Where, Oh Where Did My Spotting Scope Go?


Two years ago we made a cross-country move and had professional movers do all the heavy lifting (pun intended).  While the job they did was outstanding, we believe we lost something along the way.  Not in a metaphysical sense, but really… we lost something.  My wife had a small statue in our old house, and I had a couple spotting scopes as well.  Unfortunately, neither of these has surfaced and we’ve been through every box (twice).  As these were in the same general area in our old house, and having been through the gyrations of cross-country moves a couple times before, we can only guess a box was lost in the moving process.  While its contents is known to only God and the moving company, we are fairly certain at least one statue and a couple spotting scopes were part of the package.  The last time I went to sight in a rifle off the bench without my spotting scope was a painful process, so vowing not to repeat this I started shopping for a replacement optic.

Fortunately for me, my missing scopes were not high end.  One was a smaller, old Bushnell around 30 years old that had seen better days, and another was a low end Barska unit I had impulse purchased for $28 during the holiday season a few years back. Bound and determined to find a suitable replacement, I began a Google search of “best spotting scopes under $100.”  What came back were pages upon pages that basically told me to expect something akin to a paper towel tube for that price.  I quickly found that it’s very, very easy to spend a few hundred dollars on a quality scope, and really good ones can cost as much as a mortgage payment or two.  After finding myself getting sucked into the research, I backed up a bit and re-centered on the thought that I don’t need to pick out enemy insurgents a mile out with this thing.  I need to see little holes in stationary pieces of paper 100 yards away.  This narrowed my search quite a bit, and to spare you with the details I bought three units to test (all were 20-60×60 units under $100):  a Simmons Prosport from Cabela’s ($59 on sale, normally $119), a Simmons Blazer ($59 at Wal-Mart), and a Celestron Upclose ($79 on Walmart.com).  

Testing included setting these theee little gems up in my back yard, each taking a turn on a Slik brand tripod used for photography.  The Slik tripod is a very stout unit and a good base for seeing what these budget scopes could really do.  Why the back yard?  Because I have a high fence on all sides and it would limit the chance nieghbors and casual passer-bys in my little neck of suburbia might mistake me for some creeper or peeping Tom.  I found a few stacks and vents on roofs ranging from around 100 – 300 yards out and focused on them at 20, 40, and 60x magnification with each unit.  The Simmons Prosport from Cabelas was the nicest scope, exhibiting the best build quality and clearest picture.  I liked everything about it except one thing:  it has a straight view eyepiece.  Meaning, it’s basically straight like a rifle scope.  While this may not seem like a detracting element, it is for me as I’ll be using this off the bench most times and the straight view is not nearly as comfortable to use as an angled eyepiece. On an angled spotting scope, the eyepiece is normally 45 degrees upright, which makes viewing off a bench much, much more comfortable.  Anyway, as much as I liked the Prosport I remembered how uncomfortble my old Bushnell was and vowed not to repeat that.  On to the Simmons Blazer.  It isn’t quite as nice as the Prosport, and the optics on it cranked up to 60x aren’t quite as clear.  However, I had to switch back and forth between the two multiple times to really see the difference, so obviously it wasn’t so dramatic as to likely impact my needs.  The angled eyepiece is much more comfortable, and the scope seems pretty decent for the $59 price tag.  Finally, the Celestron was a big disappointment.  I had hoped that, even with a low end optic, this well-known manufacturer of telescopes and amateur astronomy equipment would deliver a diamond in the rough, but this scope was clearly not constructed as well as the others and the optics through it were not as clear as either Simmons.  

In the end, I kept the Simmons Blazer.  Between the three of those, it was the best mix of features and performance for what I need. And, while not nearly as clear as the Zeiss and Swarovski models the Cabelas staff showed me while I was shopping, the Simmons won’t cost me as much as a tropical vacation and will still show bullet holes at the 100 yard mark clear enough for my needs.

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Which Pistol Should I Buy?

 

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The internet is a wonderful thing.  As a real time, virtual resource it connects us with mountains of information and opinions from across the globe.  Internet forums are a wonderful part of the online community as well, as they allow people with similar interests, challenges, and beliefs to come together for like-minded discussion.  Firearms forums are a great benefit to the shooting community, as shooting can sometimes feel a little isolated and controversial.  Being able to come together to share our mutual enjoyment of the shooting sports virtually has done much to further the safe and responsible use of firearms.

For the most part, I tend to frequent forums geared toward pistols and pistol shooting.  I tend to stay out of political discussions, and enjoy forums that require the pleasant exchange of information and actively moderate poor and inflammatory behavior.  Some of the forums I am active in appeal primarily to more experienced shooters interested in specific firearms, while others are more general in nature and deal with “semi autos” or “revolvers”.  In those forums, a lot of discussion is spent debating the merits of specific brands and models.  I’ve also found that many times there are new shooters looking for guidance and insight into what their first purchase should be.  While I do not claim to be an expert by any means, I will share some of my thoughts around how to best approach this topic.

  1.  Have a specific “type” in mind.  What I mean by this isn’t to know what model of firearm you are interested in necessarily, as it’s nice to hear suggestions from others.  Rather, have an idea of what type of firearm you might be interested in.  For example, with semi auto handguns there are a lot of variations in design.  There are striker fired polymer pistols, steel framed single actions, alloy framed double/single actions, etc.  If you can narrow down your thoughts to action type, that will help others in providing suggestions based on their experience.  Or, even if you don’t know and are really starting from square one, that’s fine.  But, have an idea of what you might use the pistol for (e.g., range target shooting, concealed carry, home defense, etc.).  The analogy I’ll make is this:  if you walked on to a car dealer’s lot and said, “What’s the best car for me?”, it’s going to be hard for them to figure that out.  Asking “What handgun should I buy” poses the same challenge.  Again, be able to help others understand what you’re looking for, to the best of your ability, and how you’ll use it and you’ll get better responses.
  2. Realize that much less variation exists than gun writers would like you to believe.  Every gun magazine would have you believe that “Brand A’s” newest pistol is a must have “game changer.”  While great designs come on the market, the truth is very few are revolutionary and only a handful more offer anything really different than what’s already out there.  For example, many, many models of polymer striker fired pistols do pretty much the same thing.  Yes, I’m talking about the Glock, XD, M&P, PPQ, XDM, VP, FNS, P32o, American, etc. offerings that take up the majority of real estate at the local gun counter.  Most of these pistols do pretty much the same thing in the same manner with the same degree of mechanical accuracy and reliability.  Yes, for all of you critics I know variations in the manner in which the trigger system works and the safety systems are actuated abound, but let’s face it:  to the average shooter they all work about the same.  Now, that’s not to say opinions on which is “best” don’t abound and I have personal preferences of my own, but those are PREFERENCES… not facts.  What’s best for each shooter will depend, although there are certainly some designs that seem to work more effectively for a larger number of people than others.  The morale of the story is this:  when it comes to service grade pistols that operate in the same general manner, if you’re buying from one of the big companies chances are you’ll get as good of a pistol as any other.  The way it performs comes down to how you interact with the individual pistol, which is very much a matter of individual traits and preferences.
  3. Just because everyone uses it doesn’t mean it’s the best for you.  Market share in any industry occurs for a number of reasons, quality and ingenuity being sometimes less of a factor than it should be overall.  Don’t get sucked into thinking you have to own a specific brand or model just because you think everyone else does so it must be good.  What that said, do stick with models from manufacturers with solid histories and good reputations.  As well, sticking with models that have some track record of use and success is a good idea as well.  No reason for you to be someone’s guinea pig.
  4. Similar to above, just because you heard Seal Team Six, LAPD SWAT, or even the US Army uses something doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for you.  Many, many factors go into determining what gear a specific government group uses.  Often, it’s price… meaning what’s cheapest in the long run and accomplishes the basic requirements wins.  Even with that aside, supply logistics, contract terms, logistics of working with other organizations, and even “back room deals” sometimes drive choices.  For most organizations, a handgun is like any other piece of equipment in that its selection isn’t just due to whether it’s the most accurate or has the best trigger pull.  Buy for what’s best for you, not what’s best for someone else’s needs (which are likely not the same as yours).
  5. Try before you buy.  If you can, go rent examples of what you might be interested in and shoot those first.  “In hand” experience will tell you more in very little time than hours of internet research.  I’m not saying to not research online, as it’s a wealth of information and I do that myself on many occasions.  But, just like when buying a car, all the research in the world won’t make something right if it just doesn’t feel good in the driver’s seat.
  6. Beware of “experts.”  There are extremely well informed, knowledgeable, and helpful experts on many of the gun forums.  There are also a large number of casual shooters who can offer great ideas and perspectives.  Unfortunately, there are also many, many “internet commandos” who haven’t shot nearly as much as they’d lead you to believe.  There’s no way to determine who is the “real deal” online vs who is really just a 12 year old with a subscription to Guns & Ammo.  Also, while the number of posts someone has made shows whether they are active on the forum it does NOT represent or correlate in any way, shape, or form to real world experience.  All it means is they are online a lot.  Maybe they do shoot a lot as well, but don’t make the mistake of associating volume of online activity with experience.  I encourage you to look more at overall trends in feedback and the tone in which some posters communicate.  You can learn a lot from there, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have many of my questions answered by verified experts in their field and people who work directly for respected manufacturers.
  7. Resist the urge to immediately modify your weapon.  Don’t get caught up in the “more gear is better” mentality.  Especially if you are new to shooting, spend a good deal of time shooting your firearm before you start making any changes.  And, for goodness sake, do NOT change anything related to the function of the weapon unless you REALLY know what you are doing and are aware of both the potential mechanical and legal ramifications.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you have no business changing the trigger pull, safety components, or anything else that might modify how the firearm functions.  I’m not talking about grips and sights here, but regardless spend time with your firearm before you starting thinking you need to change it.  Note:  you’ll see on my posts that I make some changes to my pistols, but it’s based on personal experience and knowledge of how I intend to use the pistol.  My handguns that might be used in a defensive situation are NOT modified in their function at all from the factory.

Well, there it is.  Not a definitive guide, but just a few random thoughts I wanted to share to maybe help someone new to shooting think through ways to best use the online firearms community when evaluating purchases.  Take it with a grain of salt, as I’m just one person with an opinion.  And, in the end, for all you know I could be a 9 year old with a laptop (or, maybe I’m a middle aged guy with around 30 years experience with firearms… you decide).

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Two 1911s at the Range: Les Baer Premier II and Dan Wesson Specialist

1911s are a curious thing.  As a design over 100 years old, they should be obsolete relics fit only for museum cases and antique shops.  Think of most machines or advanced technologies from this timeframe… many are no longer in use.  However, in the case of the 1911, one could easily argue they are more popular, in wider civilian use, and more prevalent in terms of manufacturers than any other time since their creation.  The 1911 was the longest standing issue sidearm in American military history, spanning a timeframe over 70 years that saw two World Wars, wars in Korea and Vietnam, and several other smaller but equally notable military actions.  Some could even argue the fact that since they are still in use with some units this timeframe continues to run.  While correct, the 1911 ceased being the standard issue sidearm in the 1980’s when the Beretta 92 was adopted.

I enjoy 1911s for many reasons covered in a post a couple years ago, but in summary their balance, grip, trigger, and ability for customization and accuracy make them my favorite design.  I’ve owned a number of these pistols over the years, and have found that in the 1911 world you get, in most cases, what you pay for.  I do not make that comment to disparage less expensive variations of this design, but there is fact in stating a buyer can definitely purchase “more gun” and higher quality as they move up the price scale (to a certain point where, in my opinion, the law of decreasing returns comes into play).  Anyway, I had a chance to take out two of my 1911s this past weekend, both of which are great examples of “middle/upper tier” handguns.

First off, the Dan Wesson Specialist is a pistol I’ve owned for less than a couple years.  It’s a great handgun, and Dan Wesson makes some of the best 1911s you can buy short of going to a full custom manufacturer.  Their is a group Dan Wesson owners online that refer to themselves as being part of the “Church of the Enlightened Pistolero”, and for good reason.  Dan Wessons are manufactured and fit to very tight tolerances, and their parts are made from genuine tool steel for durability and longevity.  QC on these is exceptional, and the folks at Dan Wesson have a reputation in the 1911 community for providing great service.  Some of their employees are regularly active on the 1911 forums online, answering questions and responding to customer inquiries for all to see.  This specific Dan Wesson of mine is factory stock with the exception of grips and a Greider short/solid trigger.

Second up is my latest 1911, a Les Baer Premier II.  I’ve thought about a Baer for a number of years, but never purchased one for many reasons (price being one).  I sold a few pistols this year though, specifically to fund this purchase.  Les Baer builds his pistols with a small staff out of his operation in the Quad Cities area of Iowa, and is known for making incredibly tight pistols that deliver amazing accuracy downrange.  In fact, many people have problems racking a Les Baer slide due to how tight the barrel is fit to the slide and the slide stop pin.  Bushings on Les Baers tend to require a bushing wrench as well.  Anyway, in my search for a Baer I found someone who lives within 45 minutes of me selling this one.  He purchased it as part of a “lot” of firearms from an auction house and had no use for it, and was selling it without putting a round through it himself.  The previous owner was a company President who had likely hundreds if not a thousand firearms in his collection.  The gentleman passed away and his family contracted with an auction house to dispose of the firearms.  From the looks of it, that individual had never fired this pistol either.  After a call to Les Baer’s office, I found out his specific handgun was made in 1997.  So, it had basically been sitting in gun safes for the past 20 years, waiting for someone to put it to use.  On a side note, I did make a couple small changes to this pistol prior to taking it to the range.  This included fitting a Greider short/solid trigger and replacing the factory main spring housing with an Ed Brown checkered magwell unit.  Before critics deride me for messing with perfection, I fit Greider short triggers to every 1911 I own and the Ed Brown magwell is a very high quality part.  Of course, I kept the factory parts so the gun can be restored to its original configuration very easily.

Once I got to the range, I was able to run a mix of Winchester White Box 230gr FMJ and some 200gr semi-wadcutter handloads through both pistols.  The Les Baer never failed to load or feed either.  The Dan Wesson performed well, although it did hiccup a couple of times on the semi-wadcutters.  Not all 1911s feed this bullet shape well, and the fact that it jammed a couple times on these shouldn’t be interpreted as a deficiency in the Specialist.  In terms of downrange performance, the targets below show what I did with both of these from 10 yards and 50 feet (all shooting was conducted freestanding without any support).  I’m not the best shot in the world, but get along okay and both pistols demonstrated very similar results when measuring group size.  However, in subjectively looking at shot dispersion, the Les Baer seems to cluster shots better than the Specialist.  While not a scientific conclusion, I believe the Baer is a more inherently accurate pistol and the group size has more to do with my abilities as a shooter than the mechanical capability of the handgun.  But, keep in mind the Specialist is a fine weapon as well and is capable of much better performance than the average person, myself included, can deliver.  Anyway, here’s the targets.  In the images showing two targets, the Les Baer is on the left and the Dan Wesson is on the right; the final target is just 10 shots from 50 feet with the Les Baer.

Both pistols, from 10 yards.20170212_202557_zps9pkquge8_edit_1486955671735_zpsgu3ie04d

Again, both from 10 yards.

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Both pistols, from 50 feet.

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Just the Les Baer from 50 feet.

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I’m extremely happy with both of these pistols, and either one would make a fine choice for virtually anyone.  Both are top quality in terms of fitting and parts.  Subjectively, the Les Baer feels “tighter” when shooting.  It’s a hard thing to quantify but it speaks to the level of fitting with the Baer.  But, again, don’t think for one second that the Dan Wesson isn’t a top quality 1911 because it is for a fact.

There you have it. Two 1911s, both great pistols in their own right and both equally capable of providing a life long of shooting enjoyment.

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SP2022 and FNP-9 Range Day

 

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The weather last weekend in Texas was great, and it provided the perfect opportunity to get a couple new toys out to the range.  “New” is a subjective term, as although the Sig SP2022 is in new condition the FNP-9 was purchased used (but in excellent condition).

Anyway, to get right to the chase, both firearms functioned perfectly as expected with a quality service grade pistol.  In terms of characteristics, though, I was surprised at the difference between the two.  The FNP felt somewhat snappy in my hand.  Not in an unexpected manner, but what you would expect from a 4″ polymer framed 9mm.  I enjoyed shooting it a lot.  The Sig, however, had noticeably less felt recoil and the action even felt like it was moving slower than on the FNP.  Hard to describe, but there was a noticeable difference to the point where I didn’t think the Sig had fully cycled a few times and had to check to ensure it had ejected the old case and loaded a new cartridge (which it had).  I’ll say this, though… one thing that may have a big impact on this is the fact that I was not shooting the standard 4″ barrel that came with the pistol.  CDNN had a really great sale on factory SP2022 9mm threaded barrels ($89 each), so before even taking this to the range for the first time I had swapped out the barrels to configure the pistol as shown below.

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The extra weight and length of the threaded barrel may have contributed to different sensation of firing the SP2022, although I didn’t expect that going into the day.

In terms of down range performance, I haven’t shot either pistol much so we’ll see how each continues to deliver.  Results were fairly similar for both, and both the FN and the Sig deliver pretty standard accuracy for a service pistol.  See below for two groups of targets (FNP was used for the two targets on the right hand side of each sheet, Sig for the left targets).

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Again, pretty standard results from a service pistol and perfectly acceptable.  Either would make a fine multi-purpose handgun, although I will say the FNP feels a little more compact and I would probably choose that pistol over the Sig if I wanted to carry something that had a little more capacity over my Beretta Nano.

There you have it.  Two pistols of similar design and purpose at the range together, both demonstrating that in the end the biggest difference between either is not the tool itself but the person pulling the trigger.

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Three “Friends” Hit The Range


Today provided the opportunity for three friends of mine to leave the safe and hit the range.  My first friend has been with me since 2006, my Kimber Custom Target.  The other two are fairly new to me, my 😄 Mod.2 Tactical and my “yet to be shot by me” FNP-45.  While the main purpose of today’s trip was to see how the FNP-45 would perform on its initial voyage to the range, I had a lot of fun with the others as well.

First, the FNP-45.  This pistol handles nicely and I will say the lightweight polymer frame does translate into a little more felt recoil than with my 1911s, although it’s not objectionable.  I shot both factory Sellier & Bellot 230 gr FMJ and some of my own 200 gr SWC loads.  The S&B loads had a lot more “punch”, which resulted in the FNP felling a little more jumpy in my hands.  It ate all the S&B ammo without a hitch, although it hiccuped and jammed on about every other SWC load.  I’m 99.9% positive the main culprit was not enough “oomph” in my handloads.  I used 5.0 gr of Unique, and it doesn’t appear that was enough as almost all the malfunctions were stovepipe jams.  This, in itself, leads me to believe the SWC loads didn’t have enough power to fully cycle the slide and eject the spent brass.  Needless to say, I’ll be working these up a little hotter for the next outing.  Anyway, it was pretty distracting to clear a jams every shot or two so I don’t think my results today are indicative of what I could do with this as a whole.  In general, I like this pistol.  The SA pull is nice and crisp, although not nearly to 1911 standards.  But, not much else is and the FNP is a heck of a lot nicer than many DA/SA pistols on the market.  It also breaks right at 4 lbs, which is pretty light for a duty pistol.  I really like this handgun and am anxious to see what it can do as I become more familiar with its handling characteristics.  Here’s a few targets from today:

First off, from 7 yards.  Not anything I’d brag about by any means, but you can see four of the 5 shots are clustered pretty well.  Keep in mind this is with the SWCs, so I probably cleared 2 – 3 jams in the process of shooting this group.


Next, here’s a couple groups at 10 yards.  You can easily tell which were the SWC loads and which were the FMJ (if you can’t tell, SWC loads punch a nice clean hole in a target).  By the way, all of my shooting was conducted with a two-hand grip, standing unsupported.  



As previously stated, my Kimber came along for the ride as well.  It doesn’t get much range time these days, as its over-shadowed by my other 1911s that cost much more.  The Kimber will not deliver the accuracy of my S&W Performance Center 1911 or my Dan Wessons, but it also cost 1/2 as much.  However, it can turn in some decent groups as evidenced by this showing at 10 yards:


Finally, I’m still getting acquainted with my 😄 Mod-2 Tactical in 9mm.  I replaced the stock sear and trigger springs with Powder River Precision units, which took the pull down to around 4 lbs.  This 😄 is showing some signs of being able to run with my Beretta 92fs, and could even turn in some results pretty darn close to my Dan Wesson PM-9.  I will say, shooting accurately with this is not nearly as easy or consistent as with the DW PM-9, but keep in my the 😄 is a service pistol and the PM-9 is more of a target pistol.  And, I could buy around three XDs for the price of one Dan Wesson so even mentioning it in the same sentence is something.  The first target below is from 7 yards, and the second is from 10 yards.  The 7 yard target was almost a game-changer, as all five shots would have been placed neatly in one hole if not for the flier out to the left (I’m referring to the target on the left, of course).  The second target, at 10 yards, isn’t bad, but doing this with the 😄 takes alot more concentration than with the Dan Wesson.  



Well, there you have a it.  A synopsis of my day at the range.  In summary, the FNP-45 is a very nice pistol that I intend to take to the range more often.  The 😄 Tactical is borderline amazing, especially given its price.  The Kimber is a very nice, well made 1911 that will remain in my stable but will never be my “go to” for supreme accuracy.  

Happy and safe shooting!

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FN FNP-45:  First Impressions of a Budget Bruiser

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Sometimes providence strikes when you least expect.  Okay, maybe “providence” is going a little far, but it’s safe to say that unexpected treasures sometimes arise when we aren’t looking.  This may be the case with my newest find:  an FN FNP-45.

I recently found myself at Ray’s Hardware & Sporting Goods in Dallas cruising the aisles to window shop for a Ruger SR9.  I found them, looked at them, and felt somewhat underwhelmed.  On a second pass through the cases I spotted a used, excellent condition FNp-45.  While this was the last thing I had on my mind, the price tag of $399 screamed “too good to pass up.”  After walking around the store for a bit to think it over, I slapped the plastic down (referring to my credit card, not the pistol) and walked out with a big ole’ .45 ACP, complete with three 14-round magazines and the largest pistol case I could imagine (seriously, FN makes their cases for these comically large).

I own a number of .45 ACP handguns, and they are all 1911s.  This is my first foray into shooting the “flying ashtray” in something other than John Browning’s masterpiece.  I had contemplated an HK45 a couple months back when someone offered to trade me for a Sig P226, but I passed on the opportunity.  Now, I find myself with an equally imposting beast of polymer and steel.

First impressions:  as earlier implied, this gun is a beast.  It’s big. Maybe not for those accustomed to high cap .45s and larger pistols in general, but to this 9mm afficianodo this feels like a behemoth.  Although, in all fairness, from a weight perspective this 33 oz fighting machine is actually lighter than a full-size 1911 which weighs in close to 38 ozs.  But, from a size perspective it has a big, blocky slide and a big, squarish grip.  I do not have huge hands so grip size is always a big consideration for me.  I will, though, say that for this being a 14 round capacity .45 the grip doesn’t feel unmanageable and is actually kind of comfortable.  The checkering pattern is pretty aggressive, which is a complaint I’ve read from others.  I actually like aggressive checkering so it’s a nice touch in my book.  The DA trigger is fairly heavy at 10 lbs, but the SA trigger is where this seems to shine.  It measures just a hair over 4 lbs and breaks very crisply after some light take-up.  I’m actually very impressed at the SA trigger pull in dry fire; it’s light years ahead of most DA/SA pistols I’ve owned and seen.  In comparison to the CZ-75b, there is no comparison: the venerable CZ’s trigger feels like a gritty marshmallow.  My Beretta 92fs might break just as crisp, but it’s also over a full pound heavier.  And, the Sigs I’ve owned can’t compare with this either.  Additionally, I like the placement of the decocking lever.  Some people with weak constitutions may be uncomfortable with how this pistol decock the hammer at full speed (unlike a Sig which can be let down graduallly), but it’s perfectly safe and the pistol employs both a decock hammer notch and a firing pin block to ensure there is no chance of an accidental discharge when used correctly (note:  on my FNP the lever is a decocker only; on the USG version and on the FNX it is both a decocker and a manual safety that allows “cocked and locked” carry).  In addition to the trigger and decocker, I like the shape of the mag release as it provides greater surface area than a standard round button.  There’s also some “intangible” aspect of this pistol that appeals to me.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it just feels good in hand.


I’m anxious to get this to the range to see what it can do.  Unfortunately, FN pistols aren’t well known to many, but anyone who knows much about firearms will recognize the FN name as one of the oldest and most respected names in the business.  Did you know that FN makes around 80% of the small arms in use by the US military?  And, while being a little less popular with the civilian market reduces the level of aftermarket support from third party vendors and parts suppliers, I like the idea of owning something a little different that isn’t in everyone else’s holster.  I’ll post more on this pistol once it makes its first trip to the shooting stall.

FNP-45.  Huh, never would have seen that one coming.

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XD-9 Mod.2 Tactical:  The Humble Marksman?

Today’s market is flooded with striker-fired polymer pistols.  In fact, I just read a review of a new offering by CZ where the author claimed it to be a “problem solver” for the handgun market.  That comment left me perplexed, as I wondered “what problem is this new pistol solving?”  Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing CZ products or predicting they aren’t going to bring a wonderful pistol to the shooting public.  However, when thinking about what is unique about it, I’m left blank.  When Springfield announced their Mod.2 revision of the 😄 platform earlier this year, I had a similar reaction:  “Yawn… an 😄 with a recontoured slide and grip with some no-snag sights.”  That is, until I starting thinking further.

Years ago, I purchased a gently-used stainless XD-40 service model at a pawn shop.  I was looking for something in .40 as an alternative to a Glock 22, as the Glock ergos didn’t suit me (and still don’t, although I do have a G22 in my stable).  Surprisingly, the XD-40 was accurate.  Meaning, superbly accurate.  For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what made this rather pedestrian pistol so good.  The only thing I could come up with is the trigger pull.  It’s long, but smooth with no discernible “wall” before the break.  This “almost revolver DA style” feel may create such as smooth pull that it encourages good trigger control.  I liked the 😄 so much that I’ve held on to it, upgraded it with some nice night sights and a Streamlight TLR-1, and put it in my bedroom as my “oh my God I need a handgun at 2 am what the hell is that noise” pistol.  So, as I started thinking more about another handgun to replace some of the hammer fired DA/SA units I’ve sold recently, the Mod.2 hit my radar screen.  After about a month of reading reviews, dry-firing at local stores, and checking prices online, I stumbled into the local Cabelas to buy a pair of hiking boots.  Per our usual MO, my son and I breezed past the gun counter.  Hanging off an XD-9 Mod.2 Tactical (meaning it has the 5″ barrel) was a price tag of $479.  After chatting with the sales person and finding out the pistol had been mis-priced, I scooped it up on the spot.  Oh, and I didn’t buy the boots (in case you were wondering).

My first outing with the XD-9 Mod.2 was less than memorable.  The trigger on this one wasn’t quite as smooth and light as on my older XD-40, which may be somewhat attributable to not being broken in.  the pull was heavy enough that I felt some modifications were in order.  For a measly $12 or so, I was able to purchase a reduced pull Powder River sear and hammer spring and had them installed in about an hour.  This immediately brought the trigger from around 6 – 6.5 lbs down to around 4.5 lbs… a huge difference.  It now had a lighter and seemingly smoother pull.  

On 11/20, I was able to take the Mod.2 out again.  My main reason for shooting that day was to finish up some targets with my Dan Wesson PM-9 for a virtual competition I was in, but I wanted to see how the 😄 shot with the new springs as well.  I ran only 20 rounds through the XD, 10 at 7 yards and 10 at 15 yards.  Not focusing on this pistol, I shoved those targets back into the range bag and went back to the PM-9.  If you read my last post, you know the PM-9 is now my “reigning champion” of 9mm accuracy.  That pistol is so smooth, so tight, and so accurate that it’s practically a laser.  Well, tonight I decided to take a look at those XD-9 targets from a couple weeks ago.  Low and behold, here’s the results:

Now, keep in mind, this is not my best shooting.  But, remember that this is only two groups, 10 shots each, from 7 yards and 15 yards, with a pistol that is practically brand new to me.  The first group is 1.375″, the 2nd is 3.75″.  Again, not amazing by any means, but in the five 7 yard 10-shot groups I’ve shot with the Dan Wesson PM-9 I’ve averaged 1.775″ and only have one group that is better than the group from the 😄 above.  My 15 yard average with the Dan Wesson is 3.275″, which my 15 yard 😄 group would have bested by 1/8″ if not for the one flyer I had outside the black.  

What’s the conclusion here?  Well, the PM-9 is still, by far, my most accurate handgun.  But, the XD-9 Mod.2 Tactical is showing some glimpses of real promise.  Its initial outing with the new springs surprised me once I really sat down and looked at them objectively.  This new polymer pistol is going to see some more range time soon to work out more of its potential.  Regardless, I think it’s safe to say I’m initially pleased with the purchase and excited to see what more it will do!

Note:  I looked at, but did not opt for the XDM.  The XDM’s grip, to me, felt much bulkier and I preferred the ergos of the XD-9 Mod.2.

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