Friday, October 30, 2009


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It's the new, popular, modular pack system. Every new "tactical" item has it. What am I talking about? MOLLE systems of course. MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) webbing is the US Army replacement for the older ALICE system, and it's technological superiority has garnered it wide acceptance amongst military, police, and civilians. MOLLE systems are based off of the Pouch Attachment Ladder System, "PALS". The PALS webbing features 1" wide straps run horizontally and spaced 1" apart, with 1.5" gaps between attachment points.

Adaptation from the ALICE system to the MOLLE system began in 1994 when the US Army began having difficulties with the ALICE system in the sand and dust of the first Gulf War. The ALICE system, which had been around since the Vietnam War utilized small ALICE clips to attach modular components. The clips were easy to lose, they broke, and the wear and tear on them was accelerated by the sand and dust of Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.

Development of the new pack system took place at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, MA. Development by the the Center for Military Biomechanics Research (CMBR) focused on extensive biometric studies examining the most efficient methods for heavy loads to be carried by the human body. Research showed that the taller commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) packs using internal frames reduced the energy soldiers used while carrying a standard 75lb load. In addition, the COTS packs promoted better posture and had an overall better load placement than the older ALICE system

The internal frame COTS pack was rejected as a replacement for the ALICE pack due, in part, to its excessive heat retention. A similar volume configuration was incorporated into the design of the Modular Lightweight Load Carrying Equipment (MOLLE) pack. Other biomechanically advantageous characteristics, such as a load-distributing waist belt, were also used in the MOLLE design.

MOLLE systems are based around a load-bearing vest known as an FLC (Fighting Load Carrier) and a pack with an external frame. The FLC was designed to replace the web belt and suspenders that made up the ALICE system's Load Bearing Equipment (LBE). MOLLE has some distinct advantages over the older ALICE system in that it is worn instead of carried. MOLLE systems are almost completely made from fabric and contain no metal clips or hooks like the ALICE system did. Those hooks and clips would inevitably find a way to poke and dig into the skin of the soldier carrying an ALICE pack.

Quick release systems built into the pack allow the wearer to quickly drop the equipment if necessary. The vest features an H harness in the back that functions to prevent the buildup of body heat. Vests also have plate carriers for ceramic ballistic plates.

Load bearing belts integrated into the MOLLE vest help distribute the weight more evenly to the hips instead of having it all on the shoulders. They also serve as attachment points for more accessories such as drop-leg webbing and holsters. The advantage of the MOLLE system holsters is that they can be attached to a vest, belt, pack, or drop leg webbing. In fact, any MOLLE item can be attached to almost any other MOLLE item because of the modularity of the system. This is one of the distinct advantages of the MOLLE system. Components can be placed in thousands of unique configurations to adapt for any role, load, or body type.

Every pouch in the MOLLE system has D-rings for attaching slings for dragging or shoulder carry.

But for all its advantages, the MOLLE system encountered bumps along the way to full acceptance by the military.

Internal frames were studied for use on the MOLLE pack, but were put aside in favor of an external frame due to excess heat retention of the internal frame. Instead of the aluminum frame of the ALICE system, researchers decided instead on a custom-molded plastic frame. The plastic frame soon proved to have some serious pitfalls. Frames frequently cracked and broke from the strain of a combat environment.

Zippers also proved problematic. The first zippers used on the MOLLE system were too weak and burst if packs were overloaded.

The Army gradually made changes to the system, upgrading zippers, and transitioning to a stronger and more comfortable frame system utilizing the same plastic used to manufacture automobile bumpers.

Almost anything with PALS-style webbing is generally referred to as MOLLE, but there are differences. The US Marines currently use a system very similar to the US Army MOLLE system known as the ILBE (Improved Load Bearing Equipment) as they were dissatisfied with the improvements of the US Army in fixing the flaws in the MOLLE system. The ILBE still uses the PALS webbing and shares many of the same attributes as the MOLLE, including a load bearing vest and belt.

While developing the ILBE, the USMC implemented new load ratings for the system that are similar to the ratings specified US Army FM 21-18 manual.

Assault Load
The Assault Load is a very minimal load consisting of little more than the bare necessities required to sustain an assault, such as water, ammunition, and grenades. Maximum assault load weight is one at which a Marine can engage in combat while having a minimal effect on combat effectiveness.

Approach March Load
The Approach March load is designed to give a Marine enough equipment for a full day of combat with daily re-supply. This Maximum approach march load weight is one at which a Marine can engage in combat while being able to maintain at least 90% combat effectiveness.

Existence Load
The Existence Load is the maximum load a Marine will be loaded with while still able to conduct maneuvers. This load is only designed to be carried from a deployment to the assembly area.

The Marines also designed the ILBE to:

  • Include a quick-detach patrol pack

  • Carry at least 120 pounds

  • Limit maximum pack size to 6000 cubic inches

  • Carry 60mm mortar shells as well as 81mm mortar shells outside the main pack

There are a number of attachment systems used with the MOLLE and ILBE systems. First is the Natick Snap, which utilizes a plastic reinforced strap with a snap to secure it. The Malice clip is another system that uses a semi-permanent polymer clip which interweaves like the Natick. The semi-permanent clip can be removed using a screwdriver or other flat-tipped tool. In addition to these two systems, there are any number of "Weave and Tuck" systems that use interwoven straps which are then fastened to the backing of the pouch after attachment. Grimlock keepers are also available to make your MOLLE and ALICE gear compatible.

Since it exploded onto the market, manufacturers have designed and built a seemingly endless stream of MOLLE and PALS-compatible products. There is, quite literally, nearly anything you can think of in a MOLLE setup. From iPod/iPhone holders to flashlight holders, hydration packs to radio pouches, EMT pouches and even corsets have been designed with MOLLE-compatible PALS webbing.

Suffice to say - if you can think of it, there's probably a way to attach it to your MOLLE gear.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Inside the Waistband Holster

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One of the frequent questions we get here at Cheaper Than Dirt! comes from customers seeking ways to carry their pistols. There are quite literally dozens of ways to securely carry a firearm, but today we're going to address one of the most common: the Inside the Waistband Holster.

Inside the waistband holsters (often referred to as an IWB holster) are holsters that, as the name implies, keep the pistiol tucked inside your pants or shorts, between your waistband and your body. They usually have some sort of belt clip that keeps the holster attached to your belt or waistband in order to prevent the holster from slipping down.

IWB holster users generally fall into two categories: Love 'em or Hate 'em. Not many people are ambivalent about them. Of those who despise IWB holsters, the comfort factor tends to play a big role. These users just can't abide having the holster digging into their side for the better part of a day. Comfort is a huge factor when choosing a holster. If it's uncomfortable, most people will stop using it or stop carrying their firearm all together. Obviously, a firearm is useless if you don't have it with you. Fans of the IWB holster tend to laud the concealability of firearms carried in this manner. They also love the fact that, being so closely carried to the body, it is more difficult for any potential bad guy to disarm you.

There are three main types of IWB holsters: Leather, Kydex or Plastic, and Nylon. Leather and nylon tend to be the most comfortable of the three, but they have the disadvantage of collapsing after the pistol is drawn, making reholstering more difficult. Kydex and plastic holsters are rigid and hold their shape even when the gun is drawn, but can become uncomfortable during extended use due to the firm unyielding material. Depending on your body type, IWB holsters can be even more uncomfortable due to the the way it is held so close to your body and the pressure of your waistband and belt.

Leather holsters are often the most comfortable of IWB holsters. Holsters such as Bianchi's Professional Inside-the-Pants holster are immensely popular with undercover law enforcement, private investigators, and civilians who conceal on a regular bases. It does an excellent job of concealment by carrying the pistol low with the butt of the gun barely peeking above the waistline. If you choose to wear a leather IWB holster, be aware that extended use during the heat and humidity of summer can cause the holster to retain moisture from sweat, possibly damaging the pistol. Because of the proximity of the firearm to your body, you will want to clean and oil your handgun more often, usually once a week or more, in order to clean out salts, lint, rust, and to re-oil.

Despite their drawbacks, IWB holsters are one of the easiest ways to carry concealed. Many are even known as "tuckable" holsters and have features that allow you to carry your pistol in the IWB holster and tuck in your shirt at the same time. Our Ace Case Tuckable holster is one of these. It features a leather panel that has a belt clip attached to it that allows the wearer to tuck their shirt in between the panel and the main body of the holster, as illustrated by the photo at left. As you can see from the photo, the belt clip is still visible, but the firearm itself is neatly concealed.

If you choose to use an IWB holster, there are a few things you can do to make it work better for you. First, select pants slightly larger than your normal size. This provides the extra room for your firearm, and decreases stretching and wear and tear on the garment. Make sure your shirt, vest, or jacket you use to conceal the firearm is cut a little long. The bottom of your cover garment should hang at least 6 inches below your belt.

Whether you go with leather, nylon, or kydex, an IWB holster will provide you with an efficient way to carry concealed. IWB holsters may not be for everybody, but that's just the nature of holsters in general. Ask any old gunny, and they'll tell you that somewhere they've got a box of old holsters that they ended up not liking for some reason or another. Me? I've carried in a kydex IWB holster for the better part of a decade. Obviously IWB works for me. It just might work for you too.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Guest Post- Don't Bring a Knife to a Hot Coffee Fight

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Today's guest post is by Caleb Giddings from Gun Nuts Media. Caleb is the 2009 Indiana State IDPA champion, as well as a Steel Challenge Revolver Division Champion.

Saturday, a criminal made a critical error in his victim selection process when he targeted Caleb. I'll let Caleb tell the tale from here.
It’s not exactly easy for me to come up with a humorous way to segue into this post as is my normal routine for dealing with serious topics. So I guess I’ll just go with the old “damn the torpedos, full speed ahead approach”.

The short version of the story is that on Saturday leaving my office, I was the subject of an attempted mugging by a member of the Indianapolis Choir Boy School of Good Men Who are Only Down on Their Luck. As I was leaving my office, said altar boy came around the corner of my building to the left into the side parking lot, and as I turned to face him noticed the knife in his right hand. The Chaplain’s Assistant demanded that we engage in an abbreviated barter process, wherein I would provide my wallet and car keys in exchange for not getting shanktified, which to him probably seemed like a reasonable exchange.

I politely demurred by hurling a cup of hot Starbucks at him while fishing my Beretta Jetfire out of the stupid pocket holster it was riding in. After taking a face full of Columbia’s most popular legal export and confronted with a counter offer of bullets to his previous barter exchange concept, the young gentlemen decided that discretion was the better part of valor and made all due haste in a westerly direction. For my part, I locked myself in my office, called 911 and waited for the cops to arrive to take my report.

Now, while I did write out the AAR slightly tongue-in-cheek, what happened to me is a deadly serious thing. I was mugged in broad daylight, not 20 yards from the parking lot of a semi-popular video store. Two days later, I can look back on this after talking it over with some cop friends and other self-defense types and gather two important take-away lessons that I’ll be remembering for quite some time:

  1. Awareness is king. Because I heard/saw the guy as he came around the corner, I was not caught completely flat-footed when my world went abruptly pear-shaped.

  2. Action > reaction > passivity. My wife asked me later “why did you throw your coffee at him?” My only reply, and which remains my reply is “seemed like the thing to do at the time” – but from a 10,000 foot view, tossing my coffee had major impact on the encounter which was to switch the initiative from my would be attacker to me. By throwing my coffee, I was forcing him to react to my actions instead the other way around, which gave me the opportunity to retrieve a better weapon than a cup of coffee.

The moral of the story for me anyway is twofold: keep your head up. While you can’t be in condition orange or yellow or whatever all the time, there are certain times when it behooves you to keep your head on a swivel. Secondly, as pdb is fond of saying, “carry your f***ing guns, people!” It’s impossible for me to know what would have happened had any number of variables gone differently, but one that I’m glad I didn’t have to worry about was “what if I only had that cup of coffee and didn’t have my Beretta with me?” On Saturday, a .25 in my pocket beat hell out of the 9mm I left sitting on my desk at home.

We're all glad to hear that Caleb came through the encounter OK. Of course his readers had a lot of well wishes, and more than a few questions, which Caleb was gracious enough to entertain.
Thank you everyone for the outpouring of support in the comments of the post about my caffeinated self-defense encounter. I am truly and genuinely touched by your support and encouragement.

In the comments, there have been a lot of good, reasonable questions asked, and I want to do my best to answer those questions here where everyone can see them. Most of the questions have centered around the same general topics, so hopefully by hitting the broad strokes I’ll be able to answer the big questions. Here goes!

  • Why a .25 ACP and not something bigger? The Beretta Jetfire (my everyday carry gun) has been riding in my pocket for a year and a half now. It goes everywhere I go as long as it’s legal to carry a gun. It’s light, doesn’t take up a lot of weight, and most importantly I can shoot it very well. Which is why I don’t carry a Kel-Tec .32 or a Ruger LCP in .380 – the triggers on those guns are horrid and mushy, and I just don’t shoot them as well as I shoot the .25. Out of a 2 inch barrel, we’re not exactly talking “hammer of Thor” ballistics for any of those rounds, so I’d rather carry the gun that I can get lead on target fastest.

  • What kind of pocket holster do you use? - A very basic Blackhawk nylon pocket holster. It’s been in my pocket as long as the Jetfire. I use a pocket holster for the .25 primarily because it keeps the gun oriented correctly in the pocket, with the butt of the gun facing up like it should.

  • Do you practice with it? – Most certainly. I shoot the Jetfire once or twice a month, but my usual practice with the gun is dry fire practice coming from the holster. In practice I usually hit about 2.00-2.5 seconds on the draw with my hands starting outside of the pocket. I would imagine that was about where I was on Saturday for my draw time as well; it just felt ridiculously slow due to the effects of adrenaline dump and time dilation.

  • What about the coffee? - It was in a standard Starbucks cup with the lid on. I did hit him with the coffee, and I assume the lid came off when the cup hit him. I don’t know this for a fact, but can infer it from the fact that after the event, the cup and the lid were both on the ground in seperate locations.

  • What did you see? – Well, to be honest I don’t remember seeing all that much. It’s sort of like my memory is a slide show: I remember seeing the knife, then I remember seeing my gun in the middle of the “A” in Indiana (yes, he was wearing a Hoosiers’ sweatshirt, that I remember) and the next thing I remember is him running.

  • Why didn’t you shoot? That’s the most complicated question, and it’s something I’ve been mulling over myself. My previous experiences with situations like this have primarily been in uniform, so as a civilian there’s a different calculation going on. Based on input from others and prior experiences, the best guess as to why I didn’t shoot is that I perceived my assailant dropping his weapon and turning to flee, even though I don’t remember seeing it or hearing the weapon hit the deck. That perception was enough to halt the “SQUEEZE TRIGGER” impulse.

  • How long did it take? I have no idea. Best guess from start to finish is 5, maybe 10 seconds. It certainly felt like an enternity.

  • Will you be switching carry methods? – No, I plan on sticking with the Jetfire. Did I wish for a bigger gun in an easier to access holster? Yes, but not until after the event. But since I can’t carry a bigger gun in an easier to access holster at the office, the Jetfire will continue to ride shotgun.

I hope I’ve been able to answer the burning questions about this – again, I am tremendously touched by the flood of comments and emails offering support. As readers go, you guys are really a great bunch, and I’m proud that the firearms community is so willing to offer support and reinforcement. You guys are great, seriously.

We're very happy that Caleb made it through this ordeal unscathed. Caleb credits his situational awareness, the fact that he had a gun, as well as his regular practice for keeping him safe through the event.

About our Guest Blogger Caleb makes his home with his wife in Indiana where he is a competitive shooter. Caleb is an active blogger as well as the host of Gun Nuts Radio.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Rattling Whitetail Deer in Rut

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Rattling and calling whitetail deer is probably one of the oldest methods for calling up that monster buck. One of the keys to rattling up a buck is timing. Rattle too early in the rut, and you won't get any bucks. Rattle too late, and the peak of the rut will be over.

Pinpointing the Rut
The yearly rut is a complex cycle of hormone fluctuation in both does and bucks. Early in the rut, testosterone production in bucks begins to slowly increase. In the early rut, scrapes are numerous. Young bucks will be strengthening their neck muscles and scraping off velvet from new antler growth. During this phase, tentative rattling against trees and brush may bring in a curious buck, but most bachelor groups are still intact in this phase, and most bucks won't be curious enough to investigate.

As scrape activity increases, deer begin to show heavy musculature in their necks. This is when rattling may begin to produce curious bucks. Bucks in this phase will tentatively challenge each other with half hearted challenges. Sparring at this point is weak, with bucks gently bringing their heads together and lightly rattling while pushing back and forth. Sparring matches are short, lasting only a few seconds before the two bucks disengage and look around to see what interest they've sparked from nearby bachelors. At this point, rattling to attract bucks may work, but response will be slow and curiosity low.

As sparring increases, a half dozen matches may break out at the same time in a decently sized herd. Bucks at this phase will begin to respond to the sound of another buck scraping his antlers on a tree or engaging another buck. This is the point at which rattling will begin to be effective. Your technique at this point should involve light, short half-hearted rattles combined with scraping your rattlers on trees and brush. Combined with appropriate grunting, you may be able to draw in a curious buck.

As the bachelor groups break up, sparring begins to be replaced with serious fights and challenges. Bucks no longer tolerate the presence of another buck, and will challenge any who they find in their area. This is when rattling can bring a curious buck charging in to see what interlopers are in his territory. By observing scrape activity, you should be able to pinpoint when this period of the rut arrives. Scrapes along fields and trails will have reached a peak. Antlers on bucks will be polished, and their necks will be bulging with heavy musculature from all of the scraping and sparring activity of the past few weeks.

Increased vocal activity is another thing to watch for. As the heat of the rut approaches, males will begin to vocalize loudly and frequently, advertising their presence to any nearby does, and warning off competing bucks. Fights between competing bucks is now a deadly affair, with bucks trying to kill each other in earnest. This is prime rattling time.

Doe activity changes dramatically as the peak of the rut approaches. Before the rut, does will frequently be accompanied by last years young. But, as the heat of the rut comes on, they will run off the youngsters, leaving them wandering around appearing lost and perplexed. Does seen without accompanying young is a sure sign that the peak of the rut is right around the corner.

Occasionally, a second rut will come, as does who have not been bred come into heat again and continue to search for a buck. Does come into estrus every 28 days, so careful observation of the previous rut may reveal the prime time to hunt during a secondary rut.

Setting Up Your Position
Deer investigating a fight won't generally come in from an upwind position. They will generally try to circle around and approach from downwind. This increases the chance that you'll get "scented" by incoming deer and potentially scare them away. By properly setting up your hunting position, you can increase the chance that you'll spot the deer and be able to engage them before they scent or spot you.

Try to set up on the edge of a field with the wind blowing in from the field. Deer that are in your cover will try to circle around, but won't want to go out into the open of the field. If you don't have a nearby field, set up so that you have some decent shooting lanes that an investigating deer has to pass through while trying to circle around. Make sure you have adequate cover. Deer have incredibly accurate hearing and can pinpoint noise to within just a few feet. That buck will come in and zero in on your position, expecting to see another buck, so make sure you have enough camouflage and cover. Sometimes placing a decoy nearby will be enough to get your target to linger long enough for you to get the shot off.

Rattling Technique
There are a number of rattling techniques. Many hunters swear by natural antlers and insist that the natural sound of them clashing together cannot be replicated. Still, many have great success with synthetic rattlers. Synthetic rattlers are often safer, since they are smoothed down and don't have the points and sharp edges of natural antlers. Hunters who insist on using natural antlers often cut the points off and smooth the sharp edges to avoid injuring their hands and fingers while vigorously rattling. One new innovation is the Rattle Bag which allows one handed rattling, perfect for hunters in a tree stand.

Deer have incredibly acute hearing. Fights between bucks at the peak of the rut are no-holds-barred affairs. They're noisy enough to draw bucks from over a mile away. While some fights are short, others are long and drawn out, sometimes lasting for as long as 6 to 8 hours. Bucks are very vocal during fights, moaning, grunting, wheezing and bellowing as they summon up the strength to defeat the challenger. As you rattle, stomp and kick the ground and nearby brush. This is when you should be trying to make as much noise as possible!

On hearing a fight, younger deer tend to come charging in quickly to challenge the winner. Older bucks tend to be a bit more cautious and slower to respond, but they will come. Older deer tend to slink in with more care, preferring to observe the challenge unnoticed. It's not unusual for an older buck to try to sneak off with a nearby doe while the two fighting bucks obliviously continue their challenge.

Don't be too anxious to move on to a new location if rattling doesn't produce bucks right away. While younger less mature bucks may come running at the sound of a fight, older bucks respond much slower and more cautiously. If a short rattle doesn't produce, try rattling for longer periods. If you are off peak, rattle for short periods, 30-60 seconds, then wait for at least 30 minutes. If that still doesn't attract any bucks, try it again for 90 seconds or so and then wait again for at least an hour.

Grunts and Calls
In the late rut, bucks will strut around grunting an "ACK!" grunt, advertising their presence and challenging any nearby bucks. They will frequently grunt, pause to see if they're attracting any attention, take a few steps, and repeat the process.

One common mistake made when grunting is grunting too loudly. Deer have excellent hearing, and their grunts are usually fairly soft. If you're just grunting and not rattling, use caution not to grunt too loudly. Many grunters perform well and low volume, but sound horrible at louder volumes. Calls with long soft tubes such as our Adjust-Buck work the best.

Electronic calls are often shunned by hunters. Older technology didn't allow electronic calls to mimic natural sounds accurately enough to fool most deer. Yet, there are new advances in compact portable callers that enable them to accurately and loudly reproduce a wide variety of natural calls. The Nomad MX3 Electronic Deer Call has a remote, allowing you to place the electronic caller elsewhere while you lurk nearby in a blind or stand and activate it with the remote. Another caller with a remote has even better technology and allows you to play multiple calls at the same time, better mimicing the wheezing and grunting of two bucks engaged in a fight. The Phantom Hunter is a more expensive digital caller with a multi-track ability as well as a remote.

No matter what methods you use, nothing beats the rush of having a buck come rushing in to investigate your calls. By carefully observing deer activity in your area, you can determine how the rut is progressing and call accordingly. Good luck, and good hunting!

SKS The Samozaryadniy Karabin sistemi Simonova

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The SKS 7.62x39mm carbine was designed and adopted by the Soviets in 1945 and remained in service for decades. It was widely exported and produced by many former Bloc nations, as well as China. With many surplus Russian, Yugoslavian, Chinese and some Romanian SKS's offered for sale here at inexpensive prices over the years, the SKS is fast replacing the .30-30 Winchester lever-action rifle as the most common rifle in America. While a perfectly usable rifle in its issued form, the SKS quickly lends itself to customization. Let us take a look at personalizing this rugged carbine.

There are a few certain items every SKS owner needs. Since the SKS is a military surplus gun, it does not normally include an owner's manual, the fist and foremost must-have item is the SKS/AK-47 Original Military Instruction Manual for your gun. Another one of these vital items is a sight tool such as the SKS C-type tool and TAPCO's Mil-Grade sight tool. In order to get your shots on target, these front sight tools are required to adjust your front sight's elevation and windage. For versatility in any reloading situation, another essential item is stripper clips for your rifle. Of course any rifle must be kept clean and the SKS has a cleaning kit (SKS-632) that fits right into the buttstock. A military-style sling, a broken shell extractor, and a cleaning rod are also a good idea if your rifle did not already come with them.

One of the most popular ways to customize your carbine is to replace the stock. The most popular aftermarket stock, the TAPCO Intrafuse (SKS-075) gives the SKS an adjustable M-4 style buttstock and a SAW-style pistol grip, as well as rails on the forearm bottom and top barrel cover in several popular colors, including Dark Earth. For that classic look, ATI, Ram-Line and Butler Creek all have synthetic Monte Carlo stocks. ATI also carries their Monte Carlo stock in Mossy Oak's Break-Up camouflage. For a synthetic folding stock that allows for easy storage of your rifle, look again at ATI, and Ram-Line. For those that need the adjustability of the M-4 type stock and folding capability, ATI offers their folding 6-position stock for the SKS carbine with the added feature of a removable adjustable cheekrest (SKS-205). For the infamous sniper rifle look, try ATI's Dragunov stock.

For those that want a one-step compliance-legal upgrade, TAPCO packages its Title 18 USC 922(r) Compliance Parts with its Intrafuse stock, making this a quick and easy upgrade for your SKS.

Mounting a scope to your SKS is a very popular idea. The best scope mounts require drilling and tapping the receiver to install, a task beyond the expertise or resolve of a lot of gun owners. Leapers' UTG SKS scope mounts replace the top cover and one even includes integral see-through rings(SCP-250). B-Square's SKS 56 mount installs over the receiver by replacing the cover retaining pin and includes a standard dovetail base. Either one of these designs requires no gunsmithing to install and is completely reversible.

For those of us who want to stick with iron sights on our SKS, but find the factory sights lacking, Williams offers its rear Peep sight and a front FireSight for an improved sight picture. TAPCO manufactures brightly colored inserts for the front sight.

An extended magazine release protrudes further than the factory magazine release making it more easily accessible for magazine changes or clearing your SKS.

For removable extra-capacity magazines, the new standard is the 20-round TAPCO magazines, which are also available in Darth Earth and Olive Drab. Made of tough polymer, these magazines also count as 3 U.S. Sec 922r compliant parts. TAPCO also offers these magazines in a 10-round capacity and even a 5-rounder for hunting.

Muzzle brakes and recoil compensators are devices that are fitted to the muzzle of a firearm to redirect propellant gases with the effect of countering both recoil of the gun and unwanted rising of the barrel during rapid fire. The problem with the SKS is trying to find a way to add a muzzle device without removing the front sight or designing some sort of elaborate jig for a lathe. Luckily we have non-permanent options. Cheaper Than Dirt's SKS-010 and SKS-060 twist on the muzzle of the SKS and remain in place using a set screw. There are also pin-on brakes for the SKS, such as an AK-74 style pin-on brake and a Cutts-style compensator. There is even an AK-74 clamp-on brake. For those with a Yugoslavian model 59/66 SKS, TAPCO makes a brake that replaces the grenade launcher.

For endless options to mount scopes, flashlights, lasers, bipods or foregrips to your SKS, look to the SKS SOCOM Universal Picatinny Tri-Rail System Mount by Leapers UTG. This mount provides 9” of Picatinny mounting rails at 12, 3, and 9 O'clock locations.

A great way to keep your ammunition handy for hauling to the range or wherever you might need it, is to keep it on stripper clips and keep those stripper clips in a SKS chest rig (SKS-031).

Don't forget to get plenty of ammunition, targets, range safety gear and rifle cases to complete your SKS experience.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Guest Post: Aiming or Point Shooting?

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Today our featured guest Blogger is Mr. Completely. He is an accomplished Steel Challenge competitor, and he recently wrote a very good piece discussing Aiming vs. Point shooting.
There has been some discussion over the last month about point shooting or using the sights when shooting a handgun. The discussion has been mostly along the lines of should you use one, or the other, or one method sometimes, and something different at other times. I should mention up front that I am not a highly trained and paid firearms instructor, and I have never been mistaken for Todd Jarrett, Max Michel, or Dave Sevigny at a match, nor is that likely ever to happen. I do shoot a lot though, and I've spent a lot of time over the last few years watching the pros shoot, trying to figure out what they do and how they manage to do it so quickly.

One of the first things I noticed is that most of the top shooters have excellent eye sight. There's not too much you can do about that if your eye sight sucks though, except correct things as best you can.

Another thing I've noticed is that the pros don't miss very often in matches, and when they do, their pickup shot is almost instantaneous. That tells me they are using their sights, since they can tell their misses, "Call their shots", at the time they pull the trigger, rather than waiting to hear or see the result of their shot. It's just about impossible to do that without some sort of a sight picture to go by.

But if they are using their sights, how do they manage to shoot so quickly? I don't know for sure, and I suspect some of them may not know for sure either, but here's what I think they are doing. It's actually fairly simple to describe, but actually doing it is another story entirely. To make it work, it takes tens of thousands of rounds of practice every season. First, they are ignoring the sights completely leading up to the shot, as they can get on, or very close to on target by point shooting, or more accurately, "Point Aiming".

Here's the part that separates the pros from the rest of us. Just before taking the shot, they verify their aim with an instantaneous sight picture to ascertain that they are where they think they are, and if they are not, adjust until the sight picture is proper, then fire the shot. Since tempo is a significant part of speed shooting, holding the shot for that fraction of a second is really hard. Your body says "Shoot Now!" and your instantaneous sight picture says "Don't Shoot Yet!". For most of us the "Shoot Now" usually wins, and we miss the shot! That's where practice comes in, and learning to look for that instantaneous "Sight Picture Verification", and more importantly, learning not to ignore it and shoot anyway.

One of the things I like about true Steel Challenge competition is that each stage, or target layout, has something in it that challenges one specific aspect of fast and accurate shooting. Smoke & Hope, specifically challenges you to not forget to use your sights for that sight picture verification. There are four large plates close in, two on the left and two on the right. The stop plate is much smaller, and much farther away. A good point shooter can hit the first four quickly, but will often miss the stop plate since he will fail to switch back to using the sights for the last shot. Shooting that way also requires two sighting techniques, and changing from one to the other after the fourth plate.

On the other hand, using the point aim/quick verify/shoot method allows you to use the same technique for all five shots. With practice, LOTS of practice, the instantaneous verification can be as fast as straight point shooting on a stage like Smoke & Hope, as all you are looking for is to see that there's some "White" on the other side of your sights!

As I've said in previous posts, though, 95% or more of successful handgun shooting boils down to trigger control. A While back I was watching a shooter shooting with a Crimson Trace laser sight. I could see the laser dot on the plate just before the shot was fired, but his shots would often miss the plate. In pulling the trigger he was pulling the gun off the target. Without good trigger control it doesn't matter what other techniques you use. The top shooters all have incredible trigger control, and winning or losing boils down to the remaining elements.

The next time you see one of the pros running Smoke & Hope in sub two seconds and making it look easy, remember you are watching someone who has practiced that specific stage thousands and thousands of times. Not just shot it thousands of times, but "Practiced" it thousands of times. There IS a difference between just shooting and practicing, and that's a good topic for some other time!

Mr. Completely makes his home on Whidbey Island in Northwest Washington with his wife and fellow blogger, KeeWee. He organizes the annual Gun Blogger Rendezvous in Reno, Nevada, and also runs regular e-postal matches coordinated with other bloggers.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Colt Army Model 1860 Revolver

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I've always had a soft spot in my heart for sleek black powder revolvers. Old blued steel with an aged patina and smooth worn wooden grips just call out to me. They have history, and stories to tell. Samuel Colt's 19th century, single-barrel 5- and 6-shot revolvers revolutionized warfare and ended the "Wild" in the Wild West. If any inanimate object could be said to have a soul, it is these beauties.

In the hands of frontier law men, his pistols served justice-dead or alive. In the hands of outlaws, Colt pistols made legends of bushwhackers and bad guys.

And after much use before, during and after the Civil War, it was said of Colt's rotating cylinder invention and Samuel Colt, "Abe Lincoln may have freed all men, but Sam Colt made them equal."

Colt pistols, beginning with the Paterson of 1836, a collaborative effort between Samuel Colt and Texas Ranger Samuel Hamilton Walker, lead to the Colt Walker 1847 and the 1848 Colt Dragoon. And each revolver, in some small or great way, helped change the course of American history.

The Colt Army Model 1860, another blackpowder pistol, perhaps Colt's most stylish handgun, replaced the Dragoon and became a commercial success, selling nearly a quarter of a million units, mostly to the U.S. Army through the mid-1870s. The Model 1860 was produced from 1860 to 1873.

The Colt Army is a cap and ball, .44 caliber front-loading revolver common to the Civil War. Whereas the LeMat Grapeshot Revolver was used by Confederate forces, the Colt Army Model 1860 was the handgun of choice for Union troops. The Colt Army is chambered in .44 caliber, but its siblings, the Colt Navy, Model 1851 and 1861-virtually the same gun-are chambered in .36 caliber. The Navy-Army titles were handy monikers used for marketing effect by Colt-nothing more.

The Colt Army was favored by Union infantry, cavalry, artillery and even some naval personnel. Using a rear sight notch on the gun's hammer, most visible when the Colt Army Model 1860 was cocked and a front blade sight, skilled marksmen might expect accuracy out to 200 feet or more.

The Colt Army used lead ball or cone-shaped bullets measuring 0.454 inches in diameter. Colt Army revolvers used 30-plus grains of black powder, a lead bullet and a percussion cap, seated on the nipple, for each of its six chambers. A loading lever ram beneath the gun's barrel was used to seat the ball. The loading process-as with other blackpowder front-end loaders-was lengthy and not easily performed on horseback at a full trot. Thus, most cavalry carried several loaded pistols into the fray.

The Colt Army weighs about 2 1/2 pounds, unloaded, fully 2 pounds lighter than the Colt Walker. It measures 14 inches overall with an 8-inch barrel (some had a 7 1/2-inch barrel). Depending on the powder charge, the 138-grain lead round has a muzzle velocity of approximately 750 feet per second.

In Civil War enactments and Hollywood films depicting that period, the Colt Army Model 1860 is the most common stage prop handgun. In the film The Outlaw Josey Wales, Wales carries a Colt Army in his waistband, and the Model 1860 was variously used by others characters in that film.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cleaning Game In The Field

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It's almost deer season, and that means it's time to brush up on field dressing skills. It's sad, but many hunters I know have never field dressed their own kill. Instead they pay a guide to do all the dirty work. And I have to say, those guides earn every penny.

One of the truest adages about hunting that I have ever heard is that once that successful shot hits home, the fun is over. I have found this to be a fact with every kill I have ever made. Once that tag is clipped, the real work of the hunt begins, whether you are hunting for meat or for sport. The animal needs to be cleaned, cooled, and packed out, and having some of the right tools along is a great to make a tough job a little bit easier.

The most important tools when it comes to cleaning are your knives. A lot of people think that the bigger the knife, the better, but this is not always the case when dressing out game. The knife used will have to be easy to wield, because the last thing that you want to do while making that first cut is to pierce the stomach or intestines, because that is the surest way (next to touching the scent glands on deer) of spoiling the meat and ruining the hide. Big bowie knives are great for show and tell, but for the real hunter a smaller fixed blade will always be best. It goes without saying that the knife should be very sharp. Dull knives not only are more difficult to use, but they are sloppier due to the extra force needed to cut with one. Often knives can be purchased in sets, look for ones like the Triple Combo. These sets include a stout gutting knife as well as a good hide knife and a reliable skinning knife. All of these knives are essential when it comes to field dressing, and you will also want to make sure that the grip is a comfortable fit (Suregrip, etc.)

Next, make sure that you have a good saw packed along. This kit from Outdoor Edge (54628) is a set that includes both a knife and a small saw that will be helpful with smaller game and small bones on bigger animals, but nothing beats a good hacksaw that can be used as a meat saw on larger game. This will help get larger animals quartered into more packable pieces in the event that you have to carry it a long way.

A lot of kills are made around dusk, so many hunters will want to be sure that they have some kind of illumination that they can work with when night falls. D-battery Maglites are great illuminators but can be unwieldy when it comes to positioning them for dressing in the dark. Bulkier flashlights are better, and cordless spotlights with rechargeable batteries will work better still. I have found that nothing beats a headlamp such as the Enduro (59395) however, as the beam will follow your line of sight and make night dressing a snap.

When cleaning game, especially deer, you should always wear sterile gloves. This helps prevent the transmission of disease (chronic wasting disease in deer for example) or contaminants to you or the carcass. We carry Allen's Game Cleaning Kit that includes shoulder length gloves and an apron to help protect your hands and protect your clothes from getting stained by blood or entrails. Begin by using a scalpel or similar small sharp knife to make an incision from around the genitals, up the bally and across the chest past the sternum. Take care not to cut through to the body cavity. Peel the skin back from this incision about 4 to 6 inches to avoid getting any hair in the body cavity. Carefully slice around the rectum, taking care not to puncture the intestines any scent glands. Next, from your circumcision around the rectum, slice up to meet your initial incision and continue to slice open the body cavity. Use of a gut hook here is a great help in avoiding intestines, but you can use any sharp knife if you use care and pull tissue away from the body cavity while you cut. When you reach the sternum, a larger knife or bone saw is useful, especially on older bucks as the sternum can be very hard.

At this point you can open up the body cavity and begin to cut out the various organs. I prefer to start by carefully cutting and pulling out the entire alimentary canal (intestines and stomach) as a unit from our circumcision that we made earlier around the rectum. This way, the organs most likely to contaminate the kill are out of the way. You will need to reach up into the neck as high as possible to cut the esophagus. The alimentary canal should be discarded, but other organs such as the heart and can be kept at eaten. Continue removing all of the internal organs until the body cavity is empty, then irrigate (rinse out) the cavity to clean out any hair, dirt, debris, or organ remains that might be in there still.

Once you have dressed the animal, it is time to pack it out to camp or to your vehicle. You will need a lot of good rope, standard stuff such as this strong tow strap will always do. A stripped down backpack frame can make an ideal carrying case for quarters of meat when attached securely, and shorter bungees will help adjust the pack accordingly.

If the temperature is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, you can safely transport or hang the deer outside. Cooling the deer and hanging it over night can help make it easier to skin later. If it is warmer than 40 degrees, the carcass should be immediately put on ice or in a refrigerator as soon as possible. Obviously, if you are far out afield, you will simply need to transport the kill to a location where it can be cooled as quickly as possible. Cooling the carcass quickly reduces that "gamey" meat taste, and reduces the amount of bacterial contamination in the meat.

Dressing and packing out a kill is definitely one of the tougher aspect of the hunt, but once it is accomplished easily with the right equipment, all that is left is to spin tales of the adventure to your friends and family.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The True Cost of California's Ammunition Restrictions

The Austin Gun Rights Examiner has picked up the story on the true cost of California's ammunition restrictions, and Cheaper Than Dirt! was asked to contribute to the article.

The NSSF predicts that California ammunition costs will “dramatically increase” under the new law, but they see no negative impact on prices elsewhere.
AB 962 may also result in ammunition inventory issues nationwide through next June.

The NSSF says that ammunition manufacturers are already working at full capacity. As far as manufacturer’s deciding whether the last year’s increased demand is an aberration or trend, NSSF says “the jury is still out.” This means that there are no planned increases in production in the foreseeable future.

Cheaper Than Dirt fulfills the needs of shooters and outdoorsmen via their extensive hard-copy catalogues, online and phone sales, and online community. Currently, California accounts for 8% of their ammunition sales. They are experiencing persistent supply shortages in many handgun ammunition calibers: .380, 9mm, .32, .38, and .45 are all in “very short supply.”

Cheaper Than Dirt has not yet seen a demand spike in California, but says that since the residents of California have until February 2011 before the new law takes effect, they anticipate increased demand beginning around November 2010, when the reality of the law sets in.

California’s new ammunition registration is not simply one state’s issue. It will have harmful consequences for years to come for all of us:

  • Any price increases caused by AB 962 create an effective functional gun ban by pricing ammunition out of the reach of poor and middle class families, who must choose between feeding their children and protecting them from predators.
  • Resources used to advance our civil right of self-defense will be drawn off to counter proposals for this new “sensible” gun law in other states.
  • Mail order ammunition vendors may be at risk of losing enough sales to force them out of business, or force them to raise prices to remain profitable, negatively impacting all of us.
  • Ammunition prices, just starting to level off and drop, may be hit with a new wave of fear-based buying, driving prices to new highs.
  • This money, in turn, will not be available as contributions to pro-rights organizations in our continuing fight to restore the Second Amendment.

AB 962 was a major victory for the anti-rights crowd, whose goal is to leave you defenseless against violent predators. Anybody still sitting on the sidelines is effectively sitting on their head.

Go read the whole thing - this new law restricting internet sales of ammunition will affect more than just the folks living there. We need to be aware of what affects this law will have on ammunition availability in the future as well.

Guest Post- FerFal: The World is NOT going to End

Today we feature blogger Fernando “FerFal” Aguirre from the blog Surviving Argentina who writes some more on The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI). Preparing for catastrophe is all well and good, but Fer Fal agrees with Commander Zero: The world isn't just going to quickly devolve into some post-apocalyptic landscape populated by zombies and a few survivalists. Here's what he has to say:
Just so we are on the same page here, and given the new surge (once again) of fatalist doom and gloom: The World is NOT going to end.

Even if the US Economy crashes, the world is NOT going to end.
Even if there are eventually riots and uprisings because of the growing poverty, no, the world is NOT going to end.
Even if terrorists manage to detonate a nuke on US soil, the world is NOT going to end. Nukes have blown up cities in much weaker countries before and they survived, the United States will do so as well.
Why am I saying this? Because doom worshiping just isn’t helpful. It isn’t. It just disconnects you from the world around you and creates a distorted version of reality.

There’s enough bad news around to get us all worried. This blog itself, by the nature of the issues covered, revolves around current bad news and how to deal with them, the essential thing being, working on the solution, not getting absorbed by the problem. USA is heading for some rough times, it’s already going through them, and it’s just the beginning. Things will change, not Obama “change” but another kind that no a single person will like. But the end of the world? No people, I don’t think so. Anything can happen. I mean, no one holds the crystal ball of divination. A meteor can blow us to pieces or a genetically boosted biological weapon may kill us all. It’s all within the real of possibility. And then Britney Spears may one day go to med school, be good at it, and find the cure for cancer, but I doubt many of you will hold your breath on that one.

Empires have fallen. Terrible things have happened but the world has not ended. You have Katrina, 9/11 and there are a thousand other events through out history that have been much worse. Learn from history folks, learn from previous events and come to your own conclusions.

There are people who have been anticipating (promising?) the end of the world since the 60’s. Every decade or every couple of years there’s a new excuse, some new reason why the end of the world is just around the corner. USA is heading for some rough times and people will adapt. They wont have a choice. Preparing for it will make such a process less painful, less of a surprise. But you don’t need all that negativity, you don’t need to run to the hills and hide in a hole fearing the boogieman.
Life will just go and those that fall for the doom and gloom will have a miserable existence while those that keep a positive attitude will have rich, enjoyable lives.
When things are ok, you can afford to have a few affairs with depression and “the end of the world” mentality. But during hard times you can’t. When you lose your job and have to put food on the table and pay the bills, when you go looking for a job to do so and spend months getting up and going to job interviews, waiting in line along with 50 other candidates for jobs people didn’t even bother with before, you need all the positive mindset you can muster.

Doomers will find out how little fun all this is. Bills keep coming, food prices keep going up, the dentist and pediatrician still doesn’t accept a pair of handmade boots as a form of payment, and well, Raiders never showed up, you never managed to make a living by scavenging the ruins of Walmart, or providing protection to a merchant caravan. It’s life as its always been, only worse regarding some aspects. Tougher and less forgiving… especially less forgiving regarding wrong decisions, buying stuff that was supposed to be worth “its weight in gold” but never turned out to be. Even less forgiving would be moving to that spot on the map that is just perfect according to the fallout charts and is the least likely sport for Martians to land on… but which lacks job opportunities, and most of the small towns near by will just go bankrupt and die during long term recession.

There are going to be changes. Not changes that fit your desires but realistic changes, changes that wont fit you like a glove. Changes that aren’t fair, because you wont get away with what you thought you would… after the end of the world. These will be realistic changes: You might even say they are changes you can believe in.

Fernando "FerFAL" Aguirre

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.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

AB962 - California Ammunition Restrictions

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There's been a lot of hubbub over the newly signed legislation in California that restricts ammunition sales. Governor Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill 962 into law on Monday. This law contains many new regulations on ammunition sales. We've boiled the new law down to its essence and are presenting it here in a much simplified form.

Under the recently passed Ammo Restriction bill (named "Anti-Gang Neighborhood Protection Act of 2009"), the following changes to the law will occur. These changes will go into effect starting February 1, 2011.

  1. Registration and finger printing of handgun Ammo Purchasers

  2. Mandatory Storage & Display Requirements for Ammo Dealers

  3. Ban on the Sale of Handgun Ammo through the Internet or mail order

  • The bill would prohibit supplying or delivering, as specified, handgun ammunition to prohibited persons, as described, by persons or others who know, or by using reasonable care should know, that the recipient is a person prohibited from possessing ammunition or a minor prohibited from possessing ammunition, as specified. Violation of these provisions is a misdemeanor with specified penalties.

  • The bill would provide, subject to exceptions, that commencing February 1, 2011, the delivery or transfer of ownership of handgun ammunition may only occur in a face-to-face transaction, with the deliverer or transferor being provided bona fide evidence of identity of the purchaser or other transferee. A violation of these provisions would be a misdemeanor.

NRA is planning the repeal of AB 962: NRA and Assemblyman Hagman have agreed to amend his own already pro-gun AB373 into legislation that would repeal AB962. The newly amended AB373 will be heard in the State Legislature in January of 2010.

Cheaper Than Dirt! will keep you up-to-date with as much information about this situation as we possibly can. Please let us know if you have any questions about any of this.

Guest Post: Commander Zero on Preparedness and the "Blood In The Streets Scenario"

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In recent months we've seen a surge in people preparing for... something. Preparedness is all fine and good, but what are we preparing for? Many talk about "blood in the streets" and the need to stock up on ammunition and firearm components, but how likely is that scenario?

Commander Zero of the Notes From The Bunker blog wrote recently about this and more, and is our guest blogger this week. Here's his take.

I finally got back my copy of “One Second After” the other day, but not before lack of new reading material got me thumbing through a copy of “Lucifer’s Hammer”. (And if theres a difference between the last two thirds of both of those books, I cant see it.) Books like that make a person wonder what the end of the world will actually look like. I’m probably the most optimistic survivalist you’ll ever meet. Of course, at the same time I hedge my bets. Someone was saying to me the other day that they were talking to someone who firmly and passionately believed that, by Crom, it was all going to come to a head by December and there’d be blood in the streets. Who knows? We all have beliefs that other people may think are ludicrous but make perfect sense to us. Space aliens, global warming, religion, conspiracy theories, etc, etc….you name it and someone somewhere believes in it with the same conviction they have that the sun will come up tomorrow. (Although, to be sure, there’s probably a few folks around who will happily take money against that.)

Do I really, genuinely, honestly believe that there will be some huge Bosnia-esque civil war with armband-wearing factions running around with stolen military weaponry leading a great revolution against [insert nefarious cause/organization/person here]? No, I do not. I would sooner believe that a comet will hit the Pacific Ocean and wipe out California than believe that you would get a coast-to-coast widescale shooting war in this country. Why? Well, for one thing, by and large, most Americans are simply too lazy. We have our houses, our cars, our mortgages and our jobs…to risk all that you would have to genuinely believe that not only is your cause a righteous one but that it’s a winnable one. While there are certainly plenty of people who probably do believe they could foment a successful armed revolution in this country I think its extremely unlikely that there are enough of them to amount to anything bigger than a Shay’s Rebellion type of scenario. Armed uprising? In all states? With tens of thousands of armed citizens willing to throw away everything they’ve worked for in their lives and face the rest of their lives in jail if they don’t succeed? Nope…not seeing it. (Because, unlike Shays Rebellion, there ain't gonna be any amnesty.)

Sure, there are plenty of people in this community with sig lines that say things like “vote from the rooftops” or “Soap box, ballot box, cartridge box…in that order” and other pithy bumper sticker slogans. And some of them may mean it quite seriously. But are there enough people who genuinely believe that to pick up a rifle, kiss the wife goodbye, march off to wherever, and join some partisan army of thousands who think the same way? I doubt it very much. It’s happened in other countries, to be sure, but the motivation…the catalyst…for those incidents was much more pronounced than whatever affront we currently feel we are being forced to face. Quite simply, things are not bad enough to really make huge numbers of people want to sacrifice everything they have in their life at this point and in that manner.

Keep in mind, though, I'm talking about a nationwide type of insurrection (or revolution or civil war or whatever you want to call it). On a local, smaller level…well, that’s a completely different story. Smaller venue, smaller forces. Still awfully unlikely though. And there’s still the usual race/class riots but, again, that’s usually quite localized.

No, I think that when the big event(s) take place it’ll be something, anything, other than some enormous citizen uprising that tries to ‘restore’ or ‘replace’ the current government. Earthquakes, hurricanes, riots, depression, hamthrax, economic collapse, terrorist nukes, etc. all seem far more likely than some sort of replay of the Revolutionary War. As an aside, it is interesting to note that while we think of the American revolution as something that swept up everyone in a united cause against the British the facts are that while there were Loyalists and there were those wanting independence there were far, far more who simply just wanted to live their lives, which were already difficult enough, without buying more trouble. I suspect that’s quite true today.

Where do I sit on that? Well, I’m all for ‘reforming’ or changing a few faces in the .gov and there are plenty of ways to do that that don’t involve marshalling an army. It’s a lot easier to put together $100k for opposition campaigning and a good smear job than it is to put together $100k for munitions and remote operating bases. Heck, we’ve just seen that a guy with a radio show can get people punted out of national-level positions…that’s a lot easier than convincing 500 people to run off into the woods and sacrifice their lives for a cause they cant be certain they’ll win. At this point, I’d say that money and media will change government faster and more effectively than any armed insurrection will.

So will it all come to a head by December as this fella opined? Maybe, but not in the form of revolution or armed uprising. Maybe in December the bottom will fall out of the stock market and we will enter a depression, maybe we all get hamthrax and die, maybe an earthquake turns Nevada into oceanfront property. What I will guarantee will not happen is a parade of armed citizenry marching down the boulevards banging drums and waving banners urging people to enlist and ‘take back’ their country by force.

I think by December you're just going to see more of the same of whats going on right now…political shenanigans, economic gloom, unemployment and blame games.

Commander Zero makes his home in Montana with his wife where he is an active member in the preparedness community. You can visit his blog at

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Preserving Your Antique Arms Collection

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Many of our customers have very old firearms that they inherit from loved ones. A common question we get is, "How do I care for my antique firearm?" We found a fantastic guide to firearm preservation from the Springfield National Historic Site and National Park Service (courtesy of Say Uncle) that has a very good overview on caring for your antique firearm.

Preserving Your Antique Arms Collection

The following are very conservative guidelines to help you care for a collection that you wish to preserve for as long as possible and will never be fired. Methods recommended here may not be the most efficient. What may work beautifully in one situation can be a disaster in another. The following advice is limited in scope and cannot cover every possible situation.

A. Preventive Care
1. Environment ·

  • Avoid dramatic swings in relative humidity (RH). Try to keep stable between 40 and 50%.

  • Consistency is more important than precise maintenance of a specific RH reading.

  • RH control is most critical because of an unusual physical property of wood called anisotropy. Wood cells expand or contract very differently in response to changes in relative humidity -- depending on their specific grain orientation (axial, transverse, or radial) in the log from which they came. Large swings in RH can result in cracks caused by compression-set shrinkage.

  • If humidity remains fairly constant, changes in temperature make little difference to either metal or wood – better to concentrate on controlling relative humidity. A rapid rise in indoor temperature can pull the moisture out of the environment (including your artifact), causing a drop in RH. Cell shrinkage and cracking or splitting can occur.

2. Handling

  • Wear gloves when handling your collection. No protective coating – appropriate for conserving an artifact -- (see below) can stand up for long against repeated bare-handed handling. Best thing is to always wear gloves. Nitrile examination gloves are recommended when cleaning and coating your collection. Once an item has been coated, wear plain cotton gloves.

3. Housekeeping

  • Keep dust-free. Dust can trap moisture increasing the likelihood of corrosion occurring.

  • Do not use commercial dust cloths. They often leave an oil film behind. Oil films trap dust. Dust traps and collects water vapor in the air.

  • When dusting, use a soft cotton cloth very lightly dampened with water

  • Without moisture, dust merely gets shoved around and will not be picked up.

  • Do not use alcohol of any kind when dusting or cleaning a stock. It can skin or strip an historic finish.

  • Dry immediately with a clean cloth.

  • Never use liquid or spray dusting products. Most leave mineral oil behind, which traps dust. Dust traps and collects moisture. Starting to see a pattern?

4. Storage / Display

  • Narrow hooks or loops of wire should not be used to support collection pieces either in storage or on display. The weight of most long arms on such devices is sufficient to result in indentations in their stock at the points of contact.

  • Use broad, padded supports. We use thin sheets of a closed-cell Polyethylene foam material to pad our display fixtures.

  • To avoid mold and mildew during long-term storage -- avoid at least two of the three conditions known to promote bloom outbreaks:

    • elevated temperature

    • still air, and

    • elevated humidity.

B. Cleaning and Coating Historic Firearms
1. Cleaning Wood Stocks

  • Separate wooden and metal parts. They are cleaned and coated differently.

  • Unless absolutely necessary, leave unfinished interior wooden surfaces alone.

  • Clean exterior of stock as follows:

    • Use a few drops of a mild detergent in a gallon of warm, distilled water, applied with a slightly damp soft cloth, and rinsed with clean cloths dampened with distilled water.

    • Dry with soft cloths immediately after rinsing.

    • Clean again with mineral spirits, using a soft cloth to apply. Work in fresh air or a well-ventilated area.

    • Avoid using “oil soaps” as they can becaustic and may damage an historic oiled surface.

2. Cleaning Barrels and Other Metal Parts. Please note: It is essential to practice any new technique on a sacrificial piece first, before applying it to something irreplaceable.

  • Use nylon or animal-bristle bore brushes. Wherever possible, avoid using brass or steel brushes. Such hard materials can scratch, but also might (under certain conditions) cause galvanic (bi-metallic) corrosion (specifically when using a copper-alloy brush on ferrous metals) by leaving a slight metallic smear behind.

  • Use mineral spirits to soften accretions. Work in fresh air or well-ventilated area. Are there other solvents that are “stronger”? Yes, but they are difficult to work with safely.

  • Swab clean with a cloth patch.

  • Use only extremely fine abrasives such as oil-free 0000 steel wool . Use only if absolutely necessary to remove stubborn rust deposits or other accretions. Work slowly and watch constantly for any changes to the surface. There is always an element of risk in such work. If you are at all uncertain, hire a conservator before causing irreversible damage.

  • When cleaning brass parts, never use products that contain ammonia. Ammonia can damage old copper alloy materials by corroding them from the inside out. In addition, such products may include abrasives which may prove too harsh. Elbow grease and mineral spirits should be tried first. If something slightly stronger is needed, try applying small amounts of wet tooth powder with a cotton swab and rinse with water.

  • A general comment about commercial rust removers. The problem is that most rust removers can’t tell the difference between iron oxide and iron metal, and will leave an etched surface even where there is no rust. Some products seem to come close. Often they require extremely close attention and precision – too much for most of us.

  • Most surface rust can be removed by first lubricating the area with a light penetrating oil and cleaving it off with a sharp scalpel held at a very low angle to the metal. It requires close attention, a steady hand, and some patience, but if you are careful, you will probably get most – if not all – of the surface rust off without leaving a scratch. When done, remove any remaining oil with mineral spirits.

3. Disassembly and Reassembly

  • If you are organized and systematic -- you should be able to safely disassemble and reassemble most firearms successfully.

  • Probe the floor of every external screw slot with a sharp point held at a very low angle. It’s amazing how much dirt can be packed into a “clean-looking” slot. All foreign matter must be removed for the screwdriver to do its best, safest work. .

  • A good selection of screwdrivers is a must. Their tips must be matched perfectly to each slot in order to maximize the area of mechanical contact. Taking this precaution will minimize slippage and the scratching and scarring that can result. The internal shapes of screw slots have changed a lot since their invention and screwdriver tips often have to be ground or filed in order to get a good match. Keep this in mind when regrinding a screwdriver’s tip.

  • There are many publications that offer exploded drawings and disassembly/reassembly tips.

4. Coating Stocks

  • Wood is neither thirsty nor hungry. It is usually covered by a finish which may have become corrupted in some way, making it look “dry.” The wood beneath the finish does not need to be “fed”, (despite what wood-care product commercials may claim).

  • Never put oil of any kind on an historic finish. There may well be unintended but permanently damaging consequences to ignoring this advice.

  • A cautionary word about linseed oil.

    • Linseed oil takes forever to dry and will trap dust. (It will not stop water penetration either).

    • When linseed oil oxidizes, its molecules cross-link with one another, making it increasingly more difficult to remove as time passes.

    • Oxidized linseed oil (linoleic acid) eventually becomes linoxin, better-known commercially as Linoleum! Repeated, or seasonal, applications eventually develop into a surface that can look like very dark brown alligator skin, and can become almost impossible to remove.

    • Applying a modern finish over an equivalent historic finish can forever confuse the finish “history” of a stock by making it difficult, if not impossible, to tell what (if anything) is original, and what is a restoration material – even with an analytical microscope. Therefore, you would not want to touch up, say, a shellac finish with shellac. Use paste waxes only: i.e., carnauba-based furniture waxes on wood stocks. Avoid wax mixtures which include a high percentage of bee’s wax. They are not especially harmful, but are relatively soft (fingerprint easily) and can be slightly acidic.

5. Coating Metals (this advice is strictly for guns which have been “retired” from use and will never be fired.)

  • Avoid using oils. They are not the best material for long-term protection of collection pieces as they trap dust and dirt, eventually break down and have to be periodically replaced. A high-quality light oil is fine for maintaining a gun you still shoot, though.

  • Use a microcrystalline wax as a protective coating. They are practically inert, remaining stable for a very long time. Apply and buff out with a soft cloth or brush – inside and out.

  • Brass parts can also be coated with wax such as an acrylic spray lacquer because it is easily removed with solvents but bonds especially well to copper-alloy metals, and will withstand more abuse and last longer than wax.

6. Minor Stock Repairs

  • If a split or detached piece of a stock must be repaired, use an adhesive that is both strong and reversible (i.e. can be safely removed at any time in the future). There is only one: traditional hide glue.

  • Do not proceed if there is evidence that the damaged site has been previously repaired. In this case, consult a conservator.

  • Unless you work with hide glue every day – make it up fresh in small amounts as needed. It doesn’t take long to prepare and it will do a better job than using old glue. Hot hide glue is preferable to liquid hide glue as it is less affected by humidity.

  • Dampen the area to be glued with hot water. Blot the area and wait a few minutes. Then apply hot glue to both surfaces with a brush and clamp immediately. An appropriate clamp can be as simple as a few pieces of masking tape, rubber bands, bicycle tire strips, or small padded weights. Use the least force needed to do the job.

  • Clamps can usually be removed in a few hours, but it takes at least 24 hours for the repair to fully harden. · Excess glue can be removed with a lint-free cloth dampened with hot water. The best time to do this is usually right after removing clamps.

7. If you still need help

  • Seek the services of a professional conservator.

    • Contact the American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works (AIC) for a referral.

    • There are few, if any, conservators who treat nothing but firearms. Look for an “Objects” Conservator with experience working with metal and the other materials (wood, celluloid, leather, etc.) that are part of your artifact.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Customizing the Ruger 10/22 .22 Long Rifle

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The Ruger 10/22, in its standard form, has remained mostly unchanged since Ruger introduced it in 1964. It has remained the most popular .22 Long Rifle over the past 40 years. The 10/22 boasts an abundance of aftermarket accessories for the owner to personalize his/her rifle. Let's take a look at some of the options you have when to customizing your Ruger 10/22.

One of the most popular ways to customize your 10/22 is to replace the stock. Aftermarket manufactures have risen to the occasion by supplying Ruger owners with a variety of stock options. The most popular aftermarket stock, the TAPCO Intrafuse T6, gives the 10/22 an adjustable M-4 style buttstock and a SAW-style pistol grip, as well as rails on the bottom of the forearm and top barrel cover. It is available in several popular colors. Ram-Line (13270) and Butler Creek (23871) both offer synthetic folding stocks for easy storage of your rifle. Ram-Line (93183), Butler Creek (24673) and Hogue (RGR-220) all have synthetic Monte Carlo stocks for a classic look. For those that need the adjustability of the M-4 type stock with a folding capability, ATI offers a folding 6-position stock for the Ruger 10/22. It has the added feature of a removable, adjustable cheekrest. This is just a small sample of the stocks available. Thereare a number of manufactures that produce custom wooden stocks in any imaginable configuration and style for the 10/22 owner.

Barrel And Receiver Upgrades
With the Ruger 10/22, the ease of changing out the barrel has made barrel swaps a very popular upgrade. Usually the stock barrel is replaced with a barrel that has a heavier contour. There are as many options for barrels as there are stocks for this rifle. Some of the more popular choices are the target barrels from Butler Creek, available in 20" length, smooth or fluted, with 416 stainless steel or 4150 carbon-blued steel finishes. They are even available ported. Magnum Research and others offer carbon-fiber barrels for the ultimate in weight savings and cooling performance. Other companies offer aluminum sleeved barrels, threaded barrels, shorter barrels and even barrels with special twist rates for stabilizing 60-grain subsonic bullets or hyper-velocity loads. For those that want a one-step, quick and easy upgrade, Butler Creek packages its heavy barrel with its synthetic Monte Carlo stock.

When wearing gloves or if you're in a hurry, a handy item to have on your Ruger 10/22 is an oversized cocking handle. The oversized cocking handle gives you more area to grip. An oversize magazine release extends further than the Ruger factory magazine release making it more easily accessible for magazine changes or clearing malfunctions. The Auto Bolt Release eliminates the need for two-handed bolt release required with the factory bolt release. It is an instant, no-fumble way to release the bolt in your gun. When the bolt is held open, just a slight pull on the bolt handle will release the bolt. A Recoil Buffer will cushion the shock of the bolt hitting a metal surface on recoil. It does away with that annoying clunking sound and can add years of life to your gun's action. As with the stock and barrel combos all these items are available in one convenient package.

Many 10/22 owners put a scope on the rimfire, but for some, iron sights are the only way to go. As with everything else on the 10/22, there are upgrades for the factory sights. Williams offers its rear Peep sight in combination with a front FireSight as well as their FireSight front and rear set. TruGlo has a red front and green rear fiber optic sight set that increases visibility and accuracy in low-light shooting conditions for the Ruger 10/22. The HiViz front and rear combo sight set features a folding leaf-style rear sight and a front dovetail sight that has interchangeable fiber optics in green and red colors with different bead sizes.

Magazines are the lifeline of any semi-automatic firearm. For your Ruger, the factory magazines are always a good bet. Still, larger capacity magazines are almost a must for a good plinking session. The Ruger factory magazines are reliable and easy to find, but for some, are lacking in capacity. For extra-capacity magazines, the standard for years has been the 25-round Butler Creek Hot Lips or Steel Lips model magazines, also available in 10-round capacity. Black Dog Machine offers a 25-round magazine that is also an excellent choice. Whichever type of magazine you choose, be sure to stock up on them for easy plinking fun.

Rail Systems
Picatinny or MIL-STD-1913 rails have recently become more and more popular for all gun types, including the Ruger 10/22. Leapers/UTG offers a rail system for the Ruger that utilizes the factory stock or your favorite after-market stock. The .22 Commando Tactical Quad Rail is an affordable tactical solution, offering endless options of scopes, flashlights, lasers, bipods or foregrips on your 10/22.

For those who want more customization than replacing the stock or adding a rail system can give you, there are several companies offering conversions for your 10/22. Magnum Research and others have conversion kits allowing you to change your .22 LR to a .17 Mach 2 caliber. Based on the .22 Long Rifle rimfire case, the .17 Mach 2 (.17M2) is necked down to a 17-grain, .17-caliber Hornady V-Max bullet and is powered to a nominal 2100 fps velocity, nearly 70 percent faster than a standard-velocity .22 LR. At 175 yards, the .17M2 is still going faster than a .22 LR at the muzzle. The .17M2 will turn your little plinker into a screamer.

Conversion Kits
C&S Metall-Werks is one company that offers a conversion that completely changes your 10/22. Their Krinker-Plinker is a complete conversion kit for your Ruger 10/22 to turn it into a miniature AKS-74U "Krinkov." The Krinker-Plinker is a true transformation, using original military AK-74 parts and stamped, molded, cast and CNC-machined pieces. It's easy to install in just 20 minutes. The Krinker-Plinker is a great way to differentiate your 10/22 from the all the others.

For those who lean more towards the M16 than the AK-47, the Nordic Components AR-22 stock kit makes the 10/22 ergonomically identical to the AR-15 and works by simply bolting on to the barreled-action of your standard Ruger 10/22. The stock kit accepts standard AR-15 components (butt stock, grip, and hand guard) to complete the conversion process. This is a great idea for training that effectively mimics your AR, but using the less expensive .22 LR ammunition.

Learn More About the 10/22
As a final word, if you want to get to know your Ruger better, On-Target Productions has created affordable DVD's for all gun owners. These informative DVD's feature Larry Shields, who is a renowned firearms expert. Larry shows you the intricate details of the Ruger 10/22 and teaches you the proper ways to disassemble and reassemble them in less than an hour.