Monday, January 30, 2017

When the Bear Eats You...

…there are days like that, and today was one of them. So I'm driving to meet Mark Passamaneck for lunch, then we're headed over to the big, spectacular Liberty Firearms Institute to talk about filming my last 2017 season SHOOTING GALLERY episode on pistol caliber carbines there. I am driving my 2015 Mini Cooper, a car I more or less like and that I bought new. I make a left turn at a light…not a screaming, crazed sliding turn, but a slow, as in "I'm in traffic," turn. As I turn the corner, whammo blammo, 4 lug nuts on the right front wheel SHEER OFF (I heard them let go), leaving the wheel hanging on on a single lug nut that partially pulled out.

Think on that…4 lug nuts sheer off…WTF?

I pull to a stop and block the lane, luckily not a bust street, and get out to see what's happened. I see that I am screwed, call Mini Roadside Service and Mark P., then have a seat and wait. Here's my punch line on this…same thing happened last year, except that it was only a couple of the lug nuts that sheered, and the vibration damaged the front end. When I took it into Mini of Loveland for service, I was told that the right front tire had been "miss-installed," so the vaunted Mini warranty didn't apply…natch. So I assumed I had some massive brain fade when I put on the snow tires, ponied up the $800 and resolved to pay more attention changing tires. I put on the snows in December, and I was METICULOUS in checking the tires, especially the right front.

So my Mini gets hauled to the dealer, where I'm informed there's a recall on my car, and they may well have to replace the engine…think on that…replace the engine…and it may take awhile.

Super. At least that's covered under the warranty, along with any damage I might incur while having sex with a buffalo while in the car...

Let's talk about Minis. My Sweetie got her Mini the first year, and it has been a wonderful car. Still runs like a scalded dog, handles like a go-kart and has been amazingly maintenance-free. The dealership that delivered her Mini, Ralph Schomp Mini in Denver, were great over the years, everything you might want a car dealership to be. Since I had a work truck — my aging Honda Element, as close to a bulletproof car as I've ever owned (Honda discontinued it, or I'd have bought another one in a heartbeat) — my Sweetie said, "Buy a Mini of your own."

So I did.

The Mini hasn't aged well. What started out as a quirky, minimalist box-rocket has become a real car, bigger, bulked up, less zippy…but, in fact, still better than most of the options. And let's face it, I'm not really a car guy. I pretty much drive 25,000 miles a year to and from the airport, appreciate a decent sound system and prefer manual transmissions. That's kinda it.

From the beginning of my fizzled love affair with my Mini, it was a bundle of not-particularly-attractive quirks. It is, in fact, an annoying car. It's electronics appear designed by Apple, that is to say, by people who have never actually seen a car and only have the vaguest idea of what a car might be used for. I have studied the controls for heat/cold…they still make no sense…"Auto" isn't auto, "manual" isn't exactly manual; thankfully, the seat heaters work. The turn signals, well, suffice to say they work…sorta. Like many of the other dubious "features" in the car, the concept of "intuitive," like, say, something that might need to be operated in a steel and plastic box hurtling down the highway, seems to have been dismissed. Plus, the electronics don't necessarily work all the time; perhaps they're operating on a shortened British work week, like my old MG's hydraulic system. Switches might turn something on or off, usually exactly the opposite you might expect.

The only electronic feature that I would class as 100% is a bizarre ring of colored lights around the speedometer. The lights flash in rhythm to…something…perhaps Kanye West's blood pressure, or the phase of the moon. I am told that, was I younger, I could be taught to program the lights, personalize them, perhaps to pulse to the soundtrack of "Saturday Night Fever" or Madonna's monthly outrage cycles. I do wonder why the only thing that works 100% is a feature designed to distract the driver! Maybe in the next model year Mini can arrange a cleverly placed, brightly colored squirt gun to blast confetti into the driver's eyes when the speed hits, say, 70. Cheeky!

I won't go into the dealership…yet. My favorite visit was when some brain-dead snowflake who worked there yelled at me about how good their customer service was. Hmmmmmmm. I haven't seen her in a while, Maybe she's stuffed into a trunk on the lot.

Oddly enough, for all the irritation, I still like driving it. I rent lots and lots of cars, and I
'd have to say that most of them suck worse than the Mini. It's pretty good in the snow, and I've trained it to get to the airport virtually by itself. God knows how much it's going to cost me to get it out of hock…no doubt the dealership will find that because I used oatmeal instead of real lug nuts, it's all on me.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Don't Judge Me, Bro!

But first, a buck walks into bar…sorry, no punch line. I did tell the barkeep not to serve either the little 3X3 or the 2X2 spike you can't see, because it just sets a bad precedent. A mule deer needs to be at least a 6X6 before being served at a bar. As far as does go, right now it's entirely up to the bartender. Soooooooo…the next time someone asks you where the mule deer are, tell them the truth — they're at the bar.

I actually was at the little general store next to the bar when the 2 bucks walked into the bar. The guy you see in the pix above nearly stepped on my foot on his way to the bar. Mule deer are really inconsiderate especially when rifle season is over.

I have to confess than when I ran to the market I'd just finished a hike with Newt, and I was wearing (prepare to be shocked) a Taurus Judge, one of my usual trail guns — especially when it's not bear season…they're all nappy-nap right now, and I won't see rattlesnakes for months. The Judge is mostly for coyote deterrence or whacking the errant oddly behaving skunk or raccoon. As I have mentioned before, it's rolling death on bunnies and snakes. I keep it loaded with 3 Federal #000 buckshot (which I've shot into ballistic gel) and 2 .45 Colt Winchester Silver Tips (which I've also shot into ballistic gel from a Judge). It ain't love but it ain't bad.

I figured I could survive a trip to the market without arming up. Thank God the deer didn't charge!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Someone Please Push the Rock off the Cliff!

Illustration from my upcoming book,
"Dealing with General Contractors: A Rehabbers' Guide"

I'm gearing up to start scripting the next season of GUN STORIES WITH JOE MANTEGNA. So far, I am gearing up by sitting in my living room and listening to the dog snore. I also spent an inordinate amount of time searching the Internet for Barnes 55-gr TSX .223 ammunition, which I eventually found at…wait for it…Cabela's. I'm also also thinking about cleaning up my office. This is, I believe, what people refer to when they say, "Procrastination."

My on-site studio construction is now delayed by weather and the undeniable fact that many general contractors should be trussed up and fed into a wood chipper. I am often amazed that more general contractors are not killed and eaten by enraged customers. Back when I lived in NYC — the statute of limitations has long since expired, so don't even think about it — I threatened to beat one to death with a 3-foot wrecking bar unless he finished my bathroom, allowing me to both take a piss and then wash my hands without changing floors. Rehabbing in NYC more closely resembled a sardonic comedy series than anything you see on HGTV. When I watch rehab programs on HGTV, I am amazed that they never are seen bribing any inspectors, nor are their supplies delivered at 3AM by being dumped off the back of a speeding truck. Plus, contractors smile a lot an actually meet the deadlines. Fantasy…nothing but freakin' fantasy!

It's probably too cold to shoot…my tongue would stick to the gun.

Maybe I'll start reading Steve Hunter's new book…or take up knitting...

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Yesterday — That Kind of a Day

What kind of a day? The kind of day where you spend the whole day struggling against a collapsed Internet connection, then when you finally sit down to crack that adult beverage, you notice that the dog is happily eating your passport.


I had a bunch of voice work to not only do, but upload ASAP. So, of course, the Internet took the Big Sleep. I ended up using the hotspot on the phone, roughly 300 baud, to upload the audio. Slow, but I managed to get it ground out. I sort of had illusions that I'd start putting rounds through the Ruger GP-100 .44 Special (pictured above) later in the day, but it turned out to be just that…illusions. Maybe tomorrow.

I gotta say I'm not enamored with the great big grips on the .44 Special GP-100. Compare and contrast these with the rubber/wood insert grips on my Gemini Custom-tuned GP-100 Wiley Clapp .357. Here's a pix from my friend Jeff Quinn at GunBlast:

I think I'm going to try these compact grips from ShopRuger:
I these were the grips that Wiley originally wanted on his namesake GP-100.

I had some various stems and seeds left over from SHOT 2017. I was excited the see that ALG Defense, the sister company to Geiselle Automatics, was offering a Galil trigger. The one they had at SHOT was super-deluxe, so I talked to the guys and, hopefully my Galil will be headed off to serve as their crash test dummy as well as get a slick trigger. Here's a link from The Firearm Blog…the ALG site seems to be down.

I found the perfect-sized messenger bag from 5.11 to hold the most recent QC10/Dead Foot pistol project. I'm hoping it gets here in time for our SHOOTING GALLERY filming. Makes for a natty package. BTW, I paid MSRP, and rush shipping. Not crazy about multicam, but it is what it is. I woulda gone blue Kryptek.

I'm convinced Tony Galazan, the founder of Connecticut Shotgun is a true demented genius. The CT Shotgun gun room is a wonderful slice of England in New Britain, and his top-end shotgunsyours for a nice 6-figure price tag — are absolutely beautiful. With 4 acres of world-class machining capability under the roof, Tony decides to build a jewel-like 3/4 scale Thompson in .22 LR. Then he invents the bullpup double-barreled pump shotgun, the DP-12, which won the coveted Golden Bullseye design Award for the top shotgun of the year. My DP-12 is now my go-to shotgun, with a tube of #00 buckshot and a tube of police slugs; pull the trigger twice, and you get one from Column A and one from Column B.

No sense letting his machines and craftsmen sit idle, so he starts manufacturings ARs and, in his spare time, designs a semiauto box magazine-fed shotgun, the SP-12, which will come to market this year (3-Gunners, begin hyperventilation). There a bullpup version of that shotgun somewhere in the back rooms in Connecticut. And a more traditional tactical pump action...

Hmmmmm..what to do, what to do next…

Building the perfect Single Action Army revolver has sent more than one manufacturer to an early grave, so Tony says,"Of course!" SAAs were designed when handwork was cheap and machines were expensive, and their creation assumes meticulous machining and assembly. The result, as shown at Media Day, were pretty incredible (we'll have video on SOG) — precise metal work, crisp actions and finishing on par with his high-end shotguns.  How about making the grips from the leftover wood from his high-end shotgun stocks? Oh, and available with his own spectacular color case-hardening and engraved. And hey, as long as he's building Single Action Armys, why not add a 1911 to the mix? With color case-harened options, and engraving? For $1300?

So what next? Of course! What anybody would do next…a pink 6-barrel .25 ACP "volley gun" that fires 2 shots at a time! Also available in OD Green. And bright SHOOTING GALLERY yellow.

To me, Tony Galazan is what's great about the firearms industry, a man not only with a vision, but with a restless curiosity and the amazing talent (and the configurable factory) to turn visions into reality. How neat is that?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Year of the Pistol Caliber Carbine

[I should mention that we filmed heavily with many of the products Ive been talking about, and those videos will appear on SHOOTING GALLERY ONLINE over the next couple of months!]

This was, as I predicted, the Year of the Pistol Caliber Carbine. They were all over the place on the SHOT floor, and I don't think we were able to even scratch the surface. While there were a lot of "Me toos!," with many AR manufacturers rushing to get a pistol caliber product out the door, there were some interesting new products as well as substantial evolution from dedicated pistol caliber companies.

Let me start with the one pictured above, the new FightLite PCC, an extension of their subgun project for an overseas client. FightLite was originally known as Ares Defense, and they are responsible for a couple of really cool innovations, including the first (and I think only) successful belt-fed upper (and complete guns) for ARs. Gary Paul Johnson, the author of the standard reference text on assault rifles and a contributor to both DOWN RANGE and GUN STORIES WITH JOE MANTEGNA, has waxed poetic about this conversion. Another significant contribution from Ares was the SCR rifle, which we featured on DOWN RANGE last year. It brought the AR platform to a more standard rifle configuration for those benighted locations with ridiculous laws on "assault weapons."

I talked to Geoffrey Herring, the CEO of FightLite, about the new pistol caliber gun. The one FightLite had at the SHOW was a 9mm version feeding from Glock magazines. Note that this is NOT an AR platform gun  — upper and lower are proprietary, designed from the ground up for modularity in caliber conversions and different magazine wells. Initial focus will be on .22LR and 9mm, with maybe a .40 S&W (but with that cartridge down for the count, I doubt that it's much of a priority). Geoff said that a 10mm and .45 ACP versions were a little farther out. Magazine offerings will include Glock, Beretta, CZ, S&W, Sig and Springfield. Geoff noted that because this was based on their SMG design for LEO/Military, they wanted to create a gun that was easily modified to fit whatever pistol magazines.

It's a side charger with the handle on the right, and, boy, is this thing light! They didn't have the exact weight, but it'll come in low. This is definitely one to watch. Geoff said both pistols and carbines will eventually be available, and the price he hinted at was sub-$1000.

While we're talking about modularity, I shot video with Nordic Components and their new modular AR-based PCC (that's the 8.5-inch pistol version above). If you shoot competition, of course you're familiar with Nordic Components — shotgun magazine extension tubes, custom competition .22 rifles, AR parts and accessories.  The magazine well is replaceable ($149 for each different magazine well) and right now offers Glock and M&P magwells, with more on the way.

These are relatively higher priced guns, in the $1500 range, and given Nordic's solid footing in the competition world I would expect to see their carbines on the line in USPSA PCC matches.

And speaking of competition-oriented PCCs, I spent some time with my good friend John Paul at JP Rifles going over the upgrades in the GMR-15 9mm PCC. As you know, I've had a GMR-13 for years, and it is a superbly accurate carbine — 1.5 MOA @ 100 yards with Wilson Combat Match 125-gr. The upgrades will definitely catch the attention of the competitor looking to give the Sig MPXs, which currently dominate the fledgling PCC division, a run for their money; they include a flared magazine well for easier reloading, an improved magazine release, bolt lock back on last round (more important to competitors than in the Real World, I would contend) and JP's excellent trigger.

John told me how he fought producing a 9mm carbine until he finally threw up his hands and told his talented staff to "go build one if you want to." The GMR has now become one of their best-selling products. I can't recommend this carbine enough. At $1700 it's not cheap, but JP has proven itself to be one of the great master riflemakers in the country. The GMR is available for either Glock or the plentiful Colt-style magazines.

You probably know War Sport from their top-of-the-line LVOA carbine and SBR, with their distinctive shock cord bungee wrapped handguard that extends to the front of the barrel with cutaways on the side for the BattleComp muzzle brake. This year they're rolling out a 9mm WS-9 pistol and a Honey Badger-styled collapsable stocked version of the SPR, both running off Glock magazines.

I wanted to visit War Sport because they represent the high end of the AR-based pistols.SBRs — enhanced triggers, superior finished, their own muzzle device, short throw safety lever Nitrided bolt, and their own barrels. No word on pricing yet.

You already know I'm a big fan of Angstadt Arms and their UDP pistol and carbine. After last year's SHOT Show I ordered a UDP-9 pistol with a Shockwave Brace from KAK (above photo), and I've been very happy with it. My plan is to SBR it later this year.

For this year Angstadt upped the ante by partnering with KGmade suppressors to produce an integrally suppressed 9mm carbine. They had a prototype at the show and think the MSRP is going to land in the $1600 range. A 9mm from a 16-inch barrel is already quiet, and an integrated suppressor should get it down into the "Pufft" range.

Everything about the Angstadt Arms pistols and carbines scream quality. I've only shot my pistol out to 25 yards with ARSCOR ball,  but it grouped very well. Once I get it SBR'ed and have a proper stock, I'll run it out to 50 and 100 with match ammo and see what we get. I think this is a company at the right place at the right time!

As you know, my last build (for this season's SHOOTING GALLERY) was built off Quarter Circle 10 components (including an upper with a 5.5-inch barrel) along with the Dead Foot Arms folding system, shown above with my IWI X95 in 9mm for comparison. This one is going to stay a pistol, and I've been happy with the results. On SG, you'll see how the folded package fits easily in a 5.11 Covert Messenger Bag with room left over for a G26.

(Photo from

Obviously, if you're doing a PCC build, QC10 is the place to go for quality components. When I stopped by the boot they showed me the newest project, a 9mm lower for MP-5 magazines. You have to admit that the MP-5 lower looks darn cool, although the MP-5 magazines will put a dent in your wallet for sure!

I also got by TNW, largely by accident to se their Aero Survival pistols and carbines. As I mentioned before SHOT, these little pistol caliber carbines have garnered some excellent reviews (and here), and I wanted to see and handle them myself. 

One thing that caught my attention is that the Aero Survival guns are available immediately in powerful 10mm…although there are many announced 10mm carbines/pistols, there are only a few on the market. I believe Olympic Arms has had 10mm as an option pretty much forever. A 10mm carbine makes an outstanding home defense carbine.

The Aero Survival carbine easily changes calibers by switching barrels, bolt heads and magazines. In fact, TNW offers multi-caliber packs in both the pistol and the rifle. From a prepper standpoint, the Aero Survival rifle (especially in the muti-caliber packs) would make an excellent secondary rifle — your primary being an AR platform gun, natch. Keep it it in your EDC pistol caliber with caliber change kits in the other common calibers. BTW, the backpack for the breakdown rifles is designed to carry plate armor sold separately, of course.

I'm thinking I may get one of these in 10mm and put it through its paces for SHOOTING GALLERY ONLINE.

That only scratches the surface, of course. Some things haven't changed — the Sig MPX absolutely rules the roost. The venerable Kel-Tec SUB-2000, available in 9mm or .40 S&W with magazines for multiple platforms and a low-ball price of $500, remains the first choice for a first pistol caliber carbine — if you can find one! GunBroker is your best bet. MP-5 clones are coming on hard…I did an earlier post that covered MP-5 clones, including the HK SP5K. I'll cover the RONI instant-SBR concepts in a different post (and I've talked about them on the podcast).

Here's the link on my parts list for my QC-10 build.

Here's my post on the advantages of a pistol caliber carbine for self-defense.

Couple of additional points, sort of related. I can't remember who I was talking to (sorry!), but he postulated that part of the rise of the 9mm carbine was that Gun Culture Ver. 2.0 essentially "came of age" in a period when .22 LR simply wasn't available. The vast majority of the new shooters came in through concealed carry, then purchased ARs during the Obama Nightmare Years. Sooner or later those shooters were looking to get more our of their carbines. If it had been a few years earlier, they might have gone to .22 ARs and near ARs (for example, the Ruger SR-22 that runs off 10/22 magazines). But with .22 not on the shelves (and the carbines being hellishly finicky on ammunition…the SPIKE'S/JP carbine we built up for SHOOTING GALLERY will run on one, count em, one type of ammo, CCI Tactical), the obvious choice was the 9mm carbines since Eastern European 9mm ammo never fully vanished from the market. As the price of .22 rose, 9mm became even more attractive. Makes sense to me.

Also sorta related, with M1 Carbines from both Auto Ordnance/Kahr and Inland Manufacturing now coming on line in big numbers, the fun-to-shoot M1 Carbine could be called a pistol caliber carbine. The .30 Carbine cartridge was aways a better cartridge than people gave it credit for, with a 110-gr bullet approaching 2000 fps, which easily tops the pistol caliber ballistics even out of the longer barrel of a carbine (Cor-Bon 115-gr +P is running a little more than 1500 fps from a 16-inch barrel, for instance; .357 Sig 110-gr @ 1768). The late Jim Cirillo and I talked a lot about the .30 Carbine, as he used a cut-down version while he was in the NYPD stake-out squad. It worked for him. I shot the new Inland "sniper" T-30 M1 Carbine at Media Day, and with the "vintage" 2.5X Hilux scope I was happily ringing 50 and 100 yard steel as fast as I could pull the trigger. Shooting an M1 Carbine is like eating popcorn…it's hard to stop!
I would love to shoot an M1 Carbine in USPSA's PCC division, but that's not to be (yet). I talked to USPSA President Mike Foley about this very issue the last day of SHOT, and he told me the .30 Carbine had been considered as a pistol caliber cartridge for the division (there have been .30 Carbine revolvers and semiauto pistols, after all), but the issue was that many USPSA clubs have what, by modern standards, less than optimal steel targets. Modern steel (AR-500 and above) targets like those from MGM and Action should handle .30 Carbine with no problem, but on some older steel targets the 200fps extra velocity of a .30 Carbine over a .357 Sig is enough to dimple.

BTW, SHOOTING GALLERY is thinking of sponsoring a WW2 3-Gun match to film for the show! What do you think?

Wow! I'm sure I forgot something! But I'll be writing more about SHOT 2017 over the next few days.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

SHOT's Greatest Hits*

[*…as seen through the filter of known curmudgeon and all-around pissy person Michael Bane]

 Well, I thought I at least owed you the disclaimer!

This wasn't a huge new product SHOT Show…it's too close to the election, and everyone was pretty much holding their breath (and hedging their bets). I suspect that next year will be a flood of new products, as manufacturers strive to keep the increasingly larger market buying. Still, there were four products that impressed me YUUUUGELY, and each for a different reason.

TACTICAL SOLUTIONS TLP-22 .22 LR pistol — My good friends at Tac-Sol, long known for their superb .22 barrels and their own .22 semiauto rifle, has created what I suspect will the one of the best .22 pistols ever made. Yeah yeah…big words. But the design team at Tc-Sol is one of the best in the world, and they are astute in receiving constant feedback from their cadre of sponsored shooters. In short, they know who to listen to, and they know what they're doing [And no, they are not currently a show or personal sponsor]. I will happily pay MSRP for this gun! In talking to Chet Alvord, the top guy at Tac-Sol, he pointed out that they were able to mate their proven Trail-Lite barrel with a billet aluminum lower. In my hands, the lower combined the best features of the Ruger Mark series and the Buckmark, with a just hint of Colt Woodsman (still one of my all-time favorite guns). You might think the gun is pricey at $1150, but I've built up .22 pistols for the NSSF Rimfire Challenge. This pistol is a screaming home run! I look forward to shooting the Rimfire Challenge with this gun. Oh, and BTW, we may see some interesting changes in the NSSF Rimfire Challenge in the upcoming year…I'll keep you all in the loop.

HUDSON H9 striker-fired pistol — This thing positively reeks of potential! A 15+1 9mm striker-fired all-steel pistol with 1911 ergonomics. I didn't get a chance to shoot this gun at Media Day, but I am assured I'll have a T&E sample. The trigger is listed at 4.5-5 pounds with a really short reset, but my pal Iain Harrison, who along with fellow TOP SHOT alumnae Chris Cerino had design input into the gun, says that lighter trigger pulls are easily possible. The gun does feel great in the hand, and at 34 ounces unloaded weight recoil certainly isn't an issue. For once I'll agree with the press releases — the H9 has an elegance that we usually don't see in prosaic striker-fired guns. There is a high price point — $1147, which moves it out of the polymer service pistol category and into 1911 territory — but with its unique features it might be able to make that leap.

Q's "THE FIX" bolt action rifle — Kevin Brittingham has written his name in great big letters across the firearms industry, first with AAC — the only company in the gun industry who's conference room was designed to look like the Starship Enterprise — then with Sig Sauer and now with his independent "skunk works," Q. After rolling out the El Camino .22 suppressor and the revised Honey Badger 2.0, Kevin turned his sights on completely disrupting the centuries-old bolt action rifle world. Considering his team includes Robby Johnson, a combat vet from the Army Marksmanship Unit and one of the finest long-distance shooters in the world, and Ethan Lessard, hands down the best weapons designer working today, we knew going in that the results would be spectacular. The Fix is all that and more, a sub-5 pound "unibody" bolt action rifle that quite literally redefines the bolt action market. "I wanted a gun that I could shoot in a Precision Rifle Series match on Saturday, then take deer hunting on Sunday," Robby told me. It is a brilliant rifle, and I can't wait to take it through the hoops. Here's the RECOIL magazine report (that's where we cribbed the picture)…later this year we'll be taking to the SHOOTING GALLERY crew to Kevin's farm in Georgia to meet up with the Q crew and run The Fix for SHOOTING GALLERY…that's an episode you WILL NOT want to miss!

B&T's UNIVERSAL SERVICE WEAPON 9mm SBR — Okay, maybe it's just me, but I can't wait to get my hands on the pistol version of this gun, which should be coming into the U.S. by mid-year. B&T, Brugger and Thomet, is a Swiss company that specializes in high end military weaponry, including submachineguns. The USW is sort of a classic European pistol/carbine:

The design, while pretty old in itself, is based on the emerging threat. Law enforcement equipped with a USW can use it as a pistol or, if they need a long shot, can pop out the stock and shoulder it…Europe doesn't have the same looney tunes regulations on short barreled rifles or pistols with stocks that infect the the U.S. The gun itself is your basic Swiss watch. There have been media reports that it incorporates parts from the Sphinx 3000 9mm Swiss pistols, acquired by B&T as assets of that company were sold off, and my sources gave me a nod on that. The Sphinxes always had a reputation as superb pistols...I recall lusting after the only one I ever shot. The plan is to bring the DA/SA pistol into the U.S. as a pistol, then offer the shoulder stock and nifty spring-loaded forward release for the stock for buyers after they obtain their $200 tax stamp. a striker-fired version will follow later. One neat feature is the sight, a prototype Aimpoint Nano, essentially an Aimpoint to compete with RMRs/Delta Points. Right now, the only Nanos are on USWs, but my little cherubs and seraphim tell me to expect a version of the Aimpoint Nano at NRA or soon after. I fell in love with the stocked machinepistol concept the last time I was in eastern Europe. I had a chance to put a lot of rounds through the Polish PM-63, the RAK, with its folding stock:

Note the family resemblance. I badly wanted a semi version of the RAK, but even the few parts kits had dried up. I'm perfectly happy to pay the $200 tax to come as close as I can.

Okay, those are my four home runs. I have plans to acquire all these guns for both SHOOTING GALLERY and SHOOTING GALLERY ONLINE. I'll let you know as the time frames firm up.

You're probably wondering what I bought. Well, expect to be surprised. I ordered 2 guns, a handgun and a rifle. From my friend Ronnie Barrett I ordered his first hunting rifle, the Fieldcraft in 6.5 Creedmoor, introduced last year. I was blown away by the rifle. It is built to Ronnie Barrett's standards, which are indeed high. I talked to Chris and Ronnie Barrett about the new rifle, and they were effusive. With the carbon fiber stock, stainless steel action, barrel and bolt and Timney trigger, I was sold.

The other gun I ordered is an oldie but a goodie, a target model Sig Sauer P210. It's not polymer, striker-fired or even particularly practical, but it is a pistol I have always wanted. The P210 rolled out in 1949, the year before I was born, as the Swiss army pistol. It's a single action, single stack 9mm pistol, arguably the most accurate 9mm ever made. For years the German guns were like unicorns, much discussed, seldom seen in the United States. The few that I was able to shoot certainly lived up to their reputations, but the price was staggering…hell, the P210 reference book is $350! Last year Sig began producing P210s in the United States. We all held our breaths…would the American guns match the flawless quality of the legendary German guns. Sig answered that question on Media Day this year. Magnificent! Still pricey, but now within reach.

We Return Now to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming!

Well, it appears I have survived another SHOT Show, not to mention a week in the Belly of the Beast, Las Vegas! My Sweetie has been smitten with the SHOT Blight, which, unless I am willing to go into a complete isolation chamber, will undoubtably spread to me later in the week.

Of course, the news of the Big Army's choice of the Sig Sauer 320 as the replacement for the aging Beretta M9s overshadowed pretty much everything at SHOT…it's not every day a company picks up a $580-some-odd million (over 10 years) contract.

I must say I was pretty surprised at the announcement. Not that the Sig 320 isn't a great gun — it is all that and more — but most of us figured that the Modular Handgun System program would crash upon some unseen shoals, as those programs have in the past, or that the Army would suck it up like the SOCOM boys and the FBI and take the easy path of the proven Glock 17/19. That's certainly what Glock thought!

The implications are pretty obvious. As with the Beretta M9, the Big Army contract, the most coveted handgun contract in the world, will launch the already successful 320 into the stratosphere. Validation by the U.S. military makes the gun an easy chose for a potential flood of other agencies. Over the years I have seen estimates of at least the same amount of sales to other Federal agencies, law enforcement and civilians clamoring to own the same gun the military uses. While the caliber was not announced, let me go out on a limb here and suggest that it will be 9mm. Why? I would say logistics…the huge military pipeline is already set up to provide 9mm ammunition worldwide, and changing to a different caliber would be a nightmare. I once had a very long and fruitful conversation on military logistics by one of the most knowledgeable men in the industry — Ron Cohen, the head of Sig Sauer. Funny, that.

The military contract will also open the floodgates of aftermarket parts to support the gun. That aftermarket will be increasingly driven by civilian and LEO acceptance of the 320 as a platform. Obviously, this is already underway with the relationship between Sig and GrayGuns. Bruce Gray, one of the greatest minds in the firearms world, has hammered out the 320 trigger, working essentially as an in-house R&D guy, and has a huge head start on aftermarket 320 parts. There will be lots of others!

Part of Ron Cohen's particular genius is platform expansion, figuring out ways to expand from a single gun into as many niches as possible. Being modular — the gun part of the gun is the stainless steel frame fire control unit — changing the polymer grip frame to different sizes is a snap. But Sig has already gone beyond that. Sig brought former USPSA President Phil Strader on board and charged him with building a competition version of the 320.

I talked to Phil last year, and he outlined to me a very aggressive plan to create an out-of-the-box competitive 320. This year, a justifiably proud papa showed me the 320 X-Five, a full-sized 5-inch 320 with their top-end competition trigger (amazing, but they way), a full profile bull barrel, an internal weight in the grip frame to balance the gun, removable flared magazine well and fiber optic front sight. The rear sight is a neat trick…Phil worked with Dawson Precision, a longtime supplier of competition guns and accessories, to create a removable plate to carry the fully adjustable Dawson-designed rear sight. The plate can be removed so the gun can be fitted with a ROMEO3 red dot optic. The package in 9mm will be delivered with 4 21-round magazines.

A year ago Phil told me his goal was the ultimate competition pistol, and I'll be damned if he didn't hit that goal. The 320 X-5 out of the box can be used in USPSA Limited, Production and with the ROMEO3 Carry Optics division, IDPA SSP (we think) and ESP divisions, 3-Gun and specialty matches like Bianchi. With the included 4 mags, add a holster, mag pouches and ammo, and you're pretty much good to go…all for roughly a grand, MSRP!

There are 2 other guns in the X-Series, including an X-Carry with a 3.9-inch barrel, and a VTAC version as spec'ed by VIKING CHRONICLE's Kyle Lamb. The VTAC is striking gun in FDE with lightening cuts on the slide.

I gotta say the competition X-5 p320 shot irrationally well. I've shot a bunch of 320s, including Bruce Gray's personal competition pistol, and I have to agree that the X-5 is competition-ready out of the box. I stand in awe of a striker-fired pistol with a trigger as good as the trick p320s. Not surprisingly for a champion of Phil's stature, the gun is perfectly balanced, which shaves off critical seconds on stages of fire.

The competition component is important because it will provide a billboard for the p320 platform (it doesn't hurt that Sig has Phil, legendary competitor Max Michel, IDPA champion Tom Yost and…oh yeah…Lena Miculek on board). Combine that with the sheer weight of the Army contract, and the p320 will be a freight train, running over the other "Glock-ish" pistols in the market.

I have said before that the problem other polymer-framed striker-fired manufacturers have is they have to make the "value proposition" of why to choose their products over the the Glock 17/19. That is a lot harder than it sounds. You can talk function and features, but on examination there aren't any huge differences (I might exclude a manual safety from that list). Gaston Glock's evolutionary strategy and the Glock's "long tail" of aftermarket parts, ease of modification and performance enhancements have made making that value proposition a pretty high hurdle. I'd say the p320 just vaulted over that hurdle, and then some.

Friday, January 13, 2017

My Pre-SHOT Predications — The Year of the PCC

Sig MPX, the uber-9

With just a few days to go until SHOT, I think we can see a little more through the glass darkly. Here are some random thoughts:

2017 is the Year of the Pistol Caliber Carbine.

In the last few days I've been flooded with news releases on PCCs. There are a lot of "dedicated" units out there, plus most of the big AR makers have already, or are planning to, push PCCs to market. We've covered this topic extensively here on the blog/podcast, on Facebook on and on SHOOTING GALLERY. In fact, this season on SHOOTING GALLERY we will feature 9mm carbines and pistols and discuss their rise. So remember, you heard it here first!

Several sub-points on this one:

-- Companies who got in early stand to reap big rewards. Kel-Tec with their Sub 2000 comes to mind immediately, We used Sub 2000s in the AMERICAN MARKSMAN finals, and they were a huge success…not to mention workhorses.

-- In the AR arena, CMMGJP Rifles and Rock River are all veterans in the market with solid products. JP has an upgraded version of their GMR-13, the GMR-15. I have a lot of experience with the JP GMR-13, and I would unequivocally say it is the top of the heap in 9mm carbines. But JP now has a lot of competition. Billy Wilson jumped into the fray last year with the Wilson Combat AR-9…I own Wilson Combat rifles and I've had a few minutes with Mike Seeklander's AR-9. It is a superb carbine, which is what I would expect from Wilson Combat.

--Sig Sauer has a MASSIVE hit with their MPX carbine (and the pistol version, for that matter), as does CZ with their relatively inexpensive Scorpion EVO carbines and pistols. The MPX has dropped neatly into the "MP-5 Oh My God I Have to Have One of Those!!!" category…I suspect if Sig could 3X their output, they could sell every one tomorrow afternoon. Sig's MPX (and CZ EVO carbine) sales will be driven even more by the next point…

-- USPSA has a huge home run on their hands with the Pistol Caliber Carbine division. New USPSA President Mike Foley took a big swing and hit this one out of the park. The first PCC Nationals will be held later this year, and the Sig MPX has — initially — emerged as the go-to gun for the division. I could go into a lot of blatherings about why PCC is the right division at the right time, but let me just throw some things out there…pent-up demand generated by 3-Gun, which is constrained by it high barriers-to-entry, ability to run PCC matches or ranges with only pistol bays, and ammo costs. Watch this one!

-- PCC-oriented companies like Quarter Circle 10 and Angstadt Arms stand on the verge of big growth, if they can keep from being run over by the big boys. Both of these companies build superb products. The "My Little Friend" pistol project for SHOOTING GALLERY ONLINE is based on QC10 products, and the Angstadt Arms pistol I have is destined to become an SBR. ARES Defense (now doing business as FightLite), the innovative AR-based company that pioneered the belt-fed AR and the traditionally styled AR-based SCR rifle, is going whole hog into the PCC market, with carbines/pistols based on their submachine gun platform, that features the ability to convert to a number of different pistol magazines. I note there's even a Nigerian company, BNTI Arms, with U.S. headquarters in Jacksonville, rolling out a 9mm into the U.S. market.

-- The rise of PCC also breathes life into a couple of other areas. For example, IWI, whose Tavor bullpup was the best-selling 5.56 carbine in the U.S. last year, offers 9mm conversion units and full 9mm carbines, using Colt-style mags. I will be running an IWI X95 9mm in USPSA PCC division later this year. Beretta's CX4 Storm carbine should also see abig boost. One other area to watch is the RONI pistol carbine conversion units. Having worked with SBR versions of this platform, it has a lot of potential. If you're willing to pony up the $200 and hang around for 6 or 7 months for the SBR paperwork (there is a carbine version), it's a neat idea to be able to ratchet your pistol into the RONI and have a carbine. If you don't want to go the SBR route, Mech-Tech has had their CCU pistol conversion system around for years…I think I still have a 1911 version from 15 years ago in my safe.

-- Other companies that stand to benefit from this trend are makers of 9mm carbines like TNW Firearms and their multicolored Aero Survival Rifles, which recently got an excellent review from AMERICAN RIFLEMAN. Other dedicated 9mm carbine companies like Just Right and Thureon Defense stand to benefit as well.

-- I think part of the PCC explosion on the AR platform is due to the debugging of the Glock magazine platform. Carbines/pistols using Glock mags are an easy step for not just Glock pistol owners, but because of their easy availability and larger capacity (30+ round mags from Glock, ETS and the Koreans) are a good choice for everyone. However, the venerable Colt magazines are far from dead. The original 9mm AR submachine gun, the Colt 635 from the early 1980s, used magazines based on the Uzi (and Uzi mags could be adapted to fit), and that magazine quickly became the standard for 9mm AR platform carbines and pistols. There are a LOT of Colt pattern mags out there, and since many many companies are committed to the Colt mags, there is a lot of development… Stag and IWI-branded mags are a definite step up, available in 10, 20 and 30 round versions.

-- The growth in the AR platform PCCs is being helped by the widespread availability of dedicated AR lowers for Colt or Glock magazines, as opposed to the magazines spacer blocks used originally by Colt and most of the AR pistol manufacturers for the last couple of decades. Well made spacers were no problemo (my Spike's Tactical pistol, for example) but there were some really crappy example out there that caused no end to problems.

-- A couple of more platforms to watch…with this renewed interest in 9m carbines and carbine-based pistols, the venerable HK MP-5 is staging a major clone comeback. HK is offering, essentially, their own MP-5 clone, the SP5K in pistol version (although I have been told a carbine version is in the works). It uses the classic HK roller delayed blowback system, is crazy accurate and costs a lot, in the $2700 range, a grand more than the Sig MPX — although, to be honest, all the MP-5 clones will set you back more than any of the guns we've talked about. I've run the Brethern Arms clones — probably my choice if I was buying — and they were super, being, in effect, semi-custom guns. THE FIREARM BLOG recently did a list of the other MP-5 clones out there. Realistically, if you want to go full John McClane and, in your dreams, launch Hans Gruber off Nakatomi Plaza, this is the way you've got to go.

-- Finally, and a readily admit this is an outlier, you can get an M1 Carbine in 9mm from Chiappa Firearms. I love M1 Carbines and am at a loss to understand why I don't have one. The Chiappa runs off Beretta 9mm magazines and has a somewhat sketchy reputation for reliability. Both Inland Manufacturing and Auto-Ordnance make well-thought-of M1 Carbine clones (I've got a lot of rounds through the Auto-Ordnance version), and the guys at A-O even built a few M1 Carbines for 3-Gun competition in jurisdictions where the AR was banned/restricted. Be fun to shoot these in a PCC match (although by USPSA rules the .30 Carbine is not a pistol cartridge).

-- I haven't mentioned Hi-Point Firearms here because I have no experience with them. Hi-Point has taken a lot of flack over the years from snippy gun nerds (hmmmm..I wonder if I know any of those?!?!), but they've been around a long time and are dirt cheap.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

New Years Day, 2017

"There is always hope..."
-- Aragon, son of Arathorn
"The Two Towers"

"By the rivers of Babylon
Where he sat down
And there he wept
When he remembered Zion

Oh, the wicked carried us away in captivity
Required from us a song
How can we sing King Alpha's song
In a strange land?

Oh, the wicked carried us away in captivity
Required from us a song
How can we sing King Alpha's song
In a strange land?

So let the words of our mouth
And the meditation of our heart
Be acceptable in Thy sight
Oh, verai!"

Rivers of Babylon