“A hit with a .22 is better than a miss from a .45” – how true is that?

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An interesting confluence occurred last week: I got an email from a fellow asking about the .380ACP as a defensive cartridge, and this rather myopic article on the .22 Magnum rimfire came out in American Rifleman.

As a teacher of defensive shooting it’s my job to make my students as proficient as I possibly can. Part of that job is helping them to pick a gun/cartridge which allows them to make the bad guy go away using the least ...

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Special Tuesday Edition: Rumor busting – the Feds aren’t holding up powder shipments.

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The latest internet rumor, apparently from the proprietor of a gun store back east, is that U.S. Customs is holding up containers of imported smokeless powder on the orders of the White House. This, it’s claimed, is the reason that powder – for both reloaders and ammunition manufacturers – is in such short supply.

Ed Harris, who many of you will recognize as one of the longstanding voices of sanity in the gun industry, has access to people the rest of ...

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Back from SHOT Show 2013, Part Two: Gear.

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I don’t really go to SHOT to look at gear, but on Friday I had the whole day to get out and look at stuff. Prior to that I only saw gear on a “hit and miss” basis as I ran between appointments and meetings. Here’s what I managed to see:

– The first thing I have to report (and the most exciting for revolver enthusiasts) is that Korth, the top-tier German revolver maker, is looking for a ...

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Testing gunpowder, circa 1850.

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One of the modern conveniences which we take for granted is smokeless powder. It’s stable, predictable, and stores for a very long time. It’s also not hygroscopic, meaning that it doesn’t readily absorb water – a really good attribute for a propellant!

This wasn’t the case with early gunpowder, which we now refer to as black powder. (Even that’s not quite accurate, as the black powder of today is considerably more reliably formulated than that which was available in the 19th ...

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Panic in the streets: ammo edition.

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For the last couple of months I’ve been hearing rumblings about stocking up on ammunition for, well, whatever: zombie apocalypse, riots after the election, natural disasters, what have you. (I actually heard a non-gun-person refer to the “zombie apocalypse” just the other day. This is now getting out of hand.)

At the same time, I think we need to consider the possible actions of the prohibitionists who may try back-door gun control via ammunition restrictions. While I don’t think ammunition can ...

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Revolver malfunctions, Part One: ammunition issues.

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I received an email last week, a sort of complaint that I don’t write much about revolvers any longer. Well, I wrote an entire book – isn’t that enough?? OK, OK, you win – let’s talk about revolver malfunctions.

I’ve mentioned before, in more than one venue, that the revolver typically will have a longer mean time between failure than an autoloader (we’re talking unique failures, which automatically discounts those due to ammunition problems – which can affect either platform equally.)

The ...

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The bullet jump controversy: Specials in Magnum chambers.

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I got an email recently from a reader who asked about .38 Special accuracy when fired in a .357-length chamber. There is, as he noted, a lot of speculation on the topic: some saying they’re less accurate, some saying it doesn’t matter, and others saying that there is no way we’ll ever know for sure.

I’m not at all convinced about that last one, but the first two opinions are both correct – under some circumstances. Some years ago I experimented ...

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Evidence in the Trayvon Martin case – and how it affects you.

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The Armed Citizen’s Legal Defense Network (of which you should be a member) has published an interesting look at the Martin/Zimmerman case in their June newsletter. The Florida courts, as their law requires, released all of the evidence related to the case a couple of weeks ago. In his article, Marty Hayes looks at a portion of that released evidence and makes some observations which might be useful to those who carry a firearm ...

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Ed Harris Friday: Testing .22 Ammunition.

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Editor’s Note: Here’s Ed again, with some data and procedures on testing .22 LR ammunition for best results. I’ve found that .22 LR is the most finicky of all calibers, both in terms of accuracy and function. I’ve seen numerous cases where a .22 rifle or pistol will shoot horrendous groups with one brand/type of ammo, and turn into a tack driver with a different brand or type – and cost isn’t always a good predictor of success! The same ...

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Ed Harris Friday: Blackpowder Revolvers

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(Editor’s Note: I’ll admit to knowing nothing about blackpowder arms, so this article from Ed was quite enlightening! If you’ve thought about getting a cap-and-ball revolver but weren’t sure about how to use it, Ed’s article will tell you everything you need to know!)

Handling Cap & Ball Revolvers
By C.E. “Ed” Harris

Learning to shoot a cap & ball revolver requires common sense and attention to detail, but these guns are effective and satisfying. Safety, reliability and accuracy of a black ...

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Ed Harris: America’s Greatest, The All-Around .30-’06!

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(Editor’s note: Today I’m pleased to bring you another Ed Harris article – this time all about the .30-06 cartridge. As you’ll soon learn, Ed is a HUGE fan of the ’06 and has probably done more experimenting with it than any ten people you’re likely to find. In it are Ed’s recommendations for bullets and loads for an incredibly wide variety of uses. As always, any reloading data is used at your own risk; always start 10% below the ...

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I still think a .410 revolver is silly.

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I think I’ve made my feelings clear regarding the concept (if not the execution) of the Taurus Judge/S&W Governor revolvers. As self defense guns, which is how they’re marketed, they make no sense for a wide variety of valid reasons. What’s amazing to me is that people will say “that’s all true, but I think they still have a place for snakes and carjackers.”

I’ve talked about the former already. A large portion of my family lives and ...

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Ed Harris: Using the .45ACP in a rifle!

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Tales from the Back Creek Diary – A .45 ACP Rifle?
By Ed Harris

I like having at least one long gun capable of firing each caliber of handgun ammunition I keep around. Rifles chambered for center-fire handgun calibers provide greater kinetic energy than any rim-fire, but also have low noise, usually not needing a suppressor.

The .45 ACP and .38 Special are my favorite cartridges for this, because standard pressure (non +P) loads are quiet when fired in a rifle, their ...

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Ed Harris: Casting and reloading the .38/.357

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(Editor’s Note: for those who don’t know him, C.E. ‘Ed’ Harris is an engineer who’s worked for Ruger and the NRA. Ed is one of the great repositories of technical shooting knowledge in the field; his expertise extends to all areas of shooting, and trust me when I tell you that he can’t be stumped. I’ve tried. Ed has forwarded several articles to publish, and I’m going to start with one of particular interest to me.)

Today’s article is about casting ...

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Ed Harris: Revisiting The Full Charge Wadcutter.

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Happy Black Friday! Today I am pleased to present another great article from Ed Harris, this time about an old load that he’s finding useful in the modern era. It’s helpful to note that Ed lives in a very rural area, and regularly hunts small game with his handguns. This gives him an enormous amount of experience, the kind that is getting hard to find in these days. Sit back, relax, and enjoy his article on the “full charge wadcutter”!

Revisiting ...

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A different take on handgun stopping power: the Greg Ellifritz study.

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An article by Greg Ellifritz, titled “An Alternate Look at Handgun Stopping Power“, caused some waves a few weeks back.

First, the disclaimers: like all such attempts at quantifying shooting incidents, it suffers from a lack of strictly filtered data and results in less adherence to statistical principles and methods than we might like. That doesn’t mean it’s not useful, only that it’s not strictly precise (and can never be.) I acknowledge that this is a problem with all shooting ...

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A revolver chambered in .40 S&W? Why?

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Someone emailed and asked about the new Charter Arms Pit Bull revolver chambering .40S&W without the need for moonclips. My reply: “Ummm, OK. Why?”

As I see it, the only compelling reason to use autoloading cartridges in revolvers is because they require moonclips, making for blazing fast reloads. I suppose there might be some argument for the fellow who owns a .40 autoloader and wants a revolver to play with without the bother of stocking two kinds of ...

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You can’t have everything; where would you put it all?

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If you think your logistics problems are daunting, go and read the list of ammunition that Tam keeps in her bedroom. (Disclaimer: I don’t know for a fact that it’s all in her bedroom, having never been to her house. She might keep some there, some in the basement, some on the bottom shelf of the Lazy Susan in the kitchen, and who knows where else. My point is that…well, I forgot what my point is. Humor ...

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Containing my desire: revolvers in .32-20 are calling me. Again.

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I’ve worked on many Colt Police Positives in .32-20, and it’s a cartridge which has always intrigued me. I’m not one to believe that it would make a good defensive tool, but there is more to shooting than just that!

I’ve often thought that I’d like to have one of the long-discontinued Marlin 1894 CB in .32-20; it would make a great farm & varmint cartridge in the hotter loadings, and loaded to moderate velocities would make a dandy squirrel gun.

Tempering ...

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One of my cardinal rules: if I didn’t reload it, I don’t shoot it.

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Years back I remember being taught never to shoot someone else’s reloads. I violated that rule only once, when I bought some “factory reloads” from a vendor at a gun show. Luckily I didn’t damage anything with the shoddy 9mm fodder, but I still have the remainder — in a sealed ammo can labeled “Dangerous Ammo – Do Not Shoot!” — somewhere in the garage.

That cemented my rule: no reloads that I didn’t make, not even one round. Why?

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Short memories: new ammunition that isn’t really all that new. And wasn’t very good back then, either.

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One of the joys of having recently turned 50 (a figure I still write with a combination of bemusement and astonishment, having not actually grown up yet) is that I can poke fun at the younger guys. ‘Younger’, of course, means anyone under about 48.

I say this because last week I read an article about a ‘new’ multi-projectile load that was ‘developed’ by a company called Constitution Arms. My first thought was that the author must be a youngster reporting this as ‘new’, ...

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Not showing good JUDGEment: ‘less lethal’ .410 ammunition is a silly idea.

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The Firearm Blog alerts us to a company called Lightfield Less Lethal that is now selling rubber buckshot rounds for the Taurus Judge. (I’m sure someone will point out that a Judge loaded with .410 birdshot is already “less lethal” and thus has no need for this product. Can’t say that I disagree all that much, either.)

I’m concerned that the Judge is already selling to people who profess to “not wanting to kill someone”, but have a ...

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What are the top-selling pistol cartridges? Winchester tell us.

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The Firearm Blog reports that Winchester recently released their top five (even though there are six listed!) pistol cartridges. The 9mm is not surprisingly in first place, and that favorite of law enforcement, the .40 S&W, is justifiably in the number two slot. Coming into third place is a bit of a dark horse – the venerable .38 Special.

What’s most curious is the .380 ACP in fifth place. According to a Federal rep I talked with a ...

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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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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, 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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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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A short note about a shortened cartridge: the unrealized .41 Special.

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Busier than a one-armed paperhanger today, so I’m just going to give you a link and some commentary.

On Monday I mentioned my attraction to wildcat cartridges. There is one that still intrigues me, because a) it’s an easy wildcat to make, and b) it’s a cartridge that SHOULD have been factory made from the start: the .41 Special.

I’ve always wanted to play with it, but have never owned the necessary .41 Magnum gun in which to shoot ...

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Uncommon cartridges: what is the attraction to non-mainstream calibers?

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One of my interests, though I suppress it as much as possible, is the field of wildcat and proprietary cartridges. The lure of a cartridge that will give me something that I can’t get anywhere else, that will dramatically improve some aspect of my shooting, is nearly irresistible. Of course owning and using something that other folks may not have heard about, let alone used, is a strong motivating factor!

Why do I suppress this interest? First, because I don’t need ...

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