Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Lights of Lumintop: Two Lights Reviewed

The Lumintop lights reviewed are water resistant to IPX-8 2 meters.  A long dunking for this photo didn't phase them.

Lumintop Lights

Lumintop provided a TD16 and Tool AAA for this review.
Retail prices are $98.98 for the TD16 and $21.98 for the Tool AAA
I have to admit that I wasn't familiar with Lumintop, or their LED lights, prior to them contacting me about doing a review.  Looking through the company history on their website, Lumintop has been designing and producing LED lights since 2010, but only set up their US Amazon store about a year ago.  As I reviewed their current range of lights, I was intrigued by their designs.  It was obvious that Lumintop wasn't simply rebranding generic LED lights, but designing unique lights with some interesting features.  I was hooked.

I asked if I could evaluate the TD16 and Tool AAA lights in a single review.  I thought this pair of lights would cover just about any lighting needs I would have in a typical day.  The TD16 would fill the role of a general purpose tactical/practical light for use around the house.  The Tool AAA would be pocket carried all day for situations requiring just a bit more light.  The two lights proved to be a great combination.

I'll start with some overall comments about both lights.  I think Lumintop is doing a very good job with production and quality control.  With both ends of the price spectrum represented, I really couldn't see any difference in the quality of the two lights.  Both lights were well fitted and finished.  There was no grittiness in the threads and the black exterior finishes were smooth and even.  The stainless steel bezels on the TD16 were highly polished and free of machine marks or scratches.  Even the removable pocket clips were expertly finished.

One thing that caught my eye was a slight difference in the finishes on the TD16 and Tool AAA.  The TD16 finish was a bit less glossy than the finish on the Tool AAA.  My Tool AAA came with two tail caps.  One with the thumb switch and the other with the magnet base.  The finish on the two bases was different.  The thumb switch tail cap matched the rest of the Tool AAA.  The magnetic tail cap has the less glossy finish of the TD16.  It's not a huge difference, but for the fussy the difference is noticeable.      

Lumintop TD16 Tactical Light

The tactical/practical TD16 caught my attention because of the combination tail switch and secondary switch located in the light head.  I'm not a big fan of lights that require a series of rapid switch presses to navigate through various brightness settings and light programs.  Even though it might seem that two switches could complicate the operation of the light, the TD16 is very simple to operate.

The tail cap switch serves a single purpose.  Soft press the switch to temporarily activate the light.  Click the switch to fully activate the light.  There is nothing stealthy about the tail cap switch.  It clicks loudly when the switch is activated.  Click the tail cap switch again, and the light turns off with your last brightness setting stored in memory.

The side switch, located in light head, does nothing until the tail switch is activated.  With the tail switch activated, the side switch cycles through low, medium, and high settings with each fast push of the switch.  Pushing and holding the side switch half a second activates the three secondary programs of strobe, flash (signaling), and slow flash (signaling).  Fast presses in this menu will cycle through the three secondary programs.  A long push of half a second returns the light to the primary menu of low, medium, and high.

The TD16 can be weapon mounted with any 1 inch diameter ring mount.
For practical use, I would set the light on medium brightness and turn it off for storage.  When needed, I would start at medium brightness and adjust as necessary depending on my current lighting needs.  For tactical use, I would set the secondary program for strobe and the primary program for high before turning off the TD16.  If deployed tactically, the light would be activated in high brightness and a long push on the side switch would toggle the TD16 to strobe if needed.

While I have no way to properly assess the brightness of the light and verify the 1000 lumen maxium, I will make some comments on the quality of the beam.  The deep reflector delivers a very bright center with generous spill.  The TD16 easily fills a room with light while maintaining a bright central core for outdoor long range illumination needs.

You can make the TD16 into the light you prefer by adding or removing included accessories.  The clip, rubber tactical ring, and stainless tail bezel can all be mixed and matched to fit your preferences.  Alternately, you can remove them all and the TD16 can be a weapon mounted light when fit into an appropriate 1 inch diameter ring mount.  The TD16 package also includes a wrist strap lanyard, nylon holster, and spare O-rings and tail switch cover.  Oddly, batteries are not included.  You will have to add your own pair of CR123A batteries or single rechargeable 18650.

Lumintop Tool AAA Keychain Light

The Lumintop Tool AAA proves that good things can come in small, make that tiny, packages.  This single AAA keychain light caught my attention because it is fitted with a push button tail cap switch similar to AA and larger lights.  Additionally, the light can be fitted with an optional magnetic tail cap.  With the magnetic tail cap in place, the light can be attached to a metal surface and provide hands-free task lighting.  Reverse the pocket clip and the Tool AAA can be attached to the brim of a baseball cap and function as a headlamp.  It's a nifty little light.

The reversible clip allows you to use the tool as a headlamp.  Note the glow
 in the dark lens ring.
With the push button tail cap in place, the switch must be fully depressed to activate the light.  The switch does not allow for soft press temporary on.  When activated the light starts at medium brightness by default.  Half presses on the switch cycle through low, high, and back to medium brightness.

The Tool AAA with magnetic end cap provides plenty of  hands-free light
for an emergency tire change.
With the magnetic tail cap installed, the light activates when the tail cap is screwed down tight.  Again, the light is at medium brightness when activated.  Loosening the tail cap until the light goes out and retightening the tail cap will cycle through low, high, and back to medium brightness.  A useful tip I discovered is loosening the tail cap by 1/4 turn will turn off the light, yet pushing gently and holding down on the tail cap will activate the light.  If you plan to keychain carry the Tool AAA with the magnetic tail cap installed, you will probably want to loosen the tail cap by 1/2 turn to avoid accidental activation in your pocket.

As with the TD16, I have no way to verify the 110 lumen peak brightness of the Tool AAA.  Commenting on the beam quality, the Tool AAA is more of an area light than a spot light.  A central hot core is there, but spreads quickly as distance between light and target increases.  At the highest brightness level, the Tool AAA can illuminate a room quite well.  At short distance, it will certainly help you find that small item that just rolled off the table landed somewhere on the carpet.

The Tool AAA is available in 3 configurations.  You can order it with push button tail cap, magnetic tail cap, or with both tail caps as reviewed here.  If you don't keep AAA batteries around, make sure you add some to your order because the Tool AAA does not include a battery.

I found the Tool AAA carries great when clipped in that watch pocket that blue jean makers continue to sew into the top of the right front pocket.  That's where I will be carrying mine from now on.  I'll also be ordering a second Tool AAA that will stay in the car with the magnetic tail cap installed.

The TD16 and Tool AAA with their Snickers size comparisons.  The TD16 matches the king size and the Tool AAA is definitely fun size.

If you are interested in learning more about Lumintop lights, I encourage you to visit their website through the link at the start of the review.  I found their website to be exceptional in the information and detailed product views available to the visitor.  Lumintop sells their products through Amazon and have the following promotion available for anyone visiting their website or reading through this review.  Personally, I know a few people on my Christmas shopping list will be getting a Tool AAA from me this year.  Details on the promotion were cut directly from the Lumintop website and I have confirmed the code works correctly when entered into an shopping cart.

Every year Black Friday and Christmas are coming, are you ready? Now here is the surprise that we provide 20% off code special for every our VIP or Subscriber. It can be used for whichever product you choose in our store until 2015-12-31. The coupon is "LMTQGW20" and you can also share the code with your friends or families.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Concealed Carry 1995 and Today

Twenty years ago, my home state established a concealed carry licensing program for residents.  At the time, I was working with someone that had an after-hours firearms dealership business.  He was keen to set himself up as a state recognized concealed carry license instructor so he kept me in the loop on class requirements as they evolved.  As soon as classes started popping up locally, I immediately enrolled.  While I was never certain of the numbering scheme used when issuing the licenses, I believe I was within the first 1000 licenses issued across the state.

Back in 1995 the State required that each concealed carry handgun be listed individually by type and serial number on the concealed carry license.  You were allowed to have up to three firearms listed on your license.  Further, you were required to qualify and demonstrate safety proficiency by the type of handgun(s) included on your license.  From my foggy memory, I believe the two types of firearms were identified as Pistol and Revolver.

In the weeks leading up to my concealed carry class, I was faced with the arduous task of deciding which firearms I would be committed to carry on my first license.  If they allowed three, then I certainly needed to have three on my license.  But which three?  Back in 95, you couldn't go to the internet and tap into the collective experiences of hundreds of other people.  Your information came from printed gun magazines (all unicorns and rainbows with every gun reviewed being GREAT!), advice from your buddies, and whatever happened to be available at your local firearm dealer.

Concealed carry handguns in 1995 along with period correct ammunition.  From L to R:  Smith and Wesson 3913 9mm, Colt Mustang Pocketlite 380 Auto, and Smith and Wesson Model 60 38 Special 
I knew I wanted a pocket pistol, pocket revolver, and a belt gun on my license.  The revolver was a lock.  I had previously purchased a Smith and Wesson Model 60 because "everyone needs a revolver" and the Model 60 was a classic 38 Special revolver.  The pocket pistol was an impulse purchase when my firearm dealer friend mentioned that Colt was winding down production of the Mustang Pocketlite 380 Auto and I could get one for a sweet price.  Compact versions of the Wonder 9's were just coming into their own in the mid-90's so selection was limited.  I ultimately added a 3rd Generation Smith and Wesson 3913 single stack 9mm as my belt gun.

Ammunition selection was easier 20 years ago.  In the age before YouTube ammunition testing you trusted what you read, or what your buddies told you over a few cold beverages.  Winchester Black Talons and Silvertips were the jacketed hollow point rounds to carry.  Snub nose revolvers performed best with Remington 158 grain lead semi-wadcutter hollow points.  That was the beginning and the end of the ammunition discussion.

My ammunition performance skepticism developed many years ago and I will admit to running a few rounds of each of these into waterlogged phone books just to see how they performed.  No denim, no gel, just a single guy with a guest bathroom bathtub full of waterlogged phone books.  Shooting the phone books at the range yielded beautifully expanded bullets covered in wet phone book scraps.  That was a good enough terminal performance demonstration for me at the time.

Holsters were mostly of the leather variety in the 1990's.  I'm sure someone was making Kydex holsters back then, but if you didn't read about it or see it at a gun show it didn't exist.  I discovered the Law Concealment System IWB holster through their Guns and Ammo magazine ad.  It worked well for the 3913.  The Ahern Pocket Natural for the Colt came from a local firearms retailer.  The Blackhawk! holster isn't the original pocket holster I used with the S&W revolver.  I think it was an Uncle Mike's holster of a similar style that was most likely given away or trashed many years ago.

Two of the three holster makers in this photo are no longer making holsters.
By now you are probably wondering why my guns still look new and how I could possibly still have ammunition I purchased more than 20 years ago.  Well, the sad truth is that I'm a bit of a pack rat and also that I just didn't practice with my carry guns and ammo very often.  I ran enough ammunition through them to make sure they worked reliably and practiced enough to assure I could qualify with them.  I didn't feel compelled to train for speed and accuracy.  There, I admitted it and feel better now. 

Our State dropped the specific handgun listing requirement by my first or second license renewal so I wasn't locked in on these three handguns very long.  That turned out to be a good thing because the number of Shall-Issue states expanded greatly in the late 1990's and the handgun manufacturers responded with a plethora of new firearms purposely built for concealed carry.

Transitioning to more recent times, a little over four years ago I started this blog with a goal of writing articles that I would want to read if I happened to find them online.  Fair and honest reviews of guns and ammunition weighted heavily on facts and less on my personal opinions.  If something was great, I would say that.  If something sucked, I'd let you know that too.  It's been an interesting journey through 364 blog posts and 331 YouTube videos.

Having reached the 2,000,000 page view milestone for the blog this week, I had the idea for this article comparing concealed carry 1995 versus what I currently carry in 2015.  To keep things fair, I picked my 3 most carried handguns using the same classifications used in 1995.  Most of these have been reviewed on the blog.  You can find all the published gun reviews listed HERE.

Concealed carry handguns in 2015 along with preferred carry ammunition.  Springfield XDs 3.3 45 Auto, Kahr P380 380 Auto, and Ruger LCR 9mm
For my revolver, there has been no other in my pocket since I reviewed the Ruger LCR 9mm last year.  I like the LCR 38 Special, but appreciate the ballistic advantages of the 9mm in this platform.  My pocket auto of choice is a Kahr P380 380 Auto with factory night sights.  My AIWB belt gun is a Springfield XDs 3.3 in 45 Auto with extended mag if I can pull it off with my clothes that day or flush fit 5 round magazine if I can't.  One thing all three of these handguns have in common is they were reliable, accurate, and easily "shootable" from the very first day I tried them.  Any modifications are limited to sights, grips, or magazine upgrades to increase capacity with any handgun I intend to carry.       
As I was laying out the two sets of pictures, I was struck by the handgun design trends over the last 20 years.  For me, polymer frames have replaced steel and aluminum frames.  Who would have imagined we would be shooting polymer revolvers 20 years ago.  Stainless/brite guns have transitioned to black.  Every handgun type is 2 to 4 ounces lighter now than its predecessor in 1995.

If you follow the blog and YouTube channel you are aware of the extensive amount of ammunition testing I've done over the last 4 years.  If this is your first visit to the blog, the ammunition tests are all cataloged for you HERE.   I've tested each of the loads, shown in the picture, through my handguns and have high confidence in their reliability and terminal performance.  If you stopped me on the street and checked my magazine or moon clip, you would find me carrying these loads at any time of the year.

Holsters have also changed quite a bit in the last 20 years.  The XDs rides at 2 o'clock in the appropriately named Two O'Clock holster from Comp-Tac.  Remora holsters can be used as a clip-less in waist band holster or as a pocket holster.  The Kahr P380 holster features a leather Remora-Hyde lining.  The LCR holster has the stock padded denier lining.

Modern holsters replace moisture absorbing leather with Kydex or water-resistant synthetic fabrics. 
So there's my current rig rundown for all of you that's subject to change at any time if I'm working on a handgun review.  I really do like to carry the review gun as part of the review process, but when the review is complete I'll be back to one of the three choices shown above.  Notice that I'm not proclaiming these choices to be the best available.  I'm proclaiming they are the best available choices for me.

While I'm pretty stoked about the blog crossing the 2 million views milestone, I wanted to let you all know that the blog will be going on hiatus for a bit.  I will be pursuing some commissioned ballistics testing opportunities and also some freelance writing assignments for a much larger blog. With that said, I still reserve the option to drop a content bomb here from time to time as opportunities arise.  I will continue to make and post YouTube videos as time allows.

Thanks for stopping by and reading through my trip down concealed carry memory lane.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Remington HTP 9mm +P 115 Grain JHP Test

There seems to be quite a bit of confusion at Remington at the moment.  The HTP, or high terminal performance, ammunition line is still relatively new.  I'm not really sure if this line replaces the Express line, or is being offered in addition to Express.  The Remington website isn't much help.  This particular load is listed as a .357 Magnum on the HTP ammunition information page.  Regardless, a 115 grain +P load from any of the big 4 ammunition makers gets my attention because it's a rarity.  All the other big ammunition makers catalog a 115 standard pressure 9mm load or two, but Remington is unique with their 115 grain +P load.

For this test, I decided to try this new ammo out in a new handgun.  I opted for the Glock 43 with a 3.4 inch barrel length.

Video Documentation of the Entire Test:

Direct Link to Video on YouTube

Test Results:

My Opinion:
I really don't have much to add other than to express my disappointment in the performance of this load.  Remington publishes a 1250 feet per second velocity for this load when fired from a 4 inch barrel.  Our measured velocity was less with our 3.4" barrel, which is perfectly acceptable and expected.  Unfortunately, this load didn't perform well in the heavy clothing tests when velocities dropped below 1200 feet per second.  This load may perform well when fired from a longer barrel.  For use in the Glock 43, or other subcompact 9mm handguns, there are better options available.

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, August 3, 2015

TRUGLO TRU-POINT - A Quality Weapon Light and Laser for Well Under $100


The TRU-POINT combination laser and light from TRUGLO is a value priced weapon light that can be mounted on a variety of firearms with accessory rails.  The TRU-POINT features a 200 lumen LED light and integral red, or green, laser.  Unlike similar products that house the laser aperture below the LED light, the TRU-POINT laser aperture is integrated into the LED light head.  This unique design reduces the overall size of the weapon light and offers addition protection for the laser aperture.

TRUGLO TRU-POINT Red Laser/Light Combo
- 200 peak lumen flashlight
- 650nm Red Laser
- Next generation, high-efficiency semiconductor laser diode
- Three modes: laser only, flashlight only, and laser/light combination
- Laser located in flashlight housing for a more compact design
- Laser adjustable for windage and elevation
- Interchangeable back plates for right or left-hand use
- Mounts to standard Picatinny, Weaver-style, and additional rails with
  included rail keys
- Quick-detach lever for fast, easy removal
- Remote pressure on / off switch also included
- Lightweight aluminum construction with a 5.4 ounce total weight
- Two-Year limited warranty

With a little web searching you can currently find the TRU-POINT red laser/light for $86.  The green laser equipped TRU-POINT can be found for $146.  At these prices, the TRU-POINT offers the buyer one of the best value weapon lights available.  I appreciate the practical utility of weapon mounted lights so I was really looking forward to finding out if the budget-friendly TRU-POINT would prove to be a robust and reliable weapon light. 

How Laser Sights Work

When I first read about the TRU-POINT, what caught my attention was the concept of integrating the laser aperture into the light head.  Many of the other available weapon lights position the laser below the light head.  It may not seem like a big change, but I thought it was a brilliant idea because it would help minimize one of the disadvantages of combination weapon lights and lasers.

The iron sights, that sit on top of the slide of a handgun, do a good job approximating the bullet point of impact at distances between 3 and 25 yards.  This is because they are positioned directly over the barrel of the handgun and offer a line of sight that is parallel with the barrel.

In the photo above, I've illustrated how laser sights work.  With combination weapon lights and lasers, the laser aperture sits much further away from the barrel and must project the laser beam at an angle to approximate where the bullet will impact the target.  The farther away from the barrel, the steeper the angle will be.  Getting a laser sighted in at a known distance isn't a problem.  The problem comes when using the laser sight on targets that are closer, or farther away, than the initial sight-in distance.  If you are too close and use the laser, you may shoot too high.  Using the laser at longer distances may cause you to shoot too low.

Any design change that moves the laser aperture closer to the barrel will reduce the angle of the laser projection.  Reducing the angle will allow the laser to accurately approximate bullet point of impact at a greater range of distances.  That's a big selling point for me.                
What's In The Box

The TRU-POINT kit is impressive.  The hard case, with fitted foam insert, includes everything you need to mount the TRU-POINT on any firearm with an accessory rail.  The unit is powered by two CR123 batteries which are included.  

The TRU-POINT unit is nicely finished in a low-shine matte black coating.  The light head appears to be a sealed unit with a deep reflector that has an orange peel surface.  The light is bright, but I lack the measuring tools required to verify the 200 lumen brightness.  The light throws a large center hot-spot with plenty of edge spill to illuminate a wide area.

The TRU-POINT operates in three modes.  Light only, laser only, or both light and laser.  TRUGLO includes 3 back plates with the TRU-POINT.  All three plates have a vertical 3-way toggle switch to select the mode of operation.  The toggle switch is covered with rubber bootie, which I'm assuming is for water resistance.

A remote pressure switch back plate is included with the TRU-POINT.  That's a nice touch because it's usually an extra accessory you need to purchase with other weapon lights.  Left-hand and right-hand back plates are also included.  Unlike the remote pressure switch back plate, these plates have a lever switch.  Push the lever up for momentary on.  Push the lever down for constant on.
TRUGLO includes 3 different rail keys to accommodate a variety of rail systems.  My only complaint with the TRU-POINT is that the rail keys are not labeled or marked in any way.  The only way to know which key will work with your rail is by finding it through trial and error.  Also, a 2mm hex key is provided to remove the screw holding the rail key in place.  My TRU-POINT had a phillips head screw holding the rail key in place.

With the proper back plate and rail key installed, the TRU-POINT can be mounted on the firearm.  The TRU-POINT has a quick detach lever and spring loaded rail clamp that makes mounting and removing the TRU-POINT a tool-less process.  After trying the TRU-POINT on a variety of rails, I found it easiest to position the fixed rail clamp first and roll or squeeze the spring loaded clamp over the opposite side of the rail.  (demonstration video below)  Closing the quick detach lever locks the TRU-POINT to the firearm.

I tried all three back plates and they all worked perfectly.  My personal preference is the left-hand activation back plate which allows me to activate the TRU-POINT with my off-hand thumb.  

TRU-POINT On The Range

For range testing, I mounted the TRU-POINT on a 40 S&W Glock 22.  My test ammunition was 175 grain Hornady Critical Duty.  Testing in full sun, I put a small piece of 3M reflective tape on my IDPA cardboard target to increase the visibility of the laser down range.  Prior to leaving the house, I had adjusted the windage and elevation of the laser to match the Glock sights.  After my first group, it was necessary to make small adjustments to elevation and windage.  Using the included hex keys and adjustment screws on the underside of the TRU-POINT, my next group was dead on target.

After 100 rounds of full power ammunition, removing and reinstalling the TRU-POINT between strings, and activating the TRU-POINT in all six modes of operation I was satisfied that this handgun and weapon light worked very well together.  I didn't experience any laser point of impact drift and the quick detach lever held the TRU-POINT securely in place under the stress of recoil.  The light and laser continue to operate exactly as they did before being subjected to shooting stress.  The TRU-POINT proved to be a quality weapon light that's currently available at a very modest price.

If you are considering a weapon light, you might want to add a TRUGLO TRU-POINT to your shopping list.  When you consider the unique design, everything included in the kit, and also the two year warranty it certainly appears to be a great buy. 

I didn't have the chance to range test the TRU-POINT in this configuration for the review, but I will be getting another for shotgun duty.  Maybe green this time.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Terminal Testing Rubber Buckshot

This is another one of those tests that I've wanted to do for years, but never got around to doing.  The tipping point came two weeks ago when one of the main characters in HBO's True Detective Season 2 got blasted twice in the chest with rubber buckshot.  The first shot, from across the room, sent our hero to the floor.  The masked villain then follows up with a nearly point blank second shot.  Ray, the receiver of the rubber buckshot, describes his injuries as cracked ribs and a sore heart from the buckshot hitting his sternum.  Having a box of rubber buckshot available, I decided to head out to the range and see if rubber buckshot could possibly cause such injuries at the distances shown in the True Detective episode. 

Herter's is the house ammunition brand at Cabela's.  Since it's a private label, we will never know for sure who manufactures the ammunition, but we do know it was made in Italy.  Cabela's describes the ammunition as follows: "Rubber buckshot for non-lethal self-defense and animal deterrence. Not for use in semiautomatic shotguns. Loaded in Italy to the highest standards in consistency and reliability, Herter’s has the perfect load for home defense or practice at the range. Using high-quality powder, shot and hulls, these unique loads deliver excellent dependability and performance at an affordable price."

The shells were exceptionally light in recoil due to their lightweight payload.  Very light loads that generate little recoil can't reliably cycle semi-automatic shotguns.  This ammunition is suitable for use in pump action shotguns and break open shotguns that do not have an inertia reset trigger.

Anatomy of the Shotshell:

High brass plastic hull

11.1 grains of powder with characteristic square flake design of Baschieri & Pellagri of Italy.

Two-piece plastic wad column weighing 45.2 grains.  The shorter wad piece seals the powder in place against the primer until firing.  At ignition, this piece also forms the gas seal allowing the expanding gasses to push the shot down the barrel.  The larger wad fills the interior space of the shell while cushioning the shot at time of firing.

Nine .328" diameter rubber shot weighing 6.6 grains each.  59.4 grains total.

7.1 grain clear plastic over shot card that is roll crimped over the buckshot to hold it in place.

Video Documentation of the Actual Tests:

Direct Link to the Test Video on YouTube

Test Recap:
This is the value added section for folks that read the test recaps in addition to viewing the video.  Some important test results are undiscovered on the range and are found later when putting the video together, or when I'm tearing down the gel blocks.  Occasionally, I'll consult with others to make sure my thoughts and opinions aren't totally off base before writing up the recap.  The videos are entertaining, but I really hope the recaps are both entertaining and educational.  

So were the injuries Ray described realistic?  Could a single round of rubber buckshot send a grown man to the floor from 15 feet away?  I'll tell you what, I have to give HBO credit for doing their homework.  I was really impressed by how realistic some aspects of the show were when compared to what I observed and documented during testing.

I'll start with the not so realistic thing first.  Based on the results observed in our test shot taken from 15 feet away, it's not realistic to expect someone to drop to the floor incapacitated from a single round of rubber buckshot delivered center of mass at that distance.  After consulting with Charles Schwartz, my guru of all things ballistic modeling related, it is realistic to expect the buckshot to hurt like heck at that distance.  Also, individual shot pellets could possibly break, or penetrate, skin at our measured average velocity of 804 feet per second if the shot doesn't come in contact with significant intermediate clothing barriers.

What I found to be very realistic where the injuries described, and the condition of Ray's clothing, after taking the second round of rubber buckshot at a distance of 10 to 15 inches.  This photo series came from the high speed camera footage.  In the first photo, you can see the stretch cavity forming in the gel from the energy deposited by the buckshot and wad column.  The artificial bone has been pushed to the left side of the stretch cavity and has snapped into two pieces along the lateral mid line. 

In photo two, you can see the ends of the two artificial rib pieces more clearly.  The lateral break can be seen as a gap between the upper and lower artificial rib pieces.

It wasn't really clear to me if the artificial rib had snapped because of contact made by the rubber buckshot and plastic wad, or because of stress applied to the rib by the expanding gel.

What I discovered after removing the rib pieces from the gel, gave me additional insight into the rib damage.  In addition to the clean lateral break, I found stress cracks on the rear of the artificial rib.  This localized damage, highlighted by the red arrows, matches up with pellet and wad strikes found on the front of the artificial rib.  With this additional information, it certainly seems possible that a close range shot could damage ribs.

One final observation on the test results dealing with the number of pellets that actually penetrated the gel in both test shots.  Oddly, we had three of nine shot pellets enter the block in both gel tests.  I'm left wondering if this was a coincidence, or possibly due to other factors that allow some pellets to penetrate while the others bounce away after impacting the gel.  Could the heat and stress of firing cause some pellets to soften, or harden, and make them better suited to penetrate the gel?

The last photo shows the wad column and three rubber buckshot recovered from the close range test shot.  The gas seal portion of the wad has shirt material stuck to it.  The filler wad was mashed and flattened against the artificial rib.  Three rubber buckshot were resting against the front of the artificial rib.  Total recovered weight of all projectiles penetrating the gel was 66.5 grains.  Most of that weight was the wad column.

At the start of this test, I had no practical knowledge or experience with rubber buckshot.  After running the tests, I think it is unrealistic to expect rubber buckshot will send someone to the floor from a center of mass shot taken from 15 feet away.  It certainly made for a more dramatic scene, but our test results didn't match up with what was depicted in the show.  Most importantly, I also learned that rubber buckshot should be used with care and common sense.  Just because the ammunition is labeled as non-lethal, you shouldn't assume that it is non-damaging or non-lethal at all distances.  At very close range, the test results showed a much different terminal result with indications of significant internal injury.  Our close range test results matched up well with the injuries described in the show.                 

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, July 13, 2015

SunJack Solar Power Charging and Lighting Solutions Review

SunJack products are available through their

SunJack is the consumer products arm of Gigawatt, Incorporated.  California based Gigawatt has been sourcing, designing, and installing solar power products for almost a decade.  Leveraging that experience, SunJack designed their first portable solar products and raised their initial funding through a Kickstarter campaign in 2014.

The mission at SunJack is to bring portable energy independence to people around the globe.  Since the company launched in 2014, they have developed a catalog of a dozen solar and LED light related items.  The diverse products should appeal to a broad range of consumers.  SunJack products are assembled in the USA and ship from their California headquarters.

I'll admit that I have a long-standing interest in solar power.  When I was growing up in the 1970's, I was old enough to understand the Oil Embargo and watched with interest as advances were made in solar power during that time.  I liked the concept of a solar powered car, home, or business, but always lacked the conviction to follow though on a solar implementation of my own.  When the folks at SunJack asked if I would be interested in reviewing their products, I thought it would be a great opportunity to see how solar power collection equipment had progressed in the last 30 years. 

After checking out the SunJack product catalog, I requested the Waterproof LightStick and 14 Watt Solar Charger for review.  Reading through the product descriptions, I thought these two items would be perfectly complimentary as a lighting solution in the event of a long-term power outage.  The Solar Charger could be used to harvest power during the day to recharge the Waterproof LightStick for use after the sun went down.

I didn't anticipate using these items on a daily basis.  My review plan was to assure these items were indeed complimentary, and would provide a battery-free emergency lighting solution.  They passed that test with flying colors, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.  What I didn't expect was how frequently I would use both of these items on a daily basis.

I have use demonstration and review videos up for both items individually.  The videos cover many of the main design features of both items in much more detail than I could possibly cover is this write up.

SunJack Waterproof LightStick Video Review

Direct Link to Video on YouTube     

SunJack 14 Watt Solar Charger Demonstration Video

Direct Link to 14 Watt Solar Charger Video on YouTube

To wrap up this review, the Waterproof LightStick and 14 Watt Solar Charger perform perfectly together.  Setting the charger out in a sunny area, or even a sunny spot inside the house, for several hours fully charged the LightStick and Solar Charger 8000 milliamp external battery pack.  As a one time purchase for disaster preparedness, I think it's worth the $195 investment.

Going beyond the review, I find myself using the Solar Charger as part of my photography and video kit with increasing frequency.  With so many cameras, and the smartphones/tablet that control them, it seems like something is always low on power.  I've used the Solar Charger to top up charge on several occasions.  I just set it out on the ground and attach whatever needs to be charged, or attach the external battery pack to the device in need of power.  It now has a permanent home in my range bag. 

SunJack products are available through their website, select retail outlets, and online retailers.  As always, shopping around may save you some money.

The Waterproof LightStick can be submerged in water to a depth of
6 feet.  Leaving it out in the rain for hours didn't bother it.
The back of the Solar Charger has a built in cable management pouch
and elastic loop to secure the 8000 milliamp power storage battery.


Dual 2 amp USB outlets will charge up to two electronic devices at
the same time.  Even power hungry tablets.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Ammunition Test - Hornady Critical Defense 10mm Versus 9mm

The Critical Defense line from Hornady was created for concealed carry pistols that typically have barrels that are shorter than service length pistols.  The entire line has been optimized for short barrel pistols and features nickel plated brass for corrosion resistance and slick feeding.  Propellent powder is low flash to protect night vision and also generates lower felt recoil.  The FTX bullet has a red polymer plug inserted into the hollow point cavity during production that aids in expansion when the bullet is fired into heavy clothing barriers like denim or leather.

This is one of those tests I've wanted to do for a long time.  As a newbie to 10mm, I wanted to set up a controlled test to see the terminal performance differences between 10mm and 9mm when both were fired from barrels less than 4 inches in length.  After securing handguns in 10mm and 9mm with similar barrel length, I had to decide which ammunition to test.  I opted for Critical Defense because it is very popular, I had it on hand, and Hornady only makes one load in each caliber.  With a box of each in hand, it was off to the range to run the test.

Test Pistols:

Glock 29 Gen 4 10mm with 3.77 inch barrel

Springfield XDm 9mm with 3.8 inch barrel

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 multiple test shots, with and without simulated clothing barriers, into a block of Clear Ballistics Gel that is calibrated to 10% Ordnance Gel density.  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.

Test Results:

10mm Data Sheet

9mm Data Sheet

Video Documentation of the Entire Test:

Direct Link to Video on YouTube

My Thoughts on This Test:

The five shot velocity test results for the 9mm were right on the money.  The five shot average actually exceed the 1140 feet per second published by Hornady.  Switching over to the 10mm, the story changed.  Hornady publishes 1225 feet per second for the 10mm load when fired from a test barrel of unknown length.  We recorded 1081 feet per second from our 3.8 inch test barrel.  

Looking at the bare gel test shots first, this is a classic example of why many prefer a heavier and slower bullet over a faster and lighter one.  The 165 grain 10mm bullet expanded to a greater diameter than the faster and lighter 9mm, but the 10mm penetrated deeper into the gel block.  The heavier bullet had more inertia and took longer to stop than the lighter bullet.  Both bullets expanded completely.

When comparing the "hoodie and tee shirt" test shots, the 10mm again expanded to a greater diameter and penetrated deeper than the 9mm test shot.  Both recovered bullets expanded fully.

After the first two test shots with the 10mm and 9mm, the 10mm terminal performance was indeed better than the 9mm.  The 9mm performance was good, but the 10mm expanded to a larger diameter and penetrated deeper in both test scenarios.

Terminal performance changed dramatically for the 10mm with the introduction of 4 layers of 15 ounce denim in front of the gel block.  Both denim test shots failed to expand.  The downside of a heavier and slower bullet is that it takes longer to stop when it doesn't expand.  In this case the one recovered bullet that failed to expand penetrated more than 29 inches into the gel, greatly exceeding our ideal 12 to 18 inches of penetration.  Reviewing the high speed camera footage, I noted that both denim test shots tumbled as they passed down through the gel block.  If they didn't tumble, the Schwartz modeled penetration was greater than 36 inches.  This is double our 18 inch maximum ideal penetration depth. 

Conversely, the 9mm terminal performance was very good.  Both test shots expanded fully and penetrated to a depth greater than the 12 inch minimum.

In total, I found the 10mm performance to be disappointing.  I lay the blame for that disappointment on the lack of velocity generated by this load in our 3.8 inch test barrel.  It's definitely not a 10mm load I would consider carrying if heavy clothing barriers are anticipated.  With other 10mm ammunition choices available, I'm going to keep looking for one ammunition that performs well in all seasons.

I believe this was my first terminal performance test of 9mm Critical Defense in a barrel length longer than 3 inches.  The extra barrel length increased velocity and allowed the bullets to expand to a larger diameter than I have previously observed.  Even with full expansion, the bullets penetrated well.  Some may argue the "hoodie and tee shirt" test came up short on penetration, but I'd like to see at least one more test shot before eliminating this load from consideration when light clothing barriers are anticipated.        

Disclaimer....This test should not be considered an endorsement or recommendation for the product(s) tested.  All tests represent actual performance in ballistics testing media.  Terminal performance in all other media will show different results.  It is up to each individual to make their own personal decision on which specific ammunition to use for their needs.  It's also critically important to test any ammo in YOUR SPECIFIC FIREARM before relying on it for any purpose.

Ammunition labeled as +P or +P+ should only be used in firearms that have been certified by the manufacturer as safe for the additional pressures generated by these ammunition types.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Nanuk 910 Single Pistol Case Review

NANUK Protective Cases Website

NANUK Protective Cases are manufactured by Plasticase in Canada.  Pasticase makes a large variety of injection molded plastic cases for use in many industries.  The NANUK line of cases are built for extreme duty and are the most robust cases.  The cases are TSA certified for air travel and come in 20 different sizes.

I own a few injection molded plastic cases from other manufacturers.  Their quality ranges from downright cheap and flimsy,  to built to withstand a beating with a baseball bat.  I've always been curious how the NANUK cases would compare to other cases I currently own and use.

Quality injection molded cases aren't cheap.  Particularly those that are IPX certified as dustproof and waterproof.  NANUK cases have a long pedigree of industry certifications that can be viewed on their website.  They definitely represent the upper levels of quality and cost in the injection molded case market.  I recently purchased a NANUK 910, on dealer closeout, that included a custom foam insert for full-size Glock handguns.  For $39.99, it was just too good a deal to pass up.

The internal dimensions of the 910 case are 13.2"L x 9.2"W x 4.1"H.   I'll start with a quick discussion of the custom foam insert.  It's awesome.  A perfect fit for a full-size Glock, like the G22 shown in the picture.  The insert holds three magazines (with one in the gun) and has additional area for accessories.  They certainly made good use of the available space inside the case.  The accessory space can easily hold a box of ammo.  I stored my .357 Sig and 9mm conversion barrels and a battery box containing a TRUGLO MicroTac laser, spare batteries, and the wrenches to attach/adjust the laser.  Standard NANUK cases can be purchased without foam, with padded dividers, or with cubed foam allowing the user to create their own custom interior.   

The picture to the right shows a close up of the features I found most unique with this case.  These features can be found on all NANUK cases.

The case handle has a soft grip insert and the handle folds down and locks in place for storage and transport.

The Powerclaw latch system holds the case securely closed.  The latches are very easy to open by depressing locking tab in the center of the latch while lifting the latch.

An automatic pressure release valve and two padlock holes are standard on most high end transport cases designed for air travel.  Both features are designed into NANUK cases.

Plasticase uses a proprietary NK-7 plastic resin for their case shells that is strong, but lightweight.  Compared to similar injection molded cases, the case walls do appear to be thinner and overall case weight is lighter than I expected in a case this size.  If weight is a concern, the NANUK website has detailed size and weight specifications for all case sizes.

In total, I'm extremely satisfied with the NANUK 910 and custom Glock foam insert.  I will certainly consider the NANUK brand for my future case needs.  At the time of publication, this specific case was still available at closeout price.  I'll post the link to the retailer in the comments below.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Ruger 22 Charger Takedown Pistol - It's Competition Ready

Ruger Charger

The Ruger 22 Charger Takedown Pistol can be considered the second generation of Charger pistol.  The previous Charger always reminded me of a semi-auto version of the Remington XP-100 pistol, but just in the way the stock looked.  Very futuristic with really swoopy curves.  The newest Charger trades away some of that futuristic look in exchange for enhanced customization options and some interesting new features.

The Charger Takedown, reviewed here, leverages the same takedown functionality of the 10/22 Takedown Rifle.  After an initial user setting of the "adjustment knob" the barrel half of the pistol can be removed and reinstalled very easily.  No tools are required and Ruger provides excellent instructions on the takedown and reassembly process.

At its core, the Charger Takedown is a 10/22 rifle that has been modified to pistol form.  That's a good thing from the standpoint of reliability.  10/22 rifles have earned an enviable reputation for shrugging off shooting grime and running for thousands of rounds between cleanings.  The Charger uses the same 10/22 rotary magazines as the 10/22 rifle.  Many of the same customizations available for the 10/22 rifle will also work with the Charger pistol.

For the review, I limited my customization to a single change.  I swapped out the factory trigger assembly for the Ruger BX-Trigger assembly.  This lightened the trigger pull by almost a pound and a half.  The resulting 2 pound 12 ounce trigger fell right in the middle of the 2.5 to 3 pound pull weight specified on the BX-Trigger packaging.  My only mildly negative comment about the trigger is that I wish it included an automatic bolt release instead of the standard Ruger bolt lock.  The space between the front of the trigger guard and extended magazine release is pretty small for my fat trigger finger.  This makes manipulating the bolt lock a challenge for me.

The Charger Takedown has a 10 inch 1/2"-28 threaded barrel and will accept any similarly threaded noise abatement device or muzzle break.  Ruger supplies a thread protector if you choose to use the Charger without a muzzle accessory.  I didn't attach anything to the barrel during the review, but I did remove and replace the thread protector a few times just to see if it would stay tight under firing stress.  It did.

The Green Mountain Laminate stock and fore-end look really good with the black barrel and receiver.  The integral pistol grip of the past Charger has been replaced with an A2-style pistol grip.  I will admit, I'm not a fan of the factory grip.  It might work for some people, but the upper finger hump is in the wrong spot for my hands.  Too low for one finger above the hump and too high for two fingers above the hump.  It will be replaced with a plain grip, or a grip with more and smaller finger grooves.  Ruger made the pistol grip an easy part to change.        

The Charger Takedown doesn't have any factory installed sights.  It does have a factory installed Picatinny rail for whatever sight you plan to install.  During the review I used a zero power SeeAll Open Sight and a Bushnell 3x9 Sportview target scope in UTG Max Strength Quick Detach rings.

On my first trip the range, I used the SeeAll Open Sight for some preliminary accuracy testing at 25 yards.  After some initial adjustments to the sight, I was easily hitting quarter-sized spinning steel targets at 30+ yards.  I knew right then that this pistol was pretty special.  It would still be months before I fully realized how special it was.

After my first trip out to the range, I decided to use the Charger as my Limited Class pistol at the Arkansas State NSSF Rimfire Challenge shoot.  I thought it would make a nice addition to the review and I'm far from competitive at these speed shooting events.  It was also a good excuse to run several hundred rounds of my dwindling stash of .22 LR ammo through the Charger.

I had a few early reliability issues with some of the bulk pack ammunition.  Mostly stove pipe ejection failures with Federal Champion bulk pack ammo.  For competition, I used CCI Mini-Mags and ejection failures disappeared.  After 1000+ rounds through the Charger, it will now feed, fire, and extract anything I put into it.  Even subsonic match target ammunition.

Many years ago, I was an active participant in NRA Smallbore Rifle and Pistol Silhouette matches.  These matches involve shooting steel animal silhouette targets at ranges of 40 to 100 yards/meters with 22 LR rifles and pistols.  The course of fire and time limits are the same every time.  Precision marksmanship is more important than speed for high scores.  We've been talking about starting up NRA Smallbore Rifle and Pistol matches at my local range as a way of getting more youth involved with shooting sports.  I thought the Ruger Charger would be a great low cost smallbore silhouette pistol for the Smallbore Hunter's Pistol and Unlimited Smallbore Standing Pistol matches.

After the NSSF Rimfire Challenge was over, I removed the SeeAll Open Sight and replaced it with a 3x9 target scope suitable for Silhouette competition.  On a rare perfectly calm day, I spent the afternoon finding the scope adjustment settings for 40, 50, 75, and 100 yards.  Just for grins, I tried some Wolf Match Target ammunition through the Charger at 100 yards.  The target on the right shows the results of that 100 yard testing.  After adjusting the the scope near the bulls eye, I had 6 shots cluster into less than 7/10ths of an inch.  I knew the Charger was a pretty accurate shooter, but this result at 100 yards was mind-blowing.

The accompanying video review has some video footage of me shooting the Charger at 40 yard chicken and 50 yard pig silhouettes.  The Charger was certainly up to the task.  I think it's a perfect starter pistol for new NRA Silhouette competitors.  If it catches on with competitors, maybe Ruger will put out additional variations of the Charger with longer barrels and silhouette iron sights.           

Direct Link to Video on YouTube

If silhouette matches aren't your thing, you might enjoy using the Charger for hunting or pest control.  At 25 yards it was accurate enough for those tasks with CCI Mini-Mag hunting ammunition.  With the included bipod installed, you will always have a solid rest available.

The Charger Takedown has a MSRP of $409.  Current street prices are closer to $350.  The BX-Trigger retails for $89.99, but can be found for less with some internet searching.  I'll go out on a limb here and close this out by saying if you are looking for a 22 pistol with the accuracy of a 22 rifle, check out the Charger and BX-Trigger upgrade.  The combination definitely raised my expectations of accuracy from a factory 22 pistol. 

Threaded barrel and included thread protector loosened for the picture
The under-barrel locking lug mates with the action and locks up tight

The Charger can use all flavors of 10/22 magazines
You will need to add your own sight to the Charger.  Ruger provides the base.

The Charger Takedown comes in a fitted case