Tag Archives: modern pistols

Pistol dots as training aids

While telling parvusimperator how easy dry-fire practice is when you have a red dot wiggling over your point of aim1, it hit me that you can make a similar dry-fire training aid for quite a number of pistols, and you can do it for less than a lot of actual training aids.

All you need is a pistol with a Picatinny rail and an Amazon account2. With the latter, you buy two things: a Picatinny rail pistol dot mount (the cantilevered sort, which gives you rail estate atop the gun), and a little red dot. In both cases, you buy the absolute cheapest knockoff crap you can, because, remember, this is a dry-fire training aid. It doesn’t need to stand up to any impulse more severe than the striker or hammer falling.

As it turns out, I have a cheapo micro-red-dot which occasionally lives on a frame mount on my Beretta U22. I shook the Many Words Press petty cash piggy bank, replaced a tenner inside with a note saying ‘IOU $10’, and chipped in $2 more for the cheapest polymer sight mount I could find on Amazon.

Two days later, and it was in hand. It is an appalling piece of crap. This was not entirely unexpected in kind, but I certainly underestimated the magnitude. ‘Appalling piece of crap’ is going to be my Amazon review headline. Just how is it so bad? Let me count the ways.

First, it’s entirely made from polymer. Even the hardware. Even the heads of the screws. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to turn a polymer screw before, so I’ll tell you how it goes. First, you take your nice gunsmith’s screwdrivers. Then, you carefully choose one which fits the polymer screw correctly. Then, you gently turn the screwdriver. Lastly, you instantly strip the screw.

Happily, the sight mount is also too narrow for my Px4 and P-09s, so just shoving it on over the rail until the friction holds it in place works too. You can’t move the slide, but that’s fine. Thanks to hammer-fired guns, I don’t need to worry about it. So, does the sight-and-mount combo work as a training aid?

Yes and no.

On the yes side, watching the dot wiggle is a wonderful way to see in what way you’re pulling the trigger wrong. It’s extremely clear. You can see both where and how you’re moving the gun when you pull the trigger.

On the no side, I don’t think I would recommend using it all the time. The problem with a dot is that it sits higher than the ordinary sights, and the problem with this dot and mount in particular is that they’re not zeroed correctly. Both issues require you to hold the gun in a way that won’t work with iron sights. Do that too much, and you risk breaking your muscle memory.

Still, at $30 or so in total project cost, it doesn’t cost you a lot of ammo money to set up, and it’s easier to see exactly what mistakes you’re making and how to fix them than it is with dry-firing on iron sights alone. I give the idea a thumbs up with reservations.


  1. He knew already. 
  2. AliExpress works too, but I can’t imagine there are many places in the world where you’re a) practicing with handguns and b) unable to order from Amazon. 

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.

Let’s Bash: the Laugo Alien pistol

Today’s obscure piece of firearms technology is the Laugo Alien, a fascinating handgun whose slide rides between the frame and an interchangeable top strap.

This is objectively cool, and in the same way that CZ’s low-ride slides yield a nice straight-back recoil impulse, I can see how this design would do the same. It has the added benefit of fixing the sights to a non-moving platform, which is good both for tracking sights, and for not subjecting electronic sights to quite as severe conditions. All told, I think it’s a worthwhile experiment, and could very well be the next thing to catch on.

That said, as ever, we have to ask ourselves what the gun is for. The answer is pretty clearly ‘competition’. For one, just look at the colors. Subtle this ain’t. For another, look at the front iron sight: a big, delicate fiber-optic jobber. Finally, read the text in the second link. Laugo is planning an Open-division kit, which includes a Picatinny top strap, a flared magazine well, and a compensator. (No pictures of the comp, unfortunately.)

So, is it a good choice for competition? The answer is pretty clearly no. Let us count the reasons why.

One: caliber choice. The Alien teased so far is a 9mm pistol. That means USPSA Limited is out, at least as a serious contender. .40 is the sweet spot there, as in any sport with a major/minor distinction. USPSA Production? I think the iron-sight version would technically be Production-legal, but Laugo has to sell a few thousand, then get them on the Production list, and buying one for Production prior to that is a bit chicken-and-egg. USPSA Open? They seem to be leaning in that direction, with a pistol a full half a pound heavier than a Beretta 92 which has an optional Open-division kit. I wouldn’t want to be the first to put a few thousand rounds of 9mm Major through it, though. Carry Optics? Also no, because the sight is frame-mounted.

There might be some room for it in other shooting sports without a major-minor distinction, but then you run into problem two.

Two: magazine choice. Catastrophically, the Alien uses proprietary magazines. This is never, ever a good idea, especially if you’re building something in the technological avant garde. Magazines are hard to get right, and the best answer is almost always, “Use Glock, Beretta 92, or CZ 75 mags.” Proprietary magazines also limit you to 17 rounds of 9mm, which is insufficient for any sort of competition use besides Production division. Too, they’re expensive, they can be hard to find, and they’re a big part of problem three.

Three: no aftermarket. The best competition guns are those you either have custom made to have irresponsibly light triggers, those with custom shops which will do irresponsibly light trigger jobs, and those you can buy irresponsibly-light trigger parts for. Laugo is probably not going to sell a pistol out of the box with a two-pound trigger, and until such time as parts are available, it’s going to be a less-optimal choice.

All that being said, I can’t deny the coolness. Furthermore, like I said above, I think it’s very likely to end up being a good idea. I just don’t think it’s quite ready for the crucible of competition yet.

(If you’re reading this and want to prove us wrong, Laugo, we’ll give you our local FFL’s address.)

Announcing the Glock 45

In the pages of a German gun magazine comes interesting news. Glock has a new model: the Glock 45. Confusingly, it’s chambered in 9mm. Because Glock loves confusing you. Or they just don’t care.

Anyway, what is the Glock 45? Well, it’s sort of like the Glock 19X, but a little different. Like the Glock 19X, it’s got a Glock 19 length slide and barrel on a Glock 17-sized frame. Unlike the Glock 19X, the Glock 45 is black. If you were waiting for a black 19X, here you go. It also has front slide serrations, and a bit of a built-in magwell. From the pictures, there doesn’t appear to be the cutout at the front of the grip. It also comes with front slide serrations, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Seeing as the Glock 19X is super popular, we’d expect the Glock 45 to be popular too. Lots of people like the short-slide, long-grip design, in Glocks and also in P320s and 1911s.

Parvusimperator’s AIWB Experimentation

I’m not going to pretend I’m some kind of fantastic innovator. AIWB is pretty popular these days. I’m late to the party. I get it. But it’s still a decent topic, and when all of your trainer friends use it daily, it might be worth looking into. And I’m really big into experiential learning, so what the hell, right?

Let’s review our terms. AIWB (Appendix Inside the Waistband) is a mode of carry where the gun is forward of the hipbones (usually between 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock on your person). It has a number of advantages over traditional behind-the-hip IWB:

  • Better concealment

  • Faster draw time (generally)

  • Easier to defend against a gun grab

  • Much easier access to the gun when seated

At the same time, there’s an obvious bit of caution here. Clearly, we’re in the vicinity of some very important things. For some actual testing, and not just a bunch of nervous prattling, check out Ballistic Radio’s video on the subject HERE. As a bonus, this also includes some good AIWB reholstering technique to maximize safety.

Now that we’ve dealt with that annoying elephant in the room, let’s get on with it. I did need to get some stuff for this experiment. First, holsters. I wanted holsters designed with appendix carry in mind, so I hit up the good folks at Dark Star Gear for some AIWB holsters. Dark Star Gear is also the brand used in the cool video above, they’re the brand used by several of my instructor buddies who kicked off this shindig, and as a further bonus they’re local to me. I got a holster for my Glock 34 (which also fits the Glockblaster if I remove the weaponlight) and another for the Glock 17. While the Glock 17 will fit in the Glock 34 holster, I wanted to see if the reduced length of a Glock 17-specific holster mattered for comfort.

Key things I wanted in my holster were adjustable cant (I wanted to play with zero-cant and negative-cant options), and something to help tuck the gun in close to my body.

I also got a Wilderness Instructor Belt. I got the wilderness belt because lots of my instructor buddies recommended it. They also mentioned that having some kind of belt with the capability for lots of (possibly small) adjustments would go a long way to making my appendix carry experience good.

Also, note that I did not purchase pants with a waist size any larger than what I would wear if I did NOT have a gun tucked inside the waistband.

And now, a brief bit about me. I’m about average height and am a skinny dude. I spend most of my workday sitting. So sitting comfort is important to me, and the easier seated access is a nice plus. Also, my commute is roughly twenty minutes each way.

In terms of pistols, I tried my Glock 34, my Glockblaster sans weaponlight, and my Glock 17 with RMR. Here’s what I found:

  • All pistols were concealed much better AIWB than IWB or OWB with a cover garment. I could be quite discrete with even a light t-shirt as a cover garment. While my office is a pretty permissive environment, this made me feel better generally. Also, it’s pretty cool.

  • Both guns were comfortable seated at my desk or in my car. I had no complaints and wasn’t tempted to remove my gun to improve seated comfort.

  • The Glock 34-length holster made bending over a little uncomfortable. The Glock 17 less so. I don’t bend over much during the day, so this wasn’t a huge downside. Still worth noting.

  • My draw times from concealment are faster. I expect them to improve with practice.

  • My instructor buddies were spot-on about having a belt supporting a wide range of adjustments. The wilderness instructor belt is a lot more comfortable with an AIWB holster than my standard heavy leather belt, mostly because of the wider range of adjustments.

So my conclusion overall is that I really like appendix carry. It works well for me, my body type and the guns I like to carry. As with everything else, your mileage may vary. However, if you’re curious about AIWB, I would encourage you to try it out with some purpose-built gear.

On J-Frames

The persistent popularity of small snubnosed revolvers, typified by the J-Frame models of Smith & Wesson, for concealed carry purposes astonishes me. Back in the day, sure. Small, reliable, semiautomatic pistols in a reasonable defensive caliber did not exist. But this is Anno Domini 2018. It is not 1958. There are plenty of options if you want something really small and concealable and reliable and chambered in a reasonable defensive caliber. Off the top of my head, there’s the S&W M&P Shield, the Glock 43, and the Walther PPS, all with established track records and manufacturers with good QC. These are reliable choices. They’ve been on the market for years. They work. Really. And they provide so many advantages over the small revolver that I still am astonished that people go for the revolvers instead. And no, I also don’t know why my tactical friends keep seeking out training on the damn things. Let’s review the many ways that the small, single-stack semiautomatic is flat-out better than the old-school revolver competition.

  1. Sights
    I tend to get picky about my sights. Modern semiautomatic pistols allow me to be picky. There are a wide variety of sights available for your Glock 19, letting you pick exactly the ones that work with your eyesight. Single-stack subcompacts like the PPS, Shield, and Glock 43 are no different. They all have sight dovetails. This highly advanced technology allows you to change out the sights to something that better suits your needs and eyes. It’s amazing. And these small pistols from established manufacturers have a large aftermarket. You need dovetails, but you also need sights to put in them. But we have you covered with the choices above, whether you like 3-dots or tritium or fiber optics.

    The vast majority of J-frames have atrocious “sights” that consist of a little lump of metal on the front of the barrel and a little trough cut in the rear of the frame. Not adjustable, not high-visibility, not tritium, and certainly not interchangeable. Simply put, the stock sights are awful and you are stuck with them. There are a few J-Frame models that actually have dovetails, but they are tremendously expensive and there are few manufacturers working with this market niche. Otherwise, better hope your chosen rounds shoot someplace sensible based on a reasonable sight picture.

  2. Trigger
    I’ve gotten less picky about my trigger choice these days, though I still like good ones. Anyway, I can think of few things worse in a trigger than the average double action pull of a recently-made revolver. Long and heavy, and probably gritty too. Lots of people will advocate an Apex spring kit in your J-frame. Which helps. Or you could get one of those single-stack subcompacts that has better trigger out of the box. And these single stacks can also take trigger improvements, just like their bigger brethren. I’m sure if I grew up firing revolvers and figuring out how to make that trigger work well, a slightly-lightened wheelgun trigger would be the “bees knees”. But I didn’t, so it’s not. Comparing stock to stock or modified to modified, the semiautos will have the better triggers, and you’ll likely be more familiar with them, because most of your shooting is going to be with some full size semiautomatic pistol.

  3. That Wheel
    You get five shots in a j-frame. Six in some competitors. At which point you’re working with speed strips, probably. Maybe speedloaders, but those are bulky. This is a different and slower reload drill than the modern semiautomatic, which you probably spend most of your time shooting. And even the small single-stack pistols mentioned previously all hold more bullets. Also note that the J-Frame’s footprint matches that of the double-stack Glock 26, which holds twice as many bullets and can accept magazines from other, larger Glock pistols.

Just about everybody is going to be better suited to buying a small semiautomatic these days. And you’re not giving anything up on size either. Here’s an overlay from the late Todd Green, who is also firmly in the more bullets camp, where we can see that a J-frame and a Glock 26 are both about the same size.

Glock 26 j frame

Oh, and one more thing. J-frames with the locking hole in the side of the frame above the cylinder release have been known to have this lock break, jamming up the gun. Just what you want.

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, 140mm base plates, and followers. (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.

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.

USPSA: What Comes Next?

In the near term, the answer to the title question is, “Get better in Limited through 2019.” Between live fire practice, living room drills, and matches, I hope to make a run at B (at least) by the end of next season.

That isn’t great fodder for an article, though, given that I’ve already answered the question and we’re not even one hundred words in. In 2020, though, I think I want to pick up a new division, and that’s more fertile ground for discussion. I have a few options.

Ghetto Open

Ghetto Open, like parvusimperator’s kit from last year, is any Open setup which doesn’t fit the traditional frame-mounted optic, 170mm magazine, hot .38-caliber with compensator mold. This appeals to me on several levels: bubblegum-and-shoestrings bodging, shoot-something-different hipsterism, and play-for-cheap budget-mindedness.

Or at least, it appeals to me until I sit down and start to make a list of what I’d need to do. Take, for instance, the CZ. At a minimum, I would need an optic of some kind. Call it $130 for one of the Primary Arms micro-tubes, and $100 for the only picatinny rail universal mount which doesn’t lose its zero according to Internet reviewers.

Of course, that hardly gets me to ‘competitive’. I would need a compensator, and that’s where things start getting hairy. As far as I know, there aren’t any threaded barrels for .40 P-09s, so I’d have to either have one entirely custom-made (not exactly cheap) or have one of the 9mm threaded barrels bored out and rechambered for .40. (Also not cheap.) I’d then have to buy a compensator.

That gets me a little closer, but then I’d want longer magazines. There are 170mm extensions for the Tac Sport series, but those mags don’t fit P-09s. Some of the EAA/Tanfoglio magazines do, but those are on the order of $100 to $150 each. Iffy. The best I could hope for, as far as capacity, is probably 25 or 26, several shy of the widebody 1911s.

The list is even longer for a Beretta, and probably involves buying a whole new gun as the base, so that’s definitely out. Based on what I’d have to do to the CZ, so is Ghetto Open altogether.

Less Ghetto Open

My remaining options for Open play a little closer to the norm. I could buy a used CZ Czechmate, along with a supply of spare slide stops. That way, I could stay in the CZ ecosystem.

I could try one of the competition-ready 2011 clones from Eagle Importers’ SPS or MAC brands, both of which tip the money-scale at right about $2000 if I include an optic, with affordable magazines relative to other 2011s.

Either way, though, I’d be looking at $2500 or $3000 to go from today to shooting-ready. Although that’s cheap by Not At All Ghetto Open standards, it’s still a lot of money, especially with children likely to be in the picture by that time, and double-especially for a division I’m not even all that interested in.

Less Ghetto Open is out.

Carry Optics

Carry Optics is an interesting division. According to USPSA classifier stats, it’s very slightly faster than Limited—maybe 10%—despite using minor scoring. I could use my equipment pretty much as-is; all I would have to do is come up with some way to mount an optic.

The thing is, that changes the rear dovetail, and I’m happy with my sights on the Limited gun. I’d want a second slide, and that means I’d need a second gun plus the Cajun firing pin and springs, on top of an optic and a slide cut. The gun for the slide comes to about $420. Springer Precision makes a multi-optic mount compatible with the budget Burris and Vortex options, which retails for $45. A Burris FastFire III or a Vortex Viper or Venom can be had for $200.

My existing magazines, carriers, holsters, and belt are legal, although I’d have to pull the magwell off for Carry Optics competition. That makes the cost of entry roughly $700 to $750, counting shipping and transfer fees.

Frankly, when I started this section, I was expecting to write off Carry Optics altogether. Now, it’s one of the front-runners. Low cost of entry, cheap ammunition, and equipment commonality go a long way in my book.

Let me invent a few reasons to bring it down a peg. First, it’s trendy. I hate trendy. Second, I’d want to put the decocker back into my P-09, and there’s a fiddly little spring to deal with. Third, optics are still kind of cheating, even if it’s cool cheating I wouldn’t mind taking a crack at.

Revolver

If you know me at all, you shouldn’t be too surprised that revolver is the second front-runner. It’s the ultimate hipster division. Revolver shooting is very nearly a different game altogether, much more focused on shooting perfectly. (Every missed shot means more reloading, which is slow.)

I like the idea of revolver division, because it features a whole new set of technical skills and emphasizes shooting mastery much more than the semi-auto divisions. Your loading has to be perfect, and your shooting should be; otherwise, you’re going to be up a creek.

Because I’m old-fashioned and find eight-round revolvers to be an abomination unto Colt, I’d be looking at a major power factor gun with a six-round cylinder. The newly-released Ruger GP100 Match Champion in 10mm/.40 seems like an obvious choice—I already stock .40 competition ammo.

Of course, the current state of the art in USPSA Revolver is eight-round guns, because the USPSA rules require that no single shooting position should require more than eight shots. An eight-round revolver fits perfectly, provided you don’t miss. A six-round revolver will require some standing reloads on some stages. Major scoring, unfortunately, isn’t enough to make up the difference.

It would be about $1000 to get into it: a $750 revolver, a $100 holster, a $150 moon clip belt rack, and a few bucks’ worth of moon clips. Any tuning would be extra.

One last thing to note is that revolver is a very infrequently-shot division. At most matches, I wouldn’t have anyone to measure myself against.

A Weird Revolver

Ordinary revolvers are cool, sure, but what about a weird, sci-fi revolver, like the Chiappa Rhino? That comes in .40 S&W, and has a range of barrel length options besides. I could go up to six inches, which gives me enough sight radius to really make those difficult distance shots. It would cost about $200 more than the Ruger option. The revolver is $100 to $150 more expensive, and I would need one of those trigger-guard-grab holsters, at a price of about $150 ($50 more than the Kydex jobber for the Ruger). Given that it’s basically a functioning Firefly prop, however, the Rhino has a dramatically higher cool factor, and the recent Chiappas have better triggers out of the box.

Conclusions

If you read through the 2017-2018 race gun shootout, the 2019-2020 shootout should sound a little familiar. I have a cooler option I started off with (the wheelgun), and a cheaper, more competitive option I hadn’t considered until I did the comparison. Revolver is nearer to my heart, but Carry Optics is nearer to competitive with the top dogs, and if last year’s project showed me anything, it’s that competitiveness is important to me.

At the same time, last year’s choice was between two raced-up semi-auto pistols. The Beretta is cooler than the CZ, but neither holds a candle to a revolver. The question before me is this: is a GP100 $200 cooler than a CZ with a dot? Is a Rhino $500 cooler?

I don’t think the GP100 is. The Rhino, however, just might be.