Monday, August 22, 2011

Why I Still Carry a Snub-Nosed Revolver

Ask on any gun board and you will be told by most participants that the snubnosed revolver is an antique. Not enough firepower. Too slow to reload. The common wisdom seems to be that 17+1 and four spare magazines is the minimum necessary to walk out my front door to check the mail.

Much as I liked Through the Looking Glass as a boy, real life isn't a Lewis Carrol novel and we can't prepare for every eventually like the White Knight. In fact, the White Knight was a caricature of just that kind of thinking. What I plan for first is the most probable encounters and work from there.

  1. Most Defensive Gun Uses (DGU's) are settled with no shots fired.
  2. Of those that do involved shots fired, the average is two to three shots.
Neither of the above means I should carry less instead of more. If I get out of an encounter with no shots fired then it didn't matter whether I had five rounds or fifty rounds. In fact, the Evil Black Pistol may have some extra intimidation factor -- at least all the badasses on TV and in the movies carry black plastic. Similarly, If I only have to shoot two or three times then it still doesn't matter how many rounds I had as long as it was at least two or three.

So why do I still carry that ancient, antique and useless snubnose revolver despite the Internet experts telling me not to? It can be directly traced back to some force-on-force exercises about 15 years or so ago.

In one exercise we practiced grappling with an "attacker". When my turn came, I ended up shoving the blue gun tight against my attacker's body to "shoot". The instructor pointed out that trick would not work with 95% of the autoloaders. He then proceeded to demonstrate how to minimize the chance an autoloader would fail in that situation. After the class, I thought about 7+1 of 45 ACP or 10+1 of 9mm I may be able to use versus five 38 spl for sure and decided I like the odds with the 38 better.

In another exercises I was "surprised" by an attacker who tried to get a chokehold on me from behind. The first time I tried to get the fake gun twisted around so I could get off a shot. I lost that round. On the second run I was still trying to get the gun positioned for a shot when, out of frustration, I just pointed it over my right shoulder upside down and pulled the "trigger". Afterwards, the instructor complimented me on my creativity but pointed out that my shoulder would have blocked the slide and jammed the gun after the first shot. I tried the maneuver with live ammo -- without a partner of course -- next time I was at a private range. As expected, my Glock 17 jammed and bruised my shoulder even through the padding I was wearing. The 442, on the other hand, fired all five times. I eventually sold the Glock for other reasons but I still have and, when I deem it prudent and possible, carry the 442.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Slipstream Lubricant -- First Impression

I have been reading a bit of hype recently about Slipstream lubricant from Crusader Weaponry. There are glowing reviews to be found on the web (eg. here, here and here) with, so far, no distinctly negative ones. Given that is not terribly expensive I decide to try it.

For my first experiment I used it on a S&W 686+. This is not a stock revolver. The return slide and the mating surfaces on the frame have been stoned and polished. The hammer and trigger frame studs are lightly polished. Exclusive of the cylinder, those are the three most significant source of friction in the S&W lockworks. Additionally, the factory mainspring was replaced with a Wolff full-power spring and a 15# Wolff spring was substituted for the factory 18# return slide spring.

Crusader's instructions recommend I completely clean and degrease the gun before applying their lubricant so I cleaned the cylinder and small parts in an ultrasonic cleaner. The frame I cleaned using Tetra's Action Blaster. Everything was rubbed down and dried with Scott disposable shop towels I bought at the local Home Depot. I reassembled the gun using Slipstream in the places I normally applied my usual oil.

First thing I noticed is the cylinder did not spin as freely as before.  Secondly there is a noticeable drag when opening and closing the cylinder. Finally, the ejector seem to have a bit more drag in it. I measured the trigger pull before and after. The average of seven measurements (one for each chamber) was:

Before: 9.42 lbs, StdDev: 0.28 lbs
After:  9.46 lbs, StdDev: 0.25 lbs

The difference in the trigger weight is not significant and the overall subjective feel of the action does not seem to be affected.

So far, the jury is still out on using Slipstream on my revolvers. The additional drag noted above is slight enough I might not have noticed were this not my personal gun which I shoot a lot. Slipstream has not improved the overall action but neither has it diminished it. Being, to all appearances, a "dry" lube it may help reduce the powder residue and other gunk that gathers in the action. That would be an advantage over the other oils I've tried. Hopefully I will get a chance to get to the range this weekend and see how it performs in that regard. Also, since it was probably formulated with autoloaders in mind, I will eventually try the grease and oil on my P95 and Sig 220 to see how it affects them.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Single Action. Double Standard II

Grant Cunningham responded to my question about this in another forum.
First, I would argue that a 1911 is a spectacularly bad platform for a self defense arm (for many reason), and making the comparison isn't terribly useful.

Second, the single action on a typical revolver is significantly shorter and lighter than even a well-tuned 1911. It's not unusual to find revolvers with single actions in the 2lb to 2-1/2lb range, with absolutely zero travel. Even the most rabid 1911 apologist would be uncomfortable with that kind of trigger for self defense use.

The difference between a double action and single action on a revolver is far greater than that of a DA/SA auto: a revolver DA is usually in excess of 10lbs, many times 12 lbs, and single actions are usually under 3lbs with no creep. Compare that to a really good DA/SA auto, where the DA is usually less than 10 lbs and the SA perhaps half of that, with tons of creep.

Out of curiosity I checked the DA and SA triggers on some of my firearms:
  • Ruger P95
  • Sig P220
  • S&W Mod 15
  • S&W 686+

Model P95 P220 Model 15 686+
in pounds
>12 5.3 10.1 5.9 11.7 3.8 8.6 3.6
>12 5.7 10.1 5.4 11.1 3.7 8.6 3.6
>12 6.0 10.1 5.8 11.7 3.6 8.9 3.6
11.7 3.5 8.6 3.9
11.6 3.7 8.8 3.5
11.1 3.6 8.6 3.6
8.8 3.5
Average >12 5.7 10.1 5.7 11.5 3.6 8.7 3.6
My trigger gauge only goes up to 12 pounds which the Ruger exceeded. The 686+ is not stock. It has had action work done on it.

Next I took the autoloaders above to the range along with a Kimber 1911. I paid close attention to the action and Mr. Cunningham is right -- the triggers really are pretty creepy.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Single Action. Double Standard

I was watching the Defensive Revolver Fundamentals video made by Rob Pincus and Grant Cunningham. One thing that bothered me was the admonition to only use a revolver in double action. I get that if I cock a revolver it has a short, light trigger. If I thumb off the safety on a 1911 is also has a short, light trigger. So why is a revolver more likely to have an negligent discharge than a 1911? I understand there are benefits to double action such as shooting faster. With a little practice is it plenty accurate enough to stop a man sized attacker at surprising distances. That still doesn't explain why a single action only pistol like the 1911 is considered safe but a cocked revolver is an accident waiting happen.

One "explanation" I've been offered is that having two different trigger pulls is a bad idea. That, however, brings into question the DA/SA autoloaders. If switching between double action and single action is so perilous on a revolver why is it less so on an autoloader like the Sig P220, Ruger P95 or Beretta 92?

Single action with an autoloader == good.

Double action/single action with an autoloader == good.

Double action/single action with a revolver == Oh my gawd! Are you out of your mind?

Doesn't make a lot of sense.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Home Defense and the Intellectual Desert

Recently I was asked if a Desert Eagle would be a good home defense gun. I had to honestly answer that I didn't know enough about it to offer an informative opinion. I did get the impression the questioner was basing his judgments on what he saw on TV and from playing video games.

OK, if he wants a gun he can show off to his buddies and look kewl while doing it, then a Desert Eagle is definitely on the short list. After all the odds he will ever shoot it outside a range are pretty small. The Glock 22 is probably more practical and, I think, pretty in with the kewl kids too -- Dis be a Glock Fotay! I be the only Lolcat profsnal enuf to uze it!

On the other hand, If he wants a useful gun for home defense and can handle the derision from gamers and gun forum lolcats with vast experience at dispatching electronic zombies, get a S&W 686 or a Ruger GP-100. Heck, with a 6" bbl they even look pretty badazz.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Surviving a Dark Age

If you are one of the few reading this blog you probably already know that Western Civilization in being screwed and the operative question is how badly. I know there still some who believe we can vote our way out of this mess. I used to be one but I'm not so sure any more. Last year Nearly half of US households escaped any federal income tax and, according to the article,
The bottom 40 percent, on average, make a profit from the federal income tax, meaning they get more money in tax credits than they would otherwise owe in taxes. For those people, the government sends them a payment.
I'll wager the ratio is getting even worse. How to you think those who pay no taxes are going to vote?

So it's bad. What are you going to do about it?

Do I know the answer? No. You want answers join a cult. The best I can do today is offer an observation from history.

In the 1,000 year period from about the 5th through the 15th Centuries -- which used to called the Dark Ages but is now known by the more neutral term Middle Ages -- the Christian Monasteries preserved a lot of knowledge by copying Roman and Greek manuscripts.

The monastic life was communal and organized. It spread the necessary labor of feeding the monks and maintaining the monastery over many hands. In the pre-industrial world this was an efficient use of resources and led to a life with sufficient leisure to pray up to eight times a day (Lauds, Prime, Sext, Nones, Terce, Vespers, Compline, and Matins). If the histories are to be believed, the average monk, living as he did without benefit of wine, women or television, had a lot of potential free time. So, idle hands being the Devil's workshop, it was necessary to keep the monks busy when they weren't at prayer or working at tasks necessary for the survival of the monastery. Copying of texts was a good way to accomplish that.

I seriously doubt this was, originally, a deliberate attempt to preserve the knowledge -- it just worked out that way. The lesson is that knowledge stored in a low-tech format like books can be preserved for centuries if need be. There are books out there that are full of the useful information needed to build a civilization. Not having to relearn it all from scratch will give any group with access to such knowledge a huge advantage.

If our species is lucky, the coming endarkenment will not last 1,000 years like the last one did. If we are really lucky, it won't last more than a generation. If some of us can preserve the knowledge in physics, chemistry, engineering, medicine and biology we've learned since Galileo I think the interregnum will be shorter than it will be otherwise.

Some Suggestions:
  • The CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics
  • Mechanical Engineers Handbook (AKA Mark's Manual)
  • Grey's Anatomy.
  • Mercks Manual of Differential Diagnosis
  • The Way Things Work.