A lot of folks are outraged about various big box stores like Dick’s and Walmart discontinuing the sale of ARs, or upping the age of purchase to 21. I guess they feel like these monster corporations have betrayed them, and that we should boycott or punish them for not supporting the Second Amendment. Well, um, we should have never started buying our gun stuff there in the first place. We abandoned real gun stores for convenience, and to save a couple dollars, they went out of business, and here we are.
I could care less. In fact, it would not bother me if Dick’s and Walmart stopped selling guns, along with gun and hunting related accessories, all together. Neither have ever been a real gun store anyway. Though I’m sure there are exceptions, those behind the counter are, in most cases, not qualified to sale or even handle a gun. And based on my experience; their enthusiasm for customer care almost equals my interest in cat videos.
When I was growing up there was a local bait & tackle/gun shop about two miles from my house. On weekends—during my paper route—I’d stop there on my bike. The guy behind the counter would let me look at and fondle the guns that interested me, and he even knew a thing or two about firearms…and young boys. I could usually talk him out of some part I needed, that was just lying in the clutter on his workbench. (If you grew up near my hometown—and are older than 50—you will remember Ray’s Bait Shop. I’d rather go back there for one hour than spend a day in Cabela’s.)
We’ve seen the death of the local gun shop. With that, we’ve lost places where real and practical knowledge could be dispensed. Dick’s, Walmart, and others have contributed to this near extinction; they retail firearms so cheap, the local guy cannot compete. (Few realize how small the profit margins are on guns.) What they fail to deliver is service—service before, during, and most importantly, after the sale. And those conducting the sale do not have the experience to get that feeling when someone is trying to buy a gun, with possible bad intentions in mind. (You do realize an FFL dealer can deny a sale to anyone they think might be a danger don’t you? Local gun shop owners take this serious.)
And then there’s the knowledge they do not have to share. Local gun shops are operated by folks who are experienced with, and passionate about, what they do and the things they sale. That passion carries over to the customer. The absence of that passion is like a cancer to the gun and hunting industry. It’s why Dick’s and Walmart could care less about your firearms or hunting interests—they have none of their own. It’s also the reason some gun manufactures are struggling; they hired management types from other industries who lack our passion.
Be mad at Dick’s and Walmart if you like, I could care less what they sale. When I buy gun stuff locally, I’m going to buy it from a guy who smells like Hoppe’s #9, a guy who was installing a trigger on a rifle that morning, a guy who closed his shop early yesterday to go to the range, a guy who frequently has a shop full of like-minded folks bitching about anti-gunners, a guy who knows what a pre-64 model 70 is, who Jeff Cooper was, and who actually gives a shit if I hit what I shoot at, or ever come back in his shop again.
With the help from Dick’s and Walmart, the local gun shop can once again be real. With all the new gun owners in our ranks, they’ve never been needed more than right now! You think Dick’s and Walmart are a gun stores? Well, bless your heart. You’ve never been in a real gun store have you?
For 2018 there will be a new feature at Empty Cases. It’s called “Ask the Gunwriter” and it’s sponsored by Mossberg. I receive gun or hunting questions every day and I do my best to answer them all. But I realized there might be other folks with the same question, looking for an answer. So now, when someone submits a question—a good question—I’ll crate a video response and post it on the Empty Cases website and on social media. If I do not know the answer, I’ll reach out to other—smarter—folks in the industry for help.
The really cool aspect of Ask the Gunwriter is that if you submit a written question your name will entered for a chance to win a Mossberg Patriot Revere chambered for the 6.5 Creedmoor. But even better, if you submit a video question, your name will be entered 10 times! In October, I’ll draw a name and announce the winner. For instructions on submitting a question, click HERE
But, before this all gets kicked off I thought I’d save some folks some time and tell you what questions not to ask; remember, to be selected your question has to be good.
The guns, gear, and gadgets will all fawn over are interesting, but the real stories – the good stories – are always about people. Those are also the stories I like to write the most. Here is one direct from the pages of the January 2018 issue of Gun Digest magazine. For those who may not know, I write the handgun column for Gun Digest and generally contribute a feature each month. Under the new editorship of Luke Hartle – yes, he is a yankee, but I think there’s enough redneck in him to balance it out – Gun Digest is becoming an excellent version of a modern firearms periodical. I’d suggest you check it out. You can subscribe HERE
The old man shuffled to a cabinet on feet that’d carried him for almost 80 years. He grinned, leaned close enough I could smell cows, corn, and diesel, and said, “This here’s the good drawer.” It contained a hoard of shot shells. He picked up a candy stripped example, handed it to me, and said, “This’ns worth five hundred dollars.” Marv had my attention.
Marvin “Marv” Briegel worked hard all his life, but the only paycheck he ever received was during his three years in the Army. Marv is a farmer, always has been, always will be. He’s damn proud of it too, because he knows it’s a profession too good for most. Marv’s also a hunter. On his farm along Nebraska’s Republican river he once used a 270 Winchester to put a Boone & Crocket whitetail on his wall. That wall, by the way, is in a vault that’s part of Marv’s otherwise inconspicuous farmhouse.
Inside it’s the Marv Show, and it starts with a four-bore shotgun. “I ant shooting that!” I said. Marv grinned, “I ant letting ya.” Then there are the near dozen lesser gauges, Herter’s rifles, and an example of every Knight muzzleloader made. But the Marv Show is mostly about cartridges. I spent hours fingering through drawers of paper-patched cartridges, all-brass shot shells, and other munitions I’d never seen, all while Marv gave John Madden-like color commentary. “Now here’s a shell you don’t see often. I got that’n from an old boy in Oklahoma. That’s a window shell. You know what a window shell is?”
As editor of Gun Digest’s 13th Edition of Cartridges of the World, I’m sometimes referred to as the, “ammo guy.” Amazingly, while deer hunting in the no-stop-light town of Arapahoe, Nebraska, I’d uncovered a physical manifestation of the encyclopedia I’d worked so hard to publish. Historical cartridge collecting is a niche but serious endeavor. Marv’s passion likely exceeds that of Trump voters and, yes, even turkey hunters. He’s even been to Germany to scavange ammunition antiquities.
I asked how a fellow might start cartridge collecting. Marv said, “My first was a 45/100 Pacific Ballard,” Nudging me with his elbow, “but rimfire cartridge boxes are where a guy should start. They’re affordable and easy to find. Just make sure they’re full”
But most of Marv’s collection is shot shell related and I asked why. “With shot shells the information is printed on them, and it matches what’s on the box. It’ll tell you gauge, shot size, and so on. With rifle and pistol cartridges all you got’s the head stamp and no idea bout much else.” Then, with the intensity of a stock trader sharing his first inside tip, Marv leaned in, looked around like, to see if anyone was watching, and whispered, “Robin Hood. Any Robin Hood shot shell is good and the boxes are better-n gold.”
I left Marv a signed copy of Cartridges of the World and a .25 caliber wildcat cartridge I’d based on the 6.5 Creedmoor. Marv gave me something a bit different; a little, but well endowed, bobble-girl off the dash of his – dirtier on the inside than outside – pickup truck.
Passing through the vault door I looked back and Marv was fondling the cartridge I’d given him. He’ll put it in a drawer and someday show it to some guy like me. The bobble-girl? She’ll go on the dashboard of my truck, just to remind me who the real ammo guy is. I named her Casey.
I did not think a more visible handgun sight than the XS Big Dot existed. I was wrong. Check out the sequence of images in this video that illustrates how visible the new F8 sight from XS Sights can be through recoil. If you cannot see this sight all the time, its time for an eye exam.
Yes, its hard to buy for gun guys and hunters and get it right. This partly because they are a picky lot, and partly because its hard to know what kind of gear and guns work if you have no experience with them. Well, I’m here to help. Here are 10 items from FREE to a bit more than a grand that any real gun guy/hunter should appreciate:
1. Shooter’s Guide to the AR: This is a great book for the new AR owner. It will educate them on how and AR works and teach them how to shoot it better. It’s $ 15.00 or FREE when you buy Under Orion – the next item on the list. While supplies last of course. (Comes with a training DVD on using laser sights.)
2. Under Orion, Hunting Stories from Appalachia to Africa. For a hunter this is a great beside the toilet or bed book. Short hunting stories guaranteed to make you feel something – even if its regret for spending the $ 20.00. While supplies last it comes with a free copy of Shooter’s Guide to the AR.
3. XS F8 Sights: Great new sights I’m really excited about, that kind of bridge the gap between the XS Big Dot and conventional notch and post sights. $ 142.00. Now available for Glocks and a few other guns I do not own.
4. Jagdhund USA Brand shoes: Here is a great pair of outdoor general-purpose low-top shoes. Not sure what you have to do to wear these out. $ 218.95.
5. Bushnell Engage 2.5-10X 44mm Riflescope: This one of the best values going when it comes to a long range riflescope. We used one in Africa last summer and it performed exceptionally well, good enough for my son to collect animals out to 600 yards. $ 299.00. (Click image for video.)
6. Timney Calvin Elite AR Trigger: The single best thing you can do to your AR is put a good trigger in it. Factory ARs are notorious for triggers that are harder to pull than a Ford out of a ditch. $ 299.95.
7. Crimson Trace LINQ: This might be the best light/laser alternative for an AR. With bluetooth like connectivity, when you grab the grip the unit comes on in your predetermined configuration. Right now its on sale for $ 389.00.
8. XJAGD Buffalo 2 Jacket: When temperatures in Africa dropped below freezing last summer, I thought the hunt was doomed. Fortunately, my son and I both had one of these. They busted the cold, blocked the wind, and the neat binocular retraining strap is kinda cool. $ 396.95.
9. Remington Model Seven LS: I think this the best firearm currently in the Remington line. It is good looking, light, compact, and shoots exceptionally well. That’s why I own one. $ 1039.00.
10. Swarovski CL Companion Binoculars: I hate carrying around big binoculars but I also hate not being able to see when I’m hunting. With these compact CLs you get all the glory of Swarovski glass at a fraction of the cost. I’ve used them from Vancouver, to Texas, to Africa and got no complaints! They only weigh 17 ounces. $ 1199.00.