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Gun Stuff 101 - Patterning Your Shotgun, Post 1

We’ve talked in the past about sighting in a rifle for a particular load and the time and effort that is sometimes required to find the round that performs best for a particular gun. Sometimes “good enough” is ok, but I think most sportsmen and women, would rather use the best possible gun and ammo combination available to them. Or at the least, they would want to know how their gun performs with the particular round they are using, even if it is not the best.

Patterning a shotgun can be just as important as sighting in a rifle, and is beneficial for several reasons. There are new types of shotgun shells introduced every year, for every type of hunting, and new choke tubes too. Some of the new choke tubes are general purpose and can be used for a variety of shooting, but many are specific to a particular load. On the other hand, some of the shells produced are designed to shoot well with the factory tubes that come with your gun, while others benefit from a tube that is specific for that shell. You may be surprised to find that your full choke doesn’t give you as tight a pattern as your modified choke with a particular shell. This could be because of the wad type used in the shell, or perhaps your gun happens to shoot a much better pattern with an aftermarket choke tube than the factory tube that came with your gun.

In order to understand how these shells will perform in your gun, or how effective and compatible your choke is with the load you are shooting you have to pattern it. In doing so, you can also determine if your gun is shooting to “point of aim” or not; surprisingly, many shotguns actually do not shoot to “point of aim”. Without mentioning any specific brands, some manufacturers design their guns to allow you to “float” the target over your front bead to give you a full view of it before shooting. With a gun designed as such you will likely over shoot and miss if you aim with your bead in the center of the target. It is not a fault of the gun, choke, or ammo, it is simply how they are designed – and patterning your gun will help keep you from making that mistake.

Patterning your gun is a fairly easy process, but it requires some patience and a good shooting rest. If you have patterned a shotgun before and did not use a rest, then you were not doing it correctly – sorry, there’s no other way to put it. The shooting rest is critical, because it helps to reduce the “human error” element of shooting. It’s no different than using a good rest for sighting in a rifle. You are not trying to determine how well you shoot the gun – you are trying to determine how or how well the gun shoots the ammo. If you add inevitable “human error” into the equation, your results will be skewed - whether you realize it or not. After giving in, and using a rest, the remaining process is up to you. You need to determine shooting scenarios you may encounter, and the distances at which you need to shoot. Set your targets up accordingly, and pattern your gun. You will have the greatest success, from the start, if you take the proper steps we’ve outlined above.

In order to assist our customers and provide them with the best information that we can give, we often test our products or use them ourselves for our own shooting and hunting activities. We want to be able to tell you first- hand what has worked for us or what we have discovered in testing. Over the next several months we are going to experiment with multiple types of shot shells and choke tube combinations. We will be using chokes from several different manufacturers and shooting different buckshot, waterfowl, and turkey shells. We will report on what we find on Facebook (Like us at RedNex Sporting Goods) & Instagram (rednexsportinggoods), and we will also have that information available to you when you come into the store. Stay tuned!

FAQs:

What do you mean by “pattern”? – As shot leaves the barrel, it begins to disperse in the air, resulting in a cloud of pellets. The ideal pattern would be a circle, with an even distribution of shot throughout, with a density sufficient to ensure enough pellets will intersect the target to achieve the desired result. – Wikipedia



What is a choke tube? – A choke tube constricts the end of the barrel to change the pattern of shot as it leaves the muzzle. Choke tubes come in different thicknesses/bore narrowing, depending on the shot pattern desired, and are screwed into the muzzle-end of a barrel. Think of a fireman’s hose, you can constrict the flow of water by twisting the nozzle - hard stream of water (that can travel quite a distance) all the way to a soft spray (which doesn’t go very far). The same concept can be applied using choke tubes.

Gun Stuff 101 - Muzzleloaders Part 3

Muzzleloaders Part 3 - by Josh
ml #3 Once you’ve selected a powder and bullet it’s time to go to the shooting bench and start zeroing your rifle. In the following paragraphs I will discuss the process of loading a muzzleloader, as well as a few tips that will make shooting your muzzleloader more enjoyable.

tc-t17-breechplug-grease1All modern muzzleloaders have a breech plug. As its name suggests, it is a threaded plug located at the breech of your rifle. In the center of the breech plug is a tiny flash hole. The rear of the breech plug is designed to hold the primer or cap. Before firing your muzzleloader it is important to apply an anti-seize grease (breech plug grease), which is necessary for easy breech plug removal during cleaning.

The bullet is loaded from the muzzle end and has to be pushed down until it reaches the powder you added, which is sitting on the breech plug. If using a bullet with a plastic tip, it is often helpful to screw a jag or bullet seater on the end of your ramrod that has a recessed hole so the tip of your bullet is not damaged while loading. hornady-black-powder-bullets-barnes-bullet-seaterThe bullet inside of the plastic sabot is a tight fit in your bore so adding a little lube can make things a lot easier. You can buy pre saturated patches that contain lube or you can buy the patches and lube separately. Whether you buy pre-saturated or not, the process is the same. Place a patch with lube over your muzzle, and using your ramrod with jag (supplied with your muzzleloader) work the lubed patch up and down your barrel. Be careful not to over -do -it with the lube -- a little goes a long way. If you do this each time you shoot, you begin to season your barrel much like a cast iron skillet, and loading and cleaning become much easier. So drop in your powder, load your bullet and next, let’s place the primer at the rear of your breech plug in the primer chamber.

primer loadi Most modern muzzleloaders use a 209 primer to ignite the powder just like the ones used in shot shells. Earlier muzzleloaders used either musket caps or Number 11 percussion caps, but they were much less reliable than the 209 primer. Some manufacturers make primers that are designed and marketed as muzzle loading 209 primers and they are fine to use but standard shot shell primers should perform well too. It’s best to consult the powder manufacturer to determine which is best to use for their powder.

Remember, whether shooting at the bench or hunting from a blind or tree stand never load your primer in the breech plug until you are seated and ready to safely shoot. With your gun loaded with powder, a bullet, and a primer, you’re ready to take aim and shoot.

Powders in muzzleloaders can be very dirty and produce extreme amounts of fouling -- accumulation of unwanted material on solid surfaces to the detriment of function – therefore, it’s extremely necessary to clean this fouling out before you put your gun away, and also in between shots if possible. The use of a lube such as Thompson Center’s Bore Butter can aid in cleaning your gun when used prior to shooting, and also makes loading the rifle much easier as well.

Shooting and hunting with a muzzleloader can be a fun, rewarding experience. Just remember to follow all common sense safety precautions and have a great time. We’ll talk about the actual cleaning process in the next and final Muzzleloading post.

Gun Stuff 101 - Muzzleloaders Part 2

Muzzleloaders Part 2 - by Josh


11050763_983488331691089_3528038788973841174_nI wrote last time about the different types of powders, the forms in which they come, and the pros and cons of each type. This week I’d like to talk about the bench time necessary to determine proper projectile and powder combinations when hunting with modern muzzleloading rifles.

Today’s hunter has many bullet options, and most will perform reasonably well in most rifles. To find out what works best in your rifle, as always, is a matter of trial and error. And before you pass judgement on any one bullet/powder combination, you need to determine what your expectations are, and where you will be hunting. If you’re used to shooting ½ inch groups with your varmint rifle and expect your new CVA or Thompson Center to do the same, you will likely be disappointed. These rifles may be capable of that type of precision, but they don’t need to be. And most people don’t have the time it takes at the bench to wring that much out of their gun, and that’s ok.

Most production muzzleloaders are designed to take deer sized game (or larger) from moderate distances. If your muzzleloader is shooting four inch groups at 100 yards, is that good enough? It can do better, but remember, whitetail deer have a kill zone of about 10 inches, so almost any bullet/powder/ rifle combination will be just fine for hunting at closer ranges (50-75 yards). For 100 to 150 yard hunting, you need a little more precision, so it is best to spend some time at the bench finding out what bullet/powder combo will get the job done. If you’re getting 2-3 inch groups you’re just fine for those distances. Two hundred yards and further will be stretching it for typical muzzle loading rifles, but they are capable if you put the time in at the range. There are custom muzzleloaders using smokeless powder that can easily take game from 500 yards and beyond, but that’s not what I want to focus on as it is not what most folks are using.

There used to be a variety of .45 caliber muzzleloaders to choose from just a few years ago, however most manufacturers spend their time producing .50 caliber muzzleloaders which makes your projectile selection process a bit easier. Projectiles for these guns range in weight from about 200 grains to 300 grains. Most will come with a sabot (pronounced suh-bow) which helps seal the gap around the projectile to prevent gases from blowing past it. With bullets that use sabots, the actual diameter of the bullet will be smaller than the rifle’s caliber. The sabot makes up the difference – a .50 caliber gun will use .45 caliber bullets with a .50 caliber sabot. Power Belt brand bullets, for example, do not use a traditional sabot, but the projectiles have a plastic base which serves the same purpose.muzzleloader-bullet-types
Bullets for these rifles will either be lead, copper jacketed lead or solid copper. You can get them with a round nose, hollow point or plastic tip. Some are designed for moderate distances while others are designed with a higher ballistic coefficient (Read here about ballistic coefficient) and will be better for longer distances.

muzz#2
Finding out what works best for your gun takes time at the shooting bench to determine. Just remember to take all things into consideration, but most importantly: Where you will be hunting? How long will your shots be? And remember, respect the game and hunt ethically.

Gun Stuff 101 - Muzzleloaders Part 1

Muzzleloaders Part 1 - by Josh
muzzleloader My favorite time of year is just around the corner – muzzleloader season. The first two weeks of November are the best weeks for deer hunting in our neck of the woods. If you’ve never, been I highly recommend it. The normally keen and elusive big bucks seem to lose their minds in the rut (mating season) in search of does. So it’s the time of year to see more deer activity than any other time. But seeing them is only part of the fun. Successfully and humanely harvesting a doe or nice buck is the other part. There is plenty of gear available to accomplish this and I’d like to dedicate the next few weeks to talking about what is available to the muzzleloading hunter and how to use it.

Without getting in to too much history and detail, early muzzleloaders used black powder as a propellant. Today actual black powder is much less common. The majority of hunters use black powder substitutes such as Pyrodex, Triple 7, White Hots, Blackhorn 209 and several others. There are even muzzleloaders that can be used with a variety of smokeless powders too, but I’m going to focus primarily on the black powder substitutes.

There are many brands and types of powders available for us today and like everything else, advancements in technology bring us newer and better (sometimes) products. Powders for muzzleloaders are either pre-measured compressed cylindrical pellets, pre-measured rectangular sticks, or loose which has to be measured either by volume or weight. There are pros and cons to each type depending on your expectations.

bp_smokeless_bullets

Shooting with loose powders typically yields better accuracy. They burn faster and more consistently than pellets or sticks because there is more surface area to be burned. The size of the grains of loose powder can affect burn rate as well. Some powders like Blackhorn 209 do not vary in grain size but others like American Pioneer and Triple 7 do. For those that do they use the “F” designation to indicate the grain size (the “F” correlates to the screen size used to separate out grains during manufacturing). So you might see a bottle of Triple 7 that says FF next to one that says FFF. The powders are the same, but the grains of the FF are larger than the FFF. Typically (but not always) the FF powders are used for .50 cal rifles while the smaller FFF is used for smaller bore rifles and handguns. Some manufacturers like Pyrodex simplify it even further by labeling their powders either for pistol, rifle or shotgun. It is important to note that loose powders when measured by volume will be different than when weighed on a scale. For example 100 grains by volume might be 70 or 80 grains by weight, so be careful not to confuse the two. Over charging can destroy a gun and more importantly cause injury to the shooter. To see what overcharging a muzzle loader can look like … Google it … it’s not pretty.

Powders in pellet or stick form do not burn as consistently as loose powders but can still be very accurate for hunting and are certainly more convenient. They typically come in 30 or 50 grain sizes. The majority of hunters will either use 100 or 150 grains so two or three-50 grain pellets. Some will shoot 90 grains so three-30 grain pellets. It’s a matter of trial and error which combination of powder charge and bullet will work best in your gun so like I always say – you’ve got to shoot it to find out. Each manufacturer will vary on the suggested minimums and maximums for their powders so I strongly suggest you do a little research before you shoot.

It is inhumane to use too light a charge as it will not quickly and cleanly kill, and you certainly don’t want to blow your gun up by having too much powder.

In the coming weeks I’ll talk more about powders, maintenance, cleaning and shooting muzzleloaders. Send me an email if you have a specific question you’d like me to address.

#MBstrong

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The key to gun safety

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The key to gun safety as with many other dangerous tools is education and training. While the first thought on guns is for defense, there are many ways to enjoy gun ownership. Many varieties of guns are used in tactical competitions, hunting, and target competitions.

The basic principles of firearms safety boil down to good common sense. Handle all firearms as if they were loaded. Keep them pointed in a safe direction. Keep your finger out of the trigger guard until you're ready to fire. Make certain that the target and surrounding area are safe.

Romi Klear with L3 Firearms Training offers a strong foundation of instruction, backed by first hand range experience to fully appreciate and understand the responsibilities of handling a firearm, as well as build confidence. Here are a few of the courses: NRA Basic Pistol, NRA FIRST Steps Pistol Orientation, NRA Basic Personal Protection Inside The Home, and NRA Basic Personal Protection Outside The Home.

Contact Romi to get started enjoying gun ownership. Call 757-553-0315 or email L3rmklear@gmail.com.

Celebrating Father’s Day from now until the end of July!

At RedNex we are celebrating Father’s Day from now until the end of July with a special sale. We are offering our FNAR’s at below cost! For $1,300.00 you can outfit Dad (or yourself) with a tactical tack driver that will leave both Zombies and varmints running for cover! Take a look at this Black Beauty! The heavy barrel version of the FNAR is chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO (308 Winchester) and features an ambidextrous magazine release and 20" cold hammer-forged MIL-SPEC fluted barrel with hard-chromed bore and target crown. A one-piece, receiver-mounted MIL-STD 1913 optical rail comes standard, along with a trio of similar accessory rails attached to the adjustable synthetic stock’s fore-end for mounting a battery of tactical lights and lasers. Models with 10- or 20-round detachable steel box magazines (DBM) are available. Read more

Hornady’s .22 WMR Critical Defense

In the past couple of years lots of developments have been made in the firearms industry. Perhaps the most notable of those developments was the .380 craze that struck two or three years ago. Small guns are in as people who have never owned a firearm begin to carry for personal protection. Lots of these folks buy a big honkin’ bullet thrower only to find out in short order that big guns tend to be heavy and difficult to carry concealed. They then beat a path toward smaller guns. Until recently that often proved to be a problem because the selection of small guns appropriate for concealed carry was limited and just as importantly appropriate ammunition for these guns was non-existent.

Hornady’s Critical Defense line of ammunition is a premium selection of gas for your gun that will put a smile on your face even as it leaves bad guys with lots of frowns. Hornady’s latest release (in its Critical Defense line) is its offering in .22 WMR. Defensive ammo expressly made for a .22 rimfire? Yup. While I would never counsel anyone to go with the .22 Magnum as their principal defensive round it does make for a dandy deep concealment piece. I often call these firearms, “get off me guns” and get off you they will when you employ .22 WMR Critical Defense in your short barreled pepper popper.

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Hoppes Gun Grease

All things old are new again.  Sometimes the tried and true methods are the best.  Such is the case with protecting your firearm when it won’t be used for a protracted period of time.  I’ve used Hoppes Gun Grease for decades and it works as well today as it did back in the 60’s.

In Virginia’s humid climate it’s best to keep your firearms in a climate and humidity controlled environment.  Proper cleaning after each use and handling helps prevent problems too even when storage in a climate controlled environment is possible.

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The Itty Bitty

A few years ago we (in the gun industry) went through the .380 ACP craze.  Driven primarily by developments in bullet design and ballistics the .380 Auto was suddenly taken from the realm of “mouse gun” to the exalted status of a serious defensive shootin’ iron.  The .380 got so popular that ammunition was scarce for well over a year and prices were as dear as fresh tomatoes in February.

Recently however there has been another development in the .380 story.  Taurus Inc. of Miami, FL. has introduced a new .380.  While these days just another .380 could easily elicit yawns this new entry is very interesting.  It isn’t interesting because of the chambering so much as the platform.  This new .380 is a revolver!  That’s right; the .380 Auto now has a revolver chambered for it!

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