New Generation 9mm+P Sentry

sam_1964

It occurred to me that with a potential sheep-stampede next month I thought I ought to see what ammunition I have on-hand so I could make up any shortfalls. While I was searching around to figure out exactly what ammunition I had on hand I came across six boxes of these leftovers from my friend’s estate last year.

These are New Generation Sentry 9x19mm+P rounds from South Africa. The bullet is a nickel-plated monolithic copper round with a composite cap to aid in feeding. On impact the cap disintegrates and the bullet does it’s thing. They were developed initially in the late 1990s as a low-recoil police round for the Singapore police that would offer good auto-body/glass/barrier penetration and expansion in soft tissue . They will supposedly penetrate laminated glass windshields at angles as steep as sixty degrees. They were successfully used by the South African Police Anti-Carjacking Unit and apparently some other branches of the police as well. These rounds were marketed in America early this century either as the Sentry or Eliminator rounds. Eliminators were lighter and had a significantly higher muzzle-velocity.

The bullet weighs 80 grains and has a claimed velocity of 1375fps (Chronographed at 1350 avg. from a Glock 19.) Expansion was reported to be about 12mm/.5 inches in test media. Some testers reported caps separating in the magazine and causing jams. Glocks and Berrettas do not seem to experience this issue but the sample-size is very limited. One thing of concern is noted for the .45 Sentry or Eliminator ammunition, and that’s split case-heads in guns without fully supported chambers, notably the Glock 21 and many 1911s. Personally I try to avoid any +P ammunition in automatics without fully-supported chambers.

I fired off a box of this ammo without any problems, though in my 2″ Taurus revolver I would not characterize them as ‘Light Recoil’ . I won’t use them in the Taurus again; +Ps are hard on it, and the velocity loss from the very short barrel might seriously limit this round’s performance. I did not experience any cap separations in the revolver despite the open cylinder and quite snappy recoil. I plan to try them in my Helwan Brigadier and see how they work.

I tracked down a lot of opinions about this ammo and very little in the way of facts. Most people on forums thought it was anywhere from useless to dangerous, but then reading further I’d discover that they had no experience with the ammunition. I did eventually find a post from a South African police officer that said he never experienced any problems with this ammo. Take that for what it’s worth because, well… internetz.

New Generation Ammunition is out of business,  possibly because as near as I can tell they never actually got the contract with the Singapore police and their reloaded ‘range ammo’ had an abysmal record for inconsistent quality and using worn-out casings. While they used all-new components for Sentry and Eliminator ammunition they could not help but be tainted by the reputation of the company’s more common loads.

 

So- forgotten super-ammo? Probably not; while it seems to have worked well enough I think if it was any sort of real improvement over conventional ammo someone would have taken up the design. As it is they are an oddity, yet another forgotten chapter in the ongoing attempt to improve small-arms ammunition.

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Sure You’re Tacti-cool… But are you Tacti-cool Enough? Part Two

So your gun isn’t tactical. Your LBE isn’t tactical. Your plan, and your actions are tactical. So don’t worry if you cannot afford the latest tacti-cool gear. Plan to use what you have, and to use it effectively and sensibly.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have good gear if you can afford it, or that ‘tactical’ gear isn’t useful. Having a light on your gun is useful. A good optic is useful. But don’t worry if someone comes out with something better; something you already have that works will not suddenly stop just because there’s a newer version. It’s far more important to be proficient with what you have than to have ‘the best’ or ‘the newest.’

This applies to training as much as it does to gear. People keep coming up with new ways to do things- not because the old way didn’t work, mind you. Sometimes I think it’s mostly because they cannot keep selling you what you already know. When shooting a pistol I use a modified Weaver stance. ‘But everyone uses Isosceles now!’ OK, maybe they do. ‘But everyone uses the thumbs-forward grip now!’ Nice for them. But- and this is important- I’m still hitting the target, I’m still putting fast follow-up shots pretty much where I want them. OK, it’s not the latest fad but I don’t care. It works for me, it’s what I’ve done for decades and it’s what I will probably do under stress until I have been retraining for years. If it works don’t fix it. Spend you time and money somewhere else that will provide a greater benefit.

Don’t get me wrong, training is essential. There are some great courses out there, and some excellent instructors. Having a resumé of these classes insures that you get to sit at the table with the cool kids. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything else though; instructors are not giving classes for free or out of the goodness of their hearts. They are doing it to make money, and there is nothing wrong with that. A good teacher may be doing it for the money, but they aren’t happy unless they are providing a good value for their pay. On the other hand I’ve had friends attend classes that were half-instruction and half infomercial for more advanced (and expensive) classes. And of course the instructor’s gear, which is naturally the best of the best, is available in the gift shop for an only slightly inflated price.

Training is essential- classes are not.  If you cannot afford good classes that doesn’t mean you cannot train. Do some research, watch some videos and emulate them in your practice. It’s not the best solution but it will get the job done. The point, whether we are talking about training, weapons or gear, is not to have the best-of-the-best, it’s to have the best that you can manage and more importantly to have a plan.

Have a plan. Practice the skills you need to execute that plan. Have another plan for when that one inevitably goes sideways. Make sure the plan takes into account a realistic assessment of your abilities and resources, and has work-arounds for any deficiencies. No matter what situation you find yourself in I guarantee this will work better than patches that tell the world you are a badass.

 

Sure You’re Tacti-cool… But are you Tactic-cool Enough? Part One…

You may have seen him- it’s always ‘him’ for some reason- at the range, or in a class or even in a store or restaurant. The Tactical Guy. He’s got a sweet gun with all the bells and whistles. He’s wearing patches with his favorite brands on them, and some that say things like ‘Door Kicker,’ ‘Warfighter’or ‘I come, I F**k things up, and I leave.” He has more pockets than teeth, and he’s probably wearing camo. If he’s really committed he’s tatted up like a sideshow freak. He is the Ultimate Badass, and he wants you and everyone else to know it. He is… drumroll please… Tacti-Cool!

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Don’t get me wrong, this guy could genuinely be a badass. Maybe he was a door-kicker in the Sandbox. Maybe he is a serious operator. I’m not going to bet on it, though. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen one of these guys take their super-modified $3000 handgun and shoot like their life depends on putting a bullet into every square inch of the target at seven yards… and that target is usually a full-size ‘tactical’ target.

The biggest badass I have ever met looked like– and was– a friendly, funny, easy-going grandfather. He tended to wear utilitarian casual clothes and sneakers. Have a chat with him and he was nice, smart, polite and pleasant. You’d never suspect he was dangerous. But if he decided you needed to be dead you would be dead before you could blink, pretty much no matter who you were. Stealth… it’s tactical.

This calls into question what, exactly, does Tactical mean? According to the Dictionary:

tactical |ˈtaktikəladjective

Of, relating to, or constituting actions carefully planned to gain a specific military end: as a tactical officer in the field he had no equal.

• (of bombing or weapons) done or for use in immediate support of military or naval operations. Often contrasted with strategic.

• (of a person or their actions) showing adroit planning; aiming at an end beyond the immediate action: in a tactical retreat, she moved into a hotel with her daughters.

Interesting… There is no mention of camouflage, tattoos or arguing endlessly in social media and online forums. It apparently has nothing to do with the latest class, gear fad or firearm. Or for that matter advertising to the world that you are a badass.

It has to do, in each of the cases in the definition above, to plan in order to maximize the odds of success in a situation where violence is a thing. If your goal is self-defense in public spaces you should plan to maximize your odds of success. If your goal is to survive an ‘active shooter’ situation you need a different sort of plan. Dealing with a burglar in your home also requires a plan. A catastrophic event that causes a breakdown of social order needs a plan if you are to survive and get through it. Are we sensing a trend here? That perhaps ‘tactical’ has more to do with planning than it does with the latest fad or fashion?

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According to the ‘Tacti-cool’ community if you don’t have the absolute latest, greatest gear for any conceivable situation you are an idiot. Because apparently things that have worked for a hundred years magically stop working whenever someone comes up with a new product or idea for separating you from your cash. ‘You bought your web-gear five years ago? Dude, you gonna start carrying a club and dressing in furs next?’

News flash- your 30 year old stock AR15 still works exactly as it did thirty years ago. Is there something better out there? Maybe- but that doesn’t mean your old gun is worthless or stupid. A 1911A1 will still put down bad guys (if you do your part) despite the fact that the design is over a hundred years old. So will a S&W M&P .38 special. Obsolete does not mean useless, or even stupid.

Let’s take a little jaunt sideways. People used to use Safety Razors. These worked well, and replacement blades were cheap and readily available. Then disposable razors were introduced. They weren’t as cheap, but they were convenient and razor manufacturers pushed them hard. They didn’t do this because these razors were better; they did it because they were more profitable. Now they will tell you that if you want a good shave you need a four-blade titanium-coated razor with ultra-sonic vibration… and to pay $45 for a pack of six replacement blades. Instead of $2.95 for a pack of 20 blades for your safety razor. A few years ago I switched back to a Safety Razor and you know what? It works as well as the uber-high-tech state-of-the-art razor it replaced. The only difference is that Gillette is making a lot less money off of me.

In reality my 1911A1 is as likely to be useful in the real world as a tricked-out USP .45- because the situation I am most likely to encounter will probably involve two shots at a distance of less than ten feet. In a self-defense situation a snub-nosed .38 that is with you when you need it is more ‘tactical’ than a fully-tricked-out Glock in your gun safe. But seriously by definition your gun isn’t tactical no matter how much money you throw at it. Your plan for using it is tactical, and the plan is far more important than the tools you use to execute it. 

That seems like a good place to wrap up Part 1; give it some thought before we continue.

 

 

The Gun That Opened the Can of Worms

 

RM38aThis is the gun that started me on amateur gunsmithing.

I’ve always loved single-action Colt SAA-style guns. I’ve had some very nice ones over the years. The problem with them is that in any caliber smaller than .44 there is just too much metal in the cylinder and bore so they don’t feel right to me. I basically stuck to .45 Colt in these guns. So it was quite a blow a few years back when local environmental regs demanded that indoor ranges stop allowing the use of all-lead bullets until they made significant and expensive upgrades to their air-cleaning systems. That meant the only ammo I could shoot was defensive ammunition, which was prohibitively expensive for target practice. In the end i reluctantly parted with my beloved Cimarron Thunderer because I could never afford to shoot it. But I mourned…

rmconvnavy

My wife found the solution, and bought it for me for Christmas. It was a 7-1/2-inch barreled Cimarron 1851 Navy Richards-Mason conversion in .38 Special, made by Uberti. Since .38 Special is close enough to the original .38 Colt the gun still felt right to me.  I loved the gun, but before long I had visions of a snub-nosed version. I thought I might buy another gun and make one some day, but I could never afford it. Finally the wife said, “Just do it to this one.” So in late winter 2015 I did.

I started out removing the ejector tube, then sliced of the barrel with my bandsaw. I squared up the end of the barrel and re-crowned it with a conical reamer in the drill-press. I carefully polished the result and cold-blued it. I marked a spot for the front-sight and drilled a 1/8 inch hole, then used a fine carbide burr to undercut the hole inside. I peened in a section of 1/8 inch brass rod for the front sight and carefully polished it to a rounded profile. The rear sight is cut into the hammer-nose, and I carefully enlarged it with a triangular jeweler’s file until I had a good sight picture.

Then I took a deep breath and removed the grip-frame and the one-piece wooden grip. I annealed the brass frame and attempted to bend it. As I had feared it broke; brass castings seem pretty unforgiving, and I discovered that the quality of brass used was not the best. I knew could always buy a replacement frame, and it’s not like it could get more broken, so I cut the grip-frame and brazed in a piece of 1/8- inch brass plate and shaped it, then drilled it for the retention screw. I reshaped the wood grip to the new profile, carefully sanded it down to match and finished it with a hand-rubbed Carnauba wax finish.

rm38b

The result feels excellent in my hand, points naturally and shoots great. The improved sights compensated somewhat for the shorter sight-radius; one-hole groups at seven yards and even at 25 yards I can keep all the shots on an 8-1/2″ x 11″ sheet of paper. I honestly don’t miss the ejector- typically I can just open the loading gate, rap the side of the cylinder and the empties fall free. It’s actually faster than using an ejector…

I then made a simple field holster for the gun for mucking about in the woods and such.

rm38holster1

I love the results, and as an added bonus Linda now enjoys shooting this gun; previously the 7-1/2 inch barrel was a bit much for her. My success with this gun spurred me to attempt other projects, and the can of worms was well and truly opened. I’m having fun with it, so I am not even going to try to get the little bastards back in the can!