Tag Archives: handguns

Stop Freaking Out About Carry Ammo

I guess this thought has been at the back of my mind for a while, I just hadn’t voiced it.

I recommend a number of different types of ammo for carry because 1) supply levels vary and 2) most modern defensive handgun loads from major manufacturers are really quite good and compare pretty well with one another. Segue to pretty photos…

Yesterday I shot some HST in .40 and .45 underwater. The photos are pretty cool.

230gr HST from a 1911

I’m totally not done with this, by the way.

.40 165gr and .45 230gr loaded ammo and expanded projectiles

As pretty as this stuff is to look at, it is also painful – I have plenty of scars from being sliced and poked by metal objects, but holding those bullets in my hand almost made me shiver. I would definitely not want to get shot by any of that stuff (duh).

Really, though, I would not want to get shot by any of the modern hollowpoint designs (duh). Although there’s a sort of evil beauty in an expanded HST, I don’t think they’d give me any more of an edge over a “less pretty” bullet that performed in a similar manner. And so, while I do carry with HST most of the time, that’s mostly because I’ve found HST easier than other types of quality handgun ammo. I also have mags loaded with Winchester Ranger T and Federal Tactical Bonded and Speer Gold Dot. My J frame is loaded with Federal Gold Medal Match wadcutters.

Yes, there are minor differences when it comes to penetration and expansion and performance through some barriers. The details truly do not concern me. I don’t feel any safer with one type over another. They all function in my handguns. They all shoot decently well in terms of accuracy and precision. By the way, I use projectile weights on the medium to heavy end of the scale for a given caliber – 124 and 147 for 9mm, 165 and 180 for .40, and 230gr for .45.

There are two main things to look for when it comes to defensive ammo, and they’re exactly the same as what to look for in hunting ammo – projectile design/construction and sectional density. Assuming that the projectile is impacting the target within its designed performance window, and that it is impacting in the right spot, little else matters. All of the modern hollowpoint designs have good construction, and heavier bullets for a given caliber mean higher sectional densities.

So stop freaking out about carry ammo. There are many things that will matter more in a self defense shooting than whether you were carrying P9HST3 or P40HST. Buy a lot of whatever you can find, make sure it works in your gun, and don’t let it sit in mags too long (say, don’t go past six months).

Have a nice day.

What (Blank) Should I Buy, Updated

Not the most exciting post I’ve ever made, but here’s an update to my February 2012 post regarding which items I would buy in various categories.


If I set out to buy one of the following, this is what I would look for as of September 2012. Some things have great alternatives that aren’t listed and some things have great alternatives that are listed. Some things I’ve gotten for free and some things I haven’t. Some things might be more or less than you need. But if you ask me a general question about what (blank) to buy, this is probably what I’d recommend.

…a 5.56mm rifle – Colt SP6920.

…a .308/7.62×51 rifle – FNH USA SCAR-17S.

…a bolt action rifle – Tikka T3 Lite.

…a shotgun – Tie. Mossberg 500 or Remington 870. Doesn’t matter.

…a 22LR rifle – CZ 452 Scout (kids) or Marlin Papoose (all around).

…a handgun – Glock 19.

…a handgun for concealed carry – Kahr CM9.

…a holster – Praetor Defense or Looper Law Enforcement.

…a non-magnified optic – Aimpoint PRO.

…a fixed power optic for a semi auto rifle – Trijicon TA33/TA11 ACOG.

…a fixed power optic for a bolt action rifle – Bushnell Elite 3200 10X.

…a variable power optic – Anything German. Maybe a Vortex Viper or Razor if I didn’t want the German price tag.

…an AR-15 upgrade – Vltor A5.

…an AR-15 rail – Centurion C4.

…an AR-15 magazine – Lancer.

…a knife – Benchmade Griptilian.

…a watch – Casio Pathfinder. Or a Citizen Eco-Drive, if you need a watch for six months or less.

…a flashlight – Elzetta ZFL-M60.

…a flashlight for carry – Surefire E1B.

…rifle ammo for killing things – Federal Fusion or Speer Gold Dot. Barnes TSX/MRX/etc.

…handgun ammo for killing things – Federal HST. Winchester Ranger T/Ranger Bonded. Speer Gold Dot. Remington Golden Saber Bonded.

…shotgun ammo for killing things – Federal FliteControl buckshot or Federal slugs. Hornady Critical Defense buckshot. DDupleks Monolit slugs.

…practice ammo – any new lead or copper jacketed/plated factory ammo.

…a handgun .22LR conversion – anything made in the US or Europe that fits your pistol.

…a rifle .22LR conversion – anything made in the US.

“You’re a Glock guy, right?”

Recently, I visited a local gun store. Not having purchased a firearm in over a year, I was in the store looking for nothing in particular. I handled quite a few different pistols, revolvers and rifles. None of them struck me as being worth buying, which is the main reason why it’s been so long since I bought a firearm. Certainly, they were all quite nice (I didn’t handle any Taurus products) and if I didn’t own any firearms, I would most likely have walked out of the store with several. To be sure, if I didn’t own a Glock, I would have walked out of the store with one.

As I examined a Schofield revolver, a friend – and employee of the store – commented to me that I was a “Glock guy.” I was immediately on the defensive. Me? A Glock guy? I don’t carry the flag for any brand! However, I gave the matter some thought.

I currently own one Glock, a third generation G19. It serves as a daily concealed carry handgun, it accompanies me on hikes of various lengths, and, with an Advantage Arms conversion, it is the handgun that I use most often to maintain a basic level of proficiency. There is nothing special about it – I have owned quite a few like it, and might trade it for something interesting as early as tomorrow.

Glocks are priced competitively, especially the “Blue Label” discounted Glocks for LE/Mil. I would purchase another Glock 19 within a fairly short period of time, as I have done in the past after selling or trading them away. I feel absolutely no connection to these pistols – they are thoughtfully designed and carefully constructed tools, and no more.

I have probably spent a statistically significant portion of my life shooting or maintaining a 1911-style pistol that I bought 5 years ago. I have a love/hate relationship with that 1911 and doubt that I will ever get rid of it – it is not replaceable in its current, and reliable, form without a significant expenditure. Third generation Glock 19s are as interchangeable as compact fluorescent light bulbs, and only a little deadlier.

These are my pants. There are many like them, but this pair is mine. The same goes for that Glock 19, although I only own one of those.

I have owned a wide selection of subcompact, compact, full size, and competition Glock models, in every cartridge selected by Glock except .380 Auto (not available in the US) and .45 GAP (because it’s stupid). More of them have malfunctioned than have not done so. I do not believe in Glock’s “Perfection” tagline – it makes me convulse with laughter. However, they are, in the right set of circumstances, exceptionally dependable tools.

I have purchased and used a wide selection of aftermarket parts and accessories for many of my past Glocks, but my current G19 is stock, with the exception of a slightly extended magazine release. I keep on hand a wide selection of (stock) spare parts for the Glock, which are readily available and affordable. The only handgun that rivals the Glock in spare parts availability is the 1911, although the dynamic in this regard is very different between the two.

Although it might seem like an odd reason to prefer one handgun over another, I like to maintain my own firearms, and this is impossible to do without access to a complete array of spare parts. I was almost entirely invested in the Smith & Wesson M&P platform before a company rep snidely informed me that Smith & Wesson did not sell spare parts to “regular people.” My stable of M&Ps was promptly sold.

On that note, I have owned and carried the vast majority of modern, quality service-type handguns, with the exception of HK products. For a variety of reasons, and even after initially positive results and feelings, these alternatives have all been sold or relegated to the safe. In the time since I first purchased a Glock, I have always returned to that brand after trying other pistols – and within that brand, I always end up returning to the G19.

Glock handguns are not perfect. Many Glock products do not interest me whatsoever. Glock is slower to adopt change than the Titanic, and their public relations are apparently managed by people who think “Circle the Wagons” was an actual tactic used outside of Oregon Trail. However, after much deliberation, the Glock 19 is the standard by which I measure other service handguns. I don’t think that makes me a “Glock guy” – it simply makes me a pragmatist. What do you think?

Smith & Wesson “E” Series 1911: 21st Century 1911?

I was recently loaned this Smith & Wesson 1911 for a review, and have spent the last few weeks inspecting, carrying, and shooting it. I came away with one big reservation, but overall, a positive opinion of the pistol. It – and the other E series 1911s from S&W, all of which cost less than this tricked-out model – should bring some much-needed quality competition to the factory production 1911 market.

Also, please read Hilton Yam’s review of a similar pistol, which goes into more detail, and comes from the mind of an experienced 1911 gunsmith.

Pistols vs. Revolvers: World War One

The following is an excerpt from the book A Rifleman Went to War, by Captain Herbert W. McBride, of the Canadian Expeditionary Force and the United States Army. He fought in World War I, mostly in France, and went from junior enlisted to officer during that time. Most of this book is a discussion of rifles, machine guns, or the war in general; all of it is fascinating to a history buff like me, and I found this section on pistols quite interesting. This was written in 1935.

As I was quite familiar with the new Colt Automatic, I was able to be of some assistance during the preliminary work of breaking them in, and it was not long until the officers were accustomed to the peculiarities of the gun and could make it behave to their satisfaction. Those who had had experience with the revolver entertained the almost universal prejudice against the automatic. Funny, isn’t it, how we hate to discard our old loves and take up with new ones – in the shooting game I mean, it appears to be easy enough regarding some other things.

But even the most conservative of the old-timers soon recognize the real advantages of the later type weapon. I staged several realistic demonstrations; including fast reloading in the dark and such stunts, and that converted most of them. As to reliability – dependability in an emergency -€“ there was little choice between the revolver and the automatic. Both types would function properly with the same degree of care. It is possible that there were instances of an automatic “jamming” now and then, but I personally never had it happen to me during the war, nor did I see or hear of any instance of it happening.

All these arguments as to the relative merits of the revolver and the automatic pistol will probably continue for another generation. Most of the old-timers who learn to shoot with the revolver have a deep-seated prejudice against the automatic€“ but when it came down to the root of their argument, it all seems to base upon the “hang” of the two guns – the newer automatic does not point right with the same old habitual “kink in the wrist.” I have used the 45 automatic ever since 1911, but for 20 years prior to that time had used the revolver.

Even now, I find myself having a sneaking sort of preference for the revolver and feel confident that I can make a better score on the target with it, either slow or rapid fire. But in spite of all of this, I unhesitatingly chose the automatic for actual use in war. To my mind, the great advantage of the automatic lies in the ease and rapidity with which it can be reloaded -€“ especially in the dark. Anyone who doubts this can easily satisfy himself by trying to hurriedly reload a revolver in the dark, with a crowd of roughnecks milling all around and trying to hit someone with clubs, knives and fists. Or, if this seems too rough just get some friend to jostle you about or run into you while trying it…

There’s just one little trick the user of the automatic should train himself to keep in mind -€“ and do -€“ reload while there is still a cartridge in the chamber; do not shoot until the gun is entirely empty. Even though you have fired but four or five shots, better drop out that old magazine and slip in a full one…

…”Close up” work is the only place that the pistol figures in warfare. Now I’m going to tell you the honest truth about something. During my war experience, which extended from September, 1915 to February, 1917 and included innumerable little contacts with the enemy and several major battles, I fired exactly 7 shots at an enemy with my pistol. Seven -€“ count ’em. I used up quite a lot of ammunition, shooting at rats, rabbits, and tin cans, but as to shooting Germans, well, I’ve told you, seven was all and the longest range at which I fired at these individuals was never more than 10 feet. But brother, those were seven badly needed shots. There may be a moral in this: I don’t know. If so, figure it out for yourself.

But there is no doubt in my mind that the mere possession of a reliable pistol -€“ and the knowledge how to use it – is a tower of strength for the soldier who goes up against any enemy. He may never use it, may never have a chance to use it, but it sure does give you a lot of confidence to know that you have the old “gat” handy, in case you do happen to bump into some wild eyed individual coming at you with a bayonet…

…The main thing in considering any military pistol is the matter of dependability. Will it work in all kinds of weather? In mud -€“ in sand -€“ in water? Well, we all know what tests were applied during the two or three years before our Ordnance officers finally approve the Colt. Two solid years of real, practical use, in service in the Islands and in the tests for what you might call durability in which all the others – there were only two, which shall not be named by me – fell by the wayside while the old Colt, refusing to quit, finally wore out the time and patience of the members and board and had to leave it with an unfinished run of some 10,000 rounds without stoppage or malfunction. I was present at that last test, and that may have had something to do with my attitude toward the ugly brute.

Still, I can say that my experience in France, as well as that of others of my acquaintance, only tended towards verifying the findings and opinion of our Ordnance board. Those of us who were fortunate enough to be armed with the .45 Colt Automatic found it to be a sufficient and dependable arm in every respect. Let me repeat that I’ve never had a failure to function properly while in action, nor did I ever hear or know of any such failure occurring with any of my associates or acquaintances. After I came back from the battlefield I commenced to hear of a great many instances in which the gun supposedly gave trouble, but these are invariably told by persons not in the Army or whose line of duty was such as to preclude their ever having actually participated in real fighting, or even front-line service for that matter.

Furthermore, I did not consider the automatic pistol to need any special care or attention to keep it in serviceable condition. We had trouble enough with all our firearms for that matter and any rifle, machine gun, revolver, or pistol had to be looked to daily to keep the mud and dirt out of its action and bore. If anything, our handguns were a bit easier to keep in proper shape than the others, because they remained in a holster or inside pocket of a tunic and were not laid down on the ground or exposed to the elements very often. Any military firearm requires daily attention and care to keep it in proper readiness for instant use, and neither pistol nor revolver is any exception to this standing rule.


How to Choose a Concealed Carry Handgun – The Basics

Choosing a concealed carry firearm can be a daunting task, often involving trips to various gun stores, consultations with friends that own firearms, late-night internet forum browsing, and possibly asking a spouse how much money one is allowed to spend. Along the way, various rules might be set – “it has to be in a caliber starting with 4,” or “only a revolver is always reliable,” or “You can’t spend more than $300 on something silly like that.”

When I worked in a gun store (there’s a phrase I don’t like to repeat often), I encountered this all the time. I would often have to help someone select a firearm based on arbitrary rules that Uncle Jerry had set forth – despite Uncle Jerry’s complete lack of knowledge.

With those experiences in mind, I’ve decided to write a primer on the subject, being as brief as possible while still explaining my opinions. Keep in mind that they’re opinions – feel free to seek out other advice – just take Uncle Jerry’s with a grain of salt.

I’m going to avoid recommending specific firearms in this article. Here are a few basic considerations that should be taken into account. They’re in a rough order, from most to least important:

  • Usefulness/Needs
  • Proficiency
  • Budget
  • Platform/Caliber


First and foremost, the weapon you purchase to carry concealed should meet your specific needs – chief among them is your ability to carry the firearm, on your person, at all times. A hand cannon that’s too heavy or large will not be carried often, making your purchase - and efforts – a waste. The concept of a small handgun being easy to conceal doesn’t escape many people, but what does escape people who don’t shoot much is that tiny handguns in big calibers are difficult, even sometimes painful, to shoot.

Perhaps I should write a separate article on myths, but erase the concept of the “one shot stop” from your mind right now. Being forced to rely on one shot stopping a threat – especially after that balsa wood derringer chambered in .50 BMG breaks your wrist – is a very poor choice to make. No handgun caliber is a magic wand, and you might not be facing just one opponent.

When you first start looking at carry handguns, you’ll probably gravitate toward the smallest ones in the case or on the wall, because you’re thinking in terms of the clothing you wear now, which is probably not exceptionally conducive to carrying a sizable handgun. However, while minor wardrobe changes might be undesirable, they’re worth it in the long run, for both comfort and the more capable firearms they might allow you to carry.

As a side note, the general population is oblivious to many things, concealed carry being one of them. The only person “freaking out” about the fact that you’re carrying a concealed weapon the first time you carry will be – you.


There’s absolutely no substitute for being proficient with your firearm – caliber, manufacturer, etc. are absolutely irrelevant if you have no idea how to safely load, operate, and fire it under all conditions. You become proficient by properly learning how to do all of those things (often via competent instruction), and you remain proficient through regular practice. If the bulk of your shooting budget goes to one or two training courses per year, but you rarely shoot otherwise, you’re only proficient for a maximum of 1-2 months out of the year. By all means, attend shooting courses if possible, but don’t let those skills become dormant.

Beyond that, you should choose a handgun with which you can easily become proficient and easily maintain said proficiency. I’ll go back to the “hand cannon” analogy, but the same could be said for someone with huge hands trying to operate a tiny .22 revolver – whatever weapon you choose should not fight you in your efforts to load, operate, or fire it.


Whether limited by personal finances or a controlling spouse, budget often plays a role. This doesn’t mean that you have to buy a crappy gun – you can save your money over time and look for deals. Also keep in mind that having, say, $800 budgeted for the task does not mean that you should go to the nearest gun store and look for pistols priced at $799.95. You’ll need ammunition, a holster, range time to practice, and, preferably, some professional training. Your current belt is probably not sufficient for the purpose, and you might need to buy some different pants or shirts- just don’t buy a khaki concealed carry vest, for Browning’s sake.

These other items are going to eat into your budget. It might be a good idea to allocate roughly half of your budget to a firearm, and the other half to the items mentioned above.

Don’t feel bad about not being able to afford the nicest pistol in the display case – as they say, it’s the singer, not the song. Just keep in mind that there are a few crappy songs out there.


I deliberately put this last, because it’s almost always the first thing that people think of when buying a handgun, despite the fact that it’s not as important, in my mind, as the above factors. Caliber itself, once we are in the major caliber realm of .38 Special to .45 ACP, plays almost no role in the decision-making process I use to choose a firearm. I’m far more concerned about the platform being adequate for the caliber.

What I mean by this is not just “big bullet + small gun = bad.”

I prefer a firearm that was designed for the caliber, not adapted for it – examples of which I’ll provide in another article, or perhaps a video, because they’d be too voluminous for the purposes of this article, which is already longer than I wanted it to be.

Final Thoughts

If you already own a handgun with a barrel length under 5″, chances are that it’s at least a semi-decent choice for concealed carry. You might be able to save yourself time and money by using what you already have.

Beyond that, purchasing or carrying a firearm, in and of itself, will not make you any safer. Evaluating and avoiding potential dangers, being aware of your surroundings, and maintaining proficiency with your carry firearm can increase your chances of survival. Only you can prevent forest fires – and only you are ultimately responsible for your safety.

Springfield XD as Beretta M9 Replacement?

This morning, I received, by email, a link to a post on humanevents.com. The author of the post states that the United States Marine Corps should adopt the Springfield XD-45 as a new service pistol. While I generally weigh what people have to say carefully, some of the comments he makes strike me as quite ridiculous, leading me to question much of his knowledge base on the subject.

He bases this recommendation on three major points –

1. That the .45ACP cartridge is a massive improvement over the 9mm Parabellum cartridge.

2. That the Beretta M9 is prone to early failure.

3. That the XD-45 is a significant improvement over other handgun designs.

Let’s take the first point – caliber.

The author states that:

“The momentum that the .45 carries with it into the target almost doubles that of the 9mm with a broader impact surface resulting in a much heavier hit, like taking on a National Football League back after playing high school tackle.”

Let’s compare and contrast this with a quote from WWII armorer and author, Roy Dunlap, who says:

The old claim of “the .45 knocks ‘em down if it hits ‘em in the arm of leg” carries no weight with anyone who has actually seen any bullet work on humans. Sometimes a .45 might flatten a man with a minor wound, but I have known of Jap soldiers who absorbed a burst in the body from a Thompson and went down fighting. The .45 carries a lot of shocking power, it is true, but the point nearly every pistol argument misses is that a hit with any bullet above a .22 rim fire will slow a man enough from what he is doing – running away, running toward you, or shooting at you – to give you time to put in a fatal hit or hits. “

While the author of the HumanEvents article defends the notion of “stopping power,” he fails to provide any evidence to back up this claim beyond football tackle analogies and a basic discussion of “energy.” True, there’s a statistical difference in “energy” – but what difference does it make in the real world? All handgun cartridges are pretty similar in terms of energy when you compare them to centerfire rifle cartridges.

Next, he states that the Beretta M9 is prone to failure at early round counts – between 22,000 and 35,000 rounds, he says. However, he never presents data on the XD-45. There’s only limited data available on the internet regarding XD high round count testing – specifically, a 20,000 round test. Even so, this was for the XD-9 – not the handgun the author fervently adores. To me, hard data based on thousands of Beretta M9s and the lifespan of their components is far more reliable than a single example where an XD was not even shot to the lowest supposed failure point of the M9.

Beyond that, as Helmuth von Moltke  says, “No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy’s main strength.” How does that apply to handguns? Well, no piece of gear ever survives first contact with junior enlisted infantrymen and armorers unscathed. It’s easy enough to say that the XD would be a more durable handgun, but its lack of adoption by any significant department or unit in the United States or abroad leaves many unanswered questions.

The story of Beretta M9 maintenance has been fraught with failure, both in terms of training the end user in how they should maintain the handgun and in training small unit armorers in how often critical components need to be changed. The XD is not a magic wand, and is going to be just as susceptible to such failures if 500,000 of them were fired 20,000 times each over the course of 25 years, all while not being maintained practically until they fell apart.

Finally, he states that the XD-45 is nothing short of a revolutionary advance compared to handguns such as the Beretta 92/M9. I’m a little confused by one comment – he states that Glocks have problems with balance because of their “composite materials” – while stating that the XD uses an “all metal framing.” It’s not clear to me whether he is aware that the XD is substantially similar to a Glock in terms of construction – both have polymer frames with metal components which the slide and other internal parts interface with – or if this was just a poorly stated comment referring to the minor differences between the two. Regardless, this is the first comment I’ve heard stating that the XD is better balanced than other handguns. Generally, this is one of the first things people complain about with regard to the XD – a “top/forward heavy” feeling.

In addition, he describes the XD as having “a cocking indicator on the rear face of the slide like a Glock.” Unless Glock handguns have changed since I last bought mine, they do not feature cocking indicators on the rear face of the slide. These comments lead me to seriously question the basis for his opinion. Everyone’s entitled to one – and the ability to express theirs – but articles such as this have no basis in a serious discussion of service handgun performance or selection.