Friday, December 24, 2010

End Of Year Clean-Up: Ruger LCR, Glock Freeze-Up, Selecting Your Concealed Carry Weapon

Well, it's closing in on the end of the year so it is time to clean-up some issues that have been hanging around for some time.  


I was challenged by a couple of readers to go back and revisit the Ruger LCR.  It was pointed out that I had only fired FMJ range ammo and that was a fair call-out.  I have been searching for one of the newer ones in .357 Magnum but as I was unable to find one I went back and rented one from the range.

Unfortunately even when using three loads with which I normally get good results from short barreled revolvers I was not able to get the level of accuracy that I feel is necessary in a defensive carry handgun.  This disturbs me since I really wanted to like this revolver.  It is light, the Hogue "Tamer" grips are excellent, the trigger pull is good, and the trigger guard is enlarged in case the shooter is wearing gloves which is a good idea in this part of the country during the winter.

On the down side the sights are plain black and somewhat difficult to see if your target is black or if your assailant is wearing dark clothing.  It could really use an XS Big Dot night sight up front.  The good news is that I am starting to see some of them on Guns America ( with night sights up front.

Now you might look at these targets and say that the groups are acceptable for combat shooting however it is important to realize that this was stationary, stress-free shooting.  It has been my experience that when you add a little stress as well as movement the group size (for me) will at least triple and that is why I cannot consider the Ruger LCR as a good concealed carry choice for myself.

These targets represent the best groups that I attained from the various ammo choices represented.

9 rounds of Mag Tech 130 grain FMJ at 21 feet.

19 rounds of PMC 125 grain JHP +P ammo.  This load has performed excellently for me in S&W J frame revolvers.  Note the "X" at the 6 o'clock position which denotes my point of aim.  

Five rounds of Speer 135 grain +P JHP ammo especially designed for short barreled revolvers.  Again I am using a 6 o'clock hold.

Five rounds of Winchester 158 grain +P Lead Semi-Wadcutter Hollowpoint Ammo.  This has been the "old reliable" load for me with all of my short barreled revolvers.  But it still shot high with a 6 o'clock hold.

This doesn't necessarily mean that you won't shoot it well.  I have never claimed to be more than "Average" at this game.  But it is always a good idea to either rent or borrow any handgun you are looking to purchase so you can evaluate it for yourself.


If you listened to the last pod cast I did with Doc Wesson over at the Gun Nation  ( you heard me mention to Doc that all seven of my Glock pistols had frozen up and wouldn't fire.  The triggers would not pull and once I got them freed up the firing pin was not hitting the cartridge.  Well further examination found the problem to be the Gunslick Foaming Bore Cleaner that I was using.  As with most of the foaming bore cleaners on the market you spray the foam into the barrel and then wait for 15 to 45 minutes for the chemicals to loosen the powder and dirt and dissolve the copper residue.  I would spray the cleaner into the barrels while the pistols were still assembled (but unloaded) and then wait the prescribed period of time.   I would disassemble the pistols when I came back to finish the cleaning.  Well over time the foaming bore cleaner would seep into the trigger and firing pin groups and harden.  I realized that the delivery tube on the can of the cleaner had yellowed and caked up with the residual foam that remained in the tube or dripped down the side.  When the gunsmith conducted  a detailed disassembly and removed the firing pin group the spring was covered with this varnish like substance that was caked all over and in-between the coils.  The gunsmith congratulated me on being the first person to bring him a non-functioning Glock.

New can of Foaming Bore Cleaner

Can with the gummy residue on the tube

Closer look at the tube with the residue

I am not saying not to use Gunslick Foaming Bore Cleaner but I am advising that you do not spray it into the barrel until the barrel has been removed from the pistol so that the cleaner cannot seep into the mechanical workings of your handgun.


Recently I have been asked to recommend a concealed carry pistol to several people whom I know as well as a few people with whom I am barely acquainted.  That is a personal decision that I will not make for someone else.  I can give them a few suggestions but I will give them some advise to get them started on their journey.

The first piece of advice is "Don't get talked into someone else's idea about what you should carry".  Do your own research.  There is a lot of information in magazines, books, and on the internet some of it good some of it...not so good.  You can certainly read what is out there but if it doesn't make good sense to you ask questions.  Most magazines do a fairly good job of responding to reader's questions and most web sites allow for questions, comments, and discussions by the readers.

One of the most important things to do is "shoot before you buy".  Many ranges rent handguns and those that do usually have a pretty good variety of the more popular revolvers and semi-auto pistols.  If someone recommends a particular weapon ask if you can shoot theirs.  This is important as you need to make sure it works for you.  Not too long ago I was at one of my local gun shops when a young woman and her boyfriend came in and after perusing the display cases they finally told the salesperson that she was looking for a concealed carry handgun.  She was signed up to take the required concealed carry class but had never shot any type of firearm before.   The salesperson said "I have just the thing" and handed her one of their Smith & Wesson featherweight snub nosed .38 Special revolvers.  I was aghast.  He went on to tell her that it was lightweight and easy to carry (certainly true) and that .38 Special +P ammo was powerful enough to stop most attackers (again, certainly true).  Unfortunately, the Smith & Wesson J frame revolver (or snub nosed revolvers from any manufacturer), whether it is constructed in full weight steel or made from one of their lightweight exotic alloys are not handguns for beginners.  The small nature of these revolvers make them difficult to shoot; the sight radius is short, the recoil is stout in steel and downright horrendous in the featherweight models.  In short these handguns can be punishing to shoot.  That doesn't mean that they cannot produce excellent accuracy.  A dedicated and patient shooter can get excellent results from one of these pistols but that is only after a lot of practice.  There is a good reason that most gun shops have at least two lightweight snub nosed revolvers in their used handgun case; the novice shooter fires them once or twice and decides to sell it.  

With all of that in mind there are four things that you should be looking for in a concealed carry weapon:

  1. It must be reliable.  This should be self explanatory; if the pistols doesn't function 100% of the time then you run the risk of having an operational failure in a life or death situation.
  2. YOU must be able to shoot it accurately.  It doesn't make any difference if your friend or the salesperson behind the counter shoots a particular handgun well what counts is how it works for you. That is going to depend upon how it fits your hand, how well you can see the sights, etc.  This is why it is important to rent and borrow before you buy.  Also, the caliber is secondary to accuracy.  Yes larger calibers are more efficient in stopping violent aggression but a well placed shot with a moderate caliber is more effective than missing the assailant with a larger caliber handgun.  Carry the largest caliber that you can shoot very well.
  3. You must be able to readily conceal the handgun. With a proper holster you can probably conceal a larger handgun than you think you can but if you don't feel comfortable carrying the pistol it will get left at home.  If it is too heavy, tugs at your pants, sticks out, or prints beneath your cover garment you will wind up not having it with you when the feces hits the air conditioning unit.  I recently was working with a young married couple to help them determine what their first handgun should be.  They wanted something they could carry concealed and had both recently obtained their permits.  After letting them shoot everything in my gun safe and renting a few others they settled on the Glock model 36.  The young couple worked their way up to shooting well with a .45 ACP pistol so the medium framed G36 seemed like a good choice and a well maintained used model provided them with an excellent value.  Unfortunately the female is very thin and found that the Glock printed under most of the clothing she wore during the work week.  She needed something thinner and after some more shooting she is considering the merits of the Bersa Thunder Concealed Carry .380 ACP or the Taurus 709 slim 9mm.  She creamed the bulls eye out of the targets with both models and is now figuring out which one will meet her concealment needs.  Even though neither of her new choices is a .45 her ability to place the shots where she needs to will win the day should she ever be faced with a life or death scenario.  I would also advise against carrying your handgun in a purse, fanny pack, concealment day planner or in any other manner "off the body".  Purses, fanny packs, and day planners, etc. can be set down, forgotten, misplaced, or stolen.  They can also be difficult to access in the "heat of the moment".
  4. Lastly, a gun should look like a gun.  There is an unfortunate trend of installing pink grips, dying the polymer, or anodizing the frames in ridiculous colors.  Seemingly this is being done to attract female customers but let's be logical about this; first of all a handgun is not a fashion accessory since no one should see it if it is properly concealed.  Secondly, presenting a handgun to someone who is threatening to take your life may cause them to reconsider their actions unless they do not believe you are in possession of real firearm.  Handguns are not meant to be fashionable or cute; they are meant to be intimidating and deadly.  If you pull a real pistol on an assailant that might stop the attempted assault without having to fire a shot.  If you pull a pink pistol you might have to prove that its real.
Lastly, once you have made the decision to carry, received your permit, and made you choice in handguns, get all the training you can find.  Find an instructor that teaches the basics as well as instructs you on how to work from a holster, shoot while moving, and shoot while seeking cover.  At the moment of truth you will revert to your training so make sure it covers all aspects of an armed encounter.


Al said...

Good review -reminds me of the idea of having a barbeque gun and what you would carry if your life depended on it!
Just picked up a G26 Gen4 no foamy bore cleaner for me : )
Thanks for your reviews and
Happy New Year!

Bill Barr said...

Sorry, point #4 is superfluous. It's far more important to be able to draw your weapon quickly from concealment and get the first bullet on target as fast as possible.

Fact: At a distance of 25 feet, an assailant with a knife can run up and stab you faster than the average person can draw and shoot. Cops know this. Soldiers know this.

Without speed, nothing else matters. Carrying a cane or a baton is more effective.

Average Joe's Handgun Reviews said...


Thanks for reading and your comment.

I concede your point about being able to draw and fire quickly (I have written about in several postings such as "The Importance of Training" and "A Gun Will Not Solve All of Your Problems".

While I agree with the overall validity of your point the criticism you are making is outside of the context of the subject. The nature of this posting was the physical attributes to look for during the selection process of your concealed pistol. The ability to draw and fire quickly with appropriate accuracy is more a product of the shooter's training and skill which is a different subject that I have already covered in previous writings.

Anonymous said...

I have owned the LCR in the .38 special for about a year now and have nothing but great things to say about it including good accuracy (tighter shot patterns compared to what you posted from upwards of 30 ft).