Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Walther PPX 9mm Pistol Review

Walther PPX 9mm Pistol Review
Probably the Best Full Sized 9mm for the First Time Gun Buyer

As I noted in my Walther PPS review, the new face of Walther has become far more that just a legacy of James Bond’s Walther PPK. The company has lept into cutting edge designs; some gun buyers get right away like the fabulous little PPS and some are a bit tougher to understand for the seasoned shooter... that is until they handle them.  The PPX is one of those guns that you cannot fully appreciate until you handle it, grip it, shoot it and then really drive the living crap out of it. Once you do these things, you suddenly exclaim “ahh I get this marginally oversized odd looking gun and I really… really like it.”

Walther has a very long storied past which dates back to 1886 when they created the first semi-automatic pistol. Today over 130 years later they are a leader in manufacturing, design, and production of the most sophisticated firearms in the world. The company has now merged with Umarex (makers of premium .22LR firearms and air rifles) while still continuing to manufacture products for other manufacturers such as Smith & Wesson. Its impossible to encapsulate the very storied history of Walther in this article, but their history is much richer than just the old PPK design. Today they are delivering both top end firearms as well as some truly innovative firearms at a value price point including the new $400 street priced PPX line.

While at the 2013 SHOT (Shooting Hunting & Outdoor Trade) show, I had a chance to speak with Mark Thomas from Walther about why a $400 street priced Walther was created and now competing amidst their own line of premium $600-$800 Walther firearms. His response was, “This gun (the PPX) was developed so we could provide a full length, full sized and fully featured Walther at a value price.  We really didn’t have a feature rich gun at a value price and now the PPX does that.  We didn’t sacrifice quality in making the PPX, but with so many new shooters coming into the sport, we wanted those folks who were just learning to shoot to be able to have a quality firearm with a lot of features at a price they could live with.” - Mark Thomas - Director Marketing, Walther Arms, Inc. After testing, it is now my perspective that this might be the best home defense/full-sized handgun a first time buyer could reach for.

New shooters have a very hard time developing proper trigger control and pull. The Walther helps easily develop and train good trigger habits with a clearly defined but very soft initial trigger pull take-up followed by a crisp second stage break. This trains new shooters to start thinking about proper trigger staging instead of trigger slapping. Many firearms have dubious feeling stacking trigger stages which can be tough for even great shooters to control. The trigger delivers confidence to a new shooter.

The overall design feels extremely comfortable in the hand, but its chunky beefy feel adds a bit of mental psychology that you have a big gun to handle any situation. Friends and family  gun newbies I have trained to shoot have really gravitated to the design because it looks substantial.

I am a firm believer that a defensive firearm should not have any external safeties as I have seen shooters forget to disengage them or accidentally engage them during high stress drills.  The PPX design did it right and integrated the three safeties into the trigger actuated firing control. If you want a safe gun, leave the chamber empty and draw, charge, and fire, per the Israeli Mossad method.

This brings up another point; the PPX is super easy and smooth to charge due to the ergonomics and smooth action.  The simple but effective 3-dot sight system has become industry standard and provide the beginner the perfect sight system to learn by.  The gun is very accurate as well, however it is the maintenance which I think is targeted perfectly to the novice.

To disassemble the gun for routine cleaning, simply lock back the slide with an empty magazine in the gun and turn the take down lever and then hit the slide release and the slide will slip right off. Pull off the captured slide spring, lift out the barrel, and the parts are ready for cleaning. To reinstall the slide, simply reassemble the barrel and spring and slip on the slide, lock it back, and flip the takedown lever back. The new user does not have to deal with any three handed, align this slot with that pin or mark stuff, and then drive out a pin which is held in place by the force of God… just lock back the slide and flip the take down lever. Everything about this gun screams make it easy on the newbie and give the pros an inexpensive gun to fall in love with and beat on for not a lot of money.

Despite the “husky” looks, its only around ⅛” wider and otherwise dimensionally similar to competing firearms. It looks, big fat and chunky, however once in the hand or side-by-side with a competing gun, you see that intentional big strong husky full figured looks are quite deceiving.

While at the SHOT show, I had the opportunity to handle all the Walther firearms side by side and I can honestly say I saw no difference between the PPX’s fit and finish and the other Walther models.  It still has all the super precise molding, highly detailed grip texturing, and the metal parts are all still finished with a durable Tenifer finish just like the rest of the lineup.

Even from a Feel perspective, the PPX is just as comfortable as the more expensive PPQ M2 but does lack the PPQ’s adjustable/swappable grips. The lower receiver of the PPX seems every bit as nicely contoured and thought out as its other Walther siblings and also shares a variant of the pre-cocked modified striker firing system. What is considerably different is the slide assembly.

Where the other Walthers clearly have some serious machine time dedicated to creating beautifully convex and concave curves cut on and into the slide, the PPX is milled on a set of 90 and 45 degree angles to significantly cut costs. The pistol does have graduated and increasing bevels on the top edges of the slides, however this hardly is the sophisticated milling required on the other more expensive models. The absence of the interchangeable/adjustable grips and the simple blocky slide drastically reduce manufacturing costs. Add in a stamped versus milled slide release and a few other polymer based internal parts and you have a $400 street priced gun that would seem to perform terrifically well all wrapped up in a very easy-to-use ergonomic format.

Where most manufactures have focused on exclusively standard striker fired designs, Walther has developed a “Pre-cocked” firing control system which blends the best of striker and hammer fired mechanism. Like nearly every striker fired system, the striker/hammer is partially pre-cocked by either manually cycling the pistol or automatically pre-cocking after a round is fired. In this case, the PPX has a small snag-free hammer which is partially pre-cocked just like a striker would be. As the trigger is depressed, the three internal safeties are disengaged, the hammer is pushed to a fully cocked state (extending only ¼” from the rear of the gun) and the hammer hits the firing pin to detonate the round. The end result is a handgun with an awesome trigger pull… probably the best of any striker fired or pre-cocked firearm I have handled. It has a definitive ½” of take-up and then a sharp crisp 6.1lb break.  Greatly improving the trigger feel was a primary reason Walther decided to move to this Pre-Cocked hammer fired design.

Some have noted that the trigger is so good and light that they feel a little hesitant to carry the gun with a round in the chamber, however again the design and feel are deceiving. Glocks for example have trigger pulls just under 6lbs, however the PPX trigger feels worlds lighter.  If the gun is tumbling around in a glove compartment, backpack or purse, a live round in the chamber is not the best idea with any semi-auto, however in a proper holster, I would see not issue carrying this gun fully ready to rock.

The features of the PPX are impressive; steel three-dot steel sights, 16+1 round capacity, a 360 degree beveled chamber for reliability, 2-magazines are included with a hard TSA approved case, 1913 spec picatinny accessory rail, front and rear slide serrations, excellent grip texturing, and even a reversible magazine release for all the lefties out there.

Functionally the PPX shot and spit out over 400 rounds of my worst reloads however I must address that goofy looking PPX angled grip. Honestly my first thought was “what the hell?” after I handled, tested, carried, and shot the pistol my thought was “OK now I get it”.  Despite the grip’s looks, it is super ergonomic and actually is more concealable due to the hump.  

Once I mounted a ClipDraw to the side of the gun and slide it into my waistband that goofy angle breaks up the grip pattern under the shirt and it looks a lot more like a fat roll than a gun butt.  I was shocked how much better I could conceal this pistol than my Glock 17. Another great carry method was to slip the PPX into my 5.11 Moab Rush’s hidden CCW compartment.

Despite the ammo shortage of 2013, Federal and Hornady were nice enough to spare me a few rounds of really nice defensive ammo for accuracy testing after I burnt up 400 rounds.  The PPX is very accurate for a defensive semi-auto 9mm. With the Federal Guard Dog, and Standard Hollow points, and Hornady defensive rounds, I was able to consistantly deliver 1.25” 25-yard groups off the sand bags. At defensive 7-yard distances, I was able to essentially deliver single ragged hole groups during slow controlled offhand shots. Definitely what sets this gun apart and enables the accuracy is that incredible trigger and firing control mechanism. Walther may have focused on developing a great defensive handgun, however I may have to hunt rabbits this year with this 9mm.

A few things I wish Walther would change are adding in some type of firearm lock especially for a fire time buyer focused firearm. This could be a simple paddlock to place the shackle behind the trigger to prevent the gun from being fired. The sights are of very high quality, however the front of the rear sight should be square at the front to allow the gun to be charged single handed via catching the rear sight on the belt or pocket.

Those two minor issues aside, I am both delighted and pleasantly surprised by this gun. Walther may have been attempting to hit a value price, however in the process they have delivered an outstanding quality firearm for the novice or the expert.

Low profile three dot polymer combat sights - (Note mine were metal)
Rapid aiming and target acquisition. Rear sight drift adjustable for windage.

Tenifer™ coated slide and barrel - Resists corrosion
Loaded chamber viewport
Front and rear slide serrations
Hammer fired action
Slide locks back on empty. Slide stop is extended for easy gloved operation.
3 safeties - Two drop safeties and a firing pin block for safe carry.
Ergonomic Walther grip
Reversible push button thumb-operated magazine release
Constant 6.5 lb trigger pull
Mil-std-1913 Picatinny accessory mounting rail

Model:             2790025
Caliber: 9mm
Finish:            Black
Trigger Pull: 6.1 lbs
Barrel Length: 4"
Capacity: 16 rnds
Overall Length: 7.3"
Height:                 5.6"
Width: (B2 = Slide) 1.3" B2 = 1.14"
Sight Radius:   6.3"
Weight            1.7 lbs
MSRP             $449  
Street              $399

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

5.11. Rush Moab 10 Pack Review

5.11. Rush Moab 10 Pack Review

There are a ton of packs out there one the market but the Rush Moab 10 pack delivers something a bit different and unique to those looking for a extremely useful sized 1-3 day pack.

ABOUT 5.11.
5.11 Tactical’s mission is “We are innovators who make purpose built gear for the most demanding missions.”  That does not mean uber tactical defense. In reality 5.11 was named after the Yosemite Decimal Difficulty system for rock climbing.  The focus of the company is to deliver innovation and based what I saw on this pack, they are executing in a big way.

The 5.11 Rush Moab 10 is based on a newer single strap pack design which has become popular for micro to mid-sized packs. Most of us are familiar with typical two strap over-the-shoulder backpacks. Ultimately dual over-shoulder straps provide the best the load bearing support when weights add up over distance if properly adjusted/fit, however on short trips and with lighter loads, we humans tend to grab just one strap, sling it over our shoulder, and head out... thus the single strap packs were developed.  Obviously by design the single strap packs carry the same amount of weight far more comfortably than a two-strap pack when used incorrectly with just one strap. Simply put, if you are a single strap pack carry kinda person who does not carry weighted packs, then this newer single strap design may be for you.  The Moab 10 is designed to be carried in one of two ways; a simple over the shoulder carry or cross body carry.

For quick trips around town, while traveling, brisk short walks from terminal to terminal, the leisurely walk out to the hunting stand or range, or just handling the daily commute, tossing over the shoulder and using the carry side thumb to secure the Moab Rush 10 works fine.  The pack features a quick adjust strap which can be tightened to cinch the pack up close to the body. The pack is pretty secure at this point, however a thumb is still required to keep the pack in place.

Picking up the pace or when having the need for both hands is when the cross-chest-carry really makes this single-strap pack design shine.  In this position the Moab 10 is secure as a regular pack, does not move I around on the body and has one very cool trick it can perform; access to the pack storage without removing the pack.  Simply slide the pack from your back to your chest and at that point the pack will be perfectly horizontal at your chest with one side's YKK zippers accessible.  With Moab's double YKK zippers on all seams accessing your stuff in any of the five compartments becomes really easy. An extra compartment is a hidden velcro concealed carry pocket which delivers a pretty speedy carry and draw location for even a large full sized firearm like the PPX pictured with Surefire tactical light attached.  Actually the Moab 10 is big enough to carry a Keltec Sub2000 folding rifle and can be quickly deployed via this cross body carry and draw method.

Like every 5.11 product I have ever used the Rush Moab is very high quality heavy weight ballistic nylon made with premium double YKK zippers with pull tabs on all main compartments.  

Generally I prefer packs that do not have a lot of pre-prescribed internal organization simply because they usually do not fit my needs well and end up wasting space and just adding material weight to the pack in the form of more pockets, more webbing, and more material.  That noted 5.11 has struck a pretty perfect compromise of useable pockets without going overboard.

The Moab Rush 10 has six externally accessible pockets/compartments with most having additional pockets within.  The two hidden pockets include a small shallow zipper accessible fleece lined sunglasses pocket and the hidden Velcro lined concealed carry pocket.  The sunglasses pocket is unbelievably useful unless you like big nasty scratches in your $100+ sunglasses. 

The hidden conceal carry pocket nested between the front pocket and main compartment is so well concealed that I didn't even know it was there until I watched one of 5.11's videos.  This compartment is huge and can handle handguns of pretty much every size; 1911s, Glock G29 10mm, or pistols such as the new Walther PPX shown. In fact you could probably get a couple handguns in there if needed.

The small attached coms/communication pouch on the strap is designed to house your media players or 2-way radio and includes a pass through for headset wires as well as internal straps to retain items in this small index card sized compartment.

The rearmost hydration compartment is sized to handle pretty much any large sized hydration bladder (not included) and includes T-toggles to secure the bladder. The compartment also has an internal pocket which holds a stiff plastic backer plate to improve comfort or it can be removed.  

The hydration pocket compartment and main compartment are both set up to pass the hydration hose up and thru to enable threading the tube down the strap for easy on the go access. In fact the main compartment can also be used as a secondary hydration bladder locations however it does not have T-toggles to keep the bladder standing securely upright.

The main compartment features a large shove it pouch with a bungee, a dual sided access set of mesh pockets and a large dual zipper accessible center pouch. It is quite amazing what you can carry in this pocket considering the size of the pack.  It can handle a full sized laptop + iPad + periodical + a whole lot of other miscellaneous items and still have room left over. 

Of note this pack has become my real job travel bag simply because it can carry all the above crap infinitely more comfortably than my other briefcases and laptop bags all while still feeling like you are carrying far less weight.

The front admin compartment features two shove it pouches large enough for two 30-round AR mags and the backside of the compartment has a variety of pouches for business card/ID slots, pen, pencils, sports. Other features are dual keychain leads and a large zippered pouch.

One of the features I love on this pack is the inclusion of a two top and a bottom cinch straps to deliver a tighter more controllable pack when loads are smaller.

Covering the Moab Rush 10 is a Molle compatible Web system and a number do Velcro fields in strategic areas for moral or ID patches. The attachment points definitely do not limit you from an attachment or lashing perspective.

Some may think Moab is a great place for a hike, however in this case Moab stands for Mobile Operation Attachment Bag.  This is a bag Tiering system which allows the user to attach this smaller bag, piggyback style, to another bag or pack.  For example, you could attach this pack to a larger hiking/deployment/bug out bag while providing the ability to quickly drop the larger pack and roll out with the smaller bag.  This is facilitated by the included web/molle compatible straps and split buckle ends that can be attached between the connecting bags and then left in place.

To date, I have over three weeks straight of dragging this bag all over the country and the more I carry the 5.11 MOAB Rush 10, the more I like it.  It is fast handling, compact, and easy to handle even with heavier loads as a laptop carrier. From a size perspective, this is a great small 3-day pack which provides a lot of user flexibility and a great concealed carry option.  An all around excellent pack which I can strongly recommend.

MSRP $109.99
Colors - black, sandstone, double tap (tested), camo

Mobile Operation Attachment Bag
Includes 5.11's Tier System - attaches to RUSH backpacks
Ambidextrous cross-body shoulder strap system
Coms pocket with pass-through for mic/earbuds
Concealed Back-Up Belt System™ pistol compartment
Hydration pocket (1.5ltr) with pass-through port
Padded back with ventilation channels and non-slip pads
Fleece lined sunglass pocket
1050D water resistant nylon
YKK™ zippers throughout
Interior admin panel and stash pockets
Grab handle and compresssion straps
1050D Nylon with water resistant coating, web platform and loop-sided Velcro.  
Main compartment- 18.25"H x 9"L x 5.25"D
Front compartment- 12.5"H x 8"L x 2"D

5.11 Tactical -

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Which caliber for the Prototype Build 7.62x39 or 5.56 Nato

Which caliber for the Prototype Build 7.62x39 or 5.56 Nato?

OK Pandemians, I want to hear from you on which caliber you would like to see a build I have nicknamed the "Prototype" chambered in.  At this point I have a hand selected pre-anodized set of a la naturale receivers from American Spirit Arms, an Ace Ultralight stock, Barnes Precision Machine parts kit, and a 15" Apex Machine free float forend.

Let's hear what you think between 7.62x39 or 5.56 Nato.

This build has been swapped and changed around considerably since I first embarked on this build.  Origainlly I planned the Apex 15" forend, however I loved that forend on my ASA SIde charger.  Then I attached a Mark IV Geissele forend with a liquidation 5.45x39 Russian surplus ammo chambered barrel seen below. The barrel and handguard were moved to another build and a Carbon FIber AP Industries forend was installed along with a Ballistic Advantage Match Grade 5.45x39 Russian surplus ammo chambered barrel.  Look for the review here

Sunday, September 15, 2013



Leatherwood has a long storied past which dates back to one of the most well regarded sniper optics ever used by the military. Today they make some very high quality optics at prices which are about half to a third of comparably clear and bright optics. One of those optics is the CMR, Close to Medium Range 1-4x24 scope. A ton of refinement has gone into this optic and the stunningly useful reticle which delivers both a quick shooting CQB semi-donut and hash mark options to 800 yards and MRAD precision increments.

The 1-4X optic power range has become a very hot area as 3 Gun shooters start to move around while shooting or shoot standing unsupported. Big magnification will just lead to frustration and slow shots. This low power optic concept is based on the military Designated Marksman optic requirements were moving and shooting is the norm at distances from 0-600 yards. Thus the need to have variable optic with no magnification at 1X for both eyes open close range shooting, but have the ability to bump up the magnification for more precise shots at distance.

The Hi-Lux CMR4 reticle is incredibly unique in the industry. Based on a significant amount of US military consulting input, the CMR4 combines that wonderful donut+dot close range fast targeting sighting system with BDC (bullet drop compensating) reticle plus a Mil grid system on the reticle. Once you learn to really use the capabilities of this optic, you will not want to shoot anything else.

The Hi-Lux CMR4 illuminated reticle is available is your choice of red or green illumination however the reticle is visible as black without the illumination on. Unlike some reticles that only illuminate the center dot, the Hi-Lux reticle illuminated the donut+dot and the full BDC tree but excludes the Mill grid marks. Hi-Lux added two additional night vision settings for glare free shooting in the dark of the night. Crank up the illumination and you have an outstanding CQB optic, however the illumination is not visible in direct sunlight.

Where most optics are designed around a single duplex reticle with a “best ballistic compromise” zeroing point (usually 300 yards for AR15s), a BDC reticle like the one on the Hi-Lux CMR4 greatly increases precision at all ranges. For example, an AR15 zero’ed to 200 yards delivers a bullet path that will vary approximately 1.5” high at 100 and only 1.5” low at 225 yards and a 300 yard zero will get you out further, however the bullet path will vary considerably more up to 4.5” high at 200 yards to 12” low at 400 yards. The BDC reticles offer more precise pre-calibrated aiming points than a single duplex reticle and offer you most precise shot placement at all distances. The CMR4 BDC is designed around the ballistics of the 55gr ballistic tipped Hornady TAP round however I found that most other 55gr rounds matched the BDC marks well at 200, 300, 400, 500, and 600 hash marks and provided a hit and satisfying gong ring at each distance.

The updated CMR4 has expanded MRAD grid marks the full width and depth of the reticle which can take you beyond 1000 yards if you have the skill.   Hi-Lux has made the reticle marks faint enough that they do not get in the way, but are visible enough when you need them. What this grid of Mil data provides is 40 mils of hash marks of elevation and windage left/right plus a BDC reticle and the unique ability among the optics to leverage a ballistic calculator accurately to place shots all without touching the turrets.

With the donut+dot, BDC and Mil grid, there is little this optic cannot do quickly, however they did not stop there. Hi-Lux also moved the turret windage adjustment to the left side so you don’t need to lift your firing hand off the grip to make adjustments.Other updates includes adding flip up scope caps and turret caps which cover full sized Mil adjustment turrets (0.1 Mil per click, and 80 clicks per revolution). The CMR is the only optic in this price class that offers both resettable zero and a zero stop turret design. Yep you got it, find zero, lock it in and no matter where you end up on your turret spins, you will always be able to return to zero even in pitch black by spinning back to the hard stop.
I mounted the CMR4 to my custom Aero Precision Geissele trigger equipped AR15 with a custom White Oak match .223 Wylde (.223 match) barrel. This optics is more than durable enough to top a 308, 30-06, Mosin 7.62x54R and would be just the optic to transform a forgotten 308 to a mighty fine scout rifle.  Testing was at yardage increments of 2, 25, 50 in various lighting conditions and BDC tests of 100 yard increments from 100-600 yards.  The CMR4 excelled at all the test except delivering visible daylight illumination. From fast defensive shooting at short distances to slow longer range shots, I was exceedingly happy with the extreme versatility of the CMR4.  I own several Hi-Lux Leatherwood optics and the clarity is superb and in my opinion are one of the top values in the 1-4x optic market.

If you are a ballistics nerd like me, this reticle has it all satisfying short arms length to long range hit capability. Great on .223 or .308 platform for precision work with a low power optic. It is an all purpose optic which has also proven itself as a hot hog hunting optic with a partial donut-dot to bring you on target fast and enough data to keep the serious data driven shooters happy.  An excellent optic and don’t forget the older versions are still great, so keep an eye out for those as well in the used market.

Magnification: 1x - 4x
Objective Lens diameter: 24mm
Field of View @ 100 yards: 94.8-26.2 ft
Exit pupil range in variable mm: 11.1mm (at 1x) to 6mm (at 4x)
Eye relief: 3"
Length: 10.2"
Weight: 17 oz
Coating: Diamond Tuff14
Reticle: Special ranging illuminated reticle with circle and dot
Elev. MRAD: 0.1
Wind. MRAD: 0.1
Features of Leatherwood Hi-Lux Close Medium Range-4 30mm Rifle Scope:
Front and rear flip-up lens covers
Zero-locking turrets
Left windage knob
Elevation and windage covers

Black matte finish
MSRP $525
Street $439

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Hi-Lux Leatherwood Optics -