Pistol Review: Ruger LC9

Ruger LC9

When I first heard about Ruger’s follow-up to the LCP, the LC9, I was immediately interested. On a personal level I find the idea of using 9mm for a deep-concealment pistol very attractive. I like keeping my calibers to a minimum and since I reload 9mm it makes practicing a lot simpler and cheaper. In the case of .380 ammo, much cheaper. So it was very exciting when I finally got the chance to shoot one yesterday. Continue reading “Pistol Review: Ruger LC9”

Hornady Critical Defense ammo: when it really counts

I have a lot of fun shooting firearms but let’s face it, we really do this for a much more important reason than simple pleasure. While it is true that many people hunt with guns, most hunting is done with long guns so time spent shooting pistols has a more profound purpose: self-defense. The handgun is the great equalizer, allowing almost anyone the ability to wield deadly force. This makes it much tougher for an assailant to justify risking their own safety by jeopardizing that of a would-be victim. So, if all this is true then the only remaining question is: how effective will I be when it really counts?

My skills as a shooter ultimately serve to give me every possible advantage in a lethal force scenario. I simply will not give an advantage to an adversary If I can avoid it. Life is precious and I’ll be damned if I will let someone take it away from me, my loved ones or any innocent person. In order to be most effective it takes a reliable, accurate weapon, skills, preparation and perhaps most overlooked of all: the best ammunition available.

I don’t believe in the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus (well, mostly I don’t) or any magic bullet that through mystical properties is perfectly effective against any and all adversaries. I believe, as do most experts in the field, that Marshal and Sanow’s famed study was deeply flawed and that the holy grail of firearms science, “stopping power”, is at best an incredibly complex phenomenon. Stopping Power, Knock-Down Power and One-Shot Stop Effectiveness are all really constructs of fertile imaginations and perhaps over-zealous gun writers. They are really just efforts to reduce data almost to the point of no meaning.

Does this mean that the famed .357 magnum is no better than a .380acp? Not at all. What it means is that whenever we discuss terminal ballistics we have to keep in mind that this is only a fraction of what goes into making ammunition truly effective. Above all else, shot placement is absolutely the most critical factor of effectiveness.

So, with all that said, the specific ammunition chosen for defensive/carry purposes is more important than most people think. Winchester White Box 115gr. FMJ rounds are great for practice but when life is at stake I want the very best I can buy. You will notice I said “buy” and not “load”. I make match ammo myself, which is very reliable and carefully constructed, but when life is on the line, I want rounds that are made in large batches with intense quality control before, during and after the process. I want those rounds to be made from the highest quality materials with the best properties for the application. And arguably nobody does that better than Hornady.

Typical JHP vs. Hornady Critical Defense

After looking over the usual suspects for defensive rounds, I recently selected Hornady’s Critical Defense line of ammunition for my personal carry rounds. They are Jacketed Hollow-Point bullets (Hornady’s patented FTX model) in nickel cases with fast-burning, low flash powders. This powder selection permits full velocity to be achieved even in short-barreled pistols while minimizing muzzle flash and thereby visibility. They also have a rubber plug in the slug cavity to keep lint, etc., out of the nose of the bullet. This material is designed to keep stuff out but to completely disintegrate upon impact, leaving the bullet to do its job. The nickel case is designed to reduce tarnishing and allow easy chamber checks even in low light.

As with any defensive rounds, you should always fire enough of them through your gun to insure they will function properly. I put about 100 through each gun and they were flawless. The cost is inline with other defensive rounds and for me is a bargain at twice the price.

I like this round, especially for smaller concealed carry pistols and with Hornady’s commitment to excellence I would bet my life on it.

Springfield Armory 1911 TRP: Yes, it’s that good.

My father carried a 1911 during WWII when serving as a Military Policeman. He always spoke very fondly of the weapon. Indeed the 1911 is a 20th century American icon. It comes then as no surprise that the pistol is still very popular among shooters even though it only carries seven or eight rounds (gasp!) in the typical magazine. Compact versions have even fewer rounds.

I have shot many 1911s and most were not very exciting to me frankly. Then my friend Jeff had me try out his Springfield that had been massaged at the custom shop. It was a revelation. The gun’s trigger was unreal with its very short take-up, light break and short reset. My Springfield XD45 Tactical was fun but this was other-worldy.

About a year later my friend Mike asked if I was interested in a 1911. He had two made by Springfield, which got my attention. The model was the Tactical Response Pistol (TRP) which I had never heard of at that time. This pistol is a civilian version of the pistol Springfield makes for the FBI’s SRT groups. It has a stainless, 5″ match barrel, teflon coated steel frame and slide, tuned 4# trigger, flared mag well, low profile combat night sights (tritium) and very aggressive checkering on the front strap. This gun is a combat gun in every sense of the word. The G10 composite grip panels are also agressively checkered such that there’s very little chance of this gun being wrenched out of one’s hand even if wet.

Mike sold me the black one and kept the stainless model. I have put about 2k rounds through it since this past Spring (six months) and I am very happy with it. The weight (over 2.5 lbs.) really mitigates recoil such that I figured it would be a fun gun to shoot in Limited/10 USPSA competition. I got the usual Bladetech DOH holster, Blackhawk CQC mag pouches, CR Speed Hi-Torque belt and a bunch of Chip McCormack PowerPro 10-round mags for it and away we went. I shoot it almost as well as my production guns and have really enjoyed myself doing so.

Interesting to note is that Mike recently stopped bringing his striker-fired guns to practice and has started shooting his TRP almost exclusively for USPSA purposes. His accuracy is now phenomenal. I’ll say it again: the trigger is nothing short of amazing.

I also got a Blackhawk Serpa holster for mine and I routinely carry this gun either open or concealed. It is one big, mean, tough pistol that can run under extreme conditions if necessary. I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone interested in a very high-quality .45acp 1911.

Ruger LCP: ultimate “pocket protector”

When first looking for a CCW pistol I was interested in several criteria: size, weight, conceal-ability, reliability and power. There are lots of manufacturers of 9mm sub-compact guns on the market today and they make some fine pistols. There are also lots of nice compact and sub-compact 1911s out there. All these are nice but sometimes there is a requirement for a really, REALLY concealable weapon. Here’s where the .380 acp round shines. It’s the same diameter as the 9mm but only 17mm long instead of 19 for the Parabellum. The bullet is usually 85-90gr and is going a little slower than the 9mm but many people agree that it is still adequate for close-quarters self-defense work. I certainly think so.

Walther PPK
Bersa Thunder 380 CC

My first experience shooting a .380 was, like many of us, with the venerable Walther PPK. Anyone who grew up watching James Bond movies would immediately recognize this pistol. Unfortunately, like much Hollywood fare, the reality was less than expected. The PPK has a nasty habit of slide-biting the shooter and I just never really liked them. Enter the Argentine manufacturer Bersa and their Thunder 380. I got my hands on a CC model and that replaced the XD9 sub-compact I had been carrying. I liked it quite a bit but I somehow felt something was missing.

Eventually I decided to go back to the 9mm as my primary CCW caliber but I wanted a deep-concealment option in the form of a .380. I shot a couple of Kel-Tec P3AT pistols and was not happy. The snappy little thing would consistently jump up in my hand with every shot such that I would go from two fingers on the grip to only one thus requiring a grip adjustment between every single shot. Having a gun trying to jump out of your hand is not a good feeling, especially if this was a life-and-death scenario.

Kel-Tec P3-AT

When Ruger released the LCP it looked so much like the P3-AT that I figured they were simply trying to cash in on the mouse gun’s popularity by cloning the design. This was certainly not the case. I tried shooting a couple of different LCPs and I was really impressed. The ergonomics are subtly different such that with a firm grip, the pistol stays exactly in place while firing. It is also accurate, as much as it can be given the size and very low-profile sights.

The LCP is not a particularly pleasant gun to shoot. With its low mass the .380 round makes it a real handful to shoot, but like anything with regular practice it becomes routine. I find that I can keep all my hits in the A zone at 10 yards, even shooting rapidly. Given the long

Ruger LCP

double-action only trigger that does take some practice.

Tucked into a nice pocket holster (get one with the rubber strips on the side so it stays in your pocket when you pluck the pistol out) this pistol is almost not there. I like the square pocket holsters because they keep the gun properly oriented for a quick and easy draw and they avoid the dreaded “printing” issue.

With it’s ultra-thin, ultra-light form factor and it’s excellent quality, I consider the LCP my ultimate “pocket protector”.