Sunday, May 30, 2010

Guns chambered in 9x18 Makarov

In April, I was discussing guns with my girlfriend and we got on the topic of 9x18 guns, which is why I originally wrote about these guns on a forum that I frequent. I know a fair amount about the common offerings in that caliber, so i thought i'd list some of them here to be used as refrence for others.

The major players in 9x18 are the Polish Radom P64, Makarov PM (German, Bulgarian, Russian...), the CZ82, and the FEG PA-63. They can all be shot single action or double action and all are blowback. People on this forum are definately fans of blowback guns. Now for a little bit on each:

This Polish gun has a 6+1 capacity in its single stack magazine. some have pointed hammers and some have round hammers. they're polish surplus and they're used. i've heard (never shot one though) that these pistols jump around a bit while being shot. wolff sells a spring kit (some pistol sellers even have the spring kit on their website so people can buy it with the gun) which is supposed to tame recoil. this gun is C&R elligible.

This gun was produced for the Czechoslovakian military. It has a twelve round double stack magazine. This gun has polygonal rifling, much like a glock. It utilizes bumps in the barrel strategically placed rather than traditional lands and grooves. This gun is also C&R elligible, which is interesting considering most of the examples floating around the United States were made in the 1980s, far newer than any other guns on the C&R list.

The PA-63 was made by FEG in Hungary. The gun holds 7 rounds in its single stack magazine. It has an aluminum frame, but its still robust because of the alloys utilized in its construction. This gun is not C&R elligible, but the two tone appearence sets it apart from the others. This gun can be rather annoying for left handed shooters because the guns usually have a bump out on the left grip that righties use as a thumb rest.

Makarov PM
This gun was the military sidearm of much the soviet union for decades. Normal surplus makarovs have an 8 round single stack magazine, but some makarovs produced for consumers rather than militaries had a "widebody" grip to accomodate a double stack magazine. German and Russian ones command a lot of money and ones being offered currently in this country are usually of Bulgarian origin. Some of these guns are C&R elligible, depending on their vintage of manufacture and country of origin. It is widely held that the comercially-produced Russian Baikal IJ70 with its modern adjustable sights does not qualify as a C&R firearm.

Another thing worthy of mention is that all of these guns come apart in the same way. The trigger guard is bent down so that the user can pull the slide back, then tip up the rear end of it and slide it downrange, off of the barrel.

Popular 22LR Semiauto Handguns

There are a few popular 22LR semiauto handguns on the market right now. In this post, I'll discuss the most popular guns and the features of each.

First (and my favorite) is the Beretta U22 Neos. The first thing I noticed about the Neos when I picked it up is that the grip is small. I'm a big guy and have big hands, so the small grip wasn't a selling point for me. The magazine release can be easily engaged with the right hand's trigger finger, extended and out of the trigger guard. The placement of the mag release is a bit different, but makes sense to right handed shooters. I am a left handed shooter, so this took a little getting used to.
The ease of disassembly is what sets this gun apart from the other 22s. Disassembly requires zero tools and cleaning the gun is simple. A wheel is spun (infront of the trigger guard) which releases the barrel from the frame. the barrel is cantaleevered over the slide, holding it in place. the slide comes off easily and holds a recoil spring. with the slide out of the way, the striker and its spring are easily seen. all the parts are big and easy to clean, perfect for the novice shooter. I'd consider this a great first gun for someone getting into 22s.

Next on the list is the Smith and Wesson 22 series. They used to make the 22S and now only make the 22A. The difference between the guns was the finish used. The S&W 22 has a takedown similar to that of the Neos, but it has some flaws. The cantaleevered portion above the barrel is made out of a cheap cast aluminum alloy and is prone to breakage. there is a pin protruding from the bottom of the barrel that holds the barrel in place on the frame which is also prone to breaking, as well as backing out. Still, no tools are needed to disassemble this gun, so I give S&W big points for that. Instead of turning a little wheel like the Neos, the S&W uses a button the user presses towards the trigger guard to release the barrel from the frame. The grips on this model gun are ugly and not super-comfortable, rather boring actually, but they're easily replaceable with fat wooden grips for about $70.

The magazine release on this gun is in a wierd place: exactly where it can be found on earlier 22LR pistols such as the 422, 622, and 2206. Where might you ask? the frontstrap of the grip. Again, a little odd to get used to, but its ambidexterous, which means they get a lot of points from a leftie like me. The sights on this gun are the best of any i'll be talking about today.

Next up is the Browning Buckmark. A bit more expensive than the others i've discussed, its truely a better quality firearm. The trigger on this gun is nothing short of superb. The gun disassembles with the use of an allen wrench. When the rail is removed from the top of the gun, allowing for disassembly, the sights will sometimes be misaligned when the rail is returned to the gun. It loses points in my eyes because the user needs a tool to take it apart. Its not the worst i've ever seen though. This gun features a regular magazine realese like you'd see on a 1911 pattern pistol as well as most other popular modern pistols. Because of the location of the magazine release, the gun is a great tool to teach new shooters. They have to learn where the magazine release is once before progressing onto other guns in larger calibers.

The last popular 22LR semiauto I'll be talking about today is the Ruger Mark III. This gun is a departure from the more classic mk1 and mkII that use a heel/european style magazine release, but the takedown and operation of the pistol is similar to that of generations past. The gun balances well and feels like a well made piece of machinery, but the overall style of the gun is just weird. To cock the gun, wings on either side of the back of the gun are pulled towards the shooter, opening the breech. It looks like the gun has a backstrap safety, but no! that's part of the downright horrific takedown of this little gem. I would tell any new shooter to not walk, but run away from any Ruger 22LR semiauto. Even an experienced gun tinkerer such as myself had trouble getting one of these back together. The directions in the owner's manual are complete garbage and don't show pictures. These guns are commonly sold at gun shops around here with the warning of "never take it apart to clean it" because its such a bitch to get back together, even for veteran gun hobbyists. The takedown is downright terrible. That's why I won't own one of these guns. Shooting and cleaning guns should be fun, not frusterating. If you don't beleive me about the takedown of this particular firearm, check out the youtube video featuring the dingleberry and the cheeze. sorry folks, i will not, under any circumstances, own a gun that requires a hammer to put back together. Imagine how cheaply this gun could be produced (and then sold to the public) if it utilized a simple design! If it were mde of the same quality materials and implemented a simple design, I bet the gun would cost at least a hundred bucks less.
Function on all of the guns explained above is excellent. Each hold 10 rounds per single stack drop free magazine. These guns are the big players in the $350-ish range. Others exist, but these are the most popular sellers.

Corrosive Ammunition

Here in America, a lot of shooters are afraid of using corrosively-primed ammunition. I really hate how if someone hears one comment about something gun-related, they are likeley to take it as gospel without any kind of research at all.

Its true, if you don't clean your gun after shooting corrosive ammo, you'll cause dammage to your firearm. For those of us who clean every time we shoot, the use of corrosively-primed ammunition is not a problem. Within a few hours of shooting, clean the gun as you usually would, but use windex on all parts. warm soapy water works as well.

I personally love shooting corrosive ammo. The problem with a lot of the affordable corrosive being sold right now (in 7.62x54r and 8mm mauser) is that its commonly steel core ammo. That means the ammo can't be used at indoor shooting ranges because the steel projectiles are likeley to cause dammage to the backstop as well as a fire hazard from sparks. Still, its nice to get a hold of some cheap surplus ammo for outdoor use only. The price of the stuff is too good to pass up.

They're not making any more soviet-era corrosive surplus. People are buying up ammo at a feverish pace, which is sure to cause prices to increase over time as the supply is exhausted. Buy some corrosive and go out and have some fun!

Tactical Gear

Tactical gear isn't just a popular thing for gun owners to spend money on, but its the pop culture of the gun community. Tactical gear is now more popular than ever. I can't tell you how many people i've seen at Blue Ridge Arsenal in Chantilly, VA with a tricked out AR-15 and a GLOCK. What always goes along with those two firearms? the latest and greatest from BLACKHAWK!, Magpul, Tangodown, and 511 clothing. Shooting gloves and three point tactical slings are always a nice touch as well. I always want to say to them Wow, is that an AR15? How much did you have to spend on that gun to set it apart from the other 3 ARs on the firing line? Oh wow, is that a GLOCK pistol? I've never seen one of those before. You're so original. I want to be just like you when I grow up.

I'm willing to say that 99% of people who own/use a 3 point sling on their AR15 have never served in the military and are not a part of their local police agency SWAT team. Its just the cool thing to do these days to dress up and act like you're on a SWAT team, even if you're extremely overweight. To those of you who love multiple tac rails, lasers, lights, holo sights, collapsable stocks, and overpriced pants: you're not in a SWAT team, you never will be, and you look really stupid on the firing line having wasted all that money on gear. You're not an operator and you never will be.

The absolute worst is when people put tactical modifications on european surplus firearms. Just becuase you can doesn't mean you should. SKS and AK rifles are a prime example. Its amazing how people will put a black, tan, or OD green plastic stock on their surplus rifle and all the sudden its morphed into the greatest battle implement ever devised for close quarters combat. At least that's how it seems in their eyes. The more tac rails the better.

A large number of the tactical style shooters I see at the range have all the accessories: a MOLLE backpack and combat boots. I just wonder when this fad will end, when these tactical shooters are going to grow up and look back at themselves, seeing how rediculous they looked.

Not all of the tactical style shooters I've seen are overweight. There are plenty that are muscle milk, "new fuckin haircut" (refrence youtube if needed), Golds Gym type of buff twenty something year olds. These seem to be the same kind of people who will wear frayed cargo shorts and Tapout t-shirts when not on the firing line. To put it more bluntly: douchebags.

Steel Cased Ammo

There has been a lot of debate on gun forums relating to the use of steel-cased ammunition in both handguns and rifles. Many gun owners simply turn up their nose at any ammo that comes in a steel case. Steel cased ammo is usually not of American Manufacture (except for CCI, maybe some other manufacturer) and costs far less than comprable loads using brass casings.

I've read the opinions of various keyboard commandos on the internet saying that steel cased ammo will destroy the chamber of your modern firearm. Well i'd like to see a Makarov PM, P64, CZ52, CZ82, SKS, Tokarev, or AK47, that's fallen victim to being worn out because of the use of steel cased ammo. There aren't any. None.

Yes, steel cased ammo is made with steel. No, it will not wear out your chamber or barrel. if steel cased ammo were such a problem, why would countries all over the world use it in their military's ammunition supply through the 20th century and beyond? Here in the United States, we used steel cased ammo in limited production for both 30 Carbine and 45ACP.

There are still people on the internet saying that the use of steel cased ammo in their newly-manufactured firearms will destroy them. Well, if that were the case, then that would mean that their new, expensive firearms have a design flaw, that they're inferior because they can't digest this inexpensive and plentiful ammo as easily as surplus firearms.

I have a general rule of thumb involving steel-cased ammo: if its made in Russia, is steel cased, and has an animal either in the name or on the box, i'll buy it and shoot it. That goes for Golden Bear, Golden Tiger, Silver Bear, Brown Bear, Wolf, and Sapsan. Sure, most of the steel cased ammo floating around out there is berdan primed, and therefore all but unreloadable, that's OK for most shooters. Most shooters don't reload. A $9 box of Brown Bear 9mm ammo shoots just as well through my Ruger P95 as a $14 box of Winchester 9mm ammo. It does the same job, puts holes in targets. Why would i spend almost 50% more on the Winchester ammo? I'd rather shoot 50% more ammo on each range trip for the same amount of money.

People online have said that steel cased ammo will cause premature wear and failure of the extractor on autoloading handguns and rifles. That may be the case, but i've yet to see it happen first hand. I doubt there are many tests featuring two identical guns (one fed brass, the other fed steel) shooting until a failure occurs. Parts do break, but i don't think that can be attributed soeley to the use of steel-cased ammo. Even if i did have an extractor break after say... 2,000 rounds of steel cased ammo through my Ruger P95, the cost of the extractor (12.90 from Numrich), i would still be far ahead of the game, having paid:
  • $339.96 for 2,000rds of brown bear (84.99 per 500rds @ militaryshooters, times 4)
  • $459.40 for 2,000rds of Winchester (22.97 per 100rds @ walmart times 20)

folks, using steel cased ammo in this situation would save the shooter $119.44. Sure, some of that $119 savings would have to go towards postage of the brown bear ammo, $28.30 in fact. That still leaves the shooter with a savings of $91.14 over purchasing brass cased ammo. Maybe, just maybe i'd break an extractor. Then i'm out a whopping 12.90, still leaving me with $78.24 more than if i'd bought brass-cased ammo.

One could debate that if purchasing/shooting brass ammo, that the shooter could harvest and sell their once-fired brass, but i doubt that they could fetch $64 for their brass, not to mention the time consumed finding, sorting, storing, and selling their used brass.

Another gripe i've heard from those who won't shoot steel cased ammo is that its more dirty. That's fine with me. I clean my guns after shooting, each and every time, so a littl emore dirt doesn't make a bit of difference to me. To those who don't clean their guns (you know who you are!): neglect is abuse. Some steel cased ammo is coated with lacquer, giving the steel cases a green hue. A large buildup of the green lacquer can be the cause of sticky chambers, but that's really not an issue if you clean your gun on a regular basis, as you should. Newer offerings from Wolf ammo (probably the most popular steel cased ammunition provider) implement a polymer coating instead of lacquer to minimize the sticky chamber effect.

Milsurp Rifles

Anyone interested in military surplus firearms should check out The website has a wealth of information on the topic of surplus, showing step by step tutorials on the disassembly and maintnence of many popular surplus firearms.

I love surplus. Why? becuase its cheap. I'm not exactly cheap, i've spent real money on guns before ($600 on one gun, $550 on another), but i do enjoy shooting on a budget. Not only are some surplus guns inexpensive, but they're rugged, reliable, and built like tanks.

A prime example of the tank-like construction of surplus firearms can be seen if you take a look at the Makarov PM pistol. Made by several European countries during the Cold War Era and beyond, the gun is a fantastic design delivering a decently-powered inexpensive yet plentiful round in a rather compact and durable package. The architecture of the Makarov PM is something that other gun manufacturers should mearn from. To fully disassemble a Makarov, all that's needed is a flat screwdriver to remove the one screw holding the grip in place. The frame can be completely stripped by hand with no screws or hammering out pins. Truely a fantastic design for someone like me, who likes to thurroghly clean guns after shooting them. Makarovs are cheap as well, costing $250-350 these days. reliability is excellent and i'd like to see you wear one out. Feed it the cheapest crap ammo you can find and it'll function well. Its a truely overbuilt marvel of modern firearm design.

There are other bargains in the surplus market. Yugo Mausers as well as Turkish mausers are inexpensive and have rpoven to be well made, accurate battle rifles. They shoot the plentiful and cheap 8mm mauser round (7.92mm) which is a huge selling point of these inexpensive firearms. There is still plenty of surplus 8mm ammo floating around, including corrosively primed ammo from the former soviet state of yugoslovia as well as romania. The romanian ammo comes in a sealed "spam can" and costs a little under $100 for 340 rounds of steel cased, steel core, corrosively primed ammo. A centerifre cartridge of any kind that reliabily ignites and shows accuracy is definately worth that rock bottom price in my opinion.

Want to get started shooting but don't have a lot of cash? get yourself a surplus handgun or rifle.

distance shooting Jennings J22

Tuesday, I took a friend of mine to The Cove in Gore, VA. Its about eighty miles away from my residence and a great place to shoot outdoors. It cost $7 per person to get in and we shot for about five hours at a primative outdoor sand pit type of range. Shortly after setting up, i spotted a street sign that was easily 50 yards away and jokingly tried to hit it with my Jennings J22. Well, I hit it. The metal sign made a great sound when struck, which meant we could instantly tell when we'd hit the target.

The next hour or so was spent by the two of us with our cheap little pocket guns, plinking away at the distant target. It was fun and inexpensive. Before the trip, i had purchased 550 rounds of Federal Hollow Point 36 grain copper jacketed ammo from Walmart for under $20. We didn't even go through the entire package of ammo and had a great time. Its really amazing how well the little guns shot with their fixed barrels.

here's a video my friend took on his droid phone.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Jennings J22: guns and economics

I'm going to go ahead and say that the Jennings J22 is one of the best firearm designs of the 20th century. Sure, that's open to debate with venerable models such as those produced by John Moses Browning, John C. Garand, and Mikhail Kalashnikov, but I will say that the 22LR pistol developed by George Jennings in the 1970s is high on my list of the best firearm designs of the 20th century.

The Jennings J22 is commonly dismissed by gun snobs as a "junk gun" or "saturday night special". These are perjorative terms used largely by the anti-gun community, pidgeonholeing an entire category of guns based on their production materials, size, caliber, or state of origin. Although the small Jennings design is perhaps the most recognizable "ring of fire" gun, it is not the only design worthy of mention. Other small and affordable guns from this southern california ring of factories include Sedco, Raven, Phoenix, and Davis firearms.

Why is the Jennings J22 (and its newest incarnation, the Jimenez Arms JA22) so great in my eyes? because its simple, inexpensive, and it works. A member of the gun forum had over 11,000 rounds of high velocity ammunition through his Jimenez JA22 before experiencing a slide failure. Another member from Northern Virginia claims to have almost as many rounds through his Jennings, but did not document the round count quite as well as the user with the Jimenez.

These little pot metal guns (made of zamak aluminum alloy) are small, compact, easy to work on, and inexpensive to own. I carry one daily as my backup gun, actually sometimes as my primary carry! Sure 22LR is a poor choice for personal defense, but i'm pretty sure six rounds of 40 grains each will be enough to disable an assailant. The bad guy usually doesn't question what they're being shot with.

I have a friend who recently finalized all the paperwork to become an FFL. He told me that he won't be selling saturday night special-type of guns because he has a moral objection to them, stating that they'd be more likeley to wind up at a crime scene. Honestly, I don't see this type of firearm as a menace to the society, but rather an affordable firearm for the occasional shooter or those just wanting something to keep in their night stand.

Now for a little business lesson:

If i had an FFL, I would sell products by Jimenez and Cobra. Both of those are companies that can trace their lineage back to California's Ring of Fire. They are no longer produced there (Nevada and Utah, respectively) but their designs are holdovers from California's gun making heyday. I'd want to give the public the opprotunity to get into shooting at an affordable price with a decent quality product. I'm willing to bet that many new shooters that buy a gun hardly ever shoot it, if at all. A $150 Jimenez can sit in a sock drawer just as easily as a $550 GLOCK pistol and never get shot. Inexpensive firearms such as those by Jimenez and Cobra don't cost the consumer a lot of money, but there is a decent markup (percentagewise) per unit. The Jimenez JA22 (remember, modern day Jennings J22) costs FFL holders under $100 per unit when purchased in bulk from their sole distributor, Shining Star Investments. With a MSRP of $150, that's literally a 50% profit margin with very little of the store's funds tied up in merchandise compared to the amount of profit made when the product is sold. Yes, that's right folks, FFLs can make $50 per gun on these little pocket pistols. Margins are so slim on GLOCK pistols that i doubt FFL holders make $100 on each glock, which would equate to a 20% profit margin under their best circumstances, not even considering their intial outlay of $450 or more per unit.

lets see how an FFL holder could spend $450 on inventory:

  • buy 4 Jimenez JA22s @ $100 each (not even spending the whole $450 alotted for new inventory) and sell them for $150 each, making a total profit of $200.
  • buy one glock for $450 and sell it for $550, making a total profit of $100.

its easy to see that twice as much money can be made by selling the less expensive gun. This means more transactions and paperwork for the FFL, but double the profits when compared to a more expensive firearm.

What is the purpose of business folks? to make money. There is a lot of money to be made in the gun business, and selling inexpensive pocket pistols are a great way to pay the bills.

Springfield XD vs GLOCK 19

Glock pistols have been glorified by rappers and plice agencies accross the world. They make a good product, there's no doubt about that; but i prefer the competition.

a couple of years ago i purchased a 2nd generation Glock 19 at Gander Mountain for $399. It included the tactical tupperware case and two spare magazines. At this point I already had a Ruger P95DC with over 2,000rds through it at the time. A friend of mine had a S&W SW9VE (sigma) with a similar number of rounds through it and another friend had a Springfield XD 9mm that was pretty much brand new. When all of us went to the range together, we laid the guns out next to one another and each of us shot all of the guns. All of us agreed that the Glock was the worst of the group Here are some reasons:

  1. snappy recoil
  2. terrible trigger
  3. unnatural grip angle

after that, i put the glock on consignment at a local gun shop. There the gun sat for close to four months at a price of $425. The day I went in there to pick it up / take it back, the guys behind the counter couldn't find it. I was about to get REALLY pissed. why? because they lost my gun. Well, the reason they couldn't find it was because another employee of the shop had sold it earlier that day. The shop owner cut me a check on the spot and away i went. The shop took 20% of the sales price (which meant i lost money on the gun), but i was glad to get rid of it.

I wound up purchasing a Springfield XD 9mm Service model from a friend of mine a few months back for $400 including 2 spare magazines. I think this was a much better choice than the glock. The XD has more features, such as:

  1. ambidexterous magazine release (GREAT for a leftie like me)
  2. a supported chamber (which means the gun doesn't bulge the brass like a GLOCK does, great for realoaders such as myself)
  3. a loaded chamber indicator
  4. grip safety in addition to the glock style bladed trigger
  5. a traditionally-rifled barrel which allows the use of cast lead projectiles
  6. better trigger than any of the Glock pistols I've handled/shot
  7. more natural grip angle

Yes, Glock triggers can be improved with aftermarket parts. That's great, but its much better when a gun has a good trigger right out of the box, without having to spend extra time and money on parts to make the gun what it should've been from square one.