Monday, November 24, 2014

Facing your fears

A quick post for an article I wrote for Shooting Illustrated.

Stay safe. All of you.

shooting illustrated.com face your fear

Monday, October 20, 2014

Taking Stock

As part of the general M.O. here I generally don't do the hyper-link-go-see-this-website but, I thought this was actually worth it. Your mileage may vary of course depending on your nutritional needs....needs...not wants.

Remember something like this can work for the SHTF as much as it can being without work for a long time and needing to feed your family, or even yourself. I say that because my first year of self-employment (back in 2002), this would have been worth doing.

How to create a food storage supply for five dollars a week

Monday, October 13, 2014

Everything you need...



I've loved a lot of guns over the years. More than I've owned. And there have been some regrets of guns not bought. A rack full of pre-64 Winchester Model 94s for $250 back at the start of the century (I was flat broke at the time), an UZI Carbine that came in a suitcase with a .45 ACP conversion, three 9mm mags and three .45 ACP mags.....for $550.00 about year before the '94 Assault Weapons Ban that was going to solve that pesky crime problem.

I passed on a Ruger No. 1 Tropical in .375 H&H. I don't remember the price but, I remember having enough cash in my pocket to buy it. The problem was, that despite my lust and desire it never met my litmus test for a gun. What was I going to do with a .375 H&H at twenty-five years old in the mid-west.

The Gun, atleast for me, have always had to fall within a certain level of working class, so to speak, to me. They have to be able to serve me or atleast be reasonable pressed into service.

Yet despite this, my small collection of firearms is surprisingly not very "tactical", especially given my line of work one could surmise.

For a while my work rifle was a Ruger Mini 14. I liked it. I didn't love it. My plan was always to ship it down to Clark's Custom guns and get a new barrel on it and do a scout mount. It never happened and I eventually sold it (and it's four 30 round steel mags). There is something of a juxtaposition about that rifle. I don't regret selling it. I regret never paying for the custom work I wanted done to it which would have ended up with me keeping the gun I don't regret selling.

Yet the .223 and, the 5.56 have, much like the 9mm, left me very indifferent towards them. I've owned them. Liked them alright but none of them didn't do anything I essentially didn't have another gun capable or more capable of doing just fine. Mind you, I'm not talking about what does or doesn't work for anyone else but me so don't go getting the vapors.

Interestingly enough, when you live and work with your guns on a daily basis you don't put too much thought into them NOT being effective.

After coming off the rifle range last weekend and forced to contend with boxes of spent brass it was time to get back on the loading bench. After a pot of coffee, and a few hours of silent pondering while de-capping round after round (I run a single stage press) I looked at the green and grey RCBS boxes and the gumball red Lee cylinders and realized that the most "modern" cartridge I load for, the .243 Winchester, was invented in 1955, the next most modern, the .357 coming about in the 1930s. Beyond that everything else is over a hundred years old. From the turn of the last century with the .38 Special and .45 ACP to the Indian wars with the .44 WCF, the .45 Colt and the .45-70.

Yet if you read it in that context one would think that they are simply nostalgic "fun" cartridges that do not serve purpose.

I would concede that the .44-40 is most likely the only round that would readily fall into the ranks of entertainment only if it weren't for the fact that I have in fact pressed both the revolver and rifle chambered for this round into service at different times.


When the Ferguson riots broke out in St. Louis over the summer the self-loading rifle I keep lay in pieces on my bench. There were no qualms here keeping a lever gun in the truck and in the house, along with a Remington 870. Dismiss the round that started it all if you want but, but I keep a couple of boxes of factory jacketed soft points solely for defense work.

Light cowboy loads they are not. Out of the rifle they run over 1200 fps with a 200 grain bullet and there are fifteen of them in the magazine tube.

The revolver chambered for the old .44 cartridge, itself was carried more than a few times during my corporate bodyguard career, albeit at Client barbeques and more "relaxed" scenarios but, to claim I was "unarmed" with six 200 grain .44 caliber bullets in a wheel gun at the ready is stupid. I know because a gentleman in similar employ at the time and also in attendance at one of these casual soirees openly mocked me about it.

He himself was carrying a .32 Seacamp.

Atleast one of us was well armed at the party.



My rifle of rifles remains the .30-06.

I've spent too much time on the range and the field in the almost two decades we've been together and have shot my plentiful share of Missouri Whitetails with it.

Since 1906 there have been a mind numbing number of .thirty caliber rifles to come along. Some of them long forgotten, others having marked their place in the queen of weapons ranks. If I were starting out today looking for a bolt gun to do a lot of work from defense to hunting the .308 could quite easily get the nod. I certainly have a liking for the Ruger Scout Rifle and there have been a couple of long barreled sniper rifles that have sung their sirens song to me. But when shove comes to push what does it do that I can't do already and frankly it does it very well.

When the rifle range beckons, or my head gets too fogged up with the world and I need to make calm it's not the lever gun, nor the pistol that I reach for in my quest for zen. It's the 30-06 in a bolt action.

A few, well several years back after being involved in some social situations where more than feelings got hurt I pondered for a few days that maybe I needed to go "talk to someone". Instead I spent fours hours on a rifle range gingerly working my way through a box of hand-loaded 180 grain Matchkings. There was no talking, no dialogue, no "how does that make you feel". My co-pay was primers, powder and thirty caliber copper. And they solved my issued more than a PhD ever could.

Of all center-fire cartridges I run the .243 Winchester holds more merit than I would have really ever thought. It was the rifle I cut my teeth on and in many ways encouraged me to dig into the world of the rifle and find out what makes a rifle tick and what makes it accurate and inaccurate. After a few years of pie plate patterns I still recall the sweet joy of seeing my first MOA group after I sanded the stock down on the Remington 788 so that it's barrel was free floated. A whole new world emerged.

With it's mild recoil and solid velocities it can do everything a .223 or .5.56 can do only better. Yet in the tactical/war fighter community it is laughable to even think of such a notion. After one of my best friend's son received a .243 single shot a few years ago the rifle round came back on my radar (and from it's tucked away corner in the gun safe).

Clearly it's never going to have place of significance in the tactical community, but if you are of the belief that it can not work because it's not on the list of "approved" tactical calibers then you are naive at best and a fool at worst. People with such notions, in my experience, lack any.

Interestingly enough, during the First and Second Ammo droughts of the twenty-first century when the shelves were bare I could always find .243 Winchester. I have no idea why but during those times I was in several states and there it was on the shelves.

If I lived in a gun restrictive area, or was wanting to put together a budget friendly political correct looking bolt action patrol rifle (or both), I'd give it a hard close look.The unforeseen advantage in the .243 is that you get a little thicker barrel because there is less of a hole in what would otherwise be a standard .308 barrel.

Something to think about.

Only a fool would dismiss the .45-70 as not having a solid purpose in this day and age. It has literally become a phoenix rising from the ashes. If you read gun and shooting articles from the 1960s and 70s it was all but written off as dead with some folks with Springfield Trapdoors and Marlin keeping it alive, eeking out sales for the purest of hearts.

That is until someone whacked the barrel off and called it a guide gun and Jeff Cooper declared it holy to the faithful. It's sales have been strong for the last two decades. If you were to have only a few rifles to your name the .45-70 lever gun would not be a mistake. It's a fight stopper against man or beast. On any continent.

And while most "tactically proficient" men of the twenty-first century fall into fits of rage when someone mentions a gun fight from two centuries earlier, a gun fight, dear reader is still a fight and unless I missed something the human has not changed much in any anatomical sense in the last millennium. In 1887 Commodore Perry Owens, the Sheriff of the 21,000 square mile Apache County, Arizona got crossways (literally) while serving a warrant. Perry, on his own with no backup, killed four armed attackers in short order with a .45-70 from what we call "pistol" distance. Perry had not so much as a scratch.

Unlike a vast majority of American shooters who grew up with guns I did not grow up with the .30-30 Winchester. At that time my dad kept a couple of shotguns, a Sears & Roebuck .22 lever action (hammerless....yep), a .22 High Standard revolver and a Smith Model 19 .357. The only two centerfire rifles were a Parker Hale .30-06 and the aforementioned .243.

But I yearned for a "thirty-thirty" for years. When I finally picked up a model 94 for a whopping $275 I didn't regret it. If you've read me very long here on this blog, you'll know that this is the rifle I rely on for work most often or a Marlin in .three fifty seven magnum.

The old .30 WCF (Winchester Center Fire) maybe one of the finest medium powered cartridges we have, especially in this day and age. For the reloader the potential is there to handle everything from squirrels and rabbits to deer more the efficiently and in some of the heavy factory loads, such as from Buffalo Bore, you can hunt North America.

It's not a wonder kid nor a "tactically" fancy round. And door kickers, both real and wannabe, won't be clinging hard to the rifle nor the round ever but, it was in the man stopping business long before anyone ever heard of the .223 or the 7.62x39. I won't keep house without one and it's almost always the most recommended first rifle for anyone who wants an uncomplicated long gun to serve a variety of roles from game getter to home defender, when I am asked.


There has been so much historical content written on the .45 ACP and the 1911 that I refuse to address it. If you don't know and you can't figure out how to find out, you're SOL as the old Man use to say.

No other cartridge has been so near and dear to me in my life nor seen me safely home. It's been in my hand under the gravest of circumstances, been on most every trip where a gun was permissible, or doable. It has ridden in a shoulder rig in the Atlantic, on my hip on the Continental Divide, and delivered the coup de grace on the side of the highway to a back broken doe, when a stranger in a $40,000 truck with thousands of dollars worth of hunting gear wouldn't "waist" the dollar on a bullet and decided to cut her throat until she nailed him with her hooves and he got fish belly white.

Reloading the old war horse, I don't do fancy. I like standard pressures for the rounds in question. I get better accuracy and less wear and tear on my firearms in the process. You can have the hot rodding and the +P. I like one thing and one thing only in the .45 ACP. 230 grains.

Save the preaching. It works just fine for me.

The .45 Colt, came to me late, as in this year. A dual celebration of seeing my first paid article published (it was nice to get a check from the NRA instead of sending one) and my fortieth year on God's favorite blue marble; I purchased a used Ruger flattop in Uncle Sam's old Indian fighter round.

Again, I don't chase the magic bullet. The old timers who came before worked out much of it and there are plenty of others who can push the limits for me to learn on. I'm always amazed at alarmist and neo-shots who have come to the conclusion that six rounds in a single action leave a man essentially unarmed because of the dreaded reload.

Lots of bullets in bad circumstances are a handy thing to have, no doubt, and the citizenry should have all the access desired to thirty round magazines and self-loading whisper quiet rifles. I firmly believe that. But I also believe in a gun fight, regardless of the century, solid center mass hits from a big bore revolver, stop fights. Your junk science and your worst case scenarios be damned. Hits matter.

Yes I know, I know. The caliber debate is over thanks to new and modern ammunition. Except there is one not-so-slight issue with the "Caliber debate". It's not. It is a cartridge debate. It's always the 9mm vs the .45ACP, or the .40 S&W, or any other auto pistol round. It's never the 9mm vs the .45 Colt, or the .44 Magnum. You know why? Because those are two big sons of bitches and the 9mm is not. And a hit from either is far FAR more significant in stopping a fight, not to mention two or three.

If I can not put a B-i-Q (badguy-in-question) down with three .45 Colt rounds to the chest, I'll be shooting him in the hip thank you very much, because he can rage all over the damn ground.

Broke bone don't work.

I know. You're irate. I've angered the 9mm cult with my brazen big bore speech, damn me.

I'm not anti-9mm. Never have been, never will be. I think it's a fine self-defense round and have carried it and depended on it enough to have some semblance of opinion on it. So don't lose your head.

The problem of late is that the emerging shooters (not necessarily fighters) are ageists toward not only men who came before them but cartridges and guns as well. If a rifle doesn't self load or hold more than thirty rounds at the push of a release mag, it is outdated and it's owner a mentally distant.

Part of the reason I have had an on again off again relationship with the 9mm Luger is owed in large part to the .38 Special and .357 Magnums I own. Make no mistake, my favorite platforms for launching the old European bean are the SiG P226 and the Browning Hi-Power. I've routinely told folks who are looking for their first pistol or who are going to be one gun households to look no further than the Glock 19 or the 9mm in general. It's widely available, and easy to shoot.

If you are looking to buy your first gun, or perhaps your only handgun and deeply desire an auto-pistol so the entire family can learn on it and shoot it confidently. The 9mm would be wise and well received.

Yet, here in lies the rub, most post-9/11 shooters, who came to the gun world around the time the Assault Weapons Ban finally died in it's 2004 sunset on a national level fail to realize that the AWB brought a critical eye to the 9mm, which had thrived through the 80s and early 90s in the wondernine era. Suddenly there was this sincere question put forth of bore diameter and that bigger has it's place for reasons. If you were left with ten .35 caliber bullets or eight .45 caliber ones which would you really rather have?

Again that is not to inflame the cartridge debate, that is simply pointing out what happened.

Which bring us to the last of it.

If you were to count the spent brass in boxes on my bench you would see that the lead goes to the .38 Special, followed by the .357 Magnum in close second. There are reasons for this. They are solid and backed up by decades of man fighting, game getting and trophy winning history, for the both of them.

In my small opinion, there is no gun as versatile as one chambered for the .357 Magnum. A bold statement to be sure, and certainly it has a 1960s gun rag ring to it. The moment the chamber is reamed to accept the old 1/10 of an inch longer, 1935 creation the shooter is in possession of a dual caliber gun, if that shooter happens to be a re-loader, then multiplicity occurs. This is because a lightly handloaded .38 Special will do anything a .22 LR or .22 Magnum can do, only better, and since it can do this the shooter/reloader gets, for his trouble, a superior ".22", a .38 Special and a .357 Magnum.

No handgun cartridge has been more reloaded than the .38 Special and the .357 Magnum remains the king of fight stoppers. I understand. For you the modern shooter I sound as if I am lecturing from a rocking chair. Grandad muttering in the corner to himself. Yet this is large part because of an obsession with guns that weigh ounces and not pounds. I've run the cylinders of .357 Magnums in 12 ounce guns and narrow sights. I'll keep my all stainless steel 2 1/2 inch, Smith model 66, weighing in at a couple of pounds and it's big glorious adjustable sights. The ones that the neo-shot will assure you, rips the clothes from your body as you draw only to snag, getting you killed.

The 158 grain bullet in both rounds works tremendously well for most things from targets, to men, to attacking four legged mammalia. Ah yes. The Grizzly Bear dilemma. You see I don't live in Grizzly country. I won't encounter one this deer season nor while taking out the trash this week.

Being in possession of both revolvers and rifle that will shoot these cartridges covers anything I might need to resolve. Want to teach a new shooter how to hit? How to focus on a front sight? How to have a remarkably easy day on the range. Try the lever action rifle in .357 Magnum loaded with .38s or .357s.

If the politics of this country ever went south to the point we were forced to live with a limited number of guns for me the .357 chambered gun would be at the #1 must have spot.

Don't fall trap to this all being a bit of nostalgia or that these are "the only" cartridges I own. They are not. They simply are the ones that I reload for, but and this is the important part that I want to express.

If.....they were the only ones I had. If circumstances changed tomorrow and I had to dwindle the room in the safe down for one reason or another these eight cartridges and the guns chambered for them would remain above all others.

They will do anything that needs done in a shooting environment from self-defense, to hunting game of all sizes, to target and even competitive shooting, or defending a home and family in a city that has suddenly appeared on the international scene for it's rioting as of late.

Our culture, the gun culture, here in the century, has become somewhat obsessed with fashion that is passed off as must-have-tactical-needs. So much so that it has driven an entire market to panic buy and horde more than a couple of times. I can only wonder how many ARs were bought in November of 2008 and never fired.

So in our quest to survive the apocalypse with "the right gun" I pass along a piece of advice the late Bill Jordan (and not the damn camo maker) gave and Jim Wilson graciously passed on to us.

Mr. Jordan, upon being asked what kind of rifle he would "stash" away in case of the feces-hitting-the-empeller replied that he would keep a Model 19 Smith & Wesson in .357 Magnum and a box of ammunition. The man who asked him became a bit perplexed, since he asked specifically "what rifle". To which Jordan expounded further:

"If serious trouble starts and you can shoot at all, you can get whatever kind of little machine gun you’d want to carry. You could even get a little Jeep to drive and maybe even a nice looking uniform to wear… if you can shoot!” (go read the whole thing here).

As for me. One look at my reloading bench tells me I have everything I need and nothing I don't.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Barranti Hip Pocket Holster


You always hate those situations where you know that if it goes bad, it will go bad in a big way, all the while knowing that you have to appear incapable of being able to deal with anything bad, while being completely capable, in a moment's notice, of dealing decisively with the now bad situation.

A couple of winters back like a bad novel I was carrying my .45 in the pocket of my heavy wool pea-coat, a Hissatsu folder in my waistband, a bitty little light in my jeans pocket and that was pretty much it.

Once inside of where I needed to be my jacket had to come off and I was essentially carrying off body. The coat went wherever I went so it was never helpless situation and, the problem really wouldn't exist if it was going to, until I went outside. At which point the coat would be back on. I dutifully left my gloves in the truck so there would be a reason to have my hands in my pocket once out in the 15 degree night air.

The issue was the big Colt flopped and turned around in the coat pocket and while plenty deep as not to fall out, once back on and hand in the pocket, the pistol had rotated and now rode upside down.

Hammer down in condition two or not, it was not ideal. I fumbled around in my pocket saying something about losing the cigarettes I didn't have and don't smoke, until finally the gun was properly aligned in the pocket and hand. A few words were spoken back and forth as I walked outside and the entire ordeal was over having gone smoothly.

On the drive back, with Colt's Commander riding in my waistband I cussed at myself for not being better well suited for big auto pocket carry.

Oddly enough I couldn't help but thinking of Tommy Lee Jones in the movie "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada". Through most of the movie Jones rides horse back with a 1911 shoved into the back pocket of his Wranglers. Over and over I thought that a real basic pinch fit leather holster that could slip into the back pocket, that didn't have any loops or clips attached to it, and carried the gun juuust tight enough as to not come out freely would be a handy thing to have.

The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. Winter became Spring and, finally Summer then late one July night I finally knew what to do. Or rather
who to go to.

Enter Mike Barranti of Barranti holsters.

I emailed him outlining my needs, wants, and desires for such a thing and Mike knew exactly...and I mean exactly what I was talking about. It was an old timers carry, like turn of the last century old timers, and apparently Mike had tooled around with the same thought himself. About eight hours and one sunset and sunrise later he emailed me a photo of the very image in my brain.



Without hesitation I said "I'll take it".

A few days later it arrived by mail.

That was July of 2013. A year and a couple of months later I still love this holster, which is good because it sees daily use.

In our house we have a mental "gun code" as it were. A pistol in a holster is chambered. A pistol not in a holster is not chambered/loaded. It's the rule.

And I never break it.

Ever.

That is not to imply guns lay around the house. They do not. They are all secured after a fashion one way or another, against un-welcomed visitors and toddlers alike.

At the end of the day when the I take off the old Colt, de-cock it, open the box and it is slipped into it's next place of residence. The Hip Pocket Holster.

Lest you are under the impression that this is all the use the holster sees it is not. Some of my time in the field requires prolonged surveillance. Hours and hours...and hours of sitting. Something the introvert in me never minds. That sitting can also mean, laying, sprawled out and waiting at all sorts of angles and positions beyond the driver's seat of my old 4Runner so it's nice to be able to take it off but still have it in a ready position.

With the absence of things like a re-enforced mouth, or clips, or loops the overall width is very minimal and allows the pistol to be wedged perfectly in someplaces. Yet the wet molded, pinch fit is loose enough to allow a draw where the holster does not come with it, while having very reasonable retention in a gun slip like this one.


Mind you. This is not some flimsy suede piece. While the mouth is not re-enforced with a double band of leather or other means of staying open, the molded to perfection gun skin stays open after the pistol has been drawn.

"How well?" you might wonder.

Most nights before turning in, the dog and I walk the acre and a half we live on and more often than not my pistol is slipped into the back pocket of my jeans. If drawn it can be re-holstered without looking, quickly and easily.






Coming around full circle, I like this holster for one more reason. Winter time. Remember where we started. A pea coat pocket full of .forty-five?

One significant disadvantage in conceal carry comes in winter time. Not in the way so much of carrying, but rather getting the gun into action quickly with a heavy buttoned up coat.

Say for example, I'm out at dinner. It's below freezing and the old 4Runner is parked a few blocks away. The evening ends, everyone is putting on coats, saying goodbyes and what not. I take that opportunity to go to the restroom and put my coat on. I'll take my Colt's Commander from it's In-the-Waist-Band holster and slip it into the Hip Pocket Shuck ready and waiting in my coat pocket. I can keep my hand on the gun my entire walk if I so choose and never have to worry about undesired finger-trigger slippage. Yet I can also rest assured that with my hands not in my pocket the big gun isn't sliding all over the place.

Lastly, There are times in my life, for one reason or another, that off body carry bears merit. In such cases the holster works well to keep the gun upright in a bag without any bulk added like a thicker conventional rig simply shoved in to a pack might have.

Just like there is no magic "one gun" solution for all things, there is no "one holster" solutions either. This rig, while very simple fills a lot of roles in my life and it does them very very well.

So what does it cost? The last time I asked Mike about this he said "$40 plus shipping".

$40.00 for a holster that comes from one of America's best leather rig makers. Not much thought need go into that one. Eventually I'll order a couple more of these. Probably for my snub-nosed Smith and one for my Ruger Flattop as well.

A good many shootists carry Mike's rigs and love them dearly. I now know why.

www.barrantileather.com






Thursday, July 31, 2014

In other places..

I do still write. Having picked up the occasional writing gig for the NRA and what seems to be an escalated travel schedule have caused for neglected duties here. Everytime I climb onto a plane I think "this would be a good time to write that new Dark Arts article.." and then I either open my moleskine to see the work ahead and behind me, or I close my eyes until I hear "prepare the cabin for arrival..."

All that said, the link below goes to Shooting Illustrated were we look at staying skilled in the absence of ammo or range time.

Short-on-ammo-long-on-time-part-I

p.s. sharpen that tactical folder in your pocket I can see the lint from here.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Rifle over the Hashtag.

Photo: Local Borno village women's group repels Boko Haram attack on their communities - See more at: http://goo.gl/nqbk8n

How the women of Nigeria are beginning to respond to the Boko Haram.

A hashtag hold's no power. It is a sanctimonious chant that words can save people. Yet, as many people around the world, who have been left at the hands of bad men and terrorist know, that "help" is only a bureaucracy and months of paper work away. Therefore the rifle does indeed matter and may still turn the tide in the war against evil.



"the rifle has no moral stature, since it has no will of it's own. Naturally it may be used by evil men with evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles."
                                                             -
Jeff Cooper Art of the Rifle.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A return to the dark arts




The mind is a funny place, because rarely are we ever "done" with something like we may imagine.

For all intents and purposes I was done with the Dark Arts for Good Guys series. There were a couple of articles that I had always intended to write, there were two more I wanted to write more than anything but... good judgement won out. Who knows maybe someday in an underground form I will but until then they lay dormant in my mind.

As for the other two I have decided that I would very much like to see them written and for whatever reason where I once struggled to gain a foot hold on the thoughts, that become the words, that end up here have formulated.

They will be in classic fashion I assure you. In all likely hood there will be a gear review first and then the Dark Arts for Good Guys: Just.....

Well.

You'll see.