Monday, November 29, 2010

Professionally Cleaning Your Firearm

Use of firearms isn’t limited to nice and tidy indoor ranges. Firearms are often needed in extreme conditions, from dry, dusty, sandy environments, to wet or muddy environments. We’ve already written about the proper care and use of your firearms in the field, but it is just as important to keep them clean and prepared for such use.

A gun vise or cleaning station such as this can make the cleaning process much easier.

Basic Cleaning Procedure
The general procedure for cleaning a firearm is to:

  1. Disassemble the firearm
  2. Remove carbon fouling and any debris that may have found its way into the firearm
  3. Inspect the firearm for loose screws or bolts, broken pieces, excessive wear, and for any cracks or deformities
  4. Remove lead or copper fouling (depending on what ammunition you are shooting)
  5. Rinse out any corrosive salts (if shooting corrosive ammunition).
  6. Dry thoroughly
  7. Lubricate the firearm at appropriate locations to levels appropriate for the conditions that you are in

That’s pretty much it – but lets break this down to the details.

Breakdown and Initial Carbon Removal
Latex or other protective gloves will protect your hands from harsh solvents, and protect your pistol or rifle from harmful oils from your skin. Obviously you will need to field strip your firearm, but it is generally not necessary and is, in fact, inadvisable to disassemble it any more than your manufacturer recommends. Once the firearm is disassembled, you will need a quality solvent and toothbrush or other nylon cleaning brush to remove all carbon fouling from the outside of the frame and barrel, as well as from all of the smaller parts you have.

Cleaning the Barrel
Next, we focus on the barrel. It is important to always clean the barrel from the breech end, not the muzzle end. Cleaning from the muzzle side without using a muzzle protector can damage the crown of the muzzle. Any nicks or scratches, no matter how small, in the muzzle crown can dramatically affect the accuracy of your firearm. Always use a high-quality cleaning rod made from brass, carbon fiber, or some other non-marring material.

Cleaning Carbon Fouling From The Bore
Begin by attaching a brass jag of the proper size to the end of your cleaning rod and soaking a bore patch in solvent. We recommend CLP or Bore Scrubber as your initial carbon solvent. Bore Scrubber has the advantage of cleaning out copper fouling as well as carbon fouling. Poke the sharp poker on the jag through the center of the bore patch and run it from the breech end to the muzzle end. When it comes out of the muzzle end, you should be able to just pull back the rod and the fouled bore patch should fall off the end of the jag. Do this two or three times to thoroughly coat the bore, and then wait a few minutes to allow the solvent to work on the carbon build up. Use a properly sized bronze brush attached to your cleaning rod to scrub out the bore and remove the loosened carbon fouling. Once you’ve scrubbed loose the fouling, you can use an aerosol spray solvent like Gun Scrubber to blast out the remaining particles.

Copper Fouling
If you are shooting copper jacketed bullets and did not previously use Bore Scrubber as your powder solvent, you will need to use a copper solvent to remove the build up of copper fouling. I prefer the old tried and true Tetra Gun for removing copper fouling, although others such as Kleen Bore, Copper Cutter will work as well. Let the copper solvent soak in the bore for a while to allow it to do its job. It is important to use a nylon brush when scrubbing out copper fouling, as the copper solvent will eat up your copper and brass brushes.

While you are letting the copper solvent soak, it’s a good time to inspect your firearm for loose parts or excessive wear. Look for bright spots in the metal that would indicate fresh wear. Check for any cracks or distortion of the metal. Finding areas of excessive wear will allow you to stay ahead of the maintenance curve and help you avoid having your firearm break on you when you need it the most.

Once the copper solvent has had time to do its job, take a nylon brush attached to your cleaning rod and scrub out the copper fouling. Run a couple of dry patches through next. The patches will likely come out with a blue streak. Continue running dry patches until they come out pretty much clean (they don’t need to be spotless – even precision rifles are designed to run with some fouling, and excessive cleaning can hurt the accuracy of the bore.) Follow that up with a blast of aerosol Gun Scrubber and a couple of CLP soaked patches to remove any remaining copper solvent and residue. Finally, run a dry patch or two to soak up any remaining fluid in the bore.

Corrosive Ammunition?
If you have been shooting corrosive ammunition, now is the time to clean out any remaining salts from the bore and action (how do you know if you have corrosive ammunition? Click here to find out.) The best and easiest way is to simply rinse the gun and bore with hot water. Some carbon and copper solvents will also remove corrosive salts, but if you don’t have a water-based solvent, you will still need to rinse the gun thoroughly with hot water. Because the water is hot, it should evaporate and dry easily, but just for good measure take your can of Gun Scrubber and give the tight spots and action a good blast to get rid of any water left in the nooks and crannies of your firearm.

Proper Lubrication
At this point, your gun is pretty much as clean as it can get. While it may be clean, it is not protected. All of those solvents we used to remove the carbon and copper fouling also removed much of the protective oils and films on your gun. Because of this, we need to apply a thin film of lubricant, not just to ensure the smooth action of your firearm, but also to protect the metal surfaces from rust or corrosion. Lets start with the bore. Take a couple of patches that are saturated (not dripping, but well-coated) with lubricant such as Hoppes Elite Gun Oil or Remington Moisture Guard and run them down the bore to give it a thin film of protective oil. Next, take a q-tip that has been oiled and lubricate your firearm per the manufacturers instructions. If you are in a dry, dusty environment, a dry lube may allow more reliable functioning of your firearm than an oil.

Don’t neglect any magazines. Disassemble them and apply a thin light film of dry lube to make sure the springs and follower work smoothly without binding. We recommend using a dry lube such as Hoppes Dri-Lube or Moly Lube Dry Film to help keep dirt and dust from accumulating in the magazine.

Finishing Up
Finally, reassemble your firearm and wipe down all external surfaces with a silicone impregnated cloth. If you have a precision rifle that needs a bore to be fouled, you will need to clean your firearm at the range where you can fire one or two fouling shots prior to storing your firearm.

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 24, 2010

Fall Tactics For Getting Your Gobbler

The turkey’s instinct to flock together in the autumn can help you to locate and bag your fall gobbler.

It’s a bit late to head out if you’re planning on putting a wild-harvested turkey on your table this Thanksgiving, but Turkey season stretches through January in much of the United States, giving you plenty of time still left to head out and bag a gobbler. While some people prefer the stealth and skill it takes to call in a big tom during the spring, others like the excitement of hunting these wily birds in the fall.

Tactics for hunting a fall turkey vary, but one of the more popular methods involves locating a flock of gobblers and then scattering them and calling them back. It sounds crazy, but it’s crazy enough that it actually works. I’ll admit, the first time my hunting buddy spotted a flock of toms and handed me his shotgun before taking off whooping and hollering at them, I thought he’d lost his mind. Surely there was no way on God’s green earth that those turkeys were going to come back.

After I caught up with him, he explained that the flocking urges of turkeys in the fall is very strong, and that a scattered flock would respond to calls in an attempt to regroup. Reluctantly I settled in to wait for the dust to settle. After about 30 minutes he began a string of “Kee-Kee-Kee” calls followed up with some yelps on his friction slate caller. Imagine my surprise when he was answered by a few yelps about 50 yards away.

Gradually I began to hear the distinct crunch of bird feet on dry leaves littering the forest floor as a few scattered toms returned to where the flock had broken up. Sure enough, a wary tom poked his head cautiously around a tree not 20 yards away. My hunting buddy nudged me and motioned for me to take the shot.

Slowly I raised my Remington 11-87 and peered through the scope. The shot was good. I had just bagged my first turkey and done so using, to my mind, less than conventional methods. The lesson here? Never underestimate the powerful instincts that guide these birds. Study them for long enough and you can learn what you need to have a successful hunt. My hunting buddy’s crazy tactic of scattering the birds forces their instinct to flock together to drive them back to where the flock last was.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gun School Gear

This past weekend, I was at Insights Training Center again, this time for their Intensive Handgun Skills class. I’ll have a full write up on the class after Thanksgiving, for now though I want to talk about the gear you see at gun school. First off, there are the guns you see – with the most common example being Glocks of various flavors. The instructors at Insights tend to favor the Glock 19, much like Jeff Cooper and the Gunsite staff favored the 1911. The Glock 19 represents an excellent combat handgun, and is large enough to be comfortable to shoot for an extended class and yet still be a gun that you’ll actually carry on a regular basis. As a general rule, taking a Glock to gun school is probably a good idea if you don’t want to deal with your handgun going down during class.

Insights instructor runs a Glock 17 with Heinie Straight-8 sights

The guns I saw at Intensive Handgun Skills represented a pretty good distribution of products; obviously the ubiquitous Glocks in a variety of calibers but other brands and manufacturers were represented as well. There were two Sigs, a pair of HKs, one M&P and one Ruger SR40, the latter being my personal gun. The SR40 ran very well for those curious about how it would hold up to a high round count, firing exactly 1402 rounds of .40 S&W ammo without a single malfunction. The Ruger wasn’t the only gun to be malfunction-free – most of the firearms, even the shooter running the CZ-75 compact experienced zero problems with their guns. Only a few guns ran in to issues during the class, and from what I observed most of the issues were operator induced and not mechanical failures on the part of the gun. So when it comes to the gun for gun school, make sure you bring a good one. Your gun needs to run for the duration of class, because time spent off the line fixing your gun is time that you’re not learning, and that means that you’re not getting the best value for your money.

A Kramer leather holster is an excellent choice for a class

The same goes for your holster as well. This is going to be the primary storage system for your gun during class, which means it needs to be a good, quality rig that’s not going to fall apart after 300 draws. I generally don’t like leather holsters for class, although if you have a properly made leather holster, it won’t be a problem. A good holster for a class needs to be something that you can draw and re-holster in one-handed, at no time should you have to use your non-dominant hand to assist in the re-holstering process. The Blackhawk SERPA line of holsters are an excellent “starter” holster to my mind, combining the retention of a leather holster with the ease of use of a kydex holster. When used properly, the SERPA also helps the shooter think about their draw stroke instead of just ripping the gun out of the holster. At the Insights class, every type of holster was well-represented. There were some excellent leather holsters from Galco, polymer holsters from Comp-Tac and Blade-Tech, the Kramer holster pictured above, and of course there were several shooters using the Blackhawk SERPA system as well.

Ultimately, any gear you take to a gun school class needs to be durable and reliable. The point of paying money to get quality training is to improve your skill as a shooter, and if you spend the majority of your class time off the line trying to fix your broken gun, holster, mag pouches, or other types of gear then you’re not getting the best benefit for your training dollar. But put a reliable gun in a quality holster, and you’re going to get a good value for your experience, and come out of the class a better shooter.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Top Ten Skills To Survive The End Of The World As We Know It

A lot of discussion about survival, preparedness, and TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) focuses on what items to squirrel away in the basement pending some catastrophe. It’s a good idea – having a well stocked larder and some vital tools and equipment socked away is a fine way to prepare.

But those are finite resources, and eventually will be depleted, if they’re not outright destroyed by what catastrophe precipitates their need. I want to focus today on skills. As the saying goes: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Having supplies is nice, but it is far better to know how to make your own.

An oft used quote in the preparedness community comes from Robert Henlein’s Time Enough for Love where he writes:

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

That’s a good start. But in order to do well in scenarios bandied about in the preparedness community, a competent man will need to know much more. Here then is my list of the Top Ten Skills to Survive The End Of The World As We Know It.

  1. Medical Skills – Everyone who is interested in preparedness should already know CPR and basic first aid. If you don’t, the Red Cross offers classes that are free, or discounted. We even have videos that teach the most basic first aid. But basic CPR and first aid is just the beginning. You should also take advanced first responder classes as time and finances allow. Even better are some of the survival medicine classes which offer critical skills needed to stabilize a trauma victim when access to a hospital is days or weeks away. Hands on training is always the best, but if you’re unable to find a class near you it’s possible to learn many advanced skills for combat first aid such as treating gunshot wounds and other trauma. Don’t neglect natural medicines, as pharmacies may not always be there when you need them, and even if they are, the drugs you need may be unavailable or prohibitively expensive. Most drugs are found naturally and can be used successfully in a number of situations.
  2. Advanced Gardening, Irrigation, and Farming The world population is continuously growing, and the demand for food never ceases. Indeed, world hunger is making headlines with more and more frequency. It seems inevitable that the era when we could to walk into a supermarket and find cheap, affordable, and abundant food is coming to an end. It then becomes imperative that the competent man (or woman) should be able to successfully grow food on a small lot. Advanced gardening techniques such as hydroponics allow an enormous amount of food to be grown in a very small area. Hydroponics does require a significant investment in equipment, and electrical power is usually required as well, so other gardening and even farming techniques are necessary to produce crops from arable land. Other farming skills such as animal husbandry will come in handy for raising small animals such as chickens, goats, sheep and other livestock. You should also learn basic care and first aid for small farm animals.
  3. Hunting, Fishing, and Trapping Hunting, fishing and trapping are all excellent ways to put protein on the table. Contrary to what many in the preparedness community say, the woods will not instantly be depopulated of small and medium game, nor the lakes and streams devoid of fish. Knowing how to hunt, fish, and trap using snares, dead-falls, trot lines, gill-nets, and other techniques can be an incredibly effective way to keep meat on the menu.
  4. Food Processing, Preservation, and Storage It’s harvest time in the garden, and you’ve got a freshly killed deer; now what? Knowing how to properly process wild game is a vitally important skill that many lack. What’s more, safe preservation and storage are critically important. Failing to properly preserve your food can be deadly, as bacteria, parasites, and fungus infest anything that has been poorly preserved. Learn how to dry fruits and meats, how to salt and smoke meats, proper pickling techniques, and how to jar and can food with and without a pressure cooker. Food storage is just as important as food processing. It’s not difficult to learn either. In just a few hours you can learn how to safely keep food for long term storage.
  5. Self Defense and Firearms Use When seconds count, the police are just minutes away. It’s foreseeable that this response time will only get worse in a TEOTWAWKI scenario. Learn the basics of self defense and the effective use of a pistol, rifle, and shotgun. We carry a wide selection of Army Field Manuals that can help you learn the basics of self defense and firearm use.
  6. Gunsmithing If you own a firearm, you will need spare parts and the skills and knowledge to repair it. There is no guarantee that parts will be available in the future, and there may not be any competent gunsmiths available. This means that you will need to have the skills and know-how to be able to service your own firearm and repair it should it become inoperable.
  7. Business, Accounting, and Bartering Just because the end of the world has happened doesn’t mean that the rules of business, accounting, and bartering have changed. A gold backed currency may no longer exist, but other currencies will quickly replace it. It may be fuel, it may be bullets, it could even be buttons or c lamshells, but knowing basic business, accounting, and bartering skills will allow you to function well no matter what the economy is like.
  8. Basic Electronics and Wiring The electrical grid may be down, but that doesn’t mean that electricity isn’t still around. Wind and solar power are becoming more and more available, and of course there are always fuel powered generators. If you’re prepared, you probably have deep cycle batteries and a solar or generator setup already. But did you know the small amount of power generated from your setup is more than enough to kill a man? Knowing basic electronics and wiring isn’t just useful to provide electricity and power for your home, but is critical from a safety standpoint.
  9. Basic Carpentry Basic carpentry is an essential skill that everyone should know. Having a basic skill-set in carpentry will allow you to not only repair broken furniture and cabinetry, but also repair minor structural components of your home. This valuable skill can also provide you with an additional means of income as you become more proficient. Advanced carpentry can be even more useful if you learn how to take harvested wood from trees and finish it into usable planks and boards.
  10. Auto Mechanics I singled out auto mechanics for our last skill, not because I think that there will be a need for auto mechanics in the future, but because it the skills of a capable auto mechanic are useful in a number of other areas. Auto mechanics is a complex field involving plumbing, electrical work, internal combustion, as well as basic mechanics. Learning how to wrench on your own engine also teaches you how to work with machine parts and tools with strict tolerances.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it does give a brief idea of the basic skills and knowledge needed to be self sufficient in a world where easy access to food, tools, and repair facilities is not available. Have a few ideas that you feel should be included? Let us know in the comment section!

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.