Gear Review: Galco Walkabout for J-Frames

Thanks to the generosity of The Tactical Professor, I have been able to spend some time with the Galco Walkabout for small revolvers. Here is a quick review based on living with it for the last week or so.

Historically, holsters with on-board spare ammo storage are the laughing stock of serious gun people the world over. If you want to feel discomfort, get a tactical codpiece and try to go about your day with it. It’s terrible (for me) and I simply can’t use one. See the T-Rex Arms Sidecar for proof.

The mission of my J-frame is being a clip and go, around the house, errand run, simple to carry gun. The limited capacity warrants having a backup ammo supply nearby. Given the size, weight, and geometry of the J-frame, it could be feasible and comfortable. The cylinder leaves a perfectly matched cylindrical void just outside of the holster that would fit a speed loader perfectly. I was pleased to see something like this existed in the Galco Walkabout.

The Pros

The fact that this concept exists is a pro. Googling wouldn’t yield any other holsters that attempted this concept, so I was glad that there was at least one. The holster does what a good holster should do. It protects the trigger, it stays put on the belt, allows a full firing grip, and the mouth of the holster contains a wire that keeps it open when drawn.

The holster is comfortable suede and has the hardware to mount for either hand, as well as whatever cant you desire, including a negative cant for cross draw applications if that’s your thing. I set it up for zero cant to wear AIWB.

The Cons

I think if there were a few things done differently, this would be a must own. Here’s my gripes.

  • The belt clip is trash. I think the quick fix to make this thing 10x better is to swap the clip for a Discreet Carry Concepts spring steel clip. This is my biggest gripe.
  • It only accepts HKS and 5-star speed loaders. No Safariland or Jetload or anything like that.
  • The ride height of the speedloader sits exactly in-line with the cylinder of the gun. It makes sense from a space-saving standpoint, but means you have to reach into your pants to grasp the loader. I’d like to see it ride higher, closer to above the belt line.
  • The retention snap will get you killed in the streets. I have it clipped out of the way because when I tried using the retention snaps, the grip of the speed-loader gets hung up in the suede and is guaranteed to make you bobble the reload. Also, when you unsnap it, occasionally the loader comes out with the strap, flinging the loader into the ether. I have several ideas to fix this, but I’ll keep them to myself for now.

I think an enterprising kydex maker or leather worker could optimize this idea and make a very workable solution (holla at ya boy). But in the meantime this is the only game in town.

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Hot-Rod J-Frame Part 2: Springs, Grips, and Pocket Autos

If you haven’t, go back to read part 1 here. We go over the purpose and methodology of this little experiment.

Data Collection and Shooting? Sign me up.

I’ve had a pair of range trips and was able to shoot the standards and change a set of parts in both the S&W 640-3 and the Ruger LCR. I also brought out my Ruger LCP to add another data point.

A note about the testing. I slightly altered the 5-yard roundup’s scoring. I only used the ‘-5 points for each shot over time’ since the time element is critical but I omitted the ‘-10 points for shots off of the 10″ circle’ portion of scoring. Mostly because I wanted some resolution in the scoring and a shot off the 8.5×11″ printer paper was counted as a zero anyway. I felt this was a good compromise given what I’m trying to get out of the testing.

640-3 APEX Duty/Carry Springs

Apex Spring/Firing Pin kit

As soon as I installed the spring kit and dry-fired, I knew it would improve my scores. I was right, but I was surprised at how much. You can see the chart below. When recording my times, I recorded a string-by-string score and split times on each string. I wanted maximum resolution on what was going on. The big takeaway is that the APEX spring kit improved my scores by an Average of approximately 22%. This is across all categories of pure accuracy, pure speed, and a careful blend of the two. This is a substantial improvement. It’s one that I feel is worth it the expense.

LCR ERGO grip

The Ergo grip is available for both the LCR and J-Frame. It looks bizarre, and frankly feels quite bizarre. It is meant to fill the hand and change the grip angle to be more like a Glock. It’s also worth noting that there is no obvious index point when trying to draw the revolver with these on. The bumps of the grip blend seamlessly into the bump of the trigger guard, which causes confusion for your hand as you go to make your grip. Luckily, the numbers make the decision easy for me. Across the battery of tests, the ERGO grip made me 10% worse.

Anyone want to try a set of ERGO grips, I know a guy who has an extra set…?

Baseline Data for Ruger LCP .380

The last thing I had time for was running the testing with a Ruger LCP. I wanted some pocket gun data to see how much I’m handicapping myself by carrying a j-frame. It turns out, I’m not. You can see in the data that some things went better with the LCP, and others went worse. My split times and one-handed work really tanked my scores. I also had some trigger freeze issues when trying to run it as fast as possible. This is useful testing as one more data point. I plan to run several other small pistols, and maybe a duty sized gun just for the data.

The Complete Data as of 4/24/19

An Experiment Worth Doing

After seeing these results, I am encouraged that this might be a relatively worthwhile experiment to continue. I have various sights and grips (stocks) lined up to try as well. Though I’ll be honest, I’m not looking forward to removing the APEX kit. I might just call the APEX spring equipped gun the new baseline and work the upgrades from there.

Thanks for following along!

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The Hot-Rod J-Frame Project

After 14 years of study, I’ve got my mind made up that the ideal carry gun, for me, is a double action only pistol of some flavor. Since most of what we do with our guns is simply live with and around them, and when we do need our guns it’s rarely a shooting problem and more of a people management problem, I choose a Double Action Only pistol. The inherent mechanical safety increase (though perhaps marginal) afforded by the longer heavier trigger is enough that I’ve completely moved to DAO guns for defensive purposes. Any difficulties in managing the trigger can be overcome with deliberate practice, so no worries there.

Since I gave my mom my 442, I’ve had a hole in my collection that I’ve been meaning to fill. I decided I wanted a ‘shooter’ J-frame. Not quite an underwear gun, but an easy to carry small framed revolver. It would be carried in a belt/pocket/ankle-holster, with less emphasis on lightweight, and more emphasis on ‘performance’.

I also know that centennial model Smiths are some of the best selling guns in the country, so there’s a lot of people who secretly carry one daily while they argue on the internet about why a Glock 19 is the best carry gun. It’s OK, I won’t tell anyone.

The amount of worthless information about small revolvers is staggering. Just visit YouTube for endless hollow reviews and misinformation. I felt like I owed it to the community to make something useful about little revolvers.

The Test-Bed

What would my ideal ‘fighting J-frame’ look like? I am not a Smith&Wesson aficionado by any means. I don’t have the depth of knowledge or patience to wait for the perfect vintage snub to come up on gun broker. Nor do I have the wallet to pay the wild prices people ask for used revolvers. So my Hot-Rod would have to be a current catalog item.

After much late night bourbon fueled research, I decided that the steel framed, 2″ barrel, pinned front sight 640 model in .357 would be a suitable choice. I came upon a great deal on a local forum and jumped at it.

The Upgrades

The ability to customize and tune j-frames is well known. The aftermarket accessories market is chock full. You can find the perfect stocks (grips) to fit your hand and optimize trigger reach, find springs and firing pins to drastically improve smoothness and weight of the trigger and maintain reliable primer ignition, frame plugs if you don’t want to deal with the internal lock, and there’s even front sights for the pinned front sight models. So, here’s a list of the upgrades I have planned, and the reasoning for them:

  • APEX TACTICAL Duty/Carry Spring kit – $22 A popular kit from a well known brand. Includes the mainspring, trigger return spring, extended firing pin and firing pin spring. It reduces the weight of the trigger press by about 3.0 lbs and makes the gun immediately more shootable. Always test fire your chosen ammo to guarantee reliable ignition.
  • Trijicon tritium front sight – $70 It was between this and an XS big dot. I decided for a slightly smaller front sight to maintain the ability for precise aiming beyond 10 yards. The white ring should help at speed, and the tritium will buy a little low light sighting ability.
  • Altamont “combat” grips for J-frame – $55 – Since this isn’t intended as a pocket gun, I decided to go with the slightly-longer-than-boot-grip sized combat trips from Altamont. They are highly recommended by people I trust, and they look great.
  • Zulu Bravo Kydex – J-frame holster. This is on the way from ZBK. They are providing me with one to evaluate.

Are The Upgrades Worth the Cost?

Instead of throwing all these on the gun and reporting back that they ‘feel good’ and ‘smooth things out’ and I talk about ‘shootability’, I want to answer a more important question. Are the upgrades worth the cost?

“How can you determine this?” you ask. Science!

Specifically, I’m going to create a testing protocol that consists of four well known tests that provide certain data about shooting. I’ll gather data with the gun in its stock configuration, then make one change, and redo the testing. Any increase (or decrease) in performance will be readily apparent. I will also shoot the tests with other revolvers, small autos, and even larger autos to be able to quantify performance across platforms.

How To Quantify Performance?

I wanted to look at several aspects of ‘good shooting’ when it comes to my testing. I’m interested in pure accuracy, without the pressure of time. Pure speed, without a strict pressure of accuracy. Lastly, a blend of speed and accuracy. I wanted to use targets that I could print on my printer. I also wanted to keep the total round count under 50 rounds because j-frames can beat you up. Here’s what I decided on.

Test 1:

Pure Accuracy Test – 10 shots @15yds on a B8, no time limit

Test 2:

“5 yard Roundup” 5 Yds, B8 repair center

four strings of fire, each with a time limit of 2.5 seconds.

Scoring is by the rings on the target for the ten shots, equaling a possible 100 points. Hits off of the ten-inch repair center minus ten each. Late hits are five points are deducted per late shot.

String 1: One Shot From the Holster (I used muzzle on table, support hand high on chest. Copying hand position of the draw since my range doesn’t allow holster work)

String 2: Four Shots From the Ready

String 3: Three Shots From Strong-Hand-Only Ready

String 4: Two Shots From Support-Hand-Only Ready

Test 3:

“HITS SUPER SNUB TEST” – B8 repair center, all shot from low readyH

10 Yards – 5 shots in 8 seconds. Two hands

5 Yards – 5 shots in 5 seconds. Two hands

3 Yards – 5 shots in 3 seconds. Strong hand only.

Test 4:

Pure Speed – Snubbie Bill Drill: 5 shots, 5 yards, on full piece of paper

B8 repair center for you to download:

Closing

Of course there are intangibles and things I can’t easily quantify with scored targets and a timer. There are also environmental and lighting conditions that I can’t reproduce on the range. There is limited time and ammunition for me to do multiple tests with the same configuration. I am only one person, so I can’t get several shooters to shoot the tests with each configuration. However, I believe this is a good quantitative way to see if an upgrade is actually buying performance, and approximately how much.
Thanks for following along. More soon.

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The Most Dangerous Thing We Do With Guns

Based on pure probability, what’s the most dangerous thing we will do with our guns in our lifetime? Is it:

  • Going to Public Ranges?
  • Taking multi-day professional instruction?
  • Getting into a gunfight?
  • Living life with and around guns?

If you answered going to public ranges, good guess, but wrong. The answer is day to day administrative gun handling and living around guns. Every time the gun leaves or enters the holster, every time we set up for dry-fire, every time we take an EDC selfie for Instagram (don’t do that), every press-check, every time we transfer our pistol from our waistband to a car safe, every time we handle our gun, there is a small chance of making a mistake. Though the chance of negligence is very very tiny, we flip that coin every time we touch our gun. Over the course of a lifetime, that’s a lot of coin flips and the chance of messing up becomes a real possibility.

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who have had a negligent discharge, and those who will.

While a gunfight is certainly dangerous, the average gun owner will never need to use their gun to defend themselves. But they WILL live with a gun for as long as they own it. So, that means the biggest threat we face is our own negligence over the course of a lifetime. Just by having the gun around, there is always a low-grade probability that an accident could happen. I don’t think most people think about this. Especially not the ‘I just bought a gun, I’m good’ magic talisman gun owner. They should.

Minimizing Risk

  1. Eliminate unnecessary gun handling. If possible, avoid moving your loaded gun from holster to car magnet to briefcase to… Load it, put it in the holster, and go about your business.
  2. Have robust safety measures for dry fire. The gotcha moment for most NDs in dryfire is the ‘Just One More Press’ mentality that can happen after you’ve reloaded after practice. I use The Tactical Professor’s robust dry fire safety protocols and I like them.
  3. Always concentrate on sharp gun handling. The primary safety is muzzle direction. This seems to be a big problem in cars. People want the privacy of their car to move their gun around or take selfies for the ‘gram, but don’t practice good muzzle discipline in confined spaces and end up flagging themselves or others.
  4. Don’t have conditional gun handling rules. Always avoid pointing at things you don’t want to shoot, even when you’re sure “It’s unloaded”. The two loudest sounds in the world: a bang when you expect a click, and a click when you expect a bang.
  5. Avoid leaving your guns laying around for someone (usually a child) to play with. Either on you, or secured.
  6. Maintain and use quality gear. Also consider how your clothing affects your gun handling. Floppy holsters and errant T-shirt material are responsible for lots of accidents.
  7. Maintain a healthy respect for firearms.

Paradoxically, we own and carry guns to make ourselves safer from high stakes statistically rare events, but in owning those tools we open ourselves to the risks inherent in tool itself. It’s worth considering.

There are a lot of people I interact with online who should deeply consider if living with a firearm is the right choice for them. I’d like to see people hold themselves to a higher standard and treat these tools with the respect they’re due. I hate hearing about kids shooting their siblings after they found mom’s pistol in her purse at the grocery store. We can do better, we just have to remind ourselves of the risk we assume when we own and carry a gun.

Thanks for reading.

If you find value in my ramblings, please subscribe, share, and shop through our amazon affiliate link. Or consider a small donation through PayPal.