Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Review - Taurus 738 TCP

Last time, we talked about Pepper Spray for self defense. I mentioned that it is important to have the ability to defend yourself. Often self-defense is overlooked, leading to tragedy. Going along that same topic, I wanted to write about a favorite defensive firearm of mine, a firearm being one of the most effective defensive tools available. I'm actually very excited to do this review.

This firearm takes up no more room in the pocket than a standard-sized wallet. Its size and weight allow you to carry it comfortably in all conditions. The firearm is none other than the Taurus 738 TCP.

The Taurus TCP is a truly palm-sized pistol.
The Taurus TCP is called a pocket pistol. This means that it can easily and unobtrusively be carried in the pocket. The fact that it can be carried so discretely should give you some idea of how small this firearm actually is.

Size & Weight

The Taurus TCP weighs 10.1 oz with an empty magazine and just 12.5 oz with seven rounds of 95gr, JHP (Jacketed Hollow Point) Winchester PDX1 ammunition, seven being the maximum amount of rounds that the TCP can hold with a full magazine and one in the chamber.

The barrel length is 2.8" long, the slide length is 5.3". The height of the pistol is 3.7" and the thickness is 0.78". If you can visualize that, the Taurus TCP is palm-sized. The size is amazingly small, if you haven't seen other pocket pistols such as the Kel-Tec P3AT or the Ruger LCP.

To keep weight down, the frame is made of polymer with adequate texturing on the grip. The steel slide rides on steel rails that are held onto the frame by two metal pins. The slide has serrations at the back which provide adequate traction to cycle the slide fairly easily. The recoil spring is actually has two integrated springs that are kept in place by a steel guide rod.

The Taurus TCP comes with 2, 6-round magazines, a PDA-style carry pouch
and 2 keys for the built-in hammer lock, which disables the pistol.
In terms of fit and finish, I have no complaints on the Taurus TCP. It looks very nice, with attractive machining that flows from the slide, throughout the frame. From a company that is often known for poor quality, the TCP really sets that bar high. I would not call this a poor quality firearm in any way.

Sights & Fire Controls

The sights are small and definitely designed not to snag on clothes when the firearm is drawn from concealment. They are non-adjustable milled out of the slide but, surprisingly enough, they are adequate. With some practice, I was able to have acceptable groups at realistic self-defense distances (10-20 feet).

I must say that I am very pleased with the TCP's trigger. It has a long, smooth, double action only trigger. When I say smooth, I mean smooth. The trigger has no staging or noticeable increase in the weight of the trigger pull throughout the movement. After some practice, you will remember where the breaking point of the trigger is, and be able to more or less know where it goes off. The nice trigger definitely helps shoot the pistol more accurately. I should also mention that there is no second strike capability on this pistol, so every time you want the hammer to hit, the slide has to cycle.

Rapid Fire: 5 shots at 10 feet within 2 seconds
out of the Taurus TCP, shows good "real-world" accuracy,
which is accuracy you would need in a defensive situation.
This firearm is somewhat unique when compared to other pocket pistols by the fact that it has a slide stop. The TCP's slide is held back on the last round, giving you a clear indication that the pistol is out of ammunition. This is a major plus in my book. In a self-defense scenario where you might be using a pistol, it is absolutely critical to know if you are out of ammo. With a firearm like the Kel-Tec P3AT or the Ruger LCP, you do not know you are out unless you count your shots, or hear a "click" when you should have heard a "bang". While I do not know how likely it is that you would be requiring more than 6 or 7 shots in a defensive scenario, it provides piece of mind to know that the TCP gives a signal when it is out of rounds.

The slide stop on the TCP is Glock-like in that it protrudes very little from the side of the pistol. When I reload after slide lock, I like to rack the slide manually rather than push the slide lock down with my thumb, since the slide stop does not offer very much traction, making it difficult to actuate manually.

Slow Fire: These 5 shots at 21 feet show that
the Taurus TCP is capable of accurate fire.
The last fire control, the magazine release, is also very trim. At first, it is hard to get used to, since it is so small, but with practice, it is more than adequate and ejects the magazines consistently.

The single-stack magazines on the TCP hold 6 rounds of .380 ACP ammunition. The TCP comes with two of them. The magazines have red followers and witness holes to see exactly how many rounds are in the magazine. The base plate on the magazines is extended about 1/2" to allow for a fuller grip on the pistol. I would have rather had a slightly longer grip and magazines without the extended base plate, since the extension makes reloading a little more difficult. When you hold the pistol, your fingers are holding onto what little grip there is, holding onto the extended floor plate of the magazine in the process. Then, we pulling the magazine out, you have to loosen your grip to make sure that you're not holding on to the magazine. That being said, the magazines have worked flawlessly for me and are of high quality.

Shooting

Slow Fire: At 50 feet, the group sizes of the Taurus TCP
open up to nearly that of the whole sheet of paper due to
difficulty in using the small sights. 
You might think that such a small pistol must be incredibly difficult to shoot. I have large hands, and even so, shooting the Taurus TCP is not too difficult, definitely more enjoyable than I thought it would be. With an inserted magazine, I can grip the pistol comfortably, with only my pinky finger hanging off. Of course I prefer a full length grip, but with portability of the TCP come some compromises. Overall, it's a good compromise and I'll accept a slightly less comfortable grip for the ability to carry my pistol comfortably anywhere.

Those that have never shot a .380 ACP pocket pistol before might be surprised by the snap of the recoil. Recoil is less than that of a 9mm pistol, but due to the small frame of the gun and the fact that you cannot have a full grip, the pistol wants to snap up with every shot. This takes a little time to get use to, but once you do, follow-up shots are very manageable.

Reliablity

I have fired about 300 or so rounds through the TCP thus far and have had no failures at all. I have shot both Full Metal Jacket rounds and Jacketed Hollow Point rounds, with no issues. It's just a very dependable pistol. I have read about some people having issues with it, but I have had absolutely none.

Conclusion

Overall, I really like the Taurus TCP pistol. It is small enough to carry comfortably in almost all situations, but still shoots well. The trigger pull is great, with a very functional slide stop. If any of you are looking for a defensive pistol, maybe you are looking for the Taurus TCP. Check one out at your local gun shop and see if it fits you.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pepper Spray - Less Lethal Defensive Alternative

A lot of thought, by a lot of people, has been put into answering the question, "What defensive tool should I carry with me?" I think that this is an important question. I believe that if more people gave self-defense more serious thought, many of the muggings and shootings that you hear about on the news would be avoided. The truth is, many people assume that: either an attack will not happen to them or that the police will be there to rescue them.

Both assumptions stem from a very naive mindset, a mindset that is very dangerous and can get the person killed if he/she is faced with a life or death defensive situation.

While I've written about self defense previously, and I promise to write about it again, today I wanted to look at a very unique defensive tool. I wanted to help you understand the benefits and drawbacks of this tool and how it can fit into your use of force continuum. The tool that I will analyze is Pepper Spray.

Cold Steel makes a powerful
Pepper Spray called Inferno
Pepper spray is a chemical agent whose active ingredient is Oleoresin Capsicum. This is the same chemical found in chili peppers and it gives a sensation of heat and burning when it comes into contact with the skin or mucous membranes. It hurts, a lot, however there is no permanent damage done after contact with it. The painful effects are only superficial, which makes pepper spray very unique when compared with other pain compliance devices such as a kubotan, a baton, or even a sjambok, whose pain can be damaging.

It is important to know where pepper spray fits in the use of force continuum. What is a use of force continuum? I wanted to briefly touch upon this before going further, since I believe that it is important. In a defensive situation, it is your obligation to de-escalate the situation wherever possible, with the least destructive effects. If a simple walking away will de-escalated a situation, it is much better to do so. This often means swallowing your pride, but, in the end, you are a winner if you take the higher ground, avoiding a greater conflict.

There are varying threatening levels of force that should be met with a similar level of force on your part as the defender. Meeting a lower level of force with a higher level of force can escalate a situation and can turn you into an aggressor. Good luck defending yourself in court if you pull a gun on someone because they shouted a derogatory remark at you.

You can even get Pepper Spray in a
lipstick case like this spray from Mace.
Understanding where pepper spray fits into the use of force continuum is important. Pepper spray belongs in the middle of the use of force continuum, underneath a firearm and other more damaging defensive options. Knowing that certain situations do not require the use of firearms or other such tools, carrying a can of pepper spray may be a good thing for those who want to have many defensive options depending on the situation at hand.

Pepper spray has some benefits and drawbacks that I would like to go into now. These need to be understood if you are looking into using it for your own, personal protection

Benefits

I'll first say that having a defensive tool is always better than not having one, since it gives you options in situations where you would have to defend yourself. So, having pepper spray is better than not having anything.

Unlike a firearm, purchasing pepper spray is easy to do in most locations and does not require a background check. It is also inexpensive. The legal ramifications of using a spray are also usually less than using a more deadly defensive option. To top it off, using pepper spray is easier than using a firearm and requires less training. Pepper spray has many things going for it. Don't get carried away, though. There are some drawbacks.

Possible Drawbacks

Pepper spray is a less-lethal (as opposed to non-lethal) defensive option, since it can, on rare occasions kill (if the person has asthma or other breathing conditions). Still, it is much safer to the target than most other defensive options. This is both a good and a bad thing. Situations where this would be a bad thing would be if the attacker has a very strong will, or is high on drugs and the effects of pepper spray do not stop him/her. In these situations only a serious impairment would stop the attacker, saving you from harm. It is important to understand this, since pepper spray is not a magic tool that will diffuse any and all situations.

Pepper spray also takes a couple of seconds to take effect. If you need to immediately stop an attacker, then pepper spray is probably not the best choice for a defensive tool. For example, if an attacker has a gun aimed at you, and you spray him/her in the eyes, there is little stopping him/her from pulling the trigger. In fact, after being sprayed in the eyes, they have more of a reason to pull the trigger.

As a rule of thumb, if there is an immediate threat of serious injury or death (the attacker has a gun or a knife drawn), then a more powerful defensive tool than pepper spray should be used; something along the lines of an impact device, edged weapon or a firearm.

That just scratches the surface of all there is to know about less lethal defensive options and pepper spray. I hope that reading this got you thinking, a little bit at least, about the importance of self-defense and about how to be prepared for it. Pepper spray is good for some situations, but it's not perfect for all situations. If you can carry it, however, I'd recommend it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Review - CRKT Drifter

One of the most impressive folding knives for the price that I have come across have been the Drifter series of knives by Columbia River Knife and Tool (CRKT). It offers a medium-sized, high quality knife that's razor sharp out of the box and super fast to open; the CRKT Drifter is a very good every day carry (EDC) choice.

The Drifter comes in two flavors, both excellent with their respective advantages. There is the light-weight Drifter G10, which is liner-locking and has G10 side scales. Then there is the Drifter Stainless, which is a frame-locking design with a stainless steel frame. It is heavier, but feels more solid in the hand.

(For those who do not know what G10 is, it is a material made of fiberglass impregnated with epoxy resin, a very good knife handle material.)

First, I'll cover things that the two have in common before I get into specifics for each model.

The CRKT Drifter comes in G10 and Stainless models.
The Drifter is adequately sized, 3.6" long when closed, with a 2.9" blade. The drop point blade is made out of 8Cr14MoV stainless steel. The blade holds an edge well and comes hair-shaving sharp out of the box. The lockup on both models is solid with no movement at all.

Opening the Drifter is easy, utilizing the ambidextrous thumbstuds. This knife opens very fast, surprisingly fast. The pocket clip enables the knife to be carried tip-down, right handed only. The pocket clip is removable but only has one mounting point. At the end of the handle, there is a lanyard hole for those who like lanyards on their pocket knives.

That pretty much covers the commonalities between the two models. Now I'll delve into the specifics between the Drifter G10 and the Drifter Stainless.

Drifter G10

The Drifter G10 the lighter of the two models. Weighing in at 2.4 oz, it is light enough to forget that you have it on you. The knife has stainless steel liners strengthening the frame, with G10 scales that go over the liners. The G10 offers a good amount of traction in the hand, not too much and not too little. The blade on the Drifter G10 has a gray titanium nitride coating, which matches the black G10 scales well, making the knife look very elegant.

One critique I would have is that the liner lock seems thin, however the blade locks open solidly. From my experience the lock has never failed. The jimping on the top of the blade is more or less non-functional, since it offer very little purchase for the thumb. The handle, however, still offers enough grip to make the knife very functional.

The Drifter Stainless is heavier but feels solid in the hand.
Drifter Stainless

The Drifter Stainless is the heavier, more solid-feeling version of the Drifter. It weighs 3.3 oz and has a stainless steel frame. This knife is a frame-locking design, with a very solid lockup. The blade has no coating, making it reflective and also elegant. It matches the stainless frame of the knife.

A critique against the Drifter Stainless is that the frame is smoother than the G10 version, making it a little harder to hold on to. However, the jimping seems to be sharper on the Stainless version than on the Drifter G10. The contours in the handle, combined with the jimping, still give you adequate traction in the hand for anything that you would realistically use this knife for.

Disadvantages to the Drifter

The pocket clip enables tip-up, right handed carry only.
I thought that it would be fair to list things that I do not like about the Drifter. While there isn't much, one thing that I do not like is that Drifter does not enable tip up carry. I prefer tip up carry on my blades, since from my experience it enables a faster knife opening.

Other than that, I do not have any criticisms on the design. I think it's excellent and I feel like any knife collector should own at least one CRKT Drifter. For those looking for an EDC knife, the Drifter may be just what you have been looking for. While there are a few criticism to the Drifter, as there are to all designs, it is still one of my favorites.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Review - 4Sevens Quark MiNi AA²

Understanding that a flashlight is an important piece of every day carry (EDC) gear, today I wanted to shed some light on one of my favorites. (See what I did there?) I wanted to go over a relatively inexpensive, but very bright light from 4Sevens. It is the newest release in the Quark MiNi line of lights; a products line know for its compact brightness.
4Sevens Quark MiNi AA² is an excellent EDC flashlight.
The flashlight that I will be reviewing is the Quark MiNi AA². After using this light, the first thing that I thought about was how great of an EDC flashlight it would be. This light has a maximum brightness of 180 lumens, all out of two AA batteries.

The Quark MiNi AA²'s slender size and integrated, but removable, pocket clip allows for the light to be easily carried. It is slim enough, at 0.69" thick, to put into a pouch or pack, without taking up much room at all. The length is 5.1" which is long enough to comfortably hold in the hand, but not too long to be cumbersome.

The light is made out out lightweight aluminum, with ample knurling, helping provide a solid grip. It weighs only 1 oz without batteries. With two alkaline AA batteries, it weighs 2.7 oz. With lithium batteries, however, it would weigh even less since lithium batteries are generally lighter than alkaline batteries.

So how does the Quark MiNi AA² achieve a brightness of 180 lumens?

For those who do not know much about flashlights, 180 lumens is really bright. Your average flashlight of this size/weight will output about 40 lumens or so. The secret to the Quark MiNi AA²'s brightness lies in it's emitter. The Quark MiNi AA² uses a CREE XP-G R5 LED emitter. This is a single LED (Light Emitting Diode) which utilizes the latest LED technology to produce a shockingly bright beam of light. This light can also vary in intensity, allowing the Quark MiNi AA² to have many brightness levels. We'll delve into that shortly, after I go over this next part.

Protecting the LED emitter is an aluminum head with an optical-grade glass lens. The flashlight head rotates, allowing you to turn the flashlight on and to change the output modes.

The textured reflector gives you great up-close lighting.
Behind the LED is a textured reflector. It is textured to give you a soft beam, a beam that evenly illuminates the area in front of you. This is perfect for illuminating close objects since there are no bright spots, only even illumination. What the textured reflector does however, is limit the distances that you can shine the light. Because the beam spread is wider, I would consider this a medium-range flashlight, excellent for distances up to 50 yards or so. Further out, however, you might have a hard time clearly seeing what you are trying to light up.

Getting back to the brightness levels and output modes (told you we'd get to them shortly), Quark MiNi AA² has seven output modes. The modes, along with their brightnesses and runtimes are listed below:
- Low (3.0 lumens, 3.4 days)
- Medium (36 lumens, 8.8 hours)
- High (180 lumens, 1.7 hours)
- Strobe (3.3 hours)
- Beacon (High) (17 hours)
- Beacon (Low) (88 hours)
- S.O.S. (10 hours)

How to operate:
The Quark MiNi AA² operates identically to the other Quark MiNi flashlights. If you are familiar with the way that they operate, then you already know how to use the Quark MiNi AA².

The pocket clip makes the Quark MiNi AA² simple to carry.
To turn the Quark MiNi AA² on, just tighten the head. To turn it off, loosen the head. Turning it on will put you in Low mode. If Low mode is all you care about, then stop reading right now.

Just kidding, of course you want to use the other modes. To get the other modes turn the light off and on quickly. This will put you in Medium mode. Doing that again will put you in High mode.

To get to Strobe, Beacon (High), Beacon (Low) and S.O.S. modes, which are consider "Special" modes, you have to cycle through the Low, Medium and High twice within 3 seconds.

This is the sequence of modes to get you a better picture of how it all works:
Low » Medium » High » Low » Medium » High » Strobe » S.O.S. » Beacon (High) » Beacon (Low)

The Quark MiNi AA² includes batteries, spare o-rings and a lanyard.
The variety of output modes really makes the Quark MiNi AA² a very useful flashlight. For close-in situations, where you would want to conserve battery life, Low mode is excellent. For situations that require more light, High mode works great.

For those in the market for a quality, but inexpensive EDC flashlight, the Quark MiNi AA² is definitely one to consider. It's advantages are that it uses AA batteries, which are easy to find and purchase. It is small, although there are smaller and brighter flashlights out there (Quark MiNi 123), but the larger size can be an advantage, giving you more of the flashlight to hold in your hand. The pocket clip is also a great advantage, especially for those used to carrying a pocket knife.

So, yeah, I recommend it. I actually highly recommend it. I'm sorry if it sounds weird that I'm constantly recommending things, but I do not like to review things that I don't like. It makes writing much harder. If you see me writing about a knife, flashlight, tool, etc. it's probably because I like it. If not, I'll be sure to make that clear in the post.

Give the Quark MiNi AA² a second look if you've glanced over it before. If you haven't, then give it a first look and be impressed by what this light has to offer.