Saturday, February 21, 2009

REVIEW: Taurus "The Judge"

I got the chance to shoot a Taurus Judge and jumped on it “like a rat on a Cheeto” (I stole that quote from a friend of mine) or like my wife says, “like a hobo on a ham sandwich.” No matter how you say it, I grabbed the opportunity. For you that may not know, the Judge is a revolver that can shoot both .410 shot shells and .45 Long Colt ammo.

My friend Trey called to tell me that his brother Canon (his real birth name) just bought a brand new Taurus Judge. It’s ironic that a gun-loving guy who owns a huge handgun is named Canon, or maybe his love of firearms is due to his name. Either way, it’s a cool name and he does love guns.

Due to Canon’s work schedule, I was “forced” to duck out of work early on Friday so we could get some range time with His Honor, “The Judge”. Canon’s gun is the bobbed hammer, ultra-lite model. Over the years I’ve realized that Taurus has a real problem keeping their web site up to date.

The biggest hurdle for us was finding ammo. It was easy to find .410 #8, #6 and slugs but due to the crazy ammo shortage we couldn’t find any 00 Buck or .45 Long Colt locally. We will get our hands on some and will retest the gun soon.

Once at the range, we started off taking some pictures then loaded it with some #8 birdshot and ran through a few cylinders to get the feel for it. The first thing you notice is how light the gun is compared to it’s relative size. It dwarfs my Taurus Model 85 Ultra Lite .38 Special but is only a few ounces heavier.

The first time the gun was shot (a few days before), the fiber optic peg in the front sight fell out and was lost. That’s not good but I believe it’s a fluke rather than a quality issue. Canon has a replacement on the way and since the plastic FO housing was still in place, sighting was still fine. I would like to see Taurus include a few replacements like Ruger does (as came with my Mark III). How much cost would this add? $.50?
How does is shoot? It kicks. Recoil from the shot shells is heavy, but the soft rubber grips eases the sting. Taurus uses the same, familiar “Ribber” grip on the Judge that is uses on it’s Tracker Series revolvers. It’s a great design for comfort but due to it’s terrific tackiness and bulk, it’s not all that practical for concealed carry.
Next, the bobbed hammer design (there is a model with a hammer spur) removes the option of cocking the gun before shooting. Since this isn’t a deep concealed carry revolver, getting the spur hung on a pant leg or shirt tail isn’t a issue so I’d personally have gone with the spur for fun long distance shots at the range. With a conceal carry gun, like I use my model 85 for, I’d go with hammerless or spurless. Ironically, my model 85 has a hammer spur and Canon’s Judge doesn’t. Go figure.

Speaking of hammers, just like the model 85, the Judge has a key lock built into the hammer to lock it down, preventing it from being shot by an unauthorized user.

As a new gun, the trigger was stiff and heavy. I suggested that Canon sit at home and dry fire it hundreds of times to smooth out the action. I know it works with Taurus revolver triggers because I did it with my Model 85 with terrific results.

After a few warm-up shots, we switched to rifled slugs and shot down range at one of four steel torso targets 75 yards out. These are great targets because when hit with .22 they “ding”, with 9mm they “clang” and with rifled slugs they “GONG”. I like the instant feedback.

Canon told me that the ribbed .410 shells fit in the cylinder chambers a bit tight and he was right. Not a big deal at all but the smooth-sided .410 shells slipped right in and were easily ejected. When you pull the trigger though there was no difference.

The Judge is designed as a close quarters defense or a snake gun that when loaded with light buck or scatter shot, has an effective range of about 10-12 feet. The rifled barrel scatters the pellets very fast. Loaded with heavy buck or slugs that range in significantly extended.

After shooting it, I’d only load it with #6 if I was living in an apartment and was worried about defending myself against an intruder and just as worried about an errant shot going through the thin apartment wall and killing or injuring my neighbor. In an apartment setting, it seems that most confrontations would take place in the 10’-12’ range anyway. Canon said this was his primary reason for choosing the gun.

I’d never think of loading it with anything less than small buck if using it as a hiking or camping gun. If you shot even a small black bear in full attack with #6 pellets at 10 feet, all you’d do is piss him off and make him madder. The #6 scatters to quickly and the pellets are too small to incapacitate any threat but maybe a rattle snake.

Notice in the shot pattern of the #6 shot in the video below. We were shooting at a distance of only 10 feet.

Loaded with a slug the gun would easily, quickly and certainly incapacitate just about any threat you were faced with (save for a Grizzly which aren’t an issue in Tennessee). If the first shot did knock someone off their feet, the second would.

Is the gun fun to shoot? Heck yes! It’s always a blast to shoot a heavy recoiling handgun. In this case, there was also the novelty of shooting a handgun that takes shot shells. The flexibility of the load options (when you can find them) makes the gun a very versatile defense weapon. I really can’t think of a reason to buy the hard-to-find and over-priced .45 Long Colts for defense since the .410 slugs pack such a wallop at normal defense distances. But to each their own.

See how the variety of shot shell loads tore up the target (note: there are three shotgun holes on the target). But is it good for self defense? For an in depth look check this review out -
My overall impression: When I first learned of the Judge’s existence, I thought to myself, “Cool but...”. Now after learning more about it and shooting it. There are a lot of reasons to own one. Most of those reasons are in the load flexibility. If you load it right, when it comes to self-defense, the Judge’s sentence for attackers intent on causing you lethal harm is definitely the death penalty.

Friday, February 20, 2009

REVIEW: Glock 27

Glock. There’s no doubt that in recent years (post 1911) that the Glock has done for pistols what the iPhone has done for smartphones. It seems that every manufacturer now has a similar polymer framed gun design and to think it all started with curtain rods.
That’s right I said curtain rods. In the late 1960s Gaston Glock made curtain rods but soon branched out to making much cooler things like machine gun belts, knives and trenching tools. The Austrian Army was so happy with the products Glock made, they asked Gaston if he could make them a pistol. In 1982 he invented the 9mm Glock 17 (I understand the numeric designation represented Herr Glock’s 17th patent).
The gun was such a success, that in a little over a year they set up a world HQ in Smyrna, Georgia of all places. Go figure.
Here’s an interesting fact that will lead us directly into our review. S&W designed a new round - the .40 S&W. But it was Glock that first manufactured a gun that could shoot it! They beat S&W with their own round! How’s that for an impressive, fast moving company?
This review is for the Glock 27 which happens to be chambered for the .40 S&W.
My friend Doug has a “Baby” Glock 27 that he uses as a full powered carry gun. For light weight self defense, he uses the Kel-Tec P-3AT we reviewed earlier. I’d wager that over the years I’ve put about 100 rounds through his Glock and it still frustrates me.
Let’s start with the good. Glocks...
  • resist rust better than any gun on the market.
  • are EASY to resell due to their popularity.
  • work. Period.
  • sighing system low-profile and adjustable and very quick to get on target.
  • triggers are very light and reset with very little travel.
  • live up to their reputations.
  • are the most popular pistols on the planet.
Now for the bad. Glocks...
  • don’t fit MY hand shape! I didn’t say yours, I said mine.
I said Doug’s Glock frustrates me. And it’s not just his, it’s every Glock I shoot (and I’ve shot many). The grip feels uncomfortable, thick and awkward. Plus, having a fixed polymer grip, there’s really nothing I can do about it. At least the XDm and S&W M&P have replaceable palm swells and back straps (this proves it must be an issue for more people than just me).
People, I love Glocks. I think they’ve done more for pistol making than any other company since Colt did 100 years ago. Now that we’ve established the grip gripe, let’s talk about shooting it.
The first thing I noticed the first time I pulled the trigger on Doug’s Glock 17 was that the trigger was extremely light and the pull short. So light, that the gun startled me when it went off - isn’t that the secret to accurate shooting, letting the gun surprise you?
I asked him if he had the trigger worked and he said “no”. But dang, that thing is sweet to shoot! After the first shot, I actually had to force myself to press lightly. The result was a smooth, easy trigger pull that’s better than the XD, XDm or Millennium Pro, and easily as good as the Smith and Wesson M&P.
The sights are great too! The square notch rear sight that’s outlined in bright white is easy to line up with the front dot. With most guns, if you want screw driver adjustable height and windage you get a big bulky sight apparatus that isn’t conceal carry friendly. Not so with Glock. They have a relatively low profile fixture that’s completely adjustable with a small screw driver and won’t snag a shirt or jacket.
With all that going for me, I still had trouble staying on target. I found that I had to re-grip the pistol after every shot. There was just no way for me to keep my hand firmly in place and not wiggle my fingers between trigger pulls. The recoil of the .40 S&W didn’t help.
Speaking of recoil, Doug and I tried an experiment. We shot his Glock 27 loaded with Winchester white box Wal-mart ammo against my small Kimber Ultra Carry II loaded with Winchester .45ACP. We alternated shots from each gun over and over then came to our own personal, non-influenced conclusion on recoil. Our impressions identical. We both felt that the recoil was about the same but if we were forced to assign each a grade, we both agreed the Glock “popped” a bit harder. Our opinion for what it’s worth.
Doug has several magazines for the Glock. One is a conceal carry mag without the pinky rest while the others all have the the pinky extension. You want to see me really struggle, watch me shoot the Glock without the extra magazine length.
As for the real reason to buy a little pistol, the Baby Glock 27 is small enough to easily conceal. There are thinner guns out there but the overall package isn’t hard to hide and carry all day via ankle, belly-band or IWB. But that extra girth takes it out of the pocket gun arena.
If you want a Glock, there’s only one thing you need to do prior to buying one. Go to your local gun store, pick one up and see how it fits your hand. Nothing else. If it fits, buy it. If not, try an XD or XDm. It’s that simple. You don’t need to test fire one first, take my word and the word of millions of people world wide. The guns shoot great, don’t jam or fail to feed and they are “throw them off a cliff and they still work” rugged.
No wonder they have such a passionate group of followers...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Building a Custom Ruger 10/22: PART 4 of 4 - Shooting it!

Kennard’s Comments:
I’d like to thank Bruce for his in-depth, step-by-step article on building your own Ruger 10/22. I know people that talk about doing it but don’t know where to begin. Well, this is a good place. 

Folks, this rifle looks and shoots like a dream. The trigger is a finger-breaking 2 lbs. The scope has a wide zoom range and an adjustable parallax. I bought an off the rack, Walnut Ruger 10/22 and next to Bruce’s custom 10/22, mine feels like...well, a Lexus and mine feels like a 1979 AMC Pacer. We will have a side-by-side comparison soon. 

Well, some have noted that this 4 part series has taken a bit to finish and it has.  Right before the cold weekends started to hit on a regular basis, Kennard and I did manage to get out to the range and shoot the 10/22.  Being new at the gun thing, I couldn’t be expected to prove much for how good (or not) the gun was.
While shooting, Kennard got the scope dialed in for me.  If I recall, we didn’t have to deal with wind that day.  We started at 50 yards and then moved it out to the 100 yard distance.  We were shooting Federal brand, the 550 count .22 LR box for $14.  Kennard shot a nice group and followed it up with an even better group.  Then another nice group.  Then he told me that the last two groups were using the Federal target ammo (325 count for $14).  Quite a difference that made.
Kennard did pull off a bench rest 1-inch 10-shot group.  We were using the Caldwell Green/Black rest bags.  Now what I can’t recall was whether or not that was a group at 100 or 50 yrds.  As much as I’d like to show you what was done and more details on that day, we both needed to be somewhere so we packed up and left and forgot to bring the target stand back in.  And, of course, we didn’t take pictures of the target were discussing here.  Sorry all.
About a week later, during a cold afternoon, I met Kennard and a few others at the range.  I shot some with the 10/22 at the plinking range.  Once I figured out what range we had dialed the scope into, I started popping spent 22 gauge cases on a ridge @ 75 yards.  Maybe that’s no big deal to experienced shooters but it sure seemed cool to me.  I also shot a couple golf balls off that ridge.  I followed that up by shooting some spent clay targets up against the far 100 yard hill.  I was consistently shooting broken parts and blowing them into even smaller pieces and had a great time.
So here we are some weeks later and we get a weekend day that was going to be above 45 and not too windy.  Kennard wasn’t feeling great but I decided I’d see what I could do to finish up this series even though I’m new at this and can’t pull off much amazement at this point.  The temp even got up to 60 right before plunging back down the next day for some scattered snow.  But I’ll take it.
Crazy me, I started out at 100 yards.  I was all over the place (about a 3-4” radius).  The scope didn’t seem to be dialed in.  The target ammo didn’t seem to make a difference and it was a bit windy.  So what could I prove?  I shot some targets I had up and eventually took a couple shots at the Caldwell Orange Peel target.  Note the two shots on the pic provided here.  And I was only shooting the Federal Target ammo from here out.
After those two shots, I moved the target up to 50 yards in hopes of having something that could be called a group and not look like buck shot.  In the accompanying photo, Group 1 shows a few shots after I hit a few good ones on another target.  Then I moved over to Group 2.  I started feeling better.  Then Group 3.  Holy smoke! That was me???  The one shot out of the group was the third one.  Stupid third bullet going off and messing up a nice group.  But wow!  Group 4 was so sweet until the 10th shot which decided not to be a “me to” bullet and went out on it’s own at 10 O’clock.  Group 5 told me the joy might be over and that it was time to quit for the day.
I then went over to the plinking range to shoot my XD9 with my new LaserMax internal laser.  That will be a post for another time.  All in all, I’m happy with my 50 yard groups.  I’ll need to get Kennard out there and we can update this post.  I’d like to have some experienced people shoot it to really gauge how good it is.  So an update will be in store.