Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Favorite Firearms, Part 1: the Model 60

In more than 30 years as a firearms fanatic, I have run across several weapons that I must list as favorites.  Some are attainable, many are not.  I'll do a series of posts about them, scattered amongst other posts about who knows what.  The first I'll discuss is one I'll likely own until I no longer reside in this world:

Smith and Wesson Model 60

Photo from Smith and Wesson's website.
The venerable double action revolver.  In this example it's a pocketable, 5-shot .357 magnum.  This was the first handgun I bought.  I still have it, and still enjoy shooting it.  It's the only handgun of my collection that has ever actually served duty to dispatch something of the living. It performs admirably every time.

While the 2 1/8" barrel with fixed sights may not seem like an optimal setup to most, you must understand that this gun - mine at least - hits its mark at point of aim, as long as you do your part and don't wobble. 

At 24 ounces empty, it's no ballerina.  The new scandium frame models from Smith make this old stainless-steel 60 seem absolutely obese.  But I guarantee you'll be done shooting one of those ultralights after a cylinder of trigger pulls, if not before.  The marginal heft of this piece makes it comfortable and fun when shooting .38 special, and manageable with .357 magnum.  (For those unaware: revolvers chambered for .357 magnum can also shoot .38 special, but not vice-versa, as .357 is a longer casing than the .38 special.)  It's not too heavy, however, to stick in your front pocket during walks around the back 40, in case of snakes.  It has never failed or had any issues whatsoever, and makes a beautiful perfect pattern with CCI .38/.357 shotshells (ratshot or snakeshot as it's commonly called).

You'll also notice in the picture that it has an extended grip, to accommodate the pinkie finger.  This helps manage recoil when shooting hard-thumping .357 magnum loads as well.  Plus, it's just a more comfortable, natural feeling grip than the stubby two finger grips most of the J-frame and other compact revolvers use. 

The last obvious advantage of this revolver I've already mentioned: it's all stainless steel.  Very little maintenance and easy cleaning are the cherry on top of a near perfect all around handgun.  For shooters with little experience, who perhaps are intimidated by manual safeties and slide release levers of semi-auto pistols, or for shooters who value simplicity and efficiency and want something that can be concealed for self defense, or easily toted for protection against snakes and other vermin in the wild, the Model 60 remains an excellent choice, as it has been since 1965.


For plinking and practice, I prefer to shoot .38 special for reduced recoil and less of a dent in the wallet.  My favorite, consistently reliable and reasonably accurate .38 plinking loads are:

American Eagle FMJ 130 gr which are a Federal Ammunition product, or its direct competition, Winchester USA ("white box") FMJ 130 gr.

For defense, I used to carry .38 special +P loads, as they seemed nearly as powerful as most .357 but kicked much less.  Now, however, I decided it's silly to own a .357 and not keep .357 in it, as long as you can handle the recoil.  There are circumstances where recoil is a real issue, and I will discuss that in a later post.  For now, my favorite .357 magnum defensive loads are:

 Speer Gold Dot 125 gr JHP is a time tested man-stopper that isn't as expensive as some others, and in its 125 grain configuration is not too bad in the recoil department.  Remington's Golden Saber (brass jacketed hollow point) also in 125 grain is a sure-kill with proper aim.  Recoil will be similar to the Gold Dot, but Remington's Sabers can be a little more expensive.

The beast of loads, that I used to always carry if I had .357 loaded, is Federal Premium Hydra-shok 158 grain JHP.  These hurt.  I started shooting them years ago after asking a cop who was still sporting a .357 revolver what ammo he used.  This, he said, was what most departments across the country issued.  Good enough for me, I thought.  Turned out, good enough to turn my palm red and give me a headache from the sonic blast across my forehead, a side-effect of the short barrel as well.  I'm still convinced that nothing, at least not human, could remain standing if it took a hit in the chest from one of these bad boys.  They just hurt too bad to be fun to practice with, so I've moved to the lighter, 125 grain loads mentioned above.  If I had a 686 Plus or a GP100 as a nightstand gun, however, I'd probably still be shooting the 158 Hydra-shoks.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Weaponlight Primer: Nightstand Pistols

Pistol-mounted flashlights are a curious thing.  They look really cool, for one. Yet they aren't always practical.  If your pistol is your primary home defense weapon, a weaponlight may be a good investment.  If your pistol is a tiny pocketgun that's carried for defense while out and about, then a mounted light is likely not a good idea.  They're bulky, only fit in very specialized holsters, and really not practical for situations other than "clearing" a room or scouting that curious noise that your wife heard at 2:00 a.m.  I actually do not use a weapon mounted light myself, but instead employ the offhand (or weakhand) flashlight method show here.  However, a mounted light can be a real asset at times, freeing the off-hand to other tasks, like calling 911.

If you were living in a movie, the typical home invader would cut the power before he came in, rendering your room lights useless.  This isn't likely to happen in real life, but it is likely that if you're sweeping your house for a burglar, you'll either not want to take a hand from your pistol, or often you would be exposing yourself to the room in order to turn a light on. Not a good tactical maneuver. So having a weapon mounted flashlight that's super bright and focused generally in the same direction as the muzzle, or point of aim, can be a very good thing in that situation.

Some things to look for in a weaponlight are brightness, ease of use, battery type, and reliability.  Being that you shouldn't be carrying your weapon holstered with the light mounted unless you're a member of a tactical ops entry/assault team means that for the typical home user, bulk and weight are not critical issues, in general.  Obviously you don't want a brick strapped to the front of your pistol, but a little extra weight out front isn't a bad thing for a night-stand gun.  It helps steady your aim and control recoil for a quick follow-up shot.

Brightness covers two aspects of the light for me: Is it bright enough to see everything I want to see for the distance I can effectively shoot this weapon? And is it bright enough to blind an attacker temporarily, giving me tactical advantage?  Most any weaponlight will cover the first for a pistol. The second is another matter.  What is bright enough to blind someone?  Look for a light over 100 lumens.  My handheld Surefire G2 with the upgrade bulb head is 120 lumens.  At close range, it will easily temporarily blind someone.  However, there is another way to blind someone that's much more effective.  Strobe.  You can't achieve the type of strobe that will do this by simply tapping the switch quickly with your thumb, either. 

A rapid, super-bright strobe in someone's face will not only render them temporarily blinded, but will keep them that way longer because their eyes don't know what to do.  Is it bright or is it dark? This confusion of the pupil conveys straight into the brain and addles the person, confusing them cognitively, and possibly even inducing nausea (I speak from experience after testing it on myself).  It's a highly effective initial layer of defense, before a shot is fired.  If you tell the person you have a firearm while they are staggering about, they may surrender, keeping you from having to fire a shot.  Have them lay face down like a starfish until the cops arrive.

Ease of use in a pistol weaponlight means basically one that's easy to mount, and easy to remove when you need to carry your weapon concealed in a holster.  It also means a switch that's easy to get to and manipulate in a panic, adrenalin ridden situation.  When adrenalin is up, fine motor skills diminish.  Imagine you're wearing a set of thick winter gloves, and then consider if you could effectively manipulate the switch on the weaponlight you're considering purchasing.

Battery type is another crucial piece of the puzzle.  Never, I repeat, never rely on a weaponlight that uses a standard alkaline battery.  AA or AAA batteries are cheap and plentiful for a reason.  They go dead.  Imagine grabbing your gun from the bedside safe and the battery is dead in your light.  Why bother?  Be sure your weaponlight uses lithium batteries.  These have very good shelf life (typically ten years or so) and are only significantly drained while being used.  You should still check the light once a month or so to be sure it comes on.

Now for some examples before this post gets too long.  ;)

My Favorite:

Streamlight TLR-1s (the "s" is for strobe), in my book the best close range weaponlight. While a approaching the large side for a pistol light, it throws out 160 lumens and has a strobe setting that is the most effective I've seen. At $116 (on Opticsplanet), it's a worthy investment, and very high quality.  There are a few varieties of this light as well.  The TLR-1 doesn't have a strobe feature, is only 135 lumens and is $5 cheaper.  Trust me, the strobe is well worth the $5.  I really don't know why Streamlight bothers making the non-"s" version.  There is also the TLR-2 which incorporates a laser sight onto the bottom of the light.  It's a little pricier, at almost $250 typically.  My dad loves his.  It's a little rich for my wallet, though.

Excellent Choices:

TLR-4 on Springfield Armory XD-9 Compact
Streamlight TLR-3, more compact, still very bright at 90 lumens, but no strobe feature.  For $87 it's maybe a little high for what it is, and to me the price difference to the TLR-1s is worth the upgrade.  But if you want Streamlight quality, and the cheapest "top brand" weaponlight out there, this is it.
In addition, the Streamlight TLR-4 is the same light but 110 lumens, and with a lower mounted laser, similar to the TLR-2. The TLR-4 laser/light combo rings in as a relative bargain at only $129. Now if Streamlight would just give it a strobe feature for another $5, this would take my top choice spot!

A Bargain Hunter's Light:

Firefield Tactical Pistol Flashlight.  Having not had one of these hand-on, I cannot attest to it's quality myself, but products from the manufacturer consistently get good reviews by consumers and professionals alike.  They seem to make good products at incredibly good prices.  This light puts out 120 lumes and costs only $39! The old standby method of a riflescope ring with a Surefire G2 stuck in it is now more expensive than this weapon mounted light!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Flashlights a Plenty

I own Surefire flashlights, Streamlights, Maglites, Rayovacs, and even an iNova.  Each has its purpose and is good at what it does, reliably.  Having sold outdoor gear for so long, I've had plenty of opportunity to play with various ingeniously designed and expensive flashlights, including weapon-lights.  I've determined a few generalities about my favorite brands:

Maglite: Tough, reliable, easily fixable. For head-knockers, they can't be beat. They do the beating. Keep one 3 D-cell LED model in your car, easily reachable. Keep another by the nightstand as a combination flashlight and billy club.

Rayovac: These excel as camping lights and kid lights, as they are reliable, reasonably tough, and cheap! If your kid exits the woods without it, or you drop it in the river ... oh well. Get another one. They're available almost everywhere.

Streamlight: Probably the best overall brand of flashlight, in my book. These lights get the job done and then some, for much less mu la than the competition. There are so many models of Streamlight that it's hard to know where to begin looking.  Luckily, they have an excellent product filter on their website to help you pick the perfect light for your needs.

Surefire: The big dogs of the tactical light world. Indeed, they make fantastic products that are super bright and tough as anvils. They also charge like they were selling the last piece of bread on earth. A $400 handheld flashlight? Yes, I've sold two of them over the years. The M6 Guardian is capable of putting the Bat Signal on a cloud with a light the size of a cucumber. Truly amazing. Their more "reasonable" priced offering are the Nitrolon line, which are the same thing as their standard aluminum bodied lights but made from high grade plastic. Parts are interchangeable.

Surefire weaponlights are almost works of art. Brutally tough, battle tested works of art. There is a famous story of a soldier walking down a roadside at night in Iraq, who was hit by an IED. He lost part of his leg. His M4 Carbine was found shattered, non-functioning, and lying in the ditch nearby. They found the black rifle, at night, because the Surefire light mounted to the quadrail forend was still on.

Briefly on Politics

You may notice the flag with eagle flying to the right. Hard to miss, I know.  You may also notice the "Protect the 2nd Amendment" and "Support our Troops" logos farther down the page border.  These things are, I assure you, as in depth as I will take this site into politics.  It has always annoyed me when gun magazines used their platform to push parts of their ideology that didn't relate directly to firearms, and I refuse to do it here. 

To be sure, keeping the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in tact is a critical part of a gun lover's political thought process.  If it goes, so do our firearms.  Several more of our liberties would follow shortly after, I'm sure.  Disarming a free, law-abiding citizenry is something never done for the right reasons.  Frankly the thought of it scares the hell out of me, and not because I would miss target practice.

The yellow ribbon to support our troops? Well, who doesn't agree with that, honestly? Even if you don't agree with the battle currently being fought, wherever it may be, the yellow ribbon simply shows our nation's soldiers that you think of them, and hope they return safely.

As far as patriotism and the flag goes... I am about as American as an individual can get.  My family tree grows in American soil since the late 1600's, and that's not counting the several branches of Native American that are untraceable.  More than one of my ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War.  More than one also fought in the Civil War, but we won't go there.  My 5th (I should look it up, but I think that's correct) Great Grandfather was the first "Sheriff" stationed in Alabama.  His territory was a gigantic swath of wilderness covering all of Alabama from somewhere near Montgomery all the way to Tennessee.  This was prior to Alabama becoming a state, as it did in 1819.  The sturdy log cabin that he built for himself and family as Sheriff still stands today in Shelby County as a historic landmark. 

I am very proud of my heritage as an American.  I may come from genetic stock of hard-headed, freedom-loving Scots-Irish, quirky Welsh mariners, and even a royal guard to the English monarchy thrown in, but what I really am in my core is American.  All of those people from those backgrounds came together and helped build this nation.  I for one am glad that they did.

And here lies the end of what will hopefully be my only political commentary of any sort on this blog.  Hope you enjoyed it.  As Forest Gump would say, "...that's all I have to say about that."

That New Gun Smell

Here's quick tip for anyone buying a new firearm, especially one of semi-auto action.  To ensure a more enjoyable first trip to the firing range, and less likelihood of buyer's remorse, be sure and break in your new gun before ever firing the first shot.  How, you say?

If your new gun is a semi-automatic pistol, for example, you should:
  1. Be sure it is not loaded and the chamber is clear. Never assume, visually inspect the weapon!
  2. Put in your favorite movie of guys blowing stuff up and shooting at each other, and get comfy in your favorite chair to watch it. Be sure you also have your favorite beverage handy.  Avoid stout libations.
  3. Press "play"
  4. Begin working the action of your new firearm.  Rack the slide back and forth.  Snap the trigger every 20 or so repetitions (Unless it is a rimfire. Then do NOT dry fire it.).  If your gun has a manual safety, also work the safety through its motions every 20 or so repetitions of slide action.
  5. Continue this mindless action for the length of the movie or until your arm is about to fall off. By the time you are done, several rough edges of manufacturing will be beginning to wear down, and the weapon will cycle smoother.
  6. Even if your new gun is a revolver or pump action shotgun, you should still follow this process.  Simply work whatever action your new gun has, in the same steps as above.
Advantages of doing this? It can greatly help in smoothing a "crunchy" trigger (Springfield XD, anyone?), and reduce or avoid double-feeds, stove-pipes (spent cartridge ejection jam), and general pain-in-the-assedness.  It will also generally help the firearm feel better in hand quicker, which will not only make you feel good about your purchase, but drive you to get back to the range sooner than later so you can shoot your new gun again.  The more you shoot, the better shot you become, the more proficient and efficient you become in operating the weapon, and the more these actions become autopilot, which is critical in a panic, life or death situation.

So, to sum up: Watch a movie and break in your new gun.  It could save your life!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The First Blog: The Blogger's Creed

This is my blog. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My blog is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my blog is useless. Without my blog I am useless. I must blog my blog true. I must blog straighter than my enemy, who is trying to out blog me. I must blog him before he blogs me. I will. Before God, I swear this creed: my blog and myself are defenders of my country, we are the masters of our enemy, we are the saviors of my life. So be it, until there is no enemy, but peace. Amen.

If anyone wonders, I stole this directly from my friend Chuck's blog, Groovy Marmalade.  It's okay though.  He probably stole from someone else, besides Full Metal Jacket and R. Lee Ermey.  ;-)


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