DW ECO After The First Fifty

For the first 50 rounds I decided to use Browning’s Practice/Target ammo in 230 grain.  I know that Bill Wilson is on record stating the smaller 1911’s run better with lighter bullets, preferably 185 grain.  I plan on trying some of them but these were what I had available.

IMG_5966

So how did it do?  Not good.  Not good at all.  Literally every three rounds, for the first 36 rounds, the slide locked back.  In the photos to the left you can see where the slide stop just barely caught the slide.  I tried using a different grip, even trying strong hand only once.  It didn’t make a difference.  This thing would simply discharge three rounds then lock the slide back.  The problem could be the slide stop, or it could be mag related.  I haven’t investigated it, nor do I plan too; at least until I have put a total of 400 rounds through the gun.

In fairness, following the 36 round malfunction fest, the remaining 14 rounds cycled and shot fine.  I ran two seven round mag dumps trying to get it to malfunction again.  This is obviously not a long-term test scenario, and I would have loved to continue, but there was a serious lightning storm moving in.  Here at Gun Nuts we go too great pains to avoid death by lightning strike.

IMG_5971

An annoyance that was discovered revolved around the safety.  It clicks off and on as a nice 1911 should, but it overhangs the frame ever so slightly.  I never noticed it prior to shooting the gun, but once I had some rounds down range the web of my hand started to blister.  I have seen this on many other 1911’s and it isn’t the end of the world; but at the same time, this is not a $500 RIA!  I expect better when dropping north of $1000 on a pistol!  If I keep the gun after the testing than I’ll correct the issue using my best home gunsmith skills.  Until then I’ll deal with it with either gloves or raw ignorance.

IMG_5977

The final unexpected issue centered on the sights. (see what I did there)  I shot at 7, 10 and 15 yards and no matter the distance  the sights hit low – really low.  It grouped nicely though but at least 3 inches below my point-of-aim.  Given my statement above concerning 185 grain ammo being recommended for small 1911’s I find myself hoping DW installed sights regulated to lighter ammo.  I am looking for some 185 grain I can test this theory.

As expected the recoil was snappy, but not the end of the world.  You definitely want to have a good grip on the gun though.

With a little luck I can run some more ammo through it soon.  Will it continue to malfunction?  Will it eat my hand?  Will it hit POI/POA with 185 grain ammo?

Stay tuned as we find out.

Dan Wesson ECO

What the… another 1911 review?

I say why not? We here at Gun Nuts are simply trying to appease the ghost of John Moses Browning.  We feel such appeasement is necessary given that most people flock to polymer wonders and shun ole’ slab sides.  Simply put, the 1911 can be an excellent projectile launcher and if well-built, it is an exquisite work of art.  It can also be a source of endless frustration and malfunction drills if poorly built or improperly maintained.

So it was with your interest in mind – or maybe it was the fact I really liked this pistol and wanted to try it – that we open up the testing on the Dan Wesson ECO.  This will be a kick-off review.  As I write this, I have yet to actually shoot the gun.  This is a quick bench top, initial impressions review.  My goal is to track the rounds fired and give updates as the weapon either proves itself or infuriates me.

ECO Upclose

Now for you heathens that don’t know; Dan Wesson was founded in 1968 by Daniel Wesson, great-grandson of D.B Wesson who co-founded Smith and Wesson.  In 2005 the company was bought out by CZ, who also makes quality firearms.  But enough history, if you want to know more about Dan Wesson’s history you can look here, or here.

The ECO is an Officer sized 1911, thus it is sporting a 3.5” tapered bull barrel and the requisite shorter grip.  Being chambered in 45 ACP the capacity is lacking, but frankly I don’t care.  With 7+1 rounds of .455 diameter ballistic goodness I can take on seven parachuting ninja (or is it ninja’s?) and at least one pissed off gopher.  Yeah, yeah, I know… no one has ever asked for less ammo in a gunfight.  Ironically I own a double stack combat autoloader for those causal jaunts through gangland, or into Syrian held territory.

Muzzle

The ECO has an alloy frame which reduces weight.  In the past I have owned some lightweight 1911’s in both Commander and Officer length;  and while the recoil wasn’t life-ending it was definitely there.  I suspect this will be similar; however, the ECO comes with a flat wire guide rod setup.  Rumor mill says it is from Evolution Gun Works.  If that is true it is great news as I have read good things about that setup’s duality of increasing reliability while reducing felt recoil.  We shall see.

Here are the specs from Dan Wesson.

  • Chambering: 45 ACP
  • Magazine Capacity: 7
  • Frame: Anodized Aluminum
  • Grips: G-10
  • Barrel Length: 3.5 in
  • Weight: 1.56 lbs.
  • Overall Length: 7.25 in
  • Height: 5 in
  • Width: It’s a 1911, it’s thin.  Duh!

So what do I love about the weapon?

  • It feels good in the hand.
  • It is well-balanced.
  • The sights are not bad – although I will likely put some orange around the front tritium insert to mimic a Trijicon HD.
  • It is well de-horned and the fit and finish are very, very good.
  • The safety clicks on and off with confidence.

And what I hate about the weapon so far?

  • I guess I could complain that Dan Wesson didn’t add a magwell, but so what? It is not like I will be running this in Single Stack.
  • I don’t care for the zebra grips. But that is subjective.
  • So what do I really hate about it, at this time? NOTHING!

I really hope this short 1911 proves to be reliable.  I should be able to report back in a week or so with some rounds down range.  Dan Wesson recommends a break-in period, so I will not be performing the 10-8 test until I have put 400 rounds down range.

To say I want this to succeed is an understatement.  Time will tell.

Project Lumen – Final Installment

Here is the fourth and final installment of Project Lumen.  I reviewed two lights this time and was able to draw some conclusions.  I am 100% glad I did this test and I highly encourage each reader to perform similar testing in your home.  It only takes 3-4 minutes each morning and you be rewarded with honest data, for your situation, which you can use to make better choices.  As I have said twice before, don’t fall into the trap of presumption.

Maglite 3D Cell Incandescent:

This is the only flashlight tested that doubles as an assault weapon.  It could literally be used to bludgeon a person to death.  Once upon a time they were considered bright; that time has long passed.  A quick check of the Maglite website shows that they now make better LED versions – good for them.

Let’s be frank; nothing I am about to say about the Maglite will surprise you or be a revelation.  I chose this flashlight based both on its universal familiarity and universal obsolescence.  How am I sure it is obsolete?  Here is a true story proving the point.

The head the inspection department where I work owns a really, really old 2 D Cell Maglite.  He was having issues with it so he called up Maglite.  They actually told him it was obsolete and he should really consider an upgrade.

With the Maglite, I didn’t expect greatness, and my expectations were met.   When I first turned it on the night before the test, it was so dim I suspected the batteries were bad.  I broke out some brand new Energizer D cell batteries and was less than impressed when the light was still dim.  I swapped out the bulb with the spare in the tail cap – no joy.  These are the flashlights that time has forgotten.

At around 45 lumens the light output is similar to the Streamlight Microstream.  But unlike the other incandescent lights, the Maglite cast a nice pattern of light.  And with a Maglite you can adjust the focus, so there’s that.  The Maglite didn’t affect my night sight at all, it was serviceable and in use everything I wrote about the Microstream applied.  With one exception – you can always use the Maglite as a striking weapon, or a baseball bat.

Maglite AR

I shudder thinking about the early nineties when those on the cutting edge of military and police had to tape a heavy and dim Maglite to their weapon.  Hooray for technology!

 

Nitecore SRT3 (CREE XM-L2 T6 LED, 550 lumens)

The brightest of the flashlights I tested, this is also the one I poo-pooed in the review I wrote.

Nitecore Main

CREE XM-L2 LED, 550 lumens, and a properly designed reflector meant this light provided the best illumination of the test.  When regarding the light quality and effect, during this test…bravo.  Nevertheless, I continue to find the actual light itself to be underwhelming in design.

Similarly to the Streamlight PolyTac, which was the second brightest light I tested, at initial activation the brightness of the flashlight did affect my night sight briefly, although it was shorter period of time than I experienced with the PolyTac.  This test not being performed in a  controlled lab, this difference could have been due to a multitude of reasons: how deep I was sleeping, ambient light, where the light was pointing at initial activation.  As I noted before; when you are trying to identify someone inside of your house any delay is a negative.  But in this case I believe the good outweighs the bad.

As with the PolyTac, there were no weird shadows; just even light across the area of coverage.  It just worked.  If the flashlight itself was more reliable it would be my only choice.  I will start saving for a brighter Streamlight or SureFire.  Until the, the PolyTac is my light of choice.

Streamlight Stinger:

I couldn’t get it.  Therefore it wasn’t tested.  Sorry.

After Thoughts:

Here is what this test has shown me, opened my eyes too and even shed some light on.  Man, that is a lot of light puns in one sentence.

  • It would seem to me, at least in my environment, that reflectivity of light affecting your night sight is a real concern. At least for a brief period of time following the initial activation of the light.
  • I also feel reflectivity is grossly over-exaggerated.  For the purpose of “bump in the night” defense.
  • Be realistic with your environment. Are you only purchasing the light for protection inside of your house?  If so, you can likely get away with less lumens than some might recommend.
  • It is important to remember that your worst case scenario will have you half-asleep. An LEO or MIL will have a worst case scenario where they are clearing a building or other environment while wide awake and alert.  You don’t have that luxury.  Don’t chose poorly based off unrealistic needs.
  • I feel 130-150 lumens is the absolute minimum you need for a defensive flashlight.
  • The more lumens the better, provided you actually TEST what you own in your situation.
  • There was no testing against smoke or fog. As Gun Nuts Commenter JNZ correctly noted, an incandescent light source might penetrate smoke or fog better.  (That sounds like the making of a test around a bonfire)
  • There is no free lunch. Chose one that works for you and practice accordingly.

In the end I had some fun doing this testing.  I learned quite a bit, both about my personal requirements and my environment.  While the expert stranger on the internet might disagree with me, I will sleep soundly knowing that I have actually tested my options and selected the best choice for me based on fact.  I recommend you do the same.

Project Lumen – Part 3

This is the third installment of Project Lumen and things are moving along nicely.  Today I offer up data on a cheap piece of crap, a former superstar and a modern LED light that is all polymer to keep cost and weight down.  As with the previous article, I will review the notes and data points from the first three lights I tested.

One thing common aspect with each light tested is the fact everyone should perform a similar test in THEIR home.  Don’t fall into the trap of presumption.

NEBO Classic

To be frank, this is a 100 lumen turd.  The illumination was underwhelming, as was the switch activation.  In full disclosure I bought this flashlight for $9.00; that is NINE dollars, spent for the sole purpose of illuminating my tinkering with my Lee Pro 1000 Press.

As with the ProTac LED and Microstream the color was a vibrant white hue and overall provided a minimum of light to do the job.  That is not what made it underwhelming.  The part that was truly stupefying was that it had twice the lumens of the Microstream with only about 10% of the light improvement.

As with the Microstream it was better than nothing, but only by a slim margin.  I included this flashlight in the test because it provided a data point.  It led to a wasted test day.

Streamlight NF-2:

This is the first of three incandescent flashlights I am testing.  It has 78 lumens and is an outdated, discontinued model.  It was included here for the sole purpose of comparing incandescent illumination to LED.

HDR

The good part: it didn’t affect my night sight at all.  Unfortunately the light provided was sub-par.  The yellow coloration was a non-issue, but the overall light quality was poor and cast a lot of shadows.  I actually cleaned the lens, installed new batteries and tried again the next morning.  Poor lighting was the same result.

I have two more incandescent lights to test, but my suspicions are we will get similar results.  Incandescent lighting just can’t compare to a quality LED.

It is worth noting that this light was considered to be at the top of its class when I bought it…. in 2004.

Streamlight PolyTac:

With 275 lumens out of the C4 LED, the Streamlight PolyTac was the brightest light tested so far.  The light quality did not disappoint.

Let me briefly discuss the actual PolyTac itself.  As the name describes, the entire light is polymer.  It is probably not the light you want to take on an excursion to douchebagistan, but for EDC it works splendidly.

Sidebar:  I actually keep this light installed on my AR, attached with a Viking Tactics mount.  Yes I know, polymer light on an AR.  Whatever; I live in this thing called reality.  If I have to use my AR in defense, especially more than a few shots, I will be famous.  I keep the light on there for one reason –   varmints on my property.   Since I don’t plan on a Chupacabra returning fire, I feel safe in my choice.

Now, back to the discussing the light quality and effect…

Upon initial activation the brightness of the flashlight did affect my eyes briefly.  This was the first time this has happened during the test and my reflex was to close my eyes and squint for maybe five seconds.  I think this is important.  When identifying someone inside of your house, five seconds is an eternity.

The light quality was, as I said above, great.  No weird shadows.  The LED and reflector design cast a smooth, even light across the area of coverage.   Just awesome illumination – once my eyes adjusted.   Out of those tested so far, this is the one I would choose today.

Review:

Will the brighter lights cause greater reflex squinting?

Will the squint time increase with the lumen output?

Will the 550 lumen Nitecore cause me to convulse?

Stay tuned for the next episode we test an old tech Mag Light 3D Cell light, the discontinued Streamlight TL-3, maybe a Streamlight Stinger and the 550 lumen Nitecore SRT3.

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.

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

 

Lee Pro 1000 Reloading Press – Improvements and Mods

Now that I have given a long-term review of the Lee Pro 1000 I felt it only fair to provide some mods and improvements I have made.  It is my hope that those who own this press, or are contemplating purchasing it, can get use these to get the most out of the press. I will list the mods in the same order as the cons were listed in my review article.

Case Lube – my first suggestion isn’t a modification and is applicable to all reloading presses. Buy and use Hornady One-Shot spray case lube! You don’t have to be super precise with the application. The following method works well for me.

  1. Spread the brass out on an old cookie sheet.
  2. Sparingly spray One Shot.
  3. Return the brass to the loading bin.
  4. Spray some One Shot into the resizing die. Every 1000-1500 rounds apply a little more to the die. Pro Tip: when spraying One Shot into the die, place a rag below the die to catch the grime that will run out.

Lube the Press – my second improvement is to lube the press. I use oil on the ram and the hex bar that controls the indexing. I do not recommend grease; I tried it and there was no improvement over oil and it made a mess.  My press is currently lubed with Valvoline 5W-20 from my last oil change, I think…

Just put a little on your finger and wipe the surfaces.  I have not found it necessary to lube the handle mechanism as there is enough play to ensure ease of function.

Case Feeder – Now we’ll get into the meat and potatoes of improvements and I’ll make the first mod  simple – remove the case feeder, and Z bar. Yes the cyclic rate will be lower, but I have seen a consistent 50% improvement in rounds per hour. This is because you are no longer fighting the case feeder. This also allows one to briefly inspect each case prior to placing it into the machine and catch the damn 380 ACP brass or those with crimped primer pockets.

IMG_5491

Case Feeder Removed

Primer Feed – There are two worthwhile mods you can make to improve the primer feed. The first is to ensure the two piece chute retains its shape. I chose to do so with zip ties as seen in the photo below.

IMG_5481

Note the Zip Ties

The second improvement is to put a zip tie on the upper primer feeder “activator”. The primer feed mechanism uses a rod that comes out the side and “kicks” off of two groves as a means of ensuring primer flow. It is a Rube Goldberg setup that works better with the zip tie as shown below.

IMG_5492

Ugly, Rube Goldberg and Effective!

To keep the primer feed from jamming up due to errant powder see the shell plate stop/locator mod below. Oh, as I noted in the first article, a can of aerosol duster for keyboards is your friend here!

Shell Plate Stop/Locator – There is not much we can do to correct the spring-loaded detent without major redesign. I tried to trim the spring and relieve the tension but that led to inaccurate shell plate indexing.

The trick is simple. Place your finger over the powder charged round as the shell plate rotates. This is best seen in the video below. It is easier to do once the case feeder is out-of-the-way.

Powder Measure – I’ll be honest, I don’t have a good answer here. I know Lee has introduced a new powder measure called the Lee Auto Drum but I have been hesitant to invest in it since my goal is to upgrade in the next few months.

Triangle Tactical does a review of the powder measure here for anyone interested.

Case Ejector – This wasn’t mentioned in my first article but it is a simple and effective mod. Basically it involves bending the case ejector rod similar to that shown below. The rod bends like a coat hanger so have no fear and bend away.

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Tweakin’ (wait, what?)

Below is a not very good quality video of me loading about 10 rounds on my press. At this rate I can load 300-350 an hour. This puts the loading in the ballpark with a Dillon Square Deal B. The press now produces decent ammo that is accurate enough for action shooting, defensive training and plinking. It is not going to bullseye accurate, but frankly if you are shooting bullseye you are probably loading on a single stage so you can control every aspect of the process.

The Lee Pro 1000 is an affordable press that can be made to run decent and can easily provide enough ammunition to shoot 1200-1500 rounds a month. As it sits I have about a 5% rejection rate when I case gauge the ammo. That doesn’t mean the ammo won’t fire or function, it just means it MAY not feed properly.  I relegate those rounds to training only.

Even with the mods the single biggest drawback remaining is the fact the press uses three dies instead of four. Presses that run four dies can use a Factory Crimp Die in the 4th stage to ensure case uniformity. In my experience, a Factory Crimp Die would drop the rejection rate to practically nothing.

In the end it is all about what you can afford and what you want to do. If you can afford a better press, I would suggest you do so. If you shoot more than 1500 rounds a month, I would look elsewhere. If you want to shoot multiple calibers each month, I would look elsewhere. If you are starting out and limited on funds but want to move up from a single stage this might be the press for you, if you are willing to tinker with it and learn its idiosyncrasies.

As for me? I shoot a Tanfoglio which are known for tight chambers; that dictates the need for a four stage press and a Factory Crimp Die.  I plan on moving up (to the East Side?) sometime this year.

Lee Pro 1000 Reloading Press – A Review After One Year

I have owned a Lee Pro 1000 for a little over a year and in that time I have learned a lot about this press, both good and bad. After some trial and error I made some modifications to the press increase reliability. Thus I will actually have two articles on this press. The first will be the review and the second will be the mods I made.

Lee Pro 1000

The Lee Pro 1000 is a Progressive Reloading Press that comes basically assembled and ready to go. It is the least costly progressive press you can purchase, from any manufacturer. In making it fit a price point some concessions had to be made and some of those concessions have serious ramifications. The best way to illustrate this is to compare it to the closest similar unit, the Dillon Square Deal B. The Dillon unit cost roughly $389 plus shipping or roughly twice what the Lee cost.  I would wager the majority of that cost is in design and materials, not just the Dillon name.  Back to the Lee…

My own experience with the Lee Pro 1000 started after I signed up for a training class that required 2500 rounds over 3 days. Prior to registering for that class I had used Freedom Munitions re-manufactured ammo and shot on average 200 rounds per month. I was faced with the prospect of purchasing 2500 rounds or loading up 2500 rounds on the single stage press I own.  The more I thought about it, the more disgust set in, so I dropped back 7 yards and punted. So began my search for an affordable progressive reloading press. I came upon the Lee Pro 1000 in a Midway USA advertisement; it was $189 plus shipping and it seemed like it would fit my needs. Some quick math proved I could buy the press and components (I had lots of brass) for the same price as purchasing loaded ammo. After researching the unit and what I would be getting  I ordered the press and the funnel collator for it.

When it arrived I wasted no time in setting it up. I had read several websites and was aware of certain idiosyncrasies and known issues but with a minimum of effort I was up and running. Now a year later I have produced a little over 5500 rounds of serviceable ammo. I say serviceable and not good because frankly, the machine is lacking in many areas and the result is inconsistency. Remember the Dillon Square Deal B I mentioned above?  You know, the press that cost over twice what the Lee cost? What do you get for that price? Accuracy, reliability and repeatability. With that said, let’s get into the Pro’s and Con’s.

Pros

Affordable – The Lee Pro 1000 is the most affordable Progressive on the market. When the press arrives you will find every die is set, with the exception of bullet seating depth.

Case Feeder – To unit comes with a “special” case feeder.  To the unexperienced the provided case feeder is a bonus.

Size – The Lee Pro 1000 is rather small in both foot print and height. This is a boon for those with limited space.

Caliber Changes – If you reload a lot of different calibers it is easy to change, especially if you invest in an extra Turret so you can keep the dies set.

Cons (hold on to your hat)

Case Feeder – I’ll start here since I also listed as a “pro”. In theory a case feeder should make the unit faster. It does not! There are two ways to load the case feeder. Use the collator, which leads to numerous cases upside down in the feed tube, or you can load each tube one at a time. I have tried both. One at a time is slower but more reliable and what I recommend IF you really must use the case feeder – more about that in the next article.

The case feeder has another time killing issue. On occasion the cases will get hung up and will not feed. This requires the operator to run the ram all the way up and use a scribe or long thin screwdriver to jiggle the cases to feed. When the machine is running the case feeder allows for a healthy feed rate. Unfortunately I don’t believe I ever loaded more than 15 rounds before some issue with the case feeder required me to stop and fix the machine. New Level Unlocked: Frustration!

Primer Feed – The primer holder is actually pretty ingenious and quick to reload; the primer feeder, not so much.  The primers slide down this chute device that looks like a playground slide and is made of two pieces of plastic. I have a mod that corrects the issues caused by its two piece design.

I don’t have a good solution for the other issue – the playground slide. The primer holder sits at a 45 degree angle behind the press and feeds the primers down the chute. The problem is the chute turns completely horizontal before reaching the actual primer setting mechanism. For the primers to feed properly there must be enough in the chute to provide “head pressure” otherwise you will have mis-feeds and a multitude of errors that will raise your blood pressure.

The last problem with the Primer Feed has to do with dirt, or more specifically powder. As you will read below there is great chance for powder to wind up on and below the shell plate. When (not if) the powder gets into the primer setting mechanism it will cause issues. A can of aerosol duster for keyboards is your best friend here!

Shell Plate Stop/Locator – The “stop” or locator device for the shell plate is a spring-loaded detent ball. (See photo below) There is nothing inherently wrong with a spring-loaded detent. The problem lies in the placement of said detent. Mainly the fact it is centered below the bullet seating die. This means your case is filled with powder when the detent “pops” up and smacks the shell plate directly below the case. Anyone with a basic understanding of physics will understand the problem with smacking the case in the ass after being loaded with powder.  For those that failed High School Physics I’ll elaborate… the powder charge is violently shaken and it is normal for a flake or two to hop out of the case. Aside of the issues with powder being all over your bench you get to enjoy a variable powder charge, a dirty machine and an imminent, jammed primer setting mechanism as mentioned above.

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UNACCEPTABLE!

Powder Measure – The powder measure is OK. The biggest issues I had with it was elated to the powder type. Some powders measure well and others don’t measure correctly at all.  For the price of the powder measure, I can’t really fault it.

I can fault the idiocy of the Auto-Disk.  Specifically the chart that Lee provides.  This chart list common powders and shows which diameter hole in the Auto-Disk will give a specific charge weight. I recommend you take the chart and use it to start a fire pit. I don’t know what world the chart designer is living in, but I have not found it to be accurate at all. Frankly this is only a minor annoyance as you should be measuring your powder charges with a scale; but seriously, if you are going to spend the time making a chart, shouldn’t we be able to expect it to be somewhat accurate?

So there you have it. The pros and con’s you can expect with the LEE Pro 1000 Progressive Press. Note that I didn’t describe the reloading process and I won’t in my next article either. Reloading is not something to be taken lightly and if you are interested you should seek guidance from an experience reloader. I also recommend you start on a single stage or turret press.

As noted above, next time we’ll go over the mods and tricks that help make the press more reliable and user-friendly.

Basic Knife Skills for Concealed Carry with Greg Ellifritz

Odds are that a significant percentage of the readership of this site carries a knife of some sort on a regular or semi-regular basis. The odds are also pretty good that most who do regard the knife they carry as a potential defensive weapon for dire circumstances.

I suppose this dates me, but I remember the days when the “tactical folder” was becoming a big thing. The new “tactical folder” knives were optimized for sheath-less carry and quick one-handed opening. The ubiquitous Buck 110 style folder (which, back in the day, was a darn good general utility knife) or more traditional Case-style pocket knife was supplanted by a Spyderco, Benchmade, Emerson, or even a Cold Steel clipped to a pocket. It seemed like a pretty good idea to me too, so I bought one and carried it around in a pocket for years. Some time later it dawned on me that I really hadn’t the foggiest idea how to effectively use a knife as a defensive implement.

I’d dare say that most people are like me in that regard. They may have purchased a “tactical” knife designed as a defensive implement but they don’t have any relevant training or experience in actually using the knife as a last-ditch tool of self defense. What to do?

I found out a bit earlier in the year that FPF Training was bringing Greg Ellifritz down to teach a knife class oriented towards concealed carry. I’ve mentioned Greg several times in this space  so he shouldn’t be a stranger, but it’s worth mentioning here that Greg has been teaching knife classes to police officers and to motivated citizens for quite some time both in his capacity as a policeman and as a trainer working for TDI in Ohio. I’ve done a few classes with Greg and I’ve been reading his blog for some time and I generally like his take on things, so I was eager to see what he would present in a knife class.

The day started with a discussion of philosophy: Greg’s instruction focused on things that are easy to learn and I’ll refer to as “high percentage” in application. By that I mean techniques that are highly likely to be successful against most criminal assailants.

Knife use on the street rarely looks like what you see in the movies:

Two people do not square off and duel with knives any more than they square off and duel with firearms. The knife usually comes out in the initial stages of a criminal assault:

…or, in lawful use it comes out when the good guy is losing a physical fight to a superior opponent (either in size, strength, or skill) with the expectation of severe and potentially lethal consequences. Think of a police officer who is fighting with someone who is trying to take their sidearm, or the intended victim of a rape who uses a knife to cut her physically superior attacker off of her so she can escape.

After discussing his overall philosophical basis for the course and the realities of knife use in criminal assaults, Greg discussed hardware selection. He had a big bag full of knives representative of the options available on the market. I took a lot of notes on this section but instead of reproducing all of that here I’ll give you the Cliff’s Notes version:

  • Fixed blades are superior in every respect, most importantly in ease of access and speed of deployment.
  • Small fixed blades are extremely effective, especially when used intelligently. You don’t need huge blades…2.5 to 3″ is usually sufficient for most defensive purposes.
  • Fixed blades are also more legally restricted.
  • If you have to carry a folder because of the law, you want one with a strong lock. Frame locks, back locks, and pin style locks are typically the strongest. Liner locks the weakest.
  • Automatics have a bad habit of opening when you don’t want them to.
  • Assisted openers tend not to lock if they are even minimally obstructed.
  • You want an easily used ambidextrous opening mechanism and a decent choil to keep your hand from running up on the blade.

After the hardware discussion was over, we disarmed ourselves of any live weapons, buddy checked, and then started to work with training knives. Greg brought a bunch of fixed-blade trainers and folding trainers so everyone could get hands-on time with both types of knife. Those who had their own trainers were free to use those as well.

We spent quite a bit of time on what Greg said was the most important part of using the knife defensively: Access. It’s one thing to be able to draw the knife when you are standing and relaxed, but that is usually not when people reach for the knife. Usually it’s when there’s some bigger, stronger dude on top of them trying to beat them to death and in those circumstances accessing and drawing the knife can be incredibly difficult.

For access purposes, a small fixed blade carried on the centerline of the body is king, as five minutes of drilling against an opponent will teach you. It is possible to get the knife and use it effectively even if you are flat on your back locked in a bear hug. If you cannot carry a knife that way and are forced to carry a folder in a pocket, make sure you can reach it with either hand and that you can open it with one hand, preferably without having to rely on an inertia opening. (Flipping the knife open) As we practiced the techniques in class we got quite used to to seeing folders fly through the air after a failed inertial opening attempt.

Under Greg’s instruction, we worked with partners to give experience deploying and using the knife effectively under pressure. It was remarkable for me to see people who were showing visible trepidation early on transformed into people who were effectively accessing a knife and then using it to very quickly work over their opponent by the end of the day. One of the highlight exercises started with a group of students standing, hands at sides, with eyes closed. The other group would then randomly “attack” them. I “attacked” an inexperienced middle-aged woman with a double handed choke from the front, and without missing a beat she whipped out a fixed blade trainer and simulated a filleting of my forearm. As I moved to stop that, she transitioned to a stab attack under my arm aimed at my brachial artery. When I moved to stop that, she slashed at my jugular and then “stabbed” me in the groin…all improvised as she reacted to what I was doing.

I don’t think most bad guys are any better prepared to stop that kind of counter-assault than I was.

Greg concluded the day by discussing a few tricks he’s used to carry and use a knife in high threat areas where it wasn’t possible to have a gun, useful information for a number of students in the class who have to live or work in areas/countries where they cannot carry firearms but still face a very realistic threat of assault.

The class was fantastic. Greg has effectively distilled years of training and teaching this topic into an easily digestible program that just about anyone can pick up in short order…and it’s stuff that has a very high likelihood of success if the need to apply it ever manifests. Greg is good at what I call filling in the “cracks”: providing useful instruction aimed at the gaps most citizens and police officers have in their defensive game. This class won’t make you the world’s leading knife fighter, but it does a damn good job of filling that “crack” and giving you an effective plan B for those occasions where you don’t have or can’t get to your firearm to defend your life.

I took this class with a buddy of mine who recently retired after 25 years as a police officer. He told me afterwards that in the whole of his career he had never encountered any defensive tactics training that was even close to the quality or effectiveness of Greg’s instruction. He further offered that he couldn’t think of a single criminal he ever arrested who would have been prepared for just how dangerous the students in this class would be with a knife.