Springfield XD Mod.2 Tactical and Dan Wesson Pointman 9 Range Time


Do you really get what you pay for with firearms?  In many respects, yes, that old saying holds true.  My Dan Wesson PM-9 is a prime example.  It’s a well fitted, tack driving machine that can put shots anywhere a skilled shooter wants.  However, in some cases, I think you might get more than what you paid for as evidenced by the Springfield Armory XD Mod.2 Tactical. 

My Mod.2 doesn’t have the same precision feel as the PM-9, nor does it have the same great single action trigger. What it does have, after installing a Powder River Precision sear, is a smooth constant pull that helps me shoot well.  To cut right to the chase, the target below was shot at 7 yards, 10 shots through the Dan Wesson (on the left) and 10 shots through the XD (on the right).  

Now, before we jump to conclusions, the two shots not with the larger group on the Wesson were pulled by yours truly and I fully own that.  However, look at each pistol’s group.  Both, minus the two flyers that were shooter error, are pretty even.  However, 7 yards is not exactly a distance that separates good handguns from great ones and my intent was not to produce “evidence” that the Springfield is the equal to the PM-9 as a precision shooter.  What this does tell me is the Springfield, in my hands, deserves some more range time to see how it can really shine at all distances.  

Below is a 10 shot target from the Springfield at 50 ft, offhand.

Again, not definitive proof that one pistols is as good as the other, but rather proof that the Springfield is capable of some good results and I’ll be taking it to the range a little more than in the past.

My XD-40 has always been a heck of a shooter, and this XD Mod.2 Tactical seems to be living up to its big brother’s legacy.  

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Pocket Rocket Roundup


Concealed carry is an ever growing trend in the firearms community.  Many years ago, there wasn’t much emphasis on this, possibly due to many states not allowing it as they do today.  Regardless of the reason, the majority of states do allow some form of concealed carry at this time, and I happen to live in one of those locations.

A few years back I purchased a Beretta Nano.  I’ve not carried it much, and in all honestly haven’t even put that many rounds through it.  It’s a nice little pistol and feels well made and solid, but I recently felt like trying something different.   Enter the Kahr CM9.  

Kahr specializes in handguns for carry, and is well knowing for a trigger system that is something like a smooth DA revolver.  The trigger pull is long but constant, and is lauded by many for its combination of safety and controllability.  I’ve always wanted to try the CM9 and finally had an opportunity to purchase one, NIB, from CDNN for $299.  Let’s compare it to the Beretta.


First, both pistols are fairly lightweight.  They are both polymer framed with metal slides, although the Kahr is clearly the winner here at 16.8 oz compared to the Beretta’s 19.87 oz (both are weighed with an unloaded 6 rd. magazine).  As you can see, one big difference is the Kahr has a slide stop and the Beretta does not.  This is intentional on Beretta’s part, as they wanted a pistol that had nothing to snag on holsters or clothing.  Some like this feature, some do not.  Either way, it’s personal preference.  I personally prefer a slide stop for the ability to lock back the slide with a loaded mag.


Next, they both have “long and strong” trigger pulls.  Meaning, they are purposely designed to have a long trigger pull that is not light in nature, with the intent of ensuring any pull of the trigger is purposeful.  With a concealed carry pistol you want a trigger that isn’t too light or too short.  This isn’t a range gun, it’s a defensive weapon intended for situations when your adrenaline is pumping in a fight or flight scenario.  The Beretta’s trigger is heavy at over 8 lbs, whereas the Kahr’s is a lighter 5.5 lbs.  While both are long pulls, the Kahr’s is more constant throught the length while the Beretta exhibits a slight bit of stacking toward the end.  The Beretta uses a trigger mounted safety lever, much like a Glock, while the Kahr has a smooth and wide metal trigger.  The Kahr’s feels better in my hands.


Here you can see the Kahr is definitely a shorter pistol, even though both are loaded with a 6 rd mag.  While it may not look like much, the difference in hand is noticeable with the Beretta feeling taller.  Some might like this, some might not.  I like how the Kahr sits lower.

Finally, for a subjective quality of build observations, I will say the Beretta feels like a better built pistol.  The polymer feels more stout, the slide is smoother on the rails, and overall it feels like the better executed of the two.  Even the mag follower on the Beretta is metal whereas it is plastic on the Kahr.  While I like the quality of the Beretta, the little Kahr feels more “right” to me in terms of size, shape, and in-hand feel.  

I have not yet taken the Kahr to the range, I intend to this weekend and wil post a report afterward.  Both are known as fine pistols and would serve the needs of most for a concealed carry 9mm.

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S&W PC1911 and Les Baer Premier II Hit the Range


There are not many quality items that come at a discount price, which especially rings true when looking at 1911s.  Sure, you can pick up a shooter for around $500, but to get into a consistently high level of quality and fitting you have to spend some bucks.  With a market full of mid and upper-tier models, the choices can be dizzying.  While I will not pretend to know what is best for anyone else, I can share some insight from my last outing to the range where my S&W PC1911 and Les Baer Premier II both made the trip.

I’ve owned the PC1911 for a few years now, and it was my first foray into a higher dollar 1911.  While true conissouers will scoff at my $1,300 handgun as “high dollar” compared to the true customs on the market, with that amount of money I expect to get quality in return.  The S&W Performance Center is essentially a small custom shop within S&W and has a history of producing quality products out of standard designs.  In recent years some have criticized the Performance Center for being little more than a marketing badge on otherwise production line firearms.  While I will admit that some recent models seem to mainly add features without the fitting that is expected from custom shop models, I do believe the 1911s still receive a higher level of fit and finish.  I actually found videos online that showed how the current PC1911s are hand fitted, and it was impressive to see.  

The Les Baer is a newer acquisition for me, having arrived in my stable earlier this year and only on its second or thrid outing to the range at this point.  This specific handgun was manufactured in 1997, but had spent its life as a “safe queen” and was in like-new condition when I took it off someone else’s hands a couple months back.  It’s very tight, as is Les Baer’s trademark, and the entire pistol oozes quality.  

In taking both of these out, my intent is not to prove one better than the other.  They have their own merits and are both examples of great handguns.  Rather, my intent is to provide a glimpse as to how each performs downrange in my hands at the current point in time.  For example, in the past I’ve shot my PC1911 against offerings from other companies and found the PC1911, in my hands, easier to shoot and consistent enough to produce impressive results downrange.  With that said, I’ll post two pictures, below:  one shows a group of targets from 10 yards, and the next shows a group from 15 yards.  Both were free-standing , five shots on each target.  The top and bottom targets on the left were both with the PC1911 (in both pics).  The targets on the right were produced by the Les Baer in each picture.



As you can see, during yesterday’s range trip, the PC1911 produced consistently smaller groups at both distances.  However, when you look at shot distribution there are more similarities between the two pistols than differences.  I attribute the better numerical results from the S&W to a lighter, smoother trigger.  The Baer isn’t bad, but the Baer’s trigger breaks closer to 4 lbs. whereas the S&W’s breaks around 2 lbs. 

What’s the morale of the story, at least for this one non-scientific trip to the range?  Both are outstanding pistols, and the S&W can seem to hold its own with the Baer in my amateur hands.  Put them in a Ransom Rest and the results could be different, but life is not lived in the rest.  At least initially, I’m pleased to see the Performance Center offering holding its own and believe the Baer will only continue to improve with time.

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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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