Be honest with yourself: how good are you on demand?

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In college I minored in music performance. Being just out of high school (read: thoroughly stupid) I thought I was a hot musician, harboring dreams of becoming a professional trumpet player. Like so many other aspiring performers I really had no idea what the world of a professional musician actually entailed, but I was absolutely sure I had what it took.

One of my professors, an accomplished professional trombonist, made it his job to bring us post-adolescents into the real world. ...

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Progressive presses and their powder measures.

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A common complaint with progressive presses is the throwing of inconsistent powder charges. Most people immediately blame the equipment, but some times it’s actually operator error.

We first need to admit that there are certain incompatibilities with regard to some measures and some powders (Dillon’s difficulty with metering flake or extruded powder, for instance, is often discussed on the various reloading forums.) However, even with a powder the measure “likes” unexpected variances often occur during a production run.

The variance usually comes ...

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FRIDAY SURPRISE! Color me amazed: color from the Great Depression.

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During the 1930s and 1940s, the Farm Security Administration (FSA) and the Office of War Information (OWI) shot tens of thousands of photographs. The vast majority – and the images we most associate with their work – were in black and white:

However, there were a number of assignments which were shot in color. That number was far smaller, likely because of budget constraints, but produced some stunning images:

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Coffee and miracle lubricants: what’s the connection? Marketing.

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Coffee is one of those vices in which I do not indulge. Not from any religious objection, mind you – it’s just that I can’t stand the taste of the stuff. I admit to loving the smell of brewing java, but coffee is one of those things that smells a whole lot better than it tastes!

Stay with me, I’ll get to the point.

A number of years ago I knew a district sales manager for one of the major coffee companies. ...

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Facing my demons: how I cured an event-induced flinch.

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I used to love shooting steel. The plates dropping, the loud “clang” from a Steel Challenge target – no matter what the venue, reactive metal targets are just addicting. This addiction, I discovered, can be broken – even if you don’t want to!

A number of years back I was shooting a Steel Challenge-type match. On one stage I was watching someone else shoot when a piece of bullet jacket bounced back from the steel plate, sneaked around my safety glasses, ...

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Risk assessment, or lack thereof: why aren’t you carrying?

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I meet many people who possess concealed handgun licenses, but don’t carry on a regular basis – let alone every day. The explanation is usually something along the lines of “I carry when I’m in a bad area” or “if I’m going into a situation where I’m more likely to need it, I’ll take my gun”. There are myriad variations, but the excuse always boils down to confusions between likelihood and consequence.

Likelihood (probability of attack) is variable. Yes, there are ...

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Is that gun loaded? Why are you checking to see if it is?

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In the comments to last week’s post regarding safety rules, someone asked why checking the condition of a firearm is never listed in any rules. It seems logical enough – why not check the condition of a gun when you pick it up?

I’d like you to think about that for a minute – really think: why are you checking it?

If you plan to shoot it immediately, I can understand wanting to make certain that it was loaded. If you were ...

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Living with your choices: not all guns are equal, and your safety might depend on being honest about that.

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One-liners, sound bites, and witty retorts are often used to convince others to unthinkingly follow a certain path or belief. When the subject matter is of little import, they are simply amusing. When subjects turn more serious, they impede the flow of vital information necessary to make good decisions. Such is the latest, a hearty retort of “guns break!” when people are faced with evidence (or even the considered opinion) that their choice in safety/rescue equipment might not have been ideal. This ...

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Yes, I’m repeating myself: women are people, too. How about the people in the gun industry treat them like they are?

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I’ve written about this before, but it’s getting worse. All across this country are people standing behind gun counters who need to be taught that women are people, too.

I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve run into a woman who was sold (as opposed to deciding to buy) a revolver for self defense. Now it should be pretty clear to even the densest web denizen that this ...

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A perception issue: are revolvers really the best thing for beginners?

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A recent SHOT show write-up, regarding the new Ruger LCR revolver, contained the (sadly common) comment that the gun would be perfect for “non-dedicated personnel.”

I hereby give public notice that I am officially tired of reading excrement like that.

The snub-nosed, double-action revolver is the easiest gun in the world to shoot, but It is the hardest gun to shoot well. Mastering the double action pull takes time, dedication, and practice; that’s just a fact of life. The nice, light, short ...

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A promising (and available) alternative to Lubriplate SFL grease.

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If you’ve read my Lubrication 101 article, you know that I’m a big fan of the Lubriplate SFL series of greases. Unfortunately, they are hard to get; there are no consumer-quantity online sources that I know of, and even the company that once supplied me is no longer.

There is another good choice: the Lubriplate FGL line of greases, which are available in more consumer-friendly packaging – but still hard to find in anything less than case ...

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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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Some more primer talk: what about magnum primers?

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A question appeared in the comments to my last primer article. The commenter asked about magnum primers and their effect on the load.

First things first: I’ll limit my comments to Winchester Small Pistol Magnum primers, as those are what I have experience with. (Winchester uses the same Large Pistol primer for both regular and magnum loads.)

A couple of years back I was working up a 9mm +P load, to duplicate a factory offering for practice ...

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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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Making a special edition a little more special: fixing a 3″ Lew Horton S&W Model 25.

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A long-time client called me a while back, and told me that he’d just acquired one of the Smith & Wesson Model 25 “Lew Horton” editions with the 3″ barrel. He wasn’t happy with the gun, and asked me to do a makeover.

If you’ve hung out here for long, you know that I love 3″ barrels. I don’t know why, exactly, except that I like ’em. This gun is no exception, and to say I was excited about the prospects ...

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Is there really a difference in primers? You might be surprised.

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I’m not sure what’s up with Winchester these days. No one seems to have Winchester primers in stock, either walk-in or online, and backorders aren’t being taken. On the other hand, CCI primers are (at least in my area) available in quantity. Odd.

(Something else odd: I rarely see Remington primers around here, and it’s been that way as far back as I can remember.)

Anyhow, every reloading resource I’ve ever seen is quite adamant about the need to retest a load ...

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Guns are not magic wands, and yours won’t always scare the bad guy off.

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There is a perception amongst a large percentage of the gun-toting public that guns are magic wands: one shot and the bad guy flies backward, landing in an unconscious heap at the bottom of a wall or tree.

Think I’m exaggerating? Spend a few minutes at a gun counter sometime. Random samples would tend to support the supposition that the majority of people carrying guns get their information from Hollywood, not Paulden.

This incident from east ...

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Preventing barrel leading in revolvers using cast bullets.

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A reader asked me to comment on successfully shooting lead bullets in revolvers. It seems that he’s been getting indifferent accuracy coupled with severe leading, and would like to know the “secret” to using lead in his gun.

I thought I’d covered this topic once before, but a thorough search of the archives failed to turn up the expected article. Guess I’ll have to do this from scratch!

Please note that I’m not a “hardcore” cast bullet shooter. I don’t cast my ...

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Does Taylor Throating really work?

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I recently received an email asking my thoughts on Taylor Throating – the procedure where a reamer removes the rifling for roughly a half-inch past the forcing cone, and the edges of the lands are chamfered to match. The concept is to make an area that allows the bullet to ‘stabilize’ after jumping the barrel gap, but before entering the rifling.

Taylor Throating is somewhat controversial, with some holding it to be the greatest thing since peanut butter, while others claim ...

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FRIDAY SURPRISE: Up, up and away with NASA!

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I’ve made little secret of my appreciation for the work that NASA has done over it’s 50-year history. NASA grew up right along with me – or me with it – and NASA was always doing the exciting stuff boys of that era were smitten by: Astronauts. Fast planes. Rockets. The Moon.

(It wasn’t just spectacle, though; NASA was the catalyst for technological progress that continues to be felt today. A surprising number of the things we now take for granted can ...

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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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FRIDAY SURPRISE: Grant visits an abandoned movie theater and survives.

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Portland, Oregon has for years had one of the highest numbers of movie theater seats per capita. Oregonians, it would appear, can’t get enough of the silver screen. (Save for this Oregonian, who only sees one theater movie every seven years or so — whether he needs to or not.)

It seems to have always been this way. Portland had a large number of neighborhood movie theaters up through the ’60s, and many of those buildings are still standing. The theaters were ...

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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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FRIDAY SURPRISE: The Mother Of All Demos.

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If you’re under 40, the name Douglas Engelbart probably means nothing to you. It should, though, because a huge amount of the machine on which you’re reading this sprang from his fertile mind.

Engelbart (yet another product of Oregon, having been born in Portland) worked at Stanford Research Institute (SRI) before the dawn of the personal computer revolution. Many of the things we now use without a second thought were developed by him, or made possible by his ...

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Is the Ruger GP100 inaccurate?

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It sometimes amuses me how often one hears the same question, with only slight variations. One that I’ve heard over the years goes something like this: “Is it true that the GP100 isn’t very accurate?” Personally, I’ve not noticed that any of mine are, but there is more to this story.

Assuming that the gun is “in spec” with regards to its construction (forcing cone, crown, chamber/barrel alignment, etc.) it should shoot quite well. Many GP owners, however, continue to complain ...

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