The S&W SD9-VE replaces the SIGMA and SD9. This sample was tried with a variety of ammo.
Last year I made a big deal over the new Smith & Wesson SD9 pistol. A service pistol sized a little to the compact size – roughly in line with the Glock 19 – it’s a 16-shot 9mm, polymer frame with a melonite slide. The front sight had a tritium insert (which was dead on mine) and the rear sight had painted-on white dots. The front of the slide has cocking serrations and the SIGMA-like trigger is hinged.

The trigger was long, draggy and crunchy with an uncommitted reset. I liked the look, the feel and the idea. That trigger . . . The first ten rounds out of the gun were fired at ten yards in 10 seconds from low ready on an NRA B-8 target repair center. The heavy rough trigger forced me to concentrate. While one hit was out of the black, I shot a 96/100.

Since then, Trijicon HD Sights and an Apex Tactical Spring kit have turned that gun around. Now I get ten hits in the black pretty easily. That gun, so modified, has been a more or less constant companion ever since. Like all good things, the SD9 couldn’t last.

It was situated between the SIGMA and the M&P both in cost and build. Some consumers were confused by the move, some government buyers were absolute bottom dollar obsessed. The question was how to fix the bottom of the line.

The answer is the SD9 VE. The VE comes from the SIGMA SW9VE line (“value enhanced”?). The SD part of the upgrade includes the standard accessory rail, trigger finger locator pads on both sides of the frame, front and rear cocking serrations and nicely beveled magazine well. The trigger is long and spongy.

As to the locators – there are indented, roughened areas just ahead of the slide lock (above the front of the trigger guard). No less an authority than the late Paul Gomez noted it was far better to tell people where to place the trigger finger when it’s not on the trigger. S&W gives us a place to place that trigger finger every time.

The trigger, while heavy and stagey, was noticeably better than the original SD9 was out-of-the-box.

This Champion B-8 repair center ingested 10 rounds of “The Test,” ten more from “Half Test,” and a range of one-hand, either hand practice with UMC 147 grain MC ammo.
At the range, a B-8 repair center from ATK/Champion target was posted. I did some dryfire to acquaint to the trigger, then loaded up. The first trial was “The Test” – from low ready, 10 rounds in ten seconds from 10 yards. Like the original SD9, I had one out of the black. (The objective is to have all ten in the black part of the target.) Scoring it, I had one in the “8” ring and a touching pair in the lower part of the “9,” making it 97/100. The original, “more enhanced” gun gave me 96 points in the same situation.

From there, I did some work one handed using dominant and less dominant hands, as well as two handed shooting back to fifteen yards. I dropped another into the “9.”

I’d been marking bullet holes with Sharpie markers, from the Test in red and in this exercise with green. Moving up to five yards, I did the “ten rounds at five yards in 5 seconds,” trying to keep all in the black. Another “9” showed up, but everything else was good. (Thanks to Claude Werner for the idea of using different colored markers for different exercises, helping to keep track of where we need work.)

Mixed magazines were randomly loaded with ASYM 115 grain TAC-XP +P, Cor-Bon 115 DPX +P, Black Hills 124 grain JHP +P and UMC 147 grain FMC. No stoppages were noted.

Here’s why I like this gun: For less than $380 suggested retail, you get a 16-shot 9mm with two spare magazines. The gun is reliable, more accurate than the shooter in most cases and, if the trigger is unmanageable for you – it shouldn’t be, as this one will go without a trigger kit – spend the ca. $20 with Apex and get to the Apex videos to see how to do the installation.

Need a holster? Most holsters that fit the M&P fit this gun. No problem. For home defense, concealed carry, a security job where you provide your own artillery or if you’re a cop in a small town that doesn’t issue a gun, it’s hard to imagine a gun as cost effective as the SD9 VE.

Instead of spending more on a fancy gun, get spare magazines and some 9mm and work on your skills.

–Rich Grassi

Do drinking and guns go well together? A Georgia shooting range will soon find out. (Reuters; inset, CBC)A Georgia couple is building a $3.5 million indoor shooting range that will feature a full bar, serving alcohol to its patrons.

So is this the start of a potentially dangerous new business model where intoxicated firearm enthusiasts will literally be shooting from the hip? Well, not exactly.

WSB-TV reports that Lakeside Guns Shop owner Kristina Brown plans to open the multimillion-dollar indoor range with her husband in Powder Springs. And when it comes to being state of the art, the Governor’s Gun Club will not only have the best technology available to marksmen, it will also have Maker’s Mark.

That’s because by a vote of 4-1, the Powder Springs City Council approved an alcohol permit for the establishment.

However, some residents are skeptical, especially with a housing subdivision being built just 100 yards from the new range.

“I mean, that’s just stupid,” Traci Hart, mother of three, told the station. “We don’t need drunk people running around in and out of the neighborhood.”

Georgia law does not generally require conceal and carry permits. In most cases, if a resident is legally able to own a firearm, they are allowed to carry it in their home, vehicle and place of business. There are some notable exceptions, including government buildings. In the case of bars and restaurants, gun owners are allowed to conceal and carry firearms if the owner of the establishment permits it.

So is Hart right to worry about patrons ordering a double, then firing off their double-barreled shotgun? Not so fast.

There’s a bit of relief for those opposed to the idea and a potential letdown for anyone planning to put a new spin on the shot glass.

Brown sent WSB-TV a statement clarifying that once someone has ordered a drink in the lounge, they will not be permitted to enter the firing range:

“Customers will have to order a drink with their identification card and once the card is accepted, and flagged, they cannot be checked back into the range that day,” the statement reads.

Still, Brown and her husband are not naive about their unique sales pitch. The rest of the statement goes on to add, “Georgia Law allows persons with gun permits to bring their weapon into a restaurant that serves alcohol, we are taking it even a step further.”

Why British police don’t have guns

By Jon Kelly BBC News Magazine

Two police officers - one has a bottle of water in his utility belt

The deaths of two female police constables have brought into focus the unarmed status of most British police. Why does Britain hold firm against issuing guns to officers on the beat?

It’s the single most obvious feature that sets the British bobby apart from their counterparts overseas.

Tourists and visitors regularly express surprise at the absence of firearms from the waists of officers patrolling the streets.

But to most inhabitants of the UK – with the notable exception of Northern Ireland – it is a normal, unremarkable state of affairs that most front-line officers do not carry guns.

Unremarkable, that is, until unarmed officers like Nicola Hughes and Fiona Bone are killed in the line of duty. There are always those who question why Britain is out of step with most of the rest of the world, with the exceptions of the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and a handful of other nations.

For a heavily urbanised country of its population size, the situation in Great Britain is arguably unique.

Film director Michael Winner, founder of the Police Memorial Trust, and Tony Rayner, the former chairman of Essex Police Federation, have both called for officers to be routinely armed.

But despite the loss of two of his officers, Greater Manchester Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy was quick to speak in support of the status quo.

“We are passionate that the British style of policing is routinely unarmed policing. Sadly we know from the experience in America and other countries that having armed officers certainly does not mean, sadly, that police officers do not end up getting shot.”

But one thing is clear. When asked, police officers say overwhelmingly that they wish to remain unarmed.

A 2006 survey of 47,328 Police Federation members found 82% did not want officers to be routinely armed on duty, despite almost half saying their lives had been “in serious jeopardy” during the previous three years.

It is a position shared by the Police Superintendents’ Association and the Association of Chief Police Officers.

The British public are not nearly so unanimous.

An ICM poll in April 2004 found 47% supported arming all police, compared with 48% against.


In 2007, the centre-right think-tank Policy Exchange found 72% of 2,156 adults wanted to see more armed police patrols.

For decades there have been incidents that have led to calls for issuing all officers with firearms. Cases like those of Sharon Beshenivsky, shot dead during a robbery in 2005, or of the three plain-clothes officers murdered by Harry Roberts in west London in 1966, or the killing of PC Sidney Miles in the Derek Bentley case of 1952.

Few expect the system to change even after widespread public horror at the deaths of PCs Bone and Hughes.

For one thing, incidents such as that in Greater Manchester are extremely rare. Overall gun crime, too, remains low.

In 2010-11, England and Wales witnessed 388 firearm offences in which there was a fatal or serious injury, 13% lower than the previous 12 months. In Scotland during the same period, there were two fatal and 109 non-fatal injuries during the same period, a decade-long low.

Additionally, officers, chief constables and politicians alike are wary of upsetting an equilibrium that has been maintained throughout Britain’s 183-year policing history.

“There’s a general recognition that if the police are walking around with guns it changes things,” says Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies.


Arming the force would, say opponents, undermine the principle of policing by consent – the notion that the force owes its primary duty to the public, rather than to the state, as in other countries.

This owes much to the historical foundations of British criminal justice, says Peter Waddington, professor of social policy at the University of Wolverhampton.

“A great deal of what we take as normal about policing was set out in the early 19th Century,” he says.

“When Robert Peel formed the Metropolitan Police there was a very strong fear of the military – the masses feared the new force would be oppressive.”

A force that did not routinely carry firearms – and wore blue rather than red, which was associated with the infantry – was part of this effort to distinguish the early “Peelers” from the Army, Waddington says.

Over time, this notion of guns being inimical to community policing – and, indeed, to the popular conception of the Dixon of Dock Green-style bobby – was reinforced.

While some in London were issued with revolvers prior to 1936, from that date only trained officers at the rank of sergeant or above were issued with guns, and even then only if they could demonstrate a good reason for requiring one.

Today only a small proportion of officers are authorised to use firearms. Latest Home Office figures show there were just 6,653 officers authorised to use firearms in England and Wales – about 5% of the total number.

None of which implies, of course, that the British police are somehow gun-free. Each police force has its own firearms unit. Police armed response vehicles have been deployed since 1991.

In addition, trained officers have had access to Tasers since 2004 despite controversy about their use. Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe called for police response officers to be routinely armed with the weapons in November 2011.

Particularly in London, the sight of armed officers at airports, embassies and other security-sensitive locations has become a familiar one, especially since the 11 September attacks.

However much firearms become an accepted part of British life, however, former Met deputy assistant commissioner Brian Paddick doubts police themselves will ever support a universal roll-out.

For one thing, the sheer cost of equipping all personnel with weapons as well as providing regular training would be prohibitive at a time of public spending cuts, he says.

In addition, Paddick adds, front-line officers would not be keen to face the agonising, split-second decisions faced by their counterparts in specialist firearms units.

“In terms of the police being approachable, in terms of the public being the eyes and ears of the police, officers don’t want to lose that,” he says.

“Every case in which a police officer has shot someone brings it home to unarmed officers the sheer weight of responsibility that their colleagues face.”

Armed police officer at the Olympic Village

Cases like that of Jean Charles de Menezes, shot dead by a Met firearms officer after he was wrongly identified as a terrorist, illustrate Paddick’s point.

For now, at least, that starkest of all distinctions between British officers and those abroad looks secure.

View from a bobby

A police constable serving in a city in southern England gives his view:

“I have been in the police for 12 years, before that I was in the Army. I would happily carry a gun if the decision was made but it won’t ever happen.

“I don’t think practically it could work because of the training. Officers in this country are highly trained and this would extend to firearms training, too. But, at the moment, with all the cuts, we can’t put enough officers in the cars, let alone give them firearms training.

“Also, the police in this country are always under so much scrutiny. Look at the issue of Tasers, the civil liberty groups think they are one of the most inhumane things going.

“I was previously injured badly in an assault. My colleague and I feared for our lives – thankfully other officers came to our aid. I don’t think a gun – or a Taser for that matter – would have helped us in that situation. Communication is one of the best tools, and to be honest, having a gun could make an officer feel over-confident.”

International models

All major police forces in Europe, as well as the US, Canada and Australia routinely carry firearms, says Prof Peter Waddington. The exceptions are Britain, the Irish Republic, and New Zealand. In Norway officers carry arms in their cars but not on their person, he says.

New Zealand has adopted an armed response model similar to Britain, says the International Law Enforcement Forum. There was considerable debate there in 2010 when two officers were shot, and commissioner Peter Marshall wrote: “International experience shows that making firearms more accessible raises certain risks that are very difficult to control.”

These considerations included:

• risk of police having weapons taken from them

• risk of greater use of weapons against the public and/or offenders

• and ambush can never be controlled, whether or not officers are armed

Police use of firearms 2010-11

  • Authorised in 17,209 operations, says Home Office figures for England and Wales – a decrease of 1,347 (7%) on previous year
  • 6,653 authorised firearms officers – (5% decrease)
  • 13,346 operations involving armed response vehicles (6% decrease)
  • Three incidents in which police discharged a conventional firearm (down from six incidents)

View from Louisiana

image of Colonel Richie Johnson Colonel Richie Johnson West Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office

“What does a British police officer do if someone comes out with a knife? Is he supposed to get out his knife and fight him?

“Our citizens are armed – even the bad ones. The criminal element here is better armed than the police departments most of the times, due to budget constraints.

“It would be impossible for us to do our job if we weren’t armed. I’d have to quit. I worked narcotics for 20 years and definitely in that field, how would you do that job without being armed? Even as a patrolman, you’re reactive. The other guy knows what he’s going to do. It definitely has to be armed when you have to be reactive.

“The public expects us to be armed – when they call in the cavalry that’s exactly what they want. The general public, because of television, they believe that we’re a lot better armed than we really are. You respond to a call and they say ‘Where’s your machine gun?'”

Additional reporting by Kathryn Westcott, Tom Heyden and Daniel Nasaw

8 Quality Carry Guns for Under $400

Times are tight. But in truth, that’s nothing new. A restricted shooting budget is a reality for some of us, if not all of us, at some point or another. Whether its college tuition, a new baby or a less-than-stellar pay grade at work, a skinny wallet may seem like an imposing barrier to obtaining a reliable defensive handgun. Sometimes folks think they have to settle for a cheap, possibly unreliable handgun until their luck changes. Fortunately, that’s not the case.

A variety of gun manufacturers provide affordable, yet reliable, carry gun options. They may not be the fanciest guns on the shelf, and some of them will not last through the thousands of rounds some of the more expensive guns can handle. However, the guns here will fill a pocket, purse or holster, and will provide personal protection at a reasonable price.

Bersa Thunder .380

The Bersa Thunder is a self-defense gem that maintains a quiet, but loyal, following here in the United States. It’s an impressive pistol for the price, showing excellent craftsmanship and reliability often lacking in affordable imports. It is a better gun than some similar models that cost two or three times as much. The Thunder is a traditional double/single action with an exposed hammer, steel slide and an aluminum alloy frame.

So why should you consider a compact 7+1 single-stack .380 ACP that tips the scale at 20 ounces when tiny little pocket models are available? The Bersa Thunder exhibits such good ergonomics and recoil management. While pocket-rocket .380s can be almost painful to shoot, this pistol is comfortable and easy to manage with plenty of grip to hold on to, not to mention the easy-to-use sights and the smooth, crisp trigger pull.

Charter Arms Undercover .38 Special Revolver

Charter Arms currently produces over 70 variations of their compact defensive revolvers, with several models available at or below the $400 price mark. While Charter revolvers often cost less than their competitors, this doesn’t mean they’re “cheap.” Years of experience have gone into the design of these revolvers to make them sturdy and dependable. Charter Arms proudly manufactures 100-percent American-made revolvers with all of the parts constructed in-house or by vendors within 50 miles of the plant.

An excellent example of durable carry gun at a fair price is the Undercover .38 Special five-shot revolver. Rated for +P ammunition, this all-stainless steel gun is available with an exposed hammer or in a double-action only configuration. It arrives with a hand-filling rubber grip and fixed sights. If you’re willing to pay around $70 dollars more, you can shave four ounces off the weight with the Undercover Lite models.


The FMK 9C1 is an American-made polymer framed semi-auto chambered in 9mm. The overall dimensions of the pistol are similar to a compact Glock or medium-frame Taurus. Guns in this size range offer a useful balance of shootability and ease of concealment for legal carry. The 9C1 weighs 23.45-ounces unloaded, accepts 14-round magazines, and it features an accessory rail for lights or lasers. One of this pistol’s standout features is its exceptionally comfortable grip configuration and low-recoil feel. With an MSRP of $399, this pistol is hundreds of dollars less than other polymer, striker-fired pistols in its class.

What’s more, FMK is not afraid to let customers know just how they feel about this country. The 9C1 pistol could have been stamped with the words “Made in America.” Instead, the ejector is marked “Proudly American.” The frame says, “Thank You U.S. Soldiers.” The slide plate contains the words “Freedom” and “Liberty,” with the magazine base plate reading “E Pluribus Unum.” These are the markings of the plain-slide version of this pistol. FMK also offers the Bill of Rights version of the 9C1 with the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution engraved on the slide. Buying this affordable pistol will keep your dollars right here, supporting a company that’s willing to stamp their patriotic devotion to this country into the guns they sell.

Kel-Tec PF-9

Kel-Tec provides a number of reliable and affordable pistols, one of which is the model PF-9. It’s a slim, single stack 9mm pistol designed with concealed carry in mind. This pistol is narrower by under an inch and lighter than Kel-Tec’s double-stack P-11 9mm. However, it offers greater stopping power than the diminutive P3AT in .380 ACP while remaining small enough for pocket carry. The PF-9 carries 7+1-rounds of 9mm ammunition. Just like their other pocket autos, it has a locked-breech design, which allows the pistol to weigh less while keeping the slide easy to cycle. The steel slide is topped with a useful set of 3-dot sights. The rear sight can be adjusted for windage using the provided Allen key.

The trigger is a true double-action only. Although the trigger pull is long, it’s smooth and consistent. Once you get used to a semi-auto trigger with a revolver-like length of pull, it’s quite comfortable to work with. Internal safety prevents the pistol from firing unless the trigger is pulled. The slim grip frame is textured for positive traction and is long enough to provide a true two-finger grip. If you want a little more support for your lonely pinkie finger, the pistol arrives with an extended base plate to swap out with the flat base plate on the magazine.

Ruger LCP .380 ACP

A good pocket pistol is hard to beat for ease of concealment. Although other concealable autos chambered for .380 ACP had been on the market for years, something about the Ruger LCP set the market ablaze with an invigorated passion for small pistols chambered for mid-sized calibers. While the media has moved on to 9mm and .45 ACP pocket pistols, Ruger’s LCP remains a popular choice for concealed carry.

The simple, sleek, and solid little LCP only weighs 9.4 ounces unloaded. All the edges have been beveled to make the pistol feel smooth to hold and to holster. The frame provides a true two-finger grip, so it’s manageable to practice with. It’s definitely a short-range defensive pistol with its small sights, but the LCP functions reliably with a variety of .380 ACP loads. If you feel the need to enhance your LCP with a laser sight, trigger guard models from Laserlyte and Crimson Trace are available.

Ruger P Series 9mm Blued

One of Ruger’s most popular, affordable defensive handguns has been the P-Series 9mm. Although the original P89 models are no longer in production, the polymer-framed P95 is still available at a fair price. While this pistol is utilitarian in design, it works reliably, it’s easy to service, and plenty of holsters and spare magazines are available for it.

The blued steel slide is topped with a fixed 3-dot sight system, with rear cocking serrations. The action is a traditional double/single action with an exposed hammer. In other words, it has a long heavy trigger pull for the first shot followed by a short single-action trigger thereafter. The ambidextrous safety also acts as a decocker for the hammer. If you would prefer a stainless steel slide, it will scoot the price about $30 dollars higher. This is not the lightest or fanciest carry gun on the market, but it certainly is one of the most reliable in this price range.

Smith & Wesson SD40 VE .40 S&W

Smith & Wesson has recently announced the release of two new self defense semi-autos designed to deliver reliable performance at an affordable price. One of these pistols is the SD40 VE, chambered in the potent .40 S&W cartridge. This full-sized pistol is available with either two 10-round or 14-round magazines. With a 4-inch barrel and an overall length of 7.2 inches, the SD40 arrives with an unloaded weight of 22.7 ounces and a slim width of 1.29 inches.

The stainless steel slide, paired with the black polymer frame, offers a distinctive two-tone finish along with aggressive front and rear slide serrations and a standard 3-dot sight configuration. The ergonomic grip has an 18-degree natural point of aim and aggressive front and back strap texturing. A number of accessories from companies you trust, including Crimson Trace, Galco, DeSantis Gunhide and Blackhawk! are already available.

Bersa Thunder .380

The Bersa Thunder is a self-defense gem that maintains a quiet, but loyal, following here in the United States. It’s an impressive pistol for the price, showing excellent craftsmanship and reliability often lacking in affordable imports. It is a better gun than some similar models that cost two or three times as much. The Thunder is a traditional double/single action with an exposed hammer, steel slide and an aluminum alloy frame.

So why should you consider a compact 7+1 single-stack .380 ACP that tips the scale at 20 ounces when tiny little pocket models are available? The Bersa Thunder exhibits such good ergonomics and recoil management. While pocket-rocket .380s can be almost painful to shoot, this pistol is comfortable and easy to manage with plenty of grip to hold on to, not to mention the easy-to-use sights and the smooth, crisp trigger pull.



LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 17:  An attendee looks...(Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

As gun sales surged in early 2009 the going joke among employees of gun manufacturers was that President Barack Obama was the “greatest gun salesman of all time.” The trouble with this backhanded complement, however, is Left-leaning news outlets have since used it to avoid something that really scares them.

As ABC put it, Americans are buying more Glocks and Berettas simply because they fear “a second Obama administration might restrict gun ownership.” Their reporting conveniently stops right there.

Before getting into why, I should note they’re partly right. For example, in December 2011 there was a record number of background checks (1,410,937) called into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) this was an increase of 24.5 percent over December 2010. (For those who don’t know, NICS was started in late 1998 to instantly determine whether a prospective buyer is eligible to purchase firearms or explosives. Not every NICS check results in a sale. A small percentage of people are denied for various reasons (keeping criminals from buying firearms is why we have this system), some simply decide not to purchase the gun and so on. So NICS checks statistics are like exit-poll data, they’re a pretty good indicator, but have margins of error.)

Now though the December 2011 number was a record there were actually slightly less, but still over 1.5 million NICS checks, in November of 2011. The only other November to break 1.5 million NICS checks was November of 2008—when President Obama won the presidency.

But the thing is the surge is gun sales didn’t begin in 2008. Over the last 10 years (from 2002 to 2011) there has been a 54.1 percent rise in the number of NICS checks and the increase hasn’t all taken place since 2008. In 2005 there were 8,952,945 NICS checks. In 2006 the number topped 10 million. In 2007 NICS checks pushed passed 11 million. In 2008 NICS checks passed 12 million, and then hit the 14 million mark in 2009. They increased slightly (4 percent) through 2011.

So attributing this entire trend to President Obama’s anti-gun reputation is disingenuous, yet many in the media like this explanation because by saying the increase in gun sales is only about President Obama they can then write the whole thing off as a simple-minded fear from those who “cling to guns and religion.”

To understand what’s really going on, let’s start with some sales figures.

Last January Steve Sanetti, president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), told me, “The $4.1 billion shooting industry has been growing in an otherwise anemic economy. We’re grateful and proud that our industry has helped maintain jobs from the manufacturer through retail levels during these difficult economic times.”

He had good reason to be pleased. In general, firearms manufacturers have been beating the downturn. In one example, last March Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc. (which trades on the New York Stock Exchange as “RGR”) completed the fourth and final quarter of its “1.2 Million Gun Challenge to Benefit the NRA.” During this yearlong challenge, Ruger donated a total of $1,254,000 to the NRA as it built and shipped more than one million firearms.

Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. (NASDAQ: SWHC) saw its fiscal year sales surge 20 percent in 2012. Many makers of handguns and “black guns” (what the Left calls “assault rifles” but the NSSF calls “modern sporting rifles”) also did very well. For example, the number of U.S. semi-automatic pistols produced (imported and exported) was in the 900,000-range from 1998 to 2000, but then fell to a low of 626,836 in 2001. Since then, this category has risen nearly every year. In 2009, some 1,868,268 pistols were imported or exported by U.S. manufacturers, according to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) data.

So why did overall gun sales begin going up well before President Obama was elected? The answer is in the way American’s view guns. In 1959 some 60 percent of the American public favored handgun bans, according to Gallup, whereas today 73 percent oppose such bans and only 26 percent want bans on handguns.

Other Gallup polls are even more interesting. The number of women gun owners in America has gone up from 13 percent in 2005 to 23 percent today. Also, the number of Democratic households with firearms in their homes skyrocketed from 30 percent in 2009 to 40 percent today.

What has been happening is that the NRA, the NSSF and other gun-rights groups have been busy fighting for Second Amendment rights, advocating for participation in the shooting sports, instructing people how to shoot and store firearms safely, working with police officers and the military and doing a myriad of other things. The NRA has also been lobbying, defending the Second Amendment in courtrooms all over the country and growing its membership. As a result, they’ve attracted more Americans to the shooting sports, made the shooting sports safer and helped more people learn to shoot and to defend themselves.

You can see this reflected in the number of concealed-carry permits. From the mid-1980s to today America has become a mostly “shall-issue” nation with regards to concealed-carry permits. (Shall-issue laws typically prevent local governments from arbitrarily refusing to give permits.) Today 41 states have right-to-carry laws and 38 states have “shall-issue” laws. In fact, a total of 49 states have laws that, to varying degrees, solidify citizens’ right to carry certain concealed firearms in public, either without a permit or after obtaining a permit. Only Illinois is without such a provision.

To visualize what a big change this has been, simply log on to Wikipedia. Now Wikipedia can’t always be trusted as a fact-based source, but search under the entry “concealed carry in the U.S.” and you’ll find a color-coded map of the U.S. changing year-by-year from 1986 to today. Over those years the color changes show the spread of shall-issue laws. Nationally, the NSSF estimates there are 6.8 million concealed-carry holders today. This is up from about one million in the mid-1980s.

All of this pro-gun legislation has not only added to freedom, personal protection and a whole lot of fun at ranges across America, but has also grown the numbers of gun owners and increased the sales of firearms.

Now The History Channel’s “Top Shots” and Discovery Channel’s “Sons of Guns” are showcasing how much fun the shooting sports can be.

The Boy Scouts of America reported that the number of “shotgun shooting” merit badges increased 27.8 percent from 1999 to 2010. The NSSF’s “female-participation” statistics in the shooting sports show that from 2002 to 2010 an estimated 30.2 percent more women are now shooting shotguns. The number of hunters actually increased nationally by 9 percent from 2006 to 2011 according to a preliminary report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. And active-shooting sports, such as 3-Gun and sporting clays, have taken off.

There are many other categories and statistics showing the tidal shift in gun ownership beneath this current wave of sales, all of which are related to legislative successes that freed up Second Amendment rights, judicial victories and a popular shift in the way American’s view guns. With all of this going on it’s a shame so many in the media are ignoring or cynically simplifying the movement behind gun sales. It’s just more convenient for them to say the surge in gun sales is only about fear of new gun-control legislation.

Though I don’t want to discount the fear. After all, when the Supreme Court twice comes within one vote of ruling that the Second Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights isn’t an individual right, Americans have a right to be concerned. When an incumbent president seeking a second term has already put two people on the nine-member Supreme Court who would vote away this basic human freedom, they have the right to be fearful. And when you realize that, if reelected, that incumbent president would have a good chance of getting a few more Supreme Court picks, and so could reshape the high court for decades, people have a right to be motivated to buy firearms now.

  • By Jason Fagone

The challenge came from on high, communicated during an otherwise ordinary product meeting in a long brick building in the old factory town. At first, Brian Jablonski couldn’t believe what his bosses were asking him to do. But he would have to find a way.

Jablonski is tall and lanky with a goatee. In the ’90s, he worked in Detroit as a designer of automotive exhibits; before that he worked on the design of an early videoconferencing system for PCs. In 2002, when Jablonski first arrived as a product design manager at the long brick building in Pawtucket, Rhode Island—global headquarters of the Hasbro toy company—he figured he’d stick around for a couple of years, then move on to the next challenge.

But it turned out that life in Pawtucket was too good to quit. Hasbro owns many famous toy and game brands—Transformers, G.I. Joe, My Little Pony, Battleship, Monopoly, Twister, Ouija, Tonka, Play-Doh. Jablonski’s job was to focus on one of the most iconic brands of all: Nerf. Working on Nerf stuff was sort of like waking up every day and driving a Mister Softee truck; it made you a sentry, a protector of the cherished childhood memories of multiple generations of Americans. Baby boomers had grown up kicking Nerf footballs around the yard. Gen Xers had yanked Nerf flying discs from the jaws of family dogs and practiced 360-degree dunks into Nerf basketball hoops. And teenagers were devoted to Nerf’s wide array of foam-projectile-firing toy guns (“blasters,” in Nerf-speak).

Nerf’s N-Strike Barricade RV-10
The rotating cylinder on this semiautomatic holds 10 Whistler Darts (their plastic tip is designed to make a high-pitched whine as air rushes past it).
Photo: Robin Broadbent

For Jablonski, blasters are the most satisfying Nerf products to create, each one requiring the participation of about 15 Hasbro designers, engineers, marketers, product development specialists, model makers, model painters, and computer-aided design experts in both Pawtucket and Hong Kong. Over the years, Jablonski’s blaster work has made him to Nerf what Jony Ive is to Apple—an in-house guru, keeper of the brand’s look and feel. With each new blaster, he tries to surpass the one that came before. The key question, he says, is: How do you outdo yourself?

It was a fateful meeting in 2010 when Jablonski learned that he would have to outdo himself in the biggest way possible. Hasbro’s marketing people had been asking their target customers—boys ages 8 to 16—what they wanted out of a blaster, and the boys always said the same two things: more distance and more ammo capacity. Some of them were so anxious for these features that they had taken it upon themselves to modify their existing blasters, duct-taping additional clips to the stocks and fiddling with the tension of the springs. Search YouTube for “Nerf mod” and you’ll find a whole ecosystem of kids (and kids at heart) trying to one-up each other, hacking their blasters to resemble AK-47s, boosting firing rate, and claiming that their souped-up plastic blasters can shoot foam darts 60 feet and beyond.

“We don’t endorse modding in any way,” says John Tomulonis, a Nerf marketing director. Hasbro is wary of blaster hacks because its toy guns have to meet stringent federal safety regulations to be sold in the first place, and the modders complicate Nerf’s safety-based marketing message. Its products resemble cartoonish alien phasers, and some modders try to make them look like assault weapons. Yet it’s pretty clear that the modders have forced Nerf’s hand. The company’s designers are locked in an arms race against its own most passionate users. Nerf can either try to keep up or get mowed down by a foam-dart firing squad.

The executives wondered: Could Jablonski and his team double the existing range of blasters that fire darts? They had recently broken the 50-foot barrier with a new line of guns that fired little Frisbee-like discs. But could they create a standard foam dart capable of traveling an unheard-of 75 feet—about the length of a regulation tennis court? And while they were at it, could they significantly increase the dart-carrying capacity of a blaster? At the time it was 35 darts. How about 50? More? What can you give us?

Once Jablonski got over his initial surprise, he was pretty sure he could achieve the targets. “There’s always a solution,” he says. Seventy-five feet. Fifty darts. He retreated into his cavelike, red-walled office crammed with blasters in random piles and began to think.

The original 4-inch polyurethane foam ball—just dense enough to be hurled accurately but too light to cause damage—was invented in 1969 by an eccentric Minnesotan named Reyn Guyer, who had also come up with the game of Twister and would go on to produce country music in Nashville. It was licensed by Parker Brothers, who dubbed it Nerf after a kind of foam bumper used to push drag racing cars to the starting line. (How and why the bumper material came to be called Nerf remains a mystery.) Many Nerf products begin life as a foam resin poured into a mold; carbon dioxide bubbles create the material’s signature air pockets. The ball was first released in 1970 in a small black box whose packaging urged, “Throw it indoors. You can’t damage lamps or break windows. You can’t hurt babies or old people.”

By the end of that year, millions of Nerf balls had been sold, with zero babies or old people maimed, and Parker Brothers began to explore other uses for the foam, developing the now-iconic Nerf basketball hoop and the Nerf football. In 1989 came the very first Nerf blaster, the Blast-A-Ball, which used a simple air-pump action to pop 1.75-inch foam spheres out of a plastic tube. Hasbro acquired Parker Brothers’ parent company, Tonka, in 1991 and immediately began to expand the Nerf line, releasing products like the Mega Howler football (whistles in flight), the Bow ‘n’ Arrow, and the Slingshot. The first dart blaster, the Sharp Shooter, arrived in 1992, along with a series of blasters that shot Nerf Missiles—fat 5-inch darts with fins. Although the missiles were a dead end, the dart blasters continued to improve, and while the design of the foam darts became relatively standardized, the complexity and elegance of the plastic guns and firing mechanisms evolved rapidly.


Nerf’s N-Strike Elite Hail-Fire

The flagship dart blaster of Nerf’s 2012 lineup is a hulking semiautomatic with unprecedented ammo capacity and a 75-foot range.
Mouseover the numbers to view a description for each part.

LENGTH: 20 inches
WEIGHT: 2.8 lbs

Photo: Robin Broadbent

Blasters are the core of the modern Nerf business, and Nerf is crucial to Hasbro. (Nerf brought in $410 million in revenue for Hasbro in 2011; only two other brands, Beyblade and Transformers, made more than $400 million last year.) Solid foam has proven to be the perfect material for projectiles launched by air pressure or other clever mechanisms. Nerf has given every 12-year-old kid who yearns to play with guns not just the ultimate toy weapon but an entire neon arsenal. You can now buy a Nerf blaster with fully automatic firing (the Stampede ECS), a blaster with a Tommy gun-style circular ammo drum that holds 35 darts (the Raider CS-35), or even a Nerf Gatling gun with an electric belt feed that sprays three darts per second (the Vulcan EBF-25). Last year Nerf introduced a new line of Vortex blasters, which fire foam discs instead of darts. Unlike the darts, the discs can ricochet around corners and even curve, depending on how you hold the blaster.

It may seem silly to take this stuff seriously as feats of engineering, but in their own way, these toys are as well designed as a Dyson vacuum. When you pick up a blaster, when you feel the heft, when you put the stock to your shoulder and wrap your fingers around the handle, when you chamber a dart and pull the trigger and the dart comes flying out with that immensely satisfying thunk, it doesn’t feel like what you’re holding is just some cheap hunk of plastic. And every detail of that experience has been meticulously designed, engineered, and tested.

Blaster Hacks

Hasbro has to meet stringent product safety requirements. Hardcore fans don’t. Search for “Nerf mods” online and you’ll find endless tips for performance-boosting upgrades, many of which require only a screwdriver and some tape.

  • Battery Power-Up

    Swapping in a single 15-volt battery for the standard half dozen 1.5-volt D batteries increases the Vulcan EBF-25′s firing rate from 3 darts per second to 5 dps.

  • Pressure Boost

    By removing the air restrictor and sealing the air release, you can improve the firing distance of a Longshot CS6 from 35 feet to 70 feet.

  • Barrel Extension

    Lengthening the barrel is another way to boost range. You can find guides for adding a section of PVC pipe to a Nite Finder EX-3, and modders are fond of using the plastic tube from Crayola Washable Markers as barrel material.

  • Custom Darts

    Hardcore Nerf-heads make their own more streamlined ammo, using foam or PVC or even brass tubing. Homebrew darts are called “stefans,” named after pioneering modder Stefan Mohr.

  • Mix and Match

    Neon-green-and-orange weaponry just doesn’t look dangerous. If you cobble together pieces of a Longstrike CS-6, a Raider CS-35, and a Recon CS-6, then repaint this agglomeration, you’ll have a reasonable facsimile of an AK-47 assault rifle with a banana clip.

Off a hallway at Hasbro headquarters is a small conference room whose shelves are lined with Nerf swag. It’s where, on a weekday morning in May, Michael Ritchie, senior director of global marketing at Nerf, an antic 37-year-old with blue-green eyes and neatly parted brown hair, is leading a meeting of several key members of his team as they prepare for the most important day of the year in Nerf Nation: 9/9. This summer, Nerf is debuting its gnarliest series yet, a line dubbed the N-Strike Elite—the culmination of a design process begun two years ago by Jablonski’s crew. And 9/9 is when the company is rolling out the final and most gnarly weapon in the line.

Near-final versions of the N-Strike Elite blasters are arrayed on the conference table. Their stocks are a deep, lustrous blue-purple, and the triggers, barrels, and clips are blaze orange. The Rampage includes a 25-dart drum and can shoot in either rapid-fire or single-shot mode. The highly reconfigurable Retaliator comes with a removable stock, barrel, and drop-down handle. The third blaster on the table—the star of this year’s 9/9—is the Hail-Fire, the toughest-looking weapon of all; it has a battery-powered motor that provides for semi-automatic firing and a unique new design that obliterates Nerf’s previous record for ammo capacity.

Ritchie turns to Nerf brand specialist Eric Huban and asks for a status update on the N-Strike Elite line. “We started shipping from the factory,” Huban says. “So Retaliator and Rampage are on the water now,” traveling by barge from China. “We’re working through some potential issues with Hail-Fire today.”

Later this afternoon, the Nerf team will be conducting a final play test of the Hail-Fire with a focus group of young kids. The test has to go well, because it’s too late at this point to make any major changes. Jablonski is fairly confident that no problems will crop up, but he holds up a pair of crossed fingers and smiles. “When you put a toy into the hands of an 8-year-old,” he says, “sometimes they tell you things you didn’t expect.”

When Jablonski seeks inspiration for a new blaster, he doesn’t play videogames or watch movies like some of the other designers on his team. “I tend to look at mechanisms,” he says. “I had a salad spinner in here the other day. I thought that would be a cool kind of crank mechanism for something. Sometimes you have those waking dreams: You’re in bed, the alarm goes off. All of a sudden you think of something.” Once, when Jablonski was working on a small, pistol-shaped blaster, an image flashed into his head of the coin slots in a laundromat. When you load and cock the resulting blaster, it feels just like slamming a row of quarters into a washing machine.

The easiest part of meeting the new benchmark for the N-Strike Elite blasters, he says, was getting the darts to travel 75 feet. The breakthrough in distance involves a combination of a new dart and the design of the blasters themselves. Jablonski can’t reveal the exact innovations that led to the final dart design—”It has a lot to do with manufacturing tolerances,” he says—but it has a hollow stem made of soft blue foam and a rubbery orange tip concealing a mushroom-shaped thermoplastic squib of harder material. Different firing mechanisms were used with different blasters. The Retaliator and the Rampage both use a mechanism based on air pressure and a spring-powered piston; the back end of the dart compresses against the back of the barrel, creating a seal, and when the trigger activates the piston, air “forces the dart out of the barrel like the cork in a champagne bottle,” Jablonski says. The Hail-Fire, meanwhile, does not use air pressure at all; instead, the dart is squeezed between a pair of battery-powered spinning wheels that propel it down the barrel at a speed of 50 miles per hour.

The tougher task was increasing dart capacity, especially in the Hail-Fire. Jablonski looked at the Raider, which holds up to 35 darts in a drum-shaped clip, and figured he could just make a supersize Raider by building a substantially bigger drum. But the bigger the drum, the heavier the Hail-Fire prototype became. Eight-year-olds had to be able to lift this thing. The aha moment came in a meeting Jablonski had with some designers and engineers. “Why can’t you have three or four or five clips?” Jablonski thought. Their new design would feature a carousel, like the revolving tray on an old slide projector, which advances to a new clip when the old one is spent.


Non-Lethal Rounds

Mouseover the numbers for a description of Nerf’s arsenal of projectiles.

Photo: Robin Broadbent

Jablonski sat down with an engineer and made some sketches. Then they started taking apart other blasters—they needed the parts to build a “kit-bash,” a sort of Frankenstein’s monster of an initial prototype. At this point, Jablonski walked down the darkened hallway to Hasbro’s model shop, an industrial workspace permeated by the whine of computerized milling machines. The model shop has several advanced 3-D printers, machines that cost up to $800,000, but it’s also a place where Hasbro artisans—casters, painters, even a sewing technician—make models using techniques that wouldn’t have been out of place 100 years ago. Jablonski asked the folks there to machine a few basic parts out of metal, and they used these, along with some screws, rods, and hot glue, to fuse the cannibalized plastic parts from the other blasters into a completed kit-bash. It included a carousel that allowed the user to rapidly switch between nine clips. (The final version would have eight.) Using the largest clips available, it would be possible to load the Hail-Fire with 144 darts—more than four times the maximum for the previous blaster.

Jablonski showed the kit-bash to his managers, and they gave the go-ahead for him to ask the Model Shop to build a second, more refined prototype using a technology called stereolithography, which creates 3-D forms out of liquid resin. He passed the resin version around to his colleagues so they could get a tactile sense of it. Once everyone was satisfied, it was finally time for the CAD guys to send 3-D renderings of the Hail-Fire to Hasbro Far East in Hong Kong. A few weeks later, Jablonski and his team got back a “check model”—a fully functional prototype made of plastic, suitable for testing.

In the hallway outside Jablonski’s office, he marked off a series of distances with tape: 25 feet, 50 feet, 75 feet. He stood at one end of the hall and fired the check model of the Hail-Fire again and again. Each dart soared in a long, graceful arc and pinged against the carpet on the far side of the 75-foot marker. Unprecedented dart-firing distance: check. Jablonski could now shift his attention to whether the Hail-Fire’s carousel had a nice action, whether it advanced smoothly, whether the trigger was responsive enough.

It can take up to two years to develop a blaster, so right now, even as the members of the Nerf team are amping up for 9/9/12, they’re also working on new blasters for 9/9/13 and 9/9/14. Several models to be introduced next fall are nearly finished—namely the Strife, a semiautomatic pistol, and the Ruff Cut, which is only the third blaster ever that’s capable of shooting two darts at the same time. In the Nerf conference room, Jablonski picks up a supposedly functional prototype of the Ruff Cut made of white epoxy resin: “Let’s see if she works.” He points it straight up and fires a couple of darts into the 30-foot-high rafters. They touch down in another office somewhere. Jablonski calls this “the funnest thing” about his job. “Just randomly shooting. Sometimes you hear a landing. Sometimes you hear a scream.”

Late in the afternoon,it’s time for the all-important test of the Hail-Fire. Seven members of the Nerf team—two guys from quality assurance, two engineers, one designer, one marketer, and Jablonski—leave Hasbro headquarters and drive five minutes to an indoor baseball facility in Pawtucket. In a large concrete-walled room dominated by a mural of former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, the Nerf guys lay out 12 shiny new Hail-Fires, as well as several older green-and-orange Vortex blasters.

Before the test begins, one Nerf employee marks off 75 feet with a tape measure and another shoots a series of darts from the other side of the room. A third staffer films. The darts all land past the 75-foot mark. The men talk about uploading the video to the web to quiet the skeptics.

Suddenly a side door opens and 11 kids—10 boys, one girl—come pouring through. One turns a cartwheel. Another begins climbing on a pad propped up against a wall.

“Don’t climb on that,” says a Nerf marketer. “Hey!”

Blasters!” screams one boy, spotting the Hail-Fires.

The marketer lines up all the kids along the wall and explains how the Hail-Fire works. At his signal, the kids scoop up the blasters and burst toward the center of the room, laughing and firing with abandon as Team Nerf looks on anxiously from the perimeter. Jablonski frowns and scans the battlefield. He points to one boy who seems to be struggling with his weapon. “See how he’s holding it? By the clip? We designed it to be held like this.” Jablonski mimes holding a Hail-Fire down low, by its top handle, like a machine gun. “We’ll make sure the kid on the package is holding it like this.”

After a time, the marketer introduces nine more boys into the mix, bringing the head count to 20. He divides the kids into two teams and sets up a game of capture the flag. Pretty soon the floor is littered with blue darts and alien-green discs. As the test goes on, Jablonski seems to relax. At one point he picks up a spare Hail-Fire, aims it across the room, and fires a shower of darts at one of his colleagues. He sets down the blaster and crosses his arms contentedly. “So far it seems like normal play,” he says. In other words, kids are doing what kids everywhere do. They’re making machine-gun noises. They’re shouting “I’m out!” and moping when they realize they have to pick up the darts off the floor. They’re reloading and firing and reloading some more. And although they are the first youths in all of history capable of propelling foam darts 75 feet in the air, most of them, for now, at least, are content to walk right up to their friends, grin maniacally, and fire away at point-blank range.

Nerf over the years:

Left: Original Nerf Ball Debuts 1970; Right: Nerf Elite Dart Debuts 2012
Photo: Robin Broadbent


Nerf Blasters: A History

Hasbro has released an arsenal of Nerf weaponry over the years. Here are some of the highlights.—Cameron Bird

Blast-A-Ball, 1989
Push the handle in and air pressure fires 1.5-inch-diameter Ballistic Balls up to 40 feet.
Photo:Ariel Zambelich


Bow ‘n’ Arrow, 1991
Plastic tube upgraded with bow and 11-inch-long foam “arrows.”
Photo:Daniel Salo


Sharp Shooter, 1992
The first Nerf blaster to fire darts, 1-inch-wide hollow foam tubes with plastic plunger tips.
Photo:Daniel Salo


Rip Rockets Blast Hammer, 1993
Uses a simple pull-and-release mechanism to launch streamlined projectiles called Micro Darts.
Photo:Daniel Salo


Nerf Action Ballzooka, 1994
Five rotating chambers allow this bad boy to fire 15 Ballistic Balls in less than six seconds.
Photo:Daniel Salo


Max Force Manta Ray, 1996
Part of a blaster series named and modeled after predators: Gator, Rattler, Stinging Scarab, etc.
Photo:Daniel Salo


Cyber Stryke RotoTrack, 1997
The Cyber Stryke line featured a range of gear designed to look like cyborg upgrades that merge with your body.
Photo:Daniel Salo


Hyper Sight Expand-a-Blast, 1998
Pulling the black handle extends the stock and barrel, nearly doubling the blaster’s length.
Photo:Daniel Salo


Airjet Power Plus SplitFire, 1999
Dual barrels and dual triggers allow for double firing. Clear casing reveals the sophisticated inner workings.
Photo:Daniel Salo


Power Nerf Ballzooka MP150, 2000
This update of the venerable Ballzooka was a battery-powered blaster of Ballistic Balls. 2003
Photo:Daniel Salo


Atom Blasters Cyclotron, 2003
Hand-cranked blaster fires six Ballistic Balls in a couple of seconds.
Photo:Daniel Salo


Action Blasters Big Bad Titan, 2003
Fires foot-long Mega Missiles. Later given the more militaristic name Titan AS-V.1.
Photo:Daniel Salo

13. 20.10.FF.Nerf.DL.59524.N-Strike Vulcan EBF-25 hi-res.jpg

N-Strike Vulcan EBF-25, 2008
Chain-fed battery-powered machine gun that fires screaming Whistler Darts. What’s not to like?
Photo:Daniel Salo

14.20.10.FF.Nerf.DL.59524.Nerf Dart Tag FuryFire blaster green.j

Dart Tag Furyfire, 2009
Designed for official Nerf Dart Tag League competitions. The 2011 World Championships took place at the ESPN complex in Florida; winning teams were awarded $25,000.
Photo:Daniel Salo


Vortex Proton, 2011
Uses a new type of ammo called XLRs, which are essentially 1.5-inch mini-Frisbees. XLR discs can travel 60 feet.
Photo:Daniel Salo


I’ve already been on record as stating that I believe Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is more of a political opportunist than a principled statesman.  He has had a tendency, over his career, to change positions on a bunch of key issues (guns, abortion, etc.).  This is no secret.

So, when Romney sat down with the NRA’s Chris Cox for an interview, I was curious to know how he’d answer questions about the 2nd Amendment, guns and gun ownership.  Would he echo platitudes, simply telling gun owners what (he thinks) they want to hear?  Or would he give thoughtful answers that showed a nuanced and authentically developed knowledge of the issues?

I was also interested in this interview because as recently as 2008, Romney has said, “I don’t line up 100 percent with the NRA.”  If there is a difference between the NRA and Romney’s positions, I wanted to know more about that difference.

Here is the full version of the Q&A:

Chris W. Cox: First, let me start with the most basic question of all. In the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, and in the 2010 case McDonald v. City of Chicago, the U.S. Supreme Court —by a 5-4 majority— held that the Second Amendment guarantees the fundamental, individual right of all law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms.

Do you agree that the Second Amendment protects a fundamental, individual right to own and use firearms for all lawful purposes?

Gov. Mitt Romney: Absolutely, and I was pleased when the Court finally rendered a clear and concise decision on this critical issue. The Second Amendment is essential to our free society. I strongly support the right of all law-abiding Americans to exercise their constitutionally protected right to own firearms and to use them for lawful purposes, including self-defense; the protection of family and property; hunting and recreational shooting.

Cox: Obviously, America’s 100 million gun owners are very concerned that their Second Amendment rights hang in the balance at the U.S. Supreme Court by just one vote. President Obama’s two nominees to the Court so far —Justices Sotomayor and Kagan— have a history of anti-gun opinions and activism. And some have predicted that if Barack Obama is re-elected, he may have the opportunity to nominate several more justices to the Court.

As president, if you had the opportunity, what type of individuals would you nominate to the Supreme Court? And which of the justices currently serving on the Court would you consider to be the best models of your judicial philosophy?

Gov. Romney: Chris, I believe the next president could indeed have the opportunity to shape the Court for decades to come, and that’s a key reason why the tens of millions of Americans who support the NRA should support my candidacy. My view of the Constitution is straightforward: Its words have meaning. The founders adopted a written constitution for a reason. They intended to limit the powers of government. The job of a judge is to enforce the Constitution’s restraints on government and, where the Constitution does not speak, to leave the governance of the nation to its elected representatives. I believe in the rule of law, and I will appoint wise, experienced and restrained judges who take seriously their oath to discharge their duties impartially in accordance with our Constitution and our laws—not their personal policy preferences.

Cox: Let’s do a quick rundown of where you stand on some gun laws our opponents have been pushing for many years.

Do you support additional federal regulation of gun shows?

Gov. Romney:
I do not support further federal regulation of gun shows. There are tens of thousands of gun shows in local communities every year. Gun shows are not only an opportunity for millions of law-abiding Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights, but also their First Amendment right to assemble and speak. Anti-gun organizations have perpetrated this myth that somehow laws don’t apply at gun shows and that’s nonsense. All sales from federal firearm licensees are regulated no matter where they take place, and private sales are regulated at gun shows just as they are anywhere else.

Cox: Gun owner licensing?

Gov. Romney: That’s another solution in search of a problem. I do support the current National Instant Check System, because it simply verifies that a gun buyer is not disqualified under current law. Adding an arbitrary, costly and bureaucratic licensing scheme on top of that would be wasteful and wrong.

Cox: Federal gun registration?

Gov. Romney: Like the majority of Americans, I do not believe that the United States needs more laws that restrict Second Amendment rights. I also recognize the extraordinary number of jobs and other economic benefits that are produced by hunting, recreational shooting, and the firearms and ammunition industry, not the least of which is to fund wildlife and habitat conservation. But I do not support adding more laws and regulations that would burden law-abiding citizens and would be ignored by criminals.

Cox: The United Nations has been conducting serious negotiations on a treaty that would likely impose significant regulation of private gun ownership in the United States. The Bush administration strongly opposed this effort as an infringement on American sovereignty.

How would a Romney administration approach this issue?

RomneyGov. Romney:
I am troubled by this. In foreign policy, I am guided by one overwhelming conviction: This century must be an American Century. In an American Century, America has the strongest economy and the strongest military in the world. In an American Century, America leads the free world. God did not create this country to be a nation of followers. America must lead the world, or someone else will. Without American leadership, without the clarity of American purpose and resolve, the world becomes a far more dangerous place. Let me make this very clear. As president of the United States, I will devote myself to those ideas, and I will never, ever apologize for America. So by the same token, I will never support or enforce any treaty that attempts to restrict our fundamental rights, or tries to “harmonize” our constitutional rights with all of the less-free nations in the world.

Cox: Would you support legislation to provide national reciprocity for Right-to-Carry permit holders so that they can protect themselves when they’re traveling outside their home states?

Gov. Romney: Absolutely. Fundamental rights don’t disappear when we cross state borders, and self-defense is a fundamental right.

Cox: Would you support the reimposition of a federal ban on semi-automatic firearms incorrectly called “assault weapons?”

Gov. Romney: No. I do not support any additional laws to restrict the right to keep and bear arms.

Cox: As governor, you signed a major bill reforming Massachusetts’ gun registration and licensing laws. Some in the media and elsewhere claim this bill was a reauthorization of the semi-auto ban in Massachusetts. What’s your response?

Gov. Romney:
As governor of Massachusetts, I was proud to support legislation that expanded the rights of gun owners. I worked hard to advance the ability of law-abiding citizens to purchase and own firearms, while opposing liberal desires to create bureaucracy intended to burden gun owners and sportsmen. As governor, I also designated May 7 as “The Right to Bear Arms Day” in Massachusetts to honor law-abiding citizens and their right to “use firearms in defense of their families, persons and property for all lawful purposes, including common defense.”

The bill you mention was supported by your state NRA affiliate because it expanded the rights of Massachusetts gun owners. The NRA said at the time that it included “the greatest set of firearm law reforms since the passage of the Commonwealth’s worst-in-the- nation gun laws … a breath of fresh air for law-abiding gun owners.” While not perfect legislation, I agreed with that description of the bill, and that’s why I signed it into law.

Cox: America has a proud hunting tradition. One of the biggest problems facing hunters is finding land where they can hunt. The NRA has worked for a number of years to open as much federal land to hunting as possible.

What would you do as president to address this issue?

Gov. Romney: I will work with the Congress to pass legislation to make clear that public lands should be open for hunting unless there’s a legitimate reason otherwise. I also plan to address the regulatory aspect of this issue by nominating people to key positions who support our proud hunting heritage, and understand that hunters are the original conservationists.

Cox: Over the past few years, drug cartel violence along the Southwest border has created significant problems for law enforcement, and has been used by anti-gun politicians in both the U.S. and Mexico as an excuse to call for more American gun laws.

How would you deal with the violence in Mexico and its impact in the U.S.?

Gov. Romney: Our border with Mexico remains an ongoing problem, posing serious questions for America’s future. Will drug cartels dominate Mexico’s border region, with greater and greater violence spilling over into our country? And will drug smugglers and terrorists increasingly make their way to our side of the border? These are only some of the very real dangers that America faces, if we continue the policies of the past three years. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We are a democracy. We decide. Your members decide. America’s 100 million gun owners decide. I will offer a very different vision of America’s role in the world and of America’s destiny than what we’ve seen during the past three and a half years.

romney-2Cox: One part of the current administration’s policies to deal with Mexican crime was the “Fast & Furious” program. This has turned into a serious scandal.

As president, how would you respond if this occurred during your administration? And how would you prevent this kind of disaster in the future?

Gov. Romney: I don’t want to wait until after the election. This problem needs to be addressed right now. I support the language in the current Justice Department appropriations bill to absolutely prohibit this kind of operation. And unlike Barack Obama, I would not support repealing that language in the future.

Cox: Attorney General Holder has steadfastly refused to cooperate with the congressional investigation into “Fast & Furious.”

Do you believe Holder should resign or be fired due to his actions?

Gov. Romney: If there is the remotest possibility that our nation’s top prosecutors have suppressed evidence that they supported this outrageous operation, then someone has to be held accountable. And I believe that’s where this is headed, so yes, I believe it’s time for Eric Holder to go.

Cox: The NRA has always said that passing more gun control laws will not reduce violent crime. We think the solution to this issue is prosecuting criminals who illegally misuse firearms. But in the Obama administration, prosecutions of criminals who misuse firearms are at the lowest point in the last 10 years.

What do you believe is the most effective method for reducing crime?

Gov. Romney: My position is simple: I will enforce the laws already on the books and punish, to the fullest extent of the law, criminals who misuse firearms to commit crimes. I will also provide law enforcement with the proper and effective resources they need to deter, apprehend and punish criminals.

Cox: One of the key areas where presidents can affect the Second Amendment rights of Americans is in the people they appoint to key positions.

As president, will you appoint people who agree with your position that the Second Amendment guarantees a fundamental, individual right, particularly to the office of attorney general and other Cabinet level appointments, as well as positions that directly impact gun owners such as the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives?

Gov. Romney:
That’s a basic starting point, yes. If elected president, yes, I will nominate people who agree that the Second Amendment guarantees a fundamental, individual right and are prepared to implement them throughout government, from the Cabinet level on down.

Cox: Aside from the specific issues, is there anything you’d like to tell our members about the stakes in this election for gun owners and hunters?

Gov. Romney:
I do. I believe we are an exceptional country with a unique destiny and role in the world. We are exceptional because we are a nation founded on a precious idea that was born in the American Revolution. We are a people who threw off the yoke of tyranny and established a government of the people, by the people and for the people. We are a people who, in the language of our Declaration of Independence, hold certain truths to be self evident; namely, that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. That sets us apart from the rest of the world, and we don’t need to apologize for it. We should be proud of it. I hope to serve as your president to continue in that proud tradition. We need a president who will stand up for the rights of those who simply want to protect themselves, their families and their homes and who want to continue America’s rich hunting heritage. President Obama has not, but I will. The choice is clear. I hope your members will support me, and I respectfully ask for their votes on Election Day.

Cox: Governor Romney, thank you for your time and for your support of gun owners’ rights. Good luck in November.

First, I think Mr. Cox did a great job interviewing Romney.  He asked all of the questions I would have (although, I may have also asked what Romney’s favorite guns are, for hunting and self-defense).

But to go back to my initial questions, are Romney’s answers platitudes and rhetoric or real personal convictions?

In truth, it probably doesn’t even matter, as it’s really not about what he believes, but what he’ll do if he is elected president, which of course raises the question, would President Romney chip away at our 2nd Amendment rights?

I think, again for reasons that have more to do with what’s politically palatable than what he really believes, the answer to that question is a resounding “no.”  Romney won’t mess with the rights of gun owners because it’s in his best political interests to keep us happy (as Clint Eastwood reminded the public at the RNC, “politicians work for us,” which is something Romney seems to be hyper-aware of).

Therefore, I am of the opinion that a Romney administration would be unambiguously pro-gun (I’ve discussed how his VP running mate, Paul Ryan, adds credibility to this claim).

As for where Romney and the NRA differ?  I’m not sure they do anymore, which is fine with me.   At the very least, it shows that Romney recognizes the integral role gun owners and the NRA will play in helping him actualize his goal of becoming president.


Relive the excitement of the Old West through one of its most romanticized events

By Kevin Reese

From 19th century dime novels through Marty Robbins’ classic 1959 song Big Iron, to our continued fascination with the gritty Old West lifestyle, millions of Americans continue to idealize the culture and lore of the Western frontier. Steeped in historical facts and fiction, the most iconic example of both law and lawlessness is a good old fashioned gun fight where speed and accuracy either left a man respected or in a pine box.

Today thousands of shooting enthusiasts around the United States, and beyond, have discovered a family friendly way to connect with the quick-draw heritage of the 1800s. With its humble beginning as a friendly contest among stuntmen working at a Western-themed amusement park in southern California, fast-draw shooting has become one of the most popular forms of Western action shooting available today. Since the founding of both the Western Fast Draw Association and Mid-Western Fast Draw Association and subsequent 1976 merger of the two into the World Fast Draw Association (WFDA), memberships have increased and decreased, seemingly dependent upon cultural swings; however, over the past 10 years, and with founding of the Cowboy Fast Draw Association (CFDA) in 2001, fast-draw numbers have been on a steady upswing. Currently, WFDA and CFDA shooting clubs are spread throughout U.S., Japan, Korea and several European countries, offering scores of registered shooting matches year round.

WFDA and CFDA, the two largest fast-draw organizations, ask shooters to dress in Western attire representative of the 19th century and employ .45-caliber period replica revolvers with blanks and wax bullets. The use of wax bullets has made fast-draw shooting exponentially safer while opening match shooting to year-round events whether indoors or outside in the elements. Often, ammunition is provided and paid for by entry fees. According to both WFDA and CFDA the most popular hand gun used by their members is the Ruger Vaquero in .45-caliber Long Colt.

A fast draw in the Old West may have come down to two men fighting to the death, but today, it is a safe, fun, family activity.

According to David Livingston, chairman of WFDA, beyond the allure of Old West culture, fast-draw shooting includes another factor responsible for the continued growth of the sport.

“It’s a family sport,” Livingston said. “We make good friends with other shooters who become extensions of our own families. And, it’s something we can do well into our 70s and beyond.”

Complementing Livingston’s remarks, Bonnie Bollock, a member of CFDA’s first club, the Powder Horn Ranch Regulators, in Mitchell, S.D., added, “Our motto is safety first, fun second and competition third. More than that, genuine camaraderie, mentorship for new shooters, safe gun handling and having fun are the cornerstones of CFDA’s success in growing ranks.”

Though matches may differ in stages, divisions and classes, depending on participation, the events are usually governed by WFDA or CFDA rules and guidelines and generally consist of either individual timed contests, where shooters compete individually for the fastest time, or elimination rounds that pit shooters against each other until only one competitor remains.

Your computer is a worldwide portal to learning more about this growing shooting sport. Conducting simple internet searches turns up dozens of shooting clubs, articles, lessons, videos, tips and photos related to fast-draw shooting. The WFDA and CFDA official websites offer comprehensive information including registered matches, Western culture, fast-draw tips, fast-draw history and contacts. Both organizations also offer a great database of shooting clubs. Shooting club websites offer great tips, videos, photos and local contacts. Attending a shooting match is also a great way to learn about the sport. According to Bollock, “A lot of shooters make themselves available before and after matches to talk to spectators about fast-draw shooting and share tips. It’s about getting people who are interested in our sport into the family.”

No matter how you put your spurs on, fast-draw shooting offers exciting activities sure to quench your thirst for the Old West. Divisions for youth through senior citizens ensures everyone in the family plays a role in reliving days of old while chasing down the title of fastest gun around.


More on Fast-Draw Shooting

More information about fast-draw shooting, including events and resources near you, are available by visiting the World Fast Draw Association and Cowboy Fast Draw Association websites. If you are interested in joining a shooting club, creating a new one or hosting a registered shooting match, call or email the following:.

World Fast Draw Association
David Livingston, Chairman

Cowboy Fast Draw Association

Powder Horn Ranch Regulators
CFDA Shooting Club, Mitchell, SD
Bonnie Bollock

DailyMail interviewed him and asked some hard hitting questions about his thoughts on guns, gun laws, violence etc.. and here are some of his answers:

When asked about violence in film, specifically Killing Them Softly (one he produced):

“It’s a violent world we live in, I don’t agree with trying to hide that or cover it up.”

Interestingly enough the article states that was before the Aurora CO James Holmes killings, and Pitt stood by what he said when they asked him the question again after.

He doesn’t believe US gun laws should be changed:

America is a country founded on guns. It’s in our DNA. It’s very strange but I feel better having a gun. I really do. I don’t feel safe, I don’t feel the house is completely safe, if I don’t have one hidden somewhere. That’s my thinking, right or wrong.

I got my first BB gun (a type of air gun) when I was in nursery school. I got my first shotgun by first grade (aged six), I had shot a handgun by third grade (aged eight) and I grew up in a pretty sane environment.

I was in the UK when the shootings happened and I did hear the discussion about gun control start again, and as far as I know it petered out as it always does.  It’s just something with us. To turn around and ask us to give up our guns… I don’t know, we’re too afraid that we’re going to give up ours and the bad guys are still going to get theirs. It’s just in our thinking. I’m telling you, we don’t know America without guns.

If you have time you should read the entire article over at DailyMail.  Also noteworthy is the fact that Pitt apparently spent £250,000 (~$400,000) on a shooting range and armory at their Southern France house (hahah yea definitely enough room for one here), as a wedding present for his fiance Angelina Jolie.