Tag Archives: modern pistols

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. 

Vignettes from the 2019 USCCA Concealed Carry Expo

This past weekend I got to attend the USCCA Concealed Carry Expo. I had a great time! I got to talk to lots of vendor reps, handle things, attend lectures, and even test fire some guns!

Lectures

I attended talks from John Correia (Active Self Protection), Chris Cerino (Cerino Consulting and Training Group), and John Lovell (Warrior Poet Society). These talks were all 90 minutes or so and were pretty densely packed with information. I went away happy with all of the talks and wanting to spend more time with the speakers. So I’d call this a success. Plenty of takeaways, possibly for future articles here. Also, Lovell looks eerily like my brother from another mother.

Product Floor: What Stood Out

Shadow Arms MR918
This is sort of a factory customized Glock. It’s got a lot of popular tweaks to the Glock design already applied. I expect this to be successful, as Kimber used the same business model to establish their bona fides back when the 1911 market consisted of GI-style Colts and GI-style Springfields. This one had a good texture, grip reduction, trigger tweaks, and a milled slide. The milled slide had all the serrations people like up front, plus an RMR cut. What stands out there is that the RMR cut is low enough that standard height sights will cowitness with an installed RMR, which is pretty cool. The grip felt much shorter than a usual Glock grip, but more blocky because it still has to fit around the Glock magazine. I’ve never had a problem with trigger reach on a Glock, but it’s not an uncommon issue, and this might be worth a look for you if you have small hands. Unfortunately there were no MR918s to test at the Demo Range. More on that in a bit.

Ameriglo FBI Contract Sights
The Ameriglo booth had a ton of dummy “slides” mounted on plates so you could play around and compare sight pictures. This meant I got to take a look at the FBI contract sights, which was pretty cool. These are three-dot tritium sights with a high-visibility front sight and a U-notch rear, with nothing around the rear tritium vials. I rather like them. If you’re looking for some excellent iron sights, these deserve a look. And really, more places should have demo plates like these.

Crimson Trace LS-250 LaserSaddle
At the Mossberg booth, they had a shotgun set up with the Lasersaddle. It’s a saddle-looking laser sight that goes over the receiver of a 500/590 series shotgun. This gives you a laser that’s really close to the bore and some super convenient switchology. I like laser sights and I like aiming my shotguns. This is a neat product.

Ruger Super GP100
This is new, and I know Fishbreath is always looking at speedy revolvers. Anyway, I thought the grips were very comfortable, and the trigger was nice and smooth. Unfortunately, S&W didn’t have a booth for me to compare things to, so I can only say that it was the nicest revolver trigger by far in the Ruger booth. Sights looked really precise and excellent. I’m kinda lukewarm on the styling, but if the cuts on the barrel shroud get the balance right (and I couldn’t really swing a tethered booth model around much to check this) then they’re worth it.

SIG Tango6 1-6×24 Scope
I love low power variables. SIG’s offering got picked by SOCOM and the US Army. Taking a look at this guy, I thought they did a really good job on the reticle. It was actually pretty useful on 1x, 3x, and 6x. The show model had the horseshoe-dot reticle with BDC in it. Comparing with others in the 1-6x space, it’s still kind of a pig of a scope, and it did not have the forgiving eyebox that I’ve come to love on my Vortex Razor Gen 2-E. I can’t comment on glass clarity without something known for comparison.

Cabot Guns: Everything
Cabot makes some absolutely beautiful custom 1911s. If you’re in the market, you should go talk to them. Be prepared to drop real coin. They also have a more affordable offshoot called Alchemy Custom Weaponry, which makes some slick 1911s that look good, are a whole lot less custom, and cost a lot less.

Stumping the Sales Reps: Asking the Unanswerable

To Mossberg: “Are you aware of any plans to put the new detachable box magazines on the 930 or another semi-automatic shotgun design?”
Rep: “I’m aware of no such plans, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re not working on it. Just that I don’t have a product to tell you about.”

To SIG: “Do you have a release date for the Romeo3Max or Romeo3XL red dots?”
Rep: “I do not. Sorry. I wish we (SIG) were better at timely release dates after new product announcements.”

The Demo Range

At the expo, there was a Range-In-A-Trailer, which was a pretty nice pistol range inside a large trailer. Sound proofing, ventilation, and cooling were pretty good for an indoor range. Definitely up there with some of the nicer indoor ranges I’ve been to. Attendees could fire any of a number of ready demo pistols for free. You only got five shots, but that’s a decent way to give something a try, especially a hard to find or weird something. Here’s my report on what I got to shoot.

Walther Q5 SF
I really, really like this thing. It’s got that great Walther trigger, plus a relatively heavy steel frame to soak up recoil. It was an absolute joy to shoot. I’m sold on it, and I’m not surprised Walther is having trouble keeping these in stock.

Walther Q5 (And comparison!)
I also wanted to give this a try, since this is a decent test of the steel frame in the SF. No, it’s not perfect, it’s an indoor range, and I can’t run these through a match or get great timed drills. For what it’s worth, the triggers seemed extremely similar and easy to run, but the steel frame model seemed a lot easier to control. If you asked me which I’d want, I’d go for the SF model.

Walther PPK/S (.380 ACP)
It’s not technically James Bond’s gun (he shoots the 7.65mm PPK), but what the heck, right? It’s iconic, even if it’s no longer the best small gun choice for a master spy. The PPK/S has a longer grip, so this one actually sort of fit my hand. The controls are still weird, the sights are still tiny, and it’s kind of jumpy. Fun to shoot a few rounds through, but there was another small gun that really, really stood out.

SIG P365
This little gun has been a great seller for SIG. It also seems to have had some early troubles, but those appear to be worked out now. It’s a very small gun, narrow like a single stack, but having ten rounds in the staggered-column magazine. For a small gun, it shot remarkably well. Still not quite as nice as a service size polymer gun, but definitely nicer than you would expect given how small it is. This was probably the biggest surprise. I expected to love the Q5 SF, but the P365 being shootable and fun was a shock. Congratulations on being an exception to the “I hate small guns” rule, P365.

FN 509 Tactical
FN has had a devil of a time breaking into the pistol market in any serious way. The FN 509 has a reduced grip circumference compared to their previous FNS, and it has nice texture that goes all the way up the side of the grip. You know, where I actually want to grab the gun. The 509 handled pretty well in the demo. The tactical model also comes with a number of optional extras installed, including suppressor-height sights, an optic cutout, and a threaded barrel. The trigger was good but nothing to write home about.

SIG P320 X-Carry
Another solid gun with some desirable improvements built in from the factory. Alas, I didn’t have a regular P320 Carry to take to the Demo Trailer, so I can’t do a mini-comparison for you. I do prefer the “feel” of the X-Carry grip over the regular grip, and I much prefer the flat trigger that they’ve put in it.

Of the above pistols, I’m sold on the Walther Q5 SF and the SIG P365.

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. 

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. 

Comparative Red Dot Areas and Prices

I thought I’d pull this out for reference/expansion. Original data courtesy of Fishbreath’s great post on his P-09 Carry Optics Build. It’s still sorted by mm height/$100, but it’s also a handy reference of window sizes. I’m adding data as we get some new sights available like the Trijicon SRO and (soon) the SIG Romeo 3MAX.

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
Lucid LITL MO28.019.0532.00$2806.785
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 SRO25.022.5562.50$5504.090
Trijicon RMR22.016.0352.00$5003.200

The Guns of John Wick: Which Are Best?

Inspired by a post by TTI over on Instagram, let’s look at the guns of the John Wick movies. All three of them. We’re going to compare (primary) pistols, carbines, and shotguns across all three movies. We’ll pick best by category and best movie set overall.

First, let’s talk through our ground rules. We’ll be picking as if we work at The Continental. Therefore these guns are chosen for “assassinations” (read: epic, awesome movie gunfights) and not to fit in any particular competition ruleset. Also, we pay in Magic Assassin Gold Coins, so we don’t really care what the list prices are. We also don’t get to make any changes to the guns as we see them in the movies. What the sommelier has is what we can pick from.

Second, let’s review our weapons. In the first movie, Mr. Wick is armed with an HK P30L with compensator as his primary handgun, an HK 416 clone with EoTech sight as his carbine, and a Kel-Tec KSG with EoTech sight as his shotgun. In John Wick 2, our hero has a Glock 34 that’s been tricked out by TTI as his main pistol, a TTI built custom AR-15 carbine (the TR-1) with a Trijicon Accupoint 1-6x scope and offset RMR, and a TTI customized Benelli M4 as his shotgun. His arsenal in John Wick 3 is an STI 2011 pistol that’s been customized by TTI, a SIG MPX that’s been tricked out by TTI with a Trijicon MRO red dot sight, and a Benelli M2 that (you guessed it) has been customized by TTI.

Carbine
We’ll start with carbines because that’s the easiest, and because I’m quite fond of carbines. First, we can rule out the MPX. It’s a pistol-caliber carbine, which is great for USPSA’s PCC division, but much less so combatively. 9mm is less potent than 5.56mm, and will have much more trouble dealing with armor. The MPX also has a long, NFA-compliant barrel, so we can’t even take advantage of the pistol caliber to get us something PDW-sized. Plus, the MPX has a reputation for eating parts and needing frequent cleaning. It’s in its third revision from SIG, and I don’t trust them to not beta test things on their customers. We’re left with a pair of carbines in 5.56mm. We can eliminate the HK 416 clone, because it’s got lame old quadrails, is entirely too heavy for what it is (since it has a piston and the aforementioned fat quadrails), and has the least nice sights of the three. EoTechs have that annoying tendancy to shift zero in the heat. The piston does literally nothing for us in the current configuration, and it’s probably got some stock, untuned, garbage trigger. Lame. That leaves us with the TR-1, which is also my favorite configuration of the three. It’s got a low-power variable, is reasonably light, comes in 5.56mm, and has a tuned trigger (and probably gas system/bolt carrier too).

Winner: TTI TR-1

Shotgun
The KSG is a pretty easy out, because I don’t like it, because it’s the only non-autoloader, and because Benelli’s QC and reliability are light years better than that of Kel-Tec. Also, no tuned trigger and reloads are a pain. After that, we’re looking at a tuned Benelli M4 v. a tuned Benelli M2. Were I buying the guns stock, the Benelli M2 would be the clear winner since it’s way cheaper and has a much larger aftermarket. In this case, we have them already customized. The big advantage to the M2 is some very long magazine tube extensions, but those haven’t been mounted here. Given similar capacities (and our payment in Killer Krugerrands), the differences are going to be that the M2 is somewhat lighter, being recoil operated, and that the M4 is going to be softer shooting, being gas operated (and heavier). I’m not much of a shotgun guy, so this is a toss-up. I’ll take the M4 because I’ve always wanted one and because it should shoot softer.

Winner: TTI Benelli M4

Pistol
The P30L is another easy out, because it’s got the lowest capacity and worst trigger by far of the bunch, though I do like the compensator. After that, it gets tricky because neither the TTI Combat Master Glock 34 nor the TTI Combat Master 2011 are customized in the way I’d like. But you do your job with the weapons the sommelier has. Of the two, the 2011 will have the better trigger, and will probably be a little more pleasant to shoot. So we’ll go with that. We shouldn’t really be in a position to take advantage of the Glock’s famous reliability, to the extend that it hasn’t been compromised by modifications.

Winner: TTI Combat Master 2011

Movie Winner
While we could do this as a “total up the wins” exercise, it’s more interesting to look at the weapons sets as a whole and compare them. I trust my readers can add. In terms of weapons sets, the original doesn’t have much in the way of cool custom stuff. Between the sequels, I think the shotguns are a toss up, the TR-1 is better than the MPX and the 2011 is better than the Glock. All that said, I think you’re getting more if you go with the TR-1 over the MPX than you lose with taking the custom Glock instead of the custom 2011. So my overall choice is the arsenal from John Wick 2.

Winner: John Wick 2

Honorable Mention: Backup Glock 26
No word yet on whether or not the Glock 26 backup gun has made it into John Wick 3. But it’s been his backup for two movies, with some slide work done for John Wick 2. I like when a character like John Wick actually goes to the trouble of carrying a backup gun, and the Glock 26 is an excellent choice.

Overanalyzing John Wick’s TTI Combat Master 2011

The trailer for John Wick Chapter 3 dropped some weeks ago. You can bet I’m super excited. With the trailer out, we see Keanu Reeves with some cool new hardware. And the NDAs on said hardware got lifted. John Wick has a snazzy new sidearm: a collaboration between STI and TTI to make a cool, tricked out 2011. Since I love John Wick, custom1 guns, and 2011s, I thought I’d take a crack at it.

The TTI Combat Master 2011 is built on a 2011 platform. It’s single action only and appears to have a government-length barrel (i.e. a 5″ barrel). The barrel is an “island” barrel, with a large milled rib on top, and a corresponding area milled out of the slide. This rib contains the front sight. Since the front sight doesn’t move, it’s easier to track through recoil. It also means there’s less slide mass, which means less reciprocating weight, which reduces felt recoil. The slide has also been “tri-topped”, which means it has a trapezoidal top cross section instead of the usual round one. This reduces weight and looks cool. There are also aggressive looking front and rear slide cocking serrations, plus some slide windows to show off the barrel finish, reduce weight, and look cool.2

The grip is a standard plastic model from STI with Taran Tactical’s excellent stippling applied all around. I would also expect it to have a tuned trigger. There’s also TTI’s 2011 magwell at the bottom for faster reloads.

One more thing to note is that, according to Taran himself, the TTI Combat Master is designed to shoot 9mm Major. Or, 9x19mm rounds where the muzzle velocity times bullet weight in grains divided by 1000 is greater than 165.

Let’s talk about caliber first. I like 9x19mm. 9mm Major is hot stuff. Really hot stuff. Hotter than most +P+ loads. In fact, it’s really hard to find commercial 9mm rounds from large manufacturers that make Major power factor. And it’s a really niche thing. Most of the people interested in 9mm Major shoot in USPSA Open Division, which is the only division where you can permissibly use rounds with a caliber of at least 0.354 inches (9mm) in diameter to make Major. And we open guys like shooting 9mm Major to get those power factor points and get gas to work the compensators and barrel ports you see in open guns. Gas is good. Those guns are based around lots of gas. Mr. Wick’s latest gun has no compensator and no barrel ports. In limited division, where iron sighted guns play, major power factor rounds must be at least 0.40 inches (10mm) in diameter. And, of course, from a “tactical” standpoint, pistol rounds that make major power factor don’t really perform any better than ones that don’t as far as defeating bad guys. Pistol rounds suck at that. Major power factor ones still do. You can pass the FBI standards with well-made 9mm rounds, and nobody sees much benefit to going hotter in the people-stopping department. At least, to the best of modern ballistics science.

I look forward to a fun movie explanation of why he’s rocking the major power factor ammo, of course.

Honestly, the biggest thing that confuses me here is the plastic grip. I know, that’s STI’s marketing campaign, some nonsense about “transmitting less recoil” or somesuch. I don’t know why it would “transmit” less recoil. Maybe it’s that notion of “polymer flex” that comes up sometimes when talking about recoil characteristics of polymer-framed handguns. I have no idea to what extent “polymer flex” is a thing, and frankly, I don’t care. I do know that competitive shooters love weight low in the gun. Like in the grip. Steel grips are super popular on 2011s that people modify/have built for them. SVI, Phoenix Trinity, and CK seem to have no trouble selling steel grips despite the added cost. Since I follow the top USPSA Open Division guys, I can say that the top 10 shooters at 2018 Open Nationals all had steel grips. And that’s in a division with compensators. From a shootability standpoint, steel grips are better, full stop.

Now, there are reasons you could argue to go with a polymer grip, like that it’s less annoying to carry (because it’s lighter) or because some people like them. But I’m betting this is STI marketing. At least it has a nice stipple job.

My one other big gripe is with the lack of red dot support. At this price point, it really should give you the option for a slide-mounted dot. Most other 2011s in this price bracket have such an option available, and dots are better. Some rules (e.g. Limited) don’t allow them, but it really ought to be something the end user can request. For 3-gun. Or for fighting one’s way through an army of angry assassins from the Continental.

It is a small thing, but the lack of even minor customization options is lame. No options for different trigger shoes? Seriously? This isn’t a 1980s Colt. Again, in this price bracket, lots of other places will let you pick trigger shoe length/color for no extra charge.

Overall, it’s a really nice gun, but it’s kinda overpriced for what it is: a pistol with zero options. If its set up the way you want, go for it. Rock on with your bad self. Otherwise, you can do better for just shy of four grand.


  1. Actual, properly custom guns. If you can’t specify every detail down to the screws of your gun, it’s not really custom. You just have some marketing-speak for “fancy”. 
  2. There are other ways to reduce slide weight and make it look cool. Consult your custom smith for details. If you can’t specify your own slide cuts, you aren’t at a custom shop. You’ve been had by the marketing guys.