Monday, August 31, 2009

Sig-Sauer P238 Nitron w/Rosewood grips


Time to welcome a new member to our firearm family. I’ve already reviewed the P238 and still believe it to be the best currently produced .380 on the market. We were only borrowing one before, and now we own one.

This version is a Nitron finish (all black) with Rosewood grips and night sights.
(taken at ISO 1600)

We purchased this from a Florida dealer through an internet auction site. The gun was described as NIB (New In Box) yet it was apparent that it had been shot at least 25 times from the powder build-up in the barrel. I checked it out and found no wear or damage to anything and was fine with it. Sig-Sauer has a great repair policy should anything go wrong. I was only able to load 5 rounds in the magazine that was designed for 6, though. I had assumed it was a tight spring like my S&W M&P had in the beginning. It turned out to be a stone in the bottom of the magazine that finally worked itself into a rattle.

Shooter and pistol are doing fine and are very happy.

Ruger Security-Six revolver 6” barrel


A “Beauty and the Beast” revolver in bright stainless steel and twice as big as of any of my other guns A friend of mine loaned it to me with a “Here, try this one out” kind of comment. It didn’t take me 24 hours before I was shooting it. I was advised by another friend to shoot .38 Special ammo through it first to get used to the feel, then move to .357 Magnum. I admit to anticipating some serious recoil from this massive pistol.

History: Introduced in 1968, the Security Six was the original model of the new series that later became “Service-Six”. This gun has Iron sight and chambered for the .357 Magnum cartridge which also allowed for the firing of the .357's predecessor, the shorter .38 Special. Gun barrel lengths available on the Security Six included 2.75, 4, and 6 inches. Medium-framed in size, these revolvers were initially manufactured in a blued carbon steel finish (Model 117) and ,in 1975, stainless steel versions of all models were added to the lineup (Model 717). While Ruger’s Security Six line has been out of production since 1988, a total of over 1.5 million pistols were produced and they remain well-liked and respected, as well as highly sought after in the second-hand market. They can be found on auction sites for around $500.
Security_Six_sight_adjust Security_Six_empty_wheel

Disassembly: I didn’t break the handle apart, so there was no real disassembly. I did look the gun over, though. The Security Six series was one of the first modern revolver designs to feature the safer transfer-bar based lockwork. The hammer has a dimple in it to prevent it from hitting the firing pin. As the trigger is pulled, or the hammer is pulled back, a metal plate moves up over the firing pin. The hammer will strike the metal plate and the transfer is made against the firing pin. If the trigger is not fully pulled to the rear, the metal plate will drop out of the way and the hammer will not strike the pin.
Security_Six_hammer_dimple Security_Six_pin_safety

Shooting: Like a dream. The recoil I had anticipated was never there and the massive size of the gun was not an issue. I expected a dual-action trigger-pull to be difficult to keep on target, but it wasn't. Every trigger-pull was smooth and steady with a quick break. The “Pachmayr Gripper” grip was very comfortable as well. I did shoot .38 Special at first and got surprising results at 25 feet. I shot both Double-Action and Single-Action with both groupings being very satisfactory. I even moved it back to 50 feet and shot Single-Action to some pretty good groups. Sharon shot it as well and commented that she was better with the .357 Mag ammo then the .38 Special.
Security_Six_shoot_25_DA Security_Six_shoot_25_SA
( 25 ft Double-Action ) ( 25 ft Single-Action )
( 50 ft Single-Action )

The bad: There was nothing bad about this revolver. Of course you would have a tough time concealing this monster even if you tried. The worst part of this gun is having 7 barrels (the main and the 6 in the wheel) to clean compared to only the 1 in a semi-auto.
( Security-Six vs Walther PPS )

Summary: FUN. It is massive, shiny, accurate, comfortable and completely different from what I usually deal with.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Walther PPK/S


Bond. James Bond. I know that is what you are thinking when you hear “Walther PPK”… I know I do. However, this is a Walther PPK/S, which is not the same thing. The PPK/S was used in movies with Kevin Costner as Mr. Earl Brooks in "Mr. Brooks" and Dwight Yoakam as Leroy Wasley in "Hollywood Homicide".


A little history: The letters “PPK” stand for the German words Polizei Pistole Kriminal. A direct translation would be “Police Pistol Criminal” which means it was issued to the Criminal division of the police, i.e. the people who investigate crimes, which would be termed 'Detectives Division' in most U.S. police forces. Got that? A Police Detective Pistol.

(Walther PPK/S (Police Detective Pistol) vs Walther PPS (Police Pistol Slim)

The Gun Control Act of 1968 limited the size and weight of handguns that could be imported - hence the Walther PPK was barred because it was too small. To comply with GCA68, imported handguns have to score a minimum number of points. Walther was able to accomplish this by combining the frame of the (lesser-known, full-length barreled) Walther PP with the slide of a PPK, and thus the Walther PPK/S was born. Walther manufactured the PPK/S in Ulm Germany until the mid-70's when economics and a licensing agreement with Interarms moved production to the USA. From 1978 to 1999, USA Walther PPK/S were manufactured by Ranger Manufacturing in Gadsden Alabama and distributed by Interarms. Currently, Walther imports its firearms through Smith&Wesson.

This pistol is a stainless version manufactured in the early 80’s, probably around 1983 by the serial number. Weighing in at 27.4 oz (1lb 11.4oz) fully loaded, the entire gun feels heavy and good in the hand. The gun is sleek and beautiful. This particular one has a Pachmayr wrap-around rubber grip that makes the grip feel natural in your hand. The sights are an interesting set of colors with 2 yellow dots and a red line on the rear and a red dot on the front.

The safety is also a de-cocker, blocking the hammer from the firing pin just before releasing the hammer. There was a recent recall to fix this feature in some newer guns where the hammer didn’t get blocked and the gun went off. This gun is not involved in that recall.

Disassembly: The PPK/S comes apart like the Iver Johnson I reviewed. You have to hold the trigger guard down while pulling the slide back past the hammer. You then lift it up slightly and then forward over the barrel. The parts are simple and well made. I was very impressed that NOTHING looked cheaply made in this gun.

Shooting: The Walther PPK/S shoots like a dream. Very nice with great accuracy, although I think it takes some practice to get really good at it. The recoil is small and the trigger was very smooth. Those wonderfully colorful sights didn’t show up too well in the dimly lit portion of the indoor range. I imagine my shots would be better if I was outside in the sun.

The bad: Nothing bad about this pistol.

Summary: Most gun collectors probably have one of these just because it is a classic of the small .380 guns. I have to say that the stainless version is definitely the prettiest of the PPK/S’s as well. Even after explaining the difference between a Walther PPK and PPK/S, my oldest daughter still wanted me to borrow it again so that SHE got a chance to shoot the “James Bond gun”. Although I have other guns for concealed carry, I would really love to have a stainless Walther PPK/S, even if James Bond DIDN’T carry one.

Thompson Auto-Ordnance 1911-A1 Standard

A step up from our normal calibers, this time we go all the way to a full size pistol in 45 ACP. This is an Auto-Ordnance “Thompson” line of 1911 style pistols. Thompson pistols are still being made under their current owner Kahr Arms. This particular one pre-dates that acquisition and is sometimes called a “West Hurley” Thompson, named after the manufacture city of its time.

In its early years of production it was made from military parts on a Essex frame and slide with a commercial colt barrel. Production then moved to cheaper "market" parts that gave the gun a poor reputation for quality. This transition into cheaper parts started in earnest after SN 4000 (1983). Some online research puts this gun back into 1987 or possibly 1986.Kahr Arms has been improving the quality of the Thompson since its purchase.

At a weighty 46.7 oz (2 lbs, 14.7oz), this Thompson is a hefty, dark, sleek looking gun. The front sight is a massive blade with no angle cuts to it. A Pachmayr wrap-around rubber grip (Signature Model) was added and provides an excellent grip for shooting.

Disassembly: Another new adventure for me is the take-down of a 1911 with a barrel bushing. Not difficult, but still new and a wonderful learning experience. Press down on the recoil spring while you rotate the bushing 90 toward the ejector port. Be careful not to launch the spring into space (or your eye) as you let the pressure off and remove the spring. Turn the bushing back to center and remove the take-down lever by aligning the half-moon cut in the slide with the lever to push it out. At this point, you remove the slide. Another turn of the barrel bushing will allow you to remove it and then pull the barrel out the end of the slide. The internals of the Thompson were as sturdy and well built as the outside, although the barrel looks out of place. It is less refined with more of a cast, unfinished look.

Shooting: The iron sights are so big and bulky when compared to the other guns we shoot, that I expected to take a while to zero in on a bullseye. Boy was I wrong. Dead center at 25 feet. Where you point this gun is where it shoots, even when we put it back to 50 feet. I was pleased with the shots and can only imagine what I could do with some practice. The recoil was negligible and in line with what a .45 should kick. The trigger broke smoothly as well.
Thompson_AO_DAD_shot Thompson_AO_SKD_shot

We did experience 1 or 2 (OK, MANY) problems with Stovepipes (FTE’s – Failure To Eject the spent casing). It didn’t always “jam” but when it did, it would do it for several times in a row. The cause could be the gun itself, the magazine or (as is most likely) limp-wristing on our part. Having little experience with full sized 1911’s, it is possible I would need some more practice. I have shot other 1911’s without such errors, though.

The Bad: Well all the jams and stovepipes is a bit of a bummer but I am not sure it was the guns fault. That’s about the only bad thing I could find for this gun

Overall impression: A sturdy gun with great accuracy. I realize that it is not a competition grade gun, but it was a pleasure to shoot. I would not turn down owning a Thompson as long as the price is right. I am very grateful for our friend lending it to us for evaluation.

(my M&P 40 compact on top of the Thompson)

Monday, July 27, 2009

XD Sub-Compact 3” (Springfield Armory)

Even though this is a sub-compact it feels like a big gun. It is a thick gun, both in width and profile appearance. The Springfield website says it is designed with its “Legendary Point and Shoot Ergonomics” and you definitely get that feel when you hold it in your hand. There is a thumb groove for your right hand and the slant of the entire grip is comfortable. Although their claim that the gun’s design “makes it feel more like a natural extension of your body” might be a little too enthusiastic on their part, it does bring up the sights nicely on a draw. Even though this is a called a “sub-compact”, it is basically the same size as my “compact” (S&W M&P 40c). SA also bills this gun as “The Shortest carry polymer pistol in the world that features the only light rail in its class.”

Presentation and accessories give the purchase of this gun a big +1. It comes in a standard plastic case but includes 2 magazines (9 and 12 count), a molded polymer belt holster, a dual magazine holder and a speed loader. Fully loaded, it weighs in at 30.6oz (9 round mag) which is much more than my M&P’s 25.9oz (10 round mag). You need a little extra “oomph” to pull the slide back but it is certainly manageable. The grip safety is a very nice touch that I wish I had on my gun although it was a bit annoying when I tried to lock the slide back. You have to depress the safety for the slide to move so I just had to position my hand a little differently for that to happen. There is also a safety on the trigger called the “Ultra Safety Assurance (USA) trigger system”. The rear of the gun has a cocking (Striker Status) indicator that you can see-and-feel (Visual/Tactile) and the loaded chamber indicator on top was also of see-and-feel design.

XDsc_safety_grip XDsc_safety_trigger XDsc_cocking_ind

Disassembly, in this case, meant you lock the slide back, rotate the disassembly lever UP then release the slide and pull the trigger as normal. Once broken down, it had the usual parts in a gun of this design (basically a Glock design). I noticed some wear on the end of the recoil spring assembly and a check on the internet showed this to be normal. A caution should be said to place the recoil assembly correctly during reassembly and not off to one side. This has happened and jams the barrel in the gun really bad. Cleaning is easy though you will need to pay attention to deep grooves on the slide that are hard to get to… if you like a really clean gun. The magazine feed ramp on this gun was already polished from the factory although I would probably buff it up to more of a shine. Reassembly is a simple reversal of procedures.
XDsc_guide_wear XDsc_polished_ramp

Shooting: Uh, oh. That ergonomic statement that SA made just doesn’t seem to match my ability or hand size or eyesight or SOMETHING. Now I am no expert gun owner, but I did earn marksman ribbons in the military, have shot everything from derringers to M16’s and shoot several hundred rounds of ammo a weekend. Given that… I set the first target up at 25 feet to get a “first use” sighting. I fired off a round and could not see any shot on the target. I fired a few more rounds but still had no holes on the target. It turns out that I was about 8 inches to the left with every shot. I changed finger positions, hand grips and everything else but the only way to get a shot on the target was to align the front sight against the right dot on the rear sight or just shoot way right. Even then it was a wild pattern. I interchanged between my M&P 40 (dead center) and my PPS 9mm (dead center) and back to the XD (waaaay off to the left).


I know, I know, it is the shooter and not the gun, but this shooter cannot shoot this gun. If I picked this gun up in a gun fight, I would do a great job of picking off the bystanders to the enemy’s right. I don’t even have a picture of a target to show for this blog, it was so bad. Fifty rounds and I could not figure out what I was doing wrong.

The bad: Well, the ergo thing doesn’t work for me at all. I felt the trigger safety was a bit sharp on my finger and the grip thumb groove was a little high for my hand, too.

Overall: The gun looks good, feels good, is as concealable as my M&P (which I do carry in public) and comes with all kinds of extras. I am sure that I could learn to use this gun accurately given time but it was a borrowed gun and I can’t very well ask to keep it for a month. I would never tell anyone NOT to get this gun because I believe it to be a good gun, but if asked how “I” like it… I don’t.


August 1, 2009 - Review supplement

Well, I had intended on returning this gun to its owner but it just didn't happen this week. As a result, we gave it another trial this morning at the range. After working on different grips for myself, I did manage to bring the target back into the center and managed some good groups, although not perfect. Basically, I had to bring my left index finger over the front of the trigger guard to achieve accurate shots. My oldest daughter shot this gun BETTER than she shot my M&P and likes the XD the best. She managed very centered groupings. So, once again, I have to admit that it is ME and not the GUN at fault.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bauer 25

Bauer 25 - Bauer Firearms Corp. Automatic .25 ACP pistol.

This little beauty has a stainless frame and slide, plastic pearl grips, 2 1/8" barrel, 6 round magazine capacity and fixed sights. It is 4” x 2 13/16” in size and weighs a mere 10.2 oz fully loaded. Some of these have sold at auctions recently for around $200. SMALL!! This is smaller than the 22 lr and .380 pistols we have reviewed. The slide does not lock open except for the small amount used for disassembly. There is a cocking indicator on the back where a small pin will stick out when cocked. Since pictures are worth a thousand words and its size is everything, here are a few thousand words

Bauer 25 under a standard sized Post-it notepad,

Walther PPS, Sig-Sauer P238, Bauer 25

A brief history:
This style of pistol (the Browning “Baby” 25) started out life in Belgium in 1931 as a joint venture with “Fabrique Nationale” (FN) and Browning. Then came U.S. Gun Control Act of 1968 (passed in the emotion-charged atmosphere resulting from the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy and the Reverend Martin Luther King). The law made it illegal to import small, personal handguns which could not meet a point system imposed by the Treasury Department. Shortly after the legislation there appeared on the American market, an exact “copy” of the FN BABY made by Bauer Firearms of Fraser, Michigan. Nothing in the 1968 law prohibited U.S. manufacture of the same kind of handgun which was prohibited from import. Essentially, the Bauer was a stainless-steel copy of the Browning/FN "Baby" pistol, and most parts will interchange. After the Bauer Company closed, the actual manufacturer of the pistol located in Fraser, Michigan, continued production as the "Fraser" for a few years. Around 1983, Precision Small Parts of Charlottesville, Virginia made the pistol under an agreement with FN when it shut down the European production plant. The pistol was briefly marketed as the PSP-25 by KBI, Inc. of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. More recently, it has been sold by Precision Small Arms of California, and called the PSA-25. Guns like these can still be purchased from


Disassembly: Being relatively new at handguns, I just never cease to become surprised at how various ones come apart. In this case, you lock the slide slightly back using the combination safety/slide lock lever. Then you turn the barrel a quarter turn clockwise (as you look at the muzzle). This turns the notches of the barrel away from the frame and you can now remove the slide by releasing the safety/slide lock lever. Once the slide is off the body, you can rotate the barrel again to remove it from the slide. The firing pin and spring can be removed from the back. Reassemble in the reverse order.

Bauer_25_barrel_turn1 Bauer_25_barrel_turn2


Shooting the Bauer 25 is quite a challenge. Gripping this is in your hand gives you one finger on the trigger and one finger on the grip… no more. Although the tolerance is close, there were no problems keeping our hands below the slide travel. The sights are a standard 3 point system although it was impossible to see the sights when aiming at a dark background. I lined up the sight against the white backdrop and then moved over to our target for scoring. That might account for some of the poor results. Although there is very little kick in the .25 caliber round, there is still a noticeable jump against the bottom of your trigger finger with each shot.


The bad: I did have several FTL (failure to load) where the next round would be stuck at an angle and jam the gun. It might have been a bit of limp-wristing because you just can’t get a grip on the gun. I also felt uncomfortable handling this gun as it seemed so much more like a toy than a weapon. I was constantly guarding my movements to ensure safety. Similar to the difference between holding a knife with a razor blade IN it and holding a razor blade by itself. That feeling would probably go away if I actually owned and handled one of these regularly.


Overall impression is good. Carrying a gun like this is certainly as a LAST line of defense, but it can be concealed anywhere. It would travel well while jogging and give you six chances to place a good shot on a mugger. I would consider this mostly a grown-up toy to get oooh’s and aaaah’s from my fellow shooters. “Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?” It just so happens to be a GUN.