Saturday, March 24, 2012

Benchmade’s “Invincible” or pardon my Greek!

Benchmade’s new Adamas just arrived today.  That gave me a chance to take it out and look at it.  I can’t run it through its paces.  It’s not mine but that doesn’t mean I can’t admire it.

The Adamas is also available as an auto.

It’s a big knife.  The handle is about three quarters of an inch thick and the blade is 5/32 inch thick.  I was surprised to find the blade is just under 4 inches long.  It looks longer in my hand.  (Don’t bother…I’ve heard all the guy jokes about measurements).

The steel is D2 which Benchmade hardens to 60-62 Rockwell C.  That hard, very hard.  I’ve had had instructors claim you really can’t measure anything above 62 Rockwell.  It seems at that level of hardness the flex of the machine’s metal parts throw the measurements off.  No matter.  I have no doubt that Benchmade has tempered the steel properly and you will not see the problem with brittleness high hardness steels can have.

I like the open design which exposes the spine of the knife.  It makes the locking mechanism more susceptible to picking up dirt and sand, but easier to flush, clean and re-oil.  What is life, but one trade-off against another?

You can't see them, but two bronze washers help support the blade.  The open black makes it easy to wash out the crud that collects there.

D2 is a high carbon, enriched chromium steel.  I suspect much of the chromium is tried up as chrome carbide grains, pinning steel grain boundaries and not available to for the rust protective chrome oxide on the surface.  I’d suggest keeping it oiled.  But it does have a reputation for being sharp and holding an edge.

The blade doesn’t fly out of the handle.  I’m not sure what I think about that. The pivot point and supporting surfaces are big.  This gives you strength.  Even with what I assume to be oil impregnated bronze washers, opening the blade remains a deliberate act.  It’s clear it was designed for glove-wearing men and women.  It’s not meant for the civilian, standing-back-by-the-barbecue market.  I should know.  I’m part of that crowd.

Should you own one?

Most of us have quiet, peaceful lives.  We cut open our pay envelope, make short work of duct taped wrapped packages in the attic and whittle down the ends of a swollen piece of wood to fit in a holder.  Just about any quality knife will fit the bill.

But if you ever had to build a fire to keep warm, or worried about the shadows at the end of the alley, or needed to pry open a box to get back in the fight, you’ll find a lot of comfort having the Adamas in your pocket.

From a tactical point of view, I can carry a knife in a lot of places I can’t take a gun.  Nobody gets too cranked up about it, if I open it the polite way. (That’s two handed.)  Even having a $140 knife confiscated isn’t as painful as a $300+ gun.

Sure, you get some kidding from the gun-only crowd.  But….I’ve known a lot of well-trained martial artists who’d think twice about going empty-handed against someone with a knife imitating a Waring Blender. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


I’ve started reloading .223 Remington.
Part of it is the expense of ammo today; part of it is the inability to find a reliable source of heavy rounds.  I’ve given up on 55gr FMJ.  

Oh, that weight is fine for tactical gun games and training.  You know, open the door, engage the three cardboard targets at 25 yards and move to the next activity.  When I shoot the Camp Perry pop-up fun matches, my bullets tend to drift a bit at the 300 yard targets.  A bit?  More like touring the neighborhood complete with road blocks and chuck holes.  I suspect that heavier bullets would make a difference.  I treat those matches as a training experience, so I want to do well. 

I can still find green-tipped SS109 with a steel insert.  My gun shoots them well, but so many ranges don’t want you shooting at steel with SS109 at any distance. And that‘s not unreasonable for both safety and target conservation.  It would be unacceptable to me to wipe off the green tip even if I knew the steel was up to the impact.  It should be to you too!

And I want smaller groups.  Even a shooter whose only interest is to put two rounds into an area the size of a sheet of typing paper would like to choose which side of the paper to hit.  If you have ever thought of your performance in “real life” situations, you know that we seldom exceed our expectations, but come to the lowest denominator of our training.   I’ve taught too much CPR to tolerate any argument about that.
If I can constantly put my rounds into a 4x4 spot during practice, I’m confident I can hit a 10x10 spot under real stress.

My experience with much of the commercially available ammo manufactured overseas has been poor.  This ammo shows a high level of variation.  This leaves reloaded ammo and high performance rounds which can cost as little much as 75 cents a round or more.  

Since I don’t want to shoot reloaded ammo in a self-defense situation, I’ll save the factory Black Hills and Corbon for those rare and improbable days of the zombie apocalypse.  (As an aside, I suspect if I’m shooting my AR in self-defense, I and the rest of society will have bigger problems than reloaded .223 Rem.)

Here’s the reload.

I’m reloading Hornady’s 68 grain BTHP with 22.7 gr of Hodgdon’s H338.  I wouldn’t waste your time talking about case headstamp, or brand of small rifle primer.  In a gas gun it doesn’t matter.  In case you’re wondering, I want a reloaded cartridge OAL of 2.245 inches, but I’ll live with 2.25 inches.

I picked the powder weight by reloading different weights and seeing what shot the smallest 5 shot group at 100 yards off a sand bang while seated.  I started with the lowest recommended load from Hornady’s 

I had zeroed the rifle for the top ammo at 100 yards.  Looks like I'll be adjusting my windage for a new load.  Look at the spread from PMC!
 Handbook 8th edition and ramped it up by 0.7 gr per group.  Here are the results.
                Custom reload, same bullet, longer OAL                                 3.25 inches
                21.3 gr                                                                                   3.38 inches
                22.0 gr                                                                                   1.75 inches
                22.7 gr                                                                                   1.75 inches
And for comparisons
                PMC                                                                                      3 inches

At 200 yards my groups opened up to around 5 inches and the targets weren’t big enough to contain all the rounds so I’m missing that data. Just in case you’re wondering, I’m shooting a 16-inch barrel with a one-in-nine twist.

WOW!  That's lot of numbers.  It is and I still don’t have velocities to plug into the ballistic programs.  Freedom from the numbers is one of the advantages of pistol shooting.  At most distances the bullet drop isn’t significant.  Yes, for bullseye pistol shooting it’s important enough to know where your point of impact is at three distances: outdoor at 50 and 25 yards and indoor at 50 feet.  But that’s it.

But rifle shooting covers longer distances and gravity has more time to do its work.  It’s never any fun to miss.  Hittin’ is the fun part no matter what the target: paper, steel plates or balloons.

So what’s next?  I want to chronograph my rounds and find my muzzle velocity and how much variation I have.

I never thought I’d be a rifle shooter.  I certainly can improve my pistol craft, but right now, rifle is a ball.   The only constant in life is change.

Tactical content?

Okay.  Use your equipment enough to have confidence in it.  I don’t have confidence in 55gr bullets at 300 yards, so my mind is on the impact and not on doing everything right at my end.  I don’t have confidence on group size with some ammo, so I’m planning on shooting mostly my reloads.  Again, less thought about group size and bullet performance and more thought on a smooth trigger pull and breathing control.

Accept the fact that under stress performance will degrade.  Strive to shoot a tighter and more accurate group in practice, knowing that if things get wild and woolly your performance will degrade.

Shooting a rifle isn’t quite like shooting a handgun.    Not knowing how your point of aim differs from point of impact will give you a poor score and perhaps cost you your life.

Friday, March 9, 2012

My New Leather Holsters

Winter in northeast Ohio usually means snow, salt rotting your car and the end of outdoor shooting.  This year was different, little or no snow and very little salt, both of which added another year to your car’s life.  It still meant no outdoor shooting for most of us.

With the promise of warm weather the outdoor ranges are making plans and repairing equipment to re-open.  But what about your plans and equipment?

It’s time to check your equipment.  Let me start with a disclaimer.  I’m talking about sport and competition guns, not your self-defense tools.  Those should be cleaned, oiled, practiced with, batteries replaced, performance ammo refilled and on a daily basis, ready to go.  I recognize that many guns have dual roles.  That .44 magnum revolver you like to shoot at the range ‘cause it’s loud and pushes back could easily become your carry weapon in bear country.  This is the time to make sure it’s ready, not the night before the trip.

.44 mag. It's a step in the right direction in bear country.
Hopefully you cleaned all your guns at the end of the season last year.  I spent a few cold evenings in my garage cleaning guns.  If not then, well, better now than never.  Make sure all your magazines are sorted, cleaned and labeled so you don’t end up with the wrong combinations.  I’ve done that on more than one occasion and ruined my shooting fun.  Check the ear and eye protection as well.  Personal safety is always a concern with a dangerous sport. 

Replace or repair any magazine or speed loader carriers and make sure your holster is in good working order and fits your gun.  It drives me nuts to see actors portraying police hold open their holsters with one hand while re-holstering; it’s so amateur.  It’s even worse in real life.  It’s unsafe, unprofessional and reflects poorly on you.  Shooting your hand at almost muzzle contact distances can disable and cripple you for life.  There are enough bad things out there that are out of our control.  Let’s not add to that list.

So get rid of that junk holster and get a proper holster.

I’ve had an S&W 696 revolver for a couple years now.  It’s a 5-shot .44 special with a 3-inch barrel and it shoots like a dream.  I couldn’t find a holster for it.  A lot people told me about this holster or another holster that fits some other gun, and well, it might fit my gun.  Should, aught, might with a little stretching or Kydex bending doesn’t sound so great to me.  Clearly I needed a custom holster.

I found a custom maker and let me recommend him to you.  Brian Bays is a saddle maker by profession.  After making holsters for friends and himself, he decided to start making custom holsters.  I’m glad he did.

I had him make a strong side out-of-waist-band holster for the 696.  It’s beautiful.   

Front, as if you didn't know.

And back.

 I like the holster’s simple but strong elegant lines.  The seams are even, consistent and in harmony with the finely stippled leather.   Brian does very nice work.

I recently had a chance to get a Sig 229 in .40 S&W and I jumped at it.  I needed a Sig.  Why?  Students show up for classes carrying Sigs and I need to have a better understanding of the gun. 
They aren’t cheap, but fortunately a good friend, who treasures Sigs, was doing a little house cleaning and realized she didn’t really care that much for a two tone gun.  She offered me a deal and now it’s happy in my safe.

Why is it happy?  Well, I could have bought a factory produced holster in leather or Kydex.  I have nothing against Kydex.  I think it’s a wonderful material for sheaths and holsters.  I have several and routinely use them.  But nothing says “CLASSY” like a Sig wrapped in black leather.

Bays Leather made me a black, strong side, pancake-style holster in black.   

top front and the bottom back

 Again I’m very happy with it and look forward to range time.

If you need to replace or purchase a holster for any reason check out Bays Leather at  I think you’ll be surprised and very happy with his holsters.