For years I’ve considered buying a rifle or carbine for defensive use. It never rated high on the priority list since I always considered myself a shotgun guy when it came to personal or home defense. I’ve spent a few years looking at various rifles and carbines from a noncommittal standpoint and became pretty well versed with what was on the market. I knew all the specs and read all the reviews online and in magazines. I’ve even handled and shot a few varieties. It was safe to say that I was unbiased toward any particular design. The AK has its strengths and weakness, as did the AR platform. I knew I wasn’t interested in guns chambered in larger calibers like .308 or 7.62x54R. These serve a purpose, but not the one I wanted to fill. I knew my desires landed in the intermediate cartridges like .556 or 7.62×39. Ammo availability and price are always a concern when I’m looking at a gun.
I let a friend know that I was getting serious about figuring out what kind of rifle I wanted, he invited me to stop by the defensive training range he works at. He arranged for there to be several rifles there so I could look, feel, and shoot each one to get more familiar with the features I wanted. This was a blessing since purchasing a defensive rifle can be a pretty big investment. After some basic instruction on the designs, we hit the range. I quickly decided that I favored the AR platform. Luckily there were five variations available to test out. They ranged from polymer lower guns to a custom competition gun put together by a very competent armorer.
Now that I knew what I wanted, it was time to start the shopping process. I was back to the internet and magazines to read reviews with a very critical eye. My budget put me somewhere in the middle of the AR world. I wasn’t going to be buying a LaRue or Daniel Defense, but I wasn’t stuck looking in the bargain bins either. With the research done, it was time to get some hands on at every gun store I could get to. Luckily we have several great tactical weapons suppliers in the greater D/FW area. Bushmaster, SIG, DPMS… I handled them all. After a couple of weeks I ended up at the local Cabela’s retail store. Their selection is pretty good and prices are competitive. What was even better was ending up with an employee that was not only knowledgeable, he was willing to spend as much time as needed with me. I had already handled most of their offerings at other stores, so he handed me a rifle I hadn’t touched before. Like most people, I’d never heard of Windham Weaponry. I was leery of a rifle that I hadn’t seen in the gun magazines.
The Initial Impression
As soon as he handed me the gun, I went to town with my initial review. Pop the pins, open it up and see what it looks like on the inside. Most ARs sport the same features externally, so I wanted to see how well the manufacturer treated areas that usually aren’t seen. Attention to detail is important. If a company cuts corners where no one can see, where else will they try to save a few bucks?
Internally, the Windham looked good. No rough machine marks could be found in the upper or lower receivers. The bolt looked very good and I was pleased to see that not only was the gas key staked, it was staked well. Research had told me that Windham performs pressure tests and MPI tests. Even though there is no way to visually verify that, it means that they are serious about the quality of their components.
Externally, the Windham looks like most other ARs. All of the pieces fit together tightly and the finish on both aluminum and steel are even. It has all the features expected such as a dust cover, forward assist, and collapsible stock. It is a very straightforward offering. As the cliche in the AR world says, “All the features you need, and none you don’t”. This was perfect for me since I already had ideas about customizing it to suit me.
So after being impressed with the quality and the very few reviews available, I decided to take the Windham home with me. What made the deal sweeter was a sale price on the gun. Those that have been reading my site for a while know how much I love good deals on guns!
To be completely honest, the range review will be a little skewed. From my previous range date, I knew that I wanted to add some goodies to the gun right off the bat. Let’s face it, ARs are Barbie dolls for grown men and offer countless accessories. Before heading to the range, I added a couple of goodies from Magpul. I opted to install the MOE handgaurd and the ACS buttstock. The buttstock changes the way the rifle shoulders and improves cheekweld. I also picked up a handful of 30 round PMags.
For the initial testing, I brought a few different rounds: .223 55gr FMJ from Remington, 5.56 62gr FMJ from Lake City, and .223 55gr FMJ steel case ammo from Tula. The reason the steel case ammo was tested was because of the cheaper price. Some gun enthusiasts might never consider steel case in an AR, but I believe if it works, take advantage of the cheaper practice!
The Windham digested 2 boxes of each of the brass ammo and I was on my third box of Wolf when I experienced a failure to eject (FTE). After looking everything over, I found a bit of crud under the extractor. A quick flick of the wrist with a dental pick and we were back in business. Since that initial FTE, I have experienced no other issues. So far I have put about 2000 rounds through it. If I shoot a few hundred rounds of steel case ammo, I’ll check under the extractor any make sure there is no buildup that might lead to another FTE.
Even shooting as much as I have, I haven’t taken the time to do a true accuracy test. The range I shoot at is geared to defensive training, so the longest range they offer is around 35 yards. The most thorough testing I’ve done is shooting some military BZO targets. These targets offer a small target designed to be shot from 30 yards. At this distance, the size of the target is the same as a man sized target at 300 yards. Even with my poor eyesight and using irons, I am able to keep them on target. The trigger lends to accuracy right out of the box. There is very little takeup, and the release is about as crisp as I’ve found. I would compare it to a lot of better bolt guns.
So far, I’ve used this gun for one carbine class. Even with some rapid fire exercises to heat everything up, the gun ran as well as any other participants’ gun in the class and better that most.
The most telling review I’ve received is from other shooters at the range. Several law enforcement officers and prior service military personnel have shot my Windham and have been impressed. The consensus is that it is a well crafted gun and Windham will be able to raise their prices once they develop their customer base. The gun compares in quality to guns that cost hundreds more.
In closing I’d like to say that I feel comfortable recommending this gun to anyone looking for a solid AR. I’d also like to thank the guys over at Proactive Defense for putting up with me while I was researching, asking questions, and learning more about the AR platform. If you need any defensive training in the north Texas area, you can’t find a more knowledgeable, experienced, or friendlier group of guys.
It should comes as no surprise that I have a bit of a gear addiction. It’s also safe to say that my addiction includes knives. I have knives of all sorts, types, and configurations. So much so that I pretty much have a knife for every occasion. I know better than to look at new knives because it usually results in purchase of that particular knife. The responsible part of me has learned to only buy knives when they fit a specific need (I believe this is called justifying an impulse buy!) and have a fair price tag. Sometimes this works well for me, and sometimes I buy knives I can’t really justify. My latest purchase turned out to be the former.
I was looking for a small fixed blade knife that would look appropriate when I’m sporting tactical style pants. I have a small Marbles knife that has served me well, but the brown leather sheath and stag antler handle stand out like a sore thumb on a BDU belt and tactical pants. I could usually care less about how I look, but for some reason this style faux-pas was unacceptable. So the search for the perfect knife begins….
The number of “survival” and “tactical” knives available is staggering. A lot of them are nice, some are complete crap. Each one that seems to work well has a cult following. I decided to delve into the information on the internet to see if I could sort the wheat from the chaff. As is turns out, only a few knives seem to have great reviews. With the state of Texas having laws in place that limit us to 5.5 inches, that narrowed it down a little further. I tend to hate any sort of radical design for fixed blade knives, so now there are even fewer. That was a lot of searching to find most companies either have a stupid looking design or are made of substandard materials.
I’ve heard of the RAT Cutlery knives for years, and the guys over at In The Rabbit Hole Podcast seem to really like them. I figured they were worth looking at. Some internet research revealed that the RAT name is licensed to Ontario Knife, and that the original manufacturer now uses the name ESEE. I managed to snag one at the local gun show for a little less than retail price. Make no mistake, these aren’t inexpensive knives. These are top quality in both material and construction. After much rambling, it’s time to get to the particulars of my perfect new belt knife.
The model I ended up with is the ESEE Izula II. Apparenty, the Izula is a pretty serious little ant in the Amazon jungle. The knife lives up to its namesake. It is sleek, slender, and ready to sting.
To save time, I’m going to borrow the specs directly from the ESEE website. I hope they don’t mind!
O.A Length: 6.75″
Blade Length (end of handle to tip): 2.88″
Cutting Edge Length: 2 5/8″
O.A. Blade Length: 2 3/4″
Maximum Thickness: .156″
1095 Steel – 57 Rc.
Blade Width: 1.0″
Handles: Canvas Micarta
Weight: 3.2 Ounces (Knife & Handles Only)
Sheathing: Injection Molded, Black
Pommel: .550″ Diameter Hole To Accommodate Carabiner
Spine: Thumb Grippers
Finish: Textured Powder Coat
My initial impressions were pretty favorable. The knife balances very well and they handle shape and size is very comfortable. The Micarta handle offers a no-slip grip. But as always, the best way to judge a knife is to use it. Here at Surviving Modern Life, I prefer to abuse the hell out of something before I give it a favorable review.
A weekend camping trip proved to be a great testing ground to see if this knife could handle my particular brand of abuse. Like I said, I wanted to give it a thorough test, so I wasn’t concerned about marring the finish or chipping the blade. Turns out, I didn’t need too. The first round of testing involved wild onions. They were growing everywhere in the rocky soil around the creek. Out comes the knife and into the ground it goes. It turns out that wild onions can really hold on to the ground. Each onion dug out required digging around it and loosening up all the rocks to get it out. When you use a knife to dig, you generally don’t like to hear crunching or scraping sounds. There were plenty of knife killing sounds going on. I got my harvest of onions then washed the knife off in the creek. I did dry it on my pants before resheathing out of habit.
The next round came before dinner time. It was time to start a fire and I went all out on knife abuse. The blade is less than 3 inches long, so it isn’t optimal for batoning wood. I’m not one to let “less than optimal” hold me back. Into a chunk of oak goes the knife and I proceed to beat on it with another log. Pretty soon I have a neat little pile of kindling and a couple of bloody knuckles. Now I know why a longer knife is preferable for this technique! Now I finally have some damage on my knife. The powdercoat finish on the blade flatten out a little bit. It didn’t peel off at all, just lost some of the texture. Functionality isn’t affected at all, just the cosmetics.
Now it’s on to dinnertime. I could have grabbed my Mora. I could have grabbed the kitchen knife we brought. Oh please, we’re in the middle of a gear test! After a quick washing, the Izula is in the camp kitchen. Of course I can’t find many ways to abuse it in the kitchen. The best I could do was some food chopping on the aluminum table. Since the knife has a Rockwell hardness of 57, I could have cut the table in two without damaging the blade.
At this point I decided to call it on further testing. I couldn’t think of any other sinister tests that would mimic real life use. I have to say I was very impressed. Now onto my not impressed impressions.
The sheath that comes with the knife is a hard plastic job that the knife fits into snugly. Unfortunately, it’s just a sheath. It doesn’t even include a belt clip. These are sold separately. I ended up using paracord to lash it to my belt for the weekend. Even if I was inclined to buy a belt clip, the knife would sit way too high on my belt. There are folks out there that offer leather and Kydex sheaths in a traditional style. This is the option I took. I found a great sheath from Endless Mountain Supply on Ebay.
The next issue I take with the knife is the Micarta handles. They start out a very pretty subdued greenish gray color. After using it with dirty hands for a weekend, it darkened quite a bit. Now it’s almost black. The functionality and grip are unaffected however.
I’m so impressed with the durability and craftsmanship in this knife that I’m now planning to purchase the ESEE 4, which is the same knife with a 4+ inch blade. I love the size of the Izula, but some jobs require a little more blade. I can safely say that if you are in the market for a higher end knife, you can’t go wrong. It has all the attention to details that you usually find from custom makers for a fraction of the custom price. ESEE gets the Surviving Modern Life endorsement. I look forward to getting the ESEE 4 and giving it the same style of abusive testing.
There are a lot of lists out there on items that you should have in your preps. These include items for barter and items to have on hand even if you don’t know how to use them, “just in case” someone else might know how to use them. I think stocking items like this will tie up money and storage space that can be much better used for items that you can and will use in daily life or if the world goes to hell in a handbasket. Having all sorts of great HAM radio gear costs a ton of money to buy and can take up quite a bit of space. Being a licensed radio operator, I can assure you that just having the equipment will do you no good whatsoever. There is a significant learning curve on using HAM to make contact with other operators. Unless you are practicing these skill already, you won’t have the ability to use this gear when you need it. I encourage everyone to become proficient in communications, but I’ll never recommend that someone buy radio gear “just in case” For the price of a good transceiver and antenna you can put back a ton of beans. Literally a TON of beans. In my opinion, barter items are in the same boat. If you overstock ammo with some trade in mind, that’s not too bad because you can use that ammo yourself if there is no need to barter. I hear a lot of people that store liquor for barter, but they don’t drink at all. I like a good drink, so I know exactly how expensive liquor can be. Don’t get me wrong, if you drink it’s all good to store some of your favorite beverage. It will store indefinitely and I can think of nothing better than facing the end of the world with a nice Bourbon to take the edge off. However, I’m not going to tie up hundreds of dollars to store a luxury item before additional food or medical supplies. Now that I have my rant out of the way, we’ll look at some items that you can feel confident about storing without worrying about overstocking. Of course, I’m a proponent of “Store what you eat, eat what you store”, so rotating these items shouldn’t be a major problem. You should only be limited by the amount of space you have available to you. This list isn’t meant to be completely inclusive, so use your judgment on what would serve you and your family. Also, note that the list is not in any particular order, so don’t feel the need to add any items in order of appearance.
Water – You can never have too much, but it is bulky. Have a way to purify water from outside sources!
Rice – White rice stores a really long time. Wild and Brown rice have a much shorter life span.
Beans of all types
Canned meats – only store these if you are willing to eat them!
Powdered milk – You’ll need to learn to cook with this, so practice now.
Home canned goods.
Dehydrated foods – These take up very little space and store for a long time.
Freeze dried foods – These are a little pricey, but can’t be beat for shelf life.
Dried eggs – Check out the OvaEasy brand. They are amazing!
Powdered drink mixes
MREs – Try before you stock up. They are calorie dense, but some people despise the foods within.
Soap – Bar and liquid
Shampoo and Conditioner
Over the counter medications
Batteries – all sizes and types used in your household
Cordage – stock a variety of sizes and types
Ammunition – This is also a great hedge against inflation since the price only seems to go up!
Gasoline – Gas must be treated to increase shelf life, so plan for this if you have long term in mind
Kerosene or lamp oil
Seeds – Heirloom varieties ensure a supply of seeds from the garden year after year
Currency – None of us can ever have too much money!
Canning lids and rings
Like I said earlier, this isn’t a complete list, nor is it in any particular order. Each person or family’s needs will vary a little bit, so each of us will need to evaluate what should be in our preps. If I have any glaring oversights, please feel free to leave a comment so we can build this list up on items that we can never have too much of.
Once again, I’ve managed to stumble on a great deal on a great weapon for zombie defense. My endless hours of reading all things gun related on the internet yielded another interesting firearm I needed to check out. I love finding good guns for great prices to add to the collection. The latest find covers that important niche of home defense. We’re all familiar with the benefits of shotguns in home defense, and how potent they can be if hoards of the undead show up at your door. I’m a firm believer in the power and versatility of shotguns, and I’ve been a fan of pump guns for their reliability. I’ve shot dozens of different shotguns over the years from the cheapest pumps up to the legendary “B” guns like Benelli, Browning, and Beretta. Each has their place, but I always come back to the pump guns. In my opinion, they are the most durable action available. This can be evidenced by the fact that they are widely used in police and military applications. I’m not going to criticize anyone that owns a semi-auto or double barrel by any means, but I personally favor the pump shotguns for most applications. Now that I’ve got my ramblings about preference out of the way, we can get to the point of the gun in question…
H&R has been in the gun business for over a century. They’ve long been known for offering reliable guns for a cheap price. They’ve gone through more than a few ownership changes over the years, but still offer great guns and wonderful customer service. I own several of their guns and have yet to have a problem. Their mainstay is the single shot platform in both shotguns and rifles. I’m a firm believer that you can’t go wrong doing business with them. Recently they started to branch out and expand their line. Part of that expansion is into the pump shotgun market. I was hesitant to jump on board at first since they weren’t manufacturing the guns themselves. I was unsure about quality and simply put, I prefer to buy guns made in America. With that said, I did my research about their pump guns and couldn’t find any negative reviews. I’ve been wanting a short barrel 12 gauge pump for a while and looked at all the offerings. Remington and Mossberg are the go to in this market, but I was turned off by the price of new pump guns. That’s where H&R comes in. They offer their Pardner line of pump guns that are imported copies of the famous Remington 870. The model that caught my eye is the Pardner Protector. It seemed to fit the bill on what I was wanting with a much less expensive price. I hit the road in search of one to put my hands on. After visiting the local gun show and a couple of local stores with no success, I went to the Cabela’s store here in north Texas. Luck was with me on that trip. Not only was one available to handle, it was on sale for Christmas. The salesman hands me the gun to check out and I begin my overly thorough examination at the gun counter. I’m sure I irritate sales staff with these examinations, but I like to do my due diligence before forking over my hard earned cash.
The Initial Examination
As I was handed the gun my first impression was “This thing is built like a tank!” It’s a little on the heavy side, but the proper balance is there. Now I start looking for this little flaws in machining and finish that tell me if the gun is manufactured as cheaply and quickly as possible. I’m sure it is, but I want to see if attention to detail is there. Looking over the crown of the barrel and fit of the receiver to the stock, I’m pleasantly surprised. Everything looks good. Opening the action reveals the same satisfaction. All the guts look smooth and they fit together like they should. The only flaw I could really see is that the oil from the gun interacted with the styrofoam in the box to create this sticky white residue on the top of the receiver. I can deal with that later.
Now onto the workings… Pumping the action reveals a solid feel with the forearm. That’s always a big selling point for me. If the forearm feels wobbly, it’s a big turn off. I grab this one, shake it a little, then rack the action. Solid feel for sure. Sliding the forearm forward feels solid too. The receiver locks in good and of course it makes that incredible sound known the world over. I’m pretty sure I was grinning at this point. A few more racks of the action and I’m convinced. I grab the barrel to make sure it fits the receiver well with no play. Another solid fit. Now it’s time to look at that price tag hanging from the trigger guard. $159.99 for a limited time only! SOLD! Now it’s time for all that fun stuff like Form 4473 and waiting for the background check.
Now to cover the basics of the gun. The H&R Pardner Protector sports a black synthetic stock and forearm. It comes with an 18.5 inch barrel chambered for 3 inch shells. It doesn’t come tapped for chokes, but I’m not interested in that for a gun with a short barrel. It does, however, come drilled and tapped for mounting optics, sights, or a rail on the receiver. The receiver is almost identical to the Remington 870. Since it is made of steel rather than an alloy, it’s more a copy of the 870 Police model rather than the 870 Express. This was a big selling point for me since the Police model 870 is pretty freaking expensive. Overall length is a little over 37.5 inches and it weighs in at 7.5 pounds empty. That’s a touch heavy for a short barrel shotgun, but it feels balanced in the hands. Capacity is 5+1 using 2 3/4 inch shells. Most of the Remington 870 accessories will work on this gun without modification. The big exception is replacement barrels. I’ve read that 870 barrels can be modified to fit, but with other barrels available from H&R, I don’t see the point in modifying a Remington barrel. Magazine extensions are iffy as well. As far as I can find out, Remington tubes are too long. Wilson Combat makes a +1 extension tube that is rumored to fit. I’ll be giving this a shot in the near future. Another nice addition is the gun comes with sling attachments, including a swivel at the end of the magazine.
After getting the gun home and cleaned up, it was time to figure out when I could get out and put it through its paces. Luckily, my cousin called me up wanting to shoot a few rounds of skeet. We got to the range and walked up to the skeet field. Needless to say I got some chuckles when I uncased a black shotgun with an 18.5 inch barrel. One of the other shooters asked if I was expecting a riot on the skeet range. I just took it all in stride and got myself together for our first round. I step up, load a couple of shells and get set. “PULL!” “BANG!” Then a clay turns into a little cloud of black dust. Now I’m the one chuckling while a couple of other shooters are wondering if their foot will fit in the mouth. The first round went well for me and I finished up breaking 20 birds out of 25. Now the other shooters are interested in what kind of gun I’m using to outshoot them. We ended up shooting 6 rounds which comes out to 150 shots. Every time the gun fed the shell in smoothly and put lead downrange. I was expecting a hiccup somewhere in there since new guns tend to run a little tight. Not an issue one. I’m pretty abusive on a pump shotgun when shooting clays, so I was a little concerned. I’ve actually broken the slide arm on a Mossberg 500 at a previous range trip. The Protector took the abuse in stride. 150 rounds in rapid succession is a good way to get a gun hot and dirty, especially using cheap shells. Even when it got hot, the Protector ran smoothly. Overall, we had a great time at the range and the Protector proved itself.
I had concerns about the gun when I was researching before buying. H&R Pumps are manufactured in China and that can be hit or miss with quality. After my experiences with this gun, H&R did well when selecting a manufacturer. They felt comfortable enough to put their name on it, and I feel comfortable giving it my personal endorsement. I know there are plenty of purists out there that say they would never buy a Chinese gun, but I would point out them that China has a long track record of making some fine firearms. Anyone will admit that Chinese SKS rifles are top notch, and just about anything else labeled Norinco. I prefer to buy as local as possible, but I’m also have an eye for a good deal that fits my budget. The Protector fits that bill. This gun gets the seal of approval for quality, function, and finish. I would recommend it to a friend and to any of my readers that are looking for a reliable weapon for home defense or the zombie apocalypse. I really tried to look for flaws or issues and haven’t had much luck finding anything wrong other than the weight of the gun. It’s slightly heavier than the comparable Remington 870 Police model. Even this isn’t much of a flaw since I carried it around for an afternoon without much fatigue. If you are looking for a good deal, this might be the gun for you. I plan to add a few accessories to my gun, including a collapsible stock and the Wilson Combat mag tube extension. Once I get around to these modifications, I’ll revisit the gun in an article to let everyone know how well everything fits.
As promised, an article on the basics of reloading shotgun shells! If you read the previous article on centerfire ammo reloading, you’ll notice quite a few similarities. You’ll also notice that there are some differences in construction. Shotshells do follow the basic process of other ammo reloading in that you still have a case, called a hull, a primer, propellant, and a projectile (actually a lot of small projectiles). We’ll add to that list a wad, also known as a shot cup. This is a small plastic device to hold the shot together and protect it from hot gases on its trip down the barrel. Once the shot and wad exit the barrel, the wad has served its purpose and will fall to the ground while the shot continues on to your target.
Another difference between shotshells and centerfire cartridges is the equipment used to reload. There is shotgun specific reloading equipment that won’t work for centerfire reloading. Initial investment can run about the same as getting set up for centerfire reloading, so a lot of people choose to start with one or the other. At the time in my life when I started reloading, I was doing a lot of shotgun shooting, and I mean a LOT. It was normal for a couple of buddies to get together and shoot three cases of shotshells over a weekend. I was lucky enough to have a friend’s dad be a former skeet shooter that no longer wanted to reload. I was able to buy his press and enough components to reload 3 cases of shells for a hundred dollar bill. I never did the math on return of investment, but I would imagine it paid for itself within a week with the amount of shooting I was doing.
Polyformed versus Compression Formed Shotshell Hulls.
Before we get into the actually construction and process of reloading shotshells, we need to look at the types of hulls commonly available. The two most common hulls on the market differ in the way they are made, and this has a huge impact on reloading. Polyformed shotshells are the most common in factory loaded ammo because they are cheaper to manufacture. These are easy to identify because the plastic part of the hull has a slight ribbed texture to them. Most companies offer these type in their less expensive game and target loads. They can be reloaded, but the results are less than stellar. You have to find load data specifically for them to be safe, and the crimps don’t hold very well, so you might have shot leaking out in the box or in the magazine of your gun. These hulls are also slightly weaker, so they are prone to cracking or tearing when reloaded. In my opinion, it’s best to leave them out when selecting hulls to reload.
Compression formed hulls are smooth to the touch (they lack the ribbed feel). These hulls are used in factory loaded ammunition and usually cost quite a bit more. A couple of examples of factory ammo that use compression formed hulls are Remington STS and Winchester AA. These offerings can sometimes cost twice as much as other shells. The compression formed hulls are considerably more durable and can be reloaded several times before they need to be replaced. These hulls hold a crimp well and offer a better reloading experience. It’s best to stick with these types of hulls for all of your reloading needs.
The Construction and Operation
Shotshell construction differs quite a bit from rifle or pistol cartridges. This is the main reason for the difference in equipment. The concepts and a few components are the same, but shotshells add another component that centerfire cartridges don’t have, the wad. A wad is a plastic device that looks similar to a badminton birdie. Its main purpose is to hold the shot charge while it travels down the barrel. It also serves to protect the shot charge from the hot gases from the burning powder. Without a wad, the shot pattern of the shotgun would be awful, and the hot gases would deform a lot of the shot, even further destroying the pattern and accuracy. The next component is the shot charge. Rather than a single projectile, shotguns offer a charge of small, round pellets that spread out once they leave the barrel. Shot comes in all sorts of sizes and materials to suit the needs of the shooter. Since reloading data is measured by weight, what size you use can be determined by your needs. There isn’t load data specifically for individual shot sizes, but rather how much shot you add. Examples would be a 7/8oz load or a 1 1/8oz load. Load data will be the same for the 7/8oz load whether you opt for small #8 shot or larger pellets like #4.
Now that we’ve covered the differences from centerfire, we can look at the similarities. Shotshells use a primer to ignite a powder charge to generate the force to propel the shot charge down the barrel. This concept is identical to centerfire cartridges. The primers are larger, but they serve the same purpose. When you shoot a loaded shell in a shotgun, the firing pin strikes the primer to ignite the powder which burns to create a lot of hot gases. These push the wad containing the shot charge down the barrel. Once the wad and shot charge leave the barrel the shot charge continues on to target while the wad falls to the ground. Wads are disposable, one-use pieces, so there’s no need to go find them and attempt to re-use them. Luckily they are very inexpensive.
Most shotshell presses offer “stations” that perform each step. Some require each hull to be moved manually to the next station and some will automatically move the hull for you. One feature most offer is that you can have hulls in each station at the same time so as you are completing the first step on one hull, the next station is completing its step on another. This really speeds up the process.
1. Depriming and resizing.
This step only applies if you are using hulls that have already been fired. You can skip this step if you are using new hulls. Basically it is exactly as it sounds. The spent primer is forced out of the primer pocket and at the same time the brass portion of the hull is forced back to factory specified size. This ensures your hull will fit the chamber of your shotgun.
Once you have a hull prepared, the next step is to seat a new primer. Shotshell reloading presses have a specific station just for this because primers contain small amounts of explosive mixtures. You have to use the specialized tools on the press to do this. If you try to install a primer by hand, it’s very possible to ignite the primer. Different presses have different ways of delivering the primer under the hull, but mine is simple. I set a primer in a small recess and the press pushes the hull down onto it.
3. Adding the Powder Charge.
Once you have a primer in, you add the gun powder. Most shotshell presses have a slide bar that you move to one side to drop a pre-measured powder charge. Once you slide it over, it uses gravity to deliver the powder through a tube into the hull.
4. Inserting the Wad.
On most presses, this step is completed in the same station as adding powder. You set the wad at the open case mouth and pull the lever to force the wad into the hull. There are varying amounts of pressure to seat specific wads, so you’ll need to make sure the seating force is set properly on the press. Once the wad is seated in the hull, you proceed to the next step which is usually done in the same station.
5. Adding the Shot Charge.
With most presses, that same slide bar that adds the powder will add the shot charge. you simply slide it the other way to gravity feed the shot into the hull on top of the wad. If you’ve added the proper amount of charge, there should still be a small amount of empty space at the case mouth of the hull.
Crimping the case mouth serves to close off the case mouth to hold in the shot charge. This step should seal up the end of the hull well enough that shot stay in, even with some rough handling. From the factory, most crimping dies are set pretty well and don’t require much fine tuning to get a good crimp. Occasionally, you might need to adjust the crimp die. In my personal experiences, this can be a headache. Set it too deep and the end looks like a funnel that lets shot out. Crimp too shallow and you have a funky looking dome that lets shot out. Adjusting the die just right should result in a crimp that looks identical to factory loaded ammunition. If you have to adjust the die, plan on screwing it up a few times while you fine tune it. Patience (which I rarely have) is paramount on setting the dies!
Some Thoughts on Specialty Reloading.
The process I’ve just described works for most of your shotshell needs. I’ve reloaded for target shooting like trap and skeet as well as game loads for dove and small game. The shot charges are measured in ounces and the press will automatically load the proper amount if you install the correct bushing in the slide bar.
Buckshot varies from the process in that it cannot flow well through the slide bar on most presses. Once you get to the point of adding a charge of buckshot, you will need to count the individual pellets and add them to the hull. Larger buckshot requires that you stack it in the hull in a certain way so that the proper number of pellets will fit. Buffer material is usually added to the shot charge to provide cushion to the lead pellets. This prevents deformation which can lead to poor patterns. I recommend using commercially available buffer material. You might find some load data that recommend using all sorts of things including corn meal. Just don’t. It might have been good 80 years ago, but we have better options today. Cornmeal and other materials might get damp and clump up or bind together. It is best to use the best materials available for reloading.
Some people are going to want to load their own slugs. I’ve never loaded slugs so I’m not willing to offer advice on the subject. There is a lot of information available from other sources, so if you want slugs you are on your own. I might learn the techniques at some point and cover it in a later article, but for now I’ll leave it alone.
As always, I have some comments on safety. When reloading any type of cartridge, you will be dealing with gunpowder and explosive primers. Safe handling procedures are paramount. I don’t want to hear about any of my readers losing a finger or starting a fire in their garage. Please pay attention and follow all the rules and processes carefully. As I stated in the article on centerfire cartridges, only use PUBLISHED load data. There is a lot of data people offer up on the internet, but unless it can be verified as safe, stick with the data from component manufacturers.
If you want to start reloading for shotshells, make your first purchase a reloading manual. This will get you all the load data you need and lots of great information on reloading in general. For shotshell reloading, I highly recommend the Lyman Shotshell Reloading Handbook. It has great load data and step by step instructions for safe reloading. This is the book I rely on most for my shotshell reloading needs.
A major part of being self reliant is the willingness to take our personal protection into our own hands. As survivalists and preppers, most of us own firearms and are at least somewhat proficient in their use. That takes practice and ammo costs money. I believe that training and practice are worth every penny, especially if you ever need the skills in a defensive situation. If you shoot much at all, you’ve noticed that the price of ammo is constantly going up. Honing the shooting skills can quickly get expensive. The best way to reduce this cost is reloading your own ammunition. I want to give you the basic information that will let you decide if reloading is an endeavor that would benefit you personally. I won’t be going into great detail on the processes because I’m a firm believer that the most important information should come from published, trusted sources. I can recommend where to get technical information about reloading processes and load data. You should never trust load data that isn’t published in a book from a component manufacturer.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks to learning to reload is the misconception that the initial startup costs are too high. I’ve proven personally that you can get the equipment and components you need for a reasonable price, less than $100 in some cases. Another major stumbling block is the idea that reloading is complicated and dangerous. It’s a very simple process and will only be dangerous if you don’t follow simple directions and pay attention to simple safety guidelines. I’ve been reloading for years and years without any sort of accident or mishap. Reloading is no more dangerous that filling a car up with gas or using household cleaning chemicals. With all of that said, we can get into the fun stuff!
The best place to start is to cover how ammunition is constructed. Then I’ll move into the actual reloading process. I’m going to be breaking this into two Articles, Centerfire cartridges and Shotshells. Each has its own basic construction and process, and use different equipment. Today we’ll be covering centerfire cartridges.
Centerfire cartridges can be anything from the little .25 ACP up to the 50BMG. As different as they may seem, these two cartridges are constructed the same way and of the same materials. All of the components in a cartridge are a case, a primer, a bullet, and a propellant. Cases are generally made of brass, but some are steel or aluminum. Brass is the only suitable material for reloading. Bullets can be made from all sorts of materials, but the most common are lead alloys and lead alloy jacketed with copper. A primer is the small round button on the bottom of the cartridge. They are a small metal case with a chemical mixture inside that ignites with explosive force when struck by the firing pin of a gun. This small explosion is the “spark” to ignite the propellant charge. Propellants, commonly referred to as powder or gunpowder, come in various textures and burn rates but all of them serve the same purpose. They burn rapidly and create a high volume of hot gas. This hot gas expands rapidly and provides the force to move the bullet down the barrel and out to the target. Different propellants have different burn rates that are suited for specific purposes. Generally speaking, pistol and shotgun powders burn very fast compared to most rifle powders.
The process to reloading these cartridges can be boiled down to inserting a primer into a case, adding a powder charge through the neck of the case, then seating a bullet into the neck. Of course this is stating it very simply and there are a lot of other factors that go into reloading. There are a couple of steps added if you use cases that have been used before. Depriming is the first. The old primer needs to be removed. Resizing is a big step in using fired cases. This forces the brass back into specified size and shape. Cases that have been fired multiple times can “grow” in length, so they must be trimmed back to proper length. Once these steps are taken, the case should be back to factory specs and can be reloaded. For the step by step, we’ll assume the use of new brass that won’t require additional steps. The basic steps are as follows:
1. Priming the case
This step is pretty self explanatory. You use a priming tool to insert a new primer into the primer pocket on the bottom of the case. Because the case now contains a live primer, it should be handled accordingly. Treat it as you would a live round.
2. Adding the powder charge
Using published load data for the cartridge and powder you pick, you add a very specific amount of powder to the case. Different equipment setups do this by different means, but it can be as simple as pouring a measured amount through a small funnel.
3. Seating the bullet
Once powder is added, a bullet is seated into the neck of the cartridge. The bullets usually are of a slightly larger diameter than the case neck, so it is a tight fit to protect against the bullet falling into the case or coming out of its own accord. Some processes call for using a special tool to crimp the bullet into place. This usually isn’t required, but it does have some benefit.
At this point you have a live round of whatever cartridge you are loading. Now I’m going to get considerably more technical about components. You can’t just pick powder and bullet combinations at random. The first step in selecting a combination is finding published load data for the combination you want to use. The reason you should only use published load data is because the cartridge, bullet and powder combination have been thoroughly tested to ensure they will work together in a safe and efficient manner. Developing your own load data requires substantial knowledge and specialized equipment. You might run into some reloaders that claim to develop their own loads by estimating chamber pressures and velocities. This is an unsafe practice since there are countless variables that can influence pressures and velocity. Sticking to published load data from bullet or powder manufacturers is the only way to ensure the load you use is safe. A lot of people decide what bullet they want to use, then look at load data to determine what powder will meet their needs. For any given bullet and cartridge, there might be a dozen or more suitable powders. I base my powder choices on several things; recommendations of other shooters, availability, and price are determining factors for me.
Bullet selection should be based on your desired purpose. Are you going to be using this ammo for practice? An inexpensive full metal jacket (FMJ) should work well. Are you going to be big game hunting? There are hundreds of bullets designed specifically for hunting. Are you shooting long range at varmints? “Varmint” bullets are available that basically come apart on impact to prevent ricochet. Other experienced shooters and reloaders can help you select the right bullet for the job.
Some words of advice and caution… I’ve been pretty adamant so far about following published load data in this article. That means follow the load data to the letter. Do not substitute powders or bullets. Any deviation from the data can take a safe load into the world of ruined gun and injured or dead shooters. I’ve intentionally been vague on details of each step of the process and the equipment to use because no one should read an article on a blog and think they know enough to jump right into reloading. At this point, if you are interested you have some reading to do. A good manual on reloading is invaluable to a new reloader. A mentor with years of experience is even better, but that’s not always an option for some of us. I never had a mentor and I’ve been successful as a reloader. For those that plan to be “self taught”, I cannot recommend a specific book highly enough. It is Modern Reloading by Richard Lee. Richard Lee is the founder of Lee Reloading, a reloading equipment manufacturer. With this one book, you will gain enough information to become a competent and safe reloader. I’ve read several books on the subject, but this one is by far the best. The book is very inexpensive, so if you are interested but still unsure if you want to reload, you can buy it without much investment.
Since I mention in the title about saving money, I thought it was only fair to show you how much money you can save by reloading. I’ll use one of my favorite cartridges as an example. The .270 Winchester cartridge is a pretty common cartridge so it usually isn’t expensive to buy factory ammunition. Premium hunting ammunition ranges from $35 to $45 per box of 20 cartridges. If I reload using comparable components, I can load a box of 20 for $13.50. If I save by brass cases and don’t need to buy new brass, that cost drops to $9.20.
If I reload the 40S&W pistol cartridge using brass I already have, I can put a box of 50 rounds together for around $11.
With prices like this, practice starts to get a lot more manageable. I can shoot quality ammunition made with good components for the same price or even cheaper than buying cheap imported ammunition with steel cases and crappy bullets.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me with the first link in the blogroll on the right side of the webpage. Hopefully this article will give you enough information to figure out if reloading is something you might be interested in. Stay tuned for a companion article on reloading shotshells.
I’m including this link as a resource. It is very thorough and contains more information that I can give in one article. While it is very thorough, I still recommend buying a copy of Modern Reloading to have as a reference.
It finally happened. I’ve been telling everyone for years that they should be preparing for the zombie apocalypse, but they wouldn’t listen. Now who’s laughing at who. Most of them have had their brains pulled out and eaten, or they’ve become part of the undead hoards themselves. Sarah, the girls and I are safe and sound in an undisclosed location away from major population centers. We are 12 days into the zombie occupation. We’ve been without power for 7 days. The laptop has a pretty low power draw, so I’m able to use my meager solar capabilities to run it. Somehow, the internet connection is still working. I guess they build in a lot of automation and redundancy into the telecommunication systems. Luckily the weather has been nice. I wanted to share with the readers on how the preps have worked out and what we’ve learned since this ordeal started.
Wise brand long term food storage is good stuff. The cheesy lasagna tastes pretty good and even the kids like it. Bacon SPAM is amazing, even under high stress situations. It’s a little taste of home in a world of chaos.
My .270 Winchester is a superb long range zombie gun. If I crank the scope up to 9 power, I can pick them off at 300 yards or a little more. There haven’t been many zombies out here, but we see a few. Being able to take them out long before they know where we are seems to keep more from showing up. We did have one get up close, but the HiPoint carbine worked as advertised.
Getting information has been difficult to say the least. We saw zombies conducting the national news, but we don’t know whether they were infected or not. It’s hard to tell with the hosts of the major news networks. Local radio stations have started going off air, but they didn’t know any more than we did. We think it all started in New York with the Occupy Wall Street movement and spread quickly. Apparently dirty hippies were more dangerous than we thought. I always thought the self proclaimed “99%” were out to destroy our world, but I didn’t think they would do it in such a literal way.
I’ve never been an avid football fan,but I realize how much I miss college football. Since the Texas A&M Aggies literally devoured the boys from the University of Texas, all football games seem to have been canceled. I would imagine a virus that causes zombie-ism would transmit pretty quickly through a locker room.
The bug out location has a shallow well that we can dip with a bucket, so we don’t have to worry about getting water without power. This has been a lifesaver. We are also surrounded by a lot of ranch land. Cows are unaffected by the virus, and are pretty much going about their daily lives. Zombies seem to have no interest in the cows, so I think we have a sustainable, long term food source in case things don’t get back to normal soon.
I’m very glad to say we haven’t had to resort to my article about treatment for zombie bites. Everyone is in good health and good spirits.
It looks like a cold front is moving in, so I’m hoping for freezing temperatures. The zombies can’t move if they are frozen and it would give us a good chance to get out and see what’s going on with the world outside of the bug out location.
I’ll update further if anything new develops and the internet connection holds out.
Happy Halloween from Surviving Modern Life!!
Since the article about tactical medical treatment was well received, I thought I should continue in that same area. Penetrating wounds can be very ugly, but one of the ugliest wounds a person can receive is a bite from a zombie. Zombie mouths are very unclean, and these bites almost always result in secondary infection. Treating the initial wound is pretty straightforward. This type of first aid is covered in the most basic kits, even the ten dollar “Band-Aid and Aspirin” kits available at the big box stores. We’ll cover primary and secondary treatments in this article.
Bite wounds can be pretty minor all the way to serious injuries. Luckily, humans don’t have really sharp teeth or long canines. It takes a lot of force to break the skin. Typically the result is bruising more than cutting or tearing. For bruising, simply wash the affected area with soap and water and administer a pain reliever for pain. You can also apply ice to reduce pain and swelling. Remember, you never want to apply ice directly to the skin. If there is some bleeding or torn skin, the area will still need to be washed well with a good anti-bacterial soap and water. Once the area is cleaned thoroughly and dried, you can proceed with basic first aid. A simple bandage should do nicely to keep the wound covered.
The good news about these types of injuries is that they most often occur on hands and/or limbs. The likelihood of the actual bite being fatal is pretty slim. The bad news is the potential for infection. Bites from humans or animals are nasty enough, but if that bite is from a zombie, the resulting infection is bad news. If you are treating a victim for a zombie bite and the skin has been broken, your victim is almost certainly infected. The incubation period is 12 to 24 hours. After this time, your victim is technically deceased, but is probably still moving, moaning, and trying to violently bite you. At this point, treatment involves destroying the victim’s brain. Firearms work best, and I prefer .40 caliber handguns and .30 caliber rifles. Use what works best for you.
*Disclaimer: While the section on primary treatment of bite wound is sound advice, the secondary treatment is written for comic purposes. I do not condone shooting anyone in the head. However, if the person really has become the walking dead, please handle the situation as you deem necessary. And please let me know as soon as possible so I can bug out to an undisclosed location away from population centers.
Sarah and I made the trip over to Fort Worth for a gun show this weekend to check prices on a couple of things, and just see what was going on in the wide world of weapons. Wow, the place was packed! Not quite like the month before the last presidential election, but pretty close. We were walking the aisles looking at all of the wares being peddled, and I had an old wish come back to mind. I’ve always wanted a pistol cartridge carbine chambered in 9mm. So I start looking around and find a few that are way out of my price range. Really, 900 bucks for something that shoots 9mm??? No thanks, for that cash I would have a sweet ass rifle that could send a lot of .308 rounds downrange! I originally wanted the Kel-Tec Sub2000, but after handling it again, and seeing the $80 price increase, I wanted to shop around some more. Enter the friendly fellow under the HiPoint banner. Yeah, I vaguely remember handling the HiPoint carbine at one time. It was cumbersome and the stock looked like it was designed by a student of Picasso. Surely I couldn’t like something like that…
I was pleased to learn that HiPoint realized their gun looked like a joke (and had that reputation in the market), and redesigned it to look better. Much, MUCH better. Reintroduced as the 995TS (TS means target stock), the 9mm carbine now looks sweet. Sweet in that, “I’m gonna bust the hell out of some zombies while wearing full tactical gear” way. I was pretty shocked looking at it there on the rack. I ask the guy to handle it and pick it up. It has some real weight to it. I like that in a gun. I shoulder it and look down the sights. Now I’m really starting to get interested. Check the price tag. Sold. I want this bastard in my arsenal!! Sarah was picking up on this and recommended walking around for a bit to avoid an impulse buy. It was weird, the further I walked away, the more it called out to me. “Pick me up again, take me home! I’m a zombie slayer!!” Now I’m not one to refuse on that! We walk back over, and its time to fill out the wonderful 4473 form and pay the man his money. This gun is going home with me, and for way less than MSRP. Damn I love a good deal!
I’m sure by now you want to know the nuts and bolts, and probably ask me one question… “A HiPoint? Are you on crack? Those things are made of plastic and will break the second you shoot it!” Yeah, so I’ve heard from a thousand people that have never shot one. The folks that have them love them, so I have to go with experience on this one.
This all American made gun features a 16.5″ barrel and 31″ overall length, which makes it pretty handy to handle and move around with. Its covered in Picatinny rails for mounting scopes, lasers, lights, pistol grips, toasters, you name it. Mine probably won’t get much, but its nice having options! The biggest drawback is the ten round magazine capacity. There are aftermarket 15 rounders I’ll try, but for now I guess I’ll actually have to aim and place each shot to make those ten count. Speaking of aiming, this thing has a peep sight that is easy on the eye, and taking a few shots to check the point of impact verify its dead on at 25 yards from the factory. The trigger was much better than I expected as well. I was shooting at dusk, so I noticed a dark target with blued metal sights isn’t exactly easy to acquire, but that is easily fixed with some tritium paint or a dab of white metal paint on the front sight. Even in the poor lighting this thing puts the bullets right where you tell it too. I didn’t set up to shoot 5 shot groups, but there is time for that later. Its safe to say its more than accurate enough for carbine ranges.
I look forward to really putting this thing through the ringer in the coming days and weeks, but for now I’m extremely happy with the results I’ve gotten. If you are on a budget but still want to be able to drive back a small hoard of the living dead, I can’t recommend this little gun enough. From general plinking to serious power for home defense, you can’t go wrong here.