Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Favored Back-Up Guns I have Known

Though retired from law enforcement for a decade now, I suspect that the BUG (back-up gun) remains popular in those agencies allowing them. Unlike some that did not and do not allow this measure of officer safety, mine did and still does, requiring qualifications for this extra bit of "life insurance".

This S&W Model 042 rode with me on many "routine" police calls and was my usual BUG for my duty Hi Power. It also served as an "off duty" gun and is sometimes carried now.

During my years "on the street", the duty gun was almost always accompanied by the hidden back-up gun. Contrary to what the opposition might say, the BUG is not a "throw-down" gun to be placed in the dead hand of a shot-too-fast-and-without-legal-justification "victim". It is simply what the name implies, back-up and in some cases, perhaps an alternate primary duty arm for a very short time-frame or when extreme discretion is desired.While the back-up's intended primary role is to be a quick substitute if the duty sidearm goes down or is taken or lost by the officer in a fight, it can be used to discreetly cover potentially dangerous suspects without causing a scene. An example might be that a law enforcement agencies is on the lookout for "a blue Chevrolet pickup (no other description) occupied by two white males with long blond hair and having at least one handgun" because it is the getaway vehicle for two rape suspects. One might be surprised how many such vehicles and people there actually are if you are looking specifically for them! Though the felony vehicle stop can certainly be used if the agency is willing to fend off the inevitable complaints and has enough manpower to do them, one might be surprised at how many times potentially dangerous suspects have been met by uniformed officers having their duty sidearms holstered...but a (usually the off-hand) paw on a handgun, especially if in a cooler season or climate.The scenario above is true and is one in which I approached a suspect vehicle alone (because there was no back-up available) and with my left hand wrapped around the butt of an S&W Model 36 Chief's Special being toted in the left pocket of my police "tuffy jacket". It was winter and cold and the two blond-headed potential suspects were never aware that they'd initially had a revolver pointed at their heads when I made initial contact. They were not the rapists and the interview ended on a friendly note with no complaints filed.These days, my usual orbits are vanilla as can be and relatively tame. At the same time, I do carry (legally) concealed simply because I choose to be responsible for my own safety, knowing that the police cannot be expected to be every place at once and that there are vicious souls present who have not the slightest compunction in killing or maiming others to get what they want when they want it. Unlike when "in harness", I frequently carry but one concealed sidearm, but now and again I will carry a BUG. Just as the discreetly pocketed S&W snub allowed me to approach two potentially dangerous suspects without anyone being the wiser, pocket carry today allows me to nonchalantly walk across dark parking lots when necessary with my hand already on my snub revolver. This cuts potential response time way down but does not look the least offensive and shouldn't disturb the delicate sensibilities of today's "gentler & kinder" people.

Is it better or necessary that the BUG for both the officer and legally-armed citizen share exactly the same characteristics? Should they be the same caliber or even the same make and model handgun? This article will cover these questions and present my opinion on them. Opinions, including mine are not always equivalent to facts. That said, my opinion is based on year's of actual use, observation and experimentation. None of this is "written in stone" and certainly not just because I "say so." I believe that one almost always has to offer some latitude simply because no two people are ever exactly alike. That deemed insignificant by one might be major to another regardless of what is actually "real", i.e.: a person's personal perceptions can be their reality. For example, let's say that a lawful carrier wants to tote a BUG but absolutely does not trust 9mm as an adequate defense caliber, regardless of load. It is not real likely that he will voluntarily choose a 9mm, much less a 380 ACP or 32 as a BUG unless he can absolutely not find what he considers a viable substitute in a larger caliber. Do we think this guy would be happier with a Bersa Thunder 380 or a Colt Defender 45? You get the idea; what's "right" for one is not necessarily "right" for another. On the other hand, the person who is content with more compact 380 might tend to have it with him more often than the thicker Defender .45 ACP.

What is the main purpose of the BUG? My view is "to be there," but what does that suggest? To me, it means that this genre of handgun needs to be relatively easy to conceal year round. This almost always means a compact or mid-size gun. I find those with short butts and rust-resistant finishes to offer advantages over handguns not having these characteristics. I also prefer BUG's that are relatively lightweight. In the smaller-sized handguns frequently considered for self-protection, I generally prefer the double-action revolver...but not absolutely.

I prefer "dark" guns myself but the extra measure of corrosion-resistance provided by the stainless steel on this Model 642 won me over to its practical utility in often sweaty pocket carry.

What characteristics should the BUG have? Besides being compact, lightweight, relatively easy to conceal and perhaps corrosion-resistant, it must be reliable. If the BUG is being used, things are already in a terrible shape and the gun's not functioning might just be the user's ticket to eternity, or the ER, a colostomy bag or wheelchair, none of which sound particularly inviting at the present time. Those handguns meeting your requirements in size and action must be reliable as is mechanically possible.I believe that the BUG should possess at least "adequate power", but we all understand that there are many divergent opinions on what is "adequate". I have frequently said, "Power is placement". I still believe that. Thus, to me, "adequate power" also infers a handgun that I can shoot well. It doesn't matter if the handgun meets my own size/weight/caliber requirements if I cannot shoot it competently. Does this mean that "adequate power" and the BUG that the user can shoot well always coincide with each other and if not, which is more important? Try as I may, I cannot find any better answer than "Shoot the biggest caliber you can handle." Though one might substitute "potent" for "biggest" (often one-in-the-same in my opinion), I believe that this applies as much for BUG's as for the primary handgun.Sometimes overlooked in BUG discussions is that the "shootability" of one potential BUG might be noticeably better than for another, the reason being size and weight. Most realize that the same caliber fired from a lighter, smaller handgun is going to generate more felt recoil than from a larger, heavier one. Thus, the larger might very well be more easy to get the hits with but harder to conceal. The primary concern for potential buyers/users in this area of concern might be whether or not the larger gun is that much harder to conceal or if the smaller one is that much harder to shoot well. The respective answers would determine which was "right" for the individual shooter and the right one might not be the same for both! I personally suggest going with the one I shot best if it could be easily enough concealed as a BUG over one that was a peach to hide but difficult to shoot with accurately, particularly at speed. Instead of "A hit with a .22 is better than a miss with a .45", we might hear, "A center hit with a 380 Bersa is better than 1 peripheral hit and 1 miss with a (insert your choice of tiny 380 pistol)."

Minimum Acceptable Power? Any handgun has sufficient power to kill anyone shot with it...over time. The idea of "stopping power" is that our caliber have as close to instantaneous stopping potential as is possible while fully realizing that the desired "one-shot stop" is illusive and just may not be in the cards most of the time. Multiple, solid hits are more likely to be required if "stopping" a determined adversary only willing to stop because he physically has to rather than because he decides to. He is the zombie-like villain that concerns many concerned with self-defense and deadly force.For me, the lower somewhat comfortable limit is .38 Special +P with the absolute minimum being .380 ACP or 9x18mm Makarov. "Anecdotal" reports given to me over the years combined with results personally observed in shootings with these calibers have lead me to this decision. While I find more traditional size .380 easier to shoot than the Airweight .38 snub, my own situation required me to practice with the latter until I could shoot it as accurately as the former. For me, the extra "power" was worth the tariff in time and practice.These calibers often generate very similar amounts of kinetic energy, a physical term frequently associated with moving objects but one out of favor with many who seriously analyze "stopping power", it seems. Whether or not this measureable quantity is relevant to the discussion frequently generates much heated debate.

My decision was based on the following:

1. Observed reliability of a wide number of compact revolvers vs. compact automatics coupled with that firearm's longevity if used regularly.

2. Actual "street histories" of certain calibers and loads as related from folks who were there whenever possible combined with the findings of serious researchers.

3. How hard the potential BUG is to maintain or get spare parts for.

4. How many shots can be fired before the gun is empty and a reload is necessary.

5. Both how comfortable the gun is to actually carry hidden along with how comforting it is.

It is my understanding that Mr. Clint Smith of Thunder Ranch fame opines firearms should be comforting rather than comfortable. What he says makes sense and I guess one could say that minimal caliber choices are related to this "comforting" aspect as well as the gun's size and I'll add, how competently we shoot the gun well.In the early 1970's, I moved from the bobbed spur S&W Model 36 (all-steel J-frame "Chief Special") to the aluminum alloy version designated as the Model 37. The little revolver's aluminum frame was shiny black anodized with other components being blue steel. Stocks were the smallish checkered wooden service stocks. Like many other Model 37's toted by officers back then, the hammer spurs were either bobbed at home or by a gunsmith. These were carried in pockets, via ankle holsters or just stuck in the waist band if a jacket or coat was worn, sometimes with a rubber band or two wrapped around the grip to help prevent the gun from sliding free and down the inside of the pant leg. The plethora of pocket holsters and especially IWB holsters just weren't nearly so common then. I have little doubt that the J-frames like the Model 38 and Centennial would have been very popular but I simply didn't see them as much back then. One saw Model 36's and 37's. When the Model 60 came along, dealers could hardly keep them in stock and I did my part, too, in this regard. I bought several and while they're certainly very good J-frame revolvers, I eventually came back to the Airweight versions and always in the dark version. I would venture away from the Airweight J-frame as a BUG for a number of years but eventually came back and have been extremely satisfied with them over the long run. Loaded with Remington 158-gr. LHP +P, Corbon 110-gr. DPX +P or Speer 135-gr. Gold Dot +P, I believe that they still offer good protection in practiced and willing hands.

Like others, I tried the .380 ACP for a few years. After all, Skeeter Skelton liked them and felt-recoil was nicer out of the all-steel Walther PP-series than the Airweight snubs loaded with maximum-effort 158-gr. loads. The little automatics held more shots and were flatter, too. (While the "mid-size" autoloader as is typified by the Walthers, Beretta Model 85's, et al are not large, they are now considerably bigger than some arms in the same calibers like the Keltec, Ruger LCP, etc. Does this affect their "shootability"? For me the answer is yes, not to mention that their shorter barrels reduce bullet muzzle speed. Others may disagree and this is fine, but I suggest that if you go the super compact route, that you actually be able to shoot the gun well and know that it is utterly reliable.)

The problem was that the little autos were not always as reliable as their full-size counterparts, at least not in my experience. I owned a number of the Walther PP's, PPK's and PPK/s pistols when they were still made in and imported from their European maker. Most were trustworthy with ball and some were with JHP's as well...but not all. When the dust settled, I wound up carrying a blue steel Walther PP .380 ACP loaded with hot handloaded Sierra JHP's for a number of years way back when. Felt-recoil was quite manageable but "slide bite" was consistently a pain in the paw for me.

I also tried the all-steel Star Model 43 Firestar 9mm when they hit the scene and found it too heavy for a pocket gun. Cocked-and-locked, it rode primarily in an ankle holster with part of its weight being supported by the top of my duty boot hitting about midway up the front grip strap.My gun was reliable but I saw some that simply couldn't make 50 shots without some sort of stoppage. Most seemed capable of pretty nice groups. One of the tuckable IWB holsters so common now, would have been a real joy back then. This little single-action's needing to be carried in Condition One (Cocked-and-Locked) didn't bother me, but other officers just didn't trust it in an ankle holster where the thing was probably pointing at the small bones in the ankle.

Kahr's K9, like the Firestar, proved a little heavy for pocket carry and a bit large as well. Still, it could be carried in an ankle holster or in something rigged up that attached to the side of the body armor that more and more of us were wearing. I didn't mind its DAO action and despite its being a little larger than the Star, came to favor it. It proved reliable (once I'd fired about 100 shots through it) and possessed more than enough mechanical accuracy for defensive scenarios.

Then came the Glock 26, and while it was both accurate, reliable and more corrosion-resistant than other BUG's I'd tried over the years, its width was just enough to make pocket carry difficult and not quite as concealed as I wanted. Though it worked just fine, I just never could warm up to that gun. To some, these words represent sacrilege as the little G26 is very well regarded by many serious shooters. As a belt gun, it is easy to carry and conceal and I have used mine in that manner; the pistol's short butt makes it extremely hard to spot as it just doesn't seem to "print" if in a holster that turns the butt inward toward the body.

Eventually, 25 years passed and when I accepted my retirement plaque on my last night of service, an S&W Model 042 loaded with Remington 158-gr. LHP +P's was in a pocket holster backing up my 9mm Hi Power which rode Cocked-and-Locked in my strong-side duty holster.

Retiring from policing did not mean that I retired from carrying. As this is written, an S&W Model 642 loaded with Remington 158-gr. LHP +P is on my person via a Galco pocket holster. Though I tried to resist, eventually the easier maintainance of the stainless Airweight won out over looks. I much prefer "dark guns" but must admit being pretty well sold on the stainless ones for next-to-the-body-concealed-carry-in-hotter-than-hell climates like Texas in the summer! (My 042's bbl and cylinder would begin trying to rust in just a few hours in sweaty pockets. The stainless versions darned sure do resist this noticeably better in my observation and experience.) These days when carrying more than my BUG (which is now usually my primary weapon), it is likely to be a 3 1/16" Ruger SP101. The reason is simple. The heavier Ruger is carried concealed as a belt gun and the Model 642 continues to ride in the pocket holster. The very same speedloaders work fine in either revolver, but must be loaded with .38 Special to do so. Sometimes, my "real" gun is an autoloader but more and more I find myself carrying one or two revolvers; I am honestly not sure why.

Now and again I have tried to be happy with mid-size .380 ACP's such as the Beretta Model 85, Bersa Thunder or SIG-Sauer P230/232 or the Glock 26 and other compact 9x19mm pistols, but I keep coming back to the S&W J-frame, specifically the Model 642. Some will prefer the 442, 637 or 638 and I don't find enough difference between them in actual long-term carrying (other than corrosion-resistance) to matter, much less get into heated discussions over! Speaking for myself (and more than a few others on this topic, I think), the Model 642 remains my top choice for the general BUG as well as for a primary concealed carry piece around the house or neighborhood. There are many styles of holsters crafted for them by various makers and in all price ranges. Usually, these guns run w/o problems but if one doesn't, S&W's customer service remains very good according to what I hear; I've never used them!

But what about the lock? This always comes up and I can only report what I have personally seen. I will not use revolvers so equipped for anything serious and right now will not own one. I am sure that the odds are against me seeing it happen again or having it happen in a fight are small indeed but after seeing two S&W revolvers with the locks "self-engage" while firing, hopelessly locking them up, I do not trust them. One was a very lightweight 357 magnum snub (don't remember the model number) and the other was a Model 642 using standard pressure .38 Special ammunition. From what I have read, when sort of thing happens it is usually with the lightest-weight-for-magnum-caliber models but it evidently can happen with the very common aluminum-frame 38's, too. What I've actually seen is statistically meaningless as "two" is an extremely miniscule number compared to the total number of lock-equipped revolvers being used. That said, my personal preference is not to use the S&W revolver having "the lock". I am lucky enough to own several sans this device. If you prefer to do the same, keep an eye out for clean, pre-owned (but not abused) S&W's made before the lock was used or buy some of the limited runs of new S&W's not having the lock. Long ago, I learned not to use the word "never". That said, it is highly unlikely that I will ever carry any handgun having a lock for self-protection. None of my other sideguns have them; I intend to keep things as they are in this area of concern. To other shooters, it is not an "area of concern" and they couldn't care less.

Though I just cannot remain all that confident with the .380 ACP cartridge I am especially fond of some of the pistols chambered for it. In face-to-face deadly force confrontations, it might prove adequate with well-placed shots but I'll just continue practicing more with the harder-recoiling Airweight .38 Special. To me, it is worth the effort. I cannot say that the .380 or 9x18mm Makarov are automatically doomed to failure because they are generally considered less powerful. Here is why: Most private citizens having to employ deadly force are facing their attacker(s) face-to-face. It is therefore possible that a bit less penetration is acceptable.

The same is not necessarily true for law enforcement officers. It may very well be that intermediate barriers such as laminated vehicle windshields have to be punched before the officer's bullet(s) can do their work. Officers providing back-up to an incident's primary officer frequently (roughly 30% of the time in the 10-year old literature I seem to remember) would have to take initial shots from the aggressor's sides if shooting becomes necessary. This means that an arm might also have to be penetrated before the bullet can pass into the torso. Thus, either of these situations suggests that more powerful expanding bullets are more likely needed than for the face-to-face private citizen encounter. Where the officer's situation might call for 12 to 14" penetration for success, the citizen's might be nicely handled at 10". 158-gr. LHP +P from the 2" snub will usually penetrate in the 12" range in ballistic gelatin and it has a decent track record "on the street". Go below .38 Special and one is almost certainly required to use FMJ or non-expanding bullets to achieve/exceed the minimal 12" deemed necessary by many today. In the case of the .380, 9mm Makarov or .32 ACP, no expanding bullets reliably "pass" this FBI protocol for duty handgun requirements. If non-expanding ammunition is used, the penetration is present but these calibers don't have so inenviable a "stopping history" when FMJ is used.

Even if not physically incapacitated, a felon just shot by a private citizen might choose to abandon the encounter and flee. He might believe that his would-be victim won't pursue while the felon vs. law enforcement officer can rest assured that his will.

For these reasons, I think that the private citizen might be adequately served by something less than .38 Special +P (though I don't enthusiastically recommend it) while the law enforcement officer should not go below this caliber and load's level of performance.

In the end, choices will be made that include compromises. Some of us will have more leeway than others. This decision, if even allowed for some will be made by departmental policy or only specific handgun makes/models will be allowed.

My suggestions are:

1. At least a quality snub revolver in no less than .38 Special +P but no bigger unless you know that you can truly handle it

2. Lightweight but not ultra-light such that only jacketed ammunition can be used unless being able to use non-jacketed ammunition is not an issue

3. Corrosion-resistant and having a readily available supply of spare parts

4. A handgun that is exceedingly reliable and long-lasting for frequent practice sessions

5. A handgun that the potential owner finds "comfortable" enough to actually not avoid routine practice sessions

6. A handgun that the owner actually trusts and will actually carry as much as possible

Good luck and best.





Friday, July 18, 2008

Why Should I Buy a Hi Power Pistol?

Why should I buy a Browning Hi Power? There are more modern designs available and everybody says that they have terrible trigger pulls.

Whether or not you buy a Hi Power is really up to you and what you like. There are more modern designs, but if you still prefer the single-action automatic for use at the range, small game hunting, or personal protection, there's really very little competition and most still rate the Hi Power as the single-action 9mm.

For some us, the initial attraction remains looks, feel, or both. Speaking only for myself, I don't think any other semiautomatic pistol feels as good in the hand as the Browning Hi Power and I think it's one of the best looking pistols around. It is not perfect out of the box and most serious users buy them expecting to do a trigger job and some remove the magazine disconnect. Some have fairly extensive customization done and wind up with very elegant pistols.

This is a Mk III 9mm that has been very lightly customized, mostly by me. I bobbed and reshaped the hammer spur and blued it. The Spegel checkered delrin stocks replaced the factory nylon thumb rest stocks and I did a trigger job on the gun. When the factory matte finish eventually became pretty dinged up, I had the frame matte blued while the slide is bright blue. It has the factory barrel and has not been accurized. This Hi Power hits spot on at 15 yards and will normally group well under 3" with most ammunition and considerably less than that with particular loads. The eagle-eyed will have noticed that the right side factory extended thumb safety lever is gone and that the shaft has been rounded on the end. I had the gunsmith do that as the ambidextrous thumb safety gets in my way. Most folks do prefer them. This is a lightly customized pistol that's equally at home for informal target work, self-protection, or on my person when hunting. It is fitted with a Wolff conventional 18.5 lb. recoil spring and has a buffer as well. Other pistols can shoot tighter groups, but being able to hit a tennis ball size target at around 25 yards or a bowling pin at 100 yards (not every shot, though) is plenty good enough for my needs.

In recent years, the trigger pulls are not usually as good as those on other pistols like the CZ-75 and the 1911. Part of this is due to the way the magazine disconnect operates and trigger pull on the Hi Power can actually vary depending upon which magazine you happen to be using at the time. The exact dimensions of the magazine as well as the smoothness on the front of the magazine in the gun at the time all play a part in this. For this reason and others, I routinely remove the magazine "safety." Others counsel against it. You do what you want. For what it's worth, there are a number of Hi Power gunsmiths who can do a darned good trigger job with or without the magazine disconnect in place.

Hi Powers in the past usually did have better trigger pulls. I think that some reasons this might have gone downhill might include the liability issue here in the sue-happy United States as well as the fact that the Hi Power's just not as big a seller for FN as in decades past. While there still are military forces that use the Hi Power, it's probably not the 65 or so nations that were 20 years ago. Though many, including me, still believe that the single-action automatic is the most efficient fighting handgun extant, it's day is probably passing. That does not mean that among its fans, the Hi Power won't remain a popular, viable tool and it will still be used by many if they have a choice. Still, production is down, liability issues up, and with the bottom line being profit, FN most likely does not spend the time and attention to trigger pulls it once did. I suspect that military contracts for the gun specify a trigger pull of not more than so much or less than a certain amount. FN cranks out the pistols knowing that most will fall within that range and if some don't and complaints made, they'll take care of it. Otherwise, the guns are sold and profits made without the extra expense of a pristine trigger out of the box.

At one time, both Browning Arms Company and FN-USA were importing Hi Powers. For the most part, the imported pistols are in 9mm and are the Mk III with the internal firing pin safety. This model is sometimes listed as the Mk III S. In the US, the most popular single-action automatic remains the 1911 as is witnessed by the numerous makers of the gun and the multitude of models and the caliber of choice, .45 ACP. Browning and FN were suffering in this market and this is why future importation of the pistol was in doubt. Currently, Browning imports a relatively small number of guns and when they're sold, imports more. FN is no longer importing Hi Powers into the US under its name though Browning Arms Co. does indeed do so.

Even if production stopped tomorrow, spare parts would remain available for decades and it wouldn't surprise me at all to see more aftermarket parts makers begin cranking out parts for the gun. What I'm getting at is that if you're holding off on one as you think it may cease to be made, don't. The gun's everywhere in its original form and even the supply of Pre-Ban 13 round magazines has not dried up yet.

I think I've seen a ray of hope in three NIB Browning Hi Powers of late; all had surprisingly good trigger pulls and none allowed any sear movement when the safety was engaged. Can it be that FN is finally getting enough complaints to try and improve the trigger to more acceptable levels? I sure hope so.

If you actually do like the feel of the Hi Power after comparing it to other guns, it might be a very fine choice for you. If you don't mind single-action-only in a handgun, the Hi Power is a viable possibility.

If having a design that has been used all over the globe with proven performance in less friendly environments is important the Hi Power qualifies. If you don't require competition grade match accuracy, the Hi Power could be on your short list and might just surprise you in what it can do.

In recent times, I've been hearing from a few folks that their Hi Power groups OK, but then will throw a flyer for no apparent reason. Some report this happening about 1 time out of 5 and are adamant that it is the gun and not them. If this is the case, it's a pretty sure bet that the Hi Power's factory barrel is just not locking up properly for each and every shot. As one gentleman's noted on a gun board, the problem could probably be remedied with a gunsmith's welding up the barrel and refitting. This might be a good option, but I think it might be better in the long run to have a Bar-Sto oversized match barrel fitted to the pistol. If the gunsmith's competent, there's plenty of material in these barrels to provide for a perfect fit. I strongly believe that this will eliminate the flyer problem. The problem is that it does cost money. What you have to keep in mind is that with the exception of the FN Competition Model, the Hi Power has never been intended to be anything other than a military combat arm. Better than "combat accuracy" has never really been a major concern for either FN or most of its customers. That it is often capable of better intrinsic accuracy is a good thing, but not necessarily one originally given as high of a priority as many US shooters might have preferred. While there's not a big chance that this will happen to you if you buy a Hi Power, there's always the possibility. (Of course, the chance of getting a "lemon" exists with any and all makers.)

The Mk III Hi Power that fired these groups had no accuracy work done. I suggest that these groups, fired from a seated position with wrists braced at 15 yards, are accurate enough for 99.99% of most of our needs, be they real or imagined.

If you want a gun with as light a trigger pull as can be had on a tuned 1911, the Hi Power is not for you. The best trigger pull I've ever seen measured right at 3.5 lbs. and the gun worked fine, long term. What you can expect is that a gunsmith who knows Hi Powers can get you a crisp, clean trigger pull of about 4 to 4.5 lbs. The Hi Power reset will never be as short as that of the 1911; it's mechanically not "in the chips."

Should you want match accuracy and are actually capable of shooting well enough to take advantage of it, there are better choices than an out of the box Hi Power. (I'd personally go with the STI Trojan in that case.)

The Hi Power hammer, spur or factory ring, very often bites the shooter's hand. It does me. I simply bob the factory hammer spur if I have a good trigger already and the problem goes away. I've also had good luck with Cylinder & Slide's abbreviated Type I ring hammer, but be advised that changing the hammer means a trigger job in most cases and I recommend going ahead and buying the same company's sear to use with their hammer. That means more expense so this might be an important part of your decision in buying a Hi Power or not.

Frankly, I think that they are worth the extra money and time invested to get a relatively compact single-action pistol that fits like a glove, is extremely reliable, and more accurate that I can shoot under most conditions.

American shooters demand much from their handguns and the Hi Power can meet most of those needs, but sadly, not out of the box. For those who can and do enjoy the Hi Power out of the box, it is a good thing, but frequently, the gun does need a little help in being the best it can be.

Best.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Does My Hi Power Have a Forged or Cast Frame?

None of the classic style Hi Powers have cast frames. None of the Mk II 9mm's have cast frames. Early 9mm Mk III pistols didn't have them either. All had forged frames. With the advent of the .40 Hi Power, FN went to cast frames and a different heat treatment that resulted in "harder" frames. This kept the slide rails from warping or breaking after as few as 2500 shots. I have never seen a 40-caliber Hi Power that didn't have a cast frame. Current Hi Powers, be they 9mm or .40, have cast frames.

Here's the easiest way to tell.

Look at the bottom of the pistol frame at the magazine well. If the surface appears smooth (left), the frame is probably forged. Since this was written, I have learned that some early cast frames did not have the ripples. This IS apparently the case with an "NX" ('93) Mk III I have seen pictures of It does not have the grooves shown above. If it has the longitudenal grooves or "ripples" (right), it is cast.

Purists will opt for the forged frame every time...and in my view, there's nothing wrong with that.

If my intention was to shoot thousands of hot-loaded 9mm rounds, I'd personally go with the cast frame. I do believe that they handle the warmish ammunition a little better in the long run. With standard pressure, it doesn't make me any difference.

Best.

PS: An updated article on this is here:

http://www.hipowersandhandguns.com/does_my_hi_power_have_a_forged_or%20cast%20frame.htm

Does My Hi Power Have the Internal Firing Pin Safety

FN's internal firing pin safeties were introduced with late runs of the Mk II circa 1987-1988. (Initially runs of the Mk II did not have it nor did the "classic" style of Hi Power.) Some of the Mk III pistols didn't have them but the majority, actually desginated Mk IIIs, did. This would be around 1989.

One can tell for sure if his/her Hi Power has the internal firing pin safety by removing the slide and looking to see if a hole has been milled in bottom of it for the "paddle" on the rear of the spring-loaded sear lever to extend through and block the firing pin's forward movement until the trigger's pressed.

This is what the bottom of the slide looks like if it does have the internal firing pin safety. If it doesn't have the milled opening at the rear with the end of the sear lever being a "paddle", it does not have an internal firing pin safety.

Best.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Shooting the Beretta Model 85F .380 ACP

With the proliferation of very compact 9mm (and up) caliber pistols, some of the .380's former "glory" as perhaps a "light but adequate" backup gun has faded. I've made it no secret that I personally prefer to go no "lighter" than a .38 snub loaded with 158-gr. LSWCHP +P ammunition. More than a few other shooters feel the same way while there are some who steadfastly refuse to tote any defensive caliber that doesn't start with a "4".

At the same time, some shooters cannot or will not "dress around the gun" as is sometimes suggested and/or find the recoil of the Airweight (and lighter) ilk of snubs to simply recoil too sharply. Thus, some gravitate toward the compact "service caliber" automatics, some to light- loaded 38 Special snubs and others to the .380 ACP genre of pistols.

Caliber preference aside, I personally think that there are some pretty neat .380 ACP pistols and decided to wring one out for those folks who might be interested in a handgun of this type.

(This article's focus will not be on "stopping power" concerns but on how the particular pistol handled as well as what I liked and disliked. There are plenty of sites on which endless debate and pontification on "stopping power" can be found. In some instances, the discussions get rude, something I've never quite understood. Anyway, here I will focus on the pistol and offer observations. The individual reader can decide what does or doesn't equate to adequate "stopping power" for them.)

I recently obtained a like-new Beretta Model 85F .380 ACP pistol at a reasonable price. It is certainly not the most miniscule handgun in this caliber and probably not a current favorite, but it is a relatively compact shooter that offers an 8-round single-stack magazine for a total max capacity of 9 shots before the pistol is emptied.

This is a factory stock Model 85F Beretta. It is a DA/SA pistol having fixed sights, a magazine "safety", a grooved trigger dull black, checkered synthetic stocks. Both the front and rear grip straps are grooved for improved purchase with sweaty, wet or perhaps bloody hands. Finish is a combination of matte blue and "Bruniton". It has convenient ambidextrous thumb safety levers but unlike earlier versions of the pistol, Condition One Carry is not possible. When the safety lever is pushed all the way upward, it acts as a decocker, dropping the hammer to sort of a "half-cock" position. The pistol can be carried hammer down with the safety engaged or not. There is an internal firing pin safety such that the pin is not free to move unless the trigger is in the rearward position. Barrel length is 3.81". The gun weighs just under 22-ounces, empty. Barrel pitch is approximately 1:10".

At this point, some will suggest that this is just too large-for-caliber pistol. I suggest that this actually depends upon just the how-easily-concealed vs. how-easy-to-get-hits factor plays into things, something that will likely be different for different shooters. As is the case in many aspects of life, there trades and compromises to be frequently made. For some, this pistol might just be nearly perfect while others wouldn't own one on a bet!

Shooting: I shot 220 95-gr. FMJ rounds from Georgia Arms in today's test. I'd previously tested the pistol for reliability with other than ball ammo and it worked flawless with 3 magazines each of Federal 90-gr. JHP, Federal 90-gr. HydraShok, Corbon 90-gr. JHP, along with Winchester's flat point FMJ and Silvertip hollow points. The pistol functioned flawlessly in today's shooting along with the previous test-firings of the above-listed rounds.

Today's shooting was done at 5, 7, and 15 yards.

The two overlapping groups here were fired in slow-fire and using single-action only. No effort was made at speed and I fired from a sitting position with wrists braced. Note that at 7 yards and closer, a dead-on hold appears satisfactory but at 15-yards, a six o' clock hold was needed to avoid being a bit high on POI. Single marks indicate those shots fired at 7-yards while those bullet holes that are circled indicate firing at the longer distance.

Next on the agenda was Jim Higginbotham's standard "controllability drill" for defensive hanguns. Essentially, it is 5 shots at 5 yards in under 2 seconds from a low-ready position. His suggested target is a piece of folded notebook paper measuring about 4 1/4" x 11", with the latter being the vertical measurement. I fired 5 shots but at a dotted circle measuring roughly 6" or so in diameter. This was repeated 6 times for a total of 30 rounds being fired.

Each set of 5-shots began with the timer's beep and from a low-ready position. The first shot was double-action and the pistol's thumb safety was engaged. Like shooting a single-action automatic, the frame-mounted thumb safety did not appear to cause in lag in shooting times. This pistol's safety works just like those on the familiar 1911 or Hi Power pistols: up for "safe" and down for "fire".

Average time for 5-shots was 1.71 seconds. That is not particularly quick. There are plenty of folks who can beat that but I do think it shows that the double-action first-shot is not necessarily the oh-so-hard-to-master feat described by some...at least at this distance. I am not convinced that the average shooter gives up much if anything at close range with the DA/SA autopistol so long as the double-action is smooth and the reach is not too long for his hand size.

Next up was the classic "Failure to Stop" drill. In today's session, I started from a low-ready at 7-yards and fired two to the center chest area of the target and then one to the nose/eye area of the head.



The FTS drill was repeated 10 times. Average time was 2.54 seconds. I attribute the longer times for fewer shots fired on the Higginbotham exercise to having to obtain two sight pictures and taking slightly longer for the more precise head shot. First rounds in the "controlled pair" to the chest were fired double-action. I did get one round outside the target area. I flat don't know if I did it firing double or single-action. I didn't fire "double taps" or "hammers", ie: two shots with one sight picture. I fired "controlled pairs". Col. Jeff Cooper's "flash sight picture" was obtained for each shot.

Observations: The pistol had no malfunctions whatsoever. Reliability is an absolute must in any firearm intended for serious purposes. Ejection was positive, with fired cases landing approximately 10 to 12 feet to my right.

The slide locked rearward after firing the last shot and there were no instances of its either failing to do so or locking open with rounds still in the magazine.

Firing pin indentions were adequate and well-centered.

Like the vast majority of .380 ACP pistols, this one is of straight blowback design. Unlike many, the barrel is not fixed. It is removeable for cleaning and comes off with the slide and recoil spring assembly during routine field-stripping and cleaning.

I did not find recoil to be sharp with today's 925 ft/sec load nor any other ammunition tried in this gun. To be sure, felt-recoil is a very subjective entity but for me it was a non-issue in this "standard size" .380 auto.

Neither did this pistol chew up my shooting hand. The generous tang (and rounded edges) along with the compact ring hammer resulted in there being absolutely no abrasions to my hand between the thumb and shooting finger, something I definitely cannot about my Walther PP in this same caliber!
My hands were more than a little sweaty in today's near 100-degree weather. The pistol was easy to handle and it didn't slip at all. I attribute this to both the checkered grips and the well-serrated front and rear grip straps. I really appreciate this in a protection pistol.

The sights were easy enough to use and should be pretty well snag-free. Sight picture was adequate, but I do prefer the fixed sights on the SIG-Sauer P232 to these. That said, it is not difficult to obtain a quick sight picture with the Beretta's vertical white bar rear sight and white dot front. The tang prevented any dreaded "hammer bite" at all during today's 200 + round session. The extended ambidextrous thumb safety was never inadvertently engaged during my "low thumb" shooting. The safety is sprung to remain positively engaged or disengaged and it moves quitely from the "on" to "off" position. At the end of the day's session, the pistol's action had not become "sluggish" or indicative that cleaning was immediately necessary to prevent malfunctions. It was still running faultlessly and without hesitation.

The pistol's magazine well is not beveled but there was no problem inserting magazines. I suspect that this will not be an issue with most owners of this type pistol.

Though I detest magazine safeties, the 85F has one. It caused no problems today and contributed to positive ejection of the magazine when released.

While the .380 ACP will probably never be a favorite of mine, I do enjoy this pistol. It appears to be of very fine quality and from what I've seen over the years personally and gleaned from others, they're usually reliable as homemade sin.

I may just hang on to this one.

Best.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The "Perfect" 9mm Hi Power

A very frequent discussion topic amongst Hi Power fans concerns itself with the "perfect" Hi Power, i.e., changes that would be made to correct perceived deficiencies in the existing design. I'm frequently asked my opinion on this subject and will post it here, but before doing so, I suggest that what's "perfect" for me might not be for any other living soul.

It might also help to understand that my frame of reference is that of the shooter. I am neither a collector nor a historian on FN Hi Power pistols. I like to shoot Hi Powers and like to shoot them lots. For this reason, you'll probably figure that my suggestions will concern themselves with long term durability in a big way. I also really like 9mm and am not so fond of .40 S&W. My "perfect" Hi Power will be a 9mm.

Those of us wedded to the Hi Power or P-35 are primarily most pleased with both the gun's "feel" and its looks. My ideas are meant to alter this as little as possible, but will probably preclude many existing Hi Power parts from working in this imaginary pistol. One sure exception would be the magazine. My perfect Hi Power would be 100% compatible with current 9mm Hi Power magazines so private citizens could use the Pre-Ban original and high capacity ones.

Barrel: The barrel would retain the one-piece feed ramp and I would want the chamber as fully supported as possible. The barrel would have 3 locking lugs rather than 2, imitating the current .40 Hi Power barrel. A current potential problem area in heavily used Hi Powers can be the locking lugs. With a steady diet of hot loads, a standard recoil spring, and frequently a reduced mainspring, these can round with use. This will result in premature unlocking of the barrel and slide. Having the extra lug's surface and engagement would probably alleviate this completely in 9mm.

Though a goodly number of us do shoot lead bullets through our 9mm Hi Powers, I suspect strongly that most use jacketed ammunition. For that reason, I'd leave the pitch at 1:10." In my experience, this has proven to be very good with both 115 and 124-grain bullets. It has also proven very good with the 147-grain slugs. The internal diameter would remain unchanged, but I would opt for a barrel that is made of stainless steel, but finished in an extremely fine matte as per the STI Trojan barrels. The last half-inch of the barrel going toward the muzzle would be approx. 0.05" larger diameter to help insure a tight lock up as the gun goes into battery. Hopefully, with today's computer assisted machining, barrel to slide fit could be very, very precise. The crown would be polished and recessed and would extend very, very little past the front of the bushing. The same open slot arrangement would be used, as would the recoil spring guide's relationship to the barrel and slide stop lever. Internally the barrel would be extremely smooth for minimized fouling whether shooting lead or jacketed bullets. In short, my perfect Hi Power's barrel would be a precisely fitted match grade one capable of extreme use. For reasons to be more fully explained later, the cam slot might need to be a bit larger. It would not matter to me if the barrel were constructed from one piece or two, as current ones are so long as quality and durability are equivalent.

Slide: Other than the extra cut for the third lug, the slide on "my" Hi Power would be about the same as the existing one on current pistols, but there would be no internal firing pin safety. In my opinion, it is unnecessary and while the current one is much less complex than those found on other designs, it does require a cut in the bottom of the slide that might weaken the slide. There have been a couple of reports of current Hi Power slides cracking at the rear of this cut, but from what I've been able to learn, this is not widespread. While the problem might be more theoretical than likely, I'd just as soon eliminate the possibility altogether.

The lateral hole in the slide through which the roll pin that the sear lever pivots on would be set up as per the Competition model for a better trigger pull. (The necessary corresponding changes in the lifter and trigger would be made as well. In short, the gun would have the trigger "chain" of the Competition model.)

The slide serrations, ejection port, lightening cuts at the front would all remain the same. The permanent bushing would be "flat" as per existing Mk III pistols, not "protruding" quite as much as some of the mid to late '70's C guns nor the Mk II.

The slot for the retaining plate would be a couple of hundredths wider to allow for a slightly thicker retaining plate to avoid cracking as sometimes occurs at the 7 O' Clock position on existing Hi Power retaining plates.

The slides would continue to forged.

Extractor: It would continue to be of the same dimensions, etc as it is now. The spring would be extra strength as sold currently by Wolff.

Sights: I'd look long and hard at Novak's new adjustable sight that looks very much like his existing fixed rear sight. This appears to be a compact and hopefully durable enough sight and is small enough that should changes be deemed necessary down the road, they could be done. An example might be changing the rear sight to something like a Heine or Bomar. The front sight would be dovetailed in and a semi post, much like what exists today. I'd prefer my sights plain black-on-black with a serrated front.

Hammer: I'd have no problem at all with using the existing Cylinder & Slide Type I ring hammer or a spur hammer similar to the current factory one, but it would need to have an abbreviated spur to avoid biting. The hammer (and sear) would be made of the strongest possible steel, but the hammer and sear from C & S would probably be fine. I don't require the thinning of the hammer shank to avoid pinching so my "perfect" Hi Power wouldn't have it. I would like the edges of the hammer to be discreetly beveled.

Magazine Disconnect: None.

Thumb Safety: I find the existing thumb safety to be very comfortable and would opt for one of the same general design. Like the "perfect" hammer/sear, it would be of the finest steel. As they get in my way, "my" gun's thumb safety would be single-sided and for a right handed shooter. The plunger would be more pointed like the C & S version with appropriate detents in the slide for more positive positioning.

Magazine Release: I have no issues with the existing magazine release so it would be fine on this pistol.

Trigger: As mentioned earlier, any necessary changes for the trigger to work with a sear lever and lifter designed for the Competition linkage would be made. There would be no provision for a magazine "safety" and for me, the existing width of the trigger is fine.

Slide Release: I have no problem with the current slide release lever.

Frame: For my "perfect" Hi Power, I would want the frame as near existing dimensions as possible and don't care if it's forged, milled from a billet of steel, or cast. I want the one that will last the longest, and take the greatest amount of shooting. From what I am seeing, this probably means cast frame. When discussing the barrel, I mentioned that the cam slot might need to be a bit larger. Another weak point on the Hi Power seems to be the cam that the barrel sits on. If at all possible, this would be made a bit larger and of the strongest possible steel. The trade-off must not be weakening the barrel around the cam slot, but if possible, I'd like to see the cam possibly beefed up.

The Hi Power has a pretty short tang. Some like the extended tang and I'd be willing to have one extended a quarter inch or so if it can be done without major changes to the hammer. Another person's "perfect" Hi Power might need a drastically altered hammer for a very extended tang.

The front strap would be kept at the same contours as much as possible, but I would make it about 0.03" thicker so that checkering could be done without unduly weakening this area. This might also allow for at least a slight bevel of the magazine well. Whether anything was done, I'd like to see this area strengthened a bit. "My" Hi Power would probably be stippled on the front grip strap from the bottom of the grip to the bottom of the rear of the trigger guard. If the front was stippled, the rear would be done the same way, but only up to about the height of the grip screws. Above that would be smooth. The gun's serial number would be on the bottom of the dust cover in front of the trigger guard.

Finish: I'd be happy with a matte blue for the frame. The slide would have polished bright blue slide flats with the top a matte blue, as would be the rear of the slide. The trigger, safety, grip screws, hammer, slide release lever would all be finished in the dull gray NP3, as would all pins in the gun. (There would be no roll pins used, only solid steel ones, but I fully admit never having had a problem with roll pins breaking on any Hi Power.)

Stocks: Black, checkered Spegel delrin grips.

I would expect the gun to have a crisp 4-lb trigger. I understand that the reset will never match that of the 1911, but do think the trigger could easily meet that goal with the Competition-type trigger set-up. To that end and with the extra locking lug, I'd be willing to see the mainspring reduced from 32-lbs to 29 or 30 if that would help. The recoil spring would be conventional and 18.5-lbs. In my experience, this weight spring works fine with both standard and +P ammunition as well as warm handloads.

Building my version of the "perfect " Hi Power would be expensive, but for one built like this, I'd be willing to save and spend for it.

Best.

The Effective Defense Gun

Forests have been felled to provide paper for this debate; numerous handguns have been created to provide it; new calibers have been spawned and bullet design refined in its name:

Effectiveness!

But have we really gained anything?

I think that the answer is a qualified "yes". Unlike the ammunition of years gone by, bullets now actually do expand at less than a thousand feet per second and do so more reliably. Consistency shot-to-shot is remarkably uniform with the better stuff and so is accuracy. Most of today's ammunition can be expected to feed reliably and in several calibers, we have a choice as to how powerful a load to choose. For example, a person with a .357 magnum can have anything from the light target .38 Special 148-gr. wadcutter cruising along at around 700 ft/sec from a 4" gun to a full-house magnum kicking out hot JHP's at nearly twice that velocity. The choices don't end there. If the magnum's too much a +P .38 load that pleases is bound to be available and there are some attenuated magnum loads that ballistically rank just a bit higher. With the automatics we find standard velocity and +P loads and a myriad of designer ammunition intended to meet the majority of perceived needs.

So while I think we can say, "Yes, there have been improvements in defensive handgun capabilities," I also think that these improvements will never be realized by many.

Today's expanding bullet designs do work more reliably than those from years past. These can increase the effectiveness of a given handgun, but are they going to? Are they the most critical part of the handgun effectiveness equation?

We now have a plethora of downsized automatics in more potent calibers ranging from 9mm to .45 ACP and newer rounds like the .357 SIG and .40 S&W have their devotees by the thousands. Revolver fans can now purchase more compact magnums than ever before, but does increasing numbers of guns, calibers, and loads significantly increase our individual chances should we ever be in the "dark place"?

The effective defense gun may or may not be of the latest design or newest caliber. Its effectiveness depends upon its shooter, something that is woefully overlooked in my experience as a firearm instructor to both police and private citizens. It has been said that the mind is the weapon and the gun but the tool and I tend to agree…strongly.

So how does one get an effective defense handgun?
I humbly submit that going with what works for the individual and being competent with it attains this more surely than simply owning the latest gun or newest ammunition for it.

The CZ-75 is considered a top choice by a great many shooters. Is it necessarily going to be effective in the hands of someone who does not trust automatics or who has never shot other than a revolver? If the gun cannot be made to accurately fire in an instant, magazine capacity and ammunition simply do not matter.

Owning a defense handgun is the first step, but being competent with it is a more important one. I believe that the caliber and action-type should be that which the shooter is most comfortable with and trusts, but think it should be at least a .38 Special. Solid, sure hits with a properly loaded .38 will have more effectiveness than misses and peripheral hits with a .45 or .357 magnum in my observations.

In the trained hands, a 1911 .45 makes a very fine defensive arm as could this custom-built one, but for someone used to neither the action nor how to operate it under stress it could be a liability.

Thus, the effective defense gun is one with which the owner is willing to practice and become extremely familiar. He or she absolutely must be able to operate without having to remember how it works. It should be of at least sufficient power to do what's required but must not have recoil so intimidating as to make practice unpleasant. If this happens, practice is forsaken and we're back to less than effective. I believe an overlooked fact of life is that some people do perceive the need for a defense gun but are not shooting enthusiasts. This must be kept in mind as shooting enthusiasts have already made their choices or can do so independently or with but minimal suggestions. Very often I fear that we overlook this aspect of recommending an appropriate defensive handgun for others.

This S&W Model 10 represents what might be a very good choice for the non-enthusiasts. It's simple to operate, has modest recoil, is capable of extreme accuracy, and possesses very, very good reliability. For those not really into shooting, it might be a very fine defense gun. The gun chosen by an IPSC competitor, IDPA martial artist, SWAT team member, or Special Operations soldier would probably be something quite different.

So let us assume that our new owner has purchased the "right" defense gun and has put forth at least minimal effort toward understanding his weapon. He has practiced and is at least able to repeatedly hit his target pretty quickly at close range. He's bought "effective" ammunition of one type or the other and knows that his gun works fine with it.

Does he have an effective defense gun?

Maybe, but maybe not.

It is my opinion that unless the individual is actually willing to use the gun against another living being if no reasonable alternative exists, the gun is not effective. In fact it becomes a threat to its owner. It can be loaded with "nuclear" expanding ammo, but that will matter not one wit if he cannot use the weapon to save his own life and do so quickly.

The effective defense gun that's right for me may not be the best choice for another. Caliber, make of weapon, action type, etc. may vary quite a bit between serious users, but the following will be present:

· Understanding of the gun chosen
· Competence in its use
· Willingness to use it if there's no other way

When all of these are combined with a weapon of at least adequate power and proven reliability, we find someone with an effective defense gun.

Best.

Handloads for Defense: Yea or Nay?

"What about using handloads for defense?"

In my opinion there was a time when this was a more reasonable option, but in today's ammo market there are so many really good factory loads that I don't suggest using handloaded ammunition for defense. My reasons are primarily because not all reloaders are created equal so to speak and in a self-protection scenario, there is no room for ammo-related problems.

Then there is the old bugaboo about being "convicted" if you use handloads and death results. Two prosecutors that I've discussed the matter with advise that so long as the ammunition had not been "poisoned" or used "exploding bullets" or something like that, it really has nothing to do with whether or not the shooting was lawful or not. It should be noted that I'm in Texas and it's a more gun friendly state than some others are. I cannot say that some rogue, anti-gun prosecutor might not try and use it against a person, but for the most part I believe that it would have no bearing on the criminal portion of the aftermath.

The inevitable civil suit is a different matter. I do believe that the use of handloads would be brought up and that the plaintiff's attorney would portray the shooter in the worst possible way. The burden of proof is less in a tort case and the use of handloads might result in defendant not prevailing or having to pay more in damages if he that particular jury was going to find for the plaintiff anyway. While a good attorney can find experts to shoot down the lies that would be spewed, the whole matter could be avoided by not using handloads specifically for self-protection.

In other words, there could be a problem if you loaded up some 9mm JHP rounds and kept the house or carry gun loaded with them when the gun was being used specifically for self-defense. However, let's say that a shooter was at the range shooting targets with a pet small game load or in the hunting field and some crazy person put him into a life-or-death deadly force scenario and winds up shot full of holes with his handloads. In this case, I don't think the ammunition would play nearly as big a part in portraying the shooter as a heartless, bloodthirsty monster. At the same time, it seems to me that ammunition type shouldn't even be an issue. (The legal question should be whether or not the shooting was justified and if so, that should be the end of it from both the criminal and civil aspects. A sure way not to be shot with either handloaded or factory ammunition is simply not to rape, rob, assault, murder and so forth.)

I can easily remember when there were very few choices in JHP ammunition for both 9mm and .45 ACP. Most of those did not expand reliably. Today things are much better and defensive ammunition choices in some calibers are so wide that few if any shops would have all that is available. In those calibers not so often used for self-protection, there are usually at least some choices. I think a person can find a load in the more popular defensive calibers that would meet his perceived needs and ammo requirements. Without sacrificing anything but a few extra dollars, the whole issue can be avoided.

This does not mean that opposing counsel won't try and make an issue of the "dum-dum" bullets used. This is pretty readily discredited when the shooter's firearms expert testifies that the vast majority of police in the US use expanding bullets and goes on to discuss overpenetration issues and safety to others. These topics may be "old hat" to most of us, but will very likely be a "brave new world" for non-shooters on the jury.

In my view, it is unfortunate and a travesty of justice that a person lawfully using deadly force should even have to worry with civil suits following a "righteous shooting." (In Texas, there have been some anti-suit legislation passed for those defending themselves with deadly force, but I am not yet aware of any test cases.) I think they should be immune from civil litigation, but it is what it is and we can avoid some of the headaches by using our handloads just for targets, recreational shooting, and hunting. Having said that, I wouldn't hesitate to use a handload if needed for protection at that instant and it was what was in the gun.

Best.

Hi Power Pistols: 9mm vs. 40

I receive frequent questions concerning differences between Hi Powers in these two calibers. My opinions on the merit of forty versus nine millimeter is already posted under the Frequently Asked Question section in "Is the forty-caliber Hi Power a better gun for protection than the 9mm Hi Power?"

Here we'll look at the following questions:

1. Which is more accurate?

2. Which has the better long-term durability?

3. Is there any difference in reliability?

4. How is recoil?

The basic differences in the two pistols is in the width of the slide and the forty-caliber version of the Hi Power is the reason that we now have cast frames on all Hi Powers made by FN. Prior to the release of the forty, all Hi Power frames were forged, but the frame rails reportedly warped or cracked after approximately 2500 rounds. I tend to believe this explanation as Hi Power guru, Wayne Novak, converted some of the FBI HRT 9mm Hi Powers to forty several years ago, but problems in durability were experienced as these had forged frames and the standard weight 9mm slide. Some folks simply hate the cast frames. I have noted zero problems in using them heavily although one downside is that there appear to be some slight dimensional differences from the forged frame upon which aftermarket grips were designed. As the result, some grips don't fit quite as well on the cast frames as on the forged. This may be worse with some production runs of the Hi Power than others. More than one gunsmith I've spoken with has said that both the slides and frames are harder on the cast-frame pistols than the forged. Contrary to what some are saying, the Hi Power slides are not cast. Also, the 32-lb. mainspring did not come as a result of the forty Hi Powers. I don't remember the exact year, but this occurred in the mid to late '70's. Originally, the word was that this was to make sure the pistol reliably fired some makes of foreign ammunition having hard primers. I believe that the change was due to ammunition considerations, but not hard primers as the firing pin springs were made heavier in conjunction with the mainspring power change. During this time, there was much unpleasantness in the Middle East and some 9mm ammo intended for use only in submachine guns was being used in Hi Powers on both sides. Reportedly, the result was rounded locking lugs and cracked barrel cams. The heavier mainspring slows the unlocking process and helps prevent these problems. On today's .40 Hi Power, the barrel has not two, but three locking lugs as opposed to the nine's two in addition to its heavier 20-lb. recoil spring as opposed to the nine's factory standard 17-lb. The additional weight of the forty's slide also slows unlocking and the rearward velocity of the slide.

Most parts are interchangeable, but the most obvious one that is not is the slide release lever. As you know, there is a circular "plate" at the front of the 9mm Hi Power's slide release. The top of this is removed on the forty to allow passage of the thicker slide and there is a relieved area in the slide so that the altered part does not come in contact with the moving slide. A slide stop from a forty Hi Power can be used in a nine millimeter Hi Power, but the reverse is not true unless the top-half of the slide stop "plate" is removed. It also appears that the ejectors are a little thicker on the forty than the nine, at least in earlier guns. I'm not sure if FN has simply started using the same ejector on both pistols or not. While I think either extractor will work in either gun, I could be wrong and have noted that the extractor for the forty has a flat milled on it where the nine's is rounded. Again, I've not tried switching to see for sure if they can be interchanged.

Recoil spring guides, hammers, sears, triggers, and grips are the same for both pistols.

Accuracy: When the .40 S&W was first released and various makers began filling the market with pistols for it numerous complaints concerning a lack of accuracy surfaced. I noted that some of the pistol/load combinations did give less than stellar groups and did so consistently. I no longer see this as an issue. Ammunition makers have had enough time that they've improved and tweaked their products such that the forty is capable of very good accuracy and to levels that most of us cannot shoot to. One major ammunition maker had a premium line of ammunition that did blow cases, but this was limited to a few lot numbers and has long since been corrected. I did personally witness two "kabooms" with their ammo in unaltered handguns, though none were Brownings. Those of you who purchased early forty Hi Powers might remember Browning wanting you to send your gun in for a new barrel. The reason was the ammunition mentioned above. FWIW, the load in question was Federal 180-grain Hydrashok, but this is no longer a problem and hasn't been in years.

In my personal forty, I found that it would group moderately well with some loads, but very well with others. Mine seemed to prefer 180-grain bullets, but an exception was Remington's 165-grain Golden Saber as well as Winchester 155-grain Silvertips. With most 180-grain loads, my forty Hi Power was capable of extremely tight groups. I suspect that this situation has improved as mine was an early gun and the ammo makers had not yet refined their loads to today's levels.

With factory load or handloads that my particular Hi Power liked, it was every bit as accurate as my nine millimeter Hi Powers. From a rest, two-and-one-half inch groups at 25 yards were not uncommon when I did my part shooting from a rest.

Today, I think there is no accuracy issue with either caliber.

Durability: I do not care for forty caliber and wound up selling both my forty Hi Power and a CZ-75B in the same caliber. For that reason I cannot give you first-hand observations on the forty Hi Power's long term durability. I can tell you what I've observed in other folks' forties and what I've been told as well as what I believe.

I estimate that I fired around 3,000 full-power rounds through my Hi Power. Most were handloads, but probably 30% were factory. I noted neither small parts breakage nor undue wear. There was no rounding of the locking lugs.

The Hi Power in forty does appear to be holding up well with continued use as there are few reports of either small parts giving up or catastrophic slide or frame failure. Folks I know who use them report no problems in this regard.

Unlike some gun manufacturers, FN did not just rechamber the 9mm Hi Power and stick in a stronger recoil spring in their forty caliber pistols. They made significant changes in the pistol so that it would withstand the more powerful caliber's use in their gun without beating itself to death.

So long as the forty Hi Power is used with at least a twenty-pound recoil spring and the factory mainspring, I think it will hold up fine for long-term users. I believe that the forty Hi Power will hold up at least as well as the 9mm Hi Power. What I think FN has done in their changes is to make the stresses received to the frame, slide, etc, the equivalent to those found in the nine-millimeter version, which has withstood the test of decades.

Reliability: As most know, Mec-Gar is the maker of the "Browning magazines." This has been the case for quite a few years and has always been so for the forty Hi Power. With my 9mm Hi Powers, either the factory magazine or the Mec-Gar has worked perfectly in quite a few pistols. With my particular forty Hi Power, such was not the case. It showed a strong preference for the factory magazine. Other folks' Hi Powers worked fine with either.

Even though Mec-Gar makes the magazines that come with the Browning guns, the followers are not the same. At least this was the case when I owned my .40 Hi Power. The Browning magazine follower had a "skirt" type arrangement around the bottom of the follower while the Mec-Gar used the traditional "two fingers" protruding or a single oblong post in the middle that the recoil spring attached to. As best as I could observe, the latter two allowed for some tipping forward of the cartridge when the slide hit it from the rear. My pistol would frequently fail to feed on the first shot with a full magazine when using the Mec-Gar magazine, but worked fine with the Browning. I changed the followers in the two magazines and the Browning magazine would cause problems while the Mec-Gar worked perfectly. I've not seen any current Mec-Gar forty caliber followers, so I do not know if this has been changed or not. It should be noted that the Mec-Gar magazines causing me problems in my forty worked perfectly in two other forty Hi Powers with the same ammunition.

Other than that, I've noted no reliability issues with the .40 Hi Power. Extraction and ejection have never been a problem in any .40 Hi Power I've seen or shot personally.

While it may have changed and my main observations are based on but one .40 Hi Power, I did find that the 9mm was more reliable with Mec-Gar magazines. From the Browning-marked ones, there was zero problem with either.

Recoil: As I've stated on more than one occasion, felt recoil is very subjective. What "kicks" to me might not to you! While the forty caliber Hi Power does have more felt recoil than the 9mm, it is not "bad." To me, it is very similar to a nine using hot +P or +P+ ammo, but with more muzzle flip. The rearward "push" seems about like a 230-grain .45 ACP round from a steel 5" gun, but "sharper." If you can handle the great .45 ACP 1911, I don't believe you'll have any problem at all with the Hi Power in .40 S&W.

I'm also asked why I'm not a fan of the forty Hi Power. The reason is that I don't care for the feel of the forty-caliber version. That is subjective and others may very well feel just the opposite. Do not let my feelings on this influence yours; this is a decision you must make, as there is no "right" or "wrong" answer in my opinion.

Were I going to get back into shooting forty-caliber pistols, my first choice would be a Browning.

Best.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

JSP or JHP in Handgun Ammunition?

"Is JSP ammo better for defense than JHP? It looks like it could be."

No, it appears that it is not.

Here we see an expanded .44 Special solid copper alloy DPX bullet from Corbon. It was fired into water. Note that none of the "new technology" handgun bullets are soft points but continue to be based on the jacketed hollow point.

While JSP rounds expand or deform in some mediums like ductseal or clay, when fired into animals I've personally shot or seen shot with them, it appears that they act just like ball. Apparently, most handgun velocities in the 800 to 1200 ft/sec range just are not enough to cause reliable deformation of jacketed soft points. (This most definitely is not the case with the myriad of "tweaked" jacketed hollow points now on the market; they normally work both well and consistently at realistic velocities for caliber.)

I've not seen a human that has been hit with jacketed soft points that I can recall. The folks who study terminal ballistics and "stopping power" seem to pretty well agree that the JSP ammo does NOT expand reliably in tissue. Oddly enough, there are some soft points in rifle cartridges that seem to expand better than the hollow point designs, but such does not appear to be the case in most handgun cartridges.

It appears then that if we want maximum tissue damage and penetration we need to go with a quality JHP. If we seek deeper penetration, some sort of solid is called for. That may wind up being a SWC, WC or simply FMJ round nose. Unless reliability is an issue, I'd go with either SWC, WC or a flat-nosed bullet having a large meplat before going with the old round nose. While some opine that the shape of non-expanding bullets plays no role in "stopping" that which is shot, I've just not seen it. Round-nosed bullets have generally performed at the bottom of the pile in my experience. Those hunting larger animals with handguns almost always use a hardcast SWC or flatnose with a very healthy "flat" or meplat.

If a JSP is to help any at all in this regard, I suspect it might be because of its flatnose shape rather than its expansion characteristics...which are probably nil.

Best.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Hi Power and Hammer Bite

The Hi Power's hammer biting the hand that holds it is not an uncommon problem for many of us. Usually, it is not all that difficult to cure.

This affliction usually occurs when the tip of the hammer spur hits the shooting hand behind the pistol's abbreviated tang. Folks who are bitten by the spur hammer will usually get the same if using the factory ring hammer which is the hammer almost always seen on the Practical out of the box.

Looking carefully, you can see that this Hi Power sports an unaltered spur hammer. This combination bites many folks during shooting, including me.

This Mk III hammer has been bobbed at the second later serration as described later on in the text.

Folks bitten by the Hi Power usually fall into three categories:

1.Those who get hit by the rear of the hammer spur or the lower rear of the factory ring hammer.

2.Those who get the web of the hand pinched by the rear of the hammer shank and tang.

3.Those who get bit for the reasons cited in both #1 and #2!

I fall in with the first group and have found that the easiest way to rid myself of this problem is to bob the hammer spur off at about the second lateral serration from the rear of the spur. This is a small amount, but it makes a huge difference for me.

I use a cutting wheel to carefully cut the spur at the second lateral serration. Smooth and contour the edges to your own liking and then cold blue. Actually, I put a small amount of the cold blue into the plastic lid and then microwave for a very few seconds (3 to 6, depending upon the microwave) to get it hot. I immediately apply with a Q-tip. FWIW, it seems to "take" better that way. Be sure to apply oil as soon as the color from the "hot" blue is where you like it. This will stop the chemical action and prevent rusting.

Usually taking the steps mentioned above will solve hammer bite from the Hi Power for most people. Another option is to use a C&S Type I rowell (ring) hammer. This hammer is very similar to the old "Commander" hammer seen on 1911 pistols with the ring being more circular than the FN factory ring hammer. The C&S hammer does not extend as far rearward as the factory hammer. You can see pictures of it here:

http://www.cylinder-slide.com/

Look under "Parts".

I use the CS198 Type I hammer but their relieved CS197 might be a better choice for folks getting the webs of their shooting hand pinched. The hammer shank has been relieved and is less likely to pinch the web of the hand between it and the pistol tang. I do not recommend the Type II hammer if hammer bite is a problem. Stick with the Type I.

This Hi Power served with me in police service for years. It has the Type I ring hammer from C&S.

If you pistol has a spur hammer and a good trigger pull, I'd simply bob it. If you go with the C&S ring hammer, you really need to go with their sear as well. It's harder than the factory sear and using their hammer with the factory sear does not result in a stable trigger pull for more than about 2K rounds in my experience. If you get the hammer and the sear, you will probably have to have a trigger job as well. This is considerably more expensive than just bobbing the spur or bobbing and having a trigger job done.

Taking one of the approaches described above usually solves hammer bite problems for folks in groups 1 & 2. A gunsmith can also remove the lower portion of the factory ring hammer should this be desired. This is harder than it looks, especially in reshaping, and I suggest one hire a gunsmith for it. Some gunsmiths can make your existing spur or ring hammer into a "no bite" hammer like the C&S. If your pistol already has a great trigger pull, but you get pinched all of the time, this is an option that will save you the cost of a trigger job and C&S parts. The relief cut on the shank of a factory spur hammer as well as bobbing it should solve the problem for almost all the folks bitten by their Hi Powers. Ditto using the C&S parts.

FWIW, replacing the factory spur hammer with the older factory FN ring hammer usually does not help. Most folks find that the factory ring hammer is more prone to hammer bite than the spur hammer.

If you are "lucky" enough to be one who finds no relief, several of the name Hi Power gunsmiths like Novak's, Bill Laughridge, Ted Yost, or Gartwaite (and others) can weld an extended tang onto your Hi Power. This is expensive and requires that the frame be refinished, but this will solve the problem.

Best.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Federal 115-gr. JHP 9mm Ammunition

Hello. A topic of discussion near and dear to many pistoleros addresses what does or does not constitute "good" ammunition in a given caliber. Many times, the flash-retardant powders coupled with state-of-the-art bullet technology makes recommending some of the better known companies' flagship line of defense ammo a pretty sure bet.

At the same time, we have some folks who simply cannot or will not pay the ever-increasing tariffs on such ammo or no outlet in their area carries it.

Some will argue that the new technology choices are the only way to fly. After all, "How much is your life worth?" Sound familiar?

Countering, others will suggest, "If it worked satisfactorily in the past, it can still work today. Human beings are no different now than then, are they?"

While there is merit in both arguments as I see it, such discussions seem to inevitably degenerate into the proverbial "shouting match", something that bores me nearly to death.

I thought it might be interesting to provide the results of some informal ammunition "testing" on this Federal "Classic Hi Shok" round. It will not meet any sort of "scientific method scrutiny" and was never intended to do so. At the same time, when I can relate how a particular bullet performed in actual tissue, I will do so.

I leave it to the reader to make their own choices concerning this load. After all, that's really what we all do in the end, isn't it?

"Average velocity" is based on a 10-shot average fired 10' from the chronograph screens and the firearm used will be noted. This seems to be the norm for obtaining the velocities (I know that it is actually "speed" since no direction is specified, but I use the term "velocity" simply out of habit when discussing projectiles. If it bothers you, please try and bear with me. If not, there are other sites to read, I'm sure.)

Informal bullet expansion/penetration "testing" is done either in water or in "wet pack" in my tests. This article focuses only on wet pack results.

The reason is simple: Money!

I have to pay for my ammunition and simply cannot afford 10% ballistic gelatin. Neither do I have access to a laboratory with constant temperature settings optimized for use with this stuff!

Since it takes so long to get any volume of expanded bullets from actual living tissue (animals), some substitute for gelatin was necessary. I wound up using super-saturated newsprint. Jeff Cooper coined the term "wet pack" for it, if memory serves.

I soak plain old newspaper for 24 hours and drain 30 minutes before shooting. This offers an easy-to-obtain sort of consistency in the media and it doesn't seem affected by temperature at all so long as it is above freezing. (Below freezing is fine too so long as the test media is not allowed to freeze.)

Penetration and expansion results are not equivalent in wet pack (or water) to 10% ballistic gelatin, but then neither does gelatin consistently predict actual penetration depths and expansion characteristics in human targets. The reason is simple in my opinion. The human body is not homogeneous as is gelatin. It has organs of differing density and tissues may have different limits of elastisity and there is quite a bit of bone to be dealt with in the real world. That said, most serious researchers do agree that 10% ballistic gelatin is the gold standard for such work. FWIW I agree, but I do not accept that anything else is worthless as some say, often times at the tops of their lungs! I have never understood this emotionalism that is so often involved in any sort of layman ballistic discussion.

So now the reader knows my frame of reference and "where I'm coming from".

Federal 115-gr. JHP (standard pressure):

Here is the Federal 115-gr. JHP. This standard pressure load is noted by many as being both accurate and having a good "track record" in "the real world."
Fired from a Browning Hi Power with factory barrel, this one averaged 1177 ft/sec. It penetrated 7" of wet pack and retained 107 grains bullet weight. In ballistic gelatin, it usually penetrates 10 to 12", depending upon particular ammunition production lots. To correlate the soaked papers to this, multiply the penetration depth in wet pack by 3 and divide by 2. In this case, the resulting depth is 10 1/2". Is this going to be exact in all cases? Probably not, but it seems to jibe pretty well with gelatin results.

In decades past, I've seen critters up to about the size of Texas coyotes hit with this load, usually from Browning Hi Powers. It was more effective than might initially be expected, particularly by folks not trusting the 9mm cartridge. Keep in mind that these animals were hit very nicely in the lung/heart region of the body by folks capable of making "good" shots and passing on the shot if a humane one couldn't be made.

Some law enforcement folks I've visited with over the years have used this very load in deadly force scenarios. They were pleased with their individual outcomes but the number of people I could actually speak with is "statistically invalid". Though I have no doubt that such is true, that I have repeatedly heard of the round being satifactory is not something I am going to just discount for that reason.

While it may not be the most accurate load in all of my Hi Powers, it is almost always one of them! In some guns, it will be the most accurate, at least in this bullet weight.

Federal 115-gr. JHP does not use flash-retardant powder and usually throws a "whitish" colored flash in dim light. That said, I've fired quite a lot of this ammunition in dark surroundings and have never been blinded by it whatsoever.

Over the years, it has been pretty consistent one lot number to another in my observation. It usually averages about 1140 to 1180 ft/sec depending upon lot number when fired from a Hi Power.

It can be found in both 20 and 50-round boxes. I prefer the latter when possible as it's usually a better bargain compared to the smaller count box. Were I interested in securing a rather large supply of expanding 9mm ammunition, this would definitely be a top contender in my opinion.

The bullet seems to be very nicely secured in the case and coupled with its rounded ogive for feeding slickly, bullet setback seems the exception rather than the norm.

This round is not at its best when fired from short barrels common to really compact 9mm pistols. The powder doesn't seem "optimized" for these shorter tubes when compared to some of the more expensive lines of ammunition. It should also be noted that this load does not always expand if fired through 4-layers of denim ( a common test) into ballistic gelatin. Some discount the load at this point. I am not so quick to do so as it might be that my aggressor is not wrapped up like a "tamale felon". Most agree that the dreaded "4-layers-of-denim" test is a worst case scenario result but there are several newer loads that do defeat such a test reliably. The Federal 9mm 115-gr. JHP is simply not one of them. Even so, it wouldn't bother me one wit to rely on it for serious purposes

I would use it in 9mm pistols having barrels at least 4" long.

Best.

Hi Power Dates of Manufacture

Below is the key to FN dates of manufacture via the serial numbers.

Per "Browning Dates of Manufacture", 1988, Brownsboro
TX, Art and Reference House:

Z = 1

Y = 2

X = 3

W = 4

V = 5

T = 6

R = 7

P = 8

N = 9

M = 0

Earlier codes; 1954 to 1964 = 70000 to circa 115823, '64 to '69: T136568 to circa T261000, followed be the introduction of the 2-digit year code and "C".

For example, a Hi Power made in 1973 would have a serial number starting "73C…" and so forth.

(Sincere thanks to Hi Power fan, Paul Stempel, for providing this information.)

My Personal "Carry" Hi Power

I am frequently asked by other Hi Power fans, "What is your personal carry Hi Power?"

Variations on this theme often include, "What modifications have you made?" Finally, ammunition choice is requested.

First, let me assure you that I do not claim to know all things and would not presume to try and "tell" anyone what is "right." This can vary with the individual and their personal needs, be they real or perceived.

The one thing that I do feel most adamantly about is reliability. With a defense handgun, be it a Hi Power or any other pistol, I put this quality at the head of the list and by a wide margin. Fortunately, the Hi Power is almost always reliable out of the box. Will it be with JHP ammunition? If it is a Mk II or Mk III, probably so. If it is an older classic Hi Power, it might balk with some JHP ammunition. This is due to a difference in the feed ramps. While the Hi Power uses a one-piece ramp, the newer guns do not have the "humped" ramp common to the older ones. The humped ramp works fine with ball and some JHP's having more rounded bullet profiles. (The older ramps can be made to mimic the newer ones by a competent gunsmith and not all of the older guns will require it; some work just fine.)

Next, I prefer a trigger pull that's neither below about 4 1/2-lbs nor more than a pound more. Speaking only for myself, I find no difference in group size nor the ability to make quicker (accurate) shots with either if the trigger breaks cleanly. Unfortunately, many Hi Powers come with triggers that are considerably heavier and gritty, a sad and needless situation in my opinion. It is my observation that most detractors of the Hi Power address both the trigger pull (out of the box) as well as hammer bite.

A competent pistolsmith or trigger specialist who understands and is familiar with the Hi Power design can correct the trigger pull and very serviceable trigger pulls can be had with or without the magazine disconnect in place.
The Hi Power that I carry the most is a Mk III 9mm that I bought used. I believe that the magazine disconnect may have already been removed…which save me from doing it. The gun had not been shot very much and the bluing on the breech face was barely scuffed. The gun locked up tight and while it had a small ding or two, it was overall sound and the price was very right.

This is the 9mm Hi Power I am most apt to carry for self-protection. Here are the changes that have been made: The hammer spur was bobbed and reshaped at home. The factory trigger is in the gun. The right-side factory extended thumb safety was removed and the shaft reshaped. There is no magazine disconnect in this pistol and the trigger was good when I got the gun, right at 5-lbs. I have a Wolff conventional 18.5-lb recoil spring in this gun and it works just fine with standard pressure rounds as well as +P. The barrel is stock and the mainspring was left at 32-lbs. The finish is the factory "matte" and the grips are from Altamont. This pistol has proven itself reliable with every conventional JHP I've tried that weighed 100 to 147-gr.

This Hi Power is no different than many, many others in the hands of Hi Power fans and I've been pleased with the "wearability" of the factory matte finish. The Altamont stocks didn't seem comfortable to me at first, but sort of "grew" to fit my hand and I like them on this pistol. FWIW…if anything, I also have an extreme fondness for grips from both Craig Spegel and Hakan Pek.

My primary carry Hi Power uses the factory fixed Mk III sights. They are dead bang "on" for me with this gun and I've found no good reason to change them. A couple of my Mk III pistols have had Novak fixed sights installed. They are elegant sights to be sure and offer a good sight picture for my eye, but I find no advantage to them over the factory sights in group size, be they fired slow and precisely or at speed. This may or may not hold true for others and is one more decision that is best made by the individual user.

Some folks have asked why I routinely remove the right-side ambidextrous thumb safety lever. The reason is that it gets in my way. With my hand and my grip on the pistol, I have accidentally engaged the ambidextrous thumb safety and have decades of practice in reaching around the rear of the gun with my off-hand thumb and engaging the left-side lever. (When I first started shooting Hi Powers and 1911's, ambidextrous safeties were practically non-existent.) They just don't work for me; they might work fine for you.

I use only Mec-Gar magazines for serious purposes be they sold under Mec-Gar's name or as Browning "factory" magazines. I have found none better in the long run. Though I own and have had no problem with the Mec-Gar 15-shot 9mm magazines, I usually just use the standard 13-shot version.

I have less money in this Hi Power than any of the others and were I to use it in a legal shooting, I am well aware that it will be gone into the evidence locker at least until I am no-billed by the grand jury. I can tolerate this easier than I could were it another having more financial or sentimental worth to me.
As this is written (September 2006), my favored load in the Mk III 9mm is Corbon 115-gr. DPX +P, but frankly like and trust any of the following:

Federal 115-gr. JHP


Remington 115-gr. JHP +P


Speer 124-gr. Gold Dot +P


Speer 124-gr. Gold Dot


Remington 124-gr. Golden Saber +P


Remington 124-gr. Golden Saber


Speer 147-gr. Gold Dot


Remington 147-gr. Golden Saber

I hope that the preceding has been of use and that no one is disappointed in the sort of "vanilla" Hi Powers I find to work well for me. If you are new to Hi Powers or are considering using one for protection, I respectfully submit shooting the gun quite a bit before deciding what changes might be in order. Please keep in mind that what "works" for me might or might not be the best choice(s) for you.>

Best.