S&W SD9VE – early impressions

I recently purchased an S&W SD9VE to test and evaluate.  I’ve gotten questions from students about this gun model, and other shooters and trainers have mentioned it as a decent option for defensive handgun buyers on a limited budget.

Some early observations:

1) It fits in my daily carry holster (Raven “Morrigan“) made for an S&W M&P.  I read online that it wouldn’t fit M&P holsters, but the Morrigan has enough flexibility in its design that I’ve been able to use it for my M&P 1.0, a Glock 19, and an M&P Shield without problems.

2) The trigger pull is long and heavy.  Not as long as heavy as a double action revolver, but longer and heavier than the factory trigger on the Glock and M&P models.  My trigger pull gauge only goes up to 8 pounds, and the SD9VE trigger was heavier than that.  Apex makes two parts to upgrade the SD9VE, a spring kit and a flat trigger. I ordered both from Brownells and will write about the install and testing of those parts in the coming weeks.

3) Heavy triggers are harder to shoot.  I lubricated the gun, dry fired for about 10 minutes and then headed outside to run the 3 Seconds or Less test with the gun.  I ran the test from open carry.

I didn’t check the zero of the pistol with the test ammo (124 gr Armscorp JRN) before I ran the test.

I did black out the rear dots on the sights because I strongly dislike “3 dot” sights.

With most guns I can shoot a perfect score (20 hits in the grey part of the target) on the test, using the 3 second par time. Not so with the SD9VE.  From 7 yards, the “2 head shots starting from ready” went wrong. I finished that string in 1.98 seconds (of the available 3 seconds), dropping one shot completely out of the head, low left almost into the body, with the other shot low left into the ‘jaw’ area of the head.

On the one handed strings from 7 yards, I dropped 3 of the 4 rounds below the KRT-2 target, for a score of 16/20 with 3 in the head – good enough to pass at the standards required by our 1st level Defensive Pistol Skills 1 class, but not particularly good overall.  More than likely a less skilled shooter would have found it difficult to shoot.

4) Seeing so many shots trending left on the target caused me to take a closer look at the sights. I shot a 5 shot group on the “B” circle on the target, at 7 yards. That produced a nice group left of the point of aim.

I took a closer look at the slide, and noticed that the front sight was off to the right of center line.

5) The other problem I observed is that the gun did not lock back on the last round of any of the 3 magazines that I used during my testing.  This may not be a gun problem.  If you look at the pistol you’ll see that the slide lock lever is located in a place where a shooter with a high thumbs grip might end up riding the lever, preventing it from moving upward and locking the slide on the last round. I had this problem with the Springfield XD, and it was one of several reasons I stopped shooting and recommending the XD series of pistols to students.

MOVING FORWARD

I’m teaching 3 group classes this weekend, and then private class on Tuesday before I head to Firearms Academy of Seattle for the 2018 Northwest Rangemaster Tactical Conference to teach a session of my Historical Handgun courseso the SD9VE will sit in the safe until I return in early August.

Next time I work with the SD9VE, I will adjust the sights to get the gun zeroed, re-run the 3 Seconds or Less test and a few other baseline tests with it, assess the slide lock issue, install the Apex parts, and re-shoot the baseline drills after I install the Apex parts.

A special day in KR Training history

Back on July 4th, 1988, two Austin-area USPSA competitive shooters, Randy Johnson and Don Davis, took a relative novice/ target shooter out to the Hill Country Rifle Range and introduced him to the 1911 .45 ACP pistol, and the fundamentals of practical shooting.  Over the next few months they coached me, as I learned skills necessary to compete safely – drawing, reloading, movement with a loaded gun.

They introduced me to Alan Tillman, local gunsmith and competition shooter, who also coached me and built all my competition guns for many years.  Through the local USPSA club, I became part of a group of shooters and gun businesses in the Austin area that have many familiar names: Chip McCormick, STI, Tripp Research, Dawson Precision, LaRue Tactical, Shockbottle, Competition DVD, Taylor Tactical Supply, Ben Stoeger Pro Shop – and many others.  With Randy and Don’s coaching and encouragement it’s unlikely I would have started down the path I’ve taken, and certainly would not have progressed as quickly as I did in the first year.

Today is the 30th anniversary of that special day in KR Training history.

To celebrate it, I’ll be running a USPSA match at the A-Zone tomorrow (July 5th), shooting in the single stack division, using a classic 1911 .45 ACP. The gun actually has the same slide and barrel that I used in the early 1990s, mounted on a newer Springfield Armory frame.

 

 

KR Training June 2018 newsletter

Welcome to the KR Training June 2018 newsletter!

Check the schedule page on the KR Training website for the full list of upcoming classes.

If you aren’t already a subscriber to receive this newsletter each month, you can subscribe here or follow this blog. You can also follow KR Training on Facebook or Twitter for more frequent posts and information.

First Do Know Harm Medical Preparedness TrainingMEDICAL PREPAREDNESS JULY 14-15

On July 14-15 we are offering a one time special medical class taught by Dr. Ben Weger. Medical Preparedness is an in-depth, two day course on medical issues for individuals and families looking to improve their overall readiness for medical issues. The student will learn various first aid skills necessary in an emergency, along with techniques to manage various illnesses and injuries until skilled help arrives.

No prior medical training is required to attend.  The class will be inside in the air-conditioned classroom.

Sign up for Saturday morning ($120), all day Saturday ($200), or the full 2-day class ($350).

Family discount offer! Get two slots for $200/$350/$600 *must pay in full in advance for discount.

AUGUST 4th COOLFIRE & WALTHER DEMO & EVALUATION

KR Training, in collaboration with Dvorak Instruments, Walther Arms, and Paulus Consulting, will be offering students an opportunity to evaluate the Walther PPQ M2 pistol and the CoolFire Trainer simulated recoil system.

The event, to be held August 4th from 9-12 at the A-Zone Range, will be a beta test for a possible new research study, evaluating the relative benefit of the Cool Fire product vs. live fire for shooter development.  All guns and ammo will be provided. Event is open to up to 24 participants. Event cost is $20. Pre-registration and payment in full in advance is required.

JULY-AUGUST CLASSES

Basic & LTC Courses

Defensive Skills Program

Advanced Classes & Guest Instructors

We will be announcing our full schedule of Sept-Dec classes in the July newsletter.

RANGEMASTER TAC-CON NORTHWEST

Karl and Ed Vinyard will be representing KR Training at the NorthWest Regional Tac-Con, July 27-29, 2018, to be held at the Firearms Academy of Seattle in southern Washington state.  Haven’t made summer vacation plans yet? Join us in the Pacific Northwest for cool weather and great training.

NOTES FROM KR: RECENT BLOG POSTS

June was super busy – 15 days on the range teaching, not counting multiple range maintenance days, and 13 music performances.  We’ll get back to blogging in July and August. Many articles in queue to complete and share in the coming weeks.

Don’t miss future blog posts! Visit our blog site to sign up, and they’ll come straight to your email.

BLOG-O-RAMA

2018 SCHEDULE

The KR Training schedule shows most of the classes we plan to offer through late October 2018 and even a few already scheduled for 2019. Registration is open for everything listed. We are adding more classes to Sept-Dec. They will be announced in the July newsletter.

KR Training Defensive Pistol Skills Program Challenge CoinThank you for sending your friends and family to train with us. Your referrals keep our classes full and help us continue to offer in-demand classes that specifically address the needs of responsible armed citizens. Remember, now you can train with even more purpose through the KR Training Defensive Pistol Skills Program. Start working to earn your coin now.

We look forward to training you!
Karl, Penny and the KR Training team

KR Training May 2018 newsletter

Welcome to the KR Training May 2018 newsletter!

Check the schedule page on the KR Training website for the full list of upcoming classes.

If you aren’t already a subscriber to receive this newsletter each month, you can subscribe here or follow this blog. You can also follow KR Training on Facebook or Twitter for more frequent posts and information.

SCHOOL SAFETY/ACTIVE SHOOTER RESPONSE

We have a few slots still open in the June 2-3 Active Shooter Response course.  The class was originally developed for armed teachers, but the course content is relevant and useful to anyone interested in active shooter response, including those involved with church and business security.

1/2 day and 1 day slots are available, for those that do not want to attend the entire course.  For June 2-3 we will do all the live fire work in the mornings, and be in the classroom in the afternoons.

In addition to the June 2-3 session at the A-Zone, I am teaching another session June 11-12 at the Saddle River Range in Conroe, an indoor range facility.

ARMED PARENT COURSE

On June 23-24, we are hosting the Armed Parent course taught by John Johnston and Melody Lauer of Citizens Defense Research.  John and Melody also host the excellent Ballistic Radio podcast.

The class is useful and relevant to anyone that is armed or handles guns in situations where children may be present: whether they are related to you, or sitting next to you in church, standing behind you at the grocery store, or a few rows away in a movie theater. The shooting drills in the course are challenging and different from material you’ll see in any other live fire course. You don’t have to be a parent to attend. Anyone that carries a gun in public will benefit from attending this course.

There are 4 options:

1) Saturday morning lecture only.  4 hours, $100

2) Saturday afternoon shooting only: 4 hours, $175 (can be taken by itself w/o Saturday morning lecture)

3) All day Saturday.  $275

4) Complete 2-day course. $450

Caleb Giddings of Gun Nuts Media reviewed the class recently.  My review of the Dec 2016 session is here.

MEDICAL PREPAREDNESS JULY 14-15

On July 14-15 we are offering a one time special medical class taught by Dr. Ben Weger. Medical Preparedness is an in-depth, two day course on medical issues for individuals and families looking to improve their overall readiness for medical issues. The student will learn various first aid skills necessary in an emergency, along with techniques to manage various illnesses and injuries until skilled help arrives.

No prior medical training is required to attend.  The class will be inside in the air-conditioned classroom.

Sign up for Saturday morning ($120), all day Saturday ($200), or the full 2 day class ($350).

Family discount offer! Get two slots for $200/$350/$600 *must pay in full in advance for discount.

JUNE-AUGUST CLASSES

Basic & LTC Courses

Defensive Skills Program

Advanced Classes & Guest Instructors

RANGEMASTER TAC-CON NORTHWEST

Karl and Ed Vinyard will be representing KR Training at the NorthWest Regional Tac-Con, July 26-28, 2018, to be held at the Firearms Academy of Seattle in southern Washington state.  Haven’t made summer vacation plans yet? Join us in the Pacific Northwest for cool weather and great training.

NOTES FROM KR: RECENT BLOG POSTS

Don’t miss future blog posts! Visit our blog site to sign up, and they’ll come straight to your email.

BLOG-O-RAMA

2018 SCHEDULE

The KR Training schedule shows most of the classes we plan to offer through late October 2018 and even a few already scheduled for 2019. Registration is open for everything listed.

We look forward to training you!
Karl, Penny and the KR Training team

Defensive Pistol Skills Small Gun class AAR – May 2018

Each year at the start of summer I offer a small gun oriented defensive pistol class.  The intent of the course is to provide an opportunity for people to practice with the smaller gun that is more convenient to carry in the hot weather.  Use of pocket holsters, purses, fanny packs, and any other mode of carry that’s not a traditional belt holster is allowed and encouraged, since practice drawing from those methods is typically not allowed at commercial ranges and discouraged in other defensive pistol classes due to range safety concerns and the additional time/complexity associated with reholstering.

Earlier articles about this course can be found here.

Part of the course includes shooting our 3 seconds or Less test (3SL) with both the small gun and a full size gun drawn from a belt holster, to measure the performance change (usually a loss) that occurs when switching from the larger gun to the smaller one.

 

Data from the May 2018 session:

10 shooters

Small Guns: 6 striker fired (Glock 42, 43, Ruger LC9S, Shield), a SIG 938, one S&W Bodyguard 380, and two S&W J frame revolvers.
Large Guns: 9 striker fired guns (Glock, M&P, XD) and one SIG P229

Average small gun score: 74.0/100
Average large gun score: 83.5/100

Performance gain from shooting the larger gun: 8.5%

The best shooters in class shot the same score with both guns (but no perfect scores on the 3SL test); the worst dropped 20% more points with the smaller gun.

Students passing the 3SL test with 70% or higher score using their small gun: 8 of 10.
Students passing the 3SL test with 70% or higher score using their primary gun: 10 of 10.

Students passing the 3SL test at the 90% level (desired) using their small gun: 0 of 10.
Students passing the 3SL test at the 90% level using their primary gun: 3 of 10.

Accuracy, not draw time, was the biggest issue in this year’s class. Many chose to take the course drawing their small gun from a belt holster.  Most students in previous sessions have used pocket holsters or other methods.

Historical average of the entire data set of 60 shooters:

Small Gun score: 78/100
Larger gun score: 86/100

This year’s class numbers were remarkably similar to data from previous classes and the historical averages.  All the shooters in this session were intermediate or higher level. Each person attending had taken at least one class past the state carry permit level. Several in this class had taken the course in previous years and were attending as refresher/tune up training with their small gun.

 

 

 

Rangemaster Instructor class, April 2018 pics and follow up

Found some pictures I took from the Rangemaster instructor class that we hosted back in April 2018.

Shooting the Casino Drill

Awards to top shooters in class

Post-class Coaching

A few people didn’t pass the instructor course due to falling short of the course required on the shooting tests after 2 attempts.  Tom allowed me the option to invite those students to return for some private coaching with me, to be completed within 30 days of the course, to tune up their skills and make a 3rd and final attempt on the shooting tests to earn their instructor rating.

I worked with 3 of those students (coaching all 3 to the passing level), and in all cases, the problems all related to the portions of the test that involved shooting beyond 10 yards.  The correction process involved these steps:

1) Verify the gun’s zero.

Checking your gun’s zero is something very few pistol shooters either know how to do, or bother to do.  We started by shooting groups at 15 yards, on an NRA B-8 target, from benchrest. This verified that the gun was hitting where the sights were aligned.  This was done with the ammo to be used for the test.

For 9mm pistols I like to zero my guns with 124 gr bullets, so that I can shoot anything from 115 to 150 gr 9mm loads and be reasonably close.  Zeroing the gun using either extreme of the range of bullet weights may result in a big change (usually vertical) at 15 yards or beyond.

A longer article about zeroing is on the KR Training website.

In two of the 3 cases, left-right changes were needed to get the gun zeroed at 15 yards.

2) Time management.

In the instructor class, Tom explains that most people only have one shooting speed (time spent on the sights, time spent pressing the trigger), and that speed is too slow for close targets, and too fast for targets past 10 yards.

Any time you are shooting a par time test, the goal is to use 90% of the time provided to fire your shots.  Most of the time, someone that scores poorly on the longer range strings of that type of test uses 50% or less of the available time – not aligning the sights as precisely as required, and pressing the trigger too hard and too fast.

One approach to correcting this problem is to remove the par times and simply run that section of the test scored purely on points.  Practice until a perfect score can be shot, with no time limit.  Then put a timer on it.  Most of the time, the shooter will be able to make the par time without speeding up at all.  If pushing for speed is required, often the increase is small.  Time pressure causes people to forget fundamentals; removing the timer refocuses on simply getting the hits and managing the trigger better.

90% or better passing scores shown below.

Blunt Force Trauma Lethality

Blunt Force Trauma Lethality

The following is derived from a presentation to the January 2018 MAG Deadly Force Instructor class by Ed Vinyard, based on the December 2015 ACLDN article Understanding Blunt Force Trauma Lethality, An Interview with Dr. Robert Margulies by Gila Hayes and input from Dr. H. Anthony Semone and Dr. Ben Weger.

It’s critical for armed individuals, civilians and police alike, to understand the ability of even unarmed, untrained individuals to cause death or greivous bodily injury through blunt force trauma. Failing to control interactions early can leave you in a position where you’re left with no option but to use deadly force. Underestimating the capability of an unarmed opponent to cripple or kill — even the apparently small or weak — can leave you without the ability to respond at all.

Specific cases where fit and health people have been killed or crippled by unarmed, untrained, and physically unremarkable opponents are useful illustrations of the fragility of human life. My collegue John Daub has calalogued many such instances over the years. The knockout game may be the first example that comes to mind, and it’s certainly true that strikes to the head when completely unprepared are incredibly dangerous. But when there are signs ahead of time, maybe only seconds in advance, if you don’t actively protect yourself the warning alone is little help.

  • In 2017, a 45 year old man was punched a single time while waiting in line outside a bar. His assailant first asked, “What are you looking at?” according to witnesses. The struck man never regained consciousness and died despite prompt hospitalization.
    ABC 7
  • In 2018 an off duty deputy involved in a minor traffic accident is punched once by the other driver, never regains conciousness, and later dies. KTLA, including video (start at 0:44)

However, even individuals who knew for certain they will be struck are at risk. Here are a couple examples where the person struck knew in advance that a punch was coming.

  • In 2011, on a $5 bet, a 25-year old man was punched in the face by a 142 lb. woman. A few minutes later he collapsed; his autopsy revealed an artery burst in his neck. ABC news
  • In 2014, two teenagers agreed to settle a dispute by allowing one to punch the other in the face. The teen, hit once on the left side of the face with a closed fist, fell, and struck his head on the ground. He never regained consciousness and died after hospitalization. Q13 Fox News

It might be tempting to write these anecdotes off as isolated incidents or freak occurances, but by understanding the mechanisms by which such injury and death occur, these tragedies can inform our own preparations for violence and its legal consequences.

For starters, consider moves illegal among unarmed boxers and MMA fighters because of the potential for death or permanent injury. Paring the list down to only moves that work via blunt force trauma still leaves a substantial selection.

  • Groin strikes
  • Punches to the back of the head
  • Headbutting
  • “12-6” elbows
  • Kicks, knees, stomps to the head of a grounded opponent

Even with a “simple” punch to the head, there are a wide variety of mechanisms available that cause serious immediate or near-term consequences:

  1. Nose bone driven into brain
  2. Dislocated spine via blow to the top of spine or back of head
  3. Temporal artery tear via blow to the temple area
  4. Difficult to stop bleeding of spongy tissue (liver, spleen) via blow to the ribs
  5. Concussion due rapid twisting of unstabilized head (e.g., due to hook or “haymaker” punch)
  6. Cardiac contusion

Contrecoup

Often, blunt force trauma causes secondary injuries such as

  1. Brain impacting front, then back, of skull (contrecoup)
  2. Head striking the ground for a second round of injury,
  3. Airway blockages due to bleeding and swelling from primary injury, and aspiration of blood and/or vomit

Past 40 years of age, the brain shrinks and there’s more room for the brain to “float” (and gain momentum) within the vault of the skull, so the danger of brain injury increases despite a person’s overt level of physical fitness.

There are injuries that, while not necessarily deadly, frequently lead to temporary incapacitation, which means the recipient of such an injury loses the ability to observe the aggressor(s) (e.g., reaching for a weapon) and respond in an organized way. If you carry deadly weapons on your person — a handgun or a knife — you’ve ceded control of those tools to your attacker if you lose the ability to retain them:

  1. Shattered testicle
  2. Kidney punch
  3. Temporary blindness due to blow to the back of the head
  4. Tearing due to blow to the nose


Prolactinoma-art

Finally, some of the life-altering connsequences of brain injuries can take months or years to surface as we’ve witnessed with boxers and football players suffering concussions. It’s not necessary to receive repeated concussions for bad effects. The pituary gland rests in a small cavity of bone the (sella turcica), and suffers the same kind of impact (coup and contrecoup) the brain does, which can result in long lasting effects that are difficult to diagnose and challenging to treat.

After we have faced the violence itself, our ability to clearly articulate to a jury what behavior required us to employ force can mitigate the sometimes-hostile legal environment we find ourselves. Even for the long-time student of self-defense, the bias can be surprising. During the closig arguments of Wyoming v Drennan, the prosecutor’s (false) claim that “in the state of Wyoming, there is a law against shooting an unarmed man” may have been among the open avenues for appeal, but it resulted in an initial conviction. While eventually prevailing at appeal is not the worst possible outcome, it is far from the best: that the jury be educated by our documented training, fully apprehending the dangers as we did.

“the legislature did not

intend that a hand could

be a dangerous weapon”


Oregon v Weir

540 P.2d 394 (1975)

In Oregon v Weir, the supreme court of Oregon state deduced based on the structure of the penal code (Oregon’s three degrees of assault), that “the legislature did not intend that a hand could be a dangerous weapon,” despite also acknowledging that “if the other elements of assault were established, as a factual matter it would seem that the human hand could always be a dangerous weapon even the proverbial 98-pound weakling could, with one well-placed punch, disfigure a heavyweight boxing champion.”

As we’ve seen, it is just so.

None of this information is intended to suggest that we spend our lives in mortal fear of every other person around us. Rather seek out training and education that improve your ability to understand your own physical and legal context.

Here are four concrete steps you can take:

  1. Recognize pre-assaultive behavior or cues. Watch video and learn in a practical context such as Craig Douglas’ Managing Unknown Contacts course or one of KR Training’s force-on-force scenarios classes.
  2. Respond with well-developed counters. InSights Training’s
    Street and Vehicle Tactics or KR Training’s Personal Tactics Skills.
  3. Understand both the statutes and case law by which uses of force are judged in our state (or states we travel to). Look for courses like MAG-20 Classroom and Andrew Branca’s Law of Self Defense seminar.
  4. Document your knowledge of the danger presented by an unarmed assailant. Keep notes about videos you watched, articles or books you read, and training you receive. If you ever have to use force to defend yourself, make the specifics of what you knew
    at that moment in time available to your defense attorney and the jury.

Smith and Wesson EZ 380 Gun Review part 2

I recently purchased two of the new Smith and Wesson EZ380 pistols. I reviewed them in this recent blog post.

Since that review I’ve used the EZ380 in several private lessons, working with shooters that had small hands or limited grip strength.  My appreciation of this gun continues to grow as I work with it.

One other excellent use for the EZ380, suggested by a student, is as a ‘first centerfire pistol” for pre-teens ready to transition from a .22 to something larger.  The short trigger reach, light weight, and other features of this gun make it an excellent for that application also.  This would particularly useful for a young shooter wanting to begin learning how to use a holster to compete in USPSA, IDPA or Steel Challenge style competition.

Evaluating the Design

Roy from Shockbottle and I were chatting after one of the Wednesday night USPSA matches I run at the A-zone, and I showed the EZ380 to him.  The EZ380 uses a locking breech design, so it’s mechanically feasible that S&W could come out with a 9mm version of this pistol if they wanted to.  By trimming the grip and barrel slightly, a compact version might also be possible, so don’t be surprised if either of those show up at SHOT show in 2019, as they are logical extensions of this design.

Roy tested the grip safety in a way I hadn’t thought of: pressing the trigger back, without the grip safety engaged, and then engaging the grip safety to see if the gun would fire. I replicated that test the next day in better light.

Testing the grip safety on the EZ 380

A post shared by KR Training (@krtraining) on

The EZ380 passed this test.  The only way to get the gun to fire is to use it as intended: grip the pistol so that the grip safety is disengaged, and then press the trigger. Doing those tasks in reverse order, as might occur if the gun was dropped and the user first grabbed it by the trigger and then closed the hand, engaging the grip safety, does not cause the gun to fire. That makes this design very drop-safe.

Sights

I’m not a fan of 3-dot sights. (Actually can’t think of any trainers or high skill level shooters that like 3 dot sights, but gun makers continue to make the standard option on pistols.)  The EZ380 comes with 3-dot sights.  I grabbed a Sharpie and a bottle of electric orange fingernail polish (purchased for painting sights), blacked out the rear dots and dropped a dot of orange on the front dot.


Holding the gun in one hand, trying to get it lined up properly, holding the iPhone in the other hand, *and* getting the phone to focus on the front sight instead of the rear sight was hard, so here’s a close up pic of the front sight by itself so you can see the orange dot better.

SPARE MAGS

Spare mags are now available for about $25 apiece MSRP. The gun comes with two. I ordered additional mags to have on hand for the class loaner EZ380. Next up is to get a dedicated holster and mag pouches for it, so I have a complete class kit someone could use for a Defensive Pistol Skills 1 or Defensive Pistol Skills Small Gun class in the future.

I expect as this gun grows in popularity we’ll see +1 base pads come on the market also.  The mags that come with the gun hold 8. A +1 base pad would give the gun a 9+1 capacity, equal to an M&P Shield with +1 base pads.

SUMMARY

Once I get the final items on hand to build a full student kit, I expect the EZ380 will be a frequently used loaner gun.  Since writing my first review, I’ve already sold 3 of them to students with small hands or low grip strength, who used the loaner gun during classes and had success with it.

Smith and Wesson EZ 380 Gun Review

I recently purchased two of the new Smith and Wesson EZ380 pistols.

Historically I have discouraged students from carrying or purchasing pistols in .380, because the caliber’s generally poor performance in actual shootings, and its failure to meet FBI minimum test guidelines for defensive ammo. Greg Ellifritz has a good summary of those issues on his blog.

However:  every now and then I have a student that has fingers too short, or grip strength too weak, to comfortable shoot and manipulate any 9mm pistol.  Years ago I added a Glock 42 to my collection of loaner guns, for use by students in that specific situation.  The EZ380 has several features that made it appeal to me, so I bought two of them: one to test and one to have as inventory.

Features I liked

The EZ380 is a single action gun with a hidden hammer. That makes the slide easier to rack than a striker fired or double action pistol.  The grip is longer – built to allow most people to get all their fingers on the gun without needing a grip extender base pad on a magazine.  The barrel is longer. This gun wasn’t built to be a pocket gun. It was clearly designed to be a larger sized, belt- or purse-carry gun that would be easier to shoot than any of the smaller pocket pistols.

It has a giant grip safety, almost the size of the squeeze-cocking lever on an H&K P7, except on the backstrap instead of the front strap.  For someone with arthritis or limited dexterity, that’s a better option than the tiny thumb safeties found on the SIG 238/938 series. I’ve seen many students struggle with the safety on those pistols, some making the bad choice to carry with an empty chamber, finding it easier to rack the slide than to swipe off the safety when drawing from a pocket.  The giant grip safety enables the gun to be carried “cocked and locked” without a thumb safety at all.

I thought I was going to like the little “nub” built into the magazine, intended to help users pull the follower down when loading the magazine. It makes the magazine like most magazines for .22 semiauto pistols.  I found the nub too small and almost painful to use. However, I’m sure the aftermarket vendors will come up with a solution, as they did for Browning Buckmark magazines.

When trying to use the gun the way it would get used in our Defensive Pistol Skills 1 class, drawing from a holster, doing reloads from mag pouches, I found that the ‘nub’ sticking out of the side of the magazine made the mags drag and hang on every single stack mag pouch I had on hand.  That means that mag pouches for the EZ380 will likely have to be a custom design (e.g. hard to find and expensive).

The magazine release is reversible, which is a great feature, allowing right- and left-handed shooters the option to use thumb or trigger finger to press the release, depending on how the release is installed.

The slide lock is only accessible using the right thumb, not ambi like the slide lock on the full size M&P models.   Changing the slide lock to work from both sides is the #1 change an EZ380 2.0 model could offer.

A Sight Problem

One of the questions I had was, of course, how good does it shoot? I took both of the EZ380s out to my range and fired some groups, using Winchester white box and Hornady Critical Defense ammo.

With both guns, shooting from benchrest, at 15 yards, the groups were reasonable (3-4″) but off to the left.

When the shots are hitting left for a right handed shooter, my default answer is “it’s the shooter”. I tripled down on attention to trigger control and finally convinced myself that yes, it was the guns. Both of them.

Sight Adjustment

The EZ380 has yet another unique design feature: the rear sight can be drifted left or right by loosening a set screw you access from underneath the sight. Lock the gun open, flip it over, and you can adjust the sight without a vise or a hammer.

 

I have some concern that the sight may drift over time, as the gun is shot and that screw comes loose.  I’ll be keeping an eye on the gun I’m going to use as a student loaner for that issue.

However, once I made the sight adjustment, groups moved over to the right closer to where I wanted them.

I’m hoping there will be aftermarket sights on the market for the EZ380, because it comes with the standard 3-dot sights that come on every gun, yet no trainer or top tier shooter likes or recommends.

SUMMARY

If you are capable of shooting and handling a 9mm pistol, the EZ380 is not a gun I recommend for you. You’d be far better off with a striker fired, no-thumb-safety 9mm like an M&P Shield or Glock 43.   If you are someone that can’t reach the trigger without dragging the frame on any 9mm pistol, because of short fingers, or can’t do basic tasks like fully racking the slide (all the way to the back as far as it will go) or locking the gun open on any 9mm you’ve tried, take a look at the EZ380.  It has more positive features and fewer negatives for that type of customer than any other 380 on the market.  It’s a pistol that you could use in a “real pistol class” (something beyond the carry permit level).

The final thought is a disclaimer. The EZ380 is a first model year gun, and normally I’m slow to recommend first model year guns.  S&W has already done a recall on the EZ380 models that have a thumb safety. The non-thumb-safety models were NOT recalled.   Over the next 6 months the EZ380 in my loaner collection will see a lot of use, and I’ll update this post if we encounter any problems with it.

More pics from 2018 A Girl and a Gun Conference

In a previous post I gave an after-action writeup from the 2018 A Girl and a Gun Conference.  There were a lot of great pics that I didn’t get to use in that AAR, so here they are.

Range Safety Officer Course

General Conference Pics

This pic is one of those “you had to be there” things. In 2017, Dawn fell down near the Pavilion, during one of the highly attended events. Her fall was memorable (no serious injuries) and in 2018 the location of her fall was commemorated with this sign.

The event was held at Reveille Peak Ranch, a great facility in Burnet Texas.

CZ-USA was the main event sponsor.  In a discussion with one of the CZ reps, I learned something interesting.  The CZ-75 pistol, widely used in USPSA Production division as a DA/SA gun only has a DA trigger pull option because the intent was to give it “second strike” capability in the event of a bad primer strike resulting in a misfire.  The CZ design has no decocking lever, requiring the gun to be manually decocked (hold the hammer, press the trigger, slowly lower the hammer to the down position). The designers intended for it to be used as a single action pistol.

Skill Builder sessions

 

Historical Handgun session

Shooting the 1945 FBI test

John Kochan giving his talk