Tuesday, September 28, 2010

We Talk To Phil Strader at the IDPA Nationals in Tulsa Oklahoma

Phil Strader got his start with firearms when he first hired on as a police officer in Danville Virginia. After seeing a video of action pistol shooter Jerry Barnhart, Phil decided that if he was to take his responsibilities as a law enforcement officer seriously, he would have to practice more and improve his gun handling skills.

Thus began his path toward becoming a world renowned action pistol shooter and professional firearms instructor. Phil Strader is now a Smith & Wesson sponsored shooter and regularly competes in IPSC and IDPA. When he's not participating in action pistol competitions, Phil runs his own military and law enforcement training company Straighter Solutions.

We had the chance to catch up with Phil at the IDPA National Championship competition held last week at the US Shooting Academy in Tulsa Oklahoma and talked with him for a bit about his move to the Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm Pro.

Let's talk about the equipment you're using today. What did you bring with you? I'm shooting in the SSP (Stock Service Pistol) class, and I'm shooting a literally stock M&P Pro with just some Warren Tactical Sights and some grip tape on it and that's it.

No trigger job, nothing special, just as it comes out of the box? Completely stock.

Why did you choose the M&P 9mm? The 9mm Pro just feels better. It's more balanced. I had a 9mm Standard, a 4", before but the 5" just gives me better balance, better recovery on target, and the gun just seems to track and shoot better in my experience.

What do you think of the match so far? It's a good match you know. It's my first and only IDPA match of the year, so it's trigger time for me to get ready for nationals next year. They always do a great job here. These guys, they know how to run a club and the stages are great.

They're doing a good job, and this gets me some time behind the gun because I just got this gun two weeks ago. I'm trying to get some trigger work on it because my old gun had a trigger job on it, but this one doesn't and I'm trying to get used to that.

What other matches are you shooting this year? I just shot the 3-gun Nationals, I shot the Steel Challenge, the Steel Nationals, Bianchi Cup, I'm going to the USPSA back to back Nationals next week, I do some 3-gunning here and there, I'm going to the Fort Benning 3-gun match this year, the IPSC Nationals in South Carolina, so I'm very involved with USPSA and IPSC. I'm getting ready for Greece next year and the World Shoot.

How have you done so far this year? It's a learning curve, I've had to change equipment, but I think I'm going to do fine. I was an STI shooter before, and the M&P is a much different kind of gun. It's definitely tough getting used to, but I think by Nationals I'll be tuned in and ready to go.

Are you training any differently for IDPA than you do for a Steel Challenge? Well, first to say I train for IDPA would be quite a step in the wrong direction. I think I mentally prepare for IDPA differently because it's more about everything else and the shooting is just kinda incidental. The targets are close, it's pretty easy, but you've got to be mentally prepared to deal with all the different idiosyncrasies with the rules and that sort of thing.

My preparation for something like Steel Challenge is all repetitive. Shooting, shooting, shooting, and here it's more mental.

How many rounds do you usually shoot a month? Typically, what is this, September? This month, sadly I have shot about 700 rounds. I don't shoot a lot, I'm a dry fire guy.

I average 500-1000 rounds per month, depending on what match is coming up. My budget and my family life just doesn't allow me to shoot as much as I would like to. It's nice to be close to a range like this, but I do a lot of mental visualization, I do a lot of gun manipulation, stuff I can do at home like dry fire. It's just always seemed to work for me. I just kinda know what the gun looks like when it's going off and I don't have to shoot a lot of rounds to confirm it, although I'd like to. It just doesn't work out usually. Family stuff comes first and shooting second.

When you're not on the professional shooting circuit, what else are you doing? I'm actually self employed, I own Straighter Solutions. It's basically a training company. I travel all over the country and teach people to shoot, either competitively or LE/Military Tactical, 3-gun, rifle, whatever. If a bullet comes out of it I teach it. I'm just doing a lot of instruction there, I've got three classes scheduled in the next month and a half, so it's going pretty well.

What got you started in shooting? I was a police officer in Southern Virginia, and I was an OK shooter. I was a cop, I thought I was the best shooter. I was the best shooter in my class which means I was the best shooter in the world, right? Then somebody showed me a video of Jerry Barnhart shooting a stage and it was just unbelievable to me to see how fast he could shoot.

Instantly, I asked the guy showing me the video "What police department does he work for?" because I automatically assumed that all good shooters were cops. That's just the way it is, right? Turns out he was an electrician, and that got me a little concerned that an electrician could shoot that good and I'm suppposed to be a cop protecting the public and I shoot so much worse. I decided to start shooting competitively for training purposes. I just kinda got good at it and over the course of a month or two as I got pretty good I decided to do it competitively.

Are there any other sponsors or anyone else you want to mention? Well, I've got a lot of great sponsors, but Smith & Wesson, they take care of me. Accurate Iron is my gunsmith, luckily he doesn't have to do a whole lot because I only shoot stock guns, but he does all of my 1911 work. Warren sights obviously, they're all I use on all my guns if it's iron sights. Schuemann barrels, and... [glances at shirt] Who else do I got on there? Oh yeah, Speed Shooter Specialties. They deal with all the Smith & Wesson aftermarket stuff. And Straighter Solutions, obviously I'm self-sponsored because it's my business.

Everyone is really good, but these are the guys who have been with me since the beginning and I stay loyal to those guys. They're very supportive.

Phil Strader makes his home in the Tulsa suburb of Owasso Oklahoma with his wife and children.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Photos From IDPA Nationals

We're still going through all of the video and photos taken over the weekend at the IDPA Nationals held at the USSA shooting center in Northeast Oklahoma. Here's a few to whet your appetite while we compile and edit the video. As always, click on any image to enlarge.

The Cheaper Than Dirt! Warrior truck made it's debut appearance at the IDPA Nationals in Tulsa Oklahoma

Tori Nonaka poses atop the CTD Warrior Truck

There were a number of demonstrations, including this incredibly loud recoilless rifle. You can't see it in the photo, but there is a pond not too far behind the shooter and your could see the blast wave kick up waves across the surface of the pond.

L & L brought out their full-boogie machine guns.

Randi Rogers shoots from atop the CTD Warrior truck at stage 14 "Who let the dogs out?"

The IDPA Team from Italy... Proof IDPA truly is an international sport!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

10 Tips For A Successful Duck Hunt

Cold fronts have begun to sweep across much of the United States, bringing migrating waterfowl with them. Nothing gets a dedicated duck hunter's blood going so early in the morning like a flock of ducks coming in on short final. Duck season is still a few weeks away for most of the US, but now is the time to prepare for upcoming hunts.

Follow these 10 helpful tips to be successful on your next duck hunt.

1) Plan your hunt
This sounds simple, but so many hunters neglect to plan their hunt. Check the weather forecast so you know which direction the wind will be blowing from. Take the time to scout the area and see where the ducks are actually landing. Some hunting areas are too far to drive out and scout before you hunt, but with the internet distance isn't an issue. Fire up your favorite mapping website and scout from the air.

2) Pattern your gun before the hunt
Shotgun loads can be very finicky. Make sure that the ammunition you are shooting matches up to your gun and choke by patterning it before the hunt. You'll want to test the loads at 10 yards, to make sure it opens up fast enough, and again at 40 yards to see that it's still tight enough for longer shots. If the pattern isn't right, try a different load or switch your choke.

3) Practice with your dog
Man's best friend can get out of shape in between active hunting seasons. Make sure your retriever is up to the task by working out a couple of times a week before the season gets going.

4) Maintain your gear
There's no better way to sabotage your hunt than to ignore your gear until you're out trying to set everything up in the pre-dawn darkness. Don't wait until you get out to the field to find out that you've got damaged decoys, that your weights and cords resemble a tangled plate of spaghetti, or that the battery on your boat motor is dead. At least a week before your hunt you need to go over all of your equipment and ensure that it's clean and functional.

5) Eliminate shine
While you're maintaining your gear, keep an eye out for any shiny spots on your duck boat. It could be nothing more than a scratch allowing the aluminum hull to peek through, but that's all it takes for a sharp eyed duck to decide to land elsewhere. I like to carry a can or two of matte black or brown
paint to touch up spots like that.

6) Set your decoys correctly
There is no surefire pattern to use when setting decoys, but some hunters insist on using the "tried and true" J and U patterns. The pattern you use should be dictated by the wind and the layout of your hunting area. Be willing to change things up a bit, which brings me to my next point:

7) If it's not working, change something
When the ducks are just circling once or twice and flying on, settling 100 yards away, or flaring off just before they come in range, you need to change your setup. Don't be afraid to break cover and reset your decoys, move the blind to a better location, or touch up the camouflage on your boat. Waterfowl are sharp eyed creatures and will abort landing at the first sign of danger.

8) Have someone experienced calling the shots
Nothing irritates a group of hunters faster than someone who calls the shots poorly. It's tough some times to make the call when the ducks are at the exact distance you need them to be to get more than one shot off. Make sure you've got an experienced hunter who knows exactly when to shout "Take 'em!"

9) Don't overcall
Occasionally you'll need to call a lot to bring in the flocks, but more often than not I've found that calling intermittently with more variety works the best. When in doubt, call a little less.

10) Camouflage camouflage camouflage
Make sure that the camo you wear and use on the blind matches your environment. Realtree Hardwood camo is going to stick out like a sore thumb amongst the reeds of a duck pond. Take a lesson from what snipers do and turn your boat into a giant ghillie suit by tying on reeds, grasses and other foliage from your hunting area.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Joyce Wilson Takes Us Behind The Scenes at IDPA Nationals

It's nearly the end of September, which means that the season is quickly drawing to a close for many competitive shooting organizations. In fact, the IDPA National Championship is being held this week just outside Tulsa Oklahoma. Two hundred and fifty shooters from 8 nations will converge on the Unites States Shooting Academy, one of the finest training facilities in the central US.

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Joyce Wilson, Executive Director and Treasurer of IDPA to find out about her background in the shooting sports. Along the way we gained an insiders perspective into the history of IDPA and got an exclusive behind the scenes look at what goes on in putting on one of the largest action pistol shooting events in the United States.

How did you first get started with firearms? Actually, I didn't have any experience as a child and didn't grow up around them. My dad had some rifles and stuff like that but he'd never taken me out shooting or anything along that nature. In kind of an interesting way, my background in firearms started with a bad divorce. I went through a bad separation and felt like I needed to get a concealed carry permit. Not that I ever had to use it or anything like that, but I took a concealed carry class where I was living in West Virginia at the time. I got real interested in shooting, but IDPA wasn't actually formed at that point, so I started with a bit of USPSA.

Your interest in firearms has always been from a personal defense standpoint? You never had any interest in competitive shooting before that? Right, I just didn't grow up around competition.

Did you know Bill Wilson or Ken Hackathorn before getting involved in IDPA? No, I didn't. I didn't know anything about either one of them. I had met Ken shortly after they started IDPA simply because of his involvement in USPSA. I knew of Bill only because of the gun shop and obviously was a big fan of "The best firearms in the world" but I had no idea I would ever get to meet him.

What brought about the genesis of IDPA? Well, Bill got started in USPSA, but as the rules when on and time went by Bill and others decided that they wanted a practical shooting sport and talked to USPSA about starting a practical class. When it became apparent that the other USPSA board members had no interest in a practical class Bill and John and Ken decided "Well, we're just going do it on our own". Bill used his contacts in the industry to line up sponsors and organize things and soon had extraordinary success. The sport grew to 15,000 members in the US and 49 different countries.

Wow, that's incredible growth. Why did you make the decision to move from USPSA over to IDPA? Well, USPSA is a lot of fun, but the classification system is kinda cumbersome. Plus, while I enjoyed the game aspect of USPSA I had gotten my concealed carry permit, taken LFI-I from Massad Ayoob, and IDPA was just a natural fit. It was a lot easier to get involved in than USPSA. You could just pick up any gun and a mag pouch and you could shoot a match. With USPSA you needed the right pouch, the right holster, a tricked out gun, lots and lots of ammunition and even more money. At the time, it was just easier to shoot IDPA.

IDPA Executive Director and Treasurer Joyce Wilson in an undated photo.
There was initially some bad blood and negative reactions when IDPA was first started. Do you think any of this came about from those in the industry who felt it was "safer" politically to focus on action pistol shooting as just a sport and not a self defense oriented activity? I don't think that it was so much that aspect of it, I think it was more that some of them just didn't get along with Bill and Ken and the guys. There was a lot of animosity between both sports, and I know even when I first started with IDPA back in 2000 there were some who referred to IDPA as "I Don't Practice Anymore".

As far as I can tell all of that is gone now. Eventually we were basically able to just reopen the lines of communication and we worked real hard to both support each other. We always are in contact to make sure that our major matches don't conflict.

Let's talk about your upcoming National Match this week in Tulsa Oklahoma at the United States Shooting Academy. IDPA is primarily made up of local organizations, correct? Correct.

Do you have qualifiers or area matches leading up to Nationals? We've got lots of different area matches. Many states organize state championships and often times a few conjoining states will join together for an area match. We have required people now to shoot two area sanctioned matches before they apply to compete at Nationals.

How do you select the ranges where Nationals are held each year? We try to move the match around some, but there are only so many ranges that meet the criteria we need to hold the National Championships. They need a number of pistol bays, usually 8 or more, they need to have facilities for scorers and nearby hotels. They also need to be near a major, at least a regional, airport so that competitors can travel to the match.

It doesn't sound like there are many ranges that can meet all of those requirements. Right, exactly and sometimes we have to compromise. We're always looking for new ranges. We put out feelers in the Tactical Journal and the IDPA website asking if anybody knows of a range that they'd like to see the Nationals at to holler at us. It really helps to have a fairly good sized local club on the ground at that range, simply because we need a core group that can help us with logistics like lunches and port-a-pottys for instance. But yes, we're always looking for new places as well.

Tell us a little bit about the USSA range in Tulsa where you'll be holding Nationals this week. We've got 18 stages in the National Match setup on 9 bays. I think we've got 2 or 3 expo bays set up. That range is just gorgeous. It's huge, I don't think we even use half of it. I know they've got the whole steel challenge set up on one set of bays, and then we use like 9 of their pistol bays, and I think they've still got 3 or 4 more. They've got I don't know how many rifle bays. They've got a 360° bay and just beautiful facilities.

What I would call the "clubhouse" which is actually their headquarters is just a beautiful office building that has classroom space that we use for scoring and they've got a wonderful pro shop set up out there as well. Their staff is just wonderful to work with. We love going over there. This will be the second year that we've been there and it just makes it so easy to go there and put this match on.

It sounds like quite the production. How much time and effort goes in to putting on an event this big? It's basically a year long project. The crunch time is probably the last three months before the match, with the last 4 or 5 weeks really being the super-crunch time. We start literally the day after the match is over making sure that we've got a range for next year, where it's going to be, the format of the match, making sure we've got a match director picked out, and basically starting the whole process over.

The logistics have to be a major hurdle as well. You've got competitors coming in from across the globe and have to arrange shipping and receiving for firearms and ammunition too. Right. We actually have competitors coming in from 7 or 8 foreign countries this year. They can't all bring ammo so we arrange to get them ammo or for them to be able to purchase ammo. Even a lot of the local United States shooters that are flying in that don't want to carry ammo because it's just such a pain in the butt to carry ammo and firearms and all that on commercial airlines anymore. They'll pre ship their stuff in as well.

There are just lots and lots of little details to cover, and I'm so so lucky I've got a wonderful staff here at headquarters. They've been doing this for a while and now it just happens and that's way cool.

Of course, something like this could never be pulled off without all of the sponsors. Tell us a bit about all of the sponsors you've got this year and how critical their participation is. Oh absolutely. We've got I don't know how many sponsors all together this year and I don't want to name a bunch of names because I don't have a listing of them in front of me.

Let me throw a couple out there, we've got Smith & Wesson as a major sponsor this year- Smith & Wesson is always a huge sponsor...

...and the National Shooting Sports Foundation- Always a huge sponsor, and we're really pleased to see you guys as sponsors this year, that's going to be awesome.

Yes, we'll have a team out there debuting our brand new Cheaper Than Dirt! Warrior Truck set up as part of one of the stages this year. Tell me a bit about the competition and some of the top level shooters we can expect to see make a showing at the match. That's awesome, you know there will be lots of great shooters out there as well this year. We've got a lot of sponsored shooters in the match that I know of, just because I know them personally, but there are lots and lots of talent coming up and there is a lot of undiscovered talent out there.

If I can kinda digress for a bit, that's something interesting about the sport as well. The sport is now 13 almost 14 years old and it's interesting to see how much the level of competency has come up in those years. At the first 2 or 3 Nationals it was really something to have 10 or 15 Master Class shooters. I'm not sure we're not a little top heavy on Master Class shooters this year. I'm thinking that we've got somewhere between 80 and 100, which is huge, and what that tells me is that the sport is maturing and that people's skill level has come up so much. We actually really need to re-look at our classification process, which is something that we're doing.

Speaking of up and coming shooters, does IDPA have a Junior's program? We don't have specifically a Junior's program, which is something that we've kicked around and that we need to do. I know that USPSA has a very active Junior's program. We do recognize a High Junior Shooter at the Nationals, but as far as a mentor program or something like that, we really leave that up to the individual clubs. It's difficult enough for some of the clubs to even just host a match once a month, and to keep adding things on to them to be another requirement makes it even more difficult.

So, we are still looking at a Junior program, but the other aspect is that we just don't have a lot of staff here at IDPA headquarters. There's basically just 4 of us. To add more programs means that we have to add more staff, and potentially means that membership fees have to go up. That's something that we don't really want to do in this economic environment, and we haven't had as much interest in a Junior's program. It's kinda one of those things where the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and until we get more members saying "Hey, I know lots of kids that want to shoot," I just don't see that big of a demand for it at this point.

Still, we've seen the growth of Junior Shooters in USPSA and I think we're seeing more and more come over to IDPA for a change of pace. It's hard to know specifically. We're seeing obviously an increase in membership, but it's difficult to delineate exactly where those people are coming from. I would suspect, possibly because of the increase in competency that yeah, we're seeing some cross over from USPSA and even some cross over from Cowboy Action.

The good thing is that we all try to work together in the industry, and therefore we encourage our shooters to go shoot other disciplines and hopefully the other disciplines encourage their members to do the same.

Image courtesy ActionShootingMall.com
We've really seen, especially recently, that when we do pull together as an industry that we can accomplish incredible things. Exactly, and at this point in time with the political climate, we have got to pull together. Not only the shooting sports but the hunting side and everybody interested in self defense.

For those who can't make it to Nationals you had an IDPA Postal Match last year. Are you doing that again this year? As far as I know, we are. I'd have to double check, that was Robert. He pretty much handles my day-to-day stuff as far as the practical match goes. The Postal Match has gone really well in the past couple of years.

Last year ya'll had over 2,000 entries right? Right. To me, I think that's just neat. It's kind of like a National Match for those who can't make it.

Of course, shooters who want to compete can always just find a local club in their area. Absolutely.

How does one go about finding a local club? The easiest way to find a local club is to just go to our website. Click on your state and look and see what's available. We've got all of the clubs listed along with the club contacts. A lot of the clubs even have their own websites so that you can easily go on and click on that club's website and find out when they shoot and who you need to talk to. You can always call IDPA headquarters too (870-545-3886). We're more than happy to answer questions about where you can go shoot.

Now, on the off chance that somebody can't find a club in their area, how would they go about starting up their own local IDPA club? Well, the first thing they need to do is they need to contact their Area Coordinator and make sure that they've got a Safety Officer class under their belt because all of our club contacts need to be Safety Officer's as well and have taken the class. They don't need to be a Safety Officer Instructor, but they need to have the Safety Officer status. Then they can contact us and we can provide them with the necessary materials and any help that they need in getting the club set up.

I want to thank you for taking the time to talk with us today and we can't wait to see you at the National Match and see what the competition has in store for us. Great, I sure appreciate it. It's been a pleasure talking with you too and I certainly appreciate your support of IDPA.

Joyce Wilson lives in North West Arkansas with her husband Bill Wilson of Wilson Combat.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Long Range Pistol Shooting

Lining up a 300 yard pistol shot with a 1911, you can just barely make out the targets at the berm.
Yesterday we posed a question on Facebook asking our fans how far the longest pistol shot they'd ever made was. The answers ranged from a mere 25 yards, the standard distance at many pistol ranges, to shots in excess of 250 yards. One thing that surprised me however is how many people refused to believe that you could actually hit a target over 100 yards away. Believe it or not, the full sized pistol you own is probably capable of shots out to 200 yards.

At a recent 3-gun match here locally there was a pistol stage with full sized silhouette targets set out to distances as far as 80 yards. Needless to say, many competitors had great difficulty landing hits on these targets. I've practiced on half sized silhouettes up to 50 yards away, but the additional 30 yards for the longest target on that stage gave me fits. Still, I've personally witnessed a number of shooters hit a man sized target consistently at distances up to 200 yards away with a 1911 chambered in .45 ACP.

A typical 1911 zeroed at 7 yards has a drop of only 1.7 inches at 50 and a mere 14 inches at 100 yards. Things get a bit more interesting when the distance is increased past 100 yards however. At 150 yards the bullet drop has increased to more than 40 inches, and at 200 yards a 230 grain bullet with a muzzle velocity of 900 feet per second will have dropped a whopping 81.4 inches. Which begs the question: how can anyone reliably make a shot with a pistol over 200 yards?

Scribing the front sight of a magnum revolver with a ramped front sight is an excellent way to get on target past 200 yards.
First of all, it helps to have a pistol that shoots a fast bullet. .357 Sig and .40 S&W both are fairly flat shooting rounds, but for the ultimate in long range pistol shooting you'll need a Magnum cartridge such as .357, .44, .500 S&W or .50 AE. Still, the amount of holdover necessary to land a good hit can difficult to estimate on the fly. There is however an solution for aiming such shots. It's not possible on all pistols, but by holding a scribed front sight up far above the rear, you can get the proper hold for a long range pistol shot. Ideal shooting positions are supine (leaning back as if in a recliner, this pose is well known to silhouette shooters) and prone.

Even without a powerful magnum or a tall ramped front sight, it's possible to get hits consistently with your standard service pistol. I took my .45 ACP 1911 with stock GI sights out to the range to demonstrate this after failing to hit the 80 yard silhouette at the 3-gun match last week. To start with, I calculated the ballistics mentioned above for my load.

Beginning at 50 yards, I held just a hair high and, shooting prone, was able to land all 7 shots on the target in a tight 3" group. Moving back to 100 yards the target looked much smaller on my front sight, but by holding on the head of the silhouette I was able to consistently drop the rounds into the torso. Things got more interesting at 200 yards however, and I was glad to have an earthen backstop so I could see the splash of my misses. Using these clues, I managed to walk the rounds onto the target in short order and figure out the proper hold.

Now that I knew the amount of hold necessary for that distance, I went ahead and tried to make the shot off hand. I won't lie, only 3 of the 7 rounds hit the target. But given that distance, I felt pretty happy knowing that I could engage a 200 yard target with my pistol and still land hits at all.

What's the point here? The point is shooting is 90% mental. Most people don't even realize that a pistol can be a viable weapon when a rifle is not available, and of those who may know such shots are possible most will never practice with their own handguns. The point here is that if you know your gun and you practice with it, you too can land hits on a target 200 yards away. Heck, with the right caliber, such as a .357 or .44 Magnum revolver, hitting targets at 300, 400, and even 600 yards is possible.

Elmer Keith, father of the famous .357 and .44 Magnum told one such tale of hunting deer at over 500 yards with a .357 revolver. Many chalked his tale up to nothing but a bit of "Hunter's Hyperbole" but Keith stood by his claims, and I for one believe the tale. Here's his story:

Paul Kriley and I hunted up Clear Creek on the right side where it is partly open bunch grass meadows and partly patches of timber. We hunted all day, and although we saw several does at 80-90 yards, one at 60, that I could have killed. We passed them up, as I wanted a buck. Toward evening we topped out on a ridge. There was a swale between us and another small ridge on the side of the mountain slope about 300-400 yards away. Beyond that, out on the open sidehill, no doubt on account of the cougar, were about 20 mule deer, feeding. Two big bucks were in the band, and some lesser ones, the rest were does and long fawns. As it was getting late and the last day of the season, I wanted one of those bucks for meat. Being a half-mile away, I told Paul, “Take the .300 Magnum and duck back through this swale to that next ridge and that should put you within about 500 yards of them. I’ll stay here (the deer had seen us), let them watch me for a decoy.” Paul said, “You take the rifle.”
“I said, how is it sighted?”
He said, “one inch high at a hundred yards.” I told him to go ahead because I wouldn’t know where to hold it. I always sighted a .300 Magnum 3 inches high at a hundred and I wouldn’t know where to hold it at 500.
I said, “You go ahead and kill the biggest buck in the bunch for me.” Paul took off, went across the swale and climbed the ridge, laid down and crawled up to the top. He shot. The lower of the two bucks, which he later said was the biggest one, dropped and rolled down the mountain. I then took off across the swale to join him. Just before I climbed up the ridge to where he was lying, he started shooting again.

When I came up on top, the band of deer was pretty well long gone. They’d gone out to the next ridge top, turned up it slightly and went over. But the old buck was up following their trail, one front leg a-swinging. Paul had hit it. I asked Paul, “Is there any harm in me getting into this show?” He said, “No, go ahead.”

I had to lay down prone, because if I crawled over the hill to assume my old backside positioning, then the blast of his gun would be right in my ear. Shooting prone with a .44 Magnum is something I don’t like at all. The concussion is terrific. It will just about bust your ear drums every time. At any rate Paul shot and missed. I held all of the front sight up, or practically all of it, and perched the running deer on top of the front sight and squeezed one off. Paul said, “I saw it through my scope. It hit in the mud and snow right below him.” There was possibly six inches of wet snow, with muddy ground underneath. I told him “I won’t be low the next shot.” Paul shot again and missed with his .300 Magnum. The next time I held all of the front sight up and a bit of the ramp, just perched the deer on top. After the shot the gun came down out of recoil and the bullet had evidently landed. The buck made a high buck-jump, swapped ends, and came back toward us, shaking his head. I told Paul I must have hit a horn. I asked him to let the buck come back until he was right on us if he would, let him come as close as he would and I’d jump up and kill him. When he came back to where Paul had first rolled him, out about 500 yards, Paul said, “I could hit him now, I think.”

“Well,” I said, “I don’t like to see a deer run on three legs. Go ahead.” He shot again and missed. The buck swapped ends and turned around and went back right over the same trail. Paul said, “I’m out of ammunition. Empty.” I told him to reload, duck back out of sight, go on around the hill and head the old buck off, and I’d chase him on around. Paul took off on a run to go around this bunch-grass hill and get up above the buck and on top. He was young, husky, and could run like a deer himself. I got on the old buck again with all of the front sight and a trifle of the ramp up. Just as I was going to squeeze it off when he got to the ridge, he turned up it just as the band of deer had done. So I moved the sight picture in front of him and shot. After an interval he went down and out of sight. I didn’t think anything of it, thought he had just tipped over the ridge. It took me about half an hour to get across. When I got over there to the ridge, I saw where he’d rolled down the hill about fifty yards, bleeding badly, and then he’d gotten up and walked from the tracks to the ridge in front of us. There were a few pine trees down below, so I cut across to intercept his tracks. I could see he was bleeding out both sides.

Just before I got to the top of the ridge, I heard a shot up above me and then another shot, and I yelled and asked if it was Paul. He answered. I asked, “Did you get him?” He said, “Yes, he’s down there by that big pine tree below you. Climb a little higher and you can see him.” Paul came down and we went down to the buck. Paul said the buck was walking along all humped up very slowly. He held back of the shoulders as he was quartering away. The first shot went between his forelegs and threw up snow. Then he said the buck turned a little more away from him and he held higher and dropped him. Finally we parted the hair in the right flank and found where the 180-grain needle-pointed Remington spitzer had gone in. Later I determined it blew up and lodged in the left shoulder. At any rate I looked his horns over, trying to see where I’d hit a horn. No sign of it. Finally I found a bullet hole back of the right jaw and it came out of the top of his nose. That was the shot I’d hit him with out at 600 yards. Then Paul said, “Who shot him through the lungs broadside? I didn’t, never had that kind of shot at all.” There was an entrance hole fairly high on the right side of the rib cage just under the spine and an exit just about three or four inches lower on the other side. The deer had been approximately the same elevation as I was when I fired that last shot at him. We dressed him, drug him down the trail on Clear Creek, hung him up, and went on down to the ranch. The next day a man named Posy and I came back with a pack horse, loaded him and took him in. I took a few pictures of him hanging in the woodshed along with the Smith & Wesson .44 Mag.

I took him home and hung him up in the garage. About ten days later my son Ted came home from college and I told him, “Ted, go out and skin that big buck and get us some chops. They should be well-ripened and about right for dinner tonight.” After awhile Ted came in and he laid the part jacket of a Remington bullet on the table beside me and he said, “Dad, I found this right beside the exit hole on the left side of that buck’s ribs.” Then I knew that I had hit him at that long range two out of four times. I believe I missed the first shot, we didn’t see it at all, and it was on the second that Paul said he saw snow and mud fly up at his heels. I wrote it up and I’ve been called a liar ever since, but Paul Kriley is still alive and able to vouch for the facts.

Elmer Keith

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Defensive Handgun Loads

When choosing a load for self defense, there are several things that are more important than the actual load in the gun that should be addressed. Reliability is the most important factor in deciding on what load to put in your gun. A gun that will not reliably feed your chosen defensive round is useless as a defensive tool. Choose a round that feeds reliably in your gun and test it out extensively. Shot placement is still far more important than the load you choose. A hit in the vitals will do far more damage than a miss with the latest and greatest bullet design. The third tier of choosing what to put in your gun is actually wading through the choices out there to find an acceptable defensive load for your specific application. An acceptable defensive load is one where the bullet penetrates far enough to do damage when it comes in contact with tissue, but not so far as to over-penetrate without transferring its energy to the tissue. An acceptable defensive load will also ideally feature the greatest achievable spreading out (mushrooming) of the bullet for that specific caliber. For the sake of this article, we will be using the FBI standards of 12 inches of penetration of ballistic gelatin and expansion to the largest diameter possible in order to cause the largest possible wound channel. A standard which most experts support wholeheartedly.

The .22 Long Rifle is one of the most popular cartridge in the world and one of the most popular chamberings for a pocket pistol or revolver. The most important consideration in picking which .22LR load is the reliability of this notoriously finicky round in your gun. Some semi-automatic handguns do not work well with standard velocity ammo and some do not like the high-velocity loads. Luckily, the low cost of this round will allow you to practice enough to ensure you have chosen a compatible load, and perhaps as important, allow you (the shooter) to hone your skills with your handgun, ensuring adequate shot placement when the need arises. Barrel length also may play a role in ammunition selection. The popular CCI Quik-Shok 32-grain copper-plated hollow point round is a good choice in short (2 inches) barreled guns, but may expand and fail to penetrate when fired from a longer barrel. Conversely, the Remington Yellowjacket with its non-expanding 36-grain truncated cone bullet is probably a good choice for those with longer barrels as it creates a larger diameter permanent cavity than a lead round nose bullet design. So the picking of a defensive .22LR round is fairly simple: 1. Find a load that you and your gun like. 2. Practice, practice, practice, practice!

The popular .380ACP round brings a bit more firepower to the table, but the drawbacks to most defensive bullet designs in this chambering are the lack of expansion with penetration. Most experts will advise sticking with a quality FMJ loading such as Remington's Express 95-grain or Federal's American Eagle 95-grain , however, some will recommend the Cor-Bon DPX 80 grain bullet load as a quality, expanding defensive round.

The .38 Special has an interesting problem of being offered in revolvers of many different barrel lengths, which makes choosing a load more difficult. A solid, acceptable choice that meets our standards for any revolver from snub-nosed to target length, is Speer's 135-grain+P Gold Dot load. This load is specifically designed with snub-nosed revolvers in mind, so be careful to ensure that your gun is rated for the higher pressure +P cartridge. Cor-Bon's DPX 110-grain standard pressure offering with a solid copper, lead-free bullet is another good performer out of snub-nosed .38 specials. In revolvers with barrels over four inches, Remington's Classic Express +P with 158-grain lead hollow point bullet, this "FBI load" is a tried and true choice.

Stepping up to the 9mm brings true defensive firepower into the picture, with many acceptable defensive designs and loadings. For this Winchester Ranger SXT pretty much sets the standard with a proven record along side the heavier 147-grain SXT in a sub-sonic standard-pressure load. If you have a short-barrel, consider the 124-grain Speer Gold Dot for your compact 9mm.

The .40S&W is currently the most popular police duty round, which means there are plenty of excellent defensive loads to pick from that meet the standards of a good defensive load. Cor-Bon's 140-grain utilizes the Barnes all-copper DPX bullet, and the 165-grain is another design from Speer's Gold Dot line. If you have a compact pistol with a shorter barrel, you might pick Speer's 180-grain, as it was designed with shorter barrels in mind.

As for .45ACP, good defensive loads that meet the previously mentioned FBI standard are, once again, Cor-Bon's 185-grain and 200-grain Hornady XTP for your 5-inch or longer .45ACP. For your four-inch or shorter barrel, utilize Speer's 230-grain Lawman.

Whichever round you choose, remember to test it out in your gun to ensure reliability and maintain your proficiency level to ensure proper shot placement, should the need arise.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hunting Ross' and Snow Geese

You'll need to lead by as much as 5' to land a solid hit on a crossing goose.

Goose season is fast approaching and soon thousands of hunters will take to the field to bag as many snow geese as possible during this year's Special Conservation Order. The exact dates vary from state to state, but most areas have taken off restrictions on the number of geese that can be taken and in some areas allowed hunters to use unplugged shotguns and electronic callers.

In 1999, the Arctic Tundra Habitat Emergency Conservation Act was passed due to massive overpopulations of Snow and Ross' Geese that were damaging the arctic tundra. "The overabundance of light geese is harming their fragile arctic breeding habitat," according to H. Dale Hall, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He continued, "The damage to the habitat is, in turn, harming the health of the light geese and other bird species that depend on the tundra habitat. Returning the light goose population to sustainable levels is necessary to protect this delicate habitat, and every species dependent on it."

Many hunters are taking advantage of this opportunity to fill up their freezer with tasty geese during this year's Special Conservation Order. Here are some tips to make sure you're able to fill your limit on light geese this year.

When choosing camouflage, make sure the pattern matches where you'll be hunting.
  • Lead your target: I can't emphasize this enough. The biggest mistake most novice wing shooters make is not leading their target enough. A standard load of #2 shot traveling at 1450 feet per second takes 0.085 seconds to travel 40 yards. In that small amount of time, a goose flying at 40 mph travels nearly 5 feet!
  • Lead below landing geese: Landing geese may appear to be hovering, but remember that if they were not moving they'd simply fall out of the sky! For geese landing, lead in the direction of travel and slightly below the goose.
  • Match your choke to your ammunition: It's very important to match your choke to your shot, and now is the time to do so before the season gets really going. I like to bring a variety of ammunition to the range with me and try the different brands in my Improved, Modified, and Full choke tubes. If you're shooting steel, make sure that your choke tube is steel rated. Usually, you’ll want to pattern your shot at various ranges from 10 out to a maximum for 40 yards to see how the pattern opens up as the range increases. There aren't many manufacturers of life sized goose targets, so I use a life-sized turkey target to determine the number of hits to the vital areas. Start out with plain target loads to get your shot onto the paper. Once you’ve established this baseline zero, go ahead and take the target out to 40 yards and fire a load and observe the result. Ideally, your pattern should be concentrated enough to land 8 or more pellets in the vital areas. Any less than that and you either need to use a different load/choke combination. If you find that changing the shot load or choke doesn’t help, you will need to bring the target closer until you can consistently get an acceptable pattern.
  • Use the proper shot size: Snow geese are not usually as large as their darker cousins. The largest light goose species, the Greater Snow Goose, tops out at just under 10 pounds, while the Canadian Goose can easily top 14 pounds. The smaller size of Snow Geese means that you should stay away from the larger shot size. Stick with #1, #2, or even #4: you'll get better patterns and the shot will still be effective out to 100 yards (if you can hit them that far!)
  • Use a LOT of decoys: You'll need a lot of decoys for snow geese. A small flock of decoys should exceed 100 rags or shells. Some professional guides stake out decoy flocks which number in the thousands. Rags and movers are great at convincing geese that your field would make an excellent landing spot, but take care not to space them too closely together. Geese can have a 6 foot wingspan and will be looking to see if they have room to land. Decoys spaced 8-10 feet apart will make a more inviting spread.
  • Take the time to construct your blind properly: Goose have excellent eyesight and are quick learners. They can recognize a poorly constructed blind from hundreds of yards away. Make sure that the color and pattern of your camouflage matches your surroundings: I can't tell you how many times I've seen a RealTree AP Hardwood pattern used in a corn field where it just stands out like a sore thumb. Instead, something like Mossy Oak Duck Blind or RealTree Max-4 would be more appropriate.
  • Wrap or camouflage your gun: Glint from shiny blued barrels is a sure fire way to scare off a goose. Many guns are available in a camo finish straight from the factory, but if yours is not you can use camouflage tape to prevent reflected glare from indicating your presence to a keen eyed goose.
  • Practice shooting while sitting: Don't assume that practice on clay pigeons will substitute for practice mounting the gun from a sitting position. Most goose blinds require the hunter to sit or lay down and then sit up for the shot. You will almost never be standing when it's time to "take 'em" so practice mounting the gun in a sitting position.
  • Get solid cheek weld: When mounting the gun, make sure you have proper cheek weld and sight alignment.
  • Single out your target: Don't think that you can just aim at a flock and have birds drop. Single out your target and aim at just that one bird.
  • Planning a successful goose hunt is not always easy. With these tips and a bit of luck however, you'll be well on your way to filling your limit of light geese this season.

    Monday, September 13, 2010

    Proper Pistol Grip

    Many words and much debate has gone into discussing the proper way to grip an autoloading pistol. Some will argue that the proper grip is to have your thumbs forward, some that the thumbs should be up, while still others insist that the thumbs locked together. I’ve even heard it recommended that the thumbs be canted away from the gun to ensure that they do not interfere with the action or inadvertently hit the slide lock. Which is correct?

    A hybrid of the “Thumbs-Forward” and “Thumbs-Up” grip on a 1911 handgun. Note that there is a gap where the slide lock lever is.

    One point of agreement among nearly all experts is the role of the primary hand and the support hand. The primary hand should apply slight pressure to the front and backstrap of the grip, while the support hand squeezes from the right and left side. In order to maintain positive contact with the gun, the support hand should be such that the heel of the hand is nestled within the gap left by the shooting hand on the left side of the grip.

    Your support hand should do most of the work here- your shooting hand has enough to do working the trigger, safety (if equipped) and magazine release. Most instructors explain that your support hand should provide 60% of the grip, squeezing side to side, while the shooting hand provides 40% of the grip squeezing front to back. While you’re practicing your grip, do make sure you’ve not got a death grip on your pistol. You want a firm, solid grip to be sure, but you don’t want a “white knuckle” death grip. Think of it like holding a small squirmy animal: you’re not trying to crush it, just keep it from getting away from you.

    But what about those pesky thumbs? What do you do with them? As far as this writer can tell, it doesn’t really matter too much so long as they are not interfering with the slide or controls, however I don’t recommend using the locked thumb method. The locked thumb method can interfere with the support hand’s ability to have good solid contact with the grip panel. By wrapping the thumb of your support hand over the thumb of your shooting hand, it necessarily pushes the heel of your palm out away from the grip. The presence of this gap makes the gun tend to turn towards the support hand under recoil.

    Many competition and tactical shooters recommend the thumbs-forward grip as it is a more intuitive method to point the pistol at your target. The question then becomes: Do you lay your thumbs along the slide, or hold them away to minimize any interference? Here, the experts are split. Glock pistol shooter Dave Sevigny keeps his thumbs laying right along the side of the pistol. Brian Enos on the other hand keeps his thumbs away from the pistol. Some Sig Sauer pistoleers have noticed that having the thumbs along the side while using a thumbs-forward grip can cause the slide lock lever to be pushed down so that the handgun will not go into slide lock on an empty magazine. Conversely, Glock pistols can be inadvertently locked back by riding the slide lock lever.

    Todd Jarrett using a thumbs forward grip at the USPSA Steel Challenge.

    The thumbs-forward method demonstrated by Todd Jarrett on the left is perfect for shooting 1911 handguns. With this method, the frame mounted safety is positioned directly underneath the shooting hand thumb, making it incredibly fast and intuitive to draw and disengage the safety selector in one smooth motion. With a gun equipped with a high-ride beavertail making it easier to get a higher grip on the pistol and extended safety lever, the thumbs-forward method is very natural and comfortable.

    Shooting semiautomatic pistols using the thumbs-forward method really becomes useful when used in action pistol or tactical applications where speed and accuracy are both needed. By positioning the thumbs-forward along the slide (or slightly off of the slide) you are in essence creating a second sighting device: wherever your shooting thumb is pointing is where the pistol is pointing. This makes it incredibly fast to draw the pistol, get your proper grip, and press forward to the target without needing to hunt around for the front sight. As Colonel Jeff Cooper explained, “The body aims, the sights confirm.” If you are watching the target (which you should be) as you press forward using this grip, the front sight should naturally come up into your view, presenting you with a very fast and natural sight picture.

    Friday, September 10, 2010

    TAPCO G2 Double Hook AK-47 Trigger

    The TAPCO G2 Double Hook AK-47 Trigger is probably one of the best upgrades you can make to your AK-47. Combat rifles such as the AK have notoriously sloppy triggers that require upwards of 10 lbs of trigger-pull. To make matters worse, many of the Com-Block semi-automatic rifles imported here have a hump on the back of the disconnector that creates the horrible trigger slap of many of these imports.

    This guide walks you through the process of installing the G2 Double Hook AK-47 on a Romanian SAR-1 rifle. While the particulars of this install pertain to the Romanian SAR-1, they also apply to most other AK-47 semi-automatic imports, including most Yugoslavian models and Saigas chambered in 7.62×39. This particular trigger set should also fit both stamped and milled receivers. That being said: gunsmithing is required. We do not recommend that any of the procedures described here be performed by anyone but a qualified gunsmith.

    The first step is to disassemble your AK according to TAPCO’s Instruction Manual. Always unload and clear any firearm completely before beginning to disassemble it.

    side by side trigger comparisonWith your disassembled rifle, lets compare the individual components to check for areas that may need filing or grinding for proper fitment. First, lets take a look at the trigger itself. Here, we compare the Century Arms trigger as installed on a Romanian SAR-1. Note that on the TAPCO the rear of the trigger has much more material than the Century trigger. It should also be noted that the TAPCO trigger uses a larger pivot hole that requires a bushing (included in the TAPCO kit) to slide over the pin.

    The disconnector that is used on the Century trigger group has much more material on the rear of the part. Why Century decided to cast the part in this way is beyond us, but the result is horrible trigger slap. The TAPCO disconnector uses the traditional Com-block design and does not have the additional hump of metal.

    Our Romanian SAR-1 has a single hook trigger design. Because of this, the receiver only has one notch for the trigger hook. We took a Dremel rotary tool and a medium stone to grind out a matching notch on the other side of the trigger slot. Be careful while grinding, go slowly, and don’t apply very much pressure – let the stone do the work for you. In this photo you can see that our stone slipped out of the notch and marred the finish a bit. Not a huge deal, but perhaps a bit more care while grinding could have prevented this.

    After test fitting our trigger in the modified slot, we noticed some flashing left over from the mold in which the trigger was cast was interfering with the operation of the trigger. We ground this bit of metal off the front and the back of the trigger, taking a little bit at a time and test fitting in between grinds until it was just right.

    At this point we reassembled the rifle to dry fire it and cycle the action a few times to check it for functionality and reliability. One problem quickly arose: the trigger would stick after being pulled and would not reset. A closer inspection revealed that the hooks were sticking in the notches. It wasn’t that the notches weren’t long enough, but it seemed that the hooks were grabbing on the sides of the trigger slot, like it wasn’t quite wide enough. So, we disassembled the rifle again and broke out the dremel one more time to take off just a tiny amount of material from the sides of the trigger slot.

    After reassembling the rifle one last time, everything worked flawlessly. Instead of a creeping heavy combat trigger, we had a crisp clean trigger with very little creep. The action cycled well, and range testing showed that the rifle was just as reliable, and a whole lot more accurate.

    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    September Dove Season

    While the summer heat still persists it’s hard to believe that a new hunting season begins today. September 1st marks the beginning of Dove Season for many states, September 17th for most of the rest, and like many others I’ll be out chasing the little gray rockets. Doves can be devilishly hard to hit and their lightning fast aerobatics rival that of the most talented jet pilot.

    It takes a sharp eye skilled at calculating the proper lead to reliably drop a dove. Gil Ash teaches the Optimum Shotgun Performance or “OSP” system of scattergun shooting, and that is the system I use. It’s a both-eyes-open instinctive system whereby you rely on your brain’s ability to naturally calculate the proper lead, never taking your eyes off of the bird. Having a properly fitted gun is critical for this system to work. When hunting dove using the OSP system, you track the bird with your head and shoulders while bringing the shotgun up into the firing position. When the gun stock meets your cheek and shoulder, you pull the trigger and (ideally) drop the bird. Don’t swing through the bird as with more traditional shooting.

    Even with the proper lead and a good shot, I’ve seen a puff of feathers fall to the ground while the dove pulls a Barrel-Roll and a Split-S maneuver, zooming down into the safety of nearby trees and shrubs. One of the best ways to ensure a successful dove hunt is to buy quality shells. Nothing is more frustrating than shooting a dove and watching only feathers fall to the ground while the injured bird flies off to the safety of a nearby stand of trees. For a 12 gauge shotgun, you should buy shells with at least a 1 1/8 ounce shot load. I recommend Winchester Super-X #6 or Winchester AA #8 to reliably drop doves. For a 20 gauge shotgun, a 7/8 ounce load will do the job, though a 1 ounce load or more is preferred. Again, 2 3/4″ Winchester Super-X shells loaded with an ounce of #8 shot or 3″ Winchester Super-X shells topped off with 1 1/4 ounces of #6 shot should ensure a good pattern out to 30 or 40 yards.

    For hunting them, I prefer to set up along a tree line next to a crop field. In the early morning doves move from their roosts to the fields to feed. As the morning wears on, around 9am or so, I’ll walk through the field to scare up birds that are feeding and take them on the rise. A quick break for lunch and then a move to nearby stock tanks usually nets me a few more heading over for the cool shade of a tree lined pond and a quick drink. Early afternoon hunts can be difficult, but a sharp eye and a walk through roosting areas generally nets me a few more birds as they abandon their roosts at my approach. As the sun begins to set around 5:30 in the evening, if I haven’t shot my limit yet, I’ll move back to the crop fields and take some more when they move back to feed again in the evening.

    Tropical Storm Hermine has rained out much of the early season in North Texas and parts of the Midwest, but the traditional fall weather systems are returning and the doves should soon be flying over crop fields throughout the Central Flyway. Keep your eyes on the tree line and your proper lead in front of the bird and you to can catch your limit of doves this year.

    Wednesday, September 8, 2010

    We Talk To Sheriff Jim Wilson About Remington’s New Versa Max

    When Remington calls you and asks if you’d like to go down to Argentina to test out their newest autoloading shotgun while hunting dove, there’s only one answer: Yes! Singer and gun writer Sheriff Jim Wilson got just that opportunity, and when he got back we got the chance to talk to him about his experience with Remington’s newest long gun, the 12 gauge Versa Max.

    Let’s talk about your experience in Argentina with the Versa Max, we’ve heard a lot about how soft shooting it is. Well, I thought it was very comfortable to shoot. I did not weigh the gun, but they list it as a 7.7 pound shotgun. That’s not nearly as heavy as some of the autoloaders in the past. Yet, it shot very nicely. I probably shot in the neighborhood of 2,000 rounds while I was down there.

    You really put it through it’s paces then. Did you have any issues with feeding or ejection? No, save for a time or two. I hate to say this, but the Australian shotgun shells use the dirtiest powder you’ve ever seen. The powder just burns really dirty. Late in the day I would have a couple of malfunctions, but it was not serious at all.

    One of the problems that we had was that under Argentine law, at the end of the day the guns had to be kept at the lodge or wherever. I think one of the problems was that some of the bird boys were cleaning the guns for us and they really didn’t know how to clean the ports. Once the Remington guys figured that out, well the guns worked just fine.

    The Versa Max has a pretty unique ported chamber design. What type of special attention do you need to give that when cleaning? You know, I really don’t think you would. I think with our American ammo it would just run, run, run. In those torture tests when they were first developing the gun they would just run gobs of ammo through it.

    What size shells were you using? They were 2-3/4″ shells and as best as I could tell 1-1/8 ounce loads and #7, #7.5, and some #8. We did have some of the new Remington Hypersonic 3″ ammunition down there. That’s got the new accelerator wad. Those things send a load of #2 out at 1700 feet per second. It’s pretty cool ammo, I’ll tell you that.

    I shot some of that, and gosh it was comfortable to shoot. Remington did a lot of research before they ever released this gun, and one of the specific things they wanted to work on was to have something that’s comfortable to shoot and I think they really did accomplish that. I’m not a real technician on this but I think the double recoil pistons that are used help smooth the gun up, help smooth out the recoil. The felt recoil is just not much at all.

    Tell me a bit about the ergonomics of the gun. Remington has added an adjustable comb and shims to change the length of pull. That’s one of the coolest thing about it. It’s part of the package, you don’t buy it extra. In the package when the gun comes are several combs of different heights, and you can just grab them with your fingers and pop them out, you don’t need any tools or anything. You could just literally take them out to the range while you’re shooting clay birds and switch combs out.

    The shims that go on the back for length of pull are almost as easy to change as that. The length of pull as the gun comes out of the box is 14-1/4″ and you can go to 15-1/4″. The shims would be a little harder to adjust, you have to screw them out.

    Still, I imagine it couldn’t take more than a couple of minutes to install or remove them if I had a multi-tool handy. Exactly. Speaking of that sort of thing, the action of the shotgun, when you take it apart, breaks down into five pieces. You can do all of that with your hands, there are no tools necessary. There are a couple of pins in the bolt area, once you get that far, but you take out the firing pin and you can use that to punch those pins out. That’s it. You can disassemble the gun into five major parts with no tools.

    Now, when I’m duck hunting or goose hunting, the weather can get pretty bad. How does the Versa Max hold up? When you’re duck hunting, if it’s sleeting or raining on you or something like that, the gun is just going to get absolutely wet. It snowed on us the first day we were down in Argentina. It snowed all afternoon, and the birds were flying great. It would have been a terrible day to be out working, but it wasn’t bad to go hunting.

    I’m not sure the weather is ever quite bad enough to call off a hunting trip. Still, the ice and rain didn’t affect the Versa Max did it? No, and that’s what I was saying about how easy it is to take down the action. If you’re in a duck blind and you’re getting wet all day, you can go in in just a few minutes and strip that action down, wipe it off and lubricate it. You don’t need any special tools. You don’t even need a screwdriver to do that.

    Was it picky about lubrication at all? No, it’s not. All the internal parts are nickel-teflon coated. It really doesn’t take a lot of lubrication.

    Is that the same as Remington’s TriNyte coating? No, that’s a separate coating. The barrel is TriNyte coated, but all the internal parts are nickel-teflon coated. The TriNyte is similar to what I would call a baked-on finish.

    The waterfowl model is also completely camo’d including the barrel. I didn’t hunt with one, but there were several down there that I got to handle.

    Did you have the opportunity to try shooting any skeet or trap with the gun? No, but I think that’s where the “Versa” comes into the name is it’s versatility. I think for dove, pheasant, quail, ducks, geese, turkey, I think the gun will work for all of those, and certainly for skeet and trap.

    In January they’ll come out with the 26″ barrel model which some people prefer for skeet. I don’t happen to, my biggest problem in shotgunning is stopping my swing, so I prefer at least a 28″ barrel. When I get tired, that’s the mistake I make is stop my swing. When I start missing targets, I guarantee you I’m shooting behind them.

    What are the sights like on the Versa Max? It’s got a Hi-Viz front sight. The one that was on my gun was a lime green, which worked just fine. I think that you can also change it to what ever color you prefer.

    Did you get to use the Hi-Viz under any low-light shooting conditions? You know, just late in the afternoon a couple of times, but not real low light. Of course I do my best to focus on the bird and not even look at the shotgun. Generally when I look at the shotgun I miss.

    As I mentioned in the article I wrote on the American Hunter blog, it shot where I looked.

    That’s really important, having an instinctive shotgun. You can really see how much effort Remington put into designing the ergonomics of the gun to be adjustable for just about every shooter and every situation. Being able to shoulder it naturally is incredibly important. Well exactly, I stand about 5′10 and weigh about 170 pounds. The shotgun that fits me is not going to fit some guy that’s 6′5″ and 250. The beauty of that Versa Max is that with the shims and the combs and all of that he can make it fit him.

    You’re saying you could essentially order this gun, sight unseen, from our online firearm sales, and be able to adjust it to fit you perfectly? Absolutely, because everything is in there. I didn’t mention this yet, but once you take the comb out, you can see down into a compartment in the buttstock and there’s a metal plate in there. The instruction manual tells you how to adjust that metal plate and it changes the drop at heel and it changes the cast. You can make it cast off or cast on. You just buy the gun, and everything is in there that’s necessary that you need to fit the gun to yourself personally.

    Here’s another point too: You get the gun fit to yourself, but now next week you’re going to be hunting doves in a T-shirt, while come January you’ll be hunting ducks in everything you own. That’s when you get your shims out and lengthen it or shorten it as you need it.

    I can’t wait to get my hands on one, I don’t mind saying I’m a bit jealous that you got to try one out. I certainly enjoyed it and I think it’s a great shotgun. You can tell that these guys at Remington have spent a lot of time and put a lot of thought into this.

    Click here to purchase your own Remington Versa Max.

    Tuesday, September 7, 2010

    September is National Preparedness Month

    Here in Texas, we’re hunkered down while Tropical Storm Hermine brings torrential rains and high winds to much of the state. It’s not really a coincidence that September was chosen as National Preparedness month since it comes right near the peak of Hurricane Season.

    Gulf coast and eastern seaboard residents should already be prepared for the inevitable hurricane strike. Following Katrina and Ike, there has been a resurgence of awareness about the need to have a minimum of 3 days food and water for each individual in your home, along with batteries for flashlights and radios or a generator to provide power while electrical lines are restrung.

    Led by the Ready Campaign, National Preparedness month is held each September to help spread awareness of the need to take simple steps to prepare for an emergency that could affect local communities.

    What Is National Preparedness Month?

    National Preparedness Month (NPM) is sponsored by the Ready Campaign in partnership with Citizen Corps and the Advertising Council. NPM is held each September to encourage Americans to take simple steps to prepare for emergencies in their homes, businesses, and communities. September 2010 is the seventh annual NPM. This year will focus on encouraging Americans to work together to take concrete actions toward emergency preparedness. We are encouraging all Americans to join the readiness team and truly help themselves, their neighbors, and their communities be Ready.

    • NPM Coalition membership is open to all public and private sector organizations. Groups can register to become an NPM Coalition Member by visiting ready.gov and clicking on the NPM banner.

    • In 2009, nearly 2,700 organizations joined the Ready Campaign in promoting the readiness message across the country in homes, schools, businesses, and communities to highlight the importance of individual and community public emergency preparedness throughout September.

    • During NPM, Coalition Members share preparedness information with their members, customers, employees, and communities. Members spearhead activities that encourage specific steps for individual, neighborhood, and community preparedness.

    • Throughout the year, the Ready Campaign promotes individual emergency preparedness. Ready is a national public service advertising (PSA) campaign, produced in partnership with The Advertising Council, to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to emergencies, including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks.

    • The Campaign’s Web sites (ready.gov and listo.gov) and toll-free numbers (1-800-BE-READY, TTY 1-800-462-7585, and 1-888-SE-LISTO) provide Americans with free emergency preparedness information.

    • Citizen Corps is FEMA’s grassroots strategy to bring together government and community leaders to involve citizens in all-hazards emergency preparedness and resilience. Local Citizen Corps Councils enable collaborative planning between government and civic leaders and provide localized support for: outreach and educational efforts to the public; training and exercises that effectively integrate all sectors of the community; and volunteer programs that augment the full range of emergency response services. For more information about Citizen Corps, visit http://www.citizencorps.gov/.

    Preparing for a disaster is not difficult. With a little bit of planning and a minimal investment into some rudimentary supplies and equipment, you’ll be ahead of the game when disaster strikes.

    The Canned Food Alliance says that the minimum amount of food you need is two cans of food per person, per day and one gallon of water per person per day. Dr. Judy Harrison and Dr. Elizabeth L. Andress, in “Preparing an Emergency Food Supply: Long Term Food Storage” write that we need to eat at lease one balanced meal a day. There are many resources on the web that will help you decide how many pounds of essential bulk items you will need per person for a year.

    Your food supply should consist of non-perishable food items, pre-made complete meal boxed foods, canned goods, rice, beans, whole grains, flour, salt, seasonings, peanut butter, nuts, evaporated milk, sugar and storable fats, such as olive oil and vegetable oils is a good place to start. Choose a variety of foods and pick ones that you and your family already like. You would be surprised at all the different varieties of rice, beans and noodles you can find.

    You will need to store plenty of water, too, not only for drinking, but for cooking, washing, food prep, dish washing, laundry, teeth cleaning and other wash-up needs. Tap water is fine to use for long-term storage. 14 gallons of water per person will give you a two-week supply, or another suggestion is to buy 55 gallon plastic food-grade water drums. You may also purchase commercially-bottled water. If you go this route, make sure you use the water by its use-by-date. A cheap way of storing water is reusing 2 liter plastic soda bottles. Once you are done with the soda, give the bottle a good cleaning and sanitizing and fill with tap water. Tap water will need to be disinfected using household bleach, a water purification tablet or a water filtration system. You can also get water from your hot water heater or the toilet tank. Replace your stored water every six months. For more details on water purification, please see our articles on preparedness and water purification.

    First Aid
    For any household, a first aid kit is a must. If you do not already have one, you can build your own first aid kit or purchase pre-assembled kits such as the STOMP Portable Hospital Extensive and Intensive Medic Care kit. Inspect your first aid kit yearly and discard and replace any old, damaged, used, or expired items in the kit.

    Don’t forget to include in the kit a supply of any prescription medications taken in your household, as well as materials to care for a sick or injured pet. If you have infants or pets, you may need to make sure that you have a supply of formula and diapers, or a stockpile of pet kibble for Fido. If possible, generate at least a 30-60 day supply of medicine over and above what you usually have on hand. This is especially important for critical prescription medicines such as insulin or heart medication. Most doctors will be willing to write a larger prescription, especially prior to hurricane or storm season, if you explain to them that you want to have a 60-day supply that you can rotate through. Your prescription insurance may not cover a large purchase like that, but it is well worth the money spent. Once your supply is established, continue to rotate new prescriptions through the supply using the oldest dated medicine first. Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, burn ointments, and instant glucose are all examples of over-the-counter medications that should be considered for inclusion in your first aid kit. Over-the-counter Benadryl and an EpiPen can also be considered for inclusion in any first aid kit. These can be used to quickly arrest what might otherwise be a fatal allergic reaction.

    It is important to address how waterproof your first aid kit is. If the bag itself isn’t waterproof, the individual containers in it should be. In an emergency situation, the bag may be exposed to adverse weather or moisture, and that can ruin many of the items inside if they are not properly protected.

    Much of what we consider hallmarks of a modern society are predicated upon the cheap abundance of electrical energy. But what happens when that electricity is no longer available? Many of us have been without power for a few minutes or hours. We’ve huddled around a battery-powered radio or played Monopoly by candlelight while we waited for a storm to abate and the power to be restored. Yet sometimes, it can take days or weeks for a power grid to be brought back online. Hurricane Katrina and Ike are two examples where the power was not restored to some areas for more than a month. Without electricity, refrigerators and freezers begin to defrost in a couple of days. Food that once may have been available is now rotten. Most gasoline pumps are non-functional without power, making fuel shortages a distinct possibility. Without air-conditioning the heat can become unbearable and even deadly.

    Generators are one solution to an extended power loss, but if you have a generator you must also have a fuel supply for it. Stored gasoline and diesel fuel can go bad in less than a year if left untreated. There are numerous products such as Sta-Bil for gasoline and PRI-D for diesel. Such products can extend fuel shelf life anywhere from 5-10 years depending on storage conditions. Other fuels such as propane and natural gas do not go bad, but can be more difficult to store. Propane and natural gas-fired generators are available too, but are usually larger, not easily portable, and meant for use as a standby generator.

    Other solutions for power generation such as photovoltaics or windmills can be expensive and inefficient. In addition, such installations may not be permitted in urban areas. Cities often have maximum height limits on structures, and winds closer to the ground are weaker. Home owners associations also have strict rules that often prohibit wind generators or solar panels.

    Flashlights, candles, and a battery-powered radio are just the beginning of a power-loss kit. Food preparation is something else to consider. Without electricity, microwaves and electric ranges will not work. In some situations, natural gas may not be available to run a gas stove or oven. Barbeque grills are one option for cooking food, but they can only be used outside, and can require copious amounts of fuel to be used for extended periods of time. Propane ranges, Sterno kits, and white-gas camp stoves are a better alternative. These systems use fuel that is safe, easily portable, and very efficient at generating heat.

    Personal Safety Hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes aren’t the only threats that people should prepare for: terrorist attacks are still a threat to the safety of Americans. Owning and learning to use a concealed handgun can provide personal defense wherever you are. Most states issue concealed carry licenses to any law-abiding gun owner. Check your local laws for more information.

    Mossberg offers a “Just In Case shotgun combo that comes in a waterproof tube with a green cover. This design is more suited for a wilderness survival scenario, but could easily be adapted and customized for home defense. The shotgun has matte black finished furniture, blued steel, and synthetic pistol grip stock. Mossberg includes a “Survival Kit in a Can”, manufactured by Coghlan’s of Canada with the shotgun. This rudimentary survival kit includes matches, basic first aid supplies, emergency rations, a basic fishing kit, along with various other useful items such as a razor, duct tape, and safety pins.

    Have A Plan
    The most important part in being prepared is to have a plan for every situation. This may be as simple as thinking through various “what if” scenarios in your head (what if I lose my wallet or have a flat tire?), to something as elaborate as having a written escape plan and bug out bag in the case of a house fire. Have a family meeting to discuss the plans you make. Other family members may have ideas or concerns about your plans. Make sure that everyone in your household knows what the plans are for each situation, and share your plans with other friends and family so that they know where you are and what you will be doing in an emergency.