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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A Changing of the Guard in the 9mm Stable


Good guns are easy to find, but great ones are truly special.  In today’s market, it’s hard to find a handgun from a major manufacturer that doesn’t function as it should with a reasonable degree of accuracy and reliability.  For $500, there are dozens of modern designs that will do everything 99% of the population would need from a pistol.  And, the differences often come down to the splitting of hairs related to minor details.  Personally, I’ve bought and sold a number of perfectly good service pistols in the search of something special.  In my quest for remarkable accuracy, I bought (and later sold, and regretted doing so) an STI Spartan in 9mm that was by far the most accurate 9mm I had owned up to that time.  Since then, my Beretta 92fs has held that title and continues to be my “go to” range gun for making small groups from a “9”.  However, today, I believe another pistol has come along that will claim that distinction.

Rewind about 3 – 4 weeks ago when I decided to “thin the herd.” Since then, I’ve sold a Sig P226, Sig SP2022 (and have a little seller’s remourse already on that one), a Springfield Armory Loaded Target in 9mm, and an old (but perfect condition) Tanfoglio TZ-75.  These transactions left me with some cash to get into something nice.  I knew I wanted another 9mm, but not a standard service pistol; I was looking for something supremely accurate and high qualty.  Being a 1911 guy, this immediately led me to looking at “nicer” 9mm 1911s.  Les Baers were more than I wanted to spend.  The Sig target 1911 in 9mm intrigued me, but having owned a Sig 1911 in the past I knew they were nice but not up to the level of quality I was seeking.  I thought about a Springfield Range Officer, but then realized I’d basically not be any different than I was with the Loaded.  Even the Kimber Team Match II crossed my mind, but $1,600 seemed like a lot for a Kimber (sorry Kimber fans).  STI and Dan Wesson seemed like the most logical choices as “mid tier” 1911s that exhibit quality and fit without getting into the 2k range.  After a lot of online shopping and cruising posts on the 1911 forum, I decided the Dan Wesson Pointman 9 was my logical choice.  $1,399 seemed about the going price for a new on Gunbroker, and when I saw a 2015 manufactured Pointman in like-new condition for $1,199 with no bids I bit.  One hour later, it was mine; couple weeks later it was in my hands.  Immediately I changed out the factory trigger to my standard Greider short solid unit (I make this modification on all my 1911s) and swapped the grips to prepare for her maiden voyage to the range.

Today was a beautiful day in north Texas, and my son and I hit the local range and were surprisingly some of the only people there.  Accompanying us were my Dan Wesson Pointman 9 and Beretta 92fs.  I’ll break this down now quickly:  I love my Beretta, but this Dan Wesson is now already one of my all time favorite pistols.  It exhibits an extremely high quality of parts, fit, and finish.  The trigger breaks crisply at 3.5 lbs with no hint of creep or grip.  The slide glides on the frame like it’s on ball bearings with no movement besides a perfectly clean back and forth motion.  The barrel hood and muzzle are locked in like a Ft. Knox bank vault, and overall the pistol shows a high degree of attentioin to detail.  Having had all the guts out of the frame to fit the Greider trigger, I can tell you the interals are very high quality and the sear is the nicest I have seen.  I do have another Dan Wesson, the .45 Specialist, and it is very similar in terms of fit and finish.  These Dan Wessons are fit even nicer than my S&W Performance Center 1911.  I’ve heard the Dan Wessons compared favorabley with high end 1911s, and I can understand why.  For $1,500 I seriously do not think you can find a higher quality 1911.  Reps from Dan Wesson are also active on the 1911 Forum and routinely step in to help customers, which says something about their attention to shooters.  


Anyway, here’s the results of my first outing with the Dan Wesson as compared to what I did with the Beretta.  The Beretta is no slouch and I believe it can almost keep up with the DW, but not quite.  The trigger and fit on the DW is just that much nicer that it will likely outshoot the Beretta in apples to apples comparisons over the long run.  

Here’s shooting from 7 yards, Weaver stance, 5 shots per target.  The Beretta is on the left, the DW on the right.  Yes, the upper right target has five shots.  


Moving back to 50 ft the Beretta flexed its muscles and turned in a nice 7 shot group.  The DW did well too, but shot a larger group.  However, I pulled the two bottom shots and knew it when it happened so that’s reflective of me, not the pistol.  


My workplace is having a virtual pistol competition this fall, and here’s some targets I shot for that today.  It’s three groups of 10 shots on each, one from 7 yards, one from 10 yards, and one from 15 yards.  Check out the 10 yard target especially, it shows what the DW can do in even my hands.



Well folks, there you have it.  the Dan Wesson Pointman 9 is a pistol that I see getting a LOT of range time in the future and one that I think is a great example of a high quality 1911 that won’t require a 2nd mortgage to purchase.  I’m really enamored with these Dan Wesson 1911s now, and may even pick up a Valor at some point just because they are such nice pistols and I have to believe they will only continue to increase in price.  If you are in the market for “one” 1911 to own that you’ll never feel like you compromised in buying (and don’t want to spend $2,000+), take a look at a Dan Wesson… you will likely be pleasantly surprised.  

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Thinning the Herd


So, here we are in the back half of 2016.  I’ve been to my new favorite range a few times in the past couple months, and it seems the same handguns always make the cut while other perfectly servicable ones sit idly in the safe wishing for their day in the sun.  My Beretta 92fs, Walther PPQ, S&W PC1911, and a few others continue to be my “go to” pistols when it comes to punching holes in paper.  

A month ago I attended license to carry training in Texas.  Part of that included timed qualfication on the range. My Beretta 92fs accompanied me on that trip and, while I scored perfectly well during the training, I realized the manual of arms with the Beretta may not be ideal in even a little bit of a stressful situation.  Specifically, I found myself inadvertantly dropping the safety and lowering the hammer when racking the slide.  While not a big deal at the range, this in a life or death situation could be catastrophic.  It also opened my eyes to the fact that I really need to focus on two types of handguns:  defensive pistols and range toys, with not much in between.  I’m not saying you can’t enjoy a defensive pistol at the range, but having a bunch of handguns in my safe that aren’t my “go to” pistols for either purpose just doesn’t make sense.  

As a result of the points above, I’m now thinning the herd when it comes to handguns.  Five have been put up for sale as of yesterday, and two are already gone including the Sig P226 shown above.  Please don’t misunderstand, as I realize the P226 is a perfectly suitable defensive pistol used by police and military across the globe.  But, it never makes the cut for me as my primary home defense pistol and its performance at the range has always been been decidedly average in my hands at best.  

A few more pistols are for sale, and I may sell even more.  With that, I intend to buy at least one more very nice dedicated range gun (possibly a Dan Wesson Pointman 9) and maybe evaluate another defensive pistol purchase (S&W M&P or HK VP9 are peaking my interest).  What will happen in the end is unclear, but at least some safe queens from my collection are going to other places where they may get the attention they rightfully deserve.

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S&W PC1911… Still King of the Hill

  

When it comes to handguns, I’m always looking for something better.  And by better, I mean more accurate.  Sure, there are many different ways to measure firearm value.  Concealability, capacity, ease of use, reliability, and other criteria come to mind, and I have pistols that perform each of those functions superbly.  My primary obsession though is small groups.  I think this comes from growing up shooting varmint rifles and always looking for the right load that could shrink three shots below 1/2 MOA.  Maybe it’s because, by nature, I’ve always gravitated toward what I consider precision-focused past times (shooting, golf, billiards).  Or, it could be because I have several firearms that do the same thing without much distinction from one another and accuracy is a key differentiator.  Whatever the reason, it is what it is.  

Nearly three years ago, I began my search for a highly accurate 1911 that wouldn’t require me to send my kids to a coal mine for extra income.  I looked at Les Baer, Springfield’s TRP, Dan Wesson, and a host of other handguns.  Then, a fairly newer model from the Smith & Wesson Performance Center peaked my interest.  A couple articles and some positive range reports sealed my decision, and shortly thereafter I was the proud owner of a full-size PC1911.  I immediately knew a few things handed to change.  For one, the ambidextrous thumb safety was mushy and didn’t inspire confidence by “clicking” into place.  And, being a righty, I view the starboard side lever as an unnecessary protrusion.  The grips, while handsome, were also way too thick for my liking.  Similar to all 1911s I own, the trigger was begging to be replaced by a Greider short solid unit.  A short while later an Ed Brown single side safety, a new trigger, and a set of Custom Outfitters G10 grips (which feel wonderful in hand, by the way) were new additions to my PC1911.  This pistol immediately impressed me by being one of the only 1911s I’ve owned that didn’t require me to tinker with the pull weight.  As well, it proceeded to outshoot all my other handguns.  A SIG Nitron Rail 1911 that has since come and gone from my collection came close but couldn’t keep up in the end.  My Kimber Custom Target was woefully outclassed.  And, even my new slick as glass Dan Wesson Specialist isn’t quite yet doing what the S&W does in my hands.  An EAA Witness Elite Match, while not a 1911, recently joined my stable and may show some promise.  The Kimber was recently upgraded with a tight fitting EGW bushing which, after the first range trip, seems to have had an immediate impact on shrinking groups.  But, the good ole’ PC1911 continues to be my “go to” when I want to see what I can really do.  The picture in this post is from last weekend and represents a 5 shot group from offhand at 50 ft using cheap Wal-Mart Perfecta ball ammo.  While I know many of you can do better than this, 1″ at this distance for me is a pretty good showing.  

Maybe I’ll find something someday that unseats this pistol in terms of accuracy, but my “don’t wanna go over $1,500” rule for a handgun may limit that pursuit.  Which, at this point, is just fine.  I think I’m done trying to find something that can top my PC1911 as King of the Hill for awhile and will enjoy it for what it is: the best in my stable.  

Note:  the stock magwell funnel was replaced recently with an Ed Brown unit.

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Dan Wesson Specialist vs. S&W PC 1911

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Today was a beautiful day in the greater Dallas area. Temps are coming down to the 70’s, and my oldest son and I decided to hit the local range.  He took his Savage Rascal .22, which by the way is a great first rifle (I’ll write a review on it later).  I decided to let the new kid to my collection, the Dan Wesson Specialist, stretch it’s legs against the current heavyweight champion of my stable:  the S&W PC1911.

I won’t go through the details of each pistol, as I have already discussed both in previous posts. However, I will provide a summary: the S&W won the day. But, keep in mind the Dan Wesson is new to me and I’m still getting used to its feel. Also, the DW’S trigger breaks around 4.25 lbs whereas the S&W came with a factory break that has lightened up to 2.5 lbs. That doesn’t sound like much difference, but when punching paper it’s kind of a big deal. See the targets below; I shot one group with my own SWC hand loads through each pistol, went through one group’s worth of some inexpensive stuff I found at Wal-Mart, and then hit the handloads again. Finally, just to see what would happen, I ran eight through the Specialist off the bench.

Bottom line, the Specialist shows potential but I intend to lighten the pull weight slightly and see what happens. The same change in my old Sig 1911 (that I have since sold) made it come alive and run with my S&W.  

In other news, the DW only failed to feed on the 2nd shot; every other round chambered, fired, and ejected as it should.  This includes both factory ball ammo and my SWC “light” handloads.  

Here’s the targets, side by side.  S&W PC1911 is on the left, DW Specialist is on the right:
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Note: I have no idea what happened to me on this group with the DW.  I just fell apart for some reason, as even cheap “Perfecta” brand ammo shouldn’t shoot this poorly.
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Here’s eight rounds off the bench at 50 ft.  While the entire gruop isn’t impressive in total size, seven of the shots were in a 1.25″ space.  That shows me the gun can run, I just need to get comfortable with it.
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The range was having a competition to coincide with the timing of the Texas State Fair.  For $5, you could purchase a target and fire 10 shots from 7 yards.  If all shots were in the X ring, you got one box of ammo half off.  If you got them all in the 9 and 10 ring, you got a free range pass.  Needless to say, the PC1911 and I got a box of ammo at half off. 
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I decided to take my Glock 22 along as well and just put 10 shots downrage from 50 ft, just for the heck of it.  Of course, the Glock isn’t a target gun and isn’t even one of my favorites.  But, it never gets any love so I figured I’d take it out today.

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Here’s a pic of my big guy shooting his Rascal at the range today. All in all, a great outing!

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