Category Archives: Editor’s Picks

Old Beat-Up Stuff

Like You, Me And Uncle
Ivan, Some Gear Never Quits.

I’ve long been a fan and admirer of plain, old-fashioned, wedge-shaped cheap rubber doorstops. Know why? Because when they’re brand-spanky new, smooth and as “presentable” as a klunky chunka rubber can be, they stop doors. Then when they’re older, ugly, worn, dull, dinged up and chewed… they stop doors, and do a fine job of it.

They may not be visually appealing, and they can get underfoot when they’re not doing your bidding. But they do the job they were designed for, do it well, and suck up every kind of abuse—including assisting in the teething of two generations of Border Collies—and keep on working. I respect that. I used to keep one on my desk, and sometimes just stared at it (kind of a reminder of who and what I am). My wife once tried to explain it to me using words like “allegorical” an’ “metaphysical,” but when I gave her that caveman Huh? look, she said “It reminds you of you, dear.” OK, gotcha. Now, for something allegorical:

In gun magazines we do a pretty fair job of telling you all about new stuff; guns and gear of all kinds. Sometimes we’ll re-visit old cartridges and original plus more modern loads for ’em, but for the most part, the only time you’ll see ink spilled on old stuff is in reviews of milsurp classics of historical interest, or fine, high-grade vintage firearms. But what about the more prosaic an’ pedestrian products that have taken a lickin’ and kept on tickin’? This beat-up ol’ doorstop has some examples for you.


John’s old Burris Scout Scope’s motto is, “Suck it up, buttercup!”

Pass The Rubber Bands

I bought a ProChrono Digital chronograph from Competition Electronics when the model first rolled out in 2000. It was definitely a “budget chrono,” priced about $125 as I recall, when most other chronographs were running three or four times more. I couldn’t even begin to guess how many rounds have passed through it over 15 years—mine, and those of many, many friends and “range buddies,” lots of whom borrowed it for days at a time, putting every load imaginable through it. Being an electronic device, a high round count isn’t challenging, but the damage it has suffered and always recovered from is pretty astounding.

Aside from rough handling and all forms of environmental exposure, it has busted completely open, scattering innards thither and yon, three times. The first time, it was smacked by a pal suddenly turning with a rifle case in hand, whackin’ it to the concrete. The carcass yawned. I was horrified. The next two times microbursts of wind came outta nowhere, snatched it up along with the lightweight tripod it was on, and positively hurled it at the deck—with the same results.

In addition to those smack-downs, in 2013 a certain family member was “helping” me chrono a Desert Eagle .50 AE. He hit one of the diffuser hood guide wires (a 16-inch, 0.1875-inch thick stainless steel rod), twisting it like a pretzel and sending the diffuser, which resembles a helo’s rotor blade, spinnin’ off like a whirligig. The .50 AE has as much energy at 100 yards as a .44 Magnum 10 feet from the muzzle, so… You can imagine how violently the 2 inches of rod stickin’ down into the works swizzled its guts. It would have busted apart then too, but a profusion of rubber bands and target tape held it shut. That repair required open-case surgery, reapplication of Krazy Glue, more plumbing putty, and a new rod. She runs just fine, thank you.

The case is a 2-piece plastic clamshell affair which is supposed to snap closed at the factory and stay closed for life. However, if you apply enough force and stupid, like F + Sx9, it will disassemble, never to snap quite closed again. Fortunately, even if the inner parts have parted company, it ain’t all that tough to figure out what belongs where. You may need broken toothpicks, Gorilla Glue, Krazy Glue and some stiffening but not full-hardening plumber’s putty to secure bits in place. But when you turn it on and read “rdy” on the screen—that’s her cute way of saying “Ready, boss, let’s do this!”—you can feel all chuffed up about your manly expertise. You can get it wrong. Once after rebuilding her, she only read “err… err… err” for Error. I jiggered and toyed, not knowing exactly what anything did, and finally, she chuckled rdy again. Note: Do not glue the case shut. You may have to go back in, doctor.

My ProChrono reads and stores up to nine strings of up to 99 shots each, recording individual shot velocities, highest and lowest in a string, standard deviation and extreme spread. The updated Pro has Bluetooth widgets, USB gizmoids, and an array of remote-control and fancified electro-techno-accessories available. It sells for $119.95. A simpler, less Star-Warsy setup called the ProChrono Pal, lists for only $99.95. Nice, but I’m gonna try to get a million miles outta mine, without even changing her oil.


Rubber-banded, taped, and look close: She says “Ready, boss!”

If the original long-eye relief 2.75x20mm Burris Scout scopes were serialized, mine’s would probably read like “0000003” or somethin’. I was standing in line for one when the industry’s first Scout scope debuted in 1988. The child of collaboration between Burris engineers and Col. Jeff Cooper, it would ideally have eventually sat upon a Steyr Mannlicher Scout Rifle, but when that came out, my budget just laughed, rolled over and went back to sleep.

Designed to sit forward of the receiver opening and provide both-eyes-open unobstructed target acquisition as well as squinty-eyed precision at practical ranges, it features a simple, sharp crosshairs reticle, 1/2-MOA elevation and windage adjustments, and consummate survivability. It first went on a cut-down streamlined 6.5x55mm Model 96 Swedish Mauser, then a full-stocked ’96, a 1916 Cavalry carbine, a 1938 Swede, a Ruger bolt critter-gitter, then a Savage light .308, and then things get blurry. At one time, loaned out, it served on a custom-built long-barreled revolver firing a wildcat rifle cartridge. Oh, it has seen stunts, hunts, drops-to-the-rocks, use and abuse—and always, always performed.

I have acquired, sold or traded perhaps 40 other scopes since buying the Burris Scout, but it has earned its permanent place. In 2014 I had my gunsmith mount the Scout on my VZ24 Czech Mauser, which had long ago been rechambered in .308 Win. The combination is a natural winner. The VZ24 needed a little work. The Burris Scout needed new flip-up lens caps, period.

Here’s a test of quality and consistency for the old 1/2-MOA scope, securely rested and controlled: Fire a shot on a graphed target at 50 yards. Dial in 24 clicks right, and shoot again. Crank 24 down, repeat. Go 24 left and fire. Finally, give it 24 up and shoot. If you don’t have a perfect square, well, bad juju lurks in your optic. The Burris Scout’s squares still look like they’re drawn with a carpenter’s square and a ruler.

My 2002-vintage Aimpoint CompM2 red dot reflex (military AKA, the M68 CCO, Close Combat Optic) has been superseded, and some say rendered obsolete, by several following generations of updates and new models. They’re good, I’ll give ’em that, but my CompM2 has seen violent action and cruel abuse on a dazzling array of carbines and she’s still bright, watertight and ready for action. It has also been an intro-to-CQB-optics training aid, a student loaner, et al. I advise you watch for deals when the gearheads go for new models and dump their old, but battle-proven and extremely capable M2’s, cheap.

Ah, there’s more, but I’m outta word-space—and outta here.
By John Connor

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Queen Cutlery Fisherman’s Barlow

My pocketknife fetish pretty much peaks out at traditional folders. And the Cool Factor is usually off the charts with quality ones (and, no, they don’t even have to lock open) I always like to keep up with what Queen Cutlery is offering in the way of the “newest” old-timey pocketknife patterns. Some of them are flat-out iconic as far as I’m concerned—Stockman, Coke Bottle, Barlow, Trapper, Copperhead, Toothpick, Scout—you name it. Most guys I know would forget their wristwatch, cellphone or wallet before they’d neglect to drop a folder in their jeans before going out the door. And one made by Queen would be pretty tough to leave behind.

The company was started by employees of the storied Schatt & Morgan Cutlery Company. (Queen still uses some of the old S&M equipment and keeps the name alive on several models). I certainly wasn’t disappointed when I hit the Queen booth during the last SHOT Show. They’ve got more than a few dandies on the current manifest, but one in particular caught my eye. The Fisherman’s Barlow is a big, good-looking single clip-blade with jigged bone scales. Although it doesn’t lock open, it really doesn’t need to—it isn’t a fighter, it’s a worker. (Hmmm, carbon steel, nickel silver bolsters, no lock, one blade, a handle made of natural materials—now there’s a concept!).

Unless you figure on hacking your way through the Amazon, dragging your canoe behind you, it should handle most outdoor—and indoor—chores. But the Fisherman’s Barlow is a big one, so make sure you got lots of pocket. In Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain writes of local loafers sitting on wooden crates while “whittling them with their Barlow knives.” How could any pocketknife style be more American?
By Payton Miller


An open-and-shut case: Queen Cutlery’s Fisherman’s Barlow scales a hefty
9 inches when open (above), 5 inches when closed (below).


Fisherman’s Barlow
Maker: Queen Cutlery Company
507 Chestnut St.
PO Box 408
Titusville, PA 16354
(814) 827-9693

Blade length: 4 inches
Style: Clip with scales
Steel: 1095 high carbon
Handle: Jigged bone
Rockwell: 57-59
Length open: 9 inches
Length closed: 5 inches
Weight: 4.2 ounces
Price: $71

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Crimson Trace Master Series LaserGrips

As undeniably useful as they’ve always been, Crimson Trace Lasergrips have usually occupied the “utilitarian” side of the ledger when it comes to fancy custom stocks. The value of Lasergrips has always been more a function of technology rather than tradition. But that’s pretty inconsequential when you consider the company has pretty much revolutionized the concept of “low-light” shooting since they’ve been in business. In commemoration of their 20th Anniversary, however, they pulled the stops out with their Limited Edition Master Series. We stuck a pair of these rosewood beauties on to a full-size S&W Performance Center 1911 and the end result was—shall we say—dressy indeed.

But whether of fancy exotic wood or Plain-Jane synthetic, all Lasergrips offer the same features still keeping the company running hot, straight and normal since its inception. Namely, perfect frame integration, complete windage and elevation adjustment, micro laser diode optics and instinctive activation. Once the panels are installed—with the supplied CR2025 3-volt lithium batteries—and the master switch is activated, the beam appears once the gun is gripped in a firing mode. If there’s a simpler, more intuitive and foolproof way of taking advantage of laser technology, I’d like to hear about it. Once installed and zeroed, your Lasergrips can shoulder the burden normally handled by the “irons” after sundown or in indoor “low-or-no-light” situations. Only 1,000 of these Commemorative sets were made, but you can still get sets in the Master Edition in either Rosewood or G10. They’re cut for full-size or compact 1911’s, even those with a bobtail grip configuration. Price: $399.
By Payton Miller

Crimson Trace Corporation
9780 SW Freeman Dr.
Wilsonville, OR 97070
(800) 442-2406


The Limited Edition Master Series Lasergrips do a bang-up job of dressing up this
S&W Performance Center 1911 (inset). Nicely figured rosewood for looks, Torx head
screws for secure installation, and an intuitively accessible “on” switch make for
a pretty good form/function combination.

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Exclusive: Z Corr Has Long-Term Storage in the Bag

Whether prepping for a post-apocalyptic society or merely protecting from everyday elements, Z Corr’s gun and ammo storage bags protect their contents against corrosion to a degree that exceeds military standards. Just insert a clean gun into the bag, seal the zip-lock style closure, and use a vacuum hose to draw out any remaining air in the bag. The Z Corr’s Vapor Phase Corrosion Inhibitor (VpCI) chemistry and barrier packaging — no other grease or solutions needed — will protect the gun or ammo from corrosion. For years.

Let’s take a closer look.

zcorrinZ Corr’s Vacuum Pistol Bag (11”x15”, $20.99) is a zip-lock bag on steroids. Totally waterproof and air tight, the bag easily accommodates the S&W M&P .45 you see here. In fact I could have stuffed additional magazines and ammo in the bag, just for good measure. All the Z Corr vacuum bags seem exceptionally durable with an exterior that looks like plastic-coated, rip-stop nylon. Great for long-term storage in a safe, or, if things get really out of control, burying deep in the back yard (just remember where!), Z Corr bags eliminate having to immerse a gun in grease and wrapping in plastic and duct tape for extreme storage.

zcorrwriteZ Corr bags also have a handy label that allows you to mark the contents and the date, or whatever else you want to record, for easy identification. Just use the right type of ink or it’ll fade into uselessness. Yes, you could just open the bag and see what’s in it, but this actually decreases the ant-corrosion features of the bag. So keep it shut, if at all possible. Unopened bags can retain their anti-corrosion properties for 20 years. Regular use of a bag, inserting and removing a gun often, could reduce it to five years.

zcorrbagsOther Z Corr bags fit tactical rifles (bag dimensions: 14” x 49”), large parts and ammo (8” x 11”), .50 caliber ammo cans, and more. The blue pouches are transparent to aid in identification of contens and to differentiate from the vacuum feature of the other bags.

Ready to easily envelope a gun or ammo for some serious, long-term protection? Z Corr has this one in the bag.

— Mark Kakkuri

New Product of the Day: Viridian Reactor 5 for Sig P238 and P938

Viridian is now shipping Reactor 5 laser sights to fit Sig P238 and P938 to all major distributors. The Reactor 5 comes with either green laser or Elite Red laser and is equipped with ECR Instant-On activation technology that instantly ignites your laser upon drawing from the included leather hybrid holster.

Viridian® continues to lead in laser technology with the Reactor 5 laser sight for Sig P238 and P938 pistols. Packing either the exclusive Viridian Green® 532 nm laser or Elite Red 635nm laser, the breakthrough Reactor® 5 (R5) is the ultimate sighting device for the compact Sig 238/938.

With its pistol-matched design, ECR® Instant-On™ activation, two-color battery level indicator, and included holster, the R5 represents a complete carry package. With an MSRP of only $239 for green laser and $149 for red laser, it’s a tremendous value!

ECR® (Enhanced Combat Readiness®) Instant-On™ feature shuts the laser off while holstered and ignites the laser immediately when drawn, without fumbling with buttons, sliders or unfamiliar grips.

Additional ECR Instant-On holster models by Galco, DeSantis will soon be available. ECR Instant-On Crossbreed holsters are NOW available for both P238 and P938. Visit for more information.

Viridian® is the fastest growing laser sight manufacturer in the nation, responsible for a number of industry-leading product innovations in green and red laser sights, taclights, ECR® Instant-On™ technology, TacLoc® holsters, and shooting accessories. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Viridian is devoted to utilizing cutting-edge technology to offer compact, powerful self-defense products for the civilian, military, and law enforcement markets. Viridian products are designed and built in the USA.


The Sphinx 9mm Compact

Thanks To The Good Offices Of Kriss USA,
This Swiss-Made Arm Is Back And Better
Than Ever.

Some years ago, its original importer offered it at a price that was—back then—too high for all but the most affluent buyers. This time, the figure is not out of reach for anyone looking for precision Swiss engineering and a basic CZ 75 design.

In the current SPHINX SDP Compact, there are two departures from the original CZ 75 pattern. One of these involves the materials used. The grip-frame—triggerguard included—is made of high-tech polymer. The mid-frame, containing the action parts, is alloy. All of the working parts, including the barrel and slide, are made of high-grade steel.

Another change is in regard to the manual safety. On my sample, it has been replaced by levers on both sides, a hammer-lowering system. Not a “hammer-drop,” it is the best kind of safety. As you release the lever, the hammer is eased down.

The trigger system is selective double action/single action, and in both modes very nice. I’m sure this is partly a result of the precise attention of the workmen in Switzerland, but it’s also in the basic CZ 75 design. The DA employs the mechanical advantage of a push-bar, not a drawbar. The trigger does have some vertical ridges, but they’re not very deep and cause no discomfort.

When you use the lever to lower the hammer, it is left slightly to the rear, giving access to the grooves in its top for single-action cocking. As on the CZ 75, the slide latch is located high and forward, not within easy thumb-reach of the shooting hand. So, just use the European police/military method. When you insert a new magazine, use that hand to trip it.

The SPHINX has all of the little modern touches you expect, of course. There is an automatic internal firing-pin-block released only in the last fraction of trigger pull. The magazine release button, in the usual location, is reversible. More good news: no magazine-disconnect safety. If the magazine is damaged during your plane crash in the Outback, you still have a single-shot.


One of the targets with the CorBon DPX load gave 2 inches offhand at 7 yards.

The SPHINX has all of the little modern touches you expect, of course. There is an automatic internal firing-pin-block released only in the last fraction of trigger pull. The magazine release button, in the usual location, is reversible. More good news: no magazine-disconnect safety. If the magazine is damaged during your plane crash in the Outback, you still have a single-shot.

For the back of the grip-frame, there are rubber-covered inserts in three sizes, and a tool is supplied so you can change them. If you still use that weird finger-in-front version of the 2-hand hold, the front of the triggerguard is cross-grooved and concave. A standard rail at the front allows mounting of a laser or a light.

Two Allen screws secure the rear sight in its dovetail, allowing lateral movement. The sight is Novak-style, and its back is cross-grooved and all-black. The front sight has a white dot. The sight picture is square post/square notch, and the rear notch has ample width for easy eye pick-up. The sights on my sample pistol required no adjustment.

A little square lug on the extractor protrudes to tell you the chamber is loaded. Also, there’s a slim window at the rear edge of the barrel where the rim of a chambered round is visible. After-shooting takedown for cleaning is not difficult, but read the manual. Lower the hammer before removing the slide.

Test-firing the SPHINX was done at 7 yards, with a 2-hand hold. On one target, with assorted ammo, the first shot was fired DA, and it hit slightly to the left, but still in the 8-inch black of the Champion VisiShot target. The other four rounds made a neat 1.5-inch group at dead center. That one DA round expanded the total to 4 inches.

The rest of the shooting was with an excellent load from CorBon, their +P 115-grain DPX. The group average was an impressive 2 inches, perfectly centered. Another tribute to Swiss precision, perhaps? One other thing, a note to those who reload: the SPHINX deposited the fired cases in one little area to right rear, 6 feet away.

The felt recoil was mild, even with the +P loads. Jacketed hollowpoints caused no problems. The gun worked perfectly every time. As mentioned earlier, there are some notable SPHINX additions to the basic CZ 75 design. And, of course, you get that Swiss precision. With this one, you can’t miss.
By J.B. Wood


The SPHINX SDP Compact 9mm is light, handy accurate and with accessible controls.
The fire controls are ambidextrous and the magazine release is reversible.


Importer: Kriss USA
2697 International Pkwy.
Suite 3-140, Virginia Beach, VA 23452
(855) 574-7787

Type: Double-action semi-auto,
Caliber: 9mm, Parabellum,
Weight: 31.8 ounces,
Length: 7.3 inches,
Height: 5.34 inches,
Width: 1.36 inches,
Barrel length: 3.75 inches,
Sight radius: 5.8 inches,
Capacity: 15+1,
Price: $995 to $1,295

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Recovery Can Come In Many Forms.

His childhood had been very difficult as he was born with asthma and often found himself gasping for breath. He had wonderful ideas of what he wanted to do with his life; however, asthma coupled with a very weak body assured those dreams would never come true. Neither he nor his father would give up and the latter built a gym in the house. He told his young son he was going to have to start from scratch and build his own body. That is exactly what he did. His body became strong, however, he was soon devastated by the early death of his beloved father who he called the best friend he ever had.

Now things were much better. The girl he truly loved had finally said yes and now they were expecting their first child. Elected to the state assembly, every Monday morning he caught the train to the state capital and came back Friday evening to spend the weekend with his family. He and his wife lived with his mother and his siblings in the family home. Everything was perfect. Then he got a message to hurry home. His mother was quite sick and died that day, which was enough of a blow but added to this was the fact his wife also died in childbirth. The two women he loved the most both died in the same house on the same day. Can we even begin to imagine the emotional roller coaster he was now on?

His father was gone; now his mother and wife. He gave his new daughter to his sister and ran. He ran away from all responsibility—something he would never ever do again. He went to the Badlands of Dakota Territory and became something he absolutely knew nothing about, a rancher. He learned quickly, and no one ever called him a 4-eyed tenderfoot the second time. He was not an ordinary cowboy. Actually, there never was anything very ordinary about him. He dressed in buckskins and carried a fully-engraved 7-1/2-inch Colt Frontier Six-Shooter complete with a carved ivory stock in a fully carved cross-draw holster. No one who met him ever forgot him. He tracked down thieves in the bitter winter and stood up to anyone no matter their size or station. He was definitely a man’s man.

It was not an easy time. He built a large cabin and friends who had guided him on hunting trips in Maine joined him with their wives and they began the glorious adventure. He made sure he had a large enough room for his library and room to write. He invested his inheritance from his father and one of the worst winters in history wiped out most of the cattle and half of his family fortune.

That time in the Badlands totally shaped Theodore Roosevelt. Without that experience he would not have been Col. Roosevelt during the Spanish-American War and he certainly would never have been president. That time did much to heal him emotionally and spiritually probably even somewhat physically. He wrote a best-selling book, one of many, entitled Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, which is still worth reading. Theodore needed to be healed and he was.

All of us need healing of some kind at some time or the other. Sometimes it’s spiritual, sometimes it’s emotional, and unless we grow up in a plastic bubble we go through a whole lot of physical healing. When we are young healing comes very quickly. As we grow older healing of any kind seems to take much longer. You might guess reading this I am in the process of healing right now. I had the first of two needed total knee replacements and the healing, although slow, has been aided in so many ways.


Single-action sixguns have special healing properties.

Of course, my worn-out old body still has its built-in healing process. It may be slower now, but there are many outside forces which have contributed greatly to it. First and foremost there is Diamond Dot who, for the few of you who may not know, is my wife of more than half a century. I have no idea how I would’ve ever made it this far without her. She basically had to do everything for me the first few weeks and I am just now getting to the point where I can really start doing things for myself again. The walker was put away two weeks ago and the cane is mostly just a security blanket now (I often just leave it behind.)

I have often said there are only four things in this life that are really important, namely faith, family, friends and firearms. My personal faith has sustained me through this time, as it does through every day of my life. Not only Diamond Dot but the other members of my family, kids and grandkids, have been such a joy in helping me get better. Friends regularly called and sent cards when too far away to visit, while others living much closer have visited frequently which helps to pass the time when I can’t do much of anything else. I am also sure it adds to the healing.

That brings us down to firearms. The voice on the other end of the phone said, “Gary Reeder Custom Guns.” I responded with, “Hi Gary. You’re not going to believe what has happened.” I was about two weeks into recuperating and Gary had just sent me John Taffin’s Classic custom revolver built on a Ruger .44 Special New Model Flat-Top. Gary began honoring me with this limited edition of 100 “special Specials” one year ago and now I had my own. “Gary, I got this beautiful .44 Special and I rubbed it on my knee and I can feel healing happening!” We both got a good laugh out of that, but healing cannot be accomplished in this way, Or can it?

Three years ago when I was recuperating from an operation, which was only, at best, 20 percent successful, I am convinced firearms helped me to heal. First, I had been looking to no avail for a full-sized 1911 chambered in 9mm. Don’t ask why I wanted a 9mm (I just did). They were very hard to find and then one showed up from Springfield Armory and I immediately started to feel better. Then Matt over at Buckhorn Gun Shop came over with a pair of 1950 Target Smith & Wesson’s he thought I might be interested in and I could almost feel the healing happening as he stepped on the porch. Imagination? Maybe, maybe not. Emotion? Definitely. I know emotions have a lot to do with physical healing.

Even before my current operation I did a few things to surround myself with healing firearms. I had stopped to see my friend Cactus at Boise Gun and what should I find but two wonderful old classic revolvers. One dated back to the 1920’s, it being a Colt Army Special chambered in .32-20, while the other was a 1950’s S&W Military & Police .38 Special. I could almost feel the healing properties oozing from each. If I ever needed a reason for purchasing firearms what could be better than the innate healing qualities found in them? Actually this was not the beginning of preparing for healing. Even earlier, in fact, months earlier, I had commissioned a matched pair of USFA Buntline Specials.


Classic double actions have their own special magic too.

USFA began as USPFA in the early 1990’s at which time they were importing parts from Uberti and assembling and finishing sixguns in this country. They were definitely a cut above the typical replica of the time. The goal was to eventually produce an all American-made single action. USFA has closed their doors, however, parts remained. While they were operating as USPFA, special frames were made by Uberti.

These 10-inch .45 Colt single actions have more than just long barrels. They were built of all American parts except the Uberti mainframes, which have the true Buntline rear sight consisting of a “ladder” lifting up out of the trough in the top of the frame to allow for long range shooting. Holding one of these in each hand, I can really feel healing running through my knee.

I haven’t got to the point where I’ve been able to shoot any of these yet. However, the time is coming faster and faster and today it even got warm enough for some defrosting to occur.

While I have been recuperating, both of my computers totally died with no chance of healing. Even more painful than the process of healing my body has been that of learning a totally new operating system as found in today’s newer computers. Without my son-in-law I would never have made it. My healing process will be complete when I take the two older computers out and use them for targets with my “Healing Handguns.” There is something very satisfying and therapeutic about shooting holes in computers.
By John Taffin

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The Little Things Can Outshine
“The Big Picture.”

As I write this in December 2014, it is the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge—the siege at Bastogne. Now virtually forgotten by most Americans, it was the biggest and bloodiest battle fought on the Western Front in World War II. Over 500,000 troops clashed in the Ardennes Forest, as Hitler hurled 30 divisions and a quarter-million men against the freezing, surrounded Yanks. Seventy-six thousand were killed or wounded, among them one of my uncles. It was his last fight.

A rifleman, he had fought from the cliffs of Normandy on D-Day all the way to Bastogne, only suffering some deep bruises from falling rocks while scrambling up the cliffs from the beach. At Bastogne, he suffered blast trauma and a severe neck injury when his buckled helmet was blown off, then 3rd-degree burns when blazing fuel fell on his bare head. He spent years having skin grafts done and fighting repeated infections. Despite this he always called Bastogne his proudest experience as a soldier. Why? “Because we stopped them cold, when nobody but us thought we could.”

In the mid-’80’s I met and had several conversations with another veteran of Bastogne: A man who served as an NCO in a German Army field artillery unit. It was his last fight too, after being wounded and captured by American paratroops. Following the war he became a US citizen and wound up teaching high school history. One of his favorite study subjects was, not surprisingly, the Battle of the Bulge, getting “the big picture” denied him as a low-ranking participant.

“By all objective standards,” he explained, “By the correlation of forces—manpower, armor, artillery, logistics, everything, it should have been a brief and bloody fight immediately followed by massive surrender of the Americans. But all objective standards fell to individual stubbornness! In that battle,” he said, “The Americans were more German—more hard-headed and stiff-necked—than even we Germans.”

My favorite anecdote from Bastogne provides a clear illustration. An American tank destroyer was pulling back from the German onslaught, looking for a new fighting position, and ran across a lone, filthy, battered and bearded paratrooper. Armed with his rifle and a bazooka, he was hacking out a fighting hole, seemingly oblivious to the troops and vehicles flowing past his position, away from the oncoming Germans. The unnamed commander of the tank destroyer caught the eye of the paratrooper, identified only as PFC Martin of the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment.

“If you’re looking for a safe place,” the paratrooper called out, “Just pull that vehicle behind me. I’m the 82nd Airborne. This is as far as the bastards are going.” And it was.

My uncle, my German friend—and almost certainly PFC Martin and that tank destroyer commander—are long gone now and the rest of their stories with them, and that, my friends, is a cryin’ shame. I’m not concerned with “the big picture,” the sweeping sagas of world-shaking events, nor so much with the stories of those who gained fame and acclaim, often memorialized in books and movies. Their histories are somewhat assured. It’s the human snapshots I worry about… the almost lost tales of individuals who rose to their moments in time. Let me share a few of them with you.

The Schoolmarm And Her Shotgun

When the Japanese Empire invaded the Philippines, they were pleased with their progress and emboldened by their victories. They became far less bold and were much less pleased after running afoul of a spectacled, 35-year-old schoolteacher named Nieves Fernandez. She had heard about the slaughter, torture and beatings of her people, and when soldiers approached her school on Leyte, she hid the kiddies, opened up on the invaders with a homemade shotgun, and then melted into the forest.

She found several men hiding out there, but they were disorganized, poorly armed and threw away their lives blindly attacking Japanese strong points. They became her new students, and her organizational skills, inventiveness and sheer courage quickly made her their leader. Starting with a handful of men and three American rifles, she taught them how to make shotguns—called “latongs” or “paltiks”—using blocks of wood, wire and salvaged lengths of gas pipe.

Knowing they could not kick the Japanese Army out of the Philippines, Nieves taught her boys to make surgical strikes on small patrols and security posts, terrorizing the Japanese and forcing them to concentrate behind their defenses, then carrying out acts of sabotage against their communications and supplies. Her philosophy was to deny them the countryside and ultimately, the country.

Over 2-1/2 years of guerrilla warfare, “Captain Fernandez” built her group to 110 men, mostly armed with captured Japanese weapons. She was wounded, shot through one arm, but remained in active command throughout the war. Her group was credited with killing over 200 Japanese soldiers, and Nieves herself killed several with her homemade shotgun and a long bush knife.

After liberation, when told a statue was to be erected in her honor, she waved a hand dismissively. “That’s when they called me Captain Nieves Fernandez,” she said. “Now I’m just Miss Fernandez.”

As the only female leader of the countless guerrilla groups of the Philippines, Miss Fernandez received some passing postwar renown before fading into obscurity. But the exploits of Phyllis Latour Doyle were hardly known at all for nearly 70 years, only recently coming to light.


After liberation, Miss Fernandez shows an American soldier the preferred
striking point for her bush knife—the neck.

The Schoolgirl And Her Soap

Half a world away in England, in 1941, when pretty, petite “Pippa” Latour joined the RAF for training as a flight mechanic, authorities challenged her documents. She looked like a middle-school girl. It wasn’t long though before other facts about her background came to the attention of Britain’s SOE—the Special Operations Executive. The offspring of an English mother and a French-born doctor, Pippa spoke French like a native, had vacationed and traveled in France—and bore a grudge against the Nazis. Her godmother’s father was shot and killed by the Germans, and her godmother committed suicide after being taken prisoner as a spy. She jumped at the chance for some payback.

After training with some strange characters, including an ex-convict cat burglar who taught her skills like using drainpipes and rooftops as her personal highways, she was smuggled into Vichy, France in 1942. Under three code names—Genevieve, Lampooner and Plus Fours—Pippa gathered invaluable intelligence and established a support network for further operations. She returned to England for rest and more training, then parachuted into Normandy alone on May 1, 1944.

Under the code name Paulette, the 23-year-old successfully posed as a poor 14-year-old French girl selling homemade soap to German soldiers—while learning all about the Normandy defenses. She slept in forests, foraged for food—including rat on occasion—and sent 135 coded radio messages back to England, all while keeping one step ahead of German radio-triangulation teams. Others didn’t. Sixteen of her sister British female spies were killed in action, summarily executed, or sent to concentration camps where they died.

Even after the Allies landed, she soldiered on, moving inland with the German Army for months, still sending out updates on troop concentrations and German movements. Pippa was awarded the MBE—Member, Order of the British Empire—and the Croix de Guerre, but she didn’t even stick around to formally receive them.

At war’s end she immediately moved to Kenya, where she married, becoming Phyllis Latour Doyle, then on to Fiji and finally New Zealand, where she lives today. She never breathed a word of her wartime service until one of her children stumbled across a footnote about her on the Internet 15 years ago. They petitioned Britain for her medals.

Finally, just last year, France’s government was given her full war records. On November 25th, Laurent Contini, the French ambassador to New Zealand presented Pippa, 93, with the Legion of Honour, France’s highest decoration.

Just a couple of snapshots. Connor OUT

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PrOlix Lubricant

If you’re looking for something that’s pretty much a “one-stop” squeezable solution to your gun-cleaning problems, PrOlix Lubricant may be what you’re looking for. A “multi-mission” solvent, it cleans, lubricates and preserves. During the cleaning process, it leaves a dry lubricant, which is drawn into the pores of the metal. The end result is a skin-like protective coating.

My first experience with PrOlix was a rather heavy-duty one. I had several revolvers in various stages of what I’ll simply refer to as “uncleanliness.” Some were blued, some were stainless (PrOlix is also equally effective on—and kind to—nickel finishes). All had light leading in the barrel as well as surface carbon burns, burnt powder and assorted contaminants—petrified lube and oil residue—in various nooks and crannies.

After scrubbing a couple of fairly dirty revolver barrels with a copper brush soaked in PrOlix, I ran a couple of patches through to see what came out. (For this stage of the operation, some guys I know like to use a wet patch wrapped around a slightly undersize brush). Normally, I’d go with a bore snake for this to avoid pushing a rod down from the muzzle end, but I wanted to see to see what was getting dredged up. The first patch, of course, was pretty cruddy, but after one or two more, things brightened up considerably.
The dry lubing did create a protective byproduct I particularly appreciated when I cleaned the yoke assembly and ejector rod on a fairly well-used (and occasionally shamefully abused) old S&W Model 15.

Much of the prior gumminess was due to semi-petrified lubricants combined with the gun’s lengthy hiatus from the range. I confess to occasionally committing the original sin of over-oiling revolvers, which, no doubt, was a result of having lived in a very humid area of the Midwest for a couple of years. So, after an initial blast of aerosol degreaser and a wipe-down, I applied the PrOlix and a touch of PrOlix X-Tra T Lube and the old M15’s cylinder was once again back to its freewheeling ways.

For removing burn rings from the cylinder face of a stainless Ruger GP100 Match Champion, I found scrubbing with a PrOlix soaked steel brush removed the “bulk of the black,” but resorted to a Birchwood Casey Lead Remover & Polishing Cloth for final touch-up.

Editor Jeff introduced me to a lazy man’s technique he uses on his pet rimfires. Simply squirt a bit of PrOlix near the embedded brush bristles on a .22 Bore Snake before you pull it on through. No muss, no fuss and no smelly mess. That’s about as easy a method of cleaning your .22’s barrel as you’re likely to find.

If things have really gotten out of hand, of course, you can soak your handgun—or rifle bolts and assorted AR parts—in a shallow pan full of PrOlix (but first remove the grip panels). In fact, the company offers metal mesh dip baskets—not to mention mega-containers of PrOlix in 64-ounce and 1-gallon sizes. For seriously fouled bores, the company recommends thinning J-B’s Bore Cleaner with PrOlix as an initial scrubbing mixture. The stuff is biodegradable, practically odorless, and about as environmentally righteous as you’re going to find. And it will not harm Glock polymer frames.
By Jeff John


For initial scrubbing of burn rings on revolver cylinders, scrubbing with a PrOlix-dipped brush
is very effective (below). If you’re dealing with stainless steel, a final touch-up with a
lead-removal cloth will make things perfect.



Maintenance department: PrOlix Lubricant (left) cleans as well as serving as a conventional
gun oil substitute. PrOlix X-Tra T Lube takes care of chores normally handled by grease


PrOlix Lubricant is odorless, biodegradable and very efficient at cleaning and preserving
your gun’s bore. This PrOlix-soaked patch brought out a bunch of gunk after initial
scrubbing with a brush.


PrOlix Lubricants
7244 South 3100 West
West Jordan, UT
(800) 248-LUBE

Birchwood Casey
7900 Fuller Road
Eden Prairie, MN 55344
(952) 937-7933

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Clean Scene

Every once in awhile you come across a product delivering more than advertised. Such was my discovery of Shooter’s Choice new Aqua Cleaner and Degreaser. I had purchased an Enfield No. 5 Mk I Jungle Carbine from Old Western Scrounger last summer. Dated 9/44, it is one I like to imagine as having “seen the elephant” during WWII. It was certainly well used, still having all matching serial numbers, but showing some rust peeking out from under the wood. In fact, it appeared the handguard ring was rusting through even.

Disassembly showed pockets of rust under the wood and other areas still protected by dried up old cosmoline. I have a protocol for removing rust, and it does not affect existing finish. Since I wanted to clean all the old cosmoline off, this seemed a perfect test for Aqua Clean. A water-based cleaner, Aqua Clean is “50-state legal,” ideal for jurisdictions limiting the use of petroleum-based cleaners. I sprayed it on the metal and let it work for 5 minutes.

I began cleaning with an old nylon toothbrush and, to my amazement, saw the rust lifting off the gun with the dried grease. I used a bronze toothbrush to get the rust out of the deeper pits and have never seen rust dissolved so quickly and easily. I had no need to follow up with my proven rust removing method! Another new product, Ramrodz, was dragooned into the chore of digging out the cosmoline from other assorted nooks and crannies—especially inside the capacious flash hider.


Shooter’s Choice MC 7 (above) removed extensive copper fouling in the WWII-era Enfield.
The well-cared for Swiss K-31 rifle still had plenty of copper fouling in the barrel and
Aqua Clean Bore Cleaner (below) easily removed it all. Because it is a water-based cleaner,
follow-up protection with an oil like FP-10 is a must.


Aqua Clean packaging says the product is safe on wood, but that isn’t entirely accurate. Aqua Clean will attack and lift the linseed oil finish most military rifles have, so keep it away from any wood finished as such.

After getting all the rust off, I cleaned the Enfield barrel’s interior with ammonia-free MC-7 aerosol, following the directions on the bottle (although it is indeed ammonia free, it still has quite an odor). I wore nitrile gloves and kept a fan going. Throw the patches away outside when you’re done or the odor will linger.

A better bet if you don’t have a garage or live in an apartment is Aqua Bore Cleaner. It is water-based and also removes copper fouling quickly and easily. I used a pristine Swiss K-31 acquired from Classic Arms for this test. Following the instructions, I cleaned first using a bronze Pro-Shot bore brush. The bronze brush will also leave some copper fouling, so I routinely switch to a nylon bore brush for follow-up passes. Patches came out clean after the third trip down the bore. I then lubricated the action and protected the bore with FP-10. One real bonus? The brushes cleaned up with a water rinse, and there is almost no odor.


Upon removing the fore-end (above), surface rust and dried grease greeted Jeff on his
newly-acquired Enfield Jungle Carbine. Although not billed as a rust remover, Shooter’s
Choice Aqua Cleaner & Degreaser (below) ate right through rust without affecting the
finish underneath.



Two recently acquired rifles—a nice Swiss K-31 and an Enfield No. 5 Mk I—were
the test mules for new cleaning products from Shooter’s Choice.


Think of Ramrodz as a giant bore-size Q-Tip. I decided to give them a tough job—removing heavily crusted black powder fouling on a Stoeger/Uberti Old Model Russian .44 after a day at the range.

It was a hot, dry day and the fouling became pretty crusty. Because Ramrodz give full contact with the bore and grooves, the cotton swabs—soaked in Aqua Clean—quickly loosened and removed the fouling. They also compress more easily and make cleaning chamber throats much easier than using a patch. The swab stays on its bamboo rod and can be pushed back and forth to quickly loosen the crud. Another place they work great is cleaning large bottleneck chambers like those found on the Mosin-Nagant after shooting corrosive ammunition.


This Stoeger/Uberti Old Model Russian .44 (above) was fired with black-powder ammo.
In the dry desert, the fouling became hard and thick. Aqua Clean cut through the heavy
fouling and the Ramrodz made cleaning the bore and chambers fast and easy (below).


Pro Shot

Back in 1994, as the riots began in Los Angeles where I then lived, I took my M1 Garand out of the safe as my “defensive” rifle, since I had traded my AR’s away rather than register them. I had lubed the rifle with yellow GI grease after the last shooting session, and the lube had dried and frozen the bolt to the point I had to rest the butt on the ground and use my foot to break it free. I cleaned off the old grease and relubed it with Pro Gold grease, a product I used on my shotgun’s hinge pin. I haven’t shot my M1 for probably 5 years, yet it stands at the front of the safe still (although now it has my AR to keep it company).

Occasionally I still take the M1 out of the safe and open the bolt. To this day it opens smoothly (I can feel a little residual grease on the bolt still, but it’s probably time to clean and re-lube Old Faithful.) Pro Gold is a heavy petroleum-based grease with bronze flakes suspended in it to add lubricity. It’s perfect for high load areas and withstands high operating temperatures quite well.

I’ve also used a Pro Shot pistol rod for the last 20 years or so as well. It still works fine, and the new ones are even better.

Since Pro Shot bronze bore brushes are twisted around a brass core, they can be made with larger bristles and last longer than aluminum core brushes. I find they remove lead fouling quicker, too.

Pro Shot jags are very good, and the patches are flannel, finished on both sides. They hold plenty of solvent and fit the jags well. There are no surprises when I match up Pro Shot brushes, patches and jags. The patches can be purchased in large quantities such as 500-count bags. I rarely run low anymore. I find the patches useful for plenty of other chores around the shop—if they are abundant.
By Jeff John

Pro-Shot Products
P.O. Box 763
Taylorville, IL 62568
(217) 824-9133

16 Yerry Hill Road
Woodstock, NY 12498
(855) 486-7922

Shooter’s Choice
15050 Berkshire Industrial Pkwy
Middlefield, OH 44062
(440) 834-8888

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