Twenty 20 oz. Wonders — A 2022 Overview of the World of Small Carry Guns

David Freeman

The firearm industry’s current idea of what a carry gun should be is a gun that weighs around 20 ounces, holds at least ten rounds and is six inches long, an inch wide and four to five inches high. If you’ll permit me to vary an ounce or two here or there and perhaps as much as an inch in length, I’ve identified twenty handguns that fit in this category. I own and have personal experience with 15 of these 20 and I’ll give you my take on them. Don’t ask me to choose a favorite, however. I find myself switching out my carry gun on a regular basis because I enjoy and have an appreciation for quite a few of them.

Some of the guns in this group pre-dated the current micro-nine offerings by several years. Taurus, long a favorite of mine because my first semi-automatic handgun was a Taurus 24/7 DS Pro, which I acquired in 2006 or thereabouts, and I loved that gun. Taurus had a smaller gun dubbed the PT-111 that became the source of some controversy and a class action lawsuit because one customer claimed his went off when he dropped it. The perception I have is that all over the world money-hungry Taurus owners began to throw their guns on to hard surfaces to see if they could get them to go off and out of thousands one or two did which was all it took for a group of lawyers to go after Taurus with a vengeance. Well, Taurus offered up some money in settlement, survived and tweaked the gun. The result was the PT-111 G2, newly named the Millennium G2. It’s a very nice little gun that sports a 12 round magazine and the unique Taurus double-strike capability which enables a shooter to pull the trigger again if for some reason a gun doesn’t fire. I find that feature most helpful for dry-fire practice because you can get additional trigger pulls without having to rack the slide. Although Taurus has since released a G3 and G4 the G2 is still in their lineup and still a great buy with street prices below $250.

I’m going to skip going to the Taurus G3C and G4X right now and bring up another of the early members of what’s being called the micro-nine crowd. The CPX-2 pictured above is the gun that’s in my holster today. I’ve been carrying it for about a week now, though I’ve owned it for several years. Listed here are four SCCY guns— a CPX1, a CPX2 and a CPX1 Red Dot all with a 10+1 capacity. I have all three because I did a feature article a few years ago on SCCY’s color schemes and the company generously provided me with samples for the article. SCCY makes some pretty guns.  I have a blue one, a green one, and this one with an attractive camouflage finish. After I wrote about these guns, I sort of passed them by as carry guns because of their 10 lb. double-action trigger pull. That was a mistake, as I found out when I came back to them later. These are fine firearms and worthy of my CCW holster any day of the week. I especially like the one with the camo job.

The big difference between the SCCY CPX-1 and the CPX-2 is the safety. You can get a SCCY with or without a manual safety, your preference. There are those of us who believe a 9-10 lbs. trigger pull is enough of a safety, while others really want to experience the click-on, click-off of a manual safety.

SCCY was one of the first in this class of guns to offer a red dot sight pre-mounted as shown on my blue CPX-2 here. They did a fine job with the Crimson Trace. The holster I use accommodates pistols with a red dot as well as those without, so this is a gun I enjoy carrying, especially when I want to get in some red dot practice.

Since I mentioned the holster, this is a good place to stop and share with you my daily carry holster solution that lets me easily carry any gun in this article or if I want a bigger gun such as a Sig P229, a Taurus G3 full-size, an M&P or a 1911, it works for them as well. Here it is:

Bianchi Foldaway™ Belt Slide Holster

This holster works well for me for two reasons: 1) I use it with a genuine heavy leather gun belt and 2) I wear polo shirts with the shirt tail out pretty much year around. If I need to tuck in my shirttail, I have several nice IWB holsters that will work with most of these guns. Texas allows open carry, but I’d rather have my gun hidden so as to be a surprise to the bad guys if I need it.

Like many SCCY followers I was excited when the DVG-1 was announced with a single-action trigger with a target pull of 5.5 lbs. The DVG-1 improves on SCCY’s design in several ways that affect shootability and accuracy. What’s so interesting about SCCY pistols is how well made they are while selling at a much lower price than some of the competition. Don’t make the mistake of thinking of SCCYs as “cheap” guns. Mr. Joe Roebuck, founder of SCCY, is the engineer and designer for these guns and a master at putting out a quality product that is not overpriced.

After the Taurus G3 made such a hit in the mid-size gun department Taurus management probably felt they needed a smaller version of the G3 to stay relevant in the marketplace. So they did the G3C which is a little different than the G2 and inexpensive enough that if you want one you might as well get one. I use my G2 and G3 Compact interchangeably.

The G4X is an entirely different gun. Taurus brags that it’s the best trigger they’ve ever had. It does have a short takeup and a crisp break, but frankly I didn’t see anything wrong with the G2 and G3 trigger. The G4X has a smaller, redesigned grip that makes the gun easier to hold on to. It has Glock compatible sights, which means you can swap out the existing sights for any number of aftermarket sights designed for a Glock. It has an easier takedown method. It’s thinner than the G2 and G3.

Springfield put forth a challenge with the Hellfire, a gun that won accolades near and far due to its double-stack magazine. That first Hellfire had a capacity of 11+1 or 13+1 and was specifically positioned to challenge the single-stack nines from Ruger, S&W and Glock. The Hellfire definitely stirred the market as it was followed by the Shield Plus from S&W, Max 9 from Ruger, G4X from Taurus and P365 from Sig Sauer.

Springfield likes the idea of being a market leader so they sprung the Hellcat Pro on us. This one has a 15+1 capacity and just barely stretches the 20 + 6 + 4 limit. In spite of hearing and reading so much about the Hellcat, I missed out on getting one, but when Springfield launched the Hellcat Pro, I got one and I’m glad I did. Here we have a gun with 15+1 capacity in a flush-fit magazine and though it’s a little longer it’s right in there close to being a 20 oz. gun. The slim-line grip feels great and offers excellent contact and control. There is enough weight in the slide and barrel to reduce muzzle flip. The slide is optics ready, though I haven’t bought the bullet and added a red dot to mine, I probably will in the near future. The existing open sights are great as it is. With front and rear slide serrations I’m able to run the gun pretty well and I certainly feel confident with Springfield’s quality.

S&W’s CSX is an all steel 12+1 package that’s actually lighter weight than most of the polymer framed guns in this group. Some conversation about the gun was that the CS in the name was a throwback to the old, very popular Chief’s Special revolver that was a favorite of police detectives and other undercover cops. When I got a CSX the first thing that struck me was it just felt different, something I attributed to it being an all-steel gun. It’s designed for single-action cocked and locked carry and I find myself feeling comfortable carrying it that way. It makes a good pocket gun, but when I carry it, I put it in the foldaway holster and make it my primary gun for such days. Because of its weight it doesn’t shoot like the small gun it is.

About the same time they released the CSX, S&W joined forces with Federal Ammunition to introduce to us a new caliber and a gun designed for it. The new caliber is 30 Super Carry and it fits somewhere in between .380 and 9mm on the ballistics scale. What’s really cool about it is the reduced diameter of the cartridge allow for more rounds on board. S&W actually modified their Shield Plus to carry 16+1 rounds of 30 Super Carry. That’s impressive in this size gun. The recoil is only slightly reduced from that of a 9mm, but there is a little reduction. I have one of these and I’ve enjoyed shooting it. I’m hoping this will be a caliber that lasts for the additional capacity of nothing else. If James Bond could stop bad guys with a .380 you and I should be able to do it with a 30 Super Carry. I mean it does have “Super” in its name. That has to account for something.

Glock tweaked their single-stack 9mm G43 to work with a 10-round magazine and added an X to the name to get us the Glock in the class of firearms we’re working with. The G43X is classic Glock all the way and if you’re a Glock fan is the one you’ll probably want that’s in this category. I shy away from Glocks just because so many people have them there’s not a ready writer’s market to describe something new and nifty. Glocks are nifty. I’m reminded of that every time I shoot one. The Glock shown in the picture above is my personal firearm, primarily acquired because of the really cool Duracoat® finish put on it by my favorite gunstore owner, Brandon Allred of Kentucky Windage in Hurst, Texas. How does my Glock shoot? Just like a Glock should, excellently.

Back when I said I wasn’t going to pick favorites, I clearly wasn’t thinking about the Sig P365. I’m a Sig fan and this one fits right in there with my expectations and enjoyment of owning a Sig firearm. You may have noticed mine looks a little different than the P365s you see advertised or in use here and there. That’s because I put it in a custom frame built by Wilson Combat. I’m also about to modify it with a short reset Gray Guns trigger. I do tend to carry this one and the Hellcat Pro a little more often than the others, but that’s simply ego. Whenever I go somewhere others are gun people or talking about guns and if the subject comes up “What am I carrying?” I want to be really cool and show off something like a Hellcat Pro, Sig P365X or S&W CSX. What I really should do is show off some of the Taurus or SCCY models because they’re really cool, too. It’s just when anybody and everybody can afford one, they lose some of that upmarket appeal.

Mossberg and Stoeger are two shotgun makers who haven’t traditionally made pistols but have each brought a family of them to market within the past few years. The one shown here from Mossberg is a baby brother (or maybe sister) to the MC2C which is one of my prize possessions. If this smaller version shoots and handles anything like the Mossberg I have, it’s a winner. I’ve not tried one yet, but maybe soon.

Diamondback’s DB9 has been a leader in the small gun arena for years. In fact, when you see the influence the DB9 has on the design of other guns in the market, you can’t help but think of the DB9 as an important component of firearm history. Now Diamondback has upped the ante by offering an extended grip and barrel version that has the kind of capacity we’re looking for in this group of micro nines. One magazine offers 12 rounds and there’s an additional one with 17 rounds. This beats the Shield Plus 30 Carry for capacity in a small gun.

Ruger innovation keeps them as a major influencer of which way the market is going to go. I’m not sure when this little gun hit the market, but it’s based upon an earlier Ruger handgun called the LCP, which I remember as being a hit as a “pocket gun” for many people in the industry. At the time I thought pocket guns were silly, so I didn’t pay much attention to it until students started bringing them to my concealed carry classes to shoot. Frankly, it needed a little help and I see that help in this gun that’s heavier and has a higher capacity. Shooting the Max-9, for me, is a breeze, and carrying it even easier.

When I saw Ruger’s Max-9 I immediately thought of this gun. I have a Security 9C and I love it. it’s an easy to carry, easy to operate, easy to shoot and easy to clean offering from Ruger. Yes, it’s a little longer than 6″ and slightly heavier than 20 oz. but it’s still a diminutive gun that will serve you well whether in your holster or in the nightstand. When you compare the two guns from Ruger up close, you get a good feel for how the designers took the best features from the Security 9C and shrunk them down a bit to make the Max-9.

One day I’ll get my hands on this little gun and it will immediately become a favorite. How do I know? I have a long and pleasant history with the full size B6 and this one looks to be almost the same except for size. If you know the CZ-75, you know the SAR B6 is a faithful clone. I’ve read and seen the reviews on this one and it appears SAR stayed true to form when they shrunk the gun.

So there you have twenty 9mm pistols that are small and easy to hide, but with a capacity of 11 rounds (10+1) or sometimes a lot more. Which one should you buy? All of them, of course. I tend to favor whichever one is in my hand at the moment. I’ve found that I shoot the mid to full size guns better and when I first started shooting these micro-nines, I was frustrated more than pleased at my range results. But I kept at it and got better and better. I firmly believe that any one of these guns would serve me well as a defensive gun. If life continues to treat me well these will stay with me for a long, long time and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some others added. If you have a favorite and good way to justify that favorite, let us know

S&W CSX – Is it Really the New Chief’s Special?

David Freeman

Smith & Wesson CSX 9mm pistol
Smith & Wesson’s CSX 9mm Handgun, with its steel frame and 1911-like features has changed the landscape of the micro-nine world. David likes it so much it has become his EDC.

To be honest, when the CSX was announced, I was kind of burned out on the whole line of micro nines. As a journalist who reviews guns for a big portion of my livelihood, I feel it’s important to give shooters my take on the various offerings out there to help them make the best decisions when it comes to buying guns. I like the idea of having a small gun that carries at least 10 rounds as opposed to the string of six of seven shot single-stack nines we’ve had from most of the major manufacturers. But I delayed on the CSX for some reason. Instead of being out on the forefront, I sat back and let others review the gun, and I read or watched their take on the gun.

Ambidextrous controls on the CSX are a bonus, especially for left-handed shooters.

Most liked it. As with any new gun there were a few complaints, some about the trigger, some about the magazines. There was some discussion about where S&W got the name and speculation it might be because this gun would make a good substitute for the Chief’s Special revolver of days gone by because of its size and the steel frame. When the folks at Smith & Wesson sent me a gun to review, my first thought upon opening the box was, “This is different.” In other words, it was obvious it wasn’t “just another black gun,” and more specific, it wasn’t “just another plastic black gun.” Although it’s small, the all-steel construction makes it feel substantial. As I studied the CSX’s design, I couldn’t help but think, “A watchmaker must have made this gun.” The individual parts, such as the sights, slide lock, magazine release and safety are all small but appear to be very strong, and they function perfectly for the role they play. Even with my somewhat chubby hands, especially my fingers, they snap into and out of place precisely and with no looseness.

The CSX is easy to hold and easy to shoot.
Although small, the overall design makes the CSX easy to hold and easy to shoot.

There was a good bit of thought in the CSX’s design to make it easy to shoot in spite of its size. The slide serrations, both front and back, are small to go with the small height of the slide yet are deep cut enough to provide a secure grip. And to go with them are cocking handles at the rear of the slide. There are anti-glare serrations on top of the slide. An opening at the rear of the ejection port serves as a loaded chamber indicator. The sights are dovetail mounted, drift adjustable and have a bright single dot up front and two dots in the rear. The slide lock and frame safety are ambidextrous, and the magazine release is reversible. While not quite as easy to rack as the EZ Rack Shield, the slide on this gun is not unpleasant to rack at all. The trigger has a blade safety which when depressed makes a nice flat trigger face. The single-action only trigger breaks at just a little over 5 lbs. The only take-up is essentially that which is required to depress the blade safety.

Take-down for cleaning is almost pure 1911 except the notch for the slide lock removal is in a different place, and because it’s an ambidextrous slide lock it breaks down into two parts for removal. This requires a punch. Once the slide lock is removed, the rest of the take-down is pure 1911.

Take-down for cleaning is almost like the 1911, fast and easy, eliminating any barriers to cleaning and lubrication.

The CSX is like a miniature 1911. Although it doesn’t have a grip safety, it is still designed to be carried cocked and locked. This is safe because the thumb safety is precise and secure and there’s a trigger safety. I have to admit I wasn’t sure I would be comfortable with this at first, but after several shooting sessions and a thorough understanding of how the action and safeties work, I’m completely comfortable with it.

CSX in Bianchi 101 Belt Slide holster.
Carrying the CSX is about as easy as it comes. David uses a Bianchi 101 Belt Slide holster, OWB, but normally covered by a Propper brand polo shirt.

I don’t carry a gun unless I’ve shot it a bunch with defensive ammo and have determined I can shoot it well and it is not prone to any type of failure. For the CSX, it took several range trips. I think it was due to the size of the gun. There were a few times I pulled the trigger and nothing happened. It was because I was inadvertently pushing the trigger sideways instead of straight back. I’m an experienced shooter, and it took me a while to adjust to the size of this gun. That should serve as notice to readers who do not have a lot of handgun experience. The smaller guns are more challenging to hold correctly, aim correctly, get a good trigger squeeze and hold sights on target until the desired outcome has been achieved. Spending the time to become comfortable with the CSX will reward you with a gun that’s easy to carry, nice to shoot and accurate at defensive ranges. I spent most of my time with the CSX shooting at five, seven and ten yards. By the end of my fourth range session, I was producing targets such as the one shown here shot at seven yards. Plenty accurate for defensive purposes.

After that fourth range session, I loaded the CSX up with Norma 65 grain NXD rounds and placed it in my Bianchi Model 101 Foldaway Belt Slide Holster and considered myself armed. As I write this, I’m at the end of my second full week carrying the CSX as my EDC pistol. Am I happy with it? Yes, it’s comfortable, capable and I’m full of confidence that it will be up to the task should I need to employ it. I’ve joined the ranks of the many who feel the CSX is a pistol that is right for the mission and right for the times.

CSX with 10-yard target
This is a typical offhand 10-yard target. The CSX has performed flawlessly for David through several hundred rounds of both defensive and practice ammo.

Colt’s M45 Marine Close Quarters Combat Pistol

Added 02/15/2022

In July 2012, the United States Marine Corps System Command announced that Colt Defense LLC of Hartford, Connecticut, was the winner of the new CQBP pistol contract. This announcement no doubt delighted the tried-and-true 1911 supporters in the military. Under the new contract, Colt was to deliver 4,000 samples initially and up to 12,000 samples in following years. The contract was said to be worth $22.5M to Colt. The Marine Colt pistol was designated the M45A1.

Colt M45A1 Civilian Model is from the Same Assembly Line as the Marine Model

Three versions of M45A1 were made. The first version is one that went to the military, stamped USMC on the slide and delivered in a cardboard box with two Wilson 7-round magazines. An identical version coming off the same assembly line was sold to the civilian market. The only difference between this one and the one sold to the Marines was the USMC roll mark which did not exist on the civilian model which was delivered in a blue plastic Colt case. The third version was the Colt Custom Shop edition, also known as the “Civilian” version. It is hand fit, hand tooled and came with a snazzy green Pelican case and cleaning kit. All three versions have serial numbers ending in the “EGA” serial suffix (for the Corps’ iconic eagle, globe and anchor insignia), the “U.S.” markings, and the small set of numbers and “CQBP” denoting the official description of “Close Quarters Battle Pistol.”

The Civilian Model M45A1 Ships in a Colt Blue Plastic Box

Originally the Colt Custom Shop pistols had the Marine USMC roll marks on the slide, but the United States Marine Corps filed a cease & desist letter with Colt Manufacturing regarding the use of USMC on pistols not actually going to the Marines. About that time, the Custom Shop was downsized and no more of the Custom Shop M45A1s were made.

The Decommissioned Pistols

Some of the early Marine pistols began showing excess wear and 1,000 of these pistols (470 used and 530 unissued) were traded by the Marine Corps under warranty back to Colt in exchange for newer Ionbond finished replacements. Colt released these original Marine Corps pistols to the public. These pistols are the first U.S.G.I. pistols to be offered on the civilian market since the Director of Civilian Marksmanship (DCM) stopped handgun sales over 50 years ago. The included factory letter affirms that this is a genuine U.S.M.C. purchased pistol for combat use by its Special Operations units, including Force Recon. The letter also confirms the features including Desert Tan Cerakote finish, under barrel accessory rail, National Match grade barrel, forward and rear cocking serrations on the slide, long solid aluminum trigger, extended ambidextrous thumb safety, extended beavertail grip safety, flat serrated mainspring housing with a lanyard loop, Novak 3-dot night sights, and desert camouflage G10 composite grips. The slide is correctly roll marked with the “USMC” marking that has been factory stuck with an “X” to signify it as being decommissioned from the U.S.M.C.

Decommissioned Pistol with USMC X’d Out

The End of an Era

Just four short years after the M45A1s were initially issued to the Marines, on September 30th, 2016, the USMC announced that all 1911 type pistols still used by its special operation units would be replaced by the Glock 19. How about that? That short resurrection of the M45A1 as the primary sidearm for U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) Marine Raiders and the Corps’ Force Reconnaissance Marines resulted in some fine hardware becoming available to those of us who appreciate fine shooting gear and others who have the resources and desire to collect unusual and limited issue guns.

What’s it Like?

The M45A1 has a dual recoil spring assembly which seems to dampen recoil somewhat. Colt added this spring assembly to the M45A1 and some of its commercial models with the intent to decrease the battering the pistol takes on recoil. This is important in a gun meant to endure nearly as many rounds in the weeks-long Marine Raider training regimen as the original M1911 was intended to see throughout its entire service life.

The M45 features 3-Dot Trijicon Night Sights and Ambidextrous Thumb Safety

The coarse checkering on the multi-colored G10 panels assists in anchoring the handgun, as does an undercut trigger guard which allows a high hand hold. The Colt incorporates a slightly beveled magazine well to facilitate reloads. The thumb safeties are ambidextrous and slightly larger than the original 1911 thumb safeties. The M45A1 has the traditional military lanyard loop in the flat, serrated mainspring housing. In addition to the desert tan color, the forward slide serrations and the section of M1913 Picatinny accessory rail immediately stand out and separate the pistol from the typical service M1911.

One thing that makes this particular pistol so much more than a normal Colt Rail Gun or similarly railed 1911 is the absence of MIM (or Metal Injection Molding) parts anywhere in the gun. In an effort to make guns that are traditionally built with steel more affordable, gun manufacturers have created a process to mold low impact gun parts rather than forge or mill each one. Builders of 1911s like Rock Island, Springfield, Kimber and Colt use MIM parts extensively in order to produce a competitively priced product. Springfield and Colt have done a great job in making these MIM parts extremely strong, thus increasing the durability and reliability of MIM-equipped firearms. Glocks uses MIM parts and a polymer frame yet are widely considered to be among the most reliable and durable firearms ever created. MIM parts are widely accepted as the standard in the industry. The Marine Corps is aware of this yet opted for steel, so consequently the CQBP does not use any MIM parts. Every piece of steel in the M45A1 is machined to specific tolerances and tested to the specifications put forth by the United States Marine Corps. This makes for an incredibly well-constructed pistol.

The M45A1 feels heavy compared to other full-size 1911s. That’s because at 40 oz., it is heavy. The Picatinny rail on the bottom of the frame is a full-size Mil Standard 1913 rail which holds accessories nice and tight as compared to its competitors with smaller lower rails. This full-size lower rail adds some of the noticeable heft to the gun, but that heft seems to balance out the pistol so that the gun doesn’t feel nose heavy. The front slide serrations are perfectly placed and have a noticeably deep depth and width, so much so that you can easily feel them while wearing gloves.

The finish on the pistol is a brown Decobond™ designed to hold up through hard use. The early finish problems encountered by the Marines were all fixed by the time the first 1,000 units had been issued. The finish is a bit slick which is offset by the rather deep cocking serrations both front and rear on the slide. This pistol utilizes the Series 80 fire control system which means it has an internal firing pin safety. Colt decided to employ a National Match barrel in the M45A1 instead of their normal barrel option. The quality and engineering on the National Match barrels is exceptional. The ejection port was modified by widening it and flaring it out. The feed ramp on the M45A1 is polished and coated to make the surface extremely smooth. The dual springs have a noticeable slap-back during firing, and the flared and lowered ejection port help to eject spent shells out and to the right of the pistol and not back into your face.

 Shooting the M45A1 feels different than shooting other 1911s. First, there is the additional weight already mentioned. This added weight, in addition to the dual spring “slap back,” provide for noticeably less recoil. The trigger is smooth even by series 80 standards and breaks cleanly at 5 lbs. It would be hard to improve on this trigger with any kind of upgrade. My M45A1 has had hundreds of rounds put through it, both ball and JHP, and has not experienced any type of failure. The only thing I would change about it would be to checker the front strap. I have other Colt 1911s with smooth front straps, so I guess it’s just not something that’s in Colt’s playbook for their stock pistols. The Custom Shop price list indicates they’ll checker the front strap at either 20 or 25 lpi for $260. I’m thinking having that done would make my pistol less valuable as a collector item, plus it’s not a gun I’ll shoot very often so my front strap will remain smooth.

The M45A1 Shoots Well and is Accurate

My pistol is the commercial, non-custom shop version and I wouldn’t own it had I not been a gun shop owner who could buy wholesale when these became available. When I sat down to write this story, I did my best to research the quantities of each type of pistol made and to get an idea of what might be available. Colt has not published the quantities of the EGA suffix pistols that were issued, at least not in any list I’ve been able to find. The decommissioned pistols and the custom shop pistols all appear to be in the hands of collectors. At any given time, one or two may show up on with prices that would only appeal to collectors. The civilian M45A1 is not currently in the Colt catalog, but there’s a good chance it will be offered again as Colt tends to rotate model numbers in and out of production from time to time. Should you buy one? If you’re interested in a unique, firearm with a military history at around $1600, go for it. I suspect it will only be worth more as time marches on.

A Special Veterans Day

Posted 11/11/20121

I’ve now lived through 51 Veteran’s Days as a veteran. Most have been just another day, some with a free meal, one Veteran’s Day I got fired from a job, another I got ridiculed by my boss for wanting to take Veteran’s Day off. Today was the best I can remember.

Two of my grandchildren are students at Boyd High School in Boyd, Texas. Boyd High School’s FCCLA organization invited veterans in the community, especially those who have relatives in the school, to a breakfast at the school. When my grandson Josh invited me via a text message I decided to go.

We were served breakfast in the school library. Somewhere I heard the number 29 veterans in attendance. Most were accompanied by family members. I sat at a table with a 95 year old veteran of WWII, Korea and Vietnam. He seemed in better health than me and was sharp and clear of mind. The other two veterans at my table had not served during war time, but had been stationed in Europe at various times. One was an air traffic controller who had worked LA (Lower Alabama) where I went to flight school.

The school librarian welcomed us and said we’d have a prayer before eating. When she asked for a volunteer to pray, the Superintendent of Schools responded and prayed like she knew the one she was praying to on a personal level. Imagine — prayer in school! We were served a breakfast of pancakes and sausage with coffee and plates of cinnamon rolls. But breakfast wasn’t it, folks. We were next escorted down a hall with full height posters on the wall. Our destination was the gymnasium.

As we entered the gym, the entire student body of approximately 400 students was seated in the stands and began applauding as the veterans entered. They kept up the applause and shouts of “Thank You!” until all of the veterans and their families had entered the gym and taken seats in the folding chairs that were set out on the floor. A ceremony followed in which the school band played the national anthem, then a parade of students entered in groups of two, with each group holding a banner for a branch of service. As the groups walked in one at a time, the theme song for the branch of service represented by the banner they held played over the speaker system.

Several individuals gave short speeches. One of them was a teacher who is an Air Force Veteran, another was a graduate of the school who was a veteran and six were students who had written short essays. While in the library, we each had been given a booklet of essays and poems written by students at the high school in honor of veterans. These speeches were additional essays by the students.

The ceremony was quite moving, but that wasn’t all. I’m overcome with emotion as I write this, just remembering. As we left the school we were told the students from the other Boyd Schools — kindergarten, elementary, intermediate and middle school — all wanted to show their appreciation to us as well. We were directed into a parade of 20 or so cars, led by a two police cars with flashing lights. As we drove down Knox Street in Boyd, students from the Kindergarten waved at us from behind their fence, but students from the intermediate and middle school were lined up on both sides of the street, holding patriotic artwork they had done, waving to us and calling out (“Thank you!”) as we drove by. We continued to follow the police cars across one of the main drags, into and through the parking lot of the elementary school where all of the students from that school were lined up, holding up their artwork and calling out to us, “Thank You!” as they waved. The entire parade consisted of smiles, waves and cheers from the students.

Thank you, Boyd High School and all the other Boyd Schools for honoring your veterans in a way that most of us will never foget.

Diamondback Sidekick – Perfect Companion for Fun

The new Diamondback Sidekick brings back the thrill of owning a gun like the Hi Standard Double-Nine

Posted 11/04/2021

Diamondback Sidekick – 22/22 WMR Nine-Shot, Swing-out Cylinder SA/DA

Sometimes magazine writers are in the loop early when it come to new guns being introduced. There are a lot of new guns I don’t get too excited about, especially when it’s just one manufacturer trying to keep up with or outdo another in one of the classes such as carry gun, duty gun or competition gun. I’ve got those categories covered with guns that work fine, so adding another to the rotation doesn’t get me all that excited. What does ring my bell are fun guns. A fun gun I bought over 60 years ago is still a favorite to take out of the safe and go shooting. Diamondback has just recreated that gun and made it better. To say I got excited when I saw the first announcement of the Sidekick is an understatement.

I put my family on notice. Any promises I might have made not to buy any more guns this year was hereby null and void. Come November 22, when the Sidekick is reported to become available, I want one. Then life bestowed upon me something very special in the form of an invite to a writer’s conference in which Diamondback was one of the presenters. This was in early October, more than a month before the scheduled release date for the Sidekick. I got to shoot it and it was everything I hoped it would be. I asked for a review gun whenever they became available, and I was scarcely home before one showed up at my FFL for transfer.

When I opened the box, it seemed like a jump back in time to the day I walked into a hardware store in Oxford, Mississippi, plunked $52.50 down on the counter and walked out with my first-ever revolver—a Hi Standard Double-Nine .22 revolver. That $52.50 would be $472 in today’s dollars. The Double-Nine is a pretty unique .22 revolver in that it looks like a single-action cowboy gun but has a swing out cylinder for loading and a double-action trigger system that allows it to be used like a single-action or a double-action. The Sidekick has those features, too.

The Sidekick (below) Gets It’s Roots from the Hi Standard Double-Nine (above)

How the Sidekick Came About.

I asked Adam Walker, Vice President of Engineering and Quality at Diamondback America, how they came to develop the Sidekick, wondering if maybe the Double-Nine had been an influence. Adam told me as they began conceptualizing Diamondback’s first-ever revolver product, they wanted it to be a fun .22 plinker that would be easy to use by people of all ages and levels of experience. He said most of the folks at Diamondback had grown up spending time with their families shooting and that much of the shooting had been done with rimfire guns. As they discussed their various experiences, a common theme arose. More than half the people in the room had owned a Hi Standard Double-Nine. Almost in unison there was an “aha moment” when they realized that this particular revolver model had everything they were looking to create. Everyone was brimming with nostalgia and immediately excited about the project and they were in disbelief that this specific type of product had been out of production for so many years without anyone having picked up the torch.

Life is Better with a Sidekick!

There are many rimfire revolvers currently in production, but none fit the bill of the quintessential “plinking” rimfire revolver as closely as the Hi Standard Double-Nine. Diamondback’s objective became clear—to recreate the classic Double-Nine revolver using modern manufacturing techniques to ensure a high level of quality and consistency and then reintroduce this product to the world as the Diamondback Sidekick. They are proud to continue the tradition of encouraging families and friends to spend time together through shooting and outdoor activities. As they say—life’s better with a sidekick.

I’d say they’ve met their objective. I may not represent the typical shooter, but I have Ruger and Heritage .22 revolvers, plus a plethora of semi-auto .22 handguns, and I know without a doubt the Sidekick will be the one I pick up most often to go shooting just for fun.

The Nine-Shot Swing-Out Cylinder Makes for Quick and Easy Loading. Plus There are Two of Them — One for .22 and One for .22 Magnum.

Gun Details.

Diamondback built the Sidekick with swing out cylinders in both .22 and .22 Mag, but it is definitely a sho ‘nuff cowboy gun to look at and handle. Although it has revived the Hi Standard Double-Nine in spirit, Diamondback has made the Sidekick even better with the exchangeable cylinders and a repurposed ejector latch to facilitate opening the cylinder for loading and unloading. It also has counter-bored cylinder chambers which allow the gun to be dry-fired without injury to the cylinders or the firing pin. All in all, with modern manufacturing techniques and materials, it’s a better gun. Although the Sidekick has a shorter barrel—4.5″ compared to the Double-Nine’s 5.5″— at 2 lbs., it slightly outweighs the Double-Nine. The heftier feel to me indicates it’s built with stronger materials. The gun is black anodized aluminum with black checkered plastic grips. It has fluted cylinders where the Double-Nine does not. The Sidekick’s single-action trigger breaks at 3 lbs. while the trigger on the Double-Nine is a little over 4 lbs. Double-action pull on both guns exceeds the 12 lb. limit on my Lyman trigger pull gauge, but it’s not difficult on either gun. Sometimes I just roll off nine double-action shots one after the other to see how close I can group them. It’s not difficult to do, and if I were to encounter a rattlesnake in the woods, that’s probably exactly what I would do. Not that I wouldn’t have killed him with the first shot, you understand, but it’s fun to chop a rattlesnake into pieces with a firearm—and to make good and sure he’s dead.

The Ejecction Rod Handle Has Been Repurposed to Open the Cylinder.

At the writer’s conference, I watched the Diamondback rep swap the cylinders. He showed us how to take a punch and depress the link pivot pin through a hole in the lower front of the frame. It looked easy, and when I tried it on my gun, it was easy. It was so easy I should have, but didn’t, read the instructions ahead of time. Had I read them, I would have learned about the spring and how it would launch the pivot pin if you weren’t careful. It launched it when I wasn’t looking. When trying to put in the other cylinder was when I found myself turning to the instructions. An unattached spring behind the cylinder latch pin? Oops! I keep a magnet with an extended collapsible handle around for such occasions as this. I backed my wheelchair up, surveyed the room, saw something on the rug that looked out of place, extended my magnet toward it and found my missing parts. Had I been in the field when first attempting this cylinder swap, I’d have found myself with a functionless firearm through no fault of the gun or the manufacturer, just my own propensity to do stuff without first reading the directions. It’s not an issue if you know the spring and pin aren’t attached and to watch for them. In fact, it’s a piece of cake.

Outdoor Fun.

For my first shooting outing with my new Sidekick, I wasn’t thinking about paper targets. I thought about aluminum drink cans. I filled up a bucket of them from the family recycle bin and headed for the woods. Shooting cans is so much fun because they scoot across the ground when hit and present target after target. Sometimes they spin around so just the bottom is facing you making a perfect 2″ bullseye. The only reason I get tired of that kind of shooting is because I’m old and I get tired doing anything. I was by myself on this outing, but had I been with sons and grandsons, we’d have come up with some competitive scenarios to make it even more fun.

A .22 Revolver Will Gobble Up Your Old Shorts, Longs and Long Rifles With Ease.

Range Time.

The next day I went to the range to create holes in paper targets and to shoot the Sidekick alongside my trusted Double-Nine. I wasn’t particularly motivated to determine 15 or 25 yard accuracy because that’s not what these guns are about. I wanted to more or less just practice shooting them to see how well I could do. Since neither gun has target sights, the biggest challenge I faced was tilting my head at the right angle for my progressive trifocals to allow me to focus on the front sight. I found when I could do that with either gun, I could actually create some pretty good groups at 10 yards. I started my session by shooting 90 rounds of .22 Magnum using two different brands—Remington and CCI’s Maxi Mag. Then I switched cylinders and shot another couple hundred rounds in each gun. New ammunition consisted of SK Standard, SK Flatnose Match and Winchester Super X Hollow Points. I didn’t notice much difference in performance between the different loads. Next, I did something that only revolvers let me do. I went through an old box containing a mixture of shorts, longs and long rifles with that nasty white corrosion that gets on lead bullets with age. The revolvers don’t care. Shooting the shorts is almost like shooting a gun with a silencer they’re so quiet.

At 10 Yards the Sidekick is Plenty Accurate.

I got some targets worth taking pictures of and had a great time with my double-action, swing-out cylinder cowboy .22s. I’m betting at an MSRP of only $320, you’re going to want a Sidekick for your own shooting pleasure.

David’s Later Guns #2 — The Cougar and the Storm

Posted 9/06/2021

The Beretta Px4 Storm was preceded in production by Beretta’s Cougar 8000. Production of the Cougar was transferred to Stoeger when Beretta purchased the company.

The Beretta Px4 Storm is one of the smoothest operating handguns offered in the defensive handgun arena. So many more guns have been offered in that market segment since the Px4 Storm made its debut, including more by Beretta, that sometimes the Px4 gets lost in the mix. That’s a shame. Offered in full-size, compact and sub-compact versions, there is something for every need. Mine is the full-size version, which I find a delightful concealed carry gun. Before I get too far into the details, I want to tell you about the Storm’s older cousin, the Cougar.

The Cougar 8000 was a Beretta product introduced in 1994 as a smaller alternative to the Beretta 92. When Beretta acquired Stoeger through its Benelli subsidiary, production of the Cougar, along with all the dies and tooling, was transferred to Stoeger. Essentially the Beretta Cougar and the Stoeger Cougar are the same product. It’s a shame it’s no longer manufactured as it is truly a fine pistol.

My Cougar, acquired in 2009, represents my transition from revolvers to semi-automatic handguns. It was the first semi-automatic pistol I bought. I can’t call it mine anymore because when I brought it home, my youngest son, who was also looking for a new handgun, announced that was the gun he wanted. He put the money in my hand to reimburse me for the cost of the Cougar, and I was sent back to the store to get another gun. That is why I have the Px4. The Cougar has remained in the family, and I’ve enjoyed shooting it on more than a few occasions.

There is so much about the two guns that is similar, although the Cougar is an all-steel gun while the Storm has a polymer frame. Cougar and Storm are what we call them around the house. I hope you don’t mind if I forgo trying to keep the naming convention right for the rest of this article and just refer to them using those titles.

Both of these guns have Trijicon night sights installed.

The Storm is still in production and is offered in nine different configurations: Px4 Storm Compact Carry, Px4 Compact FDE, Px4 Compact Grey, Px4 Storm Carry, Px4 Storm Compact, Px4 Storm Full, Px4 Storm SubCompact, Px4 Storm SD Type F, Px4 Storm Inox. Each one can be purchased as a Type C, Type D, Type F or Type G, but are primarily offered in the civilian market as Type F. Type C is a single-action only pistol. The C stands for “Constant Action” — the spurless hammer is in half-cocked position. There is no decocker and no safety. This configuration is primarily sold into the police market. Type D is double-action-only, with a spurless hammer, no decocker and no safety. The popular Type F is familiar to most of us. It is an SA/DA gun with a decocker and manual safety. Type G is SA/DA with the safety feature removed so that the safety lever works only as a decocker. Somewhere along the way my Px4 Storm F was converted to a Type G. I’m okay with that because I rarely use the safety on an SA/DA gun.

The Storm is a polymer gun that uses a pair of takedown sliders, similar to the Glock. David’s Storm doesn’t have a manual lever safety. The lever acts as a decocker.

The Px4 Storm SD .45 ACP semi-auto pistol was developed to meet the very demanding requirements issued by the US Special Forces Command (SOCOM) for their Joint Combat Pistol. They called for superior weather resistance, extended threaded barrel, dark earth frame, tactical case and additional accessories. Beretta answered the call successfully by redesigning the Storm’s internal components to meet and exceed all these requirements. The result is a pistol that satisfies not only SOCOM’s requirements, but the most demanding shooter looking for the absolute best and most reliable for personal defense, competition or carry. All of the Px4 pistols have been designed to meet or exceed NATO requirements and have been reported to have fired over 150,000 rounds with zero failures.

While the compact and subcompact models are very popular, I like my full-size model and find it comfortable to shoot and carry. Size wise it is 7.5″ long, 5.5″ high, 1.22″ wide and weighs 28 oz. The barrel is 4″ long. The Beretta website stretches these measurements a bit. Maybe my gun has shrunk over the years, but I’m giving you exactly what the ruler says. I think it’s probably more an issue of translating from metric to US measurements.

The Cougar has an all steel frame and a takedown lever. The safety also acts as a decocker.

The Cougar is 5.5″ tall, 7″ long and 1.3″ wide. The barrel is 3.5″ long. This one weighs at 30.25 oz. because it’s an all-steel gun. As you can tell, these two guns are very similar in size and their measurements are typical of a mid-size carry gun. The heft is comfortable in my hands and not at all uncomfortable to carry in a good IWB holster. The slide is rounded everywhere there’s an edge, pronouncedly so on the top edges. Mounted on the slide are Tritium night sights. I honestly don’t remember if the gun came that way or if it’s something we added later. There are serrations on the flat part of the slide, which is the lower half, just above the rather hefty slide lock lever. On the back of the slide is an ambidextrous lever that doubles as a safety and a decocker. The safety totally disables the hammer and trigger.

The mag release button is in the customary place behind the trigger. Pressing it results in an aggressive drop of the magazine. The magazine is a 15-rounder, steel and strongly made. The grip frame is very comfortable to me. Being an all-steel gun, there’s no swapping of backstraps for fit. The gun came with a set of rubber grips. I gave my son a set of wooden grips for the Cougar for his birthday one year and that’s what the gun is now wearing. Vertical lines on the front strap and backstrap assist with grip purchase. In case you’re wondering, backstrap is one word, but front strap isn’t.

The trigger on the Cougar is a curved affair that sits forward. In DA mode it starts working with no slack. The pressure is steady for about .75″ and then you get a crisp, clean 9 lb. break. Follow-up shots in SA mode require .25″ take-up before breaking at an average 5.1 lbs. Tactile reset comes when the trigger is almost all the way forward.

The barrel to slide lockup is different on these pistols from most locked-breech pistols. The lockup action consists of a ¼ round rotation before the slide moves backward, resulting in reduced recoil.

One of the unique features of the Cougar, shared with the Beretta Px4 Storm, is the barrel operating system. While the Cougar and Storm are locked breech operating semi-automatic pistols, the way the barrel locks up is different. There is a locking block the recoil spring and rod go through. This block has a pin on it that fits inside a groove on the portion of the barrel that supports the “lock-up.” This groove wraps around the barrel so the pin travels in a rotational manner around approximately ¼ of the barrel when the gun is fired. This occurs at the start of the cycle to eject the just-fired cartridge and load another one. The end result of this action is that the first ¼ of the recoil cycle is rotational and does not present any kind of “kick” to the shooter. Does the Cougar have recoil? Yes, but it is diminished somewhat by the unique operating system.

Disassembly for cleaning or other maintenance is slightly different with this kind of barrel/recoil spring combo, but not at all complicated. After dropping the magazine, locking the slide back and checking to ensure the chamber is empty, there is a lever on the left side of the frame just above the front of the trigger guard. The lever has a locking pin which is released by pushing a button on the right side of the frame. Once this is done, the lever can be rotated clockwise a ¼ turn. Release the slide lock and the slide will come off the front. No trigger pull required. The recoil spring and locking block can be lifted off the barrel, the barrel removed and everything about cleaning, lubricating and reassembling the gun is standard, except you have to maneuver the locking block over the barrel to get the pin into the groove and that requires a slight compression of the recoil spring. It’s not much different than the way you have to compress the recoil spring on any semi-automatic to get it to drop into place on the barrel.

Everything I just described for the Cougar is true also of the Storm with two exceptions. Takedown on the Storm is done by pulling down two tabs on the frame just ahead and above the trigger guard, similar to takedown on a Glock. Only on the Storm no trigger pull is required before removing the slide. The difference is the grips. The Storm comes with interchangeable backstraps. I’m using the medium size on my gun.

This five shot group with Norma’s new MHP rounds
is typical of the Storm’s performance at 10 yards.
Both guns perform exceptionally well with Black Hills Xtreme Defender fluted rounds.

If you don’t have your mid-size carry gun and can find one, the Px4 STORM will not disappoint you. I think any size would work fine. Problem now might be availability, but since it’s an older gun there should be some on the auction sites. The same is true of the Cougar. Just remember when looking at the Stoeger STR-9, it’s not the first mid-size 9mm Stoeger has brought to market.

David’s Early Guns #5 — The .22 Rifles

Posted (8/21/2021)

 Marlin 80; Remington 514
Top Marlin 80; Bottom Remington 514

The year would have been 1960, I believe. That would have put me at 12 years old and it was the first summer I worked on staff at Camp Yocona, BSA. That’s memorable for me because the minimum age for a staff member was 15. An exception was made for me because I knew Morse Code backwards and forwards and I knew a good method for teaching it. The camp needed a Morse Code instructor. My scoutmaster was the camp director that year, so he did some rule bending and I spent my summer at Camp Yocona.

Teaching Morse Code only occupied a couple of hours each day, which left me time to spend at the rifle range. I began working my way through the NRA Junior Marksmanship program, earning patches and also qualifying for the Rifle Shooting merit badge.

I got to know the gentleman who ran the rifle range quite well. His name was Lum (yes, I have that right) Barnes and he was a farmer from somewhere around Booneville, MS. Lum was patient with me, teaching me the ins and outs of sighting, breathing and trigger control. At the end of the summer he told me some of the camp’s rifles were being replaced and the old ones were for sale. “How much?” I asked, having earned no money for the summer as the staff jobs were all volunteer. He offered the Remington 514 that I had been using for my patch earning for $4. I was able to come up with $4. Lum told me if I had another $2 I could also take home a Marlin 80 that was missing it’s magazine, so had to be used as a single. Two single shot, bolt action .22s for $6 seemed quite a bargain to me.

Indeed it was as I still have both guns and have learned quite a bit from them. First has to do with sighting. Throughout the summer I had adjusted my sighting using the Remington because I had learned that hitting the bullseye required my aiming two inches to the left and one inch down. I hadn’t shot the Marlin, so I didn’t know it’s aiming quirks but I did learn that I could buy a magazine for it from Numrich gun parts. When I started shooting the rifle, it wouldn’t eject. Numrich had an ejector for it, as well. Both rifles needed their stocks refinished and to be re-blued. Using Birchwood Casey bluing and stock refinishing products, I turned both rifles into pretty nice examples.

David’s $4 Gun Has Become a Treasure

The sighting on the Remington turned out to be an excellent learning experience. When I took the class to become an NRA Basic Pistol Instructor and learned for the first time in my life about eye dominance, I discovered that although I’m right-handed, I’m left eye dominant. When I sighted the Remington from left shoulder I discovered the sights were right on the money.

Both rifles have required extractor/ejector replacement over the years, but they shoot fine and are used to introduce others to shooting sports.

David’s Later Guns #1 — Ruger Blackhawk in .357 Maximum Caliber

Posted 8/21/2021

357 Maximum Ruger Blackhawk
.357 Maximum Ruger Blackhawk

When I left home at age 22 to join the Army, I had five firearms: a couple of .22 rifles bought as surplus from Boy Scout Camp, two inherited shotguns and a .22 revolver. These firearms had always been like fishing rods, pocketknives or hand tools — used when needed, then cleaned and put away. We never thought of needing a firearm for self-defense back in those days. There were only four bad guys in the whole county. I knew who they were and stayed away from them. Warning, Dr. Dabbs, one of them has a son who lives in your neck of the woods.

In the Army I went through M16 qualification, but my job after training was to fly a helicopter. When we got shot at, my crewmembers shot back. I just flew. After the Army I flew twenty-something years as a corporate pilot. While flying for computer companies, I was cross-trained in computer hardware and software. All this time I was living in the city and the guns stayed in a closet. When my three sons got old enough to go dove hunting, they wanted to, so we needed another shotgun. It just so happened I was doing contract programming at the time for a sporting goods distributor who also had a gun store. I bought a Winchester M1300 at employee pricing, but even at six guns I didn’t consider myself a collector.

The Lure Of A Blackhawk.

Ruger Blackhawk .357 Maximum
Ruger New Model Blackhawk .357 Maximum With 10.5″ Barrel

In 1999 I walked by the gun counter at that same gun store and did a double take at something I saw in the used gun display cabinet — a Ruger Blackhawk with a 10.5″ barrel, looking like new with a price tag of $300. Three hundred dollars was something I could justify for such a fine looking cowboy gun. The salesman seemed to be cautioning me when he said, “You know this is a .357 Maximum, right?” I must have nodded my head or something. I didn’t know what a .357 Maximum was and didn’t care. I’d dreamed of owning a Blackhawk ever since my cousin back home killed a deer with his .44 Magnum Blackhawk. And this one was almost a Buntline Special. When I took the gun home my wife asked me what it was for. “I don’t know,” I told her, “I guess home defense.” When I started figuring out what ammo I needed to try it out was when I discovered what the .357 Maximum was all about. I knew it was okay to shoot .357 Magnum and .38 Special rounds in the gun, but I wanted to shoot .357 Maximum rounds. Using the Internet and a search engine called Yahoo, I located some .357 Maximum reloads being sold by Old Western Scrounger. I got some, shot some and decided .357 Magnum was enough for me.

I didn’t shoot the Blackhawk much. Honestly, I didn’t cotton to the concept of a gun range where you paid to shoot. The only time in my life I had shot at a gun range before the Army was at Boy Scout Camp. You just went out in the pasture and shot. Or if you lived in town, you drove a mile or two outside the city limits on any highway and found a creek bed, sand ditch or old gravel pit. A few miles further and there was a National Forest, which in those days had none of the restrictions on shooting they seem to have these days. Now I lived in the city and it took some adjustments, but I finally found a gun range where I could shoot my Blackhawk. It wasn’t long before that long barrel started feeling heavy to me. I decided to order a replacement barrel from Ruger, only to learn Ruger doesn’t send out barrels. You send them the gun and they’ll put a new barrel on it. Then I learned something else. If you send them a .357 Maximum, they won’t send it back. They’ll work out some sort of equitable trade, but there had been a recall on the .357 Maximum years earlier. I chose not to send my gun to Ruger. I was just starting to learn about forums. Google and Wikipedia did not yet exist and I didn’t at that time know anyone at Ruger that would tell me their side of the story.

.357 Maximum History.

Through reading some stuff online, I’m sure much of it conjecture, I figured out what the .357 Maximum was all about and why Ruger decided to bow out of it. Elgin “Butch” Gates was an internationally known trophy hunter and the author of The Gun Digest Book of Metallic Silhouette Shooting. In order to bang metallic silhouettes of various animals farther and farther away using a handgun, Gates developed a wildcat cartridge he called the .357 SuperMag. From that cartridge Remington and Ruger worked together to develop the .357 Maximum with a SAAMI pressure of 40,000 psi pushing a 158 grain bullet at 1,825 fps or a 180 grain bullet at 1,550 fps. Ruger designed a Blackhawk for the task and Remington manufactured the ammo. Apparently handloaders, not satisfied with the already powerful ballistic profile of the manufactured cartridges, started pushing the limits, which resulted in damage to some of the handguns in the form of top strap and forcing cone burning. Ruger, wanting no part in having production revolvers with their name on it being so damaged, issued a recall, offering equal value in another production revolver. All of this happened six or seven years before I bought my revolver. It shows no indication of any top strap or forcing cone burning. Prior to my ownership, it doesn’t appear to have been fired much at all. I put maybe 20 or 30 rounds of .357 Maximum through it along with a box of .357 Magnum and a fair amount of .38 special. As much as I liked owning it, there was something not quite right about it that kept me from shooting it much. Then it hit me. It was that 10.5″ barrel. I’m not into handgun hunting or long-range target shooting with a handgun and that long barrel made the gun unwieldy to carry and out of balance to shoot.

It’s Good To Have Friends.

Jerry Colliver is a friend I met when we worked together at an insurance company in 2005–2006. Together the two of us worked through getting our concealed handgun permits and obtaining instructor ratings in various disciplines including NRA Basic Pistol and the Texas Concealed Handgun License. Up to that point in time, I’d never owned a semi-automatic handgun, but Jerry knew them well. He guided me through purchasing my first, a Taurus 24/7, and together we began teaching Hunter Education, NRA Basic Pistol and Texas Concealed Handgun License classes. Jerry was handy with a Dremel and other hand tools and helped me with the barrel shortening project. In fact, he did most of the work.

 We measured 4.5″ back from the muzzle and marked the location to be cut with electrical tape. I wanted to make sure our cut was perfectly perpendicular, but Jerry assured me that at this point it only had to be close. Jerry cut the barrel with the Dremel using a carbide cutting disc. Next came touch-up work on a small grinder. After the grinding came hand filing to smooth out the effects from the grinder wheel, leaving the metal surface as shiny as possible.

After cutting the barrel with a diamond cutter, Jerry 
beveled the new end to match the factory bevels
After cutting the barrel with a diamond cutter, Jerry
beveled the new end to match the factory bevels

The factory barrel end had an inside bevel around the bore and an outer bevel around the outer circumference of the barrel. Jerry used a stone with his Dremel tool to grind the inside bevel to match the factory original as closely as possible. Then he filed the outside bevel by hand, carefully eyeballing the width of the bevel to make sure it was even and consistent as he went around the barrel. Final touch-up on the outside bevel was done with the Dremel tool.

When the bevels were done, Jerry went back to the grinder, this time with a cloth wheel and rouge to polish the end of the barrel before bluing. There were several steps in the polishing process before Jerry was satisfied. He used a cloth polishing wheel attached to his vertical drill press, periodically coating the wheel with polishing compound. We blued the barrel, tapped out a hole for the sight mounting screw and put the front sight back on the gun.

Ruger Blackhawk with 10.5" Barrel Cut Back to 6"
Ruger Blackhawk with 10.5″ Barrel Cut Back to 6″

A Training Tool.

The Blackhawk holds a special place in my training regimen for people who are serious about mastering handguns. At some point in their training I introduce them to the Blackhawk. I load the gun for them while they’re shooting a training exercise. That way they don’t see what I’m putting in the gun. I load two .38 Special rounds followed by two .357 Magnum rounds, then two .357 Maximum rounds. Locking the cylinder so shooting would start with the .38s, I hand the student the gun and ask them to shoot it until it runs dry. Naturally they’ll be aiming to please me, the instructor, and with the first two shots they generally do pretty well. The next two shots have a surprising amount of recoil, but most shooters stick with it and try to make good shots. When number five rolls around, they’re not expecting what comes down the pike. I stand close enough to catch the gun if they drop it because that shot is going to hit them like pulling both triggers on a double barrel twelve gauge. If I’m lucky enough to coach them through shooting one more time, their, “What was THAT?” question invokes a discussion on the effects of various calibers and loads on recoil. The explanation will hit home because of what they just experienced. Although they won’t be carrying .357 Maximums for personal defense, they will become aware of such differences as +P and normal ammo or .40 S&W compared to 9mm.

This Blackhawk Will Shoot .38 Special, .357 Magnum or .357 Maximum
This Blackhawk Will Shoot .38 Special, .357 Magnum or .357 Maximum

I now reload my own .357 Maximum rounds using a .357 Magnum die set adjusted for length. Remington and Starline both make brass and the caliber has found a home with T/C Contender and Dan Wesson Model 40 shooters. I’ve often wished someone would offer a lever action rifle in .357 Maximum. It seems close enough to the new .350 Legend cartridge to have filled that gap. The .357 Maximum has enough of a following that someday you may be banging steel silhouettes of various animals at 600 to 1,000 yards with a handgun. Just keep your loads within SAAMI specs and have fun!

David’s Early Guns Series #4 — Lefever 12 Gauge Double Barrel

Posted (8/16/2021)

Lefever double barrel
Pop’s Lefever Double Barrel 12 Gauge

This shotgun sat in Pop’s bedroom corner beside his armoire. Pop was my mother’s father. I’m pretty sure he never hunted during my lifetime. Everybody owned guns and Pop’s were the double-barrel shotgun, a .22 rifle and a Colt New Model Service revolver. As a kid I had no idea about the historical significance of his guns nor their value. Pop died at age 67 the year I was a senior in high school. He had been a great friend to me, and a supplier of horses to my cousins and me. His loss was tough. I wasn’t around when any decisions were made about passing down his guns, but somehow I ended up with the shotgun. One of my cousins got the rifle and my only living first cousin has the pistol.

David’s Grandfather, “Pop”

This was a genuinely appreciated inheritance because I did a lot of bird hunting with my 16 gauge full choke Winchester Model 12 and the improved cylinder and modified choke barrels on the Lefever were much better suited for quail hunting. My uncle pointed out to me a problem with the Lefever’s choke, which was on the tang. If you weren’t very careful when pushing it on, it would go past the safe point to a position that would allow the gun to fire. Not only was I warned about that choke up front, I was reminded of it on every hunting trip where family was involved. Jeez, guys, I’ve got it!

To me the gun was just a gun to go hunting with until I got into the gun business and started inventorying and valuing my guns. Much of the bluing had worn off, leaving the finish shiny in places. The stock was scratched and gouged in various places. It certainly wasn’t a show piece, but it functioned fine and I managed to bring down a few birds with it on a regular basis. But there was something about the Lefever brand I learned from the Blue Book of Gun Values. The Lefever was the first commercially successful hammerless double barrel shotgun made in America. The company was in n Syracuse, NY from 1885 until 1916 when it was bought by the Ithaca Gun Company.

Lefever Made the First Hammerless Double Barrel Shotguns

According to what I could determine through visiting the Lefever Collector’s Association website, my gun was made in 1908 and is a C Grade gun. Values in Blue Book are quite high for some of these guns and not so high for others. Guns matching the description and condition of mine have consistently sold in excess of $5,000 so whoever decided I should get Pop’s old shotgun did right by me and probably didn’t know it. Most of those relatives are gone now, so there won’t ever be any arguments about it. I’ve just included a recommendation in my notes about the gun that whoever inherits it should have it appraised by a qualified appraiser if they decide to sell it.

David’s Early Gun Series #3 — Winchester Model 12


This is a story about my shotgun, the one I grew up with. It’s a 16 Gauge Winchester Model 12 with a 28″ Full Choke barrel. That barrel makes it duck gun, but I rarely hunted ducks. Instead, for me it was a squirrel, rabbit, dove and quail gun and I even killed one deer with it, that one in self-defense. I’ll get to that story down the road.

Winchester Model 12 – 16 Gauge Full Choke with 18″ Barrel

My Model 12 was originally given to Grandaddy Freeman by his former employees when he retired as Director of the Mississippi Game and Fish Commission. That would have been around 1948, the year I was born. Grandaddy engaged in a number of business ventures after his retirement, but apparently had lost interest in hunting so my dad wound up with the gun. Dad hunted with me when I was seven or eight to get me started and after that he just didn’t hunt much except for opening day of several dove seasons with his coworkers. When I was in the 5th grade, Dad told me I could have the Model 12 as he just wasn’t using it much.

My Grandaddy, R.M. Freeman, was presented with this Model 12 by the men who worked with him upon his retirement in 1946. His hunting days over, he gave it to my dad, who gave it to me.

I’d already been acquainted with the shotgun; it was the first real gun I ever shot. Dad had given me his old single-shot .410 when he began teaching me to hunt squirrels. But on our very first hunting trip, I was carrying my gun unloaded when Dad pointed out a dove in a tree. He told me, “We don’t normally shoot dove when they’re not flying, but they are in season and that one is just sitting in that tree right there. You can take a shot at him if you want to.” Since my gun wasn’t loaded, he handed me his 16 gauge Model 12 and coached me through lining up the sights and taking a shot. I remember that shot vividly. The gun knocked me on my butt and the dove flew off. The small branch he had been sitting on seemed mock me as it slowly fell to the ground. We didn’t know anything about cross-dominant eyes in those days, but I am strongly cross dominant and I believe I must have been leaning way over the gun to line my left eye up with the front sight, which is why I got such a wallop in the nose from the recoil. I now shoot that gun and all my other long guns left handed.

Guns tend to create memories in our lives if we shoot them much and my next memory happened right after Dad told me the 16 gauge could be my gun. I went home from school at lunch the next day to become more acquainted with my new gun. In the process of my examination I managed to slam the action closed the tip of my index finger. That little exercise in carelessness cost me a trip to the emergency room. My finger was bleeding like a stuck pig, but I managed to call my mother at work and she came home to help me. At the emergency room the doctor attempted to rejoin the skin on the tip of my finger and in order to do so he took a file and filed the bone smooth where the action had chipped it. My right index finger is now shorter than my left finger and I have a noticeable scar where the stitches were. That’s one of my “been there, done that” scars that is a reminder of how being careful around guns is more than just not having an accidental discharge and hitting something or someone you didn’t want to hit, but about keeping fingers clear of moving parts.

Growing up with that gun I had plenty of opportunities to hunt quail and dove with other hunters. In spite of the fact my gun was a full choke instead of the preferred improved cylinder or modified chokes that were more appropriate for those birds, I did all right. The one adjustment I made was to shoot at birds a little further away than the other guys did. Their misses often wound up in my game bag. When I used my Model 12 as a quail gun, I could get off two or three rounds on a covey rise as quickly as my buddies could with their semi-automatic Brownings or Remingtons. The shotgun fired each time the action closed as long as the trigger remained depressed from the prior shot. By keeping the trigger depressed I could fire another round as fast as I could pump the action.

The Winchester Model 12 is a pump action, tube magazine shotgun with an internal hammer manufactured by Winchester from 1912 (hence the model name or number) until 2006, though all the production runs after 1964 were special runs. The Model 12 was designed by T.C. Johnson but used a sliding forearm to cycle the action that was passed down from one of John M. Browning’s earlier designs. That Browning design was Winchester’s Model 1897, a forerunner to the Model 12. The 1897 had an external hammer while the Model 12’s hammer is internal. Apparently, the Model 12 was expensive to produce that’s why it was discontinued. The Model 1200 and Model 1300 replacements were very similar in appearance and operation, but designed to use parts that were less expensive to make.

When the Model 12 was first manufactured it was in 20 gauge only. The 12 and 16 gauge models followed a year later. The tube magazine is loaded from the bottom and empty shells are ejected from the right side. The magazine holds five rounds, but most hunters, myself included, have a round wooden rod in the magazine to limit the gun to the three-shot limit required by game laws for hunting migratory birds.

The Model 12 is a Takedown Gun, Easy to break into two parts for transport.

The Model 12 is a takedown model, easily separated into two halves for packing and transport. The takedown procedure is simple. There is a pin near the end of the magazine that locks it in place with the pin against the barrel. Simply push the pin through the magazine tube to a different angle that allows you to rotate the magazine a half turn and pull it loose. When the magazine has cleared the threads and base that keeps it in, the barrel rotates a half turn and slips out. The first time you try it, you might be a little uneasy, but after you’ve done it a few times it becomes easy peasy for you. I always took mine down like this for cleaning as it makes it easier to run a rod through the barrel from the chamber to the muzzle.

Flip the lever at the end of the magazine tube, rotate the mag and pull it out. The barrel then removes after half a turn.

The US Military used the Model 12 extensively during World War I, World War II, Korea, and in the early part of the Vietnam War. More than 80,000 Model 12 shotguns were purchased during World War II by the United States Marine Corps, Army Air Forces, and Navy, mostly for use in the Pacific theater. The Marine Corps used a trench gun version of the Model 12 when taking Japanese-occupied islands in the Pacific. During the Korean War and the Vietnam war both the Marines and the US Army used the Model 12. It was only when Model 12 production was shut down in 1964 that the military started buying the Ithaca 37 shotgun for combat use. I was actually offered a Model 12 and 100 rounds of buckshot for my own use shortly after arriving in Vietnam by a departing pilot who didn’t wish to take it home. Before actually giving it to me he told me there was an Army Special Forces advisor that could make better use of the shotgun that I could and he wound up giving the shotgun to him and he gave me an M2 Carbine instead.

My 70 plus year old Model 12 seems to operate more smoothly than my relatively new Model 1300. I’m not sure if that’s a difference in manufacturing and parts or simply the fact it is well broken in. I know it carries a lifetime of memories for me. I promised to tell you about the deer I killed with it. I’m sure the statute of limitations has long passed for this particular incident. I was squirrel hunting with a friend in the Holly Springs National Forest. Our mission for the day was to check out a squirrel dog he was thinking of purchasing. Well, the dog ran off and we heard a ruckus that didn’t sound so much like a tree’d squirrel as it did the dog fighting with something. We ran toward the noise and topped a hill to see the dog had a doe by the hind leg. Just as we got to where we could see what was happening, the deer shook her leg free and ran up the hill right toward me. I had my shotgun in my right hand and without really thinking about it I brought it up and shot the deer in the chest before she could run me over. She dropped in her tracks. My best guess now is the gun was loaded with number 7 ½ or number 8 High Velocity shells. I Without really discussing the legalities of the situation my buddy and I decided that deer meat would taste just as good as if had been shot in season. We took her to his barn and dressed her, splitting the meat between us. Fortunately, we already had some deer meat in the freezer at home that I could mix it with so my Dad wouldn’t be all over me about a deer shot out of season.

The Model 12 is a fine, reliable shotgun that is very much the equal of Remington’s 870 pump. Mine got replaced as my quail gun when I inherited my other grandfather’s Lefever 12 gauge double barrel, but I still used the Model 12 for squirrel, dove and the occasional duck. Oh, and skeet.