Sunday, June 2, 2019

The Hunt for 10mm - Why is REAL 10mm so hard to find? It actually isn't.

10mm Automatic is a wonderful little cartridge with an interesting past. I finally found my way into 10mm but sadly, 10mm's history can make it difficult to find what I would have called proper ammunition. By proper, I mean the ammunition has the bullet weight and velocity to match it's legend and philosophy; a powerful round in excess of 500 ft-lbs of muzzle energy.

Generally speaking, 10mm Automatic is believed to come in two flavors; FBI (or watered down) and Norma (or full power) levels. This comes from 10mm's lovely past where Norma developed the cartridge from Jeff Cooper and friend's idea and the FBI adopting the cartridge but eventually watering it down leading to what ultimately became the 40 S&W.

In my search for ammo, I've found really three different levels but both are broken down into those two categories. Here's the breakdown. Please note that this applies to FMJ/ball only. You can find plenty of 650 to 700 ft lbs in HP/defensive rounds. We're looking for affordable "range ammo."

You have loads from companies like American Eagle, Winchester, PMC, CCI's Blazer and Atlanta Arms who have offerings that reportedly run in the 1000+ fps range with a 180 to 200 grain projectile. This tends to be considered on the weaker end but may actually be closer to what Jeff Cooper was originally looking for (speculation). Then you have the middle ground of 180 grains moving around 1100+ fps. Personally, I would have thought that these offerings are closer to true 10mm but they still seem to be on the lower end of the 10mm hype train. You'll find MagTech, Remington and S&B operate around this level. Typically, I go with the S&B for cost and availability reasons. Interestingly, I have found only one big name company making ammo that I would consider operating close to the Norma levels of 200 gr at 1200 fps or 170 gr at 1300 fps. SIG's Elite Performance FMJs are reportedly running at around 1250 fps with a 180 gr FMJs (this is over 600 ft lbs of energy if true).  I have yet to find any other factory ammo readily available at or above this level that isn't self defense/boutique ammo.

Update: Underwood makes a line they call 'Range Supply' that is very similar to SIG's offering with a 180 gr @ 1250 fps and at a very similar price.

With all these offerings I wondered what Jeff Cooper's original idea of what 10mm was supposed to be. I went looking.

The problem here is finding the right information. I have seen some places say a 200 grain bullet moving at 1000 fps which is fairly slow. I've seen some claim 1200 fps which feels more like what it should be for 10mm's legendary status. Ultimately, I will need to find statements from Jeff Cooper and friends on this.

Personally, I'm currently at the opinion that the SIG Elite Performance is the closest we'll get to what Norma was producing back in the 1980's. Despite this, for cost reasons, I am running the S&B SB10A load when I find it for under $0.33 per round.

The interesting thing is that the lower end loads are nothing to scoff at. Even at 1050 fps, a 180 gr round is still in the 400 ft-lbs ME range. This is still more powerful than your average 9mm or 45 ACP loads from a 5 inch barrel. I would be willing to use this for personal defense from a two-legged critter any day if I had to.

That last idea plus the fact that you can run self defense rounds that push into the 700 ft-lbs range makes the 10mm Auto a versatile cartridge. Suitable for personal defense in the city or woods, more than capable of being used for hunting game, 10mm Automatic can run choice ammunition in the same gun for different missions. I have so much more to learn from this cartridge.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Why Firearms is an Awful Hobby - RIP My Wallet

For around 10 years now, I have been purchasing firearms for a variety of reasons but mostly for fun and interest. Most of the weapons I have acquired filled a roll or purpose. The wide variety of firearms comes from the wide variety of rolls I want my guns to fill. I have guns I prefer to hike with and I have guns I prefer for static home defense. Some of my guns are for hunting and some are for showing off (think BBQ gun). I also have guns that are specific to everyday, personal defense and even those guns come in a variety of configurations. Just within my EDC rotation there are at least three pistols of differing configurations that I can choose from based on what I'm doing that day, or moment, and how I'm dressed or where I'm going; I literally pick my carry gun like some folks pick their shoes.

Having spent the last few years developing the setup for the guns I tend to carry, I have learned that buying a new gun is a giant pain in the rear.

When you look at all the guns that have my preferred setup, they all have the same extra parts; a weapon light, tritium sights, extra magazines, high quality hollow point ammunition, a decent number of FMJ rounds for practice and a good holster typically made from some molded thermoplastic (like KYDEX) or sometimes leather.

This is where buying a new gun becomes a problem. Some people like the phrase 'buy once, cry once' but the reality is that you don't just buy once. You'll end up spend probably an additional $5-600 or more on the accessories to bring that new gun up to your current specification. This may not even include milling the slide to make it more comfortable for carry or the addition of an MRDS or refinishing for style (Cerakote).

Most pistol ammunition that isn't 9mm typically runs over $15 for 50 rounds and it's not unusual for it to run around $20 for more obscure rounds. I've been looking at 10mm automatic lately and the cost is nowhere close to the cost of 9mm and $0.30 on the low end. I have some pistol calibers that you're looking at best $0.45 per round for low end; compare that to 9mm's $0.20 per round. Add any range time and you'll go through those rounds requiring a resupply. This will always be a recurring cost.

Magazines can run you anywhere between $20 and up. I have some CZ magazines that push the $75 mark with the extra base plate extensions. H&K pistol magazines can be pretty hellacious but STI magazines go for way more pushing into the $100+ range for a single magazine. Your new handgun could easily cost you an extra $150 for just 2 to 4 magazines and you should have at least two extra. I recommend at a minimum of five total per magazine pattern.

A weapon light is a must for any pistol of mine that has any serious use. There is very limited exceptions to this rule such as a micro compact or revolver of any size but if I can put a light on it, I do. This adds a significant layer of complexity to a situation as holsters now become extremely limited on the commercial market. More obscure firearms, such as my IWI Jericho in .45 ACP, already suffer from limited commercial support for holsters. Add something such as a Streamlight TLR3 or other obscure light and now you have a combination that requires a custom made holster. Weapon lights are already expensive and some a even more so; see Streamlight vs Surefire.

Holsters can also be fairly expensive as well. Sure, low money Uncle Mike's holsters can be had for cheap but a properly fitting IWB holster can run you around $85 depending on extras. Safariland leg drop holsters regularly run into the $200. Years ago I heard that I would end up with a dresser drawer full of holsters. They were almost correct, I have a Tupperware tub full not a dresser drawer. I remember when my go to holster was the FOBUS paddle holster. Now I run IWB and OWB holsters from companies like Vedder, Gearcraft and KT-MECH with the occasional name brand leather holster. Your tastes will change as you gain more experience.

Good high quality sights are a must too. While three dot, white sights are fine for range use I don't feel comfortable with them on a carry gun. Add an additional $115 for Trijicon HD sights. I used to run Tru-Glo TFX Pro's (and still recommend them) but I've since made the switch to Trijicon.

Basically, buying a new gun and bringing up to speed when you're at my level can daunting and aggravating but most importantly annoyingly expensive and I don't add parts like threaded barrels or MRDS to all my guns. I feel bad for the guys that do that on all their pistols.

Long guns are the same way; magazines, lights, scopes, slings, ammo suppressors and other goods. I try to stay away from long guns but it still happens.

Either way, if you're looking at starting a collection or interested in buying, know that you'd better do it out of love or need because it's going to get expensive, fast. Try not get hooked.

My name is Ian and I like to buy guns.

PS - Don't forget to buy a good safe. Proper storage is a must not some AmazonBasics cheap-o deal. A real safe like from Liberty Safe (not sponsored by Liberty Safes - I would tell you up front if I were).

Friday, April 26, 2019

The Ultimate Concealed Carry Handgun - How the Glock 48 was Almost the Winner but it's Almost SIG's to Take

I've been carrying a handgun for around a decade now. I am not the go-to guy for Internet advice, I'm not cop or veteran. I am a civilian with an interest in guns but I have a theory that Glock was almost the winner in 2019 of what I would have considered the ultimate concealed carry handgun, how the market missed that Springfield Armory was the winner back in 2014 and how the SIG P365 has the potential to be the greatest concealed carry handgun of all time. Too bad for Springfield Armory that everyone missed it but maybe SIG will capture the crown. SIG sure has the design.

To start us off, I used to have two handguns in daily rotation. One was a full size 1911 and the other a Glock 26 with the Glock 26 as a backup gun. Before those two, I had a Springfield Armory XD-40 Service which was apocalyptically awful to carry due to it's size/bulk. Incidentally, it suffered from what I now call Glock's X syndrome; short slide with a long grip. After the 1911 and 26, I carried a Walther PPQ that I still think was a great choice but I quickly moved on in favor of the CZ P01 for my love of exposed hammers. The CZ P01 was and still is a primary choice in my daily stable for the last several years but the Smith and Wesson M&P Shield has captured the roll as my primary concealed carry handgun for it's ease and comfort of carry.

Now that you have a very brief overview of my path of carry-hood, understand that I have spent many hours and nights over the last decade (mostly over quiet night shifts and drives home) considering what I would call the Ultimate Carry Handgun.

Around 4 years ago I started to refine what idea that the best carry handgun was. I ended up with that a short grip and a longer barrel and slide were definitely key features. This idea started life as a Glock 26 grip with a Glock 17 slide. The basis of this idea building on my experience where I found my full size 1911 wasn't too long but the 'modular' grip of something like the Glock 26 was better to carry and more versatile in regards to how you dress. Later on, I would modify this concept on my reflection of my time with the 1911 in the IWB carry method. I found it was just a bit too long and reducing the barrel length to around 4 inches was better suited to IWB carry. I initially hadn't considered that I was used to carrying the 1911 OWB. While the 1911 has fantastic dimensions in the width and grip, the 5 inch barrel was just simply too much for even 6ft 2in me to carry IWB and sit comfortably without putting pressure on the muzzle. Note that walking/standing wasn't an issue but sitting is and I take that into consideration.

It wasn't until later, after I switched to the CZ P01, that I would fully realize that around a barrel length around 4 inches really is what I consider the optimum barrel length for my version of the ultimate concealed carry handgun, if not just for taller folks like myself.  The CZ P01 and similar compact firearms to the Glock 19 really, truly are fantastic overall guns for the average citizen but they lack the modularity they need to bring them in the realm of my idea of the ultimate concealed carry handgun. If we consider this idea, effectively the ultimate carry handgun would be an amalgamation of the Glock 26 with a Glock 19 size slide. A Glock 26 Long Slide or hybrid if you will, but I have since reconsidered this idea. I now include width in the requirements and I will explain below.

Moving onto specifics, I hypothesize that the ultimate concealed carry handgun should have the shorter/truncated two, average-sized, finger grip and have an option to use an extension on the magazine that adds an extra finger rung should the person want to carry a nominal round count. This design feature allows the user to choose between a shorter, two finger grip with a flush fit magazine for concealment or a longer grip with a nominal round count as desired.

If we continue with our Glock 19/26 hybrid concept gun, for example, in everyday mode, I would carry our hypothetical, hybrid handgun with a 15 round magazine and grip sleeve but on the day I need to dress up, I would choose a 10 round flush fit magazine or 10 round magazine with a +2 extension for a shorter and therefore easier to conceal grip length. If we apply this idea to the current single stack pistol such as the 2019 M&P Shield Performance Center edition with 4 inch barrel, then we have 4 inch barrel with a 7 round flush fit magazine for dress up mode and an extended 8 round for everyday mode. Until this year, this is an idea that, for the most part, none of the mainstream manufacturers had really done or come close to; except Springfield Armory back in 2014 with their XD-S 4.0. Sadly, SA discontinued the 4.0 version after only a few years. This concept only seems to have ever been done to single stack, concealed carry pistols and one off custom made deals (search short grip Glock 17 or 34 for a good laugh).

The 4 inch barrel consideration comes from a combination of improved sight radius and ammunition performance. Generally speaking, I have found handguns with a longer sight radius are easier to shoot more precisely than handguns with a shorter sight radius. That can be over come with training but that's not what we're here to talk about. While you're not likely going to shoot 1 inch groups during a defensive situation, it may help. However, the increased barrel length will help with ammunition performance. More barrel will, within reason, increase the velocity of the projectile as it increases the time the confined gun powder has to burn. The mild increase in velocity gain from the extra inch should provide for more reliable expansion of the hollow point bullet, assuming that's what you carry. High quality ammunition should expand regardless but some level of tailoring needs to occur. I don't believe everyone who has a handgun for defense is choosing the best ammunition for that particular handgun. I always suggest researching ammunition for your application and tailoring this choice to your situation; not that everyone has the time or expertise for this.

We have seen a rise in today's market in the concealed carry specific area where the Smith and Wesson M&P Shield, the Glock 43 and a many others are feuding over a market share with what are basically the same pistol; a single stack, 9mm with a 3 inch barrel, a shorter grip and mag plate grip extensions. These 6 to 8 shot (ignoring the 43x intentionally) pistols effectively represent the current design paradigm for concealed carry specific handguns and are probably the most purchased firearms outside of the Glock 19 and friends category. This is what I would have previously considered to be the basis of the ultimate concealed carry handgun. In fact, I believed it so much that I had started looking for aftermarket options to convert my Shield to have a 4 inch barrel. Such options did in fact exist though this was before Smith dropped the Shield M2.0 4 inch models.

Interestingly, 2019 seems to be the year where the manufacturers finally figured it out. While I may have forgotten or not known of other manufacturers who sold models in this configuration, this signals the idea that, at least to some extent, the bigger players are listening to what some folks are asking for. The newest examples on the market include Smith and Wesson's newly released Shield models under their Performance Center banner with 4 inch barrels and Glock's model 48. In my recent contemplation, it seems that FINALLY, we have what would effectively become the ultimate carry handgun. Except that we don't. Remember when I talked about width requirements? It's as much about comfort and ease of carry as it is about efficiency or, more specifically, round density. I blame SIG for the new requirement.

For me, the Glock 48 seemed to have it all. A 4 inch barrel with a 10 round magazine capacity, a slim profile and aftermarket support. I've gone as far as saying that the Glock 48 is probably the ultimate concealed carry handgun. Slow down; continue reading.

That is, until I remembered that SIG Sauer showed up with their P365 two years ago. Basically, someone at SIG must have wanted their proverbial carry cake and eat it too because they managed to find a way to stuff 10 rounds into a Shield sized gun. I know; old news. At first, I was very interested when they announced the handgun and watched all the videos on YouTube (Thanks MAC!) but I hadn't truly considered the ramifications of their design language until now. What makes the SIG P365 so drastic to the paradigm has everything to do with it's efficiency. I know this is old news but in the same three dimensional space that the M&P Shield or Glock 43 occupies, the P365 manages to find a way to shoehorn an additional 3 or 4 rounds (or more) respectively. This is not insignificant. This literally requires a change in how this hypothetical handgun is designed. While it is true that it's not a necessity, the idea that I could have 2 or even more rounds compared to the Glock 48 isn't easy to ignore.

Initially, there was no width requirement. If you wanted more rounds then you were required to switch to a fatter gun. While the Glock 26's 1.26 inch width isn't terrible, the P365 packs the same 10 rounds into a thinner package. I will personally vouch that the thinner gun is better to carry. If we're to talk about the Ultimate Concealed Carry Handgun then packing the most amount of round into the smallest possible space. That said, I still don't consider the P365 the Ultimate Concealed Carry Handgun. It doesn't have the 4 inch barrel length. For those who are shorter or don't care about the barrel length then I would say you need to take a hard look at the P365.

That said, I do think that the design language that SIG introduced with the P365 could be used to make a develop very efficient handgun with a 4 inch barrel and 15 rounds in an incredibly narrow handgun. This could put the venerable Glock 19 to pasture but I doubt it.

Please understand that all of the above is entirely subjective, is based entirely on my opinion and is dependent a number of various factors that change from person to person. A much shorter person than myself will most likely find that the shorter 3 inch barrel is far better to conceal than the 4 inch barrel which it's entirely possible that someone like Hickok45 (6 foot 8 inch?) or Shaq would be just fine with a 5 or even 6 inch barrel with the IWB method.

Update: As I usually do I thought back on this and remembered that 1911 commander models have been around forever though they lack the modularity of the grip. That is honestly not a bad choice and maybe the Springfiled EMP deserves a look. Enough so that I may consider looking into a new 1911 based carry gun.

Update 2: Apparently, SIG is releasing a new version of the P365 called the XL with a 3.7 inch barrel. It only uses the 12 round mags instead of the 10 so it appears that SIG has the nearly perfect carry gun.

Monday, April 22, 2019

One Gun to Own - I'm Not Sure Which I Would Choose but It's Probably a 1911

I've heard people pose the question "what is the one gun you would choose, if you could only choose one?"

There are so many answers to this question. Part of that is that guns are tools and choosing one is like selecting a single hand tool for like; how much can you really fix with a hammer? Maybe a flat head screw driver is an overall better choice?  It seemed that people always went toward something suitable for a zombie apocalypse or something else kinda silly but I wondered what if nothing happened to society and you could only have one gun, what do you take?

To specify, let's assume that society continues chugging along, no zombies, economic collapse or solar EMP devastating the electrical grid. No invasion by the Russians/Chinese; no tyrannical/authoritarian US government takeover. The world as we know it now continues along just the same for the rest of your life. What do you choose?

I had thought about that question before and almost every time, I come back to the idea that I want something practical but I also want something fun. I really like .22 rimfire for its cheapness and high fun value but the defensive level of .22 isn't very high so a centerfire caliber like 9mm or .45 would be good.

I took a logical approach to the question. What is it that I like to do and what is it that I do on the regular. I really like the Henry lever action .22 but it's not a carry gun. It would still make high marks if I could only have one gun since it's fun factor is off the scale. I like my Ruger MkIII but it's not a good defensive pistol. The AR-15 is highly versatile but not a good daily carry. I don't hunt regularly so count out a shotgun or various rifles.

I definitely want something to carry for person defense but I still really want something fun so as to take people to the range with. It most definitely needs to last and parts availability are important.

After considering everything I could think of such as longevity, fun factor, practicality etc, I came to conclude that whatever I chose should have a .22 LR conversion kit available so that I can still have some fun while having a viable defensive capability. Popular pistols with .22 conversion kits include Glocks, 1911s, SIG P22X series and CZ 75 and P0X series.

I have a pistol from each of these categories and I like all of them. While I don't have the .22 conversion kits for any of them, I know they exist and are well liked. Of all of those, I almost always end up coming back to the 1911 in .45 ACP with some .22 conversion kit.

The 1911 is really the pistol that got me to go buy a firearm in the first place (even if that gun was an XD-40 Service). I know there are others like me who would choose the 1911 as well.

I'm interested in what other people's opinions on this are as well.

Friday, January 11, 2019

ProjectPDW - Now with Mod 1 Designation!

I decided to make a few changes and additions to ProjectPDW, I'm beginning to contemplate new features I want to incorporate into the weapon.

As it sits now, the system is reliable enough for use at the range. It was, after all, built as a range toy. However, the platform in it's current configuration does not run reliably with hollow point or flat nose ammunition due to the lack of a suitable feeding ramp. This is inherent to the design when using Glock style, or even just pistol magazines, instead of the Colt SMG magazines where a ramp is build into the lower receiver.

Simply put, I'm contemplating a custom barrel that has a feed ramp of sorts to increase reliability over all and add the ability to use flat nose or HP ammo.

I've also added the SBA3 brace from SB Tactical. As it turns out, the SBA3 brace is pretty decent and it's inclusion on ProjectPDW has been interesting. I need to due further testing before I finalize it's inclusion but I like it more than the SBM4 brace.

The final addition to the base system was the loop style sling plate. The wing/ear style plate I tried originally wouldn't work as the loops would impact the side of the receiver when folding. It wouldn't hold flat.

I added a Steamlight Protac Rail 1 with the pressure pad for looks. I like the way the system looks and feels. While it could be lighter, it is very fun and cheap to shoot. The addition of the Dead Air Wolf -9SD makes it something special.

I don't know if I will start a new AR9 to incorporate the new features or continue to evolve this design.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

.45 Colt - Part Ducks (Deux) or The Pietta 1873 Cabela's Special

Some time ago, I had taken interest in the classic big bore cartridge, .45 Colt. It took some time to get there but I was able to locate something of significant interest.

It started with a pair of cowboy boots and Saturday mornings watching the Rifleman on AMC. Then it turned into a reloading setup and a Winchester 94 AE in .45 Colt. About 4 years ago, I had noticed that Bass Pro would run a sale on the Uberti 1873 Cattleman (nearly identical to the Pietta model) for around $399. I would miss the deal and would have to wait, until the other day when I noticed the Pietta model was at $349 and jumped on it. I thought it was a sale but the prices seem to be the regular, everyday price. More on that later.

Fairly recently, Cabela's (now owned by Bass Pro Shops) appears to have worked out some sort of deal with Pietta over in Italy to import and sell the 1873-SA, a Colt Single Action Army pattern pistol. I say this because I noticed some markings on the bottom of the barrel that say Cabela's. I'm not entirely sure but I believe that this is the same Pietta that produces the reproduction percussion cap, black powder pistols such as the Colt 1851 and Remington 1858 pieces. I own 2 of the repro. 1851 cap and ball revolvers.

The pistols come in 2 finishes, 2 barrel lengths and 3 chamberings, .45 Colt, .357 Magnum and .44 Magnum, of which the last one is most interesting. I purchased mine in .45 Colt with a 4.75 inch barrel and matte finish. Please note that the website shows a third, nickel finish but it doesn't appear to be for sale.

What makes this interesting comes in 2 data points. First, is that I had taken to an understanding that the 1873 platform wasn't particularly strong only able to handle the .45 Colt and similar rounds such as .38-40 and .44-40; that .44 Magnum was too much for the design. I had seen where companies had produced SAA/1873 pattern pistols in .44 Mag but those were modified in some way to handle such power. I am unaware if these 1873-SA's have had such modifications.

The other interesting data point is that these retail for $349 and $399. The base model .357 and .45 matte with 4.75 inch barrels are $349, while the .44 Mag version and blued versions (5.5 inch barrel only) retail for $399. This means that Cabela's is selling a .44 Mag revolver for $400. I am not currently aware of any brick and mortar store that is selling ANY kind of .44 Mag revolver around the $400 mark. The price alone puts me in a place where I'd like to buy another but in the .44 Mag version.

Moving on. I haven't spent any real time with the pistol other than working the hammer but it feels well enough and doesn't seem to have any glaring finish issues. It appears to be in time but I have yet to set it through it's paces. If my 1851's are any indicator, I'll have to replace minor parts like springs but it should be fine for a while.

I can say that I have taken it with me hunting, which for that price seems like a great choice. I will spend some time shooting it and get back with for details.

My initial thoughts are that, especially in .44 mag, the Pietta/Cabela's 1873-SA is a steal and is worth anyone's time (as long as you get a good one and not a lemon).

Saturday, November 17, 2018

#ProjectCarbine - 7 Month Short Update

It's been 7 months since #ProjectCarbine took life. I haven't been able to shoot it nearly as much as I would like but I do get to take it out every once in a while. Over the recent weekend I was able to hit up a 100 yard range to verify zero. I am pleased to note that the Primary Arms 1-6 is still holding zero even in the soft shell UTG bag.

It still doesn't have the accuracy I would have liked but I may just need to put more or better ammunition through it than the M855 I've been feeding it.