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.

11 comments:

Sherm said...

And, of course, the .45 colt is a hoot to shoot (as is a .357 carbine).

Anonymous said...


Love the article.
I guess I'm an oldster because i love my 1911, 45-70 lever and 30-30 lever.

I'm former Army special forces and have shot most of the new black gun stuff in combat but don't care for them in civilian life.

For hunting, i use my 30-30 and weatherby 270 and 30-378. Covers evrything i want to put on the tabe.

Disciple of Night said...

I still consider myself new to the way of the gun. Most of my deer have been taken with a .30-30. I love both of my Smiths (36 and 65), but until I get a full-time job, 9mm will remain my caliber of choice.

Miamoto Musashi said that no warrior should have a favorite weapon. I think you've proven that. If you can hit your target, just about any gun will do the job.

Daddy Hawk said...

I really appreciated your thoughts on this subject. It's helped solidify my own thinking which is coming together along the same lines (though I went with a .44mag lever action because .357s are rarer than hen's teeth these days it seems). I don't feel under gunned with a 1911 or 6 shot revolver. Big holes in the right places do a betier job that a lot of small holes in the wrong places. End of story.

Mark/GreyLocke said...

I too prefer a good .38/.357 gun is the most ideal, especially if you have a simple Lee Loader. You can load both .357 and .38 with it and you can tune the load for what you need.

Matthew said...

If I could carry what I wanted, wherever I wanted and however I wanted, I'd carry a Vintage Smith model 27 in .357 Magnum in a floral carved holster and never look back.

0007 said...

If you want to get a little crazy, over at the Falfiles there are folks who build FNFAL's in
.243...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the article. Great read, great sense.

One thing I will add though…next gun you buy as a little reward for work well done…make it a .375H&H. Trajectory similar to your old favorite, the '06, but with magical power on the hitting side of things. I have dropped bison and bulls with it, falling as if hit by lightning. It is a beautiful caliber. Mine is in Model 70…pre64, thank you.

Take care, keep writing!

Thanks again, Bruce

Chefjon said...

I wish I had read this 5 years ago when I 1st got into shooting (I'm very much late to the game). I don't regret my G19 or AR, but starting off with a snubby and a lever gun would have been good. If you can shoot those well, you can shoot anything. I've always wanted a .45-70 too, just never found the need (but did find it funny when everyone "found" the .458 socom!)

Your integrity and honesty, on this and other topics, are quite admirable. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

P.s.-
I know you have so much on your plate, but I'd really be interested in your wardrobe choices for different EP scenarios. As a concealed- carrier, how you set-up for different missions would fasciate me both practically and sartorially. Every other writer/instructor out there seems to do everything in life in a t-shirt, cargo pants, riggers belt and assault boots...and that just ain't me. I loved the vest article, more like that (with stories) please!

dehakal said...

The old ways are best until proven otherwise.

Interesting article a little over a year ago that dovetails in with your .357 versatility comments.
http://www.dayattherange.com/?p=2925
Except he make the claim for .44 Mag being the most versatile.

Living in AZ and working in non-permissive CA has enhanced my belief that a good matched set of a revolver and lever rifle in .357 or .44 is the way to go.

Anonymous said...

An interesting counterpoint to the currently popular "caliber doesn't matter" fad.

The few times I have been in unusually exciting circumstances I never thought to myself "Gee, I wish my .45 was a 9mm". I do recall thinking "Gee, I wish I had my rifle or shotgun".

In times of scarcity, high performance ammo may be a luxury and we may have to make do with ball.Caliber certainly matters in that case.

DVC,

Lionhound