Common Firearm Terminology: Definitions and Explanations. By GunsmithG
Greetings, all. As I've been writing some firearms articles lately, I've recieved a number of emails and tweets asking about certain terms I've used. I apologize that I haven't done this sooner, to help alleviate some of the confusion generated by words and abbreviations commonly used in both gun-smithing and recreational, hunting, and competition shooting sports.
I hope this will help firearms enthusiasts old and new to better understand the sometimes confusing arcana of the profession. These are not in any particular order, as I'm too lazy to alphabetize them. With that, let's begin!
Mil: A measurement first used by artillery, a mil equals 36 inches at 1,000 yards. The term has become popular since the introduction of Mil-dot reticles in rifle scopes, as you can use the size of objects compared to the dots for a range to the target, and also can be used to determine bullet drop compensation.
Scope: A common contraction for a telescopic sight. Scopes allow us to see more clearly and magnify objects at distance so a shot can be placed precisely.
Reticle: This is the term for the aiming device inside a telescopic sight, such as cross-hairs, that give you a aiming point. There are numerous different reticles in common use today, such as plain cross-hairs, duplex reticle, which uses a thicker cross-hairs, then narrows near the center, a post reticle, that usually looks like a mini obelisk, Mil-dot, usually a fine wire cross-hair with dots added to the horizontal and vertical, dot, a simple round dot in the center of the optic, and many others. You may also find dots listed as 1 mil and up, meaning the size of the dot in inches at 100 yards. One mil is equal to 4 inches at 100 yards.
MOA: An abbreviation for Minute Of Angle, meaning 1 inch at 100 yards. An example: "That rifle will shoot MOA groups". This means simply that the firearm will place a number of shots fired in a one inch group at 100 yards.
Group: A number of shots fired at a target, using the same aiming point for all. The accuracy of the firearm (and it's owner!) can be measured using this.
A flyer: A single round fired at a target that from either a movement of the shooter (a called flyer), or a shot that strays from a group for unknown reasons.
Bedding: The mating of the action and barrel of a rifle to the stock, can be inletted (carved out wood) or "glassed", the technique of using fiberglass resin to make for a solid consistent mating surface of the action to the stock to attempt to improve accuracy.
Floated, or Free Floated: The removal of material (wood or fiberglass) forward of the action under the barrel to keep the point of impact from changing as the barrel heats up from repeated firing.
Headspace: This is the critical measurement of the space between the measurement point on a cartridge to the bolt face. For rimless cartridges, the measuring point is at the mid point of the shoulder of the cartridge to the bolt face, Rimmed cartridge is measured from the rim to the bolt face, and magnum cartridges measure from the belt to the bolt face. Too much headspace, and the cartridge casings can split or separate, too little, and there may be extra high pressure in the chamber from not being able to expand properly. Very dangerous, especially in old military rifles that are badly worn.
Cartridge Casing Design and Nomenclature: The parts of any metallic cartridge are:
- Casing: The brass or steel casing that holds the powder, primer, and projectile (bullet).
- Berdan Style Primer: which is a simple cup with the priming compound in it, which usually has several flash holes leading into the powder chamber and has a part of the casing in the primer pocket that is used as the anvil.
- Boxer Primers: Use a metal cup with a crimped in anvil, and a centered single flash hole in the casing, making it much easier to reload the expended brass. Cartridge casings fall into several designs. Rimmed, where the primer end of the casing has a protruding rim around the base. semi- rimmed: A smaller, less protruding rim, the .38 Super Colt cartridge is a good example.
- Rimless: which actually have a rim, but its inset in a groove at the base of the cartridge, no larger than the cartridge base. This works especially well in semi auto firearms, and is the most common type today.
- Belted or Belted Magnum: This type casing has an extra thickness at the base of the cartridge, allowing for higher chamber pressures without the casing bulging or cracking.
Primer: a small metal cup filled with a substance that burns rapidly when physically struck, used to ignite the powder charge in the casing. There are two types of primers in common use today.
Elevation: The up and down adjustment of the bullet impact. Most all firearms have at least some adjustment in windage, as no two people see sights the same way.
Six O'clock Hold: When firing at a target, adjusting your point of impact to the center, using the clock-face as a reference point. A six o'clock hold means you place the top of your front sight at the base of the center ring on the target, with point of impact above and centered.
Maggies Drawers: A slang term from military and competition shooting. When there was a complete miss of the target, the target spotter in the pit below the target would wave a white or red flag across the target, indicating a miss.
Stripper clip: A simple sheet metal strip, with a rolled edge, that will hold a number of cartridges together in a row. Usually used to reload a military rifle with an internal magazine quickly.
Clip: A sheet metal device used to hold a number of cartridges, that becomes an integral part of the firearm till the ammunition it holds is fired. A M-1 Garand is a good example.
Magazine: a separate self contained device with a internal spring to hold and feed cartridges into the chamber of a firearm. Often referred to erroneously as a "clip".
FPS: Acronym for Feet Per Second, a common measurement of the speed of a projectile after firing.
Velocity: The speed of the bullet fired from a gun. Can be affected by heat/cold, distance, and powder charge.
Muzzle Energy: The measurement of a combination of bullet weight, and the speed of the projectile converted to foot pounds. Literally, foot pounds is the energy required to move a pound one foot.
Jam: usually encountered in semi automatic firearms, can be a casing that isn't thrown clear of the action of the weapon. Can also have a number of other causes.
Indexing: When handling a firearm, rifle or pistol, keeping your index (trigger) finger off the trigger and pointed forward along the side of the firearm.
Cook Off: This is a dangerous situation when the barrel of a firearm becomes so hot that cartridges fire without the trigger being pulled.
Squib Load: A cartridge that has either no gunpowder, or not enough to push the bullet clear of the barrel. Can be especially dangerous if another cartridge is fired, pushing both bullets through the bore, with a spike in pressure. Usually damages the firearm, at a minimum putting a "ring", a bulged spot in the barrel. In thinner barreled guns like shotguns, can blow apart the barrel.
Single Action: Can be either a semi auto or revolver, meaning that the hammer of the semi auto must be cocked for the first shot. A revolver of this type must have the hammer cocked for every shot.
Double Action: Once again, can apply to both semi auto and revolvers. The mechanism can be fired by pulling the trigger which cocks the hammer. The hammer can be manually cocked for a shorter lighter trigger pull for better accuracy.
Well, I'm going to wrap this one up for now. I'll have some more info for you all another time. Keep reading! GunsmithG
Greetings, all. Here's a little info that I've found useful. This is something I would always do, even to brand new out of the box scopes before installing on the intended firearm. Every modern rifle or pistol scope that has internal adjustments has an optical zero point, that is, where the adjustments for the point of impact are centered with the tube, giving you the most adjustment that is possible without changing the mounts themselves. Now some mounting systems, like the Redfield type, have a dovetailed front ring and setscrews on the rear ring for coarse adjustments for wind-age (side to side).
Other mounting systems, like the weaver style or picatinny rails, don't have a way to compensate for wind-age, although some scope rings may have a small amount of adjustment possible, like the Millett rings for Weaver style bases. This is why it's very important to have the scope you are going to mount as close to optical zero as possible.
Here's a simple way to check the scope for optical zero before installation. First, you'll need to make a simple cradle that can be as easy as a shoebox, or if you mount or swap a lot of scopes, a more permanent tool. I made mine from a old miter box. the design is simple, just a frame of wood, (using metal may damage the optics finish), with a V shaped cut on either side of the framework. Make sure it is wide enough to give the adjustment turrets room to rotate without the scope being moved from the V shaped notch.
The main idea being to be able to rotate the scope 360 degrees without interference from the adjustment turrets.
Set this up on a workspace where it is stable, and put a grid type target on a stand or wall that you can see clearly through the scope.
After setting the scope on the stand, move it until the cross hairs align with the center of the grid/target. Rotate the scope on its supports without lifting or shifting it, and you may see the cross-hairs or dot move away from the center of the grid. Use the internal adjustments of the scope to correct this until you can rotate the scope 360 degrees with no shift from the center of your target or grid. The scope is now at its optical center and ready to be mounted on your weapon and zeroed for point of impact. This simple system may save you a lot of grief, as it gives you a reference point and the maximum amount of internal adjustment from the scope. This is exceptionally handy when installing used optics.
Thanks for reading! GunsmithG
One For the Ladies - Women's Shooting Self-Defense & Target
First of all, I'd like to thank Elaine for suggesting this, for the new female target and self defense shooters.
As I started gathering information for this article, I was surprised by the changing demographic of people becoming involved with the shooting sports, for target, pleasure, and self defense.
In target shooting alone, it breaks down like this.
|ESTABLISHED SHOOTERS||BEGINNING SHOOTERS|
| 43 ||Average age||33|
|34%||Live in urban/suburban area||47%|
|56%||Hunted in 2012||29%|
| 19% ||Started older than age 18||77%|
This is an eye opener. The shooting sports in general and self defense ownership of firearms is growing rapidly, especially for self defense, as more and more law enforcement agencies are overburdened. As response to 911 calls gets slower and slower, more women are owning firearms to protect themselves and their children.
Many women are intimidated by the male dominated firearms environment, but that is changing. More classes for self defense and safe firearms handling and familiarization are being offered for women, and often by female instructors. The old saw about women not being as good as men with a firearm is laughable, and here's why.
First, women have a number of abilities that men do not. Women have "quieter" nervous systems, less unnecessary inputs which can make it difficult to hold a firearm steady.
It's a proven medical fact that women have better eye/hand coordination.
Also, women have the advantage of being very teachable, and tend to listen and absorb information faster and have better recall than their male counterparts.
This one isn't a physical advantage, but women have less ego to get in their way, and less or no bad habits to unlearn from old uncle junior who taught them to shoot.
Ok, let's answer some common questions about self defense firearms for women.
These are the big questions, and vary significantly from person to person. There are many variables including size of the firearm, for carry or for home protection, recoil tolerance, physical strength, ease of operation and complexity, ease of maintenance, availability and price of ammunition.
As a beginning shooter, I highly recommend a beginning firearms course provided by a reputable source like the NRA women and firearms classes. There's a lot of valuable information there, often taught by female instructors, the cost is low, and the classes are usually scheduled on weekends to make juggling schedules easier.
As far as the size of the firearm is concerned, there are numerous choices, depending on what your personal issues are. For carry / concealment, you are going to look at something small, light and easy to hide, which limits your options, but I'll go into that more in a bit.
Inside The Home
For home defense, you are going to want something larger and more effective than a small handgun. A short barreled shotgun is an ideal home defense gun, I would advise a pump action for the simplicity and ease of operation for a new shooter, plus the intimidating factor of the cocking sound when a round is chambered and the large diameter of the bore. The recoil of a shotgun can be a problem for some women, but once a person is taught proper stance and using a less powerful ammunition reduces this to very manageable levels.
A side note here on shotgun terminology. Most all shotguns are known by the gauge system, except for the .410caliber. The gauge system is based on the number of round lead balls the diameter of the bore it takes to weigh one pound, so the higher number example: 12 gauge: 12 ball the bore diameter, to 28gauge: 28 lead balls the bore diameter.
Most common, and thereby least expensive, is the 12 gauge. It's used by hunters and military and law enforcement, so the availability is high. The other thing about a shotgun for home protection is the availability of a wide assortment of loads for it. If you live in an apartment or condo, you have to think about over-penetration, going through the walls and injuring or killing an innocent neighbor. For these types of situations, I recommend a very light target shooting load with small pellets, as this load will not penetrate two layers of Sheetrock with enough energy to injure a person.
OK, I hear the naysayers in the background about you have to have the highest power ammo, but think about this: A 12 gauge shotgun with a light target load fires a 7/8th to 1 ounce load of pellets traveling at approximately 1,200 feet per second (FPS). A short defense shotgun usually has no choke, (a constriction of the barrel at the muzzle to control the spread of the pellets), but for a cylinder bore (no choke), the pattern of pellets expand at the rate of one inch in diameter for every three feet. At say 10 feet, the spread will only be around three inches. With one ounce of pellets, traveling at 1200FPS, impacting the target in a three inch circle, the energy is virtually the same as at the muzzle: 1,200FPS= 1,398 foot pounds (ft/lbs). Foot pounds is literally the energy required to move an object weighing X amount one foot (example: 50ft/lbs= 50pounds moved one foot).
The 9 millimeter parabellum handgun cartridge which is a very common self defense, military and police round, generates around 400ft/lbs. With a solid torso hit, the shotgun is devastating to a human sized target.
Before we dive into handguns and pistol caliber carbines, let's look at recoil (or "kick").
I don't know how many videos on YouTube I've seen where the boyfriend, hubby, or whatever thinks it's funny to hand a beginning shooter a heavy recoiling firearm, and laugh when it kicks out of the unsuspecting persons hand, or hits them in the face. Gee, thanks, guys. You just created an unsafe scenario, which at the least will create fear of injury, leading to a flinch (unconscious movement) or at the worst a negligent death, especially with heavy recoiling semi auto handguns. There have been a few times when under recoil, the shooter clenches the grip (and trigger) and fires another round, shooting themselves or another person nearby.
Moving on. Recoil is essentially the movement of the gun caused by the expanding gases and the acceleration of the bullet, perfect example of for every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction. Recoil is usually measured in foot /pounds (ft/lbs), and also by the speed of the recoil in feet per second (fps.) There are a number of variables, including the weight of the projectile, the powder charge, the weight of the gun, and also the axis of the bore in relation to where you grasp it. The higher the barrel is above your hand, the heavier the recoil will seem, because of the leverage applied. As with anything, there are ways to mitigate the recoil.
In revolvers, the action of rotating the cylinder doesn't depend on the power of the cartridge, so you can shoot light loads for target practice. In semi auto handguns, they depend on the power of the cartridge to function correctly. Everyone's recoil tolerance is different, so before you make a handgun purchase, do your homework and find a local range that rents firearms so you can shoot a variety of handguns and see what you like the best and is comfortable to shoot.
A proper fit to your hand size is very important. If too big, you won't be able to maintain a solid grip. If too small, recoil may cause a pinch and or bruising of your hand due to the smaller size of the grip. The reduced area also directs the recoil into a smaller spot on your hand. A good quality set of grips in a soft rubber will lessen the felt recoil by absorbing some of the abruptness of the recoil and slowing the recoil impulse down, tricking your body into believing there's less recoil.
Women are lucky when it comes to recoil. There was a study done a few years ago where they had a petite woman fire several weapons, then a 260 pound man fire the same guns. The man thought that the firearms kicked much harder than the woman did, using the same exact ammunition! This happens because it takes a lot less energy to move a 130 lb woman's body, slowing that recoil down, where the heavier man absorbed much more of the impulse with his body before he started to move.
Learn proper techniques to minimize recoil, and make sure you learn the basics of proper grip, sight alignment and trigger control before you step up to a larger caliber and more complex gun.
I highly recommend the idea of having two guns, one in .22LR to train with, as the ammunition is inexpensive and there's minimal recoil. Makes a great first gun and a valuable training tool. For true novices with little to no experience, it's something that will be enjoyed not only for practice, as the minimal recoil won't hide errors. If I develop a quirk that's affecting my shooting, I'll drag out the .22lr and find it real quick.
With rifles and shotguns, all of the above is true, with some additional things to practice. A solid snug fit to your shoulder and cheek will stop the gun from moving rapidly to your face and shoulder. It's like the difference between a punch to a push, if you move with the gun, it doesn't give it a chance to freely accelerate before hitting you. You move together, and the recoil doesn't feel as heavy. With a little practice and starting slow, you'll surprise yourself how much recoil you can tolerate.
There are primarily two types of handguns that are commonly manufactured today, the revolver, which gets its name from the cylinder where the ammo is carried inside it. As you squeeze the trigger, that movement rotates the cylinder, aligning a cartridge with the bore, then releases the hammer which falls and strikes the primer in the base of the cartridge, firing it. The big advantage of a revolver is that its mechanism doesn't depend on the cartridge to function, which allows you to fire lesser powered ammo with out sacrificing reliability. They are usually less expensive to purchase, have tremendous reliability, and lend themselves to modification better than most semi autos. The downside is you are usually limited to five or six shots,they are slower to reload, and they tend to be a little bulkier, which becomes a factor if you want to carry concealed. A good quality holster will help that, and also for women, the purse becomes an option. I don't care for the purse carry myself, being that is going to be a muggers choice to grab it first, just be aware of that when you choose. On the upside of that, gun and accessory companies are taking heed that there's a vast untapped market in the ladies guns and shooting apparel, holsters and such. It's about time the lady shooter doesn't have to depend on poorly designed gear, or male gear that doesn't take into account the difference in body shape.
The definition of a semi auto handgun is a firearm that carries it's ammunition in a magazine, either a non removable type, or a detachable that is inserted into the firearm. The semi automatic will fire one cartridge, eject the empty case, then chamber another cartridge. It will not fire more than one round with the trigger held back. A fully automatic gun will fire all the ammo it carries in its magazine if you hold the trigger down. Fully automatic firearms are not illegal in some states, but you have to get a rather large amount of background checks done on you, and be federally licensed to own one. That law was passed in 1934, and severely limited possession and sale of fully auto weapons.
There are two primary types of semi autos, based on the way they function. A straight blow-back is a design that when fired, the weight of the slide and the strength of the recoil spring slow the rearward movement of the slide, with no other locking mechanism. Most of the straight blow-back firearms tend to be bulkier and heavier than a comparable delayed blow-back, however they are simpler and usually cheaper.
Due to the limitations of size and strength, most companies keep to lesser powered calibers. A delayed blow-back contains a mechanism where when fired, the slide and the barrel travel together to the rear for a short distance, allowing the bullet to exit the barrel and pressures to drop before ejecting the fired casing and chambering a new round in the chamber. This allows for a much smaller, slimmer design, less weight and usually less felt recoil, as the recoil pulse is slowed down more than the blow back design.
There are an abundant supply of quality semi autos out there on the market today, ranging from extra small light weight pocket guns, to massive firearms like the Desert Eagle. Semi autos are more complex in design, and require full pressure loads to be fired without sacrificing reliability. Being more complex, they need to be kept cleaned and lubricated. A semi auto also needs a firm proper grip. If held loosely, the slide has nothing to push against and will fail to feed or eject properly. Usually there will be a mechanical safety to be used however some semi's don't have external safeties, but have internal safeties which lessen the chance of an accidental or negligent discharge.
The big advantage of a semi vs. revolver is the reloading speed is faster with the semi. When the slide locks open on that last shot, it's easier to insert a fresh magazine than it is to use a speed loading device for the revolver. Good revolver shooters can match semi auto shooters, but for the less experienced, semi autos with detachable magazines are easier to master.
Pistol Class Carbines
A pistol class carbine is a small rifle that fires a cartridge designed for a pistol, simple as that. Advantages of a carbine as a home defense gun are that it's easier to aim than a handgun, compact and light and can usually has a larger magazine capacity. Some carbines are designed to use the same magazines as popular handguns. This gives you the advantage of one ammo to buy, and interchangeability between firearms. The recoil of a pistol cartridge in a carbine is lessened considerably due to the added weight. Using a pistol caliber carbine instead of a larger rifle caliber is an added bonus if you live in a apartment or have houses in close proximity, lessening the chance of a stray bullet going through the walls and possibly hurting someone else.
When you wonder why you can't shoot your handgun as well as a rifle, think on this. The distance between the front and rear sights (sight radius), is why. The further apart the sights are, the lesser the effect of small movements in the gun and the operator. The closer together, the more the small errors are magnified.
Good proper sight alignment, catching that sight picture, proper grip, and practice, practice practice! With modern firearms today, you have nothing to fear about dry firing (cycling the gun without ammo). Dry firing can be as simple as a black thumbtack in the wall, your firearm, and NO AMMO in the room!! If you have to step away, even for a minute, check your gun twice before practicing again. Just take your time, control your breathing, hold that sight picture, and squeeze the trigger lather, rinse, and repeat. It's invaluable as a training method, and you don't have to go to the range or buy extra ammo. Your body will remember your training, so make sure you use correct form when practicing. It's a lot like getting in your car and putting your keys in the ignition. After a while, it becomes muscle memory, and you don't even have to think.
Well, ladies (and gentlemen), thanks for reading, and I'll have more articles later.
Camouflage is anything you use to keep yourself, your equipment and position from looking like what they are. Personal camouflage has certain simple rules that will defeat the most obvious sensor on the battlefield; the human eye.
Shape. Your helmet, load bearing web equipment, rifle and other gear have a clear, often square shape, and there are no squares in nature. Break up straight lines with strips of burlap, camo cloth or netting in shades of brown and green. Elastic bands can be sewn to your uniform or equipment straps to facilitate adding camo strips or vegetation. Camo materials should not be attached to your rifle in areas where they may slip and interfere with your firm grip or the mechanical operation of the weapon. It is better to cover the weapon with paint or camouflage tape.
Shine. Most modern military equipment uses plastic or subdued painted metal fasteners and buckles. If the paint has worn off or you are using commercial equipment with shiny buckles, these need to be covered with paint or tape. Other shiny surfaces that can reflect light include binoculars, compasses, watch crystals, plastic map covers and eyeglasses. Little can be done about eyeglasses other than using headgear with a low brim or mosquito netting, but other shiny equipment should be stowed away when not needed and used with caution. Shine also includes skin, even at night when it will reflect moonlight and flares.
Silhouette. Similar in many respects to shape, silhouette includes the outline of the human form and the equipment it is carrying. The shape of the head and shoulders of a man are unmistakable and a bare helmet attracts attention. The use of local vegetation as garnishing helps break up your silhouette. Thick handfuls of grass tucked into your shoulder straps are especially useful in breaking up the distinctive "head and shoulders" shape of the human figure and vegetation added to a helmet breaks the smooth curve of the top and the line of the brim. Take care not to overdo adding local vegetation. You shouldn't need a machete to hack a path through your camouflage to get at your ammo pouch or other necessary equipment. Also, a large bush or tree is sure to attract attention when it starts to move. Silhouette also includes field craft. However well camouflaged you may be, it is little help if you "sky line" yourself by walking along the top of a hill or ridge line, or if you stand against a background of one solid color.
Smell. Even the most urbanized man will develop a good sense of smell after a few days in the open. He will be able to detect engine smells, cooking, body odors and washing. Some smells are hard to minimize. Soaps should be scent-free and activities such as cooking should be confined to daylight hours when other smells are stronger and the air warmer. Rubbish from cooking should be carried away from your operational area and buried only as a second choice. Buried objects are often dug up by animals and can give a good indication of the strength and composition of your patrol or unit as well as its morale. The discipline of refuse removal is important.
Sound. You can make a lot of noise while out on patrol. Your boots can squeak. Your cleaning kit or magazines can rattle in your ammo pouches. Heavy pack frames can creak. Fittings on your weapon can rattle. Radios can have background noise. Coughing and talking can carry for long distances, especially at night. You must become familiar with a silent routine in which hand signals replace the spoken word and conversations are conducted in a whisper. Proper stowage of your gear, taping of slings and other noisy equipment and a final shakedown before a patrol moves out will reduce noise. If digging a position, place sentries far enough out that they will spot an enemy before he hears the sound of digging.
Color. Though most modern combat uniforms are in a disruptive pattern camouflage, there may be times when this is less helpful. The trouble with camo clothing is that in the wrong environment, like cities, it stands out and says "Hey, look at me!" If fighting in built-up areas, a pattern of greys, browns and dull reds would be more useful than the typical woodland BDU pattern. Natural vegetation used to garnish helmets and equipment will fade and change color. Leaves will dry and curl up exposing pale under surfaces. You may have put dark green ferns and leaves into your helmet band while in the woods and then find yourself moving through an area of pale open grassland. Check and change your camouflage regularly. The most obvious color that needs camouflaging is that of human skin, and for that you need G.I. camo stick or, preferably, a commercial camo cream. G.I. camo sticks are issued in loam and light green for use in areas with green vegetation. A sand and light green stick is used in areas lacking green vegetation. A loam and white stick is for use in snow covered terrain. If camo sticks or creme are not available use burnt cork, bark or charcoal for the dark color and mud for the light color. Dark colors are used to reduce the highlights formed by the nose, cheek bones, chin, ears and forehead. Lighter colors are used in areas of shadow under the eyes, nose and chin. When applying camo to your face it is useful to work with a buddy and help each other. G.I. camo sticks are rough on the skin and difficult to apply. A few drops of baby oil, skin lotion or insect repellent rubbed on the skin first will make it much easier to apply. Skin camo needs to be periodically touched-up as you move and sweat. A simple pattern for the face is to apply a light color first to the entire face and then add dark diagonal stripes. The diagonals cut though and break up the horizontal and vertical lines of the eyes nose and mouth.
Good camouflage is almost as important as good marksmanship. A well camouflaged man who is a poor shot will probably survive longer than the poorly concealed expert sniper.
Coal stores well if kept in a dark place and away from moving air. Air
speeds deterioration and breakdown, causing it to burn more rapidly. Coal may be
stored in a plastic-lined pit or in sheds, bags, boxes, or barrels and
should be kept away from circulating air, light, and moisture. Cover it to lend
protection from weather and sun.
Wood. Hardwoods such as apple, cherry, and other fruit woods are slow
burning and sustain coals. Hardwoods are more difficult to burn than softer
woods, thus requiring a supply of kindling. Soft woods such as pine and cedar
are light in weight and burn very rapidly, leaving ash and few coals for
cooking. If you have a fireplace or a wood/coal burning stove, you will want to
store several cords of firewood. Firewood is usually sold by the cord which is a
neat pile that totals 128 cubic feet. This pile is four feet wide, four feet
high, and eight feet long. Some dealers sell wood by the ton. As a general rule
of thumb, a standard cord of air dried dense hardwood weighs about two tons and
provides as much heat as one ton of coal. Be suspicious of any alleged cord
delivered in a 1/2 or 3/4 ton pickup truck.
For best results, wood should be seasoned (dried) properly, usually at east
a year. A plastic tarp, wood planks, or other plastic or metal sheeting over
the woodpile is useful in keeping the wood dry. Other types of fuels are
more practical to store and use than wood or coal.
Newspaper logs make a good and inexpensive source of fuel. You may prepare
the logs in the following manner:
Use about eight pages of newspaper and open flat.
Spread the stack, alternating the cut sides and folded sides.
Place a 1" wood dowel or metal rod across one end and roll the paper around
the rod very tightly. Roll it until there are 6-8 inches left to roll, then
slip another 8 pages underneath the roll. Continue this procedure until you
have a roll 4-6 inches in diameter.
With a fine wire, tie the roll on both ends. Withdraw the rod. Your
newspaper log is ready to use. Four of these logs will burn about 1 hour.
Propane is another excellent fuel for indoor use. Like kerosene, it produces
carbon dioxide as it burns and is therefore not poisonous. It does consume
oxygen so be sure to crack a window when burning propane.
Propane stores indefinitely, having no known shelf life. Propane stoves and
small portable heaters are very economical, simple to use, and come the
closest to approximating the type of convenience most of us are accustomed to
using on a daily basis.
The storage of propane is governed by strict local laws. In this area you
may store up to 1 gallon inside a building and up to 60 gallons stored outside.
If you store more than these amounts, you will need a special permit from
the fire marshal.
The primary hazard in using propane is that it is heavier than air and if a
leak occurs it may "pool" which can create an explosive atmosphere.
Furthermore, basement natural gas heating units CANNOT be legally converted
for propane use. Again, the vapors are heavier than air and form "pockets."
Ignition sources such as water heaters and electrical sources can cause an
White gas (Coleman fuel). Many families have camp stoves which burn Coleman
Fuel or white gasoline. These stoves are fairly easy to use and produce a
great amount of heat. However, they, like charcoal, produce vast amounts of
carbon monoxide. NEVER use a Coleman Fuel stove indoors. It could be a fatal
mistake to your entire family.
Never store fuels in the house or near a heater. Use a metal store cabinet
which is vented on top and bottom and can be locked.
Kerosene (also known as Range Oil No. 1) is the cheapest of all the storage
fuels and is also very forgiving if you make a mistake. Kerosene is not as
explosive as gasoline and Coleman fuel. Kerosene stores well for long
periods of time and by introducing some fuel additives it can be made to store
even longer. However, do not store it in metal containers for extended time
periods unless they are porcelain lined because the moisture in the kerosene
will rust through the container causing the kerosene to leak out. Most hardware
stores and home improvement centers sell kerosene in five gallon plastic
containers which store for many years. A 55 gallon drum stores in the back yard,
or ten 5 gallon plastic containers will provide fuel enough to last an entire
winter if used sparingly.
Caution: To burn kerosene you will need a kerosene heater. There are many
models and sizes to choose from but remember that you are not trying to heat
your entire home. The larger the heater the more fuel you will have to store.
Most families should be able to get by on a heater that produces about 9,600
BTUs of heat, though kerosene heaters are made that will produce up to 25,000 to
30,000 BTUs. If you have the storage space to store the fuel required by
these larger heaters they are excellent investments, but for most families the
smaller heaters are more than adequate. When selecting a kerosene heater be
sure to get one that can double as a cooking surface and source of light. Then
when you are forced to use it be sure to plan your meals so that they can be
cooked when you are using the heater for heat rather than wasting fuel used for
When kerosene burns it requires very little oxygen, compared to charcoal.
You must crack a window about 1/4 inch to allow enough oxygen to enter the room
to prevent asphyxiation. During combustion, kerosene is not poisonous and is
safe to use indoors. To prevent possible fires you should always fill it
outside. The momentary incomplete combustion during lighting and
extinguishing of kerosene heaters can cause some unpleasant odors. To prevent
these odors from lingering in your home always light and extinguish the heater
out of doors. During normal operation a kerosene heater is practically odorless.
Charcoal. Never use a charcoal burning device indoors. When charcoal burns
it is a voracious consumer of oxygen and will quickly deplete the oxygen supply
in your little "home within a home." Furthermore, as it burns it produces
vast amounts of carbon monoxide which is a deadly poison. If you make the
mistake of trying to heat your home by burning charcoal it could prove fatal to
your entire family. Never burn charcoal indoors.
To conserve your cooking fuel storage needs always do your emergency cooking
in the most efficient manner possible. Don't boil more water than you need,
extinguish the fire as soon as you finished, plan your meals ahead of time
to consolidate as much cooking as possible, during the winter cook on top of
your heating unit while heating your home, and cook in a pressure cooker or
other fuel efficient container as much as possible. Keep enough fuel to provide
outdoor cooking for at least 7-10 days.
It is even possible to cook without using fuel at all. For example, to cook
dry beans you can place them inside a pressure cooker with the proper amount
of water and other ingredients needed and place it on your heat source until it
comes up to pressure. Then turn off the heat, remove the pressure cooker and
place inside a large box filled with newspapers, blankets, or other insulating
materials. Leave it for two and a half hours and then open it, your meal
will be done, having cooked for two and a half hours with no heat. If you don't
have a large box in which to place the pressure cooker, simply wrap it in
several blankets and place it in the corner.
Store matches in waterproof airtight tin with each piece of equipment that
must be lit with a flame.
Sterno fuel, a jellied petroleum product, is an excellent source of fuel for
inclusion in your back pack as part of your 72 hour kit. Sterno is very
light weight and easily ignited with a match or a spark from flint and steel but
is not explosive. It is also safe for use indoors.
A Sterno stove can be purchased at any sporting goods store and will retail
between $3 and $8, depending upon the model you choose. They fold up into a
very small, compact unit ideal for carrying in a pack. The fuel is readily
available at all sporting goods stores and many drug stores. One can of
Sterno fuel, about the diameter of a can of tuna fish and twice as high, will
allow you to cook six meals if used frugally. Chafing dishes and fondue pots can
also be used with Sterno.
Sterno is not without some problems. It will evaporate very easily, even
when the lid is securely fastened. If you use Sterno in your 72 hour kit you
should check it every six to eight months to insure that it has not
evaporated beyond the point of usage. Because of this problem it is not a good
fuel for long-term storage. It is a very expensive fuel to use compared to
others fuel available, but is extremely convenient and portable.
Coleman fuel (white gas), when used with a Coleman stove is another
excellent and convenient fuel for cooking. It is not as portable nor as
lightweight as Sterno, but produces a much greater BTU value. Like Sterno,
Coleman fuel has a tendency to evaporate even when the container is tightly
sealed so it is not a good fuel for long-term storage. Unlike Sterno, however,
it is highly volatile; it will explode under the right conditions and should
therefore never be stored in the home. Because of its highly flammable nature
great care should always be exercised when lighting stoves and lanterns that use
Coleman fuel. Many serious burns have been caused by carelessness with this
Always store Coleman fuel in the garage or shed, out of doors.
Charcoal is the least expensive fuel per BTU that the average family can
store. Remember that it must always be used out of doors because of the vast
amounts of poisonous carbon monoxide it produces. Charcoal will store for
extended period of time if it is stored in air tight containers. It readily
absorbs moisture from the surrounding air so do not store it in the paper bags
it comes in for more than a few months or it may be difficult to light. Transfer
it to airtight metal or plastic containers and it will keep almost forever.
Fifty or sixty dollars worth of charcoal will provide all the cooking fuel a
family will need for an entire year if used sparingly. The best time to buy
briquettes inexpensively is at the end of the summer. Broken or torn bags of
briquettes are usually sold at a big discount. You will also want to store a
small amount of charcoal lighter fluid (or kerosene). Newspapers will also
provide an excellent ignition source for charcoal when used in a funnel type of
To light charcoal using newspapers use two or three sheets, crumpled up, and
a #10 tin can. Cut both ends out of the can. Punch holes every two inches
around the lower edge of the can with a punch-type can opener (for opening
juice cans). Set the can down so the punches holes are on the bottom. Place the
crumpled newspaper in the bottom of the can and place the charcoal
briquettes on top of the newspaper. Lift the can slightly and light the
newspaper. Prop a small rock under the bottom edge of the can to create a a good
draft. The briquettes will be ready to use in about 20-30 minutes. When the
coals are ready remove the chimney and place them in your cooker. Never place
burning charcoal directly on concrete or cement because the heat will crack it.
A wheelbarrow or old metal garbage can lid makes an excellent container for this
type of fire.
One of the nice things about charcoal is that you can regulate the heat you
will receive from them. Each briquette will produce about 40 degrees of
heat. If you are baking bread, for example, and need 400 degrees of heat for
your oven, simply use ten briquettes.
To conserve heat and thereby get the maximum heat value from your charcoal
you must learn to funnel the heat where you want it rather than letting it
dissipate into the air around you. One excellent way to do this is to cook
inside a cardboard oven. Take a cardboard box, about the size of an orange
crate, and cover it with aluminum foil inside and out. Be sure that the shiny
side is visible so that maximum reflectivity is achieved. Turn the box on its
side so that the opening is no longer on the top but is on the side. Place some
small bricks or other noncombustible material inside upon which you can rest a
cookie sheet about two or three inches above the bottom of the box. Place ten
burning charcoal briquettes between the bricks (if you need 400 degrees), place
the support for your cooking vessels, and then place your bread pans or whatever
else you are using on top of the cookie sheet. Prop a foil-covered cardboard
lid over the open side, leaving a large crack for air to get in (charcoal needs
a lot of air to burn) and bake your bread, cake, cookies, etc. just like you
would in your regular oven. Your results will amaze you.
To make your own charcoal, select twigs, limbs, and branches of fruit, nut
and other hardwood trees; black walnuts and peach or apricot pits may also
be used. Cut wood into desired size, place in a large can which has a few holes
punched in it, put a lid on the can and place the can in a hot fire. When
the flames from the holes in the can turn yellow-red, remove the can from the
fire and allow it to cool. Store the briquettes in a moisture-proof container.
Burn charcoal only in a well-ventilated area.
Wood and Coal. Many wood and coal burning stoves are made with cooking
surface. These are excellent to use indoors during the winter because you
may already be using it to heat the home. In the summer, however, they are
unbearably hot and are simply not practical cooking appliances for indoor use.
If you choose to build a campfire on the ground outside be sure to use caution
and follow all the rules for safety. Little children, and even many adults, are
not aware of the tremendous dangers that open fires may pose.
Kerosene. Many kerosene heaters will also double as a cooking unit. In fact,
it is probably a good idea to not purchase a kerosene heater that cannot be
used to cook on as well. Follow the same precautions for cooking over
kerosene as was discussed under the section on heating your home with kerosene.
Propane. Many families have propane camp stoves. These are the most
convenient and easy to use of all emergency cooking appliances available.
They may be used indoors or out. As with other emergency fuel sources, cook with
a pressure cooker whenever possible to conserve fuel.
Most of the alternatives require a fire or flame, so use caution. More home
fires are caused by improper usage of fires used for light than for any
other purpose. Especially use extra caution with children and flame. Teach them
the proper safety procedures to follow under emergency conditions. Allow them to
practice these skills under proper adult supervision now, rather than
waiting until an emergency strikes.
Cyalume sticks are the safest form of indoor lighting available but very few
people even know what they are. Cyalume sticks can be purchased at most
sporting goods stores for about $2 per stick. They are a plastic stick about
four inches in length and a half inch in diameter. To activate them, simply bend
them until the glass tube inside them breaks, then shake to mix the chemicals
inside and it will glow a bright green light for up to eight hours. Cyalume
is the only form of light that is safe to turn on inside a home after an
earthquake. One of the great dangers after a serious earthquake is caused by
ruptured natural gas lines. If you flip on a light switch or even turn on a
flashlight you run the risk of causing an explosion. Cyalume will not ignite
natural gas. Cyalume sticks are so safe that a baby can even use them for a
Flashlights are excellent for most types of emergencies except in situations
where ruptured natural gas lines may be present. Never turn a flashlight on
or off if there is any possibility of ruptured gas lines. Go outside first,
turn it on or off, then enter the building.
The three main problems with relying upon flashlights is that they give
light to very small areas, the batteries run down fairly quickly during use, and
batteries do not store well for extended time periods. Alkaline batteries
store the best if stored in a cool location and in an airtight container. These
batteries should be expected to store for three to five years. Many
manufacturers are now printing a date on the package indicating the date through
which the batteries should be good. When stored under ideal conditions the shelf
life will be much longer than that indicated. Lithium batteries will store for
about twice as long as alkaline batteries (about ten years).
If you use flashlights be sure to use krypton or halogen light bulbs in them
because they last much longer and give off several times more light than
regular flashlight bulbs on the same energy consumption. Store at least two
or three extra bulbs in a place where they will not be crushed or broken.
Candles. Every family should have a large supply of candles. Three hundred
sixty-five candles, or one per day is not too many. The larger the better.
Fifty-hour candles are available in both solid and liquid form. White or
light colored candles burn brighter than dark candles. Tallow candles burn
brighter, longer, and are fairly smoke free when compared to wax candles. Their
lighting ability can be increased by placing an aluminum foil reflector behind
them or by placing them in front of a mirror. However, candles are extremely
dangerous indoors because of the high fire danger--especially around children.
For this reason be sure to store several candle lanterns or broad-based candle
holders. Be sure to store a goodly supply of wooden matches
Save your candle ends for emergency use. Votive candles set in empty jars
will burn for up to 15 hours. Non-candles (plastic dish and paper wicks) and
a bottle of salad oil will provide hundreds of hours of candle light.
Trench candles can be used as fireplace fuel or as a candle for light. To
make trench candles:
Place a narrow strip of cloth or twisted string (for a wick) on the edge of
a stack of 6-10 newspapers. Roll the papers very tightly, leaving about 3/4" of
wick extending at each end. Tie the roll firmly with string or wire at 2-4"
intervals. With a small saw, cut about 1" above each tie and pull the cut
sections into cone shapes. Pull the center string in each piece toward the top
of the cone to serve as a wick.
Melt paraffin in a large saucepan set inside a larger pan of hot water. Soak
the pieces of candle in the paraffin for about 2 minutes. Remove the candles and
place on a newspaper to dry. Kerosene lamps are excellent sources of light and
will burn for approximately 45 hours on a quart of fuel. They burn bright and
are inexpensive to operate. The main problem with using them is failure to
properly trim the wicks and using the wrong size chimney. Wicks should be
trimmed in an arch, a "V," an "A" or straight across the top. Failure to
properly trim and maintain wicks will result in smoke and poor light.
Aladdin type lamps that use a circular wick and mantle do not need trimming
and produce much more light (and heat) than conventional kerosene lamps.
These lamps, however, produce a great amount of heat, getting up to 750 degrees
F. If placed within 36 inches of any combustible object such as wooden
cabinets, walls, etc. charring can occur. Great caution should therefore be
exercised to prevent accidental fires.
The higher the elevation the taller the chimney should be. Most chimneys
that come with kerosene lamps are made for use at sea level. At about 4500 feet
above sea level the chimney should be about 18-20 inches high. If your
chimney is not as tall as it should be you can improvise by wrapping aluminum
foil around the top of it and extending it above the top. This will enable the
light to still come out of the bottom portion and yet provide proper drawing of
air for complete combustion. If the chimney is too short it will result in smoke
and poor light. Be sure to store extra wicks, chimneys and mantles.
Propane and Coleman lanterns. Camp lanterns burning Coleman fuel or propane
make excellent sources of light. Caution should be used in filling and
lighting Coleman lanterns because the fuel is highly volatile and a flash type
fire is easy to set off. Always fill them outside. Propane, on the other hand,
is much safer. It is not as explosive and does not burn quite as hot. A double
mantle lantern gives off as much light as two 100-watt light bulbs. Either
propane or Coleman fuel type lanterns are very reliable and should be an
integral part of your preparedness program. Be sure to store plenty of extra
mantles and matches.
Store lots of wooden matches (1,000-2,000 is not too many). Also store
butane cigarette lighters to light candles, lanterns and fireplaces. It would be
a good idea for everyone to have a personal fire building kit with at least
six different ways to start a fire.
Above all, your home and family must be protected from the ravages of fire
by your actions. Study the instructions for any appliance used for heating,
cooking, or lighting and understand their features as well as their
Don't go to sleep with any unventilated burning device in your home. Your family
might not wake up.
Whatever you store, store it safely and legally. In an emergency, survival
may cause you to make decisions that are questionable with regard to safety.
Become educated to the inherent hazards of your choices and make a decision
based on as much verifiable information as possible. You and your family's lives
will depend on it.
Consider carefully how you will provide fuel for your family for heating,
cooking, and lighting during times of emergencies. Next to food, water, and
shelter, energy is the most important item you can store.
The Psychological Consequences of Armed Carry
Before I delve more into the nuts and bolts of armed carry for the novice handgunner, there is a subject that needs serious thought before we go any further. This is the psychological effects of a shooting, the physical response of the "Fight or Flight" reflex, and the personal and emotional toll that being in a life or death situation can bring, and the possible legal ramifications of a shooting and what it may bring.
Let's start by discussing the states of awareness that a person operates under.
- Condition White: This is the most relaxed condition. You are safe in your home or at a friends or relatives. There is very little that could threaten you or your loved ones. You have no expectation of any violence.
- Condition Yellow: You are outside of your "safe area", in a public area, but there is no real expectation of a threat. You observe those around you with attention, scanning for anything that seems out of place.
- Condition Orange: You are outside of your comfort area, no real signs of a threat, but you have increased awareness of the people and things around you. Something may have seemed unusual, so you are in a state of heightened awareness. Sometimes this may be just that funny feeling, something telling you that something isn't as it should be.
- Condition Red: You perceive a threat or threats to yourself and or the people you are with. You mentally prepare for immediate response to either retreat, secure yourself and others, or to take action to eliminate the threat.
- Condition Red Action Required: This is when you have to make your decision, to flee if possible, to stand your ground, or to take immediate action to remove the threat. Let's think about consequences of carrying a firearm. You literally have the power of life or death under your control. This is something not to be taken lightly. By carrying a firearm, you are accepting that you may need to take someones life to safeguard your own or others lives. Anyone who doesn't think long and hard upon accepting that responsibility probably shouldn't be carrying a gun. You should always be aware of your circumstance and surroundings. Purposely going into high risk areas for no good reason while armed can hurt you if you have to go on trial later.
OK, let's take a look to what happens in the body when the "Fight Or Flight" reflex occurs. As you recognize the threat, your mind tells your body that you are in danger. There is a "chemical cocktail" released into your system that is adrenaline and other potent chemicals that immediately ready you for action. Your body will want to urinate and defecate, to remove or lessen the chance of infection if a bowel or bladder is punctured. This is where the expression "Scared the crap or the pee outta me" came from. You start to perspire freely, to lubricate the skin to allow free movement and to make you slippery and hard to grasp. The increase of adrenaline speeds up your heart rate and also constricts the blood vessels in your extremities, pooling the blood in your core organs as your blood pressure drops in the first stage of shock. The surge of the cocktail increases your speed of processing information, and causes tachypsychia. Tachypsychia is a neurological condition that alters the perception of time, usually induced by physical exertion, drug use, or a traumatic event. It is sometimes referred to by martial arts instructors and self-defense experts as the Tachy Psyche effect. For someone affected by tachypsychia, time perceived by the individual either lengthens, making events appear to slow down, or contracts, objects appearing as moving in a speeding blur. It is believed that tachypsychia is induced by a combination of high levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, usually during periods of great physical stress and/or in violent confrontation.
You may also experience Auditory Exclusion, where you do not hear the sound of a gun firing, or gunfire may be heard as muffled pops. You may not be able to hear voices at all, even if someone is shouting in your ears. There have been cases where police officers in gunfights think that their gun has malfunctioned and isn't firing, causing them to fire shots in the air to see if the pistol fires, or do clearing drills, ejecting unfired rounds thinking they are duds.
With the blood pooling in your core, and blood vessels constricting in the extremities, you often lose your small motor skills, where your hands shake and lose the ability to manipulate small objects. That is why in training, you want to learn to operate your firearm by using your gross motor skills (large movements), rather than delicate individual movements of single digits. Muscle memory becomes your best friend at that point. You will perform exactly as you train. In the Newhall massacre in the early seventies, California Highway Patrol officers that were killed had emptied the fired brass into their hands then put it in their pockets as they had done on the range. This may have contributed to their demise, slowing their reloading time.
Knowing that these things will happen to you and being prepared for it will help measurably in life or death situations. So many civilians and also a large number of the law enforcement officers that I have trained have told me how shocking it was the first time these things happened in stressful situations. Knowing about it before you are involved in a scenario can make the difference between life and death.
Here's some things to remember if you are ever involved in a shooting. The police are NOT your friends! Do not talk to the police at the scene of the shooting, or the immediate aftermath. You'll still be hyped by the chemical cocktail, and utterances and anything you say, even before you are formally questioned, can be used against you. Use your right not to speak, until you have an attorney present. There are people behind bars today because of statements they made before they had representation. Plan on being in police custody at least 8 to 12 hours, maybe more. The investigator will try to pick your story apart, so be aware of this. Don't volunteer information. Here's something to think about too. If you have bumperstickers or signs in your house saying Trespassers will be shot, or something similar, get rid of them before you start carrying. A good prosecutor can use this against you, using this as "This evil man was looking to shoot someone". The same thing applies if you reload your own ammo. Never carry handloads in your protection firearm. I've heard prosecutors say "This person was looking to kill, he wasn't satisfied with factory ammo, so he loaded his own special killer bullets"! It can happen.
In the aftermath of a shooting, even if completely justified, you will have PTSD. You may not want to go out in public, may have nightmares, and flashbacks. All our lives we have been told that killing is evil, etc. This may effect your relationships, so don't be afraid to see a counselor or a psychiatrist. That doesn't mean you are weak or mentally ill. You have survived a terrible situation, and may need help to get back to a reasonably calm life. At the same time, you may find the people around you acting different or avoiding you. The stigma of taking another persons life may be too much for some people to deal with. Let them go, it's not your fault.
I would also Highly recommend attending a shooting school, like Lethal Force Institute, which will show that you have been responsible about carrying a firearm, and also, LFI will send a expert witness to testify on your behalf if you do end up being charged with a crime.
I personally recommend reading good literature on the responsibility and consequences of using a firearm for self defense, such as Armed and Female, by Paxton Quigley, and In the Gravest Extreme, By Massad Ayoob, who owns and operates the Lethal Force Institute.
Believe me, I am not trying to discourage anyone who is willing to take on the responsibility of carrying a gun for protection. On the contrary, I encourage good people to arm themselves. Just remember that it is a tremendous responsibility, and prepare yourself properly, so you can live a healthy life with your loved ones safe.
Thank you all for reading this. I will have another part of my articles on carrying for the novice out soon, so stay safe, my friends, and I'll see you soon with more info.
CHOOSING A HANDGUN FOR PERSONAL PROTECTION: PART 2 CARTRIDGE SELECTION
There are many variables to consider when choosing a cartridge for a personal protection handgun. Skill level, recoil tolerance, and cost all come into play. Staying within a budget and allowing for monthly or bi monthly trips to the range, and ammunition for practice can become a burden if a hard to get or expensive cartridge is chosen. Certain cartridges, like the .357 Sig or 10MM for example, are harder to find and usually more expensive when it is found. High cost of ammo equals less rounds for practice, and as a new shooter, practice is extremely important. That's one of the reasons why I recommend a quality .22LR handgun, either semi-auto or revolver to learn the basics with. Recently, because of consumer fears over gun laws and ammunition restrictions, .22LR has gotten a lot more expensive and less available, so that is something to consider also.
A couple of police officers and gun writers, Evan Marshall and Ed Sanow, compiled data from across the USA about shootings, the guns and ammunition used, and bullet placement, then wrote a book called Handgun Stopping Power, a comparative real world information source taken directly from police and sheriffs data.
On to selecting a cartridge. Lets start with common revolver cartridges first.
The S&W .38 SPECIAL - The .38 Special has been around for the better part of a century, and was once used by nearly all the police departments before the semi auto was adopted in the late 70's on. The .38 Special was an improvement on its predecessor, the .38 S&W, which was a rather underpowered cartridge, shooting a 180 grain round nose lead bullet at around 640 f.p.s. (feet per second). Its lackluster performance came to notice during the Moro insurrection in the Philippine Islands when Moros were being shot 5 or 6 times and still able to fight. This led the military to adopt the then new Colt 1911 semi auto with its .45ACP (Automatic Colt Pistol) cartridge. Smith&Wesson went back to the drawing board, lengthened the casing, added more powder and boosted pressures, and also lightened the bullet to 158 grains, resulting in higher velocity and better stopping power. With modern loadings, and good Jacketed hollow-point bullets, the .38 is a respectable man stopper, averaging a 65-70% one shot stop statistic with a solid torso hit.
The .357 MAGNUM - This is the one that has the best performance over virtually all the modern handgun cartridges out there. Introduced to the public by Smith & Wesson in 1933 as a improvement of the .38 special, this cartridge has proven to be one of the very best as a man stopper, 97% one shot stops, with a solid torso hit using Federal 125 gr. Jacketed hollow point ammo. The combination of a lighter bullet and increased velocity makes this one the top of the class in performance. Also, the added bonus of owning a gun chambered for the .357 Magnum cartridge is you can safely shoot .38S&W, .38S&W Special, and .357 magnum ammunition in the same firearm. This makes for a very versatile firearm for shooters who can only afford one gun to do it all.
The .44 MAGNUM - I'm only briefly going to touch on the .44 mag because of the popularity of the "Dirty Harry" movies in which the lead character carries a Smith & Wesson Mod.29 .44 Mag with a 6 inch barrel. This is way too much gun for the novice. I can promise you if you get one, your probably going to develop a nasty flinch or give up shooting a handgun. Back in the 50's when it was introduced, many times you could walk in a gun shop and find a "used" mod.29 with a box of ammo minus 6 shots. Hard kicking, firing a 240 gr. bullet @ around 1400 f.p.s., excellent in the hands of an expert big game hunter. Overpowered and will over penetrate most human sized targets. Pass. One redeeming note: the .44 Mag. will safely shoot the .44 S&W Special cartridge, but that's not easy to find and expensive when you do.
Time to look at semi auto pistol cartridges.
The .32 ACP - Also called the 7.65mm, is a true surprise. Light recoil and impressive numbers when using the Winchester Silver tip ammunition, scores around 60% one shot stops. The nice thing also for those on a gun budget is there are inexpensive imported pistols coming into the US at really affordable prices, as this was a common police gun in Europe for years and was also used for officers sidearms in many European militaries. Not as common as some bigger cartridges, the practice ammunition is more expensive, but still a good useable gun and cartridge.
The 9MM PARABELLUM, or 9X19MM - First introduced in the legendary Luger pistol of WW1 and WW2 fame, this is one of the easiest to find cartridges in the world, used by most militaries as a pistol and a sub-machine gun cartridge. The 9mm Para, or Luger, as it is sometimes called, is a good cartridge for a self protection hand gun, it has a light recoil and high velocity. If loaded with high performance ammo with JHP bullets, this one will perform quite well, with lots of FMJ (full metal jacket) ammo out there as military surplus for target practice. The 9MM took awhile to gain a following, as with FMJ bullets it tended to go right through a target leaving a small hole and a very upset guy still in the fight! This has changed since the availability of good quality JHP ammo.
The .40 S&W - The .40 Smith & Wesson was an offshoot of the ill fated 10MM Norma cartridge of the early 80's. The 10MM was developed as a near magnum cartridge for a semi auto pistol, the Bren 10. The company failed in less than a year because of manufacturing problems (many new Bren 10 pistols were shipped without magazines) and also that the 10MM had heavy recoil and blast. In later days the 10MM ammo was downloaded to be easier on the guns and the shooters, When S&W stepped in and shortened the casing, went to a small primer, and was able to squeeze the same performance out of a cartridge that could be made in a 9MM sized gun, and the .40 S&W was born. Derisively called the 10mm lite, or .40 short and weak, it wasn't long before the .40 became popular with law enforcement and civilians who wanted more hitting power in a 9mm sized package. Firing a 180 grain JHP at around 975f.p.s., the .40 has a strong following these days. The Glock Mod. 22 in .40S&W is the same size as the Mod.17 in 9MM, and holds just 2 cartridges less.
The .45 ACP - The .45 ACP came into being by our old friend John Browning, who developed the cartridge and the first pistol to chamber it, the 1911 Colt, which was adopted by the US military, who were looking for a better handgun after the Moro uprising. Using a 230gr. bullet traveling at 950 f.p.s., this was a major development in a excellent design. Soldiers coming back from both world wars were so impressed with the .45ACP that they often bought civilian versions of the gun they carried at war. The combination of a big diameter heavy bullet and moderate velocity gave the big colt reasonable recoil with good performance as a man stopper.
Now I know that I've passed by a lot of cartridges out there, but I'm a firm believer in the Keep It Simple Stupid philosophy. I'm sure there are others that will perform as well as the ones I've listed, but remember, I wrote this for the true novice. If you decide that shooting a handgun is fun, you'll develop skills and probably end up with many others, if you enjoy em as much as I do anyway.
In Part 3 of our subject, I'll go into shooting stances, accessories and the subject of what gear to augment your firearm.
Till then, this is GunsmithG. I'm outta here!
A short explanation of a common measurement, grains, abbreviated as gr. is a weight measurement in ammunition making. Bullets and powder charges are measured in these. It takes approx. 7000 grains to make a pound.
CHOOSING A HANDGUN FOR PERSONAL PROTECTION: PART 1
By By GunsmithG
The task of selecting a handgun for personal protection can be a daunting one for a novice. It is my hope lend a little clarity to this process. First of all, I'm writing this for a true beginners point of view. I don't want to pass up anything that would be "common knowledge" to those acquainted with firearms.
To begin with, let's take a look at the different designs of handguns, and some pro's and con's of each.
The Revolver You can trace it's lineage back hundreds of years, but it wasn't until Samuel Colt introduced his designs for a loose powder, lead ball and percussion cap that it showed its practicality. With the advent of the metallic cartridge, handguns became much safer and more reliable.
Let's touch on some common terminology.
Single Action: This means the outside hammer has to be manually cocked to rotate the cylinder and fire the gun. Double action: this means the gun can be fired either by manually cocking the hammer, or simply by pulling the trigger to fire repeat shots. Most modern revolvers are double action.
Cylinder: The round steel part that holds the cartridges, and turns with each action, lining up a new cartridge with the barrel. The cylinder can be opened to eject the spent casings and reload either by a swing out mechanism, or a loading gate, which is a cut out in the frame to allow access to the ammunition. There is also a type called a break top, but only a few guns are made in this system, as it isn't as strong and more complex to make. With a revolver, there is a miniscule gap between the barrel and the cylinder, usually .006 of an in which allows the cylinder to rotate freely, but minimizes the escaping gases caused by firing.
Sights: There are two types of sights in common use today, fixed or adjustable. fixed sights have the advantage of being smaller and more rugged, where adjustable sights allow you to sight the weapon in for the individual shooter and cartridge being used. There are other types of sights, such as laser and night sights, but we'll touch on that a little later.
Grip Frame & Grips: This is one big advantage the revolver has over the semi auto pistol. By nature of design, a semi auto is restricted to a certain shape of the grip portion, as that is usually where the magazine, a separate piece of stamped metal or plastic contains the cartridges, which are lifted up to be loaded into the chamber by a powerful spring, there's not much you can do to alter that. Revolvers however, usually just have the hammer spring under the grips, and some companies actually make different frame designs for more compact firearms.
Safety: Can be either automatic, or manually controlled, a mechanism which renders the firearm incapable of firing. Most revolvers do not have a manual safety. They have internal safeties that keep it from firing until the trigger is pulled. OK, I know that I've passed over quite a bit of information, but you should have a basic grasp of what goes where and why.
Cartridges: Lets take a look at what makes for a good defensive cartridge. First of all, a cartridge consists of four components: the cartridge case, the primer, the gunpowder, and the projectile, or bullet. The primer is a small metal cup which holds a small amount of a pressure and shock sensitive material. When the firing pin hits the primer, the impact causes it to ignite, which sets the gunpowder on fire. The cartridge case holds the primer in a pocket at its base, plus holds the powder in a sealed container until fired. Upon firing, the case will swell slightly, creating a gas tight seal so you don't get sprayed by burning powder and also allows the bullet to travel down the barrel without bleeding off the pressure. The bullet can be made of a number of materials, usually lead with a copper material that covers the outside of the bullet, making faster speeds and heavier loads useable. Too much pressure or speed can cause a lead bullet to melt slightly in the barrel. This reduces accuracy and is very hard to clean out of the barrel. The barrel itself has grooves machined into the inner surface that twist in a spiral to stabilize the bullet in flight. Think of throwing a football, as it spins, the gyroscopic effect stabilizes it in its flight.
Cartridge Identification: The European metric system actually makes much more sense than the common American system. The military also uses the metric names for ammo, which is much simpler. The formula for this is simple. the first number is the diameter of the bullet, and the second number the length of the casing.
Cartridge Examples: 9 millimeter parabellum cartridge, is very common both as a military and civilian semi auto pistol cartridge. It's designation is: 9X19mm.
The round that the M4 military rifle uses is 5.56X45mm. Most medium range sniper rifles and some military weapons still use the 7.62X51mm, known in the civilian world as the .308 Winchester.
The American system is a hodgepodge of names that sometimes make sense, but often does not, like the 38 Special by SMITH & WESSON, which it's actual bullet diameter is .357. That's where you need to be careful to always know the correct name for the ammo your firearm can shoot safely. There's been many guns blown to pieces by someone not knowing, so this is imperative that you know.
Lets look at one popular cartridge that can be confusing...
Say I've got a old military handgun that says 9mm on it...
Are we safe?
Here is a shortlist of different NON COMPATIBLE cartridges:
- 9mm Luger
- 9mm Corto
- 9mm Bergmann-Bayard
- 9×18mm Makarov
- 9mm Browning long
With revolvers, you do have some interchangeability in certain guns. The .357 Magnum revolver can also safely shoot the .38 S&W, .38 S&W special. That's one of the nice things about a revolver, is it is not dependent on the power of the cartridge to make the action work like a semi auto does. As long as you can pull the trigger, a revolver will fire regardless of the strength of the ammo.
Semi Auto Pistols: Most semi autos (keep that term in your head) owe their design to the firearms genius John Browning. His concepts and basic functions are still in use today. The classic American service sidearm, the 1911 and later, the 1911A1, or .45 auto, was in service from 1911 to 1984 as the standard pistol for our military, and is still in use by some special forces units today. Let me clear up a common mistake most beginners share, which is calling a semi auto an automatic. An automatic will fire continuously until it runs out of ammo or you let your finger off the trigger. A semi auto fires one round with each pull of the trigger.
Semi autos are fine handguns in general, but as a novice shooter, they are much more mechanically complex, require full performance ammo to function properly, and also require more upper body and hand strength to work the action to chamber a round, and need good form and a healthy grip to be able to perform correctly. If a revolver is held loosely, it might jump around in your hand, but will perform. A semi auto with that same grip may have a number of difficulties including jamming, empty brass not clearing the action, etc. I advise most novices to start with a revolver first, learn your grips and stances, it is truly as much a martial art as karate, breathing control, sight picture and sight alignment, all can be much easier without getting knocked around by full power loads.
Whether you choose a revolver or semi auto, you need to consider how you are going to use that gun. Longer barrels give you a longer distance between the front and rear sights, making it much easier to shoot well. The added weight helps both with dampening recoil, and also with making your jitters less noticeable. If it's something that's going to stay in your nightstand at home, I would recommend a 4 inch barrel length medium size frame revolver in .357 Magnum, but loaded with lighter .38 S&W Special ammo. If you live in an apartment, condo, or heavily populated areas, the are several small ammo manufacturers that make frangible ammo, which breaks up into small pieces when it hits, lessening the danger to others. You can also get bird-shot loads, but unless you live in rattlesnake country, would not use them for self defense. If you are going to be carrying this firearm on your person, you need to read and study your state's laws about carrying a firearm openly ( which I think is a bad idea) or carrying it concealed. Most states consider a woman's purse to be part of her person, so you have an advantage right there over us guys! If you are going to carry concealed, you need to consider several factors: size, weight, shape, and your clothing on the occasion. Remember too, ladies, that weapon won't do you any good sitting at home, so making it easy to conceal and comfort is a must.
I know that this has been fairly generalized information, however I could write a 500 page book and still leave something out! There are a number of great books out there, such as my friend Massad Ayoob's book, "In the Gravest Extreme" - and - "Armed and Female", by Paxton Quigley. She was a vehement anti gun activist who had an epiphany, and is now a big supporter of women's right to defend themselves, neat lady.
There are also a number of training courses given by the NRA, including a all female class, and outfits like Gunsite Ranch, the Lethal Force Institute, azweaponsite.com, I'm sure I'm missing lots of them, Google it and see what is available in your area. I know that Massad Ayoob's school, Lethal Force Institute, has instructors touring the country giving classes.
Well my brothers and sisters, that wraps up this tidbit. Go forth, study, learn, and most importantly, have fun, but stay safe!
THE RANGE IS COLD, OPEN ACTIONS AND DO NOT HANDLE YOUR WEAPONS!
A Review of Survivor Jane's New Book...
"Where There is No Cosmetic Counter: How Not to Look like a Zombie - Even After the End of the World as You Know It"
Whether you're a seasoned veteran in the arts of Survival - Bushcraft - & Preparedness or just starting out, invariably you will be faced with the challenge of introducing the women in your life to the preparedness mindset, in my opinion Survivor Jane's new book serves 2 purposes:
1st is the aforementioned above...
I will let Jane tell you in her own words:
When discussing preparedness, whether it’s on my survival and preparedness for women website SurvivorJane.com, on social media networks like Facebook - Twitter - Pinterest - LinkedIn or addressing a group or a conference, I invariably get approach by men (no, not in that way), and asked how they can motivate the women in their lives to get involved in disaster preparedness. What I share with these men, or anyone else for that matter, is that women are just as uncomfortable at the thought of wearing camouflage-fatigues as men would be at wearing high-heeled shoes. Which is to say, men and women speak a different language. We interpret information differently. So it could be that the approach men are using when discussing disaster preparedness has more to do with what they are talking about - guns and ammo, camouflage clothes, underground bunkers and many even a little doom and gloom. Women prefer to think about things like family, fashion, make-up and lots of good smelling things. But even if the resistance isn’t the man’s approach, the reluctance may simply be they don’t want to give up their “woman-ness”.
So is it really that difficult to see why some women would be reluctant to jump on the disaster preparedness wagon? To some it would mean giving up these comforts and luxuries.
End of Excerpt..
With that being said, and as an insight into the mind of a woman in regards to preparedness - this is where Jane's book really shines in serving its 2nd and Main Purpose...
Listed below are the main categories of the table of contents - each having their own subcategories. The book is 272 pages and is a valuable compendium of recipes and remedies for both health & beauty using simple ingredients we have in our home pantries and gardens and even things found in the wild.
- FACIAL CARE
- EYE CARE
- HAND CARE
- NAIL CARE
- FOOT CARE
- BODY CARE
- HAIR CARE
- HAIR STYLING & CUTTING
FACIAL CARE & HAND CARE - Acne Remedies - Moisturizers for your face & hands in cold climates.
FOOT CARE - You have to take care of your feet in a survival situation - PERIOD.
BODY CARE - Survival Bathing & Body washes
HYGIENE - Shaving Creams & Toothpaste – Tooth Powders
This is just to give you an idea of some of the things available for men - some of the ingredients listed I have been using myself for years.
I will also add that Jane lists the health benefits of the main ingredients including the vitamins, minerals & cofactors - very useful information.
In closing, I would say that Survivor Jane's book is a valuable addition to your Preps - Well written and easy to understand - 5 STARS!
Where There is no Cosmetic Counter: How Not to Look Like a Zombie - Even After the End of the World As You Know It - is available on Amazon - GET IT HERE