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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Steve Camp's excellent reports inspired me to come up with a very simple test to guage handguns for the purpose of self defense.

I had posted the proposal on a couple of forums but I waited to do it here until I tested it. After shooting with 4 different classes of handguns last night I decide a slight modification was in order.

For my own use I have a more complex system of scoring but I am only listing the very simple method here so that folks will not be put off by complexity. I stress the main thing is to shoot the guns yourself and compare. It is not a real skill test, it is a way to compare handguns in your hands. Thare are 5 parts of the test. The last 2 are, to me, less important.

I use my own target (Riposte-1 available from www.letargets.com) however any target will do and you need to fold a piece of typing paper in half (8.5" tall X 5.5" wide).

1. Reliability - Keep track of rounds fired and malfunctions (of any type). Divide Malfunctions by the number of rounds fired. .002 is failing (you dont have to fire 1000 rounds, but if you have a malfunction make sure you fire at least 200 rounds straight without one, if you have another then the whole 1000 is required). You can exempt the first "break-in" rounds if you wish. The N.I.J. standard seems to be 5 in 600rnds BTW - I think that is too much.

2. Practical Accuracy - No time limit, range 10 yards. Shoot a slow fire, standing, group in the head of the target (to keep it seperate from the body shots). "Passing" is 2" (feel free to make it 2.5 if you wish just set a standard).

3. Controllability - From the low ready, on signal, index and fire 5 shots in 2 seconds or less (not too stressful but not too slow either) - all rounds must impact the A-zone (or the folded typing paper). Again, feel free to modify but in trying it I found neither standard hard to meet and the size of the zone is probably twice as genearous as need be). If you have options for the safety (i.e. a DA auto with a mechanical safety try it both ways).

4. Reload - This is not a skill drill (I am modifying it from other posts as I found out wheelguns cannot pass the old standard). Start with the weapon in "scan" in the stron hand, you may have spare ammo in the weak hand (or on the belt in the case of a revolver if you like). On signal reload on the move while maintaing a scan. 2 seconds is the time limit for autos and 4 seconds for revolvers (highly recommended that any weapon that takes more than two would indicate the need for a backup gun). This is a number for your consideration, I would not necessarily reject a firearm just because it cannot pass this test (I might modify my carry options based on it - i.e. move my backup to where it is faster than the slow reload).

5. Effectiveness - I did not want to go here but it is of some import. However I am not about to get into debates. Pick a system you like (even if it is a subjective scale from 1 - 10). Divide the rating of your load used in the test by the rating of the standard. The "standard" should be .38 spl LRN. If using Energy then divide the energy of your load by that of the .38. It should probably come out like 1.25, 1.5, 2 etc. Not really meant to be "pass / fail" though it could be. Just look at how the weapon did in the above tests and see if a lack in this field adds to the problems or if a surplus in this field might mitigate some of the lack of performance above.

1,2, & 3 are the critical parts of the test, the others are "information".

Mainly it is an excuse to go out and shoot while not just wasting bullets.

Enjoy,

Jim
 

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Howdy Mr. Jim,

A very interesting report sir, so thank you. You do have me a bit curious, so the next time my buddy and I are able to hit the desert, we will give this a try. We will have to wait for a desert session, where we are free to be a bit more tactical in some of our drills. Indoor ranges, by necessity, tend to have restrictions that can limit some things you are allowed to do. But this sounds ideal for a desert session for us.

As you note, it is something new to do besides simply firing rounds on target.

Thanks for sharing it with us here.

twoguns
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Twoguns;

I know what you mean. I took my son to an indoor range a while back which actually had a "speed limit" - what is the world coming to? :-/

Jim H.
 

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Mr. Jim,

It is indeed sad to me as well. South FL has some very restrictive regs on public ranges, prompted by legislation - or at least they did while I worked there. You literally have to be standing on a designated LEO range to be able to fire more than one round in 5 seconds. If I was standing on a non-LEO public range there, I could not even holster my handgun unless I clipped my badge beside my holster.

It is simply like many things in life to me. Folks do insane things with firearms sometimes, and new regs that common sense would suggest are not needed, have to be instituted.

By comparison I find my indoor range in southern AZ to be much more user friendly than the state I left. But even with less restrictions, there are still limits to what I can do there tactically. Plus I am sure the cost of their liability insurance for the range may well have restrictions their insurance carrier insists upon too.

But I am looking forward to giving you system a go during my next desert system.

twoguns
 

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Hello. Today I managed a quick trip to the range. The purpose was two-fold: Check the sights on my friend's new S&W Model 25-7 5"bbl .45 Colt revolver and check the function of my S&W Model 64-1 4" .38 Special, which I recently purchased NIB.


This is not my revolver. It belongs to a close friend now preparing to go back and fight for us in the Middle East. He got to shoot it twice before leaving and the POI at 15 yards was about 3" high. A local 'smith replaced the rear sight with the lowest blade offered by S&W. Happily, the gun now hits where it should with 250-gr. CSWC's handloaded to about 900 ft/sec...and in very tight groups as well! Adjustment is nearly gone with the sight bottomed out save 2 clicks but I suspect it will be satisfactory.

I also brought a very plain revolver, one that I bought NIB (Well, the owner fired a few rounds through the gun, cleaned it and put it away for years) and had timing issues the first time I shot it. The problem was that the cylinder would lock and not rotate in double-action. Turned out to be a timing issue in which the hand was just a wee bit long and trying to turn the cylinder before the cylinder stop could drop. He fixed it with but a few strokes of a fine file and stone...but I hadn't tested it though it worked fine in dry-fire.


This Model 64 has a nice action out of the box but initially had a cylinder "lock up/release" problem that was quickly & inexpensively fixed but I will not trust any firearm I've not thoroughly tested, be it revolver or semiauto.


These shots were fired at 15 yards in single-action, while seated and using a two-hand hold. No effort at speed to be sure, I was checking POA vs POI and I'm happy to say that it was dead-bang "on" for a 158-gr. LSWC loaded over 4.8-gr. Unique. I have not chronographed this load, but it should be in the 840 to 860 ft/sec range I believe.

Satisfied that the gun would function (at least it did for four cylinders-full) and that POI matched POA better than expected, I fired a few more shots two-handed as well as strong and weak hand in both single and double-action in slow-fire at bullseye targets.

I then remembered Mr. Higginbotham's series of tests on how well one does or doesn't handle a handgun.

I was satisfied that the gun would be plenty accurate so I considered that test passed. By the end of the session, I'd fired roughly 220 handloads and twelve factory Remington 158-gr. LSWCHP +P through the gun with no misfires, difficulty in extraction or any other problems so I am beginning to think that this revolver will be dependable.

As best as I remembered, Mr. Higginbotham's controlability test involves 5 shots in no more than 2 seconds inside a target about 5 1/2 x 8 1/2" and that it begins from a low ready position. Distance is 5 yards.

I didn't use that exact target. Instead, I drew my usual "Gort target" with the intended target being roughly the size of a coffee cup saucer. I also opted to try for six shots in 2 seconds rather than the five.

Certainly all shots would be fired double-action.


Here is the first attempt. The ammo is the above-mentioned handload. An IDPA shooter was not using his timer and graciously allowed me to borrow it. Time: 2.11 seconds.


Second attempt: 2.05 seconds


Third Attempt: 2.19 seconds

Certainly Jerry Miculek has nothing to fear from me but I think this test of Mr. Higginbotham's is certainly doable. The main thing that it reinforced in my pea brain is that the "flash sight picture" is certainly viable and something I strongly suggest using rather than simply pointing.

If you get the opportunity and your range doesn't forbid it, try Mr. Higginbotham's series of tests.

Best.


PS: bmcgilvray, your handload is a good one.
 

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Howdy folks,

I have not had the chance to try Mr. Jim's suggestions yet, but I am looking forward to it.

Mr. Steve, I am glad you were able to confirm your buddy wil be happy with his repaired model 25. When you communicate with him again please tell him to keep his head down when he can, and do what is needed so he and his buds come home sir.

As far as Mr. Jerry not needing to lose any sleep at night, maybe so. But I doubt if ny of us cause him to lose any sleep anyway, lol. On the other hand potential badguys would be well advised to cut you a clear, very wide path as well sir. Mighty impressive shooting Mr. Steve (tips my hat). I too tend to opt for a flash sight picture at short distances, like 7yds on in, and feel I am more than accurate enough using it from those distances. I too think it is both far safer and more effective than simply point shooting too.

Shoot well and shoot often,

twoguns

P.S. Mr. Steve, I am currently spending some valuable clean up time in my gun room and am working on that subject we discussed once in a pm. Did not want you to think I had forgotten it. I will send you a pm with more information once it has shipped - hopefully early next week.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Oh yeah forgot to mention to Steve:

Does your friend know how few of those 1989 .45 Colts there are? Silly question but does he want to seel it - I could use a pair ;)

Jim H.
 

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Queston for Jim H.,

On the reliability test - do you take into account cleaning the handgun somewhere in the process? If I clean the gun, then crank out 500 rounds with it, I would be much more concerned about a failure to go into battery if it occurred on round 50 than it if occurred on round 499, even tho the malfunction rate would be the same (and assuming the round 50 malf wasn't due to a obviously flawed cartridge). Besides, judging from Stephen Camp's comments in other posts, he would be congenitally incapable of shooting 1000 rounds without cleaning his gun. (And I wouldn't much like it myself!)

I held an informal poll I on this forum at least a year ago, when I asked how many rounds w/o malfunction constituted reliable enough for self-defense -- most people who responded said at least two hundred, a few went more.

I do keep a running total of rounds fired and malfunctions encountered for each of my guns, so I know the lifetime malf rates for each of them, and for each type of ammunition. However, whenever I do have a problem, I try to figure out what caused it, and I factor that into my eval of reliability. (i.e. if I had a lousy grip from going to fast and got my thumb in the way; or if I put 500 rounds thru my pistol on a weekend class without cleaning it, I don't get upset if round 501 has a problem -- I just blast it with an aerosol cleaner and press on).

I think a good self-defense handgun shouldn't choke immediately on a little grime, but eventually it is going to clog up. Three or four hundred rounds seems like a good number to me -- at least I hope I am never in a situation that requires that many rounds!

elb
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
This is designed to be a "minimal" test so I wont put a number on it but it is a very good question.

Just as a personal matter I do not want a gun that will choke when firing 500 rounds without cleaning and have fired well over 2000 on some occasions (over time I just left the guns dirty during the interim) just for my own education.

Anyway to answer your question, no just clean it when you want to on the test.

Jim

PS - I am very tempted to establish a reliability test which requires the gun to be degreased and not lubled but I am not sure of the relevance of such a test....still thinking on it.
 

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PS - I am very tempted to establish a reliability test which requires the gun to be degreased and not lubled but I am not sure of the relevance of such a test....still thinking on it.
I would suppose it depends on the environment you would use the gun in. A firearm suitable fo military use should definitely be able to go for a lot of rounds between cleanings -- ideally including being fired to the point that it is essentially degreased and unlubed, and still march on for a number of rounds -- but doesn't seem all military arms can actually do that. A gun intended for daily CCW in a civil environment might not actually need to meet that stringent a test, but it would be nice to have one that could.

I remember back in the 90s there was a gunzine writer who set out to see how far his pistol would go without a cleaning. He would periodically update his column with the latest round count, and it went ridiculously high (as in several tens of thousands) before I lost track of him (can't remember his name, dadgummit). He said he wore out several magazines and rubbed the front sight off and had to replace it, but it kept going. The "front sight rubbed off" should be a clue as to the gun's make. :)

I like my Hi Power too much to ever do something like that to it. However, if I ever win the lotto, I am going to set up an endurance test of a statistically valid sample group of each major handgun, just to see what's what. You are all invited to come shoot.

elb
 

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Hello, Jim. Sorry for the late reply but yes, he does know that they are not common. When he gets back from Iraq and is able to retire from police service in a few years, he hopes to use it as a work gun on the rural property that he and his missus purchased. I think he's going to go with a handload for that, ie: 250 - 260 gr. CSWC at about 950 ft/sec.

Best.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Hello, Jim. Sorry for the late reply but yes, he does not that they are not common. When he gets back from Iraq and is able to retire from police service in a few years, he hopes to use it as a work gun on the rural property that he and his missus purchased. I think he's going to go with a handload for that, ie: 250 - 260 gr. CSWC at about 950 ft/sec.

Best.
Wouldn't he be much happier with a nice Glock, I could arrange for a brand new one for him


But then I guess you could probably do that too :-/

Jim
 

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Howdy Mr. Steve,

When your bud returns from the sandbox, please shake his hand for me three times. First, for being willing to serve in the military. Second, for being in law enforcement. Third, well you know what the third one is, you just said it.

twoguns
 

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Hello. Today I had some free time so I went back to the range with the Model 64 4" to work on the Higginbotham controlability drill. I used another hand-drawn "Gort" target with a circle in the high center chest which measured 5" in diameter. (This is a little different than his suggested target but I THINK serves the purpose.)

Anyway, I fired the drill (5 shots @ 5 yards in less than 2 secs from low ready) 18 times for an average time of 1.97 seconds. The load used was a handload consisting of a hardcast 158-gr. LSWC over 4.8 grains Unique. This averages about 866 ft/sec from this particular revolver.

For me, that's humping it but all shots were within the circle but I think I'll keep working and see if I can get it down to about 1.75 or 1.8 secs.

Also did three FTS drills at the same short distance. Average time for this (2 to 5" circle in chest and 1 to the eye/nose area of the "Gort target" was 1.75 secs. I would like to get this down about 1/4 sec if possible.

I ended the session with some pure bullseye shooting to make sure that I didn't absorb any bad habits. Pressing the trigger quickly can lead to jerking for me and I didn't want to hardwire in any more bad habits than I already have.

If you have a timer, I strongly suggest trying Mr. Higginbotham's suggested defensive evaluation drills. They are challenging but doable and can only help round out one's shooting skills.

Best and good shooting to all.
 

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I finally ran the test yesterday. It cooled down to 98 degrees, so I took advantage of it and took four guns out to run through the test.
I figured it might be a good time since, due to vacation and some other things, I had not shot any of them in a while. Now I have a "low practice" test in the bag. Now, when I run the test later after getting regular practice, I can compare results.

Maybe I should not have taken so many guns. Although I started out "cold", by the time I got to the last gun, I had warmed up. So it wasn't exactly even.
On the other hand, if I had done four guns on four different days, maybe one gun would catch me on a really good day, with ideal lighting, etc.; while the next gun caught me on a bad day, etc.
Maybe it all evened out.

Of the four guns I took- Two of those are the type I carry 95% of the time, the third is my "alternate" carry gun (for times when I need something smaller) and the fourth was taken mostly out of curiosity.

1) Browning HiPower. This was customized by Yost-Bonitz with their "SRT" package. The main changes over a typical HiPower is the addition of a Heinie rear and vertical gold line front sights, and a trigger job with a near-1911 reset. I've been carrying this one most of the last several months.

2) 1911. I took my S&W Gunsite (Scandium frame Commander) for two reasons: a) it's the smallest/lightest 1911 I now own, so I thought that however I did with it, I would do at least as well with my others; and b) it's my newest 1911, and needed more shooting.

3) HK P7M8. This is what I carry when I need something a little smaller, like when I'm in "wedding and funeral clothes". I also carry it sometimes... just because. I can usually shoot it better than other guns, even though I've practiced less with it, so I like carrying it now and then for no apparent reason other than that.

4) HK P7 PSP. I brought it because it has the "European" style, heel-located magazine release and I was curious how it would do in the Reload section of the test. The way the test is set up, I thought it might do OK. Maybe I just thought it was the only reloading test it might ever pass!

-I only did portions 2, 3 and 4, as I know how reliable they are (part 1), and effectiveness is in the "pass" range (part 5). They pass those sections. I knew they passed part 2 (practical accuracy) but ran it anyway.

-I figured the intention was to run an exercise once, rather than multiple times and averaging the times. But I ran the timed portions (Controllability and Reload) three times each and averaged those times for each gun. The first run is there, if that what should be the indicator.

-Be forewarned that I'm terrible at reloads. I practice drawing the backup and shooting whenever the main gun stops. I just don't practice reloads much since I'm faster with the BUG and it solves more problems.

Browning HiPower
Practical Accuracy- 1-3/8" (Pass)
Controllability- 1.45 sec, 1.38, 1.26. Avg- 1.36 (Pass)
Reload- 1.62, 1.66, 1.92. Avg- 1.73 (Pass)

1911- (S&W Gunsite)
Practical Accuracy- 1-3/4" (Pass)
Controllability- 1.86, 1.74, 2.03. Avg- 1.88 (Pass, but one Fail run)
Reloads- 1.90, 1.88, 1.78. Avg- 1.85 (Pass)

HK P7M8
Practical Accuracy- 1-1/4" (Pass)
Controllability- 1.25, 1.28, 1.46. Avg- 1.33 (Pass)
Reloads- 1.64, 1.68, 1.84. Avg- 1.72 (Pass)

HK P7 PSP
Practical Accuracy- 1-1/2"
Controllability- 1.49, 1.35, 1.63. Avg- 1.49 (Pass)
Reloads- 1.90, 1.88, 2.28 Avg- 2.02 (Fail, with two Pass runs and one Fail)

Observations:

-I was humping it. For those who don't have a timer, you may be surprised at what "two seconds" really is when you are actually shooting. At least I was, when I got my timer.
I had heard of ideal times to be able to draw and fire from concealment, for example, and it sounded very generous. I just knew I was much faster than that.
Until I got a timer and learned different.
Even knowing that, when I saw the times of this test, I still thought it should be easy to do.
But it wasn't for me. I made it, for the most part, but I readily admit that I was on the ragged edge at times. I kept the shots where they needed to be, but sometimes wondered how.

-It works. Going into it, I pretty much knew which gun I shot faster, which I shot slower, and roughly by how much. The same with reloading. But the test quickly confirmed it. I expected the P7M8 to be faster by a larger margin than it was, and expected the 1911 to be closer than it was. Maybe next time they would be, but for now, I'll take it as something learned from the test.
I can see that the next time I get a new gun- I can run this test quickly and know where it falls compared to my other guns.
A gun, a couple of mags full of ammo, a timer, a target- and you can learn a lot.

-I am amazed at Stephen Camp's revolver times. I was before, but I'm more impressed after having ran the test. I started on revolvers, wouldn't touch an auto for a while, and thought I'd run the test with a revolver for fun...but now I'm afraid of what I might see.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Barry; Lot of good thinking in that post!

Steve - absolutely! The target is just something to shoot at, the group and time is what counts.

Way to go!

Jim
 

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Barry, Jim, and all,

Great post, Barry! Looks like you did well. Back when I was instructing and getting practice timers were incredibly valuable tools. Especially, for me and my staff to train to, and hold, a standard.
Student's were suprised at how long it took to draw and fire. To drive the point home we did a demo of the Tueller manuever. LOTS of open eyes after that.
If you really want to open some eyes have your students time themselves, from the seated position, exit the vehicle, draw, and get a shot off. Almost enough time for coffee and a donut... ;)
Perhaps, it's a good time to remember that you are driving a 3,000 pound weapon and/or can drive away if possible.
Will have to run the basic test and report back when my timer gets here.

Wes
 
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