Monday, May 31, 2010
Whenever possible, I like to use silhouette targets at the range. Whether pistol, rifle, or shotgun... I'm generally shooting one of two styles; Bullseye or tactical. For bullseye, I fall back on the old standard.... 8" paper plates with a big black dot marked in the center. For tactical, it's silhouettes all the way.
Now, almost every gun shop sells the standard B-27 and B-21 targets, and they are great for training and practice..... but sometimes we just want a little more. That's what led me to search Amazon.com one day for targets, which led me to Sportsman's Guide, which led me to..... Law Enforcement Targets.
LET offers what might be the largest selection of targets I have ever seen, at some of the best prices I have ever seen. This time I kept it simple, and ordered a simple 'Armed bad guy' photo target with an extra feature... main anatomy features shown in a very understated printing over the photo. At the firing line, the anatomy features cannot be seen, but up close it becomes obvious what the bullets would have struck.
Next time, I may try the 'space alien' target, or the 'zombie' target, but more likely it will be the 'school' targets since I am a school teacher by trade. Not that self defense is legal for school teachers.... but you never know what might happen.
The LET targets are good quality, reasonable, and they are good to deal with. It's a hard to beat combination!
Friday, May 28, 2010
While we were down in Virginia having a ball, I noticed Terry Naughton wearing this belt. It looked a little unusual, and kind of kewl, so I looked it up in the Blackhawk showroom. In the package it looked like nothing special, just hanging there on an endcap rack without even a sign saying what it was. I bought one.....
After I got home, I ordered another one in a different color. Soon, I will order another just to make SURE I have one, should a meteor strike Norfolk or something. This is hands down the best belt I have ever owned. 100% strength, and a velcro/buckle setup that can literally save your life.
I carry CCW every time I legally can, and I need a supportive belt. At work (school), I wear a utility tool on my belt, and a flashlight shoved under the other side. I make my belt work, even more than my fat gut and chubby butt does. I've also worn the CQB belt as my holster belt for steel shooting competition, and found it to be a serious foundation for my shooting gear.
Some times it's the little things that make your day go better. Things like... a belt that actually holds your pants up, and keeps your pistol vertical.
Monday, May 24, 2010
Previously here we've written about the BLACKHAWK! Serpa holster. Also, about a reported issue with the holster. Now, it is time to really 'dig' into another possible problem.
The Serpa retention holster uses a mechanical latch to capture the trigger guard, and will not release the pistol til the latch is properly depressed. Being mechanical, it can fail to work, and some folks have reported their holster keeping their weapon hostage.
The biggest concern is dirt and debris getting under the release lever and preventing it's operation. To test that issue, in our wholly unscientific and unsophisticated way, the holster had a training dummy inserted into it and was then buried in a bucket of muck. Truly nasty stuff; Good old Pennsylvania farm dirt, with rocks and twigs galore.... and water poured on just to create a really gooey mess.
The video below shows the results... but first I would like to offer some thoughts.
Having a lifetime of mechanical experience, I now have a career teaching the subject to young students. Given the right circumstances, even a round ball of hardened steel can be made to fail each and every time. That doesn't mean we refuse to use ball bearings in a thousand different ways every day, just that we use them properly and in the right conditions.
The Serpa holster is just like that... a mechanical device that can fail in any number of ways, just like the pistol it's made to carry. There is a chance either unit can fail in normal or weird ways, and it's almost assured each will at some point. Just as with ball bearings, we accept the risk in exchange for the benefit of using them.
Yes, I suppose there is a possibility the Serpa holster could fail to release the pistol under some rare conditions. Balanced against that is the purpose of the Serpa mechanism, to retain the pistol when an unauthorized person tries to take it away. It's a trade off.... and an important one to consider. Most of life is like that, take a certain level of chance to reach a certain level of reward. Some days, the very risk of walking out the the front door is substantial, yet we still manage to make it pay off... most of the time, at least.
The features of the Serpa retention holster make it a very serious contender for duty on a police officers gear belt. The same for a soldiers kit. In both cases, physical scuffles with bad folks happen, and far too many officers are murdered with their own weapons. Far more, I believe, than are killed by simple gear failures like a failed retention holster. That has to weigh heavily in the equation.
As the video below shows, an outstandingly extreme situation was created to pack debris into the Serpa holster mechanism and recreate the reported problems. This time, it worked as designed and the pistol was easily drawn (honestly, I was surprised it did). Next time? The thousandth time? The ten thousandth time? Who can say... except that it's a calculated risk balanced against another calculated risk.
I did finally get the holster to fail, in a way. When I packed the empty holster with mud, it didn't manage to lock on the pistol when it was inserted... although it still acted as a holster. Of course, we could get any holster in the world to 'fail' by pouring it full of gravel, or pounding a 2x4 into it.
So.... watch as the BLACKHAWK! Serpa holster is treated to a very, very bad day in Carteach0's hands......
My conclusion? I now own two of the Serpa holsters. One provided by Blackhawk (the one in the video) and another I bought for my Glock 30. I'll use both as range holsters, competition holsters, and occasionally as concealed carry holsters. I've tried hard to find flaws with the Serpa system, and have yet to dig up a real one. The rig is designed for high retention levels while still allowing a rapid draw, and easy re-holstering. It does exactly that, and still comes in at a very reasonable price level.
Besides, they are the only holsters I own that I can clean by tossing in the dishwasher.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Moving through a world peopled with folks from the shooting community, one constantly feels blessed to be around such great human beings. Whether it be at the range, in the field, or just walking the county fair, the singular acts of kindness, fellowship, and decency stand out like beacons on a dark night.
I'd like to present a few of the folks I have enjoyed making connections with in the last few weeks....
After talking with the man for hours, I"m ashamed to say I didn't get his name. In my defense... we talked hard about guns, reloading, long distance shooting, trucks, engines, life, retirement... you name it.
I met this gentleman at a local park during a 'community days' fair (Read that as a lot of good people getting together and having fun). Amongst the display booths for the regional police and fire departments was one with some utterly beautiful long distance rifle on tables and stands.
The man shoots in 1000 yard competition.... and shoots very, very well. So well, it defies imagination..... we are talking four inch groups at 1000 yards. Beyond that, he is a great guy and always willing to talk with anyone about anything. Just walking the fair.... and up pops a fellow Gunny like this.... nice!
At the local club, attending a steel shoot, I had the honor of meeting Chuck Belz. Immediately standing out as a serious shooter, he went on to demonstrate a level of sportsmanship second to none.
Chuck was everywhere, seemingly at the same time. Helping keep score, coaching new shooters, running a stage, picking up brass.... all while keeping his head in gear and doing some fine, fine shooting. It was especially motivating to watch Chuck gravitate to new shooters, offering advice and easing the nervous tension caused by new surroundings and competition. Chuck's a pro, and he shows it.
In Email, every day brings new friends and opportunities to speak with real Gunny folk from around the world. Not long ago, a Gentleman name Robert Thomas took the time to share his story with me. He had the fortune to acquire a real piece of family history... a 1934 Beretta liberated by his Uncle during WWII.
Over the course of the conversation, Robert shared the story of how this historical treasure came to be in his keeping, and much of the information about his uncle as well. It's a simple story repeated thousands of times in the shooting community, and each has a core of human history to it worth treasuring. Robert's story deserves a post of it's own here in the near future.
Early this month, at a Gun-Bloggers seminar in Virginia, I had the honor of meeting more good people than I can include here. Kevin Paulson, Terry Naughton, Barbara Baird, Laura and Ashley Burgess, Chuck Buis, Todd Jarrett, Ken Blanchard, and a host of others..... each and every one a great credit to our shooting community.
Moving through life, both professionally and personally, there are people we are going to meet. Sometimes good, and sometimes not so good. Over all the years I have been blessed to enjoy, it's the folks in our shooting world who have consistently been the finest individuals one can hope to come across. That is said without reservation or qualification.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
After WWII, Colt continued making its 1911 model as both a military sidearm and for the civilian market. Some time later, a new model was introduced with a barrel reduced from 5” to 4.25”. This new model had an aluminum frame, and was christened the ‘Commander’ model. Soon it was offered with a steel frame and became the ‘Combat Commander’. Other than the reduced length, it’s all but interchangeable with a full sized Government model 1911.
This Combat Commander shown here has been in my hands for some time now, and is likely to be willed to one of my sons when I am gone. It was purchased more than a decade ago, from a gun shop display case. Hiding amongst the police trade-ins and ever present Glocks, this colt was a battered and bruised victim. Originally blue, the finish was worn from indifferent storage. Its factory Colt walnut stocks had deep scratches and were missing an emblem.
More serious… a former owner had played at being a gunsmith. The grip safety had been disabled by destruction of its flat spring. The trigger’s release point was variable and sometimes the hammer followed the slide forward. The recoil spring felt weak, and appeared to have been clipped a few coils. Taken together, the flaws resulted in a pistol that rattled and inspired no confidence at all.
Yet… there was a diamond in the dregs… waiting to be recognized. Negotiations with the shop owner took several days, and resulted in the Colt following me home after writing a check for $350. The deal was sealed shortly after I pointed out the pistol was likely unsafe to be fired, and reminded him of a recent lawsuit he had faced from a customer over recoil injuries. I almost felt bad using such a tactic, but it was Colt .45 and it needed rescue.
After detail stripping and cataloging the issues at hand, parts were ordered. A complete spring kit, new barrel bushing, adjustable target trigger, spring guide rod, and spring buffers were placed on order from Brownells. New stocks were acquired from Tucson Grip (now out of business). The stripped pistol components then soaked in a solvent bath for several days to loosen years of ignored sludge and residue.
Reassembled with new springs, some hours were spent hand lapping the new barrel bushing into place, and polishing the fit of the new trigger. The slide to frame fit was tightened up by means of gently peening the slide rails, then lapping and polishing the fit to the frame.
Add in new Wilson magazines, and the old Colt Commander was now range ready. Its first foray proved it a willing shooter, with excellent accuracy and natural pointing attributes. The heavy recoil spring chosen worked well with moderate to heavy carry loads, and no malfunctions were had.
Not carried regularly due to its freakish ability to rust easily, it saw service as a pin shooting gun. Knocking bowling pins from a table might seem easy to those who have never tried it, but such matches can be humbling. A pin laid down endwise by a misplaced shot can be a misery to clear off the table while shooting under a time clock. This Colt Combat Commander held its place as a pin gun very nicely, lacking only decent target sights.
About one year into ownership, a deal was truck with a local full service gunsmith. In exchange for a Marlin .444 lever action rifle, the smith would mill the colt and install new Bo-Mar target sights, a new beavertail grip safety, and refinish the pistol in satin nickel.
Completed, the old Colt became a thing of beauty, never failing to attract attention at the range or in a match. Handed to friends for examination, the most frequent response was a muttering about having to give it back.
The Colt has done time in a CCW carry holster, usually a Galco Miami vice shoulder holster with offside magazine carrier. Carried on the belt, its target sights tend to dig in, causing pain. Lugged in a Maxpedition shoulder bag, it’s heavy but reassuring. Since its pin shooting days have past, some Novak low mount carry sights may be in it’s future, and a return to full time carry duty.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
That is roughly the thought going through most little boys minds when they see something mechanical. Carteach0 is no better than most little boys. When I see something mechanical I want to take it apart and play with it. The corollary to that.... when I hear something has a problem, I want to figure it out and fix it.
Lately the 'button' in question has been the release lever of the Blackhawk SERPA level II retention holster. One of these rigs (for a 1911) came along with some swag from Blackhawk, and testing it as a carry rig is occupying the occasional range trip.
Researching the SERPA holster, several complaints surface on the intertubes. (1) the holster will not release the pistol from it's grasp if debris gets into the retention lever mechanism, and (2) some people have managed to shoot themselves in the leg trying to draw their weapon.
Complaint #1 will be tested in the near future, and will be a separate post here on Carteach0. To paraphrase almost every James Bond movie ever made... "Vee haf plans for you Mr. Serpa!"
Complaint #2? That one is pretty serious, and worth looking into. The gist of the story is this... a few people going through range training managed to shoot themselves while drawing their weapon from a SERPA holster, and the position of the shooters finger in working the retention release has drawn the fire of blame. In short, the shooter must push the release to draw, and some folks say the design has them pushing the weapons trigger with the same motion.
My own experience with the SERPA holster caused me to sit back and look on that with a bit of doubt, and I'll explain why. The holster requires the shooter to depress a retention lever to draw the pistol, that is true. It is also true the holster design places that lever on a line with the frame of the pistol, and not in line with the trigger.
In other words, a shooter drawing from the SERPA holster is required to press his finger outstretched along the frame of the pistol as it's drawn, pretty much as every instructor tells shooters to do no matter what holster they use.
Perhaps this series on photos will make the concept a little clearer......
In pictures, there we have it. The trigger finger extends along the frame and depresses the release to allow the weapon to be drawn. If the finger is not in line with the pistols frame, no draw will happen.
At the range, an effort was made to try different ways of pressing in the retention lever, including bending the finger and using the fingertip with varying levels of pressure. No matter what was tried, if the pistol was drawn then the trigger finger indexed on the frame.
Now... what happens after the pistol is drawn.... that is entirely up to the shooter. There will never be a safety mechanism that makes up for a shooter actively pressing the trigger (intentionally or not).
My own finding, from my own limited non-scientific inexpert testing.... the SERPA design does not encourage people to shoot themselves in the leg. If anything, it demands a safe draw with the trigger finger indexed on the frame and out of the trigger guard.
I'm certainly not saying no one managed to shoot themselves while training with this holster.... but I do have to wonder if it was the holster to blame. If it is, I can't figure out how.
Back to SERPA complaint #1, that it sometimes will not release the weapon.....
How to investigate that claim? How about.... I load the holster and bury it in a tub full of wet sand, rocks, muck, and debris.... and dig it back out to see if it fails? How about I roll around in the dirt while I wear the holster on my belt, and then see if it still works?
Yup... sounds like a plan, except the part where I also bury my beloved Combat Commander in the muck along with the holster! Whats called for is a dummy gun (plastic demo/training gun) that is shaped exactly like a 1911. So, I ponied up my credit card and ordered one.... from Blackhawk themselves. I don't want to hear one word about 'You used the wrong gun, stupid'. It will be a Blackhawk 1911 training gun, in a Blackhawk 1911 SERPA holster.
I can just imagine, down in Norfolk (the sinister Blackhawk headquarters), some guy with a tie is looking at another guy with a tie, and saying "You sold Carteach0 a WHAT?!?! Are you INSANE !?!?".
I have to admit... when I opened the box from UPS today with the training gun in it, I did have a rather significant 'mad scientist' moment and the clear touch of "MUHAHahahaha" was heard in the kitchen.
This weekend I will devote time to the experiment, and under the watchful eye of the video camera we shall see if the SERPA holster survives.
Disclaimer: Blackhawk gave me this holster to play with, which I suspect they will deeply regret in the future.
Monday, May 17, 2010
This post is a timely repeat of something done last year. The shotgun written about here has recently gone through another change, and will be featured in an upcoming post. In between, range time and gathering material to share. Stay tuned my friends!
On the list of firearms held as suitable for home defense, the nearly undisputed king is the 12 gauge pump action shotgun. Whether it’s the unmistakable noise of a round being chambered or the (rightly or wrongly) perceived massive stopping power, the big bore shotgun has a respected place in self defense.
In use since the very beginning of firearms, the shotgun rapidly gained a reputation for bringing down it’s target, whether two legged, four legged, or on wing. When ‘rifles’ did not exist and a single ball hitting it’s target was iffy, a handful of pellets fired from a .75” smoothbore usually got the job done. During the 18th century a coach was often guarded by a man armed with a ‘blunderbuss’, which was nothing more than a short barreled shotgun with the muzzle belled to make loading easier on a bouncing coach seat. From the classic western lawman to today’s patrol car, the shotgun has been a comforting resource to police officers for generations.
The same things that make it suitable for police use make it desirable as a home protection weapon. Heavy firepower over a short range, coupled with an intimidating visual image and ease of operation.
Shotguns can be found in many configurations, but the defensive role is dominated by pump action and semi-automatic 12 gauge guns. Mechanically identical to their hunting brethren, defensive shotguns differ in barrel length, magazine capacity, and sighting hardware.
While a typical hunting shotgun might have twenty eight or thirty inch barrels, this would be too long for easy maneuverability anyplace other than the field. The long barrel that makes easier swinging on a pheasant in flight would prevent effective gun handling in a hallway or small room. For this reason defensive shotguns usually have barrels that are eighteen to twenty inches long.
Hunting shotguns are often limited to three rounds capacity, or maybe five with the ‘plug’ out of the magazine. Defensive shotguns sometimes have a longer magazine tube bringing capacity up to eight or nine rounds. There are even special ‘shorter’ shotgun shells designed to boost the capacity of a shotgun, made just for defensive use. Many shotguns built for home defense also have spare ammunition stored right on the weapon, in special carriers.
While a bird gun might have a ventilated rib with a gold bead at the end, the shorter defensive shotgun more often has a plain barrel with a rifle sight on the end. There is a common misconception that shotguns throw so wide a pattern that aiming is not necessary. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and only a few ‘pointed’ shots at the range will prove this. It’s embarrassing to miss at short range with a shotgun when bowling pins are the target, but it can be disastrous in a home defense situation. Rifle type sights on the shotgun are a helpful aid to aiming accurately.
In this article, a typical 12 gauge pump action shotgun will get a simple conversion to a home defense weapon. In this case, a Remington 870 Express, but any decent quality hunting shotgun can be drafted to house duty with a few changes. While the 870 is worth investing some funds into for a project such as this, it’s possible a decent working 12 gauge can be bought used for well under $200. As long as the basic quality is there, outward finish means nothing. Worn bluing and a scratched stock don’t really matter much in a defensive shotgun. Dependability and usefulness do.
When I was shotgun shopping, the choice was narrowed to the two major suppliers; Remington and Mossberg. I liked the reliability and pricing on both, and a wealth of accessories are available for both. So, what clinched the deal on the Remington? I handled both at the store, and while I was looking over the Mossberg (a turkey gun) the rear sight fell off in my hands. To me, this is not a good sign. If one part I can see is made that cheaply, then what is there I can’t see?
This Remington came to the author as a used hunting shotgun. It’s been carried in the field, and also spent many an evening shooting trap under the lights. The original barrel is twenty eight inches long and is threaded for interchangeable chokes. It has a ventilated rib with a gold bead at the muzzle, and can hold four 2 ¾” shells in its magazine.
As a hunting shotgun it’s dependable and sturdy. Since it’s the cheaper Express model it came with a matte finish and plain wood. That doesn’t affect its usefulness or sturdiness, and it’s still a Remington 870, a shotgun with a long history of service.
As a home defense shotgun, it needed some changes. First and foremost, it must have a shorter barrel. The original was just too long to navigate the hallways and doorways of a house. It’s possible to cut down a shotgun barrel without too much fuss, but there are some factors that must be taken into account. The barrel length cannot legally be made shorter than eighteen inches without an expensive tax stamp issued by the BATFE. Eighteen and a half is usually the shortest a factory barrel comes, and most police shotguns are that length. Citizens have been killed for cutting off that last half inch… don’t risk it.
Once the gun is fitted with a suitably short barrel, what more is required? Many people seem to think any number of gadgets must be bolted, screwed, or Velcroed onto a shotgun before it can be a real defensive weapon. The reality is… simple is better. One need not feel under gunned because their shotgun does not have a vibrating green laser aiming device capable of highlighting the space shuttle in orbit, nor a twenty seven position tactical recoil absorbing stock with optional cup holder. The gun needs to work every time, and with a minimum of fuss. It needs to be maneuverable inside a building. Once that’s achieved, everything else is fluff and something to break or distract. It’s far better to spend the extra cash on ammunition and training time, which is a better investment in self defense.
If the shotgun is one that’s common, then a shorter barrel can usually be found that’s easy to install. Remington sells police length barrels for most of their shotguns, and Mossberg makes defensive barrels for both their guns and the Remington 870.
For this build a new Remington police barrel was purchased from Cabelas. It’s a smoothbore with no choke, 18 ½ inches long, and fitted with a bead front sight. The finish is matte to match the Express shotgun it’s going to be mounted on. At $119 out the door, the price was not exorbitant.
Installing the barrel could not be easier. Simply unscrewing the magazine cap is all that’s required, with the action open, and the barrel will pull forward off the shotgun (beware the magazine spring, as it will probably come un-caged with the cap removed). The new barrel is fitted into place and the cap reinstalled. Nothing else needs be done. The original hunting barrel can be cleaned, oiled, and put away for next year’s pheasant season.
While the barrel is being replaced, the magazine spring will likely be removed to get it out of the way. It’s an excellent time to set aside the ‘plug’ that limits the magazine capacity to meet some states hunting regulations. Also, it’s a fine time to install an extended magazine tube if one is desired. For about $45, a machined metal magazine extension can be bought that will give another two, three, or four rounds capacity.
In this build, the added expense was declined, and the original magazine cap reinstalled.
To carry reloads on the shotgun, many companies make ‘side saddle’ shell holders that bolt to the receiver, or even on the butt stock itself. These can hold an additional four to eight rounds in a convenient place for reloading on the move.
In our case, a simple shell holder sleeve was installed on the butt stock. Made by Uncle Mikes, it holds five shotgun shells securely in elastic loops. Since it’s of neoprene construction it tends to stick to the stock, and won’t slide around during movement. That’s important, and worth a few extra dollars. At $12, it’s an inexpensive answer to the issue of carrying extra ammunition.
Whether it’s a side saddle or an elastic shell holder such as this, strong consideration should be given to carrying reloads on the weapon. Even with the longest magazine tube the shotgun will hold only eight or nine rounds at the most. In the event the long gun is used in home defense the user is almost surely going to be under pressure and rushed. Grabbing extra ammo can’t be counted on. The fight will be fought with what’s on the gun. A ready reload mounted on the shotgun is the way to go.
The Remington 870 Express usually comes with swivels already installed for a sling. This is something to be considered. Combat slings in a dozen formats can be had, and our troops use them every day. That said… do we need a sling on a home defense shotgun?
A sling is for carrying a weapon. In a home situation the shotgun will be carried in the hands, not on the shoulder. Unless there is property to be patrolled, or a guard post to be maintained, a sling just isn’t needed. On the other hand, a sling can be a problem when moving through a building. It catches on things, and is a loose grab point for an opponent to use in taking the weapon for themselves.
Sling mounting points are not a bad idea; just for the thin chance a sling would be helpful. In a situation such as hurricane Katrina when long watches might be held over house and home to deter looting, the ability to sling the shotgun could save fatigue.
There are slings which double as bandoleers, holding an extra twenty or thirty shells in elastic loops. While they might appear pretty menacing, accurately firing a weapon with five pounds swinging loosely from it can be difficult. If there is a need to carry that much extra ammunition there are excellent cross shoulder bandoleers available, and they won’t get in the way of using the weapon.
A home defense shotgun does not need to be fancy, just dependable and suited to the job. Once the ‘riot gun’ is put together or bought, one more thing needs to happen and that is practice. Like any other tool, a shotgun won’t use itself. Practice is demanded, just as with any other weapon for self defense. Range time getting used to the recoil, noise, reloading, and aiming of the shotgun is central to its effective use. Even if it’s just a box of shells a month, the practice needs to happen.
Converting this shotgun from faithful hunter to reliable defender cost less than $140. Considering the return on investment, it might be the best way possible to spend money on home security. Its value won’t go down, and in the event it must be used every penny will be well spent.
In upcoming pieces we'll gut some shotgun shells and look closely at what is found, and discover how they perform on various targets. We'll also look at some simple drills for using a shotgun defensively.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Friends, I have been wading through some Blackhawk products lately, and pretty much enjoying myself tremendously. I now wear their Desert Ops boots everyday, and my feet and legs feel great. When I am not in work uniform I am wearing Blackhawk clothes, and I'll be writing about that stuff too, eventually (feel great, look good, yadda yadda). NO... this is not becoming the Blackhawk blog... it's just that I temporarily have some of their toys to play with til they come to their senses.
Well, the time has come to share the swag with my readers. In my E-mail yesterday came this note from Blackhawk, offering a $50 gift certificate for a good story involving their gear. Any of their gear... you choose. Photos make it better. Best of all, *I* get to chose the best story, and the winner. I have to say.... my head is swimming with the awesome power of that! (A joke son, a joke!).
Here are the official words from Blackhawk:
“BLACKHAWK! may have been new to me prior to my trip, but you may have had experience with it already. I want to see or hear of your BLACKHAWK! experience in action. Submit the best photo of your BLACKHAWK! gear or a short description of how you use the product and one reader will win a $50.00 gift certificate”
So lets have them folks.... got a story involving their gear, and want $50 more of their gear for free? I'll just say... their CQB belts are worth twice what they ask, and that Gladius flashlight is fast becoming a hit amongst my buddies and co-workers.
There are no tricks, and the only info that gets passed on to Blackhawk will be the name and address of the winner so they can mail your prize out. One catch... I get to post the winning story and photos... so keep it clean! Nothing you wouldn't mind your mother reading!
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Once again, another holster comes calling to the Carteach0 Big Box 'O Holsters. Will it find a home there...... Or..... will it pass the tests and see daily use?
This time, a tricky rig built by BLACKHAWK! (Yes, that is how the write it... it's a long story). The SERPA holster is unique in design, having a secondary retention lock unlike any other. The trigger finger activated release is the most obvious difference in the SERPA design, but there are others lurking inside it's precision molded plastic heart.
First, an explanation of 'retention levels'. It's surprisingly simple. If a holster has but one means of keeping the pistol from falling out, it's a level one holster. This can be as simple as an area of the holster that squeezes the pistol, until draw force overcomes the grip. A level two holster has two distinct methods of retention. A level three... three methods. It's really that easy.
The SERPA concealment holster is a level two rig. It shares this with the entire product line of SERPA holsters, excepting the ultra-trick super retention level three rigs. The first feature that stops your pistol from falling out is a simple adjustment screw that tightens the holster on the trigger guard area of the pistol. Think of it as an adjustable speed bump. The second retention device is what everyone notices right away, the lever deactivated positive locking mechanism. The SERPA design has a super tough finger that automatically latches inside the leading edge of the trigger guard when the pistol is holstered. It makes an audible click on activation, but that can be defeated by depressing the lever as the pistol is holstered.
The only way the pistol can be drawn is with the shooters hand in proper position on the pistol, and with the trigger finger indexed along the weapons frame as we've always been taught to place it. Then, simply grip the pistol firmly and apply pressure with the trigger finger as the pistol is drawn. As the pistol clears the holster, the shooters grip is forced to be correct while the trigger finger indexes on the frame just as it should.
The main advantage to this is self evident, and why many police departments choose this holster as standard duty gear. It's very, very hard for a bad guy to take an officers weapon by surprise. It's nearly impossible to snatch the weapon from someones SERPA holster without multiple tries, and no officer will stand by while the bad guy tries that.
Another advantage.... weapons do not fall out of SERPA holsters by accident. They simply don't.
How tough is the locking mechanism? Blackhawk tests the holster by hanging it from a tree with a pistol in it, while several grown men swing from the pistol grip. I understand they are up to three guys so far, and are not sure how to add a fourth to the pile. Like I said... tough stuff.
Okay, so the holster works well to keep the pistol where it belongs till it's needed. How well does it work when you want to draw the weapon? That was the question on my mind as I was treated to a rare opportunity... testing the SERPA holster on a police range, under the guidance of Todd Jarrett. Yes... THE Todd Jarrett. Four time world champion, nine time national champion.... and a man who just might know something about holsters.
Todd put myself and a handful of other bloggers through our paces, all of us using borrowed Glock 17's and Blackhawk SERPA holsters. He spent about five minutes coaching us on the draw, and the rest of our time was spent doing shooting drills under his supervision and coaching.
Jarrett explained his experience with the SERPA, and voiced the opinion the holster actually improved his draw since he began using it. The reason.... It requires the shooter to have a proper grip when drawing the weapon.
My experience was positive that day, and has been since. With only minutes of practice the draw is positive and smooth, most of the time. Accepted doctrine says it can take three thousand practices to build muscle memory. While I can't argue with that, I imagine it will take less to master the SERPA holster reliably. Any retention holster will have a learning curve, whether it be a thumb snap or Kydex with an internal speed bump. I've had the somewhat embarrassing moment of attempting to draw my paddle mounted Uncle Mikes kydex holster, only to end up pointing pistol, holster, and all at the target.... and that's something that won't happen with the SERPA rig.
The holster itself is formed of a proprietary formulation of polymer and carbon fiber. This allows a semi-flexible holster that retains shape well in any temperature a human is likely to encounter. As for how tough the material is..... well.... it appears nearly indestructible by any means short of open flame or cutting tools.
It comes with two belt mountings.... one that slips on the belt itself, and a paddle attachment as well. Both attach with screws, and the holster can be mounted at various angles to suit the wearer.
The Blackhawk SERPA holster is not terribly expensive, running from $30 to $50 retail, and is available for less occasionally. The holster for this review was supplied by Blackhawk, which saved me from buying one on E-bay. Frankly, they may be sorry they gave me this one, after they find what I plan to do with it next......
There is one idea regarding the SERPA holsters that circulates the web. That is: If dirt, sand, or small rocks get jammed into the mechanism, the pistol cannot be drawn. I have mostly been told "I heard of this guy" stories, and only one "I know this guy" tale of a locked up SERPA. That's not going to cut it for old Carteach0.... I'm going to have to find out for myself!
In the near future I'm going to do something terribly abusive to this holster. It will be buried in a tub of wet sand, dirt, and rocks.... multiple times. I'm going to drag it through the muck down in the creek, and roll around on it in loose dirt out at the training area. To put it simply, I'll do my damnedest to make it fail spectacularly.
It's not that I do any of those things on a normal day (ever), but some folks who buy this holster do. There are tens of thousands of the SERPA line gracing police officers belts every day, and our special forces and seal teams use them as well. I'm sure each and every one can do their own holster torture test just by wearing it to work.... but I want to see for myself.
Look for more here on the Blackhawk SERPA holster. Range time, carry reports, and of course the upcoming torture test.
Meanwhile, what's an old country boy going to do to check out how well such a holster retains the weapon? Why.... go on over to the neighbors and get his buddy to try it out! Watch this short video for a graphic demonstration of how hard it is to take someones weapon away while they carry in the SERPA. This is under no pressure, and with no resistance at all. The second part of the video shows the same man now wearing and using the Blackhawk SERPA holster, and able to draw decently with only a few minutes practice.
Please note: As stated above, BLACKHAWK! supplied the holster for this review. It's possible they might regret such a rash action in the future, but I owe them thanks for their gracious offer. What I don't owe them is a slanted review... I writes what I sees, no punches pulled.
Via Richard Johnson of Guns, Holsters, and Gear who also attended the Blackhawk blogger seminar. This is the wrap up video that Jeff at Blackhawk made for us.
It was a good time for all, and the Blackhawk folks are good people
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Yesterday I was poking around the loading bench, and decided to run off some .223 blasting ammunition. Nothing special, just a milder load of ball powder under 52 grain hollow points. I try to keep a few thousand rounds of .223 around for the occasional range day where I practice rifle techniques.
Digging into my bucket 'o .223 brass, I saw I had a bunch of range picks in there, many with crimped primer pockets.
Normally not a problem for me, but some dummy (me) bent an anvil rod in my RCBS primer pocket swager.... the small rod..... So no pocket swaging for me.
Now, reloaders are inventive if nothing else. Casting around, I found an alternative method of dealing with the issue. Not perfect, but it worked out Ok for what I was working with. I prefer to iron the brass crimped over the military primer back into the case, but an alternative presented itself.
The simple case deburring tool did a fine job of removing most of the crimp with only a few twists. Time per case is less than half what it takes to use the swager, but the downside is brass is removed. Done gently, the deburring tool cuts off the crimp, and leaves a slight bevel to aid in seating primers.
Care must be taken not to remove too much metal. Just enough to allow good primer seating, and no more.
Range picked brass with crimped military primer pockets need not be passed up. It just takes one more easy step to reload. Go for it!
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Actually, it was a crazed Navy Seal named Matulewicz, Blackhawk's Terry Naughton (holding me up in the above image), and another half dozen bloggers and Blackhawk staff. I have 41 red welts like those pictured above.
I was on Todd Jarrett's team, and he doesn't miss, so none of these welts have his name on them.
We had a blast.
Friends, I overslept this morning. Yesterday, the first full day at Blackhawk, was full indeed. It was a bit like drinking from a fire hose, but we are trying to keep up.
This morning, there's just time for a quick note and then we are back on the Blackhawk bus, and as Tam once wrote, "it apparently runs on a proprietary blend of awesomesauce and testosterone". I can now concur and verify. Yup, it's a sweet ride.... rock star all the way.
To the important shooty stuff, Blackhawk pulled out the big guns yesterday to show us their products. That meant range time (with Todd Jarrett!). I have material for a dozen posts, but in these few moments I want to mention one thing that really stood out. The line of Knoxx stocks, with their recoil reduction mechanisms.
To be short... because I have to be... the bloody things work, and there is a reason police departments are ordering these things by the truck load.
I know, I know.... mechanical things break and shouldn't be trusted. Well.... get over it. We trust mechanical things all day long, or at least make them work. There isn't a weapon in the world that can't break, but that doesn't mean we don't carry and use them. If they are simple enough, well designed enough, and tough enough..... they can work well.
The Knoxx stock appears to be all three, and a bag of chips too. As each stock was passed around the conference table, I quietly did my best to rip it in two with my bear hands. So far... no joy. Later, at the range, I was able to compare multiple heavy hitting long guns with standard and Knoxx stocks installed.
You want to have fun? Real fun? Have an ATK rep unpacking free cases of Federal police buckshot loads, as Todd Jarrett loads up a twelve gauge for you, and blast away at targets while shooting entry guns one handed! Yes.... one handed... as the tricky stock made it entirely possible, and even comfortable to do.
Not enough, you say? More fun is demanded? How about shooting .300 Win Mags on an indoor range, while a Seal Master Chief coaches you? Not enough? How about..... the .300 Winny feels like shooting a .308?
Yes.... that's what it felt like to me. I saw this from across the range, and witnessed the recoil these boomers were not pounding people with, and I just had to get in on that.
I'll write more later.... especially about the Knoxx mounted on a twelve gauge defense shotgun. The folding model really caught my attention, so I bought it. When Home, and recovered, I'll mount it up to the closet gun and wring it out here for everyone to see.
Oh... last word before we scoot.....
Even more fun? How about Todd Jarrett teaching your girl friend to shoot a defensive shotgun? Talk about a fun date!
Sunday, May 2, 2010
Yesterday we arrived in Norfolk at the headquarters of BLACKHAWK! (which will be called 'Blackhawk' from here on out). Some bloggers flew in, some of us lived close enough to drive. In either case we all gathered at the hotel to ride the big fancy Blackhawk bus to their headquarters. The 'bus' is a motorhome, highline class A, and set up to transport in comfort and style. The driver: former police and competent. On that topic, I don't think we met one person last night who couldn't be called exceptional at what they do. It seems to be something that permeates the company.
Moving straight to the important things..... the beer was excellent and on ice, and the food was beyond reproach. During some network time, plates of shrimp and good cheese graced several buffet tables.
The Blackhawk chef and his assistants took care of catering the dinner. Yes... I said 'Blackhawk Chef'. They have their own Chef (who is VERY good at his job), and cafe on site. The headquarters boasts only about 100 employees at this location, but they manage to keep this man busy, once meetings and events are thrown in. Like everyone else we have met so far... the chef knows his business. I had the thought that Blackhawk was pulling out the stops to impress a bunch of bloggers and internet business folks, but after the evening wore on I came to the conclusion that Blackhawk does everything at this level. All the best, all the time. Not in an arrogant corporate way, but more in a 'Been There, Done that, Earned It' kind of way.
We had a short tour of the building and facilities here. Not everything, but enough to get a feel for the company mentality and spirit. Along the way were dozens of things to catch the eye and interest. One, these trailers out in the lot. James Rummel was astute enough to ask, and the response was interesting. You see, Blackhawk has a trade in program. Send in your old gear, and get a substantial discount on new. The trailers? They are packed full with Blackhawks competitors products, all sent in by police units, civilians, and soldiers to exchange for new. Impressive
On a personal note, I'll share my impressions so far...
Blackhawk as a company is an interesting place. I'm used to finding imperfections and tearing into them to reveal the reality underneath. In a way, it's what I do all day long. Last night I had a difficult time finding anything to latch my claws into. The Blackhawk people are as professional as any I've seen in my life, and appear dedicated to the company and it's products. They have quality control processes in place that would shame most manufacturers, and their marketing strategies are inventive, predatory, and impressive as hell. They approach their business as mission.... be the best, do it right, and do it right now. As I said.... my impressions so far.
Today, we all return on 'Da Bus' for product demo's and range time. I know it's a sales pitch, but that doesn't mean good or bad. I'm determined to maintain my objectivity and report back as honestly as I can. We've all been given a "bag o'swag" to play with, including clothes, holsters, and assorted gear. That stuff will be blogged about in the future... and for now I'll concentrate on passing on what I see and learn while I'm here.