Last Thursday came the news that Ruger was forced to suspend orders because they were swamped. According to them, in the first quarter of this year (which has ended yet, mind you) they've received orders for over one million firearms. Think about that: one company, in less than three months, pre-sold one million guns.
That's huge. So huge, in fact, that Ruger can't ramp up production fast enough to meet demand, so they're suspending new orders until May. (I feel their pain, or perhaps now they feel mine!)
There's no single explanation for their sudden fortune, other than perhaps uncertainty: economic (we're still in a recession, no matter what the Beltway Boys say); political (it's an election year, and the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue isn't terribly popular with gun owners); and there may be a few people in there who actually believe the Mayan calendar nonsense (in retrospect, I should have written a book on "how to survive the end of the world with your revolver". Bet that would have sold even better than my terrific book!)
As one might expect, Ruger stock was way up on this news (13% on Thursday alone.)
I expect retail prices of Ruger guns to go up as supplies get tight. I'm also hearing rumblings about the beginnings of another ammunition run, so if you plan to take any classes this year (from me or anyone else) now might be a good time to get the ammo you're going to need.
(Editor’s Note: Ed’s back with an incredible article on firearm metallurgy! This originated as a reply to an email from a “DG”. Ed gives some phenomenal information on the metals used at his employer, Sturm Ruger, to build their guns. I think you’ll find it very interesting, if a little complex!)
DG: A toolmaker friend wants to know what types of metal are used in a revolver. Having read your posts, I figured you would probably have the answers. Please feel free to be as technical as necessary...(Editor's Note: remember, folks, he asked for it!)
EH: At Ruger chrome-moly revolver frames are typically 4140LS blended at the mill to specific (and proprietary) chemistry to give the desired structures in the cast parts. Mostly this involves holding the sulphur within very stringent limits which are lower than those used by other manufacturers, and having additional restrictive requirements to eliminate silicates or phosphorous to the extent that they are below the detection limit by x-ray diffraction. There are some other elements which are manipulated to get specific properties related to the casting process which I am not at liberty to discuss, but suffice to say the investment casting process varies depending upon whether you are working with CM (chrome moly) or SS (stainless steel.)
The stainless is vacuum melted and poured under controlled atmosphere, such as in argon or nitrogen, whereas the CM can be poured in ambient air, though oxidation protection is provided by pouring a powdered antioxidant over the open mould sinks after the sprue is full.
All of the steel used at Ruger is ordered in 100-ton heat lots and produced by a continuous casting process which ensures uniformity in the billets produced. The billets are then cropped, and rolled per Ruger's specs.
Cast parts generally incorporate about 50% virgin material, and 50% remelt scrap which results from Ruger's own operations. Scrap is kept separate by machining line and is tagged by heat lot and type of material so heat lot integrity can be maintained as long as they are running that batch. A sample of every lot of material cast in the foundry is sent to the lab for analysis, generally 4 times per shift.
The cast parts are visually inspected, annealed, straightened, then gaged, sorted and either x-ray or ultrasonically tested. Rough machining is done in the annealed state. Finish machining is done after final heat treatment.
Barrels and cylinders are not machined from castings, but are produced from bar stock or forgings, depending upon the gun model. Barrels and cylinders are generally heat treated to Rc35 Min at Ruger, whereas other makes are typically 20-24. Ruger frames are generally Rc 28-35, whereas a lot of S&W frames used in the Model 10 and similar guns won't even register on the C scale, but may be around 80-90 on the B scale.
The stainless material used for revolver frames and cylinders is a 410 series, whereas barrel stock is a modified 415. Lockwork is a 300 series stainless in both blued and stainless versions. Critical parts like barrels and cylinders are 100% Magnafluxed using the wet method with circular continuous magnetization.
After final assembly proofing is done with standard military HPT or SAAMI specification proof cartridges, one per chamber. I might note that some other makers do not proof all six chambers of a revolver, but try to cut corners on the proofing. If all six chambers are not proofed the cylinder is not equally stressed and you may not detect flaws such as secondary piping, or nonmetallic inclusions or laminations which might occur in the melt shop at the steel mill because the fellow cropping the billets was having a "bad hair day".
We set up our steel specs and receiving inspection on barrel and cylinder steel to pretty much eliminate that type of problem by specifying ingot position, and requiring on-line ultrasonic and x-ray testing of the bars, which were also bumper straightened and checked with eddy current for flaws before the mill length bars were loaded onto the trailer.
When we received a shipment we'd take samples, cutting the ends off of a specified number of bars, based on a statistical sampling plan, and run them into the lab to verify the structures and chemistries against the mill cert. We'd send the driver off to a local hotel for a steak and a shower on us while it was going on so he wouldn't be as unhappy if we rejected the batch and told him to take it back (which we did a few times when I was there).
When I was there only two mills, Timken and SKF, were able to consistently produce 4140LS to our specs for cylinder blanks and Mini 14 receivers and bolts. This material is almost identical to Navy-nuclear pressure vessel grade material, and exceeds normal gun-barrel quality. Similarly, the stainless was vacuum melted, argon-oxygen decarburized and ladle refined similar to a Navy-nuclear or aerospace bearing grade of material.
Most of the other makers buy standard AISI grades in gun barrel quality, typically 1137 for shotgun, blackpowder and .22 rimfire barrels and 4140 for centerfire barrels. Most stainless target rifle barrels are made of 415 or 416 series stainless, but both the re-sulphurized CM and the free machining SS (which produce "mirror finish quality") have sulphur or selenium additives to improve machinability. If the distribution of these elements is nonuniform, the clumped inclusions can form stress risers which impair ultimate strength. For this reason they cannot be used in applications such as M14 or M1A barrels which have complex exterior machining which might produce stress risers. Nor can they be used in hammer forging of barrels which will undergo significant reduction and elongation. Generally, steels used for cylinder blanks or for hammer forge barrel applications cannot exceed 0.006% max. S or Se.
We spent a lot of time and money at Ruger developing tooling, coolants and processes which would permit machining to good interior finishes with materials giving the maximum ultimate strength and ductility. We had our own vacuum heat treating facilities in-house for stainless, and gas furnaces for CM.
Some types of stainless, such as used for Mini-14 firing pins and barrels and Redhawk revolver cylinders, would get a nonconventional cryogenic stress relief rather than the usual low temperature (1045-1050 deg F) "bake" to normalize. This, combined with the particular chemistry we used, resulted in firing pins which were file hard but which you could bend into a pretzel shape without any cracks, and barrels you could elevate to cook off temperature with 180 rounds of full auto fire then set up a bullet-in-bore obstruction and fire a proof load in the hot barrel without it bursting. Try THAT with an M16!
We converted entirely to synthetic coolants, such as Trimsol 6-8% concentrate in distilled water while I was there and got all the chlorinated paraffins out of the shop entirely. We ran hourly refractometer readings on the coolant used in the CNC machining centers and had thermocouples at the machining stations to monitor the incoming coolant temperature and the exit coolant entering the scavenger pumps, and fed the used coolant through filtration, centrifuges and heat exchanging equipment before putting it back into the pipeline. We also set up our own water treatment and recycling plant to purify city water to remove the chlorine, because we could not use it to mix machine coolant. This also permitted us to recycle machine coolant water and dispose as hazardous wastes.
I'll start today with what I didn't see: any big introductions from the major revolver manufacturers. Smith & Wesson had a couple of Performance Center variants (I'd not seen the Model 647 Varminter before), Ruger was showing the previously announced four-inch SP101 in .38/.357 and .22LR (the smallbore having vastly improved sights), while Colt didn’t show any double action revolvers - and probably won't any time soon.
I had a great chat with Brent Turchi, the head of Colt's Custom Shop. He said that new revolvers weren't in the cards for at least a few years yet, and if they ever do release a new wheelgun it will probably be something like a King Cobra or Anaconda, or possibly a lightweight concealed carry piece based on the SFVI/Magnum Carry action. It’s all just speculation at this point, he emphasized.
The Python is gone for good, he said - too expensive to make, and they no longer have the skilled workforce to do so even if they could justify it economically. In fact, the people who today work repairing Pythons are nearing retirement, and when they go a lot of knowledge and skill will go with them. On the plus side, 2011 was a very good year for Colt as they were able to sell tons of 1911s. Of course.
The big handgun news at SHOT was the official U.S. introduction of the Caracal pistol. This is a new polymer striker fired pistol made in (of all places) the United Arab Emirates. Apparently the UAE has decided that even their large oil reserves won't last forever, and have decided to get into manufacturing firearms. Their first products are full-size (think Glock 17) and compact (Glock 19-ish) pistols in 9mm (.40 S&W versions will come later this year.) The Caracal is the brainchild of Wilhelm Bubits, former Glock employee and designer of the Steyr M series of pistols. His new design borrows some elements from the Steyr, but most of it is new.
I first heard about the Caracal when Rob Pincus went to Italy last year and found a couple of his students armed with this unknown handgun. Apparently it's been sold in Italy and a few other places for almost two years, and the reports he got from those students were glowing. The guns were used hard during the three days of intense training, and there were no failures. That says a lot about the design.
The Caracal is unusual in that everything inside the gun is modular. The fire control group in the frame, as well as the striker assembly in the slide, are modules that are quickly and easily removed for service, and just as easily replaced. The bore axis is very low, approaching that of an HK P7, while the slide mass has been reduced. The result, I'm told from those who have fired them, is reduced recoil impulse and muzzle rise.
Ergonomics, even for my small hands, are superb. The Caracal fits me better than either the Glock or the Steyr, and I can even hit the magazine release without too much contortion! The trigger is very smooth, very linear (once you get past take-up, of course) and has a nice, jar-free letoff. It's very impressive.
What is also impressive is the construction quality. The machining, inside and out, is superb - the underside of their slide makes a Glock look like a gravel road. Everything is polished, there are no tool marks, and even the plastic castings are perfectly clean. This is top-notch quality, an amazing feat for a young company.
Caracal was all over Vegas; all of the buses for the convention had Caracal banners on their sides, their booth was large and set up for doing lots of business, and their marketing materials were big-league. The folks behind Caracal have invested a ton of money into both the product and the marketing, and it's obvious that they intend to be a big player in this business. If the product holds up to its promise, I think they will be. (Oddly enough, despite seemingly being on top of every little detail they still haven’t gotten their USA website up - even though the URL is printed on all their materials!)
I'm impressed with the gun, and so was nearly everyone I talked to who'd seen it. I think this might be one of the top autoloading pistol choices for defensive shooting, particularly when the sub-compact versions come out later this year. Caracal is worth watching.
Every so often I get an email asking about the feasibility of building a multi-caliber revolver along the lines of a Phillips & Rogers Medusa. There have been several attempts to build and market such a revolver over the years, and none of them succeeded. The Medusa was probably the most successful of the efforts, and even it wasn't.
Aside from the general silliness of the concept (you can't get .38 Special during the Zombie Apocalypse, but you can get 9mm Largo?!?), I've always been leery of a chamber that would handle such a wide range of dimensions and pressures. Ed Harris, of course, has first-hand experience and was able to she a lot of light on the question. During his tenure as an engineer at Ruger they were working on just such a project:
"At that time the company was also building 9mm revolvers for the French police, and .380/200 British revolvers for India, as well with experimenting with a hybrid chamber for a government customer who wanted the ability to use 9mm Parabellum, 9mm Largo or .38 Super, with clips, or .38 Special +P without the clips.
This pipe dream did not work out, because when using fast-burning powders with soft bullets, including most JHP designs for 9mm, the bullet base may upset to conform to the .379" diameter chamber mouth [editorial note: the space just prior to the chamber throat, which is exposed with shooting the shorter cartridges], resulting in a steep pressure rise of over 10,000 psi as the upset bullet base had to squeeze down again as it transitioned into the smaller diameter ball seat in the front end of the cylinder. While the result was not dangerous when firing lower powered ammunition such as .38 S&W or .380/200 British, it was more interesting with 9mm Parabellum, 9mm Federal, and .38 Super.
Worst offender was US Treasury Olin Q4070 +P+ load which has 110-gr. JHP hollowbased bullet, same as current Winchester 110-gr. component bullet and most JHP +P+ 9mm. FMJ bullets usually OK. Problems with case splits [when] firing .38 Special +P and +P+ when chamber enlarged enough in back to accept 9x19mm. With good brass cases just came out looking 3 months pregnant."
So, there you have it. The multi-caliber revolver concept is just a Bad Idea.
Speaking of unsafe, Ed passed along information about their unauthorized experiments with the then-new 9mm Federal round, which was a 9mm rimmed cartridge made to fit the a version of the Charter Arms Pit Bull revolver. (You’d think Federal would be smarter than that, but...) Anyhow, Ed tells of their fun with a "non-approved" use, and finally we have part of the answer as to why the 9mm Federal disappeared as quickly as it arrived:
"Had some India Ordnance Factory revolvers in .380/200, copies of No. 2 Enfield which were provided as government furnished material on India contract. When 9mm Federal ammo arrived Roy Melcher was curious as to whether rounds would enter .38 S&W chamber and we didn't have any US made guns, so tried in the ROF No.2. Thanks to good range safety procedure they put it in proof box. Blew cylinder apart on first shot. Told Federal. They were NOT happy. They went on to take apart a bunch more .38 S&Ws of various makes and killed the project shortly afterward."
Ed really needs to write a book about his time at Ruger. He's got a lot more good material where this came from. -=[ Grant ]=-
Omari Broussard talks about 'cool' techniques over at his blog this morning, and I agree with him.
About four or five years ago I took some heat from other instructors over the term 'Walter Mitty Training', which I used to describe techniques and courses that weren't grounded in reality. It's the kind of training one takes to pretend to be someone else (or somewhere else), because preparing for plausible scenarios just isn't a whole lot of fun.
Truth be told, I'd class most of the 'tactical' training out there as Walter Mitty or very close to it. There's a big difference between performing a tightly choreographed obscure skill after making ready, and trying to decide between fries and onion rings when you're unexpectedly forced to defend yourself.
Context. Plausibility. Two words that are absent from far too much training.
As I see it, the only compelling reason to use autoloading cartridges in revolvers is because they require moonclips, making for blazing fast reloads. I suppose there might be some argument for the fellow who owns a .40 autoloader and wants a revolver to play with without the bother of stocking two kinds of ammunition, but really: how many of those people are out there?
The claim that it can be used as a backup to an autoloader and thus benefits from sharing ammunition doesn't compute: if you need the backup, it's probably because you ran out of ammunition for your primary gun. If that's the case, what are you sharing ammo with? It didn't make a lot of sense a couple of years ago when it was announced, and hasn't gained much in the intervening time.
Jeff Quinn over at GunBlast did a review of a special edition Ruger GP100. The Wiley Clapp edition features non-standard dovetailed sights, an interesting matte stainless finish, and - hold still my beating heart! - a return to the original GP100 grips with inserts, dolled up for this gun.
(One of the dumbest decisions to come from Ruger’s management lately was replacing their perfectly usable grips with the execrable Hogue Monogrip. Glad to see they didn't throw away the molds!)
I'm not sure about the claim that the gun is "built for defense" - I'd have done things a bit differently and I see at least two important features missing - but it's a nice treatment of the old warhorse and an indication that Ruger still takes their revolvers seriously. Just wish they'd do so more often!
Everyone, it seems, has their name on a gun lately. The Firearm Blog tells us that Mossberg recently brought out the Thunder Ranch Model 500 shotgun. Supposedly designed by Clint Smith, it features a shorter stock (12-3/4" length of pull) and a stand-off door breaching muzzle. In fact, very little other than the aforementioned muzzle and the much-appreciated shorter stock. And that huge TR logo with the expected higher price.
Seriously, a door breacher on a defensive shotgun? Someone has finally jumped the shark, but I can't decide whether it's Clint or Mossberg.
(It's my considered opinion that the perfect home defense pump shotgun would be an Ithaca Model 37 Defense in 20ga with a few minor enhancements. The Ithaca is the smoothest, easiest-cycling pump I've used and is a joy to shoot. You listening, Ithaca?)
I believe (though I can't find it right now) that I've written about this before: the .357 Magnum coming out of a rifle is a very different beast than the same round coming out of a handgun. One 158 grain load I tested a while back gained nearly 400 fps velocity out of an 18" Marlin rifle barrel compared to the same load in a 4" Dan Wesson tube, traveling nearly 1600 fps.
I've actually used it on animals, and within its range -- say, 75 to perhaps 100 yards -- it's quite effective up to deer-sized game. I've heard some claim that it's suitable for elk "with proper shot placement", but I'd say that's more alcohol-fueled optimism than ballistic fact.
Regardless of such speculation it does make a great small to medium game round, though I've found it difficult to get bullets under 158 grains to hold together at the velocities the rifle can generate. Forget the light hollowpoints; the absolute minimum I'd consider would be a 158gn jacketed softpoint, and even that often disintegrates when it hits flesh.
Someone once told me that the .357 turns from Jekyll to Hyde in a rifle. That's not terribly far from the truth!
Up to this point the only rifles chambered for the .357 have been lever actions from Rossi, Marlin, and Winchester. The lever action is a great platform for the round, but I'm looking forward to getting my hands on one of the Ruger bolt actions. If nothing else, the stainless construction and synthetic stock would be a better choice for our damp Oregon weather than walnut and blued steel! Fitted with a decent 2.5x scope it could be a great all-around rifle for the farm and ranch, one that I wouldn’t need to worry about when the elements turn against me.
Every so often I work on a gun that I personally want, and this is one of them.
Three-inch GP100s are a little uncommon in the typical stainless, but the blued versions are downright scarce. The owner of this gun wanted something special, and I think he got it!
We started with a Super Action Job, which took the DA pull down to a reliable 9.5 lbs and the single action to 3 lbs. The muzzle was recrowned, the chambers were chamfered for more efficient reloading, and the trigger was rounded and polished smooth (with the sides finished in a contrasting satin sheen.) The back edges of the trigger were radiused to prevent pinching; a trigger stop was installed, which I adjusted to .010" of overtravel in single action.
The hammer spur was dehorned and rounded, and the sides of the hammer were finished to match the sides of the trigger.
The entire gun was dehorned (all sharp edges and corners removed) and finished in my Black Pearl blue. When it came out of the bluing tanks, a Gemini Custom fiber optic front sight was pinned into the front barrel, and to complete the two-tone look a stainless ejector rod was substituted for the blued part. The rod was satin finished to match the trigger and hammer.
To tell the truth, I didn't want to send it back to its owner. My personal stainless version seems so sterile in comparison!
Over the years I've gotten a number of inquiries that sound something like this: "I was reading a forum about Rugers locking the trigger when shooting fast. What's with that - any truth?"
This is a question that comes up often enough that I've actually written a boilerplate answer that I paste into my email replies. I think it's worth discussing here.
First, the wording of the question (and the complaint that engenders the question) implies that the gun is somehow at fault. It's not! It's an operator issue, pure and simple: the shooter is not letting the trigger reset fully before commencing another cycle. If the trigger is reset all the way forward, the problem doesn't occur. It matters not how quickly the gun is fired as long as the trigger is properly reset.
If the trigger isn't reset on a S&W revolver, the common sequence is the cylinder rotating to the next live round but the hammer not being activated. This is called a 'short stroke' and results in a skipped round. The trigger then has to be reset and pulled again to get another round under the hammer and fire. If the same thing is done on a Ruger, the trigger locks in the forward position, not advancing the cylinder or firing a round, until - again! - the trigger is allowed to reset.
The net result with both systems is the same: if the shooter wants another shot, he/she must let the trigger reset fully before commencing another pull. The only difference is that the S&W will skip a round and the Ruger won't. The cause and remedy are the same with both guns; only the symptoms are different.
(It's possible Ruger designed their action specifically to avoid the S&W 'short stroke' issue. Perhaps Ed Harris will read this and chime in as to the design philosophy behind the Ruger's lockwork.)
That having been said, there is a difference between the way that Ruger approaches the trigger reset sequence and the way that S&W does it, and it does have a small influence on shooter behavior. As the Ruger resets, at one point it transmits a unique and very discernible "click" through the trigger. At the point the 'click' happens, the cylinder bolt - the little thing at the bottom of the frame that pops up to lock the cylinder - hasn't yet reset, which means the cylinder is still locked and the trigger isn't yet be able to unlock it. The hand, which rotates the cylinder and is attached to the trigger, is trying to rotate something that's held solid. It's a little like trying to turn a doorknob that's locked, and that's what the shooter feels through the trigger.
Again, it doesn't matter how fast the trigger is operated as long as the operator allows the trigger to reset completely. This seems to be a particular issue with shooters who have a lot of experience with autoloading pistols, where it's commonly taught to feel for a click denoting trigger reset and immediately commence another trigger press. It works with autoloaders, but not with revolvers. (This is yet another example of autopistol techniques being inappropriately applied to revolver shooting, hence my saying: a revolver IS NOT a low-capacity autoloader!)
When I do action work on the Ruger guns I do some things to reduce that false reset indication. It's not possible to make it go away completely, but I can reduce it enough (and change the initiation point just a bit) that most shooters no longer notice.
Still, it's worth remembering that the Ruger 'problem' is only a problem if the shooter doesn't understand the idea of trigger reset. S&W has a problem too, but for some reason it's not a bone of contention to the same extent as Ruger's behavior. Both are a consequence of inadequately experienced shooters, not any design fault with the guns.
In the past I've mentioned that I don't spend much time on the various gun forums ('fora', to be excruciatingly correct.) My free time is too precious to spend wading through such drivel as "my instructor can beat up your instructor" or "the .45 is so powerful it knocks people off their feet!" The only time, in fact, that I look at a forum is when I'm eating breakfast or lunch and have nothing better to read.
It was at lunch last week that I came across one of my personal favorites: the statement that stacking (increase in trigger pressure toward the end of the stroke) is a function of the mainspring used. It's usually stated in the form "don't buy a revolver with coil springs - it causes stacking. Buy leaf spring actions to avoid stacking."
Hogwash, and what's more it's easily illustrated to be such.
S&W revolvers, particularly the 'N' frames, are known for having pretty linear trigger pulls. They use leaf springs. Colt revolvers such as the Python and Detective Special use leaf springs as well, yet are (in)famous for their stacking triggers.
On the other hand, the GP100 has a relatively linear trigger, similar in travel to an 'N' frame Smith. It uses a coil spring. Wait a minute, though - the earlier Ruger "Six" series (Speed-Six, Service-Six, etc.), despite having a very similar action design, stack noticeably.
Simple. The type of spring, coil or leaf, has very little to do with the amount of stacking in a trigger. The real culprit is the geometry of the double action sear. The stacking on a Python, for instance, can be eliminated by changing the geometry of the sear surfaces. The Ruger "Sixes" can likewise be modified to produce a linear pull through the simple expedient of reshaping certain parts of the sear. If stacking were caused by the spring alone, this kind of modification wouldn’t be possible.
Of course this doesn't address the implicit assertion that stacking is bad and linear is good. Some folks prefer their triggers to stack and seek out those guns that do. The one thing they don't have to consider is the type of spring!
I lean toward the timing theory because of my own observations. I've not yet been able to take an LCR apart, but I have handled quite a few. In this admittedly small sample I've noticed that the gun's timing is later than normal, meaning that the cylinder locks up very close to the point that the sear releases. Since I've not been on the inside of the gun I can't tell whether it's a design or assembly error, but it stands in stark contrast to the way Rugers usually time.
In a typical SP101 or GP100, the cylinder reaches lockup considerably ahead of the sear release. Timing problems with Ruger revolvers are unusual compared to a S&W or a Colt, which makes those LCRs that I've seen definitely stand out. It would not be outside the realm of possibility to get one that is actually out of time, perhaps enough to cause this kind of a failure.
With such a radical new design it's always prudent to proceed cautiously. My recommendation to those considering an LCR is to buy it in person, and check the timing before completing the transaction.
The Truth Is Out There: I've mentioned Kathy Jackson's CorneredCat site as the best resource on the web for those women who want to get involved in the firearms world. This week on the ProArms Podcast, Gail Pepin interviews Kathy about one of her all-time classic articles: "How to Make Your Wife Hate Guns." The interview is even better than the article, and is a must-listen for any man out there who wishes for his wife/significant to start shooting.
Guys, I'm not kidding - you need to listen to this podcast. Kathy's interview starts about 20 minutes in, preceded by Dr. Paula Bratich talking about concealed carry in Illinois.
Better Late Than Never: Prior to the SHOT show, The FIrearms Blog reported that Ruger was going to show a .357 version of the LCR. It was only slightly premature, as Ruger showed it off at last week's NRA Convention. Not for me, thanks, but I'm sure that there are those who will love it.
THEY'RE BA-AACK!: The ProArms Podcast gang has returned from a forced hiatus. The servers at Podbean, which had been handling their podcast feed, went south in December leaving ProArms high and dry. It took them some time to get back, but they have a new site (www.proarmspodcast.com) and they're also available on iTunes. You can listen to the stream on their site, or subscribe to the feed - whichever you're most comfortable with.
The newest episode features interviews with two attorneys. One of them, Brian Hallaq, is an acquaintance; he's an interesting guy who went from being an antigunner to owning Norpoint, a range facility just north of Seattle. Definitely worth a listen!
SHOT SHOW OPENS TOMORROW: I only wish I were there! The ProArms team is, and they promise updates on their site. Jeff Quinn over at Gunblast always has good coverage of the show (with lots of pictures), while Outdoor Channel has Rob Pincus there with a video crew. Rob tells me that they plan to have online coverage of the show, as will Down Range TV. Fear and Loading is already there spending money on beer, and The Firearm Blog is trying to crash the best SHOT parties. There are lots of others, of course, but just these should give you enough news to satisfy your curiosity!
TARGET RICH ENVIRONMENT: I'm amazed that people still buy targets these days. There are tons of downloadable and printable targets out there, and here's a good collection of some of my favorites. (If you haven't tried "rimfire tactical" shooting, you're missing out on a lot of fun. Scroll to the bottom of their site for targets for this emerging discipline. The targets have instructions printed on them; try "Know Your Limits" with iron sights!)
Ruger let slip this week that the GP100 and Blackhawk will now be available chambered in .327 Federal Magnum. The GP100 will carry 7 rounds with a 4" barrel, and the Blackhawk will chamber 8 rounds behind a 5.5" tube. This is welcome news for people who, like me, see the .327 Magnum as not fitting its originally advertised role.
The first chambering of the .327 was in the SP101, as Ruger & Federal were touting it as a self-defense cartridge. The theory was that one could get the "stopping power" of a Magnum cartridge but with less recoil than the .357. My testing suggested that any recoil difference was negligible, while serious doubts remained about the round's effectiveness against an attacker. I didn't consider it a good tradeoff, and said so in print more than once.
I also said that I thought it would be great for hunting predators and other medium game, and I still believe this is where it will find a niche. The .327 offers a significant boost in power over the .32 H&R Magnum, which should measurably increase the effective range of the caliber. The longer barrels and adjustable sights of the GP and Blackhawk will bring it into the hunting field; all that remains is for Marlin to chamber their 1894 lever gun in .327!
I'm currently working on a special project based on a Ruger GP100. One of the client's desires is for custom grips made to his specifications. This is where I'm hitting a dead end!
I've spent countless hours looking, with no results, for a custom gripmaker who will work with the GP100. This is why I'm asking my readers, who are some of the most savvy gun enthusiasts around, for help.
The client wants true customs with top notch fit and finish. This automatically disqualifies all of the mass producers, as well as places like Eagle and Ahrends. Since he wants grips made to his desires, the "pattern makers" like Spegel are out, as well.
Are you aware of a custom gripmaker who is not widely known, and perhaps isn't even on anyone's radar? The ideal candidate MUST:
1) Produce first-class work - nothing less. 2) Be able to make grips for the GP100. 3) Understand the unique needs of concealment ("combat") grips. 4) Be able to produce a grip to fit the client's desires/hands.
Beyond that, someone who works in non-traditional materials (micarta, stabilized spalted wood, etc.) would be most welcome. The client isn't set on any specific material; as long as it complements the gun, he'll consider it.
Price is not a concern, as long as it isn't significantly out of line for work of the caliber required. The client knows what first tier work is (this is not his first custom gun), and is willing to pay appropriately.
Now, understand that I've been looking for a while; if the person appears in the first 10 or 15 pages of a Google search for "custom revolver grips", I've probably already contacted him/her. Yes, I've heard of the smaller custom shops like Herrett's, and have contacted countless makers who list Rugers - just to find that they only do grips for Cowboy shooters using guns such as the Vaquero. So, before you send that email, please re-read the criteria above and be sure that your candidate can meet all of them.
As an incentive, the person who supplies information leading me to the right maker will get his/her choice of any shirt in my CafePress store collection! For the gripmaker, in addition to becoming a customer I'll do my best to get his/her name in front of a much larger audience. It's a win for me, the client, the gripmaker, and you!
It appears that our spell of excessively hot weather has ended. Last week the digital thermometer at our house recorded a high of 111 degrees. (Yes, that's in the shade - who'd be stupid enough to go out into the sun on a day like that?) We set an all-time record for consecutive days over 90 degrees (9 and counting.) I'm just looking forward to being able to spend a full day (more or less) in the shop.
I'm pleased to note that QC at Ruger is improving - the last couple of SP101s I've seen, of recent production, are much improved over those of years past. Gail Pepin at the ProArms Podcast tells me that she's visited the plant recently, and their production floor has changed considerably. She credits their new emphasis on 'lean manufacturing', with its attendant focus on reducing waste and rework, for the quality bump.
The Firearms Blog also brings us happy news of Winchester's reprise of the Model 92 Takedown. I'd be tempted if they'd make it in .357 Magnum...
Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time to go to work!
It sometimes amuses me how often one hears the same question, with only slight variations. One that I've heard over the years goes something like this: "Is it true that the GP100 isn't very accurate?" Personally, I've not noticed that any of mine are, but there is more to this story.
Assuming that the gun is "in spec" with regards to its construction (forcing cone, crown, chamber/barrel alignment, etc.) it should shoot quite well. Many GP owners, however, continue to complain about the accuracy of their individual example in the absence of those identifiable deficiencies. It so happens that there is a design defect in certain models of the GP100 that will definitely reduce the precision of the gun: the sights.
Owners of fixed-sight Rugers are generally much happier with the accuracy of the GP than those who have the adjustable sights, and I can't say I blame them. The first problem is Ruger's rear sight: it stinks, to put it bluntly. Don't get me wrong, the rear sight picture isn't bad (in fact I prefer it to Smith & Wesson's); the problem is that the Ruger rear sight often won't hold zero all that well.
It starts with a body which has a very loose fit in the frame's sight channel. It continues with universally sloppy fit on the sight pivot pin - the pin that holds the sight onto the gun, allowing the body to pivot up and down for elevation changes. The elevation screw, likewise, has a lot of "wiggle" in it, and the windage screw is often not any better. The net result is a sight that can't be relied upon to stay where it's set from shot to shot.
The rear sight isn't the only problem, just the biggest one. The interchangeable front sight often shows deficiencies of it's own. It is investment cast (like the rest of the gun), but without subsequent machining the edges and serrations remain quite indistinct. The sight picture isn't all that crisp, making a sure hold on target a bit like driving a well-worn 1951 GMC 2-1/2 ton flatbed farm truck. (For those who've never had the pleasure, imagine going down the street having to constantly move the steering wheel a half-turn in each direction just to maintain something like a straight line. Now try it in the rain. At night. Get the idea?)
I've seen more than a few front sights which also weren't secure in the dovetails, causing them to wobble a bit, and there are quite a few that don't have parallel sides. (Or worse, lack a straight top!)
The fixed-sight GP100 doesn't have any of these problems, which explains why their owners tend to be more satisfied with that model's performance.
There are solutions. The best is to replace the rear sight with the terrific Rough Country sight from Bowen Classic Arms. It fits precisely, and the opposing screws that adjust windage and elevation also serve as lockdowns for those adjustments. (If you've ever adjusted the rear sight on a FAL rifle, you know the concept.) The Rough Country sights have the easy change capability of an adjustable sight, but once locked down are as rugged as a fixed sight. There is nothing better on the market, period. Absolutely the best.
The Rough Country sight has a superb sight picture, and is available with a plain black blade, a white outline blade, an "express" (shallow "V") blade, and a blank blade - so that your friendly gunsmith can provide the notch that you feel is best.
The front sight can also be replaced with a Bowen unit. The Bowen front blade is precisely made, with perfect dovetails and parallel sides. It comes as a "blank" - it must be machined to shape and height, then blued, before it is of any use. It is an expensive part, and the additional machining adds to the cost, but if you're looking for the absolute best GP100 sight picture it is the way to go.
Outfitted with decent sights the GP100 really comes into its own, easily keeping up with the best from the competition. If you've not been happy with the way your GP100 shoots, take a hard look at those sights - my bet is you'll find they aren't terribly great!
As long as I'm doing the link-love bit, over at Michael Bane's place there is something of a brouhaha regarding his assessment of the new Ruger SR9 pistol. Read the first part, then read Michael's response. (Be sure to read the comments on each - that's where the fireworks happen.)
One of the commenters has invoked Massad Ayoob's name as some sort of "proof" that Michael's opinions are "wrong." In the interest of full disclosure, I know Mas Ayoob on a personal basis, and I've done work for Bane. I've read their reviews, and what it comes down to is that they are both opinionated people with very definite tastes and preferences in firearms. That they have different points of view with regard to this particular gun is simply evidence that nothing appeals to everyone. I trust them both, and my feeling is that it's sad they couldn't find a new, innovative Ruger revolver to disagree about!