Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Review of the Ken Null Model UNS IWB Holster for the Glock 43

This is one of those moments when something old is something new.  Currently I am putting this new holster through its paces as an everyday carry.  I had a great deal of trouble finding an IWB holster for my Glock 43 that was suitable (for me) so I decided to go radically retro;  this Seventrees design from K. L. Null Holsters has roots all the way back into the 1960s.  Above is a copy of a page from a 1969 Seventrees catalogue showing the UNS of 46-years ago.

As with the Walther PPK, the Glock 43 is compact enough to cause problems for the IWB holster designers;  there is a very narrow "sweet spot" of having just enough holster.  It is also difficult to avoid designing a holster that sits either too high or too low.  IMHO it takes someone with intuition and experience to design a stable, comfortable IWB holster for PPK size semi-auto pistols.  At a recent gun fair I decided to try a local holster maker's (a fledgling business owned by a group of Cops) IWB Kydex holster; I donned the holster with its G43 dummy gun and gave it a simple tug-test;  the holster promptly flipped OUT of my waistband and hung from my belt with the dummy gun's muzzle pointing up at my torso.  I politely declined to buy the $50 holster and suggested that the design needed to be further refined.  

I love the detail work on the snap belt loop on the Ken Null Model UNS; it looks a lot like, and may function a bit like, a sewn belt tunnel.  Ken offers this holster for 1.25'' and 1.5'' belts (mine is for a 1.5'' belt).  Bad experiences made me grow to detest mass produced holsters with large, one-size-fits-all 1.75'' belt loops; unless the wearer is sporting a belt that is 1.75'' wide, those holsters don't stay where they are supposed to stay.

Putting this holster on and taking it off is very quick and easy; I can do it in the dark; I don't need to drop my trousers or use a mirror.

(Above) This is the side of the holster that faces the body.  Note how the sweat shield is boned to curl a bit over the end of the slide;  I believe that to be a subtle part of the holster's passive retention.  Once it was broken in, this holster provided a fast draw along with good passive (no snaps or straps) gun retention, a combination that is hard for holster makers to achieve.  The G43 handgun comes out of the holster quick and easy but it does not come out before I want it out;  I am an active old geezer and have no use for any holster that cannot comfortably keep a gun secure during physical activities.

Unlike the explosion of crudely designed and expeditiously manufactured hybrid holsters, this old-school leather holster has no sharp, square edges.  It easily slides into place and then stays where it is supposed to stay until the wearer is ready to remove it at the end of the day.

Thanks again, Ken.

DISCLAIMER: As always at this blog site, this product review is simply a good old-fashioned campfire chat; this is not an opinion on what you should or should not purchase or what you should be using.  What does or does not work for me could be many country miles away from your tastes and needs.  All products I review for this blog are purchased at retail price by me.  I do not accept payment, discounts, "freebies," products on loan, demon alcohol, drugs, or sexual favors for doing any review.  

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Review of GALCO VHS Vertical Shoulder Holster System for small frame revolvers

The Galco VHS is a modular concept; by changing the holster and ammo storage you can switch the harness between handgun models and sizes.  I've owned this revolver rig only since November of 2014 but have attempted to shake it down during representative slices of all weather.  Unlike the Jackass Rig and the Miami Classic, all of Galco's tanker style VHS line lack the option for a holster-side tie-down; that can kinda really suck for some of us.  There is an option for installing an offside tie-down, but there are no provisions for anchoring any of the VHS holsters.  With minor exceptions, drawing a handgun from a VHS holster requires two hands or pinning the holster to your side using the weak-side arm.  Yes, I consider the lack of a holster tie-down option a downside to the Galco VHS.  However, I did find that certain revolvers listed for use with Galco's V118 holster have no need for a holster-side tie-down; drawing them from the holster is slick, quick, free, and easy.

Further, using this shoulder rig with no tie-down whatsoever is a problem for me due to the mismatch in weight from one side to the other; I used the two black non-Galco ammo pouches (with cartridges, of course) to add weight to the offside.  While an untied rig is ok for tossing on for a walk around the block or a drive to the deli, I needed it tied down when performing any solid physical activity.  The VHS offside tie-down is via an attachement on the ammo pouch (or via an optional harness attachment if you want to eliminate the ammo pouch).

The small frame revolver used in most of the photos of this review is the S&W Model 640-1 .357 Magnum.

As shown above, the VHS has the widest shoulder straps of the four common Galco shoulder rigs.  I own two of the Galco VHS rigs, one for full-frame 1911s and one for small frame revolvers.  I also own a Galco Jackass Rig equipped for use with 1911s.

Wide shoulder straps help keep loads comfy, but getting the straps set correctly takes time and patience.  In the photo above (without using the offside tie-down), the widest portion of the straps have shifted forward on my shoulders after some outdoor activities.  Wide shoulder straps during summer weather also makes it difficult to remain cool; this rig contributes to profuse perspiration.  When I remove this harness at the end of a summer day there are always wide sweat stains on my teeshirt where the harness was sitting.

As mentioned earlier, I used the two black non-Galco ammo pouches to add weight to the offside to provide a more comfortable balance when not using the offside tie-down.  There are 24-rounds total on speed strips between the black and brown ammo pouches.  Whether that is too much or too little to carry for personal defense is for each of us to decide, but in this case I used the extra 12-rounds strictly for ballast.

This ammo dump-pouch I believe is intended for .38 Special loose rounds; it takes a bit of effort, but the pouch can accommodate the use of speed strips.  I am under the impression that this pouch was never intended for use with .357 cartridges, but I could be wrong.  EDIT:  A reader left us a tip in the comments section on how better to fit cartridges on the speed strips into the pouch

It took some doing to stretch the leather more than I already had, but this is how the .38 caliber cartridges on speed strips will be carried from here forward.

(Above:  Pouch with loose .357 Magnum cartridges)
I mentioned earlier that I was unsure if this Galco pouch was intended for .357 cartridges; well, I have since found that the pouch readily holds LOOSE .357 magnum cartridges but I cannot YET get the leather to stretch enough to hold those cartridges on a speed strip.  If Galco intended that pouch for use with anything other than LOOSE .38 Special cartridges I never found any document on the internet that said so.

The black ammo pouches are not from Galco (they are from Del Fatti Leather).  They work on the straps of most any shoulder rig (such as on this often-worn Ken Null City Slicker rig) as well as they do on a gun belt.

The V118 holster worked fine with J-Frames sporting different grips, including the LG-405 Crimson Trace on my S&W Model 638 Bodyguard.  There is a minor problem when holstering the Ruger SP101 with the standard factory grips, but there are no problems drawing the SP101 from the holster one handed.

The Galco V118 holster for the VHS system is said to fit the following revolvers:

Charter Arms Undercover (2" bbl)
Colt Cobra
Ruger LCR
Smith & Wesson J Frame 340PD
Smith & Wesson J Frame 36 (2" bbl)
Smith & Wesson J Frame 60 (2.125" bbl) .357 .38
Smith & Wesson J Frame 649 Bodyguard (2" bbl)
Taurus 85 (2" bbl)
Taurus 85 Titanium (2" bbl)
Taurus 85CH (2" bbl)

NOTE:  It has been my experience that once a "one size fits many" holster is broken-in for a larger handgun it often (but not always) becomes unsuitable for use with the smaller handguns listed. 

NOTE:  The Galco V118 holster is truly a no compromise ambidextrous holster; it works equally well on either side; it is a very creative design.

My Ruger SP101 and all of my J-Frame revolvers easily draw (tilt) from the Galco V118 holster.  My D-Frame Colt revolvers, with their "girthier" cylinders (the Agent and the Detective Special), require two hands to draw from this holster.  Could I do some additional break-in work on the holster to work better with the D-Frame Colts?  Maybe, but I am not certain that the holster would then have enough retention for use with the J-Frames.  It would be best to have separate holsters; one for D-Frames and another for J-Frames.  For now (and probably forever) I will limit use of this rig to the J-Frames and the Ruger SP101.

Although I found it was possible to carry this rig without it, I found it to be more comfortable and more practical to use WITH the offside tie-down (BTW, you have to purchase the tie-down separately, it is NOT INCLUDED with the purchase of the rig).  With the tie-down in use, I no longer needed the extra ammo pouches to try and balance the weight of the rig so I removed them (for this photo, I swapped the boot grip adorned S&W Performance Center .38 Special 640 No Dash for the S&W Model 640-1 .357 Magnum).

I believe this type of rig is designed primarily for use over a shirt and under jacket, which is how I wore it in cooler weather.  During the warm weather months I used it mostly over a teeshirt and under an oversized regular shirt.

It ia my conclusion that this rig has far too much leather for carrying such small handguns; I may switch the holster and ammo carrier to a Galco harness that has thinner shoulder straps.  Overall, I am happy with this GALCO rig but I do not (at least not yet) consider it to be an essential part of my carry collection. It was an extravagant impulse purchase for me; it is a pricey rig but IMHO it is equal to the quality received.  I'll continue to work with it from time to time but it just does not (for my tastes, especially during summer months) equal the comfort and convenience of the uber lightweight Ken Null SMZ and SKR rigs.

DISCLAIMER: As always at this blog site, this product review is simply good old-fashioned  campfire talk; this is not an opinion on what you should or should not purchase or what you should use.  What does or does not work for me could be many country miles away from what does or does not work for you.  All products I review for this blog are purchased at retail price by me.  I do not accept payment, discounts, "freebies," products on loan, demon alcohol, or sexual favors for doing any review.  My holsters are as much as a hobby for me as my guns are.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

My most recent range visit

Six government surplus seven-round .45 ACP magazines and my no-frills 1911A1 Springfield Armory.  It was a couple of weeks ago and I spent less than a half hour shooting; it was a quick in and out session, squeezing the trigger as fast as I could re-acquire the sight.

It has been difficult to find the time and energy needed for shooting (and for blogging).  Sometimes life gets in the way of how we prefer to live.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

NO CONCEALED CARRY ALLOWED at Waukegan's GTR Sporting Club Grand Opening

Who would have guessed?  Why didn't GTR Sporting Club post the event's prohibition of concealed carry on their website or on their Facebook page?

I suppose it is ever possible that an unforeseen issue developed with local government after the event got underway.  Concealed carry was not a problem when I stopped in at the shooting range's Grand Opening for a short time on Friday morning; I breezed by security without incident.  I skipped the festivities on Saturday so I have no idea what they did about concealed carry for that day. When I stopped in sometime around 11:00am on Sunday, a security guard met me at the "gate" and asked if I was carrying; I answered "yes" and, as a courtesy, presented him with my FOID and Illinois Concealed Carry License.  He then explained that, due the fact that they were serving beer for the event, I would have to lock my handgun in my car.  When I explained that I did not drink (i.e., I had no intention of being in the "beer garden" area), he said that did not matter.  Not wishing to escalate a situation, I complied, entered, and sat inside by the "gate" to see what happened to other entrants.  There were only a very few attendees on Sunday between 11:00am and shortly after noon when I was there; I saw two men and one women indignantly blow off the security guard's questions and strut on through.  Other folks simply said they were not carrying; nobody's word was challenged.

IMHO, if it was at all possible to do so, GTR Sporting Club should have announced this prohibition of concealed carry well beforehand.  Knowing what I do now, in the future I will not be attending any of their special events.

When it opens for business, I feel fairly safe in assuming that GTR Sporting Club's newly completed barroom (lounge) will be a prohibited area and that all members and guests will be asked to disarm and lock their handguns in their cars before entering.  I would also assume (and I could be wrong on this) that this would not affect concealed carry for members and guests who just want to use the shooting range.  

Friday, July 10, 2015

GTR Sporting Club (an indoor shooting range with more than just a touch of class) Grand Opening July 10, July 11, and July 12, Waukegan, Illinois

Original blog entry for July 10, 2015 begins below:

I currently am a member and have gone shooting at GTR Sporting Club over twenty times since their "soft opening" somewhere around late October of 2014.  After all of that gunslinging I am still just an average shot (on my very best day), but I sure do have a lot of fun here. 

Will I renew my membership?  I dunno.  I am not into the high-end perks GTR offers; I just want a decent, affordable, place to shoot that is close to where I live. 

On the first day of the Grand Opening I managed to beat the crowd and arrived shortly after the opening bell while the crews were still cooking the food and chilling the beer; that worked out perfect for me since I am still on a diet. 

Below are some random photos sans hordes of humanity.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Range Review S&W 640-1 with Federal .357 magnum 110-grain Semi-Jacketed Hollow Points

In the comment section of my previous post, Jon T asked which load I prefer for the 640-1 (magnums or +P .38 special), and about the often-mentioned pain in my arthritic shooting hand.

Please CLICK HERE for my first blog entry regarding this S&W 640-1 magnum revolver.

Please CLICK HERE for my blog entry about a similar magnum revolver, the Ruger SP101.

My current load preference for this revolver is the old commodity grade (almost every major brand sold them at one time or another) 110-grain .357 magnum semi-jacketed hollow points.  IMHO, they are decent enough for personal defense use and the load is light enough (when used with steel revolvers) to allow me to endure range sessions of between thirty and fifty rounds before the pain (and swelling) in my hand becomes too distracting for me to continue.  It is my belief (I could be wrong) that this load has a bit more stopping power than the +P .38 Special loads.  NOTE: Many allege that prolonged use of this load on any given revolver causes flame-cutting of the top strap and / or forcing cone erosion; I cannot offer any insight on that, one way or the other.

Below are some targets and comments from a 11/29/2014 range session.

As a baseline for my range sessions, I use the Illinois Concealed Carry qualification criteria of using NRA B27 target(s) and firing thirty rounds total; ten rounds each at distances of five, seven, and ten yards (fifteen, twenty-one, and thirty feet); of the thirty rounds fired, twenty-one of the thirty rounds fired must be on paper AND inside the scoring area.

The first target, set at fifteen feet (five yards), went okay.  Eight rounds went into the "good zone" and I plunked two rounds low.   All in all, the first two cylinders (ten rounds) of .357 Magnum 110-Grain Semi-Jacketed Hollow Points did not turn out to be too bad of a start.

On the second target, set at twenty-one feet (seven yards), instead shooting two-strings of five-rounds each as intended, my mental focus sailed full speed off the rails during a "senior moment" and I fired thee cylinders (fifteen rounds total).  Anyhoo, six-rounds were in or on the line of the "good zone" and I splattered the other nine-rounds into the lower numbers.

The final target, set at thirty feet (ten yards) had only four-rounds in the "good zone" and I sprayed six-rounds high on the target into less impressive numbers.

Obviously, I have plenty of room for improvement using this revolver with this load.  The best that I can say about this range session is that all thirty-five rounds fired were "in the numbers" and no rounds were "off paper."  IMHO, the cumulative pain from recoil (and anticipating the pain) is a major distraction for me.  Centennial J-Frame revolvers have a nice, long, rolling trigger pull and the effects of cumulative pain mess with my mental focus and trigger technique.  It only takes a hint of a flinch or a bit of a wigwag for me to alter a J-Frame's point of aim.