RANGE: Friday, Sept 18

This day marked my second range session since completing the holster draw class. I would be shooting my M&P Shield 9mm, drawing from a Blade Tech IWB holster. I planned to shoot 30 rounds of Sig Elite Performance FMJ left over from my previous session as well as 36 of the 50 rounds of Remington Target FMJ that I purchased at check-in for a total of 66 rounds. All bullets weighed in at 115 gr. I hadn’t cleaned my pistol since last week’s session but I did lube it prior to dry firing at the target downrange. I always practice sight acquisition & dry firing before I fire my first live round at every range session. My pistol tends to run more reliably when it’s a little dirty; I haven’t decided yet whether or not this is good or bad.

This is a view of my pistol & the target set at 10 yds, which is a typical practice distance for a self defense pistol.
The results from my first live magazine of the day from a distance of 7 yds.

START TIME, 6:02PM–MAG#1: I began the live fire portion of the session the way I always do; no drawing from the holster, no rapid fire sequences. I used the flush 7 round mag. I was satisfied but not thrilled with the results. The group could have been tighter but it was adequate; and my sight picture was solid as I essentially left a pattern of a vertical line. I moved on to 10 yds with my (mag#2) extended 8 round magazine & produced satisfactory results (no picture provided).

Results from mag#3: The purple snow flake is much smaller than the blue one targeted on my first magazine. I essentially shot at a palm-sized target from 10 yds, scoring 3 direct hits & 2 near misses.

Mag#2: Mag#2 results left much to be desired. I was low & to the left on 1/2 of my 8 shots with one outlier landing way left. Angered, I reloaded the same extended mag for a do-over, aiming this time for the even smaller target at the top right corner of the rectangle: the purple snow flake! I even double tapped on I believe my last 4 rounds for good measure. The results (pictured above) were much better so I felt confident about moving the target out to 15 yds from mag#4.

Mag#4: I at least want to know that I can hit a target out to real world, less than perfect, crucial self-defense ranges. My ability to hit a plate-sized target at least 1/2 the time at 15 yds out is a must-do have any handgun that I will depend on for defense. I aimed for a clean snow flake, the light blue one on the bottom right corner. Satisfied with the results (pictured below) I wanted to assess my ability out to 20 yds; after which time, I would move on to the holster draw portion of the day’s practice.

Mag#5/Hail Mary: To save bullets for my holster draw practice, I only loaded the extended mag to 4 rounds. Bear in mind that this light blue snow flake (#19) is MINISCULE! Landing any of my 4 rounds in the vicinity of said snow flake while simultaneously avoiding any horrible miss would constitute a success. I passed (see below).

From 20 yds away, I aimed for the small, light blue, “19” snow flake at the bottom right. My four shots all landed in that vicinity with only one outlier to the left.

HOLSTER DRAW/ STAGING THE DRAW STROKE–6:16PM: Everything I covered so far took less than 15 minutes. I spent the next 8 minutes practicing the draw stroke, breaking it down into 3 major stages. At first I focus just on gripping the pistol firmly in the holster, without even drawing it. I later progress to pulling the weapon out, meeting both hands on the grip around chest area, then punching out to a shooting position while quickly acquiring good sight picture. I even dry fired once or twice towards the end of the 8 minutes. Well, once you’ve made your way up to the high dive at the pool, you have to jump some time. I was ready for live fire.

LIVE FIRE HOLSTER PRACTICE, 6:24PM–MAG#6: On my last 4 shots from mag#5, the ones from 20 yds out, I broke into my 2nd box of ammo–Remington Target FMJ. I actually had one flush mag filled with my last 7 rounds of Sig Elite Performance. I choose not to use the flush mag from distance because the extended mag of 8 would give me a better grip to help precision. Moreover, I like drawing from the holster with the flush mag because I am more likely to carry the pistol with the flush mag to enhance concealment. No big deal to start out; 5 yds out, no rapid fire. My focus was on safely & consistently drawing the weapon up to a shooting position, firing a shot, then re-holstering. The draw felt good all the way through the trigger pull. I was happy with the results except for one outlier. I think it was towards the end when I got greedy & double tapped. (See picture below.)

MAG#7: Still using the flush mag, I moved the target back to 7 yds. To maximize my holster draw/re-holster opportunities, I promised to outlaw double taps. From this point forward, I chose to load each mag to only 5 rounds.

From my notes (I’m writing this journal entry 2 days after the fact), it appears as if I fired 2 more mags loaded to 5 rounds. If memory serves, it believe I fired a 3rd mag with a total of 10 total mags used. On my last two, I backed the target out to 10 yds & drew from the holster to engage the target. I even captured video of my last or 2nd to last mag; my notes indicate the target was set to 10 yds.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I was pleased with the progress of my holster draw/re-holster technique. Oddly, it seems easier when I’m live firing then it does when I’m practicing with an empty pistol. The less I think about it, the smoother the operation seems to go. I felt vastly improved from the previous week, when I would complete a decent draw stroke but then pause to acquire target before I could squeeze off a shot. My practice of drawing the weapon then acquiring sight picture without taking the shot earlier seemed to help. The only thing that didn’t show vast improvement was my accuracy–which was adequate for self defense but nothing that would wow anyone. I want to “wow” everyone. In my defense, my groups with the 9 have been extremely tight both this week & last when not drawing from the holster. In addition, I had the target out out to 7 & even 10 yds for the majority of my holster draw practice & the group still looked a bit tighter than last week’s, when the target was only set to 5 & 7 yds. All in all, the day was a success. (66 shots fired, all fmj, all 115 grain: 30 Sig Elite Performance + 36 Remington Target.)

Inner Circle (7)

SESSION 7: Wednesday, Mar 18, 2020

BROUGHT: Taurus 851 (CIA), KelTec P3AT

RENTED: none

RSO: unknown

With Coronavirus hysteria reaching its feverish pitch, I suddenly had more free time as today marked the first day of furloughs from both by day & night job. Oh well. That’s what savings & paid time off are for, I guess. Back to business.

I purchased the S&W 642 strategically. The Taurus 851 is an all steel clone of the Smith & Wesson from its completely enclosed hammer to the long, heavy trigger pull. My intention was to practice frequently with the all steel Taurus & then fire just a few cylinders from the Smith to ensure that lessons from the former translated to proficiency with the latter. As such, I started the day’s session with four consecutive cylinders from the Taurus while my Smith remained freshly wiped down, tucked away in the 1791 Holster on my hip. I’ve posted the results below.

I’ve captured the results from my first cylinder in the above picture, left. I fired these shots from 7 yards away. I fired the five additional shots captured in the photo on the right from 10 yards away.

For cylinder three (above, left), I pushed the target out to fifteen yards. Now, I have a confession to make. On my first few shots, I take my time to acquire my sight picture & then slowly squeeze the trigger. I don’t like to get off to a bad start; for one thing, the way I start a session often dictates the tone for the entire session. For another, the RSO’s at this site watch every shooter like a hawk. If they don’t know you & you look the least bit awkward, they descend on you for a fierce coaching. It’s a great service for new shooters, but I typically like to be left alone. In addition, I tend to rest my stomach against the bench in order to stabilize myself. I was utilizing each of these advantages through the first three cylinders. On the fourth one, however, I stood a few inches back from the bench & just point & shot as I would in a true self defense scenario.  I was happy with the results, especially considering that I was using a revolver with less than a 2″ barrel at 15 yards.

On a sad note, I experienced a catastrophic failure on the 6th round of my KelTec P3AT. The round shot off but failed to eject, leaving the case completely stuck in the barrel. In addition, the recoil spring had worked its way through the front of the barrel.

Failure
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end–Closing Time.”

This day would mark the 3rd time I had observed such a failure in this same pistol over the last twelve months. I figured it was time to retire it and, given that it was a sub $300 pistol that I had owned since 2007, I consider the little .380 ACP a worthwhile purchase. The KelTec had done it’s job; now it was time for others to do the same. One of the more memorable songs from my late adolescence declared: “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

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Inner Circle (6)

SESSION 6: Mon, March 16, 2020

CORONAVIRUS STRIKES! I worked my day job just as I ordinarily would, fielding numerous questions as to when we would close over the outbreak. To everyone’s knowledge at this point, we would be full speed ahead business as usual. Just minutes before I would be leaving for my night job, the boss calls me & offers me the day off over an anticipated slow business projection for the night. I accepted & took the opportunity to get some more trigger time with my new revolver.

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This was my first cylinder of the day through my new S&W 642 from 5 yards out. The last shot of the group represented the 40th bullet fired through my revolver , lifetime.

 

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Here are the results after my 2nd cylinder. If memory serves, I had backed the target out to 7 yards.

I had owned the S&W 642 for about two weeks now & had run 35 rounds through it the day I bought it, even before I brought it home. Since I had picked up a new box of self defense ammo earlier in the day, I wanted to run the final remaining rounds from my original box. So on this day, I ran fifteen rounds of Hornady Critical Defense 110 gr FTX. I like to shoot what I carry for at least 1-3 cylinder a session to ensure proper function.

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Here I used my KelTEC P3AT from 7 yds out. Sadly, the pistol experienced a major malfunction on its sixth & final shot.

I closed out my half hour session with a magazine or two of .380 ACP from my KelTec P3AT from the standard 7 yard mark. I performed reasonably well as I usually do with the KelTec given that I like long, heavy trigger pulls. I don’t like surprises when it comes to my self defense firearms.

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Inner Circle (5)

SESSION 5: Tuesday, March 3, 2020

BROUGHT: New S&W 642

RENTED: none

RSO: unknown

Cylinder 1

Hornady Criticial Defense Lite (Loose; purchased within last 4 months

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Here is the very first cylinder out of my new S&W 642 revolver. I fired shots from 5 yards away barely an hour after having cleared the background check at my local FFL.

Cylider 2

Speer Gold Dot 135 grain (Loose rounds; probably purchased late 2019)

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Here are the results of my first two cylinders fired at a distance of five yards out.

Cylder 3

Sportman’s Warehouse cheap LSWC; Grizzly brand perhaps

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Cylider 4

Hornady Critical Defense FTX/Standard Pressure (NIB; just purchased)

Cylinder 5

Hornady Critical Defense FTX/Standard Pressure (NIB; just purchased)

Cylinder 6

Hornady Critical Defense FTX/Standard Pressure (NIB; just purchased) I ran 15 of the 25 rounds from the new box of Self-Defense hollow points. If I plan to carry them in my new revolver, I wanted to confirm consistent function. Experienced zero issues.

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After the first two cylinders, I increased the distance of the target. I fired all other shots from a distance of either 7 or 10 yards exactly. Here is a sample of the results.

Cylinder 7

Remington UMC 130 grain FMJ/Standard Pressure

Wanted to run a cylinder of standard target/general purpose rounds through the new revolver. As expected, no issues. I expended 5 rounds from the 50 round box purchased today along with the revolver & the Self-Defense Hornady rounds.

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See Results from .380 ACP

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Inner Circle (4)

Session 4: Sat, Feb. 22, 2020

Brought: Taurus 851 (CIA)

Rented: S&W 642, S&W Bodyguard .38

RSO: unknown

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Taurus: I started the day with the revolver with which I was most familiar: my own Taurus snubnose .38 Special. Great Group. Shot for left column/center circle. Scored a diagnol line of 5 inches or less. Distance was from 5 yards out.

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S&W 642
: Not bad but I shot this revolver the worst of the three. I aimed for the right column/center circle. I then aimed for the right column/top & bottom circles. I shot a big high & initial sight acquisition was slower with this gun. It’s still a viable choice as a CCW; my only concern with it is the screw in the cylinder latch, a design identical to my Taurus. The screw worked itself loose on my Taurus.

 

S&W Bodyguard .38: This revolver was a bit lighter than the 642. (Statistics show the Bodyguard weight at just over 13 oz unloaded whereas the same stats list the 642 at just over 15 oz. The 2 oz difference was noticeable but not overwhelming.) This revolver came equipped with a laser sight. I shot more consistently without the laser but my best shot of the day, straight through the center of the bulls-eye, came about with the help of the laser. Nice cylinder release! CONCERN: Web Forums posts from current & former owners frequently cite cylinder & trigger problems. It’s a shame because I really liked the feel, performance, & the look of this space-aged revolver.

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TAKEAWAY: If I’m buying a new CCW, I should decide between the Glock 43 & the S&W 642. It’s time to throw everything else.

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Making that Hard Choice

I will start with the basics. Handguns come in two categories: revolvers & pistols. I will speak in general terms with the intention of providing assistance to the potential first-time handgun buyer. Experienced owners must forgive my broad assertions as my goal is to help an inexperienced individual make a reasonably informed big decision quickly. I speak from personal experience & although I am no professional, I have completed a NRA handgun safety course & have fired numerous shots from different handguns at gun ranges for a period spanning almost two decades now. If this topic offends you, please stop reading. If you are serious about becoming a handgun owner, I will provide a statement of wisdom. “He who chooses wisely first chooses once.”

Revolvers are both simple to define & simply to operate. Just think wild west. These guns are popular for hunting as they tend to be made for larger calibers & their lower capacity makes them less threatening to the unindoctrinated (liberals) as potential assault weapons. Think of revolvers as heavy weight boxers: knock out punch potential but no stamina to go the distance. I identify the primary advantages of revolvers as follows: reliability/simplicity, heavy-hitting, & less socially controversial—although in our current climate, gun ownership of any kind carries with it the potential for controversy.

Pistols are more complex, both to define & to operate. You will hear terms like semi-automatic, or “automatic,” although the latter term is inaccurate & easily abused for politic purposes to create undue hysteria. You may also hear the operation described in pistols as “using a detachable magazine.” You may hear media catch phrases associated with pistols high-capacity, military-grade, & assault weapon. These terms come in varying degrees of accuracy but in my opinion, are often misused to inflame the fears of a largely uninformed voting population. While pistols are more likely to be used by armed professionals like police & military units, they are hardly a front-line military grade weapon & are all  woefully inadequate as “assault weapons.” Even in the hands of professionals, pistols almost exclusively serve the role of personal defense tools, which makes them ideal as a civilian option for home defense or personal security. The primary advantages of pistols over revolvers, generally speaking, is their higher ammo capacity, improved speed of reload, lighter weight, & lower recoil (which should translate to more accuracy for a typical civilian shooter.) The disadvantages of opting for a pistol instead of a revolver can be less knock down power per bullet (very few states will allow hunting in calibers commonly made for pistols), more potential for malfunctions (the weapon may jam or fail to eject a round), a lighter trigger which may lead to accidental discharge, & the negative stigma that the media tends to place on them.

Moving on to caliber: I have some urgent advice on this matter. Stick to common calibers, preferably those of medium power. In pistols, common calibers are 9mm, .40, & .45 ACP with .380 ACP playing the role of a hybrid round which is mostly common & almost medium power. The .380 ACP is essentially a 9mm with a short case. The diameter of the back of the bullet & coincidentally the diameter of its projectile measuring 9mm with the case that encloses it’s powder at 17mm. This round is big in Europe & will often be designated metrically as the 9X17mm; whereas the 9mm, it’s more common global big brother, will see the designation of 9X19. Regarding revolvers, once again, things become simpler. I designate medium power in the revolver as .38 Special/.357 Magnum. Case closed.

comparison-300x160

The relationship between the .38 Special & .357 Magnum is analogous to that of the .380 ACP (9X17) & 9mm (9X19) in that both rounds have the same diameter but different case lengths. In the revolver’s case, a .357 Magnum is a longer .38 Special, or in a nutshell, a turbocharged .38 Special. Here’s the game changer. If you buy a .357 Magnum (a bullet that many states approve as the minimum acceptable caliber for hunting deer) you can shoot .38 Special from the same revolver. However if you buy a .38 Special, you CANNOT shoot a .357 Magnum from that same handgun. Think of it in terms of a dog owner having both a large dog & a small dog. The dog owner will not have to install a small doggie door for the small dog & large one for the larger dog because a large doggie door would work just fine for both. CAUTION: You cannot interchange .380 ACP (9×17) ammo with 9mm (9X19) ammo. If you buy a weapon in either caliber, you will be limited to shooting that specific caliber & nothing unless without deliberate, aftermarket modification which I advise against.

Okay. Now that you are indoctrinated, I will come provide some specific models to consider as representatives of the common options that you may decide on for yourself. I will lead in to my recommendations by quoting by own Conceal Carry Instructor’s words when he said he should consider the 3 C’s when choosing a personal carry weapon for defense: Caliber, Concealability, & Controls. I won’t get into too much detail with Concealability or Controls as those concern will largely vary on personal individual factors & I believe we have discussed caliber adequately.

If you choose a .38 Special/.357 Magnum, I recommend considering something along the lines of a S&W J-frame revolver or a Ruger LCR. If you are a larger person with larger than average hands, you may want to opt for a slightly larger & heavier model like a Ruger SP101 or even a Ruger GP100. I recommend a barrel length of 2” to 3.25” so that you keep the option to carry available. Take care to ensure that whichever model you choose is a .357 Magnum, which can also shoot the less potent but cheaper .38 Special, or is a .38 Special exclusively as many of the options I have listed offer revolvers in each category. Each revolver listed will have a capacity of either 5 or 6 rounds.

Glock

If you choose a pistol, I’d look heavily at any number of single stack 9mm “slim” models from one of the many established manufacturers as a primary option. Choices like the Springfield Armory XD/s & XD/s Mod 2; the Glock 43 (6-round capacity) ,Glock 43X (10-round capacity), & Glock 48 (10-round capacity); & the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield (7 to 8-round capacity) should all serve as worthy contenders. If you have smaller hands or opt for something more concealable, I would choose between the Smith & Wesson Bodyguard .380 in (9X17) or the Glock 42, also in 9×17. Each pistol has a 6-round capacity per magazine. All or most of these choices come with two magazines from the factory & I recommend buying at least one spare for a total of three.

380

There are many choices to make but if you’ve read this far, it appears you have made the most important choice of all. You have chosen to consider exercising your right to become a gun owner in America. The choice you’ve made will not be one without controversy, but my advice to you or any potential gun owner would be this: Do the research. Make a smart choice. And always, do it the right way. Buy from a dealer with a Federal Firearms License, have the background check done, & keep you research. In gun ownership as with all things, the burden to do right is always primarily the burden of the righteous ones. Choose wisely & choose once. Stay safe.

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