Sunday, May 15, 2016


It was a pretty "gunny' week last week even though Marshal and I worked out butts off laying the ground work for SHOOTING GALLERY ONLINE, a long-time dream of ours that will be available on the upcoming OC app — anytime, anywhere, any platform.

Much, much more on that later, but I will be filming for SGO at the NRA Convention. BTW, on the broadcast side, we're wrapping up GUN STORIES WITH JOE MANTEGNA and will start filming Season 17 of SHOOTING GALLERY in June. SG is now the most successful shooting show ever, based on all criteria — ratings, sponsorship and longevity.

My 2.75-inch Redhawk .44 Magnum came back from Hamilton Bowen last week…and it is PERFECT! Hamilton did his usual masterful tune-up and added the longer Redhawk firing pin we've discussed here before. The little Redhawk also sports Bowen sights and is regulated for Garrett "Defender" 310-gr bullets at 25 yards.

It immediately goes into service as my EDC here at the Bunker, what with all the hungry bears waking up.

Secondly, I have happily finally finished debugging my Wilson Combat .458 SOCOM problem child. Of course, it wasn't a "for real" Wilson Combat complete gun…even though, yes, I wrote the book on Wilson Combat…LOL! I got the upper from Wilson years ago, just in time for the ammo crisis. So I had an upper and could not get either loaded ammo or components, so I just sat it aside for a time.

When I was able to buy loaded ammo (Wilson and SBR) and Starline finally did a run of brass, I put the project on the front bought a lower from Wilson (hey…standardization of logos) and a single stage Timney trigger and put the thing together. Whereupon it flatly refused to run…multiple feed problems from standard aluminum mags. Bill recommended Lancers, and that was better, but I still had some hiccups. As I mentioned before, I found an article that suggested 2 modifications to the mags — a half-moon cut in the front of the mag to make it easier for that big bullet to exit and slightly bending the front of the magazine lips to let the nose of the .458 sit higher than a 5.56. I gave it a try, and the problems seemed to vanish.

About that time Wilson started offering Lancers marked as .458 SOCOM…I got a couple and they work perfectly.

Verdict? The little carbine is a PERFECT hog gun, which is its intended role! I'll be doing load development while I'm laid up from Knee #2 replacement in June. Right now it's fitted with a Burris AR-1X sight, but there might be a Nightforce NXS 1-4x with my name on it in the future.

We also did a demo showing the difference in recoil in Ruger LCRs in .9mm (my personal choice), .38 Special +P and .327 Magnum. The 9mm and .38 were Corbon DPXs; the .327 Federal Hydra-shocks. Then had some fun with my JP 9mm carbine, ringing the 120 yard head plate from the bench and doing 60 yard off-hand head shots…this is with ARMSCOR ball, no less.

Finally, we found the Gunwriters' Conundrum. I had a bunch of multicolor guns from SCCY Firearms. The are all-American made polymer-framed DAO 9mms.

Truthfully, I hadn't given them much thought. But my FFL dealer, which is owned by 2 very knowledgeable, very savvy trainers (in fact, it's mostly a training facility) told me the only guns they actually stock are the SCCYs, that they've sold a ton of them and that the owners were extremely happy.

When I saw them at SHOT I realized the company was owned by a couple of friends of mine and available in the entire Martha Steward palette of colors…okay, I'm exaggerating a bit, but they do have a very festive line. I looked up a number of reviews; some were very positive; some were very negative. So SCCY sent me a selection of colors, and we're going to do a long term test for SGO. But I did want to do a quick into of the guns.

Here's where the Gunwriters Conundrum comes in. The first SCCY I shot (ARMSCOR ball again…ARMSCOR is, thankfully, a sponsor), in teal, which is very fashionable, had 2 light strikes in the first 10 round mag. I had maybe one light strike per mag afterwards.

This is not a big deal to me until AFTER break-in (100-200 rounds), then it is a VERY big deal. The trigger was long, but not any heavier than a Ruger revolver. I did notice I wasn't getting the hits on my 20 and 25-yard head plates that I expected. Marshal said we needed to change colors for video, went in and came back with a purple SCCY (probably an homage to Prince). I loaded it up and it ran like a champ…same trigger, but no light strikes, no problems whatsoever. So I decided to pay attention to the trigger pull and went 5 for 5 on the 25-yard head plate and 4 for 5 on the 60 yard Action Targets torso. In fact, even with the heavy trigger, it was fun to shoot. Yes, it's snappy…all lightweight 9mms (including the Ruger LCR, the Shield, the Sig 928, fill-in-the-blank) are snappy.  It's physics…get over it. All DAO trigger pulls will be harder to deal with than the striker-fired or single-action semiautos, but someone, back in the days when the DA revolver ruled the roost, we all learned to deal with it. Ed McGivern's records weren't set with super-tuned triggers! Guns are made of plastic and steel and don't adapt very well, but we primates are whizzes at adaptability.

We used up the rest of the 9mm we had with us on the purple SKKY no problemo.

Here's the conundrum…extrapolating from a set size of "1" doesn't necessarily tell us anything, yet that's what gunwriters do routinely. We're going to do more extensive tests for SGO, and I'm going to rotate through the guns I have on hand. I will also talk to the company owners on the light strikes in the teal gun. And yes, because the company is run by friends of mine (not sponsors, but friends), I'd love to see them succeed even more than they're doing now. Further, I think there is a very real need for an inexpensive, effective EDC gun, and the SCCYs are available at an MSRP of $340, typically less than $300 in a shop.

LOOKING FORWARD TO THE NRA SHOW! TWO SIGNINGS — THE KAHR BOOK FROM 2-3PM ON FRIDAY AND THE OC BOOTH 11-11:30AM ON SATURDAY. Please come by and see me or I'll be sad and lonely!!!


Anonymous said...

"purple SKKY"? Is that where "Purple Rain" falls from? ; )

With respect to a sample size of one (1):

A sample size of one (1) is usually not representative of the total population. If however, the "one" you get doesn't work, it may in-fact be an strong indicator that there are more in the population that don't work. This is based on the (valid) assumption that there are usually a small percentage of defects in most populations that are defective and getting a defect early in a small sampling indicates that there is a high probably that there are more of them. It is also a possibility that they are all bad. On the other hand, a sample of one that does work may not necessarily mean that they all do. The fact that you got a good one only indicates that there could be more good ones out there but you missed the bad ones.

In any case, the fact that you had issues with the SCCYs is an indication that problems exist in the total population.

To succeed in this day and age, "zero (0)-defects" is the only standard acceptable.

Life Member

Michael Bane said...

Generally agree with everything you said, however I can think of exactly 2 gun companies in America running to a zero defect standard. There are many that are approaching that standard, but in some ways guns are a special case (forgive me Dave Garwood, my mentor in manufacturing consulting and the author of the standard reference texts on structuring a manufacturing company for zero defects).

Guns are generally "old tech;" one of the ways we have moved to a zero defect standard is designing product to be manufactured under those ideal conditions. Works pretty good. Except with guns,you've ultimately got to create an explosion that launches a bullet down a barrel. That minimal addition of chaos makes achieving zero defects that much harder.

In general, I will dump a MINIMUM of 100 rounds of ball through a gun BEFORE I start any significant testing. Even though I am conversant with the tenants of modern manufacturing and have been in many many factories working toward that goal, my PERSONAL experience with firearms, even from state of the art manufacturing facilities (Benelli's robotic factory, for instance), is that it is damn near impossible to bring them to zero defect. I shoot the 100 rounds to let the gun "settle in" (forgive me again, Dave) and it does make a difference. My theory, FWIW, is that the stresses of firing the gun allow even microscopic flaws to be essentially honed down, metal chips that some how ended up in the system to be cleared, lubrication to settle into the places that lubrication needs to be. After the 100-200 break in (the first 100 rounds are just dumped through the gun…I'm not looking at groups or tracking malfunctions), I disassembled the gun, degrease it, relube it and, hopefully get all the parts back together (sometimes it has been a trial).

Then everything changes.The groups are logged, malfunctions are tracked, brass is checked for pressure signs. Any weird behavior on the part of the gun is noted. Then we can talk better about the implications of the gun's actions.


PS; 3 weeks ago I got a gun from one of the 2 companies I listed as "zero defect." It didn't work.

clark myers said...

In my by no means humble opinion, and I'll match experience and credentials, zero defect manufacturing is a snare and a delusion and all the more as complexity increases. On a sufficiently complex product, e.g. YAL-1 where I had something to do with writing the specifications, it is easy enough to have a part or subsystem that meets every specification and won't work at all. Statistical process control is a good thing but zero defect is I repeat a snare and a delusion.

On the other hand continuous quality improvement is a goal worth striving for.

Stanley Marcus notably said anything could be improved. He could do a Russian Sable coat with the best hides of the year, or given a little time the best hides of a decade and so it goes.

I have a Wilson CQB in .45 ACP (actually my backup for carry) that has done high round count exercises and training flawlessly, The hammer is good enough but not hung perfectly square - hand cocking feels about like a Colt Trooper and not at all like a Colt Python. I have full confidence in this particular Wilson and I don't consider a Colt Trooper to be a defective Python.

There is some information in a sample population of any size from 1 to a full census. Haphazard samples aren't as reliable as random samples though; I might not believe in a selected gun writer's sample the first time and yet suspect a selection the second time or maybe not. I don't discard a single sample and depending on my hypotheses as to the underlying population variables I might want a sample size of say 30 to have the confidence I need to be satisfied.

I am in more or less complete agreement with most everything else in this thread so far.

When it comes to product testing whether for publication or carry I believe in a Bayesian approach. Does the present article and use make me more or less confident in carrying the gun or load myself.

Anonymous said...

Well said Michael and Clark, but.....

Approaching zero defects is a goal of most companies. Keeping rejects down is the other goal. It all sounds great until you are the guy who gets the bad one. In the industry that I come from, 99.97 % first-time-thru quality used to be the goal until we put it into this perspective: 99.97 % ensures that only about one (1) baby will be dropped on its head out of 1000 births, if they were delivered to this standard. We changed our thinking.

If our products couldn't meet initial quality evaluation and prove-out, they didn't go to the market. So it is a big deal. The customer IS NOT a product developer, nor are they the final inspection and test station.

The guy that builds the best products and has the best reputation based on facts, wins. I just bought a "1911" not from the usual "1911" guys. I do have guns from the "latter", but they are now considered "the former" by me. Why? Better guns from the new guys in 1911-town.


Life Member

DavidY said...

Looking forward to an Outdoor Channel app with Shooting Gallery streaming. I hope THE BEST DEFENSE will also be on there. Alas, the only back episodes I have ever been able to access is Season 1 on DVD. It was a great day when A&E put all the episodes of The First 48 on its app. Same will be true with OC and TBD.

KevinC said...

Claude Werner has a Sccy and carries it quite often, and if you can't trust The Tactical Professor, who CAN you trust?

Michael Bane said...

Zero defects is a very tricky point. I think every company I've worked with is committed to continuous improvement, usually based on a some kaizen model. Most of the companies I work with are on board with listening to the shop floor on improvements, because nobody knows as much about building anything as the people who do it day in and day out. The wealthier companies have invested in new technology that minimizes the opportunity for defects (e.g. Industrial EDM machines to cut complex curves or angles; machines that fits barrels so well that we are not allowed to film them). Most companies have gone to cellular manufacturing, as opposed to what we think of as an "assembly line." And most companies wholeheartedly buy into driving quality control throughout the process, using state-of-the-art tools to define quality (when I was a quality control guy at Hunter Fan back in the Dawn of Time," I had a hand-held micrometer, a metal ruler and a couple of jigs, not that far removed from the measuring tools used in making the Enfield Pattern 1853 Musket).

I think the "rub," as it were, comes from the nature of firearms themselves. If you listen to the podcast, you know I've referred to ballistics as "predictive," that is, when we pull the trigger we expect the bullet to follow a certain trajectory based on specific atmospheric conditions. The issue is that we're not 100% sure we can predict all the factors acting on that system. Two and two will always equal four, except in common core math of course, but we can only be sure within a certain percentage, say 99.99%, that two rounds fired from .308 on the bench at a 100 yard target at such and such an altitude with such and such environmental conditions will impact the same spot.

The same "predictive" element happens when a gun is fired. I believe that every shot is microscopically different than every other shot, because explosions are are chaotic systems in the sense that there are many factors acting on that system at the moment of ignition. For the most part, this doesn't make a bit of difference to the shooter. But it may indeed make a difference to the materials used to build the gun. Example...I've seen a 1911s that broke extractor. It didn't care which kind of extractors, or how carefully the extractor was fitted by gunsmiths. They all broke after a certain amount of firing. To all external measurement, the gun was perfect, made a quality gunmaker, with trigger work done my master gunsmith. And the extractors kept breaking. Yet somewhere within the gun a set of tolerance imbalance was set up in such a way that the extractor bore the brunt of that imbalance, and it broke. I don't know if a solution was ever found.



Michael Bane said...

All parts are built to "plus or minus," that is, there is always a tiny variation in parts, the goal of a kaizen system to to minimize that variation, to drive it to "zero." But within the real world, zero is unattainable. We can get close, but true perfection I believe is beyond us at this point. Generally, this doesn't matter — guns are designed to function with parts made to such-and-such tolerance. In rare cases, however, the tolerances line up in such a way that to does matter, what you might call tolerance stacking. An easy way to think of this is that a lot of things are just a teeny tiny bit off, maybe even within their tolerances, but there's enough of them that a "tipping point" is reached and the gun won't function consistently.

This happened to me one with a 9mm 1911 back in the days when 9mm 1911s were a relative rarity. The gun went back to the factory 3 times, and each time I was told there was absolutely nothing wrong with the gun...except that it would not run 100%. It finally gnawed on me so much I had a master gunsmith, the great Bruce Gray, "blueprint" the gun, the same way you would blueprint an engine. Bruce's report on the gun ran to 3 single-spaced pages. that could all be summed up in 2 words -- tolerance stacking.

This is my opinion only, but say we define a good part as +/- .1 inch, millimeter, whatever. That means it can be defined as a"good" part if it is .1 oversized or .1 undersized. In an ideal world the tolerances essentially average out. Assuming Murphy is alive and well, what happens when a gun is assemble with parts that are ALL .1 oversized? Will the gun run? Probably, but it will be more susceptible to the vagaries of ignition, unburned powder/dirt/wear and spring decay because it's closer to the tipping point. It takes less to cause that gun to malfunction. Every time you pull the trigger, an explosion goes off, and that explosion creates stress throughout the system. The closer the gun is to the tipping point--a malfunction--the greater the likelihood of a malfunction under ignition stress.

I agree with Anon #2 on the final QA inspection and the prove-out, which in the gun industry we would call a test fire. ANYTHING that fails the final prove-out should NEVER go out to the customer. And you are absolutely right in that the firearms customer base is sick and tired of being the beta testers for the industry. Every firearms company I know is now utilizing a final test fire...I know this because I've seen them and done a few myself. But some guns still malfunction once they hit the customer's hands.I believe it's because of the tolerance stacking/uncertainty factor build into any system that involves high pressure explosions.


Anonymous said...


You've got a good handle on the basics of what makes a gun, or other mechanical assembly "run". The magazine issue you observed is a good example. An analysis of dimensions and other physical features, that compares what runs versus what didn't, is in order there. The "measurables" need to be defined first though. Then, other differences and commonalities need to also be defined.

This is what captivates us all. It can also haunt manufacturers. As one of those myself, I have come to have no sympathy for those that fail to do it all correctly. I only feel for the customer.

Thank for the "QSO".

Life Member

clark myers said...

Indeed zero defect is as much jargon as 5essing the work station to mean empty the wastebasket.

We know every shot is different. Slightly at best and greatly often enough. My favorite example is from Dr. Ken Oehler:

.....After my other testing was over, I decided to look at the powder position question and hooked up the pressure instruments. For years I'd read in the SAAMI procedures that you must take care with powder position during tests, but had thought that it wouldn't make a really significant difference in average pressure or velocities. The measured differences shocked me.[me too cem] With the powder forward, I would consistently get near 1100 fps and 18K psi. With the powder back, I'd get 1400 fps and 28K psi. Considering that the SAAMI max for 38 Special is 18K psi and the nominal average for the proof loads is 27K psi, the differences observed in the same load, same case, same bullet, same gun, same day, same instruments, same whatever are very significant.

I didn't do the experiment just one time, but used the same load [said to be 6.5 grains Unique for 70% load density, 125 grain bullet, .38 Special case tested in a .357 Magnum test barrel] as an example during several workshops. I'd let two participants each choose five round from the same box of ammo. I'd fire the five high pressure rounds first and then the five low pressure rounds. With the benefit of a little clumsy gun handling and some distracting BS, it wasn't obvious to the observers that the first five were with powder to the rear and the second five were with powder forward. The velocities and pressures always came out as I'd expected from previous tests. It was easier to convince the class that the differences were caused by the cold sweaty palms of the second sucker.

Moral of story, unless you actually measure pressure in your gun, with your components, under your conditions, then you don't know pressure. Even it you think you measure it, you're still not sure.

Anonymous said...

"Ruger LCRs in .9mm (my personal choice)"

I would use something bigger than a millimeter ... but that's just me ...

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