Category Archives: Pistols and Revolvers

Rimfire Challenge Ammo Guaranteed by ATK

ATK, a major defense and ammunition firm, likes to support the NSSF and the shooting sports. When they heard that the ongoing tightness of rimfire ammo supply was threatening Rimfire Challenge matches, they acted in the way you might expect, knowing the above, and that they’re the largest rimfire ammo manufacturer, under their CCI brand:

Adding to its Platinum-level support for the NSSF Rimfire Challenge program, ATK Sporting also will participate in the Rimfire Challenge Ammo Roundup, which will help ensure the program’s target shooters have a reliable source of ammunition.

The Rimfire Challenge Ammo Roundup will serve as a fulfillment center for match directors to purchase ammunition for events.

The company will provide 600,000 rounds of CCI rimfire ammunition to the Ammo Roundup program.

“Action rimfire sports like the NSSF Rimfire Challenge are paving the way for a whole new generation of shooters,” said Ryan Bronson, Senior Manager of Conservation and Public Policy at ATK Sporting Group. “We are happy to provide CCI ammunition to help support a program that is promoting exciting and safe trigger time for both the new shooters and folks that have been shooting for years.”

The Rimfire Challenge was the Ruger Rimfire Challenge until Ruger bowed out, claiming it had gotten to big to handle, and risking the future of the matches — sponsorless, they couldn’t survive. NSSF stepped in and the Challenge continued seamlessly.

The Rimfire Challenge combines .22 rifles and pistols, new shooters, and steel-plate targets to make appealing and fun matches. Here’s an FAQ in .pdf form. Here’s a schematic of a typical stage:

rimfire_challenge_stage_-_sample

The shooter and’s with a firearm loaded, aimed at the start steak. On audible signal here she begins to engage the plates, usually in any order, except for the stoplight. The stop plate is engaged last. (If you shoot it first, “stage over” and you’re going to do lousy on points). The scoring is based on the time to hit all the targets plus any penalties (penalties are assessed for each miss, encouraging accuracy).

The stages are relatively easy and that, and the audible clang of slug on steel, makes them rewarding for a new shooter. It would have been a shame if they ran out of ammo. Well done, ATK!

Three Reasons Not to Use the Blackhawk Serpa Holster

100 of these wound up in a landfill. Not doing that risked a lot more of the taxpayers' money.

100 of these wound up in a landfill. Not doing that risked a lot more of the taxpayers’ money.

It is our considered opinion that you should not use this product. Last SF company before retirement bought 90 or 100 of them circa 2003 (an SF company has 84 officers & men if at full strength, plus operational floats) and we discovered the same thing everybody else has: the Serpa has three serious safety-of-use problems, either of which alone would be enough to recommend retiring and destroying the holster and using anything else. Even Mexican carry.

We understand why the Serpa holster was designed. Pistol retention is a serious problem for anyone that tangles hand to hand with hostile persons. The police are more likely than armed forces to throw down mano a mano, but any soldier or Marine in ground combat can wind up in that place, the good old unsought fist fight or grapple-for-the-gun game. Many police forces, and some military units, specify a retention holster for just that reason. But there are a number of ways to design a retention holster. There are three reasons that the Serpa is the wrong way:

Safety of Use Issue #3: Stuck Pistol Syndrome

The Serpa does provide positive retention — sometimes too positive, especially if grit, sand, gravel or mung in general gets into it. If it gets into the retention release mechanism, Jesus Christ Himself isn’t getting that thing open. That’s rather a problem, because if you’re like us, you don’t generally go to unholster a gun until the situation has already gone uncomfortably nonlinear. The only thing worse than pulling your gun too soon is pulling it too late. The only thing worse than pulling it too late is attempting to pull it, and then failing to pull it at all, after signalling that you were going to. This problem by itself should be enough to disqualify this holster family.

Safety of Use Issue #2: It’s Slow

No matter how much you drill, the trigger-finger release is going to be slower than some of your other options. Worse, it’s going to be less consistent, because from time to time you may address the holstered firearm a little differently, and it doesn’t take much change in alignment to miss the flipping catch. If you miss the catch, you have to grope around, all while the clock is ticking. There are holsters that don’t make you do all this, so this problem by itself, also, should also suffice to disqualify this holster family.

Safety of Use Issue #1: Increased ND Risk

This is the biggest Serpa problem that people talk about. By using your trigger finger to disconnect the gun, and then having that finger fall on your trigger you great we increase the odds you’ll touch off a round with the pistol aligned somewhere other than at the proper target.

This video (NSFW but understandable language) shows an experienced shooter having a very typical Serpa ND. In the slo-mo at about 0:57-59 you can see exactly how it happened.

In this case, there was a combination of negative transfer of training from the more conventional 5.11 holster that this shooter used with another pistol, and the Serpa putting his index finger too close to the projectile initiator, too early in the draw sequence. Tex says he doesn’t blame the holster, he blames himself; fair enough, you can’t have an ND without human input. But his tools made the ND easier, instead of raising obstacles to an ND.

As we’ve said, every one of these issues is serious enough to warrant discarding the Serpa holster (and any holster that works like it, with an index-finger release paddle). But the increased ND risk with the Serpa is, in our opinion, the most consequential of these issues and the one that, even if you dismiss the other two, needs to sink in before you have a mishap like Tex’s.

We’re not sure even he knows how lucky he is. Mere inches from the channel that .45 slug dug in his thigh is one of the superhighways of the circulatory system, the femoral artery. A bullet in that artery would have led to his incapacitation in minutes, and ultimately, death, unless the right first aid was available extremely rapidly. He seemed to us to be alone on the range. How often have you shot, alone? It’s a calculated risk.

Doing it with a Serpa makes the calculation all wrong.

It’s not just us

We aren’t the only ones who just say no to Serpa. For example, Paul Howe wrote in 2005:

Another problem … a recent student …. exerted excessive pressure from his trigger finger to the unlock button and when drawing the weapon, drug the finger along the holster and into the trigger guard, discharging the airsoft weapon prematurely into his leg during his draw sequence.

Trigger fingers are just that, for the trigger. I think it should remain straight and have one function, to index the trigger.

Larry Vickers says:

I have banned for almost two years now Serpa style (trigger finger paddle release) holsters from my classes – several other instructors and training facilities have done the same. …. I understand many shooters use Serpa holsters on a regular basis with no issues whatsoever. However an open enrollment class environment has its own set of challenges … and a trigger finger paddle release holster is asking for trouble.

Todd Green in 2011:

At this point, pistol-training.com is going to follow the lead of other instructors such as Larry Vickers and ban the SERPA (and the various cheap knockoffs on the market) from classes beginning in 2012. I have been suggesting to students that they bring something else to classes up until now and will continue that for anyone who is already registered for a class in 2011.

And earlier that year, in reference to the Tex Grebner accident video posted above:

[T]he SERPA retention mechanism certainly lends itself to such accidents more than most other holsters. Instead of keeping your trigger finger well clear of the gun during the initial part of the drawstroke, the SERPA and its clones require you to press your trigger finger toward the trigger as you draw.

A lot more instructors say about the same thing. Travis Haley, Chris Costa, and a lot of guys you never heard of but that have seen these things cause one problem after another even on what should be a routine flat range. Rational Gun has a list of some of them, but Google will find you even more. (For example, RG has a link about the FLETC ban, but we don’t believe he mentioned the IDPA ban on the Serpa).

Yet this thing is still on the market, and people (and worse, agencies) are still buying them. Don’t Be That Guy™.

Pistol OCD: Why the Pennsylvania State Police went SIG (long)

Recently, we posted a story called Pistol OCD, about the Pennsylvania State Police’s remarkable run through quite a few different makes and models of service pistols in a very short time. The most recent change, this year, is from the Glock 21 to the SIG 227R, both pistols in .45 ACP caliber. We linked and quoted the actual contract terms and solicitations posted on official Pennsylvania websites.

PSP SIG 227

But we were missing one thing — and it was a big thing. We didn’t have any idea of why the PSP was changing over to the SIG. A changeover from Glock to SIG is relatively uncommon, compared to a change in the other direction. And to change abruptly, a year after letting a contract for Glocks and less than a month after the PSP’s last mod to that contract, would seem to require a really strong reason.

Well, Pennsylvania readers have filled us in on what the reason is. Obviously, the managers of the PSP think it’s a good reason — a really good reason. And it is, potentially: safety. 

Specifically, the Glock, unique among current service pistols, requires you to pull the trigger to disassemble the pistol. So every time you need to clean your clock, you need to pull the trigger. It should be a no-brainer to clear the pistol first, and even then, to ensure it’s pointed in absolutely safe direction before pulling the trigger. Unfortunately, that hasn’t always been the case with PSP troopers. It is, in fact, a very hard behavior to enforce on a large and diverse population.

The Shooting that Sidelined the Glock

The single incident that triggered the PSP’s abandonment of the Glock pistol took place on the early afternoon of March 7th this year. Before this, there was a constituency for replacing the Austrian pistols; after this, there was urgency to the task. Joseph Miller, apparently a PSP Trooper, although some media reports, apparently mistakenly, described him as a laid-off former nonsworn dispatcher, called 911 to report a shooting. His wife, Joanne, 34 years old and 22 weeks or so pregnant, was nonresponsive when first responders arrived, with a single gunshot to the cranium evident. Miller explained that he had been dismantling his gun for cleaning, when he pulled the trigger, and the round he discharged struck JoAnne in the head.

She was nonresponsive when paramedics arrived; they’re not allowed to pronounce death but they’ve seen it enough to know. They rusher her to the hospital, where medical staff knew she could not be saved but mounted a heroic, long-shot effort to save the baby. In the end, they admitted defeat; and one shot had taken two sould. The PSP had two options: blame the cop, or blame the Glock.

It seems self-evident that that particular negligent discharge is the one that put the skids under the Glock as a PSP service pistol. It doesn’t even matter whether you believe it was simple negligence, whether you believe that it was a case of a guy using the well-known accidental discharges as an excuse for murder, or whether you don’t know what to believe: it clearly has occurred to PSP managers that if they have a pistol that doesn’t need one to dry-fire for disassembly, they’ll never hear that excuse again.

The Miller case is depressing to read about. We’ll refer back to it in a bit, but if you want to read about it there are no shortage of stories:

  1. March 8: Trooper’s gun goes off, killing pregnant wife. Nice passive voice from the Morning Call.
  2. March 8: Pennsylvania trooper may have accidentally shot, killed pregnant wife: report. The New York Daily News at least knows whose digit was on the projectile actuator.
  3. March 10: Police say Pa. trooper accidentally shot wife. It took a couple days for the Philadelphia Inquirer to wake up; maybe they needed to see the story in the Daily News? Anyway, they too credit the cop with the shooting, not his gun.
  4. March 10: Pennsylvania State Trooper Fatally Shot Pregnant Wife While Cleaning Gun: Police.  The Huffington Post, of all things.
  5. June 6: Three Month Investigation Concludes with Determination that March 7, 2014 East Norriton Shooting Incident was Accidental; No Charges to Be Filed. The official report from the Montgomery County DA’s office.
  6. June 7: State trooper cleared in wife’s shooting death: Wife, unborn child died when gun fired during cleaning. The Morning Call, still with the passive voice.

It wasn’t, of course, the only PSP negligent discharge. Some crop up in the news and some don’t.

For instance, in October, 2010, Trooper Nicholas Petrosky’s 4-year-old son Micah was transported to the hospital with a gunshot wound in the leg. The accident was investigated by local police, who accepted Petrosky’s statement that the boy got hold of the gun while his father was in the shower, and immediately closed the case as an accident. The State Police did not investigate, and stressed that they had no interest because the gun in question was a personal off-duty gun, not an issue service pistol. The child was expected to make a full recovery, fortunately.

In June, 2012, a State Trooper shot himself in the leg at the Belfast, PA, State Police Barracks, “while unloading his car.” How he did that without trying to pick up the Glock by the trigger was the subject of one of those investigations that never quite wraps up.

In April, 2014, a State Trooper had a negligent discharge inside the Meadville, PA, State Police Barracks. No one was injured, and there were no career consequences to the cack-handed cop.

In addition to these accidents, which became public because of the casualties, or because they happened in a public building, there are rumors of numerous other negligent discharges while cleaning or handling the Glocks. These have been handled informally. In fact, it is State Police policy to keep negligent discharges secret, according to a story on the Meadville mishap:

[T]here was no news release made on the incident.

Asked if the report on the incident [by the PSP's Bureau of Integrity and Professional Standards] would be made public once it is completed, [spokesman Sgt. Mark] Zaleski said it would not because it was a personnel matter which is a closed record.

As you might expect from such a non-confidence-building policy, it isn’t building confidence. Read the comments of the dangerous armed (with $5k double-barrels) men at trapshooters.com, for instance.

Is there a Double Standard for Negligent Troopers?

None of the troopers who have had negligent discharges have suffered career consequences, let alone criminal charges. In the tragic Miller case, some have complained that, because Miller was a trooper he got a deal a normal Pennsylvanian wouldn’t get. The prosecutor disagrees, criticizing Miller rather strongly, while not charging him.

Based upon a thorough review of all the available evidence, the District Attorney concluded that Joseph Miller was negligent in the handling of his firearm; however, his conduct did not rise to the necessary level of recklessness or gross negligence, that would give rise to criminal liability. The totality of circumstances simply reveals that this incident is a tragic, but negligent, accident.

Now, if we had a parallel case where the at-least-negligent shooter was a civilian, we’d know if Pennsylvania was a state of laws, or a state of ranks and titles. If only we had such a case!

Mirabile dictu, such a case is right at hand, and fresh (June, 2014).

[Denver Blough, 25] allegedly broke his 20-gauge gun into two pieces, separating the barrel from its stock, Trooper Ted Goins wrote an affidavit.

“Blough related he took the barrel assembly out to a kitchen area to show [his pregnant girlfriend Caressa] Kovalcik, where it discharged into her face,” Goins wrote.

Blough, currently in Somerset County Jail, has no prior criminal record in the region, according to online court records.

The only differences between the Blough and Miller cases, in probable order of their importance to the two respective outcomes:

  1. Blough is not a state trooper;
  2. Blough talked to the state police for hours; Miller made a statement and lawyered up;
  3. Blough admits he had been arguing with Kovalcik;
  4. Blough’s and Kovalcik’s child was saved by medical intervention (life support and C-section), perhaps in part because the pregnancy was about full term.

Now we know how Miller would have been treated if he hadn’t had that patent of nobility, a police badge.

There is also other evidence of a double standard. The State Police’s policy on negligent discharges (click on “Accidental Discharge Policy.pdf” at that link) explains that as long as a cop is the one ND’ing, they’re really all “accidental.”

Microsoft Word – Accidental Discharge Policy CURR.doc

I. DEFINITIONS

Officer-involved shooting
An officer’s discharge of a firearm that results in the physical injury or death of a person, whether or not the discharge was unintentional.

Officer-involved discharge
An officer’s unintentional discharge of a firearm that does not cause injury or death to a person.

 

…and they only need to be reported immediately if the ND hits somebody, that is, in the former case of an “Officer-involved shooting.” Otherwise, a report in writing, filed within ten days, to the Firearms Education and Training Committe, is sufficient cover. There’s a section of the policy that initially seems to be a Lee Paige rule (inspired by the world’s most famous Glock operator), requiring instructors who have dumb-ass NDs in public on the range to be decertified. But there’s an exception a PBA lawyer can drive an MRAP through:

Microsoft Word – Accidental Discharge Policy CURR.doc

As long as an instructor is adhering to proper range safety protocols when such a discharge occurs (has not performed a negligent, unsafe, or careless act) and there are no injuries, the weapon discharge procedure does not take effect and no discharge report is necessary.

No harm, no foul. Well, apart from the encouraging more ND’s bit. There is that.

And this brief foray into a policy that seems to reward rather than punish NDs brings us to another question:

Will the SIG end the Negligent Discharge plague at PSP?

We’ll go out on a limb here, because it’s a robust and sturdy limb built of decades of observation of organizations with what sociologists call “insider morality.” And answer the question: No. Not a bit.

The problem is that the shootings are not caused by the Glocks, but by the people who cannot remember or follow simple, clear, and exception-free instructions. Remember, they’re not always clearing their gun before they go to clean it. Remember, they’re not always pointing their guns in a safe direction with a solid and sufficient backstop before pulling the trigger. They’re not always keeping their finger off the trigger until lined up on target. Changing firearms because you can’t train or incentivize these irresponsible behaviors out of your work force is not going to produce safety; it can’t. 

A lot of cops don’t know and don’t care about firearms, and that may be a natural reaction to how little firearms matter in the real day-to-day life of a road trooper (until the rare, outlier day when they matter more than anything in the world; but people work off heuristics, and if you’ve gone three thousand days without having to clear your holster except for annual quals, you only practice if you want and like to). Most cops are not as interested in firearms as you are (or you wouldn’t be reading this). Most bricklayers don’t go home and build walls for fun, and most cops don’t shoot for fun, or even for any more proficiency than they absolutely need to get through the annual qual with a passing score.

Some cops don’t like guns at all. Some are on the force because it’s a family tradition. Some are on the force because it’s a good, statistically safe (again, until the moment it isn’t, when statistics provide cold comfort), well-paid government job with rich benefits. A few of them are on the force because they like to boss people around — very few, fortunately, as the academies and the selection process make scant attempt to screen for that type, and they’re impossible to dispose of once they’re in.

As a result, Pennsylvania Troopers of tomorrow are the same imperfect clay as the troopers of yesterday and today. They will continue to have negligent discharges with their new SIG 227R pistols, because the causative factor in an ND is the negligence, not the operating features of the firearm. The SIG does have two features that may reduce some kinds of firearms mishaps: unlike the Glock, it does not have a light trigger pull, but a long DA pull on first shot, and also unlike the Glock, it need not be dry-fired to disassemble it. But the SIG has other features that will cause problems for a 5000-officer force where only 500 (if that many) care much about the handgun they carry. It has a rich, but complicated, operating system with multiple control levers. The Glock has a trigger, slide stop, and magazine release; SIG has those plus a decocking lever and a takedown lever. Police officers will not only continue to have NDs with this new system, they may have more problems putting it into action (and safing it afterward) due to its relative complexity compared to the Glock.

One has to have a certain sympathy for the PSP managers. They have a tough situation, even if it’s partly self-inflicted. There’s a solution at hand, but they’re not willing to take it: if they made a public vow that an ND was an automatic dismissal, they’d see NDs wither away to an irreducibly low level, especially after they made one or two negligent cops walk the plank pour encourager les aûtres. Many years ago the Ranger Regiment, inspired by another ARSOF unit, made such a determination and even though every Ranger is a young, impulsive male, and every Ranger probably fires more live ammo in a year than the ammo budget of the entire PSP, NDs are a once-in-several-years event. Rangers are not supermen, they’re merely carefully selected, well led, and properly incentivized. PSP ought to try it.

Pistol OCD: the Pennsylvania State Police

Pennsylvania_State_PoliceIf you want to see inability to decide on a pistol, or maybe it’s just general inability to pour piss out of a boot, you really can’t beat the Pennsylvania State police. They’ve been through three official sidearms in four years, and it’s their own fault. This Pistol OCD has tripped the PSP through pistols so rapidly that they’re not always able to issue all the new ones before changing to the new new one.

This is only possible in a jurisdiction where a somnolent Legislature exercises flaccid oversight over runaway spending. It’s fair to say that the majority of chiefs of police in America would be grateful and thankful for the chance to recapitalize their force’s handguns once every couple decades. Some jurisdictions make (or “let” if you prefer) their cops buy their own guns from an approved list.

The Pennsylvania State Police buys ‘em and issues ‘em — and then does it all over again. It may be that having the academy located in Hershey, PA, the inescapable aroma of chocolate has inhibited their faculties for impulse control.

Pistol No. 1: The Glock 37

During the wave of the 90s, which sent police forces from their 1980s 9mms to larger calibers, the PSP converted to the .40, which they used initially in Berettas (96D, which is DAO mode with no mechanical safety, then Brigadier), then the Glock 22. They had the usual problems with .40 (declining qual scores and poor performance by smaller troopers due to the .40’s sharp recoil), but they didn’t have quality problems with their Berettas (like the 96D whose PSP patch is shown below) or Glocks. They had wear problems on the usual wear items but the armorers stayed on top of them.

PSP Patch Beretta

After 10-15 years’ .40 experience, they were interested in the .45 ACP, and they considered but did not adopt this caliber at first.  Instead, in 2007, some genius decided that they really needed more oomph than the mere .45 Auto gave a bullet. The fact that the .45 ACP round has been indiscriminately writing the numbers after the dash on the grave markers of various shooting victims for a century plus didn’t seem to matter. Various Mexicans, Prussians, Haitians, Nicaraguans, Nazis, Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese, Grenadans, Cubans, Panamanians, and God alone knows how many varieties of civilian miscreants are not around to testify as to the adequacy of the .45 ACP, because they’re dead, Jim.

It’s not clear whether it was the highly theoretical idea that the .45 needed improvement, or perhaps it was fanboy drooling over Glock catalogs, sent them to the .45 Glock Auto Pistol, or .45 GAP, round. While .45 GAP is usually loaded to slightly higher pressures than .45 ACP, it actually has less performance potential because it has a shorter case, smaller primer pocket and thicker web, and less case volume. (The shorter case –  is so that it can be accommodated in a G17/G19 sized grip. The thicker web was a good call, given the weak case-head support in big-bore, The smaller primer pocket serves both to strengthen the case head and all .45 GAP loads, factory and manual, are designed to be ignited with small pistol primers and may be unsafe in .45 ACP with large pistol primers. Ammo, load data, and all components except bullets are not interchangeable between ACP and GAP, and you can’t make safe GAP cases by trimming ACP).

The decision to go with .45 GAP somewhat simplified the pistol buying for them, as only Glock and Springfield make pistols in .45 GAP (maybe Detonics also?), and at the time of the contract it was Glock, period. Therefore, the PSP bought large numbers of Glock 37s. Four thousand eight hundred of them, to be specific. (That covers around 4,720 troopers, plus operational floats to cover for pistols in maintenance or evidence).  So they bought 37s. NTTAWWT, right?

Well, it turns out that there is something wrong with that. Specifically, the ammunition is quite hard to come by. There are few sources, little competition among sources that would be acceptable a risk-averse public agency, and it’s expensive, compared to other pistol rounds. (How expensive? At LuckyGunner.com, .45 GAP ranges from 55¢ to $1.28 a round, while .45 ACP is offered in 31 options for less than the least expensive .45 GAP. True, the cheapest of those are reloads or Wolf steelcase crap no agency would touch with a barge pole, but even name brands like Speer Lawman duty ammo sell for far less in the more common caliber – the GAP is 15¢ or more per round more expensive than .45 ACP for like brands). When ammo is expensive, cops don’t train. When cops don’t train, cops can hit the broadside of a barn. From inside the barn.

When cops miss the bad guy they’re shooting at, or worse,  hit the citizen they’re not shooting at, the worst of all possible things, from the viewpoint of a police manager, ensues: bad publicity. Every police white shirt knows that this is to be avoided at all costs.

The very first Glock 37s were bought in 2007, but they were still buying, stocking, and issuing new Glock 37s in 2013. They had made every effort to make it work, but the ammo supply problem was insuperable, and sooner or later one of Pennsylvania’s dozing legislators was going to wake up and ask why they were paying $1.50 a round for practice ammo. So they decided that the new Glock 37s had to go. They were offered as part of the payment for new guns, with the proviso that a State Trooper could buy a gun (not necessarily his or her old one) back from the vendor within sixty days.

As part of this Invitation for Bid, PSP desires to trade in 4800 Glock Model 37 firearms, each with three clips and are equipped with Glock Night Sights front and rear. The firearms included in the trade-in are 0 to 6 years old and are in NRA good to very good condition.

For sixty (60) days following receipt of the used firearms by the Contractor; PSP Personnel shall have the opportunity to purchase, from that Contractor, a used PSP service firearm. Purchase shall be at trade-in price plus any fees imposed by law or by the Contractor for the proper transfer of the firearm to PSP Personnel. The awarded Contractor shall ensure that the sale of the firearm to the PSP Personnel complies with all applicable State and Federal laws. Following the sixty (60) day time frame, the awarded Contractor may sell or otherwise dispose of the firearms as provided by law

That, in fact, is why you can go online and find several retailers who will happily ship a PSP-crested Glock 37 to your local FFL.

2713699_01_retired_stamped_pennsylvania_s_640

 

Pistol No. 2: the Glock 21 Gen 4

PSP was looking, then, for an easy way out of their .45 GAP dilemma, and the obvious solution of changing to .45 ACP suggested itself, for all the reasons that GAP was problematical. (It may also be the case that the original fanboy behind the G37 purchase had moved on to other duties).

The G21 was an easy decision for a number of reasons. Its manual of arms is identical to the ill-starred G37, minimizing retraining. About the only user-accessible thing that was new on the G4 was the convertible-size backstrap, and that was likely to be received with hosannas by troopers with smaller or larger than average mitts.

There was a rush to execute the contract. The State Police knew they had the funding to do this in 2013, and they couldn’t guarantee they’d have the funding in out years. They could justify the change on both the ammo savings grounds and on the nifty new features (interchangeable backstraps, etc.) of the next-gen Glocks.

So an RFP went out 22 March 2013, and a contract was let for:

SPECIFICATIONS

…an initial order of 4800 Glock 21 Gen 4 firearms, with a contracted option to replenish as needed.

This is a no substitute bid for the firearms and listed accessories; the only firearm that will be accepted for this bid is the Glock 21 Gen 4. The items listed under Training Equipment and Accessories are required.

 

The specifics included the sort of training equipment you’d expect, and training for field armorers and a handful of expert armorers.

As the 21s came in, the 37s went out.

At first, the troopers seemed happy enough with their G21s. Until some of them began running up a high round count. Glock at first denied the guns had problems (we all remember the painful introduction of the G4, right?) and then began addressing specific problems. The union began to rumble, as their officers complained about guns they did not have confidence in.

But as late as 8 April 2013, PSP was still modifying the original G21 contract, in the apparent expectation that the problematic Glock would remain the agency’s service pistol.

Pistol No. 3: the SIG 227R

The problems with the Glock 21 drove the PSP leadership mad. They were frustrating for Glock, too, and Glock executives were bitterly disappointed when PSP changed direction again; from the Glock point of view, the trigger bar and magazine replacements had resolved PSP’s problems. But the real problem was that by this point Glock had lost the confidence of leaders. Once again, personnel turbulence played a role as some of the Glock’s most strident defenders had retired or moved on to positions wherein they couldn’t give their preferred pistol top cover in the bureaucratic battle.

Pistols are one thing that police leaders (like police officers) get emotional about. Everybody is trained to use a pistol, and everybody thinks he or she is above average with it (an arithmetic impossibility). And these emotions get tied up in what everyone pretends is a fight about what works better. The cold fact is most pistols work pretty well, and their differences in specification are tiny compared to their similarities. Another cold fact is that every mass producer of firearms produces occasional individual lemons, and from time to time entire shifts or runs of lemons.

PSP SIG 227

The PSP decided to stay with the .45, but make a radical change: to the SIG P227R. One widely publicized factor in this decision was a series of tests conducted by PSP, in which P227Rs provided by SIG really shone compared to their competitors. Another factor, which has received far less publicity but may have had a greater impact, is the experience that other agencies have had with SIG lately. While some of the Feds are distinctly unhappy, the Indiana State Police are carrying 227Rs and appear to be quite satisfied. An important factor in this satisfaction is that the SIGs haven’t been perfect — but when they haven’t, SIG’s service has been very satisfying to ISP. When Glock grudgingly admitted problems with the 21s, Pennsylvania armorers got a box of trigger bars, and PSP logistical guys got boxes of improved magazines. When SIG determined some parts in some ISP guns were out of spec, SIG sent their armorers not to ISP HQ, but to every individual site, to inspect, R&R the parts, and test the guns with the Indiana armorers.

That was the level of customer service that PSP had felt they were missing from their Glock suppliers.

Unlike the G37 -> G21 transition, the Glock -> SIG transition is a big one.

There is a class in the Academy right now that has the first 150 SIGs. We’ll see how they do, but the rest of the SIGs are rolling out across the force gradually. PSP thought it best this time, given the teething problems of the G21 G4, that they’d start with an academy class, because recruits at the academy shoot a lot more than working line troopers who may only fire for qualification.

Are they going to be happy with the SIG? In the days ahead, we’re going to talk about some famous agencies that have SIGs and are anything but happy. One of them has a warehouse full (literally, not Joe Biden “literally”) of broken SIGs, and there are HQ power struggles over what to  use next (including a MOAR SIGS faction). But that’s another story.

Note that the 4800 pistol requirement in these contracts is an initial contract. Also included is replenishment of 500 guns at a rate of 100 or so a year, spare parts, and training for the PSP’s 70 (!) armorers (one armorer per ~70 cops? They must be hard on their handguns).

So that’s the latest, from a department that’s been through a half-dozen different service pistols in the last 10 or so years. If we were SIG, we would celebrate the sale with an ad buy, but we wouldn’t buy a whole year’s worth of ads.

At least the PSP allows its obsolete guns to be sold in the market. Since every PSP gun is engraved or etched with the force’s crest, they are popular with collectors, helping the vendor recoup the credit he gave for the trade-ins. PSP trade-ins also tend to be well-kept for cop guns, even apart from the Glock 37s scarcely having been shot due to the ammo problem, so they’re an attractive alternative to a new gun for a bargain hunter.

Everybody wants some other gun

Not matter what gun you have, the grass is always greener on the other side. This is especially true of government agencies, who are all over the place on pistols, almost as if they weren’t spending their own money! Here are a few examples, which we’ll elaborate on at length next week.

  • A Major Federal Agency that has a reputation for shooting straight has been through the wringer with several models of autopistols from SIG-Sauer. They’re not very happy with the status quo, because both the pistol and caliber they’re using were not selected in-house, but were imposed on them by a carpetbagging director, based on what the special agents in his old agency were carrying.
  • But Another Federal Agency has different problems with their SIGs, and defensive senior officials are fighting a desperate rear-guard action against agents who want to carry Glocks instead.

Both of these outfits have a large quantity of defunct SIGs on hand. Due to Executive Branch policy, their surplus guns will be destroyed.

Meanwhile, back in Local Land…

  • A Large State Police/Highway Patrol force in a populous state suffers from Pistol OCD. They’ve been through three official sidearms in two calibers in four years, and it’s their own fault.  This is what happens when fanboys drive procurement and figure logistics will sort themselves out. Worse, every time State Police administrators get shuffled around, a new fanboy of some gun/round/training evolution winds up getting in. Since 2006, they’ve been through six or seven guns in three calibers.

However, unlike the Feds, they do surplus their guns against the new contract, so this department dumps four or five thousand decently maintained guns into the market every year or two. So there is that.

You really get the feeling that some of these government managers are not very good at the managing thing.

Wayward Python Slithers Home… after 28 Years

When the police didn’t soon solve a storage-unit burglary in Phoenix in 1985, the owners of two stolen guns — an engraved Colt Python and a GI 1911A1 — resigned themselves to the fact that they’d never see them again.

For the 1911, that remains true. But look what showed up last year in a Nashville armed robbery:

Wayward Python

 

Yes, despite interim possession by the criminal class, the Python was recovered little the worse for wear — “not a scratch on it,” the owner confirms. It is a little out of time, probably from generations of cons dry-firing it. (Pythons are very prone to timing problems). The picture and story came from this thread at Reddit. Some of the owner’s comments:

I posted this in /r/pics when I first started with Reddit, well before I learned of gunnit – I thought you might like to see it too. It was stolen out of a Phoenix storage unit in 1985 during a move – long story short, it was recovered in Nashville after being used in an armed robbery – perp pled guilty, cops didn’t need it for evidence, and they returned it to its home. Still missing a Korean War vintage 1911 stolen at the same time. Maybe I will try and dig up some photos and see if Gunnit can help me find it.

…my dad liked the engravings, and we have a lot of handguns that have a similar look. This came back to us in perfect condition – amazingly not a scratch on it.

The wheel is a little out of time, which can happen to these after a lot of use. I imagine it was possibly dry fired hundreds of times while some dude sat on a sofa watching tv

A good Mesa cop followed up and searched us out when the main guy over the case decided he couldn’t find us.

As far as the original burglars escaping justice, we wouldn’t sweat it. The police only close a small percentage of burglaries, because burglars are the most prolific of violent criminals, but the cops arrest all burglars sooner or later.

Don’t you guys just love a happy ending?

A Little Gun with Big Consequences

His last words were, “It is nothing.” But he was terribly wrong.

Even as badly maintained and pitted as it is, this FN M1910 Browning in .380 ACP has the classic lines John M. Browning designed into it over a century ago. It’s still a not-bad choice for a backup or concealed carry pistol, although most of them are in the hands of collectors. Not many collectors would want one in as terrible and pitted condition as this one, but then, this is not just “one.” It’s “the” pistol that fired the shots that ended the Age of Kings, mortally wounding Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Habsburg Dual Monarchy and his wife Sophie.  That assassination, by a Bosnian Serb pan-Slavic nationalist named Gavrilo Princip, led Austria to threaten Serbia (which had sponsored the assassination, providing this gun and other arms) with invasion. The Austrian threat produced a Russian counterthreat, a German counter-counterthreat, and Franco-British agreement to stand by their treaty obligations to Russia — if it came to that.

Gavrilo Princips Browning 1910

In the end, as we all know, it did come to that, to the detriment of nations and of generations.

Franz Ferdinand was an important figure. For one thing, the Emperor and King, Franz Josef, was old and unwell, and FF was his designated heir (he himself came to the position through tragedy, when the then-heir, his cousin Rudolf, committed suicide in 1889). From then, Franz Ferdinand was ready to take the reins. No one in the Habsburg court had thought out the fate of the monarchy beyond that, except that Franz Ferdinand’s and Sophie’s children were not eligible — their marriage was a love match between unequals, and so morganatic, a dynastic term meaning the kids’ blood was permanently attainted with the non-royalness of Sophie. It was only after the murder of FF and Sophie that Franz Josef began preparing Franz Ferdinand’s nephew Charles, who had been enjoying himself as an Army officer, for national leadership. They didn’t have long, as Franz Josef passed away in 1916, catapulting Charles onto the dual throne. All these consequences from a few pistol shots!

The murder is described in a book called Sarajevo, quoted at length in Wikipedia:

One bullet pierced Franz Ferdinand’s neck while the other pierced Sophie’s abdomen. … As the car was reversing (to go back to the Governor’s residence because the entourage thought the Imperial couple were unhurt) a thin streak of blood shot from the Archduke’s mouth onto Count Harrach’s right cheek (he was standing on the car’s running board). Harrach drew out a handkerchief to still the gushing blood. The Duchess, seeing this, called: “For Heaven’s sake! What happened to you?” and sank from her seat, her face falling between her husband’s knees.

Harrach and Potoriek … thought she had fainted … only her husband seemed to have an instinct for what was happening. Turning to his wife despite the bullet in his neck, Franz Ferdinand pleaded: “Sopherl! Sopherl! Sterbe nicht! Bleibe am Leben für unsere Kinder! – Sophie dear! Don’t die! Stay alive for our children!” Having said this, he seemed to sag down himself. His plumed hat … fell off; many of its green feathers were found all over the car floor. Count Harrach seized the Archduke by the uniform collar to hold him up. He asked “Leiden Eure Kaiserliche Hoheit sehr? – Is Your Imperial Highness suffering very badly?” “Es ist nichts. – It is nothing.” said the Archduke in a weak but audible voice. He seemed to be losing consciousness during his last few minutes, but, his voice growing steadily weaker, he repeated the phrase perhaps six or seven times more.

A rattle began to issue from his throat, which subsided as the car drew in front of the Konak bersibin (Town Hall). Despite several doctors’ efforts, the Archduke died shortly after being carried into the building while his beloved wife was almost certainly dead from internal bleeding before the motorcade reached the Konak.

It took about a month of cabled threats and ultimata, and then it was game on. Game would stay on for the next four-plus years, ending with Northern France and Belgium in ruins, Russia in an unholy revolution that brought forth a new Dark Age across Eurasia, Britain and Germany spent, with the cream of their youth interred in distant fields — if their remains were found at all. The last unconstrained kings in Europe were gone, Nicholas II and his whole family shot down like dogs, and Wilhelm II and his whole family in comfortable, if bitter, exile. Accidental king Charles I of Austria-Hungary died shortly after his family’s exile to Portugal.

But hey, the Serbs got their Serbian-dominated pan-Slavic Balkan nation.

Princip didn’t live to see it. He died soon after being sentenced to 20 years (the enlightened Habsburg were soft on crime, especially when committed by yout’s — Princip was 20), of complications from TB.

In the end, of course, Yugoslavia was short-lived, as nations go. It would be torn apart by civil war started by another malignant Serb, but that’s another story. (And against those two monsters, the Serbs did give us Nikola Tesla, so their accounts balance, unless you ask Edison).

The murder weapon fell, with a collection of Franz Ferdinand and Sophia artifacts and ephemera, into the hands of a priest, who dreamed of helping Austria-Hungary establish a museum in the memory of the murdered royal. But he hadn’t reckoned on Austria-Hungary and the dual monarchy themselves falling to the continental cataclysm that would extinguish as many hopes as it did lives over the next years. On his death, it passed to his order, and a group of Catholic monks had no real use for it, and no idea of how to get rid of it, so they hung on to it until quite recently. They didn’t take care of it, and it rusted deeply and badly. In time, the religious order passed the old father’s Franz Ferdinand collection to a museum in Vienna, perhaps fulfilling some portion of the late priest’s earthly desire.

There is something that draws one’s eyes to this Browning. It’s just a gun, just a tool. But the unintended consequences of the few shots this old gun fired should remind all of us never to shoot without due consideration.

One wonders what Gavrilo Princip would say about that.

Hat tip, John Richardson, who said:

If you don’t think the .380 Auto aka 9mm Browning isn’t a powerful round, show me another pistol cartridge that was used to start a world war. For it was with a FN Model 1910 chambered in .380 Auto (or 9mm Browning to be more precise) that Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg 100 years ago today in Sarajevo.

via No Lawyers – Only Guns and Money.

Napoleonic Flintlocks Rise from Watery Grave

Napoleon & Sphinx-Jean-Léon_Gérôme_003Alexandria, Egypt, is a bustling, modern third-world city with few visible reminders of its past. But many archeological treasures in Alex have been spared the assault of the bulldozer and cement mixer — because they’re under water. This includes anything from Alexander’s time, later sculptures and other artefacts from the Ptolemaic dynasty of Hellenized Alexandria, and then, some reminders of later colonizers from the 19th and 20th Centuries.

This cannon is part of the scattered wreck of the burnt and sunken flagship L'Oriente.

This cannon is part of the scattered wreck of the burnt and sunken flagship L’Oriente.

Napoleon’s ill-fated 1798-1801 campaign in Egypt at first brought him land victories, and booty aplenty, some of which is still in Paris. But the French Navy was a perennial 2nd Place finisher vis-a-vis the Royal Navy, and in an 1801 battle at Aboukir Bay, the results were cataclysmic for the French: only recently has the sequence of the disaster, in which an anchored French squadron was caught napping by Horatio Nelson’s British fleet, been decoded from the clues available in the Frenchmen’s wrecks.

But the ship in question here is not one of the ill-fated ships of the line or frigates from the Battle of the Nile. It’s unclear whether the ship in question, yclept Le Patriot, was military or commercial, but it was probably commercial as there was another ship named Le Patriot in the French Navy — and not in Egypt. We don’t even know who sank Le Patriot What we do know is that the shipwreck on the sands of Alexandria Bay has yielded a lot of flintlock-era small arms, like this:

napoleon_pistol

As you can see, the arms are somewhat the worse for wear after a couple of centuries in salt water. There may be nothing holding this flintlock pistol together but the encroachments of sea life.

Here’s a similarly rough long gun:

napoleon_musket

Russian underwater excavators, working in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, have found dozens of 18th century firearms near Alexandria’s harbour during an underwater search for sunken ships.

Divers with Napoleon guns

The weapons are believed to date back to the 18th century when Napoleon led an expedition to Egypt to protect French trade interests, undermine British access to India, and establish scientific enterprise in Egypt, Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh El Damaty said

Discovered Napoleon weapons from sunken ship Patriot by Luxor Times 2

El Damaty said the sunken French artillery was once on board “Le Patriot”, a ship in Napoleon’s fleet that sank near the eastern harbour of Alexandria.

The site lies close to Pharos Island, once the home of Alexandria’s ancient lighthouse, which was considered one of the seven ancient Wonders of the World. It was the third longest surviving ancient structure of the world, until it was destroyed by earthquakes in the first millennium. The rubble was later used by the Mamlukes to build Alexandria’s Citadel of Qaitbay.

El Damaty said the discovery opens the door for more research into this era.

For now, the artillery has been sent to the Restoration Centre at the Grand Egyptian Museum for further study and restoration, he said.

via Napoleon’s sunken artillery recovered from Alexandria harbour – Daily News Egypt.

A friend of ours who’s an archaeologist of sorts has a kind of mantra that he swears by: “There is always something left.”

French arms of the Napoleonic period were the equal of those of any other nation in the world, but like their peers, they had no corrosion protection to speak of, which makes stabilizing the recovered guns a very critical matter, or they’ll soon, if left out of water, flake away to nothing.

The 1911 in .38 Special

There’s a post at The Firearm Blog where one of the regular contributors, Nicholas C, is intrigued by a gun that a customer brought in to his shop: a Colt 1911 National Match in .38 Special. He couldn’t even find ammo to fit it as regular .38 Special defense rounds wouldn’t go in. We explain what it is, and why.

As you can see it looks just like any other target 1911 of the period (and that word “target” has real meaning here):

Colt38special

The give-aways of a 1960s-70s target gun include the adjustable sights, the marking “National Match” (this gun predates the Series 70 Gold Cup), the adjustable trigger and the target grips. If you look closely at the gun, you notice that the toolmarks are less prominent and the polish and blue better done than a bog-standard Colt.

It was definitely made as a factory .38 Special target gun. The barrel is marked with NM and .38 Special, and as you can see, so is the slide:

Colt38special2

 

There’s always something good at The Firearm Blog. It is rare for them to have an article so incomplete as this one, but then, by 2014 standards this fifty-year-old relic is a forgotten and obsolete gun.

“Automatic .38 Special Mid Range?” What’s that? Well, it’s a clue to what goes in the gun and what it’s for. These Colts were made for one purpose only: bullseye target shooting. At the time, it was the most popular pistol sport by far, and the rules required shooters to shoot in several calibers: .22 Rimfire, Centerfire, and .45. (In addition, a “Service Pistol” category requires you to use, naturally, a service pistol which then meant a 1911. Now you can use a 1911 or M9 in Service Pistol).

“Centerfire” was loosely defined but a minimum of .32. A low-recoiling round was best for rapid fire accuracy, and by the 1950s the hot ticket had become Colt or Smith revolvers in .38 Special, firing low-energy cylindrical lead “wadcutter” bullets. These bullets come out of a 4.5″ barrel at about 710 fps, compared to the 920 or so of old GI .38 FMJ ball. But they’re manufactured for consistency (although, most of the serious bullseye shooters handloaded for more consistency, even then).

Colt38special-mag

The wadcutter ammo was once extremely common and popular. It’s still produced, but has been overshadowed in the market by FMJ for practice and  hollow points for defense. And other sports have taken most of the popularity away from bullseye. For example, the only wadcutters LuckyGunner has in stock right now are Fiocchi; but this page of Remingtons that are out of stock has some pictures showing what the rounds look like. The idea was that the truncated, sharp-edged (for a bullet, anyway) bullet neatly punched holes in paper, making scoring certain.

In the 1960s or so, the .45 auto began evolving into a superior target pistol and replacing the revolvers previously used. Likewise, .22 auto pistols like the Colt Woodsman and High Standard series replaced the Smiths and Colts on the firing line, and shooters began asking for a .38 automatic pistol. The .38 Super didn’t have the accuracy potential of the .38 Special, given the tools of the time, so the question was: can a smith do the impossible, and make a 1911, of all things, feed rimmed-case, flat-faced wadcutter ammo?

The first to respond were custom gunsmiths, who built guns using 1911 frames and custom barrels, and fabricated their own magazines. See, you couldn’t make a 1911 feed .38 special ball, because the rounds would be too long to fit in the factory magwell. But wadcutters solve that problem: they don’t extend beyond the length of the case, so if you can get them to feed, problem solved.

colt_gold_cup_manualArguably the first to make a working .38 Special 1911 was Jim Clark, Sr. of Clark Custom Guns (currently run by Jim Jr., a talented smith and competitor in his own right). Clark Sr. was a lifelong competitor, and he built .38 Specials from Colt .38 Supers with a lot of custom work.  The magazine, like Colt’s later mag, is sufficient to accommodate a bullseye stage — five rounds.

He did not try to maintain trade secrets, and it does not seem that Colt paid him when they began producing the National Match .38 pistols. However, the Colt is very different from the Clark! The Clark retains the locked-breech Browning design, and the Colt uses a slightly retarded blowback (via a floating chamber). In addition to the standard National Match and Gold Cup .38s, there are some handbuilt AMU .38s made for the Army Marksmanship Units that were, as we understand it, prototypes for the .38 National Match.

Smith & Wesson also made a very heavily reworked version of their Model 19 39 (corrected typo -Ed.) as a five-shot .38 Special semiauto target pistol, the Model 52,  at around this same time for this same reason.

In time the National Match was replaced by the Gold Cup Series 70 in .38 Special. (See manual cover at right). These guns remain in demand by the dwindling number of bullseye shooters, and by Colt and target-shooting collectors.  The Colt that was brought into Nicholas’s shop is a valuable rarity that is probably worth several thousand dollars if auctioned. (These are never seen with a spare mag, and a mag from a parted gun is worth many hundreds). We hope Nicholas sees this and can contact the owner (whose father’s gun it was) and hook him up with some wadcutters. The guns are world-class in accuracy, and that makes them a thrill to shoot, whether you’re trying to murder an X-ring for Master, or splitting crab apples in the north forty.

Choosing a 22lr Pistol as a Suppressor Host

Chris at LuckyGunner has a great post up that runs through his thought process on choosing a .22 as a suppressor host, and he came up with a gun we’d never even heard of (the Smith 2213/2214) after considering a lot of guns we knew well.

compact-22-featured-1

Right now, this is all a bit theoretical with .22 ammo sightings coming in midway between unicorns and chupacabras on the rarity scale, but at some time the hoarders will be sated (or broke) and the supply will be flowing again. A .22 pistol is a great way to work on marksmanship for short money (previous comments on .22 ammo availability taken into account) and a suppressed .22 is of little practical utility, unless you’re the Mossad (and you already have one), but it’s a threaded barrel of monkeys’ worth of fun.

Right now, the only .22 LR semi-auto pistol I own that has a threaded barrel is a GSG 1911-22. It’s fun to shoot and pretty reliable, but a bit large. I wouldn’t plan to use any semi-auto .22 for concealed carry, but I do like the idea of having a more size efficient pistol that isn’t any bigger than it needs to be for the task. In this case, that task is to very quietly make lots of holes in produce and soda cans, and I don’t need a handgun that’s large or “target” accurate to do that.

So, I started shopping around for a compact .22lr compact suppressor host with the following criteria:

  • Compact size: I wasn’t looking for a pocket pistol, but I did want something significantly smaller than the average service-size semi-auto.
  • Reliable: A “reliable rimfire pistol” is somewhat of an oxymoron, but some designs have a reputation for being more ammunition sensitive than others.
  • Durable Construction: None of this zinc alloy slide nonsense. A .22 plinker needs to withstand an extremly high round count without serious risk of major parts breakages.
  • Threaded barrel – Or at least a barrel that can be easily threaded by a gunsmith. Some designs make this a difficult task.

If you’ve looked at the compact .22 semi-auto market any time lately, you will have noticed that there really aren’t a ton of options. Adding the above caveats certainly doesn’t broaden the possibilities, so I decided I would consider both out of production used models as well as current ones. And the candidates are…

Do we need to tell you to Read The Whole Thing™?

Our favorite .22 suppressor host was an old High Standard, but unfortunately the once-common-as-dirt threaded barrels aren’t so common any more.