Smith & Wesson’s M&P Performance Center Ported Model Is One Flat Shooter

Smith & Wesson's M&P Pro Series C.O.R.E. - now ported!

Smith & Wesson’s M&P Pro Series C.O.R.E. – now ported!

Recently I had the opportunity to shoot the new Smith & Wesson Performance Center M&P Ported pistols. While optimized for competition, there’s no reason these models couldn’t serve as a home defense go-to gun. Some of the features that make it a great competition gun serve equally well on other capacities too.

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There are four variants of the new M&P Performance Center ported models – two each in 9mm and .40 S&W caliber. Each caliber offers a 5-inch and 4.25-inch barrel choice. All other features are the same including capacity and frame size. The differences in barrel length translate into a one-inch overall length difference with the 5-inch barrel models measuring 8.5-inches overall and the 4.25-inch barrel models measuring 7.5-inches.

The ported barrels aren't just for looks. As you'll see, this gun shoots flat.

The ported barrels aren’t just for looks. As you’ll see, this gun shoots flat.

Apart from the standard M&P lineup, you’ll find a number of features that support the need for speed.

Capacity is 17+1 for the 9mm models and 15+1 for the .40s. An adjustable trigger stop lets you come as close as you dare to eliminating over travel so you can get working on the reset faster. Like the standard M&P models, the Performance Center Ported models have three grip panels for a customizable fit, but you’ll notice a different and more aggressive texture on these. I shot them without gloves and found the gun secure, but not rough to the point of causing abrasion-facilitated blood letting at the range.

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The Making of a Smith & Wesson

 

Smith & Wesson revolvers

You think Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Alimony From Tyrannical Little Ex-Mayors With Serious Napoleon Complexes (MDAFTLEMWSNC) has serious armed security? If so, you should check out Smith & Wesson’s Springfield, MA manufacturing plant. We’re talking motorized vehicle barriers, iron gates, metal detectors, and security guards armed with – you guessed it – Smith & Wesson M&P pistols. Of course, one of the many differences between Smith & Wesson and Shannon Watts is that the Smith factory actually warrants tight security. That and the Smith & Wesson folks make a productive contribution to society.

I had the distinct pleasure of touring the Smith & Wesson factory this month to see exactly how guns are made. Wow. I’m still stunned by the complexity, equipment, people, scale and history. The current facility was built in 1945 using a war-footing design. It’s engineered to keep operating during a direct aerial booming attack. The idea was that the catacombs well under dirt, steel, and loads of concrete would house operating machinery and workers even while the above ground part was flattened. That’s pretty hard core.

This is less than a seven day supply of future guns. Who says Americans aren't buying guns in record numbers?

This is less than a seven-day supply of future guns. Who says Americans aren’t buying guns in record numbers?

It all starts with steel. Lots and lots of it of various types and grades. Like other modern manufacturers, Smith & Wesson streamlines efficiency using LEAN manufacturing techniques, so raw materials are delivered continuously. What you see in the photo here is only about a seven-day supply.

Bar stock like this is headed for two potential fates - the forge or the mill, and sometimes both.

Bar stock like this is headed for two potential fates – the forge or the mill, and sometimes both.

When steel arrives as bar stock, it faces two different fates, and I’m not sure which is more violent. First, it can head to the forge, where giant, two-story transformers machines pound them into gun frames and various other components. Second, the raw stock might head straight for computerized milling, where it will be transformed into things like barrels, slides, revolver cylinders and other miscellaneous parts. We’ll start with the forging process as forged parts also head to the milling machines after they’re stamped out.

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New Smith & Wesson M&P Laser from Crimson Trace

Crimson Trace LG-360

New from Crimson Trace is a green Laserguard for Smith & Wesson full-size and compact pistols. The new super-small LG-360G unit even features scalloped design to match the host gun’s slide serration pattern.

From the company:

Crimson Trace, America’s leading brand in laser sighting systems and tactical lights for firearms, will soon release the LG-360G –a new Laserguard® equipped with a powerful Crimson Trace green laser. This Laserguard is engineered to perfectly fit over the trigger guard and rail system of the popular S&W M&P full-size and compact pistols, and it features Crimson Trace’s Instinctive Activation™ with a pressure sensitive touch pad under the trigger guard. The new LG-360G will also provide the user with a master on/off switch to permit user preferences on when the laser can be engaged—or disengaged.

The Laserguard LG-360G features a unique set of inset scallops that match the in-the-metal patterns found along a portion of the pistol’s slide. Those scallops, along with seamless integration, combine to make the new LG-360G have a factory-built appeal and appearance. This new Laserguard will also permit windage and elevation adjustments that can be easily accomplished with the provided tools. This laser sight can be easily installed by the buyer in a few minutes without any special gunsmithing tools, and it will be covered under Crimson Trace’s popular Free Batteries for Life program.

The Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price for the LG-360G will be $299.

Pic of the Day: The Ultimate Plinking Pistol?

Smith & Wesson's new M&P22 Compact .22LR pistol equipped with a SilencerCo Sparrow suppressor.

Smith & Wesson’s new M&P22 Compact .22LR pistol equipped with a SilencerCo Sparrow suppressor.

This nifty combo just took over 1st place in my safe as the ultimate plinking pistol. It’s a Smith & Wesson M&P22 Compact .22LR. We reviewed that recently and you can read about it here. It comes with a threaded barrel, but you’ll need an adapter to convert the thread size and pitch to standard silencer mount size and for necessary extension past the slide. EWK Arms makes an inexpensive adapter that gives you what you need to mount most .22LR silencers. The one shown here is a SilencerCo Sparrow. As you can see, size proportions are perfect between the pistol and suppressor. Feel and balance are also perfect with this combo – both pistol and silencer are equal proportions and lightweight. The best part? The standard sights on the M&P22 Compact are visible over the top of the Sparrow silencer.

Federal’s Target Grade Performance .22LR ammunition, shown here, is a great match for this combo. Th 40 grain lead bullets cruised out the business end of this pistol at 949 feet per second (unsuppressed) which is well below the speed of sound. It’s a sooper-dooper quiet combination.

If you want to have a little bit of structured plinking competition, check out the new Battleship Game targets from Birchwood Casey. Like the classic board game, you shoot each other’s battleships until sunk. Who says .22’s aren’t powerful?

Top Shooting Gear Finds From The Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational

The Smith & Wesson 929 Performance Center revolver is a 9mm. Moon clips make the rimless rounds work.

The Smith & Wesson 929 Performance Center revolver is a 9mm. Moon clips make the rimless rounds work.

One of the highlights of the annual Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational is schmoozing time with the match sponsors. With more than 40 different companies present, I had many company reps to pester. Unlike chaotic events like SHOT Show or the NRA Annual Meeting, the M3GI has plenty of daylight hours (shooting is only at night remember), and the folks are captive at the remote location. Sponsors can’t run or hide; they simply have to tolerate my endless questions and make the best of it.

Let’s take a look at some of the more interesting finds at this years Midnight 3 Gun Event.

Smith Wesson 929 Performance Center Revolver

Look at the lead photo in this article. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Got it? Now tell me how anyone can pick that up and not immediately try for the 50 yard steel plates. That’s exactly what I did. I’m not the world’s best shot, but I hit it from a standing position nearly every time.

Too. Much. Fun. To. Shoot.

Too. Much. Fun. To. Shoot.

The Smith & Wesson 929 Performance Center is a 9mm revolver with 8 round capacity in the wheel. Since it uses rimless 9mm ammo, you use moon clips to load the cylinder. Weighing in at a hefty 44 ounces, the 929 is plenty stable for offhand shooting. The 6.5 inch barrel and corresponding long sight radius makes steady sight picture a snap. It’s a Performance Center model and Jerry Miculek signature design. I want one.

I2 Technologies and Systems Integrations Binocular Night Vision System

The helmet requires a counterweight to balance out the dual monocular night vision system.

The helmet requires a counterweight to balance out the dual monocular night vision system.

I2 (pronounced eye-squared) brought about a billion dollars worth of leading edge night vision gear. They are innovators in complete, integrated night vision systems. Their primary wares at the M3GI were helmets equipped with dual PVS-14 mounts. Two PVS-14 Gen 3 night vision monoculars are configured into an adjustable, quick-release helmet mount. This gives the wearer broader peripheral vision, and more importantly, depth perception. Competitors had the good fortune of cleaning a “house” in the pitch dark with a Gem-Tech suppressed Glock and suppressed, full-auto PWS 300 Blackout SBR. After that, one had to clear the “back yard” with a shotgun. A truly awesome stage.

One of the neat little details I learned was that, due to the weight of the gear, you have to configure the helmet with a one pound counterweight on the rear, else you’ll be staring straight at the ground. You can get your own ready-to-go rig like this for just over $7,000. Got a birthday coming up?

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10 Reasons the Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational Is My Favorite Shooting Event

Jerry Miculek of Team Smith & Wesson looks on as a competitor blasts an aerial target (upper left)

Jerry Miculek of Team Smith & Wesson looks on as a competitor blasts an aerial target (upper left)

I had the good fortune to compete in, and cover, the shooting community’s coolest adventure, otherwise known as the Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational. As the name implies, this is a full-blown outdoor 3 Gun match.

The third annual Crimson Trace event was held at the COSSA shooting range located in the high desert about 7,394 nautical miles outside of Bend, Oregon. The remote location and match schedule ensures several things: it will be dark, as in black hole kind of dark; your equipment will have to perform in exceptionally dusty and dirty conditions (drop a magazine in the dirt here and it will sound like nails on a chalkboard for the rest of the match); and, you will not sleep for several days.

A look down at some of the shooting bays in use.

A look down at some of the shooting bays in use.

1. Sleep

More accurately, lack of sleep defines this event. Shooting begins around 9 pm and continues until four or five in the morning. The first night of competition, I rolled back into my hotel room after sunrise – exhilarated but tired. Lest you think you can catch up during the day, busses leave for the range before lunch for training, safety briefings and sponsor range demonstrations. Next week, I’ll get into some really neat new products demonstrated at the range event.

2. Safety

As safety is the number one concern, range officers are more plentiful than fake ID’s at a Justin Bieber concert. As all of the range officers are avid 3 Gun Shooters themselves, there is a full match for them the two nights prior to the pro match Friday and Saturday nights. We media weasels squad up with the range officers and shoot the full match with them Wednesday and Thursday nights. This is a great win-win solution. We media hacks don’t have to shoot with the pros and face total humiliation, the range officers shoot the full match, and we all work the bugs out before the pros start Friday night. As you’ll see from the photos, every person on the range wears glow sticks front and back for absolute visibility. A big hat’s off to the professionalism and dedication of all the range staff. They preserved the perfect safety record while adding plenty of fun.

Nope, not dark enough yet. A pre-match briefing at Stage 7.

Nope, not dark enough yet. A pre-match briefing at Stage 7.

3. My Sig Sauer P226 Elite SAO

I wrote about this gun prior to the match. Hard use in the dusty match conditions confirmed my early opinions. Dumping mags in use dry dust all week got the gun plenty dirty, but it ran like a champ. The best part was comfort of high-volume shooting. I used American Eagle 147 grain 9mm ammo that clocks in around 950 feet per second. The recoil impulse was light and smooth – perfect for high-speed competitive shooting.

4. Live entertainment

During the awards ceremony, Crimson Trace founder Lew “Joe Cocker” Danielson stopped mid-speech, ran to his truck to retrieve his guitar, and broke into a rousing rendition of “Leaving On A Jet Plane.” As a special tribute to the ladies’ present, he followed with an a capella encore performance of “You Are So Beautiful.” Lew explained lack of guitar accompaniment to the fact the song requires seven chords and he only knows four so far. An inspiring moment from one of the industry’s finest individuals. It was epic.

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We Test The New Smith & Wesson M&P22 Compact

Hot off the press - the new Smith & Wesson M&P22 Compact. 87.5% scale of a full size M&P, it's a fun .22 plinker.

Hot off the press – the new Smith & Wesson M&P22 Compact. 87.5% scale of a full size M&P, it’s a fun .22 plinker.

Getting home and tearing open Smith & Wesson M&P22 Compact box, my very first impression was, “Oh snap!”

The next thought that crossed my mind was that this gun won’t be out of the box for six seconds before I’m compelled to attach a silencer. A SilencerCo Sparrow would be an excellent fit. The compact size just screams harmony and balance with the diminutive SilencerCo Sparrow.

I love .22s. Full size, compact, micro – I don’t care. They’re just fun. But there’s something to be said for a .22LR gun that is downsized for the rimfire caliber, and this one is. While I didn’t do a volumetric test to determine the exact size relationship, think of the M&P22 Compact as an 87.5% scale version of a full-size Smith & Wesson M&P – that number is from the company. Whatever the numbers, the feel and balance is great.

The pistol comes with (2) ten-round magazines, safety lock and gun lock keys.

The pistol comes with (2) ten-round magazines, safety lock and gun lock keys.

I picked up a production model at my local gun store, East Coast Guns in Summerville, South Carolina. When I asked manager and firearms trainer Tim Elmer for his first impressions, the first thing out of his mouth was “Wow! That’s a neat little thing!” After a bit more reflection, he noted “the size is awesome, well perfect actually. It also seems very well built, the safety is positive and the action is smooth. Now I have to shoot it!”

Me too. So let’s check it out.

Features and Specs

Opening the box, you’ll find a pistol, two 10-round magazines, keys for operating the integral safety lock, a hex wrench for windage adjustment of the rear sight, fired case and owners manual.

The pistol uses a blowback action with a fixed barrel, common to most .22 pistols. It’s a single-action, hammer operated firing mechanism. Here are the basic specs:

Overall Length 6.7 inches
Barrel Length 3.6 inches
Barrel Rifling 1:15, 6 Groove, Right Hand
Overall Height (including sights) 5.0 inches
Overall Width (with controls) 1.5 inches
Total Empty Weight 17.0 oz.
If you've seen the original M&P22, you'll notice the Smith & Wesson lettering is toned down on the new model.

If you’ve seen the original M&P22, you’ll notice the Smith & Wesson lettering is toned down on the new model.

The barrel itself is threaded, although that’s not obvious until you retract the slide. A screw on thread protector cap, the same diameter as the barrel, is hidden inside the slide when in battery. If you want to add a silencer to the M&P22 Compact, you remove the cap, add a thread extension and adapter to provide 1/2×28 threads compatible with most .22LR silencers. If you already have an adapter for the original M&P22, be aware that it won’t work – you will need a new one sized for the larger 3/8”-24 threads on the M&P22 Compact barrel.

The magazine release button is mounted by default on the left side of the pistol, but it’s easy to move it to the opposite side if you like. The owner’s manual includes clear step-by-step instructions with photos if you want to do this.

The new M&P22 Compact is shown here (right) next to a Smith & Wesson Shield (left). I put a Crimson Trace Rail Master laser on my test gun because... Fun!

The new M&P22 Compact is shown here (right) next to a Smith & Wesson Shield (left). I put a Crimson Trace Rail Master laser on my test gun because… Fun!

The M&P22 Compact features an ambidextrous thumb safety which blocks operation of the trigger. A nice design feature is that you can perform administrative functions like slide operation, slide lock and takedown with the safety engaged. We’ll talk about other improvements to the safety levers in a minute. While we’re on the topic of safeties, the pistol also has a trigger activated firing pin block and it’s drop safe.

The M&P22 Compact has a visual loaded chamber indicator on the top of the slide. A small curved cutout allows you to see if there is a cartridge in the chamber.

There is a lawyer lock on this gun. On the M&P22 Compact, an included key can be used to lock the safety in the “safe” position. In fact, the lock can only be engaged while the safety is in the “safe” position. Do with the lock what you will.

 

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What Makes a 1911 a 1911?

An example of a modern 1911, this Springfield Armory 1911 TRP has a number of tweaks to the original design.

An example of a modern 1911, this Springfield Armory 1911 TRP has a number of tweaks to the original design.

Love it or hate it, the 1911 pistol is kind of a big deal, even if just for its longevity. Just past the turn of the previous century, the Army figured out it wanted an autoloading handgun with similar ballistic capability to the .45 Colt which had served them well. Since our military folks rode around on horseback at that time, features like easy one-handed operation and grip safeties were important. If you drop your handgun mid-gallop, you don’t want it to go off when it hits the ground.

Is this Viet Cong copy of a 1911 really a 1911? Some of the controls are cosmetic only and it's a smooth bore! Image courtesy of the NRA National Firearms Museum.

Is this Viet Cong copy of a 1911 really a 1911? Some of the controls are cosmetic only and it’s a smooth bore! Image courtesy of the NRA National Firearms Museum.

In response, John Moses Browning, may he rest in peace, came up with the 1911. The Army liked its ease of use and hard-hitting power, which, according to 1911 guru Robert Campbell, is like “a velvet covered brick.”

You’ll hear gun folks talk in reverential tones about the pistol named 1911. Yes, it’s a year, but it’s also pistol design. Not a manufacturer or a specific model, but a design – kind of like how a pickup truck is a design. Lot’s of car manufacturers make pickups, and you can get them with different size engines, but they all have some common features, like seats in the front and a cargo bed in the back.

What makes a 1911 a 1911?

Two features of a classic 1911 are a grip and slide lock safety, both shown here.

Two features of a classic 1911 are a grip and slide lock safety, both shown here.

The purist definition of a 1911 might be an a pistol that exactly copies John Moses Browning’s famous design produced in the year, you guessed it, 1911. But even that was tweaked by the military a few years later with the A1 model. Since that time, thousands of gunmakers have produced 1911-style pistols with various tweaks to the original design.

At what point do “design enhancements” cause a gun to be something other than a 1911? Are there design features that, if tampered with, cause a 1911 to morph into something else?

Perhaps the best way to define the 1911 is by the collection of characteristics:

Short recoil operation with tilting barrel and swinging link

You’ll notice that 1911 pistol barrels have a moving link on the bottom under the chamber. As the pistol fires, the barrel and slide move backward together for a short distance. At this point, the link rotates the breech end of the barrel downward, unlocking it from the slide. This allows the slide to travel backward and eject the spent cartridge case. The recoil spring sends the slide forward, picking up a fresh cartridge along the way and recapturing the barrel.

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Transforming A Basic AR-15 To A Home Defense Rifle

The "after" version of the Smith & Wesson M&P 15 OR. It's all geared up for the Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational and home defense use.

The “after” version of the Smith & Wesson M&P 15 OR. It’s all geared up for the Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational and home defense use.

A few weeks ago, I discussed my plan of using the upcoming Crimson Trace Midnight 3 Gun Invitational to choose, equip and practice with guns I’ll use for home defense. Since then. I’ve decided to use a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 OR for the rifle. It’s a standard AR-15 design with a notable exception. Instead of the classic A2 fixed front sight and gas block, it comes equipped with a rail gas block. And as a home defense choice? Absolutely. M&P 15’s run – reliably – and are cost effective to boot.

The before photo.

The before photo. When doing gun work, you’ll want a proper set of gunsmithing screwdrivers like this

Gearing it up for both the night 3-gun competition and home defense use requires some tweaks. Here’s what I decided to do.

Rail for lights and lasers

Installation of the quad rail was easy - I didn't need any tools.

Installation of the quad rail was easy – I didn’t need any tools.

The Smith & Wesson M&P 15 OR comes with the standard round plastic handguard. It’s comfortable and does a good job keeping your support hand cool when the barrel gets hot, but doesn’t have attachment points for rail accessories. I chose to replace it with a Blackhawk! AR-15 Carbine Length 2 Piece Quad Rail Forend. It offers rails on top, bottom, left and right and has great ventilation in between to let the barrel cool. You can also get it in rifle length if your gun is longer than mine but enough about that.

Installation is a snap. You don’t need tools, not even a hammer. Just remove the existing handguard by pulling down the delta ring in front of the receiver until you can pry the existing handguard halves out. The new Blackhawk! handguard also comes in two pieces, so put them in the same way. After they are pressed in place, you bolt the two halves together. It’s not a free-floated solution, but it’s rock solid and you don’t have to do any serious construction work to install it on your rifle.

A little detail that makes a big difference

I also chose to install a Blackhawk! Offset Safety Selector. This is one of those “oh duh why didn’t I think of that” inventions. It relocates the safety lever itself 45 degrees so you can easily reach it with your thumb without shifting your grip. A great aid for safety and usability, and for competition, it might just help you avoid a procedural penalty for not engaging the safety on your rifle.

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Dogs Gone By: On the Front Line in the War Against Prairie Dogs

The Battlefield: The Silver Spur Ranch in Encampment, Wyoming.

The Battlefield: The Silver Spur Ranch in Encampment, Wyoming.

We awoke at dawn.

Most of us were slightly nervous, but energized by the certainty of impending combat. I doubt the enemy ever sleeps. They’re too busy digging a tunnel network to support their underground trafficking enterprise.

We’d been the ones to choose the field of battle – the Silver Spur Ranch in Encampment, Wyoming. Encampment is an eerily appropriate name given the enemy’s permanent dug in positions.

Our foe has a great propaganda machine, although I have absolutely no idea how they can afford such a thing. As a result, most people know them as those cute, adorable and cuddly Facebook poster critters. Awwww.

The modern day tank that carried the day during the trench warfare stage - the Yamaha

The modern day tank that carried the day during the trench warfare stage – the Yamaha Viking UTV.

Like Hollywood celebrities, our enemy’s day to day behavior is somewhat different from their public image. They cause massive, and I do use that word deliberately, damage to agricultural and grazing land. They eat each other like real world zombies. They reproduce faster than Anthony Wiener texts his, well, you know. They carry the plague. They’re downright evil.

Yes, I’m talking about prairie dogs.

When it comes to setting a battle strategy, you need to use every possible advantage. If you’re fighting fair, your tactics suck, or so they say. And we had no room to give up the slightest advantage. The Silver Spur Ranch has been occupied with just over 15.371 billion prairie dogs – I counted. We numbered six, plus our guide Roger, and our hosts Jeff, Matt and Neal. By my calculation, that was just 10 of us, except when I used Common Core math. Then I got an answer of negative 19.7 apples.

Even though the numerical odds weren’t exactly in our favor, I was confident in our chances. I took stock of our advantages:

  • We have opposable thumbs and can do neat things with them like play Angry Birds.
  • We live in above ground structures and eat bacon pretty much whenever we want.
  • My brain is larger than theirs, so I figured my enemy had only 85% or so of my IQ.

Our enemy?

  • They have the intelligence of spackle.
  • They live in holes.

When you’re facing an enemy of near unlimited strength that’s dug in, you have to figure out how to break the trench warfare stalemate using technology. Back in World War I, they invented tanks to overrun the enemy. So did we, although ours were slightly more nimble than the Little Willy Tank of 1915. We used Yamaha Viking side by side UTVs – a two-seater and a six-seater. These off road wonders had plenty of capacity to haul a dozen guns, cases of Hornady ammo and us. And they navigated gulleys, sagebrush and prairie dog and badger holes with ease.

We also had the advantage of outspending our opponent in the arms race. The Blue Heron Communications team, representing Smith & Wesson, only brought 38 guns, so I was a little worried, but it worked out OK in the end. Hornady supplied somewhere north of 10 billion rounds of varmint ammunition by my best estimate.

On the first day of battle, I rode with Neal, the marketing head at Hornady ammunition. Smart move on my part to ride with the ammo guy, right? With 15 billion enemy, I was NOT going to run out of cartridges at a critical moment. Neal chose a Thompson Center Venture in 22-250 caliber and stoked it with Hornady’s .22-250 V-MAX loads. With that setup, he was the big gun on our team. One shot, one kill, if you get a hit pretty much anywhere. He backed that up with a Smith & Wesson 617 revolver offering 10 shots of .22 long rifle – just in case our perimeter was overrun.

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The Rookie's Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

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