Where There's A William

there's always aweigh

Archive for the category “product review”

(Retail) Evolution In Action

I read at The Firearms Blog that Amazon.com may be removing shooting sport-related items from their customer fulfillment inventory.  I sent the following message to the Amazon.com PR email link just now:

Dear Sir/Madam;
I have today read reports that Amazon.com will no longer be willing to meet some of my retail purchases, to wit, firearms-related items like scopes, sights, slings and other such shooting sport enhancement products.  If so, I will be taking my admittedly meager business elsewhere, to an undoubtedly less satisfying transaction process, but one that doesn’t blatantly dispise my purchasing preferences.
Amazon.com has a perfect right to make such a business decision (if in fact the company actually has done), but so too do the individual customers Amazon relies upon to complete the sales transaction process.  I do not wish to take my paltry business elsewhere, but decline to continue dealing with any business that openly despises my beliefs and, indeed, one of the fundamental  principles upon which the USA was founded.
Sincerely yours,
William Brown, Amazon.com Prime customer

Despite my having misspelled “despise” in the original, I hope the company’s spokesperson’s response is as serious – if more literate – than my inquiry. 


Market Forces In Practice

Like most gun owners, I’ve run the holster gamut. Already having a suitable pocket pistol, I’ve taken my time in deciding where to spend my money to best effect and satisfaction.

Reading reviews and product specifications are all well and good (and a necessary part of product research), but it was being able to listen to Dennis Badurina of Dragon Leatherworks interact with and describe his product process to the gun owners on Vicious Circle that ultimately decided me to buy this product instead of continuing to look.

Only after having completed the sale did Dennis and I exchange e-mails that concluded with the following:

That being said…the VC logo will be made available on the Quantums later this evening (when I finish up the first one and get to taking pictures of it…), so I’ll extend you the offer to stamp the logo onto your Quantum, free of charge.

I accepted immediately, of course, and look forward with excitement to having the first Quantum VC holster! Dennis and I continue to discuss the second holster I wish to buy from him entirely due to his decent treatment of someone who he didn’t know and had already gotten the money from. All of which is perfectly consistent with the man I listened to with such enjoyment over the past few weekend’s podcast. With his patient explanations of the limits of his craft and materials, I’m certain we’ll arrive at a mutually satisfactory version soon enough. Illustrative of that process, the following exchange between us is quoted in it’s entirety (less address headers) with the authors’ permission:

Hi Dennis,

So, I was just going to reward your earlier generosity by dipping into the savings and ordering a second, OWB fancy dress holster. Coming as absolutely no surprise to me, you don’t offer what I really want. 🙂

A standard Flatjack in black leather, cut for a 2″ belt that has the sanded Stingray (would love to read Labrat’s review of that whole process; I was in the USN, I’ve heard Stingray’s response – or it’s generic equivalent*) material inset with the VC logo pressed into it, with the logo further highlighted by contrasting colored (maybe a light shade of blue?) stitching in the logo depressions. Call the basic design Alan’s Consternation. The kicker is, I want it fitted for a Smith & Wesson 325 Night Guard, the “N” frame version of one of these:


JayG not being with us, the N frame is the largest of the four frame sizes S&W offers (J,K,L,N), so you’ll have to arrange for a blue gun first (though I can’t imagine there won’t be a sample N frame you could do a trace-and-measure from available at the upcoming NE blogshoot – I’m reasonably certain both Weer’d Beard and JayG has mentioned owning an equivalently sized gun). From what I can see of the Flatjack design it shouldn’t matter, but my gun has Crimson Trace sights fitted as the added grip width helps to alleviate some of the recoil impact along with the more usual laser sight benefits.

So, possible? My birthday is in late October so we have time to fumble around with potential problems/options. Assuming you’ve no objection to the above, what will my present to myself cost?

Bonus: mention all this on tonight’s 100th VC show and hear Alan be sooo unimpressed.

Best regards,

Will Brown


Hey Will,

OK…a few things about what you are looking for….

The stamp for the VC logo has to be impressed on what is called *tooling leather*, or *carving leather*. Its the only leather that has gone through the tanning process in such a way as to accept embossing or hand-tooling.

That being said, the only tooling leather is Cowhide or Horsehide, and the tanning method must be vegetable tanning, not chemical or chrome-dipped. All my holsters are made from veg-tanned leather (as are almost all holsters, regardless of manufacturer), and during the process of making the holster, I take steps, after the dyeing and stamping, to stiffen the leather so that it will properly support the pistol.

Ergo, the logo cannot be embossed onto stingray (or anything else that isn’t veg-tanned cow or horse). Stingray skin has calcium deposits on it. That’s what makes stingray skin so tough once its tanned. The Japanese Samurai used Stingray skin as an armored layer atop a softer hide, because stingray skin is practically indestructible. A razor-sharp sword WILL NOT slice through stingray. (I should know…I have to actually cut all my stingray pieces by hand with a pair of sheet metal shears, the damned stuff is so frigging hard….all my regular leather cutting tools don’t even mar the surface of stingray.)

As for stitching into the depressions of the logo, it would take a very fine needle (too fine to punch through stingray), and to do decorative stitching, the stitches need to be very close together. What happens in veg tanned leather is that the stitching perforates the leather so badly, the leather literally falls apart when you try to stretch it around the gun during the molding/boning process. Chrome-dipped or chemical tanned leathers, either calfskin or another such supple leather, can take the fine needlework, but not the veg-tanned leathers I use in my holster making.

Lastly…I’ve yet to be able to find an *N* frame model…the best model-maker out there is BlueGuns, but the stuff they do is LEO-based, or military-based weaponry. They have J and K frame models, no L or N. There is another modeler called Duncans Customs, but their models aren’t of the quality and exacting standards of BlueGuns. I’ve used their models before in holster making, and had to refund the money to clients because the holsters were too loose, even though I used the exact same technique as with my BlueGun models, where all the holsters made off BlueGuns are balls-on-perfect for fit. I have also tried using tracings, but the fit, again, isn’t exact, and will wind up too tight or loose, and a refund gets made. So, I now stay away from using tracings…if I don’t have the actual gun or a BlueGun model, I politely decline the work.

So…there’s the reasons you see limits on what I offer. Part of it is a physical or technical impossibility, and other (such as more of a gun selection) are because the best models made are only offered in a limited amount of popular LEO/Military model handguns.

I like the way you’re thinking, though…a holster like that would be unbelievably cool. 🙂

Warmest Regards,

Dragon Leatherworks

Since my N-frame wheel gun is apparently out, it’s back to my Commander. Maybe the sanded Stingray as highlight trim for the VC logo in some (contrasting to the holster) shade of dyed cow/horse hide but without the stitched highlighting of the logo itself. Have to think on it some more.

This post is characterised as a “product review”, but it’s really more of a producer review. Go see for yourself.

*Edit to add: Begins with “Fuck …”, features “… gonna need a whole lotta help …” and concludes with “… will not live to see the results!”, or words to the same effect. Feel free to insert pretty much whatever combination of obscenity, slang, curse or insult (added points for anatomically unlikely combinations) anywhere in the discourse you think most entertaining/pertinent and you’ll pretty much capture the spirit of the response I think.

Training Aid

There has been some discussion recently about a variety of .22lr alternatives to center-fire caliber weapons (mostly in pistol formats, but rifle too). Like most of my shooting confreres, I’ve been looking at what seemed to best meet my financial and technical limitations.

I went with this option today.

First, what this isn’t. It isn’t an exact copy of the John Browning M1911, principally in that it has a fixed barrel and there is no half-cock function in the trigger design. It feels quite close to my Taurus PT 1911 in weight and the physical silhouette is near-identical, but the absence of any sort of grip safety makes an immediately obvious distinction between them from the shooters perspective. Quoting from the owner’s document:

Front Sight – The front sight of your “standard model” 1911-22 is a fixed sight and has been designed to allow extra material so that it can be “filed” to adjust for the individual shooter one time. Once the front sight has been filed to proper adjustment, the sight can be blued with a “Cold Blue” product … Without adjustment, your new 1911-22 handgun will typically shoot 2″ – 4″ low at 25 yards.”

Care needs be taken while seating a fresh magazine; the spring tension on the slide is nothing like as strong as that in a 9mm or .45 and the slide will easily jar loose and chamber a round inadvertently if a typically firm slap of the heel of the hand to the bottom of the magazine is employed.

Finally, do not dry fire this weapon. Ever! Doing so will result in the firing pin striking the upper edge of the breach surface causing a burr to form that prevents proper seating of a round and FtE. Ask me how I know.

That all said, I am initially quite pleased with the gun. It fits into my selection of holsters quite well and “points” quite naturally. I still need to do further work on the front sight (some care needed here; there’s no putting metal back on once it’s filed off :)) and I suspect the lack of any attachment feature for “tactical” sights n’ lites will be thought a disadvantage by some. If, however, like me your principal intent is to practice draw and first-shot accuracy for both dominant- and weak-hand scenarios, then the ~$280 asking price for this gun is favorably comparable to that asked for conversion kits. Since this is a new model firearm (second half 2009), the lack of any accessories offered by the company (like additional magazines beyond the one included) is something I have already contacted the manufacturer about.

For it’s limited intended purpose, I think I will be quite satisfied. More to follow, as they say. And, if it need be said, I bought the gun on my own volition; no inducement from the manufacturer has been offered in exchange for the foregoing commentary.

UPS = Delivery FAIL

I ordered an item last week and the vendor uses UPS. Which is fine as far as that goes, but there seems to have been a problem completing the delivery this time.

For whatever reason, my apartment number was left off the shipping address. The UPS tracking web page notes an exception to the delivery schedule but doesn’t provide a workable mechanism for the receiver (the individual most likely to be tracking a shipment, I would think) to correct the problem. What I really want to avoid is having my purchase returned to the company I bought it from (which is UPS’ default option after 3 failed deliveries). I can find no means of contacting UPS about this without an InfoNotice number (the number on the slip they leave on your door when there’s no-one to receive the delivery) which I don’t have because UPS can’t deliver my package without knowing which apartment I live in to leave the InfoNotice slip at (or possibly even just go ahead and deliver my package). The old Catch 22; you can’t do what you need to because they can’t leave you the necessary for you to do …

I really don’t want to take time off from work just so I can hunt up their local office and go down there in person.

Sort of defeats the purpose of shipping with them in the first place, doesn’t it?

Update 1/5/10: Credit where due; UPS persevered, solved the problem and made delivery only one day later than scheduled. I still think they ought to review their customer support set up, but they got it right in the end so “well done” for that.

Turse NDT Review

So, I asked Tam if my Christmas present to myself was an example of what she had earlier called a “turse” – a contraction of tactical purse. Leaving for another day the distinction between “purse” and “handbag”, let me point out that this example of the product type is probably best described as a shoulder bag, since there is no other provision made for a means to conveniently carry it except by the shoulder strap itself (there is a velcro closure loop permanently sewn to the body-side of the bag, which I presume is intended to serve as a belt loop to keep the bag in place during episodes of physical exertion – climbing, riding a motorcycle, etc). I got the bag from Cheaper Than Dirt across the state from me over in Fort Worth.

I would like to make special note that I ordered the bag (along with several other items) on-line on the 23rd of December. FedEx was banging on my front door the following afternoon, so “well done all around” there.

Let’s see, other disclaimers or initial observations? I bought the black colored bag and the woven nylon material is decidedly not “fashionable”; it is extremely durable however and a good deal of care seems to have been taken to make sure the material was cut to the pattern dimensions. The fit and overall appearance seems quite good to me given the limitations imposed by the material and fundamental design criteria. There are a number of questionably located loops on the bag, but since they also provide reinforcement of the joints and seams I won’t use them as appears intended but have no real objection otherwise. Finally, there is no provision for the “handedness” of the carrier. The bag is laid out to be worn over the right hip. Leapers lists this as a new product so there may be plans for future model variants, but no information to that effect is mentioned at their site. As Tam commented, the price seems quite reasonable as well.

Let me begin the actual review by acknowledging that this product is not a purpose-built handgun concealed-carry platform. Rather, it is a compromise between several potential applications, among which the requirements for toting a pistol in a less-than-obvious manner are included. The interior dimensions of the central compartment are: 8.5″w x 4″ thick x 9.5″d (+3.5″ of material in the draw flap closure). Also covered by the primary buckle closure is an anterior pocket internally measuring 6″w x 7″d featuring a zipper that extends at least halfway down the side allowing extreme accessibility to the contents.

Forward of the main compartment is another pouch (the only one with a dual-slider zipper, which also extends at least halfway down the side of the compartment) measuring 3″w x 6″d, while aft is a drink bottle pouch with it’s drawstring closure (intended to hold the container secure, not actually close the pouch) which features a grommet in the bottom material to allow drainage/ventilation of spillage.

Finally, the interior-most compartment is a wide zippered opening (at fully open measuring 8.5″ max) with an interior width at least 1.5″ more. The pocket’s interior depth is 9″ and there are two velcro strips sewn in to the interior-most side of the pouch as well. Judging by the added padding sewn on to the body-facing side of the bag, I believe the intention is to provide a means of temporarily mounting a holster to the rear of the compartment and at least one spare magazine holder to the fore-end (I suspect that a revolver speed loader would be better accommodated in the forward-most zippered compartment mentioned earlier). I tried both my Colt Commander and Taraus PT 1911 and both fit quite comfortably (I already own a detachable velcro’d holster from a FAG bag) (I’ve got an assortment of 1911 magazine belt pouches; I’ll look into cutting one down and gluing the other half of the velcro onto it and see how that works one of these days).

The shoulder strap is a full 2″ wide with closure buckles that, while ballistic plastic, are quite stout in construction. One minor annoyance is the shoulder pad itself has no provision to be fixed in place once a strap length has been adjusted (I keep having to re-adjust the damn pad as it won’t stay in place). Also, and as I commented earlier, there are a number of external loops that don’t seem particularly useful/desirable in a heavily trafficked locale (they might prove extremely useful in a rural or more remote setting – camping or the like say), as well as a couple of spring-loaded hooks for key rings and such. Since I don’t like clipping a pocket knife to the seam of my trousers pockets, I don’t see the utility of hanging a knife out in the open myself. YMMV as they say.

In closing, and on short acquaintance, I recommend this product to anyone looking for an alternative pistol carry option or who simply has an interest in a well-constructed, convenient and relatively commodious day pack. I’ll have to check first, but I’m thinking my daughter (or more likely SiL) might find one of these useful for baby related items once my new grandson moves out of his current lodging this March or early April. 🙂

Hope this review proves helpful and the seemingly obligatory FTC disclaimer follows: the foregoing is an unsolicited product review of an item(s) I purchased on my own initiative. No inducement or remuneration was offered or solicited for my writing this review (although such would not go unconsidered should they subsequently be offered :)).

PS: Tam, mine cost 8 bux, but thanks for this, it was really helpful. I told you you will always have a place in my life. 🙂

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