On pairing women with guns (or, how to maintain a relationship while learning to shoot.)

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You’ve probably seen news articling exploring the “phenomenon” of women who choose to carry a gun for their own protection. They’re interesting to read, and when I saw one recently I was reminded of my own wife’s journey to self-empowerment (in the ballistic sense.)

I’m of the belief that women should always be proactive with regards to their own safety. Sadly, our current society has inculcated a fear of weapons into the collective conscious of the female half of the population. It ...

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A gunsmith I admire: John Linebaugh.

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John Linebaugh is a custom revolver maker who specializes in caliber conversions on Ruger single actions. Not just any conversions, mind you – he is the originator of the fire-breathing .475 Linebaugh and .500 Linebaugh cartridges.

John first became famous for his modified revolvers that would should heavy .45 Colt loads (250 grain bullets at 1,700 fps.) His work with those heavy loads lead him to develop the .475 Linebaugh and the mighty .500 Linebaugh: 435 grains traveling at 1,300 fps!

Now ...

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The Smith & Wesson Model 625 dilemma.

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So, you’re in the market for a S&W 625, and you’re torn between the “standard” 625 and the Jerry Miculek edition 625. Which to choose?

Well, you have to decide whether the “niceties” – such as the Miculek grips, interchangeable front sights, and the serrated trigger – are worth the extra money. There are some internal differences, though, which you may want to consider.

The Miculek edition is a little unusual, in that it uses a mix of MIM (metal injection molding) ...

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Bent ejector rods.

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A common complaint about the old-style Colt Detective Special is the unshrouded ejector rod. Many people believe that the exposed ejector rod is a liability; should it get bent during a struggle, the theory goes, it will tie up the gun and make it inoperable.

Not quite.

Many folks have experienced this problem with a Smith & Wesson. Since their ejector rods are locked at the front and rotate about the front latch pin, any small amount of runout (deviation from true) ...

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“Stainless” doesn’t mean “won’t rust”.

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I hear the advice all the time: “buy a stainless gun, because they won’t rust.” This kind of comment is what prompted General Norman Schwarzkopf to say “bovine scatology!”

Yes, stainless will in fact rust under the right conditions. What are those conditions? Generally, if you get moisture trapped in a place where it doesn’t evaporate normally (say, under a grip panel or inside the action), you have a situation that is ideal for corrosion. The situation is worse in very ...

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A gunsmith I admire: Hamilton Bowen.

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Someone recently asked me what gunsmith(s) I admired or respected, or that I would allow to work on my own guns. I gave him a few names, and thought you might be interested as well!

My first entry in this occasional series is Hamilton Bowen. Bowen is perhaps the gunsmith that the rest of us aspire to be; he combines technical ability, commitment to quality, and a definite style that is hard to define but easy to recognize. Bowen does it ...

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It’s time for someone else to make revolvers.

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Well, it’s more precise to say that it’s time for someone else to make double-action revolvers!

With Colt out of the revolver business, Taurus showing no signs of moving past the low end of the market, Dan Wesson functionally deceased, and Smith & Wesson producing mere shadows of their former greatness, it’s time for someone else to step up to the plate. It’s time for someone to take over the badly-served upper end of the revolver market.

It’s time for Freedom Arms ...

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FRIDAY SURPRISE: Do you know Nessmuk?

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You know, I had a pretty darned good childhood. I grew up on a small farm, outside a small town (I remember when the town passed the 1500 resident milestone) that was nestled in the foothills of the Cascade Range.

After chores were finished and if there were no other pressing jobs to be done (like hauling hay), I got to do what I wanted. I could go down to our pond and fish, or take off with my friends Dan ...

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An unusual lubrication problem.

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I get the most interesting phone calls!

A client who works for a public agency in California contacted me with a problem. As you may know, California has pretty strict ideas about what constitutes a carcinogen. Management in his agency won’t let him use any lubricants that contain “substances known to the state of California to cause cancer.” That, ladies and gentlemen, excludes most anti-wear and anti-corrosion additives!

After some consultation with experts, I was able to come up with a recommendation. ...

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Getting your gun engraved.

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The lure of a personalized and decorated weapon is centuries old. Embellished swords and knives from the 17th and 18th centuries are well known; before that, soldiers in high standing had their armor decorated. Some of the earliest firearms in existence are lavishly treated, with inlays and fine woods.

Today many people desire to have their favorite guns engraved. But where to start? There are so many engraving styles, not to mention engravers, and asking someone to recommend an engraver without ...

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FRIDAY SURPRISE: “What the hell were you thinking??”

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That was my dear, departed father’s question whenever I was found to have done something that wasn’t all that bright. Of course, any self-respecting 10-year-old knows how to answer: look at the ground, shuffle your feet, and say (sotto voce) “I dunno.”

Unfortunately, once you become of age and start asking yourself the same question that tried-and-true answer know longer works. As luck would have it, sometimes it takes a while before you ask. Sometimes, it takes years. The great part ...

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The importance of endshake.

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An often misunderstood aspect of revolver construction is the idea of endshake. Endshake is nothing more than the amount of back-and-forth movement (or front-to-back, if you prefer) that the cylinder is allowed to make.

Measuring endshake is easy: using a set of feeler gages, the cylinder is pushed forward and the barrel/cylinder gap is measured. Then, the cylinder is forced backward as far as it will go, and the gap measured again; the difference between the measurements is the endshake. (When ...

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“Can you really conceal a revolver?”

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Sorry to be late today, but my cable internet connection has been experiencing spotty outages lately. For the money I pay, you’d think they’d give me better uptime than this!

GRRRRRR! But I digress…

Anyhow, today’s topic once again comes from that fountain of firearms misinformation, the local gun store. A fellow is looking at several guns, and asks to see a Ruger SP101. The clerk tells him that for concealed carry (ostensibly the prospect’s use), a revolver is “just no good. ...

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Triggers are three-dimensional.

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It’s surprising how little attention is given to the back of a revolver’s trigger. I recently came across a gun that had been worked on by another gunsmith (more on this in a future blog post), and one aspect of the gun illustrated the limited understanding of revolver shooting by many ‘smiths.

The face of the trigger had been polished smooth, but done in such a way that the sides tapered to meet the back, leaving an untouched knife edge. For ...

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Battle of the “J” frames?

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The internet forums sporadically ignite with a common debate: what “J” frame is the best?

The disagreement seems to center around the fans of the exposed hammer models (who hold out the dream of needing to make a “precise, long range” single action shot) and those of the enclosed hammer Centennial models (who opine that the lack of entry points for dirt outweighs ever needing single action capability.)

I’m not going to talk about tactics, but there is one salient point that ...

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“What revolver should I buy?”

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If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been asked that question…!

On every forum, in my daily email, and in the phone calls I receive is a common query: “of the revolvers available at a dealer, which one should I buy?” These folks are looking for some guidance beyond the simple choice of caliber and barrel length – this is more along the lines of “who makes the ‘best’ revolver?”

The answer I give? Ruger. This, from an admitted revolver snob ...

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A primer about primers.

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When doing action work, I ask my clients how they’ll be using the gun. For instance, a competition shooter who handloads their own ammunition can utilize a lighter action than someone who needs the gun to work with a variety of factory ammunition.

Why is this? Well, primers are not created equal – the brands vary in terms of their sensitivity. Some of this is due to the type and thickness of the metal that the cup is made from, but ...

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What is it with the reloading press fanatics?

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Funny thing…the other day, Tamara posted this rant about brand fanaticism over at her blog. The subject popped up again this week in a different context.

I’d popped in to a couple of the reloading forums to ask a question about dies (I’m considering new ones.) Reading through some of the past posts on the boards would lead one to believe that there is a Reloading Press Jihad going on! Take a look for yourself sometime…the subject is ...

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Are we shooting more than we used to?

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People routinely ask about the lifespan of a particular gun, while at the same time suggesting that somehow the guns of yesteryear would last longer under use than today’s offerings. I’m not sure that this is the case.

Let’s jump back to, say, 1935 or so. Someone has just bought a new .38 Special revolver (take your pick of quality makers) and a box of ammunition. If they were an average shooter, that box that might last them for a decade ...

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A bit of opinion about MIM parts.

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Heard about “MIM” parts? MIM is an injection molding process for metal parts, and it has been revolutionizing many industries. In the revolver business, both Smith & Wesson and Taurus have made use of MIM parts. Like any new process, however, there are those who decry the new technology; some gunsmiths spread the misinformation that MIM parts can’t be worked on, and refuse to take in guns using MIM parts. Adding fuel to the fire are a few well-publicized parts ...

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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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Let’s talk about triggers.

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I had an interesting email recently. The writer said that he’d contacted a number of gunsmiths to inquire about action work. In every case, he said, all he could get out of them was “we can make it lighter.” Occasionally I’ll get an inquiry from the other side of this phenomenon – someone whose only question is “how light can you make it?” Why this fixation on pull weight? I believe it’s because people just haven’t been properly educated!

If you’ve ...

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She “gets it”.

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Tamara K., over at her blog The View From The Porch, says this:

“For what it’s worth, I don’t carry a gun to protect me from muggers at the mall. I don’t even carry a gun to protect me, period. I carry a gun every day despite living in an area where I’m more likely to be hit by an asteroid than attacked by a mugger as a symbol of my refusal to buy into this culture of ...

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Fake Pythons?

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Well, the guns are certainly real, in the sense that they were made by Colt. What’s not real, though, is they way they came from the factory!

With the prices of collectible Colts going well north of a grand (editor’s note: when this was written in 2006; they’re much higher now!) some unscrupulous sellers have taken to faking the rarer, and more valuable, variations. The most commonly faked is certainly the 3″ Python.

A number of years ago, Colt sold off their ...

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Revolver grips: finger grooves or plain?

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Many people ask me where to get finger grooved grips for various guns (often for the Colt Python, but the Ruger GP-100 seems to be a common request as well.) Personally, I usually try to talk them out of that style grip, and I’d like to share my reasoning.

First, the grooves rarely fit any given person perfectly; for my hands, for instance, every grooved grip I’ve ever tried required me to spread my fingers to an uncomfortable degree. If I ...

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Measuring chamber throats – calipers vs pin gages.

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There is a huge amount of misinformation regarding revolver accuracy. Folks, assuming that you have a gun in proper repair – timing, lockup, chamber-to-bore alignment – the most important factor in accuracy is the chamber throat dimension.

What is the chamber throat? It is the slightly constricted opening in the chamber, just in front of the cartridge mouth, that the bullet passes through on its way into the forcing cone. The throat gives the bullet its first stabilizing guidance, and many ...

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More about the FN Barracuda revolver.

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As previously mentioned, I acquired one of the recently imported FN “Barracuda” revolvers, and am in the midst of determining what to do to improve the action. I have to make a living, too, so this isn’t on the top of my priority list….be patient!

In the meantime, I have managed to develop some information about the lineage of this gun. Some less-informed sellers have been insisting that the Barracuda was made in Belgium, and that the very similar Astra was ...

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Why I don’t work on Taurus revolvers.

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Occasionally someone will call or email: “I’m looking for a good gunsmith – do you work on Taurus revolvers?” When I politely inform the person that I do not, the result is often indignance, as if to say “how dare you decline to work on my fine possession! You have insulted me, suh!” (Delivered in the best antebellum manner, of course.)

Taurus revolvers possess many positive traits: they’re available in a wide variety of calibers and configurations, they are usually fairly ...

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Muckraking, Chapter 2: what’s with Dan Wesson?

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Poor Dan Wesson. The marque, famed for their switch-barrel revolvers, has suffered through more inept management regimes than your average banana republic (no, not the clothing chain!) Today you can ask ten random shooters about the company, and almost none will know that Dan Wesson is still in business. Their innovative revolvers – the work of the incomparable Karl Lewis – are no longer found on dealer’s shelves.

How did we get to this sad state of affairs? To understand, we ...

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The FN Barracuda revolver – initial impressions

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A new toy just arrived at the shop: an FN ‘Barracuda’ revolver in .357!

The Barracuda was FN’s only foray into the revolver market; they were produced for a few years during the 80’s. Various “authorities” say the gun was made by Astra and marketed by FN, others hold that it was made by FN and later licensed to Astra. Frankly, from my examination of the construction techniques and general build quality, I’d venture to say that it was made by ...

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