Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ruger Bearcat Shopkeeper .22LR

Looking for a sweet little .22 revolver?  Lipsey's has contracted with Ruger to produce the 3 inch barreled Bearcat Shopkeeper in stainless steel and it is a real honey.

Let's get through the mandatory specifications before we get to the fun.  The shopkeeper holds 6 rounds of .22LR and weighs in at 22 ounces with an overall length of 7.5 inches.  It has fixed sights and an easy handling bird's head grip with red laminate wood panels.  

It also has the traditional Bearcat roll marks around the non-fluted cylinder.  

Ruger had to make some design changes because of the 3 inch barrel.  First of all they had to incorporate a small button-head cylinder pin and they had to

put a crescent shaped head on the shortened ejector rod.
This feature incorporates the only two negative experiences I had with the Shopkeeper.  First of all the crescent head is kind of sharp so you fight want to take a fine file and smooth the edges a bit.  Or, if you're like me and making fine adjustments is a skill which eludes you, you may want to have someone more qualified conduct the procedure.  The second issue with this little revolver is the extraction of spent shell casings.  The shortened ejector rod just isn't long enough to push the fired casings all the way out and for the first two cylinders full of ammo this didn't seem to be a problem.  But on the third cylinder the brass casings began to stick and the problem got worse the dirtier the chambers became.  Nickel-plated casings tended to perform better.  However, in this draught of .22 LR ammunition you probably won't be picky about what you can buy so a short cleaning rod will save the day and help you push the pesky cartridges out.

This is a small revolver.  To give it some perspective I photographed it next to my 3 inch barreled Ruger SP101.

But I don't think this photo does justice to the size difference.  The two revolvers are similar in length but the Shopkeeper is slimmer and weighs six ounces less.    This is an unbelievably easy revolver to carry and it fits well in this Remora inside-the-waistband holster.

The Shopkeeper also sits very snugly in this Bianchi 3 inch barreled small revolver holster which normally carries the SP101 shown two photos up from this one.

So, let's see how she shoots!  Most of the ammo used during my evaluation was Winchester M22 40 grain black copper plated round nose. 

Now bear in mind that this is not a target pistol, it shoots to minute of tin can.

Here's 30 rounds fired at a Birchwood Casey "Shoot 'n See" target at 21 feet:

And here are 24 rounds fired at 35 feet:

So what's the bottom line on this revolver?  Yeah, I have a couple of picky issues with it but they are not show-stoppers.  This is a well made handgun with an excellent fit and finish.  It sits well in the hand and is a natural pointer.  I think I used enough gun writer cliches there.  This revolver is fun!  This is what got us all into shooting when we were young.  In our formative years it wash't about self-defense or big game hunting it was just about shooting and having fun.  Many of us cut our teeth on the Ruger Single-Six which was a ton of fun and this gun is even cooler and more fun than the Single-Six.  I would love for Ruger to produce this with a .22 Magnum cylinder and a set of black rubber grips with silver and red medallions and...on I'll just stop there before I get to a Tritium front night sight.

I'll leave you with this image again since it is my favorite!

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.