Taurus TCP break-in and 500-round report

23 06 2011

Approximately one year ago I picked up my CCW permit from the local Sheriff’s office. A short time later I ran into a gentlemen by the name of Todd Bedocs (BMT Firearms, Seville, OH) at the local gun show, who had both the Ruger LCP and the Taurus TCP next to each other and at great prices. After some debate, I picked up the then-new Taurus TCP in blackened stainless for about $290. They can be had for less than $250 today, but since my only other handgun was a Glock 17 at the time I was willing to pay the early-adopter’s tax for something I could slip in my pocket.

BMT Firearms Business Card

Once purchased I followed the manual’s suggestion of putting 250 rounds through the firearm for break-in. The results can be seen below. In the first 250 rounds the only malfunctions noted were two instances where the slide locked back with one round left in the magazine.  Far from a show-stopper in my opinion, but after the second instance I marked the magazine to correlate any following such instances to the magazine.  None were recorded.  Notice that both times I was using Fiocchi FMJ ammunition.  I have failed to experience any such problems since those two, but I have also strayed away from Fiocchi ammunition for this firearm.  Over the two days of shooting I made sure to record the type of ammunition (Winchester White Box, Fiocchi, Remington UMC, or Federal Hydrashok), the range conditions, and the type of fire (slow aimed, tap tap, or single-handed).

Taurus TCP Breakin Report Page 1Taurus TCP Breakin Report Page 2

Over the 14 months that have followed I have taken my pistol to the range every time, but fired only about half the time and never with similar quantity as the two trips documented above.  To be honest, this thing kicks like a mule and is downright uncomfortable to shoot.  But that’s what it is MADE for – not necessarily to be uncomfortable, but to be very small and light.  When one chooses those two, it is hard not to sacrifice the former.

As of this spring I have put approximately 500 rounds through the firearm, and I have noticed some interesting points of wear that I thought worth sharing.  While the firearm continues to function well, I now have doubts concerning the precision of Taurus machining.

The first thing I noticed was that my cleaning patches wouldn’t slide easily over my barrel any more during cleaning.  There was a small burr developing on the rear top right corner of the barrel, on the small section that hangs out over top of the chamber.  I was able to ignore it at first, but it definitely grew with time.  I also noticed a corresponding divot forming on the mating slide section.  Upon closer inspection, the barrel was found to be tilting slightly to the right when the slide was pulled to the rear.  When the slide was released, the barrel remained slightly cocked to the right until this corner smacked into the slide where the divot was forming, and this pushed it into the proper location.

Here you can barely see the divot in the center of the red circle, slightly above the extractor.

The next step was to determine WHY this was happening, and I believe I have found the culprit.  The slide locking pin also functions as the bar used to interact with the barrel during slide operation, pulling it down from its locked location.  The slot in the bottom of the barrel appears to slant – EVER so slightly – to one side.  If the locking pin is square to the frame, and the frame is square to the slide, then the direction of the slant would tip the top of the barrel slightly – TO THE RIGHT!

If you look carefully, the top of the barrel is approximately level, while the pin appears to slant slightly from low on the left to high on the right.  If the pin was level in the frame, this would certainly push the top right corner into the right side of the slide.

I plan on forwarding all of this to Taurus and will update here with any response worth posting.  I still feel this is a reliable and inexpensive firearm for what most call “deep concealment”, and it allows me to carry in the summer when my S&W Model 36 would prove too big.  I still wouldn’t trade it for anything, but after seeing numerous reviews of a NEW firearm I thought it would be worth sharing my experience 500 rounds in.  My Glock 17 looks better at 6000 rounds than this does at 500, but again – this firearm serves me well in the role I purchased it for, and I would happily make the same purchase tomorrow due to its reliability, price, and easy concealment.





Daisy 853 O-Ring Replacement

9 06 2011

I am always looking for ways to stretch the money I put towards shooting.  As a result I spend as much time as I can shooting pellets instead of live ammunition.  It is cheaper than even .22 LR, and requires the same basics – muscle control, posture, breathing control, good form, etc. – if you want to consistently get anywhere near the 10-ring.  Recently one of my Daisy 853 pellet rifles stopped functioning (yes – plural – makes for some fun simultaneous competition with the wife!).  After charging the pump lever, a small “hiss” could be heard near the breach and after the requisite 3 seconds or so to load the rifle and get into firing position there was nothing left to propel the pellet.

Daisy M853

 

So with it no longer functional it was time for one of my favorite phrases – let’s take it apart!

If you found this post thinking I was going to walk you all the way through disassembly and the repair – my apologies.  I am here only to add a small addendum to the following text.  However, if you own one (or more) of these rifles you owe it to yourself to purchase Tom Johnson’s “Sporter Tips – Care & Servicing”, available from the CMP at the following link.  It covers disassembly, reassembly, care & cleaning, and even how to upgrade the action.  It’s certainly worth the $2.00 list price.

http://www.odcmp.co/Programs/publications.htm

The only problem I found with that book – he fails to indicate how to obtain spare parts, or even what commonly-available parts will work.  After disassembly I determined that a small bur on the Pump Tube Frame had torn the O-Ring on the Pump Lever Assembly (Diagram in the above book, and FYI he refers to the O-Ring as a “Washer”).  After taking care of the burr with a round stone, I took the cut o-ring down to my local NAPA Auto Parts store, and they informed me that the closest thing they had was a metric 19 x 2.5 mm O-Ring.

I reassembled everything tonight, and it appears to be functioning perfectly.  So there it is – the most common wear item on these rifles is replaceable with a $0.67 part from your local NAPA store.  Thanks to this repair, my air rifle setup continues to provide inexpensive practice with inexpensive maintenance, repair, and ammo costs.





Dear Jennifer

9 06 2011

Yesterday the young lady behind one of the firearms blogs I frequent shared how she got started in shooting and blogging, and asked her readers to do the same (http://injennifershead.com/?p=2756)- so here I go!

I grew up the son of a police officer in an extended family full of hunters and firearms enthusiasts.  That being said, my earliest formal firearms training was as a Cub Scout with Mr. Wilson on the BB range at Camp Stambaugh in Canfield, OH.  I believe I was just a Wolf scout at summer day camp, and while this seems like a lifetime ago (I guess it pretty much is at this point) I can still remember the first morning – determining which eye was dominant, walking through the commands, learning about sight picture, trigger squeeze, and breathing.  I will also never forget the smell of the piss-stained mattresses used as pads for prone position.  At the end of the week there was a ceremony and bonfire that you attended at night with your parents.  One of the awards given out that night was marksmanship, and I was one of a handful of recipients.  With my dad in attendance I was very proud to be standing up there.

During my younger years firearms were something I only came across at Cub Scout and Boy Scout camp.  Despite having a family full of firearms enthusiasts and hunters, I was too young to hunt and we just never went shooting.  When I turned 10 my dad asked if I would be interested in getting my hunting license.  He explained it would require training, a few Saturdays, and a test, and that he would accompany me through the entire process.  I was ecstatic!  After getting my license we went to my Grandpa’s house where I was familiarized with what is now my most cherished possession – my Great Great Grandfather’s 1929 Ithaca NID 20-gauge side-by-side.  After explaining the history behind it, relating a few stories from his youth of hunting with it as a boy in PA, he gave it to me on the eve of my first hunt at the Grand River Wildlife Area.  The next day, I took my very first squirrel with it.  Sadly I aimed a little low and there was nothing left of the little guy when I was done.

My First Squirrel

A few years later I found myself a summer job working on the Boy Scout Camp Staff at Camp Avery Hand near Mansfield.  I was originally hired as an assistant to the camp director, but then filled positions in the dining hall and the rifle range as needed throughout the summer.  The rifle range was by far my favorite time spent on staff.  I got to work with an eccentric and hilarious range officer named Harry who had a TV in his tent, couldn’t eat cheese, and was allergic to mosquitoes.  That summer he helped me get my rifle and shotgun merit badges as a thank you for my help on the range.

BSA Rifle and Shotgun Merit Badges

Through high school and college I continued to hunt with family members whenever the chance presented itself.  This included trips to Pennsylvania and Michigan, as well as various locations through-out eastern Ohio.  Some of my favorite memories are from these trips, especially the trip where my dad, grandpa, and great uncle (grandpa’s brother) stayed at my great-grandma’s house and hunted the same locations they did as a child, only to have her cook up what we brought home for dinner.  Being in the same locations with the same guys carrying the same shotgun they had the last time they were there was memorable to say the least!  Outside of these hunting trips, times where I had a firearm in my hands were few and far between.  At the age of 17 I shot my first handgun – my grandpa’s .38-special S&W revolver – while on a hunting trip.

The Hunters in snow

After I graduated from college with an engineering degree, I decided it was time to purchase my first handgun to further my skills and for protection at home.  After much consideration, I purchased a new Glock 17.  For the next two years I tried to get to the range once a month, but there were times where 6 months would pass by between trips.  Thanks to the space limitations of apartment dwelling, a hand safe containing my Glock and two spare magazines was all I could spare, and cleaning was done on my workbench in the garage.  After a few years my now-wife and I moved into a beautiful newer home with a half-finished basement, and I immediately staked a claim on the unfinished half.  Within 6 months I was a member of the local hunt club to allow for the use of their outdoor range, had a proper gun safe that now housed two shotguns and a .22 rifle, and had a bench dedicated to firearms.  Within 3 years I had filled the safe to capacity, had set up a pellet range in the basement to allow for more frequent practicing of my skills, and had started down the path of getting serious about my abilities as a marksman making sure to visit the range at least three times a month during the summer.  In June of 2010 I went through all the necessary steps of getting my CCW license, and continue to carry whenever possible.

Range Time

That pretty much sums up how I got to where I am today with regards to shooting sports.  In the future I hope to of course further my skills, share my experiences here, find a trap range nearby and start refreshing my shotgun skills, and get involved in some sort of formal competitive shooting with both pistols and rifles.  Thanks for reading, and thanks to Jennifer for instigating this walk down memory lane!





Wilson Combat 1911 Barrel Bushing Wrench

8 06 2011

INTRO

If I look around my cleaning bench and consider the functionality per dollar spent for each tool or cleaning accessory, I find it impossible to beat the Wilson Combat 1911 Barrel Bushing Wrench.  For that reason I’ve chosen it for my first review.  I am relatively new to 1911’s, having just purchased my first 8 months ago (Springfield Armory Loaded Stainless full-size) – and this is by far the best accessory for it I have purchased thus far.  My first two cleanings involved one rather painful step – getting the 2-piece guide rod disengaged from the barrel bushing during take-down.  This inexpensive tool was designed to make that step easy and painless – now to analyze its effectiveness and show it in use…

First, the iron…

SA 1911 Loaded Stainless

 

…and next, the tool!

Wilson Combat 1911 Barrel Bushing Wrench

 

DESIGN, PRICE, FUNCTION, AND TESTING (DPFT)

The wrench is a simple design – basically a 5.5″ long, 1.25″ wide, 3/16″ thick piece of plastic (PVC?) with two cut-outs designed to mate with the popular 1911 barrel bushing shapes.  You can see in the picture above the two cut-outs – the one on the left, which I use for my SA Loaded, is approximately 3/4″ wide and 15/16″ tall, while the one on the right is approximately 7/8″ wide and 7/8″ inches tall.  Here is a picture of the fit on my 1911.

Wilson Combat wrench in place

I paid all of $3.99, not including shipping, for this tool (purchased from MidwayUSA.com in November 2010).

The function is as simple as its design – it is meant to slip over the barrel bushing of a 1911 and assist with its rotation while simultaneously helping you retain the spring cup which is trying in vain to escape to parts unknown.

As you can see in the following picture, the spring plug on this model – as well as numerous other modern 1911’s – has a thin lip which catches the bottom of the barrel bushing.  The first step in disassembly is to remove the threaded portion of the guide rod using an Allen key…

 

 
Muzzle view untouched

…which results in something that looks like this…

Mizzle view minus guide rod

…and we’re now ready to use the barrel bushing wrench.  As described above, without it I found it easy to launch the spring cup – typically with a small chunk of my thumb attached – across the room into parts unknown.  As a wise old model railroading physicist once observed, the smaller and lighter the piece, the less likely gravity affects it purely in the downward direction (in other words, small parts LOVE to fly around for NO apparent reason).

With this 1911, the manual instructs you to hold the slide back about 1/2″ to rotate the barrel bushing clockwise.  At this point the spring cup is released, allowing for further take-down.  The following shows my typical 1-handed hold on the wrench during this step.

Wrench in action

The only complaint I’ve heard or read about this tool is that the plastic is too soft.  This results in the tool becoming scratched and small plastic chips and shavings being deposited on the spring cup, and at times the barrel bushing itself, during use.  Personally I would rather have a $3.99 finger-saving wrench that I may need to replace every 5 years than a tool that mars the finish on my pistol.  The following shows the typical results of using this tool – nothing that a couple of puffs and some brushing won’t fix!

Wrench aftermath

CONCLUSION

As stated in the introduction, I find the functionality per unit price unbeatable in my vast collection of tools and firearms-related knick-knacks.  For $4 this tool has made stripping my 1911 down for cleaning much easier, quicker, and painless.  In my opinion this is an inexpensive “Must Have” for any 1911 owner, especially those with a lipped spring cup similar to the one shown above.

 

 





Getting right to business – is match grade ammunition worth it?

3 06 2011

To Hell with the usual nonsense of describing what I want to do with this blog.  I’m just going to dive right in and start doing it.

First – some background.  In October the stars aligned – my firearm fund had built up, and the number I refer to as my age incremented.  In celebration I purchased a Springfield Armory M1A National Match with traditional blued barrel and walnut stock.  After familiarizing myself with the firearm and getting through a break-in period of about 300 rounds without incident I purchased some NRA SR-1 targets and got to work refining my skills.

A question that comes up rather quickly when you start caring – and I mean *really* caring – about the precision and accuracy of your shots is “what is match grade ammunition and is it worth the price?”

I won’t lie – I completed the entire break-in period on this new rifle using Winchester “White Box” Q3130 7.62x61mm NATO, 147 Grain.  This was *before* I got official word back from Springfield Armory that, contrary to their manual and numerous other pieces of included literature, the rifle was in fact chambered and designed to shoot .308 as well as 7.62×51.  I digress – with the White Box ammo I was perfectly able to get 20 shots onto a dinner plate at 100 yards from a bench rest.  At the time I thought that was pretty good!

Well – it wasn’t.

This past weekend I finally received my first boxes of Federal Gold Match .308 168 Grain, and I went to the range to compare it to the aforementioned White Box, as well as some American Eagle .308 that I picked up *cheap* at Fin Feather Fur in Ashland, OH.

Slight side track – if you buy any of this stuff, I suggest you check the primers as you load.  First box of this I tried I did NOT do this (I know, I know…) and hit a reverse primer which dirtied up my pretty rifle.  I contacted Federal but have not heard anything back, despite my offer to ship the round to them for QA purposes.

Before I get to the results – general notes.  All ammunition in this test cycled without incident.  I used three separate 20-round magazines, each loaded with 10 rounds of each type.  One type of ammunition per target.  All targets were punched at 100 yards from a bean-bag bench rest.  Weather was 80 degrees, 5 MPH wind breeze approximately 45 degrees to the path of the bullets downrange and to the right.

First fired was my old standard, Winchester White Box…

Winchester White Box Q3130 Results

Next up came the el-cheapo American Eagle AE308D…

American Eagle AE308D Results

And finally, the new kid on the block – Federal Gold Match .308…

Federal Gold Match GM308M Results

Notice a difference!?  I did too – but I felt the need to quantify the results.  I love science, math, and numbers – they help us measure the world, and someone once said you can’t control what you can’t measure!

The following shows how I did this.  I measured the X and Y values of each shot independently.  I then averaged all the X values for a given target, then likewise averaged all the Y values.  This gives me the average center of the group.  I then calculated, in the bottom row of a given ammunition type, the distance each shot was from the center of the group I just calculated.  I then did an average distance from center and the standard deviation of the shots from that calculated center.  The lower the standard deviation is, the more “precise” the round can be considered.

Excel Results

So there you have it!  The Federal Gold Match ammunition was statistically twice as accurate as anything else.

Of course there were a lot of variables with this shoot, but they remained relatively constant through all three volleys.  Because of this I’m pretty confident that while I may be able to change the results above, the relative results are going to be very similar.

 

Now is it worth the price differential?  Only you can decide for yourself, but I’m going to start looking for sales on Gold Match…

EDIT – MidwayUSA has the aforementioned GM308M on sale for $220/200 rounds until the end of June 2011.