Saturday, January 28, 2012

LRGC 5th Annual Kalashnikov Match

This morning I participated in Langhorne Rod & Gun Club's 5th Annual Kalashnikov match. The match is open to shooters with "capitalist rifles" ;) but is meant primarily for AK shooters. For example, due to the AK's stock sights, most targets are kept to 100 yards to less, although we did shoot at torso-sized steel plates from 200 yards from behind a barricade.

I shot my Century Arms Vz-2008 (Vz-58 clone) which for the purposes of the match was classed with the AKs. I came in 2nd overall in points, and won the final stage, which is shooting at a piece of wood lath at 25 yards, with the goal of cutting it in half. As winner of that bonus stage, I won $30, which covered my match fee, gas, and tolls, with some money to spare.

I bought the Vz-2008 a few years ago. The first time I took it to the range I had nothing but problems. It seems that when it Century's subcontractors parkerized it the finish was too thick, so I got constant jams and stuck cases. I took the rifle home, degreased it and put Flitz on the bearing surfaces, then worked the action about 50 - 100 times to polish the insides. The next time out it had some malfunctions, but once I got approximately to the 200 round mark it started functioning well. I've put about 600 rounds through it since then with no malfunctions at all.

My Vz-2008 is basically stock. I did wrap the metal folding stock with paracord to protect my cheek, since it has the cross section of an I-beam, and put a Russian-style recoil pad on the butt to increase the very short LOP. I also replaced the incorrect and basically useless AK-style slant muzzle brake Century installed with a Czech military-style muzzle brake from CNC Warrior. The Czech-style brake is noisy but very effective at taming muzzle flip. The rifle has a milled receiver but weighs about as much as an AK with a stamped receiver (~6.4 pounds) empty. Wikipedia has a pretty good article on the Vz-58 here.

AIUI, semiauto Vz-58s have become pretty popular up in Canada since they are less restricted than AKs.

As one of the top two shooters I got an invite to LRGC's annual invitational practical rifle match in April.

All in all, a pretty nice Saturday.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Getting Back Into Archery

In my teens and twenties I was into archery. Back in junior high school, I was in the archery club, and brought my recurve bow with me to school on the bus. I suppose nowadays that would result in the local SWAT team being called out. Anyway, last month my 7 year old daughter expressed an interest in learning how to shoot a bow, so I got her a youth set from Three Rivers Archery. Naturally, if she was going to be shooting a bow I wanted in on the action.

However, when I strung the one bow I still had, a 55# draw Martin Howatt Hunter recurve, I realized that I was way over-bowed with it. I hadn't shot a bow for probably about 15 years and therefore, I'll need to work my way up to shooting a bow at that draw weight.

So, I picked up the current issues of Primitive Archer and Tradional Bowhunter magazines, as much for the ads as for the content. After considering several options I ordered a 40# Magyar Horse Bow from Seven Meadows Archery. Service from SMA was fast and I shortly had the bow in hand. The picture below shows it with the Martin.

One of the reasons I decided on a horsebow is simply that it's different. I didn't have any interest in getting a modern compound bow, so I was looking at traditional longbows and recurves. The horsebow is just neat, so after reading several reviews online I went with this one.

The bow was made by Istvan Toth in Hungary. The limbs are fiberglass, while the rigid tips, called siyahs, are made from ash. (Traditionally, the limbs would have been made of a laminate of wood and horn held together with fish glue.) The handle and limbs are covered in leather, and both sides of the grip have an ash side plate, so the bow is ambidextrous.

I'm shooting cedar arrows with 100 grain field points and turkey feather fletching, bought from Three Rivers Archery. The bow shoots them fast and straight. There is a bit of hand shock when shooting, due to the siyahs reaching their forward position and stopping abruptly. I don't find it objectionable.

Traditionally, horsebows were shot with a thumb release. In this style of shooting the archer draws the bow using his thumb, wrapped around the string and supported by his index finger. Doing so requires the use of a thumbring made from metal, horn, or leather. I bought a leather thumbring along with the bow but found it very uncomfortable to use for more than a few shots. So, I've added another layer of leather and will be trying it out again. In the meantime, I've been using a Mediterranean release, which should be familiar to most Western archers. Shooting this way, the index finger is on top of the arrow nock with the middle and ring fingers below it.

So far my shooting has been limited to about 10 yards. If I can get accurate out to about 20, I may take the Toth bow deer hunting on private land where I can get short range shots. In Pennsylvania the minimum legal draw weight for deer is 35#. With a 40# draw and sharp broadheads, penetration should not be a problem.

Here's another pic of the bow, resting on top of my target. I shot this using some old Easton XX75 aluminum arrows I had left from the 90s.

Considering I was able to do this after a 15 year lapse, I'm happy with my shooting. It'll only get better with more practice.

Aside from shooting the horsebow and teaching my daughter how to shoot, I'm also working with a friend in processing an oak which fell on his property into bowstaves. We're planning to make a couple of flatbows at first.  I bought a copy of The Backyard Bowyer: The Beginner's Guide to Building Bows for my Kindle, and it provides some good instruction on making simple self bows and backed bows. I'll post more on this after we've made some more progress.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

After Rethinking Gun Control, Next Steps

In my last post I discussed Jared Silverman’s article, Rethinking Gun Control. I wanted to follow up on that with some recommendations on what a new Jewish American gun owner might want to buy after getting some training.

In my opinion, the most versatile gun that one can own for defense is a handgun, for the simple reason that it can pull double duty as both a home defense weapon and one that can be kept with you when you’re out and about. A gun is like a fire extinguisher, it’s only useful if you have one available (and know how to use it, of course).

Luckily for the modern American gun owner there is a wide choice of handguns available for self defense. For new shooters, I recommend buying one with the following characteristics:

  1. Semiautomatic
  2. Firing the 9mm Luger/Parabellum/NATO cartridge
  3. Made of stainless steel or have a good rust-resistant finish

Semiautomatic pistols are those which fire one bullet per pull of the trigger and which are fed from a detachable magazine which holds the ammunition (with the exception of some antique designs we won’t consider here). Common examples of modern semiautomatic pistols are the Glock 17 and 19, Springfield Armory XD-9, and the Smth & Wesson Military & Police 9. All of these have plastic frames with metal parts made of either stainless steel or finished with an anti-corrosion treatment.

I’m recommending a semiauto as opposed to a revolver because they are easier for new shooters to fire accurately, plus they hold more ammunition, which would be important if dealing with a group of assailants. They are also easier to maintain, and modern designs handle abuse and neglect better than revolvers.

I recommend choosing a pistol which fires 9mm ammunition because the 9mm is widely available, affordable, effective, and does not recoil very much, so it’s easier for new shooters to become proficient with.

The stainless or rust-resistant finish is important because it reduces (but does not eliminate!) the amount of maintenance the owner must perform.

Don’t rush into buying a self defense pistol. It’s an investment of several hundred dollars, so if at all possible, try to handle a variety of guns and see which one feels most comfortable in your hands. If possible, go to a range where you can rent and shoot them to see which one you like best.

For example, the pistols I mentioned above are all high quality, reliable designs. However, I’ve found that Glock don’t fit my hand well (which is a shame because they are extremely reliable and relatively inexpensive). When I decided I wanted a modern, polymer-framed semiauto pistol I shot my father’s Smith & Wesson M&P-9, and then handled one side by side with a Springfield XD-9, an example of which I’d fired before. After handling the S&W and the Springfield next to each other I decided to buy the Springfield because it felt just a little bit better in my hands. I’ve been very pleased with it.

After you’ve chosen what gun to buy, then you should lay in a good supply of ammo and get training. Over on The High Road, we use the expression “BA/UU/R,” which stands for Buy Ammo, Use Up, Repeat.

Part of the training you need to take is making yourself familiar with the laws in your jurisdiction regarding the use of deadly force.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Rethinking Gun Control

It is about time that an article like this appeared in a mainstream Jewish publication. It is well past the time when Jewish Americans should be carefully reexamining their support for gun control.

The author of the piece, Jared Silverman, is a Jewish attorney in West Orange, NJ. 

The news from northern New Jersey this week was not good. Several Molotov cocktails and other incendiary devices were thrown at Congregation Beth El in Rutherford early on the morning of Jan. 11, igniting a fire in the second-floor bedroom of the rabbi’s residence above the synagogue.
This was the fourth anti-Semitic incident in Bergen County within a three-week period. A fire was intentionally set at a synagogue in Paramus and anti-Semitic graffiti was discovered at synagogues in Hackensack and Maywood.

Silverman also notes that Alan Dershowitz has warned that anti-semitism is becoming increasingly mainstream.

It should not be news that Jews are at risk of violent acts from others who hate us. After all, we only have a several thousand year history of being enslaved, expelled, and slaughtered by non-Jews. Sometimes this was at the hands of thugs and others at the hands of governments. Regardless, Jews have the right to defend themselves. Having that right, they should have the means to do so.

Unfortunately, Silverman goes on to state that, 

I believe guns should be licensed and their owners properly trained. I also want to emphasis that there is a difference between ownership and the right to carry. It is difficult to get a permit to carry a concealed gun.

As Jews, we have often been the victims of officially-sanctioned oppression. Giving the same people who might someday want to do you harm a say in whether or not you have the tools to resist them is simply foolish.

Now, I do agree with Silverman that any new firearms owner should get training on how to safely, effectively, and legally use a gun. I disagree in that such training should be mandated by the government, for the same reason I'm against licensing. It is all too easy for training requirements to be setup in such arbitrary and capricious manners that they are impossible to comply with, as recently seen in Chicago.

Further, Jews should not wait until they are the victims of anti-semitism before arming themselves. By the time that happens it could be too late. On top of that, competence with firearms takes time to develop and is perishable skill. You need to know how to use it, and use it well, before the time comes when you need it.

Silverman's view on the difficulty of obtaining a carry permit is colored by his experience as a NJ resident. In NJ, it is difficult to legally purchase a firearm but damn near impossible to get a carry permit. However, in most of the United States, Americans are able to get a permit to carry a firearm as a matter of right, although in many states that right is conditioned on getting trained. On the other hand, the neighboring state of PA has no training requirement for a license to carry a firearm, while AK, VT, and AZ do not require law abiding citizens to get a license to carry a gun for protection.

Regardless of training requirements, Jews should get a license to carry a concealed firearm, as long as doing so is possible. Antisemetic crime is not confined to the home, indeed as Silverman described at the beginning of his article, Jews should be prepared to confront it at synagogue, and elsewhere.

In some of my prior posts to this blog I have stated that "Never Again" requires more than harsh language. If we as Jews are serious about preventing another Shoah (Holocaust), we have no one to depend on but ourselves.

So where do you start? The largest organization providing firearms instruction is the National Rifle Association. (Indeed, it was founded in 1871 to promote marksmanship training. The NRA only became active in gun control politics in the past 40 - 50 years.) You can find courses local to you at Information about the content of the various courses are available at

The NRA is obviously the largest and best known organization working to protect your right to keep and bear arms. One that should be of particular interest to Jews, though, is Jews For the Preservation of Firearms Ownership. And if you think the NRA is radically pro-gun, you should check out JPFO. ;)