Fairy Tales of the Gun

October 13, 2013

Just stumbled across a collection of episodes of the old History Chanel show Tales of the Gun on YouTube and proceeded to watch a few of them. Now, I used to enjoy watching Tales of the Gun when I was a kid.

And now I feel embarrased just admitting that.

The show is so full of errors, so full of mistakes, so full of misconceptions… I swear, I haven’t seen this much concentrated FAIL in a single forty-five minute stretch since I quit watching America’s Funniest Home Videos. And at least that show as somewhat entertaining.

What am I talking about? Well, let’s look at the episode focusing around automatic handguns. The list is so long I’ll probably spend all night writing it down, but I have to be up early for church, so that’s a no-go. I’ll just point out the most glaring screw-ups here:

  • The Mauser C96 was not developed to compete with the Luger P08. It couldn’t have been, seeing how it was introduced a full twelve years before the Luger!
  • The Webley-Fosbery was not the only revolver “that featured a self-cocking ability.” EVERY FREAKIN’ DOUBLE ACTION REVOLVER IN THE WORLD FREAKIN’ “SELF-COCKS”!
  • The Beretta 92 series. For the love of John Moses Browning, there was so much fail related to this gun. It is not the only ambidextrous handgun design in the world. Standard magazine capacity is fifteen rounds, not seventeen. And in the name of all that is good and sacred on this earth, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO JUST CASUALLY REACH OUT AND YANK THE SLIDE & BARREL OFF THE GUN! THAT IS A MYTH!
  • This last one is common to every single episode: at least half of the supposed firearms “experts” on the show hold the guns with their fingers on the triggers. YOU ARE BREAKING RULE #3! Get your booger hooks off of those bang switches!
  • And finally, the show puts out this insulting presumption that the only ones who own or carry guns besides soldiers, hunters, and police officers are hardened criminals. I’m not even going to dignify that one with a rant.

I swear, I want to find the researchers, scriptwriters, and so-called experts and scream at them ’til my throat starts bleeding. The fact that they could even think about calling that series “history” or “educational” when it was so full of mistakes – amateurish and stupid mistakes at that – just defies logic.


Magnum Opus III: Enter the Bull

October 10, 2013

As it turns out, my experience with the Nano wasn’t the only surprising discovery I made at the range today. You see, in addition to his brand-new Beretta, my friend also brought along his .357 Magnum revolver. It was a Taurus-manufactured clone of a Smith & Wesson K-frame. I’m not sure of the exact model, but the equivalent S&W would be the Model 66: a stainless-steel gun with target sights. His gun sported a four-inch barrel and wooden grips.

Now as you probably remember, for me the .357 Magnum has proven to be very much an acquired taste. I had a very unpleasant experience with a Smith & Wesson 686P, and then a sorta-kinda enjoyable one with a Ruger GP100. When my friend mentioned he’d be bringing it to the range, I asked if he wouldn’t mind bringing some .38 Special ammo too. Yes, I am a wimp.

Anyway, we opened our range session with the Taurus. The two of us took turns putting a cylinder of .38 Special at a time through the gun. Then after maybe 2/3 of the box, my friend loaded up the .357s. He put all six down range no problem, then turned and asked if I wanted to try it. I didn’t really want to, seeing as how that Taurus would be the lightest .357 Magnum I’ve shot by a decent margin. The Ruger LCR doesn’t count, as I only shot standard-pressure .38 Specials through it. But I wasn’t about to wuss out in front of my friend, so I loaded up one round, took careful aim, braced myself for pain, and fired.

Wait… what the… ? That didn’t hurt at all!

I immediately loaded up a full cylinder and put all six shots downrange fairly quickly. And while I definitely felt each and every shot, none of them were really painful at all. I was actually enjoying the .357s! Quite a lot!

I’m chalking this up to one, possibly two things. First and foremost is the Taurus’ aforementioned wooden grips. They were identical, or at least very similar, to the old Smith & Wesson “Target” or “Magna” grips.  They were checkered, and very wide & girthy, very hand-filling.  I was able to really hold onto the pistol when I was shooting, much better than I was able to even with the GP100.  The second possible reason was the ammo. With both the 686P and GP100, I was shooting American Eagle 158-grain Jacketed Soft Points. The ammo my friend had brought with him was PMC Bronze 158-grain JSP. I don’t know if the PMC is loaded a little lighter than the American Eagle or not, but it is a possibility.

Unfortunately, those seven rounds were all the .357 Magnum I was able to shoot today. It turns out that my friend’s Taurus was suffering from a mechanical issue. Three of the chambers would index smooth as butter, but the other three would drag. Two weren’t so bad, but the third felt like it was going to lock up. Took a great deal of effort, either by pulling the trigger or cocking the hammer, to get the cylinder to lock up. I didn’t mention it before, but the GP100 I fired was afflicted with this same issue, only the GP100 had it much worse. On that gun, you could actually hear a sharp metallic screech! when you indexed the cylinder. The Taurus was nowhere near that bad, but at the same time the problem was getting noticeably worse.

We’re not sure exactly what it is, and I’m 99% sure it won’t make the gun explode in his hand, but we both agreed that my friend should get the Taurus checked out by a gunsmith. So our time with the Taurus ended after my seven shots, my friend put another six through it, and we agreed that yeah, this isn’t good. He decided to put the Taurus away, and I didn’t argue. Like I said, I’m 99% sure the gun is safe to fire, but like I said, the problem was getting worse. Better stop shooting it then and cut our fun short temporarily than keep shooting and have the gun lock up on us completely.

But despite my aborted time with it, I really, really enjoyed shooting the .357 Magnum. So much so that I’ve decided that I’m definitely going to add one to my collection… someday. I’m thinking a Smith & Wesson K-frame (the genuine article, not a clone), but no matter what model I get, if it doesn’t come with nice, girthy wooden grips, I’ll be adding a set ASAP.

Going to the range with a very good friend, finding my future carry piece, AND learning to love the .357 Magnum, all in the same range session? Yeah, I’d say today was a very good day.

Until next time, peace.

-Raptor


I Didn’t Want To Do It, I Didn’t Want To Do It…

October 10, 2013

… but, Beretta Nano, you made me love you.

As I’m sure you’ve guessed, today was range day, and I rented a Beretta Nano. Actually, that’s not 100% correct: the Nano wasn’t a rental. No, I haven’t purchased one myself (sadly). A very good friend of mine bought one over the weekend, and we met up at the range today to break it in.

Now the Beretta Nano has been another one of those guns that I just did not want to like. But unlike, say, Glocks, my reasons for not wanting to like the Nano were rational. First and foremost, with the flush-fit magazine installed it’s only possible to get two fingers on the grip, whereas I much prefer a full three-fingered grip. Secondly, it lacks an external slide release lever. The slide still locks open on the last round, there’s just no way external lever to release the slide or lock it back. I rack the slide when I reload, but I use the lever to lock the slide back to verify that a pistol is clear when I’m taking it out our putting it away. Also, it looks very top-heavy and unwieldy. Plus it’s ugly. Yeah, I’m reaching here, I know.

Anywho, my first experience with the Nano was a few weeks ago. It wasn’t intentional: I’d gone to the range planning to rent a Ruger LC9. I did, but quickly regretted it after the first magazine. Recoil was, shall we say, stout, and rather painful as well. So much so that after less than half a box of ammo, I was done. But since I still had rental ammo left over, I decided to swap the LC9 for another gun. And since my buddy had asked if I had any experience with the Nano, I switched it with the LC9. And to my surprise, I liked it. A lot more than I thought I would. But I didn’t add it to my list of possible CCW pieces for two reasons: I’d put less than a box of ammo through it, and the rental came with only an 8-round extended mag, not the flush-fit six rounder. So I really couldn’t put the gun through its paces or see how it handled “stock.”

Flash forward to today.

As I said, my friend’s Nano is brand new. It came with both a six-round flush-fit magazine and an eight-round extended magazine, and my friend had purchased a second eight-round magazine separately. Between the two of us, we put roughly 150 rounds through the gun. And wouldn’t you know it, the Nano won me over. The gun felt almost perfectly balanced even with the six round magazine installed. And despite the two-finger grip, the Nano was very, very controllable. Recoil was noticeable, but not punishing at all. And yes, that’s also with the six-round magazine. The trigger was… good. I’m of the opinion that hammer-fired guns have better triggers than striker fired guns. But that said, the Nano does have a very good trigger. Relatively-short pull, weight is constant with no stacking, surprise breaking point, and it felt a lot lighter than it probably was. The trigger pull was a little gritty, but I’ll chalk that up to the gun being brand-spanking new. This was literally the first time the gun had been fired since it left the factory.

Unfortunately, our test run was not 100% smooth sailing. We experienced a small handful of failures to extract. They all occurred when we were using the same eight-round magazine, though we’re not sure if it was the one that came with the gun or the one he bought separately, they all occurred with Winchester USA 115-grain FMJ Value Pack ammunition, and (this is the weird bit), they only occurred when I was shooting it. Honestly, I have no idea what caused them. The gun had already eaten a box of 115-grain American Eagle with nary a hiccup. The jams started immediately after we ran out of AE and switched to the Winchester. The second and third round of the first Winchester mag FTE’d. My friend shot eight rounds through the gun, no problem. Then I shot eight more. The seventh round was another FTE. And that was it. We also had one double-feed, but I think that one was because I was limp-wristing the gun rather badly.  After the third FTE, we put another mag of Winchester through the gun without incident, then switched over to Fiocchi 124-grain FMJs. No further jams of any sort occurred. We’re chalking the FTEs up to the ammo, but I still really don’t know if that’s true.

Anyway, back on the positive: the gun is accurate. I mean scary accurate. Even though I have almost zero trigger time on the Nano, and my friend has very limited trigger time on pistols, period, we were both shooting three- and four- shot groups you could cover with a half-dollar. We even managed to shoot a few cloverleaf groups, putting shots nearly right on top of the other. Granted, the range was only seven to ten yards, but considering we are relative novices, were using a micro-compact 9mm, and with only a two-fingered grip a good deal of the time, I’d call that pretty darn impressive.

In short, the Beretta Nano has won me over. So much so that I’ve decided it’s going to be my dedicated carry piece. As soon as I can afford to, which unfortunately won’t be for quite a while, I’ll be picking one up.


Let’s See How Far We’ve Come

September 13, 2013

One year ago today, this was me:

Shooting the Ruger

Yep. One year ago today, I fired a gun for the first time. Seems like such a long time ago, yet I remember it oh-so-clearly. Just wish I could remember to follow my instructor’s advice half the time I’m at the range now. ;-) If you’d have told me then that a year from the moment that photo was taken, I’d not only have my own gun and be in the market for a second, but still living with Mama & Papa Raptor at the same time, I’d probably have laughed at you.  Heck, I still can’t believe it’s true.

So what’s on the agenda for my second year as a shooter? Get a dedicated CCW piece, get a long gun (or two, one .22lr and one centerfire), and above all, get Mama Raptor to the range.


Magnum Opus: Part 2

August 29, 2013

As you may remember, back in April I tried out a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum. It didn’t really go well.  The big revolver left me battered, bruised (literally) and utterly defeated. But, like a fool, today I went back for more. Well, sort of.

My biggest complaint with the S&W was the grips. They were very smooth and very slim, making them very hard to hold on to. The end result was that the revolver would come back under recoil and slam me hard in the web of my shooting hand. It hurt. Quite a bit, actually, to the point where after about 15 or so rounds of .357 Magnum, I really didn’t want to shoot it anymore.

So, today I tried a different flavor of .357 Magnum. Specifically, I rented a Ruger GP100 with a 4″ barrel. Now, you can debate Ruger vs. S&W all day, but honestly I really don’t have a dog in that fight right now. The reason I went with the Ruger was because its grips were thicker, girthier, and more textured than any of the S&W’s in the rental case. I figured they’d make for a more pleasant shooting experience. More on that later.

My strategy going in was the same as when I shot the S&W: shoot a box of .38 Specials through the gun before switching to Magnum loads. Well, after about three or four cylinders of the .38s, I decided “enough of this,” and loaded up a single .357 Magnum cartridge.

Ouch.

Yeah, it hurt. Not as bad as I remembered the S&W was, but still kinda painful. I remembered some advice that Evil Jim had given me back when I shot the S&W: hold it high and grip it hard. So I loaded up a cylinder full of Magnums, adjusted my grip, and commenced firing.

Eh… that wasn’t as bad…

And so I pressed on. Put a whole box (that’s 50 rounds) of Federal 158-grain Jacketed Soft Points through the gun. And it really wasn’t all that bad. Don’t get me wrong, the recoil, report, and muzzle flash (in a brightly-lit range to boot) were very impressive. I knew I was shooting a big-bore handgun, and so did everyone else on the firing line. But it didn’t hurt. And it was, dare I say it, pretty fun. That said, I don’t think I’ll be doing it again anytime soon. For me, the .357 Magnum is definitely an acquired taste, something I’ll indulge in every so often when I’m in the mood for it. Plus, ammo for a .357 is expensive! That one box I shot cost more than $0.50 a round! And it wasn’t even at a “range mark-up”!

Oh, and speaking of ammo, my favorite LGS finally had bulk 9mm in stock! It was just CCI Blaser Brass, but the price was right and it was actually available, so I bought half a case.


Ruger LC380: Surprisingly Unsurprising

August 27, 2013

First off, I have been remiss in writing this post, and for that I ask your forgiveness. I actually tested out the LC380 nearly a week ago, but between family stuff (Little Brother was in town for a few days) and work, I just never got around to posting about it. Mea culpa.

Anyways, I rented the LC380 during my most recent range trip, and as the post title suggests, the gun surprised me. Not because it blew my socks off, but because it didn’t. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t dislike the LC380, but I don’t love it either. I liked it. Liked it a lot, actually, but I went into the range expecting to absolutely love it.

Okay, enough meandering. Onto the good stuff.

The Ruger LC380 is a sub-compact semi-automatic pistol chambered, as its name suggests, for the .380 ACP cartridge. It has a single-stack magazine that holds 7 rounds, for a total capacity of 8 rounds in the gun. The pistol weighs 17.2 ounces with an empty magazine, making it just a tenth of an ounce heavier than the LCR .357 I shot the week prior. It is six inches long, four and a half inches tall (with the standard baseplate installed on the magazine) and just a hair under an inch thick in the grip.

The pistol features a manual safety, loaded-chamber indicator, and a magazine disconnect, meaning the gun cannot fire if there is not a magazine in the grip. Some folks might consider those extra safety features deal-breakers, but personally I don’t care one way or another. The manual safety is small and unobtrusive enough that, given the pistol’s double-action-only trigger, you can choose not to use it if you so desire. Likewise, though the loaded-chamber indicator is positioned atop the slide, it does not come up far enough to even come close to interfering with your sight picture.

Speaking of the sights, they are low-profile in design, but they sport standard three-dot markings and are just large and bright enough to be very easy to acquire, even during rapid-fire shooting strings. Night sights are not available from the factory, though as the LC380 is essentially just a re-chambered LC9, aftermarket sights for the LC9 should fit perfectly.

As I said, the gun features a double-action-only trigger mechanism, of a sort, anyways. I say that because it is not a “true” DAO system as I understand them. Working the slide, either through recoil or chambering a round, pre-cocks the hammer, enabling a lighter trigger pull. However, when the hammer is “all the way down,” the trigger will not actuate it, i.e. the gun does not have a second-strike capability. Personally, I think I’d rather have a slightly heavier trigger and a true DAO mechanism, but the lack thereof doesn’t sour the gun for me. I thought going into the shooting session that the gun had a true DAO trigger. I was mistaken. Nothing against the gun at all, I was just ignorant/misinformed going in.

Speaking of the trigger, though the pull is rather long, it is extremely light. Again, I don’t have any way of measuring it, so I can’t give you an exact weight, but it felt much lighter than the LCR’s trigger. The pull was very smooth with a constant pull weight, no stacking or staging whatsoever. It did, however, feel a little ‘numb,’ i.e. didn’t provide much feedback in the way of how much further you had to pull it. But still an excellent trigger nonetheless.

Now, Ruger bills the pistol as “the lightest-recoiling centerfire handgun they’ve ever produced,” and a lot of reviews I’ve read and watched since the gun came out earlier this year claim the recoil is so light it feels like you’re shooting a .22. Now, having fired .22 pistols, I have to say that the LC380 has noticeably more recoil than a .22, but even so… holy smokes! Granted, it’s “only” chambered in .380, but for a polymer-framed, sub-compact defensive handgun, the recoil seems almost impossibly light.  The only pistols I’ve ever fired that have recoil comparable to the LC380’s are the Browning Hi-Power and the Kimber Stainless Target II, but those are full-sized, all-steel 9mms that each weigh over twice as much as the Ruger.

Ruger claims this super-light recoil is the result of the pistol’s Browning-derived locked-breech action and a light recoil spring (much lighter than the LC9, I understand). A by-product of this arrangement is that the slide is very easy to rack, much easier than any other sub-compact pistol I’ve handled so far.  Because of the light recoil and ease of manipulation, I would definitely recommend the LC380 for someone buying their first gun and looking for something that they can easily conceal.

The pistol also features two baseplates for the magazine: a standard flat baseplate and a slightly extended baseplate that features an extended pinky rest, though it does not increase magazine capacity. The rental I fired had the standard baseplate installed, so I was able to get a two-and-a-half finger grip on the pistol. If I were to buy my own and carry it, I think I would install the extended baseplate. Sure, it would sacrifice concealability a bit, but I think the extra controlability would be worth it.

That actually brings me to the one complaint I have with the gun: the magazines. Or, rather, the lack thereof. Ruger, for whatever reason, includes only one magazine with a new LC380. Not one spare magazine, one magazine total. And extra magazines are nigh impossible to find right now. Every online retailer that I’ve checked doesn’t even list LC380 parts and accessories in their catalogs yet. And the LGS I was at had exactly one LC380 magazine in stock. To put that in perspective, they had dozens of LC9, LCP and SR9 magazines. But only one LC380 magazine. Now LC9 magazines should fit in the LC380, but because the 9mm is longer than the .380 ACP, I do not know how well they will feed, if they even feed at all.

However, this problem ultimately stems, in my opinion, from the fact that the LC380 has only been on the market for a few months. Spare magazines should become readily available within a (hopefully) short timeframe.

One last plus in the LC380’s favor: because it is basically a re-chambered LC9, holsters, mag pouches, and accessories (like grip socks and laser sights) for the LC9 will work with the LC380 with absolutely no problems.

Overall, I liked the LC380. Didn’t love it, but liked it. It’s nothing special or groundbreaking (aside from the impossibly-light recoil, of course), but then again it wasn’t intended to be. It was designed to be a sub-compact CCW pistol, and in my opinion it fulfills that role extremely well. In fact, it’s moved to the top of my list of Possible Carry Pieces. Granted, it’s “only” a .380 ACP, but I actually like that because .380 is readily available in my area, whereas 9mm is still nigh impossible to find. And IMO, better a “weak” gun that you can practice with than a “powerful” one that you can’t get ammo for. So that’s definitely a plus.

Until next time, peace.

-Raptor


Ruger LCR: Didn’t See That One Coming

August 14, 2013

I drove down to my favorite LGS today and, on a whim, rented a Ruger LCR in .357 Magnum. Actually, no, I take that back. It wasn’t really a whim.

Since my last post, I’ve been talking with my folks, and Mama Raptor is okay with me buying a second gun. Haven’t talked with Papa Raptor about it yet, but now really isn’t the time (he’s under the weather). I’ve also done some math, and while a Glock 19 Gen4 is still way outside my budget, I can probably swing the funds for a small, relatively-inexpensive dedicated carry piece. Something along the lines of a Kahr CW9, S&W Sheild (though that one might be stretching it), S&W J-frame, Ruger LC9 or LC380, or Ruger LCR.

Hence my renting one today.

The specific gun I rented was the basic .357 Magnum model with the standard Hogue Tamer grips. No fancy sights or lasers. And while the gun is chambered for .357 Magnum, I only ran standard-pressure .38 Specials through it.

My initial shooting impressions were surprisingly positive. The LCR has what might just be the best double-action trigger pull I’ve ever felt. The pull weight was probably in the neighborhood of 10-12 lbs, but the trigger was so silky smooth and so crisp that it felt much, much lighter. On par with my SIG’s if not better. And while the gun weighs only 17.1 ounces empty, the recoil was very easy to manage. Don’t get me wrong, it still kicks enough that you know you’re shooting a snubbie, but the Hogue Tamer grips soak up the recoil enough that it was almost pleasant to shoot. It probably would have been completely pleasant if I could have found a good hold on the gun – I like running handguns with a thumbs-forward grip, but you can’t use that on a revolver unless you want to blow the tip of your thumb off. Speaking of the grips, while they are compact, they are rather hand-filling and just long enough for me to squeeze a full three-fingered grip onto the gun.  However, I suspect that those with large hands will only be able to get two fingers onto the gun.

Anyway, while I was surprised how easy the gun was to handle, I don’t think I’d want to put more than 100 rounds through it at a time.  If I did buy one and carry it, I think I’d load it with hot .38 +Ps or, at most, light .357 loads. Running full-snot Magnum loads through a gun that small and light would definitely not be an enjoyable experience!

The LCR was also surprisingly accurate. Now I have very little experience with revolvers, and am not great with double-action triggers at all, but after I got used to the LCR’s aforementioned excellent DAO trigger, I was getting some pretty good groupings. Admittedly, I was only shooting at 7 yards, and I wasn’t in any danger of winning a marksmanship contest, but I was certainly combat accurate. With some more experience on the LCR, plus one other tweak I’ll mention later, I imagine I could shoot it very, very well.

Unfortunately, there was a problem with the gun. I mean my rental specifically. Ruger LCRs are somewhat infamous for having a “false trigger reset,” i.e. the trigger sounds and feels like it’s fully reset when in fact you still have to let it out another millimeter or so before it reaches the true reset point. I’d known about that when I rented the gun, so I was expecting it. What I wasn’t expecting was that when I’d pull the trigger without first fully resetting it, the cylinder would index over to the next chamber. The hammer didn’t move, but the cylinder did rotate. That concerned me a great deal, but some research when I got home (i.e. I posted about it on We The Armed)  indicated that the bug is not, let me repeat, not, common at all to LCRs. In fact, nobody had ever heard of that ever happening before. Which meant my rental gun was broken. In retrospect, I should probably have let the guys at the range now about the problem. In my defense, they were all either on the phone or helping customers, but still, I could have waited. (Bad Raptor! Bad! No treat for you!)

This brings me to the one real quibble I have with the gun: the sights. Put bluntly, they suck. Like pretty much every compact snub-nosed revolver out there, the sights consist of a U-shaped notch milled out of the frame and a tiny ramp at the end of the barrel. The front ramp sight on the LCR is serrated to cut down on glare, but it is also completely unmarked. This makes it very, very difficult to acquire, even when slow-firing and using a bright blue silhouette  as your target, like I was. If I bought an LCR, I’d either get one that came with an XS Dot Sight or else buy said sight and have it installed on the gun. I’d probably have to do the latter, as Ruger does not currently offer the LCR .357 with the XS sight from the factory (though they do with the .38 Special-only model. Come on, Ruger…)

And yes, if I do decide to buy an LCR, I will be getting the .357 Magnum version instead of the .38-only model, even though I will almost certainly run .38s through it. Reason being that the .357 version is 3.5 ounces heavier than the .38 version. Yes, I know I’ve been griping about how heavy my SIG is, but the LCR .357 weighs just over a pound, so it would be very, very easy to carry. Plus, in a gun that size, I want the extra weight to help soak up the recoil.

So, to sum up, I was very surprised by the LCR .357. I didn’t expect to like it, and really only rented it so I could I could eliminate it from the running in my search for a CCW piece. But, the sights (and mechanical issue) notwithstanding, I really, really liked it. I don’t believe I’m saying (okay, typing) this, but I’m actually considering it. If you’re in the market for a CCW piece, I highly recommend you check out the Ruger LCR.

Oh, and totally unrelated, but I shot my SIG after I shot I finished with the LCR. Again, wouldn’t win any marksmanship contests, but I shot it very well. Better than I’ve shot it in a long while. Took my time, really watched my technique (especially my trigger pull), and I got all my shots in the black (technically, in the blue) out to 15 yards. Kept all the shots on paper out to 20. Couldn’t do go further out because I ran out of ammo. But I’m definitely improving. I still need to practice, and probably seek out some professional instruction. I still want a Glock 19 Gen4, mind you…. but I think I’m going to hold onto my P228 for a while.

Until next time, Peace.

-Raptor


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