Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Best Kept Secret In Shooting

This is the long-awaited P64 range report. I thought I was going to get back and write something along the lines of "good, but not great". I was wrong. The P64 proved itself to be utterly reliable through 150 rounds, and was surprisingly accurate. I dare say I shoot it better than I shoot my M&P9C. I used Silver Bear 94 grain full metal jacket rounds and loaded a "Barney bullet", or topped off the magazine after loading a round into the chamber. The mag holds six, so with the Barney bullet I had a total of seven. The little gun hurled the empty cases between 25 and 30 feet to my right, and just slightly behind me. I had no problems of any kind.

The trigger was the sticky wicket, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. I replaced the hammer spring with a Wolff 17lb spring and put an extra strength firing pin spring and recoil spring in it before I ever fired a shot, so a bone-stock P64 might not shoot this well. I guarantee the double action pull is horrid without these upgrades. In interest of full disclosure, I polished the hammer, sear, and a big section of the trigger linkage that drags on the disconnector. This helped the double action pull get a little slicker, but it is still very heavy and has a pronounced "stacking" effect--meaning the resistance gets stiffer as you pull through it. I'm not sure of a way around it. At least not a safe one. A competent gunsmith could probably cure it, but then it would cease to be a cheap gun and you'd be better off spending the money on a PPK or PPK/s. The stiff and sort of clunky DA pull made my first round hit a little low and a little left of my point of aim. The next six rounds fired from SA would all find the same hole, or close to it.

I shot the target below from 10 and 15 yards with 7 rounds from each distance, and there really isn't a difference in the group. The two holes low on the target were the first shots of each string. I threw one high, and strung a couple out, but most went exactly where I wanted them to and made very tight groups.
...and a little closer...

The only "problem" I had was that my grip is very high, and the P64 lacks any kind of beavertail to protect the web of your hand between forefinger and thumb from the slide under recoil. I got a little bit of slide bite and it just barely cut me open on the side nearer to my thumb. Of course, it took about 100 rounds for it to do that. I still prefer my high grip because it affords a bit more control, but those with larger *cough* fat *cough* hands might get scuffed up substantially more.

The recoil itself was maybe a tiny bit snappy, but really not any more than any other small pistol I've shot. The muzzle rise is considerably less than my S&W 442 in .38 Special. It also didn't seem as loud, but that could just be my seasonal allergies clogging up my head. All in all, the P64 handles very well. The recoil doesn't slow down double taps as much as the long reset of the trigger.

My general impression is that, with the upgraded springs (another $20 all together), this pistol could very easily hang with the better-finished PPK any day of the week. Keep in mind that a PPK is about $490, while the P64--after the spring upgrade kit--is about $217. Ammo for the P64 is also cheaper, more plentiful right now, and slightly more powerful than the PPK's .380ACP. The 9x18mm Makarov is about 100fps faster than the .380ACP at their most common projectile weights. Additionally, most small pistols are very obnoxious to shoot. This one is not. It is fairly docile, and I imagine the PPK is as well, since they have more similarities than differences. I have no qualms about suggesting the P64 as a concealed carry piece. None at all. It is small, reliable, and accurate. That's a great formula for a defensive weapon. The Polish P64 is a truly great little pistol, with a tiny bit of work anyway. I thought about riddling this article with Pollock jokes, but if you don't get a P64 while the price is right, the Pollock joke is on you.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dodging Bullets And Ducking Questions

You'll recall I said I'd think about writing a piece on engaging an active shooter in a sort of "worst case scenario". Well, the truth is that I can't teach you that over a blog. Hell, I might not be able to teach you that in person. Yes, I've taught urban warfare classes (on tactics, not strategy) in the Army at the platoon and company level. I've been in a gun fight before, and came out on top. I read everything I can get my hands on about tactics, techniques, and theory behind shooting. I intend to go to a private shooting school and take tactical pistol and carbine courses once I get a real job. I have experience, training, and an adequate level of marksmanship. I fancy myself a journeyman gunfighter--not a master of anything, but capable or even good at a few things.

Engaging in a gunfight is something that you must weigh against your training, experience, skill, mental agility, and personal moral code. I cannot advise you on how to proceed. There are just too many variables. Yes, this is ducking the question a bit, but a wise man knows when he is out of his league, and advising on this is definitely not something to do over the interwebs. In lieu of my advice, I will point out a list of reading materials, and some places you can go for training from an instructor--not just a gun nut from the intertubes.

SWAT Magazine: Great for gearheads who have to know about the latest and greatest tacticool toys. It also generally gives sound tactical advice and is written by dudes who have been there and done that.

Anything by Col. Jeff Cooper: Cooper lived a wild life, from the Marine Corps to intervening in conflicts in Africa on his own time, as well as being a truly great big game hunter. He also championed the 1911A1 pistol and pretty much wrote the book on self-defense. He was a great man and his books are very informative. He has some strong opinions, and occasionally he and I differ, but I'd never say he was wrong.


Thunder Ranch
Lethal Force Institute

Of course there are many more, but these are probably the most popular/famous.

Learn, train, then practice.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What's Bulletproof, and What Ain't.

As Gary Jules put it, "it's a very very mad world". Nutcases get guns illegally and then go shoot up malls, synagogues, churches, and schools. The worst part is that the law abiding are not always allowed (despite the 2nd Amendment...) to carry guns to defend themselves. Even if you are lucky enough to be carrying a gun when the poop hits the oscillating metal blades, you need to know what to do to stay alive. And punching holes in the 10-ring of your 25 yard NRA pistol target, while a good start, is not everything. Because engaging an active shooter is an even more nebulous subject, this article will focus on evasion.

You're walking through your local mall when all of a sudden, gunfire erupts. Now your first instinct might be to locate the fire and run away. You might get away with that if the crowd is big enough and the fire is far enough away.

What you should do is hit the floor immediately. Then, if you can, get a general direction of the fire and find something concrete or thick metal to get behind. Most malls here in the midwest are made of brick or some kind of compressed concrete. About 6" worth of that should stop most handgun rounds and most shotgun rounds. A rifle, however, may penetrate it and a burst or two certainly will. See the fountain above? If you put that between you and the threat and crawled away as quickly as possible, that thing would take a lot of fire for you.

Dry wall will not stop much of anything. Most common handgun calibers can penetrate six to ten thicknesses. Shotguns and light rifles can penetrate much more. Drywall and wall boards are not cover, but they can conceal your escape. Stay low, and keep out of the threat's line of sight. Move fast, and if you get shot, don't stop and whine about it. If you can still move, then move. Modern medicine can put you back together from pretty serious damage. Flesh wounds to your extremities are nothing to worry about immediately. Keep going and feel the pain later. You can only get medical help if you're out of the shooter's range.

Cars are not cover either. The engine compartment will provide some cover, as will the wheel rims, but if the shooter has a rifle, they may not be enough. Car bodies are easily sliced up by even light pistol cartridges. If you get stuck behind a car, put the engine compartment between you and the threat, and protect the rest of your body by staying in close alignment to a wheel rim if you can. Stay low and crawl on your belly to other positions, going under other cars if you can instead of around or over them.

Tables, chairs, and other furnishings are not cover either. All of them will be easily shredded by anything that goes "boom". These things can conceal you, but if you draw fire while behind them, you will be hit, and the bullet won't even slow down much. You have to be smart about using concealment. There are too many variables for me to give any good universal advice. Just keep your cool and pick a fast, protected route the hell out of there.

If you must run from one point to another, do so in short bursts. The Army preaches 3 to 5 seconds, with your sprint ending at a new covered or concealed position. If you get a chance to run longer, i.e. the threat starts moving in the other direction or stops paying attention to you, then run, run, and run some more--keeping near covered or concealed positions. Have an idea of what you're going to dive behind if the threat turns his attention back to you. Being fat is not an advantage here. You don't have to look like Arnold, but being able to sprint a few hundred yards without pooping your pants will be very helpful.

Another idea of note is that once the shooting starts, all rules go out the window. If you need to kick down a door or smash a window to get out, then do that. Don't break glass with your body. Use a chair, a baseball bat, a large potted plant, even a very large book might do. Common fire extinguishers are great for breaking glass. If you must break glass with your hands or feet, wrap the appendage doing the breaking in heavy cloth or leather. You're still probably going to get cut. Oh, and kick doors near the door knob, as most locking mechanisms are found there. Being fat will help you break the door down, as more weight is usually better. Kick like you mean it. Steel doors or doors with reinforced jambs will probably not break, so you're better off finding somewhere else to try. At this point your goal is to survive, not to be polite. Break what you have to if it gets you out alive.

I hope none of you ever need this advice. Stay tuned, as I may do a short write up on engaging an active shooter, but there are a HUGE number of variables there and it may take my tiny caveman brain some time to pare it down to something useful and intelligent sounding.

Friday, September 4, 2009

One More Nail In The Caliber Debate Coffin

Both images shamelessly stolen from the interwebs. The authors behind both were clearly brilliant. Cheers.

Look, chest thumping 9mm bashers! Look at the ballistics gel test! Look at it and tell me there is a meaningful difference between 9mm and .45ACP. Yes, the permanent cavities are slightly different, but it looks to me like they both caused "caliber and a half" permanent cavities and penetrated more than 12", per FBI recommendations. I'm not knocking bigger calibers, I'm just trying to throw some cold water on the "9mm is too small" crowd. Don't carry it if you don't want to, but don't pretend that it is not a capable caliber.

Pick the one you like, and practice, practice, practice. If you can't hit the 10 ring, it doesn't matter how big your projectiles are!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Four Rules of Safety





The idiots in the video above showed very well just how important these rules are. I would add "Don't do drugs or consume alcohol around firearms". Surely my audience is sharp enough to not need that rule written down, but the wastes of skin in the video may.

Oh, and a side story about flares I picked up in the military. I heard from a guy who was deployed to Bosnia (third hand Army stories, take it for what it's worth) that they had trouble with a sniper showing up in the same spot night after night, and taking two or three shots at the base. The U.S. forces were not authorized to fire live ammunition, however, they were authorized to fire flares as a warning. So, the next day, said sniper shows up right on time, in the same spot as always. One cowboy decides he is going to actually aim his 40mm flare AT the sniper. The whole platoon lets loose with 40mm flares, pop flares, and pen flares. Said cowboy makes a direct hit on the bad guy, and the flare WELDS ITSELF TO HIS RIBCAGE!!!! Human flesh BURNS when exposed to extreme heat!!! The flare nearly killed the sniper, and managed to burn most of the skin and muscle off his upper chest. So the story goes.

Guns (and by extension, flare guns) are NOT toys! Follow the five rules above, or someone could get more than a scorched face! Acting a fool like this is exactly the sort of thing that gives the appearance of legitimacy to the anti-gun lobby. Every time you pick up a firearm, you are acting as an ambassador of the shooting community. What kind of ambassador will you be?

Oh, and stupid should hurt.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Polish P64 First Look

I got the P64 back from my FFL today. It came slathered in something I wouldn't call grease, but is too heavy to call "oil". Sort of snot-like, but no matter. A few minutes with my trusty cleaning kit, and it was good to go. J&G calls these "very good plus" condition, and I solidly concur. There is only a hint of holster wear around the muzzle. I think it is going to be one heck of a concealed carry piece. This pistol was designed by the Polish state weapons factory, Radom. It was "inspired" by the Walther PPK and PP, obviously with more than a little help from some tracing paper.

Here it is next to my pathetic cell phone. I don't need any apps. I need to send and receive calls, and occasionally text. Back on the subject of guns, you can't tell from this angle, but it isn't much thicker than my cell phone. Can't beat that for $197 delivered!

Here you see a crappy picture of my wallet next to the P64. They're about the same thickness. This thing is really easy to hide! I tried it out in an inside-the-waistband holster (hereafter IWB) and it is absolutely invisible, even under just a t-shirt.

Here's the pic of that "Euro style" mag release. Push it toward the backstrap to release the magazine. Those lamb-burning communists in Poland didn't bother to use the PPK's button style mag release. Of course, this one is simpler, and when you're using slave labor to make guns, simpler is better.

Now, two things the Walther DOESN'T have: tiny, squinty sights (the PPK's are better, but not much) and a loaded chamber indicator. You see the shiny dot? That's it. It sticks out about 1/10th of an inch when there's a round in the chamber. You can feel it as well as see it. Not a bad addition, and sort of makes up for the lack of a proper mag release.

Over all, this is a very well made gun. There are a couple of wear marks and tool marks on the inside of the slide and frame. However, the finish is deep and even. The grips are pretty decent for being communistical plastic. I've never shot a PPK, but I have fondled one many times. The P64 has almost sharp corners on the frontstrap. We will have to see how that feels under recoil.

Oh, and the trigger! The DA pull is every bit as bad as I've read on the interwebs. Some claim to have measured it between 25lbs-27lbs! That's absurd and darn near useless. The SA pull is awesome. It feels like my tuned up 1911! I couldn't believe my finger! I would guesstimate the SA pull at 2lbs or so with a long take up and a crisp break. Nicely done, communist slaves!

It may be a while before I get this to the range (the new springs aren't here yet). I will post a range report in a couple of weeks though. Stay tuned.