Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ballistics Testing Winchester Ranger 9mm +P 124 Grain Bonded JHP

First off, I would like to thank Fred for his generous donation of the ammunition for this test.  Fred has been "on the job" in many capacities over the last several years and when he approached me about doing a test on this ammunition I gladly accepted the opportunity.  The test was conducted back in early June before the Summer heat shut down SIM-TEST use for the season.  The picture on the left is one of a few photos I sent back to Fred after my testing so he would know a bit more about the performance results of this ammunition during my testing.  Fred told me he suspected this Winchester loading would be a poor performer in short barrels and immediately removed it from his carry ammunition options.

My only prior experience with this ammo was during the ammo drought several years ago.  I ordered a few boxes, because it was available, from an on-line ammo retailer.  After inspecting the ammo, I immediately called the retailer to request a return authorization because it looked so much different than any JHP ammo I had ever seen.  In the photo below you can see that the Winchester Ranger 9mm +P 124 Grain Bonded JHP looks much more like a jacketed soft point than a jacketed hollow point.  The lead core comes up to just below the top of the jacket.  Undaunted, I followed through on my promise to Fred to do the test.
  
Pistol Specs:
Kahr PM9 9mm with 3.1" barrel

Testing Protocol:
My testing process is pretty simple.  I take one shot at alternate ends of a SIM-TEST block that is loosely draped with 2 layers of medium weight denim.  I take the shots from 8 feet away and impact velocity is measured 2 inches away from the SIM-TEST block.  My SIM-TEST blocks are now closely calibrated to 10% ballistics gel density.  I shoot the blocks at the range and then bring them home and recover the bullets  Immediately prior to the terminal test, I shoot a five shot velocity test string from 8 feet over a Competition Electronic ProChrono Digital chronograph.

I don't really have much to say about the terminal performance of this load other than it appears to be a poor choice for short barreled pistols.  Lacking a traditional hollow point cavity, the bullet expanded poorly and plowed through the entire length of the 15" block of SIM-TEST before coming to rest in a water jug that was placed behind the SIM-TEST block.  The video below documents the entire test from range testing to bullet recovery. 

My Thoughts
It was pretty cool to actually capture video of the bullet ending it's travel in a water jug and gracefully fluttering down to the bottom of the water jug backer.

The overall velocity average of this +P loading should have been in the 1100 to 1150 fps range based on previous 9mm +P testing in this barrel length with this bullet weight.  With my limited experience with this loading, I'm not really sure if it was designed for very deep penetration and modest expansion.  If so, then this loading met expectations.  If it was designed for more typical penetration of 12+" and more typical expansion of .5" then this load was a poor performer in our short barrel test. 
  

Disclaimer....This test should not be considered an endorsement or recommendation for the product(s) tested. It is up to each individual to make their own personal decision about which specific ammunition to use for their needs. It's also critically important to test any ammo in YOUR SPECIFIC FIREARM before relying on it for any purpose.  Ammunition labeled as +P should not be used in any firearm unless the firearm manufacturer specifically states you are permitted to do so. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lehigh Defense .45 ACP Maximum Expansion Test

Late last Spring I posted a blog about Lehigh Defense ammunition as well as a preliminary test done with 4 layers of denim and some water jugs.  You can read that post HERE.  The post explains how I got my hands on this ammo for testing along with the background on Lehigh Defense.  This post documents my first denim and gel test with the 45 ACP 174 Grain Maximum Expansion load.
If you follow my blog and my tests, then you know my testing process.  If you are not familiar, please view the video as it includes footage from the range and also footage from the bench where I extract the captured bullets from the SIM-TEST ballistics media.  My testing process is pretty simple.  I take a shot at a SIM-TEST block that has been calibrated to 10% ballistics gelatine density.  The block is loosely draped with 2 layers of medium weight denim.  I take the shots from 8 feet away and impact velocity is measured 2 inches away from the SIM-TEST block.  This short barreled test pistols are described below.

Test Pistols
Glock 36 3.78" Barrel
STI Shadow 3.24" Barrel

All range testing and bullet recovery has been documented in the video below.




The recovered bullets, and their corresponding measurements, are shown below.  The results were pretty close to what I expected they would be.  The recovered bullets had fully expanded to nearly triple their initial diameter, maintained all their petals, and retained nearly 100% of their starting weight.  Expansion was perfectly symmetrical and matched very closely to previously recovered rounds from denim and water jug testing.


My Comments:  Lehigh Defense lists the velocity of this load at 1025 fps from a 5" barrel.  I was pleased to see we got nearly that velocity from our short barrel test pistols.  Expansion is published at 1.28".  We exceeded the expansion in our tests.  The load also lists 10" of penetration when tested in 10% ballistics gelatine.  I failed to reach that penetration with my denim and SIM-TEST testing.  This was concerning to me and Mike Cyrus at Lehigh Defense.  It just didn't make sense that our penetration numbers would be so different.  Mike even ran another test and sent me the resulting picture of his test shot resting slightly more than 10" into his block of ballistics gel.  

I've held my video and blog post until I could get back out the range and retest one final time with a known calibrated block of SIM-TEST media.  My restest from the Glock 36 matched my previous results very closely.  I have to believe this difference in penetration is due to the elasticity differences between the two test media types.

I don't envy ammunition designers and bullet engineers.  It's always a game of compromises and trade-offs.  Lehigh Defense Maximum Expansion lives up to it's name with the largest expansion of any 45 ACP ammunition I've ever seen or tested.  Pushing the bullet to higher velocities and subsequent deeper penetration could possibly cause the petals to shear off the bullet shank and compromise expansion.  If you are looking for expansion and retained weight, it's going to be a challenge to find anything better than this loading.




Disclaimer....This test should not be considered an endorsement or recommendation for the product(s) tested. It is up to each individual to make their own personal decision about which specific ammunition to use for their needs. It's also critically important to test any ammo in YOUR SPECIFIC FIREARM before relying on it for any purpose.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Heizer DoubleTap Sighting

Normally, I'm not watching anything on TV that isn't Discovery Channel.  Last night a bunch of us got together to watch the Chicago-New York preseason game on my neighbor's awesome new covered patio.  It was a great excuse for a bunch of neighborhood guys to get together for beer, pizza, and wings.

While I wasn't overly interested in the game, I did glance at the TV long enough to catch a promo commercial for the CBS TV show called Person Of Interest.  I've never seen the show so I can't comment on it.  What caught my attention was the Heizer DoubleTap in the hand of the actress in the commercial.  I tweeted about the sighting last night from my phone with full intention of tracking down the promo video from my desk this morning.  The CBS website has horrible video quality, but I did find the promo on YouTube.  You can check out 20 second video below.  I also grabbed a screen cap of the Person of Interest wielding the Pistol of Interest.



She does indeed have a Heizer DoubleTap in her hand.  As you watch the video, listen for the sound of the actress cocking the hammer as she pulls the pistol on the man in the front seat.  Based on what we know about the DoubleTap, that sound is just wrong for a pistol with an internal hammer.  Hollywood creative license at it's best.   

Person of Interest Season 2 premiers September 27th on CBS.  I don't really have any interest in the show, but I will be watching for the DoubleTap.

Last week we had the DoubleTap on the cover of Guns&Ammo magazine and now a sighting on a prime time network television show.  Let's hope we start seeing the pistols themselves showing up in stores soon.  

She's smiling that smile because she's worked a DoubleTap into her carry rotation and the rest of us haven't. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Getting Organized

I don't clean my guns as much as I should and I think part of that comes from my shooting mentor being one of those guys that might clean a gun once a year and another part due to needing to carve out 45 minutes to an hour to get set up, clean, and tear down after cleaning.  I realized that part of my problem was that my cleaning stuff was spread across several different containers.  It was all in about the same place, but not really all together in a cleaning kit I could deploy at will.

To remedy this, I decided to use a large tackle box as my new cleaning kit.  I picked up the box last Fall when Walmart was running clearance on their left over fishing gear.  It's just a cheapie Plano organizer box.  I liked it because it's got a handle built in so I can easily carry it out to the range if I need to.  I also like the flexibility to add or remove dividers to meet my needs.

I'm pretty set on what I use to clean guns, it was just a matter of pulling everything together into one box.  Prior to tonight I had my cleaning stuff spread across 4 storage boxes.  Small Qtips in one box, Large Qtips in another, with a third box holding brushes and jags that were separated by caliber.  Finally, a large plastic shoe box to hold patches and other stuff.  Chemicals, cleaning agents, lubricants, rags, and cleaning rods are stored on a shelf above the bench. 

After some considerable consolidation, I ended up with this kit.  I've actually got more stuff in the consolidated kit than I had in the the 4 separate boxes.  The kit stores vertically next to my cleaning and lubrication supplies and has just about everything I need to clean 22 LR through 45 ACP pistols.  Laying out a work towel and pulling this kit off the shelf should take about 1 minute.  Storing it after cleaning should take about the same amount of time. Maybe I'll clean my pistols more frequently now.

If you follow my blog you know I shoot small pistols much more frequently than full size pistols.  The down side of this is cleaning is more difficult because all the nooks and crannies that need to be cleaned are miniaturized.  When I decide to clean a pistol, I want it REALLY clean when I'm done.  My number one most used item when cleaning pocket pistols are Q-tips.  I probably use at least 7 to 10 per pistol cleaned.  Kids size toothbrushes, with their smaller brush heads, do a really good job sweeping out the big stuff inside the slide and clinging to the rails.  I really hate having to change between bore brush and patch jag during cleaning so I use two cleaning rods with one set up for the brush and another for the patch jag.  It helps keep the cleaning process moving along at a brisk pace.   

While I was in organization mode,  I also finished up my Pelican camera box.  I love pluck and pull foam.  It's not a super perfect fit, but it will get you really close to where you need to be on just about any custom case interior.  Now I don't need to worry about accidentally dropping my camera case when I'm out on the range.  I've always liked Pelican and Storm boxes.  As long as you size up the case properly, you can usually end up with a very functional and secure case if you take your time plucking the foam.  I now have all my cameras, cleaning gear, batteries, and extra memory all in one fast grab box that's sturdy enough to drive my car over.  Awesome!


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Boberg XR9-S Gets a Blackout

Back in April I first reviewed the Boberg XR9-S.  After it's initial shake down and verification, I decided to go with back pocket carry in a modified Remora 3BB Holster.  The only thing I didn't like about this carry option was that it was possible for someone standing behind you to look down into your pocket and see you had a multi colored object in your back pocket.  The chances of this happening were slim, but in the back of my mind I really wished for an all black Boberg.

About 3 weeks after delivery of my Boberg, two new finish options were added for the XR9-S.  The Onyx version with everything except the trigger being black and the Platinum version with a platinum colored frame to match the stainless slide and hammer/trigger components.  It didn't take long before Arne offered owners the chance to convert the standard XR9-S two tone pistols to Onyx versions for a reasonable price.  I jumped at the chance for the update.

Earlier today I got my Onyx conversion back from Boberg.  I asked Arne to make it as black as possible and he offered up a black trigger that he was testing to assure the black finish held up on the trigger components.  I again jumped at the chance to get that one last component coated in black.  So for now this is a special Boberg that is about as black as you can make one.

Going back to my original back pocket holster, the change is really dramatic.

Now if someone looks into my back pocket they probably wouldn't even think twice about the black wallet looking thing in my pocket.  I just like it because how much more black could it be?  None..none more black.  (If you've ever seen This Is Spinal Tap, you'll get the reference)

While the pistol was back at the factory for the blackout, the Boberg team tested the pistol after coating to assure the pistol remained within specification and had all the latest updates applied to it.  I'm glad to have it back and I am looking forward to seeing how well the finish holds up over time.  Maybe I'll post an update in a year or two.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sig P938 Review - My Final Update

I didn't think I would get out to the range this weekend, which was disappointing because my Sig P938 had arrived back from it's second service visit last Monday.  As I reviewed the service ticket included with the pistol, I got a surprise.  The service ticket mentions inspection, updated extractor, and test firing 75 rounds of Federal American Eagle 115 Grain FMJ.  There was no mention of the new barrel that came back in my P938.  I could tell it was new based on the lack of wear present on the original barrel when the pistol was returned to Sig in July.  Door to door service duration was 26 calendar days on this trip.

Hopeful that the new barrel and updated extractor would resolve my issues, I made it out to the range this afternoon with a goal to find out if the failure to extract issues had been resolved.  The video below contains the unboxing of the returned pistol and 150 rounds fired at the range today.


Range Recap
50 Federal 115 Grain FMJ - No Issues
50 Winchester 115 Grain FMJ - 1 Failure to Fire
25 Remington/UMC 115 Grain JHP - 1 Failure to Extract
25 American Eagle 124 Grain FMJ - 2 Failures to Extract

150 total rounds - 3 Failures to Extract and 1 Failure to Fire
 
My Final Thoughts on the P938
As you can see from the video, today was not a trouble-free day.  I continued to have intermittent problems with extraction and had one more failure to fire pop up.  My goal was to find one FMJ practice load that would work in the pistol over 50 rounds.  I found the Federal 115 Grain FMJ passed that test.  Three other tested ammunition varieties failed.  25% success isn't what I was looking for after the second service trip.  Also you may notice the wildly erratic ejection if you watch the video in large screen format with the resolution turned up.  I had at least 2 empties fly straight back into my head.  Some rounds ejected with gusto and others just dribbled out.  I found it very strange that Sig tested the repaired pistol with 75 American Eagle 115 grain FMJ, but I had a failure with American Eagle 124 grain FMJ.   

I'm invested in the pistol so I'm going to stick it out and see if a recall goes out on this model instead of forcing the issue and sending it back a 3rd time.  I will take it back out to the range and verify that the hotter defense loads still operate 100% in the pistol.  The pistol is really ammo fussy at this point, but with other carry options I can afford to keep this one out of the rotation while I continue to test different loads to find out what it likes.  If you are looking for a pistol you can pull out of the box that will eat anything you feed it, you should probably look elsewhere.  After 2 trips back to the factory for service, I'm actually skeptical that it will ever be that forgiving on ammo selection.

After my own 550 rounds though the pistol, I should be at the point testing carry loads for reliability.  Unfortunately, I'm all the way back at the beginning of the vetting process and trying to find a break-in/range load that will work in the pistol reliably.  If you are researching this pistol for your own purchase, I encourage you to look at the experiences of others that own the P938 Extreme.  From comments placed on my videos and blog, I'm not the only one experiencing issues with the 938.      

This has turned out to be the review that just won't die, but I need to bring this to closure and move on to other projects.  I had really high hopes for the pistol and was really excited about tracking one down during the early stages of release to the market.  I really thought it would be a good fit for me.  Unfortunately, it's been very problematic and will be relegated to a "project pistol" instead of the reliable carry option I hoped it would be.  If you've read my previous reviews, I don't consider myself to be a difficult person to please or biased "for" or "against" any manufacturer.  I praise Sig for the concept, but am generally unhappy with the execution of the concept as delivered in the P938. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

No Range Time This Weekend

Every so often I have one of those weekends with a ton of stuff going on that I feel like I should write about.  Today was one of those days so please bear with me if I hit several different topics in this blog update.

First thing...I did pick up a copy of the September issue of Guns&Ammo magazine and it does indeed have the Heizer DoubleTap on the cover and a very well written article about the pistol, inventor, and the company that produces the pistol.  Dick Metcalf gives the reader just enough background and information about the pistol to layer on even more anticipation for it's eventual release to the market place.  I finished the article with two big questions in my mind.  Is it painful to shoot? and When you say the empties pop out, are they ejected or do they simply fall free?  I won't spoil the article for you by discussing too much of Dick's commentary about the recoil/kick/muzzle flip of the DoubleTap.  It's hinted at in the article, but leaves me with more questions instead of answers.  Also, we never get the chance to see the breach end of the barrel sets so I'm curious if Heizer figured out a way to integrate an ejector on the barrels or if Dick's comments about empties "pop out" means fall out with gravity or plucked out with your fingers.  For me, reading the article just makes me want to get my hands on one even more than before.

Second thing....My son and I went to our local Walmart earlier today and as we approached the store I couldn't believe what I saw on the sidewalk in front of the store.  I had read that Walmart was going to start selling "tactical" goodies now that they stock several different variations of ARs, but I didn't expect to see Blackhawk! set up a booth in front of my local store to demonstrate the tactical goodies.

Third thing...The heat finally broke a little this week and we even got a night of rain.  The garage has cooled by at least 25 degrees so I had the opportunity to cast up some SIM-TEST for the first time since early June.  While I was on SIM-TEST hiatus, I spent some time shopping for new gear to help improve my block to block consistency of SIM-TEST density.  I found some massive aluminum tamale pots and also a new mold.  So now instead of casting two small blocks at a time, I can cast one massive block that can be used "as is" or carved up into smaller blocks.  The key advantage is that the entire block should be consistent in density.  I estimate I can get 4 or 5 tests done per block.  With the new pots, it takes as long to cast one massive block as it would to cast 2 smaller blocks with my old hot plate and small pot set up.

As I head into Fall, I should probably invest in another 60lbs. of raw SIM-TEST so when I go to the range I can have two of these new massive blocks to work with.   If you would like to donate to the SIM-TEST fund, you can do so via PayPal by hitting the button directly below.  SIM-TEST is great stuff, but it's expensive.  60lbs. cost me $275 delivered the last time I ordered it.



Massive new double boiler with 50 and 40 quart pots over a dual burner hot plate.

32 quart slab of SIM-TEST cooling off.  This baby weights over 65 lbs and is about 5 times larger than my previous test blocks.


Last thing....If you haven't checked the Upcoming Testing Schedule recently, you may want to see what's coming up.  I remember what happened to ammo supplies 4 years ago so I've been buying ammo to test whenever I see it's available.  Seth from Ammunition Depot recently got in contact with me about providing some additional hard to find test ammo that I had not been able to track down.  He recently sent me some Speer Gold Dot 135 Grain 38 Special +P and Winchester Ranger T 9mm 147 Grain for testing.  I've added their banner to the bottom of my blog.  If you are shopping for case lots or just single boxes of ammo, please at least check their prices before ordering elsewhere.  I found them to be quite competitive with many other online suppliers.  FYI...google "Ammunition Depot Coupon Code" before you order.  I noticed one or two active codes are currently available.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Heizer DoubleTap a Cover Story?


Earlier today I was minding my own business and happened to see a tweet from Heizer that the DoubleTap had made the cover of the September issue of Guns&Ammo Magazine.  Heading over to the Guns&Ammo website, I did indeed find a photo of the September 2012 issue with the long awaited DoubleTap on the cover.  The EXCLUSIVE! article is on the shelf or newsstand now.  Don't have a newstand near you?  You can order a copy HERE.

I'm hopeful we'll be seeing these pistols showing up in the stores soon and even more hopeful that the T&E pistols will find their way out to reviewer's hands.  I've been looking forward to my opportunity to review the DoubleTap for almost a year now.  I know I'm still on their T&E list, I'm just not sure how far down the list I am. 

I like the angle that G&A took with their article.  Their "Last Ditch" description is completely contrary to my personal thoughts on the role I have planned for this pistol.    

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Boberg XR9-L Sneak Peek From One of the Designers

It's not every day that I have an opportunity to voice an opinion about a pistol BEFORE it's made.  Over the last week, I've had the chance to sit in on a real-time pistol design session that was interesting, fun, and really quite amazing when I sat back and really looked at what had happened over the course of a week.

It all started when Arne Boberg posted this picture of the proposed new model XR9-L in a thread about muzzle velocities from the XR9-S.  You can follow the whole thread HERE on the Boberg Forum.  The L designates a long slide.  It's quite similar to the current XR9-S model, with the major difference being it has been lengthened to accommodate a 4.2" barrel.  Arne has been sitting on this design for some time, which can be seen by original name XR9F on the slide.  If I have my facts straight, this was supposed to be the first Boberg model to market with F designating it's full size profile.  Plans changed and the XR9-S or "Shortie" was the first pistol produced.
 Photo courtesy of BAC

After the picture went up on 8/7/2012 at about 5:00pm Central Time the most amazing things started to take place.  Forum followers started sharing their opinions with Arne about the design in a courteously questioning manner.  Arne fielded these questions with equal grace and courtesy.  By 10pm the same night it was suggested that a rail be added to the frame.  At 10am the next day, version 2 of the drawing was shared by Arne.  It looked like this.
 Photo courtesy of BAC

After that second picture went up on the thread, people started to "get it" that if they throw out an idea that's reasonable, Arne is listening and he's willing to incorporate their ideas into the design of the pistol.  Within two days of the thread starting, Arne posts another rendering and proclaims he's "almost done".  By August 9th at about 5pm, the XR9-L had morphed into this.
 Photo courtesy of BAC

Arne may have thought he was "almost done", but he only stirred the pot and triggered another wave of ideas flowing.  On 8/14 he added another picture to the thread that almost made me weep with joy.  I didn't get my carry melt, but I'm very happy to see that Arne made a chiseled muzzle style change as a compromise and included it in the final design.  It even works with the rail.
 Photo courtesy of BAC

About 8 hours ago, Arne posted another rendering of the above finalized design in a colorway more suitable to visualizing what the final pistol may look like.  I think it's dead sexy and quite a bit different now than when the process started.  Not bad for 8 calendar days of part-time participation from everyone involved.  Of course now everyone wants to know when it will be available.
 Photo courtesy of BAC

Arne is a pretty smart dude.  I don't think he planned on finalizing the design of the XR9-L this week, but the opportunity presented itself and he jumped on it.  He let his customers, and possibly future customers, have a voice in the design by reading and incorporating their suggestions throughout the week.  Looking back at the forum thread and how it developed though the week is really amazing.  I've been using the amazing word quite a bit in this article, but how often do you have a chance to offer design input on a pistol before it's made?  For me it was a first and it's made me look forward to the next model more now than ever before.

You must be wondering what's so compelling about this model.  I'll do my best to net that out for you.  Imagine having a barrel .2" inches longer than a Glock 19 in a pistol that's shorter than a Glock 26.  The unique Boberg feed design allows for a 4.2" barrel in a pistol with an overall length of less than 6".  The improved ballistics performance of the longer barrel in the shorter pistol make this model quite compelling.  The drawing below shows an overlay of the XR9-L with 4.2" barrel compared to the Glock 19 with 4.02" barrel.  It's amazing how Boberg can get a longer barrel in a much shorter pistol.

 Photo courtesy of BAC

I'm tracking this model now, so I'll keep you all up to date on its development.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Springfield Armory XDs 45 ACP Range Report and Review Wrap-up


Last January, during the hoopla that is SHOT Show, I got wind of a new single stack 45 ACP from Springfield Armory.  Their spokesperson waxed enthusiastically about the pistol in the many YouTube videos taken during media day.  I remember it being called a "game changer" for Springfield since it was designed specifically for those folks looking for a trim, slim, carry pistol chambered in 45 ACP.  I was interested, but not enough to aggressively pursue tracking one down and paying "new release" top dollar price just so I could be one of the first non-industry people to review it.

Earlier this week I posted that I was graciously offered a new Springfield XDs to review.  I was really looking forward to the opportunity to get the pistol out on the range after spending some time cleaning it and getting familiar with the feel and handling characteristics of the pistol.

On paper, the pistol specifications look great.  I grabbed the latest specs from the Springfield Armory website so I could compare them to my own data.  It's interesting that back in January the original published weight was 29 oz.  This struck me as odd since it was heavier than other single stack 45 polymer pistols on the market, yet only held 5 rounds in the magazine.  That error was corrected and the 21.5 oz weight now published is correct.
CALIBER .45 ACP
CAPACITY 5 + 1 RDS
WEIGHT 21.5 oz.
BARREL MELONITE® Fully Supported Ramp
SIGHTS STEEL DOVETAIL REAR
FIBER OPTIC FRONT
SLIDE FORGED STEEL
FRAME BLACK POLYMER
MAGAZINES 2 STAINLESS STEEL SINGLE STACK
OVERALL HEIGHT
with Magazine
4.4"
OVERALL LENGTH 6.3"
OVERALL WIDTH 1"

Rather than rehash my initial observations from my Un-boxing Review Part 1, you can read that HERE.

It was a great weather day yesterday.  I woke up to find that the weather had turned and the forecast called for clear skies and temperatures in the high 80's rather than the 100's we've been having for the last several weeks.  The winds were also down so I was glad I wouldn't have to battle wind noise in my videos for a change.  I followed my standard pistol review process and it's all in the video below.  There are some key points I'd like to include here that are not covered in depth in the video.

One of the most frequently asked questions I get about a pistol is "how's the recoil?".  Earlier this Summer I invested in a cheap high speed camera that allows me to provide some visual data along with my subjective answers on recoil being "not bad", "painful", or "didn't even notice".  I shoot 5 aimed shots against a 2" x 2" grid board that has a 45 degree red stripe running corner to corner.  I capture a frame from the 3rd shot of the string with the pistol at maximum recoil travel and call that representative of the pistol's recoil.  In the picture below you can see muzzle rise is about 45 degrees, which is really good for a pistol this size that only allows 2 fingers on the grip (my pinky rolls under the magazine baseplate during firing).  There is a slight radial twist to the left which you can also see in the video.  This pistol is very controllable with full power 230 Grain defense loads.

I also do a velocity benchmark to see how much velocity is lost when shooting through a short barreled pistol.  For the test, I used Hornady TAP 200 Grain +P with a published muzzle velocity of 1055 fps.  In our test I measured 916 fps average velocity for the 5 shot string.  That's 373 ft/lbs of energy.  Obviously, you are going to lose some velocity in the shorter 3.3" barrel vs. a service length pistol.  This may have been a bad choice for testing so I'd like to run some different loads through in the future to see if velocity drop would be less significant with other ammo choices.
 
I tried to keep up with a detailed round count as I worked through the review.  I've got a pretty good idea on the ammo I shot.
20  Winchester White Box 230 Grain FMJ
25  Federal Bulk Pack 230 Grain FMJ
50  Sellier and Bellot 230 Grain FMJ
5   Hornady TAP FPD 200 Grain +P XTP
92 Remington Golden Saber 230 Grain BJHP
I experienced zero malfunctions of any type in testing.  During the video you can see I tried as many different shooting styles as realistically possible.  I also tried all 3 magazines I had on hand.  The pistol responded well to anything I threw at it.

I happened to have a Crimson Trace Rail Master available so I wrapped up the range test with a laser test.  It was great to see that small grouping with the laser attached.  This pistol has plenty of inherent accuracy potential that's just waiting on the shooter to discover.

I knew I was going to like this pistol even before heading out to the range.  It just felt really good to me.  For those that follow my blog, you all know I'm a fan of small pistols.  You may have even noticed a couple small 45s in my group of test pistols that I use in my ballistics testing work.  I really don't NEED another small single stack 45, but I just couldn't help myself when I recapped my range test by proclaiming that "I gotta get one of these".  Really, I think my mind was made up after shooting the first 10 rounds on a target.  If the target below is the worst I will ever be when shooting this pistol, I can only imagine how well I will be able to shoot with it after practicing with it for several months.
 
 As I transitioned from testing the pistol to learning how to shoot it and discovering if it would be a good carry choice for me, I set up a very basic course of fire and ran thought it several times.  Rather than exclusively using range ammo for these drills, I also used full power defense loads.  When the dust settled, I was really pleased to learn that I could improve my shooting accuracy with a little bit of practice with the pistol.  After this part of the review was done I felt inspired that if I had my own XDs, and spent some time training with it, I would be a better shooter.  Unfortunately, it doesn't look like I'll be picking one of these up anytime soon.  I did see one available yesterday at an on-line seller, but it was out of stock this morning when I checked it again.  If other reviewers are saying similar things about the XDs that I am, I imagine these pistols will be a hot item for quite some time.

If you would like to see the Range Test video, it's included below.

Final Recap
I intentionally avoid reading and watching reviews on pistols that I plan on reviewing.  I like to head into a review without biases that I picked up when watching or reading the work of other reviewers.  Sometimes I just can't help picking up a tid-bit or two from various forums that I read.  Going into the review I basically knew nothing about the XDs other than Rob Leatham's early comments about it.  "Game Changer" just stuck in my head when I remember his description and enthusiasm about the pistol.  I like "game changers" because to me that means innovation and improving the status quo.  This pistol does that, and does it well.

Is the XDs flawless?  Nope.  I did pick up on a few things that I'd like to make you folks aware of.  I found it impossible to chamber a round from a full magazine by slingshotting the slide.  I could only load the chamber by sling shotting if the magazine had 2 or less rounds in it.  The problem is resolved by always loading the chamber by depressing the slide lock.  This is SOP with some other pistol manufacturers and works great with the XDs, but be aware that you may need to change your habits to adjust to the pistol.  It was also very difficult to eject a live round from the chamber with or without the magazine in place.  You could do it, but the ejection port is small and even with a vigorous yank on the slide the round still wants to hang in the ejection port.  This happened with the FMJ and JHPs we were working with.  I say we because the pistol's owner stopped by to see how the review was going and he experienced the same things I did when slingshotting and clearing the chamber.  In fairness, this may improve as the recoil springs take a set over more break in rounds.  Between the two of us the pistol may have 250 total rounds through it at this point.

I found the 5 round magazines to be great for carry, but my pinky didn't have enough purchase for a full 3 finger grip.  Springfield has come out with a 7 round extended magazine that provides plenty of room for all 3 fingers.  I would love to see a 6 round extended magazine.  For me it would be the perfect length to allow me to get all three fingers on the grip while not adding too much more overall length to the grip and possibly spoiling concealability.

So is this XDs a "game changer"?  I think it is.  Shipping with 2 magazines, the XD Gear, factory fiber optic front sight, and two sizes of back straps, you get quite a bit of value for your money.  With this specific XDs, it was so great to be able to pull the pistol out of the box, clean it, and run about 200 issue free rounds through it using every realistic hold I could think of.  A drama free day.  Just like it should be.  Being able to focus on the nuances of the pistol instead of any problems.

Yes, I will get one and I hope Springfield continues to change the game by expanding the line with additional options.  This platform would be dynamite as a 6+1 or 7+1 9mm as long as reliability and shoot-ability stay similar to the 45 version.  Dare we hope they could make it even slimmer than the 45?  Game on!

UPDATE 8/29/2013:  Mandatory Safety Recall Issued on XD-S Pistols.  Read about it here.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Springfield XDs 45 Review Part 1 - Unboxing

When I received the pistol from Jon, he mentioned that it might need to be cleaned due to a bullet and case separation that loaded the pistol with unburned powder.  After an hour of cleaning and getting all those unburned grains of powder out of the gun, I can honestly say I know the guts of this thing pretty well.

It feels really good in my hand and after making the unboxing video tonight I can't wait until Saturday when I will have the chance to actually shoot the pistol out on the range.  Less words and more video.



I remember watching a video back in January with Rob Leatham describing the XDs 45 as a "game changer" for Springfield.  It stuck in my head, but I maintained a little healthy skepticism until I actually got my own hands on one.  If this thing checks out on the range, I will be adding one to my carry rotation.  I like it that much.  It really feels that good in my hands.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Springfield XDs 45 Review Teaser


Last month I was approached by a fellow shooter at the range and he asked me if I would be interested in doing a review on the XDs 45.  Since the XDs wasn't on my list of pistols to purchase this year, getting one on loan was about the only way I was going to get my hands on one this year.  I got a call earlier today and we met up for the loan.  I've had the chance to field strip and clean the pistol and I couldn't resist snapping a few pictures.  For the photo above, I broke out the Glock 36 for a quick size comparison.

The next two photos show the XDs in a Remora 6Art SS holster.  This is the same holster size that is suggested for the Glock 36.  Along with the pistols stock 5 round magazines, I was also provided with a 7 round extended magazine so I went ahead and snapped a photo in both configurations.



I'll do a full unboxing review/video and my typical multi-part blog and video review over the weekend.  I can tell you that I discovered some surprises during the field stripping process.  I keep one foot firmly in the Glock and Springfield XD camps.  I own both makes in their full size models and appreciate both so while I will be comparing the Glock and Springfield at times during the review, I do so without a bias for either brand.

With that said, I will comment now that the XDs is more Glock-like than any XD or XDm variant I've ever had in my hands.  Some of the XD unique features of the larger models are noticeably absent on the XDs.  For example, you can retract the slide without depressing the grip safety, the striker nub does not extend outside the slide cover plate, and you must pull the trigger to remove the slide from the frame during field stripping.  It may look like an XD and act like and XD, but this is a different bird.  I'm really looking forward to spending the next few days with the pistol.  I may even decide I can't live without one.   

If you've read this far, consider yourself teased.  =)

Monday, August 6, 2012

New Target Stands


Last Summer I posted a blog about making a cheap and easy target stand.  It's served me well over the last 14 months, but I've progressed in my practice needs and I thought it was high time to make another attempt at improving the design and function of my stand.  The original blog post from June 2011 that describes the original stand can be found here.

After a few months of use, I added a cross brace between the two verticals that allowed me to attach paper IDPA practice targets to the stand by clipping them at the top and wrapping the bottom of the target around the brace and clipping that into place.  Unfortunately, that turned the target stand into a sail and it was very prone to blowing over which became a huge pain in the neck. 

I really like the IDPA style targets and they work well for my practice needs so for my next target stand attempt, I decided to build them around the IDPA Target dimensions.  I even decided to spend some real money and buy a case of 100 cardboard IDPA Targets.  I had someone offer to make metal stands for me but I don't like the weight and portability of metal.  PVC pipe is my new favorite construction material now that I've learned how to use my chop saw with it.  I knocked these three stands out in about 2 hours.  Most folks would call this good and be happy with their new stands, but I tend to over engineer stuff.  I didn't like the thought of an army of 4' 6" targets so I needed to figure out a way to change their heights around a bit. 


I ended up filling some shorter sections of sub-gauge PVC pipe that slip into the vertical support tubes.  This adds weight to the stand and also allows me to vary target heights for a more realistic training set up.  Now I've got an army of targets that range from 6' 5" tall down to 4' 6" tall.  The practice bays I use are tall and allow for taller targets to be placed near the back of the bay without concern of shooting over the berm.  Before building your own stands, make sure you build your stands to the rules and standards of your practice facility.

The target lifters are shown below.  I made a set of 16" risers and a set of 6" risers. The red nylon rope allows me to pull the weight out of the stand if it's not needed or when I'm ready to pack up.

Here's a shot of the three stands nested for storage.

Another shot of the stands nested and ready to head to the range.

I kept my receipts as I shopped so I have a pretty good parts list if you want to try making one or more of these for yourself.  I shopped at Lowes for all my supplies.  I'm sure Home Depot would also have everything you need to make your stands.

Tools:
Tape Measure - Measure Twice and Cut Once
Marking pencil or Sharpie
Hack Saw for the patient, Miter Saw for the enlightened, or Chop Saw with Metal Cutting blade for the lazy (me).

Supplies for One Stand:
2 qty. 1 1/2" Sched 40 Tees @ $1.60 each
4 qty. 1 1/2" Sched 40 Elbows @ $1.25 each
1 qty. 1"x2"x8' #1 Treated ACQ Lumber @ $1.97
1 qty. 1 1/2"x10' Sched 40 PVC Pipe @ $4.65

Optional Supplies for One Stand:
2 or 4 Extra Large Binder Clips to hold target to standards $1.44 per 4 at Walmart
PVC Cement used only on the Tee joints
1" PVC Pipe for target height adjustment
Lead shot to fill 1" PVC Pipe
1" Nylon Hole Plugs to cap ends of height adjustment inserts
Duct Tape to secure plugs and attach nylon rope to height adjustment inserts

Construction Process:
Start with your 10' long section of 1 1/2" PVC pipe and cut 4 qty. of 11 1/2" sections.  Join these to the two Tees to make the target stand middle.  Use cement on the Tee joints if you prefer.  I did.

Cut 2 qty 19 1/2" end sections and attach the 4 elbows to all ends of these two sections.  I chose 19 1/2" inches based on my targets.  If you use a wider target, cut a longer section.  Skinny target, cut a smaller section.

Join two ends and two middle pieces (without cement) to form your target stand base.  Cut appropriate length sections of 1 1/2" PVC pipe to insert into the remaining empty Tee joints that will act as your support for the wood standards.  If you don't need height adjustment, then go with 6" or more.  Don't cut them less than 6".  You can cement in place if you like.

Cut your 1"x2"x8' wood strip into 2 qty 4' sections.  Attach 2 or 4 binder clips to the wood or you can use staples to secure your targets.  I chose the binder clips because it's easier than dealing with a staple gun.

Total approximate cost per stand is about $15 for the basic.  Mine run a bit more because of the height adjustment tubes.  Luckily I had some junk shot laying around so the lead was free as was the duct tape and nylon rope.

While I had the saw out and running, I knocked out a couple of shooter's boxes to help me set up my video shots.  Made from 1/2" PVC, they shouldn't be tall enough to trip me up on the range, but I'll have to practice with them and be sure.

PVC pipe is some pretty awesome stuff to work with.  I can see why the Blue Man Group uses it so much in their instrument design.  You are basically limited only by your imagination.  No parts list for this stand I built last Fall.  I just got an idea and started cutting.  Before I knew it, I had an awesome little portable clay target stand.  Need a fun afternoon activity for the family, swap out the clay targets for aluminum cans and grab the BB guns.  Find a suitable backstop and let the family have at it.  My son loves the sound a BB makes when it hits the dangling aluminum can.  Instant gratification. 





Sunday, August 5, 2012

Bacon Sundae Sunday


Last week I broke out of my routine and stepped into a fast food "restaurant".  This was primarily for my son as we were out and about and he was hungry, but I wasn't quite ready to head home and feed him.  I knew he was fond of the Mac and Cheese from Burger King so we stopped in only to find out that Mac and Cheese had been removed from the kids menu.  He settled for nuggets and I ordered some chicken strips.

I happened to notice this table ad as we were eating.  Glancing around the eating area, ads for the Bacon Sundae were everywhere you looked.  We discussed the merits of the ubiquitous Bacon Sundae for a few minutes and finally agreed that we should split one and see what we thought.  Unfortunately, the counter staff was exceptionally slow and my son's 8 year old patience ran out before we could give the taste treat a try.

We'll be out fishing later today and since it's Sunday, we're going to try a Bacon Sundae after we get off the water.  My expectations are pretty low, but since my son has become quite the connoisseur of bacon, and bacon related products, he's quite hopeful that the Sundae will hit the spot.

Personally, I think BK should have left Mac and Cheese on the Kid's Menu and skipped the Bacon Sundae, but what do I know about the fast food business.

We did make it back to Burger King this afternoon, but my son chickened out on the Bacon Sundae and opted for the vanilla cone.  I had the Sundae.  It wasn't bad.  For the first two spoonfuls the bacon almost made me think I was eating ice cream from a waffle cone, but as I continued down into the sundae the bacon flavor become more pronounced.  Like the first time I had a peanut butter and banana sandwich, it was indeed edible but not something I'd go out of my way to try again.  In real life the sundae actually looked almost as good as the advertisement.  First time I've ever seen that with fast food.