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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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!


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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!


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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!

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:


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:

Read the rest at OutdoorHub!

Try Competitions To Become A More Effective Shooter

Competition shootingThere’s a big difference between good and effective.

If you are involved in shooting purely for recreation and the joy of punching holes in paper or tin cans, then being a good shooter is, well, good enough.

If you intend to use your gun for self or home defense, then you need to think about how to become a more effective shooter.

What’s the difference?

When you’re enjoying a range outing with family and friends, you can be really, really good. Your shots impact where you want and they’re all impressively close together. When it comes time to reload or change magazines, no worries, you can chit chat about that new gun you want while leisurely preparing for the next round of shots. Hurrying or running around while trying to shoot would put a real damper on your ability to make pretty target patterns. You’ve got all day, and when time isn’t a factor, you are one impressive shooter!

That’s good, as long as you aren’t planning to use these “impressive shooter”qualifications for self-defense needs. If you intend to have a gun for personal protection or home defense, then you need to be effective, not just good. You need to safely operate your gun and get shots on target when the conditions are the worst imaginable—exactly the opposite of those fun days at the range.

One way to become a more effective shooter is to introduce a little bit of pressure and stress into your shooting routine. In this issue of First Shots News, Barbara Baird talks about various types of competitive shooting, so I’ll focus on what those competitions can do to make you more effective.

Even though some shooting competitions, like International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) mimic self- or home-defense situations, they won’t help you much with specific defensive tactics. They will, however, help you master core skills that can contribute to your ability to use a gun in a defensive situation. Let’s consider some skills you can improve by shooting competitively.

Read the rest in the National Shooting Sports Foundations First Shots Newsletter!

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

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

LIMITED TIME SALE: Insanely Practical Guides Shooting Books

ON SALE NOW: Insanely Practical Guides

ON SALE NOW: Insanely Practical Guides

While supplies last, Insanely Practical Guides are on sale! These informative and fun how-to shooting books will help you improve your practical shooting knowledge. If you want to learn about the world of guns, shooting, reloading, concealed carry and gun holsters, check out some of our books. Have a laugh or two. Life is too short for boring books.

What we’ve got for you

For a limited time, we’re offering paperback copies of Insanely Practical Guides at special prices. These are the exact same books currently on sale for $16.97 each (list price) ($12.97 for The Rookie’s Guide to the Springfield Armory XD-S) plus shipping.

Now, you can buy them direct for $10 each for a two book bundle and $9 each for a three book bundle plus flat rate shipping of just $5.

Want different titles? No problem, select the combination you want.

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If you’d like copies signed by the author with a custom inscription, no problem, just let us know in the comments when you check out.

How To Zero Your AR-15


Eyesight is straight, while bullet flight paths arc.

Today we’re going to do complicated math. We’ll be talking about zeros, trajectories, and gravity. Fortunately we will not be talking about shooting in zero gravity as bullets would fly forever, or at least until they crash into the drifting hulk of the Discovery One.

Fortunately, it’s not as complicated as deciphering the true meaning of White House press briefings, as long as you understand how bullets fly. Bullet trajectory is almost as simple as dropping a brick, except the bullet flies forward as it drops towards the ground. When you fire a bullet, there is no magical force that helps it defeat gravity. In fact, if you fire a bullet from your AR type rifle, perfectly parallel to the ground, the bullet you fire will end up hitting the ground at just about the same time as a bullet you let fall from your hand straight down. I say, “just about” only because the earth curves a bit, and the fired bullet will have a smidge farther to fall than the dropped one. It’s that gravity thing we just can’t defeat, no matter what.

No matter how fast a bullet is flying, it’s constantly falling towards the ground. Even bullets from those so-called “High-Powered Assault Weapons.” If you look at the path of a bullet, it will always be a downward sloping curve, kind of like congressional approval ratings.

But wait, you say, when I aim right at a target 100 yards away, the bullet hits it! That’s correct, but only because the barrel is actually pointed a little bit upwards relative to the ground. Shooting a bullet is a just like throwing a football except you don’t get 12 million a year plus a signing bonus. You need to aim it up a little bit so it arcs back down to intersect at your desired impact point.

Most AR optics are about 2 1/2 inches above the bore line.

Most AR optics are about 2 1/2 inches above the bore line.

Whether you use iron sights or a fancy optic on your AR rifle, you will always need to plan for the intersection of the straight line designated by your line of sight and the arc of the bullet. Your line of sight is not subject to the laws of gravity, so you see in a perfectly straight path unless you stayed out too late last night. Since your bullet leaves the barrel in an arc pattern, it may actually intersect your line of sight twice – once on the way up, and again on the way down. But that depends on your zero distance.

Read the rest at!


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