Best Red Dot for Pistol Shooting

Our frequent client and professional firearms photographer pal Matt wondered about getting into pistol red dot sights, so he reached out the the original and best shooting experience, the Jackson Hole Shooting Experience. We forwarded his inquiry to pistol pro Ben Weiser!

“Ben, I appreciate your willingness to answer some questions.

I am new in the red-dot research forum. I have a buddy who had his 1911 milled and added a Holosun (all that was a Christmas gift, so he hasn’t tried it out yet). I know Trijicon has good reviews, but is pricey.

I haven’t heard much about the Vortex Viper or Venom. I know Vortex has a great reputation and Shepard always speaks highly of their rifle scopes. I like the lower looking profile they seem to have then some of the other brands and models.

I run a Glock 19 as my ccw gun. Are red-dots worth all the hype they get? How hard are they to adjust to? And are Vortex making quality red-dots? I may have some Vortex specific questions if you recommend them if you are willing as well.

Sorry for the lengthy email, but I appreciate your time!


Ben’s response:

Hey Matt,

Glad you’re getting into the pistol dot world, it’s a lot of fun. Vortex isn’t my go-to brand for red dots but I’ve heard good things about the Viper and Venom dots.
From my experience, Trijicon’s red dots are excellent and very dependable. The RMR and SRO are my first choices and I’ve personally found them to be worth the higher price tag. Holosun products have also proven themselves over the last several years as very high-value red dots. They’re reasonably priced and offer most of the capabilities of more expensive options.
Trijicon and Holosun are my two top picks, but Vortex has a great reputation and good warranty service if anything were to fail. I don’t have as much experience with their pistol dots but if you’re specifically looking at a lower-profile optic, they seem like a good option.
If you are already a competent pistol shooter and want to take your skills to the next level I think trying out a dot is a great idea. It offers a more intuitive method of aiming and with some training, I think you’ll find it allows for a more “seamless” shooting experience. For me, shooting with a red dot is more natural and allows me to process target information immediately while shooting accurately at speed.
In my experience, you’ll “adjust” to shooting with the dot proportionally to how skilled of a pistol shooter you already are. If you can already consistently present the pistol and have your sights immediately aligned, you won’t have to search for the dot upon presentation. If your grip is already excellent and your sights consistently return to your original point of aim after shooting, you’ll have no issue losing the dot during recoil. The red dot allows you to take maximum advantage of your existing pistol shooting skills. If you have room to optimize those skills, the dot will push you to a higher standard than iron sights would.
I hope that answers some of your questions. If you have any others I’m happy to help.

Interestingly, neither of them mentioned Leupold?

Best Red Dot for Pistol Shooting



Best Hearing Protection for Shooting 2023?

What is the Best Hearing Protection for Shooting 2023?

We are frequently asked for recommendations about what is the best hearing protection for shooting.  We are not paid by any company, and our only discount ever received was when we purchased 30 pairs of $100+ muffs, Altus gave us a price of $1 less than we could have purchased them on Amazon! lol

The following opinions are as unbiased as possible. 


Best Hearing Protection for Shooting 2023

 – First 5 Tests!


Yes – Pro Ears Pro 300 

No – Howard Leight Impact Sport  

Yes – Gel ear seals to help Howard Leight Impact Sport ears

Heck NO!!! – Walker Walker’s Razor Slim 

Heck NO!!! – Axil cheapos – just don’t do it .com

Howard Leight Impact Pro 

MSA Sordin

Pro Mag Gold Excellent -Best Hearing Protection for Shooting Instructors

I purchased a pair of Pro Mag Gold hearing protection for $289 and personally used them for about two days before the headband broke. The Shepard Humphries with Pro Ears Goldcompany quickly replaced the headband. I have used them for about 1000+ hours and absolutely love them, though I wish gel ear-seals were available!  I just purchased another pair, this time pink, for my wife. My headband broke again, so this time I bought three extras to be prepared! -Shepard Humphries 2012

Update: In late 2015, my original pair of Pro Mag Gold muffs started sizzling and one side quit working.  I sent them in for repairs, expecting to pay $100+ in repair fees, but instead, within 10 days I received a brand new replacement pair!  They are a bit bulky for long gun shooting, but I do use them in long range tactical precision rifle matches.  I am very happy with Pro Ears by Altus Brands! The price has dropped to $207 HERE!


  MSA Supreme Pro-X Hearing Protection – Excellent – Best Hearing Protection for Shooting

( by Bob Gathercole

I purchased this hearing protection after a three day Highpower-Long Range shoot in Missoula where we spent two days shooting in the rain. The Peltor muffs I used suffered an electronic meltdown shortly after. MSA is a company of Swedish origin that specializes in safety gear. I dealt with SRS Tactical, in Florida, excellent service. The Supreme Pro-X (model 75302-X) was 249.00, and I added the gel earmuffs for 34.00. (Check current price HERE)

Bob Gathercole Best Ear ProThis model has the following features:

-five year warranty on the electronics
-volume control
-battery saving mode (shuts down after 4 hrs)
-input jack for radio or mobile phone.
-low battery warning tone

This hearing protection uses two AAA batteries. The automatic shutoff is a useful feature for competitive shooters who leave their hearing protection in a range bag. Comfort is outstanding- I wore these at the 2012 Spirit of America matches in Raton, NM- eight days of long range shooting, four matches a day, without noticing them. The attenuation is a little less than some other muffs, but adequate. The excellent electronic sound reproduction allows the user to wear supplemental earplugs if desired.

Most important, for rifle shooters- the design of these earmuffs does not interfere with the cheek weld. -by Bob Gathercole

Radians Pro-Amp™ Electronic Hearing Protection – BAD About Standing Behind Product

I purchased this lower end pair of hearing protection and personally used them for the summer of 2011. I was pretty happy with them until one side stopped working. As I followed up I learned that Radian’s return policy philosophy is opposite of Altus Pro Ears!  Not only would they not perform a repair, but they do not have replacement parts. It seems that if you buy their hearing protection and 91+ days later it stops working, it is off to the landfill. -Shepard Humphries

3M Peltor – Excellent hearing protection

3M Peltor is a trusted brand that makes high end electronic hearing protection.  While I have not used it, many of my clients use it and love it.  As with most electronic hearing protection, make sure you are spending over $100 when you select a pair, and $300 is better than $100. THIS $1,095 pair is really great! As a bonus, you look tacticool at the range.


Altus Pro Ears Pro-300 – Very Good for occasional range use

I liked the Altus brand so much that we purchased 30 pairs of their Pro-300 muffs for our clients use in 2015.  We have been very happy with their performance and our clients love them! The headbands do frequently break in cold weather.

Hearing damage from shooting typically occurs over time and this cumulative effect is a consideration when selecting a pair of ears.  For guests that shoot only occasionally, these Pro-300s are great!  If you shoot less than once per week and are typically at outdoor ranges, these are great!


… and from a July 2017 email response to a client:

I use Pro Ears Gold.  When you shoot with me, you can use/test our Pro Ears 300’s, which are a good electronic pair & they will be good for us to communicate with each-other.  If you will typically be shooting alone, you will not need electronic muffs.
For your own use away from me, I think passive should be fine.  The NRR (Noise Reduction Rating) number should be as high as possible.  (This guy disagrees)  Many are in the 20’s and are sufficient, however 30’s are better.  It seems that the thicker the muffs, the better the sound is blocked.  The problem is that if you also plan to use them for shotgunning and rifle, a lower profile muff is better, even though I use my thick ones for all kinds of shooting.
Some people even like to double-up and use foam ear plugs AND ear muffs.
This is what I use: 
Several of our coaches use these lower profile, but say that sound is not blocked as well:
These are all worthy of your consideration and are so inexpensive that if you don’t like them, you can use them as a spare and try again!  🙂

Not Great – Howard Leigh Impact

OK, this is a thing.Best Hearing Protection for Shooting
This company has been very successful and is one of the most popular brands of ear protection. I don’t get it. I have tried several pairs, and each time I notice the plastic on my ears is stiff. The muffs don’t rotate well within the headband. This means that it is difficult to get a good seal around one’s ear. I prefer every other pair of electronic hearing protection I have ever tried.
The Howard Leigh Impact ear protection does NOT get my seal of approval.

Review – Is the Vortex Razor good for ELR (Extreme Long Range) Shooting

Is the Vortex Razor good for ELR (Extreme Long Range) Shooting

Burn the Budget

I recently bit the bullet and ordered the Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27×56 with the EBR-2C (MOA) reticle. Am I ever stoked!

Ever since handling one at the 2016 Shot Show in Vegas I have been planning, scrimping, saving and explaining why this will be the best scope ever.

I have owned the Vortex Viper HS LR 6-24×50 FFP with the XLR (MOA) reticle for a few years and have been thoroughly impressed. It has yet to let me down both in competition, hunting (elk, antelope & deer) and range use.  See my review HERE.

Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27×56 Review by Scott Austin

You might be wondering why I decided to spend the extra cash considering the HS LR’s stellar track record at such an incredibly low price. Believe me it was a tough choice but here are a few, well, let’s just call them justifications (I’m sure you haven’t had to resort to these tactics when convincing your wife of the necessity of spending 3x more than the last scope, which you said would be the last one you’d ever need. Ok, I’m learning!):

Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27×56 Review – Clarity

I’ve had the opportunity to look through a few of my friends Gen II’s since Shot Show and it’s as good as being there.  Color just pops, and having spent years dabbling in the photography arena (just a hobby – well, not according to my wife) I’ve come to appreciate prime glass.  Will it make the difference between harvesting an animal in lower light/or not as compared to the HS LR?  Probably not.  They’re both plenty bright enough to shoot all hours of legal light here in Wyoming.  But I will be able to stay later at the range (sorry for the noise Rangemaster Dan) or even count the points on an elk or deer standing in black timber come sunset. I may also score better at competitions where you have to utilize your reticle to range your target (no rangefinders or electronics allowed). Clarity and reticle design are king when it comes to competing well in this type of shoot.


With the HS LR I have been able to utilize up to 65 MOA in my elevation turret. While this is awesome compared to many other scopes in the same category the Gen II has 113.5 MOA at its disposal. Going from a 30mm tube to a 34mm tube really does wonders. That all-elusive 1 mile shot a friend and I are working toward perfecting is not going to be as mechanically challenging as it used to be, at least with regard to the scope.


OK, I know what you’re thinking. The Gen II’s are the heaviest scopes (although very compact) in this magnification category as far as I am aware of. For most of the reviews I’ve seen this is considered a “con” – not in my book. I’m shooting a .300 Win Mag without a brake. I’m not a brake fan for numerous reasons. This gun is carried a little but shot a lot. I’m hoping the extra weight, including a Larue QD mount will reduce the recoil to the point where I can keep my target and thus my vapor trail in view under recoil.

Will these three “justifications” be worth it? I’ll keep you posted below as I put it through the paces! Vortex Razor good for ELR Scope Review

Vortex Razor HD Gen II (2) Review by Scott Austin

Vortex Razor good for ELR , Vortex Razor HD Gen II 4.5-27x56 Review by Scott Austin

Is Vortex Viper Good for Long Range Shooting?

Is Vortex Viper Good for Long Range Shooting?

Vortex Viper HS-LR  6-24×50 Scope Review by Rev David Bott

After four decades of hunting, I decided to spend some money on decent optics.  I have always settled for whatever was cheap and “good enough” to get by at the range and in the field.  I do spend good money on scope bases and rings – Leupold in this case.

For two seasons in a row, I zeroed my rifle and took it into the field, only to miss shots that I should have easily made.  After the first time, I decided to check the zero once I arrived at camp and before taking a shot at game.  That time the rifle rode in a scabbard strapped to the saddle of my trusty, albeit borrowed steed, Joe.  We did have a couple of jumps over deadfall and creek crossings (Joe had new shoes and didn’t like to get his feet wet.)  The rifle did not take any of what I would consider “serious bumps”, but upon arrival I checked the zero.  The test shots were still a ragged hole, but 2 ½ minutes left of, and 1 ½ minutes over my zero.

I re-zeroed and went about the hunt.  The rifle lived across my back and I went on foot up, down, over and across the rugged backcountry of the western Wyoming mountains.  It did get jostled but nothing resembling a bump or knock.  Nearing sundown one evening I was given a broad-side shot on a nice bull elk at 414 yards.  The first shot was a miss.  The bull stood there with a look on his face like: “are you kiddin’ me?”  The second shot likewise was a waste of powder.  The bull shook his head in disgust and strolled back into the timber.  Though certain I missed, we hiked up to check for blood, fur, or bone – nothing.  I think I heard him snicker, but I cannot be sure.

When I returned to the range, I shot a sub-moa group, but it was six minutes high of my zero, and one minute right.  That scope is now for sale …cheap.  Enter the Vortex Viper HS-LR 6-24 x 50 FFP XLR, or as it’s more commonly known as the VHS-4316-LR.  One magnificent optic!

As stated above, I decided to “invest” in a riflescope, so I did my research.  Sporting goods outlets have nice varieties you can pick up (to feel the weight, instead of just reading and imagining what that many ounces felt like).  You can look through them, turn the dials and all, but in most cases you can get very little accurate information.  (Hint: If you ask “which ones are first or front focal plane?” and all you hear in reply is crickets chirping …disregard last transmission.)

Manufacturer’s websites, periodical reviews, and men and women whom I knew to be competent, genuine experts were my sources of information.  I spoke with manufacturer reps at SHOT Show.  I spoke with reps from, and looked into (pun intended) NightForce, Leupold, Swarovski, Trijicon, Vortex, Nikon, Burris, and Bushnell.  With that cross-section of the market, I thought I was giving myself sufficient information to make an informed decision and subsequent purchase.  I quickly realized, at least with the higher end models, the most difficult part of this purchase was going to be convincing my wife to forgo our IRA contribution for the next couple of years.  Yikes!

Now I believe that in the vast majority of instances, you do in fact “get what you pay for”.  But sometimes, you don’t – at least not in any discernible manner.  I am well acquainted with the marketing ploy of “snob appeal”.  That’s when manufacturers place a premium price-point on their product with the intent to make the consumer feel they are getting the better, if not best quality, despite the lack of empirical data to support or refute the assumption.  However, I do not earn enough money to be a snob – at least not a genuine snob.  Alas, I am consigned to faux-snobbery.

The data available for most optics is voluminous.  I selected my criteria based on the input I received from the experts with whom I spoke.  Clarity, consistency, firmness in the controls, nation of manufacture, and price were all part of my “at-the-sales-counter” investigations.  Speaking for myself, I cannot determine with the naked eye, within a hundredth of a lux the exact amount of light one scope transmits over another.  I cannot measure its “light-gathering capabilities.”  I can tell if there is relatively consistent light transmission across the diameter of the viewing lens.  For instance, are there rainbows at the edges?  That can mean the light spectrum is being broken down toward the edges and the viewing suffers.  If at the edge you see R*O*Y*G*B*I*V pick another optic.  I can determine if I see an object clearly through the viewable diameter of the lenses.  Does it wash out or seem to ripple.  I can determine if my viewing remains consistent trough the magnification range.  I can easily determine if the reticule is appealing to me, or is it so busy that I cannot concentrate on my point of aim.  Personally, I do not like a reticule that looks like the front page of the Wall Street Journal.  That is TMI.

Is Vortex Viper Good for Long Range Shooting?Much of the rest of my analysis was based on value – deciding how much I wanted to spend.  (My wife passed on the idea of foregoing our IRA contributions.)  That meant that I would judge between the features offered, and deciding whether or not I trust the manufacturer and their claims.  Will they stand behind their product?  And, will it be a no questions asked service, or will I have to prove up a claim with graphs, charts, eye-witness accounts, video and photographic evidence that a Yeti did in fact crush my scope?  (I mean, the ice chest fell on it.)

The reviews of the customer service are where Vortex shot to the front.  Vortex was checking all of the boxes.  The fact that it is U.S. made (except for the glass) was a big bonus for me as a devout statist.  They were not the only one, of course.  All of the manufacturer mentioned above were in the hunt with most of the boxes checked.  The amount and degree of positive feedback regarding  Vortex customer service was extremely encouraging.

The Vortex Razor was and still is out of my league as far as price.  So, the Vortex Viper was a very close second without forfeiting many features.  The reviews I read about the Viper spoke well of its durability.  I wanted/needed a scope that could hold zero with a moderate jostling.

So far, my Viper is rock-solid, though Joe and I have not yet had the opportunity to go creek-jumping.  The controls are substantial.  They are firm enough to not get bumped off their settings, but not so tight to need a full-fisted grip to turn them.  The range from minimum magnification to maximum is reached in only a half turn of the ocular piece.  The zero-set is simple to use and the fiber-optic index makes my zero easy to find while in position on the scope.

Since my Vortex Viper was going on my long-range shooter, I was sold on the First Focal Plane.  The XLR reticule gives me the information I want and nothing I do not.  The laser-etched markings are crisp and clear through the full range of magnifications.  The edge-to-edge clarity and visually discernible light transmission are both brilliant.

In my opinion, the Vortex is comparable in performance and features to the NightForce, Leupold, and Swarovski, because that is what I have done, compare them – feature to feature, dollar for dollar.  The price of the Vortex Viper was in line with what I was willing to spend.  Vortex has a great variety of optics, and I have been very impressed with each one I have used and every one that I own.  I am delighted with the purchase and planning to secure a Gen. II Vortex Viper for my RPR in the very near future.  In Vortex have found shooting optics with zero distortion AND zero buyer’s remorse!  Thank you Vortex for making great optics affordable!

This Vortex Viper 6-24×50 Scope Review by Rev David Bott

Vortex Viper Review David Bott 1,720 Yard hit
Yours truly using my Viper, hit confirmed at 1,790 yards.

ELR Rifle cleaning gear list

Rifle cleaning gear list

This ELR Rifle cleaning gear list has been compiled over many years. We hope that is helps simplify your experience and aligns it with the guidance we provide in our book.  Keep in mind that you will need to customize your shopping list for the specific equipment you use (caliber, rifle brand, etc.). For example, you will want a different patch size if you have a .223 versus a .416 barrel. Ask 10 gun pros which brands are best, and you will get 11 different answers. Not all shooters have all of the things listed below. We would love to learn and share from your experience as well, so please be in touch!

  1. A toolbox or fishing tackle box to hold your gear. We suggest one that has room to have aerosol cans stand upright.
  2. Rubber gloves, keeping in mind that your hands might be sensitive to certain plastics.
  3. Eye protection. Really. The probability of chemicals splashing around is pretty high.
  4. Brushes are great. Because of Shepard’s psychological problem of hoarding, he has far too many toothbrushes, steel brushes and scrub brushes. If you ever see a unique brush, Shepard bets you will someday be able to use it on one of your guns so you should definitely buy it. If you don’t use it, send it to Shepard as a birthday present. A good starter pack:
  5. Bore brushes for each caliber. Start with five  bronze or nylon.  and nylon: 
  6. Shop towels of the blue mechanic type. 
  7. Cotton rags
  8. Cleaning patches appropriate for each caliber. 
  9. Cleaning rods. Buy two or three, and we suggest long and skinny because you will be able to use them on not only your current rifles, but also on your next ones. Do NOT use the sectional cheapo rods. 
  10. Jags appropriate for the caliber, we prefer the push-through or “pierce-style” jags over loop jags. The Parker Hale style is good.
  11. Bore guides for each rifle / chambering.
  12. Cheapo Brake Cleaner. 
  13. CLP (Clean – Lubricate – Protect) Remington’s Rem Oil is great. 
  14. KG-1 carbon remover.
  15. KG-12 Copper remover.
  16. Butches Bore Shine.
  17. Gun oil, it really does not matter what brand.
  18. Gun grease, we like Shooter’s Choice.
  19. Q-Tips.
  20. Gunsmith Screwdriver kit.
  21. Toothpicks, both wood and plastic.
  22. A dental hygienist gives us her old worn out professional picks, and while we could just buy them online, Shepard likes to be reminded as often as possible of the great joy Sonda brings him during his relaxing teeth cleanings sessions. 

elr rifle cleaning gear list

Shooting Instructors Favorite Bipods

Shooting Instructors Favorite Bipods for ELR

Shooting Instructors Favorite Bipods for ELRShooting Instructors Favorite Bipods

In the below blog post about long range precision rifle bipod options, we are discussing the best money can buy, whereas many PRS shooters get the best value they can on a limited budget.  This article is aimed at our typical client, the person that doesn’t really care what their bipod costs so long as it is excellent for long range and extreme long range shooting.

We spend most of our time teaching and working on our business and shoot much less than we watch others shoot.  One day, Shepard and Scott helped a few pals get their first 1-mile hits ( using a water jug as a rifle rest. Yes, a nice bipod is nice, but you get the point. 🙂

LRA review by Scott Austin

I recently purchased a Long Range Accuracy Light Tactical Bipod (long version) for my 6.5 Creedmoor Ruger Precision Rifle, 6.5 Grendel Alexander Arms Overwatch and .300 Win. Mag. Remington 700 5R Milspec.

As a firearms instructor, I have had numerous opportunities to use many makes, models and styles of bipods, bags and supports which span the budget and quality spectrum from A-Z.  Without question this is the most solid, versatile and comfortable bipod I have ever used.  Did I say solid? If my truck ever needs an axle support while in the back-country I now have a dual-purpose tool.

Shooting Instructors Favorite Bipods

One extremely useful design feature is how the bore axis sits so low in the bipod itself (think F-Class bipod designed by Porsche). This design allows for a much more inline recoil path that has to be experienced to be believed. Watching my own vapor trails is much more common with this setup.

I would never have guessed I would invest this much in a bipod, however after using it, I will never go back. Having a solid (repeatable) foundation for your shooting platform can’t be overstated enough.

Best Bipods for Extended ELR
Scott’s LRA on our 375 Cheytac (our 2-3 mile rifle)

Accu-tac review by Shepard Humphries

I just purchased a few Accu-Tac FC-4 G2 F-Class bipods and have not yet tried them out. On first inspection though, they are very heavy-duty and I suspect they will be much better than my Atlas or even Scott’s LRA. After I get some trigger time, I will share more.

Best Bipod for ELR Extreme Long Range Shooting
Accu-Tac – Click image for Amazon affiliate link pricing

If my sister or brother was buying a rifle tomorrow, this Accu-Tac is the one I would recommend, with Scott’s LRA in a close second place.

Sinclair F-Class Bipod review by Shepard Humphries

Sinclair F class Bipod
Click for current price on Amazon

I have had an F class bipod for a few years that offers great stability.  It has sled style feet that are meant to slide when using a free recoil hold.  I have used it for long range shooting at times when I needed more stability than my good old Harris provided.  Since buying an Atlas 5-H, I have actually come to prefer the Atlas. My wife and I used the Sinclair on our 7mm Rem Mag when we shot 2,040 yards on our anniversary a few years ago, so I still have a place in my heart for it.  🙂

Best long range shooting school

Atlas 5-H review by Shepard Humphries

The Atlas 5-H bipod is very stable. It is a challenge to take it on and off the Picatinny rail though, and the wideness that I love makes it far too wide to leave on when I put the rifle in my soft case. Our clients and I have used it with a .223, 6.5 Creedmoor, .308, 300 WM and 7mm Rem Mag.

The leveling mechanism is not easy to use, I much prefer the engineering on my new Accu-Tacs. While the Atlas isn’t a perfect bipod for ELR shooting, it is pretty nice and had to be included in our Shooting Instructors Favorite Bipods list.

Shooting Instructors Favorite Bipods
Atlas 5-H


Harris review by Shepard Humphries

Shooting Instructors Favorite Bipods The Harris bipod is what I used when I was a SWAT sniper team leader back in the early 2000’s.  It was all I knew and I liked it at the time.  After using some much better bipods, I am no longer such a huge fan.

Having said this, I set my new personal best a couple of years ago at 2,157 yards using a Harris balanced on the back of an ATV in a weird squatting position, what do they say about blind squirrels finding nuts? lol

Check out options at the above affiliate links to Amazon, and let us know if you have any questions!

Revolvers VS Semi-Auto Handguns for Grizzly Bear Defense

Revolvers VS Semi-Auto Handguns for Grizzly Bear Defense

(This article is an excerpt from Tony Molina’s book on Grizzly Bear Defense.)

This debate has raged for many years. Is a powerful big bore revolver with high recoil and 5-6 cartridges better than a light frame semi-auto handgun with less recoil and two to three times the ammunition capacity?

The simple and unsatisfying answer is that not everybody is the same, both tools are different, and there is no objectively better option. Each tool has its own advantages and disadvantages. Below, I’ve listed all I am aware of on this topic to help you decide your preference…. Revolvers VS Semi-Auto Handguns for Grizzly Bear Defense

Semi-Automatic Handguns


  • Lightweight

  • Commonly used and owned

  • Affordable

    • Options are around $300 – $1,000 USD

    • Practice ammunition is cheaper than magnum cartridges

  • Modular

  • Accessories are commonly available

  • Less muzzle flash than revolvers

  • Fast to reload; ease of extra magazine

  • Easier to field strip and clean internal components


  • More common to have malfunctions inherent to the gun:

  • Failure to feed (FTF): the cartridge fails to feed into the chamber

  • Failure to eject a case (FTE): the cartridge (fresh or spent) does not get ejected and stops the gun from automatically loading the next cartridge

  • More common to have shooter/environment induced malfunctions:

  • Limp Wristing—failure to keep the frame of the handgun from traveling rearward while the slide of the handgun cycles. This condition often results in a “short stroke” of the slide or failure to complete the operating cycle which can leave a handgun unable to shoot without fixing the issue causing the malfunction.

  • Things like body parts, gear, or environmental objects can stop or block the slide from completing a full cycle, causing a malfunction.

  • Fur or other items can clog the ejection port and stop the slide from entering into battery (completely closing so that the gun can fire). (As happened in a black bear defense in New Mexico)

  • Defensive situations often involve  non-stationary shooting conditions with unforeseen variables that can cause malfunctions. This is a disadvantage even with adequate training for fixing malfunctions.

  • The magazine release button can be unintentionally depressed whether in ideal conditions or a physical struggle. This can result from  a lack of knowledge or a surge of adrenaline during a life-or-death situation. If this happens your source of ammunition is no longer in the gun. Reacquiring it may not be an option, or the magazine itself could be the cause of the issue. A spare or backup magazine accessible on your person is advised.

  • Semi-Automatic handguns (semi-autos) are not commonly chambered in high power “magnum cartridges”

  • Many people feel that semi-autos fail to meet the 4-3-1 minimum pistol rule for bear defense (.40+” bullet diameter, 300+gr bullet weight, 1000+fps muzzle velocity).

Double-Action Revolvers


  • Easy to use (grab, point, pull the trigger)

  • Lower likelihood for shooter/environmentally induced malfunctions. If you experience a failure to fire, you can usually pull the trigger again for the next shot.

  • Commonly available in high power magnum cartridges

  • Affordable: options commonly range from $300 to $1,000 USD, but tend to cost more than semi-autos


  • High power magnum cartridges tend to produce higher recoil than common semi-auto cartridges

  • Revolvers can be difficult to shoot quickly and accurately because

    • Double-action (DA) revolver triggers require more force to fully press

    • DA revolver trigger travel is often longer than common semi-auto triggers

  • Resetting the trigger for the next shot can be done improperly under stress, resulting in trigger lock or skipping a fresh cartridge in a cylinder

  • Revolvers are not commonly as modular for accessories like flashlights, red dots, and night sights

  • More muzzle flash from the cylinder gap, which can reduce the shooter’s vision in low-light situations

  • Can be heavier to carry

  • Slower to reload

  • A jam or malfunction usually requires more time to address and is not as easy to field strip as a semi-auto

    • Bullet jump can be caused by high recoil, which can work a bullet out of its case, allowing it to protrude forward and jam the cylinder (this can be avoided by:

      • purchasing quality ammunition that is properly “crimped”)

      • Replacing unfired cartridges that were in the cylinder during firing sessions.

    • Broken or jammed parts inside of the gun’s working mechanisms

Tony Molina is a leading exert on Grizzly Bear Defense, an avid archery and rifle big game hunter, the Range Operations manager for JH Shooting, LLC and author of: Handgun Selection for Grizzly Bear Defense.

Grizzly Bear Defense Gear


-End: Revolvers VS Semi-Auto Handguns for Grizzly Bear Defense

Gun Safes and Children

Gun Safes and Children
Which safe is this?

am often asked for advice on gun safes for holding firearms that must be readily accessible for defense, yet must not be accessible by children.  I am not in the “safe” industry, so rather than discuss brands, I will offer some ideas for you to ponder about Gun Safes and Children.

Our goal is to keep our kids as safe as possible while having defensive tools as handy as possible.  Please think about how you would feel if you kiddo’s friend (whose parents allowed him to play violent video games) discovers your gun and playfully/accidently shoots your kiddo to death.  Think about it.  This horrible outcome would be compounded by the inability to release your pain by having a single bad person to blame.  How do we reduce the probability of an event like this taking place? 

The best solution for not having a kid accidently shoot themselves with your gun is to not have a gun in your home.  Yep, I said it.  If there is not a gun in your home; it can’t be found and used in a dangerous way.  The same holds true with having a child stab themselves with a fork.  A home with no forks in it will not have a fork incident unless someone sneaks a fork in.  I suggest to you that the solution I describe in this paragraph is the result of an improper question. 

We accept the risk of having forks in our home because they are a handy way to eat food.  I have no animosity toward parents that have fork-free homes, and I likewise find it appropriate for parents to have forks, knives, guns, baseball bats, screwdrivers and many other tools that “could” be dangerous in their homes.  Part of living life is managing risk. 

There are more ways than one to help keep kids safe.  Training them in the proper safe use of firearms is the best way.  Many rural folk have for many years treated guns like hammers, tractors, wood stoves and fire.  They are all tools and none are locked away from kiddos.  In recent years, many city folks have begun building fences around stoves and distancing themselves from guns.  I suggest that this issue be addressed with an attitude more like the one we have toward fire use and sex and driving education.   

When a 14 year old boy has questions about something that can be great fun and very appropriate in certain circumstances, he should be taught about that thing and educated as to the dangers.  Telling the boy, “Don’t worry about sex now, when you are 18 you can start dating and then when you get married in your 20’s you will figure the sex thing out” has proven not to be a great response. 

Telling your child, “Guns are dangerous and you should never touch one” is equally as backward-thinking and absurd.  We teach our children to safely build camp fires while camping, they sit on our lap and steer the family car in a big empty parking lot before they are even 10, and I suggest we ought to also teach them about firearms pros and cons as well.  A 12-year-old should know how fire works and should have been shown the results of a house fire or a forest fire.  This 12-year-old should know that they could get pregnant if they play with another kind of fire.  They should know that a 3,000 pound hunk of metal and glass moving at 40 MPH can kill a pedestrian, but should all vehicle owners lock their keys away in a safe? 

 Ok, enough philosophy to make us think, now let’s talk hardware.  Safes of all types have ratings for fire that are calculated in minutes of time they can be in a hot fire or withstand someone trying to get into them.  UL has a more scientific description and details.  The safeness of a safe will have different levels of importance based on your concerns.  Will you also be storing your million dollar original collector’s stamps in the safe?  If the two guns in the safe will be a Glock and an 870, having them completely destroyed by fire might not matter as much.  Guess what?  The safes with the highest ratings cost more. 

 Next let’s consider how we will unlock the safe.  There are two basic types of opening methods: 

  1.  Manual – turning a knob, punching in a code etc. 
  2. Biometric – these read your fingerprint or retina and automatically open. 

 Because we know that most of us lose fine motor skills in a moment of crisis, it seems the biometric option is best for defense.   We will not have the manual dexterity to push buttons if we are awakened in the middle of the night by glass breaking and screaming in our living room.  The downside is that it is an electronic device and the battery might fail, the scanner might not read your print correctly etc.  Like your computer, it “should” always work perfectly, but sometimes it does not.  The same can also happen with a manual safe. 

 This is a good time to remind you to thoughtfully consider probability.   

  • What is the probability that you will be violently attacked in your home?  In my small Rocky Mountain town, most people are typically pretty safe.  On the other hand, I predict that within the next 10 years at least one stranger will try to enter an occupied home in my area to harm the occupants.  Might it be me? 
  • What is the probability that a curious kiddo will find your gun or the key to your gun safe?  Probably very high, right?  It is a very small percentage of teens that have NOT tried marijuana, porn, alcohol, profanity, sex or other things parents have ordered them not to do.  I think we must assume that they will probably find a way to find a gun hidden in our sock drawer. 

Barska Biometric Rifle Safe  $299 

Seems like an inexpensive option, but up to 3 seconds for lock to open after scanning fingerprint. 


Barska Large Biometric Rifle Safe $550 

A bit larger than the smaller option above. 


Barska AX11556 Security Safe, Pistol $182 

Looks good for a pistol.