Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Knife Anatomy 101: What is a Knife's Tang?

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You see it in the descriptions of many types of fixed blade knives: full tang, half tang, rat-tail tang, but what is a knife's tang? The tang of a knife is the projecting shank, prong, fang, or tongue that connects the blade with the handle. There are many different types of tang, depending on the style of the knife and the construction of the handle.

Full Tang
The term full tang means that the knife/sword is one solid piece and the 2 handle pieces are pinned on to the blade, one on each side. This is the strongest of the tang types. Half tang knives go the length of the knife handle, but only half the width of it.
Full Tang

Push Tang
This is a partial tang that is pushed into and secured to the handle with glue or epoxy. They usually come in full and half push- half only going into half of the handle, while full being pushed in the full length of the handle.
Push Tang

Rat Tail Tang
In a rat tail tang, the tang narrows as it goes through the handle and is either threaded at the end or is welded to a piece of threaded rod. A bolt or threaded pommel secures the blade to the handle.
Rat Tail Tang

Encapsulated Tang
This tang is smaller than the handle. The handle is fitted or molded around the tang.
Encapsulated Tang

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

History of Mauser Firearms

The company which would later become known as Mauser was started on July 31st in 1811 when Friedrich I of Wurttemberg founded a weapons factory in the small hamlet of Oberndorf deep within the Black Forest of Germany. Commissioned as a royal weapons forge, the factory opened the next year with 133 employees.

The forge was moderately successful throughout the 19th century. Then, in 1867 Wilhelm and Paul Mauser devised an ingenious rotating bolt system for breechloading rifles. Their new system was extremely simple to operate, making it much faster and more reliable than comparable systems of the same era. The advantages of such a system were soon made evident. By 1871 the most recent version of the bolt system was utilized in the standard issue German battle rifle. Designated the Gewehr 71, the rifle was chambered for a massive 11x60mm blackpowder cartridge. In 1888 the Germans adopted the 7.92x57J cartridge which, with minor modifications, would later become the well known 8mm German cartridge around which almost all Mauser rifles were later designed. Improvements to the rifle included a box magazine introduced by Vetterli, and a newly modified extractor that did not rotate with the bolt and which helped to prevent double feeds.

With the introduction of the Model 93, a smaller cartridge was introduced: the 7x57mm. Stripper clips were used to quickly load the five round box magazine of the M93. The 7mm Mauser as it became known was widely adopted by Spain, Chile, Argentina, and a number of other Latin American countries. The rifle made its claim to fame in the historic battle of San Juan Hill where 700 Spanish soliders held off an attack of over 15,000 US troops for more than twelve hours. Naturally, the United States recognized the inherent advantages of the Mauser design and incorporated many of its characteristics into the 1903 Springfield.

The Americans weren't the only ones who noticed the incredible performance of the M93 Mauser. Soon after the Cuban battle of San Juan Hill, militaries throughout the world began flooding the Mauser factory with orders for the rifle. More versions of the rifle were quickly developed for Turkey, Brasil, South Africa, Iran, China, and Sweden. The South Africans again proved the worthiness of the Mauser design in their confrontation with the British during the Boer war, prompting the United Kingdom to develop what would eventually be the SMLE - the standard of British infantry units until the 1950s.

But rifles weren't the only arms manufactured by Mauser. The company pioneered the autoloading pistol market with their "broomhandled" Mauser pistol. The C96 as it was designated was produced between 1896 and 1936 and saw action throughout World War I and II. By the time it was discontinued, over 1,000,000 pistols had been produced. The Mausers were finally given control of the factory in 1897, naming it Waffenfabrik Mauser AG.

Finally, in 1898, the most famous Mauser design was released: the M98. This design was the pinnacle of Mauser rifle design and included all of the previous improvements that had been made to earlier models. The German military adopted the rifle designating it the Gewehr 98. Carbine models of the M98, the K98, were brought online in the beginning of World War I, but saw little service and are still rarites that are highly sought after by collectors. An extremely short carbine referred to as the Karabiner Kurz (short carbine), or K98k, was used as the primary German infantry weapon from 1935 through the conclusion of World War II.

At the end of World War II the Mauser factory was seized by Allied forces and eventually placed under French control. The factory was completely dismantled and all records destroyed. Mauser engineers Edmund Heckler and Theodor Koch along with Aled Seidel recovered what they could and later founded German arms manufacturer Heckler and Koch. Allied forces maintained control of the Mauser factory until 1952 when Mauser was finally allowed to resume manufacturing firearms. Mauser continued to manufacture military rifles with varying degrees of success. A focus on NATO heavy arms soon became their new focus. In 1999 SIG purchased a stake in Mauser, and the civilian firearms porion of the company was spun off to form Mauser Jagdwaffen GmbH

Friday, March 26, 2010

Guest Post: Commander Zero on Revolvers

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Revolvers often find themselves taking a back set when compared to modern autoloaders. But do revolvers have a place in the gun safe? Commander Zero addresses the role of the modern revolver in his post reproduced here.

Another one of those questions that pops up from time to time – do revolvers have any place in the grand scheme of things.

It’s just my opinion, but in a word: yes.

Right now someone, somewhere is hitting the ‘reply’ button getting ready to tell me how if revolvers are so damn good how come they haven’t been issued as standard military sidearms since WW2? (And, yes, I know revolvers were issued to pilots in Vietnam and other groups since then.) Check that finger, mate. Let’s hash this out a bit.

The suitability of the revolver depends on what you are tasking it with. Parachuting into Magadishu to rescue shot-down pilots? Probably not the best choice. Fly fishing in Montana bear country? Good choice. See how the anticipated use can determine suitability?

Personally, I like revolvers. I usually shoot them better than autos. However, nine times out of ten I carry an auto. I try not to let my personal preferences trump good reasoning.

Revolvers have a lot going against them. If they break, replacement parts usually require the services of a gunsmith whereas most autos (esp. the newer ones) simply require a parts swapout. Firepower, in this case meaning rounds fired without reloading, easily beats the classic six-shooter. Reloads in an auto are, usually, faster than a revolver although some revolvers can be loaded mighty quick with a lot of practice. Revolvers can be a bit more fragile than automatics…anything that hits the cylinder hard enough can spring the frame and damage the bolt. Only lately are we seeing revolvers with accessory rails or night sights as standard items. So, generally, there are some big drawbacks from a logistical and tactical standpoint to revolvers.

What advantages does the revolver have? Generally, the revolvers biggest advantage is based around ammunition. Revolvers can shoot more powerful ammunition with a broader selection of bullets. Revolvers can fire blanks, snakeshot, slow wadcutters, high velocity light bullets, heavy-for-their caliber bullets, or plastic bullets all out of the same loaded cyclinder with no effect on firearm function….something just about any automatic cannot do.

Not to freak out the math-phobic, but lets look at some numbers. We’ll limit our discussion to ‘practical’ guns and calibers. The .454 Casull may be a rhinostomper but most folks aren’t going to carry anything that big. The .50 AE may be awesome in a Desert Eagle but most folks aren’t going to carry one around as a daily gun.

In automatics the most powerful cartridge you can reasonably expect to come across and will fit in your average duty-size gun is the 10mm Auto. Great cartridge. Cartridges Of The World shows a 170 gr. JHP factory load from Norma as generating around 680 ft/lb of energy. That’s pretty darn impressive. On the other hand, the same reference shows the .44 Magnum as generating nothing below that with jacketed factory loads. Or, put another way, every .44 Mag jacketed bullet load listed beats the 10mm.

Not really a fair comparison because both cartridges are, by anyones definition, a bit stompy in terms of recoil. So lets take a step back and go with a little more controllable cartridge choices and look at some numbers. Dinosaurs ‘round the world tout the .45 ACP as a death ray so lets look at the numbers – a +P 185 gr. JHP generates around 534 ft/lb..very impressive. (Anything over 500 ft/lb is pretty darn good) A .357 Magnum 125 gr. JHP beats it by about 50 ft/lb. A niggling difference on the terminal end of things, Im sure.

For personal defense against things with language skills, its an even mix…revolver ballistics or auto ballistics will perform nearly identically for the most common caliber in those two firearms styles. For personal defense against things with claws and teeth, well the revolver has an advantage there in terms of energy that’s pretty hard to argue with.

So we’ve argued that autos are better than revolvers in terms of maintenance (repairs and parts replacement) , and that for personal defense they are about even with proper caliber selection, so that clinches it right? Meh….theres other factors.

A small revolver conceals nicely and can be fired in cramped spaces like a coat pocket. (You can try it but be aware the lining of your coat may catch fire.) Revolvers can be loaded with reduced-charge ammo for new shooters or people who have problems handling more powerful cartridges or cant seem to get past limp-wristing their autos. Looking at revolvers from a post-apocalyptic Mad Max perspective theres some advantages in not having to chase your brass around, be able to cast bullets from scavenged lead, and use homemade black powder if you had to. (Admittedly, a very unlikely scenario but you never know.) Primers, of course, would be a challenge although some folks have had success reloading their own primers with various ‘common household materials.

Succinctly, yes there is a place for the revolver in preparedness. They are excellent for secondary or tertiary levels of redundancy. Police trade-in .38 and .357 revolvers can still be had for less than the price of an automatic and they are less finicky about their cheap reloaded ammo than most autos.

Years ago when I could buy used Smith & Wesson revolvers for less than $200 each I bought as many as I could and tucked them away in the safe. They are the closest thing I have to a ‘disposable’ handgun. While Im loathe to loan out one of the stockpiled Glocks I don’t have a problem loaning out one of the revolvers.

In calibers, I prefer the .357. Its comfortable to shoot, guns are plentiful, the commonality of .38 and .357 ammunition plays into my favor, ballistics are good for my anticipated uses, and the components are cheap and plentiful. Obviously, .38 Special ammo can be shot out of any .357 but not vice versa. Despite this, I still keep a few .38 Special guns on hand mostly for their cheap utility and convenience. Usually any gun you like in .38 is available in .357 also and that would be the way to go in order to preserve the advantage of ammo interchangeability.

My personal recommendation are open to debate, but here’s what I’d go with, in order of preference: Ruger, S&W, Taurus, Colt. I’m actually a Smith & Wesson fan but the Ruger is simply a more robust and durable gun than most revolvers out there. They are the Ak-47 of revolvers in terms of robustness. Their GP100 series and the older Security-, Speed- and Police-Six are good solid guns. When I carry around a .357 I usually carry a Smith Model 28 but if its time to run out the door with a backpack and rifle I’ll take the Ruger. Smith and Wessons are good guns, well made and have a great history. I like them a lot. The nice thing about the Smiths is that they made .357 revolvers on the large .44-frame guns. These guns hold up much better to steady diets of .357 loads than some of the smaller framed guns. But, even then, I still feel like the Ruger is more durable. Taurus makes a great selection of revolvers and theyre quite reasonably priced. Quality is good although once in a while a lemon gets through..however, I hear theyre pretty good on warranty stuff. Taurus probably has the most affordable .38 Specials out there. Colt used to make great revolvers but they’ve fallen so far off the radar in this department that theres almost no point in even considering them. Their older guns used lockwork that was virtually unchanged from the Victorian era and their more modern guns are difficult to find, overpriced and of mixed quality.

Steer clear of things like Llama, RG, Rohm, Astra, and any other company that youre not familiar with. Many of these cheap revolvers are mediocre at best and dangerous at worst. I’ve encountered more than a few that spit lead out the sides of cylinder gap from bad timing. For the price of one of those nightmares you can find a used Smith on GunBroker.

Got the money in hand and have no problem paying once for a gun that will last a lifetime? Here’s your list: Ruger Stainless GP100 (Or an SP101 if you want the snubby), extra front sight inserts, extra set of grips if you prefer Pachmyers, quality holster from Galco, Bianchi or DeSantis, a half dozen speedloaders and pouches (Safariland, HKS), SPeedStrip-type loader, BoreSnake, cleaning kit, as much ammo as you can afford, disassembly manual and you’d pretty much be set to go. If you want to take it to the next level of ‘ready for anything’ get a set of carbide reloading dies, a case of primers (5,000), an 8# keg of powder, a bullet mould and sizer, and a buncha brass.

If youre a fan of the .44 (or .45) cartridges, by all means go with that. Both cartridges are ballistically superior to the .357 and will serve quite nicely. I go with the .357 mostly for logistical reasons regarding ammo availability and expense, but that’s just me. The one caliber I’d shy away from is the .41 Magnum. It’s a great cartridge ballistically but its too much of an oddball for easy feeding. Ammo selection isn’t nearly as broad, and components are not as plentiful as for the .357. 44 and .45.

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

6.5x55 Swedish

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Though not very common in the United States, the 6.5x55 Swedish cartridge has long been popular amongst European hunters. Since its inception in the late 19th century, the 6.5 Swedish has been known as a flat shooting caliber with relatively light recoil and superior sectional density. Though not particularly impressive when compared to modern high-velocity short magnum cartridges, the benefits of the round quickly become apparent once you've had the opportunity to shoot it.

The light recoil of the 6.5 makes it very popular amongst younger shooters and some female shooters who favor light rounds. It's also supremely accurate and flat shooting. 6.5x55 120 grain deer cartridges loaded to higher modern pressures have a rise of only around 5 inches when fired at a range of 300 yards. This makes it very easy for a hunter to get "minute of deer" accuracy out of the round at a wide range of distances.

Designed in 1891, the 6.5x55 Swedish first saw action when it was produced in 1894 for the M94 Swedish Mauser. Its use continued through modern firearm development where it was utilized by the Swedish AG/42B semiautomatic rifle along with numerous machine guns such as the Kg/1940 Light machine gun, the Schwarzlose, and more common models like the Browning BAR and FN MAG.

The reason for the bullet's sectional density is patently obvious when looking at the cartridge. The long bullet sticks conspicuously far out of the case neck. This long "freight train" style .264 caliber bullet boasts impressive penetration and a superior ballistic coefficient in spire point and polymer tipped versions. By way of example, 140 grain 6.5mm bullets are longer than larger and heavier .30 caliber 180 grain bullets. While the caliber of the bullet is relatively small compared to a .30-06, the elongated bullet design demonstrates impressive energy and penetration in 125-160 grain weights when taking game at ranges in excess of 300 yards. Though many in the United States dismiss the capability of the round for taking large game, it's reputation amongst Finnish and Norwegian moose hunters speaks well to the effectiveness of the cartridge.

One of the only drawbacks to the 6.5x55 cartridge is no fault of the round: early model Mausers were not strong enough to take full advantage of the pressure capability of the cartridge. For this reason, the factory specifications for the load are significantly lower than the design is capable of. Later models such as the widely available M96 Swedish Mauser and almost all modern rifles are perfectly capable of handling the higher pressures. For hand-loaders, this means that it is possible to safely load the cartridge to higher pressures. In fact, a few modern loading manuals have different load specs depending on whether the round will be fired in an older Mauser or newer modern rifle, though most take care to only list the older lower pressure loads. With 48 grains of IMR 7828, a 130 grain bullet can be safely propelled to a velocity exceeding 2,900 FPS.

Despite the light weight of many 6.5mm bullets, this cartridge seems to perform better with slower burning powders. As always, when developing a load start out at half the powder weight and work your way up while checking for signs of overpressure.

The 6.5x55mm Swedish cartridge has been around for well over 100 years and continues to enjoy enormous popularity both in Europe and more recently in the United States. Given the performance of the round, it's not hard to see why. Light recoil, flat shooting, great accuracy, and a wide range of loads make it attractive to target shooters and hunters alike.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How Often Should You Clean Your Firearms?

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We all know that firearms require maintenance and cleaning, but how often should you clean your firearms? Some insist that firearms should be cleaned every time they are fired as well as every few months whether they've been used or not. Others insist that it is fine to leave your rifle or pistol uncleaned even after multiple trips to the range. Who's right? The answer is that it depends on the type of firearm, what it is primarily used for, and what ammunition and elements it has been exposed to.

There are some times when you should clean your gun every time immediately after use. If you are shooting corrosive ammunition, or if the firearm is exposed to water, moisture, or other damaging elements you should always clean your gun as soon as possible. Corrosive ammunition, water, salts, dust and dirt can all lead to rust, corrosion, excess wear and tear and eventually the early failure of the rifle or pistol.

For example, last week I went out hunting with my trusty Remington 700 in 30-06. It's not a fancy rifle with a synthetic stock and factory blued barrel topped with a Nikon ProStaff 4-12x40mm scope. The weather was cold and damp, and I didn't see any of the wild hogs I was hunting for, but it was rainy and drizzling lightly off and on so, even though I didn't fire a shot, I still cleaned my rifle when I got home. Why? Moisture in the barrel could lead to pitting and premature barrel wear. I also made sure to run a lightly oiled cloth between the barrel and the stock bed to clear out any trapped moisture or dirt and oil the barrel in that ares as well.

"But," you say "I've got a stainless steel barrel and receiver. I don't need to worry about moisture." To a certain extent, that is true. Stainless steel components do help slow down corrosion and the effects of the elements that cause it, but such parts are more susceptible to excess wear from dirt, dust, and fouling. Stainless steel is softer than other steel used in firearms and as such can experience faster wear.

If you've got a gun that is only used for plinking, target clays, or punching holes in paper, it's probably OK to let a few months and 3-4 trips to the range lapse before doing an in depth cleaning. You should still be aware that semi-automatics and rimfire firearms may begin to show performance and reliability issues with excessive fouling. My Walther G22, my favorite semiautomatic plinker, tends to run fine for about 500 rounds before it begins to have problems cycling dirty .22 rimfire ammunition. Because of this, I like to keep a bore snake, some CLP and a brush in my range bag to give the action a quick once-over should it start to hiccup. Even so, it sometimes makes it through a couple of bricks of Federal .22 LR before it sees a good scrubbing.

On the other hand, if you're shooting a match gun or a firearm that is relied upon for personal defense, you should always keep it clean, oiled, and ready to go. As mentioned above, fouling, dirt and dust can cause reliability issues in semiautomatic firearms. Any primary defensive firearm should, in this writer's opinion, be kept clean and well oiled at all times. Revolvers are not immune to fouling either: carbon build up on the cylinder can make a double action trigger nearly impossible to pull as the cylinder gap becomes clogged. For match guns, most semiautomatics run more accurate and more reliably when clean. Bolt action rifles on the other hand often require a fouling shot for the best consistency out of a cold bore. For this reason, it is sometimes easier to clean these rifles at the range where you can then fire a fouling shot (from non-corrosive ammunition) so that the bore is ready to go. Some ranges won't allow you to clean a gun at the range, and that's fine, you can clean it at home and store it without a fouling shot, just remember that your bore will need a fouling shot to prep the bore prior to competition.

Depending on how often they are used, all firearms should periodically undergo a professional detailed cleaning where the firearm is torn down and thoroughly cleaned, oiled and reassembled. How often this is necessary depends on the number of rounds fired through the gun and the role it typically is used for, but I like to detail strip and clean all of my firearms at least once a year regardless of whether or not they ever made it out of the gun safe at all. On firearms that are just being stored in a safe ambient moisture in the air, humidity, can cause some small rust spots to show up. Dessicants such as Hyskore drying silica gel will help reduce the humidity in your safe and cut down on rust caused by this moisture in the air. An annual cleaning not only makes sure that all of your guns are clean and stored properly, but also gives you the chance to inspect each firearm for problems that you may not normally notice. While you've got the gun broken down, look for cracks, rust and corrosion, erosion, or other signs that a part may need replacing. More than once while detail stripping my firearms I've found pins, springs, and other small parts that were wearing and could soon fail. By replacing them early an unexpected failure was prevented.

Always make sure to wear the proper safety gear when cleaning your firearms, and always clean in a well lit and well ventilated area. Some chemicals and solvents are dangerous and have fumes that can be unsafe to breathe. Proper eye-protection, gloves and a respirator are always recommended when working with gun cleaning chemicals.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Knife Anatomy 101: Blade Types

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Knives come in all shapes in sizes. Each description of the blade type actually refers to a specific shape design. Here's a quick visual guide to the various types and styles of a few of the most common folding knife blades.

Clip Blade

Clip Blade

The clip blade is a classic shape and very practical. It's name describes a shape that seems to have a portion of the spine of the blade clipped off. This brings the blade point lower for extra control and enhances the sharpness of the tip. It provides ample "belly" in the blade for slicing or skinning and a good tip for inserting in and under things that need to be cut. You will often find a false edge with the clip point.

Drop Point Blade

Drop Point Blade
The drop point is another classic shape with a spine that tapers downward toward the tip. This lowers the point for extra control and also leaves the strength. This profile is good for almost all cutting chores. This type of blade also has a good-sized belly for better slicing.

Tanto Blade
Tanto Blade
This knife blade was inspired by the shape of the Japanese sword blades. The point to this style blade is in line with the spine of the blade The tanto has a reinforced point which is thick and strong and is good for heavy duty stabbing cuts.

Spear Point Blade
Spear Point Blade
The classic stabbing blade is the spear point which can have two edges sharpened or only one with a false edge on the spine. The spear point usually has both edges taper equally to a point that is exactly in the center of the blade but sometimes has different profiles for the spine and edge.

Sheepsfoot Blade
Sheepsfoot Blade
The spine of this blade curves downward to meet the edge. This leaves virtually no point. This type of blade typically has little or virtually no belly and is used mainly for slicing applications. It gives the most control, because the dull back edge is made to be held by fingers. Sheepsfoot knives are good for whittling.

Spey Blade
Spey Blade
This blade is similar to a spear point but with one side curved and one side cut at a straight angle. With its blunt tip, the spey blade is excellent for skinning, since it offers the maximum safeguard against accidental puncture.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring Turkey Hunting Tips

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Spring Turkey season is fast approaching. In my mind, it's hard to beat the challenge of calling in a good sized tom. Turkeys are one of the wiliest and cunning game animals roaming the woods and fields of the great American outdoors. Their acute vision and naturally suspicious nature makes them notoriously difficult to get within range of your turkey gun. Still, the spring provides us with an opportunity to catch a big gobbler as the males have only one thing on their mind this time of year: hens.


The first step in successfully harvesting your spring gobbler is properly scouting the land prior to your hunt. Identify the openings and fields where hens gather to search for food such as grasses, seeds, and insects. Look for scratches, tracks, or other signs of a turkey such as feathers or droppings. Hen feathers will appear buff colored, while gobbler feather have a much darker, almost black appearance. Try a locating call from an open area at a relatively high elevation, such as an owl hoot or crow call and listen for an answering gobble. Towards dusk, listen for roosting birds. Once you've identified the areas that the turkeys are in, try to find a open area that you can setup on from nearby cover. It is better to have your setup uphill from a tom than downhill, as for whatever reason they seem to be more likely to investigate calls uphill.


There are many different calls systems you can use to bring in a wary gobbler. Friction and box callers consistently rank as some of the most effective and popular, with box callers being the easier type for beginners. For most call systems, it's important to keep them dry. Water and moisture cause wood to swell, and slate friction calls are easily affected by moisture. The Primos Wet Box Turkey call is a waterproof box caller favored by novice hunters. It's a single sided box that is easy to use and which works in all weather conditions. Friction based scratch callers take a bit more skill to use, but are much more versatile. The crystal surfaced Freak scratch caller includes a leg strap so that you can call one handed. Whatever type of caller you use, make sure to learn how to properly use it. If you don't know an experienced turkey hunter that you can learn from, instructional videos and even YouTube videos are great for hearing what the various turkey hen calls sound like so that you can imitate them accurately.

Some novices mistakenly use gobbles to call in a tom. Remember; gobbles are used by the tom to call in hens. You want to call in the tom, so gobbling is probably not the best tactic. Instead, stick with locating calls to identify where a gobbler is, and then use hen calls such as cuts, whines, yelps, and clucks. The other critical mistake when calling is calling too much too often. Only the most aggressive toms gobble frequently. Less experienced toms will gobble quietly and infrequently if at all for fear of incurring the wrath of a dominant tom. If the longbeards aren't calling, try setting up on the edge of a field where you may be able to spot one emerging from the tree line to feed.


Decoys are at times loved and hated by hunters. Some swear by them, while others insist that they are useless even to the point of frightening off a tom when, while still out of range, he struts for a decoy and receives no response from the motionless lure. With a proper setup however, you can use decoys to your advantage. Try to stake out a couple of hens a good 20 yards or so past where you're setup. Position your setup so that you are midway between where your decoy is and where you expect that big tom to emerge from so that you'll be able to take him as he closes within 50 yards of your position. Another tactic is to throw an aggressive jake in with a couple of hen decoys, enticing your gobbler to come in and teach the young'un a lesson.

In general, there are two types of decoys: foam collapsible, and solid rubber, foam, or resin. The collapsible decoys are easy to transport, but they can spin unnaturally in the breeze while the heavier rubber and foam decoys will be unaffected. Modern decoys look incredibly realistic. Always survey the area when collecting your decoys at the end of a hunt to make sure that no other hunters are stalking your fakes.


Proper camouflage is critically important when hunting turkeys. Turkeys vision is very acute, and they will vanish at the first sign of trouble. Don't just grab any camo pattern and expect it to perform well. Match your pattern to the terrain you are hunting. If you're hunting pine forests, Realtree AP Camo isn't going to help you much. At a minimum, plan to have a fully camouflage suit including hat and face mask. Dark colored boots and socks are fine, but appropriately camouflaged versions will give the paranoid tom less chance to spot you. A turkey hunting vest with a built in butt pad is also great for carrying extra shells or calls, and the butt pad gives you a dry seat when setting up an impromptu ambush.

The Setup

Now that you've got the proper gear and have located the turkeys, it's time to quietly move into position and setup your ambush. It's not necessary to get too close. Your goal should be to sneak to within 200 to 300 yards, setup your position, and then call the tom in the rest of the way. As usual, care must be taken to move into position as quietly as possible, so watch for those sticks and twigs! When setting up to call in your tom, choose a tree or bush big enough to cover your outline so that no part of your body protrudes outside of the shape of your cover. Sit with your off shoulder (left if you're right handed) facing towards where you expect the tom to approach so that you have the widest arc possible for you to aim in. Be sure there are no obstacles between you and the turkeys: don't set up where there are any creeks or fences between you and your quarry.

Try to arrive at your setup location before dawn. As dawn begins to break, use a few hen clucks and yelps to bring in your turkey. Don't call too much, and don't call too loudly. Just a short string of calls is all you need. Once you've spotted your gobbler, keep all noise and movement to a minimum. Never call to a bird that you can see, they might spot your movement. Wait until he is behind some cover before moving your gun up into position so that your movement doesn't give you away. If he's strutting, wait for him to finish so that you have the best shot at his head/neck area.

Don't give up if your plans don't work right away. Turkeys are extremely cautious, and may get spooked before they even get to you. If your first setup is unsuccessful, don't be afraid to locate the turkey with a crow call or owl hoot and quietly move to a different location where you can begin to call him in again. If you're lucky, and if all has gone according to plan, you'll soon have that spring gobbler in your oven along with some fantastic memories of a great hunt.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Estimating Range With A Mil-Dot Reticle

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It's a common feature found on many scopes and other optics, but what exactly is a Mil-Dot reticle, and how do you use it?

It's important to make clear the distinction between Minutes of Angle and Mils. A Mil, or milliradian is equal to about 3.44 MOA. Most reticles are marked in milliradians using Mil-Dots, while adjustments through the turrets are usually made in fractions of an MOA.

Variable magnification scopes come in two types: First Focal Plane (FFP) or Second Focal Plane (SFP) reticles. Most American scopes have the reticle on the second or rear focal plane, so that the reticle stays the same size as the zoom is changed. European style scopes have the reticle on the first or front focal plane, such that as the magnification on the scope is increased the reticle increases in size. European Mil-Dot reticles are accurate for range estimation at any zoom level. For American style rear focal plane reticles on variable magnification scopes, the Mil-Dot size estimation is only accurate at a certain zoom level. For most variable scopes with a second focal plane reticle the proper magnification is 10x, though this does vary depending on the manufacturer. Consult your owner's manual to determine what zoom level your Mil-Dot reticle is designed for.

Based on a presumed chest height of 15 inches, this deer would range at approximately 1,389 yards.
The first step in using a Mil-Dot reticle is accurately measuring the size of a target in Mils. Once a target of known size is measured in Mils in the scope, a simple calculation is used to estimate range to the target and compensate for bullet drop. Accurately measuring the target in Mils is not easy, and it is necessary to get an approximation down to around one tenth of a Mil. In the photo shown to the left, the chest of the deer reads at approximately 0.3 Mils. Shown here on the internet, this measurement is fairly easy to see, but when staring down a scope that you are struggling to hold steady at a target that may not be holding still, it becomes much more difficult to get an accurate Mil read.

The formula for computing the estimated range is accomplished by taking the target size in yards, multiplying that by 1000 and then dividing the result by the target measurement in Mils. The result is the approximate distance in yards to the target. The formula for meters is the same, with the target size in meters multiplied by 1000 and divided by the target measurement in Mils giving the approximate range in meters.

So, if you have a man sized target that is six feet tall, you would compute Target size in yards (2) multiplied by 1000 and divided by the measurement in Mils. If a six foot tall target, for example, measures 3 Mils, the formula would be 2 X 1000 / 3= 667 yards.

Size of Target In Yards X 1000 / Mils read = Range to Target (in yards)

The formula is the same for meters:

Size of Target In Meters X 1000 / Mils read = Range to Target (in meters)

There are two ways to compensate for bullet drop. One is to use hold-over. This involves changing the point of aim to be somewhere other than the center of the cross hairs of a scope. The other is to adjust the turrets the appropriate number of clicks until the target can be centered in the cross hairs. Once the range is known, the shooter can then make the necessary adjustments to the elevation using the scope turrets, or hold over the proper amount using the Mil-Dots as an aiming system. If you know your rifle is zeroed at 300 yards for example, your target is an estimated 400 yards and your bullet drop at 400 yards is 15 inches, then you would hold just slightly less than 1 Mil high (1 Mil-Dot is 14.4" at 400 yards).

Click to download our free Mil-Dot Range Guide (*.PDF
There are numerous tools on the market that make range estimation using a Mil-Dot system fast and easy. Some use a slide rule type setup where the target size and measurement in Mils is input to the tool, and the range estimate is then shown. Others use a spreadsheet to allow the shooter to quickly find the range estimate. You can download your own "cheat sheet" by clicking on the image shown to the right. Simply save the *.PDF file to your computer and print it out on a plain sheet of 8.5x11 paper. Fold the paper into thirds and cut or tear carefully along the creases and you will have three copies of our Mil-Dot Range Estimation guide you can laminate or simply fold up and take with you.

Here are a few more quick references to help you quickly and easily estimate range using a Mil-Dot reticle: The average adult deer chest is around 18 inches tall. At 100 yards, that deer chest will take measure 5 Mil-Dots, 2.5 dots at 200 yards, 1.6 dots at 300 yards, and 1.25 dots at 400 yards. For calculating holdover, remember that 1 Mil is about 3.44 MOA, so 1 Mil at 100 yards is about 3.5 inches. At 200 yards, that same Mil is about 7 inches, at 300 a single Mil is 12 inches, and at 400 yards is just over 14 inches.

The only way to get good at using your Mil-Dot reticle to estimate range is to practice. Take a hike and set up multiple targets of known size (1 yard/3 foot squares of poster board on stakes work great) at various distances from your shooting bench. Head back and get out your estimation guide, calculator, or pencil and paper and find your measurements and estimated range. Confirm your estimated range figures with a laser range finder, GPS, or other device. Soon you'll be able to quickly and easily estimate the range to nearly any target.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The .22 LR for Hunting and Survival

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It's cheap, abundant, easy to find, and fun to shoot. It's the most common and most popular round on the market, but it is often derided as having little practical use outside of target practice and plinking. The .22 LR cartridge is often lauded and condemned in the same breath, but why? Despite its shortcomings, I feel it has a serious role as a practical survival rifle.

Almost every shooter started out with the humble .22 LR rimfire cartridge. It's versatility as a training round and a small game hunting cartridge is well known, but the usefulness of a lightweight and reliable .22 rifle is often downplayed due to the round's relatively low energy and reputed lack of "stopping power". Despite the small punch it packs, the .22 LR cartridge can still be enormously useful in the right hands.

As a survival tool, the .22 rifle serves its purpose well. In addition to being effective against small game such as squirrels and rabbits, the .22 long rifle cartridge can also be used to take larger game with the proper shot placement. Game wardens have long targeted poachers who use quiet .22 rifles to surreptitiously and illegally take deer. Anecdotal accounts of hunters using .22 ammunition for feral hog and coyote control abound on the internet. Using rimfire ammunition and rifles to take large game such as deer is illegal in most areas, but in a survival situation it is possible to harvest such game with a single well placed shot.

For personal defense, the .22 is not necessarily ideal. Detractors point out that an aggressor can withstand multiple shots from a 40 grain .22 caliber bullet before being significantly incapacitated. Yet, all it takes is one well placed shot from the same gun to end a fight. In some circumstances, the mere fact that there is incoming fire may cause an attacker to rethink their plan.

While the .22 LR may not be the most ideal round for hunting or personal defense, it can get the job done. In a survival situation having a .22 is better than having no weapon at all.

In terms of the best "Bang for your buck" it's hard to beat a Marlin Model 60 autoloading rifle. This reliable rifle has been around for 50 years now and has earned its reputation as an inexpensive, accurate and dependable firearm. The Model 60 is a tube fed semiautomatic rifle that comes with iron sights, though a rimfire scope can be fitted. New Model 60s can be found for less than $200.

The Model 60 isn't your only option of course. There are a number of other fine .22 caliber rifles that work well as a survival rifle. The Marlin Papoose and Henry US Survival rifle are both good examples of .22 survival rifles that break down to be able to be stored more easily. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention what is probably the most popular .22 rifle of all time, the Ruger 10/22. Unlike the Marlin Model 60, the Ruger 10/22 uses a detachable box magazine for quicker reloads. Like the Model 60, there is an enormous amount of aftermarket accessories for the 10/22. If you can think of the accessory, someone somewhere probably makes it for the 10/22.

One thing that is important when feeding an autoloading .22 is your choice of ammunition. Mr. Completely shared his thoughts on rimfire ammunition choices a while back. Bulk packs of Federal seem to be a popular choice. These copper plated rounds tend to feed in most automatic rifles and handguns with very few problems. Still, they aren't the most accurate and tend to have misfire rates at slightly less than 1%. CCI Standard ammunition tends to be a bit more accurate, and their Green Tag ammunition is sorted by weight for consistent performance. But for most autoloaders, the best bet is CCI Mini-Mags. Even the roughest semiautomatic actions can digest Mini-Mags with little fuss.

When storing your .22 ammunition, make sure to keep it in a location where it cannot be affected by moisture. Exposure to moisture can easily cause .22 rimfire cartridges to fail to fire. Ziploc or vacuum sealed freezer bags are cheap insurance to keep your .22 cartridges dry.

The .22LR may not be the best round for any number of roles, but it is versatile, cheap, plentiful, and easy to store in large amounts. The ability to have a small rifle capable of taking small game as well as improvising as a defensive weapon can prove incredibly useful in a survival situation. For around $200 you can purchase a small .22 rifle and 500 round of ammunition; a small price to pay for such a useful tool.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Range Gear

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Oleg Volk recently reminded us that "two is one, and one is none" when it comes to gear. It pays to be well equipped for your trip to the range, and that means having spares. Batteries go dead, mounts come loose, and things can and do break. Obviously you're going to have your firearms, ammunition, and spare magazines, but when it comes to stocking your range bag what other parts and equipment should you pack?

Notebook and Pen/Pencil I can't tell you how many times I've had someone ask to borrow my pen at the range. Toss one in your bag! Inevitably you'll want to mark a target or take notes on certain loads or configurations. Sharpie markers and paint pens are also very useful for marking bad magazines.

Stapler/Thumb Tacks These items are indispensable at most outdoor ranges for hanging your targets. I prefer staples, and while tacks are reusable, they can get hit and destroyed by an errant round or forgotten and left in the target holder.

Targets You're going to want something to shoot at, right? Embarrassingly enough, I have on occasion shown up at the range only to realize that I forgot and left my targets at home.

Masking Tape/Dots Useful for hanging targets as well as pasting over holes in your target.

Tools It's always a good idea to check the tightness of your scope or red dot before heading to the range. But, optics and mounts can come loose, so having a few Allen keys is very useful. Along the same lines as the Allen wrenches, a decent screwdriver set is useful for tightening down loose screws.

CLP and a Cleaning kit I keep boresnakes and cleaning rods in my range bag. In addition to being able to run a snake through a dirty bore, I've found cleaning rods are necessary should someone have a squib or a brass case jammed. A selection of brass brushes can also be used to extract brass that has suffered case head separation.

Batteries A red dot scope isn't much good without good batteries. The same goes for flashlights. I keep a spare set of AA, AAA, and CR123 batteries in my range bag.

Towel Things get wet and dirty at the range. I keep a shop towel in my bag for wiping things down.

Ruler Great for measuring group size.

Extra eyes and ears Lose an ear plug? Break a set of eye protection? No problem, as long as you've got a spare set with you.

Gloves I don't always use gloves when I shoot, but I do keep them with me in the range bag. When firearms heat up, whether it's from use or just lying in the hot sun, you'll find you're glad to have packed a decent pair of shooting gloves.

Water It gets hot out on the range during the summer, but proper hydration is important no matter what the weather. Make sure you have a bottle or two of water to stay hydrated.

First Aid Kit Along with a basic first aid kit, I also carry a blowout kit in my bag. Accidents can and do happen, so it pays to be prepared. Also, don't forget to toss in a bottle of sunscreen.

Let us know if we left anything out. What's in your range bag?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bullet Types

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Acronyms are everywhere in the gun and ammunition industry, and when reading through descriptions it is enormously helpful to know just what those acronyms stand for. We frequently get questions from customers regarding various bullet types in both handgun and rifle cartridges. It's easy to see why: there are numerous terms and acronyms used to describe the bullets. Let's briefly go over the basic types of bullets that can be found on the market today.

FMJ: Full Metal Jacket Metal cased and full metal jacket both refer to bullets with a metal coating that covers all of, or all but the base of, a bullet.

MC: Metal Cased This is a term used by Remington to refer to their full metal jacketed bullets.

Jacketed hollow point (JHP) bullet
HP: Hollow Point Hollow point bullets have a concave shaped tip that facilitates rapid expansion of the round upon impact.

BT: Boat Tail Boat tail bullets have a streamlined base to facilitate better aerodynamics.

Sometimes, these terms are mixed to make a new acronym.

FMJBT: Full Metal Jacketed Boat Tail

JHP: Jacketed Hollow Point Jacketed Hollow Point bullets are similar in design to regular hollow point bullets, but have a copper jacket that normally covers everything but the hollowed portion of the round.

JFP: Jacketed Flat Point Jacketed flat point rounds have a flat area of exposed lead at the tip.

JSP: Jacketed Soft Point Jacketed soft point bullets usually have a spire pointed tip of exposed lead.

JRN: Jacketed Round Nose Jacketed round nose bullets split the difference between JFP and JSP bullets and have a rounded tip of exposed lead.

Boat Tail Hollow Point (BTHP) bullet
BTHP: Boat Tail Hollow Point

BTSP: Boat Tail Soft Point Sometimes the letters in the acronyms are switched, so boat tail soft point may also be abbreviated as soft point boat tail or SPBT.

EFMJ: Expanding Full Metal Jacket Expanding full metal jacketed rounds appear as and feed like a regular full metal jacket bullet, but have a construction that allows the case to collapse and the bullet to flatten upon impact.

WC: Wad Cutter Wad cutter designs often appear to be nothing more than a cylinder, usually with a hollow base. This design is used in target practice to punch neat holes in the paper, rather than the ragged holes produced by more rounded designs.

SWC: Semi Wad Cutter Semi Wad Cutter bullets have a rounded nose that comes down to a cylinder that is slightly larger than the rounded section, giving the bullet a more aerodynamic shape while allowing it to punch clean holes in paper targets.

RFP: Rounded Flat Point Rounded flat point bullets have a flat tip that is smaller than the bullet diameter and rounded shoulders.

Semi Wad Cutter (SWC) bullet
AP: Armor Piercing Armor piercing ammunition can have bullets with a variety of shapes, though in general they are spire pointed and full metal jacketed rounds that have a strong core designed to penetrate armor.

API: Armor Piercing Incendiary Armor piercing incendiary ammunition has the same penetrating abilities of armor piercing bullets, but with the added function of bursting into an intense flame upon impact.

Frangible Frangible ammunition is available under a number of trademarks; notably MagSafe, Glaser, and SinterFire. All of these rounds are characterized by a design that facilitates the rapid breakup of the bullet upon impact, thus reducing the chances of over-penetration or a ricochet.

This list is by no means exhaustive. There are other variations in bullet designs, many of which are proprietary and made only by certain manufacturers. If there is another bullet you think should be listed, be sure to let us know in the comments below.

Accurately Using A Double Action Trigger

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One thing I noticed at the 2010 SHOT show was the immense number of small pocket sized handguns. As concealed carry has grown in legality (and popularity) the demand for these little heaters has also increased dramatically. Smith & Wesson's Bodyguard line, Ruger's LCP and LCR, and Kel-Tec's popular P3AT line all have small pocket sized pistols, and all of these little numbers have triggers that are double action only.

This long heavy trigger is compact, simple and reliable, but it can be difficult for many people to operate accurately. The long pull and heavy trigger weight, relative to a single action trigger, makes negligent discharges less likely by users unfamiliar with the stress of a combat scenario and decreases the chance of an accidental discharge from a foreign object hanging on the trigger when the pistol is carried in a pocket or purse. But these same traits that make the action safe and reliable can make actually firing the handgun more difficult unless the user has practiced with the firearm extensively. The additional force required to pull the trigger can drop the nose of the pistol or otherwise cause the shooter to lose a proper sight picture.

To quickly and accurately use a double action trigger, you first need a proper grip on the handgun and the correct interaction between your finger and the trigger. Without getting into the specifics of a proper handgun grip, your trigger finger should rest on the trigger with only the pad of your fingertip touching the trigger.

Most people who have had at least a minimal amount of training in handgun use are familiar with the phrase "front sight, press." This of course refers to the action of acquiring a proper sight picture and then smoothly pressing (not pulling) the trigger to the rear. Rather than pulling the trigger with your first joint as one might do when gesturing "come here" with a single finger, with only the pad of your finger contacting the trigger press it straight back. As you press the trigger, focus on keeping a consistent force and speed throughout the press.

Some people say that the first joint of the finger should be used instead of the pad of the finger tip on a heavy double action trigger, but this can cause problems with accuracy. Because of the long arc of a double action trigger, your finger will slide down the trigger face as it is pulled. When using the finger pad, this is not a problem, but if you are using the first joint of the finger tip to press the trigger the motion needed to keep your finger joint in constant contact with the trigger face can cause the pistol to twist. This does not mean that it is wrong to use the first joint of the finger on a double action trigger- don't misunderstand. In general using the pad is much more accurate, faster and smoother. But heavy triggers and double action triggers with a long arc can be easier to operate using the finger joint. Using the first joint gives you additional leverage that helps operate heavy triggers without dropping the front sight. If you choose to use the first finger joint as opposed to the pad of your finger tip, take care not to "milk" the trigger. Milking or grasping the trigger occurs when using the joint of the finger causes the finger to contact the frame of the gun or allows the entire hand to curl with the trigger finger as part of the motion. For this reason, it is better to learn to use the pad of your finger and, if the trigger pull is too heavy, lighten the trigger or use a different pistol with better ergonomics or a lighter trigger pull.

Just as important as the trigger press is the trigger return and reset. Again, maintaining a smooth and consistent speed and pressure on the trigger is important. Think of the trigger return as your follow through. A good trigger return allows you to setup your next shot quickly and accurately.

Coin balanced on the front sightProperly done, a double action trigger pull will not move the front sights at all. The best method I've found to practice using a double action trigger involves balancing a coin on the front sight while pulling the trigger. The goal is to be able to pull the trigger through the full range of motion until the hammer drops (or the pin fires) without dropping the coin. The larger the coin, the more difficult it is to balance it properly. With most front sights it's fairly easy to balance a dime or penny on the top. Nickels and quarters are more difficult, but as you get better with your double action trigger control you can move to a larger coin.

It doesn't take much practice to get smooth and consistent when using a double action trigger. If you are unable to work the trigger using the pad of your finger tip, you can use the first joint for better leverage, but be aware that this can have a detrimental effect on accuracy and can build bad habits.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Guest Post from Carteach0: Remington 870 built for home defense

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Today’s Guest Blogger is Carteach0. He’s a teacher and, not surprisingly, his well written posts are incredibly informative. He claims that “He’s just this guy,” but we see a well spoken educator with a wealth of knowledge on firearms and reloading. One of his latest posts covers the use of a 12 gauge pump action shotgun as a home defense firearm.
On the list of firearms held as suitable for home defense, the nearly undisputed king is the 12 gauge pump action shotgun. Whether it’s the unmistakable noise of a round being chambered or the (rightly or wrongly) perceived massive stopping power, the big bore shotgun has a respected place in self defense.

In use since the very beginning of firearms, the shotgun rapidly gained a reputation for bringing down it’s target, whether two legged, four legged, or on wing. When ‘rifles’ did not exist and a single ball hitting it’s target was iffy, a handful of pellets fired from a .75” smoothbore usually got the job done. During the 18th century a coach was often guarded by a man armed with a ‘blunderbuss’, which was nothing more than a short barreled shotgun with the muzzle belled to make loading easier on a bouncing coach seat. From the classic western lawman to today’s patrol car, the shotgun has been a comforting resource to police officers for generations.

The same things that make it suitable for police use make it desirable as a home protection weapon. Heavy firepower over a short range, coupled with an intimidating visual image and ease of operation.

Shotguns can be found in many configurations, but the defensive role is dominated by pump action and semi-automatic 12 gauge guns. Mechanically identical to their hunting brethren, defensive shotguns differ in barrel length, magazine capacity, and sighting hardware.

While a typical hunting shotgun might have twenty eight or thirty inch barrels, this would be too long for easy maneuverability anyplace other than the field. The long barrel that makes easier swinging on a pheasant in flight would prevent effective gun handling in a hallway or small room.For this reason defensive shotguns usually have barrels that are eighteen to twenty inches long.

Hunting shotguns are often limited to three rounds capacity, or maybe five with the ‘plug’ out of the magazine. Defensive shotguns sometimes have a longer magazine tube bringing capacity up to eight or nine rounds. There are even special ‘shorter’ shotgun shells designed to boost the capacity of a shotgun, made just for defensive use. Many shotguns built for home defense also have spare ammunition stored right on the weapon, in special carriers.

While a bird gun might have a ventilated rib with a gold bead at the end, the shorter defensive shotgun more often has a plain barrel with a rifle sight on the end. There is a common misconception that shotguns throw so wide a pattern that aiming is not necessary. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and only a few ‘pointed’ shots at the range will prove this. It’s embarrassing to miss at short range with a shotgun when bowling pins are the target, but it can be disastrous in a home defense situation. Rifle type sights on the shotgun are a helpful aid to aiming accurately.

In this article, a typical 12 gauge pump action shotgun will get a simple conversion to a home defense weapon. In this case, a Remington 870 Express, but any decent quality hunting shotgun can be drafted to house duty with a few changes. While the 870 is worth investing some funds into for a project such as this, it’s possible a decent working 12 gauge can be bought used for well under $200. As long as the basic quality is there, outward finish means nothing. Worn bluing and a scratched stock don’t really matter much in a defensive shotgun. Dependability and usefulness do.

When I was shotgun shopping, the choice was narrowed to the two major suppliers; Remington and Mossberg. I liked the reliability and pricing on both, and a wealth of accessories are available for both. So, what clinched the deal on the Remington? I handled both at the store, and while I was looking over the Mossberg (a turkey gun) the rear sight fell off in my hands. To me, this is not a good sign. If one part I can see is made that cheaply, then what is there I can’t see?

This Remington came to the author as a used hunting shotgun. It’s been carried in the field, and also spent many an evening shooting trap under the lights. The original barrel is twenty eight inches long and is threaded for interchangeable chokes. It has a ventilated rib with a gold bead at the muzzle, and can hold four 2 ¾” shells in its magazine.

As a hunting shotgun it’s dependable and sturdy. Since it’s the cheaper Express model it came with a matte finish and plain wood. That doesn’t affect its usefulness or sturdiness, and it’s still a Remington 870, a shotgun with a long history of service.

As a home defense shotgun, it needed some changes. First and foremost, it must have a shorter barrel. The original was just too long to navigate the hallways and doorways of a house. It’s possible to cut down a shotgun barrel without too much fuss, but there are some factors that must be taken into account. The barrel length cannot legally be made shorter than eighteen inches without an expensive tax stamp issued by the BATFE. Eighteen and a half is usually the shortest a factory barrel comes, and most police shotguns are that length. Citizens have been killed for cutting off that last half inch… don’t risk it.
Once the gun is fitted with a suitably short barrel, what more is required? Many people seem to think any number of gadgets must be bolted, screwed, or Velcroed onto a shotgun before it can be a real defensive weapon. The reality is… simple is better. One need not feel under gunned because their shotgun does not have a vibrating green laser aiming device capable of highlighting the space shuttle in orbit, nor a twenty seven position tactical recoil absorbing stock with optional cup holder. The gun needs to work every time, and with a minimum of fuss.It needs to be maneuverable inside a building. Once that’s achieved, everything else is fluff and something to break or distract. It’s far better to spend the extra cash on ammunition and training time, which is a better investment in self defense.

If the shotgun is one that’s common, then a shorter barrel can usually be found that’s easy to install. Remington sells police length barrels for most of their shotguns, and Mossberg makes defensive barrels for both their guns and the Remington 870. Winchester has ‘Defender’ barrels for the 1300 and 1200 series of shotguns too. For roughly $110 to $150, a new police type barrel can be bought, and installation is a snap.This is usually a better idea than cutting down a premium hunting barrel, unless the shotgun is a cheap used gun with a value little more than the cost of the barrel.

For this build a new Remington police barrel was purchased. It’s a smoothbore with no choke, 18 ½ inches long, and fitted with a bead front sight. The finish is matte to match the Express shotgun it’s going to be mounted on. At $119 out the door, the price was not exorbitant.

Installing the barrel could not be easier. Simply unscrewing the magazine cap is all that’s required, with the action open, and the barrel will pull forward off the shotgun (beware the magazine spring, as it will probably come un-caged with the cap removed). The new barrel is fitted into place and the cap reinstalled. Nothing else needs be done. The original hunting barrel can be cleaned, oiled, and put away for next year’s pheasant season.

While the barrel is being replaced, the magazine spring will likely be removed to get it out of the way. It’s an excellent time to set aside the ‘plug’ that limits the magazine capacity to meet some states hunting regulations. Also, it’s a fine time to install an extended magazine tube if one is desired. For about $45, a machined metal magazine extension can be bought that will give another two, three, or four rounds capacity.

In this build, the added expense was declined, and the original magazine cap reinstalled.

To carry reloads on the shotgun, many companies make ‘side saddle’ shell holders that bolt to the receiver, or even on the butt stock itself.These can hold an additional four to eight rounds in a convenient place for reloading on the move.

In our case, a simple shell holder sleeve was installed on the butt stock. Made by Uncle Mikes, it holds five shotgun shells securely in elastic loops. Since it’s of neoprene construction it tends to stick to the stock, and won’t slide around during movement. That’s important, and worth a few extra dollars. At $12, it’s an inexpensive answer to the issue of carrying extra ammunition.

Whether it’s a side saddle or an elastic shell holder such as this, strong consideration should be given to carrying reloads on the weapon. Even with the longest magazine tube the shotgun will hold only eight or nine rounds at the most. In the event the long gun is used in home defense the user is almost surely going to be under pressure and rushed. Grabbing extra ammo can’t be counted on. The fight will be fought with what’s on the gun. A ready reload mounted on the shotgun is the way to go.

The Remington 870 Express usually comes with swivels already installed for a sling. This is something to be considered. Combat slings in a dozen formats can be had, and our troops use them every day. That said… do we need a sling on a home defense shotgun?

A sling is for carrying a weapon. In a home situation the shotgun will be carried in the hands, not on the shoulder. Unless there is property to be patrolled, or a guard post to be maintained, a sling just isn’t needed. On the other hand, a sling can be a problem when moving through a building. It catches on things, and is a loose grab point for an opponent to use in taking the weapon for themselves.

Sling mounting points are not a bad idea; just for the thin chance a sling would be helpful. In a situation such as hurricane Katrina when long watches might be held over house and home to deter looting, the ability to sling the shotgun could save fatigue.

There are slings which double as bandoleers, holding an extra twenty or thirty shells in elastic loops. While they might appear pretty menacing, accurately firing a weapon with five pounds swinging loosely from it can be difficult. If there is a need to carry that much extra ammunition there are excellent cross shoulder bandoleers available, and they won’t get in the way of using the weapon.

A home defense shotgun does not need to be fancy, just dependable and suited to the job. Once the ‘riot gun’ is put together or bought, one more thing needs to happen and that is practice. Like any other tool, a shotgun won’t use itself. Practice is demanded, just as with any other weapon for self defense. Range time getting used to the recoil, noise, reloading, and aiming of the shotgun is central to its effective use. Even if it’s just a box of shells a month, the practice needs to happen.

Converting this shotgun from faithful hunter to reliable defender cost less than $140. Considering the return on investment, it might be the best way possible to spend money on home security. Its value won’t go down, and in the event it must be used every penny will be well spent.

In upcoming pieces we'll gut some shotgun shells and look closely at what is found, and discover how they perform on various targets. We'll also look at some simple drills for using a shotgun defensively.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Perfect Three Gun Combination

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Via Says Uncle and the Firing Pin Journal we find that there's a popular debate that's been circulating throughout the gun-blogger community concerning the perfect three gun combination. Discussions such as these have been around as long as there have been choices in personal defensive weapons. Much like the 1911/Glock or AK/AR debates, there is never a clearly decisive winner. I'm sure as far back as the stone age cavemen were arguing whether flint or obsidian made better arrowheads. Of course, I'm still going to join in the fray and voice this writer's opinion.

Given that you could have only one of each, what one pistol, shotgun, and rifle would you choose? For the purposes of this exercise, we're choosing them for self defense. Naturally then, I'm inclined to choose firearms that are versatile and for which ammunition is inexpensive and widely available, and which function more or less in nearly any condition.

Glock 19 Some people maintain that the Glock 19 is too big to be a defensive handgun, but for the purposes of this exercise we're not limited to concealed carry. The Glock 19 is favored by law enforcement agencies throughout the world as a defensive weapon. Despite the fact that it is usually best worn as an open carry weapon, I feel it fits the bill nicely.

Remington 870 Express Synthetic When it comes to shotguns, the Remington 870 line is pretty much the standard by which all other pump-action shotguns are judged. Being a pump action, it will digest nearly any 12 gauge round with zero complaints. While not as fast as a semiautomatic shotgun, the increased reliability of the 870 makes it a good selection.

PTR 91 Many people would choose an AR or AK platform rifle as a primary defensive carbine. While 7.62x51 (.308 Winchester) ammunition is more expensive than either 5.56 or 7.62x39, I prefer something a bit larger and chose the PTR 91. The lack of a gas system means that it will operate in nearly any conditions and digest almost any 7.62 NATO or .308 Winchester load.

Is this the perfect combination? Honestly, I'm not convinced such a thing exists. Weapons for personal defense are, by their very nature, a personal choice. Individual ergonomics, budget, preferences and training play heavily into such choices.

Friday, March 5, 2010


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Hunting seasons are generally pretty short, but that's no reason that you can't go out into the woods and have fun the rest of the year. In addition to land maintenance, scouting and practicing your woodcraft skills, there is a relatively new form of outdoor activity that combines the social aspect of the internet with the fun of adventuring through the woods. Of course, I'm talking about the GPS based sport known as Geocaching.

GPS devices aren't just for navigating your car. As the price of a handheld GPS unit continues to fall, geocaching is rapidly becoming one of the more popular outdoor sports, and nearly anyone can participate in it. Geocaching involves hunting for caches that have been hidden by other geocachers in interesting or scenic locations. For the most part, it's not a competition, though some participants like to be the "First-to-Find" newly hidden geocaches. It's an activity that is suitable for all ages, and the only equipment required to participate is a GPS unit and internet access.

Garmin RinoInternet access is necessary to reach the website. You can register for free at where you will be able to locate the coordinates for caches near you or around your destination and download them to your computer or GPS device.

The other thing you'll need is, of course, a handheld GPS unit. Almost any GPS device will work, and there are many to choose from. The Garmin eTrex H model is a great entry level GPS unit. It's waterproof, has a long 22 hour battery life, and is incredibly durable. It doesn't have all the nifty bells and whistles of the more expensive models, but it does have all you need to effectively find your way. Of course, there are nicer units out there. The Garmin Rino GPS unit combines GMRS or FRS radios with a very advanced GPS unit. With the Rino, you can team up with other people using similar units and share your location on the map display. Of course, even if your buddy doesn't have a Rino device, you can still use the radio feature with any FRS or GMRS compatible radio system.

Not all caches are created equal. Some are located in remote locations that have rough terrain and require searchers to hike miles over rough terrain in order to locate the cache, while others are easy to find in urban locations. There are probably dozens of geocaches within a couple of miles from your own home! recommends carrying a small printout that describes geocaching when searching for a cache in a highly trafficked area, just in case local authorities find your activity suspicious.

Geocaching is also a fantastic way to work on your orienteering skills and practice using a map and compass. GPS units are fantastic devices, but they still require batteries, a clear view of the sky and a functional satellite network in order to work properly. Lose any one of these three things and you're stuck using a traditional map and compass. I like to use geocaching as an opportunity to improve my skills navigating using a map and compass alone. With a USGS topographical map you can plot the approximate location of the cache and plan your route into the area using basic orienteering skills and then utilize the GPS unit to zero in on the precise location.

So dust off those hiking boots, load up the day pack and head out! Whether you're just out enjoying nature, or hunting a well hidden geocache, a handheld GPS unit is a great little tool to have when you're out in the field.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Military Surplus Ammunition

Click here to read more.

Ammunition availability is something that all experienced shooters consider when purchasing a new firearm. For many shooters, choosing a firearm chambered in a caliber identical or nearly identical to a common military caliber is an obvious choice. This is because there is often an abundance of military surplus rounds available on the civilian market, making ammunition cheaper as well as easier to find. The fact that a given caliber had previously been chosen by the military for use in their weapons means that bullets, brass, and other components used to manufacture the round will often be more readily available to the civilian market. What's more, it is not unusual for firearm manufacturers to release civilian legal versions of their military arms that are chambered in the same caliber, further increasing demand and production of ammunition in that caliber by commercial manufacturers.

What do you need to look for and keep in mind when purchasing military surplus ammunition?

First, be aware that almost all military surplus ammunition will be ball or FMJ (full metal jacket) ammunition. The Hague Convention agreement of July 29 1899 stipulates that signatories to the agreement "agree to abstain from the use of bullets which expand or flatten easily in the human body, such as bullets with a hard envelope which does not entirely cover the core, or is pierced with incisions." For this reason, The United States and all other participants in the treaty agreed not to use any form of hollow point or other expanding ammunition. Military surplus ball ammunition is perfectly fine for target practice and training, but is not particularly effective nor is it recommended for hunting or personal defense.

Military surplus ammunition is very often loaded to different pressures than commercial ammunition in the same caliber. Commercial 9mm (9x19) ammunition is much less powerful than 9mm ammunition loaded to military specifications. By contrast, the 7.62 NATO, often used interchangeably with .308 Winchester, is actually loaded to a lower pressure (12,000 psi less) than the civilian .308 version that has become popular as a hunting round.

Other military calibers are loaded to similar pressures as their commercial counterparts, but critical differences in case dimensions can prove problematic. Take the well known 5.56mm NATO round. This is commonly called a .223 round, but there are critical dimensional differences between the .223 and 5.56mm rounds that can be catastrophic in certain circumstances. Dimensional differences in the two rounds as well as the resulting high pressures in the wrong chamber make the 5.56mm cartridge potentially dangerous to shoot in a rifle chambered in .223. The .223 round on the other hand may be safely fired in any rifle chambered for 5.56mm NATO. The .308 Winchester and 7.62 NATO cartridges also have dimensional differences, primarily with regard to headspacing, but these differences make firing .308 Win in a rifle chambered for 7.62 NATO inadvisable instead of vice versa like the 5.56/.223 situation. Still, modern shooters should be aware of this since their older M1A rifles are not necessarily designed for the higher pressures of the .308 Winchester round. That being said, I'm not aware any of older rifles chambered in 7.62 NATO failing due to the use of modern .308 Winchester cartridges.

Surplus ammunition is often labeled by paint that is applied to the tips of the bullet. Red or orange tipped ammunition generally indicates that the ammunition is loaded with tracer bullets that glow while in flight. Green tipped ammunition, usually found on surplus 5.56mm NATO ammunition, generally indicates that the bullet has a steel penetrator core. Black tipped NATO ammunition usually means that the ammunition is armor piercing. Silver or aluminum tipped ammunition indicates that the round is armor piercing and incendiary when found on the .50 BMG round. This should not be confused with silver tipped surplus 7.62x54R ammunition, which is used to designate standard ball ammo. .50 BMG that is blue tipped is incendiary but not armor piercing. There are a number of other paint designations for various specialty rounds, but those listed above are the most common ones found military surplus bullets. Bullets with no paint markings are usually just full metal jacketed lead core ball ammunition.

Some older mil-surp ammo, especially ammunition from old ComBloc states is corrosive. Corrosive ammunition functions fine in modern arms, but care must be taken to clean firearms after shooting corrosive ammunition in order to remove corrosive salts that can quickly damage the bore and action of a gun. For more information on corrosive ammunition and how to clean it, see our article located here. Some people express concern at shooting ammunition that has been stored on a shelf for some 40 years or more. But the fact is, military ammunition is manufactured to last. Provided it is not submerged in water or coated with oil for an extended period of time, 40 year old surplus ammunition will function just as well as the day it rolled out of the factory. With regards to corrosive ammunition, there's nothing to be concerned about there either. The corrosive salts that can damage your gun have no effect on the actual ammo cartridge itself. The corrosive components are in the primer of the round and are not released until the round is fired. Some military surplus ammunition may have discoloration on the bullet or brass but this is not something to be concerned about either.

Military surplus ammunition is not suitable for all firearms. But if you have a plinker or old surplus rifle that you're looking for cheap and abundant ammunition for, it's hard to go wrong with mil-surp ammo.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

McDonald, et al., v. Chicago Supreme Court Transcript

The Supreme Court case of McDonald, et al., v. Chicago transcript has been made public (*.pdf). You can download the entire transcript at that link.

Below is the entire transcript in plain text.

MR. GURA: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:
Although Chicago's ordinances cannot survive the faithful application of due process doctrines, there is an even simpler, more essential reason for reversing the lower court's judgment. The Constitution's plain text, as understood by the people that ratified it, mandates this result.
In 1868, our nation made a promise to the McDonald family that they and their descendants would henceforth be American citizens, and with American citizenship came the guarantee enshrined in our Constitution that no State could make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of American citizenship.
The rights so guaranteed were not trivial. The Civil War was not fought because States were attacking people on the high seas or blocking access to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The rights secured by the Fourteenth Amendment were understood to include the fundamental rights honored by any free government and the personal guarantees of the

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Of course, this argument is contrary to the Slaughter-House cases, which have been the law for 140 years. It might be simpler, but it's a big -- it's a heavy burden for you to carry to suggest that we ought to overrule that decision.

MR. GURA: Your Honor, the Slaughter-House cases should not have any stare decisis effect before the Court. The Court has always found that when a case is extremely wrong, when there is a great consensus that it was simply not decided correctly, especially in a constitutional matter, it has less force.

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: What is it that has -has been caused by it that we have to remedy, meaning States have relied on having no grand juries, States have relied on not having civil trials in certain money cases, they have relied on regulating the use of firearms based on us, the Court, not incorporating the Privileges and Immunities Clause in the way that you identify it.

MR. GURA: State

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: What -- in which ways has ordered liberty been badly affected?

MR. GURA: Justice Sotomayor, States may have grown accustomed to violating the rights of American citizens, but that does not bootstrap those violations into something that is constitutional.

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Are you saying that the rights -- if you could clarify your conception of privileges and immunities. Am I right in thinking that to keep and bear arms would be included even if we had no Second Amendment, as you envision privileges and immunities?

MR. GURA: Justice Ginsburg, that is correct. The framers and the public understood the term

JUSTICE GINSBURG: But just tell us the dimensions of what it is. I mean, we have the eight amendments, so I know you say that's included. Keep and bear arms would be included even absent the Second Amendment. What unenumerated rights would we be declaring privileges and immunities under your conception of it?

MR. GURA: Although it's impossible to give a full list of all the unenumerated rights that might be protected by the Privileges and Immunities Clause, just
as it is impossible to do so under the Due Process Clause, at least with respect to the Privileges and Immunities Clause we have wonderful historical guideposts. There are JUSTICE SCALIA:
Mr. Gura, do you think it is at all easier to bring the Second Amendment under the Privileges and Immunities Clause than it is to bring it under our established law of substantive due ?

MR. GURA: It's -

JUSTICE SCALIA: Is it easier to do it under privileges and immunities than it is under substantive due process?

MR. GURA: It is easier in terms, perhaps, of -- of the text and history of the original public understanding of -

JUSTICE SCALIA: No, no. I'm not talking about whether -- whether the Slaughter-House Cases were right or wrong. I'm saying, assuming we give, you know, the Privileges and Immunities Clause your definition, does that make it any easier to get the Second Amendment adopted with respect to the States?

MR. GURA: Justice Scalia, I suppose the answer to that would be no, because -

JUSTICE SCALIA: Then if the answer is no, why are you asking us to overrule 150, 140 years of prior law, when -- when you can reach your result under substantive due -- I mean, you know, unless you are bucking for a -- a place on some law school faculty

MR. GURA: No. No. I have left law school some time ago and this is not an attempt to -- to return.

JUSTICE SCALIA: What you argue is the darling of the professoriate, for sure, but it's also contrary to 140 years of our jurisprudence. Why do you want to undertake that burden instead of just arguing substantive due process, which as much as I think it's wrong, I have -- even I have acquiesced in it?


MR. GURA: Justice Scalia, we would be extremely happy if the Court reverses the lower court based on the substantive due process theory that we argued in the Seventh Circuit. And indeed, had the Seventh Circuit accepted our substantive due process theory, which was our primary theory in the court below, we might not be here, or perhaps we would be here in a different posture.

JUSTICE GINSBURG: But that -- that court does not have the prerogative to overturn any of this Court's decisions and I think it said -- said as much.
So it was kind of a pass-through in the court of appeals.
But I really would like you to answer the question that you didn't have an opportunity to finish answering, and that is: What other enumerated rights? What does the privileges and immunities of United States citizenship embrace?

MR. GURA: The unenumerated rights, Justice Ginsburg?


MR. GURA: Well, the framers clearly used language that to them meant rights beyond those guaranteed in the first eight amendments. And whenever they spoke about those unenumerated rights, they gave some concrete examples. So I think that there might be two categories of unenumerated rights if a claim were before the Court under that provision.
If a right is, for example, the sort of right that was mentioned in the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the piece of legislation enacted by a supermajority of Congress, where the Congress said, over President Johnson's veto, here are the rights of American citizenship, and they are -- they listed: To make and enforce contracts, to sue v. Parties and give evidence, to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold and convey real and personal property. That's the sort of right that would be easy to find because there is a contemporaneous source for telling us

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Even though -- even though a large portion of the population at that time didn't have those rights?

MR. GURA: The large -- the population at the time that did not have those rights needed their protection, primarily in the South, which is why the Civil Rights Act -

JUSTICE GINSBURG: No, throughout the nation at the time.

MR. GURA: I'm sorry.

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Did married women at that time across the nation have the right to contract, to hold property, to sue and be sued?

MR. GURA: Married women were considered citizens of the United States, just like children were considered citizens. However, the law did not always protect people fully, and we've made great strides in this country giving a greater level of protection to certain rights. We understand certain rights better today than we did 140 years ago, and the fact that First Amendment rights were not fully respected, Second Amendment rights were not always respected, Fourth
Amendment rights were not always understood well -

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Does it work just one way? I mean, if the notion is that these are principles that any free society would adopt, well, a lot of free societies have rejected the right to keep and bear arms.

MR. GURA: As we mentioned -- as we mentioned in our brief, this Court in Benton v. Maryland decided that henceforth American history and tradition are important to consider what rights are protected in this country. It's true that our friends overseas who have more or less civilized, free societies don't respect rights to the same level that we do. For example, England, which is a free society, has a monarchy. They have hereditary lords in parliament. They don't have First Amendment protection.

JUSTICE GINSBURG: But then it's not one expression of this unenumerated rights, natural rights, or the rights that any free society -- basic to a free society. So you -- you have to trim your definition. It's not basic to any free society.

MR. GURA: As understood by the people who ratified the Fourteenth Amendment. It's not a free-flowing license, necessarily, for judges to announce unenumerated rights. However, to the extent that we have unenumerated rights which the framers and ratifiers didn't literally understand, they nonetheless left us guideposts that we can -

JUSTICE SCALIA: Well, what about rights rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people? Would -- would that do the job?

MR. GURA: Yes.

JUSTICE SCALIA: That happens to be the test we have used under substantive due process.

MR. GURA: That's correct and, as Judge O'Scanlon in the Ninth Circuit observed in the Nordyke decision, the Slaughter-House dissenters seemed to arrive at the same point, perhaps, that this Court did in the Glucksberg case.

JUSTICE STEVENS: Mr. Gura, can I ask you the same question Justice Ginsburg asked about, what if there were no Second Amendment? You say the right would still be protected under the Privileges and Immunities Clause. What about, would it also be protected under substantive due process if there were no Second Amendment?

MR. GURA: It would be, Your Honor. The fact -

JUSTICE STEVENS: Because of the -- the importance of the right to protect -- would that apply to the entire scope of the Second Amendment or just the right to keep the gun, a homeowner's right to keep a gun for self-protection against intruders into the home, under the -- without the Second Amendment, just the Liberty Clause.

MR. GURA: The Second Amendment is not so limited and neither is the right to arms, even outside the -

JUSTICE STEVENS: I'm assuming we don't have a Second Amendment for purposes of the substantive due process analysis. I'm asking you what is the scope of the right to own a gun that is protected by the Liberty Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment? Is it just the right to have it at -- at home, or is the right to parade around the streets with guns?

MR. GURA: An unenumerated right to arms in the absence of the Second Amendment would be, perhaps -probably identical to that secured by the Second Amendment, because the Second Amendment codified the understanding of that right that people have historically had in the country. So there would not be a difference between the right to arms if it were a part of the Second Amendment or -

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: I thought your -- in that context, is your position that the rights that are incorporated as essential to the concept of ordered liberty, do they bring all of our decisions with them? When you say the First Amendment is covered, does that mean New York Times v. Sullivan is incorporated as well? Or is it only some lesser version of the incorporated right?

MR. GURA: With respect to the substantive due process argument that we are making?


MR. GURA: We are not challenging -- we are not the party that is before the Court that is challenging anything that has gone on before in terms of substantive due process. We believe that those cases were by and large decided appropriately, and if the Court wishes to reconsider any of them for some reason, it -- that has really nothing to do with -

JUSTICE KENNEDY: I understood the Chief Justice's question -- maybe I misunderstood it, but my understanding of the question that's important is this. Under incorporation by reference, the States are bound by the rights in all -- with all of the refinements and sophistication with which we interpret them for the Federal Government. It's the same. You don't just apply the core of the right. You apply all of the right as it is elaborated by the cases.
Is -- is that same consequence -- does that same consequence follow if we adopt the privileges and immunities interpretation that you are urging upon us?

MR. GURA: Yes, Your Honor.

JUSTICE BREYER: Okay. How does that work? I think that would be useful for either you or Mr. Clement, if you've thought this through. Is this right different from others?

MR. GURA: Well -

JUSTICE BREYER: There are two ways. One is that -- look at -- all you have to do is look at the briefs. Look at the statistics. You know, one side says a million people killed by guns. Chicago says that their -- their gun law has saved hundreds, including -and they have statistics -- including lots of women in domestic cases. And the other side disputes it. This is a highly statistical matter. Without incorporation, it's decided by State legislatures; with, it's decided by Federal judges.
Now, think of this, too: That when you have the First Amendment, or some of the other amendments, there is always a big area where it's free speech versus a whole lot of things, but not often free speech versus life. When it's free speech versus life, we very often decide in favor of life. Here every case will be on one side guns, on the other side human life. Statistics, balancing life versus guns. How are Federal judges in your opinion, rather than legislatures in the States in a Federal system, how are Federal judges supposed to carry this out? I want to see where we are going.

MR. GURA: Federal judges should carry this out in the same way that was announced in this Court's decision in Heller.

JUSTICE BREYER: Heller, I didn't -- didn't think explained that with great -- I was dissenting, though. I didn't think it explained it with total clarity, but that's a dissenter's view.

MR. GURA: Heller stood for the proposition that some activities are within the core boundaries of a right, and so long as people wish to do something that is literally understood to be part of the boundaries of the right it is to be protected.

JUSTICE BREYER: To be specific, suppose Chicago says, look, by banning handguns not in the hills, not hunting, nothing like that, nothing outside the city, in the city, we save several hundred human lives every year. And the other side says, we don't think it is several hundred and, moreover, that doesn't matter. How do you decide the case?

MR. GURA: We decide that by looking, not to which side has the better statistics, but rather to what the framers said in the Constitution, because that policy choice was made for us in the Constitution.

JUSTICE BREYER: You are saying they can have -- no matter what, that the city just can't have guns even if they are saving hundreds of lives, they cannot ban them?

MR. GURA: The city cannot ban guns that are within the common use as protected by the right to arms.

JUSTICE SCALIA: There is a lot of statistical disagreement on whether the Miranda rule saves lives or not, whether it results in the release of dangerous people who have confessed to their crime but the confession can't be used. We don't -- we don't resolve questions like that on the basis of statistics, do we?

MR. GURA: That's correct, Justice Scalia, and as your opinion -

JUSTICE SCALIA: Well, why would this one be resolved on the basis of statistics? If there is a constitutional right, we find what the minimum constitutional right is and everything above that is up to the States. If you want to have, you know -- I think we mentioned in Heller concealed carry laws. I mean, those are -- those are matter that we didn't decide in Heller. And you may have a great deal of divergence from State to State, and on that I suppose you would do statistics, wouldn't you? Or the legislature would.

MR. GURA: Well, Your Honor, we do agree that statistics are not important to determine whether or not a right -

JUSTICE SCALIA: For the judges. For the judges.

MR. GURA: That's right.

JUSTICE SCALIA: But they would be for the legislatures.

MR. GURA: A legislature should respect the fact that there is a constitutional right at issue, and this Court in footnote 27 in Heller explained that under the Carolene Products paradigm, footnote 4, the rights enumerated in the Constitution are entitled to a greater measure of respect.
If I may reserve the remainder of my time for rebuttal.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Thank you, counsel.
Mr. Clement.


MR. CLEMENT: Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court:
Under this court's existing jurisprudence, the case for incorporating the Second Amendment through the Due Process Clause is remarkably straightforward. The Second Amendment, like the First and the Fourth, protects a fundamental preexisting right that is guaranteed to the people --

JUSTICE STEVENS: Mr. Clement, would you comment on Justice Kennedy's question about whether it necessarily incorporates every jot and tittle of the Federal right into the Federal, keeping in mind that with regard to trial by jury in criminal cases there is a difference, non-unanimous juries. Why does this incorporation have to be every bit as broad as the Second Amendment itself?

MR. CLEMENT: Well, Justice Stevens, I think in that respect the Sixth Amendment is a bit of an outlier. For most of the provisions and as far as I know all of the substantive provisions of the Bill of Rights that have been incorporated against the States, this Court has incorporated basically all the jurisprudence that comes with that.

JUSTICE STEVENS: Well, what is the last case in which we incorporated ae substantive provision?

MR. CLEMENT: Well, I guess maybe it's Mapp, is one way of thinking about it. I mean, we could quibble about the -

JUSTICE STEVENS: Mapp was a procedural case. Mapp was a Fourth Amendment case. I'm asking you cases involving incorporation of substantive rights, as opposed to procedural rights. The procedural cases come in under the due process language, but the substantive cases comes under the word "liberty," and "liberty" picks up the First Amendment and so forth. And I take it it's the word "liberty" that picks up the Second Amendment. And if it does, why does it have to be precisely the same scope as the Second Amendment?

MR. CLEMENT: Well, sure. We could quibble whether -- I think of the Fourth Amendment as more of a substantive guarantee. But in any event, with respect to certainly like the First Amendment guarantees that this Court has incorporated through the liberty -- the liberty subclause, if you will, of the Due Process Clause, there too I think this Court -- certainly I understand this Court's jurisprudence as incorporating all the cases that go along with that.
So New York times v. Sullivan is the law of all 50 States, et cetera, et cetera. And I think that in a sense the virtue of that approach is probably even more apparent with the Second Amendment than it might be with some other jurisprudence.

JUSTICE SCALIA: I guess we -- I guess we have applied substantive due process with regard to the necessity of permitting homosexual conduct and with respect to the necessity of permitting abortion on demand. We have not adopted a more rigid rule for the Federal Government than we have adopted for the States in either of those instances, have we?

MR. CLEMENT: That's also right, Your Honor, though I guess I would stress that I think that, whatever the debates about substantive due process when it comes to unenumerated rights, I think the gist of this Court's incorporation doctrine is that the textual provisions of the Bill of Rights stand in a favored position with respect to incorporation. So Glucksberg has this discussion about the standard for unenumerated rights, but it starts that off by saying of course the Bill of Rights are different. And of course, the Bill of Rights I read, as I read this Court's selective -

JUSTICE STEVENS: They sit in a favored position, but we've never said it had to be literally had to be all the way down the line, or we couldn't have done the criminal jury, non-unanimous criminal jury case.

MR. CLEMENT: Again, though, it's interesting that the one place that I see where the Court has not effectively translated all the case law is one of the procedural rights, the Sixth Amendment criminal jury right. And I think with respect to the substantive rights -- and I think the alliance here or the similarity between the First and the Second Amendments are very stark in this respect -- this Court has incorporated essentially not just the amendment and not just the right, but all of the jurisprudence as well.
Just to dwell for a moment if I'd could on the First and Second Amendment, I think it's striking, very striking, that if this Court's not going to reconsider its Privileges or Immunities Clause jurisprudence, the Cruikshank case actually stands as very good precedent for incorporating the Second Amendment, just as it was the precedent this Court relied on in incorporating the assembly and petition rights of the First Amendment in the DeJonge case. And the reason is Cruikshank -- the whole reason that Cruikshank said the First and Second Amendments aren't privileges of national citizenship is because they were preexisting rights that didn't depend on the Constitution for their existence.
That seems to me to be a pretty good working definition of what a fundamental right is, one that is so fundamental and basic that it preexisted our very Constitution. And so it's not surprising that DeJonge cited Cruikshank as favorable precedent for incorporation.
I think the exact same logic would apply to the Second Amendment here and, as I say, I do think the consequence of that, certainly the most logical consequence, would be to carry over the jurisprudence under the Second Amendment. Now, right now that's not carrying over a lot, right. That's carrying over the Heller case.
But I think in a way that points up to the fact that one of the virtues of incorporation is that, because the Miller decision of this Court sowed confusion, we do not have substantial Second Amendment jurisprudence. And I would think that it's going to be difficult enough to develop the Second Amendment jurisprudence that you wouldn't want to make it more difficult by having to develop a Federal Second Amendment jurisprudence and then some sort of shadow version of that jurisprudence for the States.
And I think in the more recent incorporation cases, this Court was quite candid that it wasn't going to adopt sort of a shadow version of the Federal guarantee or some watered down version of the Federal guarantee, but it really saw the virtue of incorporating not just the right but the jurisprudence that came with that right.
And so I do think that's in a sense something that counts in favor of incorporating the Second Amendment and doing so through the Due Process Clause, the same way this Court has dealt with the other substantive guarantees of the Bill of Rights. And I think if you apply that jurisprudence, the case really is very straightforward. In fact, I think if you compare the First Amendment and the Fourth Amendment to the Second Amendment, they have the same textual guarantee to the people, they trace their origins to preexisting rights back to the English Bill of Rights, back to even earlier constitutional history.

JUSTICE STEVENS: That's true of the criminal jury trial right, too, all of those things? And yet we don't -- it's not exactly the same. I just don't see why it has to be exactly the same. I can understand your argument that it should be substantially the same, but I don't see that there's anything in the text of the Fourteenth Amendment that would justify saying it must be precisely the same, or of any of our cases.

MR. CLEMENT: Well, and again, Justice Stevens, you know, since I think that the incorporation clause is -- I mean, the incorporation jurisprudence is, to put it lightly, a gloss on the text of the Due Process clause -

JUSTICE STEVENS: Incorporation jurisprudence is -- we haven't had an incorporation case for 30 years or more.

MR. CLEMENT: That's right. That's right, Justice Stevens. But I guess I would say is that, putting the Sixth Amendment to one side, which I think is a bit of an outlier in the jurisprudence here, I think the trend of all of this Court's incorporation jurisprudence has been more towards complete incorporation of the right and the jurisprudence. So --I mean, Mapp is a perfect illustration.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: That still allows scope, once you determine that the right is incorporated, for recognizing that the States might have broader interests that the Federal Government doesn't have. But I would suppose that would come up in the application of the right, rather than in an effort to determine whether parts of it are incorporated or not.

MR. CLEMENT: That's right, Mr. Chief Justice, and I think the same thing can be said for any other one of the other incorporated amendments. So I think the same thing might be true in the First Amendment. There are certainly going to be situations that the Federal government confronts that the State governments won't confront the exact analog situation and vice versa.
Now, you know, there may be unique issues about national parks that the States are not going to have to confront, and the jurisprudence can take that into account. But I think that's far different from saying that we really are going to have the shadow jurisprudence for one of the provisions.
And I think, again, to go back to Mapp just as an illustration, when this Court first incorporated the Fourth Amendment and said, well, we will talk about the exclusionary rule later, maybe we won't incorporate the Fourth -- the exclusionary rule. We will just incorporate the Fourth Amendment's basic guarantee. And the trend of later cases was to say, no, kind of in for a penny, in for a pound -


MR. CLEMENT: -- let's bring the jurisprudence with you.

JUSTICE STEVENS: -- the jury -- it's interesting that during this whole period, Justice Harlan staked out a separate position on whether it should be just the substance of the right or the -- the every detail. And we have followed Justice Harlan rather than the majority on a number of cases in -- in the recent years. He is very much against you, and he's a very important member of our -- of our history.

MR. CLEMENT: Justice Harlan was a terrific justice. Justice Black was a terrific justice -

JUSTICE ALITO: Maybe we should go back -

MR. CLEMENT: -- and in his total incorporation -

JUSTICE ALITO: Well, Mr. Clement, why shouldn't we go back completely to Justice Harlan's view about the way in which the Bill of Rights applies to the States?

MR. CLEMENT: Well, I think if we are going to go back, maybe we should go back to the first Justice Harlan, who actually had an -- an approach, I think, that would be much more similar to the approach -

JUSTICE BREYER: But there is a difference. There is a difference -- with other amendments. There is a difference in the other amendments. You have the First Amendment, the First Amendment expression.
Here we have right in the amendment written a militia-related clause. And the way that -- the way -- the way that the right might be incorporated in respect to that is light years different. From the way it might be interpreted if you think what it is, is the right to have a gun to shoot a burglar. They are just two separate things.
And as to the first, it's pretty hard for me to see why you would incorporate it, for reasons I won't go into. As to the second, I understand it. So we are starting with a difference in purposes at the least. And shouldn't that make a difference in how you incorporate?

MR. CLEMENT: Well, I mean, I guess what I -- what I don't understand is why, given the way that this Court wrestled in the Heller decision with how to basically apply the operative clause in light of the prefatory clause, why one would want to come to a different conclusion that -

JUSTICE BREYER: Because the -- one of the reasons -

MR. CLEMENT: -- affected the case.

JUSTICE BREYER: -- at least, is that -- you have read, I'm sure, that all the law -- the professors at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, London, et cetera, that say even Blackstone in the 17th century thought that this is primarily a right to raise an army through parliament to -- I can't go on here. I'm just saying think of that brief, and you will see the differences even accepting Heller.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: You can respond if you want, briefly.

MR. CLEMENT: Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice.
I mean, obviously this Court was focused very much on Blackstone's writings in the Heller decision, and I think the majority read Blackstone actually as being primarily concerned with the self-defense right, which goes a long way to understand why the Heller decision came out the way that it came out.
And I would simply finish by noting that the one thing that I think we can come to a conclusion about Blackstone is the very fact that Blackstone dwelled on the right is good evidence that it's a fundamental right that should apply to the States.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Thank you, Mr. Clement.
Mr. Feldman.


MR. FELDMAN: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court: The Second Amendment should not be incorporated and applied to the States because the right it protects is not implicit in the concept of ordered liberty. States and local governments have been the primary locus of firearms regulation in this country for the last 220 years.
Firearms unlike anything else that is the subject of a provision of the Bill of Rights are designed to injure and kill. And the very same features that make firearms valuable for self-defense as the court noted in Heller -

JUSTICE SCALIA: When is the last time an opinion of ours made that the test, implicit in the concept of ordered liberty? It sounds very nice. But when is the last time we used it? I think it was 1937.

MR. FELDMAN: I don't believe it was, Your Honor.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Has it been the basis of our decision in any case since Palko?

MR. FELDMAN: I think the -- the Court has -- the Court has used the term in a number of cases. Since then it has used it in -- not in corporation cases as recently as the Glucksberg case. It used it in Mapp. It has used it in other cases, but I think -

JUSTICE KENNEDY: And it was also the Harlan view, although a separate opinion in the Griswold case and in Poe v. Ullman.
Do you think it best describes the approach that the Court has used over the years?

MR. FELDMAN: Yes, I do.

JUSTICE KENNEDY: I was going to ask Mr. Clement what test he thought the Court used if you looked at all you think implicit in the concept of ordered liberty?

MR. FELDMAN: Yes, I do. And here's the reason why. In 1833, this Court has held in Barron v. Baltimore, in a -- in a ruling that Chief Justice Marshall said was not a difficult one although important, that the Bill of Rights did not apply to the States.
As far as I know, no justice has ever disagreed with that -- with that ruling or suggested he was wrong in so ruling. From -- it was -- the only reason -- and when the Fourteenth Amendment was passed and ratified in the late 1860's, again, the -- the framers did not directly apply the Bill of Rights to the States. They gave us some generalities.
And the Court has always understood that when it's applying the Due Process Clause, what it asks is not just is something in the Constitution, but is this something that is so fundamental it's a necessary condition -

JUSTICE SCALIA: Is the right to trial by jury implicit in the concept of ordered liberty?


JUSTICE SCALIA: My goodness -

MR. FELDMAN: I think that it -

JUSTICE SCALIA: -- there are a lot of countries that don't give the right to trial by jury, even England does not give it in all criminal cases.

MR. FELDMAN: I think it is in the following sense, when you are talking about a procedural right that is embedded in a particular procedural system, you have to look at how that system operates and how the -the right works within that particular system.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: I think that's exactly -- that's exactly right. And that is what the Court elaborated on in Duncan. I do think the focus is our system of ordered liberty, not any abstract system of ordered liberty. You can say Japan is a free country, but it doesn't have the right to trial by -- by jury.
The -- the -- the concept only makes sense, I think, if you limit it to our system. Under our system, as you said, the -- the right to a jury is essential.

MR. FELDMAN: I -- I agree -- I -- I -- I think that's right. I was just distinguishing between -

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Well, if you think that's right, why wouldn't you think, for all the reasons given in Heller, that the Second Amendment right is essential to our system, whatever it may be with respect to France or England or anywhere else?

MR. FELDMAN: The question that the Court was addressing in Heller was not -- again, was not how important the Second Amendment right was, or how implicit it is in our system, it was what did it say and what did the -- what restrictions did the framers of the Second Amendment impose -

JUSTICE KENNEDY: But I thought its rationale was that because of its fundamental character, the right to bear arms must be understood as separate from the qualifying phrase of the militia clause, all people, most people in the United States, the public meaning of the Second Amendment was that there was an individual right to bear arms, and that's because it was fundamental. If it's not fundamental, then Heller is wrong, it seems to me.

MR. FELDMAN: No, I -- I -- I don't think that that's right. The question is what right -- what did they impose upon the -- as restrictions upon the government when the Second Amendment was ratified. And as to that, it's not a question of whether it's fundamental any more than with the grand jury clause or with the civil jury trial right

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: I don't see how you can read -- I don't see how you can read Heller and not take away from it the notion that the Second Amendment, whether you want to label it fundamental or not, was extremely important to the framers in their view of what liberty meant.

MR. FELDMAN: I -- it was important, but actually what Heller says is this: The Second Amendment preexisted the -- its inclusion -- or the right that's in the Second Amendment preexisted its inclusion in the Bill of Rights. But the reason it was codified, the reason it -- the reason it was put in the Bill of Rights was because the framers were concerned about the Federal government disarming the militia.
The right of self-defense which had been previously recognized and highly valued, I would agree, was -- had -- according to Heller, quote, had little to do with its codification -


MR. FELDMAN: -- with its inclusion in the Constitution.

JUSTICE SCALIA: That may be the reason it was put there. But it was put there. And that's the crucial fact. It is either or it is not there.
And if it's there, it doesn't seem to me to make any difference why they chose to put that one there as opposed to other ones that they didn't put there. It's either there or not.

MR. FELDMAN: That -- I agree as far as the Federal government goes. But now there is a different question being asked, and the Second Amendment in this respect is unlike any of the other amendments that have been incorporated.
The same -- very same reason why the first -- the various rights in the First Amendment were put there in 1791 is exactly the reason why it was held -- why it was incorporated and applied to the States under the 14th amendment.

JUSTICE BREYER: So do we read the -- the clause -- clause at the beginning -- the militia clause -- we are supposed to read the words of the Constitution, aren't we?


JUSTICE SCALIA: I guess the answer is yes.




JUSTICE BREYER: Very well, and doesn't that suggest what the purpose of putting the right there is even under Heller or at least one purpose -

MR. FELDMAN: Well, that is -

JUSTICE BREYER: And does that not give us a clue as to what they thought that -MR.

FELDMAN: That's what -

JUSTICE BREYER: -- the corner of liberty was? That's your point?

MR. FELDMAN: That's what -- and that's what Heller said. And here's the difference -- is, it is it is now urged that this right is fundamental because of its important, the importance of firearms in self-defense. That was true also in 1791, but it wouldn't have been in the Constitution for that. That had little to do with putting it in the Constitution. This is a right that has always been subject to the political process -

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Well, sure, and it's still going to be subject to the political process if the Court determines that it is incorporated in the Due Process Clause. All the arguments you make against incorporation it seems to me are arguments you should make in favor of regulation under the Second Amendment. We haven't said anything about what the content of the Second Amendment is beyond what was said in Heller.

MR. FELDMAN: That's -- that's -

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: And so the arguments you make, as well, given this context, you should not be able to have concealed carry -- well, maybe that's right. But that doesn't mean you don't incorporate the Second Amendment to allow you to enforce that type of regulation.

MR. FELDMAN: No, I don't think so. The argument that I am making is that States and local governments under the political process, which as far as we know, if the only issue had been self-defense, the framers would have been satisfied to leave this to the States and to leave this to the political process, not to put it in the Constitution -- that -- that -- that as far as the right to self-defense goes, that is something that has always been effectively regulated through the political process and especially at the State and local level. And through our history, as technology has changed, State and local regulation has altered to draw the balance that has to be drawn.

JUSTICE ALITO: And your position is that a -- a State or local government could completely ban all firearms?

MR. FELDMAN: If the State and local government did that, I think would it raise two questions. One question would be, there is always review under the Due Process Clause and under the Equal Protection Clause for provisions that are arbitrary. And I would want to know why a State had done that. It is certainly relevant that in the last 220 years no State has done that or even come close, and in fact as the briefs from the other side of the case from some of the States show, they are quite the opposite direction. But the second -

JUSTICE SCALIA: I -- I don't understand.

JUSTICE KENNEDY: What is the due process liberty -

JUSTICE SCALIA: What basis would there be to -- to deny that?

MR. FELDMAN: Well, there's always -

JUSTICE SCALIA: Firearms kill people is what the States say, and -- and we ban it.

MR. FELDMAN: Right and that has -

JUSTICE SCALIA: Other countries have done that.

MR. FELDMAN: It has not led to States doing it in -- in this country.

JUSTICE SCALIA: But if they did do it, I think would you have to say it's perfectly okay.

MR. FELDMAN: No, the second -- there would be two rights questions actually. One would be
was arbitrary or is that actually based on a reasoned -that -- sound -JUSTICE SCALIA: The reason is guns are dangerous.

MR. FELDMAN: The second argument would be, the Court at that point, if in the very unlikely event a that a State or local government tried to do that, then the Court might have to wrestle at that point with the question of the relationship between self-defense and the right to keep and bear arms. In other words, this Court has never said -

JUSTICE KENNEDY: But would self-defense be part of liberty under the due -- substantive meaning of the Due Process Clause?

MR. FELDMAN: I mean, if by that is, do you have a substantive right to self-defense, the Court actually has never answered that question, but I am willing to accept that there is such a right.

JUSTICE KENNEDY: And you have given -- you said there were two reasons. So you have given us both in your answer to Justice Alito's question?

MR. FELDMAN: Yes, and -- and what I say about the right to self-defense is, if -- if the challenge -- if a State or local government banned all firearms it might raise the question of, given that there -- if there is a constitutional right to self-defense, has the State prohibited you from reasonable means of exercising that right?

JUSTICE KENNEDY: Without repeating that and just so I understand your position, how could some member of the Court write the -- this opinion to say that this right is not fundamental, but that Heller was correct?

MR. FELDMAN: I -- the Court would just say that what Heller held was if you look at the meanings that the words in the Second Amendment had, the common meaning -- as the Court said in the Heller opinion -the common meanings that the word had in 1791, it imposed limitation on the State. It took a preexisting right that had not been -- was not codified in the Constitution, and it said, this self-defense right we need in the Constitution in order -- in order to protect the militia against being disarmed by the Federal Government.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: That sounds an awful lot to me like the argument we heard in Heller on the losing side.

MR. FELDMAN: Well, it's actually what the Court said in its opinion. What the Court said in its opinion is the reason it was codified was the concern that the framers had with the -- that the Federal Government might disarm the militia. Not self-defense. Self-defense according to the Court in Heller, quote, "had little to do with the codification of the right."

JUSTICE SCALIA: They said that is the reason it was codified. They did not say that that is the function of what was codified. The function of what was codified was to enforce the traditional right of the people to bear arms.

MR. FELDMAN: And that that -- -

JUSTICE SCALIA: And to say that that wasn't the reason it was codified doesn't say anything about what it consists of.

MR. FELDMAN: That -- that's correct, and I'm not arguing today about what it consists of, but the point being that this was a right that had been -- the framers as far as we know would have been satisfied to leave to the political process if it was just a question of the feature of it. Today -

JUSTICE ALITO: Let me see if I understand your argument. I thought you said a minute ago that if a State or local government were to ban firearms completely, this Court might hold that that violates substantive due process because the right to use a firearm for self-defense is -- might be held to be implicit in the concept of ordered liberty; is that right?

MR. FELDMAN: That is correct.

JUSTICE ALITO: And -- but I thought you began by saying that the right to keep and bear arms is not implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.

MR. FELDMAN: The right to keep and bear arms that was recognized-- I don't actually think the right to keep and bear arms itself is. Perhaps the right to self-defense is, and then like other rights, similar rights, if the Court were to hold that that is constitutionally protected, the question would be is the State now giving you sufficient means to exercise that right? Not whatever means you want but sufficient means so that you reasonably can exercise for that right. I would think that would be the only way that that kind of analysis could go if you start off from self-defense.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Mr. Feldman, let me take your argument at -- at its face value. Let's assume that the only reason it is there and the only purpose it serves is the militia purpose. Isn't that militia purpose just as much defeated by allowing the States to take away the militia's arms as it would be by allowing the Federal Government to take away the militia's arms?

MR. FELDMAN: Yes, but I -- that -


MR. FELDMAN: But that -

JUSTICE SCALIA: -- even if you assume that the whole thing turns around the militia prologue, that prologue is just as -- just as important with respect to the State's depriving the people of arms.

MR. FELDMAN: But I don't think the argument -- the primary argument that is being made today, that this is implicit in the concept of ordered liberty or sufficiently fundamental or whichever other formulas -

JUSTICE SCALIA: You are switching horses now.

MR. FELDMAN: No, I'm not.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Let's just focus on your argued that -- that -- that deals with the prologue. You say this is different because of that prologue. But that prologue has just as much force if the States take away the militia's arms as if the Federal Government does.

MR. FELDMAN: I -- I think that few people today would say -- and in fact few people in 1868 would say that the concern to protect the State militias is something that's so fundamental or essential to a concept of ordered liberty or central to our system that it has to be protected -

JUSTICE BREYER: Well, suppose it is. Suppose it is; assume for argument's sake that it is. Still, I take from what you are saying that -- let's make up an imaginary importance of ordered liberty chart, and we give it to James Madison and the other framers. And he would say insofar as that right to bear arms is important for the purpose of maintaining the militia, it's high on the ordered liberty chart. Insofar as the right to bear arms is there to shoot burglars, it's low on the ordered liberty chart.
And if that's what they would say, it's conceivable that part of this amendment would go through and be incorporated, namely that part which would prevent a law that would disarm people to the extent they couldn't form militias. But that part which would disarm people to the extent that they couldn't shoot burglars, that would not be incorporated.

MR. FELDMAN: It -- that would be -- that would be possible, but another -- another way to look at it is, that the question that the Court had -- the Court has never answered the question, is this implicit in the concept of ordered liberty or should this be incorporated under any other test? By -

JUSTICE ALITO: But if we took the approach -- if we took the approach that Justice Breyer outlined, why would we not do the same thing with respect to all the applications of all the amendments that up to this point have been regarded as being completely incorporated, along with all of our decisions? So why would we not look at all of our decisions under the First Amendment and the Fourth Amendment, and the Fifth Amendment and the Sixth Amendment and rank all of though interpretations on some scale of ordered liberty?

MR. FELDMAN: I -- I don't think -- I don't think the Court would. And what I was really responding to Justice Breyer was, we understand that the Second Amendment is in the Constitution and binds the Federal Government, but it has always been understood from 1868 on, that before an amendment applies to the States you need something more than just finding that it is in the Constitution.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: But to get back to Justice Breyer's point, which I'm not sure you answered, is your theory that you simply -- it's not a question of is it in or is it out? You are saying well, what is in and what is out? Would -

MR. FELDMAN: No, I -- actually my -- excuse me. My answer to the question would be -- I think it's out, because all that shows is the framers -

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: So you think it's in or out, right?

MR. FELDMAN: I think that -- I think that the best argument is that it's out, for this reason: When the framers -

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: No, I -- I know your reasons.


CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: I'm trying to get you to take a position on whether or not you want us to not only pick and choose among which amendments are part of our abstract notion of ordered liberty, or if you want us also to take amendments that might be in and refine them and shave them off a little bit and say well, this part of the amendment is in, and this part isn't.

MR. FELDMAN: No, that's not the argument that we are making.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Okay. So your argument is all in or all out.

MR. FELDMAN: The argument we're making -yes.


MR. FELDMAN: The argument that we're -

JUSTICE BREYER: Step one -- step one is, make my chart. Step two is, look at what's high. Step three is, even that that high part, even that high part, nobody could think was incorporated.

MR. FELDMAN: I -- in our view, the things that the framers -- the framers had their reasons for putting -

JUSTICE BREYER: That's how you think Madison went about his job?

MR. FELDMAN: No. No, I think that -

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: He did, actually. He did. That's how he went about it.

JUSTICE BREYER: I'm asking Counsel.
Do you think that's how Madison went about his job?

MR. FELDMAN: I think the framers had reasons to put everything in the Constitution that they put in it. But the question about whether it should be incorporated against the States is a different question than whether they put it in the Constitution.
And what you have in the Second Amendment, and it's right clear on the face of it from the prologue; it's clear -- it's clear from the opinion in Heller, is the reason they put it in the Constitution is not the primary reason why people today are arguing that this is a right that is so fundamental that -- that it has to be applied against the States.

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: Mr. Feldman, our selective incorporation doctrine under the Due Process Clause does suggest that there are some rights that were fundamental enough to be incorporated and some that are fundamental, but not fundamental enough to be incorporated. We have drawn a line.
Is it the ordered liberty concept alone in our jurisprudence that you are relying upon, or is it any other articulation of our incorporation doctrine that supports your view?

MR. FELDMAN: I think that's the underlying standard, but the Court has certainly looked at our history and our traditions in answering this question, and I think they are relevant in this area, as they were

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: The Chief says: Yes, if we look at it, we have to look at it in the context of our history, our structure. So address his question as to why, in our structure, or our history, it's not fundamental enough to -


JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: -- incorporate.

MR. FELDMAN: Yes, and I think it's -- I think it's not. We have discussed already 1791, and the reasons why -- the reasons even that the framers thought -- well, I have already discussed that. I don't want to go into it again.
The -

JUSTICE SCALIA: Eleven of the colonies had a guarantee at the time that the Constitution was adopted, and I believe something like 44 States currently have in their constitutions protection of the right to bear arms. Does that suggest anything about -about how fundamental it is generally?

MR. FELDMAN: What the Court actually said in Heller was that there were two States at the time, in 1791, that had a firearms right, and with -- there were possibly two more where the evidence was a little bit more ambiguous.
As far as today, it is true that 44 States have some kind of recognition of a right to keep and bear arms. Now, some of those States -- a couple of them, at least, two to four -- recognize that only in connection with the militia, and it's really quite different than the right that this Court recognized in Heller. Many other of the rights that are recognized in State constitutions include provisions that really would be unheard of, and that actually point to the reasons why this is not fundamental, like, say, freedom of speech or freedoms of religion. They have provisions that say: Subject to such regulation as the legislature may proscribe, or the like.
And that points out the other difference. Because firearms are -- the same features that make them useful for self-defense make them also useful as instruments of violent crime, suicide, and accidental death. Their -- regulation of these items is a part of our tradition and -

JUSTICE SCALIA: "Subject to such regulation" certainly excludes banning them entirely, which is what you assert can be done.

MR. FELDMAN: No, I think that -

JUSTICE SCALIA: What's the purpose of a State constitutional guarantee which has at the end
of it "subject to such regulation as the legislature may proscribe," if that regulation includes banning it entirely? That -- that would make a nullity of the constitutional requirement.

MR. FELDMAN: The overwhelming consensus among the State courts in interpreting the wide variety of different types of provisions that they have is that it imposes a reasonable regulation standard that is not violated by banning a particular weapon or a particular class of weapons, as long as you are allowing some kind of firearm, and that is not the right that this Court recognized in Heller.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Is that what you are asserting here, that the States have to allow firearms?



MR. FELDMAN: I -- I didn't think I was.

JUSTICE SCALIA: I didn't think so, either, so why did your last argument make any sense?

MR. FELDMAN: No, what I'm saying -- I'm sorry. What I'm saying is that the right that is embodied in the wide variety of different State constitutions, the overwhelming consensus is that what the States have determined as a result of their own processes and in light of their own conditions is that you can't ban all kinds of firearms, but you can ban some kinds of firearms.

JUSTICE SCALIA: That's fine.

MR. FELDMAN: And that is -- and the kinds of firearms that have traditionally been banned -

JUSTICE SCALIA: We said as much in Heller.

MR. FELDMAN: All right. Well -- and the kinds of firearms that have traditionally been banned by the States and that actually the period around the time of the Fourteenth Amendment is a good period to look. At or around that time, there are numerous States that had regulations barring the carrying and even that go up to the point of possession of pistols and Bowie knives, which are not firearms, but are also arms under the Second Amendment, and so on.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Well, all of those may be perfectly valid today, or -- if the Court incorporates the Second Amendment. Incorporation doesn't say anything by itself about whether those types of regulations, which you think are reasonable and your friends think may not be reasonable, are valid or not.

MR. FELDMAN: I think the Court in Heller did hold that a ban on -- a ban on handguns is invalid. That was the holding of the case. And these are -these were laws that were passed that are very close to that. In the 1860's and the 1870's, in Texas, in Wyoming, places that -- not necessarily for the whole State -

JUSTICE SCALIA: Handguns in the home? Handguns in the home? That's what Heller addressed?

MR. FELDMAN: They banned -- well, not -- I can't say that they banned handguns in the home per -

JUSTICE SCALIA: No, you can't, because they didn't.

MR. FELDMAN: But if you look at the decision -- no, if you -- actually, if you look at the decisions, some of them banned the sale, they banned carrying them anywhere in the jurisdiction, and in such a way -- and some of the judicial decisions even say: This was intended to eliminate these weapons from our jurisdiction. And they were generally upheld at that time.
Now, those were responding to local conditions at the time, and generally, the history of firearms regulation, because of the risk that firearms pose, has been that in this country, it has been widely recognized that in many places it's appropriate to carry firearms. And many jurisdictions have found, and reasonably found, that allowing broad use, carriage, and whatever of firearms is appropriate. But there are some jurisdictions that have found that's not to be the case throughout our history.
And that has been a State and local decision that has worked through the political process in those jurisdictions. And that political process here is another distinction between the Second Amendment and some of the other amendments that have been incorporated, is that one basis, I think, for incorporating the other amendments and for applying them against the States has been that there is a concern about a discrete minority or a highly unpopular view that is not going to get a fair shake in the political process. I don't think that has ever been the case here. And as far as I know, the framers didn't think that was the case with respect to the right to keep and bear arms.
It's a right that gets controlled in accordance with local conditions, with local cultures, and with local views about the necessarily difficult questions about how best to protect public safety. That is -- that has been a part of our -- of our history since 1860, since -

JUSTICE KENNEDY: But there -- but there are provisions of the Constitution, of the Bill of Rights, that have been incorporated against the States, where the States have substantial latitude and ample authority to impose reasonable regulations, rights respecting -rights respecting property, the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause. We look to see what the political process does. We look to see -- why can't we do the same thing with firearms?

MR. FELDMAN: Well, it's just that the end -- I have two points I would like to make about that. One is the analysis the Court used in Heller. In Heller, what the Court said is: This is not the time to balance things; you cannot ban handguns.
Now, there may be local -- there have been local jurisdictions before and there are now ones where they feel allowing some firearms, but banning handguns, is the best way to achieve public safety and to increase the zone of ordered liberty for their people. And those things would be apparently impermissible under Heller.
But even more than that, Heller construed the Second Amendment's "bear" -- the word "bear," "to keep and bear arms" -- to mean the same thing as "carry" in this Court's case in Muscarello much later. And to carry -- generally to carry.
Many -- there is a long history of regulation of not just concealed carry, as the Court did recognize in Heller, but of ban -- of banning open carry in a variety of jurisdictions. Again, generally, it's someplace that is -- it has a particular problem; it's a city or something like that.

JUSTICE KENNEDY: Do you think there is existing authority with reference to other provisions of the Bill of Rights that would allow us to incorporate just the core of Heller with respect to the States? Just the core of the Second Amendment with respect to the States, along the lines to this question Justice Stevens was asking earlier?

MR. FELDMAN: Well, I think that there would be -

JUSTICE KENNEDY: And if so, what's -- what case do we look to for that proposition?

MR. FELDMAN: I think really this -- I cannot offhand think of a case that would lead you to that.

JUSTICE STEVENS: If you look to Justice Harlon's dissent in Griswold, where he says the Fourteenth Amendment stands on its own bottom and it can be either more or less than the provision of the Bill of Rights, and there is no reason in the world why this Court could not adopt the same position here and say: Insofar as incorporated, it applies only within the home. The Court had ample precedent for that.

MR. FELDMAN: And actually the other point I make is if you approach it from the other point of view, the case has not been made here -- it hasn't even been brought -- that the City of Chicago is denying people the -- the right to have any kind of firearm or the right to have any kind of reasonable means of self-defense.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: I'm sorry. Is it the position of the City of Chicago that we should rely on Justice Harlan's dissent in Griswold?


CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Well, then your answer to Justice Stevens is no, you are not going to follow that approach, right?

MR. FELDMAN: No, what I'd would say is that --what I would say is if the Court -- what I was saying is that if the Court approaches it from the standpoint of perhaps if there is -- if the Court chooses in an appropriate case to recognize a fundamental right to self-defense, it would then raise those kinds of questions. And someone could make the case that they are being denied any rights of self-defense or any reasonable right to exercise self-defense because of a jurisdiction's firearms regulations; the Court could address that. That's not a claim that has been made in this case, that's not a claim that could be made in this case.

JUSTICE SCALIA: See, the right to keep and bear arms is right there, it's right there in the Bill of Rights. Where do you find the right to self-defense?

MR. FELDMAN: Well, I -

JUSTICE SCALIA: You -- you want us to impose that one on the States but not -- not the explicit guarantee of the right to keep and bear arms. That seems very strange.

MR. FELDMAN: No, actually I -- I don't want to impose that on the States. I think it's very unlikely that the Court would ever be called upon to, because our history for the last 200 years -- 220 years had been of reasonable State and local regulation of firearms that responds to local conditions, to local threats of violence and so on that occur. And I don't see any reason to think that there will be a jurisdiction that would try to sufficiently ban firearms that people wouldn't have a reasonable means of self-defense.

JUSTICE SCALIA: The District of Columbia did.

MR. FELDMAN: Well, the District of Columbia in any event is controlled by Second Amendment as it -as it's written. That's not the question in this case.

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: Would you be happy if we incorporated it and said, reasonable regulation is part of the incorporation? And how do we do that?

MR. FELDMAN: Well, there is the reasonable regulation standard, there is an article by Professor Winkler that we cite in our brief that goes very extensively through the ways that State courts have dealt with their own rights to keep and bear arms and have adopted, really by overwhelming consensus, that kind of a reasonable regulation standard, which generally
recognizes -

JUSTICE GINSBURG: I thought that Heller --Heller allowed for reasonable regulation.

MR. FELDMAN: Excuse me.

JUSTICE GINSBURG: I thought that the Heller decision allowed for reasonable regulation and it gave a few examples as Justice Scalia mentioned.

MR. FELDMAN: Right. Well, it's just our view would be that what Chicago has done here, which is permit you to have a -- permit you to have long guns but ban handguns, is the kind of regulation that throughout our history jurisdictions in their own -- that are most familiar with their own particular needs and their own particular problems, and in a position to balance the -the need for self-defense with the risk to the use of firearms -- for violence, for accidental death and or suicide -- that the City of Chicago has come up with something that is well within our tradition. And -

JUSTICE SCALIA: What you were urging is really a mixed blessing for gun control advocates. To the extent we sever the Federal guarantee from what the States are obliged to comport with, we encourage a stricter Federal Second Amendment, one that forbids all sorts of regulations that the Federal Government might otherwise be allowed to do, because it doesn't matter, the States can take care of it.
I mean, you know, if -- if you sever the two, you are encouraging a broader prohibition at the Federal level, and that's what -- Heller was very careful not to impose such a broader definition precisely because it realized that -- that this is a national problem.

MR. FELDMAN: I -- I think that, if I may -that the restriction that the Second Amendment imposes on the Federal Government should be and is controlled by what the meaning of that Second Amendment was in 1791. It shouldn't vary one way or the other with whether there is incorporation against the States.
Thank you.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Thank you, counsel.
Mr. Gura, you have 3 minutes remaining.


MR. GURA: Sure.

JUSTICE KENNEDY: Counsel, at the -- at the very outset of your argument Justice Sotomayor asked the question which as I understood it essentially said what are examples of privileges and immunities that are being denied by the States that -- which denial would be remedied by following your proposal to overrule the Slaughter-House case?
And let's leave the Second Amendment out. Let's assume the Second Amendment is a wash; it's either going to be incorporated or not going to be incorporated to the same extent under either the Privileges and Immunities Clause -- the Due Process Clause. Leaving the Due Process -- the Second Amendment out of it, what privileges and immunities are now being denied citizens of -- of the United States?

MR. GURA: Well apart from the Second Amendment right, which is being denied to people in the United States by Chicago at least, there are other rights -- other rights enumerated in the first eight amendments that were thought to be personal guarantees as well as certain unenumerated rights which were understood to be part of -JUSTICE KENNEDY: What are examples of those? The jury trial in civil cases?

MR. GURA: The jury trial -60

JUSTICE KENNEDY: And grand jury. What else?

MR. GURA: There is not much left, Your Honor. Those are the only two provisions of the Bill of Rights that have not been held incorporated under due process, which informs us that perhaps we should have the Second Amendment incorporated. There is no reason to treat it any differently. With respect to the unenumerated rights that perhaps are not being -

JUSTICE GINSBURG: So you are saying that under your view, every State would have to use a grand jury to bring criminal charges, no more information. And that every State would have to have a civil jury, if any party in the case requested it. Is that -

MR. GURA: Yes, well it's not just what we are saying. It's what the framers of the Constitution said, and as Justice Scalia noted in Apprendi, the right to a jury trial, for example, may not be efficient but it is free.

JUSTICE GINSBURG: That's a criminal case; that's quite different.

MR. GURA: That's right. We're talking about the Grand Jury Clause; we have 28 States right now out of the 50 that allow prosecutors to pursue felony charges without indictment by a grand jury, but the
other 22 States do require -

JUSTICE KENNEDY: Well, I'm -- we are using up your time. But -

MR. GURA: Sure.

JUSTICE KENNEDY: But you want me to read the list -- grand jury indictment and civil trial and jury case, that's it. There's no other -- what are these other unenumerated rights?

MR. GURA: We can't give a full description of all unenumerated rights that are going to be protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.

JUSTICE SCALIA: That doesn't trouble you.

MR. GURA: No it does not and it shouldn't trouble the Court because the Court addresses due process cases all the time without saying -

JUSTICE ALITO: Well, doesn't it include the right to contract?

MR. GURA: The right to contract -

JUSTICE ALITO: Isn't that an unenumerated right?

MR. GURA: That is literally understood by the framers to be an unenumerated right under the privileged immunities. We know that because in the Civil Rights Act of 1866 that's the very first right that they mention as something that people in the South should be enjoying, because they were not allowed to pursue a livelihood.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Your approach -your original approach would give judges a lot more power and flexibility in determining what rights they think a good idea than they have now with the constraints of the Due Process Clause.

MR. GURA: No, Your Honor; our approach might actually provide judges with perhaps no more than what they have now, perhaps even less, because our approach is rooted in text and history. It's not a license for judges to make up unenumerated rights that they believe -

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Privileges and immunities give you a lot more flexibility than due process, because it is not limited to procedural -where you don't have to deal with the hurdle that it's limited to procedural by the text.

MR. GURA: Sure. If I may?


MR. GURA: We believe that it's more limited because that -- that text had a specific understanding and that there are guideposts left behind in texts and history that tell us how to apply it, unlike the due process. But at least we know one thing, which is that
in 1868 the right to keep and bear arms was understood to be a privilege or immunity of citizenship, and if the Court is considering watering down the Second Amendment perhaps it should look to text and history.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Thank you, counsel.

MR. GURA: Thanks.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: The case is submitted.