Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Kel Tec P32 Range Report

I went to the NRA range tonight, the day before Thanksgiving. After waiting for about half an hour for a lane, I got a chance to shoot. When i put my stuff down on the table, i saw the guy next to me had the new Kel Tec PMR30. While he was packing up his stuff, I asked him how he liked the new gun. He said it was great, then asked me if I'd ever shot one. I said no, then he handed me a full magazine. What a champ.

I shot the PMR30 and it was pretty awesome. It barely had any recoil. the magazine release is strange though, instead of being a conventional heel release, the heel has a button that must be pressed towards the magazine as opposed to the normal heel catch magazine release that requires the user to move the release away from the magazine.

Now, onto the P32. I shot my new gun with three brands of ammo. I first tried Prvi hollow points. The gun shot fine. After a magazine of hollow points, i decided to switch to Prvi FMJs. The FMJs did not work well. I went through a couple of magazines full of the FMJs and the gun just wouldn't fully eject. The gun wasn't stovepiping, but the brass was not fully ejecting from the gun. I also noticed a fair amount of unburned powder on the magazine follower after shooting this ammo.

Next, i went to try Fiocci FMJ. This was the cheapest ammo out of the bunch. The gun shot great with this ammo. Zero failures whatsoever. I'll be buying a lot more at 10.95 a box.

I was pleasantly surprised that the hollowpoints worked. I got a box at $16 as more of an experiment than anything else. I don't know if I will carry the gun with FMJs or hollowpoints. I debate the ability of 32s to expand in real world situations. I think an FMJ load would penetrate better. I'm honestly not worried about over-penetration with this caliber.

As far as the actual handling and shooting of the gun, I like it. The gun feels cheap. its very plasticky. If the magazine is not in the gun, I can squeeze the plastic grip panels together. The gun just feels very lightweight and fragile, a feeling I've never gotten from a Jennings/Bryco/Jimenez JA22. I guess I'm just oldschool when it comes to my love of guns that are made from metal and wood.

The trigger on the P32 is vastly different from any other small guns I've shot before. The P32 is double action.... kind of. After the slide is racked, the shooter can pull the trigger. The travel of the trigger is rather long, but it works in a good-feeling sweeping motion. I wouldn't consider it a true double action because when I think double action, I think of being able to pull a trigger, then pull it again. The P32 isn't like that. After the slide is racked, the trigger can be pulled resulting in the hammer going back then releasing it all in one fluid motion, but if you pull the trigger again for a follow up shot, the trigger does not work the hammer. I'm just very used to having a short single action trigger on small guns. This is similar in size to a Jennings or Raven, but the gun is vastly different. This is the smallest gun I've ever shot that doesn't have a fixed barrel. The floating barrel is cool, like a bigger gun would have, but it seems like an expensive way of building guns. George Jennings pioneered the small fixed barrel design in the late 1960s with the Raven pistol. Those Ravens could be made cheaply and cranked out by the zillion. I wish this Kel Tec had a fixed barrel because it probably wouldn't have cost so much.

Overall, I'm pleased with my $60 purchase. I will be carrying it often.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

From The Other Side of The Table

Over the weekend, I worked at The Nation's Gun Show in Chantilly, Virginia. I have only ever missed one show at that location, their very fist. I would have been there if I hadn't been in California at the time. After seeing the same vendors a few times a year for several years, I got to know some of the regulars who always worked the Chantilly show.
While buying my very first handgun, I wound up leaving my driver's license at the show. That day, I had only paid for one day's admission to the show, so i had to go back the next day and get it back. The woman who had forgotten to give it back apologized up and down, but I didn't really mind. This minor inconvenience just gave me an excuse to go back to the show.

Since that event, I always recognized the woman who'd forgotten to give me back my license. I regularly teased her about it. At a later show, I met her husband. Over the years I purchased a few inexpensive guns from him, including my first Jimenez pistol. Each show i would ask the couple how business was going, what was new, and other small talk. I also saw them at gun shows in other parts of the state.

A couple of mouths ago, I was asked if I could help them sell guns and accessories at an upcming Chantilly show. We did not discuss payment, but I knew these people would treat me well. After dealing with them for several years as a customer, i was quite confident these folks wouldn't screw me. In the gun show circuit, if you screw over somebody, others at the show will definately be hearing about it. Having a good reputation gets a vendor far in this business, often getting referrals from other dealers across the show.

Let me give you a little background information about the Chantilly show. Until a few years ago, there was a waiting limit to buy a handgun in some parts of Virginia. Each county, town, or city could decide whether or not they wanted a wait period on the sale of a handgun. Fairfax County (with over a million residents) decided that handgun buyers shouldn't be able to get their handguns in one single visit to a gun shop. Because of this waiting period, many people interested in buying guns would drive an hour or so to a nearby county that did not have a waiting period. Because of the waiting period in Fairfax County, no one wanted to hold a gun show in the area.

There was change in the legislation of Virginia in 2004 or 2005 that said municipalities and counties could no longer preempt state firearm laws. All wait limits on the purchase of handguns were eliminated, as well as a few other gun rights issues such as the bans on open carry that some areas (such as Alexandria) had on their books for decades.

Shortly after the waiting period was eliminated, the first gun show in almost half a century was held in Fairfax County. The capital expo center (also known as The Dulles Expo Center) was once a Sam's club and a Builder's Square. Both of these big box businesses failed and the land sat dormant for a few years. The two vacant buildings were then turned into show halls sharing a parking lto area. At times, The Nation's Gun Show occupied one building while a vintage militaria and surplus show occupied the other structure. These two-fer gun shows offered visitors over 1,500 tables of guns, ammo, accessories, jewelry, leather, and jerky.

The regular Nation's gun show offers 1,000 vendor tables and occurs about four times a year. Wealthy people from Northern Virginia are known to go into these gun shows with money burning a hole in their pockets. I have observed that the Chantilly show has higher prices than shows in Fredericksburg or Doswell, likely due to the fact that the clientele of a Chantilly show will likely pay the higher prices. People in northern Virginia (the wealthy part of the state) can afford to pay more than people living in other areas of the state and vendors definitely capitalize on that fact.

I worked THe Nation's Gun Show on November 19, 20, and 21 of 2010. The Chantilly shows are always open on Friday afternoon at 3pm while also offering the more conventional gun show times of 9-5 on Saturday and 10-5 on Sunday. I worked all three days, totaling 21 and 3/4 hours of labor. During the course of the show, I sold a few handguns, a shotgun, and countless accessories such as cleaning products and holsters. Many of the business transactions done at gun shows are cash, so by the end of each day working at the show, I had a decent wad of cash in my pocket. This money was my boss's money, not mine, so I had to make sure I kept my money in a different pocket.

On the second day of my 3 days working at the show, my boss and I discussed my compensation for working. The couple I was working for had already given me a Jimenez Arms JA32 as advance payment for the gun show, but he said that he would pay me more. I was doing a great job, required no training, and saved him some money versus him bringing someone with him from his part of the state. When he has brought people from his area, he had to pay for a hotel room and to feed them. Because of the expense of room and board, the workers were only paid $50 per day. Since I was local and didn't require a hotel room, I was told I would get $75 a day or an equivalent trade in guns.

Later that day, I told a fellow vendor that his price on a used Kel-Tec P32 was way too high. The gun had significant slide wear and did not come with a box or any paperwork, but the vendor still wanted $275 for it. Elsewhere at the show, brand new P32s were selling for about $240. After telling the vendor's assistant that his price was high, the vendor lowered the price to $175. I believe the gun was just mismarked. When I showed interest in the gun at it's new lower price, the vendor's assistant said that he could work on the price a little bit because friends help other friends. Although the gun seemed appealing, I also wanted to make some money at the show to spend on Christmas presents.

The following day, I discussed the small 32 with my boss. He said that since my Jimenez JA32 had a value of about $125 and he was planning on paying me $75 per day, he would still owe me $100. He said that if i wanted to (no pressure of course), I could put in $60 of my own money and get the gun. At $160, the gun seemed like a good deal considering I'd only be paying $60 for it. Because of the minimal investment, I decided to go ahead and pull the trigger on the deal. Yes, that pun was intended.

I wrote about my negative experiences with Kel-Tec products elsewhere in this blog, but I thought that I might as well give the P32 a try. The gun looked well-used, so I assume it was carried a lot. If someone trusted it enough to carry extensively, I bet the gun functioned well. In hindsight, the gun could have broken and been sold off, but for a mere $60 out of pocket, I was willing to take my chances.

Over the course of that weekend, I learned a lot. I learned that the gun business isn't an easy way to make money. Some of the people that patrons see selling guns at gun shows are doing the show circuit for extra money to supplement their gun shop or pawn shop elsewhere in the state. Others do the show circuit as a way to survive, traveling around the state weekend after weekend for much of the year. I would not like to work over twenty hours over a period of 3 days, then have to drive home a good 4 hours. I have a lot more respect for these gun show sellers than I ever have before.

Many gun show patrons attend shows because they are a fun experience. I have always enjoyed standing in line during the fall or winter months. I would usually get there an hour before the opening of the show, freezing my ass off, waiting with excitement to see the newest models on the market or to see where prices had gone on my favorite calibers and brands of ammo. This stuff interests me. It isn't just a hobby for me, it is a passion.

For the people standing on the other side of the table, gun shows are not fun. They area a way for many hard working and honest people to put food on the table. Being on the seller's side of the table, I really got to see the whole gun show experience in a vastly different light. I used to try and haggle with certain sellers for a better price, whether it was to get them to throw in the tax or get something like a holster thrown in on the deal. After seeing what these people go through every weekend and how low their prices have to be in order to stay competitive, I will never again try to dicker with these people about a few bucks. Their prices are already good to begin with, far cheaper than any of the local brick and mortar gun shops. Yes, $5 off of a gun is $5 saved, but everyone has a right to make a living. I sincerely believe that the majority of the sellers at these shows are there out of necessity, not to just make a little extra money for their business.

I don't know if I'll ever work another show again. I haven't been on my feet working on a concrete floor for many years. Back when i worked retail (and weighed a good 50 pounds less), i could handle being on my feet for 8 hours at a time without hurting too badly. Working desk jobs for the past several years didn't exactly prep me for the gun show circuit. Working the biggest gun show in the state was definitely a great learning experience, but I would like to spend my weekends doing other things. I told my bosses that I would work for them at future Chantilly shows if they really needed me, but I have no intentions of making my employment with them a regular occurrence. Overall, I'm glad I experienced at least one gun show from the other side of the table.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

German Sport Guns GSG-5 Rifle

I purchased a GSG-5 Rifle when they were really hot. The gun cost me a pretty penny, $469 to be exact. I thought to myself that this gun better be damn good considering the price. I thought that for that kind of money I would be getting a quality product. I was mistaken.

I have a few problems with the GSG-5. The gun has a ton of parts. It is built more like an airsoft gun or a BB gun rather than a real firearm. The number of parts in this gun has got to be over a hundred. Many die cast parts are held together with nuts and bolts. It would have been slightly more expensive to have parts threaded to accomodate a fastneer, but they decided to use nuts and bolts instead. The design utilizes multiple recoil springs that ride on metal studs. These studs became worn down in a short amount of time on my gun. Also, the front sight fell out while shooting. The front sight blade is tiny and so is the screw that holds it in place. I was shooting at an outdoor range, standing in a gravel area while shooting. I never did find the missing parts.

I never would have purchased a GSG-5 if I'd done some research. If i had seen an exploded diagram of the firearm, i would have never purchased it. There are just too many parts, which means there are a lot of possible points of failure. Not only failure, but also a ton of fastenrs to get loose over time. The gun feels very plasticky and the buttstock is not only hollow, but also composed of a very thin plastic that does not fit well. The buttstock has way too much wobble to shoot the gun accurately at long distances. The stock fittment has gotten worse over time.

The gun looks amazing, but it feels cheap and isn't reliable. I will be sending this gun to Rochester New York for warranty repair sometime soon. It has been sitting in my collection, broken, for a couple of years now, so I think it is finally time to get it fixed. If the technicians at the repair center can't get the thing working reliably, I'm going to sell it.

There are a couple of morals to my story: Don't buy something right hwne it comes out. You are likeley to have a problem that didn't get ironed out in pre-roduction. Don't anticipate quality just because of the product's price. Also, don't buy a gun until you've seen an exploded parts diagram.

Kel-Tec: Why I Warn People To Not Buy Them

A lot of people own guns made by Kel-Tec. I bought a Kel-Tec PLR-22 right hwen they came out. I assume I got one of the first ones off the factory floor considering I got it about 2 weeks afte rhte product was released. The serial number was extremely low as well, which leads me to believe it may be part of the first batch.

The PLR-22 really appealed to me. I saw a scary looking 22LR and had to have it. The gun was a huge disappointment. I paid about $315 for it at a local gun show. The dealer i bought it from had only one and i was lucky enough to get it. I wanted to be the first kid on the block with this gun. I wanted people at the range to ask me what it was. I love having the newst thing which everyone is taking a look at while I'm shooting. There is a price to be paid for being the first kid on the block with the newest gun...

I should know better than to buy something right when it comes out. It is a better idea to buy something when it has been on the market for a little while because you want a good, reliable product that works. It sucks when a company uses its first consumers of a particular product as a guinea pig. That makes for unhappy customers and a tarnished reputation. Comapnies just don't spend enough on quality control or research and development.

I really think Kel-Tec dropped the ball on the PLR-22. The design isn't great. When the gun jams, brass commonly goes above the bolt and gets lodged behind the bolt. With a piece of brass behind the bolt, the bolt can't go back far enough to function correctly. Having to take the gun apart multiple times on the firing line to get rid of stray brass was nothing short of embarassing. Also, the chamber is extremely tight. Rounds do not fully go into the chamber. Because of that, the gun routinely fires out of battery, causing shards of brass to fly out of the ejection port.

It is a bad design to make a gun that will fire when the bolt is half open. The firing pin is inside the bolt, but there isa hammer behind the bolt which is part of the trigger assembly. The hammer can be released when the bolt is most of the way open actually. Not safe and definately not cool.

I contacted Kel-Tec to return the gun for warranty service. I explained in my email exactly what problems the gun was having. If i wanted to ship it to them for service, I had to pay the freight to get it to them. Since I am not an FFL holder, I would have to send it overnight to the warranty department in Florida. This would cost me over $50. Wow, $50 spent on a gun that should have worked in the first place is pretty frustrating. My $315 gun all the sudden was going to cost me $365.

THat isn't the only horror story of Kel-Tec. A good friend of mine got a PF9 right when it came out. THe gun was pretty sweet on paper. A relatively high capacity 9mm pocket pistol that's super slim and relatively small in size. It sounded pretty sweet, but it wasn't. The gun's magazine release was made of plastic. Because of that, the magazine would start to release itself while firing after a period of 200 or 250 rounds. No gun should be failing like that at such a low round count. This problem made the gun unusable aside from being a single shot firearm. As a carry gun it was worthless because it would only fire one shot.

The story of the PF9 got better. After my friend shot the 250 rounds or so, he took it apart to clean it. There was a portion of the frame which had broken away. The representative from Kel-Tec told my good friend to not worry about the broken portion of the frame. On newer PF9s, this portion of the frame has been removed. The PF9s I've seen at local gun shows have that portion of the frame removed, but it was obviously done later in production, as an afterthought. The gun looked as though someone had hacked out the problem area with a dremel tool. The finish around this area was obviously hacked away by a small die grinder, after the metal had been finished.

Word on the street is that new PF9s are being sold with a metal magazine release. I guess it took a bunch of pissed off customers to get Kel-Tec to make that magazine release metal, what it should have been to begin with.

Because of the failures I saw between my personal PLR-22 and my friend's PF9, I can't reccomend a Kel-Tec to anyone who asks me about them, soeley because of my first-hand experience with Kel-Tec products.

New 9mm from SCCY

I love small, inexpensive pocket piostls. I have never owned a SKYY (or SCCY as they are now called), but i'm really loving the looks of their second offering, the CPX-2. I'm not going to lie, i buy a gun because it looks good. I won't own an ugly gun. If I'm going to spend my hard-earned money on a gun, I hope to own it for a long time. There are so many great looking guns out there, why own one of the ugly ones?

I still don't know if I can trust guns from SCCY. The offerings from SCCY is basically a knock off of the Kel-Tec P11. I don't trust Kel-Tec guns in general, so I am very hesitatnt to trust a knock off of Kel-Tec. It does look amazing though, and its hard to argue with it's good looks.

Scrap Brass

Many of us shoot at organized ranges. Whether the firing line is outdoor or indoor, there is usually brass laying around. I reccomend picking up every piece of brass you shoot and everything that you find on the firing line.

I pick up all the brass that I see, even if I don't reload that caliber or even have a gun in that caliber. A lot of brass I see on the firing line is berdan primed, stuff that can't be easily reloaded. The brass is still worth something in scrap value. 7.5 Swiss as well as 7.62x54R brass is rather heavy, so a relatively small number of shell casings can add up to a few pounds worth of brass.

The scrap yard I go to offers a dollar and thirty cents per pound of brass. Even if you save 22s, it can add up after a while. It costs nothing to keep it, aside from a small amount of space. Call me a cheapskate, but I've got a solid $20 worth of brass waiting for the scrap yard that didn't cost me a dime.