Thursday, April 28, 2016
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Monday, April 25, 2016
Heizer POCKET AK and POCKET AR Gel Test
Gel Testing PlanBrief aside: I’d like to clear up some misconceptions and describe what ballistics gel does, and does not do. Anyone who has studied the aftermath of gunshot wounds can tell you that ballistics in the human body can result in almost any outcome imaginable. Simply put–any round, whether through skill or luck, can result in the instantaneous death of a human or animal. On the flip side of that–the most powerful round can completely and utterly fail to incapacitate or kill a human or animal. When it comes to a human target, all bets are off. Have an example: a .22 rimfire round fired from a small handgun striking an adult male just under the armpit, missing the ribs, can penetrate both the lungs and the heart. It isn’t far-fetched.
Consider the murder of Corporal Mark Coates of the South Carolina Highway Patrol. During a traffic stop, the subject began to struggle with Corporal Coates and they both fell to the ground. The subject fired a .22 caliber handgun into Corporal Coates’ chest, but the round was stopped by his vest. Corporal Coates was able to force the man off of him and return fire, striking him five times in the chest with his .357 caliber revolver. As Corporal Coates retreated for cover (and to radio for backup) the man fired a second shot; the round struck Coates in the left armpit and made its way quickly into his heart. The subject, who had been skillfully struck five times by larger and more powerful rounds, survived the incident. He was sentenced to life in prison.
So why even mess with ballistic gel? Because it serves as a great way to see what different rounds do in the same basic, and control, scenario. If you took the average density of muscles, internal organs, circulatory system, nervous system and fluids, you would end up with a medium very close to the density of ballistic gel. Our test medium was Clear Ballistics gel that is approved for bullet testing by all relevant government agencies. As I indicated above, your results will probably vary and predicting the exact results of a round’s performance in a gunfight is truly a fool’s errand.
.223I found two .223 loads that looked promising. The first was the Lehigh Defense 45 grain Controlled Chaos, advertising a velocity of 3,300 fps. The second load I settled on was the Winchester Varmint X 40 grain, which indicated a muzzle velocity of 3,100 fps. Both of these rounds touted the fact that they would expand and fragment upon impact. I wondered if they’d ever met a Heizer before.
The Winchester offered a consistent and more predictable path. Although the ballistic tip did separate from the bullet, there was zero expansion. Reviewing the photography indicated that there was a moderate temporary wound channel.
To put this frankly- the terminal ballistics offered by the Heizer was not what I’d hoped for. These two rounds fired from the Heizer made even a .380 automatic look like a beast. I do not fault the rounds in any way; I believe that this platform, with its short barrel and porting, consistently fails to provide sufficient velocity for these rounds to perform the way they would form a rifle.
This is hardly Heizer’s fault. They have never made promises about terminal ballistics. And they’ve made far fewer promises than some of those who are still pushing bird-shot through .410 revolvers as the end-all-be-all for self defense. We, the end users, simply make assumptions about performance that are often erroneous.
But shooting guns is always fun, right? So what was impressive? Well–the muzzle flash, report and recoil could only be outdone by the Smith and Wesson .500 Magnum.
So what about the 7.62×39?Really good 7.62 x 39 is much harder to find than boutique .223. The Hornady steel case rounds are among the best. This round was able to bring the muzzle flash, report and recoil levels all the way up to Damn Near Unbearable! I’m pretty sure that wielding this gun hurt me just about as badly as it hurt the gel. The performance in the ballistic gel was, again, lackluster at best. I could have re-used the bullet if the ballistic tip hadn’t broken off. There was no fragmentation and no expansion. The camera does record that this round outperformed the others in both penetration and energy dumped to the target, but that’s not an exceptionally high bar to clear.
ConclusionsFirst and foremost, let me say that I would not want to be shot with either caliber offered by this firearm. We can mock ballistic gel results and velocity measurements all we want, but being shot is being shot–all bets are off. If I were going to use this for a self-defense handgun, I would definitely choose the 7.62 x 39, as it has the largest potential to achieve the desired effect.
That being said, this is one of those situations where I would urge you to choose a different caliber. I believe that you would be much better served by the option offered by Heizer in .45. if this is the platform for you.
When I add in the second factor–hand shock–I grow even more concerned. Practice is an important part of proficiency. While the gun shoots straight, shooting it isn’t easy. his Heizer is quite the conversation piece, and everyone is free to make the choice to carry the gun they want. If someone has a compelling reason for this caliber choice, drop me a line and I’ll gladly reconsider my stance here.
The Thompson M1927A1 from Auto Ordnance
Shooting SublimeIs there a gun that’s more rewarding and easy to shoot than the Thompson? That isn’t a rhetorical question. I’m actually asking. I’ve shot several of these, and it just feels so damn good. Why? It is all about history. But the Thompson’s inherent accuracy and the low recoil don’t hurt. It is a really easy choice for me. This is, far and above, my favorite historical rifle.
The originals are prohibitively expensive. And unless it is already shagged out, shooting an original Thompson doesn’t do much for the relative value. I’ve had the good fortune to run more than 1,000 rounds through a full-auto. What they say about the handling is true. The short barreled Thompsons, especially those without the pistol grip forend, tend to walk up in full auto–but it is nothing like what you see in Hollywood. But the cyclic rate, which is modest compared to more modern machine guns, gives the iconic typewriter bop-bop-bop.
There have been many variations on the Thompson over the years. This one is a 1927A1.
This is a gun meant for a creative use of iron sights. And the front blade, built to be durable in every conceivable situation, is not meant for surgical work. This compounds human error. The rear sight folds down to reveal a somewhat crude rear notch, for close work. If you are shooting longer distances, you can stand the sight up and use the peep sight.
We did shoot standing at a steel plate at 200 yards. At this distance, the Thompson works more like an artillery piece than a rifle, and you walk it in. But it is possible. Practical? Not so much. But a lot of fun. You fire, and wait a second to see the visual impact, or hear the steel ring. We were shooting for distance under less than optimal conditions (wind and sporadic rain), but could hit a 10″ plate from 200 yards once or twice a magazine–with the rest coming amazingly close.
All of this is to say that the Thompson is an accurate gun. I think the reason I’m dwelling on this is because I don’t think about the Thompson as accurate. This is a gun meant to put lead down range–fast. And that doesn’t require surgical precision. This is the trench broom. And trenches never afforded long sight distances. They turned and forked frequently to prevent anyone from sweeping more than just a few feet at any one time.
So what else makes this so enjoyable? The weight. This massive gun eats the recoil of the .45 ACP. Repeat shots are as easy as they are on a Ruger 10/22. Shoot from the hip, shoot from the shoulder, walk shots in, dump a mag… every shooting scenario runs with a fluidity that makes even the most experienced shooter grin.
And then there are smaller details, like the noise reduction. Some rifles are stupid loud, even with hearing protection. This long barrel, and the thickness of the steel mitigates noise levels. I often leave the range with a headache (even when wearing plugs and muffs), but not with the Thompson. This guns is a dream. There’s no punch from the recoil and no concussive punch from the report.
The shortcomings?The weight I mentioned a moment ago can be difficult to manage at times. When shooting photos for this piece, I had Sam hold the rifle. He’d shoulder it, and I’d start messing with the camera, and after a minute or two, he’d need a break. This model comes in at 13 pounds, empty. That’s what makes it stable, but it can be fatiguing too.
And critics may point out that the design is noticeably dated. In a world of split second mag changes, fans of the Thompson will sheepishly look the other way. The mag catch has to be actuated to get the mag in and out. It helps, too, if the bolt is locked back when you insert a new mag.
Both of these details–the weight and the mag issues–should be kept in perspective. If you are serious about buying a Thompson, it isn’t for its practical defensive potential. I know there are some guys out there who (for whatever reason) only own one gun. They’re drawn to the historical or cinematic nature of a gun, but the gun needs to do double duty as a defensive firearm, too. The A-O 1911A1 is the perfect example of a gun that can be both at the same time. While it isn’t as ergonomic as some tricked out 1911s, much less any of the polymer pistols, it has the appeal of history and defensive potential. But the Thompson seems like it is on a higher plane.
Thompson’s next 100 yearsThis is an anniversary, so let’s celebrate a bit. The Thompson is one of the most iconic guns of all time. If we were to build a short list–maybe 5 guns–that can be identified instantly, even by non gun-nuts, the Thompson would be on that list. The pre-war government overreach we refer to as Prohibition relied on the Thompson as its tool for heavy-handed law enforcement. Why? Because the Thompson was equally adored by the rum runners and gangsters who squared off with the feds and with each other.
Historical Hollywood, for the reasons mentioned above, still has an ongoing fascination with the piece. and it is even more common in video games (where first person shooters don’t have to load magazines or actually carry a 13 pound gun).
And now, at the centennial, the icon belongs to Auto-Ordnance. And it is exceptionally well executed. While it may not be a truck gun, and it certainly isn’t going into the nightstand, the Thompson will be a conversation starter. It is the type of legacy gun you break out of the safe, and carry with you to the range. You’ll run a couple of boxes through it and then carry it back home. My bet is that you’ll spend more time taking it apart, cleaning it, oiling it and babying it.