Guns for Senior Citizens

Last week, my father asked me to research guns that would be good for senior citizens. He served in the Army when he was younger, and still swears he could take apart and put back together an M1A in a few minutes flat. I asked him if he would ever want to go to the range with me some time, he responded, “Sure! Though I couldn’t hit a target!” I understand what he’s saying. I’m pretty blind without my contact lenses or glasses. Gun ownership is not only for the able-bodied with perfect vision, there are so many different varieties of guns to choose from that a senior citizen with poor vision, arthritis, and limited range of motion will be able to find something they can comfortably shoot. After all, “guns make everyone equal.”

Photo courtesy of Bob Shell

Photo courtesy of Bob Shell


The most important factor is if you can load/unload and shoot the gun comfortably and safely. Consider the following when in the market for a gun:

  • Ease of trigger pull
  • Grip strength
  • Recoil
  • Ease of operation
  • Accuracy

Ease of Trigger Pull

If you have arthritis, pain, or loss of strength in the hands, racking the slide of a semi-automatic handgun can be difficult, or even impossible. Though semi-automatic handguns, especially those configured like a Glock, have the lightest trigger pulls, do not rule out a revolver. Revolvers tend to have harder trigger pulls, but a good gunsmith, or even the gun’s manufacturer can do custom trigger jobs on a revolver to create a lighter trigger pull. An alternative to the revolver, if you want a semi-automatic handgun, is to look at tip-up barrel models, such as the Beretta 86FS Cheetah.

Grip Strength

The gun you chose should not put any strain on you when you raise it. Further, shooting the gun must be comfortable. If you buy a gun and find it uncomfortable to shoot, you will be less likely to practice with it, which is necessary for responsible gun ownership. Be mindful of the gun’s overall weight when loaded. Many polymer-framed handguns are lightweight, such as the Glock 26 or the S&W M&P. A good choice would be guns with different size backstraps, so you can find one comfortable for you. I would suggest rubber grips over wood grips. Rubber grips provide more comfort and a surer grip when shooting a lot of rounds.


Photo courtesy of The Mason Jar Blog

Photo courtesy of The Mason Jar Blog

Smaller, shorter barreled guns have more recoil than guns with a longer barrel. Recoil should be manageable for quick, accurate follow-up shots. 9mm is generally, in my opinion, manageable. A snub-nose .38 is painful. Of course, .22 Long Rifle, .32 ACP, and .25 ACP barely even kick. There are tons of arguments about calibers for self-defense, but Bruce N. Eimer, PH.D in “Arthritis and Choosing a Defensive Handgun” writes about the merits of .380, “accurate shot placement is more important than caliber. A center hit with a small caliber is better than a miss with a larger one.” So pick what caliber you can shoot repeatedly without causing pain. It is suggested for senior citizens to shoot reduced-recoil loads and chose to shoot the non +P if your gun is +P rated. I have a short-barreled S&W in .38 Special +P-rated, but I shoot normal .38 Special ammunition in it. It still offers the same stopping power.

Ease of Operation

As I mentioned above, operating the slide, which loads the first bullet into the chamber and prepares the gun for shooting, may be impossible to operate for some users. A revolver is easy, and pretty fail-safe. Some revolvers that are single-action require you to cock a hammer back for each trigger pull. Other revolvers operate in double-action, which do not require the cocking of a hammer at all. Double-action revolvers are preferable to single-action for a self-defense gun. Some revolvers are hammerless, these types are just point and shoot. Of course, in times of high stress, this might be the best choice. If a semi-automatic handgun is your favored choice, then pick one with simple to use controls. Make sure you can load, unload, change magazines, operate any safeties, and disassemble the gun for cleaning easily. Many modern day polymer-framed pistols have very few controls, and zero complicated safeties.


Photo Courtesy of Oleg Volk

Photo courtesy of Oleg Volk

Using iron sights might cause a problem, if you have degeneration in your eyes, trying to focus on both the front and rear sight and the distant target will be difficult. Many guns, both semi-automatic and revolvers offer laser sight models. If you find a gun you like without a laser, most will accommodate an after-market laser that is easy to install on your chosen gun. Laser sights line up with bullet’s trajectory and help you in quick aim and bullet placement. Some pistols will accommodate a flashlight and a laser, aiding in your vision further. In addition, there are high-visibility sights you can add to any gun that utilize tritium that naturally glows in the dark without needing sunlight to charge.

In my research, I found these recommended guns for senior citizens:

  • Glock 26 in 9mm
  • Kel-Tec P32
  • Kahr Arms PM9 and MK9
  • SIG Sauer P239
  • S&W J-Frame revolvers
  • Full-sized .357 Magnum revolvers

With this little bit of knowledge to get you started, you can go to your local gun range and rent some of the suggested guns above to see what fits best for you. Remember: safety, comfort, and accuracy above all else.

Pink Guns

“Girly” pink firearms have become mainstream. Most major companies make them, and the reactions range from “cute!” to “ghastly!” —and

In Soviet Russia, Handgun Shoot You!

Growing up in the south in the early 1980s, I grew up with the mindset that the Russians were the “bad guys.” After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the subsequent fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Soviet made pistols were available to whoever had a bottle of vodka and the right amount of rubles. They may have been the bad guys, but you cannot deny that the cold war fostered some pretty cool small arms on their side of the iron curtain.

Soviet M1895

Soviet M1895

On the handheld side of the house, the Nagant M1895 was commonplace in the old Soviet Union. M1895 was chambered for a proprietary cartridge, 7.62x38R, and featured an unusual “gas-seal” system in which the cylinder moved forward when the gun was cocked to close the gap between the cylinder and the barrel, providing a boost to the muzzle velocity of the fired projectile, and allows the weapon to be silenced (an unusual ability for a revolver).

Tokarev TT-33

Tokarev T-33

Before the Second World War, Fedor Tokarev designed a pistol to replace the aging M1895. The Soviets adopted the TT-30 for troop trials and later adopted it for service. Almost as soon as the pistol went into production, design changes intended to simplify manufacturing went into practice, and the TT-33 was born. At first glance, the TT-33 is very similar to John Browning’s blowback operated FN Model 1903 automatic pistol, but it also used Browning’s short recoil dropping-barrel system from the M1911. However, the TT-33 is not an exact copy of the 1911. It uses a much less complicated hammer-sear assembly with an external hammer. This helps make the gun easier to produce in large quantities. Aside from the hammer, some other differences are a captive recoil spring which is secured to the guide rod, which does not depend on the barrel bushing to hold it under tension. To prevent misfeeds from a distorted magazine, designers machined the magazine feed lips into the receiver.

Soviet Makarov

Soviet Makarov

In the 1950’s, Nikolai Makarov attempted to design a pistol to replace the Tokarev line. Rather than building a pistol to an existing cartridge in the Soviet inventory, Nikolai Makarov utilized the “9mm Ultra” cartridge, which Carl Walther designed for the Luftwaffe in WWII. Walther’s cartridge became the 9x18mm Makarov. Since the bullet is of a slightly different size than the common 9x19mm Parabellum, NATO would not be able to use ammunition from Soviet Sources in the event of war. The Makarov pistol is a straight blowback operation to help simplify manufacturing and maintenance. The PM has a free-floating firing pin, with no firing pin spring or firing pin block. This allows for the possibility of accidentally firing if soldiers dropped the gun on its muzzle. Designer Makarov thought the firing pin of insufficient mass to constitute a major danger. The Makarov is notable for the safety elements of its design, with a safety that simultaneously blocks the hammer from contacting the firing pin and returns the weapon to the long-trigger-pull mode of double action when users engage that safety.

In the United States, these pistols are Curio & Relic eligible items according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, because the countries of manufacture, the U.S.S.R. and the G.D.R., no longer exist.

Semi Automatic Firepower on the Cheap

Remember how cheap these used to be? Those of us who are fond of visiting gun shows and purchasing unique shooting irons, often more for show than plinking, have no doubt handled the Russian-made SKS 45 7.62x39mm semi-automatic carbine. A quick glance at this rifle, with its spike-bayonet folded neatly beneath its barrel, its canvas sling taut and its rear sight raised, calibrated to 1,000 meters, makes this little baby rather menacing.

Imagine its look from the receiving end, with the bayonet extended! We have Russian designer Sergei Gavrilovich Simonov to thank for the SKS 45. Comrade Simonov designed the SKS, and the Soviets produced it at the Tula Armory from 1949 until 1955, and at the Izhevsk Armory from 1953 to 1954. SKS is an abbreviation for Samozaryadniy Karabin sistemi Simonova, Russian for self-loading carbine Simonov’s system, 1945. SKS 7.62x39mm M43 ammunition is the same round as the ammo used in the wildly effective, popular, and mass-produced AK-47. The AK-47 later became the weapon of choice for Russian troops over the SKS, due to its increased ammunition capacity and automatic capabilities.

Viet Cong, 1968

1968, a Viet Cong soldier crouches in an underground tunnel with an SKS rifle.

The SKS 45 is a gas-operated, self-loading carbine with a wooden stock and no pistol grip. The Russians have distributed it widely, notably to Russian-friendly Warsaw Pact countries and China. In East Germany, it was adapted and named the Karabiner S, in North Korea, the Type 63, and in Red China, the Type 56. SKS versions have found their way into the hands of Yugoslav, Romanian, Albanian, and North Korean combatants. Most versions of the SKS 45 sport an integral folding, spike bayonet. The Yugoslav version, the M59/66 has been equipped with grenade launching capability. The Russian army adopted the SKS in 1949, but soldiers quickly relegated it to second-class status by the fully automatic AK-47 assault rifle. The SKS saw action in Vietnam—in the hands of the Viet Cong—and in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa. Still, the SKS lacked the firepower of the more popular assault rifles like the M16 and the AK-47.

In Australia, the Chinese SKS rifle (along with the Russian SKS rifle) was very popular with recreational hunters and target shooters during the 1980s and early 1990s before the Australian government banned semi-automatic rifles from legal ownership in 1996. Since the introduction of the 1996 gun bans in Australia, the Mosin-Nagant series of bolt-action rifles and carbines have now filled the void created by the now illegal SKS. In the early 1990s, the Chinese SKS rapidly became the “poor man’s deer rifle” in some Southern areas of the United States due to its low price, lower even than such old favorites in that role as the Marlin 336. The United States government banned importation of the Chinese SKS in 1994.

Norinco SKS

A Norinco SKS

Empty, it weighs 8.5 pounds. With the bayonet folded, the SKS measures slightly more than 40 inches with a 20.5-inch barrel. The SKS loads from the top like the U.S.-made Garand. It has a 10-round internal magazine and boasts a muzzle velocity approaching 2,500 feet per second. The SKS has a hooded post front sight and a tangent rear sight that shooters can adjust to 1,000 meters (3,280 feet), although its effective range is realistically closer to 1,312 feet or 400 meters.

Karl Lippard’s 1911A2 Combat NCO: a 400-yard 1911?

The American love affair with the 1911 supports a number of custom gunsmithing operations producing very high quality, and very expensive, variants of John Moses Browning’s classic design. Buying one of these handcrafted beauties will set you back a huge chunk of change, but the appearance and performance of these custom guns is well worth it to some buyers. One of the most extreme examples of the full custom 1911 and advertised as being able to hit a man-sized target at an incredible 400-yard rand is the Karl Lippard Designs 1911a2 Combat NCO.

Karl Lippard was the general manager of Pachmayr Gun Works of Los Angeles, California when the Marine Corps came calling in the late 1980s. The shop’s assistance helped the Marines jump-start a 1911 modernization program that produced the MEUSOC 1911s, custom-built super tough pistols still used by Marine Corps Special Forces to this day. After the death of Frank Pachmayr and the closing of his Gun Works many of his former employees, including Lippard, went their separate ways and followed their own ideas of building the ultimate 1911. Earlier this year, Lippard began offering the Combat NCO for sale after receiving around 15 patents covering all its parts. Constructed entirely from S7 tool steel (usually used in making drill bits), the Combat NCO is machined to only three thousandths of an inch, or .003 inches, tolerances throughout. To keep the gun functioning in harsh environments such as mud, various parts have relief cuts added as a dumping ground for accumulating debris. The close-fitting parts sweep the debris into the relief cut areas like a broom. The link between the barrel and the slide stop is a wider, beefier design requiring a frame modification (and two patents to protect Lippard from pesky copycats). Lippard claims the combination of the barrel link and his massively oversized barrel bushing, which looks like a compensator but solid, prevents the barrel from yawing sideways to the left upon firing, a major cause of accuracy loss and premature wear in the 1911 design. Lippard also changes the design and execution of the grip safety and thumb safety to improve reliability and feel, and uses a patented sight system with two extra notches cut in the front sight. The lowest notch, near the very base of the front sight, is the aiming point for the advertised 400-yard shot.

Despite Lippard’s impressive personal history, and the amazing design and execution of his pistol, many in the pistol shooting community have met his 400-yard claim with skepticism and outright disbelief. There are a few reasons for this. The mathematics of making such a shot using a pistol with open iron sights are daunting. The sight radius on this pistol is only seven inches, after all. A 230-grain .45 ACP round traveling at 850 feet per second at the muzzle will drop an astounding 39.5 feet before impacting a target 400 yards away. Bullet travel time is almost four seconds to get there. The 1911 will be lobbing shots at the target like a howitzer! Assuming that the man-sized target is a standard E-Silhouette torso measuring 36 x 24 inches, the Lippard Combat NCO would have to shoot within six minutes of angle at that distance to score a hit. Six MOA at 400 yards is laughable for a sniper rifle, and even the relatively inaccurate AK-47 assault rifle can do noticeably better. However, 6 MOA accuracy from a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol with a five-inch barrel, no matter how well built, is a tall order indeed.

Lippard also hurt his credibility with some of the other claims found on his Web site. Now with the release of the A2 Combat NCO, he claims to be working on an A3 gun using ammunition exceeding 4,000 feet per second. It’s a gas-operated A4 variant of the 1911 and an A5 machine pistol “slated for military use in 2100” firing the hypervelocity ammo at over 400 rounds a minute. “Slated for military use in 2100?” By whom—the United Federation of Planets? He also claims to have patents pending on a project called SolidRifle, a fully automatic sniper rifle of fantastic accuracy yet capable of changing caliber and configuration in seconds. This SolidRifle stuff belongs in sci-fi video games featuring grim super soldiers using invisible camouflage—you gamers know what I mean—and seems pretty out of place on a 1911 gunsmith’s Web page. Lippard’s boast of a 400-yard 1911 looks tame compared to these other projects, of which nobody else has seen any evidence. Finally, speaking of evidence, neither Lippard nor any of his customers have taken a photo or posted a video on YouTube showing a 400-yard shot made on a target of any size by one of these guns.

Is a 400-yard, 6-MOA shot from a custom-built .45 possible? If any 1911 can do it, the Combat NCO is the one. Why not just buy one and try it for myself? Well, you see, this is a bit embarrassing. Honestly, I don’t have the $3,500 that it costs to get your hands on one of these beauties. So until one of you buys one and posts a video online of the shot, I guess we’ll all be waiting, wondering, and arguing over whether Lippard’s gun really does what he says it can do.

The 1911a2 Combat NCO

The 1911a2 Combat NCO

The Entry-Level 1911

Although there have been countless different variations of the original Browning-designed M1911, the overall design has hardly changed at all. With so many different 1911s to choose from, making decisions can get confusing in a hurry. If you are in the market for an entry-level 1911, you are in luck because there are several affordable options. Many are available in different calibers as well, so you are not limited to just .45 ACP.

At the top of the list of things to consider when selecting your 1911 are the sights. If you already know what type of sights you like best, to disregard them when selecting your 1911 could be quite costly afterward. For example, if you know that you need or want a specific type or brand of target sights, getting a pistol with standard low profile, military-type sights would almost certainly mean you would need to get the slide milled out to fit your aftermarket target sights, exponentially raising the cost of the pistol. So, make sure whatever sights your new pistol comes with are compatible with what you will need later.

Para Ordnance GI Expert

The hammer and grip safety combination is something else that should strongly be considered. Based on your intended grip, this may or may not be an issue. If you use a high-profile grip, then you will definitely need to ensure that your new pistol comes with a beavertail grip safety that is easily disengaged when you get a proper grip on the pistol, as well as a hammer that will not “bite” your hand when in the cocked position. This can be very painful, and usually makes a trip to the range considerably shorter than originally intended.

The trigger should be one of the top considerations when making your selection, as it can easily be the Achilles’ heel of an entry-level 1911 pistol. If the gun has a gritty, heavy trigger pull that makes you cringe when you try it, you should probably just move along to the next one. However, if you already plan to replace the trigger components, this is obviously not an issue.

The Springfield Armory GI .45 is about as close to the classic M1911 design as you can get these days. All GI models feature low-profile military sights, standard magazine well and spur hammer, standard ejection port, arched mainspring housing with lanyard loop, and vertical slide serrations.

Rock Island Armory also makes a GI version that is very similar to the Springfield Armory GI .45. Rock Island also offers several other versions, with different features, that are all within the same price range.

My Taurus PT1911 with a few upgrades

Para-Ordnance makes the GI Expert 1911, with several upgraded features that set it apart from the competition, while remaining an entry-level pistol. The main things that stand out about the Para GI Expert are the premium stainless steel barrel, which provides pinpoint accuracy, the crisp trigger pull, and the skeletonized spur hammer that prevents hammer bite.

The Taurus PT1911 is one of, if not the most, feature-packed 1911s currently available, especially in its price range. With its hammer-forged frame, slide, and barrel, it is capable of accuracy that normally costs twice as much. Each pistol is hand-fit and tuned with 19 standard features not typically found on entry-level 1911s from other manufacturers.

The most important aspect of selecting an entry-level 1911 is making sure that it fits your hand and you can comfortably reach all of the controls. After purchasing, shooting, and becoming familiar with your pistol’s basic setup, only then should you consider any customization or part replacement. After all, this is just an entry-level 1911 we’re talking about, here. Now get out there, pick up a 1911, and start shooting!

Samuel Colt Made them Equal

The Colt Single Action Army (also known as the Model P, Peacemaker, M1873, Single Action Army, SAA, and Colt 45) is an American history icon. Immortalized by Hollywood, lawmen, outlaws, and cowboys, the pistol is a lasting symbol of the old west.

Colt designed the gun for the U.S. government service revolver trials of 1873. The military adopted it as their standard issue service revolver until 1892. The SAA uses the .45 Colt cartridge, also known as .45 Long Colt or .45LC. This is not to be confused with .45 ACP commonly used in semi automatic pistols.

Countless companies have produced their own versions of the Colt over the years. It remains one of the most copied revolvers of all time. Hollywood made the gun even more famous in the western movie genre. Famous characters like the Duke, Wyatt Earp, and the man with no name used it to bushwhack bad guys on the silver screen since movies began.

Single Action Army

As the name implies, the gun is single action only, meaning the hammer must be manually cocked back to fire each shot. This is opposed to most modern revolvers, which are double action, allowing the shooter to continually pull back the trigger, consequently cocking the hammer. Many shooters choose to load only five rounds in the cylinder. This is due to the fact that pressure on the hammer could cause a round to go off unexpectedly. Most SAA shooters will tell you the practice of loading five rounds is highly recommended. For rapid-fire situations, it is possible to hold back the trigger and fan the hammer with the shooter’s other hand. Ed McGivern dispelled the myth of the inaccuracy of this procedure by shooting tight groups while fanning his revolver.

Colt produced many variations of the gun. Barrel lengths were available in 4.75 inches, 5.5 inches, as well as the Cavalry standard, original 7.5 inches. Colt branded the shorter barreled revolvers as the “Civilian” or “Gunfighter” model (4.75 inches) and the Artillery Model (5.5 inches). There was also a variant with a sub 4-inch barrel, without an ejector rod unofficially referred to as the “Sheriff’s Model,” “Banker’s Special,” or “Storekeeper.”

Factory Engraved

Colt also offered the Single Action Army in different calibers. To allow for cross compatibility with the Winchester, Colt produced the SAA in .44-40 and dubbed it the “Colt Frontier Six-Shooter.” Additional period calibers for the SAA included .38-40 Winchester introduced in 1884, the .32-20 Winchester introduced in 1884, the .41 Colt introduced in 1885, the .38 Long Colt in 1887, the .38 Special and the .357 Magnum in the 20th Century.

The gun’s precise ergonomic feel added to its popularity. The Peacemaker didn’t care what environment it was being operated in. In rain, snow, sand, or grit, the gun would function. This high level of reliability is just what people in the American west wanted. The SAA’s reputation for accuracy, ruggedness and reliability, as well as it’s role in history, ensured it a seat among the most famous and prolific firearms of all time.

Windham Weaponry: “We’re Putting The Band Back Together!”

Windham Weaponry MPC

In the spring of 2010, the Bushmaster plant in Windham, Maine closed, and Bushmaster’s tooling moved lock, stock, and barrel to New York, where the “Freedom Group” would assemble new Bushmasters alongside Remington rifles. The move was a surprise to the Windham employees, many of whom had been building rifles together there for over a decade. Although they knew how to build high quality guns and had great connections in the firearms industry, they now faced unemployment and an uncertain future. Then some employees started getting phone calls from their old boss. Richard Dyke, the former owner of Bushmaster Firearms Inc. until 2006, was unhappy with how things had turned out for the Windham crew, and had decided to come out of retirement at age 77 and start a new AR-15 manufacturing company right there at the old Bushmaster plant. As he put together investors and former employees, the word began to spread around; “We’re putting the band back together!”

Freedom Group now owns the rights to all the Bushmaster rifle’s specifications, so Windham started with a clean slate and drew up their own specifications for three new rifles. They decided to go old school, as close to military specifications as possible on metal choice, fit, and finish, because they knew if they did their rifles would work. Windham has released three AR-15 carbine models so far, featuring little mil-spec details like an aluminum trigger guard instead of plastic, hard-coat anodizing on aluminum and manganese phosphate coating on steel, and chrome lined barrels. They designed the three initial rifles to appeal to a wide variety of civilian and law enforcement shooters. Instead of trendy “flavor of the month” guns, they are basic carbines with  features that are tried and true, despite being drawn up on new specifications and having a new name attached to the guns.

The Windham “new old-school” approach shows up in the details of the guns. The Windham “SRC,” or Sight Ready Carbine, is the least expensive version and comes with no sights, just a plain A3 flattop style upper receiver and Picatinny railed gas block. The buyer saves the money that would usually go into the standard detachable carry handle, and then can spend it on whatever custom sights he prefers instead. Picatinny gas blocks are common now and several other manufacturers offer similar configurations, but look closely! The gas block is a critical part, it must line up exactly with the barrel’s gas port or the AR-15 will fail to cycle. Nearly all the Picatinny gas blocks on the market use two set screws to hold them in place, and if these set screws back out (barrel temperatures can melt Loctite by the way) the block may move around, losing its alignment and turning your semi-automatic carbine into a single shot. Even though the Sight Ready Carbine is a new design, they went old school with their gas block, using two taper pins going through the block and barrel the military way.

Windham’s two other carbines are the “HBC” Heavy Barrel Carbine, featuring a heavy barrel underneath the handguard, and the “MPC” Military Preferred Carbine, a classic M4-style featuring a “government profile” barrel with the famous M203 barrel mount cut out. One departure from military specs, in a concession to the civilian market, is that all three rifles use a 1/9 twist rate instead of the military issue 1/7 twist rate. Windham explains that despite a push by some law enforcement and commercial customers to standardize on the 1/7 twist rate, the 1/9 twist is still the most requested and the most common twist rate, so that’s what they went with for their initial offerings.

Windham doesn’t plan on standing pat with these three rifles. They have an aggressive plan to offer more variants in the near future including different barrel twist rates, ban-state compliant models including a California “bullet button” model and a dedicated varmint hunter configuration, and add more calibers next year. They will also start making runs of accessories and spare parts. One thing that Windham hopes will set them apart from the competition is their transferable Limited Lifetime Warranty, which follows the gun and not the owner. A Windham Weaponry gun bought on the used market at a gun show will still enjoy the same excellent warranty and customer service access as a new-in-box gun delivered from the factory straight to your dealer. A buyer who gifts his rifle to his brother knows that Windham still backs up their product. The fine print shows the Windham Warranty to be one of the best in the industry.

It seems like everybody is making an AR-15 these days, and with only three products and a brand new company name, the crew at Windham Weaponry have their work cut out for them. However, they are working together, doing what they do best, and they have faith that their products will speak for themselves. As Mark Eliason, Windham’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing told me, “the name is not recognized, but the experience behind the name is tremendous!”

Windham Weaponry SRC

Powder, patch, and ball

I was going to talk about the IDPA World Shoot today, but a post from CTD Mike caught my eye and demanded my immediate attention. Mike’s talking about traditional muzzleloading vs. modern muzzleloaders, which is actually a subject that I have very strong feelings about. I’m not what anyone would call a serious hunter, but the very first rounds I fired in any sort of competition were from a black powder rifle, specifically a Hawken pattern rifle in .54 caliber. I used to attend primitive rendezvous in California as a teenager, where I learned the mantra of “powder, patch, ball” to load my rifle – I learned to throw a tomahawk and a knife, and why keeping your powder dry is important. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that I’m a bit of a purist about muzzleloader hunting – sure, you can buy modern muzzleloaders with scopes and optics and pointy bullets that shoot flatter and hit harder, but to me, I don’t see the point. If I wanted to whack a deer through a scope at 200 yards, I’d use a .243 Winchester.

And the thing is, I can’t convince you on the internet why traditional muzzleloaders are better than modern ones, because it’s something you have to experience; the gentle shove of recoil, the smoke and sulfur, and the satisfaction that comes from knowing you’ve mastered a skill that our ancestors used to survive on the Great Plains. But in my best effort to do that, here’s how to assemble a “muzzleloader starter kit”, from guns to ammo and other gear.

Lyman .54 caliber trade rifle

Start here, with a rifle. This Lyman .54 Caliber Trade Rifle comes in at a reasonable price tag of $360; sure it doesn’t have double set triggers or adjustable sights, just old fashioned fixed sights and a single trigger. That means you’re going to have to be able to shoot well to utilize this thing in the field, and can’t rely on technology to help you shoot. Now, you’re going to need to be able to load the rifle, so there are some tools that you’ll need, such as a bullet starter and a good ramrod.

The essential shooting needs though are powder, patches, and balls. For black powder, the standard is Goex, and for a .54 caliber muzzleloader you’re going to want to use the FFg granulation of powder. The rule of thumb that I was taught was to start with a 54 grain powder charge, and work your way up from there. Back in the day, my general “target shooting” load was 75 grains of FFg, which delivered solid accuracy out to 100 yards with a patched roundball. Speaking of which, you’re going to need patches. I know what you’re thinking. You’re sitting there thinking “patches? We don’t need no stinkin’ patches” but the truth is you do. Just buy a bunch of the pre-lubricated patches and be done with it. You’ll also need bullets, or more properly roundballs. My favorite brand for projectiles has always been Hornady, they were always consistent and accurate.

As far as cleaning gear goes, the best way to clean a traditional black powder muzzleloader is with dish soap, warm water, and elbow grease. There are a lot of fancy “cleaners” on the market, but I challenge you to look at the active ingredients in those, and the active ingredients in dish soap.

The world of traditional muzzleloading isn’t easy, it requires patience, careful attention to your weapon, and the heart of a tinkerer, but if all that sounds like fun, then to me it’s more fun than machine guns. There is something about connecting to our American heritage in it, a sense of history and purpose that makes the experience more than worth it.

Say Hello to My Little Friend…

I am a big fan of shoot ‘em up movies (yes, I loved The Expendables), and guns in movies, be them real or fantasy. Sometimes I get so distracted checking out the guns and trying to name them, that I lose track of the movie. Doh! True Story: My movie buddy and I went to see The Killers and she whispered to me, “Who is that?” and I replied, “OH! That’s an H&K MP5!” She just laughed at me. Here is a short list of great movie guns:

Century International Arms GP WASR-10

Century International Arms GP WASR-10

Century International Arms GP WASR-10

The AK-47 has showed up in many of our favorite movies. This one by Century International Arms is a WASR-10 with a 30-round high-capacity magazine and outfitted with the original-style fixed wooden stock. It includes compensator, bayonet lug, and a bayonet.

The AK-47 is easily the most popular rifle in the entire world. One of my favorite quotes about the AK-47 is from the movie, Jackie Brown: “AK-47. The very best there is. When you absolutely, positively got to kill every m*****f***** in the room, accept no substitutes.” (Spoken by Ordell Robbie, played by Samuel L. Jackson.)

Like it? Want it? Buy it! Item: 2-CARI1805N







12 Gauge Century International Arms JW-2000 Coach Side by Side Shotgun

12 Gauge Century International Arms JW-2000 Coach Side by Side Shotgun

12 Gauge Century International Arms JW-2000 Coach Side by Side Shotgun

Who hasn’t called their shotgun a boomstick before? (If you haven’t, I suggest you try it.) Ash, in Army of Darkness, declares his “boomstick” a Remington, which in fact, is not a Remington in the film. International Movie Firearms Database thinks it is a 12-gauge Stoeger Coach gun, but cannot confirm that.

This Century International Arms JW-2000 Coach side-by-side shotgun looks very similar to Ash’s shotgun. This 12-gauge scattergun has a 20-inch barrel, a 3-inch chamber and a walnut-stained hardwood stock.

Nate Steere on wrote, “you know a gun is worth its weight when a guy with a chainsaw for a hand still bothers carrying it around.”

Like it? Want it? Buy it! Item: 2-CASG1090N






Cimarron Holy Smoker SA Revolver

Cimarron Holy Smoker SA Revolver

Cimarron Holy Smoker SA Revolver

This Cimarron “Holy Smoker” single-action revolver is a replica of the Single-Action Army revolver that Ben Wade, played by Russell Crowe, carried in the re-made Western 3:10 to Yuma. In the film, they call the revolver “The Hand of God.”

The Cimarron Holy Smoker features a gold-plated, sterling silver cross inlay in the grip, just like Ben Wade’s in the movie.

“The Hand of God” was said to be cursed, as anyone who touched it, besides Wade, was supposed to die. I highly doubt that the Holy Smoker is cursed, but for a good story, you sure could say it is.

The Holy Smoker is a .45 Colt wheel gun with a case hardened, old-model steel frame and is 4.75” long.

Like it? Want it? Buy it! Item: 2-CIMPP310GCI02






Springfield Armory Loaded M1A Semi-Automatic Rifle .308 Winchester

Springfield Armory Loaded M1A Semi-Automatic Rifle .308 Winchester

Springfield Armory Loaded M1A Semi-Automatic Rifle .308 Winchester

Ah, one of my all-time favorite movies: Full Metal Jacket. So many of the memorable scenes and quotes from this movie are about the M1A (M14) rifle:

  • “This is my rifle, this is my gun! This is for fightin’, this is for fun!”
  • “There are many like it, but this one is mine.”
  • “Seven. Point. Six Two. Millimeter. Full. Metal. Jacket.”

The M14 is also the rifle the Army issued to my father while serving. The M14/M1A, based on the design of the M1 Garand, began production in 1957 by Harrington & Richardson, Springfield Armory, Winchester, and TRW. Springfield is the only company still manufacturing the M1A rifle. A collector’s original pre-1968 M14 in excellent condition can rake in $18,000! That is if you can find one.

This new production Springfield M1A, chambered for 7.62x51mm (.308 Winchester) has a 22” National Match barrel, a 10-round magazine, a two-stage military, match-tuned trigger, and a classic American walnut stock.

Like it? Want it? Buy it! Item: 27492

Finally, I have to give a shout-out to my favorite fantasy movie gun of all time; Cherry Darling’s (Rose McGowan) AR-15 leg in Planet Terror.
What are some of your favorite movie guns, even fantasy ones? Loved the mini gun in Predator? Tell us about it!

Talking Top Shot: Cool Tricks and Cooler Guns

No Top Shot Interview today, apparently the FAA frowns on using Skype at 35,000 feet! We’ll have eliminated contestant Mike Morelli on next week as part of a double block of interviews. Right here, we’re going to talk about guns on Top Shot, because this show had one of my all time favorite firearms featured – the Smith & Wesson 686 revolver.

Smith & Wesson 686

I’ve had a variety of revolvers through the years, but one of them that I keep coming back to is my 686. My personal 686 is the SSR version, which is a little different in that it has a 4 inch barrel and some “competition” touches, but otherwise it’s exactly the same gun as the one pictured. 686s are great because with light .38 Specials they shoot like a .22, they’re generally quite accurate, and the single action triggers are generally great from the factory. In fact, for training a new shooter the finer points of sight alignment and trigger control with a centerfire handgun, you’d be hard pressed to find a better choice than a 686. While I have objections to using single action mode for self-defense or competition training, I see no issues whatsoever with using it to teach new shooters about sight alignment and trigger control. When used in single action mode, a 686 with a 6 inch barrel is just a really nice thing to shoot. It’s pleasant.

If you’re looking for a great gun for plinking, ICORE competition, or just to get the feel of a proper DA revolver, pick up a 6 inch 686 now. You won’t regret it!

Shotguns and Deer Hunting

If you have land surrounded by urban sprawl, or you live in a state that requires that you hunt deer with a shotgun, you will have a lot more luck if you properly prepare yourself and your shotgun before you try to bag that 10-point with your grandpa’s old scattergun.

Shotgun Ammo

Shotgun Ammo

Pick a Gun Any Gun

There are a million different configurations of shotguns to choose. Bolt-action shotguns, while rare, offer a high level of precision, while maintaining that rifle feel. This is a good option if you are used to hunting with a standard rifle. Single shot breach loading shotguns offer high precision and very low cost, but should you need a follow up shot, you will waste valuable seconds reloading. Pump shotguns are great for almost any shotgun application. One obvious advantage is that you can shoot virtually any kind of ammunition out of a pump shotgun, and since the action is manual, the shotgun will cycle no matter what. Semi automatic shotguns are gaining popularity in all types of shotgun sports. Their recent reduced cost and improved reliability make them an excellent option for hunting deer or any other game animal. Whatever your choice, you should pick a gun that fits you, your shoulder, and your lifestyle.

A Barrel of Fun

So here’s what not to do. Don’t grab your bird hunting setup and try to drop a deer. Birdshot is useless when hunting anything but small game and clay pigeons. You will probably just make the animal angry and it will run off. Look at your shotgun model. If you own a common shotgun, like a Remington 870 or a Mossberg 500/590 variant, then you are in luck. They make interchangeable barrels for most modern shotguns in production. Grab yourself a rifled barrel and you will have in your possession a weapon that has an effective range past 150 yards, well inside the range of most deer kills. If you don’t have access to a rifled barrel or your shotgun is an uncommon model, deer hunting with a smoothbore barrel is still quite possible. Make sure you buy rifled slugs rather than traditional ones.

Gear Up

Brenneke Slug

Brenneke Slug

When hunting deer, even at medium range, you might find yourself staring down the barrel and only seeing a front bead sight. While very fast, this is not contusive to the type of precision that most deer hunters prefer. At close range or in heavy brush, you might be okay with traditional rifle iron sights or ghost rings. Red dot sights would also work well. Designers created the red dot to be fast, and inside of 100 yards, fast is good. If you are like me however, out past 100 yards or so, I need a little help to see what I’m trying to hit. A low power riflescope might to the trick.

Slugs in the Wind

Plumbata Shotgun Slugs

Shotgun Slugs

Slugs are large and heavy. This makes them susceptible to manipulation from windage. Obviously, increasing range exacerbates this problem. Make sure you adjust your shot for windage, or you might be chasing your kill a long way into the brush.

The Bottom Line

I’m not saying that given the choice, I would use shotguns to hunt deer every time, but there are situations in which a shotgun is your only choice. That being said, it’s important to know how to configure your equipment so you can move in for that kill on opening day.

Adams Arms Glock Conversion Kit—Practice Makes Perfect

OK, I admit it.  I don’t do dry fire practice nearly enough.  To me, training with my defensive firearms means live fire at the range, which means range fees and ammo costs and cleaning the guns afterwards, and that means I don’t train as much as I should.  And supplementing my training with dry fire practice is boring and tedious and in my opinion has a serious flaw—without a projectile going downrange and impacting a target, I don’t get feedback on whether I’m screwing it up.  Momma always told me “practice makes perfect,” but the truth is “practice makes permanent.”  I need a hole in the target to show me that I’m practicing correctly.

Enter the Advantage Arms LE .22lr Conversion Kit for Glock.  The mid-sized, 9mm Glock 19 is my daily carry piece and therefore the gun that I need the most training with.  Pistol marksmanship and manipulation are perishable skills. I want to train specifically with the trigger, controls, and grip of my Glock 19.  If I substitute my Glock practice with a Ruger MkIII target gun, the trigger is different, the sights are different, the grip angle is different, the magazine doesn’t drop free… you get the idea.  Pretty soon I’m just plinking, not training, right?  The Advantage Arms kit is a replacement .22lr slide assembly that drops right onto my Glock 19’s frame with no modifications.  At a casual glance the slide looks just like the factory 9mm slide, with identical cocking serrations milled into it and factory Glock adjustable sights.  It attaches and detaches just like the factory slide, which means I have to dry fire a .22 to take it off.  That’s normally a big no-no, but the barrel is relieved where the firing pin would normally impact it and get mangled.  The included 10-round plastic magazine drops free like the 9mm mags do and locks the slide back after the last shot like the 9mm mags do.  Shooting the .22 kit uses the exact same manual of arms and sight picture as a factory Glock 19, but firing ammo that costs one-fourth as much as the cheapest 9mm I can find.  Put another way, I can shoot four times as often per dollar spent on ammo.   Or, if I paid $250 for the conversion kit, it will pay for itself in shot-for-shot ammo savings after about 7000 rounds of ammo fired (around thirteen of those 525 round value packs I like to buy).

Shooting the .22 kit is a real hoot.  I was able to get a 2.5 inch group at 10 yards away with supported, slow fire, but the five-pound trigger in my Glock isn’t a target trigger, the sights aren’t target sights, and I was shooting cheap value pack ammo, not match grade stuff.  Honestly, that’s about as straight as I can shoot the gun in 9mm configuration anyway.  I told you I need more practice!  The kit only comes with one magazine, I’ll acquire more since they are only about $15.  A plastic, Glock-style magazine loader is included with the kit, and I’m glad.  Even though the mag only holds ten rounds it has a lot of spring pressure and the last couple of rounds are tiresome to mash into place with my thumbs.  A basic cleaning kit and some oil are also included.  I had some failures to extract spent casings during my first range trip, but they didn’t really bother me. Most .22lr conversion kits are known to go through a problematic break-in period before they “settle down” and become more reliable.  Additionally, the cheap ammo I was using is not on the list of recommended ammo types which is printed off and included in the box with the kit.  Next time I’ll buy some better ammo.

I’m planning on using the conversion to practice realistic drills such as drawing from my concealed carry holster and firing a controlled pair into a target seven yards away.  Why not just dry fire the drill?  When I draw from concealment I’m using gross motor skills (big muscles moving as fast as they can) to get the gun out of the holster and pointed in the right direction, followed up by fine motor skills (little muscles that have to move with precision) to acquire my sight picture, squeeze the trigger, recover from the recoil, find the trigger’s reset point, and squeeze again.  The natural mistake to make in this drill is to mash the trigger hard and skimp on the front sight alignment because I’m in a hurry and didn’t successfully switch from big fast movements to precise movements.  If I’m dry firing, I won’t even realize I’m doing it, but if I’m training with the .22 kit, I’ll know immediately that I screwed up as soon as I see the holes in the target.  And with dry fire I have to cycle the slide myself if I want to feel the trigger’s reset, which means taking my support hand off the grip and… well, its just not the same.  The only place where the conversion kit allows me to really “cheat” in shooting drills is with rate of fire, because the felt recoil impulse is much smaller with .22lr (in fact there is pretty much no recoil).  So I can really blaze away with the conversion kit, putting aimed rounds down range much faster than I realistically could with the same gun in 9mm.  Sure its fun, but again that’s plinking, not training.  I’ll have to keep that in mind.

I’m excited about picking up the Advantage Arms Conversion Kit and my plans to increase my live-fire training time with it.  Of course I will still be putting a lot of 9mm holes in targets as well, but I believe that my shooting fundamentals with the Glock 19 will improve by the extra practice I can afford now.  Hopefully my practice will make perfect, instead of just permanent.

 Glock_22_10 Glock_22_9

Cheaper Than Dirt is Now Cheaper Than…Everyone Else!

That’s right, CTD is dropping gun prices, really. This is a permanent price change, not a sale. We are increasing our number of suppliers and dropping our prices on all non-MAP priced guns. In other words, if the manufacturer doesn’t have a minimum advertised price, then we make your future guns cheaper! What does this mean to you? It means you can rest assured that we have the best possible deals on all the firearms you know and love. It means that we are listening to our customers and ensuring that we offer you the best possible deals on the firearms we supply. It also means that we will continue to offer the best in customer service and support to you, our customer. Take a quick peek at some of our great new deals!

Cobra Enterprises FS30

Cobra FS380

$113.80 for a 380 handgun! Cobra Enterprises FS380 is an semi automatic pistol with a 3.5 inch barrel and seven rounds of .380 rock and roll. The chrome finish adds a touch of sophistication and the all alloy frame adds strength to this already great firearm.

Like it? Want it? Buy it here!






Olympic Arms AR-15

Olympic Arms Plinkerplus

$580.10 AR-15! Looking for a great deal on a high quality entry level AR-15? Our Plinker Plus model has all the great features of current AR-15 models but with a simpler A1 rear sight and are priced much lower than the competition.

Like it? Want it? Buy it here!








12 Gauge Mossberg Persuader

12 Gauge Mossberg Persuader

$247.50 for home defense perfection. High security is fine; high maintenance isn’t. Enter the Mossberg 500 Persuader shotguns, the pump action shotguns you can count on for your security needs. Introduced in 1961, the Model 500 pump action utilizes an aluminum alloy receiver. The gun has a number of desirable features, including a barrel that is fully interchangeable, an easily manipulated top of receiver mounted safety, an anti jam elevator, dual extractors, and twin action bars for smooth and reliable operation. Model #50521 is available as a 6 shot with an 18″ cylinder bore barrel, parkerized finish and includes a pistol grip kit.

Like it? Want it? Buy it here!