Monthly Archives: May 2017

Range Report for 30 May 2017: Limp-Wristing and Other Less-Than-Epic Fails

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Taurus m905 9mm revolver w/custom grip

Yesterday’s range trip largely falls into the category of ‘teachable moments.’ The words ‘Learning Experience’ also come to mind.

A few years back Linda Sold her best friend her Kahr E9 and has regretted it ever since. She’s just never found anything with the trigger and soft-shooting nature of that gun, and believe me, she’s tried! So when we happened across one on Gunbroker act an excellent price we were all over it. In anticipation of a range trip when it arrived I loaded some 9mm ammunition  to duplicate typical range ammunition. A 115gr. FMC at 1050fps seemed about right. I loaded up a bunch of them… yes, I know people recommend loading just a few and trying them, but I wanted Linda to be able to shoot her new gun to her heart’s content, and I wanted to shoot the Taurus m905 with the new grips and the Helwan as well.

So we got to the range and Linda tried the new gun with an odd result- the slide kept locking back between shots. I tried it and that didn’t happen to me; the gun worked a treat. Linda adjusted her grip and things improved immediately, and she shot this target at 7 yards- not bad for someone badly out of practice shooting a new gun.

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She found the gun to be every bit as nice to shoot as she remembered, and had a good time with it. At the end of the session she started having the issue again, and we concluded she pretty much had t be limp-wresting it, since I couldn’t reproduce the malfunction. We’ll work on that; maybe get her a ball to squeeze or something.

Meanwhile I fired the Taurus and discovered that the load I had selected was maybe not-so-much mid-range. The were seriously snappy, much more so than there Freedom Arms and Magtech ammo that I am used to. They were in fact snappy enough to break the lamination of the wood on the back of the grip. I reluctantly put the snubby away and relegated the rest of the ammo to the semi-autos.

So, Linda fired the Helwan for the first time and shot a rather nice group. Then I loaded up a mag and tried it… for the first time ever the gun jammed. Now, there has been a minor issue with racking the slide for some time, but the gun functioned so I had made the mistake of shrugging it off. Now the slide was jamming back and not returning to battery and it was very difficult to rack the slide and clear the weapon. OK, time to put that one away too. Bugger.

Time to resort to simpler tools. I brought out the Remington Bulldog and ran a quite satisfactory cylinder-full through it. I reloaded and fired a couple more shots and was having trouble re-acquiring my sight picture. That happens when your front sight flies off… oops. I couldn’t find the damned thing either. Well, I’d been figuring on a new front-sight anyway… aaaand gun number three goes back in the bag. Double-bugger. I was almost afraid to do any more shooting for fear I would break more guns…

Linda was done shooting, so I grimly brought out the Steampunk Snubbies and had a go. Fortunately they worked as well as I am accustomed to and after I chewed the centers out of a few targets I felt better. After that I fired the Shopkeeper’s Special with very satisfactory results, shooting two-hands, strong-hand and weak-hand. I felt redeemed as none of these guns experienced any difficulty and I shot them well.

So, the post-mortem…

First- the 9mm load I selected was much hotter than the reloading manual indicated. These were supposed to be moderate standard-pressure loads, but the recoil impulse was more in line with +P defensive ammuntion.  I will definitely be heeding the advice to do small test-batches in the future.

Second- The laminated grip construction that I used is not strong enough for high-pressure loads in a light revolver. So, time for a new set of grips with more robust construction… and some lighter loads!

Third- the Helwan. Upon getting home I disassembled the gun and discovered the lugs on the locking-block are peened enough to drag in the slide. This has been a problem with some of the Helwan guns, and is quite expensive to fix. Locking-blocks are getting hard to source and don’t go cheap- about $75 when they are available. Currently barrels with locking blocks are available- for $175. Ouch… that’s only $50 less than we paid for the whole gun! If  can develop reasonable material and heat-treat specs I may have to fabricate one, or repair this one. We’ll see.

Not altogether a stellar day- I had a migraine in the morning, gun and ammo issues in the early evening, and then our internet inexplicably went out. Neither computer could get online despite the fact that Hulu was perfectly happy to stream programs to our TV. Just one of those days, I guess…

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Yep. It’s Time.

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I haven’t routinely carried a concealed firearm outside of my home in years. Violent crime is down and keeps dropping and let’s face it, I do not profile as a victim. I am quite large and present as physically capable. I am well-versed in unarmed combat and pretty confident. The odds of me being selected for a criminal attack, or even witnessing one, are pretty small.

I’ve spoken before about the fact that while the need for self-defense is in some ways less likely than ever that the scope of the problem had increased. I’ve talked about responding to a mass-shooting incident and a number of other topics around concealed carry. I do routinely carry a handgun while working in my shop, but I almost never carry in public. It hasn’t seemed all that necessary, but it seems that is changing.

Last week on a commuter train in Portland a man was abusing some Moslem women. He was shouting racist epithets and insults. When other riders confronted him about this he pulled a knife and apparently went berserk. Other people on the bus tried to stop him. Two of the good samaritans are now dead, one is critically injured and several more sustained less serious wounds. A knife is a terrifyingly destructive weapon in close quarters.

I do not know that having a gun would have helped in that situation; I wasn’t there and do not know the exact circumstances. I do not know that a handgun could have been used safely and effectively in the situation; things happened shockingly fast in an enclosed space full of people; deploying a gun might have actually caused a greater risk to more people. But it would have possibly provided more options, and might have helped.

I don’t usually ride public transit so I am not likely to encounter that exact situation, but it’s easy to see myself in a similar situation in any of a variety of public venues, and in such a situation I would almost certainly intervene.  Had I done so in Portland I would most likely be dead, seriously injured or even crippled. Having a handgun in such a situation would at very least introduce more options to reduce or eliminate the threat.

We cannot predict whether we might encounter such a situation- but to some degree we can predict our own actions. If I see someone abusing others I know that I am likely to intervene in some fashion, and will likely use physical force if it appears necessary to prevent injury to innocents.  But actions ranging from trying to disengage the victims from their abuser without confrontation to calling the authorities should be attempted before violence of any kind if circumstances allow. I am intimately aware that a gun is neither a magic wand nor a screw-for every nut. A gun is a tool that expands your options, not a solution, and it is strictly a tool of last resort.

In a confrontation you have to be aware of a lot of things- not the least of which is who the aggressor is, and it’s not always as clear-cut as the situation in Portland. You need to be aware of your surroundings and the people around you. You also have to be aware that police responding to the scene don’t know who you are or what your place is in the situation- but if you’ve got a gun in your hand they aren’t likely to give you the benefit of the doubt in the first moments after their arrival.

In the firearms and self-defense communities we make a lot of the need to be mentally prepared to use lethal force, but it is equally important to be mentally prepared not to. If you are not sensible you will become part of the problem. Real-life is not a ‘hostage target.’ Out in the real-world there are things and people all around, and if you miss the bullets will hit something. Don’t get so tunneled in on the immediate situation the you are blind to innocent bystanders that many be harmed by your actions. Yes, there are SHTF scenarios where even hitting an innocent bystander is better than letting the subject continue his destructive actions, but such scenarios are vanishingly rare and improbable.

Give some thought to conditions where it will not be a good idea to deploy a weapon, and think about what constructive actions you can take when lethal force might not be a viable solution. A gun is just one of many options, not the only one.

In the meantime I think it’s time to expand my own options.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 28 May 2017.

Mini-Range Report 19 May 2017- Reloading Newb Addendum

I finished work early today and was discussing what to do this afternoon when Linda said, “I know you have those new loads- why don’t you go shooting?”

I left skid marks.

Previously all I had put through the Remington Bulldog were HSM 200gr RNFP Cowboy loads, so I was interested to see how the 185gr. reloads would compare. I had a suspicion they would be noticeably snappier, and they were a bit but nothing even approaching unpleasant. They also shot less low than the HSM loads by about 1/2. I was having a bit of trouble shooting a tight group, but that wasn’t the bullet’s fault; I couldn’t see the front sight. I fixed that by sticking a piece of masking tape over the front sight and things tightened up immediately. I think I need to do something to brighten that sight up.

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7 yards rapid fire, 185gr. LSWC, 8.5gr. Unique, CCI primer

I like this load well enough, but next I want to try some heavier bullets. I love shooting the this gun, and the more I shoot it the better it gets.

I still had a bunch of the Montana Gold 125gr. Hollowpoints loaded with 5.6gr. of Unique and a CCI primer. I decided to give the Shopkeeper’s Special a good workout. Firing at 7, 10 and fifteen yards with a six-o’clock hold produced some good results for a gun with a 2-1/4″ barrel and rudimentary sights. I had a couple guys next to me doing rapid-fire for some sort of tactical course, so I pushed the speed a bit and hoped the ROs wouldn’t notice. Well, they didn’t say anything, so I guess I got away with it. The two targets were at five and ten yards respectively.

Pulling to the left a bit, but I was in a bit of a hurry. Need to work on that…

It’s very nice that the reloads are working out well. No issues with ejection in either gun, though I took to using a cleaning rod on the .45; I could get the expended shells out, usually with a firm tap on the cylinder, but it was just easier.

Great afternoon at the range, and I have to admit it was nice to be there without having to test a gun, just put some rounds downrange and see how they work out. Very relaxing.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 19 May 2017