No one is coming to save you

I am exhausted of writing about terrorist attacks, but they keep happening. And they continue to be relevant to our local self-defense situations here in the states. The most attack in Turkey focused on something that we’ve known forever is a soft target: the unsecure area of airports.

Image courtesy SecuritySales.Com
Image courtesy SecuritySales.Com

“But Caleb” you’ll say, “we can’t carry into airports!” Yeah, I know. That’s a real tricky situation right there, although I’d also be the first to tell you that a 9mm isn’t going to be a whole lot of help against someone clacking off a vest with no warning. However, that’s not the point.

Continue reading “No one is coming to save you”

Small 1911’s and Reliability

Earlier this week I started a long-term review of a Dan Wesson ECO, which is a 3.5 inch Officer’s sized 1911.  Lest anyone think its reliability will be a gimme, I offer the following video from Rob Pincus.  I don’t know Rob, and I don’t agree with everything he writes, but based off my personal experience he is correct.

Yes, the gun in the video is a Kimber, but that is irrelevant.  Small 1911’s are generally finicky.  In fact, I fully expect the ECO will fail at some point.  And if it does, I have a couple of things in my bag of tricks that might help reliability.

Did you see the challenge at the end of the video?  I don’t know if Rob is still offering this, but if the ECO kicks ass, maybe I could take him up on the offer – not likely.

In the end, I hope the ECO stuns me with utter reliability, but if it fails, I will not be shocked in any way.  It is the nature of the beast.

So… do you have a small 1911 that has been flawless?  Let us know.  Please include the total cumulative round count, as well as the maximum round count you shot in one session.

And for those that care, I finally got around to buying some ammo so testing will start tomorrow!

Search Engine Q&A

Sometimes I like to go through the incoming search terms that have brought people to the blog and wonder “how in the hell did that get them there?” Other times, I like to find questions and answer them. This is the latter, so I’m going to cherry pick a few search terms and hopefully answer them. If you’re the person who searched the blog for “plus size women’s concealed carry clothes that won’t print” you’re probably going to be disappointed, but for the other people? This should be fun.

Continue reading “Search Engine Q&A”

Killing Bambi with a 9mm (Or Why A Head-Shot Might Not Stop The Attack)

Click bait title right?  Obviously I don’t mean using a 9mm to hunt Mr. Buck; but, I recently had to dispatch a gravely wounded deer with my CCW and in doing so I came away with some insight worth sharing.

First a quick yarn about how the events unfolded.

I was on my way to work in pretty heavy fog, when out of nowhere a deer jumped in front of the car ahead of me and tried to wrestle.  As expected the car won.  Amazingly the driver didn’t stop, instead they  kept going (how do I know they didn’t have insurance…) even though their headlight and portions of their bumper where now occupying the road.  Normally I wouldn’t have stopped either, but the deer came to rest directly in front of the bus entrance to my son’s elementary school.  It was early in the morning and the buses hadn’t started running, but I knew if I didn’t move the carcass no one would.  I didn’t want school buses dodging a deer in morning school traffic, nor did I want small kids to start their school day witnessing bloody gore.

Continue reading “Killing Bambi with a 9mm (Or Why A Head-Shot Might Not Stop The Attack)”

Anatomy of an accident

Firearms are relatively simple machines to understand. You load them, you point them at something you want to put a hole in, and then you pull the trigger. Easy, right?

So why in the name of Zeus is it so bloody hard to get people to avoid pointing guns at things they don’t want to blow a hole in?

“Excuse me, sir, but would you like to put a bullet through your hand? No? THEN DON’T POINT THE GUN AT YOUR HAND!”

I see this kind of stuff far too often when I’m at the range. On more than one occasion I have actually laid hands on another person to redirect the muzzle of their weapon away from either an innocent person who did not deserve to get shot, or in a couple of cases their own anatomy.

On a trip to the NRA range when I was shooting a drill, out of the corner of my eye I saw Todd Green dive into the next lane. I immediately ceased fire, brought my gun to a ready position and moved. I looked over to see Todd shoving an 8mm Mauser rifle away from my direction. The woman handling the rifle had it pointed directly at me.

Todd got a few inches away from the woman’s face and very sternly said “Do not point guns at my friends.”

Was he being rude? Hell no. He was doing exactly what everybody should do when someone POINTS A LETHAL WEAPON AT ANOTHER HUMAN BEING. Endangering the life of another person REQUIRES an immediate and stern rebuke.

You know what is rude? POINTING A LETHAL WEAPON AT ANOTHER HUMAN BEING. 

In this video we have a clear example of where an immediate and unmistakable correction could have prevented gunshot wound. The victim here appears to be the person who is less familiar with firearms of the pair in the video. I’m all for taking people to the range, but when we do it is incumbent upon us to emphasize safe handling and correct any mistakes instantly and unmistakably.

When the shooter here put his hand in front of the muzzle the proper response would have been to IMMEDIATELY direct the gun away from his anatomy and very simply say “Don’t point guns at anything you don’t want to kill!”

If someone is unable to take that sort of correction, they don’t need to be handling a gun. 

Of course, the shooter here did not mean to do any harm to himself or anyone else. He was simply being careless with a very dangerous object.

But tell me…did his lack of malice matter? Did he get any less shot because he didn’t mean to do it? 

Bullets are stupid. They do the same amount of damage whether you intended to launch one or not. So it is not a trivial matter when someone puts the muzzle on human anatomy…be it yours or theirs.

Rule 1 is rule 1 for a reason. You can screw up every other rule of handling a firearm, but if you observe rule 1 then there is some embarrassment and perhaps some drywall to repair but that’s it. If you screw up Rule 1 then somebody bleeds. Someone is permanently injured. Someone dies.

 

Five awesome guns to shoot before you die

We’re all enthusiasts at some level. Sure, some of us are more serious about competition, some of us are more serious about defensive shooting, but not a single person that’s deeply invested in our hobby won’t admit that some guns are just cool. If I had to create a simple five-stop bucket list of guns you have to shoot before you die, this would be it. Some of the guns are on this list because they’re historically significant, others just because they’re cool and I like them.

Continue reading “Five awesome guns to shoot before you die”

Project Lumen – Part 2

For Part 2 of Project Lumen we will review the notes and data points from the first three lights tested.

During the testing I learned a tidbit that is specific to my house, is wholly irrelevant to this test, and does illustrate the need to actual test your home and don’t fall into the trap of presumption.

Streamlight ProTac:

This was the brightest light tested so far and the initial illumination or “light on” wasn’t a problem with my groggy night sight.   It was definitely bright; but not blinding or over-powering.  The illumination was very good and I had no problem seeing what I needed to see.

The 180 lumen LED provided a quality white illumination, and while it made for some hard shadows, the overall light provided was excellent.

The reflectivity off the walls was not bad at all.  The interior walls of my house have an egg-shell sheen so that clearly comes into play.  If the walls in my house were high gloss; or if I was up against a door frame painted with gloss trim paint, there might be a problem.

This was the best light tested so far.

Streamlight Microstream:

At 45 lumens this is easily the dullest light of the test.  The illumination was just weak; even with new batteries installed.  Initial “light on” wasn’t a problem because the overall light was dim – very, very dim.

As with the ProTac LED, the color was a vibrant white hue and overall provided the bare minimum amount of light to do the job.  With only 45 lumens, reflectivity was virtually zero and as noted above, the overall effect on my night sight was minimal.

While the Streamlight Microstream is a good light, its worth as a defensive light is questionable.  It is better than nothing, but so is a candle, sans the fire hazard.  I still think this is a decent flashlight for EDC, but I would not make it my only light by the bedside.

PL 2

The XS Micro and Microstream chillin’ on some Kevlar and Nomex aircraft paneling.

INOVA XS Micro:

This light was not purchased for any other reason than I liked the way it looked.  The color is reminiscent of Titanium, even though it is not.  No, my excuse for this light would be those times I am really dressed up, such as weddings and funerals.  I never had self-defense or serious use in mind when I purchased this flashlight; so of course I tested it.  At 80 lumens, I felt it exploring its capabilities as a defense torch was warranted.

Similar to the Micro Stream, the initial light was not blinding or over-powering.  At 80 lumens the XS Micro was better than the Microstream.  In fact, it was quite a bit better, more so then the difference in lumens would suggest.

Oddly, the LED cast a bluish hue to the environment; not a major issue, but the illumination was not as “clean” as the ProTac or the Microstream.  For those that don’t know, the human eye has the most difficulty seeing blue illumination when compared to all others.  Click here for more information.

Finally, the tail cap was difficult to actuate.  This is not a review, but this was readily noticeable while drowsy.  I still think it looks cool, and now that I am aware of its shortcomings, I can better decide when to carry this sexy little light.

Part 2 Conclusions:

With these three low power flashlights reviewed it is obvious that anything less than around 150 lumens is too weak for real consideration. (Hint – the 100 lumen NEBO has already been tested too)  At no point was my night vision affected and I learned several key points on the way shadows are cast in my house.

Next time I will review the NEBO, the 275 lumen Streamlight PolyTac and Streamlight NF-2 with an incandescent bulb and only 78 lumens.

I look to future parts with the following questions:

  1. Is there a limit to have many lumens you should have?
  2. Can incandescent light dissuade my developing thought that 150 lumens should be the bare minimum for a torch you might stake your life on?
  3. While gathering data, will I stub my toe and awaken everyone with my  cursing?

Project Lumen

If you spend any time watching low light videos on YouTube, or reading articles by “experts”, you will notice two differing opinions on the requirements of a home defense light.  Some will say too many lumens will reflect back into your face and blind you; others say it doesn’t matter and you should go with the brightest possible.  So which is it?

I wanted to find out and decided to do some testing of my own – Project Lumen.  With this article I will lay out the goal and some ground rules.

The Goal

Can have too many lumens at night?  Will too bright a light lead to self-induced blindness?  Are the opinions of other based in fact, or just regurgitated internet tripe?

This experiment will hopefully answer those questions while also helping me to determine what the best illumination for my house is.  Keep in mind your house may be different.  You may have more, or less, shadows; your house is likely a different color and sheen on the interior walls.  I have real wood floors throughout my house.  If you have carpet the reflected light will be different.  You may have mirrors that reflect light.  In my house we have a set of French doors leading into what has become the kid’s playroom.  Will the light reflected off of those doors be problematic?

Nitecore nvg

Ground Rules

It is worth noting that while I can’t test every flashlight ever made, I have gathered a decent spread of different types and lumen outputs to evaluate.  This testing will not be done in a sleep lab or a scientific dark room; no, instead it will be performed in my home, under realistic “bump in the night” conditions.  I will get to the actual test procedure in a minute, but certain aspects will be beyond my control; things such as:

  • How much moonlight is present through the windows.
  • Is there cloud cover?
  • Are my neighbors flood lights on or off?
  • How well, or how deep, was I sleeping when the test begins?

You may not agree with the results and it is entirely possible that your results would differ from mine. Still, I hope that you take the information and processes used and decide to test your own environment, draw your own conclusions, and ensure the best for your protection.

I want to give a quick note to those that might complain about my methods.  I am open to completely redoing the test in a perfectly controlled environment.  Just tell me what lab you are paying for and provide me with airfare, per diem, the address, a rental car, lost wages, and the brace of lights you want tested… ‘nuff said.

To make things simple I will use two parameters to define the test flashlights – lumens and bulb type.  Lumens is not the “be all, end all” of lighting; but it provides a number that can be used as a reference.  Bulb type will allow me to determine if the coloration of the light effects the result (for more on light color and mood click here) on the surrounding environment.  I will neither test nor document; run time, durability, candlepower, watts, weight, size or cost.  I have also made a conscious decision not to test a weapon mounted light.  This test is to determine the effects of light reflection and overall lumens on my eye sight; thus I see no reason to increase the element of error, and danger, by introducing a weapon into the test when I can get the same results with a flashlight.

Definitions

Lumen – :  a unit of luminous flux equal to the light emitted in a unit solid angle by a uniform point source of one candle intensity.  The Wikipedia page actually has a lot of quality information about lumens for those that want to geek out.

Candlepower – illuminating power expressed in candelas or candles.

The Contestants

Before I get to the test, which is remarkably simple, I want to list the players. I will test one flashlight per night.

  • Streamlight TL-3 (incandescent xenon gas-filled pen bulb, 211 lumens)
  • Streamlight NF-2 (incandescent xenon gas-filled pen bulb, 78 lumens)
  • Streamlight ProTac (C4 LED, 180 lumens)
  • Streamlight Micro Stream (C4 LED, 45 lumens)
  • Streamlight PolyTac (C4 LED, 275 lumens)
  • Nitecore SRT3 (CREE XM-L2 T6 LED, 550 lumens)
  • INOVA XS Micro (LED, 80 lumens)
  • NEBO Classic (LED, about 100 lumens)
  • Mag Light – 3 D Cell (incandescent, around 45 lumens)
  • A borrowed Streamlight Stinger DS LED (C4 LED, 350 Lumens)
  • Maybe a Q-Beam if I can borrow one (Bright!)

The Test

For as long as this article has become, the test is actually pretty easy.  I will stage one flashlight on my bedside table at bedtime. I wake up at 5:00 AM, well before anyone else in my house; so, when my alarm goes off, I will simply proceed to “clear” my house.  I will take the same path during each test. With nine flashlights and the potential for more this will take a couple of weeks, but my goal is to update what I learn as I go and offer a final conclusion at the end.

The test begins tonight.

Trade-in Temptation

If you look at gun stuff online, you’ve probably seen them…advertisements for police trade-in guns from various online distributors like CDNN Investments, Summit Gunbroker, or Bud’s Gun Shop. The temptation is strong: Here’s the possibility of buying a good useable firearm with maybe some cosmetic blemishes for a considerable discount.

At the moment a number of police departments across the country are trading in .40 S&W sidearms as they transition to 9mm pistols and as a result those former police guns are turning up at wholesalers, local dealers, and gunshows. Selling for between $150-400 off the price of a brand new specimen it’s very attractive. So should you buy one?

Maybe. To explain I need to tell you the tale of two friends who work for two different police departments.

The first is Greg Ellifritz. Greg is an incredibly intelligent, and incredibly dedicated guy. He’s also had the benefit of working for a department with good quality leadership and a generally adequate budget. They trusted Greg enough to invest in his personal development and benefit tremendously from his input and hard work…including his service as the department’s armorer. When he was the full-time training officer for his department, Greg took the time to carefully inspect each weapon his department issued, cleaned it thoroughly, and performed essential preventative maintenance like changing springs, and checking the fit and function of small parts like extractors, ejectors, disconnectors, safeties, etc. He did this with the utmost attention to detail because he knew that weapon’s function could mean the difference between life and death for one of his officers.

The second is a friend a bit more local to me who signed on with his department in the mid 1990’s. He was issued a Glock 22 as a sidearm along with 3 magazines. He retired in late 2013. Unfortunately there was no Greg in his department. His issued sidearm received absolutely no armorer’s attention in his entire career there. Not a single spring was changed. He was still using the magazines he was issued when he joined, which were still equipped with the original springs and followers. The department had absolutely no weapons inspections. At each qualification session they experienced multiple stoppages and malfunctions, which isn’t surprising as a number of officers never really cleaned or lubricated their weapons. He convinced his department to buy an ultrasonic cleaner which he used and managed to convince a few others to use. Some wouldn’t even unload their weapon and drop it in the ultrasonic cleaner. On top of all of that, many of his department’s weapons had severe manufacturing problems. His personal sidearm was so woefully inaccurate even from a prone I could barely keep shots on an 8.5×11″ piece of paper at 25 yards.

Remington 870 Wingmaster riot gun, 3" S&W model 10, S&W 5906
Remington 870 Wingmaster riot gun, 3″ S&W model 10, S&W 5906

When you are looking at a generic “police trade-in” gun, you don’t have a good way of knowing if the gun came from a department like Greg’s where it was carefully maintained or another department where it suffered almost total neglect. You don’t know if it was traded in because the department wanted to switch calibers for cost reasons, or if it’s because they experienced severe problems with a batch of guns and had to get rid of them for something else.

…and yes, that really does happen.

The key to trade-in purchase happiness, then, is to do some homework and manage expectations. For the happiest outcome you have to know a bit about how the firearm you’re thinking about was made, how it was most likely used while it was issued, and you have to be prepared to do some work on the gun to get it working.

Take the 870 Wingmaster pictured above as an example. The exterior of the gun shows wear from likely at least 2 decades of handling and storage, but I know that lots of police issue shotguns out there have not been fired very much in their service. I know the old Wingmasters are some of the best quality weapons Remington has ever made, and because it’s an 870 you can do just about anything you can conceive of to it. Knowing all of this I was reasonably certain I could buy one and get a gun that looked pretty cool (I love the old school look of the gun) and that would work. Sure enough, it looks better than Summit Gun Broker advertised and it worked splendidly when I had the chance to take her out to the range.

The Walther PP at the top of the page is a former West German police sidearm. In the era when that PP was the primary sidearm for the German police, they spent most of their lives carried in a holster (a flap holster, I believe) without being fired very much. Of course, Germans being Germans, they did actually pay attention to keeping the guns clean and in good working order…including being careful with the finish. My PP shows a bit of obvious holster wear by the muzzle, but that’s it. The rest of the gun looks as good as new. It runs beautifully with ball ammunition.

The S&W model 10 pictured is one of my absolute favorites. It is a former Australian issue police revolver that attracted my attention because of the low price (around $200 at the time…a steal) and the relatively rare 3″ barrel. K frames with a 3″ barrel might just be the best carry revolvers ever made. I looked around the web to see what some of the first buyers received and they described guns that had a bit of a rough finish, but were in excellent mechanical working order. Mine is no different. It clearly spent a lot of time in a holster being banged around and it suffered obvious neglect, but revolvers tend to be very tolerant of neglect. The bore is in excellent shape and the lockup is tight. It’s also extremely accurate with 158 grain ammunition.

I tend to have a weakness for guns that fall into the “they don’t make them like that anymore!” category, and often police trade-ins are splendid ways to collect those types of firearms inexpensively. If you have the same preferences and you’re willing to do some tinkering to get a gun that needs a little love up to snuff for the occasional range visit, trade-ins are fantastic.

If, on the other hand, you are looking for a primary defensive option I would urge more caution. If you don’t know how the gun was maintained, don’t have any insight into the service life it experienced, and don’t know if it came from a batch of guns with manufacturing problems it’s dicey to bet your life on that gun. The same would apply if you are financially strapped. If you are buying a trade-in as a more economical defensive option be sure you have the scratch necessary to fix anything that needs fixing. If you ever intend to carry a trade-in for serious social purposes make sure you test it thoroughly before depending on it.

Another sweet spot for trade-ins would be for people who already have, say, an M&P and maybe want another one they can use for range duty or experimenting with customization. A cheaper “beater” gun similar to your primary blaster that you can go Dr. Frankenstein on without worry is often very useful. Especially if you tend to learn about working on guns primarily by making mistakes. Ask me how I know…

If you understand what you are buying and you have a clear view of your intended use and what it may take to get a neglected or abused specimen back up to par, police trade-in firearms can be a tremendous value. If you don’t have a clear understanding of all of that and you’re looking for a defensive implement with a lower price tag, you should definitely try to educate yourself so you know what you are getting into.

Steamlight ProTac 1L

Let me start off with the answer you seek: Go purchase this light now!  Seriously; follow this link and order this light now.  You have two battery choices, AA or CR123, you can’t go wrong with either.

When I reviewed Nitecore SRT3 back in February I made mention that I had replaced it with a Streamlight ProTac.  That replacement took place in early January so I give you a short-term review.  Short term in this case means about 3 ½ months of daily carry and use.

IMG_5714

The ProTac 1L is a well-made, decent sized (as in not too bulky, but big enough to provide decent light) LED flashlight made by those purveyors of affordable lumens, Streamlight.  This is the 4th Streamlight flashlight I have purchased, and once again I am impressed.  In fact, I hope I have finally realized that Streamlight should be my go to manufacturer for flashlights.  Sure, Surefire is great, but on a cost vs. benefits scale, Streamlight holds the key – at least for me.

Here is what Streamlight says about their little flashlight and the published specs:

An ultra-compact tactical light, the ProTac® 1L is small and easy to carry, and uses a single lithium battery. The light is one of the most versatile personal carry lights available for users, from law enforcement personnel to industrial technicians.

  • Features Ten-Tap® Programming – Choose from three user selectable programs:

1.) high/strobe/low (factory default)
2.) high only
3.) low/high

  • C4® LED illumination output and run times:
    HIGH – 180 lumens; 3,800 candela peak beam intensity; runs 2 hours
    LOW – 12 lumens; 250 candela peak beam intensity;  runs 24 hours
    STROBE – runs 4 hours
  • Includes one 3V CR123A lithium battery and nylon holster
  • Solid State power regulation provides maximum light output throughout battery life
  • Rubber push-button tail switch
  • Durable, anodized aluminum construction with impact-resistant tempered glass lens
  • IPX7 waterproof to 1 meter for 30 minutes; 2 meter impact resistance tested
  • Unbreakable pocket clip
  • Anti-roll head
  • 43” (8.71 cm); 2 oz (57 grams)

Did you note the part I underlined above?  Did you notice the photos?  Industrial technicians; yup, that is the category I fall into.  I buy small  flashlights with two goals: 1) personal use, be it protection or finding the crayon my son dropped at the restaurant and, 2) ensuring airworthiness of aircraft at my day job.

I am not a LEO.  I am not a fire-fighter.  I am neither a major nor minor league door kicker.  I research and review my non-firearm related EDC gear with realistic EVERYDAY goals in mind.  I am way more likely to drop my flashlight from a ladder into a bucket of waste jet fuel (the ProTac experienced this once) than to survey a smoke-filled room for survivors, or bad guys.

So, after daily carry I can give the Streamlight ProTac 1L a solid 100% review.  I have dropped it from my pocket, kicked it, dropped it into the previously mentioned bucket of jet fuel, sprayed it down with isopropyl alcohol (to remove the jet fuel), and it even got put through the washing machine once.  It has proven itself tough.

Like Krylon of flashlight world; no drips, no runs, no errors.  That said, I can, and will, do an abbreviated Pro’s/Con’s for it.

Pros

Dependable – if a flashlight isn’t dependable, why bother.  Buy this with confidence.

Bright – It is not retina searing, but it is bright enough for every day task.  I would recommend something brighter for a bump in the night though.

Size vs Power – about perfect.  It is comfortable and lightweight.

Selectable Modes – I don’t need the strobe or the low power mode, but thankfully Streamlight gives us the option to turn them off permanently.  Bright is what I want, bright is what I get.  Circuit engineering done right.

Cons

My only complaint is with the clip.  It is stout and hasn’t lost tension, but the allowable positions leave more of the flashlight sticking out of my pocket then I would prefer.  I know; first world problems.

As I said at the beginning, go buy this light.  I have two co-workers with the 2L version, which adds a second battery.  They are equally worthy of your ownership, although I find them a little long for everyday carry.

So you are still on the fence as to whether you should purchase the Streamlight ProTac 1L or not?  I’ll let Arnie opine.

Arnie