Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Theis Holsters - Another Hybrid That Works!

It's been a while since I've posted anything so it's about time and I actually have a product review I'd like to share with everyone.

Theis Holsters is a relatively new company started by Tommy Theis who started making his holsters a couple years ago. He started simply selling through forums and has now made a pretty good name for himself through word of mouth. He fills a niche offering a holster very similar to Crossbreed's SuperTuck at a lower price point. He even gives customers an opportunity to get them at an even lower price by offering them with slightly blemished leather. They are still 100% functional, but the leather may have a scuff here or there. I opted for a blemished one to try them out for my Glock 36 which has become my EDC (everyday carry) gun.

Now about the holster itself. The Theis holster is pretty much an exact copy of a Crossbreed SuperTuck in terms of materials & overall design, but with a couple key differences. It's still uses a large piece of leather as the backing which provides comfortable carry IWB and a piece of kydex formed specifically for your gun attached to the leather with rivets. The choice of metal or kydex clips (over the belt or J-clips) is yours and they are adjustable with removable fasteners. It can be worn IWB and visible or IWB hidden under a tucked shirt.

The differences which may seem slight are still significant when it comes to overall functionality. First the kydex completely covers the slide. This helps protect your pants from excessive muzzle rub which I outlined in my long term review of the SuperTuck. The next difference is that it comes from Tommy with the "combat" cut already done. This allows for an easier grip of the gun when drawing. The SuperTuck does not do this standard, but will do it on request for a fee. When I got my first SuperTuck I had to perform this leather surgery myself which isn't hard to do, but it's nice to see Tommy do this right off the bat for his customers. The kydex is also trimmed more to help with the draw. The kydex is also formed tighter than the SuperTuck which locks the gun in. I can put the gun in it and turn it upside down without it coming out. I never could have done that with the SuperTuck though the P239's a little heavier than my Glock 36. I hope this helps minimize the slide wear I had previously. Like I said before these differences don't seem like much, but they are an improvement to the original Crossbreed design.

Other differences that I noticed are the leather of the Theis is a tad stiffer than the SuperTuck, though part of that may be because my SuperTuck has seen a lot of use and the Theis should break-in and soften over time. The edging on the leather isn't finished quite as nicely on the Theis, but that's being nit-picky and doesn't affect the functionality of this concealment holster at all. The hardware is slightly different, but still seems equally as sturdy. I ordered mine with the kydex J-clips and other than they being formed a little too small for my double thickness Crossbreed belt (a little heat fixed that) they are strong enough to do the job. From a concealment viewpoint I think they are a little less noticeable than normal clips. From a support standpoint they don't have any issues with carrying my Glock. As with any holster that carries anything ~25oz or so there is a very slight sag, but it's hardly noticeable. I've got a set of velcro clips that I'll probably put on it in the future to use for complete concealment.

In conclusion, I've very happy with this holster and think that this hybrid design is the best for everyday comfortable concealment. It is such a simple if not pretty solution that I'm not surprised that others have copied Crossbreed. I've seen Kholster's copy before and a few others on ebay so it's definitely proven to work. With a Theis Holster for about $40 you get a comfortable & concealable holster with a lifetime guarantee & a two week trial period. If you're like me and have tried many other holster designs you know that you usually only need two hours or less to determine if you'll actually use a given holster. Inside the waistband isn't for everyone, but where all other IWB designs may not work the hybrid design is one that just might do it for you. Give it a try!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Walther P99c; An Uncommon Choice

In a sea of Glocks, XD's, and M&P's the P99 series by Walther get ignored by the masses.

I recently got my hands on a P99c in .40 s&w. I must say that I am enjoying it. I've been an owner (my wife's actually) of a P22 and have always like shooting it and then I had the opportunity to pick up a P99c. The largely overlooked compact version of the P99 has a lot going for it for use in concealed carry. It's very similar in size (maybe a tad larger here & there) to the Glock 27 and actually a bit lighter. It uses a unique trigger system that mimics traditional double action/single action, but uses a striker instead of a hammer to ignite the bullet. To facilitate this, it has a manual decocker (located flush on the top of the slide) to take it out of single action mode and to allow disassembly without having to pull the trigger (like Glocks). The double action trigger pull is long and approximately 8.5lbs and the single action pull is shorter and about 4.5lbs. It's not hard to master and both are light enough to manipulate while staying on target. I prefer to put it in double action mode as an added safety while carrying it concealed.

Here are a couple shots of it.

One of the previous owners (at least two that I know of) had duracoated the slide and controls OD green and the barrel black. It was originally a Tennifer-like black finish so this really makes it stand out from the crowd.

It looks to be in great shape and doesn't look to have been shot all that much. I'm new to .40s&w which has a bit more snap than 9mm, but I'm getting used to it. I was impressed by it's accuracy. Here's the first mag full at 7 yards.
Things tightened up from there as I got more familiar with the trigger, though I must admit I would flinch every now and then.

I've picked up a couple extra magazines from
CDNN (they sell magazines for the similar S&W made SW99/SW99c which work perfectly). I also changed out the front sight with a Meprosight night sight that helps greatly in low light conditions.

I purchased a SmartCarry holster and have been carrying the P99c in it regularly for a couple months. It conceals easily and has been very comfortable. I'll probably write up a separate review on the SmartCarry at another time. I've been very happy with it so far.

If you're a fan of DA/SA pistols and would like to venture outside of the heavier metal hammer fired handguns that system is usually used for then look no further than Walther's highly underrated P99 series pistols. They come in either 9mm or 40s&w.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

How to Convert from 9mm to 7.62x25 on a Norinco 213 Tokarev Clone

I've learned a lot about Tokarev's since owning my Norinco 213. This Chinese version is very similar to all other Tokarev's except for it's chambering. Recently, I came across someone selling a barrel and matching bushing in the original 7.62x25 chambering and decided to try converting my Norinco.

There are a number of reasons to do this conversion from 9mm. Yes, 9mm is a larger diameter caliber and there are many many more defensive options for the 9mm, but my Norinco is strictly a range gun and won't primarily be used for defensive purposes. 7.62x25 ammo in many circles is considered almost a magnum round because of the speeds it can approach (similar to .357mag if loaded right). It has been shown to penetrate kevlar helmets. For those that like bigger bangs & more flash the 7.62x25 outblasts the 9mm. In addition to that merit, surplus ammo can be found at very low prices. If you shop around it can be found for 9.5cents a round compared to around 20cents a round for 9mm. So it's economical to shoot it much more. Thirdly, it gives me another option and I love more options.

I put together a video to show how everything goes together.

This is what's needed:
- Barrel chambered for 7.62x25
- Barrel bushing to match the barrel
- Wide magazines for 7.62x25

It's that easy!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Norinco 213: TT-33 Clone Modified Grips

I've written about my Norinco 213 before when I first modified some grips to include a beavertail and when I used kydex to make ulta-thin grips and a holster for concealed carry. I've finally come to what I think is my final set of grips for this gun.

The Tokarev TT-33 design does not lend itself to use as a concealed carry gun. The primary reason is simply safety. The only real safety on the gun is a half-cock notch which requires manually cocking the trigger before firing. Yes, I know that these Norinco & all the other later imports came with added "safeties", but they are more like afterthoughts than being truly usable & reliable. The 213 came with a thumb safety, but requires you to move it in the opposite direction from what's intuitive (back for fire & forward for safe). The Yugo's and Romanian's have a safety switch located behind the trigger, but these often required a modification of the flat spring that holds the slide stop pin in place which weakens the flat spring and in many cases causes it to break. The location of these safeties still (for me) is far from ideal and they don't inspire confidence to carry the gun cocked & locked like a standard 1911. For these reasons I have regulated my Tok to range duty with it in the far backseat for defensive use if pressed.

So for this role I want the most comfortable grips that allow me to get the most pleasure when shooting. I turned to my original modified grips which added the beavertail. They provide the best grip angle for natural point shooting (the originals caused me to aim very low) and they protect my hand from hammer bite. The original modified grips were coated in a rubbery Plasti-Dip spray which felt nice, but were not very durable. Since I've had such good luck using the textured spray paint on a couple of other projects I decided to use it here. The final product gives a solid no slip grip that seems to wear well. Because it's just normal paint I would be careful with using solvents around it. I'll just remove the grips if I need to do any heavy cleaning on the frame.

The front and rear sights have been dotted with white paint to help with acquiring them against a dark background. I've found that the standard sights although not quick to see are very fine and enable precision.
The trigger face has been sanded smooth and slightly rounded to remove the terrible sharp vertical grooves that were standard on this model. Their removal was totally necessary as they've drawn blood in the past.
I don't foresee doing much more to this gun, though I do have a bushing compensator that I might fit to it. Better sights would be nice, but would likely require cutting a front dovetail or drilling into the slide to stake a new sight. I'm not sure how Novak style sights would look on a Tok. It might be like putting HID headlights on a Model T.

I love the simplicity & ruggedness of the Tokarev TT-33 design and didn't want to disturb any of that with any of the modifications I've done to it.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

H&R (Harrington & Richardson) Model 950 22lr Revolver

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

As is the case for gift giving days most folks know that a firearm will always be appreciated by me. So this Christmas my inlaws presented me with this gorgeous 22lr revolver.

It is an H&R Model 950 nickel plated 9 shot double/single action 22lr revolver styled after the classic Colt single actions. I've been wanting a 22lr revolver to compliment our Wather P22 and this fits perfectly. It's a fun plinker that will also be used to practice trigger control. I just love how it looks too.

Here's a little background if you've never heard of H&R. They were in business from 1871 to 1986 (over 100 years!) and made a wide variety of pistols & long guns. They made some cool looking top break revolvers as well. Though some connect them to SNS (Saturday Night Special) guns their firearms were always well made and out of steel instead of pot metal alloys.

My example is a bit rarer being nickel plated instead of blued or case hardened as most others are. One neat thing is that this gun was made the year I was born 1976 so it's the same age as I am. The previous own obviously took very good care of it's finish because it's common to see bad examples of nickel plated guns. They can look like the gun has leprosy. What got me into looking at H&R revolvers is my father-in-law's own H&R Model 676 which has the option to fire 22lr or 22wmr depending on which cylinder you put in it. They also can be found fairly inexpensive which is always a plus. I've got a sweet spot for revolvers, but the ones in my "arsenal" don't lend themselves to just plain plinking. This one just screams PLINK ME!

It looks nice, but how does it handle & shoot? I know that I've criticized the oversized "shovel" target grips that are narrow at the top and get widdde at the bottom in the past, but for some reason the balance & weight of this SA styled revolver works perfectly with this kind of grip. It points naturally and just wants to stay there. The trigger takes some getting used to. In double action it's pretty heavy, but manageable. In single action it's quite nice, light & crisp. Because of it's weight (about 31oz) and the light recoil of the caliber I found that it's very easy to walk the bullets where you want them to go in double action. The front sight blade leaves a lot to be desired. Since it's nickel & rounded it never looks the same as it catches light differently everytime. It's thickness is well regulated with the rear sight unlike our P22 that has such a wide rear notch that precision is very difficult. It's no Ruger MKII, but I could hit an inch sized orange sticker target at 7 yards without trouble. I will admit that I'm no marksman and I'm still getting accustomed to the pistol. No doubt, others can do much much better. Point shooting is easily accomplished without focusing too much on the sights that it's still a lot of fun to plink with.

Loading is done by putting the hammer in half cock so the cylinder can be rotated and then opening the loading gate to access the chambers. To eject the spent shells; put it in half cock, open the loading gate and use the ejector rod to individually pop the shells out. As this is my first real experience with this method of loading & unloading I was surprised with how easy it is. It's not nearly as slow as I would have originally thought. For a gun that won't be used defensively and that may be used to show new shooters the ropes it suits me fine.

I will admit that my first time out with it I did have mechanical problems after the first several cylinders of shooting. What was happening was the trigger was sticking back when fired double action and had to be wiggled to return forward. Also sometimes the hammer wouldn't catch on the single action sear when manually cocked. I traced the problems to accumulated gunk built up on the inside that needed to be cleaned out. After a good cleaning and blowing out all the gunk it's worked perfectly since. Even with the above mentioned problems from earlier it never failed to fire and always hit hard enough to ignite the primers.

Here are a couple parting shots.

She sure is a beauty!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Stone Grip! ...No Not Really

I picked up another old grip someone didn't need for my Dan Wesson Model 14. I love my walnut grip I had reshaped for it, but I wanted something I didn't have to worry about messing up and I wanted to try something different.

At first glance the old grip looked similar to my other grip before reshaping and refinishing. The only difference that I could tell at first was that it looked to be painted and not varnished like the other grip. I started sanding it down past the painted finished and low and behold it's not walnut under that paint, but some kind of plastic. These grips must have been formed using a mold that was filled with plastic reinforced with wood. *edit - I was informed that this material was marketed by Dan Wesson by the name of Powerwood, it's both light & tough. These plastic grips actually worked out great for what I had in mind for it since now I really didn't have to worry about messing up a nice piece of wood. One strange thing with this plastic is that it is fairly porous, so you can see that in a couple spots on the pictures. I used my walnut grips as a kind of template and carved these into a similar shape. This time I decided to make them even smaller. One thing I don't care for about the walnut grips is that they are fairly slick. I had considered trying to stipple them, but I was afraid to mess up. This time around I wanted a more textured grip so I didn't worry about sanding them smooth. Compared to the walnut this plastic is a lot easier to carve so things went pretty fast. I carved it down past where the screw become recessed so I simply countersunk the hole and painted a screw black that would fit it flush.

On a previous project I used a textured paint on a Tyler T-grip to give it more traction with my fingers so I thought this would be a good chance to try it on full grips. I didn't think the color I had (Aged Iron) would look good with the worn bluing on my DW so I picked out a dark brown (Autumn Brown) to use. Before applying it I sealed the plastic with a black lacquer to help it stick a bit better. In the end, I ended up with a nice texture that won't slide around in my hand and should hold up well.

Here are pictures.

My hands are large enough to utilize the pinky rest while my wife prefers to grip it like in the lower picture where her pinky sits above it.

All in all, very happy with how this project worked out. If they hold up fine at the range, I'll probably keep these grips on the gun most of the time.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Appendix IWB Kydex Holster for a S&W 908

After proving my newest acquisition, the Smith & Wesson 908, was reliable and accurate enough and then carrying it a couple weeks concealed & tucked I decided it needed it's own holster. Since it fits very well in the Crossbreed SuperTuck that I use tucked at the 4 o'clock position I don't need that kind of holster. For winter carry, when I can wear sweaters or fleeces I like to carry at the appendix location. It enables a quick draw and because it's directly in front of me I have more control over exposure. I've also found that it isn't nearly as uncomfortable as most people would think.

I've made similar holsters before, but at times had problems with clip breakage. So this time I decided to go with the slightly thicker kydex I had (.080 gauge vs. .060 gauge). It adds minimal thickness, but also adds much more strength to the J-clips. The design is a single piece folded scabbard integrating the J-clips secured using one bolt/nut. The .080 gauge kydex is too thick for me to use the rivets I have, but I actually like the idea of being able to take it completely apart in case it ever needs to be totally cleaned. Here are pictures.
It fits tightly, but draws quickly and smoothly. This holster holds the gun much like a traditional leather holster does where it feels like it grips the gun all over. Most kydex holsters rely on clicking points (typically the trigger guard) which cause the gun to click or snap in and out of the holster. It all comes down to personal preference, but I'm happy with it's retention. I put together a short video showing this holster & gun concealed.