April 2013

Doctor Says Sanow Is No Expert

And we agree. Also, Reader Millett asks some engineering questions about the P938, and Ray answers. Reader Kontas offers advice for adding homemade stippling to plastic grips.

Re “40 S&W Tests: Black Hills 155’s Are a Best Buy,” Feb 2013

I have read Gun Tests for many years and have the highest regard for your policy of being free from commercial interests, and the technical expertise of the writing staff. I was frankly shocked that R. K. Campbell would declare Ed Sanow an expert on ammunition or anything else.

The data presented by the tag team of Sanow and Evan Marshall in Handgun Stopping Power and Street Stoppers — The Latest Handgun Stopping Power Street Results, has been found to be false and fraudulent by numerous academics involved in wound ballistics and statistical research. Unlike Sanow/Marshall, these academics have no connection to various ammunition manufacturers.

Sanow/Marshall’s detailed analysis in Street Stoppers, and Sanow’s previous article in Petersen’s Guns & Ammo Handguns Annual 1994, “The Sensational Strasbourg Stopping Power Tests,” of the notorious, yet authorless “Strasbourg Goat Tests,” amazingly found that the goat data exactly matched the data for stopping power that Sanow/Marshall had developed previously in their own database. Statisticians have found the Sanow/Marshall data impossible to explain by any means other than fraud. All reputable authorities consider the “Strasbourg Goat Tests” a hoax. These facts have been known since at least 1997.

I know space is limited in your publication, so I cannot present this issue in the detail it deserves. Interested readers can find all this information with a web search for the Firearms Tactical Institute website, which contains reprints of articles from the International Wound Ballistics Association and Wound Ballistic Review journals.

The unbelievable reference to Sanow as an “expert” by Mr. Campbell forces me to question the expertise of at least one member of your staff.
— Paul T. Rubin, M.D. Houston, Texas

Dr. Rubin: Based on my own work in Gun Tests and elsewhere, I completely agree with you. I sourced Sanow to document the water-vs.-gelatin penetration ratio, nothing more. A quick search of my work, including work at SWAT and Gun Blast, shows that I was on record 10 years ago questioning the results of the Stopping Power books. Funny, nobody wanted to hear it at the time! In the professional circles I worked in and still circulate in, the professional community has discounted Sanow and Marshall’s work. I have a rule about not downing folks by name and using the name when I give credit, which is probably too gentlemanly. I should have edited out any descriptive reference to Sanow and just used his name. — Bob Campbell

“Another Brace of Nines: Sig’s New P938 Takes on S&W Shield,” March 2013

I’m a huge fan of your publication and usually read it cover to cover as soon as I receive it. I use it as the standard to compare guns, and I trust your testing and reviews. One of the latest is troubling to me however. The test of the Sig Sauer P938 left me confused. You admitted the gun functioned well with the Russian and Ultramax ammo but had the problem with shaved primers with the Cor-Bon. Then you acquired a second pistol and had the same problem. Isn’t it possible, although improbable, that the batch of Cor-Bon ammo had defective primers?

Given the other problems you had with this pistol, I certainly wouldn’t rush out to buy one, but it just seems crazy to me that two factory fresh guns would function fine with two types of ammo and both have matching malfunctions with Cor-Bon. Did you throw out this possibility since the M&P9 shot the Cor-Bons with no problems? — Matt Valentino

Not only did the M&P Shield function perfectly with this bunch of Cor-Bon, a handful of other nines did, too. There’s nothing wrong with the ammo. We used two types of Cor-Bon, and they both caused malfunctions in the 938. Sig Sauer promised to test and get back to us, but we have not yet heard a word. — Ray Ordorica

Your story on the Sig 938 and Cor-Bon ammo triggered the trouble-shooting engineer in me. This is not emotional — I don’t own or plan to own any of the products mentioned in the article.

The first question: What caused pressures high enough to reverse-deform the “innie” primer dent (that was required to fire the round) into an “outie” bump that got sheared off? In the photos of fired and unfired cases, I don’t see severe primer flattening in the sheared-off cases compared to the unfired cases. To my naked eye, the primer hole does not seem to be of unusual diameter. Can you verify that?

Could the Cor-Bons be jamming into the rifling leade as the round chambers? This is an interaction between the bullet shape and the chamber shape. If the leade is too short and/or too steep for this Cor-Bon ammo, the ammo could jam into the rifling as it feeds, which might result in unexpected pressure peaks.

You might try loading two or more Cor-Bons, fire one, then carefully remove and inspect the second round that was fed into the chamber, to see if rifling imprint marks are visible.

Cor-Bon is widely respected carry ammunition, so Sig should be responsible for cutting a chamber that accommodates Cor-Bon, or at least providing red-letter warnings not to use it. But I also believe such pressure spikes would probably lead to primer flattening, which is not evident.

I suppose it’s also possible that these Cor-Bon rounds could have abnormally soft or thin primer cup material, making them easier to deform. But primers are pretty much primers, without major advances in the last half century, so I’d consider this an unlikely manufacturing flaw which ought to also reveal itself in other guns.

The second question: Regardless of how the bump got there, how could it shear off?

My Beretta 96 has some beveling at the breech face of the firing-pin hole (almost like a target crown), but my Springfield GI 1911 has a nice crisp edge. Any beveling is less than the thickness of the Parkerizing. I’m guessing that the Sig may have a burr. Since on unlocking the barrel wipes down relative to the breech face, the place to look for the burr would be on the top edge of the primer hole in the breech face. If Sig broached the breech face after the hole was drilled, it’s possible that they forgot to deburr, or didn’t deburr because they have never seen the problem before, and this was a fluke that got through QA.

— Scott Millett Ridgecrest, California

Mr. Millett: In the Sig 938, the primer is not supported by anything after it is set off. The firing pin is retracted by its spring, leaving an empty hole in the breech face. The hole is sharp edged, but has no burrs. As to jamming the round into the leade, I suspected this and made tests to verify there was no interference between the bullet and the rifling in the leade, and I also verified the unfired ammo headspaced perfectly in the chamber. Inspection showed zero rifling marks at any time on subsequent unfired rounds.

Note that the 1911 design moves the slide rearward before the barrel drops. It does not have the immediate wiping action of the Sig 938 or the S&W M&P Shield, which drop the barrel immediately, and while significant pressure may still remain on the primer. The two lots of Cor-Bon ammo we have here have been fired in a great many 9mm handguns over the past few years and have performed perfectly. Just yesterday, I again verified that it took only two shots each from Cor-Bon’s 100-grain Pow’RBall and 115-grain JHP to cause failures on the third round, in one of the 938s on hand. The sharp firing-pin hole needs to be either beveled, or relieved downward as the Shield’s is done. I am convinced I could fix this problem in less than a minute with a countersink, or do a better job in five minutes with a Dremel tool.

It’s up to Sig at this time to deal with it, and I won’t touch either of the two failed guns here until such time as Sig admits to a major problem with this design. You implied Sig should be responsible for making its guns accept Cor-Bon, to which I say, “Bingo!” They have not yet done that. Anyone who owns one of these guns may very well be in mortal peril, and this is not necessarily confined to the use of Cor-Bon ammo. — Ray Ordorica

“Mid-Size Compact Forties: Smith & Wesson Edges Out Kahr,” March 2013

Your article finds that the grip on the S&W M&P 40c is a little slick and could use some additional traction. Here’s an easy, inexpensive, and attractive solution.

The 5 in 1 Hobby Tool at Harbor Freight Tools, SKU #38593, sells for $8.99. One of the heating tips for this woodworking tool is about the size of a BB and is ideal for stippling the backstrap of the M&P. I chose to work on the middle size of the replaceable backstraps, because when you stipple with this tool it slightly swells the size of what you’re working on. Move to the rear of the backstrap and start your work in the middle with a dot. Then start surrounding the dot with more dots in a circular pattern and keep going until you have the backstrap covered. I started in the rear of the grip because the plastic is thickest there, and by the time you’ve done a couple of circles, you’ve got the feel for how long to touch the tool to the surface to produce the stipple effect. As you work toward the edges, the plastic gets thinner, and your touch needs to be lighter to avoid a burn through. The stipple effect gives the extra traction you’re looking for, and at the same time, it is not harsh on the hand. As you touch the tool to the plastic, the molten plastic rounds out.

I also did the same thing to the plastic on the front of the extended magazine. If you work at this carefully, you’ll like the visual effect you produce. I did not do anything to the frontstrap because I felt that if I wanted to sell the M&P, the next owner might not like the stipple effect and he/she would only have to change to a new backstrap.— Russell Kontas

Super advice! At HarborFreight.com, the Hobby Tool description says,“This woodburner is the ideal tool for any hobbyist performing soldering jobs, working with Styrofoam, cutting stencils or burning designs into wood or leather. This woodburner tool contains tips for both soldering and wood burning all in a convenient carrying case.” — Todd Woodard

“Boot-Gun Revolver Showdown: 38 Specials Take on 9mms,” March 2013

Another excellent issue, but I must take exception to your evaluation of the S&W 940. I bought one of the first ones sold and still have it. My only regret is not holding out for the 3-inch version. Also, I teach a CCW class, so I have a strong basis for my opinions. As to your criticisms:

1. In the CCW classes I teach, I recommend carrying only DAO revolvers, never a conventional SA/DA revolver. Reason: case law, in particular Crown v. Alan Gossett and Florida v. Luis Alvarez. If you read those cases, you’ll see DAO is not a detriment — it is a qualification for avoiding any trial, either criminal or civil.
2. Related to the DAO is the sealed frame. The S&W 638 and other shrouded examples can be jammed. A Cleveland policeman’s friend had his S&W 38 in his pocket. When removing it at home, he noticed that a dime and pocket fluff were stuck behind the hammer, jamming the action. Another advantage of the 940.
3. Weight. With the +P ammo everyone carries, I have found that my students shoot heavier guns with typical carry ammo far better than they do the lightweight snubbies. Further, the lightweight pieces tend to induce horrible flinches, which are almost impossible to correct. With a decent holster (and we always carry a snubby in a holster, see point #2 above), weight is not a problem. In fact, the extra weight reminds people they are carrying; thus, they tend not to forget they are carrying and enter prohibited areas while doing so.
4. Polished surfaces. My 940 isn’t particularly shiny, but having a gunsmith render a matte finish is not expensive.
5. Full-moon clips are great, inexpensive speedloaders. However, I keep several for practice and use only virgin ones for carry. They bend fairly easily when removing spent cases.

Conclusion: Of the snubbies reviewed, the 940 is the only one I would carry, but with well-tested ammo.

Unfortunately, you did not review my personal favorite carry snubby, the S&W 642 with the 2.5-inch barrel. It offers full-length case extraction, better ballistics, and a matte finish. Again, the local ‘smith did a nice action job, making the trigger pull 8 pounds. It carries well, and the extra barrel length is equally concealable. Also, it has a removable front sight. I replaced mine with a slightly higher one (+.010 inch) so that the Speer Gold Dot 135-grain short-barrel round shoots exactly to point-of-aim at 7 yards. Alternatively, you could replace the original with a fiber-optic or night sight, etc.

And watch for additional comments re: concealed carry wear. I’m still researching the pants you reviewed. Kudos on hitting a hot topic. Now here’s another — carry purses for women.— Tony Jay Medina, Ohio

Good stuff, Tony. When we were researching the 940, I expected pushback from 940 fans, who loved the handgun and didn’t at all mind using moonclips. Too bad Smith killed it. — Austin Miller

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