Monday, November 11, 2013

My Thoughts After a Hunter's Sighing-in Event & CCW

After volunteering as an EMT at my rifle club's sighting-in event for hunters yesterday, I came to a stark realization. That realization is that the average gun owner and hunter (emphasis on the word average) has absolutely no clue as to what they are doing. The shooting community as a whole is in DIRE need of some serious firearm training. Not just in the basic Fundamentals of Marksmanship, but more importantly, with the Cardinal Rules of Gun Safety, especially the Big Four. You know the Big Four: Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire a round downrange. Never point a firearm at anything which you are not willing to destroy. Treat every firearm as if it were loaded. Be aware of your target, your backstop, and what's beyond. Yesterday, we had at least four individuals who split their faces open when their rifle recoiled and the scope hit them either above the eye or on the bridge of their nose. Each and every one of these Nimrods said they weren't expecting the gun to go off when it did. What this shows is that their finger was on the trigger before they were ready to actually send a round downrange. A clear violation of one of the Four Cardinal Rules of Gun Safety. Muzzle integrity was also in short supply yesterday. During the course of the day, I was swept by several people's rifle barrels. Another major violation of the Cardinal Rules. Clearly a lot of these shooters are either very inexperienced, or don't believe the Cardinal Rules apply to them. Some even displayed puffery when they were corrected for their violations. This is a prime indication of a total buffoon. These hunters probably shoot twice a year, once at this event and then in the woods during the Deer season. I've been an avid hunter since the age of 13 and I can unequivocally say that the "Orange Hoard" is truly frightening to me. Most of today's hunting rifles are capable of firing a three-shot group within 1.5" at 100 yards, when utilizing a solid rest. Some commercially available rifles will shoot one-inch or better with a five-shot group. The Savage Model 10 and the Remington 700 are two prime examples. The average hunter should be able to hold at least a 2" group at 100 yards from a solid rest and sight their rifles in approximately 3" high, so if they must take a longer shot, no holdover would be required. A lot of these budding outdoorsmen couldn't hit the target frame let alone the target yesterday. Being satisfied to hit a pie-plate-sized target at 50 yards or less with Grand Dad's thirty-thirty shouldn't be considered adequate. Because of this type of abysmal marksmanship performance; many a White-tailed Deer will survive to see another season. Yet countless others will be gut-shot and die at the jaws of a pack of ravenous Coyotes. Not a fitting end for such a majestic animal. Now for the hand-gunning fraternity. As more and more people come through my tactical and/or CCW classes, the more I see what is wrong with our gun culture. Yes, you have a Constitutional right to keep and bear arms. But for God's sake (yes I said God) you also need to defend that right. To do so means that you as a gun owner need to learn how to use your firearms safely and store them properly! That means you may have to spend some money God forbid (there's that G-word again) to buy a 1,000 round case of ammo, find a top-notch firearm trainer, and obtain top-quality firearm instruction from them before you go out and about with a firearm. The thing that scares me the most is that a lot of people are coming to my concealed carry classes with firearms they have never fired before. They are also bringing a conglomeration of guns that are in no way conducive to concealed carry. Some of them get upset or downright indignant when I won't allow certain types of firearms in my classes. What they fail to grasp is that I, am the instructor, not visa-versa. They have selected me to train them. There are reasons I have placed limitations on what types of pistols I allow in my classes for CCW training. What I am doing is actually looking out for their safety and well-being. People listen to me please! When you apply to the state for a concealed carry permit, you are essentially asking the powers to be for a license to possibly kill someone. If that situation is ever forced upon you, it will be the absolute worst day of your life. It will probably happen during the hours of darkness. You will probably be alone. Your body will experience several of the psychological and physiological factors associated with extreme stress. You will probably be accosted by multiple offenders, who are far more streetwise than you, younger, far more physically fit, and ready to maim or kill you for your money and valuables. Most of these types of individuals are predators who have honed their craft to a keen edge. Do you honestly believe that you can or will rise to the occasion and defeat them without constant range training and extensive firearm manipulation drills? If your answer is yes, you are a complete and utter fool. According to FBI statistics, under extreme stress, the average police officer has a hit ratio of just under 18%. Sworn police officers here in Illinois go through a minimum of 40-hours of firearm training while they are in the academy. When they graduate, most of their departments will only require them to fire an annual re-qualification of thirty (30) rounds of ammunition, yes I said thirty rounds, and score a minimum of 70% to remain proficient. This in itself is not only a pathetic disservice to the officer in question and the general public; I also believe it to be criminal. Look at the incident in New York City where the NYPD engaged a murder suspect during a deadly force encounter and nine innocent people were accidentally shot by New York's finest! I could already see the plaintiff's attorneys rubbing their hand's together in glee when I read the article. As a CCW holder, if you shoot the wrong person during a deadly force encounter, you will probably have to pay dearly for your poor judgement and marksmanship. You may pay with you home, your life savings, your marriage, and possibly with your freedom. With that being said, I strongly urge you to get to know your firearm platforms intimately. That includes your hunting rifle if you hunt. This means you will need to practice at least once a month. This includes running dry-drills with your firearms at home, and then firing several hundred rounds at your local range annually. I know you're thinking to yourself, this can get pretty expensive. You're damned right it is! So is getting sued for stupidity, negligence, or both. Most people who know me, know that I am a brash, in your face kind of guy who doesn't suffer fools very well, if at all. I also detest stupidity. So my advice to all of the gun enthusiasts out there is simply this! If you hunt, if you're concerned with home defense, or if you're a CCW holder, find a quality instructor, buy a case of ammo, and go get trained. Then start practicing your newly acquired craft on a regular basis. If not, I beseech you! Please get the Hell out of the sport all together and take up Golf. Our Second Amendment rights are riding on it! If this offends anyone, then they may be part of the problem!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Hunting Big-game With a Contender Pistol

This October, I went on my third handgun safari for exotic game down in the great State of Tennessee. This year’s quest took me to the Wilderness Hunting Lodge which is located just outside of the quaint hamlet of Monterey, Tennessee. My ...goal for this trip was to take a couple heads of game with my newly acquired Thompson-Center (T/C) Contender pistols. The two Contender frames I purchased were the later Easy-open models which can be differentiated by the Cougar’s head engraved on both sides of the receivers as opposed to the Cougar standing on top of a rock ledge.

The first stainless-steel Contender frame was fitted with a blued, Super 14” barrel that came equipped with an integral muzzle break and chambered for the 7-30 Waters cartridge. For those of you unfamiliar with this excellent round it is essentially the .30-30 Winchester case necked down to 7 Millimeter (.28 caliber). Author Ken Waters developed this cartridge in 1976. In this barrel length, the Federal factory loading supposedly pushes the 120 grain Sierra Game King bullet at approximately 2,400 feet per second. I sighted this T/C in at 100 yards. I was using a small swinging steel disc as a target. It became almost boring to shoot, as I repeatedly hit it. I then moved to the 150 yard plate. I was now striking just below this plate at the six O’clock position. As far as I was concerned, the 7-30 Waters was ready to go.

The second Contender was wearing a stainless-steel, 10” barrel. This barrel was originally chambered for the .357 Magnum cartridge. I had Mike Bellm of Olathe, Colorado re-chamber it for the excellent .357 Maximum round. The .357 Maximum cartridge has fascinated me since its introduction back in the early 1980’s. The cartridge was originally designed in the 1970’s by the late Elgin Gates for the Handgun Metallic Silhouette crowd, and originally dubbed the .357 Super-Mag, but it soon proved to be a great hunting round as well. The “Big-Max” is a stellar performer on Deer-sized game when hand loaded with 180 grain bullets. For this trip, I chose the Hornady 180 grain XTP bullet, pushed by a heaping helping of IMR-4227 propellant, resting on top of a CCI 450 Small-Rifle Magnum primer. Yes, I said small-rifle magnum primer! Because of the pressures the Big Max generates, it requires the use of Small-Rifle Magnum primers. This load shot one very small hole at 25 yards. I didn’t have access to the 100 yard range right before the trip so I sighted the Maximum in to strike 6” high at 25 yards. Now both of my Contender pistols were ready to go.

Day-one of our three-day journey found me climbing the foothills of the Cumberland Mountains. Whoever named these the foothills was probably related to a Mountain Goat because the terrain was very steep and rock strewn. Anyone who believes that hunting on a game preserve is akin to shooting fish in a barrel has never been to the Wilderness Lodge. They have a total of 4,000 acres of land, some of which is darn near vertical. After lunch, my guide took me to another parcel of land that had a decent herd of Fallow Deer on it. After stalking and chasing these fleet-footed ghosts, we finally found a loner, high up on a ridge that was totally unaware of our presence. I used my Bushnell Scout 1000 DX Laser rangefinder to figure out the distance and ranged him right at 100 yards. I used a good-sized tree for a shooting rest and placed the crosshairs of my Burris 2 x 7 variable-powered pistol scope directly behind his shoulder and carefully squeezed the trigger. The Nosler soft point bullet round found its mark and the Fallow buck dropped like a stone. I was very impressed with the round’s performance and I do believe the guide was very impressed with mine.

Day-two found us hunting in a steady downpour of rain. The hillsides became extremely slick, and walking them became a most treacherous proposition. I was now using the 10” Contender chambered for the Big Max! As my guide and I were descending from one of the parcels of land; we spotted two large Bull Elk by a waterhole. The two Bull’s were totally unaware of our presence at first, so I quickly got out the Bushnell rangefinder and ranged them at 155 yards. I stealthily closed the distance to a large tree from which I could again use as a solid rest. At 125 yards, I now had the Bull’s full attention. They were both truly magnificent animals. The leading Bull’s rack was a bit wider, but his tines were not as thick nor were they as long as the second Bull’s rack. I had already shot a very nice 6 x 6 Bull Elk in Wyoming during the 2000 hunting season but he was nowhere as majestic as this regal beast. The leading Bull decided he had enough of my intrusion so he quickly cantered off for parts unknown. As the second Bull turned to leave my first 180 grain Hornady XTP bullet struck him behind the shoulder. He stopped and stared at me as I reloaded the Contender. I quickly lined up and gave him another dose of Elk medicine from the Maximum. He did a little shimmy, and sat sown on his hindquarters like a dog wanting a treat. He then fell over onto his right side. I ran up and gave him one more for good measure. The big Bull was now mine.

As I looked him over, I couldn’t believe how truly majestic he really was. His main beams were extremely thick and his tines were long and heavy. He had seven points on one side and six on the other. The guide came up and was amazed as well. He believed the Bull would probably score 360 or better when an official scorer finally measures him for possible entry into the Safari Club International’s record book.

So now I had a trophy Bull Elk and an excellent Fallow Deer buck to add to the other nine head of game that I have already harvested with a handgun. I had accomplished everything I wanted to prove on this particular trip. I proved that the Contenders are extremely accurate, long range pistols, and that one chambered for the .357 Maximum cartridge in the right hands can be a viable big-game hunting tool. I contacted Mike Bellm to thank him for the re-chamber job on my barrel and advised him of my Elk kill. He wrote back and told me that of the tens of thousands of conversations he has had with Contender shooters that mine may be the first Elk ever taken with the .357 Maximum cartridge. You can see a picture of the Bull on Mike’s website at:

I will not hesitate to add that this type of performance requires a lot of trigger-time and dedication to the sport of handgunning. You must spend a lot of time at the shooting range and pay your dues to become proficient enough to ethically hunt big-game with a handgun. You can’t drag a shooting bench equipped with a sand bag rest with you everywhere you intend to hunt. You must learn how to shoot your hunting handguns from the various positions you’ll encounter in the field such as prone, kneeling, sitting, and standing offhand, both with, and without support.

I personally like to hunt with a handgun for a variety of reasons. Being a tactical pistol instructor, it kind of goes along with what I do for a living. I guess it’s a sort of practice what you preach kind of thing for me. Hunting with a handgun is also quite challenging, as it allows me to keep both of my hands free to grab onto things as I’m climbing, or walking on rough terrain. You can also maneuver through thick underbrush a lot quicker when you’re not toting a rifle with you. It may also be an ego thing for me too because I’m considered a pretty darned good pistol shot by many who know me.

To assist me on my handgun hunts, I’ll also carry the following items with me. First and foremost, is a top quality rangefinder. The Bushnell Scout 1000 DX that I currently use not only calculates the actual yardage, but it will also figure out the holdover required at that particular distance I’m shooting at, for my caliber of choice. This tool is an absolute must for taking game quickly and cleanly. You’ve got to know your range limitations and a rangefinder will help you do that.

A good set of compact binoculars is also a must. Binoculars not only help you judge the game you’re planning on taking, they will also assist you in locating animals hiding in heavy cover. Mine are a set of the 8 x 42 power Wind River Cascades made by Leupold. They have an armored, Advantage camouflage finish on them. Your pistol scope should also be purchased from one of the top quality scope manufacturers. I use either Burris or Leupold pistol scopes exclusively. They are rugged, have extremely clear lenses, hold their zero, and gather a lot of light.

You will also need a good holster to carry your large, scoped hunting handgun in. Mine is a ballistic nylon shoulder rig made by Luggage Systems. It has a fairly large outside pocket with a flap and a Velcro closure on it. This pocket is where I’ll keep my spare ammunition carrier, or my speedloaders, depending on the handgun I’m hunting with at the time. I also wear a tight-fitting, padded leather glove on my Support hand. A glove helps me steady the pistol against an upright support such as a tree or fencepost, while protecting my Support hand from being torn up when the pistol is in full recoil. A small pocket flashlight will help you when you’re tracking your game at dusk, and finding your way out of the woods. A sharp knife is an essential part of any hunter’s field kit and has a variety of uses, most notably to field-dress your game. Last but not least I carry a good digital camera to record my hunting memories for posterity.

So if you feel you’re up to the challenge and you’ve put a significant number of rounds down range from various shooting positions with your favorite Smoke-wagon, why not give handgun hunting a try? I promise you that once you take a game animal with a pistol you’ll be hooked for life. I know I am.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Illinois CCW Training & ATTS Requirements for Training.

After finding out more about this ridiculous Illinois CCW bill, I am going to mandate that anyone taking my course will have to complete all 16-hours (two-days) of training.  I'm sorry to say that because of major liability concerns, I will not offer classroom credit, or recognize any past training or military service.  You may ask why will I not recognize military service?  Other than Military Police, I do not know of may other military MOS' that routinely train with a pistol.  Pistols are mostly symbols of authority or rank in the military.  
Whenever we decide what the final course tuition is, I will offer a $50.00 tuition discount to those who have successfully completed the following ATTS training courses.  The ATTS Two-day Tactical Pistol Course, the Dynamic Force on Force Air-soft course, or the Basic Tactical Pistol Course.  I've selected these courses because there was actual tactical pistol manipulation and decision making involved in all of them.  To obtain this discount, a student will simply present me a photo copy of their training certificate with their course application and tuition.  I'm sorry, but that's how it has got to be.  The full 16-hour curriculum must be obtained through ATTS.  I'm not taking it in the shorts from any of these lousy politicians in Springfield.  You shouldn't want to either. 
Remember, when you are ready to book a CCW course, you may find one that is less expensive than mine, but I can assure you that not many of the other instructors will have 15 years of trail proceedings and courtroom testimony behind them.  If you ever involved in a high-profile shooting and you're hauled into court, and I am subpoenaed to testify in your behalf, my instructor training and courtroom expertise may get you exonerated.  Trust me, you won't want some Bubba or some newly-minted firearm Instructor sitting in the witness box on trail day.  So if my time, my 15 years of courtroom proceedings, my 2,000 hours of firearm training and my voluminous certifications are not worth my fee to you, find another instructor to train you.  I refuse to put out a sub-standard product that may get you sued, jailed or killed.

Monday, April 1, 2013

EMT Certification

I just realized that I never followed up on the outcome of the EMT training course I signed up for last summer.  The 16-week course was tough, especially at 57 years old, but on January 22, 2013, I successfully completed the State of Illinois certification exam and was awarded my EMT-B license.   

A Trio of Contenders

Since selling off my Ruger New Model Blackhawk chambered in .357 Maximum, I wanted the same caliber but in a single-shot pistol with at least a 10" barrel.  I decided on a Thompson-Center Contender.  I purchased a stainless steel frame off of Gun Broker and searched for a 10" barrel in .357 Magnum.  More on this in a bit.  The next thing I know I went a little Contender crazy.     

All of a sudden, the Thompson-Center Contender project grew to three pistols and four barrels.  The first was put together on the above-mentioned stainless steel frame and 10" bull barrel chambered for the .357 Magnum cartridge.  I then had Mike Bellm of Olathe, Colorado ream the chamber out for the .357 Maximum cartridge.  I now have 600 brand-new Remington cases, 500 Hornady XTP bullets and about 950 CCI primers, so I'll be good to go in the reloading room.  

Teamed with a Burris 2x scope, this Contender shot my load of a Hornady 180 grain XTP bullet over 20 grains of IMR-4227 ignited by a CCI 450 primer.  The CCI 450 is a Small Rifle Magnum primer but with such a large load of powder, this primer would guarantee performance regardless of the extremely cold temperatures we sometimes hunt in here in Illinois. 

When I test-fired this load, recoil was stiff but extraction was flawless and there were no signs of pressure-related issues with the primers.  This one is ready for the outdoor range and sighting in at 50 and 100 yards.

The second in my trio of Contenders was a 12" T/C Custom Shop barrel chambered for the mighty .44 Magnum mated to a blued-steel frame.  I teamed this pistol up with a Burris 2x scope as well.  This Contender shot extremely well on the indoor range so it too is ready for the trip to the 50 yard outdoor range.  I have piles of .44 Magnum ammunition on hand so I won't have to reload for this brute for quite a while.

My final Contender frame was also made of stainless steel and mated to a blued-steel Super 14" barrel chambered in 7-30 Waters and equipped with T/C's integral muzzle break.  I mounted a Burris 2x-7x pistol scope in Leupold rings and bases.  Luckily, I found five boxes of Federal Premium 7-30 Waters ammunition, loaded with a 120 grain bullet.  The 7-30 Waters is basically a .30-30 Winchester case necked down to 7 Millimeter. 

I fired three rounds though this pistol and was pleasantly surprised at the lack of recoil.  The T/C integral muzzle break really does it's job, as the 7-30 Waters seemed to recoil less than the .357 Maximum and the .44 Magnum.  The group was 2.5 inches high and all three were within an inch.  All this without bore sighting too.  This beauty is ready to be sighted in at 100 yards.  I'll then fire it at 200 and 300 yards to see how it performs.

My other barrel is a brand new, Super 14" chambered in .41 Remington Magnum.  I love the .41 Magnum as it's one of THE most accurate pistol rounds I've ever fired.  I have amassed 500 pieces of Starline brass and 500, 215 grain, SWC lead-cast bullets.

All in all, I'm very impressed with the quality and accuracy of the Thompson-Center Contender.  These pistols are essentially hand-rifles.  I look forward to using all three pistols on my quest for more species of Exotic game in Tennessee.          

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The .357 Maximum Project Lives!

Well the .357 Maximum project is finally moving on.  Tug Hill Cartridge, Inc., in upstate New York must have forgotten about my standing order, so luckily I just found and ordered 500 pieces of brand new Remington .357 Maximum brass, and 500 Hornady 180 grain XTP bullets from Midway USA this week.  I also obtained 800 of the CCI 450 primers I wanted to use for the project from a friend, so the last step is to buy a couple of pounds of IMR 4227 powder and then I'll be loading up my first batch of .357 Maximum hunting ammunition for my Ruger Super Blackhawk revolver.

The load I'm looking at is 20.0 grains of IMR 4227 powder over a CCI 450 primer, utilizing the Hornady 180 XTP jacketed hollow-point bullet.  This load is supposed to be superbly accurate, easy on the gun and the brass, and still pushes 1,450 feet per second.  That's more than enough for Deer-sized game animals. 

I found this particular load in an article written by Glen Fryxell, and published on the Los Angeles Silhouette Club's website.  I'm not a big experimenter when it comes to cartridge reloading.  If I find a load that is accurate, and it works well for me in a particular rifle or pistol, I'm done tinkering around.

As soon as I get some rounds loaded up and I get to send some bullets downrange, I'll report back on my findings.  I'm fairly sure that Glen Fryxell's load will work perfectly in the big Ruger Single-action.

Friday, November 23, 2012

EMT Certification Near Completion.

As an instructor I am always looking for ways to add more knowledge to my repertoire of instructor certifications and to improve service and provide a safer training environment for my clients.  While I had a background in CPR and Trauma First-aid for quite sometime, I've wanted more knowledge on the subject. 

Always a student at heart, I registered for an Emergency Medical Technician's course on August 20th and began to study for my EMT-B license.  I am now near the end of my journey and hopefully I'll take my licensing exam before the end of the year.  I really learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed the training course.

When I complete the EMT-B course and obtain my state license, the next course I'd like to complete is one of the Tactical EMT certification courses I've seen offered.  I also have an interest in obtaining the Wilderness EMT certification as well.