Category Archives: Odd Angry Shot

The Invisible Veterans

Dickens, Tapley & Lieutenant Dan.

ou know how sometimes you catch somebody out of the corner of your eye at the same instant they’re pingin’ you out of the corner of their eye? And you have that fleeting moment, that half-second where your choice is whether to go flowin’ right on, or snap about and take a closer look? Yeah, that drill. That’s how I spotted The Invisible Veteran.

My rule for those moments is, whether I break movement or not, I send a second ping and see if the sonar shoots me back an echo. I’ve found those moments are split between early recognition of someone from my past, and possible threats; potential danger situations, and I decided long ago that either way, I wanta know, not guess.

This time the echo sounded familiar, and it must have been that way for him too, because we simultaneously locked on and put the Mark-II Eyeball on each other. I hung a hard right and steamed dead for him, clumping on my cane and scanning. He and three clones were leaning back against the curved granite lip of a fountain featuring a buncha nekkid cherubs spittin’ streams of water in the air through trumpets, against the backdrop of a black-tinted glass-front bank building. MC’s (Miscellaneous Civilians) flitted by in foreground buttery sunshine and background shadow like lost flocks of brightly-plumed parrots.

I assumed my “Get Outta The Way of The Big Scary Crippled Dude ’Cause He Ain’t Paying Attention To Ya” gait and as usual, it worked; they unconsciously altered their flittin’ patterns so I could hold a steady course and stay eyeball-locked on the guy.

Four clones—clean-shaven guys in their mid-to-late 30s, white long-sleeve dress shirts, dark slacks, neat ties, no jackets, all holding identical bubble-topped semi-frozen drinks with straws stickin’ up. From the subtle way they altered their bodies as I approached, I knew they were clones in a way other than appearances, too. But I still didn’t have an ID on the guy, nor him on me.

For a lo-o-o-ong moment we stood and stared, peeling away years and then draping old layers on each other; sweat-soaked dust, body armor, rucks and harnesses, Band-Aids and bug bites. I saw an image of him with eyes hollowed from unending exhaustion and a lopsided grin and I don’t know what the hell he saw on me—but that lopsided grin suddenly curled up.
“Mister… Connor?”

Enter Lieutenant Dan

“Lootenant DAN!” I blurted in my best (bad) Forrest Gump voice, “You got legs, Lootenant Dan!” It was a semi-private joke. He had been a lieutenant then, his given name Daniel, and you can guess what some folks called him as they closed on Baghdad and learned he was one of those not-so-rare young officers who was just as much in his element leading a stack of infantry into a concrete compound as he was with the inevitable paperwork and frustrating, conflicting orders from On High.

“Yeah, the kid’s a keeper,” his leathery platoon sergeant had said then. “He wasn’t roont by all that college crap. Good soldier!”

“Yes, I got outta there with both legs,” he smiled, “But, uhhh… What about yours, sir?” I assured him I still had mine; they just didn’t work very well—but good enough. That tore the last flimsy curtain down and we pumped paws, bumped chests, grabbed onto each other and maybe, maybe got a teensy bit wet in the eyes.

We had shared a few moments back when, like the night the whole world was shooting streams of tracers and rockets and flares skyward apparently at nothing in particular, some from the next block, some klicks away, and we couldn’t tell the players without a scorecard, the radio was either rackety-riot or stone silence and he asked me, “Didja ever see the fireworks on Main Street in Disneyland? Just like it, I swear, only these are gonna come down somewhere,” adding wistfully, “I used to live in Anaheim.” As with so many others, I hadn’t known if he had made it home. My relief was… significant. The depth and power of it kinda surprised me.

All four guys were Army combat veterans, three former junior officers and one NCO. None had known each other in the Army, though all had left service about the same time. They worked for different outfits in the same big building complex, and had found each other by “GI Gravity Effect.”

The overwhelming point for me was that you probably could have plucked four non-veterans in their age group outta that block and the vast majority of people couldn’t have told them apart. If they were standing in a crowd on a sidewalk at a Veterans Day parade, unless they wore something clearly identifying themselves as veterans, you’d never know it. I’m reminded of others….

Dickens & Tapley

There was an almost painfully young trigger-puller serving with the 10th Mountain who was widely known as “the happiest, most positive guy in the ’Stan.” He was the guy who jumped to shoulder part of another soldier’s load if he was fading in the heat; the guy who filled someone else’s share of sandbags because “Do ya see how blistered his hands are? Lemme do it”; who volunteered to hump water cans across the compound for his whole squad so they could rest, with “You dudes are thrashed; I got this,” and always, always with a smile.

His sergeant said “I used to worry that he would crack under this always positive stuff, because I know he ain’t brain-damaged or got a wire loose; he’s just bulldog-determined to be that way. Now I don’t worry so much because,” he shook his head in wonderment, “I really think he’s got the grit for the long haul.” A buddy of his told me to ask him about Dickens—so I did.

“I hated reading Dickens!” he laughed. “I had this fussy, prissy ol’ English teacher who made us read it. I thought it sucked, and I couldn’t wait to get away from it, and from her.” He smiled wider. “She got my address from my folks—and sent me Dickens! Now we write back and forth all the time, and when I get back, after my folks, she’ll be the first one I’ll visit.”

He had read Martin Chuzzlewit and discovered Mark Tapley, a simple, good-hearted man who felt that his cheerfulness didn’t really reflect very well on him because his circumstances were happy. The only real test of character, he decides, lies in being perennially positive under the most miserable circumstances.

The kid pointed out that Tapley wasn’t a major character in the book, nor was he particularly intelligent. “Whattaya think I am in the Army? And I’m no genius.” But he found purpose and salvation in meeting the toughest challenges with the greatest cheerfulness.

“This ain’t gonna end with Afghanistan or with the Army,” he said. “Know why?” I shook my head. “Because,” he confided quietly, “It’s the best feeling in the world, and… it makes me—different.”

Invisible Veterans

So many stories, so little space. Early in my military life I learned not to ask too much if somebody “made it,” because too often, the answer hurt. But I wonder about so many I knew, some well, most not, some barely, but all adding to my memory-files as we trod the same paths—and many were just kids, even to me. I think most Americans visualize veterans as elderly, graying men squeezed into fading uniform jackets, solemnly saluting the colors on Veterans Day. Now we have a generation of combat vets both in and out of the mainstream who still look far too young to have done so much.

Let’s remember them on Veterans Day too, OK? Thanks. Connor OUT
By John Connor

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Goops, Soups & Sauces

Chemical Cocktails For Your Cannon.

My go-to gunsmith and I recently launched a methodical, documented project to evaluate a wide range of lubes, cleaners, protectants, rust removers and other goops for a monster feature in one of our Special Editions. Besides, it’s kinda interesting and fun, and another excellent excuse to shoot more. But just in case I drop dead or see something sparkly in the distance and wander away before it’s done, I wanted to share some early winners with you, OK?


We’ll kick this off with FIREClean, first, because it’s new on the market and second, because we got such impressive results with it. The blurb reads “Cleans, Lubricates, Conditions,” but its prime claim is that it virtually shields firearms from carbon buildup and speeds cleaning. We found those claims were understated. How rare is that?

We pulled an older direct gas impingement (DGI) AR-15 out of storage. It had been banished because, for whatever reasons, it has a nasty reputation as a carbon-fouling magnet, frequently requiring pain-in-the-butt scraping of the bolt tail and carrier. It received a solvent tank deep cleaning, after which we treated it with FIREClean. Gathering up the dirtiest-burning 5.56 and .223 ammo we had, including some Turkish, Serbian, Wolf and 40-year-old military ball, we shot the snot out of it, put it back on the rack for two weeks, and then sent another couple of hundred rounds through it.

Check the photo, folks. From funky to shiny took six .22-cal patches, two 3×3-inch patches and a cotton swab. Sparkly! As for “conditions,” even after the second cleaning, it was obvious the steel had really absorbed the goop, and retained a high state of “residual slickness.” I give it five stars as a lube too, with great performance under heat and friction. No matter what it had previously been lubed with, during travel of the charging handle and carrier, this AR had always had kind of a slightly gritty “drag” to it, which disappeared completely after treatment and lubrication with FIREClean.

As a further test I used it on some carbon-caked gun parts, which had not been pretreated, and just as advertised, it dissolved the carbon as well or better than very aggressive, stinky, noxious single-purpose cleaning agents. FIREClean is odorless, non-flammable, non-toxic and biodegradable. It’s expensive by the ounce, but after initial treatment, very little is needed to keep your carbon-caker clickin’.

Hey, it’s not just for ARs, either. One of the worst lead-fouling situations occurs when you put thousands of lead .22 LR rounds through a suppressor. Pretreated with FIREClean, lead fouling just pushes right out of the baffles with a swab. Think of your applications, and try it.

Slip 2000 EWL (above) puts two capital S’s in “Super Slick.” FIREClean
(below) took a fouled AR from funky to sparkling fast, with minimal effort.

SLiP 2000 EWL

The first time I used this non-toxic non-hazardous lube was on a 5.56 carbine being test-fired at sub-zero temps with wind chills to 40 below zero. It had been very sparingly lubed with SLiP 2000 EWL (Extreme Weapons Lube), and it performed beautifully. A few days later, without cleaning or refreshing the initial lube, testing was repeated at below-freezing temps, shooting the carbine hot, leaving it cold, shooting it too hot to touch again, and freezing it—with the same results. Snow blowing into the action had no dilution or displacing effect. It cleans easily and doesn’t gum up.

Since then we’ve tested it on autopistols and other guns. Performance has been the same: superb. My gunsmith, who always wears nitrile gloves when working, told me it’s so slippery that after he lubed the bolt of a semi-auto .22 LR rifle with it, he couldn’t install the bolt because it kept slipping out of his hands. He had to remove his gloves to finish the job.

I highly recommend it for tight-fitting and hot-running weapons in extreme weather conditions. You should thoroughly clean other lubes from your weapon before applying SLiP. Their 725 Gun Cleaner Degreaser is a good choice for that. We’re still testing their orange-scented Carbon Killer Bore Cleaner and so far, it’s working just fine.


The more I use this stuff the more amazed I am with it. Developed by a former Navy SEAL officer, it’s not only non-toxic and “eco-friendly,” it’s actually a food-grade cleaner, lube and protectant. Yup, you can eat it with a spoon. I admit I haven’t. I’m afraid it’ll taste like Vegemite, and no offense to my Aussie mates, but… Yucch.

FrogLube does it all, cleaning, lubing and protecting, and does it impressively well. Now there’s separate FrogLube CLP Spray, Solvent Spray and pre-soaked wipes, but my use has been limited to the FrogLube liquid and paste; the liquid where you want it to travel, and the paste on chatter-and-bash areas where you want it to stay put. If all you had for weapons maintenance was FrogLube, you’d be well served—with these caveats:

Thoroughly clean your weapon, and rid it of all other treatments. If your first application is over stuff like primer pocket sealant smooches and brass smears on a bolt face, you won’t get prime results—but once you’ve treated it with FrogLube and stick with it, you’ll likely never need anything else. For best results—and that’s the only kind you want—apply it liberally at room temp on warm or even hot components. Let it sit and soak into the metal for hours or overnight. Make sure your bore and chamber are soppin’ with it. Then wipe off the excess, dry the bore and chamber, and you’re ready to rock—and rock—and rock. Testers—me included—are having a tough time finding out how long weapons will run smoothly on a single application of FrogLube.

FrogLube (above): Eat it with a spoon or smear it on your gun—We recommend the latter. Even a blind squirrel can sometimes find a nut. John found Flitz Tactical Matte Finish Cleaner and Bore-Tips (below)!

Sundry Sweet Discoveries

We—OK, mostly I—stumbled across some other cool goodies during this project. Many of you have weapons with non-reflective matte finishes. When they get dirty, what can you use that won’t gloss it up and degrade the matte effect? Flitz recently introduced their Tactical Matte Finish Cleaner, and it works on Parkerized and virtually all other matte finishes, keeping them non-reflective and factory-new-lookin’.

While not new, performance of the Flitz Microfiber Polishing Cleaning Cloth convinced me to toss my stinky collection of T-shirt scraps and old socks, and order four of ’em from Brownells. They’re not impregnated with Flitz polish. The secret is in the weave of its polyester/polyamide wedge-shaped fibers and intrinsic electrostatic properties. The comparison with scrap cloth is like comparing a Sopwith Camel to an SR-71 Blackbird. One use on a filthy gun and you’re sold. And, you can wash and re-use it up to 500 times. My ’smith has been using them for years, sometimes cutting the 16×16-inch cloth into smaller pieces. I got a memorable “Well, you dummy” look from him over this “discovery.”

I’ve written before about the value of foam-tipped swabs over fuzzy, lint-littering cotton swabs. Now one of the biggest makers of industrial foam-tipped swabs has fired up a whole line of foam Bore-Tips bore swabs and Gun-Tips gun cleaning swabs, and they’re dead-bang terrific! The Bore-Tips come on short plastic stalks threaded 8/32, and they work great on both rigid rods and flexible pull-throughs, giving you a 360-degree compression fit that beats the heck outta patches on slotted tips. The Gun-Tips come in a wide variety of sizes, lengths and shapes carefully selected for every nook and cranny in most firearms. They’re reusable too; just clean ’em with mineral spirits, squeeze ’em out, let ’em dry, and put them back in service. They’re available from Brownells and a rapidly growing number of retailers, and their bang-for-the-buck is outstanding.

Whoa! There’s something shiny in the distance! Gotta go… Happy cleaning, folks! Connor OUT
By John Connor

200 South Front St. Montezuma
IA 50171
(800) 741-0015

P.O. Box 192, Ashburn, VA 20146
(703) 362-3752

Flitz International, Ltd.
821 Mohr Ave., Waterford, WI 53185
(800) 558-8611

P.O. Box 327, Wellington, NV 89444
(855) 376-4582

SLiP 2000
4697 Fairway Dr.
Rohnert Park, CA 94928
(707) 665-0592

Swab-Its / Bore-Tips
800 Worcester St., Springfield, MA 01151
(413) 543-1442

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GUNS October 2013

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Hot Enough Outside For Ya?

And Are You Wet Enough Inside For It?

Every summer there are stories in the news about hikers, hunters, backcountry wanderers and people whose vehicles broke down in the wrong lonely place. Many are found dead and others near death. Common threads are heat, aridity, absence of water, and incongruous, often inexplicable acts. Most of the dead have not died of thirst—or did they?

You’ve read the stories in the papers or seen them on TV news. All the elements are present for death by dehydration, but that’s rarely the case. Most die from falls, exposure or immobility due to injuries. One walks right off a cliff while another, despite having a compass, wanders in circles and collapses a short distance from a well-traveled highway. Some actually move or run away from search parties, and afterward can’t explain why. Many have first aid gear, but do not tend to blood wounds.

I remember one guy who got lost, was parched with thirst, and lit what he hoped would be a signal fire—right in the middle of thick dry brush. The flames went out of control, nearly killed him, and ultimately burned thousands of acres and destroyed dozens of homes. He was mystified by his own actions. He said he had better sense than that. Clearly, he didn’t at that time.

Have you ever wondered why so few actually die of thirst? I submit that they do; it’s just that dehydration isn’t the direct cause of death; it is the proximate cause. And it explains virtually all of those strange behaviors.

At low levels of dehydration, higher brain functions are impaired and judgment suffers; headache, eyestrain, fatigue and insomnia appear; muscle cramps and joint pain are exacerbated, the effects increasing with the degree of dehydration. Simply put, as dehydration advances the individual is less able to even recognize it, being occupied with other problems, and less able to deal with it.

At moderate dehydration levels judgment worsens and memory becomes erratic; people forget how to operate simple equipment like compasses, GPS devices and communications gear; spatial disorientation occurs; small-motor muscle manipulation fails and ordinarily harmless fumbles can become lethal failures. Sometimes severely dehydrated people have more or less accidentally relocated their vehicles, but either couldn’t start them—not due to mechanical failure but to cognitive or manipulative failure—or started them, only to drive in the wrong direction, into barriers or over precipices.

Some soldiers, scientists and hardcore outdoorsmen have studied and known these effects but most folks don’t, simply because dehydration doesn’t gob-smack you with threats of imminent death; it takes you down a notch at a time until figuratively, it trips you on the stairs.

Hydration packs, reusable water bottles, and purified bottled
water all have their place—close and handy!

Who’s Dehydrated?

The majority of people in the industrialized nations chronically run an inadequate level of hydration. If you actually feel thirsty at all, you’re already dehydrated to the degree that those lesser symptoms listed may occur, and they definitely will if you don’t get some liquid on board. If you feel “parched” or “dry as a bone,” and you thirst for a big drink, you’re seriously dehydrated, primed for an accident, and interestingly, you’re actually less likely to hydrate yourself properly.

That’s when you’ll drink too much, too fast; when you’ll chug that liquid, filling your belly, forcing impatient kidneys to purge most of it out while absorbing only a fraction of it. Now you feel better—for the moment—and your belly is sloshing, but your other organs and deep tissues, including your brain cells, are still desiccated.

My pal Van Zyl is an authority on hydration; a soldier-scientist who, 40-plus years ago routinized NCOs checking their troops’ urine color (it should be clear all the time), frequency of urination and sipping, and rate and volume of hydration. Having spent most of his soldiering life in the tropics and Saharan Africa, he has seen and compared the behaviors, physical and mental abilities of the well hydrated versus the dehydrated. The latter group, he says, has included people who seemingly get enough to drink, but hydrate wrong at the wrong times.

Until recently, standard military procedure (and civilian practice) was to drink deeply before beginning a long hot trek, and to conserve the water you carry until you’re parched. That’s wrong at both ends of the journey. Our military has learned the value of being well hydrated but not overfull before stepping off, sipping frequently en route, and never being water-bloated.

Van Zyl teaches, “The conventional wisdom is to drink when you become uncomfortably thirsty. This is wrong. Thirst is a survival signal, not a suggested sipping schedule. You should be saturated at the cellular level, your bloodstream boosted, and often forgotten, you should be ‘hydraulically pressurized’ at spinal column to base-of-brain level. Dehydration is a whole-body condition, not just an empty bladder or a dry throat.”

Hydration systems should be flushed regularly and detail-cleaned
occasionally. Get the right tools for the task.

The 3 Cs

Van Zyl explains the low hydration of the industrialized population with the three cs: clothing, concrete, and carbonation. Multilayered Western clothing and development—covering open spaces with buildings and pavement—makes relieving oneself inconvenient, at least, when compared to less sophisticated conditions, so people avoid hydrating enough to require frequent visits to bathrooms. The third C, carbonation, generally describes intake of fluids, which actually require as much or more body fluid to process than they contribute to the system.

For decades, peaking in 1998, Americans drank 25 to 30 percent more soft drinks per capita than water, swiggin’ an average of 54 gallons of sody-pop to 42 gallons of water—and that doesn’t include liquor, wine or beer. In 2013, water has finally edged out soft drinks, but that still leaves an essentially chronically dehydrated populace. That’s bad enough for others, but for GUNS readers, who tend to be hunters, wilderness-wanderers and fondlers-of-firearms, it’s more critical.

The secret’s in the sippin’, friends, and that means keeping water close, handy, tasty and well-aerated. Purified bottled water may or may not be necessary; tap water in different places ranges from rank to delicious. But if it’s not fresh to the taste, you’re just not gonna sip as you should. And don’t forget, you can improve even the best “flat” water by rapidly pouring it back and forth from one clean container to another, with lotsa’ arc-and-splash factor.

Keeping it close: The real worth of commercially bottled water is its handiness. If it’s flat, aerate it. CamelBak makes an excellent water bottle with a spill-preventing system. I use ’em all the time. Shown in the photo, the inexpensive “SURGE” mid-size backpack by Fieldline Tactical has a built-in 64-ounce hydration bag and drinking tube. If you limit your stowed beverage to water, you won’t have to detail-clean it often; just flush it out. For occasional thorough cleanings, Swab-its makes a 6-piece cleaning kit which makes the task faster and easier.

You’re just a big mobile water bag, ya know. Stay wet, folks. Connor OUT
By John Connor

2000 S. McDowell, Ste. 200
Petaluma, CA 94954
(800) 767-8725

1919 Vineburn Ave.
Los Angles, CA 90032

800 Worcester St.
Springfield, MA 01151
(413) 543-1442

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Noggin-Socks and Turkish Pastry

Just Another Day On The Range.

Late March in the High Lonely: Light, blowing snow turned to high-velocity sharply slanting sleet, hammering the butts and corrugated overhead like a million rivet guns, and the temperature dropped like a stone. Time to hit the buzzer and bark, “Cease fire, clear and secure weapons! Transport is en route. Into the range house!”

“Range house” is a generous term. The shack is the size of a boxcar though not as weathertight, but it’s shelter, and the ancient little oil-burner within was hissin’ like a serpent and doin’ it’s best. I had once wondered how many people could be crammed inside. The answer was, “This group minus me.” Squeezing another body in might constitute indecent assault, so I stepped around to the lee and found capacity was actually minus 3. Two young guys, maybe mid-20s, were already huddled there in parkas.

Between the din of the trip-hammer sleet and the fabric over their faces, it sounded like they were arguing about ski masks and a Turkish pastry.

“The word is balaclava,” I told them. They both wore ’em; thick, soft head coverings with oblong holes for their eyes. “Baklava is a Turkish dessert, boys. Do you know the origin of the balaclava?” They didn’t. I figured them listening and me talking would at least take our minds off the cold a bit.

The Crimean Peninsula is a gobbet of the Ukraine stickin’ out into the Black Sea, kinda like a frozen fried egg floating in dark icy water. For much of the year it’s a bleak, largely barren biscuit, but always strategic. In the early 1850s, as the Ottoman Empire trembled and cracked at its edges, an odd coalition of British, French, Turkish and Sardinian interests scrambled for choice crumbs. This pitted them against the Russian Empire and its greatest military asset, “General Winter.”

Wooly-Warm Noggin-Socks

The Brits foresaw a swift, simply splendid summery campaign resulting in quick victory, medals all around and tales of gallantry told over drinks in London clubs. They didn’t even bring winter clothing. Bad move, boys. Crimea can be a meat locker, but Balaclava, at the southern tip of the peninsula, fully exposed to the Black Sea winds, can be bloody brutal.

The incredibly foolish and fatal charge of the Light Brigade was only one of the blunders of the Battle of Balaclava. Unbelievably, as winter deepened and without winter clothing, British troops were ordered to adhere to strict uniform regulations, and were not allowed to add or layer garments, as their French, Turkish and Sardinian allies did. Hundreds froze to death, and losses of fingers, toes, noses and ears to frostbite were legion.

Finally, the troops simply ignored their orders, opting for possible survival over certain death. Slashing up the uniforms of the fallen, they wrapped their hands and feet. Cutting the legs off long underwear and tearing an oblong opening for their eyes, they pulled these over their heads and fought on.

When news reached Britain of the troops’ hardships and their need for warm headgear, countless thousands of English, Irish and Scots ladies formed knitting squadrons, their needles clicking and clacking and turning out tons of toasty woolen “head helmets” with that distinctive oblong eye slit. When asked how to send them to the troops, the British bureaucracy stammered and fumed; they had neither formal process nor pukka procedure for civilian supply of military members.

Undaunted, the ladies boldly and simply labeled their boxes BALACLAVA — and packed the Royal Post stations with mountains of parcels, angrily daring postmasters not to send them straightaway! Wisely, the bureaucrats bowed—and complied.

“Hence,” I told ’em, “The balaclava, just like those you’re wearing. Tried and tested for you over 150 years ago in the Crimea. Now ain’t that more historic and interesting than ski mask?” They nodded.

Interestingly, these eye-holed noggin-socks were not commonly called “balaclavas” until the early 1880s, when a new generation of Royal Marines and British Army troops used them extensively ’round the world from the Himalayas to the Haraz, and paid homage to the headgear of their brothers of Balaclava.

The Crimean War also saw the birth of modern military nursing, through the works of Florence Nightingale, Mary Seacole, Frances Margaret Taylor and other brave women who tended wounded troops under miserable conditions. I was just tellin’ the lads about Florence’s pet pygmy owl Athena, which she carried in the pocket of her apron during rounds, when the door to the range shack screeched open and three overheated inmates stumbled out. We scrambled for a shot at some warmth.

Fast-opening gas mask bags saved many lives—even before the fasteners
were called “zippers.” (Image courtesy of Library of Congress)


Jammin’ through that hatch was like stepping from the Arctic into the Tropics, and within seconds we were flipping back hoods, pulling off balaclavas and unzipping parkas.

“And you know, boys, you owe thanks for these handy little devices,” tapping their zippers, “To an arthritic lady, a railroad engineer, and the doughboys of World War I, right?” You know, there’s something really cool about turning 20-something-know-it-alls into smiling, expectant, wide-eyed attentive 10 year olds. “Geez,” I thought, “Was I ever that young?” Oh, well….

In the 1890s, Whitcomb Judson of Chicago was making his living designing brakes and coupling systems for the railroad industry. His wife suffered from severe arthritis, and manipulating a buttonhook to fasten her boots was an exercise in agony. He decided to put his engineering know-how on a miniaturized scale and solve her problem with a fastening device, which would take just a single pull to operate. His device was essentially a linear combination of hook-and-eye locks, which looked pretty fantastical, more like an implement of torture than a boon to mankind—but it worked!

Judson put his “clasp-locker” on display at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, but precious few people—and no big-money buyers—showed any interest. The 21 million fair attendees were far more fascinated with the world’s first electric Ferris wheel and the world-renowned belly dancer “Little Egypt.”

Twenty years later, with design improvements by Gideon Sundback, the zipper was finally used on gas mask bags and haversacks, and our Yanks of the AEF in France saw their promise. After the Armistice, they unstitched those zippers, brought ’em home and had them sewn into jacket fronts, tobacco pouches and money belts. The device didn’t get the name “zipper” until 1923, when Dr. B.F. Goodrich ordered 150,000 of them for use on his rubber “zipper boots.” He coined the term “zipper” for the sound it made opening and closing. Use of the zipper then spread like wildfire.

Sadly, Whitcomb Judson died in 1909, having never made a dime from his invention.

I was launching into the story of the French 75—both the field cannon and the popular World War I cocktail—when the shuttles snorted up and our sardines began slipping out of the shack, donning balaclavas and zippin’ zippers—and at least three of us now knew the stories behind ’em. That’s worth something, ain’t it?
By John Connor

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Examples: Strange Smells & Ringin’ Bells.

Elsewhere in this issue you’ll find my scribbles on personal protection and self-defense products. While writing that, it got me to thinkin’ and remembering… Yeah, that actually happens sometimes. And bad luck for you, here are some of those thoughts:

Back when I was a cop I busted a graduate of the Folsom Prison charm school. Released on parole on a technicality, he briefly dabbled in his old pastime of armed robbery, and then went into large-scale high-end fencing of stolen goods. He rented a half-dozen homes in nice middle-class neighborhoods, made them look occupied, and filled them with stolen property. After I wrapped him up on his “3rd strike,” he voluntarily took me on a tour of those homes. He wasn’t getting a plea deal or brownie points out of it. He said some of his stored items were obviously cherished family heirlooms, and if he couldn’t profit from them ’cause he was goin’ back inside, he’d rather they were returned to their owners than profit other crooks. Go figure, huh?

At each residence I noted he would go to a window and glance inside before unlocking the door. At one place he eyeballed the front, then went through a breezeway to the side, where he peeped into the kitchen, tried the doorknob, then satisfied, came around to peep through a front window, then unlock the front door.

He was checking his “telltales” before entering. Here’s how that works: Select a point inside which is not easily visible from outside, but visible from at least one small space or angle through one window; like, when peering through a slightly bent venetian blind at the lower left corner of a window. There you place a Mason jar, a sterling dish, a decorative Chinese bowl, something—and put some change, several rumpled dollar bills with a $10 or $20 on top. Or, you can place one where it’s visible as soon as you open the door.

It was an “entry check”; in some ways more reliable than checking for forced entry. As he explained, whether the intruder is a garden-variety opportunist, a hard-core crook, or a “business competitor” waiting to kill you, none can resist grabbing obvious cash—and if someone entered, they may still be inside. If he saw his telltale disturbed he would step back to his truck, retrieve a gun, and if anything smelled particularly wrong he’d call for a backup, just as a cop might.

At the place where he checked the side door, that was because first, he had a secondary telltale inside there, and second, it was the only other way out, and that door had a double-cylinder deadbolt lock because there was a glass pane in the door. If someone were inside, they couldn’t flee through that door.

“If someone like me is caught inside,” he said, “My only escape would be right through whoever opens the front door. I’d kill you if I had to.” I’ve been using telltales ever since.

Wait, Look, Sniff and Sense

People are finally getting smart about responding to a knock on the door and having home invaders come crashing in. So, crooks are reviving the old “bump-and-tumble.” The phrase originally meant a maneuver used by two cops when taking down a possibly armed and dangerous suspect. After hearing arresting officers call it that, crooks began using it to describe when they would approach a victim from the rear as they were opening their front doors. During that vulnerable few seconds when the door is open and the victim’s entering, they slam you from the back, knockin’ you inside and then closing the door behind them. Bingo, easy victim.

The defense isn’t tough, but beyond most people. As you approach your door, you just have to look around and see if you have company within striking distance—and have a real appreciation for how fast thugs can move. Especially if you have loved ones inside, you don’t open that door while the danger exists. Better to deal with it outside. Hopefully you’re equipped to shoot, scream or scram, depending.

Now for the other side of the coin: Once you have the door open, unless you’re being greeted by friendly Fido and happy family, don’t step right in. Take a sharp look inside for anything out of place. Sniff the air. A faint tobacco scent, but you don’t smoke? Body odor that’s not yours? Crank up your senses. You know how sometimes you can sense that someone—usually repair people, landlord, whatever—have been in your place, and you can’t articulate how you knew that? Senses and instincts ain’t the exclusive purview of animals.

A single lady who had just taken one of my Uncle John’s “Living Safe” seminars arrived home, opened her door, and did that “pause and sense” number. She could sense something wasn’t right. She stood there for several seconds—and a guy’s head came peepin’ out of a hall doorway. She spun around and made like a mobile air raid siren.

The guy had been stalking her, studying her movements and schedule. He had broken into the back and was waiting to hear her open and close the door and come down the hall. When he didn’t hear the front door close, he couldn’t help peeping out. Lots of crooks are devious and cunning, but not smart. A convicted rapist already, he was caught and identified in two recent similar rapes in the area. Enough said?

Standard Operating Procedures

I couldn’t count the number of cases I pulled where people were killed or grievously injured because either they didn’t look and see what they were walking into, or they denied their instincts screamin’ that they should exit a bad situation before it blew up.
Off duty, a police sergeant who should have known better walked his family into a nice glass-fronted restaurant where a trio of gangsters was holding the place up. As he followed his wife and kids in, the ’bangers started wildly shooting. He barely got ’em back outside and out of the line of fire. Two innocents were killed and two wounded. If he had looked into the place he could have easily seen what was happening.

Back when our kids were munchkin-sized, my wife pulled up in front of a convenience store and thankfully, in her peripheral vision, saw a cop at the corner of the building frantically waving her away. She peered inside and bang!, there were two masked, armed thugs holding people at gunpoint. She backed out slowly—and never again approached any place without giving it the Hairy Red Mark-III Eyeball.

An acquaintance of mine exited the front of his business late one night, pausing outside the still-closing auto-locking door to light a smoke. Only a few days before we had talked about the value of doing a recon of any and all areas before walking into them. He made a sweeping gaze. From the opposite ends of the front parking row of about 40 slots left to right, two guys began casually sauntering toward the center, where his car was parked. He noted they were wearing identical black hooded Oakland Raiders jackets. Bells rang in his head.
He caught the door and hustled inside. The goons instantly sprinted for him, pulling pistols and screaming. Too late, scumbags. Close, but no cigars, boys.

If one tip saves one of you one moment of grief, I’ve done my job, woof-woof. Connor OUT

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One Hand Only

Tips On “Every Day Carry” Knives From A Knife Knut.

I mentioned a knife sharpener in last month’s column and it sparked a lot of questions—not about sharpeners, but about knives, mostly “every day carry” (EDC) pocket folders. As a certifiable Knife Knut, I’ll seize any opportunity to talk about them. So, at the risk of giving you more than you wanted to know, here goes!

The top two questions were what EDC knife I carry, and basically, what features and qualities I look for in such a knife. I can’t be very helpful on the former, because the knife I’ve carried virtually everyday for a decade hasn’t been made in several years. It’s a no-frills titanium frame-lock folder with an open-construction “flushable” frame, G10 grip inserts and a 3.75-inch blade of common 440C steel with some kind of durable black finish. It’s high quality, but not an exotic custom job. It’s perfect for me, maybe not for you—and there are others out there like it.

I try, test, evaluate and write about lots of knives, and although none have replaced my EDC folder, I’ve picked up some points, which might help you in your search. Here’s what I look for:

One hundred percent single-handed operation: You should be able to pull it out, open the blade to fully-deployed locked position, use it, unlock the blade, restore it to folded status and return it to your pocket using one hand only. The majority of your cutting chores may not require 1-handed operation, but it’s better to have that capability on tap than to need it and not have it. Long ago in a dicey situation I had only an Opinel folder, which required two hands to open, and locking the blade required twisting its collar. That nearly cost me injury or death, and it was the last time I carried it.

Additionally, the knife should be stable and secure in your hand throughout that process. This is both a function of the action/lock design and the dimensions and geometry of the knife. It’s something you can only determine with practical experimentation. If at any point in the process you don’t have a firm purchase on the knife and you may drop it, it’s not the knife for you. For me, most of the knives failing this test are too small from top to bottom (not length), and spring-loaded “assisted opening” designs.

If they’re too small sideways in the hand, I can only grip them with the tips of three fingers as my thumb opens the blade, making it too easily dislodged. Generally, the body of a folder has to be at least 4.5 inches long and about 1 inch in height to be stable in my hand, with thickness—width side-to-side—being far less critical. If the design is both too slim and assisted-opening, the knife can tend to jump right out of my grasp.

At least a dozen times people showing off their new folders to me have dropped ’em while trying to deploy or re-fold the blade one-handed. Try, try, TRY before you buy!

odd angry

Here (left to right), are a frame-lock and a liner-lock with solid engagement;
the liner-lock at right, ehhh… not so much.

Actions: Act, Locks: Lock!

Most lock-blade folders open using a thumbstud or “thumbhole,” a flipper, or both. With the first two, it’s all about the placement of the stud or hole, and your thumb! Test its appropriateness for you by repeatedly deploying the blade and asking yourself how surely and certainly it works for you, especially urgently or under stress. If it’s not sure and certain “dry,” it’s gonna be even less so when wet, muddy or bloody. I would also advise you against blades, which can too easily be flipped open centrifugally by flicking your wrist. Looks cool, but also tends to open itself in your pocket, with gaudy results.

Flipper opening designs employ a projection on the blade, which protrudes upward when the knife is closed, and often functions as a fingerguard when it’s open. Just push down—and usually, slightly back—with your index finger while firmly holding the knife with thumb, middle and ring fingers, and voilà!—it opens. For most folks, this allows a firm grasp, and one that works well with assisted-opening actions. In particular, lots of people with nerve damage or arthritis really like the flipper-assisted opening combination of features.

An EDC folder must have a locking blade. Having the blade close accidentally while you’re cutting simply isn’t an option in my book. There are far too many different locking-action types to cover here, so I’ll just make a few cautionary suggestions. Frame-lock and liner-lock designs are very popular and many are excellent. My EDC folder is a frame-lock. But their strength and resistance to being accidentally released depends on how solid the engagement is between the frame or liner and the butt of the blade.

Check the photo: Left to right, you’ll see my frame-lock and a liner-lock which both engage very squarely and solidly. On the right is a liner-locker, which barely engages at all, and may fail. If you’re checking out a frame-lock or liner-lock folder, open and close it repeatedly checking for consistently solid engagement. If it doesn’t engage to the same degree every time, whether opened forcefully or gently, you’re asking for an accident. Demand the same performance you would from your car’s brakes: consistent every time.

odd angry knives

Blade opening systems include (left to right) the Thumbstud, thumbhole, flipper,
and one with both a thumbhole and a flipper.

Size, Steel, Style

I’m a sucker for big knives, but I’ve found that folders over about 5 inches long closed, with blades over 3.75 inches and 5.5 ounces weight are the ones you may like, but you won’t carry. They “bottom out” in short pockets, jam into you when sitting or squatting, or they’re too heavy for comfort.

I carry my folder clipped inside the right front pocket, with the tip down and blade forward. That way it draws naturally into my hand, and when it’s inside the pocket I can simply reach down, place my thumb on the fabric over the blade’s spine and my index finger on the knife’s back, assuring me it’s closed and secure. If it came open, it would cut away from me. Whether you decide to carry tip up, tip down, blade forward or to the rear, make sure the pocket clip will accommodate that choice. I’ve had to pass on some fine knives because they couldn’t be carried tip-down, blade-forward.

There’s such an array of fine knife steels in use that if you buy a reputable brand folder and avoid blades labeled “surgical steel” or just “stainless”—both virtually meaningless terms—you’ll probably be well served. Just be aware that harder tool steels like D-2 hold an edge beautifully, but can be a pain to sharpen too. A little study is recommended.

For a general-duty EDC, plain and simple spear points or drop points are most useful. Unless you have a specific need for radically curved or fully serrated blades, they limit your folder’s utility.

Oh, there’s a lot more, but we’re out of space. If this helps you make one wise choice rather than fill a drawer with disappointments, great! Connor OUT
By John Connor

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Cheap & Handy

The Right Tools For The Task.

One of my household “call names” is Sharpener!—usually sung out like, “Sharrr-penn-errr! Sharpener to the galley, chop-chop!” I jump, because it usually means the Memsaab Helena is hackin’ and slashing at something savory I will shortly be feasting on.

Two short paring knives and a 9-inch chef’s knife awaited my attention. I added my pocket folder and a field knife to the lineup. As I whetted their edges, a couple of questions occurred to me.

The first question was, “How long has it been since I’ve used either of my two big, expensive professional knife sharpening systems?” and the second was, “Hmm… My least expensive sharpener is a terrific performer—would GUNS readers be interested?”

I freely admit I’m sorta fanatical about keeping my blades clean and appropriately sharp. By “appropriately,” I mean the edges of some should be finer and thinner, some more “toothy” and gross, depending on their uses. I know how to dress an edge, have all the required knife-knut maintenance skills, and the right equipment. In fact, I’m sure most people would say I’m over-equipped to the point of obsession. But a 0.8-ounce, 2×2.5-inch device that costs a piddling $5.99 neatly handles 90 percent of my blade-sharpening needs: the Lansky Quick Fix Pocket Sharpener.

On one side is a carbide V for more aggressive material removal, and on the other, a V of ceramic “crock sticks” for finer work and finishing an edge. A simple dished oval with rubber inserts guards your fingers and provides a good grip. As long as you keep the blade oriented straight and draw it smoothly through the Vs, about the only thing you can do wrong is to apply too much force and slip. It’s easy to feel progress as you sharpen and slick up the edge. I own those two pro sharpening systems and a half-dozen good portable and pocket sharpeners, but the $5.99 Lansky is by far the best bargain for the bucks.

For some time after I got a GTUL Glock Magazine Cleaning Kit, I used it for its stated purpose: easy disassembly and thorough cleaning of my Glock mags, and it did a heck of a job. The basic kit includes a pliable “grabber” to safely and securely hold the magazine, plus an 11-inch tool with a 6.5-inch tapered-end stiff brush, a 3-inch handle and a 1.5-inch hardened steel punch set into the handle end.

I used the brush on many other magazines, including AR mags, then on rifle receivers and mag wells, sights, fore-ends and rails, you name it. Soon it resided on my workbench, and I found myself using the brush on stuff like cleaning my shop vacuum attachments and heater flues and grids. The punch, intended to depress the retaining pin on Glock mags, is an all-around great pin-pusher, probe and teensy-recess cleaner. It’s one of those tools that if you just keep it available, you find lots of uses for it. All I’ve had to do to maintain it is plunge it into hot soapy water, gnarfle it around, rinse it and air-dry. I like that. The 2-piece kits including the brush tool and your choice of “mag-grabber” sizes run $21.95 and the brush tool alone is $14.95. Mine has earned its keep many times over.

odd angry 1

Lansky’s Quick Fix sharpener, and GTUL’s Glock multipurpose kit fill
a lot of needs quickly, easily and inexpensively.

Curing Caveman Crunches

I break stuff, simple as that. Helena says it’s burned into my caveman genes. Got some bowling balls you want busted? I’ll try to handle ’em gently, and you’ll get ’em back in pieces. Scope bases and rings strip their threads and fail when I look at them, and they’ve cost me way too much money, grief and time. Step one is to have precisely the right bits, and have ’em handy. Brownells’ Tactical/LE Field Torx Kit includes five commonly-used optics Magna-Tip bits stowed in the driver’s hollow handle. If they don’t include one you need, just get that Magna-Tip bit.

The toughest part for me is not to use too much force on ring screws. They’re inherently evil. Most optics manufacturers recommend no more than 25 inch-pounds of torque. My hands are programmed for about a ton, so I now use Brownells’ pre-set 25 inch-pound Magna-Tip Torque Driver on those evil, self-stripping screws. These two tools list for $17.99 and $29.99 respectively. If they save you four screws and a set of rings, much less a cracked scope, they’ll pay for themselves.

I should have purchased a digital caliper/micrometer years before I did, but I made the mistake of asking a precision machinist gadget-freak for a recommendation. He named something like a “Hachimoto X5” or a Swiss-made “Zooper-Zwingel,” each costing more than my first truck.

Finally, I bought a $27.99 Frankford Arsenal Digital model. It’s precise, easy to use and read, and includes a depth gauge. Aside from its dozens of uses in reloading and miscellaneous gun chores, just last week I avoided a costly mistake by double-checking the inner and outer diameters of two sections of tubing I needed step-down and T-connectors for. The calipers are accurate to 0.001-inch, the micrometers to 0.0001-inch, and you can dance back and forth from inches to millimeters with the push of a button.

My gunsmith saw it and laughed. “Same one I use,” he said, explaining he has a $400-plus model he doesn’t use, because “It burns through batteries like wildfire (as opposed to about 2 years with the Frankford), the Frankford is just as accurate, and—I’m afraid I’ll break it.” Hear, hear, brother! We’re on the same bucks-and-breakage wavelength!

odd angry 2

An AccuScope Scope Chart can save time and money zeroing scopes.

odd angry 3

Brownells pre-set torque wrench and hollow-handle driver save plenty of screws from an untimely death. Frankford Arsenal’s inexpensive Digital Caliper/Micrometer is inexpensive and deserves a spot on every reloader’s bench.

Saving Bucks On Bullets

With lots of premium rifle ammo running over a buck a pop, how many rounds do you want to throw downrange—at a target you can’t eat—to zero in a scope? An AccuScope Scope Chart puts you right on the money fast and cheap. Their standard is “zeroed in four shots or less,” and I (and others) have done it in two shots.

Fire a shot, and if you feel good about your hold, measure how far outside the X you are horizontally and vertically. Using the chart’s slider, enter that info in inches, match it to your distance, and it tells you how many clicks you need to adjust—simple. One card covers scopes with 1/4- and 1/2- MOA adjustments, and another covers scopes with 1/8-MOA clicks. And if you’re not shooting at 100 yards, no problem: distances are listed in 25-yard increments from 25 to 200.

Durable, weatherized AccuScope charts are $17.95, and you can literally make that back sighting in two or three scopes. You might also check out AccuScope’s targets at $7.99 per 12-pack. They’re 16×20, and based on true MOA grid lines and circles.

Well, dang… A 1/2-dozen more handy-gadgets to cover, and I’m all outta space. Guess I’ll go warp some manhole covers. I’ll pretend they’re pennies—and pinch ’em. Connor OUT
By John Connor

Lansky Sharpeners
P.O. Box 800, Buffalo, NY 14231
(800) 825-2675

722 Cedar Point Blvd. #212
Cedar Point, NC 28584
(757) 647-0805

Brownells Inc.
200 S. Front St., Montezuma, IA 50171
(800) 741-0015

Frankford Arsenal Battenfeld Technologies Inc.
5885 W. Van Horn Tavern Rd.
Columbia, MO 65203
(573) 445-9200

P.O. Box 633, Ankeny, IA 50021

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GUNS May 2013

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Practice Makes Perfect

But only if it’s perfect practice.

After making three slow passes on his ATV, the Range Safety Officer couldn’t stand it anymore. Parking his rig outside the action-shooting bay, he waited until I was reloading, then hailed me and sauntered up with a quizzical look on his sun-creased face.

“Not ta yank yer chain or ’sturb ya, Mister,” he drawled, “But could I ask just what the heck you’re doin’? I’ve seen a lot of shootin’, but yours got my curiosity up.”

I guess it looked pretty goofy, beginning with me; a semi-sheared ape with a pistol on his hip and a carbine slung up front, staggering around on a cane. As the RSO observed, I had been doing trigger-finger-dances on my pistol, going from indexed position to the trigger, popping off single shots and doubles 1-handed, changing hands, and sometimes clearing the piece and repeating the drill dry-firing. In the process, I radically changed my orientation to the targets, set up at varying distances from 7 to about 20 yards at random angles. That left me presenting at targets directly to my front, off at sharp or shallow angles, even at 90 degrees away or directly across my body. I was in a deep, 3-sided shooting bay with high-impact berms, so it was safe to do so.

My primary goal during those particular drills was working on the transition from “ready to engage,” with trigger finger in the indexed position lying at the side of the triggerguard, to firing, getting my trigger finger swiftly and properly placed on the trigger and making a sure, straight press to the break. It’s a very small movement, but important and often overlooked. Earlier, I had caught myself blowin’ it. My secondary goal, when shooting doubles, was to concentrate on managing the trigger reset.

Since this is far more easily done when shooting 2-handed, my practice that day was 1-handed. And, since running that drill is more easily done when your body and feet are oriented squarely toward the target, I was presenting and firing at acute, random angles, checking for negative effects of working the involved joints and muscles on achieving that sure, straight trigger press. Every time I found a “problematic position” which made my trigger press unsatisfactory, I would stop, clear the weapon, do some dry-firing and then re-engage with live shots.

The RSO and I had a nice chat. He’s a well-trained shooter and IDPA competitor. As we talked, he realized he routinely trained on drawing and presenting, and he also trained on his trigger press, addressing the two as separate elements—but he had largely overlooked that all-important transition which brings the two together, and recognized that might explain some problems he’d experienced. He also mentioned some difficulty with managing trigger reset while shooting rapid doubles. It only took a couple of minutes and about 10 sets of doubles to see that frequently his finger was coming off the trigger after his first shot, and the rushed second shot was more of a jerk than a press.

Pieces Into Process

With sufficient training he can cure that “coming off the trigger” problem, but the immediate treatment was simply to slow down on that second shot by a fraction of a second and concentrate on finger placement and press. Initially, he might lose a half second on his doubles, but more than make it up in more accurate hits—and greater speed would follow in time.

The two “take-aways” from this were first, he needed to integrate his grip, draw, presentation, indexed-to-trigger finger movement, sighting and trigger press into a seamless process instead of just continuing to practice individual elements, and then trying to put them together in matches. Second, even though he was very experienced, he benefited from friendly critical observation. Sometimes you, the shooter, just can’t see what you might be fumbling, ’cause you’re too busy shootin’!

The best lessons I learn for myself, I learn by watching others, including people I’m training. The next-best lessons I learn, I get from self-analysis of screwing things up. In this column, I’d like to share some observations. They’re primarily intended for “defensive shooters,” both handgunners and riflemen, but competition shooters and even hunters might find a nugget or two.

Overwhelmingly, I see well-intended, conscientious, methodical shooters simply concentrating way too hard on the individual elements of the mechanics of shooting, and trying to get everything perfect; exactly the right stance, centering their weight, achieving textbook positions, and treating each element of breathing, trigger control and more as separate operations. Each step becomes sorta’ segmented and jerky, and rarely achieves the level of results the shooter desires.

Devil’s In The Digit

While each element of shooting can be trained individually, most could and should be practiced and well drilled at home, dry-firing. There, you’re under no pressure of time, distracting noise, movement of other shooters or the mechanical action of the weapon being fired. It’s also the best place to work on integrating all those individual elements into the smooth, seamless process they should be. Try to make your dry-firing drills no more than about 20 minutes long, but done as often as possible.

If you do your “homework” at home until you’re satisfied with your rhythm, your trips to the range can be far more productive and pleasant, more like “ballistic therapy” than “trial by torture.” This should also relieve you of a lot of self-generated pressure. Hey—you know what you’re doing, you’ve practiced it thoroughly, and if you’re not cutting groups as tight as you’d like, well heck, you can’t hit a homerun every time you step to the plate, can you? And, by relieving that pressure, you’re more likely to pick up on your weak points and rough spots, so you can address them calmly rather than just cursing a “bad shooting day.”

A friendly observer can spot things you’re doing unconsciously, like adjusting your grip or fluttering your support-hand fingers after that first shot. I’ve pointed this out to many shooters who were completely unaware they were doing it.

Sure, you should practice shooting on level ground in textbook positions, but I urge you to mix it up with shooting—carefully—from less favorable unconventional positions and at radical angles. Life is unlikely to allow you such luxuries in lethal-threat situations. The only two things you should never, ever vary are a sure, solid grip and a clean trigger press. Regardless of poor positions, bad angles and uncooperative targets, having those two elements nailed down can make the difference between winning and losing, living and dying. The devil’s in the digit, folks, and the gremlin’s in the grip. Connor OUT
By John Connor

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GUNS April 2013

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Just Pull Two Pins And Presto!

The Mighty Morphing Black Rifle.

Want to polish your carbine skills for pennies? Get bolt-action accuracy at outrageous distances with your AR? Would you like to plumb the potential of a promising wildcat round using a platform that’s already second nature to you? All you have to do is pull two pins on your AR, and slap on a specialized upper. Here are three approaches you might find interesting.

You can buy ammo in case lots, search out and purchase quality remanufactured ammo, pull the handle on your loading press until you’ve got an arm like a fiddler crab, but if you train like me, the skyrocketing price of ammo is killin’ you. And for a lot of my carbine training—snapshooting at close to moderate ranges on multiple targets—it sure helps to be pushing cheap 40-grain .22s downrange rather than costly 5.56 rounds.

I bought a dedicated .22 LR AR clone and tried a few others. They’re good for training noobies on basic AR skills, but for me, they were way too light, balanced all wrong, and they don’t have my duty trigger—not even close—and disciplined trigger control is too important to compromise on. Then I found Nordic Components and their excellent NC22 uppers.

I wanted a setup that would approximate the length, weight, and balance of my truck carbine and my home defense AR as closely as possible. I chose Nordic’s flattop A3-style receiver with a 0.750″ diameter stainless 18″ barrel with an A2 flash suppressor and rifle-length tubular fore-end. The balance point is unchanged, at the forward edge of the mag well. The difference is only 3 ounces in weight and 5/8″ in length—close to perfect!

All NC22 uppers feature a smooth-running unique proprietary bolt system, a working dust cover and charging handle, Nordic’s ventilated handguard, and impressive precision machining. They feed from proven Black Dog polymer .22 LR magazines. I’ve experienced no feeding or function issues.

Make no mistake, this is an excellent low-cost trainer, but it also proved to be an extremely accurate field shooter too. I run drills using an electronic red dot sight, but when I mounted a Leupold 3-9×40 scope and put the carbine in a rest, I popped 40 rounds into a 1″ dot at 50 yards. That goes way beyond a snapshot trainer. Price is $499.

“Just pull the pins on your old upper,” LaRue says, “Swap it with the Stealth, and begin shooting one ragged hole.” Bold talk, but they’ve made good on it time and again. The LaRue Tactical 5.56 Stealth Sniper System LT011 was designed with 0.75″, 100-yard shot groups in mind, but users have consistently exceeded that with even smaller groups at 100, and reports abound of consistent hits on 4″ plates out to 400 yards with Black Hills 77-grain MK262 Mod 1 ammunition (a feat which can be replicated, I’m sure, with other premium rounds).

There are too many special details about the Stealth Sniper uppers to fully cover here, but the basics include a CNC-machined billet receiver with more mass in selected areas to stiffen the unit; a medium-weight contour stainless steel barrel with Wylde chamber and 1:8″ polygonal rifling; a 2-pin proprietary barrel nut system with locking anti-slip plate, and LaRue’s own quad rail assembly which, when set, allows for no movement whatsoever—vital when mounting and dismounting optics, lights and/or lasers. QD swivel sockets are integral at the base of each side.

The rail system’s side and bottom rails are tucked closer to the barrel than the norm, keeping the profile more support-hand friendly and streamlined. Built into the rail system is an efficient heat-sink feature, which draws throat-damaging heat away from the chamber area. The gas block and tube are also slick and low profile. LaRue ain’t talking much about their enhancements to the bolt-carrier group other than to say they “greatly minimize bolt-related failures.” They do say gas key contact areas are precision surface-ground flat for zero gas leakage, then max-staked to eliminate vibration-induced failures.

Barrels are offered in 12″, 16″, 18″ and 20″ lengths, with your choice of handguard lengths from 7″ to 13.2″. My personal choice, based on my preferences in 69- to 77-grain 5.56 loads, primary intended use at 300 to 500 yards, and rail-space needed for my optic and bipod, is the 18″ barrel with 10″ or 11″ handguard. Given the accuracy potential of the unit, I encourage you to carefully consider your ammo, its burn characteristics, and those rail-space and placement factors before ordering. Why not wring the absolute maximum out of a max-built upper?

Every Stealth Sniper System is a virtually handcrafted project, but without the problems often associated with hand fitting. If anything, they are far more rock-solid and forgiving of hard use than standard production units. One ragged hole? Go for it! List price is $1,195.

Would you believe a 6″-barreled AR with ballistics that improve on the .45-70? That’s SSK Industries’ Hoaginator in .458 SOCOM. Of course, you could opt for the same weapon in .300 Whisper or plain-Jane 5.56mm NATO—or, dream up a round, and JD just might build it for you, especially if somebody tells him “No way; even you can’t do that!”

If you’re not familiar with SSK Industries and JD Jones, he’s the wizard who has built Thompson Center Contenders in over 200 calibers, including many of his own highly respected JDJ wildcats; the inventor of the outrageously popular .300 Whisper cartridge, and the guy who can morph your wildest AR configurations into facts. The world’s most dedicated handgun hunters and VIP protection personnel you only see in the backgrounds of news videos form a big chunk of his customer list.

It’s difficult to try to articulate what you can do with SSK uppers, because the phrase “the sky’s the limit” is a pretty fair statement. Each unit is made to the customer’s order, and prices depend on what you stipulate. The only thing you have no choice on is quality. SSK will only build with the best and most appropriate materials and components, like their insistence on Shilen barrels. If and only if Shilen doesn’t make what you need, they’ll find another premium maker.

The stubby, highly concealable 6″ Hoaginator, a collaboration between JD and Frank B. Hoagland, retired Navy SEAL Senior Chief, is their latest project. As an example, a test Hoaginator chambered in 5.56mm ran malfunction-free for over 8,000 rounds, and when it began to hiccup, new gas rings put it back in the “flawless function” category. It’s cool, but my aspirations are more pedestrian.

I’m interested in an AR upper chambered for JD’s new 6.5 MPC round. First, I’m one of many shooters who believe there’s a certain ballistic “magic factor” in the 6.5 slug, and there’s lots of evidence supporting that. Second, since it’s based on a 5.56 NATO cartridge punched out to 6.5, you can use your existing bolt-carrier group and standard 5.56 AR magazines!
JD has worked up a multitude of highly accurate, effective loads for it. Two that catch my eye are first, one that sends a Hornady 95-grain V Max out of a 20″ barrel at 2,697 fps, and the second launches a 107-grain Sierra at 2,525 fps from a 16″. To me, that’s one fine critter-gitter, and an anti-personnel load that should fly smooth, straight and stable past my reasonable range limits.

Anything sound interesting here? Just remember the magic words—PULL… TWO… PINS—and make it happen! Connor OUT
By John Connor

Odd Angry Shot 2

J.D. Jones shoulders his latest darlin’, the amazing multi-caliber “Hoaginator” AR.

Odd Angry Shot 3

Here’s Terri of SSK with her 6.5 MPC rifle.

Odd Angry Shot 4

LaRue Tactical’s Stealth Sniper Systems uppers offer sub-MOA accuracy and extended range.

Odd Angry shot 6

The NC22 upper in .22 LR by Nordic Components is a great way to save big bucks on ammo.

LaRue Tactical
850 CR 177, Leander, TX 78641
(512) 259-1585

Nordic Components Retail
P.O. Box 429, Hutchinson, MN 55350
(877) 549-9893

SSK Industries
590 Woodvue Ln., Wintersville, OH 43953
(740) 264-0176

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Guns Magazine March 2013

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Shrap & Frags

Eyeballs, primers, bugs and lead.

I routinely get questions from all kinds of sources. Few are enough to expand into columns, while sometimes the answers couldn’t fit into the entire magazine. So, I bundled some together and picked a couple at random. If yours isn’t among them, well, maybe you’ll find something of interest anyway.

Several questions related to vision and perception: Yes, you can sometimes see a star or distant light from the corner of your eye, but can’t see it when you stare directly at it—and there’s nothing wrong with your vision. Here’s why: The structures in your eyeballs which pick up light and color are called rods and cones; rods sense light, cones sense color. Directly behind your lens and retina you have a mix of rods and cones, but starting a few degrees off center from your pupil, rods not only dominate, they’re more densely packed than those at the center. So, your peripheral vision picks up that star or distant light better than your center-focused vision simply because it’s better equipped for light-and-contrast sensing.

This is one of the reasons why doing a slow, sweeping scan of an area will help you pick up movement much better than staring directly at various points. When movement is sensed, don’t stare straight at it! First try to use your peripheral vision to bracket it with other features so you don’t “lose” it. Soldiers and hunters learned this centuries before science explained it. This takes practice, especially when using binoculars, but it pays off.

Another visual phenomenon to be aware of is superimposing. This happens most in snow-covered, desert, and rocky high-mountain terrain. If you stare at, let’s say, a dark brushpile in snow or knots of debris or dark shrubs in desert, looking for game, enemy or movement, then you stare at another brushpile or shrub cluster, your eye may momentarily superimpose a “blot” from the previous site onto the new one, so you’re not really seeing what’s there. It’s kinda the dark version of the “retinal memory” you get from a sudden bright flash.

Lead and Primers

.22 Lead Fouling: Frank inherited a rack full of .22 rifles described as “shot a lot for many years, never cleaned, and heavily lead-fouled.” Here’s a great technique I got from a top gunsmith. Caution: Wear impermeable gloves and I recommend a filter mask. This process produces highly absorbable lead. Mix up a slurry of JB Bore Paste and Kroil. With muzzle down, liberally douse a stainless steel bore brush with the goop and make a couple of slow passes from breech to muzzle.

Leave the slurry thick in the bore for 10 minutes up to overnight. Then slowly push a snug brass jag down the barrel and marvel at the chunky moosh that comes out. Sometimes you’ll even get “strings” of lead a couple inches long. Clean the residue out with patches, then do a “normal” cleaning and recheck for any remaining lead. Remember, stainless steel brushes should only be used on heavily lead-fouled or rusty steel barrels, and then, sparingly. They’re too aggressive for regular use.

On corrosive primers: One reader bought a case of 1980s production Sellier & Bellot 7.62x51mm ammo, and was surprised to find it has corrosive primers. He thought corrosive primers were obsolete by World War II and asked why they were still being made in the 1980s.

Most militaries continued using corrosive primers through the 1950s. They were using up existing stock, and, because early non-corrosive primers didn’t have the same sure-fire ignition record, especially in freezing temps. The Warsaw Pact countries continued using corrosive primers long after that because the Soviets firmly believed they held up better over long-term storage in deep cold conditions. Their experience supported that, and Ivan knows all about freezing.

Lots of shooters recoil in horror from the thought of using corrosive primers, but proper cleaning isn’t hard at all—just a bit more demanding and requiring follow-up bore, chamber and bolt face cleanings (and gas systems of semi-autos) for a couple of days—not vigorous, but regular cleaning and oiling. I’ve used hot soapy water, diluted household ammonia and Windex with ammonia, with great results. If your weapon has a flash suppressor, be sure to clean, dry and oil its slots thoroughly or rust will form. I’d say take advantage of the low prices on corrosive-primed milsurp ammo, do a little study on proper cleaning, and you’re good to go!

Bugs: Don’t Let ’Em Bug You

About Those Bugs: In my writing about emergency preparedness, many have noted an emphasis on post-disaster protection from insects, recommending inclusion of mosquito netting, sheet plastic, insect repellent and bite-and-sting treatments in your supplies. Several have asked “Why so insistent on that? Are insects really such a problem after fires, floods or whatever?”

Yes, they are! To a lesser extent after fires and to a greater extent after flooding, hurricanes, major storms, etc., insects and bugs of all kinds have been displaced from their usual habitats and become concentrated in the same constricted areas where humans are seeking shelter. Hey, they’re just as determined to survive as you are, and most of ’em are better at it.

You know how infuriating half a dozen flies can be at your backyard picnic table? How hard it is to sleep with just one persistent mosquito in your bedroom? Imagine trying to eat and feed your kids with thousands of flies swarming you, or the hunger of a million female mosquitoes after being “grounded” and unable to feed for 24 to 48 hours. It’s not just a health and medical issue, though that’s serious enough. It’s also about preserving your sanity and decision-making ability. Enough said?

Aside from gathering supplies, here’s something smart you can do in mid-winter: Test yourself and family members for negative skin and respiratory reactions to some popular insect repellent lotions and sprays, particularly any containing DEET. Test only a very small area, and watch for rashes or other reactions. Most repellents have detailed information on testing and reactions. At least, find out which repellents are apparently safe for you before you really need them. It’s not a bad idea to test for reactions to after-bite treatments too.

Believe me, you wouldn’t want to rub something on your wife to soothe her, and find out it makes her swell up and break out like a lobster with scabies! Learn from my experiments and mistakes, OK? Connor OUT
By John Connor

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GUNS Magazine February 2013 Issue

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