Different Types of Shooting Targets

August 12th, 2016

Practice, they say, makes perfect and when it comes to shooting and accuracy, practice is the only way to improve accuracy. Regardless of your shooting goal, accuracy is important. That is why shooters use targets to hone both their skill in handling a gun and their accuracy. To that end, there are three popular types of targets that shooters use. Those are steel targets, Tannerite targets, and plinking targets. Here is a look at each of these targets and why you’d use them.

Steel Targets — Steel targets are made out of 1/2 inch or 3/8 inch steel. Many people opt to use armor grade steel. The fast-and-hard rule is any steel will do if it has a Brinell hardness in excess of 500. Of course, this is subjective but applying it adds longevity to your targets. The benefit of using steel targets is that they last longer and require fewer houses for setup since they can be used over and over. They are also easy to clean up and usually just require repainting when it matters. The advantage of using steel targets is that you can hear that “plink” if you hit one. This allows the shooter to have instant confirmation during target practice. The downfall with steel targets is that they pose a ricochet risk and people do get injured from bullets that ricochet. Steel targets are usually easy to move around so you can gain more detailed target practice in a small space. With the right tools, steel targets are easy to make as a DIY project.

Steel Shooting targets

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Tannerite targets are exploding. They are a mixture of aluminum powder and ammonium nitrate. The ratio for mixing at home is 5:95 Aluminum powder:Ammonium nitrate. While this already sounds like a bad idea, the mixture only explodes when struck with a bullet. The bigger risk is that the target may cause a fire. That is usually from mixing the ingredients wrong, or exposing them to flames. Tannerite targets are helpful for long-distance shooting where you might not hear the plink. You will definitely see the explosion. The downside to Tannerite targets is that they are a once-use product and they create a mess. While the current laws allow Tannerite targets for use and sale in all 50 states, it is best to check with your local authorities for changes to those laws.


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Plinking Targets are comprised from almost anything from tin cans to watermelons. These targets offer an affordable means to hone your shooting skills and accuracy. You can easily create larger targets using cardboard cutouts or difficult targets using Q-tips. If you want to add technical challenges, many plinking targets can be swung from a rope to provide a moving target. The benefit of plinking targets is that they are scalable for different skill sets. Depending on the material from which the target is made, these may be single use or last for years. The list of material that you can use is virtually limitless. Another advantage to plinking targets is that they add a sense of fun to the game of target practice. It is easier to convince a new shooter to practice target shooting if the idea is to demolish a watermelon or perhaps to challenge them by taking a grape off a toothpick at 50-yards.

homemade_targets_3  Plinking targets  homemade_targets_2

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Every type of target has its strengths and weaknesses. The idea is to learn when to use each type of homemade target to gain the best benefit. Your goal as a shooter should always be gun safety followed by bettering your shooting skill and accuracy. Each set of target types also provides a wide range of costs. These three choices allow you to pick a cost that fits your budget.

To learn more about how guns are crafted and cared for visit our Colorado School of Trades website for more information on gunsmithing education. In so doing, you will find a ton of helpful information that helps you improve as a shooter and to improve your accuracy.


What Is the Attraction to AR-15’s and Building Them?

August 9th, 2016

The Black Rifle. 14,5" AR-15 assault carbine (M4A1) with holographic sight against an old wooden door. Vertical composition.

For many people, the AR-15 is the gun of choice. One of its biggest draws is that it offers an easy to modify platform. For shooters, the gun becomes easy to adapt from one purpose to another. Those options include hunting, target practice, home and self-defense. Another draw, these guns are easy to build even for novice gunsmiths. That little fact causes a lot of interest in these guns. By building it yourself, you can do so for less money. Allowing you to customize it to fit your shooting needs or build more than one. Still, the question remains — How easy are these guns to build from scratch? The answer is a little more complex but in the general sense, they are easy to build.

What Do You Need to Build an AR-15 at Home?

Almost all the parts needed to build an AR-15 are available online. The most scrutinized piece of the AR-15 is the lower receiver. In fact, it is the only part of the unit that federal and state laws actually consider the weapon. This is also the most cumbersome part to get.

  • You will need both a lower and upper receiver and a parts kit for each.
  • You will need a buffer, buffer tube, and a buffer spring for the extension on the lower receiver.
  • You will need a Barrel and gas block system – Most opt for a carbine length gas system.
  • You will need handguards – It is a good idea to match them to the gas block system. They are available in different lengths – carbine, mid-length, or rifle.
  • You will need a firing pin kit or bolt carrier group. These consist of a carrier, bolt, firing pin, cam, extractor, ejector and spring.
  • You will need to finish off the gun with a Buttstock. These come either as a collapsible unit or fixed.
  • You will need magazines.
  • Ensure that you meet federal and state laws in regards to building a pistol or rifle and the appropriate parts to meet the definitions.

The Difficult Part

Literally, the difficult part is the lower receiver. You can get a lower receiver at a gun dealer, gunsmith, from an online seller. You will have to find a gunsmith or gun dealer to act as an intermediate for an online sale. Once that happens they will resell the unit to you when it arrives. The key to building an AR-15 is being specific about its use. The parts for the hunting version differ from those for the unit used in home defense. Save all that wasted money on parts you don’t need by being specific about what you want this gun to do.

Putting It All Together

You have a lot of options when you buy parts. You can buy pre-assembled receivers. These allow you to simply put the pieces together to form the gun. You can buy the pieces one at a time and assemble everything yourself. Start by asking yourself what you want to gain from this experience. There is also no shame in bending the ear of a gunsmith if you need a little help.

You will need the basic understanding of what each part does, its name, and a little ambition. There are about 130 parts including accessories like flashlights and scopes that go into a completed AR-15. You will also need some basic tools, a clean work area, and a place where you can assemble small parts.

Special Tools that You Might Need

  • A clean, flat workspace that you won’t mind if it gets greasy. A metal covered table works well. The bright metal helps you see the parts and it can take a beating.
  • A rifle mount stand makes the assembly process much easier. Some folks just use a vice, but there is that old saying about using the right tool for the right job.
  • Good lighting. The parts are small and intricate.
  • Punches and a hammer
  • Lubrication rated for gun use.
  • Headspace gauges and a torque wrench are a must to meet proper specifications.

Firing it for the First Time

There are a few things that you need to do before you load the gun.

  • Check that the safety works through all settings.
  • Check that the trigger works. Slowly pull the trigger and listen for the internal parts.
  • Load a round and fire it.
  • Recheck the gun for loose parts or damage.
  • Disassemble, clean and inspect after the first several rounds. You want to look for unusual wear.

Expect to take a few weeks to put together your gun. You want to go slow, especially if this is your first weapon assembly. A good tip is to also have a spare parts kit around in case you bend a part or lose one.

Different Types of Competition Shooting

June 14th, 2016


The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) states that 19 million plus Americans safely invest their time in target practice. They use handguns, shotguns and rifles. Some of this is for fun and much of it is for competitive shooting. Practice makes perfect.

Competitive shooting — shotgun

There are three general categories for most competitive shotgun shooting events. All three involve throwing clay targets, but it is how they are thrown that differentiates these shooting events. Those are:

Skeet shooting — Clay targets fired from opposite directions and cross, which helps the shooter to develop or show off profile shooting skills.

Trap shooting — Clay targets are thrown in the same direction as the shooter is facing, but their trajectory varies, giving the shooter a more difficult set of targets. This type of shooting develops skills that involve instant decision making when choosing multiple targets.

Sporting clay shooting — One could easily describe this as mayhem. The clay targets are pitched from different heights, speeds and angles. Most targets move fast, and the goal is to simulate what a hunter would face in the wild with birds and small game.

Pistol and rifle competition shooting

Cowboy action shooting — The primary requirement for these types of shooting events is that the guns used are from the era of the American cowboy. That typically means from the 1800’s. These are perfect events to get a look at antique guns and weaponry.

Pistol shooting events

Bullseye shooting — While this can occur with the use of rifles, it is mostly a long-distance event for pistol shooters. By long distance, we mean upwards of 50 yards. Competitions are usually a mix of slow-firing and rapid-firing contests. To increase the difficulty level, a timer might be used and participants might also be required to fire using a single-hand rather than a double-hand grip.

International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) shooting events — This is an action shooting event that focuses on international rules and guns. This shooting competition focuses on self-defense type shooting situations, and the events mimic real life as much as possible. Its sister competition is the United States Practical Shooting Organization (USPSA), which is the U.S. version.

Rifle-focused shooting

Silhouette shooting — This is a rifle event and primarily uses small gauge rifles such as .22s. These events stage small steel targets at varying distances between 50-100 yards. Targets may be at different heights, angles, and may move. There are competitions that employ high power rifles with targets in the 1000-yard range. To increase the difficulty of these events, shots might be timed.

Bench rest shooting — This is the most precise shooting competition for rifles available. The rifle sits on a front and rear rest and the rest sits on a table, thus the name. Shooters take aim at paper targets. The rifles used are highly modified or customized to provide the most stable shot possible. A lot goes into the trajectory of a bullet as even the wind can shift its path slightly. These competitions can be decided by a fraction of a millimeter. This is the type of event that is deeply rooted in tradition and can be seen at both the winter and summer Olympics.

Shooting events are widely available and they might be hosted by a local gun club or as a world competition at a venue such as the Olympics. What is the next step for people who are interested in shooting competitions? The biggest decision that you face is determining which style of gun — shotgun, pistol or rifle — that you favor. When the breadth of a hair can spell winner or loser, precision counts.

Summer Outdoor Family Activities in Colorado

June 14th, 2016


Whether you’re moving to the state, planning a staycation or simply heading out, there are plenty of amazing experiences awaiting you during the summer in Colorado. The state’s many parks and preserves are ideal for family activities or family hiking, but plenty of amazing options are overlooked in the summertime. Whether you want to view the mountains from your own personal hot air balloon, spot wildlife or just relax and catch a movie in the park, these are some go-to ideas for Colorado families this summer.

Go back in time

The Pueblos, Colorado’s first and oldest inhabitants, left behind compelling ruins and cliff homes to explore. Visit Mesa Verde National Park in the southwest part of the state and enjoy hiking to the ruins or take a guided tour. This is no ordinary stroll, it includes tunnels, ladders and a chance to go inside some cliff dwellings that are more than 500 years old. Not into climbing? Nearby Hovenweep National Monument also offers a chance to tour archeological ruins with a little less climbing; the site offers a 1.5 hour walking tour perfect for exploring.

Make a splash

If you are heading to Denver, you have not one, but two water parks to choose from. Both Water World and Elitch Gardens offer plenty of watery fun for kids and adults of all ages and are the perfect spots to cool down on a hot summer day. From the slides to the wave pool, you can find something for the whole family at Denver’s water parks.

High flying adventure

A zipline gives you a unique look at the world. A  zipline that combines a workout with a sightseeing tour  gives you the best of both worlds. You’ll have to ascend above the trees to start your tour, so ziplining is best for those who can climb well and enjoy adventure. Once you’ve made your way to the treetops, it is time to take the plunge. Depending on where you go for your zipline tour, you could see mountains, the forest or even some important landmarks. Ziplining is a fun but somewhat pricey venture; expect to pay about $100 per person. As a rule of thumb, kids need to be age 7 or older to participate. Just search for “ziplining” in the county you’ll be traveling in to find nearby tours.

Movies in the park

Each week, the public parks and recreation departments in Colorado host a movie night – and you’re invited! Movie nights are free of charge for the whole family and allow you to get outside and enjoy a beautiful summer evening, complete with entertainment. Each park has a different setup and movie schedule, so you are sure to find something the whole family will enjoy – don’t forget the s’mores!

Make animal friends

Visit the Denver Zoo to meet up to 750 species and explore a variety of specialty activities and educational adventures. The zoo may be the place to spot large wildlife, but the butterfly pavilion and aquarium offer plenty of educational and fun opportunities as well. Tour one or more of these animal activities when you visit Denver this summer.

You don’t have to go to Denver to enjoy animal activities and get educated; the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs has a special emphasis on African animals like elephants and giraffes and educational opportunities throughout the summer. This location also offers an educational camp for children each summer, with behind the scenes and hands on learning opportunities. Tour one or both of these animal attractions when you visit Colorado this summer.

Drift away to adventure

Kids as young as three can join the family for an adventurous trip along one of Colorado’s rivers. Beginner whitewater rafting trips allow you to include the entire family — and are just rough enough to be thrilling, but not scary. For older kids and teens, a more challenging expedition might be just the thing for summer adventure; most locations offer a variety of options to perfectly suit your family’s needs. Prices vary based on the skill level and length of the expedition; most locations provide everything you need to raft safely.

Soar high above the clouds

Afraid of heights? If not, then a one of a kind hot air balloon tour might be just the thing to try this summer. Balloons lift off and gently soar on the breeze, allowing you to take a leisurely look at your favorite parts of Colorado. Allow a few hours for a balloon tour – and bring some extra cash; while it packs plenty of fun, these tours can run as high as $250 per person.

Take a hike

Not only does hiking provide plenty of physical benefits, it boosts everything from creativity to emotional wellbeing, too! Spend a day hiking through the scenic mountain and valley paths at any one of a number of Colorado parks and trails. Rocky Mountain National Park offers plenty of kid- and family-friendly options and makes it easy to get ready to explore nature in a whole new way.

School’s out and it is time for fun; incorporate a few of these activities into your vacation plans and you’ll have the best summer yet this year in Colorado.


Different Places to Fish in Colorado

June 14th, 2016


There are a ton of places to find outstanding fishing around Lakewood, Colorado. The local area offers easy access to dams, reservoirs, creeks, and lakes. In addition to the many fishing holes, there are plenty of helpful outfitters in the area too. In this where-the-fish-are blog, we explore some of the best places to fish and where to go to get your supplies. Colorado is active in managing its wildlife so be sure to check the fishing laws about where to fish and what you can catch.

Clear Creek County

There are some amazing places in Clear Creek County to fish, and especially fly fish. Up near the Loveland Ski area is where you will find where Clear Creek starts. Much of Clear Creek is in the Arapahoe-Roosevelt National Forest. Almost anywhere you can gain access to the river you will find rainbow trout. Along through the mining area, you will find rainbow and cutthroat trout too, especially along the stretch of the river through Idaho Spring. From Lakewood, you are looking at about a half hour drive from Lakewood. It is a good area to explore and there are plenty of places where you can fish.

Georgetown Lake

Past Idaho Springs and about a 45-minutes drive straight down the I-70 from Lakewood you come to Georgetown Lake. You can bring your boat or raft though no motors are allowed. This is a nicely civilized area for fishing in Colorado and the lake is beautiful. Expect to find rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout, and lake trout. If you map out your Lakewood fishing trip you can practically fish all the way there and all the back.

Green Mountain Reservoir

The Green mountain Reservoir is about 1.5 hours from Lakewood and offers outstanding Colorado fishing, including ice fishing. There is a boat launch at the Marina. This is a big lake for lake trout and the Department of Wildlife wants to control the population so you get to catch and keep more lake trout here too. Expect lake trout in the 20-25 pound range. This is also a place to fish for kokanee salmon. If you are looking for salmon action, this is a good bet. Here is more information about salmon fishing in Colorado

Hot Fishing Spots for Lakewood Fishing

Harriman Lake is a reservoir just four miles away. This is a perfect place for bass fishermen as the lake supports both largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. In addition, you have access to striped bass, white bass, spotted bass, crappie, Walleye, and Channel cats.


Sloan’s Lake is just 3.5 miles away and it is full of fish. Most people come for the Rainbow trout, brown trout, bluegill, cutthroat trout, and Northern Pike. There are also plenty of catfish here including blue cats, white cats, and flathead cats.


Cherry Creek is near Sloan’s Lake and offers tremendous fishing for largemouth bass.

Bear Creek Lake Reservoir is 4.7 miles from Lakewood and offers easy access and great fishing. For bass fishermen, there are largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. For bigger game fish the walleye and rainbow trout are fun. The bluegill, bream, and crappie are easy. The brown trout are a bit of a challenge, but then they are often huge.


Here is a full list of local lakes near Lakewood


If you are looking for stocked trout then the Colorado Parks & Wildlife crew publishes a list where they release 10-inch trout.

Supplies and Outfitters for Colorado Fishing

Rick’s Rods Fishing Tackle is just off Huron Street in Denver.

Maurice Sporting Goods in Englewood is right on Kenyon Avenue.

MW Reynolds in Denver. Just off of Stout Street supplies fly fishing gear.

Discount Fishing Tackle Inc. in Denver. Just off Santa Fe Drive. Good place for gear, supplies and bait.

There are plenty of outstanding places to fish near Lakewood. The local area was practically created for fishermen. If you are new to Colorado rivers, they are mean. Be sure to practice safe fishing as a quiet stream can change into a raging white water torrent in a short space.

Big Game Jerky & How To Make It

April 6th, 2016

Dried Peppered Beef Jerky Cut in Strips

Big Game Jerky and How To Make It

Drying is one of the oldest and easiest ways to preserve meat at home, provided you do it properly. Creating your own jerky allows you to reap the rewards of your big game hunt in a whole new way – and gives you something to chew on while you wait for your trophy piece to be completed, too. Depending on the game you’ve tracked down, you can enjoy a trophy piece, abundant fresh and frozen meat, a hide for a rug or other purpose and jerky to take along on your next hunt. Jerky is not difficult to make, and gaining a full understanding of the process will help you create tasty snacks that allow you to re-live your big game hunt with every bite.

Jerky defined

By removing the moisture and drying out strips of meat, you can reduce its weight and preserve it without refrigeration or pressure canning. Drying reduces the amount of meat used by about 75%, but retains all of the flavor and protein of the original food. Jerky is more than just a tasty snack; stored properly, your jerky can be taken along on your next camping trip or hunt and will supply a big protein boost when you are ready for a snack. Commercial jerky is usually made from beef, but making your own jerky allows you to completely customize the process.  Turkey, buffalo or elk jerky can expand your menu and allow you to fully utilize the meat you’ve worked so hard for.

Drying safety and food safety

Drying food, including meat, removes the moisture and greatly reduces the risk of contamination. According to the USDA, drying can prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi and prohibit the formation of enzymes that could deteriorate the quality of the meat. While there are several ways to dry food in general, the USDA recommends using a dehydrator or oven to dry beef or other meat jerky. Using an oven or a device with a thermometer allows you to heat the meat to the right temperature and destroy any bacteria that is already present. Beef, venison, elk and other game meats need to be heated to 160 degrees Fahrenheit before proceeding; poultry, including turkey and pheasant, needs to be heated to 165 degrees for safety.

Make jerky soon after you get the meat home; it won’t improve with age or be fully shelf stable until the drying process is complete. Use clean utensils and equipment to prepare the meat and marinate it in the refrigerator, not on the counter. For wild game jerky, make sure that the wound location does not introduce fecal matter or debris into the meat prior to slicing and cooking.

Jerky Basics: How to make beef jerky

Start with top quality meat that you’ve hunted yourself; you can also use butchered or grocery store beef for jerky. Think about shape – do you prefer long, single strips or short chunks? Do you want to cut or grind and then shape the meat or simply dry strips? You’ll need to consider the best approach for the meat you have on hand.

What cuts should you make? According to the Bradley Smoker Company, using semi-frozen meat and a very sharp knife allows you to make clean cuts in any thickness. Slice away any visible fat (which could retard the drying process) and then slice the meat into strips or chunks, depending on your personal preferences.

  • Slicing with the grain yields long, chewy strips
  • Slicing across the grain creates short, less-chewy pieces

Create a marinade for the meat; you’ll need to soak it overnight or for at least a few hours to add flavor. Salt helps preserve meat, so including salt or soy sauce can do more than just add flavor, it can help you create a shelf stable jerky, too. You can use your own recipe or a commercially prepared version, as long as you like the taste. Marinate the meat in the refrigerator for 12 or more hours. Place the meat in a single layer on a dehydrator tray or cookie sheet. Beef jerky recipes make it easy to come up with a combination of flavors that works well with your chosen meats.

Use the dehydrator or your home oven to heat the meat to the required temperature, then reduce it to allow it to dry about 8 hours. Leave the oven door slightly ajar to allow moisture to escape and test the meat after eight hours to see if it is done.

Your jerky is done when it is dark in color and snaps when bent in half. If your jerky is not done yet, allow it to dry out for another 30 minutes and check again. Continue drying and checking in this manner until your jerky is done. Store your finished jerky in a cool, dry place and enjoy on your next hunt or outing.

Big Game Getaways

March 24th, 2016

Plan Your Big Game Getaway

No matter what draws you to big game hunting – the challenge of the wilderness, dangerous prey or an impressive trophy, these big game spots are right here in the USA and offer something for every trophy hunting enthusiast.

Alaska:  Bear Hunting

Bear - Big Game blog

The Challenge: Inhospitable terrain and weather make this the most challenging hunt in the USA.

If you crave adventure and a true challenge, then a hunting expedition through the wilderness of Alaska might be just what you need. From coping with unpredictable and inhospitable weather to tracking game movements over a long period of time, Alaska has plenty to offer the experienced hunter. Game is abundant in Alaska, but the state is so large that some animal populations are tough to track and locate, adding to the challenge and the level of skill required. The right training and equipment can make the difference between success and failure on this intense hunt.

Moose, elk and other large animals abound in Alaska, while those willing to face a full grown grizzly bear can do so – if they dare. According to state hunting experts, preparation is key to a successful hunt; expect to spend about a week on your expedition if you visit the state; it takes time to cross the terrain and locate the game you seek.

Washington:  Moose Hunting

Moose - Big Game blog

The Challenge: Getting lucky in the annual permit lottery or auction

Searching for the perfect trophy for your game room wall? Try a 50 inch moose—these huge herbivores are heavy on the ground in Washington. While you have a good chance of bagging one when you go, the opportunity to hunt is harder to come by.Washington has a raffle and auction permit option, so you’ll have to enter your name into the lottery to grab a chance to hunt moose in the state. Make sure you are fully educated and prepared for your hunt if your name is called as it can take years to win a coveted moose pass.

According to the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, fees collected from the moose and bighorn sheep lotteries help pay for the care and management of the species. In addition to abundant moose, the state also offers permits for elk, bighorn sheep and mountain goats. Hunters can apply for one or more permit lotteries from inside or out of the state.

Idaho:  Mountain Lion

Mountain Lion (Felis concolor) Cougar or Puma. Mountain Lions are usually solitary animals that feed in the early morning or evening. Often sibling groups may stay together for a year or two after leaving the parent. Their diets consist mainly of Deer but may include rodents and hares. Range: SW Canada, Western US, Mexico, Central and South America.

The Challenge: Huge snow drifts, elusive and a stunningly complex apex predator that is tough to track through deep, deep snow

You’ll have to put in some extra work if you want one of these oversized and wily creatures to adorn your home; mountain lions in the wilds of Idaho enjoy optimal living conditions and are notably oversized. These cats are tough to track – and they do fight back, making pursuing a mountain lion through the snow a daunting proposition.

According to the Idaho Department of Fish and Wildlife, you can hunt mountain lions in the state 10 months out of every year and purchase more than one tag if needed. Proper training and the right equipment is a must for this dangerous hunt; head in prepared and you’ll be more likely to be successful. If you miss a mountain lion, you may still spot some of the other big game the state is known for – black bear, elk and bighorn sheep are all popular trophy picks in Idaho as well.

Montana:  Bison Hunting


The Challenge: You won’t be able to get very close – bison are huge and quick to charge

One of the biggest land animals in the United States, Bison roam the range in Montana and a skilled hunter can walk away with a freezer full of lean and healthy meat along with a handsome trophy piece. Because of their sheer size and the difficulty involved in hunting from afar, bison offer a true challenge for the experienced hunter. If you’ve ever wondered what life was like on the plains hundreds of years ago, a bison hunt can put you in touch with the past and allow you to experience what others only dream about.

According to Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks department, bison permits are available from November through February and you can hunt on private or designated public land, including some areas around Yellowstone National Park. While you’re tracking down a bison, you’ll also be able to keep an eye out for wolves, elk, mountain lions and more.

Whether your idea of an ideal outing is a day spent elk hunting in the lush wilderness or fighting your way through the wilds of Alaska and facing down a grizzly, one of these big game hunts is sure to please.

Your Gun Dog — Different Ways To Train Your Hunting Companion

February 19th, 2016

Pointer pedigree dog with quail in mouth and hunter hand

Your Gun Dog — Different Ways To Train Your Hunting Companion

A good gun dog is worth his weight in gold. Hunters always remember the best dogs they’ve owned. Those dogs that seamlessly became an extension of the hunter — one that practically read its owner’s mind. Those are the gun dogs of legend. In this gun dog blog, we look at some of the best ways to train your hunting companion so that you, too, have a gun dog of legend.

Bird dog training — where to start

The hunting process is complex and the role that a good gun dog plays is important. Before you can get them to retrieve dead waterfowl, you have to get them to obey. There are two factors that hunters need to instill in their dogs — obedience and steadiness.

Obedience begins with the “stay” command. Make the pup stay while you do the retrievals. Letting the dog watch you work instills the idea that they do not need to retrieve every dead bird or fowl dummy. This takes the exuberance out of the dog and enhances the dog’s calm nature. Still, the entire process begins with obedience. A gun dog that does not obey will never be steady.

Steadiness is a skill that is essential. It means that a dog will stand-down while another dog does the work. When training puppies, it is important that they obey, especially when it comes to retrieving. What this teaches the dog is restraint. Every dead bird does not need retrieval as soon as it hits the water. Restraint takes the over-excitement out of a dog and allows it to function without the pressure of performing at peak efficiency. Calm and steady are a win for the hunter and the dog.

Training hunting dogs — basic obedience

We discussed the “stay” command –  and that is an essential skill –  but it is not the only skill. Once the dog is in action you need to have it “come” when called or signaled. Gun dogs of legend obey. They stay, come, heel, and fetch, but they do it on command. The only way to effectively train a gun dog to obey is with trial, reward and yes, punishment. That does not mean cruelty because a good bird dog should not fear you; they need to respect you. And that is achieved through favor and disappointment.

Gun dogs — start with good stock

Personality and demeanor are two traits that bird hunters need to carefully evaluate before choosing a dog. Poor breeding practices have really opened up Pandora’s box. What we have now are dogs that are hyper. You cannot train that out of them as it just becomes nervousness and eventually a psychosis. A hyper dog constantly has to battle between its hyper nature and obeying its master. These are not gun dogs of legends. Start with good stock and many of your training issues disappear.

Bird dog training devices

Good trainers do not need training devices. Those products, such as electric collars are training aids. If they are to work, you will first need to know how to train a gun dog. The role of a trainer is to teach. Training devices do not do that. They do not provide the dog with skills. Gun dogs of legend existed long before there were training devices. The best advice is not to rely upon a device to train your gun dogs. Instead, rely upon skill.

Know your dog and its personality

Just like with people, puppies need to develop in order to learn. By knowing your dog and watching its personality, you can feel when the dog is ready to learn. Start with the basics — sit, stay, fetch and come. When they have mastered those, move onto the more complex situations like stand down. It is hopelessly frustrating for both the hunter and the dog when you try to teach a dog skills before it is cognitively ready.

Making a good gun dog is a reflection of the trainer. It is important that you start small and work into teaching harder skill sets. Another good tip is to socialize your pups when they are young. If you are new to training hunting dogs or have had problems in the past with bird dog training, step back and focus on making yourself a better trainer. We hope that these tips help you create your own gun dog of legend.

Different Hunting Dogs and What Makes Them a Top Dog

February 19th, 2016


Different Hunting Dogs and What Makes Them a Top Dog

Whether you’re looking for bird dogs, rabbit dogs or a flexible companion for any hunt, one of these specialized breeds is sure to please. Each of the hunting dogs on our list has qualities that make it an ideal companion for hunting. Since most hunting dogs are easily trained and have other great qualities, they also make excellent companions and family pets. Choose your breed based on size, ability and what you enjoy hunting most often for best results. Some top hunting dog breeds are:

Golden Retriever

They’re smart, love water and have a natural instinct to retrieve things, so it’s no surprise that Golden Retrievers are one of the most popular hunting breeds around. Goldens are known for their “soft” mouth and the ability to pick up and retrieve items without damaging them, making them an ideal companion for duck hunters. The breed is also a beloved family pet and wonderful companion, making it an easy choice for hunters who want a dog that is both functional and kid friendly.

Labrador Retriever

Like their long haired cousins, Labrador Retrievers have a built-in instinct to bring items to their owners. Combine this natural ability with high intelligence and a desire to please and you have a near-perfect hunting companion. Duck and fowl hunters love labs for their innate abilities, friendly natures and short, easy care coats. These friendly pups also make great companions.

American Foxhound

Perfect for both formal fox hunts and informal deer hunting sessions, this wiry and flexible dog is willing to run prey to the ground. Their swift and quiet tread and agility make them ideal forest companions and this particular breed is happy to share the work with a pack. Foxhounds hunt by scent and can help track prey over many miles and a variety of terrain. Their medium-size stature and adaptability makes them ideal house pets as well. Like many scent and sight hounds, Foxhounds adapt well to living with kids and other dogs, but may require extra training to be around small, prey like pets.


Dogs are known for their keen sense of smell – and the Bloodhound stands out from the pack. Able to detect miniscule amounts of scent and follow a trail for miles, this gentle giant is an ideal hunting companion. Originally bred for hunting deer and wild boar, the Bloodhound’s amazing ability to detect and follow a scent trail makes this hardy breed an ideal companion for any hunter seeking large game.

Black and Tan Coonhound

His hardy disposition and short coat mean that the Coonhound adapts easily to the demands of the hunt and withstands both heat and cold. This breed is known for bravely tracking and treeing raccoons – prey that can sometimes turn on and injure a tracking dog. The Coonhound is known for his willingness to trek across uneven terrain and his ability to track wily and occasionally dangerous prey over long distances. When he is not working, this friendly scent hound has a gentle and playful nature and his short coat and medium size make him easy to care for and love.


Their diminutive size, easy-care coat and friendly, agreeable nature make Beagles not only great hunting companions, but popular family pets as well. Don’t be fooled by his small size, most experts consider Beagles to be second only to Bloodhounds when it comes to tracking scents. Used for rabbit and other small game, these speedy canines are a top choice for those hunting small, earthbound creatures.

English Springer Spaniel

He may look like a fancy house pet, but the English Springer Spaniel has a long history of hunting fowl and is known for his pheasant and quail hunting abilities. This high-energy, low-profile dog is an asset in the field and particularly adept at flushing pheasants and other wily game. His agility and smaller stature make it easy for him to pass under and around obstacles that could stymie a larger dog. If you’re searching for pheasants and other fancy fowl, have an English Springer Spaniel by your side.

English Pointer

Like all pointing breeds the English Pointer was developed to spot and pursue feathered prey. This short-haired hunter has a super high prey drive and will work hard to track down birds across a variety of terrain. Often referred to as a “bird hunting machine,” this high-energy pet makes a wonderful companion for hunting fowl of all types, and is a good pet for experienced dog owners as well.

German Wirehaired Pointer

All pointers are designed for hunting, but the German Wirehaired Pointer is known for his ability to relentlessly track pheasant and other birds across even unfriendly terrain. If you down a bird, your German Wirehaired Pointer will go through just about anything to bring that bird to you. Known for being tough and protective without being aggressive, this flexible hunting companion will help you track down just about any game or fowl you care to hunt.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Like Labs and Goldens the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a master at gathering up and bringing you your game. These specialty dogs have been bred to withstand the chilly waters of the mid-Atlantic, with a thick and water resistant coat and even some webbing between the toes for better swimming. These dogs are big, robust companions and able to retrieve your fowl – and then protect your boat while you take a break. They also make ideal pets for active families.

John M. Browning’s Start Up

February 9th, 2016

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Meet John Browning – Passionate Gun Designer and Innovator

John Moses Browning is perhaps the most brilliant gun designer and gunsmith that has thus far graced gunsmithing. His long list of achievements individually are enough to land him on the top ten list of gun designers, but together they move him to the head of the list. That list includes guns such as the 1911 pistol, M1917 and M1919 machine gun and the M2HB, but those are just the superstars. He held over 150 patents and designed over 80 guns. His guns are in service today in military, police, and for people all around the world. John Browning is no doubt a legend in shooting circles. How did he get started?

Browning — the family history

John Browning’s gunsmithing education was not by accident. His father, Jon Browning was a frontiersman who made his living repairing guns in Tennessee. Then, as the family converted to the Mormon religion, they moved to Utah. It was here that John Browning honed his skills as a gunsmith. There is a story about how a ten-year-old John Browning created his first gun using broken flintlock barrel, wire, scraps of tin and some wood. The gun worked and though impressed, his father challenged John to do better, creating the gun that started it all. What John took from his father’s lesson was the idea that improvements mattered.

Inspiration from a muzzle blast

The automatic gun was not a new thought. By the time John Browning came on the scene, the French and Belgium gunsmiths had already created something that was close — the mitrailleuse. Even in the U.S. Army deployed Gatling guns during the Civil War. The difference with all of these guns was that they were not fully automatic. They had to be cranked. It was something that was very common that sparked John’s interest in creating a fully automatic gun. At a target shooting competition, the force of a muzzle blast caused him to think about how he could use that force to improve guns. The pathway to a fully automatic gun was born.

Success breeds success

The first of the Browning Guns was a single-shot rifle, which he designed and manufactured by hand. He and his brothers took over the family business and expanded their services. It was this single-shot rifle that enabled John Browning to begin seriously inventing guns. The rifle was well made and it attracted the attention of Winchester’s head man T. G. Bennett. Winchester bought the rights for John’s single-shot rifle. In his mind, John M. Browning had another design – one that he discussed with Bennett. Browning designed and patented that rifle, then presented it to Winchester who bought the rights for manufacture in what would become the Winchester Model 1886. It was a large-bore lever action repeating rifle and a gateway to a long relationship between Browning and Winchester. Within two years, Browning designed and Winchester bought the manufacturing rights to 11 different guns.

The automatic gun inventor

It took him a day to design a new gun that would use the gas from discharge to create the world’s first truly automatic gun. He and his brothers took John’s design from concept to reality in just a day. They tested, refined and perfected a machine gun that fired .45 caliber bullets at six times per second. Instead of going to Winchester, John M. Browning went to Colt. Colt was a manufacturer of military guns. After demonstrations for both Colt and later for the U.S. Navy, John Browning‘s Colt Model 1865 Automatic Machine Gun began production where it would earn distinction during the Spanish-American War.

The list of what John M. Browning and his Browning Guns accomplished is long and distinguished. He was not an engineer by degree, but he was a gunsmith with passion for his craft. It was that passion, mixed with the desire to do the best he could that propelled John Browning into the position of one the most brilliant gunsmiths the world has known.