Sunday, April 19, 2015

Joining The Dark Side: An Introduction to the CZ P-09

Feeling a bit let down by my M&P 9 Pro, I bought a CZ P-09 Duty a few weeks ago. I've since put about 650 rounds through it, mostly my own 125gr LCN hand loads. I very recently added the Cajun Gun Works short reset kit, oversize DA roller, and reduced power hammer spring. I put 300 rounds through it with this kit installed, the rest being fired before I made any modifications at all.

Well, I like this gun very much, and would emphatically recommend it for anyone looking to either get started in any sort of competition, or anyone looking for a full-sized 9x19mm service pistol or bedside gun. It's just very good. You can stop reading here if you're pressed for time, because what follows is just expounding on these statements.

Right out of the box, the Omega trigger has a very good double action pull, and the single action is long and light with a sharp break at the very end of the pull. There was a tiny bit of overtravel, but not enough to be really concerned about. The reset is quite long, and that is a little worrying if you're shooting against the clock. Otherwise, it's not a deal breaker. The CGW parts make the double action really quite good, and sets the single action pull a little closer to the break, and erases any overtravel. The short reset kit cuts the reset down to less than half of the factory trigger. I would recommend getting the parts I listed, but only if you're seriously into competing. If you're just getting started, you can skip it and spend the money on magazines, a good belt, holster, and pouches.

I've also found the P-09 to be very accurate, and easy to shoot well. The main thing I didn't like about my M&P was that I seemed to always be mind-wrestling it to stay in control. Not so with the P-09, but that's more down to my personal preferences. That being said, I much prefer the P-09 and find it easier to make better hits at longer ranges. I can now clean off James's plate rack from 25 yards as long as I look at my sights. This was an exercise in frustration with the M&P.

My own feelings aside, the P-09 seems to be very accurate, and has unique recoil characteristics that make it pretty ideal as a race gun. It has almost no muzzle flip, and not much in the way of felt recoil. It's just very nice to shoot. Just for fun, James and I did some slow motion video of the P-09 with the factory guide rod and spring, and a tungsten unit meant for a Glock. I also shot James's G34 with said tungsten unit. The results are below:

Aside from the accuracy, negligible muzzle flip, and good trigger, the P-09's frame has some nice design features. There's a little stippled pad midway down the frame on both sides. These are great places to park your reaction side thumb and trigger finger. The magazines are very long, and have nice bumper pads. It's as easy, if not easier to reload than the M&P. It's also very easy to install those CGW parts. The P-09 is probably the least complicated DA/SA pistol I've ever taken apart. Check this video if you're thinking of getting a P-09 and installing the kit yourself.

The P-09's only real problem is the CZ SP-01 Shadow. I've shot a "Cajunized" Shadow, and it was brilliant. Probably the best handgun I've ever shot. But it is, before any modifications, over $1000. The P-09 is less than $500, and the CGW kit I bought was about $135 shipped. So for about half the money, you can get about 90% of the capability of the Shadow. For someone like me, coming from a long line of farmers, the price difference is not easy to overlook. If you have the money, and you already compete or you have a taste for expensive guns, get the Shadow. For everyone else, the P-09 is way more gun than you pay for.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

I Felt Threatened

"I felt threatened" has become the tag line that is driving a very solid wedge between police and the communities they serve. I don't want this to be a political blog, but I saw a video this morning that motivated me to write something in hopes the police community might one day see it.

There's video of a South Carolina officer who shoots an old man as he lightly jogged away, then a second officer plants an object near where the victim fell. This is pretty clear, and thankfully, the officer involved has been charged with murder. The excuse for the shooting was "I felt threatened".

Closer to home, a woman in Burlington, Iowa was accidentally shot and killed by an officer who "felt threatened" by the woman's dog. The officer slipped and fired twice as he fell. He claims the dog took him down, but the P.D. was unable to show medical records, photographs, or even a torn uniform in support of the dog attack claim.

Ladies and gentlemen of the police community, we have a problem. Or rather, two problems.

First and foremost, stop feeling threatened by EVERYTHING. I understand that police work is dangerous. I was a police officer for several miserable months. I was also an infantryman, and did two tours in a particularly bad neighborhood of Afghanistan. I'm no stranger to hazardous work, nor being on the wrong end of a gun. You officers of the law need to learn a new catch phrase. One that I think might do nicely belongs to Travis Haley: "Thinkers before shooters."

Think before you pull the trigger. That's all I'm asking. Do a quick mental risk assessment. Is the risk of using your gun greater than the risk of not using it? In the Burlington case, the officer was allegedly trying to avoid getting bitten by the dog. I get that a dog, especially a big dog, can do serious and even life-threatening damage. But what about pulling the trigger? Where will that bullet actually stop (rule 4: Identify your target, and what is beyond it)?

That leads me to the second problem. The police community refuses to punish officers who act recklessly. The officer in Burlington will face no disciplinary action whatsoever. None. He killed an innocent person and will face no punitive action. Other cops need to step up and denounce this guy (and others like him) and his poor judgement. Police need to shun officers who put the public at risk, and make it known that there will be no "Blue Wall of Silence" for officers who betray the public trust.

Start speaking out before public trust is totally gone (and it's nearly there now). I have friends who are still officers and I want them to be seen as defenders of their communities. Acts like those outlined above make the police as a whole seem reckless, if not bloodthirsty. I know that's not the case. So from now on, all you policemen who read this, think before you shoot. And if a colleague is acting a fool, correct them before they end up as the next headline.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Still Working On My Masterpiece

Last Sunday was the second match of the year. Between these first two matches I can draw some potentially useful conclusions for others who  might be climbing their way up the classifiers or just getting started.

All that bullseye practice has helped my accuracy, but only when I take the time to look at my sights. Dry fire and pellet gun practice are really great,  but one piece of the puzzle I forgot was pacing. Witness a fast failure from my first match.

I finished that stage in about 12.5 seconds, but I had almost no A zone hits. The problem was that I had the gas pedal mashed to the floor in order to hang with a particularly talented Production class shooter I wanted to beat, and an Open class guy I thought I could catch. Unfortunately, I needed to slow down just a hair--maybe add another two seconds--and get my A zones. Not only are good hits a great idea in real life, but A zones move your name up the list (provided you're not slow). I learned my lesson that day, and resolved to use my brain parts to think about when to go fast and when to go slow.

So here's stage 1 from last Sunday:

There were a lot of mistakes here (shuffling feet, bad reload, shooting on the move when I should have just posted up) but my pacing was good, and was down two Cs in 12.48. I was less than one second and one A behind the stage winner, who was shooting Open class major power factor.

Besides pacing yourself, and switching between target focus and front sight focus, strategies for shooting steel differ from shooting paper. Behold a spectacular meltdown;

So the problem here is that I over-swung the popper on the draw, then over-swung the first plate, then tried to go faster to make up time and missed more. Reloads weren't bad, but that wasn't enough to save the stage. The trick with steel is to SLOW DOWN and get your hits. Make your transitions smooth and don't swing past the next target. Stay cool if you miss. I melted down and blew the stage. At least I know what I did and can fix it next time.

The good news is that most of what I learned last year hasn't gone away. I won stage 5 pretty handily because Travis Haley is my spirit animal. The only real bad part was that I knew I was fast, and I knew my hits were good, and I almost  180'd my way to a disqualification when I turned around to show the R.O. clear.  14.87 seconds down one C, first place in that stage with the fastest time and most points.

There is NO WAY I could have done that this time last year. The amount of skill I've gained in just one year of competition is incredible. There's no reason anyone else can't do the same or much better. It helps to have match video so I can see problems with my form, and the guys at the range will often provide a diagnosis if I'm having a problem. Your local USPSA club is a great way to train up without spending big bucks on "gun schools" of questionable origin. My goal is to earn the rank of Master in Production class, and I have a long way to go. But I get a little closer every match--even on bad days when I get my ass kicked.

And before I go, I should add that I took fourth place last Sunday. Two of the guys ahead of me were Master class. One was shooting a revolver.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

All Things Old....

I've been in contact with my bowhunting buddy, and he mentioned that he hunts winter rabbits with a .22 caliber air rifle--with great success. I've been thinking that might be a good option to scratch my hunting itch since sitting in a tree stand with my bow is time consuming and I never really know what my schedule will look like come deer season. Rabbit hunting is faster paced and a lot less gear-intensive.

In any case, I went looking for a pneumatic air rifle to replace my Gamo Shadow 1000 piston rifle. Piston rifles are the cheapest way to get huge velocity. The trade off is that they're rough to shoot, loud, and the piston vibration eats scopes alive. My Shadow has even beaten its own iron sights to death. The trigger sucks too. Pneumatic rifles typically have no recoil impulse, and decent triggers. The highest order of pneumatics are "pre-charged pneumatics" or "PCP" rifles. They're about as expensive as a good .22LR, but you can shoot one in your basement with only a basic pellet trap. And pneumatics are typically very quiet, so you could take several rabbits or squirrels in one area without raising much alarm. Being pre-charged, the PCP can be fired several times between getting pumped up with a manual pump or with a bottle of compressed air. This makes it function more like a firearm, and pretty appealing to me.

Here's a video of a modern PCP from Benjamin (I'm very interested in this particular model):

While 22LR stocks are increasing online, and trickling into stores, supplies of airgun ammunition never really went away. Even top-shelf brands are not particularly expensive. I ordered 2000 rounds of various match pistol pellets from MidwayUSA for about $30 shipped. Sometimes the big box gun stores around me even have interesting varieties of ammunition.

Ammunition perks aside, the higher-end airguns can hunt small game, and are terrific for punching paper. The best part is that I can take my airguns to my friends' and family's homes in the country and shoot (even teach the kiddos to shoot!) without alarming nearby livestock, and without a large berm or backstop. While you still need a backstop or trap of some kind, making or finding one out in the wild isn't very hard. Airguns are worth looking at as an addition to your training tools, and there's one out there for every budget.

While we're on the subject of airguns, and specifically PCP rifles, below is a fascinating video that is worth eight minutes of your time. The PCP concept has been around since shortly before the Lewis and Clark expedition. All things old are new again, it would seem

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Back To Basics

It's the height of winter here in Iowa. That means daytime highs below zero, snow, screaming winds, and cabin fever. Cabin fever inevitably leads me to new-gun-fever. There's a gun show this weekend, and payday was Friday. Luckily, James talked me down from buying a Beretta CX4 with a 92 series mag well. I still got a new gun though.

Using my logical brain parts, I decided on a Crosman 1377C. This air pistol has been in production since the dawn of time, and for good reason. It's durable, accurate, simple, and very affordable. In fact, it's such an all-arounder that it can be bought with a bolt-on rifle stock. And the rear sight can be converted from notch to aperture. I've only had this machine for about a day, but I already love it, and I've got big plans for it in the future.

We've been in the deep freeze for about a month now, and I've been thinking of getting a CO2 powered M&P clone. Reviews were hit and miss regarding reliability, and having too much farmer in me to waste $50, I let it go. However, I couldn't really find anything negative about the old stalwart 1377C.  And when the fever struck today, I had no choice.

I built my own pellet trap, which is SUPER overkill even for my Gamo Shadow 1000 piston-powered rifle. And as luck would have it, my basement is about 40 feet long, so I made a 10 meter range. And airguns at 10 meters is pretty serious business for some folks. For the rest of us, it's just good practice. Bullseye shooting has sort of gone by the wayside, but it's a discipline that can only help your action shooting or defensive shooting. And even though it's "just an airgun", the fundamentals still apply. You're never too old or too good to practice your fundamentals.

There's a video circulating of the Glock ladies shooting silhouettes at 200 yards with their G34s. Assuming it's an IPSC metric, that's 17" wide and 29" high (roughly). Shooting a 1" dot at 10 meters is about the same apparent size (roughly 8 MOA). So assuming you can hit the 1" dot at 10 meters, you're almost as good as Glock's 19-year-old yoga pants model.


So onward to the gun. The Crosman 1377C has been in production since 1977, and remains largely unchanged. The reason is that this gun is very good, and very ruggedly built. There's some barn-door engineering, and it's certainly built to a price point. However, the good by far outweighs the...quirky.

The Bad:
Upon doing some research, I found that the 1377 and it's big brother, the 1322 (which is a .22 caliber clone) often suffer from excessive elevation and sometimes canted front sights. In fact, the sights aren't all that good. The front blade is crudely cast plastic, and mine is canted. And had excessive elevation. The rear sight is crudely adjustable with a set screw that you loosen, make your adjustment, and re-tighten. This is not optimal, but damn if it doesn't work. Also, the trigger, out of the box, is a bit heavy. Ok, it's quite heavy. But it is fairly short, and quite crisp.

Remove that screw and you can flip the rear sight leaf over and make it an aperture, ideally for use with the bolt-on shoulder stock kit ($25 online). Cool idea executed very simply.

The Good:

All of the quirks are easily fixed for free or for pennies. Once those quirks are fixed, this thing is capable of really excellent accuracy. It doesn't seem to have any preference for ammunition types (.177 pellets come in all shapes and weights) and isn't terribly sensitive to how many times you pump the gun. Six to ten pumps gets the exact same point of impact at 10 meters on my indoor range. I tend to use five to six pumps because it's much quieter and less work.

Five shots at ten meters. This is my best group so far.

Get Your MacGuyver On:

I need a pen cap, some super glue, sand paper, and sharp scissors.

I cut the pen cap stem to fit, then glued it on (and let it set for 15 minutes) and sanded the top and sides flat to give me a sharper sight picture. It's an easy fix, and works really well. That target took twenty rounds from ten meters, and I only screwed up the trigger pull twice.

Next, I'll need a small flat screwdriver.

The grip panels are each held in place with a single screw. That spring is the only trigger spring, and it's easily modified. Remove it by compressing it slightly. I did this with my fingers without too much cursing. Once out, lay it on a piece of white paper, and make a mark at each end. Now use your fingers to compress the spring down and make it take a set shorter than it used to be. I smashed mine about 3/16" and the trigger is really nice now.

By The Numbers:

The Crosman 1377C is a variable pump pneumatic pistol, operating on three to ten pumps (if you go over 10, you don't get higher velocity, you just trash your seals.). The advertised max speed is 600fps, which is really not bad. I've seen chrono videos of the 1322 where it actually meets or exceeds its listed maximum velocity. I have no reason to believe the 1377 won't do the same, especially if you shoot newfangled lightweight pellets. The pistol is 13.5" long (which is also the sight radius), weighs 1.875lbs, and MSRP is $79.99. However, I got mine at the local Sportsman's Warehouse on sale for $64 out the door, and similar deals are available online.

So What?

If you live somewhere you can shoot in your back yard or indoors without a visit from the local SWAT team, you NEED to own this gun. It's a fantastic training tool that is extremely affordable to purchase and to shoot. It's about as simple and rugged of a design as you'll ever see, and with minimal maintenance it should last the better part of a lifetime. Dry fire is all well and good, but this pistol allows you to put rounds downrange and see the results of your work.

I mentioned earlier that there is a rifle stock that bolts into the pistol grip. This is available for about $25 online. So for a total of $89, you can have a very good pistol that is also a very good rifle. And you can convert the sights over to aperture and squeeze even more accuracy out of it. The only question is "can you afford NOT to own one?".

Good shooting, I'm off to purchase more pellets. Lots more.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Save Big Green

Remington has been circling the drain for several years now. They ruined the ACR, then bungled the release of their R51 which was about six years late to the single-stack-9mm party anyway. I couldn't understand what Big Green was thinking, but it all became clear when a friend shared a link on my Facetube page. Yep, Remington is absorbing Para into it's own lineup. I think this is a good first step.

In my opinion, the reason Remington has been in trouble is that it refused to change with the times. Contrast this with Ruger, who has completely changed their lineup in the last couple years--even listening to consumers and making significant changes to existing products in a relatively short time (like the LC9 becoming the LC9s, and the revised LCP). Remington has lived off the 870 and 700 since time began. This was enough because until the early 2000s, the biggest group of firearms consumers were hunters and clay busters. Then, suddenly, self-defense and competition exploded in popularity. And Remington kept making the same two guns for a consumer who bought their 870 and 700 back in 1970 and shoots them twice a year. With the exception of the Versamax, Remington has been making the same guns since 1950.

Then Remington acquired Bushmaster, as well as the rights to the Magpul Masada which would become the Bushmaster ACR. Remington then, shall we say "economized" the ACR into a lame piston AR that costs more than a piston AR from a better manufacturer. As Magpul designed it, the Masada was totally modular and could even be changed to accept AK magazines through the use of a modular lower receiver. Throw in the badly bungled R51, and as of last year, Big Green was on borrowed time. To add insult to injury, Remington started a web series starring some blonde girl who is painful to watch. And all she does is go hunting, which is also painful to watch.

Then I hear that Para is being absorbed into the Remington lineup. This may be the first sign that someone on the board of directors may have heard about USPSA/IPSC or 3-Gun Nation---and they may want to sell some guns. So bravo, Remington. Here's your roadmap to success from here on out.

Next, absorb Bushmaster and become the next BCM. Increase the quality of all your components and focus on selling AR15 parts. Hardly anyone buys a complete AR15 anymore. They're too easy to build, and you can build a high quality one for the same money or less than a WalMart Bushmaster carbine. Sell uppers, lowers, and milspec M16 bolts built with NO MIM or cast parts. Fix the ACR and make it the rifle Magpul promised us.

While you're streamlining, FIX YOUR FINISHES! I have a friend with an R1 and after less than a year, the bluing is largely gone. I had the same problem with my Para LTC. Put a quality finish on, or sub it out to Cerakote. Put more attention on doublestack .40 and 9mm 1911s with an eye to USPSA/IPSC Limited class. Price them to compete with CZ's excellent Tac Sport--around $1200. Make them reliable, nicely finished, and maybe even throw in a full-length dust cover for weight. Undercut STI and get some market share.

Cancel the trainwreck web series you have and find some up-and-coming USPSA and 3-Gun Nation stars. Sponsor a winning team with ACR rifles, Remington doublestack 1911s, and Versamax shotguns.

Let that system go to work for a while. Make some capital. Then develop a plastic doublestack line, again with an eye to competition and defense. You could probably get away with making a Glock 19 sized one for carry, then a 5" barreled model for competition.

I hope Remington can pull this off, but I have a feeling that accountants and lawyers wishing to play it "safe" will ruin everything and they'll go bankrupt anyway.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Heavy Metal

No, I haven't bought an FAL and another 1911 to join the Heavy Metal 3-Gun Nation division. Instead, I've begun to accumulate parts for my Production gun to push it to the very edge of what the rules will allow.

Production division will allow you to add up to two ounces to the weight of your unloaded gun. While you can add that weight anywhere, it makes a lot of sense to add that weight to the front of the gun--the idea being to dampen muzzle rise. In addition to adding weight, a reduction in recoil spring tension will keep the muzzle from being driven downward when moving back into battery. So, after some considerable research and contemplation, I bought a tungsten guide rod and 13lb recoil spring for my M&P 9 Pro.

The guide rod I ordered was supposed to weigh in at 608 grains (400 grains is one ounce), and I didn't know at that point what the new ISMI flat wire spring weighed. Before I ordered, I weighed my stock captive unit to see just how much weight I would be buying. I found the stock unit to weigh 389 grains. Looking at a prospective gain of only three quarters of an ounce, I had my reservations when spending my $60.

In real life, after 200 rounds of test firing, the tungsten unit weighed in at over 750 grains! The new spring came in at 137.

So in total, we're at 893 grains, or one and one quarter ounce more than the factory unit. Very well, but what does that mean on the range?

I had been thinking, dreaming really, about shrinking my split times, which are stuck around .19 seconds (Jerry Miculek, PBUH, can pull the trigger on his revolver every .125 seconds). So the first thing I did, well, after a few rounds to make sure the new rig was safe, was to record some splits on my shot timer. And they were.....exactly the same. But recoil was definitely flatter than before.

The price of that flatness is a little more felt recoil, but the payoff is actually immense. Though my best split time of .19 (I actually saw a .13, but I was just going nuts and not hitting anything) would equate to one A hit and one C hit. I can now ding an 8" plate at 10 yards in that same .19 seconds. So although my time is the same, my hits would be two As, for an extra four points per target. Those few points, over an entire match, can move your name up significantly.

And that brings me to my next point. No amount of gear can push your name up the list on its own. If you're already doing ok, gear can give you an edge, but you still have to do your part. Before you dump money down the gear money pit, make sure you're practicing and that you'll actually be able to take advantage of whatever you're buying.