.357 or .38 Special In A Small Revolver

There is a lot of controversy out there about shooting .357 Magnum cartridges out of small revolvers, especially snubbies. Some would contest that there is little to me gained from a .357 out of a short, 2 inch barrel except muzzle flash, noise and recoil. Some will swear a .38 lacks the power to stop an angry tree squirrel.

Justin, over at the Revolver Guy blog takes a stab at this issue by trying to apply some common sense, logic and actual range testing (link). I definitely encourage anyone interested in this topic to take a look at what he has to say.

My own personal, non-scientific, opinion says that neither is a bad choice and I will stick with my .38 Specials. In part because I only own one .357 Magnum, an all steel Ruger SP101. While I love shooting it, I don’t really plan on using it as a carry gun. For me, carrying a revolver is about weight. My snubbies are light, handy and reliable and I can carry them in a pocket all day without noticing. The .38 Special will do the trick if I do my part and even if it doesn’t get the job done on its own it will level the playing field, allow me to get out of dodge or to get to a more effective self-defense tool.

What are your thoughts?

God bless.

Covert Actions And The Humble Revolver

I stumbled across an article on The Loadout Room website last week and I thought I would share.

According to the article (read it in full here), it is an excerpt from the notebook an intelligence asset with a great track record in super-secret, Ninja squirrel types of endeavors. I don’t know enough about the website, it’s authors or super-secret, ninja squirrel stuff to know how factual it is…

But, since it deals with revolvers and more specifically snub-nosed revolvers it caught my attention and I thought I would share it with you.  For those too busy or devoted to check out the original, here is a synopsis:

Super-secret, Ninja squirrel operative received extensive training on the preferred handgun for “embedded human intel assets,” the snub-nosed revolver chambered in 9mm.

The reasons (paraphrased):

9mm is the most common handgun round in the world

9mm is effective

A revolver is extremely reliable, especially in very close and nasty encounters

A revolver doesn’t eject brass to be left behind as evidence

It is small and easily concealed

Makes a fine clubif need be

Sounds logical and reasonable to me.

Now what I want to know is, what make and model was used? Was it a steel frame or alloy? Can I buy one of the revolvers? Can I sign up for that training without having to become a super-secret, Ninja squirrel?

God bless

The Tactical Hunter Project (Part 4: Accuracy and Ammo)

Now that the rifle was completed I needed to find self-defense and hunting ammunition to feed it. For both applications I wanted a round that was accurate out to 100 yards and would expand reliably. Although I might be willing to stock up on cheaper ammunition for SHTF or practice rounds I was also willing to pay a little extra for premium rounds for hunting and self-defense rounds. A quick search showed a bit of a downside for selecting this caliber; there wasn’t a very good selection of hunting ammo.

Hornady had a round listed on their web site but finding it (at the time) proved to be an impossible task. Winchester had the Hog Hunter Special for $24.99 per box of 20. TulAmmo had offerings in 154 grain soft points as well as 122 grain hollow points. Brown Bear (Barnaul) had a 125 grain soft point that seemed to be reasonably priced and fairly easy to find online. So, I bought a couple boxes of each and headed to the range.

Ammo evaluated:

TulAmmo 154 grain soft points

TulAmmo 122 grain hollow points

Brown Bear 125 grain soft points

Winchester Hog Special 123 Grain “Power-Points”

The TulAmmo didn’t make the cut. It was inconsistent and not nearly as accurate as I would want it to be for hunting.

Three shot group to verify my results

The 122 grain hollow point was suspect in terms of its effectiveness as a hunting round and the accuracy left even more to be desired. It was the least accurate ammo tested with a four to five inch spread in even the best groups. Based on this ammo I was really worried that this project would fail.

The TulAmmo 154 grain soft points were my favorites going into the testing. Reasonably priced and fairly easily found I also liked the idea of the heavier soft pointed bullet. The accuracy wasn’t bad but the bullet drop and inconsistency concerned me.

154 grain rounds dropped 8-10 inches

The Winchester Hog Special 123 Grain “Power-Point” were my ace in the hole but at $24.99 for a box of 20 it was a very expensive card. The printed specs claimed 2365 fps at the muzzle. That would calculate out to be around 1527 ft/lbs of energy which was pretty good and I figured American-made ammo would be pretty accurate and consistent.

Even with my shooting, instead of the ringer I brought along to verify my testing, I was able to see 2 inch groups at 100 yards. Any flyers were my fault not a problem with the rifle or the ammunition.

The Brown Bear 125 grain soft points were brought along as a it of a lark. I really didn’t expect anything better than I have seen from the TulAmmo. Both are made in Russia and everyone knows Russian quality control, right? Boy was I wrong. These rounds have a claimed velocity of 2445 fps which translates into around 1659 ft/lbs of muzzle energy according to my calculations. The manufacturer (distributor actually) only claims 1633 ft/lbs. Still the best energy numbers of the bunch. The big question would be the accuracy and consistency. Just to make sure of the results I was seeing, I called in my “ringer” to shoot a three shot group. Because of time restraints we used the same target as we did for the 122 grain TulAmmo.

Three shots, two holes less than a one inch grouping

At 100 yards with three shots he was able to group them within less than an inch and two of the shots went through the same hole. The Brown Bear ammunition had the best numbers, the best accuracy and was very consistent. At a little over $7.00 for a box of 20 there were not exactly a bargain but they were pretty close. The only question, how would they perform against something a bit tougher than paper.

Between time, weather and other factors it took me almost two years to get an answer to that question. I’ll only make you wait a week.

Next week we’ll take a look at the effectiveness of this round for hunting.

God bless

 

A few side notes:

Prvi Partizan (PPU) makes a 123 grain round nose soft point in 7.62×39. It is brass-cased and boxer primed so it can be reloaded and can be used on ranges that don’t allow steel-cased ammunition. I tested this round in a separate test session several months after I tested the other ammunition. It performed very well at the time in terms of accuracy and consistency. The claimed specifications looked good (2640 fps and 1659 ft/lbs of muzzle energy). The price was OK at around $11.00 per box of 20 but as I mentioned the cases could be reloaded. During that range session I was basically feeding each round by hand as I had run out of the house without any magazines. I was concerned about how these rounds would feed since they are significantly shorter in overall length that the specs for the caliber call for and the bullets were round nosed instead of pointed. Sure enough, once I started feeding them from a magazine the accuracy went out the window and I experienced jams about every three or four rounds. The jams weren’t in the rifle but in the magazine itself. The rounds were so short that they would move around under recoil and jam up. I also discovered that the long gap and to the feed ranp and rounded nose resulted in the bullets deforming against the ramp and/or chamber mouth. Bullets with big gouges in the nose don’t fly as straight even over relatively short distances. I have recently discovered that they offer a pointed version of this round as well. I may try it in the future.

Reloads – I have yet to find a bullet/powder combination in any reference book that can give me the performance of either the Winchester or Brown Bear loads. I am not sure that the loss of several hundred fps and energy is balanced by the higher quality bullets I can buy and use.  

Recoil magazine performed a pretty comprehensive set of tests using a CZ-527 bolt-action rifle chambered in 7.62×39. Their focus was more geared towards the self defense side of things but the results, although more comprehensive in every way, were similar to what I was seeing with my AR. To see their results click here

What The Heck Am I Preparing For? (Part 5: Hurricane)

Hurricanes are not as common along this part of the Gulf Coast as they can be in other areas (Florida) but on average we get a moderate to severe storm about every ten to fifteen years. Tropical storms are far more common and we may get several of those during a busy season. The last few years have been pretty quiet so we are about due. We are far enough inland and far enough above sea level that we really won’t need to evacuate. There have only been one or two storms in my lifetime that would have warranted “bugging out” and for the most part it’s probably safer to stay put.

During the first hurricane scare after my middle daughter and her husband were married he decided they needed to evacuate. They headed north east away from the path of the storm for about a day. Every time they moved, so did the projected landfall, eventually they ended up circling back to my house after about 600 miles on the road and we didn’t see enough of s storm to even knock out the power for more than a few hours. Two of the locations they “bugged out” to got hammered.

Power and Fuel

As far inland as we are the biggest challenge we will face with most hurricanes will be power loss. We were without power for ten days after Ike. Some folks were without power for even longer. No power means frozen and refrigerated foods will spoil quickly, cell phones can’t be recharged and worst of all (down here anyway) no air conditioning.

During Ike there were huge BBQs as people tried to consume as much as possible before it spoiled. A generator is a simple, if costly, way to keep the freezers and refrigerators cool and keep from loosing all that food. It also provides an easy means for recharging items like cell phones. Although I purchased a pretty good generator it doesn’t have the ability to run our central air system so we also have a room AC that it can run.

All this is fine but without fuel none of this is worth a darn. I keep about ten gallons of fuel on hand reserved for the generator. We also keep the fuel tanks in our cars topped off when hurricane season rolls around giving us an added reserve of up to thirty gallons. Used sparingly this will buy us between three and six days depending on how hot it gets. At that point we will, hopefully, be able to find fuel. I can’t keep much more than that on hand and be able to rotate it properly or store it safely. What I can do is buy a second, smaller generator that is more fuel efficient and use it at night for the AC only. The inverter generators are much quieter and more fuel efficient but they are also pretty expensive so that is on the shopping list. It will also serve as a backup should the primary generator fail. We saw a lot of that during Ike. One day, we’ll probably buy a second AC unit as well just in case the first has issues.

No power usually means no gas for cooking either. To make sure we  can still prepare our meals we have a gas grill and I have purchased several extra propane tanks for it. I can cook everything in my freezer, fridge and still have a couple of tanks left over.

Food and Water

Our original plan was to have three days of food on hand for an emergency. From that simple, basic beginning we have created a bit of a monster. Wonderful Wife decided she wanted at least 30 days of food on hand for our entire extended family.

We have our primary pantry and, of course, the fridge and freezer. That could last us at least a week. We have a secondary pantry of canned goods that would take us another couple of weeks. To back that up we have buckets of died beans and rice that can probably extend us for about ninety days depending on how “extended” our family is. Some of this is stored in other locations so should something happen to our house we still have a supply laid in or if people aren’t able to get to us they have supplies locally.

Water is a little tougher. We do have a good supply on hand but nowhere near what we would need for the “extendeds.” I don’t think there enough room in the house for that much water. On the wishlist is a water filtration system which will give us a 35,000 gallon reserve. I will also be buying some additional storage containers that can be filled before a storm rolls in.

Tools and Supplies

Window tape, hammer, nails, staple gun, staples, plastic sheeting to cover any unexpected holes in the house, work gloves, surgical masks, safety glasses, saws, duck tape, and a hand pump are all stored in a bin. Most of these are duplicates to what I already have in my tool bag just in case. It also adds some extras in case I need more help.

We also have spare batteries, extra medications, spare flashlights, lanterns and first aid kits stored in a separate, watertight bin.

On top of that we keep a weatherband capable AM/FM radio that will run off batteries or a hand crank. Why? Cellular was out for a few days and Internet was out for even longer during Ike.

Flooding

Other than the tornadoes a hurricane can spawn, the biggest risk is likely to be flooding. We are on pretty high ground compared to most of the surrounding area but as the area continues to develop strange things can happen. New subdivisions and highways can change drainage patterns so this is always a concern. Not much we can do besides buy insurance and keep a close eye out.

This part of Texas doesn’t need a hurricane to flood.  In fact, some of the worst flooding we’ve had has been from tropical storms. Fall cool fronts can also be a problem. In our last home, our entire subdivision became an island in the middle of the San Jacinto river one year. A river you could just about step across spread for several miles out of its banks and was deep enough that forty-foot Coast Guard vessels could navigate easily.

In addition, tropical storms are a common enough occurrence that most businesses don’t close. We go to work and hope for the best. Sometimes that best isn’t so good. On a couple of occasions I have been trapped away from hope by rising flood waters. The freeway or even a gas station is not a great place to spend the night. Some of my co-workers have been trapped at the office for hours or, in some cases, days. Which is why I keep a bag in my car with enough supplies to live out of for a day or two.

Looting

When our old neighborhood became an island the neighboring subdivisions weren’t so lucky. Most flooded and those who lived there either evacuated themselves early on or were evacuated later by some combination of the National Guard, Coast Guard and Sheriff’s Department. I remember driving to the front of the subdivision to check the water level one night and hearing a running gun battle from the neighborhood across from ours. Looters had come in on boats and the Sheriff’s department department had come in after them in their own boats. The looters didn’t want to get caught and the Sheriff’s department gave chase and returned fire. I have no idea if they caught them or not.

If it is just Wonderful Wife and myself watching for looters will be a little tough. Too few people and too many hours in the day. For the generator (a prime target for looters during the power outage following a hurricane) I have a lock and a cable to secure it. Most looters will pass on anything that takes that long to defeat. If they are a more serious kind of looter and decide to come in to visit…well that could get interesting.

Ideally we could organize some sort of a neighborhood watch but I don’t know many of my neighbors well enough for that. If the “extendeds” show up we’ll have more people to take a turn being vigilant. Given are location, the chance of violent looters is pretty small but this is still an area we need to work on…

So, that’s our hurricane strategy. What are we missing? Any other suggestions?

God bless.

The Tactical Hunter Project (Part 2: My Solution)

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Initial configuration of the Tactical Hunter

The 7.62×39 caliber seemed to be the best choice for this project based on the cost, availability of ammunition and the ballistics of the round. It wasn’t a perfect choice by a long shot. For example, I would have like a more powerful cartridge, something actually on par with the venerable .30-30 it would be replacing. It has been explained to me on several occasions engineering isn’t a matter of making perfect choices it is about making the right set of compromises to meet the desired objective. I am no engineer but the basic concept still applies.

At the time I started building this rifle it was almost blasphemy to build an AR in 7.62×39 and every “expert” out there said it would never be a reliable rifle. Nevertheless, I still thought it was worth a shot.

The lower receiver was pretty easy and simple. A Spike’s Tactical lower I had laying around and standard parts kit from somewhere cheap. The handguard came with the lower parts kit. I did have a MagPul stock laying around so that was an immediate upgrade.

The upper is also a run of the mill Aero Precision I picked up on sale. Same for the handguard; it was light and it was on sale. The bolt carrier is also a standard AR component but that’s where things started to get a little more complicated. The barrel was not that tough to find, it just took some patience. However, every 7.62×39 Ar barrel I have ever seen has a pretty heavy profile. Despite the feather light handguard, this would be no lightweight as far as AR’s go.

The bolt itself has to be stronger as does the firing pin and extractor since most of the inexpensive ammunition for 7.62×39 is generally steel-cased and Berdan primed that is made in former Soviet-bloc countries and this ammo can be pretty tough on those parts. I spent quite a while scouring the InterWebz for all the right pieces. I never did find them available at the same time and for reasonable prices until Radical Firearms released their uppers and BCGs in this caliber. As soon as these were available I was standing at their front door waiting for them to open.

The next big bugaboo for AR pattern rifles in this caliber was magazine selection. As many horror stories as I had heard around firing pins, extractors and bolts there were twice as many around magazines. After a little research I decided to go with ASC magazines. The ten rounders I generally use for hunting and target practice were fairly easy to find and reasonably priced. Thirty rounds magazines for self-defense were a tougher find. I did finally find a 30 round (28 actually) magazine from ASC and then picked up another from D&H Tactical. For the most part all have been reliable. All have issue when fully loaded so I “download” them by one or two rounds.

IMG_4551
Large capacity ASC magazine in the Tactical Hunter

To save weight and allow for close quarters use I chose a lower power optic. In this case a Vortex 2×7 Crossfire II mounted in an Aero Preceision Ultralight mount. The scope was on sale for a good price and I have been extremely impressed with it. It is very clear and does a good job in low light conditions. My son has a similar optic from Nikon that is pretty comparable but mine was literally 1/3 the price.

Other than upgrading to a MagPul grip and nicer MagPul stock (they came off another AR I re-purposed for my wife) the only other thing I added was a (MagPul again) sling. The sling allows for user in either a single point or two point configuration. While stalking through heavy brush the single point configuration is great. The sling carries most of the weight while keeping the gun readily accessible. For longer hikes the two point options makes it easy to carry across my back. I learned the hard way to make use of the quick detach option for hunting in stands or blinds. I mostly hunt feral hogs which means most of my hunting is at night and Old Man Murphy almost guarantees that, in the dark, a sling will get wrapped around or underneath something when you can’t see it. At least one pig got away as I tried to untangle the sling in the dark.

While I did give up some power going from the trusty old .30-30 WCF to the 7.62×39 the Ar platform brought some real advantages over my old Marlin 336. The weight was about the same and the Marlin 336 was not heavy. If I could have found a lighter profile barrel the AR would have had a slight but significant edge. The rails made swapping optics easy and meant I didn’t have to re-zero each time. Truth be told though the 2×7 from Vortex proved versatile enough that I never really needed to. Adding lights, or a camera, or just about any accessory was also a breeze so I could switch within minutes from a nighttime to daytime hunting configuration. With up to 28 rounds of 7.62×39 on tap it was potent self-defense weapon or feral hog eliminator. But how accurate would it be?

That’s the question for Part 3!

God Bless

The Tactical Hunter Project (Part 1: The Challenge)

A little bit of a disclaimer, this project got started several years ago. At that point in time there were few, if any, companies building AR pattern rifles for hunting. A few folks, mostly hog hunters, were doing it but it was definitely the exception rather than the rule. Today, everyone from Ruger to Savage to traditional AR manufacturers like DPMS are building and marketing AR pattern rifles for hunting. From starting off ahead of the curve, I ended up way behind it. Nevertheless I have finally completed this effort and wanted to share my journey.

Like all good projects this one started out around the campfire…

I spend a fair amount of time (although not as much as I should) practicing with my home defense rifle. I spend another good chunk of time (although not as much as I should) practicing with my hunting rifle. My home defense rifle of choice is an AR. I could do an entire post (and probably should) on why I chose this platform but for hunting I have always used a lever-action. The campfire discussion posed the question, wouldn’t if be cool if I could use the same rifle for both hunting and self-defense? By combining them, it would effectively double the amount of practice for hunting and home defense without spending any more time money at the range.

The idea was amazingly simple, a single rifle that could serve as a hunting rifle and home defense gun. That way all the practice at the range for deer and hog hunting would translate directly into more proficiency for home defense. It would mean one caliber for both functions, simplifying ammunition supply. Plus, military-style rifles are built tough and can take being knocked around in the woods and you don’t have to worry about marring the fine wood or pretty finish.

From a hunting perspective, the rifle would need to be able to quickly and easily to transition between a brush gun and scoped rifle for 100-150 yard shots. It needed to be relatively light weight. It would need to have enough “stopping power” for humane kills on deer-sized game and the ammo needed to be readily available.

For a home defense perspective, it would still need to be light weight. It should be able to hold a reasonable amount of ammunition. While “stopping power” was still a requirement, I live in a suburban area and over-penetration is a major concern. Ammunition availability was still a concern as was cost. If I were to be able to stock a reasonable number of rounds on hand it would need to be relatively inexpensive.

As much as I love my leverguns, an AR pattern rifle seemed like the best choice for this project.

I like the ergonomics. It’s a breeze to add accessories like lights (pretty much a necessity when hunting hogs at night) and optics can be customized and swapped as easily as can be. The only concern was the caliber.

Yes, I know many people hunt both hogs and deer with 5.56/.223. And yes, it is legal to hunt with around here (although it isn’t in many states). Plus the whitetails in this part of Texas are rather small compared with some other parts of the country. However, I am a bit of a stickler when it comes to a clean humane kill and I don’t feel comfortable with a borderline round. Not a problem, the AR can come in many different calibers including the (dun, dun, duh!) 300 Blackout.

It seems like every gun rag and website has been busy selling this round as the ammo equivalent of Marilyn Monroe. It’s generally pitched as a semi-auto .30-30 and an excellent hunting round, within certain distance limits. Based on my research, I have a few issues with this round. It’s not a distance thing. If you’re taking a shot of more than 150 or 200 yards in the pine forests around where I live you’re probably doing something wrong.

Here’s the deal, numbers don’t lie. While the .30-30 and the 300 blackout are both .30 caliber rounds that’s about where the comparison ends. The 300 blackout delivers significantly less energy at shorter distances than the .30-30 (1377 vs. 1902). It is also expensive and hard to find (this was especially true two years ago when I started this project). Before the 300 Blackout fanboys get all worked up and send me hate mail I think it is a very good round for what it was designed for. It just didn’t match up to the criteria I had.

Other popular rounds for the AR had similar chanllenges (for my needs). The 6.5 Grendel is equally scarce around here. The 6.8 SPC seems to be relatively easy to find and not too expensive but it still isn’t a round I could stock in quantity and use for both defense and hunting.

The AR-10 would be fantastic for hunting but not so much for home-defense. Both the price and weight penalties are pretty high as well.

Then I hit me like a bad shot of vodka…how about the 7.62×39?

Ballistics-wise the 7.62×39 slots in between the .300 Blackout and the 6.8 rounds, not quite as potent as I would like but within the ranges I would be shooting, not bad. Ammo is dirt cheap and plentiful although quality hunting ammo isn’t quite that cheap nor easy to find. From a self-defense perspective, over penetration could be an issue but with hollow point ammo that would be less of an issue than with many full blown rifle rounds.

With that decision made I set about building a 7.62×39 AR.

I’ll share more on that in (Part 2).

God bless

The Facts And Fiction Of Gunfights

First, for those who have learned about guns and gunfights from TV and the movies a couple of things right off the bat:

People hit by bullets from firearms, especially handguns, will not be knocked off their feet and fly across the room, though walls or even windows.

Just because someone is shot in the hand, arm, shoulder or even heart does not mean that they will stop doing whatever they are trying to do (good or bad). They might, but the only way to ensure that they stop is to stop the nerve impulses from getting to the parts of the body (central nervous system) or to drop the blood pressure low enough that they pass out (major blood bearing organs such as the heart, arteries, lungs, etc.)

Gunshots to the extremities may or may not make you stop what you are doing but can still be fatal. Clip the femoral artery, for example, and the bad guy may not stop trying to hurt you but if they don’t get medical care they will be dead in a matter of minutes.

No round commonly chambered in defensive handguns has the power to reliably provide a physical “one shot stop.” In fact a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with buckshot is the closest we can get to such a magic goal.

Now, I am no expert gunfighter. I haven’t shot a human being in self-defense. I have used a firearm to make someone decide to go do harm somewhere else. I have also used other means when I could. Massad Ayoob, on the other hand is somewhat of an expert on such things. So much so that he had made careers as an expert witness, a self-defense firearms trainer and author. When I decided I might need a firearm to defend my life and the lives of others around me it was his books that set me on the right path.

So what does he say on this topic?

Glad you asked.

Just this month he posted an article on this very subject over at The Daily Caller (link) and here are some of his observations on Gun Fight Facts vs. Fiction:

  1. Myth #1: A Good Shoot Is A Good Shoot
  2. Myth #2: Aim For Center-Mass
  3. Myth #3: He Who Shoots First Wins
  4. Myth #4: If You Can’t Do It With…
  5. Myth #5: Your Choice of Gun & Ammo Doesn’t Matter

I encourage everyone to go and read them in detail. Especially, myth numbers three and four…

God Bless