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

Gun Review: Smith & Wesson’s 1911TA eSeries

One of the design goals of the eSeries line was elegant, but not gaudy, appearance.

One of the design goals of the eSeries line was elegant, but not gaudy, appearance.

There’s always something appealing about a nice 1911. While carrying a full size, all steel 1911 isn’t always fun, shooting one sure is. This particular eSeries model is a blend of traditional and modern innovation. Like the origin government model, it’s got a 5 inch barrel, single stack .45 ACP magazine and single action trigger. Unlike the original, it features Tritium night sights, tactical rail and other internal design changes that we’ll discuss later.

Impressions

Let’s start with the most noticeable features. With that criteria in mind, I have to mention the grips first. They’re gorgeous. The specs say the grips are wood laminate, but it’s sure hard to tell. The grain pattern is beautiful and the finish is well polished. There is a small diamond with the eSeries “E” logo. Surrounding this is a traditional diamond checkered pattern. Above and below the diamond pattern area you’ll see a fish-scale pattern that matches the scallop pattern carved into the slide. The grips are not only really attractive, but functional. They won’t rub your hands raw, but do provide a positive grip through recoil.

It's a personal opinion, but I think the grips are, well, awesome.

It’s a personal opinion, but I think the grips are, well, awesome.

The slide also falls into the “cool looking” category. The cocking serrations at the rear are the same fish, dragon or snake scale pattern – choose your favorite reptile. There are matching scale serrations on the front. Some people don’t like texture on the front of 1911 slides, but I find them handy for press checks. Even if I grab the front of the slide overhand, I can still easily see the chamber. But using front serrations or not is a personal preference thing. I happen to like them, but get that others don’t. The top of the slide is flattened and has full length grooves. Whether or not you think this “looks” cool is not really the issue. The practical purpose is to reduce glare that can interfere with your sight picture. Another thing to mention while we’re talking about the slide is that there are horizontal serrations at the rear also on both sides of the hammer cutout. Again, the purpose is to minimize glare.

The extractor is an external design, so that varies from the “purist” 1911. Personally, I don’t favor internal or external, as long as it works. You’ll also notice that the ejection port features a scooped cutout at the front to assist with easy ejection with a wide variety of load types.

The SW1911TA ships with two magazines with 8 round capacity, so the total carry load is nine including one in the chamber. The magazine release button is aggressively checkered and .145 inches is exposed above frame level. It’s easy to reach with your firing hand thumb if your’e right handed. When shooting left handed, I was able to operate the magazine release with my trigger finger without breaking my normal firing grip. Magazines easily fall free of the magazine well when empty.

Both sides of the frame behind the trigger are beveled to allow an unhindered reach to the trigger. The front of the grip is contoured and recessed to allow a high grip and secure resting place for your firing hand middle finger.

The front and back of the grip area are checkered with good, but not sharp texture. I counted somewhere in around a 17 or 18 lines per inch pattern, but all those dots kept getting blurry when counting, so let’s call it 17.5 lines per inch, OK? I’ll schedule a visit with my eye doc before the next time I have to count checkering patterns.

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Smith & Wesson’s M&P 15 VTAC Rifle: A Review One Year Later

The Smith & Wesson M&P 15 VTAC I with Warne RAMP scope mount and Bushnell Tactical Elite optic.

The Smith & Wesson M&P 15 VTAC I with Warne RAMP scope mount and Bushnell Tactical Elite optic.

Most gun reviews allow for a short acclimation period, a couple hundred rounds at the range and a rushed story and photos to meet an editorial deadline. We thought it might be interesting to do a “one year later” review on a gun – just to see how it holds up over time and use. While announced by Smith & Wesson all the way back in their 2009 new products catalog, I picked up the M&P VTAC I just under a year and a half ago. It was new in box, found with a small stash tucked away in a Smith & Wesson warehouse somewhere. Now in its second iteration, the M&P 15 VTAC remains as popular as ever. Let’s take a look.

A Tour of the Smith & Wesson M&P15 VTAC I

Let’s take a look at what makes the Smith & Wesson M&P15 VTAC special. The simple explanation is that the VTAC models are preconfigured factory produced hot rods. The VTAC is more than a “marketing bundle” where various third-party accessories are bolted on and factored into the price. The base rifle itself includes premium upgrades that set the VTAC apart before any toys are hung on the rails.

Core Component Upgrades

When talking premium upgrades, you have to start with the Barrel. The VTAC I features a 4140 steel 16 inch barrel with a 1:7 twist. The aggressive twist rate stabilizes longer (and heavier) projectiles like 77 grain bullets. Numerous components are chromed for wear and ease of cleaning including the bore, chamber, gas key and bolt carrier.

JP Enterprises Single Stage Match Trigger and Speed Hammer

The big deal about the Smith & Wesson M&P15 VTAC is the inclusion of a first-rate trigger. AR type rifles aren’t exactly celebrated for their quality triggers, but the JP Enterprises Single Stage Match Trigger is outstanding. Oh, it also features the JP Enterprises Speed Hammer upgrade.

Even though I’ve become accustomed to the feel after shooting a few thousand rounds, it will still offer a surprise break when I’m concentrating on precise shots. It has no detectable take up and no over travel. By my measurement, it breaks extra crispy at 3 1/2 pounds.

Viking Tactics Handguard by JP Enterprises

The 12.5 inch aluminum handguard is attached to the receiver with a steel nut, resulting in a free floated barrel. The handguard itself is completely round, with a light texture applied to the aluminum surface. It’s insanely configurable with use of three included rail segments that can mount to the top of the hand guard via a line of seven screw holes or on the bottom or sides using rail backers that attach to the oblong grooves in the hand guard.

SureFire FH556-212A Flash Hider / Silencer Adapter

The original VTAC included a Surefire flash hider.

The original VTAC included a Surefire flash hider.

The included Surefire flash hider is a dual purpose accessory. It’s primary purpose is to reduce flash signature in order to protect the shooters night vision and conceal position. This one also helps prevent muzzle rise. This particular flash hider also serves as a no-tools mount for SureFire FA556K, FA556-212, FA556MG, or MINI suppressors. The Surefire flash hider attaches to the VTAC’s standard ½” by 28 tpi threaded barrel, so it’s easy to configure most any muzzle device you want.

VLTOR Modular Stock

The VLTOR ModStock has waterproof compartments for extra batteries or beef jerky - your choice.

The VLTOR ModStock has waterproof compartments for extra batteries or beef jerky – your choice.

The VLTOR stock offers six positions for varying lengths of pull. Not only does this accommodate different shooter dimensions, it allows quick reconfiguration to properly fit when the user is wearing body armor or other gear. The stock also contains two waterproof compartments large enough to house (3) CR123 or (2) AA batteries in each compartment. You might also want to use these compartments for critical spare parts – firing pin, springs, or perhaps beef jerky. The stock also has three different sling mounts: top, center and a quick-detach stud swivel mount if you prefer that to simple loops.

The gizmos are nice, but what I like most about this stock is the ergonomic design. The top offers an extra wide and smooth surface, owing to the storage compartments on either side. The shape makes for a comfortable and solid cheek weld surface. I also like the butt design. It slopes down and towards the muzzle, and is coated with a textured rubber pad which helps establish a solid position against your chest or shoulder.

Surefire G2 Light and VTAC Light Mount

Smith & Wesson includes a 60 lumen Surefire G2 tactical light with tail switch that mounts wherever you want with the included Viking Tactics light mount kit and hand guard rail segments.

Viking Tactics 2 Point Sling

If you haven’t used the Viking Tactics Quick Adjust Sling, try it. After one-time “permanent” length adjustment, you can use the quick adjust pull tab to cinch your rifle in tight or loosen it for firing flexibility. When sized correctly, you can even shoot from your offside shoulder without adjustment to the sling. It’s handy.

This rifle arrived pretty much loaded – with one exception. I immediately replaced the standard hard plastic grip with an Ergo Tactical Deluxe Grip. Now it was ready for the configuration games.

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Adventures With A .22 Silencer: The SilencerCo Sparrow

The SilencerCo Sparrow 22 on a Smith & Wesson M&P 22.

The SilencerCo Sparrow 22 on a Smith & Wesson M&P 22.

There’s not much more fun in recreational shooting than a .22 with a Silencer. Note I said “silencer” instead of “suppressor.”

While “suppressor” is a more technically accurate term, the original devices were named silencers. Maxim Silencers, in fact. Hiram Percy Maxim, not to be confused with his machine gun inventing dad, Hiram Stevens Maxim, is the guy whom most people believe invented the gun silencer. Not surprisingly, Hiram Percy also worked on early automobile mufflers as the basic principles are similar – taming hot and noisy gases after combustion.

For a long time, the industry drifted towards referring to “gun mufflers” as suppressors, but over the past few years I’ve noticed that most companies have gone back to the traditional name – silencers.

A few weeks ago, my BATFE Form 4, Application for Tax Paid Transfer and Registration of a Firearm came back from 10 months of hibernation on some faceless bureaucrat’s desk. Receipt of that precious document meant that I could pick up my SilencerCo Sparrow 22 Suppressor that was also in a 10 month deep sleep at my local FFL dealer. After dusting off the box and using carbon dating technology, I determined that it was, in fact, 10 months old. At least it’s new to me, right?

Let’s take a closer look at the SilencerCo Sparrow 22 and some gun and ammo options to go with it.

The SilencerCo Sparrow 22 Specs

Simply put, the SilencerCo Sparrow is a whole lot of fun in a small package. It measures just five inches long and a hair over one inch in diameter. Its total weight is just 6.5 ounces. It’s a rimfire design, although it is rated for the FN 5.7×28 centerfire cartridge. If you’ve got a .22LR, .22 Magnum, .17 HMR you’re in business. It will even handle .22LR in full-automatic operation if you’ve got such a thing.

For testing, but mainly just fun, I mounted the SilencerCo Sparrow 22 on two different guns: a Smith & Wesson M&P 22 pistol and a Colt / Umarex M4 Carbine chambered in .22LR. The Sparrow 22 comes with a standard 1/2×28 thread mount. Both guns required an adapter piece to mount the silencer. Some M&P 22’s models are available with threaded barrels, but the threads don’t extend past the slide. Adding a Tactical Innovations thread adapter and extender provided the proper mount for the Sparrow 22. The Colt Carbine also required a thread adapter to convert the standard barrel threads to the required 1/2×24 mount. With the adapters in place, mounting the SilencerCo Sparrow was a piece of cake – just screw it on until hand tight. While I did not encounter any loosening of the silencer, be sure to check once in a while to make sure it’s stills screwed on tight.

Here you can see the Tactical Innovations thread adapter on the pistol. Adding the Crimson Trace Laserguard turned out to be an "extra fun" bonus.

Here you can see the Tactical Innovations thread adapter on the pistol. Adding the Crimson Trace Rail Master turned out to be an “extra fun” bonus.

The Smith & Wesson M&P 22 with the SilencerCo Sparrow 22 was a beautiful combination. The MNP 22 is a full size 22 handgun, yet is very lightweight. Because the Sparrow 22 is only one inch in diameter, it did not interfere with the standard sights on this gun at all. I couldn’t leave well enough alone, so I added a Crimson Trace Rail Master with a green beam for improved daylight visibility. The Smith & Wesson M&P 22 has a standard rail, so this was an easy upgrade. Unless you’re opposed to giggling like a kindergartener, add a laser to your suppressed .22. Trust me.

Even though I was nowhere near bored with the pistol configuration, I moved the Sparrow to the Colt M4 Carbine 22. With its even higher iron sights, there was no issue with the silencer obstructing the sight picture. With the longer barrel, the rifle configuration was even quieter. Since I had to remove the muzzle brake, there was very little change in the overall length of the rifle with the Sparrow 22 attached.

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How Do You Become A Better Shooter? Practice, Practice, Practice

The Next Level Training S.I.R.T. Smith & Wesson M&P Training Pistol

The Next Level Training S.I.R.T. Smith & Wesson M&P Training Pistol

As you may know, we’re big fans of the S.I.R.T. Practice Pistol from Next Level Training.

A couple of years ago, Britt Lenz and Mike Hughes (you may remember Mike from History Channel’s Top Shot) came up with a cool invention – a perfectly safe practice pistol. Because the way to become a safer and better shooter is through repetition and mastery of the trigger press.

Now, NEXT Level Training has developed a practice model based on the Smith & Wesson M&P pistol. And it’s spot on in terms of feel and general dimensions. At least it’s dimensionally close enough to work in every holster tried so far.

The pistol features two lasers – red and green. The green laser always indicated the point of impact when the trigger is pressed. The red laser is for training use, based on the operating mode selected.

The new Smith & Wesson M&P has four modes of operation set by a rotating lever on the left side:

  1. The first mode simply fires a green laser dot shot indicator light where the bullet would have impacted.
  2. The second mode detects the slightest touch on the trigger and turns on a red laser dot to show that the trigger has been touched. When the trigger is pressed fully, a green laser indicated point of impact. Hold this thought for a minute…
  3. The third mode  sets off a red laser dot when the trigger is pressed just to the point of breaking the sear. The green laser indicates point of impact.
  4. The fourth mode disables all lasers if you want to practice open sight dry fire with no indicators.

Here’s the key part. The red trigger indicator laser is aimed well below point of impact, so it’s hidden from the shooter’s view by the slide and muzzle. It’s intended for instructor or training partner use.  So if the student is showing poor trigger discipline, the instructor or training partner will see it, but the shooter probably won’t as the red laser dot is out of view.

Neat and SAFE ideas. This should be shipping in the March / April 2014 time frame.

10 Things I Like About the Smith & Wesson M&P 9 Shield

Less than one inch wide, the Smith & Wesson M&P 9 Shield packs up to 8+1 rounds of 9mm.

Less than one inch wide, the Smith & Wesson M&P 9 Shield packs up to 8+1 rounds of 9mm.

Much has been said about the Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm Shield. A true pocket-sized 9mm, it’s smaller in almost all dimensions (except height) than a Glock 26 and can easily be concealed in a milliondy-seven different ways. Pocket, inside the waistband or outside the waistband holster, ankle, purse, fanny pack, crotch carry holster, you name it. The less-than-one-inch width goes a long way to making this handgun exceptionally portable.

Smith & Wesson Shield 9mm Galco 1963 Even with the Crimson Trace LG-489 Laser installed, it weighs almost exactly the same as my morning cup of coffee. Coincidence? I think not. Both are life-saving devices and daily necessities.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm 1935 I like that it’s a 9mm. Of course you can now get the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield in .40 Smith & Wesson. Although 9mm and .380 ACP have lot’s of similarities on paper, I see a noticeable performance difference when each load is shot through tough clothing barriers. The extra velocity of the 9mm helps it expand more reliably than most of the .380 loads I’ve tested. I’ve found the Shield to be a very controllable gun, even with its small size and light weight. It’s a gun that’s enjoyable to shoot just for fun, unlike many other pocket cannons.
Smith & Wesson Shield 9mm Galco 1960 The Shield has a positive safety. Without getting into the debate of whether or not you need one on a striker-fired pistol, I will say that it’s comforting on a gun that may be carried in a pocket holster. The safety lever is inset to the frame and unlikely to move without deliberate action, so you can choose to carry with the safety engaged or not. Moving from safe to fire position is very easy with the shooting hand thumb, assuming you’re right handed. The safety is not ambidextrous, so lefties have a little more work to do.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm 1933 I like that the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield will fire with its magazine removed. I don’t really appreciate that the lawyers at Smith & Wesson chose to print “CAUTION – CAPABLE OF FIRING WITH MAGAZINE REMOVED” right on the slide of an otherwise very attractive pistol. Can someone please put the lawyers back in their aquarium?
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm 1928 I like the capacity options. The more concealable standard magazine gives the Shield 8 (7+1) rounds of 9mm while the extended magazine adds one more for a total of 9 rounds. This is a great compromise of capacity versus size.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm 1940 Both front and rear sights are dovetail mounted and easily adjustable for windage. I found elevation on the test gun to be right on target. Notice how the rear sight surface is grooved to reduce glare around the sighting dots.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm 1937 The trigger on the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield simply rocks. For a striker-fired pistol, it’s exceptionally smooth and crisp. It’s got just about 1/4 inch of take-up prior to a 6.5 pound crisp break. If you like to keep your finger in place until reset, you can count on just about 1/4 inch forward travel before a positive reset click. The Shield has one of the best striker design triggers on the market.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm 1936 The flush magazine configuration with 7+1 capacity makes this a true pocket gun. Try it with a Galco Pocket Pro holster! I like this configuration with the extended magazine stowed elsewhere as a backup.
Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm 1931 I dig the grip texture. It’s sure, even with sweaty hands, but you don’t lose traction during shots. Even more importantly, when using an Inside the waistband holster like the Galco Stow-N-Go, it won’t abrade your insides nearly as much as Gilbert Godfried’s voice abrades your ears.
Smith & Wesson Shield 9mm Galco 1962 How about a grip-activated laser? The Crimson Trace LG-489 Laser for the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield mounts just in front of the trigger guard. Just grip the pistol and the laser is on. Couldn’t be simpler.

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