Friday, January 29, 2010

Choosing Hunting Rifle Ammunition: Dangerous Game

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When choosing ammunition for a particular game animal, the terminal performance of the round you choose is extremely important. Winchester has developed (and trademarked) their CXP (Controlled eXpansion Performance) scale which is used to rate ammunition performance on various types of game. Dangerous game animals, classified as CXP4, are generally thick skinned African game animals such as hippopotamus, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo, and can weigh anywhere from 1,000 pounds up to 13,000 pounds or more for large male elephants. As such, when hunting these species, you will need to choose your caliber wisely.

.375 H&H Magnum
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The .375 H&H Magnum is generally considered to be a bare minimum for hunting dangerous CXP4 class game. In fact in Africa, the .375 H&H Magnum is the smallest caliber legally allowed for hunting. Loaded with a 300 grain projectile, the cartridge develops a muzzle velocity exceeding 2,600 FPS which results in a muzzle energy of approximately 4,600 ft-lbs (around 6,500 joules). The .375 is very popular with hunters due to its flat shooting characteristics; given a 200 yard zero, bullet drop is only 8.5 inches at 300 yards with a trajectory peak of 2 inches at 100 yards, which makes it very easy to calculate your hold over.

Probably the most famous and widely used cartridge is the traditional .470 Nitro Express. This round, developed by the British for their double rifles, replaced the Eley brothers .450 Nitro Express cartridge which had become banned in a number of countries. The newer bottle necked .470 round pushes a 500 grain "freight train" of a bullet to velocities exceeding 2100 FPS at the muzzle, generating more than 5,000 ft-lbs (nearly 7,000 joules) of force.

There are a number of intermediate sized cartridges such as the .416 Remington Magnum, and the .458 Lott. The .458 Lott is a recently developed cartridge intended to replace the relatively underpowered .458 Winchester Magnum by Jack Lott, a popular gun writer at the time. Lott had the unpleasant experience of having a .458 Winchester Magnum fail to stop a charging Cape buffalo. This life threatening encounter prompted him to design a replacement round based off of a .375 H&H Magnum case. The new .458 Lott brass was slightly longer than the Winchester Magnum, enabling it to be loaded with more powder and giving the bullet an extra 300 FPS. It wasn't until 2002 however when Hornady began manufacturing the ammunition on a large scale commercial basis that the cartridge gained in popularity. Ruger chambered a new rifle for the Lott, the M77RSM Mark II, which soon became very popular with hunters in Africa. The .458 Lott manages to launch a 500 grain projectile out of a 24" barrel with a muzzle velocity of 2300 FPS, giving it a muzzle energy exceeding 5,100 ft-lbs (almost 7,000 joules) making its overall performance as good or greater than the popular .470 Nitro Express.

One of the largest cartridges in common use today is the .505 Gibbs. This monster cartridge is capable of taking down even the largest African game; only the .500 Jeffrey round is more powerful than the Gibbs. Loaded with a 600 grain Australian Woodleigh bullet the Gibbs generates 2,100 FPS muzzle velocity and 5,877 ft-lbs of energy. The Gibbs was made famous by Ernest Hemingway, who wrote and talked about it often. It was favored by one of Hemingway's characters, Robert Wilson, in the story "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber".

Bullet selection for these dangerous game cartridges depends on the type of game being hunted. By and large, solid bullets are preferred due to their excellent penetration. They are absolutely necessary for head shots on the largest game such as elephants and cape buffalo. Soft pointed and lead core bullets are only suitable for lung shots, as they rapidly deform from the heavy thick skin of large African game and will not penetrate fully. Expanding bullets for large African game must be well constructed to be able to retain weight and remain intact upon impact. Examples of suitable soft bullets include Trophy Bonded Bear Claw, A-Square, and Barnes Triple Shock X Bullet.

It's critically important to select a caliber that you are capable of shooting but that is also capable of stopping dangerous game animals. Utilizing a caliber that is too large can result in flinching or anticipating recoil and pulling the shot, too small and your quarry may not drop. When hunting dangerous game, your life may very well depend on the ammunition you select.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Trunk Guns

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There is much debate over what makes the best trunk gun. To understand where the concept of a trunk gun came from, let's go back a few years. Traditionally, farmers and ranchers often had a ranch rifle hung in the back of their pickup truck. The role of the rifle was to enable the easy elimination of varmints, or to be used to put down injured horses or livestock. Nowadays, many farmers and ranchers still keep a durable rifle hung in the window or stashed behind the seat for the same reasons. But in addition to the traditional reasons for toting along a truck or trunk gun, many people in urban and suburban environments see the usefulness of having a rifle somewhat readily available in the trunk of a car for self defense and general preparedness. For preparedness minded individuals, the trunk gun is often paired up with a BOB (Bug Out Bag).

Without getting into the specifics or whether you need a trunk gun, let's discuss the types of rifles that are commonly used as trunks guns. A good trunk gun should be supremely reliable, durable, capable of operating in dirty and dusty environments, and not particularly susceptible to rust. Cost is another issue, as a trunk gun may be subject to more wear and tear, and it'd be a shame to have a thousand dollar rifle beat up from riding behind the seat of your pickup.

Kel-Tec Sub-2000
Carbines are one obvious option, as their shorter barrel length makes them easier to transport. The next question is, do you go with a pistol caliber carbine, or a rifle caliber carbine? We've discussed the advantages of having a pistol caliber carbine in the past. A number of rifles fit this bill ranging from the various lever action Marlins available in .357 and .44 Magnum to autoloading carbines that share pistol magazines like the Ruger PC9, the Hi Point carbine and the Kel-Tec Sub-2000. The Sub-2000 also has the distinct advantage of folding in half for an overall length of just 16". Both the Hi Point and the Kel-Tec have synthetic stocks which adds to their durability. The Hi Point 995 Carbine is probably the least expensive carbine of this group, retailing for just over $200. The Hi Point however will only use 10 round Hi Point magazines, and does not fold like the Sub-2000. The Sub-2000 can be bought in configurations able to use Glock, Sig, Smith & Wesson, or Beretta magazines, including high capacity 30 round mags. A lever action in .357 or .44 Magnum would have significantly more power than the Hi Point however, but the lack of a detachable magazine means that it would be slower to reload.

Stepping up a bit to rifles chambered in larger calibers such as 7.62x39 and .30-30, we have the ever popular (and generally very inexpensive) SKS and the venerable .30-30. The SKS is generally fed by stripper clips into a fixed magazine, though some conversions are available to convert them to use detachable AK-47 magazines. Like their pistol caliber shooting brethren, the Winchester 94 and Marlin lever action .30-30 rifles also have a fixed magazine tube, making reloading more difficult and time consuming. Because ammunition for the lever action rifle is generally kept in a bandoleer or sling, we'd have to give the nod to the SKS in this comparison. While it too has a fixed magazine, high capacity 20 round magazines and the ability to quickly reload using stripper clips give it a slight advantage. While the .30-30 is slightly more powerful than the 7.62x39, we feel that power difference is offset by the ability to quickly reload the SKS.

MagPul PMags with dust covers
Which brings us to detachable box magazine fed rifles. Basically, this group is divided into intermediate and full size rifle cartridge firing long guns. AK-47s, AR-15s, Mini-14s and Mini-30s are all fine examples of intermediate caliber rifles. The Mini-14 and Mini-30 are very similar rifles apart from caliber, and both are marketed by Ruger as Ranch Rifles; a clear indication of their intended roles as truck guns. The primary drawback of the Mini-14 and Mini-30 is that they use proprietary Ruger magazines, instead of the more readily available AR or AK magazines. In the AR vs AK comparison, we feel that the AK wins out when equipped with a folding stock. The fact that it can easily be bought or outfitted with a folding stock means that the AK style rifle can more easily be stashed in a small trunk or even a duffel bag. The AK is also slightly more reliable and can be abused and neglected in ways that the AR cannot. If you choose to go the AR route we recommend getting magazine covers or using Magpul PMags with dust covers, as well as using a muzzle cover to keep dust and dirt out of your rifle and magazines. In fact, the shoot off muzzle cover is a valuable accessory for any trunk gun.

In the full size rifle category, your options for a "cheap" box fed semiautomatic rifle are fairly limited. In this category, only the CETME, FAL, Saiga and AR-10/LR 308 can be found for less than $1,000. I'm limiting discussion to these rifles as they are relatively inexpensive while at the same time very durable. Century built CETMEs as well as Saigas in .308 can be found for around $500, and FALs are available for around $650, making these three decently priced rifles. The AR-10 and LR-308 are more expensive, usually just under $1,000, making them fairly expensive for a trunk gun. Among the other three, the AK based Saiga is generally the most reliable. While the FAL and CETME are both fine rifles, the FAL has been known to a bit finicky about the gas adjustment, and the quality of CETMEs built by Century is questioned by some. All three of these rifles shoot about a 2-3 MOA group, so accuracy is decent enough. AR-10s and LR 308s are more accurate; both are capable of shooting 1 MOA or less at 100 yards. But if you're looking for the best bang for your buck in a durable truck gun, we have to give the nod to the Saiga in .308.

It's hard to argue against buying a $90 bolt-action rifle. Check out any gun show and you're sure to find a table full of Mosin Nagants selling for less than $100 each. While they may not be the prettiest rifles, it's pretty easy to justify spending that little cash on a rifle you can toss behind a pickup seat or in the trunk of your car. Toss in a couple of stripper clips of cheap mil-surp 7.62x54R and you've got a really inexpensive trunk gun and more than 400 round of ammunition for around $200. It may not be the fastest to reload, but if you're just hauling it around as a "just in case" rifle, it fits the bill just fine. An alternative would be Lee Enfield rifles. The Jungle Carbine model is a short barreled version that fires the British .303 round, and is short enough to fit in even the smallest trunks. Enfields can be found for around $300, and Jungle Carbines for slightly more.

Some people prefer shotguns as a trunk gun, especially in areas where it may not be legal to transport a loaded rifle. With their ability to fire a variety of rounds, shotguns can be effective from point blank range all the way out to 100 yards or more with a good slug. Pump action shotguns are generally the most popular, with the Remington 870, Mossberg 500/590A1 and the Winchester 1300 rounding out the top choices. There is a plethora of accessories for these three shotguns, including folding stocks, tactical rails and so on, so you can customize your shotty however you like. Most of these models are also easy to find for less than $300.

Not all jurisdictions allow transporting loaded firearms, and some frown on transporting firearms at all unless traveling directly to or from a range. As always, make sure to observe local laws when considering whether to get a trunk gun.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Guest Post: Do you have a plan?

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

Do you have a self defense plan? If you’re walking with your spouse/significant other and you’re accosted, do you have a plan for what to do? If you don’t, I’ll share my plan with you. It’s pretty simple, and easily adapted to multiple situations. One caveat is that this particular plan assumes I’m with my wife and not out by myself.

  • Option 1: we both run away like little girls and call 911 from a safe place.

This is my favorite option. “You always win the fight that never happens”. But what if running away isn’t an option? What if there are multiple attackers and one of them is blocking your retreat?

  • Option 2: Disable the guy that’s blocking our retreat, then run away like little girls and call 911 from a safe place.

Any time the situation turns to violence, we’ve reached “undesireable options”. However, sometimes violence is inescapable, so it’s best to have a plan on when and how you plan on resorting to force. Of course, sometimes you can’t retreat at all, which leaves us to option 3.

  • Option 3: My wife runs, I buy time.

Needless to say, that’s probably our least favorite option, because it doesn’t leave a whole lot of positive opportunities.

The point of all of this though isn’t so much to talk about my plan though, as it is to help people realize that “having a plan” doesn’t necessarily mean having a detailed, written out “I’ll do X, Y, and Z in the event of a deadly assault’. In fact, I personally prefer to keep my plan a bit more fluid specifically because a dynamic threat is just that – dynamic. Just as no two assaults are the same, your plan needs to be flexible enough to adapt to a situation that may not be exactly what you thought would happen.

If you’re ever in a situation where you need to use your concealed firearm, your day has taken a pretty statistically unlikely turn – better to have some kind of a plan than nothing.

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

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cheaper Than Dirt! Sponsored Shows on Outdoor Channel

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If you've been watching the Outdoor Channel lately, you may have noticed Cheaper Than Dirt on the airwaves. We've picked up sponsorship of SWAT Magazine TV.

A new show, SWAT Magazine TV made its debut on the Outdoor Channel last month. SWAT Magazine TV is dedicated to providing the latest news and information on effective real world weapons tactics, training, and techniques. Cheaper Than Dirt is proud to sponsor SWAT Magazine TV, and we think you'll love what they have to show you.

Just check out their new promo trailer on our YouTube Channel

The next episode of SWAT airs tomorrow night. It features Tony Blauer where he discusses how he came up with his S.P.E.A.R. system with SWAT TV host Rob Pincus. Blauer covers the use of the S.P.E.A.R. technique for moving through a large crowd, and then demonstrates the technique with live fire on a hot range. Later, Host Rob Pincus talks with Travis Haley from MagPul about some of their latest products.

Cheaper Than Dirt! is also sponsoring American Rifleman TV and American Guardian TV. SWAT Magazine TV airs at 7:30PM, 6:30 Central on Wednesday evenings. American Guardian TV is on the Outdoor Channel Wednesdays at 9:30PM, 8:30 Central and American Rifleman airs immediately afterwards on Wednesdays at 10PM, 9 Central. We've got your Wednesday Night TV lineup on the Outdoor Channel covered, so tune in at 7:30 and stay up to date with all the latest from SWAT Magazine, American Guardian, and American Rifleman.

Friday, January 22, 2010

SHOT Show Recap

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Well, I'm back from the 2010 SHOT show. We left after day 3, tired, wet and bedraggled, to head back to headquarters and compile our findings so that we could share them with you.

Overall, there weren't a whole lot of new exciting products unveiled at this year's SHOT show. Sure, Remington and Bushmaster finally had the ACR out on display, and Vltor had a functioning version of their Bren Ten redux. FN even had a civilian legal SCAR on display, but none of these really rose to the level of what I'd consider "revolutionary" or "game changing". That being said, there were some bright spots. One notable theme of the show was the seemingly never ending parade of small .38 and .380 caliber pocket pistols. It was obvious that there is a huge groundswell of demand for small concealable pistols, and the industry has responded in kind with nearly every kind of compact and sub-compact carry pistol you can imagine. From Smith & Wesson's Bodyguard line of handguns, to the new Taurus .380, it seemed that everywhere you turned there was another pocket heater on display.

It was somewhat refreshing to see the enormous amount of AR variants and accessories being showcased by literally hundreds of exhibitors. The NSSF has been heavily promoting AR style rifles as "America's Rifle", emphasizing the important role it plays as a sporting arm. If the number of dealers we saw at the show hawking their newest AR part or accessory was any indication, NSSF's efforts have paid off. Even ESPN wrote a news piece about the enormous popularity of the AR platform at this year's SHOT show, stating:
The growing popularity of these rifles follows a familiar pattern. The military adopts the latest, greatest fighting weapon, whether a Winchester lever-action or a Springfield '03 bolt-action, and soon those firearms enter the civilian market. That's also what happened with black rifles, whose fame began in the Vietnam War era. Vets, and second- and third-generation vets since then, notched out a place in their hearts for such firearms long after their terms of duty ended.

An assault rifle is an assault rifle, as far as the general public and the mainstream media is concerned, and while the AR-15 models being marketed here shoot one bullet for one trigger pull, just as any other rifle does, the AR-16 shadow hangs like a pall over the shooting sports community.

Slowly but inevitably, perhaps modern sporting rifles will win tolerance, if not universal acceptance. They've already won the hearts of shooters, but the public is always a harder sell.

Yeah. I know. They called the M16 an AR-16, an obvious though understandable error. But, they're making an effort and, as we saw at this week's SHOT show, they're right. The AR-15 is gradually becoming accepted by the mainstream media and public as the modern American sporting rifle.

So: what other goodies did we see that might interest you?

A-TACS Camouflage
DCS's revolutionary A-TACS camouflage system was on display at the SHOT show, and Bushmaster even had some ACR and AR-15 rifles wearing the new pattern. A-TACS joined the competition vying for contracts to provide a universal pattern of camouflage that worked effectively in a wide range of environments. The A-TACS design does away with the square pixeled digital patterns currently in use by the United States Armed Forces. DCS felt that the sharp edged pixels did not effectively replicate the shapes and shadows of a natural environment, and that they in fact stuck out when viewed through optics making detection actually easier. DCS argues that the digital patterns currently in use blend together to produce a "blobbing" effect that causes the pattern to appear as a solid color when viewed from long range.

EOTAC President Fernando Coelho commented on the pattern saying:
"I am very happy that we are involved in the A-TACS® project. Of all the camo
patterns I have seen over the years, this is the first one to break from tradition and
actually makes sense."

A number of factors make the A-TACS patterns inherently superior. First, DCS uses far more colors than traditional camouflage. This decreases the definition of shapes and gives a smoother and more natural transition from light patches to darker patches. They also use smaller patterns that are worked together to create larger and more distinct shapes which are brought together to create a distinct asymmetrical design with no clear horizontal or vertical pattern. They use this "pattern within a pattern" principle to break up the outline of the wearer and eliminate the "blobbing" effect caused by having smaller patterns blur together. To create this uniquel organic pattern, DCS uses specially created mathematical algorithms which draw incredibly organic designs and patterns. The result, while obviously digital when viewed up close, is an effective organic camouflage that breaks up the shape of the wearer and allows them to blend in to their surroundings.

Dan Wesson
CZ owned Dan Wesson had a new full size 1911 on display. This latest offering by Dan Wesson is a "back to the basics" 1911. The Valor is available as either a base stainless steel model, or with the new Dan Wesson mate black "Duty" coating. This new coating utilizes a ceramic base that is incredible durable. Other features of the Valor include a forged frame with an undercut trigger guard and slimline VZ grips. The slide comes with fully adjustable night sights.

From Dan Wesson:
We've been listening to our customers again and this gun is the realization of all of their desires in a full sized, defensive style 1911. This gun has everything you need and nothing you don’t.

MSRP for the Dan Wesson Valor is $1913

Burris Eliminator
Burris had an amazing new scope on display that combines their laser range-finder technology with their weapon scope optics to create a unique hybrid that computes bullet drop on the fly and illuminates an aim point on the vertical section of the cross hairs to indicate the corrected point of aim. I've got to say it: this thing is cool and I want one. The scope has an adjustable 4-12 power lens with a 42mm objective.

The Burris Eliminator works by storing the ballistic data of more than 600 different cartridges, from .17 caliber all the way up to .50 BMG. To set it for your rifle, you simply choose one of the preset loads and zero your rifle for either 100 or 200 yards. After that, the Eliminator does all of the work calculating the trajectory of your bullet at nearly any distance. Press the ranging button, and the Eliminator finds the range and then illuminates a small 1/3 MOA aiming dot that indicates exactly where your point of impact will be.

Using a handloaded cartridge, or one that isn't in the Eliminator database? No problem. Zero your rifle at either 100 or 200 yards and then calculate the bullet drop at 500 yards. Input the Drop Number in inches into the Eliminator, and you're all set to go. Knowing just the 100 or 200 yard zero and the amount of drop at 500 yards is all the Eliminator needs to calculate the trajectory of your round. Don't like using yards? The Eliminator is also capable of performing the same calculations in meters. All of your data is stored in the onboard memory of the Eliminator regardless of the status of you battery. The Eliminator will retain your ballistic data even without a battery installed, so you never have to worry about reprogramming it for your favorite rifle and cartridge.

From Burris:
The Burris Eliminator LaserScope is in a league of its own. No other riflescope combines this level of quality, technology, accuracy, simplicity, repeatability and effectiveness. It will greatly increase the distance at which you can be confident in making an ethical shot. You do the hunting and shooting, the Eliminator will do the memorizing and calculating. The Eliminator is affordable and of a size and weight that’s welcome for everyday field use. The revolutionary new Eliminator is a brilliant riflescope innovation that ensures long range hunting success.

ArmaLite had their SPR (Special Purpose Rifle) Mod 1 at the 2010 SHOT Show. The most striking aspect of the SPR Mod 1 is that it is forged monolithic one-piece upper receiver and rail system. The rails, for their part, use a unique system that allows the side and bottom rails to be removed. This ability to remove the rails makes the ArmaLite SPR Mod 1 stand out from other one-piece systems on the market today.

With the ArmaLite detachable rail system, you can adapt your rifle to whatever role is demanded of you and your primary weapon. The SPR Mod 1 comes with three extra rails. including one with a quick detach sling swivel hole. Inserts allow you adjust the height of the rail, giving you the option of a low profile rail. Changing out the rails is quick and easy.

The one-piece monolithic design of the SPR Mod 1 gives you a long single rail with no breaks along the top of the rifle. this not only gives you more options when mounting your optics, but also provides additional strength and stability to your platform, ensuring that your optics remain solidly zeroed.

All SPR Mod 1 uppers come standard with the extra rails, hard coated finish, as well as a chrome lined barrel with a 1 in 7 twist and a two-stage tactical trigger. MSRP for the SPR Mod 1 is $1,439.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

SHOT Show Day 3 Recap

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We're just wrapping up day three of the 2010 SHOT show. This has definitely not been the Vegas weather I'm used to: it's been raining all week! Everywhere I look there are new and exciting products on display, but I also noticed some buckets on the second level of the show catching drips from leaks in the roof. Apparently all this rain is putting the new convention center to the test. Still, inside the new center the weather is fine, and there's excitement in the air after Steve Sanetti's "State of the Industry" speech at the dinner last night.

View of the Sports South Booth on the SHOT show floor.
The Bren Ten is back! Vltor had their Fortis (the development name for the new Bren Ten) line of pistols on display at the 2010 SHOT show. These are fully functional versions of the Bren Ten, and they had full size and compact models in both 10mm Auto and .45 ACP. The new Bren Ten will not be compatible with original Bren Ten magazines due to changes in tolerances and overall magazine design. Note the Gunsite logo on the side of the pistol frame.

MSRP is set at $1099 for the Spec Ops .45 ACP and $1299 for the 10mm Vice, and Vltor has stated that they anticipate manufacturing only 700 of the Vice model Bren Ten and 500 of the Spec Ops. Pistols are expected to be available on dealer shelves by May of this year.

VLTOR is also getting into the suppressor business, as they unveiled their new suppressor line, the VS-1 or Volks Suppressor. This new offering will be available in 5.56, 6mm, and .30 caliber. MSRP has not been finalized yet, but we expect these to retail around $300.

Tactical Solutions and Blackdog Glock .22 Conversion. Derek from The Packing Rat has more photos from the Blackdog and Tactical Solutions booth.
Blackdog and Tactical Solutions

Blackdog has teamed up with Tactical Solutions to offer a number of rimfire products. Most notable is their Glock .22LR conversion kit. They expect to have the kits available for purchase in June 2010, and Blackdog owner Kevin Rich indicated that they are working on conversion kits for the Springfield XD as well as the Smith & Wesson M&P. MSRP for these kits is expected to be between $450 and $575.

True to his promises in our earlier interview, Kevin had the new holster designed for the Ruger Mark series of .22 pistols. The new holster is ambidextrous, and fits all models of the Ruger Mark line, including pistols with accessories such as silencers, bull barrels, and even optics. MSRP for the new holster is $38.00, and at that price I can see many rimfire shooters being very happy with a safe method to carry their target pistols.

Of course, as we mentioned earlier, the Blackdog 10/22 50 round drum magazine continues to get a lot of attention. This natural continuation from their AR drum is supremely reliable due to a unique custom follower. Loading the drum is made easy with ergonomic inset grips on the back.

The New Kel-Tec PMR-30, Photo Courtesy Oleg Volk.
Kel-Tec had their PMR-30 out for SHOT show attendees to handle at their booth. We've been keeping you up to date with Kel-Tec's latest offerings, but it was nice to finally be able to handle this sweet little pistol in the flesh. The PMR-30 is extremely lightweight, and the grip is very slim. Despite the length of the grip due to the .22 WMR round it contains, this little trail gun fit easily in my hand. I'm not a huge fan of the heel-style magazine release, but Kel-Tec says that it helps with magazine retention, and I can see that. All of the other controls on the pistol are easily manipulated one-handed. Kel-Tec will also be offering a kit for mounting red dot sights or other optics.

Smith & Wesson 351 C
Smith & Wesson
Smith & Wesson has apparently jumped on the .22 Magnum bandwagon with their new 351 C revolver. The 351 C is essentially a 43 C with a longer cylinder to accommodate the longer magnum round. Both handguns are new and feature lightweight aluminum alloy frames. They come from the factory with XS Sight Systems and have 1 7/8" barrels.

Česká Zbrojovka
Stopping by the CZ booth, I noticed that they had their new P-07 Duty pistol on display. The P-07 is a CZ 75 derivative with some new modern features. It has a MIL-STD-1913 rail for mounting a laser or tactical light, but the biggest change to the new CZ 75 is the newly redesigned trigger. The new Omega trigger has fewer parts resulting in an extended service life over the old design. It also improves the trigger pull giving it a crisper break and better travel. But the most unique aspect of the Omega trigger is the ability to quickly and easily swap out the decocking lever for a manual safety, or vice versa. The P-07 is available with your choice of a decocker, manual safety, or both.

The P-07 also boasts enhanced ergonomics. The trigger guard has been enlarged to better accommodate gloved hands, and the backstrap has a redesigned beaver tail for a more positive grip. This, combined with the already low barrel axis allows for very fast follow-up shots. The P-07 comes standard with an extremely durable nitride finish.

Rossi, owned by Taurus, is following their lead with the Judge and had their new turret gun, the Circuit Judge, on display at SHOT. The Circuit Judge is a rifle version of the Judge revolver. Like the Judge, the Circuit Judge is capable of firing either .410 bore 2 3/4" or 3" magnum shot shells, along with .45 Long Colt cartridges. The action is DA/SA, allowing the user to manually cock the hammer for a clean crisp single action trigger break. It has fiber optic front and rear sights, allowing for fast target acquisition. If open sights aren't your style, the Circuit Judge also comes with a scope mount base.

Trijicon has been all over the news with the controversy concerning the bible verses printed on their optics. But the biggest news for us is their release of the new RX34 Reflex sight. Like the RX30, the RX34 has a large 42mm objective to allow in a maximum amount of light. Unlike the RX30, the new RX34 has a smaller 4.5 MOA dot for better precision. The tritium lamp Trijicon uses in their Reflex optics gives the user a bright reticle at night while their traditional fiber optic illuminator provides a bright aim point in daylight.

If the RX30 is any indication, the RX34 will also be available with a quick detach ARMS mount. The model we handled was wearing an incredibly durable military-grade housing cast from aircraft aluminum with a hard-anodized finish.

ArmorWorks had Steven Seagal at their booth promoting his new line of armor and tactical equipment.
From NSSF:
Asked what he thought of the show, Seagal said, “My impression of the SHOT Show is it’s amazing. It’s probably the greatest gathering of special technology for police and military I’ve ever seen in one place. It’s extremely impressive.” Seagal was helping to promote a new line of “Seagal Tactical Gear” as well as a series of new rifles and other military and police products.

NSSF also had this video of Seagal:

This is our last full day at the 2010 SHOT show; weather permitting we'll be flying back tomorrow. The rain has been so intense there's been some localized street flooding. We may need a canoe to get back to our hotel! Keep an eye on this blog for more photos and news from the show, as we've got a lot more photos and information to upload, including some news on ammunition availability and changes to our ammunition offerings here at Cheaper Than Dirt.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

SHOT Show Day 2 Recap

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It's almost the end of day 2 of SHOT, and I'm already exhausted. But it's been a very productive and exciting event!

View of the SHOT show floor looking towards Arsenal's booth #13721

This was easily one of the biggest and most attended shows we've been to. Despite NSSF cutting back on who was allowed in, there appeared to be more attendees than in previous years. There was no shortage of gun industry celebrities at this years show either. Ted Nugent, Jerry Miculek, R Lee Ermey, Brock Lesnar, Massad Ayoob, Todd Jarret and a number of others were in attendance. Long lines and crowds naturally followed the celebrities around, but we dutifully stuck to our plan and continued hitting booths, finding all the cool new products we hope to show to you here.

Smith & Wesson
Smith & Wesson has two new pistols called the "Bodyguard" in .380 and 38 spl. Both handguns have integral lasers. It's become highly evident that this is the year of the pocket pistol.

The Bodyguard 38 is a light-weight revolver with an integral laser system, but the really big attraction was their little .380 autoloader. Smith & Wesson's new Bodyguard .380 attracted large numbers to their booth. With a 6+1, it's slightly bigger than the Ruger LCP, and still heavier than Kel-Tec's little P3AT, but it's still a fine little heater. The new pocket pistol features a double-action trigger with the ability to fire the striker again in the case of a misfire or light strike. Despite being double-action, the Bodyguard has a very smooth trigger with a consistent pull.

Smith & Wesson teamed up with Insight Technology when designing their new Bodyguard pistols, and incorporated the Insight designed touch-activated laser directly into the frame of both pistols. The integral laser makes the pistols less bulky, easier to conceal, and less likely to snag when being drawn from a pocket, bag, or purse.

Sig Sauer
Sig Sauer unveiled their new P229 E2. The new E2 (pronounced "E Squared") guns are modifications to the existing P226 and P229 pistols that include a smaller snap-on grip that doesn't require grip screws. But my favorite change is the new Sig SRT or Short Reset Trigger. Sigs have always had a long trigger reset that bothered me. You have to back off the triger quite a bit to reset the sear, and this occasionally resulted in a "click" instead of "bang" during rapid fire for me. The SRT replaces the sear and lever with a shorter version that gives you much less let-off before the sear resets. Other changes include the use of the X-5 style slide release lever which helps ensure proper slide-lock when using a thumbs-forward grip.

Sig also announced their new additions to the line of P238 pistols, including the P238 Equinox, the P238 Heavy Duty, and a P238 model with an integral laser system.

Browning showed off their 75th anniversary Hi Power alongside their 75th anniversary Mark III pistol. The Hi Power Standard comes with a highly polished blued finish and checkered grips fashioned from select walnut, while the Mark III has black composite grips and a black epoxy finish.

Both models have a 4 5/8" barrel and low profile fixed sights. The Hi Power Standard is also available with an adjustable rear sight and ramped front sight. The actions are a locked breech design with a single-action trigger. Ambidextrous thumb safeties are standard on both the Standard and the Mark III. Grips on the Standard are made from select walnut with cut checkering while the Mark III has black composite grips. Both pistols come with two magazines.

The Colt Woodsman Match Pistol is back! Not by Colt this time, but by USFA. We found the Woodsman on display at the 2010 SHOT show at the Davidson's booth. USFA released their newest project, the reinvention of the classic Woodsman Match Target .22 Type pistol, at this years SHOT show and announced that it would be distributed by Davidson's. The Colt Woodsman, as it was originally manufactured, was a highly sought after backpacking and trail pistol back in the 1930s. Many readers likely grew up learning to shoot with their dad's old Woodsman. Original Woodsman pistols still around today are highly sought after and can command high prices when they are in good condition.

USFAs reincarnation of the Woodsman is a handcrafted pistol with walnut grips and a highly polished blued finish. It is offered with either a 4 1/2" or 6" barrel, and both lengths include slab sided barrel weights. Other options such as a suppressor, engraving, nickel plating, or custom grips are also available for an addition charge.

I know, I promised photos from the show, and I'm making good on it. Most of the Cheaper Than Dirt! team at SHOT is busy seeking out the best deals on new products that we can bring to you, but we also managed to find some time to get some pics of all the goodies.

You can't really tell from these photos, but the SHOT show floor was packed. This shot is generally facing the Hogue booth (check out their nifty blimp on the right).

Bushmaster ACR Photos
Photo evidence: The Remington / Bushmaster ACR is no longer just a myth.

Also available in the new A-TAC camouflage pattern. More on A-TAC tomorrow.

Close up of the Basic ACR stock and adjustable cheek piece

HK had a number of new rifles out on display

HK is now manufacturing their own .22 LR rimfire MP5.

That about wraps it up for today. I'll have more news and information tomorrow, so keep an eye on the blog and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for all the latest direct from SHOT 2010.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

SHOT Show Day 1 Recap

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It's the end of the first official day of the NSSF SHOT Show, and there were lots of new and exciting products to be drooled over.

Bushmaster and Remington
Bushmaster / Remington finally unveiled their long awaited ACR (formerly the Magpul Masada)

Not so fast though - if you want to get your sweaty palms on this baby, you'll need to be ready to shell out some serious cash: the basic model ACR retails for $2685, and the Enhanced model will cost you $3061. Actual pricing in stores is likely to be lower than this... eventually. We fully expect demand to keep prices at or above these levels for some time.

The basic model is available in your choice of black or coyote brown, and has a fixed stock, Magpul MBUS iron sights, and A2-style birdcage flash suppressor, and a full length top rail. The enhanced version, also available in either black or coyote brown, has the ACR adjustable 6-position folding stock and a quad rail forearm along with an AAC "Blackout" flash suppressor.

Remington has also their new AR rifle chambered for the .450 Bushmaster round on display. The .450 Bushmaster has the same case dimensions as a 5.56/.223, but packs a wallop with a massive 250 grain .45 caliber bullet. The cartridge was developed by Hornady specifically for Bushmaster. It features a soft polymer tipped SST bullet.

From Hornady:
Nicknamed "The Thumper," the 450 Bushmaster is the most radical cartridge ever chambered in production AR-15 type firearms. Hornady brings big bore performance to the most popular semi-automatic rifle in America — opening a whole new world of hunting to the battle-proven platform.

Hornady engineers worked closely with the Bushmaster design team building the cartridge to wring every last ounce of performance from the AR-15 without sacrificing any strength or reliability.

Well suited to hunt any North American game, the 450 Bushmaster will quickly become a favorite of bear country guides. By simply switching uppers, shooters can go from the prairie dog towns of South Dakota to bear country in the north woods!

The SST’s sleek profile makes for surprisingly flat trajectories and tremendous downrange energy. Put it all together, and you have a cartridge that gives your AR series rifle a serious attitude adjustment!

Ruger brought out their new 22/45 .22 caliber pistol with interchangeable 1911 style grips. Was this little pistol the cause of all the rumors of Ruger producing their own 1911? Perhaps so - there was no sign of a new 1911 from Ruger, but we'll keep an eye out in case they have any surprises waiting for us.

Other new releases by Ruger include a new 20 round factory mag now for the Mini-30. Ruger has also teamed up with Umarex to produce a new line of break open air rifles.

Glock formally announced their 4th Generation handguns with adjustable grips. The grips aren't exactly interchangeable, rather they stack on one another allowing the shooter to adjust the grip size by stacking more or fewer grips on the backstrap. The new Gen 4 Glocks also have a dual recoil spring assembly, somewhat similar to that found on the Glock 26 and 27. The new spring is supposed to help improve reliability when shooting with rail mounted accessories or low powered ammunition.

For those who felt the need to swap out the stock magazine release on their Glock, never fear. The new Glocks have an enlarged mag release that is reversible,

Beretta showed off their new 92A1 and 96A1 pistols. The new pistols are Beretta's newest evolution of their 92FS and 96FS handguns. Both new models feature magazines that are interchangable with the older 92 and 96 models, but feature a new internal buffers to reduce recoil stress on the receiver. Other new features include a 1913 rail and a replaceable front sight. Captive recoil springs are another new modification that makes disassembly simpler.

Colt unveiled their new folding stock AR designated the Colt SCW (Sub Compact Weapon). The version shown at SHOT was a full-auto version, but the guys at Colt assured us that a civilian legal semiauto version was coming soon. Colt incorporated a variety of new systems into the design of their new SCW, including their proprietary Colt Advanced Hybrid System (AHS) which is a unique combination of their modified direct gas-impingement system and their piston system.

Taurus had a bunch of new products out at this year's SHOT show.

The biggest news was Taurus' decision to one-up Ruger and come out with their own line of polymer framed revolvers. They had their new Protector and Defender lines of polymer revolvers on display, and I have to admit, though they looked a little funny, they were definitely lightweight.

Taurus also has a number of new versions of the Judge revolver, including, a polymer framed model as well as a new large framed model named the Raging Judge Magnum. This new addition to the shot slinging Judge revolver lineup is capable of firing massive .410 3" Magnum shotshells along with .45 Long Colt, and .454 Casull cartridges. The Raging Judge will be available with either a 6" or a short 3" barrel.

Blackdog, as we mentioned in our interview with Kevin Rich, has their new Ruger 10/22 50 round drum, as well as a new AR Bolt and upper receiver dust cover.

Day 1 Summary
Wow, what an experience. Every year it seems that the SHOT show gets bigger and better. The energy and atmosphere here is truly electric.

Apologies for the lack of close up photos of all the new goodies - Most exhibitors didn't want photographs taken of their merchandise. In reality, this isn't a huge deal since they all had their own materials published, so we could get you the images above. Still, we'll try to get some photos up tomorrow.

Follow up with us tomorrow as we bring you day 2 of the 2010 SHOT show.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Airborne Contaminant Survival

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In this modern age, with Terrorism always a possibility, natural disasters, and frequent pandemic worries, it pays to be prepared against airborne contaminants.

The contaminants you prepare against will vary widely depending on the potential threats. Residents in an area that is near active volcanoes will need to be prepared against ash, while urban dwellers may be concerned with potential nuclear, biological, or chemical (NBC) attacks. It is virtually impossible (not to mention prohibitively expensive) to prepare for every scenario, so you must choose which threats are most likely.

The equipment you choose is dependent upon your budget and the perceived threat. The most common threat that people prepare for is biological: most virus pandemics, or weaponized biological agents are both effectively combated with a simple N95 mask. It has been pointed out elsewhere on the internet that the N95 mask doesn't filter out the viruses themselves; they are far too small to be filtered out individually. Luckily, most viruses are transmitted as they ride on small aerosol droplets from coughs and sneezes or contaminated dust particles. These are easily filtered out by the N95 masks.

These N95 masks do have drawbacks, as they are only 95% effective against airborne biological contaminants, and they are almost completely ineffective against chemical contaminants. With the exception of large particle contaminants, chemical contaminants easily penetrate these filters. What's more, many chemical contaminants can be absorbed through mucous membranes in the eyes and nose. To protect against them, a more effective gas mask that seals against the face is needed. Our OM10 military gas mask is effective against chemical contaminants that are absorbed through or irritate the eyes and nose. It can protect the wearer from tear gas, mace, and other chemical agents.

For the ultimate in protection however, full NBC rated military gas masks are necessary. Masks like the Finnish 60mm gas mask or the Israeli gas mask that uses NATO 40 mm filters are truly the ultimate in portable protection available to civilians. The Israeli masks have the advantage of using easily found NATO filters, but adapters are available which permit the Finnish masks to also use NATO filters. Make sure to keep an eye on the age of your filters, as they do deteriorate over time. We have 1990s manufactured NATO filters available in packs of three.

Don't just prepare for outdoor protection - even the most modern houses are not airtight. While remaining indoors will help reduce your exposure to airborne contaminants, it will not completely protect you. There are ways to seal off your house in the event of an airborne contamination. It sounds silly, but simple duct tape and plastic sheeting is one of the most effective ways to reduce air leaks around doors and windows. Doors and windows let an enormous amount of air through. While this may not be a big deal for a pandemic, in the case of a weaponized biological agent, nuclear or chemical contamination, it is critically important to seal your dwelling as tightly as possible against outside airborne contaminants.

Protecting yourself against airborne contaminants isn't terribly expensive, but you do need to have a plan. Identify the most likely threats you may face and take appropriate action so that you are able to protect yourself and your loved ones in case of disaster.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Guest Post: Commander Zero on Carbines

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Pistol caliber carbine rifles fill a unique niche. Not nearly as powerful as a rifle, yet definitely more powerful and accurate than handguns chambered in the same caliber. Commander Zero is our featured guest blogger today, and in this post he discusses carbines along with the advantages and disadvantages of having a pistol and carbine chambered for the same cartridge.

Marlin has introduced their .357 levergun in stainless steel. I’m gonna need one of those. While my blued Marlin will last me a lifetime with proper care, I would rather have something for those times when improper care will be the order of the day…snow, mud, water, dirt, blood, and all the other things that a lifetime of bumping around in the outdoors can bring will eventually turn even the best blue job into rust and freckling. Stainless steel isn’t exactly impervious to everything but it’s a better choice in terms of vulnerabilities than blued.
While Im on the subject of .357s, two things I’d very much like to see are a Ruger semiauto carbine in .357, just like their .44; and a ‘convertible’ DA-revolver in 38/357/9mm. Ruger has done convertibles in their single action guns (38-40/10mm, 32 H&R/.32-20, .45 Colt/ACP, 357/9mm, and .22 LR/Mag) and even made a few in their autos (9mm/30 Luger). But a convertible DA would be nice for guys like me that want to hedge their bets on where their ammo is coming from.
I suppose I could always have an extra cylinder made up and mated to a GP100 or something, but it would be nicer if it came from the factory.
I like the .357 guns because of their versatility. Obviously, the biggest attraction is that they’ll shoot the common .38 Special round as well as the .357. Someone might say that since the .44 Magnum will also shoot the .44 Special round, it is equally as versatile and since the .44 Magnum is more powerful it’s a better choice than the .357. Problem with that argument though is that youre supposing that .44 Special ammo is as frequently found as .38 Special, which Im pretty certain is not the case. (And don’t get me wrong, Im a huge fan of the .44 Special.)
In terms of ballistics the .357 has enough power to do what you usually ask a self-defense pistol to do, although on the big furry things with claws it will take a backseat to the .44 Mag. But, thus far, I haven’t run across much that the .357 wouldn’t kill just as dead as long as one was careful with their shooting.
There was a time when I was able to buy police trade-in Smith & Wessons for about $150 each and I picked up a bunch. I figured they’d make excellent pistols for tucking away in nightstands or leaving under the seat of the truck….reliable, relatively cheap, and ultimately disposable. Of course, they also make excellent trading stock and are great candidates for loaning to friends.
I remember reading somewhere about the notion that if you lived somewhere that had a ban on ‘assault weapons’ (or had to visit such a place) a combination like that would be a good one to have in case things took a turn for the apocalyptic. Its an interesting notion but I think its flawed – if the wheels fly off civilization to the point that you need a rifle and pistol I think things have degraded to a point where no one is going to care if the gun youre shooting zombies with is prohibited in that state.
Any discussion like this usually starts up the “Do pistol caliber carbines have any place in your plans” thread. The argument is that pistol caliber carbines (and this includes things like Uzis, Thompson guns, HK94s, Marlin Camp Carbines, etc, etc.) are, by virtue of their pistol calibers, not as powerful as a regular carbine (AK, AR, etc) and since youre carrying a carbine-sized gun why not have it be in a more powerful cartridge? Surely carrying two different kinds of ammo isn’t that much hardship, right? A handful of AK mags and a couple Glock mags are no big deal.
Im not sure how to respond to that. I’m reminded of the reason for the .30 Carbine and current crop of PDWs – for occasions where more firepower is needed than a regular pistol, but a full size carbine is not likely to be needed. As the story goes, the .30 Carbine was developed as a replacement for the handgun in use by troops that normally were not expected to be in combat. For example, document couriers, motorpool, tank mechanics, etc,…anyone who it wasn’t expected would have to do any fighting but just might get caught up in some anyway. No point in the toting around a 10# Garand that they’d almost never use, but if they did get caught they’d need something with more range and firepower than a 1911. So, the M1 Carbine came to be. Sure, it was an anemic cartridge but it wasn’t designed to replace the Garand, it was designed to replace the 1911.
Nowadays though, we have carbines that aren’t much heavier than the M1 Carbine but are considerably more powerful, so is there a need for the pistol caliber carbine? I’m not sure. They’re certainly handy guns…if a guns longevity were determined solely by ballistics the .30-30 would have disappeared about seventy years ago. But because the guns chambered in it were light, handy and well-suited of for the task they have endured and kept .30-3o around when it should have been relegated to the section of Cartridges Of The World pertaining to obsolete cartridges.
Pistol caliber carbines are, by and large, cheaper to shoot, cheaper to reload for, have less penetration (if that sort of thing is a concern), have less recoil, and in the case of semiautos can put out much more lead in a shorter time with more accuracy than a comparable handgun would. Other than that, there don’t seem to ba many advantages.
One advantage, though, is that a pistol caliber carbine is far easier to suppress than a more powerful carbine. And a suppressed carbine will be steadier to aim and probably a little more accurate at range than a suppressed handgun. I’ve often thought of having the end of my Marlin threaded for a suppressor and shooting 200 gr. .38 Specials out of it. Subsonic but still enough weight to make an impression.
So, I guess Im not sure if pistol-caliber carbines have a place. I still like my little Marlin, and I’d like very much to pick up an Uzi somewhere. But as to whether they offer any real advantage over an AK or AR carbine, Im not sure.

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

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

More Kel-Tec PMR-30 Information

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Oleg Volk has posted a new flyer he developed for Kel-Tec and their new PMR-30 handgun chambered in .22 WMR

From the flyer:
The PMR-30 is a light weight, full size pistol chambered for the flat-shooting .22 Magnum 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 rouds 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 aluminium 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.

Click to embiggen.

SHOT Show Preparations

The 2010 SHOT Show is rapidly approaching, and we've been preparing for the event for months. The annual event, hosted by NSSF, is easily the largest outdoors, hunting, and shooting expo. Manufacturers prepare all year for the event, and hundreds of new products will be able to be seen by retailers and distributors for the first time. This year's SHOT show is being held January 19th - 22nd in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Here at Cheaper Than Dirt!, we look forward to the annual SHOT show as a chance to add new and exciting products to our inventory and offer them to you at a great price. We're already in the process of negotiating better ammunition availability and pricing from a number of our suppliers, and we expect even more additions after the SHOT show.

The SHOT show is not open to the public, but we know you're dying to see what exciting products will be released this year. Our team will be descending on the SHOT show in Las Vegas early next week, so keep an eye on this blog, as well as our Twitter and Facebook accounts, as we'll be bringing you live coverage of the SHOT show including first glimpses of all the latest products.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Reloading, A Beginner's Guide Part II

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In the first installment of our series on reloading, we discussed the methods and procedures for cleaning, depriming, and reloading straight walled cases. In this article, we will discuss reloading bottle necked cartridges. Most necked down cartridges are rifle calibers, but there are a few notable exceptions, notably .357 Sig and Tokarev. The FN 5.7mm cartridge is bottle necked as well, but it is a proprietary round and is very difficult to properly (and safely) reload.

Lyman Classic Tumbler
As with straight walled brass, make sure that your bottle necked brass is clean and free from debris. With bottle necked rifle brass, it's generally a good idea to run your brass through a polisher. This cleans off powder residue as well as any dirt or corrosion from the brass. Make sure that once you are done polishing and cleaning your brass that there is no polishing media left on the outside or inside of the brass. Polishing and cleaning the brass helps make resizing much easier. Dirt, grit, or corrosion on your brass can scratch or damage your steel dies. Carbide dies don't have this problem, but having nicely lubed clean brass means that you don't have to pull so hard on the press lever when resizing.

Reloading bottle necked cartridges is actually fairly easy compared to reloading straight walled brass, but you do have to take the additional step of utilizing case lube. The primary difference between reloading straight walled cases and bottle neck cases is the resizing process. Bottle neck dies perform a lot of work with a single pull of the press lever. When resizing brass, the die not only resizes the case and deprimes the brass, it also has an expander ball that is plunged down the neck of the case so that new bullets can be seated.

Hornaday One-Shot Case Lube
When lubing your rifle brass, it is critically important to spray your case lube all around the outside as well as down the case mouth. This lubes the inside of the case for the expander ball. To properly lube the cases, set them all in a loading block with the mouth of the case up. Spray the cases on one side and from above at an angle so that the lubricant not only goes on the outside but also sprays down inside the neck. Turn the loading block so that all 360 degrees of the cases get lubed. Don't be afraid of over lubricating the cases. You CAN spray too much (though it's difficult), but it's far better to use too much lube than not enough lube. Failure to use enough case lube will result in your case becoming stuck in the die. Getting a case stuck in a die is a nightmare scenario, so don't do it! If you think you've got enough lube, go ahead and give the cases one more spray, just for good measure.

Once your brass is cleaned and lubed and you've got your resizing die properly adjusted and locked down as we discussed in our previous article, place your brass on the shell holder and lower the ram. You'll begin to feel resistance as the expander ball is plunged through the neck of the case. One of the reasons that reloading necked brass is a bit easier than straight walled brass is that the dies for your necked down brass perform more operations with a single pull of the lever. The resizing die decaps the primer, resizes the brass, and expands the case neck to receive a new bullet, all in a single stroke.

Now that your brass has been resized, clean off the lubricant and inspect the brass for any cracks, creases, or bright spots near the head. A bright ring around the head at the base of the cartridge indicates stressed brass that will result in a case head separation. You may notice little dimples on your brass: this is not a big deal, and it occurs from using too much case lube. Large dimples occur when you have managed to use far too much lubricant. Brass with large dimples should be discarded.

In my experience, it is not usually necessary to measure and trim pistol brass after resizing. The same cannot be said about rifle cases. Use a dial caliper to ensure that all of your brass is the same correct length. You can also load the resized brass into your firearm to make sure it will chamber. Use a case trimmer to trim off any excess length.

Priming your rifle brass is the same procedure as priming your pistol brass. First, make sure that your primer pocket is cleaned out. Make sure that you have the correct size primer - large pistol and rifle primers can appear to be the same size, but they are not! Using the correct size tools and primers, prime all of your brass and make sure that the primers are seated to the proper depth. Primers that are set too high can be slam-fired in semiautomatic rifles.

Hornaday Seating Die

When loading your powder, make sure that you have the right kind of powder. Using pistol powders in a rifle case can result in over-pressure and detonation, potentially destroying your rifle and injuring or killing you. It is very difficult (though not impossible) to double charge a rifle case if you are using the correct powders. Still, pay close attention. When developing a load, always double check your loads against a current reloading manual. Start at 50% of the manual's recommended load and work up from there. Once you have a load developed, make sure to periodically check your powder measure against a scale to ensure that it remains consistent and accurate.

The final process in reloading rifle ammunition is seating and crimping the bullet. Since rifle cases are not flared, it can be more difficult to seat a flat based bullet. Boat tail bullets are much easier to seat. If you are loading flat based bullets, it helps to have a bevel cut in the case mouth using a chamfer or deburring tool. While crimping is not necessarily required for rifle rounds, it definitely helps when you are loading large caliber or magnum rounds. Crimping is definitely necessary if you are loading for a tube magazine fed rifle, as it will keep the bullets from being set back. Some bullet seating dies also crimp at the same time. Seat the first bullet, then measure your overall case length. Once you are certain the length is in spec, lock down your bullet seating die and proceed to seat bullets in the rest of your cartridges.

As always, observe proper safety procedures when reloading ammunition. Make sure that you have a clean and organized work area that is free from distractions. Never try to watch TV or listen to the radio while reloading - you're working with potentially dangerous explosives that require 100% of your attention. Always wear proper eye protection when reloading. Remember that lead and primers are toxic and wash your hands every time after reloading.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Hog Hunting At Night

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So, I'm about to head out of the office for a weekend hunting trip. I'm heading to a Central Texas ranch where the local feral hog population has gotten too large. We're going to be hunting mostly at night when the hogs are the most active.

Hunting at night presents some unique challenges. The most obvious challenge is the lack of light. The darkness means that iron sights are mostly useless. Even if you have your target lit up, your rifle is still unlit and a black front sight post is difficult to find against a dark background. The same goes for scopes: that fine black crosshair is not easy to pick out at night. Tritium sights help enormously in this respect. Red dot sights and illuminated reticles that have adjustable intensity are even better. When choosing a scope, remember that a low power scope with a large objective (50mm or bigger) does the best job of gathering light. If you have a variable power scope, keep it set on the lowest setting. Zooming in magnifies the image but reduces the brightness of your image.

Still, even with a good scope or tritium night sights, actually seeing your target is more difficult. Shadows tend to blend together in the absence of direct light, and even with a spotlight or flashlight you may not be able to see all of your target. Sometimes only the reflection of the eyes are the only indication you have that a critter is there at all. Naturally, this makes proper target identification more difficult. If you are hunting with others, make sure that you have a plan and procedure to keep everyone out of the firing area.

Spotlighting hogs does work. Once. The problem is that hogs are very smart, and after being shot at once while being spotlighted, they learn to associate the light with death and will panic and run the next time they are spotlighted. That means you're stuck hunting in the dark. If you're going to try spotlighting, try using a red or green filter. Hogs are less sensitive to red and green light, and are less likely to panic when it is used. Aim your spotlight up into the air when turning it on, and then slowly lower it until the bottom edge of the beam starts to begin to illuminate your quarry. This indirect light is fas less noticeable to hogs and most other night time prey.

When hunting at night, follow these tips.

1) Keep the wind in your face: Pay attention to wind direction. Nocturnal animals do not rely on their eyesight as a primary sense. Their sense of smell is very acute, and can detect humans up wind very easily. With the wind in your face, your scent is blown away from your prey instead of towards it. Also pay close attention when approaching your stand so that you don't pollute your target area with your scent.

2) Move Silently: Like scent, noise can easily give your presence away. Nocturnal animals have keen hearing in addition to their sharp sense of smell. Dry brush or crunchy snow on the ground will belie your presence, so plan a silent path in, or move slowly and purposefully to minimize noise.

3) Ranges: Know them. Plan your hunt before setting up and know your distances to specific landmarks. Draw up a range card or small map with the landmarks you've measured from your shooting position and the distances to all of them. Know your rifle's zero and the drop at various ranges. I've pasted a small piece of paper on the inside of my scope cover with the drop in MOA and inches for ranges from 50 to 600 yards.

4) Plan the Date Your Hunt: Like knowing your ranges, planning the date of your hunt helps to ensure success. Hunting under the light of a full moon is much easier than on an overcast night, so try to plan your hunt around the moon and the weather.

5) Shoot and Move: Once you or your group have fired on a group of hogs, be ready to move to a new location. Hogs will not return to that location that night.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Configuring an AR-15

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One of the virtues of the AR platform is its modular design, and the ability to customize it in literally thousands of different configurations. The wide array of choices however can leave many new to the AR platform perplexed with just where to begin. There are already a number of fine articles and videos out on the internet that cover various aspects of assembling your own AR. Yet, we still get new shooters calling and emailing us confused by the wide variety of options available.

Smith & Wesson M&P 15
So where do you begin? You've got that brand new AR home from the gun store. Sure, it's fine in a stock configuration. M16s just like it served our military for decades through numerous wars and performed well in their stock configuration. Yet, there are many ways that the AR can be customized and improved upon. Maybe you just picked up a new rifle, or maybe you're going to build your own from scratch. Either way, if you're going to be building it or upgrading it, you'll want to have a plan.

I'm not going to get into the details of choosing what brand of lower to buy - there are literally hundreds of manufacturers out there. It used to be that there were only two or three manufacturers of AR lowers on the market, and they all made pretty much the same thing, so it didn't matter which brand you bought. Nowadays it seems that everyone and their brother is making an AR lower, and the quality of construction varies widely. The top manufacturers for AR lowers are generally accepted to be CMT (Continental Machine and Tool), LMT (Lewis Machine and Tool) and LAR Manufacturing. All of these manufacturers turn out lowers for a number of other manufacturers. CMT for example makes lowers for Stag, Rock River Arms, Colt, Smith & Wesson, and Wilson Tactical among others. LMT makes AR lowers for Lauer, DS Arms, Armalite, Knights Armament, and Barrett. LAR supplies lowers to Bushmaster, DPMS, CMMG, and Fulton Armory. This list is by no means exhaustive, but suffice to say that any lower purchased from any of these manufacturers will be a quality piece. I'm not saying that there aren't smaller outfits that also produce quality parts, but you should definitely do your due diligence when choosing a lower from a small manufacturer.

If you're building a rifle from a stripped lower, the first thing you'll need to do is get a lower parts kit. Here at Cheaper Than Dirt! we carry the DPMS lower parts kit. Unless you're building a custom match grade target rifle, the DPMS is a great kit and includes all the parts you need to put together your lower, including a pistol grip. One extra part you may need is an ambidextrous safety selector. This little part is a must have for lefties. If you are building a match rifle, you may consider a Timney drop in trigger over the stock trigger. The Timney trigger gives you a much shorter trigger pull with a light and crisp break.

Next you'll want to throw a stock on that lower receiver. For a traditional look, you can always go with the old tried and true A2 style stock. But many people like the adjustability of a 6-position stock. If you're a smaller person, you will probably want to go with a 6-position stock since you can adjust the length of the pull to suit you personally. The Leapers M4 Collapsible Six Position Stock is a great bargain and includes the necessary aluminum buffer tube and spring as well as a sling swivel.

Now it's time to turn our attention to the upper. Building your own upper can be a daunting task, and is not something that everyone has the tools or capability to do. That being said, you may want to be extra picky in choosing your complete upper, as many options are available depending on the primary role your rifle will have. There are many choices you can make here. Do you want a 16" barrel, or a longer 20" barrel? What about the foregrip? Should you stick with the traditional two piece, or go for the tactical free floating quad rail? What about a carry handle and flash hider? The answers to all of these questions depend largely on the role you want the rifle to play and your budget.

If you're building a match grade target rifle, you may want a longer barrel: 20" or more. You may also consider getting a barrel with a 1 in 7 twist to stabilize heavier bullets. Forearm rails will likely be unimportant since you probably won't want to hang a bunch of heavy accessories off the barrel of your target rifle. You may however want to go with a flattop upper. You can also go with a carbon fiber foregrip to save weight. If you're looking for a complete upper for a target rifle, it's hard to do better than our DPMS LoRider. This upper has a 20 inch bull barrel machined out of 416 stainless steel with a 1 in 9 twist.

For someone building a tactical response rifle, or possibly a 3-gun rifle, a shorter 16" barrel with a 1 in 9 twist and a threaded muzzle for a flash hider makes the most sense. If your budget allows, a free float quad rail from Daniel Defense, Troy Industries, or Yankee Hill will provide plenty of room to mount accessories and a sling. Free float rails are favored for their accuracy: a sling attached to a rifle without a free float tube can actually pull the barrel off line when slung tightly. Free float tubes allow the sling to be pulled tight, flexing only the tube and not the barrel. If you do decide to go with a free float rail system, you will need replace your front sight (if your barrel has one) with a low profile gas block that will allow the quad rail to fit over the gas system. Additionally, quick detach Picatinny sling mounts are available for mounting a sling to your free floating quad rail.

If you need something a bit cheaper, there are some very good budget option rail systems like the Leapers UTG Quad Rail Forearm or theTapco Intrafuse handguards. Complete uppers like the Yankee Hill Specter Black Diamond carbine represent the top of the line in tactical grade components. The Specter Black Diamond has a free floating machined aluminum quad rail with diamond cut outs. The less expensiveDPMS M4 upper is also a fine carbine length upper that is ready to go.

A flat top receiver will allow the most customization for your setup, though some people still prefer the carry handle. You can mount optics on your carry handle using a number of quick-detach handle mounted rails, but if you're going to be frequently using optics a flat top allows for better sight height. If you can't decide whether to go with a flat top upper or a carry handle upper, you can always split the difference and get a AR-15 Mako detachable carry handle. This carry handle contains an A2 rear sight system, and can be quickly attached or removed from your flat top upper. If you go the flat top route, and are building a carbine for CQB, you may want to take a look at a flip up rear sight and red dot combo. Flip up rear sights allow you to use either the red dot or the iron sights, and can even be set up so that the iron sights co-witness with the red dot.

Yankee Hill Specter Black Diamond Upper
When building or selecting an upper, you now have the choice of using a traditional direct impingement gas system or going with one of the new gas piston uppers. Traditional direct impingement systems divert some of the hot expanding gas through the gas tube and back onto the bolt, pushing it back and ejecting the spent cartridge. Piston systems work by having the gas push a piston and rod which in turn push the bolt back. Because the piston seals off the gas from the bolt, piston systems tend to stay much cleaner than direct impingement systems. Gas piston systems are available in kit form or as a complete upper.

Magazines can be very confusing to someone who is gathering accessories for their first AR. What's with all the different colored followers? Should you spend the extra dough on Magpul Pmags? Why go with polymer instead of the traditional steel USGI magazines? Both polymer and steel magazine have their own advantages and disadvantages. Which one you choose depends on your individual needs as well as your budget. US military surplus steel magazines are abundant and cheap, and spare parts are easy to find for them. On the downside, they can develop rust and are prone to getting dented and crushed. Polymer magazines never rust (though their springs can), but over time they can chip and crack. Some even develop cracks down the spine, rendering them inoperable.

AR magazines and their various colored followers have seen numerous upgrades throughout the years. Most milsurp magazines have green followers, but the military is now transitioning to their current model of tan followers. Be careful when shopping for magazines, as many commercial grade manufacturers have followers in a variety of colors. For commercial magazines, follower color does not have the same significance as it does for military surplus magazines. One example of currently available US military surplus magazines is our teflon coated 30 round magazine. These are made by a variety of government contractors, so the markings on them may vary, but they all meet military specifications and have the green followers.

Surplus military AR magazines are cheap and plentiful, but many people swear by our Magpul PMAG polymer magazines. PMAGs have been around for a while, and early on earned a reputation as a "bullet proof" magazine that is virtually indestructible. PMAGs are also supremely reliable. They are available with and without a clear plastic window, which allows the shooter to quickly and easily see how many rounds are left with just a quick glance.

Many people complain about how difficult it can be to cram 30 rounds into an AR magazine, but you don't have to hurt your thumbs getting all of those rounds into your mag. Cammenga manufactures a 30 round magazine they call the EasyMag. The EasyMag opens up for easy loading that won't bruise your fingers. Someone in the military liked it so much, they actually purchased a number, giving the EasyMag its own NSN. The ones we sell aren't military surplus, but they are identical to the ones that were issued to the military.

Discussing rail mounted accessories is opening up a huge can of worms. Suffice to say, if you can imagine it, someone has figured out a way to mount it on a Picatinny rail. The most common accessories are flashlights, forward vertical grips, and laser systems. You can even get a light, laser, and a vertical foregrip as a single unit, saving you valuable rail space. I could go on and on about the thousands of rail mounted accessories, but the beauty of the modular AR quick detach rail system is that you can quickly and easily install and remove whatever accessories you want.

In fact, one of the primary reasons for the success of the AR platform is its modularity. With one lower and a handful of uppers or parts, you can go from a short-barreled 9mm carbine to a .22LR plinker to a match grade .223 rifle all in the same day. No matter what type of rifle you need, you can build an AR to accomplish the task. It's like the Swiss Army Knife of rifles. Too many people try to make their AR into a gun that can "do it all" - that's not quite the right way to look at it. The AR can be assembled and configured to perform well in a wide variety of applications, but you can't have it perform well in any role in a single configuration. Decide what you want to do with your AR, and build it to that spec.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Leapers UTG Opens US Manufacturing Facility

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We here at Cheaper Than Dirt! regularly receive suggestions and recommendations from our customers. One of the more frequent requests that we receive is for more American made products. While Cheaper Than Dirt doesn't manufacture many products, we do have close ties with our suppliers, and pass on your requests. Leapers UTG, manufacturer of a number of our AR-15 and AK-47 tactical accessories, responded to your requests and has recently opened their first US manufacturing facility located in Michigan.

Leapers, Inc., headquartered in Livonia Michigan, U.S.A., has been in the business of supplying shooting, hunting and outdoor gear since 1991. They set uncompromising standards for all of their business operations. Their goal is to provide a total solution for any line of products that they offer. Leapers has been paying close attention to industry trends and customer feedback, with a focus on making the best-in-class niche products available for hunting, shooting and outdoor enthusiasts.

In 2009, they made the important decision to start their Made-In-the-USA manufacturing operation. With a full commitment to serve more customers in the market with 922(r) compliant products, Leapers has begun making their unique mounting systems under the UTG PRO brand in Michigan, USA. Leapers has reaffirmed their commitment to be innovation-driven and offer their customers the highest quality products with the best value at the most competitive pricing.

Many of you have contacted us here at Cheaper Than Dirt!, and Leapers, in the past to let us know what you need in your particular situations or how our products can be further enhanced. We thank you very much and ask for your continuous support and feedback in the future. Many of those suggestions included requests for all US manufactured parts. Leapers has already begun production of a number of AR-15 parts, including our M4 Carbine, UTG Quad Rail Forearm. Nothing beats having all American-made parts on your AR-15. Currently, only the M4 Carbine rail is being manufactured at their Plymouth facility, but we expect more products to eventually be manufactured right here in the good 'ole USA. Given Leapers commitment to bringing more 922(r) compliant parts to the market, we can surely expect to see even more parts for the AK and SKS market very soon.

Below are some additional photos from Leapers' newest manufacturing facility.