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.