Quantity has a Quality of its Own

Henry Golden Boy .22 lever action holds 16 rounds.

Henry Golden Boy .22 lever action holds 16 rounds.

Use of a .22LR rifle makes practice easy and enjoyable.

Use of a .22LR rifle makes practice easy and enjoyable.

Not everyone can shoot powerful centerfire guns. For a person with wrist damage, even a mildly  recoiling 9mm service pistol would be too much. A person with little upper body strength would be  hard-pressed to handle an AK or an M1 carbine, though they feel very light to most shooters. Shoulder  damage would make recoil of a .223 feel excessive. Many turn to rimfire guns as the best alternative, counting on landing a greater number of hits to make up for the lower power of the round. Is that prudent?

Let’s look at the home defense application first. The reduction of power from the oft-recommended  12ga or 20ga shotgun to a .22 rifle is drastic. A typical .22LR bullet weighs 40 grains, same as a .30  caliber #1 buck pellet. A single round of buckshot contains 16 of them, more than a typical rimfire  magazine. Penetration is very similar at 10″ to 14,” with 40gr hollow points expanding to about .30  caliber in gelatin when fired from rifles. While rifle bullets retain velocity further downrange, that’s  irrelevant for the typical in-house defensive use. Due to insufficient penetration, 30-grain varmint  rounds are less effective against human size attackers.

By this comparison, we can expect a magazine dump from a sporting semi-auto .22 rifle to have an  effect similar to a single shotgun blast. A rimfire rifle has no muzzle flash and much less  pronounced report compared to a shotgun. Given the minimal recoil of such rifles, good practical   accuracy is actually quite typical in home defense situations. For the same reason, diligent practice  is possible even for those who cannot handle the recoil or the weight of the bigger rifles.

The down sides to using rimfire used to be the reduced reliability of the ammunition, the awkward  rimmed cartridge shape for autoloaders and the limited magazine capacity. Fortunately, these  problems are now largely imaginary. Let’s consider them one by one.

“Everyone knows” that rimfire ignition is less reliable than centerfire. That is certainly evident with  bulk ammo. Some brands and lots may have a misfire every 20 rounds. This lack of reliability is  most certainly not an issue with the higher grade cartridges. A CCI competition shooter has  recently reported a million rounds fired without a single misfire. While not up to a million rounds, I’ve  had zero malfunctions over tens of thousands of such defense-oriented types as CCI Mini-Mags  and Velocitors, or any of the Eley-primed types.

10-round box magazine.

10-round box magazine

32-round box magazines

32-round box magazines

50-round rotary magazines

50-round rotary magazines

Rimmed cartidges are indeed rather tricky to fit into magazines. Fortunately, we’ve had well over a  century to perfect the feeding devices. Straight box magazines can hold up to a dozen, tube  magazines up to 18, curved box magazines up to 32. They all work fine. Some people prefer the  smaller flush-fitting box (or rotary in the case of 10-22) magazines, others like the higher capacity  and the additional leverage at reload time afforded by the extended models. Rimfire drums can  hold 50 rounds but keep only the few rounds in the feed tower under spring pressure. The  remaining 40-odd cartridges are supported by the individual cogs. That solution drastically reduces  the friction inside the rotary magazine and also eliminates possible deformation of the unjacketed lead bullets. 275-round pans for the American 180 submachine guns remain a less practical  curiosity. The plus side of the rimmed design is the simplified headspacing which permits looser  chambers and thus greater tolerance for fouling.

AR15 with a dedicated .22 upper

AR-15 with a dedicated .22 upper

Sig522 with a red dot sight.

Sig522 with a red dot sight.

10-22 with a light/laser and a folding stock

10-22 with a light/laser and a folding stock

AR15 with a .22 conversion kit

AR-15 with a CMMG .22 conversion kit

The sporting background of the traditional rimfire rifle makes it a bit challenging to operate under  pressure, especially when reloading is required. Fortunately, a large number of rimfire clones of  fighting rifles are now available. These mimic Sig 556, AR-15 and SU16 carbines in all but the  caliber and the weight. Most use polymer lower and sometimes upper receivers to shave off a  pound or two of weight, with almost another pound saved by the lighter ammunition. These guns have familiar oversized controls, accessory rails and tend to be fairly robust. When recoil is a concern but weight isn’t, rimfire conversion kits become an option.

Keltec SU22, a very light carbine.

Keltec SU22, very light carbine.

Peter Grant, a friend who has trained many handicapped shooters, favors .22LR in very few  cases, mainly when centerfire is just not an option. He said that the low cost of the ammunition and  the minimal wear on the shooters allowed his trainees to hit a rolling ping-pong ball reliably after  expending hundreds and even thousands of rounds in practice. Three of his students used laser sighted rimfire pistols to fight  muggers, all with the same outcome: dead thugs had their faces  cratered by multiple .22 slugs. With the same rounds being notably more energetic when fired from  rifles, there’s no doubt that they can be adequate for self-defense. A 12-gauge shotgun or a  centerfire rifle may be the choice for most Americans, but the lowly rimfire rifle is far from  inadequate. In many cases, it gets pressed into defensive service simply by being closer at hand than a dedicated fighting rifle. In any case, it’s worth knowing what it can and cannot do in combat.

Basic Range Etiquette

Whether you are a newbie, or a seasoned professional, it is always good to mind your manners when you go to the range. As a new shooter, you may know there are fundamentals of safety that everyone should follow while at the range, but did you know there are also social “rules” you should follow? If you are an old pro, maybe it is time to dust off this “I got this” attitude and remind yourself.

Photo by Ed Yourdon

Photo by Ed Yourdon

First, let’s run through the four golden rules of firearm safety:

  1. ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
  2. ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
  3. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
  4. Know your target and what is beyond.

Regardless of where you are; a friend’s private range, the back 40, the ridiculously expensive skeet range, or your local dive, always follow these rules.

The number one rule: do not show up with a loaded gun. All ranges will have their own rules. Those rules should be posted in plain sight. I would be cautious of ranges that don’t. Read over the rules. Follow the rules. For example, plenty of ranges have ammo restrictions. Make sure you have the kosher ammo to shoot. Some ranges require lead-free or do not allow full metal jacket. To make sure, call ahead. Further most ranges discourage rapid fire. To err on the side of caution, do not rapid fire unless you have clear permission to do so. Rapid fire makes people nervous, and we don’t want to do that. All ranges will require you to put your safety glasses and hearing protection on before entering the firing lanes.

Familiarize yourself with range commands. The two important ones are “cease fire” and “hot.” Cease fire means to stop shooting. When you hear cease fire, immediately stop firing, clear your gun, and lay it down with the barrel pointing down range. Step away from the gun. Do not approach the lane or your gun until you have the all clear. It is a good habit to wait for others to approach the lane; don’t be the first. When the range is hot, it means everyone can start shooting again.

Photo by Zach Zupancic

Photo by Zach Zupancic

Ranges generally have separate pistol lanes and rifle lanes. Make sure you are shooting the right gun in the right lane. Generally, a rifle chambered for .22 Long Rifle is OK in the pistol lane, but ask at the front desk to make sure. The last range I went to had only one rifle caliber private lane. They have a 20-minute limit in that range. If you happen to run into the same situation, keep track of your time and quit when it is time. The person behind you can’t wait to shoot either, so be respectful of their time.

Listen to and respect the Range Officer (RO). They are the RO of that range for a reason; they are experienced, knowledgeable, and are there to keep everyone safe. If an RO wants to give you tips, let them and be appreciative. Their tips will help you improve your shooting technique. Listen to and respect the Range Officer (RO). They are the RO of that range for a reason; they are experienced, knowledgeable, and are there to keep everyone safe. If an RO wants to give you tips, let them and be appreciative. Their tips will help you improve your shooting technique. If you have a malfunction and cannot fix it yourself,  put your gun on safe, if possible open the action, put down your weapon with the barrel pointing down range and alert the RO.

All of these rules are safety rules, but there are social norms to follow while at the range as well. You probably won’t be lucky enough to have the range all to yourself, there will be other people there. Meeting new people at the range is a great way to make friends; after all, you already know you have at least one thing in common! It is okay to be sociable at the range, but there a few ways to go about doing so. First, do not disturb someone’s concentration. Do not interrupt someone when they are shooting; don’t tap them on the shoulder and don’t yell at them. Wait to talk to them when they are resetting targets or causally reloading. You can always wait to chitchat with them in the lounge. Do not ever touch anyone else’s stuff. Again, this will make someone nervous. If you do strike up a friendly conversation and you want to compare guns or show your gun to someone, always clear the weapon and present it with the action open. Never, ever shoot someone else’s target.

One thing I have learned is that some people are hypersensitive to too many questions. They may not want to tell you how many guns they own, where they live, what they do for a living, and so on. I’m an open book; I love discussing my firearms, but others don’t. Respect their privacy.

Also, watch what you say. Don’t be a weird-o. Joking around about the Zombie Apocalypse is generally acceptable, but talking about militia and Waco, and constructing cans out of homemade materials is generally NOT okay.

Guns are fun to shoot and range time should be a good time, but don’t get overly excited. Don’t bounce around, horseplay, or freak out.   Stay calm, cool, and collected. Again, weird-o jittery behavior will make others feel nervous.

When you are done, clean up after yourself. Grab the broom and sweep up your brass, throw away empty ammo boxes and used targets.

Be safe, be respectful, and you should have a good time.

Did I leave anything out? If so, tell me about it. Does your range have any strange rules? Share them!

Pistol-Mounted Lasers in Combat

Compare this X5L light/laser on a standard M1911 to the movie prop on a longslide .45 pistol!

Crimson Trace red laser on Keltec P32

Crimson Trace red laser on Keltec P32

Ever since the film Terminator brought the pistol lasers out into the public eye, the debate has raged about their utility. With the miniaturization of the actual lasers and development of relatively efficient batteries with long shelf life, laser sighting became available for almost every modern pistol. The opinions on laser sighting range from “unnecessary,” “gives away your position,” “just learn to use iron sights to “wonderful,” “liberating” and “indispensable.” Let’s look at lasers in detail. (Viridian X5L | CTC for P32)






Viridian C5L on a Keltec PF9

Viridian C5L on a Keltec PF9

Crimson Trace laser on a Keltec PF9

Crimson Trace laser on a Keltec PF9. The holster purse is made by Gun Tote'n Mamas.

Red or Green? While the power of consumer lasers is limited by law to 5mW, green lasers are by far better visible than red, especially in daylight. Why doesn’t everyone use green? They are bulkier and require larger batteries for the same runtime, though that also allows the integration of a weapon light into the same unit.. A green laser is very practical as a rail-mounted unit for quite a bit harder to fit into a grip panel or make fit seamlessly with a subcompact pistol. Some pistols, such as Keltec PF9 accept both types. Others, like Keltec P32 or Ruger LCP, are much too small for anything but a red laser. While 5mW is the limit for eye safe weapon lasers, some are available in colors ranging from red to blue and in power from 300mW to 2W, hundreds of times stronger than the standard consumer models. They come as parts kits provided with assembly instructions and used manly for emergency signaling. While some people have improvised gun mounts for them, those lasers lack windage or elevation adjustments and may be less recoil-proof. These lasers are not eye safe when tightly focused. Their beams may be defocused to provide coherent light illumination matching shotgun pattern spread.





X5L light/laser on a Keltec SU16E carbine

X5L light/laser on a Keltec SU16E carbine

Viridian GLK laser on an inert trainer show how subtle the laser actually is

Viridian GLK laser on an inert trainer show how subtle the laser actually is

Doesn’t the laser give away my position? In a fog or a smoked-up room, it can. However, there’s a reason why almost all advertising photos of lasers have the beam drawn in. For the photo on the left, in order to get any visible trace at all, I had to put a smoke grenade behind the shooter. Normally, the laser is invisible except for a small red or green dot at the emitter. At an indoor range, where the light level is low and the air is full of particles, lasers look like colorful wires stretching to the target, especially after you fire a few shots. At which point the muzzle flash and the report of the gun already made you a good deal more conspicuous than the laser beam ever could.

Can a laser be zeroed the same as iron sights? Yes, but with a difference. If a laser is mounted below the boreline, the near zero can be made the same as with the irons, but the far zero will be different (closer). For this reason, some people zero their lasers further, for example at 50 yards. The pistol will shoot slightly high up close but be closer to the aiming point further out. With a side-mounted laser, the parallax is usually not worth correcting. With the laser parallel to the bore but off to the side, the offset remains small and predictable. With pistol, a difference of an inch is seldom critical.

Fireing from supine position

Firing from supine position

First-time shooter uses a laser to verify steadiness of aim

First-time shooter uses a laser to verify steadiness of aim

So what kind of problems do lasers actually solve? Poor eyesight is one. Using iron sights becomes more difficult with age. It becomes impossible if the defender’s eyeglasses are knocked off early in a fight. Firing on the move is another: careful lining up of iron sights is very difficult when trying to move away from a moving attacker or his line of fire. In all those cases, keeping the aiming point on the actual target can be very helpful. Aiming from awkward or compromised positions, such as from behind a ballistic shield or from supine.

Precision shooting is another. The effect is most pronounced with pocket pistols, at least my groups shrink to half or third of the original size when fired using a laser rather than iron sights. The same effect is evident with larger handguns as the range increases. I would be hard-pressed to hit a paper plate past 50 yards with any pistols mainly because the sight alignment error magnifies with range. With a properly zeroed laser, sighting errors are taken out of the equation and the accuracy depends more on the trigger control and on the inherent accuracy of the pistol and ammunition. Much the same accuracy improvements can be obtained by using optical sights.

Lasers are also extremely helpful for training. Keeping a laser on during procedural gun handling helps reinforce muzzle awareness. Instructors can watch the laser dots from their trainees’ pistols to evaluate sight alignment consistency and trigger control. Finally, Laserlyte makes a laser training “cartridge” that makes dry-fire a great deal more useful by flashing a brief light-burst onto the target. The Walther P22 in the photo is my standard tool for training new shooters: it is sound-suppressed and equipped with a Viridian Green Laser to aid in learning trigger control. The light weight and small grip mean that even small kids can operate it without difficulty.

Viridian belt holster for S&W M&P9c with C5L light/laser

Viridian belt holster for S&W M&P9c with C5L light/laser

Sideguard belt holster for S&W M&P9c with C5L light/laser

Sideguard belt holster for S&W M&P9c with C5L light/laser

What are the down sides to laser use? The cost is the most immediate. Recoil proof adjustable lasers run from about $75 to $400. Well worth the money, in my opinion, but upgrading a safe full of pistols can get expensive. Maintenance is another: batteries should be changed regularly when laser is in storage and also after heavy training use. Laser emitter lens has to be kept clean and free of powder residue.

You may also have to get a new holster for your carry gun. Grip and slide mounted lasers can usually use the same holster, but rail mounted designs usually do not. Fortunately, most holster makers offer models designed around specific gun/laser combinations. Popular combinations have many carry options available. Since the rail-mounted  lasers fit in the recess between the dust cover and the trigger guard, the concealability of the pistol doesn’t change much. (Viridian TacLoc | Sideguard)

In actual use, lasers require training, same as any other sighting system. The small laser dot, especially with red lasers, may require some practice to pick up quickly. In highly reflective environments, such as around car windows or glass doors, reflected and refracted light can be confusing. Most shooters use a combination of iron sights and lasers, knowing from experience which works in what situation. A laser may be just another tool for rapid and accurate sighting — but it is a very versatile and useful tool.

What do you think about lasers on handguns? Have you found them useful in a way I have not mentioned? Has training turned up some unforeseen consideration worth mentioning?


If the Shoe Fits…You Dance Better

The rifle is too big!

This AR15A2 rifle is too big for the 4'10" shooter

Instructor's hand next to the learner's hand

Instructor's hand next to the learner's hand

Most gun enthusiasts are men. Many of them would like their spouses and children to learn firearms. Teaching the family to shoot is sometimes a more difficult task than expected, not for lack of interest but because many mainstream defensive arms are simply too big and heavy for the new shooters. Certainly, some teenagers are taller than their parents, and some women are stronger than their husbands, but they are the exceptions. A 5’2″ female trying to master an AR15A2 or another full-sized firearm would find it as difficult as you’d find dancing in shoes three sizes too big. It can be done, but introduces a needless complication into the process. The same is true when a new shooter is instructed with a hard-kicking hunting bolt action.

A small woman can certainly handle a long, heavy rifle the same way that a soldier handles a Barrett M82, by firing from a bipod or a supported position. Firing off-hand becomes a chore, as the forward balance combines with excessive length of pull (distance from the buttplate to the trigger) to make aiming and recoil control difficult. A shooter with small hands can fire a double-stack autoloader or a revolver with a long trigger reach using a two-handed grip. The same person would be hard-pressed to get a good one-handed grip on the weapon in a rapid response situation.

Traditionally, the most expensive custom firearms were fitted to individual shooters. Few of us can afford that, but fortunately the modularity of modern rifles allows extensive customization without great expense. The three rifles shown below are but a few of the many suitable for smaller shooter: they are provided as case studies. Many other caliber and type options exists, but these three are relatively inexpensive, reliable and effective. All three of these have been found comfortable by shooters who weigh under 60 pounds. Much lighter options are available in .22LR, but who would want to saddle his spouse or teenage child with a marginal stopper in case of an emergency.

Short, light rifles: Doublestar AR15, Auto Ordnance M1 Carbine, Kel-tec SU16E

Short, light rifles: Doublestar AR15, Auto Ordnance M1 Carbine, Kel-tec SU16E

The first rifle is a custom build by Doublestar. It uses a short fixed stock (a collapsible stock would have also worked), a lightweight barrel, small circumference handgrip and forend. Folding rear sight allows for a clear sight picture with an optic, while fixed front provided full-time emergency sighting should an optional optic fail. The main advantage of this option is the commonality of parts and training with other AR15s, by far the most common defensive rifle in the US. On the right, a slightly difference rifle from the same maker is shown in the hands of an eleven year old boy: light weight and oversized controls made the rifle very easy for him to control.

The middle rifle is the classic M1 carbine. Simple is design and operation, it was the originally designed specifically for the support personnel. That it trickled down to the front lines of World War Two and Korea just proves the worth of the design for short range self-protection. For those who prefer the versatility of an optic to the traditional look, both Auto Ordnance and Ultimak make replacement handguards with rails. While debate rages about the suitability of the .30 Carbine ball cartridge for stopping aggressive foes, soft point and hollow point ammunition such as the Federal 110-grain load have excellent performance.

Eleven year old rifleman with a Doublestar AR15

Eleven-year-old rifleman with a Doublestar AR15

Below is the Keltec SU16. The length of pull on the standard SU16 is quite long, but swapping the fixed stock for the “E” pistol grip and telestock kit takes only a minute. SU16 is a reliable piston design with a polymer receiver. The standard forend is very light and unfolds into a bipod. The Red Lion Precision forend shown in the photo adds no extra weight, provides better ventilation and allows mounting of additional accessories. The Magpul AFG grip can be used as design or in conjunction with the magwell hold — the center of balance on this rifle is at that exact point. Low-mounted Aimpoint Micro H1 and Viridian C5L light/laser allow rapid identification and engagement of of targets.

While the light weight of these guns increases the recoil slightly, much better fit allows to control that recoil much better. The only real performance sacrifices are in the long-range accuracy and the capability for sustained fire. The thin .223 barrels are good for about 100 rounds before heat becomes an issue. Neither consideration is of much importance in defensive or sport shooting for which these carbines would likely be used. While meant for the smaller shooters, these guns are fun for the grown men too. Even the short fixed stock can be easily used by very tall shooters — they just fire from a less bladed stance and get to use their binocular vision better.

Just like shoes, guns have to fit. It is no fun to shoot a weapon that is too big, too heavy or otherwise unsuitable for the budding marksman. It is no wonder that new shooters often recoil at the prospect of more range time with guns they cannot physically control. If giving a gun as a gift, get the recipient’s input on the type and configuration, even is that means forgoing the Birthday or Christmas surprise for the recipient. The smiles — and the improved results — of a shooters whose gun fits perfectly will be well worth your effort.

Shoot Safe this Labor Day Weekend

Guns and alcohol do not mix. This Labor Day weekend we at Cheaper Than Dirt! would like to give everyone a quick reminder to have a safe and relaxing weekend. We know that the vast majority of our customers are responsible gun owners, and would never endanger someone else’s life by drinking alcohol and using firearms. If you are going to the range, remember not to get tanked before you go. We know that most of you all know your basic gun safety rules, but hey, a quick reminder never hurt anyone. So here goes…

Always Point in a Safe Direction

Always keep your gun pointed in a safe direction. This is the primary gun safety rule. A safe direction means that you pointed it so that even if it were to go off it would not cause injury or damage. The key to this rule is to control where you point the muzzle or front end of the barrel at all times. Common sense dictates the safest direction. Always keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. When holding a gun, rest your finger on the trigger guard or along the side of the gun. Until you are actually ready to fire, do not touch the trigger.

Always know what is behind your target. Putting a cardboard target on the side your house is probably not a good idea. Make sure there is an earth barrier of some kind behind what you are shooting at. Know how to use your gun safely. Fiddling with the slide on a loaded pistol of which you are unfamiliar, is a quick way to hurt yourself or someone else. Always make sure you are proficient on the piece of equipment you are using before you try to operate the gun.

Trigger Finger Discipline

Be sure the gun is safe to operate. Never fire a filthy or gummed-up weapon. Do not fire a gun that has some sort of stoppage in the mechanical components or the barrel. If a stovepipe jam has caused a lodge in the barrel, never fire another round to get it out. Seems crazy, but it’s been tried. Use only the correct ammunition for your gun. If you are unsure of the type of ammunition the gun requires, take it to a qualified gunsmith, they can help you. Wear eye and ear protection when shooting. This is a rule that I used to be guilty of, that is until I had burning powder catch the corner of my eye. I never shoot without glasses now; I like my vision in tact thank you. Store your guns so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons. This would include children and would be criminals. A gun safe is a perfect place for your collection of firearms. Make sure that you bolt the safe to the frame of your home, and that only the proper people have access to the combination or key. Simply hiding your guns under your bed won’t deter a burglar.

These simple gun safety tips are always a good idea. As far as we should be concerned, you can never really be too careful with a firearm. Proper gun safety is part of being a responsible gun owner. Remember, the more people who lose their minds and get hurt or killed in a gun related accident, the more ammunition the other side has to take away what the Second Amendment gives us the right to have.

Have a fun labor day and happy shooting!

Use Your Sights…

…except for when you don’t have to. In marksmanship classes and training, we constantly preach to use your sights, because aiming at the target is the way to get accurate hits.  But in practical shooting, you’ll reach a point of diminishing returns where the sights actually slow you down on your way to getting fast hits on a target.

Using the sights or not?

For example, take a look at the image on the left – obviously you can’t tell whether or not I’m using the sights on the gun because you can’t see my eyes. And you couldn’t tell my looking at the target either, because the round that just exited the gun was a down zero hit. This goes back to the practical shooting adage of “see what you need to see”, which to un-zen it means you see exactly as much of a sight picture as you need to get the hit. In the case of the situation at left, I didn’t need a sight picture at all to hit a wide open paper target three yards away, so I just extended the gun and pressed the trigger and sent a round of Federal .45 ACP into the down zero.

That hardest part about it however is learning to shift gears – shooting with a minimal sight picture at 3 yards and then going to a proper sight picture to hit a steel plate at 15 yards on the same stage. To get used to this, I’ll set up a simple drill that I can do on a single lane range using a standard IDPA practice target. Take a 3×5 index card, and cut it in half. Paste the two halves on opposite sides of the IDPA target, those are now T1 and T2. The “Down Zero” of the IDPA target is T3. On the start signal, draw and fire two shots at T1, two shots at T2, and two shots at T3. The trick is to be able to accelerate when shooting a “T3″, because it’s a large 8 inch circle and you won’t need the kind of sight interface to hit it that you will need to hit the half-index cards. You don’t even need the IDPA target, really – the whole drill can be done with a paper plate and the index card. I usually shoot it at 5 yards, because at that distance I need to use my sights to hit the half-index cards, but not to hit the down zero.

Use this practice drill to get used to switching your focal length from the sights to the target. You can also mix it up and shoot the big target first, or second to change the pace. But most importantly, head out to the range and give it a shot!

Ultimate zombie combo

Last week, Ruger announced the launch of the new Ruger 77/357, which is a bolt action rifle chambered in .357 Magnum.  I got to thinking about this gun, and despite the fact that it only has a 5 round magazine, when paired with a revolver also chambered in .357 Magnum such as the Smith & Wesson 686 you have yourself an almost perfect “zombie combo”, or more accurately you’ve got a great rifle/pistol combination for the woods.

BVAC .357 Magnum 158 grain JHP

The Ruger 77/357 has all the desirable aspects of a great “bug out rifle” – it’s light, coming in at only 5.5 pounds, can readily accept modern optics (and would probably be a pretty sweet pairing with an Aimpoint), and it’s chambered in what is one of the most versatile handgun cartridges in existence.  .357 Magnum is available in pressures from mild cowboy action loads at 1000 FPS with all lead bullets all the way up to 200 grain bear-killing hardcast bullets at ungodly velocities.  However, for a good “general use” round it’s hard to beat a 158 grain JHP, like this one from BVAC.  The BVAC .357 Magnum 158 grain JHP is cruising at around 1200 FPS from a pistol, which means from a rifle you should see a velocity increase of around 100-200 FPS at the muzzle.  That’s plenty of bullet to deal with many of the 4 legged dangers you might encounter during a rural bug out situation, and of course the .357 is well proven as a fight stopping projectile for two-legged danger.

I honestly think that pairing a .357 bolt gun with a revolver makes more sense as a bug out gun combo for 99% of the popular than an AR15 pattern rifle and a hi-cap 9mm.  I like that you only have to carry one kind of ammo, the revolver isn’t dependent on magazines to keep it in action, and while the bolt gun does feed from magazines in an emergency it can be used as a single shot rifle if you lose the magazines.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have an AR and a Glock with 400 mags for each gun, but if you’re on a limited budget, it makes more sense to me to drop $650 on the new Ruger 77/357 and another $460 on a Ruger SP101 in .357 Magnum than it does to go out and spend the money on an AR and whatever other pistol you need.  .357 ammo is relatively cheap, with lead practice ammo running about the same as .40 S&W and less than 5.56 ammo.  A bolt gun in .357 and a good revolver in the same chambering will solve 99% of the situations I can imagine getting myself into during a short term survival emergency!

Birchwood Casey Darkotic Splatter Targets

Are you ready for the Zombie Apocalypse? The CDC has released a preparedness plan in case zombies start roaming the streets! We feel they left out a very important part, firearms! Time to start practicing with Birchwood Casey Darkotic Splatter Targets!

Click a target below to BUY NOW!


Dividing your Practice

Caleb shoots the weak hand only string of fire on The Practical Event

Most of us are never going to get in a gunfight. The few of us that do have to draw our firearms in defense of our lives as civilians will probably not have to fire a shot. Those that do have to fire will probably only have to fire less than seven rounds. Now, we all agree that practice and training are important, because if you have accepted that the aforementioned scenario could happen, you want to make sure that you fire only the rounds you need to fire and that they all hit their intended target. So we’re going to assume that “training” is something that you want to do.

With that in mind, how do you divide your training? Obviously, it’s important to practice things that you’re not good at, such as weak hand only shooting, or long range shots, or reloads. Whatever your weakness may be, don’t give in to the natural human temptation to neglect it and just practice the stuff you’re good at. That being said, it’s also important to practice the “high probability” stuff. For example, if you need to use your gun in a defensive situation, there is almost a 100% probability that you’ll have to draw it from a holster. That would mean that practicing the drawstroke is something very, very important to practice and master. On the flip side, there is a fairly low chance of you being wounded in your strong side arm and needing to reload your pistol one-handed, weak hand only. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t know how to perform that skill, but mostly that it should be lower on your priority list than “drawing”.

I will usually spend 5 to 10 percent of my practice sessions on strong hand and weak hand shooting. I should probably spend more time on it, but at the same I see a better value in practicing my reloads from concealment. In any IDPA match, there will usually be a stage where I’ll have to shoot strong or weak hand only. One stage, maybe 6 rounds out of a 100 round match. The guy that’s an absolute ninja at shooting SHO will do well on that stage. However, if you’re shooting CDP (which I am) you’ll need to reload from concealment 1-2 times on every stage. That adds up to a huge amount of time if you’re good at reloading and a big advantage.

Practice is important, whether it’s for IDPA or self-defense. Practice your weaknesses…but not at the expense of high percentage gains.

Shooting in Foul Weather

Gathering rain clouds don’t have to postpone your springtime trip to the range.

As the winter weather ebbs away and warmer breezes encourage us to get outside and enjoy the return of spring, many of us begin to gather our rifles, pistols, and shotguns and head out to the range to get some practice after a long winter spent indoors. With the return of warmer temperatures comes spring rains and weather that is, while somewhat warmer, a wet and soggy mess. It’s not just the rains that can turn your outdoor range into a mud hole, melting snow after months of accumulation can turn normally solid ground into a boot sucking swamp.

Most people are deterred from heading outdoors when dark clouds gather and rain pelts the roof of the house. Even when the sun is shining, a soggy trail suitable for only a 4-wheel drive vehicle can keep many shooters from reaching their outdoor shooting range. But others, like myself, are undeterred. Come rain, shine, snow, or hail… ok, maybe not hail. That stuff hurts. But barring hail, lightning, or a howling tornado, you can likely find me braving the elements.

Foolish? Some might say so, but I disagree. There is an old axiom that you should “Train like you fight.” Now, I’m not in the military, and I’m not a law enforcement officer. I’m not out there practicing dynamic entries or running a “tactical” pistol and rifle transition course, though I might practice transitions for an upcoming 3-gun match. Even though, in all likelihood, my life will never depend on my skills with a rifle or pistol, I feel that it is valuable to shoot under varying environmental conditions.

The Cradle of Pistol shooting

Smith & Wesson M&P with Crimson Trace Lightguard and Lasergrips

Next week, I’ll be at Gunsite Firearms Academy with Crimson TraceS&W, and Galco.  We’re going to be playing with the new Crimson Trace Lightguard for the M&P pistol, pictured at left from SHOT 2011. Galco has a new holster that’s designed to fit the M&P with the Lightguard attached, which we’ll also be trying out.

But that’s not what I want to talk to you about today. Today, we’re talking about Gunsite Firearms Academy, the cradle of pistol instruction.  I’m not old enough to actually have taken classes at Gunsite when Jeff Cooper was teaching, nor do I “remember” in the strictest sense the great rift when Col. Cooper sold Gunsite, then eventually reacquired it. What I do remember is sitting in the Coast Guard Academy pistol team’s ready room reading Cooper’s Corner in the back of Guns and Ammo and actually thinking about pistol shooting as more than just a sport. You see, without Jeff Cooper and Gunsite, we wouldn’t have our modern shooting culture. 99% if all not of the modern training schools owe their origins to Gunsite in one way or another; trainers came from there, added their own techniques and knowledge to the Modern Technique, and pistol shooting grew as a martial art across the nation until we have what you see today.

The same is true for competition shooting as well – without Jeff Cooper, there would be no IPSC, and without IPSC we wouldn’t have IDPA, Steel Challenge, USPSA, and 3-gun. Just like in those early days, competition shooting still continues to drive innovation in the combat shooting arena. When Rob Leatham and Brian Enos started shooting modern Iso instead of a Weaver-ish stance, it was a huge breakthrough. Now modern Iso is the industry standard, with only a few schools still teaching Weaver.

Dry Fire Practice – Is It Safe For Your Firearm?

Many of us who grew up around firearms have been warned for years never to dry fire any firearm. But can you really damage your firearm by pulling the trigger on an empty chamber? The answer is, as you might have guessed, “it depends.” Most modern firearms are safe to dry fire, but there are some notable exceptions.

Down Zero TV: Friends like these

As we get nearer to the official launch date of Down Zero TV, here’s a little clip of some of the “fun” action we get while attending the classes and matches that make up the body of the show. I’m shooting the Sig 1911 Tactical Operations at the Pistol-Training.Com class, and I get a little good natured ribbing from Todd. Todd’s a friend, and this is all in good fun.

However, there’s a valuable point as well – focus. If I said to you right now “don’t think about pink elephants”, now you’re thinking about pink elephants. If before a drill you’re thinking “don’t throw the first shot, don’t screw this up” you’re going to screw yourself up. The mind is an incredible thing, and negative thoughts right before a drill or a stage are a great way to cause yourself issue. I did, missing on of the mandatory head shots on the FAST Drill.

Enjoy the video, have a laugh. But remember that your mental game is extremely important, and when you’re at matches or classes to remain focused…but focus on the positive things.