Wednesday, February 29, 2012

RUGER LCR-357 LCR-22 REVIEW

RUGER LCR-357 LCR-22 REVIEW

Oh how guns have changed. Back when I was a kid, if someone suggested plastic on a pistol they were looked at strangely, if you would have suggested a polymer based revolver... well you could have been institutionalized. Although Glock initially broke through the polymer barrier for semi-auto pistols, it is Ruger who has crossed the river of skepticism for Polymer revolvers with their LCR (Lightweight Compact Revolvers) line.

Thumbing through gun magazines and watching the stream of Outdoor network programing recently, I chuckled when I saw the same old vocal Glock skeptics of the late 70s and early 80s now waxing over the Ruger LCR polymer framed revolvers. Times have changed and minds have been opened to the benefits of new manufacturing technologies and materials and Ruger is certainly on the bleeding edge with the LCR line. The LCRs are available in .38 Special, .357 Magnum, and now .22LR.  Unless this is your first visit to MajorPandemic.com, you know I am a huge fan of the .357 Magnum, .38 Special, and .22LR chamberings for extended survival and preparedness.  Obviously the Ruger LCR-22 and KLCR-357 intrigued me with two identical revolvers chambered in my favorite calibers.
FIT & FEEL
Ruger does an excellent job on fit and finish however I was a bit disappointed that a number of sharp mold flashing seams on my LCR-357 and required a couple passes sandpaper to smooth out. To drop the price a bit Ruger has also forgone the final surface finishing of the respective monolithic aluminum and stainless frames however it provides a nice matte tactical texture for this type of revolver. Both my LCRs throughout testing have already seen a beating anyway being tossed into a pocket with other things hammering in to them so honestly I could care less about how pretty the finish looks especially considering the revolver is solvent proof stainless, aluminum and polymer.

The fit and feel is identical between the two Ruger LCRs with the .357 being 17.1oz and the .22LR coming in at 14.9oz which is crazy light in either case considering both have stainless barrels and cylinders instead of alloy.  The weight of the LCR-22 splits the difference between weights. The LCR carries the lighter 7000 Series Aluminum Monolithic frame as on the 13oz .38 Special LCR versions while the heavier
LCR-357 features a stronger 400 Series Stainless Steel monolithic frame .  Regardless of which LCR you have in your hand they all provide perfect cross training analogs in weight,  feel, and operation. The weight difference is not that noticeable at all.

This is important both from a tactical training perspective and from a confidence building perspective. For those that train constantly and own the .38 or .357 versions, the LCR-22 could pay for itself in as few as 3000 rounds all while providing an identical feel pistol to their larger caliber LCR. The LCR-22 also provides a highly reliable defensive .22LR pistol for the recoil sensitive folks and simple transition to the .38 or .357 LCRs after they become comfortable with shooting. 
FEATURES
The LCR pistols are unique from a couple perspectives.  They have hybrid polymer lower sub-frames supported by upper monolithic metal frames, with stainless lined barrels and solid heavily fluted stainless cylinders. The lower polymer sub-frame drops a considerable amount of un-needed weight in the unstressed areas of the revolver while the monolithic upper metal frames takes the stress of the recoil.  When you combine that with a stainless barrel and cylinder you still have a incredibly strong reliable revolver, but almost a pound lighter than the SP101 line.

As the concealed hammer would portray, the LCR is primarily a lean and mean personal defense revolver, however Ruger wanted to assure the trigger pull did not suffer and developed a friction reducing cam which resulting in a incredibly smooth non-stacking trigger pull.  The trigger on the LCR-357 and .38 version are probably the best of any snubby. All the neat-o polymer and monolithic frame stuff aside, it is the trigger that steals the show for the LCR and makes it exceptionally accurate for a snub nosed revolver.

The LCR-22 version is eight shot and some will whine that it does not match the five shots from the other LCRs, well then just load five shots.  For those that want to carry a light trail or defensive .22LR chambered revolver, the extra three rounds are greatly appreciated.
Ruger thankfully has started to integrate safety gun locks into their firearms, however I think they missed the functional mark on the LCR line.  The LCR has a integral lock however you need to inconveniently remove the grip and use the key to unlock the action then presumably replace the grip and grip screw. A hole through the grip to use the key to unlock the action would been a more user friendly option which I may remedy with a drill bit. I like the integrated lock however the supplied Ruger padlock’s shackle placed behind the trigger will render a loaded LCR safe and prove a faster more useful lock.

FUNCTIONS
Functionally both these LCRs performed flawlessly and shot everything I stuffed into the cylinders.  The LCR-22 delivered very heavy reliable hammer strikes and deep rim crushes which is what I would expect from a revolver positioned for defensive use. The LCR-357 was quite manageable with full .357 Magnum rounds and a breeze to shoot with .38 Special rounds all thanks to the great Hogue Tamer grips.  For more fun I worked up a few Hodgon Triple 7 easy clean black powder multi-ball survival rounds which were lots of smokey fun.

Both the LCRs need to have the triggers heavily stroked.  As with any revolver you cannot let your finger feel for the trigger reset like you do on any semi-auto or you will just spin the cylinder at the first trigger reset... stroke that trigger.  Because of the friction reducing cam, this usually unnoticed reset cycle seemed a little more noticeable to me, however most folks probably will not notice it.  This little annoyance only reared its head when I was shooting groups from the bench and carefully controlling the trigger.

The LCR-22 trigger pull is noticeably heavier than any of the other LCRs.  I do understand the physics of assuring a reliable hammer strike especially on .22 rimfire rounds, however it is a little to heavy in my option. The heavier trigger pull degraded what I think could have been exceptional accuracy to average from a .22 snubby.

Harping and nit picking aside I really love these two revolvers and believe they are the ultimate training setup for practice and carry.  Both shot to point of aim with the notch rear and pinned front sights and the super comfortable Hogue/Ruger designed Sorbothane inserts tame even the .357 rounds to tolerable levels that allow you to shoot through a box of ammo quickly without swearing.

ACCURACY
First I will say the LCR-357 is exceptionally accurate.. the LCR-22 not so much.  Using Hornady 125gr Critical Defense and 158gr XTP rounds the Ruger LCR-357 consistently grouped 3”-4” at 25 yards from sandbags and could easily keep the 50 yard silhouette ringing as well off hand.  My best group of the day was 2.75” at 25 yards from the 158Gr Hornadys which I was thrilled with.  At 7 yards I created one ragged hole and all this great shooting is thanks to that smooth light trigger pull.  Verdict of the LCR-357 is that it is a great shooting revolver.

The LCR-22 delivered the same 3”-4” groups as the LCR-357 did at 25, but at only 15 yards.  Sand bag shots from the 25 yard line produced 5”-6”  groups which I was not particularly thrilled with. Chances are I will rarely if ever shoot anything at that distance with the LCR-22 other than plinking pop cans and defensive training, but I was hopeful. I believe the LCR-22 could be just as accurate or even more so than its big brothers, however the 2-3 lb heavier trigger pull is what is holding it back. If this was just a fun .22 plinking pistol, I would start tinkering with trigger springs, however for this defensive focused pistol, that would not be a great idea.  The LCR-22 is accurate enough and will require those training to focus more on trigger control for tight grouping; not a bad thing.  I would much rather have a less accurate training analog like the LCR-22 than one that is more accurate and falsely builds confidence during training.

FINAL THOUGHTS
This is a great combo for training and every day carry.  Both are equally spec’ed, finished, and approximately the same weight.  Although the LCR-22 is less accurate, that is OK because in only around 3000 rounds the ammo cost differential will pay for the LCR-22 quickly and the light shooting .22 round will let you train all day without the pain.  You can use the same holsters, the same draw technique, point of aim, and grip and you can do it for about $6 for 100 rounds vs $30 for .38/.357 rounds. The LCR-22 is a solid build defensive .22LR revolver and a smart purchase for those LCR owners that want to train.

The LCR-357 is an outstanding accurate concealed carry and personal defense revolver.  It or the other .38 Special LCRs would be my first recommendations for someone wanting a handgun for defense.  Revolvers are really simple, easy to figure out, easy to reload, and require far less training to use competently than a semi-auto pistol.  In my opinon they can be a bit safer, becauase in most cases you can see the bullets in the chamber and quickly secure the revolver to an inoperable state with just a padlock.  The LCR is a bit heavier that the regular LCR line however it gives you the ability to use both .357 or .38 Special rounds which from my perspective provides a huge amount of versatility.  
Polymer is here to stay and Ruger has utilized it in the right way with the LCR line up to deliver light, solid, reliable and accurate revolvers. Hundreds of rounds later, I am confident in the LCR-357 and with the LCR-22 I can continue to train inexpensively to continue to hone my skills. How much do I like this pistol? Well it has now entered into me concealed carry rotation along with my Glock 19 and LCP, so that alone should speak volumes.

SPECS
Ruger LCR-22

  • Model Number: 5410
  • Caliber: .22 LR
  • Finish: Matte Black, Synergistic Hard Coat
  • Grip: Hogue® Tamer™
  • Front Sight: Replaceable, Pinned Ramp
  • Rear Sight: U-Notch Integral
  • Barrel Material: Stainless Steel
  • Monolithic Frame: 7000 Series Aluminum
  • Cylinder Finish: Advanced Target Grey®
  • Barrel Length: 1.875" Overall Length: 6.50"
  • Height: 4.50"
  • Width: 1.28"
  • Weight: 14.90 oz.
  • Capacity: 8
  • Twist: 1:16" RH
  • Grooves: 6
  • MA Approved & Certified:No
  • CA Approved: No
  • Suggested Retail: $525.00
Ruger KLCR-357

  • Model Number: 5450
  • Caliber: .357 Mag.
  • Finish: Blackened Stainless
  • Grip: Hogue® Tamer™
  • Front Sight: Replaceable, Pinned Ramp
  • Rear Sight: U-Notch Integral
  • Barrel Material: Stainless Steel
  • Monolithic Frame: Blackened 400 Series Stainless Steel
  • Cylinder Finish: Advanced Target Grey®
  • Barrel Length: 1.875"
  • Overall Length: 6.50"
  • Height: 4.50"
  • Width: 1.28"
  • Weight: 17.10 oz.
  • Capacity: 5
  • Twist: 1:16" RH
  • Grooves: 6
  • MA Approved & Certified: Yes
  • CA Approved: Yes
  • Suggested Retail: $599.00

SOURCES
Sturm Ruger
http://www.ruger.com

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

PRI AR10 AR15 Upper Assembly Vise Block and Barrel Nut Torque Wrench

PRI AR10 AR15 Upper Assembly Vise Block and Barrel Nut Torque Wrench

I have done more than a few of builds and reviews at this point. Some of those build have been lovingly parted together with individually selected components while others have been ready-to-assemble kits.  Beyond those builds, a few of the featured upgrades and reviews have required the removal/attachment of barrel nuts and all have required a helping hand.

Recently I added a very handy PRI AR10/AR15 Upper Assembly Vise Block and beefy PRI Armorers Barrel Nut Torque Wrench to my AR tool bag of punches, hex wrenches, Leatherman MUT, and DPMS buffer tube castle nut wrench. PRI is most notable for their carbon fiber forends which I reviewed previously as well as their scope mounts, but they offer a number of other accessories and tools for the gunsmith and builder.
FIT, FEEL, FEATURES, & FUNCTION
For an AR builder, a great barrel nut wrench such as the beefy PRI version is a necessity, but I would say the PRI Upper Vise block is of equal importance.  Loosening and tightening your way up to proper gas tube alignment and the correct torque range is tough enough when you have the leverage, however the upper has to be fixed to something.  We all start with a vise mounted 1x4 block of wood, however that is neither ideal or safe for the upper receiver. The billet aluminum PRI AR10/AR15 Upper Assembly Vise Block delivers a safe way to mount your upper to a vise.  Personally I have found it completely indispensable to safely secure the various uppers I have worked on.  

The Upper Vise Block is simple to use and pins to an upper just like any lower, but instead can be safely and securely clamped in your bench vise. For my AR10/308 platforms I can just flip the vise block over and have one tool versatile enough for any AR build.  The PRI AR10/AR15 Upper Assembly Vise Block provides that third helping hand we all need while working on our ARs and is indispensable while installing barrels, optics, sights, and forward assist assemblies and considerably safer than the block of wood I was using previously.

The 1.3lb, ½” thick PRI Armorers Barrel Nut Wrench allows you to deliver plenty of torque without a torque wrench, but if you want to use one both ⅜” and ½” socket head squares provides you with plenty of flexibility for torque wrench use. The five alloy steel pins fit securely and precisely in all type of barrel nuts and has yet to ever slip off, which is more than I can say for a cheap wrench I had earlier.  

FINAL THOUGHTS
Once you build your first AR kit, chances are you and your buddies will build many to come.  Sure you can assemble an AR with a castle nut wrench, a block of wood, and a punch, however it will be easier and look better with the right tools. 
Generally most upper vises are made from nylon and cannot be used from barrel installation, but the PRI Upper Vise Block is made from billet aluminum and can be used for barrel installs if you are careful. The PRI barrel nut wrench is the beast of the barrel nut wrenches, is well made, does not slip and provides simple barrel installation with or without a torque wrench.  
The PRI AR10/AR15 Upper Assembly Vise Block and Armorers Barrel Nut Wrench have proven to be indispensable for my various AR builds and upgrades to the point I now find my self standing in from of my vise every time I am even swapping sights. Who would have thought that a barrel nut wrench and upper vise block would be so handy.

SPECS

  • AR10 / AR15 Upper Assembly Vise Block
  • Billet Aluminum
  • Steel Retention Pins
  • Reversible for both AR15 and AR10 receivers
  • $51.00
  • PRi Armorers Barrel nut torq wrench
  • Installs/Removes all standard AR15 barrel nuts
  • This wrench is designed to work on all mil spec.
  • 1018 steel construction
  • 5 alloy steel pins (press fit and welded)
  • 3/8 or 1/2" drive torque wrench heads  
  • Overall length 12"
  • Weights 1.3 lbs.
  • The wrench has additional holes between the pins to help get the proper alignment of the gas tube.  
  • Finish black oxide
  • Inner Diameter of the wrench is 1.2"
  • $36.65
SOURCES
PRI Mounts - Precision Reflex
http://www.precisionreflex.com/

Ultimate Seed Can - Heirloom Organics Survival Seed Review

Ultimate Seed Can & Heirloom Organics Survival Seed Review

Let’s say you have security, shelter, and water taken care of and a solid bug-in strategy with enough food laid away for six months... then what.  If things go sideways, many arm chair survivalist have visions off heading for the hills and eating wild game every night, however that is an inexperienced and naive plan.  Having the skills for extended long-term subsistence without scavenging requires a lifestyle dedicated to intense training such as you see taught through the Pathfinder School.  I admittedly am still learning, but the vast majority of the US has a hard time cooking pre-prepared food.  The best situation is to take the approach that almost anyone can master... gardening.

Gardening and growing your own food may not be as sexy as discussing the intricacies of defensive/survival products and tactics, however it is just as important and can also be used during any ordinary day of the week. Home gardening has pulled the US through some horrible times so it makes sense to have a variety of long term seeds available as a contingency plan for growing your own food.  I choose survival seed vaults from Heirloom Organics and Ultimate Seed Can because they are two of the few survival seed providers who use the USDA guidelines for long term seed storage.
GMO HYBRID VS. NON-GMO NON-HYBRID SEEDS
These days our grocery shelves are overrun by hybrid seeded vegetables and fruits which have been genetically tweaked to be bigger, greener, redder, fruitier, and sweeter. If your survival seed strategy is to pluck out seeds from your favorite fruits and vegetables, changes are they will never germinate. Developers do this for several reasons, however one reason is that you will need to come back to buy their own special hybrid seed each year.

Hybrid vegetables bearing seeds usually not germinate, grow or deliver the plants expected, where “heirloom, Non-GMO, or non-hybrid” seeds can be harvested, replanted, and will self pollinate year after year after year. Non-Hybrid seeds give you the ability to replant over and over again by collecting the seeds. This provides you and your family a sustainable food source which does not require you to know which fungus is edible and which will kill you.  If you have the expectation to harvest seeds for replanting, you must look for the terms Non-Hybrid, Non-GMO (Genetically Modified  Organism), or heirloom varietals.  You will not get all the crazy brocoflower varieties, but you will end up with standard varieties which produce seeds that you can use over and over again.

HEIRLOOM NON-HYBRID SEEDS VS. SURVIVAL SEED PACKS/VAULTS
Enough people have pushed to revitalize the heirloom fruits and vegetables trade that heirloom seeds can be found even in large home improvement centers now, however these seeds are treated differently than long-term “Survival Seed Packs”.  

I certainly recommend picking up packs of heirloom seeds for your yearly home garden only if the package is dated with a best by or packing date. For long-term multi-year seed shortage on the other hand, seeds dropped in a paper envelop and sold are generally stable for only that season.  For long-term multi-year survival seed vaulting, the seeds need to be dried, packaged and then double or triple sealed in container within air and light proof containers to assure freshness and extend life.
MOISTURE CONTENT
Every 1% decrease in seed moisture doubles the storage life.  Ideally, reducing the seed moisture content to no more than 5%-8% and maintaining that range is critical to assuring long-term multi-year storage.  Although the everyday $2 seed envelops you buy are dried, because of the paper packaging, they cannot maintain those low moisture levels for long sitting in a 20% humidity controlled store, or worse, outside in a gardening center. Even if taken and re-dried the damage is done and the life of those seeds has been exponentially shortened. Survival seed vaults on the other hand maximize storage life by drying to the optimal moisture level and then sealing the seed in advanced air and light tight packaging to prevent any change in moisture levels.

SEED PACKAGING
The first task to reduce the moisture content of the seeds, but protecting them going forward is the next chore. Like any food stored it should be packaged in a way which prevents exposure to light, reduces rapid temperature swings, and provides an air tight seal.  Both Heirloom Organics and Ultimate Seed Can package their seeds first in tamper resistant re-sealable triple layered foil bags and then in resealable plastic buckets. The seed bags are the primary defense and protection for long term storage and the buckets provide an additional water tight barrier and helps provide an insulation layer to aid in mitigating temperature swings. 
The simple but effective buckets from both Heirloom Organics and Ultimate Seed Can also allow open seeds to be stored back in the bucket with the silica moisture wicking packs to even extend the life of open seeds.  The result of both Heirloom Organics and Ultimate Seed Can following USDA seed storage guidelines is that the seeds can be stored easily four years and longer depending on the seeds and with temperatures below 70 degrees, but remember warmer than freezing but the colder the better.  The seed storage life doubles for every 10 degree F decrease in storage temperature

FUNCTION & FEATURESBoth of the Heirloom Organics and Ultimate Seed Can provide very economical ways to purchase survival seed vaults for back up use as food sources or for yearly gardening.  The seed packets included in each of these seed vaults are high volume far beyond a pinch of seeds you would find in traditional seed packs.  The cost per seed of either of these seed vaults are also far lower for just the yearly gardener so it might be a great idea to pick up an extra. 
The phrase “investment grade seed vaults” has been used by both Heirloom Organics and Ultimate Seed Can.  The suggestion of investing in seeds is a hot topic at the moment.  Some feel heirloom seeds and boxes of .22LR ammo will be the currency the day after a national disaster occurs and I would concur both provide extreme value.  I will stay away from speculation, however I believe it prudent to have additional survival seeds as part of your bug out bags to begin growing food where your land, have some for potential trade, and some intended for use in a garden this spring... after all home gardening in today’s economy may not sound sexy, but it can save you a boatload of cash on your monthly groceries and provide piece of mind if a food limiting disaster should occur.

For those that want more variety and higher quality, both companies offer larger packs.  Ultimate Seed Can also has double seed vaults which double the seeds counts and include additional bonus seeds intended to round out your garden with herbs, aromatics, and additional vegetables.  For those wanting a little more variety over volume, Heirloom Organics provides a more expansive selection of seed bank packs, sizes and varietals to choose from beyond the Family size I selected.

FINAL THOUGHTS
A while back, I had a longer than anticipated gap in my real career in marketing and it was our food storage and backup food reserves which saved us.  For over six months we were able to keep our food budget outlay under $50 a month, so I am convienced that you should have the ability to store and grown your own food.  

This year, the Pandemic household will be creating a small garden in our back yard for food and as a back up food option should “it” hit the fan from a career or catastrophic perspective. Yep we may even do a little canning and expand our food storage to provide use with a food and financial cushion for more than the six months we weathered.  

Both companies have their advantages.  I think the labeling of the Ultimate Seed Can is more comprehensive than the Heirloom Organics, but the Heirloom Organics provides more varietal counts and higher seed counts per dollar.  That said, the Ultimate Seed Can is a Bug Out Bag packable option where as the Heirloom Organics higher seed counts packs are too big for that use but great for home.  Your choice.  Both are great seed vault options for growing your own food today or after the fact and are smart products to have ready and available as a food option. The often underrated Survival Seed Vaults could just be the best money you ever spend on survival gear.

SPECS
Ultimate Seed Can

  • 6 oz of seed packets
  • 23 Varietals
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Beets
  • Parsnip
  • Swiss Chard
  • Cucumber
  • Red Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Romain Lettuce
  • Meon
  • Onion
  • Jalapeno
  • Sweet Pepper
  • Radish
  • Winter Butternut Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Winter Pink Squash
  • Tomato
  • Watermelon
  • Cauliflower
  • Roma Tomato
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Broccoli
  • Approximately 18,215+ Seeds Total
  • MSRP $99
Heirloom Organics
  • Family Pack (2.7lbs stated) 3.3lbs of seeds as weighted
  • 30 Varietals
  • Beans: Strike Bush
  • Beets: Early Wonder
  • Broccoli: Green Sprouting
  • Brussles Sprouts
  • Cabbage: Golden Acre
  • Cabbage: Red Acre
  • Carrots: Nantes
  • Collards: Vates
  • Corn: Hickory King
  • Cucumber: Marketeer
  • Kale: Blue Scotch
  • Lettuce: Bibb
  • Lettuce: Blk. Seeded Simp.
  • Lettuce: Paris Island
  • Melon: Green Flesh
  • Mustard: Southern Giant
  • Oats
  • Onion: Yel. Sweet Spanish
  • Peas: Alaska
  • Pepper: California Wonder
  • Pumpkin: Small Sugar
  • Radish: Cherry Belle
  • Spinach: Nobel Giant
  • Squash: Grey Zucchini
  • Squash: Waltham Butternut
  • Swiss Chard Fordhook
  • Tomato: Marglobe
  • Turnip: Purple Top
  • Watermelon: Sugar Baby
  • Wheat
  • Approximately 94,000+ Seeds
  • MSRP $149

SOURCES
Ultimate Seed Can
http://bestorganicvegetableseed.com/

Heirloom Organics
http://www.non-hybrid-seeds.com/