Bought New BluCollarTactical 2 Point Rifle Sling
If you are planning to carry your carbine or rifle any distance, or need to support your firearm for longer than 30 minutes, then you need a sling. We have lots of different types of slings since each firearm, and how you use it, is a little different. Recently we purchased a pair of new slings for our Colt AR-15 carbine (R6430) and rifle (R6550). For our AR platforms we don’t really need anything too sophisticated, so we just went with a standard sling; the BluCollarTactical Patriot Model 2 Point Rifle Sling.
You can find the details about the BluCollarTactical 2 Point Rifle Sling on the Shooting/Slings page.
What Are Chokes and Why Do You Need Them?
Back in November I wrote a detailed blog post about shotgun shells and what all the specification numbers mean. Since then I’ve had several people ask if I would write another blog post about shotgun chokes. If you thought that all the information about shotgun shells was complicated – just wait until you try to sort out choke tubes.
Before getting into the details about choke tubes, let me answer the two questions that most people initially have:
1) What do chokes do?
2) Why would I want to use a choke?
Fundamentally chokes are added to shotguns to focus the shotgun pellets so that they stay in a tighter pattern as they leave the gun’s barrel. In short the choke controls the spread of the shot – making it narrower or wider depending on the choke in use. The addition of a choke makes it so that a single shotgun can be used in a wide variety of situations. Although shotgun chokes were first patented back in the mid 1800’s, it wasn’t until the 1980’s that chokes really began to be used by a large number of shooters.
Since I use 12 gauge shotguns made by Benelli (and Franchi which is owned by Benelli these days) let me cover their chokes, which are similar to the standard industry chokes – but tailored to Benelli shotguns. Standard Benelli Crio® chokes sit flush with the muzzle and come in the following five (5) constrictions:
The Benelli Crio® chokes are cryogenically treated to relieve the stresses caused by hammer forging, creating a smoother and more uniform surface. This allows them to pattern better and they stay cleaner longer.
Each Benelli choke has notches cut into the top of the choke tube to indicate the choke tube constriction. A lower notch count means more constriction (tighter). A higher notch count means less constriction (broader).
1 notch = Full (F)
2 notches = Improved Modified (IM)
3 notches = Modified (M)
4 notches = Improved Cylinder (IC)
5 notches = Cylinder (C)
The standard bore diameter of a 12 gauge shotgun ranges from .725 to .730 inches (18.4 to 18.5 mm). Benelli’s are .725 inches. The tube exit dimensions on standard Benelli Crio® chokes are as follows:
Full .695 inches
Improved Modified .700 inches
Modified .705 inches
Improved Cylinder .715 inches
Cylinder .725 inches
Note: Chokes for other shotguns and from other manufacturers (e.g. Briley, Carlson’s, Trulock, Muller, Patternmaster, Hevi-Shot, etc.,) will be constructed differently and may have different dimensions. Here’s a good link to a page on Carlson’s website with lots of information on the sizes of available chokes by shotgun manufacturer:
A gun with no choke is called a cylinder bore and delivers the widest spread. There are also a number of specialty chokes that provide narrower or wider spreads—these are typically used for skeet shooting and turkey hunting.
The Modified (M), Improved Cylinder (IC) and Cylinder (C) chokes are recommended for steel shot.
Most people find that the Modified choke (M) works best for pass shooting while the Improved Cylinder (IC) and Cylinder (C) chokes work well on decoying birds
A Cylinder choke (C) is recommended for shooting rifled slugs in a smooth-bore barrel. Sabot slugs should only be shot through Benelli’s fully-rifled slug barrels. It is not safe to shoot slugs through chokes tighter than IC or C.
The constriction on Full (F) and Improved Modified (IM) chokes is very tight. Because steel does not compress, it can damage the barrel and choke as the shot charge passes through them.
When you put together the type of shotgun shell and the choke tube you can get a wide variety of shooting configurations – good for any situation. Here’s a great chart showing what the best configurations for different situation are:
A great source of information on this, and many other related topics is the "Official Hunter Safety Courses for Today’s Hunter" website. They’ve worked with International Hunter Education Association (IHEA-USA), more than 45 state agencies responsible for hunter education, and various industry partners to develop comprehensive online hunter’s safety courses that teach students important laws and regulations, game identification, and safe, responsible firearm handling. You can find their website at:
An example of the Course Outline for one of their Study Guides can be found at:
An example of the level of information that they detail in their Study Guides can be found at:
Bought New MagLULA CZ EVO 3 9mm Magazine Loader and Unloader
Finally got around to buying a MagLULA magazine loader for our CZ Scorpion to go with all our other MagLULA loaders. Like our other loaders this loader/unloader is simple to use in either mode and eliminates thumb pain, injury, and wear on the feed lips.
You can find the details about the CZ Scorpion loader on the Shooting/Loaders page.
Taking a Shot in the Dark
Earlier this week I attended a Low Light Shooting class. Since 80% of all shootings occur in low light, with the deadliest time between 6:00 PM and 6:00 AM, knowing how to shoot in this environment is fairly important. Needless to say this was a new experience. The class focused on how to shoot your every day carry handgun in either very low light or in total darkness, with the assistance of a flashlight. The class covered lots of topics to include:
The majority of the activity was related to learning, trying out and then using various flashlight techniques:
Different techniques worked better for each person – depending on their specific handgun, preferred shooting stance, level of expertise, etc. Personally I preferred the Harries technique since it provided flexibility when pointing the flashlight while allowing the hand holding the flashlight to support the dominant shooting hand. It also allowed me to easily turn the flashlight on (when locating the target) and off (when shooting at the target or moving).
Here are some pictures of what the shooting looked like.
We've All Seen These Types of Behavior at the Range
Here's a humorous video from Colion Noir about what we all see at the gun range almost every day from the people around us.
Of course if you look closely enough you might see yourself characterized by some of these actions too……...
Lots of Fun at the Shooting Range on a Brisk November Day
Last weekend we went to an all-day (well at least until the sun set at 4:30 PM here in MA) outdoor tactical Shotgun and Carbine Shooting workshop. As with most of you that shoot, the majority of target shooting involves standing in a stationary position and shooting at a single stationary target. Since the Spring a group of us have been meeting once a week to shoot pistol “courses of fire” that involve drawing, moving, reloading and shooting at multiple targets from a variety of ranges from point blank to 25 yards away.
Since these outings have been great for learning and improving our skills (as well as a lot of fun), we decided to have a go at the same type of activities with our shotguns and carbines. For the day everyone brought a shotgun (pump or semi-auto), a carbine (AR-15, AK, 9mm) and their sidearm (Shield, 1911, Sig, Glock, etc.) and plenty of ammo.
We then setup a variety of courses that required people to move, reload, change firearms and shoot. Needless to say it was both challenging and considerably more interesting than stationary shooting. Here are some photos from the day (note the weak Fall sunlight and long shadows):
So What’s with all the Numbers Related to a Shotgun Shell?
Recently I’ve been involved in a couple of discussions about shotgun shells because of all the types of shells and sizes of shot. So, although there is already a lot of information about this on the internet, I’m going to take my turn at explaining the details about shotgun shells using a variety of information and pictures from a wide range of sources.
Shotgun Shells vs Pistol/Rifle Rounds
So first let’s talk about the differences between a Shotgun Shell and a Pistol/Rifle Round. As you can see from the picture below, although they both have analogous parts, a shotgun shell is significantly different from a normal round. They both have a case, but the round’s case is normally a single piece of brass or steel; the shotgun shell’s case has two pieces – a brass head to hold the primer and a plastic case to hold the powder, wad and shot. The brass can be either “High Brass” or “Low Brass” - with higher power loads more likely to have “High Brass” even though the utility of the additional brass is questionable due to the strength of today’s plastic cases. All modern shotgun shells use centerfire primers located in the bottom center of the ammunition; just like centerfire pistol/rifle rounds. In rimfire rounds the entire rim of the cartridge is essentially a percussion cap loaded with a priming compound. The wad protects the shot and ensures that there is a tight seal behind the shot to maximize the impact of the expanding gas on the shot after the trigger is pulled and the powder charge is ignited by the primer.
Shotgun Shell Gauges
The initial factor to consider with shotgun shells is their gauge. Gauge refers to the bore diameter of the shotgun. The gauge is equal to the number of lead balls of that bore diameter that add up to weigh one pound. For example, for a 12-gauge shotgun the diameter of a ball of lead weighing 1/12-pound would fill the bore so there are twelve 12-gauge balls per pound. For a 20-gauge the diameter of the lead ball weighing 1/20-pound would fill the bore. In general, smaller gauges are used for hunting birds and small animals, or for clay target shooting. Larger gauges are used for hunting larger game and personal defense. The most common gauge shotgun in the US is the 12 gauge, comprising ~ 50% of the overall shotgun market. The 20 gauge shotgun is next in popularity due to its prevalent use by upland game hunters. The next most popular sizes are 28 gauge and .410 bore (which is not a gauge at all - it’s actually a caliber). The 10 gauge and 16 gauge, while less common in the US, are still in use. The first picture below shows the relative sizes of different gauge barrels. The second picture shows the range of common shotgun shells based on gauges.
Birdshot vs. Buckshot vs. Slugs
The next factor to consider with shotgun shells is their projectiles. Although all shotgun shells have similar components, the actual projectile that shells have can vary widely. The three main types of shotgun projectiles are: (1) Birdshot, (2) Buckshot and (3) Slugs. The smallest projectiles are called Birdshot since they are most suitable for hunting birds like geese, ducks and pheasants or small game like squirrels and rabbits. Next comes Buckshot, which is good for hunting game like deer, fox and coyote up to ~60 yards. Lastly, there are slugs which are used for hunting big-game like deer and bear. Below is a photo that provides a cutaway view of birdshot, buckshot and slug shells.
Perhaps the most confusing item related to Shotgun shells is “shot size” since there are so many options.
The smallest diameter birdshot sizes (from smallest to larger) are #9, #8, #8½ and #7½. These are the sizes you’ll traditionally see on target loads for clay shooting, but they also can be used for some upland game birds such as grouse and woodcock. The medium diameter shot sizes includes #6, #5 and #4. These work very well for pheasants, ducks, rabbits and squirrels; heavy loads will work well on turkeys too. The large shot sizes that are made of steel, #3, #2, #1, B, BB, BBB, T, F and FF shot are used for long-range waterfowl hunting since these pellets will hold their velocity and retain enough energy to kill geese and ducks at a distance.
Larger sizes of shot, large enough that they must be carefully packed into the shell rather than simply dumped or poured in, are called "Buckshot" or just "buck". Buckshot is used for hunting larger game, such as deer. Buckshot runs from #4 Buck to 000 (“triple-aught”) Buck. As with birdshot sizes, the higher the number the smaller the pellet size, In addition, the more zeros in the “aught” size the larger the pellet diameter. The most commonly produced buckshot shell is a 12 gauge, 00 buck shell that holds 9 pellets. Buckshot is very effective on game like deer, fox and coyote within ~60 yards and it can make a sensible home-defense choice depending on your surroundings and situation. Below is a chart from Shotgunworld that shows the relative sizes of shotgun pellets.
To give you a better feel of the size differences between shot here is a photograph that easily allows you to see the variations.
A useful method for remembering the diameter of numbered shot in inches is to subtract the shot size from 17. The resulting answer is the diameter of the shot in hundredths of an inch. For example, #2 shot gives 17-2 = 15, meaning that the diameter of #2 shot is 15/100 or 0.15". B shot is .170 inches, and sizes go up in .01 increments for BB and BBB sizes.
In addition to shooting a group of pellets, shotguns can also fire single projectiles called “slugs.” Slug shotguns can have a traditional smoothbore like all shotguns that fire shot pellets or can have “rifled” barrels, just like a normal rifle to spin stabilize the shotgun slug to increase accuracy after it is fired. There are several different types of slugs.
The following photo shows some of the slugs for sale in today’s market.
If you look at a box of Shotgun shells the second to last number on a box normally shows the “load” – the weight of the shot inside each shell. The load can vary from ½ ounce to 2 ounces. Most 12-gauge shells contain 1 ounce, 1 1/8-ounce, or 1¼-ounce loads. A standard 20-gauge shell has 7/8 ounce of shot. Loads of 12 gauge 00 Buckshot are commonly available in 8 to 18 pellets in lengths from 2 3/4" to 3 1/2". Remember that the heavier the shot load, the greater the recoil.
Shotgun Shell Sizes
The next variable that needs to be considered when purchasing shotgun shells is the length of the shell. The second number on a box of Shotgun shells is the length of the shell. Most shotguns are chambered for 2¾-inch or 3-inch shells, with some guns being chambered at 3½ inches. However, to add to the confusion, the length of a shotgun shell specified on the box (e.g. 2¾”, 3" or 3 ½”) actually refers to the total length of the shotshell when the crimp is open (meaning either before the shell is loaded or after it has been fired). Because of this a 2¾” shell is actually between 2 ¼” and 2 3/8” in length when loaded. 3" shells are actually between 2½” and 2 ¾” when loaded, and 3½” shells are normally between 3" and 3¼“ Consequently the length stated on the box (e.g. 2¾”, 3" or 3 ½”) really refers to the chamber length of the gauge of the shotgun that the shotshell can be safely fired in.
Check your owner’s manual to verify what maximum shell length your gun will accommodate. Shells that are shorter may be safely used, but using longer shells is extremely dangerous because the crimp won’t be able to fully open when the shell is fired. This can result in an extreme pressure build-up that could damage or even explode your barrel. The following photo shows the wide range of variability between 2¾” to 3½” shells from .410 to 8 gauge.
This photo shows the wide range of shotgun shells – birdshot, buckshot, slugs of varying sizes and shell lengths.
Lead vs. Steel, Tungsten and Bismuth Shot
Lead shot is still the best ballistic performer, but environmental restrictions on the use of lead, especially with waterfowl, require steel, bismuth, or tungsten composites. Steel, being significantly less dense than lead, requires larger shot sizes, but is a good choice when lead is not legal and cost is a consideration.
Sone people argue that steel shot cannot safely be used in some older shotguns without causing damage to either the bore or to the choke due to the hardness of steel shot. However, the increased pressure in most steel cartridges is a far greater problem, causing more strain to the breech of the gun. Since tungsten is very hard, it must be used with care in older guns. Tungsten shot is often alloyed with nickel and iron to softening the shot. This alloy is approximately 1/3 denser than lead, but far more expensive. Bismuth shot falls between steel and tungsten shot in both density and cost. The rule of thumb in converting appropriate steel shot is to go up by two numbers when switching from lead. However, there are different views on dense patterns versus higher pellet energies.
Recommended Shell Sizes for Hunting
So what do you do with all this information? Well, you select what shotgun shell to use based on what you are hunting or shooting. For hunting, shot size must be chosen not only for the range, but also for the type of game. The shot must reach the target with enough energy to penetrate to a depth sufficient to kill the game.
As previously mentioned, the smallest birdshot sizes (#9, #8 and #7½) are good for clay target shooting and small game birds such as grouse and woodcock. Medium sized shot (#6, #5 and #4) work well for pheasants, ducks, rabbits and squirrels. Large steel shot sizes (#3, #2, #1, B, BB, BBB, T, F and FF) are good for long-range waterfowl hunting. Slugs are used for hunting big-game like deer and bear. Here’s a comprehensive chart showing what size shell, gauge and load to use for various game.
Sun’s Out – Guns Out
This weekend we attended a full-day Progressive Carbine Class taught by Scott Germain of Center Mass Weapons Training and Jon Green of the Massachusetts Gun Owners Action League (GOAL).
The class was a hands-on, fast paced, live fire course. Starting with the combat mindset, the training covered specialized topics such as shooting positions (prone, sitting, kneeling and standing), shooting while moving, malfunction remediation, barricade drills, strong and support side shooting, proper sling use and reloading techniques.
The instruction was great and it was a fun (albeit sandy and hot) day at the range.
Here are a few photos and a short video of what it looked like on the range.
Customized CZ EVO 3 S1 Scorpion Carbine
Recently we purchased a CZ EVO 3 S1 Scorpion Carbine. In addition to the fact that we are suckers for a good 9mm carbine, one of the major reasons that we purchased the Scorpion was that it is so easy to customize with aftermarket items that are available from several manufacturers at reasonable prices.
On our Scorpion we changed out the charging handle, the trigger and trigger springs, the left and right side safety selector levers, the pistol grip and added Quick Disconnect (QD) sling points. Here are some before and after pictures so that you can see the parts and the changes they make to the firearm.
You can find the details about the CZ Scorpion on the Shooting/Carbines page and the details about the aftermarket parts on the Shooting/Shrouds and Accessories, and Shooting/Slings pages.
Added Video Reviews of Firearms From Various YouTube Channels
Recently I’ve had a few people ask about video reviews of the various firearms listed on our website. Since we haven’t recorded any YouTube reviews ourselves - we decided to add the best YouTube reviews that we had seen to the site. These reviews include the following:
You can find the YouTube firearm video reviews on the Handgun, Carbine, Rifle and Shotgun pages.
As an example, here’s the Uzi review from the Military Arms Channel.
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Here's where we post reviews, questions, answers, thoughts and other information that's of general interest to our followers in a blog format.