Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Review: SIG Sauer P238

SIG Sauer P238 Review and Range Report

Gotta love marketing, especially when combined with exceptional quality and manufacturing. I don't buy Swiss watches, but I recently took the plunge on a SIG Sauer P238 that just spoke to me from the display case of a LGS. This was totally out of character for me, as my main interest is in small calibers (.32ACP and rimfire). In fact I had just sold off a .380ACP pistol that I had for more than 25 years - a Beretta 84B - too big for carry or even the bedside table drawer.

At one time long ago I also owned an Iver Johnson Pony 1911. It would only reliably eat Federal FMJ, and it was a handful to shoot. But there were a few things about this P238 that I liked right off the bat:

- lightweight - less than a pound
- great ergonomics - feels good in the hand
- nice daytime sights
- price (got a nice discount from the dealer)
- SIG's reputation - this is a quality piece of tooling
- simple break down - single tool-less lever
- came with two 7-round magazines
- apparently a popular model - lots of 'em out there - more parts, etc.

Range Time

So it was off to the range after an initial take down and cleaning. Taking down this pistol for the first time wasn't a lot of fun, but then again, either was my Beretta 84B. After removing the magazine and taking off the safety, I finally figured the correct point to line up the slide with the lever. Cleaned up the pistol, remembering this caveat:


(Apparently some very bad thing will happen. I need to read up on this one.)

Reassembly also comes with a caveat:


Oops! How to Fix a Fallen Ejector

If you push the ejector down too far, it will fall into the frame. You now have some work to do.


Here's one version of the fix:

Ejector pushed too far

If the linky fails to work, here are the basic steps, according to 'bumper' in cited thread (note he does not mention turning the pistol upside down while pressing the sear spring):

1. Remove slide. Remove grips. Lower hammer gently.

2. Remove pin at bottom rear of grip frame (this retains mainspring housing) push mainspring housing down about 1/4" or so (this step may not be necessary but'll make the next step easier.

3. The left side of the sear/ejector spring is for the ejector, it's the side with the small 90 degree forward bend or "hook" at the top. The front edge of that hook is supposed to be in the little notch at the bottom backside of the ejector. This rounded notch is facing upwards now as the ejector has rotated forward too far.

4. To get things back right you will need to use a small screwdriver or similar tool to push the ejector side (left side) of the spring aft far enough that it will allow the top of the ejector to be rotated back - this will swing the bottom of the ejector forward so that releasing the ejector spring will have the top of the spring behind the bottom of the ejector. You may have to hold the top of the ejector spring back while you push the mainspring housing back up.

5. Replace mainspring housing retaining pin. When using screwdriver or similar to push ejector side of spring back, you may want to wrap tip of driver to avoid scratching spring.

If this sounds too complicated, watch a video. Here's a link to a 'tube vid on the fix:

ejector fix

Interestingly, the original Colt Mustang's (the P238's older twin) manual has a short section on this problem, and a short description of an easy fix with two pictures:

So there you go. Gravity is your friend in this fix!

Anyhow, after checking the P238's function, I was ready to go.

I still had a box of 13-year-old Winchester 95-grain FMJ FN (flat nose), but also bought a box of Federal FMJ from Wally World (great place to shop for ammo late at night!). My first 12 rounds looked like this:
The first six rounds were me getting used to the recoil and retort of the pistol. But note the last five rounds: All on the bullseye. This pistol needs absolutely no sight adjustment! It shoots point of aim! Lining up the dots under the bull resulted in a nice 1.5" group! Wowzers!

Here are few other targets:
 Looks like I got my money's worth 13 years ago with this .380ACP. I then did a 'round robin' (clockwise from upper left) with smaller targets using 5 rounds per magazine. I guess I was a little tired by the time I got to the tiny center bull, but this pistol worked for me:

There were malfunctions whatsoever with the old ammo or several magazines of the new ammo.

I'm a happy camper. I like this pistol.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Review: Loading Block for the Charter Arms Pathfinder .22 magnum Snubby


 The Pathfinder Snubby in .22 WMR - Tips and Projects

Boy howdy, it seems like there are some Charter Arms haters out there! There seem to be some folks who definitely do not like the company or its products (one poster said he got a nasty email reply from the owner at one point). I don't know this company's history and I'm not sure what kind of  revolvers were manufactured by the company during the brand's recent 'junk' period, but I decided to take the plunge and purchase a 2018-made Pathfinder with a 2" barrel chambered for .22 magnum.

A recent search for a rimfire snubby with a bit more punch than .22LR found me handling a Ruger LCR .327 Federal Magnum revolver, which I instantly disliked due to its sharp and obtrusive trigger guard - not good for my hands.

And there aren't many currently manufactured snubby revolvers for .22 magnum (discounting North American Arms). The top of the heap would be Smith and Wesson's 351 C and 351 PD, but I'm not going to spend $800 for a revolver with a Clinton lock. Same thing with Ruger (which is now beholden to anti-gun activist shareholder Blackrock - may they rot in hell).

The Charter Arms Pathfinder has no such nonsense incorporated into its design. Basic specs on my new Pathfinder (stolen from Charter Arms' web site):


Finish: Stainless
Frame: Stainless steel
Grip: Full
Barrel length: 2"
Capacity: 6-shot
Caliber: .22 Mag
Hammer: Standard
Weight: 19 oz

My kitchen scale told me that the revolver weighed 1 lb, 4 oz. unloaded, so the above weight info is wrong.

So what do you get? Well, the revolver doesn't have a finely polished finish. There was a small spot of finishing abrasive in one of the frame pin dimples on my revolver. The fit and finish is yeoman-like, but not award-winning. The revolver's latch mechanism, although it works, is kinda funky and feels cheap.

On the positive side, this is a relatively inexpensive revolver that works. In .22mag it's like the snubby has a bull barrel, which is a good thing, as the revolver can heat up if you pump out 100 rounds through it in a single hour like I did on its first outing.

First Range Session with the Charter Arms Pathfinder .22 magnum Snubby

Here are the first six rounds through the snubby - in single-action with my wrists resting on my range bag - i wanted to see how the sights were aligned - btw, the revolver had been fired at the factory with a full cylinder, evidenced by fouling - always, always, always clean your weapons out of the box!:

The Fiocchi 40 grain TMJ at 1900fps wasn't too bad and not really a handful. The revolver shot a bit left and low (to me), but I was able to follow up with different ammo and hit the bull in single-action, even another yard away:
The CCI Maxi-Mag TNT Varmint 30-grain at 2200fps had a bit more punch but was on point and accurate. This was what I was looking for. However, I was even more impressed with CCI/Speer Gold Dots, a 40-grain lower (1050fps) round (note the one flier - I pulled that one):
Finally, I finished up my snubby's first 100 rounds with some double-action:

Extraction Tips

 I was able to extract all rounds, although as the cylinder warmed up, the Fiocchi cartridges were a tad hard to get out (had to punch with my palm) - but no stuck cartridges. One thing I did notice with this revolver was that after loading and pushing the cylinder in, the cocking was easier if the cylinder was in time - not really a problem - had no trigger issues (although disappointingly, I did have two Fiocchi rounds fail to fire on first strike - a second strike was OK - no such problem with the CCI ammo).

UPDATE: When I got home, I took a bronze brush wrapped with copper fibers and scrubbed each chamber in the cylinder. I then cleaned the cylinder, wiped each chamber dry, then followed up with Simichrome polish, and thoroughly polished each chamber, again going in the direction of the brass - back and forth, not in a circular motion.  I then again cleaned and dried the chambers.

The result? At the next range outing, with the same ammo and same number of rounds (two boxes of Fiocchi - 100 rounds), I was able to extract spent brass just using a hard finger press - no punching required - this is very nice! I'm really starting to like this revolver!


Regarding the trigger: I found double-action to be very nice and smooth, and could hear/feel the first stage 'click' even through my ear protection. Single action was very good, crisp and light with a clean break. I had no trouble keeping on target in double action. This would be a very fabulous revolver in 3-inch with an adjustable rear sight (I already have a Smith 317, so that's why I went with the snubster instead of the 4-inch Pathfinder).

You can easily turn this pistol into a hammerless double-action only revolver by purchasing a spurless hammer from Charter Arms for less than $25 - that's nice! (or you could just grind off the spur on your hammer - LOL!)

There are some maintenance videos on cleaning and taking apart this pistol. Charter Arms also sells a simple tool that makes working on the cylinder latch a lot easier - I may invest in it at some point.

Modifying the HKS 51J Speedloader and Making a Loading Block

I ordered a pair of speedloaders for this pistol from Charter. Turns out that I overpaid by 50% - gee, thanks, Charter! You can get the HKS speedloaders for this revolver (model 51J) from places such as Cheaperthandirt or Thesportsmansguide, etc. for about $8. So save yourself some ammo money, and don't buy them from Charter.

I was unable to not only not find any cheap loading blocks, but unable to find *any* loading blocks for this pistol. And I'm certainly not going to pay nearly $100 for a box w/blocks.

The first problem you'll find when trying to use the HKS speedloader is that while it fits the cylinder chambers, you won't be able to speedily load your revolver. Why? Because not only does the stock rubber grip get in the way, but so does the smaller plain wood grip!

Now, if you go by the HKS folks recommendation, you'll need to modify the grips (according to the back of the speed loader's package):

Let's see: Should I cut or sand away on a brand-new wood pistol grip, or should I cut or sand away on an $8 plastic speed loader? Hmm... Well, the HKS folks in Kentucky may think I should mess with the grip, but I dont. There is no need to modify the revolver's grips - and which aren't oversized - that would be dumb.

Here's my solution to the speedloader and loading block problem: Modify the cheap HKS speedloader, then make your own loading block:

I took a scrap piece of the hardest wood I could find in the garage, then used a small awl to pinpoint drill points for five load points on the block. Using a hand drill, I then started off with small bits and progressed to a bit sized for the .22 magnum. Using a bit of extra rotation, I slightly enlarged each hole, then changed to a conical grind bit to add a very slight chamfer (bevel) to the lip of each hole.

The speedloader was modified (as shown) by adding an indent between each round hole, then sanding a bevel around the top of the loader using a little drum sander on a Dremel. I think I also slightly sanded the circumference of the loader. After this, the speedloader easily slides into position with the rounds and doesn't run into clearance issues with the grip. This speedloader and loading block are ready for the range!

And if you want to keep things a bit more tidy, size your loading block to fit inside an "MTM 200 Round Small Bore Ammo Box" (currently less than $10). I cut out the plastic center section, then reversed the two ammo holders to present solid sides to the loading block, which sits flush with the bottom of the box:

I continue to be impressed with this revolver. Here's a pic from a range session today:
And then, a little round-robin a bit closer with smaller bullseyes:

So there you have it. I'm more than happy with the accuracy of this snubby. I see no reason to practice out to 25 yards, let alone 25 feet. But for close-in work, this little snubster looks like a winner - especially in the pocketbook.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Review: Taurus PT-22 Poly - Tips, Tricks, and Traps

The Taurus PT-22 Poly

I like mouse guns. Thanks to North American Arms, Beretta, Kel-Tec, and companies such as Taurus, you can find some really enjoyable pocket pistols.

(Unfortunately, I won't be buying a Ruger LCP/LCR-anything at any time in the future due to Blackrock's interventionist shareholder activism in 2018. Besides the LCR has a terrible trigger guard for my grip, which would result in severe blistering in a single range session.)

This page contains a few observations regarding my new PT-22s.

The PT-22 is a cheap pistol but with better fitment than other pistols in its price range. If you go by some folks' complaints you may think buying an inexpensive pistol like this is a crap shoot. Perhaps so. However, on the other hand, there are a number of high-end expensive stinkers manufactured nowadays as well. Here's a short list of manufacturers with recent recalls:

Smith & Wessson

and of course, Taurus.

But frankly I'd say you're more than likely to get a great PT-22 in perfect working order. However, there are some things about this pistol that may require initial attention. I'll try to document them here.

By the way, you can look up your weapon via its serial number on the Taurus web site:

serial number search

(Interestingly I received a "No matches for your serial number were found." for both pistols - so the database is horked.)

The PT-22 Poly

Like many semiautomatic pistols nowadays, the PT-22 Poly has a polymer frame. I won't do a laundry list of specs, but my pistols, with the 2 5/8" blued and stainless barrel and slide, came with one newer-designed magazine with a capacity of 8 rounds, a 2.8" barrel, and a weight of 11 ounces.

Shown here is the blued pistol with the new magazine, and two old-style magazines:

I immediately ordered two magazines directly from Taurus since the PT-22 only came with one. The only ones available were the old style (show on the right below). Taurus delivered them to me in less than 24 hours from across the state!:

But getting the old magazines was a good thing! If you look at the new vs old bottom plate, you'll see that the old style allows you to remove the extension to convert the mag to a flat plate (simply use a toothpick to press in through the hole, slip off the extension, then use a screwdriver to unscrew the extension from the bottom flat plate- you cannot do that with the new magazines!

Just be aware that if you slip off the bottom extension on an older-style magazine that getting the extension back on can be a bitch.

Hint: Relieve the spring tension using a pick or screw driver to make things a bit easier and carefully line up the slot/channels to slide the extension back on.

First-time Cleaning

Always clean your weapons before taking them to the range for the first time. I wiped down the weapons with an oily (CLP'd) rag, along with the exterior of the magazine. Next, I carefully examined the weapon.

On both my PT-22s I had to chip off some residual polymer left over from the milling/prep process. Here's where to look:

You see the two front curved portions of the receiver? Both sides each had a little piece of polymer sticking up. Here's one piece:
The piece was about the size of grain of sushi rice. Although I'm sure the gun would have merrily squished and torn up the polymer during battery, I thought it best to carefully trim off each piece.

Here's another look at a second PT-22 i purchased (stainless). Out of the box, you can see the polymer remnants on the slide:

See the right side? That's a nice chunk of polymer. I'm not sure that it's a good idea to break in your pistol and hope this stuff 'goes away.' Here's another view:

I also looked at the feed ramp and saw some machining striations running horizontally on the blued pistol - the stainless was pretty good! To smooth out the blued ramp to help feeding, I took some 2000-grit wet-or-dry, rolled a piece up to match the ramp, then *carefully* smoothed out the ramp using *vertical* strokes (in the same direction a round would take). There was some striation in the chamber but I didn't mess with it. Afterwards, I took some Simichrome and polished the ramp and slightly polished the bottom lip of the chamber.

The Taurus Security System

Thanks to numbskull politicians, liberal retards, parents with Darwin-award progeny, and bottom-feeding lawyers, this pistol is equipped with an ILS (internal locking system). This means that you can lock the pistol to a non-functioning state with a little key that you could lose and that renders the pistol useless if needed. Many folks throw away such keys and the stupid Clinton locks included with pistols.

Hint: Be warned that not only is the PT-22's ILS useless, it can also destroy your pistol. Here's the warning from the manual:

Never engage the Taurus Security System on your Taurus Pistol with the slide in the open (rearward) position or with the barrel tipped up/open. This will result in permanent damage to your firearm.

What kind of stupid shit is that?

Oh, and for your info: There is no difference between the security keys for the PT-22 from pistol to pistol. The keys are all the same, so if you happen to lose yours, you might try begging for one from another owner on a Taurus or other gun forum.

Range Time and Finding Ammo

My first task was to find suitable ammo. 'Quiet' ammo (790fps) isn't going to work. At first I didn't think CCI standard-performance (1070fps) would work. I thought you were going to need some ammo with a minimum punch of at least 1260fps. There is nothing in the pistol's manual nor any information regarding appropriate ammo for this pistol on the Taurus web site.

Some folks on the web published recommendations that supposedly came from Taurus, but I've been unable to find anything at the mothership. The lists of supposed 'good ammo' includes:

American Eagle HP (1280fps)
CCI Blazer (1255fps)
CCI Mini-Mag HP (1260fps)
CCI Mini-Mag Solid (1255fps)
CCI Velocitor HP (1435fps) <-- YOWZA!!!
Federal Bulk HP (1260fps)
PMC Match Solid (1050fps) <--- not surePMC Zapper HP (1280fps)
Remington Yellow Jacket HP (1500fps) <-- YOWZA!
Remington Hi-Speed Solid (discontinued?)
Winchester DynaPoint HP (1250fps)
Wolf Match Solid (1050fps) <-- nope, don't think it will work

Some of these are common, while others are not or are expensive or are no longer made.

I mostly shoot rimfire (and .32 ACP or .32 S&W), so I had several brands and types on hand to try at the range. Here is what I experienced with my blued pistol:

I have had three failures extract and five failures to fire (that went bang on the second pull).

The best-performing were Fiocchi's CPRN .22LR, CCI Velocitors, and, after a 350-round break-in CCI Standard Velocity LRN!!!! I attribute the failures to fire to crappy ammo. I was disappointed in CCI's 'Swamp People' rounds - stupid product. The Federal failure (FTF(BAD)) to extract was due to a dud round (Federal makes some really crappy bulk ammo - I got burned on this ammo by Cabela's, which censored a bad review, and by Vista Ammunition who basically blew me off when I called to file a claim.)

Here's an example of the Federal crap ammo. After an initial 'Phttt!' a squib lodged in the PT-22's barrel, with just the nose sticking out of the muzzle like a little dog's dick. I had to punch it out with a cleaning rod:

The Aguila failure to extract was due to bulged cases that stuck in the chamber (happens with that ammo once in a while on my other .22s as well). The Stinger FTE was on the last round - a horizontal stovepipe.

Fiocchi, CCI Standard Velocity LRN, and the CCI Velocitor were the clear winners in the reliability department. However, the surprise was which ammo seemed more accurate.


Update: I ordered a precision digital scale and a .22 rim gauge to hopefully sort my ammo before hitting the range. Stupid me. Should sorting reduce problematic rounds and increase accuracy? The answer is NO! I'll have to live with Federal crapshoot rimfire until I expend the remaining 1,000+ rounds left from the bad lot - I'll *never* buy Federal bulk ammo again!

I ended up shooting 50 more rounds each of the Fiocchi (with no incident) and 50 rounds of the Aguila (with no incident). All in all, about 160 rounds for the initial session.

I'll update the above chart as I find different ammo for testing.


Here is the target from Armscor (Filipino-made):
Not too shabby. The Armscor .22LR is pretty cheap. I like it in my Phoenix Arms HP22As. The PT-22 trigger is double-action only. Not bad, with about a 6-pound pull. I had no trouble pumping out rounds and after more than 150 rounds my trigger finger wasn't sore. The PT-22 is not a range gun, but plently accurate for me.

Here is the Federal target:
 Pretty sucky. Not only does Federal make shitty .22LR, the crap isn't accurate. I've had under-charges, over-charges, duds, and a squib round that lodged in my Smith 317's barrel.

Here's Fiocchi's target:
That's some paper shredding! I was shooting holes for at least one magazine.

Here's CCI's 'Swamp People' target:
Meh. All over the place, but some hits on the bull.

Now here's the Aguila target:
Bazinga! Now *that's* what I'm talking 'bout! Note however that there is some keyholing (similar to Fiocchi). But this stuff shoots straight - the only bad thing is possible case swelling that can cause FTEs. I may explore some other Aguila (there is a nickel-case version of its high-velocity "Prime" stuff that looks interesting, but I haven't been able to find it anywhere as yet.

Here is the CCI Stinger target:
Note that like the Aguila HV, there are some key holes. This ammo packs a punch though!

Now here's the target from the CCI Velocitors:
And here's the CCI Standard Velocity, which had no problems during a 50-round box:

Yep, it looks like the CCI Standard Velocity, the Velocitors, and the Fiocchi, are the winners! I'm very happy that the PT-22 now eats the CCI SV. Nice recoil with good accuracy. I have several boxes of the Stingers and Velocitors, so I'm gonna keep some for carry purposes and shoot up the rest.

Clean Up

Don't be foolish. Always clean your weapons thoroughly after shooting. Don't let them sit around with primer or powder residue. I came home, then wiped down all the magazines (don't oil them - just wipe them down really good - oil attracts pocket lint, dirt, etc.)

I popped the tip-up barrel, then gave it a good scrubbing. Long rifle .22 is dirty - some more than others (Fiocchi is pretty damn clean-shooting, in my opinion).

Tip: To easily take off the slide, tip up the barrel, then lightly depress the trigger while moving the slide back then forward to lift off - it should be a silent, smooth process. Reverse the procedure when done. You'll save wear-and-tear on the receiver and slide channels.

Walking Trigger Pin?

One thing I noticed on the blued pistol was that it looked like the trigger pin had walked out to the left about a millimeter after a range session of 100 rounds. I don't think it came from the factory this way, but i could be wrong (just checked my new stainless out of the box, and it too was out a bit, but not as much). Setting it back to the proper position required several light taps with a punch, so perhaps this was not the result of my PT-22's range session. But it is something I'm going to be mindful of and pay attention to in the future:

By the way, this is the 'normal' position of the pin (after a few punch taps), and in the picture above the pin is flush with the frame on the other side.

Removing the Poly PT-22 Plastic Grips

You can also easily remove the plastic one-piece grip. Remove the magazine, tip up the barrel, remove the slide, then engage the safety (to ensure you don't have a flying part). Next, unscrew the single screw at the bottom of the pistol. Push the grip down just a tad, then carefully use the tip of a screw driver to leverage the plastic from the frame, using the frame at the bottom of the rear of the magazine well as a fulcrum (right by the screw hole):

The grip change is so easy it's a wonder that Taurus (or a third party) hasn't offered different grip colors. If you look closely at the lower portion of the rear of the frame you can see the innards of the pistol, the magazine safety and the Taurus ILS:
It *appears* that you can easily defeat the ILS and magazine safety (i.e., can't pull trigger with no magazine) by removing the ILS screw and/or the magazine safety parts inside the magazine well of the pistol's grip. The relevant parts of the magazine safety are shown in the pistol's schematic:

The parts are (31 to 34): magazine safety lock, lock spring, mag safety spring, and mag safety screw.

To defeat the ILS and magazine safety (enabling the pistol to fire with a magazine removed), first unscrew part 34, then back out the ILS screw using its key. Next, unhinge the magazine safety spring, part 33, then push the magazine safety (parts 32 and 31) up into the magazine well, using a pick or small screw driver. The safety assembly will then drop out of the well when free of the safety spring's (part 32) slot in the well. I placed the parts back in the little plastic bag that contained the two ILS keys and put the bag away in the pistol's case for safekeeping. Voila! No ILS and you can fire a round with the magazine out of the pistol - much safer for me in a crisis situation!

The Missing Part - Actually An Improvement

One of the complaints with earlier PT-22s was the eventual destruction of a plastic part of the slide. That's right, the brilliant designer had a plastic part, most likely designed as a bumper(?) that was an insert in the front of the slide. You'll find it shown in your PT-22's parts schematic and listed as part number 26:

Don't panic if you don't find this part in your pistol. It ain't there. The PT-22's slide has apparently been re-designed now doesn't have the insert, even though it's listed in the manuals distributed with new pistols.

So there you have it. I'm pleased with my PT-22s, and I'm sure they will only get better with some more range time - perhaps lightening up on the trigger pull. Oh, and I have no trouble whatsoever racking the slide, but then again I also have a Browning Hi Power and don't have trouble racking that pistol either.

As more issues, ideas, or tips crop up I'll document them on this page.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Review: Beretta 3032 Tomcat 32 Auto INOX

Beretta 3032 Tomcat INOX

You never know what you're going to find in your LGS. Stopped by one local shop, Cracker Boys, today to restock .32 S&W for my pre-1909 S&W Safety Hammerless. I started chatting with the gal there and mentioned that I really like .32 pistols but never can seem to find them.

She says, "Oh. We have one new in the box on the shelf that was ordered by a customer a while ago but never picked up. Would you like to see it?"


So she goes into the closet off the shop and returns with a blue box:

The owner of the shop then said, "It's for sale."


Turns out to be:
Just the pistol I've been looking for! A made-in-the-USA Beretta 3032 Tomcat 32 Auto INOX. This pistol has a stainless slide, aluminum frame and comes with only one magazine. As you can see, I've already swapped the flat plate for a Pearce Grip extension. Beretta currently has bulk-packaged magazines for $20, which I think is reasonable, so I've ordered two, along with $35 checkered wood grips.

While waiting for the mail order, I decided to go to the range and check out the pistol. I set up the target for 5 yards, then let loose a box of 50 rounds. Here is the target from a second session of 10 rounds:
Believe it or not, the splotch of green at 8 o'clock represents three rounds! Recoil of this pistol is remarkable light, just a tad more than the wonderful Kel-Tec P-32. There were no hiccups out of the first box of 50 rounds, and I expect the action and trigger to smooth out a bit more as we go along.

I played with various types of battery, using the safety, using the tip-up to load, racking the slide. The slide was easier to rack than the NAA Guardian .32 ACP.

Takedown is a breeze, and I was able to quickly wipe off residue, swab the barrel and do a general clean up at the range bench. Quite remarkable.

I think we have a winner here.

Dating Your  Beretta

Beretta USA is kind enough to provide an on-line database of serial numbers for its pistols (and IIRC, other weapons):

Info for my Tomcat reveals:

Serial Number: DAA554XXX
Model: J320500
Product Description: 3032 TOMCAT 32 AUTO INOX
Approximate Manufacture Date: 2018
Parts Listing: Parts
Owners Manual: Manual
Product Brochure or Literature: Brochure
Barrel: Not Available

You'll find a link to parts (resolves to Brownells), the pistol manual (an old one featuring a blued Tomcat), and 'Brochure' (actually only a link to a product page, not a document). Also note that the manufacture date is 2018, so all the so-called 'experts' who have been saying this pistol has been discontinued are *wrong*.

Drifting the Rear Sight

Note that the rounds were hitting left of target. This indicates to me, and for my stance, grip. and eyesight, that the rear sight needed to have a slight drift to the right. I took a pencil and scribed a line on the right side of the rear sight, then taped two layers of electrical tape on the left side of the sight. With some light judicious rounds of tapping using a brass punch and hammer, I was able to easily see the sight move to the right without scratching or damage. The pencil line should be just enough to have the rounds start hitting point of aim. 

And, as I thought, this worked for me. Took the Tomcat to the range this morning and ran some vintage Winchester flat-nose jacketed rounds and Korean-made PMC full-metal jacket rounds. The little cat now shoots point of aim for me!
By the way - take a look at the green ammo box. This is an MTM 50 Round Flip-Top Ammo Box 25/32 (Green) from the 'zon. Currently at $1.69 per box, this is the only .32ACP storage box on the market. Unfortunately, the recessed square holes are too deep for either .25ACP or .32ACP. The solution for me was to cut up felt furniture pads into little squares, then to push each square into every recess - works perfectly!

Getting a Grip

After a few days, Beretta sent two additional magazines and a set of wood grips. I thought the cost, at $20 each for the magazines and $35 for the grips was reasonable. There appear to be numerous horror stories about grip replacement involving safety removal and a flying spring and piston.  So it was with some trepidation that I approached the task, taking the precaution to attempt the left grip removal while the pistol was inside a large bag (actually the packing bag for a Beretta shirt that I had also ordered at the same time.

After removing the slide, I put the hammer back into double-action position (up) and put the safety on. Next, I removed the right side grip first, then the screws from the left side. Then I attempted to pry off the grip.

I needn't have worried. The secret apparently is to first push from the back of the grip from the other side of the pistol, then pry up from the *bottom* of the grip to get it over the magazine release button. The grip came off with the safety intact and on the gun. A lot easier than I anticipated.

As a bonus, a few spare North American Arms pinky extensions for the Guardian pistols also fit the Beretta Tomcat's magazines:

So now my Tomcat sports new grips and two extra magazines. I'm going to enjoy this pistol.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Smith and Wesson .32 S&W Safety Hammerless - pre-1909

My father-in-law gifted me his father's Smith and Wesson Safety Hammerless. This double-action revolver was made from 1887 to 1940, and features an internal hammer and a Daniel B. Wesson-designed external grip safety on the backstrap. My revolver is chambered in .32 S&W. The first .32 S&W model was introduced in 1888. The revolvers were discontinued prior to World War 2,

The serial number on the revolver traces to pre-1909 manufacturer, but this is not the first, but is the second version of this revolver. The first version, also known as the New Departure or the Lemon Squeezer, used a black powder cartridge. Minor changes to five different models were made over the years, but I believe this is an example of the second version due to the pinned front sight. 

After a thorough cleaning before heading out, I put 50 rounds of Magtech's S&W .32 through the revolver at the local indoor range - the first time it had been fired in more than 100 years. It initially shot a bit high and to the left, but I got my point of aim easily.

I'm pretty happy with the results at 5 yards:

Cleaning the revolver is very easy. The secret is the take off the cylinder. You do this by opening the revolver, letting the extractor snap back in, then holding the latch back and spinning the cylinder up and off. You can then clean up with straightforward strokes of a brush or swab.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Review: Kel-Tec P-32 vs North American Arms Guardian 32ACP

Comparison and Range Report - P-32 vs  Guardian .32 ACP

I'm a lucky dog. I have access to an indoor range open 365 days a year about two minutes from the casa. Down here in the near Tropics it's important to have comfortable and convenient concealed carry.

But this means I've had to do a bit of purchase, testing and evaluation of different revolvers and pistols. For my needs, pocket carry is the way to go - I don't like something attached to my hip or any bulk on the body. I also don't need a pistol that is going to drag my shorts over my butt and down to my ankles.

I like the NAA Sidewinder - it's a great revolver, and in my opinion, perfectly satisfactory when chambered in .22 mag. But I recently caught the mouse gun bug, and just acquired a North American Arms Guardian .32 ACP, along with a Kel-Tec P-32. The .32 ACP in FMJ has a bit more punch, and center fire cartridges have a somewhat more reliable reputation in properly functioning firearms.

The P-32 and Guardian are, to the best of my knowledge, the only currently manufactured and marketed .32 ACP pistols (update: Colt's Model 1903 "General Officer's Pistol" is now offered by U.S. Armament  update2: just scored a made-in-the-USA Beretta Inox 2032 Tomcat today (5/4/18)) - I missed out on buying a new-in-the-box Beretta or Sig Sauer, so these are the pistols I purchased. Here are some of my observations and experiences after running 150 rounds of Fiocchi .32ACP FMJ (redbox) through each of these guns.

The Guardian

Manufactured using a magnetic stainless, the Guardian is a hefty little chunk monkey. The slide does not lock back. It weighs in over 3/4 of a pound with a flat-plate mag and no ammo:

The Guardian in .32ACP is slightly smaller than the P-32:
The main difference is in barrel/slide length:
The Guardian comes in a locking metal box. A signed envelope contains a spent cartridge from the factory. I do not know how many rounds are tested though the pistol before the pistol is put on the
The sights are pretty small. No, let's make that tiny small. So I daubed the front sight with Testors Fluorescent Yellow (1177TT). I also found Fluorescent Orange (1173TT) - both 1/4 oz bottles for $1.79 each at a local craft store:
 At the range I experienced three last-round stove pipes - this is a 'feature' of the design and to be expected. I would prefer that either happen all the time or not at all, but that's not the case with this pistol. I also had a failure-to-extract, where the extractor would not let go of the spent shell. I had to remove the mag, then punch the casing down through the mag well.

The Guardian and the P-32 are double-action only. The Guardian has a hefty trigger pull, similar to a Smith rimfire revolver, although not as smooth. I also ended up with a small blister on the underside of my trigger finger. This is not a range pistol for target shooting - but you do need to practice to get familiar with your gun!

Accuracy was good. In other words, I was able to hit the point of aim with no need for 'Kentucky windage.' Here is a point-shooting target from 10 feet, with the gun held at the mid-section:
 The last 10 rounds of the 150 rounds at 10 fteet:

Next up is the P-32.

The Kel-Tec P-32

The P-32 is a lightweight pistol. Like the Guardian, it can take 6+1 rounds and does not have a safety (the Guardian has an optional ILS available). The P-32 comes in a large plastic gun box with foam (much like the metal box for the Guardian). You also get a trigger lock (useless if you don't have kids, but a good idea for storing your pistol if there are underage family or visitors).

First off, the P-32 has a locking slide feature and last-round hold open, which some folks consider essential - i don't, but that's OK... It's a nice feature:

The P-32 registers at a half pound on the scale with an unloaded flat-plate mag:
The P-32 also has, like the Guardian, a small front sight. So a daub of Testors helped me a lot:

The P-32 was fairly accurate in point-shooting at 10 feet:
 In fact, the P-32 was so accurate for my needs that the last 10 rounds of the 150 rounds were shot at 15 feet instead of 10 for the Guardian:

 I experienced no failures with the P-32. The trigger pull seemed a little bit lighter (i don't have a trigger scale), but this time I did the smart thing and brought a band-aid to protect my finger. After two boxes, there was a very slight amount of abrasion further up the side of my trigger finger - but not enough to blister like I experienced when shooting the Guardian.

And just in time for hot weather: a Nickel Boron-treated P-32:

 Interestingly, while Kel-Tec's NiB finish on the slide and barrel are great and will be quite welcome during the hot and humid summers down here in the near Tropics, a much superior finish and product is available through another Florida vendor:

This is a pricey upgrade, but well worth it in my opinion. This particular P-32, beside benefiting from a very nice, slick NiB finish to its slide and barrel, now also sports a hard-chrome extractor assembly, stainless clip, hex screw pins instead of nylon, and not shown, a hard-chrome assembly/take-down pin (on the other side).

Trigger Upgrade

Another thing you can do to upgrade your P-32 is to add an RTK Sweet Spot trigger. Keep in mind that this is a one-way trip for your P-32's original trigger: You'll need to snip out the trigger to access its pin, then pull the pin *down* in order to remove the carcass, trigger spring and trigger pivot. The RTK trigger, on the other hand, is easy to install, and its holding pin drops *down* from the top of the trigger - no force required! A very nice way to go - I wish Kel-Tec would buy the rights or contract for this trigger arrangement:

And here's my Fail Zero-enhanced P-32 with its RTK trigger (in gray, *not* milled). Pictured are all the tools I used: a brass/poly hammer, roll-pin punch (because I have screw pins on this P-32), blue loctite, nippers to cut away the original plastic trigger, a hook tool for hammer spring removal/assembly, small gunsmith block, hex key (small) for screw pins, hex key for trigger adjustment, and finally, a set of snap caps - handy for testing:

And another view:

I had purchased the stainless Guardian for its rust-resistance, but now I can confidently carry my new P-32 through this summer season with some confidence! And out of the box, these pistols are deadly at 15 ft. (i keep getting folks coming over to my lane to see what i'm shooting when i use a P-32, which kinda says something?):


The P-32 is a winner in my book.

Especially in light of the fact that at the 175-round mark, the Guardian threw its entire extractor assembly into the ether at the range. That's right - the extractor, extractor plunger, and plunger spring were GONE!

I'd love to know how the extractor assembly is press fit into the slide - it would interesting to see a video on a repair. I'm going to guess that my experience is a rare one?

update: thanks to a fellow NAA forum member, ADP3, here's the info on the extractor:
the Guardian extractor is not press fit.  There is a notch at the rear of the extractor that a spring loaded plunger engages and holds in the slide.  Walther was using this method in 1929 when they introduced the PP.  It's quite common and usually works quite well.   I've never seen an extractor disengage from the slide like you experienced.  If NAA fixed yours it's not likely to happen again.
For a video on a similar extractor, search for 'PP slide service' - apparently this type of assembly was common in the late 1920s with Walther semiautos!

Here's the assembly, but without any detail:
See the circled area? Yep, that's right - the extractor assembly is NOT pinned!

On the other hand, Kel-Tec's P-32 Gen 2 extractor design is brilliant, IMHO, and reduces slide strip down, firing pin and spring assembly, and extractor assembly down to a single #10 Torx Plus screw, eliminating a traditional coiled extractor spring, pinned extractor assembly, and firing pin retention plate/screw or pin. The end of the Torx screw fits into a machined valley on the firing pin, retaining it; when servicing your P-32s.

This make the task of deep-cleaning your P-32's slide, firing pin and extractor very easy.

On the other hand, it's nearly impossible on the Guardian without the proper tooling and experience (I've seen no published instructions or videos on servicing the Guardian, unlike the plethora of information available about the P-32).

As far as the missing extractor assembly: NAA has *excellent* customer service, as I was initially able to talk with a very nice woman on the phone who conferred with an NAA gunsmith, and then immediately send a FedEx overnight label for free shipping back for repair. The Guardian returned home after less than two weeks after being sent off for repair. I received a FedEx signature-required package:

Interestingly, NAA used the same box i shipped the pistol for the return box (it's a good box):
Inside was a sheet of paper, my original wrapping material, and of course, the pistol in a brown envelope with my name on it:
Here's what was replaced. I was surprised by the replacement of the hammer spring and hammer spring follower (32006/32007, but part #18 and #19 in the above diagram):
There was no charge for shipping both ways or the repair. Oh, and besides the polish to the ramp and chamber crown, NAA was good enough to repair a nick I put into the top of the barrel right after I bought the pistol - that's nice! I'm hoping that this will be the last time i'll need to send the pistol back.

The problematic area was assembly of the extractor plunger, seen here in shadow next to the extractor:

And as I now understand it the plunger, held under spring pressure, is held by a notch on the extractor. I'm happy to report that a 100-round range session showed the pistol to operate normally. There were no failures to feed, no failures to eject, and only a few last-round stove pipes. In fact, if anything, the pistol now shoots even more accurately! I also found the trigger a bit smoother and easier to pull:
Thank you, NAA! You've made me a happy camper! BTW, I highly recommend using the extended magazines if you're going to pump rounds out at the range. It makes the session a lot easier and provides a better grip in sweaty hands.

Accuracy with the Guardian isn't too bad, as you can see at 15 ft using Fiocchi FMJ. But with certain magazines, such as the pinky extension, i'm getting FTF due to magazine drops. This is disappointing, but can be alleviated thru a different grip or mag:

Some Additions

By the way, some small modifications can help increase handling comfort with these pistols For example, a modified Pearce mag extension on the P-32, and a shortened small Hogue rubber grip on the Guardian make both easier to hold:
Oh, I also found an extended mag kit for the Guardian at the Cheaper-Than-Jesus sporting goods web site. I though, "Great! I'll order two for the extra two mags for my Guardian!" The kits were $25 each. So guess what?
Yep, each 'kit' came with *two* extended mag springs, extensions, etc. Oh well, I guess I'll have spares!

Update: I've sold my NAA Guardian .32ACP due to a lucky find of a Beretta 3032 INOX Tomcat. I don't think I'll miss this pistol, but I wish the future owner good luck - and the great thing is that like Taurus, NAA has a lifetime warranty regardless of owner.