Tag Archives: projects

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. 

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

New Life for an Old Police Magnum

When we last looked at my old 870, it had been through a ringer, and I changed a few things. I got a cool magpul stock and a magazine tube extension. Class notes gave me a few more things I wanted to change.

First: the sights, which entailed a new barrel with (bonus) fresh parkerizing. Basically, I wanted some sort of rear sight. I found myself dissatisfied with a bead (and no sight rib for the bead to sit on). I settled on a barrel set up for rifle sights that came from the factory with XS Express-style rifle sights. Perfect! These sights were originally designed for quick acquisition at close ranges while threatened by dangerous game on the African Savannah, and I can’t think of something more appropriate to what I want this shotgun to do. Plus, being barrel-mounted, they require exactly no gunsmithing of the receiver. Now I have a rear reference to avoid making elevation errors at range.

I could have gone with ghost ring sights, but those end up needing gunsmithing (to drill and tap the receiver), and I didn’t feel like doing that. A red dot would also have been a good choice, but that would have cost much more, and I didn’t feel like spending the money here. It would also probably have needed a gunsmithing trip.

Sights sorted, I next wanted to deal with the problem of illumination. I’m a firm believer of defensive weapons needing a light to identify targets. There are a bunch of ways to do this, and I settled on the most turnkey: the Surefire DSF-870 forend. It replaces the factory forend, and has a light and controls for said light built right in. Controls include momentary and constant on buttons, as well as a lockout switch so your batteries don’t run down in the safe. This solution isn’t the lightest or the cheapest, but it stands up to recoil pretty well and tends not to smash hands up.

So that’s that. And my shotgun is more or less done, aside from a likely future trip for some cerakote to refinish the receiver. Let’s take a brief moment to talk about something that isn’t on the gun: ammo saddles. There’s no cuff on the stock for ammo either.

For my purpose, I question the need for ammo on the gun. I’m not a law enforcement officer. I currently have a capacity of 6+1 shells. I really can’t see myself needing more than that in a defensive encounter. Shotgun shells are pretty good at making people stop doing whatever it is that they’re doing. Given that, plus the size of recorded home defensive encounters, plus the complete lack of relevant1 encounters where people run the shotgun dry has led me to skip the bother, cost, and weight of playing around with sidesaddles.


  1. For law-abiding civilians who are non-LEO. 

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.

A Racy Rifle

I’m getting a desire to plan a new AR-15 build. I haven’t done one in a while. And I can do literally nothing to hurry the gunsmith building my fancy open 2011 along. So, let’s think about a new rifle.

It’s going to be a competition rifle. No compromises for other things. I have other rifles for that. Plus, I’d love to bring it to one of Ian and Karl’s practical two gun matches. That would be fun.

Compensator: Coda Evolution Fury
I like the M4-72, but it’s a little annoying to be behind. The Coda is designed for maximum flatness of the rifle, which is more important than recoil management, since we’re shooting 5.56. Let’s keep it flat, keep it simple. Plus the compensator is titanium, and that will help keep weight down. Oh, and we’re going to get it flame anodized, because it looks cool.

Barrel: Stretch 16, fluted
This barrel is the new hotness among 3-gun shooters. It’s got an intermediate-length gas system, which is somewhere in between midlength and rifle length. This feels about as soft as an 18″ barrel with a rifle length gas system. But, as you might have guessed from the name, it’s 16″ so it handles faster. It’s a high quality barrel with a medium profile. Not as light as we’d like, but it’s still not super heavy. Flutes will help with the weight a bit. Plus, we can get the Stretch 16 in cool colors. We’re gonna go with red, because it looks cool.

Note that because the gas system is nonstandard, the Stretch 16 comes with an appropriately sized gas tube.

Handguard: Coda Evolution Lightning 15″
When I was looking at handguards, I wanted something lightweight. I wanted something with as little fixed rail space as possible. I wanted free floated (duh!). I wanted a barrel mounting method that did not require any timing, because timing is annoying. And, preferably I wanted a design that wouldn’t require a whole bunch of extra panels to keep my hands from getting hot. It needs to protect my hands from heat as-is. Coda delivers with a really nice carbon fiber handguard. It’s got Mlok slots, doesn’t require timing for the install, and should be good at keeping heat away from my hands. The 15″ model chosen weighs under half a pound. And it looks cool.

Gas block: SLR Rifleworks Sentry 7 Adjustable
An adjustable gas block is mandatory on a good competition rifle. We’re using the SLR rifleworks model, appropriately sized for our barrel. It’s a high quality gas block, easily adjustable, with an extra set screw to prevent the adjustment screw from backing out. Plus, it’s titanium. It’s great. It’s under a handguard though, so we don’t have to worry about if it looks cool.

Upper: Odin Works Bilet
This one might change if I find a deal. I want a pretty standard upper, but it needs to not have the stupid forward assist. I hate that dumb part, and it’s time to start building rifles without it. I do also want capability for a dust cover and a brass deflector. Done.

Bolt Carrier: Whiskey Arms LBC
Part two of reducing recoil is a low mass bolt carrier. We’re going as low as we can here with an aluminum bolt carrier. ALUMINUM! How very space age. Note that it does need lots of lubrication, and it has a somewhat finite service life. Manufacturers say they usually expect about 10,000 rounds out of one. That’s not a concern. If wear proves to be a problem, we can always switch to a lightened steel bolt carrier and readjust the gas system. Note that lightened steel bolt carriers are about twice the weight of an aluminum carrier like this one.

Buffer Spring: JP Captive
And now, part three of our recoil reduction system. The JP Captive spring system is a part I’ve been meaning to try, mostly because I can. It’s adjustable for weight, and comes with a spring kit. And everyone who tries them loves them.

Primary Optic: Vortex Razor HD Gen II-E 1-6x
It’s the Vortex Razor! It’s four ounces lighter! It’s got a giant eyebox, which I really like. It’s got super bright reticle illumination, which I really like. It’s the most popular optic by far on the three gun circuit for good reason. It does everything you want well. It’s at a reasonable price point. Oh, and this version cuts a quarter pounder with cheese off the weight of the original. Plus it looks cool.

Secondary Optic: 45-degree offset Leupold Deltapoint Pro
I like to shoot open for reasons of pistols with dot sights and compensators. Open is a lot less useful for rifles, but it still lets you put two optics on, so we might as well, right? The offset red dot can be useful occasionally for needing to do fewer power changes with your primary optic. You can also use it to avoid having to switch shoulders to shoot around a weak-hand side barricade.

Stock: TBD
Of course this rifle needs a stock. But something that’s important to me is balance, and so I’ll test-fit my upper to various lowers and see what sort of stock would balance the rifle best. So this will be covered in the future.

Lower: Doesn’t Matter
Really it doesn’t. From a functionality perspective, a lower is a lower. Some have ambi controls, but I’m right handed, and having played with those, it’s not a big deal to not have them. Even if I wanted, say, a right-side bolt release, there are a whole bunch of billet lower manufacturers who will oblige.

Shopping List: Fishy USPSA Revolvers

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

For All Three

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

Moon Clips ($30)

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

Belt Rack ($150)

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

The Safe Option(s)

A Ruger GP100 10mm ($800)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kydex Holster ($100)

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

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

The Weird Option

A Chiappa Rhino .40 ($900)

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

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

A Guga Ribas Holster ($200)

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

The Boring Option

A S&W 929 ($1100)

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

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

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

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

Conclusions

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

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

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

Okay, But You Actually Have To Make a Decision

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

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

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

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


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

Shopping List: CZ P-09 Carry Optics

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

A Cajunified Lower (free)

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

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

A Donor Gun ($475)

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

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

2019 Edit: An Extra Magazine ($50)

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

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

Cajun Upper Parts ($50)

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

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

An Optic Plate ($50)

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

An Optic ($225)

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

Conclusions

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

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

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