Saturday, August 23, 2008

Stuff & Go - A Semi & A Snub

There has been volumes written about the pros and cons of revolvers vs. semi automatic pistols so I'm going to focus this post on a more practical application of the two: the "Stuff & Go Gun".

Stuff & go means exactly as it sounds. It refers to the need to occasionally be able to quickly & easily grab a gun, stuff it in your pants and go. This need can arise at anytime in any clothing you might be wearing at the time. I can't count how many times I've needed to do this to: take the dog out, run to the grocery store for creamer so my wife can enjoy a cup of coffee, grab Waffle House to bring home for breakfast (like this morning), or going out to eat after working out at the gym. At these times I'm not in my typical work week clothing which dictates belted pants and a tucked in shirt, but in a t-shirt and shorts or sweatpants. Although, for me it's not an everyday carry method it is a definite need if I want to be armed at all times.

Some of you are going to ask, "Why not pocket carry?". The simple answer is that in order to pocket carry you must first have a pocket. The beauty of S&G is that all you need (clothing-wise) is a waistband and some kind of shirt which if you're going out in public you're most likely going to have. This, of course, doesn't take into account dresses (which my wife is glad I don't wear).

The requirements for a firearm to be a S&G gun may vary from person to person based on hand size, recoil sensitivity, body type and caliber preference. The fundamental characteristics will typically be small size & light weight to maximize comfort & concealment ability. The guns I am going to use in this comparison I've found to meet all of these requirements (after a little tweaking). The semi-auto is a Kahr PM9. The PM9 is uniquely suited for concealed carry because of it's amazing measurements and weight for a subcompact 9mm with 6+1 capacity. The revolver is a Charter Arms Undercover .38 special in double action only (DAO). This Undercover isn't the lightest offering by CA, but the extra ounces translate into less recoil & better control when shooting +P ammo.

Here's a direct comparison by the numbers:
-----------------Kahr PM9------Charter Arms Undercover .38
Carry Weight-----20.8 oz-----------------19.2 oz
Caliber------------9mm------------------.38 spl +P

Note: Carry weight takes into account everything needed to carry the gun in S&G condition. That means loaded with whatever carry grips or holster needed.

As you can see the semi's smaller in every dimension, but the revolver's lighter and in true revolver fashion because of it's rounded shape the extra tenths of an inch don't inhibit it's concealability. Neither of these guns comes out of the box ready for S&G carry since on the standard gun there's nothing to keep it from sliding down the waistband. Here's how I solved that problem and also what I added to aid in shooting comfort.

The RevolverDecades ago a company came up with an innovative idea to enable a revolver to be carried inside the waistband without a standard holster so it won't slide down. The Barami Corporation created the Barami Hip Grips that use a "right grip panel that has an "extension" that flares away from the gun slightly, creating a surface that when inserted inside the waistband (trousers, shorts, skirts, etc.) it hooks over it" (taken straight from their website). It's a very convenient way to carry as you never have to tote around the extra weight or bulk of a holster. The downside to the hip grips are that it does replace the comfortable factory grips. They don't add any extra height or length. Because they are so minimal there's not much to get a solid grip so I added another innovation from decades ago, the Tyler T-grip. The T-grip is a simple attachment to the front strap of the grip that allows more for your fingers to hold onto. They are made for many different size revolvers so I got one designed for a larger revolver then trimmed off the bottom and then coated the whole thing in PlastiDip spray to give it a slightly rubbery feel.

The Semi Automatic
Some of you may see this picture and wonder why I choose to use a holster with this gun instead of going with something similar to the Barami Hip Grip such as the Covert Carrier. The reason I feel like a holster is necessary with this gun is because of how light the Kahr's trigger is at a little over 6 lbs. Although the pull is longer than any single action trigger it is noticeably shorter than that of the revolver. Because of both of these facts I don't feel comfortable carrying it without the trigger covered hence the holster. The holster is a homemade kydex one I pieced together from a previous holster I'd made. I integrated the clip into the holster to make it as thin as possible and it works. The clip works to stay attached to the waistband by catching it on the draw. The waistband must be fairly snug for it to work properly, but I don't like my shorts sagging so that's not an issue. For added comfort I added a Pearce Grip Extension to the magazine bottom which allows my whole hand to wrap around the grip.

They both look just like this when concealed so I'm just showing one picture.
The revolver
The semi auto
As you can see concealment with either is great. The semi does have more grip to hide with the finger extension. On the draw the semi wins out because it's grip is more accessible and the kydex holster gives it a smooth release. The revolver has the disadvantage dealing with the width of the cylinder. In comfort the revolver bests the semi because there's less of it at the muzzle end, but the semi doesn't cause any pain. It is just more noticeable. The semi has the capacity advantage (7 vs. 5). The revolver has the weight advantage being 1.6 ounces lighter. In shooting they are both natural pointers. The semi gives better accuracy at distance though the revolver isn't too shabby. Of course, the revolver has less chance of jamming.

Each has it's pluses and minuses, but both can do the job of Stuff & Go and do it very well.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tuckable Pancake AIWB Holster With a J-clip

Those of you who've read my blog have probably read my first kydex holster attempt for my Kahr PM9 in this post. Since then I've been wearing it off and on taking note of it's deficiencies. As you can see in the first design I used a scabbard design. That means I used a single piece of kydex and folded it around the gun. It's a simple design, which is very easy to make and for the most part it works well. It's probably the most widely used basic design for holsters out there.

The problem I was having with this holster mostly had to do with concealment. I had designed it to be tuckable with the shirt tucked over it behind a single kydex clip. The clip I was using is a standard (old-style) Comp-tac clip. They have since updated their clips to be almost half the width (folks seem to really love them). Anyways, first off because the PM9 is a very light gun I could get away with just clipping the holster onto my pants with the belt covering the exposed clip. My pants holds the gun that way with no problem, but the clip had a tendency to peek out beneath my belt. Wearing dark pants it wasn't noticeable, but in light khaki's it stood out. Another problem was with my shirt tucked over the gun. My bloused shirt would at times find it's way behind the folded rounded part of the holster and cause me to have the discretely pull at my shirt. Neither of these problems were problems if I could wear an untucked shirt, but I can't go to work untucked.

My solution was to change the design of the holster from a scabbard to a pancake and to create a J-clip that could hide it's J section. Molding the kydex into a pancake holster is a lot harder than simply folding over a single piece. You have to work with two separate pieces that like to move and shift. I don't own a press like many people do who work with kydex which would have made this part easier, but after a lot of trial and error and the extensive use of a heat gun I got it to mold the way I wanted. I used a couple of eyelets to rivet the two pieces together and then went to work on the clip.
I got the design for the clip from watching a video on youtube about a knife sheath that clipped onto the belt and slid to hide the clip behind a belt loop. In the video you can't see the actual design, but I could picture how it would work. After cutting & molding the clip and then trying it out it does work. A benefit to it hiding behind a belt loop besides concealability is that it adds to the overall stability of the holster. Another thing I found is that most pants don't give too much extra space in the belt loops for both a double thickness gun belt and a clip. I can get it on there, but it takes a couple seconds to work it behind the belt loop.Here's a brief video displaying it in use along with my T-magster.

I've been able to wear it a few days and I really like it. It's comfortable to wear (IWB appendix carry is never as comfy as OWB) to the point that I leave it on even after I come home from work. It provides good retention and a quick draw (once the shirt's out of the way). It definitely conceals better since the pancake design helps flatten out the gun and holster so the shirt just slides over it smoothly.

This one's a keeper! Now I have an idea to make one that incorporates a spare mag...I can't stop myself!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

T-magster Double Stack with a J-clip

I was asked if this design would work well for a double stack mag and then asked if it could be made to use a J-clip for and attachment point. I said "Sure, why not" then tonight decided to put it to the test.

Here's my T-magster for a double stack S&W 469 mag. Note that these mags also work for Kel-tec's P11 which I've considered getting.Here's a picture with it being worn in the 11:00 o'clock position.
Here's it tucked and concealed.I plan on wearing it tomorrow and give it a spin.

Here's a video of it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

T-magster -> Update!

Say hello to the new and improved "T-magster"!

My wife came up with the name and I liked it so that's what I'm calling this new magazine carrier. This is a quick post about my latest updates to the design which I originally introduced in this previous post.
As you can see I shortened the "T". After wearing the original style for a day and a half it became uncomfortable because the extra extension would poke me when I sat. I realized that it didn't need to be so long to accommodate the amount of shirt that needed to be tucked in so I went about trimming it and reforming the kydex. You can also see that I improved the retention by dimpling the kydex where the mag catch is. This allows the magazine to click in and out so you know it won't start sliding out on it's own. Another feature that I made to enhance concealment is a slight tilt of the mag towards the body. I found that when the mag was straight up and down in line with the bottom T that it would lean out away from your body when attached to the belt. The slight tilt counteracts that and helps keep the mag close in.

With the refinements it's become an incredibly comfortable way to carry an easily accessible concealed spare magazine without taking up valuable pocket space.

I call this idea a solid success!

Friday, August 8, 2008

New Spare Mag Carrier - Horizontal, IWB, Tuckable & Kydex

To set the record straight, yes, new/different/clever designs ALWAYS interest me. When I get an idea in my head and putting it into action is within my capabilities then I have to at least attempt it. Here's my latest idea; a tuckable, "IWB", horizontal spare mag carrier/holster. That's a mouthful! I don't have a catchy name for it yet, maybe "T-mag Carrier" (since it looks like a T). If you think of something that fits give it a shout out.

Here's the background on the idea. Since it's the summer I've been carrying my Kahr PM9 quite a bit in my AIWB holster I made for it. It's a perfect carry gun if you can live with it's shortcomings such as shooting comfort, short sight radius, caliber & capacity. I've overcome comfort issues by adding a Pearce finger rest to my carry mag and by practice I can overcome the sight radius. I'm actually a fan of 9mm because of it's availability/price and with quality ammo it's a proven killer so caliber's not an issue for me. I have always been a tiny bit bothered by it's 6+1 capacity and I've been preached to before about always carrying an extra mag. I've always wanted to be able to carry one, but I've run out of pockets to drop one in and I have never been too thrilled at the meager offerings for IWB tuckable mag carriers. Yes, being tuckable is always a requirement for me. I'll get into that in a different post.

Then I had a light bulb moment. The issues I have with vertical mag carriers is that in order for them to be concealable with a cover garment they need to be positioned high on the belt. This can cause the top of the mag to poke you in the ribs. That's with OWB carriers. With IWB carriers they take up valuable space between your body and your belt. Almost all of the spare mag holders I've ever seen have been vertical except for a few, one by Galco and one by Safariland, neither of which are tuckable though I do like the simple concealable design of Safariland's except it uses noisy velcro to get to the mag. There are some simple kydex or kydex/leather designs out there that are tuckable, but all those place the mag vertical so that it adds bulk between you and your belt. My thoughts were that if you could place the magazine horizontal above and in line with the belt it wouldn't add any bulk to further squeeze my tender waist. My choice to make it out of super thin kydex came because I actually had a couple of sheets of it already that I'd been playing with. This design could be adapted using leather, but that involves skills I admit not having. The retention of the mag is through friction by tightly fitting the kydex around it. It won't fall out when turned upside down, but will pull free when grasped and pulled.

Next I had to decide how to attach it to my belt so that it wouldn't move or pullout unless I wanted it to. In this design the magazine is basically sitting on top of your belt so there's no real chance it'll fall down your pants (unless you wear your pants very very loose) so the attachment point would only be to maintain the carrier's position and to keep it from pulling out if vigorously accessed. In this instance I choose to use velcro because my Crossbreed gun belt is lined with it already and it's as stealthy as you can get. In the pictures you can see the generous gap I gave it to allow a shirt to tuck in. This can be made with less or more length based on whether you typically have a lot of shirt to tuck or shorter for more comfort when sitting.

Here are some pictures of it along with pics of it being worn.

Because tuckability is just an option it can be worn untucked for the few times I roam casual.

After trying it out for a day I'm happy to report that it works as expected. At this point I've just been wearing it 11:00 o'clock (opposite side from where I wear my PM9), but it could easily fit behind my left hip. It hides easily. I notice it's there, but it's definitely not uncomfortable. By untucking my shirt to access my gun I at the same time provide access to my extra mag if it's needed. Using an 8 round spare mag I can now carry a total of 15 rounds on me which is comforting.

Here's a video for ya'll.