, first cement it in place with "service removable" (Blue #241) Loctite prior to function test firing to ensure the extractor slots line up and do not bind on the bolt. This permits brief test firing and removal for adjustments, if needed. Once feeding and extraction are proven reliable, use the existing barrel pin holes in the receiver as guides to drill and ream new holes for somewhat larger straight pins, or tapered pins to secure the barrel.

The Ruger M77/.22 magazine feeds rounds almost straight into the chamber and requires only minimal breaking of sharp edges on the chamber entrance. A crowning ball with 320 grit abrasive works well to just remove the wire edge. On other makes of rifles which tend to shave lead, chamfering of the chamber entrance must not be over-done, lest it cause bulged case heads, which may cause burst cases, risking personal injury!

I have have found that almost all .22 sporters group more consistently when the barrel is free floated. It is also necessary to ensure that the receiver is evenly supported. If the rifle shoots tight, round groups without significant change in point of impact as the barrel heats and after taking the action in and out of the stock several times, the bedding should not be changed. Otherwise, "pillar bed" the action exactly as done for a center-fire rifle.

This is done by machining through the stock screw holes with a 3/8" drill or end mill, and fitting brass or aluminum bushings which are epoxied in place. Using metal bushings avoid the possibility of shrinkage voids which may occur when trying to "pillar" the guard screw holes with bedding compound. Solid pillar bedding positively prevents wood compression when the screws are drawn snug, holds the action in alignment without bending or twisting, and ensures free clearance of the action screws in the stock so they work in tension, as intended, rather than applying a shear force to the receiver.

Scope bases must be firmly attached. We prefer either Ruger rings on the M77/.22, or Unertl Posa-Mount bases with Unertl external adjustment scopes. Scope rings for internal adjustment scopes should be lapped after mounting on the receiver, to correct for any machining irregularities in the scope bases or rifle receiver. This ensures that the scope tube is not bent or misaligned when the mounts are drawn up snug.

Lapping of scope rings is done by turning a bar of round mild steel, brass or aluminum to .998" diameter on centers and about 10" long. The lower halves of the scope rings are firmly attached to the bases in the normal manner, then lapped with 240 grit to obtain at least 2/3 surface contact.

As for choosing the scope itself, years of experience in the Virginia Blue Ridge on squirrels has proven the value of a 6X scope on small game rifle. For a hunting rifle we suggest having the parallax corrected for 50 yards, but smallbore silhouette shooters should have it optimized for the 75m turkey, which is the most difficult target. A higher magnification is OK for a pure silhouette rifle, but is harder than a 6X to hold steadily in a field position when you have been climbing ridges, is less bright on dark days or in heavy foliage, and usually has too small a field of view for tracking a fast-moving bushytail!

For hunting a 2-minute dot at the center of the crosshairs provides a highly visible aiming point, in poor light, but one which does not obscure small game targets at realistic ranges. An additional 1/2 minute dot centered 7" below the crosshairs provides correct 100-yard holdover for standard velocity target, or sub-sonic hollow-point hunting ammunition. Set the second dot at 6" if you favor high speed ammunition. Dick Thomas at Premier reticles can provide this service on most scopes for a reasonable charge, with about 3-6 weeks turnaround time.
(Editor’s Note: Since this article was written, Premier Reticles has stopped offering aftermarket reticle services, having transitioned to manufacturing scopes exclusively a few years ago - see my SHOT show recap for a discussion of their new product line. At this moment the only place I know that can provide an aftermarket reticle such as Ed describes is the T.K. Lee Company in Alabama.)

Many people have wanted the address of Jim Coleman, who built my rifles, I guess because they have seen the copious volumes of accuracy data featured in American Rifleman and the Gun Digest. I am happy to do this, but point out there are plenty of competent gunsmiths who can do this work. I am pleased with what Jim did for me, but I have no financial stake in this whatever.

James C. Coleman can be reached at Coleman's Custom Repair, 4035 North 20th Rd., Arlington, VA 22207, telephone ( 703) 528-4486. It is best to query him by phone first to see what his current work load is, as he is a one-man shop.

Now that you have some ideas on how to make a really serious rimfire, we better warn those bushytails to jump fast and stay hidden!

Respect the man, challenge the material.

I received a couple of critical emails in regard to
last week's post about the double tap and its applicability to realistic defensive training. The gist of both, and sadly predictable, was that I wasn't fit to polish the boots of Jeff Cooper, who was an advocate of the practice.

My reply: one can question an opinion without being insolent to the person who holds it. As individuals we
should do so, but as teachers we must.

I then referred them to
an article called "Respectful Irreverence" by Rob Pincus, which I first read in 2008 and which marked a turning point in my outlook on the training world. It's a classic that deserves a few minutes of your time to read.

Just because I happen to disagree with someone doesn’t mean that I don’t admire them or appreciate their contributions to the field. At the same time, I don’t engage in hero worship - it is not conducive to independent, critical thought.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Critical thinking when reading.

Someone sent me this link to
a story on Tactical-Life.com about the Center Axis Relock (C.A.R.) system of Paul Castle. At the outset it's important to note that I don't think much of this "system", largely because it asks the shooter to do a number of things that aren't congruent with how the body reacts to a threat stimulus. It may or may not have some use to military or police tactical teams when in a proactive mode, but since I'm neither of those I'm not qualified to judge its tactical usefulness in those areas.

I can, however, comment on the intellectual inadequacies of one specific part of the story. In the fifth paragraph of the article, the author defends the C.A.R. system's extreme bladed position with regard to body armor. One of the criticisms of this exaggerated stance is that it exposes the weakest part of an officer's (or soldier's) body armor to the threat. The author’s rejoinder is that the system places the bones and tissue of the upper arm in a position to protect that vulnerable spot.

Seriously, that's what it says.

There was a shooting instructor back in the 1950s or '60s (whose name I'm not recalling at the moment) who recommended that the pistol be shot one handed, with the weak hand reaching across the chest to the strong shoulder to put the bicep roughly over the heart to provide protection. Gosh, why aren't we still doing that? If the bones and muscles of the upper arm are sufficient for protection of vulnerable areas, why are we wearing body armor at all?

The whole idea of body armor came about because flesh and bone have proven to be quite inadequate at stopping bullets. In fact, that's exactly the kind of material that bullets are designed to defeat. While a muscled arm may slow the bullet down a bit, it's still going to go through and into more important organs. Body armor exists because bullets go through muscles, and we've expended many resources to give people ever-better armor with fewer and fewer vulnerable areas.

The sides and arm holes are a well known weakness of all armor, and the recommendation has always been to keep the front area of the armor pointed at the threat if at all possible. There are many stories of soldiers and cops killed because a bullet (or piece of shrapnel, in some cases) made its way into the body by way of the open space around the arm - the size of the bicep notwithstanding.

There are those who will read the article without questioning. Unless they think critically, examining both the author's assumptions and logic flow, they might be caught up by the recasting of a flaw as a feature.

-=[ Grant ]=-

FRIDAY SURPRISE: The story behind an iconic photograph.

Dorothea Lange made what is perhaps her most famous image, "Migrant Mother", in 1936 while working for the Resettlement Administration. What is often overlooked is her interaction with her subjects, particularly Lange's reported use of a variant of the phrase "I'm from the government, I'm here to help."

Here's a great story and video from the Library of Congress on Lange and the making of that famous photo.

-=[ Grant ]=-

The Double Tap.

At SHOT I made a passing comment to Pharmacist Tommy that, in the context of defensive shooting, practicing double taps was a tacit admission that a person wasn't able to control their gun. He looked at me quizzically, as I'm sure you're doing right now.

(Let's get some terminology out of the way. Most people shooting double taps are firing two rounds in quick succession with one sight picture. Adherents to the so-called "Modern" Technique would scream that the term is used incorrectly, and that they are actually shooting 'hammers'. I'll concede the point, in the same way I concede that the Battle of Bunker Hill was in fact fought on Breed's Hill - you'll note it's made no difference in elementary school history lessons, however. I'll continue to use Bunker Hill and double tap to describe what the majority hold that they describe, because arguing the point wastes my time and doesn't change the outcome anyhow.)

Let's start with a question: why practice the double tap as a defensive tactic? When I watch surveillance and dashcam videos, regardless of the training level of the shooter, I don't see the stylized double tap. What I see instead, very consistently, is a string of fire without artificial pauses. After all, bullets are what stops bad guys -- and the faster those bullets get to him, the better.

If you need to shoot your attacker six times, and choose to do so with three double taps, that means the half-second pause between those strings gives him a full second to hurt you more. How many bullets can come out of his gun in one second? How many critical stab wounds can he inflict? How far can he move? Giving the bad guy any extra time is counter to your own self interest.

How about double-tapping, then assessing (as is still the recommendation in some training backwaters)? The answer is that there is no way to know ahead of time how many shots it's going to take to make your bad guy go away. That being the case, why on earth would you stop shooting at an arbitrary point if a threat is present? The time to asses is after the threat is no longer in front of your gun, whether that takes one, two, or five rounds. Practicing to always do that at two rounds means that if your fight goes longer and you stop to make your well-rehearsed assessment, you're exposing yourself needlessly to danger.

I could go on, but my point is that the double tap makes no sense in the context of surviving a lethal attack. The logical practice routine would be to always fire a random-length string of shots: two, three, four, and perhaps even occasionally five or six. Mix 'em up; don't get locked into any one pattern.

The double tap really doesn't have a use in defensive shooting, yet people all over the country continue to practice it. I believe the answer is simple, and I've observed it in action: if you ask any random shooter, regardless of his or her proficiency or training level, to shoot a string of three or four or five rounds at the same cadence (with the same "split time", or elapsed time between shots) as the double taps they're flinging downrange, the chances are almost certain that they won't be able to do so.

What usually happens is that the first two shots land in acceptable proximity to each other, but the third will climb significantly and the fourth is usually off the target. In order to land all their shots inside whatever reasonable target area is chosen, they need to slow down - sometimes significantly. In other words, they can't control their gun at that inflated rate.

Now, just about everyone will be faster at the double tap than at an extended string of fire. The point is that the longer strings of fire are what are most likely in the context of a defensive shooting, because the natural reaction is likely to be shooting until the threat goes away. If the gun can't be controlled in such a realistic or plausible shooting scenario, then that shooter needs a different gun (or much better technique) instead of gaming his or her practice to artificially inflate competence.

Shooting double taps instead of more realistic strings serves as proof that one cannot control the gun for the use to which it is likely to be put. It's up to the shooter to recognize, admit, and change.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Monday Meanderings: Safety rules, big revolver, and juries.

I hope everyone enjoyed my little SHOT Show recap last week. Between recovering from a nasty cold (which I picked up in Vegas) and being a bit tired of talking guns, this morning is going to be all linky, no thinky.

-- Over at the
Geek With A Gun blog, there is a discussion about my recent post on safety rules. He doesn't entirely agree with me, which is okay - the important thing is that he's THINKING about the rules and their effect on those who hear them, rather than doing the knee-jerk "the four rules are immutable" routine. The more people who understand that any rule which requires people to pretend something is doomed to failure, the better off we'll all be.

-- As you may know, I've become a fan of the Forgotten Weapons blog. This morning I checked my RSS feed to find that they have an article on the
Hotchkiss Revolving Cannon! (Hey, it's a revolver - it's topical for this blog!)

-- There was an interesting article published in TheJury Expert, which is the journal of the American Society of Trial Consultants, back in September of 2009. In it, Glenn Meyer did a little test on the
effect of firearm appearance on the opinions of a mock jury. The results were a little surprising.

Happy Monday!

-=[ Grant ]=-

SHOT Show Addendum: Food.

I knew that my trip to SHOT Show, driving both ways as I did, would force me well outside of my normal paleo diet. So be it! I embraced the cheat, devouring several versions of a food which I normally don't eat: the hamburger. I ate burgers at a number of places, some chains and some local independents, including the almost mythical (they're not in Oregon!) In-N-Out Burger.

One of the things I noticed right away is that most of the places in California ask you how you'd like your burger cooked. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but thanks to the nannies who populate the Oregon legislature we're forced to eat our burgers one way, and one way only: well done. It was a pleasure to once again have a burger that was pink in the middle, the way they should be!

I'll start with In-N-Out, since one of my goals this trip was to give them a try. I ordered, with the help of a friendly and helpful counter clerk, a Double-Double "Animal Style". It was edible, but as I finished it I was left wondering what all the fuss was about. It wasn't all that flavorful, the bland sauce covered up any beef flavor, and even the grilled onions tasted like some sort of polymer substitute. The chocolate shake wasn't much better, and frankly I was amazed at how bad the fries were. I've been there, done that, and don't plan to go back. I don't get the attraction.

I also tried one of the Six Dollar Burgers at Carl's Jr. It was actually pretty good! Lots of good quality vegetables, the meat was seasoned decently, and there was just the right amount of sauce. Probably the best chain restuarant hamburger I've had.

The surprising burger of the trip came from a little dive in Corning, CA called "Bartel's Giant Hamburgers". I was looking for something to eat and saw this little place with a parking lot full of cars. Figuring that so many people couldn't be wrong, I walked in and ordered one of their regular sized, two-patty burgers with the works, medium rare. It was delicious! Lots of zesty onions (but not too many), minimal sauce (but certainly enough to taste), and well seasoned patties. It reminded me of the great burgers from the little stand in the small town in which I grew up. I thought about stopping again on my way home, but I wanted to sample the legendary In-N-Out so I passed it by. I wish now that I hadn't!

All my other meals were eaten at restaurants in Vegas, including the Wolfgang Puck Postrio in the Venetian - where I suffered a major case of sticker shock when the bill arrived. It was a terrific meal, I'll admit, and is a huge step up from the buffet fare of the Vegas of the early 1980s, but you certainly pay for the privilege.

I'm back home, back on my diet, and thinking wistfully of the burgers I ate last week. So long, non-paleo food, it was good knowing you!

-=[ Grant ]=-

What I did at SHOT Show, Part Five.

In the last installment I bemoaned the current fad of attaching AR-15 buttstocks to anything that doesn't move. I'd like to have the adjustability, mind you, but without the wobble and general unsightliness of the AR stock. I was passing by the ATI booth, and found that in addition to their AR-style collapsible stocks (they're big in that market), they also make a more traditional looking collapsing stock that incorporates both a cheekrest and a very thick recoil absorbing pad.

Called the Akita, they have models to fit a wide variety of guns - including my beloved Ithaca Model 37 in 20 gauge! Comes in black, earthtones, or a faux woodgrain finish. It will give me the adjustability my short arms need without the Mall Ninja look I despise, and i think I'll be buying one or two!

Notice how the cheekrest covers the extended portion of the Akita stock.

If I had to pick the biggest crowd pleaser of this show, I'd have to say it was the new Colt Model 1877 'Bulldog' Gatling gun.
Colt is now making replicas (technically, I suppose, it's simply a long production hiatus) of the smallest production Gatling gun. Fully functional and authentic in every way, they're limiting the first run of these beauties to 50; ironically, that's almost three times the number that were originally produced!

I had a good chat with John Buhay, the man in charge of the program (and the person who assembles every one of them.) They went back to the original Colt blueprints, but those proved to be incomplete and in places actually inaccurate. It was necessary to find one of the existing originals, take it apart, and reverse engineer some of the parts. Getting their first prototype to work took a year and a half! The result, though, is that the parts of the new guns will interchange with the originals. That's testament to his team's desire to make them exactly like Colt did originally.

Well, not exactly! The new guns have far better finishing than the originals could ever hope to have, and they're stronger too. The majority of the gun is produced from brass castings, and by using more aluminum in the alloy and less of the original lead they were able to dramatically increase the strength and wear resistance of the brass. These guns are stronger, and will last longer, than the originals.

It takes 200 man-hours to make one Bulldog. The main casting, of brass, weighs in at 110 lbs. After machining away everything that doesn't look like a Gatling, they end up with a part that weighs 40 lbs! After all the machining is done the parts are polished and assembled. The polishing is amazing - not a flat spot or radius change anywhere, and it reflects like a mirror. Gorgeous!

The MSRP is $50,000, and I'm told virtually all of the first run are spoken for. Given that an original recently sold for over $300k, I'd say it's something of a bargain!

The business end of the Colt 1877 ‘Bulldog’ Gatling gun. Technically, it’s a revolver - right?

It’s a small world! I was in the press room one day waiting for a podcast interview when I noticed the fellow on the other side of the table had a badge indicating he was from my neck of the woods. We started talking, and it turns out that his company produces a product that has become a staple of hunters here in the Northwest: The Target Book For North American Game. It's a largish book of targets to help the hunter understand ballistics, trajectories, sight-in distances, and aiming points for a wide range of animals.

The targets cover 95 different cartridges and their trajectories, showing how to aim and sight in to reach a specified "kill zone" with that cartridge. American Hunter magazine once called it "ballistics for dummies", and the creators are proud of that appellation! They wanted a product that would help the average hunter take advantage of ballistics without having to dive into the technicalities, and The Target Book does just that.

You can get it at Cabela's, Sportsman's Warehouse, and Wholesale Sports or
directly from the publisher: Percentage Tags, Inc. in Salem, OR.

I'll end this SHOT Show review with something surprising. If you've hung around here for more than a couple of minutes you know that I'm not a huge fan of the 1911, so it takes something really special to get me to even look at one. At SHOT I found the booth of
Cabot Guns, and I've got to admit that their guns are special.

I had a long talk with Ray Rozic, the fellow in charge of their operation, and he showed me their products inside and out. He's a tool and die maker, and the parent company's major business is doing super high precision machining for the aerospace and medical fields. There is more than enough talent there to build anything to any tolerances desired, and we spent a lot of time talking about metrology (the science of measurement), heat treating, tolerance stacking, and a lot of other technical trivia. In just a few moments I realized that I was in the presence of someone who not only knows what precision is, but is capable of delivering it. He also enjoys showing off what his team can do!

The quality of machining on their guns is stunning. I actually had to break out a magnifying glass to examine the detail work on the National Standard model he handed me; it was that good. The breechface, for example, is smooth - not a bump or blemish on it. Slide to frame fit was perfect, as was the barrel lockup, and with zero lube on the rails the slide cycled like it was running on linear bearings. The barrel bushing (their own design) is perfectly fitted and even tiny details, like a reversing radius on the disconnector slot in the slide, have been given attention and are done to perfection. Flats are flat, the rounded surfaces have no flat spots or changes in the radius, and the trigger breaks crisply and cleanly. That's just the beginning.

This kind of quality doesn't come cheap; this particular gun sells for $5,950.00, but given the level of workmanship I saw I think it's a fair price. It's gorgeous, and people who I trust tell me they shoot superbly.

If I were ever to purchase a new 1911, Cabot is the one I'd buy.

Yes, I’m using a magnifying glass on this 1911. The machining is that good. Photo by Tom Walls.

Ray Rozic of Cabot filling me in on one of the details I observed. Photo by Tom Walls.

I hope you've enjoyed my SHOT Show Spectacular this week. But wait, there’s more! Tune in tomorrow for a special Saturday edition of The Revolver Liberation Alliance, where I'm going to be talking about the food I chose to sample on my trip to and from Sin CIty.

-=[ Grant ]=-

What I did at SHOT Show, Part Four.

More of the 2012 SHOT Show!

It seems that I’m always looking at new riflescopes. I'm pretty particular about image quality, and given how I tend to treat field gear (roughly!) I also need a scope that will stand up to abuse. In past years I've been happy with the price/performance balance of the IOR/Valdada and Leupold scopes I’ve owned, but their optical quality isn't as good as the more expensive brands. I’ve had the privilege to use a Schmidt & Bender scope, and while I love the optical (and mechanical) quality I can’t afford the stiff tariff! I’m thus in a constant quest for something approaching the quality of the S&B, while costing closer to the Leupold. Believe it or not, there may in fact exist such a scope.

At SHOT I managed to stumble upon the
Premier Optics booth. Premier is familiar to me (and I suspect a few of you) as the maker and installer of custom reticles in Leupold scopes. Unbeknownst to me, a couple years back they decided to start making their own scopes. They hired some very experienced German scope makers to do the engineering, then started building them here in the U.S. I've got to say that what they've come out with is stunning!

Premier was showing their two basic lines: the Tactical line, which features 34mm tubes and the biggest, best adjustment knobs I've ever handled; and the Light Tactical line having 30mm tubes and smaller (but still big) knobs. I examined the scopes closely, and did a quick-and-dirty optical evaluation. I could find no obvious spherical or lateral color aberrations and no field curvature. The scopes have great contrast while color, to my eyes, was a little on the cool side (but not so much that there was a cast.)

The Premier rep assured me that all of their scopes would pass a box test with flying colors and return to zero perfectly. Given their long experience in military and long range competition circles, I’m inclined to believe them!

I was particularly taken by their Light Tactical 3-15x50. I has very solid click adjustments, and they even built in a mechanical turns counter so that you don't get confused trying to remember how many clicks you've put into the adjustments. Neat!

Turns counter, underneath dot on upper turret, shows the number “1” - meaning the turret has been rotated one full turn.

As noted, optical quality was top notch, which is not surprising considering the pedigree. All reticles are in the first focal plane, making rangefinding with the mil-dots a snap at any magnification.

I did a double-take when I looked through their new 1-8x Tactical scope. At magnifications under 3x you see a red dot, designed for speed of acquisition and rapid close-quarters shooting. Once the magnification is set beyond 3x, the reticle magically changes into a standard cross-hair mil-dot! It's a cute trick, and I can see this scope being very popular with AR-15 shooters who want its unique attributes.

Like with anything else, quality costs - but not as much as it might from some of the German brands. Yes, you’ll spend north of two grand for the cheapest of their scopes, but given the very high construction and optical quality I think that’s a bargain.

There were quite a few vendors of what has come to be called ‘tactical gear’, things like pouches and bags and load-bearing equipment, at SHOT. One I'd not heard of is
Marz Tactical Gear, a Phoenix-area company who proudly marks their stuff as Made in USA. They showed a couple of products that intrigued me.

First was a first aid kit pouch perfectly sized for a trauma kit. Called the "Patrol IFAK", the pouch will hold a tourniquet, pressure bandage, a roll of hemostatic gauze, and a few incidentals. The cool part is that the back is covered with Velcro, and they have a matching plate that straps onto the backside of an automobile headrest. This keeps the kit in a known and easily accessed location; in use, you simply grab the handle and rip the kit from the mounting plate. You can then take it to where it is needed. Very useful; I think I'll be buying a couple of them.

The other thing that caught my eye was what they call their "Field Kit". It's a large piece of waterproofed Cordura nylon attached to a couple of zippered pouches. The pouches can hold cleaning supplies, lubricants, or even spare parts. When unrolled you have a decent-sized work surface to catch parts and keep dirt away from mechanisms, with the pouches on one side for easy access to the aforementioned incidentals.

It would make a great field cleaning station or armorer's go-anywhere emergency shop, and might be very useful for the instructor who occasionally needs to fix a student’s gun. A neat little idea to make life in the field (or at the range) a little easier.

All week I kept hearing about Mossberg's new "tactical" lever action. At least a half-dozen people told me that I just had to go see it, so I did.

“Tactical” has officially jumped the shark.

My initial reaction: “you’ve GOT to be kidding.” Where to start? Mossberg managed to design out all of the lever action's positive attributes while adding very little to its usability. The collapsible AR-style stock wobbles and doesn't have a comfortable grip; the rails add unnecessary weight and make holding the forearm quite unpleasant; and the action was, to put it charitably, rough.

The myriad protrusions of the butt stock and fore end rails simply destroy the smooth, snag-free handling that is one of the chief virtues of the lever action. It's a rifle that has been styled as opposed to designed, perhaps by someone who might not have had the opportunity to become familiar with the lever action and how it is best employed.

Available in .22LR or .30-30, I'm sure it will sell - just like the Taurus Judge sells. I'll stick to my traditional models, thank you, as they've proven themselves capable of a wide range of tasks, without poseur bolt-ons, for quite some time now.

(This is a perfect example of my belief that the rifle, particularly the lever action, is a general purpose tool. The more crap you hang on it, the more specialized and therefore less useful it becomes. My AR-15s are pretty much stock, and I've found that they're the most versatile in that configuration. As my eyes continue to deteriorate I may have to fit them with optics, but even then I'll make sure that the choice will leave them usable for the variety of tasks I expect to encounter. The same can be said of my lever actions. Someone at Mossberg, in my opinion, just doesn’t Get It.)

More to come tomorrow - stay tuned!

-=[ Grant ]=-

What I did at SHOT Show, Part Three.

One of the booths I wanted to visit was Elzetta. I've mentioned before that my
flashlight of choice is their ZFL-M60 with a (discontinued) Malkoff MC-E module. This combination gives 500 lumens (!!) of pure flood light, enough to light up a room no matter which direction it's pointed. The beam is so soft that it has no hotspot and thus produces no glare when pointed at anything short of a mirror. It is, I contend, the ideal personal defense light.

The Elzetta light is also incredibly tough, more so than any other light I've owned. Here's a ridiculously over-the-top torture test between an Elzetta and a Surefire:

Having had (and witnessed) various Surefire failures, I can only say "that's why I carry an Elzetta!" If there's a tougher light on the market, I'd like to see it. This picture shows the light from the video (on left), along with the light that drove all the nails into the 2x4 on which it rests. Yes, it still works!

As I mentioned, the MC-E module was discontinued some time ago. This left a huge gap in the market, as there was no high quality flashlight with a flood beam available. This left me unable to wholeheartedly recommend any light when asked, as I truly feel the flood beam is a necessity in indoor environments. Turns out that Malkoff listened, and I learned that the Elzetta light can be had with the
Malkoff M60F module: 235 honest lumens with a very floody beam! It's not as pure a flood as my MC-E, but it's better than anything else on the market and the modified beam will probably be more versatile for more people. Elzettas are made in the U.S. and come from a fanatical company that takes their products seriously. Highly recommended.

There was an entirely new line of revolvers unveiled at SHOT, from a company called Sarsilmaz out of Turkey. I talked at length with their chief engineer, Mr. Oner Ozylimaz, and he told me that they made use of forged stainless frames, barrels and cylinders, but use MIM (metal injection molding) for most everything else - including, oddly, the cylinder crane. This gives the guns a two-tone appearance, as the MIM crane is black set against the stainless of the major parts.

The guns bear a superficial resemblance to the medium-frame Taurus, but I was unable to get him to let me look inside of one. The guns are all in .38/.357, are approximately of “K/L” frame size, and have rounded butts. Barrel lengths range from approximately 3" to 6", with all but the shortest having LPA adjustable sights curiously mounted on a plate that's screwed to the topstrap. The 3"-ish model had a simple drift-adjustable rear sight that I found oddly appealing. The guns are of roughly Rossi quality, both in terms of finish and action.

The guns themselves weren't all that exciting, though if properly priced they may be a solid alternative to brands like Rossi and Charter Arms. What
IS exciting is that a company outside of the U.S. decided that the revolver market was lucrative enough to justify the engineering and tooling costs (MIM molds aren't cheap) for a new line of guns. I don't think I'll own a Sarsilmaz, but I'm glad they're here!

Ithaca shotguns, if you didn't know, are a particular favorite of mine. Their Model 37 is a classic, an icon in the shotgun world. If you've never handled one you should; if you're used to Remington or (worse) Mossberg pumps, the Ithaca will make you smile the first time you operate the slide! Their actions are smooth, light, and are usually a cure for the person who has a tendency to short-stroke other pump guns.

Ithaca has gone through several owners and a couple of shutdowns over the last decade, but for the last few years has been making a comeback. Not only are they producing a full line of the traditional Model 37 in 12 and 20 gauges, this year they introduced an absolutely darling 28 gauge version - which none of their forebears, including the original Ithaca, ever did. It's made on a special small frame, and is light and very quick-handling. Fans of the '28' will want one, and I'm told they're being produced one at a time in their Custom Shop. The workmanship shows!

That's not the only new thing: they're now producing an over/under of their own design, which looks quite nice. (I'm not an O/U guy, it must be said, but the workmanship was solid.) They've also brought back an old favorite, the single shot single barrel Trap model. They've also spun off their home defense and police shotguns into an allied entity called Ithaca Tactical, and have quite a line of tough-looking door breachers and similar accessories to help them regain some of the police market they once dominated.

One product of Ithaca Tactical was sitting quietly on a back table but wasn't officially introduced: the Ithaca Tactical AR-15. This was the year of the AR-15 at SHOT, as you couldn't look in any direction without seeing some company declaring that they make the "best" AR-15 clones. The Ithaca version is at least different, being fully machined in their factory from aluminum billet instead of built on outsourced castings. Another AR is probably what the market doesn't need, but apparently they feel they need for one if Ithaca Tactical is to compete. OK, then.

I'm very big on keeping my knives sharp, and for the last decade or so have been using the Lansky system to do so. It's able to produce a decent edge, but I've never been happy with the quality of Lansky's components. I've looked at other sharpeners, but have never found anything that is as quick and easy as the Lansky - until this show!

Wicked Edge is a relatively new company out of Santa Fe, and their sharpening system combines easy operation with a wide range of quality stone, ceramic, and diamond hones, along with leather strops for a really polished edge. Pharmacist Tommy had with him a knife that he'd tried (with his Lansky) to get to a decent edge, without success. The Wicked Edge had no problem handling the odd shape and size of the blade, and in a few minutes it was shaving sharp (as proven by Tommy’s suddenly smooth forearms.) He's sold, and so am I. I'm going to order one as soon as I recover from the monetary impact of this trip!

Check back tomorrow, because there's more to tell!

-=[ Grant ]=-

What I did at SHOT Show, Part Two.

As it happens,
this year’s SHOT was a record-breaker: more than 61,000 attendees, with 2,466 of those being media (including yours truly!)

I'll start today with what I didn't see: any big introductions from the major revolver manufacturers. Smith & Wesson had a couple of Performance Center variants (I'd not seen the Model 647 Varminter before), Ruger was showing the previously announced four-inch SP101 in .38/.357 and .22LR (the smallbore having vastly improved sights), while Colt didn’t show any double action revolvers - and probably won't any time soon.

I had a great chat with Brent Turchi, the head of Colt's Custom Shop. He said that new revolvers weren't in the cards for at least a few years yet, and if they ever do release a new wheelgun it will probably be something like a King Cobra or Anaconda, or possibly a lightweight concealed carry piece based on the SFVI/Magnum Carry action. It’s all just speculation at this point, he emphasized.

The Python is gone for good, he said - too expensive to make, and they no longer have the skilled workforce to do so even if they could justify it economically. In fact, the people who today work repairing Pythons are nearing retirement, and when they go a lot of knowledge and skill will go with them. On the plus side, 2011 was a very good year for Colt as they were able to sell tons of 1911s. Of course.

The big handgun news at SHOT was the official U.S. introduction of the Caracal pistol. This is a new polymer striker fired pistol made in (of all places) the United Arab Emirates. Apparently the UAE has decided that even their large oil reserves won't last forever, and have decided to get into manufacturing firearms. Their first products are full-size (think Glock 17) and compact (Glock 19-ish) pistols in 9mm (.40 S&W versions will come later this year.) The Caracal is the brainchild of Wilhelm Bubits, former Glock employee and designer of the Steyr M series of pistols. His new design borrows some elements from the Steyr, but most of it is new.

I first heard about the Caracal when Rob Pincus went to Italy last year and found a couple of his students armed with this unknown handgun. Apparently it's been sold in Italy and a few other places for almost two years, and the reports he got from those students were glowing. The guns were used hard during the three days of intense training, and there were no failures. That says a lot about the design.

The Caracal is unusual in that everything inside the gun is modular. The fire control group in the frame, as well as the striker assembly in the slide, are modules that are quickly and easily removed for service, and just as easily replaced. The bore axis is very low, approaching that of an HK P7, while the slide mass has been reduced. The result, I'm told from those who have fired them, is reduced recoil impulse and muzzle rise.

Ergonomics, even for my small hands, are superb. The Caracal fits me better than either the Glock or the Steyr, and I can even hit the magazine release without too much contortion! The trigger is very smooth, very linear (once you get past take-up, of course) and has a nice, jar-free letoff. It's very impressive.

What is also impressive is the construction quality. The machining, inside and out, is superb - the underside of their slide makes a Glock look like a gravel road. Everything is polished, there are no tool marks, and even the plastic castings are perfectly clean. This is top-notch quality, an amazing feat for a young company.

Caracal was all over Vegas; all of the buses for the convention had Caracal banners on their sides, their booth was large and set up for doing lots of business, and their marketing materials were big-league. The folks behind Caracal have invested a ton of money into both the product and the marketing, and it's obvious that they intend to be a big player in this business. If the product holds up to its promise, I think they will be. (Oddly enough, despite seemingly being on top of every little detail they still haven’t gotten their USA website up - even though the URL is printed on all their materials!)

I'm impressed with the gun, and so was nearly everyone I talked to who'd seen it. I think this might be one of the top autoloading pistol choices for defensive shooting, particularly when the sub-compact versions come out later this year. Caracal is worth watching.

-=[ Grant ]=-

What I did at SHOT Show, Part One.

For those of you who might have wondered, I spent last week at the annual SHOT Show in sunny Las Vegas. It was a busy week for me, as I had several meetings lined up and those meetings generated still more meetings, all of which turned out to be for the good. In fact, I was so busy meeting and talking with other people that I didn't get to see as much of the show as I'd wanted!

That actually fit in with my plan, as I go to trade shows to network, not necessarily to see new products. From way back I learned that every magazine (and today every blog and discussion forum) will have tons of information on what was new at the show. I could learn all about the new stuff from the comfort of my living room, but I need to shake hands in order to get things done - that’s what a trade show is really for!

This was my first SHOT, and I must say that compared to other (larger) trade shows I've attended it is fairly compact and relatively easy to navigate. The show organizers could stand to do a little more work on attendee comfort - sideline benches and beverage sources were scarce, for instance - but overall it was pretty well set up. (The SHOT Show iPhone app, sadly, was more trouble than it was worth, forcing me to rely on an old-fashioned map that was surprisingly hard to lay my hands on.)

I didn't get there for Monday's media range day, an event which I determined I really didn't need to attend (a view which was reinforced after talking with those that did.) Tuesday was the first day of the actual show, and was primarily spent going to those meetings I'd arranged prior. A couple of those spawned the first of my on-the-fly meetings, wherein someone would say "gee, you should really meet so-and-so" and off we'd go!

My biggest meeting on Tuesday was with my publisher, Jim Schlender at Gun Digest Books. We talked about the Gun Digest Book of The Revolver, of course, but also some future products. I won't spill the beans just yet, but there will be more Grant Cunningham titles to come - along with some other great projects.

Me with Jim Schlender of Gun Digest. I’m the short one with the really cool hat.

(Sadly, I didn't get to meet my editor, Corrina Peterson, who had to stay back at headquarters to mind the store. I'll get a picture with her yet, even if it means flying back to Wisconsin to do it!)

In case you didn't know, Gun Digest has an email newsletter that goes out weekly, and often contains great information and deals on Gun Digest publications.
If you aren't subscribed, may I suggest you do so?

Wednesday was more of the same, and one my favorite meetings was an interview with Paul Carlson at the
Safety Solutions Academy podcast. I like Paul's podcast because he always has interesting topics and the production is well done. I'm a big fan, and it was an honor to be on his show. He was working like a madman, doing a half-dozen interviews a day, and you can hear mine at this link.

That afternoon I was able to get out a little bit and see some of the actual show, rather than catching glimpses of it as I passed through on my way to see someone else. I met up with Omari Broussard and Eli Brown of 10x Defense, along with Bryan Collins (a low-key but respected law enforcement instructor who is slowly moving into the private sector) and as a group we went to some of the booths that interested us.

I also got a rare chance to sit down and talk about training concepts with Omari and Eli, who are working on a unique approach to integrated instruction that I think will make some waves in the training community. These guys are smart, organized, and motivated, and I can see 10x Defense becoming a model for the rest of us in a few years.

Thursday morning I got around to see the major revolver manufacturers, visiting with Colt (whose people liked to talk); Ruger (who would talk but didn’t have much to say); and S&W (who wouldn't give me the time of day.) I also checked in at some of the booths that were around them, including that of
Honored American Veterans Afield. This is a group that's doing good work with a small budget, and deserves all our support.

I made it a point
not to stop at the Chiappa Arms booth, as the grapevine had alerted me that I was persona non grata for daring to point out, in print, some of the Rhino's flaws. I also didn't stop at the execrable GunsAmerica booth, but I did (very discreetly) flip them off as I went past. (Yes, I know it's childish. Yes, I know it's beneath my dignity. Yes, I know they probably didn’t even notice. But it felt so darned good!)

Thursday afternoon was jam-packed: first, I was invited to a meeting of some of the movers and shakers in the training business. A low-key call had gone out to meet up at a specific place and time, and you wouldn't believe the talent that showed up! It was an honor to be invited to take part in that informal but influential gathering. It gave me a chance to meet some of my heroes in the field, including Claude Werner (something of a legend among those whose opinions count) and Dr. Robert Smith of
Direct Action Medical Network (who developed the "human weapon system" concepts.) When great minds get together great things happen, and I think 2012 is going to see more than its share of great things in the training world.

One of my Tuesday meetings had unexpectedly spawned another meeting which was scheduled immediately after our instructor get-together. It proved to be extremely intriguing. You never know how such things will pan out, but it might just result in something really cool. I'll let you know more as things develop.

I finished Thursday having a great
interview with Doc Wesson on a live edition of The Gun Nation podcast. It was a lot of fun (it always is with Doc), and we covered my book, my impressions of the show-in-progress, and a bunch of other stuff.

Friday was "shiny rock day", a term coined by Diane Walls (an honest, reliable writer whose work can be seen regularly in Concealed Carry and
Women & Guns magazines.) Along with her husband Tom ("Pharmacist Tommy"), we walked around the show without any preconceived plan, but rather looking for things that caught our eye the way that shiny baubles dominate a magpie's attention. We found plenty before the show closed for this year. A long drive home (18 hours!), and here I am!

I'll be updating the blog daily until I get through all of the material I gathered. Coming up this week: yet another gun maker is clueless on the concept; a new line of revolvers from an unlikely place; you won't believe who was showing yet another prototype AR-15; the most impressive autoloading pistol I've seen in years; rifle scopes I'm lusting after; keeping your first aid kit handy; a real Gat; the only 1911 I'd want to own; and more. Stay tuned!

-=[ Grant ]=-

Dear GunsAmerica - Bite Me.

Read this.

Then, perhaps instead of using GunsAmerica, resolve instead to use one of the quality gun auction sites like
GunBroker (my personal favorite) and AuctionArms.

But hey, I’m just a nobody. What do I know?

-=[ Grant ]=-

Here’s the link to the original article. You have to read the comments, as Mr. Helinski puts his foot in his mouth more than once. My favorite quote: “You’ve never heard of us, and we are the industry leader in internet readership, after 15 years of hard work and dedication. Why should I have to wait for you to finish taking a video with your phone at range day?” - Paul Helinski, GunsAmerica


Though I'm an admitted fan of jazz and certain eras of what is colloquially called "classical" music (I’m especially fond of Baroque and much of what is labeled "20th Century" music), I also like to listen to marching bands (good ones - a rare commodity), bluegrass, Scottish pipers, and lots more (you can keep the hip hop/rap stuff to yourself, however.)

I'm also a fan of unknown local music, as that is where one finds new artists and musical styles, new interpretations and compositions regardless of where that “local” happens to be. One of the Oregon bands I've listened to for a while, mainly because I like their sound, is called simply
Amelia. Have a listen, and check out more of their songs on their YouTube channel.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Finishing an experiment. Maybe.

Early last year I embarked on something of an experiment: carrying my gun not on my belt, as I've done for more years than I can remember, but in my front pocket. Exclusively.

I've carried in a pocket holster from time to time, usually when wearing a suit, so I'm not at all unfamiliar with the concept. I've never done so as my default method, and I wanted to see what it was like. What kinds of problems would I encounter?

My constant companion was one of a pair of pretty much identical, save for color, S&W Airweight Cenennials: a blued Model 042 and the dull silver-gray 642. Both of these are stock guns, meaning that I've done nothing to either one. (No, really!) I tried several holsters, and found that most of them really weren't terribly well thought out. I ended up using a cheap, cheesy, but serviceable Uncle Mike's pocket holster for the vast majority of the time. I carried my spare ammunition in Bianchi Speedstrips.

Why did I do this? For some time now I've been talking about the concept of congruency: that students should train with the guns that they'll actually be using to defend themselves, and further that instructors should be using the guns their students will be using. The problem, of course, is that people generally don't do that, and as a result instructors allow themselves to believe that their students really do conceal full-sized Government Models in their workaday world -- because that's what they bring to class. It's a delusional feedback loop.

In reality, most of the people I talk to who are carrying medium- to full-sized autoloaders in class sheepishly admit that during the week they tote a compact auto or a five-shot revolver in their front pocket, because that's what they can easily get away with in their place of employment. As a fraternity, instructors are not doing a very good job of getting past this deception; I don't think they really want to know. Classes are structured to artificially favor the larger autoloading pistols, because that's what usually shows up on the belts of students. The students, for their part, feel compelled to "up gun" for the class so that they can perform well and save face. The loop intensifies.

What the instructor carries every day is irrelevant; it's what the student carries that needs to be the primary consideration in curriculum design. I decided that I wasn't living up to my own criticisms, and resolved to spend the majority of 2011 carrying not what I like to carry, but what an awful lot of people who look to me for advice and guidance are going to be carrying. (No, I didn't make the "I carry a 'J' frame as a backup, so that counts" rationalization. This was to be my primary, and only, carry piece. Just like everyone else.)

Save for one instructor's conference, where I used a Glock because a) I hadn't had any serious autoloader trigger time in a couple of years and b) had no one to negatively influence, I carried and taught with those compact revolvers for the year.

I liked (actually loved) the ease with which I could dress around the gun. I liked that I could carry in sweatpants in the same place and manner of my street clothes. I liked that wether I wore a suit or work pants, my gun was in the same place all the time. I learned a lot about deploying the gun from that carry position, from the difficulty accessing it at speed to the occasional instances of the holster and gun coming out as a unit. I came away with some very specific ideas on how a pocket holster for a revolver should be made and marveled that almost none of the holster makers have figured this out yet. (Then again, it’s hard to find really well designed revolver belt holsters, a lament that I made in my book.)

Did I ever feel under gunned? No. I remain unconvinced that it’s necessary to carry a 51 rounds of ammunition just to survive a criminal attack, an idea that has great support amongst certain segments of the training industry. (I'm still looking for all those cases in which someone involved in a private sector defensive shooting incident was injured or killed because their gun didn't contain enough bullets. Haven't found any yet, though I keep asking people to forward them to me.)

At the end of the experiment, I'm finding it very difficult to return to my belt-mounted carry pieces. I'm actually happy about that, because I think I've now got a solid understanding of the limitations (and the freedoms) that my students experience. Suppositions have been replaced by evidence.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to decide between blue or plain aluminum for today.

-=[ Grant ]=-

A podcast review of Gun Digest Book Of The Revolver!

Doc Wesson and Mark Vandenberg over at the Gun Rights Radio Network did a sorta-formal review of my book last week, and
they just put a recording of that broadcast up on their site. Have a listen; the whole podcast is fun, but if you’re pressed for time they start talking about me at the 42:00 mark.

-=[ Grant ]=-

My book finally made it to iTunes!

iPad owners, you no longer need to feel that you're playing second fiddle to the Kindle aficionados out there - because
The Gun Digest Book Of The Revolver has finally come to the iTunes Bookstore!

-=[ Grant ]=-

When are we going to give up on this "Rule One" nonsense?

The incident of a
recently graduated Navy Seal shooting himself in the head has been widely discussed in the gun world. The most common refrain (and darned near the only one I'm hearing, proving Patton's Dictum) is that he just didn't pay enough attention to "Rule One."

Go read my original article on that rule.

Here's the issue: it's not that he didn't pay attention to Rule One. It's that Rule One has a huge logic flaw, one that most people in the gun world still don’t want to acknowledge - let alone discuss. The flaw? The rule isn't, and can never, be universally true!

If "all guns are always loaded" or "treat all guns as if they were loaded" were true, we'd never be able to clean our guns.

If it were true, we'd never be able to engage in dry fire practice.

If it were true, we'd never be able to put them into a case and transport them to the range.

If it were true, the entire manufacturing and warehousing of firearms would by necessity grind to a halt.

The reason none of that occurs, of course, is because we make constant exceptions to that rule to allow those activities to happen. We make these exceptions to what is supposed to be a universal rule almost daily because we know we have to. We know that guns aren't always loaded, else we wouldn't be able to do any of these things (and many more) with them. We do this so often that we don’t even think about it, and it’s those exceptions that get us in trouble.

Face the facts: guns are not always loaded. You know it, and I know it. Rule One is a joke. Why do we keep deluding ourselves?

The problem isn't that this guy didn't pretend hard enough that "all guns are always loaded"; it's because
he chose to do something stupid with a gun that he was sure was unloaded. That's the problem, and this continual Pavlovian bleating about "Rule One" isn't helping prevent these accidents.

The solution isn't to get people to pretend harder, it's to get them to
stop doing stupid things with guns!

Since I wrote that article several years ago I've modified the Commandments a little. After conversations with a number of people, and lots of thinking about the implications, I've come to this version:

1. Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

2. Keep your finger outside of the trigger guard until you are ready to fire.

3. Always remember that you are handling a deadly weapon, and if you do so negligently you may kill someone - including yourself.

That last one takes care of things like watching for a proper target, making sure that you know where your bullets are going to land, following proper dry fire procedures, and all of the rest. It allows situational variance (we really don't have to worry what's behind our target when it's in front of a bullet trap at a range) and better instills the proper safety mindset that I proposed when I wrote the original article. It might have saved this guy's life.

Because "Traditional Rule One" sure didn't.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Ed Harris: The .32ACP in a rifle??

Editor’s note: today I’m pleased to bring you another great article from Ed Harris, experimenter extraordinaire. This time he’s built a couple of rifles for some common .32 caliber pistol rounds, making for handy and quiet woods rifles. Enjoy!

Tiny Handgun Cartridges Are Also Small Game Rifle Rounds!
by Ed Harris
Gerrardstown, WV

After fooling around with a pair of chamber inserts using .32 S&W Long and .32 ACP ammunition in the .30-30, I thought about building a light “walking rifle” which would be handy and quiet. I wanted something more effective than a .22 LR, something which could also approach the ballistics of the .32-20 Winchester. The .32 S&W Long and .32 H&R Magnum cartridges are ideal for such use, but the only factory produced rifle is the Marlin 1894 Cowboy which is neither inexpensive, nor very handy. I wanted something which carried more like a fly rod than a wrecking bar.

Because I frequently carry a .32 revolver or .32 ACP pocket pistol around our country place, I wanted to use those same rounds in a light small game rifle. I would have two barrels made to compare results obtained with the .32 ACP and .32 Smith & Wesson Long. My reasoning was that for very light, quiet “.30 cal. CB cap” loads, that the tiny .32 ACP case would have advantages, whereas the larger .32 S&W Long or H&R Magnum case would had more capacity if I wanted more energy.

My gun safe contained a seldom used H&R .410 single-shot, on the tiny pre-war action, which weighed 4 pounds. John Taylor made two rifle barrels for me, chambered for the .32 ACP and .32 S&W Long (which I later rechambered to H&R Magnum). The .410 barrel remained intact, and the entire package cost less than a new Marlin Cowboy lever-gun. I opted for an 18” barrel chambered in .32 ACP for the most-handy configuration and a 26” barrel in .32 S&W Long for optimum sight radius and minimum noise.

The .32 ACP barrel was fabricated from a pulled-off M1 Garand barrel, cutting off the muzzle behind the gas port and the breech at the chamber neck, turning the OD, fabricating and beam welding on the shotgun underlug and fitting the ejector. The bore is of standard 4-groove .30 cal. Government form with ten inch twist and was chambered with a custom reamer resembling the front half of a .30 M1 Carbine chamber. It headspaces on the case mouth instead of the semi-rim.

The .32 S&W Long barrel is rifled to normal .32 revolver specs with six grooves, right twist, one turn in 16 inches with a bore of .302 and .312 groove diameter.

Firing indoors and comparing both barrels with iron sights, I am satisfied that any handgun ammunition averaging an inch or so over a series of 5-shot groups at 25 yards is adequate for hunting small game. I managed to do so fairly easily with several loads to prove the concept. Winchester .32 S&W Long 98-grain LRN, and .32 ACP Fiocchi and RWS 73-gr. hardball all averaged just under inch groups at 25 yards.

Lead 98-gr. LRN factory loads from the .32 S&W Long 26 inch barrel gave 884 f.p.s. From the 18 inch .32 ACP, Fiocchi 73-grain hardball clocked 943 f.p.s., and RWS hardball was 1214 f.p.s. Fiocchi 60-grain JHPs, which gave 1200 f.p.s. from a 3.5 inch Beretta pistol, screamed out at 1463 f.p.s. in the 18” H&R.

Handloads were next. My goal was not high velocity, but subsonic, quiet small game loads approximating the .32 Long rim fire (from .32 ACP brass) or standard velocity lead .32-20 loads (from .32 S&W Long brass). These objectives were met handily using the Saeco #325 98-grain SWC and the #322 122-gr. flatnose .32-20 bullets.

The RCBS 32-90CM is a good choice for a common production mold suitable for either caliber. Those not casting their own bullets can buy commercial Meister 94-gr. LFN bullets of .312 diameter. These have the same profile as the flat-nosed factory bullet for the .32 Colt New Police and works well as a heavy .32 ACP bullet. Its ogive length enables a .98” overall cartridge length when taper-crimped in the .32 ACP and when so seated its base does not protrude so deeply into the case that it bulges cases.

Velocities of the .32 ACP cast bullet loads with the 94-grain Meister and 1.7 grains of Bullseye fired from my Walther PP, CZ27 and Beretta 1935 pistols approximate the performance expected from a 4” revolver using the same bullet in the .32 S&W Long with 2.5 grains of Bullseye. When fired from the 18” .32 ACP rifle, the minimum 1.7 grain charge which reliably functions my WWII-era Euro auto pistols approaches the velocity expected of standard .32-20 Winchester factory lead bullet loads fired from a four-inch barreled revolver.

Trying to drive a non-expanding cast bullet intended for small game to supersonic velocity in a rifle is a waste of powder. This is not a 100-yard rig, but a woods “walking gun.” Its iron sights have a hard 50 yard zero, coupled with reliable 4 moa grouping (2 inches at 50 yds) and greater striking energy and penetration than a .22 LR. It shoots clear through critters, making reliable kills on raccoon, groundhog, wild turkey or the occasional marauding feral dog. The rig is practical in its simplicity.

The 26 inch long .32 S&W Long barrel is noticeably quieter than the shorter .32 ACP. After initial testing I rechambered it to .32 H&R Magnum and shot it again. My reasoning was that doing do would enable using HRM brass and factory loads, but wouldn't significantly hurt the grouping with my .32 S&W Long revolver ammo. After rechambering, the tiny 4.5 lb. rifle still shoots one-inch groups at 25 yards with .32 S&W Longs using either the 94-gr. Meister .312" LRN or the LBT .312-105FNBB with 2.5 grs. of Bullseye.

The longer chamber permits seating heavier bullets out in S&W Long brasss to increase powder capacity. With the 122-gr. Saeco #322 bullet for the .32-20, seated to 1.32” overall length in .32 S&W Long brass, crimping in the top lube groove using either 2 grains of Bullseye or 6 grs. of #2400, either load will shoot an inch and half at 50 yards with iron sights over a long series. The same loads fired in a relined English rook rifle I built later approach an inch when using an old Unertl 6X Small Game scope.

Some .32 H&R Mag loads listed in manuals caused ugly looking fired primers in the converted H&R shotgun because of its large shotgun firing pin and un-bushed breech face. I found this a useful indicator of chamber pressure, so I use no load which causes hard opening or smeared primer cups upon opening the rifle when using standard small pistol primers. Firing trials quickly reveal when a load is “too hot,” because hard opening occurs before primer cups noticeably flatten compared to firing the same loads in my revolver. Federal factory .32 H&R loads rub a shiny ring around the firing pin indent, but the action opens with little effort. I therefore presume that a load causing hard opening is over 20,000 psi.

My general purpose load for use in modern .32 S&W Long revolvers and the single-shot H&R uses either the 115-gr. Ideal #3118 or 122-gr. Saeco #322. I cast these of soft scrap, 10BHN, tumble in Lee Liquid Alox, size .314, and load in .32 S&W Long cases with Federal 200 primers and 2 grains of Alliant Bullseye at 1.32" OAL. This gives not quite 850 fps in the rifle and 720 fps in various 4-inch revolvers. It is accurate in both the Ruger Single Six and S&W Model 31. An added benefit is that this load pokes out the front of the cylinder of my old I-frame S&W .32 Hand ejector, which keeps me from putting this warmer-than-factory load in the old gun.

A flat-nosed, solid lead bullet, with large meplat at subsonic velocity is fully adequate in energy and penetration against feral dogs or coyotes. My testing of the Saeco #322 at 850 f.p.s. gave 30 inches of water penetration. If you want a bit flatter trajectory to reach out to 100 yards at the expense of a bit more noise, you can increase the charge to 2.5 grs. of Bullseye in S&W Long brass or 3 grains in H&R Magnum brass. It shoots well at a little over 1000 fps in the rifle and 800-850 fps in the revolver.

I have not fooled much with slower powders, because specialized rifle-only loads defeat the purpose of using the same ammo in both the walking rifle and revolver. I briefly tried #2400 in H&R Magnum loads, up to a nominal “case full” in the .32 Long case. While faster, it was very much louder and less accurate than my mild loads with Bullseye.

The final journey in my search of “Bunny Gun Nirvanna” was in obtaining a real English rook rifle and having it lined to .32 S&W Long. I located an Army & Navy Cooperative Society rook rifle in .255 which had been inexpertly rechambered to .25-20 Winchester. With some botched scope block holes and jackleg barrel restamping, I was able to get it cheap. I sent it to John Taylor to have it relined and rechambered to .32 S&W Long, then upon its return it went to Connecticut for Lucas Geiger to do a full exterior restoration. I now have a plain walking rifle for rough use, and a pretty art piece for yard and range shooting. Both shoot equally well, an inch and a half or less at 50 yards with my chosen loads, with low noise which doesn’t disturb the neighbors. Now to walk the garden!

Wherrrrrre….. arrrrrre…. Yoooooou…. Nooow…Mister. Waaaaaaaaaabbit?

My ears are burning!

I always love listening to Mark Vanderberg and Doc Wesson over at the
Gun Rights Radio Network. Mark is the force behind GRRN, and when he finds any spare time he also does the Gun RIghts Advocate podcast. Doc is well known for The Gun Nation podcast, on which I've been a guest. Both podcasts have a presence on GRRN’s discussion forums.

Every so often they get together and do what they call the "
Bar Stool Discussion", a joint podcast which they do live (though I've always listened to the recording.)

On a recent episode they talked - unbeknownst to me - quite a bit about my new book, and said some very complimentary things.
You can listen to the discussion here; my segment starts at 1:13:00.

Before that they interview Alex Haddox, the man whose voice was made for broadcasting, who does the
Practical Defense Podcast. If you’ve never listened you should, as he has one of the better podcasts on the topic. He too has a new book out called "Practical Home Security", and it sounds interesting enough that I'm going to order a copy for myself.

-=[ Grant ]=-

Hello 2012 - boy, am I glad to see you!

WARNING: if you are humor impaired, or can't stand the Ugly, Ugly Truth (UUT), stop reading now! You won’t be happy, which means I won’t be happy. Well, that’s not exactly true, but one of us will not be happy. And it probably won’t be me. Which kinda narrows it down. And now, today’s blog:

The year 2011 was a pretty good one for me. I built some wonderful guns, met a lot of interesting people, got a clean bill of health, and saw my first book get published. All in all (and except for the political situation) I didn't find all that much to complain about.

Except for one thing.

This one thing makes me deliriously happy that 2011 is gone, because it made the year nearly unbearable at times. There was something I prevented myself from doing that often drove me mad with temptation.

You probably didn't notice, but I made a vow last New Year's to not mention the 1911, or its designer, in this blog for all of 2011. I knew that everyone would be making a Big Freaking Deal (BFD) about the centennial of The Thing, and that there would be special editions and articles and books and videos and special editions and more articles and more special editions and videos and still more special editions and plenty of 1911-only shooting classes for people who didn’t take Inspector Girard’s advice to lose their nickel-plated sissy pistols.

I didn't want to show up in any Google searches for '1911', lest it seem that I actually approved of (let alone participated in) such nonsense.

I thus endured an entire year of people expounding on the virtues of the inefficient and unreliable design, while I forced myself (sometimes with pliers and a staple gun) to keep my tongue still. It was actually painful at times (besides the pliers and staple gun, I mean.) The True Browning Believers (TBB) uttered nonsensical hyperbole and illogical statements all through the year, which actually led me to enlightenment as I began to understand Lloyd Bridges' character from "Airplane!":

Thus, on this first working day of glorious 2012, I finally do something I've waited to do for an entire year: talk about the 1911 pistol in the way that only I can. (Well, maybe me and one or two others. OK, basically everyone with a computer and time between commercials.)

Where to start? How about with one of my favorite inanities, one which surfaced time and again during the last year: "it must be the best pistol ever because so many companies make them." Good thing I never heard that in person, as I'd be forced to say "Hah! I spit in your mag pouch, you forty-five-caliber loon! Now go away, or I shall taunt you even more!"

You know why so many people have jumped into the 1911 building frenzy, Skippy? Because the engineering was long ago paid for by the American taxpayer, and is available FOR FREE from our government! That's right - the reason so many people make them is because it's the cheapest pistol they could possibly produce! The 1911 has a lower barrier to entry than a freakin' Hi-Point!

Don't believe me? If you want to build a gun that's never been made before, regardless of the quality (or lack thereof), you need an engineer to design the thing. You want to make a 1911? All you need is a microfiche reader and someone with his name embroidered on his shirt who knows how to push the power switch on an Okuma machining center.
Reality bites, huh?

The makers of the Hi-Point did their work from scratch, which means they actually spent more money on designing their piece of dung than your favorite 1911 assembler ever will. Imagine that!

Reliable? It's rare to see Browning's baby make it through a two-day shooting course without failing. "It's never done this before!", the hapless owner inevitably exclaims to anyone within earshot. "It must be the ammunition..." Yes, because 230 grain round nosed ball ammunition is ever so difficult to feed from a magazine. Sure it is. Keep telling yourself that.

I suppose one could say that the malfunctions are due to over zealous accurizing, and that an unmolested example works best. The original design (did I mention you can get it FOR FREE?), they say, is the most reliable gun ever made. Not according to my Father, who was issued one as a B-29 crew member during WWII: he always told me that it "couldn't hit the broad side of a barn from inside", but that it really didn't matter since it "jammed so often we went looking for Smith & Wessons to carry with us while we looked for Jerry. Or a pub."

When my wife proudly showed him her new fully customized Government Model, he sniffed and allowed that it was very pretty, but that she shouldn't count on it to save her life or find a pub. That's experience for you!

I'm sure to get nasty emails ("Dear Mouth-Breathing Troglodyte:") from people telling me how reliable their little pride and joy is, and how I'm a Bitter Old Man (BOM) who just hates John Moses Browning. That may be true, but I notice these guys are never around when it's betting time because they know in their hearts that The West Wasn’t Won With A Jammed Up Gun (TWWWWAJUG).

Speaking of Browning, what about him? As I've said before: it's pretty hard to get excited about a guy who wasn't talented enough to build a revolver! He's lucky that Colt (and Winchester and FN and Ithaca and everyone else who got suckered into buying his latest back-of-the-napkin doodle) had real engineers to clean up his designs and actually make them work. Unfortunately, like poor Dieudonné Joseph Saive (Browning wasn't the only gun guy with a biblical middle name, which makes me wonder if there's a union somewhere who insists on it in their contract), they never got the credit they deserved for making the hack look good in public.

I could go on, but I'm tired and the lady in the white coat says it’s time for my lithium pill. I will say, however, that it's good to be back in the saddle! Thank you, Father Time, for ending the 1911 Centennial and giving us this year, which I doubt anyone will celebrate until the elections are over. Or they find a pub.

Which they can't do with a 1911.

-=[ Grant ]=-

(Flame away, but do so with good taste and a dash of humor. This is what's called "a hint".)
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