Friday, July 26, 2013

Diamondback Firearms Generation 2 DB380 Pictures Released


In May 2010, I got one of the first DB380s to hit the market.  I reviewed it in detail and eventually added that review to the blog when I started blogging in May 2011.  You can read the review here.  I've been a fan of the Diamondback pistols since they first came out.  They are small, thin, light and have performed really well for me as long as you follow a few simple rules about the ammunition you feed them.  When I did have a problem with my DB380, it was resolved quickly and to my satisfaction.

It's now 3 years since the DB380 hit the market and earlier today were were treated to a sneak peek at the next generation of DB380 via Diamondback Firearms Facebook page.  I have not been following the activity on the Diamondback Forum recently so this was a real surprise when I saw it earlier today.





The primary differences appear to be a new 360 degree grip texture, new pattern and longer slide serrations, and the 4 pin frame.  Contrast the new with the original below.  I think the new frame looks really good in FDE.  Nice enough to make me consider possibly upgrading when these hit the stores.  I'd love to see if they changed the trigger guard, but the only photos available have the Crimson Trace laser guard installed.  I bet they didn't change it so existing Crimson Trace units would still fit the frame.


Love 'em or hate 'em, I admire the company for continuing to raise the bar with their products.  I think the visible Generation 2 improvements will add to ease of use and "shoot-ability" of the pistol.  I'm really interested in finding out of there were any changes made to the internal components that aren't visible in the teaser photos.

Next obvious question.....should we expect a similar Gen 2 DB9? 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hornady TAP 380 Auto 90 Grain XTP FPD Denim and Clear Gel Test


At the height of the ammo shortage that took place prior to the current ammunition shortage, I noticed that Cabela's started cataloging an exclusive item from Hornady.  Cabela's is the only retailer that sells the 380 Auto version of Hornady TAP.  After watching product availability for several months, it finally came back in stock last year so I purchased a box for testing purposes.

The TAP line of ammunition from Hornady was created to fill the needs of law enforcement.  TAP FPD came along some time later.  Depending on who you ask, you will get various answers on what FPD stands for.  Some will say it's For Police Departments and others will claim it's For Personal Defense.  Regardless, the TAP line is loaded with XTP bullets, low flash powders, and nickel plated brass cases.  The line typically costs a bit more than the Hornady Custom line. 

Test Pistol:

Test Protocol:
Step 1)  Measure and record temperature and relative humidity.
Step 2)  Run a 5 shot velocity average over a ProChrono Digital Chronograph at a distance of 8 feet.
Step 3)  Run first bare gel test shot into a block of Clear Ballistics Gel that is calibrated to 10% Ordnance Gel density.  Shot distance is 8 feet.
Step 4)  Run second test shot through 4 layers of 14 oz/yard heavy-weight denim.  Shot distance is 8 feet.
Step 5)  Run a 600 fps calibration test bb shot into the Clear Ballistics gel block and record penetration depth.

Test Results:


Video Documentation of the Entire Test from Range to Bullet Recovery:


My Thoughts on This Load:
All of the Hornady 380 Auto loadings specify a muzzle velocity of 1000 feet per second.  A quick check of their website confirms that their velocity measurements are done with a 4" test barrel.  It's understandable that our velocity was much lower since our barrel was almost 1" shorter than the Hornady test barrel.  As a rule of thumb you can expect to lose about 100 feet per second for every 1" reduction in barrel length.

The XTP bullet has always displayed the characteristics of modest expansion and deep penetration.  The bare gel test shot performed exactly the way I expected it would.  It expanded a little and penetrated deeply, coming to rest just short of 12" into the block.  Depending on how you interpret the gel block, a visible wound channel continued beyond the bullet for an additional inch beyond the bullet.

The denim and gel shot registered a much higher velocity that the bare gel shot so I thought I might see some expansion from the bullet.  I do see some signs that the bullet was trying to open, but I have to believe the hollow point cavity clogged with denim and inhibited this bullet from expanding.




Pick or Pan:
Due to the mixed expansion results and exclusive distribution of this load through one specific retailer, I won't be seeking out additional boxes of this loading. 



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, July 19, 2013

Clear Ballistics Gel Update

Late last Summer, I introduced you to a new synthetic ballistics gel product from a company called Clear Ballistics.  As I come up on my first year of using the product, I'm still loving this stuff for all the reasons I mentioned in my original blog about the gel.  Overall reception of the gel by blog readers and YouTube channel subscribers has been positive, but there are always a few purists/traditionalists that remain skeptical that Clear Ballistics Gel is a suitable substitute for 10% Ordnance Gelatin.  Skepticism is a good thing.  If I wasn't skeptical about ammunition terminal performance, I wouldn't be doing the testing that has become the backbone of this blog.




Several months ago, I picked up a few pounds of Knox Gelatin with the thought that I would do my own head to head test of Knox Gelatin vs. Clear Ballistics Gel.  These 4 cans have been sitting on my shelf for several months simply because I just don't have the time to mess with process of preparing the gel and then storing it in the fridge until we get a cool day on the range.  Sure it would be nice to know how the two products compare, but I've got so much on my plate just testing all the ammunition that readers have requested it's almost impossible for me to take a time out and do the comparison.

Luckily for me, I see that someone has taken on the task of comparing the two ballistics test mediums in a controlled test.  I have no idea who ShootingTheBull410 is, but he/they have my undying gratitude for stepping up and investing their time and money to do the comparison testing that I never could find the time to do.  I'm subscribed to the channel and will be keeping an eye out for future videos.  You may want to do so too.  He's pretty awesome and his video is entertaining, very well produced, and full of facts.  I really like the full of facts part. 



If you don't watch the video, I'll give you a summary.  Is Clear Ballistics Gel a 100% analog for Ordnance Gelatin?  From the video and facts presented, I came to the conclusion that it's not perfect in all cases.  Here's what that means to me when using the Clear Ballistics gel for pistol ammunition testing.  If I'm testing solids or doing a bb calibration test, the results are 99% true to 10% ordnance gel.  If I'm testing hollow point ammunition I'm going to see 5% less expansion and 5% greater penetration with Clear Ballistics Gel than I would with 10% ordnance gel.

In exchange for that 5% variation vs. 10% Ordnance Gel, I gain the following benefits; I can run tests at all temperatures, re-use the gel for multiple tests, and see what's taking place inside the block as the bullet progresses down the block.  That's a satisfactory trade in my mind.  As a person that performs terminal tests as a hobby, economy and convenience trump precision.  If I had tax-payer funding, and associated budget, my decision MIGHT be different, but I would need to work with 10% ordnance gel first and see if it's as horrible to work with as people say it is.

In a way, I've suspected many of the findings in the video.  You guys don't know this yet, but I even went so far as to have some new 20" long custom gel molds made up by the guys at Clear Ballistics because 16" just wasn't long enough to catch some of the deeper penetrating 40 S&W rounds I was testing.  I'm hoping that the new 20" long blocks will keep me from having to stack two blocks end to end.  The new molds are being delivered tomorrow.

After working with the Owners of Clear Ballistics over the last 10 months, I have no doubt in my mind that they will keep tweaking their formula until they come up with a product that's a 100% analog for 10% Ordnance Gel.  I have no idea how long it took to codify the proper process and procedure to prepare 10% Ordnance Gel, but I suspect it was developed over years.  Clear Ballistics has only been at this since January 2012 so with a bit more time, R&D, and customer feedback I bet they'll tighten up that variation vs. 10% Gel.  I'm in for the long haul so I'll let you know how they progress.

Speaking of progress, check this out.  Clear Ballistics has been working on developing some new molds.  They posted this picture earlier today of the negative that will be used to create their new torso molds.  Very interesting......

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hornady Custom 380 Auto 90 Grain XTP Denim and Clear Gel Test


I don't think the Custom line from Hornady gets the respect it deserves.  It's the oldest variant in the Hornady 380 Auto HP line up with boxes that display the image of the company's founder, Joyce Hornady, on the front.  While it may lack the marketing pop and sizzle of "Critical", "TAP", and "Z-Max", it is loaded with Hornady's excellent XTP bullet.

I purchased this box for testing last year and just found out that Hornady has temporarily suspended production of this loading until they can catch up with consumer demand.

Test Pistol:

Test Protocol:
Step 1)  Measure and record temperature and relative humidity.
Step 2)  Run a 5 shot velocity average over a ProChrono Digital Chronograph at a distance of 8 feet.
Step 3)  Run first bare gel test shot into a block of Clear Ballistics Gel that is calibrated to 10% Ordnance Gel density.  Shot distance is 8 feet.
Step 4)  Run second test shot through 4 layers of 14 oz/yard heavy-weight denim.  Shot distance is 8 feet.
Step 5)  Run a 600 fps calibration test bb shot into the Clear Ballistics gel block and record penetration depth.

Test Results:

Video Documentation of the Entire Test from Range to Bullet Recovery:


My Thoughts on This Load:
All of the Hornady 380 Auto loadings specify a muzzle velocity of 1000 feet per second.  A quick check of their website confirms that their velocity measurements are done with a 4" test barrel.  It's understandable that our velocity was much lower since our barrel was 1.5'" shorter than the Hornady test barrel.  As a rule of thumb you can expect to lose about 100 feet per second for every 1" reduction in barrel length.

The XTP bullet has always displayed the characteristics of modest expansion and deep penetration.  The bare gel test shot performed exactly the way I expected it would.  It expanded a little and penetrated deeply.

The denim and gel shot was a bit of a surprise.  From previous testing we know that the 4 layers of heavy weight denim is a formidable barrier so failure to expand was not unexpected.  We also know that 380 FMJ loads traveling at less than 850 feet per second tend to tumble after hitting the heavy clothing barrier.  The surprise was that this XTP bullet behaved very much like a FMJ and tumbled after passing through the clothing barrier.  The low initial velocity, and velocity loss during the tumble, kept the bullet from over penetrating.




Pick or Pan:
I found this load to be very mild in regard to felt recoil.  That is probably due to the low initial velocity.  Bare gel terminal performance was good with a balance of modest expansion and deep penetration.  It would have been nice to see some expansion from the heavy denim test shot, but bigger and faster bullets have failed to expand through this test barrier.  At least the bullet didn't over penetrate when it failed to expand.

This load might be right for someone looking for a mild recoiling load that penetrates between 12 and 16 inches regardless of expansion.  It's one of the few 380 loads that I have seen that is capable of expanding and still penetrating more than 12" in bare Clear Ballistics gel.


 


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,

Sunday, July 14, 2013

TandemKross +1 Magazine Base Plate Review


Two weeks ago, I participated in the 2013 Arkansas Ruger Rimfire Challenge.  Each shooter received a swag bag when they checked in for the shoot and picked up their score sheets.  At the time, the swag bag was a distraction so I put it in my vehicle and focused on my gear and my shooting.  I didn't realize the bag contained an extended magazine base plate or "mag bumper" for a Ruger 22/45.  I discovered the base plate a few days later and was intrigued when I discovered that it wasn't just an extended base plate, it also increased the magazine capacity from 10 to 11.  I decided to google TandemKross and learn more about their products.

For me, the TandemKross website is a virtual candy store of after market products for Ruger Rimfire pistols and rifles.  They also stock some of my favorite cleaning products at a good price.  I learned they also sold a +1 magazine bumper for the Ruger Mark II and Mark III series of pistols so I ordered one and decided I would review them both as soon as I had the chance.

Yesterday turned out to be a great day to complete the review.  The video below captures all my thoughts on the base plates, live fire demonstration from the range, and also a short installation demonstration. 


The current retail price on the base plates is $7.99 if ordered directly from TandemKross.  I've only been watching their Facebook page since last week, but it appears they run periodic money-saving flash sales that they announce on their page.  Jake from TandemKross told me there are more new products in development so their Facebook page is worth a "Like" just to keep an eye on what they are up to.

If you are a competitive shooter or just looking for an extra round in your Ruger pistol magazines, the +1 base plates from TandemKross are well worth your consideration.  The next time I step up to the competition firing line, all my magazines will have the +1 magazine bumpers installed.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Federal Guard Dog 45 Auto 165 Grain Denim and Gel Test


First off, I'd like to recognize blog reader Sam S. for contributing the ammunition used for this test.  Thanks Sam.

The Federal Guard Dog is the latest incarnation of the Federal Expanding Full Metal Jacket line of ammunition.  The bullet consists of a pre-stressed jacket that is layered over a bullet core consisting of a lead base and blue rubber tip.  Federal markets this load as an alternative to traditional jacketed hollow point ammunition for locations were JHP ammunition use is restricted or unlawful.

The bullet is designed to allow the rubber tip to mushroom much like the traditional jacketed hollow point bullet.  Federal also touts that with no hollow point cavity, the round can not be rendered ineffective by barrier material plugging the hollow point cavity.  It's an interesting concept and I tested another version of this expanding full metal jacket bullet HERE.

The Federal consumer website mentions this load as being suitable for home defense where penetration through walls, and who or whatever is behind them, is a concern.  They even go as far as printing HOME DEFENSE on the box.  This test does not cover those specific performance criteria and I have no opinion on the claim that this load is better suited for home defense than other Federal ammunition products.       

Test Pistol:

Test Protocol:
Step 1)  Measure and record temperature and relative humidity.
Step 2)  Run a 5 shot velocity average over a ProChrono Digital Chronograph at a distance of 8 feet.
Step 3)  Run first bare gel test shot into a block of Clear Ballistics Gel that is calibrated to 10% Ordnance Gel density.  Shot distance is 8 feet.
Step 4)  Run second test shot through 4 layers of 14 oz/yard heavy-weight denim.  Shot distance is 8 feet.
Step 5)  Run a 600 fps calibration test bb shot into the Clear Ballistics gel block and record penetration depth.

Test Results:

Video Documentation of the Entire Test from Range to Bullet Recovery:


My Thoughts on This Load:
Federal lists this load as generating a velocity of 1140 feet per second when fired from a 5" test barrel.  Our test barrel was significantly shorter and as we expected, our velocity was substantially less.  What I really wanted to learn from this test was if the velocity loss was so great that it would impact terminal performance.  As it turns out, it did with one bullet performing as advertised and another that failed to expand.  I have to assume that the failure was simply due to marginal velocity and the 4 layers of denim barrier slowed the bullet enough to cause it to fail in the gel test media.

  
Pick or Pan:
The bullet that did expand penetrated to a marginal 10 inches.  The bullet that failed to expand penetrated to over 20 inches.  Overall terminal penetration performance from our short barrel test pistol is reason enough to evaluate other ammunition alternatives.    






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,

Sunday, July 7, 2013

2013 Arkansas State Ruger Rimfire Challenge Shoot Recap



"The Ruger Rimfire Challenge introduces participants to the fun and excitement of competitive shooting in a safe, low-pressure, family-friendly format. All levels of target shooters - new, novice and experienced - are welcome to compete. Each will find a challenge appropriate to his or her level of marksmanship.

The Ruger Rimfire Challenge was developed with safety in mind. Shooters are required to compete using a rifle and handgun from any manufacturer chambered in the .22 Long Rifle caliber. The targets are steel plates that are set in a course of fire that is no less than 5 plates and no more than 7 plates. The course of fire is designed to be completed by even the most inexperienced shooter using one 10-round magazine without the need to reload “on the clock.” Steel plates were chosen as the targets because they are easy to buy or build, and because this type of target provides the shooter with immediate visual and audio feedback.


A unique feature of the Ruger Rimfire Challenge is that experienced participants are encouraged to help new and novice shooters move up to the next level of proficiency by sharing their tips and shooting knowledge. Matches emphasize the friendly, supportive aspects of target shooting and competition. This low-key competition should remind participants that the shooting sports are lifetime activities that are fun and affordable for men, women and youth.

The initial investment required to participate in the Ruger Rimfire Challenge is low compared to other shooting sports. Since .22-caliber ammunition is very affordable, a whole family can shoot without breaking the bank.

All Ruger Rimfire Challenge competitions must include stages for both handgun and rifle chambered for .22 Long Rifle only. Competition is open to all safe and responsible individuals who can legally own or handle a firearm in the
jurisdiction of the competition."

I borrowed the text above from the Ruger Rimfire Challenge Official Rules book.  The pictures were taken at the most recent Arkansas State Ruger Rimfire Challenge Match.  The folks at Nighthawk Custom Training Academy and their volunteer event staff did an awesome job with the event again this year.


From my perspective, I had a really good day.  Lucas, one of the folks that read the PG&G blog, contacted me several weeks ago about the shoot and let me know he was planning to drive up from Central Arkansas to attend.  We made sure we were in the same squad and spent the day talking about guns, competition, ammunition, and a variety of other subjects.  It was great to have some diversion between trips to the firing line and I know it helped me relax and ultimately shoot better.  Lucas is a really good shooter and has invested the time to develop his skills.  Even though I tried to be competitive with him I didn't have a chance, but I still think shooting either before or after him helped me up my game a notch.  Even though we competed in different divisions, I think we were both pleased with where we ended up on the scoreboard.



























The shoot organizers allowed me to set up a GoPro camera on the berm that I was able to trigger remotely during the shoot.  Here's a video of both of us shooting Stage 3.  You can really hear the difference in our speed.  I also tacked on two runs Lucas had on Stage 1.  He's a real competitor.  Fighting through a failure to fire that would rattle most people and immediately following that up with a blazing run.  I learned quite a bit from shooting with Lucas.


I also learned quite a bit from watching these two shooters.  Allie "Allie-Cat" Barrett and Dwight Stearns.  These two fierce competitors came to play and it was a real treat to watch them shoot.  Allie Barrett won both the High Lady and Open Champion awards.  Dwight finished at the top of the Limited class and was awarded the Limited Champion award.







































I didn't have the camera rolling for Dwight, but I did catch Allie's runs on Stage 3 of the rifle portion of the match.  It may provide some insight into the speed some of the top level competitors achieve through dedication and practice.


This was the 3rd Annual Ruger Rimfire Challenge to be held at the Lonesome Oak Guns and Range facility in Centerton, Arkansas.  I say they get better every year and I think almost everyone that has attended the previous matches would agree.  I can't wait for next year.

Full shoot results are available on the Nighthawk Custom Training Academy website.  

Thursday, July 4, 2013

22 WMR Denim and Gel Tests from the NAA Wasp Mini Revolver



This is a second article to go along with the 22 LR testing documented HERE.  The catalyst for the comparison test was the recent acquisition of a North American Arms mini revolver with both 22 LR and 22 WMR cylinders.

Test Pistol:

Test Protocol:
Step 1)  Measure and record temperature and relative humidity.
Step 2)  Run a 5 shot velocity average over a ProChrono Digital Chronograph at a distance of 8 feet.
Step 3)  Run first bare gel test shot into a block of Clear Ballistics Gel that is calibrated to 10% Ordnance Gel density.  Shot distance is 8 feet.
Step 4)  Run second test shot through 4 layers of 14 oz. per yard heavy cotton denim.  Shot distance is 8 feet.
Step 5)  Run a 600 fps calibration test bb shot into the Clear Ballistics gel block and record penetration depth.


Test Results:


Video Documentation of the Entire Tests from Range to Bullet Recovery:




My Thoughts on These Tests:

The CCI 22 WMR Maxi-Mag generated about 100 fps more velocity than the previously tested 22 LR Mini-Mag.  The additional velocity allowed the bullet to penetrate deeper, but wasn't fast enough to cause bullet upset and expansion.  I saw no evidence of expansion with either bullet recovered from this test.  In the video, I mentioned the bullets were under published weight and had an angled bullet base.  I thought I would try to pull a bullet from an unfired case, but that's an inherently dangerous process due to the highly sensitive rimfire primer compound in the base of the brass case.  As it turns out, pulling the bullet wasn't necessary.

The June 2013 issue of American Rifleman features an excellent article from Richard Mann about the use of 22 Magnum as a self-defense load.  The online version of the article referenced here doesn't have all the pictures that the print version does, but in the printed article the recovered CCI Maxi-Mag HP pictured looks exactly like my two recovered bullets shown in the pictures above.  I have to assume that CCI shapes these bullets this way intentionally.     http://www.americanrifleman.org/articles/the-22-mag-for-self-defense/


Having previously tested Critical Defense loads in other calibers, I had built up high expectations for the Hornday Critical Defense 22 WMR.  Unfortunately, the test pistol and this load were not made for each other.  The first indication of trouble came during velocity testing when evidence of key-holing was visible on the target.  If you know what key-holing is and why it happens, you can skip the next paragraph.

Key-holing happens when a bullet leaves the barrel without sufficient spin to stabilize the bullet in flight.  The unstable bullet will tumble as it travels through the air.  If key-holing is severe, the bullet impacts the target and leaves a long, key hole shaped, hole in the target instead of the typical round hole you see when the nose of the bullet impacts the target.  Excuse the over-exposed image below but I had to boost the brightness to get the white background to show through the bullet holes.  The 5 shot group on the left was shot with the Hornady Critical Defense.  The 5 shot group on the right was shot with the CCI Maxi-Mag.  You can clearly see the difference in how the bullets impacted the target.   



The Critical Defense also caused cylinder bind with my revolver that rendered the revolver inoperable by the 4th shot.  I had to clear the spent brass in order to complete the 5 shot velocity test.  I failed to recover my spent brass so I have no idea why the Critical Defense is the only load that has caused this condition in my revolver.  I'll have to do some additional testing to ascertain the root cause of the problem.

On the plus side, the Critical Defense did show some expansion with the bare gel shot and velocity was higher than the published specification from the test barrel length.

Pick or Pan:
While we didn't see expansion from the CCI Maxi-Mag, it did perform well.  This load is velocity starved with the short barrel used for this test so perhaps a lighter bullet would perform better with in this revolver.

The Hornady Critical Defense bullet was simply too long and heavy to be stabilized by the short barrel test revolver.  Further issues with cylinder bind eliminate this load from consideration as carry ammunition.



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.