Monday, April 29, 2013

Olight M22 Warrior 950 Lumen LED Flashlight Review

The M22 is the latest incarnation of the Warrior series of lights from Olight.  Built with the latest Cree XM-L2 LED technology, the M22 is a reasonably priced and incredibly bright 950 lumen light in a standard tactical light platform.  I'm jumping in with this model so I won't be able to give you any background on the improvements introduced with this model as compared to the previous M20 and M21 models.  I appreciate the folks at Battery Junction for giving me the opportunity to expand my horizons a bit and review this fine tactical light.

The M22 arrives packed in a hard plastic case similar to what you would expect with a fine firearm.  The exterior of the box even includes a serial number sticker that matches what is etched on the light.  I thought this was a really nice touch.

Opening the case, you get your first look at all the extra accessories included with the light.  The compartmentalized foam case interior includes a slip on light diffuser, holster, clip on lanyard, spare O-rings, extra glow in the dark tail switch boot, and CR123A battery magazine along with the M22 light.

Fit and finish quality of the light is outstanding.  All exterior machining and finish application was flawless from tail cap to bezel.  Removing the switch end of the light to install the batteries, I didn't experience any grittiness or tightness with the threads.  The battery compartment was clean and shiny.  The battery contacts both appear to be gold plated.   

The light has 3 pre-programmed brightness levels ranging from 20 to a whopping 950 lumens.  The battery conserving 20 lumen setting is bright enough for general navigation use.  The 250 lumen level is what you would expect from your standard high quality tactical light.  The 950 lumen mode is simply amazing with a fresh set of batteries.  The light also includes a strobe mode with the 950 lumen brightness.

The product specifications shown on the left need some translation.  The light is about 5.75" long and 1.625" wide at the bezel.  Weight is 6.5 oz. with 2 CR123A batteries and jumps to 6.9 oz. with a 18650 battery installed.  Dropping the light into the included holster brings the total weight up to 8.6 oz.  ANSI certified to IPX8 standard it's submersible for limited duration and drop tested to about 6 feet, the light is rugged and won't need to be babied.

I decided to test out the IPX8 water exposure with a somewhat realistic test.  Simulating using the light to change a tire in the rain, I left it out on the deck during a rain shower for about an hour.  Aside from being wet and cold, the flashlight continued to work like a champ.

By this point, I'm really starting to like this light.  In addition to the overall robustness and build quality, I'm really impressed with the user interface programming features of this light.  I previously mentioned there are three available brightness levels and strobe available.  In my opinion, the folks at Olight really nailed the user interface programming by making it VERY SIMPLE.  Here's how it works.
1)  Pick your desired "default" brightness from 20, 250, or 950 lumens.  Let's pick 250.
2)  Turn on the light.
3)  Rotate the light head approximately 1/32 of a rotation and re-tighten to advance through 20, 250, and 950 lumens.  Stop on 250 and turn off the light.
You are done.  If you want to start at 20 or 950, just repeat the steps above but stop on your desired setting.

This next part is what reeled me in on this light.  From the example above, I'm set at 250 lumen output as the default.  To use the light I can:
1)  Half press and hold the switch for 250 lumen temporary on.  A full press is 250 lumen constant on.
2)  I can half press the switch twice and the light jumps to 950 lumen.  Complete the second half press to keep 950 lumen as constant on.
3)  I can half press the switch three times and get 950 lumen strobe.  Complete the third half press to keep 950 lumen strobe as constant on.

That's all there is to control every feature of this light.  See, I told you it was simple.  I should also mention the half presses of the switch are very forgiving.  I did some unofficial timing and even taking up to 1.2 seconds to complete the three half button presses still activated the strobe mode.  I shot a short video demonstrating the user interface of the light.  If my description was confusing, perhaps the video will help.

I really like 2 cell lights that give you a choice of power sources.  As I mentioned earlier, the light comes with a black plastic battery sleeve or magazine in which you can load two CR123A cells.  I had a few spare Rayovac Lithium Photo cells, so they were used during this test.  When used in conjunction with the battery sleeve there was only a tiny bit of battery looseness.  Not enough to cause a rattle.  Alternately, you can use a 18650 rechargeable battery to power the light.  The Cytac battery I had on hand worked well, but was a tiny bit shorter than the two 123A batteries so I had more battery movement at the switch end of the light.  It was enough to cause a rattle with brisk side to side shaking. 
In the picture above you can see the two removable accessories that come pre-installed on the light.  The pocket clip and cigar grip ring/anti-roll ring are both easily removed.  You simply unscrew the switch cap and the ring lifts off.  With the ring removed, the clip can be pulled off the body tube.  The clip indexes with a notch in the flashlight body and has a bump that indexes with the anti roll ring, so if you remove the clip the ring will be free to spin on the tube.  If you remove the ring, there is no replacement spacer included with the light so the inner o-ring is left exposed to the elements.  A replacement spacer would have been a nice to have item included with the light.  Especially if you plan to use the light mounted to a firearm, which I show in the picture below.

For me, the M22 is too large for a daily pocket carry.  While it does come equipped with a pocket clip, I found the 1 5/8" bezel to be too large for comfortable pocket carry.  I think the light is much better suited to belt carry or use as a weapon light.  Fortunately, the folks at Olight include the best light holster I have ever seen with the M22.  The holster is reinforced with a stiffening layer under the nylon shell that allows the holster to keep its shape even when the light is removed from the holster.  The holster also features an open bottom and skeletonized top flap that allows the user to activate the light and inspect something by holding it under the open bottom of the holster.  Alternately, you can insert the light with the switch down and it will protrude from the bottom of the holster allowing you to activate the light and have it shine through the skeletonized top flap.  Basically, you have limited use of the light without having to remove it from the holster with tip up or tip down orientation.  The holster also includes two side mounted elastic spares carriers that will hold 2 spare 18650 batteries or 2 extra CR123A plastic battery sleeves.

As a weapons light, the M22 should be an amazing piece of gear.  As you can see in the picture below, it works quite well with existing mounts.  My left index finger had no problems activating the light in default, high, and strobe settings.  With 950 lumens at the tip of your finger, I can envision raccoon hunters purchasing this light as a gun mounted spot light.  

Olight specifies a 305 meter (1000 Foot) max illumination range.  While I can't physically test that, I wanted to measure what I could and extrapolate what a 1000 foot throw would look like.  I found that the 2, 4, and 6 foot measurements were very consistent so I extrapolated out to the maximum.  I imagine the spill would be gone at 1000 feet.  The hot spot would be about 62 yards wide.

A late night trip on the back deck showed me that I could easily see branches in trees at 150 yards or more with the light at the 950 lumen setting.  I've used this word before in this review, but it's pretty amazing to have that much illumination power in the palm of your hand.  Unfortunately, the light also picked up ever speck of pollen and airborne allergen floating around in our air tonight.  I was elated by the long range performance of the light and disgusted by our early Spring air quality. 

I did spend some time working with the included diffuser.  At 4 feet, the diffuser spread the light to nearly 180 degrees in a 12 foot wide room.  I was really surprised by how effective it was and would love to see a flip up version of the diffuser available.    

As if I needed more reasons to like this light, I wanted to mention two more features.  The first is the stainless steel crenelated strike bezel.  It's a standard feature with the light and could come in handy if you ever need to poke at something or someone with your light.  The last thing I wanted to mention is the Olight 5 year warranty.  For the first 30 days, the light can be returned to the point of purchase.  After that it needs to go back to Olight for service.  They will service their lights beyond 5 years with free labor, but parts and shipping are the responsibility of the light owner.

Pick or Pan:
Considering the build quality, ease of use, light output, and included accessories I found the Olight M22 to be a great buy at the sub $100 retail price.  I would definitely recommend this light to a friend or family member looking for a tactical light.  If you are looking for a belt light or weapon mounted light with multiple brightness settings, strobe, and flood light brightness you should check into the M22.  It might just be the light you are looking for.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

380 Auto FMJ Heavy Clothing Terminal Testing in Clear Gel

You may be wondering why I would bother with such a seemingly uninteresting test.  Really, is there any other ammunition as boring as full metal jacket ammo?  It doesn't expand, fragment, disintegrate, explode, or do any other cool stuff.  I might as well be terminal testing rocks, right?  On the surface all of that is true, but I've always had nagging questions in my mind about 380 FMJ ammunition.  Questions like:
  • How deeply will 380 FMJ penetrate?  Enough, or too much?
  • Is the terminal performance of a flat nose FMJ really better than a round nose FMJ?
  • Are the premium priced FMJ loads better than cheaper target/range FMJ loads?
  • Does a faster FMJ load perform better than a slower FMJ load?
  • What caused the large wound channel that I observed in this previous FMJ test?
In addition to answering my own questions about FMJ terminal performance, I hope to create some new data points for others that have similar questions.  After visiting various internet forums, I've seen folks get tied up in knots over their choice of 380 Auto defensive ammunition.  Others on the forums try to help with the decision making process by providing advice, but that advice is usually split down the middle with one group preferring hollow points and the other group preferring full metal jacket.  These threads usually involve one or more references to various terminal performance tests of hollow point ammunition (maybe even one of mine).  The hollow point crowd touts these tests as proof of excellent performance, while the full metal jacket crowd proclaims the ammunition is garbage due to lack of penetration.

I'm not trying to resolve the 380 Auto JHP vs. FMJ debate.  I'm just trying to plug some gaps in FMJ performance data so people, like me, can make their own informed decisions.

Test Pistol:
Kahr P380 with 2.5" Barrel
Test Protocol:
I wanted to do a true head to head terminal test on all five loads so I cast a much larger 18"x11"x4" Clear Ballistics Gel block for this test that would accommodate all five tests without overlapping shots.  The Clear Ballistics Gel block was verified as calibrated to 10% Ordnance Gel density by means of the standard 600 fps BB calibration test.

Each test shot was set up with the same barrier materials in front of the gel block.  I used 1 layer of 5/6 weight Hermann Oak tooling leather and 2 layers of mid-weight (8 oz) denim in front of the gel block.

All test shots were fired from 8 feet over a chronograph that was 4" or less from the front of the gel block.

Immediately prior to shooting the gel test shots, a 5 round velocity average test was done with the same ProChrono Digital Chronograph used to capture terminal test shot velocities.  Due to limited  ammunition supply, one load was restricted to a 3 round velocity average.

Test Results:
I ended up with five complete individual tests conducted under similar conditions.  Rather than make one very long video that wouldn't be watched, each test was documented individually.  Please feel free to watch as many of them as you wish.  At the bottom of the test data sheets, I've included one more blog exclusive video pointing out the highlights of the five tests.  If you are in a hurry, just jump down to that video. 


Underwood Ammo
100 Grain Round Nose
Velocity < 850 fps
Penetration < 18"
Click Image to Enlarge

Double Tap Ammunition
95 Grain Round Nose
Velocity > 900 fps
Did Not Tumble
Penetration > 18"
Click Image to Enlarge
Remington UMC
95 Grain Flat Nose
Velocity < 850 fps
Penetration < 18"
Click Image to Enlarge

Buffalo Bore
95 Grain Flat Nose
Velocity < 850 fps
Penetration < 18"
Click Image to Enlarge

Buffalo Bore +P
95 Grain Flat Nose
Velocity > 900 fps
Did Not Tumble
Penetration > 18"
Click Image to Enlarge

As mentioned above, I did produce one additional video highlighting the major differences and common characteristics of the tests.  This video is a blog exclusive that won't be going out on YouTube as a public video. 

In the close up photo below, I've identified each round by number.  As you can see I had a good cross section of bullet types represented in this test.
1)  Underwood Ammo 100 Grain RN
2)  Double Tap 95 Grain RN
3)  Remington UMC 95 Grain FN
4)  Buffalo Bore 95 Grain FN - 2011 Purchase
5)  Buffalo Bore +P 95 Grain FN - Current Production

After extensive review of the artifacts left in the gel block, I was ready to propose answers for my original questions.

How deeply will 380 FMJ penetrate?  Enough, or too much?
- In this specific test, we saw penetration depths between 17 to 21 inches.  I'm more comfortable with something on the lower end of that scale.  Depending on your needs, more penetration may be desired.

Is the terminal performance of a flat nose FMJ really better than a round nose FMJ?
- If you gauge terminal performance by wound channel, I would say flat nose was better during the first five inches into the block for bullets that did not tumble.  The flat nose wound channel had visibly more stretch damage than the round nose bullet.  After 5 inches of penetration into the block both wound channels looked very similar.  The one advantage of the flat nose was more initial energy that was dumped into the block faster than the round nose.  Simply put, the flat nose entered faster and stopped quicker than the round nose bullet.

When tumbling took place, the flat nose wound channels looked very similar to the round nose and had similar penetration depths.  I really couldn't declare that one was better than the other.

Are the premium priced FMJ loads better than cheaper target/range FMJ loads?
- Based on this test, I don't see the advantage of premium priced and super fast FMJ loads.  They appear to be more stable and less prone to tumbling allowing them to penetrate too deeply for my tastes.  The good news is that when ammunition supplies return to normal, there are a multitude of 380 FMJ loads available within the velocity range of 850 feet per second.  I pretested many of them HERE.   

Does a faster FMJ load perform better than a slower FMJ load?
- Based on the artifacts left in the gel block, it appears that a slower FMJ load that tumbles will leave a more substantial damage path.  The tumbling also scrubbed off energy and limited penetration to 18" or less.

What caused the large wound channel that I observed in this previous FMJ test?
- Based on the location and size of the wound track artifacts found in the clear gel block, I believe the large wound track in the previous SIM-TEST block was due to a tumbling bullet.  This was the second terminal test with the Remington UMC FMJ FP that displayed evidence of tumbling.

If you follow the blog regularly, you may have noticed that I've tested several full metal jacket loads in 25 Auto, 32 Auto, 32 NAA, and now 380 Auto.  Prior to doing these tests, there really wasn't much data available.  I'm not going to push folks to one side or the other of the JHP vs. FMJ debate, but I hope I've provided a more balanced view with sample tests of both bullet types that people can review before making their own personal choices. 

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.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Another Boberg XR45-S Update

Just noticed the XR45-S exploded parts diagram is up on the Boberg Forum.  Had to grab it and let you all have a look.  It appears to be virtually identical to the XR9-S diagram included in the manual, but I did notice some additions and deletions from the XR9-S diagram.  One thing that jumped out at me is the hole in the barrel appears to be a good 10th of an inch wider.  =)

I promised to keep you updated as things developed.  I wish I had more info for you, like a potential availability date, but it's still too early for that. 

If you are on Facebook, I'm sure Arne and his team would welcome a "Like" from you.  You can find them here.  Boberg Arms on Facebook.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

WHATHolster? In Plain Sight Style Holster Review

WHAT Holsters are custom handmade pouch holsters that are worn on the belt or waistband.  The nice part about the holster is that it completely conceals your pistol and allows for outside the waistband carry.  I had never tried this "in plain sight" type of carry holster before so when Dave Turley contacted me about trying one and possibly doing a review on the holster, I gladly accepted the offer.

For the last two weeks I've been using my WHAT Holster every day.

During the first week, I carried my KelTec P-32 in the holster.  I was really surprised by how easy it was to forget you had the holster on your belt.  Years ago, I carried my cellphone, and before that my pager, on my belt every day.  Within a few days, I found myself back in the habit of threading my belt through the holster while getting dressed each morning.

After a few 7:30am to Midnight carry days, I asked my wife if she noticed anything different about me.  After a hard stare up and down she told me I had something on my hip.  This was the first time she had noticed it so I gave her a quick holster demonstration.

For the second week, I carried my Diamondback DB380 in the same holster.  I think the fit was a bit better with the Diamondback with the grip completely filling the mouth of the pouch.

The three pictures on the left show the holster as it was worn throughout the two weeks.  The shirt I was wearing in the pictures is typical of my daily dress code so most of the time the holster was under my shirt.  I did have a few meetings that required khakis and dress shirt so the holster was completely uncovered on those days.  The holster was never mentioned even when it was clearly visible.

I really liked the carry method after getting accustomed to having something on my belt again.  I also noticed a few significant advantages of this carry method over pocket carry.  I'll list them below in no specific order.

1)  I liked that it was possible for me to access the pistol quickly when seated and even in the car when wearing a seat belt.   
2)  No hot spot on my leg from pocket carry.
3)  I literally forgot it was on my belt within a few minutes after putting it on each morning.
4)  I was able to reclaim my right front pocket for other uses.
5)  Some days I don't leave the house so I typically won't carry on those days.  The WHAT Holster got me back in the habit of carrying ALL the time.
6)  If you need to run into an unfamiliar office, pick up your kid from school, or go into a firearm unfriendly establishment like our local FedEx Depot, you can discreetly remove the holster and its contents while still seated in your car.  The holster provides complete 360 degree coverage of your pistol so it's protected from damage and prying eyes when you place it in your console, glove box, or other stash spot.
7)  The pouch is perfect for backpack or purse carry if you decide to pull it off your belt/waistband, but still want to bring it along with you.

Dave sent me two samples to work with.  I started out using the smooth matte black leather holster with Velcro closure and simple back cuts for 1.25" belt attachment.  It was perfect for my needs and that holster is on the right in these pictures.

The second holster, on the left, was crafted in a slightly glossy black grained leather.  This holster featured a snap closure and dual belt clips on the back.
As I stated earlier, the spartan simplicity of the matte black holster won my preference and after two weeks of constant wear shows no "printing" on the front of the holster, but you can see the muzzle shape starting to form on the body side of the holster.  Since there are no clips or snaps to deal with, this holster requires no lining to keep the metal clips and the back of the snap away from the pistol so it's thinner and lighter than the other holster.

Dave Turley makes each holster by hand to your specific requirements.  Dave uses a $40 flat rate pricing structure for his holsters that is really quite unique.  When ordering you specify the pistol make and model to assure proper sizing, and then you can add as many options as you like to your holster with no additional charges.  Your $40 price also covers your shipping cost.

Dave sent me pictures of his personal carry holster.  I'm including the pictures so you can see a sample of the available brown grained leather and his sewn on belt loops.  Dave carries his Diamondback DB9 with compensated barrel horizontally on his left side as a cross draw holster.  You can also see he favors the Velcro over snap closure hardware.

In addition to black and brown, Dave will also make What Holsters in pink.  According to Dave, some folks use his holsters as pocket holsters.  I can see folks doing that in a cargo pocket or even the back pocket.  It won't be a speedy draw, but at least you'll have your pistol on your person and not sitting at home in your secure storage location.   

Dave is currently working on his web store so orders can be placed by phone or by email.  You can reach the WHATHolster ordering page HERE.

I think this type of holster is a good fit for my personal carry needs so I will continue to use the matte black holster while it's still belt weather.  I'm actually proud of myself for getting back into the habit of daily carry with the help of this holster.  For those that like to carry a bug, Dave's horizontal cross draw style may be appealing to you.

Dave's pricing is very good considering the quality of the holster and all the available 'no additional cost' options.  Dave told me that he will even make you a holster from exotic skins, but there will be an up-charge for the material.  If you have any questions or just can't decide between snap or Velcro closure, just give Dave a call and I'm sure he would be happy to help you with your decision.   

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Federal Premium 38 Special Nyclad HP Complete Test

Over the last 15 months, I've been gradually making progress on standardizing my test protocol and also my test equipment and supplies.  Things will always continue to improve and evolve, but I'm feeling really good about my process and equipment.  Last weekend I decided to do my first comprehensive test with a very special ammunition that is very difficult to find, but is a frequently requested by blog readers and YouTube subscribers.  Many thanks to Justin D. for the assist on securing a box of the legendary Federal 38 Special Nyclad HP that was used for this test.

The Federal Nyclad tested here is often called the "Chiefs Special" load as it was created for use in snub-nose 38 Special revolvers with barrel lengths of 2 inches or less, such as the Smith and Wesson Model 36 Chiefs Special.  This standard pressure load has a soft lead bullet with a very deep hollow point cavity to facilitate expansion at the low velocity generated by the snubby revolvers.  To help avoid excessive barrel leading from the soft lead bullet, Federal encapsulates, or clads, the bullet in a blue nylon casing.  The unique nylon clad bullet is the catalyst of the distinctive NYCLAD name given to this load.

Light weight scandium, aluminum, titanium, and now polymer framed snub revolvers can be a real challenge to shoot quickly and accurately with 38 Special +P ammunition having bullet weights of 125 to 158 grains.  Shooting a standard pressure 38 Special load is a good way to cut down on some of the bark and bite that you get with the light weight snub revolvers and +P ammunition.  The Federal Nyclad, tested here, has been a long time favorite standard pressure 38 Special load.  Unfortunately, general consensus is that Federal only produces this load once per year and if you miss them, you will be out of luck until the next production run.

Test Pistol:
Ruger LCR-LG 38 Special +P with 1.875" Barrel

Test Protocol:
Since this was such a frequently requested test, I decided to do my first comprehensive test that involved 3 test shots into one Clear Ballistics Gel block.  The Clear Ballistics Gel block was verified as calibrated to 10% Ordnance Gel density by means of the standard 600 fps BB calibration test.

Each test shot was set up with different barrier materials in front of the gel block as described below.
Shot 1 - Bare Gel
Shot 2 - 4 layers of mid-weight (8 oz) denim placed in front of the gel block.
Shot 3 - 1 layer of 5/6 weight Hermann Oak tooling leather and 2 layers of mid-weight (8 oz) denim placed in front of the gel block.
All test shots were fired from 8 feet over a chronograph that was 4" or less from the front of the gel block.
Immediately prior to shooting the gel test shots, a 5 round velocity average test was done with the same ProChrono Digital Chronograph used to capture terminal test shot velocities.
Immediately prior to the 5 round velocity average, ambient temperature and relative humidity were measured and recorded with a VWR 4093 NIST Traceable calibrated temperature and humidity pen.

Bare Gel Test Video:

4 Layer Denim and Leather-Denim Stress Tests Video:

Test Results:
Bare Gel Test

   4 Layer Denim and Leather-Denim Stress Test

My Thoughts On This Load:

Federal publishes 830 fps muzzle velocity on the box and we consistently met or exceeded that velocity across all test shots.  With a standard pressure load, velocity is what it is and we have to assume Federal loads this round to max pressure limits.  I did find the load to be more shooter friendly in the recoil department and overall accuracy was fantastic throughout this test.  I did note that the three recovered rounds all weighed slightly different weights.  The lighter the recovered bullet the faster the recorded velocity so I have to assume the velocity variance was directly correlated to the bullet weights.

The expansion of the recovered rounds was not surprising when you remember this loads legendary record of expansion at snub nose velocities.  The bare gel and 4 layer denim test shots both expanded well with the 4 layer test expanding less uniformly and fully when compared to the bare gel test shot.

I would have been very surprised to see the leather-denim stress test shot with any noticeable signs of expansion.  The stress test is a formidable barrier intended to represent a worst case clothing scenario.  The stress barrier completely plugged the hollow point cavity and left it slightly deformed from impact.  What was very interesting was the sizable permanent and stretch cavity left by the unexpanded tumbling bullet.  As the bullet travelled sideways, it left a significantly larger permanent wound channel in the gel block.  The stretch cavity wings were fully 1 inch deep on either size of the permanent channel

Weight Retention:
Weight retention on all 3 sample shots was excellent.  The most significant debris found in the wound channel came from the nylon coating.  The coating cracked as the bullet expanded and was stripped off by
contact with the gel.  The lead bullet did not fragment. 

Observed penetration was right in line with expectations.  With all three shots starting out at similar speeds, the lesser expanding bullets penetrated deeper.  My only question is if the stress tested bullet didn't tumble, would it have made a full 16 inches or more of penetration?  With this load you are compromising penetration depth for reliable expansion at comparative low speeds and also the benefit of reduced recoil.       
The calculated energy of the test shots never fell below the 190 ft-lbs. published on the box.  This puts the load slightly ahead of the standard pressure .380 Auto JHP loads, but significantly lower than the lowest energy 9mm JHP loads.  You could see this low energy signature in the gel block artifacts with very narrow stretch cavities for the two bullets that did expand.   

Wrap Up:
With more available time and financial resources, I would love to make every test a 3 shot test.  Seeing all 3 performance cases side by side really helps you understand the strengths and weaknesses of a specific load.  What this load does well is expand at low speed and doesn't punish the shooter when fired from an ultralight snub revolver. 

Pick or Pan:

While fun to test, I pan this load primarily due to issues with availability.  Even before the current ammo madness started, I tried very hard to locate this ammunition through most of 2012 and never found it in stock.  If I can't practice with it, then I'm not comfortable carrying it. 

The sad part is that I would carry this if I could secure enough for occasional practice.  Shot placement trumps all, and this load turned my LCR into a dream shooter.  I have no doubt that the reduced recoil would improve my ability to deliver fast AND accurate shots on target.  As a substitute standard pressure loading, I will be testing the Federal GM38A 148 Grain Lead Wadcutter Match ammunition at some point in the future.

Post Script - Please Read:
I would really appreciate your feedback on this new test format.  I really do listen and take note of your suggestions and try my best to implement them when and where I can.  Last week it was brought to my attention that Range Elevation, Temperature, and Relative Humidity would be nice things to know about each test.  It was literally almost zero effort to include this data since I had the temp/humidity pen and I just needed to drop it in my camera bag with the rest of my gear.

You guys want denim and barrier testing, but you also love the clear gel.  Barrier and Denim tests are brutal on gel clarity.  I spend a significant amount of time cleaning the gel, but I just can't get it all so it ends up back in the remelted block.  Are you willing to give me a pass on gel clarity in order to include the barrier testing all the time?

This test was really 3 tests combined into one.  I was able to cut some corners by doing both barrier tests as one video, but it was fairly close to the time that goes into 3 individual tests.  So my question for you is would you rather see more single shot tests, or a smaller number of comprehensive tests that cover all 3 test scenarios?

You guys know I don't shoot food, but I do have some clear gel blocks that are reaching 7 or 8 re-melt cycles.  They still test perfect for density, but the clarity is really starting to suffer and it's really fine dust that can't be strained or cleaned out.  What do you think would be a good bone substitute to cast into the block that isn't food?  Would a 1.5" or 2" diameter hardwood dowel work as a bone substitute?  I might even have a local guy drill it out so it's hollow.  This may end up as a 4th test I do on each load so I'd like your thoughts.

Last thing, I promise.  I want you all to know that I encourage you to link the blog and YouTube videos on the various forums you visit.  If a question comes up about a pistol, or ammo, or some other topic I've covered on the blog, please send them here or to the YouTube channel.  I've got a pretty good index system set up on the tabs at the top of the blog so I hope information is easy to find.  I started the blog to be another information resource for folks to turn to when looking for ammo test results with short carry length barrels, fact based gun and gear reviews, and general training ideas for folks that can't commit big dollars for organized classes.  I would appreciate it if you would let people know the blog is here for them.

Thanks in advance for your feedback and for spreading the word about the blog.  I really do appreciate it.

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, April 14, 2013

Surefire LED Upgrade Review - Malkoff Devices M60F from Elzetta

Many years ago, I purchased my first tactical flashlight.  While I had known about the Surefire brand for many years, I never took the plunge and bought one.  That changed back in 2006 when I took delivery of a C3 Centurion. 

At the time, the C3 Centurion was state of the art tactical light technology from Surefire.  The P90 bulb module put out a blinding 105 lumen beam and boasted a 1 hour run-time with 3 CR123 batteries.

I happened to be at a Bass Pro Shops store a few years later and purchased the P91 bulb upgrade listed at 200 lumen with a 20 minute run-time.  All was right in the world.....

Then I purchased my first LED tactical light and everything changed.  I won't go into the incandescent to LED technology transition other than to say it's second only to the VHS to DVD transition in my mind.  I'll sum it up in three words....major technology shift.

Last year, I found myself with a hand-full of really good LED Tactical Lights and one dinosaur from the incandescent days.  At the time of purchase the Surefire C3 wasn't cheap.  It was state of the art and a very rugged light, but now made impractical by technology advancement.  I really liked the form factor and battery capacity of the light, but felt limited by the performance of the incandescent illumination technology.

Enter Elzetta and the Malkoff LED Module.  The Malkoff LED Module offered an upgrade path for the C3 Centurion that would allow me to keep the Centurion in service and also leverage the LED technology advancement.  Elzetta uses the Malkoff LED Modules in their own excellent line of lights.  They also offer the Malkoff LED modules individually as an upgrade for Surefire lights.  I decided to purchase the M60F flood light upgrade module.  The image below shows the upgrade path I took with the C3 and what was gained with light output and run-time.  The Malkoff LED replacement light modules are literally drop in replacements for the Surefire lights.

I decided to go with the 20 degree flood light module because it was very different than the typical focused tactical light with limited spill.  The following 3 photos show the differences between the 3 light modules from a distance of 2 feet.

The M60F flood light module is really pretty awesome.  You can literally light up an entire large room with this light.   I keep this light readily at hand in case things go bump in the night and I need to get up and investigate what's going on.  The combination of the C3 Centurion with Malkoff M60F floodlight module and a Glock 21 mounted Streamlight TLR-2s weapon light provides me with a multitude of tactical lighting options.

If you have an older Surefire incandescent tactical light that you would like to update with LED technology, I would definitely recommend the Malkoff lighting modules available from Elzetta.  The Malkoff LED module cost me about $65 and will pay for itself over time through more efficient use of expensive CR123 batteries.  The added functionality of the wide spill flood light is an added bonus.

I decided to make a short video to show just how fast and easy it is to upgrade your existing Surefire light to LED with the Malkoff Devices LED module.  It really is fast and simple.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

DRT 380 Auto 85 Grain HP Clear Gel Test

The DRT TerminalShock™ .380 Auto 85 grain ammunition used in this test was graciously provided by Wastool.  I've never actually seen this brand in any of my local stores and there are only a few test videos out on YouTube so I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this testThis was also my first test of a true frangible round so please excuse my ignorance of the correct terminology as I performed my visual analysis of the artifacts left in the clear gel block.  What I thought to be small pieces of jacket were actually larger pieces of fragmented bullet core. 

I learned a bit more about the ammunition, and the DRT Company, from their website.  DRT describes their TerminalShock™ pistol ammuntion as follows:
"DRT lead-free projectile is a revolutionary round. The bullet breaks apart on contact with a solid surface. The handgun ammunition is made to be an all-purpose round, disintegrating into a cloud of dust on steel but yet is effective on an organic target. It is a target and a carry round.  Our round can be fired by law enforcement officers without any fear of ricochet or pass through, or fear of injury or death to innocent bystanders from ricochet or pass through.  Calibers currently in production:
.380, 9mm Luger, .40 S&W, 45acp" 

DRT Ammunition is manufactured in the USA and the DRT headquarters/production facility is located in Grant City, Missouri.  If you can't find DRT Ammunition in your local stores, the company runs a direct to consumer sales portal on their main website.  

Test Pistol Specifications

Test Protocol
I take one shot at the end of a Clear Ballistics Gel block that measures approximately 6" x 6" x 16" and weighs approximately 16 lbs.  I take the test shot from 8 feet away and impact velocity is measured with the chronograph less than 2 inches away from the block.  Clear Ballistics Gel is calibrated to 10% ballistics gel density and periodically validated with the standard BB penetration test used with Ordnance Gel.  I shoot the test block at the range and then bring it home to analyze the block and recover the bullet.  Immediately prior to shooting the test block, I conduct a 5 shot velocity test over a ProChrono Digital chronograph.  My testing facility has an elevation of 1,253 feet.

Test Results
The test results are summarized in the data sheet below along with a close up shot of the recovered bullet.

Video documentation of the entire test from range through bullet recovery is available below.  The high definition video is best viewed on YouTube, but you can also view it here.

My Thoughts on This Load
I must admit be being skeptical about this load going into the test.  I found it difficult to believe that a frangible bullet, designed to disintegrate upon impact with hard targets, could still have a core component that would penetrate to a realistic depth for self defense purposes when shot into a soft target.  This one test definitely eliminated quite a bit of that skepticism.  As I thought about what to include in this section of the recap, I went back through many of the previous 380 Auto test results that I previously published.

The one significant benefit of keeping up the blog is the Ammo Tests tab at the top of the page.  With one click on that tab, you can find links to all my previous tests.  Just for comparison, I checked my clear gel test results for my favorite .380 Federal 90 Grain Hydra-Shok.  The DRT load had more energy, and deeper penetration.  I'm discounting expansion of both loads simply because I have no idea how I should measure the recovered DRT round.  The jacket was clinging to the bullet core when I pulled the bullet from the gel, but immediately separated into two unique pieces of core and jacket.  I would have to see similar repeated results from the DRT to believe the recovered round was typical performance for this bullet.  The Hydra-Shok obviously had a higher retained weight because it's not built to fragment like the DRT.

Wrap Up
I still have some left over rounds that I plan to use to repeat the bare gel test and also conduct a leather and denim stress test.  The leather is a formidable barrier and I'd really like to see how much of the bullet gets past the leather and into the gel block.  Part of me wonders if the frangible bullet will actually start disintegrating earlier than it did in this bare gel test.  Another part of me wonders if the leather will plug up the hollow point cavity and cause the bullet to behave as a full metal jacket.  Regardless of the possible potential test outcomes, I'm much more interested in this load now and would really like to see how the larger caliber varieties perform.  Unfortunately, with the ammunition supply pressure it might be some time before I can test any of the larger caliber offerings.

Pick or Pan?
Too early to call this a pick or a pan.  This specific load is definitely worthy of additional testing and introduction of barrier materials in front of the gel block.  Check back for future tests.   


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, April 9, 2013

Beretta Nano Review Part 1B - Range Problems

This was going to be my Beretta Nano Review Part 2 from the range, but unfortunately this is going to just be a little teaser review and I'll follow up with the full range review as soon as I can.  I discovered some issues with my Nano that are detailed below, so as soon as it's back from service I'll run through Recoil-Cam, shooting from many holds and positions, and maybe even a terminal ballistics test or two.

I'll start out with the positives.  I went to my go-to holster companies and secured a Remora Hyde 4A SS holster for appendix carry.  I've been a fan of Remora holsters for quite some time and the introduction of the Hermann Oak leather lining has really improved the product in my opinion.  The holster has more body and feels more comfortable.  It's not as stiff as the kydex reinforced top models so you still need to remove the holster from your waistband for reholstering, but the trade off is that it feels thinner than the original synthetic lined Remora holsters.  I've only worn the holster for a few hours, but you can see in the picture below that the leather holster liner is starting to form to the gun very nicely.  My plan is to use the 8 round magazine and the Remora Hyde IWB holster for appendix carry.

RKBA Holsters has made several holsters for me over the years.  Stephen is really good to work with if you decide you want something a little different than what's listed on the RKBA website.  I asked Stephen to make me a right hand Coyote Brown Kydex pocket holster and include a thumb push-off.  I'm very pleased with the way the holster turned out.  The FDE grip isn't a perfect match with the Coyote Brown Kydex, but I think it still looks pretty good.  At one time, Stephen was making clear Kydex holsters.  In retrospect, that might have looked even cooler than the brown.  My plan is to carry the Nano with the 6 round magazine as a pocket gun in this holster..

On the range, I could tell something wasn't quite right with the pistol.  I really didn't like the feel of the extra long and heavy trigger pull.  This wasn't the trigger pull I was expecting based on feedback from other Nano owners.  I put enough rounds through it to experience a couple failures to extract and called it a day.  Normally I'd run through at least 200 rounds on a review day, but with ammo supply being what it is and the early problems popping up I thought it better to save the ammo for another day.

When I got home, I decided to check the trigger pull weight with my Lyman Digital trigger pull gauge and discovered the weight was running 8.5 to 10 lbs.  Not good at all.  Looking closely, I noticed the slide would creep back a fraction of an inch just before the striker released.  That wasn't a good discovery either.  Beretta customer service told me what to look for and how to diagnose my problem.  The video below documents the range session and also the root cause of the trigger pull problem.

After the Nano Review Part 1 went up on the blog, I had folks ask me if I would demonstrate the process of removing the Nano Chassis from the Grip Frame.  I really wasn't planning on demonstrating that, but I had to remove the chassis from the frame to visually confirm the root cause of my trigger problem.  In the picture below, the red arrow is pointing to the the trigger bar spring.  Normally, this spring lays flat against the grip frame.  Not sure how mine got bent, but it did and is making my trigger pull overly heavy and far too long.

If you were one of the folks asking me to demonstrate the chassis removal procedure, your video is below.  It's really pretty simple and much easier to do than it reads like in the manual.  Parts that drop off the chassis are easily replaced so you don't need to worry about executing the procedure perfectly the first time around.  Learn from my mistake and follow the instructions in the manual about removing and securing the the slide catch spring.  I didn't do that step to save time and ended up spending 20 to 30 minutes crawling around on the floor looking for the spring.  Ultimately, I found it and got the pistol back together.  

I called back into Beretta Customer Service yesterday to explain my problems and also to confirm that my trigger bar spring was bent as they expected it would be.  I also mentioned the FTEs I had on my first trip out.  They want the pistol back for diagnosis and repair so I'll get it sent out this week and I'll pick up with the review when it gets back to me.

Overall this is a bummer but as I said in my video, they can't all be perfect.  So far Beretta Customer Service has been very good about working with me on my problems.  Hopefully, the Nano will be back quickly and I will be able to wrap up the review and make the video on installing the night sights.  Stay tuned....there will be more Nano posts coming in the future.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

PJL Targets Review - More Practical Practice

Last weekend I had the chance to try out some new PJL targets from TRIGGERHAPPYGEAR.COM  Dave Crockett, the Owner of Trigger Happy Gear, sent me a small assortment of targets along with some details about the targets and how they were developed.

"Our unique PJL targets were created by Belgium policeman Francis Dorao.  He created them to appear realistic and almost 3D.  The highly detailed illustrations make the weapons stand out.  These 25 life size targets are 25" x 35" and reflect what you may meet in your real world.  Bad guys come in all shapes, sizes, and variations.  So do these targets!"

The pictures to the left and below show a few of the targets and the video shows a few more targets out on the range.

There are a few things I really liked about the targets that may help my skills improve over time.  The first thing was the lack of immediate visual feedback after every shot.  The bullet holes don't jump out at you like they do when shooting the traditional buff colored paper targets.  In the video you can see that I had to really search to see when my shots landed on the target.  When standing back 7 to 10 yards away from the targets, it's almost impossible to see where the shots land.  Not seeing immediate feedback on where the shots land seems a bit more "realistic" to me.

The second thing I liked was that the targets were drawn at various angles.  With my target stands and my usual IDPA paper practice targets, the target and I square up chest to chest and the target offers me the perfect angle for hits in the center of mass.  If I want to increase the challenge, I can always turn my target stands at an angle, but then I risk shooting through one of the target stand supports.  Check out the dude on the right showing more booty than chest.

The variety, quality, and detail of the targets is really outstanding.  Not that it makes a huge difference at the range, but look at the reflection in the sunglasses and the business end of the revolver in the target to the left.  Presented in life size 25" x 35" format, this again adds a bit more realism to my practice time.

Scoring hits and misses is facilitated by a very faint white chalk outline around the center of mass that's not really visible until you are standing right next to the target.  Even Mr. Booty Butt, in the brown pants and blue shirt above, has a well defined white outline around the "hit" area if you look at the target really closely.

Along with the targets, you can also order some of the overlay sheets for target customization and re-use.  There are 6 different sets of target overlays available, and when combined with the 25 different PJL base targets there are over 5000 possible target variations just waiting for you to create them.  I've included two of my favorite sample customizations on the left.  I also show how I used the overlays to recycle a target for reuse in the review video.

You can see the targets in use at the range in the video below. 

Targets are available a la carte for $1.99 each and the overlay sheets are $3.99 each.  The overlay sheets have between 13 and 22 customization elements per sheet.

The best value buys are the Free Target Bonus Packages.  Dave has assembled target assortments that include extra free targets.

Buy 12 get 2 free
Buy 25 get 6 free
Buy 50 get 15 free
Buy 100 get 32 free

If you are interested in the targets, there is an ad link in the top left column that will take you to the TRIGGERHAPPYGEAR.COM website.    

In the end it all comes down to what you want to invest in your training.  Some folks use paper plates, others use standard silhouettes or bullseye targets.  I like this new option and you will be seeing more of these targets in my future gun review and practical practice videos.  I can definitely see the value in the more realistic target on the left vs. the target on the right.