Saturday, December 27, 2008

Take Your Grandma Shooting - Talk About FUN!

That’s right. I said take your Grandma shooting.

I recently wrote about taking my mom shooting (Click Here) so why not your 88-year-old Grandma-in-law?

This Christmas (2008), my in-laws came out to visit (Mother, Father and Grandmother in law). We had the idea to take everyone to the gun range over the holiday. Hey, why not?

We started her off with a Ruger mark 3 then unleashed her on a Smith and Wesson M&P AR15. She had a great time.

Three generations of well-armed, pistol packing ladies!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Building a Custom Ruger 10/22: Part 2 of 4 - Buying

Buying the Parts

(This is one of the most thorough "Build Your  Own" 10/22 tutorials on the web)

Once I figured out some of the options out there (hours) and reading (hours) about the options many experienced 10/22 builders choose (hours), it was time to choose the parts and determine what I can get for $1,100. Most of the laminated stocks were around $150. I figured I'd go for $200 for the barrel, $250 for the trigger, $100 for the bolt and $150 for the scope. That would leave $250 for the receiver.

Browsing the RimfireCentral site will help any gun newbie learn of the preferred places to buy parts online. Plus there are sponsor site links there as well. The other option is to Google the part name and check the links given in the "Shopping results" list often shown at the top of page one of the results. Or check some of the other results which either lead to sites that sell that item, give a review or a forum post. As in part 1, Google is your friend.

I searched the web over for the solid blue stock from the picture from part 1 of this series. No luck and I spent hours trying. Did I mention hours. I found a solid pink version. Maybe there was a time when a blue version was made. Or by forum posts, it sounds like a guy named Tuck does some stock work. Some laminated stocks come unfinished but I was not going to try sanding, staining and finishing a stock. I do wish there were some solid color stocks. But in determining what I would get based on what was commercially available, I read some good things about Revolution stocks and their Yukon looked just like the blue one I wanted. Done.

So in considering the receiver, did I really need the most expensive one? No, but so many people posted about Volquartsen. I'm new to this so I take a great deal of stock in what the masses say and use. The first time I came across the Volquartsen Superlight for $235, I decided right there that I knew my receiver. The word was on the RimfireCentral forums, I heard that KIDD was working on a receiver of their own. But it wasn't available in time for me to make my purchases and I didn't want to wait until the New Year.

I went back and forth between the KIDD and Volquartsen trigger groups. Having decided on the Volquartsen receiver, I felt tempted to stick to the same brand. But in liking to have options, I kept leaning toward the KIDD with its ability to adjust. Although some people posted about their dislike for a double action trigger (KIDD), that point didn't stick in my mind as a deal breaker or issue. The KIDD was more expensive, but I wanted to spend more on the trigger and barrel figuring both would make the most difference. So KIDD it was.

The barrel was the hard part. I was very tempted by the Whistle Pig barrels. But that was all about the color options. There are also some carbon fiber barrels but the word seemed to be that these barrels are picky with the weather. While looking over the KIDD site for the trigger, I started considering getting their parts set. Their match barrel is $200 and they do have a barreled action option where all you would need was a stock. Forum posts showed good marks for KIDD stuff. So the KIDD barrel was the one.

I couldn't tell you why one bolt would be better from another. And I could get one with a KIDD part kit. So I went with a kit that included a KIDD trigger, barrel and bolt. Plus, I went with the $10 scalloped engraving for the bling. Although KIDD had a bolt handle available, I decided to go with the Volquartsen extended handle.

The scope was based solely on forum posts. So many people speak up for the Mueller AVP and how it could be had for $125 shipped. And although most scopes are black, this was one that was available in silver.

The final parts list:
Stock: Revolution Yukon
Receiver: Volquartsen Superlight (Silver)
Trigger: KIDD (Silver w/ red trigger)
Bolt: KIDD (w/ scalloped engraving)
Bolt Handle: Volquartsen
Barrel: KIDD
Scope: Mueller AVP
Scope Rings: 1” dia. .25” height
Extra: KIDD Receiver Pin Kit
Extra: Ruger 10-22 Magazine

KIDD was the place for purchasing the trigger, barrel, bolt, receiver pin kit and bolt buffer as a kit ($571 + $10 for scalloped bolt). I also bought a bore snake ($16) and magazine ($15) plus $5 shipping.
Shooters Discount was the go to for the Volquartsen receiver ($235), the Yukon stock ($122.50) and the Volquartsen bolt handle ($25) plus $18.50 shipping.
The AVP scope ($125) was from The Sportsman's Guide and the scope rings ($40) from a local Sportsman's Warehouse.
The crappy side of the purchasing process was the FFL transfer for the receiver. Some people charge as low as $10, if you can find them. A few sites recommended by Shooters Discount was

Auction Arms
Shotgun News

Unfortunately, the few local options where I might have been able to do a cheap FFL transfer were no longer in business or were in the process of moving. After a week trying to find the cheapest option, I got anxious and called a local gun store. Even though I wasn't getting a whole gun sent to me, the grumpy old fart that ran the place charged me $50 for the transfer + $10 for the background check. What a waste of money. To be fair though, the local guy need to protect their business because there’s not much in it for them for us to buy everything online and use them as a mail box, right? If you owned a small book shop and people kept wanting to have their purchases sent to them via your store, it would be a waste of your business dollars. And, hey, I even asked a guy over the phone at that same shop about a price on a receiver and he never called me back. I figured that they could be $50 more than online and be the same money in the end. Oh well.

But I finally had all my parts. And went a bit over budget at $1,243. This includes the bore snake and magazine. The KIDD pin kit came with the KIDD item group so no way to shave off money there to get back to my original $1,100 price. Since I was still learning, it hadn’t accounted for the $50 FFL. And I could have either gone with a cheaper priced receiver or trigger group to hit my number. But I’ll take a 10% overrun to have my ultimate 10/22. Now it's time to get building.

Next Step: Building...

(Click HERE if you missed Part 1 - Planning)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Building a Custom Ruger 10/22: PART 1 of 4 - Planning

My friend Bruce decided to custom build a Ruger 10/22. So you know, when Bruce does something, he does it right. He researches everything before spending a penny on it. He compares specs, customer comments and prices on every single piece. And what you're about to read is what he did when he built his custom Ruger 10/22.

This is an impressive four part series, laid out in specific detail, on how he did it - from the idea to the beautiful finished product. If you're thinking about building your own 10/22, READ THIS SERIES FIRST. It will save you a bunch of time, help you make educated decisions and eliminate headaches. Read on...

Here is how I have theorized the 4 part post.
  1. Planning
    1. How Did This All Begin?
    2. What do I need?
    3. Start with stock or go all out custom?
    4. Info Resources Used
    5. Nailing it down
  2. Buying
    1. Parts List
    2. Vendors
    3. Playing the FFL Game
  3. Building
    1. Action in the stock
    2. Action + Trigger
    3. Action + barrel
    4. Bolt Buffer
    5. Bolt
    6. Trigger/Action Pins
    7. Barreled Action
    8. Mating with Stock
    9. Scope Rings & Scope
  4. Shooting
    1. Bolt Stubborn
    2. First shot
    3. Day At The Range
      i. Ammo
      ii. Shooter vs. Shooter
    4. Final Thoughts
How did this all begin?
I'm a gun noob. I've never owned a gun and have only shot a gun once in my life. It was an old black powder riffle I shot when I was ~ 12. I've never had issues with guns or gun ownership. And I figured I would eventually buy a 9mm. I guess I had many other hobbies keeping me (and my back account) busy.
Well, I go out to a local range with Kennard, shoot all of his guns (including his stock Ruger 10/22) and go straight to Sportsman's Warehouse to buy my first gun: A Springfield Armory XD-9. Kennard had just bought his stock 10/22 within the previous couple weeks. While at Sportsman's, he mentions to one of the sales guys that he had just bought the 10/22 from them, how he enjoyed shooting it, how customizable the gun was and how everyone should have one. He later told me about the simple changes one could make to their 10/22: Bolt release, extended mag release and bolt buffer.
Being a computer/technology nerd, I started thinking about the concept of building or buying and modding my own 10/22. I've built computers from various parts from various stores and companies. I was just stuck thinking if this could be as simple as buying computer parts and putting a gun of my own together. Really that simple? Or am I getting into something I'll regret? Do I have to be a gunsmith to pull this off? Can anyone do it?
What do I need?
Repeat after me. "Google is my friend." I start searching the web for any info on building/modding a 10/22. Yes, Google is my friend. But I found it strangely hard to find a good site to put it into perspective. Then I came upon RimfireCentral. I found a thread called "To Build From Scratch" ( A couple users posted their parts list with prices. So, knowing nothing about brands and options, I start learning the Who-What-When-Where-Why of how to go about this venture. I must have read almost every thread on the "Ruger 10/22" section of the site. And then I came across my goal ( This is what I'm after.
So I need the following:
  • Stock
  • Action/Receiver
  • Barrel
  • Trigger Assembly
  • Bolt
  • Bolt Handle
  • Magazine
  • Scope, Scope Rail (mount) & Scope Rings (Optional – but why not?)
Start with stock or go all out custom?
This is where "analysis paralysis" starts creeping in. Decision, decisions and more decisions. In the end, I'd say it's all about money. I saw many posts on people doing a full custom build and other posts on people discussing buying a stock Ruger 10/22 and getting one part at a time. I imagine there could be a blog post of it's own on this site about the pros and cons of doing each way. But having the green light from my wife for a custom 10/22 for $1,000-1,100, I had all plans of picking each piece and building it on my own. There are plenty of posts on RimfireCentral about customizing a stock 10/22 and on which parts to upgrade first (various opinions on that) and price ranges for the options.
Nailing It Down
  • Concept
    • Dark laminated stock with silver trigger, action, barrel, scope and rings.
    • Thumb hole
    • I liked the contrast but going with silver can have it's draw backs.
      • Most scopes are black
      • Most scope rings are black
      • Not likely that all the silver parts will have the same shine/finish.
    • .920" barrel
  • Buying a non-factory action
    • It just seemed that buying a stock Ruger 10/22 @ $250 just for the action would be the same as buying a non-factory one.
    • The word is that the Ruger actions are poured/cast metal where the after-market ones are machined. Well, by getting an engineering degree in college, I couldn't help but consider a machined piece of metal better. Or is it? I don't want to get into that debate if anyone feels strongly about poured metal as being better.
    • Options
      • $355 Tactical Solution X-Ring
      • $335 Volquartsen Stainless Steel
      • $235 Volquartsen Superlight
      • $175 M.O.A
      • $93 Ruger – as if you could find a site that had one in stock to buy
  • Buying a prebuilt trigger set
    • KIDD trigger group that can adjust? Not like I'm going to be the super competition guy. Do I need less than 2.5 lb pull? No. Would it be fun to turn it down to 6 oz? Yes.
    • Options
      • $290 KID two-stage adjustable pull weight from 6oz to 2.5lbs. Comes with extended mag release (3 options) and bolt release.
      • $241 Volquartsen TG2000 - Comes with extended mag release and bolt release
  • Bolt
    • "A bolt is a bolt is a bolt???" I couldn't and can't explain the difference.
    • Bolt buffer? Yes, or course.
    • Options
      • $75 KID (+$10 for scalloped finish)
      • $259 Volquartsen CNC machined bolt
  • Bolt Handle
    • Kennard showed me what seemed to be common with the stock (any some after-market) bolt handles: rough up your knuckle pulling the bolt back and catching it on the scope rings.
    • Options
      • $10 KID
      • $33 Volquartsen
  • Laminated Stock
    • Yep, just for the color bling. Not really wanting a wood finish.
    • It seemed that most after market stocks were channeled for a .920" barrel. By what info I could find online, factory stocks seemed to need some sanding to allow a .920" barrel.
    • Options
      • $143 Revolution Yukon (.920" Barrel Channel; 2.5 lbs)
      • $107 Hogue Overmolded Stock
      • $477 Laminated Wood Thumb hole Silhouette – Red (Volquartsen site)
      • $145 Boyds Blaster
  • Barrel
    • The great barrel length debate. 16.5", 18" or 20"??? That is the question.
    • Tapered target barrel (like Kennard's stock Ruger) or .920 bull barrel?
    • Options
      • $200 KID polished or bead blasted Stainless Steel barrel
      • $180 Tactical Solutions (multiple colors)
      • $170+ WhistlePig – If you want custom colors or fade colors, this place rules!
  • Scope
    • How much is too much?
    • I learned online that you just don't expect to shot a 10/22 beyond 100 yds.
    • Scopes can sure get expensive but I'm not going to be up in a tree aiming for a neck. Did I mention sub-100 yds?
    • What did I see mentioned the most online? The Mueller APV.
  • Scope Rings
    • Size depends on the size of the scope
    • Decided to wait until all parts were received to determine what is too small or too high
    • Math was what engineering was all about. I've got to make this a math problem or it just won't be that fun, right?
  • Extras
    • $30 KID Receiver Pin Kit ($22 without countersink)
    • $40 KID Scope Base (not needed if action comes with one)
    • $16 .22 Boresnake
    • $15 Ruger 10/22 Magazine
    • $6 KID Bolt Buffer
    • $12 Volquartsen Bolt Buffer
Info Resources Used
(Primary source) Rimfire Central Forums:
Rimfire ammunition (Widipedia):
Just a site that made the simple part list, well, simple:
KIDD Innovative Design:
WhistlePig GunBarrel Co:
Click HERE for Part 2: Buying the Parts.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

REVIEW: Taurus Millennium Pro 140


It's too bad that this pistol has a potentially lethal issue as I really liked it. 

Guns are getting expensive. Actually, they’re already expensive but it seems that every time I go gun shopping or gun “browsing” I notice prices creeping upward even more. Now it’s very possible that our latest President elect (this was written on November 30, 2008) will have a further negative impact on firearm and ammo prices before he takes office on January 20, 2009.

Thankfully, there are companies like Taurus that make great products while keeping prices reasonable. Taurus firearms are made in Brazil giving them a real price advantage since the Brazilian Real to Dollar exchange gives us a a lot of “bang for our buck”.
My cousin-in-law is in the market for a .40 cal and has looked at Glocks, Springfield Armory, Kahr Arms and Smith & Wesson. He called me after attending a gun show and said, “Man, some of the guns I looked at are really expensive.” I asked him if he’d looked at a Taurus and he said, “No”. This reminded me that my brother has a Taurus Millennium Pro 140 that I’ve been meaning to review.
About a year ago, my brother found himself in a real life-threatening situation on the front porch of his own home. He was faced with an armed individual that seriously verbalized intent to do him harm. Luckily the incident didn’t go beyond that but it did give him a new perspective on gun ownership. I got a call from him the next morning asking if I would go gun shopping with him.
I took him to a local gun shop that has an indoor range. After browsing for a while, he saw a used polymer .40 cal Millennium Pro 140 for just over $209. The price of the new one sitting in the case right next to it was only $299 (Just the other day I saw one for $349 at the same store). He picked it up and it felt really good in his hands, asked me about the Taurus name brand and decided to buy it.

Inexpensive is one thing but shooting well is another. We’ve all shot a buddies “great deal at a gun show” gun that he paid $150 for only to find out that it was a piece of junk, right? Well as an owner of two Taurus firearms, I can say that they don’t make junk. Ok, their model 1911 might not be up to Kimber quality but it’s definitely not junk.
My brother bought the Millennium Pro without shooting one beforehand and after shooting it, we were both a little worried - okay, a lot worried. The gun shot low and left real bad. I don’t mean a little like some guns do, I mean this little gun was way off. After a bit of examination, we noticed that the front sight was not centered in the dove-tail groove. We took it back to the shop and had the sights straightened.
Back on the range, the gun now show straight but still a bit low (not nearly as bad as before the adjustment). I find the sight alignment to be perfectly acceptable for a fixed sight, home defense gun.

As for function, here are some things I really like about this gun:
  1. Grip comfort - I find Glocks to be great shooting guns, but for my hand shape and size, the grips are awkward and uncomfortable. The Millennium Pro’s grip is a perfect fit for my hand. Perfect.
  2. Trigger reset - The trigger take up is long but there’s a reason for this and something that Taurus did that make this acceptable. First, the reset is real short (1/4 inch) and second, the single action/double action striker means that if you have a misfire, completely release the trigger, let it completely reset and get a full double-action pull for a potentially life-saving second strike opportunity. The Video below lets you see this for yourself.
  3. Manual safety - many polymer pistols don’t have a manual safety. They really don’t need them but on the Taurus, if you want it, you’ve got it. If you don’t like it. Don’t use it.
  4. Safety lock - All Taurus firearms come with a key that locks the gun down for safely storing the pistol. This is another “if you don’t like it don’t use it” option, but I like it. It’s a much more elegant and easy to use option than the cable lock that came with my Kimber or the Springfield XD and XDm.
  5. Heinie Straight-8 two dot sights - I love the sights. If hundred dollar bills grew on trees, I’d replace all my fixed sights with Tritium Heinie Staight-8s. Personally, I can line up two dots faster than three. Plus, as I said earlier, the gun shoots a bit low. Put a bit of black space between the two white dots and you’re shooting in the 10 ring. Fast and easy.
VIDEO: Notice the short trigger reset (about the same as the XDm). Also notice the second strike option:

As you can see by reading this article. I’d recommend this gun to anyone looking for a small, compact polymer pistol in 9mm, .40 or .45. The gun has never misfired, failed to feed or failed to extract any ammo we’ve put through it, this includes cheap Russian Wolf and Hornady TAP.
If you money isn’t a issue, I can see you wanting and buying a Smith and Wesson M&P Pro, or a compact Springfield XD instead. But if you’re on a budget, this gun will save you hundreds of dollars and deliver more than enough home protection performance as any brand. Personally, after shooting hundreds of rounds through it on a variety of ranges, I’d trust my life to it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What Does the 2nd Amendment Really Mean?

If you only read or watch one thing on this blog, watch this. You might have already seen it as it has been circulating around for a long time. But if not, it will add perspective to anyone's thoughts about the 2nd Amendment.
No matter who you are, what you believe or how you were raised, you can't deny she makes a strong point. After watching the video below ask yourself ONE question. Did she deserve the right to defend herself and her family and by default many others around her? 
Remember, if guns kill people then...
- Food makes us fat.
- Cameras cause pornography.
- Cars cause traffic accidents.
Restrictive gun laws don't take guns away from criminals - criminals disobey laws of almost every kind! Look how well the government is doing with the War on Drugs/Prostitution/Illegal Immigration/etc! 
Criminals will always find ways to commit crimes. Gun laws only take away the right for law abiding citizens (those who will obey laws no matter if they agree with them or not) and eliminate their right to defend themselves against acts of violence.
Please pass this on to one person you know. Just one.

Suzanna Gratia Hupp (born January 11959)[1] is a former Republican member of the Texas House of Representatives, who represented traditionally Democratic District 54 (BellBurnet, and Lampasas counties) for ten years from 1997-2007. Hupp is recognized as a leading advocate for the Second Amendment and an individual's right to carry a concealed weapon. She was elected to her first term in 1996 but did not seek a sixth two-year term in 2006.

Click here for the Wiki link to read Dr. Gratia-Hupp's bio. 

Saturday, November 8, 2008

REVIEW: Ruger Mark III Hunter

I love to shoot. I can spend hours shooting on the plinking range or I can spend hours trying to practice double taps with my Taurus PT-92. No matter what, I love shooting as a hobby. Kind of like golf, shooting is a sport/hobby that can be approached in one of two ways. You can be a lifetime hacker or you can constantly try to improve your game. I lean toward the second. I like to try to improve at least one skill a little bit each time I’m on the range. The problem is, shooting can be expensive. Ammo costs are killing me! So a while ago I decided to buy a .22 pistol to enable me to shoot on the cheap.

After weeks of online research, talking to friends and shooting a variety of .22s. I finally decided on the Ruger Mark III Hunter with the 7-inch fluted barrel. It was about $100 more than I had planned on spending (I spent $469), but I justified it by telling myself that I’d recover that cost overrun by shooting one 550 count box of .22 rounds for $15 in place of 5 boxes of .45 for $150! (I still shoot plenty of .45 and 9mm)

The first thing you notice about the Mark III’s long barrel is the weight. It’s a heavy .22 and the extra barrel length makes it a bit nose heavy. The 5.5 inch barrel seemed perfectly balanced. But I was after accuracy with this gun. That extra barrel length would give me a long sight radius with open sights and a bit more muzzle velocity - not to mention virtually no felt recoil.

The gun comes standard with a scope rail, two magazines, gorgeous cocobolo grips and a fiber optic front sight with five replacement fiber optic pieces in both red and green. All that in a nice heavy duty box. For comparison, my friend Bruce bought a Browning Buckmark Camper (reviewed here)that cost $100 less but came with one magazine, no scope rail and no replacement fiber optic pieces. By the time you buy all that, you’ll spend at least $50.

The next day I took it to the range and started shooting. Boy was I disappointed. I was getting a jammed bullet in every magazine. The Remmington bullets were actually bending at the point where the bullet met the case. It happened over and over again. I chalked it up as a break in issue and decided that after a several hundred rounds the problem would stop.

On my way home I had an idea. I stopped by Wal-Mart and bought a box of Federal ammo so I could test it against the Remmington the next day. Back on the range, I loaded one mag with Remmington and the other with Federal. After only four magazines, I realized the problem was the Remmington ammo, not the gun. For some reason my Ruger likes to eat cheap Federal ammo and not cheap Remmington green box ammo. Problem solved.

With the right bullets, the gun shot like a dream. The v-notch rear sight makes for amazing accuracy. Go to your local gun store that sells Ruger Mark III Hunters and try this experiment. Pick up a square notched sighted gun and line up the sights. Then while lined up, move the gun a hair and notice the how the front sight looks as the gun moves. Next, pick up the Hunter, place the bright red fiber optic sight at the bottom of the V, right on top of the vertical white dash mark and move the gun a bit. With the Ruger, it’s immediately obvious that the bright red dot is off line as it comes out of the “v” notch and off mark with the white line. You can tell if you’re .1 mm off! With square notched sights, .1 mm isn’t obvious, 1 mm is but one tenth that isn’t. Try it for yourself. You’ll see.

During the first hundred rounds, the trigger was a bit stiff but quickly smoothed out. It’s now very light and breaks with a confident, light snap. On the plinking range, I find it relatively easy to hit cans at 75 yards out in on or two tries. I can knock spent shotgun shells off of my target stand at 50 feet at will. This gun shoots!

About a month after purchase, I decided to try putting a red dot scope on it. Not knowing if I’d like a red dot or not, I went cheap for my first one. I bought a $29 Tasco Red Dot from Midway USA. Once sighted in, things only got better. After shooting the Tasco, my friend Bruce said, “That kind of takes the fun out of sucking”, as he accurately shot a water bottle at 75 yards.

- Why did I buy the gun? For cheap fun at the range. More shooting for less money. The choice was a combination of reputation, looks and price (The S&W Model 41 is $1,000).

 How long have I owned the gun? About seven months.

- Would I buy it again if faced with the decision? If I had to do it over again, I would buy the same gun. I have no regrets whatsoever.

- How have my feeling changed since I bought it? My feelings haven’t changed much. I still look forward to shooting it.

- Best and worst? Best is the trigger, sights, build quality. Worst was taking it apart. It was a pain to field strip at first but now, it’s not that bad.

Would I recommend the gun? Yes. If you want a .22 for target/plinking on the cheap. This is a great option. It’s not the cheapest .22 you can buy, but the inexpensive ammo will make up for the additional cost of the ammo over a very short time. There are also a ton of modification options out there if you want to improve the gun in any way.

When you mix the reputation of Ruger, the beauty of this stainless gun with gorgeous wood grips and pinpoint accuracy, it’s hard not to love this gun. I find it to be a mixture of beauty, accuracy and fun.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Careless or Stupid?

Ok, I've been hesitant to write this entry. The incident I'm about to describe happened a while ago but it's taken me a some time to get the nerve to write publicly about it. And I only do so to help give you one more reason to use absolute caution when handling a deadly weapon.

It's not a big deal in and of itself, but the end result could have been beyond my most horrific nightmares. My friend Doug and I were at an outdoor range shooting my brother's Springfield Armory XDm for this blog (see that review here). I reached down, picked up the gun and it went off shooting a hole through the plywood range table. 

How did it happen? That's the scariest part of this whole short story. I'm not really sure. I'm a stickler for keeping my finger off a trigger. I'm a freak about checking the condition of a gun. The XDm has a loaded chamber indicator. All of this failed in a split second. Luckily, the gun fired through the table and into the dirt - no one was hurt.

I was so mad at myself that I had a hard time acknowledging the incident for several days. In a split second of stupidity, carelessness and cockiness I let myself down, I let my friend down and I let the private range down (I owe them a piece of plywood). 

I could have very easily shot myself or my friend in that momentary lapse of consciences. Keep your guard up. Don't get cocky handling guns just because you do it a lot. And practicing good muzzle safety can help you avoid tragedy if your finger and brain let you down.

Thank you for reading.

REVIEW: Taurus UltraLite Model 85 .38 Special

People love semi-automatic pistols. They can make revolvers look, feel and shoot like a weapon of a long gone era. From what I buy and what I see my friends buying, there was a time when I wondered if anyone still bought revolvers anymore. Well, I own a revolver. And it’s a good one. Actually, it’s a fantastic one!
I bought my first Taurus handgun in 1989 when Mel Gibson and Lethal Weapon made the Beretta 9mm “the cool gun to own”. I couldn’t afford that Beretta so I bought the less expensive, copy-cat Taurus PT-92. Several of my “friends” panned the Taurus saying that they made cheap, knock-off guns and questioned their long-term quality.
For a time I actually felt a little embarrassed that I owned such an “inferior” gun. Well, 19 years later and somewhere between five- and ten-thousand rounds the gun has failed to feed maybe twice, even though at times I’ve fed the old girl some of the cheapest ammo I could find. I’ve changed the recoil spring once and dabbed on some sight paint to brighten the faded white sight dots. So my opinion now is that Taurus makes a quality gun that just happens to be priced for the average guy. 
When it comes to a potentially life-saving self-defense tool, the basic rule of thumb is reliability first. If you’re really going to bet your life on a gun, I personally feel that a reliable .38 Special is a better choice than a problematic .45ACP with a history of failures and jams. So for me, the gun I carry at least five days a week is a reliable Taurus UltraLite Model 85 revolver loaded with .38 Special +P Federal Hydra-Shoks. 
I once heard a great quote, “Revolvers are like forks, you pick them up and they just work”. While that might not be perfectly true, it’s true enough for the point to be effectively made. I went to a local well-stocked gun store and started weighing my options. I wanted unbeatable long-term reliability, minimal weight, easy concealability, enough stopping power to get my butt out of a sling, heaven forbid, and priced under $500. 
After an hour of deliberation, I finally landed on the Taurus UltraLite Model 85. It gave me a nice mix of all the things I was looking for and came in at only $299 (I’ve seen it for $320 in late 2008). The price left me with money in my pocket so I even added a Crimson Trace laser grip for $170. 
The Model 85 is a 5-shot .38 Special that's +P rated and comes in a stainless/alloy version and a blued version. It's sights are very difficult to use as are most snubbie's, but they are not target guns. The laser turns the sights into a back up rather than a primary aiming system.
 Crimson Trace makes two types of snub-nosed revolver grips - a soft rubber four finger version and a hard plastic three finger version. I went with the hard plastic three fingered version for several reasons. First, it most closely matched the size of factory the grip that came on the gun. Second, the hard plastic will not “catch”, “hang”, or “stick to” a pant leg (if ankle carrying) or a shirt like a soft rubber. Third it was about 1/2 of an inch shorter making it easier to conceal. 
I anxiously took the gun to the range and ran 50 rounds though it. The trigger was heavy and not perfectly smooth but other than that, the gun shot well. The Smith and Wesson’s I dry fired in the store had triggers that were much lighter and definitely smoother but with factory installed CT laser grips, they were coming in at $800. That was well over my, and my wife’s, budgeted limit for this purchase. 
The light gun felt great in my hand but the weight in no way gave the +P ammo a heavy kick that you get with a snub nosed .357. 
On my second trip to the range, I tried moving my target stand out to about 25 yards. Big mistake I couldn’t hit a thing. Double action, I was having a difficult time getting bullets to hit the IDPA targets let alone getting one to hit somewhere on the 8” Shoot N-C that I stuck on it. Switching to single action, I started hitting the target with enough regularity that my confidence in the gun immediately sky-rocketed though the confidence in my double action trigger finger bottomed out. 
At ranges that more closely resemble self-defense situations (15 feet or so) the gun is dead on. The Crimson Trace laser makes aiming fast and easy and as long as you pull the trigger smoothly, the bullet hits the target with in an inch or two of the laser dot. I love shooting this gun. I practice shooting isosceles, on handed, weak handed, and from the hip. If the target is 15 feet away, I can effectively hit the target at will, which is a good thing.
After about 600 rounds and another 600 dry fires, the trigger has really smoothed out - a lot! It’s still not a Smith and Wesson but if I had $800 to burn, I’d have bought an Air Light. I don’t have that kind of money to throw around so I went with what I consider the next best thing. A Taurus. 
Carrying, this gun is as comfortable and light as any I’ve every tried. I carry it on my ankle or in a bellyband , some times for 12-14 hours in a day and its barely noticeable. I actually feel naked without it!
- Why did I buy the gun? Concealed carry self defense.
- How long have I owned the gun? Just over a year.
- Would I buy it again if faced with the decision? Absolutely, without a doubt or a moment's hesitation. Period. And I'd add the laser grips again too.
- How have my feeling changed since I bought it? I like it more now than when new. Much more.
- Best and worst? Best is weight and quality. Worst is trigger pull but even that's not bad like it was fresh out of the box.
- Would I recommend the gun? Yes. I think it's a great value and I'd bank my life on it.
In summary, the gun is very easy to carry, light weight, super reliable and with the CT Laser Grips very easy to get on target. If you are looking to get a small frame revolver on working man wages this is definitely a gun to look at. Let your friends tell you how a Smith and Wesson is better. Just smile back at them knowing you own twice as many guns as they do...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Take Your Mom Shooting - I Do.

My mom was raised on a farm. Like most farm boys and girls, they started shooting guns well before they began walking to school barefoot, uphill both ways in year-around, waist deep snow that covered a thick layer of “goats head” thorns.

They were tough kids and shooting guns was as much, or more, of a necessity as is was for fun. There were coyotes that were always trying to steal chickens and rats rummaging through the trash that needed to be “taken care of".

When my 60+ year old mom said she wanted to go shooting with me I thought to myself, “Hm, this will be an adventure.” The day was perfect. It was cold and there was a light drizzle falling so going to the indoor range seemed like a good option. When we got there, I bought some silhouette targets and some ammo and we headed back. To keep from getting shot by my own mom, I gave her a quick safety briefing that I give all of my friends that are “new shooters”.
We started with a small Beretta Bobcat .22 that I’ve owned for over 20 years. It’s a fun, small caliber gun that’s perfect for “first timers” and “old timers” alike. After I “showed her” how to do it, I reloaded the gun, clicked the safety and laid it on the table. As she picked up the gun, I flashed back to all the grief and trouble I gave her as a rowdy teenage boy and suddenly wondered if this was a trap!

We once again did a quick review of what the sight picture should look like and I stepped back as she took aim. She sent all seven rounds down range and into the target in a group that was about four inches at its widest point. Not bad at all! Mom looked at me and asked, “Is that good?” I said, “Actually mom, yes. That’s very good.” After about five more magazines, the groups were down to about three inches, tight enough that I thought it was time to either graduate up to a bigger gun or move the target back.

She opted for both options so I loaded a snub-nosed .38 special with Crimson Trace Laser Grips and pushed the target back about five feet. Once again, I shot first then reloaded and stepped back. She took the gun, aimed the laser at her target and pulled the trigger. Her arthritic fingers had a real hard time with the double-action pull. Her shot was erratic as she fought the heavy trigger and the laser danced and flipped around as the shot broke. To combat this, we switched to the “cock and shoot” method. This was much easier for her and once again she accurately hit the target creating a nice tight group that landed almost exactly where the laser was pointed.
I was impressed! Mom turned to me and said, “You know, I’d like to have a gun at home for self defense.” My blood ran cold and my eyes bugged. “Uh, ok mom. Maybe…” Overall, it was a fun couple of hours.

For our second outing we went to the outdoor range. Once again we started with the Bobcat, and then moved to a Taurus PT92 9mm. It was a bit heavy for her and the grip was a too thick. Nevertheless she managed to hit the target, placed 25 feet away, with enough accuracy that if it were an intruder, she would have made 10 torso shots.

After she mentioned wanting to keep a loaded defense gun in her home, I told her that it would be ok only if she took a gun course first. For legal and practical reasons she would need to learn some basic skills and then practice them from time-to-time. One of the skills would be alternative shooting techniques like shooting from the hip in panic saturations. Why did I open my big mouth? She wanted to try it!

She picked up my 9mm, slipped in a magazine, held the gun at waist level and pulled the trigger. I wasn’t sure exactly where the bullet went but when I saw splinters of wood flying off my target stand, I knew she was at least in the right area code.

I cringed as another big piece of wood got blown off my carefully crafted, handmade, but luckily modularly rebuildable target stand. Mom smiled at me after seeing fragmented pieces of debris flying all over the place, “I’m hitting the target! That’s pretty good!”

I grimaced and scratched my head, “Yea, not bad.” I shook my head and mustered a small forced smile. “Uh, mom, let’s go back to shooting with both hands. You’re kind of destroying my target stand!”

Another hour went by and mom continued to have a great time and shot with a surprising amount of accuracy, for an “old lady”.

The moral of the story is, if she asks, take your mom shooting. You never know, in a previous life she might have been an Annie Oakley fan that was deadly with a 20-guage shotgun or a vicious coyote hunter like mine!

Things to think about when taking your mom, wife or girlfriend to the range for the first time:
  • Start with safety. Don’t feel embarrassed about going through a safety briefing. DO IT! Make it simple, but cover the basics of muzzle safety and range etiquette.
  • Always start with a .22 or other small caliber gun first. If you want to piss off or scare off your mom or significant other, give them a .44 Super Redhawk the first time you take them out. They’ll pull the trigger once and never do it again. If you want to help them enjoy the sport, start small and work up to bigger calibers slowly – at their pace.

  • Keep the targets close. Targets that are 15-25 feet away are hittable by anyone. This is a confidence builder and helps them with immediate feedback and gratification. Start close and work back in 5 foot increments. If you start anyone off at 25 yards, they’ll get frustrated and give up fast. Hell, I get frustrated with 25 yard shots myself.
  • Don’t preach and teach. Give some pointers but don’t make the outing a formal gun class. That’s boring and not why they wanted to go. If they want to learn more, they’ll ask. NOTE: If your mom has her thumb behind the slide of your 9mm, correct that! But don’t give military or police style training.
  • Praise their accomplishments. While shooting a 4-inch group at 15 feet at might not be a huge accomplishment for you, it’s more than enough to “drop” a bad guy and a VERY good job for a beginner or for someone that hasn’t picked up a gun in 30 years.
  • Lastly, do whatever it takes to make it fun for them. It might not be your idea of a perfect range day but make it fun for them. You’ll be surprised at how much fun you’ll have helping your mom have a great, safe shooting day.

I just wanted to relate my story of shooting with my mom.  She was born in 1933 and grew up in Chicago - she moved to rural Wisconsin in the early 50's when she married my dad.  Not much of a gun enthusiast - but not stopping her four sons for shooting if they so desired.
She worked at the bank in town and became the second in command - so she had keys to the get in, knew how to turn off the alarm, and could open the vault.  When my dad passed away in 1993, a young man in town suggested that she learn how to handle a gun, for the reasons mentioned above - plus that fact that she lived alone in a small town with no permanent law enforcement. 
One day during that first summer after my dad's passing - we took my S&W .357, my fairly new Browning Buck Mark, and a few boxes of ammo out to a quarry just outside of town.  Like you, I showed my mom how to safely handle the firearm.  I don't remember much about that day - except that we went shooting.  But that's not where this story ends. 
For the next several years until she retired, she kept that Buck Mark in one drawer of her dresser and a loaded magazine in another drawer - knowing exactly what she would need to do should an intruder enter the house.  Luckily - she never had to use it for her protection.
Flash forward to 2010 - I was in the process of getting divorced and now had some free time on the weekends.  I live a couple of hours from where my mother lives and I go home as often as I can.  Mom and I started shooting again - in the quarry where I first took her to get familiar with the Buck Mark.  We try to go shooting once a week - usually on a Sunday.  There are times when I talk my girlfriend into joining us - but that is another story for another time.
My mom still has the Buck Mark and shoots it from time to time - but she has really taken a liking to my little Browning BL-22 lever-action with a scope.  While I haven't documented her shooting as well as you documented shooting with your mom - I can say that she really enjoys the time we spend shooting in the quarry.  We shoot plastic bottles that range in size from a few ounces to one gallon jugs filled with water - anywhere from 20 yards to about 100 yards.  We shoot rifles and handguns from .22 up to .357 - though mom sticks to the .22's.  After we've had our fun watching the bottles explode - we recycle the plastic.
I came across your website while looking for reviews on the Browning Buck Mark - just to see what others have to say about the firearm.  Besides the one my mom shoots - I have a Browning Buck Mark Contour with a 7.25" barrel - and it is a blast to shoot.  I'm not one to reply or add comments to online articles - but after reading your article I felt I had to share the story about my mom's shooting experience.
Reply back if you get the chance - just so I know you received this email.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Thumb Savers and Speed Loaders - Yes, you need one.

PART 1: .22 Caliber Hand Guns
When I go to the range with my Ruger Mark III Hunter, I don’t shoot 100 rounds. I don’t shoot 200 rounds. Usually, when I take out the Mark III, I blow through 300-600 rounds, or sometimes more. And why not, at $14 per 550 rounds of Federal .22LR, there’s no real reason to conserve or shoot sparingly.

The first time I did this I didn’t have a thumb saver. The next day I went out again and my thumb was so sore from pulling down on the follower button that after only two magazines, I was ready to call it quits. That’s when I spotted a great make-shift solution.

Next to my gear bag was a water bottle and the little blue cap. I picked up the cap, turned it sideways, covered the follower button with it and pulled down against the spring. My thumb was still tender but it made it easy enough that I was able to enjoy my day at the range until I could buy a “real” thumb saver (doesn’t really work with a S&W Model 41 since there isn’t a pronounced follower screw or button on latch on to).

There are several .22 Thumb Savers on the market and most are between $3-5. The ones that work with a Ruger Mark III work with the Browning Buck Mark don’t work with the S&W Model 41 since it has a different design and requires its own speed loader.

I own one made by Butler Creek but is now discontinued, too bad because it works very well. It can still be found on eBay and on a few web sites. A friend of mine has an ADCO Loader that works every bit as well as the Butler Creek and there’s always the HKS.

Since .22 is so cheap to shoot, you’ll want a way to make it fun and easy to shoot hundreds of rounds in one day. Don’t believe me?

Grab a Coke or water bottle cap and give it a try. Your thumb will thank you.

PART 2: Non .22 Hand Guns
For reloading all other magazines (.380-.45) there’s the amazing and unbeatable Butler Creek UpLULA. HKS makes $12 thumb loaders that do a great job but they are single caliber units only. The UpLULA can replace four or five magazine loaders saving you 25-35 dollars or more! Not to mention tons of space in your range bag.

I've successfully used the Up LULA on a Kel-Tec .380, Glock, Taurus, Para and Springfield 9mm and .40 mags, a a variety of .45 mags. Mine has yet to find a magazine it didn't agree with. You can buy one at (Click on link).

The Springfield XD and XDm’s come with a reloader that I’ve tried and they’re not nearly as easy to use or as fast as the Up LULA. Plus, they’re designed to work on XDs.

Tough guys don’t think they need thumb savers right? Wrong, guys that don’t shoot much don’t need thumb savers and speed loaders. All of you that have pushed 16-18 rounds into a hi-capacity mag know what it’s like to get those last few in.

If you shoot enough, you will get a sore thumb pushing rounds into a magazine. This blog is called “Firearm Fun” and is dedicated to making shooting…fun. For a mere $30 you can have a .22 loader AND a universal loader that after one trip to the range will more than earn their keep in your range bag.

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