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The Sportsman's Gazette Blog

If you want to sell guns to women, get rid of the coffee pot

By William Lovelady

My wife doesn’t buy many guns, but she spends more time in more gun stores than most women, and she makes some valuable observations about them.

There are several stores where the owners are friends and longtime customers, but they don’t get her high grade for being woman friendly. Even the dealers who are known for giveaway pricing fail to arouse her shopping interest.

What turns her off? Men drinking coffee in a gun store. It isn’t that they’re impolite. Most of them are older and don’t use coarse language or discuss indelicate topics in front of women and children. But she has a pretty good idea what they stopped talking about as soon as she walked in the door. Wars, politics and sometimes sex dominate gun store conversation. Occasionally there will be a smattering of lies about shooting skill.

This is what men talk about when they are with other men. And while my wife doesn’t mind men being men or having manly conversations, she doesn’t want to spend a lot of time or money in places where that happens.

Women drink coffee in cafes, not in retail stores. They also talk politics and sex, but not with the men who drink coffee in gun shops.

But even worse than the danger of impolite conversation, is the likelihood that one of the coffee drinking experts will offer a woman advice on a gun purchase. A woman who is considering buying a gun will have already done what she feels is considerable research. She knows that she is inexperienced and the quickest way to send her and her dollars elsewhere is to remind her with lines like, “that automatic pistol you’re looking at is a great gun, but we recommend a 5-shot revolver for inexperienced shooters.”

At about that time, a coffee drinker will say, “I bought one for my wife 35 years ago. She’s still got it.”

Car dealers don’t hesitate to sell an inexperienced woman driver an expensive sports car if that’s what she wants, and jewelers never encourage modest engagement rings for the inexperienced. Furthermore, no gun dealer ever discouraged a man from buying the most expensive gun in the store just because he was inexperienced.

I like drinking coffee in gun stores while talking war and politics, and I especially like telling stories about my shooting skills. So I hope not every gun dealer gets rid of the coffee pot. Just be aware that if you want to sell to women, no amount of pink guns and accessories will counteract the effects of coffee drinkers hanging out in your store.

William Lovelady is the editor of The Sportsman's Gazette. He can be reached at sportsmansgazette@hotmail.com





Competition is the most efficient training you can get

By William Lovelady

If your shooting has reached a plateau and you’re not sure you want to hire a coach, consider organized competition. What is measured usually improves, so no matter what game you play, you will get better.

Effective use of time and ammo
If you only have a few hours a month to shoot, a shooting match gives you a chance to measure your skill against other competitors. You may have an inflated notion of your skills, or you may be better than you think.
Similarly, if you have a limited ammunition budget, competition forces you to make the most of them. A typical rifle or pistol bullseye match requires less than 100 rounds of ammunition. A session of shooting cans consumes more than that in minutes.

If you shoot by yourself, there are many ways you can bend or break rules to feel like you are shooting better. You may stand closer to the target or use artificial support, or you may tend to focus on your strengths. Once you start competing, you will spend more of your practice time working on your weaknesses in strict accordance with the rules.
While there are alibis or ‘do overs’ in many shooting competitions, excuses don’t count. Neither does group size. A 2 minute-of-angle group in the ten ring is worth more than a 1 MOA group in the eight ring. Similarly, a ‘called flyer’ is still a ‘miss’ in competition and is worth zero points.

One of the things personal defense training needs is stress. A gunfight is a scary situation where life and death decisions have to be made quickly and correctly.
While there is little real danger at a shooting match, there is a lot of real stress. Losing hurts, coming in last hurts the most. The pressure to perform is very real.
Also shooting matches happen on their own time table, not yours. Matches usually start early in the morning, so you may be a little sleep deprived, and there is a limited amount of time to prepare for each stage so you get it right or you lose.
Unpleasant weather is an added bonus of competition. Matches are scheduled rain or shine, hot or cold. Recreational shooting can be put off until conditions are more pleasant.

Free instruction
The biggest benefit of shooting competition is that the other shooters will help you. They’ll loan you gear, they’ll help you with your technique, and they’ll give you as much information as you want or need about the sport. Best of all, you’ll know how valuable their advice is, because their scores will be posted for all to see.

Some disciplines look more like real life than others. International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) competition looks very much like self-defense with a pistol because the rules limit the kinds of equipment used. Three-Gun completion looks very much like all-around zombie killing. On the other hand, service rifle competition where shooters lay in a field wearing heavy coats shooting at distant bullseye targets may not look like real life, but it builds the precision and discipline that may be needed for a high-stress shot at a much shorter distance.
Whatever your goals, there is a shooting sport that will get you closer to them. Check your gun club calendar or consider starting a match for shooters with similar interests.

William Lovelady is the editor of The Sportsman's Gazette. He can be reached at sportsmansgazette@hotmail.com

Choosing a Shooting Coach

By William Lovelady

Most new shooters follow a very predictable continuum of learning. They watch movies and read books and magazines depicting guns being used incorrectly, then they go to the range with a new or borrowed gun and practice the incorrect techniques they observed.

After the initial disappointment, the new shooter asks advice from someone he trusts and hopes can help him improve. Too often, this person is only a little more experienced and offers some modified bad habits that produce slightly better results.

At this point, the shooter is faced with two choices; practice and reinforce what little he already knows, or seek professional advice—and pay for it.

Most shooters take the first course and over a lifetime of recreational shooting achieve a level of skill that is adequate to most shooting needs. These are people who hunt, shoot targets and if needed, defend home and kin. All the while, they keep the sellers of guns and ammunition in business.

The second path is much less travelled and even if cost isn’t a problem, is still fraught with risks. Who do you hire to train you? What credentials should they possess? What credentials must they possess?

The National Rifle Association certifies instructors in rifle, pistol and shotgun. This certification should be the bare minimum standard when considering paying for training. But it’s only a minimum. NRA certification courses typically last two days and require a written test and demonstration of minimum shooting skill. What else should an instructor possess?

Like all professionals, shooting instructors emphasize their strengths and try to set themselves apart from their competition. Many have served in the military, some have a background in law enforcement, some were competitive shooters and some even write about shooting for magazines and the internet.
Each background offers different perspectives on firearms training and employment. The customer must have clear goals and know what questions to ask to pick the right one.

Competition shooters will tend to have fired more precise shots in their careers than those in the military or law enforcement. They will also tend to have a greater understanding of firearms ergonomics. This is because they can buy whatever works best and then modify and tune it for even better performance.Military and law enforcement professionals are often limited in this regard by equipment standardization.

Of the three groups, law enforcement officers will have spent the greatest number of hours being in possession of a loaded gun. In Florida, most officers are armed on and off duty, so every year on the job represents more than 8,000 hours of being physically in control of a loaded gun. Most military members turn in, or unload, their guns at the end of their watch. Most law enforcement officers are never unarmed. Law enforcement officers also tend to have a solid foundation in knowledge of local laws.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have given military members two pieces of unique and potentially valuable insight.

First, some of them have exchanged gunfire with the enemy, but all have lived with the knowledge that a capable and nearby enemy was planning and intending to do them harm. Whether with small arms, suicide bombs or indirect fire, service members were constantly ‘downrange’ from the enemy and usually ‘in-range.’

Secondly, the harsh climates in the Middle East showed very quickly what kind of equipment worked and what kind failed. Things that look good in a catalog or work well on the range, may have limited value in an austere environment.

Some instructors have blended backgrounds, there are members of the military competition shooting teams that are Reserve military policemen and civilian law enforcement officers.

Regardless of qualifications, you must trust an instructor and like his style before you can learn from him. It doesn’t matter if an instructor shot John Dillinger and Osama Bin Laden, if all he does is tell self-aggrandizing war stories, you won’t learn much. Neither does it matter if he actually wrote the book on shooting, if he can’t communicate in a classroom and range setting. This is also not a time for politically-correct gender equality. If you are a woman and prefer to learn shooting from a woman, then find a female instructor.

Ask how a potential instructor was trained, what kind of real-world experience he has, and most importantly, ask for references from satisfied current or former students.

William Lovelady is the editor of The Sportsman's Gazette. He can be reached at sportsmansgazette@hotmail.com

3-Shot Groups Don't Tell the Whole Story

By William Lovelady

Gun writers are divided over how many shots to fire in rifle accuracy tests. The standard throughout the 20th century was an average of five, 5-shots groups from a rest.

The old standard doesn’t compare to real-world shooting scenarios, but if done honestly it can be measured against the work of other gun writers and publications.

In the 1980s, many rifles were built to be super light for ease of carry. The most obvious way to shave weight was to remove barrel steel. Unfortunately, a pencil-thin barrel heats up quickly and starts dispersing shots into an ever-widening circle. Shortening barrels helps retain some rigidity, but at the loss of essential velocity.

To accommodate the new reality, gun writers started reporting 3-shot groups in accuracy tests. The logic was that in the field a hunter would almost never fire three or more shots in rapid succession, so the relevant accuracy of the rifle was two or three shots.

As if by magic, group sizes shrank. The majority of factory rifles started turning out 3-shot groups under 1.5-inches at 100 yards. Today, many writers use only 3-shot groups and gun makers benefit from even their economy rifles being ‘sub MOA.’

Some magazines still use five-shot groups, but these don’t always tell the complete story either.

A three or five-shot group will give a fair indication of a hunting rifle’s potential since most hunting rifles fire less than 20 shots per season, but competition rifles need more testing. A ten or 20-shot group tells a lot more.

In a CMP or NRA rifle match, competitors will shoot ten rounds in one minute at an X ring that is 1.5 MOA at 200 yards and 1 MOA at 300 yards. Depending on the match, they will fire 30-108 rounds without cleaning the rifle. A barrel that produces tight 3-shot groups when it is clean, but fouls quickly will do poorly during the 600-yard slow fire portion of a match which is the last 10-40 shots.

In 3-gun matches, competitors may fire 30-60 rounds rapid fire from a single magazine. This creates heat that adversely effects accuracy. Again a 3-shot group from a clean, cold barrel doesn’t give enough useful information.

Unfortunately, shooters will have to do much of their own research, gun magazines are funded by gun maker advertising and a new testing protocol that showed an expensive rifle being only capable of 1 MOA accuracy would be damaging to sales.

The good news is, the range work isn’t difficult or onerous. Use the best ammunition, coupled with the steadiest rest available and then shoot actual number of rounds, in time allotted, at actual (or longest available) distances to establish a baseline for rifle, ammo, and position tuning.

Get your groups centered. Then quit chasing tiny three-shot groups and start chasing X-ring and steel hits.

William Lovelady is the editor of The Sportsman's Gazette. He can be reached at sportsmansgazette@hotmail.com

Should You Carry A Gun All the Time?

By William Lovelady

There is a popular myth in gun circles that says, ‘if you’re going to carry a gun, you have to carry it all the time.’

The logical assumption is that you cannot know when you will need a gun and therefore must always be prepared, but the implications of this show us almost instantly it is impractical or illegal—in either case, it isn’t a good idea. You can’t carry all the time.

There are places where you cannot legally carry a gun unless you are a law enforcement officer. These include bars, federal buildings and airports. If you insist on carrying all the time, you either cannot go to these places, or you must choose to commit a crime – often a felony.

Similarly, it is impractical to carry a gun while swimming in a pool or at the ocean. So you must either avoid certain activities or find a waterproof and very discreet manner of concealing your gun.
The reality is that since you can’t carry all the time and you can’t know when you’ll need a gun, you must make wise decisions about your location and behavior.

My mother used to say, ‘don’t go someplace you’re likely to need a gun.’ This is good advice when it relates to juke joints or dark forests filled with bears and serial killers, but sometimes work requires you to go someplace you might need a gun. Sometimes you live in a place where you might need a gun. Other times, even if you don’t go to places where you might need a gun, you must pass through them to get from point A to point B.

There have been several high-profile cases lately of law-abiding citizens who were legally carrying in their home state, but when passing through contiguous states, they ran afoul of the law. Your license my not be recognized outside your home state.

Another unfortunate case is the military reservist who must often travel more than 100 miles to a weekend drill sight. She may be legally able to possess or carry a firearm the entire way to and from her home of record, but once she passes through the gate, she is not even able to keep her personal protection firearm locked in her car. She must choose between being unarmed and breaking the rules.

Violation of this rule will result in confiscation of the gun and can result in military or federal punishment.

The same applies to teachers and college students who must choose between breaking the law and being unarmed on campus.

Otherwise law-abiding citizens sometimes choose to carry a gun illegally, but this is not something to be taken lightly. First, if caught, you may lose your right to own guns, and second, if you have to defend yourself with a gun you are carrying illegally, you will have a tougher time defending yourself against criminal charges for unlawful carry and potentially murder.

Whether armed or unarmed, cautious decision making is a must.

William Lovelady is the editor of The Sportsman's Gazette. He can be reached at sportsmansgazette@hotmail.com

Let Me Show You My New Gun

By William Lovelady

In most states, law-abiding citizens can buy a new gun whenever they wish. The purchase cycle usually involves seeing a type of gun, at a store, in a movie, on the range; talking and reading about the gun, then buying one. Then talking about it a lot.

Once bought, most shooters want to show their new guns to other shooters. Much like a new car or new house, we like others to be impressed with our new stuff. This is great at the range where we can show, tell and even shoot each other’s’ latest and greatest.

It becomes less great in other situations. Too often I’ve heard, ‘wanna see my new gun?’ and before I could say, “No, thank you,” I was looking at a gun someone had just drawn from a pocket or holster.

Some were so enthusiastic, they handed it over for my inspection still loaded—others cleared the weapon before handing it to me. While the second course seems safe and responsible, it still requires reloading the gun and reholstering it. This is where most negligent discharges occur.

Showing someone a target gun or a collectible gun is relatively safe. These guns are stored unloaded. They can be checked to verify their unloaded condition before handling, and they usually aren’t reloaded immediately in the presence of others. Showing off a carry gun is another thing entirely.

Too many accidents occur right after a class where a police officer was training with his safely unloaded service weapon. When class ends, all the students reload their pistols to return to work, but then one student wants to ask one more question or demonstrate one more point and draws his now-loaded pistol and experiences a negligent discharge.

Or take the gun store employee who draws his concealed weapon to show a customer, ‘what I carry.’ This may seem like good salesmanship to give a personal testimonial to an already popular product while establishing credibility with the customer. Unfortunately, it exposes everyone in the room to a potential negligent discharge. Every gun store has one of two signs; ‘no loaded guns’ or ‘concealed weapons must stay concealed,’ yet many gun store employees carry loaded guns, and some will show them to customers.

Loaded guns that are kept and carried for protection aren’t for show. They should stay concealed and secret until the need arises.

A friend once said it best, “If you want to see my gun, crawl through my window some night.”

William Lovelady is the editor of The Sportsman's Gazette. He can be reached at sportsmansgazette@hotmail.com

I Never Really Wanted an M-1 Garand

By William Lovelady

When I was a teenager and just starting out as a shooter, all the old timers that had Garands -during WWII or Korea or boot camp- told of the pains of carrying that 200-pound rifle on marches that seemed endless but were probably only 40 or 50 miles.

Oddly, as much as they decried the weight of the Garand, they assured us youngsters that the recoil was still akin to a .600 Nitro Express. The Garand would surely kill at the muzzle and likely cripple at the butt. I never really wanted a heavy, hard-kicking Garand.

Then there was the 8-round en bloc clip-not very many shots between reloads by 1980s standards. And the old timers assured us that the ping caused by the empty clip being ejected let the enemy know you were out of ammo so they could charge. This story still persists to this day. I never really wanted an eight-shot Garand.

The only way to get the old timers to speak well of the M-1 was to talk about the M-16.

Somehow in comparison to the new gun, allegedly made by Mattel, the Garand became the most awesome battlefield implement ever purchased by an enlightened War Department. No rifle before or since equaled the power, accuracy and reliability that John Cantius Garand engineered into the U.S. Rifle M-1. I still didn’t want one.

In my late 30s, I took up rifle competition. The match AR-15 had already come into its own and was the only rifle the service teams were seriously competing with at the national level. A handful of Navy shooters were still shooting personal Garands, but every year, the winners at Camp Perry were shooting 5.56 in the CMP matches. The National Match AR was cheaper to build, required less maintenance, and stayed in tune longer than match Garands or M-14s. The days of .30 caliber dominance seemed to be over.

Then I went to Iraq. As a Navy Reservist, and a journalist, I had received little small arms training in the military until I arrived at Navy Individual Augmentee Combat Training at Fort Jackson, S.C. There I was issued an M-16A2 with a Colt upper and an FNH lower. It fit and functioned well enough and what remained of the rifling ran almost the entire length of the barrel. This rifle was to be my constant companion for the next 11 months. After some practice, I could hit the target consistently at 300 yards. I shot a sharpshooter score on the qualification range shooting pop-up targets.

In Baghdad, I was issued 210 rounds of ammunition. In the public affairs office, we had an assortment of leftovers from previous units that had redeployed. So I loaded every third round in my magazines with tracer. I figured if I set the rifle to three-shot burst and started sending tracers in the direction of the enemy, I might convince them I had a squad automatic weapon (SAW). As a combat correspondent, destroying the enemy was less important to me than surviving initial contact.

For almost a year I carried that gun to work, to chow, to social functions, and to the latrine. My family was 7,000 miles away but my rifle was rarely seven feet away. In all that time, I never wanted a Garand.

There were many times I wished I had a hell gun loaded with lightered knots, or a couple of nuclear hand grenades, but I never thought that I could sort out all my problems if I just had a Garand and 96 rounds of ball ammunition. I was glad to have my rifle and looked anxiously toward the day I could turn it in, hopefully with 210 rounds of unused ammunition.

I suspect that the old timers felt the same way about their Garands as I do about my M-16. The passage of time makes everything about war seem a little less awful than it really is. We find symbols that remind us of the struggle and of the brothers in arms - some we lost - that shared that struggle with us. For the ‘Greatest Generation’ one of those symbols is the M-1 Garand. For us Gen-Xers and Millenials, our war is still fresh, but as time passes, we’ll remember the M-16 and M-4 more and more fondly for they were our enduring companions when we went in harm’s way.

The first Garand I ever bought for myself was during the National Matches at Camp Perry in 2009, the year I returned from Iraq. There was just something irresistible about being at the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s store and having hundreds of Garands to choose from. Half an hour and seven hundred dollars later, I was the proud owner of a piece of history and two cans of ammo. It was an impulse purchase that I have never regretted, but I never really wanted a Garand.

William Lovelady is the editor of The Sportsman's Gazette. He can be reached at sportsmansgazette@hotmail.com

Navy Rifle Shooter Wins 1,000 Yard Interservice Match

By William Lovelady

For the first time in more than 40 years, a member of the U.S. Navy Shooting Team won the 1,000 yard Interservice Rifle Match, match rifle division in June.

Using a new rifle, Cmdr. Mick Glancey shot a 200-10X to beat the best long-range shooters from all branches of the armed forces.

“I’ve been using a .300 win mag for 15 years and it was beating up my shoulder,” said Glancey. “This year, I had the Marine armorers build me a 700 in 6.5x284. My first match with that rifle, I tied my personal best.

“After I won the 1,000 yard Division “B” match this year, I asked our Marine brothers to look at the records and see when the last time a Navy shooter won this event,” Glancey continued. “This was kind of cool, the very first Inter Service 1,000 yard match was won by Navy!”

In 1960, J. Moody (rank unknown) won the first Interservice 1,000 yard match rifle division.

In 1973, Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic Ray Kerbs, a Navy gunsmith, won the match shooting a Winchester 70 in 30-338 that he built. Kerbs, 85, went on to renown as a civilian gunsmith and competitive shooter after leaving the Navy.

“That [match] was my only claim to fame as a Navy shooter,” Kerbs said, “after I got out, I won a few state championships and even set a rapid fire record. That [record] lasted…about a week.”

Second place in this year’s match rifle division was taken by Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Leigh Jenks III, with a score of 200-8x.

William Lovelady is the editor of The Sportsman's Gazette. He can be reached at sportsmansgazette@hotmail.com

Why Not Have the Best Gun?

By William Lovelady

Zig Ziglar once said, “I like the things money can buy, but I love the things money can’t buy.”
We at The Sportsman’s Gazette always try to focus on the things whose value cannot be measured in dollars; family, country, individual liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But on those occassions when we catch happiness, it never hurts to have a pocketful of dollars to pay for the accessories that enhance our enjoyment of the moment.

This is about the things money can buy. It’s also about prioritizing-why not buy good stuff? Often we can if we buy less stuff.

It’s fair to ask, who needs a gun that costs more than a house? The answer is no one. But genuine need is rarely a part of any decision making process, and it would be equally fair to ask, who needs three almost identical guns in three calibers that are baliistically similar?

Rather than have three entry-level rifles in .308, 30-06 and .270 with three economy scopes, why not have a great gun with a great scope in the caliber you most want?

If the best you can afford is a Ruger American, then buy the best you can afford. However, if the best you can afford is three Ruger Americans, you can just about afford the most deluxe Ruger M-77. It’s the same dollars to the same gun maker so we’re not cheating the industry with this advice.

What’s the difference in buying cheap guns and buying expensive ones? There are several.

The first, with any luxury item is satisfaction and pride of ownership which leads to more thoughtful use.
The term ‘truck gun’ has come into common use in the last 20 years to describe a gun so durable and affordable that it can be left in the truck to rattle around and rust while causing little worry to the owner. While many are perfectly willing to neglect a bargain priced gun, few hunters ever left a gun with a comma on the price tag behind the truck seat until the metal rusted or the 1,000 dollar scope was knocked out of line.

The second difference is reputation. Gun makers, like all manufacturers often cut corners to reach a price point for big box retailers. These products are made to sell for the lowest price possible, so they must be made with the least costly parts and labor in the shortest amount of time. Quality is no more than it has to be.

On the other hand, anything made by a custom shop will be inpsected under the strictest of standards before and after it leaves the maker and it must be the best. The maker can afford to spend a little extra time and use the best parts and the most skilled labor to assemble a luxury product because the retail price reflects those inputs.

Similarly, retailers tend to treat big ticket customers a lot better than they treat bargain hunters.
Customers who buy low-price, low-profit items don’t get special treatment. They get the absolute minimum amount of attention it takes to make a sale. When they start requiring extra service, retailers often let them go.
A customer who buys the best is a customer worth keeping. A dealer has a little more time and a lot more motivation to make sure the customer stays happy and loyal.

Another reason is available options. Putting a XXX walnut stock on a cheap gun is as likely as putting a diamond face on a cheap watch. Better grade guns offer the choices of fit, finish, parts and accessories that make them unique to their owners.

The last, and perhaps best, reason to buy the best possible guns you can afford is that the time it takes to save up the purchase price greatly refines the decision making process.

Most gun stores have a selection of barely used budget guns. These were impulse purchases that someone bought in a hurry and realized not long after that the product may have filled its intended purpose, but it didn’t fill it well.

One almost never sees a Purdey or a Perazzi for sale in barely used condition.

William Lovelady is the editor of The Sportsman's Gazette. He can be reached at sportsmansgazette@hotmail.com

So you want to learn to shoot a rifle?

By William Lovelady

Once upon a time Americans were known for their mythical skills with the rifle. Sadly, in the 21st Century, those long-ago skills, like those long-ago riflemen, are becoming little more than mythology.

Some decry the lack of available rifle ranges. Others blame those Americans that no longer believe in personal firearms ownership or skills training. While these two are large contributors, a simpler truth is that most Americans don’t shoot rifles well because they haven’t been taught to shoot rifles at all.

The Revolutionary War Veterans Association’s Project Appleseed attempts to address the lack of rifle skills and training among American citizens and to teach them some of their forgotten history as a nation of riflemen.

The main feature of Project Appleseed are weekend clinics that teach new and old shooters the basics of rifle shooting and the role it played in the birth of the United States of America. Shooters bring a repeating rifle that can be reloaded during rapid fire, about 500 rounds of ammunition and a desire to learn and improve.

While thousands of magazine articles, books, and internet discussions continue to cover every possible aspect of pistol shooting, very little has been written in the last decade about shooting rifles at distances in excess of 200 yards without mechanical aids and optical sights. Service rifle shooting at known distances and competition has been replaced by close-range action shooting and long-range varmint and precision shooting.

In the early 20th Century, what we know as across-the-course shooting became very popular to showcase the capabilities of the 1903 service rifle. Today, NRA and Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) high-power rifle matches still involve shooting from the standing and sitting (or kneeling) position at 200 yards and from the prone position at 300 and 600 yards.

The Appleseed weekend begins with a safety brief and “The first strike of the match,” retelling of the events that turned the American revolution from a political dispute into a shooting war, beginning with Paul Revere’s ride and leading on to the shots fired at Lexington and Concord. For the rest of the day, there will be history lessons during shooting breaks.

After the brief, and before any instruction is given, shooters shoot what is affectionately known as the ‘Redcoat target.’ It is a series of bright red reduced silhouettes representing the uniforms worn by regular soldiers of the British army in 1776. The redcoat will serve as a record of where the shooters started and how much their skills improve over the next two days of shooting.

Shooters are then taught to shoot from the prone position using no support other than the ground and a sling. They sight in their rifles at 25 yards, and as the instructors say, “targets don’t lie.” Appleseed sight-in targets are one-inch black squares. In these days of minute of angle accuracy, hitting a four MOA target doesn’t seem too intimidating--seeing a 4 MOA target without magnification is the challenge. (1 MOA=1 inch at 100 yards, 2 inches at 200 yards, ¼ inch at 25 yards etc. Hence 1 inch at 25 yards = 4 MOA.)

This is where rifle shooting and pistol shooting begin to differ. Pistol targets range in relative size from 8 minutes of angle for a 50 yard bullseye to 40-plus minutes of angle for a silhouette. It is relatively easy to orient the front sight in the center of a large target. Rifle targets are just the opposite. The largest are 7 minutes of angle and some are much smaller so the front sight blade appears wider than the diameter of the bullseye. Rifle shooters must align their bullseye with a small portion of the sight blade. Some shooters still employ a center mass hold, but many rifle shooters hold at 6 O’clock on the bullseye so that the entire bull is visible above their sight posts.

While most experienced shooters have an idea where there rifles are sighted, some of the attendees at Appleseed events are new shooters.

“We’ve had people show up with a brand new rifle still in the box,” said one of the instructors at an Appleseed weekend shoot. “That’s OK though, because it means they won’t have a lot of bad habits to overcome.”

After sighting in from the prone position, shooters are taught the kneeling and sitting positions and fire more shots at the little squares. Then a break for instruction on the standing or offhand position, and back to the little squares. By lunch time shooters will have fired about 100 well-aimed rounds--some of them using center fire rifles.

After a quick meal and more history of rifle craft and the birth of America, shooters begin firing a slightly modified Army Qualification Table. This is a reduced distance course of fire that simulates shooting at 50-500 yards. The modification is that official AQT targets are a high contrast black on white paper. The Appleseed AQT targets are a soft gray on white paper. Nothing at Appleseed is easy.

Shooters spend the rest of the weekend working on the basics of rifle marksmanship; breath and trigger control, finding and maintaining  natural point of aim and dozens of other things that ensure the bullet strikes near where the shooter intends it to strike.

The mix of teaching history and shooting skills is different than most training workshops and goes back to basics that many younger Americans have forgotten or never knew. Rifle shooting is hard work. It doesn’t have the fast action of a video game. The other almost forgotten fact is that after many attempts at political due process, Americans took their liberty from the British empire violently with guns.

“This was an excellent program, I liked the history focus almost as much as the proper techniques,” said an Appleseed attendee. “I’m not a gun enthusiast or a political person, but this country was founded on the fight for freedom and liberty. This program wasn’t just about coming out and hitting the target.”

For more information or to find an event, visit www.appleseedinfo.org

William Lovelady is the editor of The Sportsman's Gazette. He can be reached at sportsmansgazette@hotmail.com

Are Guns a Good Investment?

By William Lovelady

Can the average investor make money investing in guns? What are the risks involved? In these troubled times when even gold prices are like a roller coaster, many gun owners appreciate the security and potential for growth that firearms can offer.

The first questions a competent investment advisor will ask are, ‘what are your investing objectives and what is your tolerance for risk?’ The same questions are a great place to start before you invest in guns.

Unlike stocks, bonds or certificates of deposit, guns don’t pay cash dividends. Any monetary return on investment will be in the form of capital gains at the time of sale. So if you need predictable income, guns are not an investment that can provide it. At one time, Bank of Boulder and North Country Bank and Trust offered depositors a rifle or shotgun in lieu of interest on a certificate of deposit, but no such program exists at this time—likely due to low interest rates.

Unlike intangible investments, guns offer non-monetary dividends like satisfaction of ownership, the ability to shoot your investment and the personal protection that only a firearm offers.

A sporting gun can be purchased second-hand in excellent condition and with proper care, can be used for a lifetime and still be in excellent condition. In many instances, a working gun can be written off one’s income tax and after a career of moderate to hard use, it will still retain some value. Depending on the stories that accompany hard use, a work gun might even be worth more.

Collecting vs. Investing

While similar, collecting is the accumulation of something that fits into a theme or group of similar things. Investing is the accumulation of something with the expectation of future monetary reward. Still, there are some sound principles that investors and collectors would do well to follow.

Don’t Invest in Junk

Focus on guns that are in high condition relative to their rarity. Some will only be available in well-used condition, but don’t buy common guns in anything other than pristine condition. Don’t buy cheap guns. It may be tempting to collect surplus rifles that sell for $100, but the time it takes to build a $10,000 portfolio and then to sell those hundred guns will offset most potential gains.

Avoid Trendy Collectibles

The last three decades have seen several types of guns rise and then flatten out or fall in price. Colt AR-15 rifles were a hot commodity after the assault weapon ban of 1989. Prices for collapsible stock carbines rose to more than $2,500. With the expiration of the 1994 Crime Act, many manufacturers now make similar rifles and a new Colt carbine sells for about $1,500. Investing in a $2,500 carbine would have yielded almost a 50 percent loss over 15 years. Older collectibles have a track record of price changes, that can be measured over a longer period.

Invest in Rare and Desirable

It is crucial that any investment firearm have both features. The above mentioned carbines are still desirable, but their rarity was caused by a temporary set of circumstances. Similarly, LW Seecamp .32 auto pistols once commanded nearly $1,000 because of their rarity. But as other makers introduced pocket autos with similar features in the four hundred dollar range, the desirability of the Seecamp pistol has diminished and the price with it. This is not to say that Colt carbines or Seecamp pistols are bad guns. It is to say that investing in either one over the last ten years would have been financially disappointing.

Buy Guns that are Shootable

While a vintage gun in unfired condition may be rare enough to justify keeping it unfired, a gun that cannot be fired safely is worth less than one that can. This is why only highest grade Damascus-barreled guns are collectible.

Never Buy Guns You Don’t Like

When investors buy things they like, whether art, real estate, stocks, or guns, they enjoy owning them and only consider market value when it is time to sell. Investors who buy things solely for the expectation of profit, constantly monitor prices and worry over any negative change. Often they sell too soon for too little.

Avoid Churning

When stock players buy and sell rapidly they incur additional commissions and pay higher taxes on capital gains. When gun collectors buy and sell rapidly they risk running afoul of the law for unlicensed dealing. And they often lose potential profit to transaction costs; gas and travel time, gun show admissions, retail markups and wholesale markdowns. Investing in guns is a buy and hold proposistion.

While it is beyond the scope of this article to predict what will offer the greatest return on investment, there are some examples from the last 30 years that may prove illustrative.

Assault weapons—every gun that was on the ban list in 1989 doubled in price almost overnight. However prices have been relatively flat for the past twelve years. So enthusiasts that owned those guns pre-ban received a very attractive return, but anyone who bought in the last decade has seen little growth.

Field shotguns—in the early 1980s, Winchester Model 12 and Belgian Browning Auto-5 shotguns were especially popular and commanded high prices. Unfortunately, they are not suitable for use with steel shot. Since federal law prohibits hunting waterfowl with lead shot, a large group of shooters are no longer interested in these guns. Many have been modified for different uses and they are still great guns, but their investment potential is almost non-existent.

Guns with stories—never pay extra for a story unless you will be able to prove it when you try to sell. This includes guns with supposed connections to famous people or events. More often it applies to claims of custom work, rare special features and accuracy. Anyone can produce a target with a tiny group on it. Unless you can prove a gun’s accuracy to a buyer, don’t invest a premium in that accuracy.

American military arms—these may be the best long-term firearm investment if the above rules are followed. Buy functional, rare, desirable variants, in high condition that you like and you should enjoy the satisfaction of owning and shooting them for many years coupled with an acceptable return when it’s time to sell. Plus, should the need arise most martial arms will suffice for self protection.

Have an Exit Strategy

No matter how well crafted a portfolio you assemble you can’t take it with you. While it is a great legacy to pass on all or part of a collection to an heir that will enjoy it and even ad to it, it is an unfair burden to leave your loved ones a group of guns that they have no love for and not enough knowledge to sell for a fair price.

If you plan to pass on your guns or sell them, do it while you are living. The satisfaction of giving a gift and perhaps some time at the range is a return on investment that can’t be measured in dollars.

Selling guns for fair market prices takes time and knowledge. After years of investing in a particular niche, you will have developed a sensitivity to the market and have a pretty good idea when to sell and for how much.
If you sell your guns to a dealer you will receive a wholesale price. No matter how fair a dealer is, the more guns you offer at one time, the greater discount he will expect. Also, a dealer who specializes in what you have to sell will pay more than one who does not. The quickest way to turn a $10,000 collection into $2,500 is to let your grieving widow sell it in a hurry to pay your final expenses. If your heirs don’t share your love of investment-grade firearms, cash is indeed the best legacy. At the very least, find a dealer or trusted agent to assist your estate once you are gone.

Proper diversification is the holy grail of investing. It protects against market losses and increases opportunities for profit. Guns and collectibles offer additional diversity when grouped with more traditional investment products. Armed with some forethought and buying discipline, quality firearms can be an appropriate part of a well balanced portfolio.

Disclaimer: Neither the author nor The Sportsman’s Gazette is engaged in redering investment advice. This article should not be construed as advice to purchase or not purchase a particular firearm nor does it imply past performance is indicative of future results.

William Lovelady is the editor of The Sportsman's Gazette. He can be reached at sportsmansgazette@hotmail.com

One Shot – One Meal: The difference between shooters and hunters

By William Lovelady

There has only been one great and enduring disappointment in my marriage, and like most problems it resulted from my failure to communicate.

My wife is a God-fearing, conservative, former cheerleader and a hunter. So I assumed since I’m all that, except the cheerleader part, that we would spend many happy days of our married life at the shooting range. I was wrong.

My wife loves going to the hunting camp and she’ll sit in a tree stand for hours if no spiders are near. She has killed as many head of game as I have, and she rarely objects to my spending at the sporting goods store. What more could any man want in a marriage?

What I overlooked in my pre-marital discussion was that my wife comes from a family that thinks ammunition is for harvesting game. They consider target shooting an almost sinful frivolity.

My father-in-law, Jed Clampett, used to tell how when he was a boy, ‘Daddy would give us one bullet and if we didn’t kill anything, we went hungry.’

I’ve even heard my in-laws say they were going to throw away a half box of rifle cartridges because it was too old. Before that, I had heard of ammunition expiring, but I always thought it was a hypothetical like pro wrestling.

Unlike my wife, I’ve put more brass on the ground in a year than some third world armies.
I love to shoot. Rifle, pistol or shotgun, it doesn’t matter to me—I love to shoot. I’ll cheerfully spend 10 hours lying in a pasture in the summer sun to shoot a 100-round rifle match, but sitting in a tree stand for 30 minutes to not fire a shot bothers me.

A few times my wife has gone to the range to fire two or three shots to check the zero on her hunting rifle, but usually she leaves that to me. She fired a dozen rounds or so during her concealed carry class, and once she went to a rifle match with me—she sat in the car and watched. But, in 12 years of marriage, I can count on my thumbs the number of times my wife and I have gone to the range to shoot recreationally.

But really, how can I be disappointed? It means more ammo for me.

William Lovelady is the editor of The Sportsman's Gazette. He can be reached at sportsmansgazette@hotmail.com

Don't Take a Knife to a Gunfight - A Journalist's Perspective on Self-Defense

By William Lovelady

For the past 25 years, the state of Florida has issued concealed weapon permits to citizens who meet the same legal requirements they must meet to purchase a firearm. Hundreds of thousands of Floridians have chosen to carry weapons for personal protection. Many have later found themselves using those weapons to defend themselves from violent attack.

A recent case in Sanford, highlights many of the things that can go wrong, before and after a shooting in self defense. This is not offered as legal advice, nor is it a commentary on whether the ultimate verdict was right or wrong. It is a journalist’s perspective on how reasonable or unreasonable self defense looks to outside observers - all of whom have personal prejudices.

In college, journalism students are taught to look for news elements that make a story interesting. Two of those elements are conflict, or violence, and oddity.
The classic example is the editor who told a reporter he wasn’t interested in a story about a dog biting a man. That happens all the time, but if there was a story of a man biting a dog, that would be interesting.

So when a reporter is trolling through police reports and she finds a shooting, she needs more. Was one of the parties very old or very young? Was an ‘assualt weapon’ used? Was the shooting a crime or a response to crime?

A feeble old woman shooting a home invader is a great ‘cheer for the underdog’ story. Another ‘mentally unstable person commits mass murder with a gun’ story never goes out of fashion.
Long before a jury is impaneled, the press will begin trying the case. Presenting what facts they can find and filling the gaps with plausible supposition. Getting the story out fast will be more important than getting it right. Today, a jury will most likely have read news accounts of the case they are trying.

As you train and equip yourself for self-defense, ask how it will look in the newspaper and consider the following. Don’t look like you were hunting trouble. Very few journalists own or carry guns so they assume most citizens don’t need them. Don’t carry multiple guns unless you have a compelling professional reason. A cautious personality isn’t enough.

Don’t carry a lot of extra ammo. This can be written up as a sign of aggressive intent, ot it can show a disregard for bystanders if you intend to miss a lot.

Don’t pull a knife if you are carrying a gun. It shows that you were in control of the situation and deadly force was unneeded. Never carry Asian martial arts weapons like nunchaka or a samauri sword unless you are on your way to a dojo. Use of an exotic weapon in self-defense will be hard for a jury to understand and easy for a journalist to explain unfavorably.

Don’t strike someone with your gun unless it has failed to fire. Striking someone with a gun is called ‘pistol whipping’ in news stories. It sounds bad, and it may be used to demonstrate that deadly force was not needed. This means you could face felony charges for assault with a firearm - which carries a minimum mandatory sentence in Florida.

Be aware of how your gun will be described in the story. Is it a high-capacity semi-automatic? Is it frequently used in movies or television? Is it loaded with hollowpoints? Is it big and shiny or black and sinister? It may be shown on television during a trial.

Be careful how you train and practice. Your known habits will become part of the story.
Recreational shooting and regular practice make sense, but going to paramilitary schools where men in camo teach you to be ‘a warrior’ might not look so good in print. Don’t ‘train’ yourself to instinctively double-tap. It can be construed as murderous intent. The time between your first and second shot will be analyzed. The only plausible reason for firing a second shot is because the first one didn’t have the effect of stopping the threat.

Consider instead organized competition. Nothing sharpens a skill more than being measured against other people. And being a competitor shows you are a person willing to follow rules.
That said, carrying a match gun concealed for personal protection is not a great idea. Most have what journalists like to call ‘hair triggers’ and other features that might make them seem more deadly.

The worst idea I ever heard was the cowboy action shooter who carried his competion gun, a single-action revolver, as a concealed weapon. While he was familiar and capable with it and it was neither high-capacity nor semi-automatic, it was still a poor choice.
If he ever had to use that gun to defend himself, the story would read that a grown man who plays cowboy on the weekend with real guns decided to carry his ‘wild west’ gun to the street - perhaps hoping to carve a few notches on it. There will be pictures of cowboy action shooters in costume to go with that story. A truly sensational reporter might find a shooter in Civil War uniform to exploit some racial aspect of the story.

If you are charged with a homicide, hate crimes charges will probably be considered as well. A Confederate flag t-shirt is 1st Amendment protected free speech until you wear it while using deadly force to defend yourself.

Remember that the American Civil Liberties Union rarely involves itself in 2nd Amendment cases. So if you are accused of being a racist murderer, you’re on your own.

Prosecuting attorneys are salaried employees of the state or federral government who can work on your case forever if needed. Criminal defense attorneys, on the other hand, charge by the hour, win or lose. A prominent author of self-defense books recently wrote that if you carry a gun for self defense you should be prepared to write a check to your attorney for 100 percent of your life savings if you ever have to pull the trigger.

None of this is to suggest that honest, law-abiding citizens should not exercise their human rights of self defense. Most logical people agree that rapists, carjackers, home invaders, robbers and killers deserve any violence they may bring upon themselves. When in the midst of a violent encounter, innocent citizens should not have to ask themselves if they will be punished for ending a fight they didn’t start. But killing a person is not to be taken lightly. An attacker is not a cardboard cutout or a zombie target. The person you injure or kill in a lawful act of self defense has a family that sees him in a much better light than you do.

And an ‘unbiased’ journalist may find enough facts to build a story.
Your image doesn’t make self-defense justified or unjustified, but a jury’s perceptions will affect their verdict.

Don’t be the man that bites a dog.

William Lovelady is the editor of The Sportsman's Gazette. He can be reached at sportsmansgazette@hotmail.com