Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day 17: Handgun Carry Options

For all the talk about handguns on this blog, we haven't talked much about methods of carrying them. I thought I would offer a quick review of some of the carry options that I routinely use for concealed carry, and discuss the pros and cons of these systems.

From left to right in the top image: Wilderness magazine pouch, Raven magazine pouch, Ravine G19 holster, MTAC G20 Holster. All on Wilderness Instructor belt.

Raven Concealment Holster & Magazine Pouches

I love the fact that Raven holster systems are modular. I can wear the same holster either inside or outside the waistband by simply swapping out the stock OWB for accessory IWB hooks. I was able to order 1.75” belt loops even though they don’t list them, simply by adding a comment to my online order. I can easily conceal my Glock 19 in this holster under a t-shirt whether it’s worn inside or outside my waistband, though the IWB configuration hugs noticeable tighter to my body. Overall, I prefer IWB carry for everyday concealment and OWB for range use and tactical shooting, but that’s mostly individual preference.

One thing I don’t like about the Raven holster system is the inability to adjust retention strength. Both the holster and magazine pouches are molded kydex and you’re stuck with the factory setting, which is quite strong. I found the gun retention to be nearly perfect, but the magazines are much too difficult to remove for my taste. I have to wear them farther back on my belt to maintain the leverage needed for crisp reloading drills, which complicates things if you find yourself on the ground, especially in the supine position.

Minotaur MTAC Holster

The Minotaur MTAC holster sold by Comp-Tac is a fantastic holster for concealing large handguns like the G20. This leather-kydex hybrid combines the comfort of leather with the rigidity of polymer, and is fully adjustable for retention and cant. In terms of IWB carry efficiency, it’s very close to the Raven holster. You can also purchase addition kydex halves to make the same primary body function with any model of pistol. In the future I’ll probably stick with Raven simply because it can be worn outside of the belt, but if you like the comfort of leather and only desire to carry inside your belt, the MTAC is one of the best options out there.

Wilderness Tactical Belt & Magazine Pouches

I’m generally a fan of products by the Wilderness. They make a fantastic belt: I wear a 5-stitch instructor belt every day, and I couldn’t be happier with it. I also use their slings on two long guns. I hate to say it, but their magazine pouches are garbage. I bought the horizontal style because I thought it would ease concealment, but it’s bulky and wears awkwardly. Even though it was specifically sold to accommodate the 10mm double stack magazines of the Glock 20, the fit is far too tight, and the magazine catches on a seam in the nylon totally preventing smooth draws. So while I recommend most Wilderness products, I’d stay away from their mag pouches.

*The arrangement shown is clearly for illustrative purposes only, and is not intended to be an actual layout for practical carry.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Day 16: Ruger 10/22

The Ruger 10/22 is one of the most popular rimfire rifles ever manufactured. Originally released in 1964, the 10/22 is traditionally chambered in .22 Long Rifle, yet limited variants were produced in .22 WMR and .17 HMR. One advantage to the 10/22 over other popular .22LR rifles such as the Marlin Model 60 is it’s 10-round rotary magazine, which is much faster and more practical than a front-fed tubular magazine. I recently decided that I needed one for small game hunting and target shooting.

My Model

There are countless subtypes of the 10/22 available from the factory, but I opted for the Sporter (Deluxe Sporter according to Cabela’s) edition, primarily for the high-quality checkered American Walnut stock. When I picked it off the shelf, I was immediately impressed by the quality of the flip-up rear sight and the crisp trigger.

The first day at the range, I shot 675 rounds out of the stock rifle with bulk ammunition without a single hiccup. It was a dream to shoot, and extremely easy to disassemble and clean back at home. It’s no Glock, but cleaning and maintenance on this rifle is just about as simple as it gets. Just one screw to remove the stock, and 2 pins to remove the trigger assembly, and one pin to remove the bolt.


One of the reasons for the huge popularity of the Ruger 10/22 is its customizability and the availability of aftermarket accessories. You turn any run-of-the-mill 10/22 into a specialized hunting rifle, a compact survival tool, a tactical military-style practice gun, or an expensive flashy competition rifle. Most of the 10/22’s out there probably remain in the category of your standard stock weekend plinker, but the potential is there if you want to take advantage of it.

I opted to spend a few bucks optimizing my rifle for hunting small game, since I tend to focus on hunting-style customizations on my long guns. My main addition was a Vortex Crossfire 4x32 scope with Leupold scope rings. The 4x fixed magnification 32mm scope is one of the most popular general-purpose hunting optics ever made, and on a rimfire allows generous accuracy from 25-100 yards and beyond. That’s more than enough for targeting treed squirrels, so I’m happy.

The 10/22 Deluxe Sporter comes with 1” sling swivels, but the availability of slings in this width is lacking. I replaced these swivels with 1.25” quick-detachable swivels and swivel bases from Uncle Mike’s, so I could pair it with a thicker Wilderness sling. If you’re trying to figure out what parts you need to make the same replacement, both swivel taps in the Sporter stock accept ½” wood screws.

All 10/22’s come with one 10-round rotary magazine. Before experiencing this style of magazine I’ll admit I was skeptical about it, but they are incredibly reliable and compact. I’ve shot over 700 rounds through one of my rotary magazines without a single failure whatsoever, without cleaning it at all. I’m impressed considering how dirty rimfire cartridges can get after high-volume shooting.

I purchased a 25-round steel extended magazine by, but I can’t comment on this yet. These magazines are adjustable by 4 different screws, and so far I haven’t found a configuration that feeds or ejects reliably. I hope I can tune this magazine properly, since a high-capacity .22 could prove quite useful during a zombie apocalypse. I'll update everyone later on whether this mag is functional or a piece of junk, I just haven't figured it out yet.

Overall Impressions

The Ruger 10/22 has quickly become one of my favorite guns that I’ve ever shot. It’s accurate at close to medium ranges, useful for hunting and survival applications, and is American-made. It’s light weight in relation to other hunting rifles helps in making it highly portable, but its low mass makes off-hand shooting a bit of a challenge, so a shooting rest or proper shooting position is preferable for ethical kills. The price of .22LR ammunition easily allows high-volume shooting on any budget, and this is the kind of gun you can shoot all day for the price of going out to a movie. A .22 will eventually pay for itself in ammo savings along, but it’s also a blast to shoot.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Day 15: Vive Fusils Français

Just recently I had the opportunity to purchase a MAS 36/51, the infamous French rifle of the early to mid 20th century. At first, like so many others, I was a little ignorant and clueless about the MAS 36/51 but after a couple solid days of research I ended up bringing home a neat piece of history.

History of the MAS 36 series

The MAS Modèle 36 like many of France’s firearms previously adopted was created at Manufacture d'armes de Saint-Étienne, hence the prefix on its designation – MAS.

The MAS 36 was most well known for being the main battle rifle of the French during World War Two however this is only partially true. Many people do not know that originally the MAS 36 could not be outfitted to all troops during the early part of the war, and were reserved for only frontline troops that would bare the majority of the German onslaught. Soldiers that found themselves in the rear, fighting in French colonies, or with a more logistical role were often using Lebel or Berthier rifles when MAS 36 rifles could not be supplied. Later in the war the more outdated rifles were phased out and French soldiers began to use the MAS 36 and the British Lee Enfield (to an extent).

After World War Two the French continued to use the MAS 36 extensively as it began to consolidate colonial territories. In 1949 the French adopted the semi automatic MAS 49 and began to issue it to the frontline troops of the time. While the MAS 36 was still being used it was no longer the “new kid on the block” and in 1951 the French military began retrofitting MAS36 with the ability to launch the standard 22mm NATO rifle grenade.

The new designation for the rifle was MAS 36/51 and had found a home back on the frontline allowing extra firepower on the squad level.

This new variant of the rifle saw much turbulence as France defended itself from insurgent forces in The First Indo-China war (1946-54) and the Algerian War (1954-62). The MAS 36 even found its way into the Suez Crisis (1956). The MAS 36/51 served its user well up until the time it was pulled from service well into the 1960s, a truly amazing run of over 30 years of combat action.

Mechanics of the MAS 36/51

At the end of the Great War the French took ideas implemented by rifles of the major participating countries, both allied and enemy. Some of these include the bent curve found on the American P1917 Enfield, the 5 round box magazine of the German Gewehr, and the design of the locking lugs on the bolt from the British Lee Enfield. They took these concepts and designs and formulated an extremely robust rifle that would last many years even in the toughest combat environments.

The MAS 36 series has a cool feature that can’t be found on many other rifles. Beneath the barrel a chamber holds the bayonet until needed, and then at that point it can just be flipped around and locked into that very same chamber to secure it for use. A cool feature for sure!

Unlike the early MAS 36s the MAS 36/51 is equipped with items to allow it to fire a wide assortment of rifle grenades. The upgrades in 1951 installed a very intricate grenade launching sight and spigot to affix the projectile too. With these installed the user can fire high explosive, anti-tank, and general purpose grenades up to 400m, a tremendous addition to the standard rifleman’s arsenal.

The MAS 50 years later…

I had a great opportunity when buying this rifle. The gentlemen whom I bought it from originally purchased it in 1999 and had never shot it. When I picked it up it was still covered in packing grease I can only imagine was from the 1960s when it was taken out of service.

Overall thoughts on the rifle are pretty high. The rifle is built like a tank and the weight for such a relatively short rifle shows it. The sights are crude but allows for a soldier or even untrained peasant to be considerably accurate. The action of the bolt is not smooth or crisp but gives the feeling of robustness. Overall the MAS 36 feels like the AK47 of its day, it’s just unfortunate that it never got the repertoire to go along with it.

That’s it for now, stayed tuned more to come.