Monthly Archives: December 2017

‘A J-Frame doesn’t need sights… PERIOD’

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‘A J-Frame doesn’t need sights… PERIOD’

This was a statement by a person on one of the gun forums I frequent, and it is absolutely true as far as it goes. A gun- any gun- is an inanimate object; it doesn’t need anything.

I, on the other hand, am not an inanimate object. I’m a human being with individual strengths and frailties, and a few decades of experience to back that up. I do need things, or at least want them. One of the things I want is to never draw a weapon in anger again, but you can wish in one hand and crap in the other and I think we all know which hand will fill up faster. I can be vigilant, I can be careful, I can do everything I reasonably can to avoid needing a gun and it might still happen. If it does I want to be as certain as possible that the bullets go where I want them to. The best way to accomplish that is to aim, and to do that I need sights.

Seven yard rapid fire targets, one with sights and one without. 

 On the average a civilian defensive shooting takes place at 3-5 feet, and no- I probably don’t need sights for that. But if the action occurs at any greater range I want them. There are a number of reasons for this. Police used to be taught to ‘point-shoot.’ Great theory- unfortunately in practice it meant 3 out of 4 bullets missed the target in actual gunfights. When they began teaching cops to use the ‘flash-sight-picture’ this jumped immediately to 2 out of 3 bullets hitting the target- in actual gunfights. Not in training, not in theory, but when it mattered.

I also have a significant amount of experience, and every bit of it tells me the bullets are much, much more likely to go where I intend if I aim. Yeah, I keep harping about that- because it matters. Stopping an attacker depends on  breaking something they can’t live without. That means the bullets have to hit those things. In the right-hand target above, with the bullseye representing the heart, every shot would have missed. Sure, the attacker might have stopped- but I don’t prefer to bet my life on ‘might.’ I much prefer the target on the left- even using .32 S&W Long with semi-wadcutters instead of .38 Special hollow-points.

Handguns- all handguns- are not good at stopping a determined attacker.  The only way it works is to take out the central circulatory system- the heart and aorta- or the central nervous system. Yes, a bullet has to penetrate deep enough to hit vital structures, and a larger permanent wound cavity is better than a smaller one, but none of those things matter if you don’t hit the things you meed to hit. You probably don’t need sights at an arms length, but anything longer than that? Learn to aim quickly. You can, with practice, get a sight picture as fast as you can point the gun.

In my opinion any gun that is not a last-ditch, point-blank SHTF gun needs decent sights- and I’d prefer that even those have them, because you won’t get to dictate the circumstances under which you need it.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 29 December 2017

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Test Firing/Range Report 23 Dec. 2017

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Some time ago we picked up an old 4″ Rossi M68 figuring that I would customize it as a range pistol for Linda. Before I could really get it properly sorted she got another Kahr E9 which she loves desperately. The Rossi has become my ‘bench gun,’ the gun that I experiment and try new things on.  I’ve learned a lot of useful and potentially useful things, which is good because it is a part-for-part clone of a S&W J-frame. Hey, if I’m going to wreck a gun experimenting I’d rather it be a cheap one!

Went through a couple of custom grips, shortened the barrel to 2-1/4″ and re-crowned it, worked on the springs and mechanism etc.  Recently I decided to see how small one could make a J-frame without compromising function or shootability. I modified the grip-frame and cut down the existing grips. It was definitely easier to hide, but it became unreliable as the firing-pin bushing became worn. The easiest way to replace this was with the barrel removed. I fabricated a new bushing and staked it in, then got to looking at the gun and thought ‘If that barrel were shorter it would be even more concealable…”

Since the barrel was already out of the gun I ground off the front sight, chucked it up in the lather and turned down the back of the barrel and extended the threads. I measured it and cut the forcing cone to length. I then measured and cut the ejector to length and carefully filed the forcing cone until the cylinder would close comfortably. I used a tapered reamer to re-cut the forcing cone and installed and pinned the barrel and I was in business. I still hadn’t mounted a new front sight but I wanted to test the gun with live ammunition, so it was off the Champion Arms indoor gun range. Of course there was no point in taking just one gun, but we’ll get back to that.

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So how did it work? Pretty well for a gun with no sights. No rounds keyholed or otherwise misbehaved. Recoil was quite mild with target wadcutters and easily managed. I didn’t see any point in trying for accuracy; basically I ran a target out to five yards, pointed the gun and blazed away. Two cylinders full produced this- proof of why sights are necessary!

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As I said, no point in taking just one gun… I ran a box of ammo through the Colt Frontier Scout, but results were less than spectacular- I had real trouble seeing the sights. Very nice gun to shoot regardless.

I also took along the Egyptian Contract Beretta M1951. I’d function-tested it but never really wrung it out. A couple of boxes of reloads changed that, and the gun continues to function flawlessly. The only stoppage was when I didn’t seat the magazine properly and it dropped just far enough to prevent the next round from feeding. Seven-yard targets shot at the 1-shot-per-second rate (or maybe just a bit faster…) allowed by the range rules produced results pretty consistently like this-

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Pleasant to shoot and reliable- but I very much want to paint the front sight red.

Finally I trotted out The Shopkeeper. I recently became re-acquainted with how much I enjoy shooting this gun and happily burned through a box of ammo. Results were pretty much what I have come to expect-

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Five shots in five seconds at seven yards. I’m Okay with this! This gun genuinely works for me- well enough that I wouldn’t feel completely stupid carrying it, though the reload sucks…

Anyway a nice way to enter the holidays and a pleasant afternoon.

Michael Tinker Pearce,  23 December 2017

Range Report 19 December 2017

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Took a good cross-section of pistols to the range today, calibers ranging from .32ACP to .44 Magnum.  Four of the guns were over a century old, but you wouldn’t know it from the way they work!

Starting with the Colt 1903 .32 ACP- This gun was manufactured in 1912 and I bought it used in the early ’90s.  About 25 years ago I gave it to my ex and she’s had it ever since. Recently she’s developed a preference for revolvers and thought that I might like this gun back. Yes please! I gave it a quick cleaning, dug up some .32 ACP and threw it in the range bag.

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I fired 28 rounds of mixed 25-year-old hollow-points and Fiochi ball ammo.  The gun seemed accurate enough, though because a peculiarity of the lighting on my lane I literally could not see the front sight. The gun functioned flawlessly though and the trigger pull is light and reasonably crisp, making the gun very pleasant to shoot.

I fire the Abilene next and it’s obvious I need a) new glasses and b) a lot more practice. Twenty-five yard standing/unsupported groups were running as big as five inches- not acceptable for a hunting revolver! Moving the target in to fifteen yards improved the groups significantly but I still wasn’t pleased.

Moving on to the Steampunk Snubbies- a pair of customized S&W .38 DA Safety Hammerless revolvers- I was trying out a new load with .361 150gr SWCs over 2.7gr. of Unique. Good, accurate load- a little peppier than I expected but alright. I really enjoy the trigger-pull on these guns; long but super-smooth. Both of these groups were shot at a 1-second per shot cadence at seven yards.

The sights on these guns are tiny, but they are so close together they are basically on the same focal plane and between that, the modified grips and excellent trigger-pulls I find them very easy to shoot accurately at close range.

I didn’t have a lot of .45 Colt ammunition for The Pug and The Outlaw, but they were fun to shoot.  The newly-enameled front-sight of The Pug was nice and visible and helped a lot in getting a good sight-picture.

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The S&W .32 Hand-ejector and Detective Special in .32 S&W Long were both shooting better than I was today; while I had no difficulty keeping the rounds on target I didn’t seem to be capable of grouping well with either gun at 7 yards. With the Colt I actually got better when I stopped trying to be careful and fired quickly.

I ended the session with The Shopkeeper .38 Special. This gun has fantastic handling and an excellent trigger- but the sights are not the best. I had a good quantity of .38 Special on hand and I put more than a full box. It had been a while since I shot this gun a lot at one time and I was quickly reminded why this is one of my absolute favorite guns. Fired one-handed or two, it’s all good!  I ended up rapid-firing three cylinders at seven yards with very satisfactory results.

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So how do you rapid-fire a single-action? Catch the hammer in recoil and cock the gun as you bring it back on-target and fire immediately when the gun is leveled. Three shots in two seconds is quite attainable.

The fellow in the lane next to me was quite taken with the Shopkeeper and really enjoyed shooting it. In return he let me run a magazine through his CZ75 Tactical Sport. This is a fantastic gun- long-slide single-action competition version of the CZ75 and includes features like an add-on shelf on the left side of the dust-cover to facilitate a thumb’s-forward grip. The high-visibility fiber-optic front sight was easy to pick up. The trigger was superb- the gun is amazing and every bit what I would expect for it’s $1800 MSRP. Hell, compared to high-end 1911s it’s a bargain at that price. If I could figure out how to scrounge up a couple grand I would be totally happy to spend it on one of these!

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A day of mixed results- I really do need new prescription glasses- but a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.

Michael Tinker Pearce,  19 December 2017