Basic Anatomy: Bolt Action Rifle

Mosin Nagant 91/30
The bolt action rifle dates back to 1824, and has remained very popular in the hunting and target shooting markets. Because of their strength, they can fire very large or high pressure calibers. Because of their simplicity, they can be easily broken down and maintained in the field, making them a prime choice for hunters. Target and competition shooters rely on bolt action rifles for their incredible accuracy potential.

Today, we’ll be learning about the basic parts that combine to form a bolt action rifle, using that pinnacle of Russian engineering, the Mosin Nagant 91/30. These rifles were first manufactured in 1891, and were fielded to Russian soldiers through World War 1 and 2. They are renowned as being nearly indestructible, 100% reliable under the worst of conditions, and, since literally millions of them were produced during WW2, easy to find and cheap.


FIELD STRIPPING

Mosin Apart

Yes folks, that’s all it takes to field strip most bolt action rifles. Remove the bolt and magazine (whatever form that might take) and you have ready access to all parts of the rifle. This is all you have to do in preparation for cleaning and regular maintenance. From here, we can see the largest and most basic pieces that make up this rifle. They are the bolt, receiver, stock, magazine, barrel, trigger, and sights.


The stock of a bolt action rifle is the main point of contact between the rifle and it’s user. A well-designed stock is crucial to sight alignment, and therefore accuracy. In technicality, the stock of a bolt action rifle is the carrier for the barrel and firing mechanism, designed to be held to the shooter’s shoulder when firing. The Mosin’s stock is a piece of extremely strong laminated wood, but many other types of stock exist made of synthetic materials and even metals.

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Let’s get a better look at the other important parts of this rifle.


RECEIVER

A rifle’s receiver (also called the action) is where all of the moving parts meet, where cartridges are picked up by the bolt, loaded into the chamber, fired, and ejected. It is, incidentally, where all of the action happens. Here’s a top view of what the Mosin’s receiver looks like:

 BMM_9961From this view it’s much easier to see the function of this part. The bolt slides in from the rear, where the screw is. Just right of that, in the bolt channel, is the sear, a small part critical to the rifle’s function. The sear is attached to the trigger. It holds back the firing pin when the rifle is cocked. Upon pulling the trigger, the sear lowers, allowing the firing pin to punch forward and set off the round.

Moving further to the right, you can see the magazine well. This is where the rounds rest before being loaded into the chamber by the bolt. At the far right of the picture is the beginning of the chamber. During the firing cycle, as you push the bolt forward, it picks up a round from the magazine well and pushes it into the chamber. The bolt locks in place, sealing the chamber while the bullet is fired, ensuring all the pressure from the explosion goes down the barrel.

Also worthy of note are a couple definitions. The muzzle, as we’ve previously discussed in other posts, is the end of the barrel which the bullet exits after being fired. It is generally the furthest point on a weapon from the shooter. At the other end of the barrel resides the breech. The breech is the end of the barrel into which rounds are loaded, and technically includes the chamber. Most, if not all, bolt action rifles are breech-loading firearms, meaning rounds are loaded into the rear of the barrel. The antithesis of this would be a muzzle-loading firearm. Revolutionary war era rifles are an example of muzzle loading weapons.


REAR SIGHT

I make mention of the rear sight because it incorporates a special feature. Rifle cartridges are designed to be effective out to much further ranges than pistol or shotgun cartridges. Basic external ballistics teaches that gravity begins to pull a bullet down the moment it exits the barrel. What this means is that a bullet doesn’t travel in a straight line, rather, it travels in an arc called a ballistic trajectory. At extended ranges, in order to hit your target, you have to technically aim the barrel up in order to accommodate for bullet drop or elevation. In order to do this accurately and consistently, the rear sight is adjustable for elevation. Looking closely at the rear sight, you’ll notice a sliding tab at the back. This is able to slide forwards and backwards, which raises or lowers the sight to adjust for firing at different ranges. Adjustability for elevation is a critical factor in rifle iron sights.


TRIGGER

Every firearm has a trigger, but a common feature you’ll find on rifle triggers is the ability to adjust the pull weight, which is the measure of how much rearward force on the trigger is required to disengage the sear. A lighter pull weight is a desirable trait for match and target shooters. There is a lesser chance of disturbing the rifle’s position when less force is required to actuate the trigger, which enhances accuracy potential.


MAGAZINE

The Mosin Nagant incorporates a fixed magazine, as do many other popular rifles. Rounds are loaded from the breech and pushed down into the magazine well. The picture above shows the floorplate released, which would allow the rounds to empty from the bottom of the magazine. Detachable box magazines are also extremely common, which are the same in function as pistol magazines. Round capacity for bolt action rifles usually hovers between 4-7 rounds, though there are box magazines with a higher capacity.


BOLT

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The bolt is the most important part of a bolt-action rifle. It completes the firing mechanism, in fact, the bolt alone could be called the firing mechanism of the weapon. The Mosin’s bolt is comprised of 6 separate pieces of machined metal. The bolt handle is the knob protruding up from the bolt. This piece is what the shooter grasps to manipulate the bolt. Running the length of the bolt is the firing pin, which screws into the rear piece of the bolt. There is a spring contained in the center of the bolt that the firing pin holds compressed upon cocking the weapon, and it provides the forward motion necessary to slam the pin into the cartridge primers to set off rounds.BMM_9963Here you can see the firing pin protruding from the bolt face. At the very front of the bolt you’ll see two metal protrusions that look like shark fins. Those are locking lugs, and they serve to lock the bolt into the breech when the firearm is in battery. If there weren’t any method of locking the bolt to the receiver, it would fire out the back of the weapon when you pulled the trigger!


A bolt action rifle is an great investment for any shooter. They offer great room to grow, with a huge variety of calibers and designs, as well as aftermarket parts. There’s a rifle out there for every shooter, and for every purpose. Mosin Nagants in particular are fantastic weapons to own. I find the history of the rifle incredibly interesting, and knowing there’s probably nothing I could physically do to the rifle to get it to fail is soothing to my “ruggedness above all else” mentality.

In the following weeks, we’ll begin discussing rifle specific stance and firing fundamentals, as well as delving into the basics of external ballistics. Until then, have fun, stay safe, and shoot straight!

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Sight Alignment: How to Hit Your Target

In the past few posts, we’ve been learning how to properly stand and how to correctly grip our pistols. Accurate shooting can be thought of as the culmination of a skill triangle, incorporating stance, grip, and sighting. Without all three, your accuracy suffers. Today we’re going to cover that third topic: Sight Alignment.


SIGHT FUNCTIONS

Weapon sights are designed to offer some means of aligning barrel with target, thus allowing consistent, accurate fire.

Iron sights, reflex sights, dot sights, scopes, lasers; no matter the type, their design is to help you direct your shots to your target. Most firearms are manufactured with some manner of iron sights, which is what we’ll focus on learning to use. By far, these will be the most common type of sights you’ll encounter when dealing with weaponry, and almost certainly what you’ll have on your pistols.


IRON SIGHTS

Sights Highlight

Back in the Basic Anatomy of a Hangun post, I pointed out the front and rear sight on my Springfield XDm. These are the factory iron sights, and when used properly, they are a very effective aiming system. They are composed of two specifically shaped metal markers, one at the very front of the weapon, and one at the rear.

The rear sight has a notched cutout in the middle, and in the case of my handgun, two dots painted on either side. The front sight is simply a post in the center of the slide, and it also has a dot painted on it. These are called open sights, and are commonly seen on civilian and law enforcement weapons. Closed sights, by contrast, use a system of aligning circular holes, and are seen on many military rifles.

Also worth noting is sight radius, which is the distance between the two sights. Increasing the sight radius (by moving them further apart) makes a weapon inherently more precise due to an increased perception of sight misalignment. In real terms, with everything else being equal, you’re more liable to be accurate with a weapon that has a 10″ sight radius than one with a 5″ sight radius.

In any case, theses sights are utilizing by lining them up, which is where things get a little tricky.


PROPER SIGHT ALIGNMENT

Sight Alignment

This diagram displays both proper and improper sight alignment. In the bottom right, you’ll see what correct sight alignment looks like. The two blurred out posts on the left and right represent the rear sight. The front sight lines up centered and level, completing sight alignment. With your sights properly aligned, your shot will impact the target right at the top of the front sight. (This somewhat depends on what firearm you’re using, but for the most part is true.)

Across the top, we see what happens when the sights are not aligned properly. Keep in mind that even small adjustments, even a sixteenth of an inch, will throw off your shot.

Also worth mentioning is sight picture. You may notice in the picture of proper sight alignment that the target and the “rear sight” are blurred out. That is because your eyes should be focused, not on the target, but on the front sight. I know this sounds counter intuitive, but there’s some simple science that backs it up.

Your eyes are only capable of focusing on one distance and object at a time. Aiming a weapon tasks you with focusing on three, the rear sight, front sight, and target. Physically, this is impossible, so we compromise.

We focus 100% on the front sight because sight alignment is the most critical component of an accurate shot.

While focusing on the front sight, you can concentrate on lining it up between the rear sight blades, ensuring your bullet will go where the sights are pointed. Your target is the secondary focal point, and although out of focus, you can still aim your front sight well enough to make extremely accurate shots.


IMPROVING SIGHT ALIGNMENT

All this knowledge is well and good, but what can you do with it? How do you go about practicing your sight alignment? It’s very easy. The simplest way to improve is to take your UNLOADED firearm, pick a safe target (always follow the safety rules!) draw your weapon, and aim.

Take your time. Practice alternating your focus between the front sight and your target; you’ll see the change in perception. Consciously study what your sights look like in proper alignment. When you first start doing this, you’ll likely notice sway or shake in your sights because your arms and hands aren’t accustomed to this posture. With time, as the muscles develop and you gain proficiency, you’ll see steadiness increase.

This is also an excellent and easy way to practice your stance and grip! Take even just a few minutes a day to practice these skills and you’ll make leaps and bounds in your shooting prowess, all without spending a penny.

Until next time, have fun, stay safe, and shoot straight! (Because now you know how!)

Handgun Stance Fundamentals

When firing a handgun, stance is very important. A proper stance improves your accuracy, reduces fatigue while firing, and helps absorb recoil. There are three main variations of handgun stance: Weaver, Isosceles, and Modified Isosceles. We’ll cover each one below.


WEAVER STANCEWeaver Front

In 1959, Jack Weaver, a deputy sheriff in Los Angeles county, developed a new shooting technique to help him win Jeff Cooper’s “Leatherslap” pistol matches. Instead of using the hip shooting technique most shooters at the time were using, Weaver utilized his own technique, which Cooper later popularized as the “Weaver Stance” in some of his books.

To enter the Weaver stance, first blade your body to the target at a 45 degree angle. What do I mean by “blade”? Imagine there is a laser beam shooting out of your chest. If you’re standing fully facing the target, the laser beam would be pointing directly to it. To “blade” yourself, simply turn your body so the beam points away from the target at 45 degrees.

Adopt a boxing stance, which entails standing with your weak foot forward and your strong foot back (for right-handed shooters, your strong foot will generally be your right foot). Bend at the knees slightly. Most of your weight should be on the front foot.

Now, draw your weapon, establish a good grip like we talked about in the Grip Fundamentals post, and aim at the target. The relationship of your arms is the most important part of the Weaver stance. Your strong arm should be straight, pointed directly at the target inline with the handgun sights. Your support arm is bent at the elbow and points nearly straight down. The strong hand pushes and the support hand pulls on the grip, establishing what is called isometric pressure. This pressure is the defining aspect of the Weaver stance, contributing to enhanced stability and reduced muzzle flip, which enables you to perform faster follow-up shots.


ISOSCELES STANCEIsosceles Front

The second method we’ll cover is the Isosceles stance, so named because of the isosceles triangle formed by your arms and chest when this stance is held correctly. The stance was developed in the 1980’s by IPSC competitors Brian Enos and Rob Leatham. The Isosceles stance was quickly adopted by law enforcement professionals, who found that the simple stance was easy to perform under stress, and the forward orientation of the torso improved the effectiveness of ballistic vests. Unlike the Weaver stance, which relies on the active pressure of your hands to reduce recoil, the Isosceles draws on the skeletal structure of the arms to passively absorb recoil.

This stance is very easy to perform. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent. Draw your weapon, establish grip, and push both arms straight out from the chest. Lean the torso slightly forward to help recoil absorption. The entire upper body can then pivot back and forth to engage multiple targets rapidly, similar to a gun turret, making this stance favored by competitive shooters.


MODERN ISOSCELESMI Side

Closely related to the Isosceles stance is the Modern or Modified Isosceles. It can be seen as somewhat of a blending of the Weaver and Isosceles, taking the stable boxer stance of the first with the arm support of the second. I find the Modern Isosceles to be the most natural of all three stances.

To enter, drop into a boxer stance, with most of your weight on your front foot. Draw and punch forward just as you would with the Isosceles stance, but lean forward more aggressively with your torso. In this way, the natural positioning of your body aids your shooting, making this stance incredibly stable. Recoil is absorbed through your entire body.


When it comes to stance, there is no absolute right answer. Do what aids your shooting and is comfortable for you. Also keep in mind that, were you ever thrust into a life-threatening defensive situation, your body will relapse to whatever behavior you have trained the most, so pick one of these stances and train it consistently and repeatedly. Always continue your training.

Until next time, have fun, stay safe, and shoot straight!

A Primer on Handgun Ammunition Types

In the world of firearms, there are about as many types of ammunition as there are types of weapons. Caliber, bullet weight, and type all go into making an informed choice about the type of ammo to run through your weapon. Let’s cover some of the basics.


CALIBER

A weapon’s caliber is the measure of the inner diameter of the firearm’s barrel. This is also the measurement of the outer diameter of a projectile, measured in hundredths of an inch or millimeters. There are many different calibers, but for the purposes of this post, we’ll focus on the common calibers, ordered by size (and, in most respects, power).

.22LR – This is one of the most popular calibers on the market, available in pistols and rifles. Small, cheap, and light recoiling, this round is ideal for training purposes, as well as plinking around the range. The .22 has been around since the 1800s. Its relatively low kinetic energy make it less than ideal for defense purposes.

.380 AUTO – The .380 Auto is the largest practical self-defense round that can be adapted to very small pistols. It was developed around 1912 by John Browning. This is the smallest caliber recommended for self-defense situations (keep in mind that shot placement is still critical).

.38 SPECIAL – This revolver round is likely the most popular ever produced. You’ll find anything from snub-nose revolvers to match competition guns designed for this caliber. Many consider .38 special to strike the perfect balance between accuracy, power, and recoil.

9MM – The 9mm round is known by many names, as it’s used all over the world. 9mm Para, 9mm Parabellum, 9mm Luger, 9×19, 9mm NATO, the list goes on. All of these are different names for the same round, so don’t let that confuse you. As far as defensive rounds are concerned, 9mm begins the truly practical bracket. The small cartridge size lends itself well to compact semi-automatic pistols without sacrificing power or capacity.

.40 S&W – This cartridge is a relatively new round, created in 1989. It strikes a middle ground between the 9mm and the heavier .45 ACP. Demand for this round has soared in recent years, and the .40 S&W has been adopted as the default caliber for many law enforcement agencies. Its blend of power and accuracy make it a very handsome option for self-defense shooters as well.

.357 MAGNUM – The .357 Magnum is the most attractive revolver round for self-defense. This caliber has excellent power for its size, and is very common. Worth noting is that the .357 Magnum and the .38 Special are the same caliber, but the .357 uses a longer case. What does this mean? When you buy a revolver in .357, you’re really buying two guns in one, because the .357 revolver will also fire .38 special. However, this is a one way street. .357 rounds will not fit in a firearm designed for .38 special, as the cases are too long.

.44 MAGNUM – Ah, the Dirty Harry. The .44 Magnum is an extremely powerful revolver round, but generally unsuitable for self-defense. As I mentioned in Firearms Laws, over penetration of your target needs to be considered, and the .44 Magnum has so much power, there’s a good chance your projectile will penetrate straight through your intended target and into innocent bystanders. This caliber was designed for hunting, and it excels in that regard.

.45 GAP – I mention .45 GAP to clear up any confusion between it and .45 ACP. .45 GAP (Glock Automatic Pistol) was requested by Glock, because they wanted the ballistics of the .45 Auto without the large size. What resulted was a .45 caliber cartridge with a smaller case. While Glock was successful with the cartridge, it never really took off, and there are few pistols chambered for it, namely the Glock 37. These rounds will not chamber in a .45 ACP or .45 Auto firearm, as the GAP cartridge is shorter.

.45 ACP – ACP stands for “Automatic Colt Pistol”. Keep in mind that .45 ACP and .45 Auto are the same cartridge. .45 was the go-to caliber for the military for a number of years due to its inherent power. Out of all the recommended self-defense calibers, the .45 carries the most energy, but because of its large size, firearms have to sacrifice magazine capacity to stay easily concealable.


BULLET WEIGHT AND TYPE

A bullet’s weight is measured in grains. One grain is equal to about 65 milligrams. Different calibers use different weights of bullet, with the trend being larger calibers having heavier bullets (for example, the 9mm caliber generally uses bullets between 115 and 124 grain).

Heavier bullets carry more kinetic energy at a slower velocity but are higher recoiling, while smaller projectiles can be pushed to higher velocities for better external ballistics and have lower recoil. Kinetic energy can be considered the wounding potential of a projectile, while external ballistics is the science of a projectile’s trajectory. External ballistics becomes incredibly crucial once we start shooting with long-range rifles. In a handgun, particularly one used for concealed carry, kinetic energy is more important.

What does this mean for the shooter? Well, once you’ve chosen your caliber, you’ll want to look at two different types of ammunition, training ammo, which is inexpensive, typically FMJ, and a light bullet weight, and carry ammo, which is costly, usually hollow point, and heavier.

Let’s talk about FMJ and hollow point for a moment. These are types of bullet, and they differ greatly. FMJ, or full metal jacket rounds are lead bullets that are covered in a shell of harder metal, usually copper, like so:FMJ

There are a number of advantages to FMJ bullets. The lead is encased by another metal, which means you don’t have to worry about spraying dangerous lead particles around every time you hit a target. Additionally, they offer better ballistics than hollow point rounds, which makes FMJ great for practice or target shooting. FMJ is also generally cheaper. However, nothing is without drawbacks. Full metal jacket bullets make poor self-defense rounds. They are not designed to expand on impact, which means they have a higher chance to fully penetrate your target and keep sailing. Thus, we have hollow point rounds.hollow-point

Hollow points are specifically designed for self-defense. These bullets, as you can see, have an opening machined into the front. On the left is a hollow point round after hitting a target. They are designed to expand, or mushroom, once entering a soft target. These rounds are meant to STOP in whatever you shoot them at; the mushrooming effect acts much like a parachute, slowing the round very quickly and decreasing the risk of over-penetration into a bystander. Hollow point rounds are also more likely to bite into impact surfaces, making dangerous ricochets less likely. This is what you’ll want for your defensive ammunition, the rounds you carry when your pistol is strapped to your side, the rounds you’ll use to defend your life. Generally speaking, they are heavier bullets, and also more expensive. There are a myriad of different designs from many different manufacturers.


When choosing your ammunition, I recommend buying one box from a few different manufacturers and seeing which ammo you and your gun likes best. Not all firearms reliably shoot all types of ammo. My XDm, for example, loves Federal American Eagle, but has issues with Blazer Brass. Find out what works for you. When you settle on a carry ammo, fire at least 100 rounds of it through your weapon to get used to the way it handles and make absolutely sure that it feeds reliably in the gun. Your life may depend on those rounds, and you want to make sure they’ll function as planned when you need them.

Until next time, have fun, stay safe, and shoot straight!

Levels of Situational Awareness: Staying in Condition Yellow

Today I’d like to touch on something that many new defensive shooters may overlook: Their level of situational awareness.  We’ll be using Jeff Cooper’s Warrior Color Code from his book, Principles of Personal Defense, as our measuring stick of awareness. Maintaining an elevated level of cognizance is a skill everyone, not just shooters, should cultivate.


WHAT IS AWARENESS?

Think of the last time you went out to eat at a crowded restaurant. Did you think about where the exits were? Who was sitting at the table behind you? You might notice what your waiter looks like, but what about the other staff? Did you pay any attention to who was entering the building?

Most people would answer no to the majority of these questions, yet when asked these questions, they immediately consider the implications of the answers. If there’s an emergency, it helps to have an escape plan. If the person sitting behind you is getting out of hand, you’d want to keep an eye on him. When a gunman enters the building, you definitely want to be the first one to know about it.

Enter awareness. Awareness, in a nutshell, is how much attention you give to outside stimuli, i.e., the environment and people in it. Raising your awareness increases your chances of predicting and successfully surviving a life-threatening or emergency situation. Military and security personnel have been taught to cultivate heightened awareness for years, but the lessons apply just as strongly to civilians in day to day life. Let’s evaluate the different levels of awareness Cooper outlines white, yellow, orange, and red and how they apply to our lives.


CONDITION WHITE

At the bottom of the color code is Condition White. This is the lowest level of environmental awareness — being completely unaware of events taking place around you. Condition White is the guy staring at his phone, headphones plugged in, and ignoring everything. If a threat were to appear, people in condition white are the last to know about it and the last to respond.

You rarely want to be in Condition White. Ideally you’ll only be in this condition when you’re absolutely secure in your home or about to go to bed.


CONDITION YELLOW

This is where Cooper,  most defensive experts, and I recommend placing your awareness. This state is called “relaxed alert” by some, and it represents a big step-up in awareness, and therefore survivability, from Condition White. In Condition Yellow, you aren’t specifically searching for a threat, but you have your eyes and ears open. You’re alert. In real terms, this includes evaluating your environment and the people in it for suspicious or threatening cues; if an emergency presents itself, you are ready to respond. The questions I posed earlier should have at least basic answers; 2 exits, an elderly man and his wife, 7 other servers, normal looking people coming in, that sort of thing.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to be so preoccupied with actively cataloging every activity happening around you that you can’t focus on anything else. The goal here is to remain relaxed while taking in your surroundings. You’re staying open to the stimuli around you to better anticipate a threatening situation. At the end of the post, we’ll highlight some easy methods to cultivate this “situational awareness” until it becomes second nature.

What happens when, by being in Condition Yellow, you notice a possible threat? You move into the next stage of the color code, Condition Orange.


CONDITION ORANGE

In this level, you’ve identified a possible threat, and all of your awareness focuses on that stimuli. Condition Orange is not a reactionary phase, meaning you’re not taking action at this point; rather, what you should be doing is forming an attack plan or strategy should legitimate trouble arise, and preparing to take that action.

Let’s bring back the crowded restaurant example. You smell smoke, or the elderly gentleman behind you starts making choking noises, or your server drops a tray of drinks, or a man walks into the restaurant shouting. All of these situations should immediately elevate you into Condition Orange. This phase of awareness only lasts until the threat either elevates or degrades. Think of Condition Orange as a transitional state of awareness; if the stimuli turns non-threatening, you should immediately drop back to Condition Yellow. If, however, the threat elevates to real danger, you in turn elevate into Condition Red, taking action.


CONDITION RED

Something bad is happening. You’ve determined that the threat is real and immediate, for example, the elderly man is indeed choking on his dinner. Now is when you implement the action you planned out while in Condition Orange. This level of awareness is an “action phase”, with you doing whatever you can to neutralize or escape the threat.

Once the threat has been handled, you regress back through the levels of awareness; Condition Orange to ensure there aren’t any more immediate threats, and then back to scanning in Condition Yellow.


STRATEGIES FOR BUILDING AWARENESS

Cultivating awareness isn’t a difficult task. The next time you go out to eat, ask yourself some of the questions I posed and see how well you can answer them. An excellent training game is to take a friend with you, and take turns asking questions about the people around you. Set a goal before you leave the house to spot a specific type of person i.e., men with facial hair, and then see how many you notice. Make the goal something different every time. Research what suspicious or threatening body language looks like, and keep an eye out for that.

Building awareness includes your environment as well. Notice the light levels of the places you’re walking at night, and avoid the dark spots. Try taking different routes to work in order to familiarize yourself with the area in which you live. Look above yourself as you walk under trees or structures, and try to notice some specific details about what you’re looking at.

With consistent practice, these behaviors will become habitual and second nature. By the time you consciously ask the question, you’ll subconsciously have the answer. You’ll be in Condition Yellow, ready to evaluate and react to threats, or avoid them altogether. You’ll be that much more prepared to defend your life and the lives of others.

Until next time, have fun, stay safe, and shoot straight!

Theis Holster’s IWB Holster Review

IWB


BMM_9560Today we’ll be reviewing an excellent holster for concealed carry, the Theis Holsters IWB. This is the flagship holster of Tommy Theis, who hand makes all — yes, all — of his products in his small one man shop in Arkansas.


HYBRID IWB DESIGN

“IWB” stands for Inside the Waist Band, and is a type of holster designed specifically for concealed carry and to be worn, you guessed it, inside whatever pants/shorts/bottoms you happen to be wearing, completely concealing the majority of the firearm. These types of holsters have been around for ages, in many iterations. Mr. Theis’ holster is a hybrid variation. Hybrid IWB holsters are constructed by riveting a Kydex — which is a heat-moldable, durable polymer — backing to an almost comically large piece of leather. What does this do for the wearer?

First and foremost, that large swath of leather helps to spread the weight and imprint of the handgun out across more of your body/belt, making the holster incredibly comfortable. As you wear the holster, the leather backing will mold to your body, again increasing comfort. You’ll notice that my holster in the picture above has a clear curvature in the leather. It didn’t arrive that way.

Secondly, the Kydex sheath is heat molded to exactly match the dimensions of your chosen firearm (in this case, my Springfield XDm Compact). This greatly aids retention and makes every holster an exact fit. Here, Tommy goes the extra mile (as he does in many other areas of this holster’s construction). From Mr. Theis himself:

When you get your holster you will find a few marks on the leather where a gun has been! That is because I put your holster on and stuck a gun in it! I drew it and re-holstered several times, making sure it works like it is supposed to. That is the difference in a truly handmade holster, I do them all that way. Not only because my name is on it, but because your life may depend on it!

Finally, the size of the holster and consequently the distance between the 2 clips allows the holster to flex naturally with your body, and helps to hug the weapon closer to you, making concealing your firearm easier. In this case, bigger is better!

BMM_9564

Am I carrying a firearm?

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Why yes, yes I am!


CUSTOMIZATION

The IWB holster is fully adjustable for cant and ride height. Cant is the tilt angle of the firearm forwards or backwards, measured in degrees. Most people prefer forward cant, as it makes the firearm easier to grip during the draw. Ride Height is where the handgun sits in relation to the belt. A low ride height places more of the firearm concealed into your pants, but may make the weapon more difficult to grasp during a quick draw. Theis IWB holsters are fully adjustable for both.IWB

Taking a look at the clips, we can see a series of punched holes in the leather. By unscrewing the clips and moving them to different positions, we can adjust the ride height and cant of the holstered weapon. I recommend adding some blue Loc-Tite or similar product to the screw threads once you find the position that works for you, as the screws can tend to work loose with wear.

A customer can further customize his holster by selecting full or partial slide coverage, as well as regular or premium leather. I chose full slide coverage and premium leather for my holster. The full slide coverage protects my entire handgun from undue wear, as well as completely ensuring there isn’t anything to snag on during a draw, which I consider extremely important. Theis states that his premium leather is top of the line cowhide, treated and hand-rubbed to make it sweat-resistant, softer, and smooth on both sides. The premium leather is also slightly thinner, making break in time quicker. Both of these options cost an additional $10, but I find the money to be well spent.

(A quick note: Tommy used to offer a horsehide version of his holsters, but has since discontinued the option as the quality of horsehide has seen a serious decline. He replaced it with the premium leather option because he will not compromise the quality of his product.)


LIFETIME WARRANTY

Tommy Theis’ customer service is legendary. He offers a full lifetime warranty as well as a 2 week money-back guarantee on every product he sells, and is always available to help his customers. If you call with an issue, you can rest assured that you’re going to talk to the man himself, and he’s incredibly accommodating to his customers. In my case, my holster got held up for about a week in Memphis during the shipping process. I sent an email to Tommy and got a reply the same day, telling me not only where my holster was, but that if I didn’t receive it within a few days, he’d make me another one and ship it free of charge! Mr. Theis takes great pride in his name, and it shows in his products and his customer service. He’s truly a pleasure to deal with.

As Tommy makes all of his products by hand, he claims about a 2 to 3 week turnaround from the time you place your order to the time he finishes and ships your holster. However, he will frequently get products out the door to customers sooner than that. Mine shipped 11 days after placing the order, well under his stated turnaround time.


In closing, the Theis IWB holster is a high quality, made in USA product that has so far exceeded all of my expectations. Because of it’s comfort, durability, customization, and warranty, the IWB holster offers incredible value for the money. If you’re in the holster market, I would highly recommend giving Theis Holsters a look. You won’t be disappointed.

THEIS IWB HOLSTER

Price: $55.00 (Add $10 each for full slide coverage and premium leather)

Handgun Safeties

Today, I want to talk briefly about the various types of safeties you’ll encounter in your dealings with handguns. Every pistol on the market today has at least one form of safety mechanism that inhibits the weapon’s ability to fire without deliberate input from the user.

There are two main categories: Internal Safeties and External Safeties. You’ll also see these described as “passive” and “active” safeties, or “automatic” and “manual” safeties, respectively.

Internal safeties are mechanisms like firing pin blocks or hammer blocks which do not require input from the user. By their design, they disengage just before the shot is fired, generally as consequence of a trigger pull.

External safeties, on the other hand, require user input, in the form of toggling a lever or gripping the handgun properly. We’re going to focus on the most common forms of external safety, as those are what you’ll be manipulating during your shooting.


GRIP SAFETY

I’ve mentioned grip safeties before in basic pistol anatomy. They are a form of active safety located on the grip of the pistol that disengage with a proper grip. Glock pistols have made these popular, as well as the Springfield XD line. Trigger safeties, small levers included on some triggers that must be depressed in order to fully pull the trigger, are included in this group as well.


SLIDE MOUNTED SAFETY

These are levers mounted on the slide that must be toggled from “safe” to “fire”. Beretta 92 and M9 pistols have these types of active safety, and they also function as a decocker, which is a device that allows the hammer on these pistols to be lowered safely with a live round in the chamber.


FRAME MOUNTED SAFETY

Finally, we encounter frame mounted safeties, which, as their name suggests, are mounted on the frame. 1911 style pistols incorporate these safeties. Frame safeties have a couple of advantages over slide safeties, namely, that they are easier to reach and manipulate due to their enhanced ergonomics, and also that they cannot be inadvertently toggled while racking the slide.


In closing, let me again impress upon you the importance of training. All of these safety mechanisms are, in one way or another, designed to be switched off. They do not make a pistol more or less “safe”. A handgun is always capable of accidental discharge, and the most effective way to protect against this is through deliberate and constant training. Train until YOU are responsible and safe.

Until next time, have fun, stay safe, and shoot straight!