Small Pistols for Small Hands

Mary Katherine takes aim with a Hakim 8mm battle rifle.

Mary Katherine takes aim with a Hakim 8mm battle rifle.

Editors NoteWe’re pleased to welcome a new ‘riter to the My Gun Culture project – Mary Katherine. I’ve been shooting with Mary Katherine and her family on and off for years. She’ll be offering some women’s perspective on things like guns, gear, concealed carry and more. By the way, she shoots a Beretta PX4, Smith & Wesson Shield and Marlin 30-30 – just in case you were wondering.

I think most shooters, new or experienced, will agree with me when I say we have all had the urge to reach for the biggest, flashiest firearm in the store or on the range. Bigger is better. A larger round means more power and a bigger boom is much more impressive than anything else. Or is it?

I have battled with the instinct to reach for a bigger pistol myself. No one wants to be laughed at for using a “girl gun” even if you are a girl. I thought, “If I prove I can shoot a large caliber, they will stop talking to me like I am clueless.” What I should have been thinking was, “If I shoot the right sized gun for my hands with perfect accuracy, who will care what size or caliber it is?” You should start thinking the same.

While firing a few rounds with the big guns can be a thrill to experience for any level shooter, a handgun that you plan to fire often at the range or use in defense doesn’t have to be big to be the best. The most important thing to take into account is your size and stature. If you have small hands or wrists, you need a smaller pistol with less recoil. This will usually mean going to a smaller caliber. A heavier gun will have less recoil, but heavier often means larger in physical size. Just remember, it isn’t about avoiding the “girl gun” size or caliber. It is about accuracy. After a few rounds, every pistol seems to gain a little weight. Recoil can catch up with you faster than you think. Focus should be on what you are doing, not struggling to keep the front of the pistol from drooping towards the floor.  It won’t be the target that is trembling if your arms are tired.

My advice to you is to get a little hands-on when choosing a personal defense or home protection firearm. Don’t let someone else pick it out for you. You need to experience how the pistol feels in your hand. Check the weight, but remember it is going to change a little once a fully loaded magazine is inserted. That will balance out a gun that feels a little front-heavy with a tendency to dip down towards the floor. Next, check out the grip. A grip that is too small can be just as awkward to hold as one that is too big. There are a lot of different sized grips out there so find one that is comfortable and makes the gun feel secure in your hand. If it feels right, try it with both hands. Using two hands while shooting is going to make for a more accurate shot so make sure you can fit both around the grip in a proper way.

The last steps in choosing a pistol involve the mechanics and recoil. Make sure the slide isn’t too tough for you to rack by yourself. Check out this article on how to properly rack a slide so you are prepared. If you are looking at a revolver, check to see if you can release the cylinder in a way that doesn’t feel clumsy. Once it passes those tests, take it for a spin. Rent the same model at the range or borrow it from a friend if you know someone who owns it, but if your gun is the appropriate size and weight for your hands, it is unlikely that recoil will be a problem.

Your personal firearm should feel like an extension of your hand – familiar and reliable. When faced with a dangerous situation, you want to know that you can handle using your pistol without having to think about it. Don’t choose the bigger caliber for the bigger bang because it might be too physically large for your hands. Choose the gun that fits your stature for a more accurate and consistent firing capability. It might save your life and it will definitely make you a better shot.

Dry-Fire for Handgun Shooting Success

When beginning a dry-fire practice session, check and recheck that your gun is completely empty (including empty magazines for semi-automatic handguns) and that all ammunition has been removed and is far away from your practice area.

When beginning a dry-fire practice session, check and recheck that your gun is completely empty (including empty magazines for semi-automatic handguns) and that all ammunition has been removed and is far away from your practice area.

If I told you there is one technique that, once mastered, will allow you to hit your target every single time, you’d probably write me off as one of those infomercial con guys. But, believe it or not, I speak the truth, and there’s no trick, no gimmick to it.

What is the technique? Perfect trigger press. A bad trigger press is the top reason shots go off target when shooting a handgun. Why? Most handguns require between four and 12 pounds of trigger pressure to fire. Most handguns also weigh less than three pounds; some these days weigh less than one. Now, if I remember my high school physics correctly, when you apply 10 pounds of pressure to a two-pound object, that object is going to move. Therein lies the problem. For you to hit your target every time, you have to press the trigger, with its four to 12 pounds of required pressure, without allowing your handgun to move at all.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to develop your ability to press the trigger without moving your gun: dry-firing. Dry-firing is practicing your trigger press without using ammunition. It allows you to focus on technique without the noise and recoil. You can also dry-fire at home—no need to go to the range to practice—and it won’t cost you a red cent.

The most important consideration when dry-fire practicing is safety. It is paramount that you commit to never having live ammunition anywhere near your gun when you dry-fire, and I mean not even in the same room. Beyond that, four gun safety rules always apply when dry-firing:

  1. Treat your gun as if it’s loaded.
  2. Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to dry-fire.
  3. Never point your gun at anything you’re not willing to destroy.
  4. Be sure of your target and what’s behind it.

Looks a lot like the rules for regular practice at the range, don’t they? That’s exactly my point. Gun safety is gun safety, with or without ammunition.

Now let’s take a look at how dry-firing should be performed, but one note before we do: Be sure to check with the gun’s manufacturer to make sure it’s all right to dry-fire your gun. With the exception of most .22 rimfire handguns, most modern pistols and revolvers are fine to dry-fire without ammunition, but some guns, especially older firearms, can be damaged by this practice, so better to check first. All set? Here’s how dry-firing works:

Read the rest at the National Shooting Sports Foundation!

Pic of the Day: Gun and Golf Club Grips

Teacup grip golf club

It doesn’t make much sense to use a cup and saucer grip on a golf club. It makes just as little sense to use a that teacup grip on a gun. The “cup” of your support hand really doesn’t accomplish much of anything in either scenario.

Want to learn a proper grip? Download our free eBook, A Fistful of Shooting Tips!

Movies and Gun Blunders

thriller on tvYou know what they say: You can’t believe everything you see on TV. That’s knowledge to keep in hand, for while the folks in Hollywood do have a wonderful flair for the dramatic, no one has ever accused them of being realistic.

Carrying and shooting guns is serious business. It’s crucial that every gun owner learn safe practices from the right sources—and that source does not generally include something you see in your downtown theater. Let’s consider a few Hollywood gun blunders and discuss why they’re such bad practices.

1.      Shooting without Hearing Protection!—One entertaining shooting scene comes from the movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. They’re a married couple, but each is a spy for a competing consortium. To make a long story short, they end up resolving their differences with a shootout, against each other, in their otherwise quiet suburban home. While Brad planned ahead and fought his spy-bride with a suppressed pistol, Angelina blasted away at spy-boy Brad with a 12-gauge shotgun.

You know it’s Hollywood when, after a big shootout, you never hear the characters saying, “Wait? What? I can’t hear you!” Yeah, I know, Brad and Angie wouldn’t have looked nearly so sexy wearing earmuffs and safety glasses, but that doesn’t give us real-life shooters a pass.

If you’ve ever shot indoors, it’s loud even with hearing protection. Outside shooting isn’t much better and often worse, depending on the firearm and caliber. Let’s be clear: Without hearing protection, each and every shot you endure—and this is whether you shoot on an indoor range or outside—may cause cumulative or permanent hearing loss. Always, always wear hearing protection, indoor range to pheasant field, whitetail deer stand to skeet range, .22-caliber to .50-caliber and everything in between.

Read the rest in the October 2014 National Shooting Sports Foundation First Shots newsletter!

Wanted: Marital Bliss at the Shooting Range

Half-Cocked: Professional Shooting Instruction

“What exactly will it take to make this work for you?”

“I’ll be in the truck!”

“&%$#*)! !!^&$%@!”

I overheard these comments and a few more choice ones, at my regular shooting range the other day. The source was a couple, probably in their 50s, who had settled in at one of the shooting benches to my right not three minutes prior. I was busy and not paying much attention until my marital spat early warning system alerted me to the fact that a guy was in the early stages of making sleeping arrangements for the sofa.

Glancing in their direction, I saw the husband attempting to teach his wife defensive shooting. It was pretty clear that she was an inexperienced shooter. Whether she had fired any type of gun before, I don’t know.

Anyway, he had her firing a snub nose revolver and was guiding her to assume an aggressive fighting stance and hit targets about 15 yards down range. She was obviously having less fun than Simon Cowell at an elementary school talent show. Within minutes of the couple’s arrival, they were gone, presumably to give each other the silent treatment for the rest of the day.

Marriage is a wonderful thing. I know first hand as I’ve been happily married for many more years than I’d like admit, only because that would date me. For all the wonderful benefits of marriage, one area where it doesn’t work out all that well is gun training. There are far too many personal dynamics at play in the significant other relationship.

In other words, who makes the absolute worst possible shooting trainer? Your significant other, that’s who. OK, there are exceptions, but generally speaking you’re not going to have a good learning experience at the range with the person with whom you share a toothbrush.

Why? Lot’s of reasons.

Relationship dynamics are already well established. A learning session has no place for relationship nuances. A learning session involving life and death issues is no place to bring emotional leftovers – good or bad.

Most significant others think they know a whole lot more than they do about the topic at hand. In this case, the “expert” was starting his student off with a lightweight snub nose revolver. That’s a really poor first time shooting experience for anyone, man, woman or child. Good trainers know that the key is to start a shooter with something that doesn’t scare them with blast and recoil, thereby allowing them to overcome fears and build confidence.

Even if they know the “material” most significant others don’t know how to train. Effective teaching is an art unto itself. If you think that just because you know a subject, you are qualified to teach others, stop, do not pass go and do not collect $200.

If your significant other wants to learn how to shoot, do everyone involved a big favor. Spend a hundred bucks on a class or invest in an hour or two of one on one training with a certified instructor. Once they learn the basics, and build some confidence, you can go to the range together.

An outing to the shooting range is too much fun to spoil with a needless spat.

AR-15 Hacks: How To Get Max Accuracy From Your Rifle

Will this upgrade make your AR rifle more accurate? Technically speaking no, practically speaking... Yes!

Will this upgrade make your AR rifle more accurate? Technically speaking no, practically speaking… Yes!

What if I told you that you could get 15, 20 or even 45 percent better accuracy from your existing AR-type rifle? You can. Read on…

The key concept here is getting the best possible accuracy from the rifle you already have. While you can certainly improve accuracy by replacing major components like the barrel, that kind of defeats the whole point of “the rifle you have.” Here, we’ll focus on less invasive upgrade opportunities.

I like the Timney Triggers upgrade as the whole trigger assembly is self contained and pre-tested.

I like the Timney Triggers upgrade as the whole trigger assembly is self contained and pre-tested.

There are a number of accessory upgrades that will help improve accuracy. For example, on the AR platform, you can upgrade your front hand guard to a free-floated design. Removing pressure points on the barrel will certainly help with shot-to-shot consistency (accuracy) as doing so allows the barrel to do its harmonic resonation thing unimpeded each time you shoot. Installing a free-floated hand guard take a little bit of tool work, but can be well worthwhile in the long run.

Here, we’re going to focus on an upgrade than can make a dramatic improvement on the accuracy of your rifle. It’s also an upgrade that you can literally do at the shooting bench if you really want to. I know, because I recently did just that.

I’m talking about a trigger upgrade. AR factory triggers are notoriously bad. They’re heavy, irregular and feel like you’re trying to create sidewalk art with a broken piece of brick. The weird thing about trigger upgrades is that a new trigger doesn’t do anything to make your rifle mechanically more accurate. It doesn’t affect the bore. It doesn’t come in contact with the cartridges. It doesn’t stabilize your shooting position. What it does do is enable you to get the maximum possible accuracy out of your rifle.

Accurate shooting is a carefully choreographed pas de deux between shooter and rifle. If you put your rifle in a vise and shoot, it will perform to a certain level of consistency from shot to shot. However, there is no shooting without a shooter. No matter how carefully you rest your gun, obtain your sight picture and control your breathing, breaking a shot always requires physical force from you to press the trigger. This motion requires enough force to release the sear, drop the hammer and finally ignite the cartridge. Considering that standard AR triggers can require five to eight pounds of pressure to release, and that most rifles weigh six or eight pounds give or take, there’s a great chance that the act of pressing the trigger will exert some unwanted movement on the gun. The more irregular and grittier the trigger, the more risk of moving just a gnats hair from your perfect aim point. The result? Small movements at the gun translate into increases of group size down range.

Read the rest at OutdoorHub!

OH AR-15 Hacks: Do These 4 Things Or Your Rifle Might Explode

Here's a properly staked AR gas key. Note how the gas key metal is bashed into the two screws so they can't turn loose.

Here’s a properly staked AR gas key. Note how the gas key metal is bashed into the two screws so they can’t turn loose.

If you think people hyperventilate over hypothetical scenarios in politics, spend some time visiting online gun forums. While fun, and a great way to chit chat with others of like passion, you might leave convinced that your AR rifle has the operational complexity and maintenance requirements of the Trident II D5 ballistic missile.

Yes, your AR rifle requires care and maintenance like any other mechanical device, but don’t fret too much over it. In the past 40 years or so, the design has been improved to the point where it will function properly in some pretty nasty environments and under the worst of conditions.

With that said, here are a few things I like to keep an eye on. And no, if you miss one of the details below, your rifle will almost certainly not explode, but it may not function properly.

Gas rings

You’ll hear all sorts of panic about the three gas rings on your AR bolt.

“I change my gas rings every 9 rounds, because I shoot exceptionally tactically and need to replace them before they wear out.”

“If all three gas rings aren’t in place, the American Idol voting system will crash and Clay Aiken may capture the hearts of pre-teen girls – again.”

“If the gaps in each ring are lined up with each other, Spain will immediately declare war with the National Rifle Association, thereby causing a massive increase in membership solicitation mail.”

OK, so there’s a tiny bit of truth in each of these statements, but only just that – tiny.

Well, actually in the case of lined-up gaps in the gas rings, I don’t think there’s any real truth. The idea is that the gas rings are supposed to do what their name implies and seal gas. With a proper seal, the gas ported back into the bolt carrier will exert the right amount of pressure to unlock the bolt and move it and the bolt carrier back far enough, and fast enough, for proper ejection. The thinking behind the gas ring myth is that if the gaps are lined up, gas will leak between the rings and your semi-automatic rifle will function about as well as the congressional ethics committee.

These three gas rings almost have the gaps lined up! No matter.

These three gas rings almost have the gaps lined up! No matter.

In reality, the bolt and carrier move back and forth and rattle around at speeds approaching Warp 19. This action moves things, including has rings, all over the place. No matter how carefully you line them up to avoid the dreaded alignment scandal, they’ll end up aligned on their own accord at some point.

This brings up a related point. The idea behind three gas rings in the first place is redundancy. They’re consumable items and will break on occasion. Your rifle will most likely work just fine with two, or even just one, gas ring. After all, we’re talking about a lot of gas pressure at play during recoil, so a “mostly sealed” scenario will be just fine.

Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to keep some spare rings on hand. A pack of three costs a grand total of $2.19 from Brownells.

Read the rest at OutdoorHub!

Wanna learn more about guns? Check out The Rookie’s Guide to Guns & Shooting, Handgun Edition. It’s on sale now!

AR-15 Hacks: Clean Your Rifle Like A Boss

The most tedious part of AR-15 cleaning is the bolt. Fortunately there are tools to help, like this OTIS B.O.N.E. tool.

The most tedious part of AR-15 cleaning is the bolt. Fortunately there are tools to help, like this OTIS B.O.N.E. tool.

While no one really knows for sure, industry sources estimate that there are more than 10 million AR-type modern sporting rifles in the US. That’s a lot of rifles, a lot of ammo and a lot of cleaning!

Inspired by the popularity of the modern sporting rifle and its many variants, and the fact that I just like them, it’s time to embark on a series of AR-15 hacks. Over the next month or so, we’ll take a closer look at all sorts of tips and tricks that will help you clean, maintain, use and customize your AR-15.

To start things off, let’s take a closer look at cleaning tips. If you listen to the internet forums, you might believe that cleaning an AR-15 is a tougher chore than scrubbing the boilers of the Titanic. According to some, the design is so bad that more grime collects in the action from each and every shot than that deposited by all the gas semi-automatic shotguns on South American pigeon hunts over a year’s time.

Yes, the AR-15 direct impingement design does vent hot, dirty gas into the receiver and smothers the bolt and carrier with each shot. But in the scope of things, it’s not nearly as bad as it sounds. If your day job is strolling through wadi’s in Afghanistan, where the airborne dust resembles talcum powder, then your results may vary and daily cleaning is probably a necessity. Here, I’m referring to recreational and home defense AR use.

If you’re using your rifle for range gun, competition or as a home defense option, you can take a more practical approach to your cleaning chores. If you own a rifle of at least moderate quality, it’ll run when it’s dirty. Just for fun, I’ve been boycotting a cleaning job on a Smith & Wesson M&P15 OR rifle I picked up last fall. That’s right, almost a year ago. Why? I’m deliberately letting it go without cleaning just to see how forgiving it is as it starts to get grimy. To date, the rifle has somewhere around 1,500 rounds through it in all sorts of conditions, yet it runs. Contrary to popular belief, your rifle does not have to be babied to run reliably – within reason of course.

I’ll assume you already know the basics on how to disassemble your AR-15 rifle, so I won’t go over that here. If you want a really good video overview of how to field strip and clean your AR-15, check out this video produced by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and Gunsite Academy. Here, we’ll focus on tips, tools and cleaning products that will make your cleaning chores easier.

Cleaning set up

A lower receiver vise block, like this one from Brownells, makes your cleaning and maintenance chores a lot easier.

A lower receiver vise block, like this one from Brownells, makes your cleaning and maintenance chores a lot easier.

If we’re joint to talk about doing things the easy way, step one is to figure out how you’re going to hold rifle parts during cleaning. Unlike a traditional rifle, the AR-15 hinges open, or even separates into multiple parts when you open one or both takedown pins. Holding on to a hinged-open AR that’s flopping around with one hand, while you’re trying to scrub with the other, is kind of like hitting a baseball with a Slinky.

The answer (for me) is a lower receiver vise block. This is a neat little piece of gun maintenance tool that inserts into your magazine well and locks into place. The idea is to put the bottom of the vise block into a workbench vise so the rifle is supported. They’re not as cheap as you’d expect, but good tools rarely are. If you have more than one AR rifle, or are planning to do more tweaking of your rifle, it’s a good investment – you’ll use it forever once you have it.

The best part is, with the lower receiver solidly supported, when you open the rear takedown pin, the upper receiver will hinge down towards the floor. This is important for cleaning the barrel because…

Barrel cleaning

Ideally, you want to clean a rifle bore from the chamber to muzzle so all the powder residue, chemicals and miscellaneous grime dribbles out the muzzle rather than back towards the action. That’s why I’m in favor of the OTIS cleaning system. In the case of cleaning the AR-15 rifle, there’s another, more specific, reason. The barrel extension is perhaps the hardest part to clean in an AR-15. Buried deep within the upper receiver, it makes you work just to get to it, and once you do, you’re confounded by a three-dimensional maze of bolt lug recesses and hard-to-reach nooks and crannies. It’s a pain. If you’re dredging solvent and grime towards the chamber, gunk will collect in those hard-to-reach barrel extension recesses.

 

Read the rest at OutdoorHub!

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What a Difference a Trigger Makes

Will adding this to an AR rifle improve accuracy?

Will adding this to an AR rifle improve accuracy?

Gun shop wisdom says a good trigger makes all the difference.

It should be obvious that replacing the trigger doesn’t have any physical impact on a rifle’s accuracy. It’s not like it synchronizes barrel harmonics to the tune of “You’re So Vain” or anything. A trigger doesn’t touch the barrel or impact flight path, yet everyone swears it makes a rifle more accurate.

That’s kind of true. But it doesn’t make the rifle more accurate, it makes it easier for you, the shooter, to get the best accuracy that the rifle is capable of. This is an important distinction.

The reason is that pesky physics thing. When a rifle takes several pounds of pressure to break the shot, and the rifle itself only weighs several pounds, it’s gonna want to move, at least a little bit. A good trigger, with a smooth action and reasonably low pull weight, is going to make it easier for you to break the shot without moving the sight alignment of the rifle. When you’re trying to extract every last fraction of an inch of accuracy, a little bit of unwanted movement means a lot on the target.

According to John Vehr, President of Timney Triggers, “There is only one reason to upgrade a trigger in a firearm – to make you more accurate with the firearm.  A great trigger will allow you to become more accurate by eliminating physical factors like drag, creep and heaviness – Less movement equals better accuracy.  A great trigger will allow the shooter to make the act of pulling the trigger more of a mental decision that a physical decision.  A great trigger is an extension of the mind and should break exactly when the shooter calls for the shot.”

I shot groups with proven accurate handloads before and after the Timney Trigger installation.

I shot groups with proven accurate handloads before and after the Timney Trigger installation.

Gaining more practical accuracy by using a custom trigger sounds great in theory, but I wanted to put it to the test in a quantifiable way.

I decided to take two rifles of proven quality and accuracy, but with less than optimal triggers, and test their accuracy before and after a trigger upgrade. The folks at Timney Triggers sent me an AR-15 Competition trigger for the test. This trigger, the 3 pound 667 model, is a self-contained unit with drop-in installation.

My thought for the test was simple. Shoot groups of 5 shots each with each rifle with its standard factory trigger. While at the range, swap the trigger for the Timney AR-15 Competition trigger, and reshoot the groups. Same ammunition, same rest, same day, same atmospheric conditions and same shooter. When all was done, I figured on applying some common core math to compare the average group sizes before and after. Then I realized that this article was due in 2014, so I skipped the common core stuff and added, subtracted and averaged the old fashioned way.

Read the rest at AmmoLand!

7 Things To Know About the .357 Sig, Sort Of…

One things is for sure about the .357 Sig cartridge: velocity makes a big difference. It's tough to find a .357 Sig load that doesn't expand, even after encountering barriers.

One things is for sure about the .357 Sig cartridge: velocity makes a big difference. It’s tough to find a .357 Sig load that doesn’t expand, even after encountering barriers.

.357 Sig is my favorite pistol cartridge. I don’t really know why, I just think it’s cool. Well, seriously speaking, it is a screamer with great street performance and the bottleneck design helps not only velocity, but feeding reliability.

Developed by a pas de deux featuring Sig Sauer and Federal Ammunition in 1994, it’s loosely based on a necked down .40 S&W cartridge – conceptually anyway. The idea of .357 Sig ammo is to launch a .355 caliber bullet form an autoloading pistol a few hundred feet per second faster than a 9mm cartridge can.

With that said, consider these interesting facts about the .357 Sig…

It’s like a .357 Magnum, but not really.

You’ll hear descriptions of the caliber like “it offers .357 Magnum capability in an autoloader that’s not a Coonan.” That’s partially true, if you’re talking about a .357 Magnum firing a 125 grain bullet. DoubleTap Ammunition markets 125 grain .357 Sig loads that clock 1,525 feet per second from a 4 ½ inch barrel. That’s about 645 foot-pounds of muzzle energy, and within .357 Magnum territory for a 125 grain projectile. The ‘not really’ part comes into play when you consider 158 grain .357 Magnum loads. DoubleTap also produces a 158 grain .357 Magnum load that achieves 1,540 feet per second from a 6-inch barrel revolver. That’s about 832 foot-pounds.

It’s like a 9mm on steroids, but not really.

Not many 9mm loads would expand like this after passing through a pine board.

Not many 9mm loads would expand like this after passing through a pine board.

The .357 Sig uses a .355 inch diameter bullet like the 9mm, not a .357 diameter bullet like the .357 Magnum and .38 Special. While the bullet diameter is the same as the wonder nine, most .357 Sig projectiles are shaped differently.

To take maximum advantage of the limited case neck real estate in the bottleneck portion of the cartridge case, many .357 Sig projectiles do not have elongated noses like 9mm designs. The bullet body, or bearing surface, will be long enough so that when seated to the proper depth, every bit of the case neck will be in contact with the projectile. Remembering that the overall cartridge length still needs to remain in spec, this means the nose will generally have more of a blunt profile.

Some 9mm bullets will work and some won’t. If you reload, be careful about this as bullets with the wrong profile are susceptible to pushing back into the case during feeding or recoil, thereby generating dangerous pressure levels.

Read the rest at Guns America!

 

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