Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A 9mm Is A 9mm OR Is It?

The 9 mm Parabellum pistol is the most common pistol caliber in the world.  Most governments and many police agencies use the 9mm Parabellum as their official sidearm.  Whether you call it a 9mm Parabellum, 9mm Luger or a 9x19, it’s all the same caliber. The original 9mm’s were built for WWI hence the name Parabellum (for war).  However, the first gun chambered for this caliber was the Luger so you get that name and last the metric name is 9x18mm, so you can have that name as well.  Most shooters just call it a 9mm.  Now I hate to say it, but I don’t care for the 9mm!  I have owned several, an old Smith model 39, a Browning Hi-Power, a Colt 1911 and a Sig.  All of these guns shot well, but I wanted more stopping power and I figured why use 2 or 3 bullets when one good .45 slug would do.  But now, I do own several 9mm’s, just not any 9mm!  What did I just say?  I own several handguns chambered in 380 ACP, two chambered in 9mm Makarov, one chambered in 38 Super and one in 9mm Steyr, so how could I like one 9mm and not the other?  First, I like the size and conceal-ability of the smaller 380 caliber guns.  Second, I like the nostalgia the older 380 guns have.  I must have watched too many James Bond movies when I was a kid because I have 3 Walther PPKs in the .380 caliber.  Two of the pistols were built during World War II.  One is a PPK with all the German and Nazi proof marks.  The other is a PP with the same markings.  The PP is a slightly larger pistol with a longer grip and longer barrel.  This gun is a joy to shoot and very accurate, but it is a little too large to carry in a pocket or covered by my pant leg in an ankle holster, so most of the time it lays in my safe, waiting to be taken out to the range.  I also have a new Walther in the PPKS series.  This pistol is stainless steel and falls in between the size of the PP and the PPK.  This PPKS goes most places with me.  I don’t worry about sweat getting on the finish or if it gets dropped, I’m not ruining a WWII collector’s item.  I also have a beautiful old pocket model Remington in 380 caliber.  I had to save this pistol from a customer who wanted to have the gun refinished in a camo Teflon.  I offered her enough money for the pistol so she could go buy a new gun that didn’t need refinishing.  Remington is best known as a rifle company but for awhile in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, Remington built many different pistols.  This old pocket model was built during the Roaring Twenties and I’m sure it was carried by one of the famous gangsters of the day.  The truth is, it is a great shooting pistol and is the most accurate .380 I own.  Back in the day when I was shooting ISPC competition, I wanted to use a caliber that was different from what most of the other shooters were using, so I picked the .38 Super.  This caliber is just a .380 ACP loaded with more powder to higher pressure and higher velocity.  I built myself a custom pistol based on the 1911 Colt, with custom sights and all of the other things shooters think they need to compete.  The pistol shot incredible and had very little recoil.  If I had been a better shooter and spent more time practicing than I did hunting, I could have won some of the matches. If you watch a pistol match these days, you will find more .38 Supers shooting than you will .45 ACPs.   Most shooters don’t know that the first Colt Semi-Auto pistols chambered in this caliber came out in 1920.  Thompson also made the sub-machine gun in this chambering. A few years back, I noticed several distributors were importing the 9mm Makarov pistols.  Now this is a neat gun and caliber combination.  It’s the size of a 380 pistol but loaded to nearly the velocity of a 9mm Luger.  A shooter can have the best of both worlds, a small carry gun with enough power to stop any bad threat and the capacity to hold nearly twice as much ammo as the Walther PPKS.  So, it would make a great all-around carry gun!  The last 9mm pistol I have is the 9mm Steyr.  This is a very unusual handgun.  It was made around 1912 and uses a stripper clip instead of a magazine.  The cartridge is similar to a .380 ACP loaded to a very low pressure and velocity.  I have shot this old gun but it stays around because it is so unique and ugly, that it is actually pretty.   

If you are looking for a pistol to carry for personal protection I would recommend the biggest caliber you can handle.  That doesn’t always make sense!  There are times when carrying a 45 ACP is not an option.  The 380 ACP pistols make great carry guns.  They are small enough to hide inside your pocket or the leg of your pants, yet there are few people in this world that can stand up to the punch of a 90-grain hollow-point bullet.  There are many new 380’s on the market now which are very concealable and reliable.  Ruger and Sig are both making some great .380 ACP carry guns.  The Ruger even has a laser grip on it so you don’t have to use the sights.  I have shot the Ruger and it handles like a dream.  It’s very light and when inside your pocket, you don’t even know its there.  I hope to be shooting one of the Sig 380’s soon.  It looks like the perfect little carry pistol.  As far as 9mm Lugers go, there are so many different pistols on the market that a shooter needs to pick up one and feel them in order to determine which one fits your hand and which one fits your needs.  Many gun companies are building 9mm pistols smaller all the time and some custom companies have 9mm pistols the size of a .380.  A shooter needs to decide what they really want to do with the pistol.  If you want to carry it all the time, a smaller 380 or one of the Makarov pistols makes more sense.  But, if the pistol is going to be used for home defense and having fun at the range, a full sized 9mm Sig or Beretta would be a better choice.  The sights are much better on the bigger pistols and they will fit your hand better.  I decided to shoot and 380 acp 90 grain FMJ bullet, a 9mm Makarov 100 grain FMJ bullet and a 9mm Luger 115 grain FMJ bullet, in to a 2250-page wet phone book.  I checked for both penetration and expansion of the bullets.  Both the .380 and the Makarov bullets stayed in the phone book and both penetrated nearly 4 inches.  The .380 bullet didn’t expand at all it looked like you could reload it.  The Makarov bullet did expand about 20 % and tore a much bigger hole in the phone book.  The 115 grain 9mm Luger bullet went all the way through the phone book and tore a much bigger hole in the pages.  The extra velocity of the 9 mm Luger makes it a much better hand gun for stopping an intruder so it might be a better choice for home defense. The 9mm ammo is inexpensive to buy, so going to the range to practice is not going to break the bank.  If you can find one of the Makarov pistols, they are quite inexpensive and are well made.  The ammo is just as inexpensive as any 9mm and easy to find.  When the ammo shortage hit last year, I couldn’t find .380 ammo or even 9mm ammo, but there was 9mm Makarov ammo on the shelves.  The nice thing is if you want a 9mm, you have several choices, in caliber and hundreds of choices in handgun styles.  The problem is choosing just one that fits your needs. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

How Bullets are Made

There are some incredible new bullets on the market.  Both the hunting market and the self-defense market have seen a great deal of new technology being applied into making bullets that have a flatter trajectory, perform exceptionally on impact and shoot more accurately than ever before.  Bullet companies are using exotic materials to build bullets now.  Powdered tungsten and super plastics, as well as, aluminum are being used instead of lead and brass jackets. 

I’m sure most of us have seen the movie, “The Patriot” where Mel Gibson melts the toy soldiers to make round ball bullets for his pistol and muzzleloader. In the old days making bullets was easy, all you did was melt some nice soft lead and pour it into a steel mold and out would come a bullet which could be loaded and used.  We got a little more sophisticated and decided to make the bullets a little more uniform, so we started to push the soft lead bullets through a tube to make them all a universal size. This helped make the bullets shoot better and more accurately too.  As we started to make bullets go faster, we found that the soft lead would start to melt and foul the barrel quickly.  Then we started to use a patch or wax lube on the bullets to help stop the fouling.  Harder lead was made by adding tin to the lead but the bullets would not expand as well as soft lead bullets, so someone came up with the great idea of putting a small copper base on the bullet and, WOW, we could make bullets faster and still have them expand when it hit a game animal! 

As the velocity of guns got faster and brass cased ammunition became the norm, jacketed bullets had to be made better and stronger so they could withstand the higher pressure and velocity.  Jackets on bullets were made of harder brass and this became the way bullets were made for nearly 100 years.  All they did was take a brass tube, melt or press in a soft lead alloy then run the jacket through a press that would form or shape the bullet to look like the bullets you see today.  The softer the lead alloy and the amount of lead exposed would determine how well the bullet would expand.  Then bullet makers became more complex and started to make the jacket a different thickness; being thinner in the front and thicker at the base.  That way the front of the bullet would expand more and the bottom of the bullet could drive deeper in the big game being hunted.  Then a company called Nosler took it to the extreme and developed a bullet that acted like two bullets.  The base of the bullet was a hard lead and tin mix with a very thick jacket, the front of the bullet was made with soft lead and a thin jacket.   And they went one step further and swaged a thick brass center in the middle of the bullet.  The front end of the bullet would open and expand very easily on the animal while the back half of the bullet would drive through to the other side of the animal making great wound channels and killing the animal more effectively.  This was the first of the so-called controlled expanding bullets.  I remember shooting some of the first Nosler partition bullets, they shot terrible as far as accuracy but they killed better than any bullet I had used before.  It took Nosler years to perfect this bullet to what it is now, which is a very deadly accurate bullet.

Barnes started to work with a solid copper bullet which had no lead inside of it at all.  They were making bullets on old screw machines then went to huge swaging presses to form the inside and outside of the bullet.  This was a new and unheard of technology! At first, it didn’t work very well but after years of research and feedback from hunters and shooters, Barnes finally made a bullet that would shoot well and open to twice its original size with penetration all the way through the game animal.  The inside of a Barnes bullet is built with a hollow cavity and small cuts to create a bullet that looks like a flower after it hits something.  The front of the bullet will pull back like the petal of a flower and yet hold together causing terrible damage and in most cases, full penetration of the game animal. 

Today, the newest thing with rifle bullets is to make them longer, heavier and slicker so they have a higher ballistic coefficient. A higher ballistic coefficient means the bullets fly farther and shoot flatter.  There’s one problem with making a hunting bullet for long range shooting; it has to be fragile enough to expand well when it hits at long range.  So many times if you take a closer shot on animals that fragile long range bullet will explode on the bone of the game animal and not get inside to do the intended damage, which means not killing the animal being hunted!  If you know all of your shots will be long range then these bullets will work great but watch out for close up shots. And I hope you, the hunter, can do justice by the animal you are hunting and put the shot where it needs to go.

Pistol bullets have come a long way also. There are some really dynamic bullets on the market now.  Lehigh bullets are one of my favorite self-defense bullets.  Made with a large hollow point and a fragile jacket they will do great damage.  Inceptor is making some really different bullets for handguns.  Some of the bullets are made from plastic and have special driving bands which cause the bullet to spin when it hits the object being shot.  I have seen photos of wild boars that have been shot with these bullets and the damage is pretty amazing.  I can hardly wait to get some of these bullets to test and shoot at the range to see how accurate they are.  Anyway for a shooter or hand-loader, there are lots of new bullets to try out.  I just wish I could get brass to load more ammunition!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

First Time Shooters Don’t Have to be Young!

Normally when a first-time shooter asks to shoot one of your guns, they are kids.  This is not always the case.  There are more first time shooters buying guns, learning to shoot, and getting their concealed license, than ever before.  Gun sales in America are through the roof!  If you are in the gun business then you are busy.  Sales are not just to men and the everyday hunter.  Women are buying more guns than ever before.  Twenty years ago, women made up less than 5% of the shooting and hunting community.  Now day’s women make up more than 30% of all gun related sales.  In my custom business about 30 % of the hunting rifles I build are for women or kids. 

The other day my daughter in-law was over for the weekend and after watching a segment on the news about a robbery and murder, she said to me “I think I need to get a handgun and my license”. “Can you take me shooting and let me try some of your pistols”.  I told her (with a smile on my face) we can go shooting in the morning and I would have several hand guns for her to shoot and have fun with.  I put together a group of handguns which would make great carry guns and would also be fun to shoot.  I had 2- 380 ACP pistols, 1- 22 caliber pistol, 1-38 Special revolver, a 17 HMR revolver and a 32 ACP pistol, along with plenty of light target ammunition to shoot.   I asked my daughter and wife to join us to make it fun and easier for Christine to get comfortable with shooting the handguns. 

Make it fun:  Shooting should be fun, too much time can be spent on how powerful a gun is, how far it can shoot, or how accurate it is.  Most shooters don’t care about these things at first.  They just want to learn how to shoot safely and have fun doing it.  Set up several different targets so the shooter doesn’t have to look for the holes as they shoot.  Make a game out of your shooting experience.  Tell the shooter to shoot two shots into the left target, two in the right target and one in the center target.  It gets boring just shooting at the same bulls-eye, change it up and keep it exciting and uncomplicated.

Shoot close:  If you are shooting handguns it is best to shoot at close range, about 7 to 10 yards is good.  The most important is that new shooters hit the target.  They want to see the hole in the target so they know where they hit.  The marker target is a good way to make it more fun and easier to see your hits.  You might be able to make shots at 25 or 50 yards but this is not about showing off how good you are, it is about having a good time with a first-time shooter. 

Low recoil:  I have been told hundreds of stories about how the father or boyfriend put a 12-gauge shotgun in the hands of a girl and watched her fall on her butt when she shot it.  Then, they tell the story over and over and laugh about it, like it is real funny.  Well, that is something the shooter will never forget!  And what could have been a positive experience has turned into a negative and left that first-time shooter never wanting to be around guns again.  Start with a small gun, a 22 is perfect.  Prepare them for the recoil; let them know what is going to happen and how much recoil to expect. Move the shooter up slowly in caliber size as they want to try bigger guns.  Most women can handle the recoil of a 45 ACP or 44 Mag if they know what it is going to feel like.  In fact, my wife shoots a 454 Casull better than I do. 

Watch the noise:  The noise is the worst thing about shooting.  Guns are loud and many times, the first-time shooter will have problems with the noise of the gun and not the recoil.  Wear good hearing protection; try the foam earplugs and ear muffs together.  You might want to wear noise cancelling headsets so you can hear the shooter ask a question yet not hurt your ears from the crack of the gun.  Talk loud enough so the shooter can hear you tell them what to do.  It’s not a good idea for them to take the hearing protection off when guns are going off around them. 

Keep it safe:  Safety is the first, second and final rule!  Keep the gun pointed in a safe direction at all times.  Never point the gun at any thing you don’t intend on shooting or killing.  Don’t pick up or play with the guns during the cease fire.  These are just a few of the safety things that you need to go over before you get to the range.  Don’t be afraid to teach the shooter about the gun and the safeties on the gun, as well as, how it works and how to clean it. If it is interesting then they will be interested in how the gun works.  Don’t get over technical, keep it simple.

Christine and the girls shot every gun I brought and went through 5 boxes of ammunition, and had hits all over the targets.  They all had fun and learned a little about all the different handguns they shot.  In the end, they all liked the Beretta 380 ACP the best.  It fit their hand better, it weighed more so it had less recoil, and it holds 13 rounds of ammunition.  None of the girls liked to reload the clips (fingernails got in the way) so I did lots of loading for them.  Christine came away with a feeling that she can now shoot a pistol and hit the target, and that she could actually shoot a bigger gun than she first thought.  Most important she had fun!  My wife and daughter, who both shoot often, had fun shooting at the closer range and showing off a little.  It was a good day for the entire family and a new beginning for a new shooter.