Friday, November 26, 2010

Rock Island Auction: Behind the Scenes

Rock Island Auction Company’s Premiere Auction running December 3rd-5th will feature this rare 1799 flintlock pistol.

Rock Island Auction Company is one of the largest auction houses in the world specializing in firearms, blades, and militaria. Created by Patrick Hogan in 1993, Rock Island Auction Company has grown every year since its inception.

We had the opportunity recently to speak with Vice President Judy Voss and Executive Director Laurence Thomson about the history behind the largest firearm auction house in the United States and what goes into putting on their Premiere auctions which feature more than 2700 lots.

Cheaper Than Dirt: We’re talking today with Judy Voss and Laurence Thomson from Rock Island Auction Company. To start out Judy, let’s talk a bit about your background with Patrick Hogan, President of Rock Island Auction Company, and how you and he came to be involved with collector’s firearms.

Judy Voss: Well, Pat started out with gas stations. He came down here from Chicago and opened a Shell gas station. With that he opened up more gas stations and began renting videos out of those and then we opened many video stores. That’s when I came on board, he needed a marketing and advertising person.

Our management office for that business had property open next to it. The gentleman who ended up wanting to build next to it was Richard Ellis. He is well known as one of the top firearm experts in the country, if not the world. That’s how we got interested in collecting firearms was when he met Richard, who moved in right next door to use when we were still into gas stations and videos and photo processing. That’s how his collecting interest got piqued.

Because we were doing photo processing, Richard was in the process of possibly doing a book on Lugers at that time. They needed to have some photography done and get it published. Pat being the entrepreneur he was got involved.

Cheaper Than Dirt: Pat had a custom photography company at that point then?

Judy Voss: Right, he had a company called Event Photography, so we handled that part of it too. We had a little bit of everything going on and that worked out. From there, they went out west and worked with Little John’s and helped him to produce a catalog for his auction.

Cheaper Than Dirt: We spoke to Little John a while ago about what goes into producing those catalogs. Obviously with the background that Mr. Hogan and yourself had with custom photography went a long way towards producing a rich and detailed catalog of these collector’s firearms. Tell what goes into creating one of those catalogs.

Judy Voss: Well, that’s where Laurence comes into that too. He’s heavily into the operations of the catalog. That’s kind of where I started on that end with Pat as far as moving into the auction part of it I did a lot of the catalog design. It’s very detailed. We’ve made it more of a manufacturing process on getting it done as far as the photography and the descriptions and so on. We’ve really worked hard on the photography. We run a couple of shifts per day just to get it done, and when you do five catalogs a year with three of them being Premier, it’s a process of working with the photography and trying to capture the item in it’s truest form. Laurence schedules a lot of our photographers and works very closely with them in achieving that.

Cheaper Than Dirt: How many lots do you have in an average Premier auction?

Laurence Thomson: 2700 has been the goal. It can range plus or minus 50, but 2700 is the goal we’ve set out. It works out well to have that many over a 3-day period.

Cheaper Than Dirt: How do you come across that many lots? Are most of these firearms brought to you by the consignors or do you actively seek out pieces for the auction?

Laurence Thomson: We do it all. People call us with estate consignments, we deal a lot with that. Some people just want to narrow down their collection or the area that they collect in so we’ll go pick up their collections. People pass away and we’ll go and pick up items from them. We go to gun shows and we’ll do a lot of promotion about what we have coming up in upcoming events and auctions. People then see how professional we are and the amount of work that goes into producing the catalogs and then feel that they can entrust their collection or consignment to us. So, we get a lot there, but then some people will just come by and set up appointments to have their items appraised for auction, which we do free of charge, and again they decide at that point that they’re going to consign items. Sometimes we’ve been dealing with these people for 5-10 years and then other times they are new customers who have just walked in off of the street. It’s a great range of areas that we get the guns coming in from.

Judy Voss: There is a lot of advertising. In almost every ad that we run we talk about seeking consignments. Internet presence is definitely very valuable. Every type of marketing tool you can have, every mailer we send out talks about consigning. It is competitive, and you have to be out there and continually let them know that you’re here.

Cheaper Than Dirt: So, if somebody inherits a firearm or discovers one left by a loved one who has passed on, how can they determine whether or not it is a collectible or not?

Judy Voss: They can send us a list. We can determine a lot from a list if it is comprehensive. Or they can send us photos. We can also go out and look at it if it’s worth the time. For some smaller collections it’s just not feasible to travel across the country, but we can do a lot from photos and from a list.

They can also bring them in. Many people prefer to come in person and be here to see how it all goes down.

Cheaper Than Dirt: How should someone who may not have any particular knowledge of antique and collectible firearms care for a piece that they may inherit or otherwise come into in order to preserve it and maintain its value?

Laurence Thomson: A lot of guns have to be looked after on a regular basis. They need to be oiled down and wiped down any time they are handled. The oils from human hands can over a period of time rust the guns if they are not cared for properly. A lot of large collections are wiped down and looked after and kept in a carefully controlled environment with correct humidity levels. If things are too dry or too moist, especially older wooden guns or ones with a wood case, they can sometimes warp or bend.

It’s really knowing about the firearms and caring for them in that way, how to handle them, how to store them, and what humidity levels to keep them at.

Judy Voss: That’s one reason that, as some people get older and they have these large collections, they find they just can’t tend to them anymore. It can be a full time job. If you have several hundred pieces you can’t tend to all of them the way they need to be tended to. There are several collectors who are wealthy enough that they have somebody on staff that takes care of their collection, but some older gentlemen who find that they no longer have the time, strength, or health to care for, or who don’t have anybody to leave them to, decide to sell.

Cheaper Than Dirt: It does take a lot to properly care for these firearm, to keep them preserved, and in some cases to keep them in display conditions. Rock Island is unique in that you have your own climate controlled facility where you not only store the firearms prior to auction, but you also have them all on display.

Judy Voss: That’s correct. There are very few of us in this industry who have invested in a facility at the size that is needed in order to display them properly at auction.

Right now we have about 23,000 square feet, and we’ve outgrown this already. We are moving after the 1st of the year in to an 80,000+ square foot facility where we’ll have our own auction hall. Right now we shift and move as the event comes up. All of our production area, we utilize the auction hall right now for production and for description writing and photography, as well as the preview hall. When we move, the auction hall itself will always be standing as is, as will the preview hall. We’ll then have a separate area for production, so there won’t be so much shifting and moving and it won’t be so labor intensive.

When we came into this facility it was a lot bigger than where we came from, but we’ve outgrown it. Still, when you attend one of our auctions, the setup is more like a museum type display. The nice thing about it is that, unlike a museum, you can actually handle the firearms and look at them. In a museum of course you can’t.

Cheaper Than Dirt: Having the ability to handle and closely inspect the firearms helps to increase the value that is actually realized when the hammer falls on each lot won’t it?

Judy Voss: Absolutely, and you’re able to handle pieces of history. You can never do that anywhere else. I’ve had clients say it’s like a revolving museum where there’s always something new, but you can actually touch it and enjoy it and say that you were a part of history for a weekend.

Cheaper Than Dirt: It has to take an enormous amount of logistics to handle the more than 13,000 firearms every year.

Judy Voss: 13,000-15,000. I’d say we’re closer to 15,000. It’s a challenge, especially during the Regional sales. We might sell 2,100 lots, but there are closer to 5,000 individual pieces because there are often multiple pieces in a given lot. It’s a challenge for those guys who lay out that floor. I’m amazed that they can make it all fit and layout and make it accessible to the clients in the fashion that they do. It’s quite a puzzle.

Cheaper Than Dirt: With that many firearms, is it difficult to find enough buyers to bid up the price to where it should be? Do you ever have lots that just don’t sell?

Judy Voss: No, we routinely get a 97% sell through rate. That’s very common for us, but on a Regional we’ll see a 99% sell through rate. At a Premier we’ll fluctuate between 96%-97%, it’s always right around there. We’re very good at selling items. A lot of that is because we don’t encourage reserves. We want the buyers to know that they can buy. Some of our competitors will see 20% of their stuff not sell because they do put on a lot of reserves. We really like the buyer to know it is the real deal here. They have the opportunity to buy. They’re not bidding against the house.

Cheaper Than Dirt: With no reserve, how do you protect consignors who might bring in a precious heirloom, hoping to get top dollar for it? It seems that it must be a delicate balance.

Judy Voss: Well, it’s not that we won’t put a reserve on an item in a situation like that, but it will be reasonable and discussed with the consignor up front. It’s not going to be so high that an item won’t sell. If you put it too high it will scare off buyers, but if you put it at the appropriate level to prevent a “fire sale” the consignor is happy and it has a good chance of selling.

We “Sell the Sizzle”. You’ll see that we have more in depth descriptions, we have more pictures and photos and we point out items with provenance, and I think that makes a difference and helps the items achieve the prices that they do and gives us a high sell through rate.

Laurence Thomson: In the past we found a gun that came in with some pretty interesting history but the dates did not tie up to when the gun was made. Of course with something like that you cannot attribute it to the gun any longer and, if it’s something that we find out not to be true, we then have to break it to the consignor that that really wasn’t the case and sometimes then the gun really isn’t worth as much. A lot of the information comes from the consignors, but with some of the high profile guns our specialists who’ve been in the industry for so long are able to recognize where these guns have come from and know a great deal of history about them as well.

Cheaper Than Dirt: Speaking of the rich history many of these guns have, tell us about some of the more well known and famous firearms you’ve auctioned off in the past.

Laurence Thomson: I probably think the last auction with a lot of enjoyment was the Singer 1911A1 that was sold, a pistol that generated a fabulous amount of energy and buzz in the room. The people who consigned it were here also and they got to live through the event. That was one of the most memorable for me and I think for a lot of the staff. It sold for $166,000 and set a new record. We had the previous world record at $80,000 so this was quite remarkable.

Now in this auction coming up December 3rd 4th and 5th we have the serial number 1 Singer 1911, so it will be interesting to see how much that one goes for. Years ago we sold the Tears of Gettysburg. That was an amazing gun, I think it had 12 animal heads engraved on it, each with a tear, which is indicative of a Gustav Young engraving. There was a lot of research that went into that one. That has been pictured and described in a few books. That brought some very good money and it’s a great collectible piece.

Again, these types of things that are purchased are going to go into someone’s collection and I don’t know if, in my lifetime or somebody else’s lifetime, anyone will ever be able to see them again. That’s where they’ll stay for the next 40-60 years or more, and if they come up for auction again that’s great, but they may get passed down to someone in the family. It really is working with history.

Cheaper Than Dirt: It really is exciting to talk about these exceedingly rare one of a kind firearms, but I think it’s important to point out that not all of the collector’s firearms auctioned off reach these rarefied prices. Many are quite affordable and it’s possible for a beginning collector to pick up a nice specimen for just a thousand dollars or so.

Judy Voss: Absolutely. We have firearms for every level of collector. Clearly in the Regional sales they are down there in the $700-$800 level and then many in the Premier sales realize prices of $1500 and on up. There is just a huge range from $700 on up to half a million dollars.

We’ve had these pieces attributed to Generals and Captains, and even some pieces attributed to the infamous Hitler. We’ve had Ulysses S. Grant’s sword and it is just so neat to be able to get a hold of anything historical that we’ve sold.

Laurence Thomson: Yes, auctions are always about finding two interested parties. Obviously withthe Singer that we spoke about we had more than two interested parties, but that’s what it takes to attain those higher prices.

Cheaper Than Dirt: Of course it’s always exciting to be there on the floor when a bidding war like that breaks out.

Judy Voss: Absolutely. Anyone can come see and share the excitement too. It’s a public auction, all we require is a photo ID to get in the door.

Cheaper Than Dirt: And if someone does decide they want to participate in the bidding, how do they become a qualified bidder?

Judy Voss: If they’ve been with us before they’re already qualified. That’s done. If they are a first time bidder we want to verify that they are qualified with a valid credit card with which they can put 15% of their maximum bid down, or they can provide a bank letter or references from other auction houses. We just need to know that they’re serious.

Bidders can submit absentee bids on our website. We also work with ProxyBid and ICollector and they can bid live with those sites during the auction. We also offer telephone bidding here as well. We have upwards of 25 phone banks going on here during the auction where representatives from here are handling their bids live over the phone.

Cheaper Than Dirt: It sounds like quite the production. How much planning an manpower goes into putting on each auction?

Judy Voss: In fact December 1st, right before this auction, the catalog is due at the publishers for the next Regional auction. Right now we’ve got people out there describing the Regional sale catalog and we’ve got people taking in guns for the next Premiere auction as we speak.

It can be labor intensive, I’ve got to have a minimum of 25 people manning the phone banks, we have a concession stand that has to be manned, we have to have people in the office putting in the sealed bids as they come in every day, downloading all of the sealed bids off of the website. We have people answering the phones in response to inquiries. There have to be people handling bidders checking in and others out on the floor because we have a huge hall where we have maybe 12-15 people assisting bidders with inventory. Then, as the items sell, we have people who have to deliver the goods out to what we call “checkout shipping”. Then somewhere along the line people are invoicing too. We also have people recording each sale, and of course the auctioneers, let’s not forget about them.

Cheaper Than Dirt: Now your next auction is the Premier Collector’s Firearm Auction coming up December 3rd, 4th, and 5th. What are some of the top lots that we can look forward to seeing at this event?

Judy Voss: Well we’re really hoping that the Buntline takes off. It’s on the front cover of our catalog. I’d love to see the Mac Arthur jacket do well. I think that is just a really unique piece. It was actually one of his bomber jackets and I just think it’s great. It’s a very unique piece. I think it’s estimated way low at $100,000-$125,000.

We have the second installment of the Ashby Military Collection. Military pieces have been very hot for several years now. We have another great grouping of European Arms. We’ve got 250 Winchesters and December is always great for selling Colts.

What else do we have Laurence?

Laurence Thomson: We have in this auction coming up some timelines” as we like to call them, like the very first Colt ever made. There are a couple of serial number 1 firearms in this auction. A lot of these guns should be in museums. It’s going to be very interesting to see what collection they end up invested in. We have one gun, it’s a cased pair attributed to Daniel O’Connor of Ireland. The history that goes along with these pistols is fantastic. The guns themselves are pieces of art in outstanding condition, but the fact that they belonged to him really puts them into a whole new realm. Those guns are for the right kind of collector, someone more akin to a historian than a collector is going to be interested in those guns. The guns are great so you’re going to have some people interested in that, but you’re also going to have people interested in the history of the firearms.

Cheaper Than Dirt: Where is the auction December 3rd-5th taking place?

Judy Voss: It’s at our facility. We’re not a roaming auction house. The auction will take place here in Moline Illinois at 4507 49th Avenue. We do a full day preview starting on Thursday December 2nd and then Friday Saturday and Sunday is the auction itself. We always start the sale at 10am and you can preview in the morning before we start.

We make things very comfortable for bidders here with a full concession stand, hotels only 5 minutes away and the airport just 5 minutes away. We make it a real pleasure to be here.

Cheaper Than Dirt: I want to thank you both for taking the time to talk to us about the auction and what goes into putting on each event, as well as your helpful information on how our readers can get started collecting antique firearms.

Judy Voss: It’s been our pleasure.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Gunk from the inside of a Para LTC 9mm

Today, at the Shooter’s Log, I’d like to ask what you’re thankful for. If you’re taking a break from turkey and family to read this, I’ll tell you what I’m thankful for right now: guns that work. The picture to the left is from the inside of my ParaUSA LTC 9mm. After checking my logs, that gun has had over 10,000 rounds fired through it since the last cleaning, and you can clearly tell from the amount of gunk and carbon fouling built up in the gun. One of the wonders of modern firearms is the amount of abuse they can take without going down; and while ejection on the gun was starting to get a little spotty, it was still running 158 grain Fiocchi 9mm ammo without any problems.

So gun nuts, on Thanksgiving what modern innovation are you thankful for today?

Oh, and for those of you that were concerned, yes the 1911 is clean now. Happy Thanksgiving from your friends at Gun Nuts Media and Cheaper than Dirt!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Firearm Identification and Values

Attending auctions such as Rock Island Auction’s Premier Collector’s Firearm Auction is an excellent way to learn about firearm valuation.

One of the most frequent questions we receive is someone asking what their gun is, or what it’s worth. Although I really enjoy trying to help folks w/ antique gun questions, business has to take first priority, and I regrettably find that I often don‘t have the time to do research on email questions of this type. I will do appraisals of collections for hire. This page will give you some ideas on how to identify your gun and find out what it might be worth..

HOW TO ASK – You need to provide enough info to identify & estimate the value of the gun you’re asking about. Be sure your GUN IS UNLOADED first. Here is a basic list of what to include:

  • TYPE – Long gun or hand gun? Is it a muzzleloader or does it take shells? If it’s a handgun, is it a revolver (with a rotating cylinder holding the rounds) or an autopistol (with a removable magazine)? If a long gun, is it a shotgun or rifle?
  • ACTION – What type of action does it have – single shot, break-open, double barrel, bolt action, pump action, lever action, revolver, semi-auto, other? Double or single action? Exposed hammer or hammerless? If revolver, solid frame, tip-up, top-break, or swingout cylinder?
  • CALIBER – sometimes this is marked. Otherwise, give an approx. measurement of bore diameter
  • MEASUREMENTS – barrel length, overall length.
  • MARKINGS – if you know the make & model, say so. Either way, list ALL markings on the gun.
  • CONDITION – After you know WHAT it is, the biggest factor in value is the CONDITION of the gun. Differences in condition can EASILY halve or double the value of a gun. This is a somewhat technical evaluation, and if you’re not familiar with guns, you probably won’t be able to do it, and should ask help. There are two systems commonly used.

The NRA CONDITION STANDARDS rate modern guns as New, Excellent, Very Good, Good or Fair, and antique guns as Excellent, Fine, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor. Each condition rating has a specific definition (you can find these defined in Blue Book of Gun Values).

The PERCENTAGE SYSTEM rates the percent of original finish remaining on the gun, 100% to 0%.

Refinishing a collectible gun or modifying it or customizing it or over-cleaning it nearly always lowers the value. NEVER take it upon yourself to clean up an old gun unless you know what you’re doing. I’ve seen folks buff a $2,000 gun into a $200 junker!

REFERENCE BOOKS – Most value questions can be answered by the major price guides -

Blue Book of Gun Values by Fjestad, uses the percentage system, good for modern guns, no pictures.

Standard Catalog of Firearms by Schwing, uses “Excellent” through “Fair” rating system, lots of photos, good all around guide, but BEWARE that their “condition definitions” for antique guns are radically different from the widely accepted NRA antique condition definitions!

Flayderman’s Guide to Antique American Arms – absolutely the best for antique American arms.

R.L. Wilson’s Official Guide – can be helpful for oddball guns not listed in the others.

Standard Catalog of Smith & Wesson – by Jim Supica (that’s me) & Richard Nahas. With no false modesty, the best price guide for S&W’s.

Remember that these list RETAIL prices. Expect a dealer to offer you 40% to 70% of these if he’s buying for resale.

Most of these are $30 each, and available at major bookstores, most libraries, or at


There are some types of older guns that tend not to bring much money (as guns go). While there are always exceptions, here are some of the types that tend to bring less than folks often hope -

  • Most single barrel break-open shotguns.- (except for fine trap guns), most bring $25-$75
  • Most top-break or solid frame .32 & .38 DA revolvers by firms like H&R, Iver Johnson, US Revolver, Secret Service Special, Hopkins & Allen, Forehand etc. Most bring $40 to $125. A truly “as new” gun in the original box can bring more. Top-breaks by S&W can bring more, and large frame .44 & .45 caliber S&W top-breaks can be very valuable. Foreign copies of S&W’s do not bring nearly as much as original S&W’s.
  • Many (but not all) double barrel shotguns w/ damascus barrels have relatively low values. Damascus barrels have a “twist” or “laminated” pattern in the steel, and are generally unsafe to shoot with modern ammunition. They are primarily “wall hangers” or “decorators”. About 95% of these will retail in the $100 to $300 range. This range includes most well-worn, plain grade double barrel muzzle-loading shotguns, as well as those which break open to take shotshells.

Those double damascus shotguns which will bring more have one or more of the following factors -

  1. Famous maker (such as Purdey, LC Smith, Parker, Greener, W&C Scott, etc.)
  2. High grade of gun. Nearly all the best makers offered several “grades” of guns. The better grades included fine engraving, select fancy wood, special features, etc.
  3. Excellent original condition (never refinished or over cleaned, barrels never cut, no rubber recoil pad installed)

A double barrel damascus shotgun with all three of these factors can be worth many thousands $$$.

  • Most mass-produced reproduction blackpowder (muzzle-loader) guns do not bring a great deal. It’s not uncommon to mistake a modern reproduction of an antique pattern gun for an original. If a gun is marked “For Black Powder Only”, it is reproduction. Usually, if it’s marked “Made in (name of country)” it’s a reproduction. Many Italian made reproduction cap and ball firearms retail used in the $40 to $150 range. Some of the better reproductions, such as those by Colt, Ruger, or Thompson Center, might tend to retail more in the $100 to $350 range. Some rare hand made reproduction Kentucky rifles by famous individual gunsmiths can bring much more, but can be slow to sell.
  • Recently imported military surplus rifles. Again, there are numerous exceptions, but many “import marked” bolt action type non-US military rifles in well-used condition (esp. w/ “mismatched” serial numbers) will retail in the $50 to $200 range. Ones that seem to be especially cheap right now include most English, Turkish, Chinese, and Spanish bolt actions (some of these are caliber conversions which are unsafe to fire.)
  • TRADE NAME GUNS – These are guns which were made by various manufacturers for large distributors or mail order or hardware stores. The manufacturers would put any name the wholesaler wanted on these. This started back in the 1800′s (see damascus doubles above) and continued through the 1960′s for Sears & Wards. Folks are sometimes disappointed, since they find a gun with an odd name on it, and assume that it must be rare, and if rare, must be valuable. Not so. Trade name guns have little collector interest, and are valued primarily as shooters. Many of these were made by good manufacturers and make fine shooters – they just don’t usually have collector value. Most trade name .22 rifles will retail between $40 to $100. Trade name pump shotguns will retail in the $60 to $150 range. See above for trade name single barrel & double barrel shotguns.
  • COMMEMORATIVES – Most guns increase in value over the years (after an initial depreciation when the first few years). One group of guns that have not performed as well as others are COMMEMORATIVES. To get top value, a commemorative must be absolutely unfired w/ the original box & all papers. Even so, they can be very tough to sell, and some are worth less now than when purchased years ago. Especially weak performers have been commemoratives created by firms such as Franklin Mint, American Historical Society, etc. Most better price guides list retail values for commemoratives which were offered by the actual manufacturer (most notably, Colt & Winchester.) They can be slow to sell if you’re trying to get “book value” or close to it.
  • CUSTOM GUNS – Also, it is very hard to get your money back out of CUSTOM GUNS. Often, customization reduces collector interest, and most shooters will not pay full cost of someone else’s personal mods. This is especially true of SPORTERIZED MILITARY RIFLES. Usually, a military rifle will be worth more in it’s original configuration than if someone has extensively modified it for sporting use.

There are some types of guns which are worth watching for, as they nearly always have good collector value. A listing here will be woefully incomplete, but some of the many major collecting fields include Colt percussion revolvers, Colt Single Action Armys, pre-1964 Winchesters, Lugers & other early auto pistols in nice original condition, large frame S&W top-breaks, US military arms, original percussion & flintlock rifles, fine double shotguns, etc, etc., etc. There are generally collectors for specific rare guns by any of the better quality manufacturers. Among those, often WWII or earlier guns bring a premium, and pre-1898 “antique” guns may bring an even larger premium.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Training "Do's" and Don'ts"

As you all know by now, I’ve come on board with Cheaper Than Dirt to do a little shooting, a little writing, and to continue the mission of Gun Nuts Media to promote and enhance the shooting sports. I’m really excited about the opportunity to work with Cheaper than Dirt, as they’ve shown a great commitment to the shooting sports and IDPA in particular and I hope to help with that.

For my very first post, I want to talk about what you should and shouldn’t do at your first handgun course. For a lot of new shooters out there, the decision to take a General handgun course, such at the General Defensive Handgun class offered by Insights Training Center in Bellevue, Washington is a big step, as they’ve made the realization that they want or need to be more proficient with their carry firearm than they can get by just plinking targets at the range. This is a good thing, so in the hope of supporting that training decision we’re going to offer some helpful tips on some handy guidelines for having a good training experience your first time out.

The first thing to bear in mind is that a class like a General Defensive Handgun class or Gunsite’s 250 class isn’t going to make you a High Speed Low Drag Tier Zero Operator. They’re not designed to do that. There are classes higher up the skill level chain that can teach you a lot of the skills used by elite military and law enforcement units, however a basic defensive handgun class has a very specific purpose in mind; to make you more effective at using your concealed carry firearm if you ever find yourself in the middle of a defensive shooting.

At the left, Insights Training Center instructor Tracy Roberts demonstrates the modern isosceles stance used in their classes, which brings us to the first thing to bring to gun school: an open mind. If you’ve already had training, or “have always done it this way”, don’t let that interfere with your ability to try new things. If you open yourself up to new techniques, you might find out that something works better than the way you had previously been shooting, and that’s always a good thing.

Now, while bringing an open mind is a great first step, there are a few other things that you’ll need as well – not the least of which is a basic understanding of how your firearm works and how to handle it safely. An intro defensive firearms course presupposes that you are already conversant with the basic function of your weapon – if you have never fired your gun before or aren’t familiar with how it functions, a basic “intro to firearms course” or some private training time with a qualified NRA instructor would be a better fit. However, if you’re past the “introductory” skill level and want to step it up, then you’re the right candidate for a basic “defensive” firearms class.

Speaking of guns, that’s another good item to bring – a gun. But not just any old gun you have laying around, but a functional, reliable firearm that’s going to get you through a 400-600 round class without inflicting abuse on you as the shooter. A great example is the Ruger SR9 (and by extension the SR40). I shot the SR9c, the compact version through a defensive handgun course recently with zero malfunctions or issues through the pistol.

The final important item to bring to your gun class is a good holster and magazine pouches. Holsters are important, as your gun is going to spend a lot of time coming in and out of the holster, which means that you’re going to want a good, reliable rig. I personally prefer outside the waistband holsters made of kydex from companies like Comp-Tac and Blade-Tech for my training holsters, as they’re going to provide the highest level of comfort for the training experience.

But again, all gear issues aside, the most important thing to bring is an open mind. If you approach all training as an opportunity to learn and improve yourself as a shooter, you’ll always stand to benefit from it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Caleb Giddings Joins Team Cheaper Than Dirt!

We’re proud to announce today our sponsorship of well known IDPA competitor Caleb Giddings.

Caleb Giddings made a name for himself with his performances shooting Enhanced Service Revolver in IDPA competition as well as his 2010 appearance as a contestant on the History Channel’s reality TV show “Top Shot”. Caleb comes to Cheaper Than Dirt! from the National Rifle Association where he worked as an election coordinator. Caleb has been shooting since he was 8 years old. It was in the US Coast Guard Academy on the collegiate pistol team where he first found that he had more than just a knack for shooting. As a bull’s-eye pistol shooter Caleb laid the foundation for his move into action pistol shooting. His performances at area and national matches regularly place him with some of the best shooters in the nation.

Among his peers Caleb is considered to be a major up-and-coming competitor. He was the 2009 IDPA Indiana State Champion and has the potential to make a serious showing at the 2011 IDPA Nationals. When asked about the partnership Caleb had this to say: “I’m proud to be sponsored by Cheaper than Dirt! Their commitment to supporting the shooting sports at both the local and the national level is fantastic. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to spread that support to both new and experienced shooters!”

Giddings will be doing more than just letting his shooting performance do the talking. In addition to being a talented shooter he is also a published writer for Shooting Illustrated and other major publications. Readers of this blog can look forward to feature articles from Caleb with shooting tips, firearm reviews, as well as ammunition testing and evaluation.

Caleb went on to discuss upcoming ammunition reviews: “Testing ammo is an opportunity that has me fired up. For competitive shooters, hunters, and concealed carry permit holders it’s extremely important that the ammunition you choose for the job be able to deliver the right performance. Whether it’s making a clean kill on a game animal, making the perfect hit on the x-ring, or protecting your family, I’m thrilled to be testing ammunition from Cheaper Than Dirt and helping the shooting community to make informed decisions about their ammo.”

Please join us in welcoming Caleb to Team Cheaper Than Dirt!

Military Snowshoe Assembly and Use

The toe strap installed by itself.

The heel binding installed by itself.

The heel and toe bindings installed together.

Strapping in the toes.

The bindings correctly installed and ready for use.

Snowshoe in use showing proper binding range of motion.
We got a great deal on these lightweight military-surplus magnesium snowshoes, but before you head off on an exciting winter adventure you'll need to make sure that the bindings included with the snowshoes are properly installed. Though it can seem intimidating when you're staring at a tangle of webbing and latches, the actual installation process is easy and straightforward.

First, take the shorter of the two strap sizes, the toe straps, and string them through the webbing just behind the toe gap as indicated in the photo to the left. Next, take the larger of the straps and lay it out flat. These ankle straps are secured to the snowshoes by way of two straps that thread through the snowshoe webbing on either side of the toe strap. These straps are threaded through and then looped back through the locking ratchet.

At this point, you are ready to strap your boots into the bindings. With the ankle strap (the rear strap) laid out to the rear, place your foot onto the snowshoe and fasten the toe strap over your foot using by threading the strap through the locking ratchet. Next, pull the rear strap up to the rear of your ankle and then wrap it around your ankle and fasten it though the locking ratchet.

Tighten down the toe and ankle straps until they are snug but not so tight that they inhibit movement of blood flow. Adjust the length of the ankle strap for your foot size by loosening or tightening the ankle straps where they attach on either side of the toe strap.

Check for proper movement as indicated by the lowermost image on the left. The heel of your foot should be able to pivot up with the heel strap while your toes pivot down through the toe gap. Perform the above binding installation process and verify proper range of motion on your other foot, and you're ready to go!

For even more information on the proper use of these snowshoes, we're including the following excerpt from the Army Field Manual 31-70

4-36. Purpose and Scope

a. Snowshoes are individual aids for oversnow movement. Like skis, they provide flotation in snow and are useful for cross-country marches and other activities which require movement in snow-covered terrain.

b. The snowshoe is an oval or elongated frame braced with two of three crosspieces and the inclosed space filled with a web lacing. A binding or harness attached to the webbing secures the wearer's foot to the snowshoe. Flotation is provided by the webbing, which is closely laced and prevents the snowshoe from sinking too deeply into the snow when weight is placed upon it. Depth and consistency of snow will determine the amount of support obtained on the snow cover and the rate of movement.

c. Snowshoes are particularly useful for individuals working in confined areas such as bivouac sites and supply dumps, for drivers of various types of vehicles, gun crews, cooks, mechanics, and for similar occupations where aids to movement in snow are necessary. Transporting, carrying, and storing snowshoes is relatively easy due to their size and weight. Maintenance requirements are generally negligible and little skill is required to become proficient on snowshoes. However, the requirement for physical conditioning is as great, or greater, as that needed for skiing. The use of snowshoes when pulling and carrying heavy loads is particularly practical, as the hands and arms remain free. On steep slopes, however, the use of snowshoes is considerably limited because traction becomes negligible and the snowshoe will slide, causing loss of footing. Generally, the rate of movement in any type of terrain is slow because snowshoes will not glide over the snow. The gliding properties of the ski are not obtained with the snowshoes; this adversely affects the amount of time and energy spent in movement. In deep snow the trailbreaker must be changed frequently. Especially when wet, snow tends to stick to the webbing, thereby adding weight to the snowshoe.

d. There are three types of standard issue snowshoes: the trail, the bearpaw, and the magnesium. They can be used with all types of winter footgear. The trail snowshoe weighs approximately 6.5 pounds, the bearpaw, 5.5 pounds and the magnesium, 4.6 pounds.

(1) Trail. The trail-type snowshoe is long, with a rather narrow body and upturned toes (fig. 4-29). The two ends of the frame connect and extend tail-like to the rear. The turned-up toe has a tendency to ride over the snow and other minor obstacles. The excellent flotation provided by its large surfaces makes the trail snowshoe best for cross-country marches, deep snow conditions, and trailbreaking.

(2) Bearpaw. This type of snowshoe is short, wide, and oval in shape, with no frame extension (fig. 4-30). The bearpaw snowshoe is preferable to the trail type for close work with weapons and vehicles, in heavy brush, and in other confined areas. Carrying or storing is also easier.

(3) Magnesium. The magnesium snowshoe is the lightest and most durable of the three types (fig. 4-31). The snowshoe has a magnesium frame with the center section made of steel, nylon-coated wire. The magnesium snowshoe is 17.70 cm (approx 7") shorter than the standard wooden trail snowshoe but is 9.50 cm (approx 4") wider giving it approximately the same flotation characteristics.

e. The trail and bearpaw snowshoes have their own individual bindings, however, the, "Binding, Snowshoe, Bearpaw and Trail Type" has been developed for use on all three types. This binding consists generally of a toe strap and a heel and instep strap. The straps are made of nylon and are secured by keepers and cam lever quick-release buckles. The method of securing the binding to the magnesium snowshoe is snown in figure 4-32.

4-37. Care and Storage of Snowshoes
a. Care. Snowshoes must always be kept in good condition. Frequent checks are necessary, particularly of webbing and binding, because individual strands may be ripped or worn out. Repairs must be made immediately, otherwise the webbing will loosen and start to unravel. If unvarnished, the rawhide webbing on wooden snowshoes will absorb moisture, stretch and turn white, particularly in wet snow. It should be dried out slowly, avoiding direct flames, and be revarnished at the first opportunity. Wooden frames may fray from hard wear and should be sanded and varnished. When needed, other minor repairs should be made as soon as practicable. When snow cover is shallow, care must be taken not to step on small tree stumps, branches, or other obstacles, since the webbing may be broken or damaged. Stepping into water is to be avoided; the water will freeze and snow will stick to it. When not in use in the field, snowshoes are placed in temporary racks, hung in trees, or placed upright in the snow. They should be kept away from open fires and out of reach of rodents.

b. Storage. In off-seasons, wooden snowshoes are stored in a dry, well-ventilated place so that the rawhide will not mildew or rot and the frames warp. Each snowshoe is closely checked for possible damage, repaired if needed, and revarnished. As in the field, snowshoes are protected against damage and from rodents. Magnesium snowshoes are cleaned and repainted if necessary. Webbing is examined and repaired or replaced if needed.

4-38. Snowshoe Technique
a. A striding technique is used for movement with snowshoes. In taking a stride, the toe of the snowshoe is lifted upward, to clear the snow, and thrusted forward. Energy is conserved by lifting it no higher than is necessary to clear the snow and slide the tail over it. If the front of the snowshoe catches, the foot is pulled back to free it and then lifted before proceeding with the stride. The best and least fatiguing method in travel is a lose-kneed rocking gait in a normal rhythmic stride. Care is taken not to step on or catch the other snowshoe.

b. On gentle slopes, ascent is made by climbing straight upward. Traction is generally very poor on hard-packed or crusty snow. Steeper terrain is ascended by traversing and packing a trail similar to a shelf across it. When climbing, the snowshoe is placed as horizontally as possible in the snow. On hard snow, the snowshoe is placed flat on the surface with the toe of the upper one diagonally uphill to get more traction. In the event the snow is sufficiently hard-frozen to support the weight of a person, it is generally better to remove the snowshoes and proceed temporarily on foot. In turning around, the best method is to swing the leg up and turn in the new direction, as in making a kick turn on skis (fig. 4-33).

c. Obstacles such as logs, tree stumps, ditches and small streams should be stepped over. Care must be taken not to place too much strain on the snowshoe ends by bridging a gap, since the frame may break. In shallow snow there is danger of catching and tearing the webbing on tree stumps or snags which are only sightly covered. Wet snow will frequently ball up under the feet, interfering with comfortable walking. This snow should be knocked off with a stick or pole as soon as possible. Although ski poles are generally not used in snowshoeing, one or two poles are desirable when carrying heavy loads, especially in mountainous terrain. The bindings must not be fastened too tightly or circulation will be cut off, and frostbite may occur. During halts, bindings should be checked for fit and possible readjustment.

4-39. Training
Snowshoe training requires little technical skill. However, emphasis must be placed on the physical conditioning of the individual and the development of muscles which are seldom used in ordinary marching. The technique, as such, can be learned in a few periods of instruction. Stiffness and soreness of muscles are to be expected at first. The initial training should be gradual with regard to loads carried and distances covered. It should be progressive, with ample time allowed for the individual to acquire physical proficiency, gradually increasing the distance covered and weight carried or pulled. Overcoming obstacles such as dense brush, fallen timber, and ditches should be emphasized during training. Trailbreaking, with frequent change of lead man, should also be stressed. Snowshoe training can be accomplished concurrently with other training requiring individual cross-country movement.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Remington's Response To CNBC

Recently, CNBC put out a hit piece accusing Remington of knowingly producing faulty rifles. The reporting portrayed the Remington Model 700 rifle as unsafe in any hands and blamed Remington for deaths and injuries that could have easily been avoided had the users followed proper muzzle discipline.

After contacting all the agencies in the CNBC piece, Remington has taken the time to respond to the baseless allegations leveled by the media:
Recently CNBC produced an “expose” claiming that the trigger mechanism of the Model 700 rifle has a deadly design flaw. This claim is demonstrably false. Remington stands fully behind the safety and reliability of the Model 700 rifle. Whether by our hunters, target shooters, law enforcement officers, or military forces, the Model 700 has been put to the test billions of times under the most grueling and challenging conditions. The rifle’s performance over the last five decades has led to its well-deserved reputation as the finest and most-trusted bolt action rifle in the world.

Supported by trial lawyers and a hired expert, CNBC sensationalizes tragic shooting accidents and takes decades-old documents out of context to smear Remington, its employees, and the iconic Model 700. Clearly, CNBC had no interest in providing a fair and accurate history of the Model 700. Rather, CNBC turned a blind eye to the multitude of facts – both provided by Remington and otherwise readily available –in order to demonize another member of the firearms industry.

Set forth below are Remington’s itemized responses to many of the allegations made by CNBC. Remington provides these responses, with facts, as a service to its valued customers, its loyal employees, and the shooting public.

The Model 700 rifle is prone to firing without the trigger being pulled because of a design defect in the Walker trigger mechanism.Both Remington and experts hired by plaintiff attorneys have conducted testing on guns returned from the field, which were alleged to have fired without a trigger pull, and neither has ever been able to duplicate such an event on guns which had been properly maintained and which had not been altered after sale.

Mr. Belk, a paid plaintiffs’ expert, was given extensive air time by CNBC to espouse his theory that the Remington 700 is defective because the trigger “connector” supposedly allows debris to interfere with the trigger mechanism (the “debris theory”). In statements made under oath, however, Mr. Belk has demonstrated the implausibility of the theory upon which he and CNBC rely.

• He admitted he has never found debris or contaminants to
be interfering with the trigger and connector in a Model 700
rifle he had examined.

• He admitted that he has never attempted to duplicate his
“debris theory” because the possibility of producing such an
inadvertent firing is simply too remote.

• He admitted that accidental discharges can and do occur as
a result of unknowing inadvertent trigger pulls, and that
many use these excuses to avoid embarrassment or blame.

The shooting accidents featured in the CNBC program involved circumstances where the Remington Model 700 rifle fired without a trigger pull.
Whenever a firearm is not handled properly, tragic accidents can occur. Each of the tragic and emotional personal injury and death cases cited by CNBC involved a breach of one or
more important gun safety rules.

• Failure to keep the rifle pointed in a safe direction
• Failure to properly maintain the rifle
• Altering the rifle’s trigger mechanism
• Failure to have the safety engaged when not actively
engaged in firing the rifle

The Barber rifle had been modified in multiple ways and poorly maintained (rusted action). Even so, in testing by experts for both Remington and the Barber family, the Barber rifle would fire only by pulling the trigger while the safety was in the fire position.

Mr. Jordan’s Model 700 rifle, which CNBC alleged fired without a trigger pull, resulting in the accidental shooting of his wife, had a modified trigger. According to police reports, Mr. Jordan was carrying the rifle on a sling, and as it slipped off his shoulder, the gun discharged, striking Mrs. Jordan nearby. Mr. Jordan acknowledged that the gun’s safety was in the “fire” position and also asked investigators, “do you think it could be possibly [sic] that I hit the trigger with my thumb or finger when I was reaching for the rifle?”

Serious gun handling errors led to the tragic death of Kathy Anderson, another case featured on the program. The account provided by CNBC and the Andersons’ attorney, Robert Chaffin – that the rifle fired when the owner was unloading his rifle in another room, and the bullet went through the wall – is unambiguously contradicted by police reports. Those reports clearly state that the shooting occurred when the owner was showing the loaded rifle to a 14-year-old boy in a room
of people, including Mrs. Anderson. Testing by Remington and plaintiffs’ experts verified that the firearm would only discharge when the trigger was pulled with the safety in the “fire” position.

Mr. Jay Rambo has a lawsuit pending against Remington. According to the allegations of the complaint, his father, Dale Rambo, was in the process of loading his rifle when the rifle fired. Because there is pending litigation in this matter Remington will not comment other than to note that its formal response to the lawsuit includes the allegation that the senior Mr. Rambo’s careless and negligent handling of the rifle “was a direct and proximate cause” of his son’s injuries.
Military and police agencies have had issues with Model 700s.U.S. MARINE CORPS CNBC extracted portions of Marine Corps incident reports in an attempt to support its allegation that rifles were experiencing firing without trigger pulls. CNBC left out the facts that the Marine Corps found that the firearms in question had been improperly altered and that Marines had coded both of their incident reports “U” for “Misuse of Item” as opposed to finding the gun at fault. After its investigation, the Marine Corps revised its training and maintenance manual to limit alteration of the fire control.

CNBC showed a five second video of a rifle discharging when the bolt is touched by a man dressed in camouflage fatigues with his identity blocked. CNBC did not provide
any information as to where the video was taken, who the shooter was, and most importantly, the condition of the gun. Remington has initiated contact with the Portland police department to inquire about the alleged problems and gain access to the guns and the officers.

Remington representatives spoke with a Border Patrol official familiar with the CNBC allegation that Border Patrol officers had experienced misfires. The Border Control official advised Remington that the rifles had been improperly altered. The Border Patrol continues to utilize Walker fire controls in their Remington sniper rifles.

The Model 700 continues to be the firearm of choice for elite shooters from America’s military and law enforcement communities, and has been the platform for the United States Marine Corps and U.S. Army sniper weapon systems for over two decades.
A multitude of historical documents show that a defect
in the design of the Model 700 trigger mechanism causes accidental discharges.
During CNBC’s program, portions of some isolated internal documents, going back as far as 1946, on a variety of topics, were mixed-and-matched by CNBC with other documents on unrelated topics to lead the viewer to false impressions.
As the documents clearly demonstrate, both “tricking” and the “screwdriver” test refer to contrived, intentional manipulations of the trigger, not an unintended discharge
as alleged in the CNBC program.

As explained in a 1979 Remington document, “tricking” required the user to first intentionally place the safety between the “safe” and the “fire” positions, then pull the trigger, then push the safety the remainder of the way forward to the “fire” position. If the firing pin released, the rifle was said to have failed the trick test. None of the events alleged to be involved in any of the shooting accidents featured in the CNBC program involved tricking. In addition, even the contrived “tricking” condition only applied to the estimated 1 percent of Model 700 rifles manufactured before 1975, not to any rifles made thereafter as was put forth by CNBC.

CNBC also inappropriately relied upon 60-year-old documents created during the developmental and pilot testing phase for its proposition that the Remington 700 Walker trigger mechanism is unsafe. To the contrary, these documents underscore Remington’s long-standing commitment to safety through its program of pre-production testing of its products.
Jack Belk – Presented as the “Plaintiff Expert”Mr. Belk, a paid plaintiffs’ expert, has made numerous statements under oath that demonstrate the implausibility of the allegations made throughout the CNBC program:

• Mr. Belk testified under oath that he has never been able to duplicate an accidental discharge of a Model 700 without a trigger pull in any of the accident guns he has examined.

• Mr. Belk has testified that he has never found debris or contaminants to be interfering with the trigger and connector in a Model 700 rifle he had examined.

• Despite his reliance on this theory as being the cause for accidental fires, Mr. Belk has testified that he has never attempted to duplicate his debris theory because the
possibility of producing such an inadvertent firing is simply too remote.

• Mr. Belk has testified that he has no criticism of the design of the Model 700’s manual safety mechanism.

• Mr. Belk has testified that accidental discharges can and do occur as a result of unknowing inadvertent trigger pulls, and that many use these excuses to avoid embarrassment or blame.

• Mr. Belk’s focus has been in attempting to advance his “debris theory,” a focus that he has not limited to the Walker trigger mechanism. Mr. Belk, as a paid plaintiff’s
expert, has also advanced this theory against other gun manufacturers.
Roger James – Presented as the “Remington Insider”As the alleged “Remington Insider” Roger James has testified in open court, he last worked for Remington in 1993.

Mr. James never worked in the manufacturing or production of firearms; rather, he was employed in Remington’s ammunition plant. In 1997, Mr. James was hired by plaintiffs’ attorneys to testify in two cases involving Remington shotguns and one involving a semi-automatic rifle.

Testifying in those cases under oath, he was specifically asked whether he had “any recollection of ever hearing anyone at Remington discuss alleged accidental discharges involving bolt-action rifles.” His answer was, “No, sir.”
“The complaints stack up in the 1970s after Remington recalls a similar rifle, the 600, over inadvertent discharges. But the company decides not to recall the more popular 700.”The trigger mechanism of the Model 600 rifle at the time
of the recall was different than the Model 700 rifle’s trigger mechanism. In fact, when Remington recalled the Model 600 rifle, it replaced Model 600 trigger mechanisms with Model 700 trigger mechanisms.
The 2007 X-Mark Pro is “exactly the same mechanism” that Mike Walker proposed in 1948.Remington has an extensive and ongoing research and development program across all of its product lines, and continuously introduces new and updated products. Remington introduced the X-Mark Pro trigger mechanism in 2007. The X-Mark Pro trigger mechanism has a one-piece trigger without a connector. Like the Walker trigger mechanism, the X-Mark Pro is a safe and reliable high performance system. Remington continues to utilize the Walker trigger mechanism in rifles sold to the U.S. military
and for use in certain custom rifles as requested by our customers.

The 1948 design shown by CNBC is very dissimilar to the X-Mark Pro and, in fact, was not even Mr. Walker’s, but that of another Remington engineer.

CNBC also did not note that Mr. Walker’s 1948 proposal would have left the connector in place, or that when Mr. Walker designed the Model 700 in the early 1960s, he maintained the connector and incorporated a sear blocking safety mechanism, consistent with prior designs.
Instead of changing its guns, Remington changed its message to the public and developed the Ten Commandments of Firearms Safety with giant public relations firm Hill & Knowlton.Remington firmly stands behind the importance of gun safety and has actively supported and promoted safe gun handling practices and other safety initiatives for decades. Remington did not, however, develop the Ten Commandments of Firearms Safety. According to the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute (SAAMI), the Ten Commandments of Firearms Safety have been in existence since the 1920s.
“Every case is settled with a confidentiality agreement that prevents you from talking about it.”Confidentiality agreements are a very common practice in civil litigation, and it is often the plaintiffs who want such a provision. In fact, when the Barber case was “satisfactorily resolved” in 2002, a confidentiality provision was included in the agreement at Mr. Barber’s request.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cheaper Than Dirt! Joins The 3-Gun Nation

The practical shooting sports have recently become mainstream with a number of reality TV shows and magazine style television shows promoting the various shooting sports. One of these new shows is 3-Gun Nation, which airs weekly episodes on Versus. 3-Gun Nation follows competitive shooters as they engage courses of fire using pistols, shotguns, and rifles in a timed event. Winners are awarded prize money at the end of each competition.

3-gun is an action shooting competition where competitors run a course of fire that has them engaging targets with pistol, shotgun, and rifle at distances from 5 yards all the way out to 300 yards for the longest rifle shots. Scores are based on time, with missed shots giving an additional time penalty from 5 to 15 seconds. Internet based firearm and ammunition retailer Cheaper Than Dirt! recently became the newest member of the 3-Gun Nation when they picked up commercial sponsorship of the 2010 and 2011 season.

"We love to support the shooting sports and always like to get more people out participating," said Cheaper Than Dirt's Chief Operating Officer Roberta Wilson. "Cheaper Than Dirt can help viewers interested in getting started in 3-Gun competitions with our broad selection of discount ammunition, firearms, and accessories, as well as our helpful online community forum. We also have a club and shooting competition search engine located right on our website that helps our customers find a 3-gun organization or event in their area."

Filming for 3-Gun Nation takes place at major 3-gun matches across the nation, including DPMS sponsored Superstition Mountain match, Blue Ridge 3-gun hosted by Sabre Defense, FNH USA Midwest, the MGM Ironman and the JP Enterprises Rocky Mountain 3-gun match. Competitors earn points at these competitions which are used to calculate the top 50 participants who are allowed the chance to win it all at the season finale 3-Gun Championship held in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Each qualifying match, as well as the championship, culminates in a "heads-up" style one-on-one competition with the top two competitors competing on identical side by side courses in a drag race to see who will take home the grand prize. The winner of the final one-on-one elimination takes home a $5,000 prize at each regular season match while the winner of the 3-Gun Championship walks away with a $25,000 prize. Last year the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit’s Daniel Horner took home top honors, winning the $25,000 grand prize, which brought his season winnings to a cool $30,000.

Executive Producer Pete Brown had this to say about 3-Gun Nation TV:
"Anybody who signs up and shoots any of the matches on our tour can get into our shoot-off. You can walk in off the street, shoot the match, and if you are in the top 8 from that match, you're in. There is no Hollywood here, it is 100% raw unfiltered competition. You show up, bring your A-Game and you can win. With 3-Gun TV we're really able to capture the essence of the sport. If you flip on the TV and you see 3-Gun Nation, you won't want to change the channel."

Country music star Mark Wills and Chad Adams are your hosts every week as they walk you through the competition and give you insights, tips, and tricks when they interview the competitors and manufacturers. Watch the newest episode of 3-Gun Nation when it airs Monday at 7am Eastern. The 2011 Season will air Saturday mornings at 9am Eastern.

Emergency Water Sources and Water Storage

Water. Besides clean air, it’s the most important thing that you need to live. 4 minutes without air. 4 days without water. 4 weeks without food. That’s how long you can survive without these basic necessities. Because water is so important for survival, it is worth taking some time to evaluate your emergency water storage and usage plans.

First, take into account how much water storage capacity you currently have on hand. Include your bathtubs, sinks, hot water heaters, laundry machine, even the tank above your commode can serve as an emergency water supply. Add in any improvised water storage containers that are able to contain safe drinking water. When an emergency is imminent, you will often have a few minutes to fill up improvised water storage units such as the bathtubs, sinks, and clothes washing machine. To improve water cleanliness, bladders such as the Water Bob can be placed in your bathtub. Large water bladders such as this provide an air-free sealed container that keeps out dust and other particulates that can cause the water to turn sour over time. Smaller containers like this 5 gallon water bladder are more convenient than a large barrel or water bladder and have a carry handle that makes them easy to transport. Pre-fill these water bladders and store them in your freezer so that the next time a disaster strikes you will have plenty of water. The frozen jug can be used to keep food cold, and as it melts you will have fresh cold drinking water when you need it.

If an emergency is imminent, it is usually prudent to turn off the water supply to your house (unless supplied by a well). Public water supplies can be contaminated by either flooding or prolonged power outage. If this happens, your water supply could also become quickly contaminated. After shutting off the water you can recover the water held in your plumbing lines by opening the faucet with the highest elevation (usually a shower on the second floor) and then collecting the water by turning on the spigot or faucet at the lowest elevation and collecting that water in a clean storage container. Make sure you have sufficient containers, as the average household plumbing can contain as much as 10 gallons of water, possibly more in larger homes. In some cases water heaters located in an attic or second floor may also back-flow (siphon) into the plumbing and be able to be collected at the lowest spigot. If this is a possibility disconnect the hot water supply valve or turn off your water heater and let it cool (about 4 hours) before draining it into your water storage containers prior to draining the household plumbing lines.

Even if your house is served by a well instead, it’s still a good idea to fill up bathtubs and other water containers since the electricity that powers your well pump may not be available when an emergency strikes. An alternative is to have a generator or other power backup that you can use to power your well.

In some cases, with water taken from a container whose cleanliness is questionable or scavenged from a foreign source for example, you will need to treat the water to kill off any microorganisms that may be there. A personal water purification bottle such as the Katadyn MyBottle can be used to purify water consumed on an individual bases. Each filter will last for approximately 30 days of continual use for a person consuming an average of 3 quarts of water a day. Alternatively, water purification tablets can be used, but it should be noted that while these tablets do kill microorganisms they do not eliminate harmful chemicals. Water should never be consumed from a container that once held any sort of chemical, petroleum product, or cleaning supply.

Most people don’t realize how much water storage they actually have on hand. Even the most spartan economy apartment has 10 gallons or more of water storage just in the plumbing fixtures such as sinks and toilets. Add in a little bit of planning by keeping some additional water storage systems on hand in case of emergency and you should be able to store plenty of water to weather the storm.

For more information on emergency water filters, see our article on Water Purification

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What Is The 3-Gun Nation?

3-Gun competition is one of the fastest growing action shooting sports, and one of the first to get it’s own dedicated television coverage. 3-Gun Nation TV with hosts Mark Wills and Chad Adams is the hottest new show on the Versus channel. 3-Gun challenges shooters to engage courses of fire using a mix of rifle, shotgun, and pistol, with the goal to get the fastest time through the course with no penalties. The courses are challenging and include a combination of cardboard, clay, and steel targets, including targets that move and aerial targets that must be hit with a shotgun.

Cheaper Than Dirt! recently joined the 3-Gun Nation as a sponsor for the remaining 2010 and upcoming 2011 season. Pete Brown, Executive Producer of 3-Gun Nation TV, was gracious enough to sit down with us and talk about these 3-gun competitions and what the 3-Gun Nation TV Championship Series adds to the competition.

What is the 3-Gun Nation? 3-Gun Nation is a tournament series completely dedicated to 3-gun. What we do is we draw points from previously established matches. Last season we had 5 matches on our tour. At each one of the matches on the tour competitors accrue points in the series that count towards qualifying them for our championship.

Basically last year our series comprised of Superstition Mountain, MGM Ironman, Rocky Mountain, FNH Midwest, and the Blue Ridge Mountain 3-gun. All of the shooters that competed at each of those matches had match points tabulated to count towards our overall series. At the end of the season we had our championship where we took the competitors three best scores from the 5 matches in our series – and that gave us our top shooters that qualified for our championship.

At the end of the year we tabulate all of the data, and last year we cut off at 50. We took the top 50 and had a 1 day match in Las Vegas with 4 stages of fire and the top 16 from those 4 stages of fire went into the head-to-head 16 man elimination shoot-off in Vegas for a $25,000 grand prize from Leupold, $10,000 from U.S. P.A.L.M and $5,000 from Timney Triggers. The event, as with everything so far, has been 100% supported companies within our industry.

How do you go about selecting the competitors? Can anybody be a competitor on 3-Gun Nation? Absolutely, anybody who signs up and shoots any of the matches on our tour can get into our shoot-off. You can walk in off the street, shoot the match, and if you are in the top 8 from that match, you’re in.

This isn’t like your typical reality TV show then where producers audition shooters with a casting call, there’s no drama, it’s all about how well you can shoot? There is no Hollywood here, it is 100% raw unfiltered competition. You show up, bring your A-Game and you can win.

Last season we had 5 matches and our championship. To get into the championship you had to shoot a minimum of 3 of those matches. We take 3 scores out of the 5 matches to get the total score for the season. If you shot all 5 matches on the tour, you could have 2 bad matches and drop those points. We only take your top 3 best scores. But you have to shoot a minimum of 3 matches.

At the end of the year we tabulate all of the data, and last year we cut off at 50. We took the top 50 and had a 1 day match in Las Vegas with 4 stages of fire and the top 16 from those 4 stages of fire went into the head-to-head 16 man elimination shoot-off in Vegas for the $25,000 grand prize.

What does the schedule this year look like? The 2011 3-Gun Nation Season is a bit larger than the 2010 season, consisting of 7 qualifying events along with the 3-Gun Nation Championship. However, like last year, only 5 of the events will feature a $5,000 shoot-off. Also, just like last year, you will need to shoot at least 3 qualifiers to have enough scores to make our championship. We have simply expanded the number of matches available as qualifiers.
(Bold matches are TV events featuring a shoot off and the $5,000 prize – 5 qualifiers; 1 championship)

Ft. Benning 3-Gun (December 2-5, 2011)
3-Gun Points: YES
3-Gun Shoot Off: YES
3GN TV Event:YES

Superstition Mountain 3-Gun (March 25-27, 2011)
3GN TV EVENT: YES (Segments Only – Not full episode; no 3GN shoot-off)

Blue Ridge Mountain 3-Gun (April 29 – May 1, 2011)
3-Gun Points: YES
3-Gun Shoot Off: YES
3GN TV Event:YES

MGM Iron Man (June 9-11, 2011)
3-Gun Points: YES
3-Gun Shoot Off: YES
3GN TV Event:YES

Ozark 3-Gun (September)
3-Gun Points: YES
3-Gun Shoot Off: NO
3-Gun TV Event: YES (Segments Only – Not full episode; no 3GN shoot-off)

Rocky Mountain 3-Gun (August 4-6, 2011)
3-Gun Points: YES
3-Gun Shoot Off: YES
3GN TV Event:YES

USPSA Multi-Gun Nationals (DATE: TBD/October)
3-Gun Points: YES
3-Gun Shoot Off: YES
3GN TV Event:YES

3-Gun Nation Championship (DATE: TBD)
3-Gun Shoot Off: YES
3GN TV Event:YES

Let’s talk about the 3-Gun Nation hosts, you’ve got Mark Wills who is a well known singer and Chad Adams co-hosting. Tell me a bit about your hosts. First of all Mark Wills just brings his personality and his love of the shooting sports. He is a famous country singer who also happens to be a firearms proponent and enthusiast. He actually got started in pistol, shot Bianchi, and learned of 3-Gun and then learned what we were doing and wanted to be involved. When we heard that he was interested in what we were doing, obviously that was a no-brainer for us. He is just a great personality on camera and is a great promoter of the sport. He sorta represents the everyday shooter, the everyday guy who is learning what 3-Gun is and how much fun the competitive shooting sports are in general. He hosts special segments on our show where he goes and trains with different people in the industry that can pass along some knowledge to those people who might take an interest in shooting a match, whether it is 3-gun or pistol or shotgun. He breaks it down for the people who aren’t necessarily high-speed top level shooters. My partner Chad Adams reports from all the matches, interviews competitors and hosts our shoot-off. He brings several years of firearm industry experience to the table, as well as a career in firearm journalism. He really identifies with the shooters and what they are doing, and the equipment they are using. This past season was the first time he ever MC’d a live event. Superstition was our first match, he went out there in front of the crowd and made it happen, I was nervous for him! He really makes the shoot-off entertaining. He does a fantastic job.

You bring up an important point about the importance of bringing the shooting sports back into mainstream media and getting the public educated about our sport and the industry. The number one motivation for us is to expose the sport of 3-Gun to the world. The first time I ever saw a 3-Gun match it really just jumped out at me and hit me in the face. I could not believe that it was such an unknown sport. If there is ever a shooting sport that can reach out to the mainstream and intrigue the everyday viewer, it’s 3-Gun.

There is athleticism, there’s speed, there’s long distance rifle shooting, there’s running and gunning high-speed pistol and shotgun shooting, it has it all. Every stage is different. I don’t think it’s what people really think of when they think of a shooting match. To me, 3-Gun is the equivalent of the X-Games of shooting. What we’re trying to do is take 3-Gun and not only raise awareness but also help it grow and bring in new shooters.

The guys who are in 3-Gun are really passionate about it. This is a great opportunity to take the shooting sports to a level that no one has ever seen before.

With 3-Gun TV we’re really able to capture the essence of the sport. If you flip on the TV and you see 3-Gun Nation, you won’t want to change the channel. We’re out to grow the sport of 3-Gun, and we’re out to do it by producing the best TV show we possibly can and grow our web presence to draw interest.

Where do you see the future of 3-Gun and all of the action shooting sports heading? This year there’s going to be a fresh crop of 3-Gun matches popping up all over the place. People are talking about new matches and there are many segments of the firearms industry that really want to get involved. The more that the industry gets involved with the sport, whether it’s with 3-Gun Nation or not, the more we’ll see an increase in the number and frequency of matches across the country.

What I see is more matches popping up in more places and it being more accessible to folks outside the core group of dedicated shooters. Our goal is to help facilitate that in any way that we can and to be the number one resource for 3-gun competition, whether it’s finding a local match in your area or helping to facilitate local matches and getting new shooters involved.

How important is it that we encourage the next generation of shooters to get started in 3-gun? That’s a big thing that we want to do. We are trying to involve the youth and what we’d like to see is companies within the industry step forward and help us sponsor a division for the youth. How cool would it be to have 2 or 4 of the top youth competitors from the match go into a heads-up competition? If we had a new sponsored division for the junior shooters I think it would result in a grass roots level surge in popularity of the sport and begin to bring a lot more participants.

In this day and age of iPods and video games and all of the things that grab our kids attention, it can be incredibly hard to get the youth out of the house and into the discipline and challenge of the action shooting sports. We’re trying to make the sport entertaining enough that the kids want to get outside with their parents or a responsible adult and learn the basics of firearm safety and learn how to shoot quickly, accurately, and safely. With the right positive support, I think we’ll see more kids want to get out and participate in the sport instead of playing a video game.

There are 3 things, if you follow the rules of firearm safety, regardless if you’re on the range at a 3-gun match or if you’re hunting a whitetail deer from a tree stand, the firearm safety rules remain the same. The fundamental common sense rules of firearm handling apply in all aspects 3-Gun as they do in any shooting sport or activity. With the proper guidance and proper mentoring, it can be a great sport for adults and youths alike.

3-Gun Nation TV also has some great educational segments where viewers can learn tips and tricks to improve their skills. We do, you know we want to show how accessible the sport is. People see great shooters like Taran Butler and Bruce Piatt and Jerry Miculek and think that it’s not even worth going out and practicing or competing. But if you watch the show and you see Mark Wills out there, you see how much fun it is. Mark shot Blue Ridge and he had a blast. One of the things that you don’t see in the show, because we just don’t have the time to show it, is that there were like 300 shooters at that match, and of course they’re not all top level contenders. There are prize tables with over $200,000 worth of merchandise on them and you don’t have to land in the top 10 to take home some great prizes. I’ve heard of matches where you could shoot and come in 30th place and still walk home with a new rifle from the prize table. I’m not a great shooter and even I could get 30th place. Just because you see Taran Butler going a million miles an hour on a 3-gun stage doesn’t mean that the next guy has to go that fast. Chances are, if you go at the speed your skill allows, you’re going to do well and end up getting a great prize even if you finish 30th.

The other great thing is that guys like Kurt Miller or Bruce Piatt will probably hang around after the stage and help out that guy shoot that stage and give him some great tips and tricks. That’s the great thing about these top level competitors is that they’re all great guys and really friendly, willing to help out new shooters. Some of these guys you see on television, they hang around and if they see a new shooter come in to shoot a match, they’re going to do whatever they can to help him or her enjoy the match.

So, these guys we see on TV aren’t your typical superstars- No! They’re not. They will go out of their way to help a guy to shoot better because they want to see that guy enjoy the sport. Let’s face it. The more people who are enjoying the sport, the better it is for everyone.

How do you respond to critics who say that sports like 3-gun should be banned, that it’s not a sport that we should be promoting? It’s unfortunate. I think it’s unfortunate because those same people, if they met the people in our industry and took a step outside of their comfort zone and got to know the sport a bit better, I think you’d see a 180 degree turn around in their opinion.

We will continue to show how safe the sport is, and how much fun it is.

I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to us today and I can’t wait to see the next season. When can we expect to see the next season start? The 2011 TV season premieres Saturday, July 30th at 7:30 am

The 2010 3-Gun Nation TV series is currently airing on Versus Monday at 7:30am Eastern and Thursdays at 3pm Eastern.