Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Couple things....

There is plenty of time to get in on the fund raising drawing for the Most Fantabulous Tactical Pen In The Universe. This time we are helping out Soldiers Angels... and a fine group they are. Already, over $700 has gone to them from Carteach0 readers... but shouldn't that be $1000? Please, and thank you!

Also... as long as we are busy with 'Ol Carteach thanking you folks.... Thanks for clicking on those ads here! This month, the stacked pennies amounted to enough to order some weird old Mil-Surp ammo, which will be stripped, explored, tested, and test fired right here for everyone's amazement, enjoyment, and edumucashion. Just a few days left in the month to kick that penny jar in the butt... so clicky away my friends!

That is all..... and thank you!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Point and shoot.... a defensive shooting drill.


(Please note: This drill carries risks, just as any shooting does. There is a real danger involved in drawing a loaded weapon and firing it, even on a controlled range during practice. The shooter does so at his own risk. The drill presented here is the authors own practice method, and is shared only as an example of a defensive drill. The author is not a firearms instructor. Many ranges will not allow this type of practice, and the shooter should consult with range management before attempting defensive drills involving draw and movement.)

A tourist walks up to a cab driver in New York City and asks him “Can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?” The cab driver promptly responds “Practice!” as he drives away laughing.

I suspect if a civilian who caries a weapon for self defense asked an experienced soldier the best way to survive an attack, the answer might very well be “Training!”.

For a pistol shooter, practice and training comes in many forms. Safety is paramount at all times, and practicing it should go without saying. Beyond that each discipline has it’s forms and methods. Bull’s-eye shooters spend hours upon hours practicing breathing and trigger control. Steel shooters practice rapid target acquisition. IPSC shooters even practice explaining away all the misses.

For the defensive shooter, all these are needed, and more. The point of carrying a weapon for self defense is it’s there when it’s needed. Predicting exactly what will be happening when that need arises is nearly impossible. If one could predict every dire situation, one could then avoid them. Almost by definition the defensive situation a CCW holder might face will be a surprise, and come on rapidly. If it were any other case then it would probably be better to escape than fight.

In its most extreme the armed person might have just fractions of a second to commit to shooting in defense. It’s likely to be close at hand, if not at arms length. It’s entirely possible the first rounds will be fired as snap shots on the draw, and without aiming.

If this is the case, then shooting like that should be practiced! Like anything we do under stress, practice and training will always improve how we react. The more training, the better we can deal with the stress of a sudden life and death situation. The more muscle memory we can use in that moment, the freer our mental faculties will be to access the danger, if that’s even possible.

Practice should be pointed, with a goal in mind. Not just standing up at the bench and blasting away someplace down range, but firing with deliberation and purpose. Often, even the firing should be omitted as finer points of the draw and reload are repeated over and over with an unloaded weapon.

One range session for sight acquisition, and another session might concentrate on trigger control. Yet another on reloading and failure drills. If possible, movement and firing from the draw should be done as well. Later, as each skill is learned, they can be combined in drills, such as using action dummies to force a surprise tap+rack malfunction clearing (another post!). In the event a weapon must be pulled from concealment for purposes of self defense, all these skills can and may be needed. The only thing that can be certain is not enough time will be available and something will probably go wrong.

Here, we’ll look at a drill designed to practice rapid draw and point shooting at very close range, a skill that might be useful in an extreme social encounter of the worst kind. Emergency situations don’t normally announce themselves well in advance and from far away. In the event of a personal attack the perpetrator probably took pains to remove the victim’s response time and options. The ability to draw quickly, point the weapon properly, and fire reliably could a life saving skill.

As the illustrations show, this drill has the weapon holstered on the belt in a normal concealed carry rig. The non-shooting hand comes forward and up to at least shoulder level, and probably higher. During the drill this gets the hand out of the path of firing to avoid unwanted and unauthorized bullet wounds in that hand. In a real life defensive situation, the off hand would be coming up to push away an attacker, distract attention, and possible deflect a weapon.

Care should be taken to not allow the muzzle to cover any part of the shooters body during the draw and handling.

The gun hand draws the weapon and brings it muzzle forward just in front of the body, but not extended. The pistol is pointed at the attacker, and multiple rounds are fired; at least two, but three is probably better. Without aiming, the assurance of a disabling hit that will stop the attack is lower. Multiple rounds will increase the odds of stopping the attacker.

The video shows the whole drill, first at speed, then in slow motion. It also shows one reason eye protection should always be worn while shooting. Firing this close to the backstop puts one right in the path of dirt and debris flying up from the impacts. Such shooting should never be done someplace bullets might ricochet or bounce back. The danger of being hit is far too great. (The linked post by Brigid is an excellent primer on eye protection!)

The drill should be performed dry (unloaded) several dozen times, and then done at very slow and deliberate speed while concentrating on a safe draw and motion to fire. First the safe draw, and then the safe draw and pointing the weapon, and then the draw, point, and fire, all done at slow speed. As the actions get smoother, the pace can be picked up. After a few range sessions it should begin to fall into place.

Like any drill, it must be practiced on a regular basis to keep the skills alive. Once the motions and actions are learned and ingrained, periodic refreshers are needed. Shooting the drill once or twice each range session is recommended, if possible. Regular range sessions should already be on the agenda of any conscientious CCW holder.

This drill, and many others like it, can be used to build a shooters skill level. In the event the carry weapon is needed in the gravest extreme, such skills may be life savers.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Are you in yet?

In on the drawing, I mean?

The Carteach0 blog is having a fundraiser to benefit The Soldiers Angels. Too many times... too many of our soldiers are forgotten and cast aside. Soldiers Angels fights the battle against such wrongs.

The prize for this fund raiser? The awesome writing instrument shown above, from Tuff Writer. I've held it.... it's resting in it's case on the desk right in front of me. Take it from 'Ol Carteach.... you want this.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Defensive shotgun skills.... practice, practice, PRACTICE!


Practice may not always make for a perfect response, but it's certain that lack of
practice almost guarantees poor performance in stressful situations. If that situation is one involving defensive shooting skills, poor performance could be very bad indeed. Some movements come naturally, and others do not. The more complicated and more unnatural the movement, the more it needs to be studied and practiced.

In my case, transitioning from right handed shooting to left handed shooting often causes problems to appear. Add in the factor of movement, and things go downhill very quickly. Doing both with a pump action shotgun made for some interesting discoveries!

Shooting a weapon that requires different actions from each hand can be a ballet in itself. Most folks can master a pump action shotgun with only a little practice. Take the same firearm and reverse the actions; forcing the strong hand to work the action and the weak hand to control firing. This seems to cause confusion and a momentary loss of concentration. The motions that come naturally to a shotgun shooter when
working strong hand may become almost laughable when switched to the weak hand. Forgetting to work the slide is the main culprit, while aiming can also become difficult.

Here in this video, I move from behind an improvised range barricade into shooting while moving. Taking cover behind another barricade, I reload while keeping as much attention downrange as possible. Once reloaded, I transition to weak hand and fire while moving back to the original cover position.

A lesson learned during this particular drill; if the shotgun has any malfunction at all, don't stop during the move to clear it! Move even faster to cover, and clear the malfunction there as rapidly as possible. Stopping in the open to clear a malfunction or misfeed could be.... unhealthy.

This day I was shooting up some 12 gauge loads with #7 shot, terrible ammunition that I had made while teaching myself to reload shotgun shells. It made for multiple malfunctions, once even ripping the base off a shell on extraction. My son helpfully suggested I save the ammunition for malfunction drills... my response: "What do you think we are doing now?"

While the reload seems slow, it really only takes about 10 seconds to fully load five rounds. Top level shooters on the AMU team take about a second per shell to reload, so a little slower is no shame. The first round is dropped in the loading port and the slide brought forward to battery. The weapon is now back in business if need be. The rest are loaded as quickly as possible without fumbling, while still keeping attention downrange towards the threat/target. Once fully loaded, the shotgun is moved to the left side, and shooting on the move commences again. In each case, before moving the first shot is taken from cover of the barricade.

Since the transition from strong to weak hand is a difficult one for me, it gets extra attention during practice. Repetition is the key, with many, many shells expended getting the movements to become habit.

In the following video, I maintain position behind the makeshift barricade (upturned shooting benches) and transition from side to side with every shot.

A lesson quickly learned here; I cannot kneel properly and shoot side to side like that. It proved too awkward. I had to practically sit on my heels, with both legs and feet under me as I moved. Rocking back and forth like that was the only way to bring
the shotgun quickly to bear in both directions without changing the entire body position each time. I had to sacrifice some body stability to stay flexible enough to make the transition right to left, and back again.

In addition, I learned my natural tendency was to toss the shotgun from one hand to another, losing control of it for just a fraction of a second. While this might have been slightly faster, it 's an unacceptable trait and must be practiced away. Always maintain control of the weapon.

I burned up enough shells that day to empty a full 5.56 ammo can. Along the way I learned some new skills, and practiced some learned previously. Each run through on a drill found me picking up a new pointer, discovering some small twist that made it smoother, and getting one step closer to actually having a clue what I am doing.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Match report.... Shooters to the line!


Today was the regular monthly 'Military Rifle Match' at my club. The matches follow the High Power rules fairly closely, with all targets scaled to the 100 yard range. Each month's match has a theme, and most of the regular shooters try to stick somewhere within it. This month: 'Frozen Chosin', with rifles from the Korean war era.

How did the fat old man do? Well, using Liberty (My Garand), I managed a 395/500 with all shots scoring. Today's score was my second best ever, especially as I use no special gear aside from an old shooting mat and a spotting scope. I shoot against myself, and seek to boil it down to me, the rifle, and the target. My goal.... to be proficient with my rifle, and to hit the target I aim at. There are shooters there far better than I.... but I do okay.

There is a satisfaction in that, and a certain feeling of competence in the ability to do what's needed.

Now... some images from the match:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Time for another fund raiser.... this time, supporting The Soldiers Angels! (OVER)

Thank you folks! The fund raiser was a success, with $725 raised to support Soldiers Angels. Carteach readers are the best!

A while back, 'Ol Carteach ran a fund raising raffle here to benefit the Wounded Warriors program. Lots of really great people and companies gave some fantastic prizes, and this sites readers coughed up over $2500 in hard earned cash.

Well, the time has come to do that again. This time, the donations will be made to Soldiers Angels, a group doing damn fine work in supporting our men and woman serving their country. The rules, as before, are dead simple. Make the donation directly to Soldiers Angels. They always send a receipt. Forward a copy to Carteach's e-mail at
artwelling1ATgmailDOTcom. For every five dollars donated, another ticket goes in the drawing. It's that simple.

Folks, Soldiers Angels are special people, and they do a special job. They should have our support.... and that's my honest opinion.

Now.... what is the prize for this special fund raiser? Oh My....
you have to see this to believe it.

In our last Fund raiser, we had a late entry as a prize, and it became the next months fund raising raffle offering. That was a 'Tactical Pen' built by Tuff Writer, and a special item it was too. The units given away in that event were damned fine pieces of equipment, and something to be coveted.

Well, out of the blue sky, just a few days ago, a package arrived at the Carteach secret bunker complex. In it was..... something amazing. Jack Roman, the president of Tuff Writer, had sent another fund raiser prize, and this time he outdid himself.

This is a one of a kind, specially made,
Titanium Tactical Writing Instrument.

Now, the regular Titanium pens sell for $250 on the Tuff Writer web site.... and they are completely sold out. Those are the regular ones...... and this one is not. It is, in fact, the most beautifully useful writing instrument 'Ol Carteach has ever seen.... and I know people that hand build ink pens for wealthy collectors and clients.

Want to own this incredible, one-off, amazingly tough tactical pen? You know what to do. The Soldiers Angels fund raiser will run for approximately a month, and then a drawing will be held. Someone will win this beautiful writing instrument.... will it be you?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What does Carteach carry? A Glock G-30sf....


Here in Carteach0 land, carry pistols have varied little over the years. In fact, they amounted to three choices, depending on various factors. A Colt Combat Commander in .45acp, a Taurus model 85 snubby in .38 special, and a Smith + Wesson M+P 9c compact 9mm. 95% of the time the M+P won the draw, and was in my holster as I left the house.

The M+P has features I approve of in a carry pistol. Ease of operation tops the list, as it has no external safeties to deal with. The only controls that need be learned are the trigger, the magazine release, and the slide release. The M+P is also as reliable as any autoloader, and better than most. It gobbles up just about any ammunition, both factory and hand loads, and shoots them straight. It’s an accurate pistol… very accurate considering its size.

One builder that was glaringly missing from the CCW list is Glock, a pistol chosen by a great many people as their carry and duty weapon. A lot of folks swear by the Glock, speaking of unending dependability and ease of service. A few people swear at the Glock, calling it a plastic brick, and giving it the nickname ‘The Block’.

For most of my shooting life I fell squarely in the second group. The Glock series of pistols felt odd in my hand, and didn’t point instinctively. When I was young, my friends did a group buy on model 17’s, way back when they first came out. I opted out of the buy… and stuck with my old Colt. I still have the Colt, but their Glocks were sold or traded long ago. It wasn’t that I had anything against the Glock pistols…. they just felt wrong to my hand, and rather toy like.

Perhaps it was the years of experience with the S+W M+P, but the last time I looked at a cabinet full of Glocks, I didn’t turn away. Asking to handle a few of them, I found the new ‘SF’ models have a redesigned frame, and suddenly the Glock didn’t feel quite so ‘wrong’. Looking further, I encountered the Glock Model 30. It’s a compact CCW or backup pistol with a double stack magazine holding ten rounds of…. Oh My! The one true caliber! My old favorite, the beloved .45 acp.

Comparing the Mdl 30 to the M+P 9c on my belt, I found them to be akin in size. The Glock is slightly stockier, and slightly thicker, but only just barely. For a man with big hands as I have, the chunkier grip is welcome. The M+P 9c holds 13 rounds of 9x19mm, while the Glock 30 holds 11 rounds of .45acp (ten in the magazine and one in the pipe). Both come with decent sights, and both are available with night sights.

The triggers are also comparable, with a slight nod to the M+P in crispness. Still, the new model Glock has a decent trigger, and is quite controllable in let off.

Both pistols have a minimum of external controls. The M+P has a take down lever on the left side, while the Glock uses the miniscule tabs on both sides of the frame. Other than that, they offer the same manual of arms. Immediately noted was the firmness of the magazine release on the Glock, as compared to the S+W. The M+P compact has had issues with magazine drops due to the design of the magazine catch. Clearly that is not an issue for the Glock, as it takes a firm gesture to release the magazine. It does not feel like it could happen accidentally.

Speaking of magazines… the M+P uses a steel magazine with a plastic base, while the Glock uses an all plastic magazine with a steel inner liner. The M+P magazine is easy to load, but the Glock…. is not. The tenth round going into the Glock magazine can be a real struggle. On the other hand, the Glock 30 feeds that ammunition as surely as night follows day, so the spring tension must work out just fine.

Shooting on the range, I found the M+P to be a pleasure as always. Easy to shoot well, accurate, and almost eager to put the bullet right where the shooter intends. The Glock, on the other hand, turned out to be a real surprise to this old skeptic. I had expected fair accuracy, and fair shootability considering it’s a small sized pistol firing a fairly large bullet. What I found instead was astounding accuracy, rivaling the Colt Commander. The Glock 30 also manages to absorb the recoil pulse in such a way as to make repeat shots relatively easy. All in all, a very pleasant surprise was dished up by the little Glock.

I managed to try two brands of factory ammunition in the Glock, and six different hand loads on that first range day. It cycled all without a hitch. Even rather warm hand loads pushing Berries plated bullets turned out to be accurate, and that was a real surprise as well. The Glock uses polygonal rifling, and the company states categorically that only jacketed bullets are to be used. The Berries bullet is plated soft lead, and there was some doubt as whether they’d shoot in the Glock. Not only did they shoot well, but the bore looked pristine after fifty rounds of the snappy hand load.

In a blatant attempt to force a misfeed, I even shot a few dozen rounds loaded with the old Speer 200 grain hollow point. Dubbed ‘The Flying Ashtray’, these bullets had the largest hollow point ever seen in a factory bullet. No longer available, Speer now sells the excellent line of ‘Gold Dot’ bullets instead.

The Glock digested the Speer ashtrays, and as if to sneer right back at me, spit the old style bullets into its tightest group yet. The bullet holes clumped together in a cluster just half the apparent width of the front sight from the fifty foot bench I was leaning on.

In roughly two hundred rounds of testing, the Glock 30 did not suffer one feeding or functional glitch. This was new from the box, as Glock delivers their pistols properly lubed and ready to go. I did nothing more than run a dry patch through the bore.

The Glock 30 is not without its detractors. Some owners of the SF (short frame) model have run into a problem with the slide rubbing on the trigger bar. I intentionally did not clean this example through several range sessions in order to let evidence accumulate. On stripping the pistol down, I did see a tiny shiny spot on the trigger bar where some have described it. It’s very slight indeed, and I doubt will be a problem so bad that a little polishing won’t cure it.

Cleaning is fairly easy with the Glock, and take down requires no tools. It does require brains, and a careful attention to detail. It's not that the procedure is complicated, but that it requires pulling the trigger to release the striker. Obviously, if this done with a round in the chamber bad things may happen. Not the least of which is embarrassment, and someone could easily be injured or killed. The answer? Just be smarter than a rock, and check to be sure the weapon is not loaded!

In holsters, a Dun Hume designed for the Glock is on order, but in the meantime I found it fits perfectly in the Galco JAK slide I used for both my M+P and my Commander. The pistol carries well, and does not drag down the belt at all. The chubby little spare magazine easily drops into a pocket, giving a total of twenty one rounds on hand. This compares well to the twenty five the M+P 9c offered, with a spare magazine. Given that it’s twenty one rounds of proven bad guy stopping .45acp…. that’s comforting indeed.

Regarding the subject of caliber and carry weapons, I refuse to enter the debate. My own thoughts are quite simple…. Any weapon is better than no weapon, any hit is better than any miss, and bigger bullets are always better. But… there is that old adage… “A 9mm might expand to .45, but a .45 will never shrink to 9mm”. I will say that the .45acp is one caliber that I don’t feel under-gunned with when carrying full metal jacket round nose slugs. Even these low tech bullets have a good stopping history in the .45acp.

To wrap the story up… the Glock 30 feels decent, shoots very straight, and has become the weapon Carteach carries every single day he can.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The S&W M&P 15-22 Rimfire AR..... I'm in love.


As a gunny kind of guy, Carteach's eyes are always open for 'Opportunities in ownership'. One never knows what chance might bring to the table, so one must be ready.

A while back, just such an opportunity came up. Riding to work with a buddy, he shared a list of firearms being sold by someone he knows. By the looks of the list, we had an older shooter clearing the racks of some chaff, perhaps making room for an upgrade someplace.

Two rifles caught my eye. One, an elderly Winchester bolt action .22, was already spoken for by my buddy. Ever the one to spot a good deal on quality, he'd already jumped into that rifle with both feet.

The other was a rifle I had been considering buying myself for some months already. A Smith and Wesson M&P 15-22..... Smith's rimfire brother to it's line of AR rifles. On the list at $300, the base model 15-22 was priced at a solid discount over new, and that was all Carteach needed to kick him over the edge. A few days (and an empty wallet) later, the newish .22 was in my truck and on the way home with me.

Right about here, there's a confession to make. The secret Carteach armory does not... at this moment.... contain an AR platform.

I'll give my faithful readers a few moments to get over the shock.....
Okay, better now? Got your breath back? We'll move on then.

It's not that I've never owned an AR15. It's just the ones I've owned never impressed me greatly. My first, a Colt H-bar of early design, could drive tacks with stunning regularity. What it couldn't do was function with 100% dependability. Even when clean, it liked to jam a round partly in the chamber and lock itself up tight. This happened with all ammo tried, regularly. Too regularly... and the rifle was sold off (At a profit, to be sure).

The next AR was a shorter cousin to the Colt H-bar, and while it would function pretty well... it felt 'rattly' in the hands and the accuracy was no better than the Ruger mini racked next to it. That is to say... poorish. That rifle too was sold off, and yes... at a small profit.

Currently, the primary gun safe holds a younger half-brother to the AR design, an Armalite AR180b. That rifle, designed by Eugene Stoner as an answer to all the problems with his early AR's, serves me quite well in that niche. It's piston driven, like all the kewl kids today want in their AR-15's, and it has a recoil mechanism not unlike the H+K series of rifles. Additionally, the 'b' notation means my rifle accepts standard AR magazines and trigger group components.

So, the armory does contain a rifle or two which mostly fill the role of the AR15 in Carteach's world. That being said.... what gunny doesn't lust after new toys?

So, I've been considering adding an AR platform to the collection. Perhaps something I can swap uppers on, going from an H-bar to shoot in the matches, to an M-4 design for a 'house gun'. In addition, I considered the option of plinking and practicing with a .22 rimfire conversion kit. Towards that end, S&W answered the call with their M&P 15-22... a dedicated AR rifle in .22 rimfire. Carteach had been leaning towards purchase of a 15-22, and a 5.56 brother to it as well. Thus, when the S&W .22 appeared before me on that list of used rifles for sale, it was a no-brainer.

Taking a look at the S&W rifle, what we see is a mostly polymer AR style rifle. Not a true AR, as it's a blowback rimfire action, yet the exterior of the rifle follows the AR pattern to a 'T', and on this point S&W is made of win. The charging handle, safety, functioning bolt release, and magazine release all exactly match a center fire AR rifle. The rifles exterior dimensions (35 inches with stock shortened) also match the 'real' AR rifles perfectly. The removable sights that come with the M&P 15-22 can be taken from the rimfire and mounted to the 5.56 rifle, as they are the same sights.

The only thing that clues the shooter into the fun is the weight of the 15-22, as it's all polymer construction keeps it's heft under 6 pounds. That, and the utter lack of recoil and muzzle blast on firing.

Arriving home with the brand new used M&P, nothing would suit but to shoot it a bit on the back yard range. Living where I do, with the neighbors I have, that meant I had company right quick. Handing the rifle over to my neighbor's young boy for a try, it was striking that the young man immediately mentioned the rifle had the same controls as an AR (As I've said before... I've got some pretty cool neighbors).

We put fifty rounds (two magazines) through the Smith .22 in a matter of minutes, with perfect function and good 'minute of soda can' accuracy. The rifle is a joy to shoot, with no recoil to be noticed and an easy manner to it that encourages shooting with accuracy.

One of the common failures in .22 rimfire semi-autos is reliability. To be blunt, many .22 autos are jam-0-matics, unable to get through more than a few magazines without a stoppage. In addition, of those .22 autos that do function reliably, most tend to be rather picky about ammunition while doing it. Over the years, I've had my best .22 auto luck with Ruger's offerings, namely the 10-22 and the earlier versions of the Ruger .22 auto pistol (Mk1, and Mk2). The Marlin Mdl 60 also tends to function decently with a little tender care. Other than those.... I've come to expect occasional stoppages to be the norm in a .22 auto.

NOT in the S&W M&P 15-22.... or at least not in mine. As this is being written, I've tried 12 different kinds of rimfire ammunition in my Smith .22 AR. The only ammunition which didn't cycle the rifle perfectly were CCI CB-longs (Come on... never meant to work in an auto) and some crappy Remington bulk pack with over-sized bullets that nothing functions well on. Other than that, it just shoots... and shoots... and shoots. No misfeeds, no failures to fire, and no jams. Hollow point, solid, 32 grain bullet or 40 grain... even the oddball 60 grain Aguila subsonic... it all functions perfectly in this 15-22. Standard velocity, hyper velocity, subsonic velocity, and everything else I have tried so far. It all works with wonderfully boring perfection.

The M&P .22 breaks down for cleaning in similar fashion to it's big brother AR's. Pull a pin at the back of the action, tilt the upper receiver up, and slide the charging handle and bolt out. Not much more needs be taken apart in normal cleaning, and this is refreshing. Cleaning and servicing the 15-22 is easy compared to some other .22 autos.

That said, my first excursion into the internals of this particular rifle were rather enlightening. It appears the previous owner (s) never cleaned the rifle. Now, many of the fine people reading here will have cleaned a .22 rimfire or ten in their lifetimes, and understand they can get a bit 'dirty'. Well, you ain't seen nothing... trust me on this. Upon opening the action, I found rimfire powder fouling so deep in the action I was not able to identify the springs in the trigger group.

It took an hour of scrubbing, wiping, and Q-tipping. In the end there were two trips to the trash to carry all the fouled paper towels, cleaning patches, and grungy Q-tips away. The rifle itself actually felt lighter in my hands!

I mention all this, just to point out those first fifty rounds fired when the rifle first came home. The Smith M&P .22 functioned flawlessly then, and works even better now that it's properly cleaned and lubed.

Never one to leave well enough alone, Carteach pulled the fully adjustable sights off the rifle and installed an Eotech 512 for a little change. Yes, the holographic sight costs more than the weapon it's mounted on, but that's of little import. It's FUN! Between the stunning ease of acquiring the target and the M&P's exceptional accuracy, plinking in the yard has gone to a whole new level.

I've even hung a miniature Laserlyte FSL-3 laser under the forearm rail, as an aid to low light shooting. The little laser fairly vanishes on the rifle, and makes popping soda cans off the woodpile after dark boringly easy. Just line up the blinky red laser dot on the target, and POP... it's down.

This S&W 15-22 can place five shots at 25 yards in a group covered with a dime, and that's with an old man's eyes and a non-magnified sight.... Offhand. The rifle just invites the shooter to perform that good. No work is involved, just breath well and exercise some trigger control. The 15-22 does the rest.

So what is the rifle useful for, as if the sheer pleasure wasn't enough? Smith & Wesson's faithful adherence to the functional controls of a 'real' AR make the M&P 15-22 a perfectly natural fit as a training rifle. The manual of arms is the same, and lacks only recoil and muzzle blast to simulate shooting the full bore poodle shooter rifle. For any owner of an AR platform rifle, this becomes an easy decision. A range session with the 15-22, going through 500 rounds of wonderfully accurate fire, costs only about $20 (as this is written). That is a tenth the cost of shooting the same with a 5.56 AR.

The writers home state does not allow hunting with semi-auto rifles, but if it did I would not hesitate to take the little .22 Smith out on a squirrel safari. It's accuracy would make for full pots and fun days.

How about self defense? Well.... the .22 rimfire is not exactly noted as a power house defensive round. That said, putting ten of them on target fast is roughly the same as a load of twelve gauge buckshot... so I suppose it could serve. More importantly, it's a very easy rifle to shoot well, especially for a recoil shy shooter. To someone afraid of firing a larger weapon, the .22 might be the only viable option. As for Carteach.... I would be happy to have this little rifle in my hands should a bad guy come bashing at my door.... especially if the choice was this or nothing.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Is the Blackhawk Serpa holster unsafe? (In which I offer my opinion, with photos yet!)

There is some discussion floating around the Gun Blogs regarding the negligent discharge a fellow shooter had:

Well, never let it be said Carteach is one to leave well enough alone.....


"Ohhhh Look.... a button! Lets push it and see what happens!"

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 (2) is what I am speaking of here; A pretty serious one, 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.

Down and dirty... a BLACKHAWK! Serpa holster in the mud....


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, February 5, 2012

Servicing an elderly press: Reloading tools need care!


Carteach has a few quirks, one of which is a healthy respect for high quality mechanical devices. Firearms go without saying, but an older car will catch my eye as well. Shucks, even a good, solid, old drill press will get me excited.

Given this, it's a safe bet that elderly reloading equipment will be special to the 'ol fat man. Pictured above, an example.

This Lyman Spar-T press was purchased through an ad on Craigslist. A woman had bought it at auction for her husband and son, but neither had an interest. After that it just became a toe-banger in the workshop till time (and sore toes) prompted her to answer my ad. See, I run a pretty much full time ad on Craigslist as a buyer of reloading and shooting gear. It doesn't produce often, but sometimes I can rescue something good from a poor fate.

The Lyman Spar-T is a turret press, meaning it has a rotating work head into which can be installed multiple loading dies. The operator has only to rotate the head to another position to have an already installed and adjusted die come into place over the ram. The work head rides on a heavy steel shaft, and is detented for positive but easy placement. This Lyman design places a spur from the main body of the press under the back of the work head, opposite the ram. This supports the work head during heavy sizing operations.

Reloading presses bear some resemblance to good firearms in their need for cleaning and maintenance. Reasonable care and lubrication, along with a lack of abuse, and they can last for lifetimes. Just like an older firearm, sometimes a reloading press gets shoved to the back of a closet and forgotten. When that happens, a little work can be all that's necessary to put it back into service.

For this Lyman press, neglected and rusty, what was required was a full tear down. Broken down to it's little bits, each is then cleaned and lubricated individually. There is little difference in how an old firearm might be handled.

A brass bristle brush made short work of the ancient caked on grease and small rusty spots, especially when combined with a good soak in Breakfree CLP. Followed up by scrubbing each part and pin with 'OOOO' steel wool, once again dripping with CLP. A good thorough detailed wipe down with paper towels and Q-tips, and the press was ready for final lube and assembly.

The ram is greased with a light lithium based grease before installation, and the press is assembled to reflect it's old glory. Not fancy, and perhaps not even pretty to most eyes, but it's fully functional and ready for yet another lifetime of service.

That pleases me to no end.

All this work, but it was really done just to see the old tooling treated well and back in use. There is no place on Carteach's bench for this press, but I'm certain I'll run into someone who needs a good turret press at a great price, and then the Old Lyman will be once again cranking out quality ammunition.