Category Archives: Guns

Guns and gear for the urban homesteader

The Truth About Guns??? Rock Island Armory GI 1911 part 1

ria-1911-gi I bought my Rock Island Armory (RIA) GI 1911 about three years ago based on a number of positive reviews I read online. For $400, how could I go wrong? Shortly after I got it, I found a very negative review on The Truth About Guns. I’m glad I didn’t see their “review” before I bought the gun because I probably wouldn’t have bought it if I had.

In their review, they had four issues: fit/finish, shooting comfort, reliability, and accuracy. Well, maybe five because it seemed like the reviewer has a problem with RIA, not just the gun he reviewed.

To clear one thing up, whoever wrote the “review” wasn’t reviewing a new gun, but a 3 year old gun that the reviewer didn’t even own…

Dan was kind enough to send me his personal Rock Island Armory GI Standard FS .45ACP, a three-year-old gun with about 500 rounds through it.

Which begs the question… if all the problems about the gun are true, why didn’t the owner send it back to RIA to be fixed under their lifetime warranty? The world may never know…

It’s going to be a few weeks until I get 500 rounds through mine, but I took it out today and my thumb didn’t get cut off by the grip safety tang, and it fed 3 mags without problem. Of course I’m a 1911 newbie, so I guess if I had been shooting it the correct way my hand would be hurting really bad right now.

The cure for Black Rifle Disease


A few years ago I had a case of Black Rifle Disease. It’s not deadly, but it’s expensive, harmful to relationships, and just generally detrimental to your overall well-being. When you have Black Rifle Disease, it is really hard to think about anything other than the Next Black Rifle. Except of course how you could improve your existing black rifles, how you could (or should) have done things differently, what parts you “need” for your black rifles, how to get your wife or significant other to let you buy more black rifles, black rifle parts, ammo, etc…

Well, I may have found a cure for Black Rifle Disease – Precision Long Range Shooting. Unlike Black Rifle Disease, which requires you to keep getting more STUFF all the time to satiate your hunger, Long Range Precision Shooting pretty much mandates that you only have one rifle. After all, the concentration is on learning a single platform and learning to shoot it REALLY WELL. Of course, there is a little experimenting to do… should you get a Savage rifle? If so, which one? A Model 10, which is better quality, or an Axis, which is less expensive and more tempting to modify (because of the low price)? Maybe a Remington 700 would be better. They’re popular with police tactical units and lots of gunsmiths know how to work on them, but you need a lathe and lots of knowledge and skill to do a barrel swap, so maybe a Remington 283? Or maybe a gun built on a custom action…

Then there is caliber to consider… 223 is good to 600 yards or so, but that’s kind of pushing it and most bolt guns in 223 come with a 1:9 twist barrel that won’t stabilize the heavy (77 gr and up) bullets that work best at the longer ranges. Maybe 308? Very popular, but kicks hard. 243 Winchester? Less kick than the 308 but eats barrels pretty fast. The various 6.5 chambered guns kick less than the 308 and are easier on barrels, but which one – 6.5 Creedmoor or 260 Remington?

Then, what bullet? What brand of brass? Powder? Primer? Who makes the best seating die? Maybe need to try a couple and see… What about powder measure? Case trimmer, run-out gauge, and some way to measure cartridge length – OAL and head spacing? Single stage, turret, or progressive press?

Yep, I’ve discovered the cure for Black Rifle Disease…

EAA Arms Witness – a working man’s gun?

cz75-clone I really need to stay away from sites like Tombstone Tactical… the good deals are going to break me. The other day while looking for something that is NOT a double stack wonder-nine, I stumbled across the European American Armory (EAA) Witness P pistol in 9mm, nice FDE polymer frame, and what look like low-snag sights (dare I say Novak-like???) for less tan $300. Hmmm…

I’m not a fan of 2-speed (aka double action) auto pistols, but supposedly this is a clone of the CZ75 which can safely be carried cocked and locked. For less than $300 I think it’s worth a look so I ordered one today. I told my FFL but haven’t told my wife yet…

So what am I expecting? For $287.44 I’m expecting a duty sized clone of the CZ-75 – a kind of famous Soviet-block pistol in 9mm. The originals had a steel frame, but this clone has a poly frame which will be nice for carry use. Other than that, not expecting much but it will be fun to check it out. I have a range pack (350 rounds) of 9mm Blazer brass case, and it will be a lot of fun to see if it will digest all of it with no (or very few) malfunctions. The size means it’s more of a home defense gun, not a CCW, but they also sell a compact model for only $261.72. Wish I could afford both…

Check them out here…

Things I learned at my CCW class…

glock_xd_smTook my CCW class yesterday – finally:) It was more interesting than I thought it would be, here are some thoughts on the class in no particular order…

  1. You will learn enough in the CCW class to know what is legal or not when it comes to drawing or shooting your weapon. You WON’T learn enough to be a competent shooter or to survive a deadly force encounter. If you really want to CCW, getting the permit is only the first step. You MUST commit to training so you don’t kill an innocent bystander or get yourself killed.
  2. My gun handling skills suck. I’ve been shooting since I was 10 or so and figured I had the gun safety thing all figured out. Still is was hard for me to remember to take my finger out of the trigger guard every time it needed to be out of the trigger guard.
  3. I actually shot better than I thought I would. My first 15 shots were all within the 9 ring but fairly evenly patterned – more like a tight pattern than an actual group. After a bit of coaching the second 15 shots all went into a ragged 3 inch hole. Target was at 7 yards. I’m no Wyatt Earp, but now I know I can learn to shoot.
  4. With my body build it’s going to be tough finding a holster that’s comfortable and conceals well. Time to lose about 15 lbs…
  5. Some discussion came up about Glocks, and how they seem to have more negligent discharges than other pistols. This seems to be related to the fact that they have no safety other than the trigger safety, and if something (car keys, a worn out holster, etc) protrudes into the trigger guard, it WILL press the trigger and fire the gun. The instructor mentioned the Springfield XD is a (potentially) safer carry choice because it has a grip safety in addition to the trigger safety.
  6. Springfield XD’s are SERIOUSLY ugly. Our class was held at the local Scheels, so I checked them out while on break. They look like they were either designed by 4th graders or were a proof of concept that never got updated before going into production. Having “GRIP ZONE” molded into the grip??? Really??? How stupid do they think their intended market is? Plus, about $10 more than a Gen 4 Glock, $80 more than a Gen 3.
  7. After thinking about it, the “less safe” Glock might actually be safer for me. Knowing that the gun requires extra diligence to avoid shooting myself in the ass means I’ll be extra-extra careful. The “safer” XD would probably make me complacent, which is never a good idea with guns.
  8. The “reset feature” on the Glock trigger is very cool. After the instructor showed it to me, shot-to-shot was much faster AND my shooting was more accurate.
  9. I need a target stand. The range is too crowded, too formal, and too far to drive.
  10. I wish I could get a 22LR Glock to practice with. 10 cents per round is hella cheaper than 25 per round for 9mm.
  11.  I’d forgotten how much fun it is to shoot. Need to spend a lot more time shooting 🙂
  12. For now, I don’t think I’ll carry. Maybe after I get a lot more comfortable with the idea. I won’t mind not paying the $25 background check that I have to pay without the permit.

Related Link:

Glock vs Springfield XD

Guns in the Age of “Progressives”

glock vs springfield xdProgressives hate guns. Some might claim they don’t, but the vast majority of them do and they’re on the brink of electing a president – Hillary Clinton – who has promised repeatedly to appoint justices to the US Supreme Court who will overturn previous SCOTUS rulings that validate an individual Right to Keep and Bear Arms. Just in case that’s not bad enough, she wants an outright ban on so-called “assault weapons” even though they are used in less than 1% of gun crimes in the US. She wants gun manufacturers to be held liable for crimes committed by criminals who use a product that is legally manufactured by one of the most highly regulated industries in our country. She has supported a national sales tax of 25% on all gun purchases and onerous taxes on ammunition. She supports national gun registration, which has led to gun confiscation in just about every country that’s done it – most notably in Australia, a country whose gun laws Clinton has expressed admiration for.

If Mrs. Clinton is elected and is able to implement her anti-gun, anti-liberty agenda you have a few choices. One, you could just get rid of all your guns – not a good option in my opinion. Two, you could bury them in the back yard and hope the government never finds them. Another horrible option, because what good is having guns if you can’t use them. The third option as I see it is to switch to guns that don’t draw quite as much attention as an AR-15 or a Glock. This isn’t perfect either, but until enough gun owners (and others who value our Bill of Rights) pull their heads out of their butts and vote for pro liberty candidates, it’s all we’ve got. In fact, just voting isn’t enough – we’ve got to advocate for pro-liberty candidates, educate family and friends, and call out the “progressive” media and others on the left when they spread their lies – but that’s another blog post…

In the mean time, what kind of guns am I talking about? Well, guns like the ones you might have had as a kid. 22 rifles. Revolvers. Pump action or even single-shot rifles. Muzzle loaders.

Truck Gun

Truck Gun

I built my truck gun last year but didn’t have time to shoot it until recently. This was my third AR-15 build and my easiest one since I kept everything simple.

Keeping It Simple

In spite of what some people say, you don’t always need an optic and you sure as hell don’t need a light (even though “it’s 2015”) to have a useful AR-15. My goal for this gun was something solid that could take some banging around (it’s a truck gun…) and not lose accuracy. I also wanted to try a poly lower.

GWACS CAV-15 Mk II Poly Receiver and things

The lower receiver I picked is the CAV-15 Mk II from GWACS Armory. Unlike most AR-15 lowers, the CAV-15 combines the stock and receiver into a one piece unit, which eliminates a weak spot where they’d join on a regular AR. I bought the fully populated lower (trigger safety, bolt catch, etc already installed) for $200 (current price is $220) which is pretty good compared to building your own lower. The barrel is a no-name 16″, 1-9 twist, carbine gas, with an A2-style FSB that I bought from JSE Surplus. BCG is an $80 unit from AIM Surplus, and the upper was one I got free when I bought a barrel from SAA. Forearm is MagPul, and the rest of the upper parts are the cheapest ones I could get. The only thing I splurged on was the rear sight from Larue Tactical.

Test Shooting

Sighting in was drama free. In fact, with the front and rear sights set at the position, it shot to point of aim at 50 yards so I didn’t even have to adjust them. The trigger supplied is by CMMG and feels better than “mil spec” triggers I’ve tried on other guns. In fact it’s nice enough that I’m not going to bother replacing it with a Geissele – it’s a truck gun after all.

An Affordable Truck Gun

Total cost was about $650 including shipping costs and FFL transfer fee, but I could have knocked some off by going with a cheaper rear sight. So far I only have about 150 rounds through it with no malfunctions so far. For the money, I like it better than any of the low end AR-15’s I’ve seen in stores.

Related Links:

GWACS Armory CAV-15 MkII Lower Receiver
LaRue Tactical B.U.I.S. LT103
Cheap Truck Gun

The Case for Good AR 15 Parts

geissele ssa trigger
There seems to be a lot of people with the mistaken idea that a beginning shooter doesn’t need good quality parts on their AR-15. The reasoning seems to be that “I don’t need a gun that can shoot better than I can.” It doesn’t take long to find a lot of comments on internet forums along the lines of the barrel shoots better than I can or how many people are at such a level that hitting our target is determined by a $$$ trigger? That kind of reasoning is flawed. I’ll tell you why and make the case for good AR 15 parts, i.e. the best quality you can afford when putting together your firearm. I’ll talk about barrel accuracy issues this time, trigger issues next time, and wrap it up with reliability.

The case for the best AR 15 barrel you can afford: I’ll be the first to admit that a combat weapon doesn’t need a match grade barrel. After all, if you can shoot a 3″ group at 100 yards you can probably hit a man-sized target at 500 yards. That’s fine for a combat rifle. Big deal. If you’re reading this I’m 99% sure you’re not using your rifle as an actual combat rifle. If you’re like me, you use your AR for plinking, punching holes in paper, and maybe hunting. For plinking, 3″ groups are OK, for hunting and paper punching, not so much. A rabbit’s head is maybe 2″, and when shooting targets it’s a lot more fun if you can put all your shots in the 10 ring. So how do you get from 3″ (or 8″ – LOL) groups to something a little better? With a better barrel.

Before you say “my barrel shoots better than I do,” hear me out… Pretend you have a barrel that can shoot 3″ groups when conditions are perfect. The rifle is completely immobile, mounted in a shooting vice that’s set on a solid bench, zero wind. Next, assume that with a perfect barrel (one that shoots one-hole groups) you can shoot 3″ groups. Now, add your barrel’s best potential (3″ groups) to your best potential (3″ again) and you’ll probably be shooting 6″ groups. No matter how much you personally improve you’ll never shoot better than 3″ with that particular gun. Then, imagine the same scenario except with a barrel that can shoot 1-1/2″. Now, you’ve instantly shrunk your groups by 25% even though your barrel “shoots better than you can.”

ALG ACT Trigger – quick look

I have this rifle I put together myself. I LOVE this rifle. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. It was supposed to just be a cheap date. I used the least expensive parts I could find, even if they were getting bad-mouthed in reviews. Even if they weren’t “sexy.” Even if they were kind of ugly…

Then a funny thing happened: after I got it put together it was actually a fun date. Shot pretty good too – in fact my best 10 shot group at 100 yards was a little under 2″ except for one flyer. With cheap ammo. With ME behind the trigger. Other groups were bigger due to more flyers, but the funny thing was as bad as I am with a rifle I could call the flyers as soon as the shot went off. Why? The trigger. That cheap stock trigger is gritty, the take up is like a mile long, and it “breaks” at… who knows? It feels at least 3 times as heavy as the SSA trigger in my nice rifle.

The thing is, I don’t want to spend a bunch of money on an SSA –  after all, this thing was an exercise in building a cheap rifle with the emphasis on CHEAP. On the other hand, I really want to see how good I can shoot it with a decent trigger, especially since it shows so much potential – even with ME behind that crappy stock trigger.

Enter the ALG Defense Advanced Combat Trigger (ACT). The ALG ACT trigger is a factory tuned stock trigger – nothing more. The grittiness and long take-up are gone, it breaks at a consistent 6 lbs, and it’s only $65 – about a third the cost of the favored SSA. So it’s a no-brainer, right? Order an ACT, throw away the stock trigger in my cheap rifle, and go on to shooting nirvana.


It defeats the whole purpose of my cheap rifle, and I’ve also heard that even REALLY crappy stock triggers can wear in and actually feel pretty good over time, and I want to see if mine does. If it doesn’t, I’d like to try a home trigger job to see if I can improve it without making it dangerous. Besides, I’m saving all my money for a nice Savage Arms varmint rifle. So for now the ACT is a no-go for my cheap rifle.


I have an AR-22 that I really like, but I hate the lower because it’s a color filled (WTF was I thinking???) Spike’s Spider with a trigger (an SSA) that is way too nice for that particular lower. I also have a precision build I’m doing that lacks a trigger, and a SOPMOD clone that has an SSA-E but an SSA would probably be a better choice. My plan for now is to take the SSA-E out of the SOPMOD and use it to finish my precision build, use the gawdy AR-22 lower to test the accuracy of my cheap upper, and after testing put the SSA in my SOPMOD (things can get kind of complicated when you have Black Rifle Disease). Then, after I get my varmint rig and a thousand rounds or so to go with it, I’ll get a proper 22LR roll marked lower for the AR-22, an ACT for the Spider, and slap it on to my OTHER cheap upper (which is currently sitting in the safe, unfired). So should I ACT? Yes. Will I ACT? Yes, just not quite yet. I’m looking forward to it.

Day at the Range

There aren’t a lot of good places to go shooting around here, so today I went to the range. It’s been a long time since I’ve been shooting, so it was nice to finally have a day at the range. It was also a good learning experience. Range shooting isn’t like other shooting – a lot of things are better, other things, not so much. So here are some things I learned from today at the range…

1. I need practice. I was disappointed with my groups, but seriously what can you expect if you never go shooting? Today was my first time in about a year… but even with only 100 rounds put down range the groups at the end of the day were a lot better than the first groups of the day.

2. Only take one or two guns. I came fully loaded for… what? My AR with a spare upper, my Marlin 60, Glock 19, and an RIA 1911. I was there for 3 hours and only had time for the AR and a few test shots with the Marlin. Not a big deal, just wasted effort lugging around the ones that didn’t get fired.

3. Take a friend. Shooting can tend to be a solitary sport and usually it is for me. Today though I asked a friend to come with me (always a good idea when testing a new rifle) and it was nice. So nice in fact I don’t think I’ll go alone to the range again unless I have to…

4. I love 22 LR. I was shooting 5.56 at the range and probably had the smallest chambering of everyone there. Some of the other guns being fired were ‘jolting’ (lobw) even with hearing protection. On the way home I stopped at a spot I know to get a few rounds of 22 off – no hearing protection yet oh so pleasant. Just on that alone I think a 22 rifle is a way better survival gun than an AR-15…

5. Ammo is important. With the AR, ammo it like grouped almost half as small as ammo it didn’t like. With the 22, one certain brand of ammo was so bad I couldn’t even get it on paper. Another brand and I was suddenly ON paper with no changes to the scope. Not naming names, but…

6. I need a better trigger for my AR. This one was put together as cheap as possible but I’m thinking I shouldn’t have cheaped out on the trigger. I’m not a great shot but even _I_ could tell what shots were going to be pulls as soon as the gun went off. I think with a better trigger I could have shrunk my groups by at least 25%…

7. The trigger on a Marlin 60 is surprisingly good. Not match grade but a heck of a lot better than a ‘mil spec’ AR trigger. I think I can learn to shoot pretty good with the 60…

All that from just one day at the range. Can’t wait to go back and learn some more 🙂

Cheap truck gun…

Building a Cheap Truck Gun

good upper for a cheap truck gunPSA has a really good deal on an upper assembly if you’re looking to build a cheap truck gun. It has a stainless steel barrel (easy maintenance), 1-7 twist (can handle any .223 bullet up to 80 gr), 16″ (easy handling and no NFA worries), mid length gas system (better than carbine length gas for several reasons I’ll get to in a later post), front sight base (FSB – another good thing for a homesteader’s rifle), all put together for you… for $199??? I usually spend more than that on just a barrel…

It’s only good thru Sunday, it’s from Palmetto State Armory (PSA) and no, I don’t work for them, nor do they pay me a commission or advertising fee, it just seems like a good deal so I wanted to share. I’ll find out if it’s a good deal when I get mine. Yep, at this price I had to order one for myself…

BTW if you’re new to AR’s this isn’t a complete rifle or even a complete upper. You’ll need a bolt carrier group (around $90), charging handle ($20 – $50), and a rear sight ($25 – $150, again depending on how fancy you want) to complete the upper, as well as a lower assembly to make a complete rifle.

Even needing all that you could put it all together for around $600 unless you need a scope, and unless the barrel turns out to be crap (I’ll find out soon and report back), that’s pretty good for a cheap truck gun that’s probably better than most of the lower priced offerings that sell for at least $100 more.