By July 3, 2006

Shooting Spree

Warning! this is a long entry.

Lady Jaye and I capitalized on our free time together and headed out to Dominion Shooting Range to practice our handgunning skills. We took my GLOCK 27 and my North American Arms Guardian, and then rented a Smith & Wesson 649 revolver, a 4″ barrelled Springfield Armory xD 40, a GLOCK 36 and a GLOCK 26. We chose these handguns because they were all decent candidates for Lady Jaye’s first pistol of her own. Well, except for the xD, I’ve been itching to try the xD 45 ever since I saw it in a gun magazine.


Setting out with six handguns, five paper targets, two sets of hearing protection each, one set of eye protection each, and over 300 rounds of ammunition, we began putting the hurt to imaginary assailants.

GLOCK 27 (.40 caliber, 9 shot, ultra-compact semi-automatic):
My carry gun since I was 21, and the first handgun I ever purchased. While it’s not without its faults (a small fucking grip being the biggest), I’ve gotten used to this gun, and I know it will fire just about anything I put into it. I’ve fired well over 4000 rounds with it. Going into today’s shootout, this was Lady Jaye’s favorite handgun. I consistently shoot low and to the left. I believe this is due to having to ham-fist the grip, in addition to my normal tendency to squeeze the grip instead of only the trigger as proper handgun shooting technique dictates.

GLOCK 26 (9mm, 10 shot, ultra-compact semi-automatic):
This is the 9mm version of my GLOCK 27. Same rugged GLOCK design, same small package. Lady Jaye found this the most comfortable handgun she shot all day. Her accuracy and consistency were better with my 27, however. She attributed this to being tired (we fired the 26 late in our session). I shot very close in accuracy and consistency to my GLOCK 27, which was kind of a surprise. I expected the 9mm to be an easier caliber to handle, but didn’t find the 9mm to be significantly more shootable than my .40 cal. Lady Jaye remarked that this would be her gun of choice if she had to choose from the handguns we shot today. I definitely wouldn’t trade the 26 for my 27.

GLOCK 36 (.45 caliber, 6 shot, compact semi-automatic):
I’ve been itching to shoot this guy for a long time. The GLOCK 36 is the smallest .45 ACP made by GLOCK, and has a single-stack magazine, as opposed to their earlier .45 models, which were double-stacked. A single-stack magazine means that the cartridges are stacked one atop the other, resulting in a slimmer magazine (and therefore grip), albeit with a reduced payload.

Lady Jaye dutifully put six rounds through the gun before laying it down and letting me shoot the remaining 44 cartridges. She noted that the grip was too big for her, and I’m sure this is why her accuracy was off more on this gun than (almost) any other we shot today. I noticed she had difficulty manipulating the slide release on this gun — something that was easy for her on the 26 and the 27 — and even depressing the magazine release was more effort. I wouldn’t say that the increased power of the .45 ACP cartridge had a noticeable impact on her shooting results. Just more proof to the theory that there’s no one gun that fits everyone.

I found the gun to be, as my friend who owns one told me, “snappy.” The gun barked every time I pulled the trigger, and the expended brass tumbled through the air like a miniature 55 gallon drum. Muzzle-flip was the most pronounced on this gun compared to any other I shot today. I would describe shooting it as “aggressive,” and while I am sure the .45 would put a serious hurting on anyone unfortunate enough to cross its path, I didn’t have enough confidence behind the trigger of the 36 to consider it a good candidate for my daily carry weapon.

Smith and Wesson Model 649 (.357/.38 caliber, 5 shot, shrouded-hammer double action only revolver):
Revolvers (and those who love them) remind me a lot of Richmond: “good ol’ boys.” I told Lady Jaye that any man over 40 (and many under) would immediately tell her that women should only shoot revolvers, because semi-autos were too complicated for “little ladies” to shoot. Semi-autos were reserved for the macho big-boys who drove their trucks to work while their wives stayed home with a baby (not a pistol) on her hip. Unfortunately, Lady Jaye’s experience has proved me right.

However, being fair to the “no gun fits everyone” theory, we rented a revolver so Lady Jaye could try one out. I chose the 649 because it would be the most comfortable sub-nosed compact revolver she could shoot. Unlike most of the revolvers marketed for concealed-carry (and/or towards women), the 649 is all-steel, and not a light weight alloy. The heavier gun would absorb some of the recoil. We selected the less-powerful .38.

Shooting that gun was akin to holding an M-60 at the end of a short stick. Even loaded with .38s, the 649 belched out a big ring of fire and was a very harsh shooter. If the GLOCK 36 was aggressive, the S&W 649 was “rough.” This is partly due to the gun’s double action only trigger system. Almost all of the semis had very light trigger pulls in comparison. Lady Jaye and I were all over the place with this gun, although each of the shots hit the human silhouette target. We both gave it thumbs down, and shot through the rest of the ammunition the best we could. We amused ourselves by firing with only our right hand, and then only our left hand. I shot far more accurately with just my left hand, which is my weak hand.

The extractor was gummy and didn’t work very well. The cylinder release slide was also sticky; signs that just like semi-autos, revolvers need regular maintenance to perform at their top potentional. If anything, this reaffirmed my position that any handgun requires care, and that the revolver isn’t a pancea of reliability and ease of use like old timers make them out to be.

This was far and away the gun we disliked the most. Which says a lot, given the next gun on my summary.

North American Arms Guardian (.32 caliber, 6 shot, semi-automatic):
A near-clone to the infamous Seacamp .32, the Guardian was my backup gun for a number of years. The Guardian is only good for one thing: hiding. It’s about 1/2 the size of my hand. It has a 20 pound trigger pull (which is a lot, especially for a handgun), and I have to be careful not to get powder burns when I hold it with two hands. It’s fucking tiny. I call it the elf gun.

After disparaging the Guardian’s shooting demeanor so many times to so many people, I surprised myself today by shooting a very tight group at seven yards. Tight for the Guardian is like a 5″ group — quite large by other handgun standards. Lady Jaye shot twelve rounds and let me finish off the rest of the box; I dare say I had fun shooting the little beast.

I wanted Lady Jaye to shoot this gun because, unfortunately, it’s probably the one she’d be most likely to carry. Even the GLOCK 26 and 27 are too big for her to wear on her person without changing her dressing habits. Understandably, the gun wasn’t comfortable enough, and probably not powerful enough, for Lady Jaye to consider this a primary handgun choice.

Springfield Armory xD 40 (.40 caliber, 10 shot, 4″ barrel model, semi-automatic):
I have to admit. I rented this one more for myself than for Lady Jaye. The xD 40 was the largest gun we rented, size-wise. It would be way too big for Lady Jaye to carry. However, it might be an acceptable size for me, given that my official work uniform consists of an untucked t-shirt and shorts/jeans.

Lady Jaye shot the gun first, and if the GLOCK 36 was too big for her, the xD was gigantic. She put her ten rounds through the silhouette, and I took over.

My first shooting impression of the xD was “wow.” I shot a very small, tight group from seven yards out, including a bulls-eye. My first ten shots were within a two and a half inch group. I happily put in a fresh magazine, but noticed that the slide felt … gritty … as I thumbed the slide release lever. I fired two shots, and then I had a stovepipe. I pulled the slide back to eject the spent shell, and the slide wouldn’t glide forward as I expected. I had to completely rack the slide again before it would drop all the way down. I shot the remaining eight rounds and we put the gun away, burning up the rest of our .40 ammunition in my GLOCK 27.

I’d like to attribute the xD’s performance to the shooting range’s care of their rentals. When I got the two GLOCKs from the counter I swear I saw them take a rental from a customer and put it directly back on the rental rack. I expected them to clean each gun thoroughly before renting them out to someone else. This would also explain whyt he S&W operated poorly. However, I would like to think that the xD is made out of tougher stuff. I told the gent behind the counter that we had problems with the slide, and he said he’d check it out.

I was so happy with how the gun shot that I’m inclined to give the xD another chance in .45 ACP. However, I’d rather that this second chance was funded by a source other than my wallet. It would be a $550 mistake if I purchased the xD and ran into the same problems as my rental.

All in all, a great time. Many lessons learned, from shooting errors to weapons of choice. Lady Jaye’s favorite: the GLOCK 26 9mm. My favorite? Surprisingly, at the end of the day, my trust GLOCK 27 in .40 caliber. Who knows, though, with a re-shoot the xD might take its place. 🙂

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3 Comments on "Shooting Spree"

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  1. Ctrix says:

    What’s a stovepipe?

    Ick to the rental going directly back on to the rental rack, but I suppose one ought *not* to assume a good cleaning job on a gun that hasn’t been under one’s control.

  2. TheRock says:

    Is that the range down at Turner Rd and Midlothian Turnpike? I heard that you have to buy all the ammo you shoot there – you can’t bring your own. True/False?

  3. drfaulken says:

    Configuratrix, sorry about not replying sooner — a stovepipe jam is when a spent casing gets caught in the breech of a semiautomatic. The case stands straight up (mostly) and gets locked in the slide and looks just like a stovepipe.

    TheRock — glad you found the journal 🙂 Yeah, it is Dominion Shooting Range, the place you were thinking of. You do have to buy all of your ammunition there, which sucks for obvious reasons. I wouldn’t mind too entirely much if their ammo prices were normal, but of course they bend you over to make more money.

    I heard that they don’t allow outside ammo or reloads because the facility isn’t modern/strong enough to handle high-powered loads. I know that the range has a 1800 FPS limit.

    I also imagine that they don’t want people to bring in their own ammo for insurance reasons. I was shooting at a range in Newport News, VA once and a fellow blew his .357 apart with a double-charged round. However, I’m sure the biggest reason Dominion wants you to only shoot their ammo is to charge you $$$.

    Buying .32 for my Guardian was probably more painful than actually being shot with it.