With the pace of new product announcements appearing to increase over the past few years, it seems appropriate to provide members with credible reviews on some of the most noteworthy products. This page will be updated frequently, so check back from time to time to see what new toy you might add to your wish list for birthdays, Christmas, etc!
Gun of the Month
by B. Gil Horman - Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Last year I had my first opportunity to spend some quality time at the range with one of Springfield Armory's 1911-pattern EMP4 9 mm pistols. This series is set apart from the competition by the reduced dimensions of the grip frame. Springfield spent the time and money required to compress the traditional 1911 .45-ACP grip to fit the 9 mm cartridge, which is not as easy to do as one might think.
The combination of this shooting-hand-friendly grip configuration with the reduced recoil of 9 mm ammunition, lightweight aluminum frame, longer 4" barrel and top-notch controls led me to say of the EMP4 that, "It is one of the most well-balanced defensive single-stack 1911 pistols I've had the pleasure of working with." I'm not alone in this opinion because the EMP4 has been a popular model with critics and consumers alike.
Just when I thought the EMP4 had reached a pinnacle in 9 mm pistol design, Springfield has served up a new model with an intriguing twist, or should I say, curve. Also known as a bobtail grip, the mainspring housing and heel of this pistol's grip frame have been rounded off. This makes the pistol easier to carry concealed because it eliminates the squared-off portion of the grip that tends to poke out or print through clothing.
Depending on your hand size and personal preferences, a bobtailed grip can also feel more comfortable to shoot. Generally speaking, a bobtail grip is a custom feature that costs more because of the extra work needed to shape, polish and refinish the grip. Adding a bobtail to an existing pistol can cost upwards of $200. However, Springfield's in-house contour for this pistol is a real value at half the price.
This version of the EMP4 two-tone, single-stack 1911 pistol retains the features that have kept this model selling like hot cakes. The satin finish stainless steel side has rear cocking serrations and a 3-dot sight system which employs a red fiber optic in front and a low profile white dot sight in back. The 4" stainless steel, match-grade bushing-less bull barrel sports a fully supported ramp. The full-length one-piece steel guide rod supports a single round wire recoil spring.
The lightweight frame is forged aluminum with a traditional rounded trigger guard and matte-black hardcoat anodized finish. The controls, including the slide stop, round button magazine release, ambidextrous thumb safety, skeletonized hammer and extended beaver tail grip safety, are all steel with a matte black finish which matches the frame. The skeletonized trigger is aluminum with a matte silver finish to match the slide. The pistol ships with three blued steel 9-round, single-stack magazines.
Along with the bobtail contour, the other changes to this model of the EMP4 can be found in and around the grip frame. The frontstraps and backstraps are both treated with a more aggressive “golf ball” type texturing. The hardwood grips have been replaced with black G10 panels that have the same texture. The result is a grip that rests comfortably, but securely, in the hand. This new model exhibits the same degree of top-notch fit, finish and attention to detail as its predecessor.
At the shooting range, the EMP performed to my fairly high expectations. The slide exhibited a tight fit to the frame, without any GI shake, and cycled smoothly right out of the box. The controls were easy to operate and functioned flawlessly. The clean, crisp single-action trigger pull was dead center of the listed pull weight (5 to 6 lbs.) at 5 lbs. 8 oz. The single-stack magazines locked tightly in place but easily dropped free when the magazine release was pressed.
How aggressive the texturing of a pistol's grip should be depends on which school of thought you choose to follow. Over the last few years we've seen more of the highly aggressive tactical textured G10 grips favored by military and law enforcement making their way into the civilian market. These toothy patterns bite into skin or glove fabric to provide a secure purchase in wet or cold environments. Old-school grips have light textures to prevent wear and tear on clothing. The EMP4 Contour grip effectively splits the difference with leanings toward the tactical side while not being so abrasive as to need to replace your wardrobe on a regular basis.
The pistol and magazines were utterly reliable without any hiccups or hang-ups throughout the entire course of testing using a full range of practice and premium grade ammunition. Because this is a concealed-carry pistol, benchrested accuracy testing was conducted at 25 yards by firing five 5-shot groups using premium defensive hollow-point ammunition.
The best performer of the test was the new Colt Defense 124-gr. jacketed hollow point, manufactured for Colt by Double Tap Ammunition. This load produced a best single group of 2.59" with an average of 2.75". Black Hills 115-gr. +P jacketed hollow points turned in a best group of 2.73" with an average of 2.90". Winchester PDX1 Defender 147-gr. bonded jacketed hollow points printed a best group of 2.84" with an average of 2.97".
The new 4" barrel 9 mm EMP4 Concealed Carry Contour is another terrific example of how Springfield Armory is diligently working to tune this elegant century-old design to fit the needs of the modern concealed-carry practitioner. It's true that polymer single-stack 9 mm can weigh and cost less than this gun. However, they just don't have the same feel, light trigger pull, and accuracy potential right out of the box that this pistol provides. The new bobtail grip makes a very well balanced pistol just that much easier to carry.
Manufacturer: Springfield Armory
Model: EMP 4" Concealed Carry Contour (PI9229L)
Action: Single-Action Semi-Automatic 1911
Caliber: 9 mm
Slide: Stainless Steel
Frame: Forged Aluminum, Black Hardcoat Anodized
Grip Panels: Black Textured G-10
Front Sight: Fiber Optic
Rear Sight: White Dot Low Profile Combat
Barrel: Stainless Steel Match Grade Bull, Fully Supported Ramp
Guide Rod: Full Length, Dual Recoil Springs
Trigger: Match Grade Long Aluminum
Barrel Length: 4.00"
Overall Length: 7.50"
Slide Width: 0.92"
Grip Width: 1.15"
Weight: 31 oz. with Empty Magazine
Capacity: 9+1 Rounds
Twist: 1:16” LH
Rifle Grooves: 6
Accessories: Lockable Carry Case, Three 9-Round Blued Steel Magazines, Cable Lock, Owner's Manual.
5 Stone Products LLCThe Pistol Mask is a concealed carry holster designed to look like a cell phone. It enables users to carry a large caliber pistol without drawing attention. Injection molded with glass-filled Noryl, the holster uses magnets to keep its panels securely closed. Spring-loaded hinges enable it to be quickly opened for instant access.
Several popular sub-compact pistols can fit the Pistol Mask. For more info: (512) 731-9561
This Innovative Gun Manufacturer Just Created a Firearm to Fit in Your Wallet
Trailblazer Firearms, a relatively new gun manufacturer, just launched its first ever product, the LifeCard .22 LR, and it looks like a gadget straight out of a James Bond film.
The LifeCard is a single-shot, single-action, folding .22 LR…that can fit in your wallet. That’s right, the gun is no bigger than a stack of credit cards; it comes in at 3.375 inches long, 2.125 inches tall, and 0.5 inches wide. Oh, and it weighs less than seven ounces.
According to the press release, the tilt-up barrel, bolt and trigger are made of steel with an Isonite finish to prevent corrosion. Meanwhile, the frame and handle of the gun are made of aluminum with a hard-coat black anodized finish.
While the pistol is a single-shot, the handle serves as an ammunition storage case that can hold up to four extra rounds. And, as a build in safety feature, the gun cannot fire while in its folded state, as the trigger is not accessible.
President of Trailblazer Firearms, Aaron Voigt, who has served in both the Marine Corps and the Army, said the gun took seven years to bring to life.
“Initially, I had no idea that going from concept to actual product would take seven years,” Voigt said in the press release. “But in essence, that time spent was valuable and will show in every aspect of this remarkable product.”
“Trailblazer Firearms fully intends to spearhead innovative new firearms products starting with the LifeCard, available later this month,” he added. “New designs and true innovation have been the exception and our goal is to be the pioneer laying new trails for gun enthusiasts, designers and manufacturers.”
The Trailblazer is set to hit stores in mid-August. It retails at $399. However, before you head over to your local gun shop, a spokesperson for Trailblazer Firearms wants you to know exactly what the gun was designed for.
“We’d like to emphasize LifeCard is not a pistol that should be relied on for personal defense,” the spokesperson warned. “Rather, we consider LifeCard to be a fun addition to anyone’s firearms collection.”
“We hope that LifeCard’s uniqueness may entice new shooters to our industry,” the spokesperson added. “But Trailblazer Firearms has never intended LifeCard to be used as a primary personal defense weapon.”
Now, we’re left with just a couple of questions: How does it shoot, and would you use one of these?
Heckler & Koch Introduces VP9SK Pistol
A few years back when Heckler & Koch unveiled its VP9 9mm striker-fired pistol, it made a pretty substantial splash in the gun industry. In the time since, the VP (which stands for Volkspistole, or “people’s pistol”) line has only continued to grow. Within the past two years, HK has added a .40 S&W variant in the VP40 and tactical models and different finish options for both calibers. Now, the company is at it again with a new subcompact model in the VP9SK.
Announced just ahead of the recent NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Atlanta, the new HK VP9SK is the first subcompact offering in the VP family of pistols. As such, it offers added concealabilty while retaining the great features of its larger brethren. This includes HK’s VP precision strike trigger, which has a pretty high reputation courtesy of its crisp, single-action break and quick reset.
“The VP9SK is the right combination of compact size and firepower for a subcompact — and it’s loaded with unique HK features like our adjustable ergonomic grip, the only grip in the industry that can be customized to fit any shooter,” said Michael Holley, HK-USA Vice President for Commercial Sales and Marketing. “The VP9SK possesses the accuracy and durability that shooters know they can expect from a Heckler & Koch pistol.”
The adjustable ergonomic grip, a major highlight of earlier VP models, has obviously been scaled down with the VP9SK. However, its functionality and flexibility remain the same. The grip adjusts to fit any user via the interchangeable backstraps and lateral grip panels, and there are also finger grooves on the front of the grip instinctively placed for shooters.
As an added bonus in the ergonomics department, the VP9SK’s controls are also completely ambidextrous. There are slide releases on both sides of the frame, and the gun’s paddle-style magazine release favors both right- and left-handed shooters. And, the new VP9SK also carries over HK’s patented charging supports found on earlier full-size models — polymer inserts mounted on each side of the rear of the slide that offer improved leverage for manipulation.
Of course, the most important difference is the change in dimensions, which takes the VP9 from a full-size duty pistol to a subcompact perfect for concealed carry. The VP9SK shaves .73 inch off the overall length of the VP9, .84 inch off the height and 2.49 ounces off the weight. Some of those figures might not sound that impressive, but it’s just enough to make the VP9SK a serious contender as a carry gun.
The new VP9SK incorporates an abbreviated Picatinny rail up front, an addition not all carry guns feature but one that’s beneficial for those using a laser sight or a weapon-mounted light. The gun is compatible with a variety of HK magazines, including compact double-stack 10-rounders with flat or hooked ergonomic floorplates. According to HK, later in the year there will also be 13- and 15-round magazines with sleeves that mimic the grip profile of the manufacturer’s full-size VP models.
The brand new VP9SK is available at a fairly reasonable $719, which, incidentally, is exactly the same as for HK’s full-size VP9 and VP40. Like other HK guns, the VP9SK comes with the manufacturer’s Lifetime Warranty.
For more information, check out the specifications below, or visit the HK-USA website.
Type: Semi-auto, striker fired
Barrel: 3.39 in., cold hammer forged, polygonal
Overall Length: 6.61 in.
Height: 4.57 in.
Width: 1.31 in.
Weight: 23.07 (with empty magazine)
Grip: Polymer, adjustable ergonomic with interchangeable backstraps and grip panels
Sights: White three dot, (night sights also available)
Trigger: HK VP precision strike single action
Capacity: 10 rounds (13 and 15 rounds in the future)
Manufacturer: Heckler & Koch