The Military and Concealed Carry: What You Should Know

     The last decade or so has been a bonanza for Second Amendment rights for most citizens in this country. Except for just a few states, most law abiding citizens who are concealed carry license holders can legally carry a concealed weapon in most states. If you remember to just 10-15 years ago it was a significantly smaller number of people and states that could do so. If we look at present day, some states do not even require a permit for residents to carry concealed within its borders. Because of this freedom, we have seen a boon in the firearms industry to respond to the consumer.

     Again, if you look back as recently as the early 2000’s, compact and sub compact pistols were not very common and the few that did exist were marketed mostly as police backup guns, because they were some of the only ones who could and did carry in plain clothes. Now, just about every manufacturer has some version of a pistol marketed towards the concealed carry consumer. We have in 2017 a plethora of firearms, holsters, accessories, and instructors all touting to be the best at making the customer mo’ bettah at shooting. Some of these products are good, some not so good, some downright awful.  Regardless of whatever brand loyalty you adhere to, the amount of availability and options the concerned citizen has to choose is staggering. We truly are living in blessed times.

     Despite the leaps and bounds our nation and states have made towards greater 2nd Amendment freedoms, there was/is still a shortcoming that may not be a visible to most but is apparent for a few of us that endure it daily. There is an entire group of people that have been prevented from protecting themselves and their comrades against those that would do grievous harm: the military folks.

     For years personally owned weapons (POW) were either banned on post, or they had to be kept at the Provost Marshal’s (PM) armory. Sometimes they were allowed to be kept in the home, but they all had to be registered with the PM. Several of the DoD’s top leaders were/are vehemently against the Service Member (SM) from carrying on or off post, on or off duty and have testified to Congress on the matter. The same SMs are trained regularly to be proficient at killing our Nation’s enemies, then deployed to fight said enemies. Kinda seems like a double standard, doesn’t it?

     We are good at fighting, excuse me, the best. But when we were home, we were prohibited from protecting ourselves, we weren’t trusted with our own safety. This made us soft and easy targets for those who sought to hurt the country. The Chattanooga Recruiting Station, the Fort Hood SRPC building, the IHOP in Nevada, and several other incidents all stick firmly in our memories.

     Well, is there are any good news at all? Yes, there is

     This mindset of troops being unarmed stateside is changing. Steps are being taken to allow the SM to defend themselves and their comrades. The first change came with LEOSA being extended to include the military in 2013. However, unless you were already an MP or a National Guardsman/Reservist who worked as a LEO on the civilian side, it had limited effect. Since 2015 several states (I don’t have an exact list of the states, look it up) started providing their National Guard with the policies and training to properly equip and arm their Soldiers and Airmen against domestic terrorism. Most states require a memo from The Adjutant General (TAG) or other convening authority in order to authorize a SM carrying a concealed weapon. These policies, though well minded, did little to nothing for the active duty SM who spends most of their time on and around active duty bases, or the military recruiter who is often working alone in a metro area. In November of 2016 the DoD came out with a policy (http://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/corres/pdf/521056_dodd_2016.pdf) allowing Commanders(O-5 and above) to authorize the carrying of POW for personal protection on active duty bases. There are quite a few stipulations and requirements that must be in place, but it is not any more stringent than most civilian CCW requirements. So, while we still may be in the “Crawl” phase of getting concealed carry to uniformed SMs, at least there are steps being taken in the right direction.

     For those military people who are so fortunate to have the LEGAL authorization to carry, here is some good news:  it is somewhat easier than our civilian counterparts. Why? Here goes.

     Our uniforms are conducive to carrying concealed. Regardless of what branch we serve in, we all wear blouses and baggy pants that are generically sized a little too big. We all wear thick web belts designed to be stiff and support loads. Lastly our uniforms are camouflaged in patterns designed to break up shapes. This means that we are afforded an ability civilians can only dream of: comfortably carrying and concealing a service sized pistol. With our baggy and slightly oversized clothes, carrying a belt holster and a Beretta M9 (if you so choose) is very comfortable, and very concealable.

     Something to consider is that the enemy that has targeted SMs in the past is different from what the average civilian CCW holder typically faces and trains for. How so? The enemy we face is well trained (sometimes by us), well armed (think self-loading long arms and/or AP rounds), and sometimes armored. They are typically alone or in small groups and usually adhere to a radical extremist or anarchist philosophy. They are well organized, documenting and planning their operations months in advance. These facts should be considered when training and selecting gear.

     What kind of pistol/gear/ammo should a SM that is authorized carry? Any CC pistol that is highly recommended and used by the civilian sector will work just fine, however our uniforms allow us to carry much larger, more accurate, and higher capacity weapons. Part of the deal with your commander may require you to carry a service pistol, in that case it would be an M9 variant or in rare cases the M11, M1911A1, M5, or Mk25.

     If you are allowed to carry a POW as your concealed carry pistol, I would stick with well known, reputable pistol brands that are used by LEOs or Military. These could be SIG, Beretta, HK, Glock, Ruger, S&W, Colt, FN. Calibers should be in common Military and LEO chamberings such as 9×19, 45 ACP, 40S&W, 357 SIG. I would stay away from smaller calibers like the 380, 9×18, or 22lr, or large, boutique cartridges such as the 10mm or 460 Rowland. I would also stick with pistols in semi-auto configuration. There is nothing wrong with revolvers, they just lack authority with only 6rds when you have the option for 7-20 rounds in a full size service pistol.

      Holsters should be the same type that LEOs typically carry when in plains clothes or undercover, If you are carrying IWB stick with a 100% kydex holster such as the Raven Concealment Eidolon, or 100% leather such as the Alessi. Stay away from soft cloth-like or hybrid-kydex holsters as they can collapse and fail to retain the handgun. If you choose to carry OWB, 100% leather retention holsters made by Galco, Bianchi, and Triple K are all well made and comfortable.

     If you are carrying openly for whatever reason, (field exercises, perhaps) the holster you should carry needs to be able to retain the firearm securely, not just from the elements and from you jumping around, but also from threats trying to disarm you. A Level II or III retention holster is recommended. There is a proliferation of Blackhawk SERPAs in the military, mostly due to an RFI (Rapid Fielding Initiative) that occurred 2007-ish. Do yourself a favor, junk it. Get yourself a Safariland, and get a good holster belt. This applies for all holsters: if you can buy it at Wal-Mart, it ain’t worth it.

     As for ammunition, there are a few street proven brands that consistently deliver optimum expansion and penetration, something you need both of. Federal HST, Speer Gold Dot, and Winchester Ranger-T are top notch ammo choices available in the calibers I noted above

     Now that we have talk through arms and accessories, let’s talk about the most important facet of gunfighting: training. Here is where some of us may get offended, but I don’t care.

     Just because you are in the military does not mean you know how to shoot a pistol.

     I’ll say it again. Just because you served in X-Branch for Y- Years and have deployed Z-times does not mean you can shoot a pistol well. Actually, as whole force, it means you have probably very little to no formal experience with a pistol. I am not saying you never shot a handgun at your uncle’s farm, I am saying you have probably never been through a formal pistol orientation and live fire qualification. The good news is you do have a formal firearms training background already in place. The foundation is there, there just ain’t no house to live in, yet.

      The military does a fantastic job of teaching and qualifying everybody to use rifles at close and long ranges effectively. However, as a whole we are lacking in terms of pistol fighting. The few SOF and MPs that actually train and qualify regularly with their duty handguns may be the exception. I know several SMs who have seen heavy combat and are mad geniuses when it comes to handling and employing crew served and individual weapons effectively yet have minimal handgun exposure. Pistol shooting is simply not taught on a formal level in the military like with long arms and crew-served weapons. Keep this in your hip pocket: patrolling in full kit with a rifle or SAW, with team or squad level support is very different from being a uniformed concealed carrier. It requires similar mindset, but different tactics. Remember, you have the foundation, you just need to build from it.

     What do you need to do, then?  Swallow your pride, pull out your checkbook, get yourself some quality training from a vetted instructor, start with the NRA basic Pistol course and continually get more advanced. Take a few days leave, spend some money and go to GunSite or Thunder Ranch. If you cannot take that much time off or can’t afford the class cost yet, take a 1-2 day training class from Active Response Training, Personal Defense Network, I.C.E. Training or Handgun Combatives.

      I am not advocating anything a lot of you don’t know. I realize there is a lack of information when it comes to our specific situation and I wanted to help those who may be in the dark about it but have a vested interest in keeping themselves and their comrades safe.

     Something I want to be very clear about. I do not advocate the illegal carrying of weapons by SMs. End of story. Do the right thing by being legal. Please talk to your chain of command and/or your Commanders (O-5 and above) privately about it. Find out what your state and local regulations are. Get some quality training. The only way you can affect change in policy is by talking with your superiors and demonstrating knowledge on the topic.

     I wish all of you God Speed. Watch your six. Take care of your buddy.

 

An Update…

Well, it’s my fault mostly.

I know all of my dedicated readership is wondering what happened to me (thanks Mom, I’m ok). It has been a while, I think 3 months, since I posted any new articles or pictures or even really interacted at all on social media. Don’t worry, I am not dead. I still really enjoy shooting and other outdoor activities, and writing articles about my hobby. However, in the last few months my interaction level has plummeted to near non-existence. Why? The biggest reason is my own failure to manage my personal time. To be quick, I have mentioned before that I am a Soldier. To be more specific I am currently an Army National Guardsman. I also have a full time job on the civilian side. Up until  3 months ago I had a very regular schedule at my civilian job that was easy to plan around my personal activities and my hobbies.

That all changed.

My unit was alerted for a deployment in the near future and I have been tasked with helping to prepare them on a full time basis. This is on top of monthly drills and a robust training regimen in preparation for said deployment.

This means that my work schedule and free time have  been altered dramatically. It’s not that I don’t get time off, I do. I actually get to spend more time with my family and my sleep schedule has improved, two very important things to me.  It has just been difficult to adjust my old activities into my new schedule. Recently, I feel  I have  gotten the swing of things and can fit in some more writing before I have to leave.

Now for the good news.

The first is I have purchased a GoPro camera, this will allow me to shoot better quality photo and (crossed fingers) videos in the near future. I have been using my iPhone quite successfully, but I think we will have more dynamic content with the action camera.

I also have access to a much better range for shooting. To give you a little background, I typically used one of two ranges for shooting and testing. The first range wasn’t bad, but it only allowed for 25-100 yard testing, plus it was public access, which meant I had to fight the crowds, and it was very structured in its allowed use. The other range I used was the backyard of my in-laws, which gave me the privacy and anytime-access I enjoyed, but I could only use it for very short pistol work.

This new range is privately owned, and extends from 0-550 yards. This means I can take on a whole new level of testing and evaulating products, while also honing my own skills at long(ish) ranges. I am super excited about this.

So, while I will be taking an extended break from writing in the future, rest assured that I have not fallen of the face of the earth and that there is some good content coming your way soon!

Thanks.

TWGG

 

Ruger SR1911 CMD

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The 1911 style pistol in just about any iteration is a handsome firearm. I think you’d be hard pressed to find somebody that would honestly disagree with that statement. One that would cause a shade more discontent is if the 1911 is still relevant in the self defense role. It has many detractors, but I am not one of them. I won’t go into the why or wherefore, at least in this article. Suffice it to say that I believe the 1911 to be perfectly adequate for self defense, duty, and combat. We will leave it at that for now.

Every gun collection is incomplete without a 1911, so the problem is not if you should get a 1911, but which 1911 you should get. The firearms market is permeated with good ones and bad ones, cheap ones and expensive ones, and ones that are a combination of the aforementioned qualities.Almost every major firearms manufacturer has their version of the 1911 (and the AR) and Ruger is no different. The SR1911 is a handsome yet very spartan styled version of JMB’s ubiquitous handgun, with some very important updates to bring this fine fighting pistol into the 21st century.

The Ruger lineup includes quite a few variations of the SR1911 to suit almost any gun owner, with the one I have for reviewing being the CMD, or “Commander” if you will. The only real difference between the CMD and the standard SR1911 is the CMD’s shorter 4.25″barrel over the standard 5″ pipe.

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The Ruger SR1911 CMD is a very simply styled pistol with some very interesting upgrades

 

 

The all-stainless steel  Ruger CMD follows the lines of the classic Colt Commander, or Combat Commander as it was later known to distinguish it from the Lightweight Commander which had an alloy frame. Ruger also has a Lightweight CMD in their product lineup. Despite the significant weight difference between the CMD and the Lightweight CMD (36oz vs 29oz) I feel that the CMD still makes for an excellent carry option, while the all-steel frame absorbs full power 45 ACP loads with ease. I should mention that I have had this pistol for almost two years and have been most satisfied with the purchase. My first pistol I bought on my 21st birthday was a GI style 1911 of East Asian extraction that was reliable enough, but not very well finished, and certainly not accurate. It was minute of 55 gallon drum. At 15 yards. After a few years I knew I wanted (needed) another 1911, but wasn’t sure what to get. After literally months of research on current manufacturers 1911s and waffling on the idea back and forth, I made a conscious decision to buy a SR1911 CMD.

 

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The wide, beveled, ejection port helps makes for seamless and reliable feeding of the fat 45ACP

Overview

The SR1911 CMD ships in a plain white cardboard box. Inside the box are pistol, two magazines, a bushing wrench, a zip-up black Ruger pistol case, and then gun lock and literature. You noticed I said bushing wrench. Yep. The SR1911 retains the old-school recoil bushing/ recoil spring system instead of the popular guide rod found on many newer 1911 iterations. I am a fan of this. Not only is it easier to disassemble, I believe it makes the pistol vastly more reliable. A guide rod might be perfectly fine on  a race gun or target gun, but as one wise and well respected gun writer once told me “it has no business on a fightin’ pistol” Remember, the further you deviate from JMBs original design the more problems you run into. (e.g. all 3″1911s)

An interesting change is the firing pin. The Ruger, similar to a Series 70 Colt and dissimilar to a Series 80 Colt, does not have a firing pin block. The firing pin block on a Series 80 Colt (and a lot of other currently made 1911 clones) was implemented to prevent accidental discharges should the pistol be dropped on its hammer while loaded. Unfortunately there is with all things a tradeoff.   The firing pin block can make the trigger gritty, mushy, and heavier. It can also lead to other issues down the road. So how does the Ruger pass a drop test without a firing pin block? With an ultralight titanium firing pin and extra strong firing pin spring. It makes for a very safe pistol while retaining a very crisp trigger.

The Ruger does have a big wing type safety, but it is not ambidextrous, something else I like. Ambi safeties, especially on 1911s have a habit of getting switched off  by every little thing in close proximity and makes the pistol unnecessarily wide.

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The low mount Novak sights, skeletonized hammer, upswept beavertail, extended grip safety, and wing safety help to keep a classic pistol current

Mounted in the frame are low-profile three dot Novak sights. The Grips are checkered hardwood and have the customary Sturm-Ruger Eagle emblazed on them. I may swap them for some ultra thin G10s, but for now they work fine and look good. The hammer is a skeletonized ring-type and the three-hole trigger is adjustable for overtravel. And no, there is no light rail on the dust cover or forward serrations on the slide. This is a good looking pistol, remember?

 

The Ruger CMD has an overall length of 7.75″with a 4.25″ barrel. It weighs a solid and reaffirming 36oz unloaded. Compared to your G19 that may seem heavy, but the weight is reassuring, it reminds us of a time when guns were made of steel and wood, and men were too.

 Dissasembly is a breeze, field strip it as you would any other standard 1911. I won’t go into it, as there are quite a few steps and plenty of literature on the topic. Don’t let that discourage you, 1911s are easy to strip and reassemble, just not Glock-simple.

1911s are exceptionally thin for a full size pistol and at 1.3″ at its widest point the Ruger CMD is no exception. If one wears baggy shirts or light jackets, the pistol is easily concealed using a plain ‘ol OWB holster. For those of you frothing at the mouth, yes, 1911s are perfectly adequate, and in some situations stellar for self defense and concealed carry, providing the responsible gun owner is properly trained and knowledgeable on how to carry a loaded 1911 safely.  (hint: it’s called “cocked and locked” or condition 1) but that is another article for another day. When I carry the Ruger I have it loaded with Federal HST+P 230 grain pills as it is a street proven round with devastatingly reliable penetration and expansion on several mediums.

 

 On the Range

Accuracy in the Ruger CMD is very good for a 1911 and especially for a 1911 in this price range. It prefers brass Federal and Winchester plinking loads, but really shines with the abovementioned Federals. The smallest 3 shot benched groups at 25yards hover around the 1 3/4″ range with the Federals and open up to 3″ with off the shelf plinking loads. I did have some trouble with rounds impacting several inches low at any range at first, but when I isolated the problem I found it to be my own trigger finger causing the problem. Once rectified groups rose to POA.  Recoil is very manageable, with controlled pair drills and failure drills easy on the wrists and hands. The extra wide, beveled ejection port allows plenty of room for spent cases to fly out of. To date I have had no FTFs or jams of any kind.fullsizerender-5

 

 

 

Conclusion

  The Ruger CMD is an affordable 1911 that has all of the bells and whistles of pistols much more expensive. It is made in the USA by a very reputable manufacturer with years of building quality firearms that will last for a lifetime. It should be apparent by now that the Ruger SR1911 CMD is not a safe queen, this is a rugged, durable pistol that is ready to work. If you decide to make the plunge and purchase one of Ruger’s 1911s you certainly wouldn’t be undergunned or disappointed. I know I am not.

A Battle Rifle For the Ages: The PTR-91

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Introduction

I was driving to work one day, thinking about what a wonderful place our world is in these days, and about the hope I have for the future when I came to the realization that I had a huge void in my life. Namely, a void in my firearms collection. Despite years of “useless” gun purchases  (are they ever really useless, though?) I had left a huge gap. I didn’t have a single Battle Rifle. Yes, you can wipe off the coffee from your computer/tablet screen. Don’t worry, you can breathe easy, I have long since filled that gap with a very appropriate choice, and we will talk more about it. Now I can go back to thinking about how wonderful the world is.

I won’t go into why I felt like I needed a Battle Rifle, or why I think they still fill a viable slot in an armory. Plenty of commandos on the interwebs and forums have written plenty about this and that, and I care not to add to the drivel. I will go so far as to “define” if you will, what a Battle Rifle is, for those of you that may be unfamiliar. Remember, this is not a hard-fast list of rules, this is simply a collection of features that Battle Rifles tend to have. So here goes.

The first feature is that Battle Rifles are chambered in full-power rifle rounds, typically 7.62x51mm or it’s east-bloc alternative, the 7.62x54R. There are a few outliers, namely the French (surprise, surprise..) who like proprietary rounds, but c’est la vie.  Most hold between 8 and 20rds, and are fairly heavy for an individual weapon; with 9-12 lbs unloaded being typical. The barrels are longer than most other individual weapons, with 18-24″ being common. Some are select-fire, some are simply semi-automatic. Some examples of well known Battle Rifles through history have included, the US M1 Garand and AR-10, the Russian SVT-40, the German GEW-43, the Italian BM-59, the Swiss SIG-510, and the Belgian FN SCAR-H.

However the field is dominated by three main competitors, all of which have been around  nearly 60 years and are well experienced in combat across the globe; namely, the M14, the FN-FAL, and the HK G3/91. I have longed for a clone of one of these rifles for some time, and I figured that I had to have one.

All three rifles have their supporters, and their detractors and are (in my mind) pretty great at what they do. This not a “this is the best battle rifle” article. It is a showcase of the capabilities and features of the one that I have chosen based on my own preferences and needs.

If you read the title, you already know which one I chose: The HK G3/ 91 or as its stateside clone is known, the PTR-91.

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The PTR-91 is an excellent clone of the HK G3/91 series of rifles at just a fraction of the cost of an original

Overview

 

There were a lot of reasons why I chose a HKG3/91 clone, the first was cost. The HK G3/91 clones are significantly cheaper than FAL or M14 clones by several hundred dollars in some cases. The second was a combination of ruggedness/reliability. The HK G3/91 is often called the “AK of the West” and for good reason, the heavy duty roller-locker delayed blowback action is extremely simple and rugged and will continue to cycle through even the most adverse situations. There is no gas-regulator system to fiddle with like a FAL, or delicate operating rod like on the M14. The G3/91 is also exceptionally reliable due to its heavy mainspring, which is similar to the buffer spring on an AR-15, and will rip through gunk, carbon, mud, ice, sand, etc. The spring is so strong, that early G3s had a problem with ripping case heads off of the spent cartridges. Obviously this is a big no-no.  The remedy was to flute the chamber, so that the expended gases of the fired cartridge would lubricate the case and make it easier to extract. Problem solved. The extremely heavy mainspring also is what gives the G3 some of its more noticeable attributes, namely, severely denting or cracking the empty cases when it extracts and ejects the case against the receiver port and then flinging the cases upwards of 50 feet with quite a bit of force. The mainspring also generates quite a bit of secondary recoil during firing versus the FAL or M14, which has given it a reputation as a “hard kicker” amongst shooters with a more delicate constitution. However, as I noted above, that is an easy trade-off, in my mind, for flawless and rugged reliability.

The third reason, is that surplus parts and magazines are veeerrryyy inexpensive. Factory original magazines can still be bought in some places for a trifle more than a dollar, with most places selling them for 3-5 bucks a piece. Yes you read that right. Try finding any other type of firearm where the factory original magazines can be bought for less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

The last reason is the forward charging handle. Unlike most other rifles with the charging handle on the right side of the receiver by the shooter’s face, or in line with shooter’s  teeth, nose and eyeballs (that’s right, I’m talking to you, Eugene Stoner) you can charge or clear a jam on the HK G3/91 without taking the weapon off the shoulder or your eye off target and with your support hand in line with your body. Plus, when the handle is locked back, doing an “HK slap” makes you feel like a 1980’s action movie star.

 

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The classic drum/diopter HK sights make for quick and easy adjustment for engaging targets at different ranges

Sights on a HK G3/91 are the best (in my opinion) on any BR available. The M14 uses a tiny peep that that is pretty darn good for target shooting, but for battle use is limited. The FAL is noted for having a variety of crude adjustable, or sometimes fixed sights that otherwise tarnish a fantastic rifle. However, the classic diopter sights of a G3 combined with the hood post front make for both very accurate and fast shooting. The diopter is a rotating drum adjustable for both windage and elevation. The first elevation setting is a wide “express style” 0-100m v-notch for snap shooting or CQC. The remaining settings are conventional peep sights set for 0-200m, 300m, and 400m. The front sight is a completely fixed metal post and cannot be adjusted at all. I think this lends a bit of durability and battle accuracy to the rifle as compared to other rifles.

 

Adjusting windage is easy enough, there is a screw that you loosen or tighten and move the whole assembly left or right. Adjusting elevation is also very simple, once your rifle is zeroed, you simply rotate the drum to the desired setting.

Zeroing, however is a different ball game. To do it properly requires a special HK sight tool or some very small pliers. It involves pinching some tabs inside the drum and rotating the spindle of the drum on itself. I won’t explain much further, because I had to watch a video of it, reading the directions made no sense to me. I used pliers and zeroed at 25m, and then tweaked it at 100m and called it good. It can be a pain at first but once it is zeroed, the sight is locked in.

The reason I chose PTR’s version of the HK91 is simple. They are the best new HK-style rifle available. Let me give you all some history. Back in the day, forty-fifty years ago, there was a large demand from nations to supply their armies with the HK G3. HK could not keep up with the demand, so they licensed tooling machines all over the world in countries that had purchased manufacturing rights for the G3/HK91.

This was a great idea, because now any nation could make as many or a few rifles as they needed for their army and it took a load off of HK to supply these rifles. However, there can be a wide disparity in quality of parts from one country to the next. One company in particular (I’ll let you guess who)  has for years been importing HK91 clones made from kits and boxes of spare parts of ambiguous quality and dubious origin. They also mix quite a bit of CETME (which is a Spanish rifle that is very similar, but not the same as an HK91) parts in with their builds, with the results being spotty in quality at best.

PTR’s firearms are all made in the US on original HK tooling bought from Portugal. They do not just assemble parts that are already made, they roll their own. As such, their rifles are significantly better in quality, fit and finish, and reliability than any other HK91 clone I have ever seen or used. The exception, is of course, the real McCoy or an original German made HK91.

My PTR-91 is the GI model and had OD green plastic furniture. I quickly changed that out for some authentic G3 wood furniture, complete with port buffer, bayonet lug, and bayonet, and leather sling, a la, 1950’s West Berlin-style G3. The wood serves to absorb heat better than the plastic when doing rapid fire strings, plus it looks cooler.

My version still has the Navy polymer lower, but I may exchange it for a classic metal SEF lower for a more authentic look. The magazines rock into place like an AK or M14. Something I should note: original HKG3/91s have a paddle release like AK-variants, whereas PTR-made rifles used to utilize a push button magazine release. But not to fear! PTR rifles are now being fitted with paddle releases, which is much easier to use in my opinion.

Weight of my iron sighted PTR91 is 9.5lbs unloaded, with a 20rd loaded magazine that weight soars to 10.8lbs. It would definitely be a bear to pack around, but it is very comparable to other Battle Rifles. The two-stage trigger pull as measured on RCBS scale is a consistent 9lbs even, which may seem high, but is still within Mil-Spec measurements, believe it or not. The rifle, despite its intended role as a Battle Rifle is relatively compact; the barrel is 18” long, and overall length of the firearm is 40.5”

 

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The HK G3/91 family of rifles has three pins that allow for complete and simple disassembly of their rifles

Field stripping is very simple. The HK G3/91 uses push-pins somewhat like an AR-15 and comes apart into an upper and a lower. The stock comes off with the mainspring, and the bolt slides out of the rear of the receiver. Reassembly is the reverse. Taking the bolt apart and putting it back together is a bit more complicated, so I will refer you to official PTR or HK literature on that topic.

 

On the Range

Accuracy for the PTR is quite good and is on par or better than other Battle Rifles I’ve shot. The lack of moving parts in the original design and good barrel steel, combined with quality ammo make for a surprising accurate rifle.

I should mention that I have really weird standards for weapon accuracy. If a rifle is made to have a scope on it, I will test for accuracy with a scope. If a rifle has open sights I will shoot it with open sights for accuracy and may not mount a scope at all. In this case, I do not think mounting a scope to a HKG3/91 would be fair review of its abilities since it was not intended for use with optics. I also do not think it would be fair or appropriate to test a battle rifle with open sights with high grade Match ammo or commercial .308 Winchester hunting loads as that was not what it was meant to be fed. However, if this were an MSG-90 or a PSG -1 (the highly accurized sniper and target versions of the G3/91 platform) I would certainly use match ammo and optics for testing, as that is what it how it was designed to be used.

 

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The PTR-91 showed excellent accuracy with all brands of ammo, but really shined with XM-80 ball rounds

The best accuracy for five shot groups at 100 yards was with Federal XM-80 149 grain ball 7.62×51 in the 2.25-2.5″ range. This is almost twice as good as Mil-spec standards for rifle and ammo, so I am very pleased. With steel cased Tula the groups did expand and print slightly more erratically, but all groups stayed within 3.25” if I did my part. That kind of accuracy made hitting steel torso-sized silhouettes out to 400m almost easy, even in field positions.

Conclusion

The PTR-91 is an excellent choice for those shooters/collectors looking for an inexpensive and reliable HK G3/91 variant. The myriad of inexpensive surplus and aftermarket parts available to the end user make this a very modular design and easily customizable to the shooter’s preference. This rifle also has several practical uses as a ranch/truck gun, home defense, and in competitions where stock military-type rifles are used. It is not necessarily the right choice for every circumstance, but it certainly is a good choice.

Ruger Blackhawk Flattop

FullSizeRender (9)  I think at some point, every boy in the States dreams of being a cowboy. Some of those dreams are carried into adulthood and manifest themselves in the form of various trinkets or items that have varied usefulness. One of the more familiar Cowboy type items or accouterments that actually has quite a bit of usefulness is the single action revolver. In a world permeated by polymer autos and (even if you are a revolver guy) swing out cylinder double action revolvers, the Colt-style single action revolver with its loading gate, ejector rod, and single action; seems at best obsolete and at worst a novelty. I mean,  the only reason these can still exist and thrive on the firearms market is as some form of nostalgia amongst the more wisened of us who watched Gunsmoke when it was still in syndication, right?

Wrong.

The Colt style single action remains one of the more capable handgun platforms for recreational shooting and hunting. For grip comfort and pointability, it is hard to beat a Colt style single action. Even with a 7.5″ barrel, which in any other pistol would seem ungainly or muzzleheavy, the Colt retains an elegance and index finger-like pointability, similar to the stabilizer of a compound bow. With the short 4.75″ barrel, it makes for a handy, and lightning quick packing pistol. When fired with heavy loads a Colt will actually roll in your hand, instead of coming straight back, which helps to reduce felt recoil. Colts also have fairly strong actions for what they are, due to their one piece frame, which allowed for some creative handloading back in the day.

As with all fine originals, there are many copycats and variations of the famous pistol, but none top Ruger’s Blackhawk in popularity or usability. Ruger Blackhawks are some of the most affordable single actions on the market, cheaper than several Colt reproductions, but capable of serious use. The Blackhawk’s main claim to fame is their brute strength in handling hot and heavy loads. At last glance some of the more venerable chamberings in its history have included the 357 Maximum, 30 Carbine, 480 Ruger, and in custom versions 475 and  500 Linebaugh. Blackhawks have taken just about every game animal that walks this green earth, even the more ornery ones.

As I begin my foray down the rabbit trail, I want to mention that much has been written of the Blackhawk family and by much more capable reviewers and writers than I, so I shan’t sully the good name of Bill Ruger by my writing ineptitude. However I do want to talk about one particular variant: the Flattop.

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The Vaquero/Blackhawk on top dwarfs the Flattop on the bottom

 

The Flattop BlackHawk was the first center fire pistol designed and manufactured by Bill Ruger. Introduced in 1955 and known simply as the Blackhawk, it revived the almost dead single action and brought it into the 20th century. With adjustable sights and a frame built to handle the heavy 357 Magnum loads of the day, but still the same size as a Colt SAA, it was a perfect pistol for huntin’, packin’ or just plinkin’. Sadly, the original Blackhawk was short lived. In 1963, it was replaced by the Old Model or “Three Screw” Blackhawk which was a bigger and bulkier handgun designed to handle hot .44 Mag loads. Along with several new design and construction elements, the newer pistol had “ears” that protect the rear sight and give the topstrap an ungainly hump which the original Blackhawk lacked:hence the name “Flattop”. Many shooters bemoaned the discontinuing of the original Blackhawk or the Flattop as it was now known because it was a smaller, sleeker size than the newer and larger Blackhawk. Today original Flattops command a serious premium amongst Ruger collectors and are amongst the best built mass produced revolvers available.

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The Flattop’s grip is much thinner and shorter than the Vaquero/Blackhawk’s Dragoon-style grip.

 

But hope is not lost! In 2005, Ruger reintroduced the Flattop to celebrate the Blackhawk’s 50th anniversary, and because of overwhelming demand, continues to make and sell them in variety of calibers. The revolver I have to review is one of the newer ones.

Overview

The modern Flattop is built on the XR3 grip frame which is the same as the New Vaquero. This is designed to mimic  a Colt SAA or New Frontier frame size. Anyone who has shot a Blackhawk knows that it is quite a large gun, and in my opinion, overengineered and too cumbersome for 357 Magnum. For the 44mag, or hot 45 Colt loads, it is perfect, but it is a mite too much for the 357. The Flattop is a perfect size for the medium 357 Magnum bore. Think of it like this: some shotgun receivers are scaled to different gauges for better handling and attractive looks, the Flattop Blackhawk is no different.

My version of the Flattop is a Lipseys distributer special in 357 Magnum and came with Rosewood grips and a 9mm Luger conversion cylinder. The 9mm Cylinder is in my opinion a novelty as it does not shoot to the same point of aim or level of accuracy as 357s or 38 specials. There is a considerable amount of freebore between the cylinder and the where the rifling starts in the barrel. Plus a 9mm is .355-.356 in diameter while a 357 is .357-.3575 in diameter.  That 1/1000 of an inch may not seem like a lot of difference, but it shows when shooting, especially at longer ranges. I do acquiesce that from a realistic standpoint having a gun that shoots three calibers is handy, especially if one or more becomes scarce, I just don’t use it very often.

Even though this Blackhawk pays homage to the original Flattop, it still retains all the safety features and strength of modern Rugers. It has a two screw frame and a frame mounted firing pin and transfer bar, making it perfectly safe to carry with six rounds in the cylinder. Even though it is slightly smaller than regular Blackhawks and old model Vaqueros, the holsters for the older ones are more common and seem to fit ok.

I chose the 5.5″ barrel as a compromise between the 6.5 and 4.6″. I feel like it gives the best combination of balance  without giving up any long range capability. It is short enough to wear on the hip, drive in your vehicle and not be uncomfortable and but long enough still reach out and snuff a jackrabbit at 100 yards. Overall length is 11″ and weight is 40 ounces unloaded.

The trigger is, in my opinion, the worst part of this great handgun. There is quite a bit of creep, a lot more than I would consider acceptable in a SA pistol. It breaks at a consistent 3 lbs but could be a lot more crisp in my opinion. Maybe I’m just spoiled by Smith and Wesson triggers, who knows. I have a couple of  old model Vaqueros that have very crisp triggers, so that may be a fault of this particular specimen’s and not of the breed as a whole.

On the Range

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The best groups came from heavy lead loads, like this one at just over 3/4″ from 25 yards.

Despite a mediocre trigger the pistol is quite accurate. Off a bench I have eeked out several sub-inch 3 shot groups at 25 yards with heavy 200 grain cast bullets. I have noticed that it seems to favor heavier cast bullets, but even with more common factory 125 and 158 grain jacketed loads, I can manage groups between 1.25 and 1.75″ with boring regularity. 9mm groups at 25 yards print about 5″-6″ low and are about softball or bigger sized which is ok, I guess, but very blah.

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9mm groups tend to print lower in the Flattop, but still present decent accuracy.

The black partridge blade sticks up and blends into an amorphous black blob with the square notch rear sight. I know the current set up is more traditional but I think the revolver would be better suited with perhaps some contrasting fiberoptic sights like on the SingleSix series. The pictures I took at the range were on a really sunny day, so my exposure looks a bit off.

 

 

Conclusion

Ruger revolvers are not perfect. They are not a Freedom Arms, and they are not a Colt New Frontier. However I cannot afford a FA or a New Frontier and I would be deathly afraid of ruining the Colt. The Ruger is what we like to call in the Army an 80% solution. It will get the job done, and get it done well, but may miss on some style points. Whatever style points it loses, I want to make known that the Blackhawk gives up nothing in function or utility. This is a revolver that I am not afraid to pack, drop, scuff,  use to frame a house, etc. Ok, maybe not frame a house, but drywall, sure. I joke, but in all seriousness I say that  not because I don’t have my kids college money wrapped up into it, but more so because it is a Ruger, and it is a well built, affordable, quality tool for the working man and his budget. It is more revolver than most could ever or will ever need. And that is what I like, guns that are built to be used. And boy can you use this one.

Smith and Wesson SD9

 

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The Smith and Wesson SD9 is a handsome pistol that is a worthy competitor in the polymer pistol arena

 

The Smith and Wesson SD series of pistols can trace its lineage back to the Smith and Wesson Sigma of the early nineties. Back then, S&W was still innovative and was trying to snag some of the market share that was (and is) dominated by Glock. The Sigma was an unattractive pistol that was chambered in both 9mm and 40 S&W, but it seemed to work. The Sigma did have a few LEO contracts based on the proven and past successes of S&W third gen autos and revolvers, but they were soon phased out very quickly in favor of the more enigmatic Austrian pistol.

There were a few legal hassles at first because of the Sigma similarity to the Glock series of pistol, but that doesn’t concern us here. Suffice it to say S&W changed directions with their marketing campaign and the Sigma became the budget-friendly polymer alternative. The Sigma was updated in 2011 with a facelift and the newer and more handsome iterations were coined the SD9 or SD40 depending on chambering.

The SD9 I am reviewing is one of a set of three trainer pistols that we use for our classes in our shop. Out of all the pistols I have ever had trigger time on, I can say that I have the most experience with this particular type.

This is not a pistol I would call a favorite, as a matter of fact, it has some things that I down right dislike in a pistol, but due to our classes, we use them quite a bit. Are they perfect? No, by no means. But they do work. They are accurate enough, and reliable to boot. In some of our classes (depending on the size) we can expend close to 2000 rounds of 9mm in an afternoon between the three of them. I have used them in the pouring rain, the freezing cold, and humid summer. They have been dropped in mud, and snow, and covered in rain water and continued to shoot.

We have had two cases of serious malfunction, both on the same pistol besides basic stovepipes due to “limp wrist” with expended rounds where the pistol would not go into battery, but the slide would not open either. We ended up inserting a dowel into the barrel and sharply beating the case out of the chamber. This was no fault of the pistol but was due, we found to some Winchester factory ammo brass being too long and causing excessive headspace and swelling in the chamber. After a quick once over and a shot of oil in the breech, she ran without a hiccup.

As a warning, you are going to see a lot of comparison to the Glock pistol in the overview. This is not a Glock vs SD9 article, it is simply to help put in perspective some of the features of this pistol. There, I said it.

 

Overview

The SD9 has a two tone finish that makes for a handsome pistol. The grips have different levels of texturing for a more firm gripping surface. The slide has both front and rear serrations that are supposed to assist with racking the slide but the slide serrations, are in my mind, poorly designed. The SD9 comes in at 23 oz, has a 4 inch barrel, and overall is very similar in size and heft to the Glock 19. There is no external safety on the SD9. The trigger, like a Glock, has a trigger safety that is deactivated once the shooter begins to pull the trigger. The trigger weight is a different story. Most Glocks have between 4.5 to 6lb factory triggers. The Smith and Wesson website says the trigger pull on the SD 9 is roughly

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The author prefers the three dot sights to the Glock stock sights. However,The SD9 sports a slightly higher bore axis, which increases muzzle flip

8 lbs, and I don’t doubt that. My scale shows an average of 7.75 lbs pull weight between all three of our trainer pistols. That’s a little too heavy for me.

 

It comes with two 16rd magazines, for those of us who live in God’s Country. The barrel sports a loaded chamber indicator. The fixed three dot sights, are in my opinion better than the dot-in box sights that most Glocks sport, but that is simply my preference. An interesting feature of the SD9 is the textured pad on either side of the frame for placing your trigger finger when not firing.

The one big advantage the SD9 has over the Glock, in my opinion, is the grip contour and angle. In my experience and opinion the SD is a much more comfortable and ergonomic pistol to shoot and carry auto pistols. Also, from what I have seen, new shooters tend to shoot the SD9s better than Glocks. Some people may cry foul on that remark, but oh well.

Disassembly is identical to the Glock. You remove the magazine, ensure the chamber is

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The SD9 is very similar to the G19/23/32 family of Glocks in size, weight, and disassembly

unloaded, pull the trigger, pull the slide back about a quarter inch, and pull down on the two locking tabs on either side of the frame and run the slide forward off the rails. Reassemble by running the slide back on the frame rails all the way. Easy peasy.

 

 

On the Range

Accuracy with the SD9 is tolerable in most cases and very decent in some. I have difficulty with the triggers on these pistols as they stack considerably, have a smooth face, and are too heavy for my taste. They are also hinged which, unlike a Glock trigger face, tends to pull the whole pistol barrel down and rounds to impact low. Trigger reset point is also much further out than I like for it to be. However if a shooter takes their time and executes a clean trigger pull, they will hit what they are aiming at.

Off a bench, I tried four different types of ammo: some 115 full metal jacket handloads, Blazer Target steel case 115 gr, Winchester 9mm NATO 124 grain, and Hornady Critical Duty 135gr. I found that it shoots to point of aim at 25 yards with most 3 shot groups in the 3-4″ range.

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A good example of typical accuracy with the SD9. Not bad, but nothing to write home about.

The worst groups were with the handloads at about 5″. The best groups came consistently from the Blazer with the smallest group coming in at 2 3/4″. The fixed three dot sights are large and very easy pick up. I had no trouble seeing them and focusing on the front sight for rapid pairs at 7 and 15 yards.

 

 

Conclusion

The Smith and Wesson SD9 is a fine pistol for target practice, self defense, and teaching a new shooter the basics of semi-auto pistol operation. They are comfortable to shoot, have combat-accuracy, and most importantly they are reliable.

The biggest reason we chose these pistols for our classes instead of comparable brands is because of price($389 MSRP, $300 street price), and reputation of the company. They are almost half the cost of Glock and can do just about everything a Glock can. The design has been around for roughly twenty years, and Smith and Wesson keep producing them, so there must be some merit to this budget friendly auto-loader. Do I carry one? No. Would I? Yeah, sure.

Winchester Model 70: The Rifleman’s Rifle

FullSizeRender (3)The Winchester Model 70 is one of the few iconic American firearms in the last one hundred years. That is a bold statement, but one I think would need little defense. However, I am not here to discuss in depth or detail the history of the classic Model 70, there is simply too much information to cover in a single blog post, and furthermore, there are a lot better writers than I who have already covered the topic in entire volumes. What I am going to write about today is one single and specific rifle: the Winchester Model 70 XTR Sporter Magnum. However, before we do that, I will talk a little bit on an important part of the Model 70’s history

The Model 70 was introduce in 1935 as a successor to the Model 54,  which was a rather peculiar, delicate, and primitive bolt action rifle. With a myriad of available configurations and calibers available, there was little competition for the Model 70 at the time. The only downfall, was that with all the semi-custom features of this spectacular rifle, it was rather expensive to make and sell. Nevertheless, it sold. For about 30 years the Model 70 was on the top of the heap in American bolt-gun designs until the early sixties. In 1964, Winchester released a host of new rifle designs, and modified some existing designs, specifically the Model 70 and the Model 94 lever action, in order to compete with other up and coming firearms manufacturers at the time. This involved a number of cost saving measures to make Winchester firearms more economical and comparable to these new competitive firearm designs (think Remington, Savage, Ruger, etc.). On the Model 70 this was especially noted in the bolt design.

The pre’64 Winchester Model 70s featured a Mauser style controlled-round-feed bolt that involved a huge claw extractor that actually grabbed the cartridge from the magazine and guided it into the chamber. The design allowed for the rifle to be cycled in any position, including upside down, without jamming. This was not the most accurate design, but it was without fail and made for a very smooth bolt throw.

The post’64 rifles bolt was a push-feed style. All it did was push the next cartridge in line into the chamber. Nothing more. The design was a tad more accurate actually, but it was rumored to not be as reliable as the classic Model 70’s controlled round feed bolt.

As such, the value of pre’64 rifles shot up, with post ’64 rifles getting a bad rap for not being as good quality as the older rifles. There were some other issues which led to the divide, but this covers the basics.

Overview

The Model 70 XTR Sporter Magnum in my possession is a magnificent example of a post ’64 Winchester. This particular example was made in 1985, in the first year of production of the new XTR line. The XTR rifles were, simply put, a higher grade than the regular production Model 70s. They had nicer, classic styled stocks, jeweled bolts, and machined magazine floorplates. As a typical post ’64 Winchester, it does have the push-feed bolt, but in my opinion, that in no way detracts from the rifle.

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The sleek lines and classic styling of the Model 70 make for an attractive, yet capable hunting rifle

This rifle is chambered in the thunderous .338 Winchester Magnum, which was first offered in the Model 70 in 1958, making for a classic combination. The .338 Win Mag is a flat shooting and hard hitting cartridge that is ideal for large bodied, thin skinned mammals, such as elk, moose, and bear. With close to 4000 ft lbs of energy at the muzzle, and a similar trajectory to the 7mm Remington Magnum, this cartridge carries quite a punch for a long ways.

My particular rifle has a classic Weaver V-9 scope with a “tv screen” style lens view. This scope was popular in the early to mid 70’s and still proves reliable on the Model 70. It also sports a classic military style leather sling, which is an aesthetic bonus to the sleek lines of the Model 70. This rifle has a pencil thin 24” barrel and is 44” in overall length. The trigger is a bit on the heavy side with a 6lb even break, according to my RCBS pull gauge, but it is a clean and crisp break, so that makes up for it a bit. The stock is a very straight design with a Monte-Carlo cheekpiece, which is conducive to soaking up the recoil of the mighty .338. It also has engraved checkering on the pistol grip and fore-end, instead of pressed, which is a welcome feature. Weight with scope is 8lbs and 10oz, which may sound a bit heavy, but it is so well balanced, that you scarcely notice.

On The Range

Ammo for the .338 Win Mag is kinda hard to find, they don’t carry it at the local Wally-World. Your local gun shop probably has it, but they also charge about 50-60 bucks a box. The only affordable way to get ammo for this rifle is to reload, or buy it off the internet. I did both.

Shooting the Model 70 is an experience, that is for certain. The recoil of a .338 is stout, there is no way to get around that. The .338 Win Mag has almost twice the recoil of a 30’06, and is just a tad below the mighty elephant slayer: the .375 H&H. If you are recoil sensitive, this is probably

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The Model 70 features a classic three-position safety and magazine floorplate for easy loading and unloading

not the rifle for you.

What I found accuracy-wise with this rifle is that the first two shots out of this rifle would land at point of aim and be typically be touching, with the third round landing a half an inch to 1 inch off in any direction. This was consistent with EVERY type of ammo fed in the rifle. I attribute this to the pencil thin barrel getting hot very quickly. I did find that it liked heavier bullets the best with the Hornady Custom 225 grain SST consistently delivering the best 3 shot groups from factory ammo in the 1.25” range at 100 yards. I find this very satisfactory for a big game rifle, especially for one of this caliber. This is still viable accuracy out to 300-400 yards, which is plenty far enough for most hunters and to be honest, better than most hunters can shoot. Is it a tack driving, 1000 meter sniper rifle? No, by no means. Is this a hunting rifle that would never fail the user if used properly and take care of nearly all ethical hunting scenarios? You betcha.

Conclusion

 

The Winchester Model 70 XTR is a new look at a classic rifle that helped to shape American sporting arm design. In a world filled with black polymer and matte finished rifles, the rich, dark, walnut and blued steel hearken back to a time when quality was emphasized over quantity. It may not be cool, or trendy, like more modern iterations of hunting rifles on the market, but the Winchester Model 70 gets the job done just as well as the rest of them, and all while well dressed too.

Remington Model 31

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The Model 31 is very pleasing aesthetically, but also very spartan in styling. The short length makes for very quick handling

 

 

 

 

 

It is no secret to those who know me well that firearms are my passion, specifically, shotguns. More specifically, 12 gauge American-made repeating shotguns from the early and mid 20th Century. I have a plethora of old pump, bolt, and auto shotguns made by just as many manufacturers that have seen years of varying use . The best part about this hobby of collecting old shotguns is that it is fairly inexpensive as firearm collecting goes. With the current “tacticool” and black polymer trends in the firearm industry, it leaves a lot of beautiful, old shotguns on the gun racks, languishing in loneliness, begging to be loved, waiting to shoot one more round of clay pigeons, longing to go home with me.

That’s exactly how I found this beautiful brunette, just sitting on a rack at local pawn shop, with a price tag that definitely did not reflect the true, intrinsic value of a piece of American history. Even though I had never seen one in person, just pictures in books, I quickly recognized the long, sleek lines of the classic Model 31. The barrel seemed awfully short and the gun needed a good cleaning, but I didn’t care. I quickly snatched up my newest love, took her home and introduced her to the fold. It was at home in my usual thorough disassembly and cleaning, that I realized this was no normal shotgun that sat in a closet corner for years. This was a warhorse, with a tale to tell.

History

The Remington Model 31 was introduced in 1931 as a successor to the Remington Model 17 (which was bottom ejecting shotgun and the predecessor to the Ithaca 37) and was designed as a direct competitor tothe Winchester Model 12. Like the Winchester, the Remington used a milled receiver and was fairly expensive to produce. The Model 31 was, and is, known for one of the slickest and smoothest pump actions called, rather erroneously, a “ball bearing action” even though there are no ball bearings to speak of. The Model 31 was discontinued in 1949 with less than 200,000 made.

Because of the smooth action, the Model 31 found success on the trap circuit where it dominated the classes. In 1935, in the wake of the Kansas City Massacre, the FBI ordered a large quantity of Model 31s in the Riot or Police configuration. In this capacity, they proved reliable and continued to serve in to the late 1970’s when they were replaced by the venerable Remington 870.

During World War 2, the need for shotguns as trench guns on the front lines meant that most of the War Department’s available supply of Winchester Model 97s, 12s, and Stevens 320s were issued to those Army and Marine units that needed them the most, leaving the Navy and Coast Guard empty handed. When Remington tooled up for war production they used the Model 11 Autoloader, and the Model 31 to fill the void left. The Model 31 is most known during the war for being used by Naval gunners who would simply shoot clay pigeons with them as practice for leading targets. However, Remington did produce a select few shotguns that were not marked as Riot or Police models but had short, 20 inch long cylinder bore barrels. These were sold to the U.S. Navy and used as guard guns for shore patrol, port construction, etc. There are a few isolated claims of some of those Model 31s making it into the hands of Marines in the landing crafts, but I do not know if that can be 100% verified.

As I was thoroughly going through this old shotgun of mine, I noticed that the barrel was exactly 20” and was marked CYL on the left side. At first I thought it was might have been an old police shotgun, but it wasn’t marked with the customary “R” for riot or “P” for police. On the butt stock there seemed to be some writing or carving that was obscured by mud. As I cleaned it off, the three letters “USN”, neatly stamped with a four digit butt stock inventory number, popped out clear as day. That is when I realized I had scored quite a find. I then looked up the serial number and found that it was manufactured in late 1942. Upon doing quite a bit of research on the topic, the summation of which you have just read,

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The USN and stock number can be plainly seen stamped into the pistol grip of the Model 31

I have come to the conclusion, (and I would be happy to entertain criticism) that this old shotgun was one of the few Model 31s that could have served overseas as a guard gun in the Navy. There is also a possibility that it might have seen active conflict during the Island–Hopping operations that the Navy and the Marine Corps conducted.

On the Range

The shotgun has a dull grey finish, not bluing, over all the metal surfaces except for the bolt, which is in the white. The stock has a lacquer that is flaking in some places, but still retains its sheen. The short 20” barrel has a rather large gold bead atop the muzzle that is just about the biggest bead I think I have ever seen on a shotgun, but makes for quick and instinctive shooting. The magazine holds 4+1, which seems downright silly today, but at the time was pretty standard for shotguns. The controls are exactly the same as a Remington 870, down to the crossbolt safety and the slide release in front of the trigger guard. The shotgun is a trim 39” package and weights about 2 ounces less than 7 pounds.

Of course, the

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Despite 70+ years of use, the author’s Model 31 has held up well mechanically and is well suited for a variety of tasks

most memorable feature of the Model 31, the slick action, is definitely without compare. Imagine velvet gliding on tile. Yes, that smooth. The Model 31 also has a very high quality barrel ratcheting system that allows for very secure lockup to the magazine tube, but also quick removal if it is necessary to change barrels.

Shooting the Model 31 is a blast. It is great shotgun for shooting clay pigeons with if you are fast enough to hit them before they can fly farther than 15 yards. As this was probably a working gun in an austere environment, I also wanted to see what she could do with some more serious fuel. This old gal works splendidly with 00 and #4 Buck; I even fired five Winchester 1oz slugs through her and was able to keep them all in a pie plate at 50 yards. Mind you, the recoil with slugs in that tiny shotgun was downright painful, and I probably won’t entertain another notion to do it, but it is always good to now that she can be mustered into service again if need be.

Conclusion

The Remington 31 is one of those lesser known shotguns that never got the limelight that its more famous contemporaries received. With a short lifespan in a time period when the most innovative shotguns ever designed were being produced, the Model 31 was just another wave in the big, blue, ocean. Its time is over, but its legacy has been passed on in the form of the Remington 870, the best selling shotgun in history. Regardless of what history says about her, mine will always have a home with me.

Mossberg 500A Persuader

FullSizeRender     The Mossberg 500 is one of those firearms designs that is here to stay. Regardless of if you prefer it or its competition, the Remington 870, you cannot deny the overall popularity of this ubiquitous shotgun. Introduced in 1961, the Mossberg 500 was originally designed as an inexpensive alternative to the popular Remington 870, and to the classic Winchester Model 12. The Mossie had two features that automatically distinguished it from its competitors. The first was the all-aluminum receiver to save weight and cost of manufacturing. Most shotgun designs prior to the 500 had heavy, milled steel receivers with a recess in the top that allowed the bolt to lock into. The Mossberg instead has a steel barrel extension that slides into the receiver about two inches. The steel bolt lug lock into the recess and safely seals up the barrel. This made for a very strong and reliable, yet light combination. The second innovation is the sliding tang safety.

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Here you can see the common crossbolt safety on the Ithaca, the sliding trigger safety on the Stevens, and the tang safety on the Mossberg

A majority of shotguns at the time had either the classic crossbolt trigger safety, or the “suicide” trigger guard safety. The Mossberg’s tang safety was ambidextrous and lefty friendly. The big red dot, and spring loaded indent made it very easy to see if the safety was on or off.

For some time, the Mossberg wallowed in the shadow of the Remington 870. This is mainly because at the time it was thought to be a more handsome and well made shotgun, it had been introduced earlier, and had a fruitful law enforcement contract with various departments and agencies. This might have spelled the demise for the 500 as another cheap pump shotgun from the fifties and sixties (of which there are many!) until 1979 when it passed the very stringent U.S. military’s Mil-Spec 3443 test for combat shotguns. After this, the floodgates opened for DOD and LE contracts. The modularity, reliability, and ease of use have since propelled the Mossberg 500 to the top of the heap in the pump shotgun category, with 10 million of the boom sticks sold.

One of the best features of the Mossberg 500 is its modularity. The Mossberg 500 has evolved over the years into many different variants based on purpose, and chambering. A quick look at the different variants of Mossberg shotguns based off the basic 500 design yield about a couple of dozen, with half that still in production. One can purchase a youth 500 chambered in .410, a cantilevered slug gun, a military issue 590, or a goose gun for those long, 12 ga. 3 1/2 magnums. The 500 is equally at home under the bed for self defense, in the field for hunting, or in service of our nation in the most austere of environments.

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The full length magazine tube increases the capacity of the Persuader to 8 rounds, over the standard 5. Note the plain gold bead

I have owned Mossbergs in some form or fashion for most of my life, so I do have some experience with them. In my military endeavors I have also had opportunity to use a Mossberg 590, which is the military version of the 500 with some slight differences. The particular Mossberg I am going to highlight is my Persuader 8 shot. The Persuader was introduced in the late seventies as a contemporary to the Ithaca 37 DSPS, the Remington 870R, and the Winchester 1200R, all popular police/riot style shotguns. The Persuader, like the others mentioned previously, had an 8rd magazine tube and a 20” cylinder bore, smooth barrel.

When I first purchased the my Persuader used, for a very low, low price, it came with a pistol grip and a pistol grip pump fore end. This made for a very compact and cool looking package, but was downright painful to shoot, even with field loads. I quickly ordered a factory wood stock and fore end and installed them immediately. This made for, in my opinion, a much more attractive and classic Persuader look. Plus, it is shootable now.

The shotgun is a fairly compact 41” overall and weighs 7lbs even. The trigger breaks at a heavy 7 pounds, but I like a heavier trigger on my shotguns for snap shooting, so that is not a detriment in my mind. To field strip the 500, ensure the firearm is unloaded, open the action by pressing the slide release just behind the trigger guard, and unscrew the barrel from the magazine tube. With the barrel off, that is as far as you should need to go for most cleaning. To reassemble, simply reverse the order of disassembly.

As for sights, all it sports is a plain gold bead on the end of the barrel. I prefer beads on all my shotguns, that is just a personal preference. I have used ghost ring sights, and they work great for slugs, but in my opinion, they detract from the speed that a shotgun drives from. As an aside, my

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The very long barrel extension on the Mossberg is clearly seen as compared to the Ithaca’s shorter, threaded barrel. This allows the Mossberg’s receiver to be made of aluminum, instead of milled steel, and still take the abuse of full power 12 ga. loads.

specific shotgun is factory tapped for optics on the receiver bridge.

On the Range

On the range, the Persuader makes for a unique shooting experience. I did a series of different drills, which were somewhat difficult to capture on camera, but I think they capture the essence of the capabilities of the Persuader

I first shot a magazine full of slugs at a 24”x36” paper target 100 yards away. These slugs were Winchester 1oz lead slugs traveling along at 1700 fps. That is right up there with a heavy 45-70 load, and boy, could you feel it. Accuracy was certainly minute of man. I could keep all the slugs on the target, but with the smooth cylinder bore barrel, and a gold bead as my only sight, there was no rhyme or reason as to where they landed on the target. I then paced off 10 yards and fired a myriad of military 00 buckshot, high brass no#6 turkey loads (which were by far the stiffest recoiling), no#8 field loads, some very unique .69 caliber double round ball loads, and some mini-2” 00 buckshot loads. What I found is that, reliability in feeding and firing is flawless, but that it tends to pattern high and right. The reason it was doing this is because the wads/shot cups were keyholing into the paper targets I had set up. I think this has to do with the lack of constriction in the barrel, but what do I know.

I then shot two rounds of 25 clay pigeons on the automatic thrower ( I hesitate to say trap or skeet, because I know some of you out there are actual trap and skeet shooters, and I would hate to degrade the sport with my misuse of terms J) The first round, I actually hit 23/25 targets, but only because I was snap shooting as soon as they were thrown. On the second round, I waited until the clays were out to about the 25-30 yard range. The cylinder bore and short barrel really showed itself because my score dropped to 11/25. Past 30 yards, I hit no birds, the pattern was just too spread out.

My range session uncovered quite a bit of information. For one, this is a powerful and absolutely devastating package at close range with the proper ammo. Past 25 yards, and you better have slugs on board. That’s not to say you won’t hit your target, but your chances of getting a disabling hit are severely diminished, even with buckshot.

Conclusion

The Mossberg 500 Persuader is an excellent choice for home defense and/or duty work. The pump action allows any variety of 12 ga. shells 3” and shorter to be fed reliably, which only enhances its usefulness. The ergonomic and reliable controls make this shotgun the one to beat, in my opinion. If you have never had the opportunity to dump 8 rounds of 00 buck into a target as fast as you can work the controls, I’d say you are missing out.

Glock 40 M.O.S.

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The Glock 40 M.O.S. is a newest offering by Glock to hit the shelves. Chambered in the powerful 10mm and outfitted with the Modular Optics System, there is little this behemoth can’t do.

This is a review that I have been very anxious to bring to ya’ll. It has been in the works for some time now, and to finally have it ready is exciting. I finally got my hands on a Glock 40 M.O.S. in 10mm Auto for reviewing purposes.

The Glock 40 M.O.S. was the prom queen at the 2015 SHOT show convention in Las Vegas. It was known that Glock was going to unveil an optics mounting system on their pistols in a bid to compete with other manufacturers, but it was thought by those in the know that it would be only be on the tactical/practical/ competition pistols, e.g. Glock 34, 35, 41, etc. That all did come to pass, but what surprised the gun industry was that enormous long-slide black pistol in 10mm Auto with the same optics mounting system. Enter the Glock 40 M.O.S.

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a 9×19 Parabellum on the left, centered by a .45 ACP, with 10mm Auto on the right

The Glock 40 M.O.S. is essentially, with a few differences, the classic Glock 20 Gen 4 save for a 6”barrel and slide. The M.O.S. (which stands for Modular Optics System) is a removable plate system on the slide just in front of the rear sight. The pistol comes with a blister pack of four different plates that when attached to the pistol slide, allow the mounting of the shooter’s preferred optic, e.g C-More, Trijicon, Leupold, etc.

The pistol, which is too big for an IDPA box, is geared toward the hunting market. The 10mm is not really a feasible plinking and competition round (unless you are bloody rich and a glutton for punishment), and has found a niche in the backwoodsmen and hunters who like the hot rod performance and high capacity the 10mm offers. For years, the Glock 20, with its service length 4.6” barrel has worked fine.

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Here you can easily see the plate mounting system on the slide secured by two allen head screws. The classic Glock adjustable rear sight is also plainly seen.

However, in some states a 6” barrel is required to hunt big game with a pistol. Glock has sold an aftermarket 10mm 6” barrel for their models 20 and 29 for years, but it looked kinda goofy with that extra inch and half or two sticking out from the end of the slide of a service size Glock 20. The added velocity from the 6” barrel was noticeable, but you were stuck with the same stock sight radius. The Glock 40 fixes that issue, and then some.

Overview

Upon opening the box, I could see that Glock is really an expert at space saving. That little plastic box was crammed with that big pistol, three magazines, a mag loader, cleaning brush, sight adjusting tool, gun lock, 4 additional back straps and beavertails, extraneous paperwork, and owner’s manual. Once I took everything out, I couldn’t close the box again so I had to repack it with just the essentials. Since this pistol is so new on the market, (they just started shipping in August, and there is a huge backorder) there really isn’t much in the way for holsters. I found that just about anything that will fit a Glock 20 will fit the Glock 40, as long as you don’t mind that barrel poking out past the end.

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The pistol comes crammed into a neat plastic box with a ton of accessories.

The pistol, despite the size, is rather lightweight and very well balanced. Unloaded weight is 28 ounces, and with a loaded 15rd magazine is roughly 41 ounces, or about the weight of an unloaded 1911 Gov’t. I figure that big pistol would be nose heavy, but it actually points just fine. The long slide and barrel also serve to help control muzzle flip, but we will get to that part soon. The pistol has adjustable Glock sights, which I specifically requested. They are a plain and unassuming affair, mirroring the whole pistol in styling and function.

The grip is quite a doozy. I have average sized hands, I would say. Getting a grip around the Glock 40 is very trying. I am also, admittedly a 1911/HiPower fan boy, so the Glock grip angle is very foreign to me. I have to use all of my hand to really get a good grip in order to control it during shooting. There are 15 of those long 10mm bad boys in the mag and as such, it creates a very large grip. The 4 replaceable back straps and beavertails are going to be, at least in my version, unusable, because all they do is make the large grip even larger.

The slide release, is in typical Glock fashion, very small and difficult to release. I have long since trained myself to “slingshot” a pistol slide when loading and shooting, so it doesn’t bother me much, but I can see where it would be a issue for other shooters.

The trigger is, in my opinion, a refined version of their standard trigger. Glock makes no mention of it in any literature as being any different than the 5.5lb trigger on any of their other pistols, but it feels so much smoother to me. The take up is standard, until you feel a slight bit of tension. Upon applying a few pounds of pressure the trigger will release. The reset is absolutely gorgeous and is mere millimeters from the breaking point. All you have to do is let your finger out a scoche and the very discernable click of the trigger resetting is heard. Rinse, repeat.

Field stripping the Glock is the same as it is with any other Glock. Ensure the pistol is unloaded, drop the magazine, check again to make sure it is unloaded. Pull the slide back an smidge while pulling down on the two tabs on either side of the frame and then rack the slide forward. With the slide off, simply remove the mainspring and barrel. Reassembly is even easier. Put the slide/barrel/spring back together, and let the whole assembly sit on the slide rails, and then just slide the whole thing back on. No tabs, no pulling, twisting. Bada bing, bada boom. Speaking of boom…

On the Range

The place where this pistol really shines is the range. I have plans to take it on the 100 yard rifle zero range, but for now we will see how she does on the standard 25 yard pistol range. Recoil is stout, it is not as sharp as 45ACP+P loads, but there is a lot of muzzle flip and torqueing in the grip. The ammo I used was American Eagle, RAM Precision, and the brand new SIG Elite Performance. All ammo was 180 grain full metal jacket, except for one box of the RAM which was 150 grain hollow point.

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This sub inch grouping shows the inherent accuracy of the pistol and cartridge. The black dot served as an aiming reference.

The American Eagle was junk, plain and simple. It was loaded to .40 S&W levels and wasn’t very accurate. It produced about 4.5” groups, but I didn’t really measure them. The RAM Precision 180 grain FMJ was printing groups half that size. But again I wasn’t overly impressed. The RAM 150 gr HP and the SIG 180gr FMJ is where the money was made. I was able to produce two groups each with both types of ammo that grouped at or under an inch. Yes. You read that right. 3 shot groups at 25 yards under an inch. I thought it was a fluke the first time, until I did it three more times.

Now, I am not some wiz-bang wünderkind shot. Neither am I lying or exaggerating. I don’t get anything extra for being dishonest. I simply focused on the front sight, calmed my breathing and executed a good trigger squeeze. Upon taking up a good Weaver stance and engaging in rapid fire at 25 yards it was very easy to keep all 15 of those big pills in the 9 ring of a B-27 target.

As for longer barrel = higher velocity, I was getting about 5-6 percent higher velocity than was advertised. So, for the SIG Elite Performance ammo, which was advertised at 1250 fps and 624 ft lbs of energy, I was getting readings on my chronograph in the ~1315 fps and 690 ft lbs range. That is, in my opinion, a substantial gain that equates well to the person who buys this for hunting or backpacking. I am still looking for some hot, heavy Underwood ammo to run through it, but until then, the SIG ammo works just fine.

As for the optics situation, I have never had optics on a handgun, and I am not sure I wanna fork over several hundred more dollars for a sight that I may not like. It shoots and handles great without one so far, so I think I will leave the slide and rails free of impediment.

Conclusion

I am beyond pleased with this pistol. It is fun to shoot, accurate, always draws a crowd every time you touch off a boomer, and elicits a smile from everyone that shoots it. This is a very accurate, safe, and easy to use pistol. This pistol is perfect for those wishing to hut deer or pig sized game, or even as protection in bear country. With 15 rounds of hot 10mm and 30 more in the other two mags, a person could be a lot worse off. The Glock 40 M.O.S. may not be for everyone, but it works good enough for me. I may have to add the other 10mm Glocks to the stable just so big brother doesn’t feel so lonely…

Name:      Glock 40 M.O.S.   Action:  Striker Fire/DAO     Barrel Length:  6.02”

Caliber:    10mm Auto     Weight: 28oz unloaded                OA Length:   9.5″

Capacity:  15       Trigger Pull: 5.5lbs     Sights:  Adjustable rear “U”. front white dot

Price:    $ 840 MSRP