Friday, October 25, 2013

Stalk Hunting and Muzzleloaders

Since my youth I’ve preferred stalk hunting. It is admittedly less productive than many hunting practices since the hunter is at a great disadvantage: You’re moving within the games’ natural surroundings. Wild critters generally have much keener hearing and sense of smell, and strong survival reflexes that were honed over thousands of generations. Even if they don’t hear or smell you, they often notice things out of place or something new to their domain (you), the same as you would if someone moved your sofa or put a new table into your living room. That puts them on alert almost as much as a twig snapping under your foot.

Silent stalking works best for small game, like squirrels and rabbits. And you never know what you may encounter, like turkey, hog, bobcat, fox or coyote. Since deer have extremely keen survival senses, it’s very difficult to sneak up on a “wild” deer. I say wild because I’m not referring to the deer in state parks or petting zoos or your yard. I mean those deer in the woods that stay alive by their own instinctive reflexes and are not accustomed to being around people.

While I’ve jumped deer numerous times, I can’t truthfully say that I’ve succeeded in stalking a deer while hunting. But I’ve been hunting with some who have done it many times. It’s their way of hunting and they’ve honed their stalking skills to the highest level. It takes practice and dedication and time. They are like pro-athletes. But there’s one thing I’ve noticed about the skilled deerstalkers I’ve known: They seem to have the most success when it’s drizzling rain because rain tends to cover both your sounds and smell.

I have encountered deer while stalking, but when that happens, they have moved into the space where I was at the time. But without a silent stalk, that would not happen. For me the stalk while deer hunting has now become my way to get to a deer hunting spot with minimum notice by the wood’s wild inhabitants. Then I wait.

Stalking With a Muzzleloader

I believe stalking with a muzzleloader is the best way to hone your stalking skills. You know you have just one shot and it has a very limited range. Those facts cause you to adopt a different attitude. You actually have to “be the hunter.” This attitude is akin to that you see in the film of a big African cat hunkering down as it stealthily closes on an antelope, often with ears laid back and with full attention on its prey. As the hunter, you must move slowly and smoothly, stay focused, and pay attention to everything around you and every little sound while making none – not alerting your prey. When you spot something, you hear a little voice inside your head saying, “Get closer.”

If you’ve never tried it, I guarantee that it is the most satisfying hunting you can do – especially when you pull it off. Daniel Boone could not be more proud. And even if you don’t bring home the bacon, you challenged yourself and your skills – and there will be a next time.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

What Were Your Dream Guns?

When we were kids growing up we all had those guns that we just thought were cool, or loved the way they looked. Maybe we saw them in movies; maybe they were leaned in the back of Grandpaw's closet. We found ourselves daydreaming, and sometimes still do. Join us as we discuss some of our dream guns, past and present.


When I was a kid I always thought the M1911 Colt pistol was about the coolest looking handgun ever made. There was just something about those guns back in all the WWII & Vietnam War movies that always drew me in and made me drool. I still don't have one, but I get to shoot vicariously through my brother and uncle and both of their guns (that you might have seen us talking about in an episode of All For Gun TV).

Springfield on Loan for dove.
I always liked the six-guns the cowboys slang as well, but when it came down to my favorite cowboy gun it always went back to the double barreled coach-gun. Something about dropping both barrels on a villain and blowing them 10 feet through the air and through the saloon doors always excited me. I've considered getting the rabbit-eared Norinco 12 gauge for fun, but have never ponied up and bought it either. I did get to hunt some birds with a Springfield double barrel this past opening day, but not too successfully. Out of 50 shells I put through those beautiful barrels I hit one dove. The gun owner who let me borrow it said he couldn't hit anything with it either, so I only felt slightly embarrassed.

I don't know if I currently have a "dream gun" or not, but I have a couple that I am in the market for. Something I can hunt deer with in the .30-06 variety most likely, and something I can conceal carry better than my Ruger P95, possibly something of the .357/.38 variety.


It's difficult to narrow down my current list of "dream guns." If I think back to childhood and my early influences regarding which guns were cool, I had only a few points of reference at the time: my Dad's guns, and the A-Team, mostly. George Peppard gripping a Colt .45 1911 in his black gloved hand always seemed tough, and like Jason, I've always wanted one but haven't ponied up to get a version that I like. That one endures. Some others from A-Team influence have fallen away, however. B.A. wielding the belt-fed M60 like Rambo no longer seems desirable to me. Since having the chance a few years ago to handle a real full-auto Uzi like Face sometimes used, that ten-pound Italian brick has lost its appeal as well.

A beautiful example of the 1873 Winchester Short Rifle.
As my tastes have matured and changed over the years, I still love western movies, and I love the guns from that era even more. I do have a Stoeger/Uberti replica of a 1873 Colt. I would like to have a real Colt, but will likely instead get a New Vaquero from Ruger, which has the slimmer frame of the Colt and still utilizes Ruger's transfer-bar safety system. To accompany those six-guns, I would like a nice replica of the 1873 Winchester with color-cased frame and some good looking wood. Perhaps this version from Uberti with it's curious-cool half-octagonal barrel would fit the bill.

My list of dream guns runs too long to list here. Many spaces on the list are filled with guns that I had in hand at one point or other through the years and either couldn't afford, or more often, couldn't make myself get off my wallet to buy something that I just wanted and didn't really at the time need. Those would include things like the Smith & Wesson 629 Mountain Gun, a 4" barrel, round butt, stainless steel .44mag revolver. I regret not buying that one.  Some others that my wallet has refused to move for include a fancy Sharps 45-70,  a Springfield Armory M1A Scout, a Remington Model 7 Mountain Rifle, a Thompson M1 WWII style replica from Auto-Ordnance, and ... 


It is difficult to choose what I consider my dream gun. That is akin to trying to pick your dream car: A Fifties model Corvette, a Jaguar XKE ragtop, or something else? But in thinking about it, I decided that there must be an enduring desire for it in order to be called a “dream” item. For vehicles, for me it has to be the old WWII style Jeep. That desire springs from my childhood and remains.  For guns, my earliest desires were for a rifle like my granddad’s .22, and of course the cowboy pistols and lever guns seen in the Saturday morning “Westerns” at the local theatre (before television was widespread). But as we mature and our knowledge expands, our desires change.

My long enduring gun desires today include guns like the M1 Carbine. I own an M1 Carbine by Universal, a civilian version made during the 1970s. But I really want one of the real things, or at least a new one that meets the mil-specs of the real deal. That one likely goes back to the plethora of WWII movies that I watched as a kid, and to the fact that it’s just a very cool rifle.

I also have fond memories of the Browning Over/Under 20ga. shotgun that I used for one day back in the 1960s shooting clays. The weight, balance, and dimensions of that Belgium-made shotgun were perfect for me and I never missed with it – not even once.

And I really like the older Mountain Rifle style of bolt-action rifles, which were lightweight, compact, well balanced, and came with factory iron sights. When I first hefted one of these about 35-years ago, I knew I had found my kind of high-power rifle. I favored the Ruger 77 version over the Remington 7 version, but the years have dimmed my memory of why. Either would have been great choices. But sadly, I don’t seem to find a rifle made that way anymore.  The same could be said of the old army Jeep. These were all rugged and simple, and did the job they were intended to do. There is beauty in that – beauty that should be appreciated. Newer is not necessarily better.

 What were and are your dream guns?

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Thompson/Center “Seneca” .45 Light Hawken Muzzleloader

The Seneca's simple yet beautiful appointments are testament to
T/C's attention to quality and detail.
The Seneca is such a fine piece of work that I fell in love with it the first time I held one. Its fit and finish, fine wood with brass furniture, light weight and balance, the natural feel of its brass-frame pistol grip, and a set of sights that allows true aiming all combined to make it something I didn’t want to put down. But I did – only to come back about an hour later to buy it. It was to become my all-round hunting rifle for many years: legal for deer yet suitable for smaller game.

Aside from being a percussion cap rifle instead of the older style flintlock, the only modern feature of this rifle is its sights. It has pistol-style open sights, with a U-notch rear sight that is adjustable for elevation. Once that’s adjusted for the individual rifle, there is no need to change it. Right or left sight alignment is achieved with a small screw on the rear sight and/or by drifting (or moving) the front sight in its dovetail groove. Be sure to use a brass punch for this if available, to prevent tool marks. Again, you can set it and forget it.

Front sight and ram-rod.
The front sight seems perfectly sized to provide the right amount of light on either side of it to allow quick and accurate centering within the U-notch. With its flat-top blade that easily aligns to the top of the U-notch wings, there is no question that you have a perfect sight picture. In my opinion, the Seneca rifle can be fired as quickly and accurately as any modern rifle with open-iron sights, within its range.

The Seneca has two triggers. The one nearest the muzzle, or front, is the firing trigger. When the hammer is cocked, this front trigger provides a nice, crisp break that requires the force of “pull” that you normally expect when shooting any conventional rifle. (That trigger has an adjustment screw located between the triggers.) But when you have time to take very deliberate aim, you have a rear “set-trigger” available to enhance your accuracy. Once the “set” is made by pulling the back trigger, the front trigger only takes a slight touch to drop the hammer. Using that set-trigger makes for superb accuracy but care must be taken not to touch it until you’re ready to shoot. Also, I have found that if you are very near your game, the little metallic “click” sound it makes when it sets can spook the game, so it’s best to use that set-trigger only for longer shots or target shooting.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Pawpaw’s Rifle: The Mossberg Model 51M

Mossberg 51M, ca. 1939-1946
The Mossberg 51M is not as pretty as most rifles made today but holds special meaning for me. When I was a little kid, I spent as much time as possible with my grandfather on his farm. It was a wonderful time in my memory. He always made me feel like a friend and an equal – except when it came to his rifle. That rifle was restricted to himself and his son, Tommy, who was only a teenager at the time. As I recall the rifle was always referred to simply as “the Mossberg.”

Not long ago I came across a photo of an old Mossberg .22 rifle with a Mannlicher stock. It brought back some of the memories of those times at the farm. Researching it, I found that Pawpaw’s rifle was most likely a Model 51M, made from 1939 to 1946.

I was enthralled with that gun. I had never seen anything so wonderful as it. And that hole in the stock that you just shoved the bullets into was fascinating to me. How does that work? Pawpaw could shoot and shoot, as fast as he could pull the trigger, without reloading. Of course he seldom shot it at all since bullets were expensive.

On one visit, Pawpaw and I were trying to catch a big, red rooster for my grandmother to cook. That rooster was really wild and would not let us near it. We could not seem to corral it. Finally Tommy came in from the field where he had been plowing. Pawpaw said something like, “Tommy. Get the Mossberg. We’re having Old Red for supper.” Now it was really getting exciting. A short time later I watched as Tommy put Old Red down from across the yard with one shot through the head. Now I was really impressed with that rifle – and my uncle Tommy’s shooting.

I could not wait to grow up so I could buy me a Mossberg .22, too. Thinking about it, I guess that’s the gun that started me on the path to as what might be called “a gun lover.” Thanks, Pawpaw.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Muzzleloading for Deer

With the air getting cooler and that fall breeze blowing in we've got the windows open and the AC shut off this weekend down here in Alabama. Whenever the weather starts getting breezy like this I always get antsy to get out in the woods and try to bring a deer in to the freezer. Muzzleloading season is right around the corner here so I thought I'd share one of my older hunting posts from my Homesteading website.

Muzzleloading for Deer at Crowsonshire

My muzzleloader is a side-lock CVA Bobcat, which is a very budget friendly gun, but lacks the aesthetically pleasing wooden stock. I've been on a mission to find or craft a replacement for the synthetic black stock that came on the gun, but as I've found online, it seems that any replacement I come up with is gonna cost me more than the entire gun did to start with. I'm no woodworker, but I'll probably go the route of trying to carve my own stock out of some walnut wood I have in the garage. I'll be sure to update with any progress I have here at

Friday, September 27, 2013

Most People Use it This Way

Bauer Brothers shoulder holster, with S&W 39 snug in place.
For many years my home defense weapon was a WWI vintage 9mm Luger. Due to its age, I was always a little nervous about depending on such an old gun when it could involve a life-or-death situation. Then one day a friend presented me the opportunity to purchase his “almost-new” Smith & Wesson Model 39-2 semi-auto 9mm at a very good price. I bought it. He gave me his Bianchi belt holster and spare mag carrier with the gun, which were made for the 39 and fit perfectly. It was and is a nice rig that I still own.

Since I often traveled a lot to secluded places at all times of day and night in my work, I decided that a shoulder holster would be better to conceal the Smith while allowing quick access, especially when seated in my vehicle. So I made a stop at a gun store to check out their shoulder holsters. The owner was a friend of mine who, hearing my request, simply retrieved a shoulder rig that fit my 39 and handed it to me. Then he turned to wait on another customer.

The thing was rolled into a blob of leather and straps. It was a Brauer Brothers vertical carry holster with spring retention. I untangled it and put it on, like you might do with a sweater. I don’t really recall what I did but I obviously didn’t have a clue as to how it was to be worn. It just didn’t fit me no matter how I pulled at it.

Bianchi belt holster and mag carrier with S&W 39.
The owner finished with the other customer and turned to see me struggling with the straps. Instead of laughing at me, with my head through the rig like a horse collar, he simply asked if he could try it. Then he put it on himself correctly, saying, “Most people use it this way.”

Needless to say, I was somewhat embarrassed by my ignorance of how to wear the thing. It was so simple but I had never seen one on anyone before that. My friend’s tactful way of showing me the correct use of the holster taught me a lesson in how to correct someone while not offending them. I used his line countless times during the course of my life – and fondly remember my friend when I do. The line fits for almost anything.

That shoulder rig is a little snug on me now and I have a couple of other holsters for the 39 that I employ. But like an old friend, I’ll keep that Brauer rig.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Top 10 Concealed Carry Revolvers

My S&W Model 60, in its home away from gun-safe.
The requirements for this list are simple. The gun must be a revolver action handgun; it must be small enough, light-weight enough, and thin enough to reasonably conceal without a parka; it must be chambered in a round worthy of personal protection; it must not be junk, and actually be a gun that I like. While I have not personally fired all of these on the list, I can say that I know or have known people who swore by each of these guns, and I have handled each of them at some point or other (with one exception).

In no particular order:

For Big Bore Fans:
Prefer your bullets to move slow and make huge holes? You'll love the Charter Arms Bulldog. Five shots of .44 special in a double action, concealable package with a variety of options from blued or stainless, with or without hammer, and more. I prefer the stainless DAO model for rugged concealment. Wonder why I didn't pick the Judge or Governor instead? See below.*

For the Techno-Minded:
S&W M&P340 CT. "We's using code words."
Yes, there can be such a thing as a high-tech revolver, and this is it. The Smith & Wesson M&P340 CT. Five shots of .357mag, ultra-light scandium alloy frame, Crimson Trace laser grips. 'Nuff said.

For the K.I.S.S. Crowd:
Simple is as simple does, and that usually means it works. Keep it simple with either of these basic carry pieces. The Smith & Wesson Model 60 (also see my Favorite Firearms article here) and the Ruger SP101, both being low maintenance stainless steel, five-shot, two-inch barrel .357mag stand-outs with three-finger grips and comfortable handling, tie for the lead of this category.

For Old-School Cowboy Types: 
When it comes to old school, nothing says, "I'm yer huckleberry" like a single action revolver. If you're practiced enough, you can be effective with one. Just look at the "wild west." I don't think they had Glocks and Sigs in Tombstone, do you? If this is your thing, have a look at the Heritage Mfg. .32H&R Magnum. Birds head grip and 3.5" barrel for easier concealability. (See what Jason has to say about his Heritage 22 convertible here.)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

5 Steps to Turn Your Pawn-Shop Remington 870 Into a Tactical Zombie Slayer

So, you want a tactical shotgun, huh? Don't want to spend the extra money for a gun that says "tactical" on it though? I don't blame you. Build one yourself, no gunsmithing required, for relatively cheap. Here's how.

Go to a pawn shop or used gun store and find a well functioning Remington 870 pump action, in 12 gauge. Should be no more than $250. It doesn't matter how crappy the stock looks, or even if it's broken. You're going to replace it. Just take it home, clean it up, do these five things to it, and you've got a beast ready to rock the zombies for under $600.

1 - Change the barrel. Unless your pawn shop buy was a tactical model (in which case why are you reading this?), then you'll need to install an 18" cylinder bore barrel, for maximum short range shot spread and ease of maneuvering in tight quarters. $110 from Cheaper Than Dirt and others.

2 - Extend the magazine. A "plus two" extension will give you  seven in the tube. Many are available at varying prices, but these from TacStar are tried and true, for reasonable dough. $40 from CTD.

3 - Reduce the recoil. You're a tough guy, sure. But who needs recoil in a rapid-fire situation? Quicken your follow-up shots, make the gun easier for the recoil sensitive to handle, and make it shorter or longer to fit whoever needs to use it, all with this one accessory. The Phoenix Technologies Kicklite Recoil Reducing Tactical Stock. Much more than a butt-pad, this will make shooting comfortable, for $100 or less. I personally wouldn't bother changing the forestock, but it comes with it for the price.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

10 Reasons You'll Love a Heritage .22 Rough Rider Pistol

1. Cowboy Style - The tradionally styled Rough Rider is styled in the mold of the firearms of the old west right down to the flat-sided hammer. Put this gun in a leather holster on your belt and you'll feel like you're straight off the frontier.

2. Flip Down Safety (Frame Mounted Hammer Block) - A simple yet effective Safety/Hammer-Block is one of my favorite features this gun sports. A red dot shows you when you're ready to drop the hammer, and I always prefer a safety to a transfer bar.

3. Longer Barrel - From 3.5 inch to 4.75 inch to 6.5 inch to 9 inch; this gun gives you some options and more accuracy the longer you get the barrel. I went for the 6.5 inch and have been very pleased with it.
4. Magnum Cylinder (.22 Magnum) - A lot of these guns you'll find in the store come with both cylinders for the same price, but some do not. I lucked out and got mine with both cylinders, new, for less than MSRP by a good bit. Having the extra cylinder is almost like having a whole different gun, and like Dave said in his account of fighting a mammoth squirrel, sometimes a .22 Magnum makes all the difference!

5. Cheap Ammunition- You can't go wrong when stockpiling the .22LR and you can't get cheaper either! Whether you like stocking up for the zombie apocalypse or shooting every weekend at the range, you're probably not going to come out any cheaper than using .22lr.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

.45 ACP Pistols, Full Episode

Watch all three parts of episode one, right here, without leaving the page or clicking anything additional. The playlist will auto-advance through all three parts. To get the full experience, change your setting to 720 HD and try full screen!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

All For Gun TV Ep 1: The .45 ACP

The first of our video series which, I am by utter genius dubbing "Season 1," has been posted to the allforgunTV channel on YouTube! We are posting these in 720 HD, because for some reason my computer complains about rendering in 1080p, which the videos were all shot in. Regardless, the 720 looks good, and we think you'll enjoy the show. We sure had fun making it!

Episode 1 of All For Gun TV is all about the .45 ACP pistol. We shoot, compare, and give our impressions of three vastly different models: Para Ordnance 14.45 LDA, Remington 1911 R1, and Glock 36. Because of the length of the episode, I've broken it into three parts (one for each pistol), which are less than 10 minutes each.

Have a look at the videos, give them a "like," subscribe to the YouTube channel, and even leave us a comment if you're so inclined. We have several more episodes to follow, which will focus on AR-15's, 9mm pistols, and some revolvers. Plus, we have another "season" planned that promises to be even more fun, with Big Bores, Big Booms, and things that go Splat!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sighting-In Optimization with - The Kill Zone Method

Some AR-15 groups at the range.
Ever wonder if there is a range that you could sight-in, or “zero”, your gun that would allow you to just aim-and-shoot and be confident that your shot would do its job? For practical purposes, there is. This is how you can find it and “optimize” your gun sight.

My quest for finding the best sight-in range began with my first scope on my .22 rifle many years ago. Of course I wanted to hit my target at any range but a decision had to be made for that bulls-eye setting. I looked over ballistic charts for the .22 LR. The charts provided rise and fall of a bullet in relation to a line drawn between the muzzle and the target for different range “zeros”, stepping from 25-yards to 100-yards. So the normal thing seemed to be to just pick one of those chart distances for your sight-in zero and memorize the rise and fall figures for the other distances. This information was helpful to know, but it didn’t take into account the height of the sight. Well, call me picky, but that didn’t seem to be the best way to decide what range-zero was best or how to get the most from my gun. Besides, I didn’t want to be doing math while about to make a shot. So I did a little thinking on the matter.

I developed a way to account for my sight’s height above the muzzle and eventually a way to see where my bullet would track with my rifle sighted at any range. It involves making graphs to show the arched trajectory curve in relation to the line-of-sight. With it I could examine the various sight-in ranges to see which one kept my bullet as close to the scope’s sightline as possible for the greatest distance. But I had to decide upon the maximum bullet deviation from the sightline that I felt would still allow a kill-shot if the bullet stuck there instead of dead-center of my sight’s crosshairs.

The Kill Zone:

I envisioned what I call a “kill zone.” Think of shooting down a long, imaginary tube to your target. The tube must be small enough for the bullet shot through it to hit the vital area to kill your target: One shot – one kill. The centerline of the tube is your line-of-sight, which may be represented by crosshairs, red-dot, etc. The tube’s radius represents the allowable bullet deviation that will keep the bullet in that vital area. It can be whatever you decide. For a small-game hunter, the zone radius might be 3/8”, and for a deer hunter it might be 1-1/2” or more. That is equivalent to drawing a bulls-eye on each: ¾” diameter and 3” diameter, respectively. Once a kill zone size is chosen, the sight-in distance can be determined from the trajectory curves. The sight can now be adjusted for optimum use for the combination of gun, sight, ammo, and target involved.

The Easy Way to Optimize Your Sight:

Today it’s not necessary to draw trajectory curves, etc. Now we have personal computers and a smart-phone app for almost anything, including ballistic calculations. I recently discovered the Winchester’s ballistic calculator and iPhone app at their website. These can be very useful for making the right decision for the best range to zero your sights.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Alert! Smith & Wesson M&P Shield

If you or someone you know owns a S&W M&P Shield, send them this info immediately! There appears to be a common malfunction of the trigger safety mechanism in these pistols which, in the faulty examples, can allow the gun to fire if dropped. This makes for a very hazardous situation, and it has been posted by Smith and Wesson as an official product recall as of August 22, 2013. If your shield was manufactured prior to August 19, 2013, it is subject to this recall.

View Smith & Wesson's info directly here. 

From the S&W Safety Notification:
 "Smith & Wesson has identified a condition where the trigger bar pin could damage the lower trigger in certain M&P Shields in a way that may affect the functionality of the drop safety feature of the firearm, potentially allowing the pistol to discharge if it is dropped.
Any unintended discharge of a firearm has the potential to cause injury, and we ask that you STOP USING YOUR PISTOL IMMEDIATELY UNTIL IT HAS BEEN INSPECTED AND, IF THE CONDITION IS FOUND, REPAIRED."

Here is the link to a video from S&W showing how to evaluate your gun for this defect.

Friday, August 30, 2013

A Case for Big Bore Guns

.45 Colt Single Action Revolver. A classic big bore handgun.
You may have seen a photo-meme posted on the All For Gun Blog Facebook page of a fellow in a tree with a huge bear climbing toward him. (See below) The bear has teeth bared and appears very angry. The drawing is captioned “Firearms – More useful than a camera.” While humorous, it’s serious at the same time. Over the years I’ve read of several accounts of folks finding themselves in exactly that place, saving themselves with a sidearm. One such account described how numerous shots from a .357 Magnum at near point-blank range failed to discourage an angry bear, but did apparently back it off by the time all shots were fired. I believe it was told that the bear walked away after the encounter. The person writing of his near-death experience with that bear said he purchased a .44 Magnum Redhawk as soon as he got back to civilization.

Hopefully you will never find yourself in such a predicament. But the story illustrates that it takes quite a lot of power, delivered as shock and physical damage to vital organs, for a bullet to quickly stop an angry critter that’s high on adrenalin. If you read my article, “.22’s and Monster Stew,” you saw that even a squirrel can become aggressive and hard to stop when it’s riled. That is, hard to stop if your weapon is not devastating enough for the size animal you may be confronting.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Hear Better Without Losing It: 3M Peltor Tactical Sport Reviewed

Are you or have you ever met a war veteran or career soldier who could hear well?  I hope so, but too many have lost their normal hearing. Guns are loud by nature, as are helicopters and other military aircraft. Repeated gun blast exposure and long term exposure to high noise levels can permanently destroy the little features of your ears that allow you to hear normal sound, rendering you “hard of hearing.” One of the worse cases I personally encountered was a fellow I worked with many years ago who had been on a naval ship during WWII. His combat job was to stand on deck with binoculars below a cruiser’s big dual-gun turret to spot where the shells hit, calling in aiming adjustments to the gunnery crew. Needless to say, that is about as bad as it gets for gunfire noise exposure. He had worn earmuffs but in his day nothing stopped the sound of those mighty blasts.

When the OSHA law was passed, my employer appointed me to get our steel fabrication plant into compliance with it. As it turned out, hearing protection was one of the greatest challenges. Forming, punching and stamping steel parts is LOUD – usually far above the acceptable levels set out in the OSHA rules. So if the sound levels could not be reduced, then hearing protection had to be provided for everyone working inside the plant.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Springfield Model 1866 Breech-Loading Rifle: A Frontier Game Changer

The Springfield Model 1866 is famous for the impact it made on the frontier during Red Cloud's War due to the fact that the rate of fire was vastly superior to the standard muzzleloading rifles the Native Americans were accustomed to facing in battle. The bonus of an almost tripled rate of fire in addition to being able to load the rifle while laying in a prone position negated the commonly effective Indian tactic of drawing a volley of fire with distractions before charging with superior numbers to overwhelm the slower loading musket equipped soldiers.

"Originally developed as a means of converting rifled muskets to breechloaders, the [1866] ultimately became the basis for the definitive Model 1873, the first breech-loading rifle adopted by the United States War Department for manufacture and widespread issue to U.S. troops."

Specifically this weapon saw its most significant action during two skirmishes along the Bozeman Trail: The Hayfield Fight and the Wagon Box Fight, where forces vastly outnumbered repelled attacking Natives with the aid of this tool. It is amazing how the slightest adjustments to standard weapons can make such an impact on the battlefield. 

An interesting thing for me personally is that my father was given one of these rifles as a gift from a family friend. I don't know if he has ever attempted to fire it or not (though I would imagine not, because of its age; though his might be the '73 model).

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The "Experts"

Today I thought I would make a more bloggish style blog post than we usually do on AFG. Call it a "note from the editor" if you will, since normally we write articles as though this is a full-blown magazine, or at least we try to. However, as more people are reading and responding to our posts, following our Facebook page, and slowly beginning to interact (more of that, please), I feel like something needs to be said.

None of us are ex-military, ex-law enforcement officers, competitive shooters, certified firearms instructors, or in any way tactical experts. If you read the articles on the blog, including our personal bios, you will realize our backgrounds of growing up as outdoorsmen, hunters, and gun enthusiasts. We have certainly self-taught, and in some instances taken courses in tactical or defensive techniques, however. This may not make us the foremost "experts" on all things gun, but it has given us a level of knowledge and skill which - I can attest as having dealt with thousands of customers in firearms retail - is well above the average "Joe Noob."

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

.22's and Monster Stew

Winchester 255 lever action .22WMR
Anyone who has ever faced an attack by a wild animal might relate to this bit of my past experience. Others might learn from it. It involves my first hunt in a remote area of South Mississippi – a place filled with poisonous snakes, swarms of hungry mosquitoes the size of sparrows, and all sorts of other critters and game that are generally a little more pleasant to encounter. That last part, the game, was what I was looking for that day. For me, at age 24, the other stuff seemed to just be the price of admission. I’ll start with a little background.

When I was 15, this Southern boy used the money he had earned and saved to purchase a .22 rifle. Not just any rifle but a semi-auto Winchester Model 77, with detachable 8-round magazine (which I mistakenly called a “clip”) and a spare magazine for urgent reloading purposes. Though I already had a .410 Winchester Model 37 single-barrel shotgun, this .22 LR rifle was my pride and joy.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

AllforgunTV Season 1 Preview

All for Gun is a blog by three guys giving their thoughts on firearms and accessories, ammunition, surviving zombies, and other random ramblings on all things gun. Newbies to experts are welcome! And now, we have begun a new addition: the allforgunTV YouTube channel! 

And now, it's finally here! AllforgunTV is active, and we now have the Season 1 Preview up in 720 HD. Have a look, and be sure to watch in full resolution (check the settings under the video, on the little gear emblem) with the sound on for the most fun.

Don't forget to visit allforgunTV on YouTube, too, and give the video a thumbs up, subscribe, and share it with your friends! You can click through to allforgunTV via the link in the menu bar above, or from within the embedded video below.

Upcoming n this season: Jeremy, Jason, and Dave fire 'em up at the range! We include comparisons of three very different .45acp pistols, three different 9mm pistols, a pair of AR-15s of different concept, plus a smattering of wheel guns! Find out what we think of each gun tested, laugh along with us, and maybe learn something, too!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Bubba's Area 51

A massive fence surrounded nearly a whole county.
*not actual gate shown
During the late 1960’s while living in Florence, South Carolina, someone brought an article to work about special hunts to be held at the Savannah River Nuclear Plant Reservation near Aiken, SC. It seemed to be a very big deal, the first of its kind, organized by the state and/or U.S. conservation departments. The article revealed that the land there had been closed to the public since the 1940’s for national security. That’s because the nuclear plant produced the stuff that makes atomic bombs go boom, which was apparently a big secret back in the day. As I recall the story, the government acquired most, if not all, of a county and moved the residents out. Only the people who worked at the nuclear plant were allowed inside this very large, secret, fenced-in area of Southern forest – sort of a Bubba’s Area 51.

Why open this secret area up to managed hunts? And why would there be no limits on the number of, or what was killed? Well, it seems that the deer and other critters had multiplied so much over those 25 years that the plant workers could barely make it to the job without hitting a deer or hog crossing the road. At least that’s what they said: Too dangerous for the plant workers. Now, who would have thought that the drive to and from work would be more dangerous than making Plutonium or whatever they had going on there? Regardless, this would be an opportunity of a lifetime! Five of us wanted in on it.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"You'll shoot your eye out!" - A Boy's First Gun

Uncle Josh helps Finn hold up his new shootin' iron.
Every little boy dreams about the day they get their first BB-gun, pellet gun, and eventually the real thing. My first was a pellet gun air rifle, probably from china, but still sturdy enough to last multiple years throughout my childhood until I got my first real gun at age 13, a 20 Gauge Remington 870 Express which I still own and use to this day. I don't recall what occasion my dad used as the excuse to get me that pellet gun and my little brother a classic lever action BB-gun, but it was a great day for sure.

I raised lots of hell with that air rifle, and even brought some meat to the table a time or two when I used it to kill a squirrel. I wish I had some idea where it ended up like so many other of my childhood possessions. 

This past holiday season I was able to experience the grandeur of receiving an air rifle once again but through my son as a gun surrogate. He is 5, and by no means mature enough to be trusted on his own with a weapon any fiercer than a foam stick, so when my brother suggested getting him a gun I was skeptical. We talked about it and agreed that if he got him one he'd have to give him lessons on shooting it and keep it put up etc. My wife almost killed me but we made it through it and my son became the proud owner of a Christmas morning pellet gun.

Friday, July 12, 2013

AR-15 Carbine MOE Forend - Bargain Tactical

AR-15 Carbine with Magpul MOE hand guards and vertical grip;
A Magpul Pmag in OD and a Bushnell Trophy Dot sight round it out.
Beginning life a few years ago as a standard off-the-shelf High Standard HSA-15 with a 16" barrel, front-post flattop A3-style carbine, my mil-spec AR-15 functioned well, but left something to be desired, aesthetically. I knew right off that I would be adding an Ergo Grip Original, and that my love of O.D. green (olive drab) that originated from playing soldier in O.D. kid fatigues at an early age meant that my Ergo Grip would have to be green. A socket with extension enabled a quick and easy grip change from the factory standard black plastic stick that I find so uncomfortable. The Ergo Grip is superb. Not too soft, not abrasive, not flimsy or breakable feeling; just right.

The back up iron sights (B.U.I.S.) consisting of the standard front post with elevation adjustment and rear flip-ups from Pro-Mag, I was able to hit the targets, but also wanted an optical sight of some sort. Being unable to afford an ACOG or AimPoint, I considered going with a 1-4 variable scope but couldn't decide which I liked best. Then I stumbled upon an unlikely candidate, at an unlikely sale price.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

TOTD - Passion or Practicality?

I've struggled with this in all aspects of my life for as long as I can remember. Should I go purely with practicality, or follow the urge in my gut that makes me giddy? It's an age old question: head or heart?

Kel-Tec PF9. Solid single-stack 9mm
The Practicality.
Following my head, in terms of what I know I need, I my next handgun should be a slim, compact 9mm pistol that can easily conceal in summer attire. Something such as this KelTec PF9 or a Ruger LC9. Practical, since it fits the needs I am missing and I already have another 9mm, the Glock 19. Some people would say I don't need the single stack compact nine because of the Glock, but it creates quite a lump in a tshirt. I need something less conspicuous.

Now, if I ignore my own brain's advice, above, I would wind up
Springfield Armory Range Officer 1911.
The Passion.
with something I've always wanted: a 1911. There are several good buys on the market now, from Remington R1's to various models from Springfield Armory (such as the Range Officer shown here) that adhere to my tastes in .45's. And sure, there's some practicality in owning one. But is this what I really need now? No, it's not. Is it what makes me giddy and want to go to the shooting range? You betcha.

Decisions, decisions...

Monday, July 8, 2013

TOTD - Hollywood: Making Heroes Look Stupid

"I'm a paladin hero deputy sheriff. I know guns. That's why I told
that other idiot to release the safety on his Glock."
*Not what Rick really said.
I finally gave in and recently added a show to my TV watching time. "The Walking Dead" is a good show, with great characters and tense realism intertwined through its gory premise. It also illustrates well why those of us who prep for apocalyptic scenarios do so, and inadvertently provides some tips to our crowd by showing some things that can go wrong. Whether it's zombies or some crazy monkey flu, pandemic scenarios are nothing to scoff at, and this show brings that forward to the audience in spades.

Despite all this action and emotion packed goodness, it does have some problems. I won't go into all of them, just the one that's pertinent to this site: gun knowledge. Face it, there are LOTS of guns on the show, both seen and used. Being also a sound man, I find myself constantly annoyed at the fake and excessive sounds made by the guns being handled. Someone one-hand draws a gun from a holster ... it makes a slide racking sound. Clinks, slides, snaps, and pings abound every time someone touches a gun at all. However, this is not the worst offense.

I almost stopped watching a few minutes into the pilot, because I became so annoyed at the blatant lack of gun knowledge, or apathy of the director/producer/writer to allow ignorance to be presented as fact. The hero, Rick, tells a bumbling deputy, "Be sure you've got a round in the chamber and the safety is off." Okay, nothing wrong with that, except, oh wait ... that guy has a Glock! There is no manual safety to turn off. And despite the fact that hero Rick should have known this, they made it worse by showing the bumbling deputy mime releasing a safety after he chambered a round! They even added a "click" noise as he passed his thumb over the slide release, which being the only lever on the pistol is what he had to use to pretend he was doing something with a safety.

I mean, c'mon! If that line and action are critical to your plot enough to leave it in - turns out later it kind of came back around - then dang it, get a different prop gun for the actor that actually has a manual safety on it! Don't suck all the zombie preppers out of the action - the crowd who knows a Glock has no manual safety - and ask them to believe something they know is wrong. That's just lazy, and supremely annoying!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Custom Remington 1100 Home Defender

Remington 1100, customized for Home Defense
Finding a used, "well broke-in" example of a gun with a solid reputation for reliability can be like finding a '69 Camaro that's been sitting in a barn for the last 20 years. It's rough, sure. But, boy, does it have potential.

As a project, I had been looking for a good, low cost semi-auto shotgun for a while. I wondered if there was one that would work reliably for people whose arm wouldn't cycle a pump-action on "auto-pilot." But, there aren't many semi-auto shotguns that garner much respect for reliably cycling. I even asked our shop gunsmith what he thought of various auto-loading shotguns' reliability.

"I don't think much of any semi-auto shotguns, actually," was his response. "But if I had to use one, I would go with a Remington 1100 or a Benelli M2 maybe. You have to be sure the 1100's gas passage is in good shape though." I had already thought the same, but his second-opinion made me feel better about my thinking. The gas operation of most semi-autos was known to sometimes jam up after lots of use. The Benellis use a recoil operated system, thought to be more reliable by some people.

When I ran across a Remington 1100 that looked as though it had been hunting every day for the last
ten years, before finally being left lying in a mud hole for the last few months, I knew I had something. After a little haggling, the price came down to shockingly low. I could hardly keep from grinning as I handed the man his money. Unfortunately, there's not a picture of how it looked on that day. The picture below was made after the 1100 had been cleaned up and refinished, back to beautiful.

Used Remington 1100 "barn find" after lots
of elbow grease.
In fact, some linseed oil on the wood (actually a dangerous process), some WD-40, a few Scotch-brite pads, and a whole lot of elbow grease and fine-grit sandpaper brought this fine pup back to what I think is better than new appearance. We didn't leave it at that, though. No, this pretty little 12 gauge was picked up with a singular purpose in mind: cheap, reliable, hard-hitting home defense.

After the weeks of cleanup and refinishing, the other easy modifications came incrementally: 18" cylinder-bore barrel, TacStar magazine tube extension, and a Streamlight TLR-1. All done, this used 1100 is equivalent to a new "tactical defense shotgun" that would run you around $1,200-1,500 off the shelf, but for about 1/3 of that cost. Then consider that I think this one, with the hand rubbed, matte finished wood stock looks way better than the all plastic composite stock "tactical" models. And after checking the gas passages and replacing the o-ring with a simple and cheap parts kit, the result is a reliable semi-auto home defender that's as pleasant to look at as it is intimidating from the wrong end of it.

Watch for a future article detailing the process of this gun's restoration, refinish, and customization.

On a Tangent
Intimidating. That's a tricky area for home defense. With a weapon that's intimidating to look at, it's possible you could avert an attacker without ever firing a shot. That's a good thing. But suppose you do have to fire. Suppose you kill a home intruder with a weapon that's designed to be good at defending your home? You will almost invariably wind up in court, defending yourself against criminal charges for taking a life. An article from the United States Concealed Carry Association suggested recently that if you've used a purpose built machine like this pseudo-tactical shotgun, you're more likely to do time for it, because the prosecution will attempt to persuade the jury that you wanted to kill someone. "Why else would he have a gun that's only good for doing that?" they might say. I agree with the USCCA that there is that possibility. However, I also cry bullshit.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

TOTD - Snakes and Scatter-guns

"It's dark up here!" Jason yelled.

"Hang on, I'll open the door," I said. We, along with his little brother Josh and a friend of theirs, were playing in our grandfather's barn. It was a warm summer day in the mid '80s, and we had made our way to the hay loft. It was dark, and even hotter with the door closed.

I reached for the bailing wire that I knew held the door shut by hooking over a nail. As my hand was almost to it, I stopped. Something didn't look right about the shadows. Then the wire twitched. I stepped back and kicked the door as hard as I could with my 11-year-old legs. It swung open with a rattle and squeak, startling the other boys, I think. But then ...

"Snake!" I yelled. We all hit the ladder heading back down within a second. Some climbed down, some jumped from halfway or more. I don't recall who did what. But, I do recall that big black snake draped over the corner of the hay loft door as it swung out in the air, 20 feet up. We ran, yelling and screaming, up to our grandfather's house.

Daddy Almon, as all the grand-kids called him, had lived his entire life in the rural south. An outdoorsman who loved to hunt birds and rabbits, he always had a shotgun handy. Once he settled us down and figured out what was going on, he walked casually down to the barn, toting the shotgun that lived over the door in his utility room. I'm not sure what gauge it was, or what kind, but I think - looking back in my mind's eye - that it was probably a Browning A5.

"Well, that's just a black snake," he said stoically as he shouldered the shotgun. We all watched as one big boom brought the snake down from the loft door. It hit the ground and started the famous sideways slither with its long body, booking it toward the treeline.

"A black racer! Look at it go!" he yelled, seemingly delighted to watch it run. I don't remember exactly what happened next, or if it was that scatter-gun or a shovel that my older cousin Chris was wielding that ended the racer. That experience cemented two things in my memories, though.

  1. Summer in the south, especially rainy days, means snakes. Always watch where you put your foot in the grass, or your hand in a dark hay loft.
  2. Daddy Almon and a shotgun just went together.
Not my grandfather's guns.
Just a sample wall rack.
When the snake ordeal was over, that scatter-gun went back on the rack in the utility room, likely still loaded. Back then it wasn't a concern so much. It was out of reach of the littlest kids, and by the time we were six or seven, we all knew not only basically how to use guns, but to not mess with them without an adult's help. They were just a part of life in the south, out in the country. They were a part of who we were; part of our heritage and family.

Even now, 17 years he's been gone, and every time I drive past his old house and see that old barn out back, I think about that day, that snake, and Daddy Almon with that shotgun. It makes me smile and chuckle. It makes me proud to come from a long line of tough outdoorsmen, the kind of men for whom shooting at your own barn to kill a snake that scared your grand-kids was no big deal. And ... it makes me want a new shotgun.

Comfortable IWB Holsters? Nate Squared Tactical Says Yes!

The N8squared Professional model, with Springfield 1911.
Nate Squared Tactical (N8squared), a small company out of North Carolina, has a new patented design inside the waistband (IWB) holster on the market, in three versions. The Original, Tuckable, and Professional series holsters represent a good deal in American made products, at $39, $49, and $69 respectively. All Pro series holsters are now available in both right and left hand configurations.

What makes these holsters special? They're comfy. How many of us have had cold steel pressed up against our sides in the dead of winter, or sweat and heat from an IWB holster drive us nuts in the height of summer? These holsters solve all of those issues with the padded, breathable suede backing plate that keeps the skin comfortable by keeping the gun away from it.

Look for a full review of the Nate Squared Original model on AFG soon.

Ugly No More - Turnbull's TAR-40

An older fellow I worked with always referred to the family of AR type tactical rifles as "black uglies." There was truth to it. In the standard base form they are typically all black, and even if you think they look cool, you have to admit, they aren't pretty. But now traditionalists can have their cake and eat it, too.

The beautiful Turnbull TAR-40.
Turnbull Manufacturing is now producing a pretty AR based rifle for the discriminating collector. In fact, they make both an AR-15 (.223) based model, the TAR-15, and a .308 model based on the DPMS LR-308 (A basic AR-10 type platform), which they call the TAR-40 for some reason.

The TAR-40 is a beautiful piece of work, featuring color case hardened, carbon steel upper and lower, flattop (optics ready) carbine setup, gas tube operation, and premium American Walnut furniture. It's gorgeous. And like any supermodel, expensive. The "basic" TAR-40 starts at $4,995. Start adding options like upgraded wood and higher-end scopes from Leupold or Zeiss, and you can have one all the up to $8,995 if you like. I personally know absolutely zero people who would consider or be able to buy one of these. But, it sure is pretty to look at.

The TAR-15 is more "reasonably" priced, starting at $2,750.

Friday, July 5, 2013

TOTD - Cheap Pocket Knives

My latest everyday knife. A nice little Gerber,
given to me by my Dad, Dave.
What's that one thing you always seem to need when you've forgotten it? The thing that serves so many uses and makes you the hero of the moment when no one else has one? That thing that everyone should always have in their pocket or purse? That's right. A pocket knife.

I have so many pocket knives that I don't know where all of them are. But, I always have one in my pocket (unless I'm in a hurry leaving and forget to grab it, later invariably suffering the ridicule of my wife when she needs it). Over the years I've carried a wide variety of styles, brands, and price levels of knives. I've come to realize that my favorites for everyday carry are the cheaper ones. Not the flea-market variety, mind you, but the cheap good ones. They serve well, typically hold up better than expected, and because they aren't $200 Benchmades, don't leave you hesitant to use them for the dirtier tasks that might cause them to mar or break.

The proper way to use a pocket clip.
Don't hang your knife on the outside.
Generally, avoid the no-names or anything under about $10. However, there are many manufacturers who make good quality knives in the $10-30 range that will be good pocket companions for years. Look to Gerber, CRKT, Kershaw, Ka-Bar, Magnum, and others that have a long history of reliability in the business. I find it's best to buy from a retailer that allows you to handle the knife before you buy, to be sure it feels right to your hand. If it's not comfortable, you'll wind up leaving it at home on purpose, and there's no sense in that.

I prefer a pocket clip, easy one-hand opening, and a partially serrated blade for my everyday pocket knife. The clip allows it to be quickly accessible in case of need as a defensive tool, as well as the one-hand opening. The partial serration means it will rip through things like zip-ties more easily, and leave the non-serrated part of the blade sharper for more precision use. You may have other preferences, and equally well thought out reasons. Regardless of those, if you don't have a cheap everyday knife, get one, and carry it!

The .444 and Me

Terry, a young co-worker in the plant called me aside and asked me if I was a deer hunter. Now any Southerner knows it’s what “real men” do. So without hesitating I answered, “Sure. Why?” I thought he was about to ask me to go hunting with him.

“I got a rifle I need to sell,” he said.
The Marlin .444 lever action

“What is it?” I asked.

“A four-forty-four Marlin.”

“A what?” I asked.

“It’s a deer gun – a lever action. Got a scope, too. I bought it last year from my cousin and never got to go huntin’ with it. All this overtime we been workin’.” He cracked a little grin and added, “It kinda kicks. But it shoots real good. My cousin said he’s killed several deer with it and none of ‘em even tried to run after he shot ‘em. It’s a real hoss.”

To make a long story short, I bought the rifle from him the next day when I saw it. It was a beautiful rifle, well made, and it fit me almost perfectly, except for one little thing. That one little thing would come back to haunt me later: I had to raise my head slightly off the stock to get the correct view through the scope.

I assessed it as a heavy-duty deer-killing machine, with heavy being the operative word here. But considering the humongous size of the cartridges that he supplied with it, I figured all that steel must be needed to contain the power of those huge bullets. Most of my prior experience with rifles had been with a semi-auto .22 Model 77, and with my lever-action .22 magnum Model 255, both Winchesters. I considered myself highly proficient with those guns. But this Marlin was in a totally different category.

A few days later I was in the woods near my home with my “new” .444 lever gun looking for a place to try it out. I needed to check the gun’s 4X scope and get a feel for it before taking it hunting. I spotted a big white blotch on the bark of a pine tree about 25-yards from me. The tree was at the base of the hill behind it, providing a good backstop. A perfect place to start, I thought. Not too far away. I should hit the tree even if the scope is off a little. Then I can adjust it if needed. (Being older and wiser, I would now familiarize myself with its ballistics, take it to a range and use a rest and an actual target to sight it in.)

With the full confidence of an experienced rifleman, I raised the rifle to my shoulder, carefully centered that white spot on the bark in the crosshair, and squeezed off a shot. 

I fought to keep my footing in the pine straw and leaves while the blast of the gun echoed again and again through the hills. I wasn’t expecting a kick like that – or the pain of its sledgehammer-like blow to my shoulder. The stock had somehow slammed into my cheek bone as the rifle leapt upward in recoil. Time has erased my exact thoughts at that moment but I do recall that it brought tears to my eyes. That had never happened to me, before or since. No, I wasn’t expecting to be thumped by the butt of my own gun. I wasn’t prepared for that at all. A nice, relaxed stance and grip on this baby was not going to cut it. I was getting the feel of it, and damn!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Thought of the Day - 1776

Obviously, being the 4th of July - Independence Day - I've been thinking about the American Revolutionary War. My mind has bounced around everything from what the reasons were for the war, to what a miserable situation it must have been for most involved, to what weapons they used, and how even the latest technology of the day, flintlock muskets, were challenging to use efficiently. Instead of rambling on about it all of these subjects, I decided to show you some cool videos I found on the topic of Revolutionary War weapons. Enjoy! And have a safe and happy 4th!

(With all of these, I recommend selecting the maximum available resolution, which they may not play at by default.)

This video shows of a fife and drum corp as well as a small group of re-enactment soldiers going through the paces.

Aside from his head being cut off for half the video, this is one of the best simple explanatory videos of flintlock operation I've seen out there. Want to know how it works? Watch the whole 4:46.

This one is without dialog at all, but it has some nice closeups of what's going on with loading and firing.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Thought of the Day - Inline with What?

I severely dislike "modern," inline muzzleloaders. What's the point in it, really? Sure, it slows the
Yep, they say this is a muzzleloader. Nope. Not to me.
reloading time, preventing a hunter from taking a second shot as quickly. But when you have a precision rifled barrel, a high quality scope, and a sabot projectile that's the size and shape of a .338winmag bullet, being pushed by 150 grains of high potency black-powder replacement with velocity and accuracy rivaling current bolt action rifles out to 250 yards ... I mean really. Why?

Stainless barrels, camo synthetic stocks, carbon fiber ramrods. What the hell? This isn't muzzleloading, it's being compliant with laws for muzzleloading hunting. Some areas open special early or extended deer seasons for people hunting with muzzleloaders. The technical definition of muzzleloaders - a gun that is loaded through its muzzle - allows these modern high performance rifles to be used during those special seasons, which were supposed to be for hunters willing to take an extra step at sportsmanship with a self-imposed handicap of hunting with old weapons that are limited in range, accuracy (to a degree), and require more skill and knowledge to use than a bolt action with a scope. Imagine asking the average hunter to assemble his own ammo cartridge before taking a shot at a whitetail? That's muzzleloading. Dropping a couple compressed powder pellets down the muzzle and stuffing a plastic sabot with a ballistic tipped 200 grain jacketed projectile on top of the powder, then using a 209 shotgun primer that ALWAYS fires instantly and always ignites the powder pellets is ... well, that ain't muzzleloading. Sorry if it's how you do it, but stop calling it muzzleloading, especially if your gun has a scope on it.

Give me a Hawken; a Kentucky rifle; a Springfield 1861; anything with a side-lock and iron sights! I like a powder flask, a number 11 primer or musket cap, and a good ol' hunk of lead sitting on top of a greased cloth patch! Give me those open iron sights that are so thin and black that they might as well not exist after 4pm! Give me a wood stock and a brass buttplate! Hell, give me a flintlock! Give me traditional muzzleloading or give me ... well, anything but that inline crap.
A traditional Kentucky Rifle. Beautiful, I think. This is a real muzzleloader.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Going Ballistic

Which cartridge is on the money?
One of the biggest mistakes I ever made while helping a customer choose a firearm was allowing myself to get caught up in a debate over ballistics. The debate wasn't with the customer I was helping. My customer was a novice about guns, just learning what was what, and in his early 40's, had decided to take up deer hunting. He was looking for a first ever bolt action rifle. Up till then he only had experience with a .22 lever action when he was a teenager, and had not since owned a gun of any sort. As I stood with him, looking at rifles and attempting to explain in near layman's terms what the practical differences would be between a .30-06 and a .270win, another customer joined the conversation.

"Those are some old-school rounds! What you want is a 7mm Remington short action ultra mag, or a .300 WSSM. I actually prefer the .338 WSSM myself, but I'm not recoil shy. But actually..." He continued on for a minute, rambling about various new (at the time) rifle chamberings, and began quoting ballistics charts and spouting some things about the principles and theories behind the various rounds that I knew to be bullshit. What made this worse was that in the midst of it he dropped the info (which was likely also bullshit) that he was an ex army sniper. What made this whole thing even worse was that my relatively clueless customer was standing there listening to all of it.

Then I made it even worser (as my 5-year-old would say). Instead of politely excusing myself and my customer to the ammo aisle to show him some examples, I allowed myself to engage the blowhard, know-it-all, BS-slinger in a debate over ballistics. By the time we were done, and Mr. Ex-sniper had relented - having to leave because his lunch break from the Jiffy Lube was over - my actual about-to-buy-a-rifle customer was confused out of his mind and didn't know what to think. I was back to square one, and possibly about to lose a sale from "over tech-ifying" the customer. (That's a sales term I coined that more sales people need to learn.)

Not that I was trying to sell the customer on a .30-06 or a .270, but rather I was attempting to teach him the basics of ballistics, in order for him to understand and help me figure out what chambering would work best for him, in his particular hunting situation. Instead I had helped to scramble his brains with tech details that are in all but the most extreme situations mostly pointless. Quickly realizing the problem I had just helped to create, I walked him to the ammo aisle and pulled out some boxes of rifle ammo and began again, with the basics. 30 minutes later I was calling NICS for his purchase of a new Ruger M77 in .243win with a Leupold VX-1 scope mounted and bore-sighted.

Turned out he had a pre-teen son who was wanting to try hunting, too. He decided they could share a good quality rifle at first instead of buying them each a cheaper grade gun like the Remington 710. Since they would be sharing, he went with a chambering of minimal recoil that was good enough ballistically for Alabama whitetail deer at moderate distances, and cheap and plentiful enough to allow them plenty of range time together before hitting the double ladder stand.

Hunting in 1937. Somehow, he still bagged
a deer with that old gun.

What it came to was that I had imparted to him my own philosophy that "old-school" doesn't mean "bad," and shiny-new-to-market doesn't always mean better, or better for you or your particular needs. What will work best in a chamber selection is not as easy as picking the hardest hitting, flattest trajectory, highest velocity round you can find. If it did, everyone would shoot .50 BMG and be done with it. That's absurd. There are more factors at play in selecting a chambering for your gun than ballistics tables alone. My customer had come to understand what his needs were, and with my advice, understood what would meet those needs. Ultimately he purchased a fine firearm that should serve him and his son well for years to come.

Whether you're shopping for a deer rifle, a home-defense carbine that can also pop coyotes in the back-40, or a handgun for concealed carry, targets, camping, or hunting, the variables involved in picking one include things like:


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