Everything You Need to Know About the AR-15…

… but will never hear from the media. The level of ignorance surrounding this particular firearm is proudly broadcast on a daily basis. The claims of it’s power, lethality, and evil intent know no bounds. Listening to descriptions of the AR-15, one would think there are thousands of them wandering around on their own, shooting people at random with an endless stream of giant, hyper-velocity, super bullets. Never mind the fact more people are killed by fists, feet, and other blunt objects than by every kind of rifle combined. In response to the continuous ignorant stories and posts, I’ve decided to provide a simple, factual, description of the AR-15. Think of it as sort of a public service.

The Development of the AR-15

The Armalite Corporation was incorporated as part of Fairchild Engine and Aircraft Corporation in 1954 with George Sullivan as Manager. Fairchild manufactured aircraft and parts for the US military, so the intent of Armalite was to design firearms for military purposes. Shortly after opening his small shop, Sullivan hired a young engineer named Eugene Stoner as his Chief Design Engineer. Armalite’s first successful design was the AR-5, a unique take-down rifle designed to be used by aircrews in survival situations. The rifle was chambered in .22 Hornet and was equipped with a floating stock in which the barreled action could be stowed. The AR-5 was adopted by the military in 1954. A civilian version chambered in .22 Long Rifle, the AR-7, was released shortly thereafter. This design is still manufactured by Henry. Note that the AR in the names of these firearms clearly stands for Armalite Rifle, not “Assault Rifle” as so many ignorant journalists seem to believe.

The search began for the replacement for the venerable M-1 Garand in 1955. In its day, the Garand was an unequaled infantry weapon. But it was heavy and limited to 8 rounds of ammunition, so military commanders felt a replacement was needed. In response to the call, Stoner designed a light-weight gas-operated firearm chambered in 7.62 NATO. Dubbed the AR-10, it was futuristic with its pistol grip, straight composite stock, and carry handle. Armalite was late getting their entry ready, and were forced to use their hand-built prototype for the military trials. Although reviews were generally favorable, the rifle failed during endurance testing. Springfield Armory’s T-44 was selected, becoming the M-14 in 1957. Armalite sold the rights to manufacture the AR-10 to a few foreign customers, but only a few were manufactured.

Shortly after the M-14 was adopted, the US Air Force began looking for a lighter rifle in a smaller caliber. Stoner reduced the size of the AR-10 to accommodate the newly developed .223 Remington cartridge and the AR-15 was born. Without the capability to manufacture firearms in sufficient numbers, Armalite sold the manufacturing rights to the AR-10 and AR-15 to Colt in 1959. The first military order for the AR-15 was placed by the USAF in 1961, the same year Stoner was hired by Colt. The initial order of 8,500 units was followed by one for 80,000 in 1963. The official military designation of the AR-15 was M-16. As the US involvement in Southeast Asia grew, it became apparent American troops were outgunned by Communist forces equipped with AK-47s. Difficulties with the M-14 in the field and in manufacturing lead to the adoption of the M-16 by all four branches of the military by 1965.

Approximately 300,000 M-16s were sent to Southeast Asia with no cleaning kits as Colt claimed the rifle was self-cleaning. This claim was quickly proven to be false by Vietnamese humidity and severe powder fouling caused by poor ammunition. In the field, the rifles were found to be prone to failures to extract a fired case once they became dirty. Reports of soldiers found dead with their M-16 partially disassembled became common. Improvements to the rifle were made, resulting in the M-16A1, along with improvements to the ammunition. Cleaning kits with clear instructions for maintaining the rifles were also issued.

Colt manufactured a semi-automatic version of the AR-15 for the civilian market, but it was used primarily for competitive shooting. They hold the trademark for the name “AR-15”, but this style of rifle has come to be known as an AR-15, much like a copying machine is often referred to as a Xeorox machine.  The first AR-15s manufactured specifically for the civilian market were made by Lewis Machine and Tool in 1989. Production of civilian AR-15s was curtailed by the infamous Clinton-era Federal Assault Weapons Ban in 1994. The ban was allowed to expire in 2004 after having no effect on crime. Since then, the AR-15 has become one of the most commercially successful firearms in history. They are produced in a myriad of configurations by every major firearms manufacturer except Glock. It is estimated there are as many as 10 million AR-15s owned by American citizens today.


Although the M-16 was born out of the AR-15 and the two are cosmetically very similar, they are not the same firearm. The AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle operated by the direct impingement of gases from the fired cartridge. In other words, gases are bled from the burning powder in the barrel of the gun to cycle the action. They are fed from a detachable box magazine, most of which contain either 20 or 30 rounds. They are typically equipped with a composite stock, some sort of hand guard over the barrel, and a pistol grip. The pistol grip is necessary due to the geometry of the stock. It does not make the gun fire faster. They can be had with the carry handle on top of the receiver like the M-16, where the sites are mounted on the handle and on a triangular post on top of the gas block. Most now come equipped with detachable sites mounted on a section of rail directly on the receiver. The variability of stocks, hand guards, grips, and sighting apparatus is nearly limitless. AR-15s generally come with either a flash-hider or compensator on the end of the barrel. These items divert the gases exiting the barrel to either reduce the flash caused by escaping gas or to prevent the barrel from rising during recoil. They do not make the gun more powerful or enable it to be fired more quickly.

An important thing to understand here is the semi-automatic part of this. This means it fires one round every time the trigger is pulled. Just one. There is no such thing as “fully semi-automatic”. It will not fire thousands of rounds a minute. None of that is true. It will only fire as fast as the shooter can pull the trigger. It is not possible for anyone without a machine shop to convert a modern AR-15 into an automatic weapon. They are manufactured in such a way as to prevent that particular modification. Some older models could be converted fairly simply, but this is no longer the case. Even if you could convert it, the moving parts are not meant for the automatic rate of fire and will fail.

Let’s talk about magazines. If you state the AR-15 uses a “XX-round clip”, you are showing your ignorance. The AR-15 does not use a clip. The M-1 Garand used an en bloc clip, a sheet metal contrivance which held the cartridges and was inserted into the rifle’s action and ejected after firing. Some military ammunition is placed on a long sheet metal stripper clip, which aids in loading some rifles or their magazines. If you expect any knowledgeable gun person to pay any attention to you at all, do not use the word clip when referring to a magazine.  The standard magazine for the AR-15 holds either 20 or 30 rounds depending on the caliber, although those holding anywhere from 5 to 100 rounds are available. The larger magazines are heavy, unwieldy, and less reliable than the standard 30 round magazines, and are less common. Five round magazines must be used in most states when hunting.

The AR-15 was originally chambered for the .223 Remington cartridge. The military uses the same cartridge in the guise of the 5.56 NATO round. The military round operates at a higher pressure, so .223 ammunition is safe to use in all AR-15s chambered in 5.56, but the opposite is not true. The .223 is a moderate power rifle round. It is not anywhere near the upper part of the power spectrum. It fires a small, light, projectile at relatively high velocity, which makes it effective at close ranges. It is not a death ray. It does not cause worse injuries than any other cartridge known to man. In fact, there is still debate whether or not it is suitable for military use. The .223 is available commercially using bullets weighing from 40 to 80 grains typically, although there are others beyond that range.

For comparative purposes, let’s have a look at the .223 Remington compared to the 30-06 Springfield, one of the most popular hunting calibers in the US. The M-1 Garand was chambered for the 30-06. The table below provides the velocity and energy of both cartridges. The .223 data is based on a 55-grain bullet, while the 30-06 is based on a 165 grain bullet. The velocity is measured in feet per second, while energy is measured in foot-pounds. While the .223 is faster than the 30-06 at the muzzle, it quickly looses this advantage as the range increases. At 200 yards, the 30-06 is faster. The key statistic, however, is energy. This is the force with which the projectile impacts the target at the specified range. At the muzzle, the 30-06 has over twice the energy of the .223. In fact, the energy of the 30-06 doesn’t dip below the energy of the .223 at the muzzle until 500 yards. The point of this being, any discussion of the awesome power of the .223 is ignorant. It is an effective cartridge within its intended parameters, but it is far from being exceptionally high-powered.


Why the AR-15 is Popular

The AR-15 is unquestionably the most popular rifle being produced at the moment. There are many reasons for its popularity. No other rifle matches the AR-15 for versatility and modularity. The construction of the rifle in separate assemblies lends itself to being customized by its owners. Almost every part of an AR can be swapped for another by anyone with even a slight amount of mechanical ability. There is a huge market in receivers, bolt carrier groups, frames, and barrels. The owner can buy a stock AR and change it up however he/she wants, or they can buy all the parts separately and build their own. If the market for the major parts is huge, it is nothing compared to the market for accessories and furniture. The choices of stocks, pistol grips, and hand guards are nearly limitless. Other accessories, including sights, lasers, lights, scopes, flash hiders, and compensators, are too numerous to even attempt listing. The ability of the shooter to tailor the rifle to his or her purpose is likely the most popular characteristic of the AR.

The AR is a highly versatile rifle, largely due to its modularity. Few rifles can fill as many roles as adequately. With the correct combination of parts, it can work well as a hunting rifle, as a target rifle, as a competition rifle, as a defensive weapon, and just as a fun gun to shoot. The AR is easy to operate with a small amount of instruction. The recoil is very mild, which makes the AR an excellent choice for those with a smaller physical frame. They are inherently accurate, which, combined with the mild recoil, makes the AR a good choice for introducing new shooters to center fire rifles.  There is much to like about the AR-15, but it isn’t for everyone. Without a suppressor, they are extremely loud. They are relatively complex mechanically and must be cleaned and maintained properly to function reliably. Most people are more than capable of handling either issue.

So, there you have it. A brief, factual account of the AR-15. If all you know about the AR is what you’ve been told by the news media, most of this will be new to you. If you have any questions about any of this or if there are things I didn’t touch on, please feel free to ask. If you know someone who owns one, ask to go try it. It will not hurt you to pull the trigger and you just might learn something. It is much harder to fear something you understand. I promise you won’t be traumatized. If you are, that’s on you! If you still hate the AR after reading this and believe it to be an instrument of evil, at least now you can sound a little less ignorant.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics: Fake News and Junk Science on Guns

As my wife and daughter started preparing to return to school, we had several conversations about school safety and what to do in the case of a shooter. My wife sat through training sessions on the school’s plan in the case of a shooter and how to stop the bleeding in case of a gunshot wound. My daughter expressed concern about what she should do if it happened. In the meantime, I’m thinking, “How on earth have we come to a place where one of their leading concerns for the year is staying safe?”. It is incredible to me that our schools have lost their status as a safe place for students and teachers. I never worried about being harmed at school, other than if I shot off my mouth to a teacher or one of our offensive lineman. It seems our students and teachers are now in danger.

But are they really? After some thought, I reminded them they are as safe at school as they are anywhere else, and probably more so. At times, it seems like the news is filled with nothing but stories about school shootings. But this is likely the exception and not the rule. This seemed intuitive to me. I’ve actually heard it said there are fewer school shootings now than at any time in modern history, but had never seen any actual statistics. In fact, recently released statistics indicated I was wrong.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights released its 2015-2016 Civil Rights Data Collection, School Climate and Safety report (CRDC), which includes data gathered via survey from every public school district in the U.S. According to the report, the CRDC:

…is a survey of all public schools and school districts in the United States. The CRDC measures student access to courses, programs, staff, and resources that impact education equity and opportunity for students. The CRDC has long provided critical information used by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in its enforcement and monitoring activities.

In addition, the CRDC is a valuable resource for other federal agencies, policy makers, researchers, educators, school officials, parents, students, and other members of the public who seek data on student equity and opportunity.

The CRDC gathered data from 17,337 school districts, represented by 96,360 schools and 50.6 million students. The data is gathered via surveys which all public schools are required to complete. This also means the quality of the data is dependent on the individual school and the staff member tasked with completing it. Keep that in mind. The 2015-2016 survey for the first time included a question concerning the number of shootings which had taken place within the school district. Surprisingly, 235 schools reported at least one school-related shooting. That’s a big number. It’s only 0.2% of the total number of schools, but its still a big number. The problem is, it’s wrong.

What? A government study, wrong? Yes, friends, it is wrong. And not just a little wrong. It is WAY wrong. On August 27, 2018, National Public Radio (NPR) published an article by Anya Kamentez entitled The School Shootings that Weren’twhich examined the results of the CRDC. What Kamentez found were serious errors with the data. To their credit, (and my ever-lasting amazement) NPR attempted to verify the results by contacting the schools which responded as having experienced a school shooting. Of the 235 schools which indicated they had a shooting, 161 of them told Kamentez there had been no shooting. The Cleveland Metropolitan School District reported 37 shootings for the survey period, when in fact, there had been none. There had been 37 incidents of “possession of a knife or a firearm”, data which should have been on the line above the line concerning shootings. They put the number on the wrong line. Likewise, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District reported four school shootings. When contacted by NPR, no one could remember there ever having been a shooting at one of their schools.

There are many more examples given in the article and I encourage you to read it. It seems the errors were the result of poorly worded questions, a poorly structured survey, and simple mistakes. In the end, NPR was able to verify 11 school shootings. As a comparison, Everytown for Gun Safety listed 29 school shootings for the same period. However, only eight of those were the same schools verified by NPR. Eight or 11, either one is far less than the 235 reported by the government. The only large market media outlet to report on this discrepancy, other than NPR, was the Washington Post. Nothing on any of the network news outlets or cable channels. I suppose reporting a number over 21 times higher than what it should be on something so important doesn’t rate a place in the news cycle. It makes better television to saturate the airwaves with fear every time one does happen. I’m just glad I was correct in telling my girls they’re safe at school.

A similar story on mass shootings broke to zero media coverage on August 30. No politician with a ‘D’ after their name worth their salt has missed the opportunity to let us know how “mass shootings happen in the US more often than anywhere else” and “the majority of mass shootings happen here”.  Much of this is an outright lie told to further the anti-gun agenda, but some is the result of a study conducted by Dr. Adam Lankford, professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Alabama (insert jokes here). Lankford’s study, entitled Public Mass Shooters and Firearms: A Cross-National Study of 171 Countries was published in the journal Violence and Victims in 2016. The results of the study showed 31 percent of the mass shooters who killed four or more victims between 1966 and 2012 were located in the US. Lankford claimed a direct correlation between the rate of civilian gun ownership and that of mass shooters.

A quick perusal of Lankford’s article reveals three obvious problems or biases very quickly. At the end of the introduction, he claims the study is based on “quantitative analysis of all known public mass shooters who attacked anywhere on the globe from 1966 to 2012 and killed a minimum of four victims (N=292).”. In 56 years, there have only been 292 mass shooters world-wide? Really? This seems extremely low with only a small amount of thought. We’ll return to this issue later. Lankford’s bias on this topic becomes clear as the article continues. In providing context for the study, he discusses “American Exceptionalism” and “American Gun Culture”.  Under “American Exceptionalism”, Lankford states, ” Americans have historically enjoyed high levels of political freedom, but they have also struggled with high rates of violence, crime, and incarceration”, and “American individualism may be a great quality for entrepreneurship and innovation, but it may contribute to criminally deviant behaviors as well.”.

Lankford’s true colors are truly revealed in his discussion of “American Gun Culture”. After acknowledging American gun ownership allowed our victory over the British in the Revolutionary War, he wrote, “Less positive may be the fact that, according to a comparative study of 178 countries, the United States ranks first in gun ownership, with approximately 270 million firearms owned by civilians and a rate of 88.8 firearms per 100 people”. I fail to see how this is “less positive”. It all becomes crystal clear when he quotes noted authority on guns, Barak Obama.

In addition, the widespread availability of firearms in America may be contributing to the nation’s public mass shooting problem. As the president of the United States recently suggested,

We have historically respected gun rights. I respect gun rights. But the idea that, for example, we couldn’t even get a background check bill in . . . so you can’t just walk up to a store and buy a semiautomatic weapon—it makes no sense . . . We kill each other in these mass shootings at rates that are exponentially higher than anyplace else. Well, what’s the difference? The difference is that these guys can stack up a bunch of ammunition in their houses. 

And there you have it. The problem here is not the quote itself, which should surprise no one. The problem is Lankford presents it as fact.

The problems with Lankford’s study go deeper than just bias, but I believe they result from them. On August 20, 2018, Dr. John R. Lott, III, of the Crime Prevention Research Center released his response. In an article entitled How a Botched Study Fooled the World About the US Share of Mass ShootingsLott attempted to replicate Lankford’s study and identified numerous methodological problems and failures in the interpretation of the data. One major concern was with Lankford’s unwillingness to share his data. He shared it with the New York Times, who published an article on the study (along with numerous other papers and news outlets), complete with graphics of their own creation. Lankford refused to provide Lott with his data. When he approached the New York Times for the data, they told him Lankford asked them not to share it. This is very suspicious and goes against scientific scholarship.

The only source of statistics on mass shootings Lankford cited was the New York City Police Department’s 2012 Active Shooter report. This report relied on news stories from English language sources on mass shootings, introducing an instant bias against international cases. Lankford claimed to follow the same procedures in attempting to gather data as NYPD. In addition, Lankford reported on the number of shooters, rather than the number of cases. Lott found some cases of mass shooting were committed by up to 10 shooters. Reporting the number of shooters rather than cases served to inflate the numbers. Lankford also reported on the raw number of shooters rather than the rate of occurrence per the population of a given country, which is a major error in methodology. I doubt it was an error – it is enough of an elementary-level flaw to suggest it was done on purpose in support of his obvious bias.

Lott’s study relied on the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database, supplemented by controlled internet searches using a variety of search terms. Looking at the period from 1998 to 2012, about 1/3 of the period examined by Lankford, Lott was able to identify 1,448cases of mass shootings world-wide committed by 3,081 shooters. This number is likely too low, given the lack of reporting from third world countries and those where the media is closely controlled by the government. As it is, this is 15 times more shooters in a 15 year period than reported by Lankford for his entire study period. The 43 cases which occurred in the US accounted for 2.88 percent of the attacks and 1.43 percent of the shooters world-wide. The population of the US accounts for 4.6 percent of the global population.

Aren’t both of the studies I’ve discussed here good news? Isn’t it a good thing school shootings and mass shootings aren’t as frequent in this country as we’ve been told? I think so. The question, then, is why hasn’t the media had anything to say about either study? I believe people would like to know it’s safe to take their children to school or to attend a concert. The sad truth is it doesn’t fit the agenda. It doesn’t strengthen the case being made for gun control by leftists and their puppets in the infotainment industry. They rely on the fear they peddle to convince people it is “common sense” to give up their freedom in the name of safety. When these things do happen, they make sure to run stories on it continuously for several days to make it seem as if they are a common occurrence. Every study which seems to reinforce this idea is widely reported, whether it’s based on junk science or out-right lies. The true danger in this is the continued focus on guns and guns owners and not on the cultural and social issues which cause mass murder to occur. I agree even one such incident is too many. I believe the one positive in all of this is a renewed focus on security, situational awareness, and personal responsibility. But we shouldn’t live in a state of fear fueled by fake news and junk science. Until the press remembers they have a duty to report factual information, whether it furthers their editorial agenda or not, it will be up to us to question everything these people tell us.

Unanswered Questions

The stone is like the thousands of others around it. It is plain, white marble with a rounded top, the standard issue for the Veterans Administration in national cemeteries. It is flanked by the markers of soldiers that served in World War II and Vietnam in the old part of the Florence National Cemetery. While the others include the name, rank, branch of service, birth, and death dates, this one has only one word: “Unknown”. I can’t think of anything more sad to see on a headstone. No one knows who lies there. I find that very troubling. I’ve been to this cemetery dozens of times, and I’ve visited several other national cemeteries. They are melancholy places, but that one word bothers me. Unknown.


In 2006, I directed the archaeological excavations for the expansion of the Florence National Cemetery. The expansion area was north of the Florence Stockade, a Confederate prisoner of war camp in use from late 1864 until early 1865. Florence is the lesser known twin of Andersonville, the most notorious prison facility of the Civil War. As Sherman’s army swept through Georgia in 1864, Confederate leaders knew the prisoners held at Andersonville had to be moved to a more secure area. Florence was chosen as one place to send prisoners based on the junction of three railroads. The first group of prisoners arrived in September of 1864 before the stockade was even finished.

Once the stockade was completed, the prisoners entered a wasteland surrounded by vertical logs. No provisions for shelter had been made, which left the prisoners to create whatever shelter they could by digging into the ground and using scatter pine boughs and branches, along with blankets or shelter halves if they were lucky enough to still have such things. Pye Branch bisected the stockade, providing drinking water on one end and latrines on the other. Rations were extremely thin, consisting usually of uncooked corn meal and beans. Meat was almost never available and fresh vegetables were basically absent. All of this, combined with a lack of medical support, resulted in the deaths of about 2,300 prisoners by March of 1865 when the stockade was abandoned.

The stockade was guarded by a small group of regular Confederate soldiers supported by South Carolina reservists. The area where we worked in 2006 was the western end of the camp of part of the guard force, probably the 5th Georgia. For an archaeologist, this project was incredible, as we located numerous features and recovered thousands of artifacts. Between the material culture and the in-depth historical research, we made a significant contribution to the historical knowledge of the stockade and those who guarded it.

One of the features which drew our interest had been partially exposed during previous archaeological testing at the site. A backhoe trench revealed the lower portion of a single human burial. As we prepared to conduct the larger excavations, this caused some concern.  The historical record indicates that initially, the dead from the stockade were buried in a pit somewhere outside the walls. This pit was said to contain over 400 individuals when burials began in the trenches which spawned the national cemetery. We were concerned the single burial was a sign of a much larger problem.

Our excavations revealed this individual had been buried alone in the bottom of a hut. The Confederate guard had access to timber and other building materials, so some lived in small, semi-subterranean huts. Somehow, this individual had been buried in the floor of one of these huts. The excavation of the remains was conducted by a specialist from the University of Tennessee, who carefully documented the position of each skeletal element and any associated artifacts. Sadly, activities on the property prior to the archaeology destroyed the entire skull. We were able to find two fragments of the cranium many meters away in the backdirt pile.  Several buttons were recovered in association with the remains, which indicated that the person was wearing a jacket, possibly military issue. A few pieces of buckshot and a single larger caliber shot were found around the remains. There was no sign of trauma to the bones, so it appears that the shot was there either incidentally or as a complete buck and ball round.

Analysis of the remains provided a lot of information in spite of the loss of the skull. The individual was most likely a young male, aged between 20 and 35 years. He was likely white, although skeletal metrics fell within those of African ancestry as well. He was tall for the time at almost 5′ 11″, with no obvious skeletal abnormalities or disease. Isotopic analysis revealed that his diet consisted of corn products, corn-fed meats, sorghum, and possibly marine foods. This placed his place of residency as the Gulf or Atlantic coasts, which could include South Carolina.

All of this data was great, but what did it really tell us? A young, white male found in the camp strongly suggests that he was a soldier. But this is about all we know. Who was he? Why was he there? How did he come to be buried in that hut and forgotten? Was he sick near the end of the stockade’s occupancy and died, then buried quickly as the guards pulled out of camp? Was he a Confederate soldier trying to get home after the war who took shelter in that hut and never made it out? We don’t know the answer to any of these questions and likely never will. I’ve spent many hours thinking through all of this and I’m no closer to an explanation now than I was in 2006.

After our work was complete, the individual was reburied in the Florence National Cemetery with full military honors. He was interred in a coffin produced for the crew of the CSS Hunley under the careful watch of honor guards representing both Union and Confederate troops. A headstone and a plot were provided for him by the Veterans Administration. It is marked simply “Unknown”. I feel good that I and my colleagues did everything we could to identify him. But it bothers me that we can’t give him a name. He left his family at some point, probably to serve his country. They likely never knew what happened to him. His ancestors have no idea where he is or how he came to be there. That’s terrible and so very sad. Every time I’m in Florence, I stop and pay my respects. I may be the only person who does. It reminds me of the sacrifice made by everyone interred in that sacred space. And it reminds me of all the unanswered questions.

If you have any interest in reading about the work we conducted at Florence, the full technical report is available here. Since 2006, I’ve directed the first professional archaeological research inside the Florence Stockade and the complete mapping of the remains of the Florence Stockade, which are quite impressive! The Friends of the Florence Stockade have worked tirelessly to maintain and interpret the remaining earthworks. If you find yourself headed to Myrtle Beach or down I-95, take a few minutes and stop in Florence to see the stockade.  It’s worth it!


Big Fun at the National Rifle Association Annual Meeting

This weekend (April 28-30), I attended the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) Annual Meeting in Atlanta.  I went with my dad and brother, so we were guaranteed to have a good time!  The meetings and exhibition were held at the Georgia World Congress Center, which is about the size of a small city.  The exhibit hall covered 15 acres, which does not include all of the meeting rooms and auditoriums that were in use throughout the weekend.  There was something for everyone in the shooting sports.  If you were looking for information on gun laws, it was there.  Like to hunt?  There was a session for you.  Want to put your hands on that brand new model you’ve seen in the magazines?  It was there.  Heck, even the President was there!  The big draw for the Avery men was the exhibit hall, however.  Imagine the biggest gun show you’ve ever seen.  Now multiply it by 10 and you’re about there!


View of a tiny piece of the exhibit hall from above.



Panoramic view of the exhibit hall.

The amount of guns, accessories, knives, flashlights, clothes, and general cool stuff was just incredible.  It was difficult at first to figure out how to go about trying to see it all.  I must have handled 200 different guns through the course of the event, some more interesting than others.  We visited all of the big guys, plus a whole bunch of smaller companies, some that I’d never heard of.  I tried to visit all of the booths for the companies whose equipment I use, which was really cool since I was able to talk to upper management level folks in several cases. For example, I use a Comp-Tac holster and magazine pouches in competition.  I walked into their display to discover that the founder of the company, Gregg Garrett, was not only working the floor, but had found a stool so that my dad could sit down for a few minutes.  We talked with him for several minutes and had a very nice chat.  I like their gear a lot and it turns out I like their founder pretty well, too!  I also spoke with Randy Lee, president of Apex Tactical Specialties.  I have their Competition Action Enhancement Kit in my M&P 9 Pro, which made it a different gun!  I thanked him for making a great product and for the instructional videos that made installation possible for people like me.  There is nothing more frightening than seeing the guts of your pistol laying on the bench!  Randy’s videos made it much less scary.

I have been wanting to get my hands on Walther’s Q5 Match pistol and finally got to at the show.  It is similar to the PPQ that I carry, but has a full five-inch barrel and even better trigger.  If I was going to buy another gun for Production, I’d have to consider it.  The ergonomics and trigger are top-notch.  As a Smith and Wesson fan, I was pleased to see the M&P 2.0.  They have improved the trigger significantly over the old factory trigger.  The M&P is hard to beat.  If I were itching to get into the Single-Stack game and money were no object, the Colt Gold Cup Match in .45 ACP would be my choice.  I made the mistake of picking one up and trying the trigger.  My knees got a little weak and I broke out in a cold sweat!  It is a gorgeous gun and appears to do justice to the Colt name.  The $1700 msrp price tag is not out of scale with other 1911s and I’m pretty sure that no further work would have to be done to it.  Another good choice would be Remington’s yet to be released 1911 set up to the high standards set by pro shooter Travis Tomasie. While I was at Remington’s display, Tomasie and his team mate, Gabby Franco, walked up and started talking.  You might remember Gabby from Season 4 of Top Shot.  Both were very nice and extremely knowledgeable.  I thought it was pretty cool to talk to a guy with his name on a gun!  If punching paper is your sport and you want to look good doing it, the Sig P210 is an absolutely beautiful target pistol meant to put multiple projectiles into a single hole.  The bore axis is extremely low and the grips are, well, perfect.  At over $2000, they should be!


I can’t leave out the old guns and the new versions of old guns that were prevalent at the show.  I have a soft-spot for the Single Action Armies and Winchester lever guns that I saw in use on my favorite Westerns.  Cimarron Firearms and Uberti USA‘s reproductions of these classic arms are well made and nothing short of beautiful.  There is something just wonderful about the fit of the SAA in the hand and the smoothness of pulling back the hammer and squeezing the trigger!  I loved Cimarron’s 1876 Centennial Rifle, chambered in buffalo-stomping .50-95 caliber!  Then there was Auto Ordnance’s reproduction of the 1927A1 Thompson submachine gun.  The modern version is a semi-automatic in .45 ACP and appears to be very well made.  It’s hard to not feel like a bad-ass when you hold a Thompson!  I don’t know if they’re USPSA-legal, but I’d like to see a Pistol Caliber Carbine shooter bring a Thompson to a match!  They’d win the cool points for sure.

All of the guns and gear were great, but the best part was the people, both the industry professionals and celebrities as well as the visitors like me.  I met several professional shooters representing the cream of the crop in the shooting sports; the very ones you see on TV.  I understand these folks are there to represent their sponsor’s brand, so they’re getting paid to be nice to all of us commoners.  But not one of them gave me the impression they were anything but genuine.  They all seemed to enjoy being there and spent way more time than it takes to get a photo and an autograph.  I almost expected that, but was still very impressed to see it actually come to pass.  It was just like talking to my friends at the range.  I’ll admit a certain level of fan-boy came out in me, especially talking to Jerry Miculek and Julie Golob.  But they were both very nice people and easy to talk to.  There is a list of the folks I met at the bottom of this article with links to their websites.  I hope you’ll check them out and consider their sponsors when you’re looking to buy your next toy.

Even with all of the stuff and celebrities to see, I most enjoyed the crowd.  I haven’t heard any official attendance figures, but 80,000 were expected.  I believe at least that many people were there.  Normally, I hate crowds, but this one was different.  It was simply a friendly crowd.  We talked to several people during the course of the show, either at lunch, in line to see a celebrity, or just in passing.  Rudeness is one of my pet peeves and will set me off pretty fast.  I almost expect it in a crowd that size.  That didn’t happen in three days of walking the show floor.  The other aspect of the crowd I really enjoyed was the diversity.  The leftist media wants you to think the NRA is made up of a bunch of angry, white, male, John Wayne-wannabe, rednecks.  They’re wrong.  I saw men, women, children, families, fathers with sons, fathers with daughters, mothers with their children, people across the age spectrum, and people with a wide array of ethnic backgrounds.  All were there together and getting along just fine.  That is what makes the NRA the strongest lobbying organization in this country.  It does not appeal to any one group, but to everyone who believes the Founders got it right when they wrote the Constitution.  If you’re forming your opinion about the NRA and its members based on what the mainstream media is telling you, then you’re just flat wrong.

If you have any questions about the NRA, or any other shooting or gun related issues, please feel free to contact me anytime.  If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find it or find someone who does know.  Thanks for reading, and as always, feel free to comment and share!

These are the folks I was privileged to meet at the meeting.  Each is linked to a website where you can find out more about them.

Rob Leatham – A pro shooter with Springfield Armory.  He is one of the people that has built the action shooting sports into what they are today.

Julie Golob – Veteran, mom, author, champion shooter, and very nice lady!  Shoots for Smith and Wesson.

Jerry Miculek – The fastest man on Earth in terms of shooting.  His You Tube channel is hours of entertainment. Shoots for Smith and Wesson.

Max Michel – Max is an incredible shooter for Sig.  Also a very nice guy.

Lena Miculek – The daughter of two great shooters, she was destined to be great.  And she is.  Shoots for Sig.

Travis Tomasie – Travis is a veteran and incredibly talented. I got to talk with him for several minutes at Remington’s display, shooter to shooter.  Very cool!

Gabby Franco – Gabby is a former Olympian and appeared on Top Shot.  She’s a mom and a great shooter, and a very nice lady.

Colion Noir – Colion is a spokesperson for the NRA, doing excellent videos on gun rights issues and the shooting sports.  I was very excited to meet him.

Eric Blandford – Eric is owner of the extremely popular You Tube channel, iraqveteran8888.  The kind of guy with which you could drink a beer.

Chad Sims – Chad is also part of the iraqveteran8888 team.  As nice as guy as his coworker!

Please take some time and check all these folks out.  It’s worth it!

Why can’t we just get along? Here’s one reason…

From what could be called our “mission statement” above, one can see we’re primarily blogging here because we’re frustrated with the lack of logic, reason, and just good ol’ common sense in what currently passes for public discourse. What I’d like to discuss today is one of the most common logical fallacies. If you haven’t noticed it already, you’ll see what I am about to illustrate used very routinely, and almost never called out as incorrect.

But first, let’s address the more general — what is a logical fallacy? In short, it is an erroneous argument; an error in logic. It’s not necessarily related to what you are saying, but more of how you are approaching the debate. These errors have been categorized and defined for thousands of years now. Seriously, thousands of years… Greeks were writing this stuff down in years we end with “BC”. Intrigued? Research Aristotle. Plato. Stoicism. Also check this out. It’s an intellectual rabbit hole, but I find it fascinating.

Aristotle wrote about ignoratio elenchi, which he considered to be a somewhat “catch all” term for certain logical fallacies related to what I’d like to discuss today, which is called Straw Man. The British also refer to it as “Aunt SalIy”. It can be simply defined as the misrepresention of an opponent’s position. For example:

  • Person A: I feel the medicinal use of marijuana should be legal. 
  • Person B: How can you possibly be in favor of decriminalizing marijuana? Obviously, you just want to get stoned all the time.

To some, the faulty logic of the above needs no explanation. Being in favor of medical cannabis is rather obviously not the same as stating marijuana should be as easily found and as loosely regulated as Cheetos. Unfortunately, this type of erroneous thinking is everywhere. If you have read my last blog post, you will remember I used healthcare as an example in my discussion about what consitutes a right as opposed to a need. On another similar social media discussion not long after posting those thoughts, I was informed the following:


“From your above post, I can “infer” or “deduct” that you believe poor people do not deserve healthcare as a right…..”

“Anyone that thinks the rich should get healthcare while the poor die, deserves to acquire a deadly disease, have their healthcare taken away, and die slowly, as that is what they are doing to the poor.”

“As it is obvious that you do not believe healthcare is a right for anyone if it will cost you a dime of your treasure or a moment of your time, I continue to infer that you are an immoral, evil person.”


All of the previous are perfect examples of Straw Man arguments (with a topper of Ad Hominem for a hint of spice). My point was simply healthcare is not a right. A need? Of course. A right? Nope. I never once addressed economic status. Rich people versus poor people? Not discussed. I never said people don’t deserve healthcare. I said people do not deserve healthcare as a right. Frankly, I feel if a person cannot distinguish between those two statements, they should go back to every teacher they’ve ever had and profusely apologize. An apology complete with wailing, gnashing of teeth, and maybe even self-flagellation. This person attacked arguments I did not make; ergo, his arguments are invalid. Summarized: “You’re arguing against what I didn’t say.” If one were to point out the error in logic and the offender recognize and acknowledge the same, a productive discussion could then possibly move forward. Experience shows the previous statement to be hopelessly optimistic. Such attempts are usually met with further illogical reponses, and remembering a movie quote from Gene Wilder.

When you see the straw man, look for this as well – is the argument being made from a position of ignorance, or deliberately? It is painfully obvious the above examples illustrate ignorance. The most frustrating type of ignorance as well, when the one positing such a wave of illogical garbage is absolutely convinced of both their intellectual as well as moral superiority. Usually, as in this case, quite falsely on both counts, I might add. In all honesty I hold the deliberate practice of this error in more contempt, as it is usually the type purpetuated in political discussions. A perfect example?

  • Donald Trump: “We must have strong borders and not let illegal immigrants enter the United States.”
  • Media/political opponents: “Donald Trump is a racist!”

I have a special contempt for the deliberate use of this as a tactic of demagoguery. This is Goebells-level propaganda, and it sickens me. Almost as much as it sickens me to see the sheer number of people who fall for this type of rhetoric. I may address my thoughts on that in a future post. Those thoughts center on the failings of our educational system, which are many. But, I digress…

Watch out for the straw man. He’s everywhere.

I do hope my ramblings here were informative, and maybe help you realize this error in logic when you see it. Trust me, you will.

As always, rational discussion is welcome – please comment, and if you are so inclined, forward a link to this post on your social media of choice.

You keep using that word…

Of the many societal ills from which we are currently suffering, the highest on my radar is how words and terms are constantly being redefined. This is solely for propaganda value in my opinion. Rational and logical discourse have been overtaken by inflammatory, deceptive manipulation for decades now. This has permeated many aspects of our nation, with the government/mainstream media as the chief offender. I do consider them to be essentially the same; the media has long since abdicated any pretense of impartiality. They are the de facto communications arm of the Democratic party.

That being said, the word du jour is “right”. What is a “right”? I dare say if you were to ask a group of random people, you would be hard pressed to find 10% who could adequately define the word as it relates to politics and society. According to thefreedictionary.com and their legal dictionary, it is defined as “…an entitlement to something, whether to concepts like justice and due process, or to ownership of property or some interest in property, real or personal.”

In that previously mentioned random group of people, some would no doubt mention “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” from the Declaration of Independence. Here are those words in more complete context:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident,

that all men are created equal, that

they are endowed by their Creator

with certain unalienable Rights,

that among these are Life, Liberty

and the pursuit of Happiness —

That to secure these rights, Governments

are instituted among Men,

deriving their just powers from

the consent of the governed…”

No one could make a credible case the founders of our country chose their words with carelessness. In the case of the Declaration, once the issue was formally brought before the Continental Congress by Richard Henry Lee on June 7th 1776, a committee was chosen to prepare a written declaration. Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson were the assigned members. Jefferson wrote in 1823 the committee “…unanimously pressed on myself alone to undertake the draught [sic]. I consented; I drew it; but before I reported it to the committee I communicated it separately to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams requesting their corrections…I then wrote a fair copy, reported it to the committee, and from them, unaltered to the Congress.” There is a great deal of original source material on this subject if one wishes to find it — my purpose is not to chronicle the history of the document, but to illustrate it was written with many revisions as well as under great care and attention to content. Rather, my purpose is to discuss some of those words in detail to illustrate the concept of rights.

  • “We hold these truths to be self-evident”: My translation? What follows should not require translation, explanation, or justification. They exist as surely as the sky is above us and the earth is below, and they cannot be rationally bargained or dismissed.
  • “…that all men are created equal”: Self evident? Yes. What many do not realize is that in historical context, it was a very controversial and shocking statement. How it is discussed today is usually completely out of context. We were then ruled by the British Crown, headed by a king. Royalty justified their authority as being given unto them by God. They were created superior, meant to rule, every word and decision they uttered carrying the will of the Almighty, with no limit, and your purpose as one created inferior was to be ruled by them with no questions asked. To put pen to paper and state “all men are created equal” was no small affront to the ruling class; it was a shot across the bow! I may write an entire post on this topic alone in the future. For now, I leave you with this: The key word in that phrase is “created”.
  • “…that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”: Now, we’re getting into the heart of the matter. This may be the most rebellious phrase in the entire document. You have rights as long as I decide you have them, according to a king of that time – that was the standard of the day. With those words, the Colonists were essentially saying “…here’s a list of things you have no legitimate power to control, and we dare you to try. We have them because we exist, they were given to us by God, not you, and you cannot take them away”. This was in theory and practice a giant extended middle digit to the king, accompanied by a hearty “up yours!”
  • “that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”: Now, we’re listing those specific things over which they felt the king had no authority. Life – my life is mine, given to me by God. It is not yours to dismiss with a wave of the hand and an “Off with his head”. Liberty – In short, freedom. You cannot capriciously decide how free I am; I am free because I exist, to do as I wish under the laws of God. Pursuit of Happiness – much has been written about the meaning of that term as written in this document. Without writing another book, I will say I believe it to be in agreement with another phrase used both by the First Continental Congress as well as in the Constitution, that being “life, liberty, and property”. Others may disagree.

But again, what is a right? How often do you hear or read someone proclaiming “…it’s my right!”, or ” I have a right to (fill in the blank)!”? There is a difference between a “right” and “what one thinks one should have”. More often than not, those screaming the loudest today are usually crying for the latter. How can you tell them apart? It’s really not that hard once you think about it. Rights are those things you have, whether a concept like the right of self-defense, or a reality like the right to own property which you earned. The key here is this – no one gave it to you; you already have it, either by your very existence, or because of your toil and treasure.

This can be stated more clearly in the inverse: If what you hear someone proclaiming as a “right” requires someone must give it to them, it is not a right! It may be something one feels no one should be without, but if it must be taken away from someone else to give it to you, then it is not a right, it is a nice-to-have.

Before we go further, a short lesson in logic:

Just because one states something is not a right

does not mean they are proclaiming no one

should ever have that something.

That is an illogical argument which

is so prevalent it has a name:

Straw Man.

For an excellent description of

this logical fallacy, go here.

I’ll give you a decidedly hot-button example: Health care. You will have no problem finding those who state people have a right to health care. It simply isn’t true (take a deep breath, see the previous paragraph). For one to have a right to health care, someone will have to give it to them. That means the work, time, services, products, and money of someone else, either directly or indirectly MUST be given to someone else simply because they exist, and those who provide those dollars, goods, services, man-hours, etc. are not compensated. Except for the lobbyists and the politicians, of course; but I digress.


We have a word for the legal requirement

under threat of force to provide from

one’s time and treasure

with no compensation.

It’s called slavery.


Remember, the subject of this discussion is centered around the definition of rights, not a discussion of health care. I chose that as an example because it is a very current topic at this time in our history.

Substitute the topic du jour when you hear it into the previously mentioned formula and my belief is you’ll find very few actual “rights” are being discussed. More often than not, you’re actually trying to be intimidated and propagandized into going along with giving up more of your labor and/or liberty to the government so they can enslave more of us in the shackles of dependency.

Don’t fall into the trap of their demagoguery. Know your rights from your nice-to-haves!

Good, but Not Good Enough

In November of last year, in McMinn County, Tennessee, a 13 year old boy was attempting to unload a rifle and accidentally shot and killed his 17 year old sister.  Incidents like this frustrate me terribly because they are 100 percent preventable.  There is no reason that this should ever happen.  As a gun owner and parent, gun safety is something about which I am passionate.  I demand safe gun handling in my house and anywhere else that I go where firearms are being handled.  Its actually very easy to handle modern firearms safely.  Its almost impossible to make one fire without actually pulling the trigger.  And yet we still have accidents.  I think that’s unacceptable.

The good news is that incidents of unintended injuries and deaths caused by firearms is at an all-time low.  According to the 2016 report on firearms related injuries issued by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (nssf.org/PDF/research/IIR_InjuryStatistics2016.pdf), the incidence of unintended fatalities involving a firearm have decreased 57 percent over the last 20 years.  In 2013, 586 unintended fatalities out of 136,053 involved a firearm, or 0.4 percent.  Keep in mind that there are approximately 350 MILLION guns in the U.S., but only 586 unintended fatalities involved a firearm.  Only 0.6 percent, or 400, of the 69,500 unintended fatalities that occurred in the home involved a firearm.  The news is also good when it comes to unintended fatalities involving children (14 years of age and under).  In the last 20 years, the incidence of unintended deaths of children involving a child decreased 73 percent.  Only 1.3 percent (50) of the 3,857 unintended fatalities of children involved a firearm.  Almost every other sport is more dangerous than shooting.  A cheerleader is 29 times more likely to be injured than a hunter with a firearm!

Those numbers are undeniable proof that, by and large, gun owners are safely handling and storing their firearms.  Modern firearms are manufactured to be as safe as possible and still be useable.  Training programs provided by the NSSF and the National Rifle Association are working to make people safer.  This is great news, but we can do better.  These numbers should be zero.

The way to accomplish this is training.  Training takes many forms, from formal classes to a parent instructing their child to all of us correcting people that we see at the range doing something unsafe.  Parents, it is incumbent on you to teach your children how to behave around a firearm.  I don’t care if you think guns are inherently evil and should be eradicated from the earth.  If you pretend like they don’t exist and that your child will never be around them, you are drastically increasing their odds of injuring themselves or someone else.  Children are naturally curious and you simply can’t control their environment all the time.  You do have control over your firearms and it is your responsibility to control access to them.  It takes some thought, but there are ways to keep them away from your kids but accessible to you.  The other way to tame that curiosity is to familiarize your kids with firearms.  If you aren’t comfortable doing that or don’t have that knowledge yourself, then find a trusted friend that can.  If you ask me to help you with this process, I will not say no.  At a minimum, your kids must know that they are never to handle a firearm without you present and that they should tell an adult immediately if they find one.

As for formal classes, I am not for mandatory training.  “Mandatory” requires some form of governmental involvement.  We’ve got plenty of that already.  But I would like to see gun sellers offer free classes on basic gun safety with the sale of every firearm, especially those buying their first gun.  New shooters should seek out a formal class or consult with a friend that has experience with firearms.  Again, if you ask I will help you.

Being safe with firearms comes back to the Four Rules of Gun Safety.  Many of you will know them by heart, but for those that might not be familiar, they are:  1. All guns are always loaded; 2. Never point a gun at anything that you aren’t willing to destroy; 3. Do not touch the trigger until your sites are on target and you are ready to shoot; and 4. Be sure of your target, what is around it, and what is beyond it.

If everyone would follow these four simple rules, there would be no negligent discharges, and therefore, no unintended injuries or deaths involving firearms.  But break just one of these rules, something bad can happen.  Break more than one and it’s almost guaranteed.  Anytime that I hear of a negligent discharge because “the gun went off”, my immediate thought is “bull”!  Guns do not, will not, CAN NOT go off unless the trigger is pressed or there is a major mechanical malfunction.  Given the quality of modern firearms, the latter seldom happens.  People get injured because other people break one or more of those four simple rules.

If you don’t know, I’m a competitive pistol shooter and I carry concealed every day.  I handle a pistol a lot.  I took a training class a few years ago with a Grand Master level shooter.  At the end of a drill, I was preparing to holster my pistol and I forgot that I still had a round in the chamber and I failed to clear it.  We always drop the hammer before we holster, as another layer of safety.  When I pulled the trigger, it went bang, much to the chagrin of my instructor and my embarrassment!  Fortunately, I was obeying the other rules and no one was injured and no damage was done, other than to my nerves.  I tell you this to emphasize that even those of us who handle firearms every day need to be aware of our safety.  It takes one lapse of attention to make a major mistake.

The bottom line is that the shooting sports are some of the safest activities in which you can participate.  But when injuries do occur, they tend to be serious and often involve innocent bystanders.  American gun owners do a great job of keeping themselves and those around them safe.  I’m very proud of that.  But we can do better.  Every single negligent discharge is preventable.  Let’s work to make the number of unintended injuries involving a firearm zero.

What I Carry

When I first started to consider actually carrying a handgun, I began looking at the various models that fit that role.  I knew that I wanted a semi-automatic pistol rather than a revolver.  I love revolvers, but the cylinder creates a lot of bulk for the ammo capacity that it gives you.  I wanted the caliber to be .40 Smith and Wesson (.40 S&W), as 9mm ammunition at the time wasn’t great and I didn’t want the bulk of a .45.  At 6′ 1″ tall and 175 pounds, I’m not a huge guy, so that pretty well meant that full size pistols were not going to work.  Not long before that, Smith and Wesson had released Compact versions of its Military and Police (M&P) series pistols.  They came in the major defensive calibers, including .40 S&W.  The M&P 40c came with a 3.5″ barrel and a 10 round magazine.  Two magazines were included, one with a flat floor plate and one with an extension so your pinky finger had a place to go.  I decided that I liked it and was able to buy one.  It was a great little gun!  It was relatively accurate, easy to shoot, and easy to conceal.  It shot well enough that I actually used it when I started shooting competitively!  I don’t recommend that you do that, but that’s what I had at the time.

In the meantime, Ruger released its LCP, a tiny little .380 pocket pistol that started the current craze for little bitty guns.  I thought that it made a lot of sense, especially since I had discovered that concealed carry was more work than I thought it would be.  It seemed like a great idea to have a smaller pistol that I could just stick in my pocket if I didn’t want to deal with the bigger gun.  And it filled that role nicely.  But with its size came issues.  It was very hard to shoot and impossible to shoot well due to its short barrel, light weight, and incredibly long trigger pull.  I get it, you don’t want a sensitive trigger on a pocket gun, but this was ridiculous.  The .380 ACP round is pretty marginal as a defensive round, but it produces recoil all out of proportion to its size.  That, combined with the pistol, meant that I hated shooting the thing and didn’t practice with it.  I ended up selling it.

So, fast forward to last year.  The Action Pistol group at my club does a big match every year as a benefit for Toys for Tots.  Part of your entry fee is a toy that goes to this very worthwhile program.  Its a lot of fun and we always have a great turn out.  The prize table is also pretty impressive.  I wasn’t too concerned with the prize table last year as I had a terrible match.  I had some ammo issues on one stage and messed up some others on my own, so I wasn’t expecting much.  The way we do the prizes, however, worked to my advantage.  The final scores are divided into thirds; Gold, Silver, and Bronze, with Gold being the top third, etc.  The top finisher in each third gets to pick from the prize table first, that way everyone has a shot at a great prize.  Just by blind luck, I was the top Silver and won a gun!  I could not believe it!  I honestly thought they were yanking my chain, but it was true.

The gun was a Walther PPQ M2 in 9mm.  My first thought was that I could sell it for enough to buy the AR-15 that I was coveting at that time.  But then I picked it up.  I was immediately struck by the ergonomics of this gun!  The grip was very comfortable and angled in a way that lends itself to getting on target quickly.  I liked the way it pointed and the balance was correct.  None of that top heavy feel from which many polymer guns suffer.  Then I tried the trigger.  Wow! Light, but not too light for a defensive weapon, crisp, no creep or grit, and an extremely short, tactile reset.  Yeah, it had the makings of a real shooter!  I decided to keep it and sell my M&P, which ultimately funded the AR, but that’s a post for another time.

The new Walther in the box. It came with 2 magazines, a magazine loading tool, 3 interchangeable backstraps, an empty chamber flag, and a lock, all in a plastic case.

The PPQ M2 is the second version of Walther’s PPQ.  The original had the weird European magazine release lever at the base of the trigger guard.  The M2 has a button on the grip behind the trigger guard like God and John Moses Browing intended it to be!  Otherwise, the controls are very familiar to anyone that has every fired a polymer striker-fired pistol.  The barrel is 4 inches long and it holds 15 rounds in the magazine plus one in the chamber.  It isn’t a small gun, but it isn’t a full size service pistol either.  There isn’t a lot of wasted metal or polymer on this gun, so it isn’t difficult to conceal most of the time.  It compares in size to the Glock 19, which is a very popular carry gun.  I think it strikes the perfect balance of capacity, concealability, and shootability.  Click here if you’d like to see the specs on the PPQ M2 or any of Walther’s other offerings.  http://www.waltherarms.com/handguns/ppq/ppq-m2/

At the range, I really started to like it!  The first group that I shot out of it impressed me.  From a rest at 10 ft it put 5 rounds into just under an inch!  I’ll take that anytime out of a 4 inch barrel with factory ammo.  The group was  centered to the left, but that’s pretty typical for me.  A quick adjustment to the rear site and it put round 6 dead center, as you can see.  It showed a definite preference for the factory 115 grain bullets over my 147 grain handloads.  I’m not sure what the issue is, but it may just prefer the lighter bullet.  Either way, it is more than capable of putting the bullet where you want it at any normal defensive range.  walther-group

As for ammunition, the 9mm cartridge has come a long way over the past few years.  In the past, the 9mm was not known for its accuracy or its ability to stop bad guys quickly.  A quick trip to your local gun store will clearly demonstrate how much that has changed!  There are dozens of good, accurate, 9mm loads out there now, made with bullets that will ensure that your assailant leaves you alone from now on.  My personal favorite and what I keep in the Walther is Hornady’s Critical Defense round.  Hornady is really on top of the ammunition world right now, and this round is one of their best.  It is made with a 115 grain FTX bullet that has a polymer insert where the hollowpoint cavity is usually located.  This helps produce consistent expansion of the bullet at a wide range of velocities and through barriers, such as heavy clothing.  The recoil is very mild and the round is accurate.  I’ve never had a failure to feed with this load, although I’ve never had a failure to feed with any ammo in the Walther!

That’s what I carry and why.  I’d love to hear from you about your weapon of choice!  Next time, we’ll talk about how I carry.

Thanks for reading!

Why I Carry

I’m tired of writing about the sad state of politics, so I’m going to shift gears a little, if you’ll indulge me.  Most people that know me well know that I carry a concealed handgun most of the time.  The number of people who are getting their permit to carry is on the rise as more states remember that we live in a free nation.  With that in mind, I thought I’d do a series of blogs about my experiences as a permitted concealed carrier.  We’ll talk about why I carry, what I carry, and how I carry it.  I hope you’ll respond in kind so we can all learn something.  Please keep in mind that I am no sort of professional when it comes to concealed carry or firearms in general, so everything presented here is my opinion based on many years of shooting and carrying handguns.

I decided in 2007 to get my concealed carry permit.  In Tennessee, you are required to take an 8 hour class that consists of 4 hours of classroom instruction and 4 hours of range time.  You are required to pass an exam in the classroom and on the range.  I took the course at the Loudon County Sheriff’s office from a SWAT officer who was very serious about his job.  My class was made up of men and women with very different levels of experience with firearms.  The lady sitting next to me had a revolver that she had been given.  I had to show her how it operated, including how to open the cylinder!  The class was very well done, touching on most of the questions that I had coming in.  The range session was pretty easy since I had experience with handguns already.  Needless to say, I passed both exams.

With my class done, I got my fingerprints sent to the state and submitted my application and fee for a concealed carry permit late in 2007.  Honestly, it was a while before I carried after I got the permit.  It is an unnerving experience until you get used to it.  I felt like the gun was standing out a foot and that everybody around me was looking at it.  After a while, I realized that no one was paying any attention to me.  The gun became part of my daily routine, part of my wardrobe.  I’ve learned to dress to effectively hide it and have improved my rig over the years so that its more comfortable.  Now, I feel awkward without it, kind of like when you forget your wristwatch and keep looking at your arm.

So, why go through all of that? Why incur the expense and put up with the discomfort and inconvenience?  There isn’t a simple answer to those questions, and I think everyone that carries probably has different reasons.  The most obvious reason is simply for safety.  We all carry to protect ourselves and our loved ones.  In my case, its not so much about my safety as it is that of my wife and daughter.  They mean everything to me and I will do whatever I have to do to keep them safe.  Obviously, we avoid places and situations where trouble is more likely to occur, but trouble has a way of sneaking up on you when and where you least expect it.  Part of my job as a husband and father is to be ready if it does.

That leads me to another reason that I chose to carry, a sense of responsibility.  I am responsible for my own safety, as well as that of my girls.  I have nothing but respect for law enforcement and I am more than willing to let those brave men and women deal with the evil that lurks in the world.  Unfortunately, though, when seconds count, the police are minutes away.  That’s not criticism in any way, just the truth.  They can’t be everywhere all the time and I personally don’t want them to be.  That leaves me.  At another level, I feel responsible as a citizen to be available if trouble comes calling on someone around me.  I made the decision to get training and to make myself proficient in the use of my weapon.  I feel like I almost owe it to society to be prepared.  I’m not Matt Dillon and I’m not out looking for trouble in which to involve myself. I hope I never fire a round other than at the range.  But I am going to be prepared.

One question that I’ve been asked is could you actually take a human life?  My answer is yes.  I don’t answer that way lightly or without considerable thought.  If the choice was between the bad guy and either of my girls getting hurt, then there is no question.  I know having to shoot somone comes with a heavy emotional toll, regardless of the circumstances. I sincerely hope that never happens.  But, here’s the bottom line; I could live with shooting someone that was trying to hurt me, my girls, or someone else.  I could not live with it if one of them got hurt because I couldn’t prevent it.  That’s the real reason.

Next time I’ll tell you about my current carry gun, how I came to own it, and why I love it!

Springfield Armory SOCOM 16 front sight replacement

I’m moving away from strictly the political with this post to share an informational article about one of my new toys. Please feel free to comment.

Springfield Armory’s venerable M1A has been available for many years in both the original 22″ barrel length as well as a more compact version with an 18″ tube dubbed the Scout Squad. A few years ago, an even shorter 16.25″ variation was introduced called the SOCOM 16, now available in three variations.

I wanted a Scout Squad, but I found a really, really good deal on a SOCOM 16. This sale was likely motivated by an overstock situation on the camo-colored stock, but I didn’t care. It was enough of a deal that I decided to take it even though it wasn’t the exact version I wanted.

While there are many who debate the usefullness of the shorter versions, my intent here is to discuss just one issue and how I chose to tackle it – the front sight. It is ridiculously wide.image

You could land remote control aircraft on this thing! It subtends about a half an acre at 100 yards, which just doesn’t lend to as much precision as I would prefer. All the other versions of this rifle have interchangeable front sights. SOCOM versions appear to be the same, with the front sight being dovetail-mounted and easily removable. The problem is, the SOCOM has a version-specific gas lock which renders the use of standard M1A/M14 front sights a no-go due to a height difference. Below is how I chose to address the issue.

Smith Enterprises to the rescue! They offer a new gas lock which accomodates standard M1A sights, part 2001-GL.

Smith Enterprises gas lock

This is their gas lock with a National Match front sight (easily sourced from many suppliers) already installed. It’s a wee bit narrower…

Sight comparison

This gas lock differs from the one coming on the rifle in that instead of having the muzzle brake an integral part of the unit, it is threaded so you can install the muzzle brake of your choosing. I chose another Smith Enterprises part, the Good Iron 1002-RR

Good Iron

Using the appropriate gas cylinder wrench to hold the lock steady, I used a 3/8ths socket to remove the gas plug, and the gas lock/muzzle brake assembly spun off with light finger pressure.

Gas lock removed

Here is a shot of the assembled Smith Enterprises parts alongside the factory originals…

Smith vs S.A. parts

Installing the new gas lock was a revelation in that the thread fit of the Smith Enterprises unit was quite a bit tighter than the original parts. I had to use a gas cylinder wrench and a touch of colorful vocabulary to spin it flush.

Sadlak wrench to fit

After aligning the new gas lock, I installed a Schuster Adjustable Gas Plug.

Here’s the final assembly:

New installed alongside old

A range session will be in order soon to adjust the gas plug and evaluate the other changes. I expect the front sight to be much more to my liking, and wonder if the new muzzle brake will be more effective than the stock part.

Perhaps a report in another post!

As always, I hope you have found this informative and I welcome rational/adult commentary.