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.
With all the interest in red dot sights these days, I thought I’d share with our readers my journey to learning about and using red dot sights on my handguns. It’s easy enough to get a red dot equipped handgun if money is no object. You can select a pistol with a slide drilled for mounting a red dot and spend $400–$500 to buy one of the recommended brands the pistol is set up for. But for those of us on a limited budget the process can be bit challenging. Even taking the first route, the available choices may leave you wondering which of the recommended brands is the best.
My first experience with a red dot sight was a Bushnell Trophy installed on a Bushmaster Carbon 15 AR I bought in 2011. I’ve done nothing to the sight but change the battery as part of a yearly periodic preventive maintenance schedule. The sight was zeroed in when the gun was new and hasn’t been adjusted since. It’s still right on target.
The second oldest red dot I own is a Pursuit TX30 R/G Dot installed on my Ruger Mark III Hunter. That sight is big for the pistol and I’ve considered replacing it with a much smaller sight such as the Kingwolfox 20mm Rail 4 Reticle Tactical Red/Green Dot Sight I found on Amazon for $32.
That $32 price for a multiple reticle red/green sight is not unusual for a red/green dot sight that mounts on a picatinny rail. In fact, I have a couple of sights that I purchased for $49 each from a company called My Crisis Gear in Allen, Texas. I don’t find a place to order them. They were apparently an email promotion for a time. But I have found similar products at similar pricing on Amazon.com. If you’ve been shopping for sights like Sig Sauer’s Romeo Zero, Trijicon’s RMR, Leupold’s Delta Point, JP Enterprises’ JPoint, C-More Systems STS’ and EOTech/Insight Technology’s MRDS, you’re probably used to prices in the $200–$500 range and you’re wondering if an under $50 sight could be useful.
While I can understand the argument that you shouldn’t trust your life to a $50 sight when good optics obviously cost a lot more, these sights are mounted on fun guns and they are fun. One of them is on an HK416 .22 AR style pistol and everyone who shoots it enjoys it. Even some in our family who aren’t really into guns and don’t shoot much enjoy it. These $50 sights have multiple reticles — crosshairs, a dot inside a ring, and a ring with crosshairs — which can be displayed in either red or green and in various levels of brightness varying from 3 MOA to 10 MOA. I mounted another of these to an S&W Victory .22 which we use for plinking and target practice. If they didn’t require a picatinny rail for mounting, I’d probably use them everywhere I wanted a red dot sight.
The dot in red dot optics is measured in MOA, or “minutes of angle” which is a unit for angular measurement of a circle. In a sight it refers to the size of the dot and how much it covers at a certain distance. The smallest dot currently available is 1 MOA. Most red dot sights are around 4 MOA which means the dot will cover 4 inches at 100 yards, 2 inches at 50 yards, and about an inch at 25 yards. Larger dot sizes are helpful for fast acquisition while smaller dot sizes are better suited for precision shooting. Red dot sights do not have magnification like a rifle scope, so the size of the dot represents the size of the area in which your shots should impact.
I recently visited with personnel from an optics company based in the community where I live. I asked personnel there why there was such a difference in prices on red dot products and was told most optics sold in the US are built in China using glass made in Japan. The quality and difference in price are based upon the quality of the glass, strength of the housing and features such as number of reticles, battery life, on/off switching, etc. The clarity of the dot is not generally a factor as all dots have a bit of fuzziness. The more expensive red or green sights should take more abuse and last longer, but don’t really have an advantage in the aiming department.
This visit occurred while I was trying to decide upon a sight to mount on a S&W Performance Center M&P C.O.R.E. pistol. This gun has a removable plate on the slide just ahead of the rear sight that is set up for mounting a red dot sight. The gun came with adapters for many common red dot sights. My local gun store had all the recommended sights in stock with prices ranging from $300 to just over $500. During several visits to the store, I eyeballed those optics but having experienced how well the $49 mail order optics were working and being on a rather tight firearms budget, I just couldn’t see springing that kind of money. One of the $49 sights wasn’t an option because it is designed to mount on a picatinny rail and that wasn’t one of the options for the M&P.
The company, Riton, gave me one of their X3 Tactix PRD pistol sights to try. This sight has a 3 MOA dot and mounts on the M&P using the RMR adapter. This sight features a 5000-hour battery Life, a lens coating that allows use with night vision devices, 4-hour auto shut off, 2 night vision settings and 10 brightness settings all at a price of $199. Mounting it on the M&P and zeroing it in was simple and I’ve been very pleased with the way the sight complements the pistol.
My next red dot sight adventure was with a Ruger-57. The Ruger-57 has predrilled optics mounting holes with mounts available at ShopRuger.com. One of the two mounts available fits the Burris® and Vortex® red dot sights and the other fits the Docter®, Meopta, EOTech® and Insight® Sights. Ruger offers the Viper® and Venom® red dot sights each at a price of $349. Money being no object it would have been a simple matter to have purchased one of these sights and the appropriate mount from Ruger. Money was an object, so I went to Amazon and found an Ade Advanced Optics RD3 Micro Mini Reflex Sight for $62. This sight uses the Venom® red dot footprint so it mounted perfectly to my Ruger-57. My grandson and I used my Firefield Red Laser Universal Boresight to align the red dot at home then took it to the range and enjoyed shooting targets out to 25 yards with amazing accuracy.
I’ve now shot enough with red dot sights that I’m confident in having a red dot sight on my EDC gun. The gun I chose for that purpose is the Sarsilmaz SAR9X, a very capable H&K VP9 knockoff. The SAR9X has predrilled optics mounting holes on the slide. Just as I was beginning my search for a red dot sight to use those holes without an adapter, a Riton X3 TACTIX MPRD arrived in my mailbox. I had requested one of these from Riton’s director of marketing almost two months prior when I met him at a writer’s event. I had almost forgotten about the request, but the timing was perfect. This sight bolted right to the SAR9X and according to my laser boresighter was aligned perfectly. One of the things I really like about the Riton is its auto-off feature. You can turn the sight on when you holster the pistol in the morning and leave it on. It will automatically turn off after 12 hours. The sight promises a 50,000-hour battery life.
In order to carry the SAR9X with the red dot sight on it I had to find a holster that would accommodate the sight. My favorite leather IWB holster was cut too high for the pistol to fit with the sight on it. A Crossbreed SuperTuck designed for a Sig Sauer P226 worked perfectly with just some minor trimming of the kydex.
There’s no question that drawing, aiming and shooting accurately with a pistol that has a red dot sight mounted on it is different. It requires some adjustments to your technique and a lot of practice. But with that practice will come better accuracy at distances that may have been a struggle for you with iron sights.
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.
Fifteen years ago when this old shotgun and revolver guy decided to jump into the concealed carry world, the first semi-automatic handgun I bought was a Taurus PT 24/7 Pro DS. The DS stands for double-strike, which I’ll elaborate on later in this post. Pro was in the name because the gun had been created to compete for selection by the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). It turns out the request for which Taurus and other manufacturers were competing was later shelved. Working toward that potentially lucrative contract, Taurus developed a gun with lots of features that made it attractive to the civilian personal defense and concealed carry market.
I didn’t know beans about semi-automatics in those days, but my friend Jerry Colliver did and this was the gun he recommended. It was a great choice. I used that PT 24/7 to qualify for the Texas Concealed Carry License, NRA Basic Pistol Instructor and Texas License to Carry Instructor License. When I got in the gun store business, I “upgraded” to something more expensive because I could. The lure of wholesale prices and “extra” income from selling guns set me on the trail of building a collection. The Taurus was forgotten—for a while.
Cost is a factor for many just entering the concealed carry world. I found myself recommending the Taurus PT-111 often. Then it went through a marketing challenge when there were claims of accidental discharges happening when the gun was dropped. A class action lawsuit was settled without Taurus admitting liability, but one of the results was a G2 version of the gun, a model which I’ve come to trust.
In 2012 S&W released the single-stack Shield, followed over the next few years by similar offerings from Springfield, Glock, Sig Sauer and others. These guns all cost $400–$500 and up with capacities in the 6-7 round range. Meanwhile the Taurus G2 was available for $200 with a 13-round capacity. I sold a ton of them and got one myself. It’s an easy carry gun with great reliability and accuracy.
I no longer conduct the License to Carry courses nor own a gun store, but I’m still in a position to let folks know about a good value in a firearm. Recently I reviewed two new offerings from Taurus for American Handgunner and GUNS Magazines. The first was the TX22, a really neat .22 that has operational features which make it a great practice tool for shooting a 9mm. I could shoot that gun all day. I’ve taken my grandson Josh and one of his friends shooting with the TX22, including shooting it with a sound suppressor added, and we all agree it’s a hoot to shoot. You can read the review here in American Handgunner Magazine.
I’m not sure when my stories on the new Taurus G3 will be published, but I wanted to let my blog readers know about this new $300 gun. It has all the features that made the PT 24/7 popular, several of them unique to the Taurus handguns. The grip has a palm swell that more or less forces your hand high on the grip frame. Indents that Taurus calls shelves are on both sides of the frame to align your trigger finger properly. And when your trigger finger is indexed as it should be when your you’re not on target ready to shoot, Taurus Memory Pads™ are there to facilitate finger placement. The texture on the grip helps provide an excellent hold, even with sweaty palms. All of this together makes the G3 a very comfortable gun to shoot. The PT Millennium G2 and the new G3 share the double-strike capability with their older brother the PT 24/7. What this means is when you pull the trigger, if for some reason the gun doesn’t fire, you can pull it again for a second chance. Actually, you can pull it again and again. These guns are constructed so the sear essentially rotates around an axis and is back, ready to fire again as the trigger is released. This happens whether or not the slide cycles as it does when a round is fired.
I’ve put quite a few rounds downrange with the new G3 and have encouraged others to shoot it as well. I’m so confident in it I’ve been carrying the G3 for three weeks now and will probably continue. Funny, how this almost takes me back to the roots of my concealed carry days! If you’re looking for an economical carry gun these Tauruses should be considered. They are hard not to like.
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.