March 6th, 2018 by asjstaff

I bought my HK P7 (which now looks like this) for a screaming good price in early 2012. You see, the older gentleman I bought it from was selling all of his semi-auto pistols, as he could no longer operate them due to arthritis in his hands and generally diminished finger/grip strength. This is where Smith & Wesson’s new M&P380 Shield EZ comes in. It’s supposed to be an easy-to-operate pistol that basically anyone can run confidently.

But does it hit the mark?

As I see it, there are four major factors to operating a semi-automatic pistol that are made difficult with limited strength. Whether you’re a petite woman or have arthritis or for any other reason have lesser finger, grip, and/or forearm strength, you may struggle with the following . . .

Manipulating the slide

Loading and unloading a pistol requires you to manually pull the slide to the rear. Often, clearing jams and field stripping necessitates this as well. If it’s a struggle, a semi-auto may not be a good choice.

As you’d hope, racking the slide on the Shield EZ is easy. The recoil spring is soft and the internal hammer provides little additional resistance. The lockup disengages easily. It’s one of the lightest-racking pistol slides I’ve felt.

Likewise, pushing up on the slide stop to lock it to the rear is accomplished particularly easily. Once the slide is locked back, rotate the takedown lever down 90 degrees (as seen two photos up), pull back on the slide to release the lock, and slide it forwards off the frame. No trigger pull is needed to field strip the EZ.

A solid purchase on the slide is also a necessity, and while I think S&W could have done even more here they’ve done very well. At the rear of the rear slide serrations is a markedly raised ledge. This provides a solid backstop for fingers and makes slipping off of the slide much less likely, even with a softer grip.

I would have gone with ledge-front rear sight as well, to add another point of gription for those who wrap their palm over the top of the slide. Or, as the marketing typically suggests, for use as a “claw” to rack the slide off of a belt, pocket, table, or other object.

Ultimately, though, manipulating the slide is probably the most critical aspect of being able to operate a typical pistol, and the Shield EZ really is about as easy as it gets. At least in the world of centerfire calibers.

Loading the magazines

It takes notable grip strength, finger strength, and dexterity to load the magazines of most pistols (UpLULA aside). Much of this is due to the upwards pressure applied on the loaded rounds by the magazine spring. It has to be strong enough to push the next round up into position so it can be picked up on the slide’s return trip forwards. And it has to do this regardless of recoil motion and the weight of a full compliment of lead and brass objects on top of it.

So there’s a definite limit to how light the magazine spring can be while still affording reliable function. Though I can’t speak to how much fudge-factor (“extra” spring weight to overcome dirt, depleted uranium rounds, etc.) S&W built into the M&P380 Shield EZ mags, I can say they’re easy to load.

The single-stack design helps, as these magazines are almost always easier to load than double-stack mags. With less ammo and less ability for the rounds to shift around, the spring just doesn’t have to be as stiff.

But S&W took another step towards easy loading and added finger pegs on the follower. As seen on many .22 LR pistols, this allows the user to pull down on the follower while loading the next round. It’s an easier proposition than trying to depress the top round with one finger while simultaneously depressing it with the being-loaded round while it’s also being crammed back under the feed lips.

Whether you load the Shield EZ magazines by pulling down on the follower and literally dropping the next round in or do a pull from the bottom while pushing from the top hybrid maneuver, the end result is a much easier-to-load magazine than the standard semi-auto.

Capacity, of course, is the only real downside here. The frame of the M&P380 Shield EZ is wide enough to accept a staggered magazine. Possibly not a full-on double-stack, but staggered for sure. It might be capable, for instance, of 11 rounds in the mag instead of eight.

Creating room for the follower’s finger pegs and sticking with a typically-easier-to-load single-stack mag meant not using all of the grip volume afforded to it for ammo capacity. As you can see above, there are ribs molded inside of the grip to center the skinny magazine body and provide clearance for the follower pegs.

Smith’s choice of easy loading over capacity wasn’t made by mistake. However, if there’s a flaw with the Shield EZ it’s magazine-related: it’s particularly difficult to lock a fully-loaded magazine into the grip when the slide is forwards. You either have to push up on the basepad extremely hard, punch it firmly with the heel of your hand, or put a thumb on top of the slide and fingers under the magazine and squeeze like you’re trying to milk a rock.

Basically, the EZ’s target audience is going to struggle to insert a loaded magazine with the slide forwards. Therefore, there will be a lot of owners carrying this pistol one round short of full capacity. That may mean inserting a fully-loaded magazine with the slide locked back, chambering the first round, and carrying it this way with eight rounds on board, or it may mean inserting a down-loaded magazine into the gun with the slide forwards on an empty chamber and carrying it this way with seven rounds on board. In either scenario, this is a flaw in the EZ’s otherwise spot-on design.

Operating the controls

Different pistol models have different controls, and user preference varies. One thing that stays true, though, is that the controls should be usable and well-placed, which unfortunately is not always the case.

With the Shield EZ, we found nothing to complain about. The slide stop is easy to reach without being in the way at all, and it’s easy to operate. Likewise, the magazine release is positive and very easily activated, while still just stiff enough and shielded enough to prevent depressing it accidently.

Users with less finger strength will find the flip-down take-down lever easier to use than the small, pull-down tabs or pull-out pins on many competitors’ products.

Even the trigger strikes a great balance between safety and ease of use with its just over four-pound pull weight. Small hands with short fingers shouldn’t have difficulty reaching it, either.

Hotly contested though they are, if you choose the Shield EZ with manual safety (there’s also a model without the manual safety) you’ll be glad to know that the safety lever, too, is easy to operate and well-placed. The safety snicks on and off smoothly and easily with a clean click on each end.

I’d personally prefer a stronger detent, but for the purposes of the EZ it makes sense to make it, you know, easy. Not unsafe, mind you, but it isn’t as stiff as many manual thumb safeties.

I could also see lowering the ambidextrous levers to make them that much easier to reach for those with short thumbs, though very few are likely to have a problem there. The length of the safety levers and their serrations make them harder to miss and easier to operate, whether flipping them up (safe) or down (fire).

Finally, a grip safety adorns the back of the grip (where else?). This is a passive safety, disengaged automatically when the user acquires a typical shooting grip.

Unique in its bottom-hinged design, I found the EZ’s grip safety entirely unobtrusive. Though it does not depress flush with the back of the grip, which could, in theory, let the user get higher up into the beavertail, it’s hardly noticeable on the palm or in the web of your hand. There’s also no chance of gripping the gun in any sort of semi-normal fashion and not disengaging this lightly-sprung safety.

Controlling recoil

This, of course, isn’t specific to semi-automatic pistols but applies to all firearms. However, in the realm of pistols, poor recoil control can lead to malfunctions. The slide must cycle fully to the rear, and if the frame is also moving rearwards this may not happen properly. A stiff recoil spring and a difficult-to-control gun can exacerbate the issue.

Thanks to the M&P380 Shield EZ’s slim grip with good ergonomics and grippy texture and its nice little beavertail, shooters with most any hand size will have no problem acquiring a high, solid, secure grip.

Thanks to the .380 ACP chambering, which puts out about 56 percent the energy of 9mm, and the tilt-barrel short recoil operation rather than straight blowback operation, the Shield EZ shoots very softly.

It’s also large enough to allow a full grip. Even I found my pinky securely on the frame, not on the magazine baseplate or under it. All too often we see sales guys, friends, and significant others recommend pocket pistols to women — small person, small gun, right? — but that’s a recipe likely to backfire. Harder to grip securely and harder on recoil, those tiny, lightweight guns are difficult and unpleasant to shoot.

Striking a great balance between mouse gun and duty gun, the compact or sub-compact M&P380 Shield EZ provides a healthy sight radius, a full grip, proper control ergonomics, and 18.5 ounces of recoil absorption. It shoots every bit as soft and as flat as you’d hope.

Though the rear sight on my Shield EZ clearly needed to be drifted right to line up point of impact with point of aim, I found the little pistol to be very accurate. Above is a five-round group shot slow, off-hand, with 95 grain Blazer Brass from Freedom Munitions (coupon code TTAG for 5% off everything on their site).

And it sang the same tune with Hornady Critical Defense.

With the great trigger, decent sight radius, and Charmin soft recoil, the M&P380 Shield EZ is an easy gun to shoot accurately.

It’s reliable, too. In 500 rounds of mixed ammo, from Freedom Munitions 100 grain flat nose to Alchemist Ammunition 75 grain frangible to three brands of self-defense hollow points, we didn’t suffer a single hiccup. The EZ ran everything and was a pussycat on recoil even with the self-defense stuff.

Due to its .380 ACP chambering, the M&P380 Shield EZ may not be for everyone. Most self-defense guru types will suggest 9mm if you can shoot it confidently. But the “confidently” part comes first. You have to be able to operate the gun and you must be able to put rounds on target. Shot placement is king.

Everything about the Shield EZ makes pistol operation and shot placement easy. It shoots as flat and as soft as can be. For me, I was able to dump rounds right on target as fast as I could pull the trigger. For the EZ’s target market — those with limited grip strength — it’ll likely get you back in the semi-auto game.

The easy to rack, easy to load, easy to shoot, easy to field strip M&P380 Shield EZ is possibly the best semi-auto, centerfire pistol going for those who find operating pistols difficult. It fills a need, fits a niche, and does it extremely well.

Specifications: Smith & Wesson M&P380 Shield EZ

Caliber: .380 ACP
Capacity: 8+1 rounds
Action: internal hammer fired, single action
Overall Length: 6.7 inches
Barrel Length: 3.675 inches
Height: 4.98 inches
Width: 1.15 inches (1.43 at widest point across the safeties)
Weight: 18.5 ounces
Sights: white 3-dot sights, rear adjustable for windage
Materials: polymer frame, stainless steel slide and barrel with Armornite Finish
External Safeties: grip safety, tactile loaded chamber indicator, optional ambidextrous thumb safety
MSRP: $399 (available now via Brownells)

Ratings (out of five stars):

Reliability * * * * *
Flawless function straight out of the box.

Accuracy * * * *
Point of impact was a bit off as the gun shipped, but the EZ is an accurate shooter that’s easy to shoot accurately.

Ease of Use * * * * *
The M&P380 Shield EZ nails it. It’s easy to operate in every way it can be.

Overall * * * * *
Well-deserving of a full five stars. The EZ delivers on all promises.

Side note: the breech block is pinned into the slide rather than machined in as an integral part. While this could be due to manufacturing limitations, it may also indicate that Smith & Wesson plans to release other calibers in a Shield EZ format. This is pure speculation, but a swappable breech face certainly makes that easier.

Ammo for this review provided by Freedom Munitions. Visit www.FreedomMunitions.com and use coupon code “TTAG” for 5% off site-wide on dozens of brands of ammunition, accessories, parts, optics, and more.

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

February 19th, 2018 by asjstaff

There is a lot of love for semi-auto pistols nowadays, but it is hard to beat the reliability, power and clean manufacturing of a revolver. In this TFB Review, we take a look at the stout Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum® .357 Magnum with a 2 3/4″ barrel.

model 66 Specifications

The Smith & Wesson Model 66 comes in two different configurations of barrel lengths from the factory. Consumers can either choose a 4.25″ or a 2.75″ barrel option. The specific variation of the Model 66 that we took to the range is the 2.75″ option.

Model 66

Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum® .357 Magnum

The rundown of specifications for both Model 66 revolvers follows as such with only the barrel and overall length differentiating the two options:

  • Caliber: .357 Magnum / .38 Special + P
  • Capacity: 6-Round Cylinder
  • Barrel Length: 2.75″
  • Overall Length: 7.8″
  • Front Sight: Red Ramp
  • Rear Sight: Adjustable Black Blade
  • Action: Single-Action / Double-Action
  • Grip: Synthetic
  • Weight: 33.5 Ounces
  • Cylinder, Barrel & Frame Material: Stainless Steel
  • Purpose: Competitive Shooting, Home Protection & Recreational Shooting

The MSRP of the Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum® .357 Magnum is $849.

The Model 66 is a K-frame revolver by Smith & Wesson. The K-frame was originally introduced in 1899 specifically for the .38 S&W Special cartridge. So to see the Model 66 in a K-frame size as a .357 Magnum is pretty unique even if the outward appearance is pretty unassuming. It also boasts a 2-piece barrel, a full-length extractor rod, and a ball-detent lock-up mechanism.

Model 66

[Left to Right] S&W Model 686 barrel compared to S&W Model 66 2-piece barrel

Overall, the Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum® .357 Magnum is very close in size to a Smith & Wesson Model 686. Most people should appreciate the leaner K-frame of the Model 66 versus the beefier L-frame of the Model 686 if you are contemplating purchasing a shorter barrel length like this revolver we reviewed.

Trigger time

Unboxing the revolver at the range, it comes with your standard issue of contents. You receive an owner’s manual, cable lock, red chamber flag (plastic disc to set on the cylinder facing when closed) and a key set for the internal lock. From the factory it comes clean and dry; not excessively oiled or lubed.

Model 66

Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum® .357 Magnum

To get a good feel for this revolver, both .38 Special and .357 Magnum target rounds were fired. The .38 Special rounds were very enjoyable, controllable and light to shoot. The .357 Magnum rounds were still controllable but had a lot more snap. The snap was not surprising, but the fact that it was easily controllable with the moderate-sized handle was a pleasant surprise. The power of the .357 Magnum cartridge hit your hand hard, but the dexterity from the rubber grip and its length helped control it.

Model 66

Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum® .357 Magnum

The single-action trigger pull of the Model 66 was very light and crisp. The break of the trigger was definitive and clean. Even with the shorter 2.75″ barrel, essentially anywhere I aimed I was hitting that mark perfectly.

The double-action trigger pull was consistently heavy from the initial pull up until the break of the trigger. So while it was heavy, there was no feeling of stacking or a compounding resistance that would make you squirm wondering when the double-action trigger may finally fire. The break of the double-action trigger pull, just like the single-action, was definitive and smooth.

After methodically firing 100 rounds (50 rounds of .38 SPL and 50 rounds of .357 Mag), I gained a few other impressions and thoughts about the Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum® .357 Magnum.

post-range thoughts

After all of the firing stopped and the earmuffs came off I had a few more thoughts about the Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum® .357 Magnum revolver. For one, I would have liked to have seen the rear sight have a white outline of some kind.

Model 66

[Left to Right] S&W Model 686 rear sight compared to S&W Model 66 rear sight

I hail from MN so this range day was conducted indoors and most indoor ranges (ironically enough) have really poor lighting in the shooter’s bay, but phenomenal lighting out by your target. As a result, even with young eyes, you have to work to drop that red ramp front sight exactly where you need it to be.

Model 66

Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum® .357 Magnum

The Smith & Wesson Model 686, by comparison, comes with a white outline rear sight standard. I would believe these sights should transfer over easily enough and I would like to see those on the Model 66 as well.

I view the Smith & Wesson Model 686 as a benchmark of features and quality for revolvers chambered in .357 Magnum. So a lot of the comparisons I make will treat that as the yardstick.

A 2nd item that differs from the Model 66 in comparison to a lot of the other revolvers Smith & Wesson puts out is the black accents. On most Smith & Wesson revolvers the trigger, hammer, cylinder release and potentially other small pieces will be case-colored; that swirled look of almost running water on metal. It can be very beautiful when done well, but I thought the black accented features on the Model 66 was a refreshing change from what has become standard protocol for Smith & Wesson.

Model 66

[Bottom Left to Top Right] S&W Model 66 (note black accents) versus S&W Model 686 (note case-colored accents)

As you can see above, on the Model 66 the extractor rod, cylinder release, trigger, and hammer are all accented black. They appear more pronounced in a profile image like this and better match the black grips. In comparison to the Model 686, the case-colored pieces get almost washed-out when paired with a brushed stainless finish and are not as easily noticed or appreciated.

Another attribute of the Model 66 I liked was the satin stainless finish. You might be thinking that is not a big deal, but let me explain. Once again, a standard Model 686 provides a brushed stainless finish. Often times, you can see actual brush marks on a brushed stainless finish leading the user to almost believe a new revolver is… used. The satin stainless finish appears cleaner, exhibits no finishing marks and its matte appearance looks clean even after shooting a lot of rounds.

Model 66

[Left to Right] S&W Model 686 (note brushed stainless finish) versus S&W Model 66 (note satin stainless finish)

A final thought I have on the Model 66 is the black rubber grip. The rubber material is very tacky and gives you great dexterity when shooting .357 Magnum rounds. So all-in-all, the large grip accomplishes what it sets out to do which is give the user a sturdy purchase to control and accurately fire the revolver.

Since this is only a 2.75″ barrel, I would have liked to potentially see a little smaller grip even with all of those positive, previous comments. I would not put this specific variation of the Model 66 into the category of a range pistol even though it shot really well. Its outward appearance and likely intended purpose would be for carrying; whether that is concealed or open. So to have a shorter handle would benefit anyone trying to carry it.

In summary, I believe the Smith & Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum® .357 Magnum revolver is a well thought out pistol. The MSRP of $849 is still within a tolerable range for most people’s checkbooks and my few complaints about a possibly shorter handle and improved rear sight are more personal opinions than engineering flaws.

If you are contemplating purchasing the Model 66, I can confidently say after spending significant time with one that you would not be disappointed.

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

February 6th, 2017 by asjstaff

Surprising Results

Have you ever wondered if your Apple Macbook Pro stop a .22 bullet? How about a 9mm? Well 22 Plinkster Youtuber was curious, so he put this technology to the lead test.

If you didn’t know the construction of an Apple Macbook Pro its pretty impressive. For the test a Smith & Wesson.22 long rifle caliber and 9mm is used against the laptop from approximately 7 yards away. See the video below and the surprising results.

Results
As speculated the Mac Book Pro stopped the .22 cal round, no penetration at all. The big surprise came from the 9mm being the higher velocity bullet, still did not penetrate the laptop.

Though the Apple laptop is not meant to be used as a bullet proof device, its great to know that it can stop a .22 cal and a 9mm handgun. This device could save you if such emergency arises. Thanks to 22 Plinkster for testing this tough technology. We always knew that the gun industry would connect with the technology world in a possible life saving scenario.

Video Transcription

Hey guys, 22 Plinkster here! I’ve got in my hands a Macbook Pro. This is probably one of my number one requested things to see if a 22 will go through, and a viewer was nice enough to send this to me. A lot of people carry macbooks in their backpacks, and also when they’re working at their desks, and you never know when an intruder may come up to you with a 22 pistol and you have to probably defend yourself and defend your life with your macbook pro. But the question is, will it stop a 22 longrifle? We’ll be using a Smith and Wesson M&P 22 compact, loaded with some CCI Minimags, 40 grains traveling at 1235 feet per second, so put in the comments below: Will a Macbook Pro stop a 22 longrifle?

[Intro music]

Ok, lemmy load up five CCI minimags. Again, these are 40-grain, round-nose, non-hollow-point bullets. Traveling at 1235 ft/sec. Using my Smith and Wesson M&P 22 compact, and a SilencerCo barrel suppressor. So, I’m gonna put five rounds into it. [five shots] Alright, five rounds into the macbook pro, let’s see if they went through.

The million-dollar question: Will a Macbook Pro save your life, in case you had it in your backpack and you’re walking, or if someone came up to you and decided they wanted to put a round in you with a 22 longrifle and you could throw it up, would it save your life? Let’s take a look.

Lookit there. Only one round went through. Shot it five times, this round right here went completely through the laptop, so… the other ones stopped cold. That’s pretty impressive! So basically, if a gunman came up to you and all you had was your macbook pro to save your life, you have a four outta five chance that this would stop a 22 longrifle. Let’s look inside and see what it looks like. Probably going to be glass everywhere. [laughter] so there you go! That is pretty impressive. The one that went through was right there. Went right through that key, so that’s pretty awesome. So will a Macbook Pro save your life? Well, the odds are pretty good! Thank you very much for watching guys, until next time, Y’all be safe, and keep plinkin’!

I know what you’re probably thinkin’, what are the chances of someone having a 22 longrifle and you have a macbook? But most people carry a 9mm, right? Well, good thing you say that, I’ve got my Smith and Wesson, M&P 9mm Performance Center, Shield, and I’m gonna put one round in it with some 147-grain federal HSTs. This should blow right through it, but I’m kinda curious to know.

[BANG]

Holy cow, I guarentee ya that went through! Alright, let me go take a look at it. What say you, did it go through? Or not? Right, here’s the shot. Look right there! It stopped a 9mm, Federal HST. You can actually– I don’t know if you can see it or not, but right inside there is actually the bullet. So it stopped a 147-grain federal HST cold. And if you had this in a backpack, you know, there’s several layers of cloth that it would have to go through before it actually hit the macbook. That is pretty impressive! So I know you guys were worried or concerned, saying ‘hey a 22 longrifle’s not very powerful’, but this goes to show you that electronics are pretty dense, and a macbook pro can stop a 9mm Federal HST 147 grainer. Now that’s impressive.

Sources: 22 Plinkster, Eric Nestor

Posted in Just Plinking Tagged with: , , , ,

July 14th, 2016 by asjstaff

.44 Russian A Stubby, But Accurate Load

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY MIKE NESBITT

PHOTO 1 4

The nostalgia of shooting blackpowder – pistol or rifle – is a lot of fun, and the .44 Smith & Wesson Russian blackpowder load is known for its accuracy. That’s demonstrated (inset) by Mike Nesbitt’s (left) and Lynn Willecke’s (right) offhand 12-yard shots on target. americanshootingjournal

The .44 Smith & Wesson Russian is a rather stubby little cartridge. It has an overall cartridge length that is just a bit shorter than a Sharps .45-caliber paper-patched 550-grain bullet, but its performance outshines its size. In recent years cowboy-action shooters have brought new life to this fine old load.

One attraction for me is shooting blackpowder revolvers and lever-action rifles from the 1870s. Of course for me, shooting those guns is rather restricted to using the newly-made copies. Regarding revolvers – which we’ll concentrate on for the rest of this short tale – my guns are mostly second- and third-generation Colt Single Actions in .45 Colt and .44-40, and the Uberti versions of the S&W Russian Model 3. For me, the .44 Russian has a particular appeal because it actually predated the Colt Single Action and, well, the S&W revolvers did make their mark on the Western frontier, didn’t they? There is evidence of the slightly older S&W .44 American revolvers being present at The Battle of Adobe Walls in 1874. Maybe I’m just trying to justify my preferences, but even so, the Uberti copies of the S&W New Model Russian 3 are very good and certainly worthy of consideration as a nice shooting handgun.

PHOTO 2

The famous S&W New Model Russian revolver is made as a replica by Uberti, a company known for replicating guns of the Old West.

HISTORICALLY, THE .44 RUSSIAN goes back to 1871, and it was a trendsetter because inside it used a lubricated bullet with the lube grooves seated down inside the cartridge case. It was also a trendsetter because of its accuracy; it has an accuracy that other cartridges often strive for but seldom duplicate.

Joining me with his own .44 Russian revolver was Lynn Willecke, whom I’ve been shooting with since the 1950s. We shot using bullets from Lyman’s mold No. 429383, which is still being made for the .44 Russian or Special. We often remarked that the bullet shot out of a .44 Russian seemed to be made for it. It turns out that it was. We shot blackpowder loads, using Olde Eynsford 2F powder in new Starline cases.
IN MIKE VENTURINO’S book Shooting Sixguns Of The Old West, he gives the .44 Russian quite a bit of attention. He comments on the accuracy of the cartridge and he even used an original S&W Russian 2nd Model with a 7-inch barrel to test it. Venturino also used Lyman’s No. 429383 and checked load speeds using 19.0 grains of GOEX FFg at 690 feet per second. He also checked speeds using the same weight of FFFg at 740 fps.

PHOTO 3

Lyman’s mold No. 429383, used to make the .44 Russian.

Willecki and I chronographed the load we were using. You can consider our findings to be an extension of Venturino’s published data. Our results were not quite the same since our Uberti revolvers have 6½-inch barrels, and we shot with 20 grains of Olde Eynsford 2F powder under Lyman bullets. Olde Eynsford was not available when Venturino tested his round, or I’m sure he would have included it. The average velocity from the five shots we checked was 705.3 fps, and the extreme spread of those velocities was only 10.7 fps. The tightest extreme spread of velocities Venturino recorded was 19 fps and that was with GOEX FFFg powder. In my opinion, the data from Venturino’s book (written about 20 years ago) and what we recorded supports one another very well.

A loaded .44 Russian cartridge (right) is compared to a paperpatched .45 bullet weighing 550 grains (left).

A loaded .44 Russian cartridge (right) is compared to a paperpatched .45 bullet weighing 550 grains (left).

THERE WERE A FEW differences between Venturino’s test and ours. Venturino shot at a distance of 50 feet with the gun firmly rested over sand bags. That’s the proper way to check accuracy. Willecke and I wanted to test ourselves just as much as our guns, so we shot offhand with a two-hand hold, and our targets were only 12 yards out. The results were very pleasing. I complained because Willecke outshot me – again – by getting a higher score (50-3X), but he too complained because my five shots fell into a slightly tighter group. Actually, we were both very satisfied.

WE MOVED ON to plinking and our hits were more frequent than our close misses. Neither one of us kept track of our hits, but the blackpowder loads were just as accurate as those loaded with smokeless powder, which were mainly loaded with Unique. All our bullets were lubed with a blackpowder lubricant because with good lube, blackpowder loads don’t seem to get the gun dirty.

The .44 Russian certainly lives up to its reputation for accuracy – if you accept our judgement, rough testing and all. We enjoyed our time so much that you can count on seeing us with one of these .44 Russian revolvers again. ASJ

Posted in Black Powder Tagged with: , , , , , ,

April 27th, 2016 by asjstaff

The Reasons Women Carry Are Diverse – Here’s Why Veteran And Mother Rachel Trexler Does

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY RACHEL TREXLER 

“This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.” The Rifleman’s Creed vibrated through my bones the day I became a United States Marine, and has recently taken on a whole new meaning. As the years have passed by, I find it challenging to recall the entire creed, which has intermittently faded over time. However, that first phrase always remained near my heart and astonishingly enough, relates to my children. I know that might sound different – the words gun and children combined together – but just like my rifle, my children are mine, there “are many like” them, but these two are mine.

After college, Trexler joined the ranks of United States Marine Corps, which solidified her natural tendency towards patriotism and protecting people. On the left is her drill instructor Sgt. Parrish at her USMC graduation on Parris Island in South Carolina.

After college, Rachel Trexler (right) joined the ranks of United States Marine Corps, which solidified her natural tendency towards patriotism and protecting people. On the left is her drill instructor Sgt. Parrish at her USMC graduation on Parris Island in South Carolina.

My name is Rachel Trexler and I grew up in the rural backcountry of Mims, Fla., I am a Marine Corps veteran and a mother of two adorable hell-raising tiny humans: my son, four-year-old Rylan, and his nine-month-old sister Raven. As I kiss their faces, my warrior heart echoes the reminder that there is no limit to the fierceness with which I will protect my family, which is why now, as a stay-at-home mom, I still choose to carry a gun in my day-to-day life.

I WASN’T RAISED AROUND FIREARMS. It wasn’t until the age of 14 that I fired my first gun. I can recall being anxious – it was a revolver – and I was qualifying my horse to receive a law enforcement certification. It is necessary to train any horse that might be used in a law-enforcement capacity, to include search-and-rescue and crowd control, to be accustomed to gunfire, a condition known as being “gunfire neutral.”

It is necessary to train any horse that might be used in a law enforcement capacity, to include search-and-rescue and crowd control, to be accustomed to gunfire, a condition known as being “gunfire neutral.”
Years later, I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Forensic Psychology and an Associate of Science in Crime Scene Technology. However, it was when I answered the call to join the ranks in the military that cemented the magnitude of our country’s freedoms, and the sacrifices others have made defending them. I can unequivocally say being in the military made a huge difference in becoming the woman I am today. It is not to say a woman has to be trained by the military to appreciate and/or own and shoot guns, but I still have fond memories of the M-16A2 service rifle with old iron sights. There is nothing compared to learning to shoot day in and day out – and it was all about you and your rifle. I memorized its statistics and range, I field stripped it, cleaned it and put it back together a million times over – I literally slept with it pretty soundly too, if you ask me.

After honorably discharging from the Marine Corps and spending several years in security, not to mention becoming a mother, Trexler wasn’t finished. She put herself through the law-enforcement academy in Florida.

After honorably discharging from the Marine Corps and spending several years in security, not to mention becoming a mother, Trexler wasn’t finished. She put herself through the law-enforcement academy in Florida.

I HAVE SINCE HONORABLY DISCHARGED from the Marine Corps, but have not stopped improving my shooting skills, and I now practice the art of tactical accessorizing. Much like the awesome feeling of getting a new pair of heels, I felt like a newly crowned beauty queen when I was gifted an Eotech Holographic sight for my AR-15 – was it Christmas Day? Being fashion conscious, I can’t leave the house without my Emerson Karambit knife. For Valentine’s Day, I was the girl who got a Tiffany’s dog tag with my children’s and fiancée’s initials inscribed, as well as a Gerber Ghostrike blade to take down the mountain with me as I shred on my snowboard. Outstandingly, women are now influencing the firearms market, which at one point exclusively targeted male consumers. I’m proud to be one of these women. Not all people choose to carry a weapon. Some choose to carry nothing at all, and that’s OK in my eyes. This is one of the rights protected by the United States Constitution. Anyone can choose.

FOR ABOUT EIGHT YEARS, I was head of security for a restaurant/bar in the historic downtown district of Melbourne, Fla. Closing in the dark and very early hours of the morning, I was grateful for my Second Amendment rights, as I retrieved my Smith & Wesson M&P Shield from the safe and headed for home. While the current debate on the legal right to carry intensifies, the number of women who are choosing to bear arms is increasing exponentially. My Shield is a prime example of this; gun manufacturers continue to increase products geared towards the ladies. After all, it’s a .40-caliber that can be worn on the waistband of my yoga pants and offers the luxury of a low recoil. The fact that two perfect worlds – gun carry and yoga pants– collide with my 5.11 range/yoga pants solidifies that women have made their presence known and manufacturers are listening.

It was clear in the academy that Trexler was not only serious but skilled, taking second place in a shooting competition – second only to a former Army Ranger. It would be hard to beat that guy, no matter who you are.

It was clear in the academy that Trexler was not only serious but skilled, taking second place in a shooting competition – second only to a former Army Ranger.

IN BETWEEN HAVING my son and daughter, I chose to attend the police academy, ultimately achieving my law-enforcement certificate. It was during one of these academy days that I found myself competing against a fellow veteran – former 1st Battalion Army Ranger Nicholas Worthy (see American Shooting Journal’s Behind The Badge feature Heart Of Bronze in the July 2015 Issue) – in the tactical shooting challenge. Even though I took second in that competition, it was that decorated ranger who took first. He is now a field training officer with the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office in Florida and my handsome fiancée. Our beliefs run parallel – whether you are purple, minion blue, male or female, everyone is equal.
The Second Amendment, by varying degrees depending on the state, has recently led to a controversial topic – open carry. In Florida, legislators are introducing bills that would allow citizens to carry weapons openly. In my own rationale, any person who carries a gun also bears the very heavy yet necessary burden to carry responsibly. This responsibility extends to whether I carry openly or concealed. However, if Florida does pass open-carry laws, I just might be able to accessorize a few new holsters that would match my daily wardrobe.
As my wardrobe collection expanded, I found a convenient place for my Heckler & Koch P2000 SK .40, which is now secured under my steering wheel. It’s kind of the same to me as Burberry in the fashion world, and I love them both. There are plenty of other mothers like me, such as my children’s godmother, Deputy Michelle Sweet. She works for the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office and was a stay-at-home mother for 10 years. One day, she put on a pair of combat boots, pulled up her hair and enrolled alongside me in the academy. Deputy Sweet’s importance to the law-enforcement field is magnified because she is a woman and her leadership cannot be overstated.
Because of women in strong roles and their resilience in a historically male-dominated career, other women confidently set their sights on similar positions, and are getting the opportunity to serve alongside male counterparts in all areas of formerly male-only jobs, including military combat roles, SWAT teams and other special operations units. This is proof that we as a society are evolving when it comes to understanding the capabilities women possess.

As a strong supporter of our Second Amendment rights, not only does Trexler enjoy shooting as a hobby, she is often found armed to the teeth in daily life. The bad guys would choose poorly if they targeted her.

As a strong supporter of our Second Amendment rights, not only does Trexler enjoy shooting as a hobby, she is often found armed to the teeth in daily life. The bad guys would choose poorly if they targeted her.

IN 1788, RICHARD HENRY LEE proclaimed, “To preserve liberty, it is essential the whole body of people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them … ” It is pertinent that those of us who carry and train with weapons aid in the next generation’s safety, so mothers like us will practice, as well as teach our children the importance of gun safety and awareness. What is the best part of being friends with other mothers who carry? I don’t need to discuss why I just locked my purse up in her safe and opened that bottle of wine for a girl’s night in. The responsibility to maintain our guns in a safe manner falls directly on our shoulders. Practicing safety is paramount; there is no room for error.
When it comes to shooting, my family-owned Armalight AR-10 will always leave me smiling like I’m back cheering on the football field. My Burris 8-32×44 scope is excellent at spotting the rounds I’m sending down range. After all, it’s a long, long walk to that target. That unmistakable sound of a .308 or 7.62×51 will turn heads like a woman in a red dress.
What’s so exciting about our present day is there is no longer a norm for how things should be. Our rights protected under the Constitution are applied equally to everyone, as they should be.

MY NEXT MISSION IS LAW SCHOOL, although now that military infantry divisions are open to women, a girl could be tempted.

A mother of two and engaged to marry former Army ranger Nick Worthy – the man she met in the police academy who bested her in a shooting competition – Trexler is at the top of her game these days and a great person for ladies who want to be inspired.

A mother of two and engaged to marry former Army ranger Nick Worthy – the man she met in the police academy who bested her in a shooting competition – Trexler is at the top of her game these days and a great person for ladies who want to be inspired.

Going forward, I’ll be keeping a close watch on the evolution of new gun laws that may allow firearms to be carried on school campuses. Human beings have an inherent right to protect ourselves, our families and our properties. Our founding fathers placed such importance on this, it is second only to my freedom of speech.
Our first president, George Washington, declared, “Firearms stand next in importance to the constitution itself … They are the American people’s liberty … ” The Bill of Rights is just as ingrained within my veins as my blood type. The Second Amendment, withstanding all opposition thus far, still remains to ensure that individuals who wish to bear arms can do so. And with that, the numbers of women who choose to legally own, carry and shoot guns will continue to multiply.

THE REASONS A WOMAN CHOOSES to carry are often as diverse as women themselves. But for me, I carry because I choose to be a wife and mother who will always be at the ready; to fiercely guard and protect those I love. I’m the woman who chooses to accessorize with an extended mag in my everyday carry, because the cop I’m marrying just simply wouldn’t fit in my purse. ASJ

Rachel Trexler is a modern-day woman by all standards, and represents what is fast becoming the norm across the nation. What many do not realize is the journey she took to go from girl to badass, with the credentials to prove it.

Rachel Trexler is a modern-day woman by all standards, and represents what is fast becoming the norm across the nation. What many do not realize is the journey she took to go from girl to badass, with the credentials to prove it.

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