Saturday, March 31, 2012

Hornady Critical Defense 380 AUTO - My Tests


Every so often I'll get an email from someone that has been following the blog and has read through a ballistics test or two.  Sometimes they will suggest one or two loads that they would like to see me test.  From memory, the 380 Hornady Critical Defense and the Corbox DPX seem to be the two loads that people are most interested in seeing tested and evaluated.  

Initially, I had planned on testing all the Hornady 380 loads in one big test, but earlier this week I got an email from someone who wanted to send me two different Hornady loads to test.  I had the Critical Defense on hand, but not the TAP FPD load.  The requester actually got me motivated to add the "Support My Testing" donations link on the blog.  He was also my first donor.  I tested 5 different loads at the range today, but I've moved the Hornady CD review and test to the top spot and hope to have it wrapped up tonight.  The other 4 test results will have to wait a few days.

I've also decided to do an individual blog article for each ammo tested, rather than lump 3 or 4 tests into one article as I did on this previous 380 auto ammo test.  This will be the new standard going forward.  I can always recap individual tests into a bigger article if it makes sense to do so.

With that out of the way, I'd like to tell you about my experiences with Hornady Critical Defense 380 AUTO FTX that I had today.  Going from memory, the Critical Defense line of ammunition came out in 2009 or 2010 and it's primary selling point was that the hollow point cavity came pre-plugged with a soft polymer to aid in expansion when the bullet passed through heavy clothing.  I've shot some of it over the last few years, but never tested the expansion capabilities extolled by Hornady.

If you follow my blog and my tests, you know my testing process.  If you don't, then I encourage you to view the video in this blog as it shows my process.  I also had 4 full water jugs with me today so I was able to include a bonus 4 layers of denim and water jugs test too.  I captured all fired bullets and they are shown below with their corresponding data.

My Comments: Over the years since Critical Defense came into the market, I've heard mostly good reports about it.  I've never had a problem with it feeding or firing from any 380 or 9mm I've tried it in.  I was looking forward to seeing if it would perform through 2 and 4 layers of denim. I've always found Critical Defense to be a soft shooting loading with a lower perceived recoil than other 90 grain self defense hollow point rounds.  From my testing, I think the engineers at Hornady did a really good job balancing expansion and penetration with the .380 loading.  It increases in diameter without becoming so large that penetration is compromised.

I thought it was interesting to see the expansion differences between the bullet that impacted at 834 fps vs. the 855 fps shot.  With such a small difference in velocity you can really see the difference in overall expansion and penetration.  It seem illogical that the slower bullet would penetrate more deeply, but that's exactly what happened due to the lesser expansion of the slower round. 

Overall, I really like the performance I saw today.  My captured bullets looked almost exactly like the expanded bullets shown on the box.  All rounds expanded and performed as advertised.   


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thanks for Your Support!

Over the last few months I've received several offers to help me fund my ballistics testing.  Up to this point, I've politely turned them down because I couldn't figure out a simple way to allow people to contribute to my testing efforts.  Trust me, I would love to share the expense with anyone that wants to help out as it would allow me to test more quickly. 

Here is one example of how more gear would help me turn my tests around faster.  60 lbs of raw SIM-TEST costs about $275 delivered.  From that 60 lbs, I can pour 5 1/2 test blocks that are long enough for .380 and .32 testing.  You've seen me use these blocks here.  These blocks are roughly calibrated to ballistics gel.  Each time I use a block for testing, I lose a little bit of the SIM-TEST.  When I remelt it into a test block, I lose a little more.  Ideally, I would like to purchase another 60 lbs. of SIM-TEST so I could go to the range with a few small blocks for .380/.32  tests and some longer blocks for testing 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45ACP. 

The other day I received a YouTube message from someone asking me if they could send me a couple boxes of ammo so I could test them.  As it turns out, I had one of the loads on hand and it will be tested in the near future.  The second load was one I didn't have on hand so I went ahead and ordered a box of it today along with some other varieties to test, including the pricy Corbon DPX that I've been avoiding buying because it's over a buck a round for a box of 20.  Everyone asks me to test Corbon ammo.  Luckily for me, Cabela's was running 1 penny shipping on your entire order if you purchased any type of footwear.  I needed new summer slip on shoes, so I took advantage of that deal.  

By now you may have noticed that I've added a Google Shopping Cart to my blog.  I think this will be the easiest way for folks that wish to contribute to the testing cause to do so.  I can assure you that any contribution will be funding one of four things.
1)  Test ammo
2)  More SIM-TEST ballistics media
3)  Raw materials and tools to rebuild my ballistics box (plastic welders are expensive)
4)  Alternate test media.  I purchased 4lbs. of Knox gelatine this week so I could compare true ballistics gel to the SIM-TEST media.  You really can find just about ANYTHING on Amazon.

If you are so inclined, I'd appreciate your support.  Any amount is fine and will help the cause.  The $5 amount is just a default amount the blogger gadget puts in there.

I've also added a Topix Cloud on the blog.  If you click on the words ballistics testing, it will bring up just the ammo testing related blog posts and not the other stuff.  With almost 70 blog articles, the ammo tests were getting difficult to find.

Enjoy! 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Boberg XR9-S Another 2012 Wish List Update




Earlier today, I received a long awaited email from Boberg Arms with the instructions on how I could pay for the XR9-S I had put on pre-order back in September 2011.  Most folks wouldn't get excited about shelling out dough for something that's still 8 weeks away, but since it's on my 2012 Wish List I didn't hesitate. 






I'd like to spend a few minutes and let you know why this little guy gets my attention.  I highlighted a few attention grabbers.  The published specs are as follows.

Caliber: 9mm / 9mm+P
Capacity: 7+1
Length:
5.1”
Height:
4.2”
Width:
0.96”
Weight:
17.5 oz with magazine, unloaded
Barrel Length:
3.35”
Action:
Rotating-Barrel Locked-Breech
Sights:
Low Profile, Dovetail Windage
Sight Radius:
4.4”
Trigger Pull:
5.5 lb, 7.5 lb & 9 lb DAO
Safeties:
2 (DAO & Passive Firing Pin)


Frame: 7075-T6 Aluminum Alloy
Slide: High-Strength, High-Toughness Stainless Steel
Springs: Zinc-plated Music Wire
Grips:  High-Toughness Zytel (tm) Polymer
Pins: High-Strength, High Toughness Stainless Steel
Internal Parts: High-Strength Stainless Steel
Magazine: High-Strength Stainless Steel, Laser-Welded Construction

By now you have to be wondering how a 5.1" long pistol can have a 3.35 inch barrel.  There just aren't enough inches between the grip frame and the muzzle to fit in a barrel that long.  That's what makes the Boberg unique and pretty special.  Unlike most auto loading pistols that shove a round out of the magazine, up a feed ramp, and into the chamber the Boberg does things a little differently.  Check out their magazines.

Do you notice anything funky about that magazine?  It looks like the rounds are stripped from the rear of the magazine.  Therein lies the Boberg difference.  As the slide cycles, the round is stripped from the rear of the magazine and into the feed ramp and chamber.  This allows for a much longer barrel on a very short frame.  Boberg has put a slow motion CAD drawing of the pistol going through a firing cycle on their website.

So on one hand I'm starting to get excited about the Boberg.  On the other hand, I was just starting to get pretty good shooting with my Diamondback DB9.  I even got it feeding reliably with Federal HST again after finding the right magazine spring to replace the Diamondback factory spring.


So be on the lookout for the next Wish List Review.  With some luck it could be coming out in early June.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Taurus M380 Review and Range Report





Earlier this month I published my 2012 Wish List of mouse guns that were recently released or announced at the annual SHOT show.  It took about a week and I discovered one more thing to add to the Wish List that brought the total up to 5 "sure would like to get my hand on" items for 2012.  The wish list is HERE, and the add on is HERE.




The first item on the list that I managed to find in-stock and have delivered is something that's pretty special for me.  It's the Taurus M380 Revolver.  What makes it special is it's diminutive size and out of the ordinary ammo that it takes.  To my knowledge, it's the first modern revolver chambered for the .380acp cartridge.  It's also stainless, tiny, and did I mention it's chambered for .380acp?  It's also the first Taurus revolver that I've ever purchased.

Revolvers chambered for rimless semi-auto pistol cartridges aren't new.  Back in the 90's I was shopping for a revolver and had the choice between a Smith and Wesson model 60 chambered in .38 Special  or a then new S&W model called the 940 Centennial that was chambered in 9mm.  I'm not sure why I decided to go with the model 60 that day, but in hind-sight it was a bad move.  Smith and Wesson discontinued the 940 quickly and they command collector prices today.  While treasured, the model 60 may have appreciated slightly because it is a pre-lock model but there really isn't much to make it special or collectable.  Later, I did purchase a Smith and Wesson 625 that is chambered for .45acp.  The 625 is a popular revolver and is still produced today.  Taurus also makes revolvers in 9mm and .40 S&W.  At one time Ruger had a 9mm version of their SP101 and the current rumor mill says that Charter Arms will eventually be releasing their own revolvers for rimless cartridges.

One odd thing about revolvers accepting rimless cartridges like the .380, 9mm, and 45 is that they require the use of full moon or half moon clips for speedy unloading.  It is possible to use these revolvers without the moon clips, but extracting the spent brass will involve poking each spent case out of it's cylinder with a dowel or pencil.  Without a rim, the star extractor of revolvers have nothing to grip and pull the spent brass from the cylinder.  Personally, I don't mind using moon clips and find them to be a very fast way to reload a revolver.  Once you get used to the moon, or Stellar clips you will probably decide they are no more of a hassle than extra magazines for your semi auto pistol.

The 2012 Taurus catalog gives some details on the revolver.  I'll fill in the gaps with my own observations.  I'll start with weight.  Taurus lists the M380 as weighing 15.5 oz.  This is totally untrue as my scale told me it's really 15.2 oz in Stainless.  I love when guns come in under published weights, don't you?

Taurus lists the M380 as a Mini revolver with a 1.75" barrel and a total length of 5.95".  Based on these two photos, I would have to agree with them.  I have found the LCR to be the easiest revolver to carry up until today.  After looking at the pictures you can probably see why.

Maybe you noticed the grip change.  While the stock grip is probably quite nice, I think it defeats the purpose of this mini hide out.  Out with the rubber grip and in with a set of boot grips from Kelley Arms.   I had never ordered from Kelley Arms before, but am totally pleased with the grips, customer service taking my order of the phone, and speed of delivery.  Let's see what the grip replacement did to the weight of the revolver.

13.8 oz. for an all steel gun?  Are you kidding me?  Nope.  The scale doesn't lie.  Those stock grips are some serious heavy weights.  They also pad the back strap and increase the total length of the revolver.  By my measurements, it's now just a hair over 5 3/4".  Not a huge difference, but every little bit helps with pocket guns.

Let's add a quality pocket and IWB Remora holster, Stellar Clip, and 5 rounds of Black Hills 100 grain FMJ and see what we end up with.

And with a spare reload

That's not too bad at all.  20.5 oz for the revolver, holster, and 10 rounds of ammo.  The M380 should carry like a dream for you.  With the grips changed, my total weight drops to 18.9 oz.

I made a video of the unboxing and just some general thoughts about the pistol after having the chance to handle it a bit.  It ended up being longer than I thought it would be, but I wasted quite a bit of time on explaining how moon clips work.  I will say that both the Taurus Stellar Clips and the stainless replacements from TK Custom, both work great in the gun.  The TK Custom clip stripper was also really handy at the range.

I was really excited about taking the M380 out to the range and give it a good work out.  I did have two big concerns in the back of my mind about this mini revolver.  My first concern was the heavy trigger that was too heavy to measure with my 12 lb. maximum Lyman Digital Trigger Pull Gage.  I'm not a great revolver shooter, actually I'm a pretty poor revolver shooter.  I much prefer the triggers on striker fired guns or single action 1911's.  Because of that, it's rare that I practice with revolvers very often.  My concern was if I would be able to hit the broad side of a barn with this mini M380.

My second concern was the velocity I would see from the micro 1.75 inch barrel.  Along with the short barrel, there is also the gap between the cylinder and forcing cone.  While I was in full paranoia mode, I read something on the internet that said you could expect 50 to 100 fps velocity loss due to the gasses escaping out of the cylinder gap.  Heading out to the range today, I really didn't know what to expect so I took along my chronograph so I could do some velocity testing.  Last week, I tested 4 different .380 loads shot into denim and gel.  Part of that testing included catching bullet impact velocities.  The Federal Hydra-Shok was running about 895 fps from a 2.5" barrel.  I shot 5 rounds from the same box today and the Taurus M380 averaged 885 fps.  I'm not going to get bent out of shape over 10 fps.  I'd call that velocity similar to a 2.5" auto loader.  My concern was unfounded.

The concern about being able to shoot the revolver accurately was really bugging me.  After I shot the unboxing video, I tried to smooth out the trigger by repeated dry firing with snap caps.  The most consecutive trigger pulls I could manage was 40.  The trigger is really that heavy.  I can't even estimate the weight, but I will say it's the heaviest I've ever owned.

The weather was great today so I spent the late afternoon at the range with the M380.  I ran through about a hundred rounds.  One full box of Blazer Aluminum and some odds and ends that included: Federal 90 grain Hydra-Shok, Remington/UMC 88 grain JHP, Winchester 95 grain FMJ, and the abysmal Armscor 95 grain FMJ.  Everything shot fine except for 3 Armscor rounds that didn't go off when the primer was hit.  I blame the ammo and not the gun for this problem.

My first 5 rounds on a target grouped 4 inches to the left of point of aim.  After adjusting the rear sight, the rounds came closer to the point of aim.  Overall, after 20 rounds, I really started to like this revolver.  I started to like it quite a bit to be truthful.  Even with the smaller hide-out grips I installed, recoil was negligible.  I adjusted to the trigger rather than fighting and mentally agonizing over it's weight.  Then the hits started coming and groups started showing up on the target.  I did make a range video.  I believe these shots were rounds 25 through 40.  They were definitely in the first 50 rounds through the gun.


Overall, I'm really pleased with this revolver.  Being the first acquisition from my 2012 Wish List, this could have gone either of two ways.  The first was that the revolver would be a huge disappointment due to my inability to shoot it with any kind of accuracy and it would end up as trade bait or put away in storage.  The second outcome would be the acquisition of a new pocket gun that I would actually end up adding to the carry rotation.  I can definitely say that the second outcome is reality.  I've actually had the M380 in my pocket since leaving the range this afternoon and it will be in my pocket as often as possible over the next week or so as we get adjusted to each other.

I think this revolver has the potential to be a more than an oddity in the revolver world.  While small, I found the revolver easy to shoot with very manageable recoil.  It was also 100% reliable with several different ammunition varieties.  The easy windage adjustable rear sight had me putting rounds on target quickly and built my confidence with the pistol.  For those seeking a small revolver with less recoil than the typical .38 Special, this may be the revolver for them.  The construction and fit & finish of this Taurus was really quite good when you consider the relatively low cost.  I think the revolver is a good value for the money.  Should something go wrong in the future, I always have "The Tauruslifetime Repair Policy" as a safeguard.

February 2013 Update
I recently put up a new blog article about reducing the trigger pull.  You can read that HERE.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Denim and Gel Testing 380 Ammo

Regular readers know I get all worked up about catching bullets.  I'm not sure if I'm a closet ballistician or maybe it's just a little Ralph Nader in me trying to discover the good and the bad about stuff and letting people know about it.

A couple of weeks ago I packed up my ballistics box and some blocks of SIM-TEST and went out to the range to validate that some particular brands and specific 9mm loadings would indeed perform as designed, and marketed, when shot out of tiny 3" barrels.  Most of these loads were developed for service length pistols so you really need to check and see if the projectile velocity is sufficient to cause bullet upset and expansion.  That trip worked about pretty well except for blowing up my ballistics box because it couldn't handle the energy dump from the rounds.  You can read about that here.

After a few weeks of planning and thinking about how I could possibly improve my testing process, I hit the range again last weekend with a new approach to testing.  The ballistics box project has been put on hold and I've decided to just focus on using SIM-TEST media for my work.

Sunday afternoon was pretty productive.  I managed to capture data on 4 popular 380 auto loads and even set myself up to do some comparative analysis between two different sets of loadings.  While my SIM-TEST media isn't yet calibrated to FBI Standard Ballistics Gel, I'm working in that direction so hopefully soon I can report my penetration depths in standard measures.

I think it's time for some pictures.  I used a 2.5" barrel for my tests primarily because I really like the test gun and no one seems interested in doing denim and gel testing a barrel less than 3" in length.  So that's my value add to the shooting and concealed carry community.

My testing set up would make any CSI fan cringe.  It's dirty, dusty, exposed to the elements, but it's private and all mine while I'm borrowing it.  It's so nice to just do your work without a bazillion people watching and asking what you are doing.  I can't say enough nice things about the folks that let me use their range for my tests.

I tested 4 popular loads this week and all my data is summarized in the picture below.  If you are struggling to read the data points collected on each bullet, I apologize.  Try clicking on the picture as that usually shows the image in full size.  Normally, I would just stop here, but I've decided to take things up a level and have started producing some short videos on each load.  You can watch them in HD and full screen on your computer to see the stats on each load in bigger type and more bullet detail.  It's very easy to read.  Being a one man show, the camera work looks like the Blair Witch Project at times as I have to manage the camera and what I'm trying to do with my other hand at the moment, but it's better than leaving that aspect completely out of the review.  I think I'm also unique with my reviews because I test two rounds from each tested load.  From experience I find this is really important due to the huge velocity variations we've been seeing from the ammunition industry since 2008.  I had a shot to shot variance of over 100 fps on one load and all tested rounds came from the same box of ammo.  

The Videos - Gel Batch 1




My Comments:  Probably the oldest bullet technology tested, but one that has been hanging on forever is the Federal Hydra-Shok.  I remember buying these in the early 90's, but they may be even older than that.  After seeing how all 4 rounds stack up, the Hydra Shok sacrifices expansion for penetration.  It's impossible to deny there is expansion, but it's not as dramatic as others tested.  Penetration was much greater than it's paired partner the Winchester Ranger T that's up next. 





My Comments: I really don't know much about the Ranger T Series other than what I have read.  Back when you could buy the Winchester Black Talon ammo, you were basically buying the Ranger T bullet with a black lubaloy coating.  Looking at the violently expanded rounds, you can see the talons if you look closely.  With such a slow starting speed, the violent and impressive expansion really creates a drag on the projectile.  Unlike the Hydra-Shok, the Ranger T sacrifices penetration for expansion. 

The Videos - Gel Batch 2



My Comments: The Speer Gold Dot probably has the best reputation of any of the .380 JHP offerings.  It consistently tests well showing good expansion and penetration.  It's also a bonded bullet and without looking it up, I believe it was the first bonded 380 bullet.  In 2009, if you asked 10 internet bulletin board contributors what .380 ammo to carry, I estimate that half would have said Gold Dot with the other half recommending loads from Hornady, Remington, Federal, or Winchester.  The Gold Dot gets it's name from the tiny gold dot at the center of bullet after it's expanded.  Unfortunately, I wasn't seeing the dots this week.  The Speer Gold Dots were equally fast with all other loads tested, but expansion was not dramatic.  Yes, they did expand but more like the Federal Hydra-Shok than the other Winchester loads tested.  The Gold Dot trades expansion for deeper penetration.

I couldn't leave the range with full water jugs so I decided to go old school ballistics testing with a Gold Dot and 4 water jugs.  Instead of my normal 2 layers of denim, I upped it to 4 layers for this test.  You can hear the surprise and disappointment in my voice in the video.  4 layers was just too much for the Gold Dot tested and expansion suffered greatly.  This is why we need to test and retest our carry ammo.  I learned that Gold Dots might be fine in warm weather, but they may not be your best choice when the cold weather clothes come out.   





My Comments:  The last rounds tested were the comparatively new Winchester Supreme Elite PDX Bonded ammo.  I knew almost nothing about this other than the velocity data I previously captured on the load and that the bullet used in the Ranger T was supposed to be used in the PDX.  They look similar when compared before they are fired.  Like the Ranger T, the PDX showed some incredible expansion.  Also like the Ranger T, the PDX trades expansion for penetration.  The Gold Dot almost completely cleared the gel test block.  The PDX was found inches from the end of the gel test block.

Overall Comments on the Day
 I would have loved to see a 13" penetration and .650" expansion from one of the two test samples in Gel Batch 1.  Unfortunately, I don't think we're going to see that from any of the 380 rounds I've tested and will be testing in the future.  This is especially true when you realize we are only working with a 2.5" long barrel.  Up the barrel length to 4" and maybe that would be possible with some of these loads, but if I'm carrying a 4" barrel it's not going to be a 380.  The good news is that all 4 showed some expansion from the short barrel and for me, that's what is most important.

So stay tuned as more tests are coming.  In addition to 380 acp and 9mm I'd like to dip down into the .32 acp loads and step up to testing the .38 Special, .40 S&W, and 45 auto.  With some of the larger calibers I may do a short vs. long barrel comparison so we can really see how much performance is lost with the shorter mouse gun length barrels.

2012 Arkansas Ruger Rimfire Challenge State Match



Last October I participated in my first Ruger Rimfire Challenge match.  I did a blog post about it here.  I had a really great time and was looking forward to shooting it again in 2012.  I really thought it would be in the Fall like it was in 2011, but it has been moved to April 7, 2012.  I completed my registration at the end of February and can't believe it's almost April already.  I need to get out to the range and make sure my gear is up to snuff.  I think I learned a few things in October that should really help me this time around.

I really struggled with my SR-22 rifle in the 2011 match.  For some odd reason I was having all kinds of light strikes when shooting at speed.  A few months ago, I tore down the gun and installed a Volquartsen Custom TG2000 replacement trigger assembly after spending some time figuring out how to make it fit in the SR-22 receiver.  It's working well so expect no issues this time around.

I wasn't happy with the optic installed on my pistol so I changed out the Burris Fastfire II for a TRUGLOW 40mm Red Dot tube.  Even with practice, I was still having a hard time finding the dot in the Burris unit.  It's an excellent optic, but probably better for times when you aren't going for speed.  The TRUGLOW tube gives me a better point of reference as I bring the gun up and the dot is faster to acquire.  It's also a brighter and larger dot.

I also realized that I've changed the way I grip and shoot pistols now that I've learned the virtues of thumbs forward shooting.  The thumb rest grips on my Mark II are no longer necessary so I'll need to put the stock grips back on or see if I have a set of flat target panels in my parts stash.  Ideally, I'd like to replace the Hogue Wrap around with finger grooves and thumb rest with the same Hogue wrap around with finger grooves and no thumb rest, but Midway has them on sale and they are out of stock with a 4/12 back in stock estimate.  Just a bit too late for my 4/7 shoot.  I've put them on notification so if they arrive early, I'll get em.

Really looking forward to this event again.  Many thanks to the folks at Nighthawk Custom Training Academy for hosting the event again this year.  Also to Ruger for dreaming up and sponsoring this fun for all competiton.

 Aside from my gear changes, I'll be bringing my own chair and more cigars this time around.  I also hope to better my standings from top half of the pack to being in the top quarter for both pistol and rifle this year.  I better get practicing.  See you at the range!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

SIM-TEST Terminal Ballistics Test Media

Last month, I mentioned that I was going to get my hands on a 60 lb. box of SIM-TEST ballistics test media so I could use it to evaluate the terminal performance of my favorite ammo in some of my favorite mouse guns.  I really struggled with the decision to pony up the money for this stuff because it's really pretty expensive stuff and just the shipping was a substantial cost.  Ideally, I wanted to get my bullet box up and running, but that hasn't worked out well so far. 

SIM-TEST is really some neat stuff.  Rather than interpret the sales information from Corbin's website, I'll just show you the information that reeled me in as a customer.  This all comes from the Corbin website.


"Corbin SIM-TESTtm ballistic test media is a stable, animal-protein based "simulated tissue" for consistent bullet performance tests. The material is a very close match to muscle tissue in density and consistency. The density is 1.3 gm/cc. (Density can be adjusted by controlling water content.) The major advantages over ballistic gel is stability at room temperature, and nearly unlimited re-use (melt and re-cast), which makes it a long term investment instead of a one-use throw-away.

You may have seen episodes of "CSI" or "Myth Busters", where entire human torsos or body parts were molded from Sim-Test and used in forensic experiments. Sim-test has also been used by Naval Research Labs, Department of Energy, COSI, John Hopkins University, and other ballistic labs, medical research facilities, and even hypodermic needle testing and protective body armor and helmet testing. Inserting acceleration gauges and impact sensors directly into castings of the material, which melts at about 140-deg. F, allows precision simulation and testing of the effects of impacts through protective clothing. SIM-TESTtm has these advantages over wet newspaper, water, clay, conventional ballistic gelatin, and other test materials commonly used as a bullet expansion medium:
  1. Stable at room temperature.
    Unlike gelatin, water-soaked materials, or water-based clay, SIM-TESTtm remains the consistency of animal muscle tissue without refrigeration.
  2. Ready to use without mixing.
    SIM-TESTtm does not require mixing, so it maintains the same consistent density from test to test.
  3. No refrigeration required.
    SIM-TESTtm can be used without refrigeration, unlike water-based gels which spoil or need to be refrigerated to consistent temperature to maintain their density from shot to shot. The testing can be done in the field. (Store in a cool, dry area for up to one year)
  4. Re-usable, re-castable.
    SIM-TESTtm can easily be melted and re-cast using a water bath boiler pan, letting one "brick" cool while others are being used. Quickly sets up for another shot. Fragments can be added back to the mould, and the melted material strained to remove bullet fragments.
  5. Water soluble, easy clean-up.
    SIM-TESTtm dissolves completely in hot water. It can be diluted and used in tanks as a variable density tissue simulant.
  6. Close simulation of actual tissue.
    SIM-TESTtm is an excellent match to the density and elasticity of live animal muscle tissue, providing a superior simulation for bullet testing and forensics."
So now I'm thinking if it's good enough for "Myth Busters", it's good enough for me.  Plus it's reusable, temperature stable, and all that other good stuff.

In use, I wanted to be able to use SIM-TEST that had been diluted with water to match the density of traditional ballistics gelatine.  Seemed pretty straight forward.  Just add some water to decrease the density.  In reality, it's a bit more difficult than that.  I shot a video of what it takes to dilute the raw SIM-TEST into a density similar to ballistics gel.




So was all that work worth it?  You bet it was.  I didn't get the mix correct on this specific batch.  I think it was a bit too soft.  I recently purchased this awesome new BB gun that said it would launch BBs at 620 fps.  I needed a BB gun that could shoot bbs at about 600 fps so I could validate that my SIM-TEST blocks were close to the published FBI Ballistics Gel standards of: "Calibration of ballistic gelatin is verified by firing a .177 steel BB at 590 feet per second (fps), plus or minus 15 fps, into the gelatin, resulting in 8.5 centimeters (cm), plus or minus 1 cm, penetration (2.95" – 3.74")."  I probably wasted about 45 minutes shooting the BB gun over the chronograph.  One reason was it was really fun.  The second reason was that even at maximum pumps (10) the highest velocity I could get was 503 fps.  I either got ripped off by the folks at Crosman, or the gun needs more break in before hitting the top side of it's velocity potential.  I still used the blocks and they still caught the bullets.  My previous batch was firmer and held together better at the range today.

I took four blocks of SIM-TEST out to the range today and tested 4 different 380 ammo brands.  I'm still working on the video edits, but should have those results published later this week.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

2012 Wish List Update

Spring break is right around the corner and I really want to log some range time during my time off.  Ideally, I could spend part of my range time with one or two items from my 2012 wish list, but I doubt any of them will be available in time for the break.

I've never paid much attention to Taurus.  A long time ago I had a PT-22 which was an ok little plinker and a short stop on my Mouse Gun journey.  My most memorable experience with it was dispatching a ground hog that was causing issues out at our trap club.  It didn't last long in the collection and found it's way into the pocket of someone else.

I was looking at the 2012 Taurus catalog today as I'm considering a 4" Tracker 992 SS, and came across this little gem.  This was not on my 2012 wish list, but it's being added.  I'm seriously going to pick one of these up for no other reason than to support a company that is willing to go where others have not.  I'm also really interested to see how this DAO sub 1 lb. and sub 6" mini revolver will behave firing .380 acp cartridges.  I'm familiar with revolvers built for rimless cartridges and have no problem using moon clips.  I actually liked using them with a Smith and Wesson 625 as it made for very fast reloads and also easy to keep track of your spent brass.  I've found very little additional information about this pistol other than what is listed in the 2012 Taurus Catalog.  



So look forward to a Mouse Guns and Gear review of the Taurus 380 Mini Revolver at some point this year.

Friday, March 9, 2012

My Fix for my Diamondback DB9 Feed Problems

You guys know I like my Diamondback DB9.  You guys also know that I'd really like to feed my Diamondback a steady diet of Federal HST 124 grain HP ammo because it's the best performing ammo from 3" barrels that I have tested so far.  You can see how it performed here.

Unfortunately, I've found that the stock Diamondback DB9 magazine springs lose some of their strength over a few months of use and a perfectly good magazine can all of a sudden become a dud.  A couple of weeks ago I posted a blog entry about using a trimmed Kel Tec PF9 spring in place of the stock DB9 spring.  You can read that here.

While it will take months to really see if this spring change is the ultimate solution to my feed problems, I did want to share what I have learned so far in case you find yourself in my situation and want to try the spring fix for yourself.  My feed issues look like this.  As the round is stripped from the top of the magazine, it will nose dive into the feed ramp and jam the pistol.  This only happens with a full magazine of 6 rounds.


I shot a video of the work involved in replacing the stock Diamondback magazine spring with the Kel Tec PF9 magazine spring, which can be ordered here.  After reading this and viewing the video, you may decide to try this for yourself.  I've had this same feed problem with two different DB9s and the magazine spring change has resolved my issue with both DB9s.  I can't assure you that this will fix your feed problems, but I can say that it helped me.

My how to video explaining the issue and converting a factory magazine spring to the Kel Tec spring follows.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

2012 Wish List

From time to time I'll be asked about specific pocket pistols that I've mentioned in my blogs.  Often I get questions about pistols that I've never owned or had the opportunity to shoot.  I'm lucky enough to be able to buy a new pistol every so often so I keep a short wish list of new pocket pistols that I'd like to own or at least evaluate.  For 2012, I actually have 4 pocket guns that I would love to get my hands on.  I'll be going the extra mile to get my hands on each of these this year and you can be assured that I will review each one if I can get them.

So here's my short list for 2012 in no particular order.

Heizer DoubleTap 45 ACP
Why I want this pistol:  It's super thin and light.  This would be an excellent back up for a Glock 36.  It would also be an ideal knock about trail gun with 2 rounds of .45 ACP 230 grain JHPs in the gun and 2  CCI .45 shot shells on standby in the grip.

Sig Sauer P938 9mm

Why I want this pistol:  Capitalizing on the success of their .380 acp P238 , Sig has announced a 9mm will be available in a similar platform.  With a 6+1 capacity and an optional 7 round magazine (pictured) this 1.1" wide beauty sports a 3" barrel and 1911 like controls.  Sig has listed several variations of this model, but I'm most interested in the all black Extreme version pictured.  It's small with a light weight alloy frame.  I can't wait to get my hands on this little gem for discrete 2 O'clock IWB carry.

Boberg XR9-S 9mm 

Why I want this pistol:   Like Heizer, Boberg is another relatively new pistol manufacturer in the market.  Their initial shipment of guns went out late in the 3rd quarter of 2011.  Their unique design allows for a barrel length that's about 10% longer than similar sized pistols.  I jumped on their "waiting list" in Q3 of 2011 with hopes of actually getting my XR9-S at some point in 2012.  What really sold me on this gun was a size comparison that Arne Boberg did with the Kahr P380.  I love the P380 size so I'm sure making adjustments to the size of the XR9-S will be a snap.

Masterpiece Arms Protector II .380acp

Why I want this pistol:  The last pistol on my list is the Masterpiece Arms Protector II in .380 ACP.  I started liking this pistol when it was still the original Protector.  The Protector II is an updated version of that original design and has been modified in several areas.  It's now ported, has more functional slide gripping surfaces, and a beaver tail to reduce "slide bite".  As a LWS380 owner, I have to say that the Seecamp .380 is a punishing pistol to shoot.  I'm intrigued by the porting on the Protector II and really want to see if it can tame the trigger finger slap I get from the micro .380 guns.  I think this will be  a great hide-out option that is offered at a very reasonable price.

It's awesome to live in a country that allows us to make lists like this and actually stand a good chance of getting each item on the list in the next 12 months.  I can't wait to get my hands on these pistols and shoot, review, and evaluate them.  2 years ago, a list like this would have been loaded with .380 and .32 acp options, but companies here in the USA keep pushing the design envelope to bring us 9mm and larger pistols in very small packages.  It's going to be a good year.