Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Overall Process of Gunmaking

In many of our posts in the last three years, we've studied processes of manufacturing different components of a firearm. It is time to now look at how the entire process works from start to finish.

There are a few basic processes that are essential to making firearms:

  1. Forging - This is used to make the majority of iron and steel parts.
  2. Casting - This process is often used to make small parts, especially those of complicated shapes. 
  3. Machining - This is a process that uses machine tools to finish parts that were made using forging and casting processes. Rifling is also made by machining processes.
  4. Stamping - This is a more modern technology and is used to make parts out of sheet metal, e.g. trigger guards, parts of sights etc.
  5. Woodworking - Used to shape stocks for firearms from raw wooden blanks. In modern days, stocks are also built of other materials, so this is no longer as important as some of the other processes above.
  6. Metal treatments - There are many types of metal treatments. Applying protective coatings to various components, rust proofing, heat treatment hardening of certain components etc. all fall under this category.
  7. Assembly - Taking all the components and putting them together to build the firearm.
  8. Testing - All reputable manufacturers perform testing of their products to make sure that they are reliable and can withstand normal usage. In some countries, proof testing is mandatory by law.


This is one of the older iron working processes known to man. It was used by ancient blacksmiths and the same principles apply to the present day, even if the tools used are different. Iron and steel pieces are heated to red-hot temperatures, at which point they become soft and easier to shape. The red-hot pieces are then hammered into the shape of the finished components and then cooled down. In many cases, a specially shaped die is used and the red-hot pieces are placed into the die and hammered to their final shape. One of the advantages of the forging process is that it compacts the metal and makes it stronger.

These days, we have large forging machines that can hammer out larger components, such as receivers and barrels of rifles easily.


Casting is a process where a mold of a desired shape is initially prepared, then molten metal is poured into the mold and allowed to solidify. Casting is also an ancient metalworking processes and has been used in history to make intricate shapes as well as large objects. While a cast metal part is not as strong as its forged equivalent, it is often used to make complicated shapes which would be uneconomical to make with any other technique. One more advantage of casting is that many parts may be cast at the same time.

On the flip side, cast parts may have microscopic cracks and flaws due to factors such as uneven cooling, lack of proper venting etc.


After a part is forged or cast, it is usually close to the required dimensions, but not precisely so. It may also have tiny burrs and surface imperfections on it. This is where the task of machining comes in: to size the part to the proper dimensions and polish it as needed. Machining the parts to greater precision also makes parts interchangeable. Machining is also needed to cut rifling in the barrel.

There are various machining operations: cutting, turning, drilling, polishing, grinding etc. and there are specialized machines to perform each task. 


Stamping is the process of cutting and shaping parts out of sheet metal. Unlike forging, stamping is usually done to cold metal. Stamping is typically used for parts that don't take as much heavy load, for instance, a trigger guard or a magazine. With modern technological improvements, stampings can be used to also manufacture upper and lower receiver parts for some submachine guns and battle rifles.

Stamping is also used to put serial numbers on various parts of a rifle.


Back in the days when stocks were made of woods such as walnut, beech, ash, myrtle etc., the art of woodworking was used heavily in the gun trade. A skilled woodworker would take a block of wood and using various tools such as lathes, chisels, planers etc., would carve out gun stocks, to which the barrel and firing action were fitted. On more expensive models, craftsmen would engrave patterns, cross-hatches, inlay precious metals etc. into the stocks.

These days, stocks are made of other materials as well (e.g.) plastic, fiberglass composite, metal etc., where woodworking skills are not as important. However, some of the finest shotguns and rifles still feature wooden stocks carved by very skilled craftsmen.

Metal Treatments

The various metal parts of the firearm may be treated via chemical processes, to add a thin coating that prevents rust and also may be wear-resistant. Some parts may also be hardened after machining, so that they can bear the stresses of normal usage better. We studied many of these treatments earlier e.g. case hardening, bluing, parkerizing, tenifer, melonite etc.


After the parts of the firearm are manufactured, they still need to be put together to make a functional firearm. The process of putting the parts together may involve tasks such as riveting, welding, gluing, tightening screw threads, lubricating etc.


After the parts are put together, the firearm needs to be tested to make sure that it is functioning accurately and reliably. In some countries, there are standard tests that are enforced by the Government and any firearm marketed in these countries is required to pass the standard tests before it can be sold. All reputable manufacturers also run various tests during various stages of the manufacturing process, to catch any problems as soon as possible.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Handgun Shooting Positions: Bad Stances - 4

We've looked at some of the most common bad stances with handguns in the last few posts. In this post, we will look at some miscellaneous bad stances and grips.

Click on image to enlarge

The first image we have here features actress Ann Margret. Note how she uses her weaker arm as a support for the stronger hand. However, note that the weaker arm isn't really resting on anything. So, in effect, she is really firing one handed, because the weak hand is not doing anything to really support the strong hand. This position shows up in some cowboy movies.

The next bad habit we will look at is a bad grip technique. Notice where the thumb of the weak hand is placed. That's right, it is placed behind the slide. Why is this a bad way to hold a pistol? Because when the user pulls the trigger, the cartridge will fire and then the slide will move backwards at a very high speed to eject the spent cartridge. If the thumb is placed in the path of the slide, it will cause a painful cut or a broken thumb. Both thumbs should be placed so that they do not interfere with the backward movement of the slide.

Another bad habit is to lean backwards when firing. This is especially seen when the person cannot really handle the recoil of the handgun.

As you see here, the young woman is leaning backwards instead of forwards.

Finally, there is this infamous video floating around, of a young woman trying to shoot a .50 caliber Desert Eagle:

Her biggest mistake here is attempting to fire a weapon that is much too powerful for her to handle. The bigger idiot here is her boyfriend though, for talking her into firing something that she's clearly not used to. She's lucky that she or someone else wasn't seriously hurt.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Handgun Shooting Positions: Bad Stances - 3

Continuing our series on bad shooting positions, we will now study a bad method of holding a handgun, which has become very popular due to Hollywood gangster films and numerous rap videos. Yes, it is none other than the infamous "sideways grip", otherwise known as the "gangsta grip" or the "sideways gangsta grip".

A couple of examples of the "gangsta grip". Click on images to enlarge.

In the above two images, we see two people demonstrating the infamous sideways gangsta grip style. Some people think that this style of holding a handgun originated in the 1990s, but it has actually been seen in movies made in the 1960s as well. For example:

Marlon Brando as "Rio" in the movie One-Eyed Jacks released in 1961

Eli Wallach as "Tuco", the ugly guy in the 1966 classic cowboy movie, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, starring Clint Eastwood

While these movies did briefly show characters using the sideways grip, it was the Hughes brothers 1993 movie "Menace II Society", that really popularized it. It was after Menace II Society was released to theaters that it started to appear in a lot of other Hollywood movies, TV shows and rap music videos.

Russell Crowe demonstrating the sideways grip, from the movie No Way Back.

One theory on why this shows up a lot on film and videos is because it allows the director to show a dramatic view of the actor's face as well as the firearm, all in the same scene, as can be seen in the picture of the movie poster above. If the actor was holding the pistol vertically, a larger portion of his face would be blocked by his hand and the firearm. Another theory is that movie actors and stuntmen don't wear protective eye-wear during shooting scenes and many got tired of getting hit in the face by a hot cartridge and so they started shooting sideways, so that the empty cartridges would drop to the ground.

So why is this grip such a bad idea. Well, if a user holds his handgun like this, then he cannot use the sights of the weapon. There is a very good reason that firearms have sights and they are there to help the user aim the firearm properly. Accuracy suffers a lot, as demonstrated by the Mythbusters TV show here:

As you can see, it may look cool in the movies, but in real life, the sideways gangsta grip is pretty darn useless unless the user is very close to the target.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Handgun Shooting Positions: Bad Stances - 2

In our last post, we studied a bad shooting stance, namely the cup-and-saucer or teacup grip. In this post, we will study another bad shooting stance, the wrist brace grip.

This one is famously seen in the Dirty Harry series of movies starring Clint Eastwood playing the role of "Dirty" Harry Callahan, a police inspector working in the San Francisco Police Department.

Click on image to enlarge

The Dirty Harry series of movies are famous for phrases such as "Go ahead, make my day" as well as usage of the Smith and Wesson Model 29 revolver firing .44 magnum cartridges, which we discussed many months ago in an earlier post. In fact, Dirty Harry extols the virtues of the model 29 with the following speech:
I know what you're thinking: 'Did he fire six shots or only five?' Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I've kinda lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?
The speech was not completely true because by the time the first movie in the series was filmed in 1971, the model 29 was no longer the most powerful handgun in the world. However, sales of the model 29 went up drastically after this movie was released, because of this speech.

Surprisingly, Clint Eastwood uses a grip that consists of holding the revolver in one hand and gripping the wrist of that hand with his other hand. This means that the weak hand is offering almost no support to the strong hand. If this was real life and not a Hollywood movie, it would be very hard for him to support the recoil of such a big revolver.

Dirty Harry isn't the only movie character to use the wrist brace grip technique. In the above picture, we see the famous English spy, James Bond (played by actor Roger Moore), using the same technique with his comparatively smaller Walther PPK pistol.

In the next post, we will study some more bad stances.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Handgun Shooting Positions: Bad Stances - 1

In many of our previous posts, we have looked at various good stances to use when shooting firearms. In the next few posts, we will look at some of the bad shooting stances. Most of these bad stances are because of the influence of the movie industry and music videos.

The first bad shooting stance we will look at is the infamous "cup-and-saucer grip", also known as the "teacup grip". This one shows up in a lot of movies and TV shows. In this, the shooter holds (cups) the pistol in his dominant hand and then rests the bottom of his handgun magazine in the off hand (the saucer).

Click on image to enlarge.

Here, we have the character Jack Bauer, played by actor Kiefer Sutherland, from the popular TV show "24". As you can see, he is attempting to use something like a weaver stance. However, pay attention to his hands, especially his off-hand, and you can clearly see him placing his dominant hand and the magazine butt into his off-hand.

The above is another picture of Jack Bauer clearly using a cup-and-saucer grip.

Click on image to enlarge

Jack Bauer isn't the only character around who uses questionable methods to hold handguns. In the above picture, we have James Bond (played by actor Daniel Craig) using a cup-and-saucer grip as well.

Click on image to enlarge

And finally, the Alice character (played by actress Milla Jovovich) from the Resident Evil series of movies, also using the cup-and-saucer grip, this time with a revolver. You may see this grip used in a lot of other movies as well.

This technique was once actually taught to revolver shooters in the Wild West (and sometimes called the "palm supported grip"). The main reason it is bad with modern firearms is that the off hand provides almost no support against the recoil, which forces the user to aim the target again for each of the subsequent shots. Also, no matter how strong the user is, the recoil will make the user's hands separate and the off-hand needs to be reapplied after every shot. Additionally, if a cartridge is overloaded, the additional pressure has to be released somewhere, and in the case of handguns, it may forcefully eject the magazine out. If the user is using a cup and saucer grip, the off-hand will get a pretty nasty smack.

We will look at more bad stances in subsequent posts.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Handgun Shooting Positions: Shooting from the Hip

In this post, we will discuss a technique that is often seen in cowboy western type movies (i.e.) shooting from the hip.

We have a representative image of this technique, as demonstrated by movie actor Yul Brenner. Notice how the revolver is fired at about the hip level, which means the shooter is not using the sights to aim it.

This technique is only used in short range situations, as one cannot be sure of hitting a target at longer distances without using the sights. It is employed in quick-draw situations where the shooter may not have the time to draw the firearm to eye-level. The shooter draws the firearm from the holster and shoots it as soon as possible.

This technique was also taught by Fairbarn, Sykes and Applegate, who were instrumental in training some of the first modern commando forces during World War II. The team of Fairbarn and Sykes also developed the Fairbarn-Sykes fighting knife, which was issued to British commando forces, SAS, as well as US Marine Raiders during World War II.

As can be imagined, this technique is only useful at short ranges, because the sights of the weapon are not used at all. It is used when great speed (but not necessarily great accuracy) is needed. Therefore it is possible to miss the target completely as well. There is also a risk of accidentally discharging the firearm during the process of drawing it from the holster and shooting oneself in the leg.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Handgun Shooting Positions: The Isosceles Stance

In our last post, we looked at the Chapman stance. In this post, we will look at a stance that was around for a while, but only gained popularity in the 1980s, the Isosceles stance.

Before we go into studying this stance, let us discuss the term "isosceles". Readers with experience in mathematics, engineering or drafting would have encountered this word before: an "isosceles triangle" is a triangle where two of the sides are of equal length, similar to the image below:

So what does an isosceles triangle have to do with shooting stances? All you have to do is observe a person using an isosceles stance and you'll see the resemblance:

Notice how the shooter's arms are both held out extended fully, so that they resemble the two sides of an isosceles triangle.

There are two main forms of the isosceles stance. The first is the traditional isosceles stance, as shown in the image below:

In the traditional isosceles stance, the shooter stands with the body in an upright position, with both feet placed parallel to each other and pointing at the target. The knees are kept mostly straight.

The other stance is the modern isoceles stance or modified isosceles stance, which is shown below:

In the modern stance, the shooter keeps the feet apart about a shoulder width, but positions one foot ahead of the other. The knees are slightly bent and the upper body leans forwards toward the target.

With either stance, the upper body is rotated left or right as needed, to aim at targets that are not directly ahead of the shooter. This stance provides good support to the shooter and either eye can be used to aim at the target, as the gun is held at the center between both eyes. Unlike the Weaver or Chapman stance, the shooter absorbs recoil using their entire body. Also, if the shooter is wearing body armor, then this exposes the full body armor to the enemy (unlike the weaver or chapman stances, which expose the weaker armpit area to the enemy).

The only problem with the isosceles stance is that it isn't as suitable to use when the shooter is moving around, because locking the joints tends to make the gun bounce around. If the elbows are slightly relaxed, then it reduces the skeletal support that this stance provides. Another disadvantage is that while this stance is suitable for smaller ammunition loads, but when using full powered ammunition, the resulting recoil feels severe and makes shooting multiple shots difficult.

This stance was around for quite a while, but didn't really gain popularity until the 1980s, when two shooters named Brian Enos and Rob Leatham used it successfully to win IPSC shooting matches. It is often the first two-handed stance taught in most firearms training courses. The Modern Isosceles stance is now preferred by many shooters over the Weaver stance.