Category Archives: Shooter’s Edge

Basic Firing Line First Aid

Good Medicine For The Recreational Shooter.

Guns are innately dangerous tools. Were we completely honest with ourselves, this is part of the allure. The thrill of harnessing and controlling power is a primal component of the human psyche. It is that same seductive appeal that drives us to race cars, parachute out of airplanes, jump school buses with motorcycles and batter ourselves senseless in the guise of football. To taste a little danger and emerge unscathed is to feed that adrenaline addiction lurking within us all.

Because of the danger inherent to firearms, safety is the paramount concern for responsible Rugged Individualists exercising their Second Amendment rights recreationally. We typically shoot in established areas and employ fundamental safety rules and protective gear to minimize the risk of injury. Despite our efforts, if we do it long enough we will invariably be hurt. Independent of the mischief awaiting on the nasty end, modern firearms have unforgiving moving parts, sharp edges and heat aplenty, all of which can conspire to offend our digits and ruin an otherwise pleasant day at the range.

Kill an afternoon at the range with a bucketload of ammo and a semi-automatic rifle and you will almost inevitably bump your anatomy against something unpleasant. Add a sound suppressor to the mix and the likelihood is even greater. Absentmindedly brush a hot can or barrel against your buddy’s arm and you’ll lose a friend.

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Basic suturing is well within the capabilities of anybody reasonably
handy with tools. Here, Will’s 15-year-old daughter puts his thumb
back together after he snatched the end of it off with a bench grinder.
With a little guidance she did a simply brilliant job.

Minor burns are pink and exquisitely painful. Imagine a sunburn on steroids. In this case the outer layers of skin are damaged and your body does a simply splendid job of reminding you how important it is not to do that anymore. These wounds will frequently blister and they should be gently cleaned and bandaged. Silvadene burn cream is great stuff sporting both antimicrobial and anesthetic properties. While Silvadene is a prescription drug, most docs will write you a prescription for it if you ask.

Third degree burns involve deep charred flesh and are typically uncomfortable but not necessarily painful. They are also fairly impressive to look upon. Anyone with a third degree burn should seek medical attention.

I have nipped my fingertips in folding stocks and closing bolts, opened a switchblade into my hand at a gunshow, and sewn up more than a few periorbital riflescope injuries. Minor lacerations and a little subsequent sewing represent an integral part of any proper young boy’s ascent to manhood.

Rinse fresh wounds in clean running water if possible. “Dilution is the Solution to Pollution” and early cleansing and removal of foreign material make for a much more pleasant long-term course. Clotting enhancers like Celox or QuikClot are both easy to use and effective. Direct pressure with something clean will stop most minor bleeding, but if insufficient, it might be time to pack up and find an Urgent Care clinic or ER.

Basic suturing is actually fun and well within the capabilities of the typical person handy with tools. Learning to sew minor wounds requires the complicity of a friendly physician or experienced nurse practitioner as the techniques, safety concerns, drugs and equipment are all fairly specialized and otherwise not readily available. I learned to sew several years before medical school under the tutelage of a broad-minded ER doc.

Pig feet make excellent practice subjects and can be found in the meat department at your local grocery though I am utterly at a loss as to why. They are great to sew on but I cannot fathom ever being hungry enough to eat one.

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The external manifestations of gunshot wounds (above) can be misleading. Frequently there is little more than an unimpressive little hole, which fails to belie the mischief lurking within. Wound tracks in living tissue are notoriously unpredictable. Bullets can find their way to and through critical plumbing, bones and nerves without seeming particularly noteworthy on the outside. In this case, (below) the surgeon decided to leave in place this accidental discharge from a .22.

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Bigger is better and frequently we corn-fed American gunmen can let our enthusiasm get the better of our judgment when it comes to recoil management. I introduce as evidence the typical recreational shooter with the newest big-bore precision rifle.
The recoil from a large-bore scoped rifle is more than adequate to punch a ring into the soft flesh around your shooting eye. Scope covers and technique are sufficient to prevent injury but a good riflescope laceration will start every conversation with a stranger you ever meet from that moment hence—the resulting scar is all but impossible to hide. I count among my friends a very attractive young lady who incurred such an injury on an African safari and has, as a result, related the story literally countless times. In her case it imbues her with a certain exotic and mysterious appeal.

Should there be the most unfortunate of accidents and someone be injured on the scary end of a firearm, it is critical to the outcome that control be maintained and the injury addressed as calmly as possible. Seek medical attention, by ambulance if appropriate, and think rationally. The most effective survival tool ever devised rests solidly upon your shoulders. This is the time to put it to good use.

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We willingly drop gobs of cash on guns. It is a wise investment to put $50 on some proper focused First Aid gear. A little planning and a trivial investment can potentially rescue a good day at the range or even save a life. Blackhawk! makes ingenious and indestructible products designed for hard use in the “real world”. This medical pack will hold everything you need in an organized, compact and easy-to-use fashion.

It would behoove you to do some recreational reading in advance. There is a wealth of information available online and in print about managing gunshot wounds and the associated visuals can help the squeamish begin to overcome their disability. The purpose of this piece is simply to whet your appetite.

Direct pressure is typically your friend. Sterile pressure dressings are inexpensive and make excellent additions to a range bag loadout. Israeli Battle Dressings are my favorites as they incorporate a handy mechanism to help maintain pressure on a wound. Remember to pack them in pairs, as gunshot wounds frequently manifest as both the entrance and exit varieties. Seek out the ones sold by Shyh on Amazon.com — they ship brand new straight from Israel. By contrast, many domestic sources frequently sell dressings close to the end of their shelf life. Pressure applied to arterial sources upstream and tourniquets are viable tools if applied appropriately. However, looks can be deceiving when it comes to gunshot wounds.

I have seen patients with very little external evidence of injury precipitously decompensate and die in the ER after a gunshot wound. A tiny black hole to the chest or abdomen frequently does not illuminate the associated malfeasance lurking within. An occlusive dressing to seal a sucking chest wound temporarily can buy a little time as well and is also surprisingly affordable.

A little gratuitous mouse clicking and a week later the UPS Brown Truck of Happiness will materialize in your driveway with everything you need for a proper firing line First-Aid kit. There are literally countless options but the attached list has some basic suggestions.

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A basic firing line First-Aid kit takes up very little space and weight
“and is surprisingly affordable. Pre-made versions are available from
dozens of sources but a little creative Googling will get you everything
you need. Remember: Gunshot wounds frequently come in both the entrance
and exit varieties—pack accordingly.

Lastly, there are several dedicated medical kit pouches available and Blackhawk! makes one of the best. Their pouch has plenty of pockets and elastic retainers, is just the right size, and incorporates a tear-away Velcro backing for easy access.
Bones heal, chicks dig scars, pain is temporary but glory is forever. Such tripe launched many a high school football team out of the dressing room and off in pursuit of glory. More than a few of us still have such sophomoric dogma inscribed upon the granite of our souls. This can land the Rugged Individualist in trouble from time to time. For the typical American shooter, some basic First-Aid skills and a little well-selected gear can salvage a fun day at the range or even save somebody’s life.

As for me, the appeal of self-sufficiency runs deep, and the more you can do for yourself means the fewer burdens you place upon those whose professions involve the maintenance of public safety. Devoting a bit of space in our range bag to some basic First-Aid supplies is the thoughtful, reasonable and responsible course —and 50 bucks will get you most everything you need.
By Will Dabbs, MD
Photos: Sarah Dabbs

Basic Firing Line First Aid Gear
(Available at your local pharmacy)

Telfa Pads and Kerlix Gauze
Silvadene Cream
Band-Aids
Hydrogen Peroxide
(if running water is not available)
Trauma Shears
Decent Tweezers—cheap tweezers
will just frustrate you.
Disposable Rubber Gloves
Acetaminophen—for headaches,
minor sprains, etc.

Really Bad Day Additions Available Online

QuikClot or Celox—the sponges are easier to use than the powder.
Israeli Battle Dressings—at least two
Occlusive Dressings (for sucking chest wounds—they come in pairs)
Tourniquet Material

BLACKHAWK!
6160 Commander Pkwy
Norfolk, VA 23502
(800) 379-1732
http://gunsmagazine.com/company/blackhawk/

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Exclusive: Carries Well, Shoots Well

Sometimes smaller guns make the Concealed Carry Favorites list because even though they’re more difficult to shoot, they’re at least small and easy to conceal. Practice, however, does wonders to make small guns more shootable.

Sometimes larger guns make the list because while they’re difficult to conceal, they’re fantastic shooters. A little clothing creativity, however, does wonders to help conceal larger guns.

Sometimes a smaller gun shoots really well and that’s when you know you’ve got something good for concealed carry. In fact, after just a few sessions on the range and a few months of concealed carry, the Ruger LC9 headed to the top of my Concealed Carry Favorites list. Here’s why:

!DSC_6585The Ruger LC9 is thin, lightweight and therefore easily concealed. It carries comfortably in a Versacarry or Galco Stow-N-Go holster (both are inside the waistband) without gouging my side or feeling out of balance. Yes, I wore a gun belt and yes that helped. It always does, even with smaller and lighter guns. Although you can put a shortened magazine baseplate on it, it doesn’t do all that well in a front pocket.

The Ruger LC9 is enough gun. With 7+1 rounds of 9mm on board, I’m carrying more than a typical revolver and more than enough for a civilian defensive situation.

The Ruger LC9 is feature packed. Some may disdain the magazine disconnect safety and chamber loaded indicator; that’s a discussion for another day. The LC9’s best features, however, include its long, double-action trigger pull and frame-mounted thumb safety — an interesting combination. Some prefer none of these features on a pistol and understandably so, but as long as a person follows the the basic gun safety laws and trains appropriately with them, they should not be a hinderance.

But here’s what I really like:

!DSC_6581In my range or training sessions I am able to quickly and safely draw the Ruger LC9, sweep the safety off, and consistently put rounds into the center mass of the targets at which I am aiming. The sights, while small, are still functional enough for this kind of short range work. The double action trigger, while long, is very smooth, and doesn’t work against me in terms of accuracy or speed. And every round chambers, fires, and ejects reliably.

Like I said, sometimes you can find a gun like the Ruger LC9 that carries well and shoots well.

What have you found that meets that criteria?

— Mark Kakkuri

Get more information on Ruger and other firearms related companies at the Guns Magazine Product Index.

 

 

Bullet Points

SD’S, BC’S And The Science Of Flight.

Sectional density and ballistic coefficient relate roughly like flour and bread. If what I want is a slice of toast, I care about the quality of the bread, without giving much thought to flour. Similarly, sectional density alone isn’t very useful, but it is an important part of ballistic coefficient, and it doesn’t hurt to understand what it means.

Sectional density is the ratio of an object’s mass to its cross-sectional area. US bullet manufacturers calculate it by dividing bullet weight in pounds by the square of bullet diameter. Take for example a 180-grain .308 bullet. The formula is 180÷7000 to convert to pounds, divided by 0.308 squared, for an SD of 0.271.

The higher the SD, the deeper an object in motion tends to penetrate. To give an extreme example, a baseball has a sectional density of about 0.036. A vintage cedar-shafted broadhead arrow weighing 750 grains has an SD of about 0.830.

A few pitchers can throw a baseball 100 mph or a bit over. That’s about 150 fps. If we get hit in the ribs by the ball, it will certainly cause pain and it might even break a rib. But it will bounce off.

Likewise, a longbow with a 60-pound pull can launch that cedar arrow at around 150 fps. What happens if it hits us in the ribs? Most likely it will go right through the other side. It penetrates the target better than a baseball. It also penetrates the air better, meaning it will retain its velocity better.

All by itself though, sectional density doesn’t tell us much. We can’t compare bullets—or predict bullet path—knowing only their SD. Bullet shape also matters.

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The 180-grain Hornady spirepoint (above, left) has an SD of .271, while the Speer 200-grain
RN has an SD of .301. However, the shape of the 180 gives it a higher BC (.425) than the 200
(.372). Bullet shapes continue to become more ballistically efficient. At left (below) is a
flat-base 100-grain .257 Hornady with a BC of .357. The more streamlined boattailed Hornady
.243 105-grain A-Max at right has a BC of .500.

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Prior to 1900, rifle bullets were mostly round or flatnosed. When ballisticians began experimenting with sharp-pointed (spitzer) bullets, they found a substantial advantage in retained velocity, range and wind resistance. It was obvious spitzers would provide soldiers with a decisive advantage. So all major nations began adopting them.

But neither SD nor bullet shape alone helps much in predicting trajectory, retained velocity and resistance to wind drift. The solution is to combine them, dividing sectional density by a form factor to arrive at a ballistic coefficient (BC). The form factor comes from comparing the bullet to a standard projectile.

Most of the ballistic coefficients listed by manufacturers use as a standard a 1-pound, 1-inch diameter bullet with a flat base, a length of 3 inches and a 2-inch-radius tangential curve for the point. This “standard projectile” has an SD of exactly 1.0. The form factor of a specific bullet is the drag coefficient of the bullet divided by the drag coefficient of the standard projectile.

The mathematical calculations of a projectile traveling through a medium such as air get extremely complicated. Prior to computers they could take days or weeks. Today, we just enter numbers in a program such as the JBM app (my favorite) and get the results in seconds.

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An extreme example of the differences SD and bullet shape make in ballistic efficiency.
These Hornady bullets (above) weigh roughly the same. Left, a .357 158-grain HP
(SD .177, BC .206). Right, .284 162-grain Match HP (SD .287, BC .534). Start both at
3,000 fps and at 600 yards the .357 is traveling 1,040 fps, drops 141 inches from a
100-yard zero, and drifts 70 inches in a 10 mph full-value wind. The numbers for the
.284 are 2,091 fps, 69-inch drop and 17.5-inch wind drift. Boattails (below) bump up
the ballistic coefficient. The BC of two otherwise identical .284 Speer Bullets
are .416 for the flat base, .472 for the boattail.

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The French Connection

In 1829 the French military began to seriously study ballistics. Their primary interest was in artillery. They established research facilities at Gavre, a small fishing village on the coast of France connected to the mainland by an isthmus. The remote location and the long unoccupied stretches of sand made it ideal for their purpose.

Research would continue at Gavre for more than a century, conducted by military officers trained in mathematics (assisted on occasion by university scientists and mathematicians). It was an interesting melding of pure scientific inquiry and hardheaded practical utility. Ballisticians still use the letter “G” to describe drag functions, as a tribute to Gavre and its pioneering research.

The G1 model uses as a standard the projectile described earlier. For bullets with different shapes, results vary with velocity.

Manufacturers can show BC at a specific velocity, or averaged over a range of velocities, or they can show different BC’s for different velocity ranges. In the old days manufacturers could get a bit creative in their published BC. Back when 500 yards was considered extreme long-range shooting, the G1 BC was “close enough.”

Actually there are several “standard” projectile shapes. The G6 model, for example, has a flat base and 6-caliber secant ogive. For rifle shooters it’s enough to know the G1, which remains the industry standard, and the G7, used with very low drag (VLD) bullets.

Using the appropriate data in a well-designed ballistics program gives a good prediction of bullet trajectory and wind resistance. Remember, though, it is only a prediction.

The ballisticians at Gavre operated under an important principle—all theoretical models had to be tested by actual firing—something the modern long-range rifleman would be wise to adopt.
By Dave Anderson


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The Best Binocular

It’s Whatever’s Best For You.

A binocular is one of the few items to justify stretching the budget. It will last for many years and bring countless hours of enjoyment. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t use one. Even things you see regularly and take for granted—a bee on a flower, a spider on a web—look more interesting through a binocular.

For many years it seemed a 7×35 was the most popular. Those numbers simply mean 7X magnification and a 35mm objective lens. Other terms come into play—exit pupil, relative brightness, center-focus, porro-prism. Zzzzzzzzz. I’m getting so sleepy…

Look, you know all that stuff. If not, there are plenty of articles available. Instead I want to share some thoughts on binocular selection from the perspective of someone who has used them for over half a century.

Current production models are the best ever. There has been continual innovation in optical glass, precision grinding and shaping of optical elements, better and longer-lasting moisture seals, lighter and stronger plastics and more sophisticated lens coatings.

Reading reviews and ratings is worthwhile but, ultimately, only your judgment counts. No one else can see what you see. No matter what anyone else says, if it doesn’t handle or feel right or if you’re not satisfied with the image it provides, you won’t enjoy using it.

Although an in-store comparison is better than nothing, it isn’t the final test. Make the most informed selection you can then give it a fair try for a few months. If you aren’t happy with it, figure out why, sell it and try again. Gather experience and soon you won’t be consulting experts. You’ll be the expert.

Conversely, if you like the binocular, don’t trade every time a “new and improved” version appears. True, some innovations really are game changers. Optical coatings introduced during WWII are an obvious example. Phase coating of roof prisms was a pretty big deal. Mostly though, improvements are marginal.

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Dave bought his beloved Swarovski SLC 8×30 some 20 years ago,
and cannot begin to tell you how much game he’s seen through it.

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When is a $1,000 binocular a “best buy?” When its image and construction quality
come oh-so-close to models costing twice as much. Such examples of value are
(left to right) the Meopta 10×42 HD and the Zeiss Conquest 8×42 HD.

My most-used, treasured binocular is a Swarovski 8×30 SLC I bought around 20 years ago. I’ve used it on hunting trips on three continents and for watching birds while having my morning coffee on the deck. I handle and focus it without conscious thought, and it fits like an old shoe. (Unfortunately for me, it is also Simone’s favorite, so when we hunt or birdwatch together, I have to find something else)

You get what you pay for. There are many choices, and competition is fierce. As a general rule, more money buys better image quality and durability. But the law of diminishing returns applies as well. A $500 binocular is not twice as good as a $250 binocular. It might have more accurate color transmission, tougher lens coatings, stronger construction and water resistance, but image resolution may be only marginally better.

Money is a slippery measuring tool, but as I write this, a $400 to $500 binocular will give a lifetime of enjoyment and hard service. At the $800 to $1,000 price point, binocular quality is so darn good it’s hard to justify spending more.

So why would anyone pay north of $2,000 for image quality hardly distinguishable from a $1,000 binocular? Well, some people do want that last increment of resolution, color clarity, low-light performance, the toughest possible construction and (ideally) uncompromising factory support. You really have to use a super high-end binocular a few months or years in all kinds of light and weather conditions to appreciate it.

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For all-around use, an 8×40 up to an 8×43 is hard to beat. This top-line APO HG 8×43
from Minox is about as good as it gets. Can’t see the difference in the store?
Wait until you’re trying to spot a mule deer hidden in deep shadow, facing into the setting sun.

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For an African hunt, Dave borrowed this 10x32FL from Zeiss. It proved to be the perfect tool.
Returning it after the hunt was a trauma from which he hasn’t fully recovered.

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Set your time machine for a Saskatchewan farm in November 1962 and you
might see a youngstertrudging through the snow after whitetail. The
binocular and knife—both Christmas presents—werestill like new back
then, as was the Model 94. Today they and Dave show the signs of
many a hunting season, but they still work.

It’s funny to read forum arguments about which is “best.” To some people it seems desperately important to have the group accept their choice as the “best.” If ego gratification and bragging rights are your main goals, that’s just sad.
For all-around use, spend whatever funds you have budgeted on an 8×40 (or 8×42, no big difference) binocular. An 8×40 is like a bolt-action .30-06. It does a lot of things really well and most things well enough. Because this magnification/objective lens combination is so popular, the economics of scale in production and strong competition give you the most value for your money.
Features I find worthwhile are HD or ED optical glass, adjustable eyecups, long eye relief (since I wear eyeglasses), close focusing (for looking at birds and insects), reasonably rugged construction and water resistance.
And while it’s not a deal breaker, I like some kind of optical coating so rainwater beads up and runs off.
Having two binoculars allows you some specialization. I like a light, compact 8×30 or 8×33 tops for general use. Weighing around 16 to 18 ounces, they’re pleasant to carry, can be tucked away while stalking and give up little optical performance except in very low light.
For open country hunting (e.g. mule deer, antelope) by truck or by boat, I like a 10×40 or 10×42. They’re a bit bulkier and heavier and, for the casual user, a bit harder to keep steady. But if you use an improvised rest (us rifle shooters are used to that) you can take advantage of a bit more power.
By Dave Anderson

Meopta USA, Inc.
50 Davids Drive
Hauppauge, NY 11788
(631) 436-5900

Minox USA Inc.
P.O. Box 123
Meriden, NH 03770
(866) 469-3080
http://www.shootingindustry.com/company/minox-usa-inc/

Swarovski
2 Slater Road
Cranston, RI 02920
(800) 426-3089
http://www.shootingindustry.com/company/swarovski-optik-north-america-ltd/

Zeiss Sports Optics
711 Moorefield Park Dr. Building E
North Chesterfield, VA 23236
(800) 441-3005
http://www.shootingindustry.com/company/carl-zeiss-sports-optics-llc/

For web access go to www.gunsmagazine.com/index. Don’t forget to bookmark this page! The Product Index will help you find links to our Shooting Industry as well as links to past and present reviews of products seen in these pages and our sister magazines.


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Slingin’

The Rifle Sling And How To Use One Afield.

One of the most useful accessories for a hunting rifle is a sling, both to carry the rifle and as a support to enhance accurate shooting in the field. Judging from what I see for sale in catalogs and gun shops, most shooters just want a carrying strap. Competition rifle shooters know all about using a shooting sling, but among hunters it seems to have become a lost art.

Generally you can find some sort of support in the field—a tree, fencepost, rock, shooting sticks, bipod, backpack or even a binocular. The beauty of a shooting sling is it’s always there.

The sequences show how I use both a shooting sling and the so-called “hasty sling” with a plain, web carrying strap. A few observations:

Competition rifle shooters are meticulous about sling position, sling tension and placement of hand against the front swivel. Consistency is the essence of marksmanship. My perspective is as a hunter and I place a higher value on getting looped up and delivering the shot promptly rather than minute gradations of accuracy.

The sling needs to be tight to be effective. It should require some effort to lift the buttstock to the shoulder.
The sling provides a tight connection between your support arm and rifle, and only steadies the rifle if the support arm is held steadily. A sling provides little benefit when shooting offhand (the photos are shown standing only to make the job easier for the photographer).

A shooting sling works best from the sitting or prone position, or with the support elbow braced against some solid support.

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Most current slings are designed for carrying rather than as a shooting support. Dave’s friend Naftali Amoolongo, African PH, uses this padded sling to carry his rather heavy .375 H&H built on a US M1917 Enfield action.

A shooting sling works best from the sitting or prone position, or with the support elbow braced against some solid support.
Sling length for the loop is different for the sitting and prone positions. Some shooters mark or number the appropriate holes so the claw hook can be quickly placed.

A new leather sling will stretch a bit, so after some use it may be necessary to relocate the claw hooks. If the leather is any good at all, the stretching will stop fairly quickly.

Keep the sling clean and dry and apply a light coating of leather preservative oil once a year or so and the sling will last many years.

The “hasty sling” is fast to use and needs only a simple carrying strap. Some knowledgeable shooters feel it provides little benefit. Personally I find from a sitting position I’m a bit steadier with a hasty sling, enough to make the effort worthwhile. The best advice I can give is to try it and see if it works for you.

Back in 1907, the US military adopted a sling to go with its new Springfield rifles. The sling had claw hooks so it could be quickly tightened when the rifle was being stored, or lengthened when being used to carry the rifle.

The forward part of the sling could also be used as a shooting support. I can’t find evidence that any other major military force used a sling as anything other than a carry strap. It seems to be a uniquely American innovation. So effective is the design it is still being used by competitive shooters over a century later.

A true M1907 design is 1-1/4-inches wide, made of thick, heavy leather, very strong and with reasonable care it will last practically forever. Certainly one can be used on a hunting rifle provided you don’t mind the weight, which with swivels can run to 10 to 11 ounces.

About 30 years ago I bought a used rifle. Along with it came a sling of the 1907 design but made of lighter weight leather and only 1-inch wide. With swivels it weighs 6 ounces. Serious competitors would scoff at it, but on a hunting rifle I found it about ideal.

Over the years it’s been used on many rifles and on many a hunt. I remember looping up to shoot a big mule deer, and a long shot on a pronghorn. Eventually the leather cracked across two of the claw hook holes. I’m not sentimental about a piece of leather so I tossed it in the trash.

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Here’s a modern copy of the M1907 sling on a Ruger .338 RCM. It is 1-1/4 inches wide and is a practical sling for a hunting rifle if you don’t mind a few ounces of additional weight over a 1-inch sling made of lighter leather.

Over the years it’s been used on many rifles and on many a hunt. I remember looping up to shoot a big mule deer, and a long shot on a pronghorn. Eventually the leather cracked across two of the claw hook holes. I’m not sentimental about a piece of leather so I tossed it in the trash.

Oddly enough the next day it was back hanging on its usual peg. If it wants to stay so badly I guess I’ll just have to keep it and let the next generation throw it out. I had a heck of time finding a replacement. I finally found a similar sling at Uncle Mike’s. It isn’t in the current catalog but I see Brownells still has some in stock. I found two other companies offering this style in a light 1-inch width sling: Triple K and Hunter Co.

A good all-around rifleman should know how to adjust and use a shooting sling; it’s a useful tool and technique. Admittedly, a traditional shooting sling has some drawbacks. Even with practice it takes time to get looped up, and the process involves a certain amount of arm movement, which might alert the game. The claw hooks don’t affect a synthetic stock but could scratch up a fine piece of walnut.

There are some other useful shooting sling designs such as the Whelen style, the Brownells Latigo, the Pronghorn sling and two designs by Eric Ching, which address these issues. We’ll look at these another time.

Using A Shooting Sling

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Open the loop of the sling and rotate it counterclockwise (from shooter’s viewpoint).

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Put your support arm through the sling loop.

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Push the loop up the arm, past the elbow to the bicep and push the
keeper down to snug up the loop (snug but not tight)

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Bring the support hand around the sling and grasp the forearm of the rifle.

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Use the shooting hand to raise the buttstock of the rifle to the shoulder.

Using A “Hasty Sling”

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Put the support arm through the carrying strap so
the strap is above the elbow, on the bicep.

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Bring the support hand around the strap and grasp the forearm of the rifle.

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Use the shooting hand to raise the buttstock of the rifle to the shoulder.

By Dave Anderson

Uncle Mike’s (Quick-detach sling swivels)
Bushnell Outdoor Products
9200 Cody
Overland Park, KS 66214
(800) 423-3537
www.gunsmagazine.com/uncle-mikes-law-enforcement

GrovTec US Inc.
P.O. Box 220060
Milwaukie, OR 97269
(503) 557-4689
www.gunsmagazine.com/grovtec

Turner Saddlery, Inc.
P.O. Box 120
Clay, AL 35048
(800) 861-5139
www.gunsmagazine.com/turner-saddlery

Leslie E.M. Tam
1411 Saint Louis Dr., Honolulu, HI 96816
(808) 737-5427
www.gunsmagazine.com/les-tam

Brownells
200 South Front St.
Montezuma, IA 50171
(800) 741-0015
www.gunsmagazine.com/brownells

Triple K Manufacturing
2222 Commercial St.
San Diego, CA 92113
(619) 232-2066
www.gunsmagazine.com/triplek

Hunter Company
3300 W 71st Ave., Westminster, CO 80030
(800) 676-4868
www.gunsmagazine.com/hunter-co

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GN0214_300

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Doin’ The Twist

And Causing No Harm.

“The safety guard’s gone from his grinding machine He got a stiff paint brush he only sorta got clean He’s the hired man, my neighbor and a cousin in law He’s a jerry riggin’ fool, he got the tool for the job Well it’s vise grips for pliers, and pliers for a wrench A wrench for a hammer, hammer’s everything else It just don’t seem to make much difference I sure do like him but he’s hard on equipment.”*

Dave bought this Winchester 70 in 1973 (above). A big screwdriver from a tractor toolbox got this screw out, but not without scraping the surrounding metal and twisting up the screw slot. A screwdriver grabbed from the tractor toolbox (below, left) has sides slanted so most of the pressure is on the top of the screw slot. A screwdriver blade shaped for use with gun screws (right) fits to the full depth of the slot, and ideally should fit both width and length of the slot.

Do No Harm

We could all take a lesson from the physician’s basic rule – “do thy patient no harm.” Or to put it another way, if you can’t make it better at least don’t make it worse. If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t do it.

Many a collectible firearm has had its value destroyed because someone thought it would be a neat idea to reblue metal or refinish the stock. Depending on the gun, even quality workmanship can reduce value.

No one is telling you what you can or can’t do with your own property. Maybe someone acquires an excellent condition Savage 99 once owned by Roy Chapman Andrews. If he decides to add sling swivel studs, drill and tap for scope bases, and carve a bounding whitetail in the stock, no one can order him otherwise.

Much as I value collectible firearms I value principles of liberty and private property more (though I might feel obligated to advise he’s doing the equivalent of burning a stack of $100 bills).

Damaging valuable firearms is a shame, but not the worst thing. The worst thing is to create a dangerous situation. I’ve known people who can barely get a gun apart who still feel qualified to adjust trigger pulls, spinning adjustment screws and stoning components. The fire control system of a firearm is not something to be learned by trial and error.

“He ain’t never read a manual ’cause that’s like cheatin’

He don’t mind the grease on his hands while he’s eatin’…”*

OK, enough with the lecture! Time to buy something! What to buy first—screwdrivers, punches, vise, milling machine? For those with more patience than I had 50 years ago, the first thing to acquire is knowledge.

An excellent basic resource is the Gun Digest firearms assembly/disassembly series, with several volumes written by J.B. Wood and Kevin Muramatsu. Currently volumes are available for auto pistols, revolvers, rimfires, centerfire rifles, shotguns, law enforcement, and tactical firearms.

The NRA has published several firearms assembly books. Though there is some overlap with the Gun Digest books there’s also some good stuff on older, obscure guns.

Brownells stocks these books and a lot of others. They also have an extensive series of videos. There are specialized books and videos for popular firearms such as 1911 pistols and AR-style rifles.

Although not really manuals, I enjoy the “Gunsmith Kinks” series started long ago by Bob Brownell. Intended for working gunsmiths, there are lots of interesting tips and tidbits of information; not to mention jokes, stories, and clever solutions to tough problems.
*Corb Lund Hard on Equipment / Tool for the Job
By Dave Anderson

The action screws on Dave’s Biesen 3-generation custom M70 .270 (above) show what screws should look like—slots straight, smooth, undistorted, and aligned with the axis of the rifle. The full set of gunsmith screwdrivers from Brownells (below) is an absolute joy to use. Dave would have fewer grey hairs and fewer twisted up gun screws if he’d bought them decades earlier, instead of “making do” in order to buy another rifle.

Gun Digest
F&W Media Products
700 E. State St.
Iola, WI 54990
(855) 840-5120
www.gunsmagazine.com/gun-digest

NRA Store
11250 Waples Mill Rd.
Fairfax, VA 22030
(888) 607-607-6607
www.gunsmagazine.com/nra

Brownells
200 South Front St.
Montezuma, ID 50171
(800) 741-0015
www.gunsmagazine.com/brownells

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Deadly Combinations

If You Have Many Different Rifles And Cartridges,
choose when you shoot which wisely.

“I aimed carefully and squeezed the trigger. In an instant I was blinded by smoke and stunned by an explosion… I had loaded a .308 cartridge in my .270 rifle. The gun was damaged beyond repair. The stock was broken, the magazine blown out, and the barrel torn to shreds.”

I was barely into my teens when I read of this incident in the “Letters to the Editor” in the April, 1964 Outdoor Life. It must have made an impression, as I knew where to find it after over 50 years. For veteran shooters this discussion will be old news, but it may alert some of the many new shooters of potential hazards.

Why the blowup in the incident above? The .308 cartridge case didn’t seal off the chamber, and high-pressure gas got loose in the action. The same result would occur from firing a .260 Rem in a .270 or .30-06 rifle.

The .308 case simply is not long enough to seal off the longer .270 chamber. Any .308-based case (e.g. .243, .260, 7mm-08) in an ’06-based chamber (e.g. .25-06, .270, .280, .30-06) is a bad combination. The reason we hear more about .308/.270 mix-ups is because there are so many rifles made for these cartridges.
Another bad one is a .270 fired in a 7mm Rem Mag rifle. The rounds are similar in length but the .270 case is not nearly big enough in diameter to seal the larger chamber. It will certainly fail, letting high pressure gas loose.

Again, the issue would be the same with similar cartridges. We hear of .270/7mm Rem incidents more often simply because they are such popular cartridges.

Shooting 20-gauge shotshells in 12-gauge chambers have ruined many a shotgun. The 20-gauge shotshell is just big enough to drop through a 12-gauge chamber and be caught in the forcing cone. If the gunner assumes he forgot to load, and loads and fires a 12-gauge round into the obstructed bore, damage to the shotgun is a certainty.

The .270 Win and .308 Win have the same case-head diameter and similar body dimensions. If the shorter .308 cartridge is fired in a .270 chamber it isn’t big enough to seal the chamber, and high pressure (as in, 65,000 psi) will get loose in the action causing the rifle’s destruction.

Another bad combination is a .270 Win cartridge fired in a 7mm Rem Mag chamber. Here the cartridge is long enough, but far too small in diameter to seal the chamber. When high-pressure gas gets loose the rifle will almost certainly be badly damaged, with a very real chance of severe injury or death to the shooter or bystanders.

Obviously there is great danger of severe injury or death to the shooter or to bystanders. As a visual reminder, shotshell manufacturers have an informal agreement to use the color yellow only for 20-gauge shells. At least, I’ve never seen yellow used for any other gauge than 20. On the other hand there have been and may still be 20-gauge shells in other colors.

Handloaders have dozens of powders from which to choose. There’s no system to tell by name just where a specific powder stands relative to other powders. Fortunately loading manuals and Internet charts are available.

I once read of a novice reloader using Hodgdon H-4831 data with IMR 3031 powder. Hey, they both have a “31,” close enough, right? His wrecked rifle said otherwise. Accurate Arms AA-7 is a considerably faster-burning powder than Alliant RL-7. Mixing these two up can lead to a wrecked gun and serious or fatal injuries.
Some shooters like to remove bolts from bolt-action rifles and store them separately as a safety precaution. Bolts are fitted individually so headspace meets industry standards and many are numbered to the receiver. If bolts get mismatched the result can be excess headspace and a blown-up rifle.

How to avoid dangerous combinations? Hunter safety courses have done a wonderful job of teaching safe techniques. Experienced shooters have as well their own procedures. Here are a few I follow and recommend.
I often bring several rifles to the range, alternating them in order to let barrels cool. Having several different cartridge types on the bench is just asking for trouble. I keep cartridges in a plastic storage bin in the car or on the ground next to the bench. When setting a rifle aside to cool, the ammunition for it is put away as well. It may take a little time but the only ammunition on the bench should be for the rifle actually in use.

A basic rule of reloading safety is to have only one container of powder in use at a time. I keep powders stored in a separate location from the reloading work area. Inconvenient? A little, but some things shouldn’t be too convenient.

When a loading session is finished pour any remaining powder in measures or powder tricklers back into the original container and put it away. Is it really necessary to say don’t use unknown powders? Ninety-nine percent certain isn’t good enough. Your eyesight, your life and your fellow shooters are worth a lot more than a pound of powder.

If you use shotguns of different gauges it’s smart to have a vest or coat for each gauge. It greatly reduces the risk of a forgotten shell getting mixed up with a different gauge. Just be sure to grab the right vest!
While I applaud the safety aspect of removing a rifle bolt, I think a trigger or cable lock, or gun safe, is a better option. Separating rifle and bolt increases risk of mix-ups. It also leads to lost bolts. Every year or so I get a letter about a classic rifle, maybe a prewar Mauser or 1903 Mannlicher, with the bolt lost. Finding and having fitted a replacement is always going to be expensive and may prove impossible.
By Dave Anderson

A fair question is, how can a short cartridge such as the .308 fire in a longer (e.g. .270, .30-06) chamber? Won’t it just slide forward in the chamber, out of reach of the firing pin? It might, with a push-feed action with recessed bolt face, though I wouldn’t count on it. With a controlled-round-feed action the extractor holds the case against the bolt face tightly enough the firing pin will fire the round.

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GUNS October 2013

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Shooting Better

brownells

Managing recoil from the bench
with hard-kicking rifles.

An earlier column suggested learning basic bench technique using a light-recoiling rifle such as medium-weight .223 Rem. For best consistency there should be no more shooter contact with the rifle than absolutely necessary. I personally like to have the buttpad in contact with the shoulder, while some very competent shooters feel even this is unnecessary.

But what works with an 8-pound .223 doesn’t work so well with an 8-pound .30-06 or 10-pound .375 H&H. Try shooting one of these using the same technique and the result may well be a severe scope cut, bruised shooting hand, and maybe a rifle on the ground.

When a rifle is fired it recoils away from its points of support. The greater the recoil, and the harder the support, the more violently the rifle moves. No insight here, this is old news to anyone who shoots centerfire rifles.

Light recoil lets us get away with minor errors in technique, or at least minimizes the damage. Rifles with more recoil—for example sporting-weight rifles chambered for typical big-game cartridges—are less forgiving. The rifle is going to move more violently away from points of contact; yet to maintain control of the rifle we have to hold it more firmly.

When bench shooting a rifle having some recoil (Ruger 77 .375 Ruger with Trijicon 3-9X illustrated), the front and rear rests should be elevated so the shooter can sit up fairly straight, so the body can flex with recoil.

There are two aspects to consider. One is ensuring the rifle is held as consistently as possible, and moves consistently in recoil. The other aspect is shooter comfort and recoil fatigue.

Let’s say I’ve been having a pleasant time bench-shooting a .223 and decide I want to check some loads in an 8-pound .30-06. The first thing I’ll do is get the rifle sitting higher so I can sit up straight, rather than draped across the shooting bench. I can do this by elevating the front rest and placing a spacer beneath the rear bag.
Next I’ll place padding over the bag on the front rest. It’s a tip I got from Warren Page’s book The Accurate Rifle back in the ’70s. Probably someone makes a multiadjustable high-impact “Polymagic Bag-O-Liftr and Free Range Organic Sheepskin Rest-Pad, $$ apiece or $$$ for both.”

Actually, what I use is an old phone book or two under the rear bag, and the sleeve of a heavy woolen shirt or down-filled jacket across the front rest. Not everything in this game needs to cost a fortune.

With the ’06 we need to take control. The shooting hand grips the rifle firmly and pulls it into firm contact with the shoulder, the cheek pressing more firmly on the cheekpiece. Yes, it is more difficult to maintain consistent pressure. That’s just the way it is.

Otherwise the principles remain the same. We aim the rifle by squeezing the rear sandbag with the “non-shooting” hand (the left, for a right-handed shooter). We take care not to “steer” the rifle with the shoulder, the cheek, or the shooting hand. The rifle is still supported by the sandbags, aimed only by the rear sandbag.

A PAST recoil shield reduces the chance of a bruised shoulder and makes long shooting sessions more pleasant. For the real hard kickers, .458 Lott and the like, a 25-pound bag of shot between rifle and shoulder is kind of awkward but really takes the sting out of recoil, while still letting the body flex.

A hard-kicking rifle recoils violently away from any hard point of contact (above). Adding even softer padding over the front bag (here the sleeve of a heavy wool shirt) reduces this tendency. It helps even with cartridges of the .270 and .30-06 class when used in light rifles.

The trigger finger acts independently from the rest of the shooting hand. Even though the hand grips the rifle firmly and pulls it against the shoulder, the trigger finger is squarely across the face of the trigger and does nothing but press the trigger straight back.

Keeping the trigger finger relaxed and moving smoothly, while at the same time maintaining a firm grip with the rest of the hand, is a skill which must be developed. It takes time, conscientious practice, and many repetitions. The best training method I know, though an expensive one, is to take up bull’s-eye handgun shooting with a .45 ACP pistol.

If it’s a fairly light-kicking rifle, say a medium/light .243 or 7mm-08, or just a few sighting shots with an ’06-class round, I’m comfortable wearing just a shirt. For longer sessions of load development I wear a PAST recoil shield. I also sometimes use a little nylon pouch I found somewhere, holding about five pounds of lead shot, between the rifle recoil pad and the PAST shield.

With these tools I can shoot 60 rounds or so in a session with cartridges of the .375 Ruger/H&H category with good trigger control and no fear of feeding a flinch; or a few shots, say to check the sights, with a .416/.458 category cartridge.

Longer sessions with cartridges of the .458 Win/.458 Lott class require special care but I’m out of space. (Hints: 25-pound bag of shot, Lead Sled, standing benchrest.)

But the key element to accuracy is taking pains to be consistent. I have a very accurate Tikka T3 Lite in .270 WSM whose recoil numbers are about the same as 9-pound .300 Win Mag. Because it is so accurate any error in hold is immediately evident. Sometimes it starts to feel like work—but is surely is good training!
By Dave Anderson

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Handgun Ammo Part 2

brownells

Loads For Short-Barrel Revolvers, Hunting
And Specialty Ammo.

The classic .38 Special “snubbie” revolver has been popular for concealed carry for decades, and is probably more popular now than ever. A good defensive load is a balancing act between bullet weight, reasonable velocity from a short barrel, controllable recoil, and gun durability.

Any of the premium defense loads listed, using .38 Special 125-grain JHP +P loads will work; provided, of course, your revolver is approved for +P ammunition and you can handle the recoil (which personally I don’t find too bad). Velocities will run around 900 to 1,000 fps, depending on the specific load.

More specifically, the Speer .38 Special 135-grain Gold Dot +P at around 900 fps is promoted as a short-barrel load. In my experience it gives excellent accuracy and expands fairly well in paraffin blocks. Winchester has a 130-grain +P PDX1 load at about 900 fps from a 2-inch barrel with a large hollowpoint and six segments for expansion even at moderate velocity.

I wouldn’t try to talk anyone out of using heavier bullet loads such as 158-grain standard or +P JHPs, or lead HPs. They do recoil a bit more and make the revolver a bit slower in recoil recovery and shot-to-shot time. I think the 125- to 135-grain loads provide a bit better balance, but really don’t have a problem with 150- or 158-grain bullets.

shooters edge

The .44 Special is loaded for all occasions. Black Hills Ammunition loads are excellent for plinking or cowboy action shooting with a 210-grain bullet at 700 fps. Three Buffalo Bore loads (left to right) include the hunting oriented 255-grain Keith bullet at 1,200 fps, and for defense, a 190-grain JHP load provides power with moderate recoil, and, if the law won’t allow you to have JHP bullets, the 200-grain full wadcutter bullets are a good alternative. Revolvers include a S&W M24 .44 Special (left) and M29 .44 Magnum.

Light Bullets

For a bit less recoil, most of the companies listed have 110-grain loads. Hornady has two 110-grain FTX Critical Defense loads, one standard pressure and the other +P. In a 2-inch barrel the +P load will reach close to 1,000 fps, the standard load around 900 fps.

Buffalo Bore also has two levels of 110-grain loads for .38 Special, both using Barnes lead-free bullets. A +P load chronographs a little more than 1,100 fps. The standard pressure load with the same bullet delivers around 950 to 980 fps. These velocities are from 2-inch barrels.

Hornady recently announced a standard-pressure 90-grain FTX Critical Defense “Lite” load rated at 1,200 fps from a 4-inch barrel. I haven’t yet seen 2-inch barrel data but a reasonable estimate would be 1,075 to 1,100 fps.

When we get down to 90-grain bullets we’re into .380 ACP country. There are premium .380 loads from the companies listed, with bullet weights from 80 to 90 grains and muzzle velocities around 950 to 1,000 fps from typical .380 pistols with 3- to 3-1/2-inch barrels.

I’m a bit lukewarm about the .380 as a defensive round, though I realize others may draw the line differently. I hear people say, a hot .380 load is pretty close to your .38 Special snubbie which you think is just great. Well, it isn’t that close, and I don’t think a .38 snubbie is all that great, except as a backup. The 125-grain +P .38 Special from a snubbie is as fast or faster than a hot .380 load, and with a 50-percent heavier bullet.

Hunting Ammo

For big-game hunting, .41 and .44 Magnum full-power loads are minimum in my view (talking true handgun rounds, not rifle rounds adapted to specialty handguns). I include full-power heavy-bullet loads for cartridges such as .44 Special and .45 Colt.

Handgunners such as Elmer Keith demonstrated decades ago, the way to kill big game with a handgun is to punch a large-diameter hole in one side and out the other.

For smaller, lighter game such as deer and antelope there’s nothing wrong with using light-for-caliber hollowpoint bullets. I killed an antelope at around 190 yards with a .460 S&W using, if I remember correctly, 200-grain bullets. I say “bullets” as it took more than one due to my bad shooting on the first shot. The point is, though, all bullets went completely through.

For all-around hunting use I’ll stick with Elmer’s wisdom, a heavy-for-caliber flatnose, hardcast lead bullet at around 1,200 to 1,400 fps. Such a load will go through a moose on a broadside shot, with tolerable recoil even in a “packable” revolver weighing 2-1/2 to 3 pounds.

Such loads were once available to handloaders only. Currently Buffalo Bore offers excellent hunting loads for a variety of cartridges. The one I’ve shot most is a 255-grain Keith bullet at close to 1,200 fps from a handy .44 Special.

A few other Buffalo Bore examples include the .41 Magnum, 230-grain Keith at 1,450 fps, .44 Magnum, 305-grain LFN at 1,325 fps, .45 Colt, 325-grain LFN at 1,325 fps, and the .500 S&W, 440-grain LFN at 1,325 fps. Buffalo Bore isn’t limited to hardcast lead bullets; they also offer a variety of loads with jacketed or lead-free bullets.

shooters edge 2

A new load in Hornady’s highly regarded Critical Defense lineup is the “Lite” .38 Special load with 90-grain bullet for reduced recoil. The pink theme seems to suggest Hornady wants to appeal to women shooters, however, less recoil and faster recoil recovery in lightweight revolvers should appeal to men as well.

Lead-Free Ammo

Many indoor ranges, and for that matter many shooters, are demanding lead-free ammunition to reduce exposure to airborne lead. We tend to think lead comes only from the bullet, but in fact the biggest risk to the shooter comes from lead styphnate, which for decades has been used in primers. The volume of lead is small compared to the bullet, the difference is it is airborne and it is right in front of the shooter.

I remember the first time I examined a cartridge case fired with a lead-free primer. The interior looked so shiny and bright it might have been a new, unfired case. I always assumed the black interior of fired cases resulted from the powder. Not so, it’s partly from the lead styphnate.

Lead-free bullets are of two main types. One actually has a lead core, but is fully encapsulated with a jacket, usually copper-based. This differs from regular jacketed ammunition in which the lead core is exposed either at the front or back.

Encapsulated bullets are relatively inexpensive, the downside is they are also usually of roundnose configuration, best suited to training and plinking. Another approach is the monometal style in which no lead at all is used. With monometals the designer can use a hollowpoint of whatever size desired since there is no lead core to expose. Barnes bullets are an excellent example. The only downside is they tend to be more expensive. The solution is to practice with encapsulated lead-free loads and use the more expensive monometal lead-free ammunition for hunting or personal defense.
By Dave Anders

Black Hills Ammunition
3050 Eglin St.
Rapid City, SD 57703
(605) 348-5150
www.gunsmagazine.com/black-hills-ammunition

Buffalo Bore Ammunition
P.O. Box 1480
St. Ignatius, MT 59865
(406) 745-2666
www.gunsmagazine.com/buffalo-bore-ammunition

Speer Ammo
2299 Snake River Ave.
Lewiston, ID 83501
(800) 627-3640
www.gunsmagazine.com/speer-ammo

CorBon
1311 Industry Rd.
Sturgis, SD 57785
(800) 626-7266
www.gunsmagazine.com/corbon

Federal Premium Ammunition
900 Ehlen Dr.
Anoka, MN 55303
(800) 322-2342
www.gunsmagazine.com/federal-premium-ammunition

Hornady Mfg.
P.O. Box 1848
Grand Island, NE 68802
(308) 382-1390
www.gunsmagazine.com/hornady

Remington Arms

870 Remington Dr.
Madison, NC 27025
(800) 243-9700
www.gunsmagazine.com/remington-arms

Winchester Ammunition

600 Powder Mill Rd.
East Alton, IL 62024
(618) 258-2000
www.gunsmagazine.com/winchester-ammunition

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Handgun Ammo Part 1

brownells

Good Choices Abound For Self-Defense With Autoloading Pistols.

Buying handgun ammunition is kind of a good news/bad news scenario. The good news is there has never been a wider array of choices. The bad news is availability and cost. Demand is high while costs of manufacturing ammo and transporting it to your local store are increasing.

Handgunners need a minimum of two types of ammunition. One type is for volume shooting, to become familiar with the handgun and develop basic shooting skills. The primary quality of such ammunition is value for the money.

The second type needed is ammunition suited to the purpose of the handgun, whether it is personal defense, hunting, or formal target shooting. Here the goal is performance, at whatever the cost.

Unless you are rich or a reloader, much of your handgun shooting should be with value-priced ammunition. Often sold in economical bulk packs, this is ammunition intended for target and practice shooting.

Manufacturers, distributors and dealers save production costs with high volume, often using inexpensive full metal jacket bullets for semi-autos. By choice I wouldn’t use FMJ bullets for defense or for hunting, but for making holes in paper or ringing steel they work just fine.

These inexpensive, unpretentious loads might not get the press and fancy ads, but they are important because they’ll teach you to shoot, and handle your firearm safely and confidently.

Winchester offers a moderately priced Winchester USA series often called “white box” ammo, though not by Winchester. Some cartridges are available in 100-round “Value Packs.” Remington UMC handgun ammunition is available with either FMJ or jacketed hollowpoints (JHP) bullets, and (for some cartridges) in 100- or 250-round mega-packs.

Federal offers its American Eagle line which is not only a good value but in my experience very accurate. Black Hills Ammo has an exceptionally good value with its Blue Box line, loaded in once-fired surplus brass. I’ve shot many thousands of these rounds in 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP and found it to be exceptionally good. A particular favorite is the .45 ACP with 200-grain match semi-wadcutter (SWC) lead bullet—super accurate and pleasant to shoot.

edge 3

Buffalo Bore offers several +P defensive loads (above), such as these 147-grain 9mm loads at 1,175 fps. There’s also a 124-grain load at 1,300 fps, which sounds hot compared to typical US commercial loads, but is no hotter than standard NATO loads for the 9mm cartridge. They’re at home in a quality 9mm pistols such as this Glock 19. This is a fine Browning BDA from the 1970s, made by SIG (below) and virtually identical to the P220 series. It functions perfectly with the Black Hills Ammunition 9mm 115 JHP loads in the background.

edge 4

Since I’m a reloader I prefer to purchase ammunition loaded in brass cases. Even if you don’t reload you can likely sell once-fired brass to someone who does, or sell the brass for recycling, to help reduce your net ammunition cost.

Some value-priced bulk ammunition would certainly be acceptable for personal defense provided it is loaded with appropriate bullets, such as JHPs, but not FMJs. Roundnose, FMJ bullets are notorious for excessive penetration, potentially endangering bystanders. And because their stopping power is minimal the tendency is to fire a lot of shots, rather than stopping the threat with one or two.

Some of the top personal-defense loads are expensive compared to the bulk discount ammo, but in my opinion are worth it. Generally they are loaded with well-designed and carefully tested bullets, matched to specific velocity parameters, to combine adequate penetration with good bullet expansion.

Over the last 30 or so years, there has been considerable development in personal defense ammunition. One factor on the supply side was innovation from small companies with good ideas (most of us older guys remember the furor when Super Vel ammunition appeared). A second factor was demand driven, as law enforcement demanded more effective loads, concurrent with the switch to autoloaders.

A common question is, do I need +P ammunition? In my view it depends on the cartridge, the pistol, and the shooter. In the case of 9mm and .38 Special I personally want +P loads. Long ago 9mm Luger (or Parabellum if you prefer) ammunition in the US was standardized at fairly moderate velocities, I’m guessing out of concerns for the many older military surplus pistols being imported. One reason the 9mm is sometimes disdained in the US while being respected worldwide is this moderate US ammunition.

Factory 9mm ammunition loaded in the US with 124-grain bullets typically rate around 1,150 feet per second and often chronograph less than 1,100 in 4-inch barrels. A few years ago, I chronographed some surplus NATO loads through a Glock 19. As I recall they averaged close to 1,400 fps. By comparison even +P 9mm loads with 124-grain bullets are generally rated at 1,250 fps.

The only other +P load I use is in .45 ACP. I like the Black Hills 230-grain +P JHP at 950 fps. Some shooters find the standard 850 fps 230-grain load has all the recoil they want, in which case I’d stick with it. The .40 S&W and .357 Magnum cartridges are standardized at full power.

Any +P loads should only be used in modern handguns in good condition, and rated for +P by the maker. Shooting +P loads will cause more handgun wear than the same amount of standard loads. I guess it becomes a question of whose life is more important, yours or the gun’s.

A new and interesting load from Federal is called “Guard Dog” and is intended for home defense. It has an FMJ profile for reliable feeding but contains an expanding polymer to promote rapid expansion, limiting penetration of walls inside a house and reducing risk to family members. Currently there are three loads: 9mm Luger, 105-grain bullet at 1,230 fps, a .40 S&W with a 135 grainer at 1,200 fps and a .45 ACP with a 165 grainer at 1,140 fps.

Next time in this column, we’ll discuss handgun ammo for short barrel revolvers, hunting and specialty ammo. Look forward to “Shooter’s Edge” in the June issue.
By Dave Anderson

A handgun shooter should have two basic loads. For personal defense, a premium load with expanding bullets such as Black Hills Ammunition red box or Federal Premium (above, left) are excellent choices. For practice and training less expensive FMJ loads such as the Speer Lawman (above, right) mean more practice at less cost. Black Hills Ammunition “blue box” (below) loads are assembled using once-fired surplus brass. Dave has fired thousands of these rounds and found them to be every bit as good as loads in new commercial brass. Excellent ammunition and an excellent value for practice and target shooting.

Shooting Edge 1

Defense Load Choices
Black Hills Ammo (red box, newly manufactured)
Buffalo Bore
CCI/Speer Gold Dot JHP
CorBon Self Defense JHP
Federal Premium Personal Defense Hydra-Shok
Hornady Critical Defense, TAP, XTP
Remington Ultimate Home Defense, Golden Saber
Winchester Ranger, Super-X Silvertip, Supreme Elite Bonded, PDX1

Black Hills Ammunition
P.O. Box 3090
Rapid City, SD 57709
(605) 348-5150
www.gunsmagazine.com/black-hills-ammunition

Buffalo Bore Ammunition
P.O. Box 1480, St. Ignatius, MT 59865
(406) 745-2666
www.gunsmagazine.com/buffalo-bore-ammunition

CCI/Speer Ammunition
2299 Snake River Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501
(866) 286-7436 (CCI)
(800) 627-3640 (Speer)
www.gunsmagazine.com/cci-ammunition
www.gunsmagazine.com/speer-ammo

CorBon
1311 Industry Rd., Sturgis, SD 57785
(800) 626-7266
www.gunsmagazine.com/corbon

Federal Premium Ammunition
900 Ehlen Dr., Anoka, MN 55303
(800) 322-2342
www.gunsmagazine.com/federal-premium-ammunition

Hornady
3625 W. Old Potash Hwy., Grand Island, NE 68803
(308) 382-1390
www.gunsmagazine.com/hornady

Remington Arms
870 Remington Dr., P.O. Box 700
Madison, NC 27025
(800) 243-9700
www.gunsmagazine.com/remington

Winchester Ammunition
600 Powder Mill Rd., East Alton, IL 62024
(618) 258-2000
www.gunsmagazine.com/winchester

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