Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Meanwhile, on a planet without the TSA, PTAs, OSHA, EPA or lawyers...

Let's all get together and let some bulls kick our asses!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Cousin Wallace shoots the little pistols.

                       Top to bottom: .380 Walther, Kel-Tek, Kahr.

Well, I finally found a few spare hours to conduct a comparison of three common .380 pistols to see how they performed. This was far from an extensive test but, I wanted to see what my overall impression was of each weapon, if they functioned reliably and what I would recommend to someone should they decide they wanted to go the .380 pocket pistol route. I gathered four types of ammo I had on hand to get a feel for what might be a good overall load and to see if these small handguns could be relied on to feed and function with differing types of bullets. Some auto pistols, even our beloved model 1911's, will get stubborn about feeding anything but a FMJ. Small frame autos don't exactly have a stellar reputation for reliability. I am happy, and somewhat surprised to report I had no failure to feed malfunctions of any testing these three pistols. The closest thing to a malfunction was when the PPK failed to fire in DA mode...twice. I checked the primer and it had a light indent. I then tried firing it again, this time in SA mode and it fired normally. I didn't shoot the PPK in DA mode much so this may have been a deep seated primer....probably should have done a bit more testing.
For the tests, I set up targets at 10 yards and had the chronograph set about 8 ft in front of the muzzles. I chose 10 yards because this is a more practical range for these small pocket pistols. If they are called to action, the distance would likely be much less, so 10 yards will give an indication of their accuracy potential....25 yards is asking for disappointment. After each type of ammo was fired, I measured the estimated centre of the group and how far it was from point of aim. The pistols were consistent in that each shot to a particular area ( high, low, left, right). I'm not going to list each point of impact for every load but, I think it's important to note what the "average" point of impact was for all loads in relation to where the sights were aimed.   Firing was done from the bench off sandbags. I only fired three rounds of each type of ammo due to time and cost so this isn't a through test but gives one an idea of what to expect. Temperature was approx 80F. Each pistol was held with a "firm handshake" grip which is probably one reason all the guns functioned reliably. These small autos are more sensitive to grip pressure (in my opinion) and can be made to malfunction if "limp-wristed"...hold on to them tight for best results! 
Dimensions: These are approximate, measured with my tape measure and dial calipers as close as my calibrated eyeball could detect. Weights were from my $5 scale bought from my neighbor's garage sale...best $5 I've spent at a garage sale! Weights are with an unloaded magazine. Capacities are 6+1 on the Kel-Tec and Kahr and 7+1 on the bigger PPK.
                             Kel-Tec P3AT               Kahr P380                   Walther PPK
                              5.125" long                  4.875" long                    6.313" long
                              3.625" high                  3.875" high                    4.563" high
                              .750" slide width           .751" slide width            .860" slide width
                              .834" max width            .918" max width            1.042" max width 
                               2.75" barrel                   2.5" barrel                    3.25" barrel
                               10 ounces                    12 ounces                     22 ounces
avg accuracy            3.532"                           2.313"                          2.375"
avg velocity               881 fps                          870 fps                         913 fps
avg elevation              "0"                               1.75" low                      1.63" high
avg windage              3.13" right                     1.13" right                     .63" left
Four types of ammo used. Fed from the magazines. The Kel-Tec and Kahr were fired DA only as they have to be and the PPK was fired single-action from sandbags using a two-handed grip.
 W-W factory load 95gr FMJ averaged 2.375" groups and 831 fps from all guns. It was most accurate in the Kel-Tec shooting a 1.813" group. It's worst group was in the PPK with a 2.813" group. Avg extreme spread in velocity was 26 fps. These bullets have a small flat nose as opposed to the typical rounded nose of most FMJ's.
W-W factory load 85gr Silver-Tip hollow-pt averaged 2.292" groups and 924 fps. It was most accurate in the Kahr with a pretty nice 1.375" group. The Kel-Tec shot the worst group with a 3.5" group. I noticed a couple of the holes in this group appeared oblong, indicating that the bullets wern't fully stabilized. Not good for accuracy at any kind of distance but probably OK at bellygun distances. However, I wonder what effect that would have on potential expansion...if the bullet began tumbling, it wouldn't expand properly since it would no longer be traveling point forward. The Silver-Tip is a very lightly constructed bullet that expands easily. It is 10 grains lighter and would probably be a shallow penetrator if it expanded properly. Extreme spread in velocity was 34 fps. 
W-W factory 95gr T-Series AKA "Talon" hollow-point is a new .380 offering and one I'm pleased to see. As most of you know, I fully believe this is the best designed pistol bullet on the market. It is down-right wicked when it expands with the sharp claws rippin' and tearin' as it penetrates. I've seen several recovered from actual shootings here and they work as advertized. I will tell you right now, this is my prefered bullet in any calibre for social work. This load averaged 3.68" from all three guns but again, the Kel-Tec didn't fully stabilize this bullet and yeilded the single worst group during the entire testing at 6.38". The other two pistols were in the 2" range with this load. It averaged 921 fps with an extreme spread of 24 fps. It also yeilded the highest average energy of any of the loads with an average of 178 ft lbs.
The final load tested was a handload consisting of a 95gr Rainier TMJ round-nose over 3.2grs of Bullseye and a Wolf brand primer. This load had an average group size of 2.60" with average velocity of 875 fps. It shot best in the Kel-Tec at 2.44" with the PPK turning in 2.63" and the Kahr 2.75" groups. Extreme spread was 25 fps. Cheap to shoot for practice. A pound of Bullseye will load 2,187 rounds!
OK, it's time for "MY" overall impressions of each of these pistols. Other's opinions will surely vary on a few things, and that's OK. My perceptions/opinions won't be the same as the next guy. I'll try to be as honest as I can so those who read this can evaluate the things mentioned on their own.  I'll discuss each weapon individually.
Kel-Tec P3AT --- An inexpensive pistol that became pretty popular pretty quick. It's main attraction is it's tiny size. It's on a par with most .25ACP pistols yet it chambers the .380ACP. A lot of power (relative) in a tiny pistol. I'm fond of saying "you don't get something for nothing" and this pistol is a perfect example. It has a short grip that only allows room for two fingers. The design of the long (very long) trigger pull will cause the shooter to either develop a modified grip or give up "skin touching" on the checkered grip in order to complete the lengthy pull. The 10 ounce weight is nice to carry but it leads to brisk recoil, especially if the shooter doesn't stay familiar with how to hold the little beast. Mine has been 100% reliable and has been shot quite a bit....still amazes me how well it functions. With the exception of the above HP loads, it is a very accurate (relative for the calibre) pistol. It has always printed to the right of my point of aim but not excessive for it's intended purpose. I wasnt aware of it not stabilizing certain bullets until this test...that worries me a bit but in fairness, I dont carry it unless a bigger pistol just wont work in the circumstance for me. I would not be confident in it if I had to go offensive with it. It truely is a last ditch type of pistol in my opinion. It has poor sights...barely visable molded into the slide. It does not have restrike capability, should it fail to fire you will have to do an immediate action drill of tap/rack/ready. I'm not ready to sell mine and will continue to carry it on a limited basis.
Kahr P380 --- Bought this for my wife. She likes it....a bunch! I like it too as it feels really good in my hand. I can still only get two fingers on the grip but it has a much superior trigger design compared to the Kel-Tec. The trigger is DAO but very nice. It is smooth as butter and just the right amount of pull weight. Stroke is short enough that you dont have to shift your grip like you do on the Kel-Tec before the stricker drops. Like the Kel-Tec, it doesn't have restrike capability either. Reliabilty has been very good. Early on, during break-in, I had some stubborn ammo that didnt feed from the magazine when reloading from a full mag. Recently though, it has been very reliable. This is a high quality pistol. Of course it cost twice what the Kel-Tec did. I've got mostly good things to say about it as it is accurate, has usable sights, is easy to shoot (compared to other small pistols), recoil isn't bad at all and it is actually shorter and almost as thin as the P3AT. During my "plinking" session that I conducted with each pistol, this one performed for me the best. I was able to rapidly aquire and fire on the targets with good results, mostly due to the decent sights, low recoil and manageable trigger. It is also handsome! Still wouldn't feel completely comfortable if I had to go offensive but it is way, way ahead of the Kel-Tec.
Walther PPK (made by Smith & Wesson) --- Loaned to me by a friend for evaluation, thanx Jim! This is the classic James Bond pistola which has been around many years. It was the recommended "back-up" pistol when I joined the Police Dept many years ago. It still has a lot going for it. If you are recoil sensitive and want to go with a .380, this is the pistol for you! Very mild to shoot. Of course, as you can see by the dimensions, it is a much larger pistol than the other two. With the extended magazine floorplate, you can get all of you fingers on the grip. It weighs a solid 22 ounces....as much as the other two pistols put together. It is a quality made pistol and pretty accurate. Unlike the other two pistols, it gives a choice of DA or SA trigger pull. There-in I experienced an issue during a plinking session with this pistol worth mentioning. While shooting falling plates, I was concerned about the intial heavy DA pull on the first shot. After knocking the plate down on my first DA shot, I inadvertantly fired the second shot prematurely as I transitioned from the DA pull to the much lighter/shorter SA pull. This would take some "muscle memory" training to overcome...had the same issue years ago with my Sig P220 duty weapon. Something to think about because in a defensive shooting situation you are responsible for each and every round you fire. Can you "transition" from DA to SA mode in a stressfull scenario? Anyhow, for a carry pistol, the PPK is too heavy for what it is unless you use a good holster secured along the waistline. This brings up a point about how I usually carry a .380....not necessarily recommending this but I usually just stick one in my hip pocket, or sometimes in my strong-side front pocket....especially if I'm wearing my daily BDU type pants. The PPK is heavy enough to drag your pants down. The PPK has high profile sights but I had a bit of difficulty seeing the stainless steel front blade in bright sunlight...no biggie. Enjoyed shooting the PPK but it wouldnt be "my" first choice of a .380 handgun.
Final thoughts: --- If the situation just doesnt allow you to carry a bigger/more powerful handgun then the .380 might be the only choice. The cartridge isn't very potent or accurate at any distance. It WILL KILL ... worked on several homicides where a .380 did the trick. My idea of using a .380 would be as a pure self-defense, get the bad guy off of me, last ditch weapon. If there's the chance I may have to go offensive such as intervening on a robbery, assault, etc, then I'm going to choose something I can shoot more effectively and have a bit more punch...I'm just not confident in any .380 in that type of scenario. Of the above pistols, I would definitely choose the Kahr P380 because it does what, in MY mind, a .380 should do the best. Be small, be light weight, and be shootable. The PPK is a great gun but my Kahr CM9 is smaller, lighter, more accurate and fires the much more potent 9X19mm so I would carry it over the PPK for those reasons. Over the years I've owned a couple of other .380 autos and they were OK for what they were. The AMT Backup was small, accurate & reliable but very heavy for it's size and a bit difficult to shoot. The Colt Govt Model .380 felt really good, was reliable but was a tad too big and not very accurate. A .380 is ....a ".380" ....nothing to write home about in any category but they do serve a purpose. Just don't expect too much!
Hope this was informative and served to entertain. I had a lot of fun testing and writing about it. As always, I welcome your comments, good or bad.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Notes from out West.

1.  You gotta drink water.  I ran through about a gallon a day and the weather was mild.  Drank all the time.  First hike in I packed a gallon of water and left it there.  Packed the empty jug out on the last trip out.  Noted where water channels off Shiprock and waters sagebrush and the little bit of vegetation around.  Water pretty important.  At the Climber's cave, there is a little rockwork.  The cave has the biggest waterfall on the rock when it rains, so there is water and shelter, plus a little vegetation and all that that brings in a desert oasis.  Surprised there wasn't some broken waterjug bits from the last few thousand years on the floor.  Because of the uniqueness of water/shelter/vegetation the site has got to be a pilgramige destination, though there is no sign of such except the little rockwork which may NOT be Anastazi.  Interesting spot on Shiprock, maybe THE most interesting spot.  Slept there three nights.

2.  The Navajo never buckle up.  Ever.  And no car seats for the kids, no nothing.  They don't give a flip for it.  They also tend to park wherever they want.  We pulled in a painted slot at the Red Valley Trading Post and were a hazard to navigation as everyone else parked along the rail, under tree, along the road.  White folks very repressed, compared to the locals.

3.  Nobody has any good guns.  Very little shot up signage.  You see a bullet hole here and there but they are rare.

4.  Hitchiking still in vogue.  At the corner of 550 and Red Rock Highway, an intersection we saw daily, there was always a couple of folks standing around waiting on rides one direction or another.

5.  Packrats.  I hesitated to feed them and ruin their diet.  If I scattered contents of a ziplock it might precipitate a breeding boom with the food surplus, then everyone starve.  Had packrats on my pack on the West ledge and one that liked to walk ON my sleeping bag cover the last night on the split boulder. I had to reach out and shake the pack, and shake myself the last night, and that didn't impress them much.  Back a minute later.

6.  There ain't no meteor showers.  Four nights with a view of the stars and milky way during a famously, (100 per hour), productive shower.  I might have seen ONE out of the corner of my eye and I laid back and watched stars a lot.

7.  Tires.  Why the heck is the desert full of tires?  They burn, you can toss them on the roof of your trailer, you can even recycle them.  Tires everywhere in the desert around Shiprock.  Thousands.

8.  Hand painted signs.  Still an art form on the reservation.

9.  Pack light.  I didn't wear half the clothes I took.  Two pairs of socks.  Two pair undermawears.  Two shirts.  Two T-Shirts.  Could have gone for three but this did it.

West Face of Shiprock ledge video.

Not much, just a walk down the ledge on a still morning.  Sometimes the wind can really howl up here but it's nice in the morning shade when it's still.  Had the camera set up on a rock form that I have photographed several times.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Summer Adventure #2: Shiprock.

First afternoon in a little bit of a breeze.

My old friend, the Black Giant.

Just down the road in a spectacular area of rock formations.

South dike at dawn early in the week.

I was pretty close to the Dot all week.  Glad to be able to visit.

Mid-day view into the sun toward Table Mesa.

Celebrating Navajo tires.  There are thousands of tires scattered about the desert around Shiprock.

Hunting a vantage point with the land cruiser.

West ledge, my home for the weekend.

The "Horns of Power" moment along the West Dike from up the original 1939 ascent line.

I lusted mightily after this sign.  

South Dike in some VERY soft light on the last morning.  Utah fires were setting the illumination.

Camp Perry and the rifle team trip was an exciting adventure.  I had a week home and then flew to Albuquerque and met a friend of mine who had driven my camera over for five days at Shiprock, New Mexico.  I love the desert around the four corners area.  Very remote and deserted.  Shiprock is a supremely photographic place.  It's as distinctive as Halfdome at Yosemite or The Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps.  I slept on a ledge at the climber's cave, in the climber's cave and on top of a big split boulder on the Southwest slope.  Only had one night in Farmington at the Red Lion.  Most mornings and evenings I was on Shiprock for the best light and picked a good spot for the tripod every time.

  My goal was to actually get my big camera on TOP, or at last high enough to see the morning and evening shadows projected out.  I got close but couldn't quite free-climb the final pitches.  I did find most of the way up.  Can definitely shoot the West Morning shadow next trip, god willing.  The one climb I pushed pretty high I just took a water bottle and wore my 1977 vintage climbing shoes.  They still fit and I went up until I couldn't reverse without a rope and rappel.  Pretty lonesome up there.

  The 5X7 worked great.  I love using the old camera and film holders.

On the North nose of the South Dike puzzling out the Black Giant.

Unmarked grave on the West side.  One of two graves at Shiprock that I know about.  I THINK this might be the ashes of a climber, but just speculating.

Simple camping.  You need the water more than anything else.  I drank a gallon a day.

An awful painting we finally found a place for.

Afternoon howling dust storm.  Had a couple of these.

6:58 on a nice still morning from the West ledge campsite.

Great old lenses.  This is an Ektar 12 inch.  Needs a tune-up at Havel Camera in San Antonio, but it still clicks along.

My little home on the West side.  My camera is on a tripod just in front of my camp spot. Top of the highest talus slope on Shiprock and the climber's cave just around the corner.

Up in the Black Bowl.  The original ascent was through here.  Plaque on the right side commemorates a climbing death.  Nobody gets to this spot but the climbers and madmen.  It's sporty with a very athletic opening crux move that keeps most out.  I was picking my way very carefully.

Artwork, installed.  Hwy 550 and Red Rock road.  The wind will tear it to bits this year and the world will be a better place.

Light on the plain.

Jackson getting up to get down with his Hasselblad.

Near Shiprock in a vigorous rock formation area.  I saw this from a long way out and knew it had to be something special.  Very Brancusiian!

Bouldering.  I worked this into a black and white with my Deardorff and a wide angle.  No Toyota peeking through on film.


Some Navajo regard Shiprock as a sacred site, others don't.  Boulders slathered with sign in the main parking areas.  Windmill tanks and deserted buildings marked up.  Broken bottles, fireworks, condoms, trash all over.

A little Captain Morgan at another windmill grafitti site.

Jackson going snake-eyes at the prospect of having more pixels peeled off.

Stuffed Toyota.  My camera sitting on my camera pack.

Kissing bug.  This one got me.  Full of my blood.  He didn't survive the encounter to enjoy it.
Other flora included really big bats, owls, eagles, falcons.  The falcons made a diving noise that sounded like...well, an unusual sound.  Not a single snake.  Packrats after my food almost every night or scrambling around on top of the little sleeping bag cover I slept in.  Lighter poltergiesting than usual especially for spending so much time near the Black Giant on the South side.

Lotta holds going up but a lotta exposure as well.  I quit about here without my rappel rope.  Over 4000 folks have climbed the rock though it's not allowed.  The climber's experience is not at all like that of the visual artists.  I'm not sure they notice the scenery much.  They don't mention it in writing.  It's the experience of the climb for them.

Curves at the San Juan Goosenecks.  We took a mid-day trip up to see the sights and ran into lots of overseas tourists.

Indian dog calculating the sun angle.  Dogs all over.  Two big pups in a culvert at 550 and Red Rock highway.  I started to feed and water them, but they mostly needed to MOVE.  No water there for months and not going to be any.

Standing on Ansel's famous rock at Monument Valley.  The Navajo built a huge hotel here, but thankfully left the rock.  It's a favorite posing place for vacationers now.

Young european shows how its done.  Her boyfriend was iphoning her and I helped out.  Ansel would be proud!

It's better fresh.

One of my favorite old-time camera stores.  Clock is ticking.  I don't think they will be open next year.  Three out of four in Alb and Santa Fe are just closed.

Hoped to get a waterfall but the thunderstorms skirted us.  Got dust instead.  Hoped to get higher but risked more than I should have for a 60-year-old flatlander.  I did get to spend a lot of solitary time, (a real luxury!), looking at the land and trying to puzzle out the shapes, light and viewpoints.  Jackson and I would meet about 10, I'd reload holders and water, make a sandwich and be back out by 4:00.  Alone until the next morning.  The rare luxury of time and solitude.  Wonderful to be there.  The last morning in my little camp I was shocked and delighted to be confronted with two photos I hadn't ever put together before, though I had shot details.  Just hadn't looked big enough.  Same thing on the final drive out.  Jackson and I stopped to look at a series of details along the rock dike and all of a sudden I saw the whole thing, complete with a huge boulder to shoot it from.  I scrambled up and there it was.  Just not looking big enough.  Left Shiprock full of gratitude.  It's always helping unfold the internal processes.       

Can't wait to get to the film.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Camp Perry Garand Match.

  Firing offhand during the Garand Match.  Shot a 99 prone and then a 93 rapid-send nines out the top of the ten ring, just barely.  Held it a little too close.  That was the end of the run.  Offhand I worked hard but didn't shoot well either.  Silver Medal with a 278.

  Rarely see photos of myself shooting.  This is by Karl Shultz.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Photos from Camp Perry.

This is the best photo of the Vintage Sniper trophy ever taken.

TSRA Teams on Viale Range.

Triple Trouble.

Texas Tough Guy Mitchell Hogg.

Texas Tough Girl Emily Hogg, with Texas Tough Girl Bailey Fairchild on the right.  Infantry Trophy Match.

Minnesota Tough Guy James Pennington in the middle of the Minnesota Infantry trophy Team.