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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How important is quality rimfire ammunition? Depends on how often you want to hit your target.

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Serendipity, that’s what it is. Last week a consistent topic kept coming up in a variety of places: the necessity (or lack thereof) for “accurate” .22 long rifle ammunition.

“I don’t shoot groups, I hunt {insert favorite furry tidbit here}.”
“You can’t shoot really accurately in the field anyway, so better ammo isn’t worth the price.”
“The ammo already shoots better than I can, so I just buy whatever is cheapest.”

I believe such comments to be shortsighted. First, though, a bit ...

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Illustrating the concept of energy dump in defensive ammunition. Or not.

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A reader sent me this link to an old Richard Davis “Second Chance” video. The video has Davis shooting a fellow – who is wearing one of Davis’ vests, of course – with a .308 rifle and himself with a .44 magnum revolver. The reader’s comment was “if this doesn’t show an energy dump, I don’t know what it shows.”

I agree. With the second part of the statement, at least. Going back to our Continue Reading →

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My reloading setup: the dies I actually use daily.

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Someone emailed and asked me to detail my reloading die setups. With pleasure!

For handgun rounds, my setup for .38 Special is typical (and, not surprisingly, my most-used.) The sizing die is a Lee carbide, which I’ve had for decades. I would prefer an RCBS die in this spot, primarily for the better decapping pin system and easier handling of it’s knurled body, but the Lee is perfectly serviceable (and I’m too cheap to spring for the new die.) For certain ...

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By popular request: more on the reloading gear I prefer.

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From the comments and emails I’ve been getting, there is a resurgence of interest in reloading. At the price of factory ammunition, I can see why!

I’d like to touch on some things that reader Jerry brought up in an email. Yes, I have rather extensive experience with Lee, Dillon, and Hornady progressives. Frankly, each will produce identical ammunition; properly set up, there is no qualitative difference between the cartridges that come off any of those brands. If someone is having ...

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A bit of reloading gear discussion: the progressive press for serious handloaders.

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I recently received an email wherein the author took me to task for recommending the Hornady Lock-N-Load AP as the tool for the ‘serious’ reloader. His claim was that ‘serious’ reloaders always use Dillon, and nothing but.

Sorry to have to disagree with him.

My definition of ‘serious’ is the ballistic experimenter, not the appliance operator. Someone who reloads for a number of both pistol and rifle calibers and does a lot of load experimentation (different bullets, powders, cases, ...

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The “Holster of the Week” Club and negative outcomes.

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Last week I promised a story. I heard this from “the horse’s mouth”, and if you knew this particular horse the story would not surprise you…

Anyhow, I happen to know a fellow (I’ll call him “Ted”) who, back in the ’70s, was a Detective in a very large eastern police department. He had just been promoted from patrol, which meant that for the first time in his career he got to dress in plainclothes.

Ted and his more experienced partner were ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 9

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Stick with what works.

You’ve all heard of the “Gun of the Week” club, right? That’s the term used to describe an “enthusiast”, the guy (gals are too smart to engage in such nonsense) who carries or competes with a different gun every time he goes out. (Closely related is the “Holster of the Week” club. I’ll post an amusing story about that, soon.)

There is also the “Bullet of the Week” club. Some folks read the gun magazines assiduously, loading up ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 8

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“So, smarty pants – what the best self-defense caliber?”

I receive many emails asking, in essence, what the “best” self-defense caliber might be. (Those emails, in fact, have served as the motivation behind this series.) The correspondents are probably expecting sage advice, the wisdom of years, a sort of Ballistic Oracle. What they get is a non-committal “it depends!”

If you take nothing else from this series, take this: there is no such thing as “best” – there is only “suitability for ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 7

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There Is No Such Thing as a Magic Bullet

What does that mean, you ask?

One of the last bastions of the snake oil salesman is in the field of ammunition promotion. Claims that would make Professor Harold Hill blush are the norm, and are repeated in gunstores, shooting ranges, and deer camps across the country. They sometimes even make their way into magazines and the internet – though the latter’s instant exchange of information has helped to quell the worst of ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 6

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“What would I want with a reputation? That’s a good way to get yourself killed!”

– Jason McCullough, as played by James Garner, in “Support Your Local Sheriff” (my favorite movie of all time!)

What about “reputation”? Some cartridges or loadings have reputations for better effectiveness than others. Sometimes that’s valid, but other times it may not be.

Let’s take the mighty .357 Magnum, one of my favorite cartridges. The 125 grain semi-jacketed hollowpoint loads have the reputation of being superbly effective; ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 5

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More energy can be a good thing – as long as it actually does something useful.

Last time we discussed the concept of the hollowpoint as a way to increase the frontal diameter of the bullet in the target. I also introduced the idea that it takes energy to expand the bullet, energy that is also needed to push the projectile into something that it needs to reach.

There is no such thing as a free lunch. If we want the bullet ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 4

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The bullet is more important than the caliber.

We know that our bullet needs to do damage to whatever important thing it manages to find. How, exactly, is that going to occur? It just so happens that most animal tissue (including that of the violent felon who has just attacked you) is remarkably elastic, and consequently difficult to damage. Most tissues have a tendency to “close up” around puncture wounds, in the same way that they close up after a hypodermic ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 3

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Once it gets there, it has to do work.

In today’s installment, we’re going to look at the second of the Twin Tasks:

2) The bullet has to do rapid and significant damage to that thing when it arrives.

It may not be self evident, but kinetic (moving) energy is either used or conserved (stored.) In the case of a bullet, it starts being used simply by fighting the friction caused by traveling through the air. Unless it encounters a target, the bullet ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 2

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If it doesn’t get somewhere, it can’t do something.

OK, so we know about the Twin Tasks, the two things that a bullet has to do in order to stop an attacker:

1) It has to get to something the body finds immediately important, and
2) It has to do rapid and significant damage to that thing when it arrives.

Today we’ll be taking a look at Task #1: getting to something important.

Let’s start by pointing out that the user of the bullet ...

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Self defense, stopping power, and caliber: Part 1 of a series.

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I’ve gotten a bunch of emails recently regarding the choice of an appropriate self-defense handgun caliber and/or bullet. Around this one topic swirls more misinformation – and outright inanity – than any other I can think of. And now, here’s mine!

What follows is a layman’s understanding, backed by research of available literature and years of hunting and shooting experience, of the practical mechanics of wound ballistics. It is not intended to be a complete and exhaustive study of the subject. ...

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A gripping story about revolver grips. And speedloaders.

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So, you’ve got snazzy new grips on your wheelgun — congratulations!

Have you checked them to make sure that they won’t get in the way of the operation of the gun?

It’s surprising how many revolver grips, even from respected manufacturers, interfere with the use of speedloaders. Sometimes they even obstruct the ejection of fired cases! This is an especially common problem with grips on the Smith & Wesson “J” frame revolvers (like the Model 60, 640, 642, 442, and the like.)

Check your ...

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Foreign ammunition plus your gun equals ignition troubles?

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I’ve gotten a number of inquiries over the past few months regarding ignition troubles in otherwise stock revolvers.

As ammunition prices continue their climb, many enthusiasts find their budgets strained. In order to continue shooting, those who do not reload their own ammo have been looking at less expensive options for feeding their guns. Brands like Fiocchi and Sellier & Bellot (“S&B”), brands that didn’t have many takers a couple of years ago, are now being featured at many sporting goods ...

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Why revolvers?

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I got an email the other day, asking in effect “why revolvers?” I dashed off an answer (with so many emails demanding a response, it’s hard to write essays for each one.) I always feel that I haven’t done the subject justice, so here is yet more about why I choose the round gun over the flat one.

Why revolvers? Because I like them! I like their lines, their reliability, their accuracy, their power; I like their history, and that they ...

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Defensive ammunition for the revolver: an update on Speer Gold Dot!

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It’s been several years since Speer introduced their Gold Dot Short Barrel Personal Protection 38 Special +P loading. It looked good on paper, and the Gold Dot line has a superb reputation for performance, but many of us prefer to carry well-tested ammunition. Let someone else be the guinea pig!

Sporadic reports have come in that the Gold Dot load is “working”; Massad Ayoob told me that he’s heard around the country that people are “satisfied” with the performance. Still, I’d ...

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Following the safety rules religiously.

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In last week’s article, I mentioned that there was an ancient religious principle that can help keep you safe from firearms accidents. Allow me to digress for just a moment to give you the necessary background.

As you may know, Orthodox Jews have a rather rigorous set of rules that they follow. According to their tradition, there are 613 commandments in the Torah (their Bible, which consists of the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, ...

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The Safety Rules.

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A reader alerted me to this thread over at GlockTalk, where yet another debate about the first of Jeff Cooper’s “Four Rules of Gun Safety” is raging. Specifically, the argument centers on the allowable “exceptions” to Rule #1: “All guns are always loaded” (or, alternatively, “Treat all guns as if they were loaded.” Cooper himself said “All guns are always loaded. Even if they are not, treat them as if they are.” That comes directly from an ...

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Reloading equipment round-up, 2007 edition.

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This last year I’ve been using a number of new reloading tools and components. I’m generally one to “stick with what works”, but that doesn’t stop me from looking for something better!

Late last year I bought a new Hornady Lock-n-Load progressive press (known as the “LnL AP”.) This is a five-station auto-indexing press with a motorized casefeeder. I bought it after becoming disenchanted with my Dillon and Lee presses – though I can always find something to like about any ...

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Do you need a trigger job?

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It occurs to me that not everyone who stumbles into my little corner of the internet necessarily knows what they really need. I receive quite a number of emails that essentially ask “should I have a trigger job done on my revolver?”

(I am aware that asking someone who became known as a gunsmith that question is tantamount to requesting that the fox guard the henhouse. Still, I’d like to take a crack – hopefully a fairly objective one – at ...

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More on the use of +P in older Colt revolvers.

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The internet “experts” just can’t let this one go!

If you’re new to this discussion, please read this short article on the use of +P ammunition in Colt revolvers. Apparently, the fact that a manufacturer would dare tell a customer what kind of ammunition they should use rubs some people the wrong way!

The latest argument from the “experts” delves into Colt advertising history. Way back when, Colt’s advertisements stated that their small revolvers were suitable for use with the .38-44 ...

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