Range Report for 30 May 2017: Limp-Wristing and Other Less-Than-Epic Fails

Taurus m905 9mm revolver w/custom grip

Yesterday’s range trip largely falls into the category of ‘teachable moments.’ The words ‘Learning Experience’ also come to mind.

A few years back Linda Sold her best friend her Kahr E9 and has regretted it ever since. She’s just never found anything with the trigger and soft-shooting nature of that gun, and believe me, she’s tried! So when we happened across one on Gunbroker act an excellent price we were all over it. In anticipation of a range trip when it arrived I loaded some 9mm ammunition  to duplicate typical range ammunition. A 115gr. FMC at 1050fps seemed about right. I loaded up a bunch of them… yes, I know people recommend loading just a few and trying them, but I wanted Linda to be able to shoot her new gun to her heart’s content, and I wanted to shoot the Taurus m905 with the new grips and the Helwan as well.

So we got to the range and Linda tried the new gun with an odd result- the slide kept locking back between shots. I tried it and that didn’t happen to me; the gun worked a treat. Linda adjusted her grip and things improved immediately, and she shot this target at 7 yards- not bad for someone badly out of practice shooting a new gun.


She found the gun to be every bit as nice to shoot as she remembered, and had a good time with it. At the end of the session she started having the issue again, and we concluded she pretty much had t be limp-wresting it, since I couldn’t reproduce the malfunction. We’ll work on that; maybe get her a ball to squeeze or something.

Meanwhile I fired the Taurus and discovered that the load I had selected was maybe not-so-much mid-range. The were seriously snappy, much more so than there Freedom Arms and Magtech ammo that I am used to. They were in fact snappy enough to break the lamination of the wood on the back of the grip. I reluctantly put the snubby away and relegated the rest of the ammo to the semi-autos.

So, Linda fired the Helwan for the first time and shot a rather nice group. Then I loaded up a mag and tried it… for the first time ever the gun jammed. Now, there has been a minor issue with racking the slide for some time, but the gun functioned so I had made the mistake of shrugging it off. Now the slide was jamming back and not returning to battery and it was very difficult to rack the slide and clear the weapon. OK, time to put that one away too. Bugger.

Time to resort to simpler tools. I brought out the Remington Bulldog and ran a quite satisfactory cylinder-full through it. I reloaded and fired a couple more shots and was having trouble re-acquiring my sight picture. That happens when your front sight flies off… oops. I couldn’t find the damned thing either. Well, I’d been figuring on a new front-sight anyway… aaaand gun number three goes back in the bag. Double-bugger. I was almost afraid to do any more shooting for fear I would break more guns…

Linda was done shooting, so I grimly brought out the Steampunk Snubbies and had a go. Fortunately they worked as well as I am accustomed to and after I chewed the centers out of a few targets I felt better. After that I fired the Shopkeeper’s Special with very satisfactory results, shooting two-hands, strong-hand and weak-hand. I felt redeemed as none of these guns experienced any difficulty and I shot them well.

So, the post-mortem…

First- the 9mm load I selected was much hotter than the reloading manual indicated. These were supposed to be moderate standard-pressure loads, but the recoil impulse was more in line with +P defensive ammuntion.  I will definitely be heeding the advice to do small test-batches in the future.

Second- The laminated grip construction that I used is not strong enough for high-pressure loads in a light revolver. So, time for a new set of grips with more robust construction… and some lighter loads!

Third- the Helwan. Upon getting home I disassembled the gun and discovered the lugs on the locking-block are peened enough to drag in the slide. This has been a problem with some of the Helwan guns, and is quite expensive to fix. Locking-blocks are getting hard to source and don’t go cheap- about $75 when they are available. Currently barrels with locking blocks are available- for $175. Ouch… that’s only $50 less than we paid for the whole gun! If  can develop reasonable material and heat-treat specs I may have to fabricate one, or repair this one. We’ll see.

Not altogether a stellar day- I had a migraine in the morning, gun and ammo issues in the early evening, and then our internet inexplicably went out. Neither computer could get online despite the fact that Hulu was perfectly happy to stream programs to our TV. Just one of those days, I guess…

Yep. It’s Time.


I haven’t routinely carried a concealed firearm outside of my home in years. Violent crime is down and keeps dropping and let’s face it, I do not profile as a victim. I am quite large and present as physically capable. I am well-versed in unarmed combat and pretty confident. The odds of me being selected for a criminal attack, or even witnessing one, are pretty small.

I’ve spoken before about the fact that while the need for self-defense is in some ways less likely than ever that the scope of the problem had increased. I’ve talked about responding to a mass-shooting incident and a number of other topics around concealed carry. I do routinely carry a handgun while working in my shop, but I almost never carry in public. It hasn’t seemed all that necessary, but it seems that is changing.

Last week on a commuter train in Portland a man was abusing some Moslem women. He was shouting racist epithets and insults. When other riders confronted him about this he pulled a knife and apparently went berserk. Other people on the bus tried to stop him. Two of the good samaritans are now dead, one is critically injured and several more sustained less serious wounds. A knife is a terrifyingly destructive weapon in close quarters.

I do not know that having a gun would have helped in that situation; I wasn’t there and do not know the exact circumstances. I do not know that a handgun could have been used safely and effectively in the situation; things happened shockingly fast in an enclosed space full of people; deploying a gun might have actually caused a greater risk to more people. But it would have possibly provided more options, and might have helped.

I don’t usually ride public transit so I am not likely to encounter that exact situation, but it’s easy to see myself in a similar situation in any of a variety of public venues, and in such a situation I would almost certainly intervene.  Had I done so in Portland I would most likely be dead, seriously injured or even crippled. Having a handgun in such a situation would at very least introduce more options to reduce or eliminate the threat.

We cannot predict whether we might encounter such a situation- but to some degree we can predict our own actions. If I see someone abusing others I know that I am likely to intervene in some fashion, and will likely use physical force if it appears necessary to prevent injury to innocents.  But actions ranging from trying to disengage the victims from their abuser without confrontation to calling the authorities should be attempted before violence of any kind if circumstances allow. I am intimately aware that a gun is neither a magic wand nor a screw-for every nut. A gun is a tool that expands your options, not a solution, and it is strictly a tool of last resort.

In a confrontation you have to be aware of a lot of things- not the least of which is who the aggressor is, and it’s not always as clear-cut as the situation in Portland. You need to be aware of your surroundings and the people around you. You also have to be aware that police responding to the scene don’t know who you are or what your place is in the situation- but if you’ve got a gun in your hand they aren’t likely to give you the benefit of the doubt in the first moments after their arrival.

In the firearms and self-defense communities we make a lot of the need to be mentally prepared to use lethal force, but it is equally important to be mentally prepared not to. If you are not sensible you will become part of the problem. Real-life is not a ‘hostage target.’ Out in the real-world there are things and people all around, and if you miss the bullets will hit something. Don’t get so tunneled in on the immediate situation the you are blind to innocent bystanders that many be harmed by your actions. Yes, there are SHTF scenarios where even hitting an innocent bystander is better than letting the subject continue his destructive actions, but such scenarios are vanishingly rare and improbable.

Give some thought to conditions where it will not be a good idea to deploy a weapon, and think about what constructive actions you can take when lethal force might not be a viable solution. A gun is just one of many options, not the only one.

In the meantime I think it’s time to expand my own options.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 28 May 2017.

Mini-Range Report 19 May 2017- Reloading Newb Addendum

I finished work early today and was discussing what to do this afternoon when Linda said, “I know you have those new loads- why don’t you go shooting?”

I left skid marks.

Previously all I had put through the Remington Bulldog were HSM 200gr RNFP Cowboy loads, so I was interested to see how the 185gr. reloads would compare. I had a suspicion they would be noticeably snappier, and they were a bit but nothing even approaching unpleasant. They also shot less low than the HSM loads by about 1/2. I was having a bit of trouble shooting a tight group, but that wasn’t the bullet’s fault; I couldn’t see the front sight. I fixed that by sticking a piece of masking tape over the front sight and things tightened up immediately. I think I need to do something to brighten that sight up.

7 yards rapid fire, 185gr. LSWC, 8.5gr. Unique, CCI primer

I like this load well enough, but next I want to try some heavier bullets. I love shooting the this gun, and the more I shoot it the better it gets.

I still had a bunch of the Montana Gold 125gr. Hollowpoints loaded with 5.6gr. of Unique and a CCI primer. I decided to give the Shopkeeper’s Special a good workout. Firing at 7, 10 and fifteen yards with a six-o’clock hold produced some good results for a gun with a 2-1/4″ barrel and rudimentary sights. I had a couple guys next to me doing rapid-fire for some sort of tactical course, so I pushed the speed a bit and hoped the ROs wouldn’t notice. Well, they didn’t say anything, so I guess I got away with it. The two targets were at five and ten yards respectively.

Pulling to the left a bit, but I was in a bit of a hurry. Need to work on that…

It’s very nice that the reloads are working out well. No issues with ejection in either gun, though I took to using a cleaning rod on the .45; I could get the expended shells out, usually with a firm tap on the cylinder, but it was just easier.

Great afternoon at the range, and I have to admit it was nice to be there without having to test a gun, just put some rounds downrange and see how they work out. Very relaxing.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 19 May 2017

Further Adventures of a Reloading Newb


The Remington Bulldog Cartridge-conversion is complete, so the next logical step is to set up to reload .45 Colt. To that end I became the proud owner of a set of Hornady Custom dies. I paid a little more than I would have online, but once you factor in shipping I was actually ahead, plus I got to support my favorite local gun store. Also picked up a shell-holder, a box of CCI Large Pistol Primers and 100 185gr. cast SWCs. I’d actually planned to go with a heavier bullet, but they were right there and the price was right so what the heck.

Consulting the internet for reloading data I figured that 8.5 grains of Unique was a reasonably conservative load and ought to be about right to start. After a nice dinner with the Light of My Life I headed into the shop to have a go. I read the instructions, set the powder-drop and got going.

The de-priming die worked exactly like the .38/.357 dies I have been using so that was easy enough. The I looked at the expanding die. This did not look like the .38 die, so I read and followed the directions. There were a couple of small bobbles but I got on track quickly enough. Switching the Hornady hand-primer to Large Pistol primers was dead-easy, and before long I was ready for the final step- seating the bullets. I checked the directions again, which were alarmingly vague, and set it up the way they seemed to indicated…

“Woah! That’s not right!”


I adjusted the die in a way that seemed sensible, then tried again…

“That’s… uh… better?”


OK, it was at least symmetrical, but it still wasn’t going to be easy to chamber… Back to the instructions. After carefully re-reading the directions the light-bulb came on and the problem was obvious…

“Yep- got it! These directions are useless.”

That being the case I filed them appropriately and took the die apart and examined it. Once it was in pieces it was pretty obvious how it was supposed to work. I reassembled the die, mounted it in the press and fiddled a little. Voila! Success. The bullets are seated quite deep, but being relatively light-for-caliber the nose of the SWC is quite long. The specified maximum overall length for .45 Colt is 1.6″, so I loaded these to 1.58″ with a fairly stout roll-crimp.


I now have 41 loaded cartridges, two candidates for the bullet-puller and a good working understanding of Hornady’s seating die, which is actually pretty neat. The Custom die has a sleeve that goes over the cartridge and bullet and aligns the bullet so that they seat straight every time, then a plunger seats the bullet to depth- useful, that.

I also learned an important lesson- if the instructions suck don’t try to use them.

Good to know, that last one. I’ll let you know how these shoot next week; too busy for a range trip the next few days. Y’all have a good weekend!

Michael Tinker Pearce, 18 May 2017

Range Report- 14 May 2017: The Missus Doesn’t

Going to the range twice in two days- I’m getting spoiled! Linda- the Mrs.- had yet to shoot her new gun, a Vz70 .32 ACP and was eager to do so. After running errands and some gardening we set out to do that, and of course to shoot some other guns because why wouldn’t we?

To address the term ‘Rapid Fire’ for the purposes of this article: the range we usually shoot at, Champion Arms, limits non-members to a maximum of one shot per second. Firing faster or shooting double-taps is restricted to members that have been cleared to do them by range staff. When I refer to ‘Rapid-Fire’ I mean as fast as I can get away with before the Range Officer takes exception. Generally this will be 3 shots/ 2 seconds or just a bit faster.

The Vz70 is a blowback-operated pistol made by CZ. It borrows a lot from the Walther PP and PPK, though it’s the same size as the PP. It is a largely conventional DA/SA semi-auto. One of the main operational difference between this gun and the Walther is the safety- not only is it mounted on the frame rather than the slide, it does not drop the hammer. This means that the gun may be carried ‘cocked and locked’ or with the hammer down and the first shot fired double-action.

The double-action pull is long but quite smooth and not overly heavy. Single action pull is decently short and crisp. I fired the first group at 5 yards since we had no idea where the gun was ‘printing.’ Dead-on to point of aim as it turns out- not a spectacular target but indicative of the gun’s potential:


Linda took over from there and fired several magazines at five and seven yards, and after thirty rounds or so was clustering her shots around the bullseye and even the flyers were inside the large circle.  I ended by shooting an 8-shot rapid fire group at seven yards:


I really like this gun; contrary to my expectations the slide did not chew up my hand the way Walthers, Makarovs etc. tend to do. Recoil is predictably mild, the trigger is decent and the sights are actually reasonably good. The only flaw was that at first the gun would not lock open on the last shot. It would manually lock open on an empty magazine though, and by the end of the session it was functioning normally.

We’ll be trying this gun with Lehigh Extreme Cavitators as a defensive load, and if that works well this will be a nice little SD gun for Linda. Yes, in this day and age there are 9mm guns no bigger than this, but Linda has a bum wrist and is recoil-sensitive, so this seems to be just the ticket.

Linda also fired the Steampunk Snubbies, both my EDC and her pearl-handled gun. These are a pair of S&W .38 Double Action Safety Hammerless revolvers with the barrels shortened to 1-5/8″ with ergonomic grips on my gun, and antique Mother of Pearl grips with a T-grip style grip adapter on Linda’s.  She was easily able to keep her shots on target, but she finds the Pearl/grip adapter combination a bit small for her hand and neither gun is really comfortable for her. I ended the session with this rapid-fire group at seven yards:

Some explanation here- this is ordinary printer-paper and low-velocity bullets tend to tear it. In addition to the two holes there are three gray rings visible where the HBWCs tore the paper rather than punching a clean hole

The more I shoot this gun the more I like it. The trigger is not light but is quite smooth and sweet.

Linda next requested to shoot the Shopkeeper’s Special, a Cimarron Richards/Mason conversion customized with a barrel cut to 2-1/4″, improved sights and a bird’s-head grip. It is very easy to cock and has a very light, crisp trigger. It’s heavy enough to easily absorb the recoil from standard-pressure .38 Special loads and Linda proceeded to demonstrate a respectable ability with it at seven yards. She really enjoys shooting this gun, as do I; if it is not my favorite revolver it’s certainly in the running. These are two groups I fired at seven yards at a pace of about 1 shot/second.

Last I did some shooting with my 6-1/2″ barreled S&W M1903 Hand Ejector. The double-action trigger on this gun is amazing; I really enjoy shooting it but the long barrel isn’t my favorite thing. Despite the much longer sight-radius I really don’t shoot it much better than the short-barrelled guns unless doing deliberate fire at 25 yards. Still, it’s a great gun, and I produced this rapid-fire group at 15 yards:


I need more practice with this gun; while I can shoot it decently I have the feeling I am not even beginning to push its limits.

So a grand afternoon of shooting, with both of us happy with the results and, on my part at least, with the guns.

As an addendum- all the .38 Special rounds fired today were Hornady 148gr. HBWCs over 4.7gr. of Unique with a CCI small pistol primer. The .38 S&W loads were my standard- the same HBWC over 2.5gr. of Unique with a CCI primer.

A further addendum- examining the two targets shot with the Richards/Mason I realized that the group on the left was shot with a different load than the one on the right- that one was shot with the HBWCs. The target on the left was shot with Montana Gold 125gr.Hollow-points loaded on top of 5.6gr. of Unique with a CCI primer. the difference in the size of the holes is conspicuous.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 14May2017