Category Archives: Tactics & Training

U.S. Law Shield: Untraceable “Ghost Guns” On the Rise, But Are They Legal?

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Ghost Gun .(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Ghost Gun (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Gun enthusiasts and hobbyists have long been building their own firearms by purchasing lower receivers or kits and other parts needed to assemble a firearm.

The lower receiver is a small block of metal about the size of a deck of cards where the trigger mechanism is housed and where bullets pass through. A gun cannot function without it. A finished lower receiver is the piece of the firearm regulated by federal law and must contain a serial number stamped into it.

Technology today and the hundreds or even thousands of websites selling lower receivers, kits, and parts over the internet makes it even easier. There are no background checks required to purchase these lower receivers or kits.

There are no federal restrictions on an individual making a firearm for personal use, so long as it does not violate the National Firearms Act (NFA), according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

The ATF has long held that items such as receiver blanks, “castings” or “machined bodies” in which the fire-control cavity area is completely solid and un-machined have not reached the “stage of manufacture” which would result in the classification of a firearm per the Gun Control Act of 1934 (GCA). That stage is “80 percent complete.” ATF regulations hold that receiver blanks that do not meet the definition of a “firearm” are not subject to regulation under the GCA.

Furthermore, under federal law, no serial numbers are needed on firearms that are built for personal use, making them untraceable by law enforcement.

By leaving the lower receiver unfinished— meaning only partially drilled — it fails to meet the ATF’s requirement of being more than 80 percent complete and is therefore not considered a “firearm” subject to regulations. Buyers can finish the receivers at home by finishing the drilling.

The ATF refers to such guns as unfinished receivers, though they’re also called 80 percent receivers, home built firearms, or “ghost guns.”

And it’s all perfectly legal.

These self-assembled and untraceable “ghost guns” are becoming increasingly more popular amongst gun enthusiasts across the country and is becoming big business for parts manufacturers and for dealers selling kits.

Elite Custom Railing in Holly Hill, Florida, for example, specializes in unfinished lower receivers for a do-it-yourself AR-15. A company spokesperson said they sell between 100 and 150 lower receivers each day.

It is just one of six companies in Volusia County alone engaged in manufacturing and/or selling kits or unfinished receivers that allow buyers to assemble military-style, semi-automatic rifles at home.

Another Volusia County company, Stone Mountain Gold ‘n Guns in DeLand, will sell the “80% receivers” to a customer only in person and not over the internet as others in the county do. A manager said he will complete the sale only if he feels comfortable with the person buying the receiver. Stone Mountain sells about 20 a month, according to the manager.

The ATF and some law enforcement agencies have expressed a concern about these homemade firearms, believing that the availability of the untraceable receivers will encourage criminals and terrorists to start building their own weapons.

Port Orange Police Chief Thomas Grimaldi said in an interview in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, “We’re making it easy for the criminals. I have a concern — a huge concern over that.”

Mary Salter, ATF Tampa Field Division public information officer, believes some criminals are purchasing non-serialized and therefore untraceable firearms because their intent is to commit crimes.

“ATF, and law enforcement, in general is seeing homemade firearms without serial numbers at crime scenes,” Salter said. “Tracing firearms found at crime scenes to the original purchaser is a valuable tool in law enforcement,” Salter added. “When a homemade firearm is found at a crime scene, investigators are left with a dead end, where a trace of a firearm may generate valuable investigative leads.”

“With advancements in technology in regards to 3D printers,” Salter said, “CNC milling machines, and the availability of receiver blanks, it has become much easier for a person to build a firearm. “When a “homemade firearm is found at a crime scene, it means investigators are virtually left with a dead end,” said Salter.

And in California, Graham Barlowe, resident agent in charge at the ATF’s Sacramento Field Office, said he started seeing crimes involving untraceable guns about two years ago. In November of this year, Barlowe’s undercover agents arrested eight men for manufacturing and selling illegal firearms, seizing about 90 un-serialized firearms out of the more than 230 illegal firearms found. His agents have also found electronic mills that carve a complete receiver in 12 minutes.

“It is one of the biggest problems in Northern California for our office, if not the biggest problem,” Barlowe says. He estimates that his office has seized about 500 un-serialized receivers since 2013.

The Santa Monica shooter, John Zawahri, used a rifle made from parts he purchased online to kill himself and five others on June 7, 2013.

atf-receiver-1
From ATF.

And in neighboring Arizona, between 2009 to 2011, ATF reported that it seized 191 of the 80 percent receivers in Tucson that were headed to Mexico to be assembled, possibly by cartels.

In Florida, law enforcement officials claim the unregistered guns can make it easy for criminals to arm themselves with untraceable weapons.

However, others disagree with that assessment, claiming the skill and equipment necessary to build the firearms is anything but easy and, therefore, makes this approach more costly and time-consuming than simply acquiring an already completed firearm. A milling machine (or at least a milling guide kit), for example, can cost around $1,500, and it could take weeks to complete an AR-15 kit.

And to complete an unfinished lower receiver, a person must carefully mill or drill out a portion of the inside of the receiver, which can take many painstaking hours. Without a properly milled lower received, a functioning firearm would be impossible to produce.

Many believe manufacturing a homemade weapon is generally too costly, too troublesome, and too expensive for criminals.

Furthermore, FBI statistics indicate semi-automatic weapons are used in less than one percent of crimes in the U.S. Most criminals use handguns, and most guns used in crimes are stolen. Criminals looking to buy a weapon can get them from private sales without a background check and do not have to go through the trouble and expense of building their own rifle.

Rob Dunaway, President of American Spirit Arms in Scottsdale, Arizona, says most of the customers who buy the incomplete receivers are people who like to personalize their semi-automatic rifle and or more worried about changes to the gun laws.

“Some people buy them to store them for potential future use,” Dunaway said.

Previous attempts to regulate “ghost guns” in California failed, when a bill that would have allowed the manufacture or assembly of homemade weapons but required the makers to first apply to the state Department of Justice for a serial number that would be given only after the applicants underwent a background check, was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2014.

However, earlier this year, Gov. Brown did sign a bill requiring people who build guns from these 80% receivers to register them and get a serial number. That law takes full effect in 2019. — by Michael Wisdom, Senior Contributing Editor, Texas & U.S. Law Shield Blog

Do you believe “ghost guns” or the 80 percent receivers pose a serious problem? Should you have to undergo a background check to even buy an 80 percent receiver or kit before you are allowed to build your own firearm for your own personal use? Should you have to register a firearm you build yourself and obtain a serial number? Let us know what you think.

Review: Springfield Armory Range Officer Operator

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If you’re looking for higher-end features in a quality 1911, and you’re on a lower-end budget, look no further than the Range Officer: it’s ready to go!


by Bob Campbell


Springfield Armory Range Officer Operator
Springfield Armory Range Officer Operator

The original Springfield Armory (the very first armory established under authority of General George Washington) started making guns in 1777. Closed by the federal government in 1968, and then privately reopened with a brand new start in 1974 in Geneseo, Illinois, the resurrected Springfield Armory also resurrected its military roots, producing the semi-auto M1A rifles (the first civilian production of the M-14) and soon thereafter the venerable 1911 John-Browning-designed handgun — the “Government Model.”

The 1911 has been produced now by a plethora of different manufacturers, and, holding true to the original design, they all share most things in common. A 1911 is a single-action, magazine-fed autoloader with a sear-blocking safety as well as a grip-actuated safety on the frame backstrap. A well-made 1911 is a hard-hitting, durable, and reliable pistol design (especially hard-hitting in its original .45 ACP chambering). The original 1911 pistol endured a series of rigorous testing trials before being adopted by the U.S. including being dropped in sand, corroded in acid, fired until too hot to handle, and firing through 6,000 rounds without a single malfunction. It was the only design submitted that passed all these tests. (It later passed a 20,000 round endurance test to meet FBI-mandated contract requirements, a contract which was won by Springfield Armory.)

The 1911 safety and firing mechanism is different from most available handguns: its safety can only be applied when the pistol’s hammer is set fully to the rear, ready to fire. Carrying a 1911 in this mode, known as “cocked-and-locked,” makes it very fast getting to the first shot. The single-action trigger helps here too. Unlike the double-action-first-shot, double-action-only, or those using a “trigger-actuated” safety system, all a single-action trigger does is move the sear to drop the hammer. This is an advantage in accuracy and control on the first shot, and for subsequent rounds. The grip safety locks the trigger until the safety is depressed by the shooter’s hand grip.

Springfield Armory offers a wide variety of 1911-style handguns, ranging across frame and slide sizes, weights, calibers, and “levels” of build attention. There is also a wide price range that goes along across that board. The main differences among their various 1911 models are in the attention to details: the component quality, and the level of fitting and tuning, and the finish. At the base level, you can still get an “original” GI-spec .45, and at the upper-end, Springfield Armory can box up a championship-level competition piece ready for you to take to the USPSA Nationals, and win it.

Springfield Range Officer Operator grip
Checkered grips, checkered mainspring housing, a speed thumb safety, and a good beavertail grip safety are desirable features for a 1911. The 1911 is one of the fastest handguns out there coming from the holster to an accurate first shot on a target.

Springfield Armory has used “Range Officer” as a designation for its “value line.” The primary difference between these guns and the higher-end pistols is the finish. The Range Officer line has a parkerized finish (stainless steel is also available). These pistols also have a one-sided thumb safety rather than the more expensive ambidextrous unit. However, the Range Officer lineup still features a match-grade stainless steel barrel and tightly-fitted barrel bushing, two primary keys to good accuracy potential from a 1911.

The Range Officer version tested (the “Operator”) features a light-mounting rail. This rail is compatible with the wide range of available combat lights and lasers. The Operator also has forward cocking serrations on the slide. Its sights are from Novak — a white dot rear and fiber optic front. The contrast is good, and the fiber optic sight provides rapid acquisition. The pistol also features a scalloped ejection port, lightweight hammer, target-style trigger, and a grip-enhancing beavertail grip safety. Trigger compression is factory-set at a clean 6.5 pounds.

Range Testing
Working from an Eclipse Holster, speed was excellent. This holster keeps the pistol secure on the belt and offers a good blend of speed and retention. I loaded the supplied Springfield magazines and backed them up with a good supply of other 7- and 8-round magazines. The pistol was lubricated prior to testing. The magazines were loaded with Federal American Eagle 230-grain FMJ ammunition.

Springfield Range Officer Operator firing
The author found the Springfield Range Officer Operator a reliable and accurate service pistol. A steel-frame .45 is heavy to carry but the extra weight provides excellent control.

Firing “double-taps” quickly at 5, 7, and 10 yards, the pistol produced excellent results. This is a handgun that responds well for a trained shooter. Moving between targets quickly, and getting the fiber optic sight on the target, gave a solid hit when the trigger was properly compressed. The results simply cannot be faulted. While I often deploy lighter, aluminum-frame handguns because they’re lighter in the holster, the extra weight of its steel frame makes the Range Officer easily controllable.

Accuracy
I also tested with several defense and service loads. Recoil was greater with +P loads and a decision must be made if these loads are worth the extra effort to master. The wound potential of the .45 ACP is proven. I do not let those with a one-safari resume influence my view. I don’t think anyone can argue against the defensive capability of a .45 ACP.

Springfield Range Officer Operator tsrget
The author found the Springfield .45 exhibited excellent practical accuracy. The Operator is factory-sighted for 25 yards and may fire a little low at 7 yards, but this is easily compensated for.

Among the top loads available for the .45 ACP is the Federal 230-grain Hydra-Shok. An intelligently-designed bullet with a proven history, the Hydra-Shok offers excellent wound potential. The American Eagle practice load fires to the same point of impact, making the two a good combination. Firing for accuracy from a solid bench-rest position at 25 yards, the single best group was a 2.0-inch effort for 5 shots with the Speer 230-grain Gold Dot.

Springfield Armory has taken a great handgun design and not only made it better, but, with the Range Officer, Springfield Armory made it affordable. Compared to even minimum custom-done modifications to a standard-style 1911, the package wrapped around the Range Officer is a great value.

Springfield Range Officer Operator accuracy


Bob Campbell is an established and well-respected outdoors writer, contributing regularly to many publications ranging from SWAT Magazine to Knifeworld. Bob has also authored three books: Holsters For Combat and Concealed Carry (Paladin Press), The 1911 Semi Auto (Stoeger Publishing), and The Handgun In Personal Defense (The Second Amendment Foundation).

Shooting Skills: Take a deep breath…

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…then let it out and read this to learn how to maximize on-target accuracy and consistency…


Glen Zediker


We’ve talked about what I call the “true fundamentals” of shooting. Put the sight on the target and pull the trigger without moving the sight… And we’ve talked about some of the mechanics, like natural point of aim, sight picture, and the trigger itself, that combine to assist this goal.

david tubb
Holding still sometimes takes more thought, and effort, than we might realize. Shooting well is a truly multi-faceted task that shooters like 11-time National Champion David Tubb have attended to through miniscule details, like being aware of the physical state continually while performing.

Another crucial and largely unknown element is controlling breathing. Right. That thing we do to stay awake and alive. Breathing can be a calculated technique among competitive shooters, and that is because the state of the body in the framework of making a shot is a defining element in the effectiveness of the shooting platform. That platform, by they way, is you!

I’ll break it down, and then offer a few suggestions on how to incorporate a better understanding of the dynamics of maintaining human oxygen supply.

When we are breathing when doing nothing in particular but living, we’re not taking the deepest breaths we can when we inhale, and we’re not expelling all the air we had when we exhale. We’re also not breathing in and out, in and out, in and out in constant successions. We breathe in to a comfortable level. Hold that a bit. We breathe out to a comfortable level. And then we hold that state for a bit. Then we very naturally breathe in again. These cycles are on a balanced rhythm, and a relatively shallow cycle. It’s a lot different than when we’re doing something strenuous, like running.

So. To fire a gun from our most stable state, make the trigger break in what shooting coaches call “the natural respiratory pause.” That’s the state between exhaling and inhaling. From a “human machine” standpoint, that’s when the body is most calm and stable.

breathing cycles for best shooting
Learn to use the natural pattern of your breathing to experience the most effective (steadiest) hold. When we breathe normally we don’t inhale as much air as we can hold and then blow it all out, and we also don’t breathe continually in and out, in and out. Rather, we simply inhale and exhale to levels that are comfortable to us. Take aim and fire the shot when you have reached what some call the “natural respiratory pause,” or the natural resting point prior to inhalation where we are “using” the oxygen we have retained.

It’s a narrow window. That window of opportunity varies widely depending on a lot of factors, but some experience dry-firing will show you where you stand.

When the body needs more oxygen, there are a few symptomatic results that get in the way of a steady hold. There are more eloquent ways to say it, but we get “the shakes.” The wobbles, the heaves and hos. It’s an unmistakable sensation. Visual acuity also diminishes. And, also, since we’re trying to finish something important (hit the target) anxiety takes over when we’re not getting cooperation between target and sight locations. Essentially, there’s an urge to slap the trigger and “get it over with.”

Do not “take a deep breath and hold it…” That supplies oxygen, to be sure. But it also creates tension in the body. Trying to keep that breath held has as bad an effect on stability as does trying to not breathe back in.

Breathing during a shot continually changes the location of the sight. Try it and you’ll see. Filling the lungs, emptying the lungs, both change the posture. From prone, it’s easy to see the effect on the vertical location of the sight. This, by the way, is the root of the “consistency” element of breathing. It’s very important to the goal to fire shot after shot after shot onto the same point.

Firing shots in succession, keep breathing, just time the shots with the natural pause. For a Rapid Fire event string in NRA High Power Rifle, which isn’t all that rapid (either 60 or 70 seconds to fire 10 rounds) I take a breath between each shot, and then settle down to my holding point. Now. Really rapid succession, like bam-bam-bam, it’s possible to fire quite a few well-directed rounds off of one pause. If that’s not enough, experiment with learning to take very shallow breaths in and out during the duration of the hose-down. I’ve used that “tactic” on very windy days when the standing position hold was a tad amount fluctuating, to avoid frequent restarts. It “works” for a couple of attempts to get a breakable sight picture, before muscle fatigue sets in.

Speaking of: there’s no question that the better physical condition someone is in, the better able they’ll be to extend a steady hold. Pulse also factors mightily: a beating heart moves the rifle. This is really evident shooting prone from a sling-supported position. A regular breathing pattern with no overt highs and lows combats heart rate increases. Taking in huge amounts of air prior to mounting up a rifle actually can backfire; that often causes a “spike” in body movement about 15 seconds afterward. Pulse quickens and becomes more intense when oxygen levels drop.

Main point here is do not “over-hold.” When you’re out of air, you’re out of time. Break it down, and start it again.


For more shooting tips and articles visit ZedikerPublishing.com; all are free to download. 

5 Quick Tips for a Safe(er) Halloween

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Halloween can be a little stressful, when it comes to the conscientious concealed carrier. What may be recognized as a threat any other day, is just someone trying to give their pancreas an extra workout for an evening.

Our friends over at U.S. Law Shield/Texas Law Shield put together a quick video addressing some common issues, and some interesting insight into how we, as concealed carry folks, should approach certain situations on Oct. 31st.

Just a reminder, many of these laws stated in the video pertain to Texas only, and you should always check out your states laws, as they pertain to your individual situation.

Wheel of Misfortune II

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By 22plinkster

Always on the lookout for new, and more difficult trick shots, 22plinkster once again pulls off a great shot with what seems like little effort. Our wheels are spinning after seeing Plinkster split his latest playing card. Check out the video below:

He’s always taking suggestions, folks. Any ideas for 22plinkster on how to split his next playing card, or any trick shots you’d like to see?

New Electronic Gun Range Open to Public at Camp Perry

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By Ashley Brugnone, CMP Writer

CAMP PERRY, Ohio – The Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) is pleased to introduce 10 innovative electronic targets available for Open Public Shooting at Camp Perry. Rifle and pistol marksmen will now have the chance to fire towards the future of competitive shooting from the place that has been a pinnacle of marksmanship for over 100 years. Whether experienced or just beginning, the ground-breaking targets are designed with the ability to enhance skills and excite spectators of all ages.

From Aug. 29 to Nov. 7, 2016, Petrarca Range will be open to the public on Mondays, where only a small fee of $10/hour ($25 for 3 hours) will be required to fire upon some of the most advanced marksmanship technology available today. Visitors must provide his or her own firearms and ammo as well as any other accompanying equipment. Eye and ear protection is also strongly encouraged while firing or observing.

Similar to the targets used at CMP’s Talladega Marksmanship Park in Alabama, the 10 state-of-the-art outdoor electronic targets on Petrarca Range (located on the historic grounds of Camp Perry) are capable of adapting to rifle, pistol and smallbore shooting. During Open Public, CMP staff members will be on hand to answer questions and to ensure safety on the range.

Rifle targets are located at the 100-yard line, but the changing of the target faces and the use of reduced target definitions allow shooters to practice for longer distances as well. Pistol targets are mounted in portable carriers that are constructed to be set up at 25 or 50 yards. The rifle targets are wireless, while the pistol targets are hardwired. Target technology is provided by Kongsberg Target Systems (KTS), with equipment marketed by CMP Targets.

For an even more comfortable experience, sound deadening material has been added to the interior ceiling of the Petrarca firing line structure along with a dividing wall to create a more controlled environment. New doors and lighting have also been installed to the structure, and berm work has been constructed downrange.

KTS Electronic Targets work through the power of acoustics – “hearing” the shot and accurately determining its location. With extensive use by ranges in 30 nations for over 20 years by Kongsberg Target Systems and even more experience received in-house by the CMP, the accuracy of these electronic targets is unlike anything else in the United States.

Come out with a friend, as a family or even by yourself! All are welcome to Petrarca Range at Camp Perry. For more information on Open Public Shooting, visit the Petrarca Range page on the CMP website at http://thecmp.org/competitions/cmp-targets-at-petrarca-range/.

About Camp Perry:
Camp Perry, a National Guard training facility open to the public for swimming, fishing, camping and viewing year-round, is located on the shores of Lake Erie, only six miles west of Port Clinton on State Route 2. The entrance is marked by its signature stone towers and checkered water towers standing in the distance.

About the CMP:
The Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) is a national organization dedicated to training and educating U.S. citizens in responsible uses of firearms and air guns through gun safety training, marksmanship training and competitions. The CMP is a federally chartered 501(c)(3) corporation that places its highest priority on serving youth through gun safety and marksmanship activities that encourage personal growth and build life skills.

The Civilian Marksmanship Program is a federally chartered 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation. It is dedicated to firearm safety and marksmanship training and to the promotion of marksmanship competition for citizens of the United States. For more information about the CMP and its programs, log onto www.TheCMP.org.

‘Surviving an Active Shooter’ Events Scheduled for 8 States

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Want to learn about “Surviving an Active Shooter” situation? Who doesn’t?

Texas & U.S. Law Shield recently launched a new special event in Florida and several other states to advise gun owners and others how to get past the end of such an incident — and live to tell about it.

The groups have scheduled “Surviving an Active Shooter” special events in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia. At these events, law-enforcement professionals explain how to “run-hide-fight” effectively, then a lawyer details how to handle the legal aftermath, including how to react to arriving police who are trying to sort out who did what to whom.

Randy Macchi, general counsel of Texas & U.S. Law Shield and coordinator for the “active shooter” events, said the companies saw the need for more training of this type when the initial Texas events filled up within an hour of being announced.

Macchi said, “We were inundated with calls from people who were disappointed they were unable to register for these events because our limited schedule of ‘Surviving an Active Shooter’ events was full.”

He added that because of the importance of the topic, the events are not just for Law Shield members. “Our best hope is that you never, ever have to put into action any of the ideas presented at these ‘Surviving an Active Shooter’ events,” he said. “Regrettably, this is the world we live in, so we choose to be prepared.”

To register for these events, click GunLawSeminar.com. You’ll then be able to choose events from a pull-down state-specific menu.

Macchi said, “Not all of the events listed in the seminar schedule will have ‘Active Shooter’ programming. Check the ‘Event Type’ for a description. The ‘Surviving an Active Shooter’ events are clearly noted, but they may not be at the top of the screen.”

If anyone has questions about the events, he said they could call customer service at (877) 474-7184 (option 3) or e-mail seminars@uslawshield.com prior to the event.

Macchi said, “Please consider inviting friends, family, and work colleagues. Sadly, it is not alarmist to say these unspeakable tragedies can happen anywhere — the fact is, they have happened at night clubs, work gatherings out of the office, schools, movie theaters, political rallies, and many other venues where large groups of unarmed people gather.”

The AR-15: Americans’ Best Defense Against Terror and Crime?

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In this informative video, NRA News contributor Dom Raso, a former Navy SEAL and founder of Dynamis Alliance, reminds us that the AR-15 is the best defense against terror and crime — and he points out that banning AR-15s wouldn’t have prevented most of the recent terror attacks.

Raso also offers his common-sense solution to stemming the tide of terror: Law-abiding citizens prepared to deal with the imminent threats.

Raso highlight quote: “After the attack at Pulse night club in Orlando, Hillary Clinton looked past the obvious enemy — radical Islamic terror — and instead said ‘weapons of war have no place on our streets’ and that we need to ban AR-15s immediately. AR-15s are fine for Hillary and her family. They’ve been protected by armed guards who use them for three decades. But [for] average Americans who watch the news and feel genuine fear for their safety and their families’ safety — Hillary wants to deny them the level of protection she insists upon for herself.”

What did you think of Raso’s “Best Defense Against Terror” video?

Pink Pistols: How About ‘Designated Carrier’ Like Designated Driver?

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PinkPistolsLOGO

The Pink Pistols, an international organization dedicated to the legal, safe, and responsible use of firearms for self-defense of the sexual-minority community, offered a strong gun-rights message after the nightclub attack in Orlando — and one specific proposal that makes a lot of sense. Continue reading Pink Pistols: How About ‘Designated Carrier’ Like Designated Driver?

Long Range Shooting: Bryan Litz and The Science of Accuracy

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Scoring consistent hits on targets at long distances takes more than chance. Bryan Litz, founder and president of Applied Ballistics LLC., chief ballistician at Berger Bullets and champion rifle shooter, says accuracy at any range is a science. Litz shares how he got his start in long-range shooting and why he’s so passionate about the science of accuracy. For those interested in learning more about the science of long range shooting, Applied Ballistics will hosting several seminars throughout 2016. Enter promo code ABSEM100 during checkout and to save $100.