Saturday, January 31, 2009

Smith & Wesson 469: A Proven CCW

Here's a look at an oldie, but goodie - Smith & Wesson's 469. It's a compact double stack 9mm with a blued slide, alloy frame, and DA/SA with decocker/safety from the early 1980's. I got this one on a trade a little while back and instantly liked the way it felt in my hand. The great thing is it's almost the same size and weight as my Sig P239, but it holds 12+1 rounds of 9mm vs. 8+1 for the Sig. The one place where it's noticeably bigger is in it's thickness. I've made it my winter carry gun so the extra thickness doesn't make much difference under a cover garment. In mentioning capacity one cool thing is that it can take any of the even higher capacity magazines that S&W produces. I've read where someone actually used a 30 round stick magazine and a 72 round drum. The more practical application is to use the 15 round magazines from the larger 59 series guns as a spare and leave the 12 rounder for carry.

Barrel ----Total---- Weight
Length ---Length-- (empty)
3.5 in. ----6.875 in. --26 oz.

As you can see it has definitely seen some use. I like to think that it was a cop's gun and all the character marks are from years of reliable service. After putting it through it's paces I've found that it points well, is more than accurate enough and has been totally reliable. The trigger is a bit different than what I'm used to. It uses a half cock notch that you can feel when you pull the trigger in double action. To avoid that little hitch, the hammer can be put in half cock after decocking. The double action pull is fairly smooth and easy to stage. Single action isn't as crisp as the Sig's, but it's got a better reset.

One area that I had to change was the original front sight. It was a slanted blade with a vertical line going down the center of it that was integral to the slide. It was ok, but was really hard to see in low light. When I changed out the front sight of my Sig with a night sight I picked up a second night sight with the idea of putting it on the 469 slide. Now, most would then have taken the slide to a gunsmith to have the original sight taken off and a dovetail cut to fit, but I felt a little more ambitious. Yes, that's right using a small file set I hand filed off the front sight and cut a dovetail. It's not perfect, but it works. Take a look at my work.
It still needs a little cold blue on the raw steel, but I'm happy with how it turned out. Now I can easily pick up the front sight in the dark. After taking it to the range it withstood 50 rounds without budging. There I found that to get the right elevation using the new front sight and the original rear required holding the front dot right in line with the top of the rear sight. After a little practice it works well and puts me right in the black.

Future modifications might include a refinish and swapping out the rear sight for a slightly higher Novak style, but for now it's the way I like my carry guns: Compact, Light, Reliable, & Carried.

Overall, the 469 is a great CCW gun and one that I plan on using for many years to come. Smith & Wesson replaced the 469/669 with the third generation 6904/6906 which they have sadly stopped producing. If you happen to find one snatch it up. You won't regret it.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

AIWB Kydex holster for a Sig P239

I've really only been using one holster to carry my Sig P239 for the last year & a half, Crossbreed's SuperTuck Deluxe, and it works well. One thing that it doesn't do so well is easy on & off for the times you have to go into places that are off limits for CCW. Since I've yet to really make a holster for it and I have a need for a different kind of holster than the SuperTuck I put one together.

This one is very similar to the one I made for my Norinco Tokarev clone, but with a few differences. It's a single piece of very thin kydex and uses j-hooks to latch onto the pants & belt. Since it has a shorter barrel than the Tok I only used one large rivet instead of two small ones. I also played around with the placement of the j-hooks by moving them as far apart as I could and curving them to better match the curve of my body. Well, here it is.
I know the back clip looks a little fragile and I may end up doing another holster with a more substantial section of kydex added between where the rivet is and the backend of the clip, but the way it is adds more flexibility so it can really bend with my body for comfort and it hasn't shown any signs of breaking (yet).

Surprisingly, this is a pretty comfortable holster. It helps that the P239 is fairly compact. When sitting the muzzle is high enough so that it doesn't pinch or poke and instead almost fits inside the pocket where my thigh hits my hip. Here are a couple pictures of it worn.This will be used only with a cover garment like a baggy untucked shirt, sweater or fleece. For tucking duty I'll still be turning to my SuperTuck. Over the next few weeks I plan on testing this one out and putting it to the EDC (every day carry) test.

Here's a short video to show how easy it is to access, take off & put on.

Short Tutorial on How To Make a Kydex Holster

I've been asked how I go about making these holsters so I did a very short tutorial on the steps I take to make one of these holsters (the IWB for the Tokarev specifically).

1. Create a paper template which is used to judge how much kydex to use and the general shape. I used the gun for this part and taped a chopstick to the top of the slide for the sight channel.
2. Using the template I cut the kydex using metal snips.
3. Usually I'll put the whole piece of kydex in a toaster oven set at about 225 for handful of seconds watching it till it starts to flop and then take it out and wrap it around the gun and add pressure. In this case the kydex was a little too long to fit in my small oven so I took a different tactic. Using a heat gun I did an initial fold on a soft & squishy folded blanket. Wear gloves from here on out to protect your hands. Things get hot.
4. Then I focused on different areas heating and pressing to make it a snug fit. I indent the trigger guard a little extra for retention, pulling the gun out before it gets completely rigid so that it's not too tight.
5. Once the fit is right I used a leather punch to make the holes for the rivets. This works for the thin kydex for thicker stuff you'll need to drill the holes. Then I punched the rivets in and tested the gun fit again.
6. At this point I start trimming off overhang with the metal snips.
7. The clips are integral with the holster so they are formed after the mold of the gun has been set. I cut out the general shape for the clips as if they were straightened out and using a 1.5" wide paint stirrer cut in half as my "belt" & "pants" I heated the clips and started folding them around the stirrers. Then I cut off the excess length.
8. Test the fit one last time and if it's too loose use folded wet paper towels to protect the molded sections that don't need adjustment and then heat up the parts that do and add pressure.
9. Once everything is cut & fitted then comes the time consuming part, finishing. My preferred tool for finishing is an emory board. Keep several of different sizes on hand for some of the hard to reach parts. Sand all edges and corners so things are smooth to the touch. Do this part well and it'll look professional, do it poorly and it'll look like Bubba made it with a dull knife.

This is a very general writeup, but it'll work for most single sheet kydex holster designs.