Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Boberg XR9-S 9mm Pistol

Is there such a think as a snub nosed semi-automatic pistol?  If there isn't, there is one now: the Boberg XR9-S or "short" pistol with a 3.35 inch barrel. 

If you are not familiar with these pistols you might be looking at the above image and thinking that there is no way that the pistol has a 3.35 inch barrel.  But, it does.  About 7 years ago Arne Boberg began his quest to engineer the most compact 9mm pistol on the market.  To make that happen the 3.35 inch barrel sits all the way back over the magazine.  A fairly unique rear extraction system is used to charge the pistol in which a claw grabs the cartridge rim while it is in the magazine, pulls it backwards and then inserts it into the chamber.
In Boberg's image above you can see how far back the barrel sits and how the mechanism grabs the cartridge and extracts it as the slide retracts.
And then pushes it into the chamber as the slide returns to battery.

Because of the way that the cartridges feed it almost seems like you are putting the ammunition in the magazine backwards.

Another design element that helps keep the pistol compact is that the guide rod and recoil spring are small and mounted just to the left of the barrel rather than underneath the barrel as can be seen in the photo below.

Below you can easily see where the guide rod and spring ride beside the barrel in this image showing a view of the slide when removed from the frame of the pistol.

Here are the rest of the specifications:

5.1 inches
4.2 inches
0.96 inches
17.05 oz.
3.35 inches
DAO Locked Breach Rotary Barrel
3 Dot Low Profile
Aircraft Grade Aluminum
Stainless Steel
7 + 1

The engineering feats continue as Boberg has somehow managed to get 7 rounds into a very short magazine.

There is no magazine follower in the magazine.  Boberg makes one you can order but it does not come standard.  In my opinion the lack of a follower made no difference in the function and feeding of the pistol.

The sights on the Boberg are of the low profile 3 dot variety.
The sights are very easy to pick-up and the rear sight is dovetailed into the frame making it possible to drift  the rear sight for horizontal adjustments.

The XR9-S is double action hammer fired pistol.

I should specify that it is Double Action Only (DAO) meaning that every pull is the same long but very manageable pull similar to a good revolver trigger pull.  The new XR9 that I examined had a trigger pull of over 12 pounds which is where my Lyman digital scale tops out.  The used pistol which I fired had a pull of 9.8 pounds so they definitely get lighter as they are properly broken in.

There are some ammo restrictions for the Boberg:
  1. No +P+ ammunition
  2. No aluminum cased ammo
  3. No ammunition where the shell casing is not crimped
  4. Do not use Federal Champion ammo
I'm going to increase #4 by saying to staying away from Federal ammunition all together.  The only 9mm ammo that the range had was Federal Range Target Practice (RTP) ammo and I'm going to show you what happens if you violate restrictions 2, 3 and 4.  The shell casings and bullets are held in place very firmly by the magazine lips.  If you are using aluminum cased ammo or non-crimped ammo like the Federal cartridges the cartridge claw extractor (circled in the second image below), when in motion as the slide retracts, will cause the bullet to separate from the casing resulting in the jam as shown in the third image below
If you are into hand loading your ammunition you are in luck as you will wind up with some very clean components once you have cleared the jam.  10 out of 50 rounds of the Federal RTP ammo separated.  

The basic message here is to make sure the ammo in the casings are properly crimped to the bullet. I had a small supply of Magtech 115 grain 9mm ammo and Winchester 147 grain hollow point ammo all of which functioned perfectly.

The slide on the Boberg XR9 does not lock open after the last round has been fired.  The slide is manipulated by aligning the slide index notch (as shown in the image below) with the slide release lever.  When the slide release lever is pushed to the rear as shown below the slide is locked to the frame. When you align the slide indexing notch with the slide release lever and rotate the lever half-way, so that the lever is point down, the slide will lock back.  If the indexing notch is aligned with the slide release lever is rotated all the way to the front the slide can be removed forward and off the frame.  Care must be taken when replacing the slide to remember to rotate the slide release lever all the way to the rear otherwise the slide will come loose when the slide is retracted to chamber a round.

So, here's how she shoots:

The XR9 is not a target pistol it is designed for up close and personal self defense.  While I was working through the ammunition issue I fired 47 rounds of the Federal ammo at a three inch bullseye at 15 feet and was rewarded with a big gaping hole that went a little above the the bullseye.

At 21 feet I fired 20 rounds of MagTech 115 grain FMJ ammo at an eight inch bullseye with more than enough accuracy for this pistol's intended purpose.

I then rolled a target out to 35 feet and fired the remaining 21 rounds of my MagTech ammo (I realized after I wrote Federal on the target that the ammo was actually Magtech).

And lastly I fired 10 rounds of Winchester Train and Defend 147 grain jacketed hollow-point ammo at the three inch bullseye placed at 21 feet.

Making a 9mm micro pistol is not an easy feat.  Other manufacturers have tried and not been successful.  The Boberg snub-nosed semi-auto pistol works well if you feed it the proper ammunition.  Recoil is not a problem as the bore axis is low and the rear of the pistol extends backward over the web of your hand and this feature really makes the pistol feel like it is a further extension of your hand.  This is an easy pistol to conceal and is right at home in a pocket holster.  Boberg does make another variation with a 4.2 inch barrel which has an accessory rail for lights and lasers.  Also, in the very near future you can start looking for their new .45 ACP version! 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Husqvarna Model 1907 in .380 ACP

The Swedish Husqvarna began life as the Fabrique Nationale FN Model 1903.  If you think it looks like a Colt Model 1903, the resemblance is quite intentional.  FN was licensed to produce Browning's .32 caliber Pocket Hammerless for the European market while Colt had the U.S rights.  Several countries reportedly wanted a larger service pistol on the same design so FN produced this model to handle the 9mm Browning Long cartridge.  They enlarged and lengthened the grip to accommodate the bigger 9X20mm Browning Long cartridge.  FN also lengthened the barrel to 5 inches as opposed to the 3 and a half inch barrel of the Colt .32 ACP.
One of the items FN added was a unique slide stop lever on the right side of the frame.  The Colt 1903 had no slide stop.  The FN version is a frame mounted "L" shaped armature that pops up into a notch on the slide when the slide retracts over an empty magazine.  To release the slide you do not press the lever down you simply pull the slide further to the rear and the lever will then release the slide.
Otherwise the FN 1903 and the Colt 1903 are very much the same.  They are both single action pistols utilizing a concealed hammer, they both have a grip safety and the magazine release on the heal of the grip is both company's models.  Like the early versions of the Colt 1903 they both have a removable barrel bushing and they both share the same lack of useable sights.  The Husqvarna Model 1907 weighs in at 32.8 ounces with an overall length of 8.07 inches.  The magazine capacity is seven rounds.
The rear sight is a very small and shallow notch and the front sight is a very small rounded hump.

Sweden adopted the pistol in 1907 and imported them from FN dubbing it the model 1907.  FN produced these pistols for Sweden until their factory was captured by German troops in 1914 during the Great War. Subsequently Sweden procured a license to produce them and Husqvarna began manufacturing them in 1917.

The Husqvarna Model 1907 was Sweden's stand sidearm from 1907 until 1940 when they adopted the 9mm Lahti.  Sweden put many of them into the surplus pipeline in the 1950's with most of them coming to the U.S.  They did pull them out of mothballs in the 1980's as their Lahti's began wearing out with the use of higher powered 9mm ammunition.  The Model 1907 were a stop gap measure until Sweden received their order of Glock Model 17 pistols.  

This pistol is one of the 1950's exports which came with it's leather military holster and three magazines.
Once they arrived in this country most importers re-chambered them to .380 ACP or in it's European designation 9mm Browning Short.  The original chambering of the 9X20mm Browning Long cartridge was not very popular in the U.S. and the pistols were fairly quick and easy to convert to .380 ACP.

The pistol is devoid of any importation markings but does have this crown over the initials G.B. on the rear.

My assumption is that this is the inspection marking of Carl Gustaf Bjorkenstam but if anyone has any different information please drop me an email.

Shooting the Husqvarna Model 1907 is a snap.  By today's standards of pistols this pistol is really over built for the .380 cartridge.  The recoil veritably defines the word "minimal" and the accuracy is much better than to be expected.

I first rolled a three inch bullseye out to 15 feet to get to know the pistol a little better and was astonished with a ragged one hole 5 shot group.

Pushing the next target out to 21 feet I still got a good 5 round grouping.  On the one hand you would expect pretty good accuracy with a five inch barrel and the recoil taming weight of this pistol but the tiny sights present a challenge.

Going out to 35 feet the grouping opened up due primarily because I could no long really distinguish the minuscule black front sight against the black target.  Still they would have all been good upper torso hits.

In order to get a little more contrast I borrowed a red marker and hastily drew a 4X4 inch red box.  The 16 rounds did group a little tighter.

Looking at this pistol it drips with INTRIGUE.  During WWII Sweden declared their neutrality as they had since the 1815 Napoleonic wars.  However, they were never completely certain if Germany was going to honor this declaration but they were able to stay out of the war with certain concessions to the Nazi's such as allowing them to ship troops and equipment through their country's railroad system.  To the Allies they shared military intelligence and one can only imagine one of their intelligence officers on a mission armed with the Husqvarna model 1907 concealed in his jacket.

While Sweden exported several thousand of these pistols to the U.S. you do not see them all that often. currently only shows one at a price of $475.00.  For that money you get the pistol, three magazines and the leather holster.  Not a bad deal for such a fun pistol.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

This Is It! The Ruger SP101

As I expressed last week after being frustrated with another lightweight revolver at least after handling the S&W 637 and the Gemini Customs Ruger SP101 I now knew what I need and do not need in a small revolver.

What I Do Not Need
What I Need
1. Ultra Light Revolver
1. All Steel Revolver
2. Ultra Short Barrel
2. 3 Inch Barrel
3. Immeasurably Heavy Trigger Pull
3. 9.5 Pound Trigger Pull
4. S&W Grips (including Hogue, Desantis, etc)
4. Hand-filling Grips
5. Small Plain Sights
5. Adequately Sized Front Night Sight

Let's start with what I don't need:

  1. An ultra light revolver.  The tradeoff between weight and shoot-ability is too high.  Ultra light equals painful practice.  The backstrap rockets into the web of my hand and becomes painful after only a few cylinders of ammunition have been fired.  The trigger guard bangs against the knuckle of my middle finger adding more pain.  I know that the old adage it that the small .38 special revolvers are to be carried a lot and shot a little but in today's litigious society any handgun I carry  needs to be backed up with a lot of practice.
  2. An ultra short barrel.  The barrel on the S&W J frames isn't even 2 inches long.  Practical sight radius is not there.  They are nothing more than a 5 round derringer.
  3. An immeasurably heavy trigger pull.  S&W J frame revolvers have terrible trigger pulls, well north of 13 pounds.
  4. Small grips.  For some reason the grips on S&W's J frames never fit my hand be it their stock wooden grip, their stock rubber grip, a Hogue Monogrip, or their new ones by DeSantis.
  5. Small plain sights that disappear in sunlight and dusk.
All of these attributes make for one little revolver that is painful to shoot and difficult with which to find accuracy.

So what I do need is pretty much the opposite.  I need an all steel revolver with a 3 inch barrel, a front night sight, a trigger pull of about 9 to 10 pounds and hand filling grips.

The answer to my needs comes in the Ruger SP101.  But did I need so send it to Gemini Customs for their $459.00 treatment?  Read on!  But first, here's a quick comparison of the S&W 637 and the 2.25 inch and 3 inch barreled Rugers:

637 Wyatt Deep Cover
Ruger SP101
Ruger SP101
.38 Special +P
.38 Spec./.357 Magnum
.38 Spec./.357 Magnum
Barrel Length
1.87 inches
2.25 inches
3.06 inches
Fixed (Night Sight Added)
Fixed (Night Sight Added)
Overall Length
6.31 inches
7.2 inches
8.0 inches
Double Action Only
Double Action Only
14 ounces
25 ounces
27.2 ounces
Polymer Clip Grip
Polymer Grip
Polymer Grip
Aluminum Alloy
Stainless Steel
Stainless Steel
Stainless Steel
Stainless Steel
Stainless Steel
Trigger Pull

9.8 pounds
9.5 pounds DA/2.1 pounds SA

Let's start with the grips.  Grips that fill and fit my hand are crucial.  What I have found is that if the hand isn't making full contact with the grip it is bad for accuracy, recoil control and pain management.  If the hand is not making full contact if means there will be gaps between the hand and grip at various points.  Those gaps are areas where you have no grip control and they provide room for the grip to slam into your hand.  Also, I am partial for a grip that gives me room for my pinky finger.  That is another grip control point and accuracy enhancer.  With properly sized and fitting grips you will still experience muzzle flip and a push into your hand but proper fit eliminates the slap-shot recoil pounding your middle finger and the web of your hand.  
Grant Cunningham recommended Pachmayr grips for the SP101 and since he is "The Revolver Specialist" I knew he would not steer me wrong.  The SP101 is pretty well set up right out of the box but it can be made a little better.  The $34.00 for the Pachmayr grip was money well spent.  The grip is slightly longer than the stock Ruger grip so it gives my pinky finger some room.  Additionally they fit my hand very well with no gaps between hand and grip and the textured synthetic grips have a better "feel" to them than the standard Ruger grips.

Obviously I went for a 3 inch barrel as I find they offer better balance and provide more sight radius and more velocity.  For sights I chose a Meprolight front night sight.
It provides a better sight picture in all lighting environments and, from a cosmetic standpoint it is very "sleek".  The Gemini Customs SP101 sported an XS Big Dot night sight which looked a little odd and contributed to the revolver shooting a bit low.

The three-inch barrel and all stainless steel construction provide more weight which also helps dampen recoil.  At 27.2 ounces the 3 inch SP101 is almost twice as heavy as the Smith & Wesson 637 and believe me, this is a good thing.  I do not find the extra weight to be a hinderance in concealed carry, all day long carry.  If you have a proper belt and holster, including pocket holster, the weight is no problem.

This leaves us with the trigger pull.  The trigger pull as it came out of the box was better than any S&W "J" frame pull I have ever experienced.  But I knew it could be made even better.  Fortunately for me the gunsmiths at Bill's Gun Shop in Robbinsdale, MN are trigger pull experts. They offer several options for their trigger pull work. They can give you a competition trigger pull which is amazingly light or can give you their "safe carry" pull which is heavier than their competition pull to keep you from negligently discharging the revolver when under the stress of a shooting situation and it is ultra reliable.  With some competition triggers you may find that the pull is so light it is not heavy enough to reliably strike with the force necessary to fire all of the various primers on different ammo.  When this revolver was returned to me it had a buttery smooth 9.5 pound double action trigger pull and a 2.1 pound single action pull.  This trigger pull is awesome!

Time for the Targets:

The above target shows 10 rounds of Magtech 158 grain FMJ ammo fired at 21 yards.

Same ammo with 25 rounds fired at 30 feet.

Same ammo, 20 rounds fired at 50 feet.

Defensive Loads

5 rounds of Hornady Critical Defense 110 Grain +P FTX bullet at 21 feet.

The above target shows 5 rounds of Federal Hydra Shok +P 129 grain Hollow Point ammo fired at 21 feet.

The above target shows 5 rounds of Winchester PDX 1 Defender +P 130 Bonded Jacketed Hollow Point ammo fired at 21 feet.

10 rounds of Remington High Terminal Performance 158 grain +P Lead Hollow Point at 21 feet.

So, was the extra work I had done on the SP101 worth it and how much did it cost?  In my opinion, yes it was.  The cost of the grips, night sight, springs, installation and trigger job was $144.00.  That's $315 less than had I sent it to Gemini Customs and I had to wait about a week instead of five months to get it back.

Ruger SP101 DAO 2.25 Inch Barrel

I liked the 3 inch barreled model so much that my curiosity lead me to ask if the 2.25 barreled model could perform as well.  I wondered how much would be traded off between a shorter length and the performance of the longer barrel.

Ruger manufacturers a Double Action Only version with a bobbed hammer in a 2.25 inch barrel so that is what I procured.  I had all the same work done to it as I did with with the 3 inch model.  After being worked over the double action trigger pull on this SP101 came in at 9.8 pounds.

And here's how she shot (all targets were placed at 21 feet):

Here's five rounds of the Hornady Critical Defense ammo.

Federal Hydra Shok +P

Remington High Terminal Performance 158 grain +P

Speer 135 grain +P Short Barrel Gold Dot Hollow Point

Winchester PDX 1 Defender 130 grain +P

In short, the 2.25 inch barreled model gives up very little to the 3 inch model especially when using the Speer or Winchester ammo.

And this is how they ride in the DeSantis Super Fly pocket holster and a Bianchi outside the waistband belt holster.

A final and wonderful observation about these revolvers is, that instead of being painful, they are really fun to shoot and exceeded my expectation for accuracy!

In Conclusion: THIS IS IT!