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Kentucky Bob

A Beginner's Guide to Firearms For Survival, Hunting and Defense

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As much as you want. There really is no set amount for a person to have on hand. The more you have the better off you will be in a long term survival situation. As you will need field loads for hunting game ( sm game) also.  And for combat use you can alternate the rounds between buckshot and slugs


And thats with a smooth bore barrel. Rifled barrels you use sabots or rifled slugs only.

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Sorry Swede, I know we hadn't really addressed the differences between defense and survival weaponry, but there is alot to cover in that area.  I was just attempting to get some basic info out for folks and we'll cover as much as we can as quickly as possible.  Remember folks, any questions you have can be posted here or sent to one of us via PM.  :thumbup:


As MWB pointed out a shotgun is excellent for both outdoors and indoors defensive use.  There are several things that you need to think of, however. 


Do you live in an apartment or a house?  How close is your nearest neighbor?  There are many different loads for a shotgun, as I listed above.  The most effective for defense against the two-legged predators would be buckshot from #4 to #00.  The main thing to remember is that even though a shotgun can fire a large pattern at a distance, the spread may not be that great at the distances you would find in your home.  If you are defending a home or apartment the distance may not be more than a few yards between you and an attacker.  Even a shotgun with little choke (a way of measuring muzzle restriction) firing buckshot can fire a small pattern at such ranges and without taking the time to aim you may miss.  To know how your shotgun and shot combination will perform you need to "pattern" it at different distances.  Patterning a shotgun basically means taking the shotgun and the load you want to test and fire it at a paper or cardboard target at set distances to see how the pattern of shot is spread out.  My house gun is a Maverick Model 88 with a 18" improved-cylinder bore (just a little restriction) barrel.  At 20 feet a pattern of #4 buck measures about 6 to 8 inches across.  At 20 yards, that same pattern opens up to more than 20".  At close range, you can miss if you haven't practiced and take the time to aim.  I chose the #4 buck for inside the house due to the possibility of over-penetration from #00 buckshot.  If you aren't sure about how much penetration even a shotgun is capable of, try this experiment:


Take some scrap 2x4"s and sheet rock and build a small section of wall.  Most modern homes are built with this material, and you'll be amazed how much penetration you can get with even a .22 LR.  Even a load of lightweight birdshot has the potential to penetrate several layers of sheetrock.  If your exterior walls are brick or log you have less to worry about, but as MWB said with most frame homes a simple 9mm round can pass through from one end to another depending upon what it strikes on the way through.  A 12 gauge shotgun firing a buckshot load of #00 buck has a lot of power as well, so indoors you may be better off with a lighter load.  A 16 or 20 gauge--even though smaller bores than a 12 gauge--have plenty of power for defense as well, but shot loads are more diverse for the 20 gauge nowadays than for the ol' 16 gauge. 


If you want a shotgun for the outdoors, consider #00, #000 or slugs for defensive uses.  In a pinch a 12 gauge shotgun can bring down most anything on the North American continent, and there are many different loads out there for modern shotguns.  12 gauge shotguns may have different chamber lengths:  2 3/4", 3", and 3 1/2".   The 3 1/2" guns are mostly marketed towards turkey and waterfowl hunting and I honestly don't know of any slug or buckshot loads made for them.  The fuller chokes (heavier muzzle constriction) for these guns are not designed to fire such loads well at any rate.  But take a shotgun like that Maverick I mentioned with a 3" chamber, loaded with a 3" shell loaded with #000 buck?  It'll grab your attention from both ends.  There are many types of shotgun slugs available as well, but the "sabot slugs" require a shotgun with a rifled barrel to shoot accurately.  Saboted slugs are smaller in diameter and weight than a regular slug, but the sleeve they ride in until they leave the barrel protects them from being deformed and allows the rifled shotgun to be extremely accurate at distances to over 100 yards.


Left--saboted slug, right--rifled slug:



There is still alot of territory to cover on just defensive shotguns, let alone handguns or rifles.  Pump action or semi-auto?  Full stock or folding stock?  Extended magazines?  Bead sight, rifle sights, or ghost-ring sights?  Barrel length?  Wood or synthetic stock?  Personal preference will come into play here.  Rifle sights or ghost ring sights are better for accuracy, but a bead will do.  Some folks deal with recoil from these shot loads better than others.  Too many have been handed a shotgun and told "try it" without being shown how to hold the shotgun in such a way as to reduce the effect of recoil.  For those who have not had the opportunity to fire a shotgun, remember these two things: 


1.  Pull the shotgun into your shoulder very tightly, as if you are afraid it will jump forward and away from you when fired.  Holding it loosely will increase the felt effect of recoil.  (Your face has to touch the stock in order to aim properly.)


2.  Lean your upper body forward into the shotgun, balancing the weight and placing your foot forward (if you are right handed with the shotgun at your right shoulder place your left foot forward).





I know a lot of people talk about how much a shotgun loaded with buckshot or slugs can recoil or "kick."  If handled correctly most people can use these loads effectively and can handle the recoil.  There are several manufacturers who offer "reduced recoil" loads that will be as effective on the two-legged varmints as any of the full-power stuff.


Like any other firearm, practice is important.  A pump-action shotgun is usually considered to be more reliable with all loads, but the person doing the shooting can still cause operator-error.  "Short stroking" a pump shotgun--not bringing the slide back fully in order to eject the empty hull and feeding the new shell smoothly--will jam it well enough that it will take a moment to clear it out.  It comes down to knowing your shotgun and practicing enough with it to be able to work it when it's needed.  The best way to become proficient with your shotgun is to try some trap shooting or skeet with it.  You get to shoot alot  :hugegrin:  and you will be using lower-powered target loads.  You'll learn the proper stance, how to aim, fire, and work the action quickly.  I don't know if there's anything much more fun than sporting clays, it's just so satisfying to see that clay pigeon turn to dust!  :cool: 


The amount of ammunition to keep at home will vary from one person to another.  For those anticipating a SHTF scenario, a case of shells may not be enough.  For those who will be shooting in sporting clays tournaments several cases wouldn't be enough.  For me, I try to keep a supply on hand that will allow me to turkey hunt, bird hunt, plus rabbit and squirrel hunt.  I also keep defensive loads such as #4, #00 and slugs on hand.  I try to keep enough of the defensive loads to load the shotgun at least 3 times.  That's my comfort level.  Another thing to think of is where will you be keeping all this ammo?  Hopefully you have a lockable storage box that will keep it dry and will allow you to control humidity.  Silica gel packs are good to have to keep both your guns and ammo safe from ambient humidity.  Fire is something else to consider when storing ammunition.  In a fire, ammo won't just fire like it would in a gun, but it will blow open--sending pieces of the hull or casing flying around.  Maybe not as dangerous as bullets flying, but still not a nice situation.  If you have a fire, fire fighters should be notified of where ammo, gun powder, primers, etc are stored in the house.


I haven't taken the time to cover everything about shotguns yet.  I should do another post explaining shotgun chokes, but that will come a little later.  If I've missed something, please let me know.  If you have questions, please don't hesitate to ask.

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Ok, here is a quickie guide to shotgun chokes.  A shotgun's choke is a contriction of smaller diameter than the true bore size that is either built into the muzzle end of the barrel or it may be a screw-in interchangeable choke tube.   The reason for different chokes is to allow for different patterns of shot at different ranges.  More open chokes allow larger patterns while more constricted chokes are designed to keep shot patterns tighter, usually for more distant targets.


For newer shotguns with built-in chokes, the choke should be stamped into the barrel close to where the gauge and manufacturer information is stamped.  Many older shotguns may not have an obvious marking in plain sight to inform of the choke.  You will sometimes see old timers use a dime to try measure the muzzle of a shotgun and determine choke.  It doesn't really work, though.  Measurements can be taken with calipers to determine the choke on older, unmarked guns.


American choke names include:   




Improved Cylinder             

Light Modified


Improved Modified

Light Full


Extra Full

Super Full


The list, going from top to bottom goes from the most open choke to the tightest.   I may have missed one or two, but these are the most important.  How many pellets can you count on hitting your target at a measured distance?  This partial chart is for a 12 guage shotgun:


Percentage of shot inside a 30" circle


Choke       20yds             30yds             40yds


Cylinder     80%               60%              40%

Skeet        92%              72%               50%

Imp Cyl     100%              77%              55%

Modified    100%             83%               60%

Imp Mod   100%             91%               65%

Full           100%            100%              70%


Screw-in chokes are not a brand new item.  Winchester started using them either in the late 50's or early 60's (can I get a little help here?), but I'm not sure exactly what year.  Most firearsm manufacturers who make shotguns nowadays offer screw-in chokes.  If you think it's hard to keep track of them in a single barrel shotgun, consider this:  If you have a new over-under shotgun or side-by-side shotgun, you can put two different chokes in so that you can make that second shot pattern a little further out in case you've missed the first or are shooting doubles.





In the photo above you can see the different chokes available for this over and under shotgun and the wrench designed to insert and remove them.


Finally, some people curse them, some people praise them....POLY CHOKES!  An adjustable choke installed on the muzzle of a shotgun that can be adjusted for different uses.  I always feel a bit of nostalgia when I see an old shotgun with a Poly-Choke installed.  They may be ugly to some, but usually seeing a Poly Choke on an old shotgun means that shotgun got to see some use!  Many of the Poly Chokes were also compensated (had slits cut into the side) to reduce recoil.


This is a photo of an old Poly Choke on an Ithaca Model 37 shotgun:





Ok, I hope this helps some of those who haven't fooled around alot with shotguns to understand about shotgun chokes.  In the last post we were discussing shotguns for defense, and when it comes down to it most of those with a fixed choke that are meant to be used defensively will have Improved Cylinder chokes.  As I said in the last post, you should pattern your shotgun--preferably with several different loads and brands--in order to determine what you can expect from it.




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Swede, as to how much ammunition to have on hand, I prefer to have a couple boxes (20 rounds) of several sizes. Birdshot in #6, buck, #2, t-shot, and slugs.

I figure 100 rounds are enough to either get you in trouble, or get you out of it. :grin:


If you are looking for a purely defensive weapon, a 12 gage riot gun with a folding stock loaded with #2 or #4 shot is very persuasive as it will do a lot of damage at close range on a thin skinned /light boned opponent like a human. These come with an open choke for maximum spread at close range.


To those who are not really familiar with firearms, a riot gun is so called because it is the heavy weapon issued to police officers. It is not made for hunting or survival, it is a purely defensive weapon. Short barrel, usually with a pistol grip,(a folding stock will help control recoil), usually carry 5 rounds in the magazine.


Kentucky Bob is correct about chokes, but his discussion is geared toward hunting weapons. Self defense is more about getting a hit on a target. Patterning is great for turkey hunting, or waterfowl where you are shooting up to 40 yards, but when the range is measured in feet, the term "spray and pray" comes in.  :guns:


In the point blank range of fighting in the confines of a living room, patterning is not as important as it is at distance. When you are only shooting a maximum of 20 feet, that is only 6 yards, and most rooms aren't that big.

A shotgun you can hunt with has a longer barrel, full stock, more accurate and versatile than a riot gun. I classify them in a different category. They fire the same rounds, using the same mechanisms and physics, but a hunting or sporting weapon is harder to handle in close situations.


While I am a huge proponent of being used to the weapon, and practice, I would rather have something that anyone who is in danger could fire with a better than average chance of dissuading an attacker.


Pistols are fine as a weapon. They are convenient, fast shooting, acceptably accurate, but they need a lot of practice to use efficiently.  :thumbdown:


I do have an experts medal for handguns, but I would never choose it for situations where the target is uncertain such as in bad light. One problem with popular Semi auto handguns is that it is easy to fire several rounds quickly, whether you want to or not. I have seen people fire the first round into the target and the next 2 into the sky.  :nop:


It takes a lot of practice to use a handgun efficiently.


A revolver is easier as you have to make a serious effort to pull the trigger in double action, or cock the hammer each shot in a single action mode. They are usually more accurate than a semi-auto, and chambered for heavier rounds. They are more versatile as a hunting weapon and can be a very serious weapon.

However, that power translates into collateral damage when the round passes through or misses the target in a close fight.


Rifles are superb for hunting. Accurate, come in all calibers for all occasions. However, they are hard to maneuver in close situations. They are longer, and it can take time to load if you have a bolt action. Lever actions are shorter, faster to handle, good knock down power, but not something I would want to try to defend myself with at 2:00 AM.


You use what you have, but in a purely defensive situation at point blank range, a riot gun, no choke, will blow big holes in your attacker. A pistol round will not knock down an attacker unless you hit a major bone as the round will pass through and leave a small hole with some damage. You need precision to hit vital areas like the heart or brain.


A rifle at close range is worse as the bullet won't have time to expand properly. They are designed to penetrate heavier animal mass and mushroom to transfer kinetic energy into the target in the form of Hydrostatic shock causing organ damage and possibly stopping the heart through shock alone.


A shotgun will make BIG holes in the target 8|


You do not have to precisely hit a spot to cause a lot of damage. A shot that hits with only half of its pellets could still take off an arm or leg or damage it where the attacker is effectively removed from the fight.


As this thread is dedicated to people with little or no knowledge of weapons, my baseline is the weapon that is simplest to just pick up and fire with minimal training.  :thumbsup:


Everyone has preferences with weapons, they are a very personal choice. I do reccomend taking classes for anyone who is thinking of purchasing any weapon for not only their own safety, but for the safety of those you protect. :heart:


Survival weapons, hunting weapons, offensive weapons, and firearms for just pleasure shooting are all part of the equation, but if you are just at the level of home defense, a riot gun is hard to beat.


It is hard to absorb all the information available from a few posts,  :dribble: but this is one of the best tutorials I have ever seen on the subject matter.

Kudos to all the posters. :thumbsup:

Thanks especially to Kentucky Bob, that is a lot of writing pal!! :cool:


I surrender the soapbox to the next participant. :no1:

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Does firearm ownership out weigh the good from the bad? By this I mean is the bad things like inner city violence and accidental deaths out weigh the privilege of gun ownership?

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"Guns don't kill people.  People kill people."


People are going to kill each other with or without guns.  Look what Cain did to Abel.  I think if we looked at the statistics of accidental shooting deaths against the number of responsible gun owners, the ratio would be pretty low.  I don't think it's fair to throw in the numbers from gang violence because if it wasn't guns, it would be knives.  Shall we ban all the knives?  And if it wasn't knives, it would be baseball bats and car antennas and chains and broken bottles.  Shall we ban all those things too?  The problem isn't with guns, it's with society itself.  We need to stop spoiling criminals and quit making it so easy for them and maybe we'd have less violence.  I don't know, it's just an idea. :P

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According to reports from the National Safety Council:





For Immediate Release

December 7, 2004

For more information contact:


Steve Wagner

(203) 426-1320


Accidental Firearm-related Fatalities Drop to All-time Low


NEWTOWN, Conn.--A report from the National Safety Council shows that accidental firearm-related fatalities continue to decline and are at the lowest level in the history of record keeping. Statistics in the council's "Injury Facts 2004" reveal a 54 percent decrease over a 10-year period ending in 2003.


Last year, 101,537 U.S. residents died in accidents of all types. Less than one percent, 700, involved firearms. The most common deadly accidents involved motor vehicles, falls and poisonings, claiming 72 percent of all accidental deaths.


"The continuing decline is good news that's attributable to a number of factors, but certainly the overarching theme is increased awareness of gun safety and responsibility," said Doug Painter, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for the firearm industry. NSSF directs a number of initiatives focusing on safety. The most visible is Project ChildSafe ®, which, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Justice, has distributed more than 20 million free gun safety information kits, including gun locks, across the country.


NSSF also distributes safety literature and videos that emphasize outreach to schools. Additional support is provided for hunter safety programs. Learn more at www.nssf.org or 203-426-1320.


Many other organizations, most notably the National Rifle Association, also effectively promote gun safety.


Painter added that NSSF, on behalf of the firearm industry, is committed to working toward continuing the downward trend in accidental firearm-related fatalities.


Other new findings from the National Safety Council include:


Accidental firearm-related fatalities have been consistently decreasing for many years

Preliminary statistics show accidental firearm-related fatalities declined by 13 percent between 2002 and 2003

Over the past seven years, accidental firearm-related fatalities among children (under 14) decreased 60 percent. Firearms are involved in less than two percent of accidental fatalities among children

Firearms are involved in less than one percent of all accidental fatalities

NSSF, formed in 1961, is the trade association for the firearm industry. It directs a variety of outreach programs to promote greater participation and better understanding of shooting sports, emphasizing safe and responsible ownership of firearms. For further information, visit www.nssf.org.




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Does firearm ownership out weigh the good from the bad? By this I mean is the bad things like inner city violence and accidental deaths out weigh the privilege of gun ownership?


This can degenerate into an arguement very quickly.  It will come down to who you ask.  On one hand, there are those who will point out the numbers of murders committed each year with firearms.  The violent crime rate in the United States has been steadily dropping since 1994, jumped back up a little in 2006 and began falling again. 










Well over 50% of all fireams-related deaths in the U.S. are suicides:




There is no doubt that many in the U.S. die from firearms accidents as well.  Those numbers have also been dropping as well.  Firearms accidental deaths are down 89% among children since 1975, are down to an all time annual low for the U.S. with 0.2 per 100,000 population which is down 94% since the all-time high in 1904.  Firearms are involved in 0.6% of accidental deaths nationally compared to:


motor vehicles (39%),

poisoning (18%),

falls (16%),

suffocation (5%),

drowning (2.9%),

fires (2.8%),

medical mistakes (2.2%),

environmental factors (1.2%),

and bicycles and tricycles (0.7%).


Among children: motor vehicles (45%), suffocation (18%), drowning (14%), fires (9%), bicycles and tricycles (2.4%), falls (2%), poisoning (1.6%),environmental factors (1.5%), and medical mistakes (0.8%).


You chances are greater of dying from a medical mistake than from a firearms accident.  Guns don't kill people, doctors do!  scared011.gif




There are many who will tell you that on the other hand, according to a study by Professor Gary Kleck, firearms are used defensively or to prevent crime from 800,000 up to 2 million times per year.  Those figures are not as concrete as those above, and may well be double or more the actual number.  Many cite problems with the type of survey used.  Another survey conducted by the U.S. Dept of Justice estimated an annual 1.5 million defensive uses.  The vast majority of these do not involve the firearm being discharged, that the presence of the firearm alone was enough to deter the criminal.  There are several studies that I have links to:











If we take the lowest survey number I've seen of 64,615 defensive gun uses (DGU) per year, they greatly outweigh the number of firearms murders, suicides, and accidents reported every year.  Now, again I have to say that the response you get to this question will be dependent upon who you ask.  People will continue to murder each other with or without guns.  Suicides will continue with or without guns.  When we look at inner-city violence, how much of it is attributable to gang or drug violence?  Gun ownership is at an all-time high and rising by about 4.5 million per year ( www.atf.gov/firearms/stats/index.htm ) while our firearms crime rates have fallen  ( http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/guns.htm ). 

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Before I tackle defensive handguns, I want to talk about the safe storage of firearms in the home.  If there are kids or other family members at home, you have to decide what sort of storage system you will use.  In some jurisdictions there are mandatory storage laws.  There are lockable combination boxes, boxes that use a fingerprint, safes, and a myriad of options.  There are also several types of gun locks to consider, but that may be something for a second post.  If you want it to be accessible when you need it--yet safely locked away--it takes some thought.












For Ursula and me,  our main concern was keeping firearms safe from theft.  We don't have kids or any relatives that visit with small children, so that wasn't our main concern.  We both work during the day, so we wanted to be sure that when we leave the house that in case of break-ins we would have a gun safe.  A gun safe is an investment,  and for less than the cost of a new pistol you can buy a decent one.  A gun safe can also store jewelry, important papers, coin collections, etc.  I know that many have gun cabinets, nice wood and glass furniture that stores firearms and will at least keep the kids out when locked.  I like them, and they look a heck of a lot better than a gun safe.  BUT! I guarantee you that within a moment of finding it a burglar will have your guns out of it and on the way out the door.  A heavy gun safe bolted to the floor or wall isn't going to give up it's contents as easily.  You can also get a safe that has a fire resistant liner, keeping guns, jewelry, and important papers safe. 


I've said elsewhere that having a firearm is a huge responsibility, and part of that responsibility it to ensure that your firearm is stored safely.  On the other hand, if it is stored in such a manner that you can't reach it in time when needed you may as well not have it.  Balancing safety and accessability is difficult sometimes.  The pistol safes with the 4-button touchpad combination locks are probably the fastest to use, but they also need to be bolted down to be sure that the box, pistol and all don't walk out the door.  If you have such a lock box, practice getting it open and the gun out (practice with an unloaded gun, btw!).  The time to learn to do it quickly is not at 3am in the morning when you hear glass breaking at the back door.  The better boxes have either 4 raised buttons or backlit keys so that you'll have an easier time using them in the dark.


Now, if you want to go all out you can get a vault door and close off an entire room:




A friend of mine did this in his basement in a concrete wall.  Nobody is getting to those guns without a bulldozer!  And yes, Kenny needs to go to such lengths with a collection like his!  While this is an extreme example, it is worth considering if you have a large collection.  Closing off an entire room in such a way is only useful if the walls to the room are reinforced and made of something better than 2x4"s and sheetrock, IMO.


Now, hopefully you can look over some of the options in the links provided and find something that will suit your purposes.  If you have specific questions, please post them or PM them to one of us.

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I'm going to get some photos at home since I can't find any I like on the 'net.  Then I'll start talking about defensive handguns.  We'll look at handguns for self-defense and we'll also touch on the topic of trail guns, but we've covered that in another thread.  What I am intending to do is to look at this from the point of view of the inexperienced first-time handgun owner.

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To many people a personal defense firearm means a handgun.  Naturally a shotgun will give you a better chance of surviving in most situations, but you won't always have the opportunity to get to a long gun and they're pretty hard to carry around all day under a jacket.  Maybe you've decided you want a handgun in addition to a shotgun.  Many of us have a number of guns around the house to choose from while others may be looking at making their first purchase.  Let me say first of all that a handgun takes quite a bit of practice to master.  You need to be willing to commit to alot of practice time if you wish to be able to use it effectively.  Some folks will buy a handgun and a box of shells, shoot a few times, and then put it away.  I've known several who had the handgun and the original box of shells they had purchased with it years later, having never fired the handgun after the first few shots.  You aren't just practicing to be able to shoot well but to be able to reload, unload, holster and unholster (provided you want to go the concealed carry route) the pistol as well.  Survival or trail guns?  Again, many people have different ideas of what a survial/trail pistol should be.  There are those who want something that will sink the biggest bear in its tracks while others want something in a small caliber just to put meat in the pot in an emergency. 


I'm not going to tell anyone to go out and buy Brand X pistol in WXYZ caliber.  If you have little or no experience with a pistol, try to find a gunshop that rents guns and can let you try several before you buy.  Get some instruction as well.  Don't feel that you have to buy the first gun you see at the shop or that you have to buy on that first visit. 


Personally, I feel that most people are best served by a medium-frame double-action* revolver in .38 Special or .357 Magnum.  The .357 magnum load is a bit much for a beginner to learn to shoot with, but a revolver chambered in .357 will also safely use .38 Special ammunition.  A double action revolver is simplicity compared to a semi-automatic pistol.  It is easier to check to see if it's loaded, and is less finicky about the types of ammunition that are used in it.  You don't have to worry about chambering a round or a safety switch, the heavy double-action trigger pull is the revolver's main safety.  Nowadays the revolver may not have the 'cool factor' that a semi-auto has, but they work well for the home or on the trail.  I know most of you know already that I lean towards .45 autos for my carry guns.  Do you want to know what I have for the house and trail?  Look:





Yup, a Ruger GP-100 in .357 magnum.  I load it with Glaser Safety Slugs for the home (a frangible bullet designed to come apart in a wall rather than over-pentrate).  In the middle of the night I don't want to worry about whether there's a round chambered or if the safety is on.  Ursula can also use it pretty well (she has her own Ruger SP-101, which is basically a smaller version of a GP-100).    You can also reload pretty quickly with a speedloader:





I wanted to get some photos of me actually using the speedloader, but it takes two hands and with the camera....I'll get Ursula to help me next time...


Another thing about a revolver is that it's faily easy to exchange the grips for something that feels better in your hand:




A grip should allow you to get a firm hold on the gun without having to twist your hand around to reach the trigger.  The next couple of photos show the way the revovler (or pistol) should line up in the hand with the gun in a direct line with the bones of your forearm:





You don't want to have to hold the gun so that the web of your hand isn't centered behind the grip frame in order to reach the trigger:





If the gun is twisted in your hand in such a way it will not be comfortable to shoot, you won't handle the recoil well, and it will be hard to shoot accurately--especially as the gun twists around in your hand after each shot.  You should also grip the revolver high up on the grip...:





...rather than allowing your hand to grip the revovler too low, leaving the top of the grip up high like so:





Gripping the revolver too low will make it harder to control when firing, actually giving you less leverage for lack of a better word.  Semi-autos are somewhat different, and I'll cover the problems of gripping a semi-auto in another installment. 


A good double action revolver should have a trigger pull that is fairly smooth and not so heavy that you find your hand shaking from the strain of pulling the trigger back.  The main controls of a double-action revolver are the cylinder latch, ejector rod, trigger, and hammer.  Some of the newer models also have a key-activated lock built into the mechanism, mainly due to ambulance-chasing lawyers and anti-gun zealots.  (sorry for the rant)


In my next post we'll look at the controls of the double-action revovler.


*Double-action means that by squeezeing the trigger through its entire cycle the hammer is fully cocked and then released in order to fire the gun.

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I came across a really excellent website this morning called "Cornered Cat."  http://www.corneredcat.com/TOC.aspx


Owned by Kathy Jackson, the website is geared towards providing instruction in safety, choosing holsters, safe storage, shooting basics and much more.  Kathy also has articles on shooting basics, legal concerns, ammunition, and a full glossary.  After reading a couple of the articles I'm impressed with how knowledgable she is.  The "Dear Gunhilda" advice column is a hoot!  If I could write about firearms half as well as Kathy, I'd be a happy camper!  At any rate I would suggest that any who have the time and need a little information that we haven't gotten around to here yet pay Kathy a visit.


Now, let's talk about revolvers some more....


I'm going to have a behind-the-scenes discussion with some of the mods about actually giving any how-to advice on firearms.  From a legal point of view, I think for now it's best we stick to nomenclature instead of starting an instructional on how to load a firearm... :hmm: 


The parts of a revolver were covered earlier:





The main controls for a double-action revolver are the cylinder release, trigger, ejector rod, and hammer.  On a double-action revolver, the trigger can draw the hammer fully back and release it to fire a shot OR the hammer can be manually pulled back to cock it--requiring a light trigger squeeze to release it to fire. 


The cylinder release is a latch that allows the cylinder to be swung out for loading or unloading.  How it operates depends upon the manufacturer.  On Smith & Wesson, Taurus, Rossi, Charter Arms and most brands, the cylinder latch must be pushed forward towards the cylinder to release the cylinder.  On the old Dan Wessons, the release was in front of the cylinder and it had to be pushed downwards.  On Colts, the latch must be pulled backwards from the cylinder to release it, while Ruger cylinder latches are pushed inward.





The ejector rod can serve two purposes.  On Smith & Wessons and their clones, the ejector rod actually helped hold the cylinder by catching on a small spring-loaded detent:




The main purpose, of course, is to eject spent casings.  When the cylinder is swung open the ejector rod is pushed toward the rear of the cylinder to eject the empties.  In the next photo, you can see my thumb pushing the ejector rod through its stroke (red arrows showing direction).  The piece circled in yellow is called the "star" because it is somewhat star shaped and it actually is the part that bears against the casings, pushing them out.








Normally, something I find handy to do when handling a revolver for loading or unloading is to put my middle and ring fingers through the frame and hold the cylinder with those fingers and my thumb, supporting the revolver with the rest of the hand.  It keeps the cylinder from moving around as I try to load or unload.  Most old-timers know to do this, but many who are new to revolvers try to hold the pistol by its grip and load the chambers as the cylinder tries to spin around on them:





We still have plenty of territory to cover, and the semi-auto section will only take about a week to finish....



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Very Good K-Bob!  :thumbsup:


I will add my 2 cents on revolvers, perhaps not as encompassing or well illustrated, but additional information nontheless.  :bandit:


The revolver comes in 3 primary configurations.


1) Single Action. This means that in order to fire you must cock the hammer prior to each shot. As the hammer is pulled back the cylinder is revolved to place a round in line with the barrel and hammer. You must pull the hammer back to full cock before firing. More modern revolvers have a falling plate that will not rise up to cover the firing pin to fire the weapon unless the weapon is fully cocked and ready to fire. This is a safety mechanism so that if your thumb slips off before full cock the weapon won't fire as the striker plate falls down and the hammer can't hit the firing pin.


This is the most basic revolver, and the kind made famous in a million old western movies. Who hasn't seen John Wayne pull his 45 and take care of a whole gang of outlaws? :clap:


All the old west movies usually will show some "gunslinger" fanning his single action Colt 45 peacemaker pistol for fast shooting. Fanning is when you hold the trigger down and use the heel of your off hand. This maneuver, while flashy for the movies, can't be done with a modern revolver. Plus, it is a waste of ammunition as you can't hit anything when firing like that, and it is dangerous as you could actually shoot yourself. :nono:


One other major difference is that on most all single action pistols, the cylinder does not swing free from the frame. You must open a loading gate on the right rear of the pistol and load the rounds 1 at a time. The ejector rod doesn't have a star, and only ejects 1 spent case at a time.

Many single actions, (NOT ALL) have a stronger frame than double actions as without the cylinder support for handling the cylinder when loading, the frame is one piece, not 2. This only really factors in if you are reloading hot loads or special loads for specific purpose.

Several double action revolvers like the Ruger Super RedHawk or Taurus Raging Bull are specifically designed for very heavy loads.


A single action pistol can be a little more accurate than a double action as when cocked the pressure required to pull the trigger is substantially less. My favorite pistol is the Ruger Super Blackhawk chambered for the 44 Magnum. I have shot silhouette competition out to 200 yards with this weapon, hunted with it and taken deer and elk with it. It takes a lot of practice and a 44 Mag isn't for most people.


2) Double Action. This means the pistol may be fired by either single action, cocking the hammer to fire, or by pulling the trigger which will use the force from pulling the trigger to move the hammer back to firing position. As the trigger weight, (force necessary to pull the trigger) is substantially more than necessary for an already cocked hammer, it serves as a safety. A double action may be fired much faster than a single action, and as the cylinder may be swung free of the frame for loading 6 rounds at a time, it is much faster to operate than a single action.

There are more moving parts on a double action, not many, and it is easier to clean as you don't have to pull the pin and remove the cylinder as you do with a single action.


3) Hammerless. This revolver was developed for Detectives to carry concealed. The hammer is actually concealed under a metal shroud so it wouldn't snag on clothing when drawn from a shoulder or belt holster under clothing.

This pistol is classed as DAO. Double Acton Only. These are usually chambered for lighter rounds, 32, 38, etc. Usually with a short barrel and light frame for ease of carrying concealed. As the hammer is not accessable, you may not cock the hammer manually or separately from operating the trigger pull.


They are still in limited production, and sometimes are carried as a backup weapon. Not designed for hunting or serious shooting.


There are many variations between brands of pistols, some very ingenious. Example, the Remington Russian and some of the old British revolvers broke open on a swivel in the lower front frame, and the spent cases were ejected and you loaded it from the top similar to a break open shotgun.


During the American Civil War, one of the most prized handguns used by the south was the French Le Mat. It had 2 barrels, and the cylinder was loaded with 6 .45 Colt cartridges, but in the middle of the cylinder was a chamber for a 12 gage shot shell. This weapon was huge, heavy, and took some guts to fire the shotgun option from the lower barrel, but it worked. wacky115.gif


Pistols in many respects are more dangerous for the handler than a rifle or shotgun. My cousin carries a 22 slug in the calf of his leg from practicing his "Quick Draw". There are very few situations where you have to outdraw the outlaw at high noon these days, so I NEVER reccomend a beginner ever trying a fast draw or speed draw. Some of the most famous gunmen in the old west were not super fast on the draw, but they were able to keep their nerve and aim to kill their opponent. Many super fast quick draw artists could get of 2 or 3 rounds before the skilled gunfighter fired his first shot, but speed does not equal accuracy. It doesn't matter how many shots you can get off quickly,if they don't hit what you are shooting at! The old gunfighters didn't wait around, but they did take time to make the first shot count. gen165.gif


Any weapon you choose is fine, IF you are willing to take the time and effort, and yes expense as bullets do cost money, to learn to handle the weapon properly. Not everyone who buys a pistol wants to qualify on the combat course, that doesn't mean you can't become proficient using your chosen weapon.


A firearm is a tool. Nothing more, nothing less. Any tool is only as good as the craftsman that uses it. You may not have to be able to saw a straight cut with your fancy new Craftsman Circular Saw, but if you practice, the saw is able to help you build a house, or if used improperly, you can loose a hand or leg really quickly.  8|


The most valuable weapon you posess is the same one you carry into any survival, combat or stressful/threatening environment, use your head. Showboating will just get you hurt or killed. Always respect any firearm, knife, ax, or tool you pick up. You will accomplish your goal or objective, and still be around to appreciate what you have done weather it is a nice garage you added on, the shelter to keep you warm, or living through a life threatening situation so you can go home and kiss the kids. :peace:


This thread is fantastic for infomation for beginners, but it does not cover everything and does not substitute for a hands on class from a licensed professional.  :help:


Please don't hesitate to ask questions! The only dumb question is the one never asked. happy070.gif


Thank you Swede for allowing this superb thread to go on.  :pray:


Next on the firing line! Step up and take your positions, Ready on the right..Ready on the left... the Range is hot! :punk:


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There are those who reload their own ammunition. Is there any advantage to reloading? Ive heard that reloads can be more accurate than factory loads in rifles because each firearm has a load that works better than another. 

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There are those who reload their own ammunition. Is there any advantage to reloading? Ive heard that reloads can be more accurate than factory loads in rifles because each firearm has a load that works better than another. 



Your buddy Blair reloads all the shells when dove hunting.....at least he did this year... :guns:

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Reloading,  8| Geez Swede, You may want to start another thread for this one! :curse:


Reloading is an art, kind of like great cooking. Instead of recipes, you have secret loads, (bullet/powder/primer combinations), favorite powders, there are a million different bullets depending on what you are using them for.


The first step is get a good reloading manual. This lists all the loads, powder types, and velocity. Use the listed loads as they have been tested so do not exceed the safe operation of your weapon.


OK, Lets start with bullets.

Example: Spitzer full metal jacket for targets. Very accurate, do not work well for hunting as there is almost no bullet expansion.

            Soft point: rounded tip exposing a lot of lead. Quick expansion, excellent for hunting, loose a lot of speed and do not have the range of spitzers.

            Flat nose: usually used in pistols and lever action rifles. Tremendous expansion and transmittal of kinetic energy into target. Very low ballistic coefficient, (How aerodynamic the bullet is), so short range. Usually has a high "rainbow" trajectory.


This is 3 examples, there are hundreds. Several manufacturers, each with their own tables for flight, coefficient, mushrooming, sectional density  :dribble:


Next come the powders. depending on what you are shooting, you may want to try ball powder, or flake, or perhaps extruded grain. The different shapes mean different burn rates mostly.

Powders are graded as slow, medium and fast. Usually you want a fast burning powder to generate quick energy for hyper velocity rounds, in excess of 4000 feet per second. Not always the case.


Usually you will use a slower burning powder for big heavy bullets so the pressure grows in a smooth arc rather than a spike of energy. Cannons or field guns use slow burning powder. This also is not always the case as a fast burning powder needs a lighter load than a slow burn to create the same pressures.


Again, hundreds to choose from.


Primers. This is the little silver or brass button at the back of a bullet that the firing pin strikes to set off the powder burn. Usually there is fulminate of mercury in there, so don't eat it!  gen140.gif


There are primers for pistol, magnum pistol, light rifle, rifle, magnum rifle etc. each has a different amount of flash for more positive ignition. You do not need to use a magnum rifle for rifle cartridges. And it is not a great idea to use rifle primers on magnum cartridges as you may have a hang fire or delayed ignition.


I am not going to do a step by step on how to reload, get training with an instructor or someone who has reloaded. This can be dangerous. If you experiment or accidentally exceed the CUPS standard, the weapon may fail and blow up in your face or crack your receiver or barrel.


A black powder weapon is rated at 35000 copper units of pressure, (CUPS) while a smokeless powder load is rated to 55,000 cups.

If you use a smokeless load in a weapon rated for a black powder load, BOOM!!! :scared:


Standard retail loads are normally loaded 20% below the lightest load listed by reloading manuals. This is a liability issue. The companies have no idea the condition of the weapon you have, and they don't want to take any chances the weapon might fail using their ammunition.


Premium loads are now offered, (at a premium price) that are loaded to handloaded specs and offered retail. These have the cool names like "Light Magnum".


Next you need the reloading press. This can cost about $100 for a starter kit for rifles and pistols, up to a thousand or more for the more involved kits. These do not come with the dies or shell holders.


The press is the heart of the system. It decaps, (remove the spent primer), sizes the case, and seats the new primer and bullet.

The scale measures powder weight up to a tenth of a grain of weight. This is critical as too much powder, you got problems. :help:

To light a charge and in a worst case scenario, there won't be enough power for the bullet to make it all the way out of the barrel, and that is a real Jam.

The dies are specifically made for each caliber and chambering. A 2 die set for bottleneck cartridges, and a 3 die set for straight wall cartridges like pistol ammunition.


The shell holder does just what it says. It holds the brass case in the press.


Now that you understand some of the basics of reloading,  :ewphu: :dribble: :dribble: :dribble: what are the benefits???


OK, once you get away from the initial investment of buying your reloading kit, dies, shell holders, powder, primers, bullets, primers, powder and manual, it is far cheaper to fire handloads than buying retail.


It doesn't take long to recoup the initial investment depending on caliber. For instance, my standard elk hunting rifle is the 338 Winchester Magnum. I use a 250 grain bullet on (censored) grains of powder for a ballistic velocity of just over 3400 feet per second.


These rounds retail for anywhere from $29 to $38 per 20 rounds. If I buy from sales for my components, or gun shows, I can reduce my price to between $8 and $10 per 20.


I also get markedly improved performance. As this weapon uses very heavy loads that I have made especially tuned for this particular rifle, my accuracy has gone from a 1.75 inch group at 100 yards to .85 inches at 100 yards. (best group ever  :cool:).


As the price of ammunition is seriously reduced, I can afford to practice more, and become a better shot.

Also I love to touch off that big boomer! :hugegrin:


I use this as an example because the results are pretty clear. For others, the costs will vary, but the savings and improvements in accuracy and power hold for each caliber.


I don't shoot enough shotgun rounds to warrent the investment in a reloader press for it, it takes a different press and outfit than rifles/pistols. But the savings and improvement in performance hold for shotguns as well.


Whew! gen165.gif


I am getting carpel tunnel. I hope this helps answer some questions, but if anyone has any specific questions I would be happy to answer them for you.


Think I will go load a couple hundred more rounds, Hunting season is coming. I may only need 1 or 2 shells, but you can never have enough ammunition taunt12.gif wacky078.gif :peace:




:smoke: One last thing, Don't smoke while handling powder, Not a good combination :uhuh:



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:smoke: One last thing, Don't smoke while handling powder, Not a good combination :uhuh:



Best not to be tired or drinking either..., best done with a very clear head :)

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I reload 243 for coyotes. I use my bench loader just for full resizing and use the old faithful Lee hand loader to set the bullets. I use a powder drop but because of the course grains of some of the brands of rifle powder I weigh each drop. The cylindrical shape of Hodgdon Varget powder doesnt measure the drop consistently. Ive experimented with H335 and H380.


I use the Lee primer setter. It works faster than my bench loader . Winchester large rifle primers. Inman accutrim case trimmer. I vary from 70 grain Nozler to 75 grain V Max. I set the bullet with the Lee hand loader and mike each loaded shell. I measure the breech and set the bullet 1/16 off the lens.I shoot the Remington 243- 700 BDL and close measurement varies slightly from one rifle to another. One load is different from one rifle to another and experimenting at the range is the best way to get the best load.



I also have the Remington 7600 in black and the plastic stock with Leupold scope


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Hey Swede,

Sounds like you are pretty familiar with this yourself! Maybe you should have written the post!!  8|


You are truly a man of many talents!  :pray:


I have never used the Lee hand press. But their primer loader is best in the business. I use RCBS Partner bench loaders myself, and do the whole operation on the bench. I would like to upgrade to the Rockchucker progressive, or best of all a Dillion, but rich I am not so the old survivors creed, "You use what you have". It has worked well for me for many years. A little light for the big magnum cases, but for standard rounds it is pretty slick.


I usually us IMR extruded powders, and I agree, the drop also gets better uniformity in the case for even burn.


I use a dial vernier caliper for measurements.


I have a 243 as well. Super little rifle. The wife loves to shoot it. I used to have a Remington 788, one of the best rifles ever made for accuracy and value. Now I have a Ruger stainless with a Leupold 3x9. :thumbsup:


I am glad to see that you enjoy that part of the hobby too! :hugegrin:


Just loaded a fresh batch of 338 today, boy that goes through a pound of powder in a hurry!!


If you like coyotes, we have a lot of them, in some places. The wolves tend to kill them as fast as they can so the coyote population has been seriously thinned in the western part of the state.


K Bob? You want to get in on this?? Come on in and join the fun. :cheers:

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Thanks Wolf. We used  to shoot doves a lot and we loaded our own shot gun shells to save money. I used to like the AA shells because they load more before the crimp gets blown off.  :P


Full resizing is a must because I use two 243s and they will not interchange without full resizing. I oil the cases because full resizing can turn into work.  gen165.gif


I like the Lee hand loader because I only loaded 20 sometimes 40 at a time (lazy I guess)  :hugegrin: If I was to load a bunch at a time I would set up my bench loader for mass production.


Reloading supplies are getten expensive and a lot of stores dont like to carry the stuff any more because of the legal paper work and extra insurance. Gander Mountain carries some stuff.

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Boy the price really has gone up. :ranting:


When I started reloading, I could buy a pound of powder for $9 to $12, Now I am happy to find it at $18.


The biggest problem for my 338 is I load for 4 of them as my father brother and brother in law have them too. Each rifle likes a specific load. Mine prefers the 250 grain bullet with a pretty heavy load. My fathers rifle takes a 225 bullet with a medium load, but my brothers takes a 200 grain with the hottest load I can find. The more powder it burns the better it likes it! My brother in law gets good results with a 200 grain bullet too, but his prefers the lightest load listed.


It is getting hard to find 250 grain bullets. Speer still makes them, under their premium label, so that makes them more expensive! Guess who takes it right in the shorts whip.gif


Actually around here, you can find components just about anywhere. They may not have the exact brand you want, but you will always find something to work with. Our firearms laws are pretty limited, so the only thing we really worry about is fed stuff. what a hassle :thumbdown:


I always lube my cases as when I decap I do a full resize anyway, and with all those different rifles, a full size, check of the total length and shoulder length are a must.


Also when you are shooting those heavy rifles, I am lucky to get 3 loads out of a case before they deform.


One big problem too is that you have to be careful with the rounds in the magazine as the recoil can deform the tips of the other rounds.

Plus, you have to have a good quality scope or the recoil will "blow out" the scope and you can't hit anything. I went through 3 before I got a scope strong enough to handle that recoil.


I never have shot doves, Many kinds of grouse, pheasant, partridge, ducks and geese, and while we have some morning dove, I have never went after them. I don't shoot shotgun enough to warrent buying the press for shotguns, but I bet I have loaded nearly a million rounds for rifle and pistol! :tomato:


My usual run is 100 rounds, unless it is hunting season then my production will go up to sometimes 300 per set. My family all hunt, each with different calibers for different game, and so when you load for 20 rifles used by 8 different people, it becomes a major production! :thumbup:


I have tried to teach others how to reload, and my brother bought a rockchucker starter kit a couple years ago, but I guess it is easier to just raid my stocks!! :reallymad:


It's all good, teach your kids to hunt, and you will never have to hunt for your kids. :punk: moose0024.gif

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