Monday, August 25, 2014

Lionheart Industries LH9

Photo: Lionheart Industries

Lionheart Industries introduced the mid-sized LH9 in 2013 and at this point you may be thinking two things:

1. Just what we need another mid-sized 9mm!
2. Haven't I seen this pistol before?

The answer to the second question also takes care of the first one as well.  The LH9 is manufactured by S&T Daewoo of South Korea 
Photo by Author

and is an updated version of their K5 pistol.  The K5 was imported into the U.S. a while back and although it gained a devoted cult following it did not take any market share away from Glock, SIG Sauer, Smith & Wesson, Springfield or any other manufacturer in the competitive 9mm field.  The feature that made the K5 an interesting pistol was what they referred to as its "Fast-Action" which had been adopted by the South Korean Military Forces.  That feature is still present in the LH9 and has been renamed the "Tri-Action".
Photo by Author

While the Tri-Action explanation from the manual is shown above let me attempt to give my own take on this feature.  You can carry the LH9 in one of three modes:

  1. You can carry it cocked and locked in single action mode which had a trigger pull of 6.65 pounds on the test sample
  2. You can carry it with the hammer down in the traditional double action mode which came in at 10 pounds or
  3. You can carry it in the Tri-Action mode in which the hammer is down but when you first apply pressure to the trigger the hammer springs backward locking it into single action.  To put the pistol in the Tri-Action mode you simply chamber a round which leaves the hammer in the rearward position.  Merely push the hammer forward and the pistol is in the Tri-Action mode
This is a surprising feat of engineering allowing you to have a single action pistol that does not require the hammer to be locked in its rearward position and does not require you to manipulate a safety during a stress-fire encounter as you would have to do with any other single action pistol.  There is also a benefit to those carrying the pistol in a duty capacity as they do not have to worry about a misinformed bystander becoming uncomfortable (and perhaps filing a complaint) when they see the hammer locked back in a holstered pistol.  

The slide and barrel are forged from 4150 steel and the frame is forged from 7075-T6 Aluminum.  The finish on the LH9 is Ceracote and is available in a completely black pistol or with a black slide on a "patriot brown" frame.  Quite frankly I found the patriot brown aluminum frame to be a rather nice change of pace in this world of black polymer pistols.
Photo by Author

The grips are black polymer with a pattern of diamonds which provide a very secure hold.  When I first saw the grips I wondered if the diamond pattern was going to be abrasive but there aren't really any sharp edges on the grips (or anywhere else on the pistol).

The sights are of the common three dot variety
Photo by Author

although fiber optic and night sight options are available from the factory. 

So let's see how she shot:

Here's fifteen rounds at 21 feet and, as usually, I am off to the left.
 Photo by Author

The trigger pull on the LH9 is really good and it is enhanced by the wide and smooth trigger.
 Photo by Author

Here are thirty rounds at 30 feet.
 Photo by Author

And thirty rounds at 40 feet
Photo by Author

The accuracy is better than needed to handle most defensive encounters and I am sure that with additional practice my accuracy would improve.

There are a lot of very well thought out features built into this pistol but it doesn't stop there.  Instead of coming in a plastic box with accessories just thrown in, the LH9 comes in a ballistic nylon bag that is probably the most useable bag I have ever seen come with a pistol.
Photo by Author

The pistol is stowed in a zippered compartment on the right side of the bag which also contains a pouch for the manual and has a large velcro area with four strips to secure anything else that you might want to take with you.  The cable lock is secured in the middle of the bag by two elastic straps.  A lot of manufacturers could take note of this as in far too many instances the lock is just haphazardly thrown in the case.  On the left side of the case there are elastic straps to secure the extra magazine, nylon cleaning brush, cleaning rod, cleaning rod attachments and a tube of Frog Lube.  The pistol is treated with Frog Lube products at the factory and I will say that the slide to frame action is very smooth!

I know there are a lot of gun snobs who will dismiss the Tri-Action as a gimmick or a solution to a nonexistent problem but I think they are missing the point of having a pistol that can be fired in single action mode, with the hammer down and without having to manipulate a manual safety during the stress of a shooting scenario.  There are also those who might dismiss the pistol because it comes from Korea but their military is always at a heightened state of readiness as they are under the constant threat of a attack from their northern border.  That they place the security of their country and populace to a defensive battery that includes this pistol says a lot to me.

Overall Length
7.5 inches
Barrel Length
4.1 inches
26.5 ounces
4.92 inches
1.32 inches
15 +1
Fixed 3-Dot
Ambidextrous Manual
Passive Firing Block
Black Polymer
Forged 7075-T6 Aluminum
Slide & Barrel
Forged 4150 Steel

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

On the Next Gun Nation Podcast: the 10mm

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Glock Model 42 and SIG P238--Pocket Sized .380's

OK, the summer's over half gone and maybe you've been trying to carry a larger handgun but find you're leaving it behind too often because you can't dress around it.   Here's the good news: for most of the country it will still be pocket pistol weather for the next two months and we're going to look at two pocket pistols worthy of your consideration.  

Both the SIG P238 and the Glock 42 are chambered for the .380 ACP round which, in the not too distant past, would have been considered too weak for self defense.  Well that changed during the last decade.  Credit Kel-Tec for bringing out their Micro model P3AT .380 ACP, which was widely accepted by gun buyers. This caused other manufacturers to bring out micro .380's which caused the ammo manufacturers to whip up more effective defensive ammunition.  The modern .380 ACP is still not a .45 ACP but is isn't your father's .380 either!

The .380 ACP cartridge is valued by people who can't handle the recoil of a more powerful cartridge and the .380 micro pistols are sought by people who need a deep cover pocket pistol.  There are small 9mm pistols on the market but none yet that are as small as the .380 micro guns.  I have several 9mms that will fit well into the pockets of some of my jeans but they will not fit the pockets of most of my other pants.  Their are either too large or too wide.  For the days when I must wear those pants the .380 Micro pistol is invaluable.

As you can see from the specifications below the G42 is less than half an inch longer and slightly taller but that is negated by the addition of the finger grip extension on the P238 (more on that later).

SIG P938
Glock 42
.380 ACP
.380 ACP
Trigger Pull
7.5 LBS
5.5 LBS
Overall Length
5.5 inches
5.94 inches
3.9 inches
4.13 inches
1.1 inches
.94 inches
Barrel Length
2.7 inches
3.25 inches
15.2 oz
13.76 oz
7 + 1 rounds
6 + 1 rounds
SIGLite Night Sights
Fixed White Dot

Let's start with the SIG P238

The P238 that I obtained is in desert tan (being the fashion maven that I am it matches perfectly with my khaki shorts and pants).  It also has a one round finger extension on the grip which pushes the overall height of the pistol to 4.4 inches in height.  Lastly, the desert tan version comes with a nice set of Hogue rubber grips with palm swells.
In my opinion there is a point of diminishing returns with the micro pistols and that point is reached when the pistol swims in your hand when being fired.  As good as the modern .380 ammo is there is still a very good chance that your assailant will not go down with your first shot so an accurate follow-up shot is essential.  If the pistol has relocated itself in your hand then you have to correct your grip which will cost you time and could ultimately cost you your life. The other advantage of the thicker grips is that they help with trigger finger placement.  The extra width assists in keeping you from using too much finger.  The finger extension and the palm swell grips make it feel like you are actually holding a real pistol unlike many of the micro pistol on the market today.  

The SIG P238 also comes with three dot, drift 
adjustable night sights that are large enough to be useable.  The night sights, the finger extension, and the rubber palm swell grips all help make this pistol eminently shootable.  

Now, the P238 is a single action only pistol that is designed to be carried cocked and locked.
Deciding to purchase and carry this pistol require a commitment of focused practice due to the different manual of arms between a Single Action Only pistol and a revolver or striker-fired pistol.  You have to make the operation of the safety a part of your muscle memory so that the disengagement and engagement of the safety is an automatic response when you present or holster the pistol.  If your normal carry pistol is a 1911 then you already have it.  If not you need to develop it and that means that when you practice you need to put the safety on after you have fired each string and remove it when you go to fire the next string.  Too many people go to the range with their 1911 and never practice engaging and disengaging the safety.

That leaves the trigger.  As you can see from the above listed specifications it comes in at a stout 7.5 pounds.  Now 1911 aficionados may be looking for the same light trigger pull as they have on their full-sized 1911's.  I have heard some decry that they would have nothing to do with the P238 because it does not have the 3 pound pull of their favorite 1911.  However realistically, you don't want a 3 pound pull on a carry gun.  You are leaving yourself open to be adjudicated as negligent due to having a hair trigger on your pistol.  Also, it just can't be engineered on a micro gun.  The 1911 trigger is a sliding trigger which is what gives it the smooth and light pull.  There is not enough room in the micro frame for a sliding trigger so the P238's trigger is hinged.  I can attest to the fact that it is smooth with very little take-up and is in the realm of a trigger on a well tuned revolver.  It is just fine the way it is.

Let's move onto the Glock 42!

It's a Glock.  There's not a whole lot more to say.  It is a Glock through and through.  If you like Glocks you'll like this one.  If you don't like Glocks you're probably going to hate this one as well.  About the only thing different between this micro Glock and it's bigger brothers and sisters is it's width and height.  So let's talk about those two points.

I am fine with the height even though it is a little larger than most micro pistols.  What I don't like is that Glock could only fit 6 rounds into the magazine.  With  the height of this pistol I really would have hoped for at least a 7 round magazine.

The width of the pistol is just too small for me.  It swam in my hands when I fired it.  Were I to buy this pistol (which I probably eventually will) I would add a Pearce finger grip extension and a Pachmayr grip glove.  That's about $40 that would be well spent.

There's not really any more to say about the Glock so let's see how the two pistols shot.

Glock Model 42 at 15 feet:
Whenever I shoot a new pistol with which I am unfamiliar I always start out with a target at 15 feet. I am not showing you the first 15 foot target because all of the 12 shots fell about 3 inches to the left of the bullseye.  I threw that target away.  I then drifted the the rear sight all the way to the right which moved the rounds closer to the left of the bullseye as can be seen above.  When I changed my point-of-aim to the right side of the target the rounds became more acceptable.  However even though I now had huge concerns about the accuracy of the G42 I nonetheless ventured forward with a target at 21 feet.

Even though the rear sight was all the way to the right the round now impacted to center mass with a center point of aim and my faith in Glock was restored.

SIG P238 at 21 Feet

At 21 feet the P238 shot to point-of-aim with the exception of one flier to the left which was always my first round.

SIG P238 at 30 Feet
At 30 feet the P238 still grouped in the center.

Glock 42 at 35 Feet
Even at 35 feet the Glock keep all rounds in the 8 inch bullseye with more than enough accuracy for defensive purposes.

SIG P238 at 35 Feet
With very concentrated effort I was rewarded with a very nice target at 35 feet.

So, here we have two pocket .380's one of which should appeal to 1911 shooters and one which would be acceptable to shooters who would prefer a striker fired pistol.  The Glock 42 should set you back about $427.00 and the SIG P238 should run you between $599.00 and $650.00 depending on how shiny you want the slide and what grips you prefer.  It's comforting to have one of these in your pocket as a back-up to a larger weapon or as a primary pistol if you cannot carry a larger one.

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!