Ammo Shortages and
Trying to Get a Grip

The Devil in the Bevel

With millions of new gun owners buying firearms, ammunition for them is in short supply.

There’s growing concern among gun owners all over the map about another ammunition shortage — a bad thing considering hunting seasons are just around the corner and conspiracy theorists are looking for something else to argue about.

Insider Online found some interesting observations online, including one from Dan Mitchell, a firearms dealer in Vancouver, Wash. His analysis was matter-of-fact: “It’s all the new people (who) want ammo for range and defense. You can’t find bulk at all…but everyone is wanting some. That demand has shifted the curve.”

True enough; there are an estimated 5 million new gun owners since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out six months ago.

Several gun owners indicated on social media they have started reloading their own ammunition, but component availability is also low. Others are reporting good inventories of ammunition, having stocked up last year when there were no social or health problems.

One guy wrote, “I reload and have been stockpiling since the Clinton administration. Have only bought a few boxes of self-defense ammo.” Another claimed to have not purchased factory ammunition “for years,” and a third guy declared, “If you are not casting bullets and buying primers, gun powder in bulk then you are not in the game.”

So, there!

The Devil in the Bevel

Okay, Insider has finally given up — but it’s not for a lack of trying to track down the answer to a mystery that has dogged me for years.

Readers will recall my column from 2019 describing my two-year project to carve and craft a set of elk antler grips for a Ruger Blackhawk single action. When I finished those grip panels the butt surface was flat to match the flat frame. But somewhere along the line, somebody started putting a bevel on the bottoms of single-action grip panels. The angles can range from modest to radical. I’ve heard all sorts of explanations about this design. None make much sense.

Workman thinks flat-bottom grips (left) are more comfortable for recoil management than beveled bottoms (right).

Long story short, in my humble opinion — having carried and used single-action sixguns for decades — the grip bevel is one of the stupidest, and in some cases most annoying, design modifications to come along since, maybe, the tailfins on a 1957 Plymouth. Depending upon the degree of the bevel angle, the upper ridge of this bevel can pound into your palm during recoil, especially on checkered grips.

I have a few different sets of grips for my N-frame Smith & Wesson revolvers and all are flat on the butt, even the factory specimens. While the factory grips on my vintage Colt Python have a very slight bevel, they’re not offensive either in feel or appearance.

Some years ago, I acquired a set of aftermarket imitation ivory grips with the Ruger medallion for the Blackhawk that are flat on the bottom. They have served me well over the years, and they’ve got a healthy thickness that helps spread recoil over a wider area of my palm.

If someone can explain why the bevel was added, let me know. If there’s a logical explanation, I’ll share it in this space.

And this brings us around to…

Workman likes the wider grip surface on this set of ‘bonded ivory’ grips.

Thick does the Trick

Not long after acquiring a Ruger New Vaquero in .45 Colt, I acquired a set of yellow “aged ivory” grips, à la the “John Wayne” look.

That bright yellow shows up really well in the event the gun takes a spill in the brush (don’t ask how I know this), and when the grips showed up, they were rather on the thin side. I contacted the manufacturer to say I needed something about twice as thick and learned this thin style was popular with Cowboy Action shooters.

Competitors shoot light loads because recoil is lighter and it helps them keep their sights on the target and doesn’t hamper accuracy — plus, your powder goes farther if you load your own cartridges. However, not everyone packs a single-action sixgun for shooting games. Again, in my humble opinion, thin grip panels aren’t developed for shooting handguns with full-house loads.

A thin grip looks good and feels good in the hand, but recoil is directed at a narrower part of the grip hand.

About 35 years ago, I bought a set of bonded ivory grips for a Smith & Wesson Model 57 that had a palm swell on both sides. Very comfortable shooting followed. About five years back, I purchased a newer set of faux ivory grips that were thinner, and one panel developed a nasty crack that became a break.

Magnum recoil requires a broader surface area to spread felt recoil to a wider area of the gun hand. I left my elk antler grip panels thicker and shooting that Blackhawk with full-house magnum loads doesn’t bother me a bit.

It’s Got to Fit

Your mileage may vary, of course, as not all hands are the same.

For example, the late, great Elmer Keith preferred genuine ivory “magna” type grips on his .44 Magnums. I’ve tried that grip style and without a Tyler-T adapter, touching off a full cylinder of .41 Magnums can be brutal.

If one looks closely at Keith’s carved ivory grips, they feature a steer’s head that rises out from the grip surface. This artwork is actually functional, as it substitutes for a palm swell. Smart guy, that Keith!

Whenever I get a new handgun to test, I might spend days just holding the sidearm until the grip “marries” to my gun hand. Only then do I head for the range and start shooting.

Fit is as important to a handgun as are reliable sights. If it’s uncomfortable to shoot a handgun, you’re not going to invest much range time developing proficiency — an important lesson for shooters new and seasoned.

On the Legal Front

The Second Amendment Foundation and Defense Distributed, a Texas-based firm involved in providing information about 3D printing, won an important ruling in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in a case dealing with an effort to publish online information about producing 3D guns.

This is a First Amendment case and the defendant is New Jersey state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. He has been working, along with a handful of other Attorney Generals, to prevent Defense Distributed from publishing the information.

In a unanimous decision last month, the Court ruled that Grewal is “subject to the jurisdiction of Texas courts.” He’d been trying to avoid being sued in the Texas federal, courts, but this ruling may have nipped that in the bud.

Grewal and his colleagues had sued in District Court in Western Washington in hopes of getting an injunction preventing the State Department from authorizing Defense Distributed to publish the information.

SAF’s Alan Gottlieb poked fun at Grewal observing, “No one is above the law or the Constitution, not even Attorney General Grewal.

A federal court panel in California ruled the state’s ban on
“large capacity magazines” violates the Second Amendment.

Then Came the Mag Ban Ruling

Down in California, a three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals handed a nasty defeat to the gun prohibition lobby and anti-gun politicians in Sacramento when it ruled 2-1 a couple of weeks ago that the state ban on “high capacity” ammunition magazines is unconstitutional.

For the handgunners whose sidearms are designed to accept 12 to 17-round magazines, this was definitely good news. Anti-gunners, on the other hand, treated the news as though they’d all checked positive for Coronavirus.

Don’t celebrate too fast, however. By now, there could be a state demand for an en banc hearing before a full court panel.

The case is known as Duncan v. Becerra, brought by the California Rifle & Pistol Association with support from the National Rifle Association. The majority opinion was written by Circuit Judge Kenneth K. Lee, a Donald Trump appointee. He was joined by Circuit Judge Consuelo M. Callahan, a George W. Bush appointee. Dissenting was District Judge Barbara M.G. Lynn, a Bill Clinton appointee.

See, elections do matter!