CLASSES - FIREARMS - AMMO - HOLSTERS - ACCESSORIES - MORE
Self Defense and Liberty
Millions of defensive uses of firearms each year save lives and property.
Pistol Safety Class for the Minnesota Permit to Carry a pistol
Advanced Defensive Handgun Techniques for Accuracy, Power, and Speed
Expert Weapons Tactics In the Home, Car, Street, and Outdoors
Reloading and Bullet Casting for Economy and Accuracy
Contact Gunthorp for the Instructor Certification Course
For locations and fees see: Class schedules
Instructor: F. Gardner Behrends
Pictured above is the Harpers Ferry 1807 Pistol in 58 caliber. Commissioned by the then young United States Army, it was the first US martial pistol. The Harpers Ferry arsenal built about four thousand which were highly prized by the officers lucky enough to be issued them. With a classic design dating back to the buccaneers and an abundance of brass furnishings, this handsome flintlock sidearm was nevertheless modern for its time, and sported a very accurate ten inch rifled barrel. Firing a 280 grain round ball, and later a 460 grain mini developed for the Civil War era rifles, its power approximates that of the 45 auto of today. Proud of their accomplishment, the US Army still uses two of these Harpers Ferry pistols crossed on the insignia of the US Army Military Police.
The fully functional replica of this historical legend is available for purchase in the black powder section under firearms.
Where to Begin
Although avoidance is paramount, self defense skills without a weapon are to be practiced, and physical fitness should be the cornerstone of survival training, I have limited my advanced instruction to the last resort of deadly force, the most efficient use of the handgun. Those of us who feel disadvantaged by age, small size, or physical handicap can be comforted by the security a firearm endows the proficient student. Instruction will accelerate the learning curve, but the art of the handgun may be self learned when the serious student has access to the right information, equipment, and shooting facilities. The primary benefit of professional instruction is that bad habits can be avoided or corrected early on. It is highly recommended that the novice seek instruction for the basics. The advanced student should keep in mind the rules of safety and trim any excess or unnecessary motions during the draw and shots. Instructor's qualifications, credentials, shooting competition honors, and titles are good criteria when choosing courses of study. You can be assured that the basics will be presented properly as you begin to build a solid foundation. The ultimate test in any study uses your common sense. As you learn new concepts, use common sense to fit them into the body of knowledge already gained. Use common sense to discard both old and new ideas that don't seem to fit your personal situation. Use common sense when structuring your individual training exercises. Use common sense when evaluating your skill level, so you don't try to run before you are walking on solid ground. Above all, use common sense to stay safe. Because you are reading this, congratulations, you are already a survivor. Thousands of survivors in your own family genealogy back to your cave family defenders against saber tooth tigers are all applauding you.
A great four part article series about buying a first handgun, published in the Backwoods Home Magazine , written by a woman for women, by Claire Wolfe titled "Miss Fritz buys a gun" appears on the links page along with Janis Cortese's Gun Info for Women , another good introduction to the realm of handguns and self defense. Here is another opinion on selecting a first gun, and another. Please explore the Gunthorp web and links, as both basic and advanced topics are sprinkled throughout. Enjoy and be a safe harbor for your loved ones.
Napoleon's Personal Carry Double Barrel Flintlock
For those lacking arm or grip strength, here is a simple technique that enables even the most frail to rack the most difficult slides of small, double action only autos. Grasp the pistol tightly, but in a normal fashion, in the hand of the outstretched strong arm, pointing down in a safe direction. Cant or twist the gun sideways so the top of the slide faces the weak hand. Angle the muzzle a few degrees toward the strong side. Stretch out the weak arm and grasp the slide tightly at the serrations. Use the whole length of the thumb alongside the slide, and curl the fingers so they all can find a place to grasp on the other side. Keeping arms straight, put pressure to hold the hands together and rock the shoulders to push the frame forward and to the strong side while holding the slide. Always release the slide so it snaps back on its own while you maintain control of the muzzle direction with your shooting hand. And as a last resort, fold a piece of leather or rubber over the slide as an aid to the grip. Don't be afraid of slide resistance as a factor in gun selection. Instead, if the decision has been made to acquire a semi-auto for personal protection, consider foremost those features in the pistol that will make it totally reliable, comfortable to wear, and effectively powerful.
It has surprised many permit holders that they begin to carry more than they had anticipated when first they took the class. From a realization that victimization is more prevalent than generally reported, contrasted with the fact that the police owe no duty to protect the individual, the idea of self reliant preservation takes hold. After an unobtrusive means to carry has been found, the feeling that one can defend oneself is surely comforting. And after some time spent with a weapon, the apprehension and novelty wear off, leaving one more relaxed about the routine availability of the defensive tool. This is no way gives us permission to dismiss the precepts of safety and proper gun etiquette. But the logic of always having at hand the means of survival in a dangerous environment is inescapable. If one carries only on certain occasions, how can one be sure they have guessed right? The irony of spending so much time and money on survival, then not having that very tool when needed, should not be the last thought before going unconscious during an attack. A thoughtful citizen, however, will be an asset to his neighbors and a bulwark to homeland defense. As more millions of us start to carry, criminals, predators, and terrorists will find their work less rewarding.
The means to effect comfortable carry will involve the pistol's size and weight, the location about the body, the holster, belt, and the choice of apparel. Some compromises will have to be made, but never to the point of having to look dowdy. I've categorized carry into three situations: woods, city, and deep cover. I'll openly carry a magnum caliber in the woods in a shoulder holster for a heavy single action revolver, or a belt holster for a short, titanium or scandium double action magnum revolver, and use a weather shell or raincoat to cover it if the weather is cool enough. In the city, I'll carry a concealed .45 Combat Commander or lightweight Kimber .45 Ultra Carry inside my waistband at about 3:30 to 4 o'clock. Finally, I'll carry a tiny PM40, R9mm, or Kel-tec 380 in a pocket holster for deep cover. These modes of carry have proved to be the best for me, and naturally, I have chosen the most effective cartridges available for the smallest and lightest arms.
What works for me may not be optimum for another. A woman has not only a different physique but also a different agenda. Long fingernails and lots of jewelry can interfere with the defensive mission. Some accommodation must be made if clothing will conceal a chunk of steel, alloy, and plastic. A woman is more likely to work in a "guns banned" zone even though statistics show driveways and parking lots are the most dangerous. She must leave her gun in the car, violating rule #5, "maintain control of your weapon," and walk unarmed through the parking facility both to and from work. Walking in groups is recommended. A small, fast access, handgun safe is recommended for both home and auto use.
Once armed, a woman or man can enjoy a degree of liberty that the gun banners must secretly envy, because she or he now has less to fear. This is true especially when one is vigilant and has spent time learning and practicing with a handgun of sufficient power. Just as a man can practice controlling a light weight, .44 magnum revolver, a woman can learn to shoot a light weight .45 Auto with impressive results. There are those who say that shot placement is everything, and that caliber doesn't count for that much. I have had the pleasure to shoot quite a variety of calibers, and I agree with them. Shot placement is everything for the smaller cartridges. But because I have seen what the bigger, heavier bullets can do, I prefer a well placed .45 ACP, .41 mag, or better. Why settle for less when your precious life is at issue? To do it right, more practice may be required.
The best practice comes when you hit something. That's why I like to shoot the target .22's. Eventually you'll be hitting with the .45, too, if you wish. A $300 Kimber .22 conversion kit for the 45 auto makes a nice combo, because you're used to the same grip and trigger release when shooting either caliber. It fits 4 and 5 inch autos, but not the 3 inch Ultra CDP or Ultra Carry. That's too bad, because that is the pistol I recommend for the gals who can afford it. Federal makes some low recoil, personal defense .45 ACP ammo, and Cor-Bon makes very powerful and effective .45 DPX ammunition.
Most serious defense students and professionals carry the .40 S&W or the .45 ACP as the primary gun. In addition to a spare magazine, they carry a smaller backup gun like a light 38 Special, 9mm, or 380. Some feel that reloading could be too time consuming, and grabbing the backup, called the New York reload, would be preferable. I feel that practicing to reload the primary, from cover, is best. Finally, they’re sure to have a small, powerful flashlight, a knife, and a cell phone. Even older, inactivated cell phones can still call 911 if their batteries are maintained. Each tool requires practice, and the ability to transition from one to another needs more practice. The ability to improvise in a tense situation is facilitated by a familiarity with all the weapons at hand.
Like swimming, starting at the shallow end of the pool and mastering a few basics, you can't get over your head, as long as you can float, do the backstroke, and observe prudent safety procedures.
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