Category Archives: firearms

Built to blast — Gunsmithing workshop aims for information

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Bailey Horne, of Soldotna, works under the close eye of event coordinator Scott Hamann during an AR-15 build class held at Snowshoe Gun Club on Saturday.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Bailey Horne, of Soldotna, works under the close eye of event coordinator Scott Hamann during an AR-15 build class held at Snowshoe Gun Club on Saturday.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

“It’s kind of like the idea of a Tupperware party,” said Scott Hamann. Except it was all men gathered Saturday morning, rather than the more-typical women Tupperware crowd. And instead of taking home plastic food-storage containers, attendees left with their own semiautomatic AR-15 rifle.

Having a firearm to take home wasn’t even the primary purpose of the day. The event was more for educational purposes, to learn how to build the gun, how it works and how to take care of it.

“Our country was founded on the principles laid down in the Bill of Rights, but what good is the right to bear a firearm if you don’t know how to use one?” said Hamann, coordinator for an AR-15 building class at the Snowshoe Gun Club in Kenai.

The idea for the class grew from a humble beginning, according to Hamann. A longtime gun enthusiast, a little more than a year ago he decided that, rather than buying another gun, he would build his own AR-15. Due to the rifle’s popularity in this country, there are no shortage of build tutorials in books, magazines and on the Internet.

Hamann enjoyed the experience, and as he told a few of his friends about the endeavor, several mentioned that if he was interested in doing it again, they’d like to join him.

“Before you knew it, we had a whole group of people who wanted to build one, so we all got together and did it and it was a lot of fun,” he said.

They planned another build for the Fourth of July, Hamann said, since celebrating the freedom to own a firearm seemed like an important concept to remember on the Independence Day holiday. But even after that, still more people wanted to learn how to build their own rifles.

However, with the AR-15 often being at the center of controversy in the media and among anti-gun activists, Hamann said that he wanted to find a way to tie the build class into support for Second Amendment freedoms.

“The field representative from the NRA contacted me to see if there was a way we could raise funds, and this seemed like something we could do,” he said.

Hamann and a few other firearm enthusiasts formed the Alaska Defenders of Freedom, a group established to raise funds for political purposes.

“One hundred percent of all money — above the costs of the firearms and tool kits — from these classes goes to the NRA-ILA,” Hamann said, referring to the Institute for Legislative Action, which is the lobbying arm of the National Rifle Association.

Hamann’s group worked with Valley Armory in Palmer and the Soldotna-based Black Dog Firearms in order to gather all the necessary parts to build an AR-15, putting them into individually packaged kits, and to comply with gun regulations.

Before the building began Saturday, Mike Misner, an employee of Black Dog Firearms, ran background checks on all participants through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System and completed all necessary paperwork to transfer to the participants the receivers of the rifles, which house the operating parts of the gun and are, by law, considered the actual firearm and thus are strictly controlled.

“You gotta make sure all the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted with this kind of thing,” Misner said.

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Colorful combat — Paintball business opens field of play

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. A skull-masked player advances down the field while taking heavy fire at the Pointblank paintball course May 25. The new course is located off Kalifornsky Beach Road.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. A skull-masked player advances down the field while taking heavy fire at the Pointblank paintball course May 25. The new course is located off Kalifornsky Beach Road.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

On the central Kenai Peninsula, the term “combat” is often used to describe the hordes of fishermen that line the banks of various streams when salmon are running. But May 25, combat took a more literal meaning in a field of grass, sand and obstacles off of Kalifornsky Beach Road.

Other than the preponderance of camo gear, the group of guys gathered Saturday morning didn’t seem out of the ordinary, being students, employees, employers, sons and fathers. But as operations began, they donned another mantle — that of soldier, armed with their weapon of choice, the paintball gun.

“Who’s hungry?” shouted one player while taking to the 110-by-250-foot field of the new Pointblank paintball course. “Because I’m ready to feed somebody paint!”

Behind him, the rest of his team and the opposing crew were outfitted in SWAT-like protective gear and masks — at least one bearing a resemblance to a skull to strike fear into his enemies — and all carrying various forms of paint-propelling firearms, including a few designed to look like AK-47s or AR-15s.

One of the owners of the new course, got in on a few matches. He said this is one of the best aspect of paintball — that people of all ages, sizes and experience levels can play at the same time.

One of the owners of the new course, got in on a few matches. He said this is one of the best aspect of paintball — that people of all ages, sizes and experience levels can play at the same time.

When the official sounded the start of the match through a bullhorn, controlled chaos ensued. A hailstorm of hundreds of small, blue rounds flew in all directions as some of the guns — technically called “markers” — had the ability to shoot as many as 16 balls per second at a speed of nearly 300 feet per second. The growling shouts of teams directing their assaults were punctuated by the frequent “pop-pop-pop-pop” of rounds being fired.

There were intense, close-quarters maneuvers throughout the field, peppered with stacks of tires and large wooden spools providing scant cover. An assailant would turn a corner to find himself face to face with an adversary he had to shoot before getting shot first. Shooters often found themselves close enough to see the whites, and surprise, in the eyes of their opponents.

“I’ll probably go through 4,000 rounds today,” said John Revis, 25, of Sterling, who was playing with several of his AK Ragnarok teammates. Having gotten into paintball roughly 11 years ago, Revis has evolved into an upper-echelon player of the sport, competing in numerous tournaments around the state and in the Lower 48, some with as many as 7,000 players.

“I go to the gym, run and exercise year-round to stay in shape for this,” he said.

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Target on education — New facility at gun club enables expanded programs

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Travis Wright demonstrates how to disassemble and properly clean an AR-15-style rifle during a basic AR maintenance class held Thursday at the Snowshoe Gun Club in Kenai. It was one of many planned for the coming year, as the gun club has recently built an indoor facility to host educational functions.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Travis Wright demonstrates how to disassemble and properly clean an AR-15-style rifle during a basic AR maintenance class held Thursday at the Snowshoe Gun Club in Kenai. It was one of many planned for the coming year, as the gun club has recently built an indoor facility to host educational functions.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

As the national gun-control debate continues to evolve, at the forefront of the debate is the AR-15 platform of semi-automatic rifles — demonized by some, defended by others.

Regardless of which way legislation goes in the future, in the here and now there are, by some estimates, more than 3 million AR-platform rifles in civilian use in the U.S. As such, the need to understand how to use, store and clean them safely is an important issue, and one not overlooked locally.

“They are favored for target shooting, hunting and personal protection, and have become the most popular rifle in America,” said Travis Wright, a former Marine, NRA-certified instructor for 20 years, and owner of the Impact Area gun shop on Kalifornsky Beach Road.

Wright taught a basic AR maintenance class Thursday at the Snowshoe Gun Club in Kenai, off the Kenai Spur Highway at the intersection with Beaver Loop Road. It was one of many classes planned for the coming year, as the gun club has recently built an indoor facility to host educational functions.

About a dozen people gathered for the class, which covered many nuances of the AR-15, such as the differences between direct impingements gas operation and short- or long-stroke piston operations, and how to clean them both.

Wright completely disassembled and reassembled several variations of AR-15 rifles, and explained which tools and products to use to clean them safely.

“Keeping firearms clean is important to them functioning properly and accurately,” he said.

Wright also explained the nuances between brass-cased and steel-cased rounds, and he discussed the differences in ammunition for AR-15s, such as what he said is a popular misconception — that the common .223 round is the same as a 5.56 round.

“You should always load to the specs of your rifle,” he said.

AR rifle and accessories.

AR rifle and accessories.

AR-platform rifles have experienced an explosion in the development of accessories for them, including various scopes, forward pistol grips, flashlights, lasers, and folding or collapsing buttstocks. Wright went over many of these accessories and how they attach to the rifle.

“At least 90 percent of these accessories are being innovated and made in the U.S. and there’s new manufacturers coming out all the time,” he said.

In addition to this most recent AR-15 class at the new gun club building, hunter education, Women on Target, Teens on Target, Delta Waterfowl youth and women waterfowl hunting, and Safari Club International youth hunting/shooting programs are all planned.

“The training building is currently in its final stages of completion,” said Steve Meyer, vice president of the gun club. “We will be installing siding and rock on the outside as well as some decorative work on the support pillars out front this summer. Eventually we plan to put a wraparound deck suitable for picnic tables and barbecue events.”

The building has been a long time coming, according to Meyer. Shooting in a place where it is wet or cold for half the year, firearm enthusiasts had wanted an indoor facility, but the cost of construction was too high. But as the club’s membership and dues grew, and members started apply for NRA grants, the idea began to get traction.

“A huge upsurge in membership in 2010 — from a steady 400 just three years ago to over 1,000 members — coupled with the Friends of the NRA willing to grant funds for adding facilities that would enhance training opportunities, gave the club the impetus to began planning for a training clubhouse,” he said.

Initially the NRA grant was just enough to cover the expenses for dirt work to build the pad and the road around where the building would be. With that funding the club decided to build the facility, regardless of any additional funding, and poured the concrete slab for the 28-by-56 building in fall 2011.

“From there, the club, with volunteer club members’ labor, began constructing the building. We designed it as we built, and had numerous donations of equipment and time from local contractors and businesses to assist the project. The open beam rafters were constructed by club members and were built from local spruce mills,” Meyer said.

That same fall, the club put in another grant request with the Friends of the NRA for assistance with the siding, kitchen cabinets, well, septic and various training-related aids to enhance opportunities to bring firearms training to the community. The request was granted in the amount of around $30,000.

“We continued to build the facility with club labor throughout the winter of 2011 to 2012 and we were blessed with a $2,500 donation from the state of Alaska Hunter Education Program for windows,” Meyer said.

The building isn’t the only upgrade being made at the range. The club also is planning on constructing new restroom facilities at the pistol and rifle ranges, as well as expanding the pistol ranges to include 20 separate pistol bays with some of the longer ranges suitable for AR-15-type shooting.

“This will require an extensive amount of excavation work and we are currently trying to beg, borrow or steal the help we need to get this done,” Meyer said.

The club also elected to sponsor a scholastic clay target program, which is composed of students who participate in trap, skeet, sporting clays and five-stand aerial target shooting with shotguns.  They will be working toward developing this program in the coming year.

“In order to assist the students in being competitive with other scholastic clays programs around the state and the nation, we are planning on building a five-stand clay target venue near the existing trap and skeet fields,” Meyer said.

Additional funding will come through the Alaska Hunter Information and Training program, which already has donated two clay target machines and will provide an additional machine in 2013, he said.

The club also will host a full-costume “cowboy action shooter’s program,” and a .22 rimfire steel challenge this year. To learn more about these or other programs at the Snowshoe Gun Club, visit its Facebook page, or its Web page at http://www.snowshoegunclub.com.

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Up in arms — 2nd Amendment rally draws vehement opposition to federal gun regulations

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

Federal government, take heed: Alaskans stick to their guns.

That was the overwhelming sentiment of a Second Amendment rally held at the Renee C. Henderson Auditorium at Kenai Central High School on March 4. Though the speakers had various backgrounds, different areas of interest and, at times, somewhat differing calls to action, all were united in advocating resistance against any potential federal action to enact gun bans or other restrictive regulations on firearm ownership.

“Your right to self-defense is something that both the state of Alaska and the U.S. Constitution recognize as something they won’t mess with. … Well, you know that they are in complete and utter defiance,” said rally organizer Bob Bird, of Nikiski, a teacher at Nikiski Middle-High School and former candidate for U.S. Senate.

Bird has helped put on several Second Amendment events on the central Kenai Peninsula in the last four years, including open carry days in Soldotna, attended by U.S. Rep. Ron Young, and a previous rally at KCHS in March 2010 that featured representation from Alaska’s Citizens Militia, based in Nikiski, and Schaeffer Cox, then representing the Peacemakers Militia he founded in Fairbanks. Cox has since been convicted of conspiracy to commit murder — against U.S. employees and law enforcement officers — and sentenced to nearly 26 years in federal prison. No militia representation was featured at this year’s rally.

Much of the message of the previous rally was revived, particularly that the federal government is running roughshod over individual and state rights.

“George Washington said that, ‘Government, like fire, is a fearful servant and a deadly master.’ If we allow the government to master us, we’re dead,” Bird said.

Speaker after speaker, followed by comments by audience members who numbered over 300, supported the idea that Alaska and its residents need to stand up to the federal government should it attempt to enact gun restrictions, such as any that have been discussed since the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012.

“We must draw a well-defined line in the sand and never back up no matter what is said or done. We must be willing to die to protect our right to keep and bear arms no matter what, because if we ever let anyone take our guns away then we have also died with no means to defend ourselves or our families,” said Seymour Mills, of Sterling, introduced by Bird as a law and governmental scholar.

Mills said that he began his activism in 1968 while living in Kodiak, gathering petition signatures to protest the Gun Control Act of 1968.

“I have never stopped fighting the government’s ongoing attempt to disarm us ever since, and I will never stop until my dying breath. If you ever allow the government to take away any of our guns — no matter what those guns might be, no matter what the reason might be — from any one of us, we will become slaves to a totalitarian government that our ancestors spilled their blood to prevent. We must make absolutely no compromises whatsoever to our constitutionally secured right to keep and bear arms,” he said.

In particular, citizens should not participate in any attempts to have owners register their guns, as that’s the first step to confiscation, Mills said. Also, he urged listeners to contact their legislators to oppose any modification to mental health laws that would impose restrictions on firearms ownership.

“Mental health laws are fully as dangerous as gun laws because then they can diagnose your mental health to disarm you,” Mills said.

Justin Giles, a former Marine and combat veteran, of Wasilla, representing the Oath Keepers organization, couched his support of the right to keep and bear arms in terms of chilling world events.

Giles spoke of instances of “democide” — the murder of innocent citizens by their government — in the 20th century perpetrated by what he termed as Marxist regimes, such as Mao Tse-tung-created regime in China and Pol Pot, of Cambodia.

“The mass graves of the 20th-century Marxists are filled with citizens who obeyed gun laws, and the citizens were put there by cops and soldiers who were simply following orders,” Giles said.

“Why should we care so much about this Marxism? It’s critical. We need to understand the nature of the beast that we’re facing,” he said, adding that people with power and influence in U.S. government today have been involved in Marxistlike activities.

“It’s important to understand the nature of what we’re up against, and the nature of who we are. Sometimes good, forgiving Christian folk tend to be overly forgiving, overly timid. Understand the nature of what we’re up against here, that’s my hope,” Giles said.

“I’m concerned about what I’m seeing in the country, I don’t like it one bit. I’m seeing and hearing things said since this horrible tragedy (at Sandy Hook) that happened in Conneticut that have got me wanting peace. I’ve seen war and because I want peace I think it’s important that we know who we are and we know who they — who are asking us to disarm — are,” he said.

He is heartened by Americans’ response to recent talk of gun laws, and the statement that such a response makes to those in federal government who would seek to restrict or ban firearms in the country.

“Since that time (of the shooting at Sandy Hook) U.S. citizens have purchased enough firearms to equip both the entire Chinese army and Indian armies combined,” he said, to a burst of applause from the audience. “…We’ve been arming ourselves and we’ve been talking tough. We’ve made it known, ‘Don’t tread on me. If you ignore the rattle, you’ll get the fangs.’” Continue reading

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Taking aim at biathlon revival — Ski group builds on youth interest

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Several youth take aim at targets 50 meters away during a biathlon event Saturday at Tsalteshi Trails in Soldotna. The event combines the athleticism of skiing with the controlled breathing and precision aiming and shooting of a .22-caliber rifle.

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Several youth take aim at targets 50 meters away during a biathlon event Saturday at Tsalteshi Trails in Soldotna. The event combines the athleticism of skiing with the controlled breathing and precision aiming and shooting of a .22-caliber rifle.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

With each visibly steaming exhale, May Bruno’s cheeks grew rosier. The 12-year-old was working hard in the cool morning air, but her mind was not on the single-digit temperatures. Just arriving from skiing the short, but hilly, Raven Loop on the Tsalteshi Trails system, the teen was focused on her breathing.

She glided in and quickly transitioned to lying in a prone position, then picked up a .22-caliber rifle, rotated the bolt in battery, and took aim with the iron sights on a small, 1 ¾-inch target 50 meters downrange.

As she concentrated and got her breathing under control, she moved her still-gloved index finger onto the trigger. Without jerking she smoothly squeezed off a shot. The rifle popped, and a “ding” of success could be heard even before Tim Bruno — her father and a level-one biathlon instructor staring at the target through a spotting scope — announced that she had hit her mark.

Her bluish lips formed a large smile, the kind that comes from success, but she continued working through her still-full clip. Pulling the bolt back, a small brass shell flew out, glinting in the morning light. Before the still-hot empty cartridge hissed into the snow, Bruno had already slammed the bolt forward and loaded another round. Over and over again she hit her mark, until finally her rifle ran silent. Only the sweet smell of gun-smoke emanated from its empty chamber.

“These are difficult targets to hit even without breathing hard, but when you add in the hard breathing and increased heart beating from skiing so fast, this can be daunting to kids,” Tim Bruno said.

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Gun run — Sales of firearms peak following school shooting

By Joseph Robertia

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. AK-47s and similar firearms are among those highly sought for purchase in the wake of the deadly shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Photo by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. AK-47s and similar firearms are among those highly sought for purchase in the wake of the deadly shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Redoubt Reporter

Some are calling it a gun-buying panic, referring to the spike in sales of firearms — especially semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines for them — which began in the days following the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec 14. 
Travis Wright, owner of the Impact Area gun shop on Kalifornsky Beach Road, said that he can’t remember a time when people bought guns in such a frenzy.

“As of the Monday after the shooting we had 70 AR-15s in stock with as many as 12 rifles in stock for some of the more popular models,” he said. By that weekend he had sold out of all of them.

A Bushmaster XM-15 rifle, modeled on the AR-15 platform, was among the four firearms that Adam Lanza, 20, brought with him when he fatally shot 20 children and six adult staff members, wounding two others, at the elementary school. He also fatally shot his mother before heading to the school. The incident has lead some to predict that the federal government would be making changes to the existing gun laws for AR-15s and other similar tactical rifles types, such as AK-47s and Uzis. 
Days after the shooting, President Obama stated on Dec. 19 that he would make gun control a “central issue” at the start of his second term of office. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Joseph, I-Conn., called for a reinstatement of the federal assault weapons ban, which lapsed in 2004, with Feinstein voicing her intent to introduce a ban bill on the first day of the new Congress.

“This is worse than anything I’ve seen since Obama took office. There was a light bump in sales when he took office for his first term, and then again when he was re-elected, but after Sandy Hook it just took off. It started with ARs, then quickly went to AKs, Mini-14s and other semi-auto ‘black rifles,’ and then magazines for them. But then it was just everything: bolt-action rifles, handguns, parts, ammo, everything — it didn’t matter what it was,” Wright said.

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Booming memorial — Fuller’s friends salute Cooper Landing gunsmith with muzzleloader and bull-shooting session

By Joseph Robertia

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. Don Neal, of Anchorage, lines up a shot during the 24th annual Bill Fuller Memorial Muzzle-Loading Gathering in Cooper Landing on Saturday, while, in the foreground, Dennis Poss, of Sterling, waits his turn to fire.

Redoubt Reporter

Mike Gephardt stared down the long, octagonal barrel of his rifle to align his peep sight onto the silhouette of a Dall sheep 500 yards away and several hundred feet in elevation on the side of a mountain. The ram was a cast-iron cutout, rather than flesh and bone, but the target not being able to run didn’t make this shot much easier, particularly considering the firearm Gephardt had chosen to use.

This was no modern, bolt-action rifle outfitted with the latest scope to magnify his target and sight it in the finely calibrated crosshairs. Oh no. Gephardt was using a muzzleloader — a black powder gun favored by trappers, traders and explorers of the 1800s, rarely used nowadays by modern hunters.

Still, Gephardt wielded the firearm as if he had grown up hunting buffalo on the plains. His fingers moved across the double triggers, first setting the action with the rear trigger, so that the front one became a hair trigger.

Tripped with the lightest of touches, his thick, calloused finger had only begun to make contact with the front trigger when the rifle made a thunderous boom. It bucked backward while belching a huge cloud of white smoke from the muzzle, along with a lead ball flying at 1,150 feet per second.

Just as the sweet smell of gunpowder was tickling Gephardt’s nose, through his earmuffs a familiar

Mike Gephardt, of Cooper Landing, fires a Hawken replica built by Fuller. Black-powder rifles tend to belch much more gunsmoke than modern firearms when fired.

“ding” could still be heard. It was the sound of his lead bullet flattening out as it connected with the Dall sheep target, something Gephardt and the small group of fellow black-powder enthusiasts watching from behind him call “the bang and clang.”

“That was pretty good,” said Sterling resident Dennis Poss, although his lips — and the toothpick sticking out of them — barely moved as he grunted the accolade.

“Or, pretty lucky,” Gephardt said.

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