M&P®9 SHIELD™ EZ® No Thumb Safety Crimson Trace® Red Laserguard®

Somebody in Smith & Wesson’s engineering department must know me. It’s as if they said, “Let’s build a gun for Freeman. We need to provide enough firepower for him to feel comfortable carrying it for personal protection. Let’s help him with his eyesight by putting a laser on it that’s easy to operate. And speaking of easy to operate, you know the trouble he’s been having racking his slide and filling his magazines? Let’s fix that.” And so they did. Of course that’s a fictional scenario, but only the part that has my name in it. They built this gun for folks like me who want to be well-armed but are dealing with physical issues that make it difficult. The EZ designation on this Shield is the real deal. It is easy to rack and filling the magazine without a mag loader is a piece of cake. Another nice touch is the 1911-like grip safety, making a manual thumb safety unnecessary.

Shield EZ Rack With Laser
The profile of the Shield EZ is similar to other M2.0 Shields, but the barrel is .65″ longer.

This is a different Shield. I know this because I have an M2.0 Shield and I took them both apart to compare. I wanted to know how they made this gun so easy to operate. This Shield could easily be called an M2.5 because it has a different operating system. The EZ Shield is not striker-fired; it has an internal hammer. In essence, it’s single-action only because racking the slide cocks the hammer. The internal safety you would normally call a striker-block safety is a firing pin block safety on this Shield.

The internal hammer is part of the system that makes the EZ Shield easy to rack.

All of the M2.0 Shields have an excellent grip texture that allows for a secure grip. S&W’s advertising says the grip texture is optimized to size and recoil, and I’d say that’s about right. The Shield features an 18-degree grip angle, which we all know John Moses Browning figured out long ago was perfect for aligning sights and mitigating recoil. The S&W fish scale pattern cocking serrations are on the rear of the slide with an abbreviated version on the front. This gun has standard three-dot white sights but is also equipped with a Crimson Trace laser attached to the trigger guard and operated by a push-button switch positioned on the front of the grip where it can easily be activated by the middle finger or your shooting hand. The rear sight is adjustable for windage and the Crimson Trace laser comes with a tool for adjusting it for windage and elevation. It comes from the factory adjusted for 50 feet, which left it shooting high at the 10–12 yard distances we were shooting from at the range. It was easy to adjust using the supplied tool for that purpose. The laser’s lithium battery has a life of over four hours. There is also a master on/off switch should you wish to deactivate the laser for some reason.

The laser fits seamlessly to the trigger guard. Front serrations are there for a press check if that’s your habit.

The 9mm EZ Shield has an overall length of 6.8″ and a height of 4.75″. With the Crimson Trace laser and an empty magazine it weighs 23.8 oz. It ships with two 8-round magazines. The magazines have what seems to me to be a lighter spring than normal for a 9mm, and they have a load-assist tab similar to those on .22 caliber semi-automatic pistols making magazine loading not quite the chore it is on most 9mm pistols when you have hand issues. The trigger is crisp with an average 5 lb. pull on my Lyman gauge. There’s a bit of take-up, but it’s smooth and the break is clean with a tactile reset. The grip safety requires a high, secure grip to activate, but you should be doing that anyway. There is a tactile loaded chamber indicator on top of the slide, something I miss on other M&P handguns.

The EZ Shield’s barrel is 3.65″ long as opposed to the 3″ barrel on the standard M2.0 Shield. The single recoil spring is longer and smaller than the double recoil spring on the standard Shield. The magazine is not compatible with the magazines from other Shields. The slide lock is slightly smaller but is easy to operate. Takedown on the EZ Shield does not require a trigger pull or pushing down a small internal lever to disengage the sear. Just lock the slide back, rotate the takedown lever 90 degrees and push the slide off the front of the frame. The recoil spring is a small, single spring with a strength that is balanced to provide consistent operation of the firearm and easy operation of the slide by people with hand strength issues. My wife and I both fall within that category, and we both found the EZ Shield easy to load, easy to rack and easy to shoot.

Because it’s hammer fired, not striker fired, takedown does not require pulling the trigger.

Reassembly had me going to the manual to figure out why I couldn’t get the slide to go back on just as easily as it comes off. It turns out that the rear end of the recoil spring assembly is not round. It has flat sides and must be oriented so the flats are on the side and the round portions are in the up and down position as you place the assembly back in position on the barrel. There are a couple of other tips for reassembly. If the hammer is up, push it down and do not depress the grip safety while removing or installing the slide.

Whenever I’m evaluating a gun for a review, I like to put it into the hands of several shooters whenever possible. My perceptions may be somewhat slanted according to my likes and dislikes and having input from others helps with a more objective review. Having more than one gun to evaluate on any given range trip also helps balance perspective. Being in the midst of the COVID-19 shelter-at-home period, several of my family members were more than anxious to head to the country in a private environment and shoot some guns. When it came time to shoot the EZ Shield, I was most interested in my wife’s experience with the gun because she has more hand issues than I do. We are both heavy keyboard users because of our professions and are somewhat convinced that keyboard and mouse use is as much an issue with the chronic pain in our hands as aging. For the past few years, I’ve been concerned that she hadn’t felt comfortable with any gun we have other than a lightweight revolver.

I didn’t try to persuade her to load the Shield’s magazines because in real life she doesn’t have to. She’s got me plus sons and grandsons to load magazines for her. But she’s got to be able to shoot the gun, and when I handed her the loaded Shield to shoot, shoot it she did. With just a bit of coaching from our youngest son who is an NRA Certified Handgun Instructor, she was putting rounds on target quite easily. After shooting the gun a bit, she announced she would like this to be her new carry gun, leaving me trying to figure out the logistics of getting another one for me to carry.

The Shields magazine has an assist tab to help with loading. The internal spring is easier than on most magazines, which also helps.

Four of us took turns with the EZ Shield going through several brands of range and defensive ammo. The Shield didn’t seem to care what we fed it. Accuracy was on par for a carry gun and there were no malfunctions of any kind. When it was my turn to shoot, I was just as anxious to try the new Gold Dot Carry Gun ammo as I was the EZ Shield. I didn’t Chrono anything, but I sure was pleased with the groupings I got using the Gold Dot ammo.

The Crimson Trace laser doesn’t interfere at all with carrying the EZ Shield in my Bianchi 101-16 Foldaway holster. The EZ Shield with the Crimson Trace laser also fits easily into an Uncle Mike’s size 16 Sidekick Ambidextrous nylon holster. There’s no doubt in my mind this is a serious personal defense handgun that can easily be carried and up to the challenge should it be needed, whether or not you have hand issues. If you do have hand issues, I urge you to give this gun a try. The S&W engineers must have been working with people just like you and me when they designed this gun.The M&P family of guns is well-respected with models to fit almost any handgun need imaginable. Reliability is well-established and performance on the competitive circuits legendary. This model of the M&P Shield holds special appeal to me because the development team took an existing model that has sold over 3 million units and tweaked it for a new application without jeopardizing any of its existing strengths. Making a light-racking gun presents challenges because the operation of the gun requires that a certain degree of spring tension is present. If you make something really easy for a human to operate, you risk the challenge that cycling of the gun’s action will suffer making it ammunition finicky or even refusing to operate. That does not seem to be the case here. We put the EZ Shield through its paces with no indication that it’s not going to just keep on trucking. Good job, S&W!

I found the Shield with the laser attached easy to carry in this Bianchi Foldaway holster. It is normally covered by my shirttail.

The M&P family of guns is well-respected with models to fit almost any handgun need imaginable. Reliability is well-established and performance on the competitive circuits legendary. This model of the M&P Shield holds special appeal to me because the development team took an existing model that has sold over 3 million units and tweaked it for a new application without jeopardizing any of its existing strengths. Making a light-racking gun presents challenges because the operation of the gun requires that a certain degree of spring tension is present. If you make something really easy for a human to operate, you risk the challenge that cycling of the gun’s action will suffer making it ammunition finicky or even refusing to operate. That does not seem to be the case here. We put the EZ Shield through its paces with no indication that it’s not going to just keep on trucking. Good job, S&W!

Rimfires Rule

I grew up shooting .22 rifles and a really neat 9-shot revolver. It’s a great way to get kids interested and skilled at shooting and guess what. It’s also a great way to keep old folks shooting. Being 72 with some aggressive arthritis I admit it’s challenging sometimes. I still keep at least a 9mm on my belt for defense, but when it comes to fun shooting, I’m opting for the good old twenty-two more often that not. And, thanks to being blessed with the ability to write for two amazing magazines, the past year has allowed me to review a few interesting .22s. Here’s a run down of them from the latest to the earliest.

Ruger LCP II .22 LR

This is one of those mouse guns that is normally a little tough to shoot. The fact this one has a great trigger and some enlarged sights makes it a little easier than it’s .380 predecessors the LCP and LCP II.

Ruger LCP II .22 LR
Ruger LCP II .22 LR

I can truly say it’s fun to shoot. There’s no recoil and the grip is big enough for me to get two good fingers around. I teacup with my support hand to make a solid grip. The sights are a bit of a struggle but only because I need to use the bottom of my trifocals to see them and that makes me tilt my head at a funny angle. For folks with tiny hands this one will work well for you. Some will even want to carry it for personal protection. It’s better than nothing.

HK416 .22 LR

Now here’s a fun guy. This is a rimfire version of the gun the Navy Seals had with them when they took down Osama Bin Laden. It’s not a machine gun but it’s almost as much fun.

HK16 .22 LR Pistol

It didn’t come with the red dot sight, suppressor, pistol brace and sling; I added those. When I shot up those drink cans I did it without hearing protection. Using CCI’s Suppressor ammo it was so quiet it sounded like the phssst, phssst of the silenced guns you hear in the movies or on TV — really quiet. This gun is about as much fun as I’ve had with a gun in many a moon. It’s something the young folks enjoy, but us old folks, too.

Glock 44 – They Now Have a .22

It was kind of a surprise when I got an email from the Glock publicity department wanting to know if they could send me their new .22. This gun is the same size as a G19 and looks just like the G5 version of the ever popular Glock 19. You think it’s a G19 until you pick it up and find it only weighs something like 11 oz. It holds ten rounds and shoots any normal or high velocity ammo. As long as you don’t try the subsonic stuff and keep it clean it just keeps right on trucking. It’s a great way to economically practice shooting that will transfer skills to shooting your defensive Glock.

Glock 44 .22 Caliber

Taurus TX22

I personally like this gun better than the Glock. It’s essentially the same size, but holds 15 rounds. It, too, is very reliable. I find it more comfortable to shoot than the Glock because of the grip frame and texture, but either one of them is great for practicing skills that will cross over to your 9mm of the same size and body style. Oh and it has a threaded barrel so you can add a suppressor. The Taurus a bit easier on the pocketbook than the Glock. It’s going for around $250 in the stores where the Glock looks like it’s going to price out around $350.

Taurus TX22 with suppressor
Taurus TX22 With Suppressor

Ruger Wrangler

These very reasonably-priced six shooters from Ruger are of the quality we’ve become used to from Ruger, but cost about half what the Single Six does because it’s made from aluminum alloy with modern CNC machinery. Ruger is working to get us more reasonably priced guns and the Wrangler is one of the results. They come in three colors and I managed to get my hands on one of each.

Ruger Wranglers
Ruger Wranglers

It’s going to be interesting to see what 2020 brings us.

SCCY – A Lot of Gun for Not Much Money

During my gun store days the 9mm SCCYs were great sellers because of their size, price and capacity. It’s concealable size gun that carries 11 rounds of 9mm for around $250. Their 9mm is available in two models, one with an external safety and one without. This is the CPX-1 and the CPX-2. This past year they released the CPX-3 and CPX-4 versions, which are .380 caliber, one with external safety and one without. One cool thing about them is colors. They come in all sorts of colors. Here are pictures of my CPX-1, that’s the one with external safety, and CPX-2, the one without.

SCCY CPX-1
SCCY CPX-2

Right before Christmas I was sent a new SCCY for review, this one with a Crimson Trace Red Dot sight installed. The Crimson Trace is now available on all four SCCY Models. And guess what. Toward the end of 1st quarter 2020 SCCY will be releasing a new version of their gun that is striker-fired with a 5.5 lb. trigger pull. All the ones so far have been double-action only with a 9 lb. trigger pull.

SCCY CPX-2 With Crimson Trace Red Dot Sight.

So we have two trends I’m following in the gun industry. One is affordable guns that are high quality. You can own a good defensive handgun for under $300. Or you can spend several thousand dollars for one. Your choice.

The other trend is that .22s are coming back in force. If you haven’t shot a .22 in a while, you’d be surprised at how much fun it is. Also inexpensive.

Updates for the New Year

I want to let you all know and hope you’ll share with your friends that my DPS certified Online training for the Texas License to Carry course is now available for a very reasonable cost of $40. This takes care of the classroom portion of the training required to get your license to carry a handgun. Visit TexasLTC.Online for details and to take the course. Notice that web address is a dot online address. A little different from the dot coms we’re used to but all kinds of web addresses are now available.

Three Taurus Handguns
Two Taurus G3’s and a G2 (the brown one)

Back in September I wrote about some of the new Taurus handguns. Now they’re starting to appear in color. Taurus’s TX22 was heralded as Handgun of the Year by Guns & Ammo Magazine. I had a feature article on it published in the Sep/Oct issue of American Handgunner Magazine. I’ve now got two of the 9mm Taurus G3 handguns. I carry one of them every day and the other is in one of the vehicle consoles.

Notice the .22 caliber TX22 below is very similar to these 9mm guns. I think Taurus made a genius move when they did that as it makes the .22 an affordable, easy-to-shoot gun for training or just for fun. Taurus actually slated it for a competition gun which should be interesting to follow.

Taurus TX22

Taurus isn’t the only company that issued a 9mm lookalike .22. Just before Christmas Glock sent me a new G44 to review. Not sure when the article will hit print, but here’s a heads up for my readers. The G44 is exactly the size and has the external features of a G19 Gen 5. Here’s what it looks like:

Glock G44 .22 Caliber

I can tell you all this because I’m not dependent up on advertising. I like the Taurus better. In fact, there are some among the gun writers who are saying the new Taurus handguns could be Glock killers. Why? They have all the features of a Glock, operate similarly, are the same size as the G19 and you can buy two of them for the cost of one Glock G19. I was in a local gun store a couple of weeks ago picking up a rifle and during the short time I was there two different men came in, not together, and each of them left with two Taurus G3 handguns. That’s an indication some smart buyers are taking advantage of that two Tauruses for the cost of one Glock price savings.

I don’t think anyone buying a Taurus G2 or G3 or TX22 will be disappointed and they’ll definitely get their money’s worth.

There are more new .22s on the horizon. It seems as if we’re having a .22 revival. The ammo makers, especially CCI, are doing their part in making it fun and practical. I have new Ruger .22 LCP II on the way. Earlier in the year we had the very reasonably priced Ruger Wrangler six-guns. Meanwhile I’ve been reviewing an HK416 .22 LR. Know the gun? Its big brother in 556 mm is the gun the Seals used to take down Osama bin Laden. I’ve got mine equipped with a Bushnell Red Dot sight and a suppressor and will soon have a stabilizer brace added. It sure is fun to shoot.

HK416 .22LR
Heckler & Koch HK416 .22 LR

Stay tuned for more. Magazine writing keeps me busy, but I’m making a commitment to keep my blog a good source of information during the coming year.

An Excellent Explanation

This letter was printed in the January/February 2020 edition of American Handgunner magazine. It is one of the most accurate and sensible descriptions of what is really going on in our country with what the media insists on calling “gun violence”. We have had guns in abundance throughout our country’s history without the kinds of disturbing shootings we have going on now. Please consider Handgunner reader Nevin D. Holmberg’s explanation of why these things are happening:

Over the last 60 years our society has abandoned its customs, morals, traditions and self restraint to limit bad behavior, including criminality. Many of our politicians, clergy and educators avoid condemning the worst among us and the atrocities they commit. It has become commonplace for teachers to be threatened with violence, or actually to suffer it. Much of our “art” is little more than filth that in many circles is celebrated and defended. Much of this is aimed directly at our children. Our language too has become debased. Terrorist acts and other criminal mass murders commonly are referred to as “tragedies” when in fact they are atrocities. Those committing such violence are referred to as “extremists,” “militants, “depressed,” “angry” or other euphemisms. Moreover, when the responsible parties are caught they are rarely ever executed. Does anybody remember Nicholas Cruz? For 20 months since he murdered over a score of students at Douglas High School in Florida he’s been provided with “three hots and a cot” at taxpayer expense. Why has he not been hung? We have become inured to behavior our parents and grandparents would never have tolerated. Our violence problem is not caused by guns — it’s cultural degeneration and deviancy. These are incredibly complex issues, and not amenable to any “quick fixes.” However, until those matters are addressed and dealt with, the past is but a prelude to the future. It will not be affected by limiting the rights of the citizenry, limiting the kinds of firearms we can own or the number of cartridges they can hold. Such proposals come from fools or charlatans, and will do nothing to cure our nation.

Rather than repeat my own thoughts on this subject, I’ll just remind my readers of post I did a while back — Oh, Really? More Laws.

Brunswick Stew And Mud-Slinging Tires How Not To Impress the Ladies

Every year as the Thanksgiving weekend approaches, I start thinking about the tradition we started but never finished. It can’t happen now as I’m the only remaining member of the first of what was going to be the Annual Riverside Camping / Hunting trip. I can’t imagine any 17-year-old boy with a work situation as good as mine. It only paid $2.50 an afternoon, but it got me out of school at noon, and since I worked seven days a week, that netted me $17.50 a week. The only expenses I had was some 19 cents a gallon gas and Saturday night date night. My job? I was a horse and dog trainer. Well, assistant horse and dog trainer.

George’s Jeep

My boss, Bobby Stewart, had a way with animals. He sold insurance by making appointments in the morning and meeting with his prospects at night. That left the afternoons for training show horses a big part of the year and bird dogs in the fall after horse show season was over. Are you getting this? I rode horses and hunted with bird dogs and got paid for it. George Lovelady was a life-long friend of Bobby’s, and he owned a horse we worked so he could show him. Billy Ray Lea helped Bobby sell insurance. We all had something in common. We loved guns, trucks and the outdoors. That’s what kicked off the idea of a five-day adventure when practically everything was in season.

David’s Ford F1

Bobby knew the place and when he told us about it, there was no question how we were going to get there. Every man on his own. Bobby had a new Ford Bronco. I’m talking about the little one, and I think it was the first year they were sold. George had a CJ-5 with a winch on the front bumper. Billy Ray had one of those International Harvester Scouts that were popular back in the 60s. My truck was the only one that wasn’t four-wheel drive, but it was quite capable of keeping up with the others. It was a 1949 Ford F1 with wide mud tires, plenty of ground clearance and lots of torque. My utility box had chains and a come-along just in case I needed to help pull one of those guys out of the mud. It was rare for me to need a tow. As long as I chose my way carefully over the rough stuff, my truck would get me there.

 We left on Wednesday morning. Bobby and his son Mike were in front with the rest of us following. Bobby’s vehicle was the newest, and naturally he would prove to the rest of us it was the best by leading us through places that would get at least one of us stuck. That’s how we played the game and why we were all in separate vehicles. He who has the best truck wins. I was in my favorite place at the rear of our little convoy. There was no question they each had the advantage of four-wheel drive, but my truck had been around a long time and seemed to know its way through the muddiest of passages. I learned a lot about driving from that old truck.

Billy Ray’s Scout

There had been recent rains, and Bobby made sure we all did a lot slipping and sliding as we turned off a gravel road and headed north past Bagley Lake toward the Tallahatchie River. About an hour, maybe two off the county road, we pulled up at a place called Riverside where we found an open area on a high bank overlooking the river. Behind us and spreading out for several miles in all directions was public land, part of the Holly Springs National Forest. It was a week early for deer season, but duck, dove, quail, rabbits and squirrels were all in season, and we planned to take our share of feathers and fur from the immediate surroundings. I had both my guns with me, the 16-gauge, full choke Winchester Model 12 my Dad had given me and the bolt action .22 Remington 514 I’d bought from the Boy Scout Camp for $2. Mike had a 20-gauge Franchi and a Marlin .22. His dad’s Browning autoloader was the envy of all of us because he could use it to bring down quail like you wouldn’t believe. Billy Ray had a Remington version of that same design, and George had a double barrel 12 gauge.

We made camp and relaxed that first afternoon, taking advantage of some food we had packed in. An hour before sunset, we spread out around a nearby field and popped a few doves. Bobby got a teal as it flew up off the river. That shot with his cylinder bore Browning autoloader impressed me. Hitting a teal on the fly is always a challenge, and he did it with a quail gun.

We dressed the duck and the doves and tossed them into an ice chest. Billy Ray and Bobby set up a tripod from which they hung an iron caldron. Mike and I, being the youngest, foraged for firewood. George found some rocks to bed up the fire. Before we bedded down for the night, the caldron had been filled with water, a nice fire built beneath it and the doves and duck put into it to simmer.

For two days we hunted, explored and rested as it suited us. When hunting, we shot anything that was in season. Mike and I spent most of our time hunting with our .22 rifles going after squirrels and rabbits. We didn’t have a dog with us, so dove were the primary feathered target. Bobby did manage to add a few quail to our simmering pot by walking them up from the edge of a field. Billy Ray seemed to be on his game for ducks, and George shot a lot but didn’t bring much game to the pot. We all felt bad for him, but it did give the older guys something to rib him about. Mike and I were kids, so of course we were respectful.

Brunswick Stew – simmering for two days and ready to eat.

Although our pot was simmering with game we’d killed, we ate from the food supplies we’d brought with us. Saturday morning we cleaned our guns and straightened up the campsite. Bobby took charge of cooking for the evening meal, the rest of us helping under his direction. We moved the caldron away from the fire and strained it, removing all the bones. The meat had been cooked so tender it literally fell away from the bones making our job easier. When Bobby was satisfied all the bones were gone, we added the vegetables we’d kept on ice—green beans, corn, carrots, celery, onions and tomatoes. Bobby added some flour and various seasonings. We placed the caldron back over the fire and stoked it up to let the stew boil awhile. When the fire died down later, the stew continued simmering.

After lunch, we were all looking at our watches and getting restless. It was time to get the womenfolk. We made sure the fire was banked well and that none of our guns or other valuables were left lying about, then piled into the vehicles and hit the trail. The ride back to civilization was just as competitive as the one in, but this time we were more about getting somewhere than putting our vehicles to the test. We were on gravel by 3:00 p.m. and pavement a few minutes later. We cut across Woodson Ridge Road and from there to Little John’s Grocery on Highway 30 for the rendezvous.

We made it to Little John’s before the women were scheduled to arrive, so we bought some cold drinks and snacks and sat on my tailgate to enjoy them. The women showed up close to 4:30—Bobby’s wife Joanne, Billy Ray’s wife Terri, George’s young cousin Vicki who was visiting from Philadelphia, and my girlfriend Peggy, all riding together in Joanne’s Galaxie. After greeting them appropriately, we climbed into our vehicles, each with his own woman to impress (or not!) and headed back to Riverside.

The ride back to the campsite was a little rougher than normal because we plowed into the rough spots fast enough for some tire-twisting, gut-wrenching action—boys showing off. Today, girls drive Jeeps. The girls with us were not impressed with our bouncing, spinning and mud-slinging. But they were impressed when we served up dinner.

It was Brunswick Stew, as good as it gets—wild game cooked over an open fire. We sat around the campfire talking and reliving our hunting experiences for the girls. I don’t remember now, but I’m pretty sure there was some embellishment here or there. After a while, I got out my guitar and we sang a few songs. Then we got quiet and listened to the night sounds. Even the girls agreed we would make this an annual affair. All too soon it was time to take the women back to their car.

This time we used just two vehicles, Bobby’s Bronco and Billy Ray’s Scout. Peggy and I rode with Bobby and Joanne, George and Vicki rode with Billy Ray and Terri. After depositing the women at Little Johns, we went back to our campsite and enjoyed another night of “roughing it.”

By the time the next year rolled around, I was in college, Billy Ray had moved away and George was running his family’s convenience store. There just seemed to be too much conflict to pull off a five-day event that year. We never had a second annual Riverside Hunting Trip, and by the time what would have been the third one rolled around, I think I was the only one thinking about it. A year later I was in flight school and after that Vietnam. Funny how we let living get in the way of life. Maybe this year I can go. Get one of my sons to go with me. I’ve been back to Riverside once. The Forest Service made a real road right up to the river there and built an actual campground on that bluff overlooking the river. I can see all of this on Google Earth. But I can never sit around the campfire with Bobby, Mike, George and Billy Ray. Not here, anyway. Maybe there’s a Riverside Campground in heaven. If you think you and your friends should have a special hunting weekend, don’t put it off. Go make some great memories.e made camp and relaxed that first afternoon, taking advantage of some food we had packed in. An hour before sunset, we spread out around a nearby field and popped a few doves. Bobby got a teal as it flew up off the river. That shot with his cylinder bore Browning autoloader impressed me. Hitting a teal on the fly is always a challenge, and he did it with a quail gun.

We dressed the duck and the doves and tossed them into an ice chest. Billy Ray and Bobby set up a tripod from which they hung an iron caldron. Mike and I, being the youngest, foraged for firewood. George found some rocks to bed up the fire. Before we bedded down for the night, the caldron had been filled with water, a nice fire built beneath it and the doves and duck put into it to simmer.

For two days we hunted, explored and rested as it suited us. When hunting, we shot anything that was in season. Mike and I spent most of our time hunting with our .22 rifles going after squirrels and rabbits. We didn’t have a dog with us, so dove were the primary feathered target. Bobby did manage to add a few quail to our simmering pot by walking them up from the edge of a field. Billy Ray seemed to be on his game for ducks, and George shot a lot but didn’t bring much game to the pot. We all felt bad for him, but it did give the older guys something to rib him about. Mike and I were kids, so of course we were respectful.

Although our pot was simmering with game we’d killed, we ate from the food supplies we’d brought with us. Saturday morning we cleaned our guns and straightened up the campsite. Bobby took charge of cooking for the evening meal, the rest of us helping under his direction. We moved the caldron away from the fire and strained it, removing all the bones. The meat had been cooked so tender it literally fell away from the bones making our job easier. When Bobby was satisfied all the bones were gone, we added the vegetables we’d kept on ice—green beans, corn, carrots, celery, onions and tomatoes. Bobby added some flour and various seasonings. We placed the caldron back over the fire and stoked it up to let the stew boil awhile. When the fire died down later, the stew continued simmering.

After lunch, we were all looking at our watches and getting restless. It was time to get the womenfolk. We made sure the fire was banked well and that none of our guns or other valuables were left lying about, then piled into the vehicles and hit the trail. The ride back to civilization was just as competitive as the one in, but this time we were more about getting somewhere than putting our vehicles to the test. We were on gravel by 3:00 p.m. and pavement a few minutes later. We cut across Woodson Ridge Road and from there to Little John’s Grocery on Highway 30 for the rendezvous.

We made it to Little John’s before the women were scheduled to arrive, so we bought some cold drinks and snacks and sat on my tailgate to enjoy them. The women showed up close to 4:30—Bobby’s wife Joanne, Billy Ray’s wife Terri, George’s young cousin Vicki who was visiting from Philadelphia, and my girlfriend Peggy, all riding together in Joanne’s Galaxie. After greeting them appropriately, we climbed into our vehicles, each with his own woman to impress (or not!) and headed back to Riverside.

The ride back to the campsite was a little rougher than normal because we plowed into the rough spots fast enough for some tire-twisting, gut-wrenching action—boys showing off. Today, girls drive Jeeps. The girls with us were not impressed with our bouncing, spinning and mud-slinging. But they were impressed when we served up dinner.

It was Brunswick Stew, as good as it gets—wild game cooked over an open fire. We sat around the campfire talking and reliving our hunting experiences for the girls. I don’t remember now, but I’m pretty sure there was some embellishment here or there. After a while, I got out my guitar and we sang a few songs. Then we got quiet and listened to the night sounds. Even the girls agreed we would make this an annual affair. All too soon it was time to take the women back to their car.

This time we used just two vehicles, Bobby’s Bronco and Billy Ray’s Scout. Peggy and I rode with Bobby and Joanne, George and Vicki rode with Billy Ray and Terri. After depositing the women at Little Johns, we went back to our campsite and enjoyed another night of “roughing it.”

By the time the next year rolled around, I was in college, Billy Ray had moved away and George was running his family’s convenience store. There just seemed to be too much conflict to pull off a five-day event that year. We never had a second annual Riverside Hunting Trip, and by the time what would have been the third one rolled around, I think I was the only one thinking about it. A year later I was in flight school and after that Vietnam. Funny how we let living get in the way of life. Maybe this year I can go. Get one of my sons to go with me. I’ve been back to Riverside once. The Forest Service made a real road right up to the river there and built an actual campground on that bluff overlooking the river. I can see all of this on Google Earth. But I can never sit around the campfire with Bobby, Mike, George and Billy Ray. Not here, anyway. Maybe there’s a Riverside Campground in heaven. If you think you and your friends should have a special hunting weekend, don’t put it off. Go make some great memories.

Taurus Gets it Right With Two New Semi-Automatic Offerings

Fifteen years ago when this old shotgun and revolver guy decided to jump into the concealed carry world, the first semi-automatic handgun I bought was a Taurus PT 24/7 Pro DS. The DS stands for double-strike, which I’ll elaborate on later in this post. Pro was in the name because the gun had been created to compete for selection by the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). It turns out the request for which Taurus and other manufacturers were competing was later shelved. Working toward that potentially lucrative contract, Taurus developed a gun with lots of features that made it attractive to the civilian personal defense and concealed carry market.

I didn’t know beans about semi-automatics in those days, but my friend Jerry Colliver did and this was the gun he recommended. It was a great choice. I used that PT 24/7 to qualify for the Texas Concealed Carry License, NRA Basic Pistol Instructor and Texas License to Carry Instructor License. When I got in the gun store business, I “upgraded” to something more expensive because I could. The lure of wholesale prices and “extra” income from selling guns set me on the trail of building a collection. The Taurus was forgotten—for a while.

Cost is a factor for many just entering the concealed carry world. I found myself recommending the Taurus PT-111 often. Then it went through a marketing  challenge when there were claims of accidental discharges happening when the gun was dropped. A class action lawsuit was settled without Taurus admitting liability, but one of the results was a G2 version of the gun, a model which I’ve come to trust.

In 2012 S&W released the single-stack Shield, followed over the next few years by similar offerings from Springfield, Glock, Sig Sauer and others. These guns all cost $400–$500 and up with capacities in the 6-7 round range. Meanwhile the Taurus G2 was available for $200 with a 13-round capacity. I sold a ton of them and got one myself. It’s an easy carry gun with great reliability and accuracy.

I no longer conduct the License to Carry courses nor own a gun store, but I’m still in a position to let folks know about a good value in a firearm. Recently I reviewed two new offerings from Taurus for American Handgunner and GUNS Magazines. The first was the TX22, a really neat .22 that has operational features which make it a great practice tool for shooting a 9mm. I could shoot that gun all day. I’ve taken my grandson Josh and one of his friends shooting with the TX22, including shooting it with a sound suppressor added, and we all agree it’s a hoot to shoot. You can read the review here in American Handgunner Magazine.

I’m not sure when my stories on the new Taurus G3 will be published, but I wanted to let my blog readers know about this new $300 gun. It has all the features that made the PT 24/7 popular, several of them unique to the Taurus handguns. The grip has a palm swell that more or less forces your hand high on the grip frame. Indents that Taurus calls shelves are on both sides of the frame to align your trigger finger properly. And when your trigger finger is indexed as it should be when your you’re not on target ready to shoot, Taurus Memory Pads™ are there to facilitate finger placement. The texture on the grip helps provide an excellent hold, even with sweaty palms. All of this together makes the G3 a very comfortable gun to shoot. The PT Millennium G2 and the new G3 share the double-strike capability with their older brother the PT 24/7. What this means is when you pull the trigger, if for some reason the gun doesn’t fire, you can pull it again for a second chance. Actually, you can pull it again and again. These guns are constructed so the sear essentially rotates around an axis and is back, ready to fire again as the trigger is released. This happens whether or not the slide cycles as it does when a round is fired.

I’ve put quite a few rounds downrange with the new G3 and have encouraged others to shoot it as well. I’m so confident in it I’ve been carrying the G3 for three weeks now and will probably continue. Funny, how this almost takes me back to the roots of my concealed carry days! If you’re looking for an economical carry gun these Tauruses should be considered. They are hard not to like.