Choosing a Gun for Personal Protection

Springfield Armory EMPI grew up shooting guns and spending the entire fall hunting season with a firearm of some kind in my hand, so continuing to own them into my adulthood was never actually a question.  Even when kids came along and the household became busier and more crowded, we never considered getting rid of them, instead we made double sure that everything was properly secured and that accidents wouldn’t happen.  We also made a point of working with the girls so they knew the deadly consequences of mishandling weapons.  I didn’t expect them to become true enthusiast but I didn’t want them to be deathly afraid of something that’s incapable of harming anyone or anything without human manipulation.

So how does someone decide to purchase a gun for the first time?  Everyone has their own reasons for wanting to get a gun, whether it’s hunting, protection, target shooting, competition, or just starting a collection for the sake of collecting.  Whatever the reason, eventually they head off to the dealer to make their first purchase.  They walk right up to the counter with a pocket full of money and proudly proclaim to the salesperson “I want to buy a gun!”  Obviously at this point, the salesperson is going to ask “What kind of gun would you like?”  To which the answer (in a disturbing number of cases) is “I don’t know, I just want a gun!”  This person may end up with the right weapon for their needs or they may take home a .300 Win Mag Remington Model 700 with a 14x scope that just isn’t the right weapon for defending a two bedroom/one bath apartment….

If the gun is going to be used for personal defense, consider the following questions:

  • Home defense or in public personal defense?
  • Rifle (Auto-loading, pump, lever, bolt action)?
  • Shotgun (Auto-loading, pump, double/single barrel)?
  • Handgun (Auto-loading pistol, revolver)?
  • Concealability?
  • Reliability?
  • Recoil/controllability?
  • Accuracy at real world distances?
  • Stopping power?
  • Weight?
  • Durability?
  • Difficulty of operation?
  • Who’s the primary user?
  • Ergonomics?
  • State Laws/Limitations

You’ll notice that I didn’t include caliber as one of the primary criteria to be considered during the selection process.  That because you’ll decide on the caliber when other factors like recoil/controllability, stopping power, weight, and identifying the primary user are taken into account.  Take the .45 ACP for example.  It has a great deal of stopping power because of its bullet weight and velocity, but it produces substantial recoil in certain handguns which makes controllability and second shot accuracy difficult for some shooters.  While at the same time, a .22 Magnum has a smaller bullet delivering less energy on target, but because of its lower recoil and better controllability, it allows more rapid follow-on shots and potentially more rounds on target in a short period of time.  It’s all a tradeoff.

Smith & W Lady SmithMy wife also added “Is it pretty?” to the equation, hence the reason she ended up with a two-tone Kimber Aegis Ultra in 9mm.  It fits her perfectly and she’s quite happy with the gun while on the range and while carrying it for protection should she ever need it.  I’ve carried a .40 caliber S&W Shield ever since they first came out on the market and although it may not be pretty, it sure is functional, reliable, and concealable.  We just picked up a S&W Model 642 in .38 Special so I could see how much I liked a wheel gun, and so far it’s turned into a great purchase.  Now I just need to pick a holster for it.

There are a lot of different choices available to the consumer willing to spend a bit of time researching the market.  Evaluate each of the criteria and decide which one is most important to you then you’ll surely make the right choice.  Just be sure to spend money like your life depends on it….  Because it might.

Brian “Beastman” Eastman

White River Fly Shop

Outdoor World Orlando




Cool Calibers: 16 Gauge

With the third installment of our Cool Calibers blog I will be successful at focusing on a more-obscure and less appreciated caliber in rifle, handgun and now shotgun. I am hoping to continue this pattern for the following installments, but I might just run out of shotgun calibers to focus on. Which actually let me apologize for my incorrectness concerning this. Shotguns are measured in gauges, not calibers. Gauge refers to the diameter of the barrel. There is more to it but that is not our focus today, what is will be the 16 gauge shotgun!

The two most popular shotgun gauges are the 12Ga and 20Ga. The 16Ga sits right in between them. It was originally known as a “gentlemen’s gun” with the 12Ga being marketed and used more heavily by rural people. It is also considered a European firearm, as it originated there and has retained popularity. The gauge is perfect for upland bird which is the majority of its use.

Once conservation and wildlife agencies got their acts together in early America, bag limits and seasons were set to protect animals. This significantly reduced the number of birds hunted and protected many species from extinction. But what is a shot gunner supposed to shoot at if not birds?! That is where skeet came into play. Such shooting activities as skeet and trap provided shooters a recreational way to keep firing. Unfortunately the rules were written to not include 16Ga in them.

Image courtesy of

Because of this and the majority of shooting turning to sporting instead of sustenance, manufactures produced more of the 12Ga and 20Ga. And so slowly the 16Ga disappeared from American fields. Manufacturers of 16Ga products tried to step up their game with the quality and diversity of the gauges possibilities. Unfortunately all was too little too late and further pushed the 16Ga from American minds and gun cabinets.

I remember growing up and the 16Ga was mentioned as if it was a legend. When I learned that my best friend’s Belgian grandfather had a side-by-side 16Ga (still in Europe) I knew to look upon it would have been like finding the Holy Grail. For years I grew up listening to my friend’s father talk about the firearm, and I will tell you what: It was beautiful!

This adds to the majesty of the round. The “gentlemen’s gun” was given high praise and often handed down through generations. The nicer guns always survived adding to the “nobility” of the gauge.

A couple years back though I noticed something interesting on the shotgun ammo shelves. It was a box of 16Ga. And then I noticed some more. Yes, there has been new life breathed into this classic firearm. Manufacturers and shooters are bringing it back into the public’s conscious. The fact that you can shoot the 16Ga a hundred times and not be sore, and carry it all day and also not be fatigued makes it a great upland bird gauge.


Other Caliber Related Blogs:

7mm-08 Remington - 357 Sig


Home Defense Without Breaking the Bank


There is a growing population of people in the gun world who believe that in order to have a solid home defense plan, one must own a purposefully built AR with a night vision sight, all of the lasers and lights that would fit on it, and any other bells and whistles for any remaining rail space. A setup like the one pictured above can easily run you thousands of dollars, possibly more, but it is by no means the only thing capable of protecting you from everything that goes bump in the night.  If you can afford the aforementioned AR system, don't let me be the one to stop you, but if you want that warm fuzzy feeling without having to take out a small loan or pawn off your first born then here are some suggestions for you.


Defense Shotguns

A good ol' 12 gauge buckshot round is my personal preference for home defense. This offers plenty of knockdown power with less threat of over penetration. There is a host of shotguns being produced with home defense in mind and some are just as costly as the AR, but for those that aren't worried about having defend our homes against the incursion a pump or even a double barrel shotgun would more than suffice.

My personal choice is going to be the pump and there are plenty of options well under the $500 mark.  My shotgun of choice is the Winchester SXP Defender, coming in right at $350 it is one of the smoothest actions of all pump shotguns and feeds any round you throw in the chamber.  Of course, there are other options available, the Mossberg 500 and Remington 870 offer great platforms that can be customized with all the accessories you could ever want.

If you aren't a fan of the pump action, there are also several double barrel options built specifically with defense in mind. The only downfall of going to a double barrel is that you are limited to two rounds, but if you foresee two rounds of 12 gauge not being enough firepower, I would begin to reconsider what kind of situations I plan on getting myself in.




Handgun shooting is a different breed of sport altogether and employs new techniques and practices but for those who carry a handgun on them and are accustomed to doing so, a handgun is second to none for defense. Handguns were designed with defense in mind, as their smaller size makes them easier to conceal and are less unwieldy than a long gun when operating in narrow spaces found in households. One thing to keep in mind with handguns is to be sure to get the right ammo.  Drywall and wood are no contest for a fast moving pistol round; full metal jacket (FMJ) bullets can penetrate through several layers of drywall before coming to a halt. If you think a handgun might better suit your needs and are willing to train to become proficient in using it, they are definitely a viable option.

The options for handguns are endless, with prices ranging from just a couple hundred dollars and up in to the thousands depending on model.  Choosing a cartridge is another factor, with the most popular defense handgun calibers being .380 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP and .38 Special, but that is a whole other topic unto itself.

As with any gun you plan on using, whether it be for defense, hunting or any other purpose, plan on putting in the time to train and become proficient with your weapon.  No one wants to have to use their weapon to defend themselves from danger, but if the time should come, you do not want to be the one who is unfamiliar or uncomfortable with their weapon.


Browning BAR LongTrac

When it comes to the world’s history, firearms have played a major role. The history of the United States alone is one full of firearm heritage. Anyone who owns a historical firearm will tell you that you can almost feel the history when holding it. The NRA has a museum with firearms that have literally changed history. The NRA museum that was recently built inside the Springfield Bass Pro Shops has its own impressive arsenal. Specific firearms themselves can bring a multitude of emotions when mentioned. Winchester Model 94, Colt 1911 and AK47 all have impacted history in one way or another. One of the more under-acknowledged guns to me though, would be the BAR.

BAR stands for Browning Automatic Rifle, and currently I am talking specifically about the M1918. It was a military automatic rifle/light machine gun chambered in .30-06 Sprg. Anyone who has shot a .30-06 Sprg could only imagine what it would be like to shoot one that has a 20 round magazine and automatic fire. Quite impressive as was the service life of this firearm. It was used in World War Two, Korea and for a little bit in Vietnam. It is a highly sought after firearm and collectors will pay huge bucks for one. It is an iconic weapon that has earned its place in history and our hearts. (As a running joke my best friend’s dad said he wanted to name his son after the firearm.)

Now not your average hunter or shooter can afford the thousands of dollars it takes to own an original BAR. Luckily Browning has been producing a civilian/hunting version of the BAR rifle for years. Unlike the original M1918, these rifles are a semi-auto. They have been chambered in standard hunting calibers: 270 Win, 300 Win, 243 Win, 308 Win and 30-06 Sprg.

Browning is currently offering a BAR LongTrac in .270 Win, .30-06 Sprg and .300 Win. As they state their guns “are rugged, reliable hunting rifles, capable of cycling magnum cartridges, providing you the firepower needed to bring down any big game species in North America.” These guns are gas operated and utilize “a 7-lug bolt that locks directly into the barrel, giving it incredible strength, while providing exceptional accuracy. A buffering mechanism reduces wear and stress on the rifle's receiver for longer life and greater reliability”.

To many a gun is just a tool and to others it is a piece of art. This firearm provides both. It has beautiful walnut wood in the buttstock and forend. It also has a safety in the standard location for most semi-auto shotguns, making it a breeze to engage/disengage while maintaining proper grip. The floorplate is also hinged, giving access to the detachable magazine that much easier.

I would personally love to pick one up in the .30-06 Sprg. I already have a Remington 700 chambered in this caliber and my wife enjoys shooting it. This way we can consolidate calibers while adding to our collection. And while it might not be the original BAR, I am sure I would still feel part of the firearm’s impressive history. And I can always use it in the future to teach my son about how important firearms have been to history and why the United States is the greatest country in the world.


PS- While .30-06 Sprg might be a little big for predator hunting I have known to use bigger.


Outdoor Skills Tips: Wild Turkey Hunting Shotgun Tips

Outdoor Skills Tips

Once you’ve decided you’re ready to take up wild turkey hunting, there are a lot of considerations that must be taken.  In this blog, I’ll discuss the basics in choosing a firearm, choke tube and shot shell before you venture out on your hunt.


I’ll be honest and say that if you and I were to own the same model shotgun, with the same model choke tube and same shot shells, they probably will not pattern the same.  So, there lies the challenge.  What do you use?


If hunting with a shotgun (rather than archery) you don’t necessarily have to have a “turkey shotgun”.  You can use basically any type of hunting shotgun.  Most people prefer 12 gauge but I use and prefer my Benelli M2 in 20 gauge with a 26” barrel (that thing is super light and patterns quite well!).

You can use about any shotgun, as long as the barrel is threaded so that you can remove and replace choke tubes in the barrel. Pictured below is a Beretta A300 with the choke tube partially out.

a300 threaded tube

Notice how you would use a choke wrench to remove your choke and install a turkey choke of your choice. Keep in mind that turkey shotguns don't have to have threaded tubes; if you have a fixed tube shotgun with a full choke that patterns well enough to do the job you can use it. I have a friend that uses the very first shotgun he ever owned, a Browning 30" barrel fixed choke, he has harvested several toms with this old gun. Threaded barrels allow you to use one gun for multiple reasons.

Here are some shotguns in our upcoming Spring Hunting Sale.

Berretta A300


I particularly like this Turkey / Predator special by Remington. All setup and ready to go out of the box.

Remington Turkey Predator

Even an all black gun will work well, most shotgun manufacturers make these color options. The Benelli Super Vinci is a great choice.

benelli vinci

Choke Tubes:

It can be a bit overwhelming when you are looking at choke tubes to turkey hunt.  There are many manufacturers out there and they all want your business.  The cost range can be as cheap as $25 and can go up to nearly $100, even higher on custom shop choke tubes found on the internet. My advice on purchasing a coke tube is to go ahead and spend a little more and get a good quality choke.  I’ve tried turkey chokes in all parts of the price range.  I’m currently using an Indian Creek Black Diamond choke tube in my Benelli M2.


It is a higher end choke tube and it has proven to be effective. If you arent looking to come off the hip with a large investment for your turkey choke, here are some great values in the upcoming Spring Hunting Sale.


Turkey Shot Shells:

When I talk to customers about what shot shell to use, I’ll be honest with them and say that it’s challenging and sometimes frustrating when it comes to choosing your shells.  There are many choices out there for turkey hunting shot shells.  There are different brands, different shell length, different shot sizes.


Basically, all of the major shot shell manufacturers are making shells for wild turkey hunting.  Choosing a brand is part personal preference but it also has to do with what shoots best in your gun.  Note that my next blog will cover basics in how to pattern your shotgun.  Part of that discussion will have more info on brand choice.

Shell Length:

Turkey shot shells will have more recoil when fired than your standard dove/quail or target load will have.  Take recoil into consideration especially if you’re setting up a gun for a youth or a small framed individual.  A 3½ inch 12 gauge turkey shell most likely isn’t a good choice for them.  If someone small is using a 12 gauge, consider a 2¾ inch or maybe a 3 inch shell.  Better yet, consider that 20 gauge for a small framed individual.  As I stated earlier, I use a 20 gauge with much success and I use 3 inch shells.  That combination has a fairly light amount of recoil.  An even lighter recoil option is a 20 gauge with 2¾ inch shells.  Also remember that longer shells in length will have more pellets available to strike the target, but it will also increase the amount of felt recoil when shooting your gun.

Shot Size:

Traditional shot sizes for turkey hunting are #4’s, #5’s and #6’s.  There are some manufacturers that are now mixing different shot sizes together in each shell to produce a “blend” of shot sizes.  Below is a chart that shows the differences in diameters in each.

Turkey Shot Sizes

In considering what size to choose, keep in mind that #4’s will have fewer number of pellets inside each shell, BUT #4’s will have more energy, or knock down power at a further distance.  So, if you attempt to shoot a bird at 50 yards with shot size #4’s, you’ll have less pellets available to strike the bird in the kill zone, which is the neck and head but it will have more energy, or knock down power that the smaller #6’s.  On the other hand, if you shoot at a bird at 50 yards with #6’s, you’ll have more pellets available to hit the kill zone but will have less energy.  So, it comes down to preference in knock down power at further distances or more pellets at shorter distances.


To help determine what size shot to use in your gun, it’s VERY important to take the time and buy a few different brands and a few different shot sizes “pattern” your gun.  To pattern your gun, you’ll set up paper targets and shoot at different distances to determine what shoots best in the set up you’re considering in you gun. If you prefer an actual turkey to shoot at we sell these lifelike Redhead 12" targets.


  • Special dual-color, flake off technology makes it easy to pattern your shotgun for turkey season
  • Flake off technology provides an explosion of color that can be seen from great distances
  • Kill area shots show florescent green behind turkey image
  • Misses show bright white behind red background
  • Self adhesive to stick to almost any backstop
  • 12'' turkey head image
  • 10 targets to a pack

 Patterning your gun can be come fairly expensive, but it will be worth it in the long run.  if you plan to take your wild turkey hunting seriously and take it to the next level.  If you’ve got a friend willing to pitch in, you can share some of the expense if you both shoot the same gauge shotgun.  You and your buddy can pitch in to buy a few different brands and different sizes of shot shells and go out and pattern your gun to see what shoots best in each or your firearms.  In my next blog, I’ll discuss tips for consideration when you go out to “pattern your shotgun”.

Happy Hunting!

~Richard Plonk

Hunting Lead



Gearing Up For Turkey Season! The Gun You Have To Have!

Welcome Bass Pro Shop Customers!

Ok ladies and gentlemen we have a gun that once I tell you about it you're gonna want it in your gun safe!!



This is the Remington 870 SPS Super Mag Camo Shotgun with Thumbhole Stock!


The most dependable slide action of all time in a design that will go the distance with deadly precision, whether your target is the crease behind a buck's shoulder, a wily coyote or a big red head. The model 870 SPS Super Magnum Turkey/Predator w/scope is an all inclusive, all-camo package put together with devastating implications for birds at extended range and predators that close the distance. Along with the ambidextrous freedom and handling ease of our supshot pistol grip stock with grip-enhancing overmolds, it features a highly maneuverable 20" barrel and a TruGlo® red/green selectable illuminated sight mounted atop its pre-installed Weaver-style rail. It handles 2 3/4", 3" and 3 1/2" 12-gauge rounds interchangeably. A black padded sling and Wingmaster HD™ Turkey/Predator Rem™ Choke are included.

Key Features:

  • 12 gauge, 2 3/4", 3" and 3 1/2" chamber

  • 20" barrel Turkey/Predator Extended Rem Choke included

  • ShurShot pistol grip stock with black overmolded grip panels

  • TruGlo 30mm Red/Green Dot Scope (Model TG8030DB) pre-mounted

  • Fully Mossy Oak Obsession camo coverage

  • Includes padded, quick-attach sling


The Bass Pro Shops in Leeds, Alabama we were listing it for $599.97. Now it's on sale for $579.95!! What a steal! But, if you come in before March can really get a good buy for $549.95 after mail-in rebate!! Hope you come on out and see us soon.

Thanks, Rebecca in Hunting!




Your Next Turkey Or Predator Gun!!

Model 870™ SPS™ Super Mag Turkey/Predator w/Scope


turkey predater


The Remington Model 870 SPS Super Magnum Turkey-Predator is a pump-action hunting shotgun chambered in 12 gauge. The M870 is a family of pump-action shotguns with a variety of hunting and tactical models. The Turkey-Predator can fire magnum shells and to complement those hard-hitting loads it comes with Remington’s Wingmaster Heavy Density choke tube, which is made of steel and threads into the barrel. It has a camouflage finish that covers the short 20″ barrel and synthetic stock. The stock has a ShurShot pistol grip, which looks like a tactical grip, and a thumb groove. It comes with TruGlo sights, which are easy-to-see bright colors, but also a pre-mounted TruGlo 30mm red/green dot scope. The scope mounts to a short Picatinny rail, which allows easy mounting or removing of scopes or sights. Remington recommends it for hunting turkey and predators, of course.



Model 870 SPS Super Magnum Turkey-Predator


3 (3.5) and 4 (2.75, 3)


TruGlo sights


Fires magnum shells; comes with padded sling; and 30mm red dot scope


12 gauge


Synthetic/mossy oak bottomland




TruGlo Red Dot Scope mounted to Picatinny rail




Extra full




7.125 pounds

Barrel Length:


Length of Pull:


Overall Length:


Drop at Comb:


Drop at Heel:






Turkey Ammo- Which one??

Ok, you have found the perfect spot for your Spring Turkey hunt. Your mouth call practice has paid off since you have a nice Tom strutting towards your decoys. All that is left here is to pull Mr 12 gauge up and claim your trophy. But the hunt is not finished, this is where your gear can really make or breat your outing. Your choice of choke and ammunition can be the difference between going home happy or going home hungry.

   Today we have several very good choices in 12 gauge ammunition made just for Turkey hunting. What will matter here is how to match up our barrel and choke tube with the right ammunition to get the best results. Let us start with a true Turkey shotgun.

    Most devoted Turkey shotguns have a shorter barrel length that allows better swing in tight quarters such as a hub blind or other available cover. With that short barrel it is recommended that you use an “extra full choke tube”. This will allow tighter patterns at longer shooting ranges. For this type of shotgun the best choices in ammunition are Winchester, Remington, HeavyShot and Kent. These shot shells use a conventional plastic wad that spreads at the front soon after leaving the barrel. Patterns will be very good from 30 yards out to 50 yards. You will even be able to make kills farther out then 50 yards!

    So you want to hunt Turkey, you have a shotgun, but it is not a true Turkey gun. No problem, look at both ammo and chokes to get started. Install that improved cylinder choke tube and look at two other brands of ammunition. Hornady and Federal use a different wad in their shot shells. This wad does not open at all, but rather has a cone that expands when it leaves the barrel; this cone is at the base of the wad. This allows the wad to stay with the shot load longer yielding a tighter pattern. So you need not purchase a choke tube, only correct ammunition to work with your gun. If you have a Turkey gun and want to use the Federal or Hornady loads you should buy a different choke tube, improved cylinder is best.

    Now that you have matched your gun and ammunition it’s off to the range! This part is most important; always check your patterning at your expected shooting distance. This will confirm all is ready for your hunt. Now pull the trigger on that nice Tom Turkey and start warming up the oven!