Friday, September 18, 2015

"Baby Rock" Rocks, Baby



Newt faces a hard choice, big 1911 or little 1911...if she only had a thumb!

Let's dig into this...


The Rock Island "Baby Rock" .380

You probably got the impression that I liked the Rock Island "Baby Rock".380 when I shot it at SHOT (so to speak). I do. As I've mentioned before, I was very fond of my now long gone Colt Mustang and beat myself up for not getting one of the Colt "Government Model" .380s when they were overpriced and available (after beating myself up for not snagging the first mini 1911, the Llama IIIa/Micro Max, for kibbles and bits because I was pissier then and thumbed my nose at Spanish semiautos which were, after all, made of Silly Putty).


The Baseline, a Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless

So when Martin Tucson told me RI was going to do a little 1911 .380, I jumped at the chance to get one ASAP. I looked at the Browning 1911 in .380, which is a bit larger than either the original Colt or the new RI (see specs below), and I was considering getting one when I talked to Martin about the Baby Rock. My baseline, as you all know, is the Colt 1903/1908 Pocket Hammerless, which I consider the standard for small carry pistols. Browning knew instinctively that the biggest issues with a concealed carry pistol were width and butt. The 1903 is really skinny, and the butt is rounded...take note, little grasshoppers!

Both the RI and the Browning fall within that 1903 standard, but the Baby Rock excels. It has a slightly skinnier and more rounded profile than my regular "carry at home" pocket .380, the Kahr CW380 (which is slightly skinnier and more rounded than the Sig P238). I think of guns in the baby Rock/Browning/1903 Colt despite it name size category as holster, rather than pocket, pistols...maybe back in 1903 gentlemen had larger pockets!

Colt "Government Model" .380 in stainless

First, let's talk a little about the niche in which the Baby Rock belongs. Remember a couple of years back, when Ruger introduced the LC380, the smaller caliber version of their successful LC9? I was initially puzzled, but after I started putting rounds through the LC380, I got it.


"Baby Rock" (top) and the Sig P238, one of the best pocket .380s ever

The current generation of pocket .380s, led by the Ruger LCP, are what I think of as "2 finger" pistols, meaning I can only get 2 fingers on the grip.  This will always limit the practical accuracy of the gun. For what we think of as "self-defense" distances, out to say 7 yards, no problem — especially with the Kahrs and Sig P238s with their excellent sights. Outside those ranges, shots become a bit for problematical. Can you make a 25 yard shot with a pocket pistol? On that super-cool perfect day, probably…after all, the late and truly great Bob Munson broke balloons at 100 yards with a snub revolver. Of course, he stacked up a LOT of brass on the ground to get those shots!

I noted that the LC380 and the Glock 42 were absolute sweethearts to shoot, a pretty substantial difference from the buck and roar of the mini-9mms with full power self-defense ammo (I compared Corbon DPX .380s with DPX 9mms, sort of an apple to crabapple comparison). Given that I think .380 self-defense ammo is pretty good these days, I could see the utility of the super-sized .380s, especially in the case of someone who would not commit to putting enough rounds downrange to master the mini-9mms. Sometimes I'm afraid that's most of the people carrying them! LOL!


"Baby Rock" compared to a full-sized Government Model...btw, the 1911 pictured is an interesting story in tis own right, one of the few 9 X 23s.

As I've discussed at length on the podcast, I think we've transitioned to a universe where we as armed civilians might be called upon to make a longer shot., as has happened in recent months. One of the other advantages of the super-sized .380s is that it's easier to make that longer shot. To prove my hypothesis, I quickly took the Baby Rock down to my range and shot on 25-yard IPSC steel silhouettes and had no problem making center mass hits with 90 grain ARMSOR ball.

Part of this is due to the pretty good trigger...it averages out about 5.5 pounds on my Lyman gauge over 10 shots. Compare that to my Sig P239, whose trigger clocks in at an average of 7.33 pounds. In fact, I would have to say I'm completely happy with the trigger...just little take-up, no appreciable creep. The sights are good — Novak "style and easy to acquire quickly. Still, not as big and easily acquired as the "fat bastards" on the P238, which is sort of my ideal in a small gun.

SHOOTING TEST

At more than 23 ounces, recoil on the Baby Rock is negligible.  That weight is both a pro and a con. Con, because it's heavy for its size. The Baby Rock's weight is only slightly less than an aluminum-framed 3-inch 1911 or equivalent to a Glock 19...the Glock 42 .380 is almost 10 ounces less. In a holster, however, the Baby Rock will "disappear." The weight, coupled with the full 3 fingers on the drip, make the gun extremely shootable.

If I had to make a long shot with a .380, this is the gun for it. Secondly...and I think this is an important point for new CCW holders...the Baby Rock doesn't beat you up when you shoot it. As much as I like the mini-9mms, none of them are a fun day at the range with full power ammunition. The same goes for most of the pocket .380s. For a new CCW holder, I'm looking for a couple of things: 1) a gun that will get carried every day, and 2) a gun that will get shot a lot. With the right holster, the thin profile of the Baby Rock would be a snap to carry.

If you shop around you can find pretty good deals on .380 ball to practice with. I've seen ARMSCOR for about $140 per 500 rounds, with reloads, the Russian and the Czech ammunition cheaper than that. For self defense, my choice is Corbon DPX 80-gr, which I've shot a bunch in Ballistic jello and in various penetration tests. I've also shot the DoubleTap 95-gr, which performed extremely well in gel. Unfortunately, it's about as rare as the proverbial hen's teeth. Here's a link to Richard Mann's SHOOTING ILLUSTRATED article on .380 ballistics. I've never shot the Buffalo Bore "+P" (I put a parenthesis around +P because there's no SAAMI spec for the overpressure designation in .380, hence my reluctance to shoot it), but I might give it a shot out of this gun.

So far, out of 200 rounds I have had one failure, the slide didn't fully close at Round 20 with ARMSCOR ball. I would not swear on a stack of Bible's that my thumbs didn't have anything to do with that failure. I've shot ARMSCOR ball, 80-gr Corbon DPS, 90-gr Corbon JHPs, Winchester SilverTip 85-gr and PowerBall 70-gr.


Here's my favorite group, 5-shot, 7-round rapid fire with DPX (it's an anatomically correct VTAC target, BTW). I tried a run of the PowerBall, but as has been the case in my other .380s, it just wan't there...maybe it's me!


I went up to the head for the the Silvertips:


I couldn't figure out what I did on that first group on the right-hand side, but when I sort of stepped back and ran some shots on steel, I realized that I was slightly canting the Baby Rock. With that in mind I went back and shot the group in the center. I tried some ball at 7 yards with this result:


At 10 yards I shot a really good group with the ARMSCOR ball, 6 of 6 shots touching with the 7th an outlier. Of course, somewhere between the range and the house I lost the orange dot. I know, you're never going to believe that! Here's one of my other ball groups at 10 yards:


Sorry you couldn't have seen the good one...heaven knows I'm only good for maybe one of those a day! LOL!

I have 2 primary complaints — as I mentioned in my preliminary post, the thumb safety, which engages a notch in the slide, is stiff stiff stiff coming off. I will admit it's loosening up as I work it (and a little lube hasn't hurt), but I think some judicious polishing will be called for. I wouldn't mind a lightly larger thumb safety (read this article from 1998 on building the perfect .380 carry gun on a Colt Government Model .380, a la Cylinder and Slide...I wonder if Bill Laughridge could make the Colt extended safety fit? Naw! That's too much to hope!).

My other complaint is, Martin, oh Martin, why did you have to have that damned grip safety? I hate the things on principle. As usual, I have issues with it on a high thumb hold; not so much on a low thumb. However, having whined, I will say there is a plus to the grip safety, at least in my conservative view. I know about all the various give and take on IWB holsters in the appendix position, e.g. you screw up reholstering and Mr. Femoral Artery has a really bad day.

I'm probably alone here, but I do like redundant Old Skool manual safeties when I decide to point the ole blaster in Mr. Weasel's direction. A thumb safety and a grip safety would make me a lot more sanguine about ramming the ole avenger home, appendix holster wise.

I suspect the biggest issue with the Baby Rock will be the dearth of concealment holsters. Even Alien Gear, which has holsters for such obscurities as the Remington R51 and the Chiappa Rhino snub, doesn't yet list the Baby Rock. A  CrossBreed MiniTuck would be just about perfect. I suppose you could find a Sneaky Pete holster to fit.

I rummaged through the holster box and found that a Wilderness Tactical "Zip Slide" for a medium frame Glock would work. Also both a DeSantis OWB for a Sig P938 and a Galco OWB for either a Ruger LC9 or a Kimber Solo will do. For IWB, the N82 Tactical Original will work spiffily.

Okay...that's about enough overkill for this week!

A quick spec comparison:

Rock Island "Baby Rock" .380
Length: 6.5 inches
Barrel Length: 4.0 inches
Height: 5.5 inches
Capacity: 7 + 1
Weight: 23.5 ounces
Finish: Parkerized
MSRP: $459


Colt "Government Model" .380
Length: 6.5 inches
Barrel Length: 3.25 inches
Height: ??
Capacity: 7 + 1
Weight: 21.75 ounces
Finish: Blue/Stainless
MSRP: $508 when released

Browning 1911 .380
Length: 7.5 inches
Barrel Length: 4.25 inches
Height: ?
Capacity: 8 + 1
Weight: 18 ounces
Finish: Black/Composite frame
MSRP: $669.99

Compare this to the littlier-bittier SAO .380s:

Sig Sauer P238
Length: 5.5 inches
Barrel Length: 2.7 inches
Height: 3.9 inches
Capacity: 6 + 1
Weight: 15.2 ounces
Finish: Many varieties
MSRP: $679 (varies by model)

Kimber Micro .380
Length: 5.6 inches
Barrel Length: 2.75 inches
Height: 4.0 inches
Capacity: 6 + 1
Weight: 13.4 ounces
Finish: Many varieties
MSRP: $951 (varies with model; mortgages available)

And just to make sure we're all on the same page, let's take a look at the uber-.380, the Glock 42:

Length: 5.94 inches
Barrel Length: 3.25 inches
Height: 4.13 inches
Capacity: 6 + 1
Weight: 13.76 ounces
Finish: Parkerized
MSRP: $459

16 comments:

Matthew said...

Bianchi 100 IWB for Semi-auto in Size 1 fits the Colt Gov't .380/Mustang. Might fit the RIA.

As for me...

"I want you to use all your powers, and all your skills. I want to see this Baby with an alloy frame, not this way."

Anonymous said...

Martin Tucson would make a great SASS alias for Martin Tuason.

_DonWorsham_ said...

Whether the Glock 43?

Sheepdog1968 said...

Thanks Michale for the in depth analysis. Who makes those skeleton targets?

Michael Bane said...

Targets are from Viking Tactical and are super...Worsham, you're just rubbing it in because you *have* a Llama and I *am* a llama...I wish it had an aluminum frame, too! Maybe I should sign Martin up with the alias "Martin Tucson"...then he'd have to get a hat...

mb

Anonymous said...

I'd like to see Sig-Sauer make a .380 "Government", that's based more on a shrunken 1911. So far, everything that they've touched is as Rod Blagojevich says "is (Ahem).... Golden"! Their .380 P238s and 9mm P938s "run"! I just rung-out my new Sig' "TCO" 1911, an all stainless 4.25"-barreled, "Officer's"-gripped .45 and of all the guns that I own, this one is coveted! It's a shooter and man, does it carry and handle. I'd expect a Sig' .380 "Government" model to do likewise.

Life Member

nj larry said...

Reading the Rock Island warranty. Seems using anything other than FMJ voids the warranty. Is this industry standard ? Kindof odd in todays world, especially for a self defense sidearm ? Am I wrong ?

Daniel Watters said...

The cited 5.5" height for the RIA .380 is probably an error by RIA's staff. That would make it the roughly same height as a standard M1911. The Llama MicroMax .380 was only 4-5/8" tall.

JohninMd.(HELP?!??) said...

Hey, Michael! Iookng at that cute little 1911 .380, I got a silly idea for a new competition; the opposite of the "Iron Man" 3 --gun, a "Jello -- Man", if you will.
Think of it.... 3 guns; a mini 1911, a .22 LR carbine, and a .410 pump shotgun! (Limited to 2 1/2" shells, of course) shorter ranges, gimpin' and gunnin', could be a hoot.

Jkwas said...

Michael,

one gun that always seems to get overlooked is the Bersa Thunder .380
I have found mine to be reliable, accurate, and very shootable. carries
well and has a manual safety. It is reasonably priced as well.
Hope your recovery goes well and you're back on your feet soon.

Joe Black said...

I have a Baby Rock 1911, and so far it has performed admirably. It is not 5.5 inches tall, it is by my measurement 4.5 inches tall. Still a full finger gripper. I am "breaking it in on
the new Federal HST .380 ammo, and so far have not fired enough rounds to make an educated
report on that ammo. Although, I have only had one ftf in 100 rounds. The same round fed
perfectly in another mag load. Any ball ammo is desert to this little pistol. Crisp trigger and light recoil.

Russell King said...

Bought a Baby Rock at Cabela's 2 weeks ago, have put 200 rounds of assorted FMJ through it so far with no failures to feed or other problems. Shoots well to point of aim out to 15 yards, at least as well as my 50 year old eyes can see. Black front sight difficult to pick up against black rear sight. Recoil is sharp, but feels better in my hand than my Ruger LC380. I was a little disappointed about receiving only 1 magazine, and speaking of magazine, watch out for the razor sharp feed lips! Fits well in a De Santis # 106 IWB holster

Ed Brohimer said...

Just got my Baby Rock Friday. Took it to the range Saturday. After 2 or 3 rounds the magazine disengage causing a failure to feed the next round. It looks like the magazine catch does not protrude far enough into the slot on the magazine to hold it in place. Also the mag does not hold the slide open after the last round. With thea empty and the slide locked back I am able to pop the mag out by firmly pushing down on it with my finger from inside the chamber. Very disappointed. Any ideas? I have emailed Armscor@armscor.net but have not heard back yet.

Ed Brohimer said...

Just got my Baby Rock Friday. Took it to the range Saturday. After 2 or 3 rounds the magazine disengage causing a failure to feed the next round. It looks like the magazine catch does not protrude far enough into the slot on the magazine to hold it in place. Also the mag does not hold the slide open after the last round. With thea empty and the slide locked back I am able to pop the mag out by firmly pushing down on it with my finger from inside the chamber. Very disappointed. Any ideas? I have emailed Armscor@armscor.net but have not heard back yet.

Ed Brohimer said...

Just got my Baby Rock Friday. Took it to the range Saturday. After 2 or 3 rounds the magazine disengage causing a failure to feed the next round. It looks like the magazine catch does not protrude far enough into the slot on the magazine to hold it in place. Also the mag does not hold the slide open after the last round. With thea empty and the slide locked back I am able to pop the mag out by firmly pushing down on it with my finger from inside the chamber. Very disappointed. Any ideas? I have emailed Armscor@armscor.net but have not heard back yet.

Russell King said...

For a concealment holster I ordered an alien gear for colt 1903, the profile is almost exactly the same and fit is very nice