Sunday, December 30, 2012

Beginning the test... DeSantis Nemesis pocket holster

The Fat Man has a few pistols designed for pocket carry, but till now never really used a holster to do same.  They just got slid into pants/jacket/vest pocket and away we went.

Today begins the Carteach testing of the DeSantis Nemesis pocket holster.  In fact, it's loaded up and in my pocket as this is typed, and shall be all day.  After that, daily use in various formats as I explore it's quality and usefulness.

Mine was NOT given by DeSantis as a T+E unit, but purchased from 
DeSantis Nemesis Pocket Holster

As typical on this shooting blog,  I test and report as honestly as I can.... you decide from there on.  So far, first impressions wise....   I like it.  The Nemesis holds the pistol surprisingly securely, and is made of materials such that it tends to stick in the pocket, allowing a clean draw.  Re-holstering is much easier than I expected, and so far remains a one handed job while the holster is left in the pocket. 

The holster is designed to do two important functions.  One, and most important for me, it keeps the pistol properly oriented for a no-snag draw.  Two, and a feature probably important to many, the holster breaks up the 'GUN!' outline on the wearers clothing typical of pocket carry.

Today I wear the holster in a pants pocket, but have already tested it in both vest and jacket pockets as well.  In each case it performed it's job without fuss or headache.... so far.

Stay tuned.  I'll report back in a month or two, and give notice whether the Nemesis holster will remain in service, or be just another addition to the 'Big Box 'O Holsters' every shooter seems to have.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A problem with my Rock River Arms National Match upper.......

What you see in the image above is what I see when I shoot my brand new National Match Rock River Arms.  It begins to chamber, and then stops dead, out of battery.  The cartridge has obviously not centered on the bolt face properly, so it cannot chamber and the bolt cannot lock home.  This happens about every 4th or 5th round.

Now, the image above shows what I believe is the cause.  The ejector is sharp shouldered, and extends MUCH farther than the one on the Bravo Company bolt shown alongside it.  Swapping the bolts eliminates the issue in the rifle.

It now falls to a phone call to RRA to see how this will be handled. I can fix it myself, or I can send it back to them.  We shall see, and I shall report.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Wheel gun carry: .38 Special Vs .357Magnum

Despite the staggering number of choices amongst semi-auto pistols for personal protection, there are still a large segment of the population who prefer revolvers.  Even those who swear by one auto or another often have a small revolver as a backup.

Why?  Because they work.  It's not new technology.  Most are not fancy.  Almost none have any kind of external safety to remember under stress.  They just..... work.  Pick up a double action revolver, squeeze the trigger, and if it's loaded there will likely be a Bang.  If not, squeeze the trigger again and try the next hole.

Revolvers have been around the personal defense scene for many generations, and for concealed carry, the shooting public seem to have settled on the snub-nose for everyday carry.  Short, small, relatively light, and utterly dependable, a snub nose has been in the pocket or holster of many an officer or shopkeeper since the 1940's.  Even earlier, lawmen were cutting down larger pistols and making their own snubbies, the easier to pack some protection as they patrolled city streets.  J. Edgar Hoover required his agents to be armed at all times, and demonstrate proficiency with the little snubby on a regular basis. 

There's a wide range of caliber choices for those packing a wheel gun, but two still hold the position of top dogs by a very wide margin.  The .38 Special, a round that's been chambered in pistols since 1900, and has been in wide use since the 1930's.  The other, the .357 magnum, developed from a desire for a more powerful version of the .38 special, and that's exactly what it is.  

Dimensionally almost exactly the same as the .38, the .357 is made just a little longer so it will not chamber in a .38 Special hand gun.  This prevents the high pressure .357 round from being mistakenly fired from a .38 special gun.... and also gives us a wonderful choice.  This closeness in dimensions means any firearm chambered in .357 will also shoot the .38 Special, allowing the shooter to have a much cheaper, quieter, and gentler round to practice with and enjoy.  While point of impact will change quite a bit between the two rounds, this is of little concern at typical self defense practice ranges of 30-50 feet.

More to the point, for our discussion, the .357 offers a substantial boost in velocity and energy when compared to the .38 Special.  Even the '+P' version of the .38 made for modern pistols does not come close to equaling the power available from the .357 loaded to full pressure.

The higher pressures of the .357 Magnum requires a somewhat beefier build to the pistol, but weight and size comparisons between snubbies of both calibers show them nearly the same. 

The choice facing us is not really one of weight or dimension, but power.  Control ability and muzzle blast come into play, as does recoil.  The .357 does not get it's nearly doubled energy over the .38 Special without a cost.  While a .38 snubby might be relatively comfortable to shoot for most people, the same pistol in .357 has a ..... 'snappy'.... recoil that nobody sneers at for long.   Perhaps that's why so many revolver shooters enjoy the ability to practice with .38 ammunition, but carry defensively with .357 Magnum rounds in the chamber.

This is a point Carteach agrees with.  Given the choice between the same pistol in .38 Special and .357 Magnum, it only makes sense to buy the magnum version.  One can then always shoot the lighter .38 loads, and even carry them if desired.   I consider it a cost-free option, as the magnum pistols are generally no larger or heavier than the .38 version these days. 

As for 'stopping power', that has always been a nebulous term.   The fact is.... pistols don't generally knock people over.  They punch holes in them, and if nerve centers or major bones are hit, the fight is generally over.  Otherwise, pistol level rounds just punch holes and mess things up.  Yes, they will eventually knock down just about everyone.... but that notion of a bad guy hit with a bullet from a pocket pistol, and immediately doing a double backflip over the railing and falling into the volcano.... only in the movies.

That same reality holds with both .38 Special and .357 Magnum.   The only real difference between the two is velocity and energy.  Both, kept to proper bullets for their velocity, have excellent track records in self defense.  The .38 Special holds it's defensive position well when stocked with the old FBI load..... a 158 grain hollow point lead semi-wadcutter bullet.  This bullet punches holes, and messes things up, and that's all that can be expected.

The .357 Magnum, with it's higher velocity and energy, makes bigger holes and messes up more stuff.   As simple as it sounds, this difference is significant.  Very significant.  As a result, the .357 Magnum has a substantially better first shot drop record in defensive shootings.

If one can deal with the recoil, muzzle blast, and control issues of the .357, there is no reason not to choose it over the .38 Special.   As said..... one can always just stoke the pistol with .38's instead of .357's.  That said..... The Fat Old Man would not feel undergunned with the ancient .38 Special, given an understanding of it's limitations.  There's been a representative sample in his collection for many, many years indeed.  It fills a niche nicely, serves it's purpose without fanfare, and has the most important feature possible in any defensive weapon..... it works.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Feeding a pocket .380 defensive pistol


Long ago, the Carteach armory held a few .380 pistols. A venerable Walther PPK, a Bersa, and a Colt Government Model .380. The PPK was stylish, but fussy. The Bersa was well built and tough, but heavy. The Colt..... the Colt was something special. While just a bit heavy for a sub-compact pocket pistol, it was leagues ahead of it's pocket-pistol competition in power. The .32 acp pipsqueaks had nothing compared to the awesome defensive knockdown power of the.380 (Okay... that was over the top). Besides... it was a miniature Colt Government Model, and who could resist that?

Back then, nobody knew nuthin about defensive loadings in pocket pistol calibers. Sure, a few small ammo houses made some impressive stuff for the little poppers, but it wasn't going to be found in the average gun store. Add in the fact that all the factory ammo was loaded to function in blow-back pocket pistols, while the Colt was a locked breach and could handle somewhat hotter foodstuffs than the average .380.

The answer came in handloading. Carteach cooked up a rather snappy little load using a 90 grain Hornady hollowpoint and a ragged edge thrust from a stiff load of fast powder. It made that little Colt into quite a barker, but it performed far outside the envelope of factory .380 ammunition at the time.

Those times are past, and the little Colt went to a new home many years ago. It's special loading went to the back of the ammo locker, catching dust with some of the other specialty loads built over the years.

Spin the dial forward, and now pocket .380s are becoming quite the rage. They are, in fact, filling a downright important niche in a self defense role. Small, outrageously light, and amazingly easy to carry, new pocket poppers such as the Ruger LCP have taken the self defense market by storm. Coupled with one of the new compact laser sighting devices such as the Laserlyte unit, pistols like the LCP are becoming a staple of pocket carry in a society more comfortable each day with the idea of self defense as a human right.

Carteach is not immune to such attractions, and acquired his own LCP. It was quickly adopted into carry rotation, filling it's role whenever the situation held against carrying a larger pistol on the belt.

When the little Elsi Pea came home, the old special .380 handloads were pulled from retirement and pressed back into service. Built for the somewhat heavier Colt, the hot ammo surely made the pocket Ruger come to life with an impressive voice.

Looking at how popular the pop-squeak pocket .380 pistols have become as a defensive alternative, it was only a matter of time till the ammunition makers an$wered the call for a high end loading to match the new market. In a world where people will willingly pay $1 a round for ammunition that offers a distinct advantage in performance, it's no wonder companies such as Federal got busy and designed something impressive to fill peoples needs.

As Carteach is want to do when such thoughts occur, a note was sent off to the folks at asking what the latest and greatest thing on the market is. Steve Otterbacher was kind enough to describe some of what was on hand, and this Federal Hydroshock loading was chosen for a look-see.

Many... many.... years ago I had the fun of sharing the range with a friendly young fellow. Since the man was shooting an MP-5, sidling up for a look see was a no-brainer. In conversation, the gentleman shared that he was a trainer with the FBI..... and the discussion turned shooty technical from there on out. The main topic was Federal Hydroshock, and the results of testing the FBI had performed on it. Since then, finding Hydroshock ammo in a Carteach pistol has been anything but... shocking. (I know... Booo... Hisss.... I couldn't help myself).

Now that Federal has introduced the same bullet type in a version specifically for the .380, testing it became another no-brainer.

The Ruger LCP and it's cousins present a particular problem for defensive ammunition makers. Their short barrels don't offer a lot of room to build velocity, and their small bores don't offer room for a heavy bullet. The trick is to get some kind of decent velocity from the tiny pistol, while using it to propel a bullet specifically designed to perform at that velocity.

Federal seems to have done a fair job of it. The Hydroshock design bullet in the .380acp offering is thin walled enough to encourage expansion, even at pocket pistol velocities. Speaking of speed.... Federal was able to get their factory load spitting out the short LCP barrel every bit as fast as Carteach's hot handload.

Spending some time with a chronograph, the numbers make the results pretty clear. In the following graph, the Federal round is compared to Fiocchi ball, Carteach's special hot handload, and just for fun.... some Remington 9x19 124 grain Golden Saber ammunition fired from a short barrel S&W M&P 9c. Both muzzle velocity and muzzle energy were compared.

Function in the LCP was flawless, as well as in several other .380 pistols. The Federal Hydroshock did manage to pick up another 75 fps when fired from a longer barreled Bersa pistol, something not unexpected.

Overall impressions? It's good ammunition, and can easily hold it's own in a tough market where performance is the only criteria. Yes... even with's good prices, it's expensive stuff. That said, the pocket . 380 pistols don't typically get heavy range use. Shooting enough cheaper ball to break in the pistol is not a chore, and switching to the high end ammo for carry is reasonable. Running enough of the carry ammo through the pistol to assure flawless function should go without saying.