Tag Archives: Personal Defense

REVIEW: Rock Island 1911 .38 Super

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Although it’s fallen out of the mainstream, .38 Super is a formidable choice for a critical-use handgun, and it’s one any serious operator should consider. READ WHY

1911 38 super

Wilburn Roberts

The .38 Super was introduced in the 1911 handgun in 1929 to arm peace officers with a hard-hitting round that offered good penetration against the new breed of mechanized thug. The .38 Super saw extensive use in the hands of the FBI and figured into the demise of dangerous fugitives such as Baby Face Nelson.

The .38 Super is dimensionally identical to the .38 ACP of 1900, and Colt’s offered this in the 1903 model pistol. The .38 ACP fired a 130-grain bullet at 1,100 fps. Colt’s upped the power of the cartridge but used the same length cartridge case and chambered the 1911 in .38 Super when it dropped production of the .38 ACP pistols. The .38 Super was a sensation, noted for its high velocity of 1300 fps and 9 fast shots. At the time, you had to know not to fire a .38 Super in the older Colt’s 1903 pistols.

The effectiveness of .38 Super cannot be argued. The penetration of the cartridge and reliability of the 1911 gave law officers an advantage. However, the .38 Super suffered in popularity after the introduction of the .357 Magnum. In those days, lawmen were revolver men. The question is this: Is the .38 Super a viable personal defense and tactical combination today?

The answer would be yes! Ammunition development continues. Federal Cartridge recently introduced a 115-grain JHP load in its American Eagle Line, and Double Tap ammunition offers excellent tactical-grade loads. SIG Sauer also recently introduced a new .38 Super load.

Rock Island GI Series
The 1911 is a good home for the .38 Super. The 1911 features straight-to-the-rear trigger compression, a low bore axis, a grip that fits most hands well, and excellent speed into action. Its lower recoil makes the .38 Super an an easier cartridge to master than the .45 ACP, and the .38 Super gives two additional rounds of magazine capacity.

38 super
The .38 Super is a great all-around handgun. The Rock Island GI Series are high-quality, well-made, and affordable.

Rock Island Armory offers a GI-type 1911 chambered in .38 Super. The pistol is well finished, offers a smooth trigger compression at 5.5 pounds, and, overall, the parts on my test gun were well fitted.

38 super magazine
.38 Super magazine, above, .45 ACP, lower. The smaller diameter Super case gives a full two more rounds capacity.

The Cartridge
Federal offers a 115-grain JHP in the American Eagle line that breaks almost 1200 fps. This is a good practice load and is just a bit hotter than most 9mm loads. The SIG Sauer Elite 125-grain V Crown JHP breaks just over 1200 fps. Either is a good defense load for most situations.

38 super ammo
Double Tap ammunition and MecGar magazines gave excellent results.

38 super ammo

For loads mimicking the .357 Magnum, consider this: The .38 Super uses relatively fast-burning powder that produces less recoil energy than the slow-burning powder used in the .357 Magnum. The recoil spring captures much of the recoil energy as well.

federal 38 super
Federal’s American Eagle .38 Super is a boon to those who love the .38 Super in an accurate and affordable loading.

There are loads available that maximize the caliber. If you wish a rapidly expanding load for use in an urban situation the Double Tap 115-grain Controlled Expansion JHP offers that option. For those preferring an all-copper bullet, the Barnes TAC XP load is an option with greater penetration.

Barnes JHP
The Barnes all-copper JHP is a credible performer.

At over 1400 fps, the 125-grain JHP Double Tap would be an excellent all around service load. I normally load my .38 Super with the 115-grain load for home defense. If using the pistol for tactical use, I would deploy the 125-grain bonded core loading. The following table outlines the load’s performance. The Rock Island Armory 1911 .38 Super produced good accuracy with each loading.
The .38 Super fits my needs well. Modern loads put the .38 Super just where it needs to be — a high-velocity loading with good performance, excellent penetration and governable recoil.

38 super stats

38 super energy

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SKILLS: Tips for Wintertime Concealed Carry

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When you prepare for a cold weather outing, make sure your CCW needs have been addressed, and modified as needed. Here are a few ideas. Keep reading…

wintertime

SOURCE: Shooting Illustrated, by Sheriff Jim Wilson

As I write this, the first real cold front of the year is pushing its way through the country. It is also a time that we might reflect upon this business of dressing around your defensive handgun. The first thought might be that now, with the cold weather, everyone is wearing some sort of coat (perhaps even one of these tactical jackets), so it will be much easier for us to blend in with whatever covering garment we use for concealing our guns. However, even with winter carry, there are some issues that we need to consider.

When people are confronted with a violent criminal attack, the one thing that they can’t afford to waste is time. The criminal has already made the first move, and it is critical that we be able to respond in a timely fashion. Having to unzip or unbutton a coat is a loss of time that we might not be able to overcome. There are several ways to deal with this issue.

If we are alert, our first move when we see a potential threat might be to get that garment open so that we can respond if it turns out to be an actual threat. The assumption and the problem here is that we are alert enough to spot a possible criminal attack while there is still time to respond. What happens if a threat comes at us from behind and takes us completely by surprise?

Another solution might be to keep a small defensive handgun in one of the outer pockets of a coat. It might even be smart to have that handgun in a pocket on the support-hand side of our body. Of course, that means that we have to practice our pistol presentation with the support hand. When out in public, we might consider having the small handgun in an outer pocket on our support side and a larger handgun on our hip on the strong side. This gives defensive shooters some versatility in their choice of responses to the potential attack.

Another issue to consider with winter weather is the wearing of gloves. Will your gloved trigger finger fit into the trigger guard of your defensive handgun? Do you practice your pistol presentation while wearing gloves? These are things that should be checked out. Fortunately, modern technology has given us suitable gloves that are not bulky, and a change to gloves made of a thinner material might be all that is necessary to solve the problem.

Some might think to solve the problem by simply pulling the glove off before going for the handgun. The problem with this, of course, is the fact that it wastes time.

Your dry-practice sessions are the place to work out your pistol presentation while wearing your winter coat and gloves. Opening the coat and operating the pistol with gloves on can be worked out if you will simply take the time to practice it and work out the best moves.

The differences in weather around the country and an individual’s choice of cold weather gear make it impossible to form one set rule for winter carry. Smart defensive shooters will take a bit of time to evaluate what they wear and how to respond to a violent attack while wrapped up in warm clothing. It may well not be as much of a gun issue as it is a clothing issue. A different coat and a thinner pair of gloves may be all that is needed. But you won’t know until you experiment with what you carry.

In the winter time it is important to stay warm, but it is far more important to stay safe.

SKILLS: Resolve to Improve Your Self-Defense Skills

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Start the year off with a review of your skills, and take steps to hone them: if you don’t use it you might lose it… Read on!

new years resolutions

SOURCE: Shooting Illustrated, by Sheriff Jim Wilson

As a general rule, I’m not a big one for making New Year’s Resolutions. However, for various reasons, I’ve been studying my own personal defense plan and feel the need to focus on improving it and making it better. When we neglect our shooting skills, they degenerate quickly. The same can be said of our personal defense skills. If we are to deal with a deadly encounter, we must stay focused and in practice. So here are some thoughts — resolutions, if you will — about improving my own situation.

I am going to make time to practice more. In most cases, that means practicing the basics. The basics of defensive marksmanship are the foundation that everything else is built upon. A smooth draw stroke and quickly and accurately hitting what I am aiming at will go a long way towards ensuring my safety. There is simply no substitute for regular practice.

Right in line with that, I need to practice what I preach and do a lot more Dry Practice. These winter days, when it may not be comfortable to get outside, are perfect for a few minutes of daily Dry Practice.

I also am going to book at least one defensive shooting school during this year. Good instructors always seem to be able to spot the little things that I am doing wrong and can’t seem to see for myself. Going to a defensive shooting school is just like getting the Jeep tuned up — things just run a lot better and a lot smoother.

I also need to improve my awareness of what is going on around me. The further away we see a potential problem, the more options we have for dealing with it. No one is at their height of awareness all the time but, if we really work at it, we can increase that awareness. A heightened awareness means that I may not get hurt and also means that I may not have to hurt another, and that’s a good thing.

Another important resolution is to seek out ways to help all of the folks who are just getting into defensive shooting. They feel the need to improve on their personal protection but often don’t know exactly how to go about it. They need a kind word, a friendly smile, and a helping hand. I can do that and you can, too.

In line with that, I need to find more and better ways to preach the important message of gun safety. Improving gun safety and reducing negligent discharges — along with resultant injuries — is a critical task that we all should be involved in. “How can I do it better?” is a question that I am going to spend a lot of time pondering.

While not a direct personal defense resolution, I am going to spend more time with the two fine .22 Smith & Wesson revolvers that I have but rarely shoot. Most of us got into the shooting sports because it was fun. Sometimes we forget that simple fact. A day spent plinking charcoal briquettes and other safe targets is good for my soul. It would be a good idea to invite some young shooters along, too.

REVIEW: Springfield Armory XD-E

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This outstanding handgun flaunts a rebirth of a trigger mechanism, and design, that has been overshadowed in the vast array of common striker-fired pistols, but one that has strong merits. Read more…

springfield armory XD-E
The defining feature of the Springfield Armory XD-E is highlighted above, the DA/SA hammer-fired system that signals a return to an action often overshadowed by modern striker-fired defensive pistols.

SOURCE: Shooting Illustrated, by Tamara Keel

There was a time, back in the 1970s and ’80s, when giants strode the earth of the desert Southwest. At the time, semi-automatic handguns came mostly in two flavors: Single-action pistols — which were endorsed and carried by these giants –and pistols that were double-action on the first shot and single-action on subsequent shots, which were derided by the giants as “crunchentickers.”

The logic behind these sorts of pistols was that they could be carried safely decocked, yet be ready to fire with just a pull of the trigger. The downside was that the transition between the long, heavy initial trigger pull and the subsequent lighter, shorter pulls required more initial training and sustainment practice to maintain proficiency. So, the “crunchenticker” was seen as the lowest-common-denominator issue gun, while the real shooters used single-action pistols.

And, fast-forward to 1985, then came the striker-fired Glock and soon after all of its market competitors. Featuring only a single trigger pull to master, these pistols quickly became the singlemost-common variant in domestic law enforcement (and, anecdotally, coincided with a jump in qualification scores at police departments across America) and private-citizen use.

Fast forward to the present day, and in some sectors there’s a renewed interest in hammer-fired, traditional double-action (TDA, for short) pistols among a varied spectrum of serious shooters, and for a number of reasons.

In the competitive-shooting world, TDAs started owning Production Division in USPSA and IPSC. This was partially because so many current models were metal-framed and heavier than their striker-fired, polymer competitors. The TDA trigger itself was a big factor, too. As a friend explained to me, “You get one lousy trigger pull and 10 great ones, rather than 11 mediocre ones.”

On the tactical side of things, I know a few instructors who strongly favor the longer initial pull of the TDA in defensive guns for the reason that these pistols are threat-management tools. Guns get drawn — and even pointed — a lot more often than they get fired, they explained, and that longer trigger pull can be an added cushion against a nervous trigger finger getting into the wrong place.

One last reason for the renewed interest in hammer-fired TDA pistols is the increase in popularity of Appendix Inside-The-Waistband (AIWB) carry. When holstering in an AIWB holster, the user can control the hammer of a TDA pistol with the thumb of the firing hand. This serves the purpose of alerting the shooter to any unnoticed obstructions that may have gotten into the trigger guard and snagged the trigger by letting them feel the movement of the hammer.

Unfortunately for enthusiasts of the hammer-fired pistol, the selection on the market isn’t what it used to be, especially in the concealable, mid-priced variety. Furthermore, while Beretta, SIG Sauer, and Heckler & Koch all offer concealable TDA pistols, all but a couple up-market offerings from SIG are double-stack guns, and right now the market is madly in love with slim, single-stack concealment pistols for CCW.

The Springfield Armory XD-E, a single-stack, polymer-frame 9 mm, took the market by surprise early in 2017, representing a new addition to the company’s line of XD pistols.

While it uses the name and familiar styling elements of the XD series of guns, including the prominent “GRIP ZONE” markings on the grip, the Springfield Armory XD-E is pretty much an entirely different pistol. It shares almost nothing but the magazine and sights with Springfield’s existing single-stack line, the XD-S, and even there it only uses the XD-S extended magazines.

XD-E controls
(l.) One trigger, two trigger pulls — that’s the reality of the XD-E’s DA/SA system. (ctr. & l.) A red fiber-optic pipe sets the front sight apart from the twin-white-dot rear sight and makes rapid sight acquisition easier.

In size, heft and overall concept, the Springfield-Armory XD-E reminds one of the long-discontinued Smith & Wesson 3913. It’s just slightly larger than the Glock G43 or Smith & Wesson M&P Shield, since the standard magazine holds 8 rounds and the spare that ships with the gun is a 9-rounder with a grip-sleeve adapter. The magazines both come fitted with pinky rest extensions on their floorplates, but these can be switched with flat floorplates (included) for those who prefer a flush-fit contour for concealability.

The grip is as slender as you’d expect from a polymer-frame, single-stack gun. The widest point of the pistol, measured across the low-profile ambidextrous thumb safeties, is only 1.125 inches.

XD-E details
(l.) Ambidextrous controls and Mod.2 updates are evident in the XD-E. (ctr.) Slim in profile, the XD-E is a natural choice for carry. (r.) Two magazines, one with an extended baseplate, ship with the XD-E

Those ambi thumb safeties function in the same fashion as the classic 1911 thumb safety: up for safe and down for fire. Pressing down further past the off-safe position safely de-cocks the hammer. The magazine release is also fully ambidextrous, but the slide release is single-sided. The slide stop was a little difficult to run when the gun was new, but became easily useable after a few boxes of ammo.

Atop the slide on the Springfield Armory XD-E are sights compatible with the current XD dovetail dimensions (which are, entirely uncoincidentally, the same as the classic SIG Sauer P-series.) There’s a Novak-esque no-snag rear sight with two white-painted dots, and the standard front sight on the gun is a fiber-optic unit with a very visible red light pipe. Between the front and rear sights is the familiar loaded-chamber indicator of the XD-series — a hinged tab that pops up when there’s a round in the chamber.

Springfield Armory XD-E
(l.) A light, laser, or combo unit can be added to the accessory rail. (r.) Thumb-activated, the safety also serves as a decocker.

The slide has six broad, but shallow, grasping grooves on each side at the rear, and forgoes the current trend toward forward cocking serrations, which is probably a good idea on a pistol with a 3.3-inch barrel. All in all, the ergonomics on the Springfield Armory XD-E are solid. The textured areas are grippy without being too aggressive, and it’s not textured where it doesn’t need to be. The trigger guard could be a little larger, though. Folks with big fingers might have difficulty while wearing gloves when the trigger is in its fully forward, double-action position.

While it’s technically possible to carry the Springfield Armory XD-E cocked and locked in “Condition One,” the low-profile thumb safeties don’t exactly encourage it. Instead, the simplest thing is to load the pistol, chamber a round, use the safety/decocker to safely drop the hammer, and then holster up. Personally, I’d be interested in a decocker-only version to avoid the possibility of inadvertently actuating the safety when I didn’t mean to, but enough folks like the belt-and-suspenders approach of both a double-action pull and a manual safety that Springfield Armory chose to introduce this version.

At the range, the pistol shot well — frankly, better than I expected. I was anticipating an experience along the lines of what I’ve had with a G43 or a Shield, but the slightly larger size of the Springfield Armory XD-E pays dividends in shootability, thanks to a larger grip and enhanced recoil control. At the pistol’s launch event in Las Vegas, stages were set up with targets as far as 50 yards, and the better shooters among us were knocking those over with aplomb.

XD-E takedown
Adding a hammer did not change the XD-takedown procedure significantly; the XD-E breaks down easily for cleaning and maintenance.

This was aided by a very usable trigger. My Springfield Armory XD-E test sample’s double-action trigger pull gauged at 11 pounds and, while it stacked noticeably prior to break, it was plenty smooth. Single-action measured 5.5 pounds, with a short take-up before hitting a fairly abrupt “wall,” and then finished in a rolling break. Most impressively, through all the demo guns I fired over the course of the launch event, plus 750 rounds of assorted ammunition through my T&E sample, I have yet to see any malfunctions.

The Springfield Armory XD-E has a niche to itself for now. The only hammer-fired TDA single-stack 9 mm in the same size class is SIG Sauer’s metal-frame P239, which is 5 ounces heavier and has an MSRP nearly double that of the XD-E. Sitting right at the confluence of two trends, AIWB carry and single-stack, subcompact 9 mm pistols, it will be interesting to see how well the XD-E does in the marketplace. If it sells, will other models be spun off the gun’s TDA lockwork? Maybe a full-size, single- or double-stack service pistol? Stay tuned…

XD-E overall

XD-E specs

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SKILLS: Using a Single-Action Revolver for Self-Defense

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Really? Yes really! Sheriff Jim examines some facts, not myths, about defensive handgun use surrounding one of the best-known (and effective) handgun designs. You’ve got to read this!

SAA

SOURCE: Shooting Illustrated
by Sheriff Jim Wilson

Far from being antiques, modern single-action revolvers are extremely popular among today’s handgunners. In this day of higher-capacity semi-autos and double-action revolvers, it’s difficult for some to consider the single-action as a viable choice for personal defense. But, single-action revolvers were originally designed as fighting guns and they did an excellent job of taking care of defensive chores for many, many years.

Today, the modern semi-automatic pistol and double-action sixgun have the old single-action beat in capacity and speed of reloading. But, center hits stop dangerous attacks, not the amount of ammo your gun carries or how fast you can recharge it. Let’s look at some who favor the single-action and examine some of the techniques that make the single-action a viable choice.

A large number of hunters and outdoorsmen choose a single-action because it is tough, sturdy, and can be relied upon when you are on the backside of the Rockies and miles away from the closest gunsmith. In addition, many find the single-action sixgun the most comfortable handgun to shoot when fed a steady diet of heavy .44 Spl., .45 Colt, .41 Mag., .44 Mag., or .454 Casull loads. The Colt-style single-action grip frame tends to roll in the hand and absorb a good deal of the recoil these big-bore loads produce. This reduction in felt recoil minimizes the tendency to flinch, and heavy handgun loads are mighty important when dealing with an angry bear.

Outdoorsmen and trail riders are often concerned about a predatory animal attack while enjoying a day in the woods. Today, however, they are almost as likely to encounter some two-legged predators. When properly managed, the single-action revolver is perfectly capable of dealing with either kind of threat.

Another group to become huge champions of the single-action revolver is cowboy action shooters. I was recently told 300,000 shooters participate in some form of the sport. Many of these folks fire hundreds of rounds a week through their single-actions. Naturally, a person is going to do his best work with the handgun he shoots the most. It makes sense to consider the same single-action as a personal-defense gun.

A few years ago, a group of us gathered at Gunsite Aacademy for a defensive single-action class sponsored by Ruger, XS Sights, and SureFire. We examined shooting techniques designed to make the best use of single-action revolvers.

Some years ago, the fast-draw craze gave single-action revolvers a bit of a bad name. This came about due to the tendency of the fast-draw boys to cock their handgun as it was drawn from the holster. If you were a bit faster on the trigger than you were on the draw, the gun could easily go off before it cleared the holster, which tends to send a heavy lead slug down in the vicinity of your feet.

Well, a better and safer method can be found.

The first step is to take a shooting grip on the holstered sixgun, with your trigger finger straight and outside of the trigger guard. The second step is to draw the gun straight up and out of the holster. The third step is to rotate the handgun until the barrel is pointed toward the threat.

At this point, the support hand (which has been flat against your body) comes out to meet the gun and a two-hand hold is secured. Make sure your support hand is never in front of the muzzle. Shooting your support hand will certainly ruin your day and nearly always spoil your aim.

With the muzzle pointed downrange (or at the threat) and a two-hand hold secured, the support thumb is used to cock the handgun. Throughout the draw stroke, the trigger finger is still straight, out of the trigger guard and along the gun’s frame. It is only as the gun is thrust forward and the sights go onto the target that the trigger finger goes to the trigger. Throughout the shooting sequence, the strong hand maintains a secure grip on the sixgun and the support thumb is used to cock the hammer.

Finally, the defensive single action shares two traits with the defensive shotgun: It just doesn’t hold very many cartridges and both are slow to reload.

The single-action revolver should be reloaded when there is a lull in the fight. Learn to flip open the loading gate, punch out the empties and top the gun off as quickly as possible.

If a single-action revolver is the handgun you shoot the most, you owe it to yourself to be as proficient with it as you possibly can. And, as with any defensive practice, it is important to work for smoothness, not speed. Speed results from smoothness.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Folks I just had to step in on this one… It struck a chord and rang a bell I hadn’t thought about much for years. Most know me as a competitive rifle shooter. That’s where my “credentials” are and also where I’ve focused my editorial attention over my career as a writer, well, that and handloading for those rifles. But! I’ve had a long life of guns, all kinds of guns, and all kinds of shooting. At one much (much) earlier time in my life I was obsessed with Single-Action-Army Colt’s-brand handguns. SAA’s. Based on my best recollection and a calculator, I’ve fired well in excess of 50,000 rounds through a few of those. I had a beloved mentor in my youth who shot competitively with rifles and helped me along there immeasurably, and also put on his own brand of “Wild West” shows for rodeos and what-not. And I learned all about that (I never quite got the rope tricks down…) Yep. One of those “fast-draw” guys that Sheriff Jim just suggested we not emulate. I strongly agree. However! What I learned about SAAs, what I know about SAAs, is that (after putting in the time, and it’s some time) to develop handling skills unique to these guns, they are daggone fast to the first hit. Reasons abound, but simplicity, balance, and “pointability” lead. Would I recommend anyone go out and purchase a Peacemaker for defensive use? NO! Would I carry one? YES! I can also tell you that a hit with one counts a little (or a lot) extra than anything rimless… Underneath all this, this blizzard of words being written in every publication about defensive handguns and their use, the topic of this article called back the basics: the winner of an armed encounter is almost always the one who hits first hardest.
— Glen Zediker

SKILLS: Did the Single-Stack Nine Kill the Carry Revolver?

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As goes the duty gun so goes the concealed gun… Are small revolvers a dying breed? Read more…

single-stack 9 vs. snubnose revolver

SOURCE: Shooting Illustrated

Once upon a time, police officers who patrolled our streets carried revolvers on their hips. Guns like the Colt Police Positive and the Smith & Wesson Model 19 were their primary defensive firearm, and they toted .38 Spl. snub-nosed carry revolvers like the Detective Special and J-Frames for backup guns and when they were off duty.

They carried those small revolvers because they were easy to conceal and had a manual of arms that was more or less the same as the guns they carried for a living. The snub-nosed carry revolver also had the advantage of using essentially the same type of ammunition as their service revolvers, so the transition from full-sized service revolver to compact concealed-carry gun meant dealing with more recoil and less accuracy from the smaller gun, but that was about it.

Today, though, police officers are far more likely to carry a Glock or a SIG Sauer or a Smith & Wesson M&P semiautomatic pistol for a duty gun than they are a .38 Spl. or .357 Mag. revolver, and guns like the Smith & Wesson Shield, Ruger LC9s, and the Glock G43 are reflecting that new reality. Smaller, lighter and easier to conceal than their full-sized cousins, small single-stack 9mms are becoming a popular option for people who want to carry a pistol with them, but find that carrying a larger gun like a Glock G19 or SIG P320 is just too much to deal with on a day in, day out basis. I myself prefer carrying a larger pistol whenever I can, but there are times when the occasion demands more discretion than firepower, and that’s where the thinness and light weight of a single-stack 9mm really comes through.

A miniature 9mm also offers you the advantages of the same manual of arms your larger gun. If you’re used to a striker-fired gun, the operation of the Ruger LC9s or Glock G43 will seem like second nature to you, just like the operation of snub-nosed revolvers mimic the operation of their larger cousins. My fingers goes naturally to the magazine release on my 9 mm Smith & Wesson Shield because that’s where it is on the large semi-automatic pistols that I occasionally carry, and the methods I use to clear malfunctions are pretty much the same between those guns as well.

The reasons to carry a subcompact, single-stack 9mm over a larger pistol are also essentially the same as reasons to carry a small revolver instead of full-sized gun. With the right holster and appropriate cover garment, it’s fairly easy to discretely carry a full-size 9mm on a daily basis without tipping people off that you’re carrying a pistol with you. However, it’s even easier to conceal a smaller gun, and a smaller gun also opens other options, like pocket carry, that are even more discreet.

When it comes to defensive applications, the subcompact single-stack 9mm has several advantages over snub-nosed revolvers. The thinner, slimmer design of the semi-automatic means it can slide into locations for concealed carry that aren’t available to thicker, bulkier revolvers, although, counter-intuitively, I’ve found that unless you pay attention to holster choice, a small .38 Spl. revolver forms an indistinct lump in a front pocket that’s easily mistaken for a wallet and keys, while the flatter, more angular form of a mini 9 mm sticks out and says “gun” more readily.

Another advantage of a mini-9mm over small revolver is ammunition capacity. Subcompact single stacks typically have at least six rounds of ammunition in the magazine and one more in the chamber, and extended magazines that pack in eight rounds or more are common. By comparison, six rounds is the maximum amount of ammo in most pocket revolvers, with five rounds being the more common option available.

Firing a full-power cartridge from a pint-sized frame, sub-compact 9 mm pistols can be a handful to shoot, just like their smaller, lighter weight revolver cousins, and there are many factors working against shooting a small 9mm quickly and accurately. The short sight radius of a pocket gun can affect accuracy and their smaller size means there is less of the gun to hold on to as it recoils. Also, the lighter weight of a subcompact gun means there is less gun mass to soak up recoil, slowing down follow-up shots, and less mass to resist a bad trigger pull, which can dramatically influence accuracy.

Whether or not a subcompact single-stack 9mm is a good choice over a small revolver is up to you and your set of circumstances. For myself and many other gun owners in America, though, those trade-offs in accuracy and firepower are worth having a small, easily-concealable defensive pistol with features and functionality that mimic the larger, full-size defensive pistols we use in competition and in our jobs.

How to Avoid Being a Victim

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Avoidance is preferable to engagement… Here’s some pointers from The Sheriff on learning to give off the “leave me alone” vibe. Read on…

atm victim

SOURCE: NRA Shooting Illustrated, by Sheriff Jim Wilson

Some years ago, we busted an armed robbery team that specialized in hitting convenience stores. A day or two after the arrests, one of the suspects became willing talk to us about what they looked for in a potential target. We drove him around at night and he critiqued the various stores as to lighting, get-away routes, and other factors that made them look appealing to an armed robber.

One of the stores looked particularly good to me, but it had never been hit. The crook told me that it would be a good location except for the guy that worked the night shift. He said this was the sort of guy who would keep a gun under the counter — I knew that to be a fact, a .45 Colt New Service. When they had cased the store, this clerk looked at them, made eye contact and didn’t act afraid. This crook was so right. Had they tried to rob this particular store, somebody could have gotten hurt.

Most people don’t realize how knowledgeable crooks are about body language. Now, they don’t give it formal study like we would but, trust me, they understand it thoroughly. They can understand when someone looks at them and doesn’t show fear or apprehension. They also know that the person who looks at them and makes eye contact will probably make a good witness for the police, too. Simply put, most crooks are cowards and don’t want to take a chance of getting hurt.

In the past, I have suggested that readers study articles and books, even take some classes, on body language. It truly will help you identify people who are up to no good even before any words are spoken or weapons drawn. But very few people give any thought to the type of body language that they are putting off.

When we walk down a street with our head down, not making eye contact with anyone, we look like easy prey. It is only worse when we have our faces stuck in our cell phones. When we encounter a potentially dangerous situation, do we look like we are preparing to fight or do we look like we are preparing to take flight?

People frequently encounter possible threats when there is yet no reason to draw the defensive firearm. However, there is nothing wrong with getting into an athletic stance, making direct eye contact, and putting a sound of authority in the voice. When you have to speak to a potential threat, do it with short sentences backed by the sound of strong confidence. This is not the time to make lengthy speeches. If you establish an authoritative body language, you are telling the possible threat that it really wouldn’t be a good idea to try anything.

Now I am not suggesting for one minute that you have to, or should, go around trying to look like Wyatt Earp Jr. In fact, you should be pleasant to those around you whenever possible. However, when your senses tell you that trouble might be about to happen — when you go from Yellow to Orange on the Cooper Color Code — you should look and act like you can take care of business. You are specifically not challenging the crook to try something, but your body language is telling him that jumping on you might be a really big mistake.

REVIEW: Colt Cobra Revolver

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One of America’s premiere handgun makers just redesigned one of its premiere handguns: read all about the modernized Colt Cobra. Full REVIEW.

Colt Cobra

SOURCE: NRA/Shooting Illustrated, Dick Williams

From the mid-19th century (including our Civil War) up to World War I, Colt single-action revolvers were almost mandatory issue for the intrepid adventurers who put their shooting skills to work taming the Old West. Moving forward through the first 3/4 of the 20th century, vast numbers of lawmen and civilians alike carried the new Colt double-action revolvers manufactured at the company’s Hartford facility. No change in purpose: the newer revolvers were still used to correct unacceptably rude behavior, or advance unacceptably rude behavior. Despite the massive changeover to semi-auto pistols by law enforcement agencies around the 1970s, Colt continued providing double-action revolvers to private citizens (and backup guns for cops) until the new millennium when the company finally phased out production of the classic wheelgun. Well, they’re back!

Recognizing the strong demand for small revolvers in the self-defense market, Colt redesigned and is now producing a newer (and much better) version of its Cobra. It has a stainless-steel frame rather than lightweight aluminum and a shrouded ejector rod, but it still has a hammer design that allows both single-action and double-action firing, a push-to-the-rear cylinder-release latch, and holds 6 rounds of .38 Special. In keeping with today’s ammo trends, the new Colt Cobra is rated for +P loads.

Colt Cobra
(left) Prominently displaying its serpentine heritage, the Colt Cobra’s barrel sits atop a shrouded ejector. (right) Considering that most single-stack 9 mm semi-autos carry only six or seven rounds on board, the capacity of the Cobra isn’t much of a disadvantage.

The Colt Cobra is larger than the typical S&W J-frame 5-shot revolvers but still quite compact. It will fit in a box 7.2 inches x 4.9 inches x 1.4 inches. You could shrink the height and width a bit by replacing the Hogue grips with a smaller set of panels, but to me that would be a bad trade. While reduced dimensions might allow the gun to fit in a trouser pocket, the revolver’s empty weight of 25 ounces is more than double that of some 5-shot competitors making pocket carry dubious depending on one’s wardrobe and lifestyle.

Colt Cobra
(left) Colt’s signature cylinder release pulls to the rear, like Colt double-action revolvers should. (center & right) Despite “turning the wrong way,” the cylinder mechanism on the Colt Cobra rotates cleanly and offers smooth operation.

The new Colt Cobra has an attractive matte, satin finish, and while looks may be irrelevant in a self-defense handgun, the finish looked about the same after five days and perhaps 400-500 rounds fired without any cleaning. The Hogue rubber grips fit me perfectly, which helped absorb recoil and made the little six-shooter almost as easy to shoot well as a service/duty-sized gun. The plastic Cobra box contained an interesting trigger profile graph, which I didn’t find particularly interesting because I didn’t understand all of it. Doesn’t matter, because just dry firing the Cobra double-action convinced me it had a superb trigger. After a couple days on the square range, I took another look at the graph. It says that within the first 0.05-inch of travel, trigger pressure rises to just under 7 pounds and then smoothly increases another pound or so before the hammer falls after a total of 0.50 inches of travel. While the chart presents the facts, it doesn’t prepare you for just how great the Cobra’s trigger is. The trigger guard is enlarged behind the trigger to allow for the use of gloves.

Colt Cobra
(left) Carved into the topstrap, the rear sight’s simple notch is snag-free and intuitive. (center) Slightly too large for pocket carry, the Cobra is right at home in a Galco leather holster on the belt. (right) Hogue’s overmolded rubber grip makes for excellent purchase, but may catch on cover garments and outer layers.

The rear sight is simply a 1⁄8-inch-wide notch in the topstrap. It will not be readjusted either by you or by any hard object it might crash into. The front sight is a replaceable blade, and the test gun was in current vogue featuring a black blade with a red fiber-optic insert. The whole sight is replaceable because Colt anticipates offering other options up front such as a night sight or a plain-black post. Throughout my close-range drills, the front sight was superb. With any reasonable level of ambient light, the red optic almost forces the shooter to focus on it, and with the Cobra’s excellent ergonomics, the gun seemed to emerge from the holster with the red fiber pipe properly located in the rear notch and centered on the target. For my eyes, the rear sight could be a bit wider. Even in relatively bright daylight I could not see any light around the sides of the front sight blade, so I had no ability to judge windage. Such was not a problem inside 20 to 25 yards; if the red fiber is visible and on target, simply press that incredibly smooth double-action trigger for consistent hits.

Colt Cobra
(left) With the exposed hammer on the Colt Cobra, precise shots can be taken single-action. (right) While a red ramp or black blade might be more traditional, the red fiber-optic pipe is easily acquired in most settings.

As mentioned, the ejector rod is protected by a shroud that is integral to the barrel. Good thing, since a bent rod can really ruin your day in an armed confrontation. As on other “pocket revolvers,” the ejector rod is, by necessity, quite short with less than one inch of full travel.

When fully pressed, the .38 Spl. cases are still partially enclosed in the cylinder’s chambers. There’s good news and bad news here. Good news is that for a tactical or partial reload, a full-length stroke on the rod with the muzzle pointed downward leaves the fired cases sticking out of the chamber almost an inch while the unfired cases drop back into their chambers. It’s considerably easier plucking those empties from the Colt Cobra with that much case exposed. The bad news is that you really need to practice your speed loads, i.e. keeping the muzzle elevated when stroking the ejector rod, allowing gravity to help the empties drop clear of the weapon and ensure an empty case doesn’t drop back into its chamber beneath the extractor.

Colt Cobra
The Colt Cobra revolver, along with a Safariland Comp II speedloader, Al Mar SERE 2000 folding knife, LA Police Gear Operator Mini EDC flashlight, Galco Gunleather holster, and an NRA Carry Guard insurance card. It’s the centerpiece art of a complete defensive kit.

I don’t usually look forward to range visits with a pocket pistol when the objective is to perform the protocol tests. Firing through a chronograph or from a rest to test groups can be enlightening, but it is also usually boring and sometimes painful. It was not until after a five-day class at Gunsite that I took the still-uncleaned Colt Cobra to my home range for the basic data gathering. I set the distance at 15 yards. At Gunsite, I used Cor-Bon’s 147-grain FMJ .38 Spl. ammo. It has a small meplat (flat nose), which in my opinion, means it could be used for both training and defensive purposes. As it turned out, I had enough left to take some velocity measurements but not for the full-protocol accuracy tests. At 783 fps, the Cor-Bon’s velocity was exactly in the middle of all ammo tested through the Colt Cobra. Selection of other ammo was based on including as many “known” .38 Spl. preferences as possible.

Both the Remington wadcutters and lead round nose bullets demanded a seat at the table based upon historical usage. I’ve used the lighter-weight Hornady .38 Spl. loads before and been pleased with them, particularly in small revolvers. They are designed specifically for defensive use in short-barreled, light guns and are very manageable. In addition, they are “friendly” enough in popular, lightweight revolvers to encourage practice sessions, the elemental ingredient for competence.

But it was the Super Vel ammo that sparked a real romance and swept the little Colt Cobra across the dance floor. With an average muzzle velocity of 1,260 fps, it smoked the competition. Perhaps even more importantly, it was totally comfortable and controllable to shoot, something I attribute to the Hogue grips and the 25-ounce weight of the stainless steel gun. The Super Vel didn’t produce the single smallest group of the day (that was a string of Remington wadcutters, which somehow seems fitting after a decades-long reputation as the accuracy load for .38 Spl.), but it did produce the smallest average 5-shot groups for five strings. The new Super Vel .38 Spl. loads are absolutely my first choice of ammunition for the Cobra. It’s like an upgrade to .357 Mag. power without the pain.

There was not one malfunction during the five days at Gunsite or later when I shot the Colt Cobra at my home range.

So what is the niche that Colt’s new Cobra could fulfill in today’s self-defense market? Its 6-shot frame equipped with the oversize Hogue grips appears large for a trouser pocket pistol, clearly too big for all the jeans and most of the casual trousers I have, but it should carry well in a coat jacket pocket or ankle holster. I carried it for a week in a Galco belt holster and felt both physically and psychologically comfortable. Perhaps a purse or pouch carry technique might be best: manageable weight with no tell-tale bulge.

But to me, new shooters — especially those who are a bit intimidated or confused by the required manual-of-arms that must be mastered by the user of semi-automatic pistols — may benefit most from Colt’s return to wheelguns. There are two members of my family who much prefer the simplicity of revolvers, and the new Cobra is a superior choice to other the revolvers previously selected by my family crew. Think about the Cobra’s “not too heavy, not too light” 25 ounces, the excellent ergonomics and grips that mitigate recoil, and the gun’s incredibly consistent trigger. This is a revolver that can easily serve as a house gun, car gun, or carry gun. So please don’t tell me there’s no room for a new, compact revolver!

Colt Cobra specifications

Colt Cobra

Check out the factory site HERE 

REVIEW: Springfield Armory SAINT

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We have been waiting a long time for Springfield’s AR15 and it is worth the wait, and worth the money. Here’s why…

by Bob Campbell

Springfield’s ads had been teasing us with the introduction of a new product and very recently we learned that the SAINT was an AR15-type rifle. This is the first-ever AR15 with the proud Springfield Armory stamp. The rifle had been described as entry level but this isn’t really true. There are more expensive rifles but the Springfield isn’t cheap — it is simply below the $900 threshold. That is a pretty important price point. The rifle has good features and is built for reliability. The SAINT is intended to appeal to the young and adventurous and to those serious about taking responsibility for their own safety. I agree but older shooters such as myself who are able to discern quality at a fair price will also appreciate the SAINT. As a Springfield fan, the SAINT will take its place beside my 1903 Springfield and the modern 1911 Operator handgun, but there is more to the puzzle than the name. At present I have fewer than 600 rounds fired through the SAINT but the experience has been good. (I fire the rifles I test for real on the range, and not with the typewriter. I know the difficulty in firing one thousand rounds or more in an economic and physical sense.)

SAINT and 1903
The SAINT is shown with a 1903 Springfield. A proud tradition!

Let’s look at the particulars. The SAINT features the A2-style front sight/gas block and a folding rear sight. The rear sight is stamped with the Springfield “crossed cannons” emblem. The rear sight isn’t target grade but it is useful for short-range defense work and snagging predators to perhaps 100 yards, the use I will put this 6-pound, 11-ounce rifle to. The gas system is a mid-length architecture. Without getting into a discussion that would fill these pages all its own, the mid-length system is ideal for use with common bullet weights. The SAINT has a 16-inch barrel chambered for the 5.56mm NATO cartridge. This means you can fire .223 Remington or 5.56mm cartridges without a hint of trouble. Its 1-in-8 inch barrel twist is increasingly popular. Midway between the 7- and 9-inch twist this barrel twist rate has proven accurate with the majority of loads I have tested. So far this includes loads of 52 to 77 grain bullet weights.

SAINT
The SAINT handles well. The author found the SAINT exceptionally controllable.

The trigger is a GI-type that breaks in my example at 6.7 pounds. This is in the middle-ground for an AR trigger and it is clean and crisp. There is also a special coating that allows the trigger group to ride smoothly. The receivers are anodized aluminum, no surprises there, but the bolt carrier group is also specially coated, and stamped with the Springfield logo. I like that a lot. Springfield has added a new design with the Accu-Tite Tension system. This is a set screw located in the lower receiver that allows the user to tighten the receivers together. I like this feature and I probably will not add any other tightening measures to the SAINT. The furniture is Bravo Company and the handguard is a Springfield exclusive. The three-piece handguard features a heat shield in the lower base, and allows for accessory mounting via a keylock system. The handguard offers excellent grip when firing but doesn’t abrade the hand when firing in long practice sessions. I like the stub on the end of the handguard that prevents the hand from running forward onto the gas block. Optics are not optimally mounted on the handguard since it isn’t free-floated, so the receiver rail is available for mounting optics. The six-position stock utilizes a squeeze lever for six-point adjustment. The grip handle is the famous BCM Gunfighter.

SAINT sights.
The front and rear sights are adequate for shorter-range use, and the controls are excellent. Note bumper on handguard to prevent the hand running forward off the handguard.

To begin the evaluation I filled several magazines with Federal Cartridge Company American Eagle cartridges. The rifle had several hundred rounds through it and I expected the same performance for this Shooters Log test. These 55-grain FMJ cartridges burn clean, are affordable, and offer excellent accuracy in a practice load. I loaded the supplied MagPul magazine and a number of other various magazines I had on hand. The bolt was lubricated. AR15 rifles will run dirty but they will not run dry. I addressed man-sized targets at 25 and 50 yards, firing as quickly as I could get on target and align the sights. Keeping the hand forward on the handguard (and avoiding the gas block!) and controlling the rifle fast and accurate hits came easily. The rifle is controllable in rapid fire but then it is an AR15… The sights are adequate for the purpose. The Gunfighter grip is particularly ergonomic allowing excellent control. As for absolute accuracy with the iron sights, it isn’t difficult to secure 3-shot groups of two inches at 50 yards, par for the course with an iron-sighted carbine.

Accuracy Testing
For a complete evaluation, you have to go further with accuracy testing and this means mounting a quality optic. I settled down with a mounted Lucid 6x1x24 rifle scope. This optic provides a good clear sight picture and has many advantages a trained rifleman can exploit. I settled down on the bench and attempted to find the best possible accuracy from the SAINT. Hornady has introduced a new line of AR15 ammunition. Since black rifles run on black ammunition the new loads should prove popular. My test samples of Hornady Black Ammunition featured the proven 75-grain BTHP. This is a good bullet weight for longer-range accuracy and it proved to give good results in the SAINT. I also tested a good number of popular .233 loads including a handload of my own, using the 60-grain Hornady A-Max bullet.

Meopta MeoRed
The Meopta MeoRed Red Dot gave good results.

I have also mounted a MeoRed red dot with excellent results. For use to 50 yards this red dot offers good hit probability and gets the Springfield up and rolling for 3-Gun Competition.
I like the Springfield SAINT. I drove in the rain to get the rifle and was at the door at my FFL source when they opened. I had to wait to hit the range! I am not disappointed and the SAINT is going to find an important place in my shooting battery.

Check out the complete specs HERE

SAINT free-float
The SAINT is also available with a free-floating handguard tube.

Bob Campbell is an established and well-respected outdoors writer, contributing regularly to many publications ranging from SWAT Magazine to Knifeworld. Bob has also authored three books: Holsters For Combat and Concealed Carry (Paladin Press), The 1911 Semi Auto (Stoeger Publishing), and The Handgun In Personal Defense (The Second Amendment Foundation).

U.S. Law Shield: Should You Protect Thy Neighbor?

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Every Member has to make the decision to intervene in a fight — or not — based on a host of tactical and safety issues. Member Ambassador Sherry Hale interviews Texas Law Shield Independent Program Attorney Michele Byington to learn how Good Samaritans can stay out of legal trouble if faced with these dangerous situations.

Make sure to check your states laws on protecting yourself, and those around you. Every state is different. Some have clear-cut laws defining the shooters rights, some are vague, and some states have no laws on the books at all, but rather court cases by which to stand behind. Ohio is a rare case, where the shooter (person using deadly force to protect him/herself) must prove their justification for defending themselves.

Post in the comments what the law says in your state!