Backyard Fun With Rubber Bullets

Some out-of-town visitors told me how much fun they had the day before shooting cowboy guns at a local dude ranch. Knowing the dude ranch was within the city limits of our city, I asked if they had a gun range. “Oh, no,” I was told. “We were shooting rubber bullets.”

“Rubber bullets?”

“Yes,” one of the guys in the group explained. “Primers only. It’s not very loud, and they don’t go very far, but we were shooting tin cans and it was kind of fun.”

“Plinking?”

“Yeah, I guess that’s what you call it.”

Immediately I thought of my grandchildren. I had never thought of plinking with primers and rubber bullets. I wondered if that was something we could do that in my yard. If so, it would be an opportunity to let my grandkids know some of what they’re missing by not growing up country! I determined to learn more about these rubber bullets and primer-only shooting.

Before investing time into a project designed for backyard shooting I figured I’d better check on the legality. Would the cops consider shooting primer-only rounds in my backyard within the city limits a violation of city ordnance? It turns out that in my city if I can insure a projectile fired on my property won’t cross property lines and won’t come within 150 feet of one of my neighbor’s buildings, I’m good to go. I’ve got a big back yard, so it works for me, but you may want to check the laws in your own location. I will tell you it’s not very loud and the rubber bullets don’t travel very far, so it may just depend on your neighbors.

1_BulletsIn my search for rubber bullets, I discovered there are rubber bullets designed for defensive use as less-than-lethal ammunition, and there are lightweight rubber bullets designed for target practice. Meister Bullet and Ammunition Company of Ozark, Missouri, makes a line of X-Ring bullets that are lightweight, hollow rubber bullets in .38/9mm, .40, .44 and .45 caliber and these are the ones that work best for backyard shooting. I found these at MidwayUSA.com and at the manufacturer’s website. I’m also using some solid rubber bullets made by Concepts in Ammunition in Garden City, Michigan. These bullets also work with primers only. You just need to be careful when using them because they bounce off solid objects with a lot of momentum. Although the bullets are available in several calibers, I elected to experiment first with .45 Long Colt because that’s the caliber in which the bulk of my cowboy guns are chambered.

PREPARATION

I wanted to have a complete setup that would allow us to keep shooting without multiple trips to the reloading bench. The bulk of preparation is with the brass. If you are using previously fired brass with primers still in it, the primers must be removed. And even if you start with new brass, you’re going to want to reuse it, so a method of quickly removing primers is handy. For de-priming brass, I ordered a Harvey De-priming Tool (harveydeprimer.com), an easy-to-use handheld device that works with all popular calibers—handgun and rifle.

2_Deprimer
Harvey Deprimer

To keep your revolver from locking up after each shot because of primer setback, you will need to enlarge the primer flash hole. Here’s a layman’s description of why this is necessary. When the primer is struck by the firing pin, it ignites immediately, creating a rapid pressure that pushes the rubber bullet out of the case and down the barrel. In a normal .45 Colt cartridge, the powder would ignite resulting in pressure on the entire case in all directions (outward, which seals the case against the cylinder wall, forward to send the bullet down the barrel and rearward against the recoil shield). With only the primer creating pressure, the rubber bullet moves forward and the primer moves back, but the brass hasn’t been subjected to enough pressure to either expand or move back. But the primer is subject to the equal and opposite pressure and it does want to move back. The result is a primer that is sticking out of the case far enough to keep your cylinder from rotating. This may not happen in every case, but drilling out the flash hole in your cases eliminate this almost surefire interruption in your shooting fun by providing a larger exit hole for the pressure.

3_DrillingOutFlashHole
Drilling Out the Flash Hole

An easy method to enlarge the flash holes in your empty brass is to take a 13mm socket from a regular metric socket set and put it on a scrap piece of lumber with the square hole down and the 13mm opening up. Put your brass in the socket with the head of the case down. You can then use an electric or hand drill with a 1/8-inch drill bit to enlarge the hole enough to let the escaping gases go by the primer without pushing it back. Make sure you keep any brass with the flash holes drilled out separate from any brass you may use for reloading standard rounds.

4_HornadyPrimingTool
Hornady Hand Priming Tool

For loading new primers, I use a Hornady Hand Priming Tool which I also found at MidwayUSA. You’re going to need a caliber-specific shell holder for use with the Hand Primer. I wasn’t able to find a .45 Colt one made by Hornady, but MidwayUSA had an RCBS #20 shell holder for a .45 Long Colt which works perfectly with the Hornady Hand Priming Tool.

Once you’ve primed the brass, loading the rubber bullets is done by hand. With either type of bullet, hollow or solid, it is simply a matter of inserting the rubber bullet in the case far enough to secure it. The X-Ring bullets typically wind up with the head of the bullet even with the case. With the solid round-nose bullets from Concepts in Ammunition, I simply push them in until the edge of the brass aligns with the first of several rings that are in on the bullet.

5_Cartridges_alt
Both Types of Rubber Bullets Loaded

The kids recover a large number of the bullets because of where we shoot and the backstop we have, and we are able to use them over and over. We take a fired shell casing, pop out the primer with the Harvey Deprimer, insert a new primer with the Hornady hand priming tool, push in a rubber bullet and we have a loaded cartridge ready to go again. You can reuse the brass, you can reuse the bullets, but the primers are one time and done. So to keep your shooters happy, be sure to have a bunch of primers on hand whenever you ask, “Who wants to shoot the cowboy guns?”

SHOOTING

Hearing protection is not really necessary if you’re shooting outdoors, but you do want your shooters (and anyone near the firing line) to have eye protection. Depending upon your backstop, those rubber bullets can bounce back with a lot of momentum.

6_Cans
Rubber Bullets Will Send Aluminum Cans Flying

Take all the precautions you would with standard ammunition and have fun. The bullets will knock down tin cans and send them spinning with subsequent shots. They make a good mark on a Birchwood Case Shoot ’n’ See or similar target. They may or may not spin a steel target, depending on how far away you are, but in general they work quite well for just plinking. Accuracy is pretty decent at close range, but just remember, you’re not shooting a high-power round with expected accuracy within a certain range.

7_Target
Shoot ‘N See Targets are Great for Rubber Bullet Shooting

My grandkids, both boys and girls, enjoy this type of shooting, and we can pretty much do it on the spur of the moment. I packed my supplies into a plastic container with an easy carry handle so it’s easy to transport the reloading supplies to the shooting line.

Our favorite guns for this are a couple of Uberti 1873 Single Action Army clones—one a full-handled model and the other with a birdshead grip that the girls can wrap their hands around better. We also shoot a Beretta Stampede. Keeping those three guns in ammo keeps me pretty busy.

8_Guns
These Fun-Shooting Revolvers are Uberti Clones of Colt Single-Action Army Revolvers

You’re probably asking yourself if this would work in your semi-automatics. It will, but you’ll have to cycle the slide after each shot. The primer does not generate enough gas pressure to cycle the slide on any .45 semi-automatics I have.

I have seen recommendations not to shoot primer-only rubber bullets in rifles. I have two .45 Long Colt rifles, one a lever-action with a 22” barrel and the other a slide-action with a 26” barrel. The bullets exit the barrel with either one of these and are pretty accurate up to about 20 feet. When shooting them, we’re always listening and watching for squib loads, but so far, all of our bullets, hollow or solid, have exited the rifle barrels.

9_SpittingFire
Primers are Fire-Breathing – That’s How They Ignite Your Powder!

With this type of shooting, you get smoke and you get fire, but no recoil. You also get very dirty guns, so be sure and clean them after each session of shooting. Teach the kids well and have fun!

Oh, Really, More Laws?

Something has changed in America that has brought on school and church shootings and it’s not the availability of guns. We’ve had guns for 500 years. Just a generation ago kids had guns in their vehicles at school, even brought them in from time to time for show and tell at the Rod & Gun club weekly meeting.

Kids learned to shoot in Boy Scouts, 4-H Club, Junior ROTC, and OMG from their fathers. Guns were everywhere, but there were no school shootings. So what has changed? We now have a society largely shaped by a liberal “progressive “ agenda.

God and prayer are no longer allowed in schools. Teachers aren’t allowed to discipline. The media, in particular television, constantly barrage those who watch and listen with anti-family, anti-father, gender confusing, politically correct programming. Kids play electronic warfare games with little or no supervision. It’s more common to have a fatherless family than what used to be called a “traditional” family.

What does all of this have to do with school shootings you may ask. Everything. It’s not the guns that do the shooting, it’s kids. Mixed up, insecure, unloved kids. Passing another law won’t change that. What will change it is a massive shift of values.

First up is God. Everything about the liberal agenda is anti-God. Liberals don’t want there to be a God to whom they must answer. To them it’s all about man and his independence to do whatever he or she wants and what anybody else wants is irrelevant.

If you want school shootings to cease, love your children. Be with them. Take them to church. Show them a happy family. Teach them to shoot responsibly. It doesn’t take laws. It’s all done with freedom. Freedom to worship God. Freedom to respect your parents. Freedom from ridicule for not being politically correct. Freedom to discipline your kids in love. Freedom to be a family.

What? We don’t have those freedoms? Those of us who are older may understand we do, but for a youngster growing up in today’s society those concepts are alien, so much so that trying to adhere to those values will subject them to ridicule. No wonder some resort to violent acts to scream “pay attention to me!”

Military & Police for Civilians

M&P could stand for “Mom” and “Pop” and at our house that could be true since Mom has one on her bedside table and Pop has one on his bedside table. Since you’re reading a gun blog you will know I’m talking about Smith & Wesson’s Military and Police branded firearms. Mom’s happens to be a 9mm trade-in from the Colorado Springs police department. Mine happens to be a .40 S&W trade-in from the Atlanta police department. I’ll come back to the trade-in story, but first a little background on why there are M&Ps in my family.

S&W Model 10

My first encounter with an M&P came in the form of a snub nosed .38 Special Model 10 revolver. The Model 10 wasn’t being called an M&P at the time we got it in the mid-1950s, but it came from a line of guns that had been called M&P since 1899. In recent years those revolvers have once again become identified with the Military & Police designation.

My dad acquired this revolver when I was in my early teens and kept it in his sock drawer. Since he was frequently out of town on business and only changed his socks before I got up in the mornings when he was in town, he never missed the times I took the little revolver along when hunting, fishing, or just out rambling, at times on horseback, at times on a Honda Scrambler and at times on foot. Having the little revolver along in its Bucheimer & Clark FBI holster came in handy when encountering snakes or other varmints while on the trail. When Dad was moved to a VA Home in the last few months of his life, I told him I was taking his revolver home for safekeeping. “Son, I never shot that gun,” he told me, his voice made gravelly by recent breathing tube invasions. “Don’t worry, Dad,” I told him. “I shot it a lot!”

I carried a similar Army issued Model 10 in my survival vest when flying a medevac helicopter in Vietnam. I figured it’s primary purpose if we were shot down would be to destroy our encrypted KY-38 radio. The other crewmembers and I had a variety of rifles and even shotguns hanging on the backs of our seats for defending ourselves against Viet Cong or NVA should that need arise.

Forty years after Vietnam I began attending classes to obtain the instructor ratings necessary to teach basic and advanced handgun courses as well as the Texas Concealed Carry (now called License to Carry) Instructor rating. In my thirst for knowledge I asked the other attendees in these courses why they chose the particular handgun they were shooting. There was the expected scattering of Glocks, but the Smith & Wesson M&P was also well represented. The answers for why people chose the M&P were usually along the lines of “less felt recoil” or “it doesn’t kick as much.”

Having fallen in with the commonly spread belief at the time that if it didn’t start with a ‘4’ it wasn’t enough cartridge for the job, I obtained a .45 ACP M&P to see for myself if the recoil was noticeably different. After firing the M&P alongside the a Springfield XDm and a Taurus 24/7 in .45ACP I came to the conclusion the S&W was a little easier on the hand and wrist. Some of that I attributed to the texture of the grip. Smith & Wesson claims it’s the angle of the grip, and I have to admit the M&P does feel good in the hand.

When you start teaching is when you really start learning. Having obtained the necessary ratings, I hit the ground running with two classes a week, each averaging 30 attendees. Week after week of watching what people were shooting and how they shooting, I gained considerable insight into what works and what doesn’t. In the years before the introduction of the modern single-stack nines, the M&P became one of my most recommended handguns for new shooters. A ton of experienced shooters already trusted the full-size or compact M&P  as easy-to-carry, easy-to-shoot, reliable and accurate handguns.

I tend to think of Glock, S&W, and Springfield—as being like Toyota, Honda & Nissan. They’re all excellent, affordable and reliable handguns so pick the brand you like. I’m not a Glock fan, but I’m not against them any more than I’m against a Toyota. I just like the Smith & Wesson, much like I might prefer a Honda over a Toyota.

Handguns are a little less expensive than cars, so if you like a brand, you can have more than one, right? Maybe a lot more than one. I’ve gone through a number of them while helping family and friends find the right firearm and we have several in our family ready to perform m defensive duty should the need arise.

Colorado Springs M & P
M&P 9mm – Colorado Springs Police Dept. Trade-in

I’ve already mentioned our by-the-bed-guns. Joyce’s Colorado Springs PD trade-in has a known story. Colorado Springs first purchased M&Ps with a magazine disconnect safety thinking conservatively in case a gun got ripped out of one of their officers’ hands. But after some experience they decided they preferred a smoother trigger pull than what they were getting with the disconnect safety. Smith & Wesson accommodated them with an even trade for models without the magazine disconnect safety. The previous guns were reconditioned and put on the block by a major online retailer. After learning about the availability of police trade-ins, I found myself checking online from time to time, even though I prefer buying from a local gun dealer. Over the past five years I’ve acquired several M&P trade-ins, all at very reasonable used-gun prices.

I wish I knew the story behind all of them. Atlanta switched to Glocks in 2013, with the .40 Caliber G22 being the primary side-arm. Supposedly they were dissatisfied with their M&Ps, but I suspect Glock being located in nearby Smyrna, GA, and contributing considerably to the Georgia economy had something to do with it.

Whether the Atlanta PD liked my M&P or not, I sure do. It’s my upstairs bedroom gun equipped with a Surefire combination light and laser to help me determine if friend or foe is coming down the hallway towards my bedroom when things go bump in the night.

 

AtlantaHouseGun
Atlanta Police Department Trade-In House Gun With Light & Laser

I keep another former police gun, this one compliments of the West Palm Beach police department, in the console of my Jeep. I’m always personally armed when driving the Jeep, but you never know when a backup might be needed.

Two additional former police M&P trade-ins I keep around are one from the Vermont State Police and a never-issued example from the Detroit PD. These two are both .40s. All of the trade-ins came with 3 magazines and night sights and were purchased for less than $400, a good value in my book. Police may be bailing from the .40 in droves because of the FBI decision to go to 9mm, but all of the original reasons for choosing a .40 caliber handgun are still valid. And with Polycase/Ruger ARX cartridges, as my go to defensive round I’ve discovered their lighter weight and decreased powder load lessen the recoil enough for my arthritic hands and shoulders.

Detroit PD M&P 40
Detroit PD – Never Issued M&P .40

One of my regular carry guns is a 9mm VTAC M&P. Several features differentiate this gun from its brothers. First is the FDE finish. Is it just me or does Flat Dark Earth look like OD to the rest of you, as well? Next is the Viking Tactics sights, which is really where this model get its name. Both front and rear sights are serrated to cut down on glare and best yet they have fiber optics sights front and rear on top of Tritium Night Sights. Awesome!

VTAC 9mm M&P
VTAC 9mm M&P

You can see these sights very well in all kinds of lighting conditions and my eyes have no problem picking up the right sights for the conditions. Either set aligned with the target will put your rounds where you want them, assuming you do your part with the trigger. And speaking of the trigger, I put an Apex Tactical Action Enhancement Trigger and Duty Kit in my VTAC M&P. This has resulted in a smoother trigger pull, reduced pre-travel and overtravel, reduced reset length and a consistent 5.5 lb. trigger pull.

TwentyTwo
M&P .22

When S&W released the full-size M&P in .22 caliber, I just had to have one. The ads promised practicing with something similar to your full-size carry gun but with lower ammo cost and no recoil. Their promise was nullified by an extended shortage of .22 ammunition during which the cost of .22 rounds went from a penny apiece to something close to a dime. I beat that rap, however, due to my ammo hoarding tendency and continued begin shooting one of the most fun guns around. Load the .22 S&W M&P with CCI Stinger ammo and you get a loud bang, a lot of muzzle flash, so you feel like you’re shooting a large caliber gun, except there is no recoil.

Near the end of 2014 the company introduced the M&P Compact .22. The ads for this one said something like, “Shooting .22s is fun! Ours is funner!” and I believe they are right. The compact is a delight to shoot and just the right size for my granddaughters to enjoy.

9_TotalWinnersChoice2
Fun With Silencers

My .45ACP M&P has a threaded barrel and we often shoot it with a suppressor attached. My .22 M&P, the full-size one, also has a threaded barrel and it, too, is often shot with a suppressor. The little .22s work consistently with almost any ammunition on the market, so I consider them both to be top value for plinking and pest control.

I’ve bragged on the M&P line without even mentioning the compacts, Shields and the AR rifles, the latter available in both rimfire and centerfire AR versions. Smith & Wesson has done an amazing job at providing excellent equipment for law enforcement and making that same equipment available to the rest of us for personal protection, hunting, training and just plain fun.

Support Your Local Gun Store

As I write this, it’s too late for the Texas Gun Pros gun store, although our training will continue at locations to be announced. After seven years of what started out to be a great run, we are closing our store. Our loyal customers want to know why, so I’ll explain it. I’m going to give you the bullet points up front. Detail will follow.

  1. We didn’t have a gun range.
  2. We didn’t have enough capital to sustain a long-term slump.
  3. The gun industry as a whole is in a slump that began around the first of November 2016.
  4. Gun buying is changing to the point where it is difficult for a local retailer to compete with online retailers who somehow manage to sell guns at or below our wholesale cost.
  5. Gun Shows. Around here there seems to be a Gun Show somewhere every weekend. Whether true or not, shoppers seem to feel they can get a better deal at a gun show. But they don’t mind doing their research at the local gun shop first.

The Gun Range Issue

From the first day we opened in April 2010, the majority of the calls or email inquiries we got were about our gun range, the one we didn’t have, but Google seemed to think we did. Funny thing about a gun range. We have wanted one for years. I grew up country and the idea of paying other people so I could shoot is foreign to me. We used to drive by this place on I-35 that was vacant and every time we’d drive by I’d think, “That would be a good place for a gun range.” One day, a couple of years after I started doing this, a sign went up:  Shoot Smart Gun Range.

A couple of blocks down the street from our first location was an empty Expo building. My son Phillip and I put together a business plan to convert it to a Main Event of shooting ranges. Our plan called for 60 lanes of handgun, 12 lanes of rifle, 6 classrooms, a large retail store, a gunsmith, indoor paintball, a shooting gallery for kids, a large media-enhanced meeting room for events and a restaurant. The cost, if we could purchase the building reasonably would be about $7 Million. Not having a clue where to go to find that kind of money, since we had no history of development, we put the plan on the shelf. Then one day out of the blue, a financial guy I had helped with a web project several years earlier called me and said he was bird dogging for some private investors and wanted to know if I knew of anyone who had a project they could look at. I knew him and knew his integrity. He presented my plan and the investors said they’d never seen one so well-written. They verbally committed and followed up with a Letter of Intent. Meanwhile, someone else bought the Expo building.

We turned our attention to an outdoor range. An old friend in the Real Estate Development arena turned me on to a piece of property in the heart of the Metroplex that was for sale cheap. I mean really cheap, because it’s in a flood plain. We loved it and figured how to overcome the flooding issue. We obtained a signed loan agreement from the private investors, put down earnest money, incurred legal fees, had engineers do feasibility studies, had architects design a building, got approvals from US Fish & Wildlife regarding lowland marsh areas, and then we were stood up at closing by our lenders. What had seemed too good to be true turned out not to be true. We battled for years, we spent a ton of money. This place was going to be the shooting adventure park all America would love. Indoor and Outdoor Pistol Ranges; Indoor Rifle Range; Archery, Paintball plus all the other stuff we had envisioned for the Expo Building.

In the end, the money didn’t come through, we had expended all of our savings, 401k, profits from the gun business, credit cards, etc. trying to make a gun range happen. We couldn’t do it.

Capital

5121 Davus Blvd.
5121 Davis Blvd.

I’ve been part of several startup companies that were successful enough to be sold to large corporations. From those experiences I came to believe the way to grow a company was to bootstrap it from its own earnings. Apart from what I now call the Gun Range Fiasco, that’s what we did with Texas Gun Pros. It started with a dream of mine to be a CHL Instructor as a part-time endeavor. Jerry Colliver, a friend from work, decided he wanted to do that as well. So in 2010 we started teaching CHL, NRA Basic Pistol and Texas Hunter Education Courses. In April, 2011 we rented a facility on Davis Blvd. to teach those classes and made arrangements with the Shooting Gallery in east Ft. Worth to do the shooting portion of the classes at their range. It wasn’t long before people in our classes started asking us about guns. We obtained an FFL license and started selling guns from a little side room in what was originally designed to be just a classroom.

During the years 2010 to the end of 2016, we trained over 11,000 students and sold somewhere close to 1800 guns. The guns, displayed in a 300 sq. ft. side room to the classroom, easily equaled about 70% of our revenue. Sales growth was steady. In fact, sales almost doubled between 2012 and 2013, then again between 2013 and 2014.  We needed to expand. We felt we had to separate the classroom from the gun store to avoid class interruption, plus we required more space for inventory. Our existing landlord wasn’t able to accommodate us, plus someone else was doing at least part of our dream almost in our front yard at the Expo building. A move seemed in order. Somewhere during this time, Jerry Colliver became so involved in his work in the insurance industry that he stepped aside. My son Phillip, an entrepreneur at heart, stepped in to run the gun store. He was responsible for bringing on board Jerry Lonon, Ryan Bruntz and Sal Castilleja as store employees. Phil Epps, who just passed away in March and Richard Balestrieri were on board as CHL/LTC Instructors.

We wanted to stay in the North Richland Hills area, but being right at the corner of Keller, NRH, Southlake and Colleyville and in a high traffic area couldn’t be bad, right? Even though the rent was four times what we’d been paying? Wrong. Almost nobody comes in our store these days. When they do, they rarely buy. Our income dropped off a cliff. When I say dropped, since the election, our monthly gross receipts have been approximately 1/3 of what they were in 2015. Less than the rent. Less than the payroll. Less than what we have to pay suppliers for the merchandise. Far less, and the hole was getting deeper every day. We were borrowing at a very high rate just to keep the doors open until things turned around.

The Gun Industry as a Whole

8245 Precinct Line Rd.

From the manufacturers on down, the industry is suffering a major setback since the November 2016 election. The candidate who loves guns and gun owners got elected, so what happened? I’m not sure we have it all figured out, but I’ll summarize our thoughts:

  • The pressure is off. As a whole, politicians won’t be trying to take away our rights to buy and own guns for a while.
  • Prior to the pressure being off, many people bought more guns than they could afford. They’re still paying off credit cards for them. They evidently now believe they don’t need any more guns.
  • Society has its head in the sand regarding what many of us believe are rough days ahead. In those days, it will be more important than ever for individuals and families to be able to defend themselves and their property.
  • Manufacturers, I believe, are doing the wholesale and retail industry a disservice by providing many new guns, each with a number of options, each year. Nobody can stock them all, but the gun buyers who are still buying want their particular choices once they know those choices are available.

Gun Buying Today

Some guns are being sold. There are still newcomers to the fold and there are still collectors. Today’s shoppers, as a whole, have no understanding of business. They believe no one should make a profit, not understanding that margin, the difference between what the retailer buys a product for and what he sells the product for is necessary to pay rent, salaries, utilities and hopefully, a little ROI. Nope, can’t have that from me! You’ve got to get that from somewhere else. Therefore they’re always looking for the cheapest price, with no regard for their local store.

A common occurrence–way too common–a person walks in the store and starts asking about guns. They’ll spend anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour examining and handling our products, asking questions of our salespeople (who are all certified instructors), and instead of buying the gun they want from us, will turn around, walk out the door and order it online or buy it at a gun show. A few days later it shows up at our place for a transfer, or they come back to us for training for this fine new gun they bought at a gun show for pretty much the same price we had on it.

For the online purchases, we, or some other dealer, charge a transfer fee, and the buyer paid freight, so in the end they didn’t really save any money. But they did help a dealer in Kentucky stay in business while a dealer in their own backyard is struggling. If this is you, please think about the consequences. And, if you’re going to buy online, don’t utilize the resources of a local dealer to educate yourself on the product, unless you offer to pay them for their time and expertise. And if you think dealers are making big profit on your purchases, you’re sadly mistaken. Dealers are lucky if they can make a 10% margin on a typical gun sale. So if you buy a $500 gun they paid about $450 for it. That other $50 goes to pay rent, salaries and electricity. If you bought that same gun online, at least $50 is going to go to freight and a transfer fee.

We have closed the store because we were unsuccessful in our efforts to build a gun range in spite of sinking a lot of time and money into the effort, our capital is depleted, and our sales fell off the cliff starting last November. The website will stay open for training and our great instructors will still be available. When September hits, I hope to have an online certification process for the new online License to Carry training.

For those of you who were faithful and steady customers and for all your kind words, thank you! For those of you who came into our store in our closing days with somewhat hurtful comments about our failure, you have the same opportunity we did. Go and do it better. I’ll promise to shop at your store and NOT buy online or at a gun show.

Update January 2018

I promised to keep the website online and indicated we would be attempting to conduct online classes. Much has changed:

  1. The gun range we were using in Grapevine has now shut down. Sal Castilleja was teaching classes there and doing business as Guardian7 and I can provide you with his contact details upon request.
  2. The state has not yet approved my application as an online instructor. The longer they delay the less inclined I am to undertake the effort to produce the courses.
  3. Pressure on the Texas Gun Pros Corporation from creditors caused us to dissolve the Corporation and with that went the website.

Sorry.

Traveling by Air With a Handgun Post Ft. Lauderdale

This article was written my Mark Chapman a Texas Gun Pros friend and colleague and we thought it would be helpful for some of you.  (DBF)

I, recently, traveled to Atlanta for a contract assignment and since Georgia is a “gun-friendly” state decided that I would bring along my firearm to experience what steps had to be taken to get a gun checked into baggage and reclaimed at the far end.  The following will be a “step-by-step” of my experience and it must be noted that this is ONLY for American Airlines (AA) and other companies may differ in their procedures.

I booked my travel electronically through the AA web site and reviewed all of their documentation regarding travel with a firearm and the procedures necessary to declare such to their airport personnel.  Due to the recent Ft. Lauderdale tragedy (01/06/2017), with an active shooter who claimed his firearm at the airport terminal baggage claim before opening fire, I decided that it might be prudent to contact AA’s customer service department to determine if any changes had recently been made that might affect my travels.  The customer service representative stated that no changes had been made in response to that incident and hadn’t heard of anything pending along those lines.

However, she noted that my flight reservation had not been “flagged” that I would be carrying a firearm in my checked luggage and that it was a good thing I called as it would have posed a problem when I arrived at the airport.  When I stated that their web site did not state that such was a requirement nor did their online reservation system allow for such to be declared, she apologized and stated she would notify her superiors that there was a gap in their notifications in this respect.

To note, I used a PELICAN hard-sided case to store my firearm that had two (2) TSA compliant locks, one at each end, to prevent unauthorized access.  The ammunition was stored in factory boxes as suggested by AA’s web site.

At the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport, on the day of my outbound flight, I checked in and notified the agent that my unloaded firearm, in a locked case, was inside my luggage and that I needed to fill out the special card to declare such.  Here is an example of the card (front/back):

Luggage Tag

This is where another couple of undocumented wrinkles popped up.  The first wrinkle was that it was not stated (on the AA web site) that the filled out card had to be placed within my luggage on top of the locked case so I had to unlock my bag and open it up for inspection and stowage of said card.  Luckily, nothing untoward was revealed during this inspection but everyone needs to be aware that this is a part of the process and that their “delicates” may be exposed to the public eye.

The second wrinkle was that my checked bag was also externally tagged (no explanation was given at this time) for processing at the destination:

returntag

The bag was then taken by the agent and that’s the last time I saw it until I reached the Atlanta airport.  I should note that this procedure is ONLY for the bag containing the firearm.  If the ammunition is stored in a separate bag (as was mine) all you need to do is assure the agent that it is packaged properly and no inspection or special tagging is required.

Now, this DFW/ATL trip was not without its glitches as the original airplane we boarded developed an electrical failure, during the pilot checkout, and was put “out-of-service” mandating both the crew and passengers to deplane and board another aircraft.  This also meant that all checked luggage had to be transferred as well which added a concern about lost/misplaced bags containing a firearm that was obviously tagged for all to see.

After the flight, I went to retrieve my luggage from the baggage claim area, per normal routine.  While my first bag, containing the ammunition and not especially tagged, was delivered in a short space of time the second bag was nowhere to be found.  I waited until the last bag was delivered and the carousel stopped before getting really worried that somehow my bag had been identified and removed by someone inappropriately.

Having no other recourse I lined up to talk to the AA representative, in the baggage claim area, to report that my bag and firearms failed to appear as expected.  As I waited, I noticed that the sign for their office listed their function as “Baggage Services” and, suddenly, the light dawned about the special tag (BSO) that had been attached to my bag and sure enough when I looked inside their doorway I was able to identify my missing luggage standing there waiting for me to claim it.  I had to present my bag claim stubs and proof of identity (TX driver’s license was adequate) to have the agent release it to me.

Fast forward one (1) week and now it was time to return to Dallas after my on-site visit had concluded.  The reason I’m including this dialog is that the exact procedures followed at the DFW airport were not repeated at the ATL airport and it must be noted that each airline/airport combination may be different in nature so flexibility/patience will be required to navigate the hoops they make a person jump through to check a firearm.

First, since my visit concluded earlier than expected I arrived at the airport early so the ticket agent suggested that I attempt to fly “standby” to get home quicker.  This caused me some confusion as I had presumed that baggage containing firearms/ammunition would be required to be loaded onto the same flight as the passenger while flying standby allows bags to handled separately (different flight used) if the passenger is “bumped” to a later flight.  The ticket agent double-checked with her supervisor and, yes, AA allows the bags to be shipped on a different flight than the passenger.  Again, please note, this may be completely different with another airline so a strong suggestion is to be flexible and inquire what procedures will be followed.

I take the “standby” flight offered and, sure enough, I was unable to board any flight until my originally booked one came up which meant that my bags were sitting unclaimed at the DFW airport for about 4-6 hours depending on which flight they were eventually loaded upon.  Upon arrival at DFW, I went to the baggage claim area for my flight and contacted the baggage claim agent for my bags to find that they had been delivered at the opposite end of the terminal and had to walk (remember baggage claims are outside of security so there’s no easy way to get from one point to another) to that other claim area to get my bags.

In conclusion, while it is possible to travel with a firearm in checked baggage the experience can be a bit trying at times so a good attitude, including patience and a sense of humor, is required to make it through.

A Way to Win the Holster Battle

Most people I know who have been around handguns for long, especially those committed to daily carry, admit to having a drawer (or drawers) filled with holsters they’ve tried but just weren’t up to their expectations. I’ve got a different story! Being fortunate enough to have acquired a number of excellent handguns, any one of which are suitable for a daily carry gun, I feel guilty if I don’t rotate them some.

crossbreed1For me, having a bunch of guns has not equaled having a bunch of holsters. Guess I’ve just been lucky and chosen well up front. My first concealed carry holster was a Crossbreed SuperTuck, purchased a little more than eight years ago for a Taurus 24/7. There it is right there, with that original 24/7 in it. It has held up well.

The Taurus got replaced with a Beretta PX-4 Storm 9mm. Okay, not replaced as in traded. I kept the Taurus, but carried the Storm a while. It fit the same holster, just fine. Then I got a Springfield XDm .45 ACP and was pleasantly surprised to find it worked in that same Crossbreed Holster. So did a Smith & Wesson M&P and a FNX 40 and a Sig P226.

bullard1When we started carrying D.M. Bullard Leather Holsters in our store, I figured I’d give the local company a try. I’d become a 1911 person by then so I got one of their 1911 holsters for a 5 inch gun with a rail. Works fine with my Colt and Springfield 1911s, but it also works fine with any of the 4.25 inch barrelled 1911 Commanders.

I liked that holster so much I decided to get one for my double stack 9s and 40s, but hmm, let’s see, which one. The biggest and heaviest of the bunch was a Sig P226, so I ordered a custom D.M. Bullard leather holster custom made for a Sig P226. It was no surprise that it also fit the Sig P229, but guess what else fits in that holster?bullardmix

That original Taurus 24/7 fits it. The Springfield XDm fits it, All of my M&Ps (9, 40 and 45) fit it. The FNX-40 fits it. The gun you see in it here is a CZ-P07. They all fit with what’s commonly called Level 1 retention. That’s enough friction to hold the gun snugly in the holster so there is no danger in it falling out as you move about. These guns a all draw easily from the holster, as well.

So don’t go getting all antsy about having to have a bunch of holsters on hand if you want to grow your gun collection. Get a custom holster for something like the Sig P226 and chances are it will work just fine for many of the other guns you may want to try that are of similar size and capability.

Tell you a secret. I’ve been known to carry a 1911 Commander in my D.M. Bullard Sig P226 holster without realizing I’d put on the wrong holster that morning. Heck I might could have gotten by with just one of their wonderful holsters! Just kidding. The 1911, being a single stack, was just a little loose, if I’m honest about it.

At the Gun Range as a Spectator

For the past 6 years at every time I’ve gone to the gun range or gone out to a farm plinking with others it has been as an instructor, range officer or granddad. Yesterday I went shooting with some guys from work and I was just another guy shooting. I did bring some guns for them to shoot, but basically it was just “here, you might want to shoot this.” Nobody asked me for any advice, nobody wanted me to look at anything, I was just another guy in my lane shooting holes in paper.

Although I didn’t observe any unsafe actions, I was a little uncomfortable at times with how casual they were. They walked around behind the lanes with guns in their hands. They handed each other loaded guns.  It just wasn’t done with the kind of discipline I’m used to at the shooting range, or even in the country when we’re having a fun shoot with the kids. Something about my years as an instructor has made me more aware of the dangers of being too casual around firearms, I guess. It could be that I’m ALWAYS around firearms, so keeping my guard up from a safety perspective has become second nature to me.

M&P VTAC Rear SightsThere were four of us and we did pass some of our guns around for others to shoot. It seems the range favorite that day was my Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm. The SM&P is known for its easy-going recoil. That’s one of my primary reasons for owning them, and that was most of what the other guys noticed. That, and the fact they were all pretty accurate with it. That particular M&P isn’t stock. It has Viking Tactical Sights on it, which consist of Trijicon night sights on the bottom, front and rear, with green fiber optic sights on top. Regardless of the ambient light these sights are easily visible.

The gun is Flat Dark Earth (FDE) in color, which gives it a cool tactical look. So far everything I’ve mentioned came stock from Smith & Wesson.  I’ve added a couple of mods to this gun myself. VTAC ChannelOne is an Apex Tactical trigger, which is extremely smooth with an easy break. The pull on this one is about 4.4 lbs on average. The other mod is a channel on the top of the slide ahead of the ejection port that leads your eyes to the front sight. This is a clever little device made of plastic that has a sticky bottom. You peel off protective paper stick it to the slide behind  and around your front sight. I believe it was designed for Glocks but I wanted to try it on this gun because of the existing sights and the trigger job. If I knew the brand name for this device, I’d give it to you, but a fellow brought some of these by our store one day when I wasn’t around and I thought it might be clever idea worth trying. It does eliminate any distractions from focusing on the front sight.

elpatronI brought another gun that was a hit during our range trip, a Uberti El Patron, which is a beautiful Single Action Army Clone with color case-hardened finish on the frame and checkered walnut grips. It’s a .45 Colt and the box of cartridges I brought for it were Cowboy Action loads, so it was pretty gentle with the recoil. I heard one of the guys mention that was going to be his Christmas present to himself.

One of the guys had a SAR B6. I’m a fan of those CZ-75 clones, made in Turkey and very reasonably priced. This one pinched my trigger finger when I shot it. I’ve never noticed that in a B6 before. One of the other guys noticed it, too. So I offered to take it back to my shop and file a little off the trigger. The tip was a little rough and it was closer to the trigger guard than it should be in my opinion.SAR B6

Back at the shop later, I took a file to it and removed a little off the tip. Not much, but I’d prefer to error on the too little side because we can always take some more off but you can’t put it back! It will take shooting the gun some to see if that did the trick, but dry-firing it seemed fine.

I had two 1911’s with me and I used the opportunity to shoot some of the Liberty Civil Defense Ammo to see if it was another candidate for easy recoil, hard hitting defense ammo for me to carry.  It seemed pretty hot to me. I shot some of it in my S&W SCE Commander and the recoil was pretty stout. I shot a magazine full of it in the Sig Emperor Scorpion Commander which is all steel and I didn’t notice any reduction in recoil like I do with Ruger or Polycase ARX ammo.

Liberty AmmoThose Liberty cartridges sure are pretty though. They remind me of the Lone Ranger’s silver bullets. If you look at the specs on them, they’re very light weight and they’re fast. The .45 ACP box I have on hand says they are 78 grain bullets traveling at 1900 fps resulting in 600 ft/lbs of energy on target. They claim 12″ penetration at ten feet with starburst fragmentation.

I got these by ordering from the factory because they weren’t available in my normal supply channels. It took them a couple of weeks to fill the order. I guess their impact on the defensive community is yet to be seen. By contrast the ARX cartridges are readily available and definitely have reduced recoil. It appears either one of these cartridges would be effective in a defensive situation if you put the rounds where they count.