Archive for the ‘Firearms’ Category

Lesson learned – check your ammunition

July 31, 2014

Last week I went to a range to test recently acquired S&W Model 36 revolver. Previously I did a complete disassembly and cleaning of this revolver down to the last spring (except the trigger assembly that was speckless). After the reassembly, the dry firing and gap measurments indicated proper functionality and parts fit. However during firing 3rd or 4th cylinder at the range I got a cylinder lockup and was unable to pull the trigger or open the cylinder. Careful pull on the hammer spur and push on the cylinder latch allowed me to open the cylinder and eject rounds and shells. Inspection of the revolver revealed no visible issues. However, upon inspecting ejected unfired rounds, I saw that one shell had a circular shaving of brass wrapped in the milled channel that is close to the bottom lip (see picture of where it was). I am guessing that the shaving prevented proper siting of the round in the cylinder and also got the star stuck. The next 150 rounds went off just fine and there were no issues with the revolver function. Ammunition used was practice line from a well known and reputable manufacturer whose ammunition I have used extensively with no prior issues. This made it obvious to me that going forward I will need to take at least a cursory look at the practice ammunition casings and a very close look at those slotted for personal defense.

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Some faults in my training and how I realized them

January 25, 2013

The other day I was at a range and saw a young fellow practice his “shoot a bad guy” scenario. What I saw, was something I was guilty of myself, but just did not realize until I observed someone else do it:

– he did not draw his gun. It was already in his hand. This is very unlikely to happen when you carry a firearm on yourself (on a street, place of business, etc). So practicing a draw from your everyday holster while wearing your everyday clothing is important.

In my case likelihood of carrying a firearm is low. I am more likely to use it, in a house self-defense scenario. Still, I realized that I need to practice drawing more. Question that I need to answer is what is the percentage of training time I need to allocate to a non-likely scenario given a limited time I have for training.

– he walked toward the bad guy while shooting. In a self defense scenario (as oppose to a law enforcement or military action), the goal is self preservation (as oppose to bad guy apprehension or disabling enemy). One should walk back, while shooting and seeking cover and escape route. This could have legal ramifications as well. Who is the attacker? One that approaches his target or one that walks/runs away from it? Interestingly, the training classes I took, made the same assumption, where we would approach the target, vs retreating. Then again, the course was taught by SWAT and NARC officers, who typically attack the bad guy.

I tend to be stationary when I practice shooting (standing, kneeling, both hands, right hand, left hand) as I expect to do while in a self defense scenario in a house. However, I realized that I need to practice retreating as well. Question I need to answer is how one combines clearing the house with seeking cover and retreating? Can these be combined at all?

– another fault is shooting at a single, stationary target. This is a major flaw in training. Bad guys can attack as a group. A podcast on martial arts training discussing hand to hand combat helped me realize this very obvious point. Next time I’ll be at a range, I’ll make sure to have 2 or 3 targets I’ll be treating as hostiles. There would be very few times I shoot at a single target going forward (both handgun and long gun). I realize that setting up multiple targets might not be an option at many ranges, but it is important to at least keep it in mind. Incorporating multiple targets in dry fire training, might be the next best thing in such a case.
Having a non stationary target would be great, but very difficult at most ranges. Very few can have a mechanized or motorized moving target. One idea (borrowed from a book on special ops training in WW2) is to to attach targets to ballons or shoot at balloons directly. Wind should create some movement. This should be possible at least at some ranges.

– Another thing I thought about, is that self training is typically done in a relaxed atmosphere. Instructor is not yelling at you, there is plenty of light, and things are fairly quite. What’s missing is noise / stress / low light that will be present during a likely real self-defense action. Here are just some ideas to simulate noise/stress/ low light:
– do some jumping jacks to increase heart rate
– wear very dark sunglasses to simulate low light
– listen to some cacophony music / shouting recording through headphones under your ear muffs (make sure ear muffs are tight to protect your hearing)

Now, safety should be a primary concern under simulated stress. So dry fire only.

These things are extremely basic. However, as I observed more people at a range, I realized that a lot of them make the same mistakes. Inadequate basic training and insufficient self-analysis must be the culprits.

Another point of consideration for choosing home defense caliber

January 25, 2013
Note – if you ever fired a firearm in combat or self defense, this will very likely be of no interest to you. If you only shot in a controlled / supervised environment such as a shooting range, the following might be useful for you.
Stopping power vs. largest caliber you can shoot with precision is a common topic for discussions on home defense. However, one angle that I do not see discussed much if at all is the impact of discharging a projectile on your senses such as vision and hearing. Overwhelming chances are that you will not be wearing a hearing protection while firing in self defense. It is also likely, that there will be sub-par lighting conditions where you are relying on a flashlight or outside lights to navigate your surroundings and identify friend vs foe. In these conditions loud bangs and bright flashes of shots being fired will affect your hearing and vision. You will get immediate physical damage to your ears resulting in intense ringing in your ears and hearing degradation that will last for hours or even days. Depending on the lighting conditions you might also suffer temporary blindness and have circles flash in front of your eyes. This will make you at least partially disoriented. Obvious implications are adjustments that you need to make for preparing your defense plan including the aftermath and providing a statement to the law enforcement authorities. Note that rush of adrenaline and physical effects associated with it add additional complexity that is not discussed here.
This is all just some words that you just read on your screen. How about facts? While I can not speak for others, here is my  experience with shooting without hearing protection. Note that I advise against what I am about to describe and urge you to always wear ear and eye protection when shooting firearms.
I wanted to experience effect on hearing by shooting a handgun without wearing a hearing protection. Shooting 5 rounds of .38 +P outside during daylight resulted in immediate partial hearing loss and intense ringing in my ears. While I was expecting the effect,  I was a little surprised by the slight physical pain, which resulted in a slight pause before the next planned shot. The ringing remained strong  for the next 8 hours, with some ringing remaining for the next 24 hrs. I also experienced a loss in ability to hear certain frequencies up to 24 hrs and some ear discomfort for 48 hrs.  Anecdotal evidence found on the web suggested, that had I fired a larger caliber, I could have suffered a permanent hearing damage.
If I extrapolate this on firing a .357 inside of the house during night time, I can be fairly certain that acquiring target for the second shot could be delayed. Subsequent two way verbal communication with family members, threat, or law enforcement will be difficult. 12ga is likely to have even greater effect. So, while I can comfortable handle 12ga and shoot it with a decent precision, the load bang and flash will be a negative when deciding if this should be my go to firearm of choice in a home defense scenario.
So, what are the conclusions?
#1) additional reason and reconfirmation that the first shot placement is very important
#2) when choosing a go to firearm, consider the bang and the flash it’ll make – it could be a negative if your ability to defend yourself is affected
#3) keep in mind that there will be some hearing / vision loss – this will minimize the surprise when it happens

Severe trauma kits

January 25, 2013

After viewing video by Garrett Machine from Paladin Press(very well spent $25), I decided to assemble severe trauma kits for home, range, and family vehicles. Below is what is in each of my kits. I encourage you to watch the mentioned video to learn how to use it as well as this YouTube video on use of tourniquets:

Price was important to me. I needed to assemble 4 kits within a budget of $100 and looked for products that would offer an excellent balance of price and performance. Having 4 kits in different places and always close by with B rated products is better that having one kit with A+ rated in only one location that could be too far. In my opinion I did not compromise on the safety.

TK4 tourniquet. It is very small and easy to apply. TK4 performed very well in Coast Guard tests in 2007. It is compatible to popular and much more expensive C.A.T. IMHO it is easier to apply and more convenient due to size than C.A.T. Anecdotal evidence suggests that TK4 might not be as good when applied to upper leg than C.A.T., but I did not find any strong studies to prove that. Buying 4 C.A.T. tourniquets also did not fit into my budget (I found TK4 on ebay at about $2 apiece shipped vs at least $25 for C.A.T.). Not having any latex allergies in my family sealed the deal (TK4 has latex).

Petrolatum patch with duct tape on 3 sides. I chose it over asherman type valve patch due to price and the fact that everywhere I looked suggested that it performs just as well. One downside is that it can be marginally slower and more cumbersome to apply. However getting asherman valve patch would put me over the budget in no time.

Bloodclot Sport – 25g. There is only one alternative product that I was able to find and it is more expensive. 25g packet is not big, but 50g was simply too expensive for my budget.

Israeli bandage. I purchased ones that had “expired” and saved a bundle. I do not believe that a double vacuum sealed bandage can expire within a few years. I do not think it is treated with any type of a chemical and so there is no danger of it degrading. The expiration date might be related so specific regulations applied to all medical supplies issued to military staff.

2 in wide self sticking ace bandage. Nothing special here. Just a good brand that was on sale. Happened to be Johnson and Johnson this time.

Permanent marker. I happened to buy Metallic Sharpie, because I used them before and I like them. Any good permanent marker will do. I wrapped a some duct tape around the marker’s barrel to add strength if used in an improvised tourniquet and to have some duct tape on hand if needed.

Pair of gloves (I already had a full box in the house). Not sure I would bother with them in an emergency, unless my hands are covered in dirt or I am treating someone I do not know. If attending myself or a family member, my first priority will be a quick treatment.

5 in overall length medical shears. Whatever was cheap and had over 50 good reviews on Amazon. They are cheap and won’t last, but I only need them to work once. Bigger shears might have been better, but would not fit in my kit case. 5 in long should be sufficient. While G. Machine suggests using a scalpel or a pocket knife to remove clothing, I do not trust myself to have steady hands under stress and not add severe cuts to the existing wounds. As a side note I do recommend carrying a pocket knife whenever legal and feasible.

Kit case. I used poly based zipped pouches. They are clear and let one easily see the kit contents in case one forgets what’s in it under duress. They are splash proof. They were free too, since they originally came full of kid socks from Walmart. One downside is that if left in a hot space or under a direct sun, they can soften up and even melt.

Another point of consideration for choosing home defense caliber

March 17, 2012
Note – if you ever fired a firearm in combat or self defense, this will very likely be of no interest to you. If you only shot in a controlled / supervised environment such as a shooting range, the following might be useful for you.
Stopping power vs. largest caliber you can shoot with precision is a common topic for discussions on home defense. However, one angle that I do not see discussed much if at all is the impact of discharging a projectile on your senses such as vision and hearing. Overwhelming chances are that you will not be wearing a hearing protection while firing in self defense. It is also likely, that there will be sub-par lighting conditions where you are relying on a flashlight or outside lights to navigate your surroundings and identify friend vs foe. In these conditions loud bangs and bright flashes of shots being fired will affect your hearing and vision. You will get immediate physical damage to your ears resulting in intense ringing in your ears and hearing degradation that will last for hours or even days. Depending on the lighting conditions you might also suffer temporary blindness and have circles flash in front of your eyes. This will make you at least partially disoriented. Obvious implications are adjustments that you need to make for preparing your defense plan including the aftermath and providing a statement to the law enforcement authorities. Note that rush of andrenaline and physical effects associated with it add additional complexity that is not discussed here.
This is all just some words that you just read on your screen. How about facts? While I can not speak for others, here is my  experience with shooting without hearing protection. Note that I advise against what I am about to describe and urge you to always wear ear and eye protection when shooting firearms.
I wanted to experience effect on hearing by shooting a handgun without wearing a hearing protection. Shooting 5 rounds of .38 +P outside during daylight resulted in immediate partial hearing loss and intense ringing in my ears. While I was expecting the effect,  I was a little surprised by the slight physical pain, which resulted in a slight pause before the next planned shot. The ringing remained strong  for the next 8 hours, with some ringing remaining for the next 24 hrs. I also experienced a loss in ability to hear certain frequencies up to 24 hrs and some ear discomfort for 48 hrs.  Anekdotal evidence found on the web suggested, that had I fired a larger caliber, I could have suffered a permanent hearing damage.
If I extrapolate this on firing a .357 inside of the house during night time, I can be fairly certain that aquiring target for the second shot and subsequent two way verbal communication with family members, threat, or law enforcement would be difficult. 12ga is likely to have even greater effect. So, while I can comfortable handle 12ga and shoot it with a decent precision, the load bang and flash will be a negative when deciding if this should be my go to firearm of choice in a home defense scenario.
So, what are the conclusions?
#1) additional reason and reconfirmation that the first shot placement is very important
#2) when choosing a go to firearm, consider the bang and the flash it’ll make – it could be a negative if your ability to defend yourself is affected
#3) keep in mind that there will be some hearing / vision loss – this will minimize the surprise when it happens

Random thoughts on using shotgun for home defense

February 11, 2012

– saw someone on the web note that there is a difference between setup for a home defense shotgun (HDS) and a combat shotgun (CS). I fully agree. For example HDS is better used without a sling in most HD scenarios, so that it does not catch on something, while CS needs a sling so that operator can switch to a secondary arm without having to drop the CS on a ground. Sights needs better protection on a CS than on HDS (side “wings”) due to likely more severe conditions and a need to last longer since they can’t be easily replaced in a field. Ammo capacity needs to be larger on a CS since one more likely to encounter more foes in a combat cituation than in a typical HD case. HD can benefit from being “jury” friendly, while CS can be as aggressive looking as it needs to be. and so on…

– saw someone comment on the web how so many folks say that pump is much more reliable than a semi-auto shotgun, yet for concealed carry they use semi-auto pistols and not revolvers. Old myths die hard…

– another good comment I saw, was posted on a thread discussing pump vs semi-suto vs double barrel, 00 vs bird shot, etc, etc. The comment basically stated that a pump is a good HD choice, a semi-auto is a good choice, a .380 pistol is a decent choice, a sharp axe is fine, a dull axe is fine, a bat is OK… So don’t loose too much sleep choosing or advocating one over another. Get something that works and go from there.

– My setup for HD shotgun

Type: I dismissed a pump gun as inappropriate for me right away. I do not practice nearly enough to avoid short stroking or even remembering to pump under stress. I looked very closely at a double barrel due to simplicity/reliability/price/barrel length, but decided against it because:
— it can not be kept loaded with hammers down (I did not want to get the model with exposed hammers)
— none that I saw in my price category came with ejectors, which would be very important for quick reload under stress
— auto safety on reload (albeight easily disabled in most cases) did not appeal to me
— lack of rails or a rib makes installing after market sights expensive (requires gunsmith services) (edit on Feb 2, 2012 – now there are at least 2 double barrel shotguns that come with rails).

Btw, Stoeger coach double would be my choice if I had to get one.

I almost got a used over/under with ejectors that would solve some of the above issues. It is simple, reliable, small sized (after barrels are cut), but then I came across an amazing deal on a new semi-auto with 5 year warranty and good reputation. It’s a CZ model 712 Utility with syntetic stock, 20 in barrel, 41.5 overall length, ribbed barrel, 4+1 in 12ga, and 5 chokes.

– Accessories: sticking with models that have been in production for years or decades offers one the most variety in accessories: sights, flashlight mounts, sling options, stocks, etc. I hear that Mossberg 500 and Remington 870 top the list in this department. However, having bought a much less popular shotgun, I realized that with a little creativity I can do OK with generic accessories for what I need. If you want a highly customized gun, get a very popular model.

– Short barrel (20in or less) 12-20ga shotgun is a good univeral survival tool in a doomsday scenario. It is simple to operate, reliable (autos might require more frequent basic maintenance depending on the number of rounds shot), can be used for hunting small, medium, and large game on land, water, and in the air (from squarrels to geeze to bears (with 12ga slugs)), can be used for close range self defense with buck shot or medium range with slugs(out to 75-100 yards depending on ammo, sights, and your skills). Of course weight and size of the shotgun and the shells can be a drawback.

New Jersey friendly SHTF rifle

February 11, 2012

Recently I started thinking about a good SHTF rifle that would be NJ friendly. There were a number of issues to consider:

– NJ laws
– NJ opinions and feelings on “assault” rifles
– rifle price. I wanted to stay in the $500 range (as of 2011)
– rifle reliability
– rifle design especially ergonomics and features
– rifle portability
– rifle parts price and availability especially magazines
– good metal sights
– ability to customize with aftermarker parts, but keeping this completely optional
– rilfe caliber
— availability including special application rounds
— price
— total round weight
— bullet weight
— velocity
— penetration through obsticles
— stopping power
— trajectory
— felt recoil
— reputation based on military applications

Out of these concerns, I started with price and round avilability. This limited me to AR platforms, Saiga (AK platform derivative), SKS, Mosin Nagant, Ruger Mini 14, and Kel-Tec SU-16 variations.

I quickly dismissed AR platform. While there are many aftermarket parts for it and it is somewhat accepted in NJ, the platform is simply not reliable enough when looking at what is available in my price range. “Operator grade” AR rifles are great based on what I hear, but they are too expensive. ARs in the $500 are hard to find and do not have a good reputation.

Saiga is great. However, there are a couple of things that made me decide against it:
— it typically comes with only one magazine and extras are expensive
— while it is NJ legal, is not NJ friendly due to resemblance to the AK platform
— 7.62×39 is a good round, but I started leaning toward 5.56. Saiga comes in 5.56 and there is even an aftermarket part to have Saiga accept AR magazines. However, if I modify Saiga I would need to comply with Federal law and replace more parts, which will become prohibitevely expensive for me. While an attractive option, it is out of my price range.

Mosin Nagant is good. However, one needs to customize it too much to make it attractive to modern rifle platforms. This with combination of bolt action, magazine capacity, round options, etc. made it simply a bad choice within the given budget. However, if my budget was under $100, this would be the one to get.

SKS variations are very good. However, NJ law limits me to the type I can get (non detachable magazine and more). SKS also requires some customization to cut down the overall weight. It is also somewhat not NJ friendly due to some SKS variations being on the banned firearms list. This makes it for an OK choice, but not the best choice.

Ruger Mini 14 Ranch is a good rifle. However, it has a reputation of being compatavely not very precise in the MOA department. Extra magazines are expensive. On top of it, it is also somewhat not NJ friendly due to the presence of some Mini 14 variations on the banned firearms list.

This brings me to the Kel-Tec SU-16 variations. While its long term durability is questioned by some, I have not heard of any actual evidence to that regard. Alpha model has plastic sights, that I just do not want to have. Charlie model is not NJ friendly due to the threaded barrel and ability to fire with a folded stock and it lacks magazine storage in its stock. Charlie Alpha is very good, but has the threaded barrel. Delta’s design does not work for my purposes. This leaves me with the Bravo model. Besides the attractive phonetic, it is as much NJ friendly as a semi-automatic rifle can be and has all of the SU-16 platform features that I find very desirable in a SHTF rile:
– rifle price. One can be found for around $500
– rifle reliability is good based on the anecdotal evidence found on the internet (if it is on the Internet, one HAS to trust it 🙂
– rifle design, especially ergonomics and features. I saw many comments on how ergonomic it is. Ability to accept AR magazines, dissasembly without any tools, and magazine storage in the stock are all big plusses for me.
– rifle portability. SU-16 platform is extremely light and can be folded in half for transport. Overall length is under 36in.
– rifle parts price and availability especially magazines. Everything is available from Kel-Tec site at very reasonable prices. Additionally AR magazines can be used.
– good metal sights. I really like sites in the CA model, but since it is out, the aluminum sights on the B model are acceptable.
– ability to customize with aftermarker parts, but keeping this completely optional. Some interesting and not too expensive options are available directly from Kel-Tec.
– rilfe caliber. While there is now much debate about about 5.56 Nato round, I think that it is the best overall round based on my criteria.

5/17/2011

Update 06/2011
After all I got an SKS. I bet on an auction, thinking there is no way it’ll go for what I bet, but it did. It’s Chinese made carbine in a nice, practically new condition. I still think that SU-16 platform would be a better choice if I had more money. However, SKS cost me less than a third of what I would have to pay for SU-16.

Your first gun

February 11, 2012

Gun rules:

– Treat ALL guns as they were loaded
– Never point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy
– Always keep your finger of the trigger until ready to shoot
– Be sure of your target and what it is beyond it

Why start with the rules, you may ask? Guns are not toys. They can be (and are) used to kill. Every year I hear or read about about people shot and mauled or worse killed by an “accident”. It is critical to always be mindful of the rules to prevent such “accidents”. Ask yourself, how you will feel if you shoot your loved one by “accident”, how it will change your life. Now read the rules again.

Now that you are familiar with the gun handling rules, ask yourself if you are ready to end someone’s life. Granted, it will be in the gravest extreme, when you or those dear dear to you are in a clear and present danger. However, are you willing to trade someone else’s life for yours? Do you understand the legal and emotional implications it will have on your life? If your personal beliefs prevent you from using deadly force, then you need to come up with a personal protection schema that does not involve you potentially shooting someone.

If you are at peace with your decision to use a deadly force for the personal defense if necessary, then your first step in the process should be joining NRA. Much can be said about National Rifle Association, both good and on a rare occasion not, but one thing is certain – they are the best advocate for responsible gun ownership and your ability to defend yourself with a firearm. They provide many resources and benefits for responsible gun owners and I strongly believe that every gun owner should be an NRA member. By the way, one of the benefits NRA provides with their yearly membership (which of this writing is about mere $35 a year with discounts available) is automatic insurance of $1,000 for your firearms. So go ahead and join NRA online now.

Now, that you are a fellow NRA member, you should learn firearm and shooting basics. The best way to do that is to take an NRA Basic Pistol Course from an NRA certified instructor in your area. They are very inexpensive and can be found here: http://www.nrainstructors.org/searchcourse.aspx

If this option is unavailable in your area, then visit a local pistol shooting range or a gun club. You can find them here: http://wheretoshoot.org/.
Almost always they will have an instructor available to conduct a Basic Pistol course for you. Take this opportunity to become familiar with the shooting range and people running it. You will need to practice your shooting skills on a regular basis at a range after all.

I do not normally recommend using friends as the only instructors, simply because as a beginner shooter you can not be sure if they know how to teach basic pistol skills in a safe and effective way. It does not mean that you should refuse an offer from a friend to take you shooting. I would always encourage it as long as your friend is a responsible person who will ensure that both of handling firearms in a safe manner. It simply means that you should still take a basic pistol course from an instructor who has been teaching folks such you for a long time and can be very effective in helping you learn foundations of good shooting. The instructor will also be able to tell about applicable federal and state laws in your area. It is VERY important to be aware of rules on what firearms are allowed in your state, how to keep them, how transport them, etc.

Word of advice: before you attend your first training, invest in ear and eye protection. Basic shooting glasses can be very inexpensive (under $10) and are required at any reputable range. Same goes for ear protection. Disposable ear plugs can be found for under $1 a pair. However, I highly recommend spending some money and buying electronically controlled ear muff protection. These have come down in price drastically and can be found for under $40 for a basic set. They muff the shooting sounds, but amplify regular speach, whic. This makes them extremely convenient during call, when you want to hear your instructor or range officer loud and clear.

Now it is time to decide on your first gun. With time you will realize that not a single gun can satisfy all of the possible self defense scenarios. There is a time and place for a revolver, a semi-automatic pistol, a shotgun, and even a carbine. However, since vast majority of threats in a home defense scenario can be effectively mitigated with a handgun, let us look at those. The first basic choice you need to make is between a revolver and a semi-automatic pistol. Ideally, you will get a chance to handle and shoot both types during your basic pistol course. You will learn about design differences between them including round capacity, loading, triggers, safety, etc. I am impartial to revolvers and recommend that a first time handgun owner gets a revolver. Why get a revolver instead of a modern semi-automatic with lighter trigger and much higher capacity? There are many reasons and I’ll just list a few. Chief reason is that I believe a first time gun owner will not have enough skill and practice to handle semi-auto gun malfunctions when (s)he is half awake at 3AM and a sound of alarm fills the house and andrenaline. A spouse not interested in learning about guns, might find a revolver to be easier to operate as well. Revolvers tend to be more court friendly if it comes down to that. So, which revolver should you get? I suggest Smith and Wesson, Ruger, modern (2005 +) Charter Arms, Taurus. A very good option would be to find a used Smith and Wesson or Ruger in good condition with maybe some holster wear, but excellent bore and tight action and then have it serviced by a gunsmith. This will give you an excellent revolver at an excellent price (in my opnion certainly better than new Taurus or Charter Arms). Suggested caliber and barrel length: .357 with 4 inch barrel. For home defense concellability is not a concern, so get a full size revolver that will offer you more options. While, as you see below, I think .38 caliber ammo should be used for home protection, being able to shoot .357 gives you more options, should you ever need to shoot a bear that wandered into your backyard (note: if you don’t know it yet – both .38 and .357 ammo can be shot from .357 revolver, but not the other way around). Given the same round 4 inch barrel has more rifling and barrel length to build gas pressure to spin bullet to a higher speed than say a 2 inch barrel can. It also puts a bit more weight in the barrel, thus helping to reduce recoil. On possible downsides, a pistol with longer barrel is easier to wrestle out during hand to hand fight and it might be a bit too heavy to hold for small frame folks who do not excercise. However, I would not recommend to go with anything less than 2 1/4 in barrel for a home defense revolver. Revolvers with shorter barrels also tend to be made for concealed carry and as a result be smaller and hold 5 rounds as oppose to 6 or 7. Note that .38 revolver might be a little less heavy than .357 due to having a slightly less beafed up frame. My personal favorites are S&W model 686+, 619, or 620 with 7 round capacity.

As one of two important accessories I highly recommend laser sights. Do not buy cheap sights for $20-80. They will waste your money and put your life in danger when a serious situation arises. Go for expensive, proven laser sights, such as Crimson Trace or one of their major competators. Crimson trace can set you back a couple of hunder dollars, but it will give the best of the breed and provide with some perks such as 1hr video tutorial on using the sights (tactics, benefits, pitfalls). Since most of CT sights replace your factory grips, you can get some money back by selling your old grips online. I will say that unless you can afford a good, reliable, and reputable sight, do not get it at all. Note that while it very is helpful, thousands of folks survived just fine wthout one. This is not unlike paper map vs a GPS or sliced bread vs a uncut loaf. And of course always remember to practice often with your iron sights (this might come in handy if your laser does fail for some reason – dead batteries for example) ! Even CrimsonTrace folks remind us of that.

Much can be found on the web about what kind of ammo one should choose for a revolver to be used for home defense. I would recommend to stick with .38 +P hollow points in 125 grain, .38 +P in 158 grain lead semi wudcutter hollow point (aka FBI load), or maybe 110 grain .357 hollow points if you find recoil manageable and can hit targets consistently. If you find all of the above too much, then consider .38 lead hollow points in 125 grain made by Federal. They are a bit hard to find and might be somewhat expensive, but have a solid reputation. Try to practice with ammo similar to what you have for self defense. For example, if it is .38 +P in 158 grain lead semi wudcutter hollow point then practice with .38 159 grain +P rounds. They do not have to be hollow point of course, which will make them less expensive. Make sure to run 200+ rounds of chosen self defense ammo (or at least as much as you can afford) through your revolver to ensure it functions flawlessly with it. Your gun might function perfectly with practice ammo you use, but fail to operate properly with your self defense ammo, if it has harder primers, etc.

Another accessory to invest into is a good flashlight. Do not buy $5 flashlight from eBay This is an important item. Choose with care.There is a lot that can be said about flashlights, many to choose from. However, sticking with brands such as SureFire or Fenix should serve you well. Visit http://www.candlepowerforums.com to learn more. IMPORTANT: always get lithium batteries for your flashlight.

Now that you have chosen a gun (be it a revolver or a semi-automatic), you need to go and buy… a safe, or better yet a small safe and a lockable ammo cabinet before you buy the gun or the ammunition. You have a responsibility to ensure that your firearm and ammo do not fall into wrong hands, especially children. You would not want to be shot with your own gun either, should a burglar find it in your suck drawer as you walk into your door. There are many good safes out there now in all price ranges (50-1000+), sizes (5x5x2 up to room size) and mount options (in wall, floor, on top of flat surface, etc). Locking mechanisms vary as well: traditional lock and key, mechanical push button ( simplex lock with 1024 possible combinations), battery operated electronic lock with button combination and key backup, battery operated biometric with key backup, combination locks just to name a few. Your choice will depend on your budget, mounting options, etc. Dot not forget that you need a separate lockabale box or safe to store your spare / practice ammunition. If you practice regularly, you would want a few hundred rounds on hand, so that you do not have to keep on buying them one or two boxes at a time while at a range. Some ranges might not even sell ammunition and there were times when it was in a very short supply and hard and expensive to come by.

So now you took a basic pistol shooting course, have a safe, and a gun. So what’s next? Well, you should be practicing your shooting skills. Frequency of course depends on your schedule and other commitments you might have. However, remember that you have this gun in case to protect yourslef and your loved ones from a deadly assault, so do not think for a second that shooting 20 rounds once a year is good enough. My humble opinion is that 50-100 rounds monthly is an acceptable minimum, but do consult with your pistol instructor. Also, please realize that shooting at paper targets from a perfect stance in perfect lighting is not likely to be how you will be shooting when you have to defend your life in a real scenario. So, take the the NRA’s Personal Protection Inside Home course to better prepare for a real life scenario including what to do when police arrives and what you can do to avoid the armed confrontation in the first place.

In conclusion I would like you to remind some words that will keep you and your loved ones safe:


– Treat ALL guns as they were loaded

– Never point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy
– Always keep your finger of the trigger until ready to shoot
– Be sure of your target and what it is beyond it

picking a defense weapons set for an average Joe or Jill in three different hypothetical scenarios

May 27, 2010

My thoughts on picking a defense weapons set for an average Joe in three different hypothetical scenarios. An average Jill can use the same principles, but if necessary she will need to adjust suggestions below to her physical strength (for example get a revolver in .38 caliber that might be lighter than .357, use regular .38 ammo instead of .38 +P, etc).

Let me first describe Joe. He’s a male of an average strength. He knows how to shoot a handgun, but never went through a formal training, nor does he practice his shooting skills on a regular basis. He has a wife and two small children. He does not have much money to spend on guns. He lives in low-middle income class suburbs. He rents a large apartment or owns a mid-size townhome or a house.

Scenario 1 – home invasion by burglars
Suggested items: alarm system, large can of pepper spray, medium to large frame double action revolver, mini gun safe, good tactical flashlight from a reputable maker

Some thoughts on strategy and auxiliary means of protection.
1) Joe should get an alarm system. Even cheap alarms sold at discount stores, that simply sound an alarm when somebody passes them by, are better than nothing. While they are not connected to a police station and might not be loud enough to attract neighbors attention, they are likely to serve two purposes: startle the invader and possibly make him leave the house and wake Joe up. Awake Joe has a chance of getting to his defensive weapons before attacker gets to the sleeping Joe and his family.
Hint: if you have a pet, place this security device 3-4 feet of the floor. Most pets will be shorter than 4 feet and most attackers will be taller. If your dog is taller than 4 feet, you might not need a security device in a first place.
Hint: If you get an alarm system from a security agency, you will pay monthly fees. In exchange the agency will provide monitoring services and automatically call police department if alarm is breached. However, in cases when burglar cuts the phone/cable wires they won’t get a call although the alarm bell inside of the house will still go off and wake Joe up. Joe might consider getting a system with so called cellular backup. It sends a cellular call to the monitoring agency when land lines are cut (you can not add this to your Verizon Wireless plan, btw). More advanced burglars might jam the signal, then cut the wires, but such advanced burglars are unlikely to target Joe’s residence in the first place.
2) Joe should devise a plan of action
3) Joe should make an effort to read a home defense book or better yet attend training. Two books I would recommend are: NRA’s “Personal Protection Inside Home” and “The Farnam method of defensive handgunning”. The classes I would recommend are both from NRA: “Basic Pistol” and “Personal Protection Inside Home” courses. Note that there are 40,000+ NRA instructors. Vast majority are good, but use common sense when picking whose class to attend.

Suggested brands: Smith and Wesson, Ruger, modern (2005 +) Charter Arms, Taurus. A very good option would be to find a used Smith and Wesson or Ruger in good condition with maybe some holster wear, but excellent bore and tight action and then have it serviced by a gunsmith. This will give Joe an excellent revolver at an excellent price (in my opnion certainly better than Taurus and Charter Arms).

* Suggested caliber and barrel length: .357 with 4 inch barrel. For home defense concellability is not a concern, so get a full size revolver that will offer you more options. While, as you see below, I think .38 caliber ammo should be used for home protection, being able to shoot .357 gives you more options, should you ever need to shoot a bear that wandered into your backyard (note: if you don’t know it yet – both .38 and .357 ammo can be shot from .357 revolver, but not the other way around). Given the same round 4 inch barrel has more rifling to spin bullet to a higher speed than say a 2 inch barrel can. It also puts a bit more weight in the barrel, thus helping to reduce recoil. On possible downsides, a pistol with longer barrel is easier to wrestle out during hand to hand fight and it might be a bit too heavy to hold for small frame folks who do not excercise. However, I would not recommend to go with anything less than 2 1/4 in barrel for a home defense revolver. Revolvers with shorter barrels also tend to be made for concealed carry and as a result be smaller and hold 5 rounds as oppose to 6 or 7. Note that .38 revolver might be a little less heavy than .357 due to having a slightly less beafed up frame.

* Fixed sights or adjustable
Not relevant for home defense. Joe is likely to point and shoot as oppose to to take a careful aim at a stationary target that is 50 yards away. Fixed sight revolvers tend to be a bit less expensive on average, however they are unlikely to come with high visibility sights. Note that not all adjustable sights are high visibility either. This can be remedied by applying inexpensive glow in the dark paint to the front sight (don’t look for this paint at your local PartyCity store. Look on gun sites such as Brownells, MidwayUSA, Cabella’s, Cheaperthandirt, etc or ask your gun dealer). A gunsmith can also install a high visibility plastic insert in the front sight for a small fee. Additionally, fixed sights won’t get misaligned or catch on clothing.

* Laser sights
Highly recommended. Do not buy cheap sights for $20-80. They will waste your money and put your life in danger when a serious situation arises. Go for expensive, proven laser sights, such as Crimson Trace or one of their major competators. Crimson trace can set you back a couple of hunder dollars, but it will give the best of the breed and provide with some perks such as 1hr video tutorial on using the sights (tactics, benefits, pitfalls). Since most of CT sights replace your factory grips, you can get some money back by selling your old grips online. I will say that unless you can afford a good, reliable, and reputable sight, do not get it at all. Note that while it very is helpful, thousands of folks survived just fine wthout one. This is not unlike paper map vs a GPS or sliced bread vs a loaf. And of course always remember to practice with your iron sights (this might come in handy if your laser does fail for some reason – dead batteries for example) ! Even CrimsonTrace folks remind us of that.

* Sight in your revolver
Sight in your laser or adjustable sights following manufacturer instructions. Ask a gunshop owner or experienced folks at a firing range if you need help. While it might seem that this contradicts what I have said about adjustable sights relevancy for home defense it does not. If you ever use your sights to take a careful aim you will need to follow one of the cardinal rules of firearm safety is “Be sure of your traget and what is beyond”. How can you be sure of your target if your laser sights make you shoot 5 inches to te right?

* Get the right ammo
Much can be found on the web about what kind of ammo one should choose for a revolver to be used for home defense. For an average Joe I would recommend to stick with .38 +P hollow points in 125 grain, .38 +P in 158 grain lead semi wudcutter hollow point (aka FBI load), or maybe 110 grain .357 hollow points if you find recoil manageable and can hit targets consistently. If you find all of the above too much, then consider .38 lead hollow points in 125 grain made by Federal. They are a bit hard to find and might be expensive, but have a solid reputation. Try to practice with ammo similar to what you have for self defense. For example, if it is .38 +P in 158 grain lead semi wudcutter hollow point then practice with .38 159 grain +P rounds. They do not have to be hollow point of course, which will make them less expensive. Make sure to run 200+ rounds of chosen self defense ammo (or at least as much as you can afford) through your revolver to ensure it functions flawlessly with it. Your gun might function perfectly with practice ammo you use, but fail to operate properly with your self defense ammo, if it has harder primers, etc.

Scenario 2 – localized riots, looting aka Katrina scenario

Scenario 3 – the End of the World as We Know It aka SHTF

Why do those who carry firearms for living fail to master it?

May 27, 2010

Last Friday I went to pre-qualify for an NRA course. I have never taken any NRA courses before and the instructor wanted to make sure that I am familar with safety rules and can shoot my firearm well enough to take the class. Right before me there were 6 or 8 security officers quialifying with their side arms. I was shocked at how poorly they did. I am not a crack shot by any means and in fact I consider myself to be mediocre. However, I saw my groups to be tighter than most of the ones by the security officers and I was shooting a DA revolver vs a modern semi-automatic (I saw many Glocks, XDs, and one 5 shot snubby – one of two shooters who did well). The target was a large stylized body outline (Q target), distance was about 7 yards, and speed of fire was slow to somewhat rapid. I saw many misses as well as truly poor grouping. I can only imagine what the shooting would be if they were under true stress. In addition I saw how one of the officers managed to load a .380 into his 9mm handgun and was puzzled that it had a failure to feed. The reason I was shocked as oppose to just amuzed is that not only their livelihood depends on their shooting skills, but their life! In my professional occupation I try to take skill improvement courses and attend workshops relevant to my job. I do less than I think I should – I do not read trade magazines due to the lack of time, I do not write articles, don’t go to trade shows, etc. However, this does not have an impact on me living or dying. Excellent shooting skills on the other hand have a direct impact on one’s life if that person is carrying a handgun to defend oneself “in the greatest extreme”. So why would one not spend the extra effort to be a good shot, be familiar with defensive tactics, etc?