Category Archives: Self-Defense

New Sizzle for Ruger Standbys

Shooting Illustrated

Published in “Shooting Illustrated” May 20New Ruger

When Federal announced the new .327 Fed. Mag.,

Ruger responded first with its SP101

The theory was to offer some serious power in a compact self-defense handgun for recoil-sensitive shooters. Having known a couple of folks who were recoil sensitive, yet were interested in a firearm for self-protection, the gun-and-caliber combination made sense to me.

A respected gun-writer friend sug­gested Ruger chamber the new round in a larger-frame revolver, particularly the Blackhawk. Having been so impressed with the .327 Fed. Mag.’s performance when it first came out, I thought this was a great idea, but I didn’t really expect to see it happen. To my delight, Ruger is offering the hot cartridge in both its single-action Blackhawk and its double-action GP100 revolvers. And I can see justifiable applications for both.

Ruger Cylinder

Ruger's GP100 chambered in .327 Fed. Mag. is a big, tough gun whether intended for home defense or outdoor use. The asymmetric look of a seven-shot revolver has been known to shock old-time gun writers, but that extra round is universally accepted as a good thing.

The new .327s are from Ruger’s stainless steel stable of revolvers. The GP100 has a 4-inch barrel, but one big surprise is its cylinder holds seven rounds. The extra round is made possible by the GPlOO’s frame being beefier than that of most mid-size revolvers.

 When it comes to self-defense, more rounds are better. For the millions of Americans who keep a gun for home defense, but don’t carry concealed, there is no need for a small revolver. Your nightstand doesn’t care what the gun weighs, and your practice sessions will be much more pleasant with a larger-frame gun. Self-defense isn’t about having fun, but enjoying training sessions is better than dreading them and will translate to greater proficiency with your gun.

The GP100 also comes with Hogue’s finger-groove rubber grips, which happen to fit my hand perfectly. Although the .327’s recoil doesn’t necessitate soft grips, I’d keep them because of the excellent ergonomics. If the gun doesn’t fit your hand as well as it does mine, you might have to look at different grips.

Not much is simpler than a basic double-action revolver. No manual of arms is required for presentation or prepara­tion; simply aim and pull the trigger. If, for any reason, a round doesn’t go bang, pull the trigger again. Speaking of just pulling the trigger, I was more than happy with the smooth, double-action trigger on the GP100. In a defensive scenario, shooting double action is simple and effective.

Admittedly, a revolver is slower to reload than a semi-auto, but when fully loaded, the GP100 gives you seven opportunities to solve the problem. And how many of us with semi-automatics in our nightstands put a spare magazine in a pocket when we pick up our gun in response to a bump in the darkness? Please don’t tell me you wear a spare magazine carrier to bed. I’m not saying we should surrender our semi-autos for a wheel gun in .327 Fed. Mag. However, I am saying there’s a self-defense role for the GP100 in many homes.

Given my boyhood love affair with a Ruger Single Six, it was the Blackhawk in .327 that really got my attention. For this offering, Ruger chose stainless steel and a 5 1/2inch barrel. If sales warrant, we’ll probably see it in blue and with other barrel lengths in the future.

Ruger Blackhawk

Prepare for a shock when you see the eight chambers in the Blackhawk cylinder. Other than the increased capacity, the rest of the gun is classic Blackhawk with wood grips and adjustable black sights. If you were a kid west of Rhode Island, your first centerfire handgun was probably a Ruger Blackhawk. And if you’re old enough, to this day you know that with a centerfire Blackhawk revolver within reach, you will not be someone’s prey.

I found the .327 Fed. Mag.’s performance very impressive, particularly in normal-length barrels. Federal’s 85-grain Hydra-Shoks generated right at 1,600 fps from the Blackhawk’s 5 1/2-inch barrel and just more than 1,580 fps in the GPlOO’s 4-inch barrel. At 25 yards with my wrists on a rest, groups ran slightly over 2 inches from the Blackhawk and a little more than 3 inches in the GP100. Black Hills 85-grain .32 H&R Mag. gave 1,158 fps in the Blackhawk and 990 fps in the GP100. Groups were just a little more than 2 inches in the Blackhawk and just less than 2 inches in the GP. I had only one box of Federal 100-grain jacketed soft points and wanted them for a javelina hunt, so I just tested them in the Blackhawk. Results were velocities around 1,530 fps and groups around 1 1/2 inches.

 One of my favorite hunting pastimes is chasing rabbits with handguns, and the new .327 Blackhawk looks like a perfect small-game gun (with self-defense capabilities included) for bumming about Arizona’s high country and game-rich deserts. It would also make an excellent trail gun.

 I should comment about the sights on the revolvers. Both have black front blades and black, adjustable rear sights. The only difference is the GP100 has a white line around the rear-sight notch. It’s easier to see the rear sight in dim light or against a dark target, but it’s not the rear sight at which you should be looking. For daylight hunting, I find plain black sights seem to work best. For defensive shooting, particularly up close, it’s the front sight that needs to be seen, not the rear. Both guns should be fine as equipped for hunting, unless the angle of the sun is such that the white outline catches the glare and washes out your sight picture. But that’s just my opinion, and if your vision is better than mine, you might have a different preference.

 

It will be interesting to see how the .327 Fed. Mag. fares in the marketplace. The cartridge doesn’t really do anything the .32-20 Win. or .30 Carbine won’t do in a medium- to large-size handgun. But, the .327 is a more compact cartridge and will work in a small-frame revolver. It’s also available with a greater variety of high-performance ammo than either the .32-20 Win. or .30 Carbine and will prove easier to reload than the tapered .32-20 Win. case or rimless .30 Carbine. In any case, several gun manufacturers and a large ammunition company are sinking some resources into the new caliber. The rest is up to us shooters.

 

 
 

 

 

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Wilson Combat Spec-Ops 9

Shooting Illustrated

Published in “Shooting Illustrated” May 2010

Polymer Twist

                                                                                                                            Photos by Loyd Hill

In a life full of changes, it’s nice to know one company’s innovation shows, year after year.

Enter the Wilson Combat Spec-Ops 9

Some things are pretty safe bets. Taxes must be paid by April 15. birthdays come once a year, and Wilson Combat turns out good pistols. There are some exceptions. Congress might pass a law exempting themselves from having to pay taxes. If you were born on Feb. 29. your birthday only comes around once every four years. On the other hand. I’ve yet to be dis­appointed in a new Wilson pistol, and that includes the company’s latest offering—the Spec-Ops 9.

The Spec-Ops 9 is aimed directly at the concealed-carry market with two predominant characteristics driving the design: light weight and increased capacity. Light weight in today’s semi-automatic pistol market means a polymer frame, while increased capacity dictates double-stack maga­zines. In a sense, those thicker maga­zines do not result in guns conducive to the “concealed” part of concealed carry because the grip frame must be wider than guns using single-stack magazines. Wilson’s approach to this problem is a polymer frame with stainless steel rails molded in place. The result is minimum bulk and weight (29.6 ounces empty. 7 ounces heavier fully loaded) with plenty of structural strength. The Spec-Ops magazine not only holds 16 rounds— satisfying the increased-capacity promise—but loading the magazine to full capacity without a special tool was easier for me than any other double-stack pistol I’ve tried. My thumb was most appreciative.

The slide is carbon steel with a 472-inch barrel, which to me is a good compromise length. You get almost as good a sight radius as with a 5-inch barrel (6.2 inches), while the balance point doesn’t move too far forward as is the tendency with polymer-framed guns equipped with longer barrels. There are serrations at the rear of the slide to facilitate cock­ing, but none near the muzzle. However, about an inch from the muzzle there is a small but noticeable reduction in slide width, creating a distinct shoulder I found to be very helpful in performing chamber checks, both visual and tactile. As always when grasping the slide near the front end. be careful that no part of your hand extends in front of the muzzle.

Hammer

Wilson's skeletonized hammer not only adds to the modern aesthetics of the gun, its reduced mass also helps ensure a crisp trigger pull.

Sights are of the 3-dot tritium vari­ety, making them highly visible in low-light conditions. On a recent trip where the Spec-Ops 9 became my nightstand gun, the glowing sights made it easy to find in the dark. These are Wilson’s new Tactical Combat Sights and are considerably less bulky than the sights on my Wilson CQB 1911, the primary gun on my California concealed-carry permit. The front sight blade is almost the same width and height as on my CQB, but instead of being fit into a laterally cut dovetail slot, it slides into the front of a longitudinally cut dovetail slot. The rear sight is considerably smaller than on my CQB and is screwed into a recessed cut in the slide rather than slid into a dovetail. One similar fea­ture on both rear sights is the concave rear surfaces to eliminate any possible glare or light reflections. Nice touch. The Spec-Ops hammer is Wilson’s new ultra-light, compact design and resembles a commander-style ham­mer with the top and bottom “pinched” together. The Spec-Ops fea­tures a single, hand-fitted lug barrel.

Trigger

The Spec-Ops 9 features Wilson's custom-machined, aluminum three-hole trigger, which is adjustable for overtravel.

The polymer frame has Wilson’s distinctive starburst grips, a feature I fell in love with while evaluating an earlier gun. Both frontstraps and backstraps have checkering molded into the polymer. The grip safety is the compact-carry design, which closely resembles the grip safety on my CQB except that the beavertail doesn’t sweep as high on the new 9 mm. Wilson’s extended tactical model thumb safety is slightly smaller and shorter than that on my CQB. but is easily, naturally and reli­ably operated by my thumb in the act of presenting the gun. I would describe it as being as small as it can be. and no bigger than it needs to be—a great combination on a gun intended for concealed carry.
The magazine release is slightly larger in surface area than the one on my CQB. but it doesn’t protrude as far from the frame. My fingers are rela­tively short, so I have to shift my grip to hit the release on single-stack 1911s as well as the Spec-Ops 9. Recog­nizing that as a strictly personal limi­tation, the Spec-Ops magazines released cleanly and dropped from the gun on every touch, whether or not there were rounds in the maga­zine. Likewise, those inserted quickly and cleanly into the gun due largely to the flared mag well molded into the grip frame.
Double Stack Magazine

The distinctive look of the gun comes from the shape of the trigger guard with its sharp corner, as opposed to the more common rounded guard on steel and alloy guns. It seems almost a throwback to some of the designs of yesteryear, but it may simply be an easier shape to mold.  I had no problem shooting the gun since my grip doesn’t involve the front of the trigger guard, but a couple of custom 1911 holsters would not allow the 9 mm full entry due primarily. I think, to the bulkier trig­ger guard. Fortunately, one of my favorite factory holsters is Galco’s Avenger, and it eagerly accepted the Spec-Ops 9 like an old friend.

Molded Rails

To provide maximum concealability with minimal bulk, the Spec-Ops 9 contains molded-in stainless steel rails

Internally, the Spec-Ops 9 has the features we’ve come to expect from Wilson Combat. Its barrel has a pol­ished feed ramp, and the polished extractor is precisely fitted. The gun has an extended ejector, the Wilson custom three-hole trigger, an extra-power firing pin spring and a heavy-duty recoil spring. There are actually five holes in the trigger, but only the three large holes are there to reduce weight. Two tiny holes allow mounting of the trigger bow to the trigger.
There was no pretense of being gentle or babying the gun when I got the Spec-Ops 9 out for a shooting session.  I had a mixture of ammo, including some various-weight cast-bullet handloads that have been in my garage for more than 20 years. I literally jammed a mixture of factory ammo and hand-loads with jacketed and cast bullets indiscriminately into the magazines and started blazing away. Targets were paper plates at 10 yards, and every load with every weight, style and shape of bullet chambered, fired and stayed in those plates, even when I hit the throttle. The gun gob­bled up everything I fed it. When I concentrated. I could feel the vari­ance in recoil between the different loads. Slowing down. I thought I could detect a slight difference in point of impact between the various loads, even at 10 yards, but the disparity was insignificant. The 147-grain jacketed hollow points went exactly where the sights pointed, while the 115-grain jacketed hollow points hit perhaps 1/2 inch lower.
Sight picture with Wilson’s new Tactical Combat sights was crisp and clearly in focus thanks in no small part to the “old guy cheater lens” in my DeCot shooting glasses. The paper plates are another way of cheating by ensuring a clean white background in front of your sights, thus enhancing your sight picture. And since the plates are round, they tend to provide a natural assist in pulling your groups toward the center. Just as the eye nat­urally centers an aperture or peep sight, the eye wants to find the center of the round plate. Having said all that, there was no discreet aiming point on the plates that might help a shooter produce smaller groups.
Sights

Wilson's new Tactical Combat sights complement the Spec-Ops 9 in its concealed-carry mission. The svelte profile mini­mizes the chances of the gun getting hung up during the draw, and the longitudinally cut dovetails enhance the practicality and aesthetics.

Even shooting off hand. I felt the gun could live up to the Wilson claim of 1 1/2 inch groups at 25 yards (I actu­ally saw one of the Wilson technicians do this test a few years back). But more importantly for a carry pistol, the Spec-Ops 9 put every single shot into the kill zone at fighting distances, even when I pushed things beyond my reliable speed and regardless of ammo selection.

Given my hand size and short fin­gers. I would prefer a slightly shorter trigger on the Spec-Ops 9. The wider grip frame stretched my hand just enough—more than a standard 1911 — that I had trouble putting the pad of my finger on the trigger. As you know, changing your grip plays havoc with shot-to-shot recovery times, and despite the 9 mm’s low recoil, I found myself readjusting my grip more than once in the course of emptying a 16-round magazine. Admittedly. I’m notoriously sloppy about proper shot-to-shot recovery, and I get even more careless when shooting mild-mannered 9 mms. But. besides emphasizing my need to work on this deficiency, it stresses the importance of having a gun that fits your hand. For you. the Spec-Ops 9 may be a per­fect fit. or as many small-handed shooters (including me) have found, one of Wilson’s narrower frame guns might better suit your needs.
All that said, the new Spec-Ops 9 is a gun I would find quite comfortable to carry exactly as it comes from Wilson, except I would purchase a couple of extra magazines. With two spare magazines and one in the gun. you’re hitting the streets only one round short of a full box of ammo—all of it ready to rock with only two lightning-fast reloads. That’s a lot of defensive fire­power per ounce carried. At a retail price of $1,995, the Spec-Ops 9 is delivered with two magazines and a Wilson carry bag. t’s not cheap, but good life insurance rarely is.
Disassembly

Disassembly of the gun should come naturally to those familar with a 1911. No busing is necessary thanks to a flange on the reversed recoil plug.

Speciifications
Magazine Well

Despite the gun's thin waistline, the magazine well on the Spec-Ops 9 is flared to aid in ultra-fast reloads.Unlike most custom 1911s which contain full-length guid rods, the Spec-Ops 9 utilizes a standard recoil spring guid complete with a Wilson Shok-Buff.

Recoil Spring

Unlike most custom 1911s which contain full-length guid rods, the Spec-Ops 9 utilizes a standard recoil spring guid complete with a Wilson Shok-Buff.

Ruger’s New Light, Compact Revolver

Magazine CoverPublished in “Shooting Illustrated” September 2009

Ruger Revolver

Photos by Lloyd Hill

When polymer was introduced in guns, it was a revolutionary change.  Now Ruger’s found it a home on wheelguns — in the all new LCR.

In this fast paced age of self-loading pistols and high capacity magazines, it seems I’m not the only one who believes there is a place for the compact, light-weight revolver. Rather than reviewing all the rationale for this deep-seated opinion that I have presented over the years, I’ll simply state one overwhelmingly simple argument: Ruger just went into production on exactly this type of handgun.

The company calls it the LCR, and the small revolver is an interesting blend of features and materials from the world of handguns that I don’t recall seeing on a snub-nosed “pocket pistol” before. First, the grip frame, which Ruger literature refers to as the fire control system housing, is made of a modern polymer. More accurately it’s a long-fiber, glass-filled polymer that the press release says helps reduce recoil. I suspect the slightly oversized rubber Hogue grips contribute equally to the reduction in felt recoil, but the end result that all of the +P ammo tested was quite comfortable to shoot over the course of several cylinders. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The frame is made of 7000 series aluminum forging, as are parts of aircraft, and has a black, hard coating developed by Ruger. The aluminum provides rigid support for the barrel and cylinder and lighter overall weight for comfort in concealed carry, while the special coating contributes protection from the elements and handling abuse. The cylinder is made of 400 series stainless steel to contain the pressures of 38 Special +P loads, features a target grey finish, and has an unusual configuration. The rear third of the cylinder that houses the locking latch cuts is full diameter while the front two thirds has long, sweeping flutes like the Colt Model 1862 Police black powder pistol. Despite being separated by a century and a half in time, both guns are 5 shot revolvers. Perhaps irrelevant, but really cool!

The trigger

The author found the trigger pull extremely smooth, thanks to Ruger's "friction-reducing cam fire control system."

Want some more high tech, super modern material in your snubbie? The LCR has some titanium components in the cylinder’s front latching system and what Ruger refers to as an “optimized spring tension” design and an “enhanced lockup geometry.” All three of these should contribute to an extended life digesting +P ammo with minimal wear of gun parts. The trigger pull on the little revolver is as smooth and consistent as I’ve seen on an unmodified factory snub nose. Ruger credits this to a “friction-reducing cam fire control system that results in a non-sticking, smooth trigger pull” on the DAO trigger. I would simply say the trigger is superb!

I mentioned the Hogue rubber grips that seemed larger than on other short barrel revolvers I’ve tried. Although only long enough to allow gripping by the two middle fingers on the shooting hand, they seem slightly wider and softer than normal thus helping reduce felt recoil generated in the 13.5 ounce revolver. In fact, the grips may be a bit too large for someone with very small hands. No problem. The grip frame of the new Ruger is a narrow “stump” that allows grips of any shape since there is no fixed front or back strap. The rubber (or other material) grips may be any shape you prefer because they are attached to the frame by one screw located in the bottom of the frame’s stump. Another clever design feature, particularly in a small gun like the LCR.

The Ruger’s sights are almost typical for a snub nose revolver in that they consist of a fixed front ramp and square notch rear. The “almost” is because the ramp front

Front Site

The front sight is serrated at its back to reduce glare and can be replaced with aftermarket versions. The U-notch rear sight is cut into the aluminum frame, but to minimize the chances of deformation it's pro­tected by a polymer shell.

 sight is replaceable held in place by a pin. Want to try something else, go for it. There’s no need to try welding something on the aluminum frame surrounding the steel barrel. Also, the rear notch width is cut into the aluminum frame, not the polymer grip frame. The aluminum edges of the rear notch are protected by the polymer frame, so they won’t be subject to deformation by any bumps or drops. Both front and rear blade and notch are wide giving ample visibility and a good sight picture in bright light. In daylight, against a lightly colored target, sight picture was easily acquired and crystal clear. Under dwindling light, or against a dark target, you might consider other options. The large X-S dot sight system is highly visible and quite popular on guns meant for self-defense. Additionally, I believe Ruger is offering guns with the Crimson Trace laser grips, or you can simply contact Laser Grips to order a set of these grips after acquiring your LCR. Suggested retail for standard LCR is $525, whereas the laser grips take the gun’s price to $792.

I made two trips to Gunsite while working with the new Ruger. The LCR I used was the standard model with factory sights. I actually ran the little gun through part of the Close Quarters Pistol class, a new event that deals with the real world possibilities of people who want to do you harm and are willing to do anything to insure you’re unable to shoot them. (More on this class in a later issue.) Besides me, a number of shooters had a chance to try the little revolver using various loads from Hornady’s new 110 grain FTX Critical Defense 38 Special +P ammo up through 158 grain lead bullet handloads. Absolutely no one had the slightest problem with felt recoil. Everyone who had fired revolvers before were impressed with the trigger pull. A couple of shooters who had never fired anything except semi-autos were surprised at the length (but not particularly the weight) of the double action trigger pull. My impromptu test group included one senior Gunsite Range Master who is a retired police officer and has carried a two-inch revolver most of his adult life. Shooting outdoors on the square ranges in daylight, all shooters felt the sights were fine. Head shots at typical self defense ranges out to 10 yards were easily made. Beyond 10 yards, individual shooting skills became a major factor. I followed friend and fellow scribe Rich Grassi as he took the LCR through Gunsite’s Scrambler, a course where one engaged steel targets from Pepper popper size up through The Incredible Hulk, and fromRear Site ranges of 50 to 80 yards. Out of 8 targets engaged, only one escaped serious harm from a cylinder full of ammo, and most were hit on either the first or second shot. This is not something any shooter could do, but then it’s not something just any 2” revolver could do either. In the mano a mano drill which involves whacking two steel round plates, performing a reload, and then knocking down a split popper, Rich did not win based on the clock, but neither did he leave any targets standing, and he had to go back for a second hit on one of the plates before it fell.

I didn’t have any belt holsters for a 2” revolver, but I did have 3 pocket holsters since that is my preferred CCW technique. The leather Mitch Rosen that is form fitted for my Model 442 would not accommodate the Ruger, but the rigid Safariland and collapsible Uncle Mikes both fit. I used the rigid Safariland because being able to re-holster smoothly and efficiently (meaning with one hand and without looking) is a part of the Gunsite methodology. Even starting with my shooting hand in the pocket, I wasn’t making desired times for putting rounds on target. But I did go through the drills a few times and my targets were pretty good even if my speed wasn’t. Finally the instructors allowed me to start the drills with gun in hand in the low guard position under the supposition that I had been alert enough to read the scenario and get prepared. I got a lot faster after that and, except for the reloads, I was no longer the “cog in the wheel” that held up the class.

Reloads are worth a comment since they are perhaps the biggest weakness in using a revolver for self defense. While it would be nice to drape a pair of Pancho Villa style cartridge bandoliers over your shoulders, consider that this might suggest to others that you are carrying a firearm, thus defeating the “concealed” portion of your CCW agreement. On the other hand, finding loose cartridges in your pockets and loading them one at a time makes for a long period of vulnerability in a gunfight. I tried two “speed” techniques at Gunsite both of which worked pretty well. The HKS speedloaders have been around for quite a while including models for 5-shot revolvers. These lock 5 rounds in a circle, and when all five rounds are partially inserted into the cylinder, a quick rotation on the knob allows all 5 to drop fully into their respective chambers. You’ll gain speed on the actual reload with a little practice, and finding the speedloader in your pocket is much faster and easier than finding 5 individual rounds. I also tried the Tuff QuickStrips, a rubber strip that holds 6 cartridges in line. When you’ve dumped the empties from your 38, insert 1 or 2 cartridges at a time partially into the cylinder and then peel the strip away from the rims allowing both rounds to drop into their respective chambers. Repeat until all chambers are loaded. This isn’t as fast a reload as the HKS, but the flat strips hold all the cartridges needed for a reload, carry flatter in your pockets than the round HKS, and can be found as fast as the HKS speedloader. The speed strips also allow you to “top off” the gun by reloading a single round or two as opposed to running the gun dry to replace all 5 rounds. Having an extra round in the strip could prove useful and takes up no real additional space in your pocket. Both QuickStrips and HKS speedloaders are good systems. Selection of one over the other may be based more upon how bulky your clothing is rather than a slight increase in reloading speed.

At first glance the LCR may appear a bit odd due to things like the joining line between the polymer grip housing and the aluminum frame, and the different cylinder shape and finish. Not to worry. I’m almost certain you’ll warm to the gun’s appearance over time. But to speed up the love process, take the LCR out for a shooting session. Once you’ve reacquainted yourself with the Ruger concept of rugged guns at good guy prices, I’m certain romance will blossom quickly.