Friday, April 29, 2011

Is the 9mm THE Round?

That's the question over at The Truth About Guns.  The super-compact 9mm is quickly eclipsing the tiny .380 for the small CCW piece, and I tend to agree with the idea.  If you can make something controllable and reliable at a similar size in a "real" caliber, fantastic.

So, is the 9mm the round?  And I'm not talking just for tiny CCW guns, I'm talking for the "go-to" carry round.

My daily carry piece is a full size Smith & Wesson M&P9.  One of the reasons I went with the M&P is that the two largest law enforcement agencies in the county where I live (both the city police dept, and the county Sheriff's Office) carry M&Ps.  However, they both carry .40S&W models, and I still stuck with the 9.

Why?  The .40 has proven to be a great fight stopper, one of the City boys put two into a goblin's center mass a couple years back and he was done before they even got to the hospital.  (This was after he'd be tazed a couple times, yanked the leads out, and been OC sprayed.  Also had a known violent background, especially against LEOs.)  So why did I go with 9mm Parabellum?

There a couple reasons.  The first, availability.  9x19mm is the single most common handgun cartridge in the world by some accounts.  Just about anybody that carries pistol ammo carries 9mm.  To go along with this, 9mm is also noticeably cheaper than .40S&W, .40's pushing close to .45acp in price.  I figure if I'm going to pay .45 prices, I may as well shoot .45.  But I like to practice, so paying 2/3 the price for standard ball is going to win me over any day.  9x19mm is still the cheapest centerfire ammo I know of.  It's pretty well agreed that shot placement trumps bullet type every time.  More practice equals better shooting, and more consistent shot placement.  Price is important.

The constant criticism of the 9mm comes from stories on the frontlines.  Soldiers apparently regularly shoot tiny middle-easterners (really, they're little guys) with a full mag, only to watch them shrug them off like mosquitoes and keep coming.  While I don't doubt this may have happened with a highly motivated and drugged up insurgent, I don't think the fault lies solely in the diameter of the bullet.

The US military has long limited themselves to FMJ (Full Metal Jacket) loads of 115 grains 124gr loaded to +P speeds.  This load tends to go really fast, and the fully jacketed ball does not expand.  Even if it slightly deforms it will be prone to over-penetration, and a bullet that goes through your target and continues downrange is just wasted energy.

I regularly shoot 115 gr. FMJ at the range.  It's cheap and plentiful, and doesn't beat the shooter up.  But when I leave the range, I switch back to 124 gr. JHP (Jacketed Hollow Points.)  You can get 9mm loaded all the way up to 147 grain, but I like the 124 grain for the balance between mass and velocity.  The 124s tend to travel faster, which can aid in more consistent expansion, which is the entire concept of hollow points.  In my M&P, I can carry 17+1 of them (I always just carry 17 though due to WI's stupid laws.)  If I can't take care of it with 34 rounds of that, I done screwed up.  The data I can find for the rounds I have show a regular penetration of about 12" and expansion to over half an inch.  I feel pretty confident in that.

So do I think 9x19 is the be-all-end-all of handgun cartridges?  Maybe, but something better could always come along, and it may not fit your exact needs.  Most importantly though, I trust it.  I don't feel under armed when I'm carrying my gun (well, I'm much more comfortable with a rifle, but that's another matter.)  It may not work for you, but it works just fine for me.

Raven Concealment, Take 2

So I've had enough time to get the feel for the new Raven Phantom I got for the M&P9, a and a couple range trips to give it a good shake down.  The giddy, childlike "new toy" excitement has worn off, but it has been replaced with plenty of contentment.

Originally I thought the extra controls and lumpy bits on the side of the M&P were what gave this holster a much more secure feeling, however upon further inspection, I found Raven has added a small dimple to the light area of the holster.

This little dimple creates a small catch right behind the light's bezel, and makes this holster feel about 3,000 times more secure than the old one for the SigPro.  I guess I wasn't the only one who wished for more retention on the light models.

Also, there had been reports of older Raven products cracking, and to help Raven switched to a thicker Kydex for their holsters.

I have a feeling this additional stiffness is also a bit responsible for the more secure feeling.  I hear that they can still make them with the thinner Kydex if you're worried about concealment issues with the thicker material, however I don't think the difference is enough to matter.

As I mentioned in the past, the old style "paddle clips" were not the most comfortable option, and I also had one break on me.  The old style clips are a thing of the past now, and Raven has switched to an OWB Soft Loop snap system.

I much prefer these to the old "paddle clips" and to any other actual paddles I've used in the past.  The gun sticks out much less, and while concealment isn't a worry for me yet, it's nice to not have it sticking out and catching on things.  They may take a couple seconds longer to put on or take off the belt, but they feel quite secure and keep the whole thing from flopping around nicely with the right belt.  In this case, a 5.11 re-enforced model that came free with some pants. It's a little big (I wear it on the smallest hole...) but looks good and is holding up well, and the price was right.

The loops themselves are made of a tough rubberized material and Military-grade snaps, and is adjustable for belt width.  I expect these to hold up for quite a while.

Raven has also changed the material of their standard belt loops from formed Kydex to an injection molded plastic.

Less prone to breakage, and also universal.  The old ones had distinct left and right loops.  The little Raven logos are a nice touch.  (Also, the new mag pouch is the same thickness Kydex as the old.  While it makes a great range pouch, it's not what I've been running for daily carry however.  I have a much more comfortable option I'll mention in a couple days.)

As some of you may know, I live in Wisconsin, so concealment has never been high on the list of things I look for with a holster.  The biggest reason I went with RCS was that they make a holster that holds my gun with my light attached.  I've done enough low light/no light training to greatly appreciate a white light on my gun if I have that option (and yes, I think one day of it was enough to appreciate it.  However more is needed to affectively use it.)

I know that plenty of the people looking at these are worried about concealing, so I tossed on a good cover garment and snapped a few pictures.  In this case, a button up cotton shirt with a textured weave.  ($15 at Khol's and the girlfriend says it looks good too!)

Not bad for a full size gun with an attached light.  Granted, if I lift my hands above my head the bottom of the holster is exposed, but I could adjust the soft loops to make the holster ride higher.

So, are there any downsides to RCS's stuff?  Well, I ordered this one the first week of November 2010, and it finally was in my hands mid-March 2011.  It also wasn't cheap, holster, mag pouch, and soft loops plus shipping came out to around $130.  Compare that to Comp-Tac, who I ordered a new holster for a gun I should be getting next week on Tuesday, and the package was dropped off at the post office yesterday(and it's red!)  Too bad they don't make light holsters...

Bottom line - if you're looking for a quality Kydex holster, with great modularity and carry options, especially if you carry with a light, and are willing to wait a few months; Raven Concealment Systems is worth taking a look at.

Factory 10/22 Hi-Caps?

Well I'll be! 

Photo from Ruger

It's about time.  Could this be a sign that the market has spoken loud enough to penetrate Ruger's ears that have been deeply buried... somewhere... in regards to allowing mere civilians to have higher capacity magazine?

Ruger already has them up on their online store at $29.95, comparable to other extended 10/22 mags on the market.