Sunday, August 26, 2012

Kel-Tec 3AT is on the rocks...

A few years back I saw the big brother to the lil' Kel-Tec .32 start to show up in magazines and the gun shops.  The Kel-Tec 3AT looked like a terrific Back-Up Gun (BUG) or even a "first rule of gun fighting is have a gun" type of firearm.  I was really interested in the little guy and looked at it often whenever I saw one in the local gun shops... but, then I started hearing concerns from several buddies who had picked up a Kel-Tec 3AT... so I just forgot about it.

Well my incredible gal, that redhead I'm married to, noticed what I had been glancing at on a fairly regular basis and surprised me for Christmas a few years back with a small present with a slight bit of weight to it.  That began my "saga" with the Kel-Tec 3AT.

I tried firing it with the usual suspects like Winchester White Box and Federal FMJs.  Tried some American Eagles and Federal Hydra-Shoks.  I couldn't hardly get a magazine of six through it without a malfuntion... double feeds, stove-pipes, failure to ejects.  Friends tried it... same problems.

I called Kel-Tec and they said it needed to have some rounds through it to "break it in".  After about two-hundred and fifty rounds of misery, I called their customer support to see about sending it back.  The technician said they had a two or three month back log of repairs and suggested that if I felt comfortable, I could polish the feed ramp with 800 or 1,000 grit emery paper.

As a fairly competent amateur gunsmith, I polished the feed ramp, gave the internals a "fluff and buff" and put another hundred rounds through it with about a dozen problems... better, but not good.

Some folks would have parted with this little nuisance at this point, but my gal gave me this gun... so into the back of the safe it went.  I pulled it out this past spring, tried a box of fifty FMJs through it with five malfuntions.

I called Kel-Tec... they advised of a six to eight week turn around and if I couldn't provide the original receipt, I'd be charged for the repairs.  It was a gift, I didn't have the receipt, so I reluctantly sent it back to the factory this past June.

We have a Ruger LCP and while some say it is a copy of the Kel-Tec... the fit, finish, and operation so far have been light years ahead.  Our Ruger LCP has about five-hundred rounds through it and has yet to have a malfunction.

ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.  Gun was unloaded and pointed at remote camera.
This is the scary end of the Kel-Tec 3AT and while it may have a lot of bark, without reliable functioning it might not have any bite.  I want this gun to work, I really do.

The FedEx man dropped it off this past Wednesday, about eight weeks later... Kel-Tec didn't charge me anything even though I didn't provide the original receipt.  We're in the middle of range upgrades and the wife wanted to fire the first rounds, so she shot a magazine of six... no problems.  I shot two magazines of six and had one failure to eject... a drop the mag, cycle the action three times... tap-rack-bang problem.  It has a lot of new parts in it, so I figure it may need a little break in time.  So far, sixty rounds through it... fifty Winchester White Box, and ten American Eagle FMJs... and two malfunctions.

That's a great improvement, but not to the point I want to trust my life to it.  We'll give it a couple of hundred rounds to see how it shapes up and maybe we'll even send it back again, but right now our... Kel-Tec 3AT is on the rocks...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The endless holster search ends... for now!

It's been quite some time ago I wrote about the holster box, or boxes for some of us.  It seems that no matter what holster you get for a new gun, it's never quite right until you find something better or try everything else out there just to find out the first one was the best.

Most folks who follow this blog know I typically carry a Ruger SR9c and sometimes the full-size Ruger SR9 for Every Day Carry (EDC).  I have been very happy with the Galco Cop Slot 3 holster for the Ruger SR9, which also carries the SR9c just as well, for several years.  The Galco has thumb-snap retention, is made of quality leather, has an adjustable tension screw, is canted forward ten to fifteen degrees which reduces printing and is a personal preference, and it holds very snug to the body for an Outside the Waistband (OWB) holster.

It's taken me several years to settle in with an Inside the Waistband Holster (IWB) for the Ruger SR9 and SR9c.  I want one holster that fits either gun and after trying quite a few out, I've been wearing the Comp-Tac Minotaur MTAC fairly regularly the last few months and have been very pleased with it.  It's a quality holster, feels very comfortable, and mimics the feel and cant of my Galco OWB holster.  I like having the leather against my body while the Kydex holster is adjustable for cant, tension, and positioning.

So why do I need both?  It allows me to choose depending upon my clothing and activity plans for the day.  If I'm riding in the car for a long period of time or if I'm wearing a jacket or sport coat, the Galco is more comfortable with more clothing between me and the holster.  If it's a hot summer day, the Comp-Tac allows me wear lighter clothing and keep the gun tight to my pudgy mid-section while being practically invisable.

I like that in terms of both "feel" and "draw" they seem almost interchangeable to me.  What about the thumb-break retention on the Galco?  Well, it is pretty much a sub-conscious, muscle memory thing for me after all these years.  I can draw from my spring/winter/fall concealment and put two shots center mass consistently at five to seven yards in under two seconds with either holster.  For winter, I sometimes use an appendix carry position when I'm wearing layered clothing or heavy winter coats or parkas... especially if I'm driving... for better access, but that would be a discussion for another day.

Some folks get by with one holster all the time.  I haven't really been able to do that depending upon what I'm wearing, especially my outerwear.  So for now, I'm feelin' pretty good about my EDC holster choices.

Which means... The endless holster search ends... for now!

So how about you... do you use just one holster, or do you use different holsters?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Gettin' by with what works...

Some decades back a "jam box" ended up under the Christmas tree with my name on it.  Another small package had some cassette tapes in it... Alabama, Bruce Springsteen, and Fleetwood Mac.  I mostly used it while plugged-in since it took a small truck load of D-cell batteries to keep it running.  Amazingly, it still works and except for a small crack in the corner and a few scratches... it has somehow survived Van Halen through Roth and Hagar, Hank Williams and Junior, and had even aged better than Mick Jagger.

The ol' "jam box" has been hanging out the last few years on the wall of the barn.  It still plays AM and FM... and there's still a box of cassette tapes laying around covering the better part of classic rock and country from the pre-MTV era, back when MTV actually showed music videos.

Some folks will ask why I still keep it around.  Well, it works... it plays music... it plays Reds games... it plays old faded Springsteen tapes.  Some say "new" isn't always better, but actually "new" isn't always needed.  If I'm working in the barn, welding, hangin' out, changing oil... it keeps me entertained... and that's all I ever expected or needed from it.  No sub-woofer, no CD, just ol' music, talk, and sports.

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."  ~Philippians 4:11-12 

I must admit, it's taken a lot of years for me to be happy with just gettin' by, but my gal... that terrific redhead I married who grew up in pretty humble circumstances... has been a good balance for me.  I watch a lot of folks who were livin' high on the hog, or livin' beyond that and high on someone else's hog who are now suffering pretty badly, but really... many of 'em aren't suffering that badly.  They're just experiencing the difference between their desires and needs.  Most of us wouldn't be or aren't happy livin' on just what we need.  Heck, one look in our gun safe shows that.

I've done my best to live the right way
I get up every morning and go to work each day
But your eyes go blind and your blood runs cold
Sometimes I feel so weak I just want to explode
Explode and tear this whole town apart
Take a knife and cut this pain from my heart
Find somebody itching for something to start

The dogs on Main Street howl 'cause they understand
If I could reach one moment into my hands
Mister I ain't a boy, no I'm a man
And I believe in a promised land
~Bruce Springsteen

So what's the point?  Well, I think this country is still headin' for a fall... at least financially.  If it actually happens, there will be a lot of folks who are going to have to just make do... or die.  If you haven't started thinking about it yet, you should.  

Why not think about times to come,
And not about the things that you've done,
If your life was bad to you,
Just think what tomorrow will do.

Don't stop, thinking about tomorrow,
Don't stop, it'll soon be here,
It'll be, better than before,
Yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone.
~Fleetwood Mac

Maybe it's time to start... and get prepared for... Gettin' by with what works...

So what do you think?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Lookin' back on a life and a knife...

It's been a little over a year since my dad passed, and I was looking at his old knife hanging on the wall of the gun room the other night.  That knife has been around since I can remember, even had my backside tenderized once or twice for touching it without permission by the time I was five.

It's nothing really special, just a Western Knife Company bowie-style hunting knife with a stacked leather handle and a leather sheath... both of which are showing wear and age.  The blade is now dirty and dull after spending the last few years of my Pa's life opening envelopes, packages, cleaning the bottoms of his shoes, and whatever else old retired knives do when they're not stored away or lost.

I thought about restoring it, but each mark and scratch, the torn leather sheath are part of it's character.  It's not an expensive knife, but it's worth a lot to me and works far better than a scrapbook for remembering my past.  You can see marks and dents on the end of the handle where it was used to pound tent stakes while camping in the summer or at Boy Scouts.  No... polishing up this knife and replacing the stacked leather handle just won't do... you can't cover up it's life with my dad.

My first knife was a little, cheap pocket-folder from the local hardware store that I promptly lost a week or two after getting it at the age of seven or so. It later turned up in a load of laundry resulting in another tenderized backside.  I still have the Sabre camping knife I was given for daily chores, camping, carving, and opening cans.  I used to hang it on the metal clip attached to those camper shorts and pants we wore as kids before all the new cargo pants and tactical clothing became all the rage.

One of my favorite knives was purchased with some birthday money and earnings from farming when I was fifteen... a Buck 110 Folding Hunter with finger grooves.  The knife rode shotgun with me every day in it's leather belt sheath for better than fifteen years.  It loves to go hunting, holds a great edge and can make short work of field dressing a deer.  I still carry it while hunting and on other occasions.  Heck, it even went on my first date with a hot redhead who later became my wife.  We've been together now for over thirty years... the Buck and me... the wife and I are getting close to twenty-five years.

These days I can usually be found carrying three knives... a little Leatherman Style multi-tool on my key-chain, a MiniBuck in my pocket that has been carried so many years that the texture and "Buck" are nearly worn smooth from moving around in my front pocket, and clip knife in my right front pocket.

My current clip knife is a Buck Bones with a tanto-style blade.  This knife was much less expensive than my Benchmade Griptilian which went AWOL last year.  So far, the Buck Bones has held it's edge well, flips and locks open easily, and I really like the tanto-style blade for an everyday carry knife.  We'll see how it holds out as clip knives and I seem to have short relationships.  Yeah, I know I'm partial to Buck Knives, but they're American-made and owned by a Christian family who still drop John 3:16 into the instruction sheet shipped with each knife.

The old Buck 110 Folding Hunter isn't tacticool enough these days for a lot of folks, but he and I have been through a lot together... we're both showing some wear and have a few marks we've aquired climbing up the learning curve of life, but it's still my favorite knife. 

Someday, maybe my daughter will thinking about me when she looks at that old Buck knife, just... Lookin' back on a life and a knife...

So what's your favorite knife in life so far?

Monday, August 6, 2012

I'm an NRA Certified Instructor...

I’m an NRA Certified Instructor and an active NRA member… I work hard at it and I’m darn proud of it.  The NRA is a large organization with over four million members and many facets of operation.  While there are things here and there that the NRA does that I may not agree with or support, as a whole I believe it is a good organization and does far more for the second amendment and shooting than just lobbying efforts and politics.

While there are always those that will find fault with something or anything the NRA does, one area that the NRA has had a positive net-effect is in the area of training.  While I’ve heard some folks talk about NRA courses and/or NRA Certified Instructors as being a “joke”, incompetent, or inadequate… I don’t think it’s fair to paint all NRA courses and instructors with a broad brush or blanket statements.  You need to know and understand the intended purposes of the NRA training courses and instructors.

First… the NRA courses are designed to provide instruction to folks regarding the knowledge, skills, and attitude necessary to safely own and operate a firearm.  The majority of these courses are called “Basic” for a reason.  They are designed to take someone new to firearms or with limited knowledge and/or experience and provide them a thorough overview, introduction, and learning opportunity about a particular category of firearms such as pistol, rifle, shotgun, or muzzle-loading.  Even the newer courses like Personal Protection In The Home, Personal Protection Outside The Home, and Defensive Pistol are still, while building on previous courses, basically focused on the fundamentals with regards to knowledge, skills, and attitudes in these areas.

When taught according to NRA guidelines, curriculum, and expectations… these courses are thorough and effective.  I’m even amazed at the number of students in my courses that have a fair bit of shooting experience, even police officers, who have indicated they learned something… even quite a bit… in my NRA course.  The NRA courses focus on fundamentals and you’d be surprised at how many experienced shooters… including LEO’s and competitors… that see improvement when they re-focus on the fundamentals of shooting.

As a life-long shooter and hunter, a long-time NRA Certified Instructor and 4H Shooting Sports instructor, a former Law Enforcement Officer, and with a career as a professional educator with my graduate work in Learning and Instructional Design… I find the NRA course materials and lesson plans to be very thorough and effective for the intended audiences when properly presented and implemented.

The NRA courses are not designed to provide one-stop, end-all training.  They are not designed to provide door-kicking, house-clearing, SWAT-tactic proficiency.  As I inform all my students, I hope that the NRA course is just the beginning of their life-long learning, practice, and training related to firearms.  I’ve had many students go on to take courses at TDI, Gunsite, Front Sight, Todd Green’s AimFast/Hit Fast, and many of the other advanced training schools that offer quality instruction and training for firearm owners and enthusiasts.

Currently, the NRA is the only entity providing standardized training materials and opportunities nation-wide for every day folks.  Some states, like Ohio, have accepted the NRA training and courses to meet the education or training requirements for obtaining a concealed carry permit.  I have friends in law enforcement who have expressed concern to me that there are not a lot of tactics involved in the NRA courses.  Again, the State of Ohio like many other states, requires a firearm SAFETY course, not a firearm TACTICS course.  While I have attended and I’m very supportive of firearm tactics courses, I can tell you from experience in the courses I’ve taught to hundreds of students over the years… that many new shooters and experienced shooters really still need to focus on safety and the fundamentals of shooting.

Second… like any training opportunity you might encounter, the NRA instructors are human and may vary in qualifications and teaching ability.  The certification the NRA provides instructors is, in my opinion, a basic level of competency in using firearms and instructing shooters, using the NRA materials and standards, who are the targeted audience of any particular NRA course.  It does not certify that the NRA instructor knows the make and model of every firearm ever made.  It does not certify that the NRA instructor can win at Camp Perry, the IDPA nationals, or place five .40 S&W shots in a one-inch group at fifty yards.

I expect, and you should too, NRA instructors to be competent at performing and instructing the safety and fundamentals of shooting… and while the NRA does have standards for instructors, not all are equally qualified.  Remember this too… Just ‘cause the coach can’t kick a fifty-yard field goal or out-run and tackle the other team’s star receiver doesn’t mean he can’t be a good coach… that would be like dismissing Michael Phelps swimming coach as having anything to offer because he can’t out-swim the Olympic gold-medalist.

I believe there are now around or over 88,000 certified NRA instructors and even if just five or ten percent are below par… that is four to nine thousand instructors who might need to do a better job or find something else to do.  While the NRA has parted ways with many sub-standard certified instructors and training counselors over the years, YOU still need to do your research.

Is the NRA instructor well known or have a good reputation in regard to their training and courses?  Is the NRA instructor insured?  Who has recommended or reviewed the NRA instructor and what was the general consensus?  What facilities are being used or provided?  What are the costs and what will you be receiving for your hard-earned dollars?  Why is the instructor offering the training… for money? or to stroke their ego? or to promote safe, effective shooting?  You should do the same with any training or instructor you might be seeking out or paying.

USA Carry has a list of things to look for in an instructor and Kathy Jackson over at the Cornered Cat has some items specifically for gals to consider when seeking firearm training.

The NRA Instructor courses and NRA Certified Training Counselors I have experienced have been thorough, quality experiences… but I’m also selective and research who I’m taking my training from.  Again, you should be selective and research who YOU are taking training from too.  

I have had the opportunity to teach and train about a hundred youth each year aged eight to eighteen in 4H Shooting Sports over the last decade and I’ve had the pleasure of training hundreds of folks as an NRA Certified Instructor between the ages of ten and seventy-eight... men, women, youth, elderly, pregnant, and disabled... over quite a few more years.  Being the best instructor I can be is important to me, and a good instructor is also a good student.  I continually seek out additional training and learning opportunities for myself whether I find it in books, magazines, online, DVDs, advanced training, or one-on-one training.

The thirty to fifty days I spend training shooters each year gives me a lot of personal pleasure in knowing that many more folks are enjoying shooting and exercising their God-given rights ensured by our Second Amendment… and especially seeing the smile of pleasure and satisfaction as a new shooter puts their shots on the target, gains that self-confidence they were missing, or an experienced shooter finally figures out that one tweak or fundamental that has been throwing off their shooting or keeping them from advancing their skills to the next level.

Now, I’ve had to bump my NRA course fee/donation to forty dollars in recent times… to help with the insurance and materials costs… but hey, for me it ain’t about the money.  I’ve also spent literally thousands of dollars on NRA and other advanced training opportunities, materials, blue guns, red guns, a variety of firearms, dummy rounds, holsters, gun safes/locks, and many other items to provide the best training aids and environment possible for my students.  

Now I don't fault anyone for charging a reasonable amount for firearm training courses as most of the good instructors have a considerable investment of time, money, experience, and effort.  Some folks have shied away from my courses over the years figuring a course for only thirty or forty bucks probably isn't very good or worth much to them, but those who have checked me out ahead of time have no hesitations.

I’ve set up my classroom at gun clubs, living rooms (with a fifty-five inch flat-panel), churches, VFW halls, barns, and garages.  The shooting range needs to be adequate and safe, but don’t discount a course completely on the classroom location.  I’ve provided the classroom portion in a quality manner to a family of five in a living room and I’ve even used a Sunday School classroom.

I also seem to have developed quite a reputation with the ladies (yeah, my gals know) having donated time as an instructor for Women in the Outdoors events, offering women-only NRA courses and training over the years, and even a fair number of guys who are LEO’s have sent their better-halves through my courses.  I’m excited to see the number of gals who have chosen enjoy the shooting sports and to empower themselves with firearms to protect themselves and their loved-ones… and in the last two years or so the blogosphere has just exploded with gals and gun blogs.

One final thought for NRA Certified Instructors and Training Counselors out there…  Take pride in what you do and work within the NRA curriculum while upholding the NRA’s standards.  Oh, and if you want teach your own thing, if you’re not happy, don't value the certification, or you’re ashamed of being an NRA instructor, your NRA certification, or you just aren’t competent… as some instructors have supposedly lamented… then PLEASE… quit and don’t renew your NRA credentials.

…and those are some of my thoughts on the matter…’cause… I’m an NRA Certified Instructor.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Winchester WinLite Target Loads

When shooting a shotgun for the first time, some folks have said, "It kicked like a mule".  Well, I've actually been kicked by a mule once and the recoil of a shotgun has yet to come close to that experience.  That's not to say that shotguns don't have some recoil... and it can be quite unpleasant for some folks.

There are a number of ways to reduce the effects of recoil from a shotgun including a good stance and grip, a padded shooting vest, holdin' it tight to the shoulder, and shooting a reduced recoil shotshell load like the Winchester WinLite Target Loads.

While some folks might recommend starting out with a 20 gauge... and I have to admit that a good 20 gauge auto-loader like the Benelli's our 4H Shooting Sports club has purchased make for a light, soft shootin' shotgun... but a 12 gauge with reduced recoil loads is very comparable in terms of felt recoil.  We like to minimize the variations of ammunition we have to keep on hand to a minimum, and since almost all our shotguns are 12 gauge, it makes sense to keep some reduced recoil Winchester WinLite shotshells to take some kick off my gal's shoulders.

The recoil and report of the WinLites are significantly reduced over traditional loads, yet they still put enough shot downrange to bust clays pretty reliably.  My daughter prefers shooting the 12 gauge shotguns with these loads over the 20 gauge shotguns.  One consideration I should note... if you're running them through a semi-auto shotgun, make sure it cycles reliably with the reduced recoil loads.  They didn't cycle reliably in a friend's Remington 1100, but did just fine in a Benelli and a Mossberg 930.

So if you're more interested in bustin' clays than bustin' shoulders... or if you're introducing a new shotgunner to shooting... you might want to try some... Winchester WinLite Target Loads.