Articles published by Ken Jolly in Texas Concealed Carry Assoc Newsletter and the Patriot Star newsletter.


Why CHL?

Breaking the ice in my classes, I learn more about my students by asking, “Why do you want a CHL?”

Stories range from previous close encounters and even the more unusual.  An instructor told me of one person who looked around to make sure no one was listening than whispered “Killer Clowns”. I’m not partial to clowns myself. When you stop and think about it, anyone painting their faces like a clown can’t be up to any good.

We all have our own reasons in coming to the decision to get a CHL. Some live or travel in less reputable areas. Sometimes it’s due to a bad life experience. Remember you are not paranoid if they are actually out to get you.

In most instances the answer reduces down to people wanting to feel safer. While the crime rate is falling media exposes us to all of the bad, and this makes many of us concerned.  A Concealed Carry License enables the common citizen to defend themselves. Will you ever need it? Maybe not, however the one time you need one it may make a difference.

When something bad happens being prepared to defend yourself and your family is why we get our CHLs. Most likely you will never be in a Self Defense situation however you cannot rely on always being safe. Being safe is being prepared.

My own decision was discovering I am old and slow.  Arthritic knees means running is not a solution, and when weather fronts blow in my limp becomes more pronounced which can send signals of my being an easier target to predators. I had just turned 60, brought a large semiautomatic pistol for home defense and learned DPS reduced the cost of a CHL by half. At my age the license was only $70 and this felt like a bargain. Little did I have any comprehension this was to eventually add up to at least $1200.  My existing pistol was too large to carry, thus I ended up in a search to find the right firearm to carry. Two more pistols later, many holsters, at least a thousand rounds of ammunition, several pistol classes and a lot of range fees later I felt comfortable enough to get my CHL.

To feel safe is priceless. To have a CHL allows you to be part of the solution.


Cusp of Open Carry

As I write this Texas stands on the cusp of passing Open carry. In fact if it goes as scheduled we should know soon. The Open Carry Bill has passed the Senate and is now being reviewed by the House.

I’m straddling the line between the camps. While hoping it passes. I like the concept of Open carry and will on occasion do it myself if the law passes. Texas is only one of six states where the open carry practice is illegal and this law dates back to civil War times when Carpetbaggers were afraid of honest citizens.

My father was famous as a leather wright, did breathtaking work, so I came to value the beauty and work of good leather. It seems a shame to buy a great holster and not let anyone see it. For me open carry might be a dress up occasion if it passes.

The other side of this coin is something my wife expressed after watching an ill-conceived open carry demonstration on the news. These were not people that bordered on reasonableness and did not seem to be the type that she would want carrying a weapon. Yes, I know they take great pride in quoting the constitution which is a document written under difficult conditions in 1776 concerning their rights however the world today (239 years later) is a different place than that of  their great-great grandfathers. Plus the Texas Constitution is the ruling authority in this instance which gives the State the right to govern our firearm laws.

I support the idea of licensed open carry. If a person wishes to carry a firearm, they need to be exposed to the laws by which they will use this privilege and have this right vetted by their historical judgement with proven behavior. In short “Background checks”.

A lot will attack the word “privilege” as something granted by the state. In reality understanding the law and the consequences requires a thorough study before a person goes out in public to risk their life, fortune and honor. These must be understood before concealing or strapping on a firearm.


Perishable Skills

You know people who buy a gun for home defense, load it and lock it away with the sure certainty that when needed the most it will fire. These firearms should have been cleaned, broken in and tested with their choice of self-defense ammunition. Locked up they collect dust and the lubrication dries up.

Just as a gun can get rusty so can your shooting skills. I try to stress, with my CHL students the need for continuing practice. In spite of a lot of trips to the range to oversee my classes shooting qualifications, I usually only shoot an average of once a month. If more time goes by I can easily tell my speed and accuracy have suffered. These are perishable skills.

Shooting a non-moving target in a lane becomes boring and most ranges prohibit things you should be practicing like drawing from concealment garments, moving to cover while shooting, rapid fire, tactical reloads and continuing to advance on your targets. These are the skills you need in real life encounters.

Learning to shoot while moving is a humbling experience. Add your movement or a targets movement to the equation and it becomes a learning experience. These are also the skills that may help save your life.

Competing in IDPA (International Defensive Pistol association) matches is fun, adds a little stress to your shooting and enables you to practice all of the above skills plus much more. IDPA as a sport has grown and matches may be found in most cities.

The courses of fire are designed approximating real life scenarios such as at an ATM machine, being in the cabin of a plane, entering a room, etc. A local club match may have five or six scenarios setup in action bays or regional and national matches will have many more.

IDPA stresses both accuracy and speed. You are timed through the scenario and penalty time is calculated by multiplying your misses by a time factor and added to your overall time score.

This adds a little more stress to your shooting as you are going against the clock, everyone in the squad you are assigned is watching and you have a range safety officer following right behind you.

Remember IDPA is a game thus there are gaming tricks that should not be used in true self-defense. As I tell my class when we discuss the differences between cover and concealment, “a lot of what you see on television can get you killed.”

If interested go to read the rule book and find a local match in your area.


Range Safety

Not being fortunate enough to have land in the country, when I started shooting I had to find a public range. I shot at several until I found the right one in an internet post. The person complained, “He would never go back to the range because the RSO (Range Safety Officer) had shouted at him.” This seemed to be the place! Proved he was right. At this place there are three types of shooters. Those who have been corrected, those that will be corrected and the ones that learn. It’s still one of my favorite ranges.

I take Range safety seriously. Guns are dangerous and people can be dumb or careless. I am now a NRA certified Range Safety Officer. Whenever I shoot in addition to my drills I am always refreshing and practicing safety rules. As I explain to my students, the quickest way to fail my course is to shoot the instructor.

1.       Treat all firearms as if they are loaded.

2.       Never point your gun at anything you are not comfortable destroying.

3.       Be aware of what is beyond your target.

4.       Keep your finger off of the trigger until ready to fire.

Rule one is important. As a CHL holder your Every Day Carry gun should be loaded unless you are cleaning it. Before handing a firearm to another person always perform a safety check to insure you have not handed a loaded gun to them. When receiving a gun from another person, even if you see them checking the gun check it yourself.

Rule two infringements occur often. Do not point the muzzle of a gun at anyone ever (unless they are a threat). Pistols with short barrels are difficult for people to keep track of where the muzzle is pointing. Usually you may be muzzled when people are reloading. When on the range all of my guns are on the bench, unloaded and pointing down range.

Rule three is to realize whether at the range or in a self-defense situation you are legally and financially responsible for every shot you fire. Always be aware of what is behind your target. Remember a bullet will travel through several normal walls before stopping. Who could be standing behind that wall?

Rule four is the most important. People tend to copy what they see on television and wrongly imitate. Keep your finger off of the trigger. Bullets cannot be recalled. In my CHL class when discussing this issue I show a video where the police have a man on the ground in the process of cuffing him. He is subdued. Another officer approaches with a gun drawn (with the finger on the trigger). The firearm goes off hitting the cuffed man. Anyone seeing this video rapidly learns the lesson of keeping your finger off the trigger.

You cannot neglect rules or be careless in the presence of firearms. One moment of carelessness can change, or end, a life.



Tired of dropping bundles of cash, or stymied finding ammunition after the latest government announcements causes many to scurry, stripping shelves and leaving you in the cold? Maybe you should think about reloading. Plus it is a great hobby.

I started reloading before the last two ammunition shortages. During these panics there was never a time that I could not visit the range due to ammunition shortages. I went to a local sporting goods store and saw two old men loading shopping baskets full of ammunition. Would love to know how much they were spending. I accidently ended up in line behind one of these and mentioned the economics and availability of reloading rather than hoarding however this fell on deaf ears.

First I need to clear up misunderstandings about reloading.

1.       It’s not rocket science. It is a series of repeated steps, requiring patience and focus, without distractions. This is very stress relieving as you cannot think about anything else.

2.       It’s not dangerous, if you follow common sense safety rules such as no smoking and cleaning up when finished.

3.       After the initial investment reloading does save money, if you do not shoot up your profits.

Currently 9mm 124gr JHP sell commercially starting at approx. $0.80/round. I can roll my own for $0.19/ round (if you don’t factor in my time and reusing the brass). This is a savings of approx. $0.36 per round for JHP. Your cost getting started in reloading will vary as to how deeply you jump into the hobby. For most it will be approx. $300 plus raw materials like Primers, Bullets, Powder and Brass. Approx. 850 rounds to justify the basic cost if you are the type that needs to justify the expenses. For my peace of mind I wrote it off as a birthday present and the enhanced security of keeping ammunition in stock.

I am lucky enough to belong to a range that allows us to harvest expended brass, however if you buy new brass or save what you are shooting now, it can be reused for large savings.

For instruction there are many Youtube videos examining and explain all of the steps in reloading, or you might be able to find a class. Find someone that reloads. People enjoy sharing knowledge.

Did I mention it gets you into the garage and provides peace and quiet?


Polishing the Brass

This is my favorite step in reloading. Since I have not brought any new ammo in years my brass casings come from range pickups and reusing my own. These are tarnished, dirty and sooty however will clean up into treasure.

Many ranges will not permit you to harvest any brass except your own. The reason for this is by selling brass back to metal dealers this becomes another stream of income. I belong to a private range where we are encouraged to collect brass. The only problem is getting to the range on the right times and days of the week to beat the other re-loaders.

Another possibility is buying used brass on line, at ranges, or having friends save brass for you (eventually they get the idea that they should be reloading also).

No matter where you get your brass. It accumulates. You end up with a cache of tarnished and dirty metal that will polish into heaps of gold (or at least it will seem as valuable as gold to you). New cases for pistols sell for about $0.09/round so reusing these are a significant savings.)

There are two schools of thought when cleaning brass. Some prefer de-priming the case (punching out the used primer with a de-priming die) or cleaning the brass first.

In the old days before today’s technology, people washed and cleaned brass by hand, now we have tools to make this process more efficient. These are vibratory and rotary tumblers.

Vibratory tumblers shake the cases in media (such as walnut, or corn cob grains) which wear the dirt off the cases. This process can take two to four hours.

Rotary tumblers, as the name implies, rotates the casings in a drum, usually with tiny stainless steel pins in a liquid bath.

Of the two methods Rotary is more expensive however does a better job.

A secret to getting gleaming brass is to put a capful of car polish in your media. As the tumbler wears the dirt off / out of the case the polish gives an extra glow to the cleaned cases.

Media does wear out through usage and occasionally needs to be replenished.

During this stage of reloading it is important to review each case for splits, over pressure indications and blemishes. Next sort the cleaned cases by caliber. Some people also sort their brass by head stamps to keep the same brands together.

Next article we will look at De-priming.


Making it go Bang

Primers are small inserts in the base of center fire cartridges which sparks the ignition of the gunpowder. Thus when working with Primers there is always the possibility of a small bang and Safety Glasses should be worn when working with these. I will admit in spite of the dire warnings and stories I received when learning to reload I have not yet had a Primer explode however I’m the type that always put safety first. Another safety consideration is to avoid handling Primers with bare hands as these contain a large amount of lead.

Primers are sized differently. They are designated Small Pistol, Large Pistol, Small Rifle, Large rifle and Magnum. They come in several different brands and people that reload rapidly develop their own brand preference. When ammunition gets in short supply you are usually happy to get what you can find. A case comes with 1000 primers.

The first thing to consider is De-Priming or removing the expended primer. This is accomplished with a Die in your set which punches the spent Primer out of the cartridge and at the same time re-sizes the n the cartridge to bring it back into spec. When using Carbide Dies you do not have to lube the pistol cases however rifle cases will need to be lubed.

I place a large tub below the reloading bench to try and catch Primers as they fall. This is not 100% so there is usually a little sweeping to do. Primers on the floor tend to hurt your feet if stepped on and you don’t want your wife to complain.

Once the old Primer has been removed the next step is to replace this with a new Primer. There are several hand priming tools available and I have used several of these when I started reloading then I got smart and began using the auto primer on my Turret Press. This made priming a one step process rather than two and saves a lot of time. Priming is one of those steps when performed as a separate operation can take as much as twenty minutes to insert new Primers. With the Turret Press this is included in the De-priming stroke of the Press and is not a second step.

When the new Primer is installed I place the cartridges head first in the reloading tray so all 50 of my production run can be reviewed. The things to carefully watch here is no primers were installed backwoods (upside down) and they are flush or slightly deeper than the base of the bullet.

Some problems are to be expected when doing a batch. Crushed cases, and badly set primers. Therefore to get 50 finished rounds I usually start with 53 or 54 cases as some will be rejected along the way.

Next week we will look at measuring and dropping powder.


Dropping Gunpowder

There is a huge difference between Black Powder and today’s Smokeless Powder. This was demonstrated to me by someone pouring Smokeless Powder into a can lid and igniting it. The Smokeless burned over a short period of time in a rising flame. The Black Powder when ignited created a sudden and violent explosion. Just as these are not the same so is the situation between the various smokeless powders available to us. Some burn faster and hotter than others. Powders are designed for efficacy in different caliber requirements.

First rule of using gunpowder is don’t smoke and have no local source of ignition.
Second rule is always wear safety glasses.
Third rule is do not mix different powder types. Results are not predictable.
Fourth rule is you should consult reloading guides and start loading the minimum grains recommended, while you test your loads. There is a large difference between the recommended grains of powder for each powder type and caliber to prevent over pressure in your guns.

Reloading guides follow SAAMI which is the Association of Sporting Arms and Ammunition. It provides pressure recommendations for the particular caliber and will provide an approx. bullet speed in feet/second.

There are several methods of measuring the weight of powder you are using. Powder is measured in Grains. There are 7000 grains to a pound. Whichever you use this is the time you need the most focus and concentration:

Lee provides manual calibrated dippers. It is difficult to be accurate and consistent using these.

Several manufactures provide balance beams for weighing the powder. These can be accurate though a little fidgety and time consuming.

Several manufactures have electronic digital scales which are consistent and easy to use.

If you weigh the powder for each round, this is accurate however time consuming. Several manufactures make Auto-powder measures. The secret to using these is to adjust the calibration of the Powder measure as accurate for the powder drop and weigh the result of the dropped powder. These Auto-measures are not consistent for the first five to ten drops so even after you believe you are correctly adjusted weigh some more drops until you are convinced of the accuracy. The reason for this is some powders tend to clump more than others and powders behavior can be affected by temperature and humidity. Thus the setting you were using yesterday might not be the most accurate today.

Another piece of advice is to stop every 20-25 drops and check that you are still achieving consistency.

I drop powder into all of my casings before pressing the bullet to the case. I store these with the neck up. This way I can pull out the reloading block and visual inspect the cases to ensure there were none missed (causes the famous squib) and that you did not accidently drop two loads of powder in the same case (this causes overpressure). Both squibs and over pressure rounds are dangerous.

The only step left is pressing the bullet into the case and/or crimping which will be next week’s topic.


Reloading your own ammunition – Pressing the bullet

Our previous operation which used the Die for dropping the powder, also belled the case slightly to create an appropriate size to hand fit the bullet to the case. When adjusting the bell of the case you only want this diameter to be large enough. Over stretching the case can reduce the number of times a cartridge can be reused.

Bullet loading data contains an OAL dimension which is the total length of the assembled bullet. This naturally varies by caliber. The Seating Die has two adjustments. The lower adjustment sets the depth the bullet will sit in the case while the upper adjustment sets the total overall length of the cartridge.

Insert a bullet into the mouth of a prepared case and carefully run the case into the Seating die with the bullet Seating plug. You feel the bullet contact the Seating die and be pushed a little way into the case. Stop there. Withdraw the case from the Die and note how far the bullet protrudes from the case. It is probably sticking out too far. Slowly run the case back into the seating die and gently seat the bullet a little deeper.  Use a caliper to measure the cartridge overall length. Repeat this step until the bullet is seated to the correct overall length as specified by your reloading manual.

Adjust the Seating Die for the overall length than refine this with the depth which the bullet will seat in the case. For checking operations a caliber is a valuable tool.

If you have a similar factory loaded cartridge handy, the process of adjusting the Die can be simplified. First, loosen the Seating Plug lock nut and back the bullet seating plug as far out as possible. Second, place the factory load into the shell holder and run it all the way into the Seating die. Third, screw the seating plug down into the seating die until you feel it stop against the bullet in the factory load. Tighten the seating plug lock nut.

Another great tool in checking the finished cartridge is a gauge which you plunk the cartridge into and this checks the overall diameter and length of the cartridge. If you do not have a gauge to check the cartridge another trick is to use barrel of the gun you will be using for this ammunition and plunk the cartridge into the barrel’s chamber to test for fit.

This series of articles has addressed straight sided handgun cartridges. I do not crimp the bullet when reloading as this also reduces the number of times a case can be reused.

As a recap the reloading steps are:

1.       Clean the Brass

2.       The De-prime Die punches the old primer from the case and adjusts the case size.

3.       Press the new Primer in the case.

4.       The Powder Die bells the lip of the case and drops the powder into the case.

5.       Always follow reloading guides when determining powder. Never an internet recipe.

6.       The Seating Die presses the bullet into the case.

Reloading is not rocket science however it is vital to follow commonsense safety rules and stay focused.