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

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A lot of us around here are fireams owners and enthusiasts, and we talk alot about our personal preferences for what we choose for survival or defense.  I was thinking that we should have a collaborative thread to help others learn about what some of us take for granted.  If the mods agree I was thinking we could start this thread in order to help the less experienced make educated decisions about firearms.  Not necessarily a thread about what we each prefer to use, we've already covered that.  I was thinking more of a thread about firearms terminology, types of rifles, shotguns, and pistols, ammunition types, etc.  Also I thought general information about how to safely clean and care for firearms and safe storage of firearms.  Again, I don't mean something like "I prefer the Buzz-Cutter 2000 for deer", more along the lines of "The difference between a jacketed hollow-point and a soft point is..." or "the difference between single action and double action is..."


First things first:  Hunter Education courses are excellent resources for information about firearms safety, and are usually free when offered by your state fish & wildlife agency.  The best thing you could do for yourself is to take an educational course before you decide to run out and purchase any type of firearm.  I cannot stress enough that a having a firearm is a huge responsibility and you can never take safety for granted.  We have a thread on firearms safety with general advice on firearms in the field and at home:




This is in no way a complete safety instructional and should not be considered as such.  The very best way to learn firearms safety is in a structured classroom setting, and it's also a great chance to meet others interested in learning about firearms and will give you the opportunity to try several firearms you may never have had a chance to handle.  Most hunter-ed courses also offer hands-on experience with bows and archery equipment, survival and first aid.


Anyone with questions about firearms, ammunition, reloading, or any other topic should have the opportunity to ask and receive the information they need.

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How old should someone be to be a firearm owner?


I believe that determining when they can handle one, depends on their maturity.  I wouldn't hand a firearm to a child that was prone to hissy fits.  On the other hand, I met a young boy (7), that I wouldn't hesitate teaching him proper handling and shooting safety.  Talking to this boy was like talking to a little old man.  Lots of old wisdom for such a young person.


I'm sure that gun ownership is decided on a state by state basis.


Here in California a minor can't buy a firearm, or the ammunition for a firearm.  Minimum age for rifle is 18 and for handgun is 21.  However, they can use one at any age, with parental or expert guidance.  I was shooting early in my life, but didn't have my own rifle until I was 10 or so.  I would shoulder my .22 and walk down the road towards the hills where I would be shooting and would have to walk through the downtown area and I'd get comments like, How's your dad these days, or, don't shoot your eye out, or Hey, get one for me.  These days, a young man would lose the rifle and end up in juvenile detention.  My, how times have changed.

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Whats the difference between a bolt action, lever action or automatic?


Good question to start Swede.

All rifles have to have a method or mechanism to load the round.

The earliest were the muzzle loaders where the powder and bullet were pushed down from the muzzle with a ramrod, Next came the breech loader where a heavy plate was lowered at the rear of the barrel so a cartridge could be pushed into the chamber, the breech block was raised and the hammer cocked so you could fire.


Single shot or double barrel breech loaders or break action are still used. Mostly you will find them in shotguns and high end rifles used for extreme accuracy or in rifles chambered for very heavy hunting cartridges that produce pressures that will break many bolt actions, and are far too powerful for lever actions. Many are chambered for safari rounds for hunting elephants or other huge dangerous animals.

Ruger #1 is a single shot breech loader famous for its accuracy, and strength. It is chambered for most hunting rounds. :thumbsup:


Lever actions work by having a tubular magazine. Developed during the American Civil war in the 1860s, the main attraction was that multiple cartridges could be loaded at once for firing instead of loading 1 at a time. Much faster. The rounds are loaded end to end and fed by a spring into position so that when the lever is lowered the bolt moves to the rear of the rifle and opens the breech. a spring lifts the cartridge into position and when the lever is moved back up to close it moves the bolt forward and picks up the cartridge and pushes it into the chamber ready to fire. When the round is fired, and the lever is opened again, the spent case is ejected so the next round may be picked up.

The original lever action was chambered for a pistol cartridge using black powder, low velocity, low pressures. Modern lever actions are made much stronger, but if chambered for an original round the cartridges you buy are downloaded to mimic original pressures so if you fire them in an original weapon, the weapon won't blow up in your face! :thumbdown:


A bolt action is similar, except instead of a lever, there is a handle on the bolt and the basic actions are the same. You lift the handle, move the bolt back, and a round is picked up on the forward stroke when the action is closed.


Bolt actions may use pointed spitzer bullets that have better flight charicteristics as the cartridges are loaded into the magazine laying side by side instead of end to end.

As a bolt action usually has a stronger action they may use cartridges with higher pressures so higher velocities and speed which can improve accuracy. Usually a bolt action uses a heavier barrel as well to improve accuracy. Superb accuracy can be obtained with a bolt action that is modified to only shoot one round without a magazine. The bolt can handle very heavy rounds, but the action is long and increases the weight of the weapon.


Pump actions are a variation on the lever, but instead of the lever being located on the bottom of the rifle, you slide the pump which is the forarm of the weapon under the barrel. You move the slide back toward the rear of the weapon to open the breech, and move it forward to close.

There have been a few pump action rifles, but they were never really popular. Shotguns however use pumps in a big way. Very popular for follow up shots.


Semi Automatics are named thus because they automatically load a new round each time the trigger is pulled and a round is fired, The first round is loaded by "charging the bolt". You manually pull back the bolt to load the first round, but after that, each time you fire, some of the gas from the fired round is cycled back and pushes the bolt back to pick up the next shell.

Semi Automatics only fire 1 shot for each trigger pull. The weapons are usually heavier and bulkier in sporting calibers, but they do have a high rate of firepower. They are quick to shoot. and the followup shot is really quick, as fast as you can pull the trigger.


Full Automatics are machine guns and pistols. They work the same way as a Semi-Auto, except they fire as long as the trigger is depressed. A semi auto fires once each trigger pull, a full auto can fire a full clip, or belt up to 100 rounds at a time.

Full auto are closely regulated. Usually not available to the average gun owner.


Full auto is primarily used by the Armed Forces. They are limited in caliber choices, usually are not as accurate as bolt action or lever action, and use a LOT of ammunition. :thumbdown:


For survival, the weapon you shoot best is what you should carry. A single shot in a medium caliber will put down most game very well. They are easy to clean and care for, very few moving parts to break. Simple.


A bolt action comes next. They need some care, more moving parts to clean, but have a greater rate of fire, are accurate, and have a wide selection of rounds available.


A lever action is usually chambered for slower heavier bullets. Very nice to carry, excellent rate of fire, decent accuracy. They do have more moving parts, and need more care to keep in top condition, but are fast and light to handle. Pump actions also fall in this category.


Semi Autos need a lot of cleaning to keep at top performance. They fire rapidly so second or third shots are super quick, accuracy is good for the first shot, but you need practice to bring the sights back to target well for a followup shot. Maintenance is the biggest drawback, and in hunting calibers, the weapons are heavier than a comparable bolt, lever pump or single shot. Accuracy can be good to terrible depending on individual weapon.


I would not consider a full auto as a survival weapon except in combat. Need a lot of care and training to use effectively, use a lot of ammunition, restricted availability, and usually not great accuracy. Some weapons do a good job, but a full auto is designed to fire a lot of rounds to hit multiple targets. :bandit: :guns:


That concludes my tutorial, Firearm actions 101 :hugegrin:


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What determines what kind of firearm you will need?


For me it is mainly;


#1 The size and number of my intended game as in what game is prevalent or available in my planned area of habitation.


#2 The lay of the land I intend to hunt in, as in at what ranges and with what backdrops will I be spotting my game.


#3 The firearms ability to multitask as overly specialized firearms can leave you hungry at the end of the day.


#4 The usual availability of ammunition, because uncommon or "wildcat" rounds can be expensive and hard to find.


#5 The quality of the iron sites, as in will I be able to employ the farearm effectively even if something happens to the optical sites (if it's a rifle)


#6 The amount difficulty of care and maintenance...., does it have a lot of moving parts that will wear out quickly, and how hard it is to acquire or manufacture replacement parts.


#7 The weight of the firearm..., will I be ready to throw it down after I have humped it through the wilderness for several miles.

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Ok, since folks seem to approve of the general idea of the thread, I thought a quick guide to firearms nomenclature would be helpful.


Here are some parts to common action types:



By bob1911a1


Semi-automatic 1911A1:


By bob1911a1


And a double-action Ruger Super Redhawk revolver:


By bob1911a1


A bolt-action rifle:



A pump-action (also known as slide action) shotgun:


By bob1911a1


Barrel, action, and stock are the three basic components shared by all firearms.  In the next post I'll try to start a glossary of terms and firearms parts.

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Ok, as promised here is a partial glossary of firearms parts and terms.  I'm getting too lazy to type all of this out myself, so I copied and pasted the majority of it. 



The working mechanism of a firearm. Various types exist, including single-shots, multi-barrels, revolvers, slide- or pump-actions, lever-actions, bolt-actions, semi-automatics and automatics.



Not a firearm but a gun that uses compressed air or CO2 to propel a projectile. Examples: BB gun, pellet gun, CO2 gun.



This generally refers to the assembled components of complete cartridges or rounds i.e., a case or shell holding a primer, a charge of propellant (gunpowder) and a projectile (bullets in the case of handguns and rifles, multiple pellets or single slugs in shotguns). Sometimes called "fixed ammunition" to differentiate from components inserted separately in muzzleloaders.



By federal definition, a firearm manufactured prior to 1899 or a firearm for which ammunition is not generally available or a firearm incapable of firing fixed ammunition.



By federal definition, "a projectile or projectile core which may be used in a handgun and which is constructed entirely (excluding the presence of traces of other substances) from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium. Such term does not include shotgun shot required by... game regulations for hunting purposes, a frangible projectile designed for target shooting, a projectile which the Secretary finds is primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes, or any other projectile or projectile core which the Secretary finds is intended to be used for industrial purposes, including a charge used in an oil and gas well perforating device."



By U.S. Army definition, a selective-fire rifle chambered for a cartridge of intermediate power. If applied to any semi-automatic firearm regardless of its cosmetic similarity to a true assault rifle, the term is incorrect.  For instance, my Bushmaster M4 Patrolman may look like an assault rifle, but since it is semi-automatic only it is not a true assault rifle. (see SEMIAUTOMATIC)



Any weapon used in an assault (see WEAPON). 



A firearm designed to feed cartridges, fire them, eject their empty cases and repeat this cycle as long as the trigger is depressed and cartridges remain in the feed system. Examples: machine guns, submachine guns, selective-fire rifles, including true assault rifles.



A term used often to describe what is actually a semi-automatic pistol. It is, technically, a misnomer but a near-century of use has legitimized it, and its use confuses only the novice.



Originally a spherical projectile, now generally a fully jacketed bullet of cylindrical profile with round or pointed nose. Most commonly used in military terminology.  Often when called a full metal jacket it's abbreviated as FMJ.



The earliest type of firearms propellant that has generally been replaced by smokeless powder except for use in muzzleloaders and older breechloading guns that demand its lower pressure levels.



A round loaded with blackpowder or a special smokeless powder but lacking a projectile. Used mainly in starting races, theatrical productions, troop exercises and in training dogs.



A gun mechanism activated by manual operation of the breechblock that resembles a common door bolt.



The interior of a firearm's barrel excluding the chamber.



A synonym for expended metallic cartridge cases, usually made of brass.  Some companies like Wolf brand ammo use steel cases, but a guy standing on the range will say, "Don't forget to collect your brass..."



The projectile expelled from a gun. It is not synonymous with cartridge. Bullets can be of many materials, shapes, weights and constructions such as solid lead, lead with a jacket of harder metal, round-nosed, flat-nosed, hollow-pointed, etc.



The nominal diameter of a projectile of a rifled firearm or the diameter between lands in a rifled barrel. In this country, usually expressed in hundreds of an inch; in Great Britain in thousandths; in Europe and elsewhere in millimeters.  For instance, in the U.S. a .50 caliber is a half-inch in diameter or in Britain a .500.  A 9mm or millimeter is, of course, 9mm in diameter.



A rifle with a relatively short barrel. Any rifle or carbine with a barrel less than 16" long must be registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Shotguns with barrels less than 18" long fall into the same category. 



A single, complete round of ammunition. Sometimes people call this a 'bullet', but the bullet is only a part of the cartridge.



The envelope (container) of a cartridge. For rifles and handguns it is usually of brass or other metal; for shotguns it is usually of paper or plastic with a metal head and is more often called a "shell."



A cartridge with its primer located in the center of the base of the case.  See RIMFIRE.



The rear part of the barrel that is formed to accept the cartridge to be fired. A revolver employs a multi-chambered rotating cylinder separated from the stationary barrel.



A constriction at or near the muzzle of a shotgun barrel that affects shot dispersion.  There are several different types of choke, enough to cover a post of their own.  Generally speaking, tighter chokes are wanted to shoot at longer distances, open chokes are usually for closer up to the shooter.



A device for holding a group of cartridges. Semantic wars have been fought over the word, with some insisting it is not a synonym for "detachable magazine." For 80 years, however, it has been so used by manufacturers and the military. There is no argument that it can also mean a separate device for holding and transferring a group of cartridges to a fixed or detachable magazine or as a device inserted with cartridges into the mechanism of a firearm becoming, in effect, part of that mechanism.  See MAGAZINE.



An inflammatory phrase having neither historical basis nor legal or technical meanings.  I include it only because the phrase has been thrown about for so many years. 



The drum of a revolver that contains the chambers for the ammunition.



A small single-shot or multi-barrelled (rarely more than two) pocket pistol.



To explode with great violence. It is generally associated with high explosives e.g. TNT, dynamite, etc., and not with the relatively slow-burning smokeless gunpowders that are classed as propellants. 



A handgun mechanism where pulling the trigger retracts and releases the hammer or firing pin to initiate discharge.  A single-action revolver must have the hammer pulled back or "cocked" to be able to fire it.  A single-action semi-automatic pistol must have the slide pulled back or the hammer cocked to be readied for firing.



A British military bullet developed in India`s Dum-Dum Arsenal and used on India`s North West Frontier and in the Sudan in 1897 and 1898. It was a jacketed .303 cal. British bullet with the jacket nose left open to expose the lead core in the hope of increasing effectiveness. Improvement was not pursued, for the Hague Convention of 1899 (not the Geneva Convention of 1925, which dealt largely with gas warfare) outlawed such bullets for warfare. Often "dum-dum" is misused as a term for any soft-nosed or hollow- pointed hunting bullet.  Another modern use came about when some would cut an 'x' or cross into the nose of a lead bullet to cause it to deform when it struck a person.  If I recall correctly this practice is illegal, but I may be mistaken.



A projectile containing an explosive component that acts on contact with the target. Seldom found and generally ineffective as such bullets lack the penetration necessary for defense or hunting.



Any substance (TNT, etc.) that, through chemical reaction, detonates or violently changes to gas with accompanying heat and pressure. Smokeless powder, by comparison, deflagrates (burns relatively slowly) and depends on its confinement in a gun`s cartridge case and chamber for its potential as a propellant to be realized. 



A rifle, shotgun or handgun using gunpowder as a propellant. By federal definition, under the 1968 Gun Control Act, antiques are excepted. Under the National Firearms Act, the word designates machine guns, etc. Airguns are not firearms.



A complete cartridge of several obsolete types and of today's rimfire and center-fire versions.



A muzzle attachment intended to reduce visible muzzle flash caused by the burning propellant.



The bore size of a shotgun determined by the number of round lead balls of bore diameter that equals a pound.  A 12 gauge shotgun basically means that 12 round lead balls of that particular bore size will make up a pound of lead.  16 gauge, 20 gauge, and so on.  The exception is the .410 shotgun.  Note the "."  This is a caliber designation, not a gauge.  A .410 bore shotgun is something like a 67 gauge, but they figured no one would buy a 67 gauge shotgun, so they named it the .410 bore.  Marketing is as important in the firearms industry as it is in any other!



The British restrict the term in portable arms to shotguns. Here it is properly used for rifles, shotguns, handguns and airguns, as well as cannon.  Do not, DO NOT call your rifle a "gun" in front of a Marine drill sergeant... :nono:



Chemical substances of various compositions, particle sizes, shapes and colors that, on ignition, serve as a propellant. Ignited smokeless powder emits minimal quantities of smoke from a gun's muzzle; the older blackpowder emits relatively large quantities of whitish smoke.



Synonym for pistol.



An inexact, non-technical term indicating a magazine holding more rounds than might be considered "average."  In some jurisdictions civilians are limited to magazines that hold 10 cartridges or less.



A bullet with a concavity in its nose to increase expansion on penetration of a solid target.  It may or may not have a jacket of copper or brass to better control expansion, a "jacketed hollow-point", abbreviated as JHP. 



The envelope enclosing the core of a bullet.  Usually made of copper or brass, however the Winchester Silvertip line of handgun bullets are actually jacketed in aluminum.



A gun mechanism activated by manual operation of a lever.  The Winchester Model '94 is the quintessential lever-action.  Ever watch a Western?  You probably know what a lever-action is.



A firearm of military significance, often crew-served, that on trigger depression automatically feeds and fires cartridges of rifle size or greater. Civilian ownership in the U.S. has been heavily curtailed and federally regulated since 1934.



A spring-loaded container for cartridges that may be an integral part of the gun`s mechanism or may be detachable. Detachable magazines for the same gun may be offered by the gun`s manufacturer or other manufacturers with various capacities. A gun with a five-shot detachable magazine, for instance, may be fitted with a magazine holding 10, 20, or 50 or more rounds. Box magazines are most commonly located under the receiver with the cartridges stacked vertically. Tube or tubular magazines run through the stock or under the barrel with the cartridges lying horizontally. Drum magazines hold their cartridges in a circular mode. A magazine can also mean a secure storage place for ammunition or explosives.



A term indicating a relatively heavily loaded metallic cartridge or shotshell and, by extension, a gun safely constructed to fire it. 



A gun with more than one barrel, the most common being the double-barreled shotgun.



A description of a bullet whose forward diameter has expanded after penetration.



The open end of the barrel from which the projectile exits.  Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction!



An attachment to or integral part of the barrel intended to trap and divert expanding gasses and reduce recoil.



The earliest type of gun, now also popular as modern-made replicas, in which blackpowder and projectile(s) are separately loaded in through the muzzle. The term is often applied to cap-and-ball revolvers where the loading is done not actually through the muzzle but through the open ends of the cylinder`s chambers.



A rifle or pistol using compressed air or CO2 to propel a skirted pellet as opposed to a spherical BB. Not a firearm. 



Small spherical projectiles loaded in shotshells and more often called "shot." Also the skirted projectiles used in pellet guns.



Synonymous with "handgun." A gun that is generally held in one hand. It may be of the single-shot, multi-barrel, repeating or semi-automatic variety and includes revolvers.  Sometimes there are those who will say "pistol" when specifically referring to a semi-auto, for example they may say something like, "I prefer a revolver to a pistol..."



The handle of a handgun or protrusion on the buttstock or fore-end of a shoulder-operated gun that resembles the grip or handle of a handgun. A "semi-pistol grip" is one less pronounced than normal; a "vertical pistol grip" is more pronounced than normal.



Informal shooting at any of a variety of inanimate targets. The most often practiced shooting sport in this country.



The ignition component of a cartridge, generally made up of a metallic fulminate or (currently) lead styphnate.



In a firearm the chemical composition that is ignited by the primer to generate gas. In air or pellet guns, compressed air or CO2.



A trade name for a blackpowder substitute, the only such safe substitute known at this time.



The housing for a firearm's breech (portion of the barrel with chamber into which a cartridge or projectile is loaded) and firing mechanism.



A gun, usually a handgun, with a multi-chambered cylinder that rotates to successively align each chamber with a single barrel and firing pin.  Sometimes called a "wheelgun" or "hogleg".



A shoulder gun with rifled bore.



Spiral grooves in a gun`s bore that spin the projectile in flight and impart accuracy. Rifling is present in all true rifles, in most handguns and in some shotgun barrels designed for increasing the accuracy potential of slugs (a slug is a single projectile rather than the more common "shot".)



A rimmed or flanged cartridge with the priming mixture located inside the rim of the case. The most famous example is the .22 rimfire. It has been estimated that between 3-4 billion .22 cartridges are loaded in the U.S. each year.



Synonym for a cartridge.  "I have about 20 rounds left..."



A lightweight carrier surrounding a heavier projectile of reduced caliber, allowing a firearm to shoot ammunition for which it is not chambered. For example, a hunter could use his .30-30 deer rifle to shoot small game with .22 centerfire bullets.  Commonly used today with muzzleloaders and shotguns.



A device intended to prevent the accidental discharge of a firearm.  Usually a switch or button that has to be pushed in order to prevent the gun from firing or to ready it for firing.  Safeties are mechanical devices that can break, and should not be trusted entirely.  Don't put your finger on the trigger even when the safety is in the "ON" or "SAFE" position.



A catchy phrase having no legal or technical meaning.  Also the title to a catchy song by Lynyrd Skynyrd...



Common term for federally restricted "short-barreled shotgun (rifle)" i.e. a conventional shotgun with barrel less than 18" (rifle less than 16") or overall length less than 26." 



A firearm's ability to be fired fully automatically, semi-automatically or, in some cases, in burst-fire mode at the option of the firer.



A firearm designed to fire a single cartridge, eject the empty case and reload the chamber each time the trigger is pulled.  Sometimes called an "auto" or "automatic" especially when referring to semi-auto handguns.



A shoulder gun with smooth-bored barrel(s) primarily intended for firing multiple small, round projectiles, (shot, birdshot, pellets), larger shot (buck shot), single round balls (pumpkin balls) and cylindrical slugs. Some shotgun barrels have rifling to give better accuracy with slugs or greater pattern spread to birdshot.  Also a great song by Jr. Walker & the Allstars...



The cartridge for a shotgun. It is also called a "shell," and its body may be of metal or plastic or of plastic or paper with a metal head. Small shotshells are also made for rifles and handguns and are often used for vermin control.



A virtually prohibited device for attachment to a gun's muzzle for reducing (not silencing) the report. Better terms would be "sound suppressor" or "sound moderator."



For a revolver, a firearm that must have the hammer manually cocked back in order to fire.  Double-action revovlers can also be fired in this way, but single actions MUST have the hammer cocked back.  Semi-auto handguns may also be single-action, meaning the hammer is fully cocked back to fire the pistol.  Some semi-autos have internal hammers that aren't visible.



A gun mechanism lacking a magazine where separately carried ammunition must be manually placed in the gun's chamber for each firing.



A gun mechanism activated by manual operation of a horizontally sliding handle almost always located under the barrel. "Pump-action" and "trombone" are synonyms for "slide-action."



Descriptive of (usually) a revolver with an unusually short barrel.



An automatic firearm commonly firing pistol ammunition intended for close-range combat.



Trade name for a synthetic sometimes used to coat hard bullets to protect the rifling. Other synthetics, nylon for instance, have also been used as bullet coatings. None of these soft coatings has any effect on lethality.



The part of the gun used to actually fire it.  The trigger is normally located on the lower portion of the firearm and is usually protected by a 'trigger guard.'  Keep your finger off the trigger until you want it to go 'bang.'



Webster defines it as "an instrument of offensive or defensive combat." Thus an automobile, baseball bat, bottle, chair, firearm, fist, pen knife or shovel is a "weapon," if so used.


This is by no means a comprehensive or complete list of terms, but just a good start.  Others are going to be needed as we go along, and we'll fit those in as we go along.  gen165.gif

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Knowing your local regulations is paramount to owning a firearm in any state. :S


In Montana, You may not have a shotgun with a barrel shorter than 16 inches, and you may not put a silencer,(device to quiet the report of a discharged weapon, inappropriately named as it is more of a baffler, it does not contain the sonic boom from a bullet traveling higher than the speed of sound), and you may not carry a concelled weapon without a Concealed Carry permit.


You can carry a weapon as long as it is not concealed, such as in a belt holster, but not into schools, banks or federal buildings that have posted signs not allowing a weapon on the premises.

Many of our convenience stores also post limits on wearing your firearm inside the store.


We may also own fully automatic weapons as long as they are registered.


That is about it, except some towns do not allow the weapon to be loaded in city limits. :thumbdown:


That is about it. (Yes there are people here who wear pistols or carry rifles all the time, not just the cops  :thumbsup:)


That is one thing I have heard from law enforcement here, when they pull someone over for a stop, the fact that that individual is armed is a given. In fact, it is far more uncommon to find someone that is not armed, or at least has something in the car or shop, or office for that matter.

usually a new transplant 8|


And before you ask, our crime rate is VERY low :thumbsup:


I would like to address Swede's earlier question about how to choose a weapon.


1) What do you plan to do with it? Hunt, Self Defense, survival, or perhaps target or plinking. The answer to this question can help decide if you want a rifle, shotgun or handgun. It will also help determine caliber.


2) What is your tolerance to recoil? Recoil or Kick can turn a fine weapon into an ordeal to shoot. It can cause bad habits like flinching or jerking to show up and destroy accuracy. With the wide range of calibers and loads available, finding a weapon that is fun to fire will be a lifelong investment and pleasure. Finding one that hurts to fire can cause someone to sell the weapon and never wish to use it again.


3) Find your draw length. While this term is usually used with archery, it also figures with fitting rifles and shotguns. The length is between your shoulder and the trigger. Most modern rifles are set up with a 16 inch draw, but youth and women's models are normally 14 1/2 inches. It should fit you well in proper firing position so the recoil is distributed evenly. If the draw is too long, you are pulled to the side and the recoil is consentrated, making it feel worse.


There are a multitude of calibers, models, weights and quality features out there. For a beginner, A pellet rifle works well for teaching stance and firing. You can learn how to steady the rifle, aim, breathe properly and squeeze the trigger. As there is no recoil or report you can get comfortable with this enjoyable weapon for pennies as BBs and pellets are cheap.


Move up to a 22 rimfire. No recoil, minimal report, cheap to fire, and a blast to fire! :hugegrin: A pop can has no chance against you.


From there it is easy to move up to more serious calibers depending on what you need the weapon for. If hunting Cape Buffalo or Alaskan Grizzly, I would prefer something in the .458 magnum range  :thumbup: I wouldn't reccomend this caliber for beginners, happy097.gif


For self defense, very few weapons work as well as a riot gun, a short barreled pump action shotgun that may come with a pistol grip. Very short range, but you can fire rapidly and put a wall of lead between you and your attacker.


Pistols are great, I enjoy shooting mine a lot, but a pistol requires the most practice to be proficient, and keep your skills. The calibers are wide ranging, some may be fine for small and medium game hunting up to deer size at moderate distances of 50 yards or so.

They are convenient, quick, and a lot of fun. However, pistols labor under the most oppressive laws, and require more work to use effectively than a rifle or shotgun. wacky078.gif


Keep up the great work guys, this is a fascinating thread! :thumbsup: :thumbsup:


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Ok, let's look at bullet types.  Often when reading firearms-related articles you'll see things like:  FMJ, JHP, SJHP, SP, BT...etc etc!  There are many types and styles of bullets, many of which are industry-standards, some are proprietary.  Power Point, Silvertip, HydraShok...these are all examples of proprietary names from companies that own the designs. 


Armor-piercing:  (AP) Ammunition developed for the military, usually with some sort of steel core inside the bullet designed to penetrate light steel or body armor.  Now commonly available to civilians as surplus ammo for cheaper practice.  Another type is API--armor-piercing incendiary, which has an additional charge of phosphorous or other material to ignite the target.  NOT generally available to civilians, and not to be confused with a "tracer" round.



1. Jacket  2. Lead core  3. Steel core/penetrator



Full metal jacket: (FMJ)  A bullet with a copper shell completely covering the bullet, usually with the rear of the bullet exposed.  Some brands completely encase the entire bullet with copper to prevent lead contamination of the environment.  This bullet type is one of the most common used for practice, and is mandated by international treaty for use by the military. 



1. Jacket  2. Lead core




Jacketed Soft-point:  (JSP)  This bullet was developed to expand when striking its target, especially for hunting.  The softer exposed lead tip causes the bullet to expand--or "mushroom"--causing more tissue damage than a FMJ.  This type can be found in both rifle and handgun ammunition.



1. Jacket 2. Lead core/tip




Jacketed Hollow Point:  This is another semi-jacketed design like the JSP designed to expand upon contact with the target, and can be found in both rifle and handgun ammo (sometimes even in shotgun slugs).  Commonly used for defensive handguns and for hunting purposes.  Federal's Hydra Shok, Remington's Golden Saber, Winchester's SXT and others are proprietary names for different styles of hollow point bullets, often altered to enhance performance.



1. Jacket  2. Lead core  3.  Hollow cavity



Lead Wad Cutter:  (LWC)  An all-lead bullet for target shooting, with a flat nose designed to "cut" a nearly perfect hole in a paper target.  Mostly used in revolvers, only a few semi-autos were designed to handle the bullet profile.




Lead Semi-Wad Cutter:  (LSWC)  A type of wad cutter, with improved ballistic performance.  Some designs of LSWC are used in hunting applications, again mostly used in revolvers. 




Lead Round Nose: (LRN)  An all-lead bullet with a rounded front profile, one of the oldest designs around.  Now mostly used as a cheap target bullet, it once was the most commonly used bullet for hunting and defense.





There are a number of other designs and variations, especially in rifle ammunition.  I will cover things like boat-tails, spire-points, and spitzers in the next post.

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Good post, Mistwalker.  Sometimes you have to use what you've got.  There are more different types of rimfire and centerfire cartridges and firearms for them than we can reasonably hope to list.  When it comes to survival you may have to make do with a firearm that isn't ideally suited for your immediate need.  If the only firearm you have with you is a .30-06 and you have to have meat, you'll need to decide if you want to take a squirrel with it.  Yes, it's overly powerful for a squirrel, rabbit, or game bird but you have to survive.  Do you only have a .22LR rifle and you see a big fat doe standing nearby?  You have to make the decision "Is it reasonable to attempt to take this deer with a .22 rifle?


I think that most here will agree with me that the firearm you have with you--like any other survival gear you have--will matter less than your skill with that firearm.  Can you reasonably expect to hit the deer in the brain with a .22 with your level of expertise?  Can you shoot well enough with a .30-06 to hit a target the size of a squirrel's head?  Your ability to shoot well when it matters will be much more important than the firearm you have with you at that time.  You will also have to decide, "Am I willing to take a chance that I will only wound this deer with a .22 rifle?


We had a discussion some time back about what firearm we thought was the best all-around survival firearm.  There were nearly as many different answers as there were members posting.  What is the best?  There is no 100% correct answer to that question.  For me it might be a 12 gauge pump shotgun, for someone else it might be a .22 rifle.  It comes down to "what works best for you?"  In a purely legal hunting situation, each state regulates the types of firearms allowed for hunting different game.  In some states you are allowed to hunt turkey with a rifle, but not others.  In some you can only deer hunt with a shotgun loaded with buckshot.  In a survival situation, I would wager that none of us would be as concerned about the legal aspects of hunting with any firearm we can scrounge.  Are you willing to face a fine, a jail sentence, and/or confiscation of your firearm?  If you are cold and starving, I'm sure you would be.


Swede asked a great question (and if I'm correct I believe he was leading one of us to broach the topic  ;) ).  So, if I intend to hunt only small game in a non-survival situation would I use a .30-06?  No, I wouldn't.  Given a choice I would take a .22 rifle for squirrels and rabbits, or possibly a shotgun. The new .17 caliber rimfires and the .22 magnum would also be good small game-getters.  As for a shotgun I kind of dislike biting into a piece of meat and having my teeth rebound off of a pellet, but if you hunt with a shotgun it's something to keep in mind. 


As all the old-timers here know, most companies make different loads for shotguns intended for different uses.  Shotgun shells are usually loaded with shot--small pellets.  Shot sizes are kind of like shotgun gauges:  The smaller the # of the shot size, the bigger the pellet is.  A #9 shot is smaller than a #6.  Of course, you can also buy different types of slugs, a solid projectile of lead or copper.  Slugs are generally used for medium to large game animals.


Some common shot sizes are:

BBB .190" (4.83mm)

BB .180" (4.57mm)

1 .160" (4.06mm)

2 .150" (3.81mm)

3 .140" (3.56mm)

4 .130" (3.30mm)

5 .120" (3.05mm)

6 .110" (2.79mm)

7 1/2 .100" (2.41mm)

8 .090" (.2.29mm)

8 1/2 .085" (2.16mm)

9 .080" (2.03mm)


Recommendations that I make here are sort of generalized, and of course some will possibly disagree. 


Target Shooting Games (lead shot)


16 yard Trap - 8, 8 1/2

Handicap Trap - 7 1/2, 8

Skeet - 9

Sporting Clays - 7 1/2, 8, 8 1/2


Upland Game (lead, tungsten alloy shot)


Turkey - 4, 5, 6

Pheasant - 5

Chukkar, Grouse, and Partridge - 6, 7 1/2

Quail - 7 1/2, 8

Dove - 7 1/2

Rail, Snipe and Woodcock - 7 1/2, 8

Rabbit - 6, 7 1/2

Squirrel - 6


Waterfowl (steel shot)

Geese - BBB, BB, 1

Ducks (over decoys) - 2, 3, 4

Ducks (pass shooting) - BB, 1, 2


Waterfowl (tungsten alloy shot, Hevi-shot)

Geese - BB, 2

Ducks (over decoys) - 4, 5, 6

Ducks (pass shooting) - 2, 4


Buckshot is a load with larger pellets used for larger game and defense.  As with the smaller shot the bigger # equals smaller shot, which are each measured:


000 Buck - 8 lead pellets (0.36") 

00 Buck - 9 lead pellets (0.33")   

0 Buck  - 12 lead pellets (0.32") 

1 Buck - 16 lead pellets (0.30") 

4 Buck - 27 lead pellets (0.24") 


These, again, are general uses for different shot sizes.  In addition to the shot sizes, there are also different "Dram Weight" or "Dram Equivalent" loadings, measuring the powder charge (and sometimes you'll hear some of us old-timers saying "high brass" or "low brass").  Dram weight is the old measurement from the time shotshells were loaded with blackpowder.  A shell with a light charge may read 2 3/4 Dram Equivalent while long range waterfowl loads may read 3 3/4 Dram Equivalent.  A higher dram equivalent means a heavier powder charge and higher velocity load going downrange.


We'll need to start another post and discuss types of game animals and what types of cartridges might be best to hunt each with.  Again, it's the sort of thing where I could ask "What's the best for deer?" and get a dozen or more different answers.  In the next post I will try to put together some lists of different game animals and calibers for them.  Any input anyone else would like to make is always welcome, and if someone has something to add that I might have missed so far, please jump in.




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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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What is the best way to sight in a rifle?





Well, it depends upon the type of sights that are on the rifle.  The following information should work to explain the sights on a rifle or pistol, and to some extent even some shotguns.  There are iron sights--which are divided into "open" and "aperature" sights--and optical sights such as telescopic or 'dot' sights.  First lets talk about the iron sights since they're the most basic. 


Iron sights on a firearm consist of a front and rear sight.  The front is usually some sort of metallic blade or post, sometimes with an embellishment like a brass bead, white dot, or red ramp to improve visibility.  The rear sight will consist of either a "notch" or groove for "open" sights or a small, round opening for an "aperature" or "peep" sight:


A picture of open sights, front and rear, on a handgun (Browning Hi-Power).  The front and rear sights have colored inserts for increased visibility:




In this picture, the front and rear sights of a .22 rifle are properly aligned--just not at the target:




To properly align the sights, the front post must be viewed through the notch, with the target over the front sight:





If you don't properly line the sights up on the target, you won't be accurate.  In this image, you can see what it looks like if the front sight isn't centered in the notch (TOP LEFT) but is too far to the left of center, your bullet will hit to the left.  The opposite applies if the front blade is right of the center.  In the TOP RIGHT image, the front sight is too low in the notch of the rear sight and the gun will shoot too low.  If the front post is above the top of the rear the firearm will shoot too high.





Now that we know how the open sights should be aligned, let's see how to get them to shoot the way we want.  If you have a bolt-action rifle you can save yourself a little ammo by "bore sighting" the rifle.  Remove the bolt from the rifle so that you can see through the barrel from the rear and rest the rifle on sand bags.  Looking through the rear of the rifle barrel align the bore with the center of the target.  Once you've done that, look at the sights to see if they are also aligned on target.  Check back and forth until the bore and sights are both centered on the center of the target.  Adjust the sights to line up on the center of the target if they aren't already.  If the sights are adjustable there should be screws set into the side and top of the rear sight to drift them right and left or up and down.  The owner's manual will tell you how to turn the screws for the proper adjustment.  You can also purchase some nifty gadgets to do the same thing, but most have to be inserted into the gun muzzle to do the job.  Be sure to REMOVE THEM BEFORE THE GUN IS FIRED.  Big Blue had a dandy photo of a rifle fired when some doofus left the boresighter in the muzzle.


When you fire, you may see that the bullet didn't strike in the center.  Here is how to adjust the sights.  The main thing to remember on a standard set of open sights is that you need to move the rear sight in the direction you want to move the bullet impact.  If your shot went to the left, the rear sight must be drifted to the right.  If your shot went low, you must raise the rear sight.  The opposite will be true if you find that you have to move the front sight to adjust the sight alignment.  This can happen on handguns and military rifles.  In this case, if the gun shoots low, you must lower the front sight (this would effectively raise the muzzle higher when aligning the sights).  If the gun shot to the left, you must move the front sight to the left.  For the most part, you will be adjusting the rear sight on most modern firearms. 


Aperature sights are adjusted in the same way as open sights, they just align differently and have a different-looking sight picture.  The front post still is centered with the target just over it, but the aperature or ring that you look through replaces the notch rear sight.  This type is used on both military and target rifles.  Military rifles usually have protective "ears" on either side of the front sight post to protect it:








In another segment, we will discuss telescopic and dot sights.  If I've missed something or anyone has a question, please let me know.

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