Thursday, August 11, 2016

Sports: Kim Rhode

The shooting sports have rarely had a champion like Kim Rhode. After overcoming a change from trap to skeet forced by the IOC, and health issues stemming from giving birth to her son, she's now gunning for an Olympic medal in her sixth straight Summer Games. That's something that no one, in any sport, has ever done before:



It's impressive enough being able to shoot down 60 mph clays on demand, but Kim Rhode also shoots down gun control questions from reporters; she's become a personable defender of the Second Amendment, especially with respect to California's draconian gun laws. As a mother, Olympic gold medalist, and lifelong shooter, I can't imagine a better spokesperson for the cause.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Tech: Rise of the Tomb Raider review



A few years ago, Crystal Dynamics rebooted the "Tomb Raider" video game series to critical acclaim and good (but not great) sales numbers. Still, revising an iconic character is always risky, so I gave the reboot high marks back in 2013, even if some of the story and gameplay decisions fell flat.

The second game in the reboot series, "Rise of the Tomb Raider," was released late last year for the Xbox One/PC and is hitting the PS4 in October, so it's as good a time as any to review it. In this one, Lara travels to Siberia in search of a magical McGuffin sought by her late father. Unfortunately, Lara's not alone; a mysterious paramilitary organization called Trinity is also after the artifact, and they'll kill anyone in their way.

THE GOOD

Open World - The Lara Croft version of Siberia is riddled with entertaining environments. You'll scamper through old Soviet mining shafts, Byzantine monuments, and precarious mountain faces, all of which hide plenty of optional tombs and side areas that will test your platform and puzzle skills. It's a proper Tomb Raider experience, and one of the few games where I've felt the need to track down optional content after I completed the story.

Excellent Graphics - On a reasonably powerful PC (GeForce GTX 970, Core i7-4790 @ 3.6 GHz), "Rise of the Tomb Raider" looks fantastic. The set piece reveals are predictably jaw-dropping, but I was really impressed by the ambient fire and weather effects; Lara is near a fire or being hit by a blizzard 90% of the time in this game, and it always looked believable.

THE BAD

More of the Same - If you played the 2013 reboot, you've seen most of the tricks that this game has. Prince of Persia/Uncharted style climbing, stealthy bow-and-arrow sections...it'll feel pretty familiar. There are some new skills, craftable items, and mechanics, but by and large, this is the same stuff.

Stagnant Combat - The game's default enemies, Trinity soldiers, are pretty aggressive and smart, but they're pretty much all you fight, aside from the odd wolf. Whatever happened to T. Rexes and snowmobile riders?

Rating: 87/100

P.S. - I am not sure how they got Karen O to do an ending theme, but it's absolutely perfect for the game:

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Guns: Ruger LCP review [2013 Gen 2] (The .380 Throne, Part 5 of 5)

[I'm clearing out a bunch of my .380 pistols, so I thought it'd be fun to do a C/D-style comparison test to see which one is king of the hill...]

1. Ruger LCP - Still The One

Ruger quietly upgraded its bestselling LCP in 2013, by adding more pronounced sights and changing the hammer cocking position (which resulted in a shorter, lighter trigger pull). As it stands, the gun is a good blend of concealability, reliability, and accuracy - not the best in any particular category, but very solid all around. If you want to carry a .380 in your pocket or on your ankle, this would be my recommendation.

Blazer Brass 7 yards:


Aguila at 7 yards:




Remington UMC at 10 yards:




Winchester at 10 yards:


PMC Bronze at 7 yards:


S&B at 10 yards:



S&B at 15 yards:



Guns: Glock 42 review (The .380 Throne, Part 4 of 5)

[I'm clearing out a bunch of my .380 pistols, so I thought it'd be fun to do a C/D-style comparison test to see which one is king of the hill...]


2. Glock 42 - The Single-Stack Study

Like a demented Deep Thought experiment, the G42 is an answer to a question no one asked - the pistol just doesn't measure up to the size/capacity of other .380s on the market. Actually, I've always suspected that Glock devoted the entire gun to troubleshooting the design of its real cash cow, last year's Glock 43 9mm. In relative terms, the G43 completely obsoletes its little brother; it's only slightly larger, yet still holds 6+1 rounds of a much more powerful cartridge.


So, in the Glock 42, we are left with a curious package that is both more and less than the sum of its parts. It has the same terrible plastic "sights" and the same mushy trigger found on every stock Glock, yet it also shares the family's shootability and trigger reset, too. In fact, this was actually the softest-recoiling, fastest-shooting pistol of the group, and it was almost as accurate as the Bersa.

PMC Bronze at 7 yards:


Of course, one well-documented issue with the G42 is its ammo sensitivity. Some brands will work flawlessly, others will give you jams. These problems tend to go away after break-in, but it is something to look out for:



S&B at 10 yards:



S&B at 15 yards:


Guns: Bersa Thunder review (The .380 Throne, Part 3 of 5)

[I'm clearing out a bunch of my .380 pistols, so I thought it'd be fun to do a C/D-style comparison test to see which one is king of the hill...]


3. Bersa Thunder - Roaring In

You know how in car mag comparos, they always drop in one vehicle that doesn't belong, in terms of size or performance or price? Well, the Bersa Thunder doesn't really fit in this test. It's much larger and heavier than all the other guns here; unless you have M.C. Hammer pants, this is not going to be something you can carry in your pocket.


Of course, the Thunder's size, weight, and traditional fixed barrel/blowback operating system made it incredibly accurate and easy to shoot. This gun ran reliably with all ammunition, and also had one of the lowest street prices, too. If you don't intend to carry your .380 in the pocket and can handle a DA/SA trigger, you really need to try this gun out.

16 rounds of Fiocchi at 10 yards:


16 rounds of Magtech at 10 yards:


16 rounds of PMC Bronze at 10 yards:


18 rounds of S&B at 10 yards:



16 rounds of S&B at 15 yards. This is one of the few compact .380s you could realistically employ at extended distances (e.g., in an active shooter scenario).


Guns: Kahr CW380 review (The .380 Throne, Part 2 of 5)

[I'm clearing out a bunch of my .380 pistols, so I thought it'd be fun to do a C/D-style comparison test to see which one is king of the hill...]



4. Kahr CW380 - One size fits small

Kahr still makes the only truly pocket-sized 9mm pistol I would recommend (the PM9/CM9), so it might be surprising that they only place fourth in this shootout. The CW380 is one of the smaller .380s on the market, sure, but not everything can be proportionally shrunken down without affecting utility.



In this case, the gun's tiny size makes the long Kahr double-action trigger almost unusable for me (and I have small hands), while the slimmed down sights are difficult to see and even harder to shoot at speed. This gun turned in the largest groups of the entire test. The gun is reliable, and accurate enough up close, but it's not a top choice for me.

Winchester White Box FMJ at 7 yards:


10 yards...


Remington UMC at 10 yards:





S&B at 10 yards:



S&B at 15 yards - most of the shots were off paper; it would be way too risky to actually use the gun for self-defense at this distance.


Guns: S&W M&P Bodyguard 380 review (The .380 Throne - Part 1 of 5)

[I'm clearing out a bunch of my .380 pistols, so I thought it'd be fun to do a C/D-style comparison test to see which one is king of the hill...]


5. S&W M&P Bodyguard - Last Light

A lot has changed since my review of Smith and Wesson's original .380 Bodyguard back in 2011. The Bodyguard's biggest selling point - its integrated laser - is basically a nonstarter now, since Crimson Trace has found ways to shoehorn lasergrips onto every pocket 380 on the market. Similarly, in 2013 the market leader and the Bodyguard's primary competitor, the Ruger LCP, received substantial trigger and sight upgrades. Honestly, unless S&W improves the Bodyguard's abysmal trigger and fixes the light strike problems (see below), the Bodyguard is only good enough for last place.


The particular gun for this review had a blue Kyptek camo frame, and seemed to be less accurate than my old Bodyguard. Here's some groups of PMC Bronze at 7 yards:



Things started opening up at 10 yards:


As the gun got dirty, I was beginning to get light strikes - the first trigger pull would not light the primer, but the second pull always did. This is the same problem Tam observed last year, and I tend to agree that it's due to fouling preventing the gun from going into battery:


The Bodyguard here demonstrates the limits of pocket .380s - they are just extremely difficult to shoot at anything beyond bad breath range. Here's a "group" of Sellier & Bellot at 15 yards - I hope I never actually have to hit someone at this distance.


Friday, July 29, 2016

Guns: Ruger SR22 review - Double-action Indoctrination


Introduction

Striker-fired pistols dominate today's handgun market, in part because of the perceived advantage of having a single type of trigger pull shot-to-shot, as opposed to the heavy first pull and light subsequent pulls of a traditional double-action/single-action (DA/SA) gun. The thinking is that a heavy first pull causes a shooter to jerk the first shot, or that a change in trigger weight causes second shots to go wide.

Now, I don't agree that a DA/SA trigger is per se worse than other types of triggers (if your fundamentals are good, it shouldn't matter that a trigger pull is heavier or lighter than other pulls), but learning the DA/SA trigger does take some practice, which is where the Ruger SR22 comes in.

What's In the Box


The SR22 is a small, inexpensive polymer-framed .22 LR pistol that is perfect for teaching the DA/SA trigger, especially to new shooters. Despite the low price, Ruger gives you two 10-round magazines, a zippered soft case, and an extended magazine baseplate and large grip panel. I have small hands, so I stuck with the flush baseplate and default grips, but it's nice that alternates are provided right out of the gate.

Trigger and Sights

The main thing that sets the SR22 apart is its ambidextrous frame-mounted safety/decocker. Pressing down on the lever decocks the hammer and safes the pistol, while moving the lever up takes the gun off of safe. From there, you operate the SR22 in the same manner as any DA/SA gun, but without burning expensive centerfire ammo in the process. Another advantage: the .22's light recoil helps you focus on maintaining sight picture during the two trigger weights, instead of managing recoil.

The SR22 has three-dot adjustable sights that did not move or become dislodged during several years (and a couple thousand rounds' worth) of testing. They're not the most precise sights in the world, but they work for the gun's intended roles as a plinker and trainer.


Range Report

The SR22 shot almost every type of ammunition reliably when clean, but did have the occasional light strike or failure to eject when very dirty (which is common in very small .22s). I don't hold it against the gun at all; this is not a self-defense pistol, and the SR22 is as reliable as anything in this class.

In the same vein, the SR22 is not as accurate as its larger brethren in the Ruger stable, but the gun holds its own compared to other compact non-target .22s. Here are some groups fired offhand at my local indoor range to give you an idea...

15 yards, 10 shots, RWS "Sport Line" 40 gr. (probably the most accurate overall, though I didn't have much onhand to test with):


20 yards, 20 shots, CCI Standard Velocity 40 gr.:



20 yards, 20 rounds, CCI Mini Mags:


25 yards, 20 rounds, Blazer value pack 40 gr.:



20 yards, 20 rounds, Federal Automatch:


15 yards, 20 rounds, Winchester Bulk Pack 40 gr. (not one of my favorite ammo types):


15 yards, 30 rounds, Federal HV Match 40 gr. solids (aside from the flier up top, this was very consistent ammo):


Conclusion

As with almost everything in the firearms world, the DA/SA weaknesses people cite are not equipment issues, but training issues. The Ruger SR22 is a way to get in that training, and it is also just a fun gun to take along on the trail or to keep in the car for impromptu shooting sessions. At a street price of around 300 bucks, it's certainly worth taking a look at.

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