Instructors are often asked to help a new shooter locate a personal carry or protection handgun. Many times the obvious choices are either too expensive or not available due to market conditions. Having been involved in this scenario many times I’ve discovered excellent choices a little off the beaten path. I look for quality that parallels that of brand name guns, but with prices under $400. One such handgun is selling at several of the major online retailers for $389. European American Armory (EAA) is known for importing quality handguns made in Italy, Germany and Turkey. Their import that most recently caught my eye, the Girsan MC28SA, is made in Turkey, which should be no surprise if you understand the number of quality imports from there.
Girsan is known for its quality line of 1911 handguns plus a few originals. This one garnered my attention while browsing EAA listings for affordable carry guns. It’s not an M&P clone, but it sure is a doppelganger in both appearance and function. The gun arrived in a plastic carrying case with two extra grip panels giving the shooter the option of small, medium and large grips plus a tool for swapping the grip panels. The one installed from the factory was the medium-sized one and it’s the one that fit my hand the best.
I was immediately impressed with how much the look and feel of the MC28SA matched that of Smith & Wesson’s original M&P, of which I have several. The trigger is different because the Girsan has the blade safety trigger and S&W handles that function a little differently, but the other controls closely match those of the S&W, as does the grip texture. The dimensions are the same, the weight is the same, features vary slightly. Girsan equipped their pistol with 3 dot sights, the rear one being a Novack style. Instead of the fish scale cocking serrations on the M&P, the Girsan has angled serrations at the back of the slide and abbreviated serrations at the front. Both guns feature an accessory rail for mounting a light, laser or combination.
Girsan takedown is accomplished by rotating a takedown lever on the left side of the gun 90 degrees. Then you must pull the trigger before you can move the slide forward off it’s rails. Smith & Wesson came up with what could only be a lawyers solution to avoid having to pull the trigger, but most of us had rather do it Glock style and pull the trigger rather than hassle with pulling out the extra tool and moving a hard to reach little lever inside the M&P to engage the seer without pulling the trigger. When you get the guns apart it looks like some of the parts, such as the barrel, could be interchangeable. I tried the magazine and found the M&P mag to be slightly thicker. Enough of this. We’re not going to be interchanging parts between the two guns, but I just wanted to make the point that anything you could use a S&W M&P for you could use this Girsan MC28 for and not be found wanting. The Girsan has one feature I really like that is not found on the M&P. That is a cocked indicator that extends through the back of the slide.
Several of us among my shooting buddies have shot it now and everyone is satisfied with it’s performance. My first shots consisted of a magazine filled with assorted practice and defensive ammo and all 15 shots grouped within a 4-inch circle from about 15 yards away. The trigger operates smoothly with a consistent 7 lb. pull and a nice reset. If you’re looking for a home defense or carry gun and don’t want to spend $600 or more for it, I have no hesitation in recommending the Girsan MC28SA.
Dr. Will Dabbs wrote an article for one of the FMG Publications about being a Gun Nerd. When I read that article, I realized I was indeed a Gun Nerd according to Will’s definition. I found myself wondering how that came about. My early life was punctuated with guns, but there was no big emphasis on them. If you were a kid in Mississippi, especially one with rural roots, guns were just part of your life. My first was a single-shot, hammer-fired, el cheapo .410 shotgun. It had been my father’s when he was a boy. He gave it to me the summer between my first and second grade school years and taught me to hunt squirrels with it. That was gun number one and I still have it.
Gun number two was acquired when I was eleven and in the fifth grade. Dad gave me his 16-gauge Winchester Model 12 because he rarely hunted and I hunted every chance I got, which was often since my uncles and cousins had bird dogs and hunted throughout the fall to put meat on the table. That gun had actually belonged to my Dad’s Dad. It was given to him as a gift from the men who worked for him when he retired from being the Director of the Mississippi Game & Fish Commission (now the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks).
Guns number three and four were acquired at the end of the summer of my 12th year. The Boy Scout camp where I had worked that year was selling some rifles off to make room for some new donated guns. I bought a Remington 514 .22 rifle for $4 and a Marlin 80 .22 rifle for $2. I still have all those guns, but I never thought of it as building a collection.
Gun five was a High Standard Double-Nine .22 revolver I bought from a Western Auto store when I was 15. I had a lot of fun with that gun but traded it for a stereo set. Later in life when I really was a collector, a friend helped me find a replacement, still in its box with a $54.95 price tag on it, though I paid something like $300 that time.
When my grandfather died I was given his Lefever double barrel 12 gauge shotgun. That became my quail gun. My high school and college job involved training show horses and bird dogs, so I used the Lefever a lot.
I joined the Army and shot their guns and flew their helicopters for a few years. Got married, raised a family, worked a number of jobs and never thought of guns until my sons reached their teenage years and wanted to hunt ducks and doves with their friends. We had two shotguns and two hunting age boys so it worked out.
My career had moved from being a corporate pilot to being a computer guy. As a computer guy I built websites. One of the websites I built was for a sporting goods mail order company whose owner realized the Internet would soon replace mail order. In addition to having a warehouse full of sporting goods, the company had a gun store. You had to go through the gun store to get to the bathrooms and snack bar. On my way through the store one day, a gun in the used gun display caught my eye. It looked like a buntline special but was a Ruger single-action revolver with a price tag of $300. I didn’t know much about gun prices and values, but that gun looked to me like it was worth way more than $300, so I bought it. Pure impulse buy. The salesman asked me if I knew the gun was a .357 Maximum. I didn’t know at the time what a .357 Maximum was, and I didn’t care. He told me I could shoot .357 Magnums or .38 Special in it and that was fine with me. After getting the gun home and doing a little research on it I discovered the gun was the subject of a recall by Ruger because of reported top strap burning. There was no burning on my gun’s top strap. As I researched further, I came to understand the .357 Maximum was developed for long-range steel plate shooting. The backstrap burning came from a few individuals shooting very hot handloads in order to get more performance. I decided then I would mostly shoot .357 Magnums in the gun, which had a 10.5″ barrel. Somewhere down the road a friend helped me cut the barrel down to a more manageable 6″ which was fine with me because I wasn’t going to be shooting steep plates at 1,000 yards.
The next gun was a Winchester Model 1300 shotgun because son number three was ready to hunt with his brothers. So far, I’m just a dad with three sons and with enough shotguns to hunt, two rifles that were never used and a revolver to protect the house.
Things sure changed after that. We were attending a rapidly growing church. The bigger it got, the more I started thinking about the crazy people around who like to shoot up schools and churches. My whole life I’ve known I was a protector, what we now call a sheep dog, though I was not to learn that term until later. I felt I should be armed when in church, or anywhere for that matter, because of all the crazies in the world. My wife and I talked it over and we decided to get our Concealed Handgun Licenses. Number three son decided he wanted to do it with us. After the class we were eating at a Mexican fast food joint when my son said, “Dad, you could teach that CHL class.” We had noticed earlier that the instructor for the class, who taught it in his home, had lots of toys in his garage — toys like a Corvette, a Harley, a big boat, Wave Runners, etc. I did a little math, estimating how many people were going to his class each week and paying him the $100 fee and decided, yes, I could teach that course.
Becoming a certified instructor in Texas involves first being a certified pistol instructor, either from the NRA or from the law enforcement route. With that in your pocket, there was a week long course presented by the Texas Department of Safety instructors which you must complete before becoming certified. I learned a lot in that course and the NRA course. I had to have a gun, so I bought one that was inexpensive, but reported to be good, a Taurus 24/7 DS Pro.
A buddy I knew from work, who was “into guns,” got his instructor rating and the two of us started teaching what was at that time the Texas Concealed Carry Course. We also taught the Texas Hunter Education Course. Business was good, so we rented a facility, hung up a sign and taught classes every weekend. Class attendees asked our opinions about guns so much I decided to get an FFL license. We converted the breakroom in our classroom facility into a small gun store. Before long, revenue from gun sales exceeded revenue from classes. We became a gun store with classes offered as a service.
As a gun store, we had five wholesale suppliers. I kept my regular job but taught classes in the evenings and weekends while my son managed the store. He hired people to help with the store and with instruction. Because I had a salary at my regular job and we had a good source of guns, I started paying myself for the time I spent instructing in guns. That’s when I really became a gun collecting Nerd.
My son and I each built up a good collection of guns, then came the Trump slump. Sales at our place went from a lot, to a little, to nothing. As sales and our ability to purchase inventory dwindled my son and I each put some of our guns into inventory in order to have money to pay our employees. When it became obvious the slump was going to continue for a while and we were out of resources we had to close the store.
Meanwhile, I was hooked on discovering and shooting new guns. The opportunity to continue that habit came about when I pitched an article to Roy Huntington, then editor of American Handgunner magazine, and he bought it. I submitted some more articles and before I knew it, I was a contributor to both American Handgunner and GUNS magazines, along with their special editions. Not only were checks coming in from writing, but many of the guns I was writing about were offered to the writers at a special writer’s price. Some of them a real special price, like free. I still make some money teaching what is now called the Texas License to Carry course since Texas went to an open carry state a few years back. I have sent some of the Test and Evaluation guns back, but not many. I love learning about new guns, shooting and sometimes carrying new guns and building an inheritance for my wife, my three sons and their wives and seven grandchildren. When I’m gone, they may sell them off to provide for mama and if they have to do that, I’m all right with it, but I really hope they can sit around the safes and choose, one for you, one for you, one for you and after they’ve gone around the first time they should be able to do it at least ten more times and if I am able to continue to write and teach for a few years, maybe a lot more than ten times. Being a Gun Nerd is fun. Thanks, Will, for defining it and thanks, Roy, for helping me become a gunwriter Gun Nerd.
Most of us know Stoeger as a shotgun company, but my first semi-automatic handgun was a Stoeger. That one was a Beretta-designed Cougar which is no longer in the catalog. The only handguns listed are several models of the STR-9 and the STR-9 Compact while it seems like hundreds of shotgun models are listed. Stoeger also makes air guns, some of which are quite sophisticated. That doesn’t mean Stoeger doesn’t know how to make a good pistol. They do.
When re-entering the handgun market, it seems the company felt opportunities existed within the concealed carry and home defense markets for a capable but affordable pistol. First came the full-size STR-9 models and now the compact model. The compact model has a 3.8″ barrel compared to the 4.17″ full-size barrel. The overall length is shortened by just a hair over half an inch. The compact carries 13+1 rounds where allowed. Ten round magazines are available for people who live in places where magazine capacity is limited. Total weight of the gun is 24.5 oz. The frame is constructed of fiberglass reinforced technopolymer, designed to be light but strong and durable.
Stoeger put all the features into the STR-9C you would expect to find in a carry or home defense gun. I always like to read the manufacturer’s description of a gun before I start writing about it. Stoeger starts off by describing the design as snag-free and low profile. I get the snag-free. The top of the slide is rounded, and the front is scalloped for easy holstering and to prevent garment snags. Low profile is one of those subjective descriptions that originated in the shotgun world to describe the total height of the action. Okay, Stoeger has its roots as a shotgun company, so I looked at the total height of the STR-9C’s action compared to other handguns I have around. Although I found one or two slightly higher, I found none lower. The pistol sits low in the hand because its design allows for a high grip with your hands.
The sights have large white dots, one in front and two to the rear and are made of steel and dovetailed into the slide. They are drift adjustable and can be exchanged with night sights if desired. Rather large cocking serrations both front and rear help with slide manipulation. The slide lock lever is big enough to do the job without getting in the way. I’m not one who uses the slide lock to release the slide into battery, but I do like the way this slide lock lever is easy to manipulate into the locked position when the slide is fully retracted. The magazine release has ridges that help with thumb positioning and can be swapped to the right side for lefties. The trigger guard is large enough for gloved operation, squared off in front and with a high undercut at the back to facilitate a high grip on the frame. Up front ahead of the trigger guard, the Picatinny rail has three notches plus extra room for mounting lights or lasers.
The trigger and takedown buttons look as if they were transplanted from a Glock with a blade trigger safety which seems to be the defacto standard these days. Trigger manipulation is very solid with very little take-up and a crisp break. When I first got the gun, my Lyman trigger pull gauge consistently put it at 7 lbs. After shooting a hundred rounds or so, the trigger now breaks at 5 lbs. If you shoot the gun, you’re going to like the trigger. Stoeger STR pistols have a striker blocking device that prevents forward movement of the striker/firing pin unless the trigger is completely pulled. One more safety mechanism disconnects the trigger bar when the slide is out of battery. This is meant to ensure the pistol cannot fire unless the slide is fully forward and the trigger is pulled.
A loaded chamber indicator protrudes from the top surface of the slide when a round is in the chamber. This gives both a visual and tactile indication there is a cartridge in the chamber. The trigger guard is undercut considerably which helps make the shorter 13-round grip easy to get your full hand on. Everything about the gun feels good to me, and it shoots just as well. The backstrap is replaceable, although the package I have only has one backstrap. The magazine loads easily, yet the spring is obviously strong enough to feed rounds properly.
Stoeger makes the gun affordable by offering different configurations. For example, the package I got has only one magazine and one backstrap. The MSRP is $329, but I see it priced at multiple locations for $299. The all-up model with three magazines, three backstraps and Tritium sights has an MSRP of $449. That one can be bought for less than $400, and I would put it up as far as performance and reliability against handguns costing twice as much.
As I write this, the world is experiencing an ammo shortage, especially in 9mm. In the midst of this, Hornady provided me with an ample supply of their new Handgun Hunter ammo for testing, and I was fortunate in locating three different types of new ammo from Norma plus some defensive ammo from a new company in Florida — Pilgrim Ammunition. That left me with enough ammo to put the STR-9C through its paces, and I certainly enjoyed doing so. I shared the shooting experience with my grandson Josh and with several people we met at the range. Initially the sights were off, so the shots were impacting slightly to the left of the point of aim. Tapping the rear sight to the left solved that issue. Groups were tight all the way out to 15 yards. I shot the gun clean and I shot it dirty. It doesn’t like dirty, with the issue being not going into battery. A bump with the heal of my hand on the rear of the slide solved that issue on a temporary basis, but a good cleaning solved it permanently. After cleaning the gun, I shot numerous rounds of different brands to make sure that was the issue and there were no more failures of any kind. I put enough rounds through the gun to insure my confidence in it as a carry gun.
I found carrying the STR-9C easy in both my Bullard IWB leather holster originally built for a P226 and in the Bianchi Foldaway Belt Slide holster. It’s a nice carry size and with 13+1 rounds on board, it’s an easy match for my Mossberg M2C2 which has become my regular carry gun in recent months. Who’d have thought a couple of years ago that two of the most practical concealed carry pistols today would be made by traditional shotgun companies?
One of the things I appreciate about the Stoeger, that is also true of the Mossberg, is how well it’s made. The fit is tight. The finish is flawless; the grip, trigger and sights are of the quality of a good trap or skeet gun. Because of my role as an instructor, I’m often asked to recommend a handgun for people for whom it’s a stretch to come up with any money for a gun but they feel the need to own and perhaps carry one. Because of my hands-on with this gun, the STR-9C has just been added to my list of recommendations.
Several years ago, Sig Sauer had a .22 pistol called the Mosquito in its product line. The Mosquito was very similar in appearance and operation to the P226. Sig no longer produces the Mosquito, choosing instead to concentrate on the Law Enforcement and Personal Protection markets. However; the enjoyment found in shooting the Mosquito is not lost as German Sports Guns and American Tactical, Inc. have brought it back. GSG’s relationship with Sig involves creating realistic licensed air gun replicas of several Sig Sauer pistols, including the P226. After working with Sig on the specs, GSG developed a Mosquito knock-off called the FireFly. Still an insect, but with a little more spark. American Tactical, Inc. imports the FireFly with several color schemes, with and without threaded barrel and with an optional Bridgemounted Duosight Red/Green Dot sight.
I’m a sucker for .22 pistols, especially ones that emulate my centerfire pistols. Lots of cheap shooting helps me maintain my proficiency, plus it’s just plain fun to go plinkin’ with a .22. Right now anything that qualifies as a handgun is scarce, but I was able to get my hands on a tan, non-threaded barrel version of the FireFly. In normal times the other colors available are: black, green, pink and purple. I probably would have chosen tan regardless of the other colors being available.
The FireFly has an alloy-frame with an integrated accessory rail. The slide features adjustable sights, cocking serrations and a slide mounted ambidextrous thumb safety. The three-dot sights look like Trijicon night sights, but they don’t glow in the dark. The frame has a fixed barrel that operates with a blowback system. It also has an ergonomic grip that feels excellent in my medium-sized hands. Like the Sig P226 it emulates, the FireFly is a DA/SA hammer-fired pistol with a decocking lever. It is equipped with a magazine safety which means with a magazine removed the trigger won’t operate. The single-action trigger pull is slightly over 8 lbs. and the double-action pull a little over 12 lbs. There’s a clean break for either one. There’s almost no slack before the double-action trigger is engaged and the stacking distance works out to about .5″. The single-action trigger moves almost .5″ before engaging but the break is immediate. None of this is out-of-line for a .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol. The FireFly is a 95% scale of the P226 but weighs considerably less — 24.6 oz. compared to the P226’s 34.4 oz. The alloy frame overmolded with polymer makes the difference.
The key to making this gun run is choosing the right ammo. The printed manual that came with my sample gun only warned about using good factory ammo and did not mention the two recoil springs that shipped with the gun. Having had previous experience with the Sig Mosquito, I knew there had to be more to it. I went to the ATI website (americantactical.us) and located the FireFly manual that was online and it included the following information, obviously translated from German:
According to updated knowledge of modern gun manufacturing for caliber .22. We have therefore decided to make an adjustment to the loads that have priority for use with the FireFly, which are the two major groups, utility and high-speed rounds. So to increase the round compatibility, we provide two slide springs for every pistol. The bigger bored version is designed for high-speed loads and is fitted in the pistol with delivery. The simple coiled smaller spring (marked white) is for standard loads and is supplied with the pistol. Tip: It has been proven that many types of utility rounds function more smoothly if the rounds are lightly oiled.
Take a tip from this old gunwriter and longtime shooter of .22s. Stick with the recoil spring that was in the gun when you got it (should be the larger one) and shoot only high-velocity ammo (1200 fps and above) and you’ll have a grand time with the FireFly. High velocity ammo is as easy to find and generally cost no more than standard. My favorites are Aguila Super Extra HPs, Blazer 22 Long Rifle, CCI Stingers, CCI Mini-Mag High Velocity, Eley High Velocity Hollow Points, Federal Game Shok, Federal Premium HV Match, Remington Yellow Jackets, Remington Golden Bullets and Winchester Super X High Velocity. I was having so much fun shooting the FireFly I tried all of these and had zero issues with feeding and ejecting ammo.
Disassembling the FireFly for cleaning is simple, but not like a centerfire handgun. Remove the magazine and lock the slide back. Rotate the takedown lever on the left side of the slide 180 degrees. Pull the slide back slightly and lift the back of it before pushing the slide forward off the barrel. Be careful to remove the recoil spring and guide rod so you can get them in the right place before reassembly. After cleaning and oiling make sure the guide rod and spring are seated then reinstall the slide. The slide needs to be in the forward position before rotating the takedown lever back to its operating position.
The FireFly can provide hours of enjoyment, whether popping aluminum cans or putting holes in paper. I didn’t do any accuracy comparisons between different rounds as I was mostly checking to see if there were any high velocity rounds that didn’t work in the gun. I didn’t find any. My shots pretty much went where I wanted them to, but I was shooting at close ranges, typically ten yards.
I haven’t found anything not to like about the Firefly and at an MSRP of $349 for the base model, you’re likely to find them priced around or just under $300 when supplies are once again available. I think you would enjoy the FireFly and certainly get a lot of utility out of it you own or plan to own a Sig Sauer P226 or P229 pistol.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
For 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.
When 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?
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.
A young lady comes into the gun store alone and timidly approaches the counter. “I want to buy a gun,” she says to the salesman who approaches her.
“What kind of gun, ma’am? Shotgun, rifle, handgun”
“A pistol,” she replies. “A Glock, the little one, I think it’s a 42 or something . . .”
The fact that her voice trails off signals the salesman he needs to ask some questions. “A Glock, that’s what you want? Do you know why that’s what you want?”
“Well, my brother-in-law is a policeman and that’s what he carries.”
“Oh,” our helpful salesman replies. “What does he drive?”
“You mean his police car?”
“That’s probably a Dodge Charger, would be my guess. No, what’s his personal car?
“I think it’s a Toyota . . . maybe a Camry?” She’s not sure, but the salesman has the information he needs to help her with her gun purchase.
“Is that what you drive?” he asks her.
“No, I drive a Lexus coupe. You know the IS 250?”
“Nice car,” our salesman replies, then challenges our new gun buyer. Now remember, he could have turned around, picked up a Glock 43 and he would have had a sale. I’d would have been proud of him for making a sale, because we sure need to make sales, but I’m more proud of him for what he did next.
“If you don’t drive the same kind, or even brand of car, your brother-in-law drives, could it be possible you may prefer a different kind of gun than the kind he uses?”
“Well, I’ve always heard that Glocks are good guns,” she says, just a little defensively.
“They are,” our salesman replies as he puts a Glock 19 in her hands. “But so are Smith & Wesson, Sig Sauer, CZ, Beretta, Bersa, Springfield and lots of other brands.” As he says this, he gestures to the counter where various 9mm handguns are on display. “Why don’t you pick up some of these, see how they fit your hand. See how they feel when you cycle the slide. Try the trigger. You may find the Glock is the one you like best, but you may find others you like better.
“Oh, I like this,” she says, heading away from the 9’s and over to a pink Taurus 738. “And it fits in my hands so well and I could hide it easily . . . ” and on and on with the arguments that sound so right for picking a self-defense handgun, especially for a small-framed woman, but which in reality aren’t really right.
“It’s a pretty gun,” our salesman agrees, then asks her, “What is your primary purpose for buying a gun today?”
“Self defense,” she replies. “I want some protection the way society is going today.”
We had a sure sale with the Glock 43. The Taurus cost less than the Glock and it’s pink so it could easily be a sale right now.
BUT . . . is this the right gun for the lady. Probably not. Our professionals will hopefully coach her a little by explaining in terms that you don’t have to be a gun guru to understand about how bigger is better when it comes to protection . . . bigger bullets . . . a bigger gun to hold onto . . . more weight to absorb recoil . . . and perhaps encourage her to get a little training and some range experience before plunking down her dollars. Is this a lost sale for our gun store? I hope not. I hope it’s just a delayed sale. Or if she really wants to get a gun today, I’ll bet my guys can steer her into something that feels good in her hands, she can manipulate all the features on and would provide some decent firepower for her protection.
What someone’s brother-in-law, brother, boyfriend, father, husband . . . whatever . . . would choose for a gun is not necessarily the right gun for you to choose, whether you’re a man or a woman. A handgun is a personal thing and there are lots of very fine handguns from which to choose. A little research, a little time at the gun store or at the firing range and some bonding should go into picking your perfect packing gun. And if you don’t get it right the first time, you’ll have gained some experience to help you make a better choice the second time.
Some of you long-time readers may remember my 1911 love affair began with a Ruger. It was the original .45 ACP all steel commander-sized Ruger that caused me to totally re-evaluate my understanding of the 1911 platform. Prior to having that particular pistol in my hands, I just didn’t understand why the 1911 continued to be so popular when there are so many excellent newer designs available.
Even though I’m a firm believer in the .45 ACP cartridge for personal defense, arthritis is taking it’s toll on my hands and shoulders to the point I carry a 9mm about a third of the time. Continuing developments in 9mm ammo make me more comfortable with the 9mm’s ability to get the job done.
The Ruger 1911 LW CMD has been one of my favorites. When Ruger announced they were coming out with a 9mm version of that handgun, I put my name on the waiting list because I knew it would be popular and that I should evaluate one for the benefit of my students.
I bought the first one that came into our shop and the other two sold almost immediately. We ordered more as soon as we could.
It came with black rubber grips. Those didn’t appeal to me, but I’ve got a drawer full of 1911 grips (try Amazon.com) so I swapped out the grips. That’s the 9mm at the top in the picture. The one on the bottom is my .45 ACP LW model. As you can see, they changed the color scheme slightly, but everything else looks pretty much the same. The trigger is the same, the sights are the same. The cocking serrations are slightly different, but other than that, it’s really hard to tell the difference.
Some things I noticed when holding the gun and checking it out: 1) it is easier to rack the slide on this gun compared to my other 1911s and most of the double-stack 9mms I have. 2) it has some side-to-side motion in the slide that I thought might affect accuracy. It doesn’t. 3) it was very difficult for me to load rounds into the magazine. So difficult, I couldn’t do it with out resorting to my UpLULA.
Today, after our License to Carry class had finished shooting and we were packing up to go back to the shop I told my instructors I had 4 magazines loaded. Some were loaded with ARX and some were loaded with 124 Grain Gold Dot JHP. That’s the heavy end of the spectrum and the light end of the spectrum as far as 9mm rounds go. We hung a target and pushed it downrange approximately ten feet.
I shot the first magazine, resulting in 10 shots (I had one in the chamber) in pretty much the same hole. The target was approximately 10 feet away. Each of the instructors at the range with me picked a different aiming spot and emptied a magazine with the same results, one ragged hole. The gun did not care if it was 80 grain ARX rounds or 124 Grain Gold Dot HP rounds. It handled them all the same.
The three guys who didn’t own the gun, each placed an order.
Here’s what I know about the magazines. I don’t think Ruger has made the wisest choice in selecting who makes their magazines. They work, but they don’t load well and in my .45 Ruger 1911, I can’t make the slide go forward with an empty Ruger magazine in it. I told their product manager about it and he didn’t seem to think it was an issue to be concerned about (meaning, probably they have a contract and are committed). I solved that problem by buying some Colt magazines to use with the Ruger. In the .45 platform they hold an extra round even with the flush base-plate, so they have become my go-to source for .45 ACP 1911 magazines. The Colts work in everything.
When I discovered the loading issue with the 9mm magazines, I ordered to 9mm Colt magazines. They’re easy to load. When we shot today, we shot with two of the Ruger magazines and two Colt magazines. As far as shooting goes, the gun didn’t care. They all worked the same. It’s just that the Colt magazines are much easier to load.
The shooting experience was pleasant. One of my instructors who previously didn’t like the Ruger 1911s (he’s a Springfield guy) said this one shoots much better in his opinion.
I believe this is going to be a mainstay. I know mine will be on my belt often.
I have long been an advocate of carrying a gun that holds more than five or six rounds and in a caliber that everyone agrees would do some damage. When I speak on this subject it’s from more than just a personal preference but from the point of view of an instructor who has some personal experience, but who has also thrown his life into studying everything he could get his hands on. Often, I’m simply ignored. “The guy at the gun store told me this would be enough gun,” seems to be the common response. I sure hope the guys at MY gun store didn’t tell you that!
I decided to aggregate in one place some of the incidents that have shaped my thinking so that my readers can understand it’s not just me that’s saying it. Let’s look at some real-life incidents and see what conclusions can be drawn from them
August 25, 2008, Officer Tim Grammis of the Skokie, IL Police Department found himself engaged in a firefight with a fleeing bank robber, who did not want to go back to prison. In the ensuing gun battle, Officer Grammis emptied two magazines of .45 ACP from his Glock 21 at the robber and was on his third when the robber, Raymond Maddox, stopped shooting. Reconstruction of the episode revealed that 54 rounds had been fired during the incident, 33 from Officer Grammis. Autopsy results revealed that 17 of Grammis’ 230 Grain Speer Gold Dot Jacketed Hollow Points had struck Maddox. Some had struck extremities but Maddox had also been hit in one kidney, both lungs and his heart. The last three rounds that Grammis fired had hit Maddox in the head, but two were in the face. Only the last had pierced his brain and ended the fight. Arguments that he was on drugs and that’s why he didn’t succumb easily when shot were nullified when autopsy results revealed he was totally drug-free at the time of the incident. You may deduce from this incident that if even the big gun wouldn’t stop this guy, why carry one? I would argue differently. My thoughts on it are if it’s this hard to stop somebody, I need to start with something that might have chance instead of something that would just irritate him.
Tammy Sexton, age 47, was shot in the head with a .380 by her estranged husband. The bullet struck her square in the forehead and exited the back of her head. Sheriff Mike Byrd of Jackson County, MS said, “When a sheriff’s deputy responding to a disturbance call arrived, she met him at the door holding a rag on her head and talking. She was conscious, but she was confused about what had happened,” he said. “She had made herself some tea and offered the officer something to drink.” Byrd said the bullet passed through the lobes of the woman’s brain without causing major damage.
January 8, 2013 – Melinda Herman was working at home when a man began to ring the doorbell. She called her husband at work, who told her to gather their 9-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, and go hide. All three of them went to an upstairs crawl space, and Melinda brought along a .38 caliber handgun to the hiding place.
The man broke into the house and rummaged around before making his way to the crawl space, where he found the mother and children hiding. Melinda shot the intruder five times, hitting him in the face and neck. She told the man if he moved she would shoot him again, although she had run out of bullets. The intruder, who police identified as 32-year-old Paul Slater, managed to get to his car and as he tried to flee, crashed into a tree. That’s five times in the face, folks, and now the gun is empty, but the guy is still on his feet!
October of 1997 – Jacksonville, Florida officer Pete Soulis made contact with a suspicious driver, Joseph McGrotha, at a gas station. McGrotha produced a 9mm handgun, firing one round into Soulis’ chest (it was stopped by his armor). Before it was over Soulis was shot three more times while shooting McGrotha 22 times, 17 of which were described as “center mass.” It would take McGrotha as long as 4 minutes to die after the last shot was fired. Officer Soulis service weapon was chambered in .40 S&W, Winchester Ranger SXT rounds.
I’ve been aware of various studies about what happens in real-life scenarios, including the one by Tom Givens of Rangemaster Training in Memphis, who has been able to track graduates who have been involved in shootings over a twenty-five year period and whose findings I’ve quoted in some of my training. The results of Tom’s research indicate that encounters involving firearms are usually 3 shots within 3 seconds from 3 yards or less, with the success rate from pocket guns being something like 50%, meaning the good guy lost about 50% of the time. Not very good odds in my book.
I recently came across another study conducted in central Texas by Karl Rein of KR Training in which he put students to the test with pocket guns and with medium to full-size guns. It’s an interesting study that you can read about here at usconcealedcarry.com/is-a-pocket-gun-enough. If you don’t have the time or inclination to read it, here is his conclusions:
Data analysis indicates that a five-shot .38 probably holds enough ammunition to handle 70 percent of all likely situations. In the hands of a “low skill” shooter (anyone lacking training beyond the CHL level), the odds of getting acceptable hits are poor; that group averaged 57 percent on the test. When those two probabilities are multiplied to calculate total probability, the result is 40 percent, which isn’t great, but is better than 0 percent (no gun).
What’s interesting to me is that the majority of the comments following Karl’s article are justifying anything from .32 to .380 to .38 caliber guns and basically telling him his research is full of it.
I want my loved ones, my students and myself to have a much better success ration than 40% if we’re ever involved in an armed encounter where we are fighting for our life. For this reason, I do my best to teach people to shoot and carry handguns that are at least 9mm with 10-12 rounds of ammo or more. Keep that pocket gun around as a backup for when you’ve run your fighting gun dry.
The Taurus PT111 is just one of many choices for a decent-sized, affordable carry gun in a caliber (9mm) and with a capacity (13 rounds) that should provide adequate protection in almost any civilian armed encounter imaginable. If you’d put this gun up side-by-side with most of the popular pocket guns you’d have a hard time making the argument that you could carry one, but not the other.