Monday, April 13, 2015

Heizer PAR I Pocket AR in .223

Ah, the Heizer Pocket AR.  There are so many questions about this little pistol but before we fall prey to trying to answer too many of them let's define the use for this pistol which will eliminate most of the queries.  This pistol is for close quarter combat in a back-up role to a larger and higher capacity primary weapon.  Close-quarter back-up is the standard we will use in our analysis of the Pocket AR.  I feel that the moniker "Pocket AR" is somewhat of a misnomer since a standard AR carbine or rifle come with a magazine capacity of 20 to 30 rounds. The Pocket AR comes with a capacity of 1.  That's round.  However, what it lacks in firepower is made up for in the power of fire (more on that later).

Let's get down to the specifications of the Heizer.  It is chambered for the .223 Remington round.  It weighs 23 ounces has a height of 3 7/8 inches, a length of 6 3/8 inches and a width of 0.7 inches.  Size wise it is very comparable to my SIG P238 .380 ACP pistol.

This entire pistol is made of aerospace stainless steel.  The trigger module moves on ball bearings.  The trigger pull is over 12 pounds (since that is where my trigger pull gauge runs out) but there is only a little take up with a very smooth pull due to the ball bearings on which the trigger rides.  The recoil is substantial and the chamber contains a cartridge extractor but not a cartridge ejector.  This is probably of no matter since fast follow-up shots is not in the Heizer's repertoire.  
The extractor does lift the cartridges far enough out of the chamber that they were easy to remove.
The sights are fixed and hardly there at all.  They don't glow, twinkle, self illuminate, or give you options to change the front sight's colors.  The front sight is black, period.  Similarly there is no accessory rail to mount flashlights or lasers.  Remember this pistol's mission: close quarter combat; a crisp sight picture is not necessary.  Your range is probably from contact distance to the length of a mid-sized sedan.  If your shooting solution requires greater distances and more follow-up rounds you're using the wrong handgun.  

The chamber and barrel of the Pocket AR is 3.25 inches in length and about 2.25 inches of that is the unrifled chamber.  The barrel only contains about 1 inch of rifling to make that bullet spiral.  I was expecting that the bullet would tumble in flight causing it to tear at the target rather than making a nice tight entry hole.
However this was not the case with the first five rounds of American Eagle 55 grain ammo fired at 15 feet.  Evidence of bullet tumbling can be seen in the 21 foot target.
I am not completely sure if bullet tumbling is all that bad of a thing to happen.  Bullet tumbling was a frequent occurrence with the .223/5.56mm rounds used in the Vietnam war.  While the full-metal jacketed rounds did not expand upon contact they tumbled and changed directions when they entered the body.  An enemy combatant hit in the chest might have the bullet exit his body at the hip.  This gave the bullet more opportunity to damage internal organs and put the combatant out of action.  Achieving this effect will depend upon the velocity of the round.  Heizer claims a velocity of 1400 feet per second.  The website Ballistics by the Inch ( puts the velocity of a .223 fired from a three inch barrel closer to 1200 feet per second. I do not know if either of these velocities would cause the tumbling to continue after the bullet enters the body or if the body would cause the bullet to lose velocity so quickly that it would cease to tumble and limit the penetration.  Again, this is a close quarter weapon; the closer the range the higher the velocity and the greater effectiveness of the round. 

I mentioned earlier that what the pistol lacked in firepower it made up for in the power of fire.  This may be an unintended consequence of this pistol but here's what I meant:
Fired at a range from contact distance to perhaps two feet the assailant's clothes will probably catch on fire and the flame, gasses and powder will probably enter the wound channel as well as the assailant's mouth, nose and eyes.  At this range the effect to the aggressor would be devastating.  I would tend to think that if there was also an accomplice or two, they would be running after hearing the ear-splitting report and witnessing the Heizer belch flame, smoke and gas.

All in all the pistol was fun to shoot although I must admit that I was wearing a weight lifter's glove as it had an extra layer of leather across the web of the hand.  That was helpful since the slim pistol concentrates the recoil right back into the web of the hand. The Heizer Pocket AR also did have a very short break-in period.  The first round required two pulls of the trigger to fire the round.  The second round required tour pulls, and the fifth round required two pulls.  After that the pistol functioned flawlessly.    While the accuracy is not worthy of a target pistol, this is not a target pistol.  There is no doubt that this is a well made pistol, the question becomes this: do you want to carry a single shot pistol, capable of only short range accuracy with a cartridge that cannot reach it full potential out of what is essentially only a one inch rifled barrel. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

SIG Sauer Model 320 9mm

Scuttlebutt coming out of the Minneapolis Police Department is that they will be soon be transitioning over to the SIG Sauer P320.  I have been contacted by several MSP PD officers telling me this and asking me what I think about this pistol.  If this transitioning rumor is true it means two things:

1.  The Departmental Armorer and Training Officer(s) like the pistol and
2.  SIG has given them a bid that fits the Chief's budget.

Allow me to cut to the chase; if the rumor is true everything is going to be OK.  The pistol handles well, is user friendly, reliable and accurate.  You can't ask for much more.  Yes, it is rather ugly, but I can't say that many of the polymer, striker fired pistols are works of art.  However, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and just like a member of the opposite sex at closing time, once you experience the accuracy of this pistol it starts to look a lot prettier.

So what do you get with the P 320?  You start off with a 3.9 inch stainless steel barrel (a 4.7 inch model is also available as is a 3.6 inch subcompact).  The pistol, as pictured in this review, has an overall length of 7.2 inches and an overall height of 5.5 inches.  The slide is stainless steel and both the slide and the barrel are black nitron finished.  The 320 is chambered in both 9mm and .40 Smith & Wesson with the 9mm chosen for this review.  The magazine holds 17 rounds of 9mm with 14 rounds available in the .40 caliber version.  The grips are fashioned from polymer which helps keep the weight down at 26 ounces.  This is a Double Action striker-fired pistol with a trigger pull of 5.8 pounds as measured on my Lyman digital scale.  The pistol is available with what SIG describes as "contrast sight" or, as in the reviewed pistol, SIGlite night sights.
SIGlite night sights during the day and in the dark.
The night sights are nice and bright.

The P320 has been designed and manufactured for ease of use and for law enforcement that translates into the ability to get officers familiar and proficient with the pistol in less time.  This is accomplished by producing an ergonomic pistol with fewer and flatter controls.  There is no external safety or decocker that the officer must extensively train with in order to build the muscle memory required to make their engagement an automatic physical response by the officer.  In fact the only controls are the slide stop lever
and the disassembly lever.
And speaking of disassembly, unlike many striker-fired pistols, the P 320 does not require the trigger to be pulled as a part of the take-down process.  Not having to pull the trigger lessens the chance of a negligent discharge if the user forgets to eject the cartridge from the chamber before breaking down the pistol.

The trigger guard and the slight beavertail are nicely undercut to give the shooter a higher grip on the pistol.  The trigger guard is spacious enough to accommodate a gloved finger which will be good news for the Minneapolis police officers since glove weather begins in October in ends in April during most years.  The front of the trigger guard is squared off and checkered.  Placing the index finger of the support hand on the trigger guard is still used in Europe so the squared trigger guard is on the pistol even though that style of grip hold has been out of fashion in the U.S. for a couple of decades.  

The pistol also has the standard tactical accessory rail so that you can hang lights, lasers, Japanese paper lanterns, Christmas stockings or anything else that you would like on it.   

Many pundits, including myself, initially looked at the 320 and observed that it was merely the hammer fired model 250 in which the hammer-firing mechanism has been swapped out for a striker-firing mechanism.  We proffered that SIG lost one of the benefits of a striker-fired pistol which is a lower bore axis due to the fact that the slide did not need to sit high enough to accommodate a hammer firing apparatus.  We opined that this would result in greater muzzle flip than had they redesigned the slide and frame to make it proportionate with the size of the striker device.  These were undoubtedly true conclusions to draw however they were completely of no moment when firing the pistol as you will see in the targets.

This first target was fired with 15 rounds of Speer 124 grain Gold Dot Hollow Point ammo at 21 feet.

The remaining targets were shot with 115 grain Magtech FMJ ammo at 30, 35, and 50 feet.  

As expected, the groups spread out as the targets were extended in distance but the pistol produced solid hits on every one of them. The accuracy is more than sufficient for defensive purposes on human-sized threats.

I wrote this review with the police officer in mind since that is where inquiries about the P 320 had originated but all of the great handling and shooting attributes of this pistol can also be utilized by the non-law enforcement shooter as well. 

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Concealed Carry Training for Parents with Babes-in-Arms

Melody Lauer, a relatively new contributor to the Gun Nation Podcast is an instructor from Iowa. She recently put together a brilliant training session geared for parents who carry both a handgun and a baby. This is a vital training topic for concealed carrying parents who also have babes-in-arms. I hope she brings this training to a wider audience!

Monday, March 02, 2015

**Updated**Gun World, Why Do You Do This?


Gun World has let loose with another special edition on concealed carry which is full of errors once again.  The monthly Gun World magazine is a respectable periodical penned by writers experienced in both written prose and in firearms (I was going to try to make-up a new word, firearmology, but came to my senses).  However, when they put these special editions out I can only assume that they are assembled by unpaid college journalism interns who know nothing about firearms and are hoping to get a job with the New York Times after graduation.

Now, to be fair, this edition is not as chocked full of mistakes as past editions but the ones that snuck by are pretty prominent.

The first major article in the special edition is about a firearms trainer.  The interview is OK, the information is sound although the trainer mostly talks about what kind of training you should get and fully vetting your trainer rather than imparting any tactical training tips.  All in all his points are valid and the article is well written.  However...
Is he carrying an inside the waistband holster outside of the waistband?  He also might want to cinch his belt in one more notch.

Following this article we are shown seven pages of Guns World's suggestions for "SEMICOMPACT REVOLVERS" deemed good enough for concealed carry.

For years I have suffered under the false impression that James Bond carried a Walter PPK Semi-Automatic pistol only to be corrected by Gun World and shown that it is actually a SEMICOMPACT REVOLVER.

And for the fourth year in a row Gun World recommends the Taurus DT40 despite the fact that Taurus never manufactured this pistol.
Taurus introduced this pistol at the 2011 SHOT SHOW but never put it into production.  It soon disappeared from their website and was not included in their 2012 catalogue but in the mind of Gun World this plucky little pistol soldiers onward.   Psst...Gun doesn't exist.

In the revolver category they recommend the Ruger Redhawk in .44 Magnum.  A bit large for concealed carry but
Even worse, to illustrate the Ruger Redhawks they chose an image of a Taurus revolver.

I could go on further, such as the fact that they list every flavor of the Charter Arms .38 snub-nosed revolver (the pink one, the lavender one, the gold one, the red one, etc.) even though they are all the same bloody revolver just anodized a different color.  But what's the point?

Attention Gun World, for a thousand bucks I will proof read your special editions before they go to print and save you some grief.

To the rest of the world, please don't go out and buy their Concealed Carry edition.  I bought it so that you don't have to.  And with my participle dangling I bid your Adieu.  


On my first pass through the magazine I missed a few things:
The Dual Tone version of the CZ 85 was discontinued in 2008.

The caption states that the "Freedom Arms better than no gun at all".  But if you're determined to have one of these then "no gun at all" might be what you wind up with since Freedom Arms dropped them from their line-up a long time ago.

No doubt that the Colt Defender is a good choice for self defense.  Gun World certainly believes that it is because they list it on page 75 and page 76.

And there's that Freedom Arms mini 22 LR again!

The opening photo in their holster section seemed a little strange as the holster was not identifiable to the maker or manufacturer.

Then I tool a look down in the right hand corner and found that
apparently Gun World did not have an appropriate holster image in their files so they bought one from an online photo source.

Similarly, when I saw this revolver heading their "Full-sized Revolver" section I wondered if it were a Colt Python and realized that no manufacturer markings were on the frame and barrel only to find that
this image had also come from THINKSTOCK.COM.

Really Gun World!  This is amateur hour on your behalf!

Monday, February 23, 2015

CZ's Ultimate Carry Pistol, The Pro-Tek I

I have to be honest; I have coveted the pistol that I now hold in my hands for several years and now that I have one I don’t think the descriptor “exquisite” is too much praise for this handgun turned out by the wizards at the CZ Custom Shop.  The instant that you wrap your hand around the grip you know that this pistol was built for speed.  This is the Ferrari (or substitute whatever luxury speedster you prefer) of handguns.

The Pro-Tek 1 began life as a CZ 75 Compact D PCR pistol.  Once it is turned over to the custom shop in Mesa, Arizona the transformation begins!  They completely de-horn the pistol.  They chuck the standard, but excellent, rubber panels and blend a set of textured aluminum grips into the frame so that the fit of the grips is perfect.  This lessens the width of the pistol from 1.34 inches in its original PCR configuration to 1.14 inches in the Pro-Tek version.  The slimmer grip frame seems to accentuate the curve of the backstrap as it melts into your hand and forces you to calculate if you can make it to the range before they close.

The slide is given an octagonal cut with a flat top and this completely changes the lines of the pistol giving it a streamlined appearance.  This pistol also has three-dot night sights (Heinie Straight 8 sights are now available as well).  The rear sight is a low profile wedge type that is adjustable for elevation by means of a large screw atop the sight.  
There is no manual correction dial for changing the horizontal point of impact but don’t worry, the Pro-Tek will shoot dead center for you.  The decocker has been cut back to make it less obtrusive without sacrificing its function or ease of manipulation by the shooter.  CZ’s competition hammer is also installed on the Pro-Tek models.  The slide is given a glossy polycoat finish and the aluminum frame is anodized in a Bronze/Gold color and all in all it is a very attractive pistol.  The Bronze/Gold used to be the only option for the frame color but the Pro-Tek is also being offered with a black frame and SHOT Show scuttlebutt reports that the CZ Custom Shop is looking at other colors for the frame such as gray.  I look forward to seeing what colors are ultimate determined.

A short reset trigger has been added and the trigger has been worked over giving it perhaps the best pull I have ever experienced.  My Pro-Tek breaks cleanly at 3.3 pounds in the single action mode and 7.2 pounds when fired double action.  The firing pin block has been left intact but has been smoothed and polished.  Whether it is the trigger, hammer or slide to frame fit I dare say you will have a hard time finding a smoother operating pistol.

All of the controls (decocker, slide stop lever and magazine release) on the pistol are in easy reach of your right thumb.  The magazine release button is slightly extended but smooth and deburred; when it is activated the magazines fall free.  The magazine well has been beveled to augment the process of recharging the pistol with a fresh magazine.  All in all there is very little they didn’t think of to attain their goal of making the Pro-Tek the ultimate carry pistol. 

As wonderful as this pistol is to hold and look at, the best experience comes once you hit the shooting range.  Whether I was shooting standard or +P loads the Pro-Tek handles recoil beautifully.  The grip frame spreads the recoil evenly across the web of your hand and between the textured grip panels and the beavertail the pistol stays centered in your grasp.  Between the recoil handling aspects of the pistols and the short reset trigger making accurate follow-up shots is far from difficult. 

As far as accuracy goes, if you like all of your rounds to produce one gapping hole in the target then you will like firing the Pro-Tek.  I fired 200 rounds of American Eagle 115-grain full metal jacket ammo and 50 rounds of PMC 115-grain ball ammo with no feeding or ejecting issues.  This was also my experience with defensive ammo including 124-grain Speer Gold Dot Hollow Points, Federal Premium 124-grain Hydra Shok ammo and 105-grain Federal Guard Dog cartridges.
 14 rounds of American Eagle 115 grain FMJ ammo fired at 30 feet.

5 rounds of Speer 124 grain Gold Dot Hollow Point ammo fired at 30 feet.

5 rounds of Federal Premium 124 grain Hydra Shok Hollow Point Ammo

10 rounds of Federal Guard Dog 105 grain ammo fired at 30 feet.

It is difficult to find any fault with the CZ Custom Shop’s Pro-Tek 1.  This is what a custom pistol should be; the design is well thought out, the execution in crafting the pistol is first-rate, and handling the end result is an absolute joy.  As I described it at the beginning, the Pro-Tek is “exquisite”.  These pistols are not easy to come by but be persistent with your dealer, be patient and yours too will arrive. 

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Walther CCP

The much awaited 9mm Walther CCP has finally arrived on dealer's shelves and I couldn't wait to get my hands on one.  I'll cut right to the chase and tell you that the pistol is accurate and completely reliable however, there are a few irritations with the design and I'll address those in short order.

First of all let's start with the operating platform of the pistol.  It is a gas delayed blowback pistol with a fixed barrel. The slide rides on top of the frame without any rails on either the slide or frame.  Fixed barreled blowback pistols generate a lot of recoil, which is why you don't normally see them chambered for anything hotter than the .380 ACP or the 9X18 Makarov.  The most popular way to make a fixed barrel blowback work with the 9X19 Luger cartridge is to employ a gas delay system by putting a small port in the bottom of the barrel that bleeds some of the gasses into a frame mounted under barrel cylinder.  As the gasses fill the cylinder they slow a slide mounted piston as it enters the cylinder thereby dissipating the recoil.  This is the same operation used by the excellent HK P7 and the short-lived Wilson Combat Advanced Defense Pistol (ADP).  Walther calls this operation their "Softcoil" system and yes, it does dampen the recoil but let me put that in perspective so that the proper expectation is set.  It lessens the recoil compared to similar sized pistols.  It does not have less recoil than a larger, heavier pistol such as the Beretta 92.  The end result is that because of the gas delayed blowback system the CCP does not need a complicated recoil spring system and because of the fixed barrel design the CCP does not need a guide rod either.  This allows for one large recoil spring to be used which rides around the barrel.  This makes the slide very easy to rack.  Those with hand injuries, arthritis or other ailments will probably find this slide action much to their liking.

As to other specifications: the CCP is 6.41 inches in length with a 3.54 inch barrel.  It is 5.12 inches high, with a width of 1.18 inches and a weight of 23.5 ounces.  There is a safety mounted on the left side of the frame.  You push the safety up to engage it and down for disengagement.  There is also an accessory rail beneath the forward frame should you wish to mount a light or laser and the sights are of the three dot variety.


The rear low-profile sight is adjustable for windage and the pistol comes with two additional front sights.  One is shorter in case the pistol shoots low for you and the other one is taller so that you can make an adjustment if the pistol is shooting too high.

One of the true design highlights are the pistol's ergonomics.
The underside of the trigger guard is generously undercut to allow you to get your entire hand on the grip with the highest hold possible.  The shape and texture of the grip is near perfect for helping you attain a firm grasp that keeps the pistol from shifting in your hand during recoil.  It does this without employing an aggressive waffle pattern that is seen on the grips of some of the other sub-compact handguns on today's market. All of the controls: magazine release, slide release and safety are in easy reach of your right thumb.  

When Walther first announced this pistol about a year ago many shooters, myself included, thought that this would be a smaller, single stack version of Walther PPQ M2.  While that is certainly what the appearance of the CCP conjures up there are vast differences.  The PPQ is not a piston driven gas delayed blowback operated pistol, there are slide and frame rails, and the PPQ does not have a safety.  There is also one additional profound difference: the CCP does not share the same light, smooth trigger pull and quick reset of the PPQ.  The trigger pull on the CCP has a weight of 5.5 pounds which is fine for a self defense pistol but it comes out of the box with a long, gritty pull and the trigger must but let out to its original position in order for it to reset. There is some good news however; after firing a little over 200 rounds through the pistol the trigger pull has smoothed out considerable.  This will probably continue to get smoother but it will likely not improve the lack of any type of an enhanced reset.

Disassembling and reassembling the pistol is also slightly disconcerting at first.  To field strip the pistol you must first remove the magazine and triple check to make sure there no live round lingering in the chamber.  At this point you need to locate the supplied take-down tool.
1. You then push the this tool in toward the metal tab at the top of the circle on the rear of the slide.
2. When the tab is depressed you push the entire tool into the rear of the frame as far as it will go.  
3.  Keeping the tool depressed in the slide you then retract the slide about a quarter inch, pull the rear of the slide up until it clears the fixed barrel and then push the slide off of the barrel.
4. Pull the recoil spring off the front of the barrel and you are ready to clean the pistol.

Here is the pistol disassembled for cleaning:

Reassembly is completed by merely reversing this process except you must align the piston, mounted inside the front of the frame, with the gas cylinder under the barrel.

The assembly/disassembly process takes a little time to master but once you have the knack you can do it pretty quickly.

The pistol is also accurate as shown by the targets below:

The first four targets were all shot with American Eagle 115 grain FMJ ammo at the distances noted on the targets.  The last three targets were shot at 21 feet with the defensive ammo noted on the image.

Upon my first encounter with the CCP the trigger pull and disassembly/reassembly process gathered worried me.   I am glad to say that I am now an expert with the disassembly and reassembly process and the trigger pull has smoothed out nicely.  Add to that the excellent ergonomics and great accuracy and I give this pistol a thumbs up.