Articles,  for those of us,  who Hunt,  and Go To The Line,  with our dogs.
 
 
The Below Series of Gun articles originally from SITF
reprinted with permission of the Author. © Tom Radde
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How to Select a Quality Dog Food  © P. J. Andersen 

We all know the importance of a quality dog food. We have seen the results of poor caliber feed. "You get what you pay for " is sage advice, but what are we paying for when we buy dog food? The name, the package, or the ingredients? What must a diet contain to satisfy all the requirements of our hard working dogs? What constitutes a quality dog food? I wanted a definitive answer, and I found it. In this article I will share with you some of the facts of my research. To qualify this information I would like to say that I am not employed by a dog food manufacturer, I am a buyer/user of this product.

You and I buy dog food for two or three reasons. First, to supply our dogs with the energy to perform they're given duties; second, to supply them with the nutritional requirements to be healthy; third, human comfort (confidence, convenience, cost, etc.)

Energy. Dogs expel lots of it, thank heavens, otherwise pheasant hunting would be a lot more work. Energy is the root of all food. Energy in dog food is measured in kilocalories (kcal) at three different stages. Gross energy is measured prior to the dog eating it. Digestible energy (DE) is gross energy minus energy loss in the gastrointestinal tract. The most important energy measurement is metabolizable energy (ME), it is the amount of energy available to the body, digestible energy minus urinary loss. A dog that weighs 40 lbs. needs 1200 kcal per day for daily maintenance, a 60 lb'er needs 1600 kcal, and a 80 lb'er 2000 kcal. Remember that a working dog needs 2-3 times more energy than a sedentary dog. Unfortunately not many of the current dog food labels contain this (ME) information. The solution is to call the manufacturer's 800 number and request there ME kcal per lb., then ask how many lbs. per cup. High quality dog foods should contain about 2000 kcal/lb.

During my research, I discovered a few things that are of importance here. For hard working dogs, sled dogs or all day hunting dogs, the dog food should contain 30% protein and 20% fat. The fat in a diet should be in the 90% digestible range, while the protein should be in the high 80% digestible range. A meat based dog food, one where a meat is listed as the first ingredient, is more likely to be a better diet and more digestible by our canines. The following list offers some general definitions paraphrased from the Official Publication of the Association of American Feed Control Officials: 
Meat: muscle, tongue, diaphragm, heart, and esophagus. If it states an animal name it must only contain that type of meat. 
Meat-by-products: lung, spleen, kidney, brain, liver, stomach & intestine clean of contents. No skin, horns, teeth, hoofs, or bones allowed. 
Meat and bone meal: dry rendered product from animal tissue not including hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings or manure and stomach contents.
Poultry-by-products: the clean unconverted parts of the carcasses of slaughtered poultry such as heads, feet, and viscera, clean of fecal content, feathers, and foreign matter.
Fish meal: the clean, dried, ground tissues of unspoiled whole fish or fish parts. 
Animal fat: the fat extracted during the processing of slaughtered poultry or mammals
Containing 90% fatty acids.
Vegetable fat (oil): the stuff obtained by extracting the oil from seeds and fruits contains not less than 90% fatty acids. 
Tallow: animal fat with a melt point above 104*F.
Ground corn: the entire kernel ground to a smaller size.
Corn gluten meal: the stuff left over when the corn flour is washed to remove the cornstarch.
Brewers rice: small pieces of rice separated from the larger whole kernels.
Wheat middling: a by-product of flour milling, it may contain different levels and sizes of germ, bran, and endosperm.
Soybean meal: the by-product of the oil extraction process is ground up. 
Brewers dried yeast: the dried, non-fermented, non-extracted yeast resulting from the brewing of beer.

The nutritional requirements of each individual dog are different, but over the general canine population, the differences are not all that great. I don't know diddley about how much biotin, chorine, or selenium a dog needs, shoot I don't even know what they are. I don't have to; the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the National Research Council (NRC) does and has determined through laboratory testing the requirements for our dogs. Look to see that the nutritional requirements of your dog's food meet AAFCO standards. While these standards are great for you and I, every one of our dogs has different rates of nutrient usage. One of my dogs seems to need more zinc than her kennel mate to have a good coat. Same breed, closely related, differing nutritional requirements. No one dog food will meet the nutrient requirements or nutrient source to be utilized efficiently by all dogs. 

So how did I choose my dog food after I found out what I was looking for? I grabbed all the dog food brochures I could for meat based foods with close to the 30/20 ratio that meet AAFCO standards at the local pet food super mart. I noted the price per bag and the pounds per bag. I called the manufacturers to get the metabolizable energy per pound. Eliminating those that were not close to the 2000 kcal/lb. Then I calculated the cost of the energy. The final choice is a set of compromises. With five dogs I picked the dog food that was the least expensive per kcal, while still maintaining the quality standards closely. You could choose yours based on name recognition or whatever but now you know what you are buying; nutrition, energy and consumer comfort.
 ©Pete Andersen

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 CHOKE TUBES

The modern American choke is measured by the difference between the diameter of the bore and the diameter of the choke. This difference in thousands of an inch is called the 'amount of constriction'. The tighter the constriction, the tighter the choke. To a point of diminishing returns. It does not matter the diameter of the bore, only the constriction. In using 12g as an example, a .725 bore with a .690 choke has a constriction of .035, or a full choke. A bore of .740 with a choke of .705 also has a .035 constriction and is a full choke. However the larger bore will throw a more even pattern due to less deformation of the lead shot on the trip down the bore. Some very specialized shotgun bores may have a bore diameter of .780, for a 12 gauge. This is interesting because the industry standard for a 10 gauge is .775. The .780 12 gauge guns are mostly used for competitive target shooting, in warm conditions, with special, very soft base, wads. In the field .740 bores for 12 gauge is the largest which will work consistently, under all conditions, and with factory shells.
Most choke tubes have the correct constriction but lack the proper shape. The shot traveling down the bore needs a micro second to settle down after just being forced through the choke constriction. This gives the shot string the needed time to settle down and give a very even, consistent pattern.
Most fixed chokes can be bored to achieve the needed parallel section, however as you bore out the end of the choke to get a parallel section, you take away some of the constriction. The good news is most of the old fixed chokes are throwing a good tight even pattern. It's the first choke tubes on the market that have to be measured. Choke tubes in guns designed after 1995 are in many cases much better. Fortunately there are several after-market chokes tubes for sale which do a 150% better job than the tubes which come with your gun. Ask your local full time gunsmith/seller to measure your bore, and tubes, and apprise you of your options.
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LONG FORCING CONES 

First let's describe the inside of most all Japan, Belgium, Italian, and American shotgun bores. (popular guns used in the Spaniel Field Trial game) The chamber is parallel, which tapers down to the bore. That taper is called The Forcing Cone. The bore is again parallel, at the end of which, the barrel tapers down to the choke, that is called choke lead, then, finally, the very end of the barrel, the choke, should again be parallel. 
The purpose of the Forcing Cone, is to provide a path from the end of the shell to the bore. The longer and smoother this is, the fewer deformed pellets in your pattern. The rounder the pellets, the denser the pattern. 
In the past, the days of rolled crimped paper hulls, the forcing cone was very short. This was needed to keep the gas from escaping past the inefficient fiber wads. Also the shot had no sleeve or wad, so the bore diameter was usually very close to the inside diameter of the hull. Often, pre 30's, the forcing cone was just 1/16" long. The perfect Forcing Cone was a small step, aligned so that when the paper hull unrolled it met the very end of chamber. Ideally, it was then a straight shot into the parallel bore. As time went on the next shell was still paper, but had a folded crimp with the paper folding over to the center. The gun manufactures made the chamber a little longer, and increased the length of the Forcing Cone to between 3/8" and ¼" to accommodate the longer paper hull. However the early folded paper hulls still had no shot sleeve. Soon after the first plastic hulls appeared, the shooters complained it was a step backwards, because they were like the old paper rolled crimp style, the shooters didn't like the cardboard over the shot wad making holes in the pattern. The first plastic folded crimp hulls still had no shot sleeve, or one piece wad/shot sleeve as we know today, and the Forcing Cone was left as is. 
When the first shot sleeves, and one piece wad/shot sleeves combos came into use, the patterns improved so dramatically, the forcing cones were still left as they were. The firearms engineers decided the improvement was from the protective shot sleeve, most everyone was happy with the performance. Except the Handicap Trap shooters. When a 50 M.P.H. target is traveling away from you, and is launched 27 yards in front of you, you need every pellet you can get to break that 1-1/2"  x 4"  target.  Most of the Handicap Trap targets are usually broke at 45 to 60 yards away from the shooter. Add to that, the best score can win hundreds or even thousands of dollars, you can see why this calls for not only tight patters, but efficient, consent, and even, patterns. The Trap shooters continued to alter the bores, chambers, and Forcing Cones of their guns in the pursuit for more efficiency in their patterns. 
One of the many things the experimenting Trap shooters found is, if you gently squeeze the shot down to the bore size, (longer forcing cones) you will again have less deformation of the shot pellets. Less deformation, less flyers, more consistent pattern. Another side effect of a long forcing cone is less recoil, a factor in trap shooting, where one may shoot hundreds of rounds in one afternoon. Almost all the Belgium Brownings, Japan Brownings, Berettas, Japan Winchesters, S.K.B.'s, and like guns have forcing cones from ½" to ¾" long, and almost all those guns can benefit from a 1-1/2" to 3" long forcing cones. Further proof is in the 'New Improved Sporting Clays' guns which are now on the market. The 'improvement' is a long forcing cone and larger diameter bore, or back boring from the factory! More on back boring in the next article.
While a quality 'back boring' job costs around $125.00, a quality Long Forcing Cone job costs, around 35.00. 
In the quest for a denser, more even pattern, the second step, behind checking out your chokes, is the long forcing cone. Just a small increase in the percentage of pellets placed on target can make quite a difference between a crippled runner and a clean hit.
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BACKBORING

Back boring is the process of removing metal from the bore of your shotgun and leaving the metal in the choke. This will effectively increase the difference between the bore diameter and choke diameter, thus increasing the choke of your gun.
One benefit is increasing the choke on a favorite shotgun you don't want to trade off. Or shortening the barrels of that shotgun, and still have a tight choked shotgun, or (if you have changed your style of hunting) changing that I/C & Sk choked gun into a Full/Mod. Another benefit, is having being better patterns. So far the Trap shooters have been doing almost all the experimenting is this field. (In the last few years the steel shot shooters have also caught on.) Remember the average bore diameter in a 12 gauge is .725. The Trap shooters have experimented with bores as large as .780. Perhaps that doesn't sound so big, but when I tell you the average bore diameter of a 10 gauge shotgun is .775, that sounds huge. As in the case of choke constriction, all dimensions have a point of diminishing returns. The .780 seems to be the limit in a very controlled situation, such as special wads so the propelling gas doesn't escape, and the temperature of the shells are above freezing so the wad is flexible enough to prevent gas blow by. The best bore diameter for a field, or sporting 12 gauge, using shells commercially available, is .735 to .740.  Many firearms 'experts' are still putting a dime in the end of a 12 gauge shotgun and declaring the choke by comparing how far down the bore the dime goes. That used to work in about 80% of American made guns, just like a longer barrel used to have more power. (Still will, if you use black powder shells) Today with the Hunting, Sporting Clays, Sporting, Trap, Skeet, Upland, and any other special name the manufactures stamp on a gun, the bore diameter, and the quality of the chokes, (tubes), is not a given, you need to check or know what features each of the different 'models' have, or don't have, and if those will benefit your kind of shooting. 
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RECOIL REDUCTION

How many of you have had a sore shoulder, bruised or stinging, cheek, or even a welt on your cheek bone? You know what is causing it, just not how to fix it. Well here are some suggestions to help you make your shooting experience more enjoyable. 
The title is a bit misleading, because you really can't reduce recoil, only change it. When you pull the trigger the energy that is released, which we call recoil, can be slowed down, but it is the same amount of energy. Just as a sharp slap can be the same amount of energy as a strong shove, the slap is more painful than the shove. The goal than is to reduce the 'felt' recoil. 
One of the reasons to reduce the felt recoil, besides 'it hurts' is to improve shooting skill. If recoil is bothering you, you will be losing concentration on the task at hand. Mainly, establishing proper lead, and following through on the target. To check if recoil is bothering you, shoot some clay targets with a friend. Have your friend load your gun, and not tell you if it's a live shell or a empty. After you have shot a few rounds, and you pull the trigger on the empty, you may find yourself yanking down the forend, crunching up your shoulder, or moving your face off the stock. Or a combination of all three. This is called flinching. Some cases of flinching get so bad a shooter can't even pull the trigger, in that case a release trigger is installed. (Absolutely forbidden in the field, the release trigger functions by holding it in the normal fire position, and when it is let go, the gun fires.) The release trigger fools the brains established automatic response that moving the finger in a certain way cases pain. However most people install a release trigger, than forget to fix the underlying problem of recoil, which establishes a new automatic response of letting go of the trigger, and it hurts.
The effect of recoil is also cumulative. After many years of pounding you will become more sensitive. All the more reason to fix the problem as soon as possible.
The quickest, easiest, and cheapest way is to just add 2 or 3 pounds. The more the gun weighs, the slower the recoil will be. Of course that's impractical for field uses, so the first place to start is the recoil pad. This can be as simple as putting a thin layer of a space age material called Akton or Sorbothane in your shooting vest or coat. Both of these have extremely resilient qualities, and will not bottom out, so the recoil is spread to a larger part of your body, thus the illusion of being softer. You can also purchase a recoil pad made of one of these materials. A recoil pad of Sorbothane, and a under garment pad of Akton would do wonders in softening rearward recoil without changing the weight of the gun.
The next step is to add something to the inside of the stock. Under the recoil pad is a hole for the stock bolt. In this hole you can put a number of things. The most popular being just weight, 6 to 12 oz will change things around enough to make the gun feel different, this will be trial and error on your part. If you feel comfortable with the added weight and change in balance go out and purchase a C&H Mercury, or Edward's recoil reduction system. The mercury in the C&H has to flow uphill when the gun recoils, this extends, or slows down the time of rearward movement. The Edwards uses a system of weights and springs to basically do the same thing. Based on this system you can also purchase a Hydraulic recoil pad. These pads are wonderful and can be adjusted for the load and the guns weight, however they are very expensive.
Ports, slots, or holes in the end of the barrel, just before the choke is a very effective way of reducing muzzle rise. The ports produce a 'jet effect' that pushes the muzzle down just as it wants to rise. This is a very effective way to reduce the cheek bruising, which results in head lifting, which produces a missed bird. Many guns are now factory ported, and the best known after market gun porting is done by Mag-n-Port, or Laser Ports. Check with your local gunsmith. Drilling holes in the end of the barrel works, however they are not smooth and need to be cleaned much more frequently.
Soft tops are adjustable cheek pieces which have a Akton or Sorbothane cover. This soft cover prevents the cheek bruising associated with the muzzle rise, and because it's adjustable it will correct the placement of your cheek on the stock. If cheek bruising is the big factor in your flinching, a soft top may well be the ticket. Even if you don't opt for a adjustable soft top, make sure your cheek piece on your gun fits you. Take a straight edge 4' long and lay it on the rib of your gun. Look at the edge over the stock. If your comb slopes down, as it goes to the muzzle, or is parallel with the rib then you shouldn't have a cheek bruising problem. If it slopes up, think what it is doing. As the gun recoils to the rear is also lifting. That drives the comb right into your cheek. Put on a soft top. 
An old trick with a new twist is adding weight to the muzzle of your gun. The old way was to take sheet lead and glue it to the barrel. This settled a whippy barreled gun, reduced muzzle rise, and slowed down the rearward recoil. Today there is a mercury tube which is attached to the end of the barrels which contribute to less muzzle rise due to it's weight, and the action of the mercury. It's also easier to put on, and change position of, to effect the balance of the gun. 
Using any of the above methods, in any combination, will certainly help with that recoil problem. And when you feel less recoil, you will shoot better.
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THE SHOT SHELL

After all your work on your shotgun mechanics like, L.F.C.'s, Backboring, Choke Tubes, your pattern still won't improve unless you have quality shot shells. To look at a box of shells and determine what the quality is inside, is relatively simple. The secret is price. You will always pay for what you get! For example, in the store you will see many "promotional" loads. These will usually be 1 to 1-1/8 oz of shot and 3 or 3-1/4 dram equivalent. Next to these boxes you will find the 'trap' loads listing 1 or 1-1/8 oz of shot, and 2-3/4 to 3 dram equivalent. The promotional shells will sell for a dollar or two less than the trap loads. On the outside they look like quite a bargain, and we all need to save money for entry fees and travel expenses. However on the inside you get what you pay for. First the hull is not designed to be reloaded, it contains a separate base wad which can come loose during repeated loading, and if just one or two grains of powder get under the base wad, it can be pushed out into the bore of the gun, a sure bulge or burst of the barrel should you fire another round. Second is the hardness of the shot. All lead shot is not created equal. The harder the shot, the more expensive. It may only be a cent or two per shell, but if you multiply that by millions of shells manufactured each year, that manufacture saves, or makes, a lot of money. Suffice to say the cheep promotional shells have the softest lead available. The soft shot deforms easily, and you get a poor and erratic pattern. Third is the shot cup or wad. In the cheaper shells it is thinner and in many cases it is just a sleeve with a bit of Styrofoam as a gas seal, or a disk of hard plastic which has a poor gas seal, and has no cushioning effect. Already I hear you saying "...so what, I only use those cheep loads in training, and I kill my share of birds..." Well we all have had the training sessions with a fringe hit, on a 'must get retrieve' only to see the bird sail on, and on, and on. Perhaps the harder shot, or better cushion of the wad would have put one more BB in the bird to achieve that retrieve which was so desperately needed. 
If you gun at Field Trials it makes a lot of sense to shoot a like shell in training, what better practice could you have. This doesn't mean you should spend all your training shell budget on premium, copper plated, buffered, magnum shells. But you can shoot a shell with the same velocity, or Feet Per Second. This will keep your timing on those crossing shots sharper. Re-loading shot shells is a money saver, if you have the time. But lately I have run into several people who load the same hulls long past useful life. Each time you re-load a hull, you loose 20 to 30 F.P.S.. If you reload the same hulls with what the book says is a 1200 F.P.S. load 10 times, you could be training with a 1000 F.P.S. load by the end of the summer. Consider your pattern is approximately 30" diameter and 5' long, and while training with the slower loads your bird is flying into the very end of the pattern. When the first fall Trial comes, the Gun Captain gives you shells that are probably 300 F.P.S. faster than you are familiar with, the same situation would be a clean miss, as the shot string is gone long before the bird reaches it. And now you wonder why you've missed those crossing shots. Below is a chart showing approximate speed of shot shells, use it to gauge your shooting situation. 
Shot size is another important factor in determining how skillfully you shoot. Most people have a preference strictly by a single "golden BB" experience which is ever present in ones mind. To be certain you should pattern your shotgun with different sizes, and loads. Just as rifles shoot better with certain brands and weights of bullets, shotguns will pattern differently with a change in shot size, load, and choke. Also look below for a chart from the Lyman Shotshell Handbook published by Lyman Publications, on pellet counts per oz of shot, and Foot Pounds of energy. 
Dram Equivalent, is an old and arcane way of telling us the speed of a shot shell. The Dram refers to a measure of black powder. When the first smokeless powder shells were loaded, the people then had know idea how powerful they were, they wanted to know how this new power compared to the black powder loads they were using. Thus the Dram Equivalent. But today it would be like sending out Premiums in Latin. The people who entered Trials would learn how to read it, But the newcomer would have great difficulty reading it. Perhaps if we all keep writing the Ammo companies and tell them to put F.P.S. on the shot shell boxes, some day, they may. 
The more things we can do will be cumulative, and the result will improve our gunning at a Field Trial, training, or out hunting.    (back to Page Menu)  (back to <essft.com> Menu)

 Dram Equivalent  /  Wt. of Shot  /  F.P.S. (for lead shot)
Dram Equ.
Oz of shot
Approx. F.P.S.
2-1/2
1-1/8
1100
2-2/3
1
1180
2-2/3
1-1/8
1145
3
1
1235
3
1-1/8
1200
3-1/4
1
1290
3-1/4
1-1/8
1250
3-1/4
1-1/4
1220
3-1/2
1-1/8
1300
3-1/2
1-1/4
1255
3-1/2
1-1/2
1205
3-3/4
1-1/4
1330
3-3/4
1-3/8
1295
3-3/4
1-1/2
1295
Approximate Number of (lead) pellets in a load 
Shot
Size
Ounces of Shot
1
1-1/8
1-1/4
1-3/8
1-1/2
5
170
192
213
234
255
6
225
253
281
309
337
7.5
350
393
437
481
525
 Approximate (lead) Pellet Foot Pounds of Energy 
  at 40 yards  -  Per Pellet
F.P.S.
Shot Size
Energy
1165
5
3.04
1200
5
3.13
1255
5
3.34
1315
5
3.52
1330
5
3.56
1165
6
2.14
1200
6
2.23
1255
6
2.36
1315
6
2.49
1330
6
2.52
1200
7.5
1.26
1240
7.5
1.32
1295
7.5
1.38
1330
7.5
1.42

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NEW GUN/USED GUN

The purchase of a new gun, whether that be a 'new in box' gun, or a used gun that's 'new to you', should take some time and consideration. The first consideration should be which gun. This comes from trying your companions guns, (as a courtesy always use new shells in a borrowed gun, never re-loads) or asking to shoot a used gun from your local dealer's rack. If you borrow someone's gun, friend or dealers, that is not the gun to take out in the swamp, and cross barb wire fences with. The gun must be brought back in the same condition and make sure you clean it before returning it. In the case of a dealer, you probably will be asked to 'purchase the gun', this means leaving a check or charge, and filling out a 4473, (the yellow form). The other important factor is where you purchase it. Here, price, is not the most important factor. Just as with a car, new furnace, or household appliances, purchase that gun from your local full time dealer who will service the product, and take care of you. Many people know someone who is someplace in the industry, through which you can buy a new gun at "just over cost". This person seldom, if at all, can service your gun. The Dealer, (which you have established a relationship with), on the other hand can, and will take care of your needs right away. Suppose you snap off your front bead during training, and are shooting a trial the next day, who is going to fix you up. Suppose something major breaks on your gun, and it may be questionable as to warranty. Your local full time Dealer will send it back, and in most cases get warranty coverage with minimal, if any, cost to you. In purchasing a used gun, you can go to a gun show, purchase from a private party, or again go to the local Dealer who will have already checked over the used firearms and warranted their condition.
When looking at new guns, make sure you look for a 'new' gun. Many of the latest improvements have only been introduced in the last 5 years. If your going to go new, look at one of the backbored, ported, and long choke tubes, models. The reason I emphasize 'new' is, it's entirely possible to find a new in the box (NIB) firearm that is 5, 10, or even 20 years old. This gun can certainly be 'new' but it doesn't have the latest features. Each year when a gun company introduces new models, the continuing models don't change looks, features or names. For example, on the Browning Citori, Hunting model with choke tubes you could not know, unless you knew the serial number code, which year that model gun was made. You could buy a NIB gun which was made in 1982 which would look, and function, exactly the same as a 1993 gun. And if that's what your looking for, it makes no difference if that gun is 10 years, or 10 months old. However if you want the latest features, you have to know the new models. So if your looking for a Browning O/U, don't just ask for a Citori, ask to see the new models which feature backboring, porting, Invector Plus choke tubes, (Browning's trade name for it's version of better choke tubes). Some of Browning's newest models are, GTI, 325, Lighting Sporting Clays, Special Sporting Clays. By using Browning as an example, I am not necessarily recommending that brand. Ruger also makes the Red Label in a new configuration called the Sporting Clays, and SKB has changed all of it's models to the new configuration, all the new models now have a 8 in the middle of it's 3 digit numbering system. For example the old models were 500, 505, 605, 805, the new models are 585, 685, 885. And  Remington has hopped on the bandwagon with the Premier. The bottom line is which ever manufacture your looking at, including Perazzi, Valmet, Krieghoff, Sauer, etc., know the features you want, and understand which models have what features. 
If your excited by the "thrill of victory" be prepared to accept the "agony of defeat" when you go to a 'Gun Show' to purchase a used gun. I have said this before, and I have been chastised within the industry for saying so, yet I will say it again. The overwhelming majority of people who sell at gun shows live by one credo, and that is, caveat emptor, let the buyer beware. Time and time again I have heard gun dealers say a particular gun has too many problems to fix economically so they will just 'dump' it at the next gun show. These dealers have absolutely no intention of telling you what these problems are. In fact many of these dealers will know a great deal about the firearms they offer for sale, but will act like they just fell off the truck, when you start asking questions. If you see your local dealer with a table, one who you have done business with in the past, you will most likely see guns on his table which you haven's seen in his shop. And when you inquire about one of those guns, he will probably say, "Bill...that's not a good gun for your needs". Read that as, "this one has problems, don't buy it". 
Yet with all the foot falls at a gun show, you can find jewels within the mud. Educate yourself, and know exactly what your looking for. Some of the things to look for in any used shotgun are dents, which can be raised, usually without damaging the finish. Bulges which will usually require dealing with the outside finish after the repair is dealt with. Pitted bores which may or may not affect performance. Pitted chambers which can affect ejection. Scratched bores from steel shot, which may signal a host of problems to come later, especially in a SxS or O/U which is not rated for steel shot. Buggered screw slots, a sure sign that someone was inside the gun who did not have the proper tools, and if someone was inside the gun without the proper tools to get there, you have to ask yourself, what else was done inside? And specifically in the hinge gun category, the opening lever. In a new gun this should be slightly to the right of center, on a used gun if it is in the center, there is still a lot of life in that action, but if it noticeably left of center, it needs expensive repair. You may see some guns which the lever is to the right of center, and locks up tightly, but the exterior looks like it's seen a lot of use, take the barrel off the frame, (ask first), and look at the hinge pin on the frame, if it is peened, or not round, smooth, and shinny, or, if under the barrels, where the cut fits into the hinge pin, the sides look like they have been hammered in, and the underside is not a perfect mate to the pin. This gun has had a 10 second repair, which will last just as long in the field. Also look where the forend mates to the frame, look for a smooth and clean surface, if you see hammer marks, peening, or galling, this gun needs at least $300.00 worth of repair, and unless the price leaves room for this repair, leave it on the table. Another common problem is rib or barrel separation that you cannot see with your eye. Perhaps the easiest is to take the barrels off the frame, place your finger out and hang the bbl by the 'hook', or lug under the bbl., and ring the barrel with your fingernail. They should ring, not thud. To gain experience in this sound try several of your, or your friend's guns, then have someone else pinch the barrels between their thumb and forefinger, while you are holding it by the ejectors and flip the barrel with your finger again. Notice the difference. When you come across a separated top or center rib you cannot see, you will really notice the difference. This is an expensive and delicate repair, which will also require the re-bluing of the barrels once the repair is done. One more important area to examine when purchasing a used gun is to check for alterations. This may be as simple as a shortened stock, to which spacers, or a longer recoil pad can be added. Perhaps a shaved comb, to which a piece of wood could be added (ugly), or better and perhaps cheaper than a new stock, an adjustable cheek piece, or soft top. Check the chokes, look inside the barrels from the muzzle while holding the breech so a bright light source shines through. You can see the choke constriction, and with practice you can see if they have been opened up. Ask what are the bore and choke diameters. If the dealer puts a dime to the muzzle and says, "yup, sure enough, she's a full choke", or if the dime falls in, "yup...she's a open choke". Seek a more competent opinion, (See Choke Tubes). 
All in all, pay attention to detail. Don't be in a hurry. don't be swayed by sharp salesman talk of what a beauty she is. Beauty comes after the gun is found mechanically sound. And get a guarantee. Don't ask for the impossible, just sufficient time that you can return the gun for a full refund if it doesn't check out by someone you can trust. A responsible dealer will have no problem with this. If the purchase is at your local full time stocking gun dealer, the guarantee may be as simple as the gun dealers word, at a gun show get it in writing, and have him sign it. 
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GUN CLEANING

Today, with so many devices, equipment, and solvents, there should be absolutely no reason for a pitted bore or chamber, or an oxidized (rusted) surface, on any gun. Sometimes I find it amazing so many fine old guns, which were used with Black Power, and corrosive primers, have survived to today, considering the cleaning solutions of even 20 years ago are archaic, compared to what we have now. Hot water and soap kept many guns in fine shape. The only extra ingredient was time. Taking the time to clean your gun, is harder than the cleaning. Though it hurts more to see a grade V Browning with pitted bores and all rusted, than a Savage 67 in the same condition. No reason exists today for ether to happen. 
Surface. For everyday use, purchase a rag with silicone, or moisture displacing oil in it. Or you could make your own with a new clean cotton rag, a baggy, and any quality lubricant. Make a practice of wiping down the gun after each outing. That is right after training, or hunting, before you put the gun in the case. Many guns rust in the case, on the way home. If the conditions are right, a blued steel gun can rust in the case in just one half hour. Late Summer, early Fall, on those cool damp evenings, many gun owners are surprised to find a fine orange/red substance on their gun the next morning, when they finally take it out of the case. 
Storage. Don't make a habit of storing your gun in the car, trunk, of behind the seat in your pickup. Besides being a poor safety practice. The temperature swings, and the high humidify found in a vehicle make an excellent environment for oxidation. Don't store your gun in it's case when you get home. Take it out, give it a quick wipe down again, and if you don't have a gun cabinet, or gun safe, use the corner of a room or closet. Any where air can circulate around the gun. The problem with keeping a soft substance next to the steel, is, it will wick away any oil, and wick to the surface any moisture present.
Rain. Light rain, or misty conditions can be wiped away, heavy rain, or shooting all day in rain will require heat. Hot air. Out in the field turn on the heater in the car and try to direct the hot air vent or defroster at the receiver. At home use a hair drier, don't use a hot air paint stripper, to hot. In the hotel room lay some towels on the radiator for support, leave some openings for air to flow over the receiver. The point is to warm up all the metal parts thoroughly and safely so the moisture will evaporate. Don't forget to totally dry out your gun case as well, paying attention to both inside and outside. If you experience a dunking in a nice acidic swamp water, take the receiver off the stock and put it under boiling water. If you do this make sure the container is large enough to immerse the piece of metal, and take the container off the heat source before you put in the blued metal. If you don't the receiver will touch the bottom of the pan, which is a much higher temperature than boiling water and very likely will discolor the bluing. Leave in the hot water until all the metal is toughly warmed, take out and shake it off. The water will soon evaporate. Now apply a coat of good moisture displacing oil. You could also pour boiling water over the parts, or use a faucet, if the hot water heater is set high enough. 
Bore. With modern ammunition, the most fowling in a shotgun bore is plastic residue, un-burnt powder, soot, and lead. Non of which is corrosive. In fact in one extreme case, this residue even protected a bore. A gun that had laid on a flooded basement floor for 2 days under water, and another week after the water was removed was brought in for repair. As you can imagine every possible metal part was rusted and pitted. Except the inside the bore, once the gunk was cleaned out the bore was mirror smooth. Use any good solvent with a brass brush to loosen up the fowling, and good old clean cotton cloths to wipe it away. Avoid using stainless steel brushes. These are reserved for pitted or rusted barrels. In reality a lightly pitted bore will not affect performance. The same way Prickly Ash scratches on the side of your new Suburban will not affect it's performance. But how long will they stay there? If your bore is pitted talk to your gunsmith. Sometimes they can be polished out. Deeper pits can be bored out, now would be a good time to consider backboring. It will cost the same if you take out .001 or .010. 
Chambers. The chamber will not have this protection of carbon, and it is often the ruin of many a fine gun. Pitted metal is not smooth. This will lead to poor ejection, and extraction of fired shells. If you have rusted chambers polished out, the shells you fire in that gun will have to be totally re-sized before re-loading. They may not fit in another tight chambered gun. If you only clean one part of your gun, make it the chambers. Purchase a chamber brush with a short handle, the chamber brush is a larger diameter than the bore brush so make sure you don't mix them up.
Interior. At least once a year take your gun to a Gunsmith and have it completely dissembled for a thorough cleaning and lubrication with a dry surface product. If your gun experiences a dunking, and you field clean it. As Soon As Possible take it to your Gunsmith for that through take down.
Wood. Dry with hot air only. Moisture left on, or under the wood can swell and crack the wood. If you anticipate many wet outdoor days, ask your Gunsmith to seal the interior of your gunstock. This will not do away with, but it will help considerably to eliminate wood swelling under an all day rain, or dunking situation.
Disassembly. If you are going to dissemble your shotgun, by all means purchase the correct sized screwdrivers. The first things you see on a shotgun are the screw heads. If they are all buggered up it may drop the value in half. After all if someone didn't have the proper screwdrivers to take a gun apart, what else did they bugger up when they had it apart? The correct tools are not sold at the Mart-Mart stores. Again go to your Gunsmith and ask him to order you a set specifically for your gun from Brownells. (A gun tool supplier)
Products. Almost all the gun cleaning products sold today are good. A couple of products I have used over the years are Birchwood Casey products. B.C. Sheath is a moisture displacing lubricant, great for wiping down any exposed metal surface. B.C. Bore cleaner works well on plastic, carbon, and lead deposits. Both these products come in a liquid form or in a convenient aerosol spray can. B.C. Grease for the wear surfaces. And B.C. Gun Scrubber is another recommended product. It is a non polluting liquid which blasts out of the can under high pressure, washes away loose debris, and evaporates quickly leaving a clean surface. The trick is to use them. The good'ol WD-40 works well to just displace moisture, but remember there is no lubricating value in the product. Also though it appears to be light and thin. WD-40 will, if sprayed on liberally and not wiped off, eventually gum up the action of your gun. Use products specifically designed for firearms. Follow instructions, and you will be able to proudly hand down that gun of yours to the next generation of Trialers and Hunters. 
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SAFETY !

Don't point a gun at something you don't want to shoot.
Recently, the news media gloating how Remington had lost a law suit, and was ordered to pay out 17 million dollars. All because a person pointed a gun at something he didn't want to shoot. The first case like this was back in the early 70's when a young man was trying to un-holster a Ruger single action revolver in the cab of a import pickup truck, while sitting between two other people. He shot his toe off. In court he asked for $2,500.00 in damages. The Jury gave him 3 Million. The Remington case was a elderly male, reportedly taking off the safety on a Remington 700 bolt action rifle. The rifle reportedly discharged, taking the gun owners foot off. He asked for just 3 million, the jury gave him 17 million. These are just two of the hundreds of cases in the last 20 years. 
I find it absolutely apprehensible that such blatant stupidity is rewarded by supposedly educated people.
All across this county, 30 times more children are killed by household poisons, than by firearms. 20 times more are killed by bicycles than by firearms. 10 times more are killed by electrocution, drowning, falling down steps, than by firearms. However when a firearm is involved in a tragic accidental death, see the news at 5,6,and 10.
This prompts me to ask, If I get into a car accident, can I sue the State, after all, I had my eyes closed while driving, and no where on the license, or test, does it say you can't close your eyes while driving. 
 Education. 
A firearm is not a tennis racket, golf club, or a bowling ball. If you are careless with any other sport, not much of a chance you will hurt someone else. With a firearm, you will be held responsible. Unless, even through your own stupidity, you hurt yourself, then you will be rewarded. 
All the stupid accidents come down to one item. The holder of the firearm had the firearm pointed at something they didn't want to shoot. If this one rule was followed, Don't Point A Firearm At Anything You Don't Want To Shoot, I don't know of a single firearms accident that would have been fatal, or caused bodily damage.
How many times have you seen someone violate that rule. Have you said something? ''...oh he only crossed me with the muzzle for a second...'' well, with a shot charge traveling 1200 feet per second and you only 100 feet away, what fraction of a second is that? When is the gun broke? Is the gun loaded? What would happen in a fall, especially in the Gallery. Do you see people closing a gun when a dog is in front of them? Speak up. Educate. Perhaps it's a little harder, but we all know you can teach an old dog new tricks.
The best is to start when they are young. Help teach your local State's  D.N.R.'s Firearms Safety Training program. The attitude of many of the youth today, (11 to 14 years old) is this is all they need. Perhaps it is from the computer game era. Many just don't understand there is no reset button on a firearm. 
Help teach Firearms Safety Training in your area. Stress this learning process is 60 years long, not just 16 hours. When you see a safety violation in the field, at a Trial, or in training. Gently but firmly point it out. Third, take out your pen and paper and write your congressman. The same language which bans the AK-47's and SKS's, could also ban your two barrel shotgun, with one trigger, because it too is a semiautomatic firearm. And last, but most certainly not least, never point a firearm at anything you don't want to shoot.
© Tom Radde

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