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Get Your Ammo Organized!

Ammo Can Organizer

Tired of looking for that loose bore cleaning brush?  Didn’t you buy this one because you lost the last brush too?  And where did the cap to that bottle of gun oil go?

It’s time to get your gun cleaning supplies organized, and this ammo can is just the ticket, because it comes with three stackable 12-compartment interior organizer trays.  It’s a heavy duty can with two large latches that snap shut firmly which you can lock with a padlock for extra security.  Why not throw in some Locktite, allen wrenches and small screwdrivers, and take it with you to the range?  The next time a shooting buddy’s scope rings loosen up, you can be the friend who has the tools to fix the problem right there.  There’s a carry handle on top, too, which folds flat so you can stack these ammo boxes one on top of another nicely—the lid of one ammo can interfaces with the bottom of another one.  These big ammo cans measure 11.5x8x6″, so there’s plenty of room to store cans of gun oil, pistol length cleaning rods, or even… ammo!

Hideaway Safe is Ready to Serve

Hideaway Wall Safe

Hideaway Wall Safe

Designed to fit between two wall studs, this hideaway safe is ready to serve!  Mounting this safe flush against the wall with a picture hung over it gives you discreet protection for your valuables.  You can also mount it between floor joists and cover it with a rug.  On the garage wall it looks like a fuse box.  Measuring just over a foot long and 8.5-inches tall, it’s suitable for hiding even the largest handgun within the padded inner chamber.  It has a very solid locking mechanism featuring two chromed deadbolts, and comes with two skeleton keys.  The body of the safe is made from 16-gauge steel and the door from 6-gauge steel, so this unit is heavy!  What’s better than an affordable strongbox securing your handgun?  A strongbox that only you know about!

A Victory for Wisconsin Citizens!

Wisconsin State Seal

Wisconsin State Seal

Governor Scott Walker signed SB93 into law on Friday, July 8, 2011, making Wisconsin the forty-ninth state to adopt concealed carry laws. Most of the provisions take effect in November; let us look at what the changes mean.

“Open carry” of unconcealed firearms is allowed, including inside your vehicle, as long as you do not pass through a school zone while doing so. Concealed carry is allowed in the home, or at a business, you own, without a permit; but packing heat in other places requires a permit. The permit is a “shall issue” type, meaning that if the applicant meets all the requirements necessary, the issuing authority must issue a permit to them. The permits cost $50, must be renewed every five years for $25, and you must have your permit with you while concealing a firearm. Wisconsin citizens must get Wisconsin permits instead of out-of-state permits, although there will be reciprocity for out-of-state citizens visiting the land of cheese and Packers football.

In order to apply for a permit, you must meet a training requirement. However, there are several different options meeting this requirement. Classes specifically designed for concealed carry, certain hunter education classes, documentation of law enforcement or security training, or proof of military firearms training will all do the job.

Even with a permit, carrying in certain places is forbidden. An employer can forbid employees from carrying concealed at work, but cannot prevent them from keeping firearms in their vehicles in the company parking lot. Other restricted areas include police departments, jails, courthouses, and areas beyond the security checkpoints at airports. There are exceptions added to the rules regarding firearms around schools. For example, allowing unloaded and cased firearms or firearms in a locked vehicle gun rack.

SB93 includes some unusual laws intended to benefit concealed carry permit holders. A new section protects companies from any legal liability for allowing folks to carry their guns inside businesses. This means fewer companies will display “no guns” signs for fear of lawsuits against them if a shooting occurs.

The disorderly conduct law is modified so that loading or carrying a firearm, whether concealed or not, will not result in a charge of disorderly conduct unless a criminal or malicious intent is present. Individuals who must fire shots in self-defense are excused from local ordinances against discharging firearms within city limits, across a road, or from a vehicle.

SB93 also includes an anti-harassment law, perhaps the first of its kind. If a law enforcement officer is found guilty of harassing a citizen for legally carrying a concealed firearm, the officer can face a $500 fine and up to 30 days in jail.

Wisconsin legislators originally proposed a “constitutional carry” system that would have recognized citizens’ right to carry without the permit structure. However, a “shall issue” system that will become law in a few months is much better than a pie-in-the-sky proposal that never makes it to the Governor’s desk. This legislation is solidly pro-gun, recognizing and protecting the rights of Wisconsin’s citizens, and we at Cheaper Than Dirt! congratulate Governor Scott Walker and the Wisconsin State Legislature on their accomplishment!

If you like this post, please…

The Timberwolf

Want to upgrade your Glock? Check out the parts from Lone Wolf.  I just received my new Lone Wolf Timberwolf frame from the guys at LWD, and I’m excited to run it in competition.  
My Team Cheaper Than Dirt! teammate, Pat Kelley, is also running a Lone Wolf-built gun, which was featured in The Shooter’s Log interview with J.R. of Lone Wolf. Expect to see more coverage of the LWD Timberwolf here on the Shooter’s Log as I take it through its paces at local and major matches. The first big test? The ProAm, this weekend in Frostproof, FL. Two hundred fifty-plus pieces of steel on tight par times will test my ability to get fast and accurate hits.  I can’t wait to see how the T-wolf performs!

Down Zero TV: Rock Out with your Glock Out

Today’s episode of Down Zero TV has me back at Paul Bunyan Shooting Range in Puyallup, Washington shooting their monthly USPSA Match. You may notice that for the first time in 3 months, I’m not running a 1911. No, for this match I shot a factory stock Glock 34 in Limited-10. That means I took the scoring hit for minor power factor; so instead of 4 points for a “Charlie” hit I only scored 3. Here’s the match footage, which contains a mix of chase and POV cameras!

So how’d it come out? Another local match win – 1st Place L-10 division, even with being scored minor. I won 4 stages overall, finished 2nd on a 5th stage, and then 4th and 6th respective on the other two stages. I was actually REALLY surprised by the 4th place stage, since I felt I shot it very well. In the video, it’s the stage where I engage the steel strong hand only through the port. I was overconfident going into that port and not reloading, but I felt like I could go 1 for 1 on the steel shooting strong hand. I was wrong and I paid the price in time.

Here’s the gear breakdown for this episode:

This weekend, I’ll be in Florida for the Pro-Am match running a new gun that I’ll reveal tomorrow on Gun Nuts. I’m really looking forward to shooting this match, Phil Strader has been trying to convince me to go since the 2009 Bianchi Cup. This is a “bucket list” match for me, and I’m looking to visit the prize table for this match!

If you like this post, please…

Camp Perry and the National Matches

In February 1903, an amendment to the War Department Appropriations Bill established the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice (NBPRP). This government advisory board became the predecessor to today’s Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice and Firearms Safety, Inc. that now governs the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP). The 1903 legislation also established the National Matches, commissioned the National Trophy and provided funding to support the Matches. This historic legislation grew out of a desire to improve military marksmanship and national defense preparedness. President Theodore Roosevelt, Secretary of War Elihu Root and NRA President General Bird Spencer were among the most important supporters of this act.

Pursuant to this Congressional authorization, Army General Order No. 61 was published in April 1903. It directed that the first “National Trophy Match” would be fired at Sea Girt, New Jersey on 8-9 September of that year. Teams of 12 representing the Army, military departments of the states, Navy, Marine Corps and state National Guard organizations competed for the new National “Dogs of War” Trophy. The new National Matches expanded to include their first pistol events in 1904. The National Matches moved to Camp Perry in 1907 and with few exceptions, Camp Perry has been the home of the National Matches ever since.

The National Matches celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2003 and the 100th anniversary of their first coming to Camp Perry in 2007. In the 107 years since the inauguration of the National Matches, they have been organized 89 times. Peak attendance for the matches was in 1962 when the matches were supported and conducted by the Department of Defense and 7,762 competitors participated. Defense Department support was withdrawn after the 1967 matches. The NRA and a cadre of volunteers successfully continued the matches, although with significantly reduced participation. Subsequent to that and until 1995, the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice secured federal appropriations to partially support the matches, but federal support for marksmanship created continuing political controversy. As a result, the U. S. Congress privatized the Civilian Marksmanship Program and the National Matches in 1996, while simultaneously enacting federal legislation that mandated the continuation of the National Matches under CMP leadership (Title 36 USC, §40725-40727). Today, the National Matches include the CMP National Trophy Pistol and Rifle Matches, the Pistol and Rifle Small Arms Firing Schools, CMP Games rifle events and the NRA National Pistol, Smallbore Rifle and Highpower Rifle Championships. The matches are now conducted by a partnership of the CMP, NRA and Ohio National Guard. In recent years, attendance has grown, with combined participation in the 2008 CMP and NRA National Matches events exceeding 6,500 shooters.

CAMP PERRY—Home of the National Matches

National Match, Camp Perry, 1920 - Connecticut State Library, State Archives, PG 460, Colt Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company, Box 5, Folder 7, Item 3

National Match, Camp Perry 1920

In the years following the first National Matches at Sea Girt in 1903, shooting leaders struggled to find suitable sites for the Matches. The Matches were at Fort Riley, Kansas in 1904 and returned to Sea Girt in 1905 and 1906. Neither facility, however, was adequate to support growing participation in the matches. A permanent home was needed. General Ammon Critchfield, who became the Adjutant General of Ohio in 1903, selected the present Camp Perry site as a potential home for the matches, obtained an appropriation from the Ohio Legislature to start construction in 1905 and established Camp Perry in 1906. In January 1907, a proposal from the Ohio Rifle Association to make Camp Perry the home of the National Matches was accepted by the NBPRP Executive Committee, which asked the Department of War to transfer the matches to the new Ohio State Rifle Range. The ranges were named “Camp Perry” in honor of Commodore Oliver Perry, whose 1813 sea victory over the British took place in Lake Erie just offshore from the new site. The 2007 National Matches celebrated 100 years of National Matches at Camp Perry in 2007.

CMP National Trophy Pistol Matches

The National Trophy Rifle and Pistol Matches trace their history to the 1903 legislation that established the first National Matches and appropriated funds to acquire the National “Dogs of War” Trophy, which continues to be one of the most prestigious team trophies in U. S. marksmanship. When the National Trophy Matches expanded to include pistol events, the first trophy awarded was the General Custer Trophy that annually goes to the National Trophy Individual Pistol Champion. The Custer Trophy was first contested in 1904. The Gold Cup National Trophy Team Trophy was initially awarded in 1920. Today, the National Trophy Pistol Matches provide service pistol national championship competitions that preserve the finest traditions of military marksmanship in the United States. A total of 25 different National Trophies are now awarded during the National Trophy Pistol Matches.

CMP National Trophy Rifle Matches

The National Trophy Rifle Matches trace their history to the 1903 legislation that established the first National Matches and appropriated funds to acquire the National “Dogs of War” Trophy. This trophy continues to be one of the most prestigious trophies that can be won through rifle shooting in the United States. Today, the National Trophy Rifle Matches provide national championship competitions in service rifle events that preserve the finest traditions of military marksmanship competition in the United States. A total of 36 different National Trophies are awarded during the eight days of competition that now comprise National Trophy Rifle Week.

CMP Games Rifle Matches

Twelve years ago, the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) inaugurated the John C. Garand Match and, with it, an exciting new concept in target competition. The Garand Match is a unique competition where shooters fire older “as-issued” military rifles over a course of fire that makes target shooting accessible to thousands of shooters, many of whom do not participate in traditional target competitions. The Garand Match allows shooters to reenact military and marksmanship history and features camaraderie and a relaxed, fun-filled, yet challenging experience. In response to the growing popularity of the Garand Match, the CMP established other competitions of the same type that now include the Springfield Rifle Match, Vintage Military Rifle Match, Rimfire Sporter Match and M1 Carbine Match. Together, these matches have come to be known as “CMP Games Matches.”

Down Zero TV: Virginia State IDPA Championship

Two weekends ago, I hopped a plane to Virginia for the 2011 Virginia State IDPA Championship to exorcise some of the demons I had picked up from the 2011 Carolina Cup. While I wasn’t happy with my shooting at the Cup, I knew I could do better than 10th Place in CDP. So off I went with my Sig Sauer 1911 Tactical Operations that I had done some work on to see how I’d fare.

The answer? 3rd Place overall in CDP, and I can honestly say that unlike the Carolina Cup where I was neither great nor bad but just average, at the Virginia State Match I displayed some real flashes of brilliance. I did make some silly mistakes, but with a 3rd place finish I was extremely happy with how I shot at this match. I started on Stage 2, which is the first stage in the video, and as you can see I decided early on that I was going to go for broke. That strategy held until Stage 10, which started sitting on a porch swing. A miscalculation led to a bunch of lost time and my first -5 of the day. Stage 12 wasn’t much better, but I recovered to finish strong on Stage 13 and Stage 1. Sadly however, stage 13 was thrown out of the match – that’s the one where you start with a carbine and then retreated with your main pistol. Using carbines isn’t allowed during sanctioned IDPA matches, so the final results don’t include that stage.

Here’s the gear used to bring home another Top 10 Finish for the Cheaper than Dirt Team!

Down Zero TV Statistics
  • Major Matches: 5
  • Top 10 Finishes: 4
  • Top 5 Finishes: 3
  • Top 3 Finishes: 2
  • Major Match wins: 1
  • Rounds fired: 10,508 (including practice)
  • Guns used: 6 (Sig 1911 TacOps, Colt 1911 XSE Rail Gun, ParaUSA LTC 9mm, Sig Sauer P250, S&W 625, Glock 34)
  • Next Major Match: The Pro-Am Championship

Blackhawk! Must have Products

Former Navy SEAL Mike Noell started BLACKHAWK! in 1993. While Mike was crossing a minefield in enemy territory, he was lugging around a huge pack that eventually failed, spilling equipment all over the explosive ground. He told another operator, “If I get out of this one alive, I will make this stuff the way it needs to be built so none of my buddies have to go through this.” When he retired from service, he did exactly that. Today BLACKHAWK! maintains a network of loyal dealers, and produces some of the finest tactical equipment ever made. We recently came across a couple of items that we thought might interest folks.


Shell Storage

Do you often find yourself in gunfights and low on OO-buck? Shotgun shells can be bulky and take up all the room on your tactical vest. BLACKHAWK! has come up with the perfect solution to your tact-vest real estate woes. The BLACKHAWK! 55-round bandoleer allows you to carry maximum firepower, with minimum effort. This really is a perfect way to carry around extra ammunition for your tactical shotgun. Perfect for 3-Gun match competitors or bird hunters who see a lot of action. If you are going to be doing a lot of shooting and don’t feel like lugging out your bulky tactical vest, the BLACKHAWK! shotgun bandoleer is perfect for an afternoon out in the field. Digging through a bulky dump bag for your shotgun shells can cause slower loading times. In my experience, having your shells neatly secured across your chest is the professional and most effective way to carry your lead. This bandoleer can hold either 12-gauge or 20-gauge ammunition. Heavy-duty nylon 2.25” military pistol belt webbing ensures the bandoleer will last a lifetime. There really does not seem to be a better way to carry around a lot of shotgun ammunition.

Tactical Hydration

Side Hydration Pouch

For those of you who are going on a short patrol, or a quick run around the track while wearing your battle rattle, the S.T.R.I.K.E. and MOLLE compatible BLACKHAWK! side hydration pouch is perfect when you do not want 100 ounces of water on your back weighing you down. The pouch also has a quick disconnect feature that allows you to switch effortlessly from one pouch to another. BLACKHAWK!’s patented speeds clips make it easy to mount the pouch on the side, back or front of your web belt. Microban antimicrobial technology protects the inner bladder from bacteria and other germs. Available in black or tan, the BLACKHAWK! Side Hydration Pouch is perfect for when you do not want to get bogged down and still carry around an entire Liter of H2O.
BLACKHAWK! products continue to be an industry leader in all things tactical. Whether it is for military, law enforcement, or the tactical enthusiast, Blackhawk gear delivers superior quality, with field-tested results every time.

Check out our BLACKHAWK! Products here!

Steel-cased Ammo

At Gun Nuts Media, I have a post talking about Hornady Steel Match ammunition.  This ammo is available from Cheaper Than Dirt in 9mm,  .40 S&W, .45 ACP, .223 Remington, and .308 Winchester.  Now, the debate about steel-cased ammo has raged on the Internet for as long as I can remember, with opinions that vary from “never use steel ammo” to “I use it all the time” and everything in between.  I’ve known shooters who would use steel-cased ammo in certain guns but not others; I know people who say “never use it in Glocks”, and so on.  The issue is that if you shoot a lot, it’s kind of hard to argue with less than $9.00 a box for 9mm ammo from our friends in Russia.

Tula 115 grain 9mm ammo: $8.69 for a box of 50

So what do you say?  Do you run steel-cased ammo through your guns, pistols and rifles?  Or would you not touch the stuff with a 10-foot pole?  Add in to that the fact that many indoor ranges prohibit the use of steel-cased ammunition as it messes with their recycling contracts for brass, and the equation becomes even more complicated.  I think one of the big issues that I have with the “anti” steel-cased crowd is that to my knowledge no one has ever done a truly high round count with steel-cased stuff to see if it actually increases wear and tear on guns.  I’d like to see someone take a Glock 17 or other modern production firearm, and run 20,000 rounds of steel-cased ammo through it, and compare the wear and tear to a gun that’s had 20,000 rounds of brass-cased ammo.  Would it be different?  Hard to know unless we do the shooting.

For me, I’ll keep using steel-cased ammo.  Sure, I can only use it at outdoor ranges, but that’s fine with me.  Sound off in comments—are you for or against using ammo in a steel case?

Revolutionary Firepower

Battle of Bunker Hill

As July Fourth approaches, and Americans everywhere prepare to celebrate our independence, some of us take the time to look back at the stories and legends that helped shape our future as a nation. When British forces invaded the United States to try to take back control, the Continental Army and its various militias were waiting with an array of weapons, anxious to send a message to King George. In this post, we are going to look at the weapons of the time, and some of the legends that go along with these almost ancient tools of war.

Standard Issue

Flintlock Mechanism

One of the most prevalent long guns of the era was the Brown Bess. This was a smooth-bore musket designed for ranges between 50-100 yards. This would later prove to be problematic, since American sharpshooters had rifles that were effective up to 250 yards. The  .75 caliber, muzzle-loading flintlock-design Bess, allowed an experienced soldier to fire between three and four rounds per minute. As required by law, most American Colony male citizens  owned arms and ammunition for militia duty. The Long Land Pattern Brown Bess was a common firearm in use by both sides in the American Revolutionary War. Field tests of smooth-bore muskets in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries reported widely reliable expectations of accuracy and speed of fire. Estimations of rate of fire ranged from “1 shot every 15 seconds” (4 shots per minute) with highly trained troops, to “2 to 2.5 shots per minute” (1 shot every 24 seconds) for inexperienced recruits. Loading a Brown Bess was cumbersome at best, especially compared to modern-day firearms. The standard military loading procedure from prepared paper cartridges containing ball and gunpowder in an elongated envelope is:

  • Tear cartridge with teeth and prime the pan directly from the cartridge;
  • Stand the musket and pour the bulk of the powder down the barrel;
  • Reverse the cartridge and use the ramrod to seat the ball and paper envelop onto the powder charge.

Standard European targets included strips of cloth 50 yards long to represent an opposing line of infantry, with the target height being 6 feet for infantry and 8 feet, 3 inches for cavalry. Estimations of hit probability at 175 yards could be as high as 75% in volley fire. This, however, was without allowances for the gaps between the soldiers in an opposing line, for overly tall targets, or the confusing and distracting realities of the battlefield. Modern testers shooting from rigid rests, using optimum loads and fast priming powder, report groups of circa five inches at 50 yards (Cumpston 2008).

Long Distance Precision

Colonists developed the Pennsylvania Rifle (and its many variations) during the early eighteenth century. The Long Rifle was the one of the first completely American designs. The rifle had a somewhat elegant look, due mostly to the stock of the gun, which gracefully bends at the stock. It had an unusually long barrel, sometimes more than four feet. The barrel of the Pennsylvania featured rifling, allowing much greater accuracy. This accuracy came at a price however; the rifle could take up to a full minute to load. To conserve materials, the weapon was often made in smaller calibers, ranging from about .36 to .45 caliber. In 1778, a British officer, stuck his head out from behind a tree, and was shot through the forehead by Daniel Boone. Both sides later confirmed the shot to be at a distance of 250 yards, well beyond the effective range of the Brown Bess.

Up Close and Personal

One of the most gruesome weapons of the war was the bayonet. A soldier who only had one shot tended to feel a bit better when his rifle doubled as a stabbing weapon. Armies of the time often routed when facing a well-timed bayonet charge from the enemy. The Americans in particular had a difficult time facing off with British regulars, who often had trained for years in bayonet combat. Recent advances in technology had resulted in the plug bayonet. This design allowed the gun to fire with the bayonet still attached to the end of the barrel. The triangular cross section of the bayonet made wounds particularly difficult to repair, which later led to the international banning of this type of blade.

Artillery Gun Crew

Death from Above

Known as the queen of the battlefield, the cannon often stood supreme. With varying ranges, a well-placed array of cannons could potentially hold off an entire regiment of soldiers. Militiamen in often did not have cannons of their own which resulted in a large number of British victories early in the war. Cannons of the time could fire either solid or grape shot. Grape shot consisted of an iron ball, filled with black powder, and fitted with a fuse. These projectiles would often detonate above the heads of the opposing forces, causing heavy casualties. Solid shot, on the other hand, was devastating to stationary targets as well as units that lined up in open field. With an effective range of up to 800 yards, solid shot was the advanced artillery of the time.

Tactics Win Wars

Weapons do not always decide the outcome of a conflict. This is a lesson that the United States has re-learned in recent decades. Invariably, a guerrilla force operating on its own turf, can wreak havoc on an occupying army, far away from its supply lines. The Continental Army, at first, could not hope to defeat the largest army in the world in the open field. As a result, an ingenious combination of unconventional weapons, spy networks, and yes, a little help from the French, ended up turning the tides in the favor of the America revolutionaries.

Doing What You Love

Sometimes, it’s important to remember that shooting is supposed to be fun.  For me, that means hauling the revolvers and putting the pedal to the metal.  Not worrying about “accuracy” or anything silly like that, just good old fashioned six-shooter speed.

Gun: S&W 625 WCA Custom
Ammo: BVAC .45 ACP
Holster and belt: Safariland!

And as usual, Caleb’s wardrobe by Woolrich Elite Tactical, which have so far survived being covered in mud, rained on for five straight hours, set on fire, rolled in the Arizona desert, and generally abused.

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!

Traveling with Guns

My responsibilities to Cheaper than Dirt, Gun Nuts Media, GunUp, and all my other sponsors keep me on the road quite frequently.  Because that usually involves shooting matches or other firearms-related events, that means I get the pleasure of flying with guns almost every time I do fly.  In fact, recently it’s gotten to the point where the guys at the SeaTac American Airlines counter just pull the firearms declaration form out and hand it to me when I walk up.  Good customer service!

Flying with guns is actually pretty easy, but if it’s not something you’ve done before then it can actually be a very intimidating process.  Here are some guidelines that I’ve found that will make the process go smoothly for you when you try it.

  1. Know the rules!  I can’t stress how important it is to be intimately familiar with the TSA and your air carrier’s guidelines on traveling with firearms.  The TSA publishes their rules at this link, and when I travel I carry a printed copy of those rules in the pocket of my Woolrich Elite Tactical Pants.  However, just knowing the rules often isn’t enough, because I’ve had multiple occasions where the particular TSA agent didn’t know their own rules and regs as well as I do.  In those situations, the most important thing to do is stay calm.  Getting angry won’t help, and will likely increase your chances of missing your flight.  Speak to their supervisor, be polite and firm but do not allow the TSA to do anything that could compromise the security of your firearms.
  2. Keep your guns in a separate case than your other checked items.  This Pelican Gun Case is a perfect example of the best way to transport your guns.  Since I usually fly with multiple pistols, magazines, and the legal maximum of 11 pounds of ammo, I always use a long gun case for my pistols.  I also fly with cameras a lot, so any valuable cameras will go in the locked Pelican case as well.
  3. Speaking of locks, get good locks.  You can actually buy sets of Master locks that share a common key, which eliminates hassle both in packing and loading at the airport.
  4. Ammo is important as well!  Know what your ammo weighs.  My preferred carrier is American Airlines, and their rules state that ammo is limited to 11 lbs per passenger.  250 rounds of .45 ACP ammo weighs about 11.8 pounds in boxes, and the TSA will pull passengers off the plane for having too much.
  5. Be courteous to everyone.  I shouldn’t have to say this, but I firmly believe that part of why I’ve always avoided drama when flying with guns is because I’m just so dang happy.  Everyone gets smiled at, even the TSA guys, because it doesn’t do me any good to go through the airport glowering and scowling at folk.  Attitude helps a lot, and having a good attitude can be the difference between an easy trip or getting to know your airport’s holding center.

Now that we’ve looked at things to do, let’s look at a couple of possible crash landings that could cause problems.  Here is my list of “don’ts” for flying with guns.

  1. Don’t connect in Chicago.  Seriously, just don’t do it.  I will pay extra money to avoid Chicago.  I don’t want to risk my plane getting delayed overnight, and all of a sudden I’m stranded in the most anti-gun city on earth with a bunch of guns.  I have no desire to be a test case for the Firearms Owners Protection Act.
  2. Seriously, don’t connect in Chicago.
  3. Don’t talk about your guns!  Mostly for security purposes, but whenever I’m checking in at the airport, I don’t know what greedy baggage handler or sticky fingered TSA agent might be listening, so if anyone asks I’m carrying “my dad’s old junky .22 to give to my nephew for his birthday”.

There is a lot more to flying with guns, and I’d like to hear from the readers out there as well.  What are you experiences with flying with firearms, good reports and bad reports?  One thing that always cracks me up is whenever I get on the shuttle to go from the airport to the car rental center, I will almost invariably make a new friend who wants to know if I’m a hunter.  I take that time to preach the gospel of action pistol shooting.

From the Trenches to the Fields

The Trenches of WWI

After April of 1917, the United States Army was waging a terrible war in Europe. The US Military was deadlocked in a struggle with Germany in the war to end all wars. The conflict saw the use of machine guns, artillery, and chemical weapons. The carnage was on a scale previously unseen on the word stage. Despite the use of devastatingly effective weapons, the major powers that were competing for dominance locked themselves in a never-ending stalemate. The standoff was partially due to the implementation of trench warfare. Out of date military tactics had not kept up with weapons technology. The commanders on both sides failed to come up with strategies that allowed armies to take ground without heavy casualties. US soldiers needed something different to assist them in sweeping out German trenches. John Browning had been kind enough to develop something years earlier that would assist our troops in doing just that.

The army issued the M1903 Springfield to most of its doughboys during the war. The Springfield is a legendary bolt-action rifle that is effective to up to 1,100 yards. Although the Springfield was an effective battle rifle, it only shot one round at a time, and the bullet only hit in one area. A shotgun offered something different, although not effective at long range; a pump shotgun could engage a large number of targets inside 22 yards. Couple that with a bayonet and one shotgun soldier could give a whole squad of enemy troops a very hard time. The army chose to use a slightly modified version of the Winchester Model 1897, or M97. The M97 used a perforated steel heat shield on top of the barrel, and a bayonet lug for attaching the M1917 bayonet. It held a maximum of five shells in the chamber with one in the barrel, for a total of six rounds. Unlike most modern hammerless shotguns, the M97 could be slam-fired. All the shooter had to do was hold back the trigger while pumping through the rounds and the weapon would continue to cycle. Incredibly, American Soldiers who were skilled at trap shooting deployed themselves in positions where they could take out enemy hand grenades in mid air. Enemy messenger pigeons were also on the target list. The gun was so effective that in late September 1918, the German government issued a diplomatic protest. They were attempting to ban the Winchester model 1897 shotgun, arguing that the weapon was illegal because it caused unnecessary suffering. The United States Army promptly rejected the German’s diplomatic proposal.

An M97 and a Norinco

The Model 1897 improved upon its predecessor, the Model 1893. Winchester strengthened the frame to allow for 2 3/4– and 2 5/8-inch shells. The designers placed the ejector on the side, rather than the top, which allowed a much greater amount of strength in the frame. While firing, the recoil of the gun gave a slight forward motion to the slide handle, which released the action, enabling immediate cycling of the gun. If the operator was not firing the gun, the slide handle had to be pushed forward manually in order to release the action slide lock.

Winchester produced several variants of the Model 1897 until 1957. During its 60 years on the market, Winchester produced over one million 1897s. Recently, Norinco (Interstate Arms) has developed a Winchester clone called the 97. Modern variants include the 97W, and the 97T. The 97W is the standard Winchester clone, while the 97T is a trench gun replica. Both are popular models since the original trench guns can cost upwards of 3,000 dollars, and are highly valued by collectors.

The 1897 in all its variants continues to be a popular choice among shotgun enthusiasts. Its legendary wartime record, combined with over a century of hunting experience, makes the 1897 a solid choice for any collector.

Check out our available Norinco Shotguns here.