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2017 Harley Davidson Road King

When I was given the invitation to check out Harley Davidson’s new Milwaukee 8 engine, I was very excited.  I had heard some very good things about it.   I had my choice of Touring and Bagger bikes, and I wanted to try the Street Glide, but the problem with that was that I had never ridden a Street Glide so I wouldn’t have a yardstick to measure this new bike with.  The last Bagger I had ridden was the Road King… So sacrificing new experience for familiar, I had elected to take the most objective path as possible.  And I’m glad I did.  The differences became apparent as soon as I let out the Clutch. 

It would be easy to just go over all the technical details, in detail.  But engine specs don’t really tell you what the bike is like.  However there is some important details I’m going to give you that backs up what I am about to throw down here.   Right off the bat, my impression was that this Road King, while looking overall similar to the last one I rode, (which was either a 2012 or 2014 model year) this 2017 is a whole new machine.   The Main Course for this dish is the Engine… But before we get to that, let’s go over the appetizers that help make this machine so delicious. 

Let’s start with the brakes.  In 2014 the Motor Company has really stepped up their Brake Game with an optional upgrade for ABS.  The downside is that it remains an optional upgrade.  It should be standard equipment.   But make sure you check the ABS box when you spec out your new HD.  They are using a linked ABS system similar to what you find on a BMW motorcycle.  This is good stuff and I was very glad to hear this.   What this system does for you, is not just giving you anti-lock brakes… But it makes the brakes work together.  So when you crush down on the front brake lever, you are applying breaking forces to both wheels, and the ABS system will work at both wheels to keep a wheel from locking up.  But if you only stomp the rear brake, you are only getting rear brake force.  To the Rider, this system is completely transparent. You never know this is happening… but it’s there.  I believe this is the most important option on the whole list.  Take it.  Now, the brake feel is still on the heavy side.  This should remind you that this is a big and heavy motorcycle.  It is in fact heavier than the outgoing model, by 11 pounds.   Again, get the ABS option.

Now let’s talk about the suspension.  Up front the forks might not look very different, but inside, they certainly are.  They feel more stable during high speed sweepers, they feel more stable during braking, they feel more stable over rough road surfaces.    At the rear the suspension is new as well.   It’s using Dual Bending Valves and I wont even pretend to know what that means… All I know is that they got ride of the air over oil system that never really impressed me on these big bikes.   Regardless of how this new system works, the results were immediately apparent to me.   With new suspension in the front and the rear, the bike feels so much smoother on the road.  It feels more confident.  It flat out feels better.  If you have an older Road King (Note, that the new suspension is in all the new Touring and Bagger bikes) and you have been thinking about upgrading to a new bike… this is reason enough to step up.

The biggest reason to buy a 2017 is really and truly the new Milwaukee 8 engine.  The new engine is nothing short of Fantastic.  It’s all new and comes from a blank sheet on up build.  Everything is redesigned.   Let’s start with the name.  The 8 means the number of valves.  Four valves per cylinder lets the engine breath with better efficiency.  More air in, more air out.  In between that cycle comes the ignition and HD is now giving you two spark plugs per cylinder to fire these coffee can sized pistons.  Dual plugs give you a more efficient burn, and since it’s lighting up from opposite sides, the time it takes to burn all the fuel-air mixture is reduced.   In short, it’s giving you more bang per stroke.    Combined with the better breathing, you have a much more efficient engine that gives you more power and a better delivery of that power.  On paper, this engine is about 10% stronger.  But that’s where the numbers don’t do the results justice.  There is a dramatic increase is power in the lower revs.  This bike is lot quicker off the line to get you up to speed effortlessly.   Roll on passing power is better too, pulling you from 60 to 80 mph with power and glory that I’ve not felt in before in a full sized, factory stock Harley.

The engine is not just more powerful… It’s also a lot smoother.  Thanks to a combination of both rubber engine mounts, and an internal counter-ballancer, Harley has been able to reduce engine vibration by 75%.  There’s still enough shake to let you know you are on a Harley, and you still feel that power that the engine has… But it’s much more refined.   Harley could have removed all the vibration and shake… but if that’s what you want, go look at a Honda Shadow. This is a big bore Harley, you will not forget that.

Another thing worth talking about is how the Motor Company is keeping all this new power cool.   It’s using the new liquid cooled strategy at the exhaust ports at the top of the engine – the hottest part of the engine.   It also uses precision oil cooling in other areas of the engine, and of course good old Air Cooling helps in other areas.  So really Harley has a triple cooling system that works impressively well.  My weekend Ride was very comfortable because of this.  I only got caught in traffic a couple of times, and it was only then that I felt some warmth off the engine.  I never thought “this is getting hot” like I did before on the older Road King I had previously ridden.

Another thing I really liked, and I thought was noticeably lacking in the previous generation, is the new 6th Gear.   This was a very welcomed addition on a long high speed burn across Carolina Interstates.   In 6th, the engine just lopped along with little effort while I was passing traffic like that was my job.  Even at lower speeds, upshifting early into six the new engine didn’t make the bike feel like it was lugging in that tall gear.  (Man, this engine is good)

I’ll be honest, I have no idea what this cover is, but it looks boss.  

The emblem on the front fender… for some reason I just dig it.  

I’m not one for Floor Boards on a bike, and I’m not used to Heel Toe shifting… But I can see why people like them.  My leg position was very comfortable, even with my shattered knees.   The transmission was very good and never gave me a false neutral or felt “clunky”.   So I am guessing that Harley worked some sorcery in there more than just giving at a +1 on the gears.  

The seat though, is the real hero when it comes for comfort.  It gives you a little room to move around on a long ride, but I really didn’t feel the need to.  This is a good saddle.

One thing I didn’t mention before, the new Road King is feeling a lot more agile.  When moving it feels light on its wheels.   It’s almost “flickable”.   Transitions between directions happen quicker than the last Road King I rode.  Part of that has to do with the new suspension… but I mention that here because I found that the seat really does a good job of keeping you in it as you flick the bike from one curve to the next.   On a bike that you sit in more than sit on, being able to feel secure and confident and totally comfortable is a good thing.  I love that the seat gives you just enough support behind you to keep you anchored during hard acceleration.  It’s also enough to give you some support for riding real laid back and letting your arms stretch a bit.     Your passenger will have a nice back rest as well… and there’s a little rack behind her to strap down some luggage.

Speaking of luggage, HD’s saddle bags are awesome.  They are cavernous.  I’ve not looked up the capacity, but it’s huge.   But they also look very nice, streamlined, and they really fit the bike perfectly well.   Very easy to open and close.  These are good bags.   Harley could probably make some good money by selling hard bags for bikes other than HD.

Better Engine.  Better Brakes.  Better Suspension.  Better Transmission.  The whole bike is just completely better.  The 2017 Road King is hands down the best Road King that Harley Davidson has ever built.  Yes, it’s worth trading up an older Road King for a new one.

I really can’t wait to see Harley put their new engine tech into the rest of the Motor Company’s line up.  Especially into their Sportster lines.  A 48 with an engine that has 4 valves and 2 plugs per cylinder with some liquid cooling… That makes me excited.

CZ 100

You know how some things set a standard. They become the benchmark by which all others are judged. Well, for many of my reviews I have mentioned the CZ 100 pistol as an example of what I consider to be just about the worst trigger ever made on any production handgun ever. I’ve mentioned it but until now I have never introduced it to you. That’s been rather rude of me and I apologize. Let me introduce it to you now.

The CZ 100 is a polymer framed automatic that is a radical departure from CZ’s standard 75 series based guns. It is not just a polymer framed CZ 75 clone. If that is what you are wanting, check out an IMI Desert Eagle poly in 9, .40, or .45. I reviewed a pair of them last year. Those were outstanding handguns.

One of the biggest departures from normal CZ tradition is that the 100 is a double action only pistol. The trigger mechanism is unique in that the idea behind it is simple to the point of almost being brilliant. Pulling the trigger moves a hook that grabs a bar on the striker and slingshots it back. At the farthest point of travel, the trigger hook drops off the striker allowing it to fly forward to fire the gun.

I say “almost brilliant” because it of course fails miserably at being any sort of usable trigger at all. No, I’m serious, it’s bad. It’s the stuff of nightmares. The trigger feels exactly like those old toy guns you used to be able to buy at grocery stores that shoot those little plastic disks. I’ve actually had nightmares where a large dark looming threat is advancing on me and I pull out my sidearm and pull the trigger… it feels like this and in my dream little plastic disks fly out to bounce off the menace which is of course unfazed by the plastic disks. To put it bluntly, the CZ 100 is my nightmare pistol.

Let me describe the trigger pull. A long take up pull, then heavy stacking up to a level that is off the scale. If the trigger pull was just bad, that would be one thing… but when the trigger breaks, it pulls the front sight off to the right suddenly. Trying as hard as I might, I could not pull the trigger without the sight being jerked off target. Interestingly, when I dry-fired the gun left handed, the sights stayed on target. I don’t know why that is… maybe it is the way I manipulate triggers and I just do it differently left handed. The trigger is not just bad, it’s funny how bad it is. It’s almost as if it’s a joke. How could a serious arms company release a pistol so awful?

Actually, several have. AMT’s BackUp .45, the HK VP-70, Stanley Staplers, all have bad triggers on the epic scale, but the CZ 100’s is worse. Trust me.

Now the question is this; is the 100 otherwise a decent pistol handicapped with a bad trigger? Let’s take a look at it objectively. When you first take up the 100, it feels pretty good in the hand. But the more you hold it, the more odd it feels. It gets to be downright awkward. The pistol’s styling is also interesting. They went to the trouble of making the gun as slick sided as possible, including the breaking of the slide release lever and take down pin into two separate parts instead of one combine unit. Then they hide the slide release under the frame and have the release lever sticking out an odd little window. It’s like a cross between something you might see on classic Star Trek and The Next Generation. The lines of the pistol are all wrong. Looking at it from a side view, it merely looks ugly. Change your viewing angle to look at it more from the front and it becomes absolutely hideous. This is the Pontiac Aztec of handguns.

Like the Pontiac Aztec, even for being an abomination, it does offer good utility. For example, you can sometimes fine CZ 100’s for under $300’s. They are very reliable. It has a unique belt/holster snag feature up on the top to help aid in one hand slide manipulation. They needed this because you can’t quite hook your belt on the rear sights… because as a cruel joke they topped this pistol with an adjustable rear sight as if someone with a room temperature IQ might mistake it for a target pistol. There is the hint of frame rails under the muzzle, tempting one to think it a tactical pistol. All the tactical lights I’ve tried on it either don’t fit and even if they did, they are not able to lock on to it. So it isn’t a tactical gun, or a target gun, and being a 9mm it is not an overly powerful gun… so what is it? I’m not exactly sure. I guess it is trying to be a self defense gun. Let’s see if it is.

If you can manage rowing that trigger all the way back, the gun will fire every time until you have emptied all 15 rounds. Of course you will feel like Ben Hur at the oars of a Roman galley by then, but still… the gun does work. That 15 round magazine is a decent payload for a gun so slim. The 100 is rather slick sided for being so ugly… but then again so is the Swamp Thing. All this can be yours, an easy packing, reliable, high capacity 9MM, for under $300. Like your momma told you about lima beans, it doesn’t matter how bad it tastes, it’s good for you. I’ve actually seen examples for sale for as low as $225. At that price you are at the Makarov level. I’m not sure which one I’d buy if they were side by side for the same price, but I’d probably lean to the Mak.

I don’t mean to bash the CZ 100 so completely, but I can’t help it. It is kind of like nachos… you can’t eat just one. Unless by one you mean a plate full. One plate full is a good stopping point. Those who are familiar to me, know that I am extremely fond of CZ firearms. So much so that one day I hope to make a pilgrimage to the Czech Republic to where CZ guns are made. My favorite handgun remains my CZ P-01. I especially like CZ’s magazine fed bolt action centerfire rifles. Dang near everything else from CZ I find to be excellent and most worthy. I wouldn’t hesitate to spend my own cash on anything from CZ, anything save the 100. The 100 is just awful and should be avoided as much as possible like it was mosquito borne West Nile Virus.

Unless you are a full blown CZ Freak and just have to anything and everything from CZ. That being the case, I can’t blame you. The 100 is a very interesting pistol. You can’t help but to look at it. Like a weird mole on the face of someone you are trying to talk to. There is some weird fascination about it that draws you to it. And that is the oddest thing about the CZ-100… for all it’s warts, for as ugly and utterly nasty as it is… you can’t help but to kind of like it. Like ET in a way. Shooting the 100 well is a challenge and there in is the draw. It’s like riding a GP class bike with a tight clutch and a throttle like the trigger on a detonator. Awkward and difficult… it’s fantastic. But it’s not something for everyone. Unlike the GP bike, the 100 is awkward and difficult, but it isn’t for anyone.

If this article contradicts its self, it is a good metaphor for the pistol.

CZ USA could make this a much more appealing weapon system, but it would require a completely different fire system. I would suggest they take a close hard look at a couple other good fire control systems. Kahr Arms has perhaps one of the best examples of a DAO (Double Action Only) system. Then again they could do it as a Single Action system like the Springfield XD. That would be my choice if I was the Head Honcho at CZ. I’d also do something to the looks and the size. I would clip the grip frame down to “CZ Compact” size, and then recontour the slide to something more appropriate to concealed carry. The weird way the slide overhangs the dust cover at the muzzle end… reminds me of the front end (the bow, sorry) of an Aircraft Carrier. But considering that CZ’s lineup already has better pistols for these purposes… the P-01, the PCR, really there is no point in the 100. There is no necessity for CZ to force out a polymer framed pistol before it is really ready for prime time. The only reason for using a plastic frame is to reduce weight. The only gun that this is needed in are for guns intended specifically for concealment. And CZ has already done a poly version of the RAMI. I guess the best thing for CZ to do would be to just drop the gun altogether.

Another thing about the 100 is that it has a brother. There is a .40 cal version that wasn’t imported into the USA. They called it the CZ-110. If you ever thought that the 100 was great, but it just needed a little more horsepower, well, your wrong. The 110 was just as bad as the 100 ever was but added snappier recoil. Good times. Ugly and awkward and now uncomfortable! Brilliant!

To sum up the CZ 100 quickly, if you are a CZ collector, fine, get it. If not, spend your money on a more worthy pistol.

 

NORTH AMERICAN ARMS GUARDIAN .380.

NORTH AMERICAN ARMS GUARDIAN .380.

The NAA Guardian has long been one of my favorite little pistols. I have no specific reason to validate that bias… there are pistols out there that are a bit smaller. Some that are lighter. Some that are more powerful. In a race for first places, the Guardian doesn’t win any category firsts. Yet when you take in all the score averages, it comes in with the most points in my book.

Some guys might not like it because they think it might be too heavy. Or the trigger pull too long and too weighty. The slide might be too hard to pull back. The sights might be too hard to see. You know what? They are right. The Guardian has a way of turning negatives into positives. Let me explain. The sights are just about useless. They are too small and narrow to be effective. But this does not matter because the intended purpose of the weapon, they are not even going to be used. The slide is hard to cycle by hand because the gun uses a blow-back action. It isn’t an elegant system, but it is very reliable. As long as the ammo works, the gun is going to work. The trigger is long because it is a double action only design… which gives the gun added safety and simplicity of use. It is as simple to run as a revolver. It doesn’t need a safety lever to worry about.

Overall the Guardian is greater than the sum of it’s parts. When you are walking from your office out to your car late at night and parking lot looks spooky, you can feel that reassuring weight in your pocket letting you know that you are prepared. As you walk, you casually slip your hands in your pockets and your right hand slides over and around the grips. The cool steel whispers a comforting voice to your mind, “you will be okay.” Should a goblin appear, the snag free profile draws quickly and easily from the pocket holster. You don’t have to think about working the action or dropping the safety because the gun is always there for you, always ready. You might be scared and under stressed. Maybe your trigger finger is already on the trigger while you cover the potential assailant… under such stress a lighter trigger might be pulled all the way resulting in a negligent discharge. This happens to members of law enforcement sometimes… it could happen to anyone. With the Guardian’s longer pull this isn’t so much of a danger.

Should you have to fire, the .380 ACP cartridge is going to bark and snap and send out a 90 grain jacketed hollow point to deliver your cease and desist order. While a .380 isn’t the most powerful round out there, the Guardian’s 6+1 capacity will certainly make a convincing argument to the goblin that it picked the wrong victim. The Guardian’s magazine release is in the standard American position on the side behind the trigger… if you practiced, you can reload the pistol quickly. But by this time the Goblin could be laying on the ground bleeding out and you could be using your other hand to call 911 on your cell phone.

Of course all the above is a worst case scenario. But that is what we are all about… we hope for the best, but plan for the worst. A concealed carry gun like the Guardian is such a simple thing, like a seatbelt or a parachute. It can only do it’s job if you strap it on before you take off.

My last gun review I mentioned the shooting at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City. Since then we have had the shooting at Virginia Tech… Unlike at Trolley Square, there was no one at the scene armed with a concealed weapon. Had there been, the outcome could have been different. The body count could have been a lot less. Here is the clincher, there were people who had the concealed carry permits, but didn’t have the weapons on them. That was because of the Virginia Tech no weapons policy. That is the thing that bothers me the most. 30 victims died after the police were already on the campus. I’m not going to disrespect the police here, but I am going to say this: Personal Security is a Personal Responsibility. Remember that.

For that purpose you have to have your weapon on you at all times. You can’t leave it at home. You can’t leave it in your vehicle. You can’t leave it in your purse back at your desk. You have to have it on your person, and where you can access it without drawing attention to yourself.

This is where the Guardian comes into play. Carried in a pocket holster, the gun is invisible and you can look cool as a jewel as you stand there with your hands in your pockets, in about as nonthreatening a pose as you can be… yet be ready to instantly respond to a threat. In an inside the waistband holster tucked in behind your hip the Guardian is easily forgotten and unnoticed… but it is always going to be there for you.

As I mentioned in the first part of this series on the Ultimate Concealed Carry Gun I laid out some reasons for our selection of the Guardian as our gun of choice. Let’s review. We wanted a gun that was small. We wanted a gun that was solid. We wanted at least a .380 caliber. We wanted the highest quality while avoiding high premiums. We wanted reliability. After filtering all the gun industry’s products, the result was the North American Arms Guardian.

Let’s take a look at the internals. The Guardian doesn’t break down in the usual way. There is a small take down button on one side. Hitting that button allows you to lift the rear of the slide up and off the frame and then slide it forward off the barrel. Here is the interesting thing about the Guardian, the frame and the barrel are both one part. So you have the frame/barrel, the slide, and the recoil springs with that little weird spring plug.

I took my example apart and was struck by the bigger hammer approach that NAA used in the design. Even in the small parts there is a large dose of rugged built in. This is a sturdy little fellow. If the Guardian was a character from Lord of the Rings, it would be Gimli the dwarf. Small, tough, and full of attitude.

It was also a little rough. I used a new product called Ultra Blue by Microlon. The color is like the blue milk that Luke Skywalker drank in episode 3. Strange or not, it’s some really slick stuff. With a little bit if that blue stuff and some hand cycling, the Guardian smoothed out a lot.

During test firing, I ran through four boxes of shells with no problems. The reliability is there. As the saying goes, “accuracy is fine, but reliability is final.” I would have no problem packing this gun as a daily carry item. Even if it isn’t my main gun, it can always ride as a backup. In a pocket or on the ankle, it can always be there for me.

There are some things about the Guardian that I would want to change. Oh sure, the gun is fine as it is… but I want it to be better. I want NAA to deck it out as the “Vee Dub” commercials say “Pimp zee Auto.” I want it to be slicker. I want the edges to be melted a bit. And as always I want there to be tritium in the front sight post. I would also like something a bit more in the looks department. Dress it up a bit for me. Nice wood grips maybe, but those don’t contribute anything but pure cosmetics… but it would still be nice.

Even if it is a concealed carry gun, I want it to look cool. I don’t care if no one ever sees it. Like a tattoo under your clothes… you know it’s there.

The Guardian is a great starting platform for The Ultimate Concealed Carry Pistol… Let’s see what we can do with it and how it turns out.

Caliber: .380 ACP

Magazine Capacity: 6+1

Operation: Double Action Only

Material: 17-4 pH stainless steel

Barrel Length: 2.49″

Height: 3.53″

Overall Length: 4.75″

Width: 0.930″

Weight: 18.72 ozs. unloaded

Suggested Retail Price: $449.00

EAA Witness Compact 10mm:

EAA Witness Compact 10mm:

This review was published by Concealed Carry Magazine, for the photos that go along with this article, check out Concealed Carry Magazine.

SICK OF COMPROMISE:

The one thing that has always bothered me about Concealed Carry type guns is that they are all about compromise. You give up power for smaller size. You give up accuracy for a shorter barrel. You give up everything you really want in a handgun for the ability to have it on you all the time. Maybe I’ve grown cranky. Maybe I’m just fed up. Whatever the source of my feelings, I’m tired of compromises. I’m tired of shooting tiny guns that only make small holes, or dent paper. I want some raw horse power. I want some excessive force. And I want it with some decent accuracy, control and something that could get me through a knock down, drag out gun fight. A real gun. But it can’t be a 1911, and it can’t be a .45… or Tim would string me up with my own gunbelt.

SOMETHING DIFFERENT:

I was given the chance to “pick something” from the EAA catalog for review. Anything. Then shoot the hell out of it and see if it holds up. I’ve done 9’s and I don’t like .40’s all that much, and you are all sick of my gushing on .45 ACP. So I picked a Compact Witness in 10mm. This is an all steel, double action, 10 round, 10mm pistol with a 4 inch barrel, fixed 3 dot sights, and EAA’s “Wonder Finish”. The MSRP is only $450. That’s what it is, but it doesn’t really tell you guys what it really is. The gun is rather heavy for its size. Being that it is in a caliber with such potency, that weight is not a downside. The gun is in an intermediate size for being called a compact. I guess it is smaller than the full sized gun, but it isn’t really all that compact. The gun is thick through the grip so you can really hold on to it, but the length is too short to get all your fingers aboard. Even with the magazine’s finger extension, you still cant get your pinky to join the others on the gun. This might not be an issue for you out there with knuckles that are not swollen from arthritis. The Wonder Finish is an attractive finish that feels slick to the touch. It reminds me of NP3, for those that know what that is. As good looking as the finish is, the one thing I really like about it is that it is very easy to clean. After test firing all I did was spray it down with a little Hoppe’s #9, rinse that off with a little Hornady One Shot, then wiped it off. It looked clean as new and was slick as ever. Some Hoppe’s and a bore snake cleaned inside the barrel, and I put a little Tetra Gun Oil on the rails and sear and that was it. I was done cleaning in about 2 minutes.

THE CARTRIDGE:

This little beast is chambered for is something that most shooters are not familiar with. I showed it to a few guys, and they had never seen nor heard of 10MM before. (I know I live in the sticks, but there are good people here) So let’s review a little history. The 10mm was introduced in 1983 in conjunction with the Bren Ten pistol by the well known firearms house of Dornaus & Dixon… We all know those guys, right? No, me neither. All I know about them was that they had this pistol that was an epic flop. The famous Jeff Cooper was a huge supported of the Bren Ten, and the pistol was good. It just never caught on. I don’t know why. The cartridge is brilliant. It can be chambered in guns that you can chamber .45 in, meaning 1911 type guns. It offers a wide performance spectrum from target loads to deer hunting loads. You can go from 135 grain bullets at 1600 fps, to 200 grain bullets at 1200 fps. This gives you performance like no other auto cartridge… you want this sort of versatility in a more common platform, you will have to go with a .357 magnum or a .41 magnum because the 10mm is right in between those two. That’s a lot of power and flexibility that you just don’t find in your normal automatic pistol. Especially not an auto for concealed carry purposes.

In 1986 in Dade County Florida, the FBI got into a big shootout with a couple of baddies who didn’t fall over dead like they were supposed to. The Agents hit them repeatedly, but the baddies kept fighting, and Agents got killed. The FBI reevaluated everything about their side arms. They examined the calibers and the bullets and they added it all up. The answer was the 10mm.

Unfortunately for all the lawyers and accountants the FBI hires, the 10mm was too much for them. Too much recoil. So they downloaded the cartridge to mild levels. S&W said that they could do that in a 9mm length cartridge and put it into a smaller gun… and that’s how we got the .40 S&W cartridge, called the Short and Weak by those who had become used to the 10mm.

Looking back at this development, I can see that it was a good move and now most handguns are chambered in 9mm, .40 S&W, or .45 ACP. The downside is that the 10mm just fell out of the public eye. Today, it’s almost invisible. The gun store that I work at doesn’t carry 10mm ammunition, and we don’t carry any 10mm guns either. I drove out to SLC, Utah and stopped by every gun store that I knew of. It took all day, but I hit 9 shops. Only one of them stocked ammo, and none of them had a pistol. The one place that did have some ammo, only had 4 boxes. 4 boxes in a city of 2 million. I was discouraged. Fortunately there is the internet, and more ammo was ordered.

TIME TO SHOOT:

I didn’t want to shoot this gun alone… I wanted second opinions. Shooting Buddy Ben came with me one time, then The Travis came with me another time. We are all in agreement that the gun shoots very well, accuracy is more than acceptable, and the recoil isn’t just manageable, but enjoyable. Ben made a comment worth note, “The FBI couldn’t handle this? Sissies.

I agree. The 10mm out of an all steel gun is really not much more kick than a .45, and I once taught a little Japanese lady that weight less than two bags of dog food how to shoot a .45 and she did great with it.

Ben and I decided to shoot at steel. The base plate of an abandoned oven is made of sheet metal thicker than most desert dwelling kitchen appliances. Ben had his trusted XD Tactical .45 that we used for comparison. The 5 inch barreled .45, shooting 230 grain FMJ Blazer Brass loads, punched through the metal, but pushed in a big dent before breaking through it. The EAA Witness 10mm with its 4” tube blasted through the same metal so easily that it looked like we used a Dewalt power drill. The penetration is incredibly impressive. You don’t see this sort of power from a gun you hide on your person.

We did find an interesting problem with the gun. EAA only sent us one magazine for the pistol, so I can’t tell if it’s a mag issue or an ammo issue. American Eagle 180 grain rounds would jam the gun on the second round from the last in the magazine – every time. This was a failure to feed as the round would stand up in the magazine and the slide close on that side of the cartridge. First thought was that this is obviously a magazine issue, but it only happened with AE 180’s. Norma, Buffalo Bore, Hornady, PMC, and Winchester did not jam.

The other thing that we all agreed upon was that the gun its self still needs a little work. The slide seemed to batter the frame pretty good, especially with the hotter Norma and Winchester loads. I think the spring is a bit too light from the factory, it could be two to four pounds heavier. The gun has some sharp corners around the trigger guard and muzzle. The front sight post is formed with the slide instead of dovetailed in like it should be. This means you can’t install night sights, or different sized posts to adjust the point of impact for different loadings.

CONCLUSION:

While the gun is good as it is… especially for the money. It could easily be better. You could take it from about a 7, to a solid 9.

The gun falls in a unique category in that it is big enough to not be as easily concealable as a compact, yet too small to be a target type gun. It needs to be optimized for our concealment purposes. Here is what needs to be done. First off, the sights. I know I always bitch about the sights on a pistol or hail them as needed. Sights and trigger are two critical things that can not be skimped on. EAA should have a guy in house to grind off the front sight post, cut in a dovetail, and put in Tritium night sights. That is a must for a gun to be taken seriously by me. Target guns and Defense guns need two different kinds of sights. Different purposes. This EAA Compact Witness is supposed to be a Defensive gun. The grips. The grip panels on the gun are good and… er… grippy. They help soak up the recoil a lot and make shooting this 10MM a joy. Unfortunately they are too thick. And the soft rubber allows fabric to cling, making the gun print too much. In my attempts to conceal this gun, I found that it printed too much under just light shirts like what I like to wear in warm weather. You would have to wear a sports coat over this thing to keep it hidden. I suggest to get rid of the grips and use thin profile aluminum grips from Hogue. This would slim down the profile a great deal and make packing CCW much much easier. The finger rest on the magazine is another thing. The gun is too short for a 3 finger grip, and the finger rest doesn’t help me one bit. Go ahead and let the pinky swing free on this one, and let the gun be just that much shorter for concealment. Now for the biggie. I’ve not tested a handgun that BEGS for a Melt Job more than this Witness. It has sharp edges on its sharp edges. The front of the gun has the full length rails that extend to the muzzle, all they way past any point of being useful, straight to being irritating. If this was taken to a belt sander for about a minute and a half – it would be brilliant. A custom gunsmith should be able to do this to your gun with very little effort, but with huge returns. Of course then he would have to refinish it and you would lose the Wonder Finish – which even EAA can’t tell me what it is. One last thing. The gun needs a recoil spring about 2 pounds heavier. Wolff Gun Springs can fix that one with no problem.

Considering the price of a new EAA Witness… having this work done to it wouldn’t be out of the realm of reasonable when you take into account what you would then have in your hands. A concealed carry gun that makes no compromises.

 

S&W Bodyguard .380

It’s been some time since my last article for Concealed Carry Magazine. I’ve been meaning to write one sooner, but to be perfectly honest, most of the new concealable handguns that have been coming out have just not sparked much of an interest in me. I’ve been bored with most of the options out there and no one wanted another Compact 1911 article. Most of this time off I’ve been packing SIG C3’s and 229’s and all year I’ve been packing a G23-RTF2 and that has all been from Mark Walter’s bad influence on me.

At SHOT 2010 I trudged through the show looking for something that peaked my interest enough to review. As I looked at all the new guns on the market, I really struggled with the malaise that’s been plaguing me when it comes to small handguns. That was until I walked into the S&W booth. They showed me their new Bodyguard BG380. Instantly my Spock Eyebrow went up. What’s this? A little auto pistol that I want to go shoot? Since Kahr hasn’t come out with a 10mm MK10 pistol, this would do.

While the BG380 is the same size as the other pocket .380’s that have dominated CCW handgun sales for the last two years, the new Smith is different. The difference comes from the whole feel of the gun. It’s as if S&W took an M&P pistol over to Walt Disney and put it in their “Honey, I shrunk the thing” machine. Normally when you shrink something, you lose a lot of qualities other than just size and weight… much like the Doberman Pincer shrunk to Toy Pincer size gives you a twitchy, fickle, and delicate thing. These Micro M&P’s are just as serviceable and snarly as the original… just in pocket size.

The most unique feature of the BG380 is the in-frame laser module. Insight Technologies makes it for S&W and we’ve not seen anything similar out there. The Module, should it fail, is replaceable. It’s fairly bright, but not as cohesive as other laser aiming devices from other companies. This isn’t a problem as this pistol isn’t meant for any longer range shooting, but I would have liked a more powerful laser. If I was Crimson Trace or Viridian, I’d be working on my own module to drop into the Bodyguard. The limitation on power comes of course from the batteries, and having the batteries within the frame as they did it makes me scratch my head. You can only shove so much battery in there. I’d have rather engineered the weapon to carry the batteries in the floorplate of the magazine and had power contacts on the sides of the magazine body. Dewalt knows how to do this, it wouldn’t be hard and they would have been able to use more battery. More battery is a good thing.

Some shooters argue against lasers as unnecessary gadgets. It’s true that a laser isn’t a necessary thing, but any device that gives you any sort of an advantage in target engagement or intimidation is a huge benefit… especially with pocket sized guns. Another thing some guys claim, is that sights are unnecessary to such small guns. However I checked the law books and I didn’t find any exceptions to gun laws or liability of gun use for small guns. You launch a bullet out of a small gun, you are just as liable for where it goes. And for a pocket gun with the purpose of defensive use, that bullet needs to go exactly where it will do the most work. Shot Placement is even more critical in small defensive guns.

The pistol its self is just the platform from which the projectile is launched… and the BG380 gives you a small, concealable platform that you can have on you at all times, or just when greater discretion is required. The only thing one is giving up with the BG380 is power. I can’t let this review go by without mentioning that I consider the .380 Auto round to be the minimum cartridge which I deem as acceptable for defense. It falls someplace in the Force Continuum between “Harsh Language” and 9mm. I would only use it when guns of greater caliber are not an option. While I am not a huge fan of the .380 auto, I must admit to being a fan of the Bodyguard. It’s cool, it’s reliable, it works. It’s an absolute buy for those looking for a pocket pistol.