USPSA: 9mm bullets for Production – what weight?

A friend recently mentioned that he had tried out some “sub-sonic 9mm ammo” that was supposed to be good for use in USPSA Production class shooting. He asked me what I thought, which resulted in the following response.

Before I comment on subsonic ammo, a few words are in order:

As a competitive shooter, one of the key reasons for reloading is to work up a tuned round specifically to work with one’s tuned pistol to produce shots with little felt recoil that still achieve minimum power factor for the division one is shooting. In our case (Production division) everyone is scored Minor Power Factor (MinorPF), so there’s no advantage to loading higher than that. Minimum MinorPF is 125. This is Mass (bullet weight in grains) times velocity divided by 1000. So, if you are shooting 115gr bullets at 1100 feet-per-second that equals a PF of 126.5, or just over the minimum for Minor. Most factory ammo is hotter than this, which results in a higher PF but also much greater felt recoil. Shooters desiring less recoil and more control can achieve this by trading velocity for bullet weight. Continue reading “USPSA: 9mm bullets for Production – what weight?”

S&W M&P 9 – Part VI: bottom line (sort-of)

After all the time, money and work spent on this project I was very anxious to get to the range with this tricked out pistol. This past weekend the Upper Valley Practical Shooters (UVPS) met per usual on Saturday morning to set up a practice stage and run through it several times. I asked if I could shoot the gun into the berm just as a function check and everyone was OK with that. I loaded one round and fired it without any trouble. I then put a 10-rounder in and blasted about a half-dozen rounds faster than I’ve ever done before. This was going to be fun.

I went first through the stage, which was a bunch of poppers and 1-shot paper targets, then transition to Box B and repeat. Plenty of hard cover on the paper too. We went through the stage five times each and I did OK, but nothing unusual. Once the usual suspects left Neil and I stayed to shoot some paper targets with the usual 2-shots-per-target routine. It was then that I noticed something disturbing: most of my shots were quite low but usually in line vertically with the target center. I then tried some aimed slow fire to confirm zero and was relieved to see that my groups were spot-on. So, what was happening? I can’t say with certainty but I suspect it is just that the cumulative changes will take time to get used to. I then went on to spend a good deal of time trying to gauge the reset. This was harder than it sounds, especially in the heat of running a stage. This will take some time too.

I went home puzzled but truthfully, between the action job and the sights this was a completely different gun. Not to mention that I only had the gun a week in total by this time. That’s a lot of change to assimilate. So, what to do next? Shoot a match!

Green Mountain Practical Shooters (GMPS) is another group to which I belong. We hold monthly matches in Morrisville, Vermont and yesterday was the scheduled monthly match. Bill and I headed up early in the morning.

I would love to tell you that I had the best match of my life but that isn’t what happened. I shot worse than usual, with a fair number A hits followed by C or D hits low. This is similar to what I noticed Saturday. I just don’t have the muscle memory in place yet for this radically different trigger. Now, there were other factors that should be mentioned. This match was the first multi-gun optional match ever held at GMPS which meant that I was shooting pistol on stages meant for rifles in many cases. Had these stages been more traditional I would certainly have done better, but even on the more normal sections I had trouble.

The other big thing to mention is that for some reason I decided to wear contact lenses instead of my usual glasses. This was just foolish. My extreme Myopia renders soft contact lenses only moderately effective at close ranges, like say the distance to the front sight of my pistol. My sight picture for the day consisted of a fuzzy red blob that sometimes appeared out of the darkness of my rear sight. Yep, not my best MENSA moment.

The last thing I’ll mention is that the match was delayed an hour starting and was only about 2/3 complete when we had to leave at almost 4 pm. Sure, it shouldn’t matter but the frustration of sitting around waiting all that time was certainly a factor.

Am I being a cry-baby? Probably, but this is shared in the interest of full disclosure. The bottom line is that this was far from an ideal match at which to try out a radically different gun from what I was used to shooting. I already knew from practice that I would need a ton of trigger time to dial in this new system but on the other hand I wasn’t going to miss the fun of a match just because I had a new platform.

So, where does that leave us? Well, there’s little doubt in my mind that with several thousand more rounds down range I will acclimate to this system and I will be better for it. The platform is everything I could ask for so now the rest is up to me. I will post a follow-up in Part VII after a few weeks so stay tuned.

Wish me luck!

In search of the perfect 9mm for USPSA

In the Spring of 2010 I asked my friend Glyn if I could test out some of his 9mm pistols. I had been shooting the Ruger SR9 in USPSA matches for a number of months and although I was doing well with it I wanted to know if there might be a better solution out there. He had several different popular models so I started by handling and then dry firing them. Here’s how that part went:

  • H&K USP 9mm: really not a good fit for my hands and the trigger seemed stiff. The grip was just awkward.
  • Beretta 92FS: too fat in my hand and very heavy. Trigger was OK.
  • Springfield XD9 Tactical: fine ergonomics but the trigger was squishy with a very long take-up and reset.
  • Beretta PX4 Storm: I liked this one a lot. It felt really good, had a good trigger and it looks…well, cool.
  • Smith and Wesson M&P 9: I also liked this one very much. It felt great in my hand and the trigger was excellent.
Berreta PX4 Storm 9mm
Berreta PX4 Storm 9mm

I decided to next try shooting the PX4 and the M&P. Before I discuss that I should clarify something: I have owned several XDs and I had even shot the XD mentioned above for about a week to see how I liked the particular sights on it. (Dawson FO front/BoMar blackout rear). I do like the XD, especially in the larger calibers but the current effort was specifically to find the best gun to run in USPSA Production and frankly the XD (from the factory) just doesn’t get it for me. Yes, Springer triggers are great but that puts the price of the gun fairly high and the trigger and grip safeties are just a nuisance during competition.

Springfield Armory XD9 Tactical

So, out we went to the range. I will say that both the PX4 and the M&P shot really nicely but the M&P seemed to have the edge. I later discovered that the M&P has a very low bore-axis, which probably had a lot to do with my perception. This of course keeps the recoil forces close to the plane of one’s forearms, thereby keeping the muzzle from rising as much. That whole lever principle I guess.

One thing I noticed about the PX4 that I actually did not like was the location of the ambidextrous safety. When I racked the slide those big things were right in the way, which gave my fingers a raking every time I did it. Also, while the pistol is very light and feels wonderful in my hand, it is a bit bulky. But it does look really cool.

In the end I had to say that the M&P was the clear winner. I later went on to see a lot of great Production shooters using that very pistol. I’m not at all surprised.

Smith & Wesson M&P9

I went back to using my SR9 and and continued shooting it at matches (along with my 1911 for Limited/10 occasionally) for about six months but this past week I had the opportunity to buy the very gun I had tested so…I did.

Now, I’ve been accused more than once of being a Ruger-phile, Ruger-centric or perhaps just a shill in general for that company. I will be the first to admit that I have become very fond of a number of Ruger firearms but I will assure the reader that this is purely a matter of coincidence. The purchase of these guns was never done on the basis of the Ruger name but on the basis of either a targeted need or an opportunistic purchase. So, as much fun as I’ve had with the SR9 I have to say at the end of the day that with all the effort and money I have put into making that gun as good as I could for USPSA, the M&P smokes it right out of the proverbial box. Of course the M&P price is substantially higher than the SR9 so it’s not really surprising.

One more thing about the SR9: I still think that for the money it is a great gun for Production class shooters who want a cost-effective gun with which to get started. I also love the SR9c as a CCW gun and don’t see that changing. However, for where I’m at with USPSA I think it’s time to move on to something that suits my development better.

I guess I should mention Glock at this point lest I get the G-men after me 😉 Yes, I’ve shot the G17 and the G34 many times. They are great guns in many respects, especially the 34 but the ergonomics just do not work for me. That grip angle is simply a deal-breaker. I just can’t make my wrists bend forward beyond that classic 17 degree angle common to the 1911 and most other classes of modern auto-loading pistol. If that gun works for you that’s super but please don’t tell me I don’t know what works for me.

So, where does that leave us? Oh yeah, ready to start the M&P adventure!

Stay tuned…