The P is for Pistol

In the last few years, USPSA has added two new divisions, one of which I think is stupid and one of which I think is pretty cool. The cool one is Pistol Caliber Carbine, and the dumb one is Carry Optics; we can talk about Carry Optics later. Today we’re talking about PCC and why I plan on shooting it for the majority of next year.

Most of my long-term readers know that I’ve been relatively absent from the competitive shooting scene for a couple of years. It was a combination of factors ranging from burn-out to a lack of free time, and had some other stuff rolled in to it. But this year I got the bug back again, I’ve shot some club matches, and even managed to get two majors under my belt this year, both of which I did crappy at. A large part of that was because my stage planning skills are officially in the toilet, which is what happens when you take nearly three years off from shooting matches seriously.

Plus, my priorities have changed a little bit as well – before I went into the Air Force, my shooting goal was purely to get more gooder at shooting. Now I still want to get more gooder at shooting, but there’s a bit of a purpose behind it as well. I sat down and took stock of my skills, and I don’t just mean my gun skills either. Where is my hand to hand game at (the toilet), where are my medical skills at (next to the toilet), etc. That’s what brings me to PCC, and to this gun in particular. After I took Ernest Langdon’s excellent pistol class last month, I realized that I actually have improved as a pistol shooter from where I was a few years ago, but also that making more gains at this point will require a significant investment of time.

I also looked back at all the times I’ve had to use a rifle, and it is a HUGE hole in my skills. Sure, I can do the Air Force rifle qual and shoot expert every time, but that’s because the Air Force rifle qualification is easy. When you put a rifle in my hands, it’s sufficiently different from a pistol that I feel uncomfortable, and I’ve missed easy shots with a rifle that people who are less talented pistol shooters than me would have made with a long with ease. Plus, any sort of movement with a long gun is basically witchcraft to me.

Now where could I find a place that allows me to focus on training up my gun handling, movement, and rifle marksmanship skills without being distracted by things like body armor or tactics? HMMMMMM I FUCKIN’ WONDER. In all seriousness though, this is pretty much the perfect application of competition shooting as a way to improve skills I might need for other stuff. Working the PCC means I can spend dry and live fire time building up my rifle handling skills to where I’m able to manipulate, mount, and fire the gun without thinking about it. Being able to do that means I can free up brain processing power to address other things, and that is a good thing.

Also the nice thing about being in Florida is that there are literally 5 major matches before July within 4 hours drive of me.

Marlin 25M Slow Motion

Is this video pretty pointless? It sure is. But it’s also fun, and it was actually pretty awesome to get out to the range with my oldest, best friend and do some shooting. I’ve had that rifle for 20 years now, and it is literally the only gun I’d never, ever sell. Your first gun, a gift from your father? It should be special.

Continue reading “Marlin 25M Slow Motion”

Trunk Gun Considerations, Part 1.

Just like the first snow of the season sends unprepared drivers to the mechanic for new wiper blades and snow tires, two dramatic episodes of Jihad in the West have ignited a renewed interest in the “Trunk Gun”. This is usually a long gun and some other ancillary gear kept in readiness in a personal vehicle meant as a supplement to our daily carry pistol.

It’s a popular and comforting idea, but like our patron saint kept needling us, “What is it for? How is it to be used?” Answering these questions leads to better and more frugal gear decisions and provides some focus for future training.

Let’s start with what it is not for. The trunk gun is not there to go and get, and then re-enter a situation to deal with the threat ourselves. If you have made it to your car, you can safely exit the area and that is our smartest plan. If you encounter jihad on your way to making an escape, by all means burn them down, but most of these events are over in moments and by the time you get to your car, get your big gun and get back to the fight, it will be over and you will be a target for the responding officers. We, the armed, non-sworn, civilians of this country, do not carry guns to be Junior G-Men. We do not have belt pistols and trunk guns to seek out and engage terrorists. That is the job of the professionals, and doing so may well see us get shot by police instead of terrorists. Shot is shot, and it sucks.

Rather, the trunk gun is there to give the citizen more capability over a handgun to cope with an elevated threat situation in their area. While we’re trying to get out of Dodge in a situation where we have advance warning of heightened danger, a long gun up front gives us more options.

Hardware wise, this immediately suggests America’s Rifle. A reliable AR-15 type with a 16″ barrel and collapsible stock is lightweight and portable and can deal with just about anything man-sized at any distance at which we can identify a threat. An AR that lives in a trunk should absolutely have fixed iron sights. For this a permanently pinned front sight tower and if you’re using a flat top receiver, a fixed rear sight like the Daniel Defense 1.5 or the Troy unit are best. A red dot sight turns maintaining a sight picture into Easy Mode, but a trunk is a harsh environment for batteries and electronics. Hot and cold extremes, vibration, bumps and uncontrolled humidity all add up to a potentially dead dot when you need it the most. Sturdy iron sights that will keep a zero are a primary requirement, not a backup.

AR-15 SP1

And let’s be honest. How many of us are eager to drop $500 on a quality red dot that will live most of it’s life in our trunk? The temptation to cheap out on a Chinese Fakepoint for your trunk gun is high, and should be avoided. Get a good set of irons first and learn to use them well until you can afford a real red dot and can get into the habit of checking it regularly.

Similarly, how many of us will commit to checking the batteries in our sights on a regular basis? For this reason, I think a flashlight, while indispensable on a home defense AR, is a low priority on a trunk gun. Better to have a small stub of rail already in place on the gun so you can throw on a flashlight like a Streamlight TLR-1 or similar if required.

A sling is to the rifle as the holster is to the pistol, and will make life easier if you have to abandon your car and move out on foot. A lightweight and compact chest rig that allows you to draw your carry pistol without interference is also a good idea, but simply stuffing some spare magazines into your pockets is better than nothing.

If you can’t afford an AR-15 for your trunk, there’s still good options that won’t break the bank.

Quote of the day: The M16

The M16 series has been in service with the US military longer than any other individual rifle not due to conspiracy, complacence, incompetence or frugality – but because collectively it still represents the state of the art in portable lethality.

Ranger Up has an excellent article about the “problems” with the M16/M4 platform. Their article is written in response to a piece written in the Atlantic about how terrible the M4 is.

Rifles for home defense

There’s no question that the expert consensus on rifles for home defense is that they’re good to go. In the AR15 platform, a rifle offers a considerable amount of firepower, easy handling in tight quarters, and good shootability. Most members of the family over age 12 can quite likely handle a carbine and get good hits with it. However, if you do choose a rifle for home defense, here are some things you should remember.

Get a sling
A rifle without a sling is like a carry gun without a holster. In the event that you do need to use your hands for something while running a carbine, a sling means you don’t have to put the rifle on the deck, or somewhere out of your control. Let it hang (with control) and then take care of whatever needs taking care of.

Get a white light
If someone ever tells you that white lights will give away your position in a home defense scenario, you don’t need to listen to anything else they’re going to say after that. One of the drawbacks of a rifle means that you can’t hold a flashlight in your weak hand like you could with a pistol, so you definitely need a white light. But remember, whatever your white light gets pointed at, you’re also now pointing the muzzle of your gun at it. Learn your house and how to bounce the light off surfaces to provide illumination for searching and ID without muzzling things.

Rifles are high pressure and very loud
Cooking off an un-suppressed rifle indoors without hearing protection will absolutely cause hearing damage. The shorter the rifle, the louder it’s going to be. The best option to mitigate this issue is a suppressor, but that’s not necessarily realistic for most shooters. The next best option is to keep a set of electronic earpro next to your rack. However, if you have kids around whom you may need to fire the rifle? That presents a problem, because their ears are even more sensitive. At that point, going with a lower pressure/noise option like a shotgun may make sense.

Know what your ammo does after penetrating sheetrock
There are countless studies, some good and some bad on how rifle bullets behave after passing through common interior wallboard material. Generally speaking, overpenetration isn’t an issue with .223, as many commercially available rounds fragment/destabilize after penetrating wallboard. But, you should know what your round is going to do.


Figure out how you’re going to stage the rifle, and practice from that condition
There are quite a few options for how to stage an HD gun. Probably the most common is the rifle version of the ancient “cruiser ready” status. Fully loaded magazine inserted, no round in the chamber, safety off. You could also stage it in Condition 1, fully loaded and safety on, or even loaded mag, empty chamber, and safety on, so long as you rack the bolt on an empty chamber first. Whatever ready position you set your carbine in, make sure when you’re at the range practicing with it, you practice getting it in action from that condition.

Rifles are great tools for home defense. They might not be the perfect fit for everyone and every circumstance, but they’re an incredibly versatile and easy to employ platform. I’m sure there are plenty of other things to remember about using a rifle for HD, but hopefully this list will get you started.

Gun Review: T/C Encore Pro Hunter .223

Sometimes simple is the best solution. It doesn’t get much simpler than the T/C Encore Pro Hunter platform; a single shot, single action, receiver which can be mated to any number of different rifle barrels in various calibers to produce anything from a modern muzzleloader to a close range brush gun in .500 Magnum. The version I spent a day with in Wyoming was chambered in .223 with a 26 inch fluted, stainless steel barrel. The rifle’s mission was simple: shoot as many prairie dogs as possible.

tc encore pro hunter 223-1

Riding on top of this rifle was a Bushnell ELITE LONG RANGE HUNTER scope, the LRHS 3-12x 44mm. Again, I was very impressed by the quality and clarity of the Bushnell optics I used, I could easily hit prairie dogs at 200 yards with these scopes and could see them all the way out to 400 yards.

The Vitals
The T/C Encore Pro Hunter starts life as a stock and frame combination. It’s important for NFA purposes to only ever put rifle length barrels on the rifle stocks, and never to put a short, pistol length barrel on the rifle actions. As mentioned above, my sample was a rifle chambered in .223 Remington with a 26 inch barrel. Every Encore features an ambidextrous, single action mechanism; the hammer is rather clever in that it can pivoted either to the left or the right to make cocking the gun easier and to avoid striking any scopes that may be mounted on the gun. The action is released by pulling the lever that protrudes from and forms part of the trigger guard, which can be clearly seen in the below photo.

tc encore pro hunter 223-2

Lacking a trigger pull gage, I wasn’t able to get an accurate assessment of the weight, however it was a very clean and relatively light trigger. I’d guess based on my Mark 1 Model 00 Index Lever Puller that it’s around 3 pounds. There are no ejectors on the gun, so each fired cartridge must be manually extracted by hand. Doing this while wearing gloves combined with the small diameter of a .223 cartridge was mildly annoying, and I found myself wishing for automatic ejectors when confronted by en masse charges of zombie prairie dogs.

The Shooting
Actually shooting the T/C Encore is a blast. There is a certain zen quality about running a single shot rifle on distant targets, it forces you to take your time and take good shots. When running an AR15 on the plains rat hunt, I frequently found myself taking a “good enough” shot, knowing that I had 29 more shots to back it up if I wanted to purse the “accuracy by volume” approach. With the Encore Pro Hunter, every shot I attempted was the best shot I could take in that moment. Plus, because the gun was a .223 with a relatively long and heavy barrel and a large, comfortable cushioned stock, felt recoil was negligible. I could easily spot the fall of rounds through the scope; and when using the T/C Encore I was treated to frequent prairie dog explosions.

Photo by Brad Howe - ATV Rider/
Photo by Brad Howe –

Even when the rifle didn’t make contact, there is something satisfying about the manual process of reloading. It’s hard to describe, but cracking the action open, pulling out the spent casing, and inserting a new round had a primitive, retro feel to it. While I know it’s not the same as reloading a Trapdoor Springfield in the face of a charging Indian horde, the act of a manual reload on the Wyoming plains just felt right.

The Verdict
I didn’t really want a T/C Encore before July 6th. Now, not only am I planning on ordering one, I understand why people buy them in such large numbers. Aside from the modular nature of the gun, which lets you play LEGO for grownups to your heart’s content, the T/C Encore just feels good to shoot. It’s everything I love in a rifle: lightweight, functional, accurate, and perfectly customizable to your mission. Would I recommend one for a tactical home defense gun? No, of course not. But a T/C Encore Pro Hunter rifle action can be successfully used for everything from a bone simple rimfire trainer all the way to a bear thumping .500 Magnum; a .223 varmint gun, or an Indiana woods deer-blaster. That’s pretty neat in my book, and now that I’ve finally spent some serious trigger time on one, I get what everyone else is saying. The T/C Encore Pro Hunter is a great platform, and in its varmint configuration was nearly perfect for eradicating prairie dogs.

United States Carbine Association Nationals

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to attend the inaugural United States Carbine Association Nationals. While I’ll have a full write up in the February issue of GunUp the Magazine I thought I would give the readers on Gun Nuts a quick run down of what the new association’s first Nationals was like – and why I think USCA is pretty awesome. Continue reading “United States Carbine Association Nationals”