Pistol Caliber Carbine Quest
During my shooting career, I shot a lot of IPSC events in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. I got away for IPSC in the mid 90’s for a bunch of reasons. I developed a great interest in long range rifles along around 2002. My credit card has never been the same since. Our 600 yard rifle range suffered serious damage during last year’s hurricane. This summer it closed for repair. I would have to satisfy my shooting cravings some other way for a while.
So I have begun shooting with some of my Club’s action pistol shooters on Steel Challenge and Action Steel courses. Way back in the 1980’s I was a proponent of using steel targets when training. Steel targets give the shooter instant recognition of a correct shot placement. It can break a shooter of “scoping” their target between shots. Bill Rogers even developed a whole instinctive shooting course around using steel targets. Wow! Now some 30 years later there are two sports for shooting steel targets. Both Steel Challenge and Action Steel matches are fired at my club. I quickly found I would need a Pistol Caliber Carbine to use as my 5.56 AR15’s will perforate the steel plates. This would not make me very popular at my Club. Thus I started the quest for a Pistol Caliber Carbine.
Where does one start? Steel shooters that I was working with had a diverse array of carbines. I saw AR15 9mm conversions, Sig Sauer MPX’s, CZ’s, and Ruger patrol rifles. Years ago when working for the Sheriff, I carried an HK94 in 9mm. This one was essentially a semi-automatic MP5 with a 16” barrel. It was incredibly accurate but the trigger was horrible. I carried it for 15 years but sold it in 2000 to use for a down payment on a new house. The new versions such as the Zenith were appealing but were very expensive and I have not been able to handle one to see if the trigger has improved.
The CZ and the Ruger were a better price. They seem to function without issue but again, I didn’t like the trigger.
The Sig Sauer MPX was very appealing to me. It was an updated AR platform. The triggers didn’t feel too bad. They seemed to function very well. The carbine and the magazines were a little pricey. The one thing that caused me to pause was that there are multiple generations of the MPX. This didn’t seem to be widely advertised. Some of the parts were not interchangeable between generations.
That brought me back to an AR15 platform. I was shooting with a couple of fellows that had actually gone to High Master with conversion carbines. Obviously conversions have their own science. There seemed to be numerous brands and styles of conversions. Some were made with billet receivers and some were made with forged receivers. Some locked the bolt after the last shot, some didn’t. Some entered the mag well from the top and some entered from the bottom. Even the original, the Colt AR15 9mm used a conversion block, although it is pinned in place. Some of the conversions use Glock magazines while others use the Colt SMG magazine. I shoot mostly 1911 and 2011 pistols so the Glock conversions didn’t interest me much. I was familiar with the AR9 style carbines as several agencies in my area bought the Colt 9mm and Colt SMG to use on patrol. They seemed capable and could handle a lot of abuse.
***War story antic dote*** One night at a local agency, an officer signed out his Colt AR9mm to carry on patrol. I never quite understood the theory behind not issuing a Carbine. One would not know where a sign out carbine shot or if it had any peculiarities. This officer, when loading his patrol car with his personal equipment (the agency also didn’t have take home cars back then), placed the carbine on the roof. He forgot it was there and as he pulled out of the driveway, it slid off the roof and onto the asphalt. Well, everyone driving in and out of the station ran over this carbine. The next day when it was spotted, it was fully imbedded into the driveway. The agency’s armorer pried it out of the asphalt. The carbine appeared unharmed with the exception of some scratches. After an inspection, he took this carbine out and fired it. There were no issues what so ever. What this tells me is that these things are bullet, or rather driveway, proof.**
During my search, I found the Rock River Arms LAR-9. The LAR-9 had a dedicated lower machined specifically for the Sten/UZI/Colt SMG magazines. The bolt locked back after the last round fired, which I preferred. The receivers were both forged. A couple of years ago Rock River came out with a competition version of the LAR-9 they named the R-9. This version has a fluted stainless barrel. It has a National Match 2 stage 4 ½ pound trigger. I use this type of trigger in several of my High Power competition rifles. It has an M-Lok free float fore end. It has the Rock River CAR Operator stock which offers a better cheek weld. It just seemed to make sense to get something that was already tricked out. I placed an order for one with a local dealer. Some five weeks later it arrived. The fit and finish was wonderful. I put an Aimpoint Comp M3 sight on it. I shot several types of ammo and had ZERO MALFUNCTIONS. The magazines I was using are the Rock River 32 round straight stick mags. The have a metal follower and yes, it locks the bolt back after the last round. These mags appear to have a Teflon or Cera-Kote type finish on them.
Wow, was I happy! I always sighted my work AR15 carbines in for 50 yards. When shooting in closer than that there was not much elevation change. With a 5.56 round, a 50 yard sight zero was also correct at 200 yards. I decided to sight my R-9 in for 50 yards just because that is what I am used to. So I went to our Club’s 50 yard bench range. I was equipped with my High Power spotting scope and rifle bench rest. I tried multiple types of ammo. Again I suffered ZERO MALFUNCTIONS. This was a reliable carbine. The accuracy however left a lot to be desired. Actually I have fired shot guns that patterned tighter. I will discuss my testing experiences in Part 2.
Springfield 911 Review by Eric Kennard
A very good friend of mine picked up a new Springfield 911 pistol. He took it right to the range and shot it. Andy is retired Law Enforcement, a long time firearms instructor, and shootist. Andy was privileged enough to have taken every class Jeff Cooper and Ray Chapman taught. In fact he has taken so many shooting classes from so many that none of us can keep up. His lifetime USPSA number is in the low three digit range not the five digit of most. Andy allowed me to try the 911 and give you an evaluation.
The 911 is another modern copy of a Colt Mustang. The 1911 platform is still my favorite. I have been able to fire many pistols in my 31 years in Law Enforcement. I always went back to the 1911 when able. In 1992 I went into Major Crimes where we investigated sex crimes, serious child abuse crimes, unattended deaths, and homicides. I wanted a small back up type pistol that was reliable but small. That year I bought a Colt Mustang Pocket Lite, a pistol that I still have today. I was able to qualify with that diminutive pistol for many years. I carried it on and off duty. Colt discontinued it for a number of years and copies began to appear from Sig Sauer and Kimber. The Springfield 911 is the newest of these copies.
I will begin my review by telling you it is the BEST COPY of the Mustang that I have used. The 911 has many unique features. The 911 has an ambidextrous safety which I prefer. The 911 has really nice sights, much nicer than the Mustang. These are night sights and are standard not an optional extra. The front dot is huge. The extractor is external. The trigger is a measured 4 1/2 pounds. The 911 comes with a flush bottom 6 round magazine and an extended 7 round magazine with a finger extension. The trigger guard is squarish and allows your finger a fast entry into it. The 911 fit into many of the holsters I have for my Mustang.
The internals look a lot like the Colt Mustang. The 911 does have a stainless guide rod. I have found that a metal guide rod in my Mustang seemed to allow the pistol to function more smoothly than the original plastic guide rod.
The 911 comes with a neat little pouch. The holster is removable and can double as a pocket holster.
The scallops on the front strap and back strap are some of the best I ever handled. They are not sharp and they don't catch coming out of a holster or pocket.
The 911 comes with a loaded chamber indicator that sticks up from the top of the slide when there is a round in the chamber. This is the only feature I could live without. It did not seem to hamper the function of the 911.
Did it shoot? DID IT EVER! This thing is incredible. We shot 15 types of ammo in this pistol. With about 150 rounds fired, there were ZERO malfunctions. That is remarkable for a micro pistol. It groups with most everything. It really liked the Federal 380BP and the Federal HST. The worst group was with Sig Elite hollow point super death bullets. The recoil was very brisk with these with may have caused me to shoot poorly. The 911 even shot my 380 hand loads with 95 grain Bayou Bullets (coated lead). The load is 2.9 grains of VV320 behind the lead round nose Bayou Bullet. The photo with the loaded round is a 10 yard group! Andy shoots much better than me.
Many people discount the .380 as too little to carry for defensive purposes. I live in Florida. Shorts and sneakers are the uniform of the day nine or ten months a year. That makes concealment an issue with any full size pistol. This 911 is perfect to carry concealed. It carries very well in a pocket. The 911 has too many great features to pass up. It was reliable, concealable, and easy to shoot. I can’t recommend it enough. I hope Springfield makes thousands of them as they will be very popular.
Here is a picture of the latest thing in long range rifles. Actually, this design was done about 10 years ago and posted on www.6mmBR.com
I know it is a .50 caliber but I am not sure how long the barrel will last.
Many of you know that from time to time I stray from long range rifle shooting to go back to some pistol shooting. I started shooting pistols about 1971. My first was a Smith & Wesson K22 Masterpiece. It was a 6” 22LR revolver with a target hammer and trigger. I remember it was only $119. Those were the days or were they? I gained an interest in 2700 bullseye matches and began shooting with the Delaware State Pistol Team. I quickly learned that a semi-automatic pistol was necessary. I got a High Standard but soon traded it for a Smith & Wesson model 41. I continued shooting bullseye until the late 70’s. In 1984 I started my law enforcement career in Florida. I started shooting IPSC at that time. I carried a Colt 1911 on duty and off. That pistol platform was my competition choice also. My wife loved that I shot IPSC because she believed it would benefit me at work. During all that time I worked with a team that taught firearms instruction at the Police Academy. The lead instructor was Andy Seminick. Andy had gone to every class that Jeff Cooper and Ray Chapman had taught. Andy learned from the best and put together a curriculum that we believed would teach recruits not only how to shoot but also how to save their lives. While teaching hundreds and hundreds of recruits, we quickly learned that a pistol with a consistent trigger pull was the easiest platform to master. Thus the 1911, the HK P7, and the plastic fantastic new kid on the block, the Glock, were the first for us to recommend. Well history shows that most of Law Enforcement agreed, as the Glock became the overwhelming pistol of choice by most agencies.
Turn the clock forward a couple of decades and one will find every pistol manufacturer scrambling to bring a striker fired polymer framed pistol to the market. Well I recently had the opportunity to wring out an HK VP9SK. The version I tried was the LE. The difference between the standard SK and the SK LE is night sights and a third magazine. Honestly, why would you buy one without night sights and a third magazine? Like the full size VP9, the SK LE comes with three different thickness grip panels and three different back straps. This is an attempt to make one platform fit many different sized hands. My hands are fairly large but I found the SK LE to be very comfortable to hold. The VP9SK LE came with one magazine with a flat floor plate and two with finger extensions. The magazine bodies are steel. Both types of floor plates were rubber or some soft synthetic. What a great idea as this will protect them when they are ejected from the pistol. Both types hold 10 rounds each. The finger extension provides a positive gripping surface for your little finger. This allows a very firm controlled grip on the pistol.
An examination of the exterior finds some unique features. First is the ambidextrous paddle magazine release. There is a paddle on each side of the grip behind the trigger guard. This release is not something that has to be pulled out and flipped to the other side to be ambidextrous. This mag release is active on both sides of the pistol at all times. The paddle was easy to operate with either the thumb or trigger finger or both.
The next unique feature is an ambidextrous slide release. I don’t think I have ever seen this on a pistol before. My manual of arms that I teach doesn’t include dropping the slide by pressing down the slide lock. Rather, one should grasp the rear of the slide, pull it to the rear, and let it go. However locking the slide to the rear can be rather cumbersome to those that are left handed. My son is an exceptional shooter. He is left handed and had to learn how to shoot most firearms that were designed for right handed shooters. He found both of these features great but more about this later.
The slide is machined from a solid block of high-carbon steel. This slide is no stamped and folded piece of metal. HK says it is coated with a nitro-carburized finish to resist corrosion. The slide has cocking serrations on the front and rear. There are many shooters who do not like this but I love front serrations. They allow one to pull the slide back slightly to check the chamber or assist in clearing the pistol. Speaking of pulling the slide back, this HK is the first pistol I have seen with extensions on either side of the rear of the slide. These “ears” allow a really good purchase on the rear of the slide to assist in pulling the slide to the rear.
The extractor doubles as a loaded chamber indicator. When there is a round in the chamber, the extractor stands out slightly from the slide and exposes a red surface.
Another interesting feature is the cocked striker pin indicator. This indicator is visible through a port in the rear of the receiver.
HK continues their innovation with a feature that I don’t recall seeing on other striker fired pistols. The take down lever will not turn down if there is a magazine in the pistol. Also turning the take down lever to the down position, de-cocks the striker. Now one of the cardinal rules of firearm safety is to always check to make sure there is no round in the chamber before handling or disassembling the pistol. Well we all know that when Dr. Murphy takes over the worst will happen. Yes, I happen to know Murphy is a doctor. HK is going to save someone from that unintentional discharge by disconnecting the striker when the slide is removed.
Once disassembled, the VP9SK looks like most other striker fired pistols. It utilizes the Browning link-less short recoil system. HK says the barrel is made from cannon grade steel. It has a polygonal bore and a high polished ramp. The P30K has a similar barrel. That P30 barrel has been tested to 90,000 rounds without failure. You read that correctly, 90,000. The polygonal bore also alleges increased velocity.
Okay, enough of the description, how does the thing shoot? My son and I took this unique pistol down to the Port Malabar Rifle & Pistol Club. The only range available to us that day was a 15 yard practice pistol range. We started with some 115 grain FMJ Federal American Eagle.
Before I go any further let me state that this has to be one of the most accurate out of the box pistols I have ever seen. As a law enforcement firearms instructor, part time armorer, and enthusiast, I have had the opportunity to test, shoot, and own dozens of different pistols during my career. The VP9SK LE is radically accurate. It is a combination of a superior barrel and the excellent trigger. My biggest gripe with striker fired pistols of today is the mushy trigger pull and incredibly long trigger reset. Trigger reset is holding the trigger to the rear while the slide cycles. After the slide has cycled, slowly release the trigger until you feel the trigger reset. The secret is to not take your finger all the way off the trigger. Just let it out until you feel the reset and no more. This technique will greatly increase your accuracy. The 1911 and the HK P7 didn’t have a problem with reset. Today’s polymer striker pistols do but not the HK VP9SK. This is the best striker fired trigger I have felt. I would rate it even better than the new M320!
It is a good thing this pistol had so much going for it because in the beginning this particular pistol malfunctioned at least once with every magazine. The main malfunctions were a failure to feed into the chamber or failure to eject. These were indications the slide was not cycling fully for some reason. The malfunctions occurred with all three magazines. The possible issues for this were failure to maintain a locked wrist during the cycle, weak ammo, the 115 grain bullets, or some unknown mechanical malady. I did notice my son, who is left handed, tended to have his thumbs near the right side slide lock. This was never an issue before as he has never shot a pistol with an ambidextrous slide lock. He corrected this but was still having problems.
Next we tried some 9mm hand loads that I had made some time ago. This ammo was also 115 FMJ loaded over Accurate Arms #5. We oiled up the pistol and tried again. There were fewer malfunctions but they were still annoyingly frequent. My son noticed the date on the hand loads and complained that the ammo was older than he was. One of the caveats he has been taught is “Never shoot ammo older than you are!” Well the ammo was not older than me so I fired it. I was getting the same failure to chamber. This put us at about 250 rounds through the pistol.
Onward and upward, we moved on to some lead round nose 124 grain ammo I had loaded. These were also over a dose of AA#5. Well I don’t know what switch we threw but there were no more malfunctions. Were these loads hotter? Did the VP9SK like heavy bullets better? Did pistol finally break in?
The last ammo we tried that day were CCI Gold Dot 124 grain +P. There were no malfunctions with the +P Gold Dot either. We shot a total of 470 rounds through the VP9SK. Here are a couple photos of the targets we shot at 15 yards.
We took the VP9SK LE home and field stripped it to clean. I decided we would put it in my L&R Ultrasonic cleaner. It ran for an hour in the heated cleaning solution. I put it into the L&R lubricant and ran it for 15 minutes. My son cleaned the barrel with Bore Tech cleaner. All the parts were dried. The contact points were lubed with Slip 2000 oil and the VP9SK was reassembled.
My son used the VP9SK in a pistol match a few days later. He used a new box of Winchester NATO 124 grain FMJ. He had no malfunctions, none, zip, zero. Oh, and he tied for first in the match.
The verdict? The HK VP9SK LE is a superior pistol. I don’t hesitate to recommend it. Just be prepared to shoot +P or 124 grain bullets to break it in. It may be hard to locate one for a while. Spare magazines are even rarer. HK promises to have the P30/VP9 magazines in 13 and 15 round with grip extensions for the VP9SK in the fall of 2017. This will make the already serviceable pistol even better.
VP9SK LE Dimensions:
Length 6.61 inches
Width 1.32 inches
Height 4.57 inches
Barrel length 3.39 inches
Sight radius 5.73 inches
Weight w/o mag 23 ounces
10 round mag 2.65 ounces empty
Trigger pull 4.5~5.5 pounds
Trigger travel .24 inches
Reset travel .12 inches
Barrel Polygonal 1 in 9.8 twist
Copyright Harbour Arms 2017
The 6.5 Grendel started life as a proprietary cartridge. The Grendel was designed by Bill Alexander to replace the .223 cartridge in military rifles.
This cartridge is a spin off of the 6PPC but was designed to handle heavier bullets. Most of the 6.5mm bullets have a better ballistic coefficient than any of the .223 bullets. This made the 6.5 Grendel much more efficient at 600 yards. The Grendel is tailored to fit in an AR-15 platform Modern Sporting Rifle at standard magazine lengths.
The 6.5 LBC was developed by Les Baer to replicate the 6.5 Grendel before it became a SAAMI spec'ed cartridge.
Our 6.5 AR fits both! Once again, Harbour Arms was the first to bring you the 6.5 Grendel snap cap.
6.5 AR (6.5 Grendel)
The 6.5 AR is Harbour Arms answer to your requests for a 6.5 LBC or the 6.5 Grendel. Our 6.5 AR fits both!
This cartridge is a spin off of the 6PPC but was designed to handle heavier bullets. Most of the 6.5mm bullets have a better ballistic coefficient than any of the .223 bullets. The 6.5 LBC or Grendel are tailored to fit in an AR-15 Platform Rifle at standard magazine lengths. This cartridge is certainly one that could replace the .223 in the AR platform battle rifle.
The product of the week is the 6.5 Creedmoor snap cap. Harbour Arms was the first to offer this caliber in a snap cap. This snap cap is the number one seller.
I have been told the 6.5 Creedmoor was conceived by Dave Emory (Hornady) and Dennis Demille (Creedmoor Sports) over a dinner one night. They were looking for something that would shoot the high ballistic coefficient 6.5 mm bullets in a case that was short enough to fit into an AR10 magazine. That was 2007. The 6.5 Creedmoor has taken off like wild fire. The last time I looked, there were 13 brands of factory ammunition for it. Most of the rifle manufacturers are chambering their rifles in 6.5 Creedmoor.
If you have chosen the 6.5 Creedmoor for your rifle, consider some of our snap caps to go with it.
6.5 Creedmoor Precision Snap Caps
In 2007, Hornady's Chief Ballistician Dave Emary and National High Power Champion Dennis DeMille collaborated in the design of a new High Power Cartridge. Dennis was looking for a 6.5 mm round that could utilize the very high ballistic coefficient bullets in a magazine length case. The 6.5 Creedmoor was developed and it is taking the High Power matches by storm. It is offered in several rifles and at least one service rifle.
I want to welcome everyone to the new Harbour Arms website. This is my effort to bring my site up to 21st century standards. Of course I am still locked in the 20th century but that is a personal problem.
Please peruse the site and look over all the products. The snap caps can be found in calibers not offered by anyone else. The other products are items that precision and target rifle shooters will find useful. Products on my site are used by me. If I don't like it, you will not see it.
I have been a shooter and handloader for 45 years. My love for long range rifle shooting has come after terms in Bullseye pistol, IPSC, and three gun shooting. I intend to use this blog to introduce new products you will find useful as well as tips for handloading. Again, I have tried many tools and techniques in handloading and I know what works. Perhaps more importantly, I know what doesn't work for handloading!
Check back every week for news and updates.