Saturday, August 28, 2010

Thank You Precision Reflex, Inc. (PRI)

A couple weekends ago I broke a couple pins off the PRI AR-15 barrel nut wrench I was using. It's about as tough a tool as the application allows, but the barrel nut of the 9mm RRA upper was being really stubborn. I used the e-mail form on the PRI website, asking for a couple replacement pins, and the next day I had an e-mail from Tony Holdren at PRI. I sent him a few pictures of the broken wrench and he said to send it in, and they'd replace it. So I sent it Priority Mail last Tuesday, and had a new one back via UPS this Wednesday. I've had the barrel nut soaking with Kroil for a while. Wish me luck.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Novel Review: Steven Hunter’s Point Of Impact

Okay, so I’m a bit late to the Steven Hunter party. It looks like Point Of Impact was first published in 1993. I realize now that I’ve got some catching up to do.

You may have seen the movie Shooter (2007). Mark Wahlberg (a.k.a. Marky Mark, I’m sure he’d love the reference) is a sniper who gets framed for taking a shot at the U.S. president. I had seen the movie, but pretty much had forgotten all about it.

The high point of the movie, I vaguely remember. The main character, Bob Lee Swagger, the sniper, cuts down the man who really took the shot at the president, and then mows down a squad of shooters sent by the organization that framed him, aided somewhat by the FBI agent that believes he’s innocent. It’s maybe 12 minutes of shoot-em-up without much in the way of catch-phrases or billion dollar special effects, and it wasn’t enough to make a big impact at the box office. I don’t want to say that this is a minor part of the book, but the kicker in the novel is the surprise ending, which they did put into the movie. In the movie it only fizzles, and falls flat.

Let’s not get hung up on the mediocre movie though.

The novel starts out with Bob Lee waiting for a monster buck, near his home in the Oichita mountains in Arkansas. Bob Lee lives alone in the woods with his dozen or so rifles, a 1911, and a few thousand rounds of ammo, and has very little contact with anyone. He goes into town to pick up his mail, and to buy food now and then, but for the most part he just keeps to himself up in the mountains with his dog.

A few chapters in, you’re introduced to the villain, Col. William A. Bruce (retired), a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, who is played by Danny Glover in the movie. Col. Bruce needs a shooter, a real killer. He kicks some names around with his cronies. He rejects the suggestion of Carl Hitchcock (an obvious reference to Carlos Hathcock), because he’s made too much money selling books, and giving speeches at Soldier of Fortune conventions and whatever. Bruce wants “Bob the Nailer.” Bob Lee racked up 80-something confirmed kills as a Marine Sniper in Vietnam, with a few dozen more that couldn’t be confirmed. Pardon me, make that “The ‘Nam.”

Bruce goes up the Bob Lee’s place, along with Jack “Payne-O” Payne. Payne does the dirty work for Bruce, and he comes along to Bob’s place as a bodyguard. . . with a short barreled shotgun under his coat.

Bruce gets Bob Lee to come out to Maryland to do some shooting. He’s conviced Bob that he’s representing an ammo brand called Accutech. He gives some cock-and-bull story about using lasers to make the world’s best rifle ammo. Really what they are doing is laying the framework of a frame-up. They boost Bob’s ego, and then reveal that they’re tied up with Secret Service, and they have information that the Russian that shot Bob in the hip, and killed his spotter, has been hired by terrorists, and is planning on taking a shot at the President of the United States.

So Bob scouts some of the locations that the President will be visiting, and it seems that there is only one obvious choice. Col. Bruce talks Bob into sitting behind a spotting scope the day of the President’s speech, the day that the assassination is to take place. The trap is sprung, and Bob gets shot a couple times, but escapes. They set it up like Bob took the shot, and was shot by a police officer as he was making his escape. As Bob crashes out of the house, he practically lands on Nick Memphis, FBI agent, working with Secret Service. Bob takes Nick's Smith & Wesson 1076 10mm, and his government-owned car.

Nick had been in charge of going through the “Charlies,” random whackos, people who wrote letters to the government with too many exclamation points, people who just barely made it onto the radar of the Secret Service. Allegedly, Bob Lee had sent such a letter, and made it into the “Charlies.” Having been a former FBI sniper, Nick knew of “Bob the Nailer,” and didn’t consider him a real threat, and decided not to bump him up into the “Bravo” or “Alpha” groups.

So now it looks like Bob took a shot at the President, and took Nick’s service piece and car in the process. Nick is in hell, career-wise.

I may have gotten some of the details a little wrong, but that's mostly how it goes.  If I tell you the rest, it will spoil the book for you, so I’m going to end the summary there.

I highly recommend this book. I wasn’t real sure if I would enjoy it at the start. I guess I’m kind of out of my “sniper phase,” but there is a lot of “gun culture” written into the book, besides the sniper stuff. After the shooting, you get to read the newspaper articles as Bob Lee reads them. I got a kick out the inane comments about the “telescopic-powered assault rifle.” Real pro-gun-ban newspaper articles are sometimes that bad.

The book is about 500 pages, and they’re pretty long pages too, but I never thought, “oh, just get on with it already, dammit.” Although I guess I really knew how it would end about half way through, you don’t find out how it happens until like the last 30 pages. There’s a big hint near the beginning, but after a few hundred pages I had pretty much forgotten about it.

If you’re a reader, and you have the time, pick up a copy. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Making Kydex Holsters

This is my first posting to come out of a request.

This is a follow-up on the Custom Pocket Holster post.

I guess the first thing I should do is start with a disclaimer.  If you are going to be forming a holster around an actual firearm, check to make sure it's unloaded three times before you start doing anything.  Be really really sure it's unloaded, and periodically check to make sure it's still unloaded.  We don't want anyone getting shot by an allegedly unloaded pistol.

If you have a blue gun, or a red gun, a resin movie prop gun, or a metal stand-in of the type typically used for making holsters, obviously use that instead of a real firearm.  However, I expect that most who read this, are just normal shooters, who aren't going to go and spend $50 for a solid plastic gun to make one or two holsters.  In case I haven't made it perfectly clear yet, if you are going to be using a real firearm to form a holster around, make sure it's completely unloaded first.

Kydex is a pretty forgiving material to work with.  If you make a mistake, you can heat it back up and reshape it.  One of the only ways you can really go wrong is to cut a piece too small, although you may be able to use that piece later for something else.  If you get too agressive with a heat gun you might manage to scorch or really melt the material.

Kydex is also a very inexpensive material.  At present, you can get a 12x24” sheet of black Kydex for about $15 shipped, which should be enough to make two dropped and offset race holsters for full-size pistols, possibly 3, 4, or maybe even more concealment holsters, depending on the design.

I bought my Kydex and Concealex from  They have expanded their line of sheath and holster supplies to include metal belt clips, snaps and setting tools, a wider selection of rivets and setting tools, leather material and supplies, new colors and camo pattern Kydex, and a whole bunch of other stuff.

.060” thick Kydex is easier to shape, but Kydex is pretty brittle, and all the holsters and belt loops I’ve ever had, made of .06” Kydex have broken or cracked.  The pocket holster for the Kahr is made of .09” thick sheet, and has been beaten pretty badly, but it's still intact.  I made belt loops for the SuperTuck from .09” sheet folded over, and they’ve been hanging in for a couple years now.  I don't have any experience with .08" Concealex or Kydex, or .125" Kydex.  The 1/8" Kydex might do the trick for belt loops, but wasn't available when I ordered material.

There are a few different ways to form Kydex.  I just use a heat gun to soften the sheet, and then I bend and form it as necessary.  You may have seen vacuum forming on Mythbusters, that works with Kydex too, but I haven't bothered with making a vacuum forming set-up myself.  I've heard of people using the oven, or a toaster oven to warm up the Kydex, and then they quickly try to form it before it cools down and sets.  I have not tried the oven method yet, but I can see how it might have some advantages.

If you use the heat gun or oven methods, you'll need some kind of "Kydex press."  You can order a nice, photo-friendly press from or elsewhere for about $85, but I made mine from some MDF I had left over from another project, and a couple layers of foam cut from a sleeping pad.
The top layer of foam is a little scorched, and the cut of the MDF isn't pretty, but it gets the job done.

You may have no choice but to hand-form sometimes.  The Kydex press doesn't really do curves, unless you make some kind of buck to insert into the press with the hot material.

You'll need something to use as a heat sheild to just work small areas of your holster.  I used a piece of aluminum flashing, but a scrap of plywood or something would work too.
I think I had cut the notch in the heat shield to rework the channel necessary for the slide lock lever.

I have used popsicle sticks taped to the pistol to form slots in the Kydex for the slide lock lever, and other controls.  If you don't have any handy, you can find them labeled as craft sticks at Michael's or maybe WalMart.  The wood slats, purchased from the hobby section of WalMart, I cut to make a stand-in belt to make belt loops.  It's not pictured here, because I threw it away, but I once use the handle of a plastic spoon at one point for forming Kydex.  Use your imagination.

Here is some hardware used to make the tension adjustment on the pocket holster for the Kahr.  On top is a tee-nut (may alse be called a t-nut).  On the bottom is a finish washer.  On the right is a rubber bushing, which goes between the layers of the holster.  On the left is a flathead Phillips 8-32 machine screw.

Except for the rubber bushing, this is the same type of hardware used to secure the belt loops to a Crossbreed SuperTuck holster.  Crossbreed seems to have used a rubber washer cut from rubber sheeting to use as a spacer between the leather backing, and the belt loop.

The finish washers I was able to find at Home Depot.  The tee-nuts and screws I ordered from MSC Direct, but they may be cheaper from McMaster Carr, although, if you need a heat gun, it's probably cheaper at MSC.  If you are buying a heat gun, try to get one with the attachments for focusing the flow of hot air.  It you can't get a heat gun with the attachments for a resonable price, you can get them from WalMart in the paint section for under $25 probably, or maybe from PepBoys.

More Holster-Making Links, in no particular order:
FreeIdaho - Scroll down the index on the left until you get to "Holster 1". Sheath Page - It's about making knife and sword sheaths, but there's some useful information that can be applied to making holsters., Vacuum Forming an IWB Holster - Alternate method of making Kydex Holsters.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Update, 8/1/2010

I found the website for the self-defense shows on Spike.  So I updated that post.  I also added descriptions of the shows.

Uploaded pictures of Heinie sights and LPA adjustable sights for Glock, and added them to my update post from July 18th.

August free shipping (for orders over $199) promotion code for DSG Arms = AUGSHIP

Custom Pocket Holster

I had been carrying my Kahr PM9 in an Uncle Mike's pocket holster with an old Blue Cross card epoxied on at the bottom to give it some ridgity.  Well the card broke into several pieces and the holster returned to a floppy, and now very ugly mess.  So I made my own Kydex pocket holster from Kydex.  Here it is:
I made it so that the Kydex covers the mag release, sights, and, of course, the trigger.  The muzzle end is folded over, to try to protect the pistol from pocket lint as much as possible.

I sized it specifically to fit Wrangler jeans pockets, but it seems to fit in most anything else.  Some pocket holsters are made too small, and the pistol ends up sideways, or eventually upside down.  I didn't leave it any room to rotate.

I've been using this holster for a few months and it's working out well.  It took a few tries to get it just right, but the Kydex can be reshaped without any negative effects, and it wasn't that hard.  All in, with the heat gun, materials, foam and MDF to make the Kydex press, I still have less money in the holster than what it would have cost me to have someone else make it.