My First (and possibly last) AR-15 Build


Today’s post is brought to you by Patrick Shipp, Patrick has served his country down range in Iraq and on the front lines of the energy war in Washington, DC.

Roaming the aisles of The Nation’s Gun Show in Chantilly, VA, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of today’s small arms industry. Nearly every make and model of rifle, shotgun, and hand cannon in the world is there, and eager buyers are salivating at the thought of owning that which the liberal media has made taboo. Among the tables of Colt 1911s, Remington 700s, and Winchester Repeaters, there are a few vendors who are targeting a more discriminating customer; the AR-15 armorer.

Merriam-Webster defines an armorer as “one that repairs, assembles, and tests firearms.”

I wasn’t looking to build the best AR, but wanted to gain a better understanding of how the rifle operates. I began my build with some internet research. There are over 150 individual parts in an AR-15, and all of them must function together in order to effectively send 62 grains of lead towards the intended target. All of the parts can be purchased online and shipped directly to your home, with the exception of the stripped lower receiver. This is the serial number component, and must be transferred to the customer through a Federal Firearms Licensee. I bought my Smith and Wesson M&P stripped lower at the gun show for $130. At the show, I also purchased several Magpul components, including flip-up front and rear sites, a pistol grip, trigger guard, and adjustable buttstock. The remaining components I purchased online from Del-ton (flattop upper receiver), Midway USA (buffer tube, buffer spring, buffer, lower receiver parts kit, and bolt carrier group), and Ebay (replacement buffer tube for the one I over torqued). Where there was an option to, I bought mil-spec components. I switched out the 18” barrel on another AR platform for a 20”, and used the 18” barrel on this build. I found a handguard left over from deployment and got to work.

I went to my local range, Blue Ridge Arsenal in Chantilly, VA, and had the armorer there put the barrel on my upper receiver. There’s a lot that can go wrong, including miss alignment which could affect gas tube alignment, so I went to the pro. He switched out the short barrel, and installed the longer one for fifty bucks. That was money well spent. I did the rest of the assembly in my basement, using Cheaper Than Dirt’s YouTube videos on building a lower receiver and the Army’s TM9-1005-319-23. It’s important to know that all of the components fit together in a specific order. Anyone who has ever tried to repair their car knows what I’m talking about. Step-by-step instructions are essential to success. Watch the video and read the instructions a couple of times for real success. With the lower complete, I replaced the fixed front site post with a gas block with picatinny rails and attached the front and rear sites. I snapped top and bottom together, performed a functions check, and took it to the range. This was the most nerve wracking part. I knew everything had been done correctly, but in the back of my mind, I thought, “what if this damn thing blows up in my face. I’m going to look like an idiot.” One hundred rounds later, and I was satisfied with my work.

No after action review is complete without the obligatory what went wrong, and for me, those are the most important lessons learned. My buttstock has a little bit of wobble when fully extended. Though the buffer tube and buttstock are mil-spec, I can’t help but think that the replacement tube I bought after busting the one from Midway USA was not the correct diameter. The upper and lower aren’t as tight as the pros prefer, though you can purchase a small plastic block that will make the fit snug. I would recommend always buying a matched upper and lower to avoid any wiggle. The bolt carrier group from AR Stoner is snug, and did cause the rifle to fail to cycle completely. I have tried sanding, and will take the Dremel to it sometime soon. After the fact, I read some disparaging reviews on Midway USA, regarding the AR Stoner bolt carrier group. I’d say this is one of the components where you want to spend a little bit more, especially if you’ve incurred some savings elsewhere by catching Magpul and CMMG lower reciever components on sale.

All in all, I’m pleased with the outcome. The final cost to complete, I’d estimate at about $900. You can purchase a complete stock AR-15 for this much, and add the Magpul components for another $150 or so. The bolt carrier group is an easily replaceable part if the Dremel doesn’t work, and the wobble reminds me that I need to look into getting another buffer tube. The feeling, though, of firing the weapon you built, well, that’s just priceless.

See you at the range.

Combat vs. Competition…The real facts.

3I am not Anti-competition shooting, but I do find fault with most of the competitions out there. The reason being is that they are not realistic and cause the shooter to form extremely bad habits that can get them killed on the street. Now I realize that most gun owners will never be involved in a shooting incident, but it can happen at any moment to any of us. Hence  my passion to train in a realistic manner so that I am prepared as well as those I regularly train. I also despise indoor ranges that don’t allow realistic shooting. If one can’t even draw his weapon from the holster, how can he be prepared for a real life shoot out?

Competition shooters are on the whole amazingly fast when it comes to getting off accurate shots. In and of itself that is a great thing. however there are some huge down falls. To start, all targets are single shot targets for the most part. Training yourself to fire one bullet at a target can mean your death in real life. Regardless of what caliber you shoot, in a real life gun fight you will generally need multiple shots on target to end a threat to your life. Training to fire once and then look for more targets can be a deadly habit to form.

Secondly, speed reigns supreme in competition. Speed is important, but not at the expense of accuracy and tactical technique. A good example of this is the goofy overhand grip you see many 3-gun shooters using. It’s said that this grip helps them steer  the gun. Ok, whatever works for them is fine because no one is shooting back! The problem is that many people see this technique and adopt it without considering real life situations. The most solid offhand shooting platform is using a vertical or horizontal grip that allows you to pull the gun tight into your shoulder pocket with your arms tucked in tight. This helps reduce muzzle rise, make quicker follow up shots, and assists in overall control of your weapon. What’s  even better is the use of the kneeling or prone position if possible. By doing so you reduce your profile and make yourself a smaller target as well as form a more solid shooting platform by having the ability to triangulate your limbs for support. In a real life shootout if the rifle or carbine has come out it is pretty damned serious and likely everything is happening at a distance where cover can be chosen, so this isn’t necessarily a hindrance to be prone because you have dug into your position and it’s safe. If you only practice off hand you will remain standing when you should be looking for cover and making yourself as small a target as humanly possible.GSLDTIntermediate38

Speaking of cover, competition shooters never use cover in a tactical manner. They use the cover in a manner that facilitates speed. There is never any “slicing the pie” technique. What I normally see is peek and shoot at  best or the shooter leaning out as far as possible to engage as many targets as possible. My other huge gripe with competition shooting is that there are only so many configurations for a  shooting stage in a match. A person can become like a trained pony and expect certain things when shooting rather than reacting to the clear and present danger at hand. No matter how you cut it, this can be a bad habit to form that will get you killed. Muscle memory is what controls your ability to shoot under extreme stress. If  your muscles remember doing the same things over and over then that is what they will do. Shooting two close targets, five medium range target, and four long range targets at varying heights is great for a match, but isn’t very realistic.  What happens when your strong side is injured in a fight and you have to shoot with your weak hand? Or you trip and have to shoot from your back? Did you practice these things while preparing for that 3-gun shoot? Of course you didn’t. A gunfighter trains for the worst case scenario so that he can beat the best in the world on his worst day under any circumstances.


Finally, competition shooting breeds an environment of gizmos, gadgets, and race guns. Reflex sights are great,  but batteries fail. Any electronic gadget can and will fail, especially under harsh conditions. Daily carry is harsh! My gun gets wet, dirty, and beat up daily. The other big consideration  is that the more there is hanging off your gun the more likely you are to snag your gun upon drawing it from the holster. Competition shooters usually have belts set up for just that competition. Everything on the belt is easily reached and even the holster is built for speed. You aren’t going to carry your gun in the same manner that you shoot it in a competition. You’d walk around looking like Wyatt Earp at best and an idiot at worst.

Now I said at the beginning of this that I am not against matches or competition shooting, and I’m not. My point in this post is to make you think. If you shoot IDPA or any other discipline, that’s great! Just don’t neglect real world training for real world situation that can and will occur. Mix things up, find new and different ways to challenge yourself and don’t live life preparing for a competition when your life is on the line!

Choosing the Best Handgun for You

For the ladies, and the guys too: Deciding which gun is best for you.

How many times have you walked into a gun shop only to be greeted by a gun store Rambo with too much testosterone and not enough common sense? It’s happened more than once to my wife and I. Most of the time they have a personal agenda and try to steer you to this gun or that gun regardless of how it fits you personally. If you want a compact gun it has to be this Glock or Sig Sauer and if you want a full sized gun it has to be this 1911 or a Heckler & Koch. This may be because they have the most mark up on this weapon and get more cash when they are sold or it may be because they just prefer this brand or that the other. The truth is far too few people know or understand the basics of purchasing a weapon for a specific use.

English: A Smith & Wesson Military & Police ha...

Smith & Wesson M&P(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My wife and I recently purchased her first handgun. We looked for a very long time and to be honest, I got rather frustrated doing so (one of the reasons for our consulting service). She is tiny and wanted a tiny gun to go along with her tiny frame. The problem is that she also wanted an effective fighting sidearm that would protect her and our family. Things got difficult very quickly when she had her heart set on several guns that simply didn’t fit her. We looked at a lot of guns from sub compact Glocks to smaller caliber guns like the Walther PPK and PK 380. Nothing seemed to fit her and accomplish the end goals we both had in mind.  One of these guns was a Walther PPQ. This is a great gun, but it didn’t fit her hand well and the ergonomics of the frame didn’t disperse the recoil well through her upper body. It was actually painful for her to shoot it. She went through a few others and even shot my Beretta 92 several times. This process turned into several weekend trips and visits to almost every reputable gun shop in the Raleigh/Durham area.

Credit: LampostCCW

Credit: LampostCCW

One thing that most first time buyers don’t consider is that the smaller the gun the more recoil it has, even in a smaller caliber. It’s simple physics, and a compact .380 will have as much or more recoil than a larger 9mm on a full sized frame. The smaller the gun, the less ammunition it will also carry. So think about the purpose of your handgun. My wife is of the same mind as I am. If either of us has resorted to using a gun, then the situation has gone terribly wrong and we want as much firepower as possible. So after shooting many guns and having several long discussions with both myself and the owner, Rob, at Clayton Guns, she ended her search with a Smith and Wesson M&P Pro in 9mm. Yes this is a full sized gun, but with careful consideration it can be concealed easily.  Fortunately, after dealing with the general bravado from many gun shops, we met Rob who is a wealth of information and had no agenda other than to get my wife the right gun for her.

This brings me to my first point; find a shop you can trust and have someone with you that really knows  their stuff when it comes to the basics of handgun manipulation and control . Just because a gun looks cool and comes highly recommended by a magazine article doesn’t mean it will fit you and be the best gun for you.  Shoot or at the very least hold as many guns as you can to test fitment to your hand. Many of the newer polymer guns have interchangeable back strap panels. Try them out and get a feel for the guns.

Then decide on the purpose of the gun. Are you carrying it in a holster, purse or pocket? Do you open carry or do you always carry concealed? Will this be your only gun or will you have multiple guns for multiple situations. Only after you decide how you will use the gun can you purchase a weapon that will fulfill its main purpose.  You then need to make sure it isn’t what I call an orphan gun. Orphan guns are more unusual or unpopular guns that don’t have huge aftermarket support. If you buy one of these guns then accessories will be difficult or impossible to find. In the best case scenario you will pay top dollar from a custom holster maker so that you have equipment that fills your needs. The only other option is to build your own holster system with Kydex or use a one size fits all nylon holster that isn’t what you really want or need.

9mm-357sig-40sw-10mm-45acp-45gapThe caliber of your gun is the next thing that you really need to decide on. For the guys, buying the largest caliber possible to compensate is just plain silly and really dangerous. Male or female you need to choose a caliber that you can easily control, especially if you are not an experienced shooter. If you can’t make quick follow up shots or you need to adjust your grip after shooting several rounds, then it isn’t the gun for you. I’ve said this before and I will say it again, there is no magic caliber. The “one shot stopping power” of a particular round is somewhat a fallacy that causes people to make decisions that hinder their ability to learn the basics and become competent marksmen. I’m a really big guy and can handle anything you put in my hand, but I choose to carry a 9mm due to the fact that I am at my best when shooting this round. I can cut the 10 ring out of a target and transition between multiple targets quickly and it has more than adequate stopping power when using modern ammunition.

So now you have a gun that fits you, you know how you intend to use it, and you’ve decided on caliber; what’s next? Now it’s time to train, try different holsters and modes of carry. Make your weapon an extension of your body. Your life depends on your ability to be proficient with your new purchase, so get to work!

20 Rules of a Gunfight, Reloaded

This is the Laymen’s Tactical version of the rules for gun fighting. If you’ve been in the military they may look a little familiar, but in law enforcement it is MUCH different. Survival is the only thing that matters in a real life shooting situation.

  1. Your number one Option for Personal Security is a lifelong commitment to three skill sets: Avoidance, Deterrence, and Situational Awareness.

  1. Bring a gun. Preferably, bring at least two guns

  1. Decide to be aggressive ENOUGH, quickly ENOUGH

  1. Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammo is cheap. Life is expensive.

  1. Only hits count.

  1. Close doesn’t count.

  1. If your shooting stance is good, you’re probably not moving fast enough nor using cover correctly.

  1. Move away from your attacker. (Lateral and diagonal movement are preferred.)

  1. Distance is your friend, but cover is a better one.

  1. If you are not shooting, you should be doing 3 things: Communicating, Reloading, and Running.

  1. Accuracy is relative: most combat shooting is more dependent on “pucker factor” than the inherent accuracy of the gun in your hand.

  1. Use a gun that works EVERY TIME

  1. In combat, there are no rules: Always Cheat; Always Win! The only unfair gun fight is the one you lose.

  1. Have a plan.

  1. Have a back-up plan, because the first one won’t work.

  1. Use cover or concealment as much as possible. The only visible target should be the one in your gun sights.

  1. Don’t drop your guard.

  1. Always tactical reload and threat scan 360 degrees.

  1. Watch their hands. Hands kill!  Gun Fighter’s Motto: In God we trust! Everyone else, Keep your hands where I can see them.

  1. The faster you finish the fight, the less shot you will get.

Did you see some terms that you don’t use in everyday life? Have you really thought about a plan for different situation that you find yourself in often? Is there a way to avoid the fight?

Think about these rules, then think about what you need to do so that you are actually as prepared as possible when “it” does hit the fan.

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Holsters on a Budget 101


If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…my gear, my way.

It’s kind of humorous if you ask me, but people want the “right” gear so they look cool at the range, while carrying concealed or during training. While I can absolutely understand this feeling, this isn’t high school people! This is real life and what works well for one person may not work well for you. Body types, personal styles and budget vary and you have to do what is right for you. Mr. Ingersoll touched on this a few posts ago and pretty much said that what you can afford and works for you is what you should buy. I’m just expanding upon his observations in this post and sharing my personal set up. I’ll share links for the makers of my gear and let you look around for yourself.

My personal preference is to have a holster for each specific purpose when carrying my Beretta 92FS. To this end I have two outside the waistband holsters (OWB), one inside the waistband holster (IWB), and one trigger guard style holster. Mr. Ingersoll has at least that many holsters for his Beretta 8040 to include a Safariland duty holster and a few others. I personally prefer a paddle style holster over belt holsters as they are easily removed when needed and are very stable on my frame. Speaking of frames, I’m over 6ft and pushing 300lbs. I am a very big guy, so my set ups may not be the perfect set up for you.

blackhawkYou may ask why I have two different OWB style holsters. That’s a good question and I will explain my logic and how it came to be. The first holster is an Uncle Mike’s paddle set up with no retention of any kind other than friction. I have had it for years and it was cheap. I have used this holster for concealed carry and training only because it has no retention level protection in case of a gun grab situation or fight. The second OWB holster I have is a Blackhawk! SERPA.  I carry in this holster in situations when it’s appropriate to open carry. The SERPA is an affordable holster with lots of options. It comes with both a paddle and belt attachment when purchased and it’s designed to work with both a shoulder rig and tactical thigh rig with no modifications, just a few screws. There is a lot of bang for your buck with this holster. Is it the end all, be all holster that some say it is? Not by a long shot, I would definitely prefer several others but just can’t justify spending the money. It ‘s a level 2 retention holster where a button must be depressed to release the handgun and the tension is adjustable so it meets my need for open carry. It’s minimal protection, but it is protection from someone walking up and pulling your gun out of the holster or it falling out during a struggle.

OldFaithful-Empty2When it comes to inside the waist band (IWB) carry I carry an Old Faithful that I built from a kit. This is a hybrid style holster that has a leather backing against the skin and one side of the gun combined with a Kydex shell on the other side. It makes for a very durable and comfortable holster. There are quite a few of different companies that are making this style of holster these days since it gained so much popularity in the CCW crowd. I’m not sure who started the design but certainly the first one I heard about was the CrossBreed Supertuck however, this is a far more expensive and their lead time is fairly long. So by buying this easy to assemble kit form Old Faithful, I saved a ton of cash and now have an intimate understanding of my gear. Without a doubt I recommend trying the kits on the market.

Now I may have failed to mention this, I carry every holster in the appendix or modified appendix position. So make note of that if you plan to order a similar holster. This particular holster is cut for that positioning and is very comfortable for all day wear with only slight adjustments when sitting or getting in and out of a vehicle. Some people may ask why I carry in this position when so many other positions work well and  are more comfortable. The answer is simple, I don’t want people to see my gun (if it is printing) when I can’t see them. In other words if you know I have a gun, I want to know that you know! Secondly I have much more control over the weapon in this position during a struggle or just in general.  I even carried in this position while on duty as a police officer and kept the duty holster tension screws on my belt loose enough to adjust the location as needed.

Credit: Aegis Armory

Credit: Aegis Armory

The final holster I have for my Beretta is a trigger guard style holster from Aegis Armory. This an absolute minimalist style holster that only covers the trigger so that it isn’t engaged accidentally.  This is my T-shirt, shorts, and flip flop gear. You basically stick it in your waistband and go, another word for this is “Mexican carry” but with this holster there is some retention on the firearm. It comes with a lanyard that you attach to a belt or belt loop. When drawn the holster just pulls away because it is only held on with a small amount of tension. On a smaller weapon this would be a great pocket holster or even a neck holster. This also makes a great “car carry” holster. Wrap the lanyard around your emergency brake handle or whatever you have available and tuck the pistol between the seats.

So there you have it, my gear for my needs and on my budget. Would I love to have several Raven or G-code holsters? Oh yes I would, but I just can’t justify buying the high dollar gear when what I have fits my needs rather well. I’ll upgrade one day but for now I definitely don’t care what others think about my choice of holsters or even my beat up old Beretta. The guy wearing all the latest gear and shooting the H&K SOCOM 45 at the range the other day couldn’t hit the ten ring to save his life. I on the hand tore one big ragged hole with 50 rounds in the target.  Buy what works for you and save the money for ammo and training!

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The Case for a Full Gun Safe

Just how many guns do you need?!?!?

Has your wife ever asked you, “Just how many guns does one man need”? A couple of mine have, yes I said a couple. They weren’t at the same time, don’t judge me, I was a cop! Well I am going to make my case to you that every man should have a minimum of five guns, based on legality and needs, to protect his family and home.

Gun Wall
Gun Wall (Photo credit: Mike Saechang)

Guns are tools of the trade just as a mechanic has a tool chest or any other tradesman has what he needs to accomplish a myriad of jobs that may come his way. I’ll start off with a great analogy I once heard from a good friend. If you were going to plant flowers you wouldn’t go out and buy a back hoe, or if you were going to dig a drainage ditch you wouldn’t attempt to do so with a garden spade. Why in the world would anyone feel completely protected with only one gun in all situations?  

So how many guns does one man need? I say at least one for every need you have, depending on your location and budget. For me that would consist of two handguns (one full sized and one compact), a shotgun, a carbine, and a long range rifle, not all at the same time though. Each weapon has a specific job that it is created for and does best. So I will discuss those jobs and how I have come to this conclusion and stellar argument for buying more guns.

English: modern revolver Ruger SP101 cal .38 S...
English: Ruger SP101 cal .38 Special (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I always need a very small compact gun for those times when deep cover is needed. The .357 J frame S&W is my all-time favorite. Why a revolver? My answer is simple, and it’s because this gun’s primary use will be as a backup to my primary weapon. If I have gone to my back up, then something very bad has happened. Either I have run dry with my primary weapon or it has had a catastrophic failure of some sort. A revolver is as close to fail proof as a gun can be. From 0 to 25 yards a 2inch revolver is very accurate and extremely effective. The ultra compact 9mm handgun has come into great popularity lately, as well as the .380 ACP models as well. It’s hard to beat a Kel-Tec PF9 or a P3AT for the money and concealability. We generally don’t recommend going below a .380 ACP but if your needs can only be met by a .32 or smaller round, there are some other excellent options in these calibers as well.

Beretta 92FS
Beretta 92FS (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When it comes to my primary weapon I prefer a quality gun with plentiful parts availability. If the need should arise I want to have the ability to rebuild this gun at a moment’s notice without any issues. Hence my personal choice of a 92 series Beretta or Glock chambered in 9mm. Both guns are reasonably priced and there is huge parts markets to repair of improve them. Semi-auto handguns are extremely complicated and have many parts. One spring or small part can cause a failure. It only makes good sense to be prepared. Not to mention both of these guns are easy for novice owners to repair even if they have no prior gun smith training (please note I don’t advocate disassembly of your gun if you aren’t trained). Any duty sized handgun is made to be accurate out to 25 yards and beyond, so it is a must have in your personal arsenal of weapons. In fact, this category is probably the most important one. A full sized handgun can be concealed and with their accuracy at range will fill most defensive needs.

Mossberg M500SP
Mossberg 500 (Photo credit: mr.smashy)

One of my favorite short to medium range weapons is the 12 gauge shotgun. You just don’t get any more all American than a Remington 870 or Mossberg 590. Pump guns are definitely my preference as they will feed almost any ammunition you throw in them and the sound when you rack one into the chamber is unmistakable. That sound alone gives you an advantage over your opponent because of the psychological effect it will have on them. Shot guns can also be used as door breaching tools or even crowd control. Properly outfitted a shotgun can be the best choice all the way out to 100 yards. They really are a do it all gun. Another firearm to put in the back of your mind in this category of short to medium range is the pistol caliber carbine. There are a few well reviewed and durable carbines in most common pistol calibers, some have the capability of using the same magazines as your chosen duty style handgun, which makes things much more simple when it comes time to purchase ammo and magazines.

AR15 (Photo credit: Section_Eight)

A short, quick handling centerfire rifle or carbine is a must have for everyone.  From hunting small game to being used as a defensive weapon they are good for everything. For those of you that have been around firearms for the last decade or so it’s become very apparent that an AR-15, Kel-Tec SU-16C or Ruger Mini 14 are super great choices. All three are extremely accurate and affordable. Equipped properly they can even be used to clear a house or short range sniper work. Again, they are great all around weapons that have a ton of uses. The AR platform has endless possibilities and can be converted for many uses and calibers can even be changed relatively easily. An AK variant  falls into this category beautifully as well and would provide a lot of power to quickly end the fight. For that matter an AR platform can be used all the way up to a .458 SOCOM round. That’s the reason everyone love an AR-15, they are so customizable based on your needs. All the way out to 200 yards any centerfire carbine will get the job done, so it is a great medium to long range option for protecting your family. This category isn’t limited to the “black rifles” though. The venerable lever action carbine from almost any maker has proven itself over it’s very long history to be a perfectly adequate defensive tool as well as a hunting arm and is certainly worth your consideration.

English: The US-made Remington 700 .308 Winche...
Remington 700 .308 Winchester. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For long distance work, a Remington 700 in 308 or 300 Win Mag is my weapon of choice.  There is no smoother action on the market for the price in my opinion.  There are endless choices that this gun can be outfitted with from the factory and the aftermarket is flooded with anything you could ever want. Are there other options? Of course there are, the Savage model 10 and Winchester 70 are both fantastic choices for a long range precision rifle. Honestly just about any quality hunting rifle will do the job neatly. When it comes to this type of rifle, you can spend as little or as much as your heart desires, but remember, you get what you pay for. No amount of geegaws that you attach will turn a crap rifle into a long range beast. You don’t become a sniper overnight, and a ton of training is needed if you intend to pursue any type of long range shooting. Depending on the gun this type of weapon can be a show stopper into quadruple digit distances. If the truth is really told, you can go to Wal Mart and purchase a $300 Ruger American or Savage Axis in .308 and it will exceed your abilities for a very long time to come and serve as a great way to learn the art of long range precision shooting.

So there you have it, my weapons of choice and why I NEED them in my gun safe. The best part is you can double the number of guns just by explaining to your wife how she needs to be out fitted in case something were to happen to you. What mother doesn’t want to protect her children, right? As for now stay safe, train and have a good un’



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Caliber Considerations for CCW

Beretta 92FS

Beretta 92FS (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s post comes to you from Dave Windham again. Dave’s knowledge and experience with concealed carry, firearms implementation and associated equipment is a valuable asset.

What’s in your pants???

Did that get your attention? Good, now please read on so that you understand the question.  I’m really exhausted of (primarily men) purchasing the largest caliber gun possible because it’s the manly thing to do while ignoring the basics of firearm handling and simple logic. They ignore the simple fact that despite their manliness, they may not be able to effectively control a large bore handgun. I’ve seen people purchase guns that don’t even fit their hand so that they have a “45” as opposed to any other caliber handgun.

Let me start by saying I don’t advocate or consider mouse guns an option. I don’t even like these mini guns as back up weapons. Personally a .38 +p or .380 is about as small as I feel is an effective caliber in any gun fight and many folks in the industry agree. What I am addressing is 9mm, through 45ACP. Many novice or inexperienced shooters just don’t consider 9mm as being a good round in a gun fight and think that bigger is always better. Let’s look at the evidence, and you make up your mind.

The chart above shows the penetration of the handgun rounds that we are discussing, while the page linked to next shows the expansion of the said rounds upon penetration.  Please note that manufacture and bullet type, weight, etc. do cause dramatic changes in these findings.  Do your own research or study the research of professionals to make your own choice and reach your own conclusions.

As you can see, there isn’t a clear and simple “best round” or “magic bullet”.  With different manufacturers or slightly different bullet styles the results are almost identical from 9mm all the way up to 45 ACP.  With this knowledge there are several other factors that you need to consider.

The first factor is what really happens in a gun fight. A real life gun fight isn’t anywhere close to static marksmanship practice on a range or even competition shooting. Your body goes through all sorts of changes when lead starts flying in your direction. Your heart rate rises, your motor skills are significantly decreased, and your vision is greatly affected.  Now ask yourself, do you want a smaller amount of ammunition and all the recoil you can handle or do you want something easily controlled that you are a very good marksman with?

To get the feeling of what it feels like to be in a critical incident, try this. Run around the block twice in all your gear, fully clothed in the middle of summer, then drop and do 25 push-ups and then 25 sit ups. Now stand, draw your weapon and engage multiple targets at multiple ranges running between cover and concealment points. Make sure you have to reload so that you make a magazine change and experience all aspects of your loss of motor skills. If you can, even induce a feeding malfunction during this drill.

Ok, so now that you know that your 3 inch groups at 10yrds on the range don’t amount to a hill of beans in real life you now have to consider what really ends a gunfight. Almost all accounts of these incidents and personal accounts from police and military personnel, as well as personal experience I know that hydraulic failure is what normally ends the fight. That’s just a nice way of saying the aggressor has bled out and can no longer function.  Do you really think that .12 of an inch in expansionor a fraction of an inch in penetration is going to make a huge difference?  The truth is that it really doesn’t. What’s far more important is shot placement.

In my opinion having a gun that I can make extremely quick follow up shots with, and that carries several more rounds only makes sense. Both I and my wife carry full sized duty style weapons in 9mm. She carries a bone stock M&P Pro with a 4.25in barrel and I carry a slightly customized Beretta 92fs that was once my duty weapon with two police departments. I have 20 rounds on tap while she has 17 rounds at the ready if needed. Now you may ask, is it concealable? The answer is hell yes. It’s all about holster choice and clothing choice. I’ll discuss some of my holsters in a post at a later date.

The point of this is to make you think. Why do you carry what you carry? Is it the best choice or a compromise? Could you be more effective with a different gun? Your life truly depends on your choices for your ccw defensive firearm, so take the time to do some research and make solid decisions.   Happy training and be safe!

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Musings on Current Events and Concealed Carry

English: Taken by Paul F. Maul, an original ph...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a guest post from a very good friend of mine, Dave Windham. Dave has spent his entire adult life in the company of firearms much like myself. He is a former law enforcement officer and corrections officer and he and I worked together in some of the worst spots in central North Carolina without the luxury of backup.

Let me start by saying that I am in no way an attorney, nor do I claim any legal expertise in any area of the law. I’m not attempting to provide any legal advice or tell you what you should legally do or not do.  I am strictly writing this as a citizen that carries a firearm regularly and attempting to convey some concerns that I have as well as my personal observations and opinions.

Having said that, the Brew haha surrounding the Zimmerman incident and subsequent trial has raised a lot of questions and concerns with those who conceal carry on a regular basis. I personally have carried regularly since the age of 21 and I’m now pushing the big four-O. Some of that was while on duty as a police officer, corrections officer or as an armed guard. The majority of the time I carried off duty and I continue to do so.

When you are forced to use your weapon in self defence, some of the many things that will be called into question after any use of a firearm are { 1) type of weapon used, 2) the caliber of the weapon used, 3) state of carry, 4) features of the firearm used, 5) training of the user of the firearm, etc.} This is by no means all encompassing, but it’s a good foundation of what you can expect to be questioned by a prosecutor or attorney in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Let’s start with the type of weapon you carry. Most of us that carry concealed tend to carry smaller firearms of smaller calibers so that they are easily hidden and you have the maximum amount of ammunition.  I personally don’t subscribe to this logic as I carry a full sized duty gun chambered in 9mm with a twenty one round capacity. If you carry a larger caliber or one with a ton of ammunition on board, expect to be questioned on why. Study up on past shootings from both civilian and law enforcement. You need to have a well thought out and researched answer. Your choice of firearm doesn’t need to be arbitrary and ignorance is never a defense.

Patronen: 9mm LUGER; 7,62 TOKAREV ; .357 SIG; ...

Patronen: 9mm LUGER; 7,62 TOKAREV ; .357 SIG; 10mm AUTO; .40 S&W; .45 GAP; .50 AE; (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now let’s talk a little about the caliber of your chosen weapon.  If you decide on an oddball or large caliber it will definitely be called into question. In other words if you carry a 10mm Glock, .38 Super, 7.62 Tokarev, .50GI,  or 1911, people will ask why. Worse yet, if you carry a revolver in .44 Mag, expect to be called “Dirty Harry”. I personally like any of these choices for any type of carry. They are great stopping rounds that were developed to do just that, stop an aggressor. That is the goal in a life and death situation after all. Again, just be willing to explain why you carry said caliber. I personally carry a 9mm, and I do so for a couple reasons.  First, it is a very well-known caliber that doesn’t set off alarm bells if I have to use my gun. Second, it is a great round for stopping an opponent (modern ballistic testing has proven 9mm, .40S&W, .357 Sig, and .45ACP to be almost equal). This isn’t the movies, and people don’t fly off their feet in real life when they are shot. I read a recent article where a suspect was hit in almost every vital organ with .45ACP and continued to fight and he actually emptied multiple magazines of ammunition after being hit. There is no magical caliber, so don’t put yourself at risk legally under the assumption that your chosen oddball caliber will save your life over another effective round.  If you dare to be different, then be able to articulate your choice to do so and have good reasoning behind it.

Thirdly, the state of you gun will be called into question as well.  Do you carry a 1911 style gun that is cocked and locked? Do you carry with a round in the chamber and the safety off?  Does your gun even have an external safety? The correct way to carry any 1911 variant is with one in the chamber and the hammer back and thumb safety engaged.  The entire firearms training community advocates carrying your gun with a round in the chamber, and many modern firearms don’t even come equipped an external safety. It doesn’t matter how you carry or what you carry, you need to know why and you need to be able to explain why to a person that has never touched or seen a gun before in their entire life.  The media or ignorant will see you as gun happy and ready to kill because your 1911 was cocked and ready or because there was a round in the chamber. There is a huge divide between those that own guns and those that do not. If you aren’t educated then you have no chance to defend yourself in a legal manner. The way you carry your weapon should be backed by training and the person or business that trained you needs to be willing to testify on your behalf as an expert if needed.  This is one of the many reasons that training is so important. If you don’t receive professional training then you are leaning on your own opinions.  Your opinions will never stand up in a court room, because you are the accused!

When I say features of your weapon, I mean additions or custom work that has been done to your carry gun. I’m referring to optics, custom finishes, contouring or chopping of the grip, trigger guard indexing or anything else that makes you carry gun look like a professional race gun or something from Star Trek.  This even extends to the internal parts. If you’ve had trigger work done and now have a “hair trigger”, then you’ll have some difficult explaining to do. The external work just isn’t easily understood by non-gun types so, yet again have a reason and be able to explain why. You and I know that the holographic sight installed on your M&P helps you find your target and fire accurately, and that the work done to the grip makes the gun an extension of your arm, and so on and so forth. You have good reasons, but you need to find a happy medium that is easily explainable if needed.  Don’t go all Captain Kirk and hope people get it, they won’t.

Finally we should address training. Shooting in your backyard is NOT training. Get training, and I mean real training from a real instructor. The level of training in the concealed carry classes is laughable.  The basic training for most law enforcement and military is barely passable as training. If you are falling back on, “I can it a tin can 9 out of ten times” I hope you enjoy your cell block. The other thing that I touched on earlier is that a true firearms instructor can testify on your behalf and will have connections in the gun community that you don’t.

The bottom line is that carrying a gun is a huge responsibility. With every passing day you come closer to having to use that gun on your hip or in your purse. Don’t carry a gun blindly with no plan. Talk to an attorney, have a plan in case you do need to actually use that weapon you carry to protect yourself.  Lord willing you will never need to pull the trigger, but if you do your life will never be the same. Stack the odds in your favor so that you come out relatively unscathed after a critical incident.  You will be treated as a murder suspect, accept that. You may even spend some time in jail until you can be bailed out, you need to accept that too. You are going to be treated guilty until proven innocent, get over it! You are alive!!

Do your part to be responsible, know what you can and can’t do, and know what is just plain smart. I hope this made you think a bit and if you need to make changes then do so quickly. You may need to use that gun very soon. This world isn’t getting any better. As for now stay safe, train and have a good un’.


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The Beretta/Stoeger Cougar

Good Day All,cougar

Today I’m going to tell you about a firearm that is near and dear to my heart, the Beretta Cougar my first handgun. This Particular handgun was brought to the market in 1994 and received a slightly less than stellar reception. This can be attributed to two things in my opinion, Beretta‘s famously understated advertising and the Glock craze that was going on at the time and still continues today. Don’t get me wrong, the Glock is a fine firearm, but it is far from the only game in town.

English: This is a picture of the rotating bar...

Beretta Cougar Rotating Barrel Lockup (Credit: Wikipedia)

The Beretta Cougar was brought to market with several different models (F, G, and D) and calibers (9mm, .40S&W, .357Sig and .45ACP). Those of you familiar with Beretta’s more commonly available models the 92/96/M9 the Cougar will have a very familiar form factor and controls. The profile from the operator perspective of the handgun is identical to the 92 making it a very comfortable pistol choice for prior military personnel like myself. The cougar operates on a rotating barrel locking system where the barrel does not tilt up like on most other pistols. The barrel instead rotates to unlock the barrel from the slide when it recoils then extracts the spent cartridge and loads the next into the chamber. This method, in theory, is more accurate than the other more common system that is used in most other handguns. It keeps the barrel on the same plane throughout the entire operation cycle. Personally I’m not aware of any other firearms that use this same system other than the successor to the Cougar, Beretta’s PX4.

The Beretta Cougar holding it's own next to more "modern" handguns in a large round count class.

The Beretta Cougar holding it’s own next to more “modern” handguns in a large round count class.

I purchased the .40S&W model from a fellow police officer friend of mine quite a few years ago who had bought it and never shot it. I have put several thousand rounds through it since, without much issue other than replacing the extractor and extractor spring as they had worn out after a significant period of time where I was shooting hundreds of rounds on a weekly basis. When you shoot a lot, parts tend to wear out. This is true of any firearm even the precious Glock.  This pistol conceals as well as any other large frame semi-auto with the correct holster selection and is as reliable and rugged as its bigger brother the 92FS/96FS/M9. Shortly after returning from my second tour to Iraq I signed up for a class from a local training group. The class was a one day defensive handgun class with a 600 round count for the day. My Beretta was pitted against Glocks, Springfield XD‘s, S&W M&P‘s, and of course the expensive and very awesome Sig. My Beretta did not experience any malfunctions other than the ones we purposely induced for training purposes. I definitely had the most different handgun on the line that day and it performed flawlessly. Later on I wound up using my Cougar as a duty weapon while working a private security job with the NCDOC, I shot a perfect 100 on both day and night qualification and later as a police officer I qualified with it again as an off-duty gun and shot 100 day and night. This pistol in my hands is far more comfortable and accurate than the Glock 23 I was issued as my duty weapon as a police officer.

English: Beretta 8040 Cougar Pistol disassembl...

English: Beretta 8040 Cougar Pistol disassembled to show parts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Several things are important to consider with this particular pistol. It is a little lacking in the accessory department. Holsters are available but usually require special order, the choice of sights are a little limited but both Trijicon and Meprolight night-sights are available. Grips are available from Hogue in the aluminum and wood variety and of course you have the option of using the universal grip sleeve from Hogue as well. Another important note is that Beretta is no longer manufacturing this pistol, it is now being made by their subsidiary Stoeger. Stoeger is based out of Turkey and makes mainly shotguns similar to the models already made by Beretta and Benelli. Stoeger does not manufacture the .357Sig model, but I personally don’t really see this as a great loss. The .357Sig cartridge is an expensive and difficult to find round and as far as I’m concerned the merits of it’s ballistics don’t outweigh it’s cost and difficulty to procure. It is also important to note that the .45ACP model is actually a larger pistol than the .40S&W and the 9MM models so holster selection is made a bit more difficult for that particular model. The offering from Beretta did not have an accessory rail available on this pistol. I don’t see this as a shortcoming personally. Adding a light/laser on a handgun makes it bigger and harder to conceal. I carry a Flashlight with me all the time anyway and I have trained using my support hand to use a flashlight in low-light shooting situations. There are Stoeger models that do have an accessory rail on them if that is a necessity for you. The best part about this pistol? you might ask, well it’s very budget friendly. My father and brother both just bought Stoeger Cougars in .40S&W and 9MM respectively. The total bill for both handguns came in at under $900 out the door from a local dealer here in NC, and that is during the current buying frenzy going on. I’ve given you quite a few things to consider here, take the knowledge and run with it. As always stay safe, train and have a good ‘un.

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RV Travel With Firearms

*I am not a lawyer and none of the information in this post is to be construed to be legal advice.*

Recreational Vehicle

Recreational Vehicle (Photo credit: *Grant*)

Afternoon all,

Late last month, my father and I began a discussion about traveling with firearms. My dad has purchased a small RV and was keen to hear my opinions on carrying a firearm while on the road. This sent me on a trip of my own to do lots of research on the subject.  I rarely travel myself so I had to rely on the experiences of others to formulate an educated answer to my dad.

The first thing I did was look through several forums and blogs that are more dedicated to this particular issue. The one thing that I was able to take from them is that research on your destination’s local and state laws is paramount. First and foremost is the importance of the decision to carry a firearm with you in the first place. Carrying a pistol or rifle come with an inherent responsibility that you owe to every single person, place or thing that you encounter. Your decision to carry could affect the lives of many more than just yourself and travel companions. Once that decision is made, the decision on what to carry comes into play.  The primary question here is; what is your perceived threat? Do you spend a lot of time out in more primitive camping areas? Are predatory animals a concern? Do you tend to just pull up to any ole’ parking lot to take a rest for the night? Truck stops? What kind of lockable storage is available in your rig?  These are important questions to ask yourself and making a list of your answers is helpful.

Once you’ve narrowed down your needs then a selection is to be made. One thing to keep in mind is that RV’s are small cramped quarters. Shouldering a shotgun or long rifle isn’t going to be a practical option inside the RV. My suggestion here is to have a couple options on board. A handgun of course makes excellent sense inside a vehicle, I also suggest the consideration of a pistol caliber carbine that shares an ammunition and magazine commonality with your handgun. The same system applies if you’re more of a wheelgun fan, carbines are available in .38spc/.357mag and .44mag.  Of course you have the option to carry whatever you wish but this pairing in my opinion works well for the traveler. Whether you decide to go the route of a two firearm solution or a single firearm is a very personal decision and budget certainly comes into play here however, there are a few budget friendly options in these categories that offer all the benefits at the price of one “top shelf” handgun.

Gun laws are what will be the most important thing to consider after you’ve decided to carry a firearm in the first place.  Different states and municipalities have different laws and ordinances and when you place yourself with a firearm in that area, your ignorance of these regulations will not be a defense to your prosecution if you are discovered armed. These laws can limit the magazine capacity, length, and size of what weapon you can legally possess. There are a few websites that consolidate applicable laws in an easy to find database. is an outstanding and very well researched example of one of these. Getting yourself a concealed handgun permit/cwp/chl…whatever your state calls it, is a very advisable thing for you to do.  Many states have reciprocity with other states that allow you to freely carry your loaded and concealed handgun into and through that state, without fear of prosecution.  Be advised though, that these reciprocity agreements do tend to change some, so research immediately before your trip to see if anything has changed. There are also many states that are so called “open carry” states. This means that a loaded firearm can be openly carried without breaking any laws. What this means to the RV traveler is that your firearm can be close at hand provided that it is not concealed from view in your rig.

If you still have any questions after your research is done, a phone call or visit to the attorney general’s website for the state you plan to travel to could help to clear up a lot of things. Many places also recognize the fact that when your RV is no longer moving down the highway and is serving as your “home”, the legal definition of your vehicle changes to a dwelling much like a hotel room is recognized as your dwelling when you’re inside.  This is a good question to have in mind while you’re researching laws or if you call to the attorney general’s office. If traveling through more restrictive states, the federal standard for transporting of a firearm is to have it locked in a secure area (locking storage box or safe) and ammunition is to be locked away separately. I myself have no desire to visit places that would require me to give up my right and ability to protect myself and my family. The important thing to take away from this post is that your own research is necessary and so important to keep yourself on the right side of jail walls. The reason for traveling is to see wonderful sites and enjoy your time on the road. Simply ignoring the laws will result badly for you. Make good choices and train with your chosen firearms. That is what will make the difference if you’re ever forced to use them in defense. Enjoy your travels and have fun. As always stay safe, train and have a good un’.

If you’re looking for more information on the RV lifestyle, I urge you to head over to It is a great resource on the in’s and outs of living full time in an RV and has plenty of information for even the casual traveler.

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