on the suitability of snow berms for a backstop.

Today was a 50-some degree day. The snow is melting in a hurry around Castle Frostbite.

Last month, I used a snow berm in front of a safe backstop to pop off a few magazines with the P229. Today, I walked around outside and found these, bunched up in a group on the soggy grass:

Those are 115 grain 9mm FMJs, from CCI Blazers. Other than the groove marks from the SIG’s barrel, they almost look good enough to reload. I found them less than three feet from where I had placed the target in front of the snow berm. That snow slows down pistol bullets in a hurry.

on writing and guns.

I get the occasional gun question from writer friends who know that I own firearms.  If you’re one of them, I have a two-part invitation for you:

  • Feel free to ask me technical questions abut guns and the use of them for your stories.  I’ve been owning and legally carrying firearms for twenty-two years, both professionally and as a private citizen, and I know an awful lot about the subject.  And even if I don’t know the answer, I probably know people who do.
  • If you’re ever in the area, and you’d like to get some safe instruction in handling and shooting firearms in a safe and low-stress environment, let me know.  I’d be glad to teach you the basics of gun safety, handling and shooting a weapon, and responsible gun ownership.

put together in new hampshah.

Last weekend, we were supposed to travel down to Manchester for a birthday party, but our friends cancelled on account of two out of their three daughters running high fevers.  I had already crossed Boskone off my list of events this year because of the party, and I didn’t want to rush down to Boston on short notice, so I just ended up staying home and having a quiet weekend with the family.

As a consolation prize, I got to dash into West Lebanon on Saturday morning for the annual Fun Show.  It was really hot, really crowded, and really devoid of great deals–not that I was in a position to take advantage of any.  I did, however, turn the Ruger LCP into some walking-around cash, which in turn put the toy budget above the critical mass needed to pick up this at my local gun shop:

That’s a SIG Sauer P229 in 9mm.  I had been on the lookout for one in that caliber for a while, and when my local shop had one on the shelf for a very reasonable tariff, I had to take a shot at it.  It’s date coded 2003, and has so little wear on it that it’s pretty much a new gun.

They’re good to me over at Hollow Point Sports.  When I expressed interest, they pulled the P229 off the shelf and held it for me, without so much as a layaway payment, until I had enough pennies rolled to pick it up.  Dillon and Sam at HPS are awesome guys who run a well-stocked and clean shop.  If you’re ever in the Enfield area and find yourself in need of gun-related stuff, stop by and check them out.  (HPS is right on Route 4 in Enfield, on the right side of the road if you’re heading toward Canaan.  They’re across the street from a fairly big PetroMart gas station.)

Why did I get rid of the Ruger?  Well, I wanted that SIG more than the LCP, the Ruger was expendable, and I had carried it less and less lately because even with the pocket holster, it tends to wear out the pockets of my jeans to leave a tell-tale gun shape.  Also, sometimes you just need to jump on an opportunity as it presents itself, and the LCP is utterly replaceable.

My last SIG was a P220 I sold just before we moved from Tennessee to New Hampshire.  I had almost forgotten just how nice they are, and how well they shoot.  I’ve been mostly carrying a 3″ K-frame for nigh on seven years now, and I’m pretty good with that gun, but there’s nothing I shoot as well as a SIG Sauer with those Von Stavenhagen pattern bar-dot sights.  The first time I took that P229 out for a quick 50-round spin, it was absolutely no challenge to hit a soda can offhand at 25 yards with every shot.  Back in Knoxville, I owned a P229 in .357SIG once, and that one was a great shooter as well, but the 9mm version has a much softer recoil, and the follow-up shots and double-taps are noticeably faster.

I’m still a revolver guy, and nothing is going to dislodge that 3″ K-frame Smith from the carry gun slot, but that P229 is so nice it only reinforces my opinion that the classic P-series SIG Sauer pistols are just about as good as it gets in an out-of-the-box factory pistol.

(Ammo is Federal “9BPLE” 9mm +P+.  Holster is iTac retention paddle holster.)

zombie medicine.

Check out what Kel-Tec cooked up for the inevitable zombie apocalypse:

KSG_3357web

That’s the new Kel-Tec KSG.  It’s a bullpup pump-action shotgun with dual magazine tubes.  With both tubes loaded, this puppy holds fourteen rounds of 2 3/4” 12-gauge ammunition.  There’s a selector switch that lets you pick which tube to feed from, or to cut off the feed to eject the shell in the chamber.

You could load one tube with slugs, the other with buckshot, and merrily switch between them as needed.  Or fill both tubes with buck, and go to town.  (Little bit of trivia: if you load it up with double-ought buck, you’d be able to put 126 eight-millimeter projectiles on target before having to reload.)

They haven’t announced shipping date or price yet.  Rumor has it MSRP will be around $800, which should translate into a `$650-ish street price.

I want one.  I’ll call it The Beast, and have the receiver engraved thusly. 

(Friend Oleg has some more and better pictures of this thing.)

paging dr. scattergun.

I have a question for the scattergun experts among you.

I have this lovely little Remington Model 11 the local Merchant of Death let me have for a handful of East German coins and a mostly full box of Mike & Ike candies.  I checked the proper adjustment of the friction rings on the recoil system, and the gun cycles fine.  However, if you fill up the magazine tube with the maximum of four rounds, it drops the next shell out of the magazine on the ground upon firing the first round.  (It will then cycle the rest fine without dropping anything.)  If you load only three in the tube, it doesn’t drop a shell.

This happens regardless of whether you preload the chamber by hand and go 4+1, or just fill up the magazine tube and rack the bolt to load the first one from the tube.

Any thoughts?

 

reader request week: carrying the mighty j-frame.

sw642_l

From reader Ernie comes the following:

I just bought my first J frame revolver, a model 642 hammerless. I have previously only carried autos. I was hoping to get some suggestions from you on holsters. I know I want to pocket carry, but what about ankle holsters? OWB? Perhaps a blog post on this?

First off, let me congratulate you on a fine choice.  I personally consider the air weight J-frames and their equivalents to be the proverbial berries when it comes to civilian CCW.  They’re light, very reliable, easy to carry, reliable, simple to operate under stress, reasonably powerful, and reliable.  (I mention “reliable” three times because it’s the most important criteria in a defensive firearm.  The gun must go bang without fail when called upon–everything else is icing on the CCW cake.)

Due to its small size and light weight, the J-frame is also very flexible when it comes to carry options.  Its shape and weight do make some of those options more suitable than others.  Let’s go through the list of suitable carry modes one by one.

Belt holster

This is my preferred carry mode for full-sized carry guns, but it’s not the optimal location to tote the little J-frame.  You can carry it in a good inside-the-waistband holster, but the short barrel and the girth of the cylinder mean that it either rides too high for a secure and comfortable fit, or it rides too low to afford a good firing grip on the gun.  When you carry the J-frame outside the waistband, you put up with the main compromise of the gun (its smallish grip and low capacity) without making use of the trade-off (better concealability than a belt gun.)

If I were to carry a J-frame on my belt, I’d stick it into a secure, high-quality leather holster with pronounced forward cant, probably a Milt Sparks OWB.

Pocket carry

This is where the J-frames really shine, especially the Airweight frames like the 642.  They’re just the right size and weight to ride in a pocket, as long as you use a quality pocket holster.  The bulge of the cylinder paradoxically helps to break up the shape of the gun in your pocket.  Put a 642 or equivalent in your dominant-hand side pocket, drop a speed strip or two in the other pocket, and you’re not only more than adequately armed for any self-defense scenario a civilian with good street smarts can find themselves, but your gun is also optimally concealed for most climates.  Access is a bit slower than from a belt holster, but that’s more than negated by the fact that you can get a hold of your gun in a very inconspicuous manner if and when you see trouble coming.  The fastest draw is the one where you have your gun in hand already.

The tiny .32s and .380s beat the J-frame for low profile and offer one to three more rounds, but the J-frame is easier to shoot well, and beats the pocket autos for power slightly (when loaded with .38 +P), or substantially (if you’re nuts enough to carry one of those lightweight .357 Magnum snubbies.)

For pocket carry, I’d be quite content with a J-frame in a Galco or similar pocket holster.  I like the kind that has a leather flap in front of the gun to break up its outline and make it look just like a wallet in your pocket.

Ankle carry

This is one carry method that usually gets you snarky comments at the gun shop.  They call it “Dead Man’s Carry” in some circles.  While it’s true that the draw from an ankle rig is very slow—you have to bend or kneel down, and then hike up your pant leg before you can even get a hold of your gun to begin the draw—this carry method has some overlooked advantages.

First of all, it’s a great way to tote a gun if your day-to-day activities involve sitting down a lot.  If you spend most of your time at a desk or behind the wheel of a vehicle, for example, you don’t give up much speed to belt carry.  (This is especially true if you’re buckled into a car seat, where fast access isn’t in the cards if you carry inside the waistband.)

Secondly, ankle carry is as deep-cover concealment as it gets.  Nobody looks at someone else’s lower legs and feet with any sort of scrutiny.

A caveat: the bottom of an ankle rig will show if you wear loose slacks or khakis, and sit in a way that will hike up your pants leg even a little.  A good way to avoid unintentional flashing of the ankle rig is to pull the top of the sock over the bottom of the holster, so it looks like a sport bandage, and not the very obvious form-fitted leather of an ankle rig.

For ankle carry, I have used, and highly recommend, the Galco Ankle Glove.  The back of it has sheepskin lining, and it’s a very comfortable way to carry a backup or deep-cover primary gun.  I’ve carried a J-frame and a Glock 26 in one of those in a “business casual” work environment for months without problems.

Belly band

The J-frame is a decent candidate for a belly band holster.  It will disappear under a buttoned shirt, yet it’s easily accessible via what I call the “Clark Kent draw.”  Just make sure you get a belly band that uses a retention strap.  Presentation will be a bit slower, but the short little J-frame can ride out of the shallow pocket of a belly band with vigorous movement, and end up in your shirt at waist level (or worse, fall out of your shirt.)  Belly band carry is also a little harder on the gun, since it’s so close to the skin without any protective leather around it.

For belly band carry, there are a few virtually identical ones from companies like Galco and ActionDirect.

Off-body carry

I do not recommend off-body carry, especially (and this may read like a paradox) for small, lightweight guns like the J-frame.  They’re very easy to hide inside a day planner or purse, but their light weight also can make you forget that you’re actually carrying a gun in there.  Also, you don’t want to leave an unsecured, loaded weapon out of your control for even a moment, and people set aside their day planners or purses all the time.  As a last caveat—if you get into a situation where you may have to defend yourself, your off-body item is the very first thing a mugger will target. 

If off-body carry is your cup of tea, you could do worse than buy yourself a Wilderness Safepacker.  It looks like an innocent PDA or map case on your belt, and comes with a variety of carry options—as a clutch, as an urban flap holster of sorts for belt carry, or buckled into your seat belt strap for vehicle access.

Shoulder holster

The shoulder rig has its uses.  However, if you strap a harness to your body, you limit your concealment options.  If you have to wear a covering garment at all times, why not make use of all that cover and carry something slightly bigger?  On the plus side, shoulder rigs make the gun very easy to access while seated, and an Airweight J-frame will be very comfortable to carry that way.

For shoulder rigs, I like the Galco “Jackass” and “Miami Classic” lines.  The Bianchi suede-type shoulder rig is also nice for a lightweight gun like a J-frame.  Just do yourself a favor and get a decent one made of leather, not a $25 nylon gun show special.

And there you have the most common carry methods for the J-frame, and my recommendations. 

For the rest of the week, I’ll take reader requests.  I already have one reader mail queued up that has been sitting on my desk and waiting for a response for a while now, so that one will follow shortly.  If you have any questions for me that you’d like to see answered in this spot, send me an email at marko dot kloos at gmail dot com, and give me an obvious indicator in the subject line.  You can ask about guns, politics, personal stuff (but not too personal; some things I’ll not address on my blog), writing, or anything else that comes to mind.