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Practice with a Firearm
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Practice with a Firearm

It is always a good idea to practice regularly with your firearm. At least once a year. During this period you get a chance to shoot up old ammunition and insure that your weapon is equipped with ammunition manufactured during the last twelove months. The date of manufacture is on the bottom of the cartridge.

The bst place is at a club or range, but in America, particularly if one owns private property in the country, it is common to "plink" on your own land.

A few caveats:

(1) Richochets are EXTREMELY dangerous. NEVER shoot at a rock, solid steel, a railroad track, or a tree. Yup. Bullets can bounce right back off a hardwood tree. And kill you. And also NEVER shoot at the surface of a lake or at flooating objects on a lake. Bullets will not enter the water but "skip" and end up killing someone on the other side of the lake.

(2) The best backrop is a big hill of soft earth, well policed to remove rocks and stumps. It's nice to have a shooting table. If not a folding chair or two is nice.

(3) As for targets it's NEVER a good idea to shoot at glass bottles or objects. You'll find it impossible to properly police the shards.

(4) There are many philosophies in setting up targets. Two long 2 X 4's in the ground, a good distance appart, do the trick. You can connect the top with another long ten or twelve foot 2 X 4 and then staple cardboard targets below. DO NOT NAIL BOARDS together. The nails will become steel upon which bullets can richochet. Drill holes and tie the boats together with clothesline. Incidentally, the idea is never to let bullets hit the supports. You also need a supply of "pasties" and "flour-glue" to paste them on to cover the holes in the target. They come in black and white. Or you can make your own. Or use black and cream tape.

(5) I would have a good idea where the nearest medical facility is located, in case of an accident.

(6) If you shoot at a club or range they will have a host of rules, which may or may not make sense. Everything is so complicated these days. I have done range practice with police officers where we fire as we walk down toward a target, or practice where one shoots and the other advances, and then you leapfrog. These exercises are frowned upon at civilian ranges. They must be carefully choreographed. And only practiced under the supervision of an experienced pistol/rifle instructor/range officer.

(7) I think some practice should be done without earplugs and shooting glasses, making me the most unpopular guy in the NRA. They won't allow you to shoot without earplugs or protective glasses at many ranges. Bear in mind, that in an emergency, that wheelgun is going to be used without benefit of earplugs or shooting glasses. You should know how loud it is, and how the loudness interferes with aiming your next shot, and how it disturbs you. As for hearing damage, after thousands of rounds over the centuries without plugs, I don't have any.  I do use them and recommend them, mind you. I just think that some practice should be done without them.

(8) If TWO people are shooting together on private property ONE must be designated range officer and in charge. NO EXCEPTIONS. That person, who "walks the range" before any firing is done to see there is nothing that could cause a richochet anhd that people are not in the firing zone,  is responsible for the range commands, which vary slightly.

Generally, those commands are.

"Range HOT", meaning the range is open for firing.

"Range COLD", meaning all firing must end and the range is closed.

"CEASE FIRE" meaning EVERYONE ceases fire, clears their weapon and puts their weapons on the table. ANYONE CAN CALL CEASEFIRE for any reason.

There is another command called "CHECKFIRE!". This means everyone stop shooting, while the range officer determines if there is a safety issue. With a CHECKFIRE command, you need not unload your weapon. It is commonly followed up by a "COMMENCE FIRING".

Generally the drill is to call:

"Ready on the right" Everyone looks to the right to check for anyone entering the range area to the right.

"Ready on the left" Everyone looks to the left to check for asnyone entering the range area to the left.

"Ready on the firing Line".

Having satisfied himself that there are no hazards, the designated RANGE OFFICER yells "COMMENCE FIRING".

Usually, a single "unit" of practice involves a full cylinder of ammunition in the case of a revolver, or one magazine. It can vary.

Everyone discharges their weapons at the designated target.

The range officer than yells.


All weapons are then "cleared" and placed on the table for inspection. The range officer checks every weapon to see the action is open, magazine out, cylinder out in the case of a revolver, and then orders.


Everyone leaves the weapon on the table (or chairs brought for the purpose) and goes down to see where their shots hit, and to paste up the holes. Then they dig into their wallets to settle bets. Hmmm...

The idea of to make as tight a "group" as possible. In a sense it doesn't matter where on the target they hit. The important thing is the hits are close together.

There are two basic types of paper targets. Those that look like men or animals and those that look like bulls-eyes. At gun shops/shows you can also purchase exploding targets.

Small aluminum cans also make nice targets, arranged on a long 2 X 4 or on a berm.

When everyone goes back to the firing line to compare lies, the process is repeated.

At the end of shooting, the range area is cleared up of all trash and brass.

One dangerous problem is a "cook-off" or a :hangfire". If the firing pin comes down on the primer and the pistol  or rifle does not fire, DO NOT LOOK INTO THE BARREL or take the barrel away from pointing anywhere but down range. It make take fifteen or twenty seconds before the round "cooks off". If you have a revolver DO NOT shoot another round!.

There are many rules. Mine is to wait a full minute while holding the weapon pointed downrange, then eject the magazine and CLEAR THE WEAPON, letting the shell with the dented primer fall to the ground (not on the table).

If a weapon of one of the participants jams, the range officer has the option of calling CHECKFIRE or CEASEFIRE.

The best ear protection is full coverage "muffs" available at shooting supply stores. In a pinch you can use wet wadded up tissue.

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144586 tn?1284669764
After practice comes the unpleasant part.


More bad news.

You should clean it immediately after firing.

Then clean it again the next day.

Then clean it agin the third day.

The reason is that corrosive substances will continue to exude from the inside of the barrel and have to be neutralized.

There are many excellent articles and philosophies on gun cleaning.

I prefer a soft rod or pull through, and always pull a brush or cleaning pad from the breech forward.

Chiping the top edge of a barrel with a cleaning rod diminishes accuracy. How much it diminishes accuracy is open to question. Lack of preventative maintenance  accounts for most gun repair problems. Maintenance is primarily cleaning and proper lubrication.

I like the slotted rods. You can go to a store, purchase a piece of flannel and cut squares.

The basic steps are:

(1) soak a patch in bore cleaner, run it through the bore and let it sit fot fifteen to twenty minutes. Coca-cola and combat war story time. You need to clean a weapon outdoors. The solvent will ruin your rug and clothing.

(2) Another soaked patch, run it through the bore. Let sit five minutes.

(3) Now use a bore brush (soft brass bristles), a dozen strokes, always from the breech to the tip of the barrel.

(4) Run a half dozen dry patches through the bore. Again from the breech to the tip. ONCE.

(5) Run an oil-soaked patch through the barrel, then a dry patch.

NEVER get the brush half-way in and "push it back and forth". Arghh!

ALWAYS ONE WAY, and one pass.

For a good gun grease I use Tetra. Expensive, but necessary
For a good oil, Wilson's gun lube.
For a good solvent Sweets bore solvent of J-B. Or Hoppes.

Ask your gunshop owner. There are many brands that are good and the chemistry is mature. Yes,. you can use VERY hot water to clean a gun barrel. I will get thrown out of the NRA for saying that, but I use it all the time in M-16 type carbines. You can order some rifles (such as the Springfield M1A and certain all-weather shotguns) with stainless steel barrels that are designed to be cleaned with water.

Do this the next day.

And the days after.

I don't like WD-40 because it destroys primers, but many people use it.

If you shoot tracers, the deal is different.

Clean the weapon at the range. Clean it four hours later. Clean it four hours after that. Then clean it the next day twice. And the day after. These are fun, but extremely corrosive.

Of course you need a soft brass brush and a toothbrush.


"Do I really have to clean my firearm once a day for three days after I shoot it?"


144586 tn?1284669764
Indoor practice can also be accomplished with very low-powered plastic bullets manufactured by Speer in .38, .44 and .45 sizes.

These plastic bullets are very light.

The plastic bullets are extremely accurate to twenty-five feet, or about eight meters.

The system uses (a) a red plastic cartridge case (b) a cylindrical black plastic bullet and (c) a primer. Mo powder is used. The primer is the little cap at the base of a round. It normally serves to ignite the propellant within the cartridge.

The little black plastic cylinder exists the barrel of your revolver at a velocity of 300 - 400 foot per second (FPS).

To compare, a .45 Colt exists at about 850 -900 FPS.

The plastic rounds are very light and can be stopped by cardboard.

My personal opinion is that these plastic rounds have a use in emergency situatione because they are non-lethal. You can stop a dog or small animal without killing it and "sting" a teenager looting your store without seriously injuring him. A caveat is that these rounds can take out an eye and cause tissue damage at very close range. In general, they will not penetrate a heavy jacket.

With the Speer plastic round, you have an animal control round that is useful against feral dogs.

The rounds make very little noise, are re-usable, and inexpensive. About $8.00  - $15.00 for a box of fifty bullets. $8.00 - $15.00 for a box of fifty cartridge cases. And, of course, you have to purchase primers, to propell the plastic bullet.

They are primarily suited for revolvers.

You can safely target practice in your basement with a standard .38 revolver with very little danger.
144586 tn?1284669764
The Speer plastic bullet practice system propells a black plastic cylinder the width of the inside of the barrel and about three times the width of the barrel long, squared off at both sides. It punches a clean round hole in a single piece of corrugated cardboard at twenty-five feet, and will often go through two pieces. A third piece will stop it.

An ordinary cardboard box makes a good bullet-trap to use in your basement. The bullets can be re-used many times, as well as the plastic cartridge cases.

At NO time put actual powder in the case.

The downside is that there is little "kick" so the experience is not exactly analgous to shooting a full power round.

These rounds are never satisfactory for self-defense. On the other hand, we used to play shoot at one another with them (in a governmental setting), wearing plastic masks, and I have been shot with them wearing heavy clothing and they are decidedly painful, but non-lethal. They are capable of taking out a chunk of flesh at close range.

Nobody has ever considered using them in a riot situation, or in a disaster. Rubber bullets are not available to the general public. Speer plastic bullets are. And since they have no powder (you press on the tiny primer when ready to use), can be shipped through the mail.

The main thing to consider is if you present a revolver, and the other party is armed, you should be prepared to be shot at with actual bullets in return.

I am convinced they have a "niche" in the scenario where a non-lethal alternative is desired in a looting situation.
144586 tn?1284669764
Remember - when there are only seconds to save your life the police are always minutes away.
144586 tn?1284669764
Speaking of pistols, in addition to a pistol one requires a holster for said firearm.

Choice of a holster is extremely important. Semi-automatic pistols are in general, more easily conealable.

Regardless of how many movies you watch it is impossible to safely carry a pistol in your waistband. Also, after the initial kick wears off, pistols are extremely uncomfortable to wear for long periods. A pistol belt, such as used by police officers, carries a lot of the weight. And the weapon is not sticking in your side.

There are two types of holsters. Those designed for concealed carry and those for open carry. In this respect state laws in the United States differ.

In some states, for example, you can openly carry a pistol without a, permit, but not carry one concealed. In other states, you can get a permit easily, but must carry the weapon concealed. You should ask the gunshop where you purchase your weapon about the laws in your jurisdiction.

If there are two adults that may use the same weapon a holster must be chosen for each person, or a holster chosen that both can use. A quality holster can cost half as much as a used pistol, so this is no meaningless decision. You may need one holster for the "Miss" and another for the "Mr.". A holster also avoids the pistol scratching a table if you place it on a dresser, for example. Most perople who keep a pistol by the bedside keep it in a holster. Holsters come that go over belts and those that are permanently attached to gunbelts. Such a rig may not be useable by more than one person due to the waistband issue.

My theory is, if you are protecting property, you want to wear the weapon openly. There is no deterrent if the bad guys don't know you are armed. This also, gets complicated. In some jurisdictions you can carry openly on your property, but must carry concealed anywhere else.

I don't like flap holsters, which protect from rain, but opening the flap signals a prelude to drawing the weapon. If the weapon is simply in it's holster, there is the threat, but you have not committed yourself to "presentation". to use a law enforcement term.

I am a firm believer in the use of "dummy" pistols in a disaster. In this I am probably a minority of one. But you make the decision. There are many inexpensive replica .45 M1911 automatics around. Inserted into a military holster and web belt, from a distance they will deter the local motorcycle gang as they drive by and watch you on your porch. A person with na "dummy" weapon will double the psychological effectiveness of a two-man "armed" patrol.

In a disaster, when they may be looting, if they view someone openly packing, the looters will simply make the decision to head down the block, where there are easier pickings.
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