Sunday, March 02, 2008

Buy-A-Gun Day 2008

I realize that I'm a little early for National Buy A Gun Day this year, but the Albany Rifle and Pistol Club held their semi-annual Gun Show this weekend and I couldn't resist.

The thing is, I was looking through my credit cards &etc. last week to see if I couldn't do without carrying all that plastic, when I came across my Concealed Handgun License (CHL). Looking at the date, I noticed that it was due to expire in October of this year. Five years I've had it, and I have never used it!

Well, I work on a college campus and I can't carry there. Other than that, I'm at home, or on my way to or from a shooting range. (No, I really don't get out much.)

The only reason I had taken out the license in the first place is because when traveling with a gun in the car, it's really a good idea to have a CHL. If I ever am stopped for a traffic infraction and the office sees I have firearms in the cargo hold, I don't want to worry whether it is properly stowed. (The rules for CHL owners are much different from travelers without a CHL; they're much less stringent.)

The fact is, I'm uncomfortable with carrying. But there are times when I wish I was armed. Unfortunately, I'm a fan of 'big guns' and everything I have is fairly awkward to carry around.

But it has been 11 months since I bought my Mossberg 590 (Buy A Gun Day 2007), and my gun fund was in good shape. Also, since I haven't been competing much over the late fall and winter, I haven't spent much on match fees, traveling expenses, reloading components ... I can actually afford to buy a gun. I've been reading a lot about new, small carry pistols and maybe it's a good idea to go to the gun show to see what they actually look and feel like.

And if I don't see anything that I like, or at a price I like, I don't have to buy a gun today, right?

I found some nice little carry guns. I like the little 9mm Beretta. The Ruger Millenium in .40 looks good ... in .45 it looks even better! ... but those are a bit bigger than I was looking for. I even found a small stainless derringer in .22 magnum, and a couple of long/skinny AMT NAA revolver derringers in .22 magnum.

I saw some S&W carry pistols in various metals and finishes, some with shrouded hammers (which I really liked) but again, just a little bigger than I wanted and much too pricy.

Then I started looking at the Taurus 85 five-shot in .38 special. I'm not much of a fan in .357 in a small revolver ... my hands are too big for that power (and recoil) with a two-finger grip, but the .38 special 85 has a nice rubber grip which helps. At $319, they were getting into my price range, but not quite there.

Finally I found Taurus 85 'used' (but it looked like new, the barrel was good) for $20 less. This slipped in under the Geek Sniff-test barrier and registered a resounding 'BINGO!' on the Geek-o-meter. Better yet, it was on the multi-table layout of a local gunshop. I do prefer to buy locally if at all possible.

Being convinced that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, I nipped over to the tables on the other side of the display and snooped until I found a Kel-Tec P3AT ... which stands for .380 caliber (Get it? 3AT = 380. Cute as hell.) It fits in the same 2-finger grip as the 85, but with flat stocks. Shoots the weaker (arguably) 9mm Kurz, and will hold 6 rounds in the magazine and one up the spout if you choose to walk around with a semi-cocked DAO pistol.

And the price was less than the Taurus.

What to do, what to do?

You know what to do.

I bought them both.

At least I don't have to worry about having a bloated Gun Fund for a while.

But wait, there's more!
After the paperwork was completed they asked me how I wanted to pay. "Uh, I don't know. Personal Check? Or I can put it on my credit card."

The lady at the counter said "we accept personal checks, or if you want to put them on your credit card we charge an extra 3%." I allowed as how that was uncommonly trusting of them. The lady snorted: "A man would be a fool to pass a bad check on a firearms purchase. They'll hunt him down." Good point, I didn't ask who would hunt me down because I was very careful to check my balance before I left the house.

I wrote out the check and didn't even weep when I wrote down the amount, as I usually do.

"How about a spare magazine for the Kel-Tec?" I asked. Ever the harbinger of bad news, the lady replied "sorry, we're all out. We can't keep them in stock. But check in at the shop next week, and they'll let you know when we get more in." She also suggested that I check other vendors at the show ... but nobody had them.

Then I left, two new (to me) pistols in hand, to look for a Kel-Tec .38 magazine and 'practice' ammunition for both pistols. It took me a while to find practice .38 Special ammunition (2 boxes at 13.95 each), a box of 20 .380 hydroshock (old @ $10) and two 50-round boxes of 92 grain .380 ( jacketted) @ $10.50.

(Note: the next day ... I found the Les Jones review of the P3AT. He mentions feeding failures; SWMBO and I shot about 20 rounds through this weanie pistol, and it fed perfectly. Les Jones also mentioned a white dot on the sights, which was not evident on my version. It appears that some changes, which are improvements, may have been applied to the design since Jones reviewed it 2 or 3 years ago.)

I also looked at holsters for the Taurus 85, but most of what I found were that awful Uncle Mike stuff, including shoulder holsters and the most uncomfortable, ungainly and inconvenient ankle holster ever conceived by the mind of man. I passed. I may find something from Dillon or somewhere on the web for the revolver, but it won't be made of ballistic nylon no matter how highly touted they are for preventing rust. (I'm not certain of the basis of those claims, but they are distinctly low-class. On the other hand, I use to think the same of Forbus holsters until I saw how well they worked.)

OFF to the range!

From there it was a 20 minute drive to the range, where I ran a half-box of each through the guns. (Didn't shoot the Federal hydra-Shok 90 gr hollowpoint ammunition.)

Unfortunately, not really expecting to buy and shoot guns we didn't think to bring ear protection. After shooting the first cylinder of .38 Special through the Taurus 85, I found an old Blimpie's Sandwich Shock paper napkin in a jacket pocket and tore off a quarter sheet to stuff in each of my ears. SWMBO thought I was being too geekish, but when I suggested she try both pistols she could no longer hold her hands over her ears and she, too, resorted to the primitive ear protectors. Believe me, even the crudest hearing protection is better than none at all ... especially when shooting pistols with extremely short barrels. That dog's bark is the same as its bite, they both hurt!

Even using reading glasses it was very difficult for me to see the sights for either pistol, but to my surprise I found it was easier to shoot a 'tight' group at 8 yards with the Kel-Tec than with the Taurus 85 ... for definitions of the expression "tight group". Here, it meant the difference between one I could cover with my fist, and one that I could cover with my hand; and as I have mentioned, I have big hands.

Being accustomed to the crisp glass-rod-breaking feel of a premium quality STI Open Gun, SWMBO was appalled at the long, heavy, mushy feel of the Kel-Tec DAO trigger. I noticed that she tended to take a LONG time to drag the trigger back, and just at the end the muzzle dipped.

However, she had some experience in shooting a Taurus Model 65 (4" barrel, an N-frame if it was the original S&W upon which the Taurus is modeled, in .357 magnum ... which is her house gun now), and had no real complaints about it.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with both of these pistols. I like them both, although I too found them difficult to get use to. I suspect I'll get a wallet holster for the little Kel-Tec and use it for the casual 'going to the store' kind of gun. The revolver may end up being a car gun, for traveling. Or it may become the house gun, although I already have an uncounted number of house guns at Chez Geek The Mossberg 590 will always remain my primary, loades with 7-1/2 shot because of population density in my neighborhood. The Taurus will probably be the one to use when the shotty gun isn't close at hand.

But I already know I have to find something better than Winchester 130gr FMJ for the new house gun.

Did I mention that these pistols were too loud to shoot comfortably without ear protection?

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