Monday, February 27, 2006

House Gun

This seems to be a hot topic on gun blogs all over the internet. I have read several articles and most of the people have good ideas with well thought out reasons for their pet house gun. While several have posted that opinions will very and you should keep that in mind I want to take this moment to reiterate the point;

The best gun is the one you have and the one you know how to use. If you are comfortable with the Blunderbuss then go for it, if you love your .22 magnum that's cool too. My opinion about what works best is going to be different then your opinion. I am happy to see that most of the bloggers are spending time defending their choice, which means they have thought about it.

Use what you know, know what you use!

And for those of you interested, my house gun is attached to my house body armor!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Thanks Billy

I was just thinking about reloading and remembered when I first started SASS shooting and Judgemint Day and I were handed our brass after shooting and weren't going to save the .45 Colt brass. I think it was Billy Bucarest who told me "You're gonna reload this" and handed it to me. Saved me some brass cost, so thanks Billy.

Also, thanks to Judge Mint's pa who gave him his reloading equipment and thus to me eventually. Startup on reloading isn't that much, but after buying guns, leather and all that crap, it'd been daunting.

Other randomness.

I ran across a new shooter that works for the same University that I do, I didn't catch his name, but I'm sure I'll see him at the March 18th shoot. Its good to have more shooters.

I lightened the left chamber spring on my TTN 1878 shotgun. The factory spring was too stiff and the supplied lighter spring was too soft. I ground down the factory spring so that it is lighter, but still sets off primers. I hope I didn't disturb the neighboors too much the other night when I was testing it in my garage. :)

I sure wish someone made a packer style boot in size 15 wide. I found one boot by Double H that is a 15D that I might have to try (kinda sucks to pay $150 to try something). They say that packers are more comfy and I'm all about comfortable.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Rollin Rollin Rollin

SASS is just plain different than other shooting sports, heck, we dress up in costumes, take on alias' and generally cavort around like we're from a different time. Besides all that, the one way to truely know the shooting event you're at is a SASS event is all the gun carts. What other shooting sport do you see specialized and most of the time highly decorated carts that most of the shooters built themselves?

SASS has gun carts because we're toting around so many guns and ammo that there'es no way you could carry everything you need. Hence, the gun cart. There are a few vendor that sell pre-made carts, usually kits that you can put together and even at that I've raFlickr Photorely seen two exactly alike and even then you'll see some tiny form of specialization. Most folks make their own as Judge and I have done. You've seen the first gun cart that Judge and I shared at our first shoot, it was pretty rough, but it worked. We then made a cart that became Judge's cart and then I made mine (having learned a few lessons from building his).

I'm including a few shots of my cart, sorry for them not being outdoors, at the shoot pictures, but this is the off season here in Indiana and my garage will have to do. First you'll notice the large umbrella that dominates the cart, this is an old patio umbrella my mother gave me especially for this purpose. It is anchored to the cart with a couple of copper pipe straps and rests on the lower box of the cart. This is a true lifesaver and makes anyone with a large umbrella a popular guy at the local matches in the hot Flickr Photosummer months (or when it rains).

The main attraction on any guncart is the gun holders. You want to make sure you make enough to hold the guns you'll have at the shoot, however, you don't want to make the cart too big. It still has to fit into your transportation and you don't want a goliath gun cart, especially if your range has a hill, an boy does Thunder Valley have a hill! Most carts fall in the four or five gun size. As you can see in the picture, mine is a four gun cart. You can also see that I've attached a couple of old holsters so that I can alieviate myself from the burden of my pistols, that's oh so handy.
Flickr Photo
You'll also want a place to store your ammo, empty brass and other accessories. when I built this cart, I kept it very simple and bought one by pine to build it. The box diminsions are determined by the lumber diminsions I bought. So it is roughly 22"X24"X11" (I bought 1X12, however it is really 3/4"X11"). Anyway, I divided the box in two parts, one for storage and one for the guns. The axle is a simple 1/2" steel rod cut to length with wire rimmed wheels (the most expensive part). The "feet" at the front are 4X4 posts attached with glue and screws. The uprights I cut out of 1X8 pine and cut them at a 10º angle to accomodate the comb on the long guns and to get the handle aft of the axle. A lot of folks come straight up with these and just put aFlickr Photonother angle part on for the handle (Judge's cart is like that).

One of the feature that is nearly mandatory, is to have the cart fold or break down into pieces for transport. Mine come insto two pieces to ride in the back of my truck and get below the bed cover. A word of advice about this, make it as easy as possible to break down, I started with bolts and wing nuts (4) and finally went to a couple of latches and slots at the bottom of the box to hold the uprights. Spending 10 minutes breaking down the cart after climbing the hill is not my idea of fun, plus it lets me have more time to socialize (read steal Abu's beer). I've taken to adorning my cart with the badges I get from attending SASS events, I put the badges on the lid to my storage area, I've only got three so far, but that should get full by the time I'm done. Finally, you shouldn't be afraid to attach whatever you think is useful onto your cart, heck these aren't show pieces. Notice the net and grabber I attached to have handy for anyone who wants to pick up brass, also the hangers on the side for whatever.

Be creative, you can make almost anything into a gun cart and if you don't have the skill to do it yourself and can't afford a kit/prebuilt, get someone to help you or look around for some nutjob who wants to get rid of his cart so he can build a new one.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Seeing things clearer

So I was browsing through one of the CAS forum classified section when I ran across an ad from one of the local "gunsmiths" (in quotes because I don't think he has an FFL or is licensed in any way), he was selling a new line of front sights for rifles that he had some catchy name for that I can't remember right now. Anyway, he was selling them for $25 or some such nonsense like that, I mean a marbles sight is $10, what set his sights apart is that he a) installed a massive bead on it (#2 shotgun bead) and b) had marketed it with aforementioned catchy name. At the time I thought, "hell, I could do that!".

Fast forward to today when Judge and I set out on our second day of touring the Southern Indiana countryside looking for cowboy and gun stuff. We found ourselves over in Spencer at the local gun and knife show and I found myself staring at a vendor's selection of shotgun beads, for $4 I bought two #2 beads and tucked those in my pocket for later. After concluding today's trip with no real excitement or purchases, I headed into the garage with an old sight I pulled off of another rifle. I yanked the bead out of it and found that the hold the bead post fits in is 1/16", so I found some piano wire of 1/16" and a drill bit, dremel with griding wheel and a pair of pliers.

Flickr Photo First I cut off the bead threads with side cut pliers, then used the dremel to flatten the cut. I mounted the 1/16" bit in my press and drilled the hole about1/16" deep. I then used some loctite gel super glue to attach the bead to the piano wire and cut the wire to length using the old bead post as a guide. I then checked the post for fit on the sight and glued it in place.

Fairly satisfied with the results, I repeated the process on my Marlin's sight and reinstalled the sight, the picture to the right shows the difference in the new "Gigante Sight" (bottom) and a 3/32" marbles bead sight on my '92. Sorry that the picture isn't too clear, lighting was bad and for some reason this didn't photograph well even with a tri-pod. The picture just doesn't do the new sight justice.

This is just an example of a cowboy saving a few bucks doing it himself. I had everything but the beads on hand in my house so the whole thing only cost $4 and those sights look HUGE! I really should solder the bead and piano wire together, but I just wanted to see if this would work, now that I've got proof, I'll try it at the range and if there's anyproblem with the bead coming off, I'll make some using solder.

Friday, February 17, 2006


I finally got all the reloading done that needed to be done for the start of the season. Not a chore I like, but one that's necessary because of the cost of the ammo we shoot. If you try to buy factory ammo in .45 Colt or .45 S&W (Schofield), you're looking at spending around $20 for a box of 50, I can reload it for around $5/box. $15 vs $60 per shoot is a VERY significant savings and every penny counts, especially with the price of gas now and days, if you have to travel any sort of distance to shoot, you know what I mean.

Another good thing about reloading is getting the load that you want. Factory .45 Colt loads are pretty stout, even the "cowboy" loads are near the SASS maximum velocity out of the pistol and while they don't bother me too much, they make it harder to have a quick followup shot. Reducing the powder charge and bullet weight make for much friendlier loads that allow you to shoot faster and not feel like you've gone seven rounds with the champ. Some guys go to the extreme of tayloring their loads to each firearm, that's too much work for me, plus I don't have my own range out my back door.

Flickr PhotoHere are some photos of my reloading setup. I use the excellent Dillon 550B progressive reloading press, Lyman .45 Colt dies with the excellent Lee Factory Crimp Die to finish off the ammo. As you can see for the photos, I have a couple of large bins to the right of the press, one for holding brass to be loaded and one to catch the completed ammo. To the left you'll see the bullet tray, keeping everything close to the press and in good position reduces movement and makes everything faster. These are attached to my bench via the wall brackets that come with the bins from my local mega hardware store. At this point, if I have all the primer tubes loaded and ready, I can crank out 400 rounds an hour with this setup. Compare that to the 75 an hour I was doing with the turret press I was using and you'll know why I love the Dillon, it shortens the time I spend on a dreary task :)

Flickr PhotoSome things that I really thing you should use when reloading are safety items. Eye protection is a must, primers have been know to go off in the tube and although it hasn't happened to me, I can imagine what could happen (even though the 550B has a double wall primer feed construction for protection). Ear protection is recommended, I'll be honest, I don't wear ear protection, I usually listen to my iPod when reloading. You probably notice that purple glove on the bullet tray, thats a nitrile glove, I use it to protect my hand from the lead bullets that I use, lead is dangerous and can be absorbed through the skin. I use nitrile gloves over latex because I also wear them while I clean guns to protect my hands from the harsh chemicals.

The bench you use for reloading is pretty darned important, it has to be sturdy enough to hold the press steady while operating it. My bench is an old pottery table from the local University Fine Arts school, it is 3/16" angle steel frame and the top is four 3/4" plywood sheets stacked on top of each other, it weighs a ton and my press doesn't move when I operate it. As a matter of fact, I move when I operate the press! I have an old office task chair that I sit on and that allows me to easily move positions when reloading, you'd be suprised at the amount of moving I do when reloading.

Reloading stuff I can't do without; Lee FCD, scales, digital calipers, bins bins bins, iPod, ammo boxes (lots of them), extra primer tubes, spare parts kit for the 550B (though I haven't used it), maintenance kit for the 550B, case trimmer, case guage, case deburrer and a heated/cooled garage.

Its not a task I like, but if you gotta, you gotta and you may as well do it well and be as comfortable and safe as possible.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


One of the important facets of CAS is the dress code. It doesn’t take much, but even a little effort in this department can go a long way. If you don’t have much money (and who does after buying 4 guns) and you aren’t into the whole dress up thing then here is the way to get outfitted from head to toe.

Cowboy Hat: You must have one and the goods ones cost some money. For about 25 to 35 dollars you can get a Bailey or Straw hat at any local western wear store.

Shirt: Any plain white button down shirt will do. If you’ve got a Goodwill store nearby stop in the collarless shirts are more authentic and usually you ca find bunches of them at Goodwill stores. Shouldn’t have to spend more then 20 bucks on this, and you probably already have something that will work.

Pants: Blue jeans will work just fine if they don’t have any designer tags on them. Levi’s and Wranglers work the best. Again you should already have a pair and if you don’t you can pick some Wranglers up for under 25 bucks

Boots: Cowboy boots are also required and expensive, so if you already have a pair (even if they are funny colored and from the 80’s) go ahead and use them. If you don’t have a pair, then pick you up some Justin Ropers they can be had for about 75 bucks.

There you have it. That is all you need to start shooting, but Costuming in CAS is just as important to some people as shooting so if you are looking for more authentic duds then here is where you start looking.

If you live in Arizona take a run into Phoenix and go to Wild West Mercantile. They have everything you need to get started. It’s a great place and they also do a bang up business through the internet. If you are in Indiana then you have to go to Tonto Rim. They are the Midwest version of Wild West Mercantile, except they also specialize in custom cowboy hats. In Iowa you’ve got River Junction Trade Company who carries tons of authentic gear. The internet is full of stuff and you may want more then one outfit if you plan on attending State shoots and above. I find that 3 outfits are about right for the multiple day shoots. You might also want fancy duds for the cowboy balls and the cowboy churches. So here are the basics for someone wanting to put some time into their outfits.

Cowboy Hat: You will probably want a felt or beaver hat; they cost money, but look great. Check out Tonto Rim first, but River Junction Trading Company and B Bar 10 also have a load of choices.

Shirt: The first question you need to ask yourself is; what is my character going to be? If you are going to be a townie then you will need a dress type shirt, frontiersman will want a different kind of shirt and a cowboy still another shirt. Actually going with a character concept is important to all of you clothing choices, so get a clear idea first then look for appropriate clothing. Wahmaker makes a shirt for everybody so start there.

Vest/Coat: you will probably want a vest since they were so common in the Victorian era. Wahmaker has you covered on here. A coat may be necessary if you are really dressing up or are shooting where it gets cold. You will want to do some serious shopping on this one since the styles and weight very so much.

Pants: Wahmaker, nuff said.

Boots: Custom boots can run you around 400 to 500 bucks so unless you are made of money I would stay away from them. Good period correct boots will go for about 250 and you can find them almost anyway. Look for a Boot World near you, or check out the many Civil War Reenactment pages for authentic Cavalry and Infantry boots.

Have fun with the costuming. It helps you get into the whole CAS thing. Nothing sucks more then being on a posse with a guy shooting in Combat Boots and a Baseball Cap...OK, other things suck more, I just don't like it.

Monday, February 13, 2006

My Country Music

Why do cowboys have to listen to country music? I mean I get it, but I just don’t get it. Think of the cowboy. You know the one riding the range herding cattle, spending days in the saddle, sitting the lonely night watch, and occasionally getting to go into town and whoop it up with his buddies till he passes out dead drunk. Once broke he started the cycle all over again.

I find myself sitting hear listening to my favorite music and wondering way no one would consider it cowboy music. My favorite music for all of you out there is blues, specifically southern and delta blues.

Country music is really redneck music. It’s for simple people, farmers, salt of the earth, you know…morons. (I exclude Hank Williams which is just magical stuff) I don’t think a cowboy would be caught dead listening to that stuff. But blues really hits the spot.

Complex soulful rhythms, heartfelt singing about god, love, sex, violence, and most of all hope…yep blues really hits the spot. “But Judge it wasn’t around back then” you might say, and you would be right, but I swear if the old west was now they would be listening to Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, and don’t forget the modern masters like Marc Cohn, ZZ Top, the Allmen Brothers, Marc Broussard and even KT Tunstall.

I guess the soundtrack of my great western epic would be just a little different from everyone else.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Lately I’ve been doing a little blog surfing. Particularly I’ve been looking at the gun friendly blogs. I have noticed several iems of interest I would like to point out.

1. Most gun blogs spend more time with politics then guns. This is not good.

2. I know more then most of the gun blog writers. That is to be expected.

3. Most gun blogs have very cool graphic banners.

How does this relate to Amigos Cantina?

1. We are more about guns and fun stuff then politics…good.

2. I am smarter then anyone…we all knew that.

3. Jose needs to start work on a cool blog banner for Amigos Cantina.

In the immortal words of Stan Lee, nuff said.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, Practice, Practice

That's right, Practice! It's what I don’t do, and what 90 percent of CAS shooters don't do, but what we all need to do a little more of.

(The above statement is true even though it is probably one of the worst grammatical sentences I have constructed since 3rd grade)

Here is a little practice regime for you. First, unload all of your CAS guns. Double Check. Place the ammunition in a separate room. Remove any ammunition from your gunbelt and/or shotgun belt. Double Check. Make sure that there is no live ammunition in your practice room. Double Check. (Get the picture)

Now, strap on your gunblelt and place your unloaded pistols into the holsters. Choose a spot on the wall as your target. Place your hands on top of your head. When ready draw first pistol and "shoot" your target 5 times. While doing this make sure you can see your front site and you are keeping it on target. Work on the function of the gun trying to be a smooth as possible. Do this as fast as you can and still keep the sights on the target.

Reholster the pistol after the 5 shots without looking at your holster.

Repeat the above process using your second pistol.

This 10 shot cycle is one time, do this 10 times.

Practice in the above manner everyday for 1 week. Next week I will give you another simulation to work on.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Rules Lawyers Must Die!

I hate rules lawyers. If you know what I’m talking about then you probably hate them too, If you don’t, then you will. I have no idea where the term came from, but it’s been around wargaming for a very long time.

A Rules Lawyer is a person who picks apart the rules to a game with the expressed purpose of finding a loophole that gives them a competitive advantage. That doesn’t sound too bad on its face, but a rules lawyer goes much deeper then that. They refuse to look at the intent of a rule but focus on the wording only. They confuse common sense issues and demand that the letter of the rule be followed. If they are unable to find a loophole to their advantage they try to stop others from doing something through the same type of literalistic interpretation.

Since the majority of rules are written by amateurs who love the sport/game and not technical writers errors are bound to exist. When faced with these errors normal people use common sense and an understanding of the overall game, intent or spirit to come to a conclusion that works.

Why are rule books so big? Rules Lawyers

Justice would be having all rules lawyers crushed to death under the weight of the tomes called rule books they forced to be written.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


I’m a holster junkie, I admit it. I have dozens of holsters. I have holsters in nylon, leather, plastic and metal. I have shoulder holsters, ankle holsters, IWB holsters, clip holsters, and duty holsters. You name it and I have it, or had it. Most of my holster purchases have been to cover a perceived need, but recently (the last couple of years) I have been leaning toward custom holsters.

You see the problem isn’t the style of holster, but the quality. Most people are willing to spend 1000 dollars on a gun, but wont pony up more then 50 bucks on a holster and then are never satisfied. If you are willing to spend 100 to 200 dollars on a holster then you will probably be happy with what you get. The same holster for 50 bucks just isn’t the same holster.

When I started cowboy shooting I wasn’t really sure what I was wanting. I ended up buying a double buscadero rig from Nevada Leather for about 200 bucks. The rig was made in South Africa and wasn’t a bad rig, but it never really fit well, and I wasn’t particularly happy with it. I decided to try my hand at a crossdraw rig so I picked another rig up from Wildlife and Western Wonders for about 160 bucks. This one had a strong side straight drop and a crossdraw that pushed the 30 degree rule to the limit. It worked well, but wasn’t made of very good quality material and was already wearing out after one season. So I decided on my third gun rig in as many years, but this time I was going high quality custom.

I found what I was looking for at the 2004 SASS Convention. Ted Blocker made a gun rig called the Judgment Day rig, and since it was my namesake I had to buy it. I got to custom pick the color, border stamp, buckle, conchos, and all the other bells and whistles. This rig was a double straight drop with a metal strip inside the holster tang that connects it to the belt. That allowed me to adjust the holsters anyway I liked for cant and drop. When I tried it on it was the most comfortable belt I had ever worn (and I’ve worn gun belts for over17 years) I loved the rig so much I ordered a custom shotgun belt to go with it.

All of the pictures are from my signiture rig the "Judgment Day" or as I like to call it "The Judge Mint Day"

In the end take your time, shop around, and spend the dough. You will be much happier with a quality rig from a custom house then an off the rack special that meets your budget. Trust me on this you will be happier spending the money.

Monday, February 06, 2006

“Say hello to my little friend”

It’s time for some more gun porn on this site, and what better excuse to throw in some pictures then talking about my little back-up. I love the S&W double action revolvers. I carried a S&W 66 for several years before I went to a department that issued weapons. So now I carry a Glock on my hip, but I keep this little beauty tucked away for close encounters.

This is a S&W Model 640. It’s a .357 hammerless and shoots like a dream. When I first picked it up I carried it for years unchanged, but with Jose getting more and more involved in gunsmithing I decided to have him do a few things to it. He polished the internals, replaced the springs with a little lighter version, and installed the XS Big Dot tritium sight on the front. I couldn’t be happier.

You’ve got to be comfortable with your back-up gun and I’ve spent time practicing my transitions with this one. Last year on the range we were doing move and shoot drills. If we ran dry we were to reload, but we had done this drill for several minutes and I knew I was on my last mag. When it ran dry I was in the middle of a string so I tossed the glock (that’s the nice thing about a plastic gun) and went for the snubbie. In under 2 seconds I had transitioned to the ankle holster and delivered 2 to the target (head shots) The rest of the range stopped shooting since they were all firing 9mm “Pop, Pop, Pop” and all of a sudden they hear “Bang, Bang”.

The look on the instructors face?…priceless.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

So I here they are going to remake Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Now I am all for more westerns on the big screen these days. I feel westerns are the only true American movie genre and we've gotten away from that kind of film making. So I'm all for making westerns but why remake this one? Why remake an American classic? Are you going to make it "better?" Are you going to improve on one of the best cowboy buddy films of all time? Or, are you just going to showcase some modern talent and you can't think of anything original to do?

Now the best part, the remake will star Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. I don't hate these two like many people, but come on! Matt, you killed Oceans 11 with your other buddies, don't do it again, please.

Just imagine the months before opening. Commercials filled with driving rock music, explosions, close-up pictures of Matt and Ben and a voice over that says something like "From the people who brought you The Rock and Con Air comes…"

I have to go vomit now.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Hollywood here I come!

Maybe not just yet, but it was pretty cool being a part of a TV show. Ok, so it was just a regional show, which I have never heard of, that airs on the WB network, at weird times, but hey how many TV shows have you been on?

First off I want to thank Jose and the rest of the guys at Thunder Valley for inviting me to come out and shoot with them. Jose and I got there about 8:30and everybody else started showing up around 9. Everybody else being Vaquero Hayes, Graver, Abu, Graver’s Rose, Coog, Randy Atcher, Lizzy of the Valley, Fighting Eagle, and of Course Redneck Rebel, and Ellie Mae. We got everything set up and then did a little plinking to warm up. I shoot some .22 with Randy Atcher and then the crew showed up.

The crew being the hosts and film crew for the show “Firepower TV” It is sponsored by Keilser’s Gun Shop in Jeffersonville Indiana and airs on the WB network on Sundays at 11:30 a.m. I have never seen the show, but the people involved obviously knew what they were doing and seemed to do a good job getting shots, and making the whole thing work. This was the first CAS event these guys had covered so it was new to them. They loved out costumes and the range and started taking film of everything right away.

We started filming the long range side match events and then moved into shooting stages. Every one of us was filmed shooting a stage and even though I wasn’t nervous about being on film, I was very rusty and shot badly all day. It seemed like everyone shot poorly but had fun. They interviewed several of the shooters, and while I didn’t get interviewed they took a lot of close-ups of me in my gear. Actually I’m guaranteed to get my leather and hat on the show since I loaned it to the shows host to shoot a stage and wear around for a while.

All in all I think it was a great day and I think they should be able to put together a great show from the footage they took. It should air in a couple of months and I’m really looking forward to it. The guys at “Firepower TV” are also going to put together a pilot episode for the Outdoor Channel so who knows, we may become National stars!

Yeah, and maybe I'm a Chinese jet pilot. -jose