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30 November, 2010

Great Gunplay on "The Walking Dead"

Well I've already sounded off about a Hollywood peeve or two I have regarding firearms, but this time the intent is to cheer rather than chide.  I read a lot of the original comic and I had high expectations of this new series, but I never thought I would be praising it for its realism.

"The Walking Dead", for those of you who haven't been tuning in, is a show about the post-apocalypse world of a zombie outbreak.  These are traditional zombies who move fairly slowly and must be shot in the head or otherwise decapitated to be killed.  Surprisingly, they have remained very close to the original comic plot and the show is very, very good on a lot of levels.  If you've missed it, you can download episodes in HD from Amazon for a couple dollars.  Just click here.  

Now, usually you'll see firearms in any zombie movie and this show is no different.  What does set it apart is that the use of the weapons is very realistic, especially for Hollywood.  I have actually gotten to the point and relax without counting rounds fired between reloads.  They're that good.  Please feel free to comment below if you've seen any six-shooters turning into umpteen-shooters on this show, but I haven't seen it.  Maybe I'll go back and give the show a technical once-over.

The only scene that gave me reason to cringe involved to groups of armed humans who were getting very close to firing on each other.  In a big show of machismo on both sides, they all began yelling and working the actions on their respective firearms.  Several shotguns racked back and forth as their wielders foisted them menacingly in the faces of their opposing force, pistols were angrily cocked with trembling hands and waved about, and everyone was yelling.  Yes, I cringed for a good moment since this is my number one Hollywood gun peeve, but then I had a realization:  The writers were only being realistic.  See, the general public is so conditioned by TV and movies to think that this is the way to start a gunfight, it's only reasonable to assume that a bunch of normal, untrained individuals would probably react in this way.  It's just realism.

Sorry for the brief detour.  Back to range reports and product reviews in the very near future.


-Gun Guy out.







13 November, 2010

Open Call for Products to Review

Manufacturers, distributors, designers:  This is an open call for products to review.


I can't guarantee a good review, but I can guarantee impartiality.  I can guarantee a good, solid daily-use test.  Lastly, if you allow, I will torture your product well beyond its design specifications.  Only the best survive.  My Stone River Gear review is a good example of what you can expect.  I used it regularly and evaluated that, then I put it through some water torture for which it was not designed.  It came through with shining colors.  Will your product do the same?


I will test and review any firearm or hunting-related gear or firearm.  If interested, just drop a line to ToKeepAndBear@gmx.com




I would also like to take a brief moment to thank some of my newer international readers, in no particular order.  My thanks to the readers from:  Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, Slovenia, Australia, Brazil, Germany and Japan.  



03 October, 2010

How Do I Change the Grips on my M&P?


Some designs are so simple that if you're used to common firearms, especially American and European made firearms, you have a hard time understanding how simple they are.  The first time I saw an AK-47 field stripped I just stood there with my mouth open, staring in disbelief.  Many features of the Smith & Wesson M&P can leave your jaw hanging open like that.  One of them is the interchangeability of the grip inserts.  This is a quick walk through of how to change them out.  I should start by saying that I am not a gunsmith or an armorer, or any other type of qualified individual.  So If you are in doubt about anything, please seek the help of a professional, as this is purely for informational purposes only and I will not be held liable for any loss or injury incurred from following this guide (my lawyer makes me say this stuff, honest).

First remove the magazine and clear the chamber.  Take a page from my book and check it twice and you won't be sorry.  Set all ammo in a completely different area.  Any time you plan on doing firearm projects, all live ammo should be policed and placed in a separate area.

Compact (left) and Full Size (right)
Remove your ammo and put it somewhere else.


Now that you're ready to work, note the small bump at the bottom rear on the butt of your pistol.  Take this bump and rotate it exactly 90 degrees.  
Compact, with the "bump" rotated 90 degrees.

Full Size, with the "bump" rotated 90 degrees.













 It will now pull straight out of the bottom, though you may have to wiggle and jiggle a bit the first few times you remove it.  This is your take down tool.  DO NOT rotate the bump more than 90 degrees in either direction or it will get a little ugly like mine. It's not meant to spin all the way around, just 90 degrees one way or 90 the other way.



 










Now that your take down tool is out of the way, grasp the lower portion of the grip insert and swing it back and up.  There is a tab at the top and as you rotate the bottom up, you can pull the tab down and the insert will be completely free.



 







 Now take the grip insert you plan you install.  Insert the tab at the top, rotate the insert down and make sure it is completely seated.  Insert your take down tool, oriented how it came out.  











 Once completely seated, you can rotate your take down tool back 90 degrees so that your magazine can be inserted when the time comes.



CT Lazer grip on right.
 

That's it.  So simple you could train a monkey to do it.  This is one of the great features that really sets the M&P apart

from most other pistols.  It's so nice that Glock decided to copy the feature on their Gen 4 pistols. 

Also worth noting is the fact that there are many gunsmiths out there who are offering custom grips for your M&P. 

Stippling and other texturing work are the most common things I've seen so far, but I would imagine someone has begun resizing and reshaping the grip inserts too.  It's polymer.  The only limit is your imagination.

25 September, 2010

Quick Thanks To My Readers

So far the vast majority of my audience is in the USA so here's a shout out to my home country.

The rest of my audience is in the following countries, in no particular order:

Canada

Finland

Japan

Russia

Australia

South Korea

So thanks as well to all my international readers.  It has been really fun to see all the various countries looking at my posts.

16 September, 2010

How I Made my SKS Shootable (Part II)


"Man," said my friend D., shaking his head and staring at this pitiful little machine I was holding up in front of him, "somebody really did a number on that thing."
"Yeah, sure looks that way," I agreed. "I don't know anything about this rifle, so I guess I don't even know how bad it is, but it sure looks like somebody was trying to turn it into an AK-47 or something."
"How much do you know about the SKS," he inquired.
"Man," I confessed, "I don't even know how to clean it properly."
My friend is a self-proclaimed apostle of the school of Kalashnikov, designer and father of the ubiquitous AK-47. As such, he sees Simonov, designer of the SKS as a direct ancestor, philosophically speaking, of Kalashnikov. While Siminov was about 15 years the elder, the two were contemporaries, submitting designs to the Russian government, sometimes entering in the same design competitions. The SKS was adopted for use in 1945 and was replaced by the AK-47 in 1956. Please see Wikipedia for the full history of these two rifles and their designers. Entire novels have been dedicated to this subject and it would be foolish to attempt to summarize the whole thing here.
D. then proceeded to flip up the lever on the rear sight which allows the gas tube to be removed, then deftly flipped up the gas tube and removed it. He tipped the front of the tube down and out came this long, skinny stainless steel piston, looking like something from an exotic combustion engine. He stood there, gas tube and hand guard in one hand, piston in the other, grinning like he'd just found a buried treasure. In a tone approaching religious adulation he breathed, "This is where the action happens." Then he showed me, with equal enthusiasm, where some of the expanding gas from a fired round gets diverted from the barrel and into the gas tube, pushing the piston back and into a smaller tappet under the rear sight. The tappet in turn knocks the bolt carrier back, expelling your empty case. A spring behind the bolt carrier pushes the bolt carrier back forward while the bolt grabs a live round and chambers it. Holding the gas tube up again he said, "You can put like about a pound of carbon in this thing before it stops operating!" D. has a way of getting excited about firearms that reminds me I'm not alone in this fascinating pastime.
We loaded up the SKS, among other rifles and pistols, and made the trek west from the St. Louis metro area to a really great public range in a national park about 50 miles out of town. This range is a real gem, remote and unsupervised, excavated from the forest floor. Message me and I can give you the address. With ranges of 25, 50 and 100 meters, it's a great place for plinking or checking the zero on your hunting rifle. Additionally, it's a great example of firearms enthusiasts and shooters being able to effectively police themselves without need of a range master. When it's time to change targets and you get the "all clear," everyone places their weapons on the table, action open, and walks down-range. In the several years I've been going out there, I've never heard of a single "accident". It gives a lot of peace to see so many serious, safety-conscious shooters enjoying a range in the middle of nowhere.
Once on the range, the jamming issues with my SKS became glaringly apparent. It would fire a few without event and then there it would be, a single round stuck in the action at an odd angle, half out of the magazine and not quite able to make it into the chamber. A quick malfunction drill and and it was back in service, but only for another few rounds before experiencing the same maddening jam.
D. stepped in at this point after he saw what was happening and explained that this was his original suspicion upon seeing the rifle. All the SKS forums mention problems with detachable magazines and the SKS, a rifle designed to utilize a fixed 10 rnd. magazine and stripper clips. I decided then and there to take his advice and to begin my own research on the matter online.
A couple of weeks later I received my surplus fixed magazine, bought from an online merchant, with the highest of hopes. While my own rifle is of Chinese manufacture and the magazine purchased was from a Yugoslavian SKS, there were no issues fitting it to my rifle once I was finally able to get down to snapping it on. Unfortunately it's here the plot thickens.
The detachable magazines that came with the rifle could be taken off and put back on with a bit of finesse, but not the smooth consistency you would expect from something like an AR-15 or an AK-47. You had to make sure everything was lined up just right, kind of pull the front down and slide it forward, then tilt up in the back. It's hard to describe, so just trust me, it was the kind of playing with your rifle that you wouldn't want to do in a firefight. But, finicky, jamming detachable magazines be darned, because the mission was to do away with them, to take this machine back to it's reliable, 10 round, stripper clip-fed basics, the kind of basics that kept these rifles running for the VC when they were living in mud holes in North Vietnam.
I took the detachable magazine off and set it well out of the way. With the slow, trembling cautiousness of a new surgeon I approached my rifle with the fixed magazine, feeling out how the two would mate together. The answer was that they wouldn't, at least not until I took off the trigger group. The rear of the magazine has a double-claw sort of thing at the back that grabs a pin on the front of the trigger group back toward the trigger guard. The old detachable was well out of the way, but in order to get this new fixed magazine in, the trigger guard would have to be removed, the magazine inserted at the front, and then attached to the trigger group via these double claws. Then the trigger group and magazine snap back into the stock like one big lever, pivoting on the front of the magazine.
Problem was, I couldn't get the trigger guard off. Looks like the guy who Bubba'd up this rifle had put a pistol grip and a whole mess of homespun fiberglass over the release button on the back of the trigger group. Like a cartoon I used to watch as a kid, it was back to the drawing board.
I briefly considered dumping the whole rifle, junk magazines and all at a local pawn shop, just to be done with the whole headache. Call it faith in what this rifle could one day be, or call it pure stubbornness, I was hooked in a way I couldn't shake. Maybe it was the fact that I knew as a poor college student, this rifle, warts and all, was my only chance to have a capable, military-style rifle any time in the near future. It was time to plunge in headlong and once again I went to the internet and to my good friend D. He mentioned a stock by Tapco and I checked out every review I could find. Tough synthetic materials, adjustable length of pull, available in different colors, and relatively cheap, the Tapco INTRAFUSE system was what I needed. If I could only get the barrel, action and trigger group to let go of the stock.  
Fast forward a couple of weeks and my Tapco stock arrived.  I selected flat black for the color, and the blade-style bayonet cut.  I know the spike bayonet is a tougher stabbing implement but I can't use the bayonet with my muzzle brake anyway so the bayonet is more of a last-ditch knife that stays with the rifle.  Removing the original stock was a stressful affair involving a utility knife, a chisel, and a lot of hand-wringing.  In less than an hour and a six-pack of Boulevard I found what I was looking for:  the little button on the back of the trigger group that releases it.  Once free, the trigger group swung out of the way and came apart from the rest of the rifle.  The barrel and action came out of the top together, and in no time my new Tapco was secured.  Though Tapco suggests a certain amount of fitting may be necessary for some, my SKS was a quick, drop-in installation. 
The fixed 10 rnd. magazine also fit the stock without a problem and it was time for another range trip, ASAP.  Who can resist testing a new build?  What I found is that my new-old SKS can digest some Russian surplus ammo like a Sumo wrestler on a bowl of rice.  In the last three years since the stock update, the only jam I have experienced were a series of stovepipe jams I attributed to a spam can of Romanian surplus ammo that my rifle just did not like.  My friend's Russian-made SKS didn't mind that ammo a bit, but my little baby just didn't want to feed it reliably.  As long as I feed her Russian-only, she goes through FMJ, soft point and hollow point ammo without so much as a hiccup.


Tapco stock, bandoleer with 180 rnds. on stripper clips plus cleaning kit, and my .357 S&W.

07 September, 2010

Product Spotlight: Stone River Gear SRG1TF


Finally, a small, bright, efficient light that doesn't break the bank! You see, I have a buddy who spends more on flashlights than he does on guns, and that's just not me; I don't walk a beat for a living, and I'm not in the military, so I have the luxury of shopping for a cheap light that will do the job without too much monetary cost. I understand the need for a good light and I like to have a small light on the night stand and in the car. The problem is that I have a tendency to misplace small objects, and if that small object is an $80 light, finding it can be stressful and worrisome. On the other hand, most cheap lights you find at the local department store can be completely underwhelming in their brightness and their construction. This brings me to the Stone River Gear SRG1TF 1WATT Performance LED Flashlight or SRG1TF, as they list it on their site.
The MSRP for this handy little light is an easy $19.95, a good bit less than lunch for two and a margarita at my favorite Mexican place. At this price, you can buy three for the less than most other name brand lights. This way you can leave one in the car, one by the night stand, and lose the other one without losing too much sleep over it. Don't worry, if you're like me, you'll find it again sooner or later, in a coat pocket or underneath some stuff on your work bench.
As for the features of the light, they are basic. Construction is very light-weight but solid, consisting of a blaze orange head, a black battery compartment, and a black tail switch. I have fairly large hands and I find the SRG1TF very easy to grasp, hold on to, and operate. The tail switch is one that you have to press and let go of before the light comes on as the button completely releases. To clarify, the light will not come on as you press down, rather it comes on once you completely let off. While there is no dedicated strobe setting, it's easy enough to make your own strobe with some gentle half-presses on the tailswitch. I was able to get very consistent with this in ten minutes of practise on the couch.
In broad daylight the SRG1TF is blinding if you look at it within conversational distance. At night, it's painful to even test this light's ability to blind. Of course, I had to test it and I'm glad my wife was around to help me back in the house by turning on the porch light.
While the manufacturer makes no claims of water resistance, its solid, O-ring construction suggests it should be able to take a good splash or two without having a problem. It wouldn't be a complete review unless I took a well-made product and abused it, so I tested the light's water resistance. 
First, I tested the glass only by pointing it straight up and filling the area at the bezel with water. After approximately two minutes I saw three very small droplets inside on the reflector. I turned on the light and it had no trouble functioning. Now, I'm almost certain that a full immersion test would ruin the light, and I like it too much to go diving with it.  Just to see what would happen I turned on the bathtub full blast, grabbed a timer, and turned on my light.  Three minutes of operation under a torrent of cold water should be enough to prove my point.  I held the poor little light there and found out two things:  1)  This little light can hold its own against running water.  2)  LEDs look really cool under water.  I must say I got a little carried away with my initial successes and at the end of the three minutes of torture I very unscientifically plunked the light into the bathtub of water and set the clock for another three minutes, leaving the light running.  Three minutes later the little light is still shining as brightly as ever.  After a quick toweling-off I made an inspection of the battery and battery compartment.  Both bone dry, and no droplets of water to be found in the lamp head either.  

The moral:  A light is just a light, so unless you're Spec Ops or SWAT, consider saving yourself a lot of money and pick up a few of these cool lights.




http://www.stonerivergear.com/SRG1TF.htm

27 August, 2010

Firearms Movie Myth #1:

by Hal Carlisle


"You must work the action of your firearm at the beginning of any confrontation."


For a good recent example of this, see popular movie "Knight and Day", or virtually any other film that involves firearms. This is my Number 1 movie pet peeve and can easily ruin an otherwise good movie. Not only does this make the movie industry look uninformed and uneducated about firearms, it sets a bad example for moviegoers, because while actors and actresses on the big screen uselessly pull back the slide on their firearms, they're often failing to clear their weapons when they should do so. You've seen it a hundred times. It goes like this:

1: Good Guy sees Bad Guy and a short verbal confrontation ensues. Good Guy racks slide on his pistol or rifle. I think pump shotguns used to be more popular for this but are now seen less frequently, according to the informal poll of the movies I've seen recently. I guess a good ole' 12 ga. pump isn't good enough for Hollywood anymore.

2: Good Guy and Bad Guy usually don't have a shoot out at this point. Frequently one of them evades so they can prolong the plot.

3: Good Guy and Bad Guy encounter each other in another scene. Both rack the action on their respective firearms. Please note that live rounds do not fly out the side of their weapons at this point in time, though they should. Does this mean they are clearing their weapons off-screen?

4: Note that Good Guy and Bad Guy rack the slide on their firearm prior to any possibility of a confrontation throughout the duration of the film.

5: It's also advisable to rack the slide on your weapon before leaving your base of operations or loading up in a vehicle, mostly to show the other members of your team (and the audience) how serious you are. When you encounter Bad Guy, racking your weapon makes sure HE knows you mean business, too. Be sure to have a mean, serious look on your face whilst chambering a round.

I understand it's theatrical to see the characters racking their actions in preparation for a confrontation. I know it's good action-movie-mojo to hear that "chck-chck!" back and forth of a pump shotgun. But why, oh why do they have to do it so many times? Just once, I'd love to see someone in a movie pull back on the charging handle or slide just enough to peer into the chamber and visually confirm there's still a round chambered from two scenes ago. Is this too much to ask?

Let’s face it, there aren’t too many fancy or dramatic things to do with a firearm, so it's understandable when the film industry injects a flourish or two. You can rack the slide or unload and reload a weapon. You can do a parade drill with your weapon or spin it on your finger like the old Hollywood Western cowboys. Lastly, you can darn well shoot somebody, but this tends to end a movie in a very final way that falls short of the normal two-hour duration of a film and can also make sequels tricky to pull off. When Bad Guy is dead you have to expend more Hollywood creative genius to come up with another antagonist if you want the sequel revenues, and Hollywood genius is not growing on trees. It’s just so much better for the film industry if Good Guy and Bad Guy rack their slides a lot and expend several cases of ammo in each others’ respective direction.

Hollywood, if you're listening (I know you're not), please, give us more realistic use of firearms in movies. There are ways to work this into the plot. For example, if Good Guy has to scavenge an arm off of a fallen Bad Guy, this is an appropriate moment to work the action, just to be sure it's functioning and loaded. Who knows, Bad Guy might be lying dead there because his weapon jammed up on him and he couldn't clear it, or because he ran out of ammo. So when Good Guy grabs a weapon from dead Bad Guy, he should rack the slide to check function and to check ammo supply in the magazine (yes, Hollywood, magazines hold a finite number of rounds). Besides, it's a good rule to always check the chamber and magazine when picking up a firearm, even if it's your own and you "know" what condition you left it in. This applies doubly to any weapon found in the field or in the heat of battle, so please, feel free to rack at this time.

A jammed weapon would be another great, realistic moment to have a slide rack. Jams happen from time to time and I'd love to see a movie where the fight was interrupted due to malfunction. Now Good Guy has to find cover, clear jam, and continue the fight (yes, the use of cover IS preferable to standing in the line of fire like an idiot). This would be a good queue to those of us who try to be serious shooters: jams can and do happen, and malfunction drills should be a part of your regular practice at the range or when dry firing at home.

Moral: Racking your slide should be done once prior to firing, not to show someone you're serious. It should be done once more after a reload. It should be done in order to clear a jam, whether in the field or as part of practising your malfunction drills. It should be done as part of checking a weapon you just picked up, either to make sure it’s loaded, or to make sure the opposite is true.

Before signing off I feel I should address briefly the issue of chambering a round before entering a vehicle (mentioned above in movie step 5). All the experts I have read agree, and I agree with them: If you’re travelling in a vehicle with a weapon, it should not have a round in the chamber. You will have time to chamber a round when it’s needed, whether it’s at the time you’re deploying from the vehicle or if you have to engage a threat from within the vehicle. In the meantime it’s easier to avoid shooting your buddy if you keep your chamber empty and your muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

So instead of holding our breath waiting for the industry to catch on and inject a little more realism into movies, just make note when you witness this silliness on the silver screen. Make note and remind yourself that no matter how many times a star does it on the screen, it does not make this practise proper or advisable. And don't let yourself forget that the first thing to do when take possession of a weapon is to check function and check if it's loaded. These are not matters you should leave to faith.


More movie peeves to come.


23 August, 2010

How I Made my SKS Shootable (Part I)

by Hal Carlisle


There are millions of SKS rifles in use across the world today, and why not?  While I don't think anyone will ever try to make the case that the SKS is the best rifle ever made, they are great guns.  Chambered in 7.62 x 39mm, with a ten shot fixed magazine and rock-solid reliability, this is a firearm you can count on, one you can plink with, and one that can be used effectively on deer-sized game (I must say here that I have yet to take a deer with mine). The SKS also comes into its own when introducing smaller-statured persons to shooting, as it can deliver a good adrenaline rush and make for an exciting trip to the range without beating your new shooter to pieces. 


The story of my life with the SKS is a long one but easily summarized:  I was about 13 years old, with a small wad of cash, and walking around a gun show with my dad.  I saw this guy walking the floor with a pretty interesting looking rifle slung over his shoulder, and I had to ask what it was.  In maybe his late 30's, with longish messy hair and a bit of the look of a motorcycle rider, he showed me this old rifle like it was the coolest thing ever (of course, he was selling it).


And boy, you should have seen it.  When I first laid eyes on it I had no idea what the actual, original SKS was supposed to look like, so I had no possible way to know how Bubba'd up his was.  The original wood stock was painted a semi-gloss olive drab, and there was a plain pistol grip, epoxy-grafted onto the stock and trigger guard, covering the button where you release the trigger group.  A no-name 2.5x scope sat in some cheap, wobbly rings, riding atop a primitive mounting rail that was spot welded to the inherently shaky bolt cover.  An after-factory 30 rnd. banana clip finished off the job, and boy was it ever a "Bubba AK".  The asking price was right, the bore and action were clean, and 1,000 rnd. cases of ammo were selling for around $100 at that time, so after a short debate with Dad, the rifle was mine.


When we finally got home and I had the chance to try out my new cool gun.  What ensued was, to say the least, not the makings of a good first impression.  The gun jammed a lot, having a serious problem getting rounds out of the magazine and into the chamber, and ergonomically it was 2 thumbs down, as well.  My dad has always been into American-made pistols and hunting rifles, so he was no help whatsoever with this strange conglomeration of Russian design, Chinese manufacture, and American "customization".  Between the two of us, we couldn't even figure out how to properly clean and field strip the thing, much less diagnose the failure to feed issue.  This was a little before the internet was really mainstream, so rather than canvass the countryside for someone who might be able to help, I shelved that rifle, and only shot it maybe twice over the next ten years.


It wasn't until college, when I made friends with a guy who was really into AK-47s, that I finally discovered this rifle's true beauty.  He and I began talking about guns one day and decided to plan a trip to the range, so I told him I had this old, crappy SKS out at my dad's house and I wanted him to tell me how it worked.  He was very positive about the SKS in general, calling it the Grand Daddy of the AK, and knew all about it.  He told me he'd be glad to show me everything about it and show me what a great gun it was.


Range Trip Day finally came and I pulled out my old rifle to show him, kind of wincing as it came out of the case.  His jaw dropped and his mouth just hung open for a long moment as he gawked.  When he regained use of speech again, all he could manage was, "Man, is there an SKS in there?" 



(Part II and pics to come shortly)

22 August, 2010

New to the Whole Blog Thing

This is my first attempt at a blog, so if you're reading this, please bear that in mind. 

The mission of this endeavor is mostly to provide myself with an outlet to start a discussion on firearms in general and perhaps a bit of gun-related news and politics, as well as St. Louis area gun happenings.

I have no military or police experience;  I just grew up in the country, shooting and hunting all my life.  I've been in this concrete jungle here in St. Louis for the better part of the last 10 years, so hunting and shooting, which used to be commonplace, have turned into celebrated and cherished moments.

I'm a bit of an amature photographer, so expect to see plenty of firearm pictures here in the future.  I won't be reposting anyone else's stuff due to copyright reasons, so you'll have to wait until I get around to taking my own.

I think that'll do for intros for now.  I hope you like the blog, please enjoy the ride.