About Tom McHale

Tom is the primary author of the Insanely Practical Guides series of how-to books. He believes that shooting can be safe and fun, and works hard to make the shooting world easy to understand. If you want to learn about the world of guns, shooting and the American way, check out some of his books. Have a laugh or two. Life is too short for boring "how to" books.

You can find print and ebook versions at Amazon. For more information, check out InsanelyPracticalGuides.com

Feel free to visit Tom at his website, MyGunCulture.com. It's a half-cocked but right on target look at the world of shooting and all things related. If you want to learn with a laugh about guns, shooting products, personal defense, competition, industry news and the occasional Second Amendment issue, visit him there.

Dogs Gone By: On the Front Line in the War Against Prairie Dogs

The Battlefield: The Silver Spur Ranch in Encampment, Wyoming.

The Battlefield: The Silver Spur Ranch in Encampment, Wyoming.

We awoke at dawn.

Most of us were slightly nervous, but energized by the certainty of impending combat. I doubt the enemy ever sleeps. They’re too busy digging a tunnel network to support their underground trafficking enterprise.

We’d been the ones to choose the field of battle – the Silver Spur Ranch in Encampment, Wyoming. Encampment is an eerily appropriate name given the enemy’s permanent dug in positions.

Our foe has a great propaganda machine, although I have absolutely no idea how they can afford such a thing. As a result, most people know them as those cute, adorable and cuddly Facebook poster critters. Awwww.

The modern day tank that carried the day during the trench warfare stage - the Yamaha

The modern day tank that carried the day during the trench warfare stage – the Yamaha Viking UTV.

Like Hollywood celebrities, our enemy’s day to day behavior is somewhat different from their public image. They cause massive, and I do use that word deliberately, damage to agricultural and grazing land. They eat each other like real world zombies. They reproduce faster than Anthony Wiener texts his, well, you know. They carry the plague. They’re downright evil.

Yes, I’m talking about prairie dogs.

When it comes to setting a battle strategy, you need to use every possible advantage. If you’re fighting fair, your tactics suck, or so they say. And we had no room to give up the slightest advantage. The Silver Spur Ranch has been occupied with just over 15.371 billion prairie dogs – I counted. We numbered six, plus our guide Roger, and our hosts Jeff, Matt and Neal. By my calculation, that was just 10 of us, except when I used Common Core math. Then I got an answer of negative 19.7 apples.

Even though the numerical odds weren’t exactly in our favor, I was confident in our chances. I took stock of our advantages:

  • We have opposable thumbs and can do neat things with them like play Angry Birds.
  • We live in above ground structures and eat bacon pretty much whenever we want.
  • My brain is larger than theirs, so I figured my enemy had only 85% or so of my IQ.

Our enemy?

  • They have the intelligence of spackle.
  • They live in holes.

When you’re facing an enemy of near unlimited strength that’s dug in, you have to figure out how to break the trench warfare stalemate using technology. Back in World War I, they invented tanks to overrun the enemy. So did we, although ours were slightly more nimble than the Little Willy Tank of 1915. We used Yamaha Viking side by side UTVs – a two-seater and a six-seater. These off road wonders had plenty of capacity to haul a dozen guns, cases of Hornady ammo and us. And they navigated gulleys, sagebrush and prairie dog and badger holes with ease.

We also had the advantage of outspending our opponent in the arms race. The Blue Heron Communications team, representing Smith & Wesson, only brought 38 guns, so I was a little worried, but it worked out OK in the end. Hornady supplied somewhere north of 10 billion rounds of varmint ammunition by my best estimate.

On the first day of battle, I rode with Neal, the marketing head at Hornady ammunition. Smart move on my part to ride with the ammo guy, right? With 15 billion enemy, I was NOT going to run out of cartridges at a critical moment. Neal chose a Thompson Center Venture in 22-250 caliber and stoked it with Hornady’s .22-250 V-MAX loads. With that setup, he was the big gun on our team. One shot, one kill, if you get a hit pretty much anywhere. He backed that up with a Smith & Wesson 617 revolver offering 10 shots of .22 long rifle – just in case our perimeter was overrun.

Read the rest at OutdoorHub!

 

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The Rookie's Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

Beretta 1301 Tactical Shotgun Review: A “Carbine” Shotgun

The Beretta 1301 Tactical is all business with ghost ring sights and a rail for optics.

The Beretta 1301 Tactical is all business with ghost ring sights and a rail for optics.

Have you ever shot an M1 Garand, followed by an M1 Carbine? Or perhaps a FAL, followed by a Ruger 10/22? Or maybe a full size over and under 12 gauge, followed by a compact coach gun?

If so, then you already have an idea of the relative feel of the Beretta 1301 Tactical shotgun.

What attracted me to this gun for testing and evaluation is its compact size, light weight and super quick handling. You can think of it as a shotgun carbine. With an 18.5 inch barrel and short stock, the entire length is just under 38 inches long. As a comparison, the M1 Carbine of WWII fame is 35.6 inches end to end, while a Ruger Carbine measures 37 inches.

Just the specs…

In standard configuration, you'll be able to fit four 2 ¾ inch shells in the tube, but you'll have to remove the plug first.

In standard configuration, you’ll be able to fit four 2 ¾ inch shells in the tube, but you’ll have to remove the plug first.

The factory configured stock is really, really compact, offering a length of pull of just about 13 inches. As I wanted a compact shotgun, I left it just as is – almost. More on that a bit later. If you prefer a longer stock and length of pull, Beretta includes two spacers that work together or separately. One is ½ inch while the other is 1 inch, so choose the length you want and mix and match accordingly. As with most other Beretta guns, you can also tweak drop and cast, although I had no need – this one fit me out of the box and offered a natural sight line right down the sights.

Offered in 12 gauge only, the 1301 Tactical features a 3-inch chamber, not that you need it. If you want to get thumped, feel free, you can load the big boy shells.

Magazine capacity is a bit of a mystery. Some retailers quote the 1301 Tactical as 4+1 while other say 5+1. Beretta doesn’t exactly say in their website specs, but the owners manual indicates 4+1, so I just tried it. Mine fit four 2 ¾ inch shells plus one in the chamber. Just a heads up, Beretta ships the gun with the magazine plug installed, which limits you to two shells in the tube. Just remove the end cap and pop that out to take advantage of full magazine capacity.

The controls

The controls, bolt handle, bolt release and safety are all oversized and easy to manipulate with or without gloves.

The controls, bolt handle, bolt release and safety are all oversized and easy to manipulate with or without gloves.

The primary controls are all oversized and easy to operate, presumably to enable operation with gloved hands. This also makes it a solid combination home defense and competition shotgun.

The bolt release button is oblong with textured ridges, so operation is easy and positive. The bolt handle is also oversized, and shaped somewhat like a snow cone cup, with the pointy end in the receiver. The shape encourages your fingers to stay on the handle when operating it quickly. The push through safety bar is also oversized and reversible.

Read the rest at GunsAmerica!

Be sure to check out our latest book, The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition 2nd Edition 2014. It’s ON SALE now for a limited time!

The Rookie's Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

Silencing the 300 AAC Blackout

You have to admit, a silencer makes any rifle cooler - like this SilencerCo Specwar 762 on a Daniel Defense DDM4v5 300 Blackout.

You have to admit, a silencer makes any rifle cooler – like this SilencerCo Specwar 762 on a Daniel Defense DDM4v5 300 Blackout.

Last time we got into an ammunition geek-fest and talked about the variety of commercial ammo available for the 300 AAC Blackout and the endless tinkering you can do as a reloader for that caliber.

Perhaps even more fun than creating endless varieties of ammunition for the 300 AAC Blackout is shooting it with silencers. With subsonic cartridges, usually those firing 208 grain or heavier projectiles at velocities of 1,000 fps or so, you’ll have some serious quiet. Even when using supersonic 300 AAC Blackout ammunition, you’ll notice a dramatically improved shooting experience. Supersonic rounds will still make that little sonic boom, or crack from the bullet traveling through the air, but the gun shot will sound more like a “whoosh” than a “bang.” Hard to describe in words, it’s a little bit like air brakes on a truck. Know what I mean? Trust me, it’s cool.

Before we get started, let me clear up some terminology. Silencer is the correct legal term, and the one coined by Hiram Percy Maxim back in 1902 when he invented the Maxim Silencer. For a long time, the industry used the term “suppressor,” as it was more descriptive. A silencer doesn’t completely silence after all. Recently, industry folks are moving back to the term “silencer” but you’ll see both terms used interchangeably, and both are technically correct – just in different ways.

Let’s talk about some things to consider when silencing the 300 AAC Blackout and close with a look at a few good silencer options currently on the market.

Your gun will experience “the change.”

Even 300 Blackout ammo is cool like these Gemtech 187 grain subsonic rounds.

Even 300 Blackout ammo is cool like these Gemtech 187 grain subsonic rounds.

More likely than not, your rifle will have a point of impact shift when you add a silencer. In plain english, this simply means that the bullet will hit in a different spot when the silencer is on as compared to when it’s off. Just to be clear, assuming you have a half decent gun, your groups will be consistent with and without a silencer, they’ll just be in different places on the paper. Usually, this is not a huge deal – an inch or two difference.

For example, after shooting a bunch of groups with my Daniel Defense DDM4v5 300 AAC Blackout rifle, I added a SilencerCo / SWR Specwar 762. Measuring the distance between before and after groups, I noticed that my rifle impacted about 1 inch lower and ¾ inches to the right at 50 yards when using the silencer. Your results will almost certainly vary as the “change” results from different barrel harmonics. Every silencer is different and every rifle and barrel combination is different. In any case, this is nothing to get concerned about. You’re not likely to see any dramatic shifts, just be aware that you’ll need to re-zero your optic.

I actually noticed a slight improvement in accuracy when I added the suppressor. While not dramatic, groups using identical ammo in identical conditions shrunk just a bit. Again, your results may vary. Have a little fun testing before and after point of impact and accuracy effects to see how your rifle responds.

Read the rest at GunsAmerica!

 

Be sure to check out our latest book, The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition 2nd Edition 2014. It’s ON SALE now for a limited time!

The Rookie's Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

The 6.8 Remington SPC: An Up Close and Personal Look

 

It looks like a standard AR rifle, but with bigger bullets.

It looks like a standard AR rifle, but with bigger bullets.

I love the AR platform. And yes, it is a platform as it’s a design model that allows of near infinite customization. You can add accessories until your rifle looks like a Pakistani Jingle Truck. More importantly, since the rifle is a platform, you can obtain or build one in a dozen or more different calibers.

One of my favorites is 6.8 Remington SPC. Originally developed as a possible replacement for the 5.56mm by some folks from the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, United States Special Operations Command and Remington, the 6.8 cartridge is partially compatible with the standard AR platform.

Like 300 AAC Blackout, the 6.8 Remington SPC was developed in response to complaints about stopping power of the 5.56 mm cartridge, especially when used with shorter barrel rifles. It splits the difference (more or less) between 5.56 mm and .308 while still allowing larger capacity due to case size and lighter weight. As a rough example, think of a standard size AR magazine holding 25 rounds of 6.8 SPC instead of 30 rounds of 5.56 mm. Not a bad tradeoff for the extra oomph you get from each cartridge.

The energy of the “standard” 115 grain projectile traveling at 2,640 feet per second is 1,785 foot-pounds – significantly more than the 1,281 foot-pounds of a 55 grain .223 Remington bullet moving at 3,240 feet per second. While we’re comparing energy levels, let’s look at some other “similar use” cartridges.

5.56x45mm SS109 62-grain: 3,100 fps, 1,303 foot-pounds
.300 AAC Blackout 125-grain: 2,215 fps, 1,361 foot-pounds
.308 Winchester, 150-grain: 2,850 fps, 2,704 foot-pounds
.30-30 Winchester, 150 grain: 2,300 fps, 1,761 foot-pounds
7.62x39mm (Soviet), 123 grain: 2,435 fps, 1,619 foot-pounds
.270 Winchester, 130 grain: 3,160 fps, 2,881 foot-pounds

Cartridge length was limited to be compatible with existing magazines, but specific 6.8 mags have been developed for better reliability and allowance for slightly longer cartridges if desired. According to The folks at Sierra Bullets, “With the magazine length of the AR at 2.260″, cartridge length was critical. There are now magazines on the market designed specifically for the 6.8 mm SPC to allow them to be loaded out to 2.315.”

The 6.8 Remington SPC is based on a .30 Remington cartridge case, but fires, you guessed it, a 7.035 mm projectile. If you don’t recognize 7.035 caliber, that’s just the metric measurement of the popular .270 which is actually .277 inches diameter. See, there’s that goofy tendency to name cartridges something different from their actual diameter again. Just like a .38 Special being .357 caliber. In simple terms, think of it as a .270 Winchester with a smaller cartridge case and less powder capacity that can be fired in an AR type rifle with correct barrel and bolt.

The interesting thing about 6.8 Remington SPC is the terminal performance down range. With about 200 feet per second more velocity than that famous AK-47 round, it has reach out and touch someone performance out to about 500 yards.

The cartridge case is based on the .30 Remington, which explains the need for a bolt swap when converting a standard AR rifle. Similar to development of 300 Blackout from .223 Remington cases, the 6.8 takes a shortened .30 Remington case and necks it down for the .277 inch bullet.

The beauty of this caliber is increased diameter and bullet weight over .223 Remington, while maintaining big time velocity from an AR platform with its overall cartridge length limitations.

Read the rest at AmmoLand!

 

Be sure to check out our latest book, The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition 2nd Edition 2014. It’s ON SALE now for a limited time!

The Rookie's Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

Surplus Ammunition: Shooting a Little Bit of History, Literally

Surplus ammo is not just inexpensive, but interesting and fun - if you give it the proper respect.

Surplus ammo is not just inexpensive, but interesting and fun – if you give it the proper respect.

Remember when surplus 8mm Mauser ammo was more abundant than White House press conference fibs? I do. Not so very long ago, you could buy as much as you could store for less than 5 cents a round. Now that same round is about 60 cents – if you can find it. Similar scenarios apply for other common military rounds like .308, .30-06, 7.62×39 and 7.62x54R. While harder to find, and a lot more expensive than it used to be, it can still be cheaper than newly manufactured ammo.

While the glory days of surplus ammo have gone the way of real investigative journalism, there are still some deals to be had. For example, one of the current “bargains” (and I use that word begrudgingly) is 5.45×39 for AK74s. That can still be found in quantity for about $.22 per round. Considering new 5.56mm ammo runs into the $.40 to $.50 range, that’s not too bad, assuming you have one of those micro-bullet AKs or a different 5.45mm bullet eater.

But as they say, there is no such thing as a free lunch. The “cost” of that dirt cheap ammo is that some of it has corrosive primers or other issues that require extra care when feeding.

There are benefits and drawbacks to using surplus ammunition. Rather than address pros and cons, let’s just make some observations.

Corrosive ammo

The real issue here is corrosive primers that use material which leaves a potassium chloride residue in the barrel and gas system – if you use a semi-automatic. You might recognize this dangerous (to guns anyway) chemical as… salt.

The problem with salt is that it likes water and attracts it from humid air. It likes water so much that even if you slather your bore with gun oil after shooting corrosive ammo, the salt will pull moisture through the oil to the bore and rust it underneath the oil layer. Did I mention that it really likes water?

The other problem with salt is that it does not really break down into anything less damaging to guns. It dilutes in water, but it’s still salt. So you can’t just “neutralize” salt residue left by corrosive ammo primers. Oil won’t neutralize it. Gun cleaner won’t neutralize it. Justin Bieber’s Greatest Hits won’t even neutralize it. You have to remove it. On the plus side, the fact that salt dilutes in water makes it easier to remove.

Read the rest at AmmoLand!

Be sure to check out our latest book, The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition 2nd Edition 2014. It’s ON SALE now for a limited time!

The Rookie's Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

300 AAC Blackout Fundamentals – Ammunition and Reloading

Celebrate diversity! 125, 245 and 220 grain projectiles, left to right. A 55 grain .223 Remington load is shown on the far left for scale.

Celebrate diversity! 300 AAC Blackout 125, 245 and 220 grain projectiles, left to right. A 55 grain .223 Remington load is shown on the far left for scale.

Recently when I wrote a review of the Daniel Defense DDM4v5 300 Blackout rifle, I mentioned that I’d be doing a drill down series on different aspects of the 300 AAC Blackout. Well, it starts here. Including this article, we’ll be looking at the following topics over the next few weeks:

  • 300 AAC Blackout Ammunition and Reloading (this one below!)
  • 300 AAC Blackout Optics Options
  • 300 AAC Blackouts Suppressed
  • 300 AAC Blackout Gotchas

Love it or hate it, the 300 AAC Blackout is an interesting and incredibly diverse cartridge. For example, imagine trying to design a ballistic compensation scope for a cartridge that can use 110 grain projectiles traveling at 2,400 feet per second AND 245 grain projectiles traveling at 950 feet per second. That last one is somewhat like throwing a brick with much vigor.

This is going to be fun. Let’s dig in with some talk about the cartridge, basic ballistics and reloading for the 300 AAC Blackout.

The physics ’n math stuff

I’m a professional goofball, so I never really got physics. I made it through, but I never really understood concepts like acceleration, momentum and why mass is different than weight. So when it comes to looking at cartridge energy and recoil figures, I always rely on my friend Andrew Chamberlain. He apparently did get physics and he really likes guns. He likes both topics so much that he wrote the Cartridge Comparison Guide. In that book, you can compare pretty much anything about any cartridge to anything else about any other cartridge. If you’re a gun geek, get a copy!

If you do a rough comparison of muzzle energy of the 300 AAC Blackout to the 7.62×39 (AK-47) round, you’ll see a slight edge to the AK with a 100 grain bullet. The 110 grain Blackout at 2,375 feet per second yields 1,377.4 foot-pounds of muzzle energy to the AK’s 1,650.8 at 2,600 feet per second. When it comes to recoil energy, assuming you’re using an 8 pound rifle, the Blackout hits you less with 4.3 foot-pounds compared to the AK’s 6.34 foot-pounds.

But the 300 AAC Blackout isn’t supposed to compete directly with the AK. It’s supposed to offer a .30 caliber alternative with more short barrel terminal performance than the .223 Remington round. If you look at the “standard”55 grain .223 Remington at 3,240 feet per second, that yields 1,281.8 foot-pounds of muzzle energy and 3.16 foot-pounds of recoil energy. And the Blackout makes a bigger hole.

Shoots flat enough OR like a brick!

We’ve already hinted at the incredibly broad range of bullet weight and velocity that can be successfully fired from the same gun. Want supersonic? No problem. Buy some 100 or 125 grain ammo that will move along at up to 2,400 feet per second. Feel like something more moderate? No problem. .30 caliber bullets are available in all weights. You can get something in the 150 to 168 grain range that will move in the 1,700 to 2,000 feet per second range. Or you can get crazy and go full subsonic from the same AR platform rifle. How about a 208, 220 or even 245 grain projectile moving at 1,000 feet per second or less?

Of course, all of these options will have incredibly diverse trajectories, and that’s what gives scope makers fits over the 300 AAC Blackout. We’ll talk about that in detail next week. For now, let’s just look bullet drop. We’ll consider scope adjustment for a 50 yard zero range using an optic that is 2.5 inches above the bore.

On the supersonic side, let’s compare bullet drop of a “300 Blackout specific”projectile like the Barnes TAC-TX 110 grain bullet to a 55 grain .223 Remington projectile traveling at 3,240 feet per second.

Read the rest at Guns America!

Top 10 Self Defense Ammo Picks

Top 10 Self Defense Ammo Picks

With a controversial and opinionated topic like this, I have to include a couple of explanations and disclaimers.

Mike McNett, Founder of DoubleTap Ammunition and Godfather of Boom! prepares even more ballistic gelatin for testing.

Mike McNett, Founder of DoubleTap Ammunition and Godfather of Boom! prepares even more ballistic gelatin for testing.

You do have to be careful about blanket statements when it comes to ammo performance. There are just too many variables. For example, you can’t necessarily say things like “Mega Blaster Yellow Tips” are the best. You might be able to say “Mega Blaster Yellow Tips 9mm 124 grain +P loads are the best!” It may very well be the case that the .40 Smith & Wesson loading of Mega Blaster is not so hot, but maybe the .45 ACP, 9mm and .380 ACP are. You always have to look at the specifics like caliber, bullet weight and gun type. In other words, you need to make sure the specific brand of self defense ammo you choose works in your caliber and in your gun. Some offerings, like a few mentioned here, recognize caliber variables and design accordingly. For example, DoubleTap Ammunition varies projectile types to account for such factors.

Velocity is a really big deal and performance statements always have to be qualified with variables that impact velocity. While a specific .45 ACP self-defense cartridge may work as expected every time from a gun with a 4 or 5 inch barrel, it may not work at all with that micro-compact 1911 with a 1 inch barrel. OK, I’m exaggerating, but in my testing, I’ve found that even a 50 to 100 feet per second velocity reduction can make a great bullet stinky and inconsistent.

With that said, expansion (or perhaps fragmentation) performance weighed heavily in the development of this list. After all self and home defense ammo is intended to stop things quickly.

I’m blending self-defense (concealed carry) and home defense on this list. Just because I feel like it. With that said, let’s get busy.

DoubleTap Defense

I’ve spent a lot of time with founder Mike McNett, the Godfather of Boom!, and know what he puts into ammo development and testing. In fact, I’m pretty sure that Mike buys up 84% of the annual worldwide production of gelatin blocks.

DoubleTap makes a variety of ammo types for various purposes, but for this list, stick to the DoubleTap Defense and DoubleTap Tactical lines. These loads, available in nearly any caliber you want, use either the excellent Barnes TAC all copper bullets or bonded projectiles, depending on the specific load requirements. Like 1911’s? Check out the Mann Load. It uses a 160 grain Barnes TAC bullet moving at over 1,000 feet per second, has great expansion and penetration, but low blast and recoil. If you carry a .380 ACP, consider the 90 grain Bonded Defense offering.

They’re not cheap, but they work. And it is a life and death decision after all.

Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel

Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel is optimized to expand at lower velocities from compact guns.

Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel is optimized to expand at lower velocities from compact guns.

The plethora of compact revolvers and semi-automatics sent the Speer engineers back to the drawing board. Speer Gold Dot ammunition has always been one of my favorite performers in almost any caliber. But, like any ammo, it’s designed with a careful balance of expansion and penetration assuming a specific velocity range. When you fire ammo from a gun with a short barrel, say 3 inches or less, you’re likely to lose as much as 100 feet per second (or more) in velocity. Then that carefully planned balance goes out the window. If you suffer from a short barrel, make sure you use ammo designed for lower velocity.

.223 / 5.56mm Practice Ammo

Well, sort of. For a home defense scenario, standard, full metal jacket 5.56mm ammo is a pretty darn good option. Here’s why. For inside use, over penetration is a potentially serious issue. Pistol rounds, shotgun slugs and buckshot go through walls like tax evaders through Congress. So do many hunting and tactical .223 / 5.56mm projectiles – they’re designed to do that.

On the other hand, small, lightweight, standard full metal jacket 55 grain projectiles tend to fragment and start upsetting when they hit things like drywall. Counter to assumption and common sense, AR-15 type rifles may present less of an over penetration risk than a .38 Special. It’s something to consider for home defense, especially since most guns that use this ammo have 30 round magazines.
Read the rest at OutdoorHub!

Be sure to check out our latest book, The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition 2nd Edition 2014. It’s ON SALE now for a limited time!

The Rookie's Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

10 Things You Need To Know About Flying With Guns

How to fly with guns

Here’s a bold statement.

When you fly the friendly skies, you’ll experience more invasion of privacy, groping and unwanted scrutiny when you walk through the TSA checkpoint than when you try to check guns in your baggage.

I fly enough that the majority of currently employed TSA agents are intimately familiar with every square inch of my body. But groping aside, I’ve found checking guns by following the rules to be a simple and straightforward process – as long as you carefully follow the rules.

Be aware that there are always two sets of rules: those set by the TSA and those set by your airline. In a perfect world, they will be consistent with each other, but be aware, that doesn’t always happen.

Let’s review a checklist for hassle-free flying with guns.

1. Buy or borrow a lockable hard case.

Per the regulations, it can be a case with integrated combinations locks, but I prefer a case with multiple holes for heavy duty padlocks of my choosing. Do NOT use TSA locks on your gun case. This is a misunderstood area of the law and, technically speaking, it’s illegal for you to do so. Per the letter of the law, as discussed in the footnotes of this article, you alone must maintain possession of the keys or combination to open your gun case. You cannot lock it in such a way that others have access. By using TSA locks on your gun case, lots of people, just about anyone in fact, technically has access to your guns. TSA locks are NOT secure and not even TSA agents are supposed to have access to your case, once cleared, without you being present to unlock the case.

One more thing about cases. If you travel with a pistol, you might want to get a larger than necessary case, like this one. You can legally place other items besides your gun in the case, like cameras or computer equipment.

2. Check your airline’s website to review their policies.

While most are essentially the same, they don’t have to be. Print out the policy page to bring with you. With all that ticketing agents need to know, not every agent will have a complete understanding of their airline’s gun policy.

3. Review the TSA policy website for the latest information.

It can, and does, change. That’s your tax dollars at work folks. Print this out also, as different TSA agents have different understandings of their own policy. Really.

4. Unload your gun and magazine.

Complete this step while still at home! Check the chamber to make sure that’s empty. I like to pack my guns in the case with cylinder or action locked open so it’s very apparent the gun is in a safe condition. That’s not required, just good manners.

5. Weigh your gun case and ammunition.

Most airlines will allow up to 11 pounds of ammunition. And, like any luggage, you will be charged more for any baggage weighing more than 50 pounds. This sounds like a lot, but when traveling to the Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun competition last year, my case with shotgun, rifle, pistol and ammunition tipped the scale past the 50 pound mark.

Read the rest at Beretta USA!

Three Gunning for Home Defense?

Two of the pistol choice contenders: Springfield Armory TRP 1911 (left) and Beretta PX4 Storm (right)

Two of the pistol choice contenders: Springfield Armory TRP 1911 with Crimson Trace Master Series Laser Grips and Lightguard (left) and Beretta PX4 Storm with Crimson Trace Rail Master Pro (right)

In a rare fit of advance planning and organization, I’m starting to think about what gear to use at this year’s Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational match. The event takes place August 12th through 17th in the high desert outside of Bend, Oregon, so I’ve got a little time.

As the event title implies, I need to pick, you guessed it, three guns to use – one handgun, shotgun and rifle. Stages are designed in such a way that you must always use at least two, and usually all three guns. Some targets require use of a specific gun type. For example, you might have to obliterate targets 1 through 9 with your pistol and targets 10 through 17 with your rifle. Other targets are optional, meaning that it’s the shooters choice whether to use a shotgun, rifle or pistol.

The event is more fun than should be legal, especially as it takes place in the absolute dark of night. Last year, shooting started sometime after 9pm and finished up some mornings near 5:30am. Who needs sleep?

This year, I’ve already decided to use the Midnight 3 Gun event as a home defense equipment trial of sorts. Rather than picking guns that are perfectly optimized to three gun competition rules, I’m going to pick guns that are reasonable to use in my home for protection of self, family and my ABBA vinyl record collection.

What does that really mean? If I was choosing to optimize for the competition and game the rules, I might select the following:

Tweaked out “competition optimized” guns like the shotgun mentioned above are obviously are not necessarily well suited for home defense. You wouldn’t want to be navigating your home in the middle of the night with a six foot long shotgun complete with magazine tube extending into the next room. A short and compact model would almost certainly be more appropriate – even if it had lower capacity.

With all that said, here’s what I am considering for each gun category:

Pistol

Last year I used a Glock 17 with rear activated laser and front activated light.

Last year I used a Glock 17 with rear activated laser and front activated light.

I’ve got a number of contenders going for the perfect home defense / M3GI pistol. Last year I shot a Glock 17 equipped with Crimson Trace Lasergrips and Crimson Trace Lightguard. It’s certainly no slouch for a home defense gun. 9mm is acceptable as a defensive round, capacity of 17+1 is solid and you can find a holster to fit a geared up Glock. But it’s a new year and a new match. I’ve been there and done that with the Glock, so I’ll be trying something different. Perhaps one of the following:

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Gun Review: Daniel Defense DDM4v5 300 AAC Blackout AR Rifle

Here's a slightly "geared up" Daniel Defense DDM4v5 300 Blackout.

Here’s a slightly “geared up” Daniel Defense DDM4v5 300 Blackout.

Some phrases are just fightin’ words.

“That’s MY horse!”

“That’s MY daughter!”

“I love the 300 Blackout!”

For some reason, virtually any gunny discussion about the 300 AAC Blackout cartridge quickly devolves into a typing wind sprint where the winner itemizes more reasons why the 300 Blackout is not as good as (fill in your favorite cartridge here.)

Due to the unique performance characteristics and its wide range of velocity an projectile weight combinations, it gets poked in the eye from both ends of the ballistic spectrum.

The high speed supersonic crowd gets bent out of shape because, in their words, the 300 Blackout

“Doesn’t have the same energy or reliability as the 7.62×39 AK-47 round.”

“Doesn’t have the ‘reach out and touch someone’ range of the 6.8 SPC.”

“Ammo is way more expensive than the .223 Remington / 5.56mm!

The rumble and bumble subsonic cartridge fans fans claim…

“Why not use a pistol or MP-5?”

“Subsonic rounds are unreliable unless you use a silencer.”

“Ammo is way more expensive than .223 Remington / 5.56mm!”

This reaction is understandable. We all know that if you encounter someone who’s wrong on the internet, you have to rectify the situation immediately, right?

Subsonic ammo, like these 220 grain Sierra MatchKings, shot surprisingly well.

Subsonic ammo, like these 220 grain Sierra MatchKings, shot surprisingly well.

As with most debates, there are a lot of elements of truth in all of these statements. But I don’t really care. That’s because, for me, whether the 300 Blackout is interesting or not isn’t a binary question. It doesn’t have to be better than (fill in the blank.) I like the fact that it’s a different option with unique capabilities. In fairness, I might be more biased in favor because I’m a reloading enthusiast, and the 300 Blackout is a reloaders dream.

What’s 300 AAC Blackout?

The simple explanation is that the cartridge offers 30 caliber performance and viable subsonic options from a standard 5.56mm AR platform. A 30 caliber barrel swap is required, but other than that, the bolt, carrier, receivers and magazines are compatible. Without delving into the debate here, the idea is to provide improved terminal performance, especially from short barreled rifle platforms. The subsonic option is interesting as a 300 Blackout can launch a 208 to 245 grain projectile in the 1,000 feet per second velocity range. When used with a suppressor, the sound level is very, very quiet. Switching a 300 Blackout rifle from supersonic to subsonic performance involves no more than a magazine change. We’ll get into more detail on the wide variety of cartridge options later in this article series.

One big drawback to shooting 300 Blackout is ammo cost and availability. That pesky supply / demand thing means there is much less manufactured, so it’s expensive and harder to find. If you shoot 300 Blackout it’s in your best interest to reload your own ammunition.

The Daniel Defense DDM4v5 300 AC Blackout

You might say Daniel Defense rifles are built from the parts up. The company started by making a simple part – a receiver mounted sling loop. You know, it’s that typical American success story. Some person out there has a better idea, they figure out how to make it, then sell it to the masses. In an oversimplified sense, that’s sort of how Daniel Defense rifles came to be. After the sling loop had started to sell, Marty Daniel figured he could also invent a better rail system for AR type rifles. Ultimately, he figured, why not build a whole rifle from the ground up using parts designed and manufactured mostly in house?

When it comes to rifles, ground up really refers to barrel out. One of the first big equipment investments at Daniel Defense was a cold hammer forging machine for making barrels in house. Cold hammer forging is kind of a cool process. You take a steel tube with a hole in it, insert a perfect 3D mirror image of the barrel interior and chamber (a mandrel), then pound the living crap out of the outside of the tube until the interior takes the form of the mandrel inside. The reason for all this pounding and noise is that the end result is a smoother and stronger finished product, and that leads to better accuracy and longer barrel life. No pain, no gain, right?

Let’s get back to the rifle at hand. The DDM4 series is infinitely configurable, so I’ll talk about the options I chose for this rifle here. Just be aware that you can build your own at the Daniel Defense website if you want to tweak options like trigger, chrome, iron sights, rail type, flash suppressor and more.

Let’s touch on some of the high points of this rifle, then we’ll talk about significant details. It’s well built for military-level reliability. Gas keys are staked, parts are mil-spec compatible and Daniel Defense pays attention to the little things that add up to long term performance under rough conditions.

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Be sure to check out our latest book, The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition 2nd Edition 2014. It’s ON SALE now for a limited time!

The Rookie's Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

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