Military & Police for Civilians

M&P could stand for “Mom” and “Pop” and at our house that could be true since Mom has one on her bedside table and Pop has one on his bedside table. Since you’re reading a gun blog you will know I’m talking about Smith & Wesson’s Military and Police branded firearms. Mom’s happens to be a 9mm trade-in from the Colorado Springs police department. Mine happens to be a .40 S&W trade-in from the Atlanta police department. I’ll come back to the trade-in story, but first a little background on why there are M&Ps in my family.

S&W Model 10

My first encounter with an M&P came in the form of a snub nosed .38 Special Model 10 revolver. The Model 10 wasn’t being called an M&P at the time we got it in the mid-1950s, but it came from a line of guns that had been called M&P since 1899. In recent years those revolvers have once again become identified with the Military & Police designation.

My dad acquired this revolver when I was in my early teens and kept it in his sock drawer. Since he was frequently out of town on business and only changed his socks before I got up in the mornings when he was in town, he never missed the times I took the little revolver along when hunting, fishing, or just out rambling, at times on horseback, at times on a Honda Scrambler and at times on foot. Having the little revolver along in its Bucheimer & Clark FBI holster came in handy when encountering snakes or other varmints while on the trail. When Dad was moved to a VA Home in the last few months of his life, I told him I was taking his revolver home for safekeeping. “Son, I never shot that gun,” he told me, his voice made gravelly by recent breathing tube invasions. “Don’t worry, Dad,” I told him. “I shot it a lot!”

I carried a similar Army issued Model 10 in my survival vest when flying a medevac helicopter in Vietnam. I figured it’s primary purpose if we were shot down would be to destroy our encrypted KY-38 radio. The other crewmembers and I had a variety of rifles and even shotguns hanging on the backs of our seats for defending ourselves against Viet Cong or NVA should that need arise.

Forty years after Vietnam I began attending classes to obtain the instructor ratings necessary to teach basic and advanced handgun courses as well as the Texas Concealed Carry (now called License to Carry) Instructor rating. In my thirst for knowledge I asked the other attendees in these courses why they chose the particular handgun they were shooting. There was the expected scattering of Glocks, but the Smith & Wesson M&P was also well represented. The answers for why people chose the M&P were usually along the lines of “less felt recoil” or “it doesn’t kick as much.”

Having fallen in with the commonly spread belief at the time that if it didn’t start with a ‘4’ it wasn’t enough cartridge for the job, I obtained a .45 ACP M&P to see for myself if the recoil was noticeably different. After firing the M&P alongside the a Springfield XDm and a Taurus 24/7 in .45ACP I came to the conclusion the S&W was a little easier on the hand and wrist. Some of that I attributed to the texture of the grip. Smith & Wesson claims it’s the angle of the grip, and I have to admit the M&P does feel good in the hand.

When you start teaching is when you really start learning. Having obtained the necessary ratings, I hit the ground running with two classes a week, each averaging 30 attendees. Week after week of watching what people were shooting and how they shooting, I gained considerable insight into what works and what doesn’t. In the years before the introduction of the modern single-stack nines, the M&P became one of my most recommended handguns for new shooters. A ton of experienced shooters already trusted the full-size or compact M&P  as easy-to-carry, easy-to-shoot, reliable and accurate handguns.

I tend to think of Glock, S&W, and Springfield—as being like Toyota, Honda & Nissan. They’re all excellent, affordable and reliable handguns so pick the brand you like. I’m not a Glock fan, but I’m not against them any more than I’m against a Toyota. I just like the Smith & Wesson, much like I might prefer a Honda over a Toyota.

Handguns are a little less expensive than cars, so if you like a brand, you can have more than one, right? Maybe a lot more than one. I’ve gone through a number of them while helping family and friends find the right firearm and we have several in our family ready to perform m defensive duty should the need arise.

Colorado Springs M & P
M&P 9mm – Colorado Springs Police Dept. Trade-in

I’ve already mentioned our by-the-bed-guns. Joyce’s Colorado Springs PD trade-in has a known story. Colorado Springs first purchased M&Ps with a magazine disconnect safety thinking conservatively in case a gun got ripped out of one of their officers’ hands. But after some experience they decided they preferred a smoother trigger pull than what they were getting with the disconnect safety. Smith & Wesson accommodated them with an even trade for models without the magazine disconnect safety. The previous guns were reconditioned and put on the block by a major online retailer. After learning about the availability of police trade-ins, I found myself checking online from time to time, even though I prefer buying from a local gun dealer. Over the past five years I’ve acquired several M&P trade-ins, all at very reasonable used-gun prices.

I wish I knew the story behind all of them. Atlanta switched to Glocks in 2013, with the .40 Caliber G22 being the primary side-arm. Supposedly they were dissatisfied with their M&Ps, but I suspect Glock being located in nearby Smyrna, GA, and contributing considerably to the Georgia economy had something to do with it.

Whether the Atlanta PD liked my M&P or not, I sure do. It’s my upstairs bedroom gun equipped with a Surefire combination light and laser to help me determine if friend or foe is coming down the hallway towards my bedroom when things go bump in the night.

 

AtlantaHouseGun
Atlanta Police Department Trade-In House Gun With Light & Laser

I keep another former police gun, this one compliments of the West Palm Beach police department, in the console of my Jeep. I’m always personally armed when driving the Jeep, but you never know when a backup might be needed.

Two additional former police M&P trade-ins I keep around are one from the Vermont State Police and a never-issued example from the Detroit PD. These two are both .40s. All of the trade-ins came with 3 magazines and night sights and were purchased for less than $400, a good value in my book. Police may be bailing from the .40 in droves because of the FBI decision to go to 9mm, but all of the original reasons for choosing a .40 caliber handgun are still valid. And with Polycase/Ruger ARX cartridges, as my go to defensive round I’ve discovered their lighter weight and decreased powder load lessen the recoil enough for my arthritic hands and shoulders.

Detroit PD M&P 40
Detroit PD – Never Issued M&P .40

One of my regular carry guns is a 9mm VTAC M&P. Several features differentiate this gun from its brothers. First is the FDE finish. Is it just me or does Flat Dark Earth look like OD to the rest of you, as well? Next is the Viking Tactics sights, which is really where this model get its name. Both front and rear sights are serrated to cut down on glare and best yet they have fiber optics sights front and rear on top of Tritium Night Sights. Awesome!

VTAC 9mm M&P
VTAC 9mm M&P

You can see these sights very well in all kinds of lighting conditions and my eyes have no problem picking up the right sights for the conditions. Either set aligned with the target will put your rounds where you want them, assuming you do your part with the trigger. And speaking of the trigger, I put an Apex Tactical Action Enhancement Trigger and Duty Kit in my VTAC M&P. This has resulted in a smoother trigger pull, reduced pre-travel and overtravel, reduced reset length and a consistent 5.5 lb. trigger pull.

TwentyTwo
M&P .22

When S&W released the full-size M&P in .22 caliber, I just had to have one. The ads promised practicing with something similar to your full-size carry gun but with lower ammo cost and no recoil. Their promise was nullified by an extended shortage of .22 ammunition during which the cost of .22 rounds went from a penny apiece to something close to a dime. I beat that rap, however, due to my ammo hoarding tendency and continued begin shooting one of the most fun guns around. Load the .22 S&W M&P with CCI Stinger ammo and you get a loud bang, a lot of muzzle flash, so you feel like you’re shooting a large caliber gun, except there is no recoil.

Near the end of 2014 the company introduced the M&P Compact .22. The ads for this one said something like, “Shooting .22s is fun! Ours is funner!” and I believe they are right. The compact is a delight to shoot and just the right size for my granddaughters to enjoy.

9_TotalWinnersChoice2
Fun With Silencers

My .45ACP M&P has a threaded barrel and we often shoot it with a suppressor attached. My .22 M&P, the full-size one, also has a threaded barrel and it, too, is often shot with a suppressor. The little .22s work consistently with almost any ammunition on the market, so I consider them both to be top value for plinking and pest control.

I’ve bragged on the M&P line without even mentioning the compacts, Shields and the AR rifles, the latter available in both rimfire and centerfire AR versions. Smith & Wesson has done an amazing job at providing excellent equipment for law enforcement and making that same equipment available to the rest of us for personal protection, hunting, training and just plain fun.

Support Your Local Gun Store

As I write this, it’s too late for the Texas Gun Pros gun store, although our training will continue at locations to be announced. After seven years of what started out to be a great run, we are closing our store. Our loyal customers want to know why, so I’ll explain it. I’m going to give you the bullet points up front. Detail will follow.

  1. We didn’t have a gun range.
  2. We didn’t have enough capital to sustain a long-term slump.
  3. The gun industry as a whole is in a slump that began around the first of November 2016.
  4. Gun buying is changing to the point where it is difficult for a local retailer to compete with online retailers who somehow manage to sell guns at or below our wholesale cost.
  5. Gun Shows. Around here there seems to be a Gun Show somewhere every weekend. Whether true or not, shoppers seem to feel they can get a better deal at a gun show. But they don’t mind doing their research at the local gun shop first.

The Gun Range Issue

From the first day we opened in April 2010, the majority of the calls or email inquiries we got were about our gun range, the one we didn’t have, but Google seemed to think we did. Funny thing about a gun range. We have wanted one for years. I grew up country and the idea of paying other people so I could shoot is foreign to me. We used to drive by this place on I-35 that was vacant and every time we’d drive by I’d think, “That would be a good place for a gun range.” One day, a couple of years after I started doing this, a sign went up:  Shoot Smart Gun Range.

A couple of blocks down the street from our first location was an empty Expo building. My son Phillip and I put together a business plan to convert it to a Main Event of shooting ranges. Our plan called for 60 lanes of handgun, 12 lanes of rifle, 6 classrooms, a large retail store, a gunsmith, indoor paintball, a shooting gallery for kids, a large media-enhanced meeting room for events and a restaurant. The cost, if we could purchase the building reasonably would be about $7 Million. Not having a clue where to go to find that kind of money, since we had no history of development, we put the plan on the shelf. Then one day out of the blue, a financial guy I had helped with a web project several years earlier called me and said he was bird dogging for some private investors and wanted to know if I knew of anyone who had a project they could look at. I knew him and knew his integrity. He presented my plan and the investors said they’d never seen one so well-written. They verbally committed and followed up with a Letter of Intent. Meanwhile, someone else bought the Expo building.

We turned our attention to an outdoor range. An old friend in the Real Estate Development arena turned me on to a piece of property in the heart of the Metroplex that was for sale cheap. I mean really cheap, because it’s in a flood plain. We loved it and figured how to overcome the flooding issue. We obtained a signed loan agreement from the private investors, put down earnest money, incurred legal fees, had engineers do feasibility studies, had architects design a building, got approvals from US Fish & Wildlife regarding lowland marsh areas, and then we were stood up at closing by our lenders. What had seemed too good to be true turned out not to be true. We battled for years, we spent a ton of money. This place was going to be the shooting adventure park all America would love. Indoor and Outdoor Pistol Ranges; Indoor Rifle Range; Archery, Paintball plus all the other stuff we had envisioned for the Expo Building.

In the end, the money didn’t come through, we had expended all of our savings, 401k, profits from the gun business, credit cards, etc. trying to make a gun range happen. We couldn’t do it.

Capital

5121 Davus Blvd.
5121 Davis Blvd.

I’ve been part of several startup companies that were successful enough to be sold to large corporations. From those experiences I came to believe the way to grow a company was to bootstrap it from its own earnings. Apart from what I now call the Gun Range Fiasco, that’s what we did with Texas Gun Pros. It started with a dream of mine to be a CHL Instructor as a part-time endeavor. Jerry Colliver, a friend from work, decided he wanted to do that as well. So in 2010 we started teaching CHL, NRA Basic Pistol and Texas Hunter Education Courses. In April, 2011 we rented a facility on Davis Blvd. to teach those classes and made arrangements with the Shooting Gallery in east Ft. Worth to do the shooting portion of the classes at their range. It wasn’t long before people in our classes started asking us about guns. We obtained an FFL license and started selling guns from a little side room in what was originally designed to be just a classroom.

During the years 2010 to the end of 2016, we trained over 11,000 students and sold somewhere close to 1800 guns. The guns, displayed in a 300 sq. ft. side room to the classroom, easily equaled about 70% of our revenue. Sales growth was steady. In fact, sales almost doubled between 2012 and 2013, then again between 2013 and 2014.  We needed to expand. We felt we had to separate the classroom from the gun store to avoid class interruption, plus we required more space for inventory. Our existing landlord wasn’t able to accommodate us, plus someone else was doing at least part of our dream almost in our front yard at the Expo building. A move seemed in order. Somewhere during this time, Jerry Colliver became so involved in his work in the insurance industry that he stepped aside. My son Phillip, an entrepreneur at heart, stepped in to run the gun store. He was responsible for bringing on board Jerry Lonon, Ryan Bruntz and Sal Castilleja as store employees. Phil Epps, who just passed away in March and Richard Balestrieri were on board as CHL/LTC Instructors.

We wanted to stay in the North Richland Hills area, but being right at the corner of Keller, NRH, Southlake and Colleyville and in a high traffic area couldn’t be bad, right? Even though the rent was four times what we’d been paying? Wrong. Almost nobody comes in our store these days. When they do, they rarely buy. Our income dropped off a cliff. When I say dropped, since the election, our monthly gross receipts have been approximately 1/3 of what they were in 2015. Less than the rent. Less than the payroll. Less than what we have to pay suppliers for the merchandise. Far less, and the hole was getting deeper every day. We were borrowing at a very high rate just to keep the doors open until things turned around.

The Gun Industry as a Whole

8245 Precinct Line Rd.

From the manufacturers on down, the industry is suffering a major setback since the November 2016 election. The candidate who loves guns and gun owners got elected, so what happened? I’m not sure we have it all figured out, but I’ll summarize our thoughts:

  • The pressure is off. As a whole, politicians won’t be trying to take away our rights to buy and own guns for a while.
  • Prior to the pressure being off, many people bought more guns than they could afford. They’re still paying off credit cards for them. They evidently now believe they don’t need any more guns.
  • Society has its head in the sand regarding what many of us believe are rough days ahead. In those days, it will be more important than ever for individuals and families to be able to defend themselves and their property.
  • Manufacturers, I believe, are doing the wholesale and retail industry a disservice by providing many new guns, each with a number of options, each year. Nobody can stock them all, but the gun buyers who are still buying want their particular choices once they know those choices are available.

Gun Buying Today

Some guns are being sold. There are still newcomers to the fold and there are still collectors. Today’s shoppers, as a whole, have no understanding of business. They believe no one should make a profit, not understanding that margin, the difference between what the retailer buys a product for and what he sells the product for is necessary to pay rent, salaries, utilities and hopefully, a little ROI. Nope, can’t have that from me! You’ve got to get that from somewhere else. Therefore they’re always looking for the cheapest price, with no regard for their local store.

A common occurrence–way too common–a person walks in the store and starts asking about guns. They’ll spend anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour examining and handling our products, asking questions of our salespeople (who are all certified instructors), and instead of buying the gun they want from us, will turn around, walk out the door and order it online or buy it at a gun show. A few days later it shows up at our place for a transfer, or they come back to us for training for this fine new gun they bought at a gun show for pretty much the same price we had on it.

For the online purchases, we, or some other dealer, charge a transfer fee, and the buyer paid freight, so in the end they didn’t really save any money. But they did help a dealer in Kentucky stay in business while a dealer in their own backyard is struggling. If this is you, please think about the consequences. And, if you’re going to buy online, don’t utilize the resources of a local dealer to educate yourself on the product, unless you offer to pay them for their time and expertise. And if you think dealers are making big profit on your purchases, you’re sadly mistaken. Dealers are lucky if they can make a 10% margin on a typical gun sale. So if you buy a $500 gun they paid about $450 for it. That other $50 goes to pay rent, salaries and electricity. If you bought that same gun online, at least $50 is going to go to freight and a transfer fee.

We have closed the store because we were unsuccessful in our efforts to build a gun range in spite of sinking a lot of time and money into the effort, our capital is depleted, and our sales fell off the cliff starting last November. The website will stay open for training and our great instructors will still be available. When September hits, I hope to have an online certification process for the new online License to Carry training.

For those of you who were faithful and steady customers and for all your kind words, thank you! For those of you who came into our store in our closing days with somewhat hurtful comments about our failure, you have the same opportunity we did. Go and do it better. I’ll promise to shop at your store and NOT buy online or at a gun show.

Traveling by Air With a Handgun Post Ft. Lauderdale

This article was written my Mark Chapman a Texas Gun Pros friend and colleague and we thought it would be helpful for some of you.  (DBF)

I, recently, traveled to Atlanta for a contract assignment and since Georgia is a “gun-friendly” state decided that I would bring along my firearm to experience what steps had to be taken to get a gun checked into baggage and reclaimed at the far end.  The following will be a “step-by-step” of my experience and it must be noted that this is ONLY for American Airlines (AA) and other companies may differ in their procedures.

I booked my travel electronically through the AA web site and reviewed all of their documentation regarding travel with a firearm and the procedures necessary to declare such to their airport personnel.  Due to the recent Ft. Lauderdale tragedy (01/06/2017), with an active shooter who claimed his firearm at the airport terminal baggage claim before opening fire, I decided that it might be prudent to contact AA’s customer service department to determine if any changes had recently been made that might affect my travels.  The customer service representative stated that no changes had been made in response to that incident and hadn’t heard of anything pending along those lines.

However, she noted that my flight reservation had not been “flagged” that I would be carrying a firearm in my checked luggage and that it was a good thing I called as it would have posed a problem when I arrived at the airport.  When I stated that their web site did not state that such was a requirement nor did their online reservation system allow for such to be declared, she apologized and stated she would notify her superiors that there was a gap in their notifications in this respect.

To note, I used a PELICAN hard-sided case to store my firearm that had two (2) TSA compliant locks, one at each end, to prevent unauthorized access.  The ammunition was stored in factory boxes as suggested by AA’s web site.

At the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport, on the day of my outbound flight, I checked in and notified the agent that my unloaded firearm, in a locked case, was inside my luggage and that I needed to fill out the special card to declare such.  Here is an example of the card (front/back):

Luggage Tag

This is where another couple of undocumented wrinkles popped up.  The first wrinkle was that it was not stated (on the AA web site) that the filled out card had to be placed within my luggage on top of the locked case so I had to unlock my bag and open it up for inspection and stowage of said card.  Luckily, nothing untoward was revealed during this inspection but everyone needs to be aware that this is a part of the process and that their “delicates” may be exposed to the public eye.

The second wrinkle was that my checked bag was also externally tagged (no explanation was given at this time) for processing at the destination:

returntag

The bag was then taken by the agent and that’s the last time I saw it until I reached the Atlanta airport.  I should note that this procedure is ONLY for the bag containing the firearm.  If the ammunition is stored in a separate bag (as was mine) all you need to do is assure the agent that it is packaged properly and no inspection or special tagging is required.

Now, this DFW/ATL trip was not without its glitches as the original airplane we boarded developed an electrical failure, during the pilot checkout, and was put “out-of-service” mandating both the crew and passengers to deplane and board another aircraft.  This also meant that all checked luggage had to be transferred as well which added a concern about lost/misplaced bags containing a firearm that was obviously tagged for all to see.

After the flight, I went to retrieve my luggage from the baggage claim area, per normal routine.  While my first bag, containing the ammunition and not especially tagged, was delivered in a short space of time the second bag was nowhere to be found.  I waited until the last bag was delivered and the carousel stopped before getting really worried that somehow my bag had been identified and removed by someone inappropriately.

Having no other recourse I lined up to talk to the AA representative, in the baggage claim area, to report that my bag and firearms failed to appear as expected.  As I waited, I noticed that the sign for their office listed their function as “Baggage Services” and, suddenly, the light dawned about the special tag (BSO) that had been attached to my bag and sure enough when I looked inside their doorway I was able to identify my missing luggage standing there waiting for me to claim it.  I had to present my bag claim stubs and proof of identity (TX driver’s license was adequate) to have the agent release it to me.

Fast forward one (1) week and now it was time to return to Dallas after my on-site visit had concluded.  The reason I’m including this dialog is that the exact procedures followed at the DFW airport were not repeated at the ATL airport and it must be noted that each airline/airport combination may be different in nature so flexibility/patience will be required to navigate the hoops they make a person jump through to check a firearm.

First, since my visit concluded earlier than expected I arrived at the airport early so the ticket agent suggested that I attempt to fly “standby” to get home quicker.  This caused me some confusion as I had presumed that baggage containing firearms/ammunition would be required to be loaded onto the same flight as the passenger while flying standby allows bags to handled separately (different flight used) if the passenger is “bumped” to a later flight.  The ticket agent double-checked with her supervisor and, yes, AA allows the bags to be shipped on a different flight than the passenger.  Again, please note, this may be completely different with another airline so a strong suggestion is to be flexible and inquire what procedures will be followed.

I take the “standby” flight offered and, sure enough, I was unable to board any flight until my originally booked one came up which meant that my bags were sitting unclaimed at the DFW airport for about 4-6 hours depending on which flight they were eventually loaded upon.  Upon arrival at DFW, I went to the baggage claim area for my flight and contacted the baggage claim agent for my bags to find that they had been delivered at the opposite end of the terminal and had to walk (remember baggage claims are outside of security so there’s no easy way to get from one point to another) to that other claim area to get my bags.

In conclusion, while it is possible to travel with a firearm in checked baggage the experience can be a bit trying at times so a good attitude, including patience and a sense of humor, is required to make it through.

A Way to Win the Holster Battle

Most people I know who have been around handguns for long, especially those committed to daily carry, admit to having a drawer (or drawers) filled with holsters they’ve tried but just weren’t up to their expectations. I’ve got a different story! Being fortunate enough to have acquired a number of excellent handguns, any one of which are suitable for a daily carry gun, I feel guilty if I don’t rotate them some.

crossbreed1For me, having a bunch of guns has not equaled having a bunch of holsters. Guess I’ve just been lucky and chosen well up front. My first concealed carry holster was a Crossbreed SuperTuck, purchased a little more than eight years ago for a Taurus 24/7. There it is right there, with that original 24/7 in it. It has held up well.

The Taurus got replaced with a Beretta PX-4 Storm 9mm. Okay, not replaced as in traded. I kept the Taurus, but carried the Storm a while. It fit the same holster, just fine. Then I got a Springfield XDm .45 ACP and was pleasantly surprised to find it worked in that same Crossbreed Holster. So did a Smith & Wesson M&P and a FNX 40 and a Sig P226.

bullard1When we started carrying D.M. Bullard Leather Holsters in our store, I figured I’d give the local company a try. I’d become a 1911 person by then so I got one of their 1911 holsters for a 5 inch gun with a rail. Works fine with my Colt and Springfield 1911s, but it also works fine with any of the 4.25 inch barrelled 1911 Commanders.

I liked that holster so much I decided to get one for my double stack 9s and 40s, but hmm, let’s see, which one. The biggest and heaviest of the bunch was a Sig P226, so I ordered a custom D.M. Bullard leather holster custom made for a Sig P226. It was no surprise that it also fit the Sig P229, but guess what else fits in that holster?bullardmix

That original Taurus 24/7 fits it. The Springfield XDm fits it, All of my M&Ps (9, 40 and 45) fit it. The FNX-40 fits it. The gun you see in it here is a CZ-P07. They all fit with what’s commonly called Level 1 retention. That’s enough friction to hold the gun snugly in the holster so there is no danger in it falling out as you move about. These guns a all draw easily from the holster, as well.

So don’t go getting all antsy about having to have a bunch of holsters on hand if you want to grow your gun collection. Get a custom holster for something like the Sig P226 and chances are it will work just fine for many of the other guns you may want to try that are of similar size and capability.

Tell you a secret. I’ve been known to carry a 1911 Commander in my D.M. Bullard Sig P226 holster without realizing I’d put on the wrong holster that morning. Heck I might could have gotten by with just one of their wonderful holsters! Just kidding. The 1911, being a single stack, was just a little loose, if I’m honest about it.

At the Gun Range as a Spectator

For the past 6 years at every time I’ve gone to the gun range or gone out to a farm plinking with others it has been as an instructor, range officer or granddad. Yesterday I went shooting with some guys from work and I was just another guy shooting. I did bring some guns for them to shoot, but basically it was just “here, you might want to shoot this.” Nobody asked me for any advice, nobody wanted me to look at anything, I was just another guy in my lane shooting holes in paper.

Although I didn’t observe any unsafe actions, I was a little uncomfortable at times with how casual they were. They walked around behind the lanes with guns in their hands. They handed each other loaded guns.  It just wasn’t done with the kind of discipline I’m used to at the shooting range, or even in the country when we’re having a fun shoot with the kids. Something about my years as an instructor has made me more aware of the dangers of being too casual around firearms, I guess. It could be that I’m ALWAYS around firearms, so keeping my guard up from a safety perspective has become second nature to me.

M&P VTAC Rear SightsThere were four of us and we did pass some of our guns around for others to shoot. It seems the range favorite that day was my Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm. The SM&P is known for its easy-going recoil. That’s one of my primary reasons for owning them, and that was most of what the other guys noticed. That, and the fact they were all pretty accurate with it. That particular M&P isn’t stock. It has Viking Tactical Sights on it, which consist of Trijicon night sights on the bottom, front and rear, with green fiber optic sights on top. Regardless of the ambient light these sights are easily visible.

The gun is Flat Dark Earth (FDE) in color, which gives it a cool tactical look. So far everything I’ve mentioned came stock from Smith & Wesson.  I’ve added a couple of mods to this gun myself. VTAC ChannelOne is an Apex Tactical trigger, which is extremely smooth with an easy break. The pull on this one is about 4.4 lbs on average. The other mod is a channel on the top of the slide ahead of the ejection port that leads your eyes to the front sight. This is a clever little device made of plastic that has a sticky bottom. You peel off protective paper stick it to the slide behind  and around your front sight. I believe it was designed for Glocks but I wanted to try it on this gun because of the existing sights and the trigger job. If I knew the brand name for this device, I’d give it to you, but a fellow brought some of these by our store one day when I wasn’t around and I thought it might be clever idea worth trying. It does eliminate any distractions from focusing on the front sight.

elpatronI brought another gun that was a hit during our range trip, a Uberti El Patron, which is a beautiful Single Action Army Clone with color case-hardened finish on the frame and checkered walnut grips. It’s a .45 Colt and the box of cartridges I brought for it were Cowboy Action loads, so it was pretty gentle with the recoil. I heard one of the guys mention that was going to be his Christmas present to himself.

One of the guys had a SAR B6. I’m a fan of those CZ-75 clones, made in Turkey and very reasonably priced. This one pinched my trigger finger when I shot it. I’ve never noticed that in a B6 before. One of the other guys noticed it, too. So I offered to take it back to my shop and file a little off the trigger. The tip was a little rough and it was closer to the trigger guard than it should be in my opinion.SAR B6

Back at the shop later, I took a file to it and removed a little off the tip. Not much, but I’d prefer to error on the too little side because we can always take some more off but you can’t put it back! It will take shooting the gun some to see if that did the trick, but dry-firing it seemed fine.

I had two 1911’s with me and I used the opportunity to shoot some of the Liberty Civil Defense Ammo to see if it was another candidate for easy recoil, hard hitting defense ammo for me to carry.  It seemed pretty hot to me. I shot some of it in my S&W SCE Commander and the recoil was pretty stout. I shot a magazine full of it in the Sig Emperor Scorpion Commander which is all steel and I didn’t notice any reduction in recoil like I do with Ruger or Polycase ARX ammo.

Liberty AmmoThose Liberty cartridges sure are pretty though. They remind me of the Lone Ranger’s silver bullets. If you look at the specs on them, they’re very light weight and they’re fast. The .45 ACP box I have on hand says they are 78 grain bullets traveling at 1900 fps resulting in 600 ft/lbs of energy on target. They claim 12″ penetration at ten feet with starburst fragmentation.

I got these by ordering from the factory because they weren’t available in my normal supply channels. It took them a couple of weeks to fill the order. I guess their impact on the defensive community is yet to be seen. By contrast the ARX cartridges are readily available and definitely have reduced recoil. It appears either one of these cartridges would be effective in a defensive situation if you put the rounds where they count.

You Just Never Know

Today at our NRA Basic Pistol Class one of our shooters was experiencing jams with every semi-automatic pistol she shot. We supply the guns for this class and keep them pretty clean. We supply the ammunition, as well, and use only high velocity.22 ammo that will cycle our semi-automatics. The S&W Victory worked for her but the Colt/Umarex 1911, SR-22 and M&P Compact wouldn’t cycle. They worked for everyone else, including me, so I started looking at reasons, suspecting limp wristing. I worked with her on that and as far as I tell, her grip was solid and her arm straight and firm behind the gun.

I was stumped, still am, but she was there with her daughter who plans to get her License to Carry so she can be armed on campus (smart girl) and wasn’t all that concerned. I am. it’s my job to teach people to shoot and I do not like being stumped.

It didn’t end there. When the students were done I broke out a few of my carry guns for some confidence testing. I do that at least once a month

I had 4 1911s with me today and enough mix and match defensive ammo to shoot 8 rounds in each. Here’s the good part:

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Now for the bad. The Colt M45 would not load the first round with three different magazines, all of them Colt mags. That’s a first. I wIll have to clean it and try again. It loaded the 4th mag which just happened to be loaded with ARX rounds and handled them just fine.

Next up was the Colt Commander that I was carrying today. Nine rounds here with flawless operation.

The Remington R1 failed to lock back after the last round. I don’t recall ever having that problem before.

There was one more gun in the bag, a Smith & Wesson SCE Commander. When I picked it up I couldn’t help but notice how light it felt compared to the R1 Commander I had just fired. On my last outing with this gun it surprised me with a failure to feed (FTF) on round 4. When I got it home it appeared there was Frog Lube congealed inside the frame. The gun got a good cleaning and this time I expected it to perform flawlessly. It didn’t. It did.

Two out of 4 is not good, especially with guns that should be, and have been 100 percent reliable. So what’s going on? I don’t know yet but I suspect I’ve been to casual with my cleaning. When I find out, I’ll let you know.

October 12

Now it’s Tuesday and I know. Two things were going on with the Colt M45:  1) Fiocchi Extrema 2oo grain JHP. The Colt doesn’t like that ammo. 2) Frog Lube. My second gun to be clogged up with congealed Frog Lube.

All of you Frog Lube fans can tell me I’m just not using it correctly, which may be true, but I’ve been using Hoppe’s #9 with a good gun scrubber and Remington gun oil for 60 years now and it has always done a good job with no gun issues. So, no more Frog Lube for me.

This isn’t the first gun I’ve had issues with Fiocchi JHPs feeding. I don’t recall ever having a problem with their 9mm rounds, but in .45, yes. I’ve got all my .45 mags loaded with Ruger ARX now. Think I’ll stick with that a while, but I do plan to try some of that lightweight Liberty Civil Defense that’s off the charts. It’s ordered. When I get here I’ll shoot some and let you know what I’ve found.

Revisiting Handgun Caliber and Ammunition Choices

It has been over a year since my last article comparing defensive ammunition and there have been some interesting new offerings when it comes to defensive ammo. You may or may not have read any of my previous articles on choosing a handgun caliber and effective ammunition for personal defense. I’ll just do a quick review here.

bangyouredeadNot everyone agrees on what it takes to stop a determined aggressor because, frankly, there is no way to know. One person might run at the sight or mention of a gun, while a person high on drugs or an adrenaline dump or just criminally insane would act exactly the opposite. There are as many psychological factors that may come into play as there are physical ones. The argument is frequently made, “any gun is better than no gun” or “a gun you will carry is better than a gun you will leave at home.” You’ve got to make your own decision about that, but don’t make it out of ignorance. Do the research. Find out what really happens in the real world.

The chances are pretty slim that any of us who are civilians who carry every day will every need to use our firearm. But if we do, I intend to have one that will be up to the task. Back when I was actively hunting, many of the game laws for hunting animals such as deer or wolves required a firearm/cartridge combination that produced a minimum of 400 ft/lbs of energy on target. This was the law in many states. That always seemed to me to be a fairly accurate measurement of what it might take to really get a man’s attention if he was a determined aggressor out to hurt me.

What does 400 ft/lbs of energy mean?  Well, it’s how hard a bullet strikes a target and it’s a factor of how much the bullet weighs and how fast it is going. The general understanding is that stopping an aggressive human (or animal) is best done by causing a lot of damage to major organs and/or loss of blood. That’s done with modern defensive rounds by insuring they both penetrate and expand, or if they don’t expand, they produce a lot of lateral tissue damage.  There is no such thing as one-shot knockdown. If there were, the laws of physics would require the person shooting the bullet would also be knocked down.

But we can get someone’s attention while poking holes in them by hitting them VERY hard with the hole-poking bullet. So, I look for that 400 ft./lbs. of energy. I want them to know they were hit, long before the effect of the bullet gets their attention through tissue damage or blood loss.

Using manufacturer’s published information, along with that published by Midway USA I charted the ballistic information available for all of the handgun calibers. The last time I did this I just indicated the top 5 using ft/lbs of energy as the ranking factor. This time instead of just listing the top 5 as far as terminal ballistic performance, I listed all of the examples I could find. This will give you a chance to compare the ammunition you’ve been using to others that are available in the same caliber.

There are couple of newcomers included here that have very impressive ballistic performance, though they’re not in the same category as typical defensive rounds. Instead of expanding, they dissipate their energy on target laterally through something called hydra-static shock. They hit with so much energy they cause a lot of lateral damage without expanding. Those two are the Polycase ARX rounds, also marketed under the Ruger Label and Liberty Civil Defense rounds.

One thing I want you to be careful about when choosing your ammo, and this is depicted on these charts in some cases, is you have to look at more than brand. The same brand of ammo has different ballistics depending on bullet type, bullet-size and other factors we may not see, such as the type of powder they use. So if you’re choosing Hornady or Sig Sauer, or Fiocchi and others, make sure you check the terminal ballistics for the actual cartridges you’re buying.

Here are the semi-automatic charts:

.380 Ballistic Comparison

9mm Ballistic Comparison

40 S&W Ballistic Comparison

45 ACP Ballistic Comparison

357 Sig Ballistic Comparison

10 mm Ballistic Comparison

38 Special Ballistic Comparison

327 Magnum Ballistics Comparison

357 Magnum Ballistics Comparison

44 Special Ballistics Comparison

44 Magnum Ballistics Comparison

The chart below shows a comparison of the calibers from least powerful as far as ft/lbs of energy on target to most powerful. There are two lines on the chart. The blue line represents the most powerful cartridges I was able to chart for each of the common handgun calibers used for personal defense and the red line represents the least powerful for each caliber. As you can see, there’s a range of differences, as I mentioned above.

For example, Sig Sauer’s V-Crown ammunition is pretty popular and I shoot it myself, especially because I’ve got several Sig Sauer handguns. But in 9mm alone, I’ve got to be careful when I pick up a box of Sig ammo to load in my carry gun. The 124 grain is their best in 9mm at 374 ft/lbs. Not quite up to the 400 ft/lbs I prefer to carry, but it’s close. Sig Sauer V-Crown 9mm 115 grain, however, only produces 359 ft/lbs of energy and it’s 147 grain offering in the same caliber is at the bottom of the chart with only 317 ft/lbs of energy.

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