Tag Archives: competition shooting

Gear Review: Double Alpha Dry-Fire Practice Mag

If you want to get better at shooting, you take the time to practice gun handling skills in dry fire. One such handling skill is reloading your pistol. It’s pretty easy to practice with the magazines that you normally use, but it doesn’t take a genius to realize that you never reload your pistol with an empty magazine.

To add some more verisimilitude to your practice, you could make (or buy) some dummy rounds and load your mag with those. Or, you could get Double Alpha’s new practice magazines.

I picked some up for my open pistol, which is a 2011-type racegun. 2011 magazines aren’t cheap, so I don’t have as many of them as I’d like. The Double Alpha practice magazines fit great in my gun and my mag pouches. Even though I have a newer, convex magwell, I did not need to file or dremel on the magazines to get them to lock in place. Since the mags have a plastic body, it would be easy to file them to fit if I had to deal with tolerance stacking issues.

The Double Alpha practice mags work as advertised, serving as stand-ins for a magazine weighted down with dummy rounds. You can’t actually load any rounds into the Double Alpha practice magazines, so there’s an extra element of safety there. Being purple plastic, they also stand out from your regular magazines.

Let’s get to value. The practice mags retail for $19.95 on Double Alpha’s website. Some value question will come down to do you care about reloading with mags that ‘feel’ loaded, and how much you value your time. If you had a bunch of spare components lying around, you could make some dummy rounds, load those up in your mags, and get to work. This would work even better if you had some old magazines lying around. On the other hand, there’s something to be said for convenience, especially in platforms with expensive magazines.

Fishbreath Shoots: Ruger Super GP100 .357 review

Ruger’s been making a big push into the competition world lately, with a USPSA Single Stack-ready 1911 and a Ruger American with slide cuts for Carry Optics. First on the menu from the recently-established Ruger Custom Shop, however, was the Super GP100 in .357 Magnum, a revolver designed from the ground up for practical shooting competitions.

I’ve had this year’s competition revolver in hand for some time now, taken it to two ranges and one match, and put a fair few rounds through it generally.

So, let’s get down to business.

The Gun

The Super GP100 is a .357 Magnum revolver1 built with competition in mind. Though it bears the GP100 name, it is in fact a hybrid design. Its frame is Redhawk-size (that is, large enough for an 8-round cylinder), but its dual-spring lockwork comes from the GP100. The cylinder locks in three places for maximum durability, and is cut down quite a bit to reduce weight.

The trick about revolvers for USPSA (this is one of them) is that an 8-round cylinder is the cost of entry. Under the rules, you can fire eight shots before reloading if you’ve declared Minor power factor, and six if you’ve declared Major. The USPSA rules further say that a stage cannot require more than eight shots from a single shooting position. Fewer than eight rounds loaded, and you have to reload flat-footed. Nobody likes that.

So, although it’s a .357 revolver, I’ll be shooting .38 Special almost exclusively2.

Size, Feel, and Look

To kick things off, it is a big gun. A 5.5″ barrel at the end of a large revolver frame makes for neither a small nor a light handgun. For its purposes, though, this is fine.

It feels pretty good in my hands. I have two minor gripes, however. One, the cylinder release is a bit hard to hit with my strong hand, and is relatively small. (I understand Ruger is working on an extended part.) Two, the stocks aren’t shaped in such a way as to fully promote a hands-high grip—the natural place to put your hands, given the contour of the stocks, is a bit too far down for the proper double-action grip. That can be fixed with aftermarket parts, however, something I may investigate later in the year.

As far as its general appearance, I find it quite handsome indeed. The diagonal cuts in the barrel shroud give it a somewhat retrofuturistic air, along with the fiber-optic front sight, but otherwise, it’s a revolver with classic revolver lines. It wouldn’t look entirely out of place on the set of Firefly, which is an aesthetic I can get behind.

Disassembly and Ease of Maintenance

I do not have very many revolvers, but the Super GP100 is middle-of-the-road on ease of disassembly. Swapping springs or removing the hammer at a match would be a no-go, although the latter is only because there are hammer shims inside to deal with3.

Of course, the manual says that no disassembly is required for basic cleaning. I suspect I’ll take them at their word, and only do the detail strip now and then.

Range Notes

Before the first match, I had two range sessions to come to grips with the gun, one at an indoor range where I did quite a poor dot torture (and ended up adjusting the zero on the sights), and one at an outdoor range with a bunch of steel plates between 15 and 30 yards.

Trigger

Pretty good, out of the box. Better than the 929 Performance Center I tried out at a different local gun store. I haven’t had the chance to play with a slicked-up Smith, so I can’t draw an exact comparison, but even with only lighter springs (no polishing), parvusimperator remarked that it felt pretty good.

The trigger scale says about 7.5lb double action and 2.5lb single action. Single action is a clean break. Double action has a bit of clickiness to it at one point, but I don’t mind.

Accuracy

More accurate than me!

It’s a revolver with a 5.5″ barrel. Not only is the sight radius correspondingly huge, but when it came back from warranty service4, the factory included a copy of the target showing a sub-1″ group at 15 yards.

Given that I’m shooting it double action in a practical shooting sport, that’s plenty sufficient.

Recoil

Tame, at least with .38 Special, which is what most people will be running through it. The gun weighs 44 ounces, plenty to soak up the pop from piddling minor loads.

Reliability

Because this is a competition gun, I didn’t even bother shooting it with stock springs. That, of course, raises questions of reliability.

Unlike my CZ P-09 race gun, which has happily consumed every load I’ve ever fed it, the Super GP100 with lightened springs (a Wolff 9lb mainspring) is a little more finicky. It happily runs on Prvi Partizan .38 Special, but handloads with decade-old CCI primers, though they were reliable in single-action, failed once or twice per cylinder in double-action. Winchester primers of the same vintage worked fine5.

One frequent complaint about .38 Special in competition revolvers is that the ejector won’t fully eject empties. I can confidently say that’s not a problem here—the ejector stroke is long enough to pop empty cases fully out of the cylinder.

Match Notes

Now, we arrive at the meat of the post. The Super GP100 is a competition gun. How can I fully review it if I don’t compete with it?

First thing’s first. Here’s the match video sans commentary. Here it is with commentary, which is probably not going to be too interesting to people without USPSA knowledge ahead of time.

So, how was it in match conditions? Pretty good. Although the stocks, as I mentioned earlier, aren’t quite shaped how I’d like them to be for the grip I want, they’re perfectly acceptable. I didn’t find myself taking the wrong grip out of the holster or off of the table starts, which is a good minimum benchmark.

You might notice in the video that I struggle with reloads in a few places. This is in part due to my inexperience and choice of the wrong basic technique6, but also in part due to the combination of factory ammo without a roll crimp and Ruger’s traditionally-tight chambers. Prvi Partizan-brand .38 Special in both the factory moon clips and the SpeedBeez version binds unless it’s dropped just so7, with the gun almost exactly vertical. Because of the taper on 9mm, it wouldn’t be a problem with the 9mm version, if you’re okay with spitting on revolver tradition8.

Match accuracy is, as I indicated earlier, just fine. I missed a few small steels at long range, but that’s on me more than it is the gun. The sights do come from the factory regulated for a 6-o’clock hold, which is fine if you like it. It’s not what I’m used to, however, especially after a long run of Carry Optics, in which you put the dot on the thing and pull the trigger, so before the next match I’m going up to the range to adjust them for a dead-on hold.

Conclusions

I’ll grant you that I’m not the best person to review competition revolvers. I only have the one, and I don’t have experience with tuned Smith & Wesson guns for comparison purposes.

That said, I’ll still put my recommendation on this one. The problems (iffy reloads with factory ammo, less-than-perfectly-ideal stocks) are relatively minor, and both easily solved (by handloads and by aftermarket grips) are smaller than the benefits (match readiness is a $5 pack of Wolff springs, not a $150 trip to a gunsmith). The value proposition is there, and the performance is nothing to sneeze at either.


  1. You can get it in 9mm too, but 9mm is not a fit caliber for a revolver, no matter what the Revolver Nationals stats say. 
  2. Because of USPSA power factor rules, I’m likely to go (in the low-power direction rather than the high-power one) to more esoteric cartridges in the future, like .38 Short Colt or custom cut-down .38 Special. 
  3. To put the hammer back in, you stick one shim to it with gun grease, put the hammer pin through that shim and into the hammer, and push the opposite shim into the frame with a piece of paper. 
  4. It came with a misaligned barrel shroud assembly. Ruger was highly accommodating, and had it turned around inside a week. 
  5. I understand that primers have been getting more sensitive over the years—thus saith the Lee reloading book, along with some random forum posters. Today’s CCI primers might work. Perhaps I’ll pick up a box at the reloading-supplies counter of the friendly local gun store. 
  6. I’m writing a post on this, too, but it comes down to gross motor movements with my dominant hand against fine motor movements with my weak hand, and I should have realized that before practicing the latter a bunch. 
  7. I bought a reloading press to solve this problem. It was always an inevitability once I started shooting competitive revolver, because you get to keep all your brass, but this is a bit ahead of schedule. Anyway, a roll crimp into the SNS Casting 158-grain coated bullets’ crimp groove drops easily9
  8. I’ve come down hard on 9mm revolvers, but it’s good-natured. If you’re considering shooting a revolver at USPSA matches, pick whatever caliber you want. (And granted, 9mm has advantages.) The division needs you. 
  9. Because I bought a gun that Just Works, like parvusimperator’s Open blaster, I have to find my tinkering where I can, and that’s evidently at the reloading bench. Next year: .38 Short Colt? 

Big Iron: Gearing Up for Revolver Competition

That’s right. It’s happening. This year, your correspondent is dedicating himself to the noble art of the wheelgun, embodied in the Revolver Division of the United States Practical Shooting Association.

In the spirit of previous posts, such as my CZ Limited and CZ Carry Optics shopping lists, I’m going to talk first about why I decided to embark upon this new task, and then about the gear I chose to carry me through it.

Why Revolver?

Because nobody writes ballads about semi-auto gunslingers1. The history they carry with them means revolvers are inherently romantic.

On top of that, they’re fascinating bits of clockwork. Take a gander at an exploded parts diagram! All kinds of tiny parts working together in non-obvious ways to turn and align a cylinder, bring a hammer back, push a transfer bar up (maybe), and let the hammer drop, just at the right time. It’s a kind of mechanical beauty.

Next up, revolver competition is fertile ground for a young(ish) guy like me. I may not have the hundreds of thousands of rounds of experience that the leaders of the pack do, but I do have fast, non-arthritic hands and good movement speed by USPSA standards. I think I can work that to do better in revolver than I can in more traditional divisions.

Finally, my choice of USPSA divisions in the past has trended more and more toward speed, extra bullets in the pipe, and limited reloading. Revolver gives me a reason to slow down and work on accuracy, which will be handy for, say, Carry Optics, where I’ve previously wasted a lot of time on make-up shots.

The List

Reader, you know me. I am cheap. Getting into a new division, however, is frequently not cheap. I did my best to keep the costs down, and I think I did a pretty good job in the final tally. Prices are all-up

Ruger Super GP100 .357: $1,138

When I first investigated revolvers for USPSA competition back in 2018, the only revolvers fit for USPSA rules (which favor 8 round cylinders and forbid barrel porting) were the Smith and Wesson 929, which I objected to on cost and everyone’s-shooting-it grounds, and the Ruger Redhawk, whose single-spring lockwork limited how much tuning you could do. My 2019 shopping list, written after Ruger’s release of the .357 Super GP100 but before the release of the 9mm Super GP100, settled on the former.

The first question this raises, which I don’t think I answered in preceding articles, is why Ruger, when Smith has all the aftermarket attention? For one, aesthetics. I don’t mean looks alone, though looks play into it, I also mean the hipster points. I don’t like shooting the same gun as everyone else. That’s boring. For the other, practicality. I had the chance to play with both a 929 and a Super GP100 at the local we-have-everything gun store. I liked the way the Ruger sat in my hand better, I could reach the cylinder release and the hammer spur more readily, and I thought the trigger on the Ruger was better out of the box. There are more Smith smiths out there, but on the other hand, I spent twenty minutes replacing springs on the Super GP100, and I have what I’d consider a match-ready trigger.

The second question is, why .38 over 9mm? Two of the three reasons are the same as above: aesthetics and practicality. 9mm is not a suitable cartridge for a revolver, stylistically. On practicality grounds, I have a ton of 9mm pistols already, with higher capacities and faster rates of fire than a 9mm revolver. I do not have very many powerful handguns, and none at the junction of powerful and easy to reload occupied by a .357 revolver cut for moon clips. Is that a common need? No, but there are guns for way less common uses in my safe, so there is at least an argument that it’s a practical choice.

The third reason is tinkering. Like parvusimperator, I see the reasoning behind buying a competition-ready gun and doing very little to it. It’s nice to have a gun that Just Works. Of course, that leaves me with nothing to do with my spare time2. .38 leaves me room to experiment with reloading in more exciting ways than 9mm—shortening cases, wadcutters and semi-wadcutters, different crimps, and the like.

Oh, and the .357 Super GP100 is about $100 cheaper.

Anyway, this is not a full review of the gun. One of those is forthcoming at a later date, after I’ve had a few range sessions and at least one match to try it out.

SpeedBeez Kydex Holster: $73

My previous shopping list called for a Guga Ribas universal holster, but that preceded the availability of SpeedBeez’s Kydex option.

It’s thicker than any of my other plastic holsters, and there’s a way to place the gun in it so that it rests rather than clicking into place, making it appropriately speedy. It’s also cut low on the top, so that I only need a short pull up on the draw before the gun is free to come forward.

All in all, a good buy, and it saves me a bunch over the fancy custom holster, which I put toward some other items.

eBay Holster Hanger: $24 with coupon

The holster, of course, came with a belt clip, but when I was putting my gear together, the USPSA had not yet corrected the rulebook to note that revolver holsters are allowed to sit up to the length of an overlay (3 3/8 inches, I believe) from the inner belt, so the Kydex drop-offset piece it came with was too offset and also insufficiently dropped.

I found this one on eBay for $27.50. Between tax and a $5 coupon, I got it for $24.

It does the job admirably, although I’m not using it quite as specced. Because the mounting points on your average semi-auto holster are further toward the muzzle than they are on the holster called out above, I had to mount it in such a way that I can’t actually use the adjustable offset. That said, the mounting holes on the holster provide for what just so happens to be the perfect amount of offset, and there are other hole options on the holster body. I was able to get the holster set up perfectly for my taste, with the grip straight horizontal and the grip just protruding above the top of the belt, as required by USPSA rules.

SpeedBeez Moon Clip Rack: $160

The SpeedBeez moon clip rack is the most competition-focused piece of equipment I own. What possible other use is there for an 8-rack of moon clips?

It does its job well, and is more or less the standard for moon clip shooters. What more is there to say?

SpeedBeez Moon Clips: $130

While I was at SpeedBeez, I figured I’d order some moon clips. For a bit more than I was prepared to pay at TK Custom in my 2019 shopping list, I got two and a half times as many.

Of course, there are tradeoffs. These are 0.020″ clips, whereas both the stock Ruger option and TK Custom’s standard are 0.025″. A tiny difference, but enough of one to matter. I bought a half case of PPU .38 Special to start out my revolver career. Loaded into the three stock Ruger clips, they drop into the cylinder cleanly. Loaded into the SpeedBeez clips, they wobble just enough to bind, slowing down a good proportion of my reloads.

There are a number of ways this could be fixed (a slightly more aggressive chamfer on the cylinder, a slightly more aggressive crimp on the case, thicker/stiffer moon clips), but unfortunately, I’ll have to live with it until I can implement one of the other solutions.

Crimp seems like the easiest thing to manage, especially given the ease of recovering brass when it’s stuck to your discarded moon clips, and the fact that my more-aggressively-crimped dummy ammo drops right in. One of those Lee classic turret presses is pretty tempting, not gonna lie.

SpeedBeez Moon Clip Tester: $37

I had a bit of budget left over, so I got one of these to simplify moon clip checking. Nifty little gadget. Does its job.

Original Precision Moon Clip Tool: $76

There are some ridiculously spendy moon clip tools out there, but this one does both moon clip loading and unloading for the price of one of TK Custom’s fancy moon clip loaders by itself.

It doesn’t work quite as well as a really purpose-built tool would, I suppose, but it’s perfectly adequate for loading a bunch of clips while I watch a Youtube video or something on my workshop computer.

Ammo Can Moon Clip Box: $15 and some scrap wood

Readers, I confess that your correspondent is beginning to come down with cabin fever3. So, two weekends back, I ordered a surplus .50-cal ammo can from Midway, set about some scrap wood in my basement with circular saw and drill4, and put together a moon clip box.

It has sixteen pegs arranged in two squares, with a missing peg in the middle of each square so I can get my hand down and into the box. Each peg holds up to four clips, for an ammunition capacity of 512 rounds pre-loaded—enough for all but the most grueling of match days. Handy little piece of kit for the revolver competitor on the go, and when the rust developing on this box grows beyond the tolerable, I can pop the caddy into one of the newfangled plastic jobbers.

If I can’t be at a match, at least I can be making my match days better!

Total: $1,653

Not only did I get more gear than I called for in my 2019 shopping list, I came in under the $1,705 total therefrom.

Granted, $1,653 makes it my spendiest gun project to date. (The Limited/Carry Optics CZ P-09 cost about $250 more.) Plus, reloading gear to come…

Even so, though, revolver’s been one of my dream divisions for a long time, to the point that parvusimperator wrote down his guess when I was debating between the Glockblaster 2.0 and the revolver last summer, and on my final selection a month or two ago, opened the paper to reveal he was correct. I like revolvers. (Clearly.) I’m looking forward to the chance to shoot one in competition, when they finally start back up.

And when they do? Why, you can expect a full review of the Super GP100 with attached match report, and you can certainly expect some match videos. Until then.


  1. At least, nobody I listen to. 
  2. This is a joke. I have way too much to do and way too little spare time to do it in already. 
  3. A little less, now that I can get out to driving ranges and golf courses, but man, would I really like to have shot a few matches already this year. 
  4. I really need to get myself a drill press, or at least a plunge router. 

The Kasarda Drill Is Stupid

We’re too lazy to set up a proper shared byline, but this is a collaborative work, and both our names are on it. – P. & F.

The Kasarda drill is stupid.

There, we said it. The Kasarda drill is a fixture of the sort of action matches featured on Ian and Karl’s Inrange channel down in Arizona. Briefly, it involves a stage where there is one (1) steel silhouette-type target at the end of a bay. The shooter has to cover a distance by repeatedly tossing a heavy kettlebell, and scoring a hit on the target from wherever the kettlebell lands. After the shooter has gotten the kettlebell across some predetermined line and scored a final hit, the drill is complete.

We hate this drill. We think it is profoundly stupid. Here’s why.

Karl loves to gripe about “practicality,” or the lack thereof in matches not designed in accordance with his preconceived notions. He doesn’t like raceguns. He doesn’t like compensators. Et cetera. And that’s fine. Open division isn’t for everyone. Fancy race guns aren’t for everyone. That’s why there are other divisions. Of course, he’s also griped about the 180 safety rule, lack of required use of cover, and other rules designed to make rules enforcement easily understandable by shooters and ROs.

And yet the Kasarda drill is also a massively impractical, completely artificial drill. It bears exactly zero resemblance to anything actually done by any law enforcement officer or soldier ever. Literally none, unless you want to completely abstract everything away and think of it as “physical thing plus shooting thing.” Let’s break that down.

First, the physical. This is not drag your buddy, or carry ammo, or lug a “support weapon”. It’s fling a heavy kettlebell. And they have to dictate how you do it, because if you do it wrong, you’ll screw up your shoulder or your back and be out of the match. And while the folks at Inrange preach about accessibility, there are plenty of folks who are going to look at a big ol’ 62 pound (or whatever weight) kettlebell and say “Nope!”, and I can’t seem to find the place where Inrange tells you how to accommodate those with bad backs. Anyway, matches near me have plenty of middle aged folks, and making them get into shape before they come to my match is going to result in a very empty match with not a lot of fees to cover my expenses. Likewise, being perceived as requiring people to get into shape before they come out and play at my match is also going to result in a very empty match.

If the point is “exhaustion and then shoot”, there are other ways to do it that are more accessible and less potentially injurious. Carry something heavy (cops and soldiers might do this). People can drag a heavy weight if they can’t actually carry it. Or, you could have people run a lot (cops and soldiers might do this too). Heck, the running challenge automatically adjusts to fitness levels if you do laps around a bay or something. You’d just have to make the par time work. And hey, it even reasonably simulates a real-world incident. Check out this video from Active Self Protection.

Second, the shooting. Seriously, just one plate? Really? No transitions? Not even a mandatory reload? This “drill” feels like someone is trying to inject a bit of shooting into Crossfit. If I want to crossfit, I’ll hit the gym. I’m on the shooting range. Can I at least have an interesting shooting challenge?

Open Gear Retrospective: Year One

I’ve been having a blast in Open, and thought I’d take a bit to talk through some of my gear and the small changes I’ve made. My gun has been running great, and I’m super happy about that. Let’s look at some of the other stuff, and one gun part swap.

1) Holster: Double Alpha Alpha-X vs. Everglades Magnetic Race Holster
I started with a purchase of a ‘belt kit’ from Double Alpha, which included their Alpha-X race holster. This holster requires inserts to fit the trigger guard of your firearm. Since I’m using the relatively new Lone Star Innovations Outlaw grip on my race gun, which doesn’t have an insert explicitly made for it, I guessed and got the insert for the Phoenix Trinity Evo grip.

Was this module the right choice?
Yes. Or, at least, it was retained correctly and drew (mostly) fine.

Why did I switch?
Sometimes I found that I could get my gun to snag a little on the draw. I also wanted something with a bit more positioning change options, so I gave the Everglades Magnetic Race Holster (MRH) a try.

Is the MRH better?
Yes. Much smoother draw, nicer adjustment range for holster position, and the adjustments actually stay in place without a bunch of loctite. It also has a much bigger lever for the lock to keep the gun retained when moving, which is easier to sweep off on the draw. The only downside to the MRH is that its only for hi-cap 1911 platforms.

Which should you buy?
If you’re shooting a hi-cap 1911/2011 type platform, get the MRH. It’s just better.

2) Mag Pouches: Double Alpha Racemaster vs. Alpha-X
I opted to go for the Racemaster mag pouches in my belt kit.

Why did I switch?
I decided to give the Alpha-X a try since forum reviews indicated they had a superior mounting system design and I found that my mags could drag a little when drawing from the aluminum-bodied Racemasters. The Alpha-X pouches have plastic liners to try to correct this.

Which is better?
The Alpha-Xs are better. The belt attachment is a lot more secure, and only requires you to tweak/torque/loctite one screw instead of two. The plastic liner really does allow you to get a clean, slick mag draw even after you’ve messed around with tension. Plus, if you like to run your pouches bullets-out like me, the Alpha-Xs are way easier to set up that way. I’ll slowly switch out the Racemasters for Alpha-Xs, but being an open shooter, extra mag pouches are a seldom-used item anyway.

3) Magwell: Dawson ICE vs. Limcat V2
My awesome open gun came with a nice, big Dawson ICE magwell on it. This is a pretty typical choice and it’s been around for a while. It’s got an aluminum top with a replaceable plastic liner, so when you gouge it up after practicing reloads, you can just replace the liner rather than the whole magwell.

Why did I switch?
I noticed sometimes during reload practice that there was a way I could actually get my mag stuck in the grip if I didn’t rotate it correctly to align it with the grip. Some googling showed me that I wasn’t the only one with this problem, and Limcat made a magwell to try to fix it. The Limcat V2 magwell has an aluminum top and a hardened steel liner, which isn’t easily replaceable, but it should be resistant to getting all gouged up by reloads as you try to get faster.

Which is better?
The Limcat by far, even if I had to spend some time fitting it with a file. It’s got a shape that helps push your hand up higher on the grip, and the magwell’s narrower mouth and convex shape really does mean that you can’t get the mag to jam up. If you don’t miss the magwell, your reload is gonna happen. It’s a fantastic magwell design, which is probably why everyone is trying to copy it. And the hardened steel liner is, in fact, resistant to gouges.

4) Which helped more, minor kit tweaks or consistent practice?
Consistent Practice. Duh.

5) Do I want to try any other minor changes?
Of course. In no particular order, I’m considering trying the following:

  • Some kind of thumb rest, mostly because this is open and I can have one.
  • The Atlas ‘Ape Hanger’ racker, because it looks cool and it won’t smash your thumb if you flag it (old habits die hard).
  • The Limcat Heavy Brass V2 magwell, because I kinda like my current heavy gun, so why not try more weight low in it?
  • Possibly the SIG Romeo 3XL red dot, but that’s a lot more expensive than everything else on that list, so I might wait.

But really, the big thing is just get more practice.

DISCLAIMER: I paid my own money for all of the above parts and received $0.00 in compensation from any of the manufacturers listed here.

RIA VR80: Open Shotgun for a Reasonable Price?

Previously when I’ve talked about Open Shotguns, I’ve mentioned the gold standard that is a Vepr 12 worked over by Dissident Arms. They’re feature packed and work great, but come at a hefty price of $2,200 for the base competition model and $3,400 for the KL-12, one with all the bells and whistles. Alternative designs haven’t really caught on, often because they’re unreliable. An unreliable, cheap gun isn’t all that useful. The RIA VR80, a rebranded Derya Mk12, is a new option. Let’s see how it shakes out.

VR80: $699 (MSRP)
The VR80 comes out of the box with a couple of small magazines (thanks ATF), a charging handle that can be swapped to the left or right side, and threads for chokes. It also, of course, comes with a few chokes to get you started. A stock Vepr 12 comes with neither of these features out of the box, and both are only available on the fully tricked out KL-12 from Dissident. Early reports say that the VR80 is a pretty reliable weapon after a break-in with higher velocity shells. We’ll see what shakes out.

Long compensator: $99.99
Open shotgun demands a comp. So far, we just have one from Advanced Tactical, RIA’s importer. Done.

Taccom Buffer: $49.95
Taccom has a buffer which is supposed to improve the recoil feel. It’s not that expensive, and probably worth a try. Taccom makes good stuff.

Magwell: $39.99
I’m not sure how necessary this part is, but open guns should have magwells. Also, both Dissident guns feature a magwell. It’s a cheap enough addition.

Magpul ACS stock: $85.45
I picked this stock because I like it, the price is reasonable, and it comes with compartments in case I want to add weight to get the balance where I want it. The VR80 comes with a lame thumbhole-type stock, probably for import reasons.

New pistol grip: ~$25.00
Pick one you like.

Fix that trigger: ?? (budget $200 based on fancy AR triggers)
There are apparently a few differences that make this not a standard AR-10 style lower, so we’re waiting on a nice trigger to be made. I’m using AR trigger prices as a ballpark here.

There are other parts forthcoming. Hayes Custom Guns is working on a mid-barrel comp and alternative handguards are also in progress. The big question is how well will it work? Dissident’s guns come already tuned and ready to rock out of the box, and that’s not nothing. I’m quite happy with that aspect of my open pistol.

Fishbreath Shoots: Cowboy Up – Another Potential Project Gun

The Glockblaster 2.0 post sounded an awful lot like I’d made a choice, didn’t it? Well, joke’s on you. I’m terrible at decisions.

The price on the street for the Ruger Super GP100, an actual, non Smith & Wesson competition-focused revolver, is surprising and compelling. Parvusimperator liked the one he picked up at the USCCA Expo a month or two ago. I’m going to go and fondle one at the local gun store two Saturdays hence, and will likely make my decision on which division it’s going to be at that time.

Why am I attracted to revolver? Four reasons.

One: it’s just cool. Wheelguns are fascinating machines, first off, and their Old West heritage makes them cooler than any semi-auto can hope to be. Impractical, sure, but so also would be the Open Glock.

Two: Revolver is a wide-open division. There aren’t a lot of young folks shooting it, and by picking it up when I’m still young and agile, I buy myself an advantage over the stereotypical revolver shooter. Put another way, there’s no division where I’m more likely to attend major matches on merit, if only because there are so few competition revolver shooters out there.

Three: way more pie-in-the-sky, but because Revolver is a wide-open division and there aren’t a lot of new shooters, if I pick it up and do well with it, I’m dramatically more likely to attract sponsor attention than I am in any other division. Not very likely, granted, but the rumor is that Ruger is looking to push into the competitive shooting space. How many other shooters are there who are a) interested in revolver and b) in the market for Ruger equipment specifically? I don’t have to be nearly as good at Revolver to find a Ruger jersey in the mail than I would have to be at, say, Carry Optics to catch CZ’s eye. I doubt I’m anywhere close yet, but Revolver is nevertheless much closer.

Four: I have the CZ set up for two go-fast divisions: Limited and Carry Optics. I’m fond of Carry Optics, and it sates my desire to have a competition gun I can burn down stages with. Open is more of the same, whereas Revolver goes entirely in the opposite direction: plan hard, slow down, get your As. Eight rounds in the cylinder leaves no room for mistakes. Minor scoring means accuracy is crucial. Slow reloads mean it’s sometimes better to run away from a miss. There’s a great deal more thinking required in Revolver, both before the stage and during it. That’s appealing, and I suspect it’ll make me a better shooter in the fast divisions, too.

So, in the spirit of these posts, let’s take a look at the shopping list.

Ruger Super GP100 .357/.38: $1160, shipped and transferred

An 8-round cylinder cut down to be as light as possible, a chambering readily suited to minor power factor, and hopefully Ruger-size controls. (My hands are too small for Smiths out of the factory, but I can generally reach everything I have to on Ruger revolvers.) Competition sights, an allegedly-light double action trigger, and moon clip cuts.

The Super GP100 is designed pretty much exactly to fit USPSA and IPSC revolver requirements, which saves me time and effort over my previous revolver plan, which would have taken some amateur gunsmithing effort. I do like tinkering, but parvusimperator has talked up the benefit of buying a gun that Just Works™, and I’m willing to give it a try.

Initial Competitive Capacity

Guga Ribas revolver holster: $190, shipped

Revolver is a race division, so you’re allowed to use the gun-rest-with-trigger-guard-lock holsters you find in Limited and Open. I’m game.

The Super GP100 is new enough that I’m stuck with universal holsters, which practically means only the Guga Ribas unit is a guarantee.

Speedbeez moon clip belt rack: $160, shipped

You need a way to keep those moon clips close at hand. Speedbeez makes an 8-clip belt rack with magnetic retention, which gives me plenty of ammo for even the most hamfisted stage plan.

There are other options, but none match the capacity, ease of use, and free shipping of Speedbeez’s.

20xTK Custom blued steel moon clips: $105, shipped

By opting for blued steel rather than stainless, I can get moon clips for about half as much, which means I can load a bunch pre-match and do less loading on the day. Moon clips are, of course, slower to fill up than magazines, so any savings in time is worth a bit of a spend.

Original Precision moon/demoon tool: $80, shipped

There are tons of tools out there to load and strip moon clips. This one is the right balance of price (less than two separate tools), size (two connected steel rods), and ease of use (the Youtube video makes it look pretty easy).

Grand Total: $1705

Not only is this cheaper, I think I also overestimated some of the shipping costs.

As I said in the Glockblaster 2.0 post, I like tinkering. On the other hand, I also like being in the running equipment-wise in my divisions, and I love me some wheelguns. I can see a path forward where, if the Super GP100 strikes me as a fitting choice, I go that way for now, and save the tinkering of an Open Glock or home-machined 2011 for later in life, when my eyes start going bad and I can’t move like I can now.

Unlike the Glockblaster 2.0, I don’t have a list of upgrades to try. Ruger hasn’t made any yet, for one, but I understand they’re working on a skeletonized hammer and an extended cylinder catch. Those may find their way to the gun eventually.

Cosmetically, why would I mess with a good-looking wheelgun? Instead, I’d put the money toward some good in-ear headphones and a cowboy hat.

Is that what will happen? Time will tell! Until then, enjoy a stage video from a match in May, and keep your eyes open for more such things as I consider investing in a hat cam ahead of a two-match July.

Fishbreath Shoots: Glockblaster 2.0 – A Potential 2019/2020 Project Gun

Something that’s been rattling around the back of my mind, especially now that Parvusimperator’s admittedly sweet Open-division custom double-stack 1911 came in, is the segment sometimes called ‘Ghetto Open’. What is Ghetto Open? Well, let’s use a car analogy.

If you’re a fan of driving fast around tracks and money is no object, the obvious thing to do is to buy a proper track day car: something by Caterham, say, or an Ariel Atom. They’re street-legal in the technical sense, but they’re clearly designed with a particular purpose in mind, and that purpose is going fast around a track. This is your double-stack 1911.

If you’re fond of cars with pedigree, you might instead buy something used from BMW or Mercedes and carefully tune it, making something refined into something both refined and fast. Here you find your Czechmates, your Tanfoglio Gold Teams, and perhaps your carefully-smithed Beretta and CZ one-offs.

If you’re one step up from a mad scientist, you know you can find twin turbo kits for your 2009 Honda Accord online, and why not bolt ’em in? You aren’t going to beat the Atoms and Caterhams around a track on an average day, but maybe every now and then you’ll snatch a bit of implausible glory. And hey, even if not, you raced with the big boys on their terms, and were way closer than you had any right to be. This is Ghetto Open.

I’ve been thinking about Ghetto Open guns for a while. The problem is that most of the ones I’ve had in mind are too far outside the mainstream1. You need a big aftermarket for a Ghetto Open gun to work, because you need parts of all sorts. The 2009 Honda Accord of the firearms world is, then, the Glock: ubiquitous, reliable, predictable, a little boring, and not especially fast. We can change that2. First, though, we should define some goals for Ghetto Open.

Goal #1: it should be cheap. If it costs as much as buying the right tool, then there’s no point to it.

Goal #2: it should be easy. The less work you have to do to shoot Open, the more heartfelt your mocking can be on the rare occasions when you’re on par with the proper guns, and the more resistant you are to mocking when you come up short3.

Goal #3: it should be weird. Buying a worn-out 2011 on the cheap is not Ghetto Open, which is defined in part by being the unwise tinkerer’s choice.

Goal #4: it should be functional. This is distinct from competitive. We’re fond of saying that it’s the Indian, not the arrow, but between Indians of equal skill, arrows do matter. Happily, at my level of competition, the Indians are anything but equally skilled, and I think I can fulfill my USPSA goals—to be moderately competitive—anyway, even if my hardware isn’t up to the top-of-the-line standard.

So, let’s take a look at a possible shopping list.

Law Enforcement Trade-In Glock 22: $325

If you’re familiar with Glock’s ridiculous naming scheme, you’ll recognize ‘Glock 22’ as a .40 S&W Glock. Notably, that’s a bigger bullet than the traditional .38 Super[Comp] or the 9mm Major which make up the bulk of Open division. Why would I hamstring myself with a bullet which is harder to pack into those juicy 170mm magazines?

See Goal #2 above. 9mm Major is iffy in most off-the-rack guns, to say nothing of Glocks. If I buy a gun which was designed to run .40 S&W, which need not be loaded very hot to make major, I should hopefully avoid some of the durability problems you might run into shooting dramatically over-spec 9mm through the same model of gun4.

It also means I can buy factory ammo—165-grain, 1050fps .40S&W is not at all hard to find, and is no more expensive factory-bought than 9mm Major ammo is to make. This represents a huge cost savings, too. With 9mm Major, more or less every round you put through the gun has to be a reload. I save on not just the time it would take to get loads worked out and produced, but also on the money it would take to set up a reloading rig. Even if 9mm Major comes out cheaper per round than .40, which I doubt it would in the end, it would have to counteract a big initial outlay to be cost-competitive. I can also use the same ammo in my Limited gun for added multi-tasking.

Shooting .40 will, of course, limit my magazine capacity: ETS 170mm magazines claim 24 rounds of .40, while the SJC 170mm big stick or the Taylor Freelance 170mm extensions claim 25. Does that matter? Not really, at this level. 1911 drivers only steal a reload on me on stages with between 26 and 29-30 shots required, which don’t show up much. Typically, club matches here are either short stages of about 20 rounds or long stages of the maximum permissible 325.

Initial Competitive Capacity

SJC Open Gun In-A-Box Kit: $1070 (incl. frame weight and red dot)

SJC, purveyors of Glock Open supplies, have a kit which takes you from zero to more or less ready to rock and roll. This price includes a frame weight but not the thumb rest (cool, but not required) or the slide racker (see preceding parenthetical). You also get a compensator and threaded barrel, a frame-mounted sight mount, an extended magazine release, a brass magwell, springs, a guide rod, and some other miscellaneous gubbins.

The price also includes a C-More Slide Ride sight. Why a C-More rather than a standard micro-dot? For one, it and the mount weigh a little more, which is desirable given the lightness of the starting platform. For another, it’s simply the largest window available on a pistol sight at any price, and that price is within $30 or so of the price of a micro-dot.

Mounting them in the correct orientation on the Glock (that is, with the bottom facing down) requires extractor tuning to ensure that empties get flung clear of the sight. That sounds difficult, so I’ll opt instead for the sideways mount, which clears the ejection port altogether and has the added benefit of getting the dot closer to the slide.

A Trigger Kit: $130?

I’ll have to consult with Parvusimperator on which is best, but Austrian-pattern toaster parts can’t be that expensive.

Upon consultation, he suspects that $130 is probably high, especially if I’m fine with the base-model trigger shoe. We’ll leave it in to make the final tall look better.

Magazines: $125

Taylor Freelance makes 170mm extensions which claim to be +10 over the factory 15-rounders. Buying a pair of those, with the included springs, gets me two 170mm magazines with the hopefully-theoretical-maximum-25-round capacity for relatively cheap.

If I want a third magazine for a bit of extra cushion, I could throw in an ETS 170mm for $206.

A CR Speed Holster: $175

If I want to use the frame weight, and I do want to use the frame weight, I have to follow SJC’s recommendations on holsters. The CR Speed jobber is the only race holster which fits the bill.

Grand Total: $1825

Including shipping and transfer fees, where appropriate. A complete gun costs considerably less—more like $1350 (leaving out trigger work, magazines, and holster). That’s probably where I would start, so I could properly assess how well it works and what, if anything, I need to change before buying into the rest.

Future Upgrades

The nice thing about the Glock aftermarket is that it’s gigantic, and anything I don’t like I can replace. Leaving aside functional parts, here are some options.

Slide cuts

Reducing that reciprocating mass is a good thing for controllability and also looks sweet, but there’s likely a balance to be struck between slide lightening and light springs, given the strange push-pull nature of the Glock spring system.

Barrel porting

Parvusimperator described a double-inline-ported Glock he got a chance to play with at a class, and deemed it good. If the compensator isn’t enough on its own, some extra porting (following some slide cuts to support it) might be a thing to try.

One of those inertial shot counters

Radetec, the guys behind that smart Glock slide from SHOT a while back, make an inertial shot counter. It’s exactly the kind of silly frippery I can get behind for a gamer gun. It precludes use of a slide racker, but between a slide racker and a sci-fi bullet counter…

Sweet Cerakote color scheme

After everything’s squared away, the obvious thing to do is to make it look nifty. Options I’ve considered: blue and white (or white and blue) because I like that scheme, The Red Ones Go Faster, Nerf colors, NES colors, X-Box black and green.

Conclusions

No revolver?

You may recall that last year’s question was between Carry Optics and Revolver, and Carry Optics won. Now that the Ruger Super GP100 has hit the streets, and market price looks to be in the $1000 to $1200 range, it’s cost-competitive with a handicap Open gun, and I picked Carry Optics in part because it would be more competitive. So, why does it look like Open is a leading contender ahead of Revolver this year?

In short, tinkering. If I get into Revolver, granted, I get to cowboy it up, but there’s very little to change on the gun. I buy (most likely) a .357/.38 revolver, put some reduced springs in it, and maybe send it away to get a trigger job. There are very few choices involved, and so also it was with the CZ race gun. With a Glock project, on the other hand, I have at least two options for almost everything, and the parts aren’t so expensive that I can’t experiment.

So am I going to do it?

Maybe.

The tinkering potential is through the roof. I’m told that even a working Open Glock will occasionally require some workbench-based TLC. Second, at the nearly-$1800 total, it gets me into Open with all the non-cosmetic Open accoutrements for less half the cost of an STI Open gun on its own. Even a used Open gun will run you north of $3000 most of the time and require you to hand-load either .38 Super/Super Comp or 9mm Major. I’m willing to accept some limitations for that kind of savings in time and money.

On the other hand, Revolver forces me to develop some skills I can get away with ignoring in high-capacity divisions—namely, good planning and good hits. The Super GP100 presents a compelling value proposition, given that it’s a top-of-the-line competition revolver at a lower price than the decidedly less top-of-the-line Open Glock. The project as a whole is a few hundred dollars cheaper, too, and gives me a second go-slow division (next to Production).

It comes down to how important I find fielding competitive equipment (important, but not critical), how much I like going fast (yes), how much I want to do revolver competition eventually (also yes), and how much Ruger’s new entrant is going for at the end of the summer. We’ll update you then.


  1. Parvusimperator thinks the gun described in this article is a bad idea. My other proposals are not merely bad but also ridiculous. 
  2. All of it, including the reliable part. 
  3. “Sure, I was slower, but I also have never pulled a reloading machine lever in my life.” 
  4. Parvusimperator notes that Gen3 Glock 22s don’t have a great reputation for long-term reliability unmodified, though. 
  5. Major matches, I understand, can feature longer stages. That adds a second plausible window where the 1911 drivers can get ahead by a reload, at 51 to 60 rounds. 
  6. Parvusimperator dislikes them for dust intrusion reasons. For a rarely-used magazine, I’m willing to take that risk. 

Range Report: Dot Torture with the C-Zed

The range nearest Many Words Press Keep-The-Lights-On Day-Job HQ is the sportsman’s1 club to which I belong. When parvusimperator’s Open gun came in, we therefore decided that waiting for a weekend was silly, and instead took a long lunch to drive up to the range and see how it went.

Of course, while he was doing that, I had to entertain myself some other way. Enter the Dot Torture drill, which I believe I’ve mentioned previously. It’s a great way to spend a box of ammo, and also to work on fundamentals of marksmanship. We’ll come back to that in a bit, because the real highlight was putting the C-Zed through its modular paces.

The C-Zed, as you may recall, is a CZ P-09 frame with slides for both USPSA Carry Optics and Limited competition. The P-09 is a perfect choice for this, because it 1) comes in Limited-preferred .40 and Carry Optics-preferred 9mm, 2) has enough factory and aftermarket support to have 140mm magazine base pads, Limited-standard fiber optic front/black rear sights, and a sight dovetail red dot mounting plate, and 3) can be swapped from a Limited-preferred cocked-and-locked safety to a Carry Optics-required decocker. Very few other guns hit all the requirements2.

The dream, then, is to be able to toss two slides and some magazine bodies into my range bag, and shoot two different divisions morning and afternoon at local matches with the same gun (at least as far as the ATF is concerned). Is it plausible to do so?

Yes! In between my 9mm dot torture target and my .40 dot torture target, I did the full swap between divisions on the clock: pop off one slide, swap the safety to the decocker or vice versa, put the new slide on, change the magazine bodies, attach or remove the magazine well. On the clock, the changes to the gun proper took about two and a half minutes, and the magazine swap took two minutes more for three magazines3. I may not end up making the swap and shooting two divisions at this weekend’s match, but the option is there, tested, and eminently practical.

Back to Dot Torture. Having both a .40 pistol and a 9mm-with-dot pistol at the range made it easy to compare my accuracy performance with dots against irons. Obviously, I was more accurate with the softer-shooting dot-equipped pistol, but it wasn’t as big a difference as I expected it might. One thing to try next time I go out is moving the target closer. The Dot Torture target packs ten circles onto an 8.5×11 page, and is designed for use at three yards (to start with). I’ve done it at five yards so far, which accounts for part of my poor performance4.

And finally, it’s time for some bonus content. Parvusimperator gave me ten-or-so shots out of the Open gun. It really is something else. It was sufficiently soft-shooting that I kept forgetting to actually grip it, so the dot moved as the slide went back and forth. Had I done a little better with my fundamentals, I doubt it would have moved at all. There’s no real point to discussing the trigger profile, because it doesn’t have one—both the pull and the reset are so short as to seem instant. It was a good get, and I’m looking forward to seeing it in action.

It also got me thinking about a project gun for the upcoming offseason. Look for a post on that coming soon.


  1. It’s actually a sportsmen’s club, in the sense that it belongs to a number of sportsmen but not the entire category of sportsmen (sportsmens’), but plural possessives are just the worst, so I won’t hassle them too much. 
  2. Striker guns can, but I prefer a hammer where it’s a viable option, and with minimal work besides replacing the hammer and disconnector with Cajun Gun Works parts, the P-09 has a better trigger than any striker-fired gun. 
  3. I have four in total, but only three 9mm bodies, so the last one is a perma-.40. It feeds 9mm well enough for what it is, which is to say a magazine I should never need to touch, given that the other ones contain 72 rounds. 
  4. The rest is that offhand shooting is terrible. 

New Product Alert: P320 X5 Legion

The P365XL isn’t the only new product from SIG. They’re also releasing a P320 X5 Legion. It looks a lot like their regular P320 X5, with the Xgrip, slide with lightening holes, bull barrel, and removable rear sight plate to accommodate optics.

The P320 X5 Legion has a new flat trigger design, which is skeletonized. I think this is mostly just to look cool.

More importantly, SIG has added weight to the gun. They’ve infused the grip with tungsten, bringing the weight up to 43.5 ounces. More weight in the grip will make the pistol more controllable in recoil, and should provide good competition to the Walther Q5 SF. If you like heavy pistols, you are getting some options.

The P320 X5 Legion comes with three magazines with aluminum basepads. Osage County Guns has a product page with a buy now price of $929, though no word yet on when you’ll be able to get it.