December 31st, 2016 by Sam Morstan

The Ruger 3-inch LCRx remains an excellent choice for a lightweight trail gun or for home defense.

STORY AND PHOTOS BY ROB REED

Recently, the Ruger LCRx with a 3-inch barrel transformed the popular lightweight revolver design from a snub-nose carry gun into a handy general-purpose revolver.

The Ruger LCRx in .38 Special.

The Ruger LCRx in .38 Special.

The innovative LCR design has been a hit with shooters since the original Ruger LCR .38 Special +P was released in 2009. That design was optimized for concealed carry with a five-round cylinder, 1.875-inch barrel and hammerless, double-action-only trigger. Since that time Ruger (ruger.com) has expanded the line by chambering the gun in new calibers and adding new features. The LCRx model added single-action capability by introducing an exposed hammer to the available options but retained the short barrel length.

The author tested the LCRx with .38 Special loads from Hornady.

The author tested the LCRx with .38 Special loads from Hornady.

In late 2014 Ruger released the LCRx with a 3-inch barrel. This variant is again chambered in .38 Special +P with an exposed hammer that allows both double-action and single-action activation. The 3-inch tube has a full-length rib and fulllength underlug. The black rear sight is adjustable for both elevation and windage. The serrated front sight features a white square to aid in sight acquisition. The sight is pinned to the barrel and can be easily removed and replaced with one of the other front sight options available from Ruger. The package is completed with the installation of a full-size Hogue Tamer grip in place of the shorter grips on the previous models.

The rest of the gun follows the general LCR pattern: The two main structural components are the aerospace-grade aluminum frame mated to a polymer fire control housing. The lock work includes a patented friction-reducing cam that eliminates stacking and reduces the perceived trigger weight. The stainless-steel cylinder is heavily fluted for weight savings with a durable black Ionbond Diamondblack finish. The push-button cylinder release is in the normal Ruger location on the left side of the frame behind the cylinder.

1701-ruger-lcr-03THE BARREL UTILIZES a stainless-steel liner and aluminum shroud with a polished muzzle. The ejector rod is the same length as on the 2-inch barreled models. The one-piece grip fits onto a shorter grip peg molded as part of the fire control housing. The grip can be removed and replaced by unscrewing a single screw in the butt.

The first thing I noticed about my review model was the size. While the LCR heritage is evident, this is no pocket gun. The extra inch of barrel, full-length rib, and larger sized Hogue grip add enough to the physical envelope to push it into the small side of the medium-frame revolver category.

The 3-inch barrel increased the overall length to 7.5 inches, while the full-length rib and larger Hogue grip make it taller at 5.8 inches. The LCRx 3-inch weighs 15.7 ounces. For comparison, the standard 2-inch-barreled .38 Special LCR is 6.5 inches long, 4.5 inches high, and weighs 13.5 ounces.

I had my gunsmith measure the trigger pull with a Lyman digital gauge when I picked up the revolver. This revealed a pull weight of 11.5 pounds for double-action and 7.0 pounds for single-action.

I tested the gun with a variety of .38 Special loads provided by Hornady Ammunition. This included their Critical Defense Lite 90-grain FTX load, their Critical Defense 110-grain FTX standard and +P loads, their 125-grain XTP load, and their 158-grain XTP load.

I warmed up by shooting a few rounds at a plate rack at 15 yards to give me a general feel for the double-action and single-action trigger pulls. I then fired for groups at 25 yards while seated at a table with my hands resting on the LCR’s zipper bag for padding. All firing here was single-action.

The best group, measured from the furthest distances of the holes, was almost exactly 2½ inches.

Interestingly, it was almost exactly the same when measured from the top- to bottom-most holes as when measured from the furthest left to the furthest right. This was the standard-pressure 158-grain FTX load.

The second best group was from the Critical Defense 110-grain standard-pressure load that printed at just over 3 inches, from furthest edge to furthest edge, with pronounced left-to-right stringing.

1701-ruger-lcr-04

The revolver is a great choice for shooters of smaller stature.

Unfortunately, the deliberate single-action, slow-fire shooting revealed a mechanical problem that I hadn’t noticed during the more casual firing at the plate rack. The hammer was noticeably more difficult to cock on one of the chambers than the others. I later consulted with a gunsmith friend who said the likely cause was due to out-of-spec machining on the lobe of the star corresponding to that chamber. (I later cleaned the revolver and the problem was still there during dry fire with the clean gun.) The one bad hammer pull made the precision testing more difficult. I only got the best two groups later in the test after I identified and compensated for the issue. At first the heavier and grittier pull on that chamber both threw off my concentration and also caused me to break my grip. This also made it impossible to determine if any particular load was more accurate in the gun. A typical “bad” group was 5 inches or so, often with one flyer that messed up an otherwise good group.

1701-ruger-lcr-05

The author achieved good results shooting at 25 yards while seated.

IN EXCHANGE FOR THE LARGER size and weight over the flagship LCR, you get a revolver that is easier and more fun to shoot. The grip is large and comfortable, the hammer is easily accessible for single-action cocking, and the longer sight radius and more visible sights help practical accuracy. The extra weight over the standard .38 Special version helps make the gun more pleasant to shoot as well. While the +P rounds had some noticeable sting, they weren’t bad, and the polymer trigger housing and generous grip soaked up the recoil of the standard-pressure rounds nicely.

The only disappointment in the design was that the gun retained the short 2-inch ejector rod of the parent models. While it’s understandable that Ruger wouldn’t want to spend the money on a dedicated 3-inch ejector rod for this model, having that full ejector rod stroke would have been a nice touch. Note that I didn’t have any problems with the shorter ejection stroke; I just prefer the longer ejector rod when possible.

The Ruger LCRx 3-inch would make an excellent choice for a lightweight trail gun, as a concealed carry gun in a belt holster, or as a home defense gun. As with most revolvers, the limited ammo capacity is an issue, but if you want a lightweight revolver that shots like a medium-frame gun, this is one to get. ASJ

Posted in Handguns Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

September 4th, 2016 by Sam Morstan

The Fabulous .41 Remains A Preferred Caliber For The Discerning And Serious Shooter

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY DAVE WORKMAN

Author Dave Workman is a devotee of the .41 Magnum, including this vintage S&W Model 57 with a 4-inch barrel.

Author Dave Workman is a devotee of the .41 Magnum, including this vintage S&W Model 57 with a 4-inch barrel.

Despite hitting harder than the .357 Magnum (with a bigger bore), and shooting flatter (to a slight degree) with less recoil than the .44 Magnum, the .41 Remington Magnum has been unfairly overshadowed since hitting the American landscape back in 1964. But the truth is, it just might be the best of a pretty good bunch.

Let’s be honest. The .44 Magnum is a fraud, being a .429 in true caliber, while the .41 Magnum is the real McCoy. With comparable loads, the .41 Magnum can do anything the .44 Magnum can do, and it is a real survivor.

The popularity of the .41-caliber Magnum seems to ebb and flow, but those who have stuck with it make it as versatile a choice as its siblings. I’ve carried the .41 Magnum for personal protection, killed a couple of deer with it, shot long-range targets (it’s a favorite among silhouette shooters) and had it in the backcountry as a utility gun.

I like to think the really smart handgunners prefer this to the everybody’s-got-to-have-one .44 Magnum. And a lot of guys who have been around the block a few times have come to the same conclusion I did more than 30 years ago: It’s a damned fine cartridge.

Last year, I visited my friend Jim Zumbo at his place in Wyoming, and the former hunting editor for Outdoor Life magazine had a Ruger Blackhawk in .41 Magnum parked near the front door. Veteran gunwriter Dick Metcalf and the late Bob Milek also wrote often about this caliber, and I always figured that this trio of wordsmiths were on to something.

 

Hodgdon’s H110 is a favorite propellant among handloaders for the .41 Magnum

Hodgdon’s H110 is a favorite propellant among handloaders for the .41 Magnum

IT’S A GEM FOR HANDLOADERS too. Thanks to modern powder research, there are more than a few propellants that make this round sizzle. My two favorites are Hodgdon’s H110 and Alliant 2400.

There are several good bullet choices in the 200- to 220-grain field, and I’ve had great results with the 210-grain XTP from Hornady, the 210-grain Nosler JHP, and the 200- and 220-grain halfjacketed semi-wadcutter projectiles and a 210-grain Gold Dot JHP from Speer. In addition, Barnes offers a 180-grain solid-copper hollowpoint, and Sierra has two pills, a 170-grainer and 210-grain bullet, both hollowpoints.

Thanks to updated reloading data in the Speer, Nosler and Hodgdon manuals, I’ve been able to tinker with the cartridge over the past couple of years, and especially since last summer when I bought a little-used and nearly new-inbox 1980s vintage Smith & Wesson Model 57 in .41 Magnum.

There are plenty of factory loads available, including Winchester Silvertips, and JHPs from Remington, Federal and other manufacturers. When I acquired that 4-inch S&W last July, it came with four boxes of factory BVAC (Bitterroot Valley Ammunition) loaded with 210-grain semiwads.

With a belt full of cartridges, one can do a bit of shooting with a pair of double-action magnums.

With a belt full of cartridges, one can do a bit of shooting with a pair of double-action magnums.

I’VE OWNED RUGER BLACKHAWKS and two S&W Model 57s, the first of those being a 6-inch version I’ve shot a few times in the annual Elmer Keith long-range handgun shoot just south of Spokane.

Keith is largely recognized as having been primarily responsible for the .41 Magnum, along with a man named Bill Jordan. It was originally intended as a law-enforcement caliber, but it proved to be a bit much for some lawmen, especially those of smaller stature, to handle. If that sounds like a similar story to that of the 10mm Auto, it is. But while the latter round led to the development of the .40 S&W, nobody bothered to create a .41 Short, so the original cartridge has remained the same since birth.

Of the two deer I killed with a 6.5-inch Blackhawk single action, the muley was the more memorable. Two shots downhill dropped the forkhorn. One bullet went clear through and the other was a perfect mushroom recovered just under the hide on the exit side.

While I prefer the longer barrel for precision shooting and hunting, in recent years I’ve opted for shorter-barrel versions. They’re lighter, they can ride on my hip in a truck, and they’re more concealable. A couple of years ago, I swapped out the alloy ejector rod housing on my 45/8-inch Ruger for one made from steel.

One thing I’ve noticed is that my loads lose 50 to 100 feet per second out of the shorter barrels, though that probably won’t make a lot of difference to anything I shoot within, say, 100 to 150 yards.
THE .41 MAGNUM IS CAPABLE of some impressive ballistics. With lighter bullets, it can warp along at more than 1,650 fps, and my favorite handloads zip out in the 1,250 to 1,600 fps range, depending upon the bullet weight, powder charge and barrel length.

When I shoot Alliant 2400, I stick with standard large pistol primers, but with H110, I always use magnum primers. Other powders are also good choices, including Winchester 296, H4227, Blue Dot, Lil’ Gun, Unique and Vihtavouri N110.

Soon after Workman acquired this revolver, he knocked together the holster.

Soon after Workman acquired this revolver, he knocked together the holster.

The cartridge case should measure 1.290 inches, and the overall length for cartridges should not exceed 1.590 inches. I have two sets of carbide dies, one from Hornady and one from Redding, with the seating die from each set for a different bullet, because they each crimp at a slightly different depth.

I’ve built gunbelts with ample cartridge loops for the .41 Magnum. One needs to use a slightly tighter loop for the .41 than the .44 (.429), and they need to be well-oiled. Mine are all individually hand-stitched rather than looped in and out of the belt.
AS A FIGHT-STOPPER, the .41 Magnum is no slouch. A cartridge that will knock down a black bear, big buck, caribou or bull elk is also fully capable against predators of the two-legged variety. This is a defensive round that should be approached with a little caution, of course, due to the potential for overpenetration.

When it was first introduced, proponents suggested it would be a good load for law enforcement officers to shoot through the windshields of fleeing getaway cars or to foul up an engine block on similar vehicles.

When I carried my 6-inch Model 57 in an old Safariland shoulder holster, I always had a couple of HKS speed loaders stoked with factory Remington ammo because the bullet shape contributed to quicker reloading than a wadcutter. Under a winter parka, that big gun disappeared, and nobody was any the wiser.

So why doesn’t the .41 Magnum get more respect? The reason is probably as simple as Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty” Harry Callahan firing a .44 Magnum on film. But even if it won’t fire out of the “most powerful handgun in the world,” it has become something of a cult favorite with people who like to shoot metal chickens and rams, as well as discerning handgunners who don’t choose to follow the herd.  ASJ

The N-frame Smith & Wesson is the perfect platform for the .41 Magnum. As the can attests, the gun can shoot, too!

The N-frame Smith & Wesson is the perfect platform for the .41 Magnum. As the can attests, the gun can shoot, too!

Posted in Ammo Tagged with: , , , , ,

August 13th, 2016 by Sam Morstan

The Story Of Why Dawn Hillyer Started HidingHilda

STORY BY DAWN HILLYER
PHOTOGRAPHS BY REBECCA KOVERMAN, SAAL

HidingHilda offers top brands of CCW handbags and accessories designed to safely conceal a weapon, self-defense items, holsters, books, jewelry and CCW clothing.

HidingHilda offers top brands of CCW handbags and accessories designed to safely conceal a weapon, self-defense items, holsters, books, jewelry and CCW clothing.

My story begins in October 2006 when I became the target of a ruthless stalker – Michael D. McClellan. In March 2012, he was ultimately convicted of  two felony counts of stalking, and sentenced to 10 years in prison – not eligible for parole until February 2017. This was the first felony stalking conviction in Indiana, and the events leading up to it were terrible. Over five years my life was uprooted. I was let go at work and filled with uncertainty and fear, living in seclusion, hiding from my tormentor.
During this time, all of my online presence was under the name HidingHilda – Hiding, because I was hiding and Hilda, which is a combination of my full name, Dawn Hillyer. At the time guns were not a part of my world. Hiding was my natural instinct, and I just wanted to crawl under a rock. The humiliation, the fear – and not only for myself, but everyone around me – was just too much. Once McClellan was incarcerated I decided I wasn’t going to live that way when he got out, so I took charge of my own safety. I took gun classes, got my concealed-carry permit and purchased a Glock .380 that I named Hilda.
Now, I am always and literally hiding Hilda.

Meet Dawn Hillyer, unexpected gun-industry business owner and spokeswoman for women who have been stalked nationwide.

Meet Dawn Hillyer, unexpected gun-industry business owner and spokeswoman for women who have been stalked nationwide.

HIDINGHILDA, LLC WAS BORN January 1, 2015 out of the need for peace of mind and the love of style. Carrying concealed firearms is not something to take lightly. Safety and protection are of the utmost importance, and being a business professional I also had an image to maintain. Fringe and studs weren’t going to cut it.
HidingHilda offers some of the top brands of CCW handbags and accessories designed to safely conceal a weapon, self-defense items, holsters, books, jewelry and CCW clothing. I even just recently came out with a line of HidingHilda CCW handbags (or purses) that are manufactured in Fort Wayne, Ind.

WOMEN ARE BECOMING their own heroes and refusing to be victims. We are seeing the numbers of women who are obtaining their concealed-carry permit grow substantially. There is a strange and amazing confidence that comes with knowing you’ve got this, whatever “this” may be.
Last April, my stalker was recently and unexpectedly released two years earlier than expected, and with no notice to me. Apparently, if you get your college degree while incarcerated, you can not only shorten your sentence, you can skip the parole board as well. He ended up serving just three years of his 10-year sentence. It was time to put my money where my mouth was. I was determined never to live afraid or in hiding again. I will continue to talk about it, live out loud and, if need be, I will be my own hero.

Supporting women in all facets of the gun owning/shooting/carrying process, HidingHilda donates to scholarship funds that teach people how to work with stalking victims, a subject very near to Hillyer’s heart.

Supporting women in all facets of the gun owning/shooting/carrying process, HidingHilda donates to scholarship funds that teach people how to work with stalking victims, a subject very near to Hillyer’s heart.

 

Hillyer is thankful for her life and the support she receives from her family and husband Chris.

Hillyer is thankful for her life and the support she receives from her family and husband Chris.

LAST NOVEMBER I got a call letting me know about the stalker’s release and that I could possibly be in danger. The caller stressed that I needed to be vigilant. Indeed, McClellan was arrested for violating his parole the Monday after Thanksgiving. Found guilty of violating his parole on two counts, he was released with time served. I’m not running or hiding. I’m going about my life with Hilda at my side.
During the initial trial, it was determined that McClellan had stalked his ex-wife before me, as well as someone after me. Since the trial, I have been contacted by a number of people across the country going through similar experiences and who are afraid for their lives. I am now speaking for a lot of people. HidingHilda is personal. It’s a part of who I am.

 

THIS EXPERIENCE has been part of a national conversation on Cam and Co., a series on NRA News, regarding women obtaining their licenses, guns, protection and how it relates to domestic violence. I speak at stalking/domestic violence conferences and training seminars, as well as offer support and resources to other stalking victims. HidingHilda also donates proceeds to provide scholarships for training those who work with stalking victims.
My business isn’t the only positive outcome stemming from a devastating beginning. I am also an advocate for stronger stalking laws, which included adding stalking to the 45day victim notification requirement that went into effect July 1, 2015. In an interview with Katie Couric, the story of my experience with a stalker aired nationally on Investigation Discovery’s Stalked: Someone’s Watching in their season-four opener in December 2013. I am now the chapter leader for the Hilda Fort Wayne Chapter of The Well Armed Women. I have also been on The Gun Guy, as well as several local stations.

Hillyer’s Glock .380 is her daily concealed-carry piece. She named it Hilda and she’s now literally hiding Hilda.

Hillyer’s Glock .380 is her daily concealed-carry piece. She named it Hilda and she’s now literally hiding Hilda.

IT IS AMAZING WHERE all of this has taken me. I never would have thought that in my 40s I would go back to retail or work gun shows on the weekends, not to mention drive a pickup truck just so I can haul around my purses. I couldn’t do this without the support of my family and friends, in particular Chris, my children and my parents. They have been at my side through this journey. They provide strength, support, love and motivation through it all.
It has been God with runway lights – I couldn’t have ever dreamed this is where I would be. I love putting women’s departments in gun stores, holding Ways For Women To Carry classes, seeing a first-time shooter hit their target and empowering women in general. I love providing a source of strength to those who need it. ASJ
Editor’s note: If you would like more information about HidingHilda, you can visit them at hidinghilda.com or Facebook.com/hidinghilda.

Posted in Gear Tagged with: , , , , , ,

May 25th, 2016 by Sam Morstan

Evaluating Guncrafter Industries’ Model No. 4 50 GI

Story and photographs by Oleg Volk

Handguns are almost always inferior to rifles in terms of accuracy and stopping power. Since defensive fighting usually happens up close, those qualities are important, but casual carrying of long guns is not socially acceptable in much of the world. The solution is to use the most powerful handgun that’s still practical for unsupported firing. Guncrafter Industries Model No. 4 Hunting pistol attempts to create exactly that kind of weapon by combining 6 inches of barrel with a .50-caliber bore, the largest legally possible without National Firearms Act paperwork. That way, the projectile already has an impressive frontal area, 23 percent wider than .45 ACP, and 15 percent higher velocity for the same 230-grain bullet weight. For hog hunting use, slower but much denser 300-grain bullets are available. While less energetic than a hot 10mm auto load, the 50 GI is more efficient by not having to use as much of the kinetic energy to expand the projectile.

Guncrafter Industries Model No. 4 50 GI packs a powerful punch, whether you’re carrying for self-defense or hunting hogs

Guncrafter Industries Model No. 4 50 GI packs a powerful punch, whether you’re carrying for self-defense or hunting hogs.

The 50 GI accomplishes all that with the pressure of only 15,000 pounds per square inch. With the 6-inch barrel, especially, it gives much-reduced muzzle blast compared to other powerful defensive chamberings intended to supplant .45 ACP. While the case has a rebated rim like .50 AE, it’s straight rather than tapered. Seven cartridges fit a regular 1911 magazine.

Gun reviewer Oleg Volk reports that the plain rear sight combined with a tritium front sight works well in moderate light, and it’s easy for the eye to pick up the chartreuse vial.

Recoil was the same as with a standard .45 ACP Government model, and the pistol showed impressive practical accuracy. Fired at the rate of about a shot per second, Model 4 gave one inch dispersion at 10 yards with all four loads. The sights as supplied were regulated for 230-grain HP and 300-grain JFP ammunition, with 185-grain HP hitting slightly lower and a 275-grainer an inch higher. At 25 yards, the groups predictably scaled to 2.5 inches, which is quite good for a fighting pistol with iron sights. The combination of plain rear sights and tritium front worked well in moderate light, with the eye focusing on the vial with ease. With the long slide providing a nice forward balance, the sights returned on target readily. Overall weight is only a couple of ounces more than a regular M1911. The pistol is available in a wide variety of finishes and with various sight options.

Unlike the texturing on some high-powered handguns’ grips, the 50 GI comes with enough to hold onto it while it kicks, but isn’t so rough that it’ll chew up your hands at the range. The reviewer reports that while it shoots like any 1911 out there, the difference is in how much impact it delivers downrange.

Magazines required a good smack to seat on a closed slide when full, and dropped free when empty. The textured slide release worked well, so that I didn’t even bother with dropping the slide with the weak hand. The degree of texturing was sufficient for retention, not enough to abrade the hands. Unlike .357 Coonan, the Model 4 in 50 GI didn’t require conscious wrestling back out of recoil. It shot like any other 1911, with the sole difference of delivering a greater impact downrange. The report was not noticeably different. The muzzle flash was not visible in daylight.

So for the cost of dropping the full capacity from 8+1 to 7+1, it is possible to get a well behaved but more powerful weapon with the familiar form factor. The only down side I found has been the price: the pistol lists for a bit over $4,100, magazines are $50 each, and the ammunition runs $30 to $50 per 20-round box. I plan on talking to a couple of manufacturers to see if cheaper target ammunition may be developed for practice. ASJ

A close-up of the wheelhouse of the 50 GI.

A close-up of the wheelhouse of the 50 GI.

Posted in Product Reviews Tagged with: , , , , , ,