The CZ P-07: High-Tech Meets Old-School

I’ve been a fan of CZ pistols for a long time. Over the years I’ve owned a number of their small-caliber offerings, and their unique roller-locked fireball in 7.62 x 25 Tokarev, the CZ-52. Without exception they have been well-made, reliable and interesting guns.

In the ’80s, when the CZ75 was unobtainium, I had several of the Italian clones. I loved the ergonomics and found them to be very good pistols. More recently my wife owned a CZ-75 clone, the EAA Witness Carry-Comp .45. Fantastic gun, reliable and a great shooter. I’ve gotten to shoot several actual CZ-made variants in the last decade and loved them. For some time I’ve been contemplating gritting my teeth and paying the price for one, but they are spendy beasts and I had not quite convinced myself to, uh, ‘pull the trigger.’

You might not guess it from the contents of this blog, but polymer-framed guns and I go way back. I owned one of the early Glock 17 imports in the mid-eighties, and have had a few other Glocks since. Fantastic guns; if I needed to carry a duty-gun these days I have often figured it would be a Glock 17. They are wonderfully light-weight, legendarily reliable, but the trigger and ergonomics never thrilled me. I much prefer the more old-school single-action of the 1911, or DA/SA style trigger of the CZ75.

All that being the case, when this gun was offered up in trade I jumped at the chance to try it out.

The Details:

Magazine Capacity– 15

Frame– Polymer

Chambering– 9x19mm

Trigger Mech– DA/SA

Sights– Low-profile fixed Three-Dot

Barrel Length– 3.75 in

Weight– 27.7 oz

Overall Length– 7.2 in

Height– 5.3 in

Width– 1.46

Safeties- Ambidextrous, Decocker or Manual Safety, Safety Stop on Hammer, Firing Pin Block Safety

MSRP– $510.00

The CZ P-07 is very comparable in size to the Glock 19. It is slightly thicker, in part because of the ambidextrous decocker (or safety.) It’s a good size for an ‘all-arounder;’ large enough to be a duty pistol, small enough for concealed carry.

The gun comes well equipped in CZ’s hard plastic case, with two magazines, three back-panels for the grips, interchangeable flat or extended magazine bases, and both a safety that enables the gun to be carried cocked-and-locked or an interchangeable decocker. There is a well-made and detailed user manual (in several languages) and a couple of cleaning tools (missing in this used example.)

The gun uses CZ’s full-length inside slide-rails, front and rear cocking serrations and standard three-dot sights, which I don’t much like. The magazines are stoutly made of steel- a feature I like quite a lot. There are stippled serrations on the frame just above the trigger, nicely located as a safe-position for your trigger finger. The grip panels are stippled also, and there are interrupted lines on the front and back of the grip. The total effect is to provide a secure but comfortable grip.

The low-profile sights offer good visibility. The rear is drift-adjustable for windage, and the front is user-replaceable. Both are secured by Allen screws (the wrench is provided with the gun.) The double-action trigger gives second-strike capability on a dodgey primer, a very useful feature.

Following the included instructions (and a Youtube video or two) I configured the gun to suit me, fitting the largest of the grip panels and the decocker. The extended magazine base-pads were already fitted. The decocker was the hardest to fit, but the only tool required was a small screwdriver to position the return spring.

Take-down is much the same as any Browning-based semi-auto; drop the magazine, line up the witness marks, pop the slide-stop out and the slide comes off the front. The recoil spring is a captured unit!, so it’s very easy to remove and reposition when assembling the gun. The barrel simply lifts out. It’s not quite as easy as a Glock, but it’s not a bother either.

P-07, field-stripped

Impressions:

The gun, as I have set it up, feels good in the hand and points naturally. For me the sights line up nicely as the gun comes to bear on the target. Empty magazines are practically fired from the gun when you press the well-located, but not obtrusive, magazine release. The gun has a pleasingly solid feel in the hand.

I am not keen on three-dot sights. They are fine for close-up work and rapid acquisition, but I’ve always found it hard to wring much precision out of them, especially at extended ranges. That’s quibbling though; they are fine for the gun’s intended purpose and can easily be altered to suit.

The double-action trigger is smooth with no stacking. It’s fairly long, but that’s no handicap to someone used to double-action revolvers. There’s quite a lot of slack in the single-action trigger, but it breaks fairly crisp. You really don’t notice while firing owing to the fairly short reset. A well-tuned 1911 puts it in the shade, but it’s good for its type.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road:

I grabbed some ammo this afternoon and headed down to Champion Arms indoor range to give the gun a good wringing out. Some of the ammo I fired was some unconventional old rounds formerly used by the South African Police, the New Generation Sentry 9mm+P. These use an 80gr nickel-plated monolithic copper hollow-point with a ballistic cap for feeding that makes 1375 fps. from a 4″ barrel. They had a good record in service, and I inherited several hundred of them from a friend’s estate. They were handy and they make pretty holes in paper targets so I grabbed a couple boxes. The remainder were 125gr. TCL standard-pressure handloads. The gun functioned properly throughout testing.

Sentry ammunition. Center- complete round, right- projectile with ballistic cap removed, left- what they look like when the have bounced clear back to the firing line off the bullet-stop.

First off I loaded a magazine with 15-rounds of the Sentry ammunition, dropped the hammer with the decocker and did a seven-yard mag-dump. The results were encouraging-

Don’t them Sentries make pretty holes?

The second test was to load five rounds, decock the gun, then raise the gun rapidly from waist height and fire a double-action shot at seven yards, then repeat five times. Again, the results were promising-

Not bad at all.

OK, the gun feels like it points naturally- but how does that translate on a target? I ran a target out to three yards, loaded ten rounds, decocked the hammer and lowered the gun to waist level with the gun held in the strong-hand. Then I raised the gun quickly to mid-chest level and fired a double-tap, still one-handed, with the first shot DA and the second SA. I repeated this five times. The results were pretty good for a gun I’d never fired before today-

The ballistic caps of the Sentry rounds apparently detach and usually shatter when the round exits the muzzle; the taped-over holes are from caps or fragments.

I did a whole lot of general target shooting at ranges from seven to twenty-five yards for a total of a couple of hundred rounds. The gun functioned flawlessly with both the +P Sentry ammo and the mild reloads. Felt recoil felt soft and was easily managed; I really enjoyed shooting this gun.

Conclusion:

This is a well-made, well-thought out gun, and it comes with options to personalize it. Accuracy and reliability are both what you would expect from a CZ- very good indeed! The $510 MSRP is not bad for a gun in this class, and the extra magazine and accessories are a bonus. Of course these guns can routinely be found for quite a bit less than that price.

The combination of the old-school SA/DA mechanism and modern polymer construction just might make this the perfect 21st Century pistol for a dinosaur like me. I’m looking forward to a lot more shooting with this gun, and plan to run it in an ASI match soon.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 8 August 2019

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When the Adrenaline Hits the Fan

Detonics Mark 1 Combat Master .45, rapidfire at seven yards.

A lot of instructors make much of the loss of fine motor control when you are in the throes of an adrenaline rush. They are correct; it has been scientifically demonstrated that this occurs. Many have interesting and varied theories about the effect of this in combat, and what to do about it.

An adrenaline dump occurs when the amygdala, the collective name for the portions of your brain dedicated to dealing with strong emotions, decides that a fight-or-flight response is needed. To give you the tools to help you survive it instructs your brain to trigger the adrenal glands, located above your kidneys, to dump adrenaline into your system. This is not a graduated thing; your autonomous system has determined that if you don’t act now it’s over, so it’s an all-or-nothing proposition. It doesn’t trickle adrenaline into your system, it dumps it. This makes your heart beat faster, increases blood flow, and tells your body to rapidly process sugars for energy. Your eyes dilate to take in extra light and information, and the increased oxygen and sugar sharpens your reflexes and temporarily increases your strength. It also erodes your fine motor control.

But a lot of these instructors forget or overlook a simple reality; as competition shooter Tim Bacus points out, operating a pistol does not require fine motor control. Want to carve the Lord’s Prayer on a grain of rice, or paint it on the tail-light of your hotrod? Or just thread a needle? If you experience an adrenaline dump you are probably out of luck.¬†But people can and do operate pistols just fine.

Adrenaline dumps are more or less created equal. It was determined in the ’80s that a competitive shooter’s adrenaline dump from ‘match nerves’ is functionally identical to one caused by a lethal threat, which makes sense. Your brain has decided it GO TIME. It doesn’t calculate how much you need and meter it out; it’s the full-meal-deal or nothing. Yet participants in action shooting sports regularly perform awesome feats of marksmanship and gun manipulation. How?

Training and mental preparedness. If you have practiced your manual of arms to the point where the actions are automatic you will perform them as fast or faster under the impact of an adrenaline dump. Getting a sight picture, reloading, clearing a jam- all easy if you are trained and mentally prepared. Yes, if you aren’t trained you are going to fumble these actions a bit, but that’s as much a function of trying to perform an unfamiliar task in a hurry as any physiological reason.

Similarly people with little training tend to shoot more poorly during an adrenaline dump, and even competitors sometimes find this happening. Under pressure it’s only natural to be in a rush, and that does not make for good accuracy. But- I and some other shooters actually shoot better under an adrenaline dump. Training and other physiological effects of the adrenaline dump counter the shakes and whatever loss of motor control there is. The extra strength lets us clamp down and overcome the shakes, the increased focus gives us greater precision etc.

My suggestion would be to practice all aspects of gun handling and manipulation over and over again, until they become automatic. Don’t try to do them fast- just do them right every time. When that adrenaline hits you will do what you trained to do. Best to train the right habits; in the fight adrenaline will give you all the speed you need.

That’s my two cents. I’m not a doctor, or a trainer, researcher or what have you. I’m just a guy with s few decades of experience watching how things play out in the real world, so take this for what it’s worth.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 5 August 2019

Pietta Remington 1858 ‘Gunfighter’ Project

Pietta 1858 with a color case-hardened frame and checkered grips. This is a catalogue photo, because like an idiot I didn’t take pics before I went to work…

Perusing the case at Pinto’s I spotted this Pietta 1858. It stood out for the checkered grips and case-hardened frame. The grips are quite nicely made and appear to be some sort of maple with a bit of quilting. It was used, though it appeared to have never been fired. I was flush with cash from selling two shotguns I never shoot and the price was irresistible, so I didn’t.

By this point I don’t imagine that it’s any secret that I am not a big fan of long-barrelled revolvers. Oh sure, there are exceptions, like my Abilene .44 Magnum, but that is for handgun hunting. There was never much question that I was going to shorten the barrel, it was just a matter of how much. I already have two 1858 ‘snubbies’ so I didn’t feel any great need for another. In addition with the color case-hardened frame and fancy grips I was kind of locked in to not modifying the frame.

A few years back I did a 3-1/2″ gun and I like it quite a bit. Not too large to conceal, very balanced in the hand and it points very naturally. I had come to think of this as a ‘gunfighter’ length because I imagined its handiness and speed might appeal to a man of action.

‘The Dandy,’ my 3-1/2″ 1858, chambered in .44 Colt (original)

I decided that I was going to use my Kirst gated conversion; the gun it was mounted in has been slated for further work that will include a bespoke cylinder. You’ll see more on that in a future post.

First thing first was to cut the loading port in the blast-shield to allow cartridges to be fed into the cylinder. I mounted the Kirst unit and marked where the gate was, then I removed it and dismantled the revolver except for the loading lever and cylinder pin; I left those because I would need to mount and remove the Kirst cylinder several times in the process.

Typical flex-shaft rotary tool.

To do this I used a 1/2″ 80-grit sanding drum in a rotary flex-shaft tool. You can use a standard Dremel tool, but in my experience you will need to stop several times in the process to let the tool cool down. I slowly cut the port, being careful to keep the drum straight and level in the cut. This is a lengthy process; it will take some time to make an uncorrectable mistake, so as long as you are careful it ought to come out alright.

After a certain point I knew I was getting close and fitted the cylinder to check. I wasn’t getting close. I fitted and removed the cylinder several times before cartridges were able to slide easily in and out of the cylinder. Once I had accomplished that I used a 600-grit sanding drum to smooth everything out, then applied cold-blue paste to darken the metal in the port.

The finished loading port, just large enough to allow a cartridge to slide easily in our out of the cylinder.

With this completed I marked and shortened the barrel to 3-1/2″. I mounted the frame in the drill press, and aligning it carefully I used a conical reamer to crown the barrel, then polished the crown.

Conical reamer for deburring pipe. Properly set up it also cuts a pretty good barrel-crown

The cylinder pin is normally held in by the loading lever, which is retained by a catch on the barrel. The 3-1/2″ barrel is far to short to allow the cylinder pin to be withdrawn if the catch is fitted in conjunction with a shortened loading lever, so another method of retaining it is needed. You can buy a catch from some suppliers, but I think these are ugly and result in an awkward-looking gun.

1858 cartridge conversion with a commercially-made cylinder-pin quick-release. I think these are unattractive and awkward-looking.

My preferred method is to shorten the loading-lever, bore through it into the cylinder pin and install a plunger to lock the lever in position. Not only is this more attractive, it can still be used as a loading lever if the percussion cylinder is mounted.

Loading lever on ‘The Dandy,’ which provided the pattern for the loading-lever/cylinder pin release on the Gunfighter.

With the loading lever completed I used a cut-off wheel in the flex-shaft tool to cut a carefully centered slot in the top of the barrel to hold the new front-sight. I cut the sight out of bronze plate, just thick enough that it needed to be force-fitted in the slot. I like to use brass or bronze front sight because they are more visible, under a variety of conditions, than black steel. I tapped the sight gently into the slot, secured it temporarily with superglue, then staked it in place with a punch. The gun was now essentially complete.

At some future point I will refinish the barrel to get rid of the chopped-off stampings, but for now I’m OK with them. Time to test this beast!

I sat down at my reloading bench and cranked out fifty-five of my default .45 Colt load- a 200gr. LRNFP from Aardvark Enterprises over 8.0 gr. of Unique with a Federal #150 large pistol primer. With these in hand I was off to Champion Arms indoor shooting range.

I fired the gun at 7, 15 and 25 yards. It was right on at 7 yards, but somewhat weirdly it shot higher at fifteen and higher still at twenty-five. Group sizes were OK- well, I think they were OK. At twenty five yards there were only two hits at the top of the target, though they were only about 3-1/2″ apart. The other hits were off the top of the paper. The backing cardboard was pretty well shot up, but it looked like the other shots were similarly spaced although it’s hard to say with any certainty.

First time shooting the gun. The target was at seven yardsnothing to complain about here, except maybe my shooting.

I finished up with a target at five yards. I simply pointed the gun without aiming and fired five shots as fast as I could thumb the hammer. Only one shot landed out of the black. Then I repeated this, aiming at the lower right corner and produced a three inch group. One more time, this time aiming at the lower left corner with similar results. I’m really pleased- the gun points very naturally.

The checkering is grippy, but not so sharp as to be uncomfortable, and the ample dimensions of the handle scales made recoil very easy to manage. All in all quite a pleasant gun to shoot.

I found myself thinking of this gun as ‘The Gunfighter,’ so I guess that’s as good a name as any. This is not the most interesting or extensive conversion I have done, but I am really, really happy with the result. I expect this gun will get a lot of range-time!

Michael Tinker Pearce, 3 August 2019

A Little Rags to Riches for Your Friday

Some of you may have followed the story of this little gun in the blog, but here it is in a nutshell.

A few years back I ran across a S&W I-frame .32 Hand Ejector in a pretty miserable state. Basically there was no finish left, some minor pitting, the timing was buggered, there was massive endplay in the cylinder and an enormous cylinder gap and, to top it all off, the bore looked horribly pitted. I got it very cheap.

…and this was it’s good side.

I detail-stripped the gun and cleaned a century of gunk out of the mechanism, which miraculously solved the timing problem. I wasn’t sure the bore was salvageable, but I cleaned it out with Hoppe’s #9 and some bronze wool. It took a while, but what eventually what had looked like a pitted, useless mess turned out to be a pretty decent bore.

I shimmed the cylinder to remove the endplay, then removed the barrel. I relieved the front of the frame slightly, allowing the barrel to set back to produce a decent cylinder-gap of .005″.

Lastly I sanded the frame to remove every trace of rust, some of the lighter pitting and the last traces of the original finish, then refinished it in Antique Gray (similar to French Gray.) Eventually I stripped it again and rust blued it. It’s been through a couple of different grips, but today I settled on these antique mother-of-pearl grips donated from another gun.


It’s a handsome gun and a great shooter, and a prized possession! Not bad for a gun well on it’s way to the junk-heap of history.

So why am I telling you about this? Because I didn’t know how to do any of this when I bought the gun. Some creative Googling, a few Youtube videos, common everyday tools and a few items (like the rust-blue solution) bought online and a few- OK, more than a few- evenings were all it took. The most ‘exotic’ tool used was a Harbor Freight bench vise. The important thing is this- if I can do it, so can you.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 26 july 2019


It’s Time to Come Together.

Just a photo to get your attention. It has nothing to do with the post.

I hate politics, and I’ve tried to avoid them wherever possible in this blog. Hell, this post is about avoiding them. Sort of. Yet politics are very much central to this.

Democrats these days seem to be hewing to a strict gun control platform. Note- I said Democrats, not Liberals. The two main parties have been working to divide this country along partisan lines for decades, and each in their own way has used fear tactics to do this. The biggest difference is which fears they choose to focus on, but both are guilty. One of the things each has focussed on in their own way is the 2nd Amendment. They have done everything in their power to keep this issue from being settled one way or another, because they have made it part of their platform and need to keep the issue alive as way of dividing us. This is a fight that should have been resolved decades ago, and I think would have been but for totalitarian partisanship created and encouraged by the two major parties.

The idea that has been fostered is one of a ‘Culture War.’ Yes, Americans are an exceptionally diverse people, with many regional and ethnic cultures in the mix. But we only have one Constitution, and I have sworn to uphold it.

It’s very popular in mainstream gun culture to demonize Liberals and poke fun at them. But the fact of the matter is that by the latest estimates a minimum of 30% of gun owners in this country identify as ‘Liberal,’ and we can no longer afford to demonize almost 1/3 of the folks on our side. The NRA began pushing the notion of a ‘Culture war,’ and by all accounts they lost members. Probably an awful lot of those were Liberal gun owners.

Don’t mistake Democrats for Liberals either; they haven’t been the same thing for many years, and most liberals that I know consider the current Democrats to be ‘Center-Right’ rather than leftists. Leftists with any sense of history are very keen on private gun ownership, but we needn’t get into that.

The point is, now more than ever, America’s 2nd Amendment supporters need to discard totalitarian, party-line views about each other and come together. We all support the 2nd Amendment, and that’s more important than the things that divide us. There was a survey a few years back that was carefully worded to avoid political hot-buttons, and it determined that Conservative and Liberal Americans agreed on 80% of the issues. We have more common ground than not, and right now we can’t afford to worry about that other 20%. Win this fight and we can argue over the other stuff later. Right now we have bigger fish to fry.

The NRA is on the ropes- we needn’t get into why- and has not been particularly effective in recent years anyway. Other major groups don’t have the deep pockets and resources to fight every fight; they need to pick and choose their battles, and some fights that need to be fought slip through the cracks. If we come together we are more likely to be able to muster the resources we need.

Now more than ever we need to present a unified front. Liberal, Conservative, black, white, hispanic, gay, straight, trans, Christian, heathen- all secondary concerns.* The new standard needs to be ‘If you’re with us you’re welcome.’ Quit with the name calling, belittling and bullshit. Our commonality is greater than that which divides us. As a rather famous wit once said, ‘We must hang together, or surely we will hang separately!’

There is in fact an organization dedicated to this proposition, and I would encourage all of you to look into them, follow them on Twitter etc. You can find them at https://opensourcedefense.org

Michael Tinker Pearce, 24 July 2019

*The exception I would have to make to this would be race/religion based hate groups and the like; they poison the brand of gun owners. Besides, they are the worst.

38 S&W- Still Useful?

S&W .38 Double Action safety Hammerless, 4th Model. Chambered in the venerable .38 S&W cartridge, sometimes called ‘.38 S&W Short.’

This is a bit esoteric, butI thought some of you might be interested. .38 S&W is an obsolete cartridge; very little work is being done on it these days, and information is a little thin on the ground. Hopefully I can make a useful addition to that pool of knowledge.

.38 S&W is the oldest ‘.38’ caliber revolver cartridge that is still in mass production. Modern .38s use .356-.358″ diameter bullets. .38 S&W cartridges use a .360-.362″ diameter bullet. It is not interchangeable with .38 Special and cannot be loaded in revolvers chamber for this or .357 Magnum. The cartridge’s dimensions may be found on Wikipedia; for our purposes suffice it to say it is shorter, slightly larger in diameter and less powerful than .38 Special.

The original load for this cartridge was a 147gr. lead round-nose bullet over a charge of around 10gr. of black powder. This yielded about the power of a light modern .38 Special target load. Modern Remington loads retain the 147gr RNL bullet, but seem significantly weaker than the black powder loads. More on that later…

.38 S&W was a very popular cartridge in the 19th century, and it’s use persisted well into the 20th century. It was widely used and chambered in a number of revolvers by many different manufacturers. The gun shown is a Forehand & Wadsworth British Bulldog chambered in .38 S&W.

We’ll go over the long history of this cartridge another time; the story of ‘the other .38’ is interesting and involved. But on with our blog…

As some of you might be aware I often carry a .38 S&W. To be precise a S&W DA Safety Hammerless (4th model.) I customized this gun originally as a novelty and conversation piece- a sort of ‘Steampunk Snubby.’ I discovered that it has a lot of practical utility; slightly smaller than a J-frame, an excellent DA trigger and, with a custom ergonomic grip, quite easy to shoot accurately. In short this charming little gun seduced me… but ammunition was an issue.

Standard commercial loads (like Remington etc.) are hopelessly anemic. Not surprising as they were designed not to blow up even the cheapest, crappiest guns made in this caliber, and there were quite a few of those…

A .380 ACP FMC round has more than adequate penetration, so to establish a baseline I test fired one at a free-standing 1-3/4″ thick kiln-dried Douglas Fir board. The bullet completely penetrated the first board and embedded it’s full length in the second board. I tested the Remington .38 S&W load and they don’t make it all the way through. Not really acceptable for self-defense, but hey, at least they are expensive and hard-to-find…

*Warning- the load data that follows may not work out in old, inexpensive guns, particularly top-breaks. It should be fine in any quality solid-frame gun, Enfield or Webley top-breaks. Use these loads at your own risk!

It was obvious from the start that I was going to need to ‘roll my own’ if I wanted to shoot these old guns regularly, but .361″ bullets are pretty thin on the ground. Bore diameters can vary, so I slugged the barrel to determine what my gun would be happiest with. The answer was .361 caliber, so it was spot-on.

First thing first- In terms of self-defense loads, hollow-points in this gun are a non-starter. They will almost certainly not expand, and if they do they will probably not penetrate deeply enough. I would need to depend on a solid and hit location.

I started out with Hornady .357 148gr. hollow-base wadcutters seated to roughly 2/3 of their length in the cartridge, and after some research and trials arrived at a load of 2.7gr. of Unique. These worked well in the gun, proved very accurate and, importantly, had the penetration I needed. Once again firing at 1-3/4″ kiln-dried Douglas Fir, they made a cookie-cutter hole in the front of the board and splintered the back before embedding the full length of the bullet in the board behind. Very comparable to .380 ball.

Hornady 148gr. HBWCs loaded into .38 S&W
Impact on a 1-3/4″ thick kiln-dried Douglas Fir Board. You can see where the bullet sank itself into and identical board placed several inches behind the first (on left.)

A little more experimentation revealed that .357 158gr. ‘cowboy’ bullets- which are quite soft- had no trouble bumping up to bore diameter when loaded over 2.5gr. of Unique. They were accurate, offered good penetration and were significantly cheaper than the HBWCs.

Between these two loads I’ve put over 2000 rounds through this little gun, with no signs of loosening or excessive wear. But they don’t call me ‘Tinker’ for nothing…

I had bought some cheap 125gr. .357 bullets and tried them in a number of different .38 Special guns, with different loads and powders. The best they managed was key-holing one shot in five, and it was usually worse than that. Not sure what the problem is; they look fine. They just don’t work. I don’t cast my own bullets, so melting them down was not an option. I decided to try swaging them to .361 SWCs.

Long story short, it worked. I load them over a larger charge of Unique and at seven yards they hit point of aim, punch nice holes and don’t keyhole. I decided to try some Montana Gold 115gr. FMC. They also worked out well. I’m going to have to test the penetration on these, but I am liking the results so far.

SDwaged 125gr. SWCs on the left, 115gr. FMCSWCs on the right.

The swaging set- up was simple enough to make. I bored a hole in a small block of mild steel and reamed it to .361 to make the die. I took a piece of 3/8″ mild-steel rod, turned it down to .359, then hollowed out a cavity in one end with a drill-bit and a Dremel to make the punch. Set the die on the anvil, drop the bullet in, drive the punch down with a 2lb. hammer. Flip it over and drive the bullet out with a brass rod and Presto! A .361-caliber bullet. Pretty much anyone with a Dremel, dial-caliper and drill press could duplicate this.

It occurs to me that these lightweight bullets, loaded over a conservative powder charge, might be just the thing for shooting old top-break guns. The milder recoil from the lighter bullet will help avoid accelerated wear.

It appears that with the right load .38 S&W is still viable (though far from ideal) for self-defense, even in top-break revolvers.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 21 July 2019

Pocket-Carry

Customized S&W .32 Double Action

The first time I pocket-carried regularly was when I was a police officer. I had my service gun and back-up of course, both carried in proper holsters, but I also usually had a Davis D32 derringer in my right-front pants-pocket as an absolute last-ditch weapon. While I could not envision any likely circumstance when it would be needed, it was small, easy and comfortable to carry, so why not?

Fast-forward a couple of decades. I work in a workshop attached to my home. It’s pretty secure, so I never really felt the need to be armed in the shop until the backyard got rather overgrown and I started spotting rats occasionally. In response I took to dropping a .32 revolver in my back pocket when I went out to the shop. Shortly after that I made a pocket-holster for it, and I realized this was a very convenient, no fuss way of carrying. I made a pocket holster for a snub-nose .38, then one for my Detonics Combat Master .45. I usually favor a belt holster, but I was seduced (by my own laziness) into using pocket-carry most of the time, either in a pants pocket or, in colder weather, a jacket pocket.

A pocket-holster isn’t rocket-science. A folded piece of leather, a few rivets and there you go. I’ve been using this one for several years now.

Look, I’m no self-defense guru or gunfighting expert. I’m just a guy with some experience, and I want to share what I’ve learned. After a few years of daily pocket-carry I’ve come to a conclusion, and it is this: Pocket-carry kind of sucks.

Hold on, hear me out. I’m not saying it’s stupid, I’m not challenging your choices, but let’s face it, there are pros and cons to pocket-carry. The pros might save your life… but the cons can get you killed if you don’t take them into account when planning your self-defense strategy.

The Pros are:

*Easy- just stick the holster in your pocket.

*Low-profile- good for hot weather when an overgarment would be too conspicuous and/or too uncomfortable.

*Access- In a tense situation if the gun is in a jacket-pocket it’s possible to have your hand on the gun without ‘brandishing.’

*Some people would count the ability to fire through a coat-pocket to be among the ‘Pros,’ and I suppose it is. But I’ve seen people try it and miss a target three feet from the muzzle. Apparently it’s not easy- but should work well enough at contact distance.

*Better than not carrying a gun at all.

The Cons:

*Forget about a quick draw, especially if your hand is not already on the gun. Even if it is in a good pocket holster a belt holster would be significantly faster.

*Pants-pocket carry: if you are sitting in a vehicle the gun might as well be on Pluto- you won’t be drawing it in a hurry. Chairs are almost as bad, especially if the gun is in a front pocket. Far better to have it in a jacket-pocket, but it’s still going to be slow and you can’t always wear a jacket. Also in a tussle a gun in a jacket pocket will be difficult, perhaps impossible, to deploy, or even get your hand on to fire through the pocket.

The main issues of pocket carry pretty much all boil down to access- it’s going to be relatively slow. This is not necessarily a fatal flaw (and I do mean ‘fatal’) With good situational awareness you may be able to give yourself time to draw, either as the situation develops or when a suspect is distracted. Try to get behind cover or at least out of sight before drawing. Yes, this is always a good idea, but with pocket carry it can mean that you get to go home once the dust settles.

Practice your draw from the pocket. Don’t try to do it fast, just try to do it so that it works. Not just on your feet, either- when on the ground, when crouching or kneeling etc. Find the limitations and relative speed of doing this in these different positions, and how you need to shift to accommodate the draw. Figure out if it can be done stealthily, and in what positions and under what circumstances.

Detonics Mk.1 Combat Master .45

Choice of gun matters, of course, and this will vary depending on what you wear. Needless to say you should probably carry the largest gun that works with your outfit, but again this will vary with your physical size. I’m a big guy- the Detonics .45 in a proper holster vanishes easily into the front pocket of my cargo pants. You might be limited to something like the tiny Kel Tec P32. Doesn’t matter- something is better than nothing.

It also shouldn’t need to be said that you need to practice with whatever you are carrying. I know a lot of folks that use an NAA mini-revolver for pocket-carry. A surprising number of them don’t practice with theirs; they’ve shot it enough to make sure it works and that’s it. The rationale is that it’s meant for contact- distance, and aiming is irrelevant. News-flash: people sometimes miss at contact distance. Plus you do not get to dictate the terms of the engagement, and it’s fully possible you may need to engage at well beyond arms length.

NAA Micro-revolver- the most pocketable pocket gun.

It’s generally true that the smaller the gun the more you need to practice. This is not because small guns are inaccurate, it’s just that they tend to have small grips, tiny sights etc. that make it difficult to shoot them accurately.

Whichever carry method or methods you adopt it is vital to understand the limitations and issues, and to know what you can do from those positions under a variety of circumstances. Not to be melodramatic, but your life may depend on it.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 8 July 2019

9mm vs. .45- Who Cares?

Kahr E9 9mm and Detonics Combat Master Mk.1 .45ACP

This debate has been going on for at least as long as I have been aware of guns, and it’s likely to continue long after guns have been replaced by phasers or whatever. At which point it will be just as stupid and pointless as it is today.

Bullet design has come a long way in the last 30-40 years. Hollow-points have become hugely more reliable in terms of expansion and penetration, and 9mm has benefitted from this a great deal. Perhaps this argument was more relevant in the 1980’s when hollow-point expansion was much more hit-and-miss? You might think so… but you’d be wrong.

In the 1980’s Evan Marshall took the radical approach of looking at actual, documented real-life shootings to determine what worked. This study was flawed by focussing on one-shot stops, but it was the first public scientific study of real-world shootings. (I call this approach flawed because, as one Marine quipped during the recent war in Iraq, “Who shoots them once?”) When comparing 9mm ball and .45 ACP ball he was rather shocked to discover that there was no significant difference in their ability to produce one-shot stops- and neither was all that good at it. This is not anecdotal evidence, war stories or what have you- this was documented in actual shootings.

The Miami shootout of 1986 prompted the FBI to adopt first 10mm, then .40 S&W. But it also launched a thirty-year comprehensive study of handgun stopping power, which reached the conclusion that handgun stopping power sucks. What matters is breaking things the suspect cannot operate without. This means that the bullet has to penetrate deeply enough to reach those things, and you have to be accurate enough to hit them. Everything else is icing on the cake. Well… almost everything else.

More recently Greg Ellifritz¬† ( https://www.activeresponsetraining.net/ ) did a study of real-world shootings, and it does seem to indicate that caliber has some importance, but the difference isn’t heavy & slow vs. small & fast. All calibers had instances where they simply failed to stop an attacker with any number of hits, but common calibers below 9mm/.38 had this occur significantly more often; far, far beyond the statistical margin of error. That’s .32, .25 and .22. 327 Magnum and 7.62 Tokarev may buck this trend, but it seems there was insufficient data to determine this.

Counter-intuitive as it may seem, for calibers .380 and above, there was no statistically significant difference in stopping among the calibers surveyed- which included all major commercially available calibers chambered in defensive firearms.

This is not to say that no one should carry a .40 S&W, .45 or what have you- just that you shouldn’t do it with any expectation that the caliber will give you a margin for error. No matter what you are shooting you need to be able to place your shots where they will do the most good- and need to fire a bullet that will penetrate deeply enough to break the things it needs to- those being the heart, spine, aorta and brain.

So everyone should carry a .380? Not at all. On average there is little difference between these rounds, but conditions differ. Can you reasonably expect your assailant to be wearing heavy winter clothing? Do you need the ability to deal with dangerous animals? In these cases a more powerful round with better penetration may be advisable. In a very hot climate you might need to carry a smaller handgun- but this is balanced to a degree by the fact that people wear less (and thinner) clothing.

So caliber is less important than previously thought, but that’s no reason not to ‘stack the deck’ by buying high-quality, modern defensive ammo. In this day and age information about bullet’s terminal performance abounds; Youtube can provide FBI-style test information about all of the common bullets used in modern defensive ammunition. Pick a good one in the caliber of a gun that you like, shoot well and, most importantly, will actually carry and likely you’ll be just fine.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 30 June 2019

Swaging Bullets

It’s no secret that I shoot some odd-ball stuff; cartridge conversions, antiques etc. These, naturally, come in some odd calibers- .380 Revolver, .32 Colt Long, .44 Colt, .38 S&W etc. None of these take ‘normal’ bullets; the first three I listed use Heel-Base bullets like a .22, and the third uses a .361 diameter bullet rather than the ubiquitous .357-.358 bullets used in .38 Special and .357 Magnum.

Heel-base bullets are not common or inexpensive when you do find them; they are a specialty item with a very tiny niche in the market so they tend to command a premium. The solution for most people is casting their own bullets, but that is a can of worms I just don’t want to open. One thing I have as a result of my day-job is a lot of scrap steel- it occurred to me that I could swage my own from my go-to .45 bullet, Aaadvark Enterprises 200gr. LRNFP bullet. I already used these in .45 Colt and .45 ACP, so why not?

I got a small chunk of steel, bored a hole in it, then reamed it to .429″, then ran a .451″ reamer partway down to make a swaging die. I turned a steel rod down to .450″ for a punch, dropped a bullet in, set it on the anvil and hammered the punch in. Then I flipped the die and used a 1/4″ punch to drive the bullet and punch out and- voila! – I had a heel-base bullet.

.44 Colt with a swaged bullet. This on has the lubrication band outside of thje cartridge, which is problematic as it will collect dust and can even melt in extreme temperatures.

Loaded into .44 Colt cartridges this worked pretty well. I went through several iterations of this basic set-up, and eventually came up with a bullet that worked very well in both .44 Colt and my own .44-55 Walker cartridge.

My eventual bullet design replaced the lubricating ring with a lubricated felt patch loaded into the cartridge behind the bullet, which eliminated the issues of dust and melting lube.

It’s useful to have a drill press and metal lathe to make a simple swaging set-up like the one above, but in fact it could be made with a hand-drill, Dremel Tool and vice.

Over time it occurred to me that heel-base bullets were not the only use for swaging. My Webley Royal Irish Constabulary revolver in .450 Adams prefers hollow-base bullets when using smokeless loads, and it was relatively simple to construct a punch and die to create them.

More recently bullets for .38 S&W have been an issue; this caliber uses a .361 caliber bullet rather than the ubiquitous .357 caliber bullets of modern .38s. The simple fix is to use hollow-base wadcutters, and this actually works quite well. But I have to order these on the internet, and shipping boxes of lead gets expensive in a hurry. By happy chance for a time Pinto’s had a stock of .361 150gr. LSWCs from an estate purchase, but I ran through those in fairly short order. Fortunately I discovered that Aardvark Enterprises .357 158gr. LRNFP Cowboy bullets were soft enough to bump up a few thousandths to .361, and work quite well. I experimented with some .355 124gr. RNL made for 9mm, but the slightly smaller diameter combined with a harder alloy meant that they would not bump up and properly engage the rifling, resulting in low-powered shots that tended to key-hole. The solution was at hand, fortunately. I invested $8 in a .361″ reamer and with a bit of lathe-work I was in business!

I’m not sure what the name is for this bullet shape… but they are .361 caliber and make lovely, clean holes in paper targets.
This is the swaging set-up for turning 124gr. .355 RNL into .361 caliber bullets. In front is the swaging die, with the punch that creates the bullet profile. In the middle of the block behind it is a punch for driving the bullet out of the die to remove the profiling punch, and a 1/4″ brass rod for pushing the swaged bullet out of the die.

It’s all a bit labor-intensive, but it’s not hard. In fact it’s sort of meditative to listen to the radio and swage out a supply of bullets one-by-one.

This sparked an idea- it was pretty easy to up-size .355- to .361… How far could I take that? I had some .240gr. .429 bullets for my .44 magnum, but I’m not shooting that much at the moment. Yep, they swage to .451 just fine. What about those 210gr. copper-washed .41 caliber bullets I bought by accident? Yep- 210-gr .451 bullets, perfect for .450 Adams loads.

Former .41 caliber bullets, now .451!

This is a pretty good deal- I often come across ‘clearance’ bullets that aren’t a caliber I shoot, but this opens the door to repurposing some of those inexpensive bullets.

Another new (to me) swaging innovation appeared in Pinto’s clearance bins- a Herters bullet-swaging die for the paltry sun of $5.

Herter’s swaging die.

This handy device screws right into my RCBS reloading press and produces semi-wadcutters. I had to make something to replace the shell-holder to use it, but that was not difficult. Put a bullet on the plate, center it and run it up into the die. Tap the top with soft hammer and a lovely, fresh-minted SWC pops out. Brilliant!

Home-made base-plate for use with the Herter’s die.
200gr LSWCs made from 200gr. LRNFP (right) punch cleaner holes in paper- useful for target shooting etc.
Swaged 240gr. LSWCs punch nice, clean holes in the target!

Since making that base I’ve discovered that what I need is a ram that actually enters the die with the bullet, so I’ll be making one of those shortly. I’ll also be making swaging dies for heel-base .32 Colt Long bullets, and I’ve recently completed a set for .380 Revolver; essentially a .38 S&W with a heel-base .375 caliber bullet. (In the 20th Century British .380 Revolver cartridges reverted to using .361″ inside-lubed bullets.)

If, like me, you insist on shooting oddball, obsolete cartridges, swaging could be a viable alternative to casting your own. Worth looking into- there’s significantly less investment than getting into casting, and less concern about toxic fumes, molten metal etc.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 29 June 2019

Guns Aren’t Dangerous- Ignorance and Criminal Intent are Dangerous

A hammer is a tool. An ax is a tool. An electric hand-drill is a tool. A gun is a tool. All of these objects are harmless. They are incapable of causing harm without direct human intervention. Left to their own devices they just sit there, and maybe rust.

OK, this is genuinely scary.


A hammer, an ax, or a gun are frightening only in the hands of a criminal bent on mayhem. The electric hand-drill in the hands of a criminal intent on mayhem is fucking terrifying. The common element of all of these things is that they are rendered dangerous by human action. Whether that action is due to malevolence or ignorance is immaterial- it is human action that makes the difference. None of these objects are inherently harmful or dangerous.

‘But guns are designed to kill!” I hear you cry. It’s mostly true, but again irrelevant. Someone who has had their head bashed in with a hammer is not magically ‘less dead’ because of the tool used… and the tool is not responsible for how it’s used.

It’s true that repeating firearms offer a greater potential to produce more casualties more quickly than the other tools mentioned. This is why their ownership is restricted to citizens over a certain age, and without a significant criminal history. It’s why we require a background check for persons to own one, and why certain types of military arms are under tight restrictions or are banned from private ownership. BUT a firearm is just a tool. It is not evil, it is not malevolent. It is frightening only to the ignorant. It creates havoc only by virtue of direct human intervention. Perhaps the practical solution to gun violence is to work on the humans, not the guns.


If you find firearms frightening educate yourself. Take a gun safety class. Understanding relieves fear. Even if you continue to dislike guns you will at least be informed enough to make sensible decisions about them. If you study actual, honest to God crime statistics and are informed about the operation and safe use of firearms you will at least be able look at proposed laws and regulations with an informed eye, so you are better able to judge their potential effectiveness.


Ignorance creates fear. Fear creates bad decisions and bad laws. Break the cycle.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 27 June 2019