Friday, February 26, 2010

Water Purification

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The EPA reports that 90% of the world’s fresh water supply is contaminated. According to the World Health Organization, 80% of all travel diseases are caused from contaminated water. Tap water, surface water (surface water is any standing or flowing body of water.), ice cubes and even bottled water can all harbor unsafe bacteria, viruses, protozoans and agricultural chemicals. By consuming even the smallest drop of contaminated water, you can get Hepatitis A, E-coli, salmonella, cholera and many other diseases and sicknesses. Most water contaminates come from human and animal waste. They are spread by rain and run-off in surface water.

During a natural disaster, tap water may become undrinkable, and when out backpacking, camping or hiking, it would be unwise to trust any water you come across, even if it looks crystal clear. Water purification will filter out chemicals, contaminants and pollutants from a water source, thus allowing you to drink the water that you find.

There are a number of ways you can purify and sanitize your water. Boiling removes micro-organisms, but chemicals will remain in the water. If you are at sea level, boil water for 5 minutes. If you are at 4,000 meters above sea level, you must boil your water for 20 minutes to remove the bacteria. Remember that even the clearest water, such as in a mountain stream, can still hold bacteria, viruses and chemicals. Traces of agricultural chemical have even been found in mountain streams.

Sanitizing water with the use of chemicals removes micro-organisms. Our cities’ water supplies are sanitized using chemicals and mineral additives. Chemicals work best in clearer water. Typical chemicals used are chlorine gas, chlorine, chlorine dioxide, iodine, ozone, and silver. Ultraviolet light is used in a final stage to ensure that any microorganisms which survive the chemical process are killed. Household bleach in proper amounts can even be used to sanitize water at home. Chlorine is the most used chemical to get rid of water pollutants. Sanitizing can also come in the form of chlorine dioxide tablets, which actually use oxygen, not chlorine, to clean water.
Katadyn’s Micropur MP1 purification tablets use chlorine dioxide which is effective against viruses, bacteria, Giardia and Cryptosporidium. One tablet will purify one quart of water. Aquamira also has a water purification tablet. One tablet will treat one liter of water. It also uses chlorine dioxide. These tablets are good for light hiking, hunting, fishing, emergency kits, foreign travel and backcountry adventures.

Filtration systems use ceramics, membranes, glass fibers and/or plastics to filter water. The filters are based on pore size which is the opening size of the holes in the filter. When looking to purchase a microfiltiration system, look for ones that have a rating of 0.3 microns or lower or which use a reverse osmosis membrane system. Katadyn’s Pocket Microfilter Endurance incorporates a hose and pump system that fills your water bottle straight from the water source. It utilizes a 0.2 micron depth silver-impregnated ceramic filter and is a compact size. The Pocket microfilter is good for camping, hiking and traveling. Also using a pump and hose system is Katadyn’s Vario filtration system. The Vario is adjustable for different water conditions and has 3 filter levels: glass fiber, a ceramic pre-filter and active charcoal. It produces two liters of drinking water per minute. This is a good versatile choice for all outside activities and for your emergency pack. Katadyn’s Base Camp is best used for planned camping trips or for at-home natural disaster emergencies. It holds 2.5 gallons of water and uses a 0.3 micron glass-fiber filter. Simply fill it up from your water source and hang it up, where a hose is used to dispense the filtered water.

Activated carbon or activated charcoal is a very porous substance. In the water-filtration process, the fine granules absorb contaminants and pollutants. Activated carbon/charcoal is tasteless, odorless and non-toxic. The Frontier Filter from Aquamira is a necessity for your emergency and bug-out packs. This filter allows you to drink through a straw directly from the water source. It uses activated carbon and a filter and removes 99.9% of Cryptosporidium and Giardia bacteria such as E-coli. It will filter up to 20 gallons of water before you need to replace it.

Some systems use a combination of various techniques to purify water. The Exstream Purifier water bottle by Katadyn is best for short trips, hiking, biking, camping, or your emergency pack. It is a 26 oz. water bottle with a built-in filter. It uses iodine, activated carbon and a 1.0 micron plastic membrane filter. Aquamira also makes a water bottle filter that holds 22 oz. of water. It utilizes a microbiological filter and activated carbon to remove contaminants.

When picking water to purify, it is best to choose flowing water as opposed to standing/stagnant water. If you can find a water source that is odorless, clearer, rather than cloudy, and has little floating debris in it, that should be your first choice. But you can still use water that is none of these, and sometimes you will not have a choice. If water is really dirty, let it settle in a big pot or bowl first or use a bandana, cloth or coffee filter to pre-filter out large pieces of sediment. When purifying water, it is best to use a combination of a filter method and a purification tablet.

We all know that traveling overseas can strike us with a case of Montezuma’s Revenge, but even clear, colorless and odorless water can harbor pollutants. Most of us trust our city’s tap water, but natural disasters such as floods, tornados, land slides and other disasters can taint city water. Whether you are traveling, hiking, camping or preparing your emergency pack, purifying water should be one of your first priorities.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Weaver and Picatinny Rails

So you have a new scope that you want to mount on your rifle. The scope came with a set of rings that are Weaver style. All you need now is a scope base and you will be set to mount the scope on your favorite firearm. When you start looking for scope bases you will find two styles that look the same in the pictures, but are not the same. One is called Weaver and the other Picatinny (MIL-STD-1913). These two rails, in many cases, can be used interchangeably.

The main differences between the Weaver and the Picatinny rails are the size of the cross slots and the slot spacing. Weaver rails have a slot width of 0.180" (4.572 mm), but are not necessarily consistent in the spacing of slot centers. The Picatinny rail has a slot width of 0.206" (5.232 mm) and the spacing of slot centers is always 0.394" (10.008 mm). Because of this, Weaver devices will fit on Picatinny rails, but Picatinny devices will not always fit on Weaver rails.

So those Weaver style rings that came with your new scope will work on both styles of rails. If the scope has been supplied with Picatinny style rings, you will most likely be limited to only the Picatinny mount. Picatinny mounts and rings will most commonly be found on products that were originally designed for military use and have found their way into the civilian market. For instance, the top rail on an AR-15 (the civilian version of the U.S. M16 battle rifle) flattop receiver is a Picatinny rail. You are able to use both styles of rings on this rifle.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tactical Flashlights

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Initially developed for the military and law enforcement agencies, tactical flashlights are now available for just about anyone. Tactical flashlights are a category of flashlights designed specifically for high intensity light output in a very small hand-held or weapon-mounted platform. They have a much higher light output than standard flashlights so that they can temporarily blind the target and obscure anything behind the light, making the operator much more difficult to see. Older conventional flashlights with two D-cell batteries and a standard bulb emit only about 15 to 25 lumens. Tactical flashlights emit anywhere from 60 lumens to more than 200 lumens.

Strop Direction

There are three main types of tactical lights. Weapon lights either have a rail mounting system built into the body (such as item# 37980 pictured to the right), or have a straight 1" body tube for easy mounting in a clamp. Skilled operators know that lights work both ways; they not only illuminate any bad guys, but they also show the bad guys where you are. Weapon lights are able to be dismounted from the firearm and hand-held so that they do not necessarily give away the position of the weapon muzzle or the direction it is pointed when the light is illuminated. Weapon-mounted lights usually have a tailcap switch or a switch built into the rail mount so that they can be turned on and off quickly. Tactical lights that are designed to be hand-held only usually have knurling on the tube, or have finger grips that allow them to be gripped between the index and middle finger, allowing for easier use with a firearm. These lights are available with a twist on/off switch or with a tailcap switch, and sometimes both with a twist switch used to keep the light on and the tailcap switch as a momentary switch. Belt clip tactical lights are a civilian-specific design intended to be clipped onto a belt or pocket. Obviously, the belt clip they are equipped with makes weapon mounting difficult or impossible. These tactical lights are also available with both a twist on/off switch and/or tailcap switch.

Tailcap switches allow you to hold the light with your thumb at the rear of the body of the flashlight with the body between your index and middle fingers, similar to the way you would hold a hypodermic syringe. This allows the light to be utilized along with a handgun so that your hands interlock and provide a solid base. Twist-style switches are more reliable since they use less moving parts. Tailcap switches, however, allow for momentary use of the light. This allows the user to sweep a room with brief intense beams of light and reduces the chance of revealing your location to any bad guys who may be in the vicinity.

Tactical lights are designed to withstand extreme combat environments, as well as the stress and recoil of being mounted to a firearm. They are often armored and/or are manufactured from high-strength materials. Almost all feature waterproof or water-resistant construction. Springs and cushioning are common construction components utilized to protect the bulb and other sensitive areas of the light from impacts. The reflector and lens of tactical flashlights are manufactured to higher standards using better materials than most standard flashlights. High-tech coatings on the reflector and precision optics on the lens give the light a more solid and intense beam.

Tactical flashlights tend to all be around the same size with a 1" tube between 3" and 6" in length. Instead of the standard D-cell or AA batteries, most tactical flashlights utilize one or two 3-volt 123A lithium batteries (LIGHT-310). These batteries provide higher voltages to run the high-pressure xenon bulb. The tungsten filament in these bulbs can burn much brighter and hotter than typical filaments, enabling higher voltages to be used and giving the flashlight a much more powerful beam of light. This high performance comes at a cost; most tactical flashlights can only run for about 60 minutes before the light begins to dim. Most use xenon bulbs, but some new models use high intensity LEDs to extend battery life. Some high end LED models such as the Elzetta ZFL-M60 (60655) are capable of outputs of 235 lumens for 1.5 hours.

There are a wide variety of tactical flashlights available to serve many applications. They all retain certain design characteristics like compact size, lithium batteries, high power output, and standard 1" diameter tube. No matter what application you need a tactical flashlight for, there is sure to be one specifically designed to fill that role.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Using and Installing a Three Point Tactical Sling

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Having trouble installing or using your new three-point tactical sling? Take a look at our new video on exactly how to utilize and install this useful accessory on your AR-15 rifle. Installation can be adapted for use on almost any rifle.

Modernizing and Accessorizing the Mosin Nagant

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It's probably the most popular military surplus rifle on the market today. Ammunition for it is cheap and plentiful, and how can you pass up a rifle you can buy for less than $100? Yes, I'm talking about the Mosin Nagant. These century old rifles can be found in abundance in gun stores, pawn shops, and gun shows across the country. Most for around $90 - $100. That's right, for just $200 you can buy a functioning rifle and a spam can of 440 rounds of ammunition. It's hard to find a better deal than that.

But, let's face it. This rifle is at least 55 years old, and many are pushing 100. It is not a modern sporting rifle by any stretch of the imagination, but it can be affordably upgraded to take modern optics and accessories.

Probably the most common question we get is from customers who want to mount a scope on their Mosin Nagant. By and large, most Mosin Nagants were only designed to be used with the factory iron sights. Some rare sniper versions were made and outfitted with optics, but these are fairly expensive and difficult to find. Your typical 91-30 Mosin was not designed with optics in mind, but it can be upgraded. Our most popular conversion is the Mosin Nagant scope mount from Advanced Technology. It includes a new bolt to convert your straight handled bolt to a more modern bent bolt. While this kit does require some skill in gunsmithing, an individual with a rudimentary knowledge of the art will be able to install the kit with minimal effort. This Mosin scope mount kit includes everything needed to mount the scope rail, including hardware drill bits and a tap.

After fitting your Mosin for a scope, you may find the century old wooden stock to be somewhat lacking. Older wooden stocks are often cracked, and modern glass-filled nylon replacements represent a significant reduction in weight and recoil. Advanced Technology manufactures a synthetic stock for the Mosin Nagant that is quite literally a drop in installation. You'll likely spend longer removing the barrel bands from your old wooden stock than you will fitting the barrel and action into this new sleek Monte Carlo style stock. It's a tight fit, so take your time and work carefully.

The new Monte Carlo stock features proper sling swivel mounts, so you'll no longer be relegated to using the traditional "dog collar" style sling mounts. The new synthetic stock is also perfectly suited for use in the field as it is incredibly durable and waterproof. This makes it ideal for hunting, where all types of weather conditions may be encountered. Of course if hunting is your goal, you may find the camouflage version of the stock more suitable for your rifle. This stock from Advanced Technology comes in Mossy Oak Break-Up camouflage and is also a "drop-in fit" stock that requires no gunsmithing.

Not all accessories for the Mosin Nagant are new technology. Some traditional items are still incredibly useful for operating your vintage rifle. Stripper clips in 7.62x54R make reloading your rifle quick and easy, and they are convenient ammunition storage devices as well. Most ammunition for the Mosin is older military surplus rounds. A broken shell extractor is a very useful tool which can quickly restore your rifle to service should an old cartridge suffer a case head separation which may otherwise render your rifle useless.

The Mosin Nagant is a classic rifle once used by nations throughout the world. The fact that it is still in use by some military units is a testament to the versatility and durability of this old warhorse. Still, time marches on and there are a number of ways you can upgrade and sporterize your classic war rifle, turning it into an effective and accurate hunting arm. Once properly oufitted, you'll find your old Mosin looks ready to go for yet another 100 years.

Friday, February 19, 2010

How to buy and register a handgun in the District of Columbia: a survival guide

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It's been nearly two years since the US Supreme Court ruled on the Heller case regarding Washington DC laws regulating firearm ownership. Since that time, it has been legal to purchase and own a handgun within the federal district, though the process for obtaining a firearm legally is long and arduous when compared to other state procedures. DC Libertarian Examiner Kris Hammond has an article that details just what must be done to purchase and register a handgun inside the District of Columbia.
Any District of Columbia resident contemplating a handgun purchase in the near future should consider the advice of the lone gun dealer in the District, Charles Sykes.  When asked about the most frequent mistake made by would-be D.C. gun buyers, he said, “They don’t learn about the gun registration process first” before buying a gun.

The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) provides residents with the legal requirements and paperwork, but residents must discover through trial and error the most efficient manner of completing the mandatory regulatory checklist.  The following step-by-step guide to the D.C. gun registration process will fill some of the gaps.

1. Acquire the D.C. MPD “Firearms Registration General Requirements and Study Guide,” Application for Firearms Registration Certificate, and Statement of Eligibility.

Download the Study Guide located on the D.C. MPD website, and carefully read through all of the requirements to register a firearm.  However, the Application for Firearms Registration isn’t downloadable because it’s a triplicate form.  Upon request, the Firearms Registration Section (202-727-4275) will mail the Guide, Application, and Statement of Eligibility to the applicant.  The forms can also be picked up at 300 Indiana Avenue, NW, Room 2169 (located across from Judiciary Square Metro Station).

Sykes also maintains copies of the Application, but be aware that the Application asks for more than an address, phone number, and responses to potentially incriminating questions.  It also requires that the applicant provide all addresses of residence for the last five years (with dates of residence), as well as the applicant’s occupation, employers, and business addresses for the past five years (with dates of employment).

The Statement of Eligibility--wherein applicants are required to affirm under oath whether they have ever been “convicted of a prostitution related offense, being a vagrant, operating a bawdy house [brothel], abrogating strikers, or any felony” (Question Eight)--epitomizes D.C. regulatory minutiae.  Not only is this mysterious Statement not mentioned in the Study Guide, there is no apparent reference to the Statement anywhere on the MPD website.  However, MPD requires applicants to complete the form and have it notarized.  MPD does not, however, offer notary services.  Fortunately, Sykes will notarize the Statement upon request without any additional fee.

2. Attend the Mandatory Gun Safety Class

It’s a good idea to attend the mandatory five-hour (four hours of classroom instruction and one hour of range instruction) gun safety class early in the process, especially if you are a first-time buyer who is uncertain of what gun she wishes to acquire.  Sykes says that the course “gives people a chance to see what firearm they might want and to get advice from the firearm instructor about what gun might work best for them.”  Upon completion of the course, the instructor provides the applicant with a signed Firearms Safety Course Compliance form certifying course completion.

D.C. MPD provides a list of certified firearms instructors in the Guide, but, unhelpfully, instructors’ names and phone numbers are the only contact information provided.  James Wiggins of Sirius, the instructor recently hired by the author, charges substantially less for the course than some other area gun safety instructors.  Although highly-experienced gun owners relocating from Virginia or Texas may struggle to stay awake while watching the instructional videos, novice and intermediate gun owners will find the five-hour class valuable.  Wiggins’s class covered not only critical information concerning the legal thicket surrounding the rules of engagement, but also gun operation, shooting technique, and tactical tips for home defense.

3. Buy a Gun

There are no gun stores within the District of Columbia, and Sykes doesn’t sell guns, he only handles the transfer of firearms.  Handguns can be purchased on a reputable Internet website or any of the area stores (which usually double as gun ranges) in Virginia or Maryland.  Visiting a brick-and-mortar storefront is recommended because the buyer can ask questions of gun experts and test fire handguns on the range.

The seller of a firearm will typically charge approximately $25 for the overnight shipment to Sykes, as required by federal law.

Prior to a final purchase decision, verify that the gun may be registered under D.C. law.  Check the MPD website, which maintains a list of permitted guns.  Thanks to attorney Alan Gura (of District of Columbia v. Heller fame), a broad range of handguns may be registered.  In the wake of Heller Supreme Court case recognizing a constitutional right to bear arms, the District banned semiautomatic handguns and then attempted to sharply limit which handguns were allowed.  D.C. eventually reversed course due to legal pressure from Gura.

Buyers of semiautomatic pistols take note: It is illegal for D.C. gun owners to possess a magazine that holds more than 10 rounds of ammunition.  Many semiautomatics, such as the Beretta 92FS, come standard with a 15-round magazine.  Although difficult to find at local stores, a 10-round magazine may be purchased on the internet for $22 + shipping and handling.

All gun owners with children living in the home should also invest in a gun safe.  The District imposes criminal liability for the negligent storage of firearms.  A gun safe permits the owner to prevent a child from acquiring a firearm while at the same time providing quick access to a firearm in case of emergency.  Gun locks may be difficult to operate under stressful circumstances and may not even thwart the will of a determined child.

4. Meet Charles Sykes

After purchasing the handgun, call Sykes at 301-577-1427.  After Sykes receives the firearm from the seller, schedule a time to meet with Sykes at his sparsely-furnished office (1213 Good Hope Road S.E.) located a 12-minute walk from the Anacostia Metro Station.

Sykes will run a criminal background check and hand you a federal form to complete.  D.C. law requires that applicant and Sykes sign the Firearms Registration Certificate “in the presence of each other.”  Remember to ask Sykes to notarize the Statement of Eligibility.  After this stage of the process is complete, Sykes will request a transfer fee of $125 cash.

5. Obtain Two Passport-Size Photos

Registration applicants must submit two passport-style photos taken within the 30 days prior to the date the application is filed.  If one is traveling on the Green Line from the Anacostia Metro, getting off at the Archives Metro Station will provide easy access to either Penn Camera (840 E Street N.W.) or CVS (435 8th Street N.W.). Both stores are located within walking distance of the Firearms Registration Section a few blocks away.

6. File Your Registration Application, Pay the Fees, Get Fingerprinted, and Take the Test

Navigate the metal detector at the entrance to 300 Indiana Avenue, N.W. and head straight back to the Firearms Registration Section.  The applicant should submit a completed Application form, notarized Statement of Eligibility, two passport photos, and a completed Firearms Safety Course Compliance form.  Thereafter, proceed directly to Room 1140B in the basement, where the cashier will accept cash payment for the application, ballistics test, and fingerprinting/FBI background check fees.

Upon returning to the Firearms Registration Section with a paid receipt, the applicant will be fingerprinted.  The multiple-choice test is not difficult as long as the Study Guide is carefully reviewed beforehand (most people incorrectly answer the question about antique firearms).  The applicant will also complete a form authorizing MPD to perform a background check.

7. Obtain the Approved Firearms Registration Certificate

Following the 10-day waiting period, the approved registration certificate may be picked up by the applicant or MPD will mail the registration certificate upon request.

8. Visit Charles Sykes Again

Travel to Anacostia again and provide Sykes with the approved registration certificate.  Sykes will transfer the firearm to the registered owner.

9. Visit the Firearms Registration Section Again

Newly-registered firearms must be brought to the Firearms Registration Section for a ballistics test.  The Guide suggests that this process takes approximately one hour.

10.  Take the Handgun Home or to the Shooting Range

D.C. law does not permit the possession of a handgun outside the home unless the individual is traveling to a gun range.  Therefore, after the registration process is complete, the handgun must be taken straight home or to a gun range.

Although the District of Columbia government has created the elaborate gun registration process ostensibly to reduce gun violence, Sykes says, “Gun violence isn’t a problem with the people who try to obtain the gun legally.”  The registration process adds substantially to the cost of the firearm.  If a firearm is purchased for $450, the new owner must thereafter contend with the following expenses:

  • $22.50 Virginia sales tax

  • $25 shipment fee

  • $125 gun class fee (may be more depending on the instructor)

  • $125 gun dealer transfer fee

  • $12 passport photos

  • $13 application fee

  • $12 ballistics test fee

  • $35 fingerprinting / FBI background check fee

The total fees and taxes are $369.50, nearly doubling the actual cost of a $450 firearm to $819.50.

Meanwhile, the process for obtaining a gun in Virginia involves three steps: (1) walk into a store, (2) pay for the gun while submitting to an instant background check, and (3) walk out of the store with the gun, which may be carried outside of a personal residence.  Law-abiding gun owners in the District might well exclaim: “If only it were that easy.”

That's quite a difference from Virginia, or nearly any other state for that matter. Alan Gura and the Second Amendment Foundation are currently pursuing additional litigation to further restore 2nd Amendment rights to Washington DC as well as other localities where private gun ownership is severely limited.

Guest Post: Caleb on Faster Revolver Reloads

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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. Caleb replies to a reader email on improving his times in the revolver class in USPSA competitive shooting.
A reader emails: “Caleb, I shoot revolver in USPSA and I’m looking for a way to improve my times.  What should I practice to get faster?”

The one word answer to your question is this: reloading.  Shooting a revolver in USPSA isn’t like anything else, because you’re limited to 6 shots in a world of 8 shot arrays a lot of the time.  To draw a parallel to military aviation, a friend once told me that flying a modern fighter jet meant that when you took off, you were basically out of gas, and when you landed you were REALLY out of gas.  Shooting a revolver in USPSA is a lot like that inasmuch as when the string of fire starts, you need to reload, and by the time you’re done shooting you’ve probably reloaded 437 times for that one stage.

Now, this tip doesn’t apply if you’re not already shooting mostly a-zone hits at speed – if you’re not doing that yet, then focus on accuracy and trigger discipline first.  But if you’ve got the shooting portion of the game pretty well in hand, spending a lot of time focusing on your reloading skills is going to give you a good payoff in improving your times.  Especially focus on reloading on the move with your revolver; if you’re in a USPSA stage and you’re moving and not shooting, you need to be loading.  The goal should be to have the revolver loaded, cylinder closed and ready to shoot by the time you reach your next shooting position.

Again though, don’t practice reloading at the expense of your regular practice.  Rather incorporate static reloads though the use of training drills and moving reloads into your regular practice.  I try to get 10-20 “clean” (no fumbles) reloads into every practice session I do.  A good way to do this is that every time you administratively juice up your gun, load in the manner that you would during a match, focusing on good technique and control.

I’m not saying that you’ll be Jerry Miculek fast, but tuning up your reloads is a sure fire way to make any COF (Course of Fire; Ed.), be it IDPA, USPSA, or ICORE go quite a bit faster.

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.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hunting with the AR-15 Rifle

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While the AR-15 rifle platform has been used for hunting for a number of years, it has only recently begun to gain wide acceptance from hunting traditionalists as a viable platform for harvesting medium sized game. The AR rifle as a hunting platform has a number of advantages, including low recoil and fast follow-up shots, not to mention the inherent modularity and adaptability of the AR rifle. Within minutes, you can swap optics or even entire upper receivers to adapt the rifle to whatever role suits you best. According to the NSSF, "AR-15-platform rifles are among the most popular firearms being sold. They are today's modern sporting rifle."

Remington R-25 rifle chambered in .308 Winchester

The NSSF quoted Dick Metcalf on the AR saying "Modern sporting rifles in a wide variety of chamberings are accurate enough for prairie dogs and powerful enough for grizzly bear. They're also utterly reliable and nearly indestructible, which is why I've been hunting with them ever since Colt introduced the first AR-15 Sporter over 30 years ago."

The AR rifle initially made the transition from military style rifle to hunting rifle when farmers and ranchers, along with returning veterans already familiar with the platform, began utilizing it for varmint control. The fast .223/5.56 round has an extremely flat trajectory out to 300 yards, making it ideal for engaging game ranging in size from prairie dogs to coyotes at unknown distances. Heavier bullets in the 62-79 grain range are the most popular for predator control. Close cousins of the AR-15, the AR-10 and LR308 are both chambered in .308 Winchester and are perfectly capable of taking larger game such as deer and even elk, caribou or moose.

Of course these two calibers aren't the only available to the AR. A number of rounds have been created for the rifle over the years as hunters and shooters demanded more performance and greater versatility.

.204 Ruger Ammunition

.204 Ruger Seizing on the popularity of the AR-15 platform as a varmint rifle, Ruger and Hornady teamed up to develop the hyper-velocity .204 Ruger cartridge. Based off of a necked down version of the .222 Remington Magnum, Ruger claims that their .204 round is the fastest commercially produced cartridge with a muzzle velocity of over 4225 FPS with a 32 grain projectile. This extremely flat shooting round is incredibly effective on small game such as prairie dogs, squirrels, and groundhogs.

6.8 SPC
The Remington 6.8 SPC was initially developed to meet the need for a heavier bullet than was currently available in the 5.56mm platform. The US Military sought a bullet with better terminal ballistics than their M855 SS109 ammunition, and the result was the 6.8 SPC designed by the United States Army Marksmanship Unit. Based off of the .30 Remington, the case length was shortened to fit existing M16 magazine wells and adapted to fire the 6.8mm 115 grain bullet. Experimentation showed the 6.8mm round to be the best compromise between the accuracy of the 6.5mm round and the stopping power of the 7mm. When it was released to the commercial market the 6.8 SPC gained enormous popularity with hunters in states that required hunting ammunition be larger than a minimum caliber of .243 as it allowed them to legally use the familiar AR platform for hunting medium sized game.

.450 Bushmaster
Initially developed by Tim LeGendre of LeMag Firearms LLC, the .450 is a straight walled cartridge and one of the largest available for the AR platform, second only to the .50 Beowulf. LeGendre licensed his creation to Bushmaster who contracted with Hornady to mass produce the round. Hornady shortened the case to 1.7 inches, loaded it with their 250 grain SST bullet and designated it the .450 Bushmaster. The .450 Bushmaster doesn't have a particularly long range, but is very effective at dropping large game out to 250 yards. It's also a natural choice when it comes to hunting in thick cover or heavy brush as the heavy bullet can bust through most light twigs and leaves with only minimal deflection.

No matter what type of game you hunt, you can find an AR-15 available in a caliber and configuration well suited to that quarry. You can find it in a variety of finishes, from Realtree Hardwoods to ATACS camoflauge, and with metal, synthetic, or carbon fiber components. The large availability of parts and accessories make the AR rifle easy to customize, and there are limitless options when it comes to optics that can be mounted on the rails of most AR-15s. Combine this with the familiarity of a sporting rifle that has been on the market for 50 years a you've got a fantastic hunting rifle able to be adapted to perform well in almost any role.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Modernizing and Accessorizing the AK-47

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It seems inevitable: if it's got a Picatinny rail on it, there is an innate desire to hang any number of accessories from it. AR-15s have long been a popular platform for customizing, upgrading, and accessorizing, but AK-47 style rifles have recently become increasingly popular as a platform for rail systems and their never ending lineup of accessories. Now more than ever we are seeing numerous manufacturers producing mounts, grips, stocks and rails for the AK platform.

Command Arms 6-position adjustable stock for stamped AK receivers
We've all seen the monstrosities that result from going too far... rifles with multiple optics, flashlights, vertical forward grips, lasers, bipods, sling attachments, and even iPhones and cup holders hung off of the ubiquitous MIL-STD-1913 accessory rail. But how much is too much? Where is the line between "useful accessories" and "way too much junk"? Many fans of Mikhail Kalashnikov's famous rifle argue that you shouldn't tamper with perfection. I'm sure there are those who might argue that we should still be tooling around in Henry Ford's ethanol powered Model A and that "640K [of computer memory] ought to be enough for anybody," but indeed there is a time and place for improvement and modernization. That being said, the general form and function of the rifle should not change. Modifications to the bolt, safety, and general handling of the rifle can cause confusion and/or malfunctions when under the stress of combat or timed competition. Other changes and upgrades such as optics, rail systems and adjustable stocks do nothing but enhance an already well performing rifle.

The first and most obvious upgrade is the installation of an after market stock. Not everyone has arms of the same length, and adjustable stocks are the obvious solution. While many people have dismissed the AR style adjustable stock as a viable accessory for the AK rifle, we find that it is an obvious solution to this ergonomic conundrum. Adjustable stocks allow the user to quickly adjust the length of pull to fit their individual arm length. One of the best collapsible stocks for the AK is the Command Arms 6-position stock. It is solid and well built, and allows you to adjust the length of pull from 8.5" to 12.5". Well known AR accessory manufacturer Vltor also makes a 5-position Mil-Spec buffer tube for the AK that allows the use of any Vltor Mil-Spec AR stock.

After adding on an adjustable stock, the next natural step is to replace the thin standard AK pistol grip with something a little bigger and more ergonomic. For some people, the stock AK pistol grip works just fine. Myself, I have big hands and like something a little bigger to wrap my mitts around. The Tapco AK pistol grip patterned after the M249 SAW fits the bill just fine.

UTG Quad Rail for Romanian WASR AK Rifles
Rail systems allow you to mount quick-detach optics, along with other accessories, on the rifle. There are a number of systems currently on the market that replace the stock wooden AK handguards with a quad rail setup. Quad rail systems that replace the forearm have the added benefit of aiding in heat dissipation. One of our most popular rail systems is the Leapers UTG quad rail system that includes rubber rail covers. But rail systems are a gateway accessory, leading to the attachment of more and more items of dubious usefulness. It's important to be aware of the weight of each item you attach to your rail. Accessories stuck far out on a rail near the muzzle make a rifle heavier and more difficult to wield, leading to a loss in accuracy when shooting off-hand. The rail system you select should be lightweight and shouldn't extend too far towards the muzzle.

Forward vertical grips are also a natural add-on when adding a quad rail. The AK platform however necessitates that forward vertical grips are positioned well forward of the magazine so as not to interfere when performing magazine swaps. For this reason, it is important to choose a lightweight grip that won't weight down the end of the rifle too much. Our Leapers UTG vertical foregrip is easy to slide on and off of your rail, and tightens into place easily using a knob at the base of the grip. Its simple design makes it very lightweight, and it includes side panels designed to mount a pressure switch should you decide to add on a flashlight or laser.

Now that you've got a rail system selected and installed, it's time to carefully choose what accessories you mount on it. Generally, optics should be limited to a red dot scope or MRDS, although a low power adjustable scope may come in handy as well. Due to the inherent accuracy (or lack thereof) of the AK, we feel that magnification beyond 4x is simply not useful for the AK platform. The AK rifle is most effective at ranges less than 400 yards, so anything more than 4x magnification is overkill. Indeed, in a tactical application (including 3-gun matches) most engagements are at 25-100 yards, making a red dot system ideal for rapid target acquisition and "both eyes open" shooting. As far as optics go, you truly do get what you pay for. The Aimpoint Comp M2, M3, and M4 are generally considered the top of the line for red dot systems, although there are certainly less expensive high quality alternatives available.

There is a time and a place for adding on other accessories, such as lasers and flashlights, but as with the AR platform, those are specialized accessories for specialized roles. The beauty of the Picatinny rail system is that accessories can be easily added and removed as the demands of the weapon dictate. Trying to hang every accessory on your rifle for every conceivable need doesn't just give you an ugly rifle, it also gives you a heavy and unwieldy shooting platform.

Friday, February 12, 2010

E-Postal Matches

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Snow is still on the ground, but spring is fast approaching, and with spring comes shooting matches! Don't have a match near you? No problem! Cheaper Than Dirt! is teaming up with Mr Completely to host a series of E-Postal matches where you can compete with whatever gun you have, whether it's an airgun, a rifle, or a pistol. Each match is hosted by a different gun blogger who will create their own target and set out the rules and procedure for shooting it. Simply print out the target and the rules for that match and head out to your local range!

I'll let Mr Completely explain the rest:

The e-Postal match series is starting up on the 1st. of March, and the first match will be hosted right here by yours truly. We will have one match a month clear through next November.

For those of you unfamiliar with the e-Postal match series, here's how it works: Each month a different gun blog will host the match. The host will think up the target and make it available for download. You can usually expect something challenging, harder than it looks, and more often than not like something you've never seen before! In short, lots of fun!

The rules and course of fire will be on the host's blog. You download the target, print out the rules, and head out to the range. After shooting the targets, you either scan them, or take a digital picture of them, and email them to the e-Postal match host. Once the match is closed, the host will tabulate the scores and post them on the host's blog. What do you win? Nothing but bragging rights, so that tends to keep everyone honest!

However, this year we have a big surprise! Cheaper Than Dirt (You DO follow their website for good ammo prices, accessories, their blog, and a ton of other resources, don't you?) has generously donated a $50 gift certificate to each month's e-Postal match, to be awarded by random drawing to one of that month's entrants. Still no incentive to fudge on your scores, but quite an incentive to send in several entries, each shot with a different gun, of course!

All the details will be with the rules on the first match of the year, coming up right here in a few weeks.

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, February 11, 2010

NRA Whittington Center

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Founded in 1973, the crown jewel of shooting facilities anywhere in North America, the 33,000-acre Whittington Center is home to the NRA's finest events. Located near beautiful Raton, New Mexico, the Whittington Center hosts many competitive, educational, and recreational activities in all shooting disciplines. This world-class hunting venue provides shooters with the finest and most comprehensive facility in America year-round.

The Whittington Center Gun Club offers its members a variety of shooting ranges, including ranges for smallbore rifle, high power rifle, black powder, trap, skeet, sporting clays, hunter sight-in, PPC, smallbore rifle silhouette, highpower rifle silhouette, long range pistol silhouette, hunter pistol silhouette, benchrest, and practical pistol.

For young men and women, NRA Whittington hosts an annual Adventure Camp. It offers the chance of a lifetime for youths to learn about firearms and experience the thrill of tracking and stalking big game. All activities are under the guidance of the most skilled firearms instructors and outdoor specialists in the nation. Situated on some of the wildest country left in the West, there is no summer camp experience quite like it in the world.

Click here for the application (*.PDF) for the 2010 Adventure Camp

Back into the Pages of History...

Imagine yourself in wild mountain country near Raton, New Mexico, where cougars still roam and the skies are so wide you can almost see back in time. Back to the days when Ute raiding parties rode over the mesas. Back to when legendary mountain men like Jim Bridger and Kit Carson knew every trail between Raton and Santa Fe. Puffs of black powder smoke drifted into the clear mountain skies as buckskin-clad hunters brought down mule deer and elk, antelope and bear. These men were marksmen, some of the finest America has ever known. Their very lives depended on shooting and wilderness skills. Bridger and Carson are gone into the pages of history, but their spirit lives on. You'll find it in the wild Rocky Mountains of northern New Mexico, where the NRA Whittington Adventure keeps the legends of our frontier history alive.

You Can Experience America's Wild Frontier

How would you like to experience some of the wildest country left in the West, learning to hunt, shoot, and sharpen your outdoor skills? This is exactly what the NRA Whittington Adventure offers; a chance for young men and women to learn about firearms and experience the thrill of tracking and stalking big game, all under the guidance of the most skilled firearms instructors and outdoor specialists in the nation. There is no summer camp experience quite like it in the world.

Where Shooting & Outdoor Adventure Come Together

The NRA Whittington Adventure instructors will teach you the fundamentals of pistol, rifle, muzzleloading, and shotgun shooting skills with safety always foremost in mind. They'll introduce you to the fine art of competitive shooting, rifle and pistol silhouette, and bullseye disciplines plus skeet and trap shotgun savvy. Or, how about learning to shoot black powder muzzleloading rifles, much like those the mountain men used? How about firing high power rifles at targets 1,000 yards away? Or even the thrill of a deserted mining town in Van Houten Canyon?

Experience the Outdoors in the Shadow of the Rockies

All good outdoorsmen know the fundamental skills crucial to the hunt. During the NRA Whittington Adventure you'll learn more than just the basics. You'll learn skills like wilderness map reading, how to prepare a hunting camp, animal tracking, how to use game calls, care of downed game, and an understanding of wildlife management techniques. The counselors want you to experience the magnificent Rocky Mountain back country during this adventure. You'll go on a simulated big game hunt with a few days and nights under the stars. When this adventure is over, you will have gained knowledge and some of the outdoor skills needed to survive in wild mountain terrain. You will also have the opportunity to become Hunter Safety qualified in New Mexico. Maybe most important of all, the NRA Whittington Adventure is designed to encourage leadership and team spirit. You'll be involved with a group of young people willing to cooperate in a true outdoor learning experience, an adventure like no other in America, in a setting that will take your breath away.

Come to the Best of the Rocky Mountain West

The NRA Whittington Center is without a doubt the most complete shooting center in the nation. The camp includes 33,000 acres of rugged western terrain, 10 miles southwest of Raton, all in the scenic high mesa country of New Mexico. As you might have guessed, the beautiful landscape abounds with wildlife. You'll sleep in the Whittington Center's log cabin housing units and eat in the dining facility.

A Total Equipment Package Plus Expert Training

The NRA Whittington Adventure supplies all firearms and ammunition. Pistols, rifles, shotguns, and blackpowder guns will be provided at the camp. You will be asked to bring your own shooting glasses and hearing protection, as well as your own personal outdoor items such as sleeping bags and hiking boots. But don't worry, the Whittington Center will provide a complete list of equipment and travel information needed for this unique outdoor experience.

Skilled People Ready to Make Your Stay Worthwhile

The NRA is proud of the staff assembled for the NRA Whittington Adventure. All of the adult instructors possess tremendous outdoor and shooting skills. They were chosen because of a demonstrated ability to work with young people. A camp health officer will be on site (each camper will be asked to provide a current physical prior to the camp).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Shopping for and Inspecting Used Revolvers

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So, I'm heading out to the local gun show Sunday, and I'm looking for some bargains on revolvers. I'm pretty picky when it comes to purchasing used handguns, and revolvers are no exception. Many people attend local gun shows looking to find a bargain. But how do you know that Smith & Wesson Model 60 laying on the table there is a great deal and not someone else's problem they're trying to unload on an unsuspecting buyer?

Smith & Wesson Model 60
The first step in finding a a good deal on a used revolver is to know what you are looking for. Do your research before hand and have an idea of potential makes and models you want. Not all revolvers are good investment pieces. Some retain their value extremely well while others continue to lose value. There are differences in the quality of the components and the quality of the build, as well as consumer demand. Choosing a cheaper model may mean that down the road you have a $50 paper weight instead of a $800 collectors piece. The Blue Book of Gun Values is a great place to start researching if you're looking for a collector revolver. If you're simply looking for a quality revolver for concealed carry or personal defense, try searching Google and find out what makes and models are recommended. It's hard to go wrong with some of the major manufacturers; Colt, Ruger and Smith & Wesson stand out as long time favorites, but Taurus has recently become known as a quality revolver manufacturer as well. Taurus' Judge revolver is one of the hottest selling revolvers on the market right now.

By now, you've got an idea of what you're looking for. How do you determine whether the pistol you're looking at is at the end of it's service life and in need of serious repair, or is a gem that just needs a little cleaning and polishing? To begin with, check the overall condition of the pistol. Is it dirty? If so, that should be your first major red flag. A dirty revolver is not just difficult to inspect for cracks or gas cutting and erosion, it's indicative of the care and maintenance that the pistol received. If the previous owner didn't care for it enough to clean it before selling it, what condition is the rest of it in? Just walk away from a dirty revolver. A clean revolver should be much easier to inspect. Check the top strap for structural integrity by looking for cracks in it, especially just above the forcing cone. Some erosion from hot gases escaping in this area is normal for a magnum revolver, but be cautious if you see signs of gas cutting or moderate to extensive erosion.

By the same token, be wary if the 200 year old collector piece you are looking at looks as if it may have just rolled off the factory line. It may be a fake, or worse, a refinished antique. The best collector pieces have their age worn proudly. Small nicks and dings are like marks of honor for antique revolvers, and almost all antique collector pieces have a well worn patina. Refinishing an actual antique ruins its value and eliminates the rich history worn by the piece.

Ruger GP100
I carry a small Mini MagLight flashlight with me to help inspect for flaws; the additional light helps illuminate any cracks or deformities. A bore light is also great for checking out the condition of the rifling. When inspecting the rifling, start by looking for any chips, dings, or cracks in the crown of the muzzle as these can affect the accuracy of the revolver. Next, with your bore light illuminating the rifling, peer down the bore. You're looking for rust, dark spots, or pitting in the barrel. A good looking bore will be shiny and have sharp edges on the lands and grooves. Some grit and dust in the bore is normal, but again you should be cautious if it looks like it's been ages since the barrel has been cleaned.

Now it's time to move on to the cylinder. Check the cylinder latch for tightness. The cylinder release should not be loose or sloppy, but neither should it be too tight. It should have a crisp release and be easy to operate with just the thumb while maintaining a positive grip on the revolver with one hand. With the cylinder out, begin inspecting the crane. The crane is the arm that the cylinder swings out on. It should fit tightly to the frame while closed, and should smoothly swing out with little effort and very little play on the hinge. Looking at the cylinder, check that it turns smoothly on the shaft. Inspect the cylinder stops - these are the notches on side of the cylinder towards the back. Make a note of any excessive wear. Also check the ratchet on the back of the cylinder and ensure that the teeth are in good shape.

The ejector should operate smoothly and have significant spring tension behind it. If it binds up, be aware that the binding will only get worse as the frame of the gun heats up from firing. Shine your bore light into each cylinder and check for any dark spots, rust, or corrosion. If the seller will allow it, test the cylinder bores with unfired ammunition, snap-caps, or dummy rounds. The cartridges should slide in smoothly, fit flush, and be able to be dumped out without using the ejector. Make absolutely sure to remove any live rounds before proceeding with your inspection. Having emptied the cylinder, gently close the cylinder (never swing a cylinder closed like you see in the movies!)

With the cylinder closed, turn it until the first cylinder stop catches and cock the hammer. While holding the hammer, pull the trigger and gently lower the hammer and keep the trigger pulled all the way back. This completely locks up the internals of the revolver. With the trigger still pulled back, check the cylinder for any play. Any forward and backward movement is a very bad sign, as is any excessive side-to-side rotational movement. The cylinder should feel like it is a part of the revolver frame but some slight rotation is OK. Hold the light that you brought behind the revolver and check the cylinder gap. There should be a sliver of light between the cylinder and the forcing cone, giving you a gap between .002" and .006". Any less than .002" and the cylinder will not spin freely due to fouling, and any more than .006" and you will lose too much velocity from escaping gases. Ideally you should have a set of feeler gauges with you to inspect the gap. If you're just trying to eyeball the gap, if it looks like you could fit a credit card in there the gap is too big; if it looks like a business card won't fit the gap is too small.

Colt Single Action Army Revolver
After checking the cylinder gap, we need to check the timing. With the trigger still pulled back and the unloaded revolver in full lock up, shine your light from the back of the cylinder and peer down to ensure that the cylinder bore lines up perfectly with the barrel. If the cylinder bore does not precisely line up with the barrel, the timing is off and the revolver will need to be serviced by a competent gunsmith. Perform this same test with every cylinder by locking up the action as described above for each chamber and then shine a light from the back of the cylinder to check and see that it lines up properly.

Moving on to the trigger, it can be difficult to effectively test a trigger if the seller does not want you to dry fire the pistol. Ask the seller if you can use a snap cap to test the trigger. Single action triggers, or double action triggers with the hammer cocked should break crisply and cleanly. A very small amount of take-up in the trigger is acceptable, especially if the revolver is a Ruger or some other revolver with a transfer bar action. While single action triggers should be light, they shouldn't have a "hair trigger". If the trigger is so light it feels like the slightest breeze could trip the sear, you may consider passing on that purchase. It takes some significant work on a sear to get a trigger that light, and you don't want a gun that's the result of a backyard gunsmith stoning too much off of the sear. To check for an overly polished sear, with the hammer back gently wiggle the trigger from side to side; the hammer should not fall. If it does, your sear is possible irreversibly damaged and will need to be replaced.

Evaluating a double action trigger is really a matter of personal preference. Some people like a smooth pull with no sticking point that indicates that the hammer is about to drop. Other people prefer a double action trigger that takes just a little bit of extra pull to trip the sear at the end of the pull. However you like your double action trigger, it should not be gritty or awkward.

Many dealers don't have the time to individually inspect each and every revolver they buy used. By knowing how to inspect the firearm you can avoid purchasing a nightmare that costs hundreds of dollars to repair and position yourself favorably when it comes time to haggle over the selling price.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ballistic Coefficient

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For many shooters, figuring out the ballistics of their rounds is akin to some arcane form of black magic. There are so many variables involved, and some of these variables have a much greater effect than others. Everyone is basically familiar with the effects of bullet weight and muzzle velocity, and a basic computation of your external ballistics and bullet trajectory can be computed using simple physics formulas that disregard atmospheric conditions and aerodynamic drag using only these components. But there is one aspect of aerodynamic drag that does have a significant measurable effect on bullet trajectory, and that is the ballistic coefficiency of the bullet. But what is a ballistic coefficient?

Hornaday A-Max .308 caliber 208 grain bullet. Note the spire pointed ballistic tip and aerodynamic boat tail, giving this bullet a high ballistic coefficient.

In the simplest of terms, the ballistic coefficient (or BC) of a bullet is the measure of its ability to fly efficiently through the air. Spire points or spitzer rounds obviously pierce through the air better than round nose bullets, and a bullet with a flat base generates much more drag than a bullet with a boat tail design. The number that designates the BC of a round is generally represented as a decimal measured in lb/in², with a higher number indicating a more streamlined bullet with a higher sectional density.

The sectional density of a bullet plays heavily into the resulting ballistic coefficient. The sectional density is the ratio of the diameter of the round and its weight. Computing the sectional density of a bullet is fairly straight forward: simply take the mass of the bullet and divide it by the diameter (caliber) squared. A heavier bullet will have a better (higher) sectional density than a lighter bullet of the same caliber. For this reason, bullets that are lighter tend to have a lower ballistic coefficient than heavier bullets (assuming of course that the bullets have the same aerodynamic shape). Heavier bullets will decelerate less due to the higher inertia their increased weight gives them.

By way of example, a 180 grain round nose soft point .308 Winchester bullet has a BC of around .248, whereas more streamlined and heavier 190 grain spire point boat tail .308 bullets often have a BC exceeding .495. The higher the number, the more streamlined the bullet and the less it will decelerate over time. The lack of deceleration of the bullet gives it a flatter trajectory.

The ballistic coefficient of a bullet doesn't only affect the deceleration of the round and hence it's drop, but it also affects how the bullet responds to cross winds while in flight. Once again we find that more aerodynamic bullets with a higher sectional density are less affected by cross winds when compared to less aerodynamic bullets with a lower sectional density. This explains in part why the common .22 LR cartridge is so affected by bullet drop and cross winds at ranges exceeding 50 yards.

Nosler CT Ballistic Sivertip .308 caliber 150 grain bullet. Note the rounded nose and very short boat tail, giving this bullet a high ballistic coefficient.
For long-range hunters, the ballistic coefficient of a bullet has an enormous effect on the energy a round has when it impacts the target. This is critical for proper performance of the round. For example, consider two Remington Core-Lokt 180 grain .308 bullets fired with a muzzle velocity of 2620 FPS and a muzzle energy of 2743 lb/ft. One bullet is a round nose soft point with a BC of .248. The other is a spire point with a BC of .383. The weight and sectional density of both rounds is the same. Out to 200 yards, we don't see much difference in the performance of these two rounds, but at a range of only 300 yards we begin to see huge differences in their performances; the round nose bullet at this range only has a velocity of 1665 FPS, while the spire point bullet is still traveling at 1974 FPS. At 500 yards, the difference is even more pronounced with the velocity of the round point dropping to 1212 FPS while the spire point is still humming along at 1604 FPS. If these rounds were fired at an elk at a distance of 500 yards, the round nose would hit with only 587 lb/ft of energy, while the faster spitzer bullet would impact with a much greater 1028 lb/ft.

Do you need to worry about the ballistic coefficient of your round? Probably not. For the average shooter, the ballistic coefficient of a given round simply will not have a huge effect on them. For hunters targeting game between 50 and 250 yards, and target shooters plinking at similar ranges, the ballistic coefficient doesn't have much time to affect the flight of the bullet. However, for long range and competition shooters, the importance of having a heavy streamlined bullet is of critical importance as they engage targets at 300 yards and beyond. The aerodynamic deceleration of a round increases exponentially with distance, so a bullet with a low BC will be affected much more at 600 yards when compared to a bullet with a high BC. The ability of a high BC round to overcome wind resistance as well be less affected by cross winds is critical to long range high-power competitors or hunters who hunt game at long ranges.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Drug Detective Kit Makes Detection Quick and Easy

A new drug testing kit, the Drug Detective, allows parents to check not only whether their children are using drugs, but also whether they have been exposed to drugs or drug paraphernalia by testing for residue left by the drugs. This new drug testing kit was developed by a South African company, and is available in the United States only through Cheaper Than Dirt!

South African Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SANCA) director Shamin Garda commented on the new drug detection kit, saying "It is very good for employers or even parents. You simply put a swab on the computer, a phone, a steering wheel or basically any surface and you can test if drugs have made contact with that surface. This is excellent for parents who suspect drug use in their homes.”

Most companies in the United States have privacy statements informing employees that employers have a right to search work areas for illegal activity such as drug use. While the kit may not be sufficient evidence to conclude whether or not a particular employee is using drugs in the workplace, it is an inexpensive method to initially investigate and determine if more expensive testing for individual drug use may be necessary.

The new drug testing kit was recently covered in a news segment by KDAF The 33 News. Cheaper Than Dirt! Chief Operating Officer Roberta Wilson was interviewed by the news team, and mentioned how easy the drug detection kit is to use. "Most other kits require samples of saliva or other body fluids to determine whether someone is using drugs. This system goes a step further and allows testing of fingers and hands, or nearly any surface, to see if an individual has even handled illegal drugs regardless of whether they actually ingested the drugs or not."

The kit is a one-time use system that consists of a swab, buffer liquid, mop, eye dropper, and chemical test strip. Detection can be accomplished in as few as 10 minutes. The system is able to detect drug residue left on virtually any surface, and can even be used as a saliva test to determine if an individual has drugs in their system. Other drug testing kits available in the United States are generally more costly and require samples be sent off to a lab for analysis with results coming back in days or even weeks.

The Drug Detective may prove most useful for parents who suspect that their children, who may not even be using drugs, are being exposed to drugs. One of the most useful aspects of the detection kit is that it is capable of detecting the presence of drugs even when those drugs have not been ingested. Simply by swabbing hands, bags, purses, or any surface that may have come into contact with drugs, Drug Detective kit users can determine whether or not drugs have come into contact with the user. This can allow parents to determine if their children are around others who may be using or carrying illegal substances.

The drug detection kit also works well as a deterrent. Simply owning a Drug Detective kit may give children an easy way to avoid the peer pressure to use drugs. According to Wilson, "Children can simply say 'I can't use drugs, or even be around them. My parents have a Drug Detective kit.' It's an easy way for kids to save face in front of their peers."

The Drug Detective one-time use kit sells for $29.97 and is available only at

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Darren Newsom of BVAC Talks about Ammunition

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20 years ago, Darren Newsom made himself a promise. By 2008, he would own his own business. The years came and went, and when 2008 arrived, Darren made the obvious decision to continue his work in an industry he'd spent more than two decades in: small arms ammunition. In 2008, Darren Newsom started up Bitterroot Valley Ammunition & Components, better known as BVAC. His timing couldn't have been better. Nestled in a valley just south of Missoula amidst the mountains of Western Montana, BVAC began their mission to provide high quality and low priced ammunition and components to shooters and manufacturers alike.

We recently had the chance to sit down with Daren Newsom and discuss BVAC and the ammunition industry as a whole, as well as find out what new products and research BVAC is working on.

CTD: "Hi Darren, thanks for taking some time to talk with us."

BVAC: "No problem."

CTD: "I notice that you've got some extensive hunting experience. How does that experience help you in manufacturing ammunition?"

BVAC: "It helps because I get to use the rounds we develop and test them. I get to use them in all different scenarios. We take stuff up as far north as we can get, up by the Arctic Circle, and we take it down as far south as we can get. I think you've got to know what the ammunition is going to do in all different environments, especially a premium hunting round. You've got guys who are buying it for once in a lifetime hunts. I've been fortunate enough to go on some of these hunts and by going on them I've been able to test a lot of things. We've changed some things to adapt to different situations. We've worked with Speer and actually exclusively use one of their bullets that they don't put in a line of ammo, we're the only one who put it in a line of ammo."

CTD: "Which bullet is that?"

.338 Lapua BVAC Grand Slam, 250 Grain bullet, 20 round box
BVAC: "That's the Speer Grand Slam bullet. And they only offer that bullet as a component. Neither Speer nor Federal load that bullet but they allow us to load it. By working with them, we've been able to come up with our own Trophy Class line of ammunition. I've been on a lot of hunts with Speer to prove this bullet. They haven't had to go back to the drawing board to improve anything because it's worked really good, but if they did we've got that technology at our disposal."

"You know, half of my crew on the loading end are all hunters. The guys who are building this premium line of ammunition are also using it. I think that's a key deal. Our ammunition made by hunters for hunters. Our guys, October to November leave from the reloading press and head up into the mountains. These guys know that the next person that opens this box of this ammunition it might be a once of a lifetime bull elk they have in front of them, because they've been in that situation. They know that the last thing that you want to worry about is your ammunition going off. It's hard enough to get the shot, but when you get the shot the last thing a hunter wants to worry about is his ammo. That's where we kinda pride ourselves is we don't want him ever to question the ammo. He can question his scope or his rifle or the conditions, but we never want him to have to question the ammo. Each round on our Trophy Class is one at a time hand inspected. It's looked at individually, every round, before it goes into the box."

CTD: "Let's talk for a bit about the ammunition industry and the increased demand we've seen.

9mm, BVAC FMJ, 115 Grain bullet, 50 round box
BVAC: "For the industry as a whole, I think we're still in for high demand for some time. The way I still look at it for the next two or three years there's going to be a shortage of ammunition. The key on ammunition is components. It doesn't matter if you're Federal or Winchester or Remington, if you're building ammunition you need components and there's a shortage of components right now and I don't see it getting any better. I build for law enforcement and government too, and those sales are as strong now as they were two years ago. I see it still being a high demand item because there was such a shortage it will take a couple of years just to fill in what was sold and put away in somebody's storage or their gun safe. There was a lot of ammunition that was just stored. Now what we're seeing is that guys are getting out and shooting. The thing about ammunition is that once it's shot you have to buy new, you have to buy more. People are out there shooting right now, the hoarding just isn't going on there's actually guys just getting out there and shooting also. I think we'll see this for at least a couple of more years."

"I've been in this industry since 1988, and I went through the early 90s, you know- the Clinton years, and I've never seen it like this. The Clinton years took a couple of years to recoup in the manufacturing end of it, and this is 10 times worse than that. Ammunition could be strong for the next 10 years. We went to the SHOT show, and I know in the meetings we had with the bigger companies they were 400% up on sales this year from last year, and last year was a record year. We're a month into the year and their sales 400% increased over last year. That's huge."

CTD: "Do you see that number growing or shrinking?"

BVAC: "Well, I don't see it shrinking at all. I don't know how much more it can grow because even the bigger companies are telling me "We might be 400% ahead of last year, but we can never deliver that much." I don't think it's going to shrink, but I think we're about maxed out on what everybody can do, so I can't see the growth getting that much bigger. I haven't heard of any new big manufacturer coming into the market to help out the demand, and I know the bigger companies are maxed out. None of them are looking at building new plants or anything like that because everybody just wants to weather this storm and just not be into debt when this does end. If it ends. With nobody expanding big time I think the demand is going to be there for quite a while.

CTD: "Do you think we might see some industry expansion if the demand doesn't die down? Because you mention that you don't see it shrinking."

BVAC: "Well, I see it in companies our size. You know, the smaller businesses I can see expanding. I've been to the bigger companies, you're talking for the bigger companies spending millions and millions of dollars. A company my size, you can spend a million dollars and expand pretty good. We've already expanded; we built a new plant. I'm looking at probably expanding again next year. I want to do it at a scale where we don't get way ahead of ourselves. I think you're going to see small businesses expand and get into the market. That's why we came up with our own Trophy Class ammo. When the shelves are bare we want to get ammo to the hunters. That's one thing we've been able to do in the last two years. We've been able to actually get the product to the consumers. We've been able to get it onto the shelves when a lot of people haven't been able to."

CTD: "We've noticed shortages in certain calibers that seem like they would not see a high demand, such as .30-30, .380, .45 Colt, etc. Why is that?"

BVAC: "What I've seen with .380, because it's the same way when I go to get brass, .380 and 9mm are usually run on the same production line, so if there's a big demand for 9mm they don't switch it to .380. What I've been able to do is go into some companies and make the demand for .380 as important as the demand for 9mm, and sometimes by doing that you've got to offer to pay them the same amount you would 9mm brass. Even though there's less cost in making .380, their production time is worth more to them. So, the case with the bigger manufacturers is that they're making the hot items such as 9mm, .40, .45, and not able to switch their machines. We can do a machine switch in 3 hours. For Federal or Winchester to do a machine switch, they may be talking 3 days. Right now I think they're 9 months back ordered on 9, .40, and .45 right now so .380 is one of the last items they're looking to make."

CTD: "You mention the cost of production time and the brass and components selling for more money. Is that part of the increased costs we're seeing in .380?"

BVAC: "Yes, that's why you see an increase. Obviously .380 ammunition costs less on the commodities side as far as raw materials to build than 9mm, yet you see .380 sometimes costing twice as much as 9mm if not more. Well, the reason for that is that you have to pay for the production time and I've had to do that to get brass and to get bullets. I've had to pay more than I would have to pay for 9mm. That's exactly why you're seeing .380 go up is you're paying for production time, you're paying for guys to switch their machines over and they lose the 9mm business and you've got to pay for that."

CTD: "Talking a bit more about the components, I know that a lot of people like myself have noticed that primers are very difficult to find, and when they are available it's at a substantial price increase. Tell me a bit about what's going on behind the scenes."

BVAC: "Well, BVAC has been in a good position because we're the master component distributer for ATK, and you know ATK owns Federal and Speer and CCI, and we're their master distributer for components so we're at the top of the food chain there. But you have to call in every resource you have. We back up our CCI primers with Winchester primers. I pool all my resources. We're one of the main suppliers, so I haven't had a problem getting primers at all or getting certain brass. The thing with the larger manufacturers - let's use primers as an example. They can always make more primers than they can ever make ammo. So, if they make 5 million primers a day at CCI, their capacity of ammunition might only be 4 million, so they always have an extra million primers a day. It's always like that with any manufacturer; the primers have always exceeded the production of ammunition. So, thus they need a market they can move the primers in. With CCI, I'm their avenue that they move them through. They might send me 10 million primers a month and I decide how I distribute it. Do I use 1 million for my own manufacturing and split up the other 9 million amongst other manufacturers? That's what we try to do because I like to keep all the other manufacturers making ammo too because that way BVAC can support the whole market. We support them with components.

"I think some of the smaller companies that don't make primers just have to plan. We've planned ahead 2 years on our primer orders. I've got my orders in for 2 years for primers, so that keeps me at the top of the list for two years. That's the biggest thing is just getting primers."

CTD: "So if there is this surplus of primers, help me understand. The shortage on the retail level for reloaders... is that simply from hoarding?"

BVAC: "The shortage on primers right now is on the retail level just because the primers that are coming out are all going to manufacturers."

CTD: "So it's not necessarily that there's any hoarding going on, it's just that they don't trickle down? The primers never make it to the retail level?"

BVAC: "Exactly. I've got OEMs, manufacturers, that we sell primers to that will pay the commercial price to get the primers. So you've got manufacturers willing to pay commercial prices for the primers, thus the commercial market never sees them."

CTD: "Or when we do, we see the increased price."

BVAC: "Correct. Because, they look at it and say "This manufacturer going to give me $25 per thousand primers. Well, what will the retail guy give me?" That's why you start seeing primers for $30 - $35 per thousand, when you see them at all. We keep the primer cost down for other manufacturers, and then we don't allow them to sell the primers we sell them. I won't sell another manufacturer primers to resell, they have to put them into ammunition. The biggest reason for that is pricing. If I give them the best price possible to manufacture ammunition and then they just take the primer and mark it up 100% and sell the primer, that's not the purpose for us selling them primers."

CTD: "So you're actively trying to help prevent all the price gouging we've seen in the market."

BVAC: "Exactly, that's exactly what we're trying to do. There's a lot of that going on. And some of it is justified. You guys for example have pay more for certain items just to get them, just for the availability sometimes you have to pay more, so obviously you have to charge more for them."

CTD: "And then there's .380 like you mention, where the cost of production has actually gone up."

BVAC: "Correct. One thing I can tell you that we've been able to do is that we actually just did a price decrease at the first of the year because I was able to increase our manufacturing capacity and reduce our costs of labor, so I was able to adjust pricing. You're not seeing that with many companies right now; you're not seeing anybody decrease the price of ammo. I'm trying to stay ahead of the curve, and I want to keep people shooting. If we don't have people out there shooting, the ammo industry is going to hurt like every other industry. But if I can keep it affordable and keep guys shooting, the market's going to be strong. That's part of why I re-manufacture ammunition. If guys can't afford to shoot, they're not going to shoot. Then you're going to have the hoarding. Well, the hoarding in my opinion is good for the short term. But if they don't go out and shoot it, it's only a short term deal. You're only going to sell them enough ammo until they get their stockpile up. Well, I want to make it affordable enough so that these guys can go out and shoot the ammunition and purchase more."

CTD: "What new developments can we look forward to seeing from BVAC?"

.308, BVAC Grand Slam, 165 Grain bullet, 20 round box
BVAC: "Well, we're working, we're putting in our own test lab so we can actually tweak loads to different guns as gun manufacturers come out with new guns and new models. There's a lot of new stuff coming out on the component end. There are some new powders coming out that you can get higher velocities with less pressure. There are powders coming out that will burn a lot cleaner. There is a new line of lead free primers coming out so we're looking at a line of lead free ammunition. The key with lead free ammunition, and we're going to be working on it this year, is to produce a lead free round that will not only works the same as a lead round but will also cost the same. That's been the key with the lead free rounds; the cost has been so expensive that people can't afford it. We're working with some bullet manufacturers and with primer manufacturers to make the costs affordable so that you can afford it. There are a lot of indoor ranges that require lead free ammunition, the problem is not many people can afford the ammunition. One thing we're going to come out with this year is a re-manufactured lead free round to keep the costs down. We're looking to offer that with you guys."

CTD: "Yeah, we get a lot of requests for that. Many training centers now require lead free frangible ammunition, and if you go and look on the market to buy 1,000 rounds of lead free frangible ammunition, the price is just astronomical."

BVAC: "You're right, we sell a lot of lead free frangible ammunition to training facilities, and I think you're going to see the whole market kind of shift that way eventually. The EPA and OSHA come in to the ranges, and you've got places like California that are going to a completely lead free rifle round. That's one thing we're working on now too with Barnes bullets is a lead free rifle round for California. You can't hunt in California with a lead bullet. In the next couple of months we're going to have some lead free hunting rounds available to anyone, but the big push has been for California. And we're going to test it in the field, you know, take it on a couple of hunts and see how it performs."

CTD: "I want to back track just a minute here. You mentioned powders and dirty ammunition talking about some developments and such. We've seen a lot of dirty ammunition, smoky ammunition that is foul smelling and such. What's the cause of all of this dirty stinky ammunition coming on the market during the ammo shortage?"

BVAC: "Well, the dirtiest round you're going to see is in a pistol round when you shoot a lead bullet. A lot of the cowboy action stuff and revolver bullets have a lead bullet and you're actually burning the back of the bullet when it's fired. We see a lot of lead actually being burnt, and that's where a lot of the smoke is the lead being vaporized off of the back of the bullet. Also there are some powders out there that are just some dirty powders and that's one thing we're working on is trying to get some clean burning powders. There are powders out there now with flash suppressors to keep the flash down and what keeps the flash down also keeps you from basically burning the bullet. But the big reason is that there is also a lot of surplus powder out there that has been the only thing available to a lot of companies.

CTD: "So it is related to the component shortage?"

BVAC: "Yes. When somebody can't get the powder that should be used for their cartridge, they have to use a powder that isn't supposed to be used for that particular round. Thus, you get a lot dirtier round. I mean we've seen it on the lead rounds. It's almost impossible right now to sell a .38 wad cutter that you're not going to see the smoke without going to a completely jacketed round. By switching to some different powders and using a harder cast bullet you can cut it down. The last thing you want to do is have some guy shooting your ammo standing next to another guy with a smoke cloud no one can see through. And that's some testing we do. We have a range getting built right now where we can go in and shoot and it will detect how much smoke is actually generated in there. We'll actually set up a lane where we can see if it's going to fill the entire room up with smoke."

"Ideally you want to get away from leaded rounds, but in a market like now that's not the cheapest round to make. I think it's going to be huge if we can come up with a lead free round that is affordable, because you eliminate all of that. I mean, you can eliminate it all right now, it's just that the cost of eliminating it isn't justified. I think this is a price driven deal right now. If you have a competitive good priced ammunition in stock you're going to sell everything you can make, and that's the case with us right now. We're doing 300,000 rounds a day and every day that entire production is sold. A lot of it is quality, but it's also pricing. I mean, you can't make the best ammunition in the world and sell it at the cheapest price. That just doesn't happen, but we can build really good ammo at affordable pricing and sell it. Reloaded is a really good alternative right now if it's done right and that's why we're specializing in it."

CTD: "You've touched on your re-manufactured products which use once fired brass. We often have customers ask about the once-fired brass, and they are obviously concerned about quality and reliability. Tell me a little more about your re-manufactured cartridges and the process you use in conditioning and preparing the brass."

BVAC: "A lot of people don't realize that once fired brass is actually more reliable than newly manufactured brass. With newly manufactured brass, there can be flaws in the metal, weak points, cracks or creases that aren't visible or easily detectable. With new brass, there are often flaws that are revealed when it is first fired. Once the brass has been fired, you can see discoloration, shiny spots, cracks and deformations and discard that brass. We start by sorting and sizing all of the brass that comes in. Any brass that has flaws or is damaged is discarded. What's left is the good brass, and of course we still thoroughly clean that; we polish it, size it, and test it. We actually have a machine that injects high pressure air into the brass case to check for flaws and leaks. By going through reconditioning we can actually improve the brass and make it better than newly manufactured brass."

CTD: "That's great. And with the reconditioned once-fired brass, you're able to reduce the cost of manufacturing even more and pass that savings on to the consumers, to the shooters."

BVAC: "Exactly."

CTD: "Well Darren, I believe that's all I've got. I appreciate the time you've given us, and the insights you've provided into the ammunition industry. I know our customers will appreciate the efforts you put into manufacturing low-cost high-quality ammunition."