Posts Tagged ‘Firearms’

Down Zero TV: Virginia State IDPA Championship

Two weekends ago, I hopped a plane to Virginia for the 2011 Virginia State IDPA Championship to exorcise some of the demons I had picked up from the 2011 Carolina Cup. While I wasn’t happy with my shooting at the Cup, I knew I could do better than 10th Place in CDP. So off I went with my Sig Sauer 1911 Tactical Operations that I had done some work on to see how I’d fare.

The answer? 3rd Place overall in CDP, and I can honestly say that unlike the Carolina Cup where I was neither great nor bad but just average, at the Virginia State Match I displayed some real flashes of brilliance. I did make some silly mistakes, but with a 3rd place finish I was extremely happy with how I shot at this match. I started on Stage 2, which is the first stage in the video, and as you can see I decided early on that I was going to go for broke. That strategy held until Stage 10, which started sitting on a porch swing. A miscalculation led to a bunch of lost time and my first -5 of the day. Stage 12 wasn’t much better, but I recovered to finish strong on Stage 13 and Stage 1. Sadly however, stage 13 was thrown out of the match – that’s the one where you start with a carbine and then retreated with your main pistol. Using carbines isn’t allowed during sanctioned IDPA matches, so the final results don’t include that stage.

Here’s the gear used to bring home another Top 10 Finish for the Cheaper than Dirt Team!

Down Zero TV Statistics
  • Major Matches: 5
  • Top 10 Finishes: 4
  • Top 5 Finishes: 3
  • Top 3 Finishes: 2
  • Major Match wins: 1
  • Rounds fired: 10,508 (including practice)
  • Guns used: 6 (Sig 1911 TacOps, Colt 1911 XSE Rail Gun, ParaUSA LTC 9mm, Sig Sauer P250, S&W 625, Glock 34)
  • Next Major Match: The Pro-Am Championship

Doing What You Love

Sometimes, it’s important to remember that shooting is supposed to be fun.  For me, that means hauling the revolvers and putting the pedal to the metal.  Not worrying about “accuracy” or anything silly like that, just good old fashioned six-shooter speed.

Gun: S&W 625 WCA Custom
Ammo: BVAC .45 ACP
Holster and belt: Safariland!

And as usual, Caleb’s wardrobe by Woolrich Elite Tactical, which have so far survived being covered in mud, rained on for five straight hours, set on fire, rolled in the Arizona desert, and generally abused.

2011 Carolina Cup Recap

Caleb's Sig 1911 Tactical Operations

If you could only shoot one major IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association) Match in the country, it should be the Carolina Cup.  This is what IDPA is all about—a match that squeezes the maximum amount of fun out of IDPA while staying true to the spirit and principles of the sport.  I’ve shot IDPA matches all over the country at all kinds of locations, and I have to say that the crew running the 2011 Carolina Cup was absolutely the best match staff I’ve seen at an IDPA major match.  My hat is off in gratitude and respect for the professional and efficient way that they handled the shooters through the day.  The big “IDPA Pitfalls” were avoided—there were never any questionable rulings, cover was enforced fairly across the board, and all in all it really was the best example I’ve seen in over 4 years of shooting of IDPA of what an IDPA match should look like.

My match started on Stage 13 (not me in the video).  There were a total of 16 stages at the Cup, and most of them were 12-15 rounds.  The total round count was 213, through which my Sig 1911 TacOps ran like a sewing machine with no bobbles or hiccups.  My first stage went okay; I was slower than I wanted to be, but didn’t make any major errors.  Stage 14 went better; I shot nice and fast but somehow dropped 7 points on a 12-shot stage.  The Carolina Cup was a great match for challenging your mental focus – lots of 12-round stages mean that dropping too many points is going to hurt a lot, and you absolutely have to stay on your front sight or you will end up looking at your score sheet wondering “where did that -3 come from?”

My favorite stage at the match was Stage 5, which was a very fast but technically challenging stage.  The shooter steps off the box and activates three disappearing targets simultaneously, all of which moved at different speeds.  You had to have your timing perfect or you’d end up getting behind and dropping a ton of points on the disappearing targets.  This is just one example of the excellent, creative, and challenging stages that you saw at the 2011 Carolina Cup.

And now for the fun part: the Results.  I shot CDP/MA, this being my first major match as a 5-Gun Master.  I definitely felt the pressure to perform to a higher level than I had before.  I’ll be the first to admit that there’s a huge difference between shooting Master class classifiers and performing like a Master in a major match.  I’m very pleased that I was able to bring home a Top 10 finish in CDP!  I finished 9th in CDP Master and 10th Overall in CDP, with first place going to Glenn Shelby, the only Distinguished Master competing in CDP.

This was a great match, and I want to thank all the companies that sponsored and supported the match, especially my main sponsor, Cheaper than Dirt.  Tomorrow, right here on the Shooter’s Log, I’ll take a look at the guns and gear I used to bring home my first Top 10 finish at a major IDPA Match in the 2011 season!

The 2011 NRA Bianchi Cup

Now that it’s Tuesday, I can finally look back and process all the great stuff that happened at the 2011 NRA Bianchi Cup, from the shooting to the events and all the great people that I get to see at that match.  Our previous update took a look at the shooting from Day 1, where I shot the Practical and the Barricades, and needed a strong performance on the Plates to keep me in the running for a win in Production/MM.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, as the Plates struck me down with all their fury and I finished the plates with a disappointing 360-36x.  Even with that score, I had a chance to hit my goal of a 1600 if I shot a 440 or better on the Mover on Day 3…and I came so close, shooting a new match-personal best on the Mover of 438.  That left me with a final score of 1598-80x, which was good enough for 4th Place in Production/MM division.

Now I’m obviously disappointed with that score – I know I can shoot better, but I struggled on the Plates and the Barricade.  However, there are a lot of positive takeaways from this match; one of the big ones is my X-count.  Using a factory stock Sig P250, almost half the rounds I fired were X’s, meaning they hit the 4 inch black circle at the center of the target.  That and my score are definite improvements from 2 years ago when I shot The Cup in ’09.  So obviously I’m getting better…just not fast enough for my taste.

Caleb shooting the Celebrity Pro-Am photo by Maggie Reese www.maggiereeseshooting.com

Saturday brought my favorite day of Bianchi Cup – the Colt Speed Event and Celebrity ProAm Shoot Off.  This event is put on for fans and for bragging rights; it’s a head to head shoot-off at five pieces of steel each.  Fastest time wins.  The top 4 finishers from Production, Metallic, and Open all compete to see who’s top dog, and then the organizers turn the celebs and media in attendance loose for the ProAm.   The Celebrity event follows the same structure as the Colt Speed event, but with a slightly…uh…looser interpretation of the rules.  That loose rule interpretation resulted in me being matched up against Dave Sevigny, and you know what?  I did alright.  I’ll have video of the Caleb vs. Dave matchup and the full story later in the week.

The 2011 NRA Bianchi Cup was a great experience for me this year.  I learn things about my shooting during this match that I couldn’t learn from shooting Steel Challenge, IDPA, or USPSA and those lessons make me better at each of those sports.  I’ll be back at the 2012 Bianchi Cup looking to improve my score by another 150 points, win Production/MM and put myself in the Top 20 again in Production Division overall.

Once again, if you’d like to run any of the gear I used during the Cup, here is the gear breakdown.

The Gear

We’re going to have a tonne of exclusive video and other coverage up this week on the Shooter’s Log from Bianchi Cup, so make sure you check in tomorrow and through the rest of the week as the good stuff keeps on coming in.

The Cradle of Pistol shooting

Smith & Wesson M&P with Crimson Trace Lightguard and Lasergrips

Next week, I’ll be at Gunsite Firearms Academy with Crimson TraceS&W, and Galco.  We’re going to be playing with the new Crimson Trace Lightguard for the M&P pistol, pictured at left from SHOT 2011. Galco has a new holster that’s designed to fit the M&P with the Lightguard attached, which we’ll also be trying out.

But that’s not what I want to talk to you about today. Today, we’re talking about Gunsite Firearms Academy, the cradle of pistol instruction.  I’m not old enough to actually have taken classes at Gunsite when Jeff Cooper was teaching, nor do I “remember” in the strictest sense the great rift when Col. Cooper sold Gunsite, then eventually reacquired it. What I do remember is sitting in the Coast Guard Academy pistol team’s ready room reading Cooper’s Corner in the back of Guns and Ammo and actually thinking about pistol shooting as more than just a sport. You see, without Jeff Cooper and Gunsite, we wouldn’t have our modern shooting culture. 99% if all not of the modern training schools owe their origins to Gunsite in one way or another; trainers came from there, added their own techniques and knowledge to the Modern Technique, and pistol shooting grew as a martial art across the nation until we have what you see today.

The same is true for competition shooting as well – without Jeff Cooper, there would be no IPSC, and without IPSC we wouldn’t have IDPA, Steel Challenge, USPSA, and 3-gun. Just like in those early days, competition shooting still continues to drive innovation in the combat shooting arena. When Rob Leatham and Brian Enos started shooting modern Iso instead of a Weaver-ish stance, it was a huge breakthrough. Now modern Iso is the industry standard, with only a few schools still teaching Weaver.

The Ruger SR1911

It’s the most famous pistol ever produced. More than 100 years old, the design has endured largely unchanged. Almost every pistol manufacturer throughout the world has made one at some point or another, and yet most attempts at improvements fall short and John Moses Browning’s design continues along the same as it has since 1911. That’s right, the 1911 pistol is an icon and is revered by many as quite possibly the perfect design.

Sure, metallurgy and materials technology have allowed for newer more modern designs that incorporate super-light super-strong polymer components. Advances in cartridge development has created loads with faster muzzle velocities and bullets with better expansion. But JMB’s famous design persists as a viable combat pistol.

This year, the 100th anniversary of the military’s adoption of the design, many manufacturers have come out with commemorative models of the 1911. Rumors circulated around the internet and were whispered in hushed tones at the 2011 SHOT Show by retailers and manufacturers alike anticipating the announcement that Ruger would be bringing to market their own variation of the 1911.

At long last Ruger has confirmed the rumors in a recent press release announcing their reincarnation of the design.

Ruger is proud to announce their new SR1911, an “All American” classic rendition of John Browning’s most famous handgun design. The public debut of the Ruger SR1911 pistol will take place during the NRA Annual Meeting in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania April 29 – May 1.

The single‐action .45 Auto Ruger SR1911 features a bead‐blasted stainless steel frame and slide, precision CNC machined for a precise slide‐to‐frame fit. The stainless steel barrel and bushing are produced simultaneously, from the same ordnance‐grade barstock, for a precise fit and improved accuracy. The slide features rear cocking serrations and a dovetailed three‐dot sight system with a Novak® rear sight and standard front sight.

“We are very proud to offer a 1911 pistol, an icon of American gun design and manufacturing,” said Ruger CEO Michael Fifer. “In this 100‐anniversary year of the introduction of the Government Model 1911 it is only fitting that such a firearm be completely manufactured in America with all American‐made components.”

The Ruger SR1911 pistol features a titanium firing pin and heavy firing pin spring, which negates the need for a firing pin block, offering an updated safety feature to the original “Series 70” design without compromising trigger pull weight. An extended thumb safety offers improved manipulation and an oversized beavertail grip safety provides positive function and reliability. A visual inspection port offers visual confirmation of a round in the chamber.

Positive extraction is facilitated by an improved internal extractor. The plunger tube for both the slide stop and thumb safety is integral to the frame and will never shoot loose. The swaged link pin also will not shoot loose. The SR1911 uses a skeletonized hammer and an aluminum, skeletonized trigger with an adjustable over‐travel stop. The Ruger SR1911 features a standard recoil guide system and flat mainspring housing.

The Ruger SR1911 grips feature a Ruger logo in checkered hardwood panels. Each pistol is shipped with one 7‐round and one 8‐round stainless steel magazine, bushing wrench and a soft case. The SR1911 will fit currently available 1911 size holsters.

The SR1911 slide and barrel bushing are both CNC machined from a single piece of stainless steel bar stock to ensure that both pieces fit together perfectly. The frame and plunger housing of the pistol is investment cast as a single piece as well.

The most notable thing about Ruger’s SR1911 is that it uses an older design that does not incorporate Colt’s Series 80 firing pin block. The Series 80 design, and the similarly designed Swartz safety device, consisted of a series of levers that blocked the firing pin, preventing the gun from firing unless they were moved out of the way by depressing the trigger. This additional lock-work, by necessity, made the trigger more gritty and difficult to pull. By eliminating the Series 80 firing pin block and going with a light titanium firing pin and stronger firing pin spring, Ruger made the trigger that much lighter and smoother. The trigger itself, along with the hammer, features the lightweight skeletonized design sought after by many 1911 aficionados.

To purchase your own Ruger SR1911 pistol, or to find accessories for the Ruger SR1911 or other Ruger firearms, visit CheaperThanDirt.com.

Ruger SR1911 Specifications

Caliber .45 ACP
Capacity 7+1 and 8+1 (both magazines included)
Trigger Pull 4 pounds
Weight 2 pounds 11 ounces
Overall Height 5.5 inches
Overall Length 8.6 inches
Barrel Length 5 inches
Sights Novak 3-dot

The Guns of Top Shot 2

Tuesday night’s episode of Top Shot Reloaded was by far my favorite, not just because it featured my friend and season 1 winner Iain Harrison, but because it had (in my opinion) the most awesome firearm selection of the episodes so far.  What really made the episode interesting is that the guns were personally selected by Iain for the challenge (which itself was strongly influenced by Iain’s 3-gun background).  The first gun that Iain chose for the challenge was the Sig P228, also known as the M11 in the US Army.  This gun competed against the Beretta for the Army’s XM9 pistol trials, and successfully completed the trials along with the Beretta.  The Army eventually chose the Beretta due to its lower overall price than the Sig P228.  However, the Sig P228 still saw service with the Navy SEALs and a host of federal law enforcement agencies.

The next gun up was the Browning Hi Power.  This gun was the standard service sidearm of the British military for quite some time; in fact it was the most common military sidearm in the world until it was gradually phased out by most countries in favor of more modern designs such as Glocks or Sigs.  Interestingly, the Hi Power was replaced in service with the British Army by the Sig P226, the big brother of the Sig P228.

The two rifles on Tuesday’s episode of Top Shot are both icons of military service.  The AR-15 rifle is the most common sporting rifle in the United States today, and has served the US military in conflict since the 1960s.  The AR15 is arguably the most common rifle in the free world, with its only competitor being the second rifle Iain selected for the episode: the FN FAL.  The FAL has been referred to as The Right Arm of the Free World, and has been used by more countries as their battle rifle than any other long arm in the free world.  Reliable, accurate, and in my opinion just a dead sexy platform.

The challenge itself was a lot of fun, but the guns were what made it for me.  Brownings and FALs are extremely evocative for me, bringing to mind images of soldiers in South America fighting against drug dealers and corrupt dictators.

If you missed Tuesday’s episode of Top Shot on History, check it out at the link.

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The Ruger SR9c in action

Yesterday, we had a post up about the Ruger SR9c, which is in my opinion one of the “best buys” on the market for someone looking for a compact defensive firearm. It’s so good that it can be used as a competition firearm quite readily. Here are some match videos of the Ruger SR9c in action.

The video to the right is the Ruger SR9c shooting Limited-10 division at the 2010 USPSA Indiana State Championship. Despite scoring minor, the little Ruger helped me finish 12th overall in a division dominated by double stack 1911s in .40 S&W and Glock 35s hotted up to be race guns.

This second video really lets the SR9c shine – in an IDPA match, using the Ruger I finished 3rd overall in Stock Service Pistol, out of 40+ other shooters. It’s a great gun, and even better – you can easily remove the magazine disconnect safety to make it an even better gun!

CTD Interviews Phil Cashin from MasterPiece Arms

In August of 2008 experienced CNC machinist Phil Cashin acquired MasterPiece Arms from founder Gary Poole. With his extensive experience in precision metalworking, Phil set about to take the high quality firearms already produced by MasterPiece Arms and improve them even further by upgrading the manufacturing process.

Beginning with MPA’s existing line of MAC based Defender pistols, Phil expanded into the defensive carry pistol market when the Protector .380 was introduced. We sat down with Phil to talk about how MasterPiece has grown into the company that it is today, and to learn a bit about what goes into the design and production of high quality pistols like the Protector .380.

Cheaper Than Dirt: How did you get started in the firearms industry? 

Phil Cashin: Well, I became involved in the firearms industry through an acquisition of MasterPiece Arms from the original owner, a gentleman by the name of Gary Poole back in August of 2008.

I had known Gary for years and he contacted me regarding some of his capital equipment, which is the business I used to be in. I used to buy and sell capital equipment earlier in my career and then I got out of selling equipment and got into manufacturing. That’s actually my background, precision machining and manufacturing.

Cheaper Than Dirt: MasterPiece Arms manufactured all of their firearms in the United States prior to your acquisition of the company, and that’s a tradition you’ve been proud to carry on.

Phil Cashin: Yes, MPA products have always been one hundred percent US made.

Cheaper Than Dirt: After your purchase of MPA, you updated the production facilities to an ISO 9002 certified facility, correct?

Phil Cashin: Well, when I purchased MPA I also owned, and still run, a very large, very sophisticated machining and metal work company that is located just outside of Athens Georgia.

When the acquisition took place there was a transition from the previous facility where MPA was located in Carlson. The manufacturing and assembly was moved over here to our location, so we basically just absorbed the manufacturing of the components. We brought online our quality system and some of our manufacturing techniques and continued with the design enhancements. Gary had developed a very good sound design into MPA’s products. Our equipment and manufacturing techniques are faster and newer and/or efficient and more capable. We just kind of added the best of both companies together.

Cheaper Than Dirt: So MasterPiece has always created very high quality firearms, all you did was bring them into the 21st century and upgraded everything?

Phil Cashin: Exactly, that’s right.

Cheaper Than Dirt: When you came on board they were already manufacturing the MPA 30 and the MPA 10 is that right?

Phil Cashin: The products that MPA was producing at the time of the acquisition was the Defender line, which included the 930 series, what we call the Mini-9. The original has the charging handle on the top of the upper receiver, more in line with the original MAC design. Gary developed the side charging version that puts the charging handle on the left side of the upper receiver, thereby allowing a Picatinny rail to be mounted to the top of the receiver, which lets the shooter attach any number of aiming devices such as holographic sights or a laser on top. But primarily, holographic sights are what seemed to work best with all of those weapons. The Defender is based on the original MAC design and, of course, that was manufactured initially as a full-auto weapon. The original sights on the weapon are not what most people would consider sophisticated.

Cheaper Than Dirt: MPA developed a similar MAC version that fires with a closed bolt.

Phil Cashin: I wouldn’t say we developed it, I would say we perfected it.

The problem with many of the other companies in the past that have manufactured MACs in a closed bolt design is the gun worked wonderfully in an open bolt. When the ATF required us to go to a closed bolt design, there had to be some engineering changes to any number of instrumental components throughout the entire gun to allow it to function more effectively with a different design than what it was originally designed for.

Cheaper Than Dirt: That was because, for those of our readers who may not be aware, the ATF declared that any open bolt gun, whether or not it actually functions as such, is in fact fully automatic impact machine gun.

Phil Cashin: What had happened was that they allowed the semi-automatic open bolts production of these weapons for a period of time until it became very apparent that anyone could, without even looking on the internet since it didn’t exist back then, with a file and about fifteen minutes spent modifying certain internal components you could convert the gun back to full auto.

Cheaper Than Dirt: You went in and made some other very specific changes to the pistol, for example creating a model that allows the use of Sten magazines so that you have got increased parts availability and magazine availability.

Phil Cashin: Well how the change took place on the nine millimeter version, which includes both the Mini-9. The Mini 9 being the 930 series and the full sized 9mm being the 30 series. It was produced with the Zytel mag, which is a polymer magazine and the reliability was okay.

One of the things that Gary did when he got these going with Masterpiece Arms was he changed the design to accept Sten mags because they were pre-ban and were of a very good quality and very reliable. It was a better, more reliable design, and the same thing goes for the Grease Gun magazines and the .45.

That same design still carries on today. Even in our current production models we use new and reproduced Grease Gun designed magazines. They are just an exact copy of the Grease Gun mag, but they are newly manufactured.

For the 9mm, due to how scarce Sten mags have become, and the volumes in which we were selling these guns, we worked with Tapco in Kennesaw Georgia and we developed a polymer version of the Sten magazine. It’s a polymer magazine that fits right into our weapon, and works extremely well. Of course it’s much lighter than the Sten mag and it’s a very attractive product. All of our weapons on the nine millimeter side are shipped with the Tapco version of the Sten magazine.

Cheaper Than Dirt: Now you have expanded into the Protector line. What prompted the expansion into concealable pistols from the tactical Defender line of pistols and rifles. Where did that jump come from?

Phil Cashin: The history of our company is built around the MAC design and our little Protector series has absolutely zero resemblance to the Defender line.

The reason that we decided to start manufacturing the Protectors was the fact that we wanted to get into more of a mainstream product line into the firearms market as well as to bring an increased awareness of the Defender line. Not everybody who sees a MAC immediately thinks of Masterpiece Arms. They may think of MAC, RPB, SWD or some of the other more poorly designed weapons.

The design principle of a weapon being a fully machined, both the lower receiver and the upper slide out of solid 4140, is a more expensive technique in manufacturing the weapon, but it’s one that we are extraordinarily good at. The Protector line was our effort to continue to bring high quality weapons at a low cost into the defensive handgun market.

Cheaper Than Dirt: You have mentioned in the past that there are no cast or injection molded parts on this gun.

Phil Cashin: That’s correct, there is no forging, there are no castings, there are no metal injection molded parts (MIM) parts. Everything is, with the exception of obvious items like springs and a couple of other laser sheet metal parts like the shield on the trigger bar, everything is fully machined out of solid billet steel.

Cheaper Than Dirt: That’s a more expensive process, and yet we have various models of the Protector for sale for less than three hundred dollars, which is quite affordable compared to most of the pocket pistols.

Phil Cashin: Absolutely. It’s a fully machined premium design in a moderate price range. The pricing strategy that we used took an enormous amount of consideration, and I will get to that in a second.

Getting back to that the reason why we did it: We talked about the design getting our products into a more mainstream market. The manufacturing technique that we are using is one of our core competencies. Performing high tech, very high precision, CNC production machining where you can hold the tolerances down, when you can get cycle time down, you can significantly reduce your manufacturing costs.

On top of that, we do everything in house, with the exception of springs and magazines. All of the critical components we manufacture ourselves. We do our own heat treating, we rifle the barrels, we machine all the internal components of machining centers and CNC Swiss. For us, being able to control the manufacturing of you know all the critical components is very important.

One of the reasons why we try to do everything that we can ourselves because ultimately you are in the control of your own destiny. You are not having to rely on the manufacturing challenges of another supplier. Without a part to the gun, you can’t ship the products. If you’re missing the firing pin, a trigger, or a hammer, the product is not going out the door.

My predecessor Gary Poole had a pretty significant role in the development and manufacturing of the old Autauga pistol. That was a very small subcompact concealed carry .32 ACP pistol that very much resembles the Protector. We have made some design changes externally to make the gun more attractive.

There have also been an enormous number of changes internally to the weapon. The Autauga was a gun that Gary had developed for a company called Autauga Arms over in Alabama that is no longer in business. The lower receiver was a casting, the upper slide was a casting, all the internal parts was castings, and the gun did pretty well in .32 caliber, but because of the size of the weapon they were never able to even consider going to the 380 because of the increased strength of the round.

Cheaper Than Dirt: So the Protector kind of evolved from this earlier design then?

Phil Cashin: Yes, now they are the same.

Cheaper Than Dirt: It’s not like this pistol has just kind of arrived on the out of the blue. You’ve kinda had your finger on the pulse of the concealed carry market for some time. Recently we have seen an enormous increase in the number of .380 pistols that have been released onto the market along with the increased availability of concealed handgun licenses to lawful gun owners.

Phil Cashin: Oh absolutely and, I think, rightfully so. I use my own personal experience, which is another part of the reason why we designed this Protector. The ability to carry in a concealed manner and not advertise the fact that you are carrying, having the right by the Second Amendment to protect myself, and especially with way that the world is today, I have felt personally that it is necessary to carry a weapon the majority of the time. I had a lot of problems finding a weapon that I could carry comfortably because I didn’t want to carry a holster on my belt or in the back of my pants or on my side, because it was just uncomfortable. You know it just didn’t really provide the level of concealability that I was looking for.

In the summer weather, whatever the situation is, I am able to exercise my right to carry a weapon and not advertise the fact that I am doing so. Some of the polymer weapons are very nice products and they are quite reliable. They make good pistols. They are not as small as ours, but they still have a fair amount of concealability to them. Ours is just smaller and, the accuracy and performance is consistent with some of these other pistols that are quite a bit larger.

Ours is more of a premium design. I like to hold metal in my hand. It’s more of a traditional design. Making the decisions to get into that crowded .380 market, we didn’t want to create just another polymer .380.

Cheaper Than Dirt: It’s important to point out that, with the all metal design, you do have a little bit heavier gun. It’s a little bit more controllable with that extra weight there.

Phil Cashin: Absolutely. Do you want to shoot a .380 with a feather or do you want to have something a little bit more, delivering more substance, to absorb the recoil. There is an absolute relationship between weight and recoil. The heavier the gun, the less recoil. It reduces muzzle flip and with that little recoil you get to the point where it’s quite manageable.

Cheaper Than Dirt: Some of those other lightweight polymer .380s really do beat you up. I don’t think anybody wants to fire more than one or two magazines at the range, and as everybody knows, you have to practice with what you carry in order to be effective with it.

Phil Cashin: Absolutely yes, that’s absolutely correct. In that aspect, controllability and comfort in shooting really went into the design of the weapon. If you look at the profile, the grip design, the radius on the front of the grip where your finger sits below the trigger guard, the gun is really engaged in your hand when you grab the weapon.

Compared to some of the other versions that are out there that have a straight grip, or just don’t have that comfortable of a design, the Protector is very comfortable. Without going into some of the other specific names, some of the other ones that I have owned in the past, some of which I still do own, they always feel like they are going to jump out of your hand when you shoot them.

Cheaper Than Dirt: You have also made some recent changes and upgrades to the Protector to make it even more controllable, tell us a little bit about those.

Phil Cashin: Well, with any manufactured product, as time goes by and you get feedback from customers you improve on techniques. You find new and better ways of making a product more enjoyable to utilize You want to be able to submit improvements to the design, and that’s what we have done here recently with a couple of primary items, one being the grip extension, and the second being the new profiled trigger.

Specifically to talk about the grip extension having that additional basically seven hundred and fifty thousandths, three quarters of an inch, sticking out of the grip on the front of the weapon in the form of that extension gives the shooter basically more leverage to control recoil.

Cheaper Than Dirt: And just one more finger is sometimes all you need to have a more effective grip.

Tell us about the trigger design because I have seen, especially some female shooters shooting these little double action pistols, that it can be difficult with that really long trigger pull to actually be able to pull the trigger. What is the trigger change that you have made, how does it help reduce the trigger pull?

Phil Cashin: It just made the shooting experience more comfortable on the trigger finger. What we did is change some of the radiuses on the bottom of the trigger. We are able to extend the length of the trigger to eliminate the amount of gap between the bottom of the trigger and the trigger guard. It’s now measured in the thousandths. When the gun is being fired, what it does is keep the trigger finger on the trigger and off of the trigger guard.

Cheaper Than Dirt: That’s important. For those that haven’t fired many double action pistols, your finger actually slides down the trigger as its pulled.

Phil Cashin: That’s exactly right, yes.

Cheaper Than Dirt: Your design makes this a little bit more comfortable?

Phil Cashin: On these double action only pistols, the trigger is positioned on a hinge or on a pin at the top of the trigger. Basically it swings as a pendulum. When the trigger is moved back towards the rear of the receiver then the finger naturally is going to slide down towards the bottom. The path of least resistance is moving the finger towards the bottom of the trigger.

With the new design, what we have done is we have changed the radius on the bottom of the trigger and we actually were able to lengthen to the trigger to keep the finger on the trigger during the shooting sequence rather than sliding off or making some contact with the trigger guard.

With the return of the slide forward and then the return of the trigger forward, it basically eliminates that friction that would occur between the bottom of the trigger finger and the top of the trigger guard.

Cheaper Than Dirt: We have seen some reviews already come out about the .380 Protector, and one thing that I have seen people complain about is the magazine and dry firing the pistol. Your design is very unique. Tell us about the magazine design and how it interacts with the trigger spring.

Phil Cashin: The way the gun is designed, you have the trigger and you have a boss on the trigger. How the trigger interacts with the hammer is that you have a trigger bar, which basically is a CNC laser cut piece of spring steel, that really attaches the two to each other, and then you have a torsion spring that returns the trigger back forward at the end of the shooting cycle.

You then have a shield that goes on the top of the trigger bar and the torsion spring, and then basically sandwiches that end of the mechanism together below the grip.

On the underside, that trigger bar is right inside of the magwell. Because of the size of the weapon you have limited amount of space to accomplish you know the design principle of the weapon. When the magazine is in the weapon it somewhat acts as the retaining feature for the trigger bar and holds the trigger bar in place on the trigger and the hammer.

When someone is dry firing the weapon without the magazine in place, then the correction is quite simple. You take the flat head screw or the fastener out of the grip, you take the grip off and take the shield off and basically reattach the trigger bar onto the hammer and the trigger. It takes about thirty seconds to do it.

Cheaper Than Dirt: To be clear, it’s not that people cannot dry fire the pistol, and it’s not that if you do dry fire the pistol with the magazine removed that it will break, it’s simply that the parts won’t be in the correct configuration, at which point you have disassemble and reassemble in the correct order right?

Phil Cashin: That’s correct. What it really gets down to is the intended use of the weapon and functionality. Obviously if this had any negative effect whatsoever on the function of the weapon under its intended use, then the design would have been changed. Under normal shooting experiences you are always going to have the magazine in place when you are pulling the trigger. When you are firing the weapon you are going to have the magazine and the magwell, and there is typically going to be ammo in the magazine when you are going to be shooting the weapon.

If you look at an abnormal situation, let’s say for whatever reason the shooter removes the magazine from the weapon and there is still a round left in the chamber. That’s worst case scenario if for some reason that the shooter takes the magazine out prematurely or it’s the last shot or whatever the case may be, it will absolutely still fire.

After that there is a chance that the trigger bar will come off, but then at that point in time you know the intended function of the weapon is done. In 100% of all normal shooting techniques and usages of the weapon, that condition cannot and will not happen. It has never happened.

Cheaper Than Dirt: It’s important to point out that unlike some other firearms that intentionally are rendered inoperable with the magazine removed, the Protector can still fire with the magazine removed.

Phil Cashin: The Protector can still fire the last round. That’s right.

Cheaper Than Dirt: Which has rendered your lifesaving tool useless. Now the Protector is not really designed for combat reloads though?

Phil Cashin: That is correct. The basic thing behind the mag design is, this is not a combat pistol. If a person is carrying a weapon and they feel it is necessary to carry extra magazines, it’s important to remember that ours is a backup gun. It’s a close quarters gun. It’s not a gun that the policeman is going to take into a fire fight or a soldier is going to use in combat. It’s a gun that you are going to use when you are in very close quarters and you know typically you are going to fire one full magazine of ammo. One design that seems to be prevalent on a lot of these .380 is the mag release mechanism. It is a very simple and very inexpensive way of designing it, and one that we actually did consider, but the downside that it presents is the problem of premature mag release.

Cheaper Than Dirt: If I am carrying one of those polymer ones in my pocket, one thing that can happen is that when it is pressed against your body the magazine catch can be depressed. When you go to pull the gun, the magazine just pops out.

Phil Cashin: Yes, and if you really think about that, that is going to happen in that scenario in all weapons nearly ninety nine percent of the time. However, when you get into its intended use in protecting your life in a close quarters situation, the last thing in the world you want to have to worry about is whether or not the magazine is going to be in the weapon when you pull it out.

There are two situations where the magazine can cause a problem. One, like you say that, if you sit on the weapon. The other situation can occur when you are grabbing the weapon to pull it out of your pocket holster or, depending on your state laws, if you are just pulling the weapon out of your pocket and you are doing so in a quick manner because of the situation that you are in. Even if you are just practicing for that potential situation that could occur, your thumb, if you are a right handed shooter, is going to be right where the mag catch is located. On a button type system when you grab the weapon and you are squeezing the weapon to get a good grip on it, and you have adrenaline going through your body and your thumb is right at the location of the mag release button, if you push the button in then you have got either a no shot or, at best, a one shot pistol.

Cheaper Than Dirt: With your design then you are officially basically reducing the number of points of failure.

Phil Cashin: Yes, because ours is not a push button type, it’s a rear slide type. You basically have to slide the mag catch button backwards towards the rear of the receiver. What that does is it pull the notch free so that the magazine could come out. You cannot push down on our mag release button to get the magazine to come out. You actually have to have to take your finger and slide it back.

Cheaper Than Dirt: Did you include a slide lock on the Protector?

Phil Cashin: No there is no slide lock.

Cheaper Than Dirt: And that’s just because of space requirements I assume?

Phil Cashin: For this type of weapon we just didn’t see that it was necessary to have a slide lock or a last round hold-open design.

Cheaper Than Dirt: There is really only one control on the weapon then, and that’s the trigger.

Phil Cashin: That’s correct.

Cheaper Than Dirt: What other new products here we look forward to seeing from Masterpiece Arms?

Phil Cashin: We have our Defender line, and one of the things that we just came out with recently is the Mini 9 Tactical Carbine, which is based on what is probably our most popular Defender, the Mini 9. It has a limited quadrail and it has a low profile fully machined buttstock and comes with a holographic sight and a vertical foregrip. It’s like a tactical package and we introduced that right here at the beginning of the year in the SHOT show.

With the Protector series we are in the process of developing a 9mm version of the .380 Protector.

Cheaper Than Dirt: A big brother to that little 380?

Phil Cashin: That’s correct; yeah it will be slightly larger in size but still have the same in design methods, principles and the look of our Protector series.

Cheaper Than Dirt: We didn’t really talk about it that much, but you also have the Protector available in .32 ACP

Phil Cashin: That’s correct, yeas.

That’s a very small percentage of our sales, and probably not rightfully so. For a female shooter, unless she is quite experienced, the .32 is a more easily controlled round. It has less recoil, and with the new ammunition technology that is out there the .32 can do some damage. I want to be able get one.

Cheaper Than Dirt: As they say, the gun you have is always better than the gun you don’t?

Phil Cashin: That’s absolutely correct.

Cheaper Than Dirt: I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us about Masterpiece and some of your new products and explaining a little bit about the Protector line.

Phil Cashin: It’s my pleasure. The basic theme of what we do at Masterpiece is really just the accuracy and the reliability that goes into the manufacturing techniques and the engineering of the products. It really has enhanced the enjoyment of shooting the weapon, especially in our Defender line, and of course there is the reliability of the Protectors.

Cheaper Than Dirt: You have really proven that you know you don’t have to pay you know a whole lot of money to get a really high quality, fully machined, reliable pistol.

Phil Cashin: Our ability to get our manufacturing costs down, to manufacture everything internally, has allowed us to focus on that particular price range. It’s a good price point, and one that we feel comfortable with. We feel we have a slight advantage over a polymer design when it comes to the price, quality, and reliability we can offer.

Cheaper Than Dirt: You know, sometimes people see a gun that’s priced fairly low, and they see that price and think to themselves “That can’t be a high quality firearm.”

How do you deal with that, what do we tell customers when they ask us how MasterPiece Arms can afford to produce a quality arm at such a low price?

Phil Cashin: That’s a great observation. Really how overcome that stigma is just to continue to produce a quality product. By doing that we continue to bolster the good reputation of the weapon. People are going to find problems no matter what, whether it is in that trigger bar issue, or something else. We really have spent an enormous amount of time evaluating the weapon to create practical defensive handgun. If there was anything that had a negative effect on the function of weapon in a defensive situation, we would have changed it.

Outside of that it is just a matter of getting the weapons into the hands of the dealers, distributors, the gun blogs that are out there, and the various gun writers.

Cheaper Than Dirt: We have got our own model of the Protector in .380 and we are going to reviewing it soon as well as posting some videos on it.

Listen, I think that’s about all I have got for you, and I want to thank you again for your time and the insights you’ve given us into MasterPiece Arms and your development of this wonderful little pocket pistol.

Phil Cashin: It’s been a pleasure.

Down Zero TV firearms preview: Sig P250

Sig P250 full size

As we approach the launch of the first episode of Down Zero TV, here at the Shooter’s Log you’re getting a first look at one of the main guns we’ll be using on Down Zero TV. This year, Sig re-booted the P250 line by adding a variety of new grip frames to the line. For only $45, you can have a large, medium, or small grip frame for your Sig P250. The guns also come in three barrel sizes, from sub-compact with it’s 3.5 inch barrel, compact with a 4ish-inch barrel, to the pictured full-size gun which has a 5 inch barrel. Each barrel size can be shared with the different size grip frames, creating a platform that can be interchanged to fit your needs.

But the really neat thing about the P250 is the modularity of the system – it’s really like LEGO for grownups. The trigger group is the serialized part on the P250, meaning that in the eyes of the ATF, the only “gun” is the trigger group, and you can buy and ship frames at will. My P250 is a 9mm for IDPA SSP and Bianchi Cup Production division, but if I wanted to change it up to a .40 S&W for Limited-10, I could simply buy a caliber exchange kit and some .40 mags and be off to the races.

Right now, we’re waiting on holsters for the P250. That’s currently the only major drawback to the gun. When Sig relaunched it, they changed the rail system on the front so that many of the previous holsters no longer fit the gun; that means that you have to be very careful with your holster selection or risk having a holster that straight up won’t fit your gun. For Down Zero TV, we’re going to try a cross-section of leather and kydex holsters for the P250, to help owners out there get an idea of what is going to work well for their gun.

While the Sig P250 hasn’t endured a severe round count yet – its partner in the tests is going to be the Sig 1911 Tactical Operations I’ve been talking about at Gun Nuts. The Sig was literally picked up from the FFL on Tuesday, and once we get holsters in for it you can expect to see a lot more of the P250 out on the range.

USPSA Classifier breakdown: CM99-42 Fast’n Furious

Unlike IDPA, which uses a fixed 90 round course of fire as the classifier, USPSA uses a rotating array of classifier stages.  Usually one classifier stage will be inserted in every club match, and a shooter needs to shoot a minimum of four classifiers in one division to achieve a USPSA classification.  From time to time, clubs will hold special “classifier matches” where the bulk of the stages will be classifiers, which allows shooters who are unclassified to quickly get classified.

Classifier stages themselves are broken down into “skill tests”, and while shooting a classifier well doesn’t mean that you can shoot a 32 round field course well, it does mean that your shooting fundamentals (such as sight picture, trigger control, etc) are generally solid.  Most classifiers will also test your ability to reload, which is imperative for pretty much every division except Open and Limited.  To help with that, we’re going to break down CM99-42 Fast’n Furious.

Equipment

Fast’n Furious is a very simple classifier stage that can cause a lot of problems for shooters.  Right off the bat, the shooter is faced with a choice – start on the weak hand side of the barricade, or the strong hand side?  I personally choose to start on the weak hand side of the barricade.  While this slows down my draw slightly, it speeds up the reload as it’s much faster for me to reload as I move back to my strong side.  So for decision number 1, I recommend starting on the weak-hand side.

Decision number 2 is “Steel or paper first?”  Once you’ve picked which side to start and finish on, you have to decide whether or not you’re going to shoot the poppers or the paper targets first.  For Revolver and Single Stack shooters, the choice is clear cut: steel first.  If you’re running a revolver, you cannot afford a miss here, but in the off chance that you do it’s better to engage the steel first so that you’ve got enough rounds to get them down.  In a perfect world though, you don’t miss the steel and shoot exactly six rounds on each side.  Production/L10 shooters (and of course Limited and Open) could shoot either first – if I was running L10 I’d draw and shoot the paper first, because I can get a faster presentation on a paper target than I can on the steel popper.  So decision number 2: which targets first is steel for SS/Revo, and paper first for everyone else.

Once you make your decisions on how to shoot it, all that’s left is execution.  The critical parts of this classifier are 1) not missing the steel, 2) sticking your reload, and 3) getting good first shots on your draw and after your reload.  If you can do all that, you’ll post a great score!

Introducing the MasterPiece Arms .380 Premium Protector

MasterPiece Arms has unveiled their newest addition to the Protector line, the .380 Premium. With fully machined aluminum grips and a hard anodized frame, this is a dress gun you can feel comfortable slipping into a suit pocket or clutch purse.

From the press release:

MasterPiece Arms new Protector Model, the MPA380P, is a US manufactured conceal carry pistol built on a fully machined 4140 stainless steel lower receiver and upper slide. Demonstrating MPA’s central philosophy to build only high-quality, precision engineered firearms, the new MPA380 “Premium” subcompact, semi-auto pistol sports fully machined aluminum grips with a bead blasted finish protected by a clear anodize coat. The MPA380P pistol is a Double-Action-Only with a 5+1 magazine capacity, plus the extended magazine pad for added shooting comfort. Every MPA pistol comes in a lockable case with one magazine and an owner’s manual, plus the additional relief of knowing your MPA comes with a Lifetime Warranty. MSRP is $345.90 and the pistol is available now at Cheaper Than Dirt! 

How Rifle Twist Works

Just reading the title, you might think this would be a very short post. Everybody knows that rifle twist works by spinning the bullet so that it is stable as it flies through the air. Naturally, there’s a bit more to it than that.

J-frame carry gear part 3: lasers

In part 1 and part 2 of the j-frame carry gear, we looked at holsters and ammo for you compact carry revolver.  Today we’ll look at a piece of gear that, while optional, is something I believe every compact revolver should have on it – a laser sighting system. There are a lot of options out there for laser sights for you carry gun, but the clear winner is the Crimson Trace LaserGrip for J-Frames or the Ruger LCR.  I do believe that your carry gun should have night sights, but in an actual self-defense situation at low light, there is no guarantee that you’ll be able to see the front sight, or that you’ll be in a position to use that sight.  The laser grip from Crimson Trace takes that uncertainty out of the situation.  Even if you’re in an unorthodox firing position, you’re still able to make aimed hits on the target, simply by indexing the red dot from the laser on the threat and firing.  Again, it’s an optional item for your gun, and you’ll probably never need to actually use it – but then again, I don’t carry a firearm for self-defense because I’m an optimist.  Having a good holster and powerful defensive ammo doesn’t do you a whole lot of good if when the threat appears you’re not able to get reliable hits on the target.  Having a laser on your defensive firearm allows you to get those hits while keeping your eyes focused on the threat.  This eliminates having to shift between two focal planes (the sights and the threat) and allows you to better asses a defensive encounter in real-time.

I also believe your carry gun should have good night sights on them.  Recently, I came around on XS Sights for carry guns – while I don’t believe they’re the right fit for every gun, for a compact revolver they are a significant upgrade over the usual gutter/front post arrangement that you’ll find.  My personal j-frame wears a Trijicon front night sight and S&W adjustable rear sight.  The goal is to be able to see the sights in any lighting condition, and have the laser as a backup sighting system should the sights be unavailable for any reason.

The compact revolver, be it a S&W J-Frame or a Ruger LCR is a great carry option.  Yes, it takes practice and discipline to master the double action trigger pull, and they hold less rounds than some semi-automatics.  But they’re far more reliable than other pocket .380s on the market, and offer the option of considerably more puissance in a .357 Magnum chambering than a comparably sized or smaller .380.  With a good holster, good ammo, and most importantly good sights and a laser, the compact revolver is one of the best and most reliable carry guns out there.

Picking a pocket .380

Is your .380 enough gun? Lately, the market has been flooded by compact .380 ACP pistols, from the brand new Diamondback .380 to the Sig P238 there are a ton of options out there for shooters looking for a compact pocket gun. In fact, Cheaper Than Dirt! recently went over some of the more inexpensive pocket .380 pistols available. Having carried a .25 ACP in a pocket for quite some time, it’s safe to say that I’m a firm believer that the .380 you carry is a step above the 9mm or .45 ACP that you leave at home because it’s too heavy.

The current generation of pocket guns have some serious strengths and weakness as well.  Starting with the Ruger LCP and Kel-Tec guns, the sights are essentially non-existent.  Both the Ruger and the Kel-Tec sport what is commonly called a “gutter sight” which means that instead of the traditional 3-post set up we’re all used to, there is a trough down the middle of the slide.  All of these pocket pistols benefit greatly from the addition of Crimson Trace Lasers, but this goes more so for the LCP and the Kel-Tec.  By adding the Crimson Trace Laserguard for the LCP to your gun you then greatly improve your ability to hit close targets faster and to hit distant targets period.  Using a Crimson Trace equipped Sig P238 (pictured above) I was able to make consistent hits on an IPSC A/C zone target at 25 yards.  The Sig P238 doesn’t even need the Crimson Trace as much as the LCP as it has excellent factory night sights; and yet even on this gun it just makes sense to add it.

The next issue that you’ll encounter on these pocket guns is the trigger.  I like the Ruger LCP – I think it’s a great defensive firearm.  I don’t like the trigger very much.  The same can be said for the Kel-Tec, Diamondback, Bersa, and pretty much all the pocket .380s with the exception of the Sig P238 (again) which has an excellent single action trigger.  But that’s not without problems of its own, as the Sig P238 must be carried cocked-and-locked with the safety on…in a pocket.  That might be an area of concern to some gun owners, in which case a double action gun such as the LCP might be a better bet.

Of course, the most critical issue with the .380 is ammo selection.  The debate will continue to rage whether the .380 is “enough” gun, and whether or not you should use ball ammo to get more penetration or use JHP ammo to get more expansion.  The BVAC ammo at the right is a 90 grain JHP at approximately 1000 FPS using a Speer hollow point bullet.  I tend to prefer hollow points for .380 ammo not because I think they improve my stopping power but rather because a hollow point bullet is less likely to glance off the hard bones in the rib-cage if used in a dynamic critical incident.  FMJ rounds are great for practice and training, but for defensive carry I definitely want the heaviest, fastest hollow points I can get for my .380.

The final thing to consider for your defensive .380 is reliability and learning curve.  Your gun must run the ammo that you choose for it reliably.  If you carry the BVAC ammo above, it needs to work in your gun.  You also need to practice with you gun, and not just standing on the range.  A .380 that’s carried as a last ditch defensive weapon needs to be something that you can draw and get quick, accurate hits with.  Would you take a defensive shooting class with a Ruger LCP?  I honestly don’t know if I would, but it’s something to think about.

When selecting a defensive pocket gun, remember that the first rule of a gunfight is “have a gun”.  The .380 you have beats a .44 at home, but if you have the wrong ammo or can’t hit with your .380, it’s not much better than a magic talisman.  Carry your guns…but make sure your gear is the best you can get.  After all, your life may depend on it.

SIG MK 25 9mm

Budget Pistols: Buying Used

In our last post, we discussed choosing concealed carry handguns for a new shooter. One subject we touched on was budgeting for a pistol. Firearms, as a general rule, are not inexpensive. High quality firearms can command prices that exceed $1,000. This places many firearms outside of the average person’s budget. What do you do when the pistol that “works” for you is one that is too expensive? One solution we mentioned was buying used. The problem is, not all used firearms are the bargains that they seem.

Guest Post: Commander Zero on Simplicity and Preparedness

We humans tend to have an affinity for elegant, complex devices. While having the latest whiz-bang device that not only solves your firearm cleaning problem, but also folds your laundry and walks the dog is great, when the Zombie Apocalypse comes, do you really want to rely on a complex device with hundreds of moving parts? Sometimes a simple solution is indeed the best.