A Way to Win the Holster Battle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the Gun Range as a Spectator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Just Never Know

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

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

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

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

img_0155

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

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

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

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

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

October 12

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

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

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

Revisiting Handgun Caliber and Ammunition Choices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the semi-automatic charts:

.380 Ballistic Comparison

9mm Ballistic Comparison

40 S&W Ballistic Comparison

45 ACP Ballistic Comparison

357 Sig Ballistic Comparison

10 mm Ballistic Comparison

38 Special Ballistic Comparison

327 Magnum Ballistics Comparison

357 Magnum Ballistics Comparison

44 Special Ballistics Comparison

44 Magnum Ballistics Comparison

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

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

comparecharts

Series 70 versus Series 80

Among older 1911 guys you’ll sometimes hear discussions about Series 70 versus Series 80 firing pin systems. Just this week I’ve encountered two different YouTube videos in which the talking head on the video declared with absolute authority and no reservations the Series 70 system is “superior” to the Series 80. They both used that word – superior. So what the big deal about them and what’s the difference. I’ll simplify it because that’s not really the meat of this article, just a starting point. Modern semi-automatic handguns almost universally have a firing pin block that won’t allow the firing pin to strike the primer of a cartridge unless the trigger is pulled. That’s a good thing. Colt calls their 1911’s with that kind of system a Series 80.  Their earlier 1911’s used a different method to prevent the firing pin from striking the primer in the case of a dropped gun or something other than having the trigger pulled. Basically they utilize a firing pin that is made out of titanium or something that is really, really light such that inertia won’t make it go forward with enough force to activate a primer.

Why is that supposed to be better?  Simply said, fewer moving parts. But some swear they can feel the difference in the trigger. I can’t. At least I don’t think I can. But the other day when a bunch of Texas Gun Pros were trying out the new 9 mm Ruger SR1911 Commander, one of them made a comment about it being the best feeling Ruger he’d ever fired. That comment gave me an idea. Is there a difference? Can people tell if they don’t know what gun they’re shooting?  The Ruger, you see, has a series 70 firing pin system.

The next time we went to the range, I arranged a little informal test. I asked Richard Balestrieri, one of our License to Carry and NRA Instructors to shoot four guns that I was going to hand him in random order. Don’t pay attention to what brand of gun it is, just rack it and shoot until the magazine is empty. I then handed him four lightweight commander 1911s in this order:
1911 Target

  1. Colt LW Commander .45 ACP
  2. Ruger LW Commander .45 ACP
  3. Ruger LW Commander 9mm
  4. S&W  LW Commander .45 ACP

He shot 8 rounds with each pistol. The target was out approximately 10 feet, so it wasn’t a big challenge, but still I was impressed that there was very little difference in the accuracy of the guns. That’s the target over to the right. Thirty-two rounds from four different guns, all shot free-hand. I’m pretty sure the flyers weren’t all from the same gun, but were pretty random across the board.

 

The guns had different grips and I think that may have had some influence on how they felt. Four guns, not much difference in size or how they operate.

Four 1911 Commanders

I asked Richard for his impressions. The first thing he said was the third gun I handed him was a 9mm. Even though they were all loaded with ARX ammo, he said the recoil from the 9mm felt about 30% less to him than the other three guns. And he said he liked the way that gun shot the best.

“Okay,” I asked, “What was your second choice?”

“The second gun you gave me,” he said. Very interesting. That was the Ruger .45. The next favorite was the first gun, the Colt and least of all was the Smith & Wesson.

The Smith & Wesson is the most expensive of the four guns. In fact it cost almost twice what each of the Rugers cost. It’s got the scandium frame and pretty much lives up to it’s enhanced designation.. It’s a beautiful gun and very easy to carry because it’s so lightweight. I think I know why it wasn’t Richard’s second favorite. The grips. I have some very thin Rasco grips on that gun that don’t give you a lot to hold on to. I may put the original fish scale grips back on it.

The two guns that Richard favored, without any brand prejudice, because he didn’t know, were the two with a Series 70 firing pin system. Maybe I’ll should start paying attention to that to see if it makes any difference. I have closed my eyes and had a series 70 in one hand and a series 80 in the other and cocked them and pulled the trigger, dry-firing, over and over and I cannot tell the difference. I’d be surprised if anyone really could if they don’t know what they’re shooting.

One thing I do know, however. If I had included my Sig Emperor Scorpion 1911, he’d have picked that one as his favorite. I just know he would have.

Typical Gun Store Visit

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?”

Lady Buying a Gun“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.

Taurus 738“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.

Ruger 9mm 1911

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.

If you’re interested in my discovery back then, you can read about it here, but today I want to talk about the most recent Ruger 1911 and why I have decided to add it to my carry gun rotation on a regular basis.

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.

Ruger 9mm and 45ACP 1911sThe 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 res0rting 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.