Tag Archives: competition shooting

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.

Initial Open Gun Impressions

It’s finally here!1 I got my open gun out to the range over the last weekend, and it is AWESOME. I’m super happy with it.

First, a brief review of the characteristics I decided to go with after picking Lone Star Innovations (LSI) as my smith. In no particular order:

  • 5 inch overall length (i.e. including threads) bull barrel
  • Titanium compensator of recent design
  • V6 barrel ports
  • Steel grip with aggressive texture
  • Leupold Deltapoint Pro red dot sight
  • Caliber: .38 Supercomp

In terms of build choices, a lot of this is “get what the pros using, but trying to keep this not ridiculously expensive”2. Most of the top guys are using “middy” (having a threaded barrel with 5″ overall length) guns, so I got a “middy gun”. That’s a reasonable balance between barrel length and compactness. A bunch of top guys seem to be using some flavor of V-porting, so I got some V-porting. Plus, I think V-porting is super cool. Steel grip is all the rage now, so I went that direction. Plus, those have better shaping, since that’s where the R&D is going. And I went .38 SC because that’s what the top guys shoot, plus it’s a bit easier to reload and it gives more gas for the comp and all those ports. For the record, the one thing I didn’t opt for that the top guys have is a tungsten-sleeved barrel. This is heavier than a bull barrel, but adds to the cost substantially, because tungsten is a bitch to machine. The costs were what made me reconsider that on this build. Maybe on a future build.

For finish I went with black overall with TiN (Gold) on the barrel and small parts, plus red on the trigger shoe. I also chose an SVI medium flat trigger shoe. I prefer flat triggers, and medium seems about right for my hand size/finger length. Colors were chosen because they look cool and I like them.

The steel grip is LSI’s Outlaw Grip, which is brand new. It’s wonderfully machined, with an aggressive texture and plenty of undercutting. It’s super comfortable in the hand and avoids the “blocky 2×4” feel that most 2011 guns seem to have. The end result of all of my choices is a heavy gun, weighing in at 56 oz. Which is just what I want. The grip fits my hand wonderfully, and I tend to like aggressive textures.

Let’s also talk trigger pull. On Fishbreath’s scale, it has a pull weight of just over 2.5 lbs. But you’d swear it’s lighter because it’s so perfectly smooth and crisp. This trigger is fantastic and I love it.

And on to the shooting. I got some major power factor .38 SC from Big Country Tactical3 and some nice 171.25 mm MBX magazines. Locked and loaded, I went to the range and started blasting away. And I do mean blasting: V6 ports plus a big modern comp yields a loud, loud gun. But gas redirection and all that mass also means that the gun just kind of sits there. Recoil felt like some sort of wimpy .32 or something, not hot .38.

Of course, this also meant that I had to concentrate on getting a good strong grip, because you really don’t need one. When I got a good grip, the dot really didn’t move very much. Even with a weak grip, the dot tracked straight up and down. It was super stable and predictable.

I ended up burning through the 90 rounds I brought super quick. This gun is a joy to shoot. I’m really looking forward to getting some quality match time in with it.


  1. It took longer than it was supposed to, but it also got a nice discount due to delays. So overall I’m happy. And I’d go back to LSI again for another gun. 
  2. This seems a reasonable approach, given that I can’t plausibly get useful amounts of time behind every reasonable open gun design possibility to formulate my own opinions on all of them. 
  3. These guys are also great. They asked about barrel length and number of ports to get something reasonably close to tuned to my gun. Or at least, making major with enough gas to rock the house in my gun. 

A Continental Fish

As ever, my entry in this competition is a little less well-thought-out than Parvusimperator’s. Given that I am a little less well-informed about the wider world of firearms than he is, I started with the intention to hit as many achievements as I could while still choosing things which make sense for me. So, without further ado, here are the achievements, and here’s what I’m buying.

Achievements

HIPSTER: because it’s me.
EUROTRASH: which is more or less implied by…
BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN: I went so far as to pick one manufacturer, even.
LEATHERSLAP: I don’t know if I would actually go for this were I a real card-carrying member of the Continental, but I wasn’t able to do Heavy Metal because the BREN 2 BR isn’t available yet, so I’ll go this way instead.

The Pistol: CZ P-09 9mm Suppressor Ready (Cajun Gun Works tuning)

We’re going to start with the pistol, because that’s where I’ve been doing most of my thinking lately. It’s also a crucial piece of kit for the Continental assassin—sure, the carbine comes out now and then, but the bulk of your wet work will be done with the handgun, so it behooves you to pick a good one.

Anyway, back to the P-09. It fits my hand almost perfectly and I shoot it well. It’s a good base, and the Cajun tuning turns it into a great gun by any standard. The trigger is light and predictable, if not quite up to custom-gun snuff, but then again, we aren’t allowed to buy custom guns here anyway. The standard sights aren’t great, but they’ll do. If I weren’t doing Leatherslap, I would have Cajun mill the slide for an optic and backup sights (which adds $160).

As we say on the defense blogging side, the suppressor-ready model is fit for but not with a silencer1. It bumps the cost up, but we still get away for a Cajun Gun Works website-quoted price of $915.

Backup Gun: CZ P-07 9mm (also Cajun Gun Works tuning)

I might as well go with a familiar face here. Cajun just so happens to sell tuned P-07s, too, which have all of the virtues of the P-09 while remaining within the confines of the compact pistol style.

The Carbine: CZ BREN 2 7.62×39

Foiled in my plan to go Heavy Metal by the fact that the BREN 2 BR is not yet available in civilian trim, I had to improvise a bit. I ended up with another CZ BREN 2.

The particular model is the BREN 2 MS, which comes in pistol form in the US with a provision for attaching an AR-style buffer tube or the factory stock (not yet available on the open market). The factory stock is a side-folder, which I would prefer if the Sommelier can get it for me. If not, I’ll settle for an AR stock with a folding buffer tube adapter. In either case, it’ll add some cost—say $200, to be safe.

Why bother with folding? Well, because the BREN 2 you can buy today is technically a pistol, slapping a stock on it makes for a delightfully short-barreled rifle, and making that stock fold means you have something extremely compact—about an inch or two longer than the pistol itself. Assuming we’re going for the nine-inch barrel, that gives us an overall length in folded configuration of maybe 22 or 23 inches. You can stage that just about anywhere for your fighting retreat.

Why 7.62×39? One: because it’s me. Two: I’m on record (possibly over on Discord?) with the view that 7.62×39 can do everything a modern .30 short cartridge (.300 Blackout, I’m looking at you) can, and in vast swathes of the world, you will never find yourself hurting for ammo.

Adding our $200 in stock expenses to CZ’s MSRP, the BREN 2 tips the scales at $1,999.

The Shotgun: CZ 712 Utility

It’s a short-barreled semi-automatic shotgun. I’m not much of a tactical shotgunner, and have very little interest in shotgun sports which don’t involve shooting at aerial clay targets, so I don’t have much to say here.

Evidently, Benelli Nova tube extensions have the same thread pitch as the CZ 712’s cap, so I might have the Sommelier throw a few of those into the order, but honestly, the shotgun’s purpose in my loadout is 1) to make a big boom, and 2) to maybe blow open a locked door. It’s part of the challenge, but it’s not my thing, really. If I weren’t writing this at the last minute, I would add a bonus section on a precision rifle, which is much more my speed, but alas, time is short.

MSRP: $499.

The Knife: Gerber Truss multitool

If you have a knife you don’t know how to use, and get into a fight with someone who does know how to use a knife, you’d be just as well (poorly) served by handing him the knife before the fight starts.

I don’t really know how to use knives, so in place of a knife for fighting, I will instead elect to bring a knife for utility. Along with the traditional pliers/wire cutter tip and a variety of potentially useful screwdrivers and files, the Truss has a saw and two different knife blades, giving me some flexibility in how to cut things.

Bonus Picks: Pinching Krugerrands

Obviously, the BREN 2 is the big cost center in this loadout. If I drop it in favor of whatever complete AR-15 Palmetto State Armory has on sale this week (typically for $450 to $500) and add the classic UTG DS3840 red dot ($50), I have a $550 rifle to go with my $500 shotgun and $915 pistol, which brings me in neatly below the $2000 mark.


  1. It’s a Hollywood gunfight movie, so let’s use the classic term. 

Parvusimperator’s Continental Loadout

Last week we looked at our favorite guns from the John Wick movies. This week, let’s insert ourselves in a slightly different way; choosing our own firearms for crazy Hollywood multigun battles. I’m going to go for all of the maximum performance, Open/Unlimited division guns.

Shotgun: Dissident Arms KL-12 14″ NNS
Amusingly, even though I’m not much of a shotgun guy, this was the easiest choice to come up with. Per our rules, we need a shotgun. Going with box-mag fed shotgun means we can reload without worrying about deuces and quads nonsense. The most proven box-mag fed semiautos out there are the Dissident Arms Vepr 12 builds, which are almost an entirely new shotgun. The KL-12 comes with all of the fancy extras pre-selected, including a lengthened forcing cone on the barrel, left-side charging handle, threading the barrel for (internal) chokes that can be installed and swapped with a compensator still on the barrel, replacing the iron sights with picatinny rail segments, adding an AR stock adapter, tuning the action, installing a tuned ALG trigger, adding a magwell, installing an extended mag release, and installing an extended safety. We have but a few choices to make: stock, pistol grip, cerakote color(s), compensator model, keymod or mlok handguard, and barrel length. Vepr 12s come with a 19″ barrel from the factory, but Dissident arms will happily cut that down to 16″ or 14″ and then redo the threading for the compensator if you like, pinning and welding as necessary for the NFA. A shorter barrel is handier, and we don’t give up very much in terms of reduced length in a shotgun barrel.

Our chosen options are: the Custom Arms Competition grip (with a palm shelf), XLR Industries Tac Lite stock, Dissident Arms Phoenix Comp, Mlok handguard, and a barrel cut to 14″. We’ll go with a two-color cerakote finish, with Cobalt (actually a dark grey) as the primary color and USMC Red as the accent color.

For shotgun sights, we’ll take a Vortex AMG UH-1 atop the rear sight block rail, We’ll mount a Trijicon Type 2 RMR06 a 45 degree offset mount on the dust cover rail to let us take right hand corners more easily without switching shoulders. We’re going with the big Huey for primary because I kinda like holographics, and the offset RMR because it has the nicest controls of any microdot and window size really doesn’t matter for offset long gun sights.

Carbine: Cobalt Kinetics Evolve
This one was quite a bit harder, since I like to go out and build my own rifles from carefully chosen parts. Now I need someone to do it for me, but without choosing from a giant list of options so as not to break my own rules. So let’s try to find a rifle with the premium parts I love plus some special sauce that I can’t easily do myself. And it’s gotta look really good, because this is Hollywoodland. Enter Cobalt Kinetics. Their Evolve is their flagship competition model. It has a bunch of high-end parts, including a billet matched receiver set, billet handguard matched to the upper, 16 inch Proof Research carbon-fiber wrapped barrel, Cobalt’s excellent and effective Pro compensator, a gorgeous billet aluminum pistol grip, and a billet aluminum adjustable stock. The operating system is exactly what we’d expect with an adjustable gas block, low-mass bolt carrier, and a tuneable buffer setup with a weight and spring set for that perfect recoil feel. The safety is a 45-degree throw design, and the trigger is the exceptional AR Gold. All of that is cool. The real special feature is CARS, which will automatically drop magazines when empty, and automatically send the bolt home when you insert a full mag. This can be disabled if you prefer to do all of this manually, but it can give you a bit of a speed edge. I really like it. I also like the lines of the handguard, receivers, and stock. Everything else is classic high-end carbine parts.

We don’t have much in the way of options for the Evolve: the gunsmiths at Cobalt Kinetics have already put all of their magic into it. All we get to pick are our cerakote finish colors. Again, we’ll go with Cobalt as the primary and USMC Red as the accent color. Now our longarms are color coordinated.

Sights time. This is pretty easy. While I love my Vortex, the Swarovski Z8I-BRTi 1-8×24 has two more magnification levels, has fantastic FOV and glass clarity, and even has a bright dot. We’ll grab that and mount it with Geissele’s mount, because I’m pretty fond of that mount. We’ll grab another Trijicon Type 2 RMRO6 in a 45 degree offset mount for those hard cover leans, the occasional rapid transition, and maybe as a bit of a backup.

Pistol: Limcat Stormcat
Saving the hardest for last. Of course, I wanted a fancy Open-division ready 2011 with all of the optional extras. These tend to be custom guns made to order, which is not what my rules allowed. Sigh. Limcat makes some excellent pistols that have been used by some fantastic shooters to win a whole bunch of competitions. They’ll make you something custom, or you can order a preset model. The Stormcat is Scott Greene’s model for Unlimited Division 3-gun, which we pick for its awesome features that are compatible with minor power factor (i.e factory) ammo. We have a few options to choose here. We’ll pick a caliber of 9mm, midlength “HBar” barrel, which has a tungsten sleeve, steel grip, and a medium, flat, red SVI Trigger. I do like a heavy pistol. Heavy is good. It’s a sign of reliability. And if you ever run out of bullets, you can always hit people with it.

On to the sights. We’re going with a frame mount, of course. I’m not entirely satisfied with any of the current red dot sights on the market for pistol use. I think the best choice as far as balancing durability with window size and overall mass is the Leupold Deltapoint Pro, though I’m not a big fan of its control setup. Still, it’s a really nice dot. That gives us our heavy, really high-capacity pistol with a fantastic trigger and a cool guy compensator. Plus, plenty of fancy slide cuts and a nice finish.

Backup Pistol: Glock 26 Gen 5 with TTI Combat Carry package
I really like that John Wick carries a backup pistol, so I’m gonna get one too, by Awerbuck. I’m going with the Glock 26 Gen 5 for my backup. There are smaller backups, but I like the Glock 26’s size to balance concealment and shootability. Also the Glock 26 has a solid history of reliability. I like to stick with more proven options. The Glock 26 also allows us to use the larger Glock magazines if we like, or if we find some. The Gen 5s are pretty fantastic, and I could make do with them as they come from the factory, especially given that the excellent high-visibility Ameriglo Bold sights are a factory option. But that’s not really our style. So we’ll get a complete TTI Combat Carry package. And, since an RMR cut is an option, we’ll go with that too, and a Type 2 RMR06 for our sights. Done and done.

Knife: Ban Tang Double-Edge Clinch Pick
My grandfather gave me a pocket knife for my eighth birthday, saying that every little boy should have a pocket knife. I still like knives, and I’ve spent some time studying their use. In this context, I want something for the close in fight, something that’s easy to deploy, something to give you that extra edge1 in a grappling engagement. The Clinch Pick is designed for exactly that purpose by Craig Douglas, and it fits well with his style of knife employment. Ban Tang makes a nicer version, available in single or double edge. We’ll take the double edge model.

There we have it. Super fancy guns, and they’ll look great on camera, which is important for Hollywood. They’re also gonna be really fun to shoot our way through various stag–er, Hollywood Gunfights with.

We’ve also earned ourselves the following achievements:
ONLY SHOOT OPEN
IRONS DEFICIENCY
THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUNS


  1. Pun intended. 

Fishbreath Shoots: C-Zed Carry Optics USPSA Match Report

You may remember that last winter, I wrote a few articles on building a Carry Optics slide for my CZ P-09 Limited gun.

Well, I finished the slide, as one of the links above indicates, made it to a range a few times to get the last few bugs worked out and the sight zeroed, and took it to the opening match of the USPSA season at Castlewood Rod and Gun Club, our favored approximately-local destination for low-pressure shooting sports1. How did it go?

Bugs

The most pressing issue discovered in testing was that the .40 S&W magazine bodies do not actually feed 9mm reliably. They appear to, and work most of the time in testing, but I ran into some issues where the last few rounds would cause trouble. The second-to-last round would sometimes pop up beyond the feed lips to make a stovepipe failure to feed, a very unusual malfunction.

There was also an issue with a wimpy sear spring causing hammer follow, but I took care of that last year at the end of the Limited season.

Practice

The first order of business was getting the sight zeroed. This turned out to be much less drama than I had expected. Parvusimperator and I popped over to our local indoor range, and while he did some drills, I set about adjusting things. Between my ballistics calculator app and my surprisingly not-rusty pistol skills, I got to a reasonable 25-yard zero pretty quickly. It shoots about an inch low at the sub-10-yard ranges you find most USPSA targets at, but is much closer to dead on for the 15-25-yard long-range targets, which is where I’d prefer the sight be the most accurate anyway.

On the second trip, in the middle of the week before the Saturday match, I did a bit of zero-refining—the point of impact was a bit to the left of the point of aim—and ran a printed-target drill parvusimperator brought along. This was also when I discovered the magazine issues mentioned above, happily leaving me enough time to pop the followers and baseplates off of the .40 magazines onto my 9mm magazines.

At the end of those two practice sessions, I was feeling fairly confident. Dots are pistol easy mode, and although I felt I had some work to do in picking up the dot on the draw, I was happy with the performance of the gun and my performance with it.

The Match: How I Shot

In short, pretty well! Finding the dot did not prove to be an issue on the clock.

On the first stage of the day, I discovered I had not screwed my battery cover in tightly enough, so the cover and battery popped out mid-stage. It was in one of Castlewood’s small bays, fortuitously, so I was able to point-shoot my way to the end with no misses. Someone found my battery cover in the mud, but not the battery, and since I had neglected to bring extra batteries2, I had to bum one off of someone else.

After that, the drama was limited. I ended up putting in stellar performances on the next two stages, good enough for the Carry Optics stage wins. I dropped some points on the classifier for taking an extra shot, too.

The gun performed perfectly, and having 23 in the magazine makes stage planning even easier than having 20, like I do in Limited configuration. I was able to complete several stages with no reload; Castlewood frequently has short stages mixed in with the long ones, which I appreciate both from a variety perspective and from a costs-less-in-bullets perspective.

The Match: Results

I was 23rd overall out of 60-some shooters, and 2nd out of 6 Carry Optics shooters (within 6% of the leader, too!). I won two stages in Carry Optics, like I said—one a moving-heavy stage with some restrictions on target engagement, one a shooting-heavy stage with a reload.

The classifier for this match happened to be the same one I shot to wrap up last year with Limited, so I can make some direct comparisons. I was a little slower this time out, in part because of penalties, and in part because of some rust on my classifier draw-and-shoot skills. Going by percentage of As shot, I was much more accurate with the Carry Optics gun, and just about as fast. I won’t know for sure until the next match, where I plan to swap the slide to get both divisions in the same day, if I’m faster with Carry Optics or Limited, but it’s definitely close enough to be in question.

I’m entirely satisfied with the outcome. I beat the shooters I was supposed to beat (those in the Lesser Divisions like Production), nearly won my division, and came out ahead of a few Limited shooters who are usually a little better than me. I was the sixth-best non-PCC non-Open shooter at the match, which is the fairest group to compare me to.

All told, the CZ Carry Optics project is an unqualified success.


  1. Except for their sporting clays course, which is brutal. 
  2. Well, I had extra 1620s, but the sight takes 1632s. If you’re familiar with coin cells, you will recall that the second two digits are the battery’s nominal voltage. 2V won’t run a 3.2V sight. Oops. 

Parvusimperator and the Attack of the Pistol Caliber Carbines

When first introduced, I, like many others, was not a fan of the PCC Division in USPSA. Frankly, I thought it was rather silly to shoot a carbine at a pistol match, even if the “P” in USPSA stands for Practical. Given some time, I’ve come to reconsider the division. And frankly, I could do with some carbine practice, even if that carbine is firing 9mm rounds. I love shooting carbines. It’s my first shooting love, if I’m to wax romantic for a bit. Anyway, this is an opportunity to get some carbine practice in, with the benefit that I don’t need a rifle-rated backstop. This allows me to get some close-in practice on pistol ranges, which are a bit easier to find in my current area. Plus they’re fun to shoot.

With my goals of ‘fun carbine practice’ in mind, let’s see what I’ll end up getting. I do need a competition-worthy PCC. Since I explicitly want this to drill carbine handling and shooting up close, I can ignore all of the faux-SBR “pistols” out there. I don’t have a desire to fill out a Form 1 on this. My goal, strangely enough, is to buy my PCC, add a red-dot sight of some sort, and get shooting. For once, I’m not looking to build or tinker my way to a solution.

So. Ignore the faux-SBRs and just about anything that isn’t intended as a turnkey-competition gun. And, non-SBR barrels are going to get me closer to the handling of my carbines, which are also not SBRs. I’m also going to require my PCC to use Glock magazines, because those are cheap and good and I already have a lot of them (yes, I have some of the 33-round mags). That disqualifies a lot of perfectly good guns, but I don’t care. These are my criteria.

Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? I’m getting a JP GMR-15. It’s AR-15 based, so the feel and controls are the same. JP makes really nice stuff, and their 9mm carbines ‘just work’. Like their other carbines. It takes Glock mags, and it even has a functional last round bolt hold open. Not that it matters for a competition gun, but it’s nice to have. Oh, and it can be had with a sweet trigger.

The GMR-15 is a blowback-operated gun, like most other 9mm AR conversions. Technically speaking, a gas-operated gun would be softer. But we’re talking about a 9x19mm round fired from about seven pounds of carbine. Recoil is not going to be an issue. We’re principally concerned with movement of the dot, which can be controlled by adjusting the weights of the buffer and carrier. If we want to.

All that it’s going to need is a dot.

C-Zed P-09 Carry Optics Build

Some Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals came together to make the CZ P-09 Carry Optics build previously discussed a plausible winter project, even on my reduced homeowner-with-projects budget.

Donor Gun: P-09 9mm

There were some amazing deals on 9mm P-09s over the post-Thanksgiving weekend. I scored one for $389, shipped and transferred. That would be a good price even for a much less good gun.

There’s at least one obvious difference between the C-Zed lower and this new one, and that’s the trigger. The new one has a much less aggressive curve. The trigger also feels better out of the box: parvusimperator and I agree it has much less grit and much less creep, although the trigger scale indicates that it has the same weights as the first lower did pre-tuning (4.5lb single action, above the top of the scale for ~10lb double action).

Another difference, on close inspection, is that the extractor pin appears to be stainless on the new slide. On the old slide, it shared the same finish as the slide itself. The markings are also different, but that’s to be expected. (The old gun’s serial number starts with B; the new one starts with C. I expect that accounts for many of the differences.)

It came with two magazines, so I have another two handy. I could technically shoot it in Production now that I have six magazines in total, but I would have to shoot .40 (the only slide I have with irons) and put the original baseplates back on the magazines (so the gun fits in the Production box). Competitive in three divisions is about the most you can get out of any one gun without using Limited 10 as a cheat, so I’m happy with that.

The CZ Custom followers work just as well with 9mm as they do with .40, and the fully-kitted 140mm magazines hold 23 rounds, which is again competitive with the best in the division.

If I want to shoot Limited and Carry Optics in the same day, I have to change two things about the gun: swap the safety for the decocker, since Carry Optics prohibits cocked-and-locked starts, and remove the magazine funnel, which is not permitted in Carry Optics. Both are easy enough to do at the safe table, although the safety-to-decocker swap omits the decocker return spring. (It isn’t a required part, as it turns out, and is extremely fiddly to get into position without a workbench, a decent light, a vise, and a selection of screwdrivers for prodding.)

Sight: Vortex Venom

Mounting Solutions Plus had free shipping and a 15% off deal on the Vortex Venom sight. It ran me $196.

The Venom occupies the same budget class as the Vortex Viper and the Burris FastFire, all of which come in at about the same cost. Parvusimperator recommended Vortex for their warranty, which amounts to, “If it ever breaks, we’ll fix it.” That’s a good thing to have on your competition pistol, where the sight will likely see thousands of rounds on a much faster schedule than your average carry gun.

The Venom also has a top-loading battery, which means I don’t have to remove the sight to replace the battery, which means less re-zeroing, which is good. Unfortunately, it uses CR1632 batteries, which means I’m now stocking 2032, 1620, and 1632 for the various sights on my guns. Happily, little coin cells are cheap.

There are plenty of cheaper micro-dots available, but slide-mounted sights have to take a lot of punishment, and this is a case where my usual budget-mindedness goes by the wayside.

One problem is that, at my minimum-advisable-cost $200 budget, there aren’t many options for sight window size. The Burris FastFire is the smallest of the bunch at 21mm by 15mm. The Viper is the tallest by a bit more than a millimeter at 24mm by 17.5mm. The Venom is the widest, at 26.3mm by 16.3mm. Forum posters suggest that it’s very hard to notice a difference of a few millimeters.

I found a forum post with a list of sights and window sizes, which is reproduced here, along with a street price column a column indicating millimeters of window height per hundred dollars. (The width is less important; given a good grip, it’s easy to bring a pistol onto target side-to-side, and less easy to get the elevation just right.)

For the area column, the sights are assumed to be rectangular (except for the C-More SlideRide, which is circular), which is an invalid assumption, but you get what you pay for.

Sight NameWidth (mm)Height (mm)Area (mm2)Street Pricemm height/$100
C-More SlideRide29.029.0660.52 (circle)$300 (aluminum)9.667
Vortex Viper24.017.5420.00$2307.608
Vortex Venom26.316.3428.69$2307.087
Burris FastFire III21.015.0315.00$2306.522
JP JPoint21.515.0322.50$2855.263
Sig Romeo 325.021.0525.00$4005.250
C-More RTS225.022.0550.00$4205.238
Sig Romeo 130.016.0480.00$3254.923
Leupold DeltaPoint Pro25.717.5449.75$3704.730
Vortex Razor27.817.4483.72$4004.350
Trijicon RMR22.016.0352.00$5003.200

Except for a few outliers, like the big C-More and the tall micro-dots (the Romeo 3 and RTS2), it’s pretty much a list in order of increasing price. The RMR comes out looking bad, but it’s built for durability as much as anything else, and obviously that isn’t factored in here.

Mount: Springer Precision Dovetail Mount

I could have sent the slide off to Cajun Gun Works to be milled to accept a sight, but that’s a big expense, not just in terms of gunsmith time but also in terms of shipping. Much better to try a dovetail mount first. Springer Precision makes one. It cost $51 including shipping.

It seems to me to be a pretty good product. It’s held in place by four set screws, two in the dovetail and two nylon-tipped jobbers pressing against the top of the slide. We’ll see how it holds up in practice.

Notably, dovetail mounts position the sight much higher above the slide than milled mounts. A milled mount by necessity puts the base of the sight below the top of the slide, while a dovetail mount by necessity puts the base of the sight above the top of the slide. It doesn’t make the zeroing process very much more interesting. The sight rides about 1.15 inches above the bore, and a 25-yard zero is just as good as always for 9mm.

Slide Parts

A Cajun Gun Works extended firing pin, firing pin retaining roll pin, and firing pin plunger spring come to $43. The first two are required parts for the low-power springs in the C-Zed’s frame. The third is a trigger enhancement.

In Sum

I spent $679 on parts to turn the C-Zed into a convertible two-division gun. I probably could have done it cheaper if it weren’t for the inability to buy CZ slides on their own.

One thing I’ve noticed is that the balance of the gun is better now. Without the sight, an empty P-09 is nose-heavy. With it, the balance point is right at the back of the trigger guard.

Without any range time to back me up, I’m happy with the result. I’ll have more to say once I’ve burned some powder and, perhaps, shot a match or two in the spring.

Shopping List: Fishy USPSA Revolvers

These lists, unlike the earlier Carry Optics list, are shorter and simpler. There are no optics to mount or, indeed, new sights to buy; nor is there compatibility with pre-existing tuning to worry about. So, I decided to write up all of my options, to lengthen the article a bit.

For All Three

We’ll call it $200 for the two items below, to cover shipping and other expenses.

Moon Clips ($30)

No competitive revolver shooters use speedloaders; they’re an extra step and not worth the time. Moon-clipped revolvers are faster, and moon clips are cheaper than speedloaders. So much the better.

Belt Rack ($150)

Moon clip holders which can carry eight clips can be found for about $150 from a number of retailers. Even with my expressed preference for six-guns, I don’t think I’d need more than 8. My usual preference is to have about 60 rounds on my belt for a 32-round stage. 48 in the holders and 6 in my pocket is close enough.

The Safe Option(s)

A Ruger GP100 10mm ($800)

Ruger recently released a GP100 Match Champion in 10mm/.40, which fits my desire to use existing stocks of competition ammo. There aren’t a lot of gunsmiths who work on Rugers, but some polishing compound and some spring work should serve to get the trigger pull down to acceptable levels.

Or, A Ruger Redhawk .357/.38 ($800)

Ruger also has an 8-round Redhawk model in .357 which accepts moon clips. (They are, however, expensive moon clips.) This would let me play with the big boys in USPSA Revolver, and eliminates one of my objections to eight-round revolvers. 9mm is a wimpy semi-automatic caliber, not suited for a manly gun like a revolver, and 8-round 9mm revolvers are an abomination unto God. .357 (and yes, also wimpy .38 like I’d actually be shooting) are true revolver calibers.

It eliminates another one of my objections, too; a Ruger in .38 Special is undoubtedly hipster in the modern revolver competition world. I’d be able to shoot Limited in ICORE, if Western PA ever ends up with a club which runs ICORE matches.

Of course, there are some downsides. If there are few gunsmiths who work on Match Champion revolvers, there are fewer gunsmiths who work on Redhawks. The sights might not be very much good for competition, although they are at least replaceable.

All in all, a compelling option: the Redhawk gets me to the 95% competitive bracket really easily, with no esoteric stage-planning requirements.

Kydex Holster ($100)

Given that these are the cheap options and not especially long-barreled, a Kydex competition holster is probably the way to go. $100 is a bit of an overestimate here, but $800 is a bit of an underestimate for the guns, so it’s a wash.

Some quick Googling suggests that a Kydex holster for the Redhawk might be hard to come by. In that case, I would have to go leather, which is delightfully old-fashioned.

The Weird Option

A Chiappa Rhino .40 ($900)

A what? Yes, Italian pizza-gun manufacturer Chiappa, who you might know better for their replica old-time firearms in the finest spaghetti western tradition, also makes a six-gun which wouldn’t look out of place on the set of Blade Runner. The bottom cylinder fires rather than the top one, and so the barrel is mounted low in the frame. The recoil impulse is nearly straight back. People say it’s nice. The Rhino can be had in .40 with a range of barrel lengths; I’d probably want the 6″ barrel because, in my opinion, it’s the coolest-looking1.

On that note, as I intimated in the first post in this series, the Chiappa’s major advantage is that it’s cool, and beyond that, that it’s uber-hipster. Nobody shoots Major in USPSA Revolver; of those who do, nobody shoots .40; of those who do, absolutely nobody shoots a Chiappa Rhino. That does have value to me; I like the attention I get when I’m shooting something offbeat.

A Guga Ribas Holster ($200)

Unfortunately, nobody makes holsters for Rhinos either, and a six-inch barrel makes for an unwieldy draw. I’d have to look into a Guga Ribas holster, sufficiently adjustable to grip the trigger guard of just about anything. That adds some expense.

The Boring Option

A S&W 929 ($1100)

I could also go the boring way, buying what everyone else has, a 9mm S&W Model 929.

Not only is it the most expensive option, it’s also the most popular one, and if you know me at all, you know how very unlikely that is.

A Guga Ribas or Other Adjustable Race Holster ($200)

If I were going to take leave of my senses and buy the boring race gun everyone shoots, I could hardly cheap out on the holster.

Conclusions

So, I’ve laid out four options. Every revolver option costs at least $200 for a belt rack and moon clips. Both Ruger options add $900 or so to the total, for $1100 to get in the door—slightly less than the Limited P-09. If I added another $100 or $150 to the total, to bring the price up to the P-09’s all-in price, I could get an adjustable race holster.

The Rhino adds another few hundred bucks of cool for about $1300. Unlike the Redhawk, it wouldn’t be competitive, but I would at least look cool while shooting slowly.

The Smith and Wesson option, at $1500, is probably out of my price range, in addition to being prevalent and therefore boring.

Okay, But You Actually Have To Make a Decision

You can’t make me. Not yet, anyway. More on that in a second. The way I see it, it comes down to P-09 Carry Optics, which is cool in a modern technological way, and the Ruger Redhawk, which is cool in an old-time lawman way.

What about the Rhino? For me, it comes down to competitiveness. I’m not shooting USPSA to become a better shooter, although that’s a pleasant side-effect. I’m shooting USPSA to compete in USPSA. The point of the game is the game. For the same reason I wouldn’t go to a fencing tournament with a left-handed foil, I’m not going to intentionally buy equipment which is well below par. As classic as the Ruger six-gun is, and as cool as the Rhino is, competing with them is, in a word, uncompetitive2.

So what’s it going to be? A Carry Optics P-09 or an 8-round Ruger Redhawk? I said I don’t have to answer yet, and I’m sticking by that. 2018, and in all likelihood 2019, are for improving with the guns I already have. Revolver requires a whole new level of planning, and a whole new level of shooting perfection, over Limited and Production. I have a pair of plenty-competitive guns I can easily shoot two seasons with.

In two seasons, the story might be different. Carry Optics rules are a moving target right now, and I don’t want to commit too early. On the flip side, in two years, Revolver might not be a USPSA division anymore, or Chiappa might come up with an 8-round Rhino. The point is, choosing now would be silly. I have time. It doesn’t matter how I lean now; it matters how the landscape looks in two years. I’ll let you know what I’m doing then.


  1. I actually emailed Chiappa asking if they had plans for an 8-round, 9mm version. (They already have a 9mm version in all the barrel lengths, as well as a competition-focused 9mm version.) Alas, the guy who answered my email said, ‘No, not at this time.’ And why am I okay with a 9mm revolver in this case? Because it’s the opposite of classic-looking, and so can use a non-classic cartridge without my scorn. 
  2. “What about that time you shot a two-gun match with British WW2 gear, though?” That’s entirely different. For one, I wasn’t shooting in nationally-organized three-gun with classifiers and ratings. For another, it was a for-fun match with gear I already had. 

Shopping List: CZ P-09 Carry Optics

In my previous USPSA what comes next post, I mentioned two possibilities for my next division, likely for the 2020 season. In this short post, we’ll take a look at what I would need for Carry Optics.

A Cajunified Lower (free)

Or, at least, free if you’re following the same path I am—starting with a Limited-spec P-09 and expanding your horizons. In that case, the Cajunified bits come gratis.

If you’re starting from zero, the Cajun bits will cost you about $600, including the magazines, (CZ Custom) 140mm base plates, and and (CZ Custom) spring/follower kits. (You save about $100 by skipping the verboten-in-Carry-Optics magazine funnel.)

A Donor Gun ($475)

At a bare minimum, I need a new barrel for 9mm. Realistically, I need a slide; I’m going to be knocking out the rear sight and putting in a sight mounting plate, and I don’t want to have to change back and forth between a dot and the Limited rear sight.

Of course, nobody sells a P-09 slide without a frame, so the only thing to do is buy a second whole P-09 and toss the frame in a box for later use. $475 takes a little bit of deal-hunting, but not much; you could probably find one for less with a little patience.

2019 Edit: An Extra Magazine ($50)

The P-09’s .40 magazines can feed 9mm, but don’t do so reliably, especially when there are only a few rounds left in the magazine. You get two with your donor gun, which is realistically enough for most stages at 23 rounds each (24 if you squeeze ’em in), but I started in Production, and even in 140mm-magazine divisions, I like to carry four with me. A third 9mm magazine gets me three fully functioning ones, which is plenty for any reasonable stage plan.

Swapping the CZ Custom base plates and spring-follower kits from your .40 magazines to your 9mm magazines is easy to do on the fly, and CZ helpfully engraves the magazine bodies with their calibers so you don’t get them confused.

Cajun Upper Parts ($50)

The lower uses reduced-power springs, so the Carry Optics slide needs an extended firing pin, reduced-power firing pin spring, and reduced-power firing pin plunger spring to match the Limited slide.

Happily, with the exception of the firing pin retaining pin (a roll pin), none of those parts are all that annoying to install.

An Optic Plate ($50)

Springer Precision makes a Fastfire/Venom/Viper-compatible mounting plate which sits in the rear sight dovetails. It also has polymer-tipped set screws, so you can crank it down onto the slide for better stability—important for a competition gun with no possibility of back-up sights. The last thing you want to do is lose your zero during a match.

An Optic ($225)

Although Springer makes mounting plates for other, more expensive pistol dots, the Burris FastFire III and the Vortex Venom/Viper are the obvious victors from a value perspective. Both run about $200-$225. Parvusimperator says Vortex has better warranties, so they get the nod.

Conclusions

Enhancing the P-09 with Carry Optics compatibility would cost, therefore, about $800. Switching from Limited to Carry Optics isn’t the sort of thing I could do at a match; not only do I have to swap the slide, but I also have to put the decocker in (or accept a subpar Limited start condition by leaving the decocker in). It isn’t that much work, though; five or ten minutes on the old workbench, even with the fiddly spring you may remember from the last post.

The nice thing is that I don’t need to buy any extra gear. The gun still fits in my existing holster, the magazines fit in my existing carriers, and everything fits on the belt I already have. For the revolver option laid out in a forthcoming article, the initial purchases are just that: initial. For the Carry Optics option presented here, there’s nothing left to buy.

Too, it’s a 100% competitive option. If I’m shooting at a disadvantage to others in the division, it’s much smaller than the disadvantage (or advantage) I end up with from being a worse (or, in some rare cases, better) shooter. For all my fondness for strange and oldtimey things, I’m ultimately shooting USPSA to compete. Even with the coolest, most hipster gear in the coolest, most hipster division, if I’m giving up effectiveness based on my equipment, I can’t be 100% happy.