Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ultra thin grips for my Tokarev

Have you ever wanted thinner grips on your Tokarev? I didn't at first, Toks are pretty thin to begin with. Then I read about how someone will carry his Tok without the grips on to minimize it's width and I though "that can't be the smartest idea". Then I modified some wrap-around grips which improve the grip angle to add a beaver tail for comfort. They help tremendously with pointing and now don't bite back, but are pretty bulky overall rivaling most double stack grips. I can see the attraction to thin.

My Norinco 213's a 9mm with the mag spacer in the grip (not the mag) so carrying it without grips would quickly cause the spacer to fall out, not to mention I can't stand the standard grip angle. So after some brain storming and a little inspiration from glocktails I came up with a way to make the thinnest grips I could think of without any permanent modification or without too much work all while improving the standard grip angle. Check it out!
The answer is kydex. I've been playing around with it for several months and I've found it's very easy to work with. I started out first trying to determine how much I wanted to change the grip angle. I did that by overlaying a picture of the Tok on top of a picture of a Sig (which always fit me well) to see how much to add on the back end of the grip. Then I took the current grips off the Tok and played around with paper mockups. Here's a download of the template I used (in pdf). Once I got a mockup that looked right I traced it out on a sheet of the thinnest kydex I could find (not sure of the exact measurement). Because it's so thin it makes it that much easier to cut it out. I don't own a band saw so I had to use scissors and a couple sharp knives to carve out the hard parts. The next part was to do the final fitting to the gun (very small sharp knives help with this part the most). There were a few places I made adjustments to that aren't on the template. Once cut, then I used a heat gun to fold it into place and fit snugly on the gun. Then I took some sandpaper and smoothed out all the edges. I was surprised at how it almost snapped into place, but it did slide around a bit. That's where using a Hogue Hand-All Jr. comes into play. I had one laying around that had been trimmed a bit to fit a different gun. In my attempts to get it on I tore it and had to do a bit more trimming than I originally wanted, but in the end I like it all the same. One day I may pick up an unmolested Hand-All Jr. to replace it, but for now it works well keeping the kydex in place and telling my hand where all my fingers should go.

It feels great in the hand now. I think I got the angle just about perfect. Even my wife thinks it grips better now than with the thicker grips. The reason I didn't add a tail to it is because I think the only reason I was getting nipped with the wider grips is because the width plus the adjusted grip angle pushed the web of my hand up. I'm pretty sure that because these are so thin my hand won't intrude into the hammer area. For a concealed carry gun these are perhaps the best grips that I can think of for a Tokarev.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Appendix Carry: Homemade Holster for a Kahr PM9

First a little background:

I've had my little PM9 for a while now and it's been great as a pocket gun with the homemade pocket holster I made for it. The problem is I carry so much stuff in my pockets that sometimes the bug can't go with me and I just stick with my primary. Then a couple weeks ago I went to Florida for a family vacation and decided to bring my wife's snub nose .38 special. It's adorned with Barami Hip Grips so that it can simply be slid into the waistline sans holster. This was my first extended session of appendix carry with any firearm and it wasn't as intolerable as it would seem.

The ease at simply stuffing the gun in my waistband at the easily accessible 1:00-2:00 o'clock position and heading out without worrying about tucking or the gun sliding down my pants all without having to wear a belt was a revelation. In Florida my attire was always ultra casual with a t-shirt and shorts which is ideal for "stuff & go", but at home about 94.8% of the time I'm in pants with a tucked in shirt. The hip grips aren't tuckable and besides the snub stays with the wife. That leaves me with my PM9 and an idea.

About Appendix Carry:

Appendix carry isn't nearly as widely used as strong side carry for a number of reasons. First, it requires a gun with a very short barrel and grip, both as thin as possible. In front of your hip, if your gun has too long a barrel it'll jab your leg like crazy when you sit down. Trust me, it's not fun. Some guns that could work are: Kahr's subcompacts, any of Kel-tec's line, the Walther PPS, Taurus' subcompacts, J-frame sized snubs, and probably any 3" 1911. Some folks can get away using double stack subcompacts like the Glock 26, but they're significantly thicker. Second, not everyone's body type will work with a gun in that position. This is not to say that you can't have a gut if you want to appendix carry, but if it's spilling over your belt then it definitely won't be comfortable. Lastly, there is the common fear (mostly among men) that appendix carry places the weapon dangerously close to the family jewels. My belief is that with the right weapon, holster and proper training (ie muzzle control, finger placement, etc.) appendix carry is no more dangerous than any other form of carry.

The pros to appendix carry are significant. You have quick easy access with optional access with your weak hand if necessary. It takes less shoulder articulation to draw from your centerline than from past the 3 o'clock position strong side. It is also much easier to draw while seated from this position when driving. If for some reason your strong hand has become disabled you can still reach your firearm with your weak hand. For concealed carry purposes, you have constant awareness of your gun's concealment. It's much easier to lessen the chance of being "made" because of inadvertent exposure with the gun directly in front of you than to your side or behind you. If being able to tuck in your shirt is a requirement than that always adds an additional layer difficulty to quickly accessing and drawing. The solution is simple; practice, practice, practice.

My Homemade Appendix Holster:

A few months back I bought a few sheets of kydex to play with. I'd seen a couple tutorials online showing how easy it was to form it and I thought I'd try my hand at it. At the time I had a Kel-tec P3AT and tried making a holster for it. My attempt was mildly successful in that it could hold the gun and protect the trigger when worn, but it was very rough and totally uncomfortable. I sold that gun and tossed the holster in a box. My next pocket gun purchase was my PM9 and when I thought about trying out appendix carry I dug out that first kydex try and realizing that there might be enough kydex there to reform it around the PM9 I figured why not try.
Kydex is cool stuff and short of cutting it into shreds it gives you multiple tries to reshape it however you want. I wanted the kydex to cover fairly high on both sides of the slide, not only as a sweat shield against my skin, but also to ease reholstering. Many other kydex designs like to trim it low on the belt side and if the whole holster is worn low on the waist sometimes the pants or belt will slightly cover the holster opening. My Crossbreed can do that at times as you'll see in the video below. I also used a separate clip so that a shirt can be tucked over the gun. You might recognize the clip, it's actually scavenged from a Comp-Tac CTAC holster that came with the PM9 from the previous owner. It's a 1.25" clip which works great since it almost completely hides behind my 1.5" belt. The extra holes drilled into it are from experimenting with different clips & attachments at different times. The design is kind of a cross between the Comp-Tac's 2 O'clock and the Ehud Appendix Carry Holster. With a gun as light as the PM9 there's no worries about the single clip attachment being sufficient to support the weight. I've worn this holster in workout shorts and as long as I tighten the drawstring I haven't had any problems with the holster pulling out on the draw. Having a single attachment point in this position also helps in that the gun has a little bit of leeway to rotate when sitting down or twisting which helps in the comfort department.

Speaking about comfort, which is probably at the top of the list of desirable traits, this holster ranks a solid 7.5 out of 10. I rounded off all the edges I could, but because kydex is so stiff it can still poke at times. Unlike my Crossbreed which can at many times be forgotten when being worn, you can always remember you're wearing this holster. That's really not a bad thing, but it could be more comfortable. I could see a leather version having more give, except it could never be as thin as kydex and unless it had a reinforced mouth (more thickness) it would quickly collapse after the draw.
As you can see in these pictures concealment is quite good. Even from the side because of the tucked in shirt and small size of the gun there's no discernible bulge. At times the bottom part of the clip may peek under the belt, but it's not very noticeable and easily overlooked (you can see it in the video below).
Below I included a short video showing both this holster and my Crossbreed SuperTuck in use. Appendix carry is good way to carry your primary or even your bug. Give it a try.