We cover some pretty weighty topics in Concealed Carry Magazine. Severe, even. There really isn’t any way around it: Armed self-defense is serious business and rarely given to flights of whimsy. If you’re itching to be as excited for spring as a kid who got a new bike for Christmas, dig into these projects while you’re cooped up this winter. By the time the grass is green again, there’ll be a whole summer’s worth of fun waiting to be had.
PROJECT DIFFICULTY SCALE
* SIMPLE AND EASY
*! FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS
*!# SOME EXPERIENCE NEEDED
*!#@% BORDERLINE PROFESSIONAL
Design Your Own Targets
The Print-N-C blanks from Birchwood Casey allow you to custom-print targets from your computer that will react similarly to the Shoot-N-C units for which B-C is so famous. I’ve found that targets with nonsensical images on them can be beneficial for training, as it will force a shooter to think harder than if he or she is simply told to “shoot No. 1” or “shoot the triangle.”
A word of warning though: When it comes to image selection, stick to inanimate objects. You may find the thought of shooting a target that looks like a specific person funny or edgy, but pretty much no one else does.
Shock a Stock
Flat-black polymers are certainly the most common on the market, but who wants common? More importantly, depending on the day and your location, a black-stock rifle or shotgun can get too hot to touch after just a few minutes in the sun. DuraCoat can set you up with a dizzying array of color combinations for your rifle, pistol or shotgun, and it doesn’t stop there. The DuraCoat line spans from paints to spray-on bluings and Parkerizings to just about anything else you could name in the firearms protection, restoration or customization game. Just remember to follow any instructions carefully, especially when it comes to sanding and degreasing surfaces before application.
COST: $24.95 AND UP
Learn to Detail-Strip Your Glock
Some shooters love to detail-strip and clean their firearms for the same reason some homeowners love to mow the lawn: It can be extremely fulfilling to actually start and finish a project on the same day. If you carry a Glock pistol, resolve today that between now and Easter you’ll learn how to disassemble that sidearm down to its smallest components, clean every piece and then successfully put it all back together. Trust me: If I can do it, so can you. As with so many other projects, YouTube is your friend on this one.
Make a ‘Northwest Trade Gun’
H&R single-shot shotguns are more often found on the used market as rusty basket cases than as pristine safe queens, but a handful of very basic tools and a few aftermarket parts will allow you to forge a glorious new life for one of the most oft-neglected firearms in America.
Completely disassemble the gun and strip any remaining paint from the wood; if your donor Topper has synthetic furniture, then it isn’t the right gun for this project. Next, use a cabinet rasp to reduce the buttstock to the point that its wrist is level with the receiver and the rest of the stock is level with the wrist. You will end up with a buttstock that is narrower port-to-starboard and just a tiny bit shorter top-to-bottom. I do not recommend that you reduce the forearm at all since it isn’t nearly as oversized as the buttstock. Sand to finish and set it aside.
If you have a non-color-case-hardened model, or if your specimen is particularly grungy, use steel wool and light oil to remove as much of the rust as you can and then acid-etch the bare receiver by whichever method you find online with which you are the most comfortable. If the barrel is anything like those on a lot of the Toppers I’ve seen for sale at flea markets, it probably already looks like it saw time during the Indian Wars. It’ll be your call whether to sand off rust or to just let it be. Or, if you’d like to re-blue it and the receiver, DuraCoat can help you make that happen. Most importantly though, any and all steel components should receive a final coat of CorrosionX to treat the steel against further damage.
Next, hop online and look for an eBay seller named “wb0shn” who sells brass trigger guards and spacers for the Topper line of shotguns. If you want to keep the original butt plate, you can, but if you’d like to fashion a new one to up the historical look of the gun, two or three pieces of tooling leather cemented together can be traced, cut and drilled as a new capper on this project. I attached mine to the stock to sand it to proper fit but then removed it for the first two coats of Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil I hand-rubbed into the wood. After two coats, I reattached the new leather butt plate and applied the third coat. The result was even closer to weather-beaten rawhide than I was hoping.
This project is especially well-suited to tackling with a grandson or granddaughter. Once everything’s assembled and looking as pre-cotton-gin as possible, you’ll realize that few guns are as inexpensive, fun and interesting to hang over a fireplace or use to fill a freezer as a single-shot you truly made your own.
COST: $200 AND UP
Build A Classic Cold War ‘Ack-Ack’
I would be remiss were I not to offer an option on the opposite end of the spectrum from “print your own targets at home.” If you are the handiest person you know, and if you enjoy buying tools, then I humbly submit for your consideration building a semi-automatic AK from a parts kit.
Even if you’ve successfully assembled an AR in the past, proceed with caution on this one. ARs are all about springs and pins and true parts interchangeability; that is a huge part of why the AR platform is so popular. Building your own AK, on the other hand, involves riveting, headspacing a barrel, installing iron sights without any existing dovetailing or tapping for guidance and other tasks that make it actual gun-building rather than simple gun-assembly. The list of specialty tools and jigs required to build a Kalashnikov from a kit and a finished receiver is substantial, and if you intend to build one from an 80-percent receiver that you’ll have to bend into shape and onto which you’ll have to weld rails, then the costs for one-off rifle-building are beyond unreasonable.
If, however, you enjoy acquiring new tools, you already operate what amounts to a small professional shop in your garage or basement, and you like the idea of an AK being your signature gift for weddings, graduations, housewarmings, birthdays, retirements, first communions and all other gift-giving occasions, then I say go for it. AK-pattern rifles are a lot more fun than some folks in D.C. want you to have, and there are enough different kit variants available to keep you busy for years to come.
What you get for anywhere from $300 to $700 is a greasy bag of Eastern Bloc surplus or battlefield-pickup rifle parts without any of the components that would make them illegal to import — namely the barrel and receiver (more on that in a moment). Like with other non-receiver gun parts, the kit ships right to your residence. Like with other firearms, you will fill out a 4473 at your local gun dealer in order to have a newly manufactured American receiver transferred to you from a company such as Arms of America. Receivers cost about $70 apiece. New-manufacture AK barrels made here in The States can be had for as little as $100, and other kits available include RPKs, RPDs, AMD 65s and other Balkan delights.
Speaking of barrels and receivers, what are known as “922r compliance parts” are components that you will have to install to make your new rifle “American” enough to comply with federal law. Just because a specific gun part made its way into the U.S. doesn’t mean it can be legally assembled along with other foreign-made components into one unit. If that sounds silly, that’s because it is. But it is the law, and the BATFE is not a pile of sunning alligators you want to poke.
For these kits, built on American-made receivers and with American-made barrels, the only other additions needed for compliance were permanently attached muzzle devices and triggers, which counted for three compliance parts: hammer, trigger and disconnect. These components from Tapco should ensure you won’t get any problems from the revenuers. As always though, check with your local friendly BATFE office via email and do what they tell you to do. I write articles, not laws. If you order a kit and, a few miscrushed rivets in, decide that maybe AK-building isn’t for you, not to worry. You can still get your personalized AK built, and the resultant arm will be finer than anything you could expect to find in your local gun shop. For what will end up being about what you’d pay retail for a mid-market AK-pattern rifle, Shawn Fowler of Fowler Precision Arms in Wilsall, Montana, will simply wow you.
COST: $700 AND UP
Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Planning
It’s time to formulate a plan for how you intend to spend the coming winter nights, be they well below zero or only down into the 50s. As with so many other aspects of the responsibly armed lifestyle, the time to think about this is now. Don’t let February arrive without any irons in the fire, and if you spend the next month or so researching which shooting-related projects you’re most interested in pursuing, I guarantee that your outcomes will be far superior.
 Jeremy S., “Guns for Beginners: 922(r) Compliance and You,” The Truth About Guns (April 10, 2015), TheTruthAboutGuns.com/922r-complianceand-you.
About Ed Combs
Ed Combs is senior editor of Concealed Carry Magazine and a former educator and law enforcement officer.