Product Review : Strikefire Red Dot Scope

Product Review : Strikefire Red Dot Scope

1x power red-dot scopes have been the red-headed stepchild of the 3 gun world for a while now. They’re not as powerful as an ACOG, but they give a distinct advantage over iron sights. Many matches (including the Superstition Mountain Mystery 3 Gun) have resolved this quandry in favour of lumping them in with iron sights as “Tactical Limited”, which kinda sucks for iron sight shooters like myself. 

Rather than carry on with iron sights (and suck), I decided to take the plunge and start shooting with a red dot (and still suck), and Brownell’s was kind enough to supply a Strikefire Vortex Red/Green 1x scope to help me out. 

Strikefire Red Dot Scope

The scope came with an extra-high Picatinny mount that co-witnesses my flip-up sights (more on that later), cleaning cloth, battery, wrench for the mount and a 2x magnifier, a very nice addition that helped with the sighting-in process. 

The stuff

If that looks like a low Picatinny mount in the photo, that’s ’cause it is, but the people at Vortex swapped it out for the extra-high mount at no cost. Nice work, guys!

Installation was quick and easy, and sighting it in took less than a half-mag. Now it was time to test it in a match, so off it was to the monthly rifle/shotgun match at Rio Salado.

Stage 3

This is why I love this scope. Making that 30-yard shot with iron sights would be difficult (at best) with iron sights, but it was MUCH easier with the red-dot, and for once I wasn’t in last place on a rifle stage.

But then disaster struck. The next stage was the long-distance rifle stage, and for once it wasn’t horrid: Four 100 yard MGM’s, a 100 yard MGM Flag target and two 200 yard LaRue’s

“Ah-ha!”, I thought to myself, “This should be EASY! I know I can hit those with my new sight because I’ve done it on the main range while sighting in!” 

But somehow, my new sight was switched into “Night Vision” mode, making the dot invisible in daylight. At the time, I thought the battery had died, so I shot the stage with my iron sights, with predictable (and horrid) results. 

Dot sight on rifle

Bottom line, I like the scope. It needs a more secure mounting method (the nut on the Picatinny mount was loose when I got home) and the on/off switch could be better, but it’s a great starting point for people like me who want a red dot but don’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars for something they may not like. 

FCC Disclaimer: Brownell’s gave me the scope. I said that already, so buzz off.

Off The Channel Grid

Off the channel grid

A little more on Thursday’s post about the economics of making Internet-only TV channels, from Robert X. Cringley, who knows a thing or two about TV and the internet

I am not saying that All My Children and One Life to Live are headed to YouTube as the basis of a Soap Channel, but I am saying that they’d be profitable both for their producers and for YouTube if they were headed there.

Each show has about 2.5 million daily viewers — each a potential buyer of an Internet-connected TV. That’s $2.5 billion worth of TVs and well worth a $4 million production subsidy.

If YouTube or any of its competitive services could reliably get 2.5 million viewers per original episode they’d see that as well worth the money, too.

This is long form video with commercial breaks going to a dedicated audience which can now be global (that last part could be huge). Remember 2.5 million viewers of a 44-minute soap opera is the equivalent of 36 million typical three-minute YouTube video views. As professional content with a 40 year heritage that’s an easy sell to advertisers — a no-brainer for P&G. 

Somebody (Cheaper Than Dirt!, Brownell’s, LuckyGunner, Sig Sauer, etc.) is going to realize the size of the market and the opportunities to be had for quality internet-only name-brand shooting shows and establish their marketshare ahead of all the others. Good for them, whoever they may be. 

Don’t Mess With My Wife

Don’t mess with my wife

Mission accomplished

That's gonna leave a mark.

That’s her results with my CZ75 and P07 from 15-25 feet. And it gets better with the S&W K-22 revolver her Dad gave to us when he passed away. 

pop pop pop

I’ll leave any more training she might need to the experts

A few observations from this outing… 

  1. I wasn’t the only one. In the lane next to us was a young man teaching his girlfriend to shoot and there was another couple a few lanes over as well (and my wife out-shot ’em both 😀 ). 
  2. An hour or two of dry-fire practice beforehand REALLY paid off on the range. 
  3. .22 revolvers ROCK as a gun for first-time shooters. My wife learned a smooth, sustained trigger pull by starting out with the K-22 and the recoil and noise was non-existent. 

What’s the secret for teaching your spouse to shoot? Patience, encouragement, reasonable expectations and a willingness to do something they like (but you don’t) in return.

I’ve been wanting to get her out to the range for months now, and I think I was able to do this outing because I started showing interest in her activities, so she started showing interest in mine. I wasn’t expecting my wife to turn into Debbie Keehart overnight, but I did want her to know how to safely operate the gun(s) we have for home defence, and in return, I’m going to the new Harry Potter movie with her next month. If and when we go shooting again, I’d like her to try out some rental guns: She had issues hitting the mag release button and slide lock lever on both my CZ’s, some maybe there’s something out there more suited to her hands. The big takeaway from today was her safety habits were/are first-rate, and that makes a trainer ‘s job so much easier.

Eight Guns

Eight Guns

Chris Bryne does an excellent job of laying out what a basic armory should consist of

  1. A quality full sized defensive pistol. Either a medium frame revolver (preferably in .357 magnum), or a good medium frame autopistol that you are comfortable with, in a suitable defensive chambering (SIG p series in 9mm or larger, Glock, a good 1911 etc…).
  2. A quality pump action shotgun in 12 or 20ga, preferably with slug/rifle sights, and easily interchangeable barrels (you want a short defensive barrel, a medium game hunting barrel, and a wingshooting barrel).
  3. A quality repeating bolt action or semi-automatic rifle in a militarily useful chambering, accurate to at least 300 yards (2 moa minimum accuracy), legal for hunting medium game in your state (which usually leaves out 5.56); with  a good scope, and if possible a backup optic or iron sights.
  4. A quality .22lr pistol or revolver
  5. A quality .22lr rifle, bolt or semi (or pump/slide if you like them, and can find one)
  6. A quality semi-automatic rifle or carbine, in a militarily useful chambering (possibly sharing a chambering with the boltie), short enough to be handled indoors, and light enough to be packed on a long hike; preferably with both iron sights and an optic (this presumes #3 above was a bolt action).
  7. A quality revolver or semi-automatic pistol in a defensively useful chambering, of a size suitable to be carried concealed in summer without bulky covering garments, preferably with night sights.  
  8. A quality pocket gun, either semi or revolver, in .380, 9mm, or .38/.357. 

This is the basics. This will allow you to casually shoot just about any sport, hunt for just about any game in North America or learn how to defend your home and your family. It doesn’t have any dedicated competition or over-specialized hunting/defensive guns. If you want to shoot IPSC or skeet or 3 Gun at a high level, you’ll need other guns dedicated to just those purposes.

So what is “Quality”?

Well, a (very) rough guideline would be $450 or more for a defensive pistol or shotgun, $300 or more for a pocket pistol, $250 or more for a .22 rifle or pistol, $800 or more for a semi-automatic rifle or bolt-action rifle with (cheap) scope. 

As I said, VERY rough, because a $450 1911 .45 isn’t exactly “quality”, but on the other hand, you can get first-rate used .38 revolvers for almost half that amount. 

When I said “very rough”, I meant it. 

Now, what should you get within each of those categories? That’s up to you. If you’re like me, (and I know I am), here’s what I’d get. 

1. A quality full sized defensive pistol.
CZ75. 9mm, 16+1 rounds. Solid, reliable and quite possibly the most accurate centerfire semiautomatic pistol ever made. Go for a Glock if you want more accessories or an M+P or XD if you want the light weight of plastic but hate Glocks.

2. A quality pump action shotgun in 12 or 20ga. 
I come down on the Mossberg side of the great Mossberg vs. Remington debate (though I do love my 870 Wingmaster). I’m cross-eye dominant and shoot long guns left-handed, so the Mossberg’s safety is easier to use for me. 

3. A quality repeating bolt action or semi-automatic rifle. 
I’m going to plead ignorance here. The one gun I own that suits this purpose is a sporterized M1903 Springfield and I suck at long-range shooting, so pick what you like best here. If I HAD to chose one, I’d go with a Savage Model 12 in .308 with a left-handed bolt.

4. A quality .22lr pistol or revolver
Either a Ruger Mark whatever or a Browning Buckmark for semiautos (ever since my M22 broke, I’m hesitant to recommend them) or an S+W K22 revolver. 

5. A quality .22lr rifle, bolt or semi.
Ruger 10/22. Just get one; everybody does eventually. If not that, then a CZ bolt action rifle

6. A quality semi-automatic rifle or carbine
AR-15 or AK. Take your pick here – An AR for accuracy and versatility, an AK for reliability (though “light” and “AK” aren’t usually used in the same sentence…).

7. A quality revolver or semi-automatic pistol of a size suitable to be carried concealed in summer.
Even though I have defended the pocket 9mm in the past, (which’d be perfect for this role), I’d be sorely tempted to look at a snub-nosed .38 revolver for this purpose. 

8. A quality pocket gun, either semi or revolver, in .380, 9mm, or .38/.357. 
Ruger LCP/LCR, Kel-Tec P3AT, Taurus TCP, S+W Bodyguard. Your choice here. 

So, what’s the damage? 

Defensive Pistol: $450
Shotgun: $450
Bolt Action Rifle: $800
.22 Pistol $250
.22 Rifle $250
Semi-Auto Carbine: $800
Compact Defensive Pistol: $450
Pocket Pistol: $300

Base Cost: $3,750
REAL COST: $10,000

Yep, ten grand.

Why so much? 

  • You’re going to want training. CCW permits, personal protection classes, hunting permits and expedition costs, whatever. Even it it’s just plinking on the public range, club memberships cost money.
  • You’re going to want accessories. Holsters, belts, slings, magazines, etc. I have more holsters than my wife has dress shoes. 
  • You’re going to want ammo. Lots of it. The .22’s will help cut down on costs, but to be proficient with firearms you need to shoot the firearms you want to be proficient in. Simple as that. 

But when you think of it, ten grand is what a good golf holiday costs these days, and for the same money, rather than chase after a ball with a crooked stick, you’ve got the means to defend yourself, hunt for sport or food, and have acquired heirlooms to pass down to generations to come. 

Not a bad way to spend your cash. 


Range Review – Caswell’s Shooting Range

Range Review – Caswell’s Shooting Range


Caswell’s has been in Mesa, Arizona for over twenty years, but they’ve recently acquired new ownership. I got a chance to talk to the Carolann Bergeson, the new Director of Operations about the changes at Caswell’s and what that means to shooters in the East Valley.

Interior of Caswell's

There are over a dozen gun stores in the Mesa area, including heavy hitters like Bass Pro Shops and Sportsman’s Warehouse, which could make for over-saturation of the market. Caswell’s has found success by focusing on the personal protection and hobby shooter rather than pursuing the hunting and outdoor markets and ties in their sales department with a full range of training options and the popularity of their indoor range. Their 11 bay range has electronic target retrieval systems and air-conditioning (a welcome relief in the Arizona summer) and are staffed with friendly range officers to help keep everyone safe.

With Arizona removing the permit requirements for concealed carry last year, demand for the state-approved CCW course has dropped off, but Caswell’s has seen a marked improvement in other training courses like their Intro to Firearms and Defensive Pistol classes.

Guns. Lots of guns.

One of my pet peeves is gun store clerks who treat you rudely or ignore paying customers in favor of chatting with their friends, and I asked Carolann about their customer service training.

“The key to good service is first making sure you have enough people behind the counter”, she said, “and then making sure they know what good customer service is. We coach our sales staff and have monthly feedback and training sessions where they tell us what the customers are asking for and we coach them on the best way to help the customer. We want salespeople who are courteous and helpful and have a real enthusiasm for the job.”


Another pet peeve is gun store customers who shop for their wives/girlfriend and insist on getting a snub-nosed .38 or something similar, and I asked Carolann what her staff does in that situation.

“We ask the person themselves what they want in a gun. We’ve found that if we get them talking about what they’ve shot in the past, we can find the right gun for them, and if we can’t, we suggest they try a few pistols out on our range before making a decision.”

I also asked Carolann what her pistol of choice was: “A 9mm HK I got as a gift, but I’ve been trying out some of the rental guns and I think I might want to make a change.”

The indoor range and the training options it provides are what sets Caswell’s apart, allowing prospective gun buyers to try a rental version of the pistol they’re considering before they buy it, and if they chose to buy a new gun that day, Caswell’s will discount the range fee off the purchase price.

Urban Firearms Institute

Caswell’s is located at 856 E. Isabella Ave. Mesa, AZ 85204. Their phone number is 480-497-5141 / 1-888-72SHOOT and they can be found online at

All photos c. 2011

Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose

Reduce, reuse, repurpose

Turns out that the man purse messenger bag that WAS my old bailout bag makes a durn handy range bag for the rifle/shotgun matches at Rio.

Gear bag

I can carry rifle mags and ammo in my rifle case but what I can’t easily carry around a match is boxes of shotgun shells, water and my coupled-together magazines. The messenger bag does this rather well, and it has enough leftover space for a pair of binos for those long range shots, a multitool and a few energy bars to snack on while waiting for my turn to shoot. 

Learning From Red Bull

Learning from Red Bull

Consider this video for the Red Bull Air Racing World Series: What can we learn from it when it comes to promoting practical shooting?

1. Personality goes a long way. The nationality of each pilot is up front and center, giving us a reason to cheer (or boo) right off the bat. 

2. Fan-friendly venues. The fans can see the action at the venue know the score as the event happens. Ever gone to a USPSA match or IDPA match as a spectator? From personal experience, I can tell you they really suck to watch (80% of a squad’s time on a stages is spent with walk-throughs, scoring and taping). 3 Gun Nation does a great job at distilling the essence of three-gun down to an exciting competition, but a little bleacher seating and some local promotion would go  help bring in more people to the sport.

3. Real-time scoring. The fact is, you can’t tell from watching a USPSA or IDPA competition who is doing well in the match and who isn’t. Sure, a competitor may ace a stage, but what that means to the match as a whole is a mystery until the final day of the match when all the scores are tallied.

4. Big-time sponsors. Smith and Wesson, FNUSA and Cheaper Than Dirt’s revenues COMBINED probably don’t add up to one-eighth of the money that Red Bull makes in the U.S. alone. Bass Pro Shops teaming up with Top Shot is great step in this direction (even if all they show is fishing commercials during the show). 

Kids And Guns

Kids and guns

The quotes of the day are from this discussion of shotgun locks over at The High Road:

“I’m reminded of: ‘If Plan A is to take multiple .338 shots to the back, you really need to come up with a Plan B.
I’ll make a parents version: If plan A is to depend on the wisdom of a 4 year old, you really need to come up with a Plan B.’

‘I don’t trust kids…especially boys. I was one.’ “

Just yesterday, my 7 year old son managed to climb a six-foot cinder block fence without the aid of a ladder and my 5 year old son spent the afternoon “decorating” his room with Magic Marker, so let me say I’ve gone WAY beyond Plan B and I’m into Plans Q and R right now.

The Gun To Have If You Can Only Have One

The gun to have if you can only have one

I’ll admit it, when I first started reading about Jeff Cooper and his ideas about self defense, I didn’t “get” the idea behind a scout rifle. It seemed to be quaint and antiquated in a world of AR’s and AK’s, and besides, semi-autos had more firepower and precision rifles were more accurate, so why get a rifle that was a compromise.

I get it now, though.

It’s not that a scout rifle is the optimal self-defense rifle or the last word in 800 yard tack drivers, rather, a scout rifle gives you 85% of both of those rifles in a package that’s small and light so that you’ll have it with you when you need it and is reliable enough to go *bang* when you need it as well.

Do I *need* a rifle like that? No.

Do I want one? Oh yeah.

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