Sunday, June 28, 2009

Police Pistol Slim (PPS) (9mm Luger)

It’s a little strange to finally write a review of a gun that you have had since the beginning of this journey into handguns. We bought the PPS in March of 2009 because it was slim, Sharon could rack the slide and the reviews were very good. Since that time we have put nearly 1,400 rounds down-range with both good and “OK” results. I like this pistol, LOVE its conceal-ability and accuracy, but worry a little about dependability.

The MAIN feature of the PPS is the size, of course. At 1.04 inches, this gun vanishes under a shirt making it great for Concealed Carry. The overall length is 6.3 inches, keeping it inside the concealable size. It feels more like a full sized gun but compares well against the Kel-Tec P3AT (the smallest gun we have reviewed). The polymer frame helps to keep the weight down to 25.3oz with the 8-round magazine(there are also 6 and 7 rnd mags).
PPS_vs_P3AT_size PPS_iwb_velcro_1
left photo: P3AT on top of PPS,
right photo: Wearing the PPS in waistband with velcro clips
(ignore the belly)

The ambidextrous magazine release is located on the lower section of the trigger guard. It takes a bit to get used to using you non-trigger finger to do the release, but it actually works out very well. The PPS comes with 2 sizes of backstraps (small or large) to adjust to your particular needs. The backstrap also serves the method of employing Walther’s Quicksafe™ feature that serves to disable the gun. When the backstrap is removed, the weapon cannot be fired.
PPS_mag_release PPS_backstrap_safety2
Left photo: Magazine release
Right photo: Quicksafe backstrap disables the pistol

The trigger safety is a pivoting piece of plastic that must be depressed, along with the trigger squeeze, to enable firing. The safety adds an odd feel to the trigger, somewhere between rough and sharp, but not either one. The spring tension of the safety pushes back against your finger from the center of the trigger causing an uneven pressure across the trigger. The trigger pull is a nice 6.1 lbs unless you live in Maryland where the pull is a required 10lbs. This is a “Striker Fire Action, Pre-Cocked” weapon. That means it is somewhere between an SA and DA. The “striker” means that the firing pin rod is not actually hit by a hammer. The rod is on a spring that is pushed back as you pull the trigger. When it reaches the firing position, it releases and strikes the bullet. That is similar to a DAO (hammer back, hammer forward) but the gun must be cocked FIRST before this can happen. Cocking is accomplished by chambering a round with the slide action. It cannot be de-cocked without pulling the trigger, and if you need to re-cock the gun (say to retry a misfire), you must rack the slide part way in order to reengage the cocking mechanism. There is a “loaded chamber indicator,” which is a peep-hole to look for brass. There is also a cocking indicator on the rear of the slide, with a red dot meaning that it is cocked.
trigger safety
Loaded shell visible through indicator hole
Red dot on end of striker indicates weapon is cocked

Disassembly is simple and easy. Hold the slide back with a little pressure while pulling down on the release levers on either side. Release the slide, pull the trigger and the slide is off. The Quicksafe™ mechanism also functions as a means to remove the slide without pulling the trigger. There is concern on the internet about the backstrap becoming loose if this method is used all the time. Since I ALWAYS check the chamber for a live round, I just use the trigger pull. The internals of the PPS are solid and straight forward. I polished the cartridge loading ramp just so I didn’t have to use chemicals to clean all the brass off every time. Now it comes clean with a dry cleaning patch.
PPS_teardown_hold PPS_teardown_release

The pieces

Polish job done on cartridge feed ramp

Shooting is definitely fun and a learning experience. Even experienced shooters have found themselves “limp wristing” the PPS, causing load failures. A change or better grip corrects this, and you usually never experience it again. The 3.2 inch barrel produces strikingly good groupings for me. The PPS is rather picky on ammo and it is NOT +P+ rated. Once you find the ammo that it likes, there will be no further problems in that area. The spent casings are sent FLYING out of the PPS and can end up going in almost any direction. I was even hit with one when I was about 8 feet behind the shooter. The casings occasionally bounce on the ejector port causing this directional hazard and leaving brass markings on the port’s sides.
PPS_SKD_shot PPS_DAD_shot

The bad1: Well, there is the limp-wristing tendency for new shooters. Not an issue once experienced with the gun. However, if someone else had to fire it, they might only get the one shot. All it takes is a firm grasp and keeping the slide in line with your forearm.
The bad2: You also have to keep the PPS CLEAN. We had a problem with the striker getting stuck in the rear position instead of returning to its normal state. That turned out to be excessive dirt in the striker firing pin hole, probably from cheap ammo. Cleaned and fixed.
The bad3: There is sometimes an annoying jerkiness to the trigger pull caused by spring binding on the striker pin. The spring bunches up and moves a little unevenly as you pull the trigger back, scraping against its channel in the slide. I took the striker out, lubed everything with Rem DriLube (with Teflon), turned the spring 90 degrees and replaced it. All better.

Overall impression is good. If you keep the gun clean, then it should be very dependable. It conceals easily, shoots accurately and the weight keeps it from being a burden as you go through your day wearing it. I am very happy with the Walther PPS and glad that we purchased it. It is not, however, a right-out-of-the-box gun that can be carried without learning how to care for it. I guess you get out of it what you are willing to put into it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Colt Mustang VS Sig-Sauer P238

An unusual departure for my gun reviews, but it isn’t often that you get to see an original and a remake at the same time. I’ve reviewed each individually, and now I will just let you see them side-by-side.

A view from above. Notice the ejector port has been cut all the way over the top in the Sig version. The rounded versus square is also very evident from above.

All the pieces.

You can really see the rounding of the grip on the Mustang. The grip plates on the Mustang do not go all the way to the edges where the p238 does, adding to the difference in the feel.

It’s HAMMER time!

Right down the muzzle.

Single versus dual spring and redesigned pin. (The one with the “ears” is the Sig)

Barrels are different. (sorry for the blurry pic)

Even the magazines are twins

The Mustang wins on looks, feel, comfort and accuracy (for me). However, to buy one now would cost twice as much as the P238 of similar design and current production. Since I am not a collector, I would go with the P238 as a purchase and would be very happy with it. The P238 would require some kind of mod to that trigger for comfort.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sig-Sauer P238

The design of the P238 is the resurrected version of Colt’s Mustang. (see previous review)

This little .380 ACP hits the market when concealed carry guns are in high demand and it fits the bill nicely. The gun has a utilitarian look with minimal ornamentation but resembling a small 1911. Its lines are all square and it looks more like plastic than metal and even weighs less than its predecessor by 5.3 oz. The ejector port is cut over the top of the slide, unlike the Mustang’s single side opening. The grip feels full and comfortable and yet a bit boxy. The P238 is a SAO (Single Action Only) with a thumb safety that was easy to manipulate but could also be bumped while shooting (as was reported by a few on the internet). The biggest appearance issue for me was the complete lack of “OOOh” and “AAAh” that I got with the Mustang.
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Disassembly was fast and easy without problems. The recoil spring is a single coiled version here. The guide pin was redesigned from a round head to one with two “ears” against the barrel.
The sear and trigger return spring were redesigned to prevent the Mustang’s spring over-ride of the ejector during assembly.
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Shooting it was also fun. Sharon liked it very much. In the target examples below, you can see that she did much better than I did with this gun. The gun didn’t jump, was very controllable, and all rounds fired flawlessly. The trigger felt smooth and the reset seemed very short. There was no problem with the safety getting bumped, either. We even let Angela shoot this. She controlled it well, although it was her first time with a caliber larger than a .22 and commented that it tried to jump out of her hand. It didn’t, of course, but we understand.
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The BAD. That trigger. OUCH! Although the trigger looks identical to the Mustang’s, it comes to a point that would continuously hurt the lower ¼ of my trigger finger. There would HAVE to be some kind of mod here before this became a range gun. Sharon noticed it but it didn’t bother her nearly as much as it did me.

Overall impression: I seriously see us owning one of these, although I would prefer the solid black (Nitron) version over the two-tone. It is small, accurate and, except for the bottom of the trigger, comfortable. There are other small guns for concealed carry, but this is the best .380 (currently in production) that we have seen. It’s like a dependable car without the pricey paint job, I guess.

Colt Mustang (MKIV / Series 80)

The Colt Mustang was a small frame .380 ACP semi-auto handgun based on the M1911 design and was produced from 1986-1997. It was available in blued steel, stainless steel, and "Pocketlite" (stainless steel slide with aluminum alloy frame) models but the nickel finish was discontinued in 1994. It featured both a shorter barrel and slide, and a shorter frame than the Colt Government Model .380, holding 6 rounds instead of 7. From the looks of the prices these currently sell for, they are very high on the list of collectibles! The design was resurrected in 2009 by Sig-Sauer as the P238.
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This is a beautiful .380 ACP caliber gun with smooth lines and a metal feel. It is a SAO (Single Action Only) with thumb safety. When I first looked this beauty over, all I could think of was “Why did Colt stop making this gun?” It just doesn’t make sense. This gun is the same size as my previously reviewed Iver Johnson TP22 only chambered in .380 (9mm short) and made soooooooo much better. The beavertail is sufficient to keep your hand out of the slide’s travel and the grip, although small, was comfortable and easy to control the gun. It does have a fixed front sight but wasn’t made for long distance target shooting.
Photo shows Iver Johnson TP22 on top of Sig P238 for size compare.

Disassembly was fast and easy without problems. Maybe I am just learning what I am doing finally. The recoil spring is actually two springs and internet chat talks about replacing it with a Wolf single spring. What was there worked OK as far as I could tell. The trigger and ejector actions are controlled by spring steel in the handle instead of a wound, coiled spring. During reassembly, you must be careful not to depress the ejector too low when you move it out of the way of the slide. To do so might actually put the cam portion of the ejector BEHIND the spring that controls it. The manual is clear on how to fix it, though.

Shooting it was fun. Here are a few examples of both mine and Sharon’s results after one magazine of practice each. The gun didn’t jump or hurt the fingers in any way. It’s obvious that I shot a little better than she did, but both results are acceptable without practice. (We only had 77 rounds between 2 guns that day..darned shortage)
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The BAD. I guess the only bad part would be the discontinuation of the model and the ability to get parts. Oh, and the shiny finish was bad for me… because I found myself constantly cleaning off the fingerprints. (Note to self: Never get a shiny gun) I found nothing wrong with the gun itself.
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Overall impression: I want one but I am still in the phase of needing functional guns and not collectors. Maybe I can find a scratched up one that collectors shun but I can shoot. I’d do that.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

June 2009 - Iver Johnson TP22

There is not a lot of information available about individual models of firearms that Iver Johnson manufactured. Iver Johnson started out in 1871 as Johnson Bye & Co., in 1883 the name of the company was changed to Iver Johnson & Co. and in 1891 the name was changed again to Iver Johnson's Arms & Cycle Works. Iver Johnson produced firearms under various names and owners form 1871 until 1993. The TP22 pistol was added to the company’s line after their move to Jacksonville, Arkansas in 1982 and last manufactured in 1990. In 1993 when operations ceased, Iver Johnson was owned by American Military Arms Corp. (AMAC). Iver Johnson gained a reputation over the years for producing low cost, sturdy, reliable firearms. It is said that many LEO’s (Law Enforcement Officers) used the TP22 as a BUG (Back-Up Gun).

I borrowed this .22 LR from a friend of mine. It’s a sleek, Walther PPK looking pistol with a heavy metal feel to it. Fully loaded, this little “mouse gun” is 15.3 oz and feels nice in the hand, although the grip is too short for comfort. It is a SA/DA (Single action/Dual Action) with a thumb hammer-block safety. The magazine release is on the bottom by the magazine. Parts are almost impossible to find, although you can still find these guns new on auction sites for around $200.
Shooting the Iver Johnson TP22 is easy and pretty accurate, considering the caliber and overall size of the gun. I had a good 2 inch grouping at 7 yards although I found myself aiming a little high and right in order to hit center. Angela tried this pistol and shot about the same as with our Walther P22. We never had a failure shooting through many refills of its 7 round magazine full of Federal value ammo.

Disassembly was an experience and something new. The trigger guard pulls down in order to release the slide. Holding the trigger guard out, you pull the slide back past the trigger, tip it up and then slide it off the barrel. There is a spring and guide bushing around the barrel, which is attached to the frame. Reassembly requires sliding it back in reverse order while keeping that trigger guard out of the way.
The Bad: This gun does have its evil side. The beavertail on this gun is so small that it is VERY easy to get your hand higher than the slide level. You have to take the time to position your hand below that level or suffer a cut … like Sharon did. It was a very small cut (more of a nick, really) and everything is fine. I coached Angela on that hand position before letting her fire it.
Summary: A nice little .22 for its time and still a good gun. I would probably choose a mousey .380 of equal size and weight over a .22 to carry, though. It is a fun, sleek looking gun for the range or plinking.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

May 30 2009 - Concealed Carry Class

Well, we made it to our 12 hour class in order to get our carry permit. This was an adventure. I’m going to give some of the more “colorful” highlights but want to make something perfectly clear about the class. The instructors and the curriculum of this class were FIRST RATE. I would recommend them to anyone. However, that does not mean that the class was uneventful…especially with the mix of people attending.

Harley-Dude: BIG guy, blond hair, tattoos and all the things you would expect. However, the sunsets he used to ride into were probably a long time ago, and the hip and knee have forced him to a cane and bent stature. It’s the narcolepsy that was of interest, though. His head just kept creeping toward the table, cane or floor (sometimes drooling was involved) until he woke up and casually nodded his head like he was thinking. This was CONSTANT throughout the lessons and we felt sorry for him. He did pass the course, though.

Outside at the range 1: OK, the range master was a good guy but he really didn’t spell out what was going to happen and what words would be used. So when he exclaimed, “OK, Let’s make some noise!”, someone loaded up and started to fire. He comes running over yelling “Put the Gun Down!”, so the guy tossed it on the ground a few feet away. That didn’t help things with the instructor. However, everyone relaxed and things continued as normal. Some of the folks there had brand new guns that had never held ammo and they had never fired a gun. The instructors walked them all through it. The only issue I had was when one of Sharon’s shells went down the back of my shirt. Guess I needed to button up a little higher.

Outside at the range 2: BLOOD. Sharon came back from her second round of shooting and I noticed a drop of blood to the left of her lip. I thought she had scraped herself with her ring or something, but when I cleaned it off… no wound. Then we saw the blood on the inside of the ring finger on the left hand. Cleaned that off… no wound. So there was blood on the adjacent finger…no wound. Where did she get fresh blood on her without anyone being closer than 4 feet away? There were several guys who sliced their thumbs on the slides because they didn’t use the right grip for a semi-auto. I guess the blood could have flown at 90 degrees for about 15 feet??!!!

Sharon says she really didn’t get all that much from the class. A lot of time was spent talking about the paperwork for getting your license and in going over things that were in the book (which we were then tested on, closed book). While the instructors had some good anecdotal stories, Sharon wanted more black and white answers—of course, she knows sometimes there aren’t any, she just was hoping they would have some. The one thing she did really take away from the class was the catch phrase, “shoot to stop the threat.” In struggling a bit to accept the fact that shooting could very likely kill someone, this helps her to think about the whole need/reason to shoot in a different way. Another good thing they talked about was that target shooting doesn’t mean anything in a real-life situation, where you’re likely going to be within 7’ of someone and not using any sites to take aim. Her next goal is an introductory “defensive moves & shooting” kind of class.

All in all, a good day. The weather was great and the rain held off until we were running to the cars to leave. Now to pay the $110 to the county and another $234 to Florida to get our permits. Yuck!