Monday, January 9, 2017

I Took the Plunge

I have finally stepped off into the abyss — Reloading.

Years ago, I decided that, one day, I should start reloading. So I started saving my brass. I decided then that I would start by reloading .38 Special. I was shooting my revolver a lot — a Smith & Wesson 586. 

Saving brass was as far as I got for years, but I was faithful about it. It's pretty easy to save your brass with a revolver, of course. I could just dump the empties into a bag as I shot them — no need to even bend over to pick them up off of the ground. So by the time I finally bought a reloading press, I figured I had about a thousand cases saved.

A couple of Christmases ago, I got some gift cards to Academy (that's a sports and outdoor store chain, for those of you sad souls who don't have one in your area). They had a sale going on the RCBS Rock Chucker Supreme, and I took one out the door, brought it home and put it on the bench in my garage.

When I say I put it on the bench, I mean I set it down, still in the box, on top of the bench. And there it sat for almost two years. 

I did start doing some research, at least. I knew that there was a lot of equipment out there for reloading, but I wasn't sure exactly what I would need to get started. After visiting some sites online, I decided that the best first step would be an actual book about reloading, so I downloaded one (Kindle version). Upon reading that book, I felt my next best purchase would be a reloading manual, so I got a copy of the Lyman Reloading Handbook.

Then I got a text from a friend whose step-father had passed away a year or two ago. My friend was cleaning out the step-father's garage, and there was some reloading stuff there that I was welcome to if I would come and get it. 

There was a Dillon progressive press (rusted tight) with a couple of sets of dies, some .380 bullets, a case trimmer (!), a bunch of primers (!), a powder trickler and scale (!), and some odd-and-end boxes, cases, etc.

I took all of that home. I decided to leave the Dillon for later. I figured it would be better to learn on a single-stage press, and I already had one in good shape. But having the rest of that stuff got me sparked. I picked up a set of RCBS .38 Special dies from Academy, and some Bullseye powder and bullets from the shop at the range I haunt.

The only thing I really needed to get started was a case tumbler. My father-in-law and I were talking about reloading, and when he heard I needed a case tumbler, he said he had one and that I could keep it at my house as long as I would occasionally clean some tool bits for him.

Well, now the only thing I was out of was excuses. So I got to work. More research — YouTube and reading — and I was off. I installed the press on an old desk inside the house, set up the rest of my stuff, and got busy. I took my time and loaded my first 10 rounds as a trial.

My very first round!
I took them to the range to try them out. Everything worked as it should. I don't have a chronograph (yet), but nothing seemed out of the ordinary, and they were on target.

And it worked just like it was supposed to!
I loaded up a batch and took them out for a more extensive test. They worked well. The I started loading batches a hundred at a time until I ran out of bullets (500). I think that my estimate of 1,000 cases I had saved was low. Even after loading 500, I have 200-300 cleaned cases, even more cases that haven't been cleaned yet, and I'm still finding boxes of cases around the house in the various places I stashed them over time.

Now it's on to 9mm and .45. And getting that Dillon running. Then .380, .223 and .30 Carbine. Better calipers and a better powder measure. I said, it's an abyss.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Improving the Trigger

I'd been thinking about upgrading the trigger on my G19. I know that a better trigger can't make up for training and practice, but a better instrument still works better. Driving a Ferrari won't make me competitive as a racecar driver, but I'll still be able to go faster than I can in my Honda.

A friend sent me a direct link to the VOGEL trigger page on Polished OEM parts, a 3.5-lb. connector, three different weights of firing pin springs, and more — and it's still legal for the Stock Service Pistol (SSP) division in IDPA competition. I figured a carry gun that doesn't go outside the "stock service" division of a well-established defensive pistol organization could blunt a prosecutor's claim that I'm a trigger-happy gun nut in the God-forbid event that I have to use the thing to defend myself and end up in court. Then I saw the words: "FOR COMPETITION USE ONLY."

I went up to the main page, and it turns out that has three categories of triggers: Carry, Competition and Tactical. So I looked through the Carry section and found the SKIMMER. First, I went and found where it said "For Carry Use." Then I read about the trigger. 

The most attractive feature for me is the reduced pre-travel. The grip on my G19 Gen 4 without one of the backstraps on it is a good fit, but I tend to push my hand up high enough that I get a little slide bite. 

When I install the medium backstrap with the beavertail, I no longer get grooves in my hand, but it's enough of a reach to the trigger that sometimes my finger slides a little on the trigger as I press it to the rear. So having a trigger that's easier to reach is appealing. And all the other features are nice too.

I did do a little research to make sure I'd be able to compete with it in some venue or other, and this trigger is legal for the Enhanced Service Pistol (ESP) division in IDPA. So I ordered the thing.

It comes in a little tube with a couple of bags of parts. YouTube is my friend, and it was easy to find videos of people installing Glock triggers, even this exact trigger. I looked a little harder and found a good one.

Seeing as a Glock is pretty much a LEGO set for grownups, the installation was pretty straightforward. The only difficult bit was the two half-cups that go on the firing pin spring, and that's only because the parts are so small that they would get lost in my fingertips.

Once done, I noticed the difference immediately. The trigger's a little lighter, a lot smoother, very crisp and — best of all — easier to reach. My trigger finger doesn't slide on this trigger at all. In fact, it feels like it's glued in place.

The description on the website claims that it performs like a stock 1911 trigger. Note the word "stock." I actually got to fire this and a stock 1911 on the same day. The SKIMMER was a touch smoother — it is highly polished, after all — and it broke with about the same pressure (according to my calibrated trigger finger). But it is still a trigger that pivots, and a 1911 trigger still travels straight back. But all in all, I'd say they lived up to their claim. Remember the word "stock."

This trigger isn't cheap. To me, it was money well spent, and it was a project that even I could accomplish, which is saying something.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Gun Smith or Gun Jones?

Gun Smith or Jones?
I'm less of a Gun Smith and more of a Gun Jones. Instead of smithing on the guns I have, I'm jonesing for the next one.

I've long had the notion that once I spend hundreds of dollars (or more) on a gun, that I should be done. If it needs better sights, why didn't it come with them in the first place? If it needs a better trigger, why wasn't it installed at the factory? If there are ways to make it better, why weren't they done?

You can stop yelling at your screen. I know the answers. Those improvements drive the price up, and what's better for me isn't necessarily better for the next shooter.

I'm slowly coming around to the realization that taking a gun out of the box is just the beginning.

It isn't real gunsmithing
It isn't like I need to become a true gunsmith in order to improve my gun. After all, I'm no auto mechanic, but I can change my oil.

So I set my sights sights. Changing sights on a Glock is pretty straightforward. The front sight is removed with a nut driver, and the rear sight can be removed with a hammer plus a punch or dowel. Since the new sights I ordered have tritium vials, I decided to use a universal sight tool to push the rear sight out. That way I didn't have to worry that I would get carried away with the hammer.

I chose TruGlo sights from Dawson Precision with fiber optic dots plus tritium vials on both front and rear because I really like the sights on my Sig P238 (tritium dots on the rear, and tritium plus fiber optic on the front). I got the XL Handgun Sight Tool from Fisher Solutions, which includes enough blocks and shims to make it usable on a variety of guns. And I picked up a Fixxxer front sight tool for Glocks from Amazon.

The front sight tool is just a small, narrow-walled nut driver. And changing the front sight involved nothing more than unscrewing the old one and screwing on the new one. That, and applying a little thread-locking fluid to make sure it stays put.

Fisher Solutions has a good video demonstrating the use of their sight pusher, and it works as well and easily as advertised. The rear sight was a perfect fit, and there's a set screw, just in case it's a little loose. After some dry-fire sessions and a little range time, the set screw did start to back itself out, so I applied some thread-locking fluid to it when I tightened it back down.

Here's my G19 with the new sights, along with the sight pusher.
I need to teach my camera to focus on the front sight
to get a good sight picture.

All in all, it's been a good start toward tweaking a pistol to better suit me.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Field-Expedient Barricade

There's an IDPA Classifier in my area tomorrow. The last time I shot one, my worst scores came from shooting around the barricade and barrel. So today, I decided to get some last-minute practice. Maybe it will do me some good, but I should have practiced this occasionally all along.

Since I don't own a barricade, and neither does the range where I shoot, I had to make do. I took an old box and set it on a table with some weight in it to keep the muzzle blast from knocking it over. It wasn't quite tall enough, so I added the ammo can. 

Shooter's-eye view
There are the targets

This may not be the best solution ever, but it was easy to carry to the range, and it left more money in my budget for ammo!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Dot Torture

I recently had my first go at Dot Torture, a drill from It involves shooting a target that has a bunch of — you guessed it! — dots on it. Ten dots, to be precise.

The drill involves different types of shooting at each of the dots. The instructions are printed on the target, but my eyes aren't good enough to read them, even from the minimal distance of 3 yards. So I printed out an extra target and kept it handy on a table at the firing line for reference. You can print out the target for yourself at the link above.

My target is below. I gave myself a 48 out of 50, though it might really have been a 47. One of those on dot number 10 might not have broken the line, but it's hard to tell because of the other holes. But, since it takes a perfect score to pass, I failed either way.

The 2" dots on the target aren't that hard to hit, especially at 3 yards. The problem is doing it 50 times in a row without making a single mistake. That's where the word "Torture" comes from.

On drills like the F.A.S.T., there is an objective, quantifiable standard of performance, along with a series of ability levels (novice, intermediate, advanced, expert). Drills like that are cool because you can compare yourself to other shooters who are doing the exact same drill.

Dot Torture has an initial distance, and it requires perfection to pass, but that is all.

I like that, too, because the "open-endedness" of this drill makes it flexible. If your accuracy is good, you can create par times for yourself. If your speed is good, change the distance. 

Check out the links above. That site has some great drills, and a lot of them have targets you can print out on regular-sized paper.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Rank: Amateur

Some time ago, I set a personal goal: Draw from concealment and make a clean run on a plate rack in under 6 seconds. That doesn't have as much practical value as, say, the F.A.S.T. or some other tests/drills that are out there.

But I love shooting steel plates. The clang when the bullet hits the steel. The sight of the plate dropping away. The "whack" as it falls flat. It's a visceral experience that shows the effects of shooting in a way that's unattainable by shooting holes in paper.

So, that was one of the goals I set, and the other day, I nailed it. My shots were 2.40, .55, .93, .64, .70 and .61, for a total of 5.83 seconds. I know that Jerry Miculek, Rob Leatham, Bob Vogel, et al. aren't losing any sleep over it, but attaining goals is what training is all about.

There's an old saying that an amateur does it until he gets it right, and a professional does it until he can't get it wrong. So my plate-shooting rank is officially "amateur," at least when it comes to this particular exercise. Now it's back to the range to work on making "professional."

Friday, January 8, 2016

Glock Lockup

At the range with my G19 today: Bang! Bang! Bang! Nothing. Tap, rack, b... Rack. RACK! Slide is out of battery and won't move. Drop the magaz...that isn't moving, either. Gaston, we have a problem. 

The extractor claw is in the rim, as it should be, and the round looks like it's aligned straight, and I can't see any reason why it shouldn't come out of there, especially when I run the slide by hand. Harder. Nothing. Harder! Nope. Try the magazine again. Success! So I figure the slide must have moved a little. Cycle. The slide. HARDER! 

Out pops the round. 

At this point, all the Glocksters are wondering what I have done to this gun to cause this, because Glocks don't malfunction — EVER! And the haters are shouting SEE! SEE! Glocks are no better than my !

I have to admit, I was thinking I would have to carry my truck gun for the rest of the day (or longer). Until I picked the round up and looked it over. I'm going to have to lay this at Winchester's feet.

Sorry the picture is blurry, but you can see the case is bent. I've had this problem with Winchester White Box before, but this was the first time I didn't catch it before loading.

I topped off the magazine and kept shooting. No further issues.

Sigh of relief. My trusted EDC isn't seized up. It functions normally. And it's Friday!