Extra Ammo

Some wiseguy said this:

“I still don’t get the fascination for high-capacity mags in a non-military / non-law enforcement scenario. I mean, seriously: if the average gunfight is pretty much over, one way or another after three rounds have been fired, the remaining dozen in your double-stack mag are superfluous.”

That was in response to Tami Keel’s article about the low-capacity drawback of the 1911 as a carry piece.

But lo and behold, she’s just come out with a new piece which agrees with me, sorta:

Let’s get this out in the open: You can count the number of private-citizen defensive gun uses in the U.S. when a rapid reload made the difference between a dead good guy and a live one without taking off both mittens.
Reloading a handgun mid-gunfight, outside of a military or law enforcement context is pretty unlikely. Although he’s talking about carbines rather than pistols, a great quote from trainer Randy Harris springs to mind: “If you empty one 30-round mag in civilian-world USA, you’re going to be on the news … if you empty two, you’re going to be in the encyclopedia …”
Another trainer, Claude Werner, studies the reports of private-citizen defensive gun uses as collected in sources like the NRA’s Armed Citizen column. Over time, he’s found the average number of rounds needed in these encounters is low. One month, May of 2017, the average round count across seven reported gunfights was only 1.43 rounds per incident. That’s not a lot. Unless you find yourself caught up in the middle of an action-movie shootout, you’re highly unlikely to need that reload.

And of course, we both agree that having a spare mag is nevertheless A Good Thing should the one in the gun malfunction: the “drop [the mag], clear [the gun], reload” mantra is repeated endlessly in training, with good reason. (I myself generally carry two spare 8-round 1911 mags, by the way, because terrorist assholes / spree shooter possibilities and for another reason that I’ll discuss below.)

But I love the pic which accompanies her Recoil piece:

I think I saw that guy at the range a couple weeks back.

I know all the arguments for carrying spare mags but there’s only one sound reason I do, and it’s not because I’m likely to face off suddenly with a dozen rabid coyotes or the Plano chapter of MS-13, either; it’s just in case my hitherto-infallible PowerMag becomes suddenly fallible. Everything breaks, sooner or later.

And let’s be honest: the aforementioned terrorism / spree shooter thing is probably even less likely to happen to me than a mag breakdown. Any of these scenarios may be unlikely, but experience also tells me that most of the time, you don’t need a fire extinguisher in your car; but when you do need it, you need it really badly. Ditto ammo, hence my 16 spare rounds. I’m just not going to carry around a hundred spare rounds in ten 10-rounders — it’s heavy and spoils the look of my trousers. (Yeah, that’s me: Mr. Fashion Plate lol.)

Of course, the one qualifier to all this is geography. If your business trip takes you to or through unsavory neighborhoods full of gangs and similar goblins, why then, take as much ammo as doesn’t cause your trousers to fall down, with my blessing. There’s no need to be stupid about this issue, after all.

As with all things, your opinion may differ from mine (and in this case from Tami’s too), and that’s fine. Just don’t think you’re somehow deficient if you’re the only guy at the picnic who’s not bow-legged because of an overloaded ammo belt.

After All These Years

Tami Keel talks about revisiting the 1911 as a carry piece:

I’ve had hardly any serious trigger time with 1911s for years now, so getting the opportunity to put several cases of ammo through a few over the space of a couple months was a chance to get a fresh look at the old object of my affections.
It reminded me how wonderful the trigger on a good 1911 is. The only way your trigger finger could have a more direct link to firing the pistol is if you reached inside it and pushed the sear off the hammer hooks yourself.
It reminded me of how slim the 1911 is. It may be a big-bore horse pistol at heart, but it’s skinny enough to carry inside the waistband with ease.
It reminded me of how it fits the hand.

All the above are good points, and I agree completely. However, Tami adds:

But, most importantly? It reminded me of all the things I don’t miss about carrying and training with 1911s, and that list is a lot longer than I would have guessed it would be.
For starters, I had forgotten how much of an annoyance low magazine capacity could be. There’s a saying about high-performance fighter jets: they’re almost out of fuel just sitting on the runway, and definitely out of fuel after takeoff. The 1911 is like that. I mean, you have to change magazines just to shoot a 10-round chronograph string! Horror! Nine-millimeter 1911s mitigate this somewhat, but 10 rounds still isn’t a lot of BB’s in the tank when you’re used to 15, 17 or more.
Speaking of magazines, how spoiled I’ve been for the last five years! When I was carrying a Smith & Wesson M&P, I bought M&P mags and they worked. Now I’m carrying a Glock and I buy Glock magazines and they work. When I was carrying a 1911, I practically had to have a degree in the arcane and eldritch science of 1911 magazine selection.

Mostly, I agree with her take on the latter issue — although I should point out that Chip McCormick makes the excellent 10-round PowerMag: I’ve used them in IDPA shoots and when I travel, I carry five of them in my bag. (I agree, though, that 1911 manufacturers — especially Colt and Springfield — did themselves no favors by issuing such crappy mags with their new guns. Once I discovered the aforementioned PowerMags, away went the silly and unreliable 7-round “issue” mags — literally: I hammered them flat and trashed them. I’ve fired PowerMags exclusively ever since, and in my Springfield they’re even more reliable than Wilson mags.)

I still don’t get the fascination for high-capacity mags in a non-military / -law enforcement scenario. I mean, seriously: if the average gunfight is pretty much over, one way or another after three rounds have been fired, the remaining dozen in your double-stack mag are superfluous.

More of a problem, though, is that the 15-round hi-cap mags make a handgun’s grips a lot thicker — and for most women, that could be problematic. (It isn’t for Tami because she’s a big woman — her hands are bigger than mine, I think.) When she talks about how the 1911 “fits” in the hand, it’s because the grip isn’t like holding a pineapple. Even Connie (another big woman) had a problem with hi-cap mags — her Browning High Power was at the absolute limit, size-wise, for gripping comfort, and she used to admit that my 1911 felt much better in her hand. (The recoil, of course, was another story.)

Tami’s right about one thing: the 1911’s trigger is without equal among serious carry pistols. When and if I do quit shooting my Springfield 1911, the biggest adjustment I’ll have to make is getting used to an inferior trigger, almost no matter what gun I end up shooting. The only non-competition pistol with a better trigger (out of the box) is perhaps the Browning Buck Mark, and it ain’t a carry piece.

There’s one more thing to add in the 1911’s favor. When you’re carrying that 3-lb chunk of steel loaded with some fine hollowpoints, you have the confidence of knowing that in any adverse circumstances, you have at your command the finest carry pistol ever made, and one of the greatest cartridges ditto. And you don’t really need more than a few rounds either, if you know what you’re doing — and you should.

And I agree: when you’re blasting hundreds of rounds away at the range, it is more convenient to have more rounds between reloads. But I don’t own a self-defense gun to plink at paper. My 1911 is for serious business, and its weight, low ammo capacity and all the other “faults” of the 1911 are completely irrelevant.

Let me share with y’all a little thought I’ve been mulling over recently: if I do ever retire the 1911 (because recoil), I might seriously consider carrying a .357 revolver as its replacement. Yeah… six rounds instead of fifteen. Don’t care. Right now, my 1911’s PowerMags are loaded with only eight rounds anyway, so the difference is negligible.

Which revolver would I carry, you may ask? Why, the S&W Model 66 Combat Magnum, of course (because they don’t make the “no-back-sight” Model 65 anymore):

How’s that for “low magazine capacity”? (And by the way, the K-frame Smith “fits” in my hand better than a Colt Python. I’ve owned both, and I’m not exaggerating.)

You may all start shouting at me in Comments, now.

Egregious Mistake Department:  I mistakenly called Chip McCormick’s mags “ProMags” when in fact they’re “PowerMags”. Thanks to Reader DrewK for pointing that out, and the necessary edits have been made.


Worst Gun News Ever

So… bye bye Browning High Power?

Small arms manufacturer Browning has ended production of the Browning Hi Power semiautomatic handgun. The legendary pistol served in armies worldwide, from Nationalist China to the British Special Air Service and was one of the first high capacity pistols ever invented. An invention of prolific arms designer John Moses Browning, the Hi Power was the inventor’s last pistol design.

I don’t wanna talk about it. I just hope some company buys the tooling and continues to make it to the same standards of excellency, like they did with Llama. (Okay, they improved the Llama by using better steel, but you know what I mean.)

So good and beautiful a gun cannot be allowed to disappear.

(Thanks to several Readers who wrote to tell me about this.)

Not Quite Unprepared

Quite a few people have written to me about my recent travels in adverse conditions, mostly talking about the SHTF stuff (or lack thereof) that I was carrying in the car. Let me say that I was not wholly unprepared — I generally make at least some preparations when I travel, as you will see — but my unpreparedness was mostly psychological: mostly, I suspect, because I had been used to traveling around the mild climes of Britishland and the Midi.

So let me itemize what I did have in the car; and if anyone has any suggestions for additional items, have at it in Comments.

  • Weapons: as you can imagine, no problems there; Springfield 1911 and S&W 637, Taurus pump-action .22 rifle and an AK, each with the appropriate quantity of ammo.
  • Cold-weather clothing: one heavy coat, one insulated waistcoat, heavy socks, thermals, insulated boots, one wool blanket, one thermal waterproof blanket. What I forgot: gloves (but I seldom leave home without them in winter, even in Texas; this was a one-time omission). Also, even though my heavy coat had a hood, I should have packed a wool cap, but didn’t.
  • Food: Several cans of food — enough to keep me fed for about 3-4 days, five at a stretch — as well as a jar of peanut butter and two large bags of biltong. Fruit, sugar and six 500-ml bottles of water made up the rest of the grocery bag.
  • Tools, etc.: camp shovel, three flashlights and spare batteries, Anza knife and a couple of folders, screwdriver- and socket set, Swiss Army and Leatherman tool-knives, 100′ nylon cord and a small first-aid bag.

It sounds like a lot but it isn’t, really. What was I missing?

Update:  a cigarette lighter.

Teething Troubles

So the dotmil’s initiative to field a new handgun has encountered a few speed bumps in its introduction thereof:

The MHS [Modular Handgun System — K.] requirement calls for both pistols to use the XM1152 ball cartridge, which uses a 115-grain, full-metal-jacket projectile, and the XM1153 Special Purpose cartridge, which uses a 147-grain jacketed hollow point projectile — a bullet Army officials have labeled as the service’s new “go-to-war” ammunition.
While it’s not in the formal MHS requirement, “gun makers were encouraged to optimize their guns’ performance to the special-purpose round,” according to a source familiar with MHS requirements and testing but not authorized to speak publicly on the subject.
If a pistol is designed specifically for a 147-grain special-purpose round, it can affect its performance with a lighter 115-grain ball round, the source said.

What a load of crap. “You should build your piece so that it performs best with heavier bullets, but it also has to use the BB-sized 115gr FMJ pellet (because we have boatloads of it in our stores).” Typical procurement bollocks. No wonder the SIG piece failed dismally with the 115gr ammo.

The only good news is that it seems as though our kids are — finally! — going to use a cartridge which can actually, you know, stop an enemy (which the 115gr. FMJ bullet can’t, as any fule kno and as I can attest to personally).

I also like the way that a hollowpoint-tipped cartridge has been renamed as a “special-purpose” round — as though killing the enemy is a Special Purpose in today’s Army. But I suppose it’s to placate all the tools who are going to start whining about “dum-dum” bullets and how they’re prohibited by the Geneva Convention (actually, the Hague Convention), neither of which the U.S. ever signed anyway so it’s a moot point.

As I hinted earlier on these here pages, I may consider changing to a 9mm handgun myself sometime in the future [pause to let everyone pick themselves off the floor]; but you may rest assured that if I do, nary a 115gr FMJ will ever find a place in any of my carry magazines.

Best Of Show Part 1

So: over three days and countless examples of gunny goodness on display, what were my favorites?

The first may come as a surprise to you: the Llama Micromax mini-pistol in .380 ACP from Eagle Imports, seen below in black and stainless:

Llama? Indeed. My very first pistol ever was a Llama, and it was a beauty. They’re no longer made in Spain, but in the Phillipines using the original Spanish machining and specs — only now they’re made with harder 4140 steel (always a knock on the older Llamas).

But that’s not why I like this new Micromax. Why I like it is that unlike the plethora of striker-fired plastic teenies, this bad lil’ guy is all-steel AND it’s a scaled-down 1911 action. I had Royce Honeycutt of Colorado Gunworks, Eagle’s warranty gunsmith — of whom more later — walk me through the manufacturing process. Then he field-stripped it, and in fact it’s more like a High Power action than a 1911 (i.e. easier to reassemble).

Now, why not go with something like the Kimber mini-pistols (as covered here)? After all, they come in larger calibers as well as the .380 ACP, and they too are scaled-down 1911 actions, miniatures of existing Kimber 1911s, as it happens.

My answer is simple. A pocket pistol in .380 ACP is not going to be your primary carry piece, it’s going to be your backup — and as such, the Micromax’s price tag of about $400 is going to be a better deal than Kimber’s $900, and a much better deal than a Walther PPK/S’s $1,100.

And the Llama Micromax isn’t a poxy DA striker-fired piece of plastic; it’s a steel 1911, fer gawdsakes. Here’s a review of the thing.

If I have a spare few dollars floating around in a couple-three months’ time, I’m going to get one. In stainless steel. Because when I held it, the Micromax felt as though I’d been holding it since… oh good grief, I bought my first Llama in 1975.

I think I’ll go back to bed.