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Ruger Gunsite Scout: Beware the man with only one rifle

Click here to purchase your own Ruger Gunsite Scout.
If you were to select a “one rifle”, what would it be? Col. Jeff Cooper, founder of the Gunsite firearms training academy, spent a good part of his later years pursuing essentially the same question. His conclusion was what he called the “Scout Rifle”. Following Cooper’s guidelines, Ruger now has a rifle worthy of consideration for the one rifle role: The Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle.

Scout Concept
The idea of the Scout Rifle was born when Jeff Cooper acquired an old Remington Model 600 and had new sights installed. The sights he chose had a wide rear aperture and a front blade, an arrangement he later termed the “ghost ring”. When Cooper then took this M600 hunting he found that the combination of a compact and handy rifle with a fast sighting system seemed to him to to produce a system that was greater than just the sum of its parts. Over the next few decades, Cooper refined this concept into the Scout Rifle and had a few more modern examples built. Eventually, he even had Steyr produce a factory model Scout. Unfortunately, the Steyr was priced too high for most shooters, so that model and the scout concept never became quite as popular as was hoped.

Enter Ruger. The staff at Gunsite has worked with Ruger over the last couple of years to iron out exactly what a modern production Gunsite Scout Rifle should look like. The goal was to meet the criteria of a scout rifle, while keeping the price low enough to be available to a broader market than the Steyr version. Additionally, the rifle needed to be rugged enough to hold up under hard use, something not every bolt-action does well.

So lets look at what makes a scout rifle and how the Ruger GSR compares. Col. Cooper defined the scout rifle as a general purpose rifle suitable for taking targets of up to 400 kg at ranges to the limit of the shooters visibility. It should have:
Maximum weight with sights and sling: 7.7 pounds
Maximum Length: 39 inches
Sighting system of either:
-A forward mounted long eye relief “scout” scope of between 2x and 3x,
-Iron sights of the ghost ring type, without a scope, or
-A low powered conventional position scope.
Sling: should be usable as a fast shooting aid.
Caliber: .308 Winchester (7.62 x 51mm NATO) – strong enough for most game on earth, and available the world over.
Accuracy: capable of 2 MOA or better

How the Ruger Compares
The Ruger GSR weighs 7.45 lbs with our speedy two-point sling, so it makes weight. The rifle feels very light in the hands and points quickly and naturally for me, even with all of the stock spacers removed. This is a rifle that would feel right at home when hunting in mountainous or otherwise demanding terrain.

The overall length is 38” with the stock spacers removed, so it makes length. As it came from the factory, one stock spacer was installed and two others were included. Each spacer adds just a half-inch, so I didn’t notice much difference when I tried it with them all removed. In it’s shortest configuration, it didn’t feel cramped to me and I was able to operate the bolt comfortably from all positions. The barrel length of the GSR is 16.5”. If that sounds like it’s too short for a hunting rifle, that’s because almost nobody else makes a barrel this short. But the fact is that a 16.5” barrel gives up only about 100 feet per second when compared to the more common 20 or 22 inch barrels. I will gladly give up 100 fps to save half a pound (from the muzzle, no less) and get a handier rifle overall.

The iron sights are of the protected ghost ring type, so it qualifies there. When the rifle is brought to the shoulder with both eyes open, and one eye focused through the ring and on the front sight, the unfocused rear sight blurs to the point that it is practically transparent. The benefits here are speed and field of view, as would be needed with close game. For those that prefer an extended eye relief scope, there is a 6” long section of picatinny rail mounted just forward of the receiver. If the rear iron sight is removed, then a scope can also be mounted in the conventional position with standard ruger rings.

The ruger has two sling studs as it ships from the factory. I think Ruger missed an easy chance to include a third sling stud for those of us that would like to use a ching sling or similar fast loop-up shooting slings. However, a modern adjustable 2-point sling will also work as a shooting aid, so the GSR should qualify on this point as well. If you want to use a sling that attaches to the rifle at three points, it is relatively easy to add a third stud in front of the magazine well.

The Ruger GSR is chambered in .308 Win, so it is the ideal scout rifle caliber. The .308 will do most things that mankind needs a rifle to do, making it just about as general purpose as it gets. More specialized roles often require specialized ammo and a specialized rifle. With good ammo and a good shooter, the Ruger Scout has shown to be capable of 1 MOA, so it passes the accuracy test with ease. Not many people will be able to outshoot the Ruger Scout in the field.

Additional Value
Aside from the mandatory “scout specs”, the Ruger GSR has several additional features that I think dovetail nicely with its general-purpose role. The compact barrel is fitted with a flash hider in the style of the mini-30. The flash hider can be removed to reveal threads in the standard .30-caliber 5/8×24 pitch so a wide variety of brakes, compensators, and suppressors/mounts will fit right on.

The action is a variation of Ruger’s standard M77 Hawkeye. It has a well earned reputation for being robust, reliable, and accurate. The action is of the controlled-round-feed variety with the classic Mauser style extractor. As soon as a cartridge is stripped from the magazine, the rim is captured by the extractor. From that point on, the extractor and bolt head directly control the position of the cartridge (forward or back, at any point during the cycle) until the ejector kicks it out. This type of action eliminates the possibility of a cartridge coming out of the gun early, staying in the gun too long, or of the case head getting into the wrong position to feed reliably. Even if it’s being operated in the most awkward positions imaginable, malfunctions won’t be a problem. The bolt knob is also well positioned and is the right size to be easy to work. With just a little practice I was able to snap the bolt back and forth in just an instant between shots. Ruger’s safety lever is also excellent. When the lever is forward the safety is off. The center position blocks trigger movement, but allows the bolt to be cycled for loading, unloading, or disassembly. In the rear position, the lever not only prevents the trigger from moving, but actually blocks any movement of the bolt or cocking piece/firing pin as well. This acts as a physical block against mechanical failure as well as serving to keep the bolt closed even during rough handling.

Ruger chose a detachable box magazine to feed the action of the GSR. But they didn’t choose just any magazine. They went with the Accuracy International pattern which is quickly becoming the standard on hard-use bolt guns. There is an extra benefit here: these magazines are available from a variety of sources, so you’re not limited to looking for Ruger-branded mags. This magazine staggers the rounds slightly to reduce length, but for reliability’s sake it presents only a single centered cartridge to feed the action. This type of magazine feeds smoothly and quickly and is unfailingly reliable. Insertion is simple: I tend to angle the mag slightly and put the front corner in first. Rocking it back will depress the magazine release until it snaps into place. Once it clicks in, it’s not coming back out by itself. Releasing the mag is just as easy, too. Press forward on the release paddle and pull straight out.

I really like the GSR’s trigger. In fact, it’s better than I expected for a factory rifle and the break surprised me at first. It’s crisp and comes set at a useful weight of 4 pounds, 2 ounces.

The laminated stock has grown on me. At first I thought it was an odd choice, but upon handling the rifle it was apparent that the stock is neat and well constructed and it just feels good in the hand. It is sized appropriately for a rifle intended to be carried, so it’s neither too thin or too wide. It’s also lighter than it looks, and very rigid. Ruger could have gone with some sort of polymer stock, but apparently the price would have been a bit higher. Plus, if you compare weights from their other models they probably would have saved only about 4 ounces.

Ruger seems to have done it. The rifle fits all of Jeff Cooper’s threshold specifications for what may or may not properly be called a scout rifle. But to Ruger’s credit, they’ve gone above and beyond and they did so at a price point of less than half of that of the Steyr version. Ruger has truly brought the ideal general-purpose rifle, the “one rifle”, to the general public.

Handloading .223 for the AR

Military style rifles are not usually known for having match grade accuracy, but the AR-15 can be easily upgraded with just a few parts to be more than capable of shooting sub MOA groups out to distances exceeding 600 yards. Swap out the trigger for a Timney and replace the barrel with a heavy stainless steel varmint or match barrel and you’ll be surprised by the significant increase in accuracy. But the biggest improvement may not come from the rifle at all, but from the ammunition you use.

I got started shooting cheap military surplus 5.56mm NATO rounds in my AR, along with cheap Winchester white box and Remington .223 FMJ plinking rounds. These cartridges were usually 55 or 62 grain and had decent accuracy. I still use them for plinking and just having fun at the range. But when you want to get serious about target shooting, you need better ammo. The biggest differences between mass produced ammunition and match grade ammunition is the quality of the components and the attention to detail to ensure every round is exactly the same.

Getting Started
You can buy match grade ammunition from a number of manufacturers. Remington and Hornady both manufacture excellent match grade ammunition. Varmint ammo from Remington and Hornady is just as accurate as the match grade ammunition, but is loaded with lighter bullets weighing between 40 and 55 grains. This factory ammunition is easily capable of shooting half-MOA groups is an excellent place to start establishing a baseline for your own handloads. Shoot a variety of loads and bullet weights to find out which performs best in your rifle and start loading your own based off of this data.

Bullets
When selecting the proper bullet, keep your barrel twist in mind. We’ve written in the past on the importance of barrel twist rate with regards to bullet weight or, more accurately, bullet length. For any given caliber of ammunition, the heaver the bullet is the longer it will generally be. Longer bullets require a faster twist rate to get them spinning at a high enough speed for effective stabilization in flight. If there is a specific load you just have to run, consider rebarreling your rifle with a barrel with a more appropriate twist rate.

The first barrels produced by Colt for the AR-15 had a slow 1:14 twist rate, which was adequate for 55 grain bullets under normal circumstances. However when air density increased due to lower temperatures, the 55 grain became unstable.  This prompted the Army to switch to a faster 1:12 rate barrel, and later an even faster 1:7 rate barrel to accommodate heavier 62 grain M855 bullets. Most modern rifles have a 1:9 twist rate, which has been found to be a healthy compromise that is able to stabilize bullets weighing from 50 grains on up to some 69 grain bullets.

Varminters often use very light weight bullets such as the 45 grain Sierra Hornet. Such bullets are exceptionally accurate in order to hit small targets, lightly constructed to provide explosive expansion while minimizing ricochets, and lightweight to obtain high velocities with flat trajectories. The extremely flat shooting varmint round is perfect for taking small game at unknown distances. Competitive shooters on the other hand tend to favor longer and heavier bullets with an aerodynamic boat tail design. These long bullets have a superior ballistic coefficient which allows them to maintain a high velocity for a longer distance, thus making them less prone to wind drift at extended ranges.

One concern when loading heavier longer bullets for your AR is the overall cartridge length. Heavier bullets are longer, and there is a limit to how far back they can be seated. Standard AR-15 magazines can hold cartridges up to 2.275 inches long. If you are loading rounds with heavy 79 grain or heavier bullets, such as 90 grain Sierra MatchKings favored by long range target shooters, the overall cartridge length will likely exceed 2.275 inches, requiring you to load and fire these handloads one at a time. If you are preparing a load that is over-length, it is important to make sure that your barrel is designed to handle it. A barrel with a 1:7 twist is generally not sufficient to stabilize bullets weighing over 77 grains (however some shooters claim to be able to stabilize 90 grain bullets in a 1:7 barrel), but more importantly, in longer handloaded cartridges the bullet could be swaged up against the lands of the rifling and cause overpressure in the case. Barrels for the longest of these loads will usually be custom made with a 1:6 or 1:6.5 twist rate and have a longer leade (the unrifled portion of the bore just past the chamber) to fit the longer bullet.

Powders
Depending on the weight of the bullet you are pushing, you will need different powders. Faster burning powders are more effective for propelling relatively light weight bullets. Slower burning powders in general should be used with heavier bullets. For our purposes here, powders such as Reloader 7, Reloader 10X, Accurate 2015, IMR4198 or Hodgdon H322 are excellent choices for accurate varmint loads topped with light 40 grain to 55 grain bullets.  Reloader 15, H4895, IMR4064 or Varget are all good choices used for accurate match loads that propel heavier bullets weighing 60 grains and more.

When developing a load, always start at 90% of the manual recommended max load and work your way up, checking for signs of overpressure as you gradually increase the powder charge. If you don’t have enough powder of one type or another, get more: never mix powders! Mixing powders can result in unpredictable burn rates and could cause a case rupture or detonation.

Primers
When choosing a primer for your match loads, stay away from hard military style primers. Most match triggers will not generate primer strikes hard enough to reliably shoot hard primers. Instead, stick with high quality standard small rifle primers such as CCI 400 or Winchester WSR primers for most loads, and Federal Gold Medal 205M for heavier match loads using slower powders.

Brass
Brass for match grade or varmint loads should always be cleaned and polished. This not only makes it chamber better, but it removes any carbon or debris from the case resulting in better more consistent powder burn. When resizing, don’t rely on just a neck resize. For the most accurate loads your brass should be fully resized to ensure a consistent case capacity. Fully resized cases also fit the chamber better. What brand of brass you use isn’t particularly important, but some shooters prefer Winchester or .223 Remington brass due to the consistent case weight and wall thickness.

When trying to wring every bit of accuracy from a handload, the devil is in the details. Turning the neck of your brass will help to ensure that your case mouth is perfectly round and concentric with the case body, giving you a consistent crimp and seal all the way around your bullet and positioning it perfectly concentric with the bore. RCBS makes a case neck turner and .223 pilot to help you turn the perfect case neck. Necks that are out-of-round can have gas escape around the bullet prior to the bullet entering the bore and result in an uneven bullet release. A perfectly even bullet release helps to ensure that it swages onto the rifling evenly.

Handloading Procedure
One of the primary reasons for handloading is that it gives you the ability to ensure absolute consistency among all of the rounds. Handloads that are quickly and carelessly assembled may be great for plinking and making a bunch of noise, but they are useless for precision shooting. Additionally, carelessly assembling your rounds can be dangerous! Double charged or poorly measured loads can destroy your expensive rifle and kill or seriously injure you. When sitting down to reload, get rid of all possible distractions. Never watch TV or have a conversation while reloading. Dividing your attention between the task at hand and something else can result in a mistake that could prove deadly. Remember that the more attention you give to the quality and consistency of your loads, the more accurate they will be.

See our article on reloading necked rifle ammunition for more details on the reloading process.

Example Loads

Bullet Bullet Weight Powder Primer Overall Length Charge (grains) Velocity (FPS)
Hornady V-Max 35 gr Accurate 5744 CCI 400 2.13 21.1 3602
Speer SP 40 gr Reloder 7 CCI 400 2.06 20.5 3011
Speer SP 40 gr Reloder 10X CCI 400 2.06 24.5 3481
Nosler BT 40 gr Accurate 2015 CCI 400 2.260 25.4 3671
Speer SP 45 gr Reloder 7 CCI 400 2.155 20 3059
Speer SP 45 gr Reloder 10X CCI 400 2.155 24 3292
Nosler BT 50 gr Reloder 10X WSR 2.2 24.2 3389
Nosler BT 50 gr Reloder 15 WSR 2.2 28 3356
Speer HP 52 gr Reloder 7 CCI 400 2.2 20.5 2931
Speer HP 52 gr Reloder 10X CCI 400 2.2 22.5 3179
Nosler BT 55 gr Accurate 2015 CCI 400 2.230 24.0 3215
Speer SP 55 gr Reloder 10X CCI 400 2.175 23 3159
Hornady V-Max 55 gr Varget WSR 2.240 27.0 3344
Speer FMJ 62 gr Reloder 15 CCI 400 2.255 25.0 2832
Sierra HPBT 69 gr Reloder 15 Fed 205M 2.26 25.5 2956
Hornady A-Max 75 gr H4895 Fed 205M 2.273 24.5 2861
Swift Scirocco 75 gr Varget Fed 205M 2.270 23.0 2714
Sierra HPBT 77 gr Reloder 15 Fed 205M 2.26 24.1 2783
Sierra MatchKing 90 gr H4895 Fed 205M 2.550 21.7 2600
Sierra MatchKing 90 gr IMR-4064 Fed 205M 2.550 22.4 2600

All load data presented here should be used with caution. Consult a reloading manual and always begin with a reduced load to ensure that they are safe in your particular rifle before proceeding to full power loads. Cheaper Than Dirt! has no control over the quality of the components that you choose, the condition of your rifle, or the actual loadings you use, and therefore assumes no responsibility for your use of data presented here.

Down Zero TV: Going for Speed

In our last episode on Down Zero TV, I shot my very first IDPA match as part of the challenge, dropping 7 points over the course of the match.  I won Most Accurate at that match, but my time was dreadfully slow.  So for the second episode, I decided to go for speed – the goal here is to contrast the two matches and see if I can find a balance of speed and accuracy that will let me shoot down zero but still keep me in the running.  After taking the week off from practicing due to the flu, I was rusty and didn’t feel ready for the match.  Normally, I’ll spend at least two days a week practicing at West Coast Armory, but thanks to sickness hadn’t had that practice.  But the sun came out on Saturday, and filled full of powerful decongestants and coffee I headed out to the match.

Match Gear

The match started for me on Stage 3 in the video – string 1 is a single shot to the body of each target, freestyle.  String 2 was a single shot the head box of each target, strong hand only.  The last head box was 10 yards away, making it a difficult shot to make strong hand.  I did actually drop a shot on the strong hand stage; I jumped the trigger giving me a miss on one of the head boxes.  Because the stage was limited vickers, I couldn’t take a make up shot and ended the stage down 5 points with a failure to neutralize penalty.

Our next stage was a lot of fun.  As you can see in the video, you had tight shots around cover, the last target surprised me with how far I had to lean out to get it.  I posted a strong time on this stage and was only down 2 points.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any video from stage 5.  I forgot to hit the “go” button on my hat cam which left me with diddly for video footage; however this was my best stage of the match.  Shot it fast and smooth.

Stage 6 was my favorite stage.  Start with your hands on the “car”, knock the pepper popper over on your way to cover and engage the targets.  I actually could have been a little bit smarter about the way I shot this, since my position for the last three targets wasn’t ideal, and I had to shift my feet to get to the last target.  In a perfect world, it’s easier if you can just lean out a little bit further without shifting your feet in IDPA.

On to Stage 1, one of my favorite stages.  Now, before the IDPA rule-nazis get all fired up, the port was not designated as “low cover”.  In IDPA terms, low cover means you have to have a knee on the ground.  Since the port was just a low port, the tactical crouch or whatever it was that I did is still perfectly legal.  I did draw a penalty for a cover violation on this stage, I had reached the final shooting position and was committed 100% to the shot…just as the SO called “cover”.  Oh well, it’s just three seconds.

Stage 2, our final stage of the day was fun as well.  There is a pepper popper you can’t see in the video which activates the swinger you run towards to engage.  I closed the match on a strong stage.

Because I focused this match on shooting for speed, I did not win Most Accurate.  Instead, I won Stock Service Pistol Division, and only my FTN and procedural penalty kept me from winning high overall at the match.  Taking home a win felt really good, especially after being frustrated with my speed on week one of the Down Zero Challenge.  Next IDPA match, we’re going to look for a balance of speed and accuracy, as I push my limits to become a faster and more accurate shooter.

Stats

Most Accurate wins: 1
Club Match wins: 1

To Chrome or not to Chrome? Myths and Facts of Chrome-Lined Barrels

Ever since the military began chrome-lining barrels on standard issue machine guns and rifles there has been debate concerning the benefits and disadvantages of chrome-lined barrels. Many of the benefits of chrome-lining are shrouded in myths and misconceptions. Chrome-lining protects the barrel from corrosion, but this is not the main purpose for lining a barrel. Chrome-lined barrels are also easier to clean, but the military would not invest in a chrome-lined barrel just to save a grunt some time swabbing out the bore.

Years ago, with the introduction of high powered machine guns and semiautomatic rifles capable of sustained high rates of fire, military armorers began to notice significantly increased barrel wear and erosion. Older models of the most powerful machine guns were capable of “shooting out” a barrel in less than 1,000 rounds! Chrome-lining was introduced to increase the barrel life, allowing more rounds to be sent down range in less time without the need to replace the rifle barrel.


Muzzle flash from an AR-15 rifle, demonstrating the immensely hot gases generated by powder combustion. Photo courtesy of bdjsb7 licensed under Creative Commons.

Nowadays, almost all military rifles are universally chrome-lined to protect the rifle barrel from excess erosion. AR-15 rifles are particularly prone to erosion when fired rapidly, in part due to the high velocity of the round, and in part due to the high pressures generated by the cartridge. While it’s not uncommon for military rifles to experience high rates of sustained fire, it’s also not difficult to fire a semiautomatic AR-15 at rates exceeding 100 RPM. Under sustained fully automatic gunfire, or rapid semiautomatic fire, an enormous amount of heat is generated. That heat is what can quickly ruin a barrel.

The leade (the unrifled portion of the barrel just forward of the chamber), as well as the first few inches of rifling, is subject to temperatures hotter than the surface of the sun and pressures exceeding 50,000 PSI. Under slow fire conditions this area is able to cool a sufficient amount in between strings of fire. Under sustained rapid fire however, there is no time for the heat to dissipate and temperatures soar into the thousands of degrees Fahrenheit. This can quickly cause damage by eating away at the rifling, “burning up the barrel” with the combination of extremely high heat and pressure. Hard chrome-lining the bore protects the leade and rifling with a thin coat of heat and pressure resistant chrome. This greatly extends barrel life in rifles that are fired for prolonged periods in full-auto or rapid fire semiautomatic modes by preventing damage to the leade and rifling.

There are many people who argue that chrome lined barrels are less accurate than an otherwise identical steel barrel. All things being equal, this is true, but for most shooters, the degree to which accuracy is lost by using a chrome-lined barrel is generally unnoticeable. A chrome-lining does diminish the sharpness of the rifling, but the accuracy loss from this is not insurmountable. Consider the Fabrique Nationale SPR rifle (what is essentially a gussied-up chrome lined Winchester Model 70) is capable of shooting a 1/2 MOA group at ranges up to 800 yards away. A sub MOA gun is a fine rifle by nearly anyone’s standards, and most well built chrome-lined AR rifles are capable of 1/2 MOA groups as well.

So, when should you go chrome lined? Most casual shooters will get by just fine with either chrome-lined or non chrome-lined barrels. The fact is, most of us don’t get out to the range often enough, nor engage in rapid fire when we do (most ranges prohibit the practice). Even shooters who occasionally engage in periodic rapid-fire with their AR-15 style rifle may not notice the effects of excess barrel wear for a number of years. A good non chrome-lined barrel can last for over 5,000 rounds before it begins to show a loss of accuracy. If you shoot 1,000 rounds a year, even blasting through a full magazine as fast as you can pull the trigger on ever range trip, it could take 5 years or more before any significant loss of accuracy begins to become apparent.

When deciding whether to get a chrome-lined barrel your budget may be the deciding factor. Non chrome-lined barrels are significantly less expensive than a similar chrome-lined barrel. For a shooter who wants to build a quality AR-15 with less initial investment, non chrome-lined barrels represent a great cost-saving measure, combining the inherent accuracy of a stainless steel or chrome-moly steel barrel with an acceptable barrel life for a hunting or sporting arm. The up front savings can easily outweigh the cost of rebarreling your AR years in the future.

For the serious shooter who needs maximum barrel life as well as accuracy, a chrome-lined barrel represents the best of both worlds. The accuracy lost from a chrome lining amounts to less than 1/4″ at 100 yards, a negligible amount for most AR rifles used in tactical applications. If you do decide to go with a barrel that is not chrome-lined, be aware that you can significantly reduce the barrel life by quickly dumping 3 or 4 magazines through it without stopping to let it cool down.

If you’re building a match rifle that will be used solely for competitions where you’ll be firing slowly and you need a great deal of precision, stick with a chrome-moly or stainless steel match grade non chrome-lined barrel. If you think you’ll ever want to use your AR-15 for tactical applications, or even just rapid-fire plinking, drop the extra cash and get a chrome-lined barrel. Otherwise, be aware that without a chrome-lined barrel your AR-15 should be allowed to cool between magazines in order to avoid damaging the barrel.

Top Shot Competitor and Navy Rescue Swimmer Jamie Franks

Jamie Franks grew up in a rural area outside or Raleigh North Carolina with a family of hunters and shooters. He spent his childhood exploring, hunting, and roaming the backwoods of the Southeast United States and, even as a child, aspired to a career in the military. Seeking to further his skills with firearms, Jamie sought out training, initially as an Operations Specialist within the Navy, and later applied to and was accepted into the Navy SEAL’s BUD/S program where he unfortunately washed out due to medical reasons. Now he continues to work as an Operations Specialist and Navy Rescue Swimmer attached to an EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) team.

Jamie is not a fan of reality TV in general, but the History Channel’s reality TV series caught his eye and he began looking into the application process. One thing led to another, and soon he found that he had been selected as one of the 16 contestants for Season 2.

While on the show, Jamie’s shooting abilities quickly became apparent, and he made it through 3 elimination challenges until he was finally taken out during the shotgun elimination challenge with Chris Reed in this week’s episode.

Jamie joined us on this week’s Cheaper Than Dirt podcast and we had the chance to discuss his experience in the Navy and talk in detail about what happened during his run for the $100,000 grand prize on Top Shot.

Listen to the podcast live using the player below, download the entire .mp3 file here, or you can read the entire transcript below.

Cheaper Than Dirt Jamie, welcome to the Cheaper Than Dirt podcast.

Jamie Franks Well thank you, thanks for having me.

Cheaper Than Dirt You have had quite a notable experience on Top Shot. It’s been quite a rough road that you’ve fought hard down to get to this point on Top Shot.

Jamie Franks Yeah, I would say so. That’s one way to put it.

Cheaper Than Dirt You went to a total of 4 elimination challenges, is that right?

Jamie Franks That is correct, I went to 4 and brought home 3 of them.

Cheaper Than Dirt That last one just wasn’t going to happen though.

Jamie Franks No, by that point in the competition I think that I was really starting to feel the strain and starting to wear thin. The way the luck played out, I don’t think that any of us would have ever guessed that any of us were going to walk into a shotgun challenge. I might have voted a little differently going into that elimination challenge, instead of deciding to face off against Chris Reed with a shotgun.

Nonetheless, I feel like I could have shot a little bit better because I do have a background in trap and skeet. But yeah, that last elimination challenge really was a difficult challenge.

Cheaper Than Dirt Let’s back up a bit, we’ll come back to that, but let’s get a little bit of background on how you got started in firearms. You grew up with a family out in a rural area where you had the opportunity to shoot, hunt, and generally just run around in the woods. Tell us a bit about that background.

Jamie Franks Yeah, I grew up pretty much in the middle of nowhere near a small town in North Carolina, a suburb of Raleigh, that was about 30 miles southeast of Raleigh. I grew up on my family’s tobacco farm.

From a real early age, my dad would let me shoot all of his guns and stuff, once I was old enough to kinda handle them. When I was about 6 years old I got my first BB gun and, where we lived, I was just free to roam the area and go off into the woods by myself and shoot stuff with my BB gun. A couple of years later I got my first .410 shotgun and then a .22 rifles, and then up and up from there.

Living where I used to live at that time, I used to tell people that you could stand on the roof of my dad’s house and shoot a high powered rifle in any direction and not have to worry about hitting anything. There was nothing out there except forest and tobacco fields.

Cheaper Than Dirt Did you have any experience in competition shooting? I think we heard somebody mention that you had shot trap or skeet at some time prior to your military experience.

Jamie Franks Yeah, I have, not prior to my military experience, just since I’ve been in the Navy, here in San Diego there used to be an amateur trap and skeet league here in San Diego and I would shoot in that competitively. That wasn’t any part of any official circuit. It was just an amateur local sorta thing, but that was the only formal competition shooting that I’d ever done, if you even want to call that formal, prior to going on Top Shot.

Cheaper Than Dirt Well, a little competition goes a long way I think, especially when it comes to having that ability to get down and focus on a show like Top Shot.

Jamie Franks I’m a competitive person anyway, no matter what it is. I look at just about everything in life like it’s a competition, so that didn’t take much adjusting on Top Shot.

Cheaper Than Dirt Right. Now, what prompted your decision to join the Navy? you obviously had a background in firearms and an interest in that, but there are a lot of other branches of the military, such as the Marines and the Army, that might have seemed better suited for someone who was adept with small arms.

Jamie Franks I grew up, I was a kid of the ’80s, I’m 31 years old, and I grew up watching all of the great ’80s action movies and action heroes. Literally from as far back as I can remember, all I ever wanted to do was to be in the military. Once I was actually starting to get to the age where I had to start thinking about what I was actually going to do in the military, growing up and playing war or playing army as a kid, I always wanted to be Special Forces, I always wanted to be a sniper. I wanted to be like they were in the movies.

Once I was actually a teenager and actually had to start considering my options, the high school I went to had a Navy Junior ROTC and I was the commanding officer of my JROTC detachment in high school. That kinda started steering me towards the Navy, and once I started to find out more about Special Forces and stuff like that, the Navy SEALS were in my opinion the best of the best and the elite of the elite. That’s what I wanted to do.

When I was 17, 18, and 19 years old, there was nobody in the world who could have told me that I couldn’t do it or that I wasn’t going to make it or anything. That right then and there, I made the decision that if I was going to be a Navy SEAL I had to be in the NAVY, so I joined the Navy.

Cheaper Than Dirt In 1998 you did just that and started along your career path, a 13 year career path in the Navy if I’m not mistaken-

Jamie Franks That is correct.

Cheaper Than Dirt This has been a point of contention online in the forums, and on the TV show among some of the other competitors: we saw Ashley and some of the other guys get upset at your apparent reluctance to disclose what your actual job duty actually was. What did you do in the Navy, and what do you do right now in the Navy?


Jamie Franks while on deployment to Afghanistan

Jamie Franks What was seen as reluctance, at least on my part, I would like to say it was a misunderstanding. I’ve seen a million guys in the Navy that never shut up about how “On one deployment I did this, and on my last ship I did this,” and I just didn’t want to be that guy. I didn’t want to be that guy who was aggravating everybody with my sea stories every 5 seconds.

For the longest time I never knew that there was any contention about what I did in the military. I honestly didn’t think it mattered, and I really didn’t think anybody cared. I could be seen wearing United States Navy Rescue Swimmer T-shirts all through the competition.

I joined the Navy in 1998, and like I said, I joined with the intention of trying to be a SEAL. Back then, only certain job fields could apply for SEAL training, so I had to look at all of these jobs and pick which one I wanted because, hey, it didn’t matter anyway because I was going to be a Navy SEAL.

My uncle was an Operations Specialist in the Navy, and he made being an Operations Specialist sound like the best thing since beer in a can. So, I joined to be an Operations Specialist, went through Navy boot camp in 1998, went through OSA school and became an Operations Specialist, went to my first ship and immediately on my first ship began trying to get my hands dirty and into anything I could that had a gun involved.

I got involved with the ship security team, we call it SAT and BAF teams, Security Alert Teams Backup Alert Force. I started doing VBSS which is Visit, Board, Search and Seizure. That’s like boarding merchant ships, searching them for contraband, stuff like that. Immediately I started applying for BUD/S training over and over again until I finally got accepted.

I was detached from my ship and actually got to go work with the SEALS here at SEAL Team 3 here in San Diego for about 6 months when I was getting ready to go to BUD/S. I went to BUD/S and made it a few weeks through training. I started failing my timed runs in training and we couldn’t figure out why my times were getting worse instead of better, so I went to medical and found out that I had stress fractures in my leg and got dropped from training and went back to the fleet.

My second ship, they saw in my orders that I was coming from SEAL training. I guess they needed a rescue swimmer because they said “Hey, you’re probably in pretty good shape. You can probably swim pretty good. Do you want to be a Rescue Swimmer?”

I said “Heck yes!”

So, they sent me to Rescue Swimmer School enroute to my second ship. I got there to Rescue Swimmer School and I was blowing it away and I really loved everything about it. I really kinda felt like that was my niche or my calling.

But, in the Navy, it’s not like the Coast Guard. If you’re a Rescue Swimmer in the Coast Guard, that is 100% of your job. In the Navy, it’s more like a collateral duty. I’m still an Operations Specialist, but I’m also a Rescue Swimmer.

Cheaper Than Dirt So that might have lead to some of the confusion where someone might say, I believe it was George who said “Well, what is it? What are you? Are you EOD or are you a Rescue Swimmer?”

So, you have a primary job and a secondary job.

Jamie Franks Right. Currently I work with an EOD unit, and I’ve deployed twice with an EOD unit, but I am not an EOD guy. I do support for an EOD unit as an Operations Specialist. But, that’s exactly the point, exactly what you just said. There is no one word or one phrase or one sentence that I could tell somebody who is not familiar with the Navy, what I do in the Navy.

If I were to tell you “I’m Military Police,” you would understand what that was. If I were tell you “I’m a diver,” the average person would know what that was. But, if I tell the average person “I’m an Operations Specialist and a Rescue Swimmer, and I work with EOD, it doesn’t make sense if you’re not in the Navy.

Cheaper Than Dirt Apparently that led to the confusion that was on the show.

Now, while you’re in the Navy, how did you discover Top Shot, and at what point did you go ahead and make the decision that “Hey, let me see if I can take some leave, I want to apply to be on the show.” Walk us through that process, how did you got through that?

Jamie Franks That’s actually a cool story in my opinion. I was just a Top Shot fan, just like the other millions of people who watched Top Shot because it was on TV. I like guns, and it was a show about guns with real shooters, shooting real guns, which is something you hardly ever see on TV. Everything is so Hollywood, so I was immediately drawn to Top Shot just as a fan.

I was watching Season 1, and Season 1 was great. I don’t mean to take anything away from the Season 1 competitors, but I’m sitting there on my couch watching Top Shot and I’m like “What’s the big deal? I can do this. I can do that challenge better than that guy, I can shoot that better than this guy.”

I’m involved with a program called Project Appleseed, and I was at a Project Appleseed function and a bunch of us had been watching Top Shot and talking about it and couple of my friends told me “Hey, you’re a good shot, you should try out.” Then on one of the online forums I saw a guy basically recruiting for Top Shot and he said “Hey, if you’d be interested, send me an email,” so I sent the guy an email with just a quick little paragraph, honestly never expecting to hear anything back from it. then I get an email back and they wanted a little more information.

Then as it goes on it was just a little more, and a little more, and it started getting to the point where I’m signing non-disclosure agreements, I’m sending in videos, I’m sending in essay questions and doing background checks, and I’m like “OK, this must be pretty serious. They can’t be doing this with everybody.” It was at that point that I clued in my command. Once I got a bit further along in the process and found out what the filming dates were, the filming dates backed right up to my deployment to Afghanistan.

It was at that point that I needed to let my command know, so I said “Hey, I’ve got kind of a problem. It’s kind of a cool problem to have, but it’s a problem nonetheless. I don’t know if you’ve seen the show Top Shot on the History Channel, but I’m starting to get the feeling that they’re seriously interested in me. If I were to get selected for the show, the dates are going to back right up to the deployment. Would you guys be willing to support that?”

They gave me the OK to keep pursuing it and just keep them in the loop. If I got selected, we’d cross that bridge when we got to it, and I didn’t I would carry on like normal. I’ve got to tell you, I’ve always known I was a pretty good marksman, but I would never have considered myself anything extraordinary. As I got past the next phase and the next phase of the Top Shot selection, I was always amazed. I was as amazed as anybody else would have been to find out that I was making it through all of these, as they say in football tryouts, I was making it through all of the cuts.

It got down to it that I was in the final 50 and they were going to bring me out for the final tryouts, so then I had to sit down again with my command and say “Now it’s getting pretty serious. They’ve narrowed it down to 50, and they’re going to select 16 out of these 50, so I’ve got a pretty decent shot at this. What’s it going to be?”

My command ran it up the flagpole, and it was that same time that I was selected as my command’s EOD Mobile Unit 3 Senior Sailor of the Year for 2010. So, they said “Yeah, we know you’re our Sailor of the Year. We know you’re square guy, you’re a good shooter, so go with it. See what happens. If you get selected, we’re going to support you,” and that’s the way it worked out.

I was in complete disbelief the night I got the phone call after we had come back from finals tryouts that they had selected me as one of the 16 for the cast.

Cheaper Than Dirt It sounds like quite the journey, and quite an arduous process that you’ve got to go through. You’ve been quoted as saying that you “hate reality TV.” Did you find yourself unprepared for the social dynamic aspect of the show?

Jamie Franks Yeah, I absolutely do hate reality TV. I don’t really watch any other reality shows. In my opinion, Top Shot was kind of a borderline reality show, but it is, it’s a reality show. It’s kinda like Survivor with guns I guess or Big Brother with guns or whatever.

I don’t watch any of those other shows, but I went to public school. I grew up with thick skin, I have an older sister. I’ve been through the Navy, been through all kinds of stuff in the Navy. I assumed that had completely prepared me for the social dynamic. I’m usually a pretty social person, but I wouldn’t exactly call myself a social butterfly. I’m the kind of guy that has one or two good friends and I’m just kinda friendly with everybody else. I just assumed going into it that I wouldn’t need a game plan, that I wouldn’t need a strategy, that the social aspect of the show would be no big deal compared to the stresses and situations I’ve been in in the military.

I have to tell you, I was wrong. I should have spent a little bit more time preparing myself for that aspect of the show.

Cheaper Than Dirt What about weapons-wise. A lot of people like Daryl went out and practiced with all of these exotic weapons: throwing knives, shooting a bow and arrow, throwing a tomahawk. Did you practice with anything like that or did you do any type of preparation to familiarize yourself with foreign weapons for the show?

Jamie Franks I’m in Southern California, and aside from driving 2 or 3 hours out into the middle of the desert, it would be really difficult for me to practice with any of those odd weapons. I pretty much had to stick to the weapons that I had immediate access to and immediate places to shoot them, which was basically rifles, pistols, and shotguns.

Through the course of my life, and through my experience in the military, I’ve been fortunate enough. Like I said, I was stationed at a SEAL team for a while, I work with an EOD team right now, I did VBSS stuff on a ship, so I’ve had the chance to shoot and hold and become familiar with a wide range of weapons. I’m just one of these people that just believes that if your shooting fundamentals are good, and you really know what you’re doing, it really doesn’t matter what kind of weapon is in my hand. That’s the way I thought about it.

When we went to the final tryouts we had to shoot, we had to do a shooting trial and, assuming that all the rest of these people had spent the last few months at the range every single day, number one, I can’t afford to go to the range every day. I can’t afford to buy that much ammo. I just kinda went into it like I was either a good enough shot, or I’m not. They’re either going to select me, or they’re not. I really didn’t have the time or the money to put into recreating the first season’s Top Shot challenges in my backyard or doing anything crazy. So, I just kinda kept my goings to the range about the same as it would have been anyway.

Actually, towards the end there, right before we went to the show, I had to make myself stop going to the range, because I was becoming so critical of myself. Every time I would take a shot and not hit a bullseye I would just beat myself up about it. The last couple of weeks before we went, I just had to make myself not go to the range at all.

Cheaper Than Dirt You pretty much just walked into this entire situation cold. No real plan, not a whole lot of time to practice, not really knowing what to expect except maybe what you’ve seen on Season 1.

Jamie Franks Right. I walked into the situation thinking “If I’m not good enough, a couple of weeks of extra practice isn’t going to help me.”

Cheaper Than Dirt And you did remarkably well given that. You know, after the team selection process, we saw pretty early on that certain people got along OK and certain people didn’t. We saw on the Blue Team that Jay tended to rub certain people the wrong way. We didn’t see quite that same dynamic on the Red Team, but at the same time, you didn’t seem to be quite “in the group” as much as other Red Team members. Would you say that was just the nature of your personality, just being a little bit more of a quiet guy?

Jamie Franks I think so. You know, *laughs* anyone who knows me well, I don’t think “quiet” would be one of the words they would use to describe me as. But in a situation where I’m with people I don’t know, it’s kind of my nature to just kinda hang back and see what everbody’s about and just jump in where I can.

No way could I even now after I’ve been on Top Shot, I couldn’t jump back into a house with 15 other strangers and just immediately jump in and start being social and start being part of the group and start making close friends.

In fact, the night before we started the show we had a meeting with the Top Shot producers and directors and one of the guys made the comment that people on the first season made the comment that “Oh, I can’t vote for him, he’s my friend,” and he was like “I don’t know about you guys, but I take 5 years before I call somebody my friend.”

That’s really how I am. It takes me a long time to make good friends. I really went in there thinking that I didn’t want to play the political game at all. I wanted to go to Top Shot and think that my shooting and my personality, and just being up front and honest with everybody would be enough. In retrospect, maybe I should have played the game a little sooner and a little more and been a little bit more political from the start and tried to make some closer ties from the start. Who’s to say that would have changed anything?

Cheaper Than Dirt Your raw natural talent definitely held out for you quite a bit, but of course getting sent to challenge after challenge, and every time having to pack up… You know, it’s hard enough to go out there and deal with the cameras and deal with the stress of knowing that your every move could be televised on national TV, and that you want to look good on the range and prove that you really do deserve to be on the show. But on top of that, having to go through the stress of packing up every time in anticipation of possibly being sent home… It’s got to get into your mind, to creep into your mindset when you’re out there trying to do your best and shoot.

How much concentration, how difficult is it to get into the proper frame of mind to perform on the range, every time, on command?

Jamie Franks I think that exact thing was my problem in the first couple of challenges. Obviously there were nerves, and I think I was putting so much pressure on myself to be perfect, to perform perfect, to hit that bullseye every time, that I ended up shooting myself in the foot and falling flat on my face. It really took me going to that first elimination challenge with Athena to really kinda pull my head out, shake it off, and relax in front of the cameras in front of these 15 other marksmen critiquing my every move and trying to find a weakness and trying to find a reason to keep themselves around and find somebody else to send up for nomination.

It did get to the point a little bit where the competition was starting not to be fun any more because it was, no matter how well I shoot, it’s not going to matter at a certain point.

Cheaper Than Dirt This most recent episode, I almost laughed along with you as we were watching you at the nomination range, it was a situation where you almost just have to laugh. You’re at the point where, “OK, yeah, they’re going to send me again.” What else are you going to do?

Jamie Franks Right. Exactly, and people have asked me if I could go back and do things over again, what would I do? If I could go back again knowing what I know now, knowing that I would get sent to every elimination challenge anyway, I probably would have shot better than I did because I could just completely relax and consequently shot better because there wouldn’t be any pressure.

I thought that at some point that everybody would wake up and go “Hey, this dude is a solid shooter, we need to stop sending him to the elimination.” What I didn’t realize at the time was that once I had been marked as “that guy” after the first couple of challenges, there wasn’t any way I was going to win them back.

Cheaper Than Dirt There have been some suggestions that perhaps you were sandbagging, trying to get sent to elimination challenges so that you could pick up a couple of extra gift cards.

Jamie Franks No, that is not accurate at all. The gift cards are nice, but I would have definitely traded in the gift cards in order to be one of the guys sitting on the bench watching the elimination challenge.

Cheaper Than Dirt The producers changed things up this season. Last season, when the two teams combined, and everybody put on the green jerseys, we saw the nomination range go away. When that didn’t happen, how did that change your strategy?

Jamie Franks When we first found out that we made it to the green shirts, I was ecstatic. Now, my shooting is going to speak for itself. My skill is going to speak for itself. It doesn’t matter what everybody else’s opinion is. I’m going to have a score, and that’s going to be it.

Then, when we found out that it wasn’t the worst person going home, it was the best person just got immunity and we still had to do nominations, honestly the first couple of times I was completely deflated. Every time we kept going back to the next practice or the next challenge I was hoping they would tell us that “Hey, that last nomination was the last one.” But, for me, that never happened.

It’s funny that you should mention how they did it in the first season, because unless my math is incorrect, at the point that I left the show in the individual phase of the competition, I think I had the best shooting record of any of the shooters who were left. I placed 2nd in the .50 cal challenge, I placed 1st in the unstable platform challenge, and then I tied for second in the challenge we saw last night falling from the crane. I had two 2nd place finishes and a 1st place finish, and none of the other shooters there had a better record with that.

If they did the elimination like they did in the first season, I’d still be in the competition and I think I’d have gone a lot farther than where I landed.

Cheaper Than Dirt Do you think that your shooting skills might have spoken too loudly for you, that maybe some of the guys looked at your performance on the .50 cal, and you know you really upset their plans by getting immunity on the unstable platform challenge. How did that make you feel?

Jamie Franks That unstable platform challenge was my perfect storm of a Top Shot challenge. Everything that I happened to be good at fell right in my lap for that challenge. It couldn’t have come at a better time for me. If any challenge in both seasons of Top Shot were meant for me, it was that one. Those are the kinds of weapons I am familiar with. Those are the kinds of weapons I’m good with. That kind of challenge is right up my alley, and I went in there and smoked it.

Do I think that my shooting ability started to speak too loud and started to intimidate people? I really don’t think so. Joe’s an honest guy, and last night on the show you saw him, even after everything, he still didn’t consider me one of the best shots in the house. I think it was a case of, if you look hard enough to find something wrong, you’re going to find something wrong every time.

Cheaper Than Dirt And, when you’ve got everybody going for $100,000, you’re on the show and obviously think you’re there for a reason. If you didn’t think you had a chance, why be there? Obviously you’re going to see all of the flaws in all of the other shooters and identify ways in which you’re going to beat them.

Jamie Franks Right. Exactly.

Cheaper Than Dirt You mentioned earlier about the friendships on the show and how you didn’t think it was possible to make such good friends in such a short period of time. Yet, everybody we’ve talked to who came off the show has said the same thing. They came out of that experience with powerful and long lasting friendships. Your experience on the show obviously was a little bit different, but even Ashley said that he considered you a good friend, despite the on air incidents that we saw. Was your experience the same? Are these guys all your good friends now?

Jamie Franks Yeah, absolutely. Pretty much all of us have kept in touch. There are a few people from the cast that don’t speak up as often as others, but there is a core group of us who communicate pretty often. Jay, Ashley, and Maggie are the ones I’ve communicated the most. Probably Jay the most and then Ashley because he and I were both over in Afghanistan immediately after the show finished taping so he and I were talking to each other over there.

The weekend before last I actually met up with Maggie and shot my very first ever 3-gun match with her. Everything you saw on TV, everything that happened, whatever may have happened behind the scenes, absolutely every single person on the show I look forward to the day when I see them again and we can sit down and have a beer together. I have absolutely no hard feelings for anybody on the show.

A lot of people have said “How can you stand George and why didn’t you give him a piece of mind?” and a lot has been said about what has been left on the cutting room floor, and what was one of the things left on the cutting room floor was that me and George actually got along well most of the time.

Cheaper Than Dirt What did we miss out on? What one scene or what couple of scenes did we miss out on that you really wish would have made it to the air?

Jamie Franks I can’t think of any one big thing. I just think overall the producers or the editors or whoever missed out on capturing the camaraderie that actually was there. Every single night there were big card games going on and jokes going on. Jokes being played, and conversations that would still keep me in stitches now thinking back on it. It’s that kind of stuff that got kinda skipped over in favor of focusing in a little bit more on the drama.

It was just that kind of stuff overall. The guys who would interview us, more than once, more than twice, they made comments about how we were about to make them all puke because we were all getting along so well. That was really the reality of the reality show was that 99.9% of the time we all got along really well and it was a really positive environment in the house with everyone joking around and telling stories and playing games. I’m sorry that didn’t get shown more.

Cheaper Than Dirt Did the producers or crew members do anything on purpose to try and provoke drama?

Jamie Franks No. Some people think that certain things were scripted or that certain things were provoked by the producers, and I can honestly say that no, that didn’t happen. There were maybe a couple of times where they would ask you a loaded question, that maybe they wanted a certain response with maybe a certain slant to it, but at the end of the day it was up to you whether you played into that or not. I never did.

But no, nothing was scripted and I would say that they didn’t provoke any events. There was enough that happened on its own that they didn’t have to.

Cheaper Than Dirt You know, it is a stressful situation just being in the house away from everybody. Was it worth it? I mean, I know you mentioned that if you did it again you’d do it differently, but given everything you’ve learned, everything you know now, would you actually go out and do it again?

Jamie Franks If I could go out and do this experience over again, yes I would. Would I at this point go out of my way to apply for Dancing With The Stars, no I would not. The application process is ridiculously long and arduous. It keeps you guessing about whether or not you’ve made it with all the uncertainty and all of the hoops you have to jump through. It was absolutely worth it, knowing that I was one of the fortunate ones who made it.

So, yes. This specific instance, I would go back and do it again. Would I do it again now, probably not. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I think it’s best to leave it at that. We had a great cast. The casting people did a great job picking us all out and throwing us in there. I don’t know how it could be any better if I went out and tried to do this again.

But, if Top Shot in the future wanted to do a Top Shot All Stars or Top Shot Heroes and Villains, I would absolutely be up for that.

Cheaper Than Dirt Would you be a Hero or a Villain?

Jamie Franks Oh man… I don’t know. If you ask me, I’d say I’m always going to be a hero, but I don’t know. I guess that would be up to the good people at the History Channel to decide that.

Cheaper Than Dirt You mentioned getting back together with some of the other cast members like Maggie and Chris Tilley. A couple of guys, based on their experience, have decided to start picking up some other disciplines and some other sports. Have you taken that step and started to shoot a little 3-Gun or some USPSA or something like that?

Jamie Franks Yes, doing 3-gun is something that I’ve always wanted to do even before I ever got onto Top Shot, or ever knew there was a show called Top Shot. The one thing, and hopefully there’s someone from the 3-Gun community listening, the information is just not out there. For a long time I would just search on the internet for 3-gun competitions that were near me here in California and I could never find the information. I just assumed that 3-gun was predominantly an East Coast thing or a South Eastern thing, because I know they do a lot of 3-gun events in Texas and Arizona. I just assumed there were none near me, so I stopped pursuing it.

Then I met Maggie on the show, who is one of the biggest 3-gun champions in the country, and I mentioned that “Yeah, it just sucks that there are no 3-gun near me in California,” and I thought she was going to slap me when I said that. Fortunately I met her and she has steered me in the right direction to find some 3-gun matches in Southern California, and like I said I just shot my first one 2 weeks ago. I’ve definitely been bitten by the bug and I definitely can not wait to shoot 3-gun some more.

Cheaper Than Dirt It’s been an explosive sport coming up. We recently picked up sponsorship of 3-Gun Nation and we’ve got Patrick Kelley, another well known 3-gun shooter on Team Cheaper Than Dirt! and Team Benelli now. The opportunities for 3-gun are definitely out there, and we’re trying to help our customers and other shooters like yourself get involved in the sports.

Jamie Franks My biggest recommendation would be to get the information out there on the internet about the matches. That would be great because I could never find it. I could never find anything where I didn’t have to drive across the country to see if I liked it.

Cheaper Than Dirt You know, for those of our listeners and readers online, go to 3-GunNation.com. They’ve got all the major matches listed there, and we’ve got even more listed on our website.

Jamie Franks Yup, that was actually the first resource that Maggie steered me towards was 3-GunNation.com.

Cheaper Than Dirt It’s a great resource. You know, Top Shot has done a lot to bring sports like 3-gun into the forefront of our national consciousness, to bring it back into the mainstream. You mentioned earlier that you’ve been doing some work with the Appleseed Project, and you know we’ve done some work in the past with Project Appleseed, and that’s a great method to bring in new shooters. Tell our listeners and our readers a bit about Project Appleseed.

Jamie Franks Appleseed, first and foremost if I were to tell someone about Project Appleseed, is non-partisan, it’s not Democrat, it’s not Republican, it’s not officially affiliated with the NRA. We keep politics out of it. The goal is to teach every American responsible gun ownership, rifle marksmanship, and we tie it in with American History and the events of April 19th 1775 and the battles of Lexington and Concord and tie it in with the political climate of the United States at that time, as it relates to today, and as it relates to the importance of being a responsible gun owner.

We take anybody from any walk of life. If you’ve got a rifle, bring it out. Most of the courses are a 2 day Saturday and Sunday program, but you can either come out for just Saturday or Sunday. We’ll teach you how to shoot your rifle and I’ve never seen anybody not get better. I’ve seen people on the range from 8 year old kids to 80 year old men, and 80 year old women. They bring their wives out. I’ve seen entire families on the shooting range.

I think the last time I was an instructor at an Appleseed event, we had a family of 8 all on the firing line right beside each other. It’s a great environment, it’s a great learning environment, and you’ve never met so many people who are so anxious to share their knowledge and share the history of the United States, and teach you how to shoot.

Cheaper Than Dirt That website is AppleseedInfo.org for any of our readers or listeners who want to go online and check that out.

You know, it’s a great project. We’ve had some down here in our area and, just speaking from personal experience I’m not that great of a shot, but going out there and trying to earn that marksmanship patch I saw this smiling 8-year old little girl came up with her own marksmanship patch, but I just couldn’t do it that day.

Jamie Franks Yeah, it’s amazing. Like I said, it’s for everybody. I’d been shooting for most of my life before I ever heard about Appleseed, and I really believe that no matter who you are, and no matter how good you think you are, you can’t attend a course like Appleseed and not learn something and not get a little bit better.

Cheaper Than Dirt It’s a great course. I’ve been shooting all my life and never shot a course like that and went out there and thought that I would just walk out there and earn the marksmanship patch, but there is a lot to learn. There is a lot that they can teach you out there.

Jamie Franks There is a lot to learn. A lot of people never realize how much of the mechanics they are doing wrong. The Rifleman patch as you referenced, earning that Rifleman patch is like dangling the carrot in front of the mule. You see that 12 year old girl get her Rifleman patch and that kinda lights a fire a fire under you and then you want it. People come back over and over and get better and better and eventually earn their Rifleman patch.

Cheaper Than Dirt It is a great way to spend a day with the family and learn firearm safety as you mentioned.

Listen, I want to thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. It’s been very enlightening, and it’s been great to clear up some of the drama. A lot of people see what happens on Top Shot and they see the drama and don’t realize that, as firearm enthusiasts and as sportsmen, we’re really a friendly bunch. I think that’s one thing that Season 1 really showed that I kinda miss on Season 2.

Jamie Franks Yup. Agreed.

Cheaper Than Dirt Alright, well I know you’ve got some more upcoming interviews, it sounds like you’ve got a lot on your plate. Caleb Giddings on Gun Nuts Radio has an interview scheduled later. We’ll be listening to that. Caleb is one of our resident Gun Nuts here at Cheaper Than Dirt! so we encourage all of our listeners to check out that interview as well.

Jamie Franks, it’s been a pleasure talking with you and I appreciate your time.

Jamie Franks Alright, well thank you. Thanks for having me.

The Cup

The Bianchi Cup

Oh yes, it is almost that time of the year. The shooting roster is set, and the squad lists have been published, and we’re less than a month away from the greatest handgun tournament in the nation – the 2011 NRA Bianchi Cup. I shot the Bianchi Cup for the first time in 2009 in their new Production Division. I did okay for being an IDPA Sharpshooter shooting what is widely considered one of the most difficult sports in the shooting world. In 2010 I missed the Cup, due largely to having had to take time off for work to appear on some reality tv show.

This year, I’m back.  And I’m better prepared, as well.  I look back on the guy I was in 2009 as a shooter, and I’m worlds better than I used to be.  Since then I’ve made IDPA 5-Gun Master, I practice more, and I shoot a lot more than I did back then.  So going into this year’s tournament, I’ve got some goals set.  Here are my goals for the 2011 NRA Bianchi Cup, where I’ll be shooting Production Division with my Sig P250.

  1. With my classification.  In 2009, I classified as a Marksman.  A little weak, but hey, it was my first try.  In 2011, I want to be the number 1 Marksman shooter in Production Division.
  2. Break 1700 – In 2009, I shot in the high 1400s, if I remember my score correctly.  I was devastated, because I had hoped to do much better than that.  My goal for 2011 is to break 1700 at the Cup.  To do that, I’ll need to break 400 on two stages, and break 450 on the other two.  If I could somehow manage to pull a 450 or better on every stage I’d break 1800, which would be amazing.  However, I’ll keep it real and try for 1700.  If I can average 425 on every stage, I’ll hit that goal.

Two simple goals.  I think it’s going to be a great match this year, I’m really looking forward to getting down to Missouri and shooting the 2011 NRA Bianchi Cup!

The Ruger SR1911

It’s the most famous pistol ever produced. More than 100 years old, the design has endured largely unchanged. Almost every pistol manufacturer throughout the world has made one at some point or another, and yet most attempts at improvements fall short and John Moses Browning’s design continues along the same as it has since 1911. That’s right, the 1911 pistol is an icon and is revered by many as quite possibly the perfect design.

Sure, metallurgy and materials technology have allowed for newer more modern designs that incorporate super-light super-strong polymer components. Advances in cartridge development has created loads with faster muzzle velocities and bullets with better expansion. But JMB’s famous design persists as a viable combat pistol.

This year, the 100th anniversary of the military’s adoption of the design, many manufacturers have come out with commemorative models of the 1911. Rumors circulated around the internet and were whispered in hushed tones at the 2011 SHOT Show by retailers and manufacturers alike anticipating the announcement that Ruger would be bringing to market their own variation of the 1911.

At long last Ruger has confirmed the rumors in a recent press release announcing their reincarnation of the design.

Ruger is proud to announce their new SR1911, an “All American” classic rendition of John Browning’s most famous handgun design. The public debut of the Ruger SR1911 pistol will take place during the NRA Annual Meeting in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania April 29 – May 1.

The single‐action .45 Auto Ruger SR1911 features a bead‐blasted stainless steel frame and slide, precision CNC machined for a precise slide‐to‐frame fit. The stainless steel barrel and bushing are produced simultaneously, from the same ordnance‐grade barstock, for a precise fit and improved accuracy. The slide features rear cocking serrations and a dovetailed three‐dot sight system with a Novak® rear sight and standard front sight.

“We are very proud to offer a 1911 pistol, an icon of American gun design and manufacturing,” said Ruger CEO Michael Fifer. “In this 100‐anniversary year of the introduction of the Government Model 1911 it is only fitting that such a firearm be completely manufactured in America with all American‐made components.”

The Ruger SR1911 pistol features a titanium firing pin and heavy firing pin spring, which negates the need for a firing pin block, offering an updated safety feature to the original “Series 70” design without compromising trigger pull weight. An extended thumb safety offers improved manipulation and an oversized beavertail grip safety provides positive function and reliability. A visual inspection port offers visual confirmation of a round in the chamber.

Positive extraction is facilitated by an improved internal extractor. The plunger tube for both the slide stop and thumb safety is integral to the frame and will never shoot loose. The swaged link pin also will not shoot loose. The SR1911 uses a skeletonized hammer and an aluminum, skeletonized trigger with an adjustable over‐travel stop. The Ruger SR1911 features a standard recoil guide system and flat mainspring housing.

The Ruger SR1911 grips feature a Ruger logo in checkered hardwood panels. Each pistol is shipped with one 7‐round and one 8‐round stainless steel magazine, bushing wrench and a soft case. The SR1911 will fit currently available 1911 size holsters.

The SR1911 slide and barrel bushing are both CNC machined from a single piece of stainless steel bar stock to ensure that both pieces fit together perfectly. The frame and plunger housing of the pistol is investment cast as a single piece as well.

The most notable thing about Ruger’s SR1911 is that it uses an older design that does not incorporate Colt’s Series 80 firing pin block. The Series 80 design, and the similarly designed Swartz safety device, consisted of a series of levers that blocked the firing pin, preventing the gun from firing unless they were moved out of the way by depressing the trigger. This additional lock-work, by necessity, made the trigger more gritty and difficult to pull. By eliminating the Series 80 firing pin block and going with a light titanium firing pin and stronger firing pin spring, Ruger made the trigger that much lighter and smoother. The trigger itself, along with the hammer, features the lightweight skeletonized design sought after by many 1911 aficionados.

To purchase your own Ruger SR1911 pistol, or to find accessories for the Ruger SR1911 or other Ruger firearms, visit CheaperThanDirt.com.

Ruger SR1911 Specifications

Caliber .45 ACP
Capacity 7+1 and 8+1 (both magazines included)
Trigger Pull 4 pounds
Weight 2 pounds 11 ounces
Overall Height 5.5 inches
Overall Length 8.6 inches
Barrel Length 5 inches
Sights Novak 3-dot

Cheaper Than Dirt! Discusses Equipment Reliability with BLACKHAWK!

From humble beginnings crafting durable nylon web gear and packs in a garage back in 1993, BLACKHAWK! has grown into a large corporation offering thousands of products for military, law enforcement, firefighters and EMS, as well as for hunters and self defense. Every product produced by BLACKHAWK! is thoroughly tested under the harshest conditions to ensure that it will hold up and perform when needed the most. In short, for BLACKHAWK! products, failure is not an option.

We spoke with Ty Weaver, Senior Manager of BLACKHAWK!’s Special Operations Division to learn more about the history of the company and what goes into the development of their battle-proven equipment.

Ty Weaver BLACKHAWK! was started in 1993 by a gentleman named Mike Noell., He was actually an active duty SEAL at that time. He was in Northern Iraq on patrol hunting SCUD missiles and one of the straps on his backpack failed, which was bad enough on its own, but they had just found out that they were in the middle of minefield when that happened. So, he decided if he ever got out of that, he’d start making gear that the guys could depend on ’cause he wasn’t impressed with the quality of the issued gear at that time.

He went back, to his East Coast SEAL station in the Norfolk area at Dam Neck. He started designing and building gear out of a 2 car garage in Virginia. He started doing backpacks, load bearing harnesses and things like that.

Cheaper Than Dirt That’s still kind of BLACKHAWK!’s bread and butter isn’t it?

Ty Weaver Yeah, that’s the emphasis. We’re a very diverse company now. We were purchased by ATK in April of 2010—and continue to expand our product offerings. ATK has a number of well-known brands under the umbrella–Federal Premium, Speer, CCI, Weaver, Champion, Alliant Powder and RCBS to name a few. It’s a great fit.

Cheaper Than Dirt Anytime companies can work together under a single umbrella such as ATK, we see so much more product compatibility and so many more innovative products being developed.

Ty Weaver Yup.

We take it so seriously because, all of the guys in the Special Operations Division, we’ve been there. We’ve been in those fights and we know what it’s like when a piece of equipment fails. It’s not all about the money. This is about people’s lives, you know. It really is that important to BLACKHAWK! and that’s why the company has grown substantially since Mike started it. We’ve always had that philosophy of always taking care of the end-user at first.

It doesn’t matter if it’s law enforcement, the military or commercial. We look at the entire market and ask “What do we need? How can we make stuff better, lighter, stronger and faster?” So we work on that.

Cheaper Than Dirt All this gear is designed to be used in areas where failure is really not an option.

Ty Weaver Right, and we take that into account you know. We had crossed over in the last few years into the commercial market and done some packs with Real Tree camouflage, but we don’t really do a separate line. We take existing packs and reconstruct them the same way as we do for a military Special Forces unit. We’ll just change some colors, maybe change a few features on it to get into that specific, what we call “Different Mission Profiles,” whether it be a military mission profile or law enforcement, or commercial. We look at our mindset, asking where is the equipment going to be used, and then we specifically design for that.

Cheaper Than Dirt That’s a really good point because a lot of Cheaper Than Dirt customers are law enforcement and military. We also have a lot of customers who are simply supporters of the Second Amendment. They’re hunters, campers and people who are looking for gear that can survive being abused and being tossed in the closet and hauled out and expected to perform out every couple of years.

Ty Weaver Yeah we design and build our gear to the extremes. You buy one of our BLACKHAWK! three-day backpacks, it’s going to last you for 20 years. Through the years, with the different design changes, we control raw materials very closely and we’re always looking for new products out there to make our stuff lighter, stronger and faster. We’re consistently striving to put the best product out there that we can.

Cheaper Than Dirt What goes into the development process? How are BLACKHAWK! products developed? Do you just have a bunch of guys sitting around a table with a whiteboard and some scraps of paper, scribbling down ideas?

Ty Weaver These days, it’s all end-user driven. Once again it could be in law enforcement, military, civilian commercial, hunters or nearly anybody that we get feedback from. One of the most critical ways we do that now, for the last 6 years, we’ve had a Special Operations Divisions where I work and we have about 12 guys who are all prior law enforcement, military or both, all with an average of 20 years experience in the field.

We go out and do training for law enforcement and military. We do demonstrations, we outfit military units and things like that. Having that interface with the end user, we’re constantly getting feedback.

Teams will tell us “Hey we have this mission profile, can you build us something to accomplish this mission?” or “This holster is great, but we want it to do this: can you modify it this way?”

Cheaper Than Dirt You’ve actually got boots on the ground. You’re directly interfacing with the end-user in order to develop your products.

Ty Weaver Absolutely. For the Special Operations Division, with the team members we have throughout the United States, there are several guys that work at our headquarters in Norfolk, Virginia, but the rest of us are in the field all the time. We work out of our house, I mean we work for the factory and obviously are full time employees, but we work in different areas throughout the country as well as all over the world.

Cheaper Than Dirt Let’s talk about one of your new products that you’re coming out with for 2011. You’ve got a new high performance fighting uniform, and one of the features we see on it is an integrated tourniquet system. That’s something that was directly driven by the military, wasn’t it?

Ty Weaver Absolutely, yes. It started off with one of the guys on our Special Operations team, Matt Willette, who was doing a tactical medical course with a guy named Dr. Keith Rose. Keith had done deployments to Afghanistan; he was in a convoy of what are called “technical vehicles” which are basically Toyota pickup trucks. One vehicle in front of them was hit in the front with an RPG, and the driver who was a good friend of his was stuck in that vehicle. They couldn’t get him out and he actually bled out.

Dr. Rose came up with the idea “Hey, if we would have tourniquets on his body in position, we could have saved his life.”

We looked at it, and there are so many ways you could use that. We’re considering, as we expand our apparel line, getting into hunting clothes. If you have a hunter out in the middle of nowhere by himself, and he goes up a tree stand and falls, and somehow a stick goes into his leg and hits an artery, what’s he gonna do? If he has the tourniquet system right there, with one hand he can apply that tourniquet. That’s the thought process, to just incorporate life-saving features in to the actual uniform itself.

Cheaper Than Dirt That same thought process goes into all of your items. You take military application and police applications, and make them into commercially viable products.

Ty Weaver It’s really neat, the way we operate. We have guys in every branch of the military, some guys are canine handlers and on SWAT teams, so when we look at new products it almost always comes through what we call the “SOD” (the Special Operations Division) and we look at it and give inputs on all different aspects.

“How can we make this better?” or “Did you think about this?” just trying to cover as many bases as possible. We strive to get the most use out of every part we build as possible.

Cheaper Than Dirt Let’s talk holsters for a minute. We’ve seen more and more of these holsters come out that accommodate pistol mounted lasers. As lasers become cheaper, less expensive and more readily available, more and more end users, not just police and law enforcement, but regular people carrying concealed handguns are looking for a way to carry that weapon securely concealed in a holster that can accommodate a laser. Can we look forward to seeing more laser holsters coming out from Blackhawk?

Ty Weaver Oh yeah, I mean that simple line that we have now, we already do nylon, leather and the polymer based SERPA holsters, and the SERPA holsters are already designed from the ground up so that when you reholster your weapon, if you have a Crimson Trace laser mounted to your weapon it’ll already accept that.

We also have light bearing holsters. One of the new items we’re coming out within the next 6 to 8 months is our concealed CQC holster light bearing. We did it as a level 3 duty holster for law enforcement. Now we’re taking it a bit farther so that people can carry a concealed weapon with a weapon mounted light as well.

As we go along, we’re developing more and more holsters for different brand weapons, but also incorporating the different accessories that are available out there in the market.

Cheaper Than Dirt Holsters are one those things that you can pretty much chase the long tail of the market forever. There’s almost a never ending possibility of different combinations of lights, lasers, and other accessories. How do you decide where to draw the line and what holster to customize for a specific gun/laser/light combo, and what to go ahead and stick with a universal-style nylon holster for?

Ty Weaver Well, look at holsters like our SERPA line. Obviously it’s expensive to do a mold for every gun, and you have a left and right hand version of each so you have two molds at a minimum, but we look at the industry out there and we have great connections. Within our Special Operations Division we have a guy who worked for SIG for several years. I worked for H&K for seven and a half years, and we have great relationships with people at GLOCK and Springfield, so we get input from them. They let us know what the most popular models are and what’s selling.

A lot of manufacturers will come to us and say “Hey can you do a holster for this weapon we’re going to come out with,” and we get ahead of the curve on that as well. One of the unique things is that we do the traditional leather and nylon, but one of the unique things about the SERPA is it’s a modular system.

For example, if you buy the CQC holster, it comes with both a paddle and a belt mount. But if you want to turn it into a shoulder holster you don’t have to buy another holster, you just buy the shoulder holster mount. If you wanted to buy an adapter to put it onto MOLLE gear or the PALS type of military webbing, we have that mount so that you don’t have to buy a whole new holster to accommodate that mission profile. Now you just buy an accessory and mount that holster on to it.
We’ve also done the quick disconnect system which is an 8 point gear system where you can mount this to any of the platforms and literally, within few seconds, mount and remove the holster and move it from platform to platform.

It actually started when the German military came to us and said “Look, we want to build a holster from our thigh to our chest, because we are out on foot patrol and we have our weapon on a drop leg holster, but once we mount up on a vehicle, we can’t access that when we’re sitting and it’s very difficult with your body arm to access it like that, so we want to be able to transfer to a chest platform.”

So that, even if you’re driving a vehicle, you know you’ll be able to access the weapon. We did that for them and now it works with all the components of the SERPA. I think there is a total of 12 different mounts we do now.

Cheaper Than Dirt With these new quick-disconnect mounts, can you move that setup with the gun still secured in the holster?

Ty Weaver Absolutely, the weapon’s in there, the trigger guard is protected, so it’s safe and law enforcement really liked it when they saw it. There are times when they’ll have to take the bad guy into the prison, and they’re checking into the Sally port and they’ve got to check their weapon. Now, instead of pulling the weapon out, clearing it, and putting it into the lock-up, they could just hit the quick disconnect, take it off, put in the lock-up, come back out and within just a few seconds they’re done.

Cheaper Than Dirt That’s a fantastic safety feature. Everybody knows that the more you handle a weapon, the more chance there is to have an accident. We all follow standard safety practices, but you’ve just eliminated one of the ways of having a negligent discharge.

Ty Weaver That’s what the SERPA holster has been all about. The natural draw of the SERPA, when you physically position your trigger finger in the same place on the slide as you are drawing the weapon, there are no un-ergonomic actions.

Within the Special Operations Division we do a one day SERPA holster instructor class. We teach people that if they are handed a pistol that the way they grab it is the same way you draw it out of that holster. The unique thing about it is, whether it’s a CQC holster, a Level 2 Duty or Level 3 Duty, a tactical drop leg, it’s the same consistent draw, no matter which mission profile you’re in.

Cheaper Than Dirt You’re basically training good muscle memory, and training good habits by doing that.

Ty Weaver Absolutely.

Cheaper Than Dirt You have an entire new line of EMS pouches, many medical pouches, and utility pouches.

Ty Weaver Absolutely. You know, we were surprised. We learn everyday too. You know, we took on the Special Operations Division guys and he has headed up our fire and EMS line. He’s the director of that now, and he got together and brought in a lot of end users from different fire agencies, from volunteer to big city agencies and held focus groups.

We started looking into this and one thing we found is that these agencies will spend millions of dollars on a fire truck, and then use equipment bags that they have their equipment in that are just substandard.

We suggested building and equipping them with better heavy-duty bags, and these guys were just ecstatic. They didn’t even know that the capability was out there to build to that level. If you ever go through a fire station, their individual equipment and their fire trucks are just the best that you can get, but it was just the support equipment that really hadn’t been brought up to a high standard.

We saw a real opportunity in there and that entire division for us is just taking off by leaps and bounds. We’re getting so much good feedback from these people thanking us for building this gear. They’ve told us “We had certain bags that, every year we were replacing them. Now that’s gone away. Now we have more options.”

Cheaper Than Dirt Just like in the military, people’s lives depend on this gear, and that’s an important point to remember. It may not be the user of the medical equipment that has so their life depending on it, but they’re using it to save somebody else’s life.

Ty Weaver Absolutely. That makes all the difference you know. If you’re on a search and rescue mission and you have to carry gear up into the mountains, and that bag falls apart like Mike’s backpack did in Iraq 17 years ago, it’s the same type of situation. It all affects whether that person is going to live or die. If you can’t get there with the equipment you need, it makes all the difference in the world.

Cheaper Than Dirt BLACKHAWK! is making that difference, and I know everybody appreciates it. Having quality gear is important to us all.

I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to us and explaining a little bit about the history of BLACKHAWK! as well as what goes into the development of your products.

Down Zero TV: The First Match

Spring has sprung, and with it comes the start of Down Zero TV.  Our first full match video combines first person and third person camera angles, and is slightly inspired by my deep and abiding love of first person shooter video games from the 90

Here’s the gears.   Check out the video, and then we’ll get into the match breakdown and discussion of the Down Zero Challenge. breakdown from the match:

The goal of Down Zero is to take a step back from shooting as fast as I can, and focus on pure accuracy under time pressure.  At club level matches, I have to shoot the match reasonably fast, because if I finish dead last than winning “Most Accurate” doesn’t count (at least for the purposes of the challenge).  In Down Zero TV, when we’re shooting IDPA matches the goal is to 1) win Most Accurate, and 2) shoot a match clean.  I got close at this match!

The first stage you see in the video, Stage 1 was actually the last stage I shot that day.  So to see the match how I saw it, you’ll need to start on Stage 2, the seated stage.  On Stage 2, I shot clean.  I scored a perfect down zero, and had it not been for a mental error, I would have had a good time as well.  Stage 3 I dropped my first points of the match, which was a down 1 shot on a swinging target.  Since it’s not a static target I’m not too worried about being perfect on those.  Stage 4: clean.  Stage 5: clean.  The complicated stage 6, which you only see from my hat cam was also clean, getting 8 hits on each target in a group smaller than my fist.  I cleaned stage 7 as well, which meant I had gone six stages of a seven stage match and only dropped one point.

Then the grenade went off.  Stage 1 was a complicated ping-pong stage with hard cover or obscured targets, and a 15 yard shot at a target with a no shoot on it.  The only way to guarantee a down zero score would be to go for head shots on everything, which I did.  I dropped one hit in the down one on the 15 yard target, and then disaster.  I shot which I believed was a double (two bullets in one hole) was called a miss, giving me a total of down 6 for the stage.

Match total?  Down 7 points, however I held on and won Most Accurate at the match, even though I felt my time was too slow.  I did learn a lot though – there were times when I’d slow down to make sure that I got a hit that just felt odd.  Normally, in those situations I’d accept a down 1 hit and just shoot it faster, knowing that I could make up the time elsewhere.  On Saturday, I didn’t “just shoot them” I took my time and got quality hits.  However, there were places I could have shot much faster and still achieved down zero hits, such as on Stage 5.  Wide open targets can be shot faster and still get down zero hits.

Next week we’ll be shooting another IDPA match on Saturday, and then a USPSA match on Sunday.  When we run USPSA, pure accuracy isn’t necessarily the goal!

Stats

Most Accurate wins, Club Matches: 1

 

Airborne Contaminant Survival

Concerns over contaminated radioactive airborne particles from the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan have prompted many in the area, and around the world, to take precautions against the possibility of breathing in “hot” particles. In this modern age, with Terrorism always a possibility, natural disasters, and frequent pandemic worries, it pays to be prepared against a variety of airborne contaminants.

The contaminants you prepare against will vary widely depending on the potential threats. Residents in an area that is near active volcanoes will need to be prepared against ash, while urban dwellers may be concerned with potential nuclear, biological, or chemical (NBC) attacks. It is virtually impossible (not to mention prohibitively expensive) to prepare for every scenario, so you must choose which threats are most likely.

The equipment you choose is dependent upon your budget and the perceived threat. The most common threat that people prepare for is biological: most virus pandemics, or weaponized biological agents are both effectively combated with a simple gas mask. It has been pointed out elsewhere on the internet that the N95 mask doesn’t filter out the viruses themselves; they are far too small to be filtered out individually. Luckily, most viruses are transmitted as they ride on small aerosol droplets from coughs and sneezes or contaminated dust particles. These are easily filtered out by the N95 masks.

These N95 masks do have drawbacks, as they are only 95% effective against airborne biological contaminants, and they are almost completely ineffective against chemical contaminants. With the exception of large particle contaminants, chemical contaminants easily penetrate these filters. What’s more, many chemical contaminants can be absorbed through mucous membranes in the eyes and nose. To protect against them, a more effective gas mask that seals against the face is needed. Our OM10 military gas mask is effective against chemical contaminants that are absorbed through or irritate the eyes and nose. It can protect the wearer from tear gas, mace, and other chemical agents.

For the ultimate in protection however, full NBC rated military gas masks are necessary. Make sure to keep an eye on the age of your filters, as they do deteriorate over time. We have 1990s manufactured NATO filters available in packs of three.

Don’t just prepare for outdoor protection – even the most modern houses are not airtight. While remaining indoors will help reduce your exposure to airborne contaminants, it will not completely protect you. There are ways to seal off your house in the event of an airborne contamination. It sounds silly, but simple duct tape and plastic sheeting is one of the most effective ways to reduce air leaks around doors and windows. Doors and windows let an enormous amount of air through. While this may not be a big deal for a pandemic, in the case of a weaponized biological agent, nuclear or chemical contamination, it is critically important to seal your dwelling as tightly as possible against outside airborne contaminants.

Protecting yourself against airborne contaminants isn’t terribly expensive, but you do need to have a plan. Identify the most likely threats you may face and take appropriate action so that you are able to protect yourself and your loved ones in case of disaster.

The Guns of Top Shot 2

Tuesday night’s episode of Top Shot Reloaded was by far my favorite, not just because it featured my friend and season 1 winner Iain Harrison, but because it had (in my opinion) the most awesome firearm selection of the episodes so far.  What really made the episode interesting is that the guns were personally selected by Iain for the challenge (which itself was strongly influenced by Iain’s 3-gun background).  The first gun that Iain chose for the challenge was the Sig P228, also known as the M11 in the US Army.  This gun competed against the Beretta for the Army’s XM9 pistol trials, and successfully completed the trials along with the Beretta.  The Army eventually chose the Beretta due to its lower overall price than the Sig P228.  However, the Sig P228 still saw service with the Navy SEALs and a host of federal law enforcement agencies.

The next gun up was the Browning Hi Power.  This gun was the standard service sidearm of the British military for quite some time; in fact it was the most common military sidearm in the world until it was gradually phased out by most countries in favor of more modern designs such as Glocks or Sigs.  Interestingly, the Hi Power was replaced in service with the British Army by the Sig P226, the big brother of the Sig P228.

The two rifles on Tuesday’s episode of Top Shot are both icons of military service.  The AR-15 rifle is the most common sporting rifle in the United States today, and has served the US military in conflict since the 1960s.  The AR15 is arguably the most common rifle in the free world, with its only competitor being the second rifle Iain selected for the episode: the FN FAL.  The FAL has been referred to as The Right Arm of the Free World, and has been used by more countries as their battle rifle than any other long arm in the free world.  Reliable, accurate, and in my opinion just a dead sexy platform.

The challenge itself was a lot of fun, but the guns were what made it for me.  Brownings and FALs are extremely evocative for me, bringing to mind images of soldiers in South America fighting against drug dealers and corrupt dictators.

If you missed Tuesday’s episode of Top Shot on History, check it out at the link.

Barrel Twist AR15

Barrel Twist in the AR-15

Since the early days of firearm building, armorers noted that if they imparted spin to the projectile that it greatly enhanced in-flight stability and accuracy. The earliest rifles had numerous bands of metal that were forged together and twisted to create the helical shape of the rifle groves. As machining processes were developed and refined, hammer forged barrels became popular as they were much stronger and much more precise.

Jay Lim Audio Podcast

Viewers of Top Shot Season 2 love him or hate him. Jay Lim has been the center of drama among the shooters of the Blue Team. His unconventional shooting techniques may seem to set him up for failure, but time and time again we’ve seen him pull through in the clutch and come out with a win. That is, until last week. After the Red and Blue Teams were done away with and the participants donned their green jerseys for the individual competition, Jay found himself once again sent to the elimination challenge. We called up competitor Jay Lim to talk about his background in the shooting sports and his experience on the History Channel’s new reality TV Show.

Listen to the podcast live using the player below, or download the entire .mp3 file here.

Follow Jay Lim on his Facebook Page, or on his website at JayLimGolf.com.

Team Cheaper than Dirt Match Report

Match season is almost here, and this past weekend I shot my first USPSA Production match since August of 2009 – the good news is that all the practice I’ve done in the past year and a half has really improved my shooting. The bad news is that my hat-cam went down and ate all my footage, meaning that I’ve only got one stage to show you a clip from for Down Zero TV. This was my final stage of the day, Stage 3. Here are the results from that stage.  I finished 4th on that stage, and since position 1 and 2 were both GMs, I don’t feel too bad about that. Video from the match is to the right.

Results: 6th place, and I shot 75% of the GM that won the match.  For my first Production match of the season and first match using the new P250, I’m pretty happy with that result.

The match itself was very good, the crew at Paul Bunyan puts together good, well designed stages.  Lots of options, some challenging shots, and lots and lots of steel were the theme at this match, and many shooters (myself included) paid the price for trying to machine gun the steel.

Guns and Gear

The Sig P250 continues to run well; as I mentioned on Gun Nuts I’m getting a short trigger for the gun which should decrease the trigger reach and allow me to get slightly faster follow up shots.  My splits were a little slow at this match; I noticed trigger fatigue setting in on a couple of the longer field stages where I had to pull the trigger 30+ times.  Obviously, I need to build up my trigger pull strength with more dry fire.

I used two different types of ammo for this match, a mix of S&B 115 grain FMJ and PMC 115 gr FMJ.  No issues with the rounds, everything performed reliably and accurately in the gun.  As an aside, this is the first gun I’ve had that really runs S&B ammo well; I’ve avoided it for years in other guns, but the Sig P250 eats it up no problems.

This weekend, I’ll shooting my first IDPA match as part of Down Zero TV; this footage will part of the premiere episode of Down Zero TV as well.  Hatcams, 3rd person, and even more importantly the commentary to tie it all together.  The goal for this weekend’s match will be to shoot the entire match clean; barring that I’ll shoot the match with as few points down as possible.

Weaver and Picatinny Rails

So you have a new scope that you want to mount on your rifle. The scope came with a set of rings that are Weaver style. All you need now is a scope base and you will be set to mount the scope on your favorite firearm. When you start looking for scope bases you will find two styles that look the same in the pictures, but are not the same. One is called Weaver and the other Picatinny (MIL-STD-1913). These two rails, in many cases, can be used interchangeably.

The main differences between the Weaver and the Picatinny rails are the size of the cross slots and the slot spacing. Weaver rails have a slot width of 0.180″ (4.572 mm), but are not necessarily consistent in the spacing of slot centers. The Picatinny rail has a slot width of 0.206″ (5.232 mm) and the spacing of slot centers is always 0.394″ (10.008 mm). Because of this, Weaver devices will fit on Picatinny rails, but Picatinny devices will not always fit on Weaver rails.

So those Weaver style rings that came with your new scope will work on both styles of rails. If the scope has been supplied with Picatinny style rings, you will most likely be limited to only the Picatinny mount. Picatinny mounts and rings will most commonly be found on products that were originally designed for military use and have found their way into the civilian market. For instance, the top rail on an AR-15 (the civilian version of the U.S. M16 battle rifle) flattop receiver is a Picatinny rail. You are able to use both styles of rings on this rifle.

Choosing the Right Scope For Your Hunting Rifle

The first question many people ask when they buy their first rifle is “What kind of scope do I want to mount?” Not that there is anything wrong with iron sights. Many rifles come factory equipped with iron sights that work quite well with little or no sighting in required. But not all of us are blessed with 20/20 vision, and it can be troublesome for older shooters to keep the front sight in focus. Some rifles, particularly bolt action models, are not equipped with iron sights at all and are intended to have some sort of optics system installed.

So for whatever reason, you’ve made the decision that you want to install optics on your hunting rifle. But what type of scope should be installed? First, you will need to determine the primary role that you intend to use the firearm for. For the purposed of this article, we’re assuming you’ll be using it for hunting, but what type of game will you be using it for? Medium game such as deer taken at less than 200 yards? Small game such as prairie dogs, or squirrels? Or maybe bighorn sheep or pronghorn taken over 600 yards away? Whatever the purpose, there is an optic that is right for your firearm.

When shopping for a scope, there are three main things you really want to look for: ruggedness, light transmission, and optical quality. The most important of these is ruggedness. No matter how good your scope is, if it cannot hold up to the recoil of your firearm, it will soon be nothing more than an expensive and useless paperweight. The best scopes are rated for impacts of up to 1,000 Gs (1,000 times the force of gravity) meaning that they can be dropped or hit without losing their zero or damaging the internal assembly. Recoil isn’t the only thing your optic must endure. Hunting scopes may be subject to a wide range of temperatures from well below freezing to scorching summer blazes. Additionally, the presence of rain, snow, ice, and other moisture means that these scopes must be waterproof and fog proof.

Light gathering and optical quality are very closely related. A scope with poor optical quality will not usually have excellent light transmission. Optical quality is determined by the precision with which the glass is ground into the various lens shapes, as well as by the actual internal clarity and flawlessness of the glass itself. Most glass used for optical lenses comes from either Germany or Japan. Zeiss brand scopes are an example of high quality well built scopes using the finest German glass available. Nikon scopes on the other hand use high quality Japanese optical glass. The best optical glass has superior clarity and almost zero distortion, even near the edges of the lens. Look through a cheaply manufactured scope and you’ll see significant distortion around the edges of the image, especially at higher magnifications.

A good scope, even a low-cost quality scope, will have multicoated lenses. Don’t be fooled by manufacturers who claim their lenses are “fully coated”. Of course the lenses are fully coated, but more important is what they don’t say: these cheap scopes have lenses that are only single coated. This reduces the manufacturing costs, but it also reduces light transmission. Multicoated optics enhance light transmission with many top end scopes boasting light transmission rates over 95%.

Top end scopes with excellent optical quality and 95% or better light transmission will give you the brightest clearest image of your target. Many shooters believe that a larger objective gives them a brighter clearer picture and, all things being equal, this is true. But the increased light transmission from the amount of light gathered by a larger objective pales in comparison next to the internals of the scope. While scopes with larger objectives have better light gathering ability at low magnification settings, if they are not multicoated and utilize high-quality glass the actual light transmission will be lower than a scope with a smaller objective but superior glass and coatings. No matter how big your objective is, if the scope is built using low-quality single coated glass it will not have very good light transmission.

For hunting most medium and large game, a variable magnification scope is usually the way to go. Adjustable magnification enables hunters to keep the scope set to low power zoom for fast target acquisition and then transition to a higher power magnification for pinpoint accuracy over hundreds of yards. Large and medium game are most active around dusk and dawn, when lighting is poor. A larger objective enables the optic to gather more light, giving a hunter a clearer brighter image even under low light conditions, but be aware that the quality of the glass and the magnification of the scope will have a much greater effect on the brightness of the image. At higher magnifications less light is gathered, resulting in a darker image. If the game you are hunting is most active in low-light conditions spending your money on a high magnification scope is probably not money well spent.

Many scopes are now available with green or red illuminated reticles. During low light conditions the reticle is also often difficult to see clearly. When the target is in deep cover and long shadows make it difficult to find the crosshairs, an illuminated reticle makes it much easier to see in such conditions. If you want a scope with an illuminated reticle, pay close attention to the levels of intensity available. A reticle that is too bright will bloom and cause glare in low light conditions, but a reticle that is not bright enough will be washed out and difficult to see in full sunlight. Whenever possible, check out the scope before finalizing your purchase. If you are in a retail store, find the darkest corner you can and look through the scope at that area to determine how much detail you can see. Ask the salesperson if you can take it outside to view the illuminated reticle under full sun. Even most online retailers have generous “No-Hassle” return policies that will allow you to test your scope under a variety of lighting conditions before determining whether or not it will meet your needs.

Pay attention to the eye relief that the scope has. For most shooters, 3.5″ of eye relief is the minimum you need to keep from getting hit by the scope under recoil. 4″ of eye relief is a fairly comfortable distance that allows you to mount the scope a bit forward on the receiver and get a good cheek weld. Be wary when a variable magnification scope has a wide range of eye relief listed. This does not necessarily mean that you can comfortably view the scope at any distance in that range, but rather that the optimum eye relief changes over that distance depending on the magnification the scope is set at. A comfortable 4″ eye relief at 3x may turn into an awkward 3″ at 9x magnification. This change in optimal eye relief forces the shooter to break their form to accommodate the variations in eye relief distance at differing magnifications. When considering proper eye relief while mounting a scope you should also be aware of what you will be wearing when shouldering your rifle. Bulky clothing and insulated jackets in cold weather can make the eye relief much longer than you need. Before securing the scope in the rings, rest it lightly in place and shoulder the rifle while wearing the clothing you will be wearing while out hunting. You can then move the scope forward or rearward before securing it in place by tightening down the rings.

What magnification should you get for a hunting scope? The answer is “it depends”, but you probably don’t need as much magnification as you think you do. I’ve seen many hunters take their 3-9x scope out to the field with the zoom cranked all the way up to 9x, only to find that they can’t get the rifle onto the target in time. Even if you do have a deer smack dab in the middle of your crosshairs, at ranges closer than 100 yards all that deer has to do is take a step or two and he’s moved completely out of the field of view. Instead of focusing on the magnification of a scope, pay attention instead to the field of view. Consider the size of your quarry and their movement. For example, if you are hunting deer and know that most of the encounters will be at distances around 100 yards, you’ll be best served by finding a scope with a field of view around 20′ at that range (generally 3x-5x). This will provide you with a wide enough field of view to be able to easily acquire your target and follow it when it moves, while still giving you enough magnification for extremely accurate shot placement.

When shopping for optics, you truly do get what you pay for. I’ve seen many many shooters speak with disgust about the poor quality of the scope they just bought. But when I ask them what their budget is for a replacement scope, they often don’t want to spend more than $100 or so. I’m not going to lie, I’ve been that person before. It didn’t take me long to learn that money spent on a high-quality scope with a lifetime guarantee from a reputable company is money well spent. You will want to spend as much as you can afford on a name-brand high-quality optical system. It’s not unusual to spend as much or more on a high quality scope as you spent on the rifle it rests on. Many people will argue that bargains can be found, and it’s true that they are out there, but they are few and far between. You can get by with a less expensive lower quality piece of glass, but until you’ve peered through a nice (and probably expensive!) multicoated lens system, you’ll never know what you’re missing. Spend a little bit extra to get the better scope and you won’t be left wondering what you could have had if you’d spent a bit more.

Don’t get me wrong here, low cost entry-level scopes definitely have their place. Not everyone can afford to spend over $500 on a nice Leupold, Nikon or Zeiss manufactured scope, and there are some good quality budget model scopes out there. If you’re looking for a quality optic at a bargain price, you can’t go wrong with Redfield scopes. Redfield is Leupold’s economy brand of scopes. The optical quality of these scopes rivals the Leupold line, but they are able to keep costs down by keeping the design simple. There are only eight models in the Redfield line to choose from, but this small lineup helps Leupold to keep costs down by reducing design and tooling expenses while allowing them to focus on quality and consistency. Like Redfield, Bushnell brand scopes has a line of budget model scopes sold under the Simmons line. Though definitely entry level scopes, the Simmons brand still has some scopes that are more than adequate for a target shooter and occasional deer hunter.

You’ve spent good hard earned money on your scope, don’t get stingy when it comes to the mounts. You can get cheap aluminum scope mounts for very little money, but again, you get what you pay for. It doesn’t matter how good your scope is, if your mounts flex and move you’ll never be able to get a good group out of your scope. Steel mounts may be slightly heavier than aluminum mounts, but they are much stronger and more durable. Leupold, Warne, and Weaver solid steel rings and bases are generally accepted as some of the best on the market.

You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a scope that will be resting atop your $400 rifle. But at the same time, there’s nothing worse than finding out that your $100 scope didn’t hold a zero when your shot misses that trophy buck. Invest some time and money in finding the right scope for your rifle. Talk to other hunters and shooters and find out what brands they like and which ones they don’t. You’ll find that many of them have been burned when inferior optics let them down. Learn from their mistakes. When you have a quality scope on your favorite hunting rifle you’ll soon find that the money you spent was well worth the trouble and heartbreak you avoid by not having inferior optics ruin the hunt of a lifetime.