Wednesday, December 14, 2016

First Time Shooters Don’t Have to be Young!

Normally when a first-time shooter asks to shoot one of your guns, they are kids.  This is not always the case.  There are more first time shooters buying guns, learning to shoot, and getting their concealed license, than ever before.  Gun sales in America are through the roof!  If you are in the gun business then you are busy.  Sales are not just to men and the everyday hunter.  Women are buying more guns than ever before.  Twenty years ago, women made up less than 5% of the shooting and hunting community.  Now day’s women make up more than 30% of all gun related sales.  In my custom business about 30 % of the hunting rifles I build are for women or kids. 

The other day my daughter in-law was over for the weekend and after watching a segment on the news about a robbery and murder, she said to me “I think I need to get a handgun and my license”. “Can you take me shooting and let me try some of your pistols”.  I told her (with a smile on my face) we can go shooting in the morning and I would have several hand guns for her to shoot and have fun with.  I put together a group of handguns which would make great carry guns and would also be fun to shoot.  I had 2- 380 ACP pistols, 1- 22 caliber pistol, 1-38 Special revolver, a 17 HMR revolver and a 32 ACP pistol, along with plenty of light target ammunition to shoot.   I asked my daughter and wife to join us to make it fun and easier for Christine to get comfortable with shooting the handguns. 

Make it fun:  Shooting should be fun, too much time can be spent on how powerful a gun is, how far it can shoot, or how accurate it is.  Most shooters don’t care about these things at first.  They just want to learn how to shoot safely and have fun doing it.  Set up several different targets so the shooter doesn’t have to look for the holes as they shoot.  Make a game out of your shooting experience.  Tell the shooter to shoot two shots into the left target, two in the right target and one in the center target.  It gets boring just shooting at the same bulls-eye, change it up and keep it exciting and uncomplicated.

Shoot close:  If you are shooting handguns it is best to shoot at close range, about 7 to 10 yards is good.  The most important is that new shooters hit the target.  They want to see the hole in the target so they know where they hit.  The marker target is a good way to make it more fun and easier to see your hits.  You might be able to make shots at 25 or 50 yards but this is not about showing off how good you are, it is about having a good time with a first-time shooter. 

Low recoil:  I have been told hundreds of stories about how the father or boyfriend put a 12-gauge shotgun in the hands of a girl and watched her fall on her butt when she shot it.  Then, they tell the story over and over and laugh about it, like it is real funny.  Well, that is something the shooter will never forget!  And what could have been a positive experience has turned into a negative and left that first-time shooter never wanting to be around guns again.  Start with a small gun, a 22 is perfect.  Prepare them for the recoil; let them know what is going to happen and how much recoil to expect. Move the shooter up slowly in caliber size as they want to try bigger guns.  Most women can handle the recoil of a 45 ACP or 44 Mag if they know what it is going to feel like.  In fact, my wife shoots a 454 Casull better than I do. 

Watch the noise:  The noise is the worst thing about shooting.  Guns are loud and many times, the first-time shooter will have problems with the noise of the gun and not the recoil.  Wear good hearing protection; try the foam earplugs and ear muffs together.  You might want to wear noise cancelling headsets so you can hear the shooter ask a question yet not hurt your ears from the crack of the gun.  Talk loud enough so the shooter can hear you tell them what to do.  It’s not a good idea for them to take the hearing protection off when guns are going off around them. 

Keep it safe:  Safety is the first, second and final rule!  Keep the gun pointed in a safe direction at all times.  Never point the gun at any thing you don’t intend on shooting or killing.  Don’t pick up or play with the guns during the cease fire.  These are just a few of the safety things that you need to go over before you get to the range.  Don’t be afraid to teach the shooter about the gun and the safeties on the gun, as well as, how it works and how to clean it. If it is interesting then they will be interested in how the gun works.  Don’t get over technical, keep it simple.

Christine and the girls shot every gun I brought and went through 5 boxes of ammunition, and had hits all over the targets.  They all had fun and learned a little about all the different handguns they shot.  In the end, they all liked the Beretta 380 ACP the best.  It fit their hand better, it weighed more so it had less recoil, and it holds 13 rounds of ammunition.  None of the girls liked to reload the clips (fingernails got in the way) so I did lots of loading for them.  Christine came away with a feeling that she can now shoot a pistol and hit the target, and that she could actually shoot a bigger gun than she first thought.  Most important she had fun!  My wife and daughter, who both shoot often, had fun shooting at the closer range and showing off a little.  It was a good day for the entire family and a new beginning for a new shooter.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

It’s the Little Things

Many times it’s the little things that make the biggest difference in the way we shoot.  I had a customer call me the other day and said the custom rifle he had bought from us would not shoot.  I asked him what he was doing and what type of ammo he was shooting through the rifle.  He told me that he had a gun shop mount his scope, they also sold him a lead sled and what they considered very good ammo. He wanted to return the rifle to have us check it out and figure out what we had done wrong.

We had shot the gun before we shipped it to the customer and knew it had shot very well.  However some things can happen in shipping or maybe we didn’t tighten a stock screw before it left.  When the rifle came in I took one look at it and started to laugh.  The “quality” scope was a $200 Japanese scope with “made in China” stamped on it.  The big box store who sold him the scope and had mounted it, had replaced the Talley Ultra-Light rings we had included on the rifle originally with a $15 dollar set of Tasco rings and not one of the screws had been torqued down or even tightened.  The scope was set at about a 10 degree angle from being straight and you could see where it has slipped in the rings from shooting.  Now, we never recommend shooting our rifles in a lead sled, they put pressure on the forend of the stock which changes the harmonics.  I don’t think you are going to take a shooting bench or a vice when you are out hunting, so we always shoot the gun off sand bags with it against your shoulder like you would in a hunting situation.  You could see marks on the stock where the vice had tried to hold the stock in place.

We mounted his $200 Japanese scope correctly in a set of good Talley Ultra-Light rings.  We made sure the scope was straight and perpendicular with the bore of the rifle.  If you don’t do this, your bullet will not only be dropping straight down but it will also be dropping to the side.  With a 400 yard shot, the bullet can drop 30 inches and be right 15 inches without any wind effect.  If a scope is loose in the rings, it can jump forward with every shot, then your groups will definitely open up.  With a minimal .002” slip on a scope, the rifle will give you 2 inch groups at 100 yards!
 With the scope mounted straight and tight we took his rifle back to the range and shot it at 100 yards.  The scope had very heavy cross-hairs and no parallax adjustment but we were still able to shoot .650” groups with the rifle.  Now this is not as good as when we shot the rifle before but when we shot the gun we had used a good 12 power target scope with good ammo which was built for this particular rifle. 

There are so many little things that can make a rifle shoot better and don’t cost a great deal of money.  First and foremost is to use good scope mounts.  A good set of rings make a big difference in knowing the scope will not slip or come loose when shooting.  Second, make sure the scope is mounted correctly and aligned with the axis of the rifle.  If you never shoot past 100 yards then you will never know the difference, but if you plan on shooting long distance then you will need to have a straight scope.  Make sure the base screws are torqued with a little Lok-Tite to the receiver.  If a base screw comes loose or breaks, your shots will be erratic.  You might get 2 or 3 shots together then have a flyer or your shots will start walking on you when you shoot.  Having a loose or broken base screw can be hard to find and many times you have to remove and remount the scope before you know what is going wrong.  Make sure the stock screws are snug.  A loose stock screw can cause you to shoot bad groups.  On a big caliber rifle which kicks hard, a loose stock screw can cause the action to slip in the stock and break a nice piece of wood.  Make sure the rifle is not too long for you and that the eye relief is set right for you.  If you are having to push your head forward to see clearly in the scope that either the rifle is too long or the scope is mounted too far forward.  If you have to stretch your head to see every time, your eye won’t be in the same place every time, so your groups will change with every shot.  Now we have just been talking about the scope, there are many other little things which make a big difference.

A good crisp trigger will make you a better shooter.  If you have to concentrate on the trigger pull then you are not thinking about the cross-hairs or where the bullet needs to go.  A clean gun will shoot better than a dirty gun.  If a bullet has to push copper or brass out of its way as it goes down the barrel then it will shoot different as the brass and copper build up.  Take the time to break in your barrel.  If you will take an hour or two when you first get your new gun with shooting and cleaning after every shot for 10 to 20 shots, then your rifle will shoot better in the long run.  Shoot good ammo and find out what your rifle likes.  Even a good custom gun will be particular about types of ammo and bullet weights.  You need to try several brands and weights to find what really shoots well in your gun.  Last, take time to practice at the range.  Don’t just shoot off a bench.  Simulate as closely as you can, a real hunting scenario.  Try shooting off hand or off a bipod or shooting sticks.  One of the best experiences for someone who wants to take shooting to the next level would be to go to one of the long range shooting camps here in Texas.  One of my favorites is the FTW SAAM course in Barksdale.  Their instructors are former Navy Seals who really know their stuff when it comes to guns and shooting.  It’s a fun experience and you come away with a new appreciation of what shooting is all about.  And finally, the more practice you get, the better chance you will have when you have to make that once in a life time shot.  The rifle and scope can’t do it all.  The person behind the trigger has to be just as capable.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Gun Finishing . . . Then and Now

Seventy-five years ago the only type of gun refinishing we had was bluing and nickel plating.  But a lot has changed since then.  Gun bluing is not what most shooters think it is.  Bluing is not a coating or even plating, bluing is a controlled rust process.  Yep, that is right, a controlled rust metal finish process!  In my opinion, nothing looks better than a bright blue finish job, but how can rust be so darn pretty.  Bluing is all about the prep work.  The cleaner and shinier you make the metal before it is goes into the hot tank to start the rust, the better the finished product will look.  It takes many hours of polishing on the barrel and receiver to get a good quality blue job.  About the time of World War I, the military needed a finish that was fast to put on and corrosion resistant to the elements.  This is when phosphate was invented and used as a metal finish - better known as Parkerizing!  Parkerizing is a heated chemical reaction between the metal and the chemical bath in the tank.  The chemical will leave small deposits on the metal, which will protect it from the elements.  Most Parkerizing is either Zinc (old school) or magnesium phosphate.  The old gray color found on early WWI or WWII guns is Zinc Phosphate.  Magnesium is a more modern chemical which protects better and gives a better looking black color found on newer guns like AR15’s or M1A’s.  Parkerizing has been in use for a long time.  It works well at stopping rust on your guns and it looks OK.  Parkerizing is easy to install and takes little prep work to get a good finish on the metal.  But there is a much better and more versatile looking finish on the market for shooters to try today.

Teflon and Ceramic coatings are two of the most interesting metal finishes on the market today.  About 25 years ago, I saw Teflon being used on oil field pipe to keep it from rusting and galling.  Within a year I was applying Teflon on guns.  Teflon is high-grade paint with PTFE (polyterafluoroethylene) added and in some cases Moly is also added.  PTFE is one of the slickest and most corrosion resistant chemicals known to man.  If PTFE will hold up to the high pressure and salt water of offshore drilling, then it will hold up to nearly all types of abuse that shooters can do to a firearm.  Teflon is a spray on, baked on finish.  The gun will need to have all the old finish removed, which is done by sandblasting or polishing.  Then the metal is cleaned, heated and sprayed with the Teflon in the color you desire.  The final step in coating guns with Teflon is the baking process.  All metal parts need to be baked at approximately 450 degrees for about 30 minutes.  This baking process will bond the suspended PTFE and moly to the metal. The baking process makes the paint dry and become slick.  One of the great things about a Teflon coating is that it is high-grade paint and you can pick most any color you want.  The only thing that could keep a customer from having a yellow slide with a pink frame and orange parts on his favorite .45 would be the cost.  Teflon is not cheap; a gallon of Teflon in black will cost about $450.  It also takes someone who knows a lot about spraying metal coatings to be able to do a quality job.  Last, you need a good vented oven to cure the product in; without the curing, the paint never dries.  Most gunsmiths who do this type of finishing will have 3 to 5 different colors to choose from.  My company keeps about 10 different colors in Teflon, and for the discriminating customer who has to have the orange and black .45, we will custom order colors for them.  Another good thing about Teflon that it is so slick, parts will not gall.  You can’t make it rust or corrode either!  But Teflon will scratch or can be blown off parts like the rifle muzzle or a revolver cylinder.  With a little care most shooters never have a problem with Teflon coatings. The usual cost of having a gun Teflon coated will run from two hundred dollars up to four hundred dollars.

For the shooter or hunter who likes to drag his gun on the ground and over rocks there is Cera-Coat or better known as ceramic coating.  Cera-Coat is another super paint, which has Moly PTFE and ceramic particles embedded in the paint.  Ceramic coatings are applied to guns similar to Teflon but require a much longer heating and curing time.  Once ceramic coating is applied to a gun, it is almost impossible to scratch the surface.  For a Police Officer who has his handgun in a holster for 20 hours a day, ceramic coating is for you.  If you are real hard on you firearms or use them in a professional way, you should take a look at having them ceramic coated.  Cera-Coat comes in several colors, but the product price is very expensive.   Cera-Coat like Teflon is slick, corrosion resistant and tough as nails.  To have a gun ceramic coated will cost from $250 to over $500 depending on the type of firearm and how fancy you want the print job to be.
In the future you may see finishes using Silver Phosphate or even Titanium Nitrate, it would be cool to have a golden gun.  For now, with all the new finishes on the market, you have to decide whether to have your gun blued in the traditional way or to have one of the new paint type coatings applied to the gun.  Then of course, you have to decide do I paint my gun pink or not?