Friday, September 9, 2016

Why a revolver? Uh...why not?

The revolver is simpler to operate than an automatic. There is a good deal of subtle mechanical interaction going on among the parts inside, but from the user's point of view the revolver's operation is dead simple and intuitively obvious.

Photo By: The original uploader was 
Olegvolk at English Wikipedia - 
Transferred from en.wikipedia to 
Commons by OhanaUnited., CC BY 2.5, 
That simplicity extends to loading, unloading, function checking, showing clear and is especially obvious in failure-to-fire drills. You need to know two drills to deal with a stoppage in an automatic, tap-rack-bang and tap-rack-no bang darn. You don't need to know those if you pack a revolver. You don't need to remember to stiffen your wrist, because the revolver does not care if your wrist is firm or limp; it will work either way.

The revolver is easier to clean; you do not need to take it apart and therefore do not need to put it back together again. Some auto pistol aficionados say the revolver is more work because you have to clean six chambers instead of one. They have not thought the matter through. The revolver's chambers are only one-sixth as dirty.

The revolver is still quite adequate to many defensive needs, even in our danger-fraught modern era. Where the revolver is adequate, it makes no sense to argue that the automatic is "more adequate."

If you handload, the automatic will frustrate you by flinging your cartridge cases to the winds. You will not find all of them.

A well made and properly maintained revolver is inherently accurate because its barrel is fixed to the frame and the bullet is guided into it through a funnel-shaped "forcing cone." There is no place for the bullet to go but straight ahead.

It is a good idea if all your handguns work just alike, so that you have nothing different to do or remember when switching from one gun to another. Revolvers that work just alike are available in calibers from .17 to .500, so there you are: one manual of arms whether you are shooting a mouse or a moose.

Revolvers are, with only a few unusual models that are exceptions, quite indifferent to the brand of ammunition you use and the shape and style and weight of the bullet. Typical revolvers may shoot one sort of ammunition more accurately than another but they will function regardless. They could not care less, so long as the ammunition is of the right caliber and within SAAMI specifications or the appropriate mil spec. This is a valuable trait if for some reason you cannot obtain your usual brand.

A great many malfunctions in auto pistols can be traced to imperfections in the box magazines. No revolver failures can be traced to that source.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Birdshot is for the birds

This is a post I made on a gun discussion board; I have reposted it here. The question was whether birdshot was a good choice for self-defense. My answer has evolved from some years ago, when I  said that size T lead shot (.20 caliber; #4 buck is .24) could be ideal. I even said something positive about Federal Cartridge's attempt (since abandoned) to offer even smaller shot in a defense load. But I now conclude that #4 buck is the sensible lower limit of shot size for self-defense use, and it is a case where theory and practice bear one another out.

#4 buck is already on the ragged edge where performance is starting to falter occasionally, in circumstances where the distance is a little bit far or there are heavy clothes or light obstructions involved, and that lines up closely with what you would expect if the military estimate of wounding energy were true, or else close to the mark.

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 Yesterday, 05:37 PM  #12

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It is an old military rule of thumb that projectiles need, at the least, 58 foot pounds of energy to produce a killing or disabling wound, reliably. That idea was cooked up in relation to designing and using old fashioned Shrapnel shells, later applied to artillery fragments and was most recently used in the design of the Claymore mine. It's not very exact, for people have been disabled or killed by far less energetic projectiles, but general rules are just that: they have exceptions.

Unless the calculator I used is way off, #4 buckshot launched at 1250 fps is down to 58 foot pounds just nine yards from the muzzle. (For comparison, #1 buckshot launched at the same speed has dropped to 58 foot pounds of energy when it has flown 76 yards and 00 buck gets out to a trifle more than 115 yards before its energy drops to that level.)

We know anecdotally that #4 buck works farther than nine yards, but we also know its reputation for poor performance as distance increases. We have read of police becoming disgruntled with the load and switching to 00, due to indecisive results when suspects were hit with #4 buck. At other times it has worked quite well, and its good pattern density is obviously an advantage in getting hits on the target.

We are flirting with the limits of ineffectiveness with #4 buck, and the results show it. That seems to bear out the military's 58 foot pounds estimate, and suggests to me that #4 buck is a sensible lower limit.


Monday, August 1, 2016


I posted this today on a discussion forum:

I don't see why collectors are disturbed when an old gun is altered. When it happens, their pristine examples appreciate. They should like that; if they fully thought things through they would encourage sporterizing.

If collector value were never lost through modifications, or damage, or rust or fires, or losing the rifle overboard, collector value would not exist, for all-originals would be plentiful. The value of any old military rifle would remain just where it started: pick through the barrel for one you like and give the man $89, or see if you can dicker him down a bit or get him to throw in some ammo.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Trunk Guns

American Rifleman | 9 Field-Tested Trunk Guns:

9 Field-Tested Trunk Guns by B. Gil Horman

 - Tuesday, September 15, 2015

"Anyone who has spent much time wandering the online shooting forums or reading gun magazines has picked up on some of the less formal firearm categories folks like to talk about, such as BUGs (back-up guns), Kit Guns (small .22 handguns) and Perfect Packin' Pistols (for hiking). A Trunk Gun is a sturdy, reliable, and not-too-expensive firearm that can be kept tucked away in a car or boat for plinking, hunting and, in a pinch, self-defense. Here are a few of the guns I've worked with that make good passengers without breaking the bank. Don't forget to check regulations for legal methods of transporting firearms in your area." (Read more at the link.)

My remarks: This repeat from last year showed up in my email "American Rifleman Insider" today. The author rounded up the usual suspects, and I recommend the article. But there are a few very good trunk  guns that went unmentioned. The single-shot, break action shotgun will do more than most people think if you learn to run it efficiently. Surplus, bolt-action military rifles from the last century (or even a little farther back than that) are extremely durable. They were made to take a beating; use as a trunk gun is easy duty for them. One of the best trunk guns of all is a lever-action carbine in .30-30, for it is light and versatile, and the many examples with no collector value are economical to buy used. You can buy .30-30 ammo throughout the Americas, for it has proven to be a useful hunting and general purpose cartridge for more than a century.

Winchester Model 1894.jpg

Photo credit: By Antique Military Rifles - originally posted to Flickr as Winchester Model 1894, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Update: More trunk gun recommendations in a follow-up article from the same source:

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Shotgun zones A, B and C.

The shotgun "zones," A, B and C,  describing the shotgun's behavior at varying ranges, are not much emphasized in my practice sessions anymore, because it was always a clumsy teaching. It is easier to tell people that the farther away you are from your target, the more likely you are to pelt the downrange danger zone instead of putting pellets into your target. That is really all the zones have to teach us, and you can demonstrate the same lesson in a few minutes at the range. Here is how the matter was taught, and my critique.

Zone A: Very short range. The pattern has hardly spread. All your pellets will hit the combat silhouette target, for they are hitting en masse.

(Bad assumption. All your pellets can miss the target too--same reason. But, if you are reasonably proficient, it is quite likely that all of the shot charge hits--and the wad as well.)

Zone B The pattern has spread out, but not so widely that you can't still put all your pellets on the target.

(But imperfect aim will mean you hit with some and miss with some. A clearer way of saying it is that you cannot be sure they'll all hit but there's a pretty good chance.)

Zone C: Some pellets are certain to miss because the pattern is now larger than the target.

(You need to be very aware of the downrange danger zone. That is also a splendid idea when firing at the closer  ranges. )

There should have been a Zone D: You are so far away that only by a sheer fluke will you hit your target.

(Buckshot will work for merely suppressive fire at 100 yards or more, but that is because people have a superstitious dread of "the one with your name on it." The odds of connecting are slight.)

Summation of critique: You should ALWAYS scan the downrange area. Be aware that the danger area is wider for a shotgun than for a rifle. But it is not much wider than for a pistol, because people shoot pistols so badly, especially when they are under stress. The shotgun zones were never more than a laborious elaboration of Rule Four.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Papa Shaw

The PPSh-41 was produced (all sources including postwar China) in about twelve million copies. It is a cheap basic tube gun, like many others originating in the WWII period. Per Wikipedia:

The PPSh-41 fires the standard Soviet pistol and submachine gun cartridge, the 7.62×25mm (Tokarev). Weighing approximately 12 pounds (5.45 kg) with a loaded 71-round drum and 9.5 pounds (4.32 kg) with a loaded 35-round box magazine, the PPSh is capable of a rate of about 1000 rounds per minute, a very high rate of fire in comparison to most other military submachine guns of World War II. It is a durable, low-maintenance weapon made of low-cost, easily obtained components, primarily stamped sheet metal and wood.

PPSh-41 from soviet.jpg

Its job is to throw lots of lead downrange, the bullets arriving approximately where directed. The rate of fire is more than twice as fast as the USA's M3 "Grease Gun." I do not think the high rate of fire was particularly advantageous, but it was an understandable design choice in an era when the Germans' fast-firing GPMG's were thought to be superior weapons. It was a conscious design decision to make the Russian buzzgun run so fast, for all you have to do to slow down a blowback gun is add a little more weight to the bolt.

The PPSh-41 deserves better regard than to just tag it as another cheap old fashioned burp gun. It was produced in vaster numbers than the rest. The reason for the big production numbers is that the thing served well and usefully in combat. Its cartridge, though not the best pistol cartridge of the era, may have been the best submachine gun cartridge, driving its small bullet fast and flat, with good penetration at the terminal end of the journey. The gun worked even in appalling conditions afield. It gave Russian units extra firepower when attempts to produce a really good semi-automatic battle rifle were fruitless

It was a peasant's weapon, but so were the longbows of Agincourt. A well-motivated Rooskie armed with this thing could crawl close and then let them have it, a plan that worked all the way to Berlin.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Korth Sky Marshal snubnose

As regular readers know, keeping a snubnose revolver ready to hand is an essential element in my self-protection plans. This gun from Korth costs a lot for a snubnose, nearly a thousand list price. It has some interesting features including Picatinny rail, is chambered in 9mmP and works without moon clips. It might be of great interest to someone who uses the 9mm in an auto pistol and wants a backup gun of the revolver sort. Heck, it might interest anyone who likes cool guns that are a bit unusual.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Pearson's No-Drill Winchester Rail Mount

For Pearson's web page, click here.

I have not yet had a chance to try one of these scout mounts for the great old Winchester 94, but the system looks stronger and more secure than some of the other efforts to make such things. So I thought I'd place the information out there to see if the rest of you are interested. If you've actually used this system, please leave a comment as to your impressions.

The lever .30-30 continues to be one of the best light rifles available, despite being an idea from the century before last. Modern optics only make it better, if you can get them mounted solidly on there.

The Return of Bill Clinton's hypnotic slow rasp delivery

Note the code words! Per Ms. Willy, it's not a city problem. It's not a community, racial or demographic issue. So then, the problem is not big cities and certain demographics within those cities, or even the drug trade, that is driving the shootings. No siree! It's too many guns! We have to do something. What do we need to do something about, per Slick Willy Redux? The guns, of course. We have to do something about guns, because doing something about people or circumstances is probably a statement of privilege bias.

I stand on my privilege. I have never murdered, pillaged or raped anyone, nor even stiffed a taxi driver. My gun, Ms. Willy, is not your problem. It is, further, off limits to you. The evil megalithic gun lobby you refer to is just guys like me, paying dues to organizations that are saying what makes sense to us.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

American Rifleman | Combat Shotguns of the Vietnam War

Click for article: American Rifleman | Combat Shotguns of the Vietnam War:

The above is a rerun of a 2002 article. It tells you about the guns the military bought and issued during the Vietnam conflict. The commonly used shotguns were pump guns, a mixed bag of Stevens, Winchester, Ithaca, and Remington.

The long history of US combat shotguns underscores what I have claimed all along. There is no better personal weapon than a shotgun when the shooting is at short range. Compared to the select-fire rifle its hit probability is twice as good. Compared to the submachine gun, it is very nearly half again better. To me, this means that if my first choice defensive long gun is not a repeating shotgun of some sort, I am making a mistake and selling short my chances to offer the best defense I can. Nearly all justifiable self-defense shootings are at short range or very short range. Right tool for the job, and all that. . .

"Winner and still champeen..." (NRA photo)

Friday, April 1, 2016

The good shall ever Préval

Now and then the sword collector meets up with a curious specimen that has a saber hilt paired with a narrow thrusting blade of hollow-ground triangular cross section. Such a blade, when found in such a mounting, is referred to as a Préval blade. Examples of this sword type are most often French, from the 19th century, and custom made. The examples here are from and depict the French 1822 saber, which was the model for the American 1860 pattern.

Préval variation
The original model 

The name comes from a General Préval, who liked and recommended triangular-bladed thrusting swords. His ideas were liked by some soldiers, who equipped themselves with private purchase swords of the kind. The swords were hilted to match the sabers official to the soldiers' units, thus maintaining the appearance of the official pattern. The scabbards were straight instead of curved but the authorities were willing to overlook that.

Something very obvious about Préval swords: In combat, the users would need to parry saber strokes and then reply with the point. It is a procedure that raises questions. I touched on the same problem in a previous post. Here I say more about it.

It seems to me that the best approach (chosen out of several bad possibilities) is to use the saber parries against cuts, even though you are armed with a thrusting sword. Saber parries are well calculated to stop the saber stroke, for they were developed for that very purpose. The blades meet at a steep angle, or even at right angles, making malparrying less likely than if the blades meet at a shallow angle.

There is the possibility, alleged, of interrupting any cut by using a time thrust. Perhaps I will examine that allegation in a future post. It seems rather an over-optimistic idea. The trouble with it is that it the timing must be gotten just right and the hit must prove immediately disabling. Parrying and then riposting leaves a much better margin for error.

The problem faced in parry-riposte with the saber parries is that, after you parry, your point then needs to rotate in space so as to aim at the opponent and not off into empty air. If you were replying with a cut instead of a thrust you would simply swing your sword at the other fellow. That is an immediate threat and also has the effect of closing the line with an arc of speeding steel.

It seems best to try to retain that line-closing virtue of the cutting counter-attack when making thrusts from the saber guards. That means changing the timing of your counter, compared to what it would be if you were cutting, but retaining essentially the same motion. The biggest change is that you extend much later. The blade arcs through the air as in a cut, until the point is about to come into line with the target, and only then do you extend fully. The poor alternative to doing that is to move your sword laterally while leveling it until it is in place for the thrust you wish to make, which long process seems to allow the other sword rather too much freedom.

Another difficulty is that if your opponent realizes that your sword is without an edge, he may further realize that he can grab your blade with his hand. Of course, opponents 'commanding the sword' in that way was a known problem with triangular blades, and had been for a long time. Presumably, the fellow equipping himself with an edgeless blade would be aware of it, and guard against it.

I admit that I kind of like the clear logic of Préval's sword, despite the challenges it poses in swordsmanship. If you really think the thrust is the answer and using the cut is passé, it makes sense to supply yourself with the best type of thrusting blade available, and never mind about not being able to cut with it--for you wouldn't do that anyway.

The thrust's general superiority to cutting with the edge was more a matter of prejudice than proof, but it was a fashionable idea in the 19th century. In some uses, thrust-only swords had proven highly effective, but the idea that they were superior in all uses and circumstances was innovative, even faddish. Of course, the idea was not disproven either. Ordinarily, in such matters, time will tell--but not in this case.

The era of the sword was passing away. It scarcely mattered what swords chaps carried, for battles were decided amid the racket and haze of firearms. Thus, General Préval's ideas about swords never faced the test of time, because time ran out.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Hire a Liar: The Most- And Least-Trusted News Outlets In America

Here Are The Most- And Least-Trusted News Outlets In America - Business Insider

Several interesting conclusions can be drawn from the chart included in the above-linked article. One is that liberals are far more trusting of most of the news outlets than are conservatives.

Pew political charts
Source: Business Insider

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The Colson shooting: Cultural freefall, friendly fire

From the Baltimore Sun:

"Three brothers who live near the police station have been charged in the gunfight. Police have described it as an attempt by the suicidal oldest brother, 22-year-old Michael Ford, to provoke officers into killing him. 
Police say Ford was driven to the station by his two younger brothers and began firing at the building and at passing vehicles, causing officers to return fire. Ford fired more than 20 shots, prosecutors said in court Wednesday. 
Police said Ford's brothers aided him before and during the shootout and used their cellphones to record video of the gunfight. They also recorded video of Michael Ford offering a "last will and testament," police said."

If the behavior of the Ford brothers is as reported in the story linked above, we have now, as a society, hit rock bottom, with a civilization (so-called) in which the members can no longer distinguish a dramatic fantasy from justifiable conduct. The fantasy becomes the cause, becomes the motive, for real world actions with real consequences. In cases like this one, the thought that a plan is muddleheaded to the point of full disconnect from all things real and sensible does not occur to the actors, and if it does they dismiss that thought, because they have been taught that their feelings trump all other concerns. This is the end result of our societal shift from firmly fixed moral concepts to the shifting sands of variable interpretation and the guidance we derive from our personal angst. Not that we ever were very good at keeping the moral law despite what we felt: but we knew what moral law was and knew that others expected us to honor it.

As the brothers were playing out their fantasized plan (the brothers all survived) and while shots were being traded, a cop shot and killed another cop.

As to the friendly fire shooting in which the cop who died, Detective Colson, tragically lost his life, such things continue to happen because Rule Four is very hard to obey when bullets are flying your way. Let there be no rush to judgment against the brother officer who shot Colson. Many others have made the like mistake in such circumstances. The media coverage does not tell us anything that makes the incident sound like other than that oft told tale.

It appears, from the story released so far, that the Fords are being charged in the homicide of someone they did not shoot, and had no plan or desire to kill, but if it can be shown that their actions precipitated the death of Colson, they are culpable in some manner or degree. Or that's the best sense I can make of it, anyway.The eldest Ford brother attempts suicide by cop while his younger brothers film it with their phones, he survives, his brothers survive and one cop shoots another by mistake. What a mess.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Department of Rumors: 5mm Remington Rimfire Magnum cartridges

This teaser from The Firearm Blog hints that Aguila is at least making noises about again offering for sale the old 5mm Remington cartridge.

It will be splendid news if Aguila follows through on this. The 5mm RRM is a brilliantly conceived little cartridge. It was ahead of its time and did not catch on in a big way. Only two rifle types were offered to shoot it and eventually the supply of ammo dried up.

These days, though, the market is ready and willing to accept rimfire cartridges that are not .22 caliber.This one is a little bigger than a .17 and a little smaller than a .22, and has distinctly zippy velocity numbers.

I had a chance to buy a mint condition 5mm rifle, some years back, and passed it up because I had no idea where to find ammunition for the thing. I'm now wondering if I made a mistake.  Of course, a listing in a foreign ammo catalog is not a sure guarantee that you will actually be able to buy the cartridges. It's wait-and-see time for fans of the little cartridge.

Photo: The Firearm Blog

Here is the product on Aguila's web site.  Scroll down to find the 5mm Remmie and the statement "Coming in 2016."

Monday, February 22, 2016

Shooting Illustrated | .22 LR for Self-Defense?

Gun writers have been rehashing this tired old question for many, many years. It is one of those stories that is dredged up again and again, possibly when the store of other ideas runs low and they need something to fill the empty spaces on pages 43 and 86-87. The example below, from the year 2010, is a clear and well reasoned example of the type. However, it supplies no conclusion you could not have read in 1910. The startling conclusion: ". . .the old cliché seems to fit. It's better than nothing."

Shooting Illustrated | .22 LR for Self-Defense?:

I have a few thoughts on the subject. (Mine are not all that original either.) Reliability of the .22 LR cartridge is not good. Ignition failures are commonplace. The above article looks at CCI cartridges, which are better than most in that regard, and far, far better than some other brands. Still, reliability is rather lackluster even in the better brands of rimfire cartridges, far behind what you expect from centerfire ammo.

So I suggest manually operated firearms if you insist on trusting .22 LR for defense. A revolver seems to me a better idea than an auto pistol, and there have been some mighty slick and quick pump-action .22 rifles made over the years. A failure to fire is more easily dealt with if you, not the cartridge, are responsible for cycling the weapon. The drill in case of a failure to fire works just about the same as continuing to fire normally.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Stephen King scares me

Via Facebook:

What King says above does not really make much sense. If I am being assaulted, you're darn right I want an assault weapon. I want the most efficient tool I can get, if the job is to save my life or the lives of family members. At that, most shootees these days survive, if they are near to a hospital and someone phones 911.

I seem to recall some people in King's novels facing gruesome deaths. As a reader, I sided with the victims, not the monsters. Maybe I am missing the point of his stories, but in real life, I would much rather the victim shoot holes in a deadly attacker. Justifiable self defense is something the law approves, and it stands up also to the closest moral scrutiny. It is better if the person perpetrating the crime is the one who gets hurt, not the victim who had no evil intentions going into the situation where the violence occurs.

Of course, death is unfortunate in and of itself, but did you ever notice, in real life, how many times bad guys flee once they know they face deadly resistance? Look at the stats: armed resistance works. Often it works merely by a display of a weapon and the will to resist. Draw a gun and the bad guy rethinks, quite often while sprinting away. Lesson to learn here: Scare the bad guy to death and you likely won't have to shoot him to death. It is better if your weapon is a scary one: just the sort King deplores.

If you have to take responsibility for your own defense, you should provide yourself with weaponry appropriate to the task, which means weapons at least as good as what the bad guys are wielding--or better weapons than theirs, if you can manage that.

Should I use a flintlock and fight with one foot in a bucket, just to make it easier for them?

I just figured out whose next novel I won't be buying. This guy doesn't make sense.

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Clinton TV ads hammer guns in NH, shy away in Iowa - US News

Tell them what they want to hear!

By CHAD DAY, Associated Press

 WASHINGTON (AP) — Broadcast TV viewers in New Hampshire should recognize Hillary Clinton's stance on gun control by now. One of every four political ads she's aired in the state over the past month has been about tougher gun laws.
But in Iowa, only 1 in 17 of Clinton's spots has featured her stance on gun control. Television viewers in the rural southeast corner of the state haven't seen a single ad about guns from the Clinton campaign in the past month, according to an Associated Press analysis.

Read more: Clinton TV ads hammer guns in NH, shy away in Iowa - US News:

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New revolver from Kimber America

Those who were thinking that the revolver is a dead letter in the modern world can think again. I prefer the revolver for roles in which it is suitable, for it is simpler to operate than an automatic and a good revolver is vastly reliable. I also do not need to chase the brass for reloading. I simply bring a coffee can to the range and at the end of the day my empties are right there for convenient reuse.

Apparently the thinkers and planners at Kimber have not let all that slip past them. The company, best known for its pistols on the 1911 pattern, has introduced a six shot .357 snubnose. Its size and weight are similar to those of the old Colt Detective Special, which was a six shot .38. The Kimber has the popular double-action-only configuration. Clearly slanted toward the everyday carry market, it looks like something I'm going to need to check out further. More info here: Kimber America | Revolver.

K6s Stainless
Photo: Kimber America