When people on social media say that iron sights are the manual transmission of the firearms world, it makes me wonder if these people actually know what a manual transmission is, let alone know how to drive one.
For my mileage, the pump action shotgun is much more in line with being the manual transmission of the firearms world every day of the week. (Maybe second to the single action revolver?)
My Pump Action
My first gun was a Mossberg 500 12 ga combo with a 3” chamber. It was $259 and came with an 18.5” security barrel and a 28” vent rib barrel. It’s lightweight, shoots great and it runs filthy. I’ve shot the piss out of this thing and it still works well.
I ended up getting heavy into guns as a hobby and naturally gravitated towards Glocks and AR-15’s as my main staples but, there will always be a place in my heart for a good 12 ga.
There’s something about that feeling when you rack in a load. It just feels positive and inspires confidence.
Mossberg vs Remington
For me, it has always been between Mossberg and Remington when it comes to pump action shotguns. I like the safety position, action release and lifter design better on the Mossberg in the traditional stock models.
However, the cross-bolt safety and action release located forward the trigger guard on the Remington becomes an advantage on the pistol grip models. Your mileage may vary.
One thing that has very little to do with practicality that I’d like to note is that the Remington 870 action does audibly sound better than the Mossberg when you chamber a round. We’ve been trained by TV and movies that the sound of an 870 is the sound of a pump shotgun.
The 12 gauge security model is still my first recommendation for male shooters who are looking for home protection for their family.
These guys are likely to buy only one gun for the job and are usually on a tight family budget. The buy-in cost is much lower than most pistols/carbines and the learning curve is faster for most guys.
Getting effective hits with a pump action on man sized targets, at defensive distances, can be learned much faster than mastering pistol shooting. The shooter can build proficiency in less range trips and with less rounds overall.
Pump actions also run great dirty. Let’s be real, most new shooters aren’t going to field strip their guns for cleaning when they get home.
Do you still need to train with shotguns?
It is easy to miss with any gun and fumble operation of the controls when stress is introduced. Shooters also need to know where their shotgun patterns, point of impact with slugs and where to hold at various distances.
Is there still a place for pump action shotguns in 2020?
The 12 ga shotgun is a timeless threat stopper that speaks all languages. This platform can make a non-shooter very effective in a few range trips with minimal amounts of ammunition.
Pump action shotguns are a great budget-friendly option for the man of the house who wants to spend more time with his family than on the range training.
Since the dumpster fire that is 2020 started, reloading became top of mind for most gun owners.
If you already load and were lucky enough to get the components needed to press (or already had them on hand), you are probably feeling pretty good about now.
If you thought that starting to reload during the shortage would save you money, it’s not going to. That is similar to buying high and selling low in the stock market. Not the best play. But relax, there’s always the next one. Just think Y2K, 2012, proposed “assault weapons” legislation, pandemics and now pretty much every election year moving forward.
Getting Into Reloading
I’ve been into shooting for a little over a decade and learned to reload my first year. When the new assault weapons regulations were proposed in 2013, it was reassuring knowing I was already recycling most cartridges. That was the first time I personally experienced the supply/demand side of ammo get bad first hand.
Remember when we couldn’t get 22 LR?
I was not prepared for that shortage in 2013 at all and restocked when component prices began to stabilize after the proposed ban failed.
I was fortunate enough to have been taught how to reload when I first got into firearms as a hobby. This knowledge changed my opinion on the merits of different calibers because, once you know how to load a caliber, your thoughts on ammo pricing changes whether there is a pandemic or not.
In this post, I’ll dive into the advantages of reloading while adding a bit of economic reasoning in the logic behind some of these opinions in relation to pistol ammo.
Reloading Non 9mm Pistol Calibers (Normally)
It is (was) cheaper to reload for pretty much every caliber other than 9mm by buying bulk components and recycling brass once you get rolling. Hopefully the days of cheap 9mm return but that remains to be seen. Most calibers also have primers and powder in common. When new cartridges are introduced, I look at the specs and load data while I’m considering buying a new gun in a new caliber (or new to me caliber).
I learned how to reload initially because 357 magnum rounds were expensive back in 2010 (they still are). I was new to pistol shooting and had just bought my first revolver, a Ruger GP100. This gun is perfect for a new reloader because it’s built like a tank and you can also shoot 38 Special and 38 Special +P from the same platform. With this one gun/set of dies, you can learn to load three different cartridges.
When I started shooting more and bought my first 1911, I bought 45 ACP dies the same day after a quick review of my reloading manual. This was my first step in realizing a reloader can make pretty much any cartridge with components on hand by adding caliber specific brass, projectiles and dies. Once you have those three additions, you just need the projectiles.
When times are good and there isn’t a pandemic or anti second amendment political action looming, you can pretty much buy used brass in bulk at fair prices from multiple sources. You might also be the only one of your friends who reloads and get to take home the empties after range day.
Yes, that’s why the old dudes at the range ask if they can have your brass.
Start with the question of: what do you need to make ammo once you have your press set up with dies?
The best advice I got applied to this equation:
Remember what caliber firearms you own and buy components when you see them for a good deal. This is awesome because you could be buying components for a caliber you don’t load for yet in addition to supplying for your staples.
Why is this better than just buying bulk ammo on the same principle?
First things first, buying bulk ammo when it’s cheap is never a bad idea if you have the means.
If you have the time to load, it’s advantageous because you can pretty much make any popular caliber you have the dies for by just buying projectiles once you have a base supply of components to make any one caliber.
This is a huge advantage if all factory loaded 9mm ammo is out of stock or the brass and bullets are double the normal cost. You have options as a reloader to make whatever caliber ammo the market yields as less expensive. This gives you the ability to take advantage of component sales when they pop up.
Brass is reusable and projectiles are usually readily available. If you don’t have primers right now, don’t get mad. Learn for next time and buy them when you see a deal once pricing is no longer in panic mode. Take advantage of factory rebates when offered.
Another advantage reloaders have is projectile selection.
If you could buy premium JHP rounds for close to the same price as cheap plinking ammo, would you consider it?
The capability to load JHP for less than factory FMJ might be advantageous during a pandemic or SHTF situation. Apply the same concept to rifle rounds and now you’re talking match projectiles vs bulk blasting.
When you load yourself, you get to make these decisions.
Load Data Selection
Ever wish you could practice with your carry ammo? If you reload, you can find load data (or develop it following the manuals) that has a similar recoil impulse and produce similar practice ammo. You can also go the other direction and make extremely light target loads if you want to shoot faster.
Once you know how to load, you can pretty much make any pistol round as soft shooting as a 9mm depending on the data you’re using. This opens up new possibilities when it comes to the viability of keeping certain calibers in your safe.
There is an initial up-front cost to reloading. However, the gear is durable and will likely outlive you. Getting into reloading during a shortage probably isn’t the best move economically but identifying the potential now and stocking up on components when prices stabilize will help you prepare for next time.
My first time shooting a pistol with an MRDS (Micro Red Dot Sight) was a Kimber TLE-RL2 with a dovetail mounted Leupold Deltapoint Pro. It was neat, but after a couple hundred rounds of not really being able to consistently find the dot, the dovetail mount just not really working, and getting slower presentations than I was used to, I gave up. I thought: “Maybe this just isn’t for me”.
I sold the Deltapoint and kept shooting the Kimber with regular sights like a pleb, and right around that time I bought my first 3 9mm handguns: a Sig Sauer P229 Enhanced Elite, a Smith and Wesson M&P Shield, and a Glock 17. The Shield was to become my every day carry gun, and the others mostly range toys for the time being.
At some point, probably a year later, after seeing the “trend” growing in the gun industry, I decided to give it another try. I got a Vortex Viper red dot and sent my slide to Jagerwerks for milling. I got it back, and shot it… a lot. I didn’t give up this time, I was determined to make it work for me.
Without knowing anyone who also had a red dot on a pistol at the time, I didn’t have anyone to train with or bounce ideas off really. I just kept shooting, kept trying different things.
Eventually, I got over the hump where I was demonstrably faster, more accurate, and more consistent with the dot than with iron sights. That’s where I decided that I had “figured it out” and could only get better from here.
From then on I’ve put a red dot on everything I can, and I’ve been doing it for friends and acquaintances since I got my CNC mill.
Either you love it, or you haven’t given it a chance. It takes time, and a lot of ammo, but it is worth it. I believe you are handicapping yourself if you refuse to try new things. Give it a shot… and don’t give up.
If you have questions about MRDS’s or anything else, feel free to contact me. I love talking guns and gun stuff, not just about the products we make.
In the next parts I will go into more detail about individual optics, philosophy, training, etc.
This post will cover the accessories we chose to complete the base Ruger PC Charger Jawbone style.
Two Main Reasons To Like The Ruger PC Charger
The Ruger PC Carbine is one of the most affordable and practical pistol caliber carbines (PCC) on the market. If you grew up shooting a 10/22 and an 870 you’ll probably love this gun. Odds are also good that you already have 9mm Glock magazines in your personal inventory. Which is a huge plus.
One of the most overlooked features of the full sized variants is how flat shooting the PC Carbine platform is, especially with a compensator installed. Those of you who have built blowback AR9 variants probably know what I’m talking about. The dot tends to bounce on the second shot due to the nature of the blowback action and can slow down followups.
I think that the PC Carbine’s beefy bolt and the internal weight system has something to do with the flat shooting equation. Whatever they did, it feels good to me. Does it shoot as soft as my tricked out Sig MPX? No. But, it cost about 1/3 the price.
The PC Carbine also has a great reliability track record in our testing. Our examples run great dirty (hey MPX, I’m looking at you). They are also not picky eaters with varying ammo brands, reloads and varying bullet grain weights. This is a huge plus for my money. Especially in current Covid-19 2020, when ammo availability is bad.
The two aforementioned qualities of flat shooting and high reliability coupled with an affordable sticker price make me love this gun. When Ruger announced the PC Charger I got excited and decided to pull the trigger on the pistol variant.
This post will cover the accessories we chose to complete the base Ruger PC Charger Jawbone style.
My PC Charger came with an SB Tactical FS1913 side folding brace with the polymer strut.
Honestly, I wanted to like this setup because it added $200 to the sticker price of my PC Charger. But, after about an hour being home and handling my new setup, I could sum up how I feel about this brace in one word.
I doubt it would break easily but, it has quite a bit of flex and just doesn’t feel stable to me. Especially not for $200 extra. Your mileage may vary.
While removing the brace to try the ergonomics one slot further down on the rear picatinny rail (testing for optic height), I found it concerning that the entire assembly is held on by a single screw that is not the most robust. This screw later ended up snapping on me after reasonably light pressure being applied upon install.
Is this the end of the world? No. Sometimes screws break, it’s fixable. Did it destroy my confidence in this system in relation to this PC Charger? Yes.
If I can offer one piece of advice on the PC Charger setup, buy the base model and go straight to the Tailhook brace from Gearhead Works. They make both an adjustable polymer variant and a few fixed aluminum variants. I opted for the Tailhook Mod 1 because the Tailhook Mod 1C was out of stock everywhere at the time and I like metal parts.
If you go the Mod 1/Mod 1C route, you’ll need a pistol buffer tube. I chose the Phase 5 Weapon Systems Hex-2. It just looks sexy and it’s made out of 7075 T7 aluminum.
I then mounted this setup to the PC Charger using a Thordsen Customs Picatinny Buffer Adapter and an AR15 castle nut. This system has a very positive lockup on the rail and multiple metal locking points. A large internal set screw, small internal set screw and a standard castle nut. It also follows the STANAG protocol of contact on the pic rail.
To me, this system is much stronger and will survive user provided abuse.
The Tailhook Mod 1 was actually more compact than I was thinking from the product photos and Instagram posts I’d seen prior to purchase. I prefer compact so that was a welcome surprise for me. My heart was set on a Mod 1C, which I later procured. But, the Mod 1 that I bought first was more than adequate and not too bulky. Depending on the size of your frame, you might like the larger Mod 1 better.
Here’s a picture to compare.
This brace setup of three different brands’ components ran a total of $211 delivered (Google coupon codes and join email notifications). Well worth the extra coin IMO.
One of the biggest appeals of the PC Carbine and the PC Charger to me is the ability to use a low mounted optic.
Personally, I can’t stand seeing AR15 height optics on guns that run well with low mounts. It just looks wrong to me. I wouldn’t put an AR height riser on a shotgun, AK or a 10/22. So it makes me wonder when I see them on guns like the PC Carbine and FightLite SCR that have similar dimensions. Looks like an afterthought or influencers hastily publishing social media reviews.
I also like having a lower profile overall footprint and a lower height over bore, especially in a system that will be zeroed for close range.
At first, I was going to put a low mounted MRO from Trijicon on this thing like I have on my MPX. But, I had a Holosun 407C on hand and decided to mount it to try it. Ended up loving the smaller Holosun and it points naturally for me on this platform. May upgrade to the 507C circle dot later.
With the Jawbone PC Carbine Drop-In Mag Release, shooters can release the magazine with their trigger fingers instead of their support hands. Similar ergonomics to an AR15. This will help speed up those USPSA reload times in PCC Division if you’re running a PC Carbine.
The flared magwell on the PC Charger makes reloading fluid in this configuration. If you are used to the AR15 reload, this will feel much more natural than releasing and stripping the mag with your support hand.
I run a comp on my PC Carbine but for the PC Charger, I wanted to go with a flash hider and wanted to keep bulk and cost to a minimum. I opted for the HB Industries 9mm A2 Flash Hider in 1/2×28″. It spun on nice and easy and fulfills its intended purpose adequately.
You’ll likely want a grip with a more vertical angle for such a small blaster. I went simple with the BCM Mod 0. It points better. I like it.
I haven’t added a light to this setup yet. When I do, it’s going to be a Streamlight TLR-8 on a 5 slot picatinny rail mounted at the 6 o’clock position furthest forward on the handguard doubling as a handstop. We’ll update here when that is tested.
The Ruger PC Charger has been as reliable as its big brother, the PC Carbine, so far in initial testing and it looks like one hell of a space blaster in this configuration. If you want something reliable, low maintenance and easy to shoot, give this thing a chance.