Ballistics by the inch

Reprise: Boberg XR9-S review.

Prompted by my friends over at the Liberal Gun Club, this is another in an occasional series of revisiting some of my old articles which had been published elsewhere over the years, perhaps lightly edited or updated with my current thoughts on the topic discussed. This is an article I wrote for Guns.com, and it originally ran 3/26/2012. Images used are from that original article. Some additional observations at the end.

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Last fall I reviewed the Boberg XR9-S pistol shortly after it was introduced into the market. Just recently I had a chance to really help “break in” a pair of Bobergs—to put them through their paces with about 300 rounds of ammo in the course of a very short period of time. Last October I concluded that:

This gun is a winner. It is well designed, and well made. The innovative design makes your brain hurt when you first see it. But the recoil is nothing like what you get from any other “pocket gun”, even when shooting full +P defensive ammunition. Usually with a pocket gun, you trade off the pain of shooting it a lot for the convenience of being able to carry it easily. With the Boberg, you don’t have to make that trade-off. I honestly wouldn’t be bothered at all by running a couple hundred rounds through this gun at the range.

And I did exactly that. Here is a follow up review.

Two guns, or not two guns, that is the question…

Boberg XR9-S "Shorty" 9mmYou may be asking: Why a pair of Bobergs? Because my buddy is of the opinion that having two is better than one when it comes to concealed carry guns.

If you can do it, it makes a certain amount of sense. Two identical guns means that you only have to be aware of one operating system. You can carry both guns so that it is easy to draw one or the other depending on the situation (which hand is free, et cetera). Lastly, drawing a second gun is faster than reloading or having to go through remedial action.

There’s also the practical idea of having a second gun for parts, so if perchance something happens to the company then the guns and parts may be hard to come by. I don’t think that is likely in the case of Boberg Arms, but it does happen, particularly to small companies. So, as a hedge, my buddy ordered two of the guns figuring that at worst he’d wind up selling one or both later to recoup some of his investment.

Differences this time out

The first time we shot the Boberg, it was literally a case of taking the gun out of the box, reading the manual as we loaded it and shot it. There was little or no preparation or inspection—we just wanted to see what it felt like. Not something I would usually do, but the gun had just arrived at the FFL the day before and my friend picked it up on his way to visit.

This time was a different matter. The first gun had been cleaned, but not shot again after the last outing. This time we field-stripped both guns, inspected them and lubricated them as recommended in the manual. We opened up the magazines, gave them a quick wipe down and reassembled them. Finally, we opened up a 250 round box of 115-grain target ammo (ball) and commenced to loading magazines.

How did they do?

Excellent. Again, the fit and finish is very, very good, in keeping with what you would expect from a high-end pistol. The three-dot sights are good and easy to use in low light (where we were shooting this time). Accuracy is very good for such a small gun. The best shooter of our small group (who wasn’t with us last time) was able to keep rounds in about a three-inch group at 11 yards.

Boberg XR9-S "Shorty" field strippedI mentioned in my first review that we had some minor glitches with the gun not going completely into battery. That didn’t happen with the gun we shot previously, but it did happen with the one right out-out-of-the-box. Meaning before it functions at 100 percent, you need to run a few magazines through it.

We ran about 50 rounds through each gun, then took them down and did a quick cleaning and inspection. After the normal light lubrication and putting the guns back together, we didn’t have any problems again with either gun.

Or, I should say, we didn’t have any problems with them functioning again. Like the last time, the front sight on the new gun fell off about 25 rounds into the session. But this time we had brought an allen wrench of the proper size to remount and secure it.

Otherwise, both guns shot like champs. We took turns loading and shooting each gun, one right after the other, until we had went through all 250 rounds of the target ammo and 50 rounds of JHP self-defense +P ammo. When we were done, we again field stripped them and did a quick cleaning and inspection. There was no obvious wear and the guns weren’t very dirty.

Conclusion: Part II

Pretty much what I said before: “This gun is a winner. It is well designed, and well made.” And I was quite right about what it would be like to run a bunch of rounds through it: no problem at all. Each of us shot one or the other of these guns about 100 times. None of us had any problems at all with hands hurting or feeling abused by recoil. That alone is astonishing—I know of no other pocket pistol that I would be willing to do that with as a regular thing. With the Boberg, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment doing it.

I know, like last time, someone is going to complain about a $1000 gun having the front sight fall off. Please—this is a completely trivial problem and one easily rectified by just checking to make sure the set screw is tight before you shoot. It’s one of those little things that should be caught by the manufacturer, but given how well the gun is put together and performs otherwise, I’ll cut ‘em some slack.

I’m more impressed than ever with this gun. In my initial review, I gave it a 4.5 star rating. Now I’d move that up to 5 stars, and wish I had further to go.

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I’ve now owned one of those two Bobergs for several years. And in that time my experience and opinion has evolved somewhat from the article above.

First and foremost, Boberg Arms was sold to Bond Arms early last year. They tweaked the design slightly, and made some changes to gun, and came out with what they now call the BullPup9. I haven’t shot one of those yet, but I did discuss the changes with Bond Arms and agree with the decisions they made. And in my experience the Bond products are all very well made, so I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the new pistol to anyone.

One thing I have come to learn about the XR9-S is that when chambering a round, it is critical that the slide is racked all the way back with significant force, and then released. If you do not draw the slide back with a snap, a round will only be lifted from the mag about halfway, and then will be caught behind the extractor. And if you try to ‘ride’ the slide forward, there’s a fair chance that the nose will drop down under the chamber and lodge tightly.

Either problem can be corrected in a few minutes with simple tools, but it definitely takes the gun “out of the fight” for the duration. I always caution people new to the gun about this problem, but still about a third of them will make this mistake at least once. Usually, once someone gets the hang of it, they don’t have a problem. And it is important to note that in normal operation, the gun cycles without any problems, chambering a new round from the magazine reliably. But this is still an important consideration in choosing a self-defense gun, and I would not recommend that anyone with poor hand strength (needed to rack the slide with sufficient force) choose the XR9-S.

To the best of my knowledge, there are still no after-market sights available for the XR9-S/BullPup9. I sent my front sight to a gunsmith friend, who turned it into a nice fiber-optic sight, but that’s about the best you can do in terms of improving the sights.

I do still love the little XR9-S, and I carry it a fair amount of the time. In terms of power and shoot-ability, it’s one of the best very compact packages out there. But it is a niche gun, and not suitable for every person or situation. So if you’re tempted, or intrigued, be sure to try one before you buy.

Jim Downey

 

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October 31, 2017 Posted by | 9mm Luger (9x19), Anecdotes, Boberg Arms, Links | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Glock carving for fun & profit!

A couple of months ago, I put up a post which included the following:

And one which has had a little work:

Look particularly at the backstrap: it’s now almost complete straight. My buddy took off most of the swell towards the bottom of the strap using a rasp and then sandpaper. He has little, meaty hands, and this change allows him to get much better purchase on the gun, with much better trigger position. He’s also planning on increasing the undercut on the trigger guard to accommodate his finger better.

Personally, the straight backstrap made it more difficult for me to get a good grip on the gun, and shooting the +P+ ammo out of it was downright painful for me, while the same ammo out of the unaltered G43 was just mildly annoying. The owner of the standard G43 didn’t have a problem with either ammo, and it was clear that my friend with the altered G43 was *much* more comfortable shooting it than the standard version.

So if you’ve ever thought about adjusting the grip of a Glock to better suit you, know that there are options out there which might be worth exploring.

After those tentative explorations in altering his G43, my friend decided to see what changes he could make to a couple of his other Glocks.

Now, before I go any further, some caveats: these changes probably ruin any warranty on the guns; they probably shorten the expected lifespan of the gun; and they may very well increase the chance that the gun would fail in normal use and injure the shooter. And they may give Glock purists reason to faint dead away, just looking at them. So DON’T DO THIS; if you do insist on doing this you do it at YOUR OWN RISK; and DON’T EVEN READ FURTHER if you are a Glock purist with a weak stomach.

Still with me? Then read on …

As I said, my friend has little, meaty hands, and even the small G43 presented a problem for him in gaining a good secure grip. So both his G36 and his G21 presented an even greater challenge.

Or, putting it a different way, they presented an even greater opportunity for some experimental alteration, thanks to the polymer construction of the Glock frame. Take a look:

G36 top, G21 bottom.

See how straight the backstraps are? The G21 has been taken all the way back to the box of the mag well. The G36 still has some of the backstrap, but it has been removed enough that the normal ‘void’ had to be filled in. The same is true of the G43, which he continued to alter from the initial experiment back in August. If you look at the back of the guns, you can see the grey filler material (PC7) he used:

 

G36 on top, left. G43 on right. G21 on bottom, left.

Also note that on each of the guns he had to trim out a bit of the bottom of the mag well on the back, because there was part of the mag well which extended down and would bite into the palm of his hand.  You can see this part of the mag well in the very first image above.

To get a sense of just how much of a change he has made to the G21, compare it to my G21 on the right. It still has the original backstrap configuration, but with an added slip-grip to better fit my hand and tame the recoil of .45 Super and .460 Rowland loads:

Big difference, eh?

And it felt like it. I shot each of his guns, at least a full mag each, to see how the altered guns would fit my much larger (and less muscular) hands. Both the G43 and the G36 felt a little cramped in my hand, but were comfortable enough for a single mag of ammo. The much more altered G21 has a fairly sharp ridge where the back of the mag well dug into my palm. My friend also feels this, and is planning on trying to add a slip-grip to deal with it. If that doesn’t work, he can sculpt some PC7 along that edge to soften it.

Now, this kind of alteration isn’t something I recommend. It won’t work for everyone, and as noted it has some real downsides. But for my friend, it has finally allowed him to really get a proper fitting Glock in these three different models. It’s made a big difference in his comfort and accuracy shooting, and he is at peace with the possible downsides.

So if you have an unusual hand size or shape, it might be something to consider. All you really need is a file/rasp and some sandpaper … and nerves of steel.

 

Jim Downey

October 14, 2017 Posted by | .45 ACP, .45 Super, .450 SMC, .460 Rowland, 9mm Luger (9x19), Discussion. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reprise: The Secret to Concealed Carry Comfort

Prompted by my friends over at the Liberal Gun Club, this is another in an occasional series of revisiting some of my old articles which had been published elsewhere over the years, perhaps lightly edited or updated with my current thoughts on the topic discussed. This is an article I wrote for Guns.com, and it originally ran 8/10/2011. Images used are from that original article. Some additional observations at the end.

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Psst – wanna know the secret? The real secret to carrying a concealed weapon comfortably?

It’s not the kind of gun. Almost any kind (well, within reason) will work.

It’s not the kind of holster. Again, almost any kind will work.

It’s not even the location of the holster/gun combination.

It’s the belt.

Yeah, the belt.

No, seriously. It’s the belt. I’m not kidding. It seems really trivial – a belt is a belt is a belt, right? Except it’s not. No, I didn’t believe it either, when I first started trying to sort out my preferred concealed carry set-up. But really, it’s the belt. So, save yourself some grief, and get a good belt. It makes a huge difference.

It makes sense if you stop to think about it. A properly fitting belt, and one designed not to just hold up your pants but to hold up your gun, makes a world of difference.

What do I mean by “designed to hold up your gun”? Easy – the belt needs to be both wide enough to distribute the force of your holster hanging off of it, and reinforced so as not to twist even a bit. If it twists, then the holster won’t have a chance to work properly. A high-riding OWB (Outside the Waist Band) holster will tend to lean away from the body if the belt isn’t a good one. That’ll push the grip of your gun away from you, sticking out where not only will it be obvious that you’re carrying, but may actually get in the way of everyday activities. And it’s damned embarrassing to have your gun banging off of doors and tables all the time.

A low-riding OWB holster (including all varieties of pouches and packs) won’t have that particular problem with an improper belt, but it may have a different problem: sag. Sad, saggy, sag. And if you have to keep pulling your belt up, you’re gonna look like a little kid who’s wearing hand-me-down clothes that are too big for him. Ugh. Not subtle.

If you wear an IWB (Inside the Waist Band) holster, then not only will you have sag, but your pistol may not even be secure. Because a lot of IWB holsters rely on the belt to keep the gun close to the body, and the pressure between the belt and the body as a retention aid. Without it, the gun may go flopping out. And you know what a faux pas it is to have your EDC skittering across the floor.

OK, you’re a special snowflake who only pocket carries, and the holster (you are using a pocket holster, right???) has no contact with your belt. Why should you care about having a good belt? Once again, because of the weight. Yeah, sure, there are guns out there in the sub-half pound weight class. OK, if you’re going to carry something that small and light and useless, you have my permission to not have a good belt. But if you carry something more than an itsy-bitsy pea-shooter, you still want a decent belt to avoid the “pants falling down” problem mentioned above.

Sure, there are carry methods which don’t really require a good belt. Off-body carry (say in a purse/man-purse, attache case, and so forth) doesn’t need it. Neither does a vest designed for concealed carry (I actually have one of these and love it). Some shoulder-holster rigs don’t use a belt-anchor, some do. If you use one of these methods, sorry I’ve wasted your time. Well, it’s not really a waste, because you should know this in case you ever want an alternative carry option, which would involve a belt. And besides, you want to be able to tell your friends to stop messing around and get a good belt.

Seriously – get a good belt. It should be at least 1.5″ wide. It should be long enough that you’re not on the last set of holes for the buckle. It should be reinforced in same way, either with a stiffener of plastic or some heavy leather inside/behind the decorative outside. It should come from either a custom holster maker (almost all of them either carry them, or recommend where you can get one), or from one of the big manufacturers of quality factory holsters – no, just getting a “stiff belt” at WalMart will not suffice. Yes, you’re going to pay more for a good belt – probably $50 on up.

But it is worth every penny. It will mean that your holsters work properly. It will distribute the weight around your waist correctly, not have it localized in one spot. It will stop your pants from drooping/pulling down.

I don’t know how many times I have told people to stop screwing around with trying to get a holster to do something it can’t without a good belt. It seems absurdly basic, but the right belt makes a huge difference. Huge.

That’s the secret: get a good belt.

There, did I say it enough times that you believe me?

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This is still one of the pieces of advice I give out regularly. And it is still the one that people dismiss most readily. Until they try a real belt with their carry rig, and see just how much of a factor a proper belt really is. So, no kidding: get a good belt. Do it sooner rather than later. You’ll be glad you did.

Jim Downey

October 1, 2017 Posted by | Discussion. | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment