The Folly of Chasing Gear – CCW Gun Version, Part 2

For Part 2 I am going to cover more gun related mistakes, or missteps.  In all honesty, the first time concealed carry holder has more avenues for research and advice than 11 years ago.  One need only look at the internet and you can find scores of websites that simply didn’t exist in 2005.  Compare that to what is available now; sure, there is a lot of crap out there, but one trends the information you will see common areas of agreements.  That is a clue.  With that in mind, I am going to come right out and offend people.

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Utter reliability, fantastic accuracy and concealability – a fine pair of CCW guns.

40 S&W? Don’t bother!

A LOT of people love the 40 S&W; I am not one of them. There is a common misconception that it was created to fill the void between the 45 ACP and 9MM, but that is not fact. Following the 1986 Miami shoot out – a shoot out was so pivotal the FBI actually made a training video about it – the FBI realized they needed to replace their venerable revolvers.  The FBI worked with with Smith and Wesson to develop a handgun that shot reduced power 10mm loads in a S&W 4506 frame.  Smith and Wesson promptly realized the reduced powder load meant the 10mm cartridge could be shortened, and thus the 40 S&W was born.

When it was developed and placed into service in 1990 and into the early 2000’s the round offered a significant advantage over 9mm in power and 45 ACP in capacity. But as time marched on that advantage against the 9mm has grown less and less.  With current 9mm ammo the advantage of the 40S&W pales against the disadvantage of 1-2 less rounds, harsher recoil and greater ammo cost. To be fair I never had a problem with any 40 S&W I owned, but I don’t regret selling them and buying the 9mm’s either. In my experience most people shoot the 9mm better and quicker than a 40 S&W in equally sized firearms. If you want to shoot big bore because you think you really need it go with 45 ACP or 10mm; alternately you can move to a revolver and load up 41 or 44 Magnum and carry a gun that will cause you to list to one side.

Sidebar: the 40S&W seems to have found a solid home with competition shooters because it can be downloaded while still making “major” power factor.  This gives the competitor a softer recoil and more rounds than an equivalent gun chambered in 45 ACP.

Lesson #4: The round was losing favor with instructors when I bought my first gun chambered in 40 S&W, circa 2007. Nevertheless I bought it based on the advice of people who should have known better. In all honesty I can’t say I wouldn’t follow the same route if starting over in the same period of time. But if starting out now, I wouldn’t even bother.  Get a 9mm with modern ammo and be done.

Glock

I can already hear the Glock fans warming up their gaming computer in their mom’s basement to let me have it.  Let me open with a fact. The Glock is a fine weapon and I have no beef with it from a functionality, accuracy or cost perspective. I just don’t shoot them well; and I can safely say it is me, not them. Not one to give up, I disregarded the fact I don’t shoot them well and have owned 5 different examples over the years, including models G22, G27, G26, G19, G26 again and a G35 (the G22 and G35 were not for CCW). I spent a lot of money and ammo trying to make them work for me instead of focusing on a platform I shot well. In all fairness I recently had a chance to shoot my cousin’s G23C and was pleasantly surprised to see I shot that Glock better than any other.  I am positive it was the result of being a better shooter overall. I find them to be as exciting as a framing hammer, but if you were dropping me off in Beirut tomorrow they would be on my short list of handguns too take.

Lesson #5: Recognize when something isn’t working for you and stop trying to make it work. This isn’t a hot rod, or a race gun, this is a tool that might save your life. If there is another reliable, quality firearm you shoot better, go with it instead.

Kel-Tec PF-9

Yup, I’ve owned one and can safely say the PF-9 was the single worst firearm I have owned. That thing would malfunction just looking at it. Again, I bought this after reading some magazine reviews. FAIL. I literally have nothing good to say about this gun. The Yankee Marshall has a video where he declares it the worse handgun ever with his reason being the damn thing is marketed as a CCW weapon where as other cheap guns don’t hide their lack of quality. He is 100% correct!  My copy was laughably bad and  research shows that experience is beyond commonplace.

Lesson #6: This is the gun that opened solidified my disdain for gun magazine reviews. It opened my eyes to the lack of scruples in some writers. Going back now, the article that sold me on the PF-9 was written in a way that wasn’t praise, but didn’t come out and call it junk either.

As I noted last time, through all of the guns I bought for CCW, and through all the rounds fired, one thing remained constant. I was wasting money on guns, transfer fees and holsters that would have been better spent on defensive classes and practice ammo. When it comes to your carry weapon, chasing the latest gear rarely gains you skill and is seldom worth it in the realm of firearms.

In Part 3 I’ll go over some mistakes in gear to try to give first timers a better start than I had.

For those that care, here is a list of the guns I have owned and since sold or traded on my CCW journey. This is CCW only.  Yes, they are many and varied…I know…

Bersa Thunder CC

CZ P-01

CZ PCR

FI Industries 380

Glock 19

Glock 26

Glock 27

Kahr CW9

Kahr K9

Kel-Tec PF-9 (I should have thrown it in a lake or burned it on a stake!)

Kel-Tec P3AT (because I didn’t learn about Kel-Tec’s lack of quality the first time)

Kimber Series 1 Stainless Compact

Kimber Series 1 CDP (I have since bought the same gun back, but it is only a range toy now)

Rock Island 1911 Officer

Rossi 38 Special

Ruger SP101

Ruger SR9c

Ruger LCP

Star BM

S&W Model 36

Taurus PT111

Taurus PT22

Taurus Slim

XDS-3.0 in 45 ACP  (This was a really, really good gun and I regret selling it)

The Folly of Chasing Gear – CCW Version, Part 1

When I wrote my original post on the folly of chasing gear for competition I did so at a point where I had been competing for a little over a year and had less than ten matches under my belt.  For a reference I write this post having concealed carry for almost 12 years and in that time I have changed guns and platforms an order of magnitude more than I did with competition gear.  With Part 1 I will look into some guns I tried and what I learned.

If you are new to concealed carry this as an example of what not to do; If you are a CCW veteran this might seem familiar or even laughable to you.  Either way I present to you a method not worth repeating.

The First CCW Gun

The first gun CCW gun I bought was going to be my last – or so I thought when I paid for it – a Rock Island 1911 Officer’s model.  Presently Rock Island (Armscor) has built a reputation for decent 1911’s; mine was not made in the era of praise.  It had so much going wrong for it I can’t list it all; a sample includes: GI sights, no beaver tail, a gritty 7+ lbs trigger, sticky mag release (it would stick in!) and the worst Parkerized finish imaginable.  It would feed 230 grain ball ammo, sometimes and it would feed JHP’s exactly never.  I did a little work on it, got it to function semi-reliably and actually used it in the shooting portion of my licensing. It was accurate: when it fed.  For the record, the magazine brand or type didn’t matter, this sucker was the king of feedway stoppages!  I quickly quit trying to make it a reliable gun and relegated it to range toy, but it sucked at that as well.  I sold it, with full disclosure of the problems to a guy who wanted it for a truck gun on his ranch.  As far as I know he hasn’t shot it even once.

That was followed by a string of mediocre garbage by Bersa, Taurus, Rossi and Kel Tec.

Lesson #1: Don’t believe what you read and damn sure don’t listen to the guy behind the counter.  Find a reputable trainer/friend/co-worker and get several opinions and never, ever, ever, never, ever buy a cheap 1911 and plan on it saving your life.

The Airweight J-Frame

In my string of crap I did manage to hit a home run, at least with reliability, build quality and accuracy.  I bought a slightly used S&W Model 642-1.  I slapped some Crimson Trace grips on it and carried it often.  8 years later I still have it.  It has ridden IWB, OWB, in my pocket, on my ankle, in my console, and in a backpack. It goes bang every time and after putting untold rounds down range I can actually make decent hits with it. It is not extremely fun to shoot, but it works. I WOULD NEVER RECOMMEND ONE FOR A FEMALE BEGINNER! For that matter, I wouldn’t recommend any J-Frame to a female beginner. If I am really dressed up, ala’ funeral or wedding (one and the same?) then you’ll find that old 642 in my pocket. Otherwise it spends it days in peaceful solitude, secure in the fact I can never be sold because of the discoloration caused years of sweat and grime.

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Lesson #2: The Airweight J-Frame’s are fine firearms, IF and only IF you are willing to learn it. It is not a gun for people who are recoil sensitive and it is not range toy.  It is ultra reliable, easy to carry and will always be there for you.

380 ACP? I’ve owned a few

An old FI Industries D380 1911 look-alike, a Kel-Tec P3AT, the Bersa Thunder CC and most recently a Ruger LCP. After shooting way too many rounds of over-priced 380 ACP I can safely say I am done with that cartridge. Fixed barrel blowback operated 380’s have more muzzle flip than an equivalent size 9mm with a normal recoil operated action. The smaller guns hold fewer rounds and with a shorter barrel you generally get weaker performance compared to the S&W 642. Before some smart ass says it, no I don’t want to be shot with either one. The small LCP/P3AT carried great in my pocket, but so does my 642 and it is not as susceptible to lint and if I am shooting from an odd grip or odd position I won’t be the recipient of a  stove-pipe.  For me, the small 380’s and 5 shot revolvers fill the same role.  Choose wisely.

Lesson #3: Carry the most powerful handgun you can conceal, all else being equal. Any handgun cartridge is a poor man stopper, don’t make the situation worse by compromising.

With that I will wrap up Part 1.  If this offended you just wait for Part 2!  The mathematical constant in all of these lessons is wasted time and wasted money that could have been spent on training and ammo.

Do you feel I am grossly wrong?  Have you made similar mistakes?  Tell me below.

90 Second Gun Reviews: Kel-Tec PF9

Saying bad things about a Kel-Tec is a bit like hunting over bait…with a grenade launcher. But the problem is everything I said is a legitimate criticism of the gun. For $260, it’s not cheap like a Hi-Point which is basically disposable, but for a few dollars more you could upgrade to a real gun made by a reputable manufacturer.

Kel-Tec PMR-30 Suspended

Kel-Tec PMR-30

Speaking of Kel-Tec, they have currently suspended production of the Kel-Tec PMR-30 (of which they weren’t really producing a lot of guns anyway) due to keyholing issues with the gun.  For those not familiar with the term, keyholing is what happens with the rate of twist in the barrel doesn’t stabilize the bullet in flight.  The result is that the projectile tumbles and loses both accuracy and velocity at a much more rapid rate than a properly stabilized bullet.  Kel-Tec’s official press release follows the jump.

As time has progressed, so has the PMR-30. Since the start of the year the PMR-30 has been shipping in full quantities to all of our distributors on a rotating basis (to make it fair for all distributors). Recently we have been made aware of a potential issue that we feel our customers should definitely be made aware of. We are in the middle of a re-design to our barrel due to key-holing concerns. For those unfamiliar with key-holing, basically it is when the bullet tumbles end over end rather than travelling stable with a solid spiral. It seems as though the 1:16 twist ratio of our barrels isn’t quite preventing these issues from occurring. We are currently testing new twist ratios for the PMR-30 so that these issues no longer occur (1:9 and 1:12). There has also been a cosmetic change to the barrel: we have removed the fluting on the barrel. The initial fluted design was for weight reduction, however it was time-consuming to produce. We have created a new design that matches the weight and decreases production time significantly. It will look like a more traditional pistol. IMPORTANT: For customers who DO own a PMR-30 and are experiencing key-holing, you may send your barrel in to be replaced by the newly redesigned versions once they are available. When they are available, a status update will be made so that our customers know that they can go ahead and send their barrel in for replacement. Shipping costs will be reimbursed, of course. Once the new design is tested and implemented, we will post all necessary information for sending back your defective barrel for replacement. As of today: 5/10/2011, we are halting shipments on the PMR-30 to reduce the number of potential key-holing pistols that go out. We estimate a 2-week period until shipments are resumed. We sincerely apologize to everyone who is affected by this. We hope that our customers understand that we are trying hard to make sure that the best possible product goes out.

I’m glad that Kel-Tec is going to try and make this right, because honestly the PMR-30 is the only Kel-Tec product I’ve ever really been interested in buying. I have a deep love affair with .22 Magnum, and I think it’s just a neato little cartridge in an autoloader. That being said, the PMR-30 has been plagued with reliability issues since it was introduced, and now with the added problem of tumbling bullets it has been effectively removed from my list of guns I’d want to buy.