November 2010

Bobbing the M36’s Hammer

Reader Bovie found that a factory-replacement bobbed hammer was the right way to solve light primer strikes. Also, readers chime in with questions and comments on 380 ACP ammo tests.

Re "38 Special S&W Snubnose Showdown:

Who’s the Top Dog?" September 2010

I carried the Model 36 S&W for three decades as both an on- and off-duty gun. I bobbed the hammer early on and had an occasional failure to fire with some practice ammo. I had the department armorer advise me that bobbing the hammer reduced the weight of the hammer, thus reducing the strike force of the hammer, causing light strikes on older or less-sensitive-primer ammo. I had him replace my bobbed hammer with a factory replacement bobbed hammer, and the problem ended. He told me the factory replacement bobbed hammer was the same weight as the original-issue unbobbed hammer, therefore the impact energy to the primer was always sufficient to reliably ignite the rounds. The only difference was that the factory bobbed hammer made the revolver into a double-action-only revolver, which presented no problem for me since we were trained to fire double-action-only with our old-issue S&W Model 15 revolver.

—Harry Bovie
Henderson, Nevada

No Tricky Trigger on His PF-9

Just got your letter to renew my subscription, and I mailed it back to rejoin. However, in your letter you bad-mouthed the PF-9 because of a "tricky" trigger. I have owned and shot one for some years now and never had a FTE [failure to extract] or FTF [failure to feed] with more than 1000 rounds through it. The double-action trigger is very long, but so are most other DA semi-auto triggers. I’m 80 years old and have been shooting 70 of those years. I don’t consider myself to be an expert, but I know what I like. I liked my O3A3, my M-1 Garand, and dating back, my Thompson SMG and 45 ACP 1911. I’ll keep on shooting my PF-9, regardless of what you experts think about it. Semper Fi.

—G.J. Seper

That November 2007 test did say some uncomplimentary things about the Kel-Tec PF-9. Mainly, what my test team found wrong was the trigger. The team said, "What we couldn’t tolerate was the trigger function. The trigger was the longest and heaviest of those tested, but we could have gotten used to it, if it were not for what we consider to be a design flaw. We believe in properly resetting the trigger after each shot to increase accuracy. After we fire a pistol, we hold the trigger to the rear of the trigger guard and then release it forward until a click is heard, and then we apply steady pressure for the next shot. If you try that with this pistol, you will only hear a click instead of a bang." The other two 9mms in the test, the H&K P7 (Grade A) and the CZ 2075 Rami P 9mm(Grade B+) were a lot better guns when shot side by side. If you’re happy with your trigger, then we say go with it.
—Kevin Winkle

Re "Short 45 ACPs from Sig Sauer, Kimber, and

Springfield Armory," August 2010

Your review of the Sig Sauer C3 was good enough to lead me to that purchase, and it has become my everyday carry gun, so thanks. However, I also bought a Taurus 4510 Public Defender model and was excited about the potential there, until I discovered before I ever fired it once that the Taurus gun lock that’s built into the frame of the gun and set with an included key had partially set itself on its own. The only thing I had done was to operate the action and open/close the cylinder. That is unacceptable. I returned the gun to Taurus, and they "fixed" it, proclaiming to have replaced a broken part and otherwise adjusted it. I got to thinking that I could never again really trust a gun with that kind of an issue, so I traded it for the Sig C3 plus some cash at a gun show. New for new. I feel like I got a good deal.

—Jim Kononoff

To be fair to Taurus, it sounds like they did indeed fix the function problem with the 4510 under warranty. But if you lost confidence in the gun as a result and traded it for a gun you liked better, then that sounds like a win/win. —Todd Woodard

Re "Gauging 380 ACP Loads: FMJ May Be

the Only Way to Go," October 2010

Some years back the old golden retriever and I had hiked from the Manzano trailhead up to height of land of the Sangre De Cristo mountains, a Sunday morning ritual for good weather. I got a call from the National Forest HQ—a flatland furriner had shot a bear near Tres Pistoles spring. I was volunteered to check things out. I never did understand why the guy shot the bear, a normal-sized male bruin, but I was quite surprised at the effectiveness of the 95-grain full-metal-jacket 380 ACP rounds. The bear had been dead for a couple of hours when I got there, and obviously had not done much since taking half a dozen rounds. I skinned the bear and probed for bullets. I would say that the ammo effectiveness was completely adequate.

—Dave Ward

Albuquerque, New Mexico

When I was looking for 380 defense ammo, it was in pretty short supply. The only thing the dealer had on the shelf was Glaser Pow’RBall, so I bought it. Other than for practice, I hope never to have to find out how good it is or isn’t for penetration and expansion. But if I ever need it, I want the best. Since it wasn’t included in your tests, have you ever evaluated the Pow’RBall concept compared to other defense loads? Or should I just stock up on FMJ when I can? Thanks for continuing to put out an excellent, unbiased report. It’s very informative and helpful.

—David P. Herrmann,
Danville, California

I cringed reading your team’s comments and their pick. In 380 ACP, you already have a severe wound problem with small bullet and low grain weight, and small amount of powder. Now you say to pick a FMJ bullet? I firmly agree that 9mm is the smallest caliber effective for self-defense, and you agreed with that, but my experiences with 40-caliber Starfires have been abysmal at best. I have shot 9mms, 40s, and 45s in Starfire, but had several jams in my Glock 27 and my Sig 229. I sold all I had left to a gun store. They look great, but, to me, any jammer is a goner. I will not trust them again. I am sorry you did not test the Hornady rounds also. I am not experienced with 380s, but many police agencies shoot Federal Hydra-Shoks in varied calibers in my area. Gold Dots and Sabers are also used.

Why is penetration so vitally important all of a sudden? I am more interested in what it does in one-shot-stop tests. I am not shooting car bodies or windows with it, I hope. I have two 380s now, an LCP Ruger and a Walther PPKS. The latter was carried by a cop as an undercover backup gun. The Ruger has taken over the 380 market recently here. For future issues, I would love a good comparison of 380 vs 38 Special rounds in JHP. Thanks for a great magazine.

—John F. Clouse, Jr.
Azle, Texas

I was delighted by the conclusions reached in your article about 380 ACP FMJ loads. It has always seemed to me that if you’re firing a 95-grain bullet at subsonic velocities from a gun with a 3-inch barrel, it’s asking a lot for it also to expand, as well as to penetrate deeply enough to be effective. Round-nosed solids are standard for African hunters of game like elephants and rhino, and the urban equivalent of such dangerous game, in proportion to the size of the cartridge, might well be a heavily muscled human in a thick leather jacket.

—Leonard Kindler

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

It grieves me to have to complain about the 380 ACP showdown article in the October issue. Sometimes it’s possible to be too smart, and I think that article is a case in point. While I’ve never had a confrontation where I had to draw my handgun, if it happened, I’d be confident in my Sig P232. Isn’t the point of listing the penetration data of the various rounds into water indicative of how far the round would penetrate into the typical human body? I think yes. Well, I’m 5 feet 11 inches tall and weigh 200 pounds, and my cross section (front to back) is less than 12 inches. By your data, the only round that wouldn’t be a through-and-through in my case is the Winchester 95-grain PDX. I think we need some hard evidence from the field before we can damn this ammunition’s personal-protection capabilities.

—Mark Bozek

What I would like to see is a study of the 380, 9mm, 38 Special, 357 Mag, and the 357 SIG. You have already tested the 380 and 9mm. Please continue on for the rest of the family of similar-size projectiles. As an example, I pulled out my old August 2001 Gun Tests and looked at the 357 SIGs that were tested ("357 SIG Pistols: Three Winners, Two Maybes, and One ‘Must Buy’"). When I look at the chronograph data it is clear that the 357 SIG moves a 125-grain bullet at around 1300 fps and has about 475 ft.-lbs. of energy. I look at the 9mm test and the 125-grain bullets are moving at just over 1100 fps. The 380 testing doesn’t even have a 125-grain bullet. Let’s see what the penetration looks like for the 357 SIG (my new favorite round) and the 357 Mag. That would give us an idea of how the various choices in 357 compare. For those who have not shot the 357 SIG, it is a necked-down 40 S&W and has less recoil. It is controllable and easy to fire all day long. Thanks for the great magazine. I hope to see the rest of the bullet family going through the testing.

—Tom Ochs

Bob Campbell is rapidly working through several cartridge tests. Perhaps down the road we can compile data from the winners of each cartridge test and put them in the same table and article and see who wins. Even so, however, cartridge choice is just one factor in a self-defense program, so there will be 380 shooters who like the smaller gun profile enough to give up better terminal performance. —tw

Your article on 380 ammo may save someone’s life. It was very revealing that FMJ 380 ammo will penetrate to at least acceptable self-defense depths, opposed to hollowpoints. Your article motivated me to read about this topic further in the internet. My readings often confirmed your findings. However, several writers encouraged the use of flat-nose bullets. They state that they will penetrate better than FMJ and will cut a larger hole than the FMJ as well. Federal American Eagle, Remington, and Buffalo Bore all carry such a product. What do you think is better for self defense, the FMJ or flat-nose ammo for this caliber?

—Sam Shaw

For now, we’ll have to stick with FMJs, since we didn’t shoot flat-nose bullets in the most recent test. But it’s something to consider. —Bob Campbell

I was disappointed that you did not include Hornady’s Critical Defense 90-grain FTX loads. This renders the article incomplete for a lot of readers.

—Burton J. Walrath
Jacksonville, Florida

I was very disappointed in your article comparing several types of 380 ammo. Why didn’t you include the Hornady Critical Defense load? I’ve recently gotten back into shooting and have subscribed to several magazines, but yours is the only one that I’ll continue.

—Elmer L. Wilhite
Aiken, SC

I could not find the Hornady load at the time. I was able to include the FTX in the 9mm and the 38 Special test, but, frankly, I was lucky to come up with what I did. My favorite gun store was actually reserving 380 ACP only for those who purchased pistols in the caliber, so I had to twist their arm and also buy a pistol, then abuse the privilege and practically wipe them out on ammo! Perhaps we can do another test at a later date, particularly if I can get some Cor-Bon in this caliber as well. —Bob Campbell

Re "Polymer-Frame DA/SA Pistols: FNH and CZ

USA Compete," October 2010

Regarding the piece on the CZ P-07 and the FNH-9, I have to disagree with your grade of B- for the P-07. I own one and would give it at least an A- based on its feel in my hands, nice trigger in both DA and SA, and its battle-ready factory sights. These attributes are exactly what one needs in a self-defense pistol. In addition, the P-07 just looks cool. The FNP-9 looks like any other boring polymer-frame pistol. Since both of these pistols are meant for battle or self defense, the fact that the FNP-9 has weak sights is a deal breaker for me. I’m not willing to spend more for aftermarket sights. Sure, the spring is stiff, and P-07 is not as easy as taking down my Glock 22, but I don’t need my wife and brother to help me reassemble my P-07. The big problem I had with this pistol when I bought it in April 2010 was, as you accurately stated, that the magazine would not drop free. I contacted CZ USA and they told me to ship the pistol back to them. Two weeks later they shipped me a brand-new pistol, and the magazine drops freely. I attribute this flaw to the fact that this pistol is new and still has some bugs. However, just about every pistol I’ve ever read about has had issues upon its initial introduction, such as your initial C- rating of the FNH FNP-9 from August 2008.

If my P-07 proves to be as reliable and tough as previous CZ pistols, I’d give it an A+. However, only time will tell.

—Edmund W. Hughes, Jr.
Apopka, Florida

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