Don’t Give Bad Advice

One of the drawbacks of gun owners being a generally helpful bunch is that some try to offer up advice even when they shouldn’t. Yes, shockingly, some gun owners hold themselves out as experts when they don’t know squat. I know this is news to you, especially those of you who regularly chat others up at the range or those of you have spent more than 5 minutes at a gun club.

Snark aside, there are times when it can do serious financial damage. And it makes it worse when such bad advice is found in an official newsletter of an organization that, unjustly, may be seen as an authoritative source.

Yesterday’s mail included the Pennsylvania Rifle & Pistol Association newsletter, the source of the offending advice. One of their directors wrote an article on guns and insurance based on his experience with a devastating home fire. Filing a claim does not make one an expert in insurance. In fact, in Pennsylvania, I couldn’t even get past “Hello” and “please hold” when I got the receptionist at one insurance agency. She said their rules about even discussing insurance when it comes to quotes and advice are crazy strict, so she was not allowed to do anything more than transfer calls, take messages, and assist with non-insurance business needs since she was not licensed.

What follows is when someone who doesn’t seemingly have a background in insurance starts giving advice. (Reproduced as is, including grammatical errors.)

Last January we had a house fire resulting in 15 guns damaged by fire and smoke. I had very good Homeowners Insurance (Allstate “Deluxe” Policy) , and also the supplemental NRA sponsored (Arms Care) Firearms Insurance against fire and theft loss. I hope what follows may be useful information should any fellow members have the same misfortune.

I contacted NRA and told them I was submitting a claim. Their response was that my Homeowners Policy was the first resort and that my NRA policy was residual or secondary coverage in the event that Allstate failed to cover the loss.

Let’s stop here. I don’t have the insurance offered to NRA members for their guns, but my understanding is that the policy is secondary – that it covers above and beyond what your homeowners insurance covers depending on the policy you have with them. I never bothered getting it because my small collection was always under the amount that my renter’s policy covered. So why he would call the insurance company that NRA works with first is beyond me. (At least I’m hoping he called the actual insurance company and not NRA proper. Lord help him if he got caught in that phone menu.)

Allstate, like most other insurance companies, has limited firearms coverage for theft, but will cover all losses due to fire, flood, etc.

Hold up here! What?

All of my life, I have heard that if you live in a flood zone or want flood damage protection, you had to buy separate flood insurance. Google tells me this. More importantly, Allstate even verifies it with this statement:

A flood can be one of the worst disasters that can devastate your neighborhood. It’s such a big deal that the Federal Government runs a National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). That’s why Home and Property Insurance typically doesn’t cover flooding. (emphasis added)

Now, this guy’s so-called “‘Deluxe’ Policy” may include flood insurance that was recommended because of his community or because he had a salesman who talked him into it. That does not mean that most policies cover damage to your guns from floods. In fact, it means the exact opposite. Fire, yes, but not floods.

Over the course of the next few months I found that Allstate was much more reasonable to deal with, relative to proof of firearms ownership, valuation, etc. than NRA and it’s Insurance carrier.

I’m guessing this guy has a bone to pick with NRA to have thrown that statement in there. At this point, he has already established that

  • the supplemental insurance is just that – supplemental to what the home & property insurance does not cover;
  • the primary insurance provider is going to cover the guns fully so he will not need to tap into the supplemental plan; and
  • hopefully by now he has figured out to call the insurance company and not general NRA staffers.

So beyond just a shot across the bow at NRA, I can’t really figure out why he would be complaining about an insurance policy that he didn’t need to cash in on. Sebastian said that he thought he had heard that the insurance offered to NRA members was a bit of a pain, but that’s not really relevant for this article since the policy didn’t apply in this case.

After advice about safes and suggesting that members go through ADT for all of their home security monitoring needs, he then jumps into the area that just made me want to cringe – handing out insurance purchase advice.

Last but not least, and information well worth repeating, get out your Home Owners Insurance policy, call your agent, and get the maximum coverage, especially on personal contents, temporary housing, structure coverage, that is allowed. If you add up your total cash outlay for Home Owner Insurance coverage over however many years, you will find that it is a fraction of the cost of just one “catastrophic loss” due to fire, flood, or other natural disasters.

If he hadn’t had the absolutely horribly wrong comment about most home policies covering flood damage, then I would believe that he was an insurance agent deliberately trying to oversell folks for things they don’t need.

Now, I am not an insurance expert, but I have purchased enough to know that most people simply do not need a platinum-coated policy for most things covered. I’m also humble enough to admit that I don’t know enough about insurance to say much more.

I will add that if this has made you think about what your gun coverage really is for different types of losses, call your agent. Or, even better, call around until you find an agent who owns guns. I bought my car insurance from an agent who is not only a gun owner who shoots at our club, but his family is full of competitive shooters who hold state records. I know if I had questions, I could call him up and pick his brain to get an honest assessment.

Reloading Presses

TD has a new Lyman reloading press, and offers a review of the equipment. No doubt people will tell him he’s nuts for not just getting a Dillon. I started off with a Lee kit, which worked decently enough. A reader was kind enough to send a Lee progressive press, which I’ve used to reload .44 Magnum. Lee reloading equipment works, but it definitely has its design flaws, especially their progressive presses which have a bit of a Rube Goldberg feel to them, and tend to have minor hiccups which interfere with the reloading process.

Lately I’m pondering getting a rock tumbler so I can handle very significant amounts of brass, and something that will be a little quieter than a vibratory tumbler. Probably not something I’m going to get until I start getting serious about reloading again. But I have been collecting a lot of used brass. Limiting factor for me has been powder, primer, and time.

That Rust Thing

Cemetery comes across a problem we’ve all dealt with at one time or another.  Rust.  There’s three ways you can deal with rust.  One is to keep a coat of oil on your guns, and make sure you wipe them down before you put them away.  The other is to keep moisture away from the gun. There are a few ways to do that.

Even thought I love the fact that, as a cowboy shooter that goes by the name of Cemetery, his pistol case is a little coffin, the first piece of advice is not to keep them in the case unless you’re transporting them.  This is a surefire way to promote rust.  Cases are magnets for moisture.

The second way to prevent rust is to decrease relative humidity.  One way you can do that is to increase the temperature within a confined space, thus reducing the relative humidity.  This is how a Golden Rod works within the confines of a safe or gun cabinet.  Generally speaking, a Golden Rod is the easiest and most maintenance free way to combat rust.

The third way is to actually remove water from air within a confined, largely airtight space.  This is what dessicants do.  This is the solution I use, because the safe I got a good deal on didn’t have the electrical hookup, and I didn’t have an outlet near where I wanted to put it.  Desiccants are effective, but you have to watch them, and they need to be reactivated.  Get one that had an indicator compound in them, usually cobalt chloride, which is deep blue when dry, but turns pink as it becomes saturated with water.  You can reactivate desiccants by increasing their temperature to 250 degrees.  I do my two canisters in the toaster oven at 325 degrees for a few hours.  You typically have to recharge once a month in the winter, and once every two weeks or so in the summer.  The great thing about desiccants is that you don’t even really need a safe.  Any closed, airtight container with a desiccant thrown in will put a stop to rust.

Kitchen Table Controversy

There are still some “Kitchen Table Dealers” left, but he’s right about it being a dying breed.  An Easton man is in the news for seeking a variance to operate an FFL for a gunsmithing business in a residential area.  If his plan is a gunsmithing operation, it’s not like there will be a parade of customers coming in and out of the residence.  Most of his business will likely be from people sending stuff through common carrier, which is why you need the FFL.  If I were his neighbor, I would speak on his behalf to the zoning board, and advocate granting the variance.  Well, as long as he agreed to do transfers for me for free :)

It’s Scary In There

I once took my S&W 629 apart to clean out the lockwork, and re-oil everything.  Tam isn’t kidding about it being a complicated mechanism.  I was rather frightened I wasn’t getting it back together on my own, and I would have hated to go to a gunsmith with a baggie of parts and a frame and had to sheepishly ask him to put it back together for me.  I did manage to get it back together, and it works as it did before, but it took a bit of research on Al Gore’s internets to figure it all out.

Cleaning Up After Corrosive Ammo

Dave Markowitz has some advice.  I have to deal with this sometimes with the Nagant, and I’ve been the victim of shooting other Soviet Bloc ammo I didn’t realize was corrosive, but was.  It can rust a rifle pretty quickly if you don’t deal with it.

I think it’s good advice.  He recognizes that it’s the surfactants in Windex that make it a good cleaner, not the ammonia.  When I shoot my AK-74 with the corrosive 5.45×39 ammo (you can shoot all day with that stuff for a good price) I just take the gas tube, flash suppressor, bolt carrier, and bolt, and give it a bath in soapy water.  Then run some patches down the barrel with soapy water, clean the surrounding areas, and then go over everything with gunzilla once it’s dried out.  That seems to do a good job of keeping the rust away.

Screwed by H&K Damaged Brass

I spent some time at the three gun match Saturday scrounging brass off the range between relays.  Got a whole crapload of .223 off the ground, but was happy to find someone was shooting .308, which I could use to make up a load so I could finally try the FAL I bought from TD.  I was happy, until I saw what condition it was in:

I was puzzled by what kind of rifle would do this kind of damage to brass. Surely there was something wrong with this guy’s gun. Did the chamber actually have those stripes in it? In the name of John Moses Browning, what kid of crazy gun designer would create a rifle that tortures brass so?

After doing a bit of research, I discovered that this striping was likely caused by the fluted chamber of an HK91 rifle.  The idea of fluting the chamber is to allow some gas to flow around the cartridge to ease in extraction.  Apparently early versions of the G3 rifles were ripping the heads off the casing during extraction, so this was the solution to that problem. You can see that in a cutout of the G3 chamber here.  The roller delayed blowback design of the G3 is just very hard on brass, from both the fluting, and violent extraction. Consensus on cases fired from G3s and its relatives seems to be that they shouldn’t be reloaded.  The big dents definitely seals the deal. Into the scrap brass bucket they will go.

H&K — Because you suck, and we hate you, especially if you’re a filthy brass scrounging reloader.