Winter Came Early

The last few years, we haven’t had much of a winter. Last year, we had a week or two of some frigid temperatures, but we never had any snow to speak of.  By the middle of summer, as I wrote about here, we were in a serious drought.

Since we haven’t had a “good” winter in a few years, we felt like this was going to be the year, and some of the winter forecasts agreed. As I wrote in my last post, we have already had some cold temperatures. Well, this last week, winter came early.  Friday evening, we were under a “Winter Weather Advisory”. By Saturday morning, that changed to a “Winter Weather Warning”, and by Saturday afternoon, we were under a “Blizzard Warning”.   It started with rain about nine Sunday morning. By 11, it was turning to sleet, and our church dismissed early.  It was all snow by noon, and done by about 9 in the evening. We probably had somewhere around eight inches or so, but it was hard to tell because the wind caused so much drifting, we had some places that were bare, and others that were eighteen inches deep.

Ed got this amazing picture on Monday. He shared it on his personal Facebook page, but I wanted to share it here too. The sun was behind him, and he literally could not see what was in the camera viewfinder. He just aimed in a general direction and took the picture.

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Ed captured his own shadow

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This one is a little to the left of the other one. Look at the weight of the snow on the juniper tree in the center of the shot.

Now, for an update on Libby. The vet informed me yesterday, that it could take a couple of months for her to get control of her bowels again. Wonderful. So while it is no longer runny, it is still coming out whenever and wherever it wants to. We were giving her two showers daily, but now, we’re down to one every few days. As long as she doesn’t lay in it, she’s good.

Last week, when it was warm, she really enjoyed being outside, so I decided (since it was nice and warm), to get a new pen built sooner rather than later. Yes, sometimes I do get the bit in my teeth, much to the consternation of the rest of my family. That being said, we now have a small pen built off the front of the house, with plans to double the size of it this spring. All the dogs can go out, and stay out for as long as they want without us having to worry about them. We used all the experience we had from all our past pen building failures to make this one right the first time.  The area is also small enough that I can go out and clean it daily, keeping track of who is doing what. Yeah, I can tell, for the most part, whose is whose. You all were wondering about that, weren’t you. If you have dogs, you know just what I mean.

Most of the time, they go out, do their business, and come back in. Libby would rather be out, so to provide some temporary shelter, I put her old dog crate out there and fixed a tarp over it. Ed started taking the old dog house apart, with plans to use at least some of it for the new one. Then came the Blizzard Warning, and the whole thing became a rush job. Ed was working, so Bam Bam got the job. Chicken Girl and I helped as best we could. When it was done, it was large enough to hold all four dogs, and give them all room to move around. Then we put a whole bale of straw inside.

Saturday night, Libby would not come back in. Meeko was torn at first, but decided to stay out with her. Since the weather wasn’t bad yet, I let them stay out there. I knew I would be able to hear them if they needed back in. I didn’t hear a peep out of either one of them until I called them back in Sunday morning.

Yesterday, they all went out for awhile, and I took this picture.

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New pen and new dog house.

I was concerned about all four dogs being in the house, as well as in a small pen, together, and there have been some tense moments, but I think everyone is starting to relax…even the cats. One of them left a mouse in front of my bedroom chair last night. Thanks guys!

On the chicken front, there are still some mite issues. Chicken Girl brought one of the hens in the other day to dust her. All the other chickens are fine, so we are kind of concerned about her over all health, because we know a weaker chicken is more susceptible to secondary infestations.   Meeko was very interested, but he kept his distance. Ed clobbering him with the last one he killed may have finally got the message across.

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Meeko trying hard to be good.

Next week, Ed is planning to continue his firearm series, with a post about hand guns.

Connie

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The Rifle and the Carbine (Barks here and bites way over yonder)

The story comes down to us about a 19th Century Coroner’s Jury who declared a certain death a suicide. Thinking perhaps an explanation was in order, the Jury noted that the victim had attacked, with a pistol from fifty yards away, a man who was carrying a rifle.

The shotgun is the Utility Infielder of firearms, the Carbine is shortstop and the rifle plays all the way out to DEEP center field. The pistol should spend most its time riding the bench. A war story from my own past. I was a young soldier going through training with firearms and today we would learn about the venerable and legendary M1911 Colts .45 Caliber Automatic Pistol. Otherwise known as the .45 Automatic.

A Sergeant First Class Drill Sergeant sporting a Combat Infantryman’s Badge with a Star held up a forty-five and said the following, “If you find yourself in combat and this is all you have to fight with you are not having a good day.”

So what is a rifle and a carbine? Lets approach the carbine first since the rifle was an adaption of the original model. A carbine is a long barreled (normally more than eighteen inch) firearm. Many years ago such a firearm was referred to as a musket.

A carbine normally, but not necessarily, fires a lighter load than the rifle. However what really sets the two firearms apart is that the carbine’s barrel is not grooved, so the projectile (bullet) has a tendency to tumble after it leaves the barrel, making it less accurate at distances.

The M1 Carbine is an excellent example of this firearm at its best. Its advantages were that it is shorter and lighter than the rifle by the same designation. It’s disadvantage was that the carbine’s true effective range was under one-hundred fifty meters while the rifle’s effective range was easily five hundred and that limit really only depended on the skill of the shooter.

The carbine’s uses would be for those times when you need something with a bit more range and possibly a higher magazine capacity than a pistol, but you do not want to be lugging a full sized rifle about with you. Years ago, while living in Texas and spending time exploring old Ghost Towns and what not, an M1 Carbine resided behind the seat of my truck.

When the firearm was being refined in the 17th and 18th century, they were largely single shot muskets with a barrel as smooth as a water pipe. The best example of this musket was probably the Brown Bess used by the British Army for many years. While it was the best of the breed, it was horribly inaccurate.

In the fifteenth century in Germany, the process of creating a spin on the bullet by grooving the bore, the inside of the barrel, so that it would create a spin along the axis of the bullet making it much more accurate.

So why, if the rifled musket or rifle was that much more accurate, was the musket still in use for a couple centuries? Because the musket was easier to maintain and clean and quicker to load. Anyway, the average soldier was lucky to be able to hit the ground with his hat.

If the overall history of the rifle is something you would like to know more about check here.

What we want to discuss here is whether we need a rifle or a carbine, and if so what calibers? We do remember what calibers are right? Essentially 100th of a inch. Let’s start with Carbines. Carbines have largely lost favor with most folks, though the military does issue an M4 Carbine that came along after my time.

The advantages are lightness and compact size; the disadvantage is range. If you want a firearm to stuff behind a seat in your truck or keep in a survival Go Bag, a carbine would do nicely.

If you are going to do your hunting in the brush country of East Texas or my own Smokey Mountain Laurel thickets, a carbine is a great thing to have. If you intend to hunt in western Kansas, you are better off with a rifle.

A big part of the equation on rifles and carbines is types of actions and caliber of rounds. Let’s talk about those for a minute.

Actions:

Automatic, As long as you hold the trigger down it will keep on spitting bullets until it is empty. Of course these are not normally available to the general public, but let me tell you that even speaking as a former Infantryman, you really ain’t missing that much. On automatic an M16 will empty a 30 round magazine in less time than it takes to say, “My rifle is empty and I am standing here helpless.” If you really need quick fire that much I recommend the Semi-Auto.

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AK 47

Semi-automatic, Every time you pull the trigger it fires a bullet. Take your strong hand hold it up and open and close your index finger as fast as you can. Now you should realize the sustained rate of fire on a semi-automatic firearm is really depending on your skill with the weapon because your finger can close really quick.

Advantages: Quick fire.

Disadvantages: Complex action, need for more cleaning and maintenance and, at certain calibers, recoil and control of the firearm.

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Ruger 10 22 Rifle One of the best 22 calibers on the market.

Lever Action: Ever watched a western movie? If not and you intend to now to see how a lever action works, I recommend the classic Winchester ’73 starring Gary Cooper. A lever action firearm has a lever beneath the stock and the fore-stock which opens the breach, ejects a shell and pulls another up and into battery for firing.

Advantages: Fairly quick if you practice. Mostly compact like the Winchester Model 94 30/30 that is sold all over the place. A good all around firing system.

Disadvantages: The action will become finicky and jam on you if not well maintained.

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Winchester Model 94

SIDE NOTE: For those who read my shotgun article, I neglected to mention that lever-action shotguns were made by Winchester and others years ago. The pump action was the better choice.

Bolt Action: If you are not familiar with bolt actions have you ever seen a door or a fence with a toggle type bolt that must be rotated and then pulled back? That is essentially how a bolt action works. I talked about them in my post on Shotguns.

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Springfield Model 03 30.06 Rifle

Single Shot: This is what it says. Just like the single shot shotgun it breaks from the top and you hand load a round every time you fire. Some really good hunters enjoy these weapons because you pretty much have one chance to do the job.

Double Barrel: They do make double barrel rifles but they are rare. Mostly they were made for big game hunters years ago and can cost in the umpteen thousands of dollars. Unless you intend to hunt Elephants or F350 pick up trucks, it’s not really a weapon you need.

That largely covers how rifles work. Now lets talk about what they eat. Rifles come in a dizzying number of calibers from the Barrett .50 caliber, which fires a round designed to destroy lightly armored vehicles, to a relatively new entry in a .17 caliber for varmint hunting. Given enough time, I can find you an article on every one that swears you cannot live without it.

I once asked a noted survivalist, soldier, gunsmith and gun dealer this question. “If you could only have one rifle which caliber would you choose?”

He answered without hesitation. “A good Twenty-two caliber rifle.” I was shocked because I expected some high velocity small caliber wonder, or perhaps a medium sized super powered weapon,  or maybe some big old piece like the 440 Winchester. Nope, that same old .22 I had shot as a boy was his must have rifle.

A well made 22 caliber is tough, it is light and easy to carry, it has range and is as accurate as the person behind the rifle can make it. It also has a very small light bullet which means you can carry a few hundred for the same weight as a small box of .308 Winchester rounds, and in the field weight can be a big problem. Finally the .22 caliber round is perfectly capable of one shot kills on any soft skinned target in the United States, except the very large ones like bears, buffaloes and such.

So yes, I now agree with my friend from Texas. If you need a rifle, the first one you need is a .22 So what after that? I don’t know.  Again, what do you intend to do? Let me tell you what I believe you should NOT do.

Do not be seduced into buying the latest “man toy” just because its sexy. The price on M16/M15 clones is ridiculous. What are we looking at, upwards of $1500.00? I can buy a Mini 14 in the same caliber with what I believe to be better accuracy, and the same rate of fire for about half that, buy a 30/30 Marlin, and still have enough left over for that new 12 string guitar my wife says I don’t need.

Look to your needs, not your fantasies.

Next time I will talk about the handgun.

Ed

Vanishing Bees, Constipated Dogs, and Mite Infested Chickens: Reality on the Homestead

I’m pretty sure that after four years of reading our blog (If you’ve managed to hang with us that long), you know that this is not one of those that paint a wonderful, rosy picture of homesteading. We would be lying if we did that, and the Lord frowns on lying (among other things).

So you share in our successes, and more often you share in our failures. We hope you can learn from our mistakes and not make the same ones. If nothing else, it might give you a good laugh.

To us, however, this particular post isn’t funny, but it is an example of how quickly things go can wrong, and how bad they can get if you don’t get ahead of them just as quickly.

First, a couple weeks ago, Ed went out to set fresh hive beetle traps and check on all the bees. I was working at my computer, and Ed came in and said that two of the hives are gone. At first, I thought he meant they were dead, and my mind raced to figure out how that could have happened so quickly without us noticing something. Then, I realized he meant they were gone, like swarmed, only we really aren’t sure if that is what happened either.  The two hives in question were the ones  sitting closest together: the original hive that we split last summer, and the nuc that we bought last spring. The split hive, sitting out in the pasture, is still intact. I imagine that Ed will want to write about all that, but it may take him a few weeks to process it. It’s hit him pretty hard.

Then, Monday morning, Chicken Girl came back in from letting the chickens out, carrying a hen with her. She said the feathers around her vent were completely gone, and as she turned the hen around to show me, she gasped and said, “She has mites!” (Oh wonderful.) I told her to take the hen out to the garage and I would bring out the diatomaceous earth.

We have had unseasonably cold weather this week. We’ve had temperatures dip down into the single digits and we’ve even had some snow. That is more like late December and January weather for us, not early to mid November. Monday morning, it was cold and snowing. That’s why I told her to go to the garage. It’s not heated, but it would be out of the wind. So we dusted that hen with the DE, and then we examined the other three in that coop. One more had some, but the others didn’t. We treated them anyway. This morning, Chicken Girl told me she thought the mites were gone, but she’s going to keep a better eye on it. The chickens in the little coop were fine, but Chicken Girl is worried about moving them to the big coop once we get it finished.

Now, for the true highlight of the month. As you know, we have our big dogs, Meeko and Libby, outside in a large enclosure. You know this because we have written several posts about the seeming impossibility of keeping them in it. Two years ago, we reduced it in size by half, which actually put them farther away from the house. We go out to feed, water, and spend time with them twice a day, and were taking them out for a walk with us about once a week. However, once Bam Bam moved back in with the little dogs, the walks became problematic, and we hadn’t done it in awhile.

Libby has always been rather aloof. She isn’t crazy about being handled unless it’s her idea, and it’s hardly ever her idea. Add that to the fact that Meeko is a big attention hog. Getting past him to get to her is a challenge. OK, it’s nearly impossible without someone else distracting him.

Libby is also one of those dogs that gets a thick, heavy undercoat in the winter, and then spends all of spring and summer getting rid of it. By fall, when it’s time for her to coat back up, she looks semi emaciated, but it’s just that she’s lost all that hair.

Well, A few weeks ago, I noticed that Libby’s winter coat didn’t seem to be coming in. She looked even more thin than usual. She was eating the little bit of canned food we give them every morning (in case we have to sneak some medicine), but it didn’t look like she was eating a lot of dry food. We were trying to watch that anyway because she has worn her teeth down pretty far, and we wanted to make sure she could still eat the dry food. That being said, she was still taking dog biscuits from us and seemed to be chewing those just fine.

I wanted to get my hands on her, so I told Ed to get hold of Meeko. I was shocked. She felt like skin and bones. Later that day, I brought both dogs in the house and started watching what she was doing. I thought she might not be getting enough to eat and gave her a whole can of food, putting her in Ed’s office so that she could eat with out having to fight off the other dogs. She didn’t touch it. That was Thursday afternoon (Nov 1). By Friday, I realized that not only was she not eating, she wasn’t pooping. Thinking I might have to have her put to sleep, I called our regular vet. They were swamped and couldn’t get her in until the following week. I didn’t think she could wait, so I found another vet, and got her in that afternoon.

The diagnosis? She was constipated. No, she was Constipated. Her colon was completely full and it was backed up into her small intestine. She had lost 15 lbs! I don’t need to tell you how we felt, do I? The vet did tell us that her blood work looked great. Other than the obvious problem, she is in good shape.

So the vet gave us laxatives and instructions for the weekend, and told us to call her back on Monday. Since part of the laxative regimen required miralax in her drinking water, we couldn’t let the other dogs get access to it. So we confined Libby to our bedroom. Meeko did not like that at all.

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Meeko moping outside our bedroom door.

Monday nothing had changed, so we took her back. That was Monday, November 5th. She got to stay with the vet for a week, and we brought her home Monday November 12th. (The same Monday Chicken Girl discovered the mites). We did go visit her on Friday the 9th. They had a cone on her to keep her from pulling the IV port out. They took it off for our visit and told us to watch her because she’s quick (like we don’t know that!).

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Visiting Day: She was not happy.

When she came home, she was mostly cleaned out (I won’t give you all the details…yes, thank me), but they want her to stay on all the laxatives until Thursday. Then they will tell us how to start backing them off. The good news is that she obviously feels better, she’s eating and she is no longer constipated. However, thanks to the laxatives, she has no control over her bowels. Oh, and her weight had dropped to 50 lbs for a total loss of 22 lbs!

We cannot put her back outside because one, she has neither fat, nor winter undercoat, and it is cold, and two, we have to watch her to see how things are moving. We can see it alright. We can smell it too. We’ve already given her four showers to help keep her clean (yeah, she loves that), and are in a constant state of washing towels and blankets.

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After her bath this morning, she was shivering, so I put a blanket over her. She seemed to like it.

Oh, did I forget to mention the bill? $2365.00! That blew what little budget we had, and we had to remind ourselves that the Lord is our provider. We do the best we can and leave the rest to Him.

Don’t be too surprised if, in the next few months, we write a post about building in new dog pen right off the house, probably utilizing the front door. Also, I imagine Ed will want to tell you about what it was like living with Meeko in the house for a week, without Libby.

However, I think for next week, he might be continuing his series on firearms. He probably needs to get his mind of his missing bees, and cleaning up after a dog with free flowing bowels.

Connie

 

The Right To Keep and Arm Bears (I always love to say that!)

I have some reluctance in approaching this subject because there is a lot of controversy around it, and some folks will take offense just at talking about the subject. However, I am a retired Infantry Soldier I was also a Law Enforcement Officer for a number of years, and I was raised with firearms so I know a bit about them.

I want to take a moment to talk about firearms for the Homesteader. I will not address whether or not you should HAVE a firearm on your homestead. What I could give you is my opinion and we both have one of those. Think about it, do whatever research you need to, and then decide for yourself.

One thing that amazes me is the fact that so many people seem to believe knowledge of a subject is intrinsically evil. Why? When did ignorance become virtue? So you do not like firearms and think they are bad. You find one leaned against a tree. Is it safe? What kind is it? Is it even real? Where is the safety? How do you unload it and make it safe? Even if you have no intention of ever owning a firearm, let me suggest to you that learning about them could be a very good thing.

For the sake of this post, we are going to assume you are looking at purchasing the necessary firearms for your home. We will also assume that what you know about firearms could be written on the back of a matchbook with a big crayon.

First question: what do you see yourself doing with a firearm? Is it for hunting, defense from predators, defense from people, all of the above, or just because you want one?

Some, not me, tend to approach the subject along these lines. For hunting and protection from predators, you need:

A fairly large caliber rifle for deer; a varmint rifle with a small caliber with a lot of power behind it; a twenty-two caliber because who does not need a twenty-two; and a shotgun.

For home protection, you need to break the bank buying various pistols, revolvers, short rifles, fake machine pistols, defense modified shotguns, and specially manufactured high speed low drag, multi-colored do-hickies to hang off your thing-a-ma-bobs.

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If you cannot see it the caption reads “I think I won.” Thank you Mr. Gaham Willson

So here’s me. You want to fill all the needs we spoke of above. You do not want to devote your life and your fortune to the care and feeding of an assortment of what are essentially high-tech rock throwers. As the kids say, “I feel ya man.” (Do they still say that?)

Shotgun.

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The Hallmark Greeting of Firearm, when you care enough to send the very best.

That’s my answer. The venerable, multi-function scatter gun. If you want a firearm that, using assorted ammunition readily available in any sporting goods store and most Wal Marts, and that can efficiently and effectively take anything from a Quail to an Elephant, you want a shotgun.

Let me clarify that. Before I try to take a charging elephant with my 12 bore loaded with slugs, Mr. E is going to have to win the race. The fact is that with some skill, some nerve, and God on your side, a 12 Gauge slug will take an elephant at close range.

If your needs are simple home defense, defense against predators and hunting, there is no better choice than a shotgun. Loaded with the right sized shot it can do the job at short to moderate range.

Therein is the scatter gun’s shortcoming. It is a close in firearm that loses it’s effectiveness and accuracy quickly. So if you need to work much passed fifty meters, you might want to reach for something else.

But what kind of shotgun?

Shotguns come in some basic models:

Single shot or double barrel: This is your basic tube or tubes with a firing pin on one end and a hole in the other. They are loaded by breaking down the barrel(s) and inserting shells. The safety in most cases is located on the top of the stock, just at the back of the barrels.

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single shot

 

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Double Barrel The Old “Two Shoot Gun”

Positives: They are absolutely simple with few moving parts. This simplicity means they are easy to learn to operate. Single shot guns are really cheap, doubles are not so much.

Negatives: You only have one or two shots depending on whether it is a single or a double. I have seen people who are superbly practiced, reload a single or double in the blink of an eye, but not many and not often.

Bolt: I do not believe anyone still makes these, but some are still out there if you are buying used. The fact they still are is some testament to their toughness. Normally, they are three shot pieces fed from an internal or separate magazine.

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Bolt Action

Positives: Unless they are collector’s item age and quality, they are dirt cheap. Most were made for and sold by Sears, Montgomery Wards or even J C Penny’s back in the day. As stated above, they are tough and simple.

Negatives: First, these are old guns and in the best of shape they are still subjected to aging. Something I am made aware of myself whenever I try to get out of bed in the morning. Also, bolt guns are normally slower actions than some of the others.

Pump: A pump shotgun operates by pulling the fore stock (just under the barrel) back to open the breach expel the spent round, and forward to put a new round out of the magazine and into the chamber, cocking the weapon and bringing it back into battery. Most of them are actually five shot piece, but have been plugged to three so as to comply with state hunting laws.

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Pump Shotgun

Positives: They are a sturdy piece of simple design that can be fired as quickly as you can learn to operate the pump. Depending on the manufacturer, you are going to pay somewhere between two and five hundred dollars new. In today’s modern gun market that is dirt cheap.

Negatives: Seriously, hard to say. Properly cared for, and barring serious accident, one of these weapons will outlast you. They are simple, they are tough, they bark right here, bite HARD over yonder. Can’t asked much more of a firearm.

Okay, lets play a little word game. When you are talking about rifles and carbines, automatic means you pull the trigger and hold it down and the piece will fire itself empty. When you are talking about Shotguns and Pistols, automatic means that it automatically chambers the next round, re-cocks the hammer and returns to battery so you have to pull the trigger every time you fire it.

Why? Originally all weapons which automatically cocked were called automatics, then Mr. Thompson, Mr. Browning and a few others introduced rifles and carbines that automatically fired. Those became known as Automatic Rifles while Shotguns and Pistols stayed as they were.

Automatic: Automatic shotguns will fire a shell every time you pull the trigger until it is empty. Normally they will hold 5 shells but are plugged to three.

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Automatic, Browning to be exact

Positives: They are really quick and, in the right hands, accurate. A well made one is fairly sturdy and will last, if maintained well.

Negatives: That “right hands” part above. Most time the man is not up to the weapon. An old adage, “When you try to do it too fast you only get to be half-fast.” (Say that real quick) Also I find them to be harder to keep functioning under rough conditions. Finally they are higher than a Bernie Rally in Denver.

You might get a sense that I am biased towards the pump gun. That would be true. Maybe it’s because the Trench Shotguns we trained on in the Army were pump, and the Shotguns we used in Law Enforcement were pump, but yes. I do prefer the pump shotgun and that is what I own.

But that also leads to a second and final bit of advice that can be applied to everything. When its REALLY important you are probably best served to stay with what “brung you to the dance”. Learn new things when the farm ain’t on the line.

Next time I write to you I will continue this talk on firearms. As I said, if all you want is a simple and cheap way to fit all those needs, a shotgun is your baby. But some of us might have other needs like more range or simple carry.

Next time I think we should discuss rifles and carbines. Oh, I have a short set of definitions for some of the words you found in this article. If you have other questions on words and meanings I will be happy to try to help.

SHORT SIMPLE GLOSSARY:

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Caliber or Calibre: Approximately 1/100th of an inch making a .50 caliber bullet about a half inch in diameter. This is somewhat deceiving because of tradition and the naming of bullet sizes from years ago. For instance a .38 caliber pistol actually shots a bullet which is .357 inches. The tradition dates back to the black powder cap and ball pistols.

Gauge: The exact definition of wire gauge is a little hard to put down in a few words. You are welcome to look it up but suffice it to say that a 12 gauge barrel is about .729 inches in diameter and the slug for that barrel would be slightly smaller.  As the gauge number increase the size decreases. A 16 gauge is smaller than a 12 and a 20 smaller than a 16 and so on.

Rifle: A shoulder fired, long barreled firearm which has groves around the inside of the barrel which force the bullet to spin as it leaves the barrel which increases accuracy and range.

Shotgun: A shoulder fired long barreled firearm designed to fire multiple projectiles from a shell at the same time.

Shotgun shell: Now metal and plastic but at one time metal and paper, a shot gun shell is designed to hold the primer and the powder charge and a number of small BB or ball bearing type balls which are fired from the barrel.

Shotgun Slug: A shell with a one piece slug inside the size of the barrel designed for shooting soft skin, larger game like dear and black bear.

So with all that said, see you next time and God Bless,

Ed