Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Do I Need an AR-15?

The Enhanced MAC-15 by MA Custom Guns

I had been mulling it over since last summer. Do I need an AR-15? I certainly wanted one, but why? Everyone has different reasons why they want/need an AR-15 rifle. The reasons range from:

Versatility – Home defense, competition, hunting, recreational target shooting

Adaptability – An AR-15 with a 5.56 lower receiver can be used for 15 different calibers by only changing the upper receiver. By changing the upper receiver and the bolt carrier group, that same lower will work for about 26 more calibers.
Reliability – This is a source of contention for many folks, but there are videos proving a properly maintained and lubricated AR-15 is just as, if not slightly more reliable than an AK.
Disaster defense – For when the fecal matter impacts the reciprocating oscillator. Whether it’s a complete and total collapse of the US government, or the four horsemen of the apocalypse, you want a reliable and accurate rifle to defend you and yours.
Competition – 3 gun competitions are becoming more popular across the country. You could try to use a Ruger Mini-14 or an AK, but they aren't as accurate at longer ranges as the AR.
Hunting – Since the AR-15 can be converted to so many different calibers, it’s ideal for hunting a wide variety of game. People use the AR platform for hunting varmints like ground hogs and coyotes all the way up to hogs, deer, and dangerous predators.
Plinking – Whether or not you convert an AR from a centerfire caliber down to .22LR, they are still fun to just spend time at the range plinking.
So here is the basis for your justification to buy an AR-15. You’ll have to figure out the details of the story if you need to clear it with the boss. Some would say now is the time to buy before another Assault Weapons Ban is enacted. Some say that’s not going to happen. You’ll have to decide that for yourselves.
I bought mine with the hopes of getting into 3 gun competitions, for plinking, and for home defense. I knew they weren't getting any cheaper, so this past spring, I took the plunge. I found a model with the features I wanted and a dealer that backed his product. I could have tried to dicker with him, but if I don’t have any problems with the product; or if I do, I don’t have to worry about his warranty; it was worth the extra money in my opinion.
Be safe.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Assault Weapon KoolAid

All of you reading this that already know the difference between an assault rifle and a semi-automatic rifle; I think this video might help you explain it to your friends, family, and coworkers that don’t know the difference. For those of you that don’t, or think you do, but aren’t sure, please watch this video all the way through. The press and the government have been demonizing the weapons instead of the shooters for far too long.

To hear someone call an AR-15 or an AK-47 assault rifles makes my skin crawl as bad as someone calling a magazine a “clip”. There is a difference. Please learn it. I own an AR-15. It’s a gas operated semi-automatic rifle. It goes bang one time for every time I pull the trigger. Mine is not a select fire weapon that can be fired either in semi-automatic or fully automatic mode. I don’t even know anyone that owns one of these.

Lastly, before the video, AR is not an acronym for Assault Rifle. It’s the designation given to it by its creator ArmaLite, Inc. It's short for ARmaLite.

Be safe.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

UPDATED Product Review - Gunshack G3 Flashlight


Just a quick post to update you on the G3 flashlight I reviewed a short while back. I had high hopes of taking this light to the range next weekend, but before I can go to the range I've got honey do's to get done this weekend.

I'm replacing my bypass closet doors. Unfortunately, I have to attach the hardware to the door with the rollers on the track. (I'd like to get my hands on the person that built this house.) While trying to set the last door on the hall closet, I needed some light to fasten the door to the hardware since there is no light in this one closet. I grabbed the G3 since it's small and would be easier to handle than a 3 cell Maglight. This is when the trouble and cussing started.

With the G3 in my left hand and the cordless screwdriver in my right, I set to the task of attaching the door to the rollers. On the second of 6 screws, the light decides to blink out. I give it a shake, and it's back. Cool. I go back to getting screw #2 tightened up and the light blinks out again. Shake shake. Nothing. A gentle tap on the door and it's back, but on low. Click click, and she's back on high. This goes on through screws #2 and 3. Off and on and high to low beam whenever the light sees fit. By then I'm good and pissed. G3 is now embossed in several places on the trim inside that closet. I finally throw it our of the closet and grabbed my Maglight. (Anger management is not my forte.)

As I'm finishing up final adjustments and clean up, the G3, now laying on the hallway floor, decides to come on all by itself. A minute later it was back off and two minutes after that it was on yet again, all without any help from me or the dog.

It's now in the bottom of my kitchen garbage. I had high hopes for this light, but in the back of my mind I knew I would get what I paid for. So now I'll put my swim trunks on and prepare to take that dip into the $100+ weapon light pool.

Be safe.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Christmas Gift Ideas for Your Favorite Shooter


Okay, I refused to post anything about Christmas before this week. The stores are bad enough breaking out the Christmas stuff before Halloween. But as we approach Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s time to get some Christmas gift ideas for your favorite shooter out there for everyone to ponder.

If you’re one to get out in the crowds and shop the stores, you can shop at the local gun shops, or you can hit places like Wally World, Bass Pro Shops, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Academy Sports. There are lots of other stores, but you get the idea. The firearms industry is booming right now and retailers want a piece of the action.
If you don’t like fighting the crowds, there are plenty of places online to shop for your favorite shooter. And for those looking to drop some hints, some websites allow you to create a wishlist that you can email to all your friends and family. 
It helps if you know a little about the person you’re buying for, especially when it’s a shooter. It helps to know what kind of guns they have, their calibers, which ones they shoot and don’t shoot, and other gear they have or don’t have.
Here are some ideas that any shooter would be happy to get:
Ammo in his or her favorite flavor – Whether it’s personal defense ammo, or just something to take to the range and plink with, we love to shoot and we always need more. Depending on caliber and quantity, you can spend anywhere from $3 and up.

Everyone needs ammo. Lots and lots of ammo.
Gun magazine subscriptions – Check your local newsstand. There are magazines geared towards pistol, shotgun, and rifle shooters as well as just shooting in general. These tide us over between range visits. If you’re all about green, you can even get them as electronic subscriptions. These can run from about $12 to $25 a year.
Gun organization memberships – These are relatively inexpensive ways to get your shooter involved in preserving the sport and even their freedoms. Some organizations to consider are the National Rifle Association (NRA), my favorite Georgia Carry (GCO), and The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF). For competitive shooters or those like me that aspire to be, there is the US Practical Shooting Association (USPSA), International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA), and for you Glock fans there is the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF). There are dozens out there to choose from. Memberships can range from $15 to $50 a year.

Various shooting organization and range membership cards
Range membership – These are more pricey, but we will get good use out of them. Memberships can range anywhere from $100 a year and up depending on the benefits. I once belonged to an indoor range that gave members head of the line privileges for lane use, 10% off anything but guns in the store, and no range fee for lane use. That was a $200 membership and I got that back in less than 6 months. If your shooter frequents a specific range, chances are they will love a membership there (if they’re offered).
Guns – This is a very risky area to get into as far as gift giving. Guns are very personal. We all have different tastes when it comes to guns. What feels good to me, may not feel good to you, so if you’re looking to get someone a gun, you need to fall back to the extreme basics, like .22 rifles or you have to know exactly what someone already wants. You can spend anywhere from $100 on up.
Targets – With all this shooting, we need to be shooting at something, whether it is paper targets or steel. Commercial outdoor ranges usually restrict targets to paper or steel, i.e. no glass bottles or cans. Clay targets are great for everyone. They can be thrown for the shotgunners, or mounted on holders down range for plinkers. Stationary steel targets are nice at outdoor ranges because they don’t have to be reset. On a busy range, nobody likes for the line to go cold too often, so steel is great for this. Paper targets are good for indoor or outdoor ranges. There are hundreds of different kinds to choose from ranging from bullseyes to zombies. Targets can range from $0.50 a piece for paper to $300-400 for some steel targets. If you’re buying steel targets, make sure you buy for the appropriate caliber. Some are designed for .22 rimfire only. Shooting them with a .308 or even a .223 rifle will end your fun real fast.
TacStrike 1/4 size steel targets
(Photo courtesy of TacStrike Steel Target Systems - www.tacstrike.com)
DVD’s – There are tons of training DVD’s out there for various topics, including safety, marksmanship, personal defense, hunting, and even gunsmithing. These can range in price from $15 to $50 each, and more for box sets.
Gift possibilities for shooters are endless. Learn what your shooter likes and does, then go beat the street or surf the web for that ideal gift. Don’t be surprised if the gift is out of stock and has to be backordered. The firearms market is booming right now and everyone is buying. If you can only get your item by having it backordered, you might want to give your shooter a raincheck. If that’s not an option for you, keep searching and don’t lose hope. 

And when all else fails, there is always gift certificates. Many websites have them, including TacStrike (shameless plug in hopes someone will buy me one of these).

Happy hunting and be safe.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Product Review – Offset Tactical Weapon Mount for 1 Inch Flashlights






I’ve got another product review for you, folks. This time it’s an Offset Tactical Weapon Mount for one inch flashlights. If you read my last post you would know that I love a good bargain, and also the fact that I bought a flashlight, but didn’t have a way to mount it on my AR-15. Well, Eric at the Gunmart Blog must be looking out for me, because I think it was the day before he posted a Deal Alert for this offset light mount. The Alert was for an Amazon seller named Performance Outdoor Gear. The mount sold for $1.90 and shipping was $4.99. Other light mounts I saw on the internet were running anywhere from $17 to $62, so even at $7, this was a steal.

Once again, it was another plain white box with a sticker on the outside saying “Made in China”, so I didn’t have great expectations. Out of the box, I find that all of the parts are there, and it included the allen wrench and a spare clamping screw. The spare screw is a good thing if you’re tinkering with the mount while kicked back in your recliner and you keep dropping the ones you’re removing to install the flashlight. (Moving to the table now.)

Workmanship, fit and finish are very good.

All the parts fit together well. There are no sharp edges, burrs, or sticking threads. The mount fit just fine on the main shaft of the G3 flashlight. If I planned to leave the light in the mount and on the rifle, I would add just a dot of blue Loctite thread locking compound to make sure the clamp doesn’t come loose from repeated firing.

The finish of the mount looks really good. There are no scratches or chipping around the edges. There are thin strips of tape on the inside diameter of the clamping surfaces to give the mount some grip.

Close up mounted
The mount fit like a champ onto the Gun Shack G3 flashlight. I had to remove the pocket clip to install the mount, but that’s fine. It wouldn’t even hurt my feelings if the clip were to become lost. Mounting to a Picatinny rail was a snap. Once attached and snugged down, there was no wiggle of the mount or light. With the offset down and using a vertical foregrip, the light would be in the perfect position to activate the tail cap button. If you have an angled foregrip like I do, turn the offset up for the perfect placement.

Mounted above the side rail level for use with an angled foregrip.
Mounted below the side rail level for use with a vertical foregrip.
(Don't laugh at my improvised foregrip. You get the idea.)
Overall, I think this is a very good mount regardless of the price or packaging. I wish I could put a definite manufacturer’s name to it, but I’ve not seen one anywhere in the paperwork or online. I’ll give it 4-1/2 stars. I would give it 5 stars if it were made in the USA.

If you have questions, shoot me a comment.

Be safe.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Product Review – Gun Shack G3 Flashlight

The Gun Shack G3 Flashlight with the CR123 adapter and pressure switch tail cap adapter
A few of weeks ago I got an email alert from GearHog for the Gun Shack G3 flashlight for $35; a 50% savings.  I’d been toying with the idea of getting a light for my AR, but didn’t want to jump into the $100+ light pool just yet. Well, when I saw this one for $35, I figured I’d try it on for size. If it didn't suit my purpose, it would become a truck light or a handy light for going to find the dog outside when it’s dark. The light is rated at 140 lumens running off three AAA batteries, and will last an hour. For more staying power, you can switch it over to use two CR123’s and get 160 lumens for 2 hours.

Proper Battery Pack Orientation - This isn't explained well at all in the instructions.
I wasn't really impressed when it arrived in three small plain white boxes, but okay, cheaper packaging means less money out of my pocket, right? I’m all about saving money where I can, so I can live with that. Once inside the boxes, everything was in good condition. The machining and knurling of the aluminum pieces didn't look or feel cheap. It afforded a good grip on the light. All the parts fit together without any problems. All the joints have lubricated o-rings to maintain water tight integrity. I've not seen any data on the water resistance of this light. Since I have to buy my own products, I wasn't about to stick this in the tub, or dunk it into the local swimming pool to test the watertight integrity. We’ll see how it holds up to rain in the future. If it fails, I’ll let you know but I seriously doubt it will.

The light has three modes of operation (high, low, and strobe). All three modes work whether you’re using the tail cap button or the remote pressure switch. I found switching modes very difficult with the tail cap button and worse with the remote pressure switch. It’s supposed to only take a quick tap on the tail cap button to switch from high to strobe, and another quick tap to go from strobe to low. It usually takes me an average of 5 or 6 tries before I can get it off high. Changing modes using the pressure switch takes more time and a lot of finesse. Once the light is on high, you have to just press the switch enough to barely get it to engage and then try to ride that edge between off and on.

I was a little disappointed that the beam couldn't be focused, but after testing the light in a dark hallway and in my backyard at night, I was okay with the beam-spread and pattern. From twenty feet away, you have a cone of light 18 feet wide. In the center is a bright spot about 2-1/2 feet in diameter. Outside at night, I have no problem lighting the fence 30 yards away from my back deck. If anyone is in that area of light, they will be easily identifiable.



The bezel, though not adjustable, makes a formidable weapon in itself.

The removable pocket clip is nice. It provides a firm grip for keeping the light in your pants pocket. I tried to hook it on the outside of my belt and I wouldn't recommend that. First, it’s not well suited for clipping to thicker items. The curve on the leading edge of the clip is too shallow for thicker belts like my A&G Custom Gunleather belt. It works great on denim jeans pockets and shirt pockets. I do wish the clip was reversible so I could carry the light bezel down. I didn't like clipping the light to the outside of a belt or pants pocket. The light is a little too bulky for that in my opinion. Although the clip is pretty strong, it just felt like it wouldn't take much to cause it to pop off whatever you had it clipped on to.




Until the funds come through for a light mount, or Santa drops one down the chimney, this will just be a general purpose light. I've used it around work, and it does just fine in an industrial environment. It’s been dropped a couple of times onto the concrete floor at work and no issues.
Overall, I’d say it’s a good light for the money. I’d rate it a 4 out of 5. It would get a 5 if the modes switched more easily and more reliably.
Be safe.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Training Review – Practical Pistol I

I’ve been shooting USPSA on a somewhat regular basis for almost 2 years now. I started because I wanted to learn to shoot on the move, to better prepare for any potential self-defense scenario. I thought shooting IDPA or USPSA would be a good way to get used to shooting on the move, rather than just standing still behind a firing line shooting at stationary targets, and it has been a very good learning tool. I knew this wasn’t going to be enough, so I’ve been looking for formal training. I wanted to start with the basics like grip, stance, drawing from a holster, and reloading, but I wanted a class that was going to help me improve in self-defense and USPSA as well.

What I found was Accelerated Shooting Performance’s Practical Pistol I class, run by Todd Kennedy.  I met Todd at our local matches several months back. He was my RO for a couple of stages and he was nice enough to critique me when the stages were over. He told me what I did right, what I did wrong, and how to correct the mistakes. He impressed me with both what he knew and how he got it across to me in an easy to understand way. Several other shooters had taken his classes and they all spoke highly of him and the classes, so I signed up for Practical Pistol I.
The class started with a typical safety brief explaining the 180, keeping weapons pointed down range, holstering hot, and the safe area. Then Todd explained the first aid kit. This is when the cold reality of the dangers of handling firearms set in; when Todd explained how to use the tourniquet. I remember thinking to myself, “I hope like Hell he’s not the only one trained in treating gunshot wounds. If he is, I hope he doesn’t end up getting shot.”
Everything in this class is about improving your shooting skills and making you a more efficient (and hence faster) shooter. All the little things you do to shave 1/100 of a second here and there can help you move that much closer to winning a match. All drills are timed, and as we worked thru those drills, the times got shorter. Before this class, if you had told me I could draw and get my first shot on target in less than 2 seconds, I would have laughed at you. Now I’m trying to push myself to get an even faster time.
Todd put individual attention into everyone’s grip. We all got our thumbs marked while in a good grip and referred to those marks numerous times throughout the day. But standing at a line, holding a pistol, and adjusting your grip to get it right is not how it’s really done during a match. We (hopefully) draw into that perfect grip and extend into the target. We learned to bring the front sight up and into the target as we’re extending, and then at almost full extension, slide the rear sight up under the front sight and take the shot.
This is where I had the most trouble. When that front sight gets into the A zone, take up the slack in your trigger so that when the rear sight comes into alignment you can squeeze that last little bit to break the shot. What most of us were doing was slowly taking out that slack, and when we met resistance from the trigger, we’d snatch on the trigger when our sights lined up. Hence, a pulled shot hitting low. I think everyone in the class would agree that they need to continue practicing this.
I always knew that to get the fastest follow up shot, you needed to watch the front sight come back onto the target. I don’t know if I ever did see this or not in a match or in practice. What I didn’t know, or think about really, was in order to see the front sight come back you had to see it lift first. We worked hard on watching the front sight lift. In the beginning, I don’t think I saw it lift 10% of the time, but when I concentrated on watching it, my accuracy went way up, including on follow up shots.
Next we worked on reloads. I always knew my reloads sucked, but this just confirmed it. Who knew that the whole problem with my reloads was just in how I grabbed the mags off my belt? A simple turn of the wrist inward corrected most of my problem. Shallower magazine holders will help as well. They will allow you to get a deep enough grip on the mag so that the baseplate is on the heel of your hand. If the baseplate isn’t on the heel of your hand, it makes seating a magazine much more difficult, especially if you aren’t at slide lock and you’re trying to seat a fully loaded magazine.
We briefly touched on starting from a position of surrender (hands above your shoulders). The trick to this is elbows in tight to your sides, and hands touching your earmuffs. Your hands only need to be above your shoulders. This keeps the distance your hands have to travel to draw to a minimum, making for a faster draw. Now let’s try it from facing up range. This is the scary part. We practiced this unloaded, but in a match, doing this wrong could put you on the sidelines watching your buddies shoot while your gun is in the trunk of the car. The key is turning your head and hips toward your strong side and then pivoting into your shooting stance BEFORE drawing.
The last thing we covered was target transitions. Here is where smooth and steady wins the race. With two targets side by side, we’ve all seen the guys shoot them with two fast shots, a pause, and two more fast shots. How many of us ever stopped and did the math on the times though? We did this and timed it. Two quick shots with a 0.3 second spacing, a 0.6 second transition to the next target, and another 0.3 seconds to the final shot and you’ve got 1.2 seconds for 4 shots. Now take the same two targets, and keep a cadence between shots (seeing the second target ahead of the sights as you transition), and you get a 0.9 second time for 4 shots. Three tenths of a second doesn’t sound like a lot, but multiply that by the number of target pairs in a stage and you’re shaving time off your stage and possibly beating out that other guy.
We finished our day with a little fun on a plate rack. We had two competitions. The first was fastest time to shot the plates in the order of 1, 3, 5, 2, 4, 6. I didn’t win this round (I wasn’t watching the front sight lift, so I was missing too much.) Ethan, our 13 year old student, won this round with a time around 8.3 seconds.  Winner, winner, no chicken dinner. Instead he won a box of .223 ammo. The second round was just a straight 1 thru 6 order on the plate rack. Ethan had trouble this round, but Dan smoked the rack with a 7.8 second time. I did much better after the second plate when Todd started telling me to watch the sight lift. I ended up with an 8.7 second time. I didn’t win, but I was pleased with my performance that time.
Overall, a great class, and a great instructor. Here is his bio…
Todd Kennedy – Accelerated Shooting Performance, Brunswick, GA
Todd is a twenty year law enforcement veteran with fifteen years’ experience as a federal law enforcement firearms instructor. He has worked for several federal agencies, to include the United States Secret Service, as a Special Agent and Divisional Firearms Instructor Coordinator, and is currently assigned as the Firearms Training Manager and Firearms Instructor at The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, ATF National Academy. Todd routinely trains with world class champions to include World and multi-time National Champion David Sevigny, Bob Vogel, Daniel Horner, Taran Butler, Travis Tomasie, Manny Bragg, Ernest Langdon and Scott Warren. He is a member of the United States Practical Shooting Association where he holds a “Grand Master” card in Production and “Master” cards is Limited and Limited-10. Todd also holds a Master card in the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA). He was the 2009 USPSA Virginia/Maryland Sectional Production Champion, the 2009 USPSA Area 6 Limited-10 Champion, Second High Overall 2009 Area 7 and Area 8 Limited-10 Championships and Second Overall (First Master) at the 2009 USPSA Florida State Production Championship. He finished with Top 16 Honors at the 2009 USPSA Limited-10 Handgun National Championships finishing 14th overall. In 2011, he took 3rd High Overall Limited at the Alabama State USPSA Championship, 2nd High Overall Limited at the SC State USPSA Championship and 2nd High Overall Limited at the Virginia/Maryland USPSA Sectional Championship shooting a Glock 35 at all three matches with High Overall Law Enforcement Awards.
Todd runs classes when he gets enough interest and time in his busy schedule. I’d like to say thanks to him for his class as well as for what he does for our country. If anyone is interested in attending one of Todd’s classes, drop me a line for contact information.
Be safe.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

September 2012 CAPS USPSA Match

I was really looking forward to the September USPSA match put on by Coastal Area Practical Shooters. I didn’t shoot last month’s match since I was out of town, so I was excited to get back between the berms. The weather was going to be almost ideal. There were lots of new faces this month and lots of familiar old ones as well.

Set up went well, but it went down to the wire because we didn’t have quite enough help. We had five stages in all, and one of those was a speed shoot. Official round count was 117 for a total of 585 points. We had 32 shooters come out. Production and Limited divisions bore the brunt of the shooters with 13 and 11 respectively.

I usually learn something during a match, and this month was no exception. On stages 3 and 4 the mystical palms were nice enough to choose me to be the first shooter. I’ve never shot first before and wasn’t sure I liked it. On stage 3, one of the RO’s offered to put me further down the list, but I sucked it up and took the lead. After all, somebody has to shoot first.

Here is where I learned a valuable lesson. Before doing a walk-through of a stage with barriers of any kind, walk around the barriers and see if there is anything hidden behind them. I completely missed one target on stage 3 because I didn’t see it in my walk through. When I thought I was done shooting, I thought it was strange that the RO was still back a few feet like I was going to run to the other end of the wall we had to shoot around. I needed to go down to the other end of that wall, because there was a target behind a stack of barrels that I could only see from that end of the wall. Since I never knew it was there, I never saw a need to go to the right end of the wall during my walk-through. That cost me 2 misses and one procedural.

Stage 4 was worse. No hidden targets on this stage, but we did have to engage 6 targets from 2 different ports in a hard cover wall. It should have been a piece of cake. Moving left to right, just shoot them as you see them, 1,2,3, move to the next port and 1,2,3. The targets were set up as a pair with a single about 3 feet to the side of the pair. Well, when I got to that point of the stage, I shot the pair in the first port and jumped over to the next port. There I shot the pair and jumped over to the right to engage the last target on the far right end (not the one behind the wall to the side of the pair I’d just shot). Chalk up 4 more misses and 2 more procedurals.

These mistakes cost me dearly. They meant the difference between 12th place and 8th place in the Production division. I’m a little disappointed in the mistakes, but to be honest, I’m okay with it because I had a good time.

So let this be a lesson to everyone out there. Learn from my mistakes.

Be safe.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?


Where were you that fateful day? Like millions of others, I was at work. A day like any other day.

I was going by our Receipt Inspection area when Rodney told me a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. He heard it on the radio. We didn't have TV's at Jered back then. The first thing I thought of was some little private plane had crashed into one of the buildings, probably due to low visibility from rain or fog. Rodney told me he thought they said it was a bigger plane. As we talked it over, unconfirmed reports were coming in that another plane had hit the other building. Rodney and I had the same cold chill. Now we knew this wasn't an accident. Then came the Pentagon and Flight 93.

The rest of the day, I would listen to radios around the shop as I stopped in to do one inspection after another, picking up tidbits of information. The most intriguing part was to hear the government grounded all flights and that planes were directed to the nearest airport. The coordination of this must have been astounding. Living and working in the south on the coast, we see our fair share of air traffic overhead. The contrails are always noticeable here, except for that day and the days following the attacks. It was almost scarey when you did see one, because you knew it was military jets.

I didn't get to see any news coverage until that evening when I got home from work. I tuned in to CNN and stared in disbelief for a couple of hours. When I was numb enough, I turned it off. Later on, before dark, I can remember standing outside with my wife at the time, looking up at nothing, and reflecting on the events of the day.

I remember hanging onto every word of the news over the next couple of weeks, looking for anything new. I remember feeling closer to my neighbors and fellow Americans.

Today, the eleventh anniversary of the attacks, I still remember those feelings. Don't ever forget the thousands that died that day, or the thousands that have died since. Don't ever forget the brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, the fathers, mothers, and children either lost or left behind.

Be safe.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Choosing a Gunsmith

Photo Courtesy of MA Customs Firearms and Ammunition, Jesup, GA
Some say choosing a gunsmith is like a woman picking a hairdresser. Some say it’s like choosing an auto mechanic. I say it’s like picking a doctor. If you’ve got a cold, you go see your general practitioner, but if you’re having chest pains, you don’t go to a proctologist.

There are gunsmiths out there that are good all-around smiths, and there are smiths out there that are better at rifles or shotguns than pistols, or better at 1911’s than revolvers or better with S&W’s than Glocks. Just like finding that doctor, you have to find the right gunsmith.

To find potential gunsmiths, ask around at gun stores and ranges, check the yellow pages, or do a Google search on the web. If you’re looking for a smith to work on your Remington 700 before deer season, you could also ask around at high power rifle competitions. The same stands true with pistols. Who knows, you may get lucky and one of the competitors might be a smith.

Once you’ve found a candidate, interview them. Find out how long have they been a gunsmith; what is their specialty; what shooting experience do they have; can they provide references? You should also ask them what they will charge to do the work you want done, have they ever done this particular job before, and how long it will take. Good gunsmiths usually have a healthy backlog of work, so don’t be in too big of a hurry. Also ask if they have any kind of warranty on their work? If you don’t like the answers or you’re getting bad vibes, don’t feel bad about walking away.

I took my M&P in to the smith at the local range, mostly because he was convenient, and partially because I didn’t know better. I felt pretty sure I wanted just to have an Apex kit installed to lighten up the trigger pull. He convinced me that he could manually work the trigger to reduce the pull. I was a little reluctant since I was sure the Apex would be fine, but he seemed competent and this would save me about $70. So I went ahead with his plan. I had the gun back in 3 days and the pull was a lot better.

Five months and exactly 700 rounds later, in the middle of a USPSA match, the M&P double fired on me. When it happened, I was a bit shocked. I wasn’t sure what had just happened, but the RO knew and had me stop. Luckily, there was an S&W Certified Gunsmith shooting the match that day. He checked it out in the safe area and told me what was wrong. That afternoon I visited another gun shop where the owner was a smith. After talking to him for a while, I found out he was an S&W Certified Gunsmith as well. He told me what parts I needed and that if I got the parts, he would install them for just $25. I’ve only had one problem related to this work since he installed the Apex kit, and that was a roll pin that decided it wanted to start easing out as you shoot. It never backed out more than 1/8”, but I mentioned it to the guy that did the install and he replaced the pin, on the spot, for no charge. Now every time I visit his shop, I pick his brain about my future projects. He’ll get more of my business.

Be safe.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What are the Firearm Conditions of Carry?

There are 5 conditions of carry that were originally developed for a 1911 model handgun. Most of these conditions still apply to modern day semi-automatic handguns like the Glock, M&P, and Springfield XD. Although some of these conditions are inherently “safer” than others, they all still rely on the carrier’s own safety practices. I’ll cover these from safest to least safe.

Condition 4 – This is an empty chamber and no magazine in the weapon. I call this California Carry because this is/was the only way you could open carry in CA.

Condition 3 – This is an empty chamber, hammer down, and a loaded magazine in the weapon.

Condition 2 – This is a loaded chamber, hammer down, and a loaded magazine in the weapon. I’ve also heard this was hammer at half-cock for the 1911 folks. For the striker fired folks (Glock, XD, and M&P, et al.), this one does not apply.

Condition 1 – This is a loaded chamber, hammer cocked, safety on, and a loaded magazine in the weapon. For guns with no external safety, remember the trigger is the safety here. Keep your finger off the trigger and there won’t be any loud bangs. (Keep your booger hook off the bang switch!)

Condition 0 – This is a loaded chamber, hammer cocked, safety off, and a loaded magazine in the weapon.

Now, what condition should you carry your pistol in? In my opinion, you should always carry in Condition 1. If you’re not comfortable carrying in this condition, feel free to back down to the condition you are comfortable with until you can become comfortable with Condition 1. That will only come with training and confidence. Remember too, any operations other than drawing and releasing a safety will take precious time if you’re in the heat of a fight. If a bad guy already has the drop on you, do you really want to take the time to be doing fine motor skills like inserting a magazine or racking a slide? Sure, you can practice this all you want, but you’ll still never be as fast as you can be without having to perform those same tasks.

Be safe.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Can You Use a Good Laugh?

I don’t own a gun safe, so I have to take “extraordinary measures” to safeguard my firearms if I’m out of town. I hide guns in some of the weirdest places. If I ever die while I’m out of town, my girlfriend is going to have to hire bloodhounds to find all my stuff.

This Saturday, I was crawling into one of my favorite hiding spots with my AR when I knocked my head against something. Well, natural reaction is to jerk your head away from what you just whacked your head into, right? Well, try not to jerk it in the direction of the AR you’re carrying if you do. This will cause much cussing and leaking of blood upon your pretty and clean AR-15.

I think I smacked the bridge of my nose right into the top rail. I remember hearing something crack, but looking back I don’t remember if it was from my head or my nose. This will teach me to delay mounting optics. Course, if I had the scope mounted, I’d have probably put a nice goose egg on my forehead or broken my nose worse than I did. Or worse, damaged the brandy new Burris TAC30 scope I just waited 3 months for.

Anyway, I now have a nice 3/8” long “V” on the right side of the bridge of my nose that took 6 stitches to close up. They took some great x-rays of my nose and there’s no doubt it’s broken. Luckily it didn’t require being reset. After it’s stitched up is the wrong time for that in my opinion, but I’m not a doctor.

Moral of the story is “Buy a safe, dummy. It’s better than a busted nose!”

Be safe!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Selecting a Gun to Carry – Part 4 – What Accessories Do You Need to Carry?



Okay, this is the last part of this series. You’ve decided what method of carry best suits you, chosen a model of handgun that fits that method of carry, and you’ve decided what caliber to get that handgun in. Now what accessories do you need to carry with that handgun? What do you need on your “Bat-belt”? (If you’re like me, you’ll get used to being ridiculed about your “Bat-belt”.)

You need a holster. Whether you’re going to carry a pocket gun or something larger, you’re going to need something to keep that gun on your person and safe from negligent discharges. Holsters come in various materials such as nylon, leather, Kydex, or a combination of these. Get one that fits your gun, covers the trigger, and will prevent your gun from accidentally falling out (yes, it happens more than you think.) I would stay away from nylon. Although it’s light, they usually do not have a reinforced opening, which makes reholstering very difficult and risky. If you’re going to open carry, you may want to think about a retention holster such as a leather holster with a thumb break, a Blackhawk Serpa holster, or a Safariland retention holster. Don’t be surprised if it takes a few holsters until you find the perfect one for you.

If you’re going to carry on your hip, whether IWB or OWB, you’re going to need a good gun belt. A regular belt will stretch and not hold your gun close to your hip as it should. A good gun belt will be stiff enough to prevent the belt from rolling into a “C” under the weight of the gun. Belts are made by Blackhawk, Bianchi, Crossbreed, and many others. My favorite is A&G Custom Gun Leather. Don’t cheap out on the belt. In my opinion, this is where the comfort or pain of carrying comes from.

If you carry a gun and don't carry anything else, you absolutely need to carry a cell phone. This is your lifeline. A gun doesn’t solve every problem. Use this to get the authorities involved to solve a problem instead of trying to solve it yourself. Generally speaking, the first person to call about an altercation of any sort is usually looked upon as the victim. This could come in handy if you ever get dragged into court, especially after a shooting.

You’re going to want to carry spare magazines, speed loaders, or speed strips. These need to be readily available in case you need to reload in the middle of a fight or because of an equipment malfunction. As with any piece of machinery, failures can and will occur, and according to Murphy, they’ll occur at the most inopportune time. A spare magazine affords you the opportunity to dump the old mag and reload a fresh one to keep you in the fight. How many you carry is a matter of personal preference, but generally speaking, if you need more than two spare mags, you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.


A good digital voice recorder is nice to have in case of a run in with a law enforcement officer or anyone else that you might want to record as either proof your rights were violated or you didn’t start an altercation. I keep mine in a little cubby-hole in the dash of my truck. It’s handy to grab if I’m open carrying, or I can turn it on in case I’m pulled over.

A good flashlight is really handy at times. I carry a three cell Mag-Light in the truck, just in case. I used to carry a mini-Mag-Light on my belt all the time when I was an inspector. I don’t use a flashlight very often, but when I need one, I hate having to go hunt one up. For ease of operation, a flashlight should have a push button to operate it, whether it’s on the tail cap or on the body.  They’re just easier to operate this way, especially if your other hand is occupied at the time. Not only is a flashlight for lighting up dark areas, if it's bright enough, it can used to temporarily blind or disorient an adversary.

Lastly, a good knife is mandatory almost anywhere you go. Whether you carry it for defense, opening boxes, or just cleaning the dirt from under your fingernails, if you leave it at home, you’re going to need it at some point during the day.

So decide what you need and what you’re willing to carry along with you every day. You’ll adjust your Bat-belt inventory periodically depending on where you’re going and what you’re going to be doing.

Be safe.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Selecting a Gun to Carry – Part 3 - Which Handgun Caliber is Best to Carry for Personal Defense?


Once you've selected the firearm that best fits you and your carry-style, you are going to need to decide which handgun caliber is best for your personal defense. Some of the basic rules you’ll need to remember when choosing your personal defense caliber are:
  • With an increase in caliber, comes an increase in recoil.
  • With increased recoil, comes slower follow up shots.
  • Increased recoil is harder to control.
  • Smaller guns will have more felt recoil than larger guns of the same caliber.

Look at all the ballistic data for the different calibers your gun is available in. You’ll want to compare the penetration, velocity, and muzzle energy of different bullet weights for the same caliber. Of course, this will only muddy the waters even more, since there is no “perfect” caliber or bullet. The best you can do is find a happy medium between all of the factors.

When choosing a caliber, the general rule of thumb is to get the largest caliber you can comfortably and reliably shoot. Consider the size of the gun you’re thinking about buying and the calibers that that model is available in. Think about your own size. Can you handle your choice of handguns in this caliber? Can you quickly get a second shot off that will hit its intended target?

If you can, go out and rent your prospective handgun in the different calibers. Or maybe somebody at the range has that model and would be willing to let you try it out. I’ve even seen folks on internet forums solicit the use of other people’s guns in order to help them make a decision on a model of certain caliber. Sure, it’s always best to try before you buy, but if that’s not an option all you can do is make the best educated decision you possibly can.

Some other things to consider when choosing a handgun caliber are:

How common is the ammunition for this caliber? The three most popular handgun calibers today are 9MM Parabellum (aka 9MM, 9 x 19MM, 9MM Luger), .40S&W, and .45ACP.  The cheapest being 9MM. You generally won’t have a problem finding 9MM and .40S&W on the shelf at your local Wally-World. I quite frequently have trouble finding .45ACP though.

Can I afford to practice with this caliber? Look at ammunition prices where you’re most likely to buy it, whether it’s Wal-Mart or an internet site. Compare the prices of the different calibers. Remember though, there are ways to reduce the cost of practice ammunition. You can buy either new or reloaded ammunition in bulk, reloads being cheaper, or you can reload your own ammunition, which is usually the cheapest route of all after the initial investment to buy the equipment. If you go to this website (http://www.ammoengine.com/) you can see the range of prices by caliber and bullet type.

The 9MM Parabellum has been around since before WW I. It originated in Europe, which is why it is measured in millimeters, rather than fractions of an inch. It is about the smallest caliber that I would recommend for personal defense. 

The .40S&W has become very popular. Recoil is sharp due to the higher velocity of the bullets, but it is not unpleasant. It’s been my experience that the recoil of the .40S&W is slightly higher than that of comparable pistols chambered for .45 ACP.

The .45ACP has been around for over a century, and has proven itself as an effective personal defense round. This cartridge fires a relatively heavy bullet at relatively low speeds, which is effective, but does not take advantage of the way a slightly lighter bullet at higher speeds can be more effective, carry more energy, and recoil more softly. Part of the reason for this is the lower chamber pressure, compared to more recently introduced cartridges.

Remember, if you choose a caliber and don’t like it, you can always change your mind. Sooner or later, most people do. You’re not stuck with any gun after you buy it. There is always somebody out there looking for one just like it. Some handguns can even be changed from one caliber to another simply by changing the barrel and magazine.

Be safe.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Selecting a Gun to Carry – Part 2 - What Handgun Model Should I Buy?


So you’ve decided to take the plunge and buy a handgun to carry for your personal protection. Now you have to decide, “What handgun model should I buy?” There are a lot of things to consider when selecting a handgun for concealed carry.

·         Is the gun reliable?
·         Is it accurate?
·         Does it have the stopping power?
·         Does it fit your hand and are all the controls accessible?
·         Is it concealable?
During this process, the last thing you want to consider is the price. Sure, everyone wants to keep as much of their hard earned dollars in their own pockets, but we’re talking about something that could save your life. Once you’ve narrowed your search, you can start comparing prices and then work out a deal with a gun store. But that’s down the road. Don't start with a dollar figure and then try to find something that fits that instead of you.

The first thing you need to do is a little homework. Get on the web and look at the different models available by the popular manufacturers. Read reviews on the various guns, but try to stay clear of reviews by people or organizations that are being paid to review them. Gun forums like GeorgiaPacking.Org or USACarry.com can be a wealth of information. Go around to some of your local gun stores. Be careful with the information you get from some people behind gun store counters. There are people behind those counters that aren’t all that knowledgeable about guns. They are a minority, I think, but they are out there. Don’t be afraid to pick their brains about their firearm’s experience. You will come up with questions while you’re doing your research. Write them down and take them with you to the gun stores. See what kind of answers you get to the same questions from different people.

To help you narrow your search, I’ve put together a list of the more popular handgun manufacturers and some of the more important specifications for their guns. Some of the specs shown are:

·         Height – This is from the bottom of the grip to the top of the slide or frame. This affects concealability. The taller a gun is, the harder it is to hide under a shirt.
·         Width – Wider handguns are harder to conceal and could also be a grip problem for smaller hands. You should be able to operate all the controls on a handgun with either hand.
·         Weight –This will matter over the course of a day of carrying. It also affects recoil. Weights shown below are unloaded with the magazine.
·         Capacity – This is affected by height and/or width. It’s also a good comparison feature. The more cartridges you have in the magazine, the less reloads you’ll have to make.
DISCLAIMER - I did not include specs for any .380 handguns. I personally think some of these 9mm's are just as small and more powerful than the .380 counterpart. I did not include barrel length in the specs. Though a longer barrel gives you higher velocities and better accuracy, we aren't talking about very noticeable differences in a self-defense environment. I did not include pictures of every single model that I give specs for. The only difference between some models is the caliber. I also did not include any 1911’s in the list. They are a whole separate post in themselves. Some would also argue if they are a good beginner’s pistol.


Beretta - http://www.berettausa.com/
Beretta Nano

Caliber - 9mm
Capacity - 6+1
Weight - 17.7 oz.
Height - 4.17"
Width - 0.9"


Beretta Px4 Storm Sub-Compact

Caliber - 9mm          .40S&W
Capacity - 13+1       10+1
Weight -        26.1 oz.     
Height -           4.5"
Width -            1.4"

Beretta Px4 Storm Compact

Caliber - 9mm          .40S&W
Capacity - 15+1       12+1
Weight -        27.3 oz.     
Height -           5.2"
Width -            1.4"

Beretta Px4 Storm Full Size

Caliber - 9mm          .40S&W     .45ACP
Capacity - 17+1       14+1         9+1
Weight -        27.7 oz.              28.2
Height -           5.8"                  5.9"
Width -                     1.4"

Beretta 92FS

Caliber - 9mm 
Capacity - 15+1
Weight - 33.3 oz.     
Height -  5.4"
Width -   1.5"



Bersa - http://www.bersa.com/

Bersa Thunder Pro

Caliber - 9mm          .40S&W
Capacity - 17+1       13+1
Weight -        30.7 oz.     
Height -           5.5"
Width -            1.45"




Bersa Thunder Ultra-Compact Pro

Caliber - 9mm          .40S&W     .45ACP
Capacity - 13+1       10+1         7+1
Weight -        23.0 oz.              27.0
Height -           4.75"                5.1"
Width -                   1.45"




Glock - http://us.glock.com/
Here is a handy reference chart that shows all the Glock model numbers, sizes, and calibers. I'm just going to touch on a few.

Compacts

             G19           G23          G21

Caliber - 9mm          .40S&W     .45ACP
Capacity - 15+1       13+1         13+1
Weight -        21.6 oz.              26.5 oz.
Height -           4.75"                5.1"
Width -            1.18"                1.28"



Sub-Compacts

            G26            G27          G30

Caliber - 9mm          .40S&W     .45ACP
Capacity - 10+1       9+1          6+1
Weight -       19.75 oz.             20.1 oz.
Height -           4.17"                4.76"
Width -            1.18"                1.1"


Kahr Arms - http://www.kahr.com/
I couldn't lift pictures off the Kahr website, so here is everything in their line up.
              CW9         CM9           CW40            PM40         CW45            PM45

Caliber - 9mm          9mm          .40S&W         .40S&W     .45ACP          .45ACP
Capacity - 7+1         6+1           6+1               5+1          6+1               5+1
Weight - 17.7 oz.      15.9 oz.     18.7 oz.         17.7 oz.    21.7 oz.         19.3 oz.
Height - 4.5"            4.0"           4.62"              4.0"         6.32"             5.79"
Width - 0.90"           0.90"          0.94"             0.94"        1.01"             1.01"

Kel-Tec - http://www.keltecweapons.com/

PF9

Caliber - 9mm
Capacity - 7+1
Weight - 12.7 oz.
Height - 4.3"
Width - 0.88"





P11

Caliber - 9mm
Capacity - 10+1
Weight - 14 oz.
Height - 4.3"
Width - 1.0"


Kimber - http://www.kimberamerica.com/
Kimber was another web site that I couldn't lift a picture off of, so here again is a link to the picture. Kimber is probably best known for their 1911's.
Solo Carry

         Caliber - 9mm
         Capacity - 6+1
         Weight - 17 oz.
         Height - 3.9"
         Width - 1.2"

Ruger - http://www.ruger.com/index.html
Ruger also manufacturers single and double action revolvers, other models of semi-automatic pistols and just recently broke into the 1911 market.

Ruger LCR (Lightweight Compact Revolver)

Caliber - 357 magnum
Capacity - 5
Weight - 17.1 oz.
Weight - 4.5"
Width - 1.875"




Ruger LC9

Caliber - 9mm
Capacity - 7+1
Weight - 17.1 oz.
Height - 4.5"
Width - 0.9"




              SR9        SR40

Caliber -    9mm      .40S&W
Capacity - 17+1       15+1
Weight -  26.5 oz.    27.3 oz
Height -           5.52"
Width -            1.27"





              SR9c       SR40c

Caliber -    9mm      .40S&W
Capacity - 10+1       9+1
Weight -          23.4 oz 
Height -           4.61"
Width -            1.27"


Sig Sauer - http://www.sigsauer.com/
Sig manufacturers other models of semi-automatic pistols including 1911's.
P226
Caliber -    9mm      .40S&W
Capacity - 15+1       12+1
Weight -          34 oz 
Height -           5.5"
Width -            1.5"




P229
Caliber -   9mm       .40S&W
Capacity - 13+1      12+1
Weight -          32 oz.
Height -           5.4"
Width -            1.5" 


Smith & Wesson - http://www.smith-wesson.com/
Smith & Wesson also produces a larger assortment of small, medium and large frame revolvers and 1911's.

              SD9VE      SD40VE

Caliber -   9mm       .40S&W
Capacity - 16+1      14+1
Weight -          22.7 oz.
Width -            1.29" 






            M&P9 Shield      M&P40 Shield

Caliber -   9mm                .40S&W
Capacity - 7+1                 6+1
Weight -              19 oz.
Height -                4.6"
Width -                 0.95" 






               M&P9      M&P40      M&P45

Caliber -    9mm      .40S&W     .45ACP
Capacity - 17+1       15+1         10+1
Weight -    24 oz.     24.3 oz      29.6 oz
Height -     5.5"        5.5"          5.5"
Width -      1.2"        1.2"          1.2"






             M&P9c      M&P40c      M&P45c

Caliber -    9mm      .40S&W     .45ACP
Capacity - 12+1       10+1          8+1
Weight -    21.7 oz.   21.9 oz      26.2 oz
Height -     4.3"        4.3"           4.8"
Width -      1.2"        1.2"           1.2"





Springfield Armory - http://www.springfield-armory.com/

Springfield Armory is another website that you can't copy pictures from, so here is a link to the XDM pictures. Springfield also carries an XD line that are similar to the XDM. They are also a manufacturer of 1911's.
XDM 3.8 Compact

Caliber -     9mm             .40S&W           .45ACP     
Capacity -   13+1             11+1               9+1          
Weight -     28 oz.            28 oz.             25 oz.    
Height -      4.75"             4.75"               4.55"        

XDM 4.5

Caliber -     9mm             .40S&W           .45ACP     
Capacity -   19+1             16+1               13+1          
Weight -     32 oz.            32 oz.             31 oz.    
Height -      5.6"               5.6"                5.75"        

Now you just need to find one that fits and feels good. I wanted to try to explain on here how to tell if a handgun fits your hand or not, but Cornered Cat does a great job of explaining it over at her website. While you’re out groping guns, it's a perfect time to see how well they will conceal, if that’s how you plan to carry. Ask to see the different models in holsters and try some on for size. This will also let you see how readily available holsters are for each particular model and how they fit you.

If you go to a gun store with a range, ask if they have guns to rent. This is a great way to really test a guns accuracy and reliability. This is how I selected my M&P. I actually rented two guns and shot them side by side to compare them. And don’t forget those Internet reviews.

Don’t worry about the caliber just yet. I’ll get into that in my next post. Just go find the right model for you. If it takes visiting less than four gun stores, I’ll be surprised. 

Be safe.