Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Airsoft Practice for Maintaining Shooting Skills

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I've been shooting a lot of IDPA matches lately. I used to shoot them every week, but a change in my schedule three years ago meant that I would not be able to compete as much. What was worse, the new schedule seriously cut into my available range time.

Now that I can get out and shoot more, it's become painfully obvious how much my shooting ability has declined. Like they say - "Use it or lose it."So, I've developed a new routine to ensure that I can get 30 minutes of practice a day. No, I didn't suddenly win the lotto so that I could afford enough ammunition to practice every day. I'm not even going to the range. Using dry-fire practice and airsoft replicas, I'm practicing at home.

One of the biggest impediments to consistent regular practice is the cost of ammunition. We've seen a significant spike in ammunition prices in the past couple of years. Ideally, I'd like to practice with live ammunition on a range, but the reality is that ammunition costs would be prohibitively expensive. Nothing beats being able to shoot and move with a pistol and live ammunition, but airsoft replicas can come close.

Many different models of airsoft guns are available, and most are exact replicas of actual firearms. Pistols like this Walther P99 are faithfully recreated in airsoft form. Many even have reciprocating slides that lock back after the last shot. But the best part is, airsoft ammunition is incredibly inexpensive.

While an airsoft gun may not duplicate the recoil of an actual pistol, training with them can still be useful for the first shot. Using an airsoft pistol, you can easily practice drawing from concealment and engaging a target with the first shot.

The other reason people cite for not practicing is a lack of time. There's no easy answer here - if you want to improve, you simply must set aside the time to practice. Practicing at home is at least a partial solution to the time problem. Considering the amount of time it takes to pack up your gear for the range, drive there, drive back, unload and clean your firearms (you do clean them after every range trip, right?) the time saved can easily be an hour or more.

Even still - practicing at home can only provide you with so much. There is no way to accurately practice followup shots at home - for that you need to be at a range. Practicing double-taps and Mozambique drills (two to the chest, one to the head) pretty much requires the use of live ammunition in order to allow you to train to handle muzzle climb and bring the front sight back down onto the target.

The reason that you need live ammunition to practice follow-up shots is that when you practice, you are training muscle memory. The reason for repetition drills is to ingrain the proper motion into your brain until it becomes instinctual, requiring no conscious thought to perform perfectly. If you train using practice equipment that does not work exactly as the real deal, you will be ingraining the wrong muscle memory and your performance will suffer. For this reason, limit drills at home using airsoft or dry-firing to "first shot" drills - ones that stop after the first shot.

This won't help you on your splits, but believe it or not, that's not where most speed is made up. Most of the time spent in practical shooting competition is drawing from the holster, reloading, and maneuvering. Fast shooting looks cool, but if you spend 8 seconds on a reload, it doesn't matter how close your slits are. It's the complex actions of drawing and reloading that eat up most of the time. Luckily, airsoft and dry-fire practice is very effective at improving your speed in drawing and reloading. Practicing these actions at home will increase your performance enormously.

Experts say that it takes 10,000 repetitions before something becomes so ingrained that it can be done effortlessly and perfectly without thought. That's a lot of practice. What's worse, if you don't continue to practice regularly, those skills will fade. Utilizing airsoft replicas and dry-fire practice at home for just 30 minutes a day can help you improve and maintain your shooting skills.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Kel-Tec Announces New .22WMR Handgun, the PMR-30

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Kel-Tec today announced the newest gun to their lineup, the PMR-30 pistol chambered in .22WMR. The P30 is a double stack semiautomatic pistol that has a 30 round magazine.

From Their Press Release:

Kel-Tec PMR-30

Kel-Tec To Unveil PMR-30 at 2010 SHOT show. Click image to view full size.
The PMR-30 is a light weight, full size pistol chambered for the flat-shooting .22Magnum cartridge (.22WMR). The PMR-30 operates on a unique hybrid blowback/locked-breech system. This operation system allows for the use of a wide variety of ammunition as it seamlessly adjusts between locked breach and blowback
operation, depending on the pressure of the cartridge. It uses a double stack magazine of a new design that holds 30 rounds and fits completely in the grip of the pistol.
The trigger is a crisp single action with an over-travel stop. The manual safety is a thumb activated ambidextrous safety lever (up for SAFE, down for FIRE). The slide locks back after the last shot and a manual slide lock lever is also provided. The light, crisp trigger pull and fiber optic sights make the PMR-30 ideal for target shooting and hunting small game.

Slide and barrel are 4140 steel, frame is 7075 aluminum. Grip, slide cover, trigger, mag release, and safety levers are glass reinforced Nylon (Zytel), much like other Kel-Tec Pistols. Magazine is Also Zytel and holds 30 rounds, with round count ports. Other features include: dual opposing extractors for reliability, heel magazine release to aid in magazine retention, dovetailed aluminum front sight, Picatinny accessory rail under the barrel, Urethane recoil buffer, captive coaxial recoil springs. The barrel is
fluted for light weight and effective heat dissipation. PMR30 disassembles for cleaning by removal of a single pin.

Expected Availability: Quarter 2, 2010
Expected MSRP: $415
Caliber: .22 Magnum (.22WMR)
Barrel length 4.3”
Length: 7.9”
Height: 5.8”
Grip Width: 1.1”
Max width, across safety levers: 1.3”
Magazine capacity: 30 rounds
Trigger pull: 3.5 to 5 lbs
Weight (no mag): 13.6 oz.
Muzzle Velocity (40 gr): 1230 fps
Made in USA
More info will be available at the SHOT show 2010 Kel-Tec Booth (#2825)

Kel-Tec PMR-30

The New Kel-Tec PMR-30, Photo Courtesy Oleg Volk. Click to view full size.

It's really no surprise that Kel-Tec is finally releasing (or should I say, re-releasing?) the PMR-30. Swedish designer George Kellgren initially designed the Grendel P30 .22 Magnum autoloader. Now, it's been rehashed and re released as the Kel-Tec PMR-30.

Many of Kel-Tec's guns share an incredible number of similarities with Kellgren's Grendel designs. Comparing the Grendel P10 with the Kel-Tec P3AT for example one can see how the P10 was essentially a prototype for the now famous P3AT. Redesigning the Grendel P30 into the new PMR-30 seems only natural

The Grendel was not the first autoloader to fire the .22WMR. AMT (now sold by High Standard) designed a very elegant pistol for the cartridge back in the mid 1970s, the Automag II. In 2007 Excel Industries also released their own .22 Magnum pistol. Like the Automag II, the Excel MP-22 also uses a single stack magazine.

There's a reason that semiautomatic handguns chambered in .22 Magnum are rare. Engineering an autoloader for that cartridge is no easy feat. The .22WMR cartridge has some unique characteristics which make it difficult to work with in an autoloader. It was initially designed as a rifle cartridge, and as such is generally loaded with slow burning rifle powder. This causes the cartridge to develop a late peak pressure, which leads to the possibility of the case mouth expanding and jamming in the chamber.

Grendel P30, Source Unkown

George Kellgren's Grendel P30, source unkown

The Grendel P30 utilized a fluted chamber to facilitate better extraction, while the engineers at AMT took a different approach. They drilled 18 holes at 90 degrees to the chamber, and then welded a larger sleeve around that to provide room for excess gasses to vent. No word yet on what approach the engineers at Kel-Tec in the P30 chamber design, though presumably they will use the same fluted chamber design as the Grendel.

The Grendel P30 also had a double stack Zytel plastic magazine, which the Kel-Tec P30 also appears to use.

Kellgren also designed a carbine model of the Grendel P30, designated the R31. Presumably we can look forward to Kel-Tec releasing a carbine companion to their new PMR-30 pistol sometime in the not too distant future.

More photos are available over at Oleg Volk's Gallery

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Handgun Safeties

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Since the invention of the first commercially viable autoloading handgun, the P08 Luger designed by Georg Luger, handgun safeties have been a ubiquitous part of handgun design. The purpose of a safety mechanism on pistols is to prevent the handgun from firing when you don't want it to.

Early revolvers lacked any safety mechanism. The hammer in these revolvers needed to be rested down on an empty chamber so that the pistol would not fire when jostled, dropped, or struck. With the advent of the firing pin mechanism in autoloading pistols a device was needed to prevent the firing pin from striking the primer of a chambered round if the pistol was dropped or struck.

There are three main types of handgun safeties. The first are internal safeties, usually implemented in the form of some type of firing pin block. These are usually integrated into the action of the pistol. Some late model revolvers used hammer blocks that would prevent the hammer from striking a round unless the trigger was pulled. Others types of firing pin blocks include pins and levers that secure the firing pin until the trigger is pulled.

Grip safeties prevent the handgun from firing unless it is gripped in a proper firing position. Grip safeties come in a variety of forms. Some grip safeties come in the form of a lever on the backstrap of a pistol which is depressed when the handgun is gripped properly. Glock pistols (and a number of Glock variants such as the Springfield XD) have a unique safety system that utilizes a small lever on the trigger itself. This could be considered a form of grip safety, since the gun will not fire unless the trigger is properly engaged and pulled. We can also include magazine disconnect safeties in this group which prevent the pistol from being fired unless a magazine is properly inserted, as an autoloading handgun without a magazine inserted could not be considered to be in a proper firing configuration.

Active safeties are switches or levers that, unless flipped to the firing position, prevent the gun from firing. All 1911 style pistols, as well as many other styles of modern handguns, use this type of safety. Most active safeties fall into two categories: frame mounted and slide mounted. Slide mounted safeties, such as the one commonly found on the Beretta 92 and M9 pistol can function as a decocker as well. A decocker is a device that safely lowers the hammer on a pistol without pulling the trigger. Frame mounted safeties such as that found on 1911 style pistols have the advantage over slide mounted safeties of being easier to use. Most frame mounted safeties have better ergonomics that allow shooters to instinctively disengage the safety as they grip the firearm. Additionally, it's possible for slide mounted safeties to be inadvertently switched on or off while racking the slide.

So, are pistols with safeties really safer? Despite their name, safeties do not make a firearm more or less safe. Safe operation of a pistol depends on the user, not any mechanical device on the firearm. Passive firing pin blocks and grip safeties generally contribute to the overall safety of a firearm as they make the it unable to fire unless the trigger is pulled while the gun is gripped properly. For target pistols with match grade hair triggers, active safeties are also very important as they force the shooter to take positive action before engaging a target.

In the case of a defensive or combat handgun however, there is a lot of debate over the use and implementation of active safeties. In a combat situation, handguns must function reliably and consistently. Many argue that a combat handgun should always fire whenever the trigger is pulled without the need to disengage an active safety. The usefulness of magazine disconnect safeties has also been hotly debated. Proponents of such a device argue that it prevents injury or death to individuals who wrongly assume that an autoloading pistol with the magazine removed is unloaded. This is countered by those who argue that this could needlessly endanger someone in a combat situation should a magazine be accidentally dropped or dislodged.

The backstrap style grip safety has also had its usefulness challenged over the years. For decades, Col. Jeff Cooper recommended that grip safeties be pinned down so that an awkward grip on the pistol would not prevent it from being fired. Even today, many handgun users place slip on grips on their pistols that keep the backstrap depressed, thereby rendering it useless as a safety device.

The most important safety is of course the one in between your ears. Proper handgun knowledge and practice is critical to safe use. One of Jeff Cooper's four rules of firearm safety is, Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target. This is an incredibly important rule. In a properly functioning handgun, unless you pull the trigger, the gun will not fire. The most common cause of the negligent discharge of a firearm is pulling the trigger while the gun is loaded. The practice of proper pistol handling is vitally important in training the user to keep their finger indexed when not actively engaging a target.

I want to emphasize the importance of practice here. The way you practice determines the way you perform. If you do not practice, you will not perform well, whether that means failing to use active safeties properly, or having your finger on the trigger when you should not. The frequency with which you practice helps to determine whether an active safety is an advantage or a drawback.

What safety devices you choose to have on a pistol is a very personal choice. Many shooters refuse to have a handgun that does not have an external active safety. Others insist on having only passive internal safeties such as those found on Glock pistols. Still others refuse to own a gun with a magazine disconnect. If a gun has a particular safety mechanism you despise, or lacks one that you feel is vitally important, it is sometimes easier to just move on to a different model firearm. All safety devices can be used properly, despite ones feelings for or against them, if you practice using it properly.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

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

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

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

An oft used quote in the preparedness community comes from Robert Henlein's Time Enough for Love where he writes:
"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

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

  1. Medical Skills - Everyone who is interested in preparedness should already know CPR and basic first aid. If you don't, the Red Cross offers classes that are free, or discounted. But basic CPR and first aid is just the beginning. You should also take advanced first responder classes as time and finances allow. Even better are some of the survival medicine classes which offer critical skills needed to stabilize a trauma victim when access to a hospital is days or weeks away. Don't neglect natural medicines, as pharmacies may not always be there when you need them, and even if they are, the drugs you need may be unavailable or prohibitively expensive. Most drugs are found naturally and can be used successfully in a number of situations.

  2. Advanced Gardening, Irrigation, and Farming The world population is continuously growing, and the demand for food never ceases. Indeed, world hunger is making headlines with more and more frequency. It seems inevitable that the era when we could to walk into a supermarket and find cheap, affordable, and abundant food is coming to an end. It then becomes imperative that the competent man (or woman) should be able to successfully grow food on a small lot. Advanced gardening techniques such as hydroponics allow an enormous amount of food to be grown in a very small area. Hydroponics does require a significant investment in equipment, and electrical power is usually required as well, so other gardening and even farming techniques are necessary to produce crops from arable land. Other farming skills such as animal husbandry will come in handy for raising small animals such as chickens, goats, sheep and other livestock. You should also learn basic care and first aid for small farm animals.

  3. Hunting, Fishing, and Trapping Hunting, fishing and trapping are all excellent ways to put protein on the table. Contrary to what many in the preparedness community say, the woods will not instantly be depopulated of small and medium game, nor the lakes and streams devoid of fish. Knowing how to hunt, fish, and trap using snares, dead-falls, trot lines, gill-nets, and other techniques can be an incredibly effective way to keep meat on the menu.

  4. Food Processing, Preservation, and Storage It's harvest time in the garden, and you've got a freshly killed deer; now what? Knowing how to properly process wild game is a vitally important skill that many lack. What's more, safe preservation and storage are critically important. Failing to properly preserve your food can be deadly, as bacteria, parasites, and fungus infest anything that has been poorly preserved. Learn how to dry fruits and meats, how to salt and smoke meats, proper pickling techniques, and how to jar and can food with and without a pressure cooker. Food storage is just as important as food processing. It's not difficult to learn either. In just a few hours you can learn how to safely keep food for long term storage.

  5. Self Defense and Firearms Use When seconds count, the police are just minutes away. It's foreseeable that this response time will only get worse in a TEOTWAWKI scenario. Learn the basics of self defense and the effective use of a pistol, rifle, and shotgun.

  6. Gunsmithing If you own a firearm, you will need spare parts and the skills and knowledge to repair it. There is no guarantee that parts will be available in the future, and there may not be any competent gunsmiths available. This means that you will need to have the skills and know-how to be able to service your own firearm and repair it should it become inoperable.

  7. Business, Accounting, and Bartering Just because the end of the world has happened doesn't mean that the rules of business, accounting, and bartering have changed. A gold backed currency may no longer exist, but other currencies will quickly replace it. It may be fuel, it may be bullets, it could even be buttons or clamshells, but knowing basic business, accounting, and bartering skills will allow you to function well no matter what the economy is like.

  8. Basic Electronics and Wiring The electrical grid may be down, but that doesn't mean that electricity isn't still around. Wind and solar power are becoming more and more available, and of course there are always fuel powered generators. If you're prepared, you probably have deep cycle batteries and a solar or generator setup already. But did you know the small amount of power generated from your setup is more than enough to kill a man? Knowing basic electronics and wiring isn't just useful to provide electricity and power for your home, but is critical from a safety standpoint.

  9. Basic Carpentry Basic carpentry is an essential skill that everyone should know. Having a basic skill-set in carpentry will allow you to not only repair broken furniture and cabinetry, but also repair minor structural components of your home. This valuable skill can also provide you with an additional means of income as you become more proficient. Advanced carpentry can be even more useful if you learn how to take harvested wood from trees and finish it into usable planks and boards.

  10. Auto Mechanics I singled out auto mechanics for our last skill, not because I think that there will be a need for auto mechanics in the future, but because it the skills of a capable auto mechanic are useful in a number of other areas. Auto mechanics is a complex field involving plumbing, electrical work, internal combustion, as well as basic mechanics. Learning how to wrench on your own engine also teaches you how to work with machine parts and tools with strict tolerances.

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Extreme Cold Survival

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It's that time of year again, the cold weather is setting in, hunting season is upon us, and many of us will be venturing outdoors again for fall and winter adventures. But with the falling mercury comes the risk of exposure to deadly temperatures. Humans are a tropical species. It is only through our brain power and tool making ability that we were able to fashion insulating garments and settle in temperate and arctic zones. When faced with extreme cold, humans simply cannot survive for long without the proper tools.

What are the keys to surviving in very cold conditions? Cold temperatures alone are not the only factor to consider. Others conditions that will exacerbate the loss of body heat, such as wind and moisture must be taken into account. Certain situations can quickly turn deadly in the cold. Finding yourself stranded on the side of the road may simply be annoying in warmer months, but could be deadly in the winter. A winter adventure could easily become very dangerous if you venture out unprepared.

Moisture and Snow
Staying dry is incredibly important in extremely cold weather. The human body loses heat 25 times faster when exposed to cold water than when exposed to cold air. Even when your body is not immersed in water, it cools at an incredible rate from any moisture on the skin.

Moisture on the skin evaporates quickly in the low humidity of cold weather, causing an evaporative cooling effect on the skin. When working outside in the extreme cold, take care that you do not begin to sweat. If the exertion of hard work makes you begin to get hot, remove some layers of clothing to cool off. Sweating in the extreme cold can be a death sentence, for once you stop exerting yourself, you are left drenched in moisture that will quickly evaporate and wick away an enormous amount of heat.

If you are not properly equipped, never venture out into the snow. In addition to the immense exertion it takes to navigate deep snow without snowshoes, snow presents a very real hazard from the moisture that it leaves after melting from your body heat.

Be aware of falling or blowing snow. In high winds, snow is blown about and collects in pockets, boots, parka openings, virtually anywhere it can find a crack, crevasse, or opening in your cold weather clothing. Falling and drifting snow can collect around vehicles and shelters, blocking doors and exits and entombing any occupants inside. If you are sheltering in a vehicle or a building, you will need to frequently clear snow that has collected around doors and exits to prevent an accumulation from blocking the door.

Snow weighs on average between 5 and 10 pounds per cubic feet. While this may not seem like much at first glance, snow accumulation can quickly overwhelm the load-bearing strength of many structures, especially structures not built to support a static load. Most structures built in areas that routinely receive snowfall have a rated snow load. Those structures that are not load rated must be kept clear of accumulation.

Wind Chill
Wind chill is one of the gravest threats of cold weather. In still air, your body actually heats up the air surrounding it, forming a little bubble of warmer air around you. Wind whips that warm air away and rapidly cools the body. To make matters worse, wind enhances the evaporative cooling effects of moisture on your skin. Even in temperatures that don't seem deadly, high winds can quickly leave you in a dire predicament. The table below illustrates just how cold it actually feels at different wind speeds, and where frost bite begins to set in at different wind chill temperatures.

windchill chart

There are a number of medical conditions that can be brought on by extreme cold. Probably the most well known is hypothermia. Hypothermia occurs when the body is no longer able to maintain sufficient body heat and the core temperature falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms of hypothermia include exhaustion, confusion, delerium, bright red or pale skin, memory loss, and uncontrollable shivering (or, in advanced hypothermia, no shivering at all despite a very low body temperature).

Frostbite and Frostnip
When your core temperature begins to fall, the body reacts by keeping blood flow restricted to essential organs in the core and sacrifices blood flow to the extremities. This loss of blood flow means that extremities such as fingers, toes, hands and feet do not get enough warm blood flow to maintain tissue at a healthy temperature. The result is frostnip, and eventually frostbite. Frostnip is an early warning sign of frostbite, and is characterized by pale, cool flesh and numbness or loss of sensation in the affected areas. At the extreme, frostnip can actually result in the freezing of outer layers of the skin. Caught early, the damage is not permanent and simply results in the damaged skin peeling off similar to a 1st degree burn. Left unchecked, frostnip will progress into frostbite, where the tissue temperature falls below freezing and ice crystals begin to form in tissue cells. The ice crystals destroy the cellular structure, killing the affected tissue. Superficial frostbite causes the skin to turn black when rewarmed, but the damage, though painful, is not permanent. The damaged skin eventually peels off and is replaced by new tissue. Deep tissue frostbite is a serious condition, usually resulting in the loss of the affected tissue.

Frostnip and frostbite can be difficult to detect on yourself, so use of the buddy system is essential. Keep an eye on your buddy, and have them keep an eye on you, looking for the initial symptoms of frostnip. Should frostnip be detected, simply warm up the affected areas either by moving to a warmer area, or by protecting and insulating the area of concern. When dressing for the cold, pay close attention to the size of your protective clothing. Layers of socks can help insulate the feet, but boots will need to be a size or two larger than normal. Otherwise, the pressure of the additional sock layers inside of the boot will constrict blood flow and actually increase the risk of frostnip or frostbite.

The treatment for almost all cold injuries is warmth. One of the fastest methods to rewarm a victim of the cold is immersion in a warm (not hot!) bath. Frost bitten limbs can be immersed in warm water as well. Care should be taken not to burn frost-nipped or frost-bitten limbs. Damage to affected tissues reduces or eliminates any sensation, so the victim may not be able to tell if a source of warmth is too hot and causing pain and damage to the affected area.

Combating the Cold
The body burns a lot of calories when trying to stay warm. It is not unusual to burn through more than 7,000 calories a day in the field, so it is important to feed your body's furnace.
MREs are a great addition to any emergency survival kit. Most MREs are designed to be calorie dense and provide 1,500 to 3,000 calories per pack. Staying hydrated is also critically important. Water acts as an insulator, making your body more resistant to temperature changes. When staying hydrated, don't eat snow or drink cold water. The hydrating effects of the snow and water are offset by the cold temperatures. Try to drink lukewarm or hot liquids. These will hydrate you and keep you warm. Water bladders filled with warm water or broth can also act as a hot water bottle and keep you warm when worn close to your base layer of clothing underneath a parka.

Protection In The Wilderness
It's a common situation bandied about by survivalist types: You're somehow stranded miles from nowhere in freezing weather and deep snow. What do you do to survive? Besides cutting open a Tauntaun and keeping warm in it's entrails as Luke Skywalker famously did in the movie Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, one commonly mentioned solution is the snow cave. Inuit Eskimos have long used the insulating properties of packed snow and ice when constructing their igloos, why then shouldn't the same principles be able to keep you safe from the elements in a survival situation?

The answer of course is that you can stay safe and somewhat warm in a snow cave, but naturally it's not quite as easy as that. As valuable as they are as a survival method, snow caves can also prove quite deadly for a variety of reasons. A poorly constructed snow cave can collapse, trapping you beneath layers of snow and ice. Insufficient airflow can cause carbon dioxide to build up, and this can be even more dangerous if a candle or lantern is burning inside the cave. Finally, falling snow accumulation can block the entrance and exit to the cave, entombing you inside.

When building a snow cave, work slow and methodically, taking care not to over exert yourself. Sweat can be deadly in the cold, so if you begin to get warm, remove some layers of clothing. It's amazing how fast you can cool down by simply removing an insulated hat or cover.

Proper planning and construction of your snow cave is of paramount importance. Poorly designed entrances allow cold drafts in and eliminate the insulating properties of the cave. Snow caves should have a domed roof with ventilation holes poked in the top. The entrance should be below the main floor, igloo style, so that the heat stays in the cave. The walls should be very thick at the base and form a domed arch for structural support.

Other options for shelter in the cold include rocks, caves and ledges, as well as a hastily constructed lean-to.

Equipment When Adventuring in Extreme Cold
Ideally, you should have a well-stocked pack with good survival equipment and gear, including a well-built, 4-season tent. A well-stocked pack for your outdoor winter adventure should include the following:

1. Sun Block
The sun's harmful rays bounce off of the bright white of the snow. Wraparound sunglasses are necessary to block out harmful UV rays from damaging your eyes. You can actually go "snow blind" and literally get a sunburn on your retina. Such burns can be severe and painful, so wear your shades! In a pinch, if you do not have proper eye protection, a strip of c loth wrapped around your head "blindfold-style" with small slits cut in it can protect your eyes from harmful rays while allowing you to still see by peering through the slits. Additionally, you should have SPF 35 or higher sun block to protect your face and exposed skin from sunburn.

2. Light and Emergency Signal
Always carry at least one small flashlight and spare batteries. Many things can cause your adventure to take longer than you thought, and such lights are invaluable in allowing you to find your way back to camp or the trailhead if you find yourself out after dark. Lights are also invaluable for signaling rescuers at night, should the need arise. In addition to a light, pack an emergency signal such as a flare gun or signaling mirror. A whistle is also useful for alerting someone to your location, and can easily be attached with a lanyard to your pack. High-powered green lasers also make an excellent signaling tool, as their beam is usually visible even when viewed indirectly.

3. First Aid Kit
This one should be a no-brainer, but always carry a first aid kit with you when you're out in the wilderness. When away from civilization, that kit may be the only way to keep yourself or someone else alive while you get back to a modern medical facility or wait for rescue. Kits should include bandages and ointments for cuts and scrapes, as well as over-the-counter drugs for pain management, but don't neglect supplies for trauma. A tourniquet can be used to stem blood flow for up to four hours without permanent tissue damage. Consider including a blowout kit with a c lotting agent for serious wounds, especially if you will be out hunting or using firearms. This list is not all inclusive, but should be used as a starting point for your personal first aid kit which may need specific items such as prescription medications, glucose for diabetics, or an Epi-Pen and antihistamines for those with severe allergies.

4. Emergency Shelter
It doesn't have to be a $1,000 four season tent (though that never hurts) but you will need some sort of emergency shelter. Something as small as a two-man, ultralight tent will work in an emergency. We offer a disposable emergency survival tent that is excellent for emergency shelter. It packs up very small and is easily carried. If you want something a little better, this Eureka Timberline tent is a good all-around camping tent. It packs up small and weighs only 10 lbs, so it won't weigh down your pack.

5. GPS
Maps and compasses are great, but they are no substitute for a good handheld GPS unit. You don't have to spend a ton of money to get a quality unit, Garmin units are available from just $137.95, and should you find yourself lost in the cold, that's money well spent. Maps and a compass should also be carried, but learning to use them well takes practice. Learn to use both a compass and a GPS system in conjunction with a topographical map for the best results.

6. Extra Clothing
A simple slip and fall could leave you soaked in the freezing cold. Water and moisture are probably the biggest contributor to hypothermia in an extremely cold environment. Having a change of clothes could literally save your life. At a minimum, you should carry an extra set of base layer clothing: wool socks, long underwear, pants, shirt, and a pullover fleece or wool sweater.

7. Fire
Always carry a couple of lighters, or some waterproof matches and a fire-starting system that you have practiced using. When you're alone and cold in the wilderness is no time to try to learn fire-starting skills. Practice with your equipment beforehand so that when it is cold and snowing or raining you will be able to quickly and easily start a warm blaze.

8. Tools (knife, hatchet, shovel, and specialty tools)
Carry specialty tools for your showshoes or skis, as well as a multi-tool such as a Leatherman. A fixed blade or hatchet, and a shovel are also indispensable items you should carry. If you are hiking a glacier or other icy terrain, learn how to use and carry an ice axe.

9. Food and Water
This is another one that should seem obvious, yet time and again people head out into the cold without emergency rations or water. Should you find yourself lost or unable to get back to shelter and civilization, that food and water can give you a few days rations. Food helps the mind as well. When lost and frustrated, simply sitting down to have a drink and a small snack boosts morale and helps you to think positively. Throwing a couple of MREs in your backpack can prove to be a lifesaver.

10. Communication
Cellphones, or at least an EPIRB or SPOT Messenger should be considered a necessity in this modern day and age.

Cold Weather and Traveling
The most common place you may find yourself stranded in the extreme cold is stuck in a vehicle stranded on the side of the road. Icy spots, snow drifts, mechanical difficulty, any of these can leave you alone and without help on the side of a cold and desolate highway. What can you do if you find yourself stuck in such a predicament? Obviously the first answer is to make sure that you are properly prepared.

When traveling through areas where the weather is extremely cold, you should always pack a cold weather survival kit in your vehicle. What you pack in your emergency kit will vary from person to person depending on your situation, but there are some things that should be in every kit. Each kit should contain some basic survival and emergency gear, in addition to a first aid kit and tire chains if appropriate. I keep my kit in a rubber tote, although duffel bags or other large bags work well too. Your basic kit should contain blankets or sleeping bags, water, food, a flashlight, flares or emergency triangles, jumper cables, and an ice scraper or brush. Whenever you travel in severe winter weather, always take a mobile phone and a portable phone charger. If you still have room in your kit, I find that tire chains, a tow rope, a shovel (such as our compact shovel 36565), and bag of sand or granite (granite chips are usually available at your local gravestone manufacturer) are lifesavers for getting you un-stuck from deep snow or treacherous ice. Other items may include hand warmers or chemical heaters such as the ones often included with MRE kits.

If you find yourself stranded in your vehicle in the cold, the first thing to do is to stay calm. Signal your distress by raising your hood and tying something brightly colored to your radio antenna. Retrieve your cold weather survival kit, and anything else you need, from the trunk of your car or bed of your pickup truck and move it to the passenger compartment so that you don't need to make multiple trips outside in the cold to get individual items from the kit.

Don't leave the engine running. If you are stuck in a snow drift, or even just stopped on the side of an icy road, carbon monoxide from the exhaust can build up in the passenger compartment. If your engine is still functioning, run it for no more than 10 minutes an hour to heat up the interior. Make sure that a window is cracked an inch or so, and that the exhaust pipe is clear of any snow or other obstructions to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide build up.

Keep your cellphone or other battery-powered emergency devices as warm as possible by making sure that they are near your body in an inside pocket, not in an outside parka pocket or on the dashboard or console of the vehicle. Batteries lose their charge as much as 10 times faster when they are below 32F. By keeping your cellphone warm you will extend the battery life.

Tactical Considerations
Military, Police, or any type of tactical operator working in extremely cold conditions will have a number of other things to consider.

Extremely cold weather causes gear and equipment to function differently. Many lubricants become solid or gel in the cold. Military manuals advise eschewing CLP in favor of more cold tolerant lubricants such as LAW (Lubricant, Arctic Weather) when lubricating firearms and other equipment in conditions below zero degrees Fahrenheit. Battery-powered equipment should be kept warm, or be used with special cold weather batteries.

Consideration must also be given to the mobility and dexterity of an operator in an extremely cold environment. Cold weather clothing inhibits dexterity. Gloved hands make it more difficult to manipulate controls, and heavy garments make quick and accurate movement more dificult. Equipment may need to be altered to accomodate some of these problems. Larger trigger guards on weapons, like our Magpul MIAD modular pistol grip kit for the AR-15 with mission adaptable grips are perfect for gloved hands. Hoods and eye protection limit peripheral vision, so operators in the cold really need to keep their heads on a swivel.

Police have additional concerns they must address when dressing for extreme cold. Coats and jackets can impede access to duty belts and weapons. Some coats are designed with a slit in the side to allow access to a service pistol, but officers should practice drawing their weapon as the garment can still snag a weapon as it is being drawn.

Enjoy the Cold
The cold weather brings with it all manner of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors and winter sports. Just because the mercury drops doesn't mean that you are stuck indoors. Go outside and have fun! But by all means, be prepared and take the necessary precautions against the extreme cold.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Bear Ammunition Plant Explodes

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Just received news that the Ulyanovsk plant ammunition plant located 893 km south of Moscow in Russia suffered a catastrophic explosion. Ulyanovsk are the makers of the popular Bear Ammunition.

Reports are sketchy at this point, but RTE news is reporting 1 dead and 35 injured with another 35 that are missing. More than 3,000 have been evacuated in the wake of the explosion. Window panes were blown out and a towering inferno visible up to 15 kilometers away lit up the night sky.

According to RTE.ie,

"The blasts took place while munitions were being detonated in a controlled operation at the city's number 31 arms depot, the Ulyanovsk branch of Russia's FSB security service said in a statement.

Russia's Defence ministry said that fire broke out when soldiers attempted to decommission munitions at Arsenal No. 31 "

It currently does not appear that the explosion will have any effect on the production of Brown Bear or Silver Bear Ammunition, as the plant was being dismantled as part of a planned decommissioning.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Late Season Deer Hunting

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As deer season progresses, deer become scarce quickly. It seems that as soon as the rut ends, they all just up and disappear.

Obviously, they're still there, but where and how do you locate deer that seem to have gone nocturnal? It's not easy, but late season deer can be hunted with success, you just have to adapt your hunting strategy.

Many hunters fill their tags within the first few days of deer season. What's more, fierce winter weather deters many hunters who don't want to endure the elements in the late season. For the late season deer hunter, this is good, as it means that you won't have to worry about large numbers other hunters being around. Deer are often pressured early in the season when there are large numbers of hunters eager to get their deer during the rut. In the past I've had great success hunting deer as late as January when they've had time to relax from the pressure of early season hunting.

During the rut, many hunters set up in the early morning in blinds and tree stands where they will be able to rattle or call up a buck. But the rut is a crazy time for deer, between intense hunting pressure and the powerful hormone drive to mate. When deer go nocturnal, relenting to the pressure of the onslaught of hunters, they are less active in the early morning. The midday and afternoon however can be more productive.

Too many hunters hunt the rut exclusively, thinking that deer behavior during that time is "normal". It is not - deer are so caught up in their hormone driven activities, they throw caution to the wind. It is only as the rut fades that deer return to normal.

No matter how much or how little hunting pressure there is, deer still need to eat. After the rut, bucks turn their attention to food. All of the sparring and mating of the rut leaves most bucks run-down and searching for food. Likewise, does that have been bred during the rut increase the amount of food they consume. Though they remain bedded down during the day, by the afternoon they become hungry and are forced to head back to forage at nearby food sources.

Identify food and water sources. Deer will bed down nearby to established food and water sources. When the pressure is on, they won't want to travel far for fear of being exposed. Fresh hoof prints and droppings are signs of activity that will allow you to easily identify where the deer are feeding, and which trails they are using.

Once you've identified a food or water source, find the deer trails that lead back to their bedding areas. Bedding areas are carefully planned by deer: they are extremely good at choosing bedding locations with multiple escape routes. It is extremely difficult to stalk a deer that is bedded down. A bedded down deer that scents you will explode out of the bedding location and all you will see is the white flash of tail as it bounds away at breakneck speed. Even if you do get the drop on a bedded down deer, it is still difficult to get a good shot at a vital area.

To hunt bedded deer, set up near the identified food source, or along an active trail to and from the food source. Pay close attention to the wind direction to avoid alerting the deer to your scent.

Finally, it's not unusual to have a second, or even third rut. Though not nearly as active as the first fall rut, secondary ruts can still bring out the bucks and does who have not been bred in the first rut. Does will reach estrus every 28 days, so if you've pinpointed the first rut, knowing when the second rut will come is a simple calculation.

In a secondary rut, rattling will not be quite as productive as grunting and calling, but you can still rattle up the odd buck or two. It's not unheard of to find two or even three of four bucks chasing a doe during the second rut, completely oblivious to anything going on around them. Giving a few soft grunts or a short rattle can bring the deer your direction and present you with a shot.

If you don't mind facing harsh weather and deer who are back to their usual cautious ways, then the late season is for you. Scouting ahead to identify where the deer are and where their trails are is key, but once you've identified them, you can rest easy in the fact that the deer will come.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

FN Herstal Five-seveN 5.7×28mm Pistol

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The FN Herstal Five-seveN pistol has been in the news quite a bit lately, so we wanted to do a factual and honest review of the pistol.

FN Five-seveN and magazineWhen it was released in 1998 the Five-seveN pistol was marketed as a companion firearm for the P90 submachinegun, which fires the same round. Both are designed around the 5.7x28 cartridge which has a lower weight than standard intermediate rifle cartridges, allowing soldiers to carry more ammunition.

But the Five-seveN pistol has been controversial since it's debut. Detractors derided it, calling it high-powered and unsuitable for civilian ownership.

In 2004, the Brady Campaign began to claim that commercial ammunition available for the firearm penetrated level IIa kevlar ballistic vests. In their attacks on the pistol, they called it a "cop-killer." Investigation by the ATF found that no commercially available ammunition fired out of the 5.7 pistol was capable of defeating ballistic armor.

Even more recently, the pistol was allegedly used by US Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan when he opened fire on personnel at Fort Hood in Texas. Again, the pistol was called a "high-caliber cop-killer" and even the Austin American Statesmen said that "One military expert said it was a weapon that no doctor — not even a military one — would normally carry." The newspaper was unable to provide a source for the comment, and did not have an exact quote.

The actual Five-seveN Tactical pistol weighs in at 1 pound 4.5 ounces empty, and 1 pound 11.6 ounces fully loaded. Indeed, one of the primary advantages of the Five-seveN pistol is it's light weight. This, combined with the low recoil and muzzle rise, makes the pistol very easy to fire and keep on target.

5.7x28 and .22 magnum comparisonThe 5.7x28 cartridge was initially developed as a low-weight high-velocity round with a AP (armor penetrating) steel core bullet. Designers of the 5.7mm cartridge wanted a powerful round that was light weight, so that soldiers would be able to carry more ammunition. The solution that they came up with is the 5.7x28mm cartridge loaded with SS190 bullets.

SS190 bullets are not available for sale to the public, and are heavily restricted due to their armor piercing capability. Instead, SS195LF (28 grain lead free hollow point) and SS197SR (40 grain ballistic tip hollow point) are the only ammunition available for purchase.

It is frequently and incorrectly reported that the 5.7x28 is an extremely powerful round. In fact, the 5.7 is a relatively weak round, carrying less energy than 9mm ammunition frequently carried by police and used by our own military in the standard issue M9 pistol.

On April 2nd, 2009, the Los Angeles Daily news reported on a shooting involving a Five-seveN pistol and they commented saying "Authorities have noticed an increase in high-caliber weapons in Los Angeles. One of the most startling incidents was when a Fabrique National 57, an assault pistol used to kill big game..." They went on to quote LAPD Deputy Chief Michel Moore who said about the pistol "You use it on large lions, tigers and bears."

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The 5.7x28 cartridge is not appropriate for use on anything except small game, such as squirrels and rabbits. Indeed, the ballistic performance of the 5.7x28 cartridge is remarkably similar to the .22 Magnum round. The table below gives a side by side comparison between various 5.7 loads and .22 magnum loads. Edited: The following data was gathered from cartridges fired from a 16" barrel. Actual muzzle velocities in autoloading handguns will be lower.

CartridgeWeightMuzzle VelocityMuzzle Energy
5.7x28 SS190 AP FMJ32 gr (2.1 grams)2,350 ft/s (716 m/s)397 ft·lb (538 Joules)
.22 Magnum HP30 gr (1.9 grams)2,200 ft/s (670 m/s)322 ft·lb (437 Joules)
5.7x28 SS197SR JHP40 gr (2.6 grams)1,950 ft/s (594 m/s)340 ft·lb (461 Joules)
.22 Magnum JHP40 gr (2.6 grams)1,910 ft/s (580 m/s)324 ft·lb (439 Joules)

So, if the 5.7x28 is such a weak round, how is the SS190 AP ammunition capable of defeating ballistic armor? The answer is the high velocity at which it travels, combined with the steel penetrator at it's core. Most bullets, including 5.7mm ammunition available to the public, have a lead core. Lead deforms significantly when it impacts a ballistic vest, spreading out the force of the impact and preventing the bullet from penetrating the multiple layers of fabric. SS190 ammunition, only available to police and military, has a steel penetrator that, when fired at the high velocity of the 5.7x28 cartridge, is capable of cutting through kevlar vests because it does not deform as lead does.

Pictured below is the Five-seveN Tactical pistol, one of the early variants that featured a tactical rail and single action trigger. The Five-Seven Tactical has been discontinued, and was replaced by the Five-seveN USG.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Guest Post: Rimfire Ammunition by Mr. Completely

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Once again, Mr. Completely has written an outstanding piece that I felt just had to be showcased in this blog.
Getting a rimfire semi-auto pistol to function for several hundred rounds in a row without a single stovepipe, mis-feed, failure to fire, or other malfunction is truly a challenge under any conditions. You can be sure, though, that if it’s going to malfunction, it’s most likely to happen in a match where time lost clearing the problem will cost you dearly. Rimfire pistols, just like computers, KNOW the worst possible time to act up, and they seem to take fiendish pleasure in your misfortune!

For maximum rimfire reliability, you just can’t beat a revolver since the revolvers are a much simpler mechanism. A lot of the problems with a semi-auto, like feeding and extracting for example, aren’t even part of the process with revolvers.. Rimfire cartridges were never designed to be loaded into a magazine and automatically fed into the chamber for each shot. Rimfire .22 cartridges in a semi-automatic pistol are something of a round peg in a square hole, but even so, rimfire semi-autos can be made to run reliably all day long, it just takes a lot of attention to a whole bunch of little details.

Ammunition is first on the list of details. If every single round doesn’t fire when it gets a good hit from the striker or firing pin, all of the gun tuning in the world won’t help.

When you get a failure to fire, (FTF) take a good look at the impression caused by the firing pin. Is it a really good dent, or is it a light strike? If it’s a good solid dent and it didn’t fire, try putting the round back into the chamber, rotated so the firing pin will hit it in a different spot, and see if it fires with a second hit. Some pistols hit the rim a lot harder than others, so if you are getting a fair number of FTF’s, try some of the cartridges on a different pistol, or even better, in a bolt action .22 rifle. If the particular brand of ammunition works in one gun and doesn’t fire reliably in another, the suspect gun may need some attention.

From my experience, most rimfire ammunition properly struck, will fire just about every time. I use approximately 20,00 rounds of one brand of bulk pack .22 ammunition every year in practice. In a rapid-fire rimfire pistol environment I average three or four FTF’s per 550 round brick. That’s not too bad, and in practice an occasional FTF is not a bad thing as it makes you practice clearing the problem quickly. I have tried another well-known brand of bulk packaged rimfire ammunition and have found it would average perhaps ten FTF’s per brick, sometimes even more. It was annoying enough that I only buy that brand if nothing else is available.

For match use, I use more expensive ammunition that comes in individual plastic boxes of one hundred rounds. This particular brand and type of ammo produced almost an entire season of match shooting with only one or two FTF’s, if I remember correctly, and even those may not have been the fault of the ammunition. Although I do shoot a small amount of the match ammunition in non-match conditions for testing, most of it gets used in competition, and I went through well over six thousand rounds of match ammunition this year. That gives you some sort of idea of the kind of reliability you can get from a properly tuned and maintained rimfire semi-auto pistol.

What ammo do I recommend, you ask? Since what I am writing here may be read some time in the future, and since manufacturer’s specifications, tolerances, and quality control, or lack thereof, may change, I hesitate to either recommend or condemn any particular brand. Ammo that really sucks right now may be the best out there in a couple of years. I will go so far as to say that one state famous for their spuds also produces some very fine rimfire ammunition! If you see me at a match I’ll be glad to tell you what I’m using, but for now, I can only suggest trying different brands and see what works for you.

As I mentioned before, if a rimfire round fails to fire when you are out plinking, it’s annoying. If it fails to fire in a match where speed is a major factor, it can be a disaster.

There are a number of things that can contribute to rimfire ammunition not wanting to go bang when encouraged to do so by the firing pin. Not all manufacturers use exactly the same formula for their primer compound, I’m sure. The primer compound may not be equally distributed around inside the rim. The thickness and hardness of the brass at the rim can make a difference. Brass hardens with age, so older brass, or ammunition that’s been sitting around for years may or may not work the same as when it was new.

Moisture can have a huge effect on reliability. I had half a brick of Federal bulk get rained on and it got pretty wet. Not enough to make the box fall apart, but wet, nonetheless. There was no water actually in the box to pour out, so I put the box inside the house to dry. A few days later I checked it, and everything was completely dry. I tried shooting the ammo, and every fifth or sixth round would not fire, even with multiple firing pin strikes. Would a high humidity environment affect reliability? I can’t say for sure, but if I lived in a high humidity area I might consider keeping my ammo in zip lock bags!

Some brands of ammunition seem to have a much higher rate of failure to fire (FTF) than others. Some brands also seem to work OK in one gun, but not in another. As I also mentioned earlier, what may be excellent ammunition today may change for the worse, and the folks making today’s less reliable ammunition may clean up their act and become the best. With any ammunition recommendations, you should bear that in mind.

From my experience, and from watching other shooters in matches, Remington bulk pack, seems to be the most unreliable of those brands readily available. From my limited experience with Remington bulk, I would see perhaps ten or twelve FTF’s per brick. Remington’s higher priced ammo, built by Eley, is probably quite good, but I’ve not shot enough of it to say either way.

Federal bulk pack, my favorite practice ammunition, seems to FTF three to five times per brick. I’ve also tried Winchester Dynapoints and found them to be similar to Federal reliability-wise. Dynapoints also seem to be quite accurate, particularly if you weigh them and match them into lots by weight. When Dynapoints were available in Walmart for around fifteen dollars a brick they were a good choice as practice ammunition, but when Walmart dropped Dynapoints and K-Mart started carrying them, but at over thirty dollars a brick, I stopped shooting them completely. I still have a brick or so, and I am gradually using them up in e-Postal matches.

There are also a number of other brands of rimfire ammunition I’ve tried over the last few years. For several years I used Sellier & Belliot Club. It was extremely reliable, moderately priced, and quite accurate. It also had a heavy wax/grease lubricant on the bullets that could interfere with feeding, particularly if the weather was below seventy degrees, which is pretty normal for Western Washington. After some experimenting I discovered that if I dumped the rounds out of their box onto a paper towel, sprayed them with Brake-Kleen, let it soak for a couple of minutes, them rolled them between several layers of clean paper towels most if not all of the lubricant would be removed. After letting them air dry for a few minutes I’d give them a light spray of CRC Heavy Duty Silicone spray, roll them around a bit more to distribute it, then put them back into their individual holes in the ammo box. Unfortunately S & B Club is no longer available, at least if it is, I can’t find it.

I have only limited experience with American Eagle, a Federal manufactured product, and it seemed to be similar to Federal Bulk, no worse, and possibly a little better. CCI Blazer seems to be quite good for reliability, but not quite as accurate as some other choices. If I could find it in bulk at a reasonable price I’d probably switch to it for practice. I bought a case of Eley Sport, which appears to be the same as Aguila Super Extra Standard Velocity, or at least very similar. The Eley Sport is built in Mexico by Aguila. I’ve only shot the better part of one brick of it so far, and not a FTF at all. I need to shoot a lot more of it, though, as this is a rather small sample to go by.

Match ammo? For the last few years I’ve been using CCI Standard Velocity, and it’s been very good. It almost always fires, and it’s also very good for accuracy. There’s a rumor that CCI Green Tag is nothing more than CCI Standard Velocity that’s been sorted by weight. I have no idea if that’s true or not, but it shoots well enough that it could be possible.

So far everything I’ve mentioned has been relatively low velocity ammunition. For some guns there just isn’t enough energy to reliably cycle the action. Personally, I think just about any rimfire semi-auto pistol, properly tuned, will run on standard velocity ammunition without problems. In Steel Challenge, where I regularly compete, delivering a lot of energy to the steel plate has no advantage, and the hotter the ammunition the more muzzle rise you have to contend with. No point making it any harder that it already is! If your gun will only run on CCI Mini-Mags, I suspect either the gun’s action is still a bit rough, the slide spring is too heavy, or the slide itself is too heavy, or possibly a combination of all three.

If you are having higher FTF rates than these, you very well may have something, or multiple things, not quite right in your pistol, not far enough wrong that it doesn’t run at all, but just enough wrong that the gun is adding some FTF’s of it’s own.

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

Friday, November 6, 2009

Dry-Fire Training at Home

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I recently shot a local IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association) match. I did OK, but noticed a couple of problems that slowed me down significantly: namely, quickly and smoothly drawing from the holster and pressing forward to the target. On one stage I failed to firmly seat the beavertail of my 1911 into the webbing between my thumb and forefinger, and subsequently had an awkward and loose grip that I had to readjust before engaging the target.

More practice is the simple solution here, but most ranges prohibit drawing from a holster, and I don't have a large tract of land where I can practice this. So what to do? Dry-fire practice is the only solution in this situation.

Dry firing is practice done with an unloaded firearm. The use of Snap Caps or dummy rounds can help replicate having real ammunition. Snap Caps are specially designed dummy rounds that protect your firing pin by replicating the slight flex of a primer when struck. They're also necessary to load into the magazine to prevent the slide from locking back when practicing reloads.

Dry-firing will never duplicate the training that you can achieve with live rounds on a hot range, but it can come close. Frequent practice is the only way to build the muscle memory necessary to have the speed and accuracy necessary to perform well, not only at a competition, but also in a real life self-defense situation. Dry-fire practice allows you practice on a daily basis, even if you do not have access to a range. It can also help you to become intimately acquainted with your firearm and it's controls. This familiarity with your firearm will breed confidence, as will as increase your ability to quickly and accurately manipulate the safety, magazine release, and slide lock.

Dry-Fire Safety
The advantage of dry-fire training is that you can do it in the comfort of your own home. However, your home is not a shooting range, and therefore certain safety guidelines should always be followed.

1. Unload your firearm completely. If you are using magazines, ensure that they are all unloaded as well.
2. Inform anyone else in the dwelling that you are going to be practicing so that they can minimize any distractions.
3. Do not have any live ammunition AT ALL in the room where you are practicing.
4. Have an adequate backstop.
5. Set firm start and stop times for practice. When the time to stop comes - STOP.

Of course your firearm should be unloaded when dry-firing, and it goes without saying that your magazine should also be unloaded when you are dry-firing. But you should go one step further and keep all of the ammunition in another room than the one you are practicing in.

Like any form of practice, dry-firing requires concentration and minimal distraction. Doubly so, since you are practicing with a deadly weapon. Practice alone, and make sure that any other people in the building are aware that you are going to be practicing so that they can minimize distraction.

Limit your practice time to 15-20 minutes. Practice is by it's nature repetitive, and the repetition, while necessary for building muscle memory, can easily lead to boredom. Boredom can cause your mind to wander from the task at hand, and when handling a firearm, your mind MUST be on the task at hand and no where else.

When the time to stop comes, stop. You are no longer practicing, and the firearm should be treated as if it is LOADED. The reason is, most negligent discharges that happen when people are dry firing occur when the person stops practicing, loads the weapon, and then absentmindedly does another "dry fire" exercise. Make it a clear delineation in your mind when your practice starts, and when it stops. You don't want a moment's carelessness to result in an accident!

Dry-fire practice is a great way to practice on a daily basis. But as always, safety should be priority one when handling a firearm.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Choosing the Right Clothing for Carrying a Concealed Handgun

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Many customers of Cheaper Than Dirt! legally carry concealed handguns. But often, we get questions on the best way to carry concealed. While holster selection is important, equally as important is the clothing you choose to wear.

It's important to note that if your carry method is uncomfortable, or if it is a struggle to keep your firearm concealed, more often than not concealed carry licensees will instead choose to leave their firearm at home. Therefore, special consideration must be given to the method of carry and the clothing used to conceal your firearm.

Carrying a concealed firearm in the winter is usually not a problem. Heavy winter garments provide a number of ways in which you can easily conceal a firearm. But when indoors, or in warmer weather, keeping a firearm concealed can be problematic unless you have an appropriate wardrobe.

Remember - the whole idea of carrying concealed is to not have your firearm detectable. What's more, you don't want to advertise that you might have a concealed firearm by wearing the ubiquitous tactical vest or fanny pack. While these methods are fantastic for concealing a firearm, they are also universally recognized as being worn by individuals who are armed. The same goes for most tactical BDU-style cargo pants and tactical style shirts.

So, how do you conceal your handgun without looking like some suburban tactical operator?

First, let's take a look at pants. Many who carry concealed use an Inside-the-Waistband-Holster (IWB). These style of holsters fit between the waistband of your pants and your body, holding the firearm very close to your body. Having a firearm carried in this fashion reduces the chance of "printing" (having the outline of the gun show through your clothing). But using an IWB means that the waist size of your pants will have to be slightly larger. I find that pants one size up (ie: 36" waist instead of 34") help to accommodate the extra bulk of having a firearm tucked in your waistband. Tactical style pants such as Tru-Spec's 24-7 Ripstop Pants are great for carrying a concealed handgun. They feature elastic comfort stretch waistband, and have lots of pockets for spare magazines and a tactical flashlight. The best part is that they don't scream "Tactical" - instead, they have the appearance of more conservative Docker-style khaki pants.

If you choose to wear jeans or slacks, pay attention to the construction of the waistband and belt loops. Make sure that they are sturdy enough to bear the extra weight and strain of a holster. When choosing a belt, you will also need to select a sturdy belt that can stand up to the extra work. This Ranger Belt by Triple K is a great example. It is specifically designed with belt holsters in mind, but it is still stylishly designed so that you can wear it anywhere.

Your upper garment takes a bit more time and consideration to choose properly. If you are carrying a compact handgun in a "tuckable" holster, you will have more leeway in your choices. Tuckable holsters are IWB holsters that have belt clips which allow a shirt to be tucked in, concealing the handgun. Still, this method does not usually work as well with full size autos.

In the summertime especially, selecting an appropriate cover garment can be difficult. My standard summer carry method is a t-shirt tucked in, a handgun in an IWB holster, and a loose-fitting Hawaiian-style shirt over that. Something nondescript with longer shirt tails for better concealment, such as our Tru-Spec 24-7 Field Shirt would also work fine. Again, I usually purchase shirts one size larger than normal. A good cover garment should hang 5" - 8" below the waistline of your pants in order to adequately conceal your firearm while kneeling, bending, or reaching up.

When choosing a shirt for a cover garment, pay close attention to the fabric thickness and color. Light-weight and loose-weave fabrics can print easily, and some are so thin that they will even show a visible outline of the firearm. Light-colored fabrics can also show the darker outline of a firearm. In the summer, look for fabrics like linen or cotton which will not only keep you cool, but will also be able to conceal your handgun.

Choosing to carry a concealed firearm is a big responsibility. Part of that responsibility is following your state's laws on keeping your firearm concealed, and that means choosing your clothing carefully. It may take a few additions to your wardrobe, but with these tips and a few extra pieces of clothing you will have no problem carrying concealed, no matter what the weather or occasion.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Cleaning Your Molle Gear

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You've got the gear, you've assembled your kit, gone out into the field, and now you're back, and your gear is covered with all manner of dirt, mud, leaves and brush. How do you safely clean your MOLLE gear?

Odor Lock is a great soap to use on any MOLLE gear you use for hunting
Regularly cleaning your MOLLE gear helps it last longer. Dirt and soil left in the fabric rub and abrade the material, causing it to fray and weaken prematurely. Plus, who wants to haul around dirt gear anyway?

Start by brushing off loose dirt and plant material. Remove any leaves, twigs, grass, and burrs from the equipment. Scrape off any dirt and mud dried or caked on using a dulled tool - sharp tools will cut and abrade the fabric, weakening it. Then, wipe off loose dirt and dust using a microfiber cloth.

Wash your gear in warm (not hot!) soapy water using a mild detergent (the US military recommends using NSN 7930-00-929-1221) such as a liquid dish soap or a small amount of liquid laundry detergent. Immerse the gear completely and let it soak for a few minutes. Then, gently work the fabric back and forth to help loosen dirt trapped in the fabric.

For stubborn stains or where soil has been ground into the fabric, use a soft bristled brush such as a toothbrush to gently scrub. Never use stiff brushes, abrasives, bleach or solvents as they will cause discoloration and damage to the fabric and plastics.

Rinse your gear in clean water. Make sure to thoroughly and completely get all of the soap out.

Push the fabric back into its original shape, and set it out to dry in the shade.

NEVER DRY YOUR MOLLE GEAR IN A HEATED DRYER! Hang it out in the shade, not in the sun. Drying it in the sun can cause it to fade and shrink. Exposing your MOLLE gear to the tumbling of a dryer wears it out faster, and the heat can shrink it. For the same reason, do not use a washing machine as the agitator will cause unnecessary wear and tear. Always air dry your gear, don't use heat to speed up the drying process.

Keeping your gear clean maximizes it's useful life by reducing the wear and tear of dirt on the fabric. Take care of your gear, and your gear will take care of you!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Guest Post – A History of Gun Control in the UK

Click here to read more.

Today we're featuring Phil, a writer from the UK who posted a wonderful essay in reply to a post by Kevin Baker of The Smallest Minority detailing the effects of World War I on Great Britain and how it affected gun control there.

It’s true that the First World War destroyed Britain (or at least set in train the factors which were to lead to its destruction).

One of the biggest factors was the unprecedented increase in the power and size of the State.

Prior to the war, the state was very small, run by professional Civil Servants with an ethic that serving your country was an honourable thing to do and reward enough in itself.

National government was small, and the taxes it collected were spent largely on Defence and not much else. There was no welfare state and only a basic retirement pension (which less than 1 in 100 people would live long enough to collect). The liberal party wanted to spend less on defence and introduce welfare payments, spend cash on “social programs” etc. They were elected to government on this promise – bear this in mind for later.

Local Government was dependent on local taxes only (no massive injections of cash from national Government) and therefore responsive to the areas it served.

Sir Robert Peels efforts in setting up a Police force enforced law and order on the country and as the laws were reasonable and people agreed with them so people were at the start of the war very much law abiding. The laws were not onerous. However, the Police force contained in itself the seeds of the destruction of society (which Peel warned about) by distancing people from the law and the Police becoming apart from the citizens. In short, the State started to accumulate the power and authority and the law and its enforcement became the monopoly of the State.

A snapshot of Britain in the few years before the war would show that people were law abiding and enjoyed freedoms that would be disbelieved nowadays. Of course, there was not the mass immigration and different cultures then – people were BRITISH and had a strong sense of national identity.

Lord Elcho (the Minister of Defence) wanted a rifle in every cottage in the land and looked forward to the day this was achieved. There was no restriction firearms, other than a “permit to purchase pistols” (1896) which was a tax raising effort (you walked into a post office and bought a permit just as you would postage stamps). So anyone who wanted a pistol of any description could buy one without hindrance.

Blackstone still had a major influence on the thinking of politicians and the freedoms enjoyed by the population were not seriously challenged – it would be political suicide to do so.

Although Britain had an Empire on which the Sun never set, it was administered by a tiny bureaucracy largely through the native population. The expenditure of the British state was small, the revenue generated by the “Workshop of the World” was sufficient for the needs and as a percentage of the national wealth, tax was about 2 to 4% . Besides the Empire was largely a confederation of nations – nominally independent and with a complex relationship with the Mother country and very much self financing. It was by no means as united as, say, the individual states in the USA and were largely autonomous.

So what changed?

The First World War was the biggest war Britain had ever fought (even the Medieval 100 years War was small scale in comparison). It stretched the resources and finances of the country to breaking point.

Along with this “Total War” concept went increased taxation to finance the war, a massive growth in the power of the State required to organise and direct the War effort and a squandering of the wealth of the nation. All this on a war which Britain was reluctantly drawn into by the increasingly complex and mutually supporting treaties built up from about 1870 onwards (after the Franco-Prussian war that saw Alsace Lorraine ceded to Germany).

The Irish Nationalists in the 1916 Easter rising (partly to assist the Germans and to take advantage of the preoccupation of the British Government with the war) caused problems (which exist to this day) and the sabotage and mischief caused by the Irish resulted in clampdowns on freedoms, other restrictions and a paranoid tendency in the Government of the day. People accepted the restrictions as they realised Britain was fighting for its survival and were too busy either fighting or working to produce munitions - although Irishmen had been planting bombs for the last 50 years. Don’t forget that the massive increase in the State resulted in the professional, service orientated civil servants to be massively diluted by the newly recruited newcomers, unlikely to be as highly trained as the professionals and had a different ethos.

Then the Russian Revolution kicked off in November (by the Western calendar) 1917 resulting in the execution of Queen Victoria’s close blood relative in her nephew Czar Nicholas II and the Czarina Alexandra and their children.

The paranoid tendency of the Government went into overdrive – if this could happen in a country which was “just like us” and the Monarchy and Government overthrown, the what would the largest Army Britain ever had, manned by conscripts (and conscription was not resorted to until 1916) and trained and armed to the teeth do if they were to revolt too?

At the end of the war the returning heroes were promised “A land fit for heroes” – although where the cash was to come from wasn’t specified - and the delayed social reforms were trotted out. Social housing, financed through taxation and administered by the local government departments was introduced. This was a form of social control and Council House Tenants were subjected to inspections by local government inspectors (including if they had made the beds etc.) at regular intervals.

After all the “War to end all Wars” surely ended war and would free up cash for these reforms from the Navy and other services. Besides, the entire nation had had a gut full of war and pacifism was an attractive option. Plenty of civil servants were available to implement the reforms, collect the taxes (which, after 4 years of war, people were used to paying) and administer the system.

But first, the people had to be disarmed – the horror of the Russian Revolution (and by then, the horrors were known, if not publicised) still haunted the imagination of the government.

The 1920 Firearms Act was brought in but sold as a crime prevention measure. This was hushed up under the Official Secrets Act and placed under a 60 year anti disclosure rule. The papers were finally released in 1981. They are available in the national records Archive at Kew, London if you want to inspect them.

There were an average of 54 incidents A YEAR in the UK in the years leading up to WW1 (now there are more than that in London alone PER DAY). The legislation banned some firearms (full automatic weapons – legal until then), required the licensing of certain firearms (pistols, rifles and air rifles though NOT shotguns – not a militarily useful weapon). An immediate result was that the Chief Constable of London wanted to confiscate all firearms and in the event of a revolution, hold them in Police stations and dish them out to Tory (i.e. “Right” wing) supporters. The Police were to administer the licensing system and immediately began to block the granting of firearms certificates on a “must show good reason for possessing a firearm” basis. Magistrates (a local “small” court system dealing with minor offences) could not understand why people were being refused certificates and granted them over police objections. The Police agitated and influenced the politicians until 1937 when the law was changed to have appeals heard by the Crown Court (which dealt with much more serious offences such as murder) and the Police could reclaim the costs of going to court from the applicant. They upped the Anti significantly. At the same time there was a firearms amnesty when over 1 million service rifles were handed in and destroyed. This must have pleased Herr Hitler enormously.

March 1938 and the Munich crisis over Czechoslovakia gave a wake up call to the Nation and the pacifist tendencies of the 1930’s were reversed. Britain went on a massive spending program to rearm and modernise its forces.

My opinion is that Neville Chamberlin was Statesman enough to realise Britain was totally unprepared to go to War with Germany (which had practiced during the Spanish Civil war and had rearmed and modernised its forces enormously) and signed the famous “Peace in our time” piece of paper to buy time. He was condemned for this but placed the good of the Country ahead of his own honour and good name.

As a “for example”, at the time of Munich, Britain possessed one squadron of Spitfires, and by the end of the year, two.

In September 1939, 9 ½ (one squadron was converting to Spitfires) with 100% reserves.

By the time of the battle of Britain (July to October 1940), the RAF had 27 Squadrons of Hurricanes and 19 of Spitfires.

Such rearmament did not come cheap and taxation went up to pay for this. The losses of merchant shipping almost starved Britain to death and rationing of all goods (food, coal, gas etc.) imposed hardships on the country which were necessary but again increased the power of the State enormously. There was a Ministry of just about everything. The costs of the war were crippling and not helped by the fact that America insisted Britain paid for and bought the equipment ordered by France (which was invaded before it could be delivered) which was mostly useless (such as rifle ammunition in the wrong calibre) as well as light bombers such as the Martin Maryland and Baltimore, Lockheed Hudson etc. which were not designed for the roles the RAF needed aircraft to fill.

A sign of the attitudes embedded in the mindset of the Government and Civil Servants was indicated by the danger of Invasion.

Here is something which may interest those who study the history etc. of Rifles.

The British 0.303 cartridge was designed for a black powder single shot rifle (The Martini actioned, Henry rifling barrelled Martini-Henry) and although the Lee Enfield bolt action rife was taken into service, the limitations of the rimmed, highly tapered 0.303 was well known.

The British War Office commenced a search for a replacement rifle and cartridge and after a lengthy development period, eventually came up with the Pattern 13 rifle and a 7mm cartridge. After detailed field trials (including civilians and the Army), it was decided to produce the rifle from 1914. The First World war intervened and sensibly, the War Office stuck with the lee Enfield/0.303 combination.

There was some doubt that British industry could keep up with demand so contracts were placed in the USA with Remington Rand, Eddystone and Winchester for the P13 but chambered for the 0.303 cartridge as the P14. Later, America would chamber it for the .30-06 cartridge as the M1917 Enfield rifle and after the War, Remington produced it for the civilian market as the (relying on memory) 52 or 54 Model. It evolved into the Remington M700 series …

As it happened, America delivered 1.25 Million rifles which were used for training and sniping only – British Industry coped with the demand for Lee-Enfields and they were not needed.

They were stored between the wars and when the threat of invasion during 1940 was imminent, THEY REMAINED IN STORAGE. The Home Guard was set up and paraded with broomsticks and any “overlooked” service rifles. It was not until the end of 1940/early 1941 when the Home Guard had been fully organised and brought under strict government control and the threat of invasion receded that the rifles were issued to them.

Consider the implications – there was a serious possibility that the Germans WOULD invade but the civil servants and the Government of the day decided that arming the population carried a greater risk than working with a hostile government. Vichy France did not have the monopoly on traitors.

Had the Germans invaded the “unsinkable aircraft carrier” that was Britain, the continent would have been under tyranny (Nazi, or more likely Communist) forever. Neither the British Empire countries or the USA could have realistically projected force across an Ocean nor it is likely that America would have tried.

No – the Government held the monopoly on force and did not intend to give it up. Control of the population under the emergency of war and for a long time afterwards was being established. For example, rationing did not end until 1952 when it was lifted for the Queens coronation.

The breakup of the British Empire brought home bureaucrats from the colonies and these colonial administrators were given non jobs in the UK – the white fish authority, the egg marketing board, the milk marketing board etc. and so forth were set up and headed by these people. They were used to controlling the “wogs” and brought the same attitudes back to Britain except the British public, inured to years of being told what to do, took the role of the wogs and compliantly did what they were told.

The final torpedo into liberty occurred on 5 July 1948 when the labour government stated off the Social Security scheme and the National Health Service. Today, it is the third largest employer in the World . . .

So what lessons can I summarise here?

1) Government is a Business and like any business it is a case of expand or die.

2) An emergency allows legislation to be introduced which ratchets up, never down and any power once seized is NEVER given up.

3) Politicians lie.

4) The Police are a business (see 1 above).

5) Unless you take an interest in Politics and watch your “representatives” like hawks, they will arrange things to benefit themselves.

6) Unless you are cynical, the plausible schemes, soft and reasonable sounding words are not rebutted and there is always a further step which can be taken to wards Utopia. Once you realise the process has gone too far, it is too late.

Does that little list sit uncomfortably with you?

I have made some sweeping statements here and you will correctly ask me to justify them. So here goes :

For the buildup to the First World war, "Dreadnought – Britain, Germany and the coming of the Great War" by Robert K Massie gives an extremely wide ranging and detailed insight into why the war started (including Germany claiming territorial violations by France as justification for the War – see 1939 also!)

For how and why the war developed John Keegans "The First World War" is the best overview without getting bogged down in the individual battles and "The 3rd battalion, Kings Regiment advanced 55 yards at 7-32Am on the 16th" detail which most histories devolve into.

For British social policies and the way it developed, see the Civitas website (http://www.civitas.org.uk/) and look at their free e-books.

For postwar council policy on housing from someone who was at the cutting edge, see this article from Civitas : http://www.civitas.org.uk/blog/ 2...government.html

And again, searching the Civitas website and the e-books section will reveal plenty of information on this. One thing I like about Civitas website is that the majority of the people who write for it are ex-socialists who have a detailed insight into the system and realise it doesn’t work.

For the development of firearms control, see "Guns and Violence – the English Experience" by Joyce Lee Malcolm.

Phil is an active firearm enthusiast and resident of New Zealand. Phil attended the 2009 Gun Bloggers Rendezvous in Reno Nevada.