Friday, January 24, 2014

Glamour Shots Coming Soon

It feels like it's been forever and a day since I've snapped some seriously sexy pics of my growing collection of stuff that goes bang.

Having a camera phone always nearby has relegated my better photo gear to the closet and there's just something wrong with that.

I think I need to set up the mini-studio and capture some high-quality images of my race, carry, and fun guns.

For now, enjoy a couple piddly little shots from my iPhone!

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Happy Happy Happy

What makes me happier than a Robertson in an locker room filled with straight men??

I got my Limited pistol back, and not only does it fit, but it runs! Added bonus, five of my metal tubes used to feed the beast are the correct dimensions and drop as free as Uncle Si with a swamp to himself.

Most importantly, I've started to build a relationship with a gunsmith I trust and enjoy working with. It cost a bit of money, but this time around it had all been money well-spent.

By my count now, that means I've got a local belt maker and nylon guru, a Kydex holster maker willing to take on any project, and an experienced gunsmith who knows how to make STI pistols sing. I'm friends with the folks who run the nicest indoor shooting range in the region, and am a partner in a company that specializes in training... That's not a gloat, that's just a humble narrator taking stock of a pretty good life. Expect some product reviews and more info on these folks' gear and services soon!

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Friday, January 17, 2014

SHOT Thoughts From Afar

SHOT Show 2014 is nearly over, and it seems to have been a fairly mellow year. Following news and blogs from the gun universe, it seems as if the show was rather business-as-usual (which ain't a bad thing).

Last year, the tone of the event was weird, down, and peppered with FUD. We had just started the fight against the ridiculous legislative efforts against the lawful firearms culture in America following the spree shootings in Aurora and Sandy Hook months before. The President had vocally come out against our industry, and the country had already launched into a full-blown buying panic over magazines, firearms, and ammunition.

Today, many states successfully passed laws against our lawful ownership, possession, and use of handguns, rifles, and shotguns but largely failed at the national level.

Black rifles are back in inventory, as are pistols, magazines, and accessories. Ammunition is coming back, but at even more exorbitant prices than before.

And gone is the day of the earth-shattering world changing industry-on-its-ear product launch.

The overall broadening of the gun industry has brought forward more options than ever for the recreational, hunting, and self-defense shooter. There is now, literally, something out there for every person and every budget.

Despite a number of big shakeups with companies moving out of states hostile to our culture and our corporate friends, things feel like they're moving forward rather than backward this year.

It feels like the "tactical" (grrr) market is maturing, firearm manufacturers are expanding their lines of carry-friendly pistols and revolvers, and the ├╝ber-hotness now is starting to orbit precision rifle chassis systems and AR-platform rifles in new and different calibers.

I'm happy to see Keymod handguards starting to pop up everywhere. That will be the next improvement to my "house" rifle and I'm rather excited for that.

I can think of four new pistols which aught to be interesting to hold, shoot, and talk about with friends as clients:

• The Glock 42 brings .380 ACP into the US for that manufacturer and will certainly add some pep in the caliber's acceptance over here. Overall reception of the diminutive Glock have been positive.

• The Remington R51 gained a lot of attention for resurrecting a decades-old design and modernizing it for the 21st Century, and doing so at a price most can afford if they choose to go that route. It also helps to validate 9mm as a viable "carry" caliber for civilian personal protection.

• The Springfield XDs-9 4.0 expands that manufacturer's already-popular lineup with a modern alternative to carrying a Commander-length 1911. I expect I'll see a fair number of these in class later this year.

• Smith & Wesson's Bodyguard .380 slots itself somewhere between the LCP and the new Glock, and improvements to the gun largely seem to be focused on adding "M&P" aesthetics (to leverage a popular internal brand) and removing the gimmicky built-in laser that seemed to be more problematic than useful.

The competitive and target shooting worlds seem to be getting more and more attention, as well. Several AR-platform rifle manufacturers are now offering dedicated 3-Gun ready rifles and shotguns at reasonable price points, and the sport has exploded in popularity. This is great for all of us as it will invariably turn more gun owners and Internet ninjas into actual shooters, helping to normalize sporting firearms use and gun ownership in general.

As previously reported, a big part of me wishes I could have been there. There were dozens of newsworthy and interesting developments in the biz revealed at SHOT this year I don't have time to fit into this post, so keep your ears to the ground and don't forget to tune in here for thoughts and opinion on local, national, and industry news!

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Monday, January 13, 2014

SHOT Starts Without Us This Year

Part of me wishes I was leaving for Las Vegas today, and another part of me (namely, my feet, legs, and lumbar vertebra) are glad I'm staying home this year.

Baby Normal is one of the two big reasons we're not attending the SHOT Show this year, the other being major business commitments and scheduling for the training business.

Truth be told, blisters and odd chafing aside, I'm gonna miss the show, miss the spectacle of Las Vegas, and everything that comes with piling into a crowded convention hall with some 60,000 of your closest friends.

Like meeting Julie Golob and introducing my wife to her.

...and meeting the creator of the S&W E-series 1911s and their monster 500 - he was a neat guy!

Getting my picture holding a suppressed M240 machine gun.

Seeing and holding just about every major, new, noteworthy, firearm coming on to the market.

And generally getting to go to what effectively amounts to the world's largest gun show while getting our grub on in celebrity restaurants while living on The Strip for a week.

Seeing just about every popular shooting personality and every professional shooter in the US manning booths, talking to attendees, and spotting various celebrities and people of high regard in our world.

I'll miss Vegas this year but I am very happy with where life has take me over the past 12 months.

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Just When I Thought All Hope Was Lost

A glimmer of hope... I was shown a couple STI grips last night that can be made to work with little T-Rex thumbs God stuck to the ends of my paws. At the same time we'll figure out how to get my mags to drop free (kinda important in a race blaster!!)

The guy who's cutting down my grip will also look at the timing of the pistol and let me know if we need to do any additional tuning to make my Edge a real race-ready runner that shouldn't run the risk of cracking its slide.

I'm also getting a second opinion on the recent trigger work another locally-known gunsmith did... I may have to just learn to get used to the ultralight trigger break weight and easy my way into it safely but there's going to be an added confidence in knowing it's been looked over by not one but two people who know USPSA race-gun builds VERY well.

Fingers are crossed, and I'm looking forward to starting over with my "tuned" STI.

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I Love the Smell of New Kydex in the Morning

It smells like... awesome.

On the other side of the pistol shooting coin, I'll be picking up a carry holster and mag carrier for the new 1911 I wrote about earlier. Being a huge equipment need, I can't wait to get set up to carry a 1911 again, and I'm not one of these guys who demands his JMB masterpiece ride in a wooly mammoth leather thumb-break pancake holster trimmed in megaladon skin. Kydex is durable, fast, lightweight, and very comfortable, and I'm a Kydex kinda guy.

I've worn and shot from a number of different leather and Kydex holster manufacturers, with very mixed results. I'm happy to say I've found a local guy bending Kydex carry holsters that are every bit as comfortable, strong, well-made, and concealable as the nationally-known brands for a bit less money (until he's discovered) and a much better turnaround (again, until we flood his inbox with orders) than the big boys.

More on the holster maker and the new rig, coming soon... Stay tuned!!

For now, here's a really poorly-lit shot of the holster he built for our M&P Shield. Good stuff!

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Let the Healing Begin

Tomorrow afternoon, I will hopefully be starting the process of transforming my customized (for someone else, apparently) STI Limited pistol from a cold, expensive pile of plastic and steel in which I have no trust or confidence into a finely-tuned race pistol that not only fits my hands but fits me as a competition shooter.

Not only are we going to just re-texture the grip but the guy we're seeing tomorrow wants to look at the timing of the pistol and make sure it didn't get set up in a way that puts it at risk for a cracked slide down the road.

It should be an interesting afternoon...

Right now, my STI is completely torn down and sitting in two baggies, three parts bins, and a shelf.

Maybe, just maybe, I'll have "my" pistol back when this is all over.

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Modifying for the Sake of Modifying vs. Proper Fit

Most men don't play with dolls, we don't wear eye shadow, and we couldn't give two poops about making sure our wallet and shoes match.

However, when it comes to Gun Culture 2.0 as well as the high-speed gun gamer sets, it seems we are constantly playing with Tactical Barbies. The 1911 platform pistol is more customizable than a Jeep and the AR-15 style of rifle has become the poster child for firearm customization.

And, just like our Jeep-driving compatriots, we're hard wired to think that spending $2000 and up on a handgun is "a good starting point."

I recently learned a hard lesson about "modding" my expensive 2011-frame STI Limited gun the way someone tells me I need to, despite knowing the changes aren't going to work for me.

I dropped hundreds into custom gunsmith work I am now regretting and am finding ways to resolve with minimal further expense. Maybe this will help someone avoid the same...

Fit vs. Function
If you know for a fact a particular part or modification doesn't work for you, don't let anyone talk you into it.

In my case, I have stumpy little T-Rex thumbs and need as much relief as possible to get to the mag release on a 2011 frame. However, I've got meaty paws and bump long mag release extensions in match shooting under pressure and on the move. I HAVE to roll the gun to drop the mag. Period. Yup, sucks to be me... boo freakin' hoo.

I had a local gunsmith talk me into a slight grip reduction and application of grip tape, against what I already know about me and grip tape. I HATE it! While it is a good solution for locking your hand to the grip, it is very hard to disengage your grip and move it around.

At the end of the day, the grip wasn't reduced nearly enough, the grip tape broke apart on my grip, and I couldn't drive my now-$3000 race blaster like the boss I know I can be. It's one thing to mess up a Glock frame or an M&P backstrap but after my last match I immediately ripped my STI apart to get that grip off and prepped for a reduction and re-texture that actually WORKS for ME.

I can spot that gunsmith's work a mile away now and while it's popular for many of my local clubs' top guns, it certainly isn't for me. I drank the Kool-Aid and killed half of my 2013 season fighting my pistol. Not bueno. For the record, that gunsmith does good work, but we didn't do what was best for ME. While that might sound like a platter of whine and cheese, it was an EXPENSIVE plate.

Competition Trigger Weight
We all know there's nothing like a finely-tuned single-action 1911 trigger. They can be made to break crisply under 2# with next to zero creep or over-travel, which can be ridiculously light for someone transitioning from USPSA Production guns to Limited and L10 equipment.

The same gunsmith who did the grip work I'm replacing also worked some serious magic on my fire control system that I could swear has to be at or under two and a half pounds. Combined with my complete lack of confidence from my grip issues, I ran into a couple dangerous situations last year which thankfully didn't injure me or anyone else.

After the changes were made, I was sent into the berms with the warning to "Just be CAREFUL." As condescending as it sounded, he was right. I now had a gun I could not drive with confidence which wore a trigger that broke far lighter and shorter than anything I've shot before. I really should have put a thousand practice/training rounds through it before it ever hit my holster in a match.

If I could offer a bit of advice based on my experience, be completely honest with yourself if you're relatively new to competitive shooting or are changing equipment - particularly if you're moving on to the 1911/2011 platform. These guns require full focus, full attention, and more than an occasional range session to become comfortable with.

Going Forward
I hope to get my grip over to a different guy this week who can re-texture it and help fit it to MY hands. That will help to solve the big problem - confidence.

Once the pistol fits and works with my shooting style, I will decide if I can quickly come up to speed with the go button or if those expensive internals can be re-tuned to bump the break weight up a pound or so.

Much of the other work I've had done (reworking the safeties, slide stop modification, replacement of the recoil system, etc.) has been good and have helped address other fit and function issues. However, I think I'm ready for a gunsmith who is willing to listen, and not just talk over me.

The photo below shows the grip AFTER I was able to remove the grip tape, adhesive, and sand down the rough areas. I'm hoping an undercut trigger guard, a little more reduction (if possible), relief near the mag release, and texturing the grip itself without adding any material will get me to where I need to be with this pistol.

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Few Thoughts On Magpul's Departure

They have to do it...

And not just because they said they would, but because it's the right thing to do for the business. Colorado's new law banning the possession, transfer, purchase, or manufacture of magazines which hold more than 15 rounds forced them out, regardless of a clause which MAY have allowed them to continue business as usual in a place which has grown toxic to their business.

Then the state said they could stay, but they couldn't sell any of those restricted products to customers in the same state they're made. Uh, yeah... No. That move was specifically made to try and isolate the company by playing a game of political chicken.

It didn't work. Magpul didn't blink. Instead, they have announced the corporate HQ will be moving to somewhere in north Texas and production and shipping are being set up across the border in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

I recently read a Facebook post declaring Magpul to be cowards and leaving to save their profits while playing political games and I had to shake my head at that ill-informed low-information point of view.

They didn't WANT to leave. They were the ones who got pushed out. They were told they could (should) take their business elsewhere and that's exactly what they did. Sure... they COULD have stayed but keeping them here in Colorado would have meant splitting the business up anyway and the considerable millions in tax revenue would have continued flowing to a state government that actively worked to attack not only their bottom line but the morals and ethics they fight to protect for their customers as well as their employees.

It sucks to see them go, and I hope we can change things enough in 2014 to repeal those idiotic laws (which didn't prevent a high school girl from dying after being shot in the face with a shotgun) and keep other pro-gun companies from crossing the border.

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

It Turns Out Nine is Just Fine

And I've been right this whole time... they're ain't nuthin' wrong about carrying a 9mm pistol for self-defense and personal protection. Nothing, nada, zippo, zilch.

The gun blogs are starting to light back up with stories and rumors of local, state, and Federal agencies making a move back to 9mm pistols which, for many, is the all-important litmus test of what's an OK caliber to strap on for CCW use. We teach our students that there's nothing wrong with MANY "sub-caliber" chambering as long as they use the new modern bonded JHP ammo which does away with issues of over-penetration, premature fragmentation, and energy delivery.

That said, there's something about the .45 Automatic Colt Pistol round that makes many carrying it feel all snug and warm and safe. It's the caliber equivalent of a security blanket. "No harm can befall me as long as I'm carrying JMB's trusty sidekick cartridge, right?"

100+ years of history can't be wrong, and LOTS of police, soldiers, and professional shooter types still carry it into the dark wild places. Therefore, we must be under-gunned without it... right? I myself own and carry .45s on occasion and my "house" pistol tosses lead 230 grains at a time. However, I have to work to be "combat proficient" with my .45s and train hard with them.

Many folks think that, right up to the first time they torch off that thumper and realize much work is needed to snug up their big boy / big girl grip. At that point, the shooter either steps up and learns to control the beast, or puts the pistol back in the safe, dreading the day they have to take it out "for real." I lost count of the number of people I saw at the range managing their own personal goat rodeo when it came to shooting their small-ish .45s built for carry. I also lost count of how many people I'd try to convince to look into the 9mm for range and carry use who just poo-poo'ed my advice and went back to their work creating abstract hole art in innocent paper targets.

Back during the dark days of the Clinton-era weapon and equipment bans, following the 10mm FBI debacle (agents not being able to hit the broad side of a barn qualifies as "debacle"), a new round hit the market which promised the ballistic performance of Ol' Faithful while offering 80% of the magazine capacity of the then-problematic 9mm round, and the age of "I carry a .40 because it shoots through windshields" was born.

Thankfully, that's one pitcher of Kool-Aid I managed to avoid until I started to shoot it in USPSA competition. Full-power .40 S&W ammunition has always felt like a "worst of both worlds" solution and we have Glock largely to blame for that silliness (that's a little-known history lesson worth looking up).

.40 S&W delivers a much sharper recoil than the 9mm cartridge and still requires diligence and training to shoot effectively in modern carry weapons. Sure, it offered near-.45 performance and near-9mm capacity, but the shooter experience is fairly brutal for CCW applications and has turned off many new shooters who felt they NEED "at least" a 'fawty' to tote around. Sadly, the gun magazines and shop talk about how it was the new miracle round for defensive use and that anything less would cost you your life.

Fortunately, some 20 years later, a warm sunny light is beginning to shine again on the little 9mm cartridge. Defensive loads are still easily managed by most, modern pistols chambered for it typically do not suffer the breakage and failures seen by many who adopted .40 S&W as a service caliber, and (barring ammo shortages) it's common, plentiful, and affordable.

Many of the guniverse's celebrity trainers are moving back to 9mm and advocating it as a viable self-defense option. In this new era of social media directing Gun Culture 2.0, I expect we'll see a gradual fall-off of .40 and hopefully a slowing of this craze of ultralight .45s making their way into the hands of new shooters being sold a line of bull by a low-information gun counter "expert."

And all of that is a roundabout validation of what I and many others have been telling folks all along... if you can QUICKLY and accurately deliver decisive and overwhelming force using the "big boy" guns, then by all means carry a .40 or a .45! However, if you're like most and want solid performance, minimal recoil, and a caliber you can effectively train with AND carry, ditch the hype and come back to the 9mm campfire. You may be surprised by who you'll see around the circle.

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Back to the 1911

My first handgun...
The Genesis pistol...
Numero Uno...

I bet you remember yours. Maybe you still own it, maybe you still love it.

For me, that's an emphatic double "nope."

My first pistol was a Kimber Custom II that never ran. Yep, one of the "bad" ones, and horribly so. Their customer service and even the (in)famous Custom Shop couldn't get it to work well enough that I trusted it 100%.

I KNEW I should have bought a Colt or a Smith & Wesson or a Springfield Armory or even a Rock Island for that matter after reading story after story from people who had experiences like mine.

Hitting hard times a few years ago, I eventually sold the Kimber for close to what I had put into it, minus the regret and the heartache. I stayed with the plastic fantastics I was shooting well and didn't have problem one with. It wasn't that I was a "Glock Guy" as much as I was sick of my part-time 1911. I'd heard they could be made to run, but figured I was more likely to find a package of unicorn jerky than a sub-$1000 1911 that ran. Ultimately, I would find myself wholly converting my carry and gamer guns to the M&P platform with much success.

The 1911 saw a HUGE comeback for its 100-year anniversary. As much as I wanted to fall back in love with the 1911 on its centennial, it wasn't to be. I didn't have the $1000 I would have needed and missed that boat.

Fast-forward to 2013.
My son was born.
I became Dad.
Dad needs a "Dad" pistol.

My father carried a stainless Ruger Super Redhawk in .44 Magnum. A serious man-cannon for a serious Alaskan man... and an object of awe as I grew up.

I've got a fairly deep collection of handguns; nothing outrageous but all serve a purpose, be it for carry or for fun. However, I felt I was missing that one iconic pistol a serious shooter needs... that classic 1911. The pistol my son is going to see, admire, and hold in that same reverence.

Ironically, that's not going to be my $3,000 STI Limited gun, it's too "race." It doesn't carry that emotional weight of an old leather jacket or a well-loved Harley.

My Christmas / birthday gift from my family this year does, however. Springfield. 1911. Cal .45.

Nuff said.

I've already made a few changes and have plans to slowly build it up into the pistol I know will last for generations and get passed down through my family.

...knowing the only way my son will get his hands on my 1911 will be the same way I will one day acquire my father's .44, when it's time and not a second sooner.

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

Baby Hiatus, Match Shooting, and Choosing a Gunsmith

I can't believe it's been so long since I tapped out a few words here! Since I last wrote in my humble little shooting blog, a lot has happened both inside and outside my shooting world.

Baby Normal is doing very well, thanks for asking :-) He's strong, loud, and very healthy (not to mention a BIG boy). Balancing a day job, a weekend job, shooting, and spending time with family has been interesting, to say the least.

I've been at the range with some frequency, and I'm happy to report I recently earned my B classification in USPSA Production Division shooting. Woo hoo!

Limited and L10 have been a much bumpier ride, primarily due to issues I'm having in trying to bond to my STI "race" gun. More on that in a minute...

I've had the awesome pleasure to shoot some really cool guns lately - two different SBRs (an 8" and a 10.5" carbine) chambered in .300 AAC Blackout, suppressed rifles, a Smith & Wesson .500, and Ruger's new 1911.

Training typically slows down during the holiday months, leaving us a bit of time to work on some really cool stuff I can't talk about yet but should turn our local training world around. That said, we're steadily providing solid real-world training in the skills, mindset, and laws governing responsible citizen-focused concealed carry.

I've come across an excellent new Kydex holster maker just a few miles from the Normal HQ - check out Werkz Holsters for top-quality gear if you're looking for anything from the conventional to the obscure (Do you carry a SCCY? Call Werkz!). The owner built up a semi-custom carry rig for my Shield that also works well with my new Crosstac everyday carry belt (also made up the road in Loveland!)

Finally, a few thoughts on choosing a gunsmith - find one who will work both WITH and FOR you. Don't just pick one based on reputation or how many folks shoot his or her guns at the local matches. Take time to learn what the gunsmith will and won't do and take time to communicate what YOU WANT done to your gun. Just because he build hyper-tuned race guns for the local heavy-hitters, you may not wind up with the fit or function you were looking for and, at the end of the day, you're having custom work done to suit YOU. If you're not getting what you want and you're getting the cold shoulder, find a 'smith who will LISTEN to you, not talk over you.

More to come, Happy 2014!

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.