Sunday, August 28, 2011

Ruger SP101 Hogue Grip Upgrade

When I first traded a cheap rifle for the fantastic Ruger SP101, my intention was to carry it concealed - and I did for awhile.  However, after a few months, the Ruger LCP joined the lineup, and over the course of the next summer, the Ruger SP101 spent most of its time in the safe.  Then, in the fall after that last summer, I had purchased a Ruger SR9c, and from then on, the little Ruger SP101 spent less and less time on my hip, and more time gathering dust in the safe.  Only on special occasions, or outdoor adventures did the lil .357 find its way onto my hip.  This is where the next chapter for this little revolver begins.

It seems to me that this little revolver lost its appeal as a concealed carry option.  With smaller and lighter pistols sporting higher capacity joining the lineup, and with the ease of magazine reloading, the snub nose revolver seemed doomed; or did it?  I began to notice a pattern for this 2.25" barreled powerhouse.  Every time I took to the mountains, the SP101 seemed to find its way back onto my hip instead of the 9mm concealed carry wonder weapons that I own.  Even my dedicated combat pistol - the Beretta M9A1 - was either left at home or found its way into a case for target shooting.  When it comes to back country wilderness carry, I've found that I enjoy the Ruger SP101 much more than any pistol I own.  Weighing in at only 28 oz, loaded, this gun doesn't seem to drag on over the course of a hiking or backpacking trip like other guns I own. 

Back in the day, when all I had was a Beretta 92 FS, I had no option.  I'd carry that pistol either in a holster or in a pack.  After a few trips out with that 33 oz (unloaded) monster, I had no desire to carry a full size pistol into the woods ever again - and didn't.

The Ruger SP101 is built to last.  It's rugged construction, stainless finish, and compact design make it ideal for carry into the woods as a camping, hiking, or backpacking companion.  However, there is one thing about the SP101 that I do not like for backwoods carry: the grip.  While the OEM grip profile is great for concealed carry, it leaves much to be desired in the handling department.  Back in the days when I carried this gun daily, I put up with the grip because it looks good, and works well for concealed carry.  For shooting, the grip is marginal at best.  After a box of of 50 .357 magnum rounds, the gun was no longer fun to shoot for the day.  The grip doesn't absorb recoil effectively, and the smallness of it made sure that I could not get my pinky finger around it, and my middle finger always contacted the rather sharp edges of the trigger.  I thought about having the trigger guard radiused to knock off the sharp edges, and still plan on doing that.  But something had to be done about the grips. 

With a total change in how I intend to carry the SP101 from here out, I decided to buy the most readily available grip option out there.  That is the Hogue Monogrip, which I bought at Sportco for less than $18.00 out the door.  While it doesn't appear to be as pretty as the stock Ruger grip, it boasts functionality that the stock grip could only dream of. 

For starters, the Hogue Monogrip allows my pinky finger to wrap around the grip, so it is a little longer than the original.  The Hogue grip has finger grooves for positive feel with my hands - and the fact that they fit my hands perfectly is simply amazing.  Another positive feature is that instead of my middle finger contacting the trigger guard, the Hogue grip extends forward and gives my finger a place to rest, which is extremely comfortable.  The rubber behind the weapon's grip frame is thicker too, which should aid in the recoil absorption department.  Another thing I like about the Hogue Monogrip is the fact that the retaining screw is at the bottom of the grip, away from my palms.  This keeps chaffing down and also helps secure the grip better.  The more you tighten down the screw (to a point, mind you), the tighter the grip fits against the weapon.  There is absolutely no give at all with this grip.  Lastly, grip has a palm swell in line with my middle finger, on both sides of the grip to give it more beef and a positive feel overall.  I really like this grip.  I haven't shot with it yet, but dry firing tells you a lot.  I can definitely tell that I'm going to like this grip better than the old one, as far as shooting goes.  I also have Hogue overmolded grips on both my Beretta's, and those grips are great.


In the photo above, you can see the new grip installed on the revolver, with the old grip shown behind it.  Notice the differences?  If you paid attention in the last paragraph, you can probably see all the differences.  And notice all the honest holster and use wear on the revolver itself?  Yeah, this gun gets used.  It makes an appearance on almost every shooting trip, so it normally gets 50-100 rounds every time we shoot, and that's normally full house loads.  So, it's not like this gun is a safe queen per se.  It's just that now I'm more selective about when I take it out. 

So that's another gun to put on the testing list. 

-James

Saturday, August 27, 2011

All Dressed Up With Nowhere to Go

Okay, well I'm lying.  My Remington 870 is dressed up, but we definitely have somewhere to go - to the mountains, that is.  I want to get this gun fired so badly, and we have a really nice day to do so.  Here are some good quality pics of the 870 with the Mesa Tactical Shell carrier installed.  We'll see how I like this big boy on there out in the woods.




-James

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How To Install a Mesa Tactical Shell Carrier on a Remington 870

After coming home from my business trip, I found a package waiting for me - it was the 8-shot shell carrier from Mesa Tactical. Yep, an 8-shot carrier! Mesa Tactical makes a 4 and 6-shot carrier too, but I wanted one that spanned the total length of my shotgun receiver because it not only looks better, but will give me maximum shell storage in a familiar place. This video covers the installation of it. I will go more in depth in another blog entry, after I've had time to shoot with it.



-James

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Addressing The Need

If you have been following this blog (and surprisingly, a lot of people actually read it), then you know that I've purchased a Beretta M9A1 and mounted a Streamlight TLR-1s light to the rail.  You may have also read an entry where I had it mounted to my Ruger SR9.  To be honest, I really didn't like it on the SR9 - but I digress.

Well, okay, I've got the gun, mounted the light, bought a bucket of magazines for it, so I guess I'm ready for when the SHTF, right?  Nope.  I still need a holster for it.  The problem is that it's really hard to find the right holster for my personal needs.

For me, it's not all about the most tacticool holster there is, hence the most expensive and ridiculous.  It's more about practicality and economy, as well as adaptability.  Now, that's a hard pill to swallow when you are sourcing a holster that will accommodate a large framed gun with a mounted light.  Unfortunately, my search for something that will do all that I require, and still be inexpensive, has turned up nothing.  Most of the holsters, systems, rigs, or whatever you want to call them, seem to center around being drop down thigh holsters, molle adaptable holsters (not a bad option if I was wearing a tactical vest all the time), belts, weapon specific, and I even found an inside the waistband holster if you believe that.  But none of these could adapt.  This holster is going to be primarily for my go-to gun for when all hell breaks loose, but I also want to be able to run other guns I have in it for when I'm using them.  If I'm out hiking in the woods, it'd be nice to stuff a 4" magnum revolver in it instead of a 9mm.  Instead of rattling off the crap I need, I'm going to go another route and talk about the crap I don't need.  This list is much shorter than my list of needs, but it is a deal breaker for about 90% of the crap out there - including the economy priced holsters.  Damn!

Before I get into the list of don't wants, I need to explain exactly what this holster is going to be used for.  Aside from when the SHTF, this is open carry all the way - blatant unapologetic open carry. This holster will be used when I'm out in the back woods, hiking on trails, camping, shooting, and if the situation warrants it, home defense in a WROL type situation.  Most of the time, the holster will accompany the gun for situations where I want to run it - like in the mountains.

I have no need for a weapon specific holster.  In keeping with the economy theme, I've determined that a holster that can fit a few different pistols will actually save me cash in the long run because, a: I don't carry two pistols at once in the field and, b: if 1 holster can accommodate 5 pistols, that's 4 less holsters I have to buy for the application.  This also opens up my pricing options, as I can justify a more expensive holster up front.  Buying a single $100 holster will save me in the long run instead of buying 5 different model specific $50 holsters.

I have no need for a belt use only holster.  As much as I like belt holsters, they do not always work.  On backpacking trips (and I'm talking day hikes and short overnighters), I'm likely to be carrying my Osprey backpack, which has a hip belt.  The downside to a belt-only holster is that it interferes with the pack's belt system and vice versa.  Additionally, the interference may compromise me in the event I have to quickly draw the gun from the holster.  If the padded hip belt is in the way, then I can't quite draw. 

I have no need for a leather holster.  Leather is great for concealed carry and even open carry in an urban setting (face it, leather is more refined looking), but leather isn't my personal choice for backwoods carry.  The reason is because when leather gets wet, it tends to shrink when it dries, and it can hold the moisture against your weapon.  Nylon tends to dry out faster and you can brush of mud and debris easier.

At the end of the day, there were two obvious options available to me: the Tactical Tailor modular light holster or the Blackhawk Omega VI Ultra holster.  Initially, I was leaning toward the Tactical Tailor holster because of the initial price point of about $45.  However, after seeing how much a drop down panel would cost (in order to get the holster off my belt and below my backpack's hip support), I'd be spending as much as other holsters that were already drop down capable.  What drove me away from other drop down models is that they were exclusively drop down holster and incapable of becoming belt holsters for those time I might want them to be.  The Blackhawk Omega VI ultra fits all my needs completely, but I was initially scared away by their asking price of over $100. 

However, determined as I was, I found one on Amazon.com for only $67 with free shipping.  Hey, now that's a good deal!  Considering it is only $22 more than the Tactical Tailor holster, I figure the Blackhawk is worth it. 

I'm very intrigued by the fact that it can adapt to serve as a belt holster (as shown above), a drop down thigh rig holster, and can even be attached to a molle adaptable vest or chest rig, should I desire in the future.  The other benefit, from what I've read is that it can also close up in the snout so that guns without lights can be secured easily.  Another neat feature is the pouch in the front.  Blackhawk calls this a magazine pouch, but there is no way I'm storing my spare mags on the holster.  This would be better served as a multi-tool pouch or for a flashlight, like my new Streamlight Scorpion X (more on that later). 

With this holster, I hope to strike a balance between practicality, economy, and adaptability.  I have read very positive reviews about Blackhawk products and will look forward to running this through its paces.

-James

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Quark Mini 123

Many of us are familiar with head lamps.  Typically, they can be had at the sporting goods stores for decent prices and they have different features, like strobe, colored LED's, and high/low power.  However, once you put on the big boy pants, it's time to move up in the world of compact lighting and understand that if you really want to throw light from a small package, you need to get a 4Sevens Quark Mini 123 flashlight.  Even now as I write this, my particular model is obsolete because mine will throw 180 lumens of light from it's 2.3" body; 4Sevens now offers the miniX 123, which is capable of 200 lumens!  Wow!

Still, that does not change the fact that this little flashlight is 1 3/4 times more powerful than my Maglite LED 3 D cell flashlight, which compared to the quark mini 123 is more of a caveman's metal club than a flashlight.  Indeed, the Quark Mini is an impressive little sucker. 

This flashlight has 6 operating modes.  There are 3 power levels, which are selected by twisting the front of the body within 1 second of each other.  It starts on low power, which is 3.5 lumens (perfect for reading in the dark), then goes to about 45 lumens (perfect for getting around the campsite without blinding yourself or others), and then 180 lumens (which is ideal for spotting or navigating open terrain).  Then you have 3 other (secret) modes, if you do so desire.  These are S.O.S., strobe, and beacon modes. 

The quark mini 123 runs on a single CR123 battery (note, do not use rechargeable 123A batteries).  This gives it the approximate total run times in the following modes:

3.5 lumens: +-40 hours
45 lumens: +- 6.5 hours
180 lumens (210 for the miniX): +-1 hour
S.O.S.: +- 4 hours
Strobe: +- 2 hours
Beacon: +- 10 hours
Beacon Low (for miniX users): +- 50 hours

Now mine doesn't have high/low beacon functions, and I really don't need them; mine is just a beacon, and it is very bright.  I rarely ever use the hidden functions of any light, but for the occasions that I do, it's there.  As it runs on only 1 CR123 battery, the size is pretty small.  Mine measures in at about 2.3 inches long and .80 inches in diameter.  Even with the battery, it weighs mere ounces.  In fact, without the battery, it only weighs .62 ounces; not even an ounce.

If there was one downfall to this light, it would be the run time.  1 hour on high is pretty short, and if you find yourself way out in the bush, you may need to pack extra batteries for extended trips.  But that's the give and take with modern flashlights.  They are intensely bright, but they consume batteries like crazy!  That's just the nature of the beast.  I'll tell you what though.  When it comes down to it, light quality beats light quantity.  It still runs fo 40 hours in reading mode.  Compare that to the Maglite's consumption of 3 D cell batteries in 72 hours.  Have you seen a CR123 battery?  It's not very big.  The size and weight penalty of running a 3 D cell maglite is astounding.  And even though it throws 104 lumens, the light quality isn't great.  Much of that has to do with the reflector in the flashlight.  The quark mini 123 has a nice orange peel style reflector to reflect and scatter the light in such a way to maximize the potential of the LED.

So, what about hand's free operation?  It's a flashlight - not a headlamp.  True.  You will need to buy a head band and mounting apparatus to make it work hand's free.  Fenix makes a headband that works perfectly.  Just follow the link that I put over the word FENIX.  Of course, I don't run my setup as shown in the picture.  I'm not a fan of the band that goes over the head.  The Fenix headband ships with all the parts detached from the main band.  All you do for the parts you want is thread the band throw them.  It's very simple.  I opted for less weight and bulk on my head, so I mounted the universal flashlight mount so the light is on my left hand side.  You can also adjust it forward and backward relative to your head to aim the light in different places.  I definitely recommend using a ball cap or some hat with a brim, especially if you wear glasses.  Unlike conventional headlamps, which orient the light directly on your forehead, this puts the flashlight back above your ear, or just in front of it.  It's a trade-off, yes, but you can also rotate the light around 360 degrees.  If you need your beacon or SOS function at night, you can point it straight up to the sky and keep signaling while you are on the move.  Another cool go-fast feature is that Fenix ships two flashlight mounts, so you can mount two lights and have dual zone illumination.  This is handy because you can use one flashlight forward for navigation, and have one on low power for rear identification.  This is especially important for nighttime backpacking because I tend to move faster than the main group.  Giving them a point of reference so they can see me when I'm beyond their head lamp's illumination range is nice.  Of course that means buying another quark mini flashlight.

Price wise, the quark miniX 123 can be purchased through 4Sevens at $45.00 plus shipping.  A quick google shopping search shows that price is fair.  You might find one cheaper on a closeout, but this is rare.  These little flashlights have become quite popular.  In fact, I purchased mine through the PFI store as a packaged bundle with the Fenix head band. 

Now, for those of you who desire, 4Sevens does make a similar flashlight that runs on a single AA battery (and is on my short list of lights to buy)  This one is obviously bigger and less powerful, but it also runs on more economically priced and readily available AA batteries.  Width is not much more than the mini 123, so it will work in the same mount as it's smaller brother.

There is also an exceptional review of not only the mini 123, but also the AA as well as the Preon AAA powered pen light, conducted by youtube's famous Nutnfancy, who is notorious for beating the piss out of his equipment.  If you have some time, check it out. 



-James

Friday, August 12, 2011

Metallica's 20th Year of Black

This entry is dedicated to Metallica's 20th year anniversary of the release of their "Black" album! Rock on!



-James

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Raminator Rides Again!

I know, it's been too long.  A month and 5 days has gone by since the accident, and yet the Ramcharger didn't really get out at all during that time.  Yes, I admit it; I have been dragging ass a bit.  But it wasn't just that.  Fixing these old trucks gets expensive really fast, and as much as I wanted to get it up and running faster, the bank account demanded that I pace myself.

Well, today, the last major fix for the mechanicals was done.  I drove it down to Discount for a brand new wheel to replace the one that was seriously bent in the accident.  Let me tell you, getting above 30 mph on a wheel that bent was a little nerve racking.  Now that it has the new wheel, it drives like a champ.  The brakes are very good, the alignment appears to have been unaffected, and the vehicle is still very stable at highway speeds.  That's encouraging, because now it has to go to the frame shop to get measured up.  The outcome of the measurement will determine whether the Ramcharger gets sold or not.  I'm hoping the frame is tip top.  But being as that bitch hit my truck hard enough to rip the wheel and tire right off and snap the axle like a matchstick, I'm very much aware that even my cautious optimism may not be enough in the end.  However...

The Ramcharger rides again!  Gosh it felt good to get behind the wheel of the ole girl and blow the cob webs out of the muffler.

Should everything check out, framewise, then the next phase will be the slow process of getting all the body work done and eventually landing the vehicle in the paint booth to get shot with a new coat of paint.

-James

Friday, August 5, 2011

Don't Disregard The Revolver

PhotobucketYesterday, the big brown truck came by and dropped off a little something at my front door; it was a gear/bug out bag from LApolicegear.com that I bought on a closeout.  The bag is awesome.  It holds tons of magazines for both my AR-15 and Beretta M9A1.  As I got to organizing it the way I liked, I started thinking about the possibility that if the SHTF, all those magazines might be either lost, stolen, broken, or perhaps destroyed if things really weren't going my way.  When you think of it, in a fire fight, should you be caught up in a situation where a magazine reload is necessary, you'd be inclined to drop the magazine and load in a fresh one.  Of course, during an actual fire fight, I highly doubt you will spend precious seconds trying to cram an empty magazine into your dump pouch.  Instead, the chances are likely that you will have to lose a magazine in order to save your butt.  Over time, all this loss of mags, without recovery, on the move, and nowhere near a munitions depot is going to find your fancy semi automatic more of a single shot than anything else.

This is where the revolver comes into play.  The magazine on the revolver is the cylinder, which does not get dumped in a fire fight; only the spent brass.  Provided you could keep feeding this weapon ammunition, you have no need for spare magazines.  Just flip open the cylinder, and cycle in a fresh set of rounds.

Of course, the revolver is slow to load, and has a very limited ammo capacity, but if you are caught in a serious bind, it may turn into your best friend really fast.  Don't misunderstand me on this though.  A fullsize, semi auto rifle with a detachable box magazine capable of holding 20-30 rounds is ideal.  Pistols are used to fight your way to rifles.  The best pistols for SHTF scenarios are definitely going to be semi autos with detachable magazines with a 15-20 round capacity, but when all your magazines are lost and broken, the ole standby revolver will be there for you.

Of course, the type of revolver is up to you.  For me, the Ruger SP101 is perfect.  It is small enough to conceal, it is chambered for .357 magnum, but will fire 38 specials.  Ah, another consideration is to choose your revolver with a caliber you feel you'll mostly likely see in the real world.  38 special/.357 magnum seem to be the most popular SD revolver catridges out there.  The weapon fits in a pocket inside the gear bag, so it can be ready to go.  As for reloading, speed strips, speed loaders, and a lot of practice go a long way for you. 

I personally hope that: A, the S never hits the fan, and B, if it does I don't run out of ammo or need to resort to using the revolver.  But for my money, as a last resort weapon before switching to a knife or ASP, the revolver is the way to go!  Just drop it and about 50 rds of ammo into your Get-the-hell-out-of-dodge bag and enjoy!

-James

Thursday, August 4, 2011

You Must Smell A Winner

Once again, Ruger wins pistol of the year, 4 years standing.  This year, they also win rifle of the year for the Gunsite rifle. 

http://www.thetacticalwire.com/story/242525