Modified Ruger Revolver

I really enjoy shooting single action revolvers.  I know they are slow to load and slower to reload but I love the powerful cartridges you can shoot from a strong single action revolver.  That power comes at a cost, however.  If you are going to shoot big heavy bullets at high velocities, you need a comfortable shooting gun.

I like the .44 magnum.  Its a very versatile round.  You can load it down to .44 Special power levels or you can soup it up to hot magnum loads.  Bullet weights can range from 200 grains up to and over 300 grains.

.44 magnum loads with 300 grain bullets can kick pretty hard.  That’s a lot of recoil and a big boom.  To control the rage of the big 44 you need a long barrel and a comfortable grip.  The longer barrel length has more mass and doesn’t raise up as bad when the gun goes off.  Short barrels kick up very quickly and snap the gun up so you really notice the recoil every time you fire the gun.  A good comfortable grip allows you to not only hang on during recoil, but also allows you to hold the gun better when aiming.

I have this Ruger Super Blackhawk in .44 magnum.  I love Ruger’s guns and I love the .44 magnum.  Unfortunately, this gun just does not handle recoil very well.  Its accurate when I can hold it still and not flinch, but it punishes my hand every time I pull the trigger.


Ruger Super Blackhawk with 5 1/2′ barrel

When I bought this gun it came with a 5 1/2″ barrel and a regular Blackhawk grip frame.  I wanted a gun that would resemble Elmer Keith’s Number 5.  I thought this would be a pretty good poor man’s version.  Elmer’s gun had a 5 1/2″ barrel.  5 1/2″ may not sound very short, but it sure allows you to feel the recoil a lot more than the 7 1/2″ barrel that the Super Blackhawk normally wears.  To make it more like the Number 5, I’ve modified this gun probably more than any other revolver I have.  Not only have I swapped grip frames, but I installed an Elmer Keith style base pin and swapped out the original ejector rod for a bull’s eye style.  I also polished the internal parts for a smooth action when the hammer is pulled back.


Elmer Keith-style base pin


Super Blackhawk with bull's eye ejector rod

Bull’s eye style ejector rod

This gun originally came with a standard Blackhawk grip frame.  Because I have unusually large hands, I swapped that grip frame for a Super Blackhawk grip.  The Super Blackhawk grip frame is longer and allows me to have all of my fingers on the handle of the gun.  The bad part is that damn square back on the trigger guard painfully smacks the second knuckle of my middle finger every shot.

Ruger Super Blackhawk

Super Blackhawk grip frame is barely big enough for my hand

Well, I have a modified revolver that somewhat resembles the Elmer Keith Number 5.  It looks pretty good but I hate shooting it.  If I want to shoot it more, something must change.  My next modification may be to try a Bisley grip frame.  If anyone has an extra Bisley grip frame, let’s talk.

For now this revolver just sits in my gun safe and every now and then I’ll fire some light .44 Specials through it.  Magnum loads are just too painful.  I like shooting single action revolvers, just not this one.

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New Grips=New Life for an Old Gun

686 Smith & Wesson with 8 3/8" barrel

Smith & Wesson 686 with those ugly skinny rubber grips

If you have been following this blog for any length of time, you have seen my long barreled Smith & Wesson 686.  It had that cool long stainless steel barrel and those horrible black rubber grips.  The grips were too thin and never did feel right in my very large hands.  I was getting tired of it and took it to Bud’s Gun Shop to see what I could get in trade.  I drove over to Bud’s with my dad and the two of us went up to the counter to see what was in the cases and see how much they’d offer me for the gun.  I handed the gun to one of the guys behind the counter and he took it to the back room for several minutes.  I estimated the revolver’s value at around $700.00 and figured they’d offer me about 70% of that as a trade value.  A 30% mark-up seems about right to me for used gun sales.  I was expecting an offer of around $490.00 to $500.00.  When the guy came back he offered me $400.00 for it, I asked if he’d go a little higher.  He was quick to say ‘no.’  I said to my dad, “If they’re going to give me only $400.00 I might as well keep it.”  It was then my dad said “If you’re going to keep it, I’ll give you an old pair of Smith and Wesson target grips I have.”  He never told me he had a pair of old target grips for a Smith and Wesson!  You’d think a father would share that kind of information with his son!

long barreled Smith & Wesson 686

The walnut target grips give the old 686 a whole new look and feel.

After a short car ride to dad’s to pick up the grips, I was soon back at my home to put the grips on the 686.  Once the grip panels were installed and the grip screw tightened it was like the clouds parted and the sun shone on the revolver for the very first time.  My ugly revolver now was looking like a revolver should.  Once I picked the gun up and held it as if aiming at the wall of my shop, a love affair had begun.  Those old target grips fit my big hand as if they were made just for me.  They filled my hand allowing me to grip the revolver like never before.  The long barrel suddenly became less nose-heavy.  My aim was more steady.  I knew I would love shooting this gun with its new feel and looks.  After a quick trip to the range, my thoughts and feelings were confirmed.  Recoil was lessened.  Aim was improved.  Accuracy increased.  Love level heightened.

target grips on 686

Very large hands need the bigger target grips for better feel and control

The gun that I was so ready to trade is now in the ‘keeper’ category.  Two pieces of walnut have transformed my ‘ugly’ gun into one of my favorite pieces.   The grips fill my hand and give the gun a much better feel with improved control.  Lesson learned:think about changing a gun before trading a gun.



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M1 Garand Accessories

One of the fun parts about having military surplus rifles is all the military surplus accessories that go with them.  Having accessories adds to the enjoyment of collecting, provides tools and cleaning items to help maintain the rifles, and gives you a feel for what the guys who carried these weapons may have also carried as part of their everyday gear.

When it comes to accessories for the M1 Garand it comes close to amount and number of accessories for the AR-15.

M1 Garand bayonet

This is a later, 1950s version of the bayonet worn by a well-dressed M1. The scabbard is a M8A1.

The first accessory I think of for the M1 is the bayonet.  Early bayonets were actually old WW1 bayonets that were used on the 1903.  They were cut down and adopted for use during WW2.  Later bayonets like the one above were made specifically for the Garand.  There were so many versions and styles of bayonets used for the M1 that collecting them all would make a hobby of its own.

M1 Garand cleaning tools

Cleaning tools for the M1 Garand

The cleaning tools available for the Garand also make an interesting collection.  Above you can see a sectional cleaning rod that fit in the butt of the rifle; just below that is the cleaning rod that would have been used at camp or base.  The two cardboard packages below that are cleaning kits still in their original wrapper.  They are both dated from the 1960s.  Below that is a broken shell extractor, a mirrored device that allows you to peer down the barrel, cleaning solvent, grease pots, an action brush, a chamber brush and at the bottom are two different lubricant tubes.  Most of this would fit in the butt of the rifle.

garand cleaning brush

Here you can see how the action brush fits into the lubricant tube so it would fit into the butt of the rifle.

Behind the trap door in the butt plate of the rifle would fit everything need to maintain the rifle in the field.  This is accomplished by each tool being specifically designed to fit together and take up as little space as practical.

IRifle grenade for the M1 Garand

A rifle grenade, a grenade launching devise, and the sights to make grenade launching more accurate

To make the M1 rifle capable of launching grenades, the military devised a grenade launching system.  A devise was fitted to the end of the barrel.  The rifle grenade was slid over this devise.  The power of a blank cartridge was used to propel the grenade several hundred yards.  A grenade sight was attached to the stock of the rifle to make aiming the grenade a little more accurate.

Rifle grenade launching sight directions

Grenade Launcher Sight directions for use on several military rifles.

One of my favorite M1 Garand accessories is the cold weather trigger.

Cold Weather trigger for the M1 Garand

Cold Weather Trigger for the M1 Garand rifle.

The cold weather trigger allowed the M1 to be fired even when the shooter was wearing cloves or mittens.  I think of American GIs using such a devise when they were fighting near the Chosin Reservoir

M1 Garand with cold weather trigger.

Cold Weather trigger on an old M1 Garand rifle

Here you can see how the cold weather trigger works.  The soldier could fire the weapon by squeezing the devise.  Gloves or even mittens could be worn and a person would still be able to shoot the rifle.

These are just some of the accessories available for the M1 Garand shooter or collector.  There are way more than I have pictured here.  Like I said a person would have a fine hobby by just collecting accessories.

If you have any accessories i don’t, you can send them to me.  I do another write-up.

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Surplus Ammo for the M1 Garand

Let’s start off by saying I have no problems shooting new, modern ammo.  Its just that when I shoot the M1 Garand, I like to shoot the stuff that was made specifically for it.  That means shooting old surplus .30-06 M2 or 7.62x 63mm ammo.

After World War 2 and the Korean War the United States supplied several countries with hundreds of thousands of Surplus M1 Garand rifles.  Countries like Greece, South Korea and several others used these Garands to equip their entire armies.  As you can imagine, these countries manufactured their own ammo to supply the armies for target practice and to store for possible future armed conflicts.  Once the Garand became obsolete as a battle rifle and was replaced by by more modern weapons, millions of rounds of stock-piled .30-06 M2 became available on the civilian market.

Surplus M1 Garand ammo

.30-06 M2 surplus ammo from around the world. Greece, the US and Korea

While in a military surplus store in Flagstaff Arizona, I came across several hundred rounds of .30 cal. linked machine gun ammo.  I have pulled hundreds of these rounds from their links and pressed them into surplus en-bloc clips.  They shoot well but are corrosive.  Anytime you shoot older military ammo you have to be prepared for dealing with corrosive ammo.

GI Rifle Bore Cleaner

GI surplus rifle bore cleaner in cans that are that are roughly the same size as a loaded en-bloc clip.

The best thing to use for cleaning the rifle after shooting corrosive ammo is GI bore cleaner.  It was designed to clean up corrosive fouling and comes in cute little cans.  The cans were designed to fit into the same ammo pouches that held and 8 round en-bloc clip.  (Yes, its called a clip and not a magazine.  The 8 round clips are fed into the magazine.)

color coded M2 ammo

Clips of different ammo. L to R: dummy/practice rounds, silver incendiary rounds, black armor piercing, red tracer, and plain ball ammo.

Different ammo for the M1 are color coded for quick recognition.  The red tipped rounds are tracer rounds; they leave a red trail so the bullet’s path becomes visible.  The black tipped rounds contain armor piercing bullets capable of penetrating lightly armored targets.  Silver tipped bullets are incendiary rounds.  ( I thought these were incendiary rounds but they turned out to be Winchester Silver Tip ammo)  The plain copper jacketed bullets are the most common M2 ball rounds.

Surplus ammo was canned for long-term storage.  You will find ammo in ‘Spam’ cans that require a key to open or in the more common .30 cal. ammo can.  The rounds inside can be either boxed in 20 round boxes or already loaded in 8-round clips and on bandoleers.

30cal. ammo cans

Flip-top 30 cal. ammo cans can contain rounds linked, in clips or packed in boxes.

Greek 'Spam' cans

Greek ‘Spam’ cans with both boxed ammo and loaded clips.

Bandoleers of 8 round clips

Bandoleers of 8 round clips packed in .30 cal. ammo can.

30-06 surplus ammo also comes in Match Target rounds.  They were made specifically for target shooting and were packaged in specially sealed 20 round boxes.  They are becoming very difficult to find.  I don’t have any.

Collecting and shooting old surplus rifles naturally leads to collecting and shooting old surplus ammo.  At some point I think my stash of ammo may become more of a collection and less of a shootable stock pile.  Then I just might turn to modern rifles and modern ammo.  Time will tell.

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A New (old) Winchester 94 Ranger

Winchester 94 Ranger

Winchester 94 Ranger model in .30-30 Winchester

The Winchester 1894 was created by the design genius John M. Browning, the same man who designed the 1911, the Browning High-Power and every machine gun used by the United States military in World War II.  It was the first commercial rifle to chamber a round that used smokeless gun powder; the .30-30.  The .30-30 or .30 Winchester Center Fire as it used to be called was the first rifle round designed to fire the then new smokeless propellant.  The Winchester 94, due to its modern design and use of new smokeless powder technology became the first rifle to carry the title ‘high-powered rifle.’  With such a pedigree, why would anyone not want a Winchester 94.

I have always liked the look and feel of the Winchester 94.  It is what I consider the typical cowboy gun. A western saddle on a horse is just incomplete without the butt of a Winchester rifle sticking out of a scabbard.  The Winchester 94 is about as American as you can get.

The gun I just picked up is a Winchester 94 Ranger model.  A lower end model.  Its an older gum but looks new.  The barrel is clean and the rifle looks as if it has only been fired a few times.  No real signs of wear, handling, or shooting.  It looks and feels like a new gun.

Winchester 94 Ranger

Winchester 94 Ranger in 30-30 Winchester. Made in New Haven Connecticut from Winchester Proof Steel.

The rifle, or more accurately the carbine, is one of the last guns made in New Haven, Connecticut.  This particular rifle has the cross bolt safety that many hate.  This one has been disabled so there is no safety button sticking out and the safety is permanently ‘off.’

Winchester 94

Cross Bolt safety on the Winchester 94

Ammo for the .30-30 typically shoots either a 150 or a 170 grain bullet.  The bullets must be flat nosed as they sit end to end in the tubular magazine and you would not want a pointed bullet resting on the primer of another round.  Due to the flat bullets and mild powder charge by modern standards the .30-30 is not a super accurate round.  With the combination of limited bullets and open sights,  I have been able to shoot only slightly better than 4 inch 100 yard groups from this rifle.   Not terrible, but not very impressive either.

If this sounds like I’m putting the Winchester carbine down, be certain I am not.  I’m just mentioning its limitations.  The .30-30 Winchester is a very effective hunting rifle/cartridge combination.  The number of black bears and deer that have been killed with the Winchester .30-30 is countless.

The magazine holds six rounds and can be topped off after rounds are fired.  The tactical reload.   Hardly tactical.

Lever action Winchester 94

The Winchester 94 with lever action loading and cross bolt safety

The Winchester 94 looks harmless compared to and AR or AK.  It only holds 6 rounds.  Its lever-action loading mechanism makes repeat shots fairly slow compared to a semi-auto.  It will probably never been banned even is a state as liberal as California.  All this makes the Winchester 94 a good choice for an armed citizen.

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How Much Rifle Accuracy Do You Need?


Today, people talk about rifles that are capable of sub-Minute of Angle accuracy.  What does that mean?  Minute of Angle or MOA is an angle that is 1/60 of a degree.   As you stand in a field you have a 360 degree view all around you.  MOA is 1/60 of one of those 360 degrees.  A MOA is a very thin wedge shape that expands the farther out is gets from the origin.  At 100 yards the MOA wedge is approximately 1″ wide (1.047″).  At 200 yards the wedge has expanded to 2″ and at 1000 yards the wedge has expanded to 10″.  Most paper targets have circles for the bullseye.  If you have a rifle capable of MOA accuracy you could shoot all of your rounds into a 2″ circle at 200 yards, a 5″ circle at 500 yards and so on.

Minute of Angle accuracy is amazing when you stop to think about it.  If you could shoot with minute of angle accuracy you could shoot and hit a coin the size of a quarter at a distance equal to the length of a football field.  That’s incredible!  When you start talking about rifles capable of sub-MOA accuracy, that is mind blowing!

Say you are shooting a sub-MOA rifle at 800 yards.   Your groups are averaging 6 inches in diameter.  That means your bullets are striking the target within three inches of your aiming point.  At a distance of nearly half a mile your bullets are hitting the target within three inches of where you are aiming?!  Mind blown!

Its been said that only accurate rifles are interesting.   The engineering, design, fit, finish, and quality of components; everything that is required to build a sub-MOA rifle is very interesting indeed.  Lets face it, a super accurate rifle is cooler than hell.  Pillar bedding, floating barrels, crowning barrels, lapping bolts, lapping scope rings, working up handloads then going out and from a long range hitting what you aim at is like bowling 300 or a hole-in-one in golf.  Damn satisfying!

Taking your old lever action to the range may be fun, enjoyable, nostalgic etc.  But if its shooting patterns instead of groups, that’s not very exciting.  Taking that tack driving, hair splitting, bull’s eye punching bolt action and hitting tiny objects at a great distance is thrilling.  How much rifle accuracy do you need?  You can never have too much.


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Modifying the Mossberg 500 for home defense

When the zombie hordes come and you need a good tool to lay them down, the shotgun is a pretty poor choice.  Most shotguns are slow to load and reload, they don’t hold very many rounds and the ammo is heavy and takes up way too much space.  When fighting masses of zombies, get yourself a good AR and a stack of loaded mags.

Mossberg 500A

Plain Jane hunting shotgun.

However, is you are defending your home against an invader or predator, the shotgun can be a very wise choice.  With just a few modifications you can take an inexpensive hunting gun like the Mossberg 500 and convert it into a respectable and efficient defensive weapon.

Mossberg 500 modified for defensive use.

Mossberg 500 after a few simple modifications for defensive use.

The Mossberg 500 has been around since 1960 with very few changes (in 1970 the slide was changed from a  single action bar to a more durable dual action bar mechanism).  They are very common, reliable and inexpensive.  Because the Mossberg 500 has been around so long and in such high numbers the after-market is filled with accessories.  However, just because there are numerous ‘tactical’ accessories for the 500 series of shotguns doesn’t mean they are all practical.

When modifying my Mossberg 500 I chose to keep modifications simple and basic:

Sling:  I chose to put a sling on the shotgun.  I like the idea of being able to sling the shotgun over my shoulder if I need to use two hands for something.  It sure beats laying the gun down or leaning it against something.  I could have chosen a sling with loops for extra ammo, but I didn’t want all that extra weight swinging around when I shouldered the weapon to fire it.

Barrel:  I opted for the shorter 20″ barrel.  The long barrel is great for hunting, but the shorter barrel is much lighter and handier when turning around in a hallway or stairway.

Capacity:  The magazine tube comes from the factory with a ‘duck plug’ limiting the capacity to just two rounds.  The small wooden dowel is easily removed by turning the gun upside-down when the barrel is removed.  It just falls out far enough for you to grab it with your fingers.  No tools required.  Removing the plug increased the magazine capacity to 5 rounds (both for 23/4″ and 3″ shells).  I also added an Uncle Mike’s butt stock shell holder to either load or reload 5 rounds quickly.  With the butt stock shell holder, I am able to just grab the gun and go if I’m in a hurry.

Mossberg 500 duck plug

After tipping the gun down with the barrel removed the duck plug falls out.

Mossberg 500 with duck plug removed

The removal of the duck plug frees up space for three more rounds in the magazine

Ammo:  I like the flexibility of being able to load 00 buck, slugs, or bird shot in the same magazine.  This allows the shotgun to blow the hinges off a door, knock birds out of the sky, or turn a near miss on a bad guy into a hit.  No other weapon has the ammo flexibility of a shotgun.

Ammo for shot guns

Everything from bird shot to 00 buck to high brass slugs can be fired from the same gun with no modifications.

Things I did not change and why:

Sights: The Mossberg 500 comes with only a brass bead from sight.  I left it as is.  I could have put ghost ring sights on the receiver, optics or even a laser,  but I believe in keeping things simple for a defensive weapon.   There are no gadgets that require batteries and nothing to add weight or complexity to the weapon.  At close range you really don’t use the sights on a shotgun anyway.  Just point and shoot.

Stock: Many people put pistol-grip stocks on their Mossberg. I’ve done it myself. I thought it looked cool.  I have since removed the pistol grip stocks because it was way too awkward to work the tang safety.  The pistol grip does make sense on a Remington 870 where the safety is lower, but not on a Mossberg.

Simple changes to Mossberg 500

With just a few simple changes the Mossberg 500 can be an effective defensive weapon

Why choose a shotgun for home defense?   Lots of reasons.  They’re light, powerful, reliable, and flexible.  Maybe not the best choice for taking on hundreds of zombies, but great for taking on just about anything else.

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