Monday, August 31, 2009

UTG Weapon-Mount & Handheld Tactical LED Flashlight

The UTG Weapon-Mount & Handheld Tactical LED Flashlight has been around for a while and they have received good reviews on our site and my co-workers all have nice things to say. I am usually a bit of a flashlight snob but thought I should take look and do a little review as I am always looking for a value bargain.

The light is well packaged and includes the light with 3 CR123A batteries, a weapon mount body and a remote pressure switch. This light has a ton of o-rings and rubber seals throughout the body and in the tailcap and switches. I did not do any sort of "toss it in the toilet" waterproof test, but I imagine it will do fine for any sort of rain or moisture situation that it would come across.

The light itself is heavy duty and feels it. It weighs in at .6 lbs (9.6 oz) in flashlight mode and .8 lbs (12.8 oz) in weapons mount mode with the remote switch .75 lbs (12 oz) with the tailcap. The reflector is solid aluminum with an orange peel finish and functions as a heat sink. The beam is an appealing mix of spot and flood, with a very bright spot center with a ton of very wide spill. This light feels overbuilt and the quality seems well beyond its price point.

The tailcap is of the Surefire-type twist on or momentary push. The tailcap is an interesting two piece affair with the center section that contains the button as the actual switch and the treaded outer portion simply holding it in place. The center section is removed from the outer tailcap and replaced with the pressure switch for remote activation. This means that the pressure switch and cord must be threaded through the threaded outer portion of the tailcap for installation.

The weapon mount is well made and thoughtfully only one of the two cross-bolts is full round, allowing you more options on where to mount this light. Mounted on a weapon the light is no smaller but the light it throws and the pressure switch try to make up for the size. This light is big, heavy duty and well made, and at its price point it is hard to beat these features.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Let us talk about desiccants for a minute. A desiccant is a hygroscopic substance that induces or sustains a state of dryness (desiccation) in its local vicinity in a moderately well-sealed container. Simply said, it removes moisture from the air and traps it, keeping that moisture away from anything else in that container. This makes them fantastic for preventing rust on stored firearms.

For your gunsafe or other firearms storage container, a desiccant could mean the difference in the opening of your safe being a joyful experience or a negative one. Here at Cheaper than Dirt we offer excellent values on silica gel desiccants. For those with large safes or in very humid climates we offer HySkore Drying Silica Gel in a 1 Liter Can. This large can protects up to 50 cubic feet.

We also carry a couple of smaller packets in 8oz and 1.75oz amounts, perfect for inside your gun rug or rifle cases.

The great thing about the silica gel is it is infinitely reusable. Heat to 250° F for 3 hours then allow to cool and the moisture absorbing capacity is renewed. This stuff is cheap insurance for your babies.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Glock 30 in .45acp, A Review and Comparison

Today's Guest Blogger is Carteach0. He's a teacher and, not surprisingly, his well written posts are incredibly informative. He claims that "He's just this guy," but we see a well spoken educator with a wealth of knowledge on firearms and reloading. Here, we present his review of the Glock 30 subcompact pistol chambered in .45ACP

Here in Carteach0 land, carry pistols have varied little over the years. In fact, they amount to three choices, depending on various factors. A Colt Combat Commander in .45acp, a Taurus model 85 snubby in .38 special, and a Smith + Wesson M+P 9c compact 9mm. 95% of the time the M+P won the draw, and was in my holster as I left the house.

The M+P has features I approve of in a carry pistol. Ease of operation tops the list, as it has no external safeties to deal with. The only controls that need be learned are the trigger, the magazine release, and the slide release. The M+P is also as reliable as any autoloader, and better than most. It gobbles up just about any ammunition, both factory and hand loads, and shoots them straight. It’s an accurate pistol… very accurate considering its size.

One builder glaringly missing from the CCW list is Glock, a pistol chosen by a great many people as their carry and duty weapon. A lot of folks swear by the Glock, speaking of unending dependability and ease of service. A few people swear at the Glock, calling it a plastic brick, and giving it the nickname ‘The Block’.

For most of my shooting life I fell squarely in the second group. The Glock series of pistols felt odd in my hand, and didn’t point instinctively. When I was young, my friends did a group buy on model 17’s, way back when they first came out. I opted out of the buy… and stuck with my old Colt. I still have the Colt, but their Glocks were sold or traded long ago. It wasn’t that I had anything against the Glock pistols…. they just felt wrong to my hand, and rather toy like.

Perhaps it was the years of experience with the S+W M+P, but the last time I looked at a cabinet full of Glocks, I didn’t turn away. Asking to handle a few of them, I found the new ‘SF’ models have a redesigned frame, and suddenly the Glock didn’t feel quite so ‘wrong’. Looking further, I encountered the Glock Model 30. It’s a compact CCW or backup pistol with a double stack magazine holding ten rounds of…. Oh My! The one true caliber! My old favorite, the beloved .45 acp.

Comparing the Mdl 30 to the M+P 9c on my belt, I found them to be akin in size. The Glock is slightly stockier, and slightly thicker, but only just barely. For man with big hands, as I have, the chunkier grip is welcome. The M+P 9c holds 13 rounds of 9x19mm, while the Glock 30 holds 11 rounds of .45acp (ten in the magazine and one in the pipe). Both come with decent sights, and both are available with night sights. Crimson Trace makes lasers for both as well.

The triggers are also comparable, with a slight nod to the M+P in crispness. Still, the new model Glock has a decent trigger, and is quite controllable in let off.

Both pistols have a minimum of external controls. The M+P has a take down lever on the left side, while the Glock uses the miniscule tabs on both sides of the frame. Other than that, they offer the same manual of arms. Immediately noted was the firmness of the magazine release on the Glock, as compared to the S+W. The M+P compact has had issues with magazine drops due to the design of the magazine catch. Clearly that is not an issue for the Glock, as it takes a firm gesture to release the magazine. It does not feel like it could happen accidentally.

Speaking of magazines… the M+P uses a steel magazine with a plastic base, while the Glock uses an all plastic magazine with a steel inner liner. The M+P magazine is easy to load, but the Glock…. is not. The tenth round going into the Glock magazine can be a real struggle. On the other hand, the Glock 30 feeds that ammunition as surely as night follows day, so the spring tension must work out just fine.

Shooting on the range, I found the M+P to be a pleasure as always. Easy to shoot well, accurate, and almost eager to put the bullet right where the shooter intends. The Glock, on the other hand, turned out to be a real surprise to this old skeptic. I had expected fair accuracy, and fair shootability considering it’s a small sized pistol firing a fairly large bullet. What I found instead was astounding accuracy, rivaling the Colt Commander. The Glock 30 also manages to absorb the recoil pulse in such a way as to make repeat shots relatively easy. All in all, a very pleasant surprise was dished up by the little Glock.

I managed to try two brands of factory ammunition in the Glock, and six different hand loads. It cycled all without a hitch. Even rather warm hand loads pushing Berries plated bullets turned out to be accurate, and that was a real surprise as well. The Glock uses polygonal rifling, and the company states categorically that only jacketed bullets are to be used. The Berries bullet is plated soft lead, and there was some doubt as whether they’d shoot in the Glock. Not only did they shoot well, but the bore looked pristine after fifty rounds of the snappy hand load.

In a blatant attempt to force a misfeed, I even shot a few dozen rounds loaded with the old Speer 200 grain hollow point. Dubbed ‘The Flying Ashtray’, these bullets had the largest

hollow point ever seen in a factory bullet. No longer available, Speer now sells the excellent line of ‘Gold Dot’ bullets instead.

The Glock digested the Speer ashtrays, and as if to sneer right back at me, spit the old style bullets into its tightest group yet. The bullet holes clumped together in a cluster just half the apparent width of the front sight from the fifty foot bench I was leaning on.

In roughly two hundred rounds of testing, the Glock 30 did not suffer one feeding or functional glitch. This was new from the box, as Glock delivers their pistols properly lubed and ready to go. I did nothing more than run a dry patch through the bore.

The Glock 30 is not without its detractors. Some owners of the SF (short frame) model have run into a problem with the slide rubbing on the trigger bar. I intentionally did not clean this example through several range sessions in order to let evidence accumulate. On stripping the pistol down, I did see a tiny shiny spot on the trigger bar where some have described it. It’s very slight indeed, and I doubt will be a problem so bad that a little polishing won’t cure it.

Cleaning is fairly easy with the Glock, and take down requires no tools. It does require brains, and a careful attention to detail. It's not that the procedure is complicated, but that it requires pulling the trigger to release the striker. Obviously, if this done with a round in the chamber bad things may happen. Not the least of which is embarrassment, and someone could easily be injured or killed. The answer? Just be smarter than a rock, and check to be sure the weapon is not loaded!

In holsters, a Dun Hume designed for the Glock is on order, but in the meantime I found it fits perfectly in the Galco JAK slide I used for both my M+P and my Commander. The pistol carries well, and does not drag down the belt at all. The chubby little spare magazine easily drops into a pocket, giving a total of twenty one rounds on hand. This compares well to the twenty five the M+P 9c offered, with a spare magazine. Given that it’s twenty one rounds of proven bad guy stopping .45acp…. that’s comforting indeed.

Regarding the subject of caliber and carry weapons, I refuse to enter the debate. My own thoughts are quite simple…. Any weapon is better than no weapon, any hit is better than any miss, and bigger bullets are always better. But… there is that old adage… “A 9mm might expand to .45, but a .45 will never shrink to 9mm”. I will say that the .45acp is one caliber that I don’t feel under-gunned with when carrying full metal jacket round nose slugs. Even these low tech bullets have a good stopping history in the .45acp.

To wrap the story up… the Glock 30 feels decent, shoots very straight, and if it lives up to the tradition of Glock dependability, it will join my list of regular carry pistols.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Guide to Buying Eye Protection/Shooting Glasses

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A beginner shooter needs to have some very basic equipment to start shooting. Shooting glasses and hearing protection are second to ammo and a gun! Outdoor and indoor ranges absolutely require you to wear both. Even if you are shooting on your own land, you should not go without ear or eye protection.

A good place to start is to look for glasses that meet ANSI Z87 +1 standards. The American National Standards Institute defines those as:

  1. Provide protection
  2. Be comfortable
  3. Fit securely
  4. Be capable of being disinfected
  5. Be durable
  6. Fit over prescription eyewear

Further, there are extra features you should look for in quality eye protection. The glasses should have side shields. The frames should be made of nylon, rubber or propionate to hold their shape and will not break. To make the frames even more durable, look for a frame that has spring hinges. Wraparound temples keep your glasses in place during recoil and most importantly the lenses should be impact-resistant plastic or polycarbonate which is less likely to break and be more scratch-resistant.

Lens color is another important factor to look at when choosing your glasses. Each lens color has pros and cons for each different shooting condition. Therefore, you might want to choose a pair with interchangeable lenses or pick out a few different pairs, depending on where you shoot most often. Don’t forget to check to see if the lenses you are buying provide UV protection, especially if you shoot outside.

Smoke/gray lenses are most effective in bright sunlight because they block glare. However, they are not effective in the woods or other shady areas. These are best suited for outdoor range shooting. Example: 93324

Vermilion lenses (red) give you a better view of light-colored targets against a dark background. These would be best for hunting. Example: 51969

Amber/brown lenses block blue light which are good for a cloudy day. Example: 51965

Yellow/orange lenses contrast, block haze and blue light, and enhance the color orange. The brighter yellow the lenses are, the better for shooting at night time. These lenses are best for outdoor shooting. Example: 46185; 46187

Ice lenses show true color. Example: 93354

Copper lenses are a good all-purpose choice. They are good for use during cloudy conditions or in bright sunshine. Example: 48179

Mirror and Polarized lenses reduce glare. Polarized lenses are better than mirrored lenses and they are especially good for dawn or dusk shooting. Example: 93358

Indoor/Outdoor lenses are clear with mirror-coating. The coating reflects light and reduces glare. Example: 18461

M1 Garand FAQ

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1) When was the M1 Garand designed?
A: Design of the rifle that eventually ended up as the M1 Garand began as far back as 1924. The final version of the rifle was finished in 1933.

2) Who designed the Garand?
A: John Cantius Garand from St. Remi, Quebec was the designer of the M1 Garand.

3) What caliber round does the Garand fire?
A: The Garand fires the .30-06 Springfield cartridge. During early developmental stages, a cartridge of 0.276 caliber was experimented with, but was eventually dropped in favor of the current .30 caliber service round.

4) When did the Garand enter military service?
A: The United States Rifle, Caliber .30, M1 was officially adopted by the U.S. Army in 1936. It saw service with reserve and guard units into the 1970s.

5) What wars was the Garand used in?
A: The M1 Garand served in WWII, the Korean War and even the Vietnam War to a limited degree.

6) What rifle did the Garand replace in the U.S. military?
A: The Garand replaced the M1903 bolt-action rifle which had been the standard-issue infantry rifle in the U.S. Army since 1903.

7) Does the Garand have a detachable magazine?
A: No. The Garand has an internal magazine which is loaded from the top with 8 round “en bloc” clips. Loading the Garand can be tricky at first and many users find themselves getting “M1 thumb” by accidentally closing the action on the thumb of their loading hand.

8) What companies built the Garand?
A: Springfield Armory originally produced the Garand. Winchester produced a number of Garands during WWII in addition to Springfield Armory’s production. After the outbreak of the Korean War, Harrington & Richardson and International Harvester were awarded contracts to build the M1 rifle. The Italian firm, Beretta, also built the M1 Garand using Winchester equipment.
Springfield Armory currently builds commercial models.

9) Can I mount a scope on my Garand?
A: The original M1 scope mount required drilling and tapping the receiver. This can still be done, but would diminish the value of the rifle. There are at least two companies (B-Square and S&K) that manufacture no gunsmithing scope mounts for the Garand.

10) Are the M1 Garand and the M1 Carbine the same rifle?
A: No. The M1 Carbine is similar in operation to the Garand, but is much shorter, lighter and fires a different round, the .30 Carbine. The Garand was designed to be a main battle rifle for infantry troops while the Carbine was intended to be used by rear echelon personnel such as vehicle drivers.

11) Were there any variants of the standard Garand?
A: The only variation of the Garand that saw combat was the sniper rifle. There were two versions, the M1C and the M1D. These both saw limited service with the only difference between the two models being the mounting system for the scope. The U.S. Navy used a Garand chambered in 7.62 NATO. The Tanker model had a shortened barrel and gas system but never saw service.

12) What is the difference between the M1 Garand and the M1A?
A: The M1A is an offspring of the M1 Garand. The M1A has a detachable box magazine while the Garand has an internal magazine. The M1A fires the 7.62 NATO round while the Garand fires the .30-06 Springfield round. While there are other minor differences, the two rifles are very similar.

13) What is throat and muzzle erosion and why are they important?
A: These terms refer to areas of the barrel and the wear that occurs to them from use. The throat or leade is where the bullet first engages the rifling of the bore. The muzzle is the end of the barrel where the bullet exits. The hot gases from fired rounds erode the metal in both of these areas. The use of metal cleaning rods from the muzzle end of the barrel also contributes to the muzzle erosion. The concern is that as the metal erodes from these areas, accuracy will be adversely affected. Erosion is also an indicator of the amount of use the barrel has seen.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Choke Tubes Explained

The inside bore constriction at the muzzle end of a shotgun's barrel is known as the "choke." When a shotshell is fired, shot travels down the bore, exits the muzzle and begins to "spread out." Just as a nozzle on the end of a garden hose controls the spray of water, the choke controls the spread of shot, making it narrower or wider.

The three basic chokes for a shotgun are known as full (tight constriction and delivers a narrow, dense spread), modified (less constriction and delivers a medium-width spread) and improved cylinder (even less constriction and delivers a wide, open spread). A gun with no choke is called a cylinder bore and delivers the widest spread. There are also a number of specialty chokes that provide narrower or wider spreads - some of the most popular are for skeet shooting and turkey hunting.

A shotgun's choke also determines its effective range. The tighter the constriction, the farther the effective range. For instance, a full choke is most effective at 40 to 50 yards. An improved cylinder is most effective from 20 to 35 yards. Shotgun barrels come with either fixed (non-removable) chokes or today's more popular interchangeable screw-in choke tubes that let hunters quickly and easily change chokes to match changing shooting conditions.

Most commonly used chokes
Super-Full and Extra-Full Chokes - Known as gobbler getters, these are ideally suited for the head shots necessary in turkey hunting. They have extra-tight constrictions and the most dense patterns.

Full Choke - This has tight constriction and a dense pattern, delivering approximately 70 percent of a shell's total pellets in a 30" circle at 40 yards. Best for trap shooting, waterfowl pass shooting, turkey hunting and buckshot loads.

Modified Choke - The modified is characterized by less constriction than full choke, delivering approximately 60 percent of a shell's total pellets in a 30" circle at 40 yards. Excellent for all-around hunting of waterfowl, long-range flushing of upland birds (such as late-season pheasant and sharptail grouse) as well as other small game. Also used for trap shooting.

Improved Cylinder Choke - Even less constricted than modified, the improved cylinder distributes approximately 50 percent of a shell's total pellets in a 30" circle at 40 yards. Ideal for close-in small game shooting, upland bird hunting (such as quail, grouse and pheasant) as well as hunting waterfowl close over decoys. Rifled slugs also perform very well with this choke.

Cylinder Bore - No constriction and distributes approximately 40 percent of a shell's total pellets in a 30" circle at 40 yards. Most often used by law enforcement for service shotguns.

Skeet Choke - A specialty choke that sends approximately 50 percent of a shell's total pellets in a 30" circle at 25 yards. This type is designed to deliver optimum patterns for close-range skeet shooting.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Finding the Right Holster

Finding the right holster should not be hard to do, but it can be. How many of us have a box, bag, or drawer full of holsters we do not use? Why are they there? Like most people, you likely purchased them and they either did not fit your gun, were the wrong type, did not wear comfortably or they were for the wrong side.

To find the right holster you need to ask yourself a couple of questions.

  1. What hand do I draw and shoot with?
    What? Too simple you say, but think about this; most shooters are right-handed, but if you are left-handed you want a holster that you can draw easily from with your strong hand. Also there are many people that buy a shoulder holster thinking that the left hand holsters are correct because they want the gun under their left arm, when the correct holster is a right-handed holster. If you want an inside-the-pants holster worn in the small of the back and are a right-handed shooter, than you want a left-handed holster. This will put the gun's handle in a position that will be easer to grab. Inside-the-pocket holsters are constructed where one side is stiff and flat, which is to help hide the outline of the gun in your pocket, the wrong side will show the outline of the gun in your pocket.

  2. What type of material are you looking for?
    You can pick leather, nylon, or molded plastic. Leather is good for a comfortable concealed carry holster that is worn on the belt or inside the pants. Nylon works great for carrying your handgun when out hunting, in either a shoulder holster or a belt holster. Nylon also work well when you want a holster that it not affected by sweat or water. Molded plastic is good for concealed carry on the belt; most are molded to lock the gun in place without the need of a retention strap. Nylon, leather and plastic can be molded to fit a certain model of gun, for a tight precision fit. Nylon is normally the cheapest in price, molded plastic can cost a little more if it is a mass-produced holster or a lot more if the holsters is custom-molded. Leather is normally going to cost the most, but almost all leather holsters are made by hand and take time to construct.

  3. What type of carry position do you want?
    There are many different carry positions, on the belt, inside the pants, on the ankle, in the pocket, in a shoulder holster, in the small of the back, in a fanny pack, or on the thigh. Carry position is very important. For example, you would not want to carry a large gun like the S&W 500 in an ankle holster. But some people do try to carry a large-frame gun like the Ruger P90 or Beretta 92 on the ankle and you can see it within about 20 feet of them, not what you want for concealment. Pick the holster that works best for your style of carry. If you are carrying the gun for hunting, a shoulder holster or belt holster would be a good pick. For SWAT or a tactical situation the thigh or leg holster would work well.

  4. What size is your gun and what size is your body?
    You also have to think about your body size. Someone that has a small frame may not want a large gun pulling down on their belt. A person with a large frame can carry a larger gun on the belt or shoulder. Think about your size and the size of your gun. Remember, in a lot of states where concealed carry is allowed the gun has to be kept hidden, so pick a holster that keeps the gun close and well hidden on your body.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Urban Survival Hype

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Today we feature blogger Fernando "FerFal" Aguirre from the blog Surviving Argentina who writes on the "hype" of some "urban survival" classes.

Some of the stupidity being sold as preparedness and survival skills these days is amazing.

The amount of trash is too big to go through all of it. Survival is on the spotlight these days, specially urban survival, and there’s an entire market for it.
Seems that these days being thrown into a trunk and learning how to pick handcuffs is one of the most valuable skills to be learned.
Mostly people that don’t know much about realistic survival situations, they eat all of this up like hot chocolate fudge.

People want to be Jason Bourne. Its cool, sounds great and the market appeal is terrific.
I loved the Bourne movies people. They’re a blast… but its just a MOVIE! Sorry if I burst anyone’s bubble.
Where to start? Picking handcuffs and being thrown into trunks?
Kidnappers don’t throw you into trunks guys, they seat you between two other guys in the back seat and if you move you get shot.
Why throw you into a trunk where you can make a lot of noise whenever they stop (that thing called traffic) and alert everyone near by?
The only cases I know of people that managed to escape, most of them managed to speed away before getting caught, a couple jumped out of the moving vehicle (and got seriously hurt, unlike TV ) because the kidnappers didn’t plan right where everyone would seat and set the door on childproof.
One neighbor that got kidnapped, he escaped by bending the metal sheath roof of the shack where he was held and escaped from there.
Now serious kidnappers, they’ll chain you to a bed and have someone watching over you all day.
Newsflash folks, if eight guys seize you with intentions of kidnapping, you’re going no where, you wont pick your way out of anything.
Instead of worrying about opening trunks you’ll never be thrown into unless you’re a movie star and picking handcuffs, worry about not getting caught, because that’s worth the time and money invested.

Fooling alarm systems, I mean who comes up with all this? who convinced people this was useful… other than for thieves? Oh, yes, I could come up as well with some far fetched scenario that will never occur even if I get to live 1000 years.
At the end of the day you’ve practiced a bunch of “cool” secret agent tricks, you feel like “The Jackal” with your disguises and fake IDs, but you spent your time and money on something of almost no value in much more realistic, more likely situations.

There are skills worth learning, starting a car without the proper keys may as well be one… AFTER you learned the other 200 or so skills that would prove more valuable and are much more likely to be needed and used.
Want to learn a valuable urban survival skill? First, learn to shoot, learn to fight, learn CPR, visit your red cross chapter (or your local hospital) , learn to navigate and know your location and the surroundings like the palm of your hand. Know your own culture or the one of you AO and network for friends. Learn defensive driving and have REALISIC plans.
Most of all THINK. It’s something so rare these days. People wouldn’t do ½ of the stupid things they do if they followed that simple advice.
What I’m saying here is, all skills may come in handy on day and are worthy in their own way. Leaning to build a canoe using fire and stone tools is a honorable skill, but is it a skill worth my time?
Freeing yourself from a knot maybe be useful one day if mugged in your home, but how worthy is it to someone that doesn’t know home and personal security safety measures, or defensive gun fighting and doesn’t practice daily concealed carry?
Classes that teach you what you see in action movies, leave those to actors and stunt men, and put your money and time to better use.

About the Author - Fernando "Fer-Fal" Aguirre is the author of The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse (available for purchase at and is a professional blogger at Surviving in Argentina.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Honing and Polishing A Blade

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Honing is the finishing process where the burrs formed from the sharpening process are removed and a sharpened knife is finished to a fine edge. Honing is also used to maintain the edge in between sharpening. Honing does not actually sharpen a knife. Instead, honing straightens, cleans, and polishes the edge of an already sharp knife. Knife edges are very delicate. After just a few uses the blade edge can begin to actually fold back on itself at a microscopic level. Honing for blade maintenance straightens out the edge and prevents premature dulling of the knife. There are many techniques for honing a blade, including the use of strops, felt wheels, oil stones, and ceramic and steel rods.


The oldest method for honing a blade is the use of a high-grit (1000 grit or higher) oilstone. To hone a blade on an oilstone make sure the stone is properly oiled and establish the proper angle to match the bevel of the edge. Then draw the blade towards the edge as if slicing a decal off of the surface of the stone. Switch sides of the blade with each stroke to avoid building up any burrs.


Honing steels are a common accessory to kitchen knife sets. Steels are rods used to sharpen longer blades such as a French Chef's Knife. Kitchen knives are most often manufactured from stainless steel to prevent rust. The problem is that stainless steel is relatively soft, and the blade will dull easily. As you use a stainless steel blade the edge actually begins to fold over. A steel straightens the edge to give a sharper cutting surface. Using a steel is a skill that can take hours of practice to get right, primarily because the angle of the blade against the steel must be established manually.

To use a steel, hold it by the handle with a grip that places your thumb on the top with the rod hanging down. Place the tip of the rod on a cutting board or other suitable surface. Position the blade you are sharpening at a 22.5 angle using the halving method described in the article titled "Sharpening with a Whetstone or Diamond Plate".

Starting with the back of the blade (the part closest to the handle) at the top of the steel, draw the blade towards you while moving it down the steel. Use ten strokes on the steel on one side of the blade, then 10 more on the other side. When you are done honing the blade on the steel, rinse and wipe down the blade and the steel to remove any metal filings or dust.

Polishing a Blade

Felt Wheels

Felt wheels attached to a bench grinder are a fantastic way to quickly put a fine-edge polish on a blade. When using a felt wheel on a grinder, make sure to reverse the spin on the grinder, or turn the grinder around so that the top of the felt is spinning away from you. If you have the felt wheel spinning towards you, the wheel could easily grab the knife and throw it at you, potentially causing a serious injury. Remember to wear personal protective equipment like gloves, safety glasses, and a respirator.

Felt Wheel AnglesApply a honing compound to the wheel. Hold the knife flat and level with the blade edge facing away from you. Where you apply the knife to the felt wheel will affect the bevel angle you get. The angle of the bevel you are polishing is going to be identical to the radial angle from the center point of the wheel. The illustration to the left shows approximately where the 22.5- and 15-degree angles are on the wheel. Apply the blade to the wheel at the appropriate point for the angle of your bevel.

It doesn't take long to hone a knife is this fashion, only 20 seconds or so per side. If you continue to hone the blade any longer than that it will begin to heat up. Heating up a blade will anneal it and soften the metal. If you are unable to finish a blade in thirty seconds or less the blade needs to be sharpened on a stone and then returned to the felt. As you hone blades the compound on the wheel will turn black from the steel dust. You will need to periodically recharge the wheel with more honing compound. To remove the compound, apply a wooden block to the wheel to scrape it off of the felt.


Leather and canvas strops are a well known method for sharpening razors and other hand tools. They also do a fantastic job of giving knives a slippery sharp edge, and should be a part of the regular maintenance of polished blades. Strops can come as just leather or just canvas, but they are also available as leather on one side and canvas on the other. Strops work the best on blades that are flat on one side (like a scandi grind or chisel grind) like straight razors and Asian-style, single-bevel knives. Having a flat or scandi grind allows you to place the blade flat on the strop. Because the strop is made from leather, it will flex with the pressure of the blade. This makes it incredibly difficult to strop a multi-bevel edge.

Hanging strops have one end attached to a wall or other sturdy object. Most professionals recommend "warming up the blade" on canvas first before proceeding to leather. In my experience this is not necessary; you can go straight to leather and forego the canvas. Care for canvas strops is different than leather strops.

There are four main pastes used on strops. Green paste is the coarsest paste with the largest abrasive particle size. Red is the next step down and has abrasive particles averaging about 3 microns in size. Yellow paste is a conditioner and does not have any appreciable polishing qualities. This paste is for use in cleaning and conditioning your strop. White paste is a very fine-edge polish that is for use on linen canvas strops. Once you use a particular grit abrasive on a strop, you should dedicate that strop to use with only that paste. The microscopic abrasives in the paste will embed themselves into the leather and are virtually impossible to remove.

Strop DirectionPull the strop out with one hand while pressing the blade flat against the strop. Maintain even pressure across the face of the blade while drawing the blade away from the edge. Begin your stroke with the edge facing you on the close end of the strop and draw the blade away from you. When you reach the end of the strop flip the blade over so that the edge is facing away from you and draw it back down the strop towards you. Continue alternating sides in this fashion until the blade is finely polished. For blades that are longer than the strop is wide, position the blade at an angle so that the entire length of the edge is on the strop.

To strop blades that do not have flat grinds you can use a strop that has been glued to a board. Establish the bevel angle and draw the blade away from the edge. Switch sides after each stroke.

If the strop is not polishing the blade well, make sure that there is enough polishing compound on the strop. The strop will periodically need to be cleaned and treated to remove excess paste, metal particles, and other gunk that accumulates on the strop. Cleaning and conditioning also keeps the strop supple and flexible.

Not all blades need to be polished on a strop or felt wheel. Most actually perform better without a polish. Polishing a blade removes the micro serrations left by the grit of final grind on a stone. This makes the knife easier to push through a medium, but reduces its ability to bite into the surface when being drawn. Regardless, all blades should be honed to a nice finish, and honing is the best way to maintain a blade for a long life.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Defensive Shotgun Ammunition

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There is no firearm more recommended for the new or novice shooter for home defense than the shotgun. Many gun-savvy and experienced shooters also choose this inexpensive and versatile weapon for the bedside or behind the door. There are also more myths, lies and bad advice given to new and old shooters regarding the shotgun as a defensive tool. Birdshot is often recommended because of some misguided idea that it will not go through walls of your home, this same lack of penetration in walls results in lack of penetration in an attacker, leading to a non-incapacitating wound. Don’t use it. There is another oft-touted myth of the sound of a pump-action shotgun being pumped scaring away intruders or attackers. One would reasonably argue that if that sound scares them off, then the sound of you simply shouting “I have a gun and I will shoot you,” would probably also be effective to frighten them away. Don’t buy into such nonsense. The third and most universally misunderstood myth is the idea the shotgun does not need to be aimed, inferring that the shotgun is an “area weapon” of some sort. This could not be further from the truth. With the shortest 18-inch cylinder bore barrel at across the room distances, the shotgun can group its shot within a 2-inch circle with reduced recoil loads, even the loosest shot pattern is only about six inches at this distance. These guns require aiming, just as any other. Do not believe otherwise.

When choosing defensive ammunition, the number one factor to consider is reliability. If the ammunition does not function in your gun it is of no use. This point is most applicable to semi-automatic shotguns, as some will not function reliably with certain loads. No matter what ammunition you choose it is of the utmost importance that you “pattern” your load in your gun, especially at the distance you may use it. You must know the capabilities of your defensive system. Defensive use of the shotgun in the home requires that any load chosen limits penetration while still providing incapacitating performance. We will be basing our defensive performance standards and the selection defensive ammunition on the criteria of adequate penetration of at least 12 inches and pellet distribution in gelatin testing.

The 12 Gauge is the most popular shotgun caliber, and that makes it very easy to find many acceptable defensive loadings. The best ammunition, using our standards, for home defense is the standard velocity Remington AMM-8174, with the Winchester 65081 just barely behind. The next best 12 gauge ammunition would be the harder recoiling Winchester 2 3/4 inch Magnum #1 Buck load, with 20 copper-plated, buffered, hardened pellets. This is a very tight patterning load, but nearly impossible to find anywhere for sale. The third best choice for defensive use would be standard 2 3/4-inch 00 buck loadings from Federal AMM-843, Remington AMM-817 or Winchester 57941. Any reduced recoil load, any magnum load or any load containing hardened buckshot may over-penetrate and should be kept in mind if this is of any concern. The final choice is any 2-3/4inch magnum load that uses hardened, plated and buffered #4 Buckshot such as the Federal 65533.

As for 20 gauge, defensive loads are much harder to find and you may not be able to be as choosey on your ammunition selection. The best available is the relatively hard-recoiling Federal 3-inch Magnum #2 Buck. For those who are recoil sensitive, Remington offers a #3 Buck load in a 2-3/4 inch shell (66071) that patterns the tightest in most shotguns. Winchester 2-3/4 inch magnum #3 Buck load (65084) is the next best choice.

For .410 loads, your choices become even fewer. Any Buckshot or non-expanding slug design should be adequate for home defense. Winchester makes 2-1/2 inch AMM-861 and 3 inch #000 Buck loads (11082). Brenneke makes some of the best slugs on the market (37898) and Winchester has the Super-X 3-inch slug load 14319.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Considering an AK-47 purchase?

This article is intended to help the first time AK buyer get the needed information to make an informed purchase of an AK-47 or AK-74 rifle. Click here to read more.

This is not for the current AK owner and collector, and as such, you may feel unchallenged by this information. That's OK. We still love to have you here. Feel free to read along with us anyway.

Of course, we are only talking about purchasing the semi-automatic version of the "Automatic Kalashnikov Model 47" or AK-47, which can go by many trade names and designations, but is a rose by any other name.

Today's semi-automatic AK market is flooded with Kalashnikovs ranging from marginal to excellent quality. You may find that the deciding factor is your "hip-pocket national bank" (your wallet). We can work with you as well as the guy with deep pockets who is ready to buy but just needs a push in the right direction. Let's begin.

Some Basics

The AK-47 and AK-74 rifles are by far the most produced modern small arms in the world. Some estimates are as high as 100 million copies. In addition, they are quite the "bad-boy" of the firearms world. There is good reason for this. The AK has earned the reputation by many armies for being an extremely reliable weapon under all possible conditions. This is a good thing. Since it is such a good weapon, and the full auto version is relatively cheap on the international black market, many find it to be their weapon of choice, especially gangs and drug traffickers, not to mention terrorists in all parts of the world. Also, the US military has faced the AK-47 in just about every conflict from Vietnam to the present day. Thus, the "bad-boy" reputation. You should have already gotten over the "not invented here" syndrome or you would not be thinking about buying one to start with. Believe it or not, and much to their loss, many suffer from this malady.

To keep a mental tab on how long the AK has been in service, the AK-47 was introduced in 1947 and the AK-74 in 1974. Pretty easy to remember, huh? Actually, this method of model numbering is common to the European world where the rifle is simply named after the year it was designed or introduced.

The 7.62x39mm round has good stopping power and can be favorably compared to the .30-30 cartridge. 7.62x39mm is plentiful in that countless ship loads of ammo have been brought into the US over the last 20 years, to the extent it is virtually a universal cartridge. The AK-74 5.45x39mm round is a bit less well known. It is essentially the Soviet answer to the 5.56 NATO round. It is available, but not to the extent of the 7.62x39mm. For this reason, it may be best not to consider the AK-74 in this caliber. The same rifle is available in 5.56 NATO for those who would find that convenient. Editor's Comment: The best bet for your first AK is the original .30 caliber (7.62x39mm) AK-47.

Magazines have been brought in over the years to the tune of millions, undoubtedly. The basic AK-47 mag is the steel, 30 round "banana clip." While these have gone up in price over the years, used surplus and unissued condition magazines are still available for under $20. The great thing about AK mags is the demand is so high they are being made new right here in the US! These are mostly the synthetic variety and most are of high quality and very usable. However, the very best synthetics are from places like Bulgaria which produces the "waffle mag" with the "Circle 10" arsenal mark at the bottom. Highly recommended if you go synthetic. Of course, all the synthetic mags are impervious to rust (not including the springs) and are very robust. East German and Polish steel mags are about the best. There is a whole world of information in identifying AK mags as they all are similar. Perhaps we will also add that information in the future. Editor's Comment: The number one recommendation is the military surplus, 30 round, steel, banana magazine.

Rifles are available in two major receiver groups: milled and stamped. This is where you must decide if you want to go high or low dollar. Just about any milled AK is going to be on the pricey side. That's just the way the market is. Not to say that some of the stamped receivers are going to be cheap either. But, generally speaking, the milled variety is going to cost you more. To explain the difference between the two, the milled receiver starts life as a solid chunk of quality steel and is put through numerous machining stages until there is a finished monobloc receiver. That's the primary reason for the greater cost; all the machine work. The stamped receivers are, just as the term implies, stamped out of a flat sheet of steel and then formed in a series of bending operations until the final box-shaped receiver is completed. Of course, there are added operations for the stamped receiver such as adding the front and rear trunions, spot welding the bolt carrier rails to the inside, and installing a number of heavy rivets that are the trademark of the stamped AK receiver. A fairly recent improvement to the stamped AK is the development of the heavy 1.6mm steel receiver. This produces a receiver that is almost as rigid as the milled but without all the intricate milling operations. This is probably the one to buy if you are considering the stamped variety. However, there is something aesthetically pleasing about the solid chunk of steel on the milled receiver. Let your pocket book be your guide. Editor's comment. For your first AK-47, go with the stamped steel receiver, either the 1mm or the improved 1.6mm. It is every bit as serviceable as the milled and will more than likely cost you a bunch less. Look at one of the Romanian models (1mm receiver) for around $400-$500. Be sure it accepts the standard double stack hi-capacity magazine, however.


Let's face it; the days of importing a complete, functioning AK-47 into the US are over. This basically ended in March 14, 1989 when President G. H.W. Bush created an Executive Order banning the import of 43 different semi-automatic rifles. This is where the term "pre-ban" started and is still in use almost 20 years later. If you want one of these pre-ban rifles, by all means get one. The thing to keep in mind is they cost-a-plenty. We are talking in the realm of $1K to $2K or better. That's great if you have the money. You can be assured of getting a quality rifle if you buy a Norinco, Polytech, Valmet, Maadi, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Yugoslavian, or any other such available, pre-ban, imported AK- 47. You may find yourself owning something so nice that you will be afraid to shoot it! Especially one that is still new in box (NIB). Don't be afraid to shoot it unless you just want to keep it for posterity's sake or as an investment. But, that is not what this article is focusing on. We are looking at buying a shooter.

US manufacturers are producing their AK's from imported "parts kits." These are complete, fully functioning, select fire, AK-47 rifles that were demilled in the country of origin (or possibly the US importer) to conform to BATFE specs. This means cutting and removing the receiver between the front and rear trunions and carefully removing all the small parts to be shipped forward for import. Recently, the BATFE has even restricted the import of barrels from these kits. That's just another part that has to be replaced with a US-made unit which in turn ratchets-up the cost of the finished rifle. These import restrictions have been successfully overcome by many AK makers as the demand is there to justify doing all the work of producing the receivers and barrels here in the US. As a matter of fact, there is one company that produces an absolutely outstanding "Bulgarian" AK made right here in the USA!

Price isn't always a true judge of quality, but most of these quality AK's are going to run at least $750. The old phrase, "You get what you pay for" runs true here. You cannot cut corners and have a first class firearm. However, fear not, you can get a quality AK at reasonable prices. There are many Romanian AK's out there that are certainly worth owning for around $400-$500. Fit and finish on these may not be the absolute best, but they are complete and functional AK's that will serve you well. You would be cautioned to make a close check of the front sight tower (FST) if you decide to go this route. We have seen many FST's on Romanian and Yugoslav AK's that are not properly aligned (canted left or right) and need to be set straight before you can have a successful shooting adventure. If you special order one sight unseen, you may have to resort to having a gunsmith perform this service for you if it comes in canted.


The decision to buy an AK comes with several choices, one being "furniture." Furniture is the firearms term for the buttstock, pistol grip, and handguards. However odd it may sound, it is the accepted term to refer to the exterior parts of the rifle other than the barrel and receiver. Furniture is divided into two major groups: wood and synthetic. Both are equally good.

Wood Furniture

The Soviet AK started with wood furniture. This would be the way to go if you want a traditional AK-47. There are a variety of woods to choose from as well as laminated woods. The laminated wood is probably the best choice for overall durability. You can go with original Soviet bloc wood or go with one of the many US made stock sets. If you buy an AK and want to change-out the furniture for any reason, that is easily done. You may buy a synthetic furniture AK and want to go wood, or vice versa. Or, you may have a blond Hungarian stock set and want to change to walnut. It's easy to do. These sets are available prefinished and ready to install or ready to apply the finish you desire. One very popular fad is to duplicate the red toned Russian finish with a gloss topcoat. Looks very nice on any AK.

Synthetic Furniture

Synthetic AK furniture came along sometime in the late 60's or early 70's. East Germany may have been the first to use a plastic furniture set. This is known as the "pebble finish" and was medium brown in color. This is not the most robust choice of furniture as it appears to be more of a PVC plastic as opposed to the later, tougher, glass filled nylon, but you may like the look. Later came the black synthetic furniture by the Bulgarians. Some people like the all black AK look the best. Easily accomplished if you want to change to that look. Synthetic furniture sets are now available in OD green, Plum, and black to name a few. You may even find them in various camouflaged patterns. Stencils for doing your own multi-color camo paint job are available as well. Also, you may buy your AK with standard AK length buttstock or in the longer "US" version, which adds about 1-1/4 inch to the overall length, which is more comfortable for most US shooters.

Folding Stocks

AK's offer several buttstock options other than fixed position. You can find an under folder, a right side folder, or a left side folder. These are now legal to own since the sunset of the Clinton 1994 - 2004 gun ban. If you want to leave tradition behind, you can also buy an AK with an AR-15 style collapsible buttstock. The under folder is perhaps the most recognizable version, but the side folders have certainly been around for a while. Side folders come in either the triangular shape which approximates the basic shape of the wooden buttstock, or, you can find what is called a "wire stock" which is a single rod extending from the rear trunion to the terminus at the buttplate. This is also called a "crutch" folder since it resembles the end of the crutch that goes under the armpit. All are good, just depends on what blows your skirt up. The beauty of the side folders is that they can be retrofitted to a conventional buttstock AK with little work. The underfolder is an underfolder for life.

Barrel Length

You will find that the majority of the AK's out there have barrels that are 16.1 inches long. This is true to the original concept and has held constant since introduced. Of course, like all military weapons, there is always a use for shorter and longer barrel versions. Short barrel AK rifles fall into the NFA area and are restricted from private ownership without the BATFE tax stamp and NFA paperwork. Legal ownership is not insurmountable, but most guys don't want to go through the process. One alternative is to get a Krinkov AK-47 (AKSU) which was designed with a 10 inch barrel, and that has been modified by adding a fake "can" or suppressor that is permanently attached. You can have the best of both worlds; short barrel rifle and legal. As long as the barrel and attachment have an overall length of 16 inches, you are good to go. Keep in mind, barrel length is measured from the bolt face in the ready-to-fire position to the very end of the barrel or permanently attached device. Most manufacturers go an extra 1/4 to 1/2 inch just to be sure they are not short by a fraction.

Long barrel AK's usually fall into the sniper category such as the Soviet SVD "Dragunov" and the like. The Chinese made several long barrel AK's as well as many other Soviet bloc countries. These are great, but be warned, Soviet and Chinese SVD's are VERY expensive, usually a minimum of $2500 up to $4000, depending on condition and accessories provided. These are more for the serious collector as opposed to the first AK buyer. But, if you have deep pockets, don't be afraid of getting one. One more thing about the long barrel AK's. Don't assume that the long barrel is a guarantee of tack driver accuracy. Soviet bloc accuracy is considered hitting a human in the vital parts at extended range. Anywhere in the chest area or head is considered a good shot. While, in the West, we like to think in terms of a sniper rifle being able to shoot sub-minute-of-angle (MOA). I would expect the SVD to shoot 1 to 1.5 MOA at best. Of course, for the purists who may be reading, the SVD is not technically an AK-47. But it is close enough to include in this discussion.

Muzzle Attachments

The bore-end of virtually all AK barrels are threaded to accept some type of muzzle attachment. This thread pattern is 14 x 1mm, left hand. The most common attachment is the slant brake. The idea behind the slant brake is that the escaping gases will work to push the rifle down and to the left to compensate for the tendency for the recoil to push the rifle up and to the right. Sometimes a plain muzzle nut is installed just to protect the threads. There are many other muzzle attachments for the AK. If you like the AR-15 style flash hider, you can find one threaded to work. The AK-74 style flash hider or muzzle brake is also popular to install on the AK-47.

US Made Parts

If you buy a US made AK comprised of import parts kits, they must conform to the 922r guidelines (The Imported Parts Law, 1990). This is a code that was developed by the BATFE to set a standard for the manufacture of an AK style rifle (actually any semi-auto rifle on the ban list) from parts kits. The imported parts count cannot exceed 10 parts. And, this is not just any 10 parts on the rifle, but 10 parts from a possible list of 20 parts that must be complied with. For the AK-47 clones, this list includes 16 parts that apply. So, you must be sure that the AK you purchase has at least 6 US made parts substituted in the build. The most common US made parts that are used in the builds are the hammer, trigger, disconnector, gas piston, buttstock, pistol grip, upper and lower handguards (both count as one part), slant brake or plain muzzle nut, mag follower, and mag floor plate.. It only takes 6 of these, so it is up to the manufacturer how they want to work the build. Also, if using the mag parts as US made parts, you must always use the mags with these parts when firing the rifle or it would be an illegal configuration. As mentioned earlier, there are several US made magazines available that would give 3 US made parts to the build (the mag body also counts), but most manufacturers do not setup the build this way as it would preclude the use of genuine issue AK mags, which in all likelihood, will be what is used by the purchaser. You can reasonably expect an AK from a reputable manufacturer to be in proper 922r compliance. Most US made AK's will also have a certificate stating that the rifle has been found to be in full 922r compliance by the BATFE. This is your best guarantee of being legal. The above discussion is for stamped receiver AK's. Milled receiver AK's only require 5 US made parts since the front and rear trunions are integral to the milled receiver and are not counted as applicable 922r parts.


AK's are available with a number of metal finishes. The most common is the Parkerized finish. This is a durable and traditional finish for a military firearm. All it needs is an occasional oiling. The Egyptian MAADI uses a paint finish which isn't as durable as the park job, but that's the way they did it. Some US manufacturers use a combination of parkerizing to "prime" the bare metal followed by a high-tech paint finish over that. To go really high tech, but gaudy, there is silver nitride. Also, there is the traditional blue finish as used on Polish and original Yugoslavian AKs as imported by Mitchell Arms in the late 80's. These are perhaps the nicest finished AK-47's out there. Of course, finish is something that can be changed later if the mood suits you.

Wood finish on the AK is usually a tung-oil type but can be linseed oil or polyurethane. Not much more to say about that.

Synthetic furniture needs no additional finish.

1994 - 2004 Ban Models

You may find some remnants from the 1994 - 2004 Clinton Gun ban for sale. These are referred to as "post-ban" models. Post-ban AK's could be found either new or used. Basically, these are AK's that have had the bayonet lugs ground off, muzzle attachment (no flash suppressors were allowed) welded or silver soldered to the barrel, either absent a folding stock or the folding stock welded or fixed in the open position, or possibly with a thumbhole buttstock. These can be fine shooters at more reasonable prices since most AK seekers want all the whistles and bells of the pre-ban AK-47's. It is legal to modify these to "no-ban" configuration as long as you remember to comply with the 922r regulation.

Most likely, post-ban rifles still in possession of the factory or distributor were sent back through a re-assembly or upgrade process and were brought up to no-ban status effective September 14, 2004. There may be one or two minor features that were not brought up to date on no-ban rifles such as leaving the muzzle attachment permanently attached as it would not be time and dollar-wise to try to remove it. Also the same logic for the bayonet lugs. These are rather small issues as neither affect the operation of the AK as far as live fire. These fall under the heading of aesthetics. Editor's Comment: Could be a chance to save some $$$ on a nice AK.

Shooting your new AK

This is the best part. The only drag in the last couple of years is the higher cost of all ammo. In years past, AK ammo was as little as 9 cents around. Hard to believe, but true. In any case, ammo is plentiful and still fairly inexpensive due to the sheer bulk available. Steel cased ammo is perfectly fine in the AK as that is what it was designed around. Some ranges will not permit any steel jacketed ammo, so keep that in mind.

Before you leave home, carefully inspect the bore for any grease that may be in the barrel. US made firearms rarely have it, but it may be there just the same. Light oil is not usually a problem and will be burnt out after the first round or two. In either case, go ahead and run some patches down the bore to see what you have. When they come out clean, go to the range.

Once out to the range, get it sighted in. You will need to have purchased a sight adjustment tool before hand as nothing else will work for you there. Keng's Firearms Specialties has some of the Polytech armory-grade models for around $35. This is the one to get! It is built like a tank. Other after market adjustment tools will likely break the first time you try to move that front sight for elevation. I won't go into the actual sighting process as you can do that I am sure. Just remember that when correcting the windage, move the front sight away from the desired direction, or, toward the wayward grouping, which is the opposite for the standard western style firearm with adjustable rear sight. So, if your group is to the right of the bull's-eye (or whatever you like to aim at), you must push the front sight to the right to get on target. Also, the rear tangent sight has a setting at the very rear which is called the "battle setting." At this setting, and after properly sighting in at 100 yards or meters, by aiming at center of body mass, you will hit an enemy between the shoulders and hips at ranges from zero to 300 meters or yards. Of course, you have the traditional ranges also listed from 100 to 700 or 800 meters or yards. For general use, sight-in at 100 meters or yards.

Feeding Problems

The beauty of the AK is that it eats just about any ammo you feed it with ease. That's just the way it was designed. Of course, you may encounter problems as with any firearm. Any new rifle may need a break in period, so don't be alarmed if you have a few failures feeding or extracting. Be sure it is properly lubed and oiled before you shoot and that may curb any problems before they manifest. Some AK's such as the Yugo's have a three- position gas setting which should be in the middle position. The other two are for very dirty rifles (more gas) and very hot loads (less gas). Be sure to check here if you have short stroking problems. In rare cases, you may have a bad magazine follower. Bent magazine bodies are more likely and this is easy to spot once you suspect a problem. If the rifle fails to run the bolt carrier to the rear AT ALL, then you have a block in the gas orifice between the bore and the gas tube. This may shut your shooting down for that session since it is going to require getting a probe in there to clean out whatever is blocking the orifice. Pretty rare, but possible.


This is going to involve some disassembly of your new AK. Not a problem. Just pop the dust cover off and proceed to take it down. Instructions are furnished with all AK's these days and plenty are available online. The best policy for cleaning is to assume that your ammo is made with corrosive primers, especially if it came from overseas. This means if you don't clean it after shooting, the bore will rust as well as the bolt face and breech areas. It's a really ugly mess, but will not actually affect the operation of your AK unless it is an extreme case and you let the situation go without ever stopping the rust. However, why take a chance on ruining the value of you rifle? Hoppe's No 9 cleaner is the best to use to clean up after corrosive primers. Use liberally and you will sleep well at night. Even if the primers are not corrosive, it is still a good policy to properly clean (from the rear of the bore) after a firing session. Lightly oil after cleaning and reassemble your AK.


Not much is needed for the AK-47 except a sling. However, if you think you may want to add a scope, then you want to make sure your rifle comes with a scope mount. These can be added later, but the problem is finding someone to mount it accurately. It's just easier to get it on the rifle from the start. Something to consider, especially if you are getting near the "50" mark where the old eyes start losing a bit of their sharpness.

A bit of information on the mount. The traditional AK-47 scope mount is on the left side of the rifle, which is different from most modern rifles. It is a matter of necessity since there is not a solid mounting point to mount the scope on the top rear of the rifle. Dust cover mounts are available, but will not hold a steady zero. That method is OK for iron sights as on the Galil, but just not practical for a scope. The side mount does provide a nice feature in that it provides easy removal and replacement without losing "zero."

Other scope mounting options are available, now that the accessory market has greatly expanded. Picatinny rail handguards are available that replace the front handguards. On the Picatinny rails you can mount your favorite scope or aiming device. The potential problem here is the fair amount of heat generated from firing is quickly transferred to the sighting devices. Also, the picatinny rails are usually made of aluminumm which is pretty hot on the hands even if no scopes are attached. Of course, mounting a scope that far forward usually requires a long eye relief model or just a zero magnification aim point or red dot sight. If this method of sight attachment appeals to you, then you are covered.

There are many AK scopes to pick from. Since the traditional scope mount for the AK is on the left side, you need to either get a scope with integral mount such as a Russian PSO-1 or similar, or buy a left-side mount and add your favorite scope. The PSO-1 style scopes are good and are made to the military spec and configuration of the original Soviet model. In fact, you can still get one made in the Belarus military factory. Keep in mind, as with the accuracy of the AK, Russian scopes are not quite as good as we are used to here in the West. They get the job done, however. Sighting in a Russian scope is a bit different in that the windage and elevation knobs operate a bit different for the sighting- in process. Also, the reticle does not stay centered as on a Western scope. There are instructions online ( on how to sight-in a Russian-style scope. If you go with the side scope mount by itself, you can add just about any scope you like, including one you may have sitting unused. Such a deal. To the AK purist, mounting anything other than an AK style scope on an AK-47 is not kosher; just doesn't look quite right. But, each to his own.

The bottom line on accessories is that you can "pitch to the wind," in other words, you can "pimp out" your AK to your heart's desire! Keep in mind that the more equipment you apply, the less handy and rugged your AK becomes. It was designed as a rough and tough weapon and many believe it should be kept that way; the simpler the better.

That is the high points on buying a new AK-47. Of course, the complete history of the AK is not included here. That has been beat nigh-unto-death. You may check that out on many web sites if you desire.

We do have a short article on the "myth" of Kalashnikov having designed the AK-47 from a "clean sheet of paper" which you will find interesting.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Care and Use of Firearms in the Field

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Many of us have guns that rarely leave the safe, and when they do, are only taken to the range for plinking in a pleasant, sheltered environment. But many more of us have guns for hunting and use in the field. These firearms are exposed to the elements and harsh conditions of field use, and this can lead to malfunctions and excess wear and tear on the firearm.

Water and Moisture

Water and moisture are the number one enemies of firearms. Prolonged exposure to high humidity, rain, or even total immersion in water, can quickly cause rust to form. For pistols, full flap holsters can help protect a gun from direct exposure to rain. Rifles and shotguns should be kept cased until you are ready to use them. Silicon-impregnated wipes should be kept with you and used to wipe down the firearm before and after you venture out. They work by coating the firearm’s surfaces with a fine film of silicon that repels water and moisture.

Should a firearm become fully immersed in water, care should be taken to make sure that the barrel is drained of water before firing. Simply tilting the barrel down to allow any water to drain out is usually sufficient. While a few droplets of water in the barrel won’t hurt it, catastrophic malfunction of a rifle can occur if it is fired while there is significant water left in the barrel. If a firearm becomes soaked through, it should always be detail stripped and cleaned as soon as possible afterwards to mitigate any rust or corrosion of delicate internals.

Finally, let your firearm air out overnight. Don’t just slide it into the case at the end of the day; leave it out with the action open so that any moisture that may have accumulated can evaporate. Even the smallest amount of moisture from the ambient humidity can cause rust to form in a firearm overnight.

Dirt And Mud

Dirt and mud are pretty well unavoidable out in the field. While protecting from dirt and mud is important, it is also nearly impossible. Don’t fret small amounts of dirt and mud on your firearm, but do use caution that the muzzle stays clear of obstructions. If you fall while carrying a firearm, or if the firearm is dropped, the bore should be inspected to make sure that there is no obstruction. Don’t wait to clean a gun that has been dropped or otherwise been covered in mud or dirt, field strip it right there and clean it as best you can. You should always carry a field cleaning kit including a rod with brushes and jags with bore patches so that you can quickly clear any obstructions and clean the gun.

Dust and Sand

Dust and sand can make short work of a well-oiled firearm. When in a dry and dusty environment, consideration must be given to the type of lubrication used on a firearm. Well-oiled firearms are great in a clean or moist environment, but oil in a dry environment will attract dust and sand, which will quickly gum up and possibly jam the action of a firearm. There are a number of dry film lubricants on the market (23372) that, when applied properly, leave a dry film on the firearm. This film effectively lubricates the action while not attracting dust and sand.

Muzzle Protection Item arr-128 Shoot-Through Muzzle Cover

One of the easiest ways to seriously damage or destroy your firearm is to have a foreign object in the muzzle. Dust and sand can blow into and down the muzzle increasing wear and tear on the rifling, and it could get into the action as well causing jams and other malfunctions. There are many types of shoot-off muzzle covers (ARR-128) available to protect your rifle and keep dust and grit out of your barrel and action. These covers are also useful for keeping water, dirt, and mud out of the barrel.

Cleaning After Use

So you’ve just gotten back from the field, you’re happy, tired, and your firearms are wet and dirty. They can wait till tomorrow to be cleaned, right? Wrong! It is imperative to completely disassemble and clean any firearm that has been exposed to inclement weather, water, dirt or mud as soon as possible. Don’t just field strip and clean like you normally would, detail strip the firearm and remove any wood furniture to completely clean and dry the entire firearm. When exposed to water and moisture, wooden furniture can become moist and swell up, trapping dirt and moisture between the metal and the wood. This can cause corrosion and rust on the metal, eventually causing considerable damage to the firearm.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Choosing a Generator

For a preparedness-minded individual, it is easy to see the value of owning a generator, but actually choosing what type and size of generator to buy can be quite intimidating. Generators are application-specific tools, meaning that the right generator will vary depending on what it is intended to be used for. The most common generators that people think of are 10,000-watt portable gasoline generators, but there are many more that fit a variety of situations.

Generator Type


Portable generators are by far the most common generators out there. They range from 1,000 watts all the way up to 80,000-watt trailer mounted sets, but the most common are 3,000 - 10,000 watt gasoline-powered generators.
The smaller economy model generators are little more than a lawn mower engine attached to a dynamo. They have aluminum sleeves and use side valves, and are not manufactured for extended use. They often have minimal electronics and the power they generate can be very “dirty.” Larger commercial generators utilize overhead valves and steel sleeves. They are often computer-controlled so that the power produced is clean and consistent, and so the engine runs at maximum efficiency regardless of the load.


Commonly found at data centers, hospitals, prisons, and other locations that require uninterruptible power, fixed generators are large systems and are not designed to be moved once installed. They generally are hardwired into the building, and are setup to automatically start providing power once grid power has been down for a predetermined amount of time.


A less common type of generator is the Power Take Off, or PTO generator. The alternator in your car is actually a small PTO generator, but it won’t power much. Most PTO generators are mounted onto the main PTO of a tractor, or to some vehicle transmissions. Of course they are also available as just a plain PTO that could theoretically be mounted on any rotating drive shaft.

Industrial and Turbine

These generators are truly massive beasts. Often generating in excess of 250,000 watts, such generators are usually only found at large outdoor concerts, traveling carnivals, or permanently installed at large commercial installations. Turbines have the advantage of being relatively quiet compared to piston driven generators. Portable versions of these huge behemoths are either mounted on 18-wheeler trailers, or are have a trailer actually integrated into the generator itself. It’s very unlikely that a single individual would ever need such a large generator, but they are often trucked in for use by first responders when power is knocked out to entire cities for weeks at a time, such as in the aftermath of a hurricane or earthquake.

Fuel Type

One very important concern when choosing a generator is the type of fuel that it uses.


Most residential backup generators are able to use propane and natural gas interchangeably. Liquid propane is easy to store. In rural areas, large storage tanks are commonly found at every house and business, and propane delivery services are widely available to keep these tanks full. In urban settings large tanks are less common and more heavily regulated, though small versions are very common due to their prevalent use firing BBQ grills and other outdoor accessories.

Natural Gas

Most homes in cities in the US have access to natural gas through municipal gas lines. This makes it very convenient when installing a residential backup generator. Be aware that in certain situations, if the local power grid goes down, it is likely that municipal gas lines may lose pressure and go down as well, so an alternate fuel source such as propane may be necessary.


While diesel does not go bad as quickly as gasoline, it is still susceptible to hydration and fungal growth if not treated with an additive. Diesel has the advantage of being easier to store, and it is a more efficient fuel. Generators that are diesel-powered usually require less maintenance and have a longer operational lifespan. While not common yet, a few small portable diesel-powered generators are available.


Gasoline is the most common fuel used for small portable generators rated for less than 20,000 watts. Gasoline-powered generators require the most maintenance and have the shortest lifespan of any fuel type. Storing gasoline can be problematic, as gasoline decays within just a few weeks without being stabilized with additives. Even with the use of stabilizing agents, it is generally inadvisable to try to use gasoline stored longer than two years. Gasoline is the most dangerous fuel to store, due to its low flash point (the point at which fuel fumes form an ignitable mixture in the air) and its sensitivity to temperature fluctuations.


Understanding Ratings and Choosing the Right Size

All generators are rated for two wattages. There is a big difference between a generators’ peak capacity or surge wattage and its rated operating capacity. Most generators are designed to run at approximately 75% of their surge watt rating. If you run at more than 75% capacity for a long period of time, the generator will undergo excessive wear and tear and will eventually become damaged. Exceeding the surge watt rating for even a limited amount of time can damage or destroy a generator.

Knowing what your energy demands are will help you choose a properly sized generator. If you have a refrigerator (3,000 watt startup), a hot water heater (3,000 watts), and a well pump (1,500 watt startup) you need to run, you have a total energy demand of 6,500 watts. Given that demand, you will need a generator with a surge rating of at least 9,000 watts. This leaves you 250 watts to power some lights while keeping you within our 75% total load guideline. A recommended rule of thumb is to calculate your total need, add in the overhead so that your load is 75% of the rating, and then double that. That means that instead of a 9,000 watt we would buy an 18,000 watt generator, in order to allow for future energy needs.

Startup Load v. Running Load

Many appliances have a very high inductive startup load. The startup load is the power it takes to get an electric motor moving. All electric motors draw the most power and produce the most torque while starting up. These loads are often 2-3 times higher than the operating load. Naturally, this puts a higher demand on the generator. Startup loads should be considered when calculating the total load demanded of the generator.

Power QualityPower quality used to be a concern with older generators. Older generators attempted to create a specific frequency (usually 110v – 120v at 60 hertz) of AC current by governing engine speed. Obviously, this mechanical means of regulation was not perfect, and the result was fluctuations in the frequency and voltage, or “dirty” power. Dirty power isn’t an issue with light bulbs, heating elements, or most motor-driven appliances, but it can play hell with computers and computer-controlled appliances, as well as some transformer-powered appliances.

Small economy style generators still produce “dirty” power. Most modern generators however have computer-controlled power outputs and have no problem putting out perfect sine-wave 60 hertz AC power.

Wiring Concerns

Having a generator is great, but how do you get the electrical power to where you need it? Extension cords are a natural solution, but they are limited in their usefulness. A typical household outlet is capable of running 1,500 to 2,000 watts of continuous power. A single extension cord should never be used to supply more than 1,800 watts (approximately 15 amps) of power. If you need an extension cord run of 50 – 100 feet, make sure to use a 12 gauge cord and remain within the 1,800 watt guideline.
For large generators (3,500 watts or more) it makes more sense to install a transfer switch that will allow the generator to supply power directly to the house wiring. Transfer switches isolate the house wiring and generator from the grid. If the house were not isolated, the generator would be putting power down the power lines at potentially deadly voltages. This would obviously endanger any repair crews working on the lines, and would damage the generator which would be trying to power anything connected to that undamaged portion of the grid.

Choosing the Right Size Generator

Average Power Demands of Common Appliances
ApplianceStart-up WattsOperating Watts
Furnace fan1,400700
Portable Heater1,8001,500
Well pump (½ horsepower)1,500750
Sump Pump32001700
40-gallon water heater3,0003,000
Water Heater4,0004,000
Clothes Washer1,500750
Light Bulb6060
Home Security Alarm100100
Coffee maker850850
Electric Skillet1,2001,200
Crock pot250250
2-slice toaster1,1001,100
Plug-in heater1,5001,500
7¼-inch circular saw1,500750
Belt Sander1,9001,500
Bench Grinder1,800700
Jig Saw900600
3/8” Hand Drill750500

Safety Concerns

Fuel Storage

If you’ve got a generator you’re going to need fuel for it, and in a situation where the power is out most fuel stations are unable to pump fuel. This means that you’re going to have a fuel storage system. Fuel should be stored in a detached structure away from a house or living quarters. Always abide by local fire codes and safe storage laws. Even stored in a proper container, gasoline should never be stored in a building with any pilot lights or open flames. Stored gasoline and diesel should be rotated out on a yearly basis and restocked with fresh fuel.

Generators should always be run in a well ventilated area with the exhaust away from people. Never run a portable generator indoors or in an enclosed porch or garage. Install a carbon monoxide detector in your living area to detect if any dangerous fumes are infiltrating the house.

Grounding and Electrical Safety

When running the wiring for your generator, don’t neglect grounding requirements. If possible, the frame of your generator should be bonded to your house ground. If you are using an extension cord and not bonding to your house, then adequate grounding can be achieved by driving a 12” metal stake into the ground and wiring that to the generator frame.

Generator Maintenance

If you are using a gasoline powered generator, it is generally not advised to store it with fuel in the tank. After use, when preparing the generator for storage, you should drain the fuel tank and then run the generator until the fuel line and carburetor are dry. This prevents gummy deposits forming from fuel left in the system. Like most small engines, your generator should be run with a load at least twice yearly. Sparkplugs should be checked and cleaned once a year.

Oil Changes

Just like any other engine-driven device, generators require maintenance. The owner’s manual of your generator will have recommended service intervals. Be aware that some smaller economy model generators require oil changes as frequently as every 24 hours of use. This means that you should always have a ready supply of oil on hand for your generator, so that you can change the oil during a power outage without needing to go out searching for oil to buy.

Parts Compatibility

Some generators use common automobile based parts, like spin-on oil filters, and commonly found fuel and air filters. When purchasing a generator, find out if parts that wear out are easily replaced. A generator with a bad sparkplug becomes useless if you cannot easily find a replacement. Use particular caution when considering generators from smaller companies, as these often have parts that are difficult to find replacements for if they break.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Defensive Handgun Loads

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When choosing a load for self defense, there are several things that are more important than the actual load in the gun that should be addressed. Reliability is the most important factor in deciding on what load to put in your gun. A gun that will not reliably feed your chosen defensive round is useless as a defensive tool. Choose a round that feeds reliably in your gun and test it out extensively. Shot placement is still far more important than the load you choose. A hit in the vitals will do far more damage than a miss with the latest and greatest bullet design. The third tier of choosing what to put in your gun is actually wading through the choices out there to find an acceptable defensive load for your specific application. An acceptable defensive load is one where the bullet penetrates far enough to do damage when it comes in contact with tissue, but not so far as to over-penetrate without transferring its energy to the tissue. An acceptable defensive load will also ideally feature the greatest achievable spreading out (mushrooming) of the bullet for that specific caliber. For the sake of this article, we will be using the FBI standards of 12 inches of penetration of ballistic gelatin and expansion to the largest diameter possible in order to cause the largest possible wound channel. A standard which most experts support wholeheartedly.

The .22 Long Rifle is one of the most popular cartridge in the world and one of the most popular chamberings for a pocket pistol or revolver. The most important consideration in picking which .22LR load is the reliability of this notoriously finicky round in your gun. Some semi-automatic handguns do not work well with standard velocity ammo and some do not like the high-velocity loads. Luckily, the low cost of this round will allow you to practice enough to ensure you have chosen a compatible load, and perhaps as important, allow you (the shooter) to hone your skills with your handgun, ensuring adequate shot placement when the need arises. Barrel length also may play a role in ammunition selection. The popular CCI Stinger high-velocity 32-grain copper-plated hollow point round (64515) is a good choice in short (2 inches) barreled guns, but may expand and fail to penetrate when fired from a longer barrel. Conversely, the Remington Viper (41059) with its non-expanding 36-grain truncated cone bullet is probably a good choice for those with longer barrels as it creates a larger diameter permanent cavity than a lead round nose bullet design. So the picking of a defensive .22LR round is fairly simple: 1. Find a load that you and your gun like. 2. Practice, practice, practice, practice!

The popular .380ACP round brings a bit more firepower to the table, but the drawbacks to most defensive bullet designs in this chambering are the lack of expansion with penetration. Most experts will advise sticking with a quality FMJ loading such as Remington's Express 95-grain (66254) or Federal's American Eagle 95-grain (65979). However, some will recommend Hornady's 90-grain XTP bullet loading (87503) as a quality, expanding defensive round.

The .38 Special has an interesting problem of being offered in revolvers of many different barrel lengths, making the choice of loadings more difficult. A solid, acceptable choice that meets our standards for any revolver from snub-nosed to target length, is Speer's 135-grain+P Gold Dot load (13649). This load is specifically designed with snub-nosed revolvers in mind, so be careful to ensure that your gun is rated for the higher pressure +P cartridge. Cor-Bon's DPX 110-grain standard pressure offering with a solid copper, lead-free bullet is another good performer out of snub-nosed .38 specials. In revolvers with barrels over four inches, Remington's Classic Express (66333) +P with 158-grain lead hollow point bullet, this "FBI load" is a tried and true choice.

Stepping up to the 9mm brings true defensive firepower into the picture, with many acceptable defensive designs and loadings. Once again, we can turn to Speer for their Gold Dot loading, this time in a +P 124-grain weight (15827), an excellent load with a proven record, as is the heavier 147-grain Gold Dot (63228) in a standard-pressure offering. If you have a short-barrel, consider the 124-grain Speer Gold Dot (15826) for your compact 9mm.

The .40S&W is currently the most popular police duty round, which means plenty of excellent defensive loads to pick from that meet the standards of a good defensive load. Cor-Bon's 140-grain (15504) utilizes the Barnes all-copper DPX bullet, and the 155-grain (63232) is another design from Speer's Gold Dot line. If you have a compact pistol with a shorter barrel, you might pick Speer's 180-grain (15829), as it was designed with shorter barrels in mind.

As for .45ACP, good defensive loads that meet the previously mentioned FBI standard are, once again, Cor-Bon's 185-grain DPX (15506) and Speer's 230-grain Gold Dot (63236), for your 5-inch or longer .45ACP. For your four-inch or shorter barrel, utilize the 230-grain Gold Dot (15833).

Whichever round you choose, remember to test it out in your gun to ensure reliability and maintain your proficiency level to ensure proper shot placement, should the need arise.