Saturday, January 23, 2016

Flintlock rifles

There are those who amuse themselves with long obsolete technologies in most areas of scientific inquiry mostly out of curiosity.  The longer you live as a shooter, the greater the likelihood you will get to the basics, the start of firearms. The 17th century matchlock generates a little interest, but the 18th century flintlock firearms seem to have a much larger following these days, due in part to the fact that several states permit an extended deer hunting season for flintlock shooters.  That was the reason I first seriously considered getting a flintlock rifle.

Well considering a flintlock, for most of us, even gun aficionados, means doing some research.  And researching flintlocks leads into how they were made and used.  And researching how they were made leads invariable into building your own.  You quickly realize that the commercial offerings, good though they may be, are faint examples of the originals, and that a much closer approximation of the originals, to the extent our limited knowledge and modern apprehension allows, comes only by making them yourself.

Well I got the disease.  I started researching in 2013 and started buying in 2014 and concluded by starting to build in 2015.  To date I've "built" six flintlock rifles.  Now this is a whole other shooting style and discipline than most modern shooters are involved in.  Note that the length of time and fine motor skills necessary to reload and aim a flintlock makes it pretty much a one shot weapon for fighting purposes.  Crazy Lewis Wetzel's load-on-the-run notwithstanding, as a general rule once you discharged your "fire-lock," the rest of any combat engagement was conducted with clubs, knives or tomahawks.

Hunters today with their .300 Win Mag rifles and 50 power scopes should readily adhere to the one shot one kill motto.  However in the flintlock days, the requirement to meet that standard was even more greater (no kill--no dinner) even if it was more difficult.  It's important to note that celebrated "good shots" were celebrated because they were rare.

As always, questions, comments and general harassment welcome.

New Rugers!

Been a while, but I try to post when I have something to say.  Just wanted to announce that I'm very impressed with two new offerings from Ruger.  In fact I've bought and incorporated both into my firearms usage plan.

First, welcome to the new Ruger "American" Pistol (RAP).  These come in 9mm and .45 ACP but mine is the 9mm variety.  The "RAP" being a new pistol, there are tons of videos on youtube, full30 and no doubt elsewhere extolling their virtues or squealing about their shortcomings, real, potential or imagined.

I picked up my RAP at my local firearms emporium, Gettysburg Trading Post, which, by the way, I highly recommend for new and used firearms of all types.  The RAP is a striker fired synthetic frame pistol with 17rd magazines, Novak sights, an excellent trigger, and adjustable backstraps to accomodate different hand sizes.  I've put 150 rounds through the pistol with no problems of any type.  I find it to be accurate and reliable and recommend it for use as a duty pistol.  At 30 oz empty, it's a little portly for concealed carry, but is an excellent home defense pistol and a great soft-shooting pistol for training, practice or plinking.

My second new favorite is my new CCW, the Ruger LC9S Pro.  Now don't confuse this with the LC9S (not Pro) which is in wide circulation and is also an excellent pistol, but I digress.  The "Pro" terminology is what Ruger uses to explain that the pistol so named has no external safety lever and does not incorporate a magazine disconnect, features that "professional" shooters tend not to use and so prefer to have omitted.  My LC9S Pro has seen only 50rds so far because my first LC9S Pro through which I'd fired over 200rds was bought out from under my by a close friend and compatriot, so the new one is still waiting to be broken in properly.  So I bought two of these in quick succession because they are reliable, accurate, slim and trim and easy to conceal.   They are excellent for pocket carry.  My recommendation to students now is to consider the LC9S or the Pro model first and foremost.

I welcome questions or comments, to include alternative points of view, as they say.

Sunday, March 9, 2014 be armed is to be free; a lesson from some kids.

Today’s life lesson was taught by three 12 year old boys whose father brought them to the range to meet me for some shooting.  It was the birthday of one and this was what he wanted most (since his mom doesn’t want to let him have the .22 rifle he so desperately wants.)

I started them out with a couple of magazine fed bolt-action rifles, one scoped ( a CZ-452 Scout) and one with open sights (a CZ-452 Full Stock).  They were in a hurry.  The bolt actions and the 5 round magazines served to slow things down and force them to think about the instruction on sight alignment and trigger control.

Then we went to the pistol—a 9mm.  The recoil of the Beretta 92FS was easily managed, but the muzzle direction and ‘finger off the trigger’ skills were easily forgotten and thus closely monitored.  This was the reason for one pistol shooter at a time.

Then, the wow factor—we let them shoot an AR.  It’s loud, but low recoiling.  It’s quite accurate, and quite devastating on the 2x4x4 blocks of wood we were shooting at 35-40 yards.  They each got 60 rounds and were not satisfied.  As they say in the theater, always leave them wanting more.

They were good kids.  Dad was there and none of them wanted to get on his wrong side.  They listened to my commands (there were no requests or 'how do you feel about thats').  Even if they were not 100% on arrival (one threw up before we started –I don’t know why) all paid attention, did what was asked, operated safely with minimal reminders, and had a BLAST (no pun intended.)

A couple of universal lessons:  Freedom comes only to those who can control themselves.  These boys were under control, but clearly not in control of themselves yet.  But they learned that they can be and they will be in time. 

Shooting with pre-teens is high risk, but well worth it.  These are the boys who will be the men who will secure our freedoms in the future, order the society of the future, and by the way, will figure out how to pay for our social security.  They are worth the investment.  I wonder if they realize what just happened in their lives.  Maybe I’m overly optimistic, but I think they will let these lessons in.  Over time they will contemplate them.  And they will become a part of who they are as adults.

How much better to have spent a morning like this than with cartoons or video games so mom and dad can sleep in.

"Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites... It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters. " -- Edmund Burke  (Thanks to Ares for reminding me of this.)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Thought for the day

Killers kill.  If you can identify them and stop them, no one will die,... at least not at the hands of killers.  Our problem is that we cannot identify and stop killers.  
Those who would take firearms from citizens ignore two demonstrable facts: 1) having a firearm doesn't make one a killer, and 2) there are valid reasons for having a firearm (e.g. self defense and resistance to tyrants.)
The notion that only governments can handle firearms correctly has been shown time and time again to be wrong.  Armed Russian thugs assaulting the Ukrainian people shows this in our daily news dumps.


“False is the idea of utility that sacrifices a thousand real advantages for one imaginary or trifling inconvenience; that would take fire from men because it burns, and water because one may drown in it; that has no remedy for evils except destruction.  The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature.  They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crime.”

           –Cesare Beccaria, as quoted by Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Taking the long shot.

I've enjoyed learning to shoot my pistols at long range targets, i.e. 75-110 yards, and find it an excellent training regimen as well as a skill I want to master.  I was amazed at how accurate a 9mm bullet can be, even when fired through a 3.9" barrel.  There is no where near as much bullet drop as I would have expected over that distance. 

Since most of our pistol shooting is at targets inside of 10 yards, we tend to get a little sloppy on applying the fundamentals.  "Defensive accuracy" gives us the flexibility to shoot faster and still make an effective shot.  But at long range, the slightest disregard of the shooting fundamentals can cause a deviation in bullet strike from the target of 4 feet or more.  After a few apparently wild shots, the temptation is to give up and decide pistols can't be used that far away.  But when you take your time, think about the fundamentals, and carefully observe them, it's amazing how close to the target you can hit consistently.

Any other long shot shooters out there?  If you're looking for a way to move to the next level in your shooting, find a safe place for it and try hitting some targets a long range.

2014 update:  Just tried some 100 yard shots with my new 3" barrel SIG Sauer P290RS and find that the same rules apply as with any other pistol.  Focus on the fundamentals.  Take your time, and you can hit targets at distance.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The 1911

I pretty much owe it to the venerable 1911, not to let the 100 year anniversary of the Army's adoption of this fine old firearm pass unremarked.

I met my first M1911A1 as I was wooing the love of my life.  Her father had brought back a better than average specimen from the battlefields of Germany in 1945.  He shot it rarely over the years, letting it rest on the shelf in his closet in the Hoyt 1918-production GI issue leather flap holster it had probably been issued in, fully loaded, cocked and locked.  As you might surmise, he was slow to let this wiry teenager after his daughter have anything to do with his guns until it became apparent that I wasn't going away.  After going off to military school, learning a bit about safe gun handling, and proposing to his daughter, I finally got my hands on it.  I remember it being challenging to shoot at first, with a bit of kick, and a LOT of noise.  No one wore hearing protection back then and my sensitive little musical ears felt every bit of it.  The thing I remember most about that pistol was the only shot my father-in-law ever took with it with me watching.  He hit a foot long 2x4 floating down the Nottaway river at 50 plus yards dead center.  I suspected a lucky shot until years later when I first saw his expert qualification badge on his WWII dress blouse hanging among some old clothes in the attic and heard some of the stories of the black GIs in the labor service company he commanded.

Army issue 1911s were fascinating.  They were pieces of history in many ways, many so old, used and loose as to be inaccurate and unreliable.  (Keep in mind, in the modern Army, the pistol is viewed a not much better than a rock as an actual combat tool.)  And as with all Army issue gear, 'improvement' was officially frowned upon.  But one could occassionally go through a rack of 1911s to pick out the best one, and if you were in the right position, you might even be able to replace a few parts to deal with any obvious problems.  This is how I wound up with a better than average pistol in most of my assignments to combat units.

Since retirement from the Army, I've tried out a number of different pistols built on the 1911 design, and by many different manufacturers.  Colt, Springfield Armory, Kimber, Dan Wesson, Para Ordnance, and even Taurus 1911 designs have been in my gun safe from time to time.  Several other high end manufacturers produce quality machines (Caspian, STI, Wilson Combat, Ed Brown, S&W, SIG-Sauer), and actually, for around $400 you can now purchase a good basic 1911 made by ATI, Armscorp, or Rock Island Armory, all of Phillipine production.  If you decide to get into 1911s. the place to start is and check out the many postings on manual of arms, maintaining and shooting 1911s.

My most recent 1911 was the new Ruger SR1911.  It is similar to the design of the Army M1911A1 I used while on active duty, but had added features I like: significantly more visible sights, an extended beavertail, a skeletonized hammer, and an full length trigger.  Ruger really got it right on this one.

I might have paid a little more for mine than they will eventually sell for ($701) but I consider that a fair price for the gun.  To date, I have fired 275 rounds through it, with narry a hitch.  No failure to fire, no failures to extract or eject, no failures of any kind.  And the pistol is ACCURATE. 

Oh,... there was one flaw.  I found the grip screws loosened after about 150 rounds requiring me to tighten them with an allen wrench.  That may be enough to keep some of you from buying one, but let that bide.  If that's a problem for you, you don't deserve to own the best 1911 I've ever had, since my father-in-law's, of course.

Okay, 2014 update:  I sold my SR1911 (gasp!)  Yes, but I only did it to replace it with an SR1911 CMD, the 4" barrel version of the same pistol.  I've found it to be just as accurate and reliable as the original full-size gun, but a bit easier to carry and conceal.  Still highly recommended!

.22 rifles

A friend recently asked me to be on the lookout for a good .22 rifle.  This isn't the first time I've had that question, but with my lifelong experience with these devices, I have a lot of opinion on the subject.
Dad's rifle had a shorter barrel than this example

The first .22 rifle I shot was my dad's old 'shooting-rats-in-the-dump' gun.  It was a Page-Lewis single-shot lever rifle that took only .22 Shorts, one of the classic early 20th century so-called "boy's rifles."  Unfortunately no one in our family knows what became of it.  It would have been a great teaching tool for my grandsons.  This is one of the classics I'm always on the lookout for, though I have never seen another one anywhere despite haunting gunstores and gunshows all over the country for years now.

The Marlin 81D from Sears
By my teen years, my dad bought a Marlin 81D from good ole Sears Roebuck.  It's a tube fed, bolt action rifle with a heavy walnut stock and solid construction that takes .22 Short, Long and Long Rifle ammunition.  That one we still have, or at least my little brother has it.  I've fired hundreds of rounds through it, and really learned to shoot a rifle with that gun.  I've dispatched many a squirrel with it down along the Nottoway River and our whole family has enjoyed shooting it for years now.
Over the years I've come in contact with, fired and learned to use many different .22 rifle designs.  The Mossbergs come to mind, notably the 152 with it's fold down stock, the Remington bolts, Winchester bolts and pumps, and the famous Ruger 10-22.

As I've grown older and both more able to research and buy the options, I have become a fan of CZs .22 rifles.  My recent favorites include a CZ-452 Full Stock rifle, a CZ 452 Lux (with the 24.5" barrel) which have the quality CZ bolt action and takes .22 Long Rifle ammo only fed in magazines of 5 or 10 rounds.  At the moment, I have a CZ-452 Scout that is for my grandboys when they're old enough to learn to shoot as well as my own main .22 rifle, a CZ-452ZKM "Special Training" rifle.

CZ-452 Scout waiting for Marshall and Calvin to grow up

All of the .22 rifles I've been discussing so far are what I would call general purpose or field use rifles.  They're suitable for teaching, training, hunting small game, and general target shooting.  Although they are all inherently accurate, none are as specialized as the purpose built competition rifles, like the Anshutz.

So with all this as background, I'd like to return to the original topic here--what's a good .22 rifle?  Since almost no one who asks that questions is looking to become an Olympic competitor, I always recommend keeping the cost down and getting something that is reliable and can be shot a lot without needing constant repair or adjustment.

There is an excellent series of .22 rifles being sold under the Mossberg name called the "Plinkster."  The model 702 is the semi-auto version, and the model 802 is a bolt-action.  Both rifles take 5 or 10 round magazines and have synthetic stocks (many are black, but several new models with camoflage pattern stocks in a wide variety of colors have recently appeared).  I've only seen these rifles with a blued metal finish, but I'm informed they can also be found in stainless.  They can be found for $100 to $200 at Walmart, Bass Pro, Dicks, Gander Mountain, as well as many gunstores.  I've owned and used several examples of this gun and find it a fun, accurate, easy to use rifle, it's main feature being it's low price.  The semi-auto version can jam or misfeed from time to time, and as with the Ruger 10-22, maintaining the magazine is important to keeping the gun running well, but the Plinkster is the rifle I recommend as a good low-cost entry level rifle in .22LR.

One note on action types: I like bolt action rifles for most purposes since they are simple to learn, reliable, and easier to maintain and keep clean.  Semi-autos are fun because you can shoot a lot quickly, but I find that they encourage the shooter to be less attentive to fundamentals as well as shooting up too much ammunition.  Other actions such as lever, pump or slide action, etc., are preferable to semi-autos for learning to shoot, but tend to be a little more expensive.

So my recommendation:  If you want to spend less than $150.  Get a Mossberg bolt action rifle and six bulk boxes of ammo (that's 3300 rounds).  If you want a high quality, classy rifle, (i.e. $500 or so) buy a CZ-452 or a Ruger 77-22 bolt. 

Which ever gun you get, shoot it extensively without a scope so you really learn to shoot well.  Then, if you really need one, add a scope later.  That's only a $25 expense if you go to Walmart.