Sunday, March 29, 2009
Headspace, (in a firearm, not a teenager) refers to the distance between the base of the cartridge and the head of the bolt. It can also refer to the index point on the cartridge that contacts the chamber, and controls how far into the chamber the round is inserted. With a rimless straight wall cartridge (.45 acp), the round usually headspaces on the front lip of the case. On a rimless bottleneck rifle cartridge (.223 ect) the cartidge headspaces on the shoulder.
The .303 British is a rimmed cartridge, and headspaces from the rim of the cartridge, not the shoulder. This is a carryover from an age when all rifle cartridges were rimmed, when positive extraction took precedence over other considerations. Developed during the 1880's, the.303 British is a venerable old design, but can be a bit persnickety at times.
Military rifles chambered for the round can, and often do, have large chambers of unusual dimensions. The chambers were often large on purpose, as fouling and dirt can close those dimensions in a hurry during military operations. Despite that these rifles will function fine and shoot with decent military accuracy despite the chamber tolerance.
The idea of an over sized chamber actually has some good thought behind it, at least with rimmed rounds such as the .303. A chamber a bit over sized makes the rifle much less fussy about manufacturing variances in the ammunition. During a war time rush, this could be critical. Also consider, the British empire had armories on several continents at once, and tolerances sometimes had to be loose to make the ammo from colony 'A' fit the rifle from colony 'B'.
Military forces are not concerned with reloading their cases, with the possible exception of elite folks like the US Army Marksmanship Unit, where extreme accuracy is the stock in trade. For regular armed forces, it's going to be new made ammunition every time, and what happens to the cartridge when it's fired is not really a consideration, as long as it works and is safe to the soldier. This leaves the civilian hand loader with some interesting technical issues to deal with, especially with the .303 British fired from a military Lee Enfield.
The .303 British cases shown are a military round (Greek HXP), a case fired from an Enfield No4MkII, and the same case ready to reload. Notice the fired case compared to the unfired case. This pushing of the shoulder forward is caused by the case expanding to fill the chamber. (click on the photos to enlarge).
This rifle is not worn out. In fact, it appeared nearly unfired when acquired. The chamber is normal for an Enfield of this type. Case expansion in a Lee Enfield is not unusual, and therein lies the concerns for a hand loader.
When shooting factory loaded .303 ammunition, military or commercial, this large chamber makes no difference to the shooter. A Lee-Enfield owner who wishes to reload his cases had better pay attention to the phenomenon.
In resizing the case, the shooter has many choices. It's here the reloader can make or break his case life, and his accuracy, so choose wisely. When dealing with a rimmed cartridge like the .303, proper sizing can drastically effect case life and accuracy.
If full length sizing, care must be taken regarding setting this shoulder back and overworking the brass. On the other hand, if more than one .303 rifle is owned, then the fired case will sometimes only fit that chamber and no other unless it's fully sized. Hand loading owners of .303's usually segregate their cases by rifle. This applies to other rifles as well, but seems to really come into play with rimmed military rounds fired from military rifles. The Russian 7.62x54 is another prime example. Handloads that fit one rifle may not chamber in the next.
Perhaps the best policy, when loading rimmed cartridges to be used in elderly military rifles, is to segregate the cases by the rifle. Maintain a boxed set for each weapon, marked to the rifle by serial number or distinguishing factors. Then, reload those cases with the neck sizing method, or a full length sizing die which is backed off to leave the shoulder untouched. As long as the reloaded cartridge functions well, over working during sizing is not necessary and will shorten case life tremendously.
There is an opinion that the .303 is very hard on brass. Maybe, in some cases, it is. I believe the real culprit is not the rifle nor the cartridge, but the hand loading process. As for myself, my thirty year old .303 brass is on it's fifth or sixth loading with no issues apparent. Below-maximum pressure loads and careful sizing have given me .303 ammunition that functions well, is surprisingly accurate, and lasts as long as any other high power cartridge brass.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
All this is good..... but there is a fly in the ointment. The 9c has one flaw, and it's not insignificant.
After owning, shooting, and carrying the pistol for some months it began doing something disconcerting. The magazine would release and drop at times when I hadn't planned on doing so. Sometimes in the holster, and sometimes when I brushed the release while shooting the pistol. I discussed the issue back then, in a number of posts linked together.
At the time, I shipped the pistol back to Smith and Wesson for an updated magazine catch. Given the minuscule engagement of the catch to the magazine, it needed to be perfect. The one my pistol came with had taken some wear from normal use, and that contributing to the problem.
Smith and Wesson returned my pistol with a new catch installed. It appeared to be exactly the same, except it was coated with something slick to reduce wear. I've been using the pistol ever since with no problems, and have fired thousands of rounds through it. It's been a daily carry for CCW purposes, and the magazine catch issue has not reared it's ugly head..... till now.
I noticed a few times lately the magazine had released during normal handling. That's just not something I'm willing to tolerate in a defensive carry pistol. There's been no sign that Smith and Wesson has done anything new with the issue, so I've been left to my own resources. That is a sure recipe for disaster.
Here, in a series of photos and descriptions, I'll journal what I've done to my 9c to solve the problem. As in everything, your mileage may vary. I'm certain Smith and Wesson would frown on every single thing I've done here, and thats their prerogative. Of the other hand, this is my weapon and my responsibility, and I'm perfectly willing to rely on myself to fix a problem the manufacturer can't seem to.
Should someone else try to modify their own 9c as I have done? That's up to them, but I would encourage second thoughts first. Even the smallest mistake here might render the pistol useless or undependable. Most people would be better shipping their pistol back to S+W if they have this problem.
The magazine catch button on the 9c is pronounced, and protrudes past the body line of the pistol. While this makes it easy to operate for people with small hands, it also makes it possible to activate unintentionally by brushing the pistol with hand or holster.
The magazine has holes on either side to accommodate the ambidextrous latch mechanism. The problem is not in the magazine.... this arrangement is universally used in other firearms without problem.
Looking inside the magazine well to view the latch in operation, we find the latch itself and it's torsion bar spring which is permanently installed in the polymer molded frame. The latch can be easily removed and reversed for left handed shooters.
Tearing down a magazine and inserting the empty body into the well, we can see the magazine catch just barely engages the hole in the magazine body.
Measured with a vernier caliper, it amounts to about .020" of engagement, which is too close for comfort.
I chose to attack this problem in three ways at the same time. Each modification being small, but adding up to a magazine catch which works better than the factory allowed.
This is the magazine latch removed from the pistol. The limiting factor for it's ability to engage the magazine is how far it can protrude into the magazine well. This is determined by the lip in the plastic body just outboard of the metal catch itself. This lip seats on the frame, and limits the travel of the magazine catch into the well.
Using a razer knife and large lit magnifier, I trimmed back the lip about .020" all the way around the magazine catch, as shown. Dressed with a fine square file after being trimmed, it allowed the catch to seat that much deeper into the frame.
Taking care of the catch so it could engage deeper, I turned to the torsion bar spring. It seemed weak, again making the catch easier to operate for people with small hands. I have large hands and can deal with more tension on the latch, so wished to have a firmer spring.
The torsion bar spring is not replaceable, so I chose to strengthen what was there. Cutting the plastic body from a Q-tip to length, I carefully installed the plastic tube onto the torsion bar. There, it shimmed the bar tighter, and acted as a spring itself when it came up against the frame on activation.
The tiniest drop of 241 Loctite on the bar keeps it in place.
Here, the latch mechanism is fully assembled and the empty magazine body once again installed, we can see the latch engagement is considerably deeper. In fact, it's just about doubled. In addition, it requires a firmer activation of the latch to drop the magazine.
The last step was to carefully reduce the outside dimension of the latch button so it would be less likely to inadvertently drop the magazine.
With a fine file and emery cloth I removed some material from the button surface.
Adding up the three modifications, I have a great deal more confidence in the magazine catch on my S+W 9c. It feels firmer and less likely to drop the magazine by mistake.
Any pistol shooter can drop a magazine from their weapon, and training is the best cure for that. Starting with a pistol that doesn't do so by itself... that is a good first step.
Several weeks of carry and several hundred rounds later, the modifications seem to be working perfectly. The plastic tube has not slipped at all, and the magazine is firmly retained yet easy to remove.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Years ago I had one of these little Spanish Mauser's in 7x57mm. It was used hard, and wore many scars, but it cleaned up nice. It was a slick little rifle, and fun to shoot. Although the bore was 'iffy' it held decent groups and wasn't picky about it's loads. I paid $59.95 for that shooter, and shipping was included since it came with half a dozen other rifles.
I later gave the rifle to a friend who helped me move. To this day, it lives in his bedroom rather than his gun cabinet; He likes it that much.
I missed it about thirty seconds after I handed it over... and I always wanted another one, only in 7.62x51 Nato (not .308!). The Spanish re-barreled a bunch of these little Mauser's in that caliber in the 1950's, handing them out to the police, using some as training rifles.
Years after I gave the 7mm Mauser away, I found a 7.62 Guardia Civil on the rack in a local gun shop. After looking at the condition, I gave it all of five seconds consideration... and bought it at once. For $189 American it was all mine. The owner of the gun shop began to council me on the difference between .308 Winchester, which would fit in the rifle, and 7.62x51 Nato, which the little Mauser was actually chambered in. I let him know that not only was I aware of it, but the pretty little carbine would only see light hand loads from then on.
While there is a lot of controversy over the issue of action strength vs chamber pressure with the old 1893 Mauser action this rifle uses, there has not been an instance of a 7.62x51 Civil Guardia coming apart that I can find. That said, it's an elderly design with steel and heat treating not up to modern standards. Originally built for the 7x57 Mauser, it was a good action for it's day, but is best confined to low pressure cartridges in keeping with it's builders intentions.
Even with the chambering itself, there is controversy. Some think it to be a 7.62mm Cetme round, others a 7.62x51mm NATO round. One thing it's certainly not is a .308 Winchester, which has SAMMI pressure specs higher than both the others. 7.62x51 ammunition made to American military specifications is considerably lower pressure than the .308 commercial round, even though many modern rifles will shoot both with no problems.
I would not shoot commercial .308 in the Civil Guardia, and my specimen has seen only low pressure hand loads while I have owned it. If it really was designed for the 7.62 Cetme round, it has a lower pressure rating than even the 7.62 Nato (50,000 cup). The .308 Winchester commercial round can reach 60,000 cup, far in excess of what the 1893 Mauser action is rated at. The original 7x57 Mauser round is listed at 46,000 cup, clearly a much lower pressure cartridge.
While this Mauser has an excellent bore, almost appearing new, it simply refused to shoot jacketed bullets well. Slugging the bore revealed why. Instead of a .308 dimension, this one measures at .311! Normal .308 bullets bounce down the barrel, throwing patterns instead of shooting groups. I solved that by casting my own .311" bullets, the same used in my Lee-Enfields. Loading my own cast bullets solved the pressure issues as well, since these cast bullet loads have far lighter pressure loads than any jacketed high velocity round. With these it will shoot two inch groups at fifty yards, all day long.
The 1916 Civil Guardia uses a Mdl 93 Mauser action, which cocks on closing. Lacking the shroud on the rear of the bolt used on the 1898 action, the striker is clearly evident. The safety works the same as the 1895 and 1898 actions. Left to fire, up to lock the striker but not bolt operation, and right to lock up everything.
It also has a magazine floor plate designed to hold the action open with an empty magazine. The floor plate on many of these rifles was modified to suit civilian tastes, cutting an angle on the rear of the plate so the bolt would close without first depressing the plate in the empty magazine.
It's sights are standard old world Mauser, with a V notch rear on a graduated slide, and an inverted V front sight protected by very heavy ears wrapped around it. I prefer to remove the sight protector with it's ears while shooting. More than once I have lined up my sights on one ear or the other without noticing. They also block a significant portion of the target. It only requires pushing one pin out, then the collar with it's ears slides off.
For sling mounting, the 1916 has a bar mounted in the left rear of the stock, and a swivel on the left side of the rear barrel band. The sling is positioned for carry in the European style, not shooting in the American style. Mounting the sling on the side of the rifle allows it to be carried comfortably across the back while on foot or horseback, a reasonable requirement for the day. Trying to use such a side mounted sling as an aid in shooting (American style) will often result in the bullet impact being pulled far to the left of the aiming point.
The barrel band and front stock cap/bayonet lug are held in by spring steel releases. Depress the band catch and slide off the band... it's that easy. The machine work on these band catches is exceptional, and reveals the quality of the rifle.
One feature of this rifle that can be confusing: To pull the cleaning rod from it's slot in the stock, the front band catch must be depressed. The cleaning rod spins freely in it's carry slot, acting like one unscrewed from it's stock nut and ready to be drawn. No amount of embarrassing tugging will pull the cleaning rod from it's home till the barrel band retainer is depressed.
This Mauser has a military crest unique to Spanish Mauser's. Like many, it's a bit faint but still quite visible. Formed from a sword crossed with a Roman fasce, the fasce being an ancient symbol of authority and justice. It consisted of a bundle of sticks bound around an ax, with the ax blade protruding.
Like most military Mauser rifles of the day, this rifle also uses 'capture' screws to hold the action bolts in place. These prevent the action bolts from unscrewing inadvertently. Often misplaced because of their small size, new ones are available from many sources, including Brownells.
All things considered, this is a fun little rifle. It's pleasant to shoot, recoil is moderate (with hand loads) and the history involved is exceptional. I would not hesitate to take it hunting, and have even considered shooting a match or two with it. If old Mausers are to your taste, and one of these becomes available, I'd suggest picking it up!
Monday, March 16, 2009
During the 'patriotic war' the soviets built a LOT of sniper rifles. I can't answer for the Soviets, but the Russians are not stupid and they knew every shot that hit an important target was better than ten thousand rounds hitting dirt.
For some reason the soviet battle doctrine changed, or Dragunov rifles were adopted, or maybe the vodka ran too heavy one year, and many of these rifles were converted back into infantry weapons. The optics were removed and the mounting holes had plugs installed. These plugs were welded in and the welds ground off on the outside of the receiver. This didn't happen to all the snipers, and they were still turning up in battle right through the Vietnam war, and even today in Afghanistan.
The first clue are barrel markings. In this case, a 'CH' on the barrel shank which shows it to originally be a Tula made sniper rifle. Seeing that, opening the bolt reveals the final proof. Inside the left hand side of the receiver are found several screws visible in the bolt lug run. Looking on the outside of the receiver, no screws will be found. These are the 'plugs' installed in the mounting bolt holes and welded in place. The welds were rather roughly ground off, and the rifle refinished and restored to infantry standards. The position of the welded plugs shown here show this was a PU series sniper rifle, the most common type.
Often the ex-sniper Mosin's will have the best triggers of the breed, and the best accuracy of the Soviet 91/30's. This particular rifle has a decent trigger and will easily hold 2" groups at 100 yards using com-bloc military surplus 7.62x54 ammunition with the lighter bullets. Using the heavy bullet ammo, the groups open an inch more. Perhaps with a scope mounted, instead of the rough sights, it might show even better accuracy.
Check your Mosin rifle.... there might be a deeper story there than you know!
Friday, March 13, 2009
A few years ago I was fortunate enough to acquire a Mauser rifle in excellent condition. This specimen is a fine example of a Yugoslavian M-48B 8x57 Mauser type bolt action battle rifle.
Following WWII, the Yugoslavs moved to rearm themselves with an eye to self-reliance. They had production facilities left over from the Nazi occupation, and large numbers of captured German weapons. Many of these were reworked and standardized in Yugoslavian armories.
In the early ‘50’s Yugoslavia designed the Model 1948 Mauser type rifle, simply known as the M-48. It eventually had several variations on a theme, with most staying quite true to the original.
The M48 was a fairly faithful copy of the German K-98, with some changes. Chief among these was shortening the action to an ‘intermediate’ length, which stiffened it somewhat and made it faster to operate (although just barely).
The origins of the design are made clear when looking at the front bands and bayonet mount, which are pure K-98 to the eye.
The bolt was turned down, although not in the usual American sense. As built it will not clear a traditionally mounted scope. It is bent enough to make handing more efficient and operation quicker, and works quite well for this purpose. It's not bent so far the stock had to be notched for it, so the same stock design served the M48 as the earlier Yugoslavian Mausers.
The sights are the simple old fashioned Mauser style, with a front upside down 'V' blade on a hooded ramp and the rear a typical ramped military Mauser sight graduated to 2000 meters. The rear notch is 'V' shaped and quite small, making close aiming difficult at times.
The stocks are usually found made of elm and beech, which confused many people used to seeing walnut on a rifle. Much of the nicer walnut having been used during war production and on the 24/47 Mauser, the Yugoslavians used what they had in abundance, that being other hardwoods such as the beech and elm. Some of the early M48 rifles did sport walnut furniture, and left over 24/47 walnut stocks as well.
The elm furniture is often mistakenly labeled Teak, but that is incorrect. A small run of M48 barreled actions was run off for a nation that then installed their own wood, which was sometimes actually teak, but the Yugoslavian M48 and M48A was never mounted in teak by the Slav’s.
American collectors encounter the M48 in four main variations; The M48, M48A, M48B, and M48BO. The M48 being the first model, and having a milled floor plate, the M48A being a bit later, and the M48B (also marked M48A) having a stamped steel floor plate to decrease production time and costs, and the slightly mysterious M48BO.
The M48BO is often mistakenly called the ‘Egyptian’ model after a run of rifles built for sale to Egypt, but canceled when the war with Israel broke out. In reality, many M48 rifles were built as BO models, and are notable by having no markings other than serial numbers. These were made for sale to nations that wished to maintain plausible deniability as to the weapons origins.
Many M48 rifles are found complete with bayonets, sheaths, frogs, ammunition carriers, and cleaning kits. The bayonets are standard German style fare and are not in the least rare.
Original Yugoslavian 8x57mm ammunition was a glut on the market for quite some time, but has now dried up. It proved to be decent ammunition, but is noted for having rather hard primers, and rifles with weak firing pin springs have issues with it.
There are many of these fine little Mauser style rifles available on the market, in varying condition. The intermediate action makes it suitable for custom rifle builds, and quite a few have gone to those projects. The bulk of those seen are in decent condition and make excellent shooters.
There are a fair number of M48 rifles that were built in the mid 1950’s and went into storage at once, the market for bolt action battle rifles having shriveled. While the rifle was excellent, the world's military no longer wanted Mauser's. They wanted semi and full auto rifles with large magazines. The rifle shown here seems to be one of those 1950 builds, with a very late serial number and no signs of wear at all. It appeared unfired when purchased, but that soon changed.
As the target shows…. it’s a decent shooter. Experience has proven it to be reliable, accurate, and of excellent quality. The Slav’s had a nickname for the M-48, which translates roughly as ‘Old Reliable’.
I see no reason to disagree!
In writing on technical subjects, there is always the 'danger' that someone will come along and tell you how wrong you are.In this case, on this subject, the someone is 'Nothernug', a person who's postings I have read for quite a while. Not only does he tell me I'm wrong, but he goes into fine detail and supplies sources. In other words.... he's right, and I'm happy he took the time write this up, rather than just blow it off and move on.
I've copied his comments here, unedited, and darn well worth reading:
Excellent article. It is correct in the main but not quite on target in detail. Still, more accurate than most.
Some corrections for you.
My reply was too long so I have divided it up into segments for you.
"They had production facilities left over from the Nazi occupation..."
Wrong. The works at Kragujevac were systematically destroyed. When liberated on October 21, 1944 82 machines remained intact and half of those were out of order. After war, the rifle fabrication machinery was not gotten back from Germany as is sometimes claimed. Machines were obtained from Czechoslovakia, USSR and Hungary.*
"In the early ‘50’s Yugoslavia designed the Model 1948 Mauser type rifle, simply known as the M-48."
Not quite accurate. R& D was done in the late 40s, thus the "M48". Actual production began in 1950 with 52,000-53,700+ rifles produced that first year.**
"The M48 was a fairly faithful copy of the German K-98, with some changes. Chief among these was shortening the action to an ‘intermediate’ length"
Wrong. Though it did borrow from the K98k, it was no copy or otherwise derived from the German rifle. Rather, it's direct ancestor was the Yugoslav Mauser rifle Model 1924 directly obtained from FN- Fabrique Nationale, Herstal Liege, Belgium.** It was this rifle that introduced the 'intermediate length' Mauser action into Yugoslavia. The Yugoslavs obtained rifles, factory and production rights from FN in the 1920s and began production in 1928 which continued until Nazi occupation in 1941. At war's end, not only was the production line gutted but, many of the original production drawings were lost too. Since they had to 're-design' their rifle anyway, they made some improvements borrowed from the K98, as you noted.**
"The origins of the design are made clear when looking at the front bands and bayonet mount, which are pure K-98 to the eye."
Exaggeration. The only fore end differences between the Yugoslav M1924 (the ancestor and foundation of the post-WWII model 24/47) borrowed from the K98k into the M48 was conversion of the barrel band sling from beneath to side attachment and replacement of the M1924(24/47)s Dual pinned band springs to the K98ks single pressure held band spring. The rest is derived directly from the model 1924 but is still interchangeable with other military Mausers.***
"Some of the early M48 rifles did sport walnut furniture, and left over 24/47 walnut stocks as well."
Correct. Here's some additional data and observation. Only 10,000 M48s were stocked with walnut in 1950.** But recently, I have observed many M48B rifles with walnut stocks. Some new but others obviously long and well used. I have queried Branko about this and he has no answer and frankly, neither do I. It would be easy to explain it away on importer made stocks for barreled actions. But two things deny that. For one thing, many 24/47s are coming in with brand new elm stocks so they could have been made for needy M48 actions too. Secondly, the stocks with stocks showing hard use suggest they had carried those stocks from the beginning. I have other theories but with no supporting evidence are irrelevant.
"The elm furniture is often mistakenly labeled Teak, but that is incorrect." "...Yugoslavian M48 and M48A was never mounted in teak by the [Yugo]slav’s."
Correct. This misunderstanding was brought about by ad hype from (predominately) Mitchell's Mausers and Marstar of Canada.
"A small run of M48 barreled actions was run off for a nation that then installed their own wood, which was sometimes actually teak."
I think you are confusing another order. An (unspecified) African nation wanted a batch of M59 (or 59/66. I forget which and would have to root through my emails w/Branko to find the specifics and I ain't bothering right now). Anyhow, This African nation wanted their Yugo sks rifles stocked in teak. They supplied the necessary wood to the Yugoslavs.****
"The M48 being the first model, and having a milled floor plate, the M48A being a bit later, and the M48B (also marked M48A) having a stamped steel floor plate to decrease production time and costs, and the slightly mysterious M48BO."
Jumbled. The M48 began production in 1950, all parts machined. The M48A began in 1952 with the sole alteration of the stamped floor plate. The M48B in 1956 (still marked M48A as you noted) which caused a major interruption of production for that year. The M48B was no longer a service rifle. Rather, all Yugo turn bolt rifle production from this point was for export.** Stamped parts (in addition to the floorplate.) include the triggerguard and Magwell as a fabricated assy. Also the follower, H band, forward barrel band. The exact number of converted parts has never been published that I know of. I know Branko has not released it.*****
"the slightly mysterious M48BO" Nothing 'mysterious about it now that Branko's book has been published in English. Much of the confusion comes from the unaltered and largely incorrect Marstar site. The "bo' in M48bo is simply an abbreviation for "bez oznake" given as "unmarked" or "without markings." Many rifles in Yugo possession including earlier models of M48s, were scrubbed of all markings but serial numbers and refinished for export. They began as a dedicated production model concurrent with the M48B in 1956. This model is the single most numerous produced but since most were apparently exported before shipments to the USA began, they are considered somewhat rare here.**,****
"The bayonets are standard German style fare and are not in the least rare." the bayonets differ from the German in having a muzzle ring, elm grip scales and other lesser detail. Beware ebayers trying to pass these off as German WWII bayos.
"The rifle shown here seems to be one of those 1950 builds, with a very late serial number and no signs of wear at all." yes the M48B was manufactured from 1956. Exactly when production ceased is not clear. The excellent condition was the result of Yugo military maintenance. Every 5 years, stored rifles were pulled out, cleaned a few test fired at random and the reapplied with cosmolene and returned to stores. (as told by Branko and a number of former Yugo soldiers who performed this duty)
"The Slav’s had a nickname for the M-48, which translates roughly as ‘Old Reliable’" Tangara or tanzara. More closely described as "old best rifle."****
I quite agree! :~D
* Branko Bogdanovic- Zastava Historian & author "Serbian & Yugoslav Mauser Rifles"
** "Serbian & Yugoslav Mauser Rifles"
*** personal observation
**** personal correspondence with Branko Bogdanovic.
***** my article "M48B the Anonymous Mauser" published in the Military Rifle Journal.
Uncle Mike came to visit recently, and stayed. For now.
Well, to be more exact, I went out and tried on holsters for my Smith&Wesson M+P 9c. There was an upcoming steel match, and a slight chance I’d score an extra magazine or two that would allow me to use this pistol for the match. The rules require the pistol carried in a holster, and my Galco JAK slide just wasn’t made for match shooting.
Well.... to be exact and honest… I had really just wanted to try out a new holster. The match was a fair excuse to buy one. I’m sure most shooters will understand that. Besides, it was on sale.
I was in the market for a Blackhawk Serpa holster, but they haven’t made one for the M+P compact yet. The full size yes, but it’s an inch longer than needed and I balked at a carry holster that’s too big for no reason. In addition, I have heard a few un-nice things about the latch mechanism and dirt. Things like.... you can't have your pistol anymore because the holster is angry at you for getting sand near it.
In the local gun shop, always a fun place to visit, I poked through the selection by Blackhawk, Don Hume, Galco, and Uncle Mikes. Of the armfuls the shop had on hand, I finally settled on one that actually fit my pistol; An Uncle Mike's Kydex paddle holster, (#5412-1).
The 5412-1 is marked as suitable for the Glock 26, 27, 28, and 33. I tried it only because it looked close, and I had nothing to lose but time…. and time spent in a gun store does not count as time wasted.
Later, looking it up on Uncle Mike’s website I found it’s also listed as for ‘other 9mm and compact automatics’. I guess the M+P 9c is an ‘other’?
Made of injection molded plastic, this holster has a very firm paddle arrangement for attaching to the belt. I found it would not pull off with any amount of obnoxious tugging on the pistol. In fact, I almost had to remove my belt to get the holster off. Compared to the Fobus I reviewed previously, the Uncle Mike’s is much more secure on the waist.
Remarkable for a low cost holster, this Plastic wonder is fully adjustable for cant and tension. The holster can be angled forward or back, via mounting screws, seemingly enough to become a cross-draw holster if desired. The retention tension is also adjustable via two screws on the front of the holster. It was an easy matter to adjust the holster’s grasp on the pistol, although it was nearly perfect right out of the package.
Mounted on the belt, the Uncle Mike paddle holster rides high. High enough to elicit the only real complaint I have so far. The pistol is carried so high the wearer's arm must be bent quite far to draw. This is an awkward position, especially if the tension on the holster is dialed up. It takes some force to draw the weapon and can be difficult with the arm already bent that far. Leaning over a bit helps.
My thoughts.... This holster will be fine as a range-rig. For CCW it feels too bulky and sticks out too far. Now, if they could lose the bulky paddle and just give us some belt slots like the Blackhawk...... it might be a winner for CCW. These are my opinions, yours may vary.
Looking closely at the holster design, I am considering making a belt loop plate to replace the screw on paddle attachment. If I can make such a beast, it will pull the holster much closer to the body. I might also figure a way to make it an 'inside the belt' holster, which I prefer for concealed carry.
I know..... I can never leave well enough alone...... (g).
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Setting aside political questions, Bill Ruger of Sturm Ruger firearms was a pretty astute fellow. He came up with some designs that were considered revolutionary for their day, and since many of them are still in production today they seem to have been good ones.
The Ruger Mark 1 (and 2, and 3 etc) changed the market for .22 auto loaders. His ‘Single Six’ line of .22 single action revolvers are still made today, and set the tone for that market as well. The Blackhawk ushered in modern full size single actions chambered in rounds capable of taking big game, and his Service Six line of revolvers graced tens of thousands of police and military holsters world wide.
Come the mid eighties, and 9mm large capacity autoloaders are becoming the next great thing to own. Driven by a military contract seeking a supplier, gun makers cranked up the design teams and the ‘Wondernine’ genre was born. While the Browning High Power had been around for generations, the idea of a large capacity semi auto service pistol had never really caught on with the American public. Now, with the
Ruger set out to design a 9mm high capacity service pistol that was tough enough to be worthy of his product line, and cheap enough to make that he could sell it below the rest of the market. If it got picked up by the military too, that was gravy on the steak.
Starting with a very tough hard coated aluminum allow frame, the pistol got a steel slide assembly. It featured a barrel link that pivoted the barrel down to unlock, with a wide open ejection port reminiscent of the Beretta. Feeding is rock solid, and the P-85 is not in the least picky about bullet design.
The weapon is double action, and has a reasonable trigger pull both in DA and single action; A little scratchy at times, it smooths with use. The pistol is surprisingly accurate, and the trigger turns out to be the limiting factor in shooting it well. That said, this example easily turns out one inch five shot groups from the seven yard line, even with the first round being fired double action.
Few complicated mechanical beasts have been born without flaws, and this pistol is no exception. The first P-85 pistols had a decocker/safety that was as little too skimpy for people with small hands to use well. In addition, there were a few reports of broken firing pins causing unintentional discharges. The decocker and firing pin were redsigned, and in usual Ruger terms of excellent customer service, all the first pistols were upgraded for free with the MkIIr modification. Pistols modified as such will have the right side of the ambidextrous decocker marked so.
The pistol is not light. Never intended for concealed carry, it’s built to be at home in a duty holster. Hanging it off a belt all day might be tiring, but the reassuring heft and unfailing dependability made it loved by many of those who carried on duty. Lacking the power of a .45 acp, it did have the benefit of a fifteen round magazine. With two magazines in belt pouches, an officer was loaded out with 46 rounds ready to hand. This was twice that of the 1911, let alone the old six shot service revolver.
The P-85 was not actually released till 1987, and with the upgraded decocking lever and firing pin, it morphed into the P-89 model. Magazines, holsters, and spare parts are interchangeable between the two. Neither is in production any more, what with the predominance of lightweight polymer pistol frames. Injection molded plastic is lighter and cheaper than machined aircraft grade aluminum, and Glock sales of their model 17 in the
Shooting this old beast of a Wondernine at the range, it proved easy to handle. Pointing naturally, it placed round after round on target almost without effort. The trigger needs time to smooth out, but the cure for that is nothing more complicated that regular use. Handed to someone with little pistol experience, he was soon picking off Daisy two inch clay disks like clockwork.
While heavy for a carry weapon by today’s standards, it still makes an exceptionally dependable home defense tool. In addition, after some practice, it will probably find range time shooting steel in competition.
Modern 9x19mm ammunition has changed the way the old 9mm Luger cartridge is viewed. Today’s Speer Gold Dot defensive ammunition is light years ahead of what was available in the 1980’s, and makes this pistol a comfortable choice in a defensive role. Lacking some of the bells and whistles of the latest laser guided whiz bang carry pistol, with its optional cup holder and apple peeler, the Ruger P-85 instead has something better; rock solid dependability. Even today, that is priceless.