Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Clear Ballistics Gel Testing Update

Just over a month ago, I decided to switch my ballistics testing media from SIM-TEST to Clear Ballistics Gel.  Due to the expense and learning curve associated with the change, it really wasn't an easy decision for me, but in the end I decided to give it a try.  The promises of being able to see into the block, re-usability, and the ability to get repeatable and predictable test results in any weather conditions were just too good to pass up.

Generally, I've been really pleased with the gel.  Readers and viewers of the gel tests have also come to appreciate the enhanced in block visibility that the gel provides.  Some folks have a little heartburn that I have eliminated the denim from my testing in order to keep the gel blocks pure, but I have my own plans for a new bullet torture test that I am working on with the clear gel.

I ran some initial bullet torture tests and got some explosive results that I am still trying to puzzle through.  You can expect those tests to be published in the next few weeks. 

I personally think one of the most informative new data points that I can capture from the gel is the expansion characteristics of the bullet.  In the video below, I describe the artifacts (wound channel) left in the block as the bullet travels through and what I think they mean.  If you buy into my description and explanation, then you can appreciate the new information.


I asked the team at Clear Ballistics if they could do anything on pricing for blog readers that wanted to try their hand at terminal testing.  I would love to see more people get involved with terminal testing and publishing their results.  I get requests coming in all the time to test this or that ammo brand, weight, and caliber in various length barrels.  The sad truth is I will never get around to testing everything I want to test.  I think the Clear Gel could be used by anyone with a desire to learn more about how their ammo behaves in their specific firearm.  The team at Clear Ballistics have set up a special 5% off discount code for readers of the Pocket Guns and Gear blog.  If you enter "PGAG" at the time you place your order, the discount will be applied.  Down at the bottom on the blog you will find a banner ad linked to their website and also the discount code.

As for my future testing goes, I think I have enough gel tests under my belt to feel comfortable with the test results matching up pretty closely to 10% Ordnance Gel across all calibers that I typically test.  I've decided to do some back tracking and re-test the ammo that previously tested well in SIM-TEST.  I actually started on the re-testing last weekend with a .32 ACP test.  I plan to work my way forward through 380, 9mm, 40, and 45 with a brief detour into 357 and 38.  That should keep me busy for the next few years.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Federal Premium 9mm +P 124 Grain HST Clear Gel Terminal Test


I tested this load back in April with a denim and SIM-TEST test.  Based on the results of that test, which you can read HERE, I decided that this would be my carry ammo in the Boberg XR9-S.  I've shot several boxes of this ammo in practice over the last few months and had to put in an order to replenish my stock.  Since I carry the Boberg frequently, I thought it wise to go ahead and test the new lot of ammo, but this time I would use the clear gel in place of the SIM-TEST. 
  
Pistol Specs:
Boberg XR9-S with 3.35" barrel


Testing Protocol:
My testing process is pretty simple.  I take one shot at the end of a Clear Ballistics Gel block.  I take the shot from 8 feet away and impact velocity is measured 2 inches away from the block.  Clear Ballistics Gel is calibrated to 10% ballistics gel density.  I shoot the block at the range and then bring it home to analyze the block and recover the bullets.  Immediately prior to the terminal test, I shoot a five shot velocity and point of impact test string from 8 feet over a Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital chronograph.  All the data gathered during the test is shown in the picture below.


As my experience with the Clear Ballistics Gel product increases, I'm starting to better understand how to read the blocks and capture more of the data that is visible in the blocks.  You may have noticed I added two new data points to the test recap data sheet.  Those points are a measurement of the maximum stretch cavity height and also the penetration depth when the maximum stretch cavity was measured.  These new data points may provide additional comparison points between various bullet types and loadings as we collect more of this data over time.  The video below documents my entire test from range testing to bullet recovery.



My Thoughts
I'm not at all surprised by the results of this test.  When I decided on this round as my carry ammo, I did so after testing the directly competing loads from Remington and Speer.  While the HST is not a bonded bullet like the Speer and Remington, I doubt I will ever need to shoot through the barriers that bonded rounds are designed to penetrate.  Achieving more velocity would be great, but there are limits to how much speed can be developed in the short barrels I use for testing.  This load falls right into expectations of 1100 to 1200 fps.  Retained weight was excellent.
The clear gel test let us see a bit more about how this round performs in the block.  Full expansion of .875" occurs within the first 2 to 2.5 inches into the block.  Penetration was excellent at 14".    


Disclaimer....This test should not be considered an endorsement or recommendation for the product(s) tested.  All tests represent actual performance in ballistics testing media.  Terminal performance in all other media will show different results.  It is up to each individual to make their own personal decision on 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 or +P+ should only be used in firearms that have been certified by the manufacturer as safe for the additional pressures generated by these ammunition types.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Quarter Million - Thanks Readers

The blog had some significant events happen in the last few days that I wanted to make you aware of.  The first is that we hit the 250K views milestone.  I am so blown away by the growth of the blog.  It's hard to believe we hit 100K just 5 months ago.  The growth inspires me to write more and continue to develop fresh and interesting content.  Thanks very much for reading.

Another really good thing is that the blog has been verified by McAfee as a safe website.  So now blog articles that come back from web searches have that green check mark next to them instead of that gray question mark.  Hopefully, it will help folks feel better about visiting the blog.

Lastly, I had to turn on comment moderation.  Please feel free to leave your comments and I will get them moderated and added as soon as possible.  I guess the downside of growing is that the blog becomes a target for SPAMers.  I delete 5 bogus comments for every legitimate comment I approve.  I appreciate and value the time you invest in leaving comments so please don't get upset if you don't see them added immediately.  I can promise you they will get added.


  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I Need a .357 Sig - Sig P224 Please?


I have always had an affinity for the .40 S&W.  Primarily because it was being developed and launched at about the same time I was sponging up every gun magazine and reloading manual I could get my hands on.  The late 80's-early 90's were a special time for me because I had left my childhood home in the 2nd Amendment challenged state of NJ and embarked on an epic relocation to the South Central US.  I traversed half the country in the smallest Ryder moving truck available that I couldn't even half fill with all my worldly possessions.  Two of my first purchases, after arriving in Arkansas, were cowboy boots and a brace of Ruger pistols.  From these humble beginnings, my interest in shooting and firearms got started.  I felt some personal ownership in the 40 S&W because I had read so much about it that I considered it "my caliber".

After reading about the .40 S&W for a few years, I finally got one of my own.  A 2nd Generation G23-C that I've nicknamed Ol' Reliable for it's longevity and reliability over time.  Other pistols may come and go, but the G23 is what I grab when it's time to re-qualify or I want to go to the range with something that's as close to 100% reliable as mechanically possible.

Funny recent story about Ol' Reliable.  Last Winter, I decided it was time to send it off for refinishing.  I've become a fan of XS 24/7 Big Dot sights so I requested the sights be added after the slide was refinished.  I checked it over when I got it back and it looked fantastic.  Never did get the chance to shoot it so I just put it away for future testing.  I was due to re-qualify for my CHCL so I thought I had better send some shots down range and make sure Ol' Reliable was still shooting straight.  About 30 rounds into my testing the rear sight flew off.  The re-finishers had installed the rear sight with set screws only and I needed to apply the red locking fluid.  I had incorrectly assumed they had taken care of that step of the sight installation process.  It makes perfect sense that they would let the owner make sure the sight was properly positioned for them before locking the sight down, so I can't fault them.  I ended up re-qualifying with my XDm 9mm instead.  Not really a funny story as much as a warning to test your kit every time someone messes around with it. 

The .357 Sig came along a few years after the .40 S&W.  By that time I was spending more time with scatter guns than pistols, so I didn't get super excited about the cartridge other than being pleased that it was based on a necked down version of MY .40 S&W cartridge.  I never gave the .357 much thought until I found out you could get a .357 Sig add on barrel for any of the .40 S&W Glocks.  I also have a soft spot for caliber switch barrels so I ordered one and waited about 4 months for it to finally show up.

Last weekend I had the chance to shoot the G27 with the factory .40 S&W barrel and also the 9mm and .357 Lone Wolf conversion barrels.  Aside from some early failure to chamber issues with the .357 barrel, the G27 worked like a charm with all 3 barrels.  I ended up terminal testing three different calibers of Speer Gold Dots and came to the conclusion that the .357 Sig is a really good terminal performer when it's loaded like Underwood loads it.  Even in the little 3.3" barrel, the bullet  was making very close to 1400 feet per second and expanding in heavy barriers that were restricting expansion of the .40 and 9mm loads.  I guess that's the one real downside to terminal testing.  I keep finding stuff that seems to work better than stuff I currently own.  So now I'm thinking that a small .357 Sig might be a better choice for my Winter carry.  If Kahr made a PM357 or MK357 I would have one on the way. Since they don't, I'm thinking Sig P239 SAS.  My recovered rounds are pictured below so you can see how big the terminal performance difference was between the test shots.
 

Before I do anything, I'd like to see, and handle, the new Sig P224 shown in the picture at the top of the blog.  Regular readers know I've struggled with the P938 this year, but after demonstrating the patience of Job, it's now running well with premium defense ammo.  I'm willing to give Sig another shot at showing they can release a new model that doesn't have a bunch of problems so I'll throw out this challenge.  Sig, if you are listening, I would gladly join your T&E Review program for the P224.  I prefer to review the .357 DAK, since that is what I will most likely purchase.

The P938 review ended up being the most popular subject that I've covered on the blog this year.  This portion of the review has been read almost 10,000 times since it was published in July.  I fully expect it to pass the comprehensive 380 ammo test article from 2011 and end up being the most read article of the 160+ published since the blog was started last year.  I imaging a review of the P224 would be equally popular.  What do you say Sig?     

Monday, October 22, 2012

Clear Gel Terminal Testing Speer Gold Dot 9mm +P 124 Grain GDHP

I believe this is a widely used load with many Law Enforcement Agencies.  It also has a very good reputation around the various web forums that I visit.  I actually tested this load previously through the 3.3" Boberg XR9-S it it's civilian Personal Protection packaging HERE.  I believe it tested well in the short barrel.  Since I started using the Clear Gel product, I thought it would be good to run another test on this load through a bit longer barrel.  For this test, I used the Glock 17.  
  
Pistol Specs:
Glock 17 with 4.5" barrel

Testing Protocol:
My testing process is pretty simple.  I take one shot at the end of a Clear Ballistics Gel block.  I take the shot from 8 feet away and impact velocity is measured 2 inches away from the block.  Clear Ballistics Gel is calibrated to 10% ballistics gel density.  I shoot the block at the range and then bring it home to analyze the block and recover the bullets.  Immediately prior to the terminal test, I shoot a five shot velocity test string from 8 feet over a Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital chronograph.
I'm not sure if everyone knows this, but Speer's Law Enforcement website allows you to create a poster of their test results from the various testing protocols used by LE agencies.  I created a terminal performance poster for this load and it came up without any copyright information on the poster so I assume it's ok to post their bare gel test results along with my test results.  I like the similarities between the test results.  Speer had more velocity and expansion with less penetration.  I had less velocity with less expansion and more penetration.  Our recovered weights were identical.  If our initial velocity numbers were similar, I have to believe our other stats would have been closer.

 

 The video below documents my entire test from range testing to bullet recovery.


My Thoughts
The combination of the Glock 17 and Speer Gold Dot 9mm +P 124 grain GDHP hit all the expected performance benchmarks.  Velocity was a bit under the published specification, expansion was complete, weight retention was perfect, and penetration exceeded the 12" minimum that so many consider to be an absolute requirement for any defensive ammunition choice.  I hope the addition of the analysis of the clear block added a new dimension to the performance results by giving us visibility of what happens inside the block at moment of impact and also the luxury of reviewing the wound channel many days after the test was initially conducted.





Disclaimer....This test should not be considered an endorsement or recommendation for the product(s) tested.  All tests represent actual performance in ballistics testing media.  Terminal performance in all other media will show different results.  It is up to each individual to make their own personal decision on 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 or +P+ should only be used in firearms that have been certified by the manufacturer as safe for the additional pressures generated by these ammunition types.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mildly Explosive Terminal Test Results

No pictures this time.  Just a video that I cobbled together from high speed camera footage and a quick 1-take voice over track. 

You probably know the goal of my blog is to be more "practical" than 'tactical".  It says that right on the header of the blog.  I take so much crap from people that ask why I don't follow FBI ballistic testing protocols, but hey, I'm not taxpayer funded and I don't have the same ammo requirements as an FBI employee so why should I follow their test protocol?  With practicality in mind, I hit the range today with a "freebie" block of off- color Clear Ballistics Gel and what I thought was a practical cold weather clothing test.  My idea was to terminal test through 3 layers of leather and two layers of denim before the bullet entered the gel block.  I thought this would be a good simulation of leather vest and jean jacket. 

About the leather.  Months ago, I purchased a tanned pig hide with the thought of soaking it and using it under a couple layers of denim to mimic skin.  Well, tanned pig hide is some really stout stuff so no amount of soaking was going to soften up that leather.  3 layers of the tanned pig skin leather looked about right for a substitute for a leather vest or jacket.

I added two layers of denim behind the three layers of leather to simulate a jean jacket.  I stapled the stack together and lit out for the range to commence testing with this new barrier material.  In my mind, this would be a great torture test for most JHP bullets to see if they would plug or fully expand after passing through the clothing barrier.

I was doing short barrel tests from a G27 40 S&W with added 9mm and .357 Sig barrels.  Instead of just the typical bare gel test, I ran all three rounds through the leather and denim before they went into the gel block.  I got through the test pretty quickly, packed up my stuff, re-qualified for my CHL, and headed back home.  I really couldn't wait to see if the new blue background had made a difference in the high speed footage and I also wanted to see if the barrier material had an impact on the temporary stretch cavities.  What I discovered in the footage pretty much blew my mind.  At this point, it's probably best if you watch the video to see what happened today. 


If you watched the video then you saw the micro explosions happening in the wound channel.  I've never seen this before and you can believe I have studied each clear gel high speed video to death.  I have to believe the flash fires/explosions are being caused by either an agent used in tanning the leather that is reacting to a component of the gel, or a huge dose of static electricity is being dumped into the copper jacket as it passes through the barrier material and sparking the gel as it is vaporized by the bullet.  Not sure I will ever get to the bottom of this mystery, but it sure makes for a good video.  The double flash with the 9mm was really impressive.

As far as meeting my goal of a torture test for the bullets, it was mission accomplished.  Only one of the three rounds tested expanded fully, but all showed some expansion.  All rounds penetrated the entire 16" block and came to rest lodged in the phone book behind the block.  I'm planning on writing up each test individually at a later date.  


Springfield XDs Carry Ammo Testing


It shouldn't be a big surprise to my regular readers that I'm still infatuated with my Springfield XDs.  If you are new to the blog, you can see my XDs Review here.  This post isn't really about the XDs.  This post is about deciding on the carry ammo I will use in the XDs.

I had standard pressure and +P 230 grain loads from the Federal HST and Winchester Range T lines on hand, so I decided I would start by picking one of these four as my initial carry ammo.  I poured a huge block of SIM-TEST and headed out to the range to see how these four choices would perform in terminal testing.



Testing Protocol:
My testing process is pretty simple.  I take one shot at the end of a SIM-TEST block that is loosely draped with 2 layers of medium weight denim.  I take the shot from 8 feet away and impact velocity is measured 2 inches away from the SIM-TEST block.  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.


After my initial Point of Impact and 5 Shot Velocity testing was completed, I decided to exclude the HST 230 grain +P from testing.  The main reason for this was the small difference in average velocity between the standard and +P rounds.  I also started questioning if I could really get 4 test shots into the single block of SIM-TEST I had on hand so rather than mess up the bullet recovery I decided to only test 3 loads.  The video below documents the entire test from range testing to bullet recovery.

My Thoughts  Coming out of the test, I decided that a follow up test of the HST 230 grain standard pressure and Ranger T 230 grain +P should be done as soon as possible in the new Clear Ballistics Gel product.  The fact that the SIM-TEST block tested too soft, was really the straw that broke the camel's back on the SIM-TEST product.  After investing a considerable amount of time casting the block and then doing 5 shot velocity tests, I was really disappointed that I wouldn't be able to use the penetration data because the block tested soft on the BB calibration test.

The standard pressure HST expanded fully to almost double it's initial diameter and penetrated the most of the 3 tested rounds.  The Winchester Ranger T standard pressure did not fully expand.  The Ranger T +P expanded fully and penetrated well.    



Disclaimer....This test should not be considered an endorsement or recommendation for the product(s) tested.  All tests represent actual performance in ballistics testing media.  Terminal performance in all other media will show different results.  It is up to each individual to make their own personal decision on 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 or +P+ should only be used in firearms that have been certified by the manufacturer as safe for the additional pressures generated by these ammunition types.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Underwood Ammo 9mm +P+ 115 GDJHP Clear Gel Ballistics Test

 

A few weeks ago I was catching up on old posts over at the Boberg Forum and noticed that Arne Boberg had posted that Underwood Ammo 9mm +P+ 115 Grain GDJHP ammo was safe to use in the XR9-S.  He had done the testing and did not find the ammo caused any strain or damage to the XR9 platform.  I needed some 125 grain .357 Magnum ammo so I put my first order in with Underwood since they claimed to manufacture their ammo with quality components and their prices were reasonable.  Secretly, I also wanted to see just how fast this 1400 fps 9mm load would go from my Boberg pocket 9mm so I also added a box of that to my order.

*** Additional Warning ***  +P+ ammunition is loaded to much higher pressures than standard ammunition.  Use this ammo sparingly, and only in firearms that the firearm manufacturer specifically states are safe for use with +P+ ammunition.  

I really don't know much about Underwood Ammo other than it seems to be the posted about frequently around the internet forums and has gained a very good reputation with folks.  It's made in the US and the 10mm fans can't seem to get enough of Underwood Ammo.  When I was searching around I found that tnoutdoors9 had been testing some of the Underwood Ammo and doing some excellent videos.  Unfortunately, I found nothing about the performance of this 9mm load from a shorter barrel length.   
  
Pistol Specs:
Boberg XR9-S with 3.35" barrel

Testing Protocol:
My testing process is pretty simple.  I take one shot at the end of a Clear Ballistics Gel block.  I take the shot from 8 feet away and impact velocity is measured 2 inches away from the block.  Clear Ballistics Gel is calibrated to 10% ballistics gel density.  I shoot the block at the range and then bring it home to analyze the block and recover the bullets.  Immediately prior to the terminal test, I shoot a five shot velocity and point of impact test string from 8 feet over a Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital chronograph. 
As my experience with the Clear Ballistics Gel product increases, I'm starting to better understand how to read the blocks and capture more of the data that is visible in the blocks.  You may have noticed I added two new data points to the test recap data sheet.  Those points are a measurement of the maximum stretch cavity height and also the penetration depth when the maximum stretch cavity was measured.  These new data points may provide additional comparison points between various bullet types and loadings as we collect more of this data over time.  The video below documents my entire test from range testing to bullet recovery.


My Thoughts
Since my primary testing focus has been on the shorter barrel lengths, I've never seen velocity and energy numbers like these in my previous testing.  It was very interesting to see the differences in the test block and recovered bullet when you drive speeds above 1300 fps.  That's an incredible amount of energy hitting the test block and also a strain on the bullet.  The Gold Dot bullet did well, but was stressed in ways I've never seen previously.  You may have noticed the absence of the trademarked Gold Dot in the center of the recovered bullet.  You can also see some copper jacket peeking through the lead core on some of the expanded petals.  These conditions may have been caused by lead "flowing" around the bullet core.  Also, I have never seen the Gold Dot petals expand to the point of wrapping under the bullet base.  Even with the additional stress on the bullet, the recovered weight was spot on with expectation.

Since we used a short 3.35" barrel in this test, it was unreasonable to expect 1400 fps velocity.  I was pleased that we lost less than 100 fps from the manufacturer published velocity specification.  

The high speed video for this test turned out well so I had to grab a still frame showing the "dynamic entry" into the block.

Disclaimer....This test should not be considered an endorsement or recommendation for the product(s) tested.  All tests represent actual performance in ballistics testing media.  Terminal performance in all other media will show different results.  It is up to each individual to make their own personal decision on 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 or +P+ should only be used in firearms that have been certified by the manufacturer as safe for the additional pressures generated by these ammunition types.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Clear Gel Terminal Ballistics Testing Speer Gold Dot 9mm 115 Grain GDHP

I'm still getting my arms around the new clear gel ballistics testing media that I started using last month.  My first day out with the gel I did some head to head tests that were previously published on the blog.  I also ran two tests with a full size pistol and what I consider to be standard ammo choices.  I've been paying attention to reader/viewer feedback from the first two tests and I think the blog and video formats, used on this test, are going to be the standards as I continue forward with my clear gel testing.  The biggest breakthrough with this test was learning how to properly illuminate the test block so I could capture what I see with my eyes on video so viewers/readers can also see it. 

For this test, I used a standard service length pistol and one of the most common defense loads.  There is nothing exotic about a Glock 17 and Speer Gold Dot 115 Grain GDHP combination. 
  
Pistol Specs:
Glock 17 with 4.5" barrel

Testing Protocol:
My testing process is pretty simple.  I take one shot at the end of a Clear Ballistics Gel block.  I take the shot from 8 feet away and impact velocity is measured 2 inches away from the block.  Clear Ballistics Gel is calibrated to 10% ballistics gel density.  I shoot the block at the range and then bring it home to analyze the block and recover the bullets.  Immediately prior to the terminal test, I shoot a five shot velocity test string from 8 feet over a Competition Electronics ProChrono Digital chronograph. 
I'm not sure if everyone knows this, but Speer's Law Enforcement website allows you to create a poster of their test results from the various testing protocols used by LE agencies.  I created a terminal performance poster for this load and it came up without any copyright information on the poster so I assume it's ok to post their bare gel test results along with my test results.  I like the similarities between the test results. 

This test was about as close to perfect as we could hope for.  The 5 round velocity test average and the terminal test shot were all in close range to the 1210 fps velocity published by Speer.  The bare gelatin results from Speer are very similar to the test results we captured in the Clear Ballistics Gel.  This test is a huge confidence booster for me that this new terminal testing media is indeed similar to 10% ballistics gel.  The video below documents my entire test from range testing to bullet recovery.



My Thoughts
The combination of the Glock 17 and Speer Gold Dot 115 Grain hit all the expected performance benchmarks.  Velocity was on target to published spec, expansion was complete, weight retention was perfect, and penetration exceeded the 12" minimum that so many consider to be an absolute requirement for any defensive ammunition choice.  I hope the addition of the analysis of the clear block added a new dimension to the performance results by giving us visibility of what happens inside the block at moment of impact and also the luxury of reviewing the wound channel many days after the test was initially conducted.

Your Thoughts?   
I'm very interested in your feedback on this testing and test recap format.  Initially, I started terminal testing for me, but quickly learned that many other folks wanted to see my test results.  I'm happy to share them with you and I'd like to hear any comments you have that would make them a better resource for you.  I can't promise to include everything, but I'll do my best to implement as many suggestions as I can.  I appreciate your help.


Disclaimer....This test should not be considered an endorsement or recommendation for the product(s) tested.  All tests represent actual performance in ballistics testing media.  Terminal performance in all other media will show different results.  It is up to each individual to make their own personal decision on 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 or +P+ should only be used in firearms that have been certified by the manufacturer as safe for the additional pressures generated by these ammunition types.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Sig P938 Update


After finishing up my review of the Sig P938, I had some grand plans to order a Crimson Trace laser for it and also try feeding the pistol a steady diet of defense loads to see if it made an improvement in reliable feeding and extraction.  You know how plans go, they are easy to make and often difficult to follow through on.  Between the unscheduled gun reviews and change over to the new clear gel ballistics testing media, I never got back to the 938.

Finally, last weekend was my chance to get the Sig back out to the range and see how it handled +P defense ammo.  I took some Gold Dot and HST 124 Grain +P loads with me with every intention of running through at least 50 rounds of each.   I also installed the Crimson Trace Laser Guard before heading out.  The Crimson Trace fits really well, but I immediately noticed the change in available grip length after the install.  There's not much real estate on the front strap to begin with and adding the laser made the available space even less.  Undaunted, it was off to the range.

I had a shooting buddy meeting me at the range so I did some shooting with the 938 and I also let him shoot a bit too.  I made a short video from the range session.  I went easy on the editing and left quite a few of the candid comments in place.


I picked up on a few things during the range visit that I will share with you.  Some of these you may have noticed in the video.  The first thing I learned is the 938 isn't much fun with +P ammo.  I was having some genuine discomfort shooting it that was not there during previous outings.  Some of the discomfort may be attributed to the reduced grip area on the front strap now that the laser is installed.  Some may be due to the additional recoil of the +P ammo.  Going forward, I'm sticking to standard pressure defense loads in this pistol. 

The other thing I learned is that I've developed a striker/double action trigger finger.  I'm really glad Jon was with me to show me that the pistol sights were fine and it was my issue with trigger control that caused my shots to hit left of point of aim.  Jon had no problem keeping his shots centered on the target.  We talked about it later and we think I may need to have a bit less finger on this single action trigger.  Jon shoots single action pistols about as much as I shoot striker/double action pistols so it's no wonder he got better results than I did

The last thing I learned is this pistol should be reliable if it's fed a steady diet of good quality defensive ammo.  All through the review and even after the review, I've never had a single failure of any kind when using Gold Dots or HSTs.  This includes the standard pressure and +P 115 grain and 124 grain varieties.

I was encouraged by the results from this last trip.  I may work on my trigger technique or I may just cheat and slide the rear sight over a bit to adjust the pistol to me vs. adjusting me to the pistol.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Heizer Defense DoubleTap Delay Explained

Fresh from my email in-box.  Sent from Laura Burgess Marketing, who has been doing the PR for Heizer.  At least now we know a bit more about why the DoubleTap has been delayed.  Based on this, I don't think I'll be reviewing the DoubleTap in 2012.  That's too bad that now production spin up has to start from zero again.

If anyone has some additional facts or details on what's going on, feel free to let me know.  I'm off to check out the new DoubleTap website.  The new website resolves to a parked GO DADDY url.  I guess we'll have to wait a bit for the new website.

Ray may surprise us all here, but I have big doubts that any US maker has the excess capacity required to take on the DoubleTap.  With another election looming and folks remembering the insanity of 4 years ago, I'm skeptical that the manufacturing can be moved and ramped up in a timely manner.

Thinking back on how this all played out over the last year it really makes me wonder what the heck happened to change the landscape from initial manufacturing estimates of 12,000 pistols a month to now shopping for a new factory.  Maybe more details will emerge, but the end result is maybe a couple dozen production prototypes floating around and no hope for more unless a new production facility can be found.  Bummer.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Weigand Combat Custom Ruger SP101 357 Magnum

Last year I bored you all with a story about a personal tradition I started back in the 1990's where I would buy myself a special or custom gun for my birthday each year.  I kept that going for a few years, but priorities changed when I started shooting competitive ATA Trap.  By the late 90's I was spending all my play money on fine Italian target shotguns, practice targets, shotgun reloading supplies, travel expenses to shoots, and entry fees at the various shoots I attended.

I got that tradition started again in 2010 with a custom serial number Seecamp LWS380 that rolled out of Larry's office the day after my birthday in 2010.  I know the date because Larry will sign(engrave) and date your second magazine on the day your Seecamp is packed for shipping.  There is a very long story associated with that pistol, but I wasn't blogging back in 2010 so only a few folks know the background on that transaction.

Last year I took delivery of a Robar customized Kahr P45.  It too had a long back story that I covered in detail in this blog post from last October.

I had every intention of skipping my birthday gun this year because next year is my 50th birthday, and I thought I would save up this year and get something super special next year.  I have many ideas floating around in my head for the 50th, but all signs point to a custom hand made 1911.  I thought engraving would be nice and then I saw a Nighthawk Custom with a Damascus slide.  It looked so nice that I might be changing my plans.

I was still considering my 2013 birthday gun options when I went to my dentist for my semi-annual cleaning last month.  I'm not really fond of the dentist and luckily for me I've been blessed with some fairly trouble-free choppers.  I do my part to clean them each day and twice a year I have to let someone else take their turn cleaning them too.  I'll circle back to this dentist appointment in a minute.

One of my first birthday customs was dreamed up while scanning through the pages of the many popular gun magazines of the early 1990's.  I must have subscribed to every gun magazine back then.  At some point in 1993, I was reading about a gunsmith named Jack Weigand and what a magical job he was doing on deep cover carry packages for the  Ruger SP101.  Jack had come up with his own porting methods to tame the beast known as the 2.25" Ruger SP101 in .357 Magnum.  He also bobbed the hammer, bead blasted the pistol, chamfered the cylinder charge holes, and gave it a super smooth and light double action trigger pull.  I inquired about prices, but a Weigand Combat Handguns custom SP101 was way out of my price range at that time.  So instead, I purchased a box stock Smith and Wesson model 65 and sent it off to Mag-na-port International for many of the features included in the Weigand package.  When researching the details for this post, I found my Mag-na-port receipt from October 1993 with the total customizations final price of $185.  I doubt they even port a pistol for less than that now let alone do all the other custom finishing work I had done.

As you can see, after 19 years it hasn't been shot very much.  After porting and bead blasting, I had them add the bling factor with polished cylinder flutes and jeweled and polished hammer and trigger.  When I saw it, I decided it was just to pretty to shoot very much.  I had the same customizations done to a S&W Model 60 (less the porting) for my birthday gun 1994 so the "matching pair" have pretty much been safe queens for their entire lives and have survived at least two purges.

Maybe one day I'll tell you the story of the Purges, but I'll save that for another day.

So I'm at the Dentist last month.  The one upside to keeping the cleaning appointment is that it puts me in close proximity to a gun shop that I don't go out of my way to visit very often.  Run by "Glock Guys" it's always interesting to see what they pick up on trades from the various shows they attend on the weekends.  With a mouth full of freshly cleaned teeth, I stopped in at the store.  On the bottom shelf of the revolver case I spied a Ruger SP101.  I had to stoop down for a closer look.

I asked the Owner/Clerk if I could see the pistol.  It looks almost new except it's got a beautiful bead blasted finish, 3 circular ports cut into the top strap, and it wears the distinctive Weigand Combat Pistols logo right under the cylinder release.  Almost 20 years of cobwebs and dust have settled in my brain since I first learned about the Weigand Combat SP101 package, but I instantly recognized the maker's mark.  I pass the pistol back and google Jack Weigand's website just to be sure it's one of his pistols.  It is.

At that point I walked back to the case and looked again at the price marked on the pistol.  I thought maybe I read it wrong when I first looked at it.  Nope, $325 is what is on the tag.  Being a good guy, I ask the Owner/Clerk if he has any idea who's maker's mark is on the pistol.  He has no idea so I tell him it's a Weigand.  No recognition of the name from him.  I ask about box and paperwork, but there isn't any.  I then tell him that I'll take the pistol and he breaks into a broad smile.  I probably could have tried for $300 if I had some cash on me, but I gladly paid full marked price and hopefully banked some equity with the owner for some future deal.

You probably want to see the pistol now, so here's my 2012 birthday gun that I've waited for since 1993.  I really didn't find it, I think it found me. When I brought it home, it was wearing a Hogue Mono-grip and the original grips were not with the gun.  I found a sale on Crimson Trace grips and ordered a boot grip set.  Isn't it beautiful.
The picture above shows the three main external customizations.  The progressive Hybra Porting of the barrel, bead blasted finish, and bobbed hammer that has been converted to DAO.  What you can't see is the awesome trigger job that's been done on the pistol.  It's got a very sweet trigger.

After 1993, Jack Weigand continued to progress as a gunsmith and was named The American Pistolsmiths Guild "1999 Pistolsmith of the Year".  Jack stopped accepting new custom work several years ago and that made me even happier that I happened to find one of his SP101 conversions available at such a reasonable price.  Jack's website is still active and he offers several scope and ring mount options of his own design.

While waiting for the replacement grips to arrive, I happened to notice that Matt Del Fatti had a horse hide ISP PH3 Convertible holster available on his web site in-stock list.  Matt is arguably one of the best custom holster makers around, and his backlog of work shows it.  He's tops in my book, but you are free to agree or disagree with me.  Finding this holster randomly available was an unbelievable coincidence and was the icing on the birthday gun cake.  



Even though I was ready to shoot the pistol for the first time weeks ago, I made myself wait until I had at least hit my birthday month before trying it out.  It's every bit as good as I expected it would be.  I shot a short video of my first shots with it.  I also have a Ruger LCR 38 +P with similar Crimson Trace laser grips installed on it.  I want to shoot both back to back soon, but I really think the ported SP101 is easier and more pleasurable to shoot quickly and accurately even with the 158 grain magnum loads. 


In retrospect, I'm actually glad it took so long for this pistol to find me.  I'm afraid that if I had purchased one at full price in 1993 or 1994, it may have ended up in the safe like the S&W Model 65 I mentioned earlier.  Based on it's overall condition, I think that's where this SP101 has spent most of it's former life.  That's no life for a pistol.  It needs to be out on the range or strapped to a hip.  I'll do my best to make sure it has a great second life.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Retesting the Boberg XR9-S after Blackout


Back in late August of this year, I put up a blog post about sending my Boberg XR9-S back to Boberg so it could be refinished with an all black coating.  This finish was not available in April when I originally received my pistol.  I'm a bit ashamed to admit it, but today was the first time I've had a chance to shoot the Boberg since it was returned to me.  If you follow the blog, then you know I've been working on a bunch of reviews and they've cut into my range time.  Today I decided it was time to get happy with the Boberg again and make sure that it worked as well after coating as it did before sending it back for blackening.

You may wonder why I felt it necessary to retest the pistol again after it returned to me.  I had a few reasons.  The first was that the black coating adds thickness to the dimensions of all parts it is applied to.  If you are applying it to a precisely fitted gun like the Boberg, there is a chance that parts may bind due to the additional thickness.  The second reason is that in order to be coated, the pistol had to be taken apart and reassembled.  That's major work that needs to be checked by me if I am going to be comfortable carrying the pistol.  Lastly, I'm sure they removed the sights from the slide when it was coated.  I needed to be sure the sights were put back on correctly and the gun would still still put the bullets where I placed the sights during firing.

Additionally, Arne Boberg sent me out some magazine followers to test.  If you read my initial review of the XR9-S, then you know it's got some very unique design elements.  The magazines are probably one of the most unique things because you load the cartridges nose first instead of base first.  This is due to the unique feeding system of the Boberg pistol.  My initial review is HERE if you want to read more about the unique features of the Boberg XR9-S.

You can see an example of the original magazine, without the follower, on the left in the pictures below.  I installed a follower in the magazine on the right by simply removing the base plate, sliding out the spring, inserting the follower on top of the spring and compressing it so I could reinstall the base plate.  Total time to convert a magazine is about a minute.  Arne decided to provide followers after customers reported their springs jumped up past the magazine feed lips.  While I have never had that problem, I can definitely see how the follower will keep that problem from happening in the future.  There is no way that spring is getting out of the magazine with the follower in place.

After installing followers in both magazines, I loaded one with FMJ and one with JHP ammo to their 7 round capacity and experienced no binding or difficulty loading them with the followers in place. 

I made a very short video at the range this afternoon that was near the end of my validation session.  I shot about 80 rounds through the pistol today and let someone else run a couple of mags through it.  I will admit that my first magazine of American Eagle 124 Grain FMJ was problematic.  I could literally feel the slide jerking through the cycling process.  I think this was evidence of the newly coated parts mating themselves.  After two mags of FMJ, I jumped back to Federal HST 124 Grain +P that I had previously decided on as my carry round in this pistol.  I experienced zero issues of any kind through a full box of 50.  I'm now comfortable and confident in the blacked out XR9-S and also the magazine followers, but I'll still run one more box of 124 Grain HST +P through on my next range visit just because it's actually fun to shoot in this soft recoiling pistol.  After that, I'll try the FMJ range ammo again and see if things have loosened up enough to allow the lower powered range fodder to cycle the pistol properly.

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Hornady 380 Terminal Test - Critical Defense vs. ZombieMax


I know I'm not the only one that has wondered if there was any real difference between Hornady Critical Defense and Hornady ZombieMax other than the nickel plated brass case, color of the hollow point plug insert, and packaging.  Google it and you will find a few instances where this discussion has come up on various gun and ammo forums.  Many months ago I decided I would test it and find out if there were any significant differences between the two.  I think I bought the ZombieMax ammo back in March, but never got around to testing it.

You may know that I recently started using a new ballistics testing gel from Clear Ballistics.  This test was run on the first outing with the new gel 3 weeks ago, but I didn't have the chance to take the pictures, produce the video, and write up the blog until this week.  The really nice things about the gel are the crystal clarity and the consistent density.  The picture below shows a 600 fps calibration BB that was shot into the gel and came to rest at slightly over 3.25".  Right in the 10% ballistics gel calibration range of 3.25" to 3.75".  This close up picture also shows how easy it is to really see the details of the bullet's path, stretch cavity, and rotation as it travels down the length of the block. 


Going into the test, I realized that I would need to take more than one test shot with each load to come up with a definitive result.  Ideally, I would pull rounds from different lots of ammo just in case one sample was out of spec.  Unfortunately, I don't have that luxury so this test is as definitive as it can be based on a sample size of 1 from 1 box of each type of ammo.

Test Pistol Specs:
Kahr P380 with 2.5" barrel

Testing Protocol:
My testing process is pretty simple.  I take one shot with each ammo type at the end of a Clear Ballistics Gel block.  I take the shots from 8 feet away and impact velocity is measured 2 inches away from the Gel.   Immediately prior to the terminal test, I shoot a five shot velocity test string from 8 feet over a Competition Electronic ProChrono Digital chronograph.

When I was done testing, I had one clear gel block with two expanded Hornady rounds in it as well as the calibration BB that was resting between the two bullet paths.  The picture below was taken from the top of the block.  The upper wound channel was the Critical Defense and the bottom channel was the ZombieMax.

The video below documents the entire test at the range. Bullet recovery is now done off video camera with still photos like the one directly above.


My Analysis and Thoughts
In a way, I'm really glad I decided to run this test early in my learning curve with the new Gel.  I had always wondered what effect a tumbling bullet has on the wound channel.  This test gave me some visual evidence to think about.  In the picture below, you can see the Critical Defense wound track in the upper position and the ZombieMax in the lower position.  The two tracks look fairly similar through the first 4 inches, but then the ZombieMax bullet started to tumble while the Critical Defense maintained a true and straight path through the Gel.  Notice the difference in the width of the ZombieMax wound channel throughout it's entire trip through the block.  I estimate it is at least 5x the size of the Critical Defense path once the bullets had penetrated past 5 inches.

The next picture was taken though the bottom of the block and again highlights the significant difference in wound channel caused by the tumbling bullet.  The Critical Defense remained straight and true through its entire trip into the block, while the ZombieMax tumbled and came to rest facing straight down.  Just to the right of the ZombieMax bullet you will see a copper petal resting in the wound channel.  It was physically separated from the bullet during the trip through the block. 

At this point I was almost overcome with the "cool factor" of the gel and considered cutting out just this piece of gel shown in the picture and turning it into a paperweight.   Ultimately, I decided against it because I really needed to measure the expansion and final weights of the rounds.


The next picture introduces the ruler and we see that the two rounds penetrated between 9.5" and 10.5".  Well short of the "magic" 12", but still a respectable performance for light bullets driven at modest velocities.

If you watched the video, or jumped ahead to the data sheet below, you may have noticed a large difference in velocity between the two loadings.  ZombieMax averaged 65 fps faster than Critical Defense in the 5 shot velocity test.  ZombieMax was 60 fps faster than Critical Defense on the test shot into the block.  Hornady publishes a velocity of 1000 fps for both of these loads.  Not sure what barrel length they are using, but we didn't get close to that with either load.  You may also notice that the ZombieMax bullet had two petals shear off the jacket.  I'm not sure if that was a factor due to the increased velocity or caused by the bullet tumbling.  The two petals were not included in the ZombieMax bullet recovered weight, but are displayed with the bullet in the data sheet below.


At this point of my test recap, I'm wondering if Hornady has indeed beefed up the velocity of the ZombieMax load.  This is far from scientific evidence, but if you look at the two vertically oriented round samples below you may notice more cannelure is visible on the ZombieMax bullet than the Critical Defense load.  This may indicate a heavier powder charge in the ZombieMax case that requires the bullet to be seated with less depth than the Critical Defense.  Also it appears the two loads have different colored primers.  The primer used in the ZombieMax round may be a hotter mix than the primer used in the Critical Defense load.  I also checked the outside diameter of the brass to make sure one or the other wasn't larger and potentially providing a better gas seal in the chamber, but both measured similar dimenstions.

Unsatisfied with my findings up to this point, I dropped a few rounds of each load on the scale.  I can say the ZombieMax cartridges were averaging 2 grains heavier than the Critical Defense.  If some of that weight difference was additional powder, we may have a reason why the ZombieMax was generating the additional velocity.

Overall, it was a fun test to run.  I'm not sure I proved anything other than if I was given a choice between Critical Defense and ZombieMax, I'd take the ZombieMax for no other reason than it runs faster than the Critical Defense.  When it runs at 900+ fps, look what happens to the bullet.  In the picture below you can see the jacket petals have pulled all the way back to the bottom of the bullet base.  The Critical Defense petals have only peeled back to the middle of the bullet shank.  Greater expansion + greater penetration = Win for ZombieMax.  The tumbling bullet and larger wound channel is just a bonus that I don't think would repeat with additional tests.




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.