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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FRIDAY SURPRISE: Malt-O-Meal?? Some thoughts on Scotch whisky.

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Well, not quite, but a single malt being billed as the “world’s oldest whisky” is now for sale.

A full bottle of Mortlach 70-year-old Scotch will set you back more than ten grand, if you can find one; there are only 54 full-size (700ml) and 162 small size (200ml) bottles from the single cask avilable. That’s for the entire world, mind you.

(Unlike wine, Scotch whisky doesn’t continue to age once it’s been bottled. There are older bottles of ...

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Another sacred cow bites the dust: Rob Pincus on shooting stances.

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I’ve often described the “shooting stance” as being like a scaffold – a device one uses to supply support and stability so that skills can be built efficiently. Past that point, the stance as usually taught has limited utility. This is largely because the circumstances under which you shoot (definitely for defensive shooting, and often in hunting as well) dictate where your feet are when you recognize the need to shoot. This has been met with not inconsiderable consternation from some ...

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The revolver is not a low-capacity autoloader. Don’t treat it like one.

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Over the years a number of 4×4 vehicles have come under fire for being “prone” to rollover accidents: the Suzuki Samurai. The Jeep CJ. The Ford Explorer. The Isuzu Trooper. While the government probes their safety and juries award inflated damages, one pertinent fact is conveniently ignored: a four-wheel-drive isn’t a family sedan, and can’t be driven like one. The results are predictable.

Guess what? The same relationship exists between the autoloader and the revolver.

In the last couple of decades, the ...

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Draw fast. Holster slow. That’s how to not shoot yourself.

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Tam alerts us to a ND that happened at a Todd Green class. In his commendable reporting of the incident, Todd says “Never be in a rush to holster your pistol. We all know it, we say it, we teach it. Not all of us do it.” So true.

As instructors it’s easy for us to forget that reinforcement, and sometimes enforcement, are necessary parts of our job. Especially when we’re dealing with “advanced” students, ...

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An exciting new personal security resource: announcing the Personal Defense Network!

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This week is dominated by SHOT Show news, and in the midst of all the shiny new goodies it’s hard to remember that self defense isn’t just about hardware. Guns and ammo are easy to write about, so that’s what most people concentrate on. As a result, you find lots of sites that deal with hardware, but precious few with the software so necessary for survival.

That situation is about to change: the Personal Defense Network has gone ...

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Vintage gun ads. How many do you remember?

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The SHOT Show, that yearly orgy of all things that go ‘bang’, starts next Tuesday. The products shown there will be arriving on dealer’s shelves over the coming months, but the ads will show up almost immediately. That’s how commerce is done.

It was serendipitous, then, that I recently ran across a site called Vintage Ad Browser. The site collects images of old ads for all kinds of products, including guns and ammo. Just like the SHOT Show, ...

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Massad Ayoob’s new gig: the Massad Ayoob Group (MAG).

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I got an email from Massad Ayoob recently, in which he told me about his new venture: the Massad Ayoob Group (MAG). He’s got a great website where you can read the official announcement.

While the curriculum will be new, the principles he teaches aren’t. No one knows more about the legal and ethical side of deadly force, and his updated classes will build on that expertise. I asked Mas about how the new curriculum will translate to ...

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Book Review: “Personal Defense for Women” by Gila Hayes.

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Personal Defense for Women: Practical Advice for Self Protection by Gila Hayes

It is only now that society is beginning to recognize what those of us who’ve been married for decades know all too well: men and women are different. ‘Equal’, as it happens, does not mean ‘the same’, and we are slowly coming to realize this. (Back to the future!)

Because we’re different, it’s difficult – if not impossible – for a man to ...

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What safety standards? Is there anything like an industry standard for firearms safety?

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On occasion I’ll get feedback on  my articles on safety, and some will opine that anyone who doesn’t teach ‘industry standard’ rules opens himself (or herself) up to liability problems. I’ve heard this argument more than once and it makes less sense each time I hear it – on several levels. I’m sure this view is quite common, so let’s tackle the subject head-on.

First let’s address the very notion that there is such a thing as an industry standard for firearm ...

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FRIDAY SURPRISE: I’ll take “Stupid things I’ve done” for $100, Alex.

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Back in the early ’80s, I lead small groups of advanced amateur photographers around the Portland, Oregon metro area at night. The goal was to teach them the fundamentals of available-light photography in an environment that was simultaneously familiar, yet unexplored. We’d gather at about 10:pm at a local Denny’s, then head out for a few hours of shooting, usually getting home about 3:am.

Let me paint you a picture: say, 5 people. Camera bags stuffed with multiple thousands of dollars ...

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FRIDAY SURPRISE: The Witch is Back.

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Back in ’51, the Atomic Energy Research Establishment in Oxfordshire welcomed a new member to their staff: a computer. Today we don’t even bat an eyelid when a new PC shows up in the office, but back then computers were a Big Deal. (After all, how many new staff members get their own office – the largest one in the building?)

The Harwell Computer, later to be known as “WITCH” (Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computing from Harwell), now ...

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What is the true value of “dry fire”?

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A few weeks back, I took some flak for suggesting that a working knowledge of cognitive science – especially neuropsychology – was a valuable instructional tool. Such knowledge allows an instructor to better serve his/her students, and gives the students the tools they need to self-correct aberrant behaviors. Some apparently don’t believe this, or perhaps simply don’t understand why.

Some years ago I was having a specific shooting problem, one which I had a great deal of difficulty solving. During a ...

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A few thoughts about the revolver in self defense.

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Regular readers know that, despite my (occasionally) bombastic promotion of the wheelgun, I’m the first to admit that it is not the perfect tool for all jobs. The revolver’s suitability for self defense depends on the nature of the threat one expects to encounter.

The revolver’s greatest weakness is its limited capacity, while its greatest virtue is its resistance to externally induced failures.

It is something of a trend among today’s fashionable criminals to attack in multiples, i.e. more than one assailant. ...

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Perfectly suited: concealed carry (for men) in a professional environment.

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I get a surprising number of inquiries about carrying in an office (suit and tie) environment. I spent a few years wearing expensive Italian suits (and a few actual custom suits) while selling to upper-echelon corporate types, so I’m passingly familiar with the problems involved.

There are a number of ways to carry a gun in a suit: belt holster, shoulder holster, pocket carry, bellyband, Thunderwear (aka ‘crotch carry’), and in an ankle holster.

Belt and shoulder holsters can be considered together, ...

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Reality – what a concept. You’ve got to learn to recognize what it is, however.

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Yesterday, Tam asked “I laugh at the sight of the pimped tactical N-frame, too, but why?” Allow me to explain with some fuzzy dice.

Yes. You read that correctly – fuzzy dice.

If you go to a car show featuring hotrods from the ’50s and ’60s, a common sight will be a pair fuzzy dice hanging from the rearview mirror. They’re always carefully chosen to complement the paint color, and I’ve even seen fastidious owners arranging the dice “just ...

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I CAN’T HEAR YOU: the myth of auditory exclusion and hearing damage.

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A comment on last Wednesday’s article correctly reminded us that there seems to be some confusion about the phenomenon known as auditory exclusion.

Under times of high stress, such as a violent criminal attack, the body makes profound physiological adjustments to limit distracting data and focus on the threat. One of these is to radically attenuate (or even completely silence) aural inputs – in other words, it shuts your hearing down. This is called auditory exclusion.

It’s important to understand that auditory ...

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FRIDAY SURPRISE: All Jazzed Up, Part Deux.

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If you ever get to attend a major shooting match, one thing that will impress you is how accessible the top competitors are. If you want to meet Rob Leatham or Jerry Miculek, no problem – they’re usually happy to shake hands and talk.

The same is true for the top jazz musicians. Jazz is a personal music, and because of the smaller fan base getting to meet even the biggest names is relatively easy. Imagine being able to walk up ...

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Incorrect conclusions: muzzle flash and blindness don’t really correlate.

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This morning I got a very nice email from a concerned gentleman in a southern state. His NRA instructor gave him numerous pieces of incorrect information about his new GP100, one of which I’ve heard many times before: “Don’t carry Magnums, because the muzzle flash will blind you in a self-defense shooting!”

With all due respect, bull twaddle.

The .357 Magnum is notorious for muzzle flash, based largely on some well-known pictures from the 1980s. These days, even the Magnum uses flash-suppressed ...

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Lightweight revolvers and people who sell the things to the wrong customers. Can you say ‘ouch!’?

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Every so often a client will send me one of the S&W Scandium guns for work, and I’m always reminded of how much I dislike shooting the little beasts. Even with standard pressure Specials, the recoil gets to me very quickly. I can’t imagine actually shooting one with Magnum loads, and I intend to never find out!

For me it’s merely discomfort, but for others the experience could prove more serious.

I constantly encounter women who’ve been sold those guns, because the ...

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So, Grant, have you joined the Dark Side? No, but many people think I have!

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I get emails. Crazy, some of them. (Not that I’m pointing any fingers, but watch out for pharmacists.) After I said something nice about the Steyr autopistols, some assumed that I’d somehow lost my bearings or that I’d been abducted and replaced by a lookalike with absolutely no taste in firearms.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

As I’ve said more than once, I’ve been known to carry a high-capacity autoloader when the circumstances were ...

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So, just what is the .357 Magnum like in a confined space?

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A number of years back my wife and I served as coordinators for the defensive pistol matches at our gun club. Our matches were somewhat similar to IDPA, but without the endless rules to make everything “fair.” We enjoyed a large following of regular participants who were very involved and loved to build sets for stages.

(Some of them got a little carried away; one particular gentleman once designed a stage that featured cardboard cows. Yes, cows, complete with udders. He’s a very ...

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A violent reaction: despite what some might say, violence is a valid and necessary tool.

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I kept tabs on the concealed carry reciprocity bill that failed to clear the Senate this week, and the debates brought to mind comments I heard years ago regarding concealed carry proponents: “intelligent people have no need for violence.” “We need to reduce the violence in this world, not increase it.”

This reveals a fundamental ignorance regarding the place of violence in a civilized society. Violence, which is usually defined as an exertion of physical force against a living being, is ...

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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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Everything has a purpose in the hands of Ed Harris. Even the .32 ACP.

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Many of you are familiar with Ed Harris, firearms engineer and ballistic experimenter. One of Ed’s passions is the hunting of small game – squirrels, rabbits, etc. – and the guns that facilitate that activity.

(Before we go any further, it seems that a lot of folks today don’t have any experience with serious small game hunting. There are an awful lot of people who consider it somehow inferior to the taking of large game, but they are sorely mistaken. In ...

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FRIDAY SURPRISE: By George! (George Eastman, that is.)

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We learned this week that Kodak finally pulled the plug on what was their signature film, Kodachrome. Photographers will fondly recall the fine grain, superb resolution, and vibrant color of Kodak’s iconic product, while everyone else will remember Paul Simon’s hit song by the same name:

Kodachrome
They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, Oh yeah
I got a Nikon camera

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On dry firing: is it good for your gun? That depends.

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One of the great advantages of the double action revolver is that the mechanism makes dry firing easy. Unlike the majority of autoloaders, you don’t have to break your grip to operate the slide or recock the hammer; just maintain your grip and pull the trigger, over and over. As a result, I suspect most revolvers are dry fired with greater frequency than most autos.

Various pundits have opined over the years that it is perfectly safe to dry fire any ...

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FRIDAY SURPRISE: Down periscope, comrade – the mysterious sinking of the Soviet S-2.

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In January 1940, the Soviet Union was at war with Finland. Just a few months earlier, the Soviets had signed a non-agression pact with the German government, which besides promising to be Best Friends Forever, divided up the countries of Eastern Europe between the two powers. The two chums lost no time in invading and carving up Poland, and that success prompted Uncle Joe Stalin to go for the first country on his own shopping list: Finland.

While ...

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Packing your training trunk: what’s the value of prior experience in an instructor?

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There is a concept that, in order to properly teach the use of a firearm for self-defense, one must have been in a shootout. The term most often used to describe that state is “seeing the elephant.” (I’m not sure how the phrase got corrupted to mean shooting at someone, but I am sure that I find it quite annoying.)

The assertion, of course, is that only those who have drawn blood with their weapon are in a position to talk ...

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