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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.

Top Shot Competitor Daryl Parker

Daryl Parker is a US Marine turned law enforcement officer who lives in the North Texas area just outside of Dallas. While he initially hadn’t even heard of the History Channel’s reality TV show Top Shot, one of his fellow officers heard about it and, knowing how skilled Daryl was with a rifle and pistol, encouraged him to apply for the show.

Daryl took the opportunity, and proved his skills as a marksman on the Blue Team, until he was eliminated by Jay Lim in the .22 LR steel plate challenge. We had the opportunity to talk to Daryl about his experience on the show and found out that he’s working on opening up a series of Top Shot themed shooting ranges where anyone can try their hand at similar challenges.

Listen live to the original interview below.Download the original interview with Daryl by clicking here.

Cheaper Than Dirt Did you grow up in a family of shooters, hunting and shooting and that sort of thing?

Daryl Parker Yeah, on my Mom’s side I’ve got a lot of military relatives, primarily in the Marine Corps. Then, on my Dad’s side, it’s basically just a bunch of good ‘ole country boys. That’s kinda how I was raised. I was brought up in rural areas in Arkansas and I’ve been shooting since I was a little kid.

Cheaper Than Dirt Did you have much experience with competitions or shooting sports?

Daryl Parker No, not at all actually. It was all recreational and hunting. I really didn’t compete at all as a kid.

Cheaper Than Dirt How about after you joined the Marine Corps?

Daryl Parker Yeah, in the Marine Corps we had annual qualifications for your weapon system. With both the M16 and the Beretta 9mm I qualified numerous times as an expert. That eventually leads to [someone asking] “Hey, are you interested in shooting competitively?”

The Marine Corps, just like all of the other services, fields marksmanship teams that compete at various levels, and eventually I became the captain of a competitive Marine Corps rifle and pistol team. We competed in both the Pacific Division matches and the Eastern Division matches.

Cheaper Than Dirt At what point does a Sheriff’s Deputy decide to sit down, get out video camera, make a short video, fill out the application, and audition for a reality TV show?

Daryl Parker *laughs* Well, out of the police academy I was the Top Gun. It’s kind of like an award they give to the top shooting cadet there. Through my qualifications with my law enforcement agencies, I had a reputation as being a good shot.

I didn’t actually seek out the top shot application. I didn’t know anything about it. My Chief Deputy saw this email where they were casting for Season 2 and he ordered that email to me, and the rest from there is kinda history.

Cheaper Than Dirt So, you were pretty much encouraged by your fellows on the force.

Daryl Parker Yeah.

Cheaper Than Dirt You obviously have a background in the Marine Corps and law enforcement as a shooter, you’ve shot somewhat competitively there, but have you done any league shooting such as USPSA or IPSC?

Daryl Parker No, I have not. I haven’t shot with either of those organizations, but based on my Top Shot experience I definitely think that that’s something that I get into.

Cheaper Than Dirt Tell me about your experience going onto the show. You show up there after a couple of days filming commercials for the show, and Colby Donaldson basically says “All right, this is it!”

What’s going through your head at that point when you’re stepping up there to the line for the first time

Daryl Parker Well, the first thing is that it’s a weapon that we’re all unfamiliar with, a Sharp’s Rifle. I don’t think that any of us had ever fired the Sharp’s rifle. The first thing was “Let me just manipulate this weapon in a way that I don’t look like an idiot.”

You know, it surprised me how much having the cameras and all of that there kinda increases your anxiety, so we’re all nervous. We wanted to shoot well, particularly our first shot of the entire show. Another thing that surprised me about Top Shot is that there’s very little practice time. We all thought that once we got onto the show that we’d be shooting at the range every day and putting a lot of rounds down range, but that wasn’t the case.

Cheaper Than Dirt That’s something that not a lot of people realize about Top Shot is how much down time there is and how little time is actually spent shooting. You can actually take a full three days to film an entire episode.

Daryl Parker Yeah, and shoot one shot.

Cheaper Than Dirt If you even shoot that. We have some shooters like Brian Zins who would go days and days and days without shooting anything.

Daryl Parker Correct.

Cheaper Than Dirt Let’s talk about the team dynamics on Blue Team. It seemed pretty interesting right out of the gate, what was it like right after the team was formed as everybody was getting to know each other?

Daryl Parker Well, to be honest I thought that he [Jay] made some good choices in terms of skill level and background, I mean, we had a pretty talented Blue Team put together. He made his choices based on the criteria he had set, and I don’t really think that it was a bad criteria.

Team dynamics? I would say that we didn’t know each other and we were kinda feeling each other out, but we were all very positive about it. In the very very beginning everything looked good.

Cheaper Than Dirt The Blue Team seems to be more of a team of specialists. You have a lot of competition shooters, you have Kyle Frasure who was a shotgun specialist, meanwhile on the Red Team you’ve got a lot of generalists, a lot of military guys who have experience with a wide variety of weapons. Do you think that Blue Team’s specialization had anything to do with some of the early eliminations?

Daryl Parker Absolutely. You know, when you talk about specialization, like on our first challenge the pool ball challenge and our second challenge the prohibition challenge which was also a pistol challenge, those specialists didn’t have their best days there. When you have a team that has so many specialists on it, I mean, if they have an off day it really doesn’t do us any good.

I think the generalists, for the show Top Shot, and for this venue, and for this concept of a show, I think the generalist is going to beat the specialist every time.

Cheaper Than Dirt Simply by virtue of the fact that you’ve got so many different challenges and so many different firearms that you’ve got to adapt to very quickly, you don’t see any advantage to being extremely skilled in one form of shooting or another?

Daryl Parker No, in fact I think it’s your handicap. It’s great when you get to that thing, but for the other 8 or 9 challenges that you go through, what else are you going to rely on?

Cheaper Than Dirt One thing that a lot of people have been commenting on is Jay Lim, and I know you had some interesting interactions with him early on. What was really going on there, because we know that, through the casting and through the editing process, that sometimes people can be made out to appear other than how they are. We saw you and Jay admittedly have some conflicts on camera, but what was going on there with his reluctance to accept expert advice, and your and his later head to head?

Daryl Parker Well, I would chalk it up to a misunderstanding. Jay, his reluctance to take advice from the experts, I’ll tell you a secret: his reluctance to take advice from the expert is what resulted in him hitting the bullseye with the Sharp’s rifle.

You have 16 marksman of the caliber that we were, and only one person hit the bullseye? How could that happen? I’m going to chalk it up to the sighting instructions that we received from the expert on the Sharp’s rifle. We all followed his instructions, and we all missed the bullseye. The only person who didn’t follow the expert’s instructions, as normal, was Jay, and he got a bullseye.

I think Jay is much more internally confident in his own abilities. Basically, he’s going to say “Look, I know how to shoot, and I’m going to shoot it my way. I’m just looking for some little tips that I can incorporate that don’t change my entire shooting style.”

And, you know, it’s served him well. That’s what has got him this far already.

Cheaper Than Dirt Something he repeated over and over, after commenting on the expert instruction, he said “Don’t reteach me the fundamentals, teach me to shoot faster.” Was that an accurate statement?

Daryl Parker I think people misunderstand how he means that. What he means is “Yeah, I get it, I understand that my stance and my pistol grip may be unorthodox, but I don’t have time to correct that right now. I’ll correct that later on. Right now, are there other tips that you can tell me about coming up on my target quickly, acquiring my target quickly, trigger control, something else I can use that I can incorporate quickly?”

People are mistaking him saying “Well, I’m not going to do that,” with a reluctance to be coached. He is not reluctant to be coached, he just is good enough that he knows what he can incorporate in the short time that he has.

Cheaper Than Dirt We saw him actually lending his advice to other shooters. Early on it sometimes it was not exactly welcomed, but later in episodes like the archery challenge we saw his much needed and very skilled advice actually help the team significantly.

Daryl Parker Yeah, and you’ve alluded to some of the friction we had in the first place, you know I’m an accomplished shooter, Jermaine is an accomplished shooter, Kyle is an accomplished shooter, we all have our strengths and we were all there for a reason. We were picked out and we did our pre-qualification, we shot against all the other applicants and that sort of thing. We felt like we all deserved to be there, and I think the thing that kinda caused some friction was Jay’s coaching without being asked to coach.

To be fair, there were other members who did ask Jay to coach them, but once we kinda talked that out and had that understanding, after that it was all fine. We haven’t had any conflict since.

Cheaper Than Dirt Let’s talk about once of the incidents at the nomination range, and I’m pretty sure you already know where I’m going with this, when everybody was going to nominate Jermaine and then Jermaine was going to choose one person to go to the challenge with, you stepped up there and you shot Jay’s target, and that kinda started a cascade of events there with Maggie eventually being drawn to choose who was going to the shoot-off with Jermaine, and she chose Jay. What happened behind the scenes that we didn’t see on the episode?

Daryl Parker Well, we kinda made the decision that we would all shoot Jermaine’s target, and then he gets to pick the other person that goes with him. But you know, Jermaine had just had a major mental fumble on that challenge, he was already feeling lousy about it, that he had to go into the elimination and that he made our team lose, so he was feeling pretty crappy about it.

I didn’t think it was fair to put the decision on his shoulders, to pick the other person to go with him, because then Jermaine has to go elimination and essentially eliminate that other person. I felt that as a team we kinda chickened-out by taking that decision and putting it in his lap. We should have chosen the second person. Some of the other team members thought that same way, and so we started talking about, well, who?

We didn’t know enough about each other’s skills or what we all brought to it, so the only thing we could point to was, if there was a friction point, where is that friction point? We decided that was Jay, and so my shooting Jay’s target was entirely 100% a team decision.

Cheaper Than Dirt Except, obviously, Jay wasn’t privy to the conversation, and we assume Jermaine wasn’t aware of it either.

Daryl Parker Yeah, and you alluded to the 3-day filming schedule, this kinda happened in a short-fused kinda way, and we really, with all the cameras in the house and not wanting the Red Team to know what was going on, we really didn’t get a chance to pull Jay to one side and tell him.

We knew this was going to be a surprise to him, and we knew it was going to look pretty bad, but we had decided that this was what needed to happen.

Cheaper Than Dirt The episode after that we saw you and Jay get into it a bit after that elimination challenge when Jay returned victorious. Did everything settle out after that?

Daryl Parker Yeah, really after that we had talked about it as a team and what they showed in the episode was basically myself telling Jay off, but there were other members involved in that and it got pretty heated. After that, it all went away. That kind of let all the air out of the balloon and after that we never had a problem.

Cheaper Than Dirt We talked to Kyle after his elimination and he mentioned the fact that after that little head to head with Jay where everything got resolved, Blue Team never left a meeting without knowing who was going to the nomination range.

Daryl Parker Yes, we said that, from now on. In the entire thing, that one vote that I took – and that was a team decision – that one vote that I took was the only vote that was an unconsolidated vote. After that, every single vote was two people and two people only.

Cheaper Than Dirt Do you think that really helped the team spirit? The morale of the team?

Daryl Parker Well, I really think that it helped that everything was above board and we didn’t feel that anyone was being schemed against or preyed on in a Survivor-like fashion. It was all on the up-and-up, and those decision were made based off of performance. When we got into the team meeting to talk about who should go, who should be nominated, we were very up front with each other, saying “Hey, I don’t think you performed,” or “I don’t think I performed.”

Cheaper Than Dirt Let’s move on and talk about the most recent episode. The Blue Team already had a very small team, only three people if I recall. Does that give you any inherent advantage or disadvantage when you’re going into a team challenge?

Daryl Parker Going in with only three people means that we get to sit two of the Red Team out, and we couldn’t sit Brian Zins out, but we could still sit two of their best generalists out. I think we sat out two of their best marksmen, Chris Reed and Joe Serafini. I’m still comfortable with that, and I think it was the right decision. It was a very close competition, and if we had fired just a little bit faster, things would have been different.

Cheaper Than Dirt You were selected to shoot at the moving targets within the shooting gallery. Do you think that if you had focused on some of the stationary targets instead that you would have been able to engage them a bit faster and have a higher score?

Daryl Parker No, actually the moving targets were worth two points. The stationary targets were worth one point. Because I had done well with the moving targets in practice, I shot the moving targets. My moving target score was nine. The other team had a couple of their members shooting at moving targets, so I at least tied their score with nine targets hit. Then, in my second rotation through, I moved on to the stationary targets.

I hit the nine movers and then, I don’t know, maybe six or seven stationary targets. I think my overall score accounted for a good portion of our total score.

Cheaper Than Dirt We mentioned earlier that there were only three people on the Blue Team. After the Blue Team’s loss during the team challenge, it seemed pretty obvious that you were going to be heading to an elimination challenge, simply by virtue of the fact that you’ve got only three people, two of whom have to go.

Daryl Parker Well, I think that my performance thus far on the team had been strong. I’d been one of the strong performers, Jay had been one of the strong performers, and Ashley had done well also. We kinda looked around at each other and said “Hey, we all did our job. How can we pick? Well, we won’t pick. We’ll just leave it to chance.”

Cheaper Than Dirt You went into the nomination range with the plan of everybody shooting the other person’s target which, I thought, was pretty ingenious, but Colby kinda threw a little wrench into the works there.

Daryl Parker Yes, he did. In the elimination nomination with Jermaine and Jay, the way they settled that, if there was a tie, was that they picked a name and then that person went up and shot another target. That’s when Maggie shot Jay’s target. We thought they were going to do that same thing with us.

We’d all shoot each other’s target, Colby would pull a name, and the person who’s name he’d pulled would go up and shoot the same target they’d shot before. That’s how the two people would be selected.

Cheaper Than Dirt Do you think the producers were back stage going “Ha ha! We’ll throw a wrench in their plans!” or was this something they had already laid out and planned before hand?

Daryl Parker I think it may have been already planned out because of our numbers. There were only three of us. They may have made the determination beforehand that that was how they were going to handle that.

Cheaper Than Dirt This wasn’t somebody looking at the footage that was shot that day and going “OK, what do we do about this?”

Daryl Parker It’s possible, I mean I’m giving them a lot of credit to say that they had the forethought to think of it ahead of time, that “If there are only three players what are we going to do if they all tie?”

So, I’m giving them the credit for thinking of that ahead of time, and I think that’s how it went, but they could have discerned our votes and come up with this different way to handle it.

Cheaper Than Dirt When you were going through the expert training after the nomination range, it seemed like you were struggling a little bit with cocking the hammer back on the revolver. Had you shot much revolver before that?

Daryl Parker I had, but not generally for speed. I knew this was going to be a head to head elimination. I just knew it was. When I’ve shot revolver before, I always cocked the hammer with my strong hand, with my shooting hand. With this one I needed to stay on target and acquire the targets fast, so I needed to cock that hammer with my weak hand.

It wasn’t a huge transition. It wasn’t a skill that was difficult to incorporate.

Cheaper Than Dirt Moving on to the elimination challenge itself, you’re shooting .22s still, the same as we saw in the team challenge, trying to eliminate these plates that are stacked up from largest to smallest, all in a row. We’ve already established that you’ve got a lot of experience shooting a rifle and a handgun. What about the Ruger 10/22 specifically, have you shot that quite a bit?

Daryl Parker Well, I’d never fired the Ruger model. Normally it’s a Remington .22 or something like that. I’d never tried the Ruger model. Sight picture, there is no difference: it’s a standard .22 rifle. The difference for the Ruger 10/22 was the magazine, it’s a box magazine. During practice it was a little glitchy for me.

Sometimes it would slide in and there would be a satisfying physical “click” and you knew that the magazine was fully seated. Other times, you’d slide it in and there would be no “click” but it was seated. I did notice that during practice, and I actually made mention of it to some of the other guys, but it wasn’t a problem in practice. It didn’t show up as a problem.

Wouldn’t you know it, it showed up as a problem later.

Cheaper Than Dirt Watching the elimination challenge, we saw that you struggled with the magazine. If you’re not getting the proper feedback from that magazine, you insert it and slam it home and you don’t feel that click, you don’t know for sure that it’s seated or not. An unseated magazine is not going to feed.

Daryl Parker When I had unloaded my previous magazine, I had intentionally left a round in the chamber, so that I knew that when I threw that magazine in I could go ahead and fire without having to rack the bolt and take an extra second. I had dropped that first magazine, leaving a round in the chamber, and threw the second magazine in. I didn’t feel it click, but I thought it had seated.

I threw it up, took that first shot, and the recoil from that first shot knocked the magazine out of my weapon.

Cheaper Than Dirt At that point, you were already running behind…

Daryl Parker Jay had stopped firing and was reloading. He was changing magazines. I was up and on target and starting to fire. I was behind, but I was on target with a full magazine. I think if my magazine had stayed in, it would have been a very very close run to the end.

After I felt that magazine drop out, I didn’t have a chance. I knew that.

Cheaper Than Dirt It kinda just took the wind out of your sails.

Daryl Parker Yeah, as soon as the magazine dropped I went ahead and grabbed another magazine and tried to reload, but inside I knew that there was no way I was going to have time to reload, rack a round, get back on target, and finish off my plates before Jay did.

Cheaper Than Dirt Ashley has called Jay a “magician.” He doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of skill, his methods are unconventional, and yet time and time again we’ve seen him show up to competitions and just walk away with a win. Is he just a great generalist, or is there something else that we’re not seeing that contributes to his consistency in winning?

Daryl Parker I think, first of all, that a lot of people don’t know about Jay’s background. They keep calling him a golf instructor, and that’s what he does for a living. A lot of people don’t realize that he is an Olympic qualifier for archery, for skeet, for air pistol, and for air rifle. Air pistol and air rifle are very similar to shooting .22 for example.

No, I think that Jay has a lot of natural talent and abilities. I think that he’s also accustomed to competing at that elite level of competition. I mean, we’re talking about an Olympic level competitor. That’s not small potatoes.

I don’t think that he’s like a child prodigy who sits at home and plays with a rubber band gun and comes out and out-shoots all of us. I think he’s an elite, high level competitor who may not be as generalized as most of us, but because of his natural skill and abilities, he picks things up pretty quickly. He’s very dangerous.

Cheaper Than Dirt You know, there’s been some speculation that Jay’s strategy going into this was get sent to every elimination challenge so that he could walk home with a bunch of $2,000 gift cards.

Daryl Parker Yeah, it’s tempting to think that Jay had that kind of skill, but I don’t think that’s the case. I’ve talked to Jay, and Jay and I are good friends. Knowing the anxiety that he felt before the elimination challenges, the same that we all do when we go into those, I have no doubt that he wanted our team to win in each of those challenges.

Cheaper Than Dirt Given the chance, if you had the chance to do it all over again, would you take the opportunity?

Daryl Parker Oh yeah, in a heartbeat. I mean, it was a fantastic experience. I got to shoot these crazy challenges that they come up with, I got to meet these people who were on the show with me. They were the most personable, skilled, dynamic people I’ve ever met as a group. It was a fantastic experience.

Then, you mentioned them, all the people who follow the show, the fans of the show, I mean it’s just amazing how many people have reached out to me and left positive comments. It was fantastic, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Cheaper Than Dirt We’ve been doing these interviews for quite a while now, starting with Season 1, and we’ve interviewed nearly everybody who has walked off the show. One thing that they have all agreed with is just what you said, that is the level of friendship that is earned through the camaraderie on the show that is unlike anything else.

Daryl Parker Yeah, you know I was in the Marine Corps for 21 years, and one of the main staples of being a Marine is the camaraderie with other Marines. It’s a bond, a kinship, and it’s life long. Somewhat less, but a similar situation exists with the 16 of us. I think that most of us will remain life long friends.

Cheaper Than Dirt Instead of being stuck on a boat with a bunch of other Marines, waiting for somebody to say the word “Go” you’re stuck in a house with a bunch of other competitive shooters, pretty much doing the same thing sitting around waiting.

Daryl Parker Right, except that all of these people were all hand picked, it’s a bunch of really dynamic people. There is a lot of footage that was taken inside the house that they don’t have time to show on these episodes, but we really had a lot of fun together. It was a blast being there. I wish everybody could have a chance to do something like that.

Cheaper Than Dirt It certainly seemed like quite the experience. You know, Top Shot has done a lot to bring the shooting sports back into the mainstream. You’ve been around hunters and shooters your entire life but, for a lot of the rest of the nation, they haven’t had much exposure to firearms and the shooting sports that we see on Top Shot. What else can we do, and how can we use Top Shot and leverage this to help bring the shooting sports back into the mainstream?

Daryl Parker Well, the first thing is that I think that a lot of people, after seeing the show, are realizing that firearms are not just this dangerous piece of hardware that sits in your house and is a threat to everyone. I think that they are realizing that the shooting sports are fun, and that you can shoot for recreation. It’s fun!

It requires a sense of discipline. There’s a lot of attention to detail in it, and you can excel in a shooting sport and you don’t have be an uber-athlete. You don’t have to be Lance Armstrong to be able to shoot well. It’s something that can apply to people of all ages, of all fitness levels and economic backgrounds. There’s nothing more American than firearms.

I think another thing we can do is open ranges that encourage recreational shooting as a sport, as opposed to shooting just to get good at shooting.

Cheaper Than Dirt You’re doing something just along those lines, am I correct? You’re looking at opening up a “Top Shot” style shooting range?

Daryl Parker Yes, here in North Texas I’m going to open up a range. It’s going to be called the “Top Shot Challenge” and it is going to be a range that offers all of the standard fare, firearm safety classes, basic marksmanship, that kind of thing, but it will also incorporate Top Shot challenges. Some of the challenges that you’ve seen on TV, and some other innovative challenges that we’re going to come up with here, are going to be available on the range. I think people are going to flock to it. They’re going to have a lot of fun, and it’s going to go further in educating people and enhance the thrill of shooting as a sport.

Cheaper Than Dirt Do you foresee this turning into a type of Top Shot training academy where future competitors can go to train for the show?

Daryl Parker Well, I think it’s very possible. You know, I’m talking to other Top Shot alumni, and this may be something that we’re able to start up in other locations across the country, sort of in a franchise sort of way. If it is done correctly and overseen correctly and done safely, then these can become training grounds for the Top Shot experience.

Cheaper Than Dirt That sounds really exciting, and it sounds like a great way to get people excited about the shooting sports and give them a chance to learn about it in a safe way.

Daryl Parker Yeah, and I’ve already kinda made known my intentions, and I’ve already got people from as far away as Canada that have already signed up to come to the range as soon as we’re done with construction.

Cheaper Than Dirt Cheaper Than Dirt! is also located here in North Texas, and I can’t wait to go see it and experience it myself.

In addition to your career as a law enforcement officer and your side projects with Top Shot and starting up a shooting range, you’re also a talented author, is that right?

Daryl Parker Well, I hope people will think so. I just published my first novel. It’s called “Sacrifice of the Season” and it will be available on Amazon.com and it’s also available at my website, DarylParker.com.

Like I said, it’s my first novel. It’s a work of fiction, and if you enjoyed the Harry Potter series, I think you’ll enjoy this book. Thus far I’ve had a lot of fans who are really excited about reading it and have already pre-ordered their copies. I’m thankful for that.

Cheaper Than Dirt We can’t wait for it to come out, and I’ll be one of those people waiting for it to show up on Amazon so that I can get my copy.

Daryl Parker Alright, I appreciate it.

Cheaper Than Dirt I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to us today and giving us a little bit of insight into your background and into what goes on on Top Shot and your experience on Top Shot. It’s been very enlightening.

Daryl Parker My pleasure, thank you very much.

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The Ruger SR9c in action

Yesterday, we had a post up about the Ruger SR9c, which is in my opinion one of the “best buys” on the market for someone looking for a compact defensive firearm. It’s so good that it can be used as a competition firearm quite readily. Here are some match videos of the Ruger SR9c in action.

The video to the right is the Ruger SR9c shooting Limited-10 division at the 2010 USPSA Indiana State Championship. Despite scoring minor, the little Ruger helped me finish 12th overall in a division dominated by double stack 1911s in .40 S&W and Glock 35s hotted up to be race guns.

This second video really lets the SR9c shine – in an IDPA match, using the Ruger I finished 3rd overall in Stock Service Pistol, out of 40+ other shooters. It’s a great gun, and even better – you can easily remove the magazine disconnect safety to make it an even better gun!

The Ruger SR9c: Gun Review

Ruger’s SR9c has been available on the market for some time now, and we’ve taken that time to put our test model through some rigorous testing on the range and through day-to-day concealed carry.

A smaller version of the popular SR9, the SR9c has a smaller grip and a slightly shorter barrel and slide, making it more suitable for concealment under light clothing. Fans of Ruger’s full size SR9 will appreciate the SR9c that much more, as it basically follows the same form and function of it’s big brother.

Features of the SR9c

Our SR9c arrived from Ruger in a nice hard plastic case and included the pistol, a gun lock, one 10 round magazine and one 17 round magazine, as well as grip extensions. This all inclusive package is the right move by Ruger. Other manufacturers offer extended capacity magazines and grip extensions, but Ruger includes this as a standard part of the SR9c, making it that much more of a value. Why spend hundreds of dollars on a handgun and then have to go spend hundreds more on the accessories that should have been included with the pistol?


The SR9c with various grip configurations.

There are three types of grips and baseplates you can use with the SR9c. Both magazines include standard flat baseplates, although the 17-round extended magazine has a polymer sleeve that fits over the portion of the mag that protrudes from the grip, providing you ergonomics similar to a larger full-sized handgun. The baseplate on the smaller 10-round magazine can be removed and replaced with an grip extension that provides room for an additional finger to wrap around and further stabilize the pistol. Having just one more finger on the grip helps to enhance recoil control on the already soft-shooting pistol.

Like the SR9, the ergonomics of the SR9c are  enhanced with the inclusion of a reversible backstrap so you can customize the grip. The textured backstrap is easy to remove by simply pushing out a pin located on the bottom of the grip. The backstrap then slides out the bottom and can be reversed to reveal a palm-filling swell that will better fit those of you with larger hands.

The pistol itself is available in all-black or two-tone finish. The two-tone model sports a stainless steel slide, while the all-black model has an alloy steel slide covered with Ruger’s proprietary Nitrodox Pro finish. Both models weigh in the same at just over 23 ounces unloaded.

The SR9c comes with factory installed 3-dot sights which are dead-on right out of the box. The front sight is drift-adjustable for windage, and the rear sight is elevation-adjustable using a small screw. Despite the small size of this pistol, it is incredibly accurate out past 7 yards: the typical distance for a concealable defensive pistol. Groups were usually under 4 inches when shooting off-hand. Recoil is light and easily managed, and the pistol is easy to get back on target for quick follow-up shots. As expected, the handgun performed flawlessly on the range, digesting 115 grain 9mm BVAC ball ammunition with nary a hiccup.

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Like the larger SR9, the SR9c is loaded with safety features that users have come to expect from Ruger. An ambidextrous manual frame mounted safety, magazine disconnect, internal trigger bar disconnect and a striker block safety all combine to ensure that the pistol will not fire unless properly loaded and the trigger pulled. A large orange chamber-loaded indicator lets you easily see and feel when the gun is loaded.

Disassembly of the SR9c is fairly straightforward.

  1. Lock the slide back to the rear and ensure that the chamber is clear.
  2. Press down the ejector into the magazine well.
  3. Using a non-marring tool press out the take-down lever.
  4. Carefully pull back the slide and then ease it forward off of the frame rails.
  5. Compress and remove the dual captive recoil springs and the barrel simply drops out afterwards.
  6. Reassemble in the reverse order of disassembly.

Ruger SR9c Specifications

  • Caliber: 9mm Luger
  • Frame: Polymer
  • Sights: Adjustable 3-dot
  • Rifling: 1:10 twist, right hand
  • Capacity: 10 rounds (standard) 17 rounds (extended)
  • Trigger Pull: 5 pounds
  • Weight: 23.2 ounces
  • Barrel Length: 3.5″
  • Overall Width: 0.9″
  • Overall Length: 6.85″
  • Overall Height: 4.61″

Ready to add the SR9c to your favorites list? Click here to get yours…

Have you used the SR9c? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

Ammo review: BVAC 9mm 124 grain JHP

BVAC 9mm 124 grain JHP

BVAC 124gr JHP

A common belief among serious bullseye shooters and NRA Action Pistol shooters is that hollow point ammo (JHP) is generally more accurate than standard full metal jacket ammo.  What I was told is that this is because JHP ammo, such as the excellent Speer Gold Dot bullet is manufactured to better tolerances and with better QC than FMJ ammo.  Lately, through my sponsorship with Cheaper than Dirt, I’ve been shooting the excellent BVAC 9mm 124 grain JHP load.  Let’s talk about the accuracy of this load for a minute.

Using a stock Sig P250 full-size 9mm, I shot a 2.3 inch group at 25 yards using the BVAC 124 grain 9mm.  I also used the BVAC ammo for one of my favorite drills, a “walk-back” drill.  Start with a 3×5 card at 5 yards, fire 5 rounds.  All five should go in one hole at 5 yards.  Move the card to 7 yards and fire 5 more rounds, all 5 rounds should hit the card.  Repeat at 10, 15, 20, and 25 yards.  I didn’t drop any hits until 20 yards where I dropped one shot, and then at 25 yards I dropped 2 rounds.  Using the BVAC 9mm ammo, I dropped a total of 3 shots out of 30; and the reason I dropped those hits had absolutely nothing to do with the ammo.

The muzzle velocity on the BVAC ammo averaged at 1066 from my Sig P250 with a 4.7 inch barrel under ideal conditions (well lit indoor range at 68 degrees F).  That makes a power factor of 132, good for IDPA or USPSA competition.  Recoil is mild, which is to be expected with a full size 9mm handgun, but the BVAC also avoids excessive muzzle blast and some of the other issues that plague other 124 grain rounds.

Of course, what really makes the BVAC 124 grain 9mm ammo attractive is the price.  Less than 14 bucks for quality, accurate, reliable ammo?  I’ll take it!  And if you shoot in bulk like I do, you can also get BVAC’s excellent 115 grain JHP 9mm load in boxes of 1000 rounds for $234 plus shipping.  I’ll take that too.

Compensating For Wind At Rifle Competitions

In the past few weeks, we’ve gone over how to sight in your bolt action rifle, and discussed how to navigate wind and mirage. After practice at the range, you’re probably getting pretty confident in your ability to place rounds in the X ring at various distances and may be considering entering a High Power, F Class, or other long range rifle match. How do you apply these concepts under the pressure of competition and the time constraints when it’s your turn on the firing line?


Windsock image courtesy Elizabeth/Table4Five, licensed under Creative Commons

To start with, relax. It’s normal to have “competition jitters” at your first match, but take a few deep breaths and try to relax. Talk to other competitors and ask questions. Most long range shooters are more than willing to help newcomers, and you’ll be amazed at the amount of knowledge you can pick up from an experienced rifleman. Don’t hesitate to confirm your wind and mirage observations with your fellow shooters. Target shooters are a friendly bunch, and most won’t hesitate to give you their opinion on the methods they use to measure and compensate for wind and mirage.

From the moment you arrive at the range, begin observing the prevailing atmospheric conditions. Once your squad is called to the line, set up your equipment and immediately start analyzing the wind and mirage. You may not be able to use your scope prior to assuming your firing position, but you can observe wind flags for clues about wind speed and direction. Make a decision about what the prevailing conditions are and how you will initially adjust your sights or scope. This initial observation shouldn’t be set in stone; wind conditions can and do change and you may need to further adjust your windage after firing your sighter rounds.

Some novice shooters try to take their shots during lulls in the wind. Keep in mind that wind conditions can change rapidly. This rookie mistake relies on the shooters ability to get every shot fired during identical conditions, a nearly impossible task. Accept the wind and mirage for what they are and instead determine what speed and direction is the predominant condition, then bracket the conditions by firing your sighter rounds and noting the maximum and minimum drift. After adjusting for the average drift, fire your rounds for record by targeting the windward side of the X ring. High power rifle 10 rings are 2 MOA in diameter. By bracketing the conditions and adjusting your scope or sights for the for the average wind speed and mirage, you should be able to fire all of your rounds at the windward side of the 10 ring with confidence that most rounds will land in the 9, 10, or X ring (assuming you can shoot a 1 MOA group of course). For example, with a wind blowing 5 – 10 mph from left to right, depending on the cartridge you are firing, you might adjust your aim 4 MOA to the left. This splits the difference between the 2 – 6 MOA the wind will move your bullet, so that when the wind gusts it will simply move your bullet from the windward side of the 10-ring to the leeward side.

In some cases, the wind changes direction frequently, at times blowing left to right and at others right to left. The key to shooting well in these conditions is consistency. If you are set up for a left to right breeze and it keeps switching right to left, simply be patient and shoot what you’re setup for. This is where your consistent observation of the wind conditions prior to approaching the firing lines comes in. You will need to be able to identify an inconsistent wind that changes direction frequently versus a wholesale change in wind direction.

When shooting during slow fire, use a notebook to record the wind conditions and any adjustment or hold and mark the impact of each shot on a sketch of your target. You’ll have plenty of time during these slow fire stages to determine how the wind is affecting your trajectory and how well your windage adjustments are compensating for drift. During competition, keep an eye on the upwind indicators; flags, trees, grass, etc. These upwind indicators will give you a few seconds warning of changes to wind speed and direction. Any significant change from the wind and mirage conditions that you have already compensated for may result in a shot flying wide, so if possible wait to see if the change is just a temporary shift or if it is a prolonged change of the prevailing conditions.

During high power rapid fire stages you will only get two opportunities to compensate for changing wind conditions: once before your string of fire and once during the reload. Some shooters prefer to use holdover rather than take the time to adjust for a slight change in wind speed or direction. While it helps you maintain a better sight picture if you adjust your windage rather than hold, the risk of throwing your string off target can outweigh the benefits during rapid fire stages. Unless there is a dramatic change in the wind, it’s far better to stick with your bracket and shoot the “safe” side of the 10 ring.

If the wind is fitful, changing direction and speed between your firing position and the target, give the most value to the wind closest to your target. Your bullet is traveling the slowest in the last couple of hundred yards before your target, which gives this wind the most time to affect its trajectory. A .223 bullet takes only 1/10th of a second to travel the first 100 yards of a 600 yard shot, but takes three times as long to travel the last 100 yards. this gives the wind near the target three times as much effect as the wind near the firing line.

Being able to accurately read and compensate for the wind is an important skill, but at the end of the day, there is no replacement for practice. Some shooters spend hours hand loading match ammunition, trying to squeeze the last 1/4 MOA out of their favored cartridge. Instead of fretting over the accuracy of your ammunition, that time would be better spent behind the rifle getting trigger time. In almost every case the rifle and ammunition are far more accurate than the person pulling the trigger. It does you no good to have a rifle and ammunition that can shoot a 1/4 MOA group if you can’t keep it within 1 MOA shooting off hand. Shooting full power loads for practice can get expensive, but there are alternatives. If your local range doesn’t have targets farther than 100 yards you can still get good practice reading wind with a .22 rifle at distances from 50 to 100 yards. Even setting up a small pellet rifle range in your basement will result in improved match scores by giving you more experience obtaining a good sight picture. By focusing on your basic marksmanship skills rather than your equipment, you will be better able to shoot in a variety of wind conditions.

Down Zero TV: Friends like these

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

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

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

Reading Wind and Mirage

Last week we discussed how to bore sight and zero your scoped bolt action rifle. In that article, we touched on reading or “doping” the wind, as well as reading mirage. Reading wind and mirage is sometimes mentioned in the same breath as black magic and astrology. But taking cues from the wind and mirage is not so much hocus-pocus. There are some simple techniques for accurately reading the wind and mirage that you can use to determine how these conditions will affect your point of impact.

There are two primary atmospheric conditions that can affect the point of impact of your fired round. The first, and most obvious, is the wind. The wind pushes your bullet as it flies downrange, changing the point of impact. Mirage on the other hand can cause your target to appear blurry and distorted, or even have it appear to be where it is not, such that firing at the apparent image of your target will result in your bullet hitting somewhere other than the intended point of impact. Compensating for wind is fairly easy, even for novice shooters. Mirage on the other hand can be a bit tricky. Almost everyone has seen a mirage before. Look out across a blacktop road on a hot summer day and you’ll see the watery mirage caused by hot air rising off of the sun baked asphalt. This same phenomenon can plague shooters who are engaging targets at long-ranges, even on overcast or mild days. Mirage is caused by differing air densities between the shooter and the target. For an easy example of what mirage does, examine a spoon setting in a tall clear glass of water. When you look at the spoon, you will notice that the handle above the water appears to be in a different place than the handle below the water. This is caused by light being bent as it passes through the boundary between the denser water and the less dense air. In much the same fashion, light reflected off of your target is bent as it passes between dense cool air and less dense hot air. Still, mirage can be your friend, as we’ll discuss later you can use the mirage to your advantage by reading it to get very accurate wind speed estimations.

Wind

The first step in negotiating atmospheric conditions is knowing the wind direction and how much value to assign it. Assessing the direction of the wind is a fairly easy task. Wind flags are used at most long range rifle competitions, and are generally a permanent fixture at established rifle ranges. If your range doesn’t have wind flags you can make some easily and inexpensively using some wooden stakes and fluorescent orange engineers tape. The most basic measurement that a flag is good for is determining actual wind direction. This essential measurement will help you to determine what value to give to the wind; full, three quarters, half, or no value. Wind direction is determined relative to the shooter’s position using the clock face method, or using the angle measured in degrees. When the wind is blowing at 90 degrees (3 o’clock) or 270 degrees (9 o’clock) relative to your shooting position, we assign it a full value of 1. Wind blowing at 45 degrees, 135 degrees, 225 degrees, or 315 degrees relative to your position is given three quarters value. When the wind is blowing at 0 degrees or 180 degrees (12 o’clock or 6 o’clock) relative to your position it is disregarded and given no value. See the diagram to the right for more details on assigning wind value.

Some shooters try to compensate for bullet drop or rise caused by the wind blowing directly away or directly towards the target. In this writer’s opinion, a head or tail wind simply will not affect the bullet flight enough to warrant compensating for. Yes, it is true that a bullet fired into a head wind will drop due to additional aerodynamic drag, but the amount it will drop is almost negligible. At 600 yards, a 150 grain .30-06 bullet will only drop by a half-inch with a 10 mph head wind, a margin of error so small it must be measured in hundredths of a minute of angle (for those doing the math, that’s 1/12th or 0.083 MOA). Only a handful of the most accurate shooters in the world can shoot well enough to be bothered compensating for that small of a drop. If you’re reading this you’re probably not one of them, so don’t worry about it.

Once wind direction and value is determined, it’s time to measure or estimate the wind speed. An anemometer is probably the most accurate device for measuring wind speed, but there are other methods that you can learn. If you find yourself without an anemometer, you can use the guidelines set forth in the Service Rifle Pamphlet produced in 1931 by the US Army Infantry Team. While the information is old, the guideline is as valid today as it was 79 years ago.

0-3 mph Wind hardly felt, but smoke drifts
3-5 mph Wind felt lightly on the face
5-8 mph Leaves are kept in constant movement
8-12 mph Raises dust and loose paper
12-15 mph Causes small trees to sway

Flags can also be used as a rough estimate of wind speed. When observing a normal rectangular flag, estimate the angle between the flag and the pole and divide that number by 4 to get the approximate wind speed. For example, if a flag is flying straight out at a 90 degree angle, the approximate wind speed is 22.5 mph or greater (90/4). If the flag is limp and flapping in a breeze at a 45 degree angle to the pole, the approximate wind speed is 11 to 12 mph. This same estimation method can also be used for streamers and pennants.

As important as knowing how to read the wind is knowing your cartridge and how your load will be affected by various wind speeds. Many novice shooters simply do not understand, or do not believe, how much of an effect a cross wind can have on even the speediest of bullets. Consider a 55 grain .223 round fired down range at over 3,250 FPS for example. With only a modest 5mph cross wind that little .223 bullet will be pushed over 1/2″ off target at only 100 yards. While that might not seem like much, consider that a 10mph wind will result in the same round being pushed more than 1 MOA at any range. Experienced shooters, having been frustrated by wind before, often have the opposite problem and tend to overestimate the effect wind will have on their bullet.

All bullets have a ballistic coefficient that is usually computed by the manufacturer. This number, combined with the flight time of the bullet, can help you determine how much your bullet will be affected by a given wind. By combining the wind direction and value, speed, flight time and the ballistic coefficient of your bullet, you can determine how much to hold over or how much to adjust the windage on your sights. Because of the fact that bullets with differing ballistic coefficients are affected to differing degrees by the wind, there is no hard and fast rule for calculating wind drift. I won’t get into the mathematics of computing wind drift using the ballistic coefficient and flight time of your bullet; wind drift charts and calculators are readily available for almost every cartridge load. Use a wind drift chart for your specific load to determine how much holdover or windage adjustment is necessary.

With the information from the appropriate wind drift chart, apply the wind value to determine the actual drift. For example: Our chart shows that M2 match ammunition for an M1 Garand from American Eagle will drift approximately 5.8 inches at 600 yards with a full value wind at 1 mph. If we actually have a 10 mph wind blowing in at a 45 degree angle (1:30 o’clock) we assign it a value of 3/4 and do the math (5.8 inches X 10 mph X .75) to arrive at 43.5 inches of drift. If the wind shifts to be 30 degrees (1 o’clock) we would assign it a value of 1/2, resulting in 29 inches of drift. Doing the math, we correct approximately 5 MOA for wind at 1/2 value and 6.9 MOA for 3/4 value.


Example of a mirage created by a hot blacktop road; image courtesy of BrentDanley licensed under Creative Commons.

Mirage

Hot air rising up from ground that is warmed by the sun distorts the image of your target, causing it to appear blurry, or even appear to be in a location that it actually is not. This is referred to as mirage. To some degree, heat from the barrel of your rifle can also affect your target image. Eliminating mirage from barrel heat is relatively easy. Many benchrest shooters use extended scope tubes so that the hot air rises around the line of sight, eliminating any blurriness caused by the hot air. Another way to divert the hot air is to tape a light colored piece of cardboard or paper along the top of your barrel.

Mirage caused by hot ground baking in the sun is not possible to eliminate, but it can be understood and worked around. Like the spoon in a glass of water, mirage can cause the image of your target to be higher or lower, but luckily this shift is generally not significant enough to need compensation. For the most part, mirage is only problematic due to the blurriness it imparts to your sight picture. It is in this case that the wind can sometimes be your friend. When looking through your scope across a hot field in calm air the mirage appears to be “boiling” as if peering at your target through a puddle of water. When the wind is blowing however, the mirage will “follow” the wind, in some cases blowing away so that you can get a clear sight picture. Of course, as we mentioned in the section above, you will still need to compensate for the wind. That is where “reading” the mirage comes in. When observing mirage, it often appears as waves running in the direction of the wind. Many people find that reading mirage in this fashion gives a very accurate indication of wind speed. You can actually watch the waves from the mirage as they follow the wind, and estimate the actual wind speed from the speed of the waves.

Reading the mirage in this fashion can be difficult with a headwind or tailwind as those wind conditions can cause the mirage to appear be “boiling” when in actuality it is running with the wind directly away from or towards you. As we stated above however, headwinds and tailwinds generally have only a minimal effect on the overall bullet rise or drop, and for all but the most skilled shooters can be disregarded. Some shooters will even adjust for a boiling mirage in calm conditions as the hot air rising off of the ground can impart a small amount of lift or rise to the bullet. Again, for all but the most skilled shooters this adjustment is not necessary. Any lift from hot air is easily and quickly negated by the force of gravity tugging the bullet downwards at 32 feet per second squared.

When reading mirage to get an idea of wind speed and direction it is important to remember that the mirage you are seeing through your scope is only the first couple of feet in front of your target, as that is the only area that is in focus. The mirage existing the rest of the distance between you and the target is not visible because it is outside the shallow depth of field of your scope. To increase your depth of field, you can narrow the aperture of your scope by placing a lens cover with a tiny hole punched in the middle, effectively stopping down your scope and increasing your depth of field to near infinity. Another method for reducing your aperture size is taping over the objective until there is a small hole between 1/8″ and 1/2″ in diameter. Increasing your field depth in this manner allows you to see shifting winds indicted by the mirage over the total distance between you and the target.

An alternative to this is to change the focus of your scope so that the middle of the distance between you and the target is in focus. By examining the mirage over the total distance between you and the target, small variations in wind direction and speed can be noted and accommodated. While unusual, it is possible to have eddies and even countervailing winds between your firing position and the target. These variances in wind speed and direction will be easy to pick up with a bit of practice studying the mirage at varying distances between you and your target.

Practice Negotiating Wind and Mirage

It is difficult to explain the visual differences between a boil, a mirage running away, or a mirage running towards you. Wind drift is a simple concept to grasp, but it still takes practice to know just how much your particular load will drift. There is really no substitute for actual time spent on the range practicing. You will need to train and practice in order to properly read wind and mirage. On a hot sunny day when the wind is blowing, observe the effect this has on your mirage. With a rifle and scope that have already been zeroed in optimal conditions, take aim at the center of your target and call your shot. Sketch the target in your shooting log and mark the area where you called your shot. When marking your target sketch, be sure to make a note of the conditions in as much detail as possible. Once the range is cold, check your target and compare the point of impact to the called shot on your sketch. Note the differences between the point of aim and the point of impact that the atmospheric conditions have caused. By examining the conditions and the difference between your point of aim and the actual point of impact, you can learn how to best accommodate those situations.

At this point, do not adjust your scope to compensate for the wind or mirage. Instead, hold over the appropriate amount to bring your point of impact to the bullseye of your target. Changing atmospheric conditions can cause you to “chase the wind”, adjusting your scope for conditions that may vary from shot to shot. Take aim at the center of the target. Again, call your shot, mark your target sketch and note where the round actually impacted your target, as well as the observed conditions at the moment of the shot. Repeat this procedure and continue to record information. By taking good notes, you will be able to review your information while not at the range and possibly see things that you might otherwise miss while sitting at the bench.

Repeat this procedure for differing conditions whenever possible. The more information you have, the more you will know how to adjust your point of aim for various conditions.

As with most things in life, there is no replacement for experience when it comes to reading wind and mirage. No amount of explanation can substitute for sitting at a bench and observing how differing atmospheric conditions affect the flight of your bullet. Take what you’ve learned, head out to the range, and see for yourself how long range rifle shooting is affected by wind and mirage. Every range is different and has its own peculiarities, so talk to other shooters and see what you can learn from them about handling wind and mirage.

Keep an eye out next week for our article on compensating for wind and mirage in rifle competitions, where we’ll discuss the tips and tricks used by the pros to keep all of their shots in the X ring under even the most demanding atmospheric conditions.

ATK Special Operations “SOST” 5.56mm and 7.62mm Ammunition

The new SOST round from Federal Cartridge was engineered for the United States Marine Corps as a supplemental/replacement round to M855 green tip with more desirable terminal characteristics. NSN # 1305-01-573-2229, designated as the MK318 MOD-0, this round was designed as a “barrier blind” round and has superior penetration and better ballistic stability when shooting through glass, car doors, and other barriers where lesser rounds might be deflected. It was engineered after the Marine Corp identified barrier penetration issues with the M855 round. This new round utilizes a 62 grain open tip boat tail hollow point bullet with a lead core and reverse drawn copper jacket that creates an open tip.

From the press release from ATK:

MINNEAPOLIS, MN — Alliant Techsystems (ATK) announced today that it has received a $49 million contract from the U.S. Navy to produce a new special operations ammunition round with improved accuracy, stronger barrier penetration, and a lower muzzle-flash. ATK Security and Sporting developed the round in partnership with the Naval Surface Warfare Center – Crane Division under the Special Operations Science and Technology (SOST) ammunition program.

The SOST ammunition will be manufactured in 5.56x45mm and 7.62x51mm calibers, and is short-barrel optimized. It is designed for use with the MK16 and MK17 Special Operations Combat Assault Rifle Weapon System. Production will be performed at ATK’s Federal Premium Ammunition plant in Anoka, MN. Deliveries are expected to be completed in 2015.

“ATK is the clear leader in developing new ammunition technologies for commercial use,” said Ron Johnson, President of ATK’s Security and Sporting group. “We are now applying our research and development capability to satisfy the needs of our special operation forces.”

The new SOST 5.56mm and 7.62mm ammunition adds to ATK’s portfolio of specialized ammunition, including long-range products for both law enforcement and military applications.

ATK is an aerospace, defense, and commercial products company with operations in 24 states, Puerto Rico, and internationally, and revenues of approximately $4.8 billion. News and information can be found on the Internet at www.atk.com.

Click here to purchase 5.56mm SOST ammunition.