Presented for your consideration, again: there is no such thing as a ‘clean shoot’.

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I’ve been pretty clear over the years about my belief in the myth of the ‘clean shoot’. It’s a phrase that comes up with amazing regularity in various forums and in gunshops all across the country: as long as your shoot is ‘clean’, nothing else matters.

As I’ve pointed out, the people who decide if your self defense act was ‘clean’ sit on a jury. Whether you think it was a ‘good’ shoot, whether I do, whether your instructor does, or ...

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FRIDAY SURPRISE: Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.

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One of my favorite places to buy quality tools is the Harry Epstein company. They’ve been in business at the same location in Missouri for over 80 years, and though I’ve never been there (in fact, I’ve never been to Missouri) I enjoy shopping through their retro-themed website.

This isn’t their first foray into mailorder, however. Back in the days before the internet, when Al Gore was still getting his privileged education at a private boy’s school in ...

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Some more thoughts regarding ‘force on force’ training.

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The limitations of the equipment that we discussed in the previous installment aren’t the only things that affect the utility of force-on-force training. The way that drills and scenarios are approached is important as well.

I’ll use two terms to describe broad categories of FOF training. Drills are man-against-man tests of mechanical or physical skills: drawing the gun, moving off the vector of the attack, and so on. Scenarios, on the ...

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Some thoughts regarding ‘force on force’ training.

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Scenario or Force-on-force (‘FOF’) training (sometimes called Simunition training, after the major maker of the marking ammunition used) has become all the rage in the last couple of years, with some instructors making it a hallmark of their courses. Everyone, it seems, is buying Airsoft pistols and touting their FOF credentials. Supporters of the concept have done a very good sales job, as I routinely am asked if my courses have a force-on-force component.

Such questions remind me so much of ...

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The Wrong Woman now has a blog!

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Kelly Muir at Wrong Woman has put up a blog to discuss the unique aspects of this new self defense program. I can already tell that it isn’t going to be your average self defense blog: her third post talks about serial manipulators and the language they use.

It was a bit of an eye-opener for me. This is something men don’t normally deal with, and thus I’d never really thought about such nuances of ...

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Doing good work: Larry Potterfield supports the shooting sports. Again. Still. Big-time.

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I’ve never been much on television commercials; I routinely ignore them, and the most annoying I mute. Such is the case with Larry Potterfield’s ads for Midway USA. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a satisfied Midway customer and will no doubt continue to be, but it’s just that Mr. Potterfield’s ads are, well, annoying. He’s a nice fellow (I’ve met him), but I can’t stand his commercials.

Regardless of what I think about his television performances, though, it’s worth celebrating ...

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My virtue remains unblemished: no hit-whoring here. No sir, not here.

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Welcome to 2011! I hope everyone had a happy and safe New Year’s celebration.

Whether you’re just tuning in, or you’ve been here for a while, I think it’s worth pointing out the three things that make my blog different from every other in the firearms/self defense field.

First, I long ago made the commitment to writing a large percentage of original content. That is, things that I wrote myself, as opposed to taking from others. My goal was (and still is) ...

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FRIDAY SURPRISE: This is the end, my only friend, the end. And other classic songs.

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If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll remember that I’ve been following the demise of Kodachrome film with some interest. In June of ’09 came the news that Kodak had stopped producing the stuff, and in August we learned that the last roll produced by Kodak had been processed at the sole remaining Kodachrome processor. We also learned that they would be closing that service at the end of the year.

Yesterday, December 30th 2010, the last roll ...

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Attitude Change, 2010 Edition: what have I changed my mind about?

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I’ve been actively interested in the topic of self defense training since the early 90s. Over the last decade, particularly in the last five years, a lot of my original opinions regarding self defense have changed. This isn’t because I’m wishy-washy and unable to hold on to an opinion (just ask my wife!) Rather, such change is brought about by being exposed to new information, or because new research alters original assumptions.

As this year winds down, I thought it might ...

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Probabilities and perspective: what about protection from wild animals?

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I hope everyone had a great Christmas weekend!

Despite the holiday (or perhaps because of it), I got a lot of email this weekend. One of them asked a question that comes up every so often, and my answer to it has changed over the years.

The question is usually something akin to “I’d like a gun for protection against dangerous animals (bear, cougar) while out hiking. What do you suggest?”

In the past I’d have answered with a run-down of the best ...

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More on ‘new’ Dan Wessons: some background and predictions.

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I received a bunch of emails from last week’s story on the reintroduction of the Dan Wesson Model 715 by CZ-USA.

Some of them centered around the gun’s MSRP, which is reported as being $1200. If the gun is of superb quality, that’s not an unreasonable figure. Think of it this way: Freedom Arms has no trouble selling their high-end single actions, and the S&W Performance Center – despite putting out some embarrassingly bad ...

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Here we go again: the Dan Wesson rumors arise from the grave.

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Got an email recently from a fellow who noticed that CZ-USA is once again illustrating new Dan Wesson 715 revolvers on their site. As you may recall, this is an old story; you can read it here.

When CZ-USA acquired Dan Wesson in 2005, the first thing they did was promise that revolvers would be an important part of their business. They even showed a prototype “new 715” at SHOT that season. Time passed and nothing more ...

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Striking a blow: empty-hand defensive techniques are important too!

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An area of defensive preparations where I’ve been quite deficient is in empty-hand techniques. I’ve been trained to shoot (obviously), to use a knife, and to use a Kubotan – but have learned precious little about using no tools other than what nature has provided.

The gun is an appropriate tool for encounters that happen beyond, say, two arm’s reach. Inside that space, however, the handgun is probably not the correct first choice. (It may come into play at some point, ...

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The Case Of The Locked-Up Rugers: learning proper trigger reset is the key to avoiding them.

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Over the years I’ve gotten a number of inquiries that sound something like this: “I was reading a forum about Rugers locking the trigger when shooting fast. What’s with that – any truth?”

This is a question that comes up often enough that I’ve actually written a boilerplate answer that I paste into my email replies. I think it’s worth discussing here.

First, the wording of the question (and the complaint that engenders the question) implies that the gun is somehow at ...

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How the Chiappa Rhino works, part VII: the roller bearing system.

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One of the features that Chiappa touts about the Rhino are the roller bearings used in the action. The Rhino has four such bearings, two each on the hammer spring lever and the return lever:

The picture shows the back (underside) of the two parts, because the rollers are not visible when installed in the gun. (Please refer to pictures from previous episodes showing these parts installed in the Rhino.)

Each lever has a captured ...

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How the Chiappa Rhino works, part VI: the hand and cylinder rotation.

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First let’s take a look at the assembled action for some perspective:

The mainspring serves two functions. Through the Hammer Spring Lever, it powers the hammer to fire the rounds, and through the Return Lever it resets the trigger and all the internal mechanisms. This is not different conceptually than the single spring used in a traditional “V”-spring Colt, or the single coil spring used in the Ruger Redhawk – though it is substantially ...

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How the Chiappa Rhino works, part V: double action lockwork.

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As I mentioned last time, the Rhino’s double action is a little more conventional – but not a whole lot!

First, we need to take a look at the left side of the hammer. It sits against the inside of the frame, and without seeing it you won’t be able to grasp what’s happening.


The ‘hammer sear’ is referred to by other makers as a ‘double action strut’. In most revolvers a sear protrusion ...

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How the Chiappa Rhino works, part IV: single action lockwork.

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One of the things that struck me when I first opened the Rhino is that the trigger doesn’t directly do anything. In every other double action revolver the trigger directly contacts the hammer in both single and double action, but not the Rhino!

In a traditional revolver’s single action the sear (which is usually a pointed projection on the trigger) drops into some sort of notch on the hammer. When the trigger is pulled, the sear slips out of the hammer ...

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How the Chiappa Rhino works, part III: the non-hammer.

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Quick: is this Rhino cocked, or not?

As it happens, it is. The “hammer” that you see isn’t a hammer at all. Since the gun fires from the bottom chamber of the cylinder, the hammer is buried deep within the frame. Since the hammer is inaccessible, to cock it for single action requires that something reach down into the works. That something is called the cocking lever, and it’s connected to the thing that ...

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FRIDAY SURPRISE: Ghost of the future.

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One of my favorite PBS shows was “Connections“, the ten-part series from British science writer/historian James Burke. In it, Burke looked at the often surprising interrelationships of disparate discoveries and inventions that invariably culminated in something no one involved in the process could have imagined. From those connections (get it?) we see that even small changes in the past would have made huge impacts in the present. It’s a concrete, approachable ...

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How the Chiappa Rhino works, part II: the extractor.

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By now everyone knows about the Rhino’s unique hexagonal cylinder, but it’s unusual in more ways than the shape. The extractor (star or ratchet, depending on the maker) on the Rhino is quite different in execution than any S&W, Colt, Ruger, Dan Wesson, or Taurus.

The orthodox method of making an extractor is to cut half circles to accept the cartridges, and mill cam surfaces in the center so that the hand can rotate the cylinder. The extractor does double duty, ...

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Another independent thinker looks at traditional safety rules and agrees with me.

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Alan over at Snarkybytes wants to do away with Traditional Safety Rule #1, “all guns are always loaded” (or variants thereof.) His charts about the possible permutations of safety violations are really superb.

Welcome to the club, Alan – I’ve been saying the same thing for over three years now, and caught the same flak that you’re now getting.

The comments over at his place are very similar to the comments that I got ...

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A Rhino update: how the Chiappa Rhino works, part I.

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Today I’m starting my promised technical evaluation of the new Chiappa Arms Rhino revolver. This will be strictly an analysis of how the gun is constructed and how it functions; my full shooting review, including my evaluation of its suitability for self defense, will appear in an upcoming issue of Concealed Carry Magazine. (The review will be a must-read for anyone interested in the Rhino; I’ll be covering some aspects of the gun that you’re not likely to find anywhere ...

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FRIDAY SURPRISE: The Wright stuff. Wright Tools, that is.

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Whenever I buy a durable good, I make some hard decisions about what and where I buy. I start, as I’ve often mentioned, with quality; I buy not necessarily the most expensive, but not the cheapest either. I’m looking for value, that ill-defined but instantly recognizable point at which price and quality are optimized.

Of course there are other variables to consider. I’m growing more aware, with every passing day, of the social impact in the ways which I spend my ...

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Smith & Wesson mainsprings: a little-known problem.

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A recent email asked my help with a problem. The writer, who had purchased a new gun to compete in the IDPA revolver class, had taken the strain screw out of his S&W 686 and shortened it to reduce the trigger pull weight. When he put his grips back on, he found that the grip screw wouldn’t go through the frame, and he could see that the mainspring was now blocking the screw’s path.

He asked why this happened, and what ...

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Monday pot-stirring: how to tell when you’re being fed a line of bull.

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I’ve mentioned that my father was on a bomber crew during World War II. I didn’t mention that a few years before he died he trolled the gun shows looking for a decent M1 Garand (I eventually found one for him, which my brother and I gave to him as a birthday gift.) I asked him why he wanted one, and he animatedly exclaimed “I carried one during the War, and it was the best weapon ever made!”

“Ummm, Dad?” I ...

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Recoil and reflexes: unintended discharges with heavy-recoiling guns.

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A video of a petite woman shooting a S&W .500 Magnum made the rounds last week. At issue was an uncontrolled (negligent) discharge, occurring as a rapid “double tap.”

Watch the video, and you’ll see that as the gun recoils from the first round, a second round is ignited. The barrel is nearly vertical when the second shot fires, raising all sorts of concerns about its eventual landing place. It’s definitely an unsafe situation!

The various comments made (not ...

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Friday Surprise: Rooting around.

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It occurs to me that I’ve yet to write about one of my favorite things: root beer. I don’t drink much of it anymore, as I dislike what it does to teeth and waistlines, but on occasion I’ll treat myself to a single bottle.

By now you should know that I’m a little on the anal retentive side about everything, more so with things I’m passionate about. Root beer is one of those things.

My all-time favorite root beer is

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You need to read this. Seriously: what exactly is a good shoot, and who decides?

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One consistent theme amongst the less informed is that all you need worry about in a defensive encounter is that it’s a “good shoot.” Nothing else, according to these keyboard commandoes, matters – you can do anything, as long as the shoot is “clean.”

The trouble is that neither you, nor they, get to decide what’s “clean” and what’s not. In my state, a Grand Jury makes the first decision, and if they say it isn’t “clean” it then goes to ...

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FRIDAY SURPRISE: Musical chairs – the music of Stan Kenton.

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When I was in high school my dream was to play trumpet in the Stan Kenton band. Kenton’s organization was for years the most progressive, innovative big band in all of jazz. Their sound was decidedly different than any other big band, and that alone attracted fans (of which I was one) and detractors (of which there were many.)

Narrow-minded jazz listeners complained that Kenton didn’t “swing”, that you couldn’t dance to his music. Musicians, though, understood what ...

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