Archive | October, 2012

More (Sort of) Deep Thoughts About Guns (gas operation, AR-15, Rem 1100, 38 Super, headspacing)

26 Oct

In the book, I talk about the basic operation of semiautomatic pistols. The new edition will talk a bit about the basic operation of semiautomatic gas-operated rifles too. Why? Because understanding the basic operation can help us maintain our weapons and use them most effectively.

Gas-operated weapons, by their nature, are more particular to the ammunition used and can be more dependent upon proper maintenance.

At the simplest level, gas-operated weapons work as follows: There is a tiny hole in the barrel, called a gas port. When a bullet passes this gas port, the expanding gasses behind the bullet push into this gas port. This energy is used to cycle the action.

Some weapons use a piston or operating rod which is pushed back by the gasses. This rod or “slide” or piston operates the bolt. Weapons based on the basic M1 rifle design do this. Other weapons might feed the gases back to directly operate a bolt. [To demonstrate how this works with a diagram, I tried to find a webpage that contains figure 2.11 from an older book I have titled Basic Gunsmithing by John E. Traister. It’s a cutaway of the side of a Ruger Mini-14. Alas, I didn’t find it online. It’s an older book, published in 1979.]

One thing becomes clear. You need to keep the gas port free of fouling. If gases can’t get through that hole, your gun won’t function reliably. Because burning powder residue can get on other moving components too, it’s important to learn to properly clean your gas-operated weapons. Different weapons will need different levels of attention.

Two guns that come to mind are the M-16 and the Remington 1100 shotgun. I think of these two guns together, because each has a mixed reputation. Ask some people about the Remington 1100, and they’ll say they’re not reliable. Others swear by them. Same is true of the AR-15s. Some say they have reliability problems. Others say they’re great.

What explains the difference? In the Remington 1100’s case, it all comes down to cleaning. You must learn how to properly clean the gun, including the gas port. If you’re unsure of how to disassemble and clean some gun, my suggestion is to search Youtube.

For the Remington 1100, I found this nice presentation on Youtube:


(part 1)

(part 2)

Youtube rocks. Watching the videos, you’ll notice the rubber o-ring seal on the shotgun. Many years ago, when I first learned that some guns had rubber O-rings and other rubber parts, it blew my mind. Still does, kinda. [I’m still waiting for Ruger to send me a metal trigger for my Ruger Standard Pistol from the 1970s. A plastic trigger must have been a mistake. Right? It was like a template for making the real trigger or something?]

If you’re trying to seal in gasses, and something isn’t working and rubber O-rings are involved, try replacing the O-ring. A prepper can never have too many O-rings. (Well, OK, I guess you can have too many.)

The Remington 1100, with a bit of care and cleaning, can be a great weapon for the prepper. Many recoil-sensitive shooters and skeet and trap shooters love gas-operated shotguns because they reduce felt recoil appreciably. For a smaller, recoil-sensitive person, a gas-operated 20 gauge shotgun is perfect.

In the case of the M-16, one of the factors that led to reliability issues had to do with the gunpowder used. A slower-burning gunpowder was substituted without adequate testing. A slower-burning gunpowder creates more pressure at the gas port, which leads to a more aggressive cycling of the action. In the case of the M-16s, this effect was so pronounced that part of the cartridge case’s rim was ripped away sometimes.

This doesn’t affect reliability of the AR-15s today. Here’s a good article for those who want to learn more. Whenever one group of people says something doesn’t work, but a huge group of others say it does, look at how each group is going about doing the thing in question. You’ll often find success is attributed to some simple thing.

If you want to learn about cleaning an AR-15, here’s a nice video:

murpheysmuskets (on Youtube) has a nice comparison of the DI AR-15 system versus the M1 or M1A gas systems:

Here’s a short video about some spare parts you might want for an AR-15:

While some old-schoolers look down on the AR-15, a recent post about the 1911 pistols made an interesting point. The poster said that older 1911 weapons weren’t reliable because the three finger bushings broke (sorry I didn’t save the link). That doesn’t apply to 1911s today because they all use solid bushings. So even legendary gun designer John Browning didn’t always do everything perfectly from the start. It just shows there’s always some room for improvement and refinement. We shouldn’t hold a weapon’s early history against its modern incarnation.

Another great example of a weapon besmirched by its early history was the 38 Super. This had the potential to be a great pistol caliber, but was done in by a bit of bad design. Some shooters are familiar with the concept of headspacing. It often reduces to a length measurement. Physically, we can think of headspacing as what keeps a cartridge casing from moving forward in the chamber. If a cartridge moves too far forward all sorts of bad things can happen, like the casing blowing apart.

There are several ways of headspacing. Many calibers have a rim. The casing can’t move too far into the chamber because the rim retains it. The 357 magnum, 44 magnum, 30-30 WCF, and 22 LR are all cartridges with a rim. Some magnum calibers have a belt, like the 458 Winchester Magnum. Most rifle calibers headspace off of the neck. The neck of the cartridge keeps it from moving too far forward. The 308 Winchester, the 30-06, and the 223 Remington are common examples.

Some wildcatters like to neck 30-06 brass to larger sizes like a 338-06 or the famous 35 Whelen. Whelen contemplated a 40 caliber neck-up of the 30-06, but deemed it wasn’t a good idea. There was so little neck left that the round would be inherently dangerous. The weapon might not headspace reliably. The case would jam itself deeply into the chamber, the brass would rupture and ka-boom, in a bad way. [the contrary opinion about the safety of necking a 30-06 to 40 caliber]

Modern autoloading pistol calibers almost always headspace off the case mouth. This means the lip of the case prevents its forward movement of a fired cartridge. [this is difficult to believe for many, myself partly included. What happens if a bullet is crimped too much? Some claim it’s actually the extractor holding the case back in most autoloading pistols. I don’t believe that either!]

The 38 super had the unfortunate lineage of having a semi-rim and trying to headspace from that. It didn’t work too well. Worse, misguided attempts to handload the 38 Super hot contributed to the problem.

This isn’t a problem with modern 38 Super barrels which headspace from the case mouth, just like the 9mm or the 45 ACP. It’s a shame the 38 Super didn’t begin life with headspacing from the case mouth. If it had, it might well be the most popular autoloading pistol caliber today.

Many preppers recognize water as the most vital resource. Here’s a great article about water. Before clicking through, here are two questions to ponder: 1) Given the modern American life, how much water is needed daily for each American? Don’t just include water for drinking, washing, and cooking, but consider the water that is used for things like generating electricity and raising livestock. 2) How many gallons of water go into producing one pound of beef?

Here’s another interesting article about water.
About one-fifth of California’s energy use is to pipe water from one place to another.

A piece about divvying up the water from the Colorado River.
Stein’s Law: “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”

Another Prepper Next Door book review

25 Oct

TheLordHumungus (Youtube) just reviewed The Prepper Next Door:


Check out his youtube channel. This dude seriously rocks as a prepper, from knowing about self-sufficiency to doing handstand pushups. He’s way too generous…on Youtube he’s giving away a 1911 Kimber pistol or half an ounce of gold!


Prepper Next Door Reviews (& Edits)

14 Oct

The Prepper Next Door was recently reviewed by David Nash on his website. He wrote, “This book is jam packed with information.” Read the rest of the review here or watch the video review.

Many preppers will be familiar with David and That’s a great site I forgot to include in my resource section. He is working on a new book, which will list about 50 projects that will help preppers become more self-sufficient. Based on TNGun’s solid videos on Youtube, I know this book will be a great addition to a prepper library.

One of my favorite preppers on Youtube, Demcad, reviewed The Prepper Next Door.

I must say I find it very cool to see preppers I’ve watched for years on Youtube reviewing my book!

I’ve already begun working on a revised edition, to incorporate some of the improvements suggested by other preppers. Primarily, I want to add sections to make the book more readable.

One thing didn’t go so well. I wanted to shorten the 60 or so page chapter about guns. I started working on that goal, and it’s now at about (I’d guess) 70 pages. There were a few topics I decided to add, and I think they were good additions.

In the section about stopping power, I’m adding a bit about bullet penetration. Years ago gun testers shot various pistol bullets at pine boards to see how deeply the bullets would go. Something that surprises many people is that the 9mm 115 grain FMJ bullets penetrate about twice as far (about 9 inches) as the standard 45 ACP 230 grain FMJ.

Logically, this makes a certain sense. It takes a lot more energy to make a bigger hole! This doesn’t mean that the 9mm is superior. But it has certain implications.

With the Internet today, we can find sites that test this sort of thing. One interesting site is The idea being that the box is a ballistics box designed to test bullets. Few of us want to waste good pine boards or other material testing bullet penetration.

A few of the tests that preppers might want to look at include:
A test of different calibers against Level III body armor.

Shooting at stacks of books.

A test of shooting at an engine block. (Not a particularly safe idea) They also shoot at locks, like you see in the movies. These guys have way too much time on their hands.

One warning. I clicked to visit the theboxotruth online discussion boards to see what people were saying, and my PC gave a warning that their boards might be infected by malicious spyware. I’d stay away from those discussion boards for now.

Unfortunately, malicious hackers can spoil things for us, because they want to load crap onto our computer to try to steal from us. They often target discussion boards on legitimate sites.

All preppers should devote some time to learning about online security and to protecting their computers from malicious hackers.

Two anti-spyware programs I run regularly, and which are free, include MalwareBytes and Spybot Search & Destroy (Just love that name)

Here’s a site that will test the integrity of your installed firewall : ( Shields Up!

We must be careful about online scans that claim to be spyware scans. Some are legitimate, but others are spyware. It’s a shame we must waste our time with this sort of thing, but it’s just one more aspect of prepping: Learn a bit now and save yourself potential problems in the future. Think for a minute about how much of prepping is learning to protect ourselves from malicious idiots and the ethically and morally challenged. Sans them, prepping would be *so much* easier.

Drought Cuts U.S. Crops Below Demand First Time in 38 Years

This is a nice 22 minute introduction (on Youtube) to HAM Radio:

Best Guns For Long Term Survival (& A Revolution Firefight)

7 Oct

Several prepper blogs wrote good posts about what they’d choose for their favorite guns for long-term survival.

Those sites pretty much sum up what I’d choose. Let me preface by saying that I’m not a hardcore survivalist. I’m not a Rawlesian survivalist who believes we should move 300 miles away from population centers to prepare for a long-term break down of society that will last for many years. I’m much more focused upon short-term disruptions to life.

Given this, my first choice for a weapon would be a defensive handgun. Many preppers said they like 38 revolvers. I can agree with that. The gun I usually keep at home for defense is a S&W model 66 loaded with 38 special 125 grain JHP +P ammo. I believe under high-stress situations, we’re less likely to accidentally “touch off” a round with a revolver. The long trigger pull of a revolver gives it a lot of safety.

But if I could only have one handgun for a long-term survival situation, I’d probably go with an autoloader for one reason: I know how to fix them. With a few extra parts, a good automatic pistol can be maintained for a person’s entire lifetime, even if subjected to abuse and hard use. In addition to ruggedness as emphasized by, I want a serviceable weapon. In a really adverse situation, with several extra magazines, an autoloader has more firepower.

Given what I actually own, I’d choose a 1911A1 I have. In retrospect, I had several others that I liked better that I got rid of over the years. The crummy one I have has a rear sight that was rounded down to an extreme level. I’m not a big fan of carrying a single action pistol “cocked and locked” and would recommend a reliable double-action automatic pistol to most preppers or a Glock. Mine’s in 45 ACP, but I’d be fully content with a 9mm.

The next common choice is an 870 pump shotgun in 12 gauge. It’s true, at close distances, these are very versatile. With rifled slugs, you can hunt deer or bear. With buckshot they’re great for close-range defense. And, you can hunt small game with birdshot. As said, the 20 gauge is a go-to caliber on a homestead, as is the 410 shotgun. Why beat yourself up with a 12 gauge if you don’t really need to?

As said, if money were a factor, I’d avoid the expensive defensive rifles, like the AR-15, FAL, Springfield Armory M1A, etc. When prepping we must budget our purchases.

A good post on expressed this really well, saying that if he felt he needed a defensive-combat rifle to protect his family, he’d own one. Where we put our money says a lot about our personal priorities.

Only under extreme rioting would I feel poorly armed without a defensive rifle. What about long-term WROL? Honestly, I’m not sure it would matter. Here’s why: If we look at countries that have long-term disorder, warlords arise who, even in small countries, have thousands of men. If a true long-term break down of social order happens in the U.S., warlords and gangs with several thousand men would exist. How much chance would two or three united prepper families have against those?

Look at it this way, take any two or three well-armed prepper families and drop them down somewhere in Somalia. How long do you think they’d survive? You can run, you can hide, but trying to hold a retreat wouldn’t be an option.

If there were a short- or intermediate- term break down of law and order, we’d have a much better chance of defending ourselves against the hastily-organized, small gangs. This is where an AR-15 would shine. I’d like it over a shotgun because it has less recoil, more firepower, and a greater range.

Exhibition shooter John Satterwhite once said in an interview in Soldier of Fortune Magazine something akin to that as much as he liked shotguns, he wouldn’t always choose it as his weapon: What happens if somebody starts shooting at you from 400 yards away? If all you have is a shotgun with buckshot, you’ll feel rather foolish. Besides, it’s fun being able to shoot a pop-can-sized target at 200 yards out.

For hunting, I agree with the consensus too: Have a 22 LR and a 12 gauge shotgun (or a 20 gauge) and, if big game lives in your area, a bolt action rifle in 30-06 or 308 Winchester.

Watched another episode of Revolution. Found the firefight amusing. The militia blasts away with muskets, clearly in range to do some harm. Then one solo guy takes a bolt action sniper rifle to the roof and holds them all back. All fifty or so, from about the same distance. I think their militia needed better training. They send one guy straight into the fire at a time. It’s like those karate movies where one villain after another keeps attacking the hero one at a time. Maybe this would all work if the guy were 400 yards away, nullifying the muskets, but with fifty or so people shooting at you within their range, you’re going down. Lancaster’s Law would certainly apply.

Black powder is miserable stuff compared to modern smokeless gunpowder. If we needed to revert, maybe it would be time to select a good old 45-70 rifle. Casting bullets from lead would be easy. Stock up on primers or figure out how to make them. I don’t think things would ever get that bad.

Charlie P., author The Prepper Next Door

Just Sharing Some Prepper Links & Stories

4 Oct

Because some people can’t control their emotions, especially their temper, they shouldn’t carry guns. It doesn’t matter how well they shoot. Here’s a story about road rage.

This fellow had a degree in electrical engineering, was a world-class fencer, driving a BMW, and was a really good shot. In the end, it appears, he couldn’t control his temper and will probably be convicted and go to prison for many decades for shooting another driver. Intelligence and skill mean nothing if you can’t control your emotions adequately.

Dan at has a post about urban homesteading. As preppers, most of us aren’t going to move out into the boonies. There is a link to a youtube video about a family of urban homesteaders that were featured on Doomsday Preppers.

The same family was featured here (which I liked more than their segment on Doomsday Preppers).

Many communities provide information for those who want to learn about growing food in urban or suburban environments. This link is from There is a link their to a short pdf “Growing Food In the City.”

Urban homesteading isn’t all roses. There are issues of chicken complaints and goat sex. Here’s a sad story about a lamb.

Some animal shelters are seeing more goats, ducks, and chickens. Some people get excited by the idea of urban homesteading, but then lose interest or decide it’s too much work or whatever.

Here’s a really nice site ( about prepping with a focus on water issues.

Some of the topics include using UV light to disinfect water and what a city without a modern, working sanitation system looks like.
Here’s a good article about the AR-15 from a site devoted to survival guns (