Tuesday, December 21, 2004

First gun redux

An interesting discussion on the best first handgun over at sandcastles and cubicles (esp. the comments). I have nothing to contribute because the criteria-- no revolvers-- pretty much rules out my recommendations:

In Defense of the 38 Special

First Handgun

Friday, October 29, 2004

The 41 Mag

The guys at Leverguns have posted three articles on the forgotten magngum

The .41 Magnum - Sundays Child

Heavy Bullets in the .41 Magnum

.41 Magnum Loading Data

See also:

The Wrong Compromise

Friday, October 22, 2004

I'm For Bush

I generally avoid politics on this blog. (I save that for here.) Most of the bloggers on my blogroll do it better than me, so why be a pale imitation?

But there is an election coming up, and it is important t gun owners and hunters. That's why I'm voting for Bush. Kerry would be a disaster for the Second Amendment.

What kind of judges would he appoint, especially to the Supreme Court?

Remember how Clinton used his HUD apparatus in an attempt to sue gun-makers into submission? Any doubt that Kerry, ambulance-chaser Edwards, and their buddies will do the same?

The AWB has died quietly. Imagine what wold have happened if Sarah Brady had use of the bully pulpit and if Kerry was twisting arms and horse-trading to get it renewed. Diane Feinstein might be crowing about her victory over "the dark forces of the NRA."

Bush has been solid, if not spectacular. Kerry would be far, far worse.

Friday, October 15, 2004

.357 Carbine

Gunblast puts the Winchester 94 Ranger through its paces. Even with a 16" barrel they get 2000 fps with 125 grain handloads. And 1450 with 38 Special 125 gr. jacketed bullets.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Attention Weapons Experts

James over at Hell in a Handbasket is running a little contest. Can you identify the RPG?

Monday, August 09, 2004

Is this the best value on the pistol market?

EAA's Witness is a version of the famed CZ-75 auto. It is available in all the standard chamberings (9mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP). It lists for less than $500 and my local dealer has the steel version in .40 S&W for just $400.

The price is only half the value equation. What really sets the Witness apart is their caliber conversion kits. Switch your .40 to 10mm for a couple of hundred dollars. Have a.45 ACP, 10mm, and .38 Super for the price of a single Sig or Kimber.

I like the conversion idea for a couple of reasons. First, it is the only inexpensive way to shoot .38 Super. Second, it is a solution to the problem of practice versus gun life with the 10mm. The 10mm is loaded to such high pressures that it is hard on guns. (It also beats you up at the range.) With the Witness you can practice with 9mm or .40 S&W using exactly the same gun you carry in 10mm. That's neat and efficient.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Never expected to read this

In the August Handloader Gil Sengal traces the history of the .357 magnum. He writes about Elmer Keith's experiments with hotrodding the 38 Spl. and the problems he encountered. One of Keith's loads tested at 42,000 psi when normal loads for that powder usually ran 14-18,000 psi. He quotes Elmer as writing " I knew of several Officer Models Colts that [this load] had wrecked."

So far, just your typical gun rag article and the obligatory nod to old EK's irascibility. But it was Sengal's comment that stopped me in my tracks.

"Publishing such loads is just plain criminal"

That is what i like about Handloader and Rifle. They protect no sacred cows.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004


"Think of it always; speak of it never."

That was how Leon Gambetta wanted France to approach the lost provinces of Alsace and Lorraine after 1871. In French hearts and French minds, the matter was not closed. But he knew that hot talk would only complicate French diplomacy and possibly provoke another war with Germany-- a war she could not win in the 1870s.

The quote came to mind while i was pondering the "Terror in the Skies" mini-controversy. But it really fits with the whole question of citizen response in a time of terror.

We are fooling ourselves to think that our intelligence can ever be good enough to disrupt every terrorist threat before they get underway. We need good ground-level police work and community involvement.

I firmly believe that we citizens have a role to play in protecting ourselves and our neighbors. That is true for the terrorist threat as well as conventional street crime. It seems like an eminently bloggable subject and the sort of thing where sharing information is useful.

But it is clear that the prevailing PC mindset of the monopoly press will misconstrue and willfully misinterpret such actions. Any attempt to promote vigilance is liable to be labeled domestic spying. (Can't you hear Krugman and Dowd chanting "American Gestopo" and "Ashcroft's Stasi"? Can you hear the glee?) And any discussion of armed citizens and the threat will produce superheated warnings about vigilantes and mob rule.

Annie Jacobson is being subjected to the same treatment as Eunice Stone. They are branded dumb, hysterical, racist women making much ado about absolutely nothing. Very few are asking if pillorying them will have a "chilling effect" on others who will become less willing to come forward when their suspicions are triggered.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

"If all else fails, I will retreat up the valley of Virginia, plant my flag on the Blue Ridge, rally around the Scotch-Irish of that region and make my last stand for liberty amongst a people who will never submit to British tyranny whilst there is a man left to draw a trigger."
George Washington at Valley Forge.

Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America
Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America
It's been a long wait

Backroads Blog notes that Glock is taking pre-orders on high-cap magazines now that the AWB is about to expire.

I've actually held off buying a new pistol for just this reason. I expect that some makers are going to offer high-caps while others will give in to political pressure and stick to the 10 rd. maximum. No point plunking down good money for one of those.

Friday, June 04, 2004

38 Loads

The June Guns and Ammo tests the new Speer 38+P 135 gr. Gold Dot. It looks like it works as advertised. From a two-inch Model 49, it generates 878 fps. That compares to 760 fps for the Winchester 158 SWCHP and 810 fps for the Black Hills 125 JHP.

Mike from Feces Flinging Monkey emails "I've often wondered if the solution here is to use really heavy bullets and modest powder charges - flatpoints of 200 grains or more, lots of dwell time in the barrel to pick up kinetic energy, and lots of sectional density for deep penetration."

I've wondered the same thing myself. The Brits moved from a 265 grain .455 military loading to a 200 grain .357 loading (the 38 S&W) and claimed to see no difference in effectiveness. Given their colonial activities and the troubles in Ireland, the British army had plenty of CQC experience when they made the change.

I've played around with a similar loading for the 38 SPL. They have much less muzzle blast than .357 rounds andm thus, are more controllable. Penetration at close range should be no problem given their sectional density.

Monday, May 31, 2004


Jeff at Alphecca got picked as the "Website we love" in the summer issue of Outdoor Life. Always good to see a blogger get credit for their hard work.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Losing Power: .38s in .357s

Looking through Ken Waters's Pet Loads, i ran across some test results that are worth noting.

When he fired some .38 Spl +P loads through a .357 cylinder, he actually lost around 70 fps compared to the velocity obtained with a .38 Spl cylinder.

In some ways that's no big deal. Even a standard .38 Spl. will get the job done for CCW or home defense. But it does affect the load choice if 38 +P rounds are carried in a .357 revolver for defensive purposes.

The 125 grain JHP is a legendary load in the .357. It is a consistent stopper. Velocities can exceed 1600 fps in an 8" barrel. It takes a tough bullet to ensure adequate penetration at those speeds. Many 125 JHP loads for the 38 +P load go about 975 fps from a 4" barrel and so will barely break 900 fps if fired from a .357 cylinder.

A tough 125 JHP which gives good performance at 1600 fps probably won't expand much at 900 fps. If .38 +P load uses the same bullet as the .357, you are really just shooting a 125 grain round nose.

At the same time, the .38 loads are attractive defensive loads because they have less muzzle flash and muzzle blast than the magnum. This matters in the dark, confined spaces where defensive shootings take place.

There are two solutions. One is to choose .38 +P loads that were specifically developed for snubbies (like the new Gold Dot 135 JHP). Another is to use a 158 grain LSWC which does not depend on expansion to be effective.

This performance is also an excuse to save money. If you know you are going to use 38 +P rounds as your primary defense load, you can buy a 38 Spl. revolver instead of a .357 magnum. A good used Ruger or S&W 38 will cost half the price of a new .357 and will often be $50-$100 less than a used magnum. That sounds like a deal to me-- spend less, get better performance.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Perfectly Understandable

I think Kevin might be drooling. But he has good reason to.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

First Gun

Jeff Soyer has a good discussion on first guns. Jeff is a really smart guy because i agree with everyone of his recommendations.....
One Gun Conundrum--results

The results are now up here.

No surprises-- .308 rifles, 1911s, and Ford trucks.

I see i forgot to mention my vehicle choice-- GMC Sonoma extended cab.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Smith & Wesson Model 25 .45 Colt Mountain Gun

Nice write-up on this little beauty over at Gunblast.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

One Gun Conundrum

Kim du Toit is running an interesting survey/ thought experiment: If you could only have one rifle and one handgun what would they be?

Les Jones has already given his picks here.

For me, it depends on the cause of the limits. If it is a long-term lifestyle choice (money, no room for a gun safe, local regulation) then i want a S&W Model 19 in .357 Mag and a Ruger Model 77 Compact in .260 Remington.

I wrote about the 19's claim to the status of finest all-round, all-round here and the advantages of the revolver here and here . Plus, since i only have one, I want the flexibility the 38/357 combo gives me.

The Ruger compact will handle almost any sort of hunting. Short and light, it is a better choice for woods hunting than a 24" Model 70 in .300 Win. It is nicer to carry up and down rocky slopes for mountain hunting. At the same time, it is a better long-range proposition than a Model 94 in 30-30.

And the .260 may be the best all-purpose round for the US (along with it's ballistic twin the 6.5x55 Swede). Not my opinion, John Barsness just wrote that in Rifle or Handloader.

OTOH- if this problem is a matter of the SHTF and I had to grab two guns and their ammo as I headed out the door to an undisclosed secure location-- then I would change my choices to:

Ruger Redhawk (5.5" bbl) in 41 Mag and Marlin 1894 in 41 Mag.

I want ammo compatibility. Full power 41 mag loads have all the advantages of the .357 with 50% more bullet weight as a kicker. The heavier Redhawk dampens the recoil so that it shoots as soft as the model 19 with magnum rounds. Plus, I have a bunch of mid-range loads for it that makes it a pussycat while delivering more oomph than standard 45 ACP. But as discussed here, the mid-range loads hit magnum velocity out of the carbine.

Plus, the revolver is a Ruger so it is tough and reliable.
How great was John Browning?

Between 1885 and 1899 EVERY new model introduced by Winchester was a Browning design. And they only went into production with about a quarter of the designs they bought from him.

When it came to firearms, Browning was a one man Bell Labs.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Browning BLR in .358 Win.

That's what their talking about over at Gunblast. Just the thing for someone looking for a lever that shoots flatter than a 45/70 and hits harder than a 30-30.
Bersa .380 Thunder

Hell in a Handbasket tried one out on range and gives us a report.

If money is tight and you are looking for a very compact pistol, it is a value that is hard to beat.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

What I Saw at the NRA Convention

Four acres of booths is a lot of stuff to see. Most of the booths were packed with neat things to see and add to the wish list. There were even celebrities-- Gen. Craig Boddington, Tom Knapp, Ted Nugent, and Col. Jeff Cooper.

The four-inch S&W .500 Mag is a beast. I can't imagine packing it on my hip or shooting it, but then, I don't share the trails with big bears.

The Navy Arms Schofield is a cool revolver, but is not nearly as handy as a Ruger Vaquero. Maybe the triumph of the Colt SAA was an early victory for ergonomics.

The S&W 625 Mountain Gun in 45 Long Colt is a pure delight in the hand. I could easily imagine packing it all day long in the field.

S&W's new 22 Mag snubby is a gem.

Henry is bringing out their Big Boy in 45 Colt. The Big Boy is one slick little leveraction and the brass receiver is eye-catching. (Hmm, a Big Boy in the gun rack and a 625 on the hip, I could be the very model of a PA cowboy for the 21st century....)

EAA and Stoeger shotguns are nicely balanced and are a steal-- O/U and S/S shotguns for well under $500. Remington is also bringing out a value priced line of shotguns. (I think they are called Spartan Arms by Remington.)

Remington was also promoting a new line of ammunition-- Managed Recoil Loads. They claim they can make a .270 Win. kick like a .243. Essentially, they are dropping the bullet weight and velocity. Nice idea for people who don't handload.

The Secret Service by Eagle Grips are the best grips i've seen/handled for a J-frame snubby.

I checked out every .380 i could find. Not one-- not even the Walther PPK/S or the Sig 232-- made me want to switch from the J-frame.

As per usual, there was nothing new for us .41 Mag fans.

Colt was there with a full array of handguns-- Pythons, SAAs, and 1911s. Glad to see that they are back in the civilian market.

Colt, Kimber, and Firestorm all had 1911s in 38 Super.

The business end of a 4-bore elephant gun looks like it belongs on a field piece the Brits would have taken on a punitive expedition against a wayward colony. I can't imagine shooting it from the shoulder.

Judging by the number of models on display, we will soon reach a time when everyone will offer a version of the 1911.

This is the first NRA convention/exhibit that i've been to. It was well worth driving a couple hours to get to.

I do most of my blogging here. Right now I am in the middle of a series of posts on the pre-9-11 intelligence failures.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Speaking of James

A friend of his could use your help. (Hey, just an email, no money required.) Stop over and get the whole story here.

Thursday, April 08, 2004


James Rummel talks about his experience teaching a CCW class this weekend. I was struck by the fact that all of the students (many of them new shooters) felt that the S&W 10 was the easiest to shoot.

It is always good to get real world evidence on these things. One of my first posts here was on the wheelgun as personal protection option. James's students illustrate the point again. Starting out, revolvers are easier to come up to speed with.

Also, the Model 19 i rave about below is really just a Model 10 adapted to handle the .357 Mag. The 10/19 series from Smith and Wesson represent a highpoint in gun design.

But make sure you check out the rest of James's blog. He always writes on interesting things. And his shooting posts are always level-headed.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Snubby Ammo

The June Combat Handguns has a test of a new .38 Special load designed especially for snubbies. It is a 135 grain Gold Dot from Speer.

In their tests, it generated 870 fps from a 2" barrel. It showed expansion to more than .57" in gelatin while still delivering good penetration and did so even when fired through denim.

This looks like a winner. Feeding a snub-nosed pistol presents requires careful ammo selection. The short barrel can cut velocity drastically which in turn reduces the effectiveness of many hollowpoint loadings. It looks as if the guys at Speer have come up with a HP that expands reliably at moderate velocities and a powder that can deliver the necessary speed from even a short barrel.

Definitely something i plan to check out.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Finest All-round All-round

In the March/April American Handgunner, Clint Smith has an interesting range test. He put six guns (3 autos, 3 revolvers) through their paces at ranges out to 75 yards. The neat part was that they ranged in size from a Colt Agent snubby to a S&W 29 in 44 mag and included basic pistols like the Glock 17 and semi-custom jobs like a Thunder Ranch 1911 from Les Baer.

Two things stand out. First, the small guns did surprisingly well at 25 yards. The Agent and Springfield Micro Compact shot 3" groups while the 4 inch S&W 19 held to 1.75" to lead the pack.

The other thing was that the S&W 19 was the best at all distances. It held to 6" at 75 yards. It's big brother (Model 29) came in at 10" while the TR 1911 did 8". The 1911 was Smith's favorite and it was designed to his specifications. Yet the 19 outshot it at long range.

Over time, i've come to believe that the Model 19 is the best all-round handgun for the largest number of people. You get the advantage of 38 SPL/357 Mag ammo. It's a nicer carry gun than N-frames or Rugers, especially if you want to carry it concealed. The workmanship is superb and gives you the smoothest DA trigger i've ever experienced. Smooth trigger=better accuracy, especially at long range.

The .357 is also a better long-range choice than any auto-loading round. Mid-range trajectory (100 yds.) for 125 Speer Gold Dot is only 2.8" while the 45 ACP 230 grain Gold Dot comes in at 6.9". In fact, even standard pressure 38 Specials shoot flatter than the 45 ACP in 230 grain loads.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Just Wondering

Why hasn't anyone tried a sabot-round in a 45-70 or other big-bore? With shotguns and muzzle-loaders you get a better trajectory and increased down-range performance with this set-up. Not only do you get higher muzzle velocity, but the smaller caliber bullet has a much better ballistic coefficient so it retains energy better. Plus, you could have a better sectional density.
More on O'Conner

One thing that i think O'Conner can be criticized for his failure to distinguish between premium and conventional bullets. He was an early adopter of Nosler Partitions and they obviously served him well. However, in his writing, he tended to lump these premium handloads with conventional commercial rounds.

There is a big difference in performance between a 130 grain Partition and 130 grain Silvertip. Yet i am sure that thousands of people took to the field with the Winchester round and wondered why they couldn't duplicate J O'C's results on elk or moose.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Passivity and Fear

That's what radiates from the stories about the recent gang-rape at Rutgers University. (Examples here and here.)

Police are patrolling, lighting is being checked-- there was even a candle-light vigil. Exactly the kind of thing that deters thugs.

Generally speaking, i hate the word "sheeple". But this attitude (especially from journalists) comes mighty close.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Let's You and Him Fight

Shortly after i read Coyote at the Dog Show on Elmer Keith, i picked up a copy of Gun World. Lo and Behold, Jan Libourel touches on the same subject, but from a different perspective.

It may be worth noting that Jack O'Conner killed 10 grizzlies with a 30-06 and two more with a .270 and never came to harm. (This, by the way, is 10 more grizzlies than his arch rival Elmer Keith ever killed.)

Libourel also makes an interesting point about the two antagonists. Keith, the old cowboy, was actually stronger on the technical and theoretical aspects of shooting. He was a better experimenter and created new cartridges for both handguns and rifles. But O'Conner-- the journalism professor-- had more and wider hunting experience.

It's also something of a misnomer to portray Keith as a champion of big, heavy slow bullets and O'Conner as a small, light, fast proponent. Keith liked big bore cartridges, but he also liked them fast. Given a choice, he would opt for a a .340 Weatherby over a .35 Whelen. Similarly, O'Conner was not a speed freak. He speaks most highly of moderate cartridges-.270 Win, 7mm Mauser, 30-06-- rather than the magnums that were available. He didn't drop the 7mm Mauser for the 7mm Remington magnum or the Weatherby, even though both are faster.

I'm an odd duck on the Keith-OConner feud. I started out reading O'Conner and only discovered Keith years later. I never quite bought into the big bore magnum theory. But over the last couple of years Boddington and Seyfried have made me rethink.

They don't argue that a .338 Mag is always necessary for elk. They concede that a 30-06 will usually do the trick. But the critical fact they bring up is that most big game hunters now are time-constrained. With only a few days available to hunt elk or big horn sheep or brown bear, it makes sense to grab every advantage. That includes a flatter shooting, more powerful rifle. On a 21 day annual elk hunt, you can pass on shots too tough for a 30-06 and expect to get another opportunity later. On a five day, once-in-a-lifetime hunt, one chance might be the only one you get.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Worth checking out

Over at Gunblast they have dozens of pictures from the 2004 SHOT show. A lot of new and worthwhile items seem to be coming to market. (For the record, not everything new is worthwhile-- who wants a short-barreled .500 S&W Mag?)

They also review a bunch of holsters for CCW with large revolvers and handguns.

Friday, February 20, 2004

If you ever wondered

what would happen if you shot a blackpowder .45 Colt round through a Taurus snubby, Clint Smith has pictures here.

Take one old (but nice?) guy with a new Taurus model 450 2"-barreled .45 Colt revolver, add 32 grains of old FFg black powder and what do we come up with?

What you come up with is a flame-throwing, fire-starting, butt-thumping blaster with — believe it or not — no hand or teeth jarring recoil. This combination is more than accurate enough used in the double action mode to solve any problems at acceptable self-defense ranges. And, it provides several self-defense assets.

First off, there’s — literally — fire between you and the bad guy. Basically, this combo brings fire-starting capabilities toward anyone dim-witted enough to close the ground with you. Almost as an aside, a large caliber hole is also generated in your opponent. In the case of the Taurus, which is provided with the trendy, but questionable recoil reduction holes in the barrel, I believe I have finally found a purpose for said holes. With black powder, all that black goop and efus blasts out of the vent holes and re-blacks the front sight with every compression of the trigger. Yup, it’s sort of a built-in front sight carbon-black lamp. Oh yeah, they put out a really loud thump when you touch one off too, not some wimpy bangy-bangy sound like smokeless does. And last, but not least, there’s a built-in smoke screen to hide or move behind.
Massad Ayoob on smal pistols

While I never used that particular .32 for anything serious, the day came when I was with some NYPD officers who responded to an armed robbery in progress by multiple suspects armed with sawed-off shotguns. I was not carrying. The backup gun I was graciously handed by one of the uniformed guys was a Walther PPK loaded with .380 FMJ.

Now, quite apart from that gun being totally against NYPD regs then and now, being issued a .380 is something Jeff Cooper probably has nightmares about. However, going from nothing at all to a .380 makes the little gun feel like the thunderbolt of Zeus. The perps were gone when we got there, but the little gun was comforting.

From Guns magazine.

As they say, the first rule of gunfighting is to have a gun.

Although i don't think a lot of .32s or .25s, i have to wonder-- how many civilian defensive guns uses result in failure due to inadequate caliber? By that i mean the victiim is injured or killed after she/he shoots the goblin with a small caliber round in the high torso?

Thursday, January 22, 2004

The Most Politically Incorrect Pistol I can Imagine

Take one of these and then add these grips.

Something to tick off almost everyone-- prudes, feminists, gun-haters, people who hate fancy guns, Al Sharption, Jesse Jackson, the Church of the .45 ACP......
I'll second that

Coyote at the Dog Show has several posts up praising the various Wolfe shooting publications. I agree completely. I read most of the gun and hunting magazines, but the ones a really look forward to are Handloader and Rifle.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Speaking of the .348

(Well we were over at Coyote at the Dog Show). Here is an account of a Coues deer hunt using the Winchester factory load (200 grain) for those little southwestern deer. Clearly the guy was "over-gunned" but it still turned out just fine.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

What's Enough Gun

Sven over at Coyote at the Dog Show has an excellent post on stopping power both for handguns and rifles.

Personally, i think the hunting situation he discusses is the perfect excuse for a .416. But then i've had a bee in my bonnet for a .416 for some time-- just can justify it for whitetails.

This, on the other hand, might be a legitimate choice-- 9.3x62.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

"The NATO standard pistol is worthless"

So says Rev. Donald Sensing in a post that has drawn 67 comments and counting. Well worth a look.