Category Archives: Tactical Gear

RETRO-REVIEW: Colt SAA

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The Colt SAA is perhaps the most easily recognizable revolver in the world. READ MORE

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Heyward Williams

Some handguns give you a 1200 psi adrenaline flow just handling them. Others are as exciting as a dance on broken ground. The Colt Single Action Army is among the former. The Colt is an icon in the truest sense, and iconic handguns and the use they have been put to in times of war and trouble are immensely interesting. Despite being introduced in 1873 the Colt SAA (sometimes called Frontier Six Shooter or Peacemaker) remains in production and is still a useful firearm. I often carry the Colt Single Action Army in the field, as a trail gun, when hiking, and sometimes just because it feels right. My philosophy of a hard hit delivered with accuracy in preference to a flurry of small caliber shots seems a good fit for my lifestyle. The Colt isn’t at the top of the list for personal defense anymore but then it isn’t at the bottom either. For protection against dangerous animals including feral dogs and the big cats the Colt seems just right. The Colt was the first choice of experienced gunners many years ago, in spite of good quality double action revolvers being widely available. Lawrence of Arabia, Frank Hamer, Tom Threepersons, Douglas McArthur, George S Patton and others relied on the Colt SAA for everyday use. It is a practical and hard hitting handgun and these men were on the point of danger. (Hamer and Lawrence each referred to the Colt SAA as their Lucky Gun or Old Lucky, and each also used the 1911 pistol.)

In the early 1870s Colt Firearms was given the task of creating a new Army revolver. The goal was a handgun and cartridge capable of taking a Native American war pony out of action at 100 yards. (More horses than men were killed in practically every battle in the west.) The result was the solid frame Single Action Army. The .45 Colt used a variety of loads ranging from 230 to 260 grains, at 750 to 900 fps, and in both copper and brass cartridge cases. The cartridge lived up to its promise. While there were other cartridges chambered in the Colt, notably the .44-40 WCF, the .45 Colt is my favorite. It resounds with authority today.

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This is a second generation .45 Colt SAA.

The original Army revolver featured a 7 ½ inch barrel. The later Artillery Model featured a 5 ½ inch barrel and finally a popular 4 ¾ inch barrel or Gunfighter’s Model. The Single Action Army requires the hammer be put on half cock to load. Open the loading gate. Load one cartridge, skip a cylinder, load four and cock the hammer and lower it on an empty chamber. The revolver then and now is only safe to carry with five beans under the wheel as the firing pin would rest on the primer of a chambered cartridge otherwise, an unsafe practice. To unload open the loading gate and kick each cartridge out individually with the ejector button. The first guns were manufactured with iron frames that were case hardened to strength. I still prefer the case hardened look with modern high quality steel revolvers. There are incremental improvements in the type and many different chamberings. The SAA earned a reputation as a durable and hard hitting handgun. The balance of the revolver is excellent. It is among the fastest pointing and hitting handguns I have used. The 1911 fits my hand well and it is superior in rapid fire, the double action revolver required a different grip style to stabilize the handgun as the forefinger works the trigger. But nothing points like a finger like the SAA. Even today few handguns are as fast and sure to an accurate first shot at moderate range. The wound potential of the lumbering old slug is unsurpassed in standard calibers although equaled by strong loads in the .45 Auto Rim.

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The .45 Colt responds well to careful handloading.

My modern SAA is the 4 ¾ inch version with case hardened frame. The revolver is plenty accurate for most uses. I have used quite a few loads in this Colt and still enjoy working up handloads and testing factory loads. Winchester still produces the original 255 grain conical bullet. The Super X load is faster than the modern cowboy action loads and breaks just over 800 fps in the 4 ¾ inch barrel SAA. This load exhibits excellent penetration. The bullet will tumble in some media creating an extensive wound the length of its travel. I have the greatest respect for this load as a personal defense load and for defense against animals into the big cat class. I have also tested the Winchester PDX hollowpoint. This load operates a modest pressure but jolts a well designed 225 grain JHP at 800 fps. Expansion is good. This loading would make an excellent defense load for home defense. There are combinations I load myself for occasional use that are even stronger including a 255 grain SWC at 1,000 fps, but I do not need these for most uses. With any of these loads the Colt will group five shots into 2-2.5 inches at 20 yards.

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.45 Colt loads compared to the .45 ACP.

A great advantage of the SAA is its balance on the hip. The revolver sets right, with the proper balance of barrel, cylinder and butt to offer a forward tilt on the draw. While I am not adverse to tucking the revolver in my belt — with the loading gate open in the appendix position == you really need a good holster. Among the finest possible holsters to be had is the DM Bullard shoulder holster. This is a relatively fresh design with excellent utility. The holster load bearing harness features a steel reinforcement for rigidity. The holster itself may be detached for belt use if needed. The rig shows excellent fit and finish including creased straps and excellent adjustment. During the winter months there is no handier type of carry. I also use a concealed carry holster with a severe tilt that offers practically as much concealment as an inside the waistband holster. Mine is of carefully crafted exotic leather. Also from DM Bullard this holster is a sturdy companion that keeps the handgun secure but ready for a rapid presentation.

The Colt has the famous plow handled grip and a decent trigger. A tip on firing the beast- don’t take the time to carefully steady the gun and fire slow fire but use it as intended. Draw, cock the hammer as it is brought on target, and press the trigger smoothly but quickly. Colt revolvers are among the most famous of handguns. They are historically important and offer practical utility today. If a sense of history and emotional attachment mean anything to you these are the handguns to have. Don’t lock them in the safe. Fire them often. Carry them. They are valuable but in my opinion more valuable to a shooter than a collector.

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The Gunfighters Gun

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The history of the gunfighters gun is fascinating and rings true today in handgun selection. READ MORE

gunfigher guns

Bob Campbell

“Gents, Please send me one of your Nickel plated .45 Caliber revolvers. It is for my own use and for that reason I would like to have a little Extra pains taken with it. I am willing to pay the Extra for Extra work. Make it very easy on the trigger and have the front Sight a little higher and thicker than the ordinary pistol of this Kind. Put on a gutta percha handle and send it as soon as possible. Have the barrel about the same length that the ejecting rod is.
Truly yours
W.B. [Bat] Masterson”

gunfigher guns
Ivory gripped and fast into action this .44-40 was someone’s dream gun in 1890.

A gun has a face, a soul and a history. Some handguns have been around the block. The Colt Single Action Army revolver built the block. The relationship to firearms isn’t attachment to an inanimate object but rather to the country and a respect for the men that used the firearm. Handguns are used in great wars and battles but most of the actions are close range and of a more personal nature. These battles are less important to the world but important to the men involved in them. The men that used the gun, the men that invented the gun and the craftsmen that made the gun are all important. I mean this in the best sense of the word — the Colt is made by Yankee craftsmen in Hartford Connecticut and has been for many years — over one hundred forty years for the Colt Single Action Army. This handgun was selected for the US Army partly due to General Stephen Benet’s insistence that the Army have the best tool for the job. Among the chores the Colt Single Action Army had to perform was dropping an Native American war pony at 100 yards. The new revolver met a higher standard of reliability, accuracy and power than ever before for a military handgun. The result was a handgun that served the Army well, was adopted by bad and good men in the West, and which rode with western lawmen until the 1950s. Frank Hamer carried his Old Lucky .45 in pursuit of Bonnie and Clyde, and Tom Threepersons favored his custom Colt SAA when walking the mean streets of border towns in the 1920s. Douglas McArthur killed 7 adversaries with his Colt in a number of wild battles in Mexico, while a young George S Patton killed at least two bandits. General Wainwright took his to the Philippines and General Patton wore an engraved SAA in Europe. A young Marine named Jeff Cooper saved his life with the Colt SAA on more than one occasion during World War Two.

gunfigher guns
The 5 ½ inch barrel revolver was common, and many liked this barrel length. But it wasn’t quite as handy as the 4 ¾ inch barrel revolver.

“If you want to kill a man use a revolver. If you want to make a lot of noise use an automatic.”
Gen . George S. Patton

gunfigher guns
The 4 ¾ inch barrel Colt SAA rode lighter than the long barrel guns and was fast on the draw. This is the Cheyenne holster from Old West Reproductions.

The use that the Colt was put to that is the most remembered — and perhaps this is fueled by the cinema — is its use by dead eyed gunfighters in the streets of the old west. They were used in fear, on the side of justice, for retribution, and for survival. Some wielded them with deadly efficiency. The Colt embodies the spirit of the west, and perhaps independence we love and hold dear. This was America’s gun and the piece is closely associated with American lawmen and gunfighters. (Although a young Brit that became Lawrence of Arabia also preferred the Colt Single Action Army.) The Colt was not the most advanced gun of the day. Hinged frame revolvers loaded more quickly and there were double action revolvers that could be fired more quickly. The Colt was rugged and worked, and that is what really counts in a fighting handgun. A warranty means little far from home or a gunshop. The handgun had to be reliable.

gunfigher guns
Grip like a plow handle? This Traditions reproduction revolver does resemble the old King’s plow in the grip!

The gunfighters gun was the Colt SAA preferred by Bat Masterson, Tom Threepersons, Frank Hamer and others. This was the Colt Single Action Army with 4 ¾ inch barrel. This is the finest balanced handgun in the world, in my opinion. The balance is neither handle heavy nor barrel heavy but simply ideal. The grip has been called a plow handled grip. The angle is nearly identical to the small plows used to till the ground. Most anyone was familiar with this grip in those days. I prefer to think that the grip was designed for excellent hand fit. After all flintlock pistols that came before were not too different in grip angle. When you wrap your hand around the grip of the Colt Single Action Army something says friend. The grip angle allowed a soft rocking in recoil. Even with heavy .45 Colt loadings the revolver was comfortable to fire. As the barrel rose in recoil the hammer was presented at the ideal angle for the shooting thumb to quickly reach and cock the hammer. This isn’t done in the modern manner by reaching from the back of the hammer but by laying the thumb over the hammer. The distinctive sound of the hammer being cocked says C-O-L-T to those with an ear — even if the gun is a modern clone. The .45 Colt revolver cartridge was the most powerful handgun cartridge of the day. Power wasn’t debatable among those that really needed a sidearm. They carried the most powerful revolver available. As for Bat Masterson’s custom front sight Tom Threepersons Gun, now in a museum, also sports a tall front sight. Perhaps these lawmen learned long ago what we know now — keeping your eye on the front sight is what matters in a gunfight. Speed is good, Masterson said, but accuracy is final.

gunfigher guns
The 5 ½ inch barrel revolver was common, and many liked this barrel length. But it wasn’t quite as handy as the 4 ¾ inch barrel revolver.

A Divine Angle and Heavenly Balance
Why was the 4 ¾ inch Colt the gunfighter’s gun? The 7 ½ inch barrel Colt was the Army’s choice. The long barrel made certain that the most velocity possible was gained. The long sight radius gave every advantage in firing at aboriginal warriors at long distances. Civilian demand for a shorter length led to the 5 ½ inch barrel revolver in 1875. Colt began offering the 4 ¾ inch barrel version in 1879. It had been a special order item in the past, but the 4 ¾ inch barrel revolver was now a standard offering. Most lawmen worked in town. Few wore ‘traildriver’ attire except when tracking or leading a posse, and this was something done primarily by US Marshals. The town police often wore a suit jacket over the firearm. This practice continued until the time of Tom Threepersons in the 1920s and Frank Hamer in the 1930s. When carrying the revolver under covering garments the 4 ¾ inch barrel revolver was much easier to carry and conceal. While face offs and fast draw contests are primarily the province of the cinema there were times when speed into action could be critical. The 4 ¾ inch barrel Colt cleared leather more quickly than the longer barrel versions. On the other hand the short barrel Sheriff’s or Shopkeeper Model Colt revolvers were not as well balanced or accurate and also eliminated the ejector rod assembly, making reloading difficult. Another big plus for Colt — the revolver was fully ambidextrous. Later swing out cylinder revolvers favored the right handed user. The Colt was sometimes said to favor the left hand handed shooter. With either hand, even switching to the left hand for right handed shooters during reloading, the revolver was ambidextrous. And don’t think the Colt was as slow to load as all that. By snagging a handful of cartridges and quickly ejecting the spent case and slipping another into place as you spun the cylinder the Colt could be reloaded relatively quickly.

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Colt still offers a nickel plated Colt in 4 ¾ inch length.

The 4 ¾ inch barrel Gunfighter’s gun was brilliantly fast into action. At the usual ranges involved in saloon fights or across the gaming table the black powder loads then in use the adversary’s clothing was often set on fire. This resulted in quite a scene I am certain! The cloud of black powder smoke sometimes found its way under the skin of the protagonists and more than one old time gun fighter wore these flecks under his skin. Having been struck by a bullet on one occasion and on another having a bullet pass my ear so closely it compressed my ear drum I assure you these events are far more nerve wracking than the usual cinematic depiction. The short and well balanced 4 ¾ inch barrel Colt was the greatest gunfighters gun and remained so for many years. Then and now, the Colt was among the more expensive handguns. If just any handgun would do there were handguns available for half the price of the Colt. Today the better replicas — and some, such as the Cimarron, are very good — are not inexpensive. But the Colt was acquired from a burning desire to have the very best handgun on the belt to save your life. The Colt SAA Gunfighter’s gun is a legendary handgun that still delivers speed, accuracy and power. It is an American icon without equal.

gunfigher guns
Three .45s- a 1911, top, the Colt New Service, middle, and the SAA, bottom. The SAA still has its share of adherents.

A question remains — why did lawmen carry the Colt SAA revolver until well into the late 1940s in some cases? Others, such as Skeeter Skelton, carried the Colt on patrol with the US Border Patrol well after World War Two. The answer is simple — handling, weight and balance. The new breed of double action revolvers offered greater rapidity of fire but their accurate rate of fire wasn’t really different from the SAA. They were much faster to reload, that was true. But due to the more complicated mechanism the double action revolver was larger and heavier. Some, like the Colt New Service, were at least as durable as the SAA. The 4 ¾ inch barrel SAA was no more difficult to carry and conceal than a 4 inch barrel Smith and Wesson Military and Police .38 revolver. The SAA also offered a sweet trigger press and high practical accuracy. When the 1911 automatic came along some Texas Rangers and other lawmen adopted the 1911 because it too was relatively light and had that sweet trigger press. But many, like Frank Hamer, relied upon the SAA for daily carry and only occasionally carried the 1911.

gunfigher guns
Five beans under the wheel is the rule for safe carry with the Single Action Army.

The .45 Colt Cartridge
While the .44-40 WCF was also popular the majority of lawmen carried the .45 Colt cartridge revolver. The cartridge case held 40 grains of black powder under a 250 grain bullet. This load averaged about 900 fps in long barrel revolvers. The cartridge proved adequate at dropping an Indian Pony and drovers appreciated the ability to drop a crazed bronc or steer before it beat a man to death. While some argument may be made as to the superiority of the .44-40 as a rifle cartridge, the .45 Colt was the favorite gunfighter’s cartridge and the one that survived the longest.

The Glock M44 — Glock Imperfection?

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It isn’t perfect but the Glock M44 is a good addition to the Glock battery. READ WHY

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The Glock M44 is a great all around trainer and target practice handgun.

Heyward Williams

The Glock 44 rimfire was met with some derision by those wishing to own a single column magazine 10mm or perhaps the long awaited Glock carbine. I don’t know if Glock is seriously considering these firearms but they listen, they certainly do. They listened when American officers asked for self loading pistols to level the playing field. Chiefs, bean counters and administrators were grudging to give officers much needed hollow point bullets. The avoided leveling the playing field. (Anti gun and anti cop goes hand in hand.) The Illinois State Police paved the way with self loaders but the Democrats in charge limited them to FMJ ammo. A Republican governor finally made the change. In most jurisdictions administrators agreed to issue self loaders when a double action only was offered. The big American makes turned a deaf ear to American cops offering a warmed over Americanized P 38 for police service. They thereby abrogated the police market to the Europeans for the next four decades. Glock’s Model 17 9mm was the first Glock followed by many other Glock pistols including my favorite the Glock 19. Glock responded to police requests with the Glock M 22 .40 and the .45 GAP, an underrated caliber with many applications. That is all a thrice told story. The .22 rimfire Glock is today’s headline.

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The M19 and M44 frames are similar but not identical.

Glock has boldly moved out of the personal defense and service market. Many makers or aftermarket makers offer rimfire conversions for their handguns. Some work well, others not so well. I have used a .22 caliber handgun for marksmanship training, practice, and small game hunting for decades. They are just fun guns. You don’t have to have a reason to own one. Shooters that neglect to own a .22 handgun are missing out on an important tool. The cost of a handgun pales over the cost of an extensive training regimen. The .22 allows many thousands of rounds of rounds of ammunition to be fired for a pittance. The problem is the .22 is a hoary old design. The rimmed cartridge case and heel based bullet don’t make for the most reliable feeding not to mention powder designed for rifles. The resulting pressure curve makes for difficulty in convincing a pistol to feed properly. Most makers warranty their pistol with work only with high velocity loads. Since standard velocity loads are generally more expensive than bulk produced high velocity loads this isnt a demerit. CCI alone manufactures billions of .22 LR cartridges a year.
The Glock M44 is a Generation 4 type with finger groove frame. The pistol is designed to mock the popular Glock 19 9mm. The Glock 44 is well suited for rimfire practice for those that own Glock centerfire handguns. The pistol is equally well suited to beginning shooters and those that enjoy informal target shooting and small game hunting. A radical departure from the Glock 19 is a lightweight slide that is a hybrid mix of polymer with metal reinforcement. A steel slide would be too heavy to be actuated by rimfire recoil. While it may be tempting to fit aftermarket sights, perhaps the same XS sights found on your Glock 23 as an example, makers tell me they do not recommend steel sights be pressed into the polymer Glock hybrid slide. Downer there. Otherwise the takedown, magazine release and trigger action are straight up Glock.

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The internals of the Glock 44 and Glock 19 are similar. The Glock 44 has a longer ejector and different locking block.

You cannot place the Glock 44 slide on a Glock 19 frame. The locking block and other parts differ. The barrel is removeable. The barrel is what Glock calls a Marksman barrel. The chamber is fluted to aid feed reliability. A threaded barrel will be available within weeks Glock tells us. Spare magazines are about twenty eight dollars. The pistol is supplied with two magazines. And no loading tool. The easy load design doesn’t need a loading tool.

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An easy load magazine is a big plus for the Glock 44.

The overall length is 7.28 inches. Barrel length is 4.02 inches. Standard Glock type frame inserts are included. The Glock 44 features a rail for mounting combat lights. Unlike most .22 caliber rimfire handguns the Glock 44 may be dry fired without harming the firing pin. The difference most apparent in handling is weight. The Glock 44 weighs just over 14.5 ounces, nine ounces less than the Glock 19. The Glock 44 uses a single column ten shot magazine. Glock tells us that a high capacity magazine is difficult to convince to feed with the rimmed .22 Long Rifle cartridge. The magazine features a nicely located tab on the follower that makes loading easy. Depress the tab and load one round at a time to properly stack the ammo in the magazine, do not depress the tab and drop cartridges into the magazine. The proper sequence ensures feed reliability. The Safe Action trigger breaks at 5.8 pounds compression.

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The Glock 19, top, in 9mm, is a bit heavier than the similar Glock 44 .22, bottom.

I have fired the Glock 44 extensively with a lot of help from the grown grandchildren. The pistol is a fun gun. Personal defense drills may be ran quickly. It really isn’t much faster to fire a string than the Glock 19, at least accurately, as you have to be careful to center the sights and the whippy slide makes it a bit more difficult. No problem this is a .22. So- cross training with the 9mm is pretty realistic. As for hunting I will no longer have to hold the Colt Frontier .22 in one hand and a light in the other. I can use two hands and light up a racoon with the TruGlo combat light on the rail of the Glock 44. As for reliability well it isnt up to the usual Glock standard. Various institutional shoot outs have subjected the Glock 9mm to ten to forty thousand rounds of ammunition and found the piece very reliable. Occasionally a trigger return spring will break at thirty thousand rounds. Big deal. The Glock 44 has a drawback in mounting after market sights, but that’s ok. Just not perfect commonality with the service gun. The trigger action may be changed out with an aftermarket trigger group so that’s good. The slide and barrel differ in the locking block so you cannot put a Glock 44 slide on the Glock 19 and that’s good. Reliability is the big problem. It isnt as reliable as Glock claims. With several types of High Velocity loads it is almost but not quite one hundred per cent. Be careful how you stagger the cartridges in the magazine. Subsonic ammunition is supposed to work. Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Once the piece is dirty sub sonics don’t work as well. The first sign is the slide doesn’t lock open on the last shot. The pistol is reliable with CCI Mini Mags, either RN, HP or segmented. These loads are one hundred per cent at least up to about four hundred rounds. Don’t laud my efforts too much, it was a lot of fun. Keep the Glock 44 .22 pistol clean and lubricated and it will go several hundred Mini Mags without a hiccup. That’s all we can ask. It is a neat .22, a Glock, it is less reliable than some .22s and more so than others.

 

OPINION: WASHINGTON SECRETS

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Gun sales up over 200% in some states, most ‘new to gun buying’ READ MORE

ar15s

Paul Bedard

Some of the top prepper advisers who rightly counseled people in the early days of the coronavirus crisis to hoard toilet paper and fuel are now urging the purchase of “defensive guns” as the national lockdown drags on through April.

Pew-Pew Tactical boss Eric Hung told us that firearms are still hot but that the focus has turned to “more oriented home-defense guns like pump action shotguns and cheaper handguns.” And with that, he added, ammunition and sights for those guns are surging.

What’s more, he said that makers of AR-style rifles are sold out. “AR-15s are selling briskly too with some manufacturers completely out of their inventory and only able to sell what they can make in a day,” he told us.

Hung, whose page is a one-stop educational, sales, and review website for weapons and prepping advice, said there has also been a surge in rookie gun buyers looking for self-defense items. “It seems a lot are beginner firearm owners as we see more searches to our intro articles and a 4x increase in our online beginner handgun video course,” said Hung, who has posted a Prepper 101 guide.

Justin Anderson, the marketing director for Hyatt Guns of Charlotte, North Carolina, one of the nation’s biggest, told us, “Most of the customers we’re seeing are new to gun buying. So, if there’s one bright spot during this crisis, it’s seeing people exercising their Second Amendment rights for the first time.”

The proof is in the surge of FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System, up 80% in March, and even higher in some states.

A new report from the National Shooting Sports Foundation shared with Secrets Tuesday showed that the checks jumped over 200% in Michigan and Alabama, which have eliminated ways to skirt the checks.

Joe Friday’s Gun

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This old .38 is a formidable handgun. READ MORE

joe friday
This is a useful revolver with value beyond the fascination with Dragnet.

Heyward Williams

Among the first police procedural dramas was Dragnet. Dragnet was down to earth and presented the facts well. As a child I enjoyed the series very much. Dragnet still has much to recommend. Professionalism and results are valued. Later many of the prima donnas and flawed characters in TV shows were less interesting. Few would have lasted a minute in any agency I worked for. Some of the shows were basically good trash versus bad trash and the good trash wins. Then we had the original Criminal Minds. While they compressed a six month investigation into an hour show the original was very good. Then the show devolved into ridiculous plots and became basically a show case for personalities. The tired old plot of cop gets framed or cop gets divorce and a lack of originality seems to dog many shows after the first season. Kind of a soap opera. The point of my dialogue is Dragnet was a very good show and it set the pace for some of the better dramas such as Law and Order. As long as there are criminals and cases there will be fertile ground for police dramas. If you can read a file and get the facts then you can write a dramatization of it. And it doesn’t take a show of force akin to an Israeli police action against terror to get the job done. Joe Friday, like all LAPD detectives of the day, carried a .38 Special revolver.

joe friday
A four inch barrel Military and Police .38, above, compared to the two inch barrel revolver.

I began my reading and research in the firearms world with well written books by C B Colby. His work whetted my interest in firearms and most were written in simple prose that a nine year old could understand. As I progressed to reading Gun Digest I learned a great deal about handguns. By age eleven I had a Crossman air pistol and had fired several of my grandfather’s revolvers. I knew that Joe Friday carried a Military and Police .38 Special with a two inch barrel. This was one of the first short barrel .38 Special revolvers, introduced just before Colt’s Detective Special. The Military and Police revolver is a K frame revolver. It is considerably larger than the J frame five shot revolver. The Military and Police revolver features a full size grip that makes control good for experienced shooters. The sights are excellent for a fixed sight revolver. The action is smooth. While the smaller frame Detective Special has much merit the Military and Police snub nose is a fast handling and effective revolver.

joe friday
The Smith’s fixed sights are precise when properly aligned and fast to pick up.

I had wanted one of these revolvers after seeing Joe Friday draw and use his on Dragnet. Very seldom was the big Smith used but when it was Friday fired a single shot and got the job done. The lumbering old 200 grain Super Police load was standard for the LAPD in those days. While Friday’s gun fired blanks the LAPD fired many Super Police loads in the line of duty. I have owned a good number of J frame revolvers, primarily for use as a backup, and somehow I hadn’t added a full size Military and Police .38 Special revolver with two inch barrel to my collection. I kept my eye open for an example and actually ran across one about three years ago at a fair price. This was the first and last time I entered this shop. (It is now out of business.) I saw an older Smith and Wesson two inch barrel Model Ten with the desirable diamond grips. The revolver had a bit of wear, just like I like. A nice looking lady of perhaps forty years age handed me the revolver and we were within a few dollars of making the deal. A crusty overweight sourpuss (the owner) came to stand beside his daughter. I held the gun up to the light looking it over and remarked, ‘Hey this is Joe Friday’s gun.’ Sourpuss said, ‘I don’t care who in the hell pawned it it’s mine now.’ Seldom have I met such a solid combination of ignorance, disdain for a customer, and a lack of personality. I smiled at his lovely daughter and said ‘Let me think about it.’ I never graced the place again.

joe friday
A snubby barrel makes for fast handling.
joe friday
The revolver came with a chip out of the stock at no extra charge.

A few weeks ago I saw another of the now hard to find revolvers. The piece was in one of my favorite shops and it was marked at a fair price. I managed to whittle a few dollars off the price and took the piece home, cracked grip, worn muzzle and all. I didn’t want a new in the box example at all and that wasn’t in the budget. The action is tight and a check of the serial number showed the revolver left the factory in 1972. The bluing was decent and the chip off the bottom of the grip didn’t affect firing. Who knows — perhaps someone had used the gun butt as a kosh and buffaloed some deserving SOB. The Smith and Wesson Military and Police is a trouble free revolver. You could by pass every new revolver in the gun case at a well stocked gun shop and pick up a new Military and Police revolver and have a handgun that will last you for many years with heavy use.

joe friday
Several Remington .38 Special loads gave good results in the Model Ten.

I took the revolver to the range and loaded up the classic 158 grain RNL in the Remington Wheelgunner line. The revolver lines up on target quickly. Accuracy is good. The K frame really soaks up recoil. At 10 yards it was no mean feat to put six rounds into the X ring firing double action. Of course we don’t carry RNL loads. The Remington lead semi wadcutter hollow point is soft enough to plump up to .60 even at 820 fps, the clocked velocity from the Smith’s short barrel. There was more recoil with this 158 grain load but the big Smith and Wesson remained controllable. After firing a number of double action pairs I appreciated Sgt. Friday’s choice. This is a good handling revolver. The two inch barrel allows good concealment even when worn on the belt as a relatively short covering garment will conceal this handgun. I even tried a few shots at a long 20 yards. Bracing against a barricade and firing five rounds single action all five went into less than two inches- with three in 1.5 inches. These were among the most accurate revolvers to leave Smith and Wesson. Since the initial outing I have also fired a number of handloads using heavy cast bullets from Matt’s Bullets. A hard cast 200 grain bullet at 800 fps thumps the steel plates hard. Not recommended for J frame revolvers.

Joe Friday carried his Smith in a crossdraw holster. My research indicates this was a Lewis holster, a well made scabbard long out of production. I have on hand a spring loaded G Man crossdraw from the 1940s or so. The Smith and Wesson fit well and the draw was excellent. The holster has become loose with the years and that wont do. A modern Wright Leather Works crossdraw is superior to most anything Joe Friday would have owned. The Smith and Wesson Military and Police is a good fit for this holster, originally intended for a Smith and Wesson Combat Magnum with 2.5 inch barrel. The Wright Leather Works holster holds the gun butt in the perfect position for a rapid presentation.

In the end I like this combination very much. I am certain I will be using the Smith and Wesson .38 when hiking or other low stress activity and probably carrying it concealed from time to time. I would rather have this vintage Smith and Wesson than perhaps half of the guns I see in shooting classes. And that’s the facts — just the facts.

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Wright Leatherworks offers first class concealment leather.

SKILLS: Handgun Stopping Power

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One Shot Stops, 9mm vs. .45, Magic Bullet. READ MORE

Bob Campbell

stopping power
The .45 ACP was developed to offer similar wound potential to the .45 Colt, lower. These are old school handguns perhaps but only a few months old. One is for concealed carry and the other accompanies the author on the trail.

In writing, I prefer my information to be valid and the research verifiable, and the experiments repeatable. I like to give the reader an opportunity to get a handle on things. Quite often the things that the critic points out harshly are the things that majority of the readers find valuable. I have found that the subject of handgun wound potential or stopping power isnt a puzzle at all but remains a puzzle to those that make it so. I realize that there is not natural law that gives a man a reward that matches his endeavor, so I hope that the reader finds something of value in this work. There has been more debate concerning handgun stopping power in the past 20 years than in the previous 100. A lot of gunplay took place in the old west, but period literature covers the tactics and personalities far more closely than the guns and calibers used. The .44 and .45 caliber revolvers in wide use on the frontier seemed to work with authority, and no one much questioned the efficacy of their ballistics. There are reports of the effect of the .44 on horses and the problems with the .36 at long range during the Civil War, but perhaps that is going back too far and reading too much into different technology.

Since the days when word-of-mouth was the only barometer of handgun effectiveness, we have made many advances in measuring handgun power. The standard was once pine boards to test handgun cartridges, penetration being the only criteria. Penetration is still the most important criteria. Ductseal and clay were widely used to test hollowpoints, both unrealistic media. Today we have carefully formulated ballistic gelatin, developed by trauma surgeons to replicate human tissue, as well as some highly significant scientific studies of gunshot effects.

stopping power
With plus P loads with a good balance of expansion and penetration the .38 Special and 9mm Luger are lifesavers. These handguns are the right size for good control.

The study of tactics and human behavior is more important than the weapon, caliber and loading used in combat. Marksmanship can be proven to be the most important component of handgun effectiveness. Wound ballistics is a science, with conclusions drawn from studying bullet tracks in both ballistic gelatin and corpses in the medical examiner’s morgue. Detractors of laboratory tests feel these tests cannot duplicate differences in point of impact, clothing, attitude, muscle structure and intoxication. But a ballistic scientist does not ask us to believe anything. He simply presents the results of his tests. The results are not only verifiable, they are repeatable, the real test of science.

Stopping power “studies,” on the other hand, ask us to believe in someone’s conclusion. Assuming such compilations are valid requires a considerable leap of faith. Reports are often sensationalized, even glamorized. Are such studies grounded in reality? Are they even useful? Can they be supported by scientific methods? I don’t have all the answers, but I do know this — cartridges and loads are not as important as basic shooting skills. I don’t believe trick loads significantly alter the ability of a smallbore cartridge to inflict damage. I simply don’t accept many published reports because they are anecdotal and based on hearsay. Even if the shootings actually occurred — which is reasonable to ask — the methodology is flawed. In other cases, there are conclusions made that are so irrelevant to the reality of interpersonal combat that they are not even worth publishing.

A Skeptical Eye
When it comes to the various handgun “studies,” we must consider their validity. These “researchers” are not writing the King James version of stopping power. Yet the figures expressed are often quoted in the popular press as gospel. A criticism of some of the work might be the inability of others to inspect and review source material. To some, this reduces the validity of the study to zero. Certainly, such unsubstantiated work does not meet an investigative standard. As a longtime officer, I understand both sides of this debate. Confidentiality and respect for families must be considered. Cops who collect shooting histories may not have engaged in much gunplay, but have arrived just after quite a few gunfights ended. Cops from Area Six in Chicago, Fort Apache (the Bronx) in New York, or The Wall in California have a good idea of the type of damage different handgun calibers inflict. They are good investigators as well. They realize that three eyewitnesses testifying in good faith may perceive events three different ways.

Human perceptions differ. The road to a detective’s badge in many agencies is through the traffic division. Working wreck scenes is small-scale investigation, and separates the sleuths from the duffers in some cases. Applying normal investigative standards to stopping power studies often reveals bankrupt methodology or standards. These “studies” do not even meet the criteria demanded by some agencies in ascertaining who is at fault in a fender bender.

stopping power
The author prefers the balance of control and power in the .45 automatic. The Nighthawk, top, and Colt, below, are frequent companions.

Most police trainers have long abandoned the attempt to study stopping power and instead have concentrated on tactical movement and the actions of felons in combat. Tactics carry the day. By criticizing issue arms and equipment, we undermine an officer’s confidence in his gear, something he is usually unable to change. Sure, a DAO 9mm loaded with subsonic ammunition is not my first choice but a good man or woman behind the sights can make a difference. Tactics and marksmanship are a better answer than hotter loads in minor calibers.

One writer did the boys and girls in blue no favor when he stated in pat terms that load selection is more important than shot placement. His reasoning was that we can control load selection, but not marksmanship. Evidently he does not realize that shots that do not find critical areas are relatively ineffective. Any hunter knows better, and hunting lessons do indeed translate to self defense. A gut-shot man behaves just like a gut-shot deer — both are up and running for quite some time. A man and a deer are similar in size and may be about as hard to put down. The man knows he has been shot, the deer does not, and men are more susceptible to shock.

Most studies, or rather I call them published opinions, eliminate multiple bullet strikes from the data as they ‘confuse the issue.’ This simply makes small caliber bullets look much better than real world experience would indicate. Most handgun fights will be multiple strike incidents. One shot failures would be rare. After all, if the first shot fails, won’t you fire another? Besides, trained shooters often fire double or triple taps before a subject can fall. A problem with handgun histories is qualifying hits. I have on hand a report from police sources in which a coroner and a medical examiner, both reputable men, disagreed concerning the number of hits on a felon’s body. In a class I once attended, a medical examiner spoke in glowing terms of a certain new generation hollowpoint. He showed an impressive slide in which a bad guy — “Satan Lives” was tattooed on his chest — took a single hit which produced a long and wide wound track. Years later, the officer involved in the incident spoke at a seminar. He noted the man took the shot, stopped his attack, and remained mobile for some time, asking the officer to call an ambulance. The felon expired. The officer was certain the man could have continued the fight had he so wished. Two conflicting opinions on the same shooting. Some adversaries are “machinegunned” in shootings — five .38s, seven .45s, or 41 9mms. Excited, frightened men empty their guns under deadly stress. If the felon goes down in such a volley, it may have been a one-shot stop. The volley that leaves a felon standing is always a failure to stop. Dismissing multiple hits eliminates the majority of smallbore shootings.

stopping power
The .357 Magnum, above, pretty much eclipsed the excellent .38 Super, below. In appropriate sized handguns each is a viable personal defense handgun.

There are three components of wound potential that must be stressed — marksmanship, marksmanship and marksmanship. We are not very bright if we have time to arm ourselves with a long gun and fail to do so. In comparison to a 12 gauge shotgun or a .223 rifle, the “weak .38” and “strong .45” are more alike than they differ. A sobering thought.

Tactical Info
Shooting histories should be used for tactical information first and bullet performance information second. As for lab work, gelatin is homogenous and flesh and blood are heterogeneous. It is not the same, but gelatin is a good media for comparing bullet performance. What counts is point of impact and perhaps the adversary’s tox sheet. (Certain drugs are not called painkillers for nothing.) Even ordinary water is good for comparing bullet expansion and penetration. Whether or not we regard the studies as valid, one rule we may take away from learned research is that bullet selection is more important in the weaker calibers. One authority, Dr. Vincent J. Di Miao, has stated that perhaps half of all handgun bullets designed to expand actually fail to expand in the body. They strike a portion of the body that doesn’t stop the bullet or they strike bone and close up on the nose. The works of this respected medical examiner do not inspire confidence in smallbore hollowpoints. We are led to the conclusion that all handguns are weak instruments.

stopping power
A fast handling short barrel revolver is a reasonable choice for personal defense. That’s a five shot .45, left, and a six shot .38, right.

Some decades ago the Police Marksman’s Association published a study that I found among the more valid of the day. The calibers included were .38 Special, 9mm Luger, .357 Magnum and .45 ACP. The .40 S & W was yet to come, so, yes, this was some time ago. While the results of the study are valid, the study, which was conducted by a respected researcher and the records were available to interested researchers, also included hit probability. This simply reflected the number of hits per shots fired. This was a reflection on training than anything else but notably the .357 Magnum exhibited the highest hit probability. The .45 auto and .357 Magnum revolvers showed the highest hit probability of any service handguns. Hit probability is a side issue, but one which remains valid. You would imagine if the agency has a hit probability of fifty per cent with the 9mm, the shots that hit are probably not well centered. Some agencies, such as the Kentucky State Patrol, engaged in rigorous training with their Magnum revolvers.

What follows is a divergence from the scientific, but bear with me — life has to have some fun too — and all this about combat reminds us that life is what it is because men live it.

Fun With Math
One “study” shows a 9mm cartridge that has proven to be a 50 percent stopper. Hit probability in this agency has proven to be 50 percent — far higher than average at the time. What are the chances two felons will be stopped with two shots? Given that only one out of two rounds will hit Felon X and Felon Y, at least four shots will have to be fired to connect, and then only one opponent is likely to be stopped.

Here’s the math on that probability: .50 x .50 = .25. What you have is a one-in-four chance of stopping Felon X with one shot.

What about the .357 Magnum revolver, per PMA stats? It works out like this: .75 x .60 = .45. The conclusion, if we were peddling this “study” as a major work, would be this: The .357 Magnum is nearly twice as likely to produce a one-shot stop as a 9mm Luger. So there you have it. How much faith can we put in these studies? We can learn from the PMA study that firing less with more accuracy means a lot. That doesn’t mean we are slower to the first shot but we should fire with greater accuracy.

The Answer
What stops human adversaries during a deadly attack? A brain shot or a spine shot are the only two instant stoppers. Damage to blood bearing organs which causes rapid blood loss and a drop of pressure causes the body to shut down. Common sense is the best guide. Bigger bullets cause more damage. Bigger knives cut better. Bigger engines pull better. However, handgun bullets aren’t very big. We should practice with the largest caliber we are able to control. Accuracy can make up for power. The reverse may not be true.

REVIEW: Glock Model 34 9mm Generation Five MOS

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This may be the best of the long slide Glocks and that is very good! READ MORE

G34
The Glock 34 9mm is at home with a combat light from TruGlo. This is a formidable home defense system.

Heyward Williams

The Glock 17 9mm is among the most successful service pistols in history. The Glock 17 spun off the compact Glock 19 and sub compact Glock 26 concealed carry handguns. Glock also offered a long slide version of the Glock 17. The Glock 17L was a popular handgun in many ways. While it featured a six inch barrel, the Glock remained relatively light. This handgun was used by competitors and special teams. In one instance a few states away, a team went in against an armed individual holding several children hostage. The point man worked his way into a firing position, took aim with his Glock 17L across a long room, and fired. He placed three 9mm bullets in the offender’s cranium, saving the children. In some forms of competition the 17L fell afoul of match rules specifying length. The Glock 34 with a shorter 5.3 inch barrel was introduced. The Glock 34 has been a successful pistol for Glock. While not as popular as the Glock 17 or Glock 19 the Glock 34 is a steady number with those that appreciate the performance of a long slide handgun. Some of our taller brothers and sisters may find it useful as a duty pistol. A few generations ago the six inch barrel Smith and Wesson K 38 revolver was favored by marksmen for much the same reason, and the Glock 34 is an exceptional handgun. It really isnt any more difficult to conceal than a Government Model 1911 and much lighter.

G34
Glock’s long slide pistol isn’t much more difficult to handle quickly than a Government Model 1911.

I have fired the new Generation 5 Glock extensively. I find the balance of the Glock 34 excellent. Most polymer frame handguns have a heavy slide balance that limits fast handling without a great deal of acclimation. The Glock 34 has a neutral balance — not dissimilar to the 1911 Government Model. The result is a handgun that is well suited to competition shooting. I enjoy shooting this  firearm on the range, and I do not find the Glock 34 too large for concealed carry under covering garments. ( I use a J M Custom Kydex AIWB holster.) After all, it is little longer than the Colt Government Model I have carried for some time. At thirty ounces the pistol isn’t heavy. The holster illustrated is a dedicated appendix carry holster, which I have tried experimentally. JM Custom Kydex offers many OWB and IWB styles as well.

G34
JM Custom Kydex offers a number of first class kydex options for the Glock 34.

I have fired the Glock 34 9mm and Glock 35 .40 extensively. Recently Glock introduced the fifth generation of Glock pistol. The improved Glock pistol is well worth its price. While I sometimes cling to older handguns in this case the improvements are well worth anyone’s consideration. The Glock’s Generation 5 grip treatment makes for good abrasion and adhesion. The Generation 5 Glock pistol eliminates the Generation 4 finger grooves. Even in long practice sessions the pistol remains comfortable while maintaining a good grip. The new Glock features several internal changes. Glock Gen 4 trigger parts, including aftermarket accessory triggers, will not fit the Gen 5. Trigger compression is tighter than the previous Glock, consistent and controllable. The Glock also features an ambidextrous slide lock. This makes the Gen 5 Glock left hand friendly. The new design slide lock works well during speed loads. The Glock 34 points well. Practical accuracy is exceptional. It is no mean feat to strike man sized targets at 100 yards. With a high velocity loading such as the Black Hills Ammunition 115 grain +P hold on the neck and you will get a hit at exceptional handgun range. Firing at this range is something of a stunt but enjoyable as well. Hitting a man sized target at 100 yards or more is not difficult when firing from a solid braced firing position.

g34
Braced barricade fire is very accurate.

Part of the reason the new Generation 5 handguns are more accurate than previous handguns is the Marksman barrel. This barrel features a modified form of rifling. The Marksman barrel is well fitted. Compared to older Glock pistols, the Generation 5 features a tighter fit without any effect on reliability. I have fired the pistol extensively in close range combat drills. If you were called upon to draw and use the handgun inside a vehicle, or to draw the piece as you exit a vehicle, there is a chance of banging the barrel on the door frame or steering wheel if you have not practiced with the longer slide. It depends on how comfortable you are with the long slide pistol and how much you feel the additional weight, barrel length and sight radius improve practical accuracy. For some shooters the Glock 34 will be a great choice for all around use. The pistol features a light rail for mounting a combat light or laser. This makes for a superior home defense option. The shooter may even add a Glock 33 round magazine to obtain an excellent reserve of firepower. The pistol is comfortable to fire and use. This means a lot of shooting. The Glock 34 may be used in competition or informal target practice. As for absolute accuracy, the pistol is capable of five shot groups of 2.0-2.5 inches at 25 yards from a solid benchrest firing position. The Glock 34 also offers the option of mounting a red dot sight. The top plate is removable and four plates for different types of red dot sights are available. The plates do not fit every sight but most of the top rated red dot sights are covered.

G34
The Glock 34 is a joy to fire off hand.

Additions

The factory supplied adjustable sights are excellent for target shooting and competition. Since my Glock 34 is more likely to see use in home defense and outdoors use I added a set of night sights. The TruGlo night sights are an excellent all around choice for the Glock and arguably among the best self luminous iron sights available. They make for a true 24 hour capability, something that cannot be overrated.

Accuracy — 5 shot group fired from a solid standing barricade at 25 yards —
Black Hills Ammunition, 115 gr. TAC +P         1.9 inch
Black Hills Ammunition, 124 gr. JHP                 2.4 inch
Black Hills Ammunition, 115 grain JHP +P    2.0 inch

g34

SEE FULL SPECS HERE

SKILLS: Choices — Just The Right Size Handgun

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The middle ground is pretty good… READ MORE

bob campbell choices
The CZ 75 9mm, top, is among the finest service pistols of all time. The CZ P10C, bottom, is a great concealed carry handgun.

Bob Campbell

When choosing a handgun the analogy to a vehicle, something most of us use every day, is useful. We all know what dead weight is. That is the weight of the bed of the truck (or the support structure in architecture — that’s not what we are looking at today) when unloaded. Live weight is the truck loaded. The handgun, its ammo, holster and spare gun load add up quickly in live weight. Sticks of copy and reams of paper have been slugged during this discussion and now bytes by the millions. The thing is while there must be room for personal choice there is a bottom line for performance and quality. If you like a small car you can easily drive in the city — that’s fine. But you cannot go out and pick up a dining room set with it. If in the worst case scenario, a truck runs a stop sign and hits the Smart Car, well, you may have wished you had something a tad big larger. By the same token any gun is good for a threat but if you really need the pistol you may wish you had something larger and more appropriate for the task at hand. There are really small guns that people find attractive and make all kinds of excuses for wearing them. Some are high quality, others are actually dangerous in my opinion. I think that the middle of road and a handgun that fires a credible cartridge with a good chance of being effective is ideal. The pistol should be a mid size so to speak.

bob campbell choices
Top to bottom— Nighthawk Falcon Government Model, five inch barrel, Devil Dog Commander, 4 and one quarter inch barrel, and the Guncrafter CCO with a shorter grip and Commander length slide. For most of us the CCO is an excellent compromise.

A good number want the security — and it is false security — of carrying a gun but they don’t want to invest in proper training and carry gear. They just want a gun, no matter if it is potentially ineffective. If the gun is so light it is unnoticed it may be misplaced or lost. Don’t laugh. I have seen plenty of this in my career. Guns have been left in lavatories, bedrooms on the dresser, and dropped between car seats. The gun should not be comfortable, it should be comforting. You don’t want to give up your CWP because of a dumb move, so always be aware of exactly where the carry piece is. A number of years ago the FBI did a study on duty guns. FBI agents are better trained and in better shape than many of us, but just the same the results were interesting. A handgun over thirty five ounces becomes a burden on the belt, the study concluded, and the rank and file will complain or even leave the gun in the car. In other words a three inch barrel .38 on the belt is better than a .357 Magnum you don’t carry. So is an Officers Model 9mm better than a Government Model .45 you don’t carry. But then modern polymer framed Glock handguns are light and they are reliable. A Glock 43 9mm is just one example. Of course, you will shoot the Glock 19 even better…

bob campbell choices
Snub nose .38 Special revolvers are generally delivered with a 2 inch barrel. A slightly longer barrel as found on the S & W Model 60, top, is a beneficial to most shooters. That is a Blackhawk! holster, an excellent choice for concealed carry.

Then there is the fellow who tells you that most, if not all personal defense shootings occur at very short range. That is true but you do not get hits by instinctive shooting any more than you can drive a car with your eyes closed. You must aim somehow, even if using the meat and paper type aiming as all you have. The junk guns are not very accurate past bad breath range. There are so many scenarios that could happen, from an adversary behind cover to a mass shooter in a public place, that it is pretty important the handgun be reasonably accurate. Even a quality snub nose .38 Special will place all its shots in the cranium at 7 yards, but the shooter behind the trigger must do their job. Medium sized handguns such as a three inch barrel revolver or a compact self loader are much easier to shoot well. I think that a handgun with the potential to place all five shots into 5 inches at 25 yards is a realistic minimum.

bob campbell choices
If you are able to carry and conceal the CZ 75, upper, or SIG P210, lower, you have a wonderfully accurate low recoil handgun. Most of us must compromise to an extent.

Then there are those who feel that the .32 and .380 are just fine, as long as they put the bullet in the right place. This usually comes from someone who has only fired their handgun during the CWP class and doesn’t actually shoot very well. Despite feel good ballistic preaching and revisionist history, no, the little gun doesn’t perform like the big gun. Don’t use small calibers to attempt to solve a big caliber problem. The baseline should be a .38 Special or 9mm Luger caliber handgun. I guarantee you that with proper training you will fire and use a compact 9mm or three inch barrel revolver better than the smaller guns. The grips fit most hands better, the controls are easier to manipulate, and the sight radius allows better accuracy. Actually fire the guns and you will understand the difference in hit probability. Hitting more accurately with a more powerful round seems attractive to a thinking person. Remember that there are three factors in the application of force in this light. They are direction, strength, and point of application. The first and second properties are combined in a mathematical calculation called vector. The point of application, well, that is the point of the arrow and the spot on the target where the force does the most good and the most meaningful damage. This means accurate delivery.

bob campbell choices
Whichever gun you choose — you must practice often. The comfort level is dictated by grip length and width and the pistol’s weight.

Others claim they cannot conceal an effective handgun. I feel the pain. You may be the envy of everyone around you as the rest of us attempt to cut weight. But a thin person may have to wear looser fitting clothing, and perhaps take a longer look at holsters. Wear a quality IWB — supple leather works best for me — over the right rear pocket. The draw is compromised but you simply cannot wear a handgun on the point of the hip and conceal it. You will look like a water moccasin that has swallowed a muskrat. It isn’t pretty. The draw is compromised just a little but concealment is excellent. Buy a quality rig, not a ten dollar fabric holster at a chain store! Galco is a good name, Blackhawk! has interesting designs. If you go the custom route then you will find a number of very interesting designs, well made, crafted one at a time just for you. At the minimum you will be able to conceal a Glock 43 X or an Officer’s Model Citadel.

Think hard about the concept of concealed carry. What are you carrying for? What is the likely scenario? What is the worst case scenario? Don’t be the person in the unenviable situation of being armed with a deadly weapon but unable to defense themselves well.

bob campbell choices
The SIG P229 is perhaps the best balanced and sought after of the SIG P series double action pistols.

The Best Choices?

Citadel 9mm Officers Model — reliable, accurate well past 25 yards, and fast to a first shot hit there is a lot of love about the Citadel.

Smith and Wesson Model 60 Three Inch Barrel — compared to the two inch barrel snubnose that little bit of extra sight radius and dampening weight makes a difference.

CZ P10C — just enough larger than the Glock 26 to make a difference the CZ P10c is among the finest of the striker fired compact handguns.

There are others — choose the one that suited you best.

SKILLS: Holsterless Handguns — Viable?

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A true packing pistol should be viable if simply shoved in the waistband… READ MORE

no holster carry
Carrying the piece crossdraw in the waistband works well for many shooters.

Bob Campbell

For years most of us have counseled concealed carry handgun carriers to choose a proper holster. A holster keeps the handgun stable and angled for the proper draw. Just the same, who am I to go against two hundred years or more of tradition? Wild Bill Hickock kept his revolvers in a tightly woven sash. Few early holsters were suitable for concealed carry. Even today many folks like pocket carry. I will leave that for another time. Many of us like to shove a handgun in the belt for a quick run to the store or for more casual carry. Among my friends that are retired cops the trend seems to be toward such carry. That’s fine as long as they know what they are doing. The handgun must be tightly sandwiched in between the belt and the body and reasonably secure, not likely to be dislodged. I am not recommending concealed carry with no holster, far from it, but I am also a realist and feel that this common practice should be discussed.

no holster carry
If there were ever a better packing revolver than the Colt SAA the author has never seen it.

Sam Colt designed pocket, belt and holster guns. Each was a different size, for different needs. They generally ran .31, .36 and .44 caliber. Today we have sub-compact, compact and service size pistols. Some are less suited for concealed carry than others. As an example, I usually carry a Commander .45. I may carry a Government Model .45. I have learned after much experimentation that rail guns can be tricky on the draw. The Springfield Operator seems the best of the bunch when coupled with the Galco N3 holster, and a sharp draw isn’t difficult. Sometimes this isn’t true with other designs. If you are going to carry the 1911 in the waistband then the casual outlook probably doesn’t include a rail for mounting a combat light. The rail may snag on clothing. It is important to practice the draw. It is obvious that carrying the pistol cocked and locked isn’t the best idea if the handgun isn’t carried in a holster. The 1911 may reasonably be carried hammer down in relative safety if the pistol features a firing pin block or extra strength firing pin spring as most all modern 1911s do.

no holster carry
A cocked and locked 1911 rail gun, upper, may not be the best choice for waistband carry. The P210 9mm, lower, is long but slim and rides well without a holster. It is also easy to cock the hammer quickly.
no holster carry
This rail may snag the undergarments — practice a few draws to be certain.

The problem is cocking the hammer on the draw. It isn’t that difficult with the modern Government Model with a spur hammer. Some practice needs to go into this draw and making the pistol ready. It is slower than cocked and locked carry. But it is faster than carrying with an empty chamber. If you are carrying a self loading handgun with an empty chamber you really need to be carrying a revolver! When it comes to other single action hammered self loaders we have a mixed bunch. I am not exactly a snowflake, but I find the hammer of the Browning High Power 9mm very difficult to cock on the draw. The hammer is powered by a very heavy spring. The High Power will certainly crack most any primer, which is the design intent, but that hammer renders the High Power much less desirable for holsterless carry. I have to use two hands to rack the High Power. The CZ 75 is another matter. This piece is snug against the body, nearly perfect for carrying in the waistband. While the CZ is a double action first shot pistol it is pretty easy to cock the hammer on the draw. I am very much enjoying the SIG P210A. This is a wonderfully accurate and very well made single action handgun. I find cocking the hammer on the draw quite easy. I don’t feel comfortable carrying any striker fired handgun thrust in the waistband. Neither should you. Some self loaders dont work well based on design. Among my favorite light handguns is the Bond Arms Bullpup 9. The Bullpup 9 is a great shooter and its double action only trigger makes it a safe enough pistol to pack without a holster. The problem is the super compact geometry. The piece just doesn’t fit and balance well in the waistband.

no holster carry
The Model 69 .44 Magnum, top, is a good waistband gun — the Ladysmith, center, is pretty good but the snub .38, bottom, may squirm too much.

For the most part revolvers do not work nearly as well in the waistband without a holster. The snubnose .38, among the most trusted defensive handguns, is too short and squirms in the waistband. A three inch barrel version is a bit better. I sometimes carry the Model 69 2.75 inch barrel Combat Magnum .44 in the front, to the right of the belt buckle, and it is okay for a casual walk. The absolute best balanced revolvers for casual in the waistband carry are the plow handled Single Action Army types. This is among the reasons so many lawmen kept the SAA long past its prime, it is simply well balanced and fast handling. A 4 ¾ inch barrel SAA is about as compact as most double action .357 revolvers and balances well if worn in the front and tucked into the waistband. If you are worried about the revolver slipping into the pants then open the loading gate (crossdraw in the waistband also works as well) as you draw close the loading gate.

no holster carry
Striker fired pistols such as the SIG, top, are not the best choice for carry without a holster. The DAO Bond Bullpup, lower, is a good handgun but the geometry demands a holster. Just not enough real estate to keep the piece steady in the belt.

I think that there are times when holsterless carry works well. It isn’t ideal but then all types of concealed carry are a compromise.

REVIEW: Dan Wesson Guardian

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This Dan Wesson is a faultless performer with good features. READ MORE

dan wesson guardian
The Guardian is well made of good material and a formidable handgun.

Heyward Williams

For some time I have regarded the Commander size 1911 handgun as the perfect carry gun for my needs. A Commander is simply a Government Model 1911 with a slide ¾ inch shorter and an aluminum frame in place of the larger handguns steel frame. This makes for a packable handgun with plenty of power. The Commander retains the low bore axis, straight to the rear trigger compression, and excellent features of the Government Model. After a number of difficulties, fights for my life including a fall from a porch of some four feet with four hundred pounds of felons intertwined with me, car wrecks, and climbs in ancient artifacts of architecture I find my back isn’t what it once was. Just the same the 1911 does the intended job like no other and I am not one to compromise. The 1911 .45 is my handgun and the one that I will carry. There are modern choices using space age alloys that allow me to carry the 1911 in comfort. Recoil is greater with these lightweight handguns as there is seldom a free lunch, only tradeoffs. But thank God I am not yet troubled by pain in the wrist and hands and I am able to handle .45 ACP recoil in the hands. The .45 ACP has a push rather than a rap in my perception and the 1911’s low bore axis and well shaped grip helps to an extent with recoil. If you carry a lightweight .45 prepare for a greater investment in time and ammunition to master the piece. With that in mind I looked for the best combination of features, accuracy, and excellence of manufacture. The sky wasn’t the limit — the price must be reasonable for the quality. I have constantly upgraded my 1911s as better types became available. One of those types is the Dan Wesson Guardian.

dan wesson guardian
Dan Wesson’s LW .45 provided excellent results.

The Guardian features a 4.25 inch barrel and a full length grip frame. The shorter slide is much easier to conceal in an inside the waistband holster. A full size grip allows fast handling. The sight radius is shorter than the 5 inch barrel Government Model but excellent shooting may be done with the handgun by those that practice. Shorter handguns require a bull barrel and dispense with the barrel bushing. I prefer the original type and if we keep the barrel length at 4.25 inches we may retain the barrel bushing. The handgun is superbly finished. The dark blue practically black finish is evenly applied and flawless. There are no tool marks inside or out. The finish is non-reflective. The trigger features an over travel adjustment. Mine is sealed in place. The trigger breaks at a very clean 5.0 pounds with little take up and no trace of creep or over travel. The pistol features tight fit in the slide lock safety with a positive indent. This is the first thing I check on a 1911, before I press the trigger. If the fit is sloppy the pistol isn’t considered for personal use. The ejection port is scalloped for more efficient unloading of a chambered round and for positive ejection. The slide release is a re-design of the John Browning type and works well in speed loads. The steel hammer is skeletonized. The grip safety is the popular beavertail type. This type of safety lowers the bore axis slightly and aids in recoil control. The speed bump aids those that have a problem addressing the grip safety. When you use the thumb forward grip there are times when the palm may be raised off of the grip safety and this safety addresses that concern. When depressed the grip safety releases its hold on the trigger about half way into the grip safety’s travel, properly operating and offering a degree of safety as it springs back into position and locks the trigger when released. The fit of the barrel, barrel bushing and locking lugs is custom grade, as it should be on this high end pistol. The Guardian barrel features a reverse crown, a nice feature. A beneficial step is the dehorning and smoothing of all sharp edges. The pistol features low profile sights with tritium inserts. The Guardian pistol is simply ideal for concealed carry in every way.

dan wesson guardian
Front strap checkering is well done and effect.

The final advantage is the bobtail mainspring housing. This mainspring housing neatly chops away the square edge most likely to print on covering garments when the pistol is worn concealed. The bottom edge of the gripstrap is radiused. This treatment balances the good handling of the arched mainspring housing or the ease with which a beavertail safety may be fitted to the flat mainspring housing. It is one of the best features of the Guardian. The grips are well turned out with a smooth area that allows rapid adjustment of the grip while the checkered areas provide good adhesion. The front strap is tastefully checkered at twenty five lines per square inch. This checkering does more to keep the grip steady than checkered grips and makes for ideal gripping surface. In this type of handgun you are paying for fit and close tolerances. This type of fitting ensures less eccentric wear as the pistol returns to battery in the same manner time after time. The handgun is supplied with two magazines.

dan wesson guardian
Front strap checkering is well done and effective.

For this evaluation I loaded a range bag with a good mix of ammunition. The Guardian was lubricated along the bearing surfaces, barrel hood, barrel bushing and cocking block. A big help was the Butler Creek single column magazine loader. I have a loader for my high capacity handguns and also the AR15 and they are a real time saver. As of this writing I have fired just over one thousand rounds in the Guardian over a period of less than six months. Results have been excellent. There have been no failures to feed, chamber, fire, or eject. One of the reasons I favor the .45 ACP is that its wound potential is based more on diameter than velocity. The .45 ACP operates at modest pressure. This limits wear on the handgun. Muzzle flash is limited. In training one of the best choices for economical training is the Remington UMC 230 grain FMJ loading. This loading makes for affordable practice but it is accurate enough for any chore. To evaluate the pistol with hollow point defense ammunition I used the Remington Ultimate Defense in 185 and 230 grain bullet weights and added the Fiocchi Extrema 200 grain XTP loading. All loads fed, chambered, fired and ejected properly. All are controllable by those that practice. While all are good choices marksmanship and shot placement mean the most, but these are formidable loads. I have also fired a good quantity of handloads with WW 231 powder and hard cast 200 grain SWC bullets.

Firing off hand first shot hit probability is as good as Commander length .45 and the Commander length 1911 is a bit faster to clear leather for the first shot hit. Control after the first shot isn’t as good as the heavier handguns. The pistol is controllable with the proper technique it simply takes more time to recover. The first shot is most important in a personal defense situation. In competition speed and control for a long string of shots is important. The Dan Wesson is built to save your life. Firing for groups at 25 yards produced several two inch five shot groups. While this type of accuracy may not be needed in personal defense it just might be if you need to fire across a parking lot at a felon that is firing from behind cover or if you have an active shooter at longer range.

dan wesson guardian

This dog will run. With a combination of reliability, power, accuracy and fast handling the Dan Wesson Guardian is a formidable carry gun.

Leather
For concealed carry I have used the Jeffrey Custom Leather EZCarry. This holster features a strong steel belt clip and is usually worn inside the waistband. The user has the option of wearing the holster between the belt and the trousers as well. This is a true custom grade holster that exhibits the finest workmanship and stitching. There was a modest break in period. The pistol exhibits a brilliantly fast draw with this combination. Another holster I have found useful is an Avenger style from the same maker. This holster may be concealed under a light covering garment such as a vest. The Avenger features a belt loop design that keeps the holster cinched in tight to the pants. When the weather allows this type of holster it is a good choice with a less complicated draw than an IWB design.

Check out Jeffrey Custom Leather HERE

Note that the Guardian is listed as a limited production offerering now. Read MORE HERE