Saturday, November 22, 2014

Low/No Light training with Sparrow Defense

Statistics tell us that most defensive shootings occur in low light, (dusk or in areas with some ambient light) or no light, (in a home without the lights on or an area with virtually no light.)  Unfortunately most gun owners never learn to shoot a pistol with a light, either attached or using a handheld light.  The news is constantly reporting a tragedy in which a family member is shot due to a case of mistaken identity in low lighting conditions.  As responsible gun owners and serious students of self defense we have the responsibility to learn and practice skills that we may well find ourselves depending on.

As life goes on and personal and professional responsibilities tend to interfere with my shooting habit I've found myself taking less and less formal training.  Let's face it, formal training is expensive.  For the cost of a typical one day class I can buy a case of 9mm ammunition.  On the other hand, getting out of our comfort zone and finding out if our pet theories actually work is worth spending some money on, so when the opportunity to take a low/no light course with Sparrow Defense came up I jumped at the chance.

Clark Sparrow is a deputy for a local (to me) Sheriff's Office and a former teacher.  I met him through a mutual acquaintance a couple of years ago and have shot several IDPA matches with him.  When he started up Sparrow Defense I was silently rooting for him.  Starting up a small business is tough in today's economy. Jumping into the training world is tough as well.  One has to compete with big names as well as lesser known and in many cases poorly qualified instructors.  I was hoping for good things with this class and was not disappointed.

The class started at 4 PM with a briefing about basic range and firearms safety rules and a live run through the GALEFI (Georgia Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors) Low Light Course of Fire.  This was done during daylight with no lights being used.  This was an excellent use of the Crawl, Walk, Run method of training.

Daylight Live Fire

After the Daylight Live Fire was over we cleared our pistols and moved into the first lecture portion of the class.  During this segment Clark covered how the eye operates, detailing the function of the rods, cones, and visual purple.  He then provided us with inert training guns and showed us seven of the most popular methods of using a flashlight with a handgun.  The methods covered were;
Rogers or Surefire
Neck Index
Weapons Mounted Light
Here's an good introductory description and pictorial of the methods covered with the exception of the use of a WML.  Using A Tactical Flashlight

Each method is valid for many instances but none covers every instance that we might encounter.  To illustrate, I've practiced with a Harries technique for years.  It works well with a revolver, especially one with a Baughman style front sight.  However it tends to cast a shadow on a patridge style sight thus creating a less-than-optimal sight picture.  It also interfered with shooting around a barricade on my non-dominant side. To counter that I used a slightly modified Neck Index to work through that particular problem as it applied to me.

After the first lecture we were back on the range.  We shot in relays so there was little down time.  Even with five magazines for my CZ-P07 i spent my time off the firing line stuffing magazines.  We ran through several basic drills on the 3, 7 and 15 yard line with two targets to engage.  Moving while drawing and reloading was incorporated into the training.  Light discipline while reloading was a constant reminder.  There was a lot going on and I'm proud to say that every student kept up with the demands of the class.  As a quick side note.  I mentioned earlier that I prefer a revolver.  As much as I'd like to run one in this type of environment the demands of ammo management make it tough to keep up with the pace of the class.  I make a concession to lower my standards and run a semi-auto for most of these classes.  I don't want to be the guy that holds everyone up because I'm hunting for and then refilling all my speedloaders.

After running the drills we moved back to our classroom and went over Georgia Law as it pertains to Use of Force.  I was pleased to see this portion of the class.  All too many instructors stick to the technical side of firearms without placing any emphasis on the potential legal pitfalls.  To clarify, this was a technical skills class with a relatively small block of instruction pertaining to the legal requirements regarding Use of Lethal Force.
Once again we moved back to the range for a repeat of the GALEFI Low Light Course of Fire with lights.  We ran the same drills at 3, 7, and 15 yards only this time with lights.  In my opinion, one of the failings of the test is there is no option for a participant to start off scanning for or identifying a threat using a handheld light and then transitioning to a WML.  As the test was designed the WML is a huge advantage.  I don't mean to imply that using one is a cheat but to say that the test leaves out a major portion of the skills that should be required if using a WML.

Using a TLR1-HL WML at seven yards.

One thing I noticed was a huge difference in the lights used, both in brand, quality and output.  There were lights from The Home Depot that cost $4/each to WML's that cost close to $200.  Most fell somewhere in between.  I swapped back and forth between a discontinued Surefire Executive Elite E2 with a 60 lumen Xenon lamp and a Streamlight ProTac 2AA with a multilevel output LED lamp.  The ProTac will produce 155 lumens on high output, has a strobe feature and a low output level of 11 lumens.  I use this light at work and it has performed and held up well so far.  For a dedicated night fighting light it falls short.  I'll get to that in a bit.  

Contrast between an 80 lumen light on the left
and a 630 lumen light on the right.

The final portion of the class involved an IDPA style scenario with visual barricades requiring the use of cover, movement, target identification and a mix of shoot and no-shoot targets.  Here's where my ProTac let me down, so to speak.  The multifunction light is all controlled from the use of a single tailcap mounted push button switch.  Tap once for high output, twice for strobe, etc.  When moving from location to location I wanted the light off so as to mask my movement and location.  I found the light strobing when I wanted it on high and so forth.  I think my next ultra-cool-night-fighting flashlight will be a single output LED light somewhere in the 250-350 lumen range.  I also hope to have all the necessary gear together in the next month or so to be able to use my WML.

In conclusion, good training is a good thing, and Sparrow Defense has a good thing going.  If you're in the Atlanta area, look them up and schedule some time with them.  I don't think you'll be disappointed. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Survival Guns: Ruger 10/22 Takedown

I purchased a Ruger 10/22 Takedown not long after they came out on the market.  I felt like it was time for my son to move up from the single shot bolt actions we had been working with so we took a trip to one of the local sporting goods stores, a locally owned one I might add and I let him pick one off the wall.

At the ripe old age of 11 his criteria for a rifle is quite a bit different than mine.  He chose the Takedown because it was stainless steel and synthetic, it looked cool, and it came with a really cool bag.  Come to think of it, maybe our criteria aren't that different after all...

The 10/22 TD, according to Ruger's website weighs in at 4.67 pounds, has a 13.5" Length of Pull (the distance from the buttstock to the trigger,) a barrel length of 18.5" and an overall length of 37".  It accepts the standard 10/22 magazines and comes with the standard gold bead front blade sight and windage and elevation adjustable rear sight.  The package also included a single 10 round magazine.  Ruger claims the rifle will hold zero after reassembly if procedures are followed.  The bag has MOLLE type webbing for a couple of small attachements, two zippered pockets on the outside and three velcro compartments on the inside.  It makes a great storage option for a vehicle or home.

One of the very first things I did was to ditch the stock sights.  I replaced them with a set of TruGlo Fire Sights.  The TruGlo sights required a fair amount of hand fitting to get them on the rifle.  I had to shim the rear sight and do quite a bit of extensive filing on the front sight.  A word of caution, if you take it upon yourself to fit a set of sights to any gun, do the filing on the sights and not the gun.  Once you change the profile of the dovetails you'll have to hand fit any other changes you make at a later date, including trying to reinstall the original sights.

A quick side note on the TruGlo sights, the front inserts can be changed for different colors.  We chose orange as it seemed to be more visible to both my son and myself.  We've not lost or had an insert broken yet.

As of this writing we have ran approximately 5000 rounds through the 10/22 TD.  Due to the current difficulties in obtaining .22 LR ammo that has been 5000 rounds of whatever I could get my hands on.  The list includes but is not limited to;
Winchester Bulk Pack
Federal Auto Match
Federal Champion
Remington Golden Bullet
Remington New & Improved Golden Bullet
Remington Target Standard Velocity
Aquila SuperExtra plated
Aquila SuperExtra lead
Sellior & Bellot HV HP
CCI Stingers
CCI Standard
Winchester Super X
and about 500 rounds of loose ammo my brother gave my son.

If you're looking for a list of groups and measured velocities you won't find them here.  First I don't have a chronograph.  Secondly while we both have shot squirrels with the 10/22 TD that's not the kind of shooting it sees most of the time.  We share the rifle for shooting steel matches.  Mostly a local version of the former Ruger Rimfire Challenge which is now the NSSF Rimfire Challenge.  The bottom line is, the dang thing runs with just about any ammo we've fed it.  The two brands that most notably come to mind as being problematic are the Remington Golden Bullet and the Winchester Bulk.  Both had feeding and ignition issues.

Accuracy out of every brand of ammo was Minute of Squirrel at 25 yards.  Sorry folks, I haven't benched the rifle to zero it and measured groups.  I can hit a plastic water bottle at 50 yards, so that's about as technical as it's gonna get.

At this juncture you're probably scratching your head and wondering how any of this information pertains to a survival gun.  I think of competition shooting as auto racing.  Equipment sees hard use and little maintenance during matches.  Being able to drive a stock rifle in a drag racing style event with no failures and hitting the targets, some of which are quite small will show any weaknesses quickly.  Sights, action, magazines, ammo, etc. if there's a weak link it will snap at the least opportune time.  So If I can load up a BX-25 magazine, shoot a course of fire four times using up twenty of the twenty five rounds in the magazine, run each course of fire in less that 2.5 seconds engaging five targets that require transitioning and have no equipment failures then in my mind I've got a pretty decent setup.  Reliability is the key.  So let's apply what we have to a survival setting.

The gun is compact and light weight.  It's fairly accurate.  It will feed almost any ammo reliably.  It will work in suboptimal conditions. The Length of Pull and weight allow it to be used by smaller framed people as well as big, hulking brutes.  It's based on one of the most popular brands of .22 rifles made.  That means magazines are relatively inexpensive and accessories are readily available.  Ammo is lightweight and easy to pack.  There are dozens of options for ammunition with various velocities, bullet weights, bullet designs and intended applications.

 So what are the downsides?  It's a .22.  While I'm not a caliber snob by any stretch it does have limitations.  It's not the best choice for anything larger than small game.  It's not the best choice for self defense either but, I'll be the first to recommend a .22 for a smaller framed person, someone with grip issues making cycling a slide or manipulating a double action trigger difficult if not impossible or folks that are sensitive to recoil and/or noise.  A .22 rifle with a magazine holding twenty five rounds can lay down a tremendous volume of accurate fire.  We teach that shot placement trumps caliber, penetration, expansion, and the myriad other 'criteria' for a defensive firearm.  Simply put, if you can't hit what you're shooting at, none of that other stuff matters.

It's not my first choice for a survival gun.  It's not even my second or third.  However if it's all I had close to hand, I wouldn't hesitate to pick it up, assemble it and drive on with my mission of getting out of whatever situation I've found myself in that might require a firearm.  If you're looking for a well built, accurate, robust firearm for plinking, survival, general vermin eradication or even self defense that comes in less that $400 you might want to take a bit of time and research the Ruger 10/22 Takedown.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Survival Guns

This post will be the first in the series of alternatives for Survival Guns.  There are just about as many opinions on what the 'perfect' survival gun' is as there are options.  The entire concept can be quite overwhelming and in my opinion, a bit silly.  Let me explain.

Folks are constantly trying to put things into a niche where they can mentally file them away.  It doesn't matter if it's people, sports, politics, knives, guns, or tools.  To that end I find the entire concept of a Survival Gun, as espoused by many on the internet to be downright silly.  In an attempt to provide some insight I'm going to review some of the commonly mentioned firearms and try to cover the pluses and minuses of each.  I'll also review some of the less commonly mentioned firearms to provide some perspective.  Things that we'll take a look at will be caliber, weight, capacity, accuracy, ammunition availability, and versatility.

You won't catch me using the term Survival Gun on any of my personally owned firearms.  Why? Because I don't really believe in the concept, as you might have noticed.  Also I believe the best gun for the job is the one you have in your hands at the time.  That means we have to know what the gun is capable of doing, what the caliber is capable of doing, have a fairly decent idea of how many rounds it might take to accomplish the task in front of us and if we'll need to reload at some point to finish that task.

A few other questions we should be able to answer are;

How well can I shoot this gun under stress?

How well can I manage the recoil of this gun?

How quickly can I make my first shot count?

How hard is this gun to reload under stress and how quickly can I actually reload it?

How well can I conceal this gun?

If I conceal this gun will I be able to deploy it rapidly?

Are there any fragile parts on this gun?

Do I need to carry spare parts?

How much ammo should/can I carry?

The list can go on in quite a bit of detail so I think we'll stop here for now.

As time permits I intend to cover several different options such as .22 caliber rifles and pistols, semi auto pistols, revolvers, semi auto centerfire rifles, bolt action rifles, lever action rifles and shotguns.

If you have a setup that works for you, my intent is not to try and change your mind.  These articles are intended to assist newer members of the firearms community to think about their options and read some reviews before spending their hard earned money based on the advice of someone who has a favorite.

One other thing you might have picked up on, was I placed a lot of emphasis on the end user's ability to accomplish certain tasks rather than the firearm.  Choosing a firearm is a subjective process in my opinion.  The best firearm for you is the one you can shoot proficiently and accurately.  Period. Dot.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Cherokee Charlie's Sheath

I alluded  to a sheath I made made for my Case Sod Buster knife in a previous post A Few Of My Favorite Things.  There are a few things I’m willing to spend money on, good leather is one of those things.  I have a couple of custom made holsters that I’ve used for nigh on fifteen years now.  They are still in very good condition.  Quality has a quantity of it’s own.

The Sod Buster is a little bit large for comfortable (to me) pocket carry.  I also hate to have to dig for a knife when I need it.  To that end I’ve joined the countless others and usually carry a knife with a pocket clip.  Back in the days when pocket clips had just come out on the market and most were prohibitively expensive I carried a Buck knife or a Gerber Gator.  Both are fairly large folding, locking knives.  As the pocket clip variety became more affordable I picked up several.  I still carry my first, a CRKT M16-02Z.

The CRKT M16-02Z in all it’s faded glory:

This post isn’t about the CRKT however.  While it has been and continues to be an excellent knife and a part of my daily carry, this post is about another fine piece of craftsmanship from a local legend.  Charlie Craft, aka Cherokee Charlie is a well known figure in the Cowboy Action Shooting circuit here in the South East.  I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t partake in that particular shooting sport.  I have rubbed elbows with quite a few folks that do and have yet to hear an ill word spoken of Charlie.  In these times that’s an accomplishment worthy of note.

I met Charlie through a local variation of the Ruger Rimfire Challenge which has recently morphed into the  NSSF Rimfire Challenge.  Over the past two years I learned that Charlie, in addition to being one heck of a hip shooter is also a leather worker of some note.  Last month I discussed what I wanted from Charlie and he agreed to make me a simple leather sheath to hold my Case Sod Buster knife.

The Sod Buster:

I spend a lot of time in what these days are referred to as NPE’s or NonPermissive Environments.  To those that don’t keep up with all the cool acronyms and catch phrases, that means places that one can’t or shouldn’t carry a gun or a knife.  Especially in the form of open carry.  Carrying a large fixed blade or folding knife tends to draw looks and occasionally unwanted attention.  That tends to interfere with my work.  I have wore out more pieces of ballistic nylon than I care to admit wearing with different phone cases, flashlight cases, knife sheaths/cases, etc.  Good quality leather tends to hold up, and I’d much rather spend a little extra on something that’s going to last as well as look nice.  After seeing some of Charlie’s work at the local .22 match I decided that I liked his work well enough to feel comfortable about spending my money with him.

The back of the sheath with Charlie’s logo:

Charlie didn’t shoot this month’s match.  I was a bit disappointed when I didn’t see him however people do have lives and life is what happens to interfere with our plans.  I was pleasantly surprised to see him pull up at the range a little over halfway through the match.  He waved me over to his truck and presented me with the sheath and returned my Sod Buster.  I was very impressed with the quality of his work upon close inspection.  The Wolf’s Head and Paw are hand carved.  The stitching is tight and evenly spaced.  Attention to detail is evident and shows pride in one’s work.  To borrow a phrase we hear a lot in the electrical industry, everything was done in a Neat And Workmanlike Manner.

The Sod Buster and it’s new sheath:

Nestled snugly in the new sheath:

Without a doubt I’ll be approaching Charlie again about more work.  I hope to be able to share that with you as well when the time comes.

A final comparison of the M16-02Z and the Sod Buster:

A Few Of My Favorite Things

I was recently asked my thoughts on choosing a knife.  My first thoughts were, “Whoa!  Hold on there a minute!  This is a minefield!”  To explain my reaction it’s best to understand that choosing a knife is a very subjective matter.  Much like choosing a gun, a car or a pair of shoes.  We’re all different.  Hand shape, size, left handed, right handed or ambidextrous.  All those factors boil down to what’s comfortable and how easily we can manipulate a cutting implement.

Intended use is another huge factor when choosing a knife.  A knife that’s suitable for skinning and processing game is not necessarily a good knife for intricate carvings, or as a camp knife, or the current trend of “bush knife.”   It’s hard to take a machete and field dress a deer.  It’s not impossible but it’s exceedingly difficult.

I buy and use knives for cutting stuff.  Period.  Dot.  If I want to cut down a tree by hand, I use an axe or a saw.  My preference is to use a chain saw but, those are rather difficult to tote around on a hiking or camping trip.  Back to knives, I have three basic, broad categories in which I use knives, General Purpose, Specific Purpose, and Convenience.  Those three broad categories can be broken down even further.

General Purpose:  Knives that I can use camping, hunting, at work, or around the house.

Specific Purpose:  Knives that I use for something very specific, such as processing meat, stripping wire (I’m an electrician by trade), working with wood, and survival/emergency.

Convenience: A knife that’s easy to carry around, is compact, holds a good working edge, and can accomplish a multitude of common tasks.

I’ve discovered that these three categories tend to cross over quite regularly.  In other words there is no clearly defined line at which one stops and the other starts, with the exception of some very specialized knives and cutting implements such as draw knives, chisels, etc.  With that caveat firmly in place, let’s take a look at some different styles of folding and fixed blade knives.

Folding Blade:

From the top:
Boker Bullet Knife, CRKT M16-02Z, Swiss Army Knife, Kershaw Volt, Crossman Lockback

Of the five knives pictured above, the CRKT M16-02Z sees the most carry and use.  I purchased it about fifteen years ago and have carried it daily since with the exception of the three times I lost it, tore the house, vehicles, garage etc. apart looking for it, mourned it’s loss, purchased a replacement, opened it, carried it, then found the original.  There are also a few occasions when I leave it at home or in a vehicle for when it’s not appropriate, such as I have to dress up (shudder) or I have to go into a NPE or Non Permissive Environment.  That particular knife fits well into the General Purpose and the Convenience categories.  I can use it for a multitude of cutting tasks from opening a package to stripping wire to light duty prying to sharpening a pencil.

From the top:
Swiss Gear Key Multitool, Kershaw Swerve, CRKT M16 serrated, 5.11 Tactical, Klein Hawkbill

I carry the Swiss Gear Key Multitool on my key ring.  That way I always have a knife of some sort.  I’ve used it for the occasional bottle opening and screw turning.  It provides a nice, lightweight method to have a very basic multitool.  The Klein Hawkbill is pretty much a one trick pony.  It’s a decent wire stripping knife and fairly easy to sharpen.

Fixed Blade Knives:

From the top:
M9 bayonet with the barrel ring cut off, USAF Survival Knife, Custom Damascus Utility Knife

The USAF Survival Knife has been with me for well over twenty years.  I had it when stationed overseas, carried it on my all expenses paid vacation to the Armor Warfare Training Center in The Mojave Desert, (Not quite the beach I had pictured when they told me I was going to the beach for three weeks.)  I’ve carried it camping, hiking, kept it as a vehicle knife, used it to drive tent stakes, light duty batoning, light duty brush clearing, dug fire pits and slit trenches with it and generally abused it.  It has held up to all sorts of abuse and continued to perform every single time I pulled it out of the sheath.  I’ve slowly replaced it with a Gerber Hiker’s Hatchet/Knife combo for most outings but it continues to ride around in my truck should I need it.

From the left:
DPx HEST, Mora Classic, Schrade Skinner

The Mora Classic has become my favorite fixed blade knife, hands down.  The relatively thin Scaandi Steel blade takes and holds and edge like nobody’s business.  I have skinned, quartered and processed the meat from several deer with it.  The highly polished carbon steel blade cleans up very well.  The only downside is the craptastic plastic sheath that comes with the knife.  The plus side is the knife retails for around $15.  For a cutting implement it is about as close to perfect as I have found and doesn’t break the bank either.

Of all the knives I own and use, only about a third which are pictured, this final one is my favorite.  I’ve been accused of being an ’Old Soul’ and don’t really find that to be an insult.  To that end this particular knife is representative of my outlook on life.  It fits my hands well, it cuts well, takes and holds a good edge, is made of good steel and is, as far as I can determine about a 100 year old design.

The Case Sodbuster is a single blade, folding knife with a clip point.  In my opinion that is about the most useful blade shape ever designed.  The example pictured has black Micarta handles.  It does not have an assisted open nor any sort of blade lock.  It’s about as simple a knife as you can get and one of the most useful.  I recently had a local Leather Smith make a belt sheath for it so I could free up a bit of space in my pocket.  His work is excellent and the sheath exceeded my expectations.  Expect a short blog post on him and the sheath in the near future.

What I’ve tried to do in this post is show a few options of various knives and my personal preferences.  With the exception of the DPx HEST, none of these knives cost over $40.  The USAF Survival Knife is proof in my book that one doesn’t have to spend a lot of money to have a good knife.  The CRKT M16-02Z is another example of a knife that keeps performing time and again.   I won’t tell you which knife to buy, but I’m happy to point out a few of my favorites.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

My S&W Model 36 Project

A while back I ran across a feller selling a 3" Model 36 Smith and Wesson Revolver for a very reasonable price.  During our communications across the interwebz he sent me some very poor quality pictures and declared that the pistol had some "...honest holster wear."  As I acquire guns to shoot, asthetics were not nearly as important to me as mechanical reliability.  So we agreed to meet.

As a future note to myself, I'll regard anything declared as "honest holster wear" with suspicion.  The gun looked like it had been stored in the bottom of a salt water tackle box.  There was severe pitting on the barrel, frame, trigger guard and cylinder.  I almost walked on the deal until I went through the motions of function testing the pistol.  Surprisingly, it appeared to be in almost perfect condition mechanically.  The price was low enough that after consideration I felt like I couldn't go wrong with the purchase.  The three inchers are a bit difficult to find and it was in my preferred Round Butt configuration.

Pitting on the cylinder:

Pitting on the barrel:

I put the Model 36 away for a couple of days and was having a pretty good case of Buyer's Remorse every time I though of it.  I finally took the time to run a few rounds through it to at least see if it would hit a target.  Accuracy was good with my pet load of a 158 grain LSWC over 4.6 grains of W231.  That particular load has produced good accuracy in most every S&W revolver I have shot it through.  Feeling somewhat mollified I decided to open the gun up and see what the innards looked like.

Upon removing the sideplate I was pleasantly surprised to see that things looked pretty good.  There was a little bit of surface rust and most of the grease one finds was gummed up.  Taking another look at the cylinder showed only the faintest of turn rings, leading me to believe that this particular pistol had be shot very little.

Anatomy of a S&W J Frame:

I had been looking for a Model 586 or 581 that was cosmetically challenged to commit that most heinous of acts to, customize a pre-lock S&W revolver to my specifications and tastes.  While I'm still on the hunt for the right L Frame to butcher, I decided that this revolver would be the perfect test subject, especially as I had no emotional attachment to the gun.  With that thought in mind I contacted my friend Claude Werner and got his thoughts on the matter.  For those that don't know, Claude is a well respected firearms trainer who specializes in snub-nose revolvers.  If you carry or own a J Frame or similar for the purposes of self defense or if you want training that doesn't resemble a scene from an action movie, you'd do yourself a favor by taking a look at Claude for training.

Claude was good enough to come up to my house and brave enough to enter my basement lair.  We decided that initially the Model 36 would get a bobbed hammer, rounded trigger and the cylinders chamfered.  Claude also took the time to inspect the individual cylinders to see of they needed any polishing.  We disassembled the pistol and started to work...rather Claude started to work and I drank a lot of coffee and watched him work.

Bobbing The Hammer:

The evil and very uncomfortable flat, serrated trigger:

A little TLC from a moto-tool and a sanding drum:

Now the true fun begins:

A word of caution to those with moto-tools and a can-do attitude.  I firmly believe that every person has the God Given Right to own a gun.  I just as firmly believe that moto-tools should be heavily regulated and all prospective owners required to attend a 40 hour training class before being allowed to touch anything but a scrap piece of wood with one.  Especially with guns.  The vast majority of the work was accomplished with a fine grit plumbing sandpaper, a liberal amount of elbow grease and a vast amount of patience.

The mostly finished hammer:

The chamfered cylinder:

The nearly finished trigger in all it's rounded glory:

Here's a view of the Model 36 after it had been reassembled.  I was quite proud of the fact that there were no spare parts and it functioned and fired as it was intended.

I finally had the opportunity to shoot the mostly completed project in a local IDPA "Carry Gun Only" match. It performed quite well.  Accuracy was acceptable given that I had to use something other than my preferred load for the purposes of the match, the range does not allow lead so I had to scrounge around and dig up enough jacketed ammo to shoot.  Eventually as time and motivation permit I intend to cut the Baughman Ramp front sight to something approaching a patridge style with a slight, 11-15 degree slope on the back side.  I also have plans to recrown the muzzle and maybe one day to bead blast and refinish the entire gun, perhaps with a Cerakote style product.  For now, I have what is essentially an ugly carry/truck/pack gun chambered in .38 Special.  As Claude told me when we were discussing the project and I brought up the subject of refinishing; "Everyone needs at least one ugly gun."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

DPx H.E.S.T. Pass Around And Review

I took part in a knife pass-around that started about six months ago.  I was the 14th and final person on the list.  The knife was a DPx H.E.S.T.   DPx stands for Dangerous Places Extreme.  The company owner is Robert Young Pelton who has traveled to many of the most dangerous places on earth and has even written books about his experiences.  If you'd like to see more about his products and experiences you can find his website at

Here's the description straight from the website:

The DPx H•E•S•T or Hostile Environment Survival Tool™ is the knife that started it all...the original, brutal-use everyday carry fixed survival blade. Made in America, used worldwide. DPx is now returning the knife to its original manufacturer, Shon Rowen and Micro Tool. 
The DPx H•E•S•T Original changed the way professionals think of a survival blade. It had to be to be useful and it couldn’t fail when deployed. The H•E•S•T concept was created by adventurer and DPx Gear founder Robert Young Pelton who applied his time in three dozen conflicts and adventures through more than 120 countries to come up with the perfect balance of concealability, utility and fail-safe operation in an innovative blade.
The H•E•S•T features a 0.19” (5mm) blade crafted from high carbon 1095 spring steel with the famous Rowen heat treatment that results in a 57-58 Rockwell hardness. You will find every aspect of the H•E•S•T Original thought out: the balance, lashing points, thumb control, wire breaker and even the ability to remove the hollow, Micarta® handles for use as a neck knife or field expedient tool.
The H•E•S•T comes with a KYDEX® sheath, paracord and cord lock, belt clip kit*, and handle removal washer. 
  • Black textured powder coating 
  • Blade is high carbon 1095 hardened and tempered steel with Rockwell hardness of 57-58
  • Brass hardware 
  • Pry bar, lashing points, wire breaker, bottle opener/lifter/thumb control point 
  • Green canvas Micarta scales with storage area 
  • Designed to be used as a neck knife by removing scales
  • Black kydex sheath with optional belt clip*
  • Designed by Robert Young Pelton 
  • Made in America by Shon Rowen in Idaho Falls, ID
  • Lifetime warranty
*All runs of this knife manufactured prior to 2014 came with optional MOLLE clips (shown below), all runs made in 2014 on come with the belt clip kit.

I received the DPx H.E.S.T. about two weeks ago and was surprised at how good of shape it was in considering the pass around.  I have intentionally not read all the other reviews as I did not want to shade my judgement of the knife.  Here's a couple of pictures of the knife as I received it.

As seen in the first picture, the Micarta scales are showing signs of use from handling.  The knife still handles well and I have not had any issues with it slipping in my hands during use.

The following picture shows a bit of rust at the DPx logo on the blade.  The parkerizing does not appear to have any thin spots and I was not able to find any rust spots on the blade or under the scales where there was parkerizing.  The coating is even across the entire knife.  It does have a satin texture to it which I do not care for, more on that later.

The sheath is kydex with Blade Tech brand MOLLE webbing locks attached.  It is sturdy, with painted brass Chicago Screws attaching the MOLLE locks to the sheath.  They will not work for a horizontal attachment without modification.  I suspect different attachment points setup for a belt can be added without too much trouble.  Retention is very secure according to my shake test but I'd think twice before trusting it to any form of inverted carry.  There is a drain hole in the bottom of the sheath that allows water to drain.  As shown in the pictures it is Coyote Brown on one side and black on the other.  I flipped the attachments over to convert it to left-handed carry.  The MOLLE locks did fit over one of my leather 'gun' belts (essentially a thick pants belt) providing a very secure attachment to the waist.

The knife has several innovative features.  My personal favorite is the storage compartment in the handle. One accesses the storage by removing two brass Chicago Screws and then removing one of the Micarta scales.  I removed and reinstalled the screws using a tapered flat point screwdriver, a dime, penny, the rim of a .38 Special case, the rim of a 5.56 case and a flat point gunsmithing screwdriver.  I did have issues removing the scales unless I removed both parts of the Chicago Screws.  Both scales have a hollowed out section creating a very small compartment for storage.  If you're planning on using this for a survival kit don't plan on carrying much.  I was able to fit ten .22 LR cartridges in with a bit of careful placement, or twelve foot of masons, line, or a folded $20 bill and there is room for two if folded carefully and so forth.  As the knife has lashing points I felt like the mason's line along with a couple of fish hooks made the most sense.

When I mentioned doing a review on a different forum a point was brought up that the brass screws were a design flaw and they should be replaced with steel as the slots will start to strip out with repeated use.  I totally disagree with that suggestion.  Steel will rust and even stainless steel will oxidize and gall the threads together.  Brass is much more resistant to that particular issue.  As far as repeated use, I don’t feel as if tiny storage compartment was designed for easy and repeated access.

Turning the screw with a 5.56 case.

The other major tools are a bottle opener, pry bar and wire breaker.  The bottle opener works after a fashion.  My son and I both opened a bottled soda at the same time, me with the H.E.S.T 4 and he with a Swiss Army Knife bottle opener.  His was off with a flick of the wrist but I had to make three attempts to get my cap off.  The spine of the H.E.S.T. 4 is so thick that it just won’t fit under a bottle cap properly.  It did however, work.

The pry bar strikes me as a trip to the E.R. waiting to happen.  The knife’s design places it on the back of the rear bolster.  To properly pry one has to use the handle which does not provide a lot of leverage.  The tendency is to increase the length of the lever by grasping the edge of the blade.  Even with the sheath over the blade excessive force could cause the sheath to slip up the blade and create a nasty cut.  Once again something to be aware of, especially if one is in an environment as this knife was purportedly designed for.

I’m not really sure what the purpose of the wire breaker.  I understand the theory, I just can’t figure it’s place on a knife.  I could not get it to break a piece of copper electrical wire.  I have speculated that one might be able to use the blade to pry open a gap in a strand of barbed wire and work the knife back and forth and eventually break a strand.  As I didn’t have access to a fence of that type I was unable to test the theory.

The very first tests I performed was the put the knife in the hands of my `14 year old son and have him open some bags of top soil.  During this process I had my first issue with the knife, cleaning the blade.

Before cleaning.

After the second trip to the sink, liberal use of dish soap and a dish rag.

I have concerns for using this knife to process game.  If I can't fully clean a little bit of dirt from the blade with two trips to the kitchen sink, dish soap and use of a dish rag how am I going to clean blood from the blade?  Especially in the field or in the extreme conditions the knife is supposed to be designed for.  In my opinion the Parkerizing creates a potential health issue that one needs to be aware of and hopefully prepared for.

At the risk of insulting some of the previous testers, the edge of the blade was in rough shape.  It had no less than three different bevels down the length on both sides.  I put the knife on my Lansky and cleaned the edge up to my satisfaction.  I don’t have it razor sharp but it does have a decent working edge on it.  It totally failed feathering a piece of cedar until I spent a couple of hours reworking the edge.  I can’t comment on how a new, unused knife would perform at this.

I’ve kept the knife in a vehicle quite a bit.  I ran tap water over the blade and placed it in the sheath and left it in my van for a couple of days to see how the heat and humidity would affect the Parkerizing.  I could find no spots of rust other than the aforementioned spots on the logo.  The Parkerizing is even across the entire knife.

Any survival type knife should be able to open a can.  The H.E.S.T. 4 performed this task extremely well.  There was some scuff marks on the Parkerizing but the finish was otherwise undamaged.

I really like the placement of the bottle opener and the curved section behind the ricasso.  They are perfectly located to allow one to grip the knife and perform fine work with the tip and belly of the blade.  As the clip point is especially well suited for skinning medium to large game I find this feature to be especially well thought out.

Being a creative sort of feller, I did find a perfectly good, alternative use for the bottle opener, wire breaker and even the pry bar.

The ability to lift a pot off a fire without burning my hands is a bonus in my book.
In conclusion, I rate this knife at a four out of five .22 Long Rifle cartridges.  I’m not all that impressed with some of the features or perhaps a better term would be gimmicks however, I am impressed with the overall quality of the knife and would not hesitate to trust my life with one in the field as long as I were prepared for what I feel are limitations.