Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ye Olde Firearm Curiosities: The First Fast Handgun Reload

Today's YOFC is a device that I have been interested in for quite some time. To my knowledge the following device is the first, patented at least, device to aid in the rapid, simultaneous, reloading of a revolver cylinder. Created by William De Courcy Prideaux of Great Britain in the early 1890s the device was patented in the UK in 1893 and the U.S. the following year (U.S. patent #516,942).

The "Prideaux Device" as it has become known, was originally designed to aid in the rapid reloading of the ubiquitous Webley and Scott revolvers. To that purpose it did in fact serve, Prideaux devices are known to have existed (and indeed some still survive) for all calibers of Webley and Scott revolvers, from the .22 training revolvers, to the .455 British revolvers. The devices were commonly purchased by Royal British officers before and during WWI. I have not been able to discern if anyone besides Prideaux manufactured the devices, most of them are marked only with the Royal emblem of Her Majesty. After the end of WWI it would seem that the Prideaux device fell out of favor as there are not any that I have seen marked, issued, or claimed to be from WWII. Certainly a rapid reloading device like the Prideaux would have been used during WWII, had it been available in a sufficient quantity and/or still in manufacture.

What makes the Prideaux device so interesting is actually the date of its invention. Speed loaders are generally viewed to be a 20th century construct. With the common Safariland COMP series of HKS series of speed loaders (the two widely accepted standards), being developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Indeed, most of the United States, where law enforcement carried swing out cylinder revolvers until the 1980s, did not adopt the common use of speed loaders until the mid 1970s. But in fact the Prideaux pre-dates the common adoption period by more than 80 years. In fact Prideaux and Borchardt applied for patents in the same year at nearly the same time. So, the first successful speed loader was created at roughly the same time as the first successful box magazine. To me this is quite interesting, because revolvers are generally viewed as archaic with a longer period of development than pistols, but the reality is both systems were being developed and refined simultaneously to one another.

Regardless of whether you find the simultaneous development interesting or not, the Prideaux device is still an interesting piece of history. It pre-dates all common speed loaders and was essentially the first of its kind. It was, at least in part, a commercial success, and was used successfully during at least one World War. The Prideaux device is a piece of firearm history, sometimes forgotten in the pages of the book, but certainly worth noting.

Cartridge End of PrideauxCartridge End of a surviving Prideaux Device

Top of PrideauxTop End of the same surviving Prideaux Device

Prideaux Patent 1Prideaux Patent Image 1

Prideaux Patent 2Prideaux Patent Image 2

Patent PDF available here.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

A rant on carbine/rifle use for defense

Tam had this video posted over at her place:

This is listed as a the "right" way to run a carbine. I admit there are many things right about this video, the handling of the guns, the reloads, the methods used, etc. I do have some problems with the video and the primary ones occur at 31-35 seconds into the video. Go watch it, I'll wait...

Did you see it? No? Watch it again...

Still not?

How about not advancing on the damn target while shooting it?! You are shooting at a target that you feel is a threat to your safety. WHY IN ALL THAT IS SANE, ARE YOU ADVANCING TOWARDS THAT DANGER?! Repeat after me, "If I use my gun to save my life, I will NOT ADVANCE ON THE THREAT. I WILL walk away from the threat.*"

~Deep Breath~

Okay, I just wanted to get that out of my system. I have a real problem with gun games and ~some~ "instructors" out there, who advocate moving TOWARDS a target. You should under nearly every circumstance move AWAY from the target. The only times you would move towards a target are to A) Escape (because you can't escape going backwards) B) Reach your family/loved ones (hence the reason you are shooting) C) To reach better cover D) No, that's really it for good reasons to advance. Do NOT advance on a target, do NOT confirm you've shot the threat or killed them, do NOT run to the target and kick their weapon away. STOP the threat, get a safe distance away, keeping the threat covered and call the police.

Also, another really serious point of contention here, if you are using a RIFLE to defend yourself, you have the LUXURY of engaging a target from a longer range. Use that to your advantage, get AWAY from the threat and engage him from farther away, if you must. The idea here would be that you can successfully fight from farther away with a rifle, that's one of the reasons we use them.

In the quality professional training I have had, we never advanced on a target, unless we had to. Why would we have to? We would run a training scenario, maybe you absolutely had to go into the house to save your wife and kids. A tough scenario, but one where advancing would be the wise decision. If, however you find yourself shooting a course of fire where you are told to advance on a threat and the reason is not given, stop and ask yourself and the instructor WHY you would do this. If they or you can't articulate a reason to advance on a target, then stop. Either practice getting away or pack up your gear and leave the tutelage of that instructor.

Remember folks, in defensive scenarios common to private citizens, you need to get AWAY from the threat, not advance towards it. Not only does it give you a better advantage for survival, but it gives you a better chance of surviving the inevitable legal after math.

*There are some legitimate reasons to advance on the target as discussed above, most are bad training or methods though. I've seen a number of videos displaying this type of nonsensical movement, don't repeat the mistakes of others.

Be safe, practice, seek quality instruction.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Ye Olde Firearm Curiosities: The Haight Fist Gun of WWII

Part of my love affair with firearms is a love affair of unique and curious firearms created for a dedicated purpose either real or contrived. These guns often have unique histories and more often than not represent commercial failure. Sometimes without these guns we wouldn't have had the inclination to design improved new weapons which led to genuine firearm innovations.

Today, is the first of what I hope will become a new series, Ye Olde Firearm Curiosities. To start off this segment I present to you a firearm that is... sort of a pistol. As described in the patent (#2,432,448) it is a "Hand Firing Mechanism" or a "fist gun". The primary purpose is, "[A] firearm which is adapted to be used when in actual contact with an adversary..." The gun's patent application date is Feb. 29, 1944, by Stanley M. Haight, United States Navy.

The weapon, shown below, was a plunger activated weapon, most appropriately described as a "hand gun" attached to the back of a leather glove. Described by Mr.[sic] Haight, to be worn when other arms are not being carried by a soldier who may be distracted with another duty or asleep. The idea was that the gun would be worn loaded and that when a fist was made and an opponent was successfully punched, it would activate the weapon and fire the cartridge. According to the book, Firearms Curiosa by Lewis Winant, the Haight Fist Gun was chambered for the .38 S&W cartridge (that would be the shorter, older, cartridge from which the .38 S&W Special is derived). Note, within the original Patent Application, Mr.[sic] Haight states the weapon was to be chambered for a shot shell. By all accounts I have been able to find, no such weapon was ever produced and that all versions of the Haight Fist Gun were chambered for a centerfire pistol cartridge.

The cartridge, for those unfamiliar with it, is typically found loaded with a 150-grain lead round nose bullet, driven at an anemic 750 FPS from a 4" barrel. In the Haight Fist Gun, it would develop considerably less velocity give that there is no discernible barrel length. Of course, given the intention of the weapon, to serve as a contact only weapon, the cartridge might have provided acceptable performance.

Fist Gun Image Image of the Fist Gun, from Firearms Curiosa Page 224.

Patent 1 Patent Image Illustrating the Weapons Mounting Mechanism and Proposed Method of Function.

Patent 2 Patent Image Illustrating the Plunger Mechanism of the weapon.

Full Patent PDF can be found here.

To my knowledge, the weapon was never used during conflict, nor mass produced. The patent was originally applied for in 1944, the issue date was in 1947. I'm willing to conjecture that the weapon did not excel in terms of performance due to the weak cartridge for which it was chambered, the lack of accuracy, and the lack range, made the weapon a very specialized tool. The uses of such a weapon, being so limited, would not fit into a military state of mind, where simplicity and multi-functional use is the name of the game. Finally, the weapon would not have met with much success with the OSS/Commando type units (for whom it might also have been a marketable item), because it simply would not have been quiet enough for close in dispatch. The close up kill would have been absolutely necessary to use the weapon effectively. I can't help but think that a person might be better served a good knife, black jack, or a pair of brass knuckles over a fist gun. Particularly if one were faced with multiple opponents.

None of this however, makes the Haight Fist Gun any less interesting and it is an appropriate introduction to the Ye Olde Firearm Curiosity segment.


Making the Double Action Trigger Work for you

When I first started shooting as a kid, I voraciously devoured all of the written literature on the topic I could find. I read dozens of books, many of which I still own or have bought subsequent copies of after borrowing them from the library, and even still I read dozens upon dozens of magazine articles. It seemed to me that the monthly publications of the magazine writing elite were the best way to stay on top of all the new "techniques" and I was all about technique. I learned a lot about shooting from those magazines. Then I started to actually shoot...

What I immediately learned was that I knew less than nothing about shooting, but also that learning to shoot wasn't all that difficult. The first and most important lesson I learned is that learning to shoot takes time and practice. I wanted to become, overnight, with parental supervision of course, the greatest shot in all the world. The harsh realities began to set in when I realized I was never to be that, at least not without hundreds of thousands of hours of practice and I just didn't have that time, what with the homework and all (heck I STILL don't...stupid Graduate degree).

When I first arrived at the shooting range I immediately I was wanton to do, started yanked the trigger to the moon and back as quickly as possible to simulate the movies and televisions shows I held so dear. Once these sloppy techniques were applied to the range with bullets and targets I found that I was unable to hit anything resembling the center of the target. With a firm desire to hit the target, I heeded my father's advice, "Slow down son, those bullets don't pay for themselves." So, for the next few weeks I practiced (with appropriate supervision and following the Four Rules) slowing down with dry fire practice. I learned that the trigger felt different at different points in the trigger stroke and I learned that the double action stroke that felt best also allowed my hand to point the pistol more naturally. When we returned to the range, I was rewarded with more center hits than ever before.

And so, after that exhaustingly long personal history lesson, let me offer you a few tips and pointers for effective double action shooting:

First, ignore the magazines and books for a while. Focus on learning the weight and length of the trigger pull. Once you have felt the weight and length of the pull, you will better be able to learn it. Next, focusing on being smooth with the trigger is critical. The advice I was given by my father was some he learned in the military. I started with a quarter on the end of my barrel and stroked the double action trigger, until when the action broke the quarter did not fall. Then I moved down in denomination to the nickel and then dime. After you have mastered being smooth stroking the trigger back, you must focus on being smooth returning the trigger forward on the reset. Learning your weapons reset is critical, once you can smoothly navigate a rearward trigger stroke followed by a forward trigger reset, without moving a dime even a fraction of an inch, you have mastered the revolver trigger. You can practice these drills in dry fire (obviously putting a coin on the end of your revolver firing live ammunition is ill advised), and you should practice them a lot. On a good day, I can achieve the desired effect of no dime movement 4 out of 5 times, on a great day I can get 9 out of 10 pulls to come out effectively.

Once you've gotten the smooth stroke and reset down you can focus on advanced techniques, like staging the trigger or running the gun quickly. On the staging vs. straight stroke debate, I have no dog in the fight. I spent some time focusing on learning both skills. For those who don't know, "staging" the trigger is where the double action stroke is pulled all the way back to just before the breaking point, the stroke is then paused while the shooter makes a final sight alignment and then the stroke is finished and the shot fired. It is believed to be "more accurate" than the "straight stroke" method which involves stroking the trigger smoothly in one motion. These days, I use both methods, intuitively when I am shooting without thinking about my shooting too much (I.E. quick defensive style shooting), I use a straight stroke method, which is arguably better because it doesn't involve a reflective pause in the middle. But when I think about o focus heavily on the front sight and accuracy, I do tend to "stage" the gun. I have found that staging is slightly more accurate for me, but not so much that I focus on it. I will say the biggest negative about staging is the tendency of the shooter to then yank or push the trigger down on that final bit of stroke, as many are trying to effectively "time" a shot, it doesn't work folks, don't bother.

Finally, I want to comment on terminology of "stroke" versus "press" or "squeeze". I call the action of activating a double action trigger by a "stroke" instead of a press or squeeze for a simple reason. A stroke is a long, smooth, motion that requires more finesse than a press or squeeze. The double action trigger requires more finesse, it is a longer action, that requires you to be very smooth in the action to produce the desired results. As such, "stroking the trigger" is the most appropriate turn of phrase for working a double action trigger.

Be safe,


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Trigger Control: Double Action, Single Action, and the in betweeners...

I have long been a shooter of the double action trigger, the first pistol I fired at age 10 was a double action .22. I still remember the horrible double action pull on the Erma .22 pistol it was. None the less I grew to love and enjoy double action triggers, in either semi-autos or revolvers. These days, I carry and focus primarily on double action revolvers, with a bit of DA/SA semi-auto pistol shooting thrown in. I've shot all types of actions now, some good, some bad, some somewhere in between and I want to focus on some of the pros and cons of trigger types in your gun.

Let's start with the inbetweeners, these are your safe action Glocks, your striker fired XDs and M&Ps, basically most of your polymer framed striker fired guns. The triggers on these guns are often a bit of a mix, long and a little mushy, requiring a press that weighs somewhere between a single action and double action trigger pull (about 5-7 pounds of pressure). For the most part the triggers on these guns are serviceable, often benefit from contact point polishing, and generally can be smoothed with shooting. They best thing about striker fired guns is the trigger pulls are consistent from first to last shot. They take practice to master, but don't require you to be an IPSC master to have good control. My limited experience with striker guns tells me a few things, first none of the ones I've fired stock where "great" triggers. They often lack great feedback on the press and on the reset. Which leads me to my biggest complaint, sometimes the lack of feedback on the rest makes the gun difficult to run. My father who has arthritis in both hands and especially in his right index finger, cannot feel the positive reset on a stock Glock or M&P trigger. It is all but impossible for him to effectively "run the gun". With a Glock he must take his finger completely off the trigger to attain a positive reset, something that is not a positive for shooters. Not everyone suffers this of course, I have no trouble detecting the reset on a striker gun while shooting, but it doesn't give me the confidence that a crisp reset gives me. Another complaint from me is that because nearly all striker guns must have the striker "re-cocked" during dry practice, you have to adjust your technique and continue to hold the trigger down after squeezing, while you run the slide, and then release the trigger to feel the reset, it's a technique adaptation. You must do something similar on single action or traditional double/single action guns. The benefit of those guns though is there is usually an exposed hammer that is easily cocked with the off hand, as opposed to the slide movement required to reset a striker.

Now onto single action triggers, commonly found on your SAO (and traditional DA/SA) semi-autos and for those who are packing single action revolvers. The single action trigger is often touted as the greatest trigger known to man, I suppose that can be true. Good single action triggers are often good to great, not so good triggers are terrible. Because they often have little to no slack, a heavy single action pull can result in an unwanted jerk or an overly heavy press that moves the muzzle end of the gun unexpectedly, often during the moment of firing. It has been my experience though that many single action trigger pulls are light, some are mushy, but many of them are crisp. Generally the light, crisp, straight trigger pulls on 1911s and Browning Hi-Powers result in good shooter confidence, particularly in new shooters. They are easy triggers to master, being so simple. They also do not seem to be as affected by bad trigger control (particularly slapping), as a double action or striker gun would be. Greater trigger control is generally found in a single action trigger, because of its attributes, they also are the pistol trigger that most readily resembles the triggers on long guns of all types. My general complaints with single action triggers are that the mushy ones suffer the same problems as striker guns, they don't offer positive feedback during the press or on the reset. The benefit to single action triggers are that the resets are often very positive and tactile. My father mentioned above, does not handle a mushy trigger well, but conversely he handles a 1911 just fine. I've also found that if one is not going to practice a lot with their weapon (either dry or live fire), the single action trigger is the easiest for folks to pick back up and shoot well. It's straight forward, simple, and provides great and easy to understand feedback to the shooter.

Finally, the double action. As mentioned above the double action is my preferred trigger of choice and you may think I saved the best for last, not necessarily. The double action trigger has pros and cons as well. The primary pro of the DA trigger is that it is a very positive trigger. Because it has a long stroke action to it, it feels very positive as you start and finish your stroke. The flipside is, depending on the gun sometimes a double action revolver pull can change during the stroke. Colt revolvers are a classic example of this they exhibit a lot of "stacking", where the trigger starts off as "light" (7-10 pounds), and stacks sometimes noticeably sometimes not, to a heavier weight, before suddenly and abruptly breaking, firing the gun. A long, heavy pull, that stacks, is a very difficult trigger to master. For a the record Smith and Wessons stack slightly, but not a lot, Rugers have almost no noticeable stacking. Of course the benefit of the revolver trigger is again that it is positive and this is true on the reset as well, most revolvers have a very positive reset that is easily interpreted and understood by even novice shooters. The cons are the additional weight of double action pulls and the length, both of which can present problems for shooters with lower hand strength and shooter fingers. Most double action triggers are very positive though, I've only met a few in semi-autos that were mushy of any kind and even there, the weight was generally consistent to give you a more consistent firing stroke on the first shot. My experience has shown me that double action triggers are not the appropriate place to begin (as I learned at that tender young age), the heavy pulls often cause jerking or over exertion on the part of the shooter onto the trigger, tending towards poor accuracy and low shooter confidence. On the flipside, though DA triggers are harder to master, I have found that once mastered, the shooters tend to possess a higher degree of trigger control and manipulation techniques than his counter part with the same amount of time behind a striker or single action trigger. Once you have mastered the double action pull, you generally find that the single actions with the crisp, light, straight pulls are very easy and striker guns which fall somewhere in between are easier as well. With a double action pistol you must learn to truly control the trigger, because all mistakes you make are amplified to a higher degree than with other trigger types.

Overall, I encourage you to own guns of ALL the common types. I'm a guilty offender in not owning a striker fired "in betweener" trigger, but I am working on rectifying that situation. For the most part, I feel that the single action trigger, being the most consistent and generally easiest to use is probably the best of the bunch, but spending your time working other trigger types can be very beneficial. I recommend highly that you invest time in building double action shooting skills, particularly with double action revolvers. The skills you get learning to run a DA revolver will transfer almost immediately into better shooting with other pistols. You will find your lighter, straight pulls to be easier, less distracting to work on and focus more intently on getting your front sight onto the target and getting the press right. Also the DA trigger helps with follow through, because your follow through is the reset on a DA revolver and it helps you maintain a more consistent follow through, which also translates to other pistols.

I also want to add that most pistol shooters are often excellent rifle and shotgun shooters as well. Once you have mastered a heavy pull on a pistol, the lightweight, consistent, and constant pulls on rifles and shotguns will be that much easier. That's also really the case for the DA revolver trigger, once you've mastered the long, heavy, stroke, so that it is a consistent repeatable trigger press, you will find the shorter, lighter pulls much easier as well.

Good luck, be safe, and shoot a bunch!


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Meditations on Platform

When it comes to your defensive shooting platforms, I'm a big fan of getting out there and shooting a bunch and picking what feels right for you. I do not think that any single platform dominates, performs better, or is perfect. When you decide on a platform, my suggest is to use it, train with it, and if you get bored with it, switch to something else. That's right, change your platform, and you SHOULD change your platform. Why? A couple of reasons:

1) You may discover that another platform works better for you in the end. Your instincts and work are not necessarily intuitive to the system you have initially chosen. You have two options, try something else or train hard with your platform and hope the issue never comes up. In my opinion, you are better served using your training hours not to correct non-intuitive movements, but to practice shooting the gun.

2) When we get bored with a platform or vehicle of shooting, we don't practice enough, we don't shoot, train, or work as hard. Why would we? It's boring. Then it's time to change your platform and shake things up a bit. Does it mean you've mastered that gun? Maybe, maybe not, probably not, but you aren't going to master it if you don't care about shooting it.

Keep in mind the platform that works for one does not always work for another. For instance, I do not rely on an AR platform as a primary defensive weapon. Why not? Well a variety of reasons, I never can seem to get the gun to feel right, even with 50 bajillion adjustable accessories. I don't like the AR platform bolt release, in fact, I HATE the bolt release, my instinct is to run a charging handle by hand to release a bolt. I don't like malfunction clearing drills on the AR platform, they feel awkward and completely counter-intuitive to me. Finally, I don't have preference in the 5.56/.223 chambering the guns normally come it. That's a lot of reasons and yes, I could train nearly all of them away, if I spent hundreds or thousands of hours clearing malfunctions, releasing bolts, and adjusting the gun to fit. OR I could just pick up a gun that feels right, works the way I expect and fires a round I prefer, like a plain old standby M1 Carbine.

Some may argue that one platform is better than another, I'll just continue to point out that not everyone is made equal. A person who feels well armed with 15 rounds of .30 Carbine and can run the gun is just as deadly as a person with 30 rounds of .223 and who can run the guns. The point here is not that one platform works better or worse, it's that shooting skills apply across all weapons platforms and we should simply choose the guns of our preference.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Top Shot

I've been seeing some blogger chatter on History's Top Shot, so I thought I'd give it a shot. Two thumbs down, I think it sucks. The shooting challenges are good, but I can't get over the constant bickering, the fighting, the Big Brother-esque house. No thanks, can we get an hour or people shooting at stuff with interesting challenges? That would be good fun.

In fact, maybe we should just make up a competitive league where you compete in a variety of challenges. Something like IPSC meets IDPA meets 3-Gun meets CAS meets good old fashioned Kentucky Rifle challenge. I'd do that, walk from station to station, one station has me blasting clay birds with a scatter gun, the next has me going after the Lone Star wheel from CAS, another is a High Power rifle shot at 500 yards through open sights on an '03 Springfield, finish the day off with 100 yard silhouette shot on a turkey silhouette with a replica Kentucky rifle. The winner is the one who hits the bullseye the most times.

That'd be a better competition and more fun to watch to boot. I'll pass on Top Shot, too much in the drama queen department, not enough guns and shooting.


Only a True Gun Nerd

Could stand on a range with thousands of dollars in short barrel ARs, suppressed Tactical Solutions .22s, suppressed fully automatic H&Ks and be bored and unimpressed. Only to be more impressed by a nice Webley MKVI cut for .45 ACP Moonclips (all the better to shoot the steel plate rack with), an early (3rd year) Colt Python, a British Military issued FN Auto-5 (that's the one with the 8-round tube and fore end that extends to the end of the barrel, issued to Brits in Malaysia post-WWII but pre-Korea), and an original Mauser C96 with stock (from 1902).

Yea that plastic stuff is okay, but ya know...plastic is cheap. Have you fondled a Pre-WWI Mauser C96? They DON'T make 'em like that no more, maybe in some ways they are better or worse, but the reality is they just don't make 'em like that no more. The machining, the fit, the finish...


Thursday, July 8, 2010

An armed society is a polite society...

As a kid, I was always taught to be polite, because it's easier to win friends and influence people (to steal a good quote) that way. One thing I remember though, was that being armed and being polite seemed to go hand in hand. My father always taught me to be nice in traffic, because you never knew when that guy you decided to flip the bird to, was going to pull out a gun and turn your driving affair into a shooting affair.

I remember an event that happened to me about two years ago at the BBOD. A customer had purchased a gun safe and taken it home, upon getting it home, they were unable to get the safe open, using the combination provided by the manufacturer. A manager, not my immediate boss, decided the prudent (read: STUPID) thing to do was to send an employee down to the customer's house and make sure the safe didn't open like the customer said it didn't, before we returned a $1000 gun safe and exchanged it. Somehow, I got drafted for this duty and was sent on my merry way to the customer's house. (In retrospect and perhaps the best advice I can provide from this experience is if you get stuck in this position, tell your boss to stick it).

When I arrived at the customer's house, the customer, a young gentleman in his late 20s was absolutely irrate! He was simply furious at me, while I inspected the safe and confirmed that indeed, the combination was not correct and I set about trying to correct the problem. The gentleman was just absolutely furious right up until one distinct and very memorable point in time. He was looking at me cursing when he simply stopped in the middle of his sentence and asked a question, "Is that a Thunder Ranch pin on your hat?" "Why yes, yes it is. I just received it last week, when I finished my Defensive Revolver course with them." "Oh..." And suddenly, the gentleman's tone changed as he realized he might have been cursing, screaming, and generally degrading a guy who had just spent three days with a premier firearms instructo, throwing enough lead down range to require a small mining operation to extract it from the berm. Suddenly, the whole experience changed, the customer was polite to me, respectful, courtesy, and realizing perhaps that I was doing my best to take care of him, he was grateful.

An armed society is a polite society. Remember guys that store clerk/auto mechanic/paper boy you're insulting, maybe he's packing a loaded .357 while your hurling insults at him. He is polite to you, both by being nice and smiling and doing his best, and for not pulling his smoke wagon out and giving you a few extra holes to run your mouth from.

Armed, polite. We shouldn't have to live in a world where being armed is a requirement for courtesy and kindness, but it would behoove us to remember that some folks are packing heat and we should just be nice to everyone, so we don't worry about who is who.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Guns that don't make sense...

I have long been absent from my blog. A brief update as to why, in Mid-Feb, I left my job at the BBOD and started working for Major State School as an Undergrad Research Assistant. In early March, I was accepted to Major State School as a Graduate student, so in August I get a promotion with a new title, Graduate Student Teaching Assistant. This means that I have spent a considerable amount of my time, preparing for my new graduate school adventure, finishing required undergraduate work, and finishing required graduate school pre-requisites in course work. I have missed my time at the BBOD only slightly, admittedly, and I currently view the chapter of my life as a gun salesman, closed.

That doesn't mean we can't still blog about guns as time permits. So let's do some of that gun blogging stuff!

The title of this post should probably more properly read, "Concealed Carry Guns that don't make sense..."...The following is a list of recently produced guns for the market of concealed carry that...just don't make any sense:

The new Airweight Smith and Wesson J-Frames with 2.5" barrels. These guns don't make any sense. On the surface they seem like a good thing, longer sight radius, longer barrel, pinned front sights. But when you start to think about the role of the J-Frame, they don't make sense. The added length of the barrel, kills the compact J-Frame's ability to be neatly concealed inside a pocket. That's the real power of the Airweight snub, it's pocket concealability. If you're going to carry a belt gun, or an ankle gun, or a shoulder gun, you should pick something at least, heavier, than an Airweight J. The airweight guns are painful and difficult to shoot well. Opting for a heavier all steel J-Frame results in much better accuracy and control for nearly all shooters. And that's why the new guns make no sense, you carry a J-Frame, because you can pocket carry it easily. If you can belt carry a gun, you should belt carry a bigger gun. There are already better belt gun options than a 2.5" Airweight J-Frame. The 3" all steel J-Frame comes to mind, the all steel 3" Ruger SP101, the 3" GP100, the 3" K-Frame, the 2.5" or 3" L-Frame. All of these guns hold more rounds, are easier to shoot, and are chambered in a more powerful caliber (.357 Magnum or in the L-Frame's case at least a couple of 5-shot .44 special versions).

The Taurus Public Defender, the new snub nosed, bobbed, cut down, and rounded Taurus Judge revolver. I want to get the combination right, you take a hard to shoot gun, make it smaller and shorter, and sell it as the gun you need for concealed carry. Frankly, I would think the Public Defender was a good idea, if it were chambered in .45 Long Colt, because the gun would be only marginally bigger than a J-Frame, but it would be chambered in a heft cartridge. Unfortunately, the Defender comes in the .410/,45 chambered, you can have your .45 long colt if you want, but at the added price of an extra inch of cylinder. All the better to clean extra carbon from if you shoot it much? I suppose. The .410 loads as a defensive load are questionable at best, even with the new 000 Federal Buckshot load, you're getting 5, .36 caliber pellets at 70-grains each. You can get 5, .36 caliber bullets from a J-Frame, but at 158-grains each, or if loaded with .45 Long Colt, you can have 5, 250-grain bullets, to hurl out the end of your gun. In my opinion the Public Defender would be best, if it were shortened and chambered in .45 Long Colt only. Of course, Taurus already made that gun and it never sold well (it would be the Taurus 445). Then again in those does Taurus didn't have the marketing they used to have.

Finally, let's pick on auto pistols for a minute, I want to pick on specific class of semi-autos, the sub-compact, double stack, polymer framed gun. The gun that makes absolutely NO sense when it comes to concealed carry. I am picking on your Glock 26s and 27s, your Springfield XD Sub-Compacts, etc. Why am I picking on these guns? Because they don't make any sense. They commit all the same sins as the guns above. They create a gun that is hard to shoot well, doesn't conceal much (if any) better than its full size counter part, and are often less reliable than a full size gun. These guns have everything working against them, they often allow only a two-finger hold, which allows for only reduced control of the gun. Some people off set this, but adding a finger extension to the bottom of their magazine. This has always struck me as a moronic thing to do, you add a finger extension to the bottom of the gun, making it as long as a full size gun, thereby negating the concealment benefit of the shorter grip on the gun. Then there is the trade off, you have a shorter barrel, easier to conceal, right? Sort of. You do have to conceal the barrel of your gun, but for the most part your cover garment and or holster takes care of that for you. You aren't gaining much by shortening the barrel, to be honest, but you're losing a lot. A lot of control, you add recoil, reduce your sight radius (thereby amplifying any trigger control mistakes you make), and abbreviate the grip. All in the name of concealment, only you are still trying to conceal something that feels, looks, and has the weight of a brick. These guns just don't make sense from a concealed carry point of view, you have to wear a good belt, buy a good holster, etc. Your trade off then, less control, harder to shoot, less reliable, and still takes the same effort to hide a small gun than a big one. It would seem that this category then, falls heavily into the makes no sense category.

So, let us draw conclusions from this discussion, small and light guns have a place, they are typically for use in unique situations or for a unique carry option. If you're going to belt carry any of the above guns, there are better, larger, more powerful, and easier to shoot guns that will require the same level of work to conceal. But the payoff results in you being able to carry a bigger gun that you can have more confidence in.

More results to ponder and think about.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Cheapskate

As a BBOD employee and a University student, let me tell you, I am most assuredly not flush with excess cash funds to buy expensive firearms. None the less, I recognize quality and the importance of picking a quality firearm, if you intend to use it for self defense.

As I've said to in the past at the BBOD we deal mostly in sporting grade guns, but also in personal defense weapons. When it comes to personal defense shotguns, I generally grab the Remington 870 and the Mossberg 500 off the shelf, explain the differences and benefits of one over the other and sell the customer the safety of their choice (it almost always come down to the position of the safety on the shotgun and previous experience by the customer). I generally, do NOT really recommend the cheaper 18.5" barreled shotgun variants out there, the Mossberg Mavericks and the H&R Pardner (870 clones), because these guns have a hit and miss reliability record. As I have stated before and will state again, IN A DEFENSIVE GUN RELIABILITY AND ACCURACY ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS. Anything that I have a 10% of higher repair rate and customer concern with is junked from the list of "reliable defensive guns" and downgraded to "range plinker/sporting gun status." With all that said, let me tell you about a customer that I despise more than anything, the cheapskate.

Case in point, a cheapskate came into the BBOD today, who represents the WORST of the worst. The gentleman was looking for firearms for personal and home defense. After showing him the differences between the Remington 870 and the Mossberg 500, he decided that neither was worth their asking price and instead opted for the cheaper Maverick 88 shotgun. I informed him of the spotty quality control and hit and miss reliability and his response was, "Well, it will almost never get shot, so who cares? It's just for my wife to scare off anyone in the house. Besides, it's cheaper." Cheaper...that's what it is, cheaper. The cheapskate strikes again, buying a sub-par quality firearm to defend his family, because who cares and it's cheaper.

Well, I CARE, I don't want to read about your family and know that it was your tightness that caused them to be killed by some attackers, because the cheap shit gun you bought failed to go boom and instead went click. AND finally sir, I KNOW you can afford to buy a more expensive gun, because you're wearing a ()*@*(^&^*$@ $10,000 ROLEX!!!!!!!!!! Your watch is worth 10k, but your family's well being is only worth a HUNDRED AND EIGHTY NINE BUCKS?! You sir cheapskate need to have your head re-examined and your cranium removed from your rectal cavity.

I really hope that your wife or sons talk you into a more expensive and reliable gun to defend them with. Until then...I just don't know how to deal with you....


Saturday, February 6, 2010

I got a need a need for speed...loaders!!

Over the last year or so, I have noted some developments in the speed reloading section of revolver usage. So, while I have not owned all of these products and I do not have indepth reviews, I would like to share the knowledge of these products for those that might want and or need them.

Speed Loaders: <---These guys are brand new making CNC machined aluminum speed loaders for a little bit of everything, including the biggies S&W X-Frames in .500 S&W and Taurus Judges. They are also making what appear to be nicely done L and J frame loaders. <--Expensive, but the only game in town for 8-shot speed loaders for your Smith 327/627 series guns in .38/.357. <--Still the industry standard and available for nearly all applications. <--The stand-by for revolver competition use and for those who don't care for twisty knobs.

Speed Strips: <---The new guys! "Speed Strip" style strips for everything under the sun, 10-shot .22, 5/6/7/8 shot .38/.357, 5 shot .45LC/.410, even strips for 12-gauge shot shells. Check out there various pocket holsters with spare ammo carriers and their strip pouches too. <--The Bianchi created industry standard, the 6-shot 580 series for .38/.357.

I hope that some of this information can be useful to some of us around here, especially those of us who are still toting around round guns, instead of flat ones. Yes, I do carry mostly round guns in the .38/.357 variety, thats why I call myself, "RevolverRob"...just sayin'.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Meditations on Ammunition Capacity...

One of those posts, a comment on capacity. In this month's Blue Press author Serena Wood wrote an article titled, "Make mine a High Capacity Nine". I read it with some interest and thought it worth commenting on, ammunition capacity that is. There are many schools of thought, most seem to feel that if you can't "solve it in x" number of rounds, then it can't be solved. My thought is that this is always a defeatist attitude, because there is ALWAYS a possibility that you could be attacked by that "x" number of attackers or more. And my question is, why give up? You can solve the problem, you just have to work harder at it. None the less, the statisticians will drag the numbers out, the largest percentage of handgun carriers who have to draw their pistol in defense, will most likely not use it. Those that do, will likely fire less than 5 rounds. A smaller percentage will fire over five rounds. An even smaller percentage will fire more than 5 rounds and be attacked by more than two attackers. If the percentages are so small, why even carry a gun that holds more than 1 or 2 or 3 rounds?

In fact, there was a time, where mode of the day was to carry a single shot pistol, but soon after the introduction of the pistol, came the idea of a brace of pistols, and then a suite of pistols. So, in the day of duels and exploration, the common mode of carry was to carry at least three guns. In fact when I was at the Texas Ranger Museum, I noted that when the Rangers were founded, a Ranger had to provide a rifle, a brace of pistols, and his own ammunition. So, we know from the beginning of carrying a firearm for personal defense and offense, the preference has been to multiple shots.

And, let's be honest the first true innovation in handgun history from Sam Colt was that the gun could fire 5 rounds reliably, before being used as a club, not just one or two. Once the 5 and later 6 shot pistols were created, then came the habit of carrying two of them for a total of 12 rounds before needing to reload. Then came the real innovations in handgun history. Schofield created the easier to break open and reload Smith and Wesson No. 3 Schofield (Calvary) model. Then Webley & Scott made their MK. series of revolvers, which shortly after their adoption, an enterprising man created the Prideaux Device, to facilitate even faster reloading. In 1893 Hugo Borchardt invented the first successful semi-automatic handgun, and a more important idea, the detachable box magazine. All of these innovations where in the name of MORE ammunition and FASTER reloads.

What's the point I'm getting at? Ammunition capacity is an important factor in purchasing a firearm. But unlike Ms. Wood, who made it one of her main criteria in choosing a firearm, I feel that capacity is secondary to fit, reliability, and the ability to shoot the gun well. That's an important distinction, a handgun needs to FIT in order for you to shoot it well. The short nature of the handgun means that it requires more work to shoot well over a rifle or shotgun; it means that gun fit is more critical than anything else. This means, that I recommend that one pick a firearm that fits, over one that holds more rounds.

The continued evolution of magazine capacity is something to consider when purchasing a gun, but the reality is we haven't found a better way to reload guns in over a hundred years. We are still using versions of the detachable box magazine and the Prideaux device, in our big square box magazines and our HKS or Safariland speed loaders. These devices work quite well and with practice sub-second reloads are possible. With the ability to carry spare ammunition (especially handgun magazines, and especially single stack ones, because they are thin and imminently concealable), one can be less concerned with capacity and more focused on fit.

So, to sound like a broken record I will say again, when it comes to a capacity/caliber/handgun size argument the answer is simple. Pick the gun that FITS, the one that fits your hand, your body, and your purpose.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Life is busy, busy, busy

It has been a very busy life for me lately, hence the lack of bloggery. After the holidays, I spent 10 days in the field collecting specimens, in West Texas. This included a stint of days where the lows were in the teens and highs in the 30s. The cold and dry temperature is a recipe for hypothermia, if you don't pay attention and stay well hydrated and active. Dehydration is a common cause of illness and death when it is both cold and dry and you are being active. Fortunately, everyone stayed hydrated, healthy, and mostly warm. I learned a few things about being in the field, when it is going to be that cold, I think I will share them.

1) Layers, gloves, hats, and waterproof boots are a MUST. It shouldn't HAVE to be said, but I've said it, because a couple of people on the crew showed up without gloves or hats, a huge no-no.
2) FIRE. In a desert environment, any dry brush or cactus will most likely burn very hot and very fast. Keep this in mind, at one point while considering if I could survive at night, I realized I would do okay. The first reason, I had a way to make a fire, both a spark igniter and a nice torch flame and windproof lighter. Second, I know that any dry brush or even some of the green stuff, would burn hot and fast. If stranded, I could easily locate enough to last a night, if I started early and worked in a progressive circle and if I kept my fire small. The heat given off, by even a small fire, is more than adequate to keep your warm, not comfortable, but warm.
3) Alcohol. First, alcohol and guns don't mix, so don't do this. But, if you are planning a cold weather camping trip, I do suggest you pack a small bottle of your favorite firewater. I failed to pack a flask of rum and regretted it for the entire trip. A quick nip before bed time, would've improved my ability to sleep, and it has been proven to provide at least a warming sensation. If you take it easy and have the rest of your gear and shit in one bag, it can make an unpleasant situation more pleasant.

A few bits of gear that always make it into my daypack when hiking in rough country:

1) A good sharp knife, both a large knife and a small one. A small Swiss Army Knife (SAK) is very useful for the tweezers, for pulling cactus spines out of your hand, after you go ass over kettle.
2) A source of fire. Lighter and an emergency flint or sparklite. Also some good tender. Quiktender works great, so do the little Coleman wax firestarters. For those on a budget, a double ziploc baggy full of dryer lint works like a champ. A dry bird's nest or some herbivore excrement can work as well (this also works as great fire fuel).
3) Food. I always carry lunch and dinner, in addition to energy bars, sugary snacks, and a salty snack. If you stretch and ration accordingly, you can live for two or three days on gear like this.
4) Water, always MORE than you think you'll need. Pack some tea bags too.
5) First aid kit. I keep a basic in my pack and our crew carried a more extensive, hiking oriented first aid kit.
6) Paracord or 550-pound cord. 100 feet of it, and two load bearing carabiners. This is for emergency rappeling or building a shelter or building a litter/travois to carry a wounded person out on.
7) An extra layer of clothes and an extra pair of socks.
8) Emergency space blanket (for when the layer is only helping some)
9) Flask of good rum or whiskey (for when the going gets really rough)
10) Flashlight and spare batteries. There is no reason to be without a GOOD and BRIGHT light these days. AA powered LED lights, are bright enough to signal aircraft and see your way in the dark.
11) A compass, and a general sense of the direction of your camp and the direction you are traveling.
12) A bottle that can be heated. My high density plastic Nalgenes work great for carrying water, but poorly for heating it up. Sure would be nice to make a tea or a freeze dried soup you stored in your kit, over your fire, right? Except, you have nothing to cook in.
13) A Katadyne hand pump water filter system. Surprisingly, it is easy enough to find water in the desert (here's the tip, follow the animal tracks, they are going to food or water). If you run out, a hand pump filter can save you a little of trouble when you need some water. During my time, I located two fresh water springs, which produces running, ice cold water, that wasn't drinkable without iodine tablets, boiling, or filtering. Boiling is the easiest method, but a backpack pump is light, easy to use, and can be a real life saver, plus the water doesn't taste like ass.

Those are just a few tips and I will try and post a few more at a later time.