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.

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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.

 

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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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Four Things You Can Do With a Rifle – Besides Hunt

Mary Kate is actually demonstrating two topics from the list here. She’s plinking with a 1950’s era Hakim 8mm Egyptian battle rifle. Who says history can’t be fun?

Mary Kate is actually demonstrating two topics from the list here. She’s plinking with a 1950’s era Hakim 8mm Egyptian battle rifle. Who says history can’t be fun?

Barbara is more of a hunter than I am. In this issue of First Shots News, she’ll tell you how to get started. While I hunt a little bit, mostly ducks and geese, she’s hard-core and chases down ill-tempered wild boars with flint knives. That’s what I’ve heard, and I’m sticking by that story.

My interest in guns and shooting are primarily a result of… guns and shooting. While I enjoy hunting, my primary interest is shooting just for the sake of shooting.

Embrace History

Rifles, perhaps even more than pistols, can have incredible stories to tell. When I first became interested in shooting, my first through tenth gun purchases were old battle rifles. To be more specific, I made a field trip to the Civilian Marksmanship Program sales center in Camp Perry Ohio to handpick some history. If you’re not aware of the CMP, check out their website. It’s a government chartered (not government operated) organization founded as part of the 1903 War Appropriations Act. the idea was to help the militia, that’s all of us, become proficient and safe markspeople.

As part of the charter, the CMP sells surplus rifles and ammunition. They sold me a Springfield Armory 1903 A3 bolt action rifle and an M1 Garand manufactured in January of 1945. Every time I shoot those rifles, I wonder where they’ve been. Did they make an ocean crossing to Europe or the Pacific islands? Or were they used for training and coastal defense here at home? I’ll never know, but will always wonder.

Walk through any gun show and you’re bound to find hundreds of guns with stories. Old West? World Wars? The first shooting competitions? You never know. Whether you plan to shoot an old rifle with a story or not, it’s a fantastic way to hold a tangible piece of history.

Defend Your Home

Contrary to popular assumption, rifles can be a great home defense option, provided you choose the right platform. Unless you live somewhere like Encampment, Wyoming, you need to worry about over penetration. Consequently, using your .30-06 hunting rifle for home defense is not necessarily a great idea, as projectiles can travel through walls, houses, trees, cars and who knows what else. Here’s where the right platform choice comes into play. Did you know that (generally speaking) a projectile from a Modern Sporting Rifle will penetrate walls less than a standard pistol round? Regular 55 grain .223 Remington bullets are light, and fly very fast, so they tend to tumble and break apart when they hit solid objects like drywall, furniture and especially exterior walls. So, counter to assumption, a rifle can offer less risk of unwanted penetration.

Additionally, rifles are easier to shoot accurately under stress. First of all, you support a rifle with two hands. Second, the sight radius, or distance between sights, is longer. Small movements in the sight picture do not translate into big misses as can be the case with a handgun. Last, rifles offer near infinite customization capability. Lights, lasers, grips and slings can all be added and tweaked to your exact preference.

Read the rest in the NSSF First Shots Newsletter!

 

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Personality Quirks of the 300 AAC Blackout

Like any gun and cartridge combination, the 300 AAC Blackout has its own personality. Getting to know a few of its character traits can save you a lot of time should things start to act wonky. Let’s take a look at a few of the more common potential gotchas.

Chambering the Wrong Caliber!

Here's a .223 Remington cartridge dropped into a 5.56mm chamber. No problem!

Here’s a .223 Remington cartridge dropped into a 5.56mm chamber. No problem!

You hear internet stories about someone who stuffed the wrong caliber cartridge into a rifle and pulled the trigger. If you’re like me, you take these legends with a grain of salt, shake your head a bit, and move on. Another internet myth right?

Well, this one is true I tell ya! I saw it happen!

I was at my regular outdoor range a month or so back, when I heard a loud bang, closely followed by what can best be described as a “panic shriek.” The scream was intense – kind of like the one Mike Bloomberg makes when he inadvertently stumbles into a Friends of NRA banquet. Looking a few benches to my right, I saw two men, one an experienced shooter, and the other a new shooter, looking dazed and confused. Actually the newer guy was looking more scared and in shock – staring at his hands as if he was surprised they were still attached. Somehow he had stuffed a magazine full of 300 Blackout supersonic cartridges into a 5.56mm rifle, managed to chamber a cartridge, and pulled the trigger.

Here's a 300 Blackout cartridge loaded with a ballistic tip bullet, dropped, not forced, into the same 5.56mm chamber.

Here’s a 300 Blackout cartridge loaded with a ballistic tip bullet, dropped, not forced, into the same 5.56mm chamber.

As you might guess, the gun exploded. Literally. The bolt was bent, upper receiver bulged out, barrel extension trashed, lower receiver trashed and the barrel was now plugged with one very elongated .308 caliber projectile. The shooter was incredibly lucky as much of the pressure escaped through the magazine well. Still, there was enough force in the conflagration to bend a lot of steel and aluminum. The shooter suffered plenty of stinging and mild burns to his hands and face.

Now that I had seen it happen, I became a believer. At least with the right bullet profile, it is possible to fit a 300 Blackout cartridge into a 5.56mm / .223 chamber – at least enough so to allow the rifle to fire. When I got home, I removed an upper from one of my 5.56 ARs and dried dropping various 300 Blackout hand-loaded cartridges into the chamber to see if any would fit. With big and fat bullet profiles, no subsonic loads would come close to fitting, but lighter weight 110 and 125 profiles did in fact come pretty close to fitting in the chamber without application of undue force.

The moral of the story is that it can happen, so be careful when shooting any rifles of similar cartridge design. In this case, it’s doubtful the experienced shooter would have made the mistake, but the new shooter had no idea. Apparently his mentor was paying attention to something else when the shooter loaded the gun.

Fortunately, there are easy ways to minimize the risk. The simplest method is to use magazines of different color for 300 Blackout. Get some tan, dark earth or grey ones. Or you could use metal mags for one caliber and plastic for another. If you already have a supply of magazines, check out MagBands – silicon bands that clearly identify the caliber contained within.

Read the rest at GunsAmerica!

 

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These Sights Are Off!

Pro shooter, instructor and all around swell guy, Todd Jarrett proves to me that the sights are in fact, fine.

Pro shooter, instructor and all around swell guy, Todd Jarrett proves to me that the sights are in fact, fine.

We humans don’t lack confidence.

A couple of years ago, I was assistant coaching a youth Steel Challenge team. Every other week or so, we would get a new shooter or two, usually between the ages of 12 and 16. One week, I had a new young man, about 15 years of age as I recall. To protect the innocent, but exceptionally confident, let’s just call him Frank “Ponch” Poncherello.

Anyway, after taking Ponch through a pretty comprehensive safety briefing on the four rules and safety procedures at our range, it was time to get Ponch shooting. He had shot guns before, including pistols, so we went straight to the team’s Springfield Armory XD 9mm. Yeah, it’s a nice gun and certainly not known for accuracy problems.

After unloading at steel plates for a couple of magazines, Ponch turned to me and said, with a serious straight face, “the sights on this gun are off – it’s shooting low and left.”

Ponch’s casual observation took me back to 1999 – the year before all the ATM’s started spitting out buffalo nickels and nuclear missiles launched themselves towards Possum Kingdom, South Carolina. I was at a local indoor range, shooting with my business partner Mike. At the time, I knew even less than I know now, and he was our shooting expert. He had his Sig Pro 2340 .40 S&W and we were enthusiastically blowing a paper target around with the breeze from nearby misses. In fairness to our shooting skills, the target was at least 10 yards down range, so gimme a break already, will ya? Mike was shooting first, and kept hitting low and left. Bluffing like a shooting master, I ribbed him about his skills, until he told me to try his gun. When I did manage to hit paper, my shots were low and left too.

Quickly ruling out Justin Bieber as a possible cause for accuracy problems, we tried to figure out was going on, never stopping to consider the remote possibility that it might be shooter error. After some contemplation, Mike found the cause, and I readily agreed as it exonerated the both of us from an embarrassing shooting performance. Earlier, Mike had loaned his gun to a TV show production crew and the budding action star had dropped the gun during filming. Clearly this was the cause as the drop must have knocked the sights out of alignment. What else could it be?

Read the rest at AmmoLand!

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10 Things You Learn Carrying A Gun Daily

Berettas and holsters-1

Reflecting on my experiences carrying a gun daily for near a couple of decades, I figured out that I’ve learned a couple of things. Here’s a short list.

1. How clueless the average person is.

I don’t mean this in an offensive way at all, I mean it quite literally. When you first start carrying, you manage to convince yourself that every person you see in public will spot your gun. After a couple of weeks, you begin to realize that people are far more immersed in their phones than your appearance. The folks that do make eye contact with you almost never look for telltale bulges around your waist.

2. How quickly anti-gun folks can change their views – at least temporarily.

My wife was out for dinner one night with some friends, some of whom are decidedly anti-gun and can’t understand why someone would carry. Walking to the car after dinner, the group noticed a couple of suspicious characters hanging around a dark corner of the parking lot. Looking to my wife, the group asked the same question, “You do have your gun with you, right?”

Moral of the story: everyone loves a sheepdog.

3. The value of a good belt

Physical fitness starts with a strong core. A skyscraper requires a deep foundation. Carrying a gun safely and securely requires a proper belt. A quality gun belt, like the Galco SB-2, will hold the weight of your gun, keep it close to your body and prevent the holster from flopping around due to belt flex. If you’re having trouble with a holster, make sure you’ve got a proper belt underneath.

4. The value of a good holster.

Once you have a solid foundation with a proper belt, you need to continue building on that with equal quality. A good holster does three things:

  1. A holster helps you access your gun quickly, easily, and safely. It will hold your gun in a fixed position. If you ever need to reach for your gun, it will be exactly where you expect. It won’t move around and you won’t have to constantly check the position of your gun.
  2. It protects the trigger. By necessity, you may have to find and grip your gun quickly while under stress. A safe holster keeps the trigger completely protected until you have a proper, and safe, grip. Many things in your daily routine (chairs, seat belts, keys, etc.) have the potential to push through clothing hard enough to move the trigger.
  3. It ensures that your gun remains under your control. Retention features in a holster aren’t just for law enforcement professionals. Make sure you invest in a holster that will keep your gun secure through your range of daily activity whether that includes getting in and out of cars, working outside or any other sort of physical activity.

5. Bending over can get you in trouble – in more ways than one.

It doesn't look like much, but the extra weight of a couple of loaded magazines really adds up during a long day carrying.

It doesn’t look like much, but the extra weight of a couple of loaded magazines really adds up during a long day carrying.

A number of carry methods can cause printing dysfunction if you’re not careful. Most belt holsters, inside or outside the waistband, can cause the gun grip to press against the back of your short or cover garment if you lean forward too much. If you carry a gun daily, you quickly learn how to reach low things by bending your knees and keeping your back straight.

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How To Improve Your Handgun Accuracy In One Easy Step

Make your dry fire practice even better with a small investment in an assortment of snap caps.

Make your dry fire practice even better with a small investment in an assortment of snap caps.

Here’s a shooting tip: if you do this one practice routine, you can learn to shoot without missing. Before we get into the secret of how to always hit your target, we need to talk physics.

I know, this is a gun blog, and you never use that high school science stuff anyway. Just hear me out for a minute…

Almost any handgun, like a Beretta Nano, Beretta 92 series or Beretta Px4 series has less weight than your trigger finger has strength. To go into a little more detail, let’s look at the factory specified weights of a few common handguns:

Beretta Nano 1.24 pounds
Beretta 92FS 2.08 pounds
Beretta Px4, 9mm 1.73 pounds

By now you’re probably thinking, “OK, Tom, that’s a fascinating display of your ability to read the Beretta catalog, but what does that have to do with never missing a target?”

I’m glad you asked! Now, let’s add one more piece of information to that list of gun weights. Now, we’ll consider the weight AND the number of pounds of trigger finger force required to fire the pistol.

Beretta Nano 1.24 pounds 6 to 8 pounds depending on who you ask
Beretta 92FS 2.08 pounds 12 pounds (first shot) and 5 pounds (subsequent shots)
Beretta Px4, 9mm 1.73 pounds 12 pounds (first shot) and 4.5 pounds (subsequent shots)

If we do some fancy math, compare pounds and carry the one, we’ll see that in every case, the force required to break the trigger is more than the weight of the gun. This means that unless you hold the gun perfectly still while applying pressure to the trigger, the gun will move. if the gun moves during the firing sequence, the shot will impact somewhere other than where it was originally aimed.

When you look at it that way, it’s a pretty simple concept. But what do you do about the problem? The answer is easy. You learn how to press (not pull) the trigger without moving the gun. If you learn how to do that, every time, you won’t miss – assuming you have the gun pointed properly at the target.

How do you learn to press the trigger without moving the gun? Dry fire practice. We’ve talked about it tangentially here at Beretta USA a couple of times. Jason shared his dry fire routine and some tips. I mentioned it in an article about the value of practicing with .22s. But we’ve never covered a step by step process on how to dry fire at home without harming yourself, your family or your new love seat from Haverty’s.

Basic dry firing simply allows you to practice pulling the trigger pull on your gun without all that distracting flash and bang. All kidding aside, it’s a way to train your eyes, body and trigger finger to pull the trigger smoothly, without moving the sights off target. The real benefit is that you can do all this without that instinctive flinch when the gun normally goes bang. By conditioning yourself to perform a smooth trigger press, without a flinch reaction, you’ll eventually find that you do the same with a real gun when it does go bang.

The most important consideration is safety. You have to develop your own method that insures that you will never, ever, ever have bullets anywhere near your gun when you dry fire. All four gun safety rules apply when dry firing too: 

  1. Treat your gun as if it’s loaded.
  2. Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire, or even 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.

Here’s a dry fire practice checklist:

Step 1: Remove all ammunition from your gun.

Remove the magazine from your gun. Next, rack the slide to remove the cartridge from the chamber. Look in the magazine well and chamber to verify that your gun is truly empty.

Step 2: Move the ammunition away from your practice area.

Humor me here. Get those bullets you just removed and place them out of reach from your practice area. It’s amazing how life’s distractions can cause you to forget you just reloaded your gun after dry fire practice.

Step 3: Choose a safe target and backstop.

Since we’re obeying Rule 1 and treating our gun as if it’s loaded, we need to aim at a safe target and backstop during dry fire practice. I use a dresser that’s backed up against a stairwell wall. If I did manage to launch a bullet at it, the dresser full of junk would stop the projectile.

dry_fire_ammo-1

If you line up the ammo from your gun like this near your target, you will have an additional visual cue that your gun is still unloaded.

Here’s a tip that I use. I line up the ammunition I removed from my gun on top of the dresser. I place the rounds from the magazine next to each other and set the round I removed from the chamber a bit off to the side. That’s a visual cue and reminder that all of the bullets from my gun, magazine and chamber, are safely removed. 

Step 4: Focus on your front sight!

Focus on your front sight, so it’s crisp and clear. Your chosen (safe!) target will be a bit blurry and that’s OK. You want all of your focus on the front sight. Your sight will move around a bit as no one can hold a handgun perfectly still. This is OK and normal.

 

Read the rest at Beretta USA!

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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.

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