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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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 Special Application 9mm Carbine for Home Defense – Part 1

If you read my posts on the Ruger 10/22 (part 1, part 2) that I set up for home defense, this post will contain echoes and similar logic to that series. That particular .22 now lives at my parent’s house as their home defense rifle. Since we had a gun-void, I sought to fill it.

The Mission:

Find a carbine that my entire family could confidently use for self defense in the home, be willing to train with despite being recoil/muzzle blast-sensitive shooters, and keep at a reasonable cost. The ultimate goal is to build shooters with sufficient skill to make high pressure shots with no-shoots downrange on low probability targets. The only way to get there is if shooting isn’t a chore or abusive to the senses.

The Resource Problem:

Ammo costs and availability are a factor. We have a limited income, so a more affordable caliber makes sense for us. In my experience, less expensive caliber doesn’t mean spending less annually on ammunition, it means buying more ammo for the same price. More ammo means more practice, which means more proficiency.

We also don’t have $1200 for an AR-15 pattern 9mm carbine. We have a cost ceiling that we need to stay under. I have a pile of Glock pistol magazines that largely go unused since I’ve switched to Double Action Pistols. Using Glock magazines would be a nice bonus to save on support gear.

We have a time limitation. I need to maximize the training time, and blunt the learning curve by picking a platform that lends itself to quick proficiency. We rarely get time together, period. So finding time to go to the range is exceedingly rare. I have to strive for efficiency. Rifles are easier to shoot well. Four points of contact with a rifle beats two points of contact with a pistol. A red dot sight makes the learning curve easier for getting hits.

The shooter consideration problem:

For the shooters in my family, I need to be very considerate of recoil, and muzzle blast. My wife is quickly turned off to shooting a 5.56 rifle at indoor ranges due to the chest thumping concussion and flash that an AR-15 gives. She’s good for maybe 30 shots before she’s done. If concentration and focus is gone after one magazine, then competency will be impossible given the rarity of our range trips.

My wife isn’t a shooter. She wants to understand and be able to run all of our guns, but she doesn’t love shooting like I do. I have to be considerate of her time and pick something that she might enjoy more than an AR or shotgun.

I’d wager that many of you might be in a similar boat. It’s really time to bump the obsession with terminal ballistics down the list and keep context at the top. Despite what the ‘5.56 AR-15/ 00 buckshot or nothing’ crowd says, it’s more important that all the shooters meant to use a firearm can achieve a certain level of competency. If that means a .22LR, then that’s what it is. I wanted to give a 9mm carbine a chance, so here we are.

The tactical problem:

This is the reason we want a rifle that anyone in the house can use. My greatest concern is the shooting problem of a home invader with a downrange no-shoot. Not that it needs saying, but in the real world, it is very likely that there will be no-shoots forward of the ‘180* range safety line’. In fact, it’s quite common in home invasions for a husband to answer the late-night knock on the door, only to be overrun by bad guys. If I’m downrange, I want to make sure my shooters are competent enough to shoot them well, and not shoot me. It’s a self-preservation thing.

Story time to drive the point home. One of Tom Givens’ Students had to make a difficult shot with her husband down range:

A struggle ensued, during which the homeowner was shot in the thigh by one of the suspects. The homeowner’s wife was at the front door to greet her husband, and saw the attack. She ran upstairs, got her handgun, opened the bedroom window and engaged the suspects with several shots from the window.
She hit one suspect, and both fled.

Here’s another:

As the husband neared the front door, he heard the dogs growl and ran back to his bedroom, arming himself with a can of wasp spray, the records say. A man charged him in a hallway, and the husband sprayed the wasp spray in the intruder’s face, but it had no effect.

“The fight was on,” the records say. Both men tumbled to the floor, and the wife ran out with a baseball bat and struck the intruder with it until it broke, according to the documents.

After about three minutes, the husband yelled to his wife for help, “not knowing how long he could hold out in the fight,” according to the records. The wife “ran to the kitchen, grabbed a knife and stabbed the suspect several times until he quit fighting.”

These instances are not rare.  That’s reason enough for me to want good shooters in the house.

The Result:


I decided that I wanted to try the Ruger PC Carbine in 9mm. It checked a lot of the boxes that I had for this purpose. There’s a lot of reasons I went with this over some of the other options out there. I’ll make a quick list of the big ones:

  • In 9mm. A caliber that all of my handguns shoot. I have plenty on hand, and one caliber streamlines things. It’s also the most affordable ‘duty round’ caliber.
  • Easily takes an optic on the section of picatinny rail on top of the receiver.
  • Takes Glock magazines. From 10-round to 33-round happy sticks.
  • Similar ergonomics to the Ruger 10/22. The rifle that my wife has the most time on.
  • Affordable. I got mine for $425 on Brownells. That’s extremely reasonable for a rifle.
  • Adjustable length-of-pull with included butt-pads
  • A section of rail that can be used for a weapon mounted light. I always try to have a light on long-gun.
  • Has the ability to break down in half for transport and storage (not necessary, but a nice feature)

Next up will be some details on running it faster, optimizing the setup, and designing a training program.

Thanks for reading,

Mark

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Range Master Conference 2017: John Farnam “Let’s Not Shoot Ourselves”

John Farnam of Defense Training International gave a great presentation on gun accidents and safely living with guns this year at the Range Master Conference. I made it a priority to attend the old guard’s presentations (Ayoob and Farnam in particular) because I don’t want them to retire before I’m able to hear them lecture a few times.

Mr. Farnam has forgotten more about shooting and tactics than I’ll ever know. It’s a privilege to hear him speak. This topic is of great interest to me, being a protege of Claude Werner, the negative outcome guy. I’ve come to find out that Farnam got Claude thinking about this topic way back in the 90’s. So it was great hearing this material from the source.



I’ll type up my notes in shorthand bulleted form. All material is the property of Mr. Farnam, and I’m only sharing it to hopefully keep someone from negligently shooting something they don’t want to.

  • We are the most likely person to hurt ourselves with our guns. Why? Because we’re there.
  • Yes, guns are dangerous. Like a chainsaw. We accept that danger because it’s a useful tool.
  • We need to get rid of the word ‘safety’. It’s not the word, but the implication of the word.
  • “What can I do so nothing bad will ever happen to me?” What planet do you live on?
  • In times of change, learners will inherit the earth. Be a learner.
  • Once something is written down and canonized, it’s hard to change
  • From The Walking Dead (which John doesn’t watch)
    -you KNOW how I feel about guns!!
    -guns don’t care how you feel…
  • Into the ER ~75% are accidental self inflicted wounds. ~25% are suicide and attempts. and only ~1-2% are between two people on purpose.
  • Risk attaches itself to guns, our job is to manage that risk. Understand that risk also attaches to NOT owning guns.
  • In the end, the bacteria win anyway…
  • Good tactics doesn’t mean taking NO risk, it means minimizing and taking the best risk
  • There are two times we touch our guns:
    -Administratively- At least 2 times a day, It must be adequately secured 100% of the time. Don’t let your gun get into unauthorized hands. If your gun is stolen and used in a crime, you can be held liable if you failed to secure it properly.
    -Tactically- Using in defensive situation
  • The best place for your gun is on you and in your direct control, and it’s also the most useful place for it to be. When it’s not on, it must be secured.
  • “adequately secure” is an educated guess. John prefers to keep his pistol on the floor of the hotel room. No children in the room, and safer than on the night stand where you could paw at the trigger while half asleep. Have to evaluate your own situation.
  • Industry standard for trigger weight is 5-7#
  • Trigger too heavy? No practical accuracy (see NY2 12# triggers. Story: 2 cops shot 9 bystanders)
  • We don’t live in a nation of laws, but a nation of agendas. What control do we have? We must work within the agendas (laws) to make the most of it.
  • HOLSTERING is the MOST dangerous thing we do with our guns.
  • Appendix has distinct advantages, but be very careful holstering. Bow hips forward, look muzzle into holster mouth
  • Have a strong trigger finger register on the pistol frame.
  • Watch for students who have sloppy fingers. Not just the trigger finger, but middle and ring fingers during holstering.
  • Scenario based training has inherent safety risks, but it is so valuable that we accept those risks and try to have robust safety protocols.
  • Biggest safety issue is ‘condition based gun handling’. “Oh but this gun is unloaded” (as he muzzles everyone in the room). Treating guns differently by the ostensible condition of the gun.
  • Safe ranges are bullshit
  • Cooper- Guns are guns, we don’t do condition based handling.
  • Notes on the fundamental rules
  • “All guns are always loaded” \
  • Guns have to be pointed somewhere, choose the best thing to catch a bullet that’s around. Take the best risk
  • “only place your finger on the trigger when you are prepared to shoot” or “Only touch the trigger when your sights are indexed on the target and you’ve made the decision to fire… right now”
  • “be sure of your target…” Being SURE will never let you get anything done. You probably will point the gun at innocent people, despite your best efforts
  • “The onion field shooting” 1960’s LAPD
  • Deadly Sin – Relaxing too soon. End the drill on the link, come off the trigger, end ready to shoot more.
  • You’re at training to fail
  • Always wear glasses around guns. Story of guy who took a manually ejected unfired AK cartridge to eyeball at the end of the training day.
  • What causes Negligent Discharges?
  • Poor Procedures (clearing barrels… Rack charging handle, remove mag, press trigger in barrel… boom)
  • Distractions and Interruptions, turn off tv, stop conversations, if you’re interrupted start from the beginning.
  • Unnecessary gun handling. (instagram, anyone?)
  • The implications of the hot range. Always start and finish with a loaded gun. When you leave tell me how you want your gun. Don’t let them leave with empty gun in holster or in the hand.

 

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