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Steve Comus' Blog

    Steve Comus is a former Guns and Hunting Editor at WON. Before joining the staff at Western Outdoors more than a quarter-century ago he had a complete career as a frontline journalist with the L.A. afternoon daily Herald-Examiner, including quite a bit of foreign correspondence and years of investigative assignments.

    Since he took a break from WON, he has written articles for most of the major publications in the shooting sports industry, authored a couple of books and published a couple of others, spent a while as editor of Gun World magazine and is currently director of publications for Safari Club International.

     His writings focus on guns and shooting and all of the things that affect them, as well. 
Liberty ammo: f-a-a-s-t stuff
When it comes to home or self-defense, the object is to stop whatever the threat is. There also are other things to consider, as well.

Self-defense ammo has seen more meaningful development in recent years than in all of the history of Gundom combined. On the leading edge in this arena is Liberty Ammunition, which makes some of the world’s highest velocity handgun rounds.

LIBERTY AMMUNITION WORKED great in Ruger Vaquero revolver chambered for the .45 Long Colt cartridge.

Liberty Ammunition has done its homework and come up with an entire line of really high performance ammo that focuses on a combination of bullet material, bullet design and velocity that results in maximum terminal effect at minimum felt recoil. That’s a lot to ask for. It is delivered.

“Liberty’s performance across virtually every metric from accuracy, penetration, terminal effects, stopping power and effective range is unmatched,” the company reported.

Although Liberty makes high performance ammo for all popular centerfire handgun cartridges, I figured it would be interesting to see what happens when one takes a 19th Century cartridge known for sending a very heavy bullet out of the barrel at moderate velocity and transforms it into a whiz-bang, super high velocity 21st Century defense round.

So, I checked out Liberty’s .45 Long Colt load that sends a 78-grain copper, monolithic, hollow-point fragmenting bullet out of the barrel at 1,800 feet per second (compare that to the original .45 Long Colt loading of 255-grain lead bullet at 930 fps). To check out the Liberty load, I used one of my Ruger Vaquero single-action revolvers. The Liberty loads shot as well through that handgun as anything else I shoot through it, so that part of the performance went without a hitch.

THE AMMO FRAGMENTS violently when it hits. This is what is left of one of the Liberty Ammunition .45 Long Colt loads after fired into water.

Also, there was a noticeable difference in felt recoil. It was less with the Liberty load than with a standard 250-grain load at roughly 900 feet per second. However, the Liberty load was also a little snappier – logical, given the fact that it goes out a lot faster. Bottom line: The Liberty load is totally shootable in that it hits where the shooter looks and doesn’t kick as much in the process.

One consideration when it comes to defensive ammo is over-penetration where the bullet goes through the target, but still has enough velocity and energy to go through, say, a wall, and then possibly hurt an unintended target on the far side. This Liberty ammo eliminates virtually all of those kinds of concerns.

Yet, when it hits the intended target, it delivers roughly three times the terminal effect. Something to think about. It delivers less recoil than a traditional .45 Long Colt, taking the discomfort out of range practice and making the big bore caliber manageable for all levels of shooters.

Liberty Ammunition currently offers 9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, .380 Auto, .38 Special, .357 Magnum, 10 mm Auto, .45 Long Colt and .223 Rem in its Civil Defense line and .308 Win in its Animal Instincts hunting line.

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Steve Comus is a nationally recognized hunting editor with Safari Club International and a former WON Guns and Hunting Editor. His column appears every other week in WON and he can be reached at

GOING HOG WILD is what happens when Liberty Ammo hits a ham – things fly apart.

Eyes ’n Ears need protection while shooting
Say what? Can’t hear you.

It is a good idea to use eye and ear protection anytime shooting is involved. Often, it is required – like at shooting ranges.

Although veteran shooters usually have acquired specific eye and ear protection that is customized to fit their normal shooting situations, what about new or infrequent shooters?

While at the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trades (SHOT) Show earlier this year, I stopped by the Howard Leight booth. This company is a big name in hearing protection for all kinds of situations, not just the shooting sports – although they also are a big factor in this industry.

While discussing various products with the Howard Leight folks, my eyes fixed upon an otherwise unassuming package that contained both shooting glasses and earmuffs. Hmmm. Just the ticket for a lot of folks. It was the Howard Leight Shooting Safety Combo Kit – available at many places, including Turner’s Outdoorsman.


SHOOTING GLASSES ARE important to wear anytime a person is shooting. Here are the shooting glasses that are included in the Howard Leight kit.

Eyewear Features:

• Sporty lightweight frame design with extra “ex” built into the temple

• Anti-fog lens coating

• Clear polycarbonate lens for both indoor and outdoor use

• Non-slip rubber nose bridge

• Meets ANSI Z87+ impact standards

Earmuff Features:

• Adjustable headband fits sizes from youth to adult

• Convenient folding design

• Soft comfortable ear cushions

• Ultra lightweight earmuffs

• Patented Air Flow ControlTM technology

• Traditional green color

• Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) 25

What I like about the kit is that for the shooter, it is a no-brainer in that both items are designed and made to be used while shooting. They work in tandem to provide both the eye and ear protection that is needed when firearms go “bang.” There is no need for the shooter to try to figure out what’s the right thing.

I wish that such kits had been available when I first began my long shooting/hunting career back in the late 1940s. Although there were shooting glasses and ear protection for shooters back then, most folks paid no attention to them.

A lot has changed since then, and when it comes to eye and ear protection, it has changed for the better. I have been fortunate in that all I have lost is hearing (can’t hear very well and have constant ringing in my ears). But I might not have been that lucky. I could have suffered eye damage in a number of ways, as well.


EARMUFFS HELP SAVE hearing when shooting. Here are the muffs provided in the Howard Leight kit.

Safety cannot be overstated in the shooting sports. That includes safety measures that protect the shooter like shooting glasses and some form of hearing protection. Some folks routinely use just earplugs of some kind. Others combine earplugs with earmuffs. I generally use at least earmuffs. The important thing is to protect ears from the noise of the shots.

There are all kinds of eye and ear protection available. The equipment can be obtained individually or in kit form, as discussed here.

Regardless how they are obtained, I urge all shooters and hunters to use both eye and ear protection when shooting. It is the right thing to do.

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Steve Comus is a nationally recognized hunting editor with Safari Club International and a former WON Guns and Hunting Editor. His column appears every other week in WON and he can be reached at

Dickinson guns offer quality, variety
When one says Dickinson, one says a bunch. I’m talking about Dickinson shotguns that are known as “Guns of Distinction.”

Although the saying is catchy, truth is that it effectively understates that which is Dickinson.

Dickinson offers one of the most, if not the most, comprehensive lines of shotguns on the planet. Literally, there is something for everyone at every level of income and every level of shooting or hunting. 

comusdickinsonofDICKINSON GUNS OF distinction’s Tim Bailey, right, shows one of his company’s sidelock over/under shotguns to WON’s Chuck Buhagiar.

While at the SHOT Show earlier this year, WON stopped by the Dickinson booth and discussed the line with Dickinson’s Tim Bailey. It was a long and educational session as we looked at everything from pumps and semi-autos for defense, sport or hunting to doubles (both side-by-sides and over/unders) for hunting and sport. The list of models and variations seemed endless.

When it comes to double guns, Dickinson offers both boxlock and sidelock actions in sub-models that range all the way from basic to fully embellished with engraving and inlays. And Dickinson’s pumps and semi-autos feature time-proven designs that are executed in a way that they work, work well and keep shooting for a long, long time.

Although the folks at Dickinson first point out that their guns represent maximum bang for the buck, for me, it is important to let the guns talk for themselves and tell that part of the story. Over the past year, I have had the pleasure to take several Dickinson models to the range and the field, and have been impressed with them all.

At the SHOT Show, we discussed the possibility of checking out some other models as this year develops. Should be both fun and educational. And there will be plenty from which to choose. There are types of side-by-sides, 14 types of over/unders, two types of semi-autos and two types of pumps. That’s a bunch.

What Dickinson has achieved is a marriage of high-tech manufacturing and traditional look, feel and handling. Best of both worlds, so to speak.

“All the tubes are drilled from chrome steel solid bars and the receivers, either cold forged steel or strong aluminum alloy, are machined in multi-axis machines from monoblock materials,” Dickinson reported

Dickinson offers both inertia and gas-operated semi-auto shotguns. Again, best of both worlds, because some hunters prefer one type of semi-auto action, while others prefer the other — Dickinson offers both.

The pump guns are both robust and straightforward. The defense model has the right stuff, as do the pumps designed for hunting — whether they wear a synthetic or wood stock.

The reason I wanted to cover some of the points above is so that much of that information can be assumed when I take closer looks at some of the models during the year. What I can promise is that we’ll take a close look at these or any guns we review, figure out what they are about and report the facts. In the end, the important thing is to relay meaningful information so hunters and shooters can get the most bang for the buck possible.

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Steve Comus is a nationally recognized hunting editor with Safari Club International and a former WON Guns and Hunting Editor. His column appears every other week in WON and he can be reached at

Gun grabbers spur intense gun sales
Without question, the harder anti-gun interests push toward confiscation and neutering the Second Amendment to the Constitution, the more the citizenry responds by buying more guns and ammo.

Couple that with the threats of global terrorism, both abroad and here in the Homeland, and it is both logical and understandable that folks would want to make certain they have the means of self/home defense.


SOARING GUN SALES have been triggered in large part by the AR type of rifle, known by some as the Modern Sporting Rifle (MSR).

Add to all of that an increase in the number of folks who like to hunt and shoot recreationally, and the bottom line is that more guns are going into the hands of normal citizens. This is reflected in statistics provided by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE).

The BATFE Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Export Report released recently had the final tally of statistics for the year 2014 (the report trails by at least a year). That report showed that there were 3,379,549 rifles, 3,633,454 pistols, 744,047 revolvers, 935,411 shotguns and 358,165 miscellaneous firearms manufactured in the U.S. in the year 2014. Exports that year were 207,934 rifles, 126,316 pistols, 25,521 revolvers, 60,377 shotguns and 784 miscellaneous firearms.

If my calculations are correct from that data, it means that just over 9 million guns were manufactured in the U.S. that year (9,050,626), and that 420,932 were exported, leaving a net gain of 8,629,694 guns in the system. That’s a whole lot of bang, so to speak.

This is an interesting report for anyone who wants to know about such things. Check it out at

The estimated population of the U.S. in 2014 was 318,907,401. That means that during the year 2014, there was a new gun here in the U.S. for every 36.95 people (men, women and children). That’s a whole lot of gun buying.

To put things in a bit of a different light, consider that during the many years of the Obama administration, gun sales soared to historic levels. That said, the average of a new gun for every 36.95 people in the country in a single year can be divided by at least seven, meaning that during the Obama administration, there has been a new gun made in the U.S. on average for every 5.27 people in the country.

Although no one knows the exact number, estimates are that there are well over 300 million (probably more than 320 million) civilian-owned guns in the United States. That’s an average of right at one gun per person.

Interestingly, anti-gun folks often like to portray the U.S. as armorer of the world, alleging that guns from this country are causing havoc around the planet. Yet, in 2014, a tiny 4.65% of the guns manufactured in the U.S. left the country.

Or, put another way, since there is evidence that the federal government itself was involved in allowing guns to go out of the country illegally, one must recognize that the tiny number of legitimate exports has no significant impact on the global arms trade.

The beat goes on.

The Empire Strikes
The majority of new rifles introduced at the SHOT Show this year primarily were some Modern Sporting Rifle (MSR) variant, or synthetic-stocked, bolt-action basics that represent the MHR (Modern Hunting Rifle) parallel.

It was refreshing to see someone come out with a totally traditional blued steel and wood bolt-action hunting rifle. Thanks go to the folks at Legacy Sports International, who famously have their fingers squarely on the pulse of the market and know how to deliver what folks want.

WEBLEY & SCOTT Empire rifle is introduced this year by Legacy Sports International. Here, WON’s Chuck Buhagiar, left, discusses the new model with Legacy’s Rick Homme.

Enter the Webley & Scott Empire Rifle. Put simply, this is a handsome rifle that is proportioned correctly, handles smoothly and has a list of niceties one would expect in such a rifle.

In one sense it is a retro rifle, but in other ways it represents the state of the modern traditional expression in arms. It is retro in that it has been a century since there was a Webley & Scott Empire model offered on the market. That’s nice.

But in other ways, strictly as a hunting instrument, it makes no apologies to the original, nor to other production models in Gundom. That’s because it is built by Howa, which is without doubt in my mind one of the world’s foremost bolt-action riflemakers on the market today.

Features include cold hammer-forged barrel, two-stage trigger, fully jeweled bolt and knurled handle, five-round detachable magazine and pillar bedded Italian walnut wood stock. The stock features an eye-appealing combination of contrasting forend and pistol grip caps, as well as point checkering. Sling swivel studs come standard, which means that this rifle is pretty much ready to be sighted-in and going afield.

The Empire is offered in .270 Win., .30-06 Springfield, .243 Win., .308 Win. and 7mm-08 Remington. There is not a lot of hunting short of dangerous game in North America or elsewhere in the world that can’t be done with that lineup of chamberings.

Barrel length is 22 inches (No. 2 contour, which is classically standard for a hunting rifle) and rifling is one turn in 10 inches. Overall length is 42.25 inches and weight is a nominal 7.4 pounds (when wood stocks are involved, precise weights vary, depending on the density of the individual piece of wood).

The rifle is available alone, or in a package that also includes a Nikko Sterling Panamax 3-9x40mm scope and one-piece base/ring combination. Weight of the scoped package is 9.2 pounds. MSRP is $956 for the rifle alone, or $1,087 for the rifle/scope package.

Yes, I think the folks at Legacy have done it again. They have come up with a model that fills one segment of the market nicely.

Check out the Webley & Scott Empire rifle at a local store, or online at

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Steve Comus is a nationally recognized hunting editor with Safari Club International and a former WON Guns and Hunting Editor. His column appears every other week in WON and he can be reached at

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