Monday, August 31, 2009

J&G Sales Rocks Again

Pic shamelessly stolen from

I ordered my P64 today at about 10:15am central time and I just got confirmation (at 6:45pm central) that it has shipped. It should be here by the end of the day Wednesday. I've never waited more than three days for a handgun to get from Prescott, AZ to my local FFL holder. I had to wait about a week for my M48 Mauser, partly because rifles can ship via UPS Ground and handguns have to ship 2nd Day Air.

Three cheers for J&G sales!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Gun Nut WANT!

Here's a short list of the new friends I want to purchase in the near future, as well as a bit of explanation as to why I want them. In order of how I'm going to buy them, behold:

First, the Polish P64. You'll immediately notice the similarity to the Walther PPK. It is in fact nearly identical to the PPK. The P64 has a European mag release (A sliding button on the butt of the gun), is chambered in 9x18mm Makarov, and has a price tag around $160. That's right, a well made PPK clone for $160 (Plus S&H, and transfer fees. Call it $200 all together). 9x18mm ammunition goes for about $10/50rds and is in stock online at just about every major distributor. Keeping your LCP or PPK fed right now isn't so easy, since .380ACP is backordered into oblivion or the price is stupidly high. 9x18mm is also marginally more powerful than most .380ACP loads. This gun is tremendous value for money. I think I'll be ordering one this week perhaps. If you get one, you'll need some new springs. The old recoil spring was rated around 16lbs, which lets the slide beat on the frame because it isn't being slowed properly. Wolff Gunsprings sells a 22lb recoil spring for $8 or so. You'll want that. You may also want a reduced power hammer spring to clean up the trigger pull. Those go for $5 each (or $9 for a pack of three), and are available from 20lbs down to 17lbs. The factory hammer spring is a carpal-tunnel-inducing 26lbs. You'll probably want an aftermarket spring.

Next, the Polish Tantal AK-74. These babies were upwards of $900 in December '08, but now that Obamamania has subsided a little, they're back to $550-$600, which is more reasonable. They are about as accurate as a Galil (maybe shoot 2" at 100yds. MAYBE), but the 5.45x39mm round has less recoil than the 5.56x45 NATO--and that's saying something. My 9 year old niece has shot and enjoyed my M&P15. So a skinny 9 year old girl can easily handle the 5.56x45mm...and the Tantal has less recoil than that! The Tantal has one of the most solid side-folding stocks on anything, AK or not. In addition to being more accurate and more controllable than an AK-47, it's also HALF AS EXPENSIVE TO FEED! Surplus 5.45x39mm ammo is easy to find for about $185/1080rds shipped. Consider that a case of 1000 5.56x45 is about $360, and 1000 rounds of 7.62x39mm is about $280. The 5.45x39mm rounds cost about the same as match grade .22LR ammo. There are really only two problems with the Tantal or any other AK74. First, mags are expensive, at least for AK mags. Used bakelite mags go for about $20 each, which isn't terrible, but AK47 mags go for about $8 each. Second, the 5.45x39mm round never really caught on here in the US, and I'm not sure why. Importers nearly cut us off from 5.45 during the late 90s, possibly just in an effort to make a profit on a low demand, low price round. I guess the solution is to buy a few cases and hope the surplus doesn't dry up for a while.

Now an aside on the 5.45x39mm round. It does not penetrate hard barriers as well as the 7.62x39mm, or even 5.56NATO. However, there is an air cavity that is a byproduct of the manufacturing process that is located in the very tip of the round. This makes it VERY unstable upon hitting soft stuff, like flesh. It spins and yaws, and sometimes the jacket separates in a very violent manner. Center of mass hits with this round are usually a death sentence because of the random wound channel. The Afghans called it "the poison bullet" or "the devil's bullet".

Lastly, the M&P9L. If you read "Blinding you with Science" you've seen the group my 3" barreled M&P9C made from 50 yards. This big boy has a 5" barrel. It's an M&P, so has great ergonomics, is very reliable, and has a pretty good trigger (that gets better if you own an Arkansas stone). Most people who shoot the M&P series agree that they're faster to get back on target than any other tactical tupperware out there. Even my 9C is really quite fast and easy to keep on target during rapid fire. The 9L may turn out to be quite a match pistol, and a good choice of duty gun.

You can never have enough guns. I don't collect them. I accumulate them.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Blinding You With Science!

The Setup

If I have any regular readers, they know I think the shotgun is pretty much the best self-defense option for ranges of 100 yards or less, and really shines within 50 yards. The 12 gauge shotgun is a modern day battle axe. What it lacks in subtlety and finesse, it makes up for with raw power, ease of use, and availability to the masses. Here in the Midwest, you can go to any sporting goods store or even some Wal-Marts and walk out with a handy home defense/sporting piece for under $350, certainly under $400 anyway (provided you aren't a felon or currently facing any criminal or civil court actions). Add an extended magazine tube for $45-$60 and for under $400, you have a formidable tool with which to defend yourself. But the shotgun, powerful as it is, is limited by range and accuracy. But how far is too far? Well, James and I decided to find out. The following test does not take into account terminal ballistics. We just wanted to know what the pattern looks like at 10, 25, and 50 yards. For a twist, we decided to include our 9x19mm pistols. I read in this month's issue of SWAT Magazine (which I encourage you to go read--better than average this month!) an author opining that though some police officers might be tempted to transition back to a handgun for shots of 40 yards or more because of precision, that if circumstances allow, you're still better off using the shotgun--even if you aren't carrying slugs. Forty yards is a very long way to ask a handgun to bring the pain, especially under stress. But there was no stress today, just blue skies, 73 degrees, low humidity, a light southerly breeze, and lots of ammo to burn.

The Tools (No, not James and I)

James used his recently acquired Remington 870 Express with a 20" slug barrel (improved cylinder bore), and I used my orphan-soul-possessed Benelli Nova slug gun with 18.5" cylinder bore and Tac Star +2 magazine extension (for a total of 6+1 3" shells or 7+1 2 3/4" shells). James will be adding a Tac Star +3 tube to his Remington for a total of 7+1 3" shells or 8+1 (!) 2 3/4" shells. For all intents and purposes, these shotguns are pretty similar. The handguns we used were my M&P9 Compact (what I'd be carrying concealed if they ever held the class...), James' M&P9 service model (4" barrel), and his Steyr M9A1. So to re-cap, we used two 12 ga shotguns-- the Benelli Nova and Remington 870-- and three handguns, all in 9x19mm-- M&P9C, M&P9, and M9A1, respectively.

The Ammo

We tested Centurion Multi-Defense, Nobel Sport 12 pellet 00 buckshot, Estate 9 pellet 00 buckshot, Sellier & Bellot 9 pellet 00 buckshot, Federal Magnum 15 pellet 00 buckshot, Winchester HP slugs, Federal "Power Shock" slugs, and Brenekke K.O. slugs. All the slugs were 1 ounce loads in the standard velocity range. Oh, and they were all cheap. In fact, everything but the Multi-Defense is pretty cheap, comparatively. The 9x19mm fodder was either Blazer Brass 115gr FMJ, or Winchester White Box 115gr FMJ (also the cheap stuff).

The Results

Well, as you can see, a 12 gauge from 10 yards makes one big hole, with just enough pattern to make sure and destroy or damage everything in a 7" circle. The Multi-Defense made a very nice tight pattern. This is one truly nasty little round, and is worth the $1.10 per shot. If I was fighting for my life, I think I'd rather have this than anything else.

Nobel Sport left a shard of its plastic cap in the cardboard deep enough to scar the wood underneath, and all 12 pellets filled the 8" dinner plate. Lead, it's what's for dinner. Here we see Nobel Sport from 10 yards (Not 25 as noted).

From 25 yards, things got a little spread out. Multi-Defense did very well from this distance and made one horrifying spread from both shotguns that included a very accurate hit with the .65" ball and a roughly 12" spread of the six buckshot pellets. At .33" each, that makes for a lot of fairly large wounds.

On average, Multi-Defense would have resulted in several center of mass hits. I don't believe in "knockdown power", but three or four pellets of 00 buckshot and a .65" slug would probably convince me to stop if they went crashing through my ribcage. But maybe that's just me.

At 25 yards, buckshot was very viable. Estate and Nobel Sport both made decent groups that would have put devastating fire on target. Both groups were from 25 yards, not 50 as noted.

At 50 yards, things got very sketchy for buckshot of all flavors, but they did manage to at least put some holes in the target. Not much made it on the whole patterning board at all. At 50 yards, you may want to hold your fire and move or switch to slugs.

On that note, slugs had no trouble at all making pretty good groups at 50 yards. In the SWAT article I referenced earlier, the author mentioned that some police departments don't allow their officers to carry slugs (which is dumb). If you can't, for whatever reason, Multi-Defense was more effective than buckshot, but the non-rifled spherical lead slug is not as accurate as a rifled slug, though you can still aim it fairly well. Since I can't resist being snarky, I have to say that there is no good reason at all to pay the huge price of specialty slugs made of the next big magic alloy, or with special expansion flux capacitors or whatever. The 12ga slug measures .72" across. If that isn' t a big enough hole to bring down what you're hunting, then go buy a bazooka. The cheap stuff is every bit as accurate as the stuff with the huge price tag. Don't waste your money, unless you really want to. A $9 15-pack of Remington Sluggers will shoot just as straight as an $18 5-pack of slugs made from Unobtainium or Hypetainium or with ninjas on the box. Really, they will.

Then it was time for the handguns to step up. I used my truck and Dakota ruck as an improvised rest and fired five rounds from my M&P9C, taking about two seconds between shots to breathe and aim carefully. James did pretty much the same thing with his M&P9 and M9A1. I managed to hit the 8" target twice, and drop the other three rounds within about a 2" or 3" radius of the plate, so call the whole group 11". From 50 yards, that isn't bad. Not great, but not bad. Some shootists (and I mean REAL shootists) fire their handguns at 100 yards or more. I'm not there yet, but I will be one day. James made about an 8" group centered above the plate with the M&P9, and did decidedly worse with the M9A1, though all five rounds were on the board.

So What?

I think we can agree that the author in SWAT was right to say that, if circumstances allow, stay with the shotgun at 40 or 50 yards, even if you're shooting buckshot. I would add that 12 pellet buck would give the best compromise of number of projectiles launched and magazine capacity. At the end of the day, the guy with the most bullets to launch has a better chance to live. The slug is the obvious answer to the 50yd question. James and I have both fired slugs out to about 100 yards and can still hold a 6"-8" group from kneeling or standing supported. Better shooters might be able to squeeze that down even more. Furthermore, handguns--even short barreled concealed carry pieces--are not out of the question at 50 yards. They are on the ragged edge of their usefulness, in my hands anyway, but they still would have delivered hits. They all proved to be more accurate than buckshot at 50 yards, but consider that in combat, you don't always have time or opportunity to aim carefully enough to achieve that accuracy.

All in all, stick with the long gun either way. Switching to slugs gives you all the range in the world (for most self-defense situations), so do that if you can. Also, don't count the handguns out if you should run out of shotgun ammo, or for some other reason need to take a long shot with a short gun.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Let's Get Stupid, I Mean Outrageous

Over the years, I've read my share of SHTF (Sh*t hit the fan), TEOTWAWKI (The End of the World As We Know It), and Apocalypse threads on various not-so-professional message boards (yes, I'm a nerd). I don't think these are helpful ways to frame a training program or guide your firearms purchases. I've even had my own supposedly non-mall ninja friends ask me what I'd use in such a circumstance. While I don't think these kinds of conversations help the pro-gun world win many friends, sometimes it is fun to pretend. I love zombie movies, and have played some "Left For Dead" as well as the "Nazi Zombies" level on COD World At War. So in interest of rampant sillyness, I give you my ideal arsenal for the Zombie Apocalypse.

First off, I'd carry a rifle, a shotgun, and handgun. I have a vest system that supports all three weapons and isn't that much heavier for it. I can carry 10 magazines for an AR-15 style rifle, 60 rounds of 12ga ammo, and four double-stack pistol mags or seven single stack pistol magazines. I would opt for my German surplus flak vest underneath because it is light and flexible, but would still protect me from errant rounds my rag-tag band of survivors might send my way. We all know zombies can't use guns, but I would like the protection anyway. It could concievably prevent some bites or scratches that would otherwise turn me into a stumbling, bleary eyed, mindless destroyer of nations (no, not an Obama supporter...zing!).

Starting at the low end of the power spectrum--the pistol. My chosen World War Z pistol is.....the M&P 9L.
The M&P 9mm with a 5" barrel provides a better sight plane and a little extra horsepower for those 124gr XTP's I'll be launching into the forbrains of the undead army. It holds 17+1 rounds, but the mags can be overhauled with an Arredondo +6 round magazine extension. That gives me a whopping 23+1 capacity. Four of those mags is 92 rounds, plus my one extra in the chamber to start with means 93 rounds just for my pistol. This bodes well for my ability to survive and run away with Jessica Biel and Scarlet Johanssen to repopulate the Earth. In all seriousness though, the M&P has, in my experience, proven itself every bit as reliable as the Glock, but with far better ergonomics and a better trigger. The undead will wither under the muzzle of my fearsome M&P 9L. And since we're fighting zombies, the "mine's bigger than yours" argument of .45 vs 9mm becomes irrelevant because the only good shot is a headshot that destroys the brain. So the 9x19mm is clearly better because of less recoil and higher capacity.

My shotgun will naturally be my Benelli Nova slugger with the Tac Star +2 mag extension. My ammo of choice will be Centurion Multi-Defense, which tosses a .65" ball behind a curtain of six 00 buckshot pellets. Those zombies are entering a world of pain.

This round can be accurately aimed like a slug, but also gives you some spread from the six 00 buck pellets (which are .33" each). Aside from being pretty, my Benelli is a truly glorious shotgun to shoot. My friends and I have decided it may be powered by the soul of an orphaned child and uses this dark magic to make it more accurate. I have a scabbard that allows me to carry the Benelli on the back of my armor, always keeping it handy should I need to do a Detroit reload, or hand a weapon to a newfound survivor (hopefully either Jessica or Scarlet).

My rifle will be my trusty M&P15 carbine with an EOTech holographic sight. The M&P15 has proven itself utterly reliable shooting Wolf steel case ammo, surplus XM193, my reloads, and even a bit of factory ammo from Remington. I dropped a Rock River Arms two-stage match trigger in it for a lighter pull, and it performs famously. I love it. One day, I will once again own an EOTech (I had one but sold it when I was in a tight financial spot. Wish I hadn't.). It is the fastest and most accurate holographic sight you can get. The Special Forces all carried them in Afghanistan when I was there and they were issued Aimpoints. However, the Aimpoints are fragile and only capable of either 4 MOA or 2 MOA, while the EOTech does 1MOA. And it will. I've seen 1" and 1.5" groups at 100 yards from my buddy's RRA carbine, and my Bushmaster National Match made several 1" groups at 100 yards using the EOTech and XM193 ammunition. My M&P15 with an EOTech and 300 rounds will put the undead back in their graves--one way or another.

All the ammo will be easy to come by if my supply gets low. 9x19mm, 5.56x45 (or .223 Rem), and 12ga are all in HUGE circulation in the law enforcement and military community. Once they are overwhelmed by the undead hordes, I will be able to get as much as I want. And if you weren't counting, my total ammo count is 453 rounds. That should be good for getting me out of The Hive or making it to The Winchester for a pint and some chips.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Noble Savage

Last week I was working on the family farm when I stumbled across an old friend of mine-- the above pictured Savage Model 64F, bought from our friendly neighborhood Wal-Mart around 1998. Back then, I believe it sold for about $90 (I saw one today at Wal-Mart for $118) which wasn't (and still isn't) a bad deal. I hadn't really played with it since I left for basic training in 2003. I decided to clean it once when I was 18 and put it back together wrong, so it hadn't worked for the last six years. Dad had it leaning on a wall in his office, gathering dust. Last week I put it together properly and it still runs like a train. The only bad part was that I had three 10 round magazines for it, but was only able to locate one of them. Extra mags go for $10 each, and no hi-cap mags are available for it, nor are aftermarket stocks or barrels, so it won't make for much of a project gun. Thankfully, Savage made it properly to start with. I do sometimes wish for bigger magazines, so if anyone in my meager audience can point me to some, please do so. Oh, and it is cut for dovetail style scope mounts, so if you want some glass, you can have it. I'd reccommend staying small so you don't ruin the ergonomics or the handiness of its light weight. A small red dot or fixed 4x scope would do nicely, if you must.

The 64F has a two-stage trigger that breaks very cleanly at about five pounds. Not fantastic, but still plenty good. The barrel is free-floated, and it comes with standard old ironsights. The front blade is drift adjustable (and for some reason has a sort of "bead on a post" blade--more on this later), and the rear notch is adjustable for elevation. Mine is zeroed at 50 yards and requires a 6 o'clock hold at 25 yards. The bead on top of the blade covers the bull's eye completely at 50 yards, which can be annoying, but I've done well in rimfire matches and killed a lot of varmints with this rifle. It shoots straight, period. You'll also notice that there are no sling studs, though they are easy to add with the plastic stock. I think Savage didn't bother with a sling because it only weighs about five pounds, and is very well balanced so it feels like less. The light weight and great balance make it pretty ideal for walking the field for rabbits or strolling the woods for squirrels. I find it very easy to throw to my shoulder and acquire a target--and make a hit.

It is quite long for a .22lr at 40 inches. The Ruger 10/22 comes in at 37" for the full length model and 35" for the carbine, so shorter guns of similar design are available. The stock is clearly designed for an adult. The length of pull is very comfortable for me, but my niece found it to be a bit cumbersome (she is tall and skinny too, but only about 9 years old). Most shooters will be able to fire this rifle comfortably, but if you're looking for a trainer for your kid/niece/nephew/other very small person, look elsewhere. Most teens, male or female, should have long enough arms to reach the trigger comfortably.

I shot about 200 rounds through it this week, and my niece put another 40 or 50 rounds through it, which brings us to the reliability factor. It likes shorter, pointier bullets like the American Eagle (by Federal) 38gr hollowpoint hi-velocity, and the 36 grain Federal Bulk Pack hi-velocity. It fed some Winchester bulk 40 grain hollowpoints pretty well, but they are longer and more blunt than the Federal rounds. It was about 90% with Winchester and 99% with Federal. The 64F doesn't mind running dirty--VERY dirty. I generally just wipe the bolt face with a q-tip and a rag, drag a bore snake through it, and add a drop of CLP. Done and done. I went about 10,000 rounds without taking it apart for cleaning and probably didn't need to take it apart then.

Well, mine had some rust on the receiver when I dusted it off, and when I removed the rust with steel wool and 15w40 motor oil, it left a lot of bare metal. Luckily, I had some paint left over from painting my Savage 10FCP. I used an OD base (two good coats) and dusted it with some tan over a handful of straw. Both cans of paint were Krylon Ulra-Flat from Wal-Mart. Behold:
And the whole thing:
My old friend is now good as new, despite digesting about 20,000 rounds of various cheap .22lr ammo over about ten years. If you're in the market for a semi-auto .22, and don't mind not having the extra Gucci gear you can stick on the 10/22, this is definitely the way to go.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

AR-24 Update: Cold Hard Bitch

Push "PLAY" to share my frustrations...

I took the AR-24 back out to the range last night and fed it 74 rounds of Wolf Military Classic 9mm and James shot ten rounds of Winchester white box through it. Of those 84 rounds, I had seven stovepipe style jams. That's entirely unacceptable. I've only got about 250 rounds through this gun and it has about a 15% failure rate. Like I said, completely unacceptable. The Glock I traded off for it had digested several thousand rounds with zero jams at all.

So why am I still dealing with the AR? Well, it has awesome ergonomics and is one of the most accurate pistols I've ever shot. It also gives the option of carrying cocked and locked, or in the traditional DA/SA mode. It also has a nice trigger. And it was $150 cheaper than its cousin, the CZ-75B. From the look of things, you'd think this would be an awesome firearm. And when it runs, it is. But, being a happily married man, well acquainted with female behavior, I can safely proclaim that this firearm is clearly female. When it wants to, it treats you famously. But when you bring her out to show off to your friends, she shuts you down and makes you look like a real jackass. The AR-24 is a cold, hard bitch. But I can't quite bring myself to write her off just yet.

But if she does continue to give me hell, I've got my eye on a rebound girl--either the FNP-9 or the EAA Witness Elite Match. Hopefully we can work things out though.