Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Guest Post: Mr. Completely With More On Rimfire Magazines

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Rimfire expert Mr. Completely continues his excellent series on maintaining rimfire pistols with his third article on rimfire magazines.

A letter and number sized drill bit set. This set came from W.W. Granger's and the quality is very good.

In addition to a "Magazine Lipper" tool, as previously described, another extremely handy tool to have along when tuning rimfire magazines is a full set of number and letter size drill bits. The difference in size from one bit to the next is too great with a fractional drill bit set, but with a number and letter sized set the increments between sizes are small.

You can pick up a cheap set of these drill bits for around twenty bucks, and as gauges, they work just fine. As drill bits, however, they pretty much suck. If you can swing it, for somewhere around a hundred dollars you can get a pretty decent set of drill bits that will last you a very long time, at least, if you take care of them and don't break any!

Trying to measure the gap between the lips of a rimfire magazine with dial calipers is difficult due to the odd shape of the lips, but using a drill bit shank makes it a lot easier.

Using a drill bit shank to gauge the distance between magazine lips.
Hopefully when you get to the range to dial in your magazines you will find one or more magazines that seem to work just fine, and some that have problems. If that's the case, use a drill bit shank to determine the gap between the magazine lips of the working magazines and then carefully bend the magazine lips of the magazines that aren't feeding properly to match. If luck is with you, this may be all you need to do to get your magazines feeding properly. In the real world, however, there always seems to be at least one "Problem Child" of a magazine in every bunch. For these, you need to determine exactly what it's doing and then bend it accordingly.

There are a number of different types of failure to feed situations. If you can't get the rounds smoothly out f the magazine, no amount of magazine lip adjusting is going to help. When you load your magazines, do the rounds slide freely up and down with the follower, or do they tend to hang up a bit? If there is a bit of a tight spot perhaps the magazine has been slightly squeezed narrower, and a little careful spreading of the magazine from the inside is in order.

One of the more common FTF's is "Feeding Too High". Usually the bullet is jammed against the top edge of the chamber. There is usually a big dent in the nose of the bullet, and often times the bullet is actually partially dislodged so that it is no longer straight with the case. These situations are also just about the worst to clear in a hurry since the slide has usually hammered the cartridge into a solidly wedged position. Feeding too high is usually caused by the magazine lips being to far apart, or too high in the gun relative to the chamber.

A classic case of feeding too high.
Find the drill bit that just fits between the magazine lips. Now pick out the next smaller bit. Using the magazine lipper, carefully bend the lips inward until the smaller bit just fits between the lips. Keep in mind that the change will be approximately the thickness of a sheet of paper, so it doesn't take much bending to close the lips to the smaller gap. Once you have narrowed the magazine lips to the new dimension, give it a try and see if you have made any improvement. If it's still feeding high, try going down another step. If you go too far you will end up with the bullet hitting too low, and it will then usually kick up and look like a case of feeding too high, or it may not get out of the magazine at all.

When I stated that feeding too high was usually caused by the magazine lips being too far apart, this is the exception. If the magazine is feeding too low the bullet may hit the ramp leading up to the chamber and bounce past the opening into the chamber, ending up either jammed up like a regular case of feeding too high, or sometimes it will caught between the slide and the breech face, pointed almost straight up. This is a fairly rare situation, and if you look carefully at the bottom side of the nose of the bullet you will often see the beveled flat spot caused by hitting the ramp. A regular case of feeding too high will not have the dent.

When the magazine lips are too close together they won't let the rim end of the cartridge rise enough for the round to enter the chamber.
Notice the cartridge rim is still below the extractor.
The bottom corner of the extractor has snagged on the side of the cartridge just in front of the rim, keeping the cartridge from sliding all the way up the face of the slide.
If the round is feeding too low it will often hang up with the cartridge rim still held under the magazine lips and the bullet partially in the chamber. The top of the bullet is jammed against the top of the chamber, the bottom of the bullet is jammed against the lower edge of the chamber at the breech face, and the rim is still under the magazine lips.

Keep in mind that this as also what you get with a dirty chamber, so before you get carried away bending up your magazines, make sure your chamber is really clean. In fact, polishing the chamber can resolve a lot of problems that appear to be caused by the magazines. Really close tolerance "Match" chambers are especially vulnerable.

There is also another failure to feed that can easily be blamed on the magazines, and unless you look closely, it would appear to be a case of the magazine lips being too close together. However, in this case it's the extractor being a bit too tight to the face of the slide, not allowing the rim to slide up between the hook of the extractor and the slide face.

In the above picture you can see that the rim of the cartridge is fully out from under the magazine lips. The cure to this failure to feed is simple. Lightly stone off just the tiniest amount of the bottom corner of the extractor. When I say a tiny amount, that's exactly what I mean, as anything more will create a whole new batch of problems related to failure to extract. It's really closer to de-burring, rather than actually removing any metal.

When you are at the range and you get a FTF, the natural reaction is to clear it as quickly as you can and get to the next shot. However, if you take a moment to look closely at the situation, then carefully remove the round and look closely at the nose of the bullet, you'll have a much better chance to correctly identifying the exact cause of the FTF, and you'll have a lot easier time of resolving it. All magazines have a "Sweet Spot" where they are extremely reliable. If you are at one end or the other of the envelope the magazine will work really well almost always. Tuning your magazines, sometimes only an extremely small amount, will make them significantly better.

I should mention, though, that I have seen the occasional after-market magazine that absolutely refused to feed reliably. I attribute it to the after-market magazines sometimes not being quite as accurately made as the factory originals.

Rimfire magazine tuning can be something of a black art, but with a bit of patience, and trial and error, you should be able to get the results you are looking for. Failing that, you may want to consider a different pistol, or possibly a revolver..............

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.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Travel in Severe Winter Weather

A powerful blizzard is sweeping across the Midwest, and as I write this it's snowing here at Cheaper Than Dirt! headquarters. Heavy snow is forecast, and winds are predicted to bring whiteout conditions, making driving extremely hazardous.

But, it's Christmas Eve, and millions of travelers are heading over the river and through the woods to spend quality time with the family at Grandmother's house. When severe winter weather sets in and you still must travel, you should always be prepared. Below is an excerpt from our article on Extreme Cold Survival that deals with traveling in severe winter weather.
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. Whatever supplies and tools you have should be secured. Unsecured equipment in an automobile accident can become deadly projectiles.

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.
So, if you have to travel through this severe winter weather, pack the necessary equipment, take your time, and be careful. If conditions become to bad, just stop and wait out the storm: getting to Grandma's house isn't worth risking your safety. Above all else, have a safe and happy Christmas, and we'll see you after the holidays!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Interview with Kevin Rich, Owner of Blackdog Machine LLC

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I had the opportunity recently to sit down with Blackdog Machine LLC owner Kevin Rich and discuss the history of his little company, as well as get a sneak peek at some exciting products coming out soon. If the name Blackdog doesn't sound familiar to you, it should. Blackdog is well known as the industry standard for magazines for .22 conversion AR rifles.

Kevin Rich has more than 20 years of experience working with machine shops, plastics, and molding. Combine this with a lifetime spent around firearms, and you've got a man who truly understands the needs of the industry. Kevin is originally from Idaho, and he was living in Coeur D'alene when Michaels of Oregon moved into a new building in Meridian, Idaho. Kevin began working with them in 2002 on product research and development.

In 2005, Bushnell purchased Michaels of Oregon and in 2006 decided to eliminate 200 employees and move operations overseas to China. Kevin had long seen the need for a manufacturer of .22 conversion kits for a variety of firearms. In fact, he'd been working on his own designs for .22 magazines for some time. So when the axe fell at Michaels of Oregon, Kevin was ready.

When asked why he felt .22 magazines were the way to go, Kevin said, "It was a combination of things. I could see some possible political changes coming. The ban had just lifted for hi-cap magazines, and with the political changes that were coming, it was easy to see the ammunition shortage coming. I would say I was about two years ahead of things."

Those two years gave Kevin Rich just enough time to get Blackdog Machine off the ground. Kevin knew his product was viable, but nobody else had the foresight that Kevin did. He searched for investors and tried to get loans, but nobody else felt that his business platform for Blackdog Machine would work. So, Kevin liquidated what he could, used come credit cards, and borrowed some money from his family to get his dream off the ground floor.

The timing couldn't have been any better. At the time, Ciener conversions were the only .22 AR-15 converstions that were widely available on the market. Kevin commented on the beginning of the .22 revolution:
Ciener, he had some of it goin', but it didn't get popular. I think it was the demand. He wasn't able to keep up production. We released the Generation 1 magazine right around Christmas in 2005, and then that spurred on everybody else. It got them thinking, "Hey these guys have these magazines, lets build these uppers to go with the guns." So I built relationships with Model 1 Sales and Spikes Tactical.

Soon, sales began to skyrocket, both for the .22 conversion kits, as well as for Blackdog's extremely reliable magazines. But wherever there is success, imitators soon follow. I asked Kevin about the cheaper imports that are available from China and Korea. He had this to say:
Our customer service is bullet proof. Our next day shipping, it's well known. We've got a reputation for quality, shipping, and customer service that's bullet proof.
There's definitely a difference in quality as well. People know I started this, and I run the company. I mean, I get down there and I can run all of the machines. I design all of our own products, from drawing it in CAD to designing the tooling and injection molds. I personally check every product before it heads out the door, and if there's a problem, I pull it. Plus, we're innovative. People know we're on the cutting edge. That's how we stay ahead of all the copycats.

Blackdog Machine is definitely innovative. I asked Kevin about what we can expect from Blackdog in the future. He remained tight-lipped, saying, "I don't like to talk about products until people can get their hands on it." Nevertheless, I did get some juicy details about what we can expect to see from Blackdog at the 2010 SHOT show.

One of Blackdog's newest magazines is their .22 caliber drum magazine for the AR-15 .22 conversion platform. This magazine is already available on the market. Kevin designed the magazine from the ground up using a team of talented engineers.

I asked him about some of the obstacles he had to overcome when designing a 100% reliable .22 drum magazine:
Feeding issues are a big deal. What we did is we developed a new way of feeding the rounds up the tower. The trick is to feed all of your rounds up the tower, feeding the rounds through the drum is easy. The key is in what I call the 'dummy stack', or the follower. We've got a new way in which we do our follower so that it reliably and consistently feeds every round. I also designed it so that the drum can be easily taken apart with the spring self-contained so that it doesn't come flying out when you disassemble it. The drum spring itself can be wound tighter or wound less and still function reliably. I wanted it right, and we went the extra mile to make it right. I actually go out there and check every single drum to make sure that they function, I want to make sure that drum is perfect.

Kevin's AR-15 .22 drum magazine is just the beginning. He mentioned that he has a new drum magazine for the 10/22 Ruger that will be unveiled at the SHOT show. While I can't reveal all of the details on his newest product, he did mention that this new drum magazine has a number of patented features, including patents on the gear teeth and the angle of the tower. Keep a close eye out for that redesigned drum tower. According to Kevin Rich, it revolutionizes magazine interchangeability!

Blackdog Machine isn't limiting their new products to just magazines however. They will be unveiling more than just their new drum magazine at the 2010 SHOT show. In our conversation, Kevin asked me if I was familiar with the WASR-22 .22 caliber AK rifle. Blackdog already manufactures magazines for a wide range of rifles. But according to Kevin, much more than just magazines will soon be available. He didn't go into all of the details, but Blackdog does have a SOT class 2 permit, so I feel safe in speculating that we may see an all Blackdog-designed rimfire AK coming out in the near future.

AKs aren't the only .22 firearm that Blackdog has in the works. Kevin hinted that Glock wasn't the only company working on a .22 version of their pistol. He told me to stop by his table at the 2010 SHOT show to see Blackdog's answer to the rimfire Glock question. Kevin insisted on keeping mum on the details, but insisted that the kit will be ready for production soon after the SHOT show. If true, that will be a huge coup for Blackdog, as the rumoured Glock .22 caliber pistol isn't supposed to be available for another year or so.

There is one more product in development at the Blackdog skunkworks. When he was with Michaels of Oregon, Kevin worked with some of the designers of Uncle Mike's holsters. He has now taken that expertise and developed a retention holster for the Ruger .22 pistol line. He commented on the new holster, saying:
My focus is rimfire, so I wanted to come out with our own line of molded holsters. I've got a molded kydex .22 Ruger holster that we'll be revealing at the 201 SHOT show - it's not a pipe dream, this product is DONE. The molds are done. This is going to be the big-shot premier. This thing is gonna be a hit. This fits the Ruger Mark I, II, and III, and it fits every barrel configuration from slabs to bull barrels, including aftermarket uppers and silencers. It will also fit any optic, red dots, scopes, etc. This holster's ambidextrous. We used four screws that hold an adapter plate and a belt loop by simply removing those screws, you can switch the plate to the other side. It's also adjustable for retention, so 3-gun competitors and other competitive shooters who have to use a holster with some retention can practice with their .22.

Blackdog Machine is a new and obviously up and coming company with an excellent lineup of products, and with even more exciting products coming in the next year. But Blackdog Machine LLC is a small company. Blackdog only employs 10 people, 5 of which came from Micahels of Oregon when Bushnell shut down them down. Kevin says he likes his small company. They're nimble, innovative, and can easily adapt to what the market demands, yet they're big enough to have excellent quality and top-notch customer service. Keep an eye on this company. I've a strong feeling that they've got many more impressive products yet to come.

Updated New video of Kevin Rich with his new 10/22 Magazine with a hand cranked 10/22

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Blackdog Announces New Ruger 10/22 Magazine

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Black Dog Machine brings their 50 round drum technology to your Ruger 10/22.  Based on their previous drum for the AR-15 platform in .22 long rifle, this 50 round magazine for the Ruger 10/22 brings the same reliability and fun factor to the millions of 10/22 owners.

Available soon, you can watch the test video here.

Friday, December 18, 2009

How Rifle Twist Works

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Just reading the title, you might think this would be a very short post. Everybody knows that rifle twist works by spinning the bullet so that it is stable as it flies through the air. Naturally, there's a bit more to it than that.

Anyone that spends any amount of time at the rifle range or hunting lease will inevitably find himself within earshot of two people discussing barrel twist. Twist as discussed here, refers to the rifling in the barrel of modern rifles making a full 360 degree turn in a given length of inches. As an example, a 1 in 7 Twist means the rifling makes one 360 degree turn for every seven inches of barrel. By the same token, 1 in 9 twist means the rifling comes a full 360 degrees in 9 inches. So, the lower the number of inches, the tighter the twist of the rifling.

The amount of twist you need in a given rifle depends a lot on the weight and length of the bullet. As you might imagine, heavier bullets require a tighter twist in order to spin them up enough to stabilize them. The length of the bullet is important, because a longer bullet has more surface area for the rifling to engage. That additional surface area gives the rifling more grip on the bullet and consequently enables it to spin it up more easily.

Many firearms are manufactured with a variety of rifling twists available. For the popular AR-15 platform, several different twists are currently produced. Not all ammo shoots well in all twist ratios. A barrel with a 1x7 Twist tends to be too tight for most lighter, more commonly fired ammunition, but is perfect for heavier bullets in the 69-80 grain range. Firing a light weight 55 grain bullet through a tight twist barrel can "overspin" the bullet and result in a loss of accuracy as the rapidly spinning bullet curves through the air, not unlike a curve ball. Overspinning the bullet can also cause some thin jacketed hollow point projectiles to fly apart from the centrifugal forces of the spin.

Standard military issue M16 and M4 rifles, and their AR counterparts, are commonly found with 1 in 9 twist barrels. Originally designed for the military's use of SS109 (the official NATO name of 5.56mm, or .223), military testing concluded this twist ratio is actually superior for this steel core bullet. 1x9 and 1x10 twist ratios are sort of the "middle of the road" for .223 projectiles, and these are the most common. We suggest our Lake City military XM193 ammunition for this barrel.

On the lighter side of things, a 1x12 boasts excellent accuracy on standard and lighter projectiles in the 40-52 grain range. Older M16 rifles were manufactured with the 1x12 Twist ratio. Our item number ARR-115 offers a conversion upper for your AR that takes less than a minute to install, and the barrel has a desirable 1x12 twist ratio. If you are buying a varmint rifle chambered in .223, chances are it will sport a 1x12 Twist Ratio.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

New Choate PMAG Magazine Clamp

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We recently picked up a new product from Choate Machine and Tool at the SAR Show West in Phoenix Arizona this December.

Choate's newest offering is a magazine clamp for the enormously popular Magpul PMAG polymer magazines. It simply clamps two PMAGS together. The clamp is made up of a polymer center section with a steel front and rear sections, all held together with a long flathead bolt.

This magazine clamp feels substantial and looks like it is a quality product. It is hefty and looks overbuilt.

We tested this magazine clamp with two standard PMAGS. Fully loaded the two mags were of course over twice as heavy as a single mag, but the balance of a standard M4-style AR was not significantly negatively affected.

The PMAG magazines can be clamped up high, but not high enough to interfere with the magwell, or lower toward the bottom of the magazine.

We also performed some impromptu drop testing with the two fully loaded clamped PMAGs on the office floor and the magazines did tend to slide when subjected to this type of mistreatment, but they were still in the clamp solidly and did not move or rattle or slide inside the clamp once picked up off the floor.

Overall, at the $25 MSRP proposed price point, the Choate clamp represents a significant value, and the only option for clamping magazines for those using PMAGS. This clamp is far less expensive than the other options available for carrying two magazines at the ready, and this setup fits non-AR type guns, as well as non-standard AR-15 lowers.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Game Recovery Lessons

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Only once in all my years of hunting and in going along with my dad as he hunted have I ever been in a situation where an animal that had been shot made a run for it. I am very thankful for this, as the situation is not one that any hunter wants to be in; not only does it feed into the image of our sport among non-hunters as superfluous and cruel, but no hunter worth the tag wants an animal suffering because of a botched shot. It's also a terrible waste if the animal cannot be recovered.

It was a nippy late-October afternoon, with an early brushing of snow on the ground. It was the tail end of the doe season in the interior of British Columbia, and my brother, my dad, and I were driving out of the spot we had been hiking through that morning. We had not seen a single deer that day, but as luck would have it my eagle-eyed brother saw a pair of does standing about 300 yards up a bank on our left. Dad stopped the car and we jumped out with our .303 British bolt actions. I have found that these are an ideal gun to hunt with on back roads as the clips slam home easily. My dad had the clearest shot through his 4 x 32 scope, a similar product to the one manufactured by Huntmaster. He had time to get off one shot, and the deer turned and bolted. My dad and I both thought it had been a clean miss, as we had not seen the deer stagger (this would have been the first time I had ever seen my father miss a shot).

My brother, on the other hand, swore that he had seen one of the deer fall to her knees before running off. Unfortunately he did not say this until we had unloaded and gotten back into the truck. We went to have a look, and sure enough there was blood on the snow. We all had that sick feeling in our stomachs, but we decided to set off in search anyway. We were equipped with a product that a friend of mine had picked up earlier in the year and swore by when it came to tricky tracking situation as this one would turn out to be as dusk came on, the Primos Bloodhunter Blood Trailing Flashlight. As night fell, this product turned into a big helper for us. Without it, we probably would never have been able to recover the deer, but with its aid we were able to locate her even in the dark. Dressing her was made much more helpful through the use of Remington headlamps (this was our first year with headgear as we had had a situation the season before where one of us was of no help to the others as someone had to be holding the flashlight the whole time!)

Having an animal get away wounded is not something that any hunter wants to happen. We owe it to the animals and to the sport to do our utmost to ensure that any animal shot is recovered by the person who shot it, and the right products to help out are a necessity!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Budget Pistols: Buying Used

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In our last post, we discussed choosing concealed carry handguns for a new shooter. One subject we touched on was budgeting for a pistol. Firearms, as a general rule, are not inexpensive. High quality firearms can command prices that exceed $1,000. This places many firearms outside of the average person's budget. What do you do when the pistol that "works" for you is one that is too expensive? One solution we mentioned was buying used. The problem is, not all used firearms are the bargains that they seem.

When buying a used firearm, you don't ever truly know how well that handgun was cared for by its previous owner. As such, without having a used firearm inspected by a gunsmith (which I highly encourage anyone buying a used firearm to do), you never know whether you're picking up a bargain, or buying someone else's "problem". One exception to this however is factory refurbished or certified pre-owned firearms.

A number of manufacturers have "certified" used pistol programs. These pistols are thoroughly inspected, tested, and then certified by factory armorers before being offered for sale. One of the best programs like this that I know of is Sig Sauer's Certified Pre-Owned program. Sig Sauer regularly buys back used law enforcement firearms when departments are upgrading.

Glock also offers factory refurbished handguns from time to time. As with Sig Sauer, Glock has their pistols inspected by factory armorers and replaces any worn parts before certifying the firearms for resale. Both manufacturers offer 1 year warranties on their refurbished and Certified Pre-Owned handguns.

Law enforcement trade-ins are the most common firearms that make their way through factory refurbishing. Many of these firearms are barely used at all, only fired a few times a year for practice and qualification. Currently, many departments are moving towards replacing their standard issue firearms with new Smith and Wesson M&P pistols. These new pistols are inexpensive already, and can be picked up brand new for less than $400 in many cases. But the real bargains are the pistols being traded in by these departments. Many are trading Sig Sauer 229 and 226 pistols, along with many Beretta 92 and Glock handguns. These factory refurbished Glocks can be had for $400 to $459, nearly $100 off the price of a brand new model. Beretta 92 models have been seen selling for less than $350. The used Sig Sauer handguns are sometimes priced even better, often retailing for as much as 50% less than a new model.

When purchasing a handgun, the price tag can present a serious hurdle. Many people simply don't care for the low budget pistols available on the market, and yet cannot afford a higher quality pistol. Buying a used handgun allows a lower entry level price point for those who desire a high-end model. Just remember - go for factory refurbished or Certified Pre-Owned models, or insist on having a gunsmith inspect any potential purchase.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Helping to Choose A Concealed Carry Handgun For a New Shooter

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If you're a handgun owner and you have friends who are not, you may often find yourself looked to as an expert on the subject. A common question I find myself faced with by new shooters is: "I want to get a handgun for concealed carry and personal protection. What should I get?" It's a very personal question, with no one right answer. There is a very good reason there is such a broad selection of handguns on the market, and that is that different people look for different qualities in a defensive firearm.

The first thing a new shooter should do is become familiar with pistols in general. One major mistake experienced shooters make is recommending their personal favorite firearm as the gun of choice for a new shooter. I can't tell you how many times I've been at the range and seen a husband encouraging his wife to try out his .357 Magnum snub nosed revolver. Don't get me wrong - small hammerless big bore revolvers are carried by thousands of women. But starting a new shooter off with such a firearm can be a mistake. When dealing with a new shooter, start small with something like a Ruger .22 pistol so that they can get used to practicing proper shooting technique. Firearms are intimidating, and starting a newbie off with a fire-belching magnum is a sure-fire way to intimidate them so much that they conclude that they are incapable of handling a firearm.

Once your new shooter is comfortable with a .22, step up to a soft shooting .380, 9mm, or .38 Special. Try a wide variety of handguns and let them find out what they like as well as what they don't like. A shooter looking for their first carry pistol should find one that fits them well. Grip size, grip angle, overall weight and balance, muzzle length, and caliber all play into this complex equation. Be sure to consider the human factor: how intuitively can they manipulate the handguns controls? Is the safety easy to reach? What about the magazine or cylinder release? All of these things contribute to the overall suitability of a pistol to a particular shooter. There's no set equation for figuring out what pistol fits best - you've got to take some for a test drive.

Most pistol ranges have a variety of handguns that can be rented for a small fee. Don't bother renting full size handguns - these are usually not suitable for concealed carry. Stick with compact and subcompact firearms. Try a variety of actions and calibers. Don't place too much emphasis on finding a large caliber pistol. While a .357 Sig or .357 Magnum may be your choice as the best carry caliber, it may be a handful for a novice shooter. The ability to maintain consistent and accurate shot placement is far more important than the "stopping power" of any particular caliber. As instructor Greg Hamilton said, "Do you know how to double the effectiveness of any bullet? Put another round through your target." Two .25 ACP rounds that land solid hits on the target are much more effective than two misses with a .357 Magnum.

Consider also the price and availability of your ammunition. Practice is key to maintaining proficiency with any firearm. Your new shooter may love their .380 subcompact, but with the current ammunition shortage, will they be able to find enough .380 at a reasonable price to practice with? Many pistol models are available in a variety of calibers. If your new shooter falls in love with that Sig 229 in .357 Sig, but you're concerned with ammo availability, have them try a Sig 229 in .40 S&W instead.

The overall reliability of a handgun is also very important. Many handguns are picky about what type of ammunition they will digest. Ask your local range if you can try some standard pressure defensive rounds through their rental guns. Most ranges will gladly let you give it a test drive if you purchase the ammunition there (most will not let you run +P high pressure rounds). In addition to their ability to feed ammunition, some firearms are simply more reliable than others. Talk to an experienced shooter or range master about the reliability of the pistol your new shooter is considering for purchase. Pistols that are carried regularly are exposed to all manner of fouling media. Lint, dirt, and dust can collect on the pistol, and rust can be an issue in high humidity environments or during the summer. Some handguns are simply better suited for concealed carry. Look for polymer, stainless steel, or other frames that will resist moisture, dirt, and dust.

Once a new shooter has settled on what gun is right, the pocket book comes into play. Firearms are not cheap as a general rule, and it's possible to find that the right pistol for your new shooter is out of their budget. If that is the case, talk to your local firearm dealer about layaway plans, or consider buying used. Many manufacturers like Sig Sauer offer factory certified used firearms that come with an excellent warranty and are priced at a significant discount. If a factory certified used firearm isn't a possibility, have a gunsmith inspect the potential purchase. They can spot excessive wear and abuse and can tell how well a used handgun has been cared for.

Finally, once the new purchase has been made, practice! Practice is critical to being able to properly employ a firearm in a self defense situation, so continue to encourage a new shooter to accompany you to the range and practice with their new pistol. If they've chosen a handgun that suits them well, practice will be an enjoyable pastime that the two of you can spend together.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Reloading - A Beginner's Guide - Part 1

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Ammunition prices have gone sky high in recent months, and show no sign of falling anytime soon. Heck - many calibers of ammunition are hard to find at any price. So, what's a shooter to do? For myself and others, reloading is one solution.

Reloading involves recycling spent brass and prepping it to reload with new primers, powder, and bullets. Perhaps you're one of many who are fed up with the unavailability of your choices in ammunition and are ready to get started loading your own. Where do you begin?

The Lee Anniversary Reloading Kit is one of the most popular kits for the beginner. It includes almost everything you could need for reloading a single caliber of ammunition for a low entry level price of $89.99. Lee Anniversary kits include powder measure, powder funnel, case prep tools, priming tool, scale, breech lock press, and a reloading manual. In addition to the reloading kit, you will need dies in your caliber, calipers, primers and powder. All told, you can get started with this basic press, new brass, bullets, dies, powders and primers for around $500 shipped (depending on caliber).

When your new reloading gear arrives, try to restrain yourself from diving right in and starting to throw things together. Stop! Find your instruction manual and reloading manual, and sit down with a nice cup of tea and READ IT. I can't emphasize this enough - reloading involves working with smokeless powder and primers, both of which have the ability to severely injure you if you don't respect them. Be patient, turn off the TV, and read your instruction manual front to back before doing anything else with your kit.

After you are done reading the manual, begin to unpack your kit and parts and familiarize yourself with them. Make sure that you can positively identify each and every part of your kit. Next, find a clean safe area you can work in and find a solid base that you can mount your press to (hint: if you're married, the kitchen table is not a good choice!) and a separate place to set your scale that is sturdy and level.

Now, let's get started reloading. First of all, this information should be considered ancillary to the instructions that came with your reloading press and in your reloading manual and in should no way be construed as overriding or replacing the instructions for your particular press. That being said, let's get started.

.38 Caliber Resizing Die

I want to address straight-walled cartridges first, as these are the easiest to reload. Straight-walled brass does not need resizing lube when it is used with a carbide die. Ensure that your brass is clean. Grit and particles on the brass can damage a resizing ring, so your brass needs to be spotless. There are a number of brass cleaning systems out on the market. If you are polishing your brass (as you should) make sure that all of the polishing media is thoroughly removed from the brass. You can use brass that hasn't been polished, but make doubly sure that all powder particles, dirt and grit have been cleaned away.

Take the appropriate shell holder for your brass and install it on the ram of the press. With the ram raised up, screw your resizing die in until it only barely touches the shell holder. With the ram lowered, move the sizing die in by turning it one full turn. Raise the ram up again and the shell holder should press up against the die. Now tighten the locking ring of the die tightly so that it can't back out. Adjust the deprimer pin on the resizing die so that it sticks out enough to push the primer out of the case, and lock it down securely.

Now, take your clean brass and insert one case into the shell holder. While raising the ram, the case will begin to encounter resistance as it enters the die. If it feels like it is stopping or jamming completely, DON'T FORCE IT! Lower the ram and make sure that the case is well seated in the shell holder. If it is not, the die can crush the mouth of the case and ruin it for reloading. Once you've verified that the shell is properly seated in the shell holder, operate the ram lever to the full extent of its stroke. The primer of the case should pop out. If it does not pop out, or if you are unable to operate the lever all the way, check that the rod carrying the deprimer is not screwed in too deep. Adjust the decapping rod and try again.

Inspect your deprimed and resized case. Make sure the metal is uncreased and undamaged. Ensure that there are no cracks or shiny rings around the case rim. Check that the case properly chambers in your firearm and that the bolt will close and chamber properly (or for revolvers, that the cylinder will close and operate properly). This is how we will verify that the case is resized correctly. Once verified, you can proceed to resize the rest of your cases. After resizing and depriming all of your brass, inspect all of the brass, looking for the same flaws we mentioned above. Clean out the primer pocket with a cleaning tool, making sure that all soot, dirt, and grit is cleaned out. If you are reloading rifle ammunition, at this point you should chamfer and deburr the case mouth.

Now remove the resizing die from your press and install the expander die. We will use the expander die to slightly widen the mouth of the case in order to allow us to easily seat a bullet. The process for installing and adjusting a case expander vary, so follow the manufacturers instructions precisely. Make adjustments to the case expander slowly and incrementally to avoid damaging a case. Damaged cases will not be able to be used or repaired and should be discarded. When you have the case mouth flared just enough to begin seating a bullet without having to struggle to get it positioned properly, stop. There is no reason to expand the case mouth too much, and in fact over expanding the case mouth can impede your ability to properly crimp the bullet in position.

Once all of the brass has been flared, it's time to prime them. I can't emphasize safety here enough: primers are essentially small self-contained and impact-sensitive explosives. Proper eye protection is a MUST when you are priming your brass. Make sure that you have the proper sized primer for your cartridge - pay close attention, because rifle and large pistol primers appear to be the same size, but they are markedly different in their performance.

RCBS Priming Tool

There are a number of priming tools available on the market, and most of them work in similar fashion using a lever to gently press the primer into the primer pocket of a case held in a shell holder. Follow the manufacturers instructions for your particular priming tool. When checking the primed brass, make sure that the primer is firmly set so that the cup of the primer is set just below the head of the case. It should not stick out at all. If it does, place it back in your priming tool and press it in a little farther until it is just below flush.

Finally it's time to charge your case and seat a bullet. Again, since we are working with dangerous materials, make sure that your work area is clean and that you are free of distractions. Reloading is not something you can do while watching TV or carrying on a conversation - all of your attention needs to be focused on the task at hand. As always when working with potentially explosive materials, always wear safety glasses!

There are a number of ways to properly measure a powder charge. Many of the budget model presses include pre-measured scoops or dippers that are marked with a grain measurement. These will work, but they are not as accurate as a powder measure and scale. But before doing ANYTHING with powder, grab your reloading manual and check the proper load for the caliber you are loading. Make sure that you have the right powder and bullet weight. Check your load data. Check it AGAIN. Cross reference it with a second reloading manual. Now is not the time to mess around or experiment, make absolutely sure that the load you are using is safe and within spec according to your reloading manuals!

Once you've confirmed the proper powder charge, set up your scale on a stable and level surface and place your powder pan on the scale. Zero (tare) the weight on your scale so that you are only measuring the contents of your powder pan. Dial your powder measure back to its smallest setting and fill the hopper with powder. Dispense a charge of powder into your powder pan and measure it on your scale. Slowly increase the setting on your powder measure until it dispenses the correct amount of powder into your pan. Repeat this charge two or three times to ensure it is consistent.

You can pour your charge directly into the case, use a funnel, or if you have a deluxe press, use the supplied charging system. Make a note of how full the case is. With come calibers, it's possible to double or even triple charge a case! Use this mental note of how full a properly charged case is to keep an eye on your charges and ensure that you don't overcharge any. Also, make sure to stop every 10th round or so and weigh your charge to make sure that the powder measure has not changed.

With your cases all charged, it's time to break out the bullet seating die. For bullets with a cannelure, seating is a fairly straight forward process. For bullets without a cannelure, it's slightly more difficult. First, you need to know what your overall cartridge length is. Dial calipers are extremely useful here to measure the finished cartridge as the seating die is adjusted. Using an empty (uncharged) primed and expanded case, raise the ram to full height. Unscrew the seating stem of the seating die out almost all the way. Now screw the die back into the press until you can just feel it touching the case, and then back it out a half turn and lock it in place. Take the case back out of the press, charge it, and start a bullet. Place it back into the press and slowly raise the ram. The ram should go almost all the way up before the seating stem touches the bullet. If you are able to raise the ram all the way up, hold it up while screwing the seating stem down until it makes contact with the bullet. Lower the ram and screw the seating stem down a little bit more. Raise the ram back up and the bullet should be fully seated into the case. Using your dial calipers, measure the overall cartridge length to make sure that it is within spec. Continue this process while adjusting the seating stem until it is within spec, and then lock down your seating stem. Proceed to seat bullets in the rest of your charged cases.

We're almost done, but there's one more step we need to take. Unless your manufacturer includes a crimp in the seating die, you will still need to crimp the bullet securely in the case using a factory crimp die. Follow the manufacturers instructions for your factory crimp die, and you'll be done!

That's all there is to reloading straight-walled ammunition. In our next installment, we'll discuss loading necked-down cartridges.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Guest Post: Rimfire Magazines by Mr. Completely

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Mr. Completely, one of the foremost authorities on rimfire pistols on the internet has added another primer on Rimfire Magazines. This is only part one of his essay on rimfire magazines, so keep your eyes peeled for part two of his series.

A typical rimfire semi-automatic pistol magazine. This one's for a Smith & Wesson Model 22A. Note the round cutout at the bottom of the slot.

One of the most common problems with rimfire semi-automatic pistols is failure to feed. Back when the rimfire .22 cartridges were designed, semi-automatic rimfire pistols weren’t around, so the cartridge rim wasn’t a problem. When you stack ten of them up on top of each other in a magazine, though, the rims keep the cartridges from lying flat and parallel to each other. By slanting the magazine, at least the rims aren’t up against each other, but are staggered one in front of the other, making things a bit better, but still far from ideal.

"Special Factory Service Tool" being used to hold the follower at the extreme bottom of the magazine.

Rimfire failure to feed problems can be caused by one or even several different things, so solving the problem often isn’t easy. One of the possibilities is a problem with the magazine itself. Before doing anything else, disassemble and thoroughly clean the magazine. Most rimfire pistol magazines can be disassembled for cleaning.

To disassemble the magazine, I use a thin piece of wood, or whatever else might be handy, to compress the follower spring and to hold the follower all the way to the bottom of the magazine. This will allow you to grasp the follower pin with a pair of pliers and pull it out of the follower through the larger round hole at the bottom of the magazine slot. The follower pin has a small flange on it that keeps it from coming out, being kept into place by the sides of the magazine slot. Once you have removed the follower pin you can let the follower back up to the top of the magazine body. On some magazines the follower is thin enough that it can now be taken out through the top of the magazine, along with the follower spring.

Compressing the follower spring to allow removal of the floor plate. The floor plate is almost removed.

Other brands of magazines may have a removable floor plate, or magazine bottom. Often the follower spring is also the retainer for the floor plate. On the Smith & Wesson magazines used of the Model 22A, for example, slip a small rod, punch, drill bit, nail, or whatever’s at hand through the slots on the side of the magazine and pull the follower spring away from the bottom of the magazine a bit. Once you have done so, the plastic bottom piece will slide rearward off the magazine.

The fully disassembled magazine.
Now you can clean everything and inspect the parts for any obvious burrs or defects. A little bit of smoothing and polishing with some very fine “Wet-or-dry” sandpaper is not a bad idea while you’re here. After everything looks good, thoroughly clean everything, lubricate the pieces, and put it back together. From my experience, the tension of the magazine follower spring is not particularly critical. I’ve seen a wide variation in spring tensions all work fine, as long as the magazine and follower are free and smooth from top to bottom of their travel.

There are a lot of things you can use for lubricating a rimfire magazine. A dry lubricant such as CRC 5-56 Silicone or LPS dry lubricant work well, particularly in a dustier environment where oil tends to attract and accumulate dust. I use Tri-Flow, a spray oil with Teflon, most of the time. Any oily lubricant should be used sparingly, though. Brownell’s also has excellent oil under the Brownell’s brand name.

Model 22A magazine catch holes, a source of mis-feeding problems.
Speaking of 22A magazines, they have a “Designed-In” feeding problem that affects some types of ammunition and not others. There are two small square holes on the front of the magazine about half way down. These are for the magazine retention catch. Depending on the shape of the nose of the bullet, it can snag in one of these holes and the rounds won’t move up in the magazine as the top one is removed. The somewhat “squared-off” hollow points seem to be the worst, and fairly narrow round-nosed bullets like CCI Standard Velocity seem to feed the best. On later production of the S&W 22A magazines the factory has dimpled-in the spot between the two square holes to reduce or eliminate this problem. In most cases it seems to have solved the problem. The magazine pictured has a thin aluminum liner glued to the inside front of the magazine. It never hangs up, regardless of bullet shape. I’ve also experimented with a very thin stainless steel liner, and it also works well.

Once you have your magazines all cleaned up and lubricated, put a mark or a number on each one so you can tell them apart. Make sure your pistol is also nice and clean and properly lubricated too, while you're at it. Grab a brick of .22 ammo and head out to the range. For testing purposes I'd go with something like Federal Bulk, or CCI Blazers, as they should both run well in just about any rimfire semi-auto.

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.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The .30-30 Deer Rifle

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When it comes to deer hunting, the first rifle to come to mind is usually the venerable .30-30 lever action. Many deer hunters took their first bucks with a Winchester Model 94 or a Marlin 336, or any of a dozen other similarly styled rifles. The .30-30 cartridge has the reputation of having killed more deer than any other cartridge. It's been around for more than 100 years, so the chances are this is correct. In fact, I'd even wager that it still, to this day, kills more deer than any other cartridge.

Why is the .30-30 such a popular deer cartridge? And what is it about the lever actions chambered in it that make them so potent for taking deer? Initially created by Winchester for their 1894 lever action, the .30 Winchester Center Fire was one of the first modern small-bore centerfire cartridges designed to use smokeless powder. Marlin also developed their own lever action, the 336, but renamed the round the .30-30 so as not to have the name "Winchester" in their cartridge designation. Both rifles are short, lightweight, and easily portable through heavy woods and brush. The light recoil of the round and quick lever action provides the ability for rapid follow up shots if necessary.

When it was first introduced, the .30-30 was known as a very flat shooting cartridge. Of course today we'd consider it a very short range cartridge that fairly arcs in towards the target. But considering that the hunting cartridge of the day was the black powder .45-75, the .30-30 was extremely flat shooting by comparison.

But why does the popularity of the .30-30 persist to this day? Surely modern cartridges such as the .243 or .270 are much better deer rounds. They have a much longer effective range, and shoot much flatter than the .30-30. One answer is that the Marlin 336 and Winchester 1894 are very inexpensive rifles by comparison, making them popular entry level guns. In addition, .30-30 ammunition is significantly less expensive than most modern hunting cartridges. What's more, most deer are shot in the woods at distances that rarely exceed 75 yards, a range at which the .30-30 excels. Finally, the .30-30 has extremely light recoil, making it popular amongst women and younger inexperienced hunters.

Despite its long and successful history, many still question the effectiveness of the .30-30 round on deer. I think the millions of deer taken with the .30-30 is sufficient evidence of the cartridge's adequacy at dropping most medium sized game. Heavier 150 - 170 grain .30-30 bullets have more than enough energy to drop a deer out to 200 yards, provided the hunter is capable of making such a shot. While the .30-30 isn't suitable for heavier game such as elk or grizzlies in this writer's opinion, more than a few hunters have been successful taking large North American game with the round.

So, if you're looking for a light, accurate, and effective deer gun that is perfect for use in the woods and thick brush where deer encounters are up close and personal, don't overlook the good 'ole .30-30. Whether you use a Winchester Model 94 or Marlin 336, iron sights or a simple 1-4x scope, you'll find that the .30-30 is a great soft-shooting deer gun that is still able to hold her own against modern hunting cartridges.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Guest Post: How Much Ammunition Is Enough?

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The ammunition industry has been a very exciting place for the past few years. In addition to an influx of new hunters and shooters, we've also seen a number of individuals stocking up on various calibers of ammunition in anticipation of some unforeseen future shortages. The reasons to stockpile ammunition vary. But regardless of your reason to acquire a cache, how much is a sufficient quantity?

Our newest guest blogger, Selous Scout, writes about just this in his post "How Much Ammunition is Enough?"

The argument over how much ammo to buy and store is one of the most widely contested subjects on the Survival/Militia internet forums today. Many feel that only 500 rounds total is necessary while others suggest amounts that would require heavy trucking to move about.

All things considered, the amount of ammo you need to store is directly tied to what your perception of what TSHTF will consist of and how you go about preparing for it. The amount of ammo required by a homeowner protecting the contents of his home after a natural disaster is considerably less than the Survivalist preparing for a multi-generational economic collapse/NWO takeover/Government suspension of civil rights scenario.

In one you may have to protect yourself and property for several months while in the others your succeeding generations (if there are any) will have to rely on what you stored up for them. So where does this put you? Since this relies on your personal beliefs, no one can tell you what will suit your needs. You must evaluate what may possibly happen during your SHTF period and purchase accordingly.

Do you feel that you will have to fight off the ravening hordes of un-prepared sheeple?
Do you plan on supplementing your stored food with small game?
How good of shot are you? Can you do one shot kills on an attacking feral dog pack?

If you like to shoot as a hobby you may already have reloading equipment and lots of supplies. It is a worthwhile hobby to take up as it can cut the cost of ammo for your favorite non-common caliber, whether it is a wildcat load or an obsolete military caliber, and it is also fun. But how much is enough?

Perhaps the best way to approach this is to set up a purchasing plan. Work out on paper (or computer) the most likely scenario to happen in your area sooner than later. If you do not have supplies to get you thru 72 hours of your favorite SHTF, that is your primary concern. If you don’t have one, buy your primary weapon for your arsenal and several hundred rounds to go with it. Next purchase a weeks worth of storage food. Then purchase water purifying supplies that will clean 50 or more gallons. Alternate your purchases each month building on what you had before until you have reached a level at which you are comfortable.

Once you have done this, then plan for the next most likely scenario. Using this technique you can slowly build up a supply of food, water, gear and ammo without sacrificing one group of items for the sake of another. You will also be able to add gear for the least likely scenario without sacrificing for the most likely to happen.

Now that you have met your most dire needs and prepared for those what ifs, you can begin to stock-up on ammo.

But what do you buy?

First thing to understand is that in a natural disaster, life will go on outside of the affected zone. This means that ammo will continue to be produced by the respective manufacturers and what you have accumulated through your purchasing plan should be sufficient for your needs.


If we were to experience an economic breakdown, with riots and such, martial law would most likely be imposed, some people disarmed (most likely the wrong ones), and no ammo available for the foreseeable future, if ever again. Let the experiences of those who suffered the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and other disasters be a lesson to you.

Lesson 1
You can be forcibly removed from your home for “your own good”! In a future disaster, your food and supplies may be seized and redistributed to the sheeple.

Lesson 2
You will be disarmed for the general good. You may be shot if you do not co-operate willingly. You may never see your firearms again.

Lesson 3
The government is inept at responding to disasters of this scope.

Lesson 4
Those with the guns make the rules.

Those with extensive reloading supplies (hidden away) will be in a fairly good position, but you can not reload .22lr!

The barrel life of most average modern (WWI and up) military firearms is up to 50,000 rounds fired with proper cleaning techniques and controlled rates of fire of 5 to 10 seconds between shots.

This is also true of most .22lr’s.

So now we reach the answer for a multi-generational firearm. Buy for the life of the barrel. Unless you own a Ruger 10/22 and a select few other makes, the ability to replace the barrel will exceed the skill of most users, especially after TSHTF. The 10/22 has an easily removable barrel and a spare can be stockpiled along with other spare parts needed to keep your rifle humming.

100,000 rounds of .22lr = $2000.00+ in today’s money. This is a large, forbidding outlay of cash for a lot of us, so the answer is to continue to purchase over time, and storing in metal ammo boxes.

Now you ask, What do I need with all that ammo?

YOU don’t need all that ammo. But your children and grandchildren may. If a MG-SHTF (multi-generational) happens it is likely .22lr will never in the foreseeable future be manufactured again!

Therefore, what you have put aside will be more valuable than gold. Literally. Where someone may sneer at your Krugerand they may jump at the chance to barter for a handful of .22lr.

Don’t forget, a certain amount will be spent in training new hunters and will not contribute anything to the stew pot! Also, prices will continue to climb and eventually, the Government may ban ammo sales altogether.

Ok, now what about the other calibers?

The same goes for the other calibers of your arsenal. You may want to buy some of each caliber at the same time or rotate it like you did with your gear. I would not buy 100,000 rounds of anything unless I had a secure area to store it in, away from confiscation and looting, in an area you feel secure in caching it, or at your secure retreat. Also, do not neglect other aspects of survival just to buy ammo.

Stockpiling large amounts of ammo is not for everyone. I do not advocate it if you have little or no disposable income to prepare with. But for those thinking of buying gold or silver for TEOTWAWKI, I would recommend that you first consider ammo. For barter purposes, stocking up on some of the less common calibers might give you the leverage you need to get that one item you want and need which nothing else will budge. Reloading dies in these calibers will insure a steady customer for your trade goods.

A lot of people say that bartering ammo is a bad idea as it may be used against you (me included), but I think that once the situation has stabilized to the point that community bartering is occurring on a regular organized basis, this danger may be past. Bartering at an established trading post will help alleviate some of this danger once they have been created (and they will).

So, for my last recommendation.

Buy a black powder flintlock rifle and learn how to make your own black powder. Store extra flints as well as barrels, lock mechanisms, bullet molds and lead. You may well then truly have the ultimate rifle for civilizations end.

Selous Scout is a 52 year old single father of 2 teenage boys living in the Pacific Northwest. He has been actively involved in survival preparations since he was 19 years old, and an avid backpacker and hiker from the age of 14. He enjoys the outdoors and loves all season camping. Selous Scout created his blog, Something Wicked Comes to share some of his insight and accumulated knowledge with those just starting out with survival prepping. He is also writing a serialized novel that he posts on his blog called "The Cache" which will be published early next year.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Ankle Holsters

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We're continuing our series on holsters with a short bit about ankle holsters today. When you need a holster for deep concealment, or when you will need to access your weapon from a sitting position, ankle holsters are a great solution. Properly configured they can provide access to both your right and left hands.

We've all seen it in the movies: the good guy loses his gun and right before he's about to be dispatched by the bad guy, he comes up with a little backup gun from his boot and shoots the baddie. Ankle holsters have long been a popular location to keep a backup gun. Many police officers, where departments allow the practice, regularly carry backup guns in ankle holsters.

Wearing an ankle holster presents some unique challenges when selecting footwear and trousers. Pant legs will need to be slightly longer than you're used to, and they will need to be cut wider than most. If you use pants with your normal inseam, the holster or entire gun can be exposed when sitting, crouching or kneeling. Select pants with an inseam one size longer than you normally wear.

A good ankle holster should securely wrap around your ankle and have an additional strap that will attach above your calf to prevent the holster from slipping down. Blackhawk! ankle holsters are good example of this. In the photo above you can see the way in which the calf support strap helps to keep the weight of the pistol from dragging the holster down.

A loaded Glock 26 weighs in at just over 24 ounces, or about a pound and a half. That's a significant amount of weight to be swinging around on your leg, and it does take some getting used to. Ankle holsters aren't for everybody, and some folks just find that having that additional weight strapped to their leg to be too uncomfortable or awkward. If you're like me, you've got a box stuffed in the back of your closet full of holsters that just didn't work out. Try out your holster for a week or two to see if it will work out, and if it just doesn't suit you, send it back with Cheaper Than Dirt's generous No-Hassle return policy.

One important decision you will have to make when selecting a holster is which leg you want to wear it on, and whether you want to have the pistol worn on the inside or outside of your ankle. Personally, I wear an ankle holster on the inside of my strong-side leg so that I can draw easily with my weak-side or slightly less easily with my strong-side.

Which brings me to my next point: practice! If you've read much of this blog, you know how much I emphasize frequent practice. Practice drawing from your ankle holster from a variety of positions using both your right and left hands. Remember, a backup gun is for when you've lost your primary weapon or are unable to use it for some reason. This could include the loss of the use of your strong-side arm or hand, so practice using your weak-side as well!

Like all concealment holsters, ankle holsters are a compromise between comfort and usability. And, like other holsters, you get what you pay for so buy the best one that you can afford.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Paddle Holsters

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Paddle holsters are very popular due to their comfort and the ease with which you can take them on and off. But they do have drawbacks. Paddle holsters rely on friction between the paddle and your pants and undergarments to remain in place.

Paddle holsters are a compromise between comfort and retention. Because of this, they should never be worn open, only concealed. Undercover or plain-clothes officers who use paddle holsters should only use ones that have belt guides or hooks that catch on the belt and help prevent the holster from being detached too easily. The weak point of the paddle holster is the link between the holster and the paddle. Early models could literally have the holster ripped away from the paddle in a disarming attempt by a bad guy, leaving the criminal with the gun and holster and the paddle still securely held in the trousers of the person who was previously wearing the gun.

Modern paddle holsters have a reinforced section between the paddle and the holster, and most feature hooks or other devices to help the holster grip onto a belt preventing the entire thing from being pulled out while drawing the weapon. The Blackhawk! SERPA paddle holsters for example have a plastic tab that secures the holster in place. Others like the Fobus Roto Paddle Holster use a small ledge on the outside of the paddle that engages the belt or waistband to prevent the paddle from being inadvertently dislodged.

Comfort is often a deciding factor for people who carry concealed handguns. If a holster isn't comfortable, it's all too easy to just decide to leave your pistol at home. As everyone knows, a pistol on the nightstand does you no good if you find yourself in an encounter while out and about. If you decide to go with the comfort of a paddle holster, you simply need to be aware that this holster design is for concealed carry only, as paddle holsters do not have the same retention ability of other types of holsters. As always, practice using your holster frequently, and most of all, stay safe out there!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Guest Post: Commander Zero on Simplicity and Preparedness

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We humans tend to have an affinity for elegant, complex devices. While having the latest whiz-bang device that not only solves your firearm cleaning problem, but also folds your laundry and walks the dog is great, when the Zombie Apocalypse comes, do you really want to rely on a complex device with hundreds of moving parts? Sometimes a simple solution is indeed the best.

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 in his post "Overthinking & Occam’s Razor"
There is a such thing as overthinking things. When I taught hunter safety to kids one of the topics we had to address was how to take care of yourself when (not ‘if’, guys..when) you got lost out in boonies. We would tell the kids that you have to have a survival kit and here's what you had to have in it..and we’d give them a list. More often, the kids already had their own ideas. During class we’d have a couple kids pull out their kits and we’d go over the contents. What was interesting was how many kids brought in a flint and steel. We’d go through their kit looking for any other means of firestarting and all the kid would have is the flint and steel. We’d gently suggest that while being able to start a fire with flint and steel was certainly a handy talent, and quite useful under the right conditions, it might be a bit more efficient and simple to have a couple match safes in their pocket and backpack with strike anywhere matches. Before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, let me say that I carry around one of those flint/steel firestarter combos in my bag. But, its in addition to several packages of sealed waterproof matches. (And its always, always, always good policy to carry a small waterproof container of matches in your pack *and* in your pockets. Because you never know when you're going to get separated from your gear and all you’ll have its whats in your pockets.) When its 10 degrees out and my hands are cold I think Im going to be better served with getting a match struck than I am by scraping a piece of metal against a rock.

Similar story with food. Someone told me about their home canning operation where they would go to the farmers market, purchase ears of corn, cook them, cut the kernels off the cob, can the whole bunch and have the glass jars lined up neatly on the shelf for their food storage. That’s great, I can soup and stew every so often. But at the same time it seems to make a bit more sense to just head down to the Albertson’s on Tuesday Canned Good Sale Day and buy as many vacuum sealed cans of Green Giant corn as I want at fifty cents a can. Why reinvent the wheel if I don’t have to? Certainly, I want to know how to can items for the day I can’t head down to the supermarket and get them, but while I can get them at the supermarket cheaper, easier, and better packaged why wouldn’t I?

You might recall a post a while back about a buddy of mine who wanted a .30 caliber, semi-automatic rifle and wound up spending a chunk of money on a 1941 Johnson. (Disregarding the gun itself, there was still the issue of spare parts and accessories which only made a weird choice into a foolish one.) The Johnson was not his first foray in the .30 cal. Semiauto search. He previously had a Remington 7400 in .308 with a bunch of ten-round magazines. Again, re-inventing the wheel. He could have just bought an M1A or a PTR-91 or even a Garand for the money he spent and pretty much have been done with the whole thing cheaper and faster than the roundabout way he did things.

There's a joke that goes something like this: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are out on a camping trip. It’s the middle of the night and Holmes wakes up Watson.
“Watson! Wake up, man!”
“Huh? What?”
“I just woke up and noticed the bright starry universe above me and do you know what I’ve deduced?”
”That we are all just minor players in a larger drama that we’ll never know the outcome of?”
“That the universe is too big and too grand for the human mind to ever fully comprehend?”
“No, no.”
“Well then…what have you deduced from looking at the starry sky above us, Holmes?”
“Its rather obvious, Watson – someone has stolen our tent.”

The point is that we sometimes see a problem and manufacture all sorts of complex and intricate answers when theres a simpler, and probably just as good, answer. And sometimes we engineer the problem to fit into our pre-conceived desire of what we want the answer to be…a far worse sin.

Occam’s Razor is the term for finding a solution that gives the same result as a more complex one. If you look it up, Occam’s razor has several meanings but they essentially come down to ‘a simple solution is better than a complex one’.

I mention all of this because often in the forums I read posts that ask questions and people come up with most complex and convoluted answers. More often than not there are simpler answers but sometimes we get so wrapped up in overthinking things that we disregard or dismiss the answer that isn’t ‘tacticool’ enough. There’s a story, untrue as it turns out but still instructive, that when the space program started there was a need to find a way to make pens work in zero gravity. Much money and time was spent developing a pen that would write upside-down and in freezing temperatures. This technological marvel cost thousands and thousands to develop. The Russians simply used pencils.

When stocking up and gearing up it’s always a good idea to try and keep it as simple as possible. There is no shortage of really cool (and spendy) solutions to the issues we want to address, but there's probably many simpler alternatives as well. The final arbiter, in my opinion, is whether the solution proposed meets your pre-established criteria. (This, naturally, means you actually have to come up with some criteria for what you’re looking for…otherwise you’ll just snag the first shiny thing with cool packaging that gets in your way.)

The juggling act here is that balance of ‘simpler/cheaper’ versus ‘meets criteria’. For example…the never ending $95 Mosin Nagant vs. $1000 AR-15 flame-wars. If your criteria is ‘send bullet downrange’ then your choice is probably going to be different than ‘engage multiple targets as rapidly as possible’. If your criteria is ‘not starve’ versus ‘continue existing dietary habits’ then your decision between a $20 50# bag of rice and a $300 case of freeze drieds may be simple to make.

I try to remain objective in these sorts of things and let the facts drive the answers, but sometimes it’s difficult. Most of the time, the simpler solutions seem to be the most appropriate (if not ‘best’) solutions. I suppose the trick is recognizing which solutions are because they are what we wanted to begin with versus solutions which were arrived at on their own.

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 CommanderZero.com

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Evaluating Land for Deer Hunting

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This past weekend I took advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday and the long weekend afterward to head out to the deer lease and scout out the situation, repair some blinds and stands, and work on some feeders. I'm lucky to have a decent-sized lease this year with abundant water and natural forage. But not everyone is as lucky. When searching for a good deer lease or hunting property, there are a number of considerations to be taken into account other than the cost of the property or lease.

So: what should you look for when evaluating a piece of land as potential hunting property?

Photo Courtesy JSmith Photo, licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

First is food and water sources. The main attractants for deer are forage and water, and your hunting property should ideally have both. Does the land have food plots or field crops? Are there edible mast type foods such as nut-and acorn-bearing trees and bushes? What about water? Water is almost more important than food availability, especially in more arid regions. Ponds, streams, creeks, rivers and lakes will all attract deer seeking hydration.

This brings us to the next thing to search for: game trails. Scout around water sources and forage areas for game trails leading to and from the water and food. Active trails with fresh deer tracks are the best, but deer may change the areas they browse depending on what crops are abundant and whether water is fresh, so bear this in mind when you come across older tracks. For example, areas with deep and large lakes or rivers may have abundant deer during droughts, while areas with field crops may only harbor deer until the crops are harvested.

Cover is very important to deer. Dense cover from hardwoods, tall grass and thickets provide secluded areas where deer can bed down to rest, or find safe areas to breed. Cover is also a great way to keep an eye on how the yearly rut is progressing. Keep an eye on trees for rub lines and scrapes.

The size of the property will play a defining role, but even small tracts of land can bear trophy bucks if they are surrounded by the right environment. Evaluate the value of the land to deer by identifying what assets the land has to offer deer. Some tracts are ideal for cover, but offer little in the way of food or water. Others may simply have critical travel routes deer use to move between bedding areas and forage.

Another important aspect to consider is hunting pressure. Is the land you are considering surrounded by areas that are heavily hunted? If so, it may only be good hunting for a limited time, such as the first weekend of bow season.

Finally, consider the huntability of the land. If the land is nothing but open fields or thick cover with no game trails, you may not be able to find a good spot to set up. Blinds set up along frequently traveled game trails, or on the edge of a field with the wind blowing in from the field are ideal.

My scouting expedition turned out to be fortuitous, as I snuck up on an unwary doe and filled one of my doe tags, ensuring at least some deer meat in the freezer. While scouting your hunting property, keep the above tips in mind while deciding where to set up your hunt, and you will benefit from the increased likelihood of taking a nice trophy buck this season.