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From the Email bag

Questions and Answers

Q: What would you suggest for a first gun on a budget?

A:  Seldom can one gun excel at plinking (Ruger SS 5 1/2" 22lr), target (Kimber Super Match), hunting (S&W 500), backpacking (41mag titanium snubbie), concealed carry (Kimber Ultra CDP/LG), or deep undercover (Rohrbaugh R9s).  Looking at self defense, I would choose 357, 40 or 45 for Every Day Carry.  I'll save money on ammo by shooting a 22 or reloading, not by sacrificing brute power.  Sure, it will require more effort to dominate the gun.  Sure, shot placement is everything, well almost everything.  You need to do whatever it takes to achieve the skill necessary, anyway. 

You may find the best method for concealment with reasonable speed of access is tuckable IWB (MTAC or Crossbreed).  A thin, short grip is the key to comfort, but it needs more effort to manage.  Slide length up to 4" is easy to conceal IWB.  Opinions vary, but I say don't worry how the gun "feels" or "shoots", you have to make it your own no matter what the grip or recoil.  A guitarist can play any guitar.  Reliability and smooth, consistent presentation are the most important. 

Now about the money, buy used if you have to.  Check out CDNN and Gunbroker.  There's nothing like the safeties and Single Action trigger of a 1911 (Kimber Ultra, Springfield Micro, Colt Defender)  You get power and near target accuracy.   In striker fired designs, I like the Kahr PM40, XD 40 compact, and Glock 27 triggers in that order.  Of these, the Kahr is the only one that disappears in a back pocket, at the expense of capacity.  The grip angle and grip safety of the XD are superior to the Glock’s (IMO).  In Double Action Only hammer fired designs, nothing compares to the Rohrbaugh’s trigger, but it’ too spendy.  Some carry a cheap 9mm (Kel-Tec PF9) in case it’s confiscated after a shoot.  To each his own.  There are lots of thin, single stack 9’s out there for starters. 

You might also think about a deep concealment piece now, and save up for a really good EDC later.  Look at the super thin, super cheap 8 oz. Kel-Tec P3-AT, its clone Ruger LCP, and others like it.  At least you’ll have something right away that will always fill a niche.  Buy a big safe now, because it will fill up.


Q: Do you carry with a live round in the chamber?

A: Yes. In the woods I'm more comfortable with a fully loaded revolver of substantial power.  On the street things can happen at light speed.  I prefer an open top IWB or OWB holster and keep a round in the chamber.  The Tacoma PD tested scores of handguns and felt the 1911 Kimbers were safer than all the others, even with the thumb safety off.  Nevertheless I carry hot, cocked, and locked.  I wipe the safety off during the initial phase of the draw, making sure the thumb carries through under the safety.  The main caveat is keeping the finger out of the trigger guard until the pistol is in alignment.  The holster should cover the trigger guard and allow one handed re-holstering.  Holster carefully.  Never drop the hammer with the decocker on a live round unless the gun is pointed at a safe bag or direction.  Never drop the hammer of a 1911 on a live round, period.  One of the instructors reports that a student tried, one handed, to use the thumb of his gun hand to control the hammer as he dropped on a live FMJ.  The torque of the hammer caused the gun to slant as the hammer slipped out of his control and sent a round through his leg.  In fact, never let the hammer of a 1911 catch the sear in the half cock notch.  It'll wreck the sear, unless you don't mind a gritty trigger.  Proper gun etiquette during any handling will avoid regret, but loading, unloading, decocking, or manipulating anything under spring tension can be dangerous, especially in a confined space like a car. We know of many ND's in police locker rooms and training sessions that the media hasn't sensationalized.



Q: Did the question of Carry (with a permit) in State Parks ever get resolved?  I saw where the DNR pretty much said nothing in the law applied to them and then said maybe it did and they would have to wait and see what the court said.  I asked the Attorney General's office, but
they just sent me a copy of the DNR's statement.  Is it legal for a permit holder to carry in a state park or not?
Also, the DNR said that the CCW law didn't apply to long guns, but others have said it did.  The CCW law mentions pistols, so the DNR claims it means only pistols, but the law prohibiting carrying loaded rifles seems to apply only if you don't have a permit.  Has this been clarified?
Is there an official FAQ site for definitive answers on any of this?

A:  The carry of long guns in public is permitted if you have the permit to carry a pistol.  However only handguns are permitted loaded and uncased when transporting in any motor vehicle if you have a permit to carry.

The permit is good statewide, and clearly lists prohibited areas.  State parks are not listed as prohibited.  The DNR has acknowledged that permit holders are entitled to carry in state parks.

A listing of relevant laws and links to others in the MN statutes is offered at my web site, www.gunthorp.com and at www.packing.org.  The interpretation of all these laws in real life requires an attorney, a judge, a jury, or all the above.




Q:  Can I carry my shotgun for protection?

A:  Long guns are perfectly legal for MN permit holders to carry in public. However, in a motor vehicle, the permit holder can carry loaded and/or uncased ONLY handguns. An exposed long gun in the passenger compartment or a loaded long gun anywhere in a motor vehicle is a ticket to ride with your jurisdiction’s finest, but in their back seat. Anyway, the safeties of most long guns only block the rearward movement of the trigger. They in no way interfere with the firing mechanism. As such, those long guns have a high probability of negligent discharge if there is a round in the chamber. Now, if a careless action on your part has even the remotest possibility to cause great bodily harm, can you shrug that off, because it might not happen?


Q: Can I carry open?

A:  Yes, it's legal to carry open or concealed.  The permit says on or about your person or clothes.  When I’m in the woods I carry openly. What I carry in the woods would be very difficult to conceal. And who cares if the bears freak out when they see it. They’re not going to shudder and cover their cubs eyes. They’re not going to hire Darth Attorney to strip me of my rights and tie me up in court challenges. They’re not going to foment the liberal news media into an hoplophobic lather. They’re not going to get the drop on me and disarm me before raping and killing me with my own openly carried weapon. Defensive handgun carry in today’s urban society solves a different set of problems.  Why give up the advantage of surprise just because its legal.  Why walk down dark alleys just because it's legal?   Please carry concealed for all of our protection.


Q:  I have a 12 Ga. shotgun side/side can this be cut down to a coach gun with a 20" barrel? If so how do I get this done?

A:  Since the legal minimum barrel length for a shotgun is 18", most shops will only cut them to about 18 1/2" to be safe. 20" is no problem, but most coach guns have double triggers and rabbit ears (exposed hammers to give that old western look), and if yours doesn't, it probably won't make sense to spend the money. Try the gunsmith shop at Gander Mountain or any local gunsmith, for that matter, if you like. Otherwise let me know if you want a new import coach gun at a very affordable price. They are certainly popular with the cowboy action shoots. Two quick slugs at close range are powerful medicine against teeth and claws in the wilderness. 4 buck across the room from an old scattergun is likely to scatter two legged varmints as well.


Q:  Buying a gun from a dealer isn't the same as registering, is it?  Can I buy from someone out of state?

A:  Your are correct. Buying a gun from a dealer is not registering, but the dealer is required to keep the form on file, and the FBI check isn't supposed to create a permanent file. The instant check preempts the waiting period and then gets deleted from their database. I suggest that you obtain a permit to acquire a handgun from the local authorities if you don't have a permit to carry. It's good for a year and cuts down on the dealer's paperwork. If you are a resident of MN and buy a handgun from an out of state dealer, the handgun must be shipped to a MN dealer for final delivery to you. I recommend the purchase of a new firearm for personal protection, but a good used one can be obtained from another private party without any paper trail. Nevertheless, if the gun has been or will be used in a crime, authorities will be knocking on doors to find out how it got into the hands of the bad guy. Report any stolen firearms and their serial #'s promptly to the police. Better yet, Maintain control of your weapons (Rule #5) and consider the purchase of a gun safe. The fast access finger touch combination safes for one or two handguns are only about $100. An unloaded, locked handgun is of little use in a sudden emergency.


Q:  Do you have to register your gun. What happens if the gun you use in self defense has no paper work. Would I be in trouble with the law?  I live in Mn. If that helps.

A:  Never register a gun if it can be avoided. Unfortunately, as a dealer, and for every arm I handle, I must maintain records of serial numbers for tracing purposes should Law Enforcement demand it of me (it's never happened yet), but in MN the permit to carry isn't tied to any particular weapon. I believe you can own and carry as many as you wish, openly or concealed, as long as they aren't stolen, the serial #'s aren't defaced, registered or not. If you don't have a permit to carry, I believe you may still carry on your property or business premises and in between, to and from a repair facility, at a shooting range, and on most state lands and waters. On the links page of www.gunthorp.com a refresher for students, beginning to advanced) you'll find a link to all the US laws state by state. The statutes regarding the use of force and the limitations on the use of deadly force in MN can be found on the page called MN Application. Of course there is a disclaimer stating that I'm not an attorney and can't give definitive legal advice. You have to read the statutes yourself, make your own assessments, or consult with an attorney concerning questions of the law. Also visit www.packing.org and MNCCRN.org for MN laws and useful info. I feel the 2nd amendment allows one to carry any time, permit notwithstanding, but who wants to go to the Supreme Court to test it. If you have to use deadly force as a last resort because there was NO alternative, you probably will end up in court anyway, more than once, but you'll be alive.


Q:  Do you have any information on shotgun slug loads?

A: The best source for shotgun loads is Lyman's shotshell reloading manual. Lyman also makes a 12 ga slug mold that has given me the best results.  It casts a hollow base, 500-525 grain slug.  Not a Foster type, this slug has a narrow waist that makes it look like an oversized pneumatic's pellet.  It was designed specifically to fit into a Winchester red wad (ww12r)which protects the rifled slug barrel from leading. I use Winchester 209 primers with Federal 2 3/4" Gold Medal hulls, because they have the most internal volume.
Lyman's recipe calls for 44 grains of 4756 and a regular taper crimp for about 1600 fps.  Groups under 3 inches at 100 yards with my 1100 are not uncommon, although the recoil is formidable.  The pre-cast slugs are also available from Lyman.  For safety's sake, double check any loads you get from me or anyone else with what's printed in the manual, and don't make any substitutions.  Best of luck with your slugs, Gardner


Q:  What do you think of the 45 GAP round, and have you used it?

A:  Winchester has recently solved the bullet weight limitation of the 45 Gap due to its short length. Now 230 grain high pressure loadings are available that closely approximate the power of the low pressure 45 ACP. I have yet to chronograph the Gap round in the shorter barrels, and I suspect that the published figures may be optomistic. I've documented what happens to the 45 ACP as the barrel length changes from 5", 4.25", 4"", 3.5", and to 3".

The shorter GAP round will more easily fit the existing 9mm and 40sw magazine wells, and the GAP's power  will beat both the 9 and 40 hands down.  But if one wishes to push the pressure of the old 45ACP, even just a little, in suitably strong, modern, 1911 style pistols, well, do the math. My hard cast and heat treated 225 grain round noses at 1000 fps will penetrate two car doors, and my 230 grain Hornady XTP at 950 fps is spectacular on gallon plastic jugs of water.  For penetration, the Cor Bon DPX is the only factory load that can penetrate car doors.  Rapid fire with nearly 500 ft lbs per shot can be a blast once one gets into the swing of it.  In my opinion, the 45 ACP still rules.


Q:  Can I get your opinion on .45 defensive loads? I am currently using Winchester 230 Grain JHP's (Black Talon's), I also have Winchester 185 gr. JHP's (Silvertip).

A:  As far as over the counter defensive ammo goes, I think you've got some of the best. I try to stick with one weight (the heaviest) because the point of impact and force cadence of follow up shots will be consistent. Though at close range, it won't matter. Precision shooting in an hostage situation would be different. The Kimber Super Match is shipped with a five shot one inch (usually less) 25 yard target.

I use 230 grain Federal premium Hydra-Shoks because I like the nickel plated corrosion resistance, and they feel similar to the Federal American Eagle FMJ's. Besides they're made in Mpls. I think. Normally I shoot my own +P reloads. I started my three boys with light loads, but they preferred the heavy ones right off the bat. Once, I got a call in the AM at my office that a porcupine was wandering around our country  home. I told them to call the DNR, who said we should destroy it. The middle son grabbed my loaded gold cup and proceeded to tear the bark off the tree near the animal, to no effect. It was because I had loaded 185 HP's in it, for a change, instead of the 230's he was used to. Needless to say, I switched back for good to the heavier bullets.

It really doesn't matter what you use, as long as you use it a lot. That's the fun of it.


Q:  What do you think about Para Ordinance and Glock?

A:  Para Ordinance is top of the line, and, yes, pricey. The action of the slide cocks the main hammer spring, but not the hammer. It's an ingenious design. The trigger needs only overcome a small secondary hammer spring with a long, light pull that cocks the hammer back to a point where the main spring is released. The effortless trigger pull is sweet, and letoff is crisp.

The Glock trigger is similar, but it's internal striker is cocked. The Glock trigger shoe has been known to hang up during pocketing, producing accidental discharges. Glock has produced a finger nail shaped block to be placed between the back of the trigger and rear of the trigger guard as an added safety. The block needs to be pushed out prior to firing.

These triggers are both easy to use and conducive to accurate shooting, more so than the stiff DAO designs. But it is interesting that the best defensive and trick shooters of the last century used DA revolvers. My preference is for the SA and alloy single stack frame for lightweight and thin profile inside the waistband. The small size of the Kimber Ultra CDP makes it inconspicuous during all day carry. I must admit, though, at the range I prefer the series 70 gold cup, the stainless commander size, and the High Standard.


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