Category Archives: Thoughts

An Ode to the P320, and a Journey of Pistols

My first centerfire handgun was a 9mm Sig P226R with the DAK trigger system. The DAK trigger is not really as horrible as some people make it out to be – for a bedroom safe gun, it provides some margin for sleepy bump in the night wake-ups – but I will say that it’s also not the trigger I’d want to be shooting USPSA with. It’s a long pull, with a heavy (albeit shorter) reset.

I bought a whole bunch of Israeli handguns after that. They were cheap surplus, they functioned pretty well (after a spring change, sometimes), and they did have a cool factor associated with them. I even bought a S&W SW9VE, which was my first ever striker-fired handgun. The SW9VE isn’t the garbage everyone thinks it is, especially after you get a trigger job done to it, but I have to admit that it was average at best, and would be mediocre by any of today’s standards.

But just before MD’s AWB came into effect, I bought a Glock 17 gen 3. I had no intention whatsoever of using this pistol as a pistol – I actually paid the FFL at the time to register it as an SBR so I could mess around with pistol chassises. Frankly, I am still looking for one that I think measures up. But what I also discovered was that the Glock 17 was not a terrible gun. It was simple, reliable, had a much better trigger than my SW9VE, and magazines were not as wallet-busting as the SW9VE magazines. This, along with a bit of Blade-Tech gear, was my entry into the world of training and action shooting. I took a holster draw class, and I was hooked from then on.

After that, I got heavily into Glocks and Polymer80 pistols. Doubly so when I took a class with Modern Samurai Project and found out how much more I enjoyed shooting optics-equipped pistols. I procured a couple of Glock 34s and shot them in Production and SSP, while a pair of optics-equipped slides kept me going in Carry Optics. It worked out well!

However, I found myself starting to wonder if there was more I could do with striker-fired guns. The Glock platform just seemed to have a performance ceiling, and while more skill always beats better gear, better gear can help you better use what skill you have. This was happening about when Sig released the P320 X5 Legion. Looking at it, it checked all the boxes – heavier, better trigger, modular, and with a very substantial aftermarket. When a local person advertised theirs at a reasonable price, I went for it. It was everything I was hoping it would be, right out of the box. I bought a second one a few months later, and then recently a third (AXG Scorpion) and fourth (FCU build on a TXG grip and full-sized slide with threaded barrel).

What I love about the P320s is that they give me options without much compromise. AXG grip with threaded barrel upper? No problem. Threaded barrel upper on an X5 polymer grip? Just an FCU swap away. If I decide I really want to go with a compact-style or even subcompact-style grip, it’s $50-$60 to make that happen if I don’t already have one. All of them are optics-ready. All of them take the same magazines (size limitations not withstanding). Sig is only the manufacturer that seems to be doing modular pistols “right”, despite any number of them (Ruger American, IWI Masada, etc.) being nominally available. This is the sort of thing that makes me gravitate towards the P365 now that Maryland has opened the gates to concealed carry by normal folk – one gun could be like four different ones with slide and frame swaps.

I’m not making a play that the P320X5L is the end-all be-all of Carry Optics and Production division handguns. It’s not. It has a lot of really good competition from the Shadow 2 OR, Walther Q5 Match SF, Beretta 92X Performance, and so on. I shoot (Bul) 2011s from time to time when I can get away with SAO guns. But, from the perspective of “here is a handgun that I cannot hit the limits of, yet”, the P320 X5 Legion has been very good to me. If Sig ever brought back modular hammer-fired guns ala the P250, but with fantastic DA/SA triggers, I’d certainly love to add a couple of those FCUs and slides to my inventory.

SASP Equipment Series: PCCs

Continuing on with my series of SASP equipment articles, let’s talk PCC.

PCCs are a nice transition gun for athletes who started on rimfire rifles, but want to move into a new division as they get older. They are heavier and have a bit more recoil, but are generally not too overpowering even for 10-12 year-olds.

Read on for some thoughts.

Continue reading SASP Equipment Series: PCCs

SASP Equipment Series: Rimfire Rifles

As I’ve alluded to in other articles, I’m spending an inordinate amount of time these days coaching an SASP team. We did great at Nationals – much better than I expected – but a lot of work went into it to get the team there.

I would say one of the biggest responsibilities for an SASP coach is guiding athletes to what equipment is going to give them the most (legal) advantage at matches. While I don’t think equipment is the end-all, be-all, I do think it will help give athletes a noticeable performance advantage. Good example: one young woman on the team who was already a fantastic shooter swapped to fiber optic sights and a better trigger, and she turned in better times on several stages. Those equipment changes didn’t make her any better or worse, but they sure helped enable faster splits across transitions. (She wound up placing third in women’s iron sight competition at Nationals, which is awesome!!!).

One critique I have of the SASP organization is that there is precious little out there in terms of writing about how to equip athletes… and I am going to try to help fill the gap. While it is tempting to simply go “use what the RFRI/O Steel Challenge folks use!”, not all of those choices work well for young adults who are not fully physically mature quite yet. Read on for some thoughts.

Continue reading SASP Equipment Series: Rimfire Rifles

Not dead, just busy!

Sorry for the lack of recent posts! My job has been hectic, the SASP season has started, and I’ve been prioritizing reloading and shooting over posting. I have like half a dozen articles “almost ready” for posting that really just need pictures.

A few interesting developments to chew on:

  1. Nailed my first division win in a match, and also beat every other pistol shooter. Yeah, it was an outlaw match, but it still counts if you beat 60 other people in the pistol divisions. 🙂
  2. I swapped the optics my Sig MPXs to Holosun HE510C-GRs (from C-More Railways). I think the C-More Railway provides a slightly better sight picture, but the HE510-GR does literally every other thing better, including (crucially) battery life.
  3. I sold all of my 5.45×39 stuff. AK-74-alike, upper, ammo, and so on. No point when I can load 223 limitlessly on my current setup.
  4. I sold my Ruger Precision Rifle. Took up too much safe space for a gun I shoot like once a year at most. If I want to shoot precision in the future, I’ll use a 20″ 308 upper.
  5. I bought a few new guns with the proceeds of the above:
    • IWI Galil ACE Gen2 5.56 rifle (because you can’t sell an AK without buying an AK!)
    • BUL Armory TAC SC (milled for a DPP – gonna use this for falling steel and 3gun open)
    • Ruger MkIV 22/45 Lite (for SASP)
    • MkIII LLV upper (for SASP… it was cheap)
  6. Outfitted my backup 3gun rifle with a Razor Gen2E.

SHOT Show 2022 Wrap-Up

Well, I’ve completed my tour of duty at SHOT this year, and I’m happy to be done with it. If you want to see all of my SHOT Show 2022 coverage, use the “shotshow2022” tag. Here’s some overall thoughts about trends and other things:

There were a lot of attendees, but there were a lot of missing exhibitors: Sig, Beretta, Ruger, and so on pulling out was a pretty big hit to the show floor. But even outside of these entities, there were a lot of smaller exhibitors who didn’t make it. One or two tried the “we pulled out because of the mask mandate”, but this is simply farcical: the mask mandate was in full effect when they signed up, and they knew it. It was plastered all over the signup paperwork. Claiming that they were taking a stand when they agreed to comply with the requirement in the first place is somewhere between disingenuous and dishonest.

The reality is that the bigger companies had serious concerns about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, and they pulled out for various health and liability reasons, not because of any mandates. Masking was in evidence on the show floor, but it was uneven, and enforcement was somewhat lackadaisical – it wasn’t like they were pulling the badges of people they found without masks. If I had not recovered from Omicron a mere week before SHOT, I might have had some serious concerns myself. Maybe the masks will help with SHOT crud avoidance… that would be good.

AR-15++: There are more and more companies offering AR-15s and AR-9s with substantial internal operating system improvements, such as MEAN Arms roller-delayed system and the various bufferless systems floating around the show floor. I expect that within a decade, the “standard” AR-15 we have today will be relegated to more budget builds. This is not to imply I think “direct impingement” will be gone, though.

Bolt-guns are getting even more crowded: Aero’s getting in the game with a 700 action and a chassis. American Defense Manufacturing has a new chassis. Bushmaster has their AR-308-esque straight pull system. Remington will be producing the 700 again. It feels like everyone wants in on manual-action rifles. I don’t really see the increasingly-urbanized market going in on this, and I wonder if we’ll see a dramatic correction within the next couple years.

5.7×28 is the new hotness: I guess NATO standardization kicked off some kind of industry trend, because it sure seems like everyone wants in on that sweet, sweet 5.7×28 action. PSA’s got something, Kel-Tec’s doubling down, the AR-57 is back, CMMG’s got a rifle, FN was showing off the PS90, etc. I personally don’t get it, but people must be buying these guns… right? Didn’t the Internet decide years ago that 5.7 in non-AP format was kind of a pointless round that had inadequate terminal ballistics?

30 Super Carry is DOA: The thing that a lot of people do not understand about the firearms industry is how easy it is for the big companies to generate a hype wave by just throwing money in the pool. Fly out some gun journalists for demos in some nice spot[1], send out T&E guns and ammo, gin up a couple minor strategic alliances, and issue press releases like crazy. This happened with 224 Valkyrie (Federal’s brainchild) and now it’s happening 30 Super Carry (another Federal invention). I’m not saying 30 Super Carry is even bad, but this is a thing that no one asked for and I would suggest that no one really wanted. We’re going to see some products now and then zero follow-on when it turns out very few people buy them.

[1] If any vendors want to send me somewhere nice, I’d be happy to accept, and for the record your product is fantastic. 🙂

Turkey is making waves: The Turkish manufacturers were out in full force, and their arms industry seems to be churning out progressively better product at a lower cost. Unfortunately for them, this is because the lira basically collapsed and is now worth half as much as it used to be a year ago. But Sarsilmasz, MKE, Girsan, Derya, and others are shedding the “cheap bad imports” image and giving American shooters some top quality gear at fantastic prices. I’ve heard the PSA MP5 imports from MKE are hitting record low prices, and that’s great news for American shooters.

Glock in a Stock: There were at least half a dozen “Glock in a Stock” (or brace, or chassis) systems out at the show. Again: who is buying this stuff, and why? If you’ve got a Glock SBR already like I do, you at least have the excuse of trying to make the best of a questionable decision. But just making your Glock heavier and throwing a brace on… why? The ATF is going to ban that soon enough. You know it. I know it. We all know it.

The LPVO space is getting competitive again: A week ago, I could have listed off every LPVO worth buying at every price point. Now… I’m not so sure. The Eotech 1-10x came out the gate with a very aggressive price point plus what appears to be very solid FFP illumination, and Blackhound’s stunner of a 1-6x with a fiber optic reticle – made in China – threw all that on its head. I know what my preferences are, but it’s clear that the competition is increasing fast.

Las Vegas is fun – embrace it: When I was here in 2020, I didn’t do much other than cover SHOT and go out for a quiet dinner with relatives in the evening. This time, I brought my wife and got out a bit. We saw some shows, did some tours, and had a pretty good time. I’m not saying you need to be out all night partying and gambling, but enjoying yourself while you’re out here is sensible to keep sane.

SHOT can survive, but probably not continuing like this: SHOT was good (not great) this year, but so many major manufacturers pulling out of the show at the last minute definitely reduced the value to journalists, even terrible amateurs like myself. If I can’t talk to reps for the inside scoop and go hands-on with the hot new releases before they hit retail, what’s the point? The solution is certainly not moving it to Florida or Texas. Not only is that unrealistic (NSSF signed a contract with the Venetian through like 2027), but it’s not addressing the real reasons that caused Beretta, Sig, Ruger, SiCo, etc. to pull out of the show. If anything, it might have made the situation worse. A few more smaller guys coming because there’s no mask mandate isn’t going to be an overall improvement if another big group drops out, or if the international manufacturers drop for fear they won’t be able to travel home – that’s the cold truth regardless of how you personally feel about mask mandates.

If the pandemic isn’t functionally over by about October 2022, NSSF needs to sit down and really understand what they need to do to make all these big manufacturers feel comfortable enough to come. This trip costs most of us non-trivial money, and the value proposition this year was teetering on the edge of “not worth it” – and the fact that many of the drop-outs happened very close to SHOT prevented people from changing their minds about coming (and perhaps saving some money). I don’t want to accuse NSSF of acting in bad faith, but some of their social media posts leading up to the show seemed completely unwilling to engage with the reality of what was going on. I guess that’s the hallmark of a good industry PR organization, but it did rub people the wrong way.

9mm AR Upgrades Part 2

While I recently spent a lot of time and money upgrading my multi-gun competition rifle to a high standard, I didn’t forget about my competition PCC. Whenever I go out and shoot Steel Challenge, I like to do the “two guns” thing and shoot both a PCC and a pistol. I figure most of my investment is time, and I may as well shoot as much as possible while I’m at the match.

The experience with my competition PCC hasn’t been smooth. In fact, I’d probably say it has been the most finicky ARs I’ve ever built. I spent a lot of time just getting my basic functionality working, and then I later had a very unfortunate catastrophic failure when a bullet got stuck in the rifling during manual extraction. But I persevered through those problems, and wound up with a reliable, accurate PCC. Now I’m on the next step: increasing performance.

When Taccom announced their Delayed Blowback Recoil System (DBRS) a couple years ago, I was intrigued, and to be honest, a little skeptical. Using magnets to delay bolt movement sounded hard to believe. But I saw some positive reviews of it, and decided to give it a try, in conjunction with Taccom’s Extreme Short Stroke Bolt (ESSB).

Continue reading 9mm AR Upgrades Part 2

Shotgun Upgrades: 2021 Update

I signed up for the Steve Fisher shotgun class in June, so I felt like this was an opportune time to make a couple changes with my shotguns. Realistically, I’m only going to bring my standard 870, with Stoeger M3K as a backup (unless I somehow acquire a Beretta 1301 in the meantime), but the fun thing about common platforms is that an upgrade in one gun can sometimes also turn into an upgrade in another gun.

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