Kel Tec P-3AT the be-all, end-all test Part II

If you haven’t already, you can read part one here.

This is the first gun that I’ve ever kept a round count on. It’s neat to have documentation that we have put exactly 725-rounds through this little pistol. I kind of wish I’d kept track of how much ammunition I’ve put through some of my other guns. Granted, judging by its condition alone, the M&P .38 special has been shot about a billion times. You’d swear that three quarters of the lead that exists on the planet has been down that bore twice. But, I’d love to be able to authoritatively say how many rounds I’ve put through my S&W 29, or my Winchester 1300, for that matter. It’s been a fun journey regardless.

I wanted to post something on this last week, but I didn’t really have anything to say. The initial range session for this test was just so routinely boring that it would have been the shortest blog post ever. As I wrote in my previous post, when we first shot the gun, I had not even cleaned it, and we put 125-rounds through it. It was still relatively clean after that, but I at least wanted to get the manufacturer’s preservative out of it and give it a little lube, no deep scrubbing necessary. I field stripped the little gun and blasted it out with some Birchwood Casey Gun Scrubber and hit the moving parts with some Otis Bio CLP. I racked the slide a few times and dry fired it a few times to get the CLP in the works. I also used the Gun Scrubber to rinse out my three magazines.

To prepare for the test, I numbered the magazines “1,” “2,” and “3” with a silver Sharpie and scotch taped over the numbers to keep them from rubbing off. I figured we would try to evenly rotate them, and if we started having consistent problems with one of the magazines, we would know to take it out of the rotation. I set up a detailed spread sheet where I could record data – round count, who was shooting, magazine number, ammunition box number, and potential failures.

On Sunday, November 15, we took the gun out to the family farm with some steel targets and clays. Over the course of an hour or so, we put 200-rounds of Magtech (95-gr, FMJ 951-fps) down range with no incidents to note. I shot the initial 150-rounds and Jennifer shot the 50 remaining. It shot flawlessly for both of us. I offered to let Isaac try it again, but he declined. It was nice to get out to the farm at least, and it was a fun range session. I then stripped it for inspection. There was slight wear in the finish on the rails, but nothing else noteworthy. So, I reloaded it with My Hornady Critical Defense and put it back in my holster. Really the most interesting thing that happened was that I got a bloody sore on my trigger finger from where the trigger guard had pounded on it during the range session. Pro tip – if you’re going to pack a Kel Tec, it might not hurt to take some emory cloth to the inside of the trigger guard to smooth it out. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

On Saturday, November 21, we took it to one of the local indoor ranges. this time, we preemptively applied 3M Nexcare foam bandages to our fingers where they’d previously been chewed on by the trigger guard, for a little protection. In this session, the three of us managed to put 350-rounds of Magtech through the little gun. With the gun running like the Little Engine That Could, just imagine how excited I was when we had our first failure at the 421-round mark! I pulled the trigger and got an unexpected “click.” Of course, I unloaded the gun and cleared the spent brass out of the chamber. It was evidently a failure to eject. The good news is that I had my GoPro taking close-up video at 240-frames per second in 720p. The bad news is that it was a lot darker in the range than I realized, so the video came out pretty grainy. Still, we’ll take a look at that later for analysis.

Of course, a failure to eject could be the fault of the gun, the shooter, or the ammunition. By that point in the range session, I was starting to fatigue, although my grip looks pretty steady in the slow-motion video. Jennifer and I are wondering if there’s a perceivable difference in the muzzle flash on the offending round in our high-speed video, which could but would not necessarily indicate an undercharged cartridge. As I wrote above, we’ll take a closer look at that later. Regardless, other than the one failure to eject, this little pistol has run 550-rounds of ammunition flawlessly since I cleaned and lubed it. Subsequent inspection was yawn-inducing, as the gun seems to be in perfect condition outside of carbon build up.

When I first put out the feelers to find a company to sponsor this test, I actually reached out to Kel Tec directly, who didn’t respond to my messages. I found that to be rather damning. It’s one thing that they put a lifetime warranty on their products, but if they won’t even answer a proposal on this kind of test, it does beg the question as to how confident they are in product durability. That being said, I could not be any happier with this gun thus far. It has rewarded me with reliability, durability, and shootability beyond my most optimistic imagination. If by the end of this test, I break it beyond repair, I would gladly pay the ~$250 these guns command for a replacement.

As a side note, This Magtech ammunition has been as clean shooting and as consistent as I hoped it would be. If you haven’t tried it before, and if you need some good plinking ammo, you should check it out! Again, I’d like to give a shout out to Ammunition to Go, who made all this possible with the ammunition donation. When you’re shopping ammo, please do keep them in mind for your needs. They didn’t pay me for a good review, but donating the ammo isn’t the first pleasant experience I’ve had dealing with them.

So, we’re a little over a quarter of the way through the test, and all is well. 550-rounds down and 1,450 to go! If we make it to the 2,000-round mark and the gun is still running strong, I’m thinking of continuing with some different ammo. I have more of the Hornady Critical Defense that I’d like to shoot into water jugs as well as some frangible ball ammo, and another 100-rounds from Richardson Reloading. Although his loads seemed to be a little light for this gun initially, it will be interesting to see if they play nicer together after this much of a break-in.

Kel Tec P-3AT, the be-all, end-all test, Part I

Much to my surprise, as well as the surprise of others, I actually placed fourth in the 2015 Kilted To Kick Cancer drive. This left me with a lovely prize package which included a brand new Kel Tec P-3AT. Ironically, I’ve been wanting a micro pistol for several years now, but had not gotten around to picking one out and buying it. Jennifer and I were still debating the pros and cons between micro 9mm versus .380 ACP. The .380s are typically a little smaller, but we’re never in a great hurry to add a new caliber to the household. As we didn’t already have any .380s in the stable, I was leaning more in the pocket 9mm direction. However, KTKC made the decision for me.

Needless to say, I’m pretty stoked about the little pistol. I’ve been told that Kel Tec’s quality is spotty at best, and I’ve handled a few of their guns that in my eyes, had some glaring failures. I had largely written them off as a “not for me, but maybe for you” type of company. That was before I received the P-3AT. Upon receiving it, I was immediately impressed with the overall quality of the gun. Although diminutive, it felt solid. Within its limitations, which I’ll point out below, this gun does not feel like a hunk of junk, but a very well-built tiny pistol.

To build a pistol as small as possible, it is necessary to simplify, and this pistol is no exception. It honestly has fewer parts than anything else I shoot. It is true that it has no safety, save an internal hammer block. The slide does not lock back, either on an empty magazine or by manipulation. The sights are rudimentary and machined directly in the slide. The trigger pull is long, and the reset is nearly to the point of full trigger release. Those that want a .380 with a good trigger should look to Smith & Wesson’s BG380 or Glock’s Model 42. That being said, the Kel Tec’s trigger is smooth and even, if a little heavy and a lot long.

Whenever I pick up a new defensive firearm, I like to shoot it a lot for several reasons. 1) Many gun models have a “break in” period in which they just need to be run so everything settles in for future reliability. 2) It’s essential to establish a gun’s reliability before you put it into defensive service. There’s nothing louder than the “click” when you expect a “bang.” 3) I like to familiarize myself with the machine. The Kel Tec’s sights and trigger have proved to be perfectly usable, but no gun is going to do you any good if you can’t hit what you’re aiming at.

So on Friday, prior to even cleaning and lubing the gun, Jennifer, Isaac and I went to the range and put some lead down range. Included in the KTKC prize package were 250-rounds of ball ammo donated by Richardson Reloading. So we shot 150-rounds plus a 25-round box of Hornady Critical Defense. The Richardson ammunition seemed to cycle the action a little more slowly, and I did get a few failures to feed which were easily corrected with a good rack of the slide. By contrast, the Hornady made authoritative balls of fire, and cycled the action robustly. Subsequent conversations with Cody Richardson revealed that he loads his ammo toward the lower end of SAAMI numbers, and that some manufacturers use 9mm recoil springs in their .380s. Without confirming that this is the case, I’m assuming that it is so, and that even though the Richardson ammo is great stuff, the Kel Tec likes to run cartridges that are a little hotter. I’m looking forward to running the additional 100-rounds once I’m confident the gun is really broken in.

At the range, every round went bang. As I stated above, a few rounds didn’t want to strip from the magazine, as though the slide had short-cycled. At five yards, it was clear that Jennifer and I have not been practicing often enough, but we did manage to make fuzzy holes in our paper targets. The gun is far more accurate than I expected it to be, and the minimal sights are very usable, even if they take a little more work than some others, or a laser, for that matter. I was shocked at how very shootable this gun is. Even with the Hornady’s sound and fury, I found it to be very comfortable to shoot. Isaac complained that he wasn’t confident of his grip due to the diminutive size of the frame, but it was comfortable for both Jennifer and me. Being able to put all of ones fingers on the grip frame is something that affects every individual different, so your mileage may vary.

The Torture Test

There are bloggers around the internet who have been performing a 2,000-round, no cleaning, no lube test on several pistol models. It has come up in conversation with friends that it would be interesting to perform such a test on a mouse gun such as Kel Tec’s P-3AT. Just how durable are these things anyway? Search engines failed to provide a documented test like this for this model. Kel Tec has a lifetime warranty on their guns, so they presumable believe them to be durable enough for it.

Several years ago, Jennifer and I got a last-minute invite to a defensive pistol class for which we would need about 1,000-rounds of .45 ACP. We wound up ordering from Ammunition to Go, who were able to get us our ammo cheap and fast. So, when we started talking about this torture test, I reached out to a few online ammunition retailers, including Ammunition to Go. They were fascinated with my proposal and seemed eager to facilitate the test. It looks like they’ll have 2,000-rounds of Magtech .380ACP delivered to me by the end of the week.

The Specifics

As the gun has already had 175-rounds put through it, I plan to give it a thorough cleaning with Hoppes #9 and whatever canned spray stuff I can get my hands on, and light lubrication, probably with Breakfree CLP. I will continue to carry the gun as my EDC as long as I’m still confident in its dependability. The moment it begins to act funny, or when we witness that something is broken or worn, I intend to pause the experiment and contact the manufacturer. I’m going to try to get in a few hundred rounds per session, and strip the gun for inspection, without cleaning or lubricating it, until the 2,000-round mark or catastrophic failure, whichever comes first.


These tiny pistols, in 9mm and smaller calibers are widely regarded as “disposable” pistols. They are generally seen as the gun that you carry when you can’t carry a gun, but if you shoot them too much they’ll fall apart on you. I’m really looking forward to challenging that stigma, as I don’t feel like they’ve been given a fair chance. In my short time with it, this little pistol has exceeded all of my expectations. Prior to this, I would have assumed out of hand that such a torture test would be insane. At this point, though, I’m not so sure. I will proceed, and proceed with appropriate caution. So, stay tuned and let’s take this journey together.

Velcro Plus GoPro App…

I slapped some peel and stick Velcro strips on my tablet case and part of the packaging that came with my Gopro to make a tablet mount for my camera.


Thus, I have expanded the usability of both devices.


Also, the naming scheme in my AW100 simply counts up, even when I dump and format the card, so I know how many pictures it’s taken in total. I just past 1,000. What was number 1,000, you might ask?


A blurry, half disassembled Super Famicom controller, of course.

KTKC Final Day

Here we are, in the last day of Kilted To Kick Cancer 2015. The team standings have been blacked out. I am still matching donations to Team Hast. Show me the money.


That’s $1,000.00, folks. That is money that I’m matching your donations with. Last I checked, we were up to $400.00. Not bad. However, I want you to make me donate every last penny of this cash to KTKC. This money:


Donate here. Mark your donation for Team Hast. As I’ve said previously, if you put me in the top three, I’ll wear the kilt for the remainder of the year. Get yourself checked and donate to the cause.

Kilted to Kick Cancer 2015

Most of y’all already know that September means wearing a kilt. I wear a kilt to raise awareness and funding for male specific cancers. Yes, all September. Here I am at the liquor store:


Why yes, I am carrying a .45 in that photo. The shop’s proprietor, “Mom,” asks me every year why I’m wearing a skirt in her hard Korean accent. I’ve tried to explain, but English is not her strongest understanding. This is just part of the job. Over the next thirty days, I hope you’ll support my efforts in this endeavor. There will be challenges and promotions. I’ll do stupid things to earn your sponsorship. Please be gentle. Go here: link. Donate and tag my name to your donation. It’s a great cause and we’ll have fun.

Why couldn’t I just be happy with the way things were?

Probably ten years ago, give or take, I bought an RCA tube TV at a garage sale. It’s something like a 27 or 29-inch screen, and it was ten bucks. I thought it would go great in our little bedroom, on top of the dresser, right next to our 30-gallon fish tank. For the first couple of years, we’d watch Adult Swim every once in a great while, but evantually the TV wound up forgotten, simply gathering dust on the dresser. We cancelled the cable, never bothered to get converter boxes when everything went digital, and it was utterly useless at that point. But still, I didn’t want to bother dealing with it at the time.

Fast forward to sometime last year, when I picked up a second Wii. I had the brilliant idea to install Amazon Prime Instant Video on the Wii and plug it into that TV. Between Prime, web browser, and YouTube, that little TV essentially became a smart TV, and earned a new lease on life. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed streaming shows on that set when we want to be a little cozier than the living room. Still, I thought that I’d like to get us something with a little better picture (still standard definition is fine for in there), and the speakers on that RCA are pretty atrocious. I’d go to stream music on the Wii and Jennifer would complain until I quit.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago. I was at one of the local thrift shops, and they had a very attractive Sony Trinitron XBR. This was a late nineties model, and arguably one of the better standard-def tube TVs ever made. The folks in our retro gaming group are always on the lookout for such things for that reason. I took a phone pic of the beast and posted it to the FaceBook group wall with location and price. I thought for sure someone would jump on that, but a week later, I saw the same set in that store again. Then I started thinking outloud.

“That Trinitron is kind of tempting,” I would muse to Jennifer. “I hope someone gets that TV. That’s a nice set if that’s the format you’re looking for,” I’d say. “If it was a little cheaper, I’d be tempted to get it myself. It would go great in our bedroom.” At this point, I should have decided that the old RCA was good enough, or simply take the drive to the local Best Buy and ask what they had in a 36-inch. But no. I kept thinking about the stupid Trinitron.

Fast forward to yesterday. I wandered into the same thrift shop, and there that stupid TV sat, whispering my name for some stupid reason. Forty bucks. If it wasn’t such a pain in the butt to move big sets or if the price was lower, I might just go for it. Still, I asked the little check out gal if they’d drop the price on a TV if it sat in the store for long enough. Another employee must have heard me from the next room, where she pounced through the doorway to inject herself in the conversation, “you want a TV? We have TVs coming out our ears here. I’ll make you a deal on a TV. Which one are you interested in?” I told her that I might be interested in the Trinitron. “This one here? Twenty bucks and it’s yours today.” I explained that I’d have to come back for it, since my wife had taken the truck to work so I could take the car to the muffler shop. “Thats fine,” she insisted, “we’ll put your name on it and it will be here when you get back.” So, like a moron, I paid my $20, and drove the curiously quiet Tactical Assault Compact Sedan to Jennifer’s office to swap her for the truck.

They were waiting for me at the thrift store. That same woman grabbed a piano dolly and helped me hoist that set into the back of the truck, which responded by dropping about three inches on its springs. Noticing the way that big TV ominously made the truck looked smaller made my heart sink a little bit. Gah. It didn’t look that big in the store. It was heavy too. Probably about two-fifty. That scrawny little lady at the thrift shop didn’t have any problem horking it up into the truck though. She was certainly stronger than she looked. But, surely between my teenage son and I, we could have that thing in place, hooked up, and ready to watch Justified on Amazon by the time Jennifer got home. Right? Right? On the drive home, all I could see in the mirror was that hulking beast. Was it actually getting bigger?

My son has gotten a lot stronger than he used to be. He’s constantly reminding me that he’s taller than I am, and his voice has gotten deep and round. To his credit, he was able to help me get the TV out of the truck and onto the front porch. And, that’s about when he petered out on me. That TV looked even bigger on the porch. It was lunch time, so I figured we’d get some protein in him, and he’d be good to go, like Popeye and spinach. We tried. We really did. I cleared off the top of the dresser and made arrangements for the RCA. A 36-inch really isn’t all that much bigger than a 27-inch, is it? Still, I wanted plenty of space to work with. When it was clear that my son was not quite up to the challenge of moving the big set, I told him that we’d wait until his mom was home, and they could get the one end, and I’d get the other. After all, it’s not like anyone was going to walk away with it. When I moved the RCA out, I set it on the front porch to stage it for when its new owner came to pick it up. Seeing them side by side, that Trinitron absolutely dwarfed the RCA. My heart sank a little more.

Jennifer got home from work, and I told her my plan. Her response was only slightly more polite than, “hahahahhahaahahaa. No.” Now Jennifer, who is an easy to get along with trooper, started brainstorming alternate plans. “We really need a dolly,” she suggested. We tried to think of who we know that might have a piano dolly that we could borrow, which is really ironic, as my dad used to work on pianos, including moving them. But, last time I saw his dolly, it was pretty much worn out, and that’s been so long ago, I’m no longer confident he even still has it. Jennifer thoughtfully broke the silence that had settled, as we scratched our heads over our current, bewildering, and self-made problem, “would your mechanic’s creeper hold that much weight?”

“Well sure,” I answered, “it’s intended to scoot around with the weight of a grown man on it.” And as I thought about it, all the lights came on, “that’s perfect in fact!” I retrieved my creeper from the garage, and tilted the TV so Jennifer could slide it under. It didn’t roll perfectly, but we weren’t going very far. It was all going notably smoothly up until we made it to the threshold of the bedroom, where the carpet began. The creeper was not going to roll into our bedroom. Which was a bit of a moot issue, as there’s no way the set would physically fit between the queen-size waterbed and its surrounding furniture and walls. I knew that Teen Bot had just almost enough steam to manhandle this thing, and I knew that I could handle the other end, and we didn’t have far to go now. Jennifer and I decided that the two of them could take the one end as long as it was only the shot from the hall to the bed. If we got it to the bed, we could kind of walk it around the bed rails to the far side where the dresser waited its arrival.

The three of us were able to get it lifted into the air, and that’s about when kiddo started to give out again. His corner of the set started slowly sinking, with it positioned diagonally, mostly in the hall, in time with his gasping. my bottom left corner lodged against the door trim, his top corner gouged its way into the sheet rock on the other side of the hall, everything broke out in chaos, and the TV hung there, pinned between the walls. And again, the thought occurred to me, that I should have just gone and bought a new flat screen in the first place. Once we managed to extricate the set from where it was jammed (quite comically, I might add) against the walls, it was again clear that this plan need another adjustment.

“Ok,” I said authoritatively, “we need to think. And there’s whiskey in the kitchen.” Whiskey brain storming led to us putting the creeper back under the TV, but with the set hanging off the end. That would buy us a few more inches. We were going to win this thing, one way or another, even if that meant fighting for each baby step of the journey. When the wheels bottomed out against the carpet once again, as Jennifer began to say, “what now?” I grabbed the TV and dragged it off the creeper, sliding it onto the bedroom floor. Now, sitting beside the bed, it once again begged the question, “now what?”

Jennifer got the bright idea that if we tilted it up again, we could cram our Halliburton Zero suitcase underneath it, and when boosted that much, we could probably lift it the final few inches to the bed rail. “If it’s stupid but it works, it’s not stupid,” I said, or something like that anyway. I tilted up the set, Jennifer crammed the Zero under it, and pushed as I rocked the TV back down. It worked like a charm. From there, we were indeed able to boost the TV onto the bed rail. Then, moving some six-inches at a time, we walked the thing around the perimeter of the bed, until it was directly in front of the dresser.

Exhausted, sweating, and panting, we looked at each other over the great expanse of that stupid TV. “I’m not sure I can lift anymore,” Jennifer said, as we steadied the Trinitron, perched on the rail of the water bed. I looked down at the situation. This thing was absolutely massive. What ever made me think that this would go over well? Just look at the sheer size of this stupid TV set! Why, it’s bigger than the expanse between the bed and the dresser! And then, it hit me.

“No, let’s do this the easy way,” I said. “You can be done lifting. Would you please just watch that corner and make sure it stays planted on the bed rail?” I pivoted my side of the TV onto the dresser and then kind of scooted it up onto the dresser from there. I had to kind of hug it across the front to work it in. When I came away, I had to laugh, seeing where the screen was fogged up from my chest. Of course, we had to catch our breath, and have more whiskey.

The rest of the story is that I managed to get the Wii and DVD player hooked up. The picture on this TV is enough better than the RCA that at first we were wondering if our color settings were off. The improvement in sound is night and day. Last night we played music through the Trinitron and probably kept ourselves up too late. I will concede that this was probably not the best way to upgrade our bedroom TV, but we’re both happy with the results. Well, except for the muscle soreness, the damaged sheetrock, and as Jennifer told me in an email earlier, “I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus.” Even so, all’s well that ends well.

My Good Deed for the Year

In past years, our son has kind of lost his mind over summer breaks between school years, and the ensuing fall has been quite a struggle. So, in the last few years, I’ve assigned him projects to complete, not to fill up his break or keep him busy, but to keep the brain active. Two years ago, I had him write a research paper on the Soviet Union. Last summer, he read The Diary of Anne Frank and worked on video editing and digital music composition. This has successfully eased him into the last few school years, so I think we’ll keep doing this until graduation. This year’s project is to learn to design video games and Android development, with the end goal of publishing a downloadable game on Google Play. This assignment came with the disclaimer that I didn’t really know how much work that would entail, and if it turned out to be an unreasonable goal, we would reevaluate and revise if necessary.

This week Teen Bot is taking a video game design class. It’s a workshop offered to local area youth for four days this week for seven hours a day. Yesterday morning, I got up, took him to the grocery store to pack him a lunch, and dropped him off at the community center. I was quite excited for him, and admittedly a little nervous to entrust him to strangers. It’s odd how we as parents do that. I know full well that he’ll soon be an autonomous adult, but I still can’t help but be a little protective. I returned to pick him up in the afternoon, and he was excited to tell me about his day. He used some kind of game design program to make two video games, one of which includes three levels of play. Of course, I’m looking forward to hearing about today’s experiences this afternoon.

As we made our way home, he asked me, “did you see that phone back there?”

“No I didn’t,” I responded, “what and where?”

“There was a smart phone lying in the street right back there,” he said.

Imagining some deprecated piece of junk phone roadkill, I humored him, “do you want me to turn around and go back for it?”

“Yeah, I do,” he said.

So, I turned the truck around, and he pointed out the device in question, lying in the street as he said. As we passed it, it appeared to be intact. I turned around again and instructed him, “I’ll pull up, and you can reach out the door and pick it up.” When he retrieved the phone, we could see that it was an AT&T HTC in a sturdy case with a screen protector. This was clearly someone’s baby, not their beater. I don’t know the HTC models very well, but from the lack of wear, I would say that it was not very old. I figured once we got to the house, I’d try to figure out who it belonged to and reunite it with its owner.

When we got back to the house, Teen Bot began to gather the phone up with his lunch bag and other stuff. I stopped him and said, “why don’t you let me take care of that phone?” I took it back to my desk to try to figure out what to do with it. I thought maybe I’d browse the contacts and see if I could get in touch with a family member of the owner. When I hit the power button, it brought up a lock screen asking for a password. Great. A quick Google search gave a few suggestions on how to hack past the lock out, using a PC and Android exploits. Red flag. I pulled the case off of it to see if there was a serial number or other identifying marking in the battery compartment. Not being familiar with HTC products, it was not immediately clear how to open the battery cover. I put the case back on the phone, wondering what to do next.

And then it rang. The caller ID came up as just a number, evidently not in the contact list. I answered the phone in my friendliest, warmest tone, but there was no reply. “Hello? Hello? I can’t hear you, if you can hear me.” But, there was nothing on the other end: no voice, no background noise, just dead silence. A few minutes later, it rang once more. This time the caller ID read “mamma.” I attempted to answer it again in the same fashion as before, with the same results. When the phone disconnected, mamma began to call it incessantly. When I tried to answer it, I still got nothing. I tried to call the local AT&T store, but I wound up in automated-message, on-hold hell, with the classic, flat, female voice informing me that all customer service representatives were currently helping other customers. There were options that she suggested, but I missed them over the cacophony of mamma calling. “Teen Bot,” I said, “let’s take this phone down to the AT&T store and let them deal with it.”

As we drove the two miles, give or take, to the store, mamma continued to ring the phone, evidently as often as was possible to connect, go to voice mail, disconnect; lather, rinse, repeat. Arriving at the store, I expected them to be very busy after my failed phone call, but they were not. As I came through the door, a sales girl, Suzie or something, diligently approached me, no doubt hoping to score SPIFFs for selling me a new iPhone 5.1sx or Galaxy S23 along with a phat new contract. Before she could say anything, I presented the HTC to her, saying, “I found this laying in the street in my neighborhood, and somebody is going to want it back. Can you make that happen? It rang a couple times, and I tried to answer it, but…” Before I could finish, mamma cut me off as the phone rang yet again.

The sales girl answered it, saying, “this is Suzie at AT&T.” *pause* “I work at the AT&T store on Blank Street.” *pause* “Yes, your phone was just turned in.” *pause* “Blank street.” *pause* “Well it’s here now, and you can come pick it up.”

I lipped “thank you” to her and left. Perhaps this will earn me some Karma points. I have to wonder what the story was on the other side. There weren’t any street rash marks on the phone or case. I can understand that stuff gets dropped by accident, but people are usually more careful with The Expensive New Toy, not that I’m being judgmental toward them. I wonder if they thought their phone had been stolen somehow, and the strange male voice coming from my end was the perpetrator of the crime. I hope not. Rather, I’d like to think that they were thankful to the anonymous stranger who went out of his way to protect their lost valuable property, and see that it was returned in a timely fashion. At the very least, I hope it made for a good story they can tell.

An Accidental Gun Project

When I began shooting regularly, my parents had a handful of guns in the top of their closet. Most of those have since moved to my brother’s gun safe. One that I toted home with me is a Winchester 69a that belonged to my Grandpa. It’s a .22 bolt action with a five-round detachable box magazine. It will feed and fire shorts, longs, and long rifle cartridges. It’s been fitted with a Lyman micrometer peep rear sight. With its 26-inch barrel, it’s very quiet to shoot and is a serious tack-driver. Indeed, this rifle has taken more wild game than all the other guns in the house combined. For one-shot drops on rabbits and squirrel at 50 to 100-yards, I see that trend continuing for quite some time in the future. The gun has no serial number, so we know that it’s a pre-’68 for sure. Without citing sources from my many internet wanderings, it appears that Winchester replaced the model 69 with the 69a in 1937, so it can’t be any older than that. It also seems that they changed the angle on the bolt handle somewhere around 1954, and this copy has the old style bolt handle. So, that gives us a 17-year window in which this rifle was made 60 to 77 years ago.


That’s it between a couple 10/22s in a line up of rifles. There were the accumulation of dents in the wood, worn lacquer, and faded bluing, but it’s all honest wear. For as much action as this gun has seen, it’s in very nice condition. Note how the bolt handle is in the white. That was blued from the factory.

As many of you already know, we recently hosted a blog shoot. We had the pistol range and clay throwing station same as years previous, but in addition to the 500-yard rifle range, we added a 100-yard rimfire rifle range with some swinging steel targets. There were several of us who lined up on the firing line with our .22 rifles to ping the swinging targets with a brace of guns that satisfactorily represented the last century in history. The Winchester has been wearing what’s left of the long strap of a M1907 sling (the other strap broke) that I rigged up as a basic sling until I can do something fancier. I went to sling up in a hasty seated position, and as I drew the front bead on the round plate that I intended to ring, I felt the sling slack off. It didn’t ‘pop’ so much as just kind of let go. My first thought was that the old leather had given out and I’d finally have to get a new one. I dropped the mag and cleared the chamber and stood up to inspect the damage.

As I did so, I chunk of walnut swung down, tethered to the rest of the stock by the still intact sling. And then, I remembered the small crack that I’d seen in the wood grain ever since I could remember this gun. The crack had run right where the lower butt plate screw went into the stock, about the same depth as where the rear sling swivel bottomed out in its hole. Upon closer inspection, it was obvious that it was indeed this old crack that had finally given up and let go. So, I bagged up the old gun. I wasn’t going to let it ruin the fun. We would deal with it later. When we were finished with our weekend, I pulled out the gun, took it down, and started pulling fixtures off the stock to get a better idea of what I was dealing with.


I really couldn’t have asked for a better break. In the above picture, you can see a few of the dents and dings in the wood. The butt plate is labeled “MOD 72″ on the back side. When I was growing up, my dad worked on pianos for a living. I’ve seen him repair countless piano legs with similar breaks. Often, a leg would be cracked but not broken through. He found that the best way to approach that was to complete the break, glue and clamp it, and refinish after the fact. If simply gluing and clamping was sufficient to hold up a piano, particularly a concert grand or one with a heavy player mechanism, then I figured it would work just fine for the stock on a .22. I decided that if I was going to go to the trouble of gluing the stock, I may as well sand it down and refinish it. If I was going to bother doing that, I should probably steam out the dents. And, if I was going to refresh the stock that much, I may want to do something to the metal, even if only a little spot rebluing. Crap. What had I gotten myself into?

I got on the phone with my mom to explain what happened and propose my solution. It’s technically her rifle on long-term loan, so I didn’t want to do anything to the gun without talking it over with her first. We discussed that although the gun is sentimentally special and a great rifle to boot, this model is not particularly rare or valuable. I told her that although Winchester offered a couple different rear aperture sights optionally, that I believed this one was an aftermarket add on, as the gun also has the notch elevation adjustable rear sight dovetailed to the barrel. I also told her that it was wearing a model 72 butt plate, so it was probably made of mixed parts anyway. She agreed that it sounded like I had weighed the options and gave me the go-ahead. So, I started with some Gorilla brand wood glue. I went a little heavy on the glue. It was a mess.


It can be tough to get a good clamping angle on a piece like this, with non-parallel lines and ergonomic curves. On advice from my dad, I bought a package of rubber bands and put them around the stock one by one. I dabbed off excess glue as it bled from the crack as the rubber bands put more and more tension on the joint. You might not think of it, but you can get a lot of tension from a bunch of rubber bands. I used the whole package and not much wood was showing on that end of the gun when I got to the end of them.


I let that set up and cure for a couple of days before touching it again. When I unwrapped it, I was pretty pleased on how the joint came out. There was a light film of excess glue that had dried on the surface of the old lacquer, and the crack was still visible, but it was honestly tighter than it had been prior to breaking completely.


And then, I sanded to get the old finish off. I thought about using a chemical stripper, but that stuff is just nasty. So, I sanded.


And sanded some more.


When I had it clean and smooth, I steamed out the dents in the wood. A good clothing steam iron works great for this. Where I thought I was going to have to use wood filler, my 1800-watt Rowenta popped dents out with surprising ease. I put an old t-shirt between the foot plate of the iron and the wood, so I wouldn’t accidentally burn the wood. I don’t know if that’s really a danger, but I didn’t want to risk it. With the dents raised, the specs of lacquer that were trapped in them became like tiny plateaus on the wood that sanded off with little effort.


I decided to refinish with Formby’s Traditional Tung Oil Finish for a few reasons. Although this is anything but an actual, traditional, tung oil finish, it is a penetrative varnish, which should more or less get the look of the original lacquer finish, but should wind up more durable and protective in the end. There’s nothing so lovely as a hand-rubbed finish. Although I was attempting to be respectful of the original production, I was not trying to make the gun absolutely ‘correct.’ This one is a shooter, and I intend for it to be taking game and ringing steel for the next 60 to 77 years. The wood greedily sucked up the first few applications of the varnish, and I was able to apply about four coats right off the bat.


Over the course of the next week, I sanded with 1500-grit between coats and put an additional four or five applications on the stock. I did some simple clean-up on the magazine well plate and trigger guard. I wound up rebluing the magazine release with some cold blue solution, and I did some spot bluing on a couple places on the barrel and receiver. I also hit a spot that was worn thin on the trigger, and I reblued the bolt handle. I’ve had mixed luck with cold bluing in the past, so I was quite happy how this came out.


After the final applications of wood finish, I let it rest for a few days to cure. After it had a chance to set up, I reinstalled the barreled action in the wood, and reinstalled the furnishings. Everyone who has seen it has been impressed. When Teen Bot saw it for the first time after completion, he didn’t even recognize it as the same gun and thought that I’d bought another rifle!



I’m really pleased with the way it came out. Mom seems to approve too. Although, I can feel just a little bit of shift between the wood and metal that I don’t recall from before. I haven’t shot it yet, but if it lacks accuracy that it had before, I may want to bed the action. That and, it needs a new M1907 style sling. It’s nice to think that perhaps Teen Bot’s grandchildren will be shooting rabbits and squirrels with this same gun someday. It was more of a project than I originally counted on, but I’d say it was well worth it.