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.

What Makes a 1911 a 1911?

An example of a modern 1911, this Springfield Armory 1911 TRP has a number of tweaks to the original design.

An example of a modern 1911, this Springfield Armory 1911 TRP has a number of tweaks to the original design.

Love it or hate it, the 1911 pistol is kind of a big deal, even if just for its longevity. Just past the turn of the previous century, the Army figured out it wanted an autoloading handgun with similar ballistic capability to the .45 Colt which had served them well. Since our military folks rode around on horseback at that time, features like easy one-handed operation and grip safeties were important. If you drop your handgun mid-gallop, you don’t want it to go off when it hits the ground.

Is this Viet Cong copy of a 1911 really a 1911? Some of the controls are cosmetic only and it's a smooth bore! Image courtesy of the NRA National Firearms Museum.

Is this Viet Cong copy of a 1911 really a 1911? Some of the controls are cosmetic only and it’s a smooth bore! Image courtesy of the NRA National Firearms Museum.

In response, John Moses Browning, may he rest in peace, came up with the 1911. The Army liked its ease of use and hard-hitting power, which, according to 1911 guru Robert Campbell, is like “a velvet covered brick.”

You’ll hear gun folks talk in reverential tones about the pistol named 1911. Yes, it’s a year, but it’s also pistol design. Not a manufacturer or a specific model, but a design – kind of like how a pickup truck is a design. Lot’s of car manufacturers make pickups, and you can get them with different size engines, but they all have some common features, like seats in the front and a cargo bed in the back.

What makes a 1911 a 1911?

Two features of a classic 1911 are a grip and slide lock safety, both shown here.

Two features of a classic 1911 are a grip and slide lock safety, both shown here.

The purist definition of a 1911 might be an a pistol that exactly copies John Moses Browning’s famous design produced in the year, you guessed it, 1911. But even that was tweaked by the military a few years later with the A1 model. Since that time, thousands of gunmakers have produced 1911-style pistols with various tweaks to the original design.

At what point do “design enhancements” cause a gun to be something other than a 1911? Are there design features that, if tampered with, cause a 1911 to morph into something else?

Perhaps the best way to define the 1911 is by the collection of characteristics:

Short recoil operation with tilting barrel and swinging link

You’ll notice that 1911 pistol barrels have a moving link on the bottom under the chamber. As the pistol fires, the barrel and slide move backward together for a short distance. At this point, the link rotates the breech end of the barrel downward, unlocking it from the slide. This allows the slide to travel backward and eject the spent cartridge case. The recoil spring sends the slide forward, picking up a fresh cartridge along the way and recapturing the barrel.

Read the rest at OutdoorHub!

 

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5 Tips for New Concealed Carriers

One of the first steps is to get a proper holster, like this Galco King Tuk.

One of the first steps is to get a proper holster, like this Galco King Tuk.

Maybe you have recently completed the NSSF First Shots program or recently acquired your concealed carry permit. Alternatively, perhaps you are considering getting a carry permit. In any of these cases, there are a few things you need to know in terms of your next steps.

1. Get The Right Holster!

The right concealed carry holster will inspire confidence. You should be able to go about your daily business, whether your style is sedentary or active, without worry that your gun will move or fall out of your possession.

What do you look for in a “good”concealed carry holster? That’s simple. Focus on three things.

First, a good holster will help you access your gun quickly, easily and safely. It will hold your gun in a consistent position, so if you ever have to reach for it under stress, it will be exactly where you expect. A good holster will not move around and won’t require you to “check”the well-being or position of your gun as you move throughout your day.

Second, a good holster protects the trigger. No matter what your method of carry (waistband, ankle, purse, pocket or other), your holster needs to prevent stray objects or fingers from engaging the trigger. It is amazing how keys, change, chairs and other items can interfere with a trigger, potentially causing a negligent discharge.

Third, a good holster will ensure that your gun remains under your control at all times. It will not allow your gun to work its way out. It will not detach itself from your belt or clothing. If you have an active lifestyle, you may even want to consider a retention holster that requires a specific operation to release the gun from the holster.

If you don’t know anything at all about holsters and different ways to carry a gun, you might check out this book.

2. Practice with a purpose!

If you need to use your gun for self-defense, it won’t be much like your outings to the range. Most attacks are sudden and unexpected – initiated and resolved in seconds. Your attacker will be moving. You will (hopefully) be moving. If guns are involved, that means hitting moving targets while moving, and all while under enormous stress.

Standing at the range plinking at cans and paper targets is fun and satisfying. By all means do it! Just don’t think that prepares you for self-defense. If you want to start practicing skills that might help you in a defense situation, be sure to practice drawing from a holster, evaluating targets and what’s behind them, shooting quickly, but accurately and dealing with malfunctions in your gun. Have a friend load your magazines with random numbers of bullets so you might have to unexpectedly change magazines. Get some snap caps and have your friend insert them in your magazines randomly so you can practice what to do if your gun goes click instead of bang.

You also might create scenarios to track your progress. Try using a paper plate for a target and seeing how fast you can hit it from a draw with 5 straight shots at certain distances. Track your progress and set goals for improvement in both time and accuracy.

The very best way to practice is to make sure you complete step 5 in this tip list. Your instructor will give you lots of ideas for effective practice after your class.

Read the rest at NSSF First Shots!

 

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How To Clean A Beretta Px4 Handgun

Px4-Cleaning-Instructions

These detailed instructions are for a Beretta Px4, but if you have a 92/96 series, you can take advantage of this article too. There are a couple of different details, like how the takedown lever works, but everything else is pretty much the same.

The gun I’m using for this demonstration is a .40 S&W Beretta Px4 with a Crimson Trace Rail Master Pro. That’s a combination light and laser unit that works with virtually any gun with a rail – like this Px4. The good thing is that it’s completely out of the way for cleaning and maintenance, as you see here.

First you have to take it apart, or field strip your PX4. There is no need to completely disassemble your pistol unless something is obviously wrong with its function. And even then, full disassembly and inspection is best left to a qualified gunsmith.

When you’ve field stripped your Px4, you will be left with six major assemblies:

  1. Magazine
  2. Frame
  3. Slide
  4. Barrel
  5. Recoil spring
  6. Central block

Beretta_Px4_Cleaning-6

All necessary cleaning and lubrication can be done with this level of takedown.

BEFORE YOU BEGIN

Even before step 1 of the field stripping process, you need to make sure that your pistol is empty. Remove the magazine. Most importantly, rack the slide multiple times to remove the cartridge in the chamber. Now visually check the chamber. Now do it again. Lock the slide open by pressing upward on the slide lock lever while retracting the slide. When you look through the top, can you see daylight through the magazine well? Can you see that there is no cartridge in the chamber? Good. Now you’re ready to proceed.

How to field strip your Px4

Step 1: Remove the slide.

Your Px4 should be decocked with the hammer in the “down” position. Using one hand, pull down the disassembly latch on both sides of the frame. Now move the entire slide assembly forward and it will come completely off the gun frame. Yes, it’s that easy.

Beretta_Px4_Cleaning-2

Step 2: Remove the central block and recoil spring.

The nice thing about a Px4 is that the recoil spring is captive, meaning it won’t go flying off across the room when you remove it. Turn the slide upside down and pull the central block and spring out. These two parts will separate easily as the spring is inserted into a hole in the block.

Beretta_Px4_Cleaning-4

Step 3: Remove the barrel from the slide.

Another easy step. With the central block and spring removed, the barrel will lift out of the slide.

All done! With the Px4, you want to be careful with the slide lock / slide release lever. With the slide removed, it’s fairly easy to knock off the frame, and the spring that holds it is a little bit tricky to reinstall. Just be careful and you’ll be fine.

How to clean your Beretta Px4

First you’re going to need some basic supplies. The Px4 includes a cleaning rod with a slotted end for patches and a brush, so technically all you need is cleaning solvent and lubricant.

otis-kit-only

My favorite cleaning rig: OTIS Technology

There are dozens of gun oils and cleaning solvents on the market. Fortunately, it’s pretty hard to go too wrong with any gun-specific cleaners and oils. Notice we say gun-specific. What you don’t want to do is use a general purpose penetrating oil like WD-40. We love WD-40 and it’s wonderful for many things, like getting bubble gum out of your hair. You may even use it to clean gun parts. Just don’t rely on it as a preservative and protectant for post-cleaning use. Guns tend to get really hot, hence the need for special oil and lubricant formulations that are designed to stand up to intense heat. Since the Px4 has a polymer frame, be sure not to use solvents than can damage plastic. Generally, only degreasing products will have this issue.

We’re going to pause and put in a plug for what I believe to be the best cleaning system on the market. It’s called the OTIS Technology System.

It’s well worth the money and the kits are designed to accommodate rifles, shotguns and pistols of various calibers. Their most basic kits will handle 9mm, 40 S&W and .45 ACP – all you need to clean the Beretta Px4.

Read the rest at Beretta USA!

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Transforming A Basic AR-15 To A Home Defense Rifle

The "after" version of the Smith & Wesson M&P 15 OR. It's all geared up for the Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational and home defense use.

The “after” version of the Smith & Wesson M&P 15 OR. It’s all geared up for the Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational and home defense use.

A few weeks ago, I discussed my plan of using the upcoming Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational to choose, equip and practice with guns I’ll use for home defense. Since then. I’ve decided to use a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 OR for the rifle. It’s a standard AR-15 design with a notable exception. Instead of the classic A2 fixed front sight and gas block, it comes equipped with a rail gas block. And as a home defense choice? Absolutely. M&P 15’s run – reliably – and are cost effective to boot.

The before photo.

The before photo. When doing gun work, you’ll want a proper set of gunsmithing screwdrivers like this

Gearing it up for both the night 3-gun competition and home defense use requires some tweaks. Here’s what I decided to do.

Rail for lights and lasers

Installation of the quad rail was easy - I didn't need any tools.

Installation of the quad rail was easy – I didn’t need any tools.

The Smith & Wesson M&P 15 OR comes with the standard round plastic handguard. It’s comfortable and does a good job keeping your support hand cool when the barrel gets hot, but doesn’t have attachment points for rail accessories. I chose to replace it with a Blackhawk! AR-15 Carbine Length 2 Piece Quad Rail Forend. It offers rails on top, bottom, left and right and has great ventilation in between to let the barrel cool. You can also get it in rifle length if your gun is longer than mine but enough about that.

Installation is a snap. You don’t need tools, not even a hammer. Just remove the existing handguard by pulling down the delta ring in front of the receiver until you can pry the existing handguard halves out. The new Blackhawk! handguard also comes in two pieces, so put them in the same way. After they are pressed in place, you bolt the two halves together. It’s not a free-floated solution, but it’s rock solid and you don’t have to do any serious construction work to install it on your rifle.

A little detail that makes a big difference

I also chose to install a Blackhawk! Offset Safety Selector. This is one of those “oh duh why didn’t I think of that” inventions. It relocates the safety lever itself 45 degrees so you can easily reach it with your thumb without shifting your grip. A great aid for safety and usability, and for competition, it might just help you avoid a procedural penalty for not engaging the safety on your rifle.

Read the rest at OutdoorHub!

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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!

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