Tag Archives: Personal Defense

REVIEW: Ruger’s Magnum Times Seven

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The Ruger GP 100 Seven-Shooter may be the best combat revolver of the century. Read why HERE

GP 100 7
Ruger’s GP 100 7-shooter is a well balanced and nicely finished handgun.

Bob Campbell

The buying public is voting for revolvers and buying them in great numbers. Fueling the new trend, Ruger introduced a 7-shot version of its popular GP100. While there has been a previous 7-shooter in .327 Magnum, this new model fires the .357 Magnum cartridge.
Ruger offers longer barrel versions, but the 2.5-inch version is, in my opinion, among the finest combat revolvers ever manufactured. There are many who appreciate tradition, and others, who simply trust revolvers.

While modern self-loading handguns are as reliable as a machine can be, the revolver is more likely to fire after long term storage while loaded. You may leave the revolver at home, ready, and it will come up shooting. The revolver may also be placed against an adversary’s body and fired. On the other hand, a self-loader may jam after the first shot in this scenario.

In its best versions, the revolver is accurate and powerful, making it well suited to outdoors use. This latest from Ruger, the GP100 7-shot, is an exciting handgun. It is accurate, well-balanced, and fast-handling.

GP100 accuracy
The GP100 provides real accuracy off hand.

OVERVIEW
The GP100 was introduced in 1986. Police service handguns in .357 Magnum had not always held up well to constant firing and frequent qualifications with the Magnum cartridge. The larger and more robust GP100 solved a lot of those problems. For many years, the majority of qualifications were done with the .38 Special 148-grain target wadcutter. Problems with this oversight led to court decisions forcing agencies to qualify with the issue load. A hot 125-grain JHP was hard on small parts and sometimes the shooter as well. The 125-grain .357 Magnum hollow point at 1,380 to 1,480 fps was the most powerful cartridge fielded by police agencies — and the most effective. However, it was also difficult to master.

Today, the police carry self-loaders. However, the .357 Magnum cartridge remains relatively unequaled for wound potential. Those who train hard and master the cartridge have a powerful loading that is effective against both two- and four-legged threats, and against light cover.

GP 100 power
The GP 100 cycles very quickly and offers real power.

The GP 100 is capable of absorbing the pounding of a steady diet of .357 Magnum ammunition without going out of time or self-destructing. The shooter will be tired long before the revolver shows any signs of trouble. The GP100 is not only among the most rugged revolvers ever designed, and it is among the most accurate as well.
The GP100 will accept heavy handloads that will literally lock up other handguns. As an example, I worked up a load using H110 powder and Hornady’s 125-grain XTP that develops 1,628 fps from my 4-inch barrel GP100. This load never sticks in the cylinder or exhibits excess pressure signs. When the .357 Magnum was first developed an adventurer wrote, after killing an attacking jaguar — the .357 Magnum was like “having a rifle on your hip.” I agree.

Lobo Gunleather
Lobo Gunleather offers a well-designed IWB holster that provides good concealment.

The GP100 has been manufactured in 4- and 6-inch barrel versions, 3-inch barrel fixed-sight revolvers, and a .44 Special version. The new 7-shot revolver is certain to be popular. As said, mine sports a 2.5-inch barrel. It is surprisingly compact and well balanced. The sights are the Ruger fully-adjustable rear, and a green fiber-insert front sight; this combination makes for a good sight picture.

The compact grips are an aid in concealment, and they offer good control when firing Magnum loads. When working the action, the 7-shot action feels different from the 6-shot’s trigger press. Some of the cocking force is used to move the hand and cylinder while the rest cocks and drops the hammer. The GP100 action has always been smooth, but the action feels a bit shorter than the 6-shot version. This results in faster shooting. The heft is excellent — neither handle heavy nor barrel heavy.

The muzzle blast  is sometimes startling, but with most loads the GP100 isn’t difficult to control. The balance is similar to the Smith & Wesson Model 27 with a 3.5-inch barrel, but the GP100 is lighter. There are other short-barrel revolvers that are difficult to use well. They twist in the hand, and their excessive muzzle flip is uncomfortable. The GP100 is the fastest-handling, and most controllable, short-barrel Magnum I have fired.

hornady 125 critical defense
Hornady’s Critical Defense 125 grain load offers good performance.

PERFORMANCE
I began my test program with .38 Special ammunition. I suspect many shooters will engage most of their practice targets with .38 Special loads. That is the proven path to proficiency and marksmanship.

I used three choices from Double Tap ammunition in the first evaluation. These included the 850 fps 148-grain wadcutter, a 110-grain JHP at over 1,000 fps, and the 125-grain JHP at 959 fps. With these, this revolver was actually docile. It wasn’t difficult to make fast hits using double-action pairs. Moving to .357 Magnum loads, I fired a representative number of self-defense loads. First came the Hornady 125-grain Critical Defense. At 1,215 fps, this load hits hard and expands well. Velocity fell from the 1,383 fps exhibited in the 4-inch revolver — par for the course with short barrel Magnums.
The Federal 125-grain JHP broke at 1,221 fps. I also fired a handload I consider my favorite in .357 Magnum. At 1,250 fps from the 4-inch barrel, this load — using Titegroup powder — retained 1,180 fps in the Ruger. A handloader may tailor loads to the handgun, and using faster-burning powder clearly paid off in this application. This load isn’t difficult to control and makes a good all-around choice. The balance of expansion and penetration is on the long side. All threats are not two-legged, so penetration is desirable.

I continue to be impressed with this GP100 the more I work with it. With a smooth double-action trigger press and good sights, the revolver is well suited to use by a trained shooter. With proper load selection, the GP100 makes an excellent all-around defense revolver.

gp 100 accuracy
Despite a short barrel the GP100 posted excellent results in velocity testing.

For protection against the big cats and feral dogs, I cannot imagine a better choice. Against bears, I would load the Buffalo Bore 180-grain loading, or one of my own handloads using a hard cast 175-grain SWC. Ounce for ounce, the GP100 offers plenty of power for the street or trail.

Slow-fire accuracy fired from a solid benchrest firing position at 15 yards, 5-shot group —

.38 Special
Federal 129-grain Hydra Shok +P                                1.25 in.
Double Tap 110-grain JHP                                               1.5 in.
Buffalo Bore 158-grain Outdoorsman                      1.4 in.

.357 Magnum
Buffalo Bore 158-grain Low Flash Low Recoil      1.2 in.
Hornady 125-grain Critical Defense                          1.5 in.
Hornady 125-grain XTP                                                     1.0 in.

MSRP: $899

Check out this gun HERE

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REVIEW / RETROSPECT: Farewell To the Hi-Power

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Recently put out of production, the Hi-Power is a great handgun with a fantastic history. READ ALL ABOUT IT

browning hi power

Bob Campbell

Fabrique Nationale (FN) announced that the Browning Hi-Power pistol has been discontinued from manufacture. In the perfect handgunning world, all pistols would have the mix of history, performance, and collector interest of the Hi-Power. While Hi-Power pistols may be valuable and collectible, they fire the same readily obtained 9mm cartridge as many of our other favorites.
The Hi-Power is among the most recognizable handguns worldwide. If you scan the news, you may see a Hi-Power in the hands of Indian police or being waved by a woman during a street battle in Iraq. Our Canadian allies issue the Hi-Power, and it works as well today as a battle pistol as it ever has. The Hi-Power has been issued to the armed services of more than 50 nations. A generation ago, the Hi-Power was issued to elite units in the United States including the New Jersey State Police Fugitive Squad and FBI Hostage Rescue Team.

hi power self defense
The modern Hi-Power 9mm is a great combat and personal defense handgun.

The pistol was developed by John Moses Browning as a European service pistol. Browning was a great inventor; he was also among the greatest gun salesmen of all time. While 1911 fans may decry the small caliber 9mm and derisively call it the ‘Half Power,’ a .45 caliber service pistol would have been unthinkable in Europe. Browning did not base the Hi-Power on the 1911 but upon Browning principles just as the Tokarev and French 1935, by different inventors, are based on Browning’s work.

Originally, the Hi-Power was intended for the French Army. The French did not want a grip safety, and none was supplied. I respectively submit that Browning had learned a few things since his 1911, and the Hi-Power was designed to be produced as economically as possible.

The Allies left World War I with a great respect for the 9mm Luger cartridge. The 9mm met French requirements and it offers a good level of power for its compact size. The Luger cartridge is compact enough that 13 cartridges could be stuffed into a relatively compact magazine. Browning further refined his locked breech action to eliminate the swinging link and the result was the Hi-Power or Grande Pruissance.

tangent sighted Hi-Power
This is a tangent sighted Hi-Power.

Browning died in his office in Belgium before the final work was completed. Early models illustrate that the Hi-Power was defined by Browning. Dieudonne Saive, a respected inventor in his own right, refined the pistol and gave us the final form. The Hi-Power is a well-balanced handgun and among the finest service pistols of all time.
The French did not adopt the Hi-Power, but just the same, the type saw immense commercial success. Early variants were shipped to China and South America among other nations. During World War II, the Germans took over the FN plant and turned out the Hi-Power for the Wermacht. John Inglis of Canada, a respected maker of armaments including ships boilers, took up production of the Hi-Power for the allies.

The Hi-Power has the distinction of serving on both sides of practically every conflict since 1939. The Hi-Power has been in continuous production and remains a popular handgun today. A look at the specifications of the Hi-Power shows that it is ideally proportioned for the cartridge it chambers. There is enough weight to absorb the recoil of the 9mm cartridge, but the pistol is light enough for daily carry. The grip fits most hands well. The trigger press is straight to the rear, and the pistol is flat enough for concealed carry.

Hi-Power Dimensions
Barrel length:     4.625 in.
Sight Radius:      6.50 in.
Overall length:  7.75 in.
Weight:                    34 oz.

HI-Power rapid fire
The pistol is controllable in rapid fire.

The pistol is all-steel and well-made. The Browning design has gone through several generations but each is recognizable as a Hi-Power. The changes have been minor, usually limited to differences in the sights and the manual safety. The early versions feature a slide lock safety that is smaller than many competing types. With practice, the safety isn’t as difficult to manipulate as some would have us believe.
On the plus side, the original safety is positive in operation and unlikely to be inadvertently moved to the off-safe position. The slide stop and magazine release are easily reached and manipulated. Most, but not all, Hi-Power pistols feature a magazine disconnect that prevents the pistol from firing if the magazine is not in place. The Hi-Power is smaller and lighter than the 1911 .45ACP, and handles quickly. With the greatest respect for the 1911, and its speed into action, if there is a handgun faster to an accurate first shot than the 1911, it is the Browning Hi-Power.

The intrinsic accuracy of the Hi-Power is often very good. Practical accuracy is limited by sometimes heavy trigger actions. Over the years, my RCBS trigger pull gauge has measured Hi-Power triggers at 5 to 11 pounds. There seems no rhyme or reason. The tangent action isn’t easily improved. It is a shame that the heavy trigger action limits accuracy potential in many variants, but then the piece was made for short-range combat.

Then again, there is the shooter who manages the trigger and makes good hits in spite of the trigger action. As long as the trigger is consistent, little else matters to these practiced marksmen. Another advantage of the Hi-Power is speed of loading. All one need do to replenish the ammunition supply was to quickly insert the tapered magazine into a generous magazine well. No need for a magazine chute with this pistol.

The Hi-Power features a heavy hammer spring. This makes thumb cocking more difficult, however, there is a reason for the heavy spring. 9mm Luger ammunition has been produced in many countries. Quality is sometimes indifferent and the Hi-Power had to function with every load and to handle variations in case length as well as hard primers. The hammer gives the primer a solid hit and the pistol has excellent reliability. The extractor design changed about 1962 from internal to external. Magazines interchange in all models. Mec Gar is the preferred magazine brand. I have stated my opinion on the longevity of the 9mm Hi-Power. Any handgun in use for so long will have among its number worn or broken examples.
I have found that the Hi-Power feeds modern JHP ammunition. When hollow points became common in the 1960s and 1970s many featured a wide mouth hollow nose not designed for feed reliability. As a result, these loads did not feed in military pistols without barrel polish or throating. Throating, once universally recommended in the popular press, isn’t the best course and often improperly done.
Modern loads, such as the Winchester Silvertip, perform well and feed reliably. As for Hi-Power accuracy, I feel that the average accuracy of the Hi-Power is pretty consistent. Most examples may be counted upon for a five-shot group of 2-1/2 to 3 inches at 25 yards with good ammunition and from a solid rest.

hi power apart
The pistol field strips easily.

In the end, the Hi-Power is far more than a handgun to be kept in the safe and never fired. It is among the most useful of 9mm handguns. Light enough for constant carry, reliable, effective, and with more than a little pride of ownership, this is a handgun that has stood the test of time.

The Unequivocal Instrument: Snubnose Magnum Revolvers

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While the revolver is often looked down on as old technology, few handguns are as reliable and accurate as the short-barrel .357 Magnum revolver. KEEP READING

ruger sp101 357

Wilburn Roberts

With the great and growing abundance of concealed carry permits as Americans exercise their rights and commons sense, and with a present political climate that nurtures such progress, armed citizens are choosing to be responsible for their own safety. Choosing which handgun may be an easy enough choice for seasoned shooters, but quite a few of the new generation of handgunners are newcomers to one handgun in particular…

Many are steered toward a handgun that doesn’t fit their skill level. A semi-auto 9mm or .40 compact isn’t for everyone. However, the novice and very experienced shooter alike often choose a revolver. They are well armed when they do so.

snubnose revolvers
Short barrel revolvers are great personal defense firearms. Be certain to train well!

The snubnose .38 Special is a reasonable choice, however, the snubnose .38 is seen as less powerful than the 9mm pistol. (A “snubnose” is generally defined as having a barrel length 3 inches or less.) This is overcome by the power of the .357 Magnum revolver. When comparing the types, the advantages of the revolver have to be plain to make the short-barrel revolver an attractive choice.

Reliability is one advantage.

A further advantage of the revolver is that the revolver can be fired repeatedly even if it’s contacting an opponent. The semi-auto would jam after the first shot. It may also short cycle due to a less than perfect grip.

taurus 605
This Taurus 605 .357 Magnum revolver is carried in a 3Speed holster. This is a great deep concealment rig.

For a weapon to be used at conversational distance, the revolver’s reliability in this scenario is a big plus. A further advantage would be in a struggle for the gun — and this happens often — the gun grabber has little to hang onto in the case of a short-barreled revolver.

As said, an alternative to the .38 Special is the .357 Magnum. The .357 operates at almost three times the pressure level of the .38 Special. The Magnum operates at some 40,000 copper units of pressure compared to 18,000 for the .38 Special, and 20,000 for the .38 Special +P. This gives the magnum a great advantage in power, and the ability to use heavier bullets. There are .357 Magnum revolvers almost as compact as the snubnose .38, but often the Magnum will have a heavier frame and a heavier barrel which offers a better platform for the more powerful cartridge.

galco holster
Galco’s Carry Lite revolver holster is among the best for concealed carry. This inside the waistband holster is affordable and available.

These handguns also willingly chamber the .38 Special, providing a power level option in the same gun (that’s not available in a semi-auto). A .38 Special +P load is a good choice for the beginner for use in his or her .357 Magnum revolver. The shooter may move to the Magnum loadings after sufficient practice.

The obvious mechanical advantages of the revolver as related to reliability, the ability to use the weapon with a less-than-perfect grip and at point-blank range, are compelling sales features. However, in the end, the ballistics might be the best selling point. There has been a myth circulated for some time that the snubnose .357 Magnum is no more powerful than a .38 Special, as the Magnum loses velocity when fired in a short barrel. This is far from true. The Magnum does lose velocity when fired in a 2- to 3-inch barreled compact revolver, but it remains far more powerful than the snubnose .38 Special as the accompanying table shows. The .357 Magnum considerably outperforms the .38 Special by any measure.

With these revolvers, recoil could be grim to the uninitiated. Recoil energy approaches 12 pounds in some .357 Magnum revolvers, compared to 6 to 8 pounds in the 9mm and .40 caliber handguns, and a slight 4 pounds with .38 +P ammunition in a snubnose. This is a sharp jolt not to be underestimated. The person deploying this revolver must engage in practice and use the proper techniques to master this revolver.

sp101
The Ruger SP101 in .357 Magnum is among the strongest handguns — ounce for ounce — ever built.

Modern .357 Magnum revolvers such as the 5-shot Ruger SP 101 are designed with every advantage toward making the gun controllable. The factory grips on these revolvers are among the best ever designed. If you are able to find a Smith & Wesson K-frame revolver at a fair price, the 6-shot Smith & Wesson is even more controllable, albeit a bit larger.

Use a proper holster such as one of the Galco inside the waistband holsters and you will find the snubnose revolver very concealable. The revolver is simple to use — simply draw and fire. The Ruger and Smith & Wesson each have smooth double-action triggers that promote accuracy.

Another advantage of the revolver is superb accuracy. The Smith & Wesson Model 19 I often carry has been in service for four decades. A combination of excellent high-visibility sights and a smooth trigger make for fine accuracy. As just one example with the .38 Special Fiocchi 125-grain Extrema, this revolver has cut a 1.5-inch 25-yard group for 5 shots.

The .357 Magnum revolver isn’t for everyone, but for those who practice, one offers excellent accuracy, reliability, and proven power.

magnum specs

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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.