Sonoran Desert Institute

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Here’s Why Constitution Day is the Biggest Holiday You’re Not Celebrating

The Fourth of July, or more properly Independence Day, is one of the biggest holidays on the American calendar. We mark it with parades, fanfare, fireworks, and of course, almost uniformly eating like starting on the fifth none of us will be permitted to ever eat food again.

That’s not a complaint — I like brats.

However you choose to note the day, there’s perfectly good reason for raucous celebration. It’s the day we declared independence from England, for crying out loud! We abandoned the rule of a monarch in one of the greatest blows struck for freedom in history.

So why is it then, that the day of the creation of our form of government — the very thing that we ultimately left monarchy for —  is far less visible to the public eye?

In fairness, the Untied States Constitution isn’t what many believed it would turn out to be — initially, we had the Articles of Confederation. These articles were ratified in 1781, and they didn’t last all that long. The intentional weakening of the national congress made their jobs just about impossible.

That didn’t go well, and you’ll remember from your high school history class how Shay’s Rebellion served as a stark warning that the federal government might need to do fun things like collect the funds they desperately needed to maintain a country’s functionality. What’s often not mentioned, additionally, is the Newburgh conspiracy.

The Newburgh conspiracy is one of the largest threats to the United States we’ve ever had, and it’s relatively unknown. In short, officers in the Continental Army and members of Congress attempted to instigate something akin to a coup, wherein states would be forced to grant more powers to Congress, who would in turn raise the cash that soldiers, extremely nervous about actually getting paid, would receive.

You can thank George Washington for shutting that down, but that’s an entirely different story.

So here we are, in 1787, with a weak amalgamation of states, a broke national government, a near-coup, and a failed rebellion. Obviously, something’s gotta give.

In May 1787, Philadelphia hosted a meeting of some of the greatest minds of the time to create the historic Constitutional Convention, and of course, the first thing they decided to do was ignore their mandate to amend the Articles of Confederation and create something new from scratch.

The rest is, well, history.

I won’t quote to you the entirety of the Constitution, or even paraphrase it — it’s lengthy, and dollars to donuts you know all about it already. What? You don’t? In that case, take some time and read it using the link here.

What you’ll want to take away, here, is this:

Today — September 17th, is Constitution Day, to mark the signing of the United States Constitution back in 1787.  Without what happened in Philadelphia on that day, we very likely not only would not have grown to the nation we have today, we probably would be either a territory or oblast of another power.

In other words, Constitution Day is every bit as important as Independence Day — we might even consider it an extension of the same.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go rustle up some brats.

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WATCH: Army Tests Out Hawkeye 105 mm Howitzer

The United States Army recently tested out the Hawkeye 105 mm Howitzer mobile artillery system, developed by the Mandus Group, and man — it looks sweet.

How do I know it looks sweet? Well, a video showing some of that testing in slow motion made its way to Twitter and, well — it’s really, really nice.

Besides it being a big old boom stick with a great capability to reach out and touch, this weapons system is special because of the way it can make its way around the battlefield.

This baby was built to ride on a Humvee.

The “Mandus Group is proud to announce it has teamed with AM General to create the lightest weight, most maneuverable self-propelled howitzer in the world today,” the Mandus Group reported in a statement.

“AM General recognized that the unique “hybrid soft recoil” technology incorporated into the Hawkeye howitzer was a game changing development for artillery in general, especially for self-propelled artillery. Up to now, self-propelled artillery has been mounted on heavy vehicles in order to absorb the extreme shock of recoil from the howitzer.

“These heavy self-propelled howitzers are limited in their ability to be transported to the battlefield and also in their ability to maneuver on the battlefield due to their heavy weight… There simply is no other self-propelled howitzer in the world today that offers the strategic and tactical flexibility that the Hawkeye/HMMWV brings to the fight.”

It’s true — one of the greatest problems facing militaries since the days of antiquity has been getting on and off the battlefield in a timely order and deploying them where they will be the most effective.

Now, American artillery has long been on the cutting edge of this particular line of technology, if they haven’t been the edge.

If use of this weapons system became widespread, I’d imagine we’d be in solid command of that edge for a while.

If you want the nitty-gritty specs, you can take a look here. For those who just want to see something go “Boom!”, just look below.

As Task&Purpose’s Brad Howard noted: “Utilizing an inventive hydraulic system to reduce recoil, the Hawkeye was designed to lighten a tried-and-true artillery solution enough to allow such a large cannon on a small platform.

“It can fire up to eight rounds per minute via remote for three minutes or three rounds per minute sustained, and the mobility of the Humvee allows a small crew of between two and four to rapidly deploy the suspension system, fire, and get out of dodge within 60 seconds — or before counter-battery fire can hit back.”

That’s extra nice if you have to be the person worried about counter-battery fire, not that the United States has had to be real worried about the superiority of their artillery for the past few decades.

This is, however, a fantastic way to take tech we’re already using — the ultra-wildly utilized Humvee — and integrate it with improvements to American war-fighting capability to keep it relevant for years to come.

What do you think about this new equipment? Please share this article on Facebook and Twitter and let us know! Keep and eye out for our next installment on military tech!

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Patriot Day: a Remembrance

Everyone remembers September 11, 2001 differently.

I was in grade school at the time of the attacks, which I consider a mercy, but the most profound impression I remember were the faces of all of the adults around us, especially the parents that for some reason came in a wave to pick their kids up from school that day.

The teachers didn’t tell us — they judged us too young to handle that one without our parents, which was reasonable. When I got home, however, I was treated to that impact footage that was placed on repeat for a seeming eternity thereafter.

And no one said anything.

I can vividly remember thinking, as a kid, “Are my cousins alive?”

I had an aunt, an uncle, and two cousins that lived in the New York suburbs. I wasn’t old enough to understand what portions of the area were in danger, so I just thought I had lost a third of my extended family.

And there are much, much worse stories. I have an in-law that didn’t die that day because he woke up ten minutes late — and he still was put through the trauma of the attack as the aftermath unfolded right in front of his face.

And yet, through all that, both he and I are extremely lucky.

Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks — that’s hundreds of thousands of people whose lives were rocked, and I don’t think there was a single American that wasn’t affected to some degree that day.

It was a black day.

It was also one of our nation’s finest moments.

From out of the woodwork, men and women poured to help those injured and struggling to stay alive. One of the planes terrorists planned to weaponize was brought down in Pennsylvania when the passengers flat-out refused to be victims. 343 Firefighters gave their lives protecting and rescuing and protecting others during the attack, according to Business Insider.

Every once in a while — and may the spaces between these crises grow ever-extended — the American people are given a difficult option: remain entrenched in our divisions and fear, or band together to make real change.

We’ve got a record, and a nation, to be immensely proud of.

Today, Patriot Day, is so important for two reasons, really. You might still see the occasional sign or bumper sticker with the line “never forget.” There are two things to never forget.

  1. Never forget the tragedy and sacrifice of thousands of men and women that lost their lives on September 11, 2001.
  2. Never forget what the American people are capable of when radical love, sacrifice, and service is required of them.

I’ll never forget either.

Please share this on Facebook and Twitter and help us remind folks why today is so important!

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British Army to Cerakote Entire Infantry’s “Weapons Fleet”

Militaries evolve constantly, even if some would argue that they don’t change rapidly enough to reflect the times. Most of the time, that manifests itself in tiny changes that accumulate over time. Sometimes it’s something much larger, like finally fleeing the ACU-style camouflage for something much, much better.

One of the United Kingdom’s newest developments might not be as massive as a new tank model, but it’s big enough news for folks under combat arms, and what’s more — it’s highly visible.

The entire British infantry’s “weapons fleet,” as the British Army’s Soldier magazine termed it, is going to be going Flat Dark Earth — one of the better-known Cerakote colors and likely one some of you have at your hip or in your safe right now!

I won’t lie — it’s one of my personal favorites, and I’m extremely excited.

The British have a history of coloring their small arms to match where they’re going. As The Firearm Blog notes, “The British Army has a long history of painting weapons suitable colours for operational environments but the new initiative is set to see a shift to a new default weapon colour.”



British Army/MOD

What we’re seeing, essentially, is the hope to realize a military philosophy as conveniently as possible.

It seems as though the United Kingdom has a belief that it’s important to see to it small arms are brought to match the environment, just like a uniform ought to.

That’s both a good a idea and a big ol’ pain, re-working or re-issuing firearms as troops are rotated to different locations. The desire for a workaround is absolutely justifiable.

Here, we can see a colorization that will match its environment in nearly all environments, which is one of the reasons FDE is so gosh-darn popular.

Virtus L85A3

British Army/MOD

Major John Anthistle of the Equipment Directorate told Soldier that “The SA80A3 was the first weapon to be painted with this — it is hard wearing and resistant to the elements. As a result, it will enhance durability and the user’s camouflage as the black bodies stand out significantly against the PCS [the British Army’s current multi-terrain pattern Personal Clothing System] background.”

It’s a legitimate concern. I don’t think I have ever heard an American veteran complain about the color of their firearm, but I can certainly concede that I haven’t spoken to every veteran that’s ever served and this could well be a problem that I haven’t yet stumbled across.

The British are looking to act on this soon, lending more credence to the theory that to them, this is real important stuff.

“They will be painted this year but the size of the fleet is so vast users will see a mix of black and brown weapons for a number of years to come,” Anthistle noted.

What do you think? Is this something that the British are just smarter about than we are? Please share this on Facebook and Twitter, tag a friend or three, and let us know!

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Shooting Sports Month Highlight: Bullseye Shooting

August is National Shooting Sports Month!

In honor of this auspicious occasion, we’re going to spend some time looking at different aspects of shooting sports — maybe one will pique your interest!

Today, we’re going to take a look into one of the most basic forms of competition shooting: bullseye shooting.

Bullseye shooting is a category of competitive shooting in which shooters are given a fixed amount of time in which to put shots on a target as close to the center as possible.

This sport requires the use of slow, precision fire, and as such could easily been seen as one of the more daunting of shooting sports categories — we’re talking a lot of pressure, all at once.

At the same time, as mentioned before, this is a very basic form of competitive shooting, with a large emphasis placed on your shooting fundamentals: sight picture, trigger control, breath control. Because you have a long time relative to other shooting sports events, competitors should nail these basics, but even if you can master the pressure, you’re up against a myriad of similarly-skilled shooters hitting bulls-eyes left and right.

You can see some incredible bullseye shooting with the NRA precision pistol events, and a mass of International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) events.

Let’s take a look at what they have:

  • ISSF 10 Meter Air Rifle
  • ISSF 50 Meter Rifle Prone
  • ISSF 50 Meter Rifle Three Positions
  • ISSF 300 Meter Standard Rifle
  • ISSF 300 Meter Rifle Prone
  • ISSF 300 Meter Rifle 3 Positions

The shorter ranges listed above are shot with small-bore rifles, where the longer distances are shot with larger bore rifles. The ISSF also has multiple pistol events:

  • ISSF 10 Meter Air Pistol
  • ISSF 25 Meter Pistol
  • ISSF 25 Meter Standard Pistol
  • ISSF 25 Meter Rapid Fire Pistol
  • ISSF 50 Meter Pistol
  • ISSF 25 Meter Center-Fire Pistol

Those falling outside of the center-fire and air pistol events are shot in .22LR.

Shooting sports are not just a fun way for experienced shooters to strut their stuff — they’re a fantastic way to introduce new shooters to the world of firearms.

Precision marksmanship might not be the immediate entry point for someone unfamiliar with firearms — if it is, more power to them! — but because of its simple, straightforward nature, bullseye shooting, or simply practicing putting shots on paper, especially with low-recoil firearms, is an easy-to-grasp activity with a built-in metric for success without too much pressure out of the competitive spotlight.

Take time this month to catch up with that friend (or three) that has said they want to give shooting a chance, but haven’t yet gotten around to it. I promise, the time invested will be well worth-it.

What do you think? Please share this story on Facebook and Twitter and let us know!

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Revealed: SDI’s Master Gunsmith Explains Which Firearms Are Put in for Repair Most Often

Pretty much every type of firearm will find its way to a gunsmith for modification and/or repair at some point or another, but as we all know — some firearms will inevitably end up being in need of repair more often than others.

Curious about the topic, I reached out to SDI Master Gunsmith Kip Carpenter and posed the question to him: what firearms end up being turned in for repair the most?

The answer surprised me:

“Probably the most typical firearm that comes in for repair is the 12 ga shotgun… I really did not mind working on any but if I was going to pick my least favorite it would be the cheap pistols in 25 cal/.380 that are prone to have trouble from the factory,” he said.

Now, one of those categories of firearms doesn’t surprise me too much. Sometimes you can get a cheap firearm that really works for you — often, they’re just junk.

The other one does! I asked Kip what brands of shotguns ended up in sickbay the most often, and I was surprised again:

“Really the Remington, Mossbergs, Winchesters, and Bellini’s are the most common but you get all kinds,” he noted.

A Marine with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division loads a Mossberg 500 shotgun during a training exercise June 06, 2013. During the exercise, the Marines refreshed their patrolling, obstacle breaching and dynamic entry with shotgun skills.

I have to say — that surprised me. When I think “reliable,” I think Mosin Nagant first (out of a shameless bias), then firearms that require some muscle to chamber rounds! Any kind of revolver, pump action, bolt action, or even lever action firearm would seem to me to be the surest-fire way to ensure your gun was out of sick bay.

Plus, my first gun was a Mossberg, and the brand loyalty is real, folks.

Of course, in this day and age, all guns are more and more reliable as we go on. As the firearms market expands, the less collective tolerance we have for sub-par product. If you take that into account, what ends up in shop for repair becomes more of a numbers game — how many people keep 12 gauge shotguns around the house?

Quite a few — literally millions.

That’s good for everybody. It makes us safer and happier, and firearms manufacturers’ reputations grow all the more sterling.

Sometimes, however, you just get a freaking lemon.

The American Rifleman has a great five-step course of action to take if you’ve accidentally gotten a firearm that just doesn’t work.

1. Take it Back to the Seller

Of course, as with any other product, the first impulse we all have is to take it back to the seller. There’s nothing wrong with giving it a shot — even if that just means giving them a call and telling them about the issue.

Each shop, however, has got their own policy when it comes to returns, the primary reason being that any gun leaving a gun shop becomes used goods right away — just like when you buy a car. Best way to prevent being stuck up a creek is a thorough examination before purchasing a firearm.

However, if you just get a raw deal, you can always go to step #2:

2. Contact the Manufacturer

Before trying your hand at the firearm (like we all have the impulse to do), give the manufacturer a call. Often firearms warranties for new guns can be voided when you get into a gun’s guts. Even if your gun is used but recently made, it’s worth checking for a warranty.

3. Repair It Yourself

It’s easy to want to skip to this step if you’re a student at SDI, but it’s better to progress down the chain as described. At this point, however, it’s time to see what you can do. If you can identify the part that’s broken or issue at hand and feel confident in your skill and ability to rectify it, make the gun usable again. Please be aware of what you can do, however, and what you need more practice in. Don’t be afraid to call in some help!

4. Visit the Repair Shop

Just like we discussed before, if you feel like you are out of your depth, don’t be afraid to call for backup! A reputable gunsmith can go a long way not only in repairing your firearm, but boosting your skill set, as well!

5. When All Else Fails: Sell It for Parts

If your gun has gone from “Bang!” to “paperweight,” and there just doesn’t seem like there’s anything you can do to fix the fundamentally ruined firearm, you can always sell for parts! This, of course, is a last resort option, not one you need to be considering unless you’ve checked all four steps above.

What do you think? Please share this story on Facebook and Twitter and let us know!

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Know Your Firearms History: M1 Garand Successfully Tested by the U.S. Military

It’s time to talk about the rifle everyone wants and loves — it’s time to talk about the M1 Garand.

Image result for m1 garand

That’s right, folks. Our first look into firearms history is going to target the gun, the myth, and the legend. The M1 Garand was famously called by General George Patton the “greatest battle implement ever devised,” and although its viability on today’s battlefield would likely be debated, there’s no question that in its day it was a force to be reckoned with.

According to the National Parks Service, development of a semi-automatic rifle that would give the United States an edge in combat in her next war — a war that just happened to be the grandest in scale in human history — began very quickly after the first world war.

Springfield Armory’s now-legendary John Garand had developed a rifle that would be adopted as the M1 in 1932. That rifle was finally approved for procurement in 1935 and standardized in the Army in 1936 — although the first production model was finally proof-fired, function-fired, and fired for accuracy on July 21, 1937, according to Olive Drab.

Image result for m1 garand

That rifle would be produced until 1957, and its numbers are staggering.

5.4 million were made over its production run, according to Olive Drab, of which 3.1 million were created by World War II’s end, the National Parks Service noted. The rifle saw use in three American wars — World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. In fact, the rifle still manages to turn up in conflicts all around the world today.

Let’s take a look into the gun’s nitty-gritty details:

  • Action: self-loading, gas-action piston
  • Caliber: 30-06 Springfield
  • Operation Feed: 8-round internal clip
  • Overall Length: 43.43 inches
  • Barrel Length: 23.98 inches
  • Weight: 9.63 lbs
  • Muzzle Velocity: 2,800 ft./second
  • Range: 440 yards

It’s worth noting that the above statistics, including the range, are from — other sources, including Range365, put the effective range out to 500 yards, and if you hop onto YouTube you’ll see folks doing some pretty impressive shooting at far beyond 500 yards:

That’s some pretty nice shooting!

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “How can I add one of these gorgeous rifles to my arsenal?”

Well, you’re in luck! As of the time of this reporting, not only does popular website contain multiple Garand listings, but the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) still has a few rifles for sale, some of which are on sale for as low as $650.

If you feel like reviewing your firearm purchase in person, M1 Garands are frequently in the inventory of many used gun shops, and I don’t think I’ve ever once gone to a gun show where there wasn’t at least half a dozen for sale — often at comical markups.

Whether you wish to take one to the range or leave one in the past, there’s no doubt that this iconic rifle not only has contributed to our history, but the victorious outcome of the Second World War and subsequently the safeguarding of the free world.

What do you think? Please share this on Facebook and Twitter and let us know!

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National Sports Shooting Month Highlight: Theo Susuras

Some shooters have been shooting their entire lives. For others, they didn’t begin to live until they started shooting. It was only five years ago that Theo Susuras started shooting and he’s only been competitively shooting for three years. In that short span, Theo went from “not a big gun person” to an award winning professional shooter.

If you’ve read Theo’s first feature with us, then you know his previous employer introduced a hesitant Theo to the wonderful world of firearms. After his first time out shooting, Theo became instantly hooked. Theo decided to take his love for the sport and turn it into more than a hobby by becoming a professional shooter. In honor of National Sports Shooting Month, we asked Theo what his favorite competition was and he answered quicker than you can fire a pistol.

“The open division is the formula one of racing guns. It is the all out anything goes division, focusing only on the speed and skill of the shooter. That is why I shoot in the open division,” says Theo.
Theo’s passion for competitive shooting has grown tremendously and he can already see the fruits of his labor beginning to blossom. This can clearly be shown in his favorite memory of shooting. Last year, Theo competed at the highest level and took first place in the open division at the Rio Salado Desert Classic. Keep in mind he has only been shooting for half a decade and competing even less.

While the open division is his favorite, Theo isn’t going to limit himself in his pursuit of greatness. Other than the open division, he’s also dabbled in 3-Gun, a competition involving a pistol, shotgun, and rifle.

“My experience with 3-Gun has been brief, but I have enjoyed every second of it!”

Between 3-Gun competitions and USPSA, Theo goes through about 3,000 rounds a month. His newest love my be pricey, but luckily for him he’s got a great job!

“Since my first day at SDI, I have felt like a part of the family. I was invited in and greeted with smiles and a helping hand!”

As an Admissions Representative at SDI Theo helps other who share his passion for firearms pursue their dreams just like he’s living his.

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