Spitfire machine gun fires after being buried for 70 years. Hysteria ensues.

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Ahh, peat – is there anything it can’t do?

You may be familiar with peat as an important part of malt whisky production, but did you know it could do even more amazing things?

Gunsmith Todd Koonce sent me this link last week of a M1919 machine gun recovered from a peat bog in Ireland. Turns out that a peat bog is a terrific place to preserve metal objects, like the British Spitfire Fighter from which the gun was ...

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Some (more) thoughts on the defensive lever action.

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Seems a lot of people are interested in the lever action as a home defense weapon. Any choice of defensive armament has pros and cons, so let’s consider the lever action chambered in a pistol cartridge. Some of these are true of all long guns (rifles, shotguns) while some are specific to the one under discussion.

Pro: Good power level, likely to stop a threat with a minimum of shots.
Pro: Not overly powerful like a full sized rifle cartridge, less ...

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Some bits of rifle stuff: 6.5mm cartridges, slings, and lever actions.

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The Firearm Blog (one of the few blogs I read religiously) brings us good news: Alexander Arms (AA) has decided to stop gouging people who want to make 6.5 Grendel rifles! Apparently Hornady submitted the cartridge to SAAMI to be standardized, but AA refused to relinquish their trademark. That recently changed, and now the 6.5 Grendel is available to anyone who wants to use it.

This is great news; I’d once considered building an AR-15 in 6.5 Grendel ...

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The .35 Whelen: when the .30-06 isn’t enough, but you don’t need to go to artillery.

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Over the weekend I had a talk with a relative who was interested in the possibility of rechambering his rifle to something a little more potent than the .30-06 it currently fires. I found myself recommending the .35 Whelen. His eyebrows darted skyward, amazed that I wasn’t recommending some sort of SuperTinyShortenedUltraPowerful Magnum.

Though I’ve never owned one, I have passing familiarity with the Whelen. It is just a good, effective caliber that’s not going to beat the ...

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Deer season opens, and thoughts turn to rifles: the .357 as a deer cartridge.

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I’ve mentioned once before that the .357 Magnum is a surprising cartridge. Its performance from a handgun is legendary, if not always deserving of the status, but when stuffed into a rifle it turns into another beast entirely.

Over at The Truth About Guns they took a variety of loads and fired them from a revolver and a rifle, as well as comparing them to the venerable .30-30 cartridge. While ...

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Another rifle I’m lusting after: the new Ruger Model 77 in .357 Magnum.

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The Firearm Blog reported last week that Ruger is now chambering their Model 77 bolt-action rifle in .357 Magnum. I’m quite excited about the announcement, as I’m a fan of the .357 in longer barrels.

I believe (though I can’t find it right now) that I’ve written about this before: the .357 Magnum coming out of a rifle is a very different beast than the same round coming out of a handgun. One 158 grain ...

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Speaking of gun lust…I want a new, old AR-15.

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Last weekend I was on the range for the first time in I-can’t-remember-how-long, helping out with a rifle class taught by my friend Georges Rahbani. One of the rifles on the line was an old Colt SP1, complete with skinny barrel, A1 sights and stock, and the teardrop forward assist.

I’d forgotten how light and handy those original guns were. My main AR is a mid-length Rock River with a very heavy barrel, and the SP1 felt like a feather in ...

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To progress requires change, but not all change is progress.

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I’ve been bombarded with emails over the last couple of days about (yet another) lever action rifle adorned with a red dot scope. I’ve heard it called everything from “tactical cowboy” to “poor man’s Scout Rifle”, but all such sobriquets miss the point.

The lever action rifle, as historically outfitted, has never really seemed to need the red dot.

Please understand that I’m all for moving forward. I’m a technology junkie; I love what is new and demonstrably better. Sometimes, though, we ...

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What I did on Spring Break: hunting sage rats.

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It wasn’t really Spring Break, but this last weekend was our annual Sage Rat Hunting Trip to the dry half of Oregon. Sage rats, for those of you who may be new here, are actually ground squirrels, the exact species varying depending on location. Belding’s Ground Squirrel is grey with a tan underside, while the Richardson’s Ground Squirrel has a brown back with a buff belly. I have seen both varieties in eastern Oregon, but the Richardson’s seems more common ...

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Some thoughts on the FN-FAL rifle.

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I have more than a passing acquaintance with Fabrique Nationale’s Fusil Automatique Léger, more commonly known as the FN-FAL. I’ve owned a number of examples, from ‘pre ban’ milsurp guns to commercial examples to kit guns built on commercial receivers. Over the years I’ve fired literally tens of thousands of rounds of 7.62×51 through those rifles, many of them in training venues, to the point that at one time I’d become something of a local curiosity: “hey, that’s the guy ...

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Mil-dots. iPhones. It had to happen.

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From The Firearm Blog comes news about a new iPhone/iPod Touch app called Mil-Dot Rangefinder which claims to “take the math out of ranging targets.” Intriguing idea.

Sadly I have no mil-dot scopes in my inventory; several scopes with rangefinding reticles, but no mil-dots. This app is therefore useless for me, but looks pretty neat and will probably be of great value to those who do have appropriate optics.

I must admit that I feel my ...

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Hope for the terminally myopic? A new optical sight enhancement looks promising.

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The Firearm Blog alerted me to this post over at accurateshooter.com. A new sighting enhancement, making use of a “zone plate” optic, is due to hit the market soon. The device makes it possible to focus on both near and far objects at the same time, without the penalty of large, expensive optical systems.

I’ll be anxious to try one of these on a rifle. My eyes cannot focus on close objects without optical help, ...

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A weekend hunting trip. Well, not so much hunting as needed pest control!

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I just returned from a short jaunt to the dry side of Oregon, visiting relatives and doing some shooting. Usually both at the same time!

The shooting part of my trip involved helping to rid my cousin’s ranches of the dreaded sage rat. Sage rats are the colloquial term for several species of small, ground-dwelling squirrels which inhabit the fields of farmers and ranchers in Eastern Oregon, Washington, and parts of Idaho. They’re incredibly damaging to crops and they breed like ...

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Attack of the clones: proprietary cartridges and their open-source cousins.

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It comes as no surprise to long-time readers that I’m a fan of the 6.5mm rifle caliber. Though I’ve only owned a single such rifle – a 6.5-284 screamer – the ballistic advantages of this particular diameter intrigue me to no end. It seems to be a “sweet spot” in rifle calibers, where drag coefficients and sectional densities combine to make extremely efficient cartridges. Their stability in flight, ability to resist wind, and deep penetration are the stuff of legend.

I’ve ...

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A crowning achievement: how the muzzle crown affects accuracy.

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Occasionally someone will ask me if the muzzle crown is all that important. In the past I’d probably say something like “only if you want the bullet to go where you’re aiming!”, but I’m trying to reduce my percentage of flippant answers. Today I’d put it more lawyer-like: “it depends…”

The crown is the edge of the bore at the muzzle. It’s important to point that out, because it’s not unlike the edge of a cliff. Once you’ve fallen over the ...

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Still more about testing .22 long rifle ammunition: how to quickly eliminate variables.

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A recent email asked about an old article, wherein I talked about the problems with residual lube in a .22 rimfire barrel. Is it really a problem, the email asked, and if so how do I go about eliminating that variable in testing?

Yes, the effects are real. I never believed in the residual lube theory until I saw the results for myself, and to this day I can repeat ...

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Gas piston rifles are all the rage. What value are they, anyhow?

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Last week’s arrival of Ruger’s SR-556 rifle has a certain segment of the shooting community swooning with delight. I’m not at all certain the hoopla is justified.

There are those with the opinion that a gas piston system has merits over the direct gas impingement operation used in the standard M-16/AR-15 family of rifles. There are perceived shortcomings in the impingement system, but in my experience, over many rifles and uncounted thousands of rounds of ammunition, most of the complaints are ...

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Accuracy testing .22 Long Rifle ammunition: finding a load your rifle likes isn’t easy!

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As I’ve mentioned from time to time, shooting .22LR “seriously” can be a frustrating experience. It is almost expected that two identical rifles will have very different ammo preferences – and, unlike centerfire cartridges, the differences are often astounding.

For instance, I have one rifle that shoots its favorite load into an average 5-shot group of .275″ at 25 yards (from prone.) However, that same rifle shooting its least favorite load struggles to maintain 3″ at that same distance! What’s more, ...

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Lessons on AR-15 accessories that you only learn from watching lots of students.

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This past weekend marked the last rifle class my friend Georges Rahbani is teaching for the year. As I often do, I assisted him with his class and, as often happens, we came away with what some  people consider unusual opinions about rifles and gear validated and vindicated.

Georges has a funny saying: “thou shalt not hang sh*t on thy rifle!” His point is that adding geegaws to a basically sound firearm rarely improves shooter performance, and often results in lessened mechanical performance. The ever-popular ...

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More lessons from Hunter’s Sight-In Day: bad equipment equals bad results. Don’t be a cheapskate.

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For some background, read my last  post.

Today’s lession: you can shoot no better than your gear.  This is interesting both for what happened, and the frequency with which it happened.

The three of us (me, and my friends Georges and Maurice) were working sight-in days at our gun club. Since we’re all instructors of some experience, we were given the job of overseeing the benches reserved for “problems”: those shooters and guns ...

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Systems analysis and the sighting-in of firearms: you need to know why you’re doing something before you can do it correctly.

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This weekend was the opening of general deer season here in Oregon. I could tell it was opening weekend because our normally deserted gravel road, which leads into the mountains, has been turned into Interstate 5 for deer hunters! The parade of all the hopeful woodsmen (and perhaps not a few woodswomen) going after Bambi made me realize I’d missed something this year: hunter’s sight-in at our gun club.

You see, last January my wife and I bought a new place. ...

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On the current fad of bashing Stoner and his AR-15.

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Websites, forum postings, and blog entries heap scorn and derision on Eugene Stoner the M-16/AR-15/M4 family of rifles. Why? Everyone has a different reason, but it comes down to the old saying about greener grass. I have no doubt that the same kinds of grousing appeared when our military switched from the .45-70 cartridge to the ‘puny’ .30 caliber!

What’s amazing is the amount of engineering effort and money being spent to produce add-ons to “improve” the gun’s operating system. Fixing ...

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Rifle stock design, user interface, and accuracy: what you don’t know may be hurting your shooting.

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This weekend I was working around the farm on a particularly labor-intensive project. It got to be about noon, and the rapidly rising temperatures (there was no shade where I was working) convinced me to take the afternoon off and go shooting.

I decided to take my “sport utility rifle”, which is a .22LR Marlin 39a. This is the gun that stays loaded all the time, as a .22 goes with farm livin’ like beer goes with NASCAR. (I neither drink ...

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In praise of the “boy’s rifle”.

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When I was a kid (which was not all that long ago – at least I don’t remember it being all that long ago) we had “boy’s rifles.” Today they’re known by a more politically correct term, but as Juliet said “That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.”

The boy’s rifle was chambered in .22 LR, and was most often a single-shot bolt action – though repeaters were not unheard of. Their wood stocks ...

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The gun of my dreams, the gun of your dreams. They may not be the same, but that doesn’t matter!

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There are guns that we want – perhaps even “need” – but don’t happen to have. This is not about those.

This is about the gun which consumes large amounts of our subconscious thought, in the way that the opposite sex did in high school. Though we desire others, one remains a constant; a gun that, it seems, we’ve always wanted and always will. Perhaps one day our dream is fulfilled, perhaps not – but it never goes away.

Admit it: you ...

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On rifle scope magnification: how much is enough, and what is too much?

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Moving back to the farm as I recently did has changed my shooting habits. I’m shooting a larger amount of rimfire rifle lately, not just for fun but also predator/pest control.

For all the years I lived in suburbia (which is a Kafkaesque purgatory for a simple, ignorant country boy like me) I did all of my shooting at the gun club. When I shot rimfire there I invariably took the only scoped .22 rifle in my inventory, forsaking the other ...

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Allow me to elaborate on the Ruger Mini-14 magazine issue.

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In a recent post I mentioned that the Ruger Mini-14 demands factory magazines to work reliably. That statement may have given a bit of a wrong impression.

The point I was trying to make, and apparently didn’t, is that the only reliable Minis I have seen were using factory magazines. I have actually encountered many examples which wouldn’t run and a change to factory mags got them to working properly.

All is not perfect in Ruger-land, though – in my experience, there is still ...

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Wringing accuracy from your .22 rimfire: yes, it can seem frustrating at times!

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I’ve been shooting a lot of .22LR on a recreational basis lately, and am reminded how fickle this round can be.

Many people seem to be unaware that you can’t put just any old .22 round into a gun – be it rifle, pistol, or revolver – and expect it to function correctly, let alone hit where it is aimed!

It is not unusual to find that any given .22 firearm will not function with certain ammunition. I’ve seen guns that didn’t ...

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What does “reliability” really mean?

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A recent rifle class in which I assisted brought to mind a topic which is just not understood amongst gun owners: “reliability.”

What is “reliable”? You’ll hear all kinds of definitions, all kinds of criteria. My definition is deceptively simple: the next time you pull the trigger, the gun will function perfectly. That means zero, zilch, nada, nyet failures. Every single time, regardless of how many rounds you’ve just shot. Not just “bang”, but feed, fire, eject, and feed again.

Sounds like I’m ...

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