Thursday, August 25, 2016

Crossbreed MiniTuck Holster - Mini Review




Since 2005, Crossbreed holsters has been producing their hybrid holster designs from their production facility in Springfield, Missouri. As an innovator of hybrid holster designs, the MiniTuck has been a Crossbreed catalog staple for many years.  The MiniTuck holster is intended to be worn inside the waistband with the metal clips hooking over the belt.  A concealment garment can be worn un-tucked, or tucked inside the waistband between the belt clips and holster backing.    

While I'm not a stranger to hybrid holsters, this was my first opportunity to evaluate a Crossbreed holster.  The MiniTuck I received featured a black dyed cowhide backer with a black Kydex shell (Crossbreed calls it the pocket) custom molded for a Walther PK380. The holster included standard belt clips and would cost approximately $77.00, with shipping costs included, if ordered directly from Crossbreed.  Crossbreed also offers different styles of belt clips and premium natural cowhide and horsehide holster backers for additional fees.  

With limited exclusions, Crossbreed holsters come with "our 'Two Week, Try it Free Guarantee' and a Life Time Warranty. Once you receive your holster you have two weeks to try it out. If for any reason you are not completely satisfied simply return it and we will refund the purchase price of the holster. Shipping charges are not refunded. If the holster should ever fail under normal use, we will repair or replace it as long as you own it."  The company definitely stands behind their product.

My typical Summer carry has been a snub revolver or micro semi-auto carried in my right front pocket.  I will occasionally carry a larger semi-auto AIWB as the weather cools down and we transition into Fall.  The PK380 is a fairly large firearm as compared to the majority of available 380 Auto pistols available today. With an overall length of 6.5 inches, I thought the Crossbreed MiniTuck would be a good holster choice for this handgun.

It turns out I was correct that the MiniTuck would allow me to comfortably carry the PK380 at the 5 O'clock position.  Crossbreed adds two additional sets of holes in the holster backer to allow for adjustment of the belt clips.  Raising the clips pushes the holster deeper beneath the waistband.  Raising only the front clip cants the holster forward.  I personally liked how the holster felt and the ease of drawing with the clips set as they came from Crossbreed.  The key point is you have options to experiment with and decide which clip setting works best for you.

The leather backer on the MiniTuck features the Combat Cut as a standard feature of the holster.  The Combat Cut trims back the leather backer to allow for an easier grip on pistol during the draw.  The downside is this also exposes more the pistol grip surface to your skin.  The smooth grip on the Walther wasn't uncomfortable rubbing against my back.  If you have a pistol with super aggressive grips, you may want to consider the larger SuperTuck holster instead of the MiniTuck.

I grabbed 8 video captures of the draw stroke when using the MiniTuck with the PK380.  I think photo 4 is the most important as it shows how a correct master grip can be established on the pistol as it is drawn from the holster.

I've worn the MiniTuck several times out on the range this Summer.  The cowhide backer is starting to take on the patina of absorbed sweat, but the belt clip attachment hardware shows no signs of rusting.  If the clip hardware does rust, Crossbreed sells replacement hardware packs for a nominal fee of $3.00.  The MiniTuck arrives ready to be worn, but has become more comfortable with use.  That may be due to the holster breaking in, or me becoming more accustomed to wearing the holster.  It's probably a combination of both.

I think the base model MiniTuck, reviewed here, is a pretty good holster for the money.  Others must feel the same way because new holster orders placed on the Crossbreed website will ship in approximately two weeks.  That's not a bad wait for a holster made specifically for your handgun model.  It also indicates to me that Crossbreed must be doing things right for their holsters to remain in such high demand after 10 plus years of continuous production.

Crossbreed offers additional holster types and models for handguns and magazines on their website.  I'm sure they wouldn't mind if you stopped by and browsed around a bit.  If you do the Facebook thing, check out their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/crossbreedholsters and subscribe to their Discounts and Promotions newsletter.   
  
The back of my holster had my name on it.  I've strategically covered it with the Crossbreed logo for photo purposes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Prestigious and Practical New Lights from Lumintop

The Prestigious

The Practical and Fun

See all Lumintop Lights on Their Website

Late last year I wrote my first review on two very different lights from Lumintop.  At that time I reviewed the full-sized tactical TD16 and pocket-friendly Tool AAA.  You can find that review here.  Lumintop has been very busy creating new lights since my original review and recently introduced four new lights.  Two of the lights are new concepts, while the others are enhanced versions of previously released lights.

Before I jump into the specifics of each individual light, I feel compelled to cover some basic commentary on Lumintop products in general.  I've had the chance to handle, take apart, put back together, carry, drop, lose, and use seven different Lumintop lights in the last eight months.  While very different in form and price, they all share some common traits.  I think the build quality of all lights is exceptional.  I see the same manufacturing attention to detail in the lowest priced lights as I do in the higher priced lights.  All lights are also water resistant to IPX-8 standard.  Regardless of which light you purchase and how much you spend, I think you will be satisfied with the overall quality of the light.

All four lights have three available brightness levels that can be toggled through in sequence.  All lights start in medium and switch through low and high levels before returning to medium brightness. I think it's pretty cool that Lumintop offers the option of Cree and Nichia emitters on many of their lights.  Depending on your illumination needs you may prefer the maximum brightness of the Cree, or the color correctness of the Nichia.  It's nice to have the choice.  Personally, I have traditionally gone for the Cree. Confused on the difference between the two choices?  Here's a simple analogy using household light bulbs.  Cree is like buying day light spectrum bulbs and the Nichia like buying soft white spectrum bulbs.

The Prestige Lights
New in the prestige or luxury light category are the Tool Ti and Prince.  These two higher end lights are both available for well under $100, but look like a million bucks.  Confused about which EDC light to clip to the pocket of your tactical tuxedo?  I'd grab either of these lights because they just ooze class and refined taste.

The Tool Ti is a luxury variation of the Tool AAA that has been expertly executed in titanium alloy.  Joining the current line up of Tool AAA lights in black anodized aluminum and copper, Lumintop further upgrades the Tool Ti with a flush mounted tail switch that allows the Tool Ti to stand on its base in candle mode.  Using a single AAA battery, the Cree equipped Tool Ti pumps out 110 lumens on the highest brightness level.

The Tool AAA, in any body material, is a great EDC light.  It's small enough to stay out of the way when clipped on your pocket, but is always there when you need it.  As with all things titanium, expect to pay roughly three times as much for the Tool Ti versus the aluminum bodied Tool AAA.  The Tool Ti ships in a gift box and includes spare O rings and clasp keychain.
    


The brand new Prince is a larger and brighter light that uses a single rechargeable 18650 or two CR123 batteries.  It's so new that Lumintop doesn't even have a specification picture available on the light yet, so please excuse the specifications matrix on the left.  There are 3 variations of The Prince available.  All feature a copper body tube wrapped in carbon fiber.  I purchased the high polished stainless steel version.  Two other variants are available that have copper or brass light heads and tail switch assemblies.

I happened to notice The Prince when Lumintop announced the new light on their Facebook page.  I ended up buying my Prince as part of a pre-release group buy on the Budget Light Forum.  By now I have a "few" lights in my small collection, and the Stainless Prince is by far the best looking.  The nice part is even at current retail price, it's not even close to being the most expensive light in my collection.  You can find The Prince on Amazon with an 18650 rechargeable battery for about $75.  The Prince ships with spare O rings and an oddly too long leather holster.















The Practical and Fun
If you don't need or want a luxury light, Lumintop has two new lights available for more practical everyday carry.  The IYP365 and the 4th generation of the Colored Worm.    

When I first saw the name IYP365 for this new light, I though it was a little strange.  As I read through the marketing material on the light I didn't see anything specific about the name.  It finally dawned on me that IYP was most probably intended as a shortened version of In Your Pocket. With 365 designating the number of days in a year that you can carry the light.

The two AAA cell light generates 200 lumens at maximum and can drop down to 3 lumens at the lowest brightness setting.  I found that I can carry the IYP365 clipped to my pocket as easily as I can carry the Tool AAA.  The additional length of the light wasn't noticeable.

Intially, I had some concerns about the tail switch and accidental activation when clipped to my pocket.  The switch sits very low and is suitably stiff to avoid accidental activation.  The switch is flat so the IYP365 can stand on end for use as hands-free lighting.  Weighing about 1.5 ounces with batteries, this pen light can also be carried in a shirt pocket if you desire to do so.


The Lumintop Colored Worm 4.0 is the latest incarnation of their highly successful key chain light.  The Colored Worm uses a single AAA battery and produces identical light output as the Tool AAA.  Available in 6 colors and graphiak (gray/black), there is likely to be a Colored Worm you wouldn't mind carrying on your key chain or in your pocket.

A steel wire pocket clip has been added to facilitate pocket carry.  To maintain the smallest possible size, the light is activated and switched between modes by rotating the light head.  A glow in the dark silicone band has been added to aid one handed operation of the light.  The band is removable if the owner wishes to use the light without the band in place.  I left the band on because it really helped me with one hand operation of the light.

Thinking outside the box a little, I'm currently using the Worm 4.0 as a money clip.  The clip is tight enough for that purpose and the light length is a very similar to the width of US currency.



All Lumintop lights ship without batteries UNLESS you order them through the Lumintop Direct store front on Amazon.com.  If you wish to visit their Amazon store, this is the link to see what they currently have available for sale.  If you join their mailing list or follow their Facebook page, you will receive occasional notices of their Amazon Store promotions.


Lumintop provided the author with the Colored Worm 4.0, IYP365, and Tool Ti featured in this product showcase.  The author and blog are not part of the Amazon Affiliate Marketing program.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

G2 Research 9mm Civic Duty Ammunition Test


G2 Research recently extended their product catalog by introducing the 9mm Civic Duty line of solid copper hollow point ammunition.  Civic Duty is designed for maximum expansion and energy transfer while minimizing the potential for unwanted over-penetration or target pass through.  The 100 grain bullet expands to 2.5 times initial diameter and penetrates between 9 and 10 inches when fired into ballistics testing gel media.

If the G2 Research name is familiar to you, it's probably from the amazingly successful launch of their R.I.P. ammunition line.  It seemed to me that almost overnight R.I.P. ammunition was a hot topic of discussion on many of the social media channels and forums frequented by firearm enthusiasts.  It was pretty amazing to watch.    

Being a fan of solid copper hollow point ammunition, I was very interested in testing Civic Duty to see if it performed as described by the manufacturer.  Our good friends over at Ammunition Depot supplied the ammunition for this test.  

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 10 feet.
Step 3)  Run various terminal test shots, with and without simulated clothing barriers, into a block of Clear Ballistics Gel that has a similar density to 10% ordnance gelatin.  Shot distance is 10 feet.
Step 4)  Run a 600 fps calibration test bb shot into the Clear Ballistics gel block and record penetration depth to verify density is within specification.

Video Documentation of the Test:

Direct Link to Video on YouTube

Test Results

My Thoughts and Wrap-up
As I went into this test, my main objectives were to validate the velocity, expansion, and penetration expectations set by G2 Research.   After reviewing the test results, Civic Duty performed quite well on all three measures.  The only concerning discovery was the failure of all the hollow point petals to separate.  Even with the incomplete expansion, the maximum expanded diameter exceeded published specification.

My final verdict is the ammunition performs as described by the manufacturer.  It's ultimately up to each individual to decide which ammunition best meets their requirements.  For now, this test will serve as a baseline for comparison with other solid copper hollow point bullet designs.



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.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Ruger ARX 38 Special Ammunition Test and Review

PolyCase Ammunition, the maker or Ruger ARX ammunition, launched the Ruger ARX 38 Special load at the 2016 NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits.  Previously available in many popular semi-auto handgun calibers, the 38 Special load extends the Ruger ARX line with ammunition suitable for revolvers.  Initial shipments of 38 Special ARX should be arriving in stores by the time this review is published.

The PolyCase designed ARX projectile is quite unique.  I previously discussed the projectile in great detail in this test and review of Ruger ARX 380 Auto.  If this is your first exposure to the ARX projectile, you might want to review the initial section of the 380 Auto test.

PolyCase Ammunition provided the ammunition for this test.

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 10 feet.
Step 3)  Run various terminal test shots, with and without simulated clothing barriers, into a block of Clear Ballistics Gel that has a similar density to 10% ordnance gelatin.  Shot distance is 10 feet.
Step 4)  Run a 600 fps calibration test bb shot into the Clear Ballistics gel block and record penetration depth to verify density.

Test Results:

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

Direct Link to Video On YouTube

My Thoughts on This Load:
Overall, ARX 38 Special performed exceptionally well.  Laying the ruler on the gel block I was pleased to see that all four test shots had exceeded 12 inches of penetration before marginal bounce back on the bare gel test shot.  Regardless of the clothing barrier placed in front of the gel block, the bullets punched through and penetrated to the desired depth between 12 and 18 inches.

The velocity generated by my LCR revolver fell about 60 to 70 feet per second slower than the velocity printed on the box.  I like that because in a way it proves I wasn't sent a box of ammunition that was custom loaded to exceed published velocity specification.  The good news is that even at the lower velocity, the penetration was still within our 12 to 18 inch requirement.

Pick or Pan:
If you are looking for a low recoil standard pressure 38 Special load, that should be suitable for use in all 38 Special revolvers, this load might be for you.  I'm not an expert on fluid dynamics, so I take the force multiplier effect of the fluted bullet on faith.  It does appear to have a significant drag effect on the bullet and keeps penetration within the desired 12 to 18 inch window.  I have one 38 Special revolver in my collection that will not withstand +P ammunition.  I will certainly consider ARX 38 for use in that revolver when adequate supplies start hitting dealer shelves.

Added Commentary:
After completing this test, I realized I had three ARX tests completed and it might be interesting to take a step back and recap the test series.  If this is the first ARX test you are reading, the other two previous tests can be found on the following links.
Ruger ARX 380 Auto
Ruger ARX 9mm +P

Going back into the test videos, I grabbed screen captures of the stretch cavities created by each caliber.  I found the similarity of the stretch cavities very interesting.  They look much more similar than I would have expected.  The stretch cavity size varies by the kinetic energy of the bullet, but the similarity of cavity shape is what I found most interesting.  It appears that the fluted bullets are performing similarly across all tested calibers.

38 Special Stretch Cavities

9mm +P Stretch Cavities

380 Auto Stretch Cavities

To recap the three tests, I was really pleased with the performance of the 9mm +P and 38 Special ARX loads.  Both loads performed well from the 1.875 inch barrels used for testing.  The 380 Auto test shots came up a little short on our 12 inch penetration minimum. After reviewing the 38 Special test results, it appears that the 380 Auto bullet is just a bit too light and fails to hold momentum long enough to consistently meet the 12 inch penetration minimum.

All three loads generated less felt recoil than traditional JHP defensive ammunition.  This could be a factor for those that are recoil sensitive.  I place less value on the promise of faster follow up shots. Within reasonable boundaries, I believe live fire practice and firearm familiarity are much more important factors contributing to faster follow up shots than ammunition.  Your opinion may be different.

I always start out skeptical when looking at a new bullet design.  In my testing, the three calibers of ARX bullets tested have proven to penetrate to the lower end of our 12 to 18 inch expectation without any indication of exceeding the 18 inch penetration maximum.  All recovered projectiles were perfectly formed and showed no indications of fracturing after impacting clothing barriers and gel testing media.    



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, May 24, 2016

CRKT Folts Designed Minimalist Knife Series - Amazing Knives for Minimal Gear People

Neck knife or tactical love beads?  You make the call.
Neck knives.  I never gave them much thought other than to dismiss them as something I would never wear and had no interest in owning. Then I read this piece over at Blue Sheepdog on the CRKT Alan Folts designed Minimalist knife series.  I found myself drawn to these small fixed blade knives. I think it was the variety of shapes and visible quality construction that ultimately convinced me to add one to my Amazon shopping cart.

Each CRKT Minimalist knife ships with an injection molded sheath, neck lanyard, as well as the hardware and clip to convert the sheath to be worn on a belt. A braided fob is added to each knife that can easily be removed if that is your preference.  Once removed, the fob can't be reattached so be sure you want it gone before making the cut.

I'm a long time fan of the tanto/reverse tanto blade shapes.  No specific reason other than I just really like they way they look.  I decided to go with the Minimalist Tanto for my purchase.  It arrived in a few days and it was love at first sight. I'm not really a knife guy so I won't bore you with details on the type of steel used or how deep the gimping is.  I know pointy, and I know sharp.  My knife arrived very pointy and very sharp.  It also looked and felt really great.  So what did I do? I figured out a way to mount my brand new EDC Minimalist Tanto on my Glock 42 OWB holster.

It almost looks like the knife and holster were designed to fit together.
I'm not recommending or suggesting that you do this, but after seeing how great the BladeTech Total Eclipse and CRKT Minimalist Tanto fit together I didn't have the heart to separate them.  With the holster at 4 o'clock, the knife rides at the 3 o'clock position and can be discreetly drawn from under a tee-shirt without exposing the handgun holstered behind it.

The S.P.E.W. shown with a Frankin half dollar for scale
I don't carry the Glock 42 every day so it was back to Amazon to pick up another Minimalist that I could use for every day carry when I'm not wearing a belt.  I previously mentioned there are 6 blades in the CRKT Alan Folts Designed Minimalist Series.  Rather than buy a second Tanto, I opted for the S.P.E.W. for my second purchase. The Small Pocket Everyday Wharncliffe is a bit larger than the Tanto, but it's still small, thin, and light enough to be carried in a front pocket.  The extra length also keeps the knife from rotating in all but the largest of pockets. The knife and sheath easily share front pocket space with my newfangled SHARKK aluminum wallet.

I found a video that has Alan Folts himself describing the genesis of the Minimalist knife series along with an eloquent listing of significant features of the knives in the series. You know how I feel about them by now so why not spend a few minutes with the designer of the knives.

With street prices starting below $25 the CRKT Minimalist knives appear to deliver a very good value for your money.  I'm very pleased with mine and anticipate many years of service from them.  Are you looking for an EDC knife that is small'ish, thin, and light? You might want to check them out while all six blade styles are currently available.


What's in the box?  You get the knife, sheath, and hookups for belt or neck carry.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Ruger ARX 9mm +P Ammunition Test and Review

This is my second test of the Ruger ARX ammunition produced under license by POLYCASE Ammunition.  My first test was run on the 380 Auto ARX and I would encourage you to link over to that review if you wish to know more about the ARX bullets and their unique bullet shape that enhances hydraulic displacement as the bullet plows through the gel test media.  My previous test of the Ruger ARX 380 Auto can be found HERE.

Coming out of the ARX 380 Auto test, I was thinking to myself that the 9mm +P ARX might be a great ammunition choice for the Ruger LCR 9mm revolver.  The short barrel on the LCR revolver doesn't build velocity the way a longer barrel can.  To date, I've only found one jacked hollow point ammunition that will reliably expand when tested from the LCR revolver.  My gut told me that the 9mm +P ARX would be a decent performer in the LCR 9mm revolver.  I just needed to get out on the range and get it tested.

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 10 feet.
Step 3)  Run various terminal test shots, with and without simulated clothing barriers, into a block of Clear Ballistics Gel that has a similar density to 10% ordnance gelatin.  Shot distance is 10 feet.
Step 4)  Run a 600 fps calibration test bb shot into the Clear Ballistics gel block and record penetration depth to verify density.

Test Results:

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

Direct Link to Video on YouTube

My Thoughts on This Load:
Man, I love it when my gut steers me right.  As it turns out, the Ruger ARX 9mm +P performed exceptionally well in this test.  Hitting all the marks I look for on penetration across all test scenarios.  The video didn't cover this, but I do want to mention that felt recoil from the ARX is about 10 to 20 percent less (as felt by me) than shooting my chosen 9mm 124 grain +P load in the test revolver. With those little bantam grips installed on the LCR, any recoil reduction is welcomed as long as the ammunition performs on par with traditional jacketed hollow point bullet designs.

For those that may consider this ammunition for use in your revolver, I can also report that bullet pull or crimp jumping is negligible. To test this I loaded a 5 shot moon clip with three rounds of ARX and  two rounds of Golden Saber +P 124 grain.  I fired 4 rounds from the revolver and measured the last remaining ARX round.  The overall cartridge length had increased from 1.147 to 1.149.  As I suspected, there wasn't enough bullet movement to worry about it.

For those concerned that the tested velocity was 100 feet per second less than the 1445 specified by the ammunition manufacturer, I think it's fair to assume their test firearm wasn't a revolver with a 1.875 inch barrel.  I expected to see less velocity in this test, but what I found interesting is that the ARX generates nearly identical impact energy as the 9mm +P 124 grain JHP ammunition I typically use in this revolver.

Pick or Pan:
I will certainly use Ruger ARX in my LCR 9mm revolver.  In this test it has shown it will penetrate to the desired depth, without the risk of over penetration that exists when traditional jacketed hollow point bullets plug with fabric and fail to expand.  The small reduction in felt recoil over my usual ammunition is a secondary benefit that also entices me to use ARX.  For now, the ammunition is generally available at prices comparable to other premium self-defense ammunition options.      




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.




Thursday, April 28, 2016

Rattlesnake Ammunition Same Felt Recoil 9mm Review


The folks at Rattlesnake Ammunition recently launched a new line of reduced lead exposure training ammunition that promises to produce the same felt recoil as full power personal defense ammunition. The Rattlesnake SFR (same felt recoil) line is only available in 9mm at this time with 115, 124, and 147 grain weight standard pressure loads.  Additionally, 9mm +P loads are also available in 124 and 147 grain weights.  The manufacturer describes the ammunition as follows.

Rattlesnake SFR was developed as a practice round formulated to produce the Same Felt Recoil as leading brands of hollow point ammunition for the most realistic training experience possible. Most importantly, all Rattlesnake SFR uses components designed to shoot cleanly and reduce lead exposure to the shooter by up to 98% compared to traditional ammunition.

As I've mentioned many times before, I like the idea of TRAINING with my carry ammunition.  On the other hand, I will PRACTICE with whatever ammunition I happen to have on hand.  Practice ammunition is usually the cheapest stuff I can find.  Let me elaborate about the differences between training and practice.

Practice:  Repetition of fundamentals like sight alignment, trigger control, and safe gun handling. You can practice using dry fire drills away from the range.  I've done a bit of that myself over the years.

Training:  For me training involves all the practice disciplines plus drawing from concealment, movement while engaging target(s), magazine changes, clearing failures, and improving shooting speed with accuracy.  The last part about shooting with speed and accuracy is why I prefer to use carry ammunition for training.  It keeps me honest in my appraisal of my shooting skills.

For those who reload, it's relatively easy to crank out a bunch of training rounds that replicate the velocity, bullet weight, and recoil impulse of your carry ammo. For those of us who don't reload, which includes me at the moment, it's a challenge to find a factory produced training load that feels the same as my defensive carry ammunition. Rattlesnake SFR replicates the feel of full power defensive ammunition at a significantly lower price than using carry ammunition for training purposes.

Overall packaging and ammunition quality appear to be very good. It is definitely on par with factory ammunition from large manufacturers. All Rattlesnake SFR is loaded in new brass cases with headstamps designating caliber and +P if appropriate.  All boxes include production lot numbers.




The Testing Process















With ammunition in hand, it was off to the range to do some benchmark testing of Rattlesnake SFR against popular defense ammunition choices with similar bullet weights that are loaded to similar pressures.  The 124 grain standard pressure and +P loads were compared with Speer Gold Dot and Federal HST.  The 147 +P load was only compared with Federal HST because Gold Dot does not offer a 147 +P load.

Felt recoil is a subjective measure that differs from person to person so it's very difficult to quantify.  Add to this the complexity of different types and weights of firearms can also change the way recoil feels to the shooter and you can see that measuring felt recoil can be a real challenge without investing a significant amount of money in test fixtures and instruments to capture force measurements.  To keep things simple, I used the same firearm for all testing.  In lieu of measuring recoil force, I opted to calculate the Power Factor for each load based on a 10 shot sample string from each ammunition type.

So what is Power Factor?  Major practical sport shooting organizations (IPSC, USPSA, IDPA, Steel Challenge, Bianchi Cup) have adopted Power Factor as a globally accepted measure of recoil.  Power Factor uses bullet weight multiplied by velocity with the result divided by 1000 to establish the Power Factor of a cartridge. The higher the Power Factor of a cartridge, the more recoil it generates. With so many sport shooting organizations using Power Factor, I felt confident using this measure for my testing and evaluation.

The actually testing was pretty simple.  Using a FN Herstal FNS9 pistol with a 4 inch barrel, I ran a 10 shot string of each ammunition variety over a ProChrono Digital chronograph set up 10 feet from the muzzle.  Using the Competition Electronics DigitalLink Bluetooth Adapter (will be reviewed soon), all velocity measurements were captured and sent to my phone for downloading and further processing.  Below, I have included two sample data files from the seven captured during this test.

Sample Data

The Results

After downloading the captured data files from my phone, it was time to aggregate the data and compare the results. The chart on the right recaps the average velocity and Power Factor for each load.  It is sorted by bullet weight and pressure for easier comparison.

In general, the Rattlesnake SFR 124 +P and 147 +P loads had Power Factor measures very similar to those measured for the full power defensive ammunition they were tested against.  The standard pressure 124 grain load had the largest Power Factor gap when compared to similar Gold Dot and HST loads.

After reviewing the results, I'm confident that the Rattlesnake SFR loads are producing very similar Power Factor values and felt recoil when compared to my favorite 124 +P and 147 +P defensive ammunition choices.  Depending on where you purchase your ammunition, Rattlesnake SFR could cost $10 to $12 less per box than the Gold Dot or HST equivalent.  When you factor in the significant cost per box savings you get by substituting Rattlesnake SFR in place of their Gold Dot or HST equivalents, it means I can either train more at the same cost, or reduce my training cost without reducing my total fired round counts.  Additionally there are the other benefits of reduced lead exposure and greater availability of Rattlesnake SFR versus the often difficult to find HST and Gold Dot equivalents to consider.

I will definitely be ordering more of the Rattlesnake SFR ammunition for my training needs.  I'm also going to be watching for Rattlesnake Ammunition to add new loads in additional calibers.  I hope this line of ammunition continues to expand.  It would be great to see SFR loads in 45 ACP.

The Rattlesnake SFR ammunition used for this test was provided by Ammunition Depot.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Walther PPK/S 22LR Review


The 24 ounce fully loaded weight of the PPK/S 22LR makes
 it a very handy carry companion.
Hey folks, some of you may be aware that I started a new blog and YouTube channel dedicated to rimfire firearms, ammunition, gear, and competition late last year.  My primary reason for doing this was to keep Pocket Guns and Gear focused on center fire firearms and ammunition while giving myself another outlet for my rimfire related interests.  I realized there would be occasional topics covered on The Rimfire Channel blog that would be of interest to readers of Pocket Guns and Gear.  This is the first of those topics.

I recently completed a review of the Walther PPK/S 22LR pistol.  Since it's a rimfire handgun, the review is up on The Rimfire Channel blog. You can follow this link to the review.  I've also included the review video below.

As I worked on the review, my thoughts went to the many YouTube comments, emails, and Facebook messages I have received seeking my recommendations on handguns for those with arthritic hands and wrists.  I found the PPK/S 22LR to have little recoil, even less muzzle flip, and a very soft recoil spring that made manipulating the slide very easy.  Reliability and accuracy were on par with the best small 380 and 9mm handguns I have previously reviewed.  If you find recoil painful and intolerable with small centerfire cartridges, the PPK/S 22LR may be a pistol for you to consider.

Direct Link to Video on YouTube     


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Winchester Silvertip JHP 10mm Auto Ammunition Test and Review


I was really looking forward to testing this load because I had read reports that the Winchester 10mm Silvertip JHP was one of the last full power 10mm loads coming out of the Win/Rem/Fed Big 3 US ammunition producers.  I had many offers from blog readers to supply me with the ammunition for the test, but I turned them all down and waited for new production from Winchester.  Winchester released new stocks of 10mm Silvertips in December 2015.  The ammunition tested was part of that production run so it should represent the current production ammunition.

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 10 feet.
Step 3)  Run various terminal test shots, with and without simulated clothing barriers, into a block of Clear Ballistics Gel that has a similar density to 10% ordnance gelatin.  Shot distance is 10 feet.
Step 4)  Run a 600 fps calibration test bb shot into the Clear Ballistics gel block and record penetration depth to verify density.

Test Results:

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

Direct Link to Video On YouTube

My Thoughts on This Load:
As you might expect, I was really disappointed in the performance of this load as tested through the Glock 29.  I fully expected to see velocity measurements lower than the 1290 feet per second velocity specified on the back of the box.  I wasn't expecting the hollow point cavities to completely plug with denim and fail to expand at lower velocities.

Pick or Pan:
This load might be great when fired from a 5.5 inch barrel that allows it to achieve 1290 feet per second muzzle velocity.  With the shorter 3.75 inch barrel of the Glock 29, the terminal performance was pretty dismal.  This load is not a good fit with a short barrel handgun so I will pan this load as a potential carry ammo for the Glock 29.



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.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Remington Golden Saber Bonded 357 SIG Ammo Test and Review


Remington Golden Saber ammunition has been around for a great many years.  The Golden Saber Bonded line, tested here, is a less common variant that Remington markets to LE agencies.  Packed in 50 round boxes, the bonded line is available in all the popular service calibers and several bullet weights.

Remington describes the Golden Saber Bonded, and the core to jacket bonding process as follows:  "Through an exclusive Remington process, the lead core is hot-bonded to the brass jacket. The result is exceptional weight retention - up to 97% when fire [sic] through automobile glass - while maintaining phenomenal terminal performance when shot through heavy clothing or into bare gelatin. And the bonding process does not cause a reduction in accuracy performance - jacket and core concentricity and resulting gyroscopic balance has been maintained to deliver match-grade accuracy."

I've had good experiences in my previous testing of Golden Saber Bonded in 9mm, so I was very anxious to see if the 357 SIG ammunition would deliver the same performance.

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 10 feet.
Step 3)  Run various terminal test shots, with and without simulated clothing barriers, into a block of Clear Ballistics Gel that has a similar density to 10% ordnance gelatin.  Shot distance is 10 feet.
Step 4)  Run a 600 fps calibration test bb shot into the Clear Ballistics gel block and record penetration depth to verify density.

Test Results:

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

Direct Link to Video on YouTube

My Thoughts on This Load:
Remington doesn't specify the test barrel length used for the velocity specification on their website. In this test, the overall average velocity (1343.3) for 10 shots came in just under the specified 1350 feet per second with some shots exceeding and others falling short of the specification.  I'm certain that a 4.5 inch barrel would easily exceed the specification.

Terminal performance across all test cases was very good.  The first four test shots expanded and came to rest within our 12 to 18 inch optimal penetration window.  The fifth test shot expanded fully, but penetrated to a depth greater than 18 inches.

The Golden Saber Bonded has a very shallow hollow point cavity as compared to the non-bonded Golden Saber.  Remington claims this cavity aids in starting the bullet expansion, but also limits the expansion diameter to assure satisfactory penetration.  Based on the results of this test, the bullets appear to be working exactly as designed.

I was quite surprised when I weighed each recovered bullet and found all maintained 98.9%, or more, of their specified starting weight of 125 grains.  1350 feet per second is quite fast for a handgun round in any caliber and I expected there would be some bullet fragmentation, but that was not the case.  This bullet is tough and showed no signs of fragmentation or core-jacket separation.


As I was numbering the bullets, I had them all lined up in the order of their test sequence.  It was interesting to observe that as the clothing barriers increased, the bullet expansion decreased.  This is visible by the height of each recovered bullet.  As expected, as expansion decreased the penetration depth increased.

Pick or Pan:
The Golden Saber Bonded 357 SIG delivered the most consistent terminal performance I've seen so far in my limited testing of the caliber.  I would certainly consider this load a pick for my ammunition needs.  The only reservation I have is the limited availability of the ammunition.  I like to practice with my carry ammunition.  For practice, I could possibly substitute the less costly Remington UMC 125 Grain FMJ and JHP loads that are both listed at 1350 feet per second.  This would mitigate my ammunition availability concerns while also extending my ammunition budget.



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.