Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mind if I get a second opinion?

As a father, 4H Shooting Sports instructor, and adviser for our club, I usually tend to be my daughter's primary shooting and firearms instructor and coach.  Even though I pretty much know everything about everything, I still sometimes find I don't know everything... much to my wife's and daughter's amazement!  Actually my wife's not really amazed, she's know better. 

The gentleman in the picture is not me, but a friend and fellow shooting sports instructor, Richard, who is coaching my daughter on the skeet range.  Richard is an accomplished shotgun shooter who is now retired from his day job and shares his expertise with our youth for the his usual fee... nothing, zip, nada, el zero.  He has an easy-going, gentle demeanor and seems to know just the right analogy or way to explain what you're doing - right or wrong - so you can improve. 

He's knows there are tried and true methods and techniques for shooting, but also that there are things that work for each individual shooter.  He studies his students, coaches them... and tells my daughter how to improve her shooting.  Now sometimes he may tell her exactly what I told her, but occasionally a second opinion seems to go farther with those we are close to, doesn't it.

When it comes to various topics about God, Gals, Guns, or Grub... seems like a lot of folks know all the answers and anything to the contrary is wrong, or plain ol' stupid.  I'm always a bit leery of anyone who says, "This is the only..."  Seems like that happens a lot, especially with firearms.  Now I know what all you idiots who don't conceal carry with a 1911 in .45ACP are thinking... see, half of you already have your blood boiling. 

Its important to learn and make informed decisions.  A good instructor will go beyond teaching you by also learning about you.  So I'll make a blanket statement, "You need to surround yourself with and seek out folks who will teach you, not just tell you."  That way you understand why you should do something a certain way and what might be necessary to make it work for you the majority of the time.  If you've been to a shooting school and have already learned all you need to know, great... try another one.

 "Where no counsel is, the people fall: 
but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety." 
~Proverbs 11:14

The next time someone tells you "This is the only...", you might just want to tell them, "Mind if I get a second opinion."  Even if it is your dad!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Gripmaster Hand Exerciser by ProHands

There are many ways to improve your shooting that don't always require sending lead down-range.  It only takes a few minutes a day to practice drawing, aiming, and dry-firing you concealed firearm of choice... just make sure you check three times that the gun is empty before practicing.  You can also get your physical condition in better shape, but one thing I've found that helps folks of all ages and all conditions is to get their grip and trigger finger in better shape.

There are a lot of good products on the market to improve your grip and finger strength.  We had some of those old "spring-clamp" style exercisers for years, but the resistance pressure was hard for the wife to use and it didn't work each finger individually.  I ran across the Gripmaster Hand Exercisers several years ago at Dick's Sporting Goods.  I bought a couple of their red seven-pound models and eventually picked up a couple of their black nine-pound models.  I use them daily doing 50 or 100 reps in different variations a couple of times a day, usually during my almost hour drive to work, to improve my grip and trigger finger strength and stamina.

They will help improve shooting performance for just about anyone... they can improve my daughter's varsity tennis grip... and my wife's grip in general after having wrist surgery due to a RSI a few years ago from twenty years in her younger days spent as a majorette and baton twirling instructor.  (Yes, while everyone else was chasing the cheerleaders and prom queens, I married the lead majorette... bathing suits with sequins... what else can I say.)  After recommending them to a sixty-eight year-old gal, taking my NRA Basic Pistol/CCW course, who had trouble with hand strength and dexterity... she reported great success in shooting and daily tasks after using them for just a few weeks.

ProHands makes Gripmasters in three, five, seven, and nine-pound resistances in addition to two other lines of hand exercisers.  They are easy to work into your daily routine and you don't have to set aside a specific time to simply work out your grip and fingers.  I use one while driving in the truck or car (carefully), we also use them while riding the Schwinn AirDyne Evolution Comp, and have a set on the end table near my favorite chair.

The next time you're looking to improve your grip or trigger finger strength and conditioning, rather than sitting in front of the flat-screen and reaching for another potato chip... reach for your Gripmaster Hand Exerciser by Prohands.

Note: I realize there are dozens of sexual innuendos possible with this review... folks are welcome to chuckle to themselves, but please leave them out of the comments.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Country Games and Redneck Math

Folks around here like to play games and compete just as much as city folks, but we do it a little different in the country.  Farmers and country folks ride tractors in rodeos, crash combines in demolition derbies, hold semi-pro mailbox batting practice at midnight, chase greased pigs, jack up trucks, and some barnyard engineer even put some corn in a cloth sack and challenged his buddy to see who could throw it though a hole in an old board out by the chicken coop.

Redneck Math Lesson 147: Corn + Hole = Cornhole

If ya'll are gonna play cornhole, you need a set of corn bags and cornhole boards that preferably express the same philosophical insights as your favorite hat and t-shirt.  I built a new set of cornhole boards this summer and decided to honor one of my favorite gun manufacturers... besides, they match my hat and t-shirt.

Now you never quite know when the zombies or the golden hoards are going to come by and want to go head-to-head with you, so I made tactical cornhole boards.  Painted tactical flat-black with fold-out bipod support, they're enhanced with a red-dot sighting system that allows for precision shot placement.

So any time you think you can handle the recoil from something with a six-inch bore, stop on by and play a game.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Streamlight TLR-1s Weapon Light

Out here in the country, it always amazes me how dark the night really is compared to what folks who live in town experience with all the ambient light shining around them.  We can see the glow surround the air and sky above the nearest large town ten miles away from us, but it is pitch black around here unless the sky is clear and the moon is shining bright.  A good light is always handy out here.

When we first started looking for weapon lights for our handguns a couple of years ago, we read a lot of the reviews and tried a few guns with lights our friends had.  There are a lot of good brands and lights out there, but in the end we chose the Streamlight TLR-1s Weapon Light for our home protection guns due to reputation, ease of use for me and the gals, quality, and cost.

My first introduction to Streamlight products were the rechargeable, full-size flashlights we had in our police cruisers back in the 1980s.  Their were well built, fairly bright for the technology of the time, and if you didn't have time to get in your daily workout, your could use a couple of Streamlights instead of ten-pound barbells.  In comparison, the TLR-1s is fairly light at around four ounces and makes muzzle flip on our Ruger SR9's seem almost non-existent.

Powered by two lithium CR123A batteries, Streamlight claims up to 160 lumens of light for two and a half hours.  We've had the lights on continuously for about 30-40 minutes during night-time practice.  We've put 350 rounds through a Ruger SR9 in a single session of shooting with the light on without any problems.  You will find that after shooting with the light on for that amount of time the unit gets pretty hot, but we've had no problems due to the heat.

While the clamping screws are tightened down pretty good and have never come loose, you might consider some Loctite if you plan to leave the light on the gun.  We've experienced none of the polymer frame "pinching" problems some have reported with their weapon lights on other guns.  Streamlight includes "keys" for mounting the lights to various firearms' rails.  The Glock key works for the Ruger SR9 and SR9c, positioning the TLR-1s just right for us.

When you hear something at the door at two o'clock in the morning, the switch on the light is ambidextrous and easy to reach with your trigger finger.  For right-handed folks, you just flip it down for continuous light or flip it up for momentary light.  If you do a quick double-flip-up on the switch, you get a bright strobe effect to disorient your intruders.  We don't really train to use the double-flip-up on the switch to get the strobe effect.  I'm concerned it's a lot of fine motor skills to use in a stressful situation and so far neither John Travolta or the Bee Gees have tried to break into the house or barn.

We now have five of the Streamlight TLR-1s Weapon Lights in the family.  With a couple of years experience putting them through the paces in heat, humidity, rain, cold, and snow... we've been very pleased so far.  We still have our Surefires and Maglites around (due to an undiagnosed flashlight addiction), but the weapon lights free up your hands compared with holding a flashlight in one hand the the gun in the other.  Just remember for safety's sake, you're pointing your gun at whatever you are pointing your weapon light at.

So for things that go bump in the night, you might consider mounting up the Streamlight TLR-1s Weapon Light.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Raising a Country Girl

Raising a daughter sure isn't an exact science and it's not like shooting trap or skeet where if you miss a few things, you can just shoot another round.  Time with my daughter seems to be running out far too quickly these days.  She is sixteen and now has her driver's and motorcycle license so she really doesn't need mom or dad to chauffeur her around much any more.

In another year she'll probably be taking the option of attending college full-time during her senior year of high school as our small rural school doesn't have a lot more to offer her in terms of courses.  While I'm sure she's ready, I'm not sure ol' dad is ready to be done with raising this gal.

Being married to a smart, determined, sassy, redhead... we developed a simple philosophy that guides raising our daughter:  We're trying to raise a Christian daughter who wants a man in her life, but never needs a man in her life.  I think it's working out fairly well so far, but you never really know until it's too late and there are no do-overs in this game.

"Train up a child in the way he should go: 
and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
~Proverbs 22:6

Our country girl can sew and shoot, cook and change oil, dance and dirtbike.  She's humble with all that she's blessed with and takes pride in what SHE accomplishes.  She gives of herself and her time, as her parents both do, and she's compassionate towards others, but that doesn't necessarily mean she's tolerant if you can understand the difference.

Someday when she chooses a man to spend the rest of her life with... I hope it will be out of love and want, not desperation or need.  Her expectations for men due to her raising may limit potential opportunities, but I'm sure there are still Christian men in this world who are manly men, who want a partner not a servant, who desire a woman of passion, intelligence, and common sense.

We've tried to do our best to give her every opportunity within our means while teaching her to make her own opportunities, but time will tell as this is our first and only attempt at raising a country girl.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Arntzen Steel Targets: Ping, Ping, Ping

As I mentioned in a previous post, the gals and I have been working on some improvements for the shooting range this summer.  While I've made some steel targets of my own design in the past, we decided to purchase some steel targets from the Arntzen Corporation this summer.

We ordered:
  • Three 3/8" x 6" diameter AR500 hardened steel plates
  • One full-size IPSC 3/8" thick AR500 hardened steel full-size IPSC target
  • One folding "regular" 53" high steel stand
  • Five 1/2" thick, 15" tall T1 steel bowling pin targets.  
I called to place our order, although you can place it online too.  Mr. Arntzen spoke with me on the telephone and took the time to answer several questions I had about the different targets and types of steel.

Our targets and stands arrived three days later via UPS, were well wrapped, and the UPS guy looked like he would rather we had ordered something a lot lighter.  The targets are not painted, although the stand had a tough, black, powder-coated finish.  After wiping the targets off with some acetone and applying a couple of cans of white Krylon spray paint, we were ready to shoot.

I had previously welded up a target stand to hang the three plates.  The plates came with square holes to use 1/2" carriage bolts for mounting.  We pounded on the steel plates with .45ACP, 9mm, and .22LR from ten to fifteen yards, then hit them with some .223 and .308 from 100 yards.

The rifles sure made them dance, but we could see no real damage and just kept spraying on fresh coats of Krylon so we could see our hits.  We used 55 grain FMJs and Federal Gold Medal 69 grain Sierra MatchKings in the .223 and some .308 Federal Vital-Shok 165 grain Sierra GameKing soft-points.  It should be mentioned that Mr. Arntzen recommended keeping under 3,000 fps for center-fire rifle rounds hitting the targets in addition to shooting at distances of at least 150 yards for .308 and 200 yards for .223.  He also said that we may find the targets "dishing out" some over time, so we should reverse them occasionally.

The mother-in-law size... er... uh... I mean IPSC full-size target and stand worked out terrifically.  This target is perfect for practicing your handgun shooting, drawing, shot-placement, reload times, competition skills, and for just plain old fun.  The "regular" size stand is nothing fancy, but it holds the full-size target at about the right height to simulate the bad guy and hangs at an angle to deflect all the splatter to the ground with a satisfying "ping".

While there was a lot of copper-jacketed lead splatter, there didn't seem to be any damage to the hardened steel target with all the lead just sticking to the surface of the steel.  Some more white Krylon paint will make it look like new again.

I used to shoot a lot of bowling pin matches years ago, so when I saw that Arntzen Steel had them marked at half-price due to an overstock situation, I couldn't resist.  The bowling pin steel targets are made of 1/2" T1 steel, so they are limited to handgun calibers and .22LR.  I welded up a stand from the left-over bracket from a three-point fertilizer spreader to hold the pins at a slightly forward angle.

While we have to manually reset our bowling pins, the gals and I have a blast with these targets.  They are great to work on speed, cadence shooting, and target acquisition.  They are even more fun to just "plink away" at on an Sunday afternoon.

There is nothing I like better than a quality product at a good price.  While I wouldn't necessarily say these targets were cheap, they are already cut and ready to go with no sharp edges at not a whole lot more than I can have my own steel cut at a local steel supplier.  We paid retail for these targets and have no relationship with the Arntzen Corporation other than calling and placing an order. Mr. Arntzen was pleasant to work with over the phone, delivered what we ordered in a quick and expected manner, and we're seriously thinking about purchasing two more of the IPSC targets and stands.

What more can we say, Arntzen Steel Targets: Ping, Ping, Ping

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Practical Home Makeover: Mossberg 500 Edition

Many things in our personal and home protection planning are strategic choices that are basically identical and work for all three of us (me and the gals).  Our firearm choices for protection include options in .223, 9mm, and 12 gauge.  When my daughter became capable of effectively using a 12 gauge shotgun a couple of years ago, I decided to seek a solution that worked for all of us and also fixed a few other concerns which resulted in the Practical Home Makeover: Mossberg 500 Edition.

With our own shooting range behind the barn, we practice in daylight, at night, in the rain, in the snow, and even with freezing rain and sleet causing steam to rise off the barrels while ice freezes on the actions.  I wanted shotguns that were basically the same and workable for all three of us, short for easy maneuverability in the house; easy to grip in the rain, snow, and cold; reliable; held extra cartridges on the gun; and had a sling for easy shouldering that didn't get in the way. 

After several months of looking at and trying friends' shotguns in various configurations, researching new tactical shotguns, looking over accessories at gun dealers and Cabela's, and surfing the internet... we decided on what we wanted.
You can't go wrong with Remington 870 or Mossberg 500 pump-action shotguns for a project like this as both are reliable and have an endless array of accessories and parts available from many different sources.  As we had several Mossberg 500 shotguns on hand, that is what I used, although you could get the same parts for a Remington 870.  A quick online order to MidwayUSA for various parts and accessories that I didn't have on hand and we were on our way.

First, we added Hogue OverMolded 12" stocks with sling swivels.  These shorter stocks reduce the overall length of the gun, have a terrific gripping surface, and utilize a softer rubber recoil pad.  The shorter length of pull works well with body armor, heavy winter clothing, backpack straps, and any other items that thickly pad your shoulder.

Next, I installed Hogue OverMolded Forends.  The black rubber and texturing make for reliable gripping and shell-shucking in cold and wet weather or hot and sweaty weather.  Since our shotguns had the 6-3/4" forend tubes, we also had to purchase the Hogue Forend Adapter Nuts.  This is probably a good time to remind folks that if you have never disassembled your shotgun's magazine tube, you should do that occasionally for cleaning and lubrication.  I've seen a number of 500s and 870s over the years that look great on the outside, but have rusty magazine tubes and springs from never being serviced.

We already had a couple of blued Mossberg 18" Cylinder Bore barrels with bead sights and a blued Mossberg Heat Shield, so I picked up another barrel and two more heat shields via MidwayUSA, Armslist, and Gunlistings.  The 12" Hogue OverMolded stocks and the Mossberg 18" barrels add up to an overall length of just 35-3/4" in a fairly light package.

Attaching TacStar 6-Shot Side Saddles to hold additional shells provides for up to twelve rounds on the guns (five in the magazine, one in the chamber, and six in the side saddle).  I'd recommend using a little Loctite to hold the screws in place when you attach the mounting plate to the gun.  Our shells are pointed down as we tend to load over the top of the guns from the side saddles.

Finally we added magazine cap swivels and Outdoor Connection Super Slings.  A few minor tweaks inside the actions included some minor buffing and polishing for smooth, reliable cycling.  We've had a couple of years experience with these shotguns in this configuration in all sorts of weather with 00 buckshot, #4 buckshot and slugs without any problems.

If you're looking for a short, handy shotgun without resorting to a pistol grip to add a "tool" to your personal or home protection "toolbelt", consider the Practical Home Makover: Mossberg 500 Edition on your Mossberg 500 or Remington 870.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Check out my gal's new rack!

While we have some significant food storage and rotation in our home, the only pantry in our kitchen is a fairly small one next to the refrigerator.  When we moved in years ago, there were five non-adjustable shelves that didn't seem to be the right size or height for anything my wife wanted to arrange on them.  One of our summer projects was tearing out the original shelves and installing some adjustable shelving.

While looking around the local home improvement stores, my gal decided she liked the Rubbermaid Wire Closet Shelving System at Lowes.  The new shelves allow her to adjust the number, size, and height to her liking in our small kitchen pantry.  I noticed some angled shelf brackets designed to hold shoes in closets.  We decided to install some of these "shoe" shelves to use as forward-slanted racks for our canned goods to help keep things organized in our food rotation system.

So after some priming, painting, and installation... feel free to check out my gal's new rack!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ruger New Bearcat

As an NRA and 4H Shooting Sports instructor, I am often asked, "at what age should I teach my kid to shoot?"  Introducing kids to firearms and firearm safety at an early age is very important, but the level of interaction with firearms and shooting by each child should be determined by responsible parents and adults who select and provide appropriate instruction, firearms, and equipment based on the abilities and maturity of each child.

While my daughter was introduced to our firearms and basic firearm safety at the age of three, including the NRA's Eddie Eagle program, we didn't have her try shooting until she was around five years old.  At age seven, she was given a single-shot youth-size rifle with traditional sights.  She also enjoyed shooting our Ruger Mark II Government Model .22LR pistol, but it was too heavy for her to use without a bench rest, so we purchased a stainless steel Ruger New Bearcat for her eighth birthday.

The Ruger Bearcat has been around since its introduction in 1958.  The original Bearcat had an alloy frame and Ruger added the Super Bearcat with an all-steel frame later on.  The Ruger New Bearcat with an all-steel frame and transfer-bar safety feature was introduced in the early 1990s.  The Bearcat name comes from the Stutz Bearcat, a favorite car of Bill Ruger, Sr., and the bear and cougar "cat" rollmarks around the cylinder.  The wood grip panels create a classic western-style look, are nicely finished, and have held up well over the years with proper care.

Sometimes a little .22 like the New Bearcat is called a "kit" gun because of its small size which makes it handy to throw in your "kit" such as your backpack, tackle-box, tool-box, or even your grub or lunch-box.  The small size, 24-ounce weight, 4.2-inch barrel, and single-action operation also make this a terrific handgun for a child to learn the basics.

Similar to a youth-size bolt-action rifle with iron sights, the Ruger New Bearcat allows a child to build confidence and learn to handle a firearm safely.  Loading each cartridge and ejecting each case one-at-a-time, cocking the hammer for each shot, and using the iron sights allows learning of the shooting fundamentals while building motor skills and muscle-memory which provides a foundation for basic gun handling.

My little gal's hands aren't so little any more as my little gal is growing up very fast, but she still loves to shoot her Ruger New Bearcat, and I must confess that my wife and I love to shoot it too.  It's just plain fun.  After several years now, our little Bearcat must have had several thousand rounds fired through it.  It shot dead-center with the fixed sights right out of the box with most .22LR ammunition and will also shoot .22 Long and .22 Short rimfire cartridges too.  Off the bench rest, it will hold one-inch to two-inch groups at 25 yards with just about anything you feed it.

My little gal is a country girl so we picked up a Hunter western-style holster and cartridge belt for her one year for Christmas.  She likes to wear it when we go hiking or while we're out back on the range plinking.  The quality leather belt and double-loop holster by Hunter will lighten your wallet by about $120 at Cabela's.

Bottom Line:  Whether you're looking for a handy little gun to take camping or throw in your "kit", or you need a handgun sized for a child who is ready to take the next step in shooting... you can't beat the Ruger New Bearcat in stainless steel.  It's not the cheapest nor the most expensive little pistol out there, but it is a quality firearm that will last forever and be passed down through the generations in any family.

Besides, I dare you to buy one for a son, daughter, or grandchild and try to resist not shooting the daylights out of the little gun yourself... can't be done!