First-Shots Review: The M&P 9 Shield EZ

First-Shots Review: The M&P 9 Shield EZ

I remember a couple of years back getting to spend some time shooting the M&P 380 Shield EZ, and being rather impressed. I also remember thinking that it’d be great if Smith & Wesson would build that idea in 9mm. And so they did.

The M&P 9 Shield EZ brings the positive features of its predecessor into a 9mm, internal-hammer-fired pistol that very nearly mirrors the dimensions of the .380 model.

Why Consider the 9 Shield EZ

The M&P 9 Shield EZ is a pistol in a size and configuration that makes it rather easy to carry concealed. While it is larger than its original Shield namesake, it is still rather compact. It is slightly smaller and thinner than a Glock 19, but it’s still enough gun to be easy to grip and control while firing.

You might consider the 9 Shield EZ for the fact that it is deliberately made to be easy to rack the slide—as the spring is far softer than is found on most pistols. It is therefore well suited to people who may have trouble manipulating the slide of other pistols. You might also consider the 9 Shield EZ for the 8-round magazines that are extremely easy to load. Pull tabs on either side of the single-stack magazine allow virtually anyone to easily load the magazine to full capacity. Or you might consider it for the fact that it’s one of the few modern poly-pistols that has a grip safety; a feature that some find very appealing and comforting.

I recently got the chance to try out the 9 Shield EZ and have a few thoughts to share on the experience. Let’s start with the specs:

  • Caliber: 9mm Luger
  • Action: Internal hammer fired
  • External Safety: Grip safety, models with & without thumb safety
  • Length: 6.8”
  • Height: 4.85”
  • Barrel: 3.675” Stainless Steel – Armornite ® Finish
  • Slide: Stainless Steel – Armornite ® Finish
  • Grip: M2.0 textured polymer, 18-degree angle
  • Weight: 23 oz.
  • Sights: 3-dot (white), drift-adjustable rear
  • Capacity: 8+1 (2 magazines included)
  • Trigger: ~4.5 lbs.
  • Color: Black
  • Price: ~$479

Shooting the 9 Shield EZ

Despite the prominent visual feature of the large grip safety protruding from the backstrap, I’m happy to report that it is a non-factor in running the gun. I never felt it or noted its engagement. And that’s the way it should be. Yes, it looks a bit weird when the gun is not in your hand, but it’s something one should and likely will get over.

The frame is right in what I consider to be the sweet spot for size and configuration. It’s small enough to be somewhat compact, but large enough so that you get a full grip and full control when firing. The grip features M&P’s M2.0 texture, which is pretty nice, but still not rough enough for my taste. But it’s better than you’re apt to find on most poly pistols.

Loading the magazines is as easy as reported and anyone should be able to load them. Similarly, racking the slide to chamber the first round was ridiculously easy. That is one soft spring! I took my first shots for precision and slow fire to get a feel for the gun. Pretty much what I expected; neither too stout nor overly soft-shooting. If feels like a gun its size and weight should feel when shooting 9mm. It was not at all difficult to control the gun in shooting strings. I then picked up the pace.

I later ran some fast shooting strings, with 4 shots in 1 second to a torso target, followed by one round to the face. It was not as easy as doing it with my Glock 19, but this smaller gun was still manageable for keeping rounds where I wanted them. The one thing that did give me a bit of trouble was the front sight.

The 9 Shield EZ’s front sight is a white dot, but not just a white dot. The “dot” is a hole in the front sight post and that hole is filled with white paint (or whatever material). The white is fine, but the fact that it’s a hole means that dirt and dust and gunpowder residue can get in there and render the “white” dot invisible. It was especially hard for me to pick up the front sight and to maintain a good sight picture when shooting faster strings of shots. Were I to own this pistol, I would trade out the stock 3-dot sights for something far more bright and visible.

The trigger on the 9 Shield EZ is pretty darned good. The action is smooth and the trigger breaks at around 4.5 lbs. The reset is very soft; while the spring on some pistols’ triggers push your finger forward in the reset, the EZ’s trigger reset is comparatively weak. I don’t think that’s good or bad, it’s just different from what I’ve found in most triggers. I had no trouble with the trigger and it completed what was, overall, a very easy-to-shoot experience.

Features and Components

The grip safety is large and runs for about 2/3 of the backstrap. This feature prevents the trigger from engaging unless the grip protrusion is fully depressed, ensuring that a full grip on the frame is required for the pistol to fire. This feature allows you the benefit of reholstering while not depressing this backstrap lever, ensuring a far safer operation even if some foreign object catches on and depresses the trigger. It’s a feature found on a number of pistol models and one that many people prefer.

M&P 9 Shield EZ

The 9 Shield EZ looks like a striker-fired pistol, but it’s actually an internal-hammer gun. If you’re not familiar with internal-hammer-fired pistols, they’re not at all uncommon and, for operation, you likely won’t notice any difference from what you’re used to. There are differences on the inside, but you run it like any other modern pistol.

M&P 9 Shield EZ

It sports white 3-dot sights that are serviceable, but problematic, as detailed earlier. The stainless-steel slide has nice cuts on the rear and those…silly M2.0 machining marks on the lower front of the slide (I can’t help but make fun of that terrible design feature). The slide is remarkably easy to rack and this is an excellent feature that suits the “EZ” brand. The rear of the slide has short “wings” machined from the slide to act as an easy anchor for racking the slide.

The M&P 9 Shield EZ comes either with a thumb safety lever or without. My experience here was with the non-thumb-safety model, so I cannot comment on the adequacy or action of that needless gadget. The slide-stop lever and takedown-lever are located in the traditional positions and neither got in my way when running the gun. The magazine release, which is reversible, I found well positioned and easy to manipulate when it was time to reload. Smith & Wesson know how to design pistols.

M&P 9 Shield EZ

The frame sports a picatinny rail for lights or other accessories. The M2.0 grip texture is nicer than can be found on many poly pistols, but I’ll still argue that it must be stippled for proper everyday carry security (rain, and especially sweat and blood are very slick). The grip angle is 18-degrees, which is common to the M&P line—it’s more vertical than is found on a Glock, for instance.

The trigger, as detailed earlier, is quite nice. The shoe is a one-piece component instead of the two-piece hinged design common to the Shield model. Like all M&P pistols, the trigger shoe is clean and does not have a center “safety tab” common to most modern pistols.

M&P 9 Shield EZ

Conclusions

Pros:

  • The M&P 9 Shield EZ is of sufficient size to be wieldy, but still small enough for easy concealment.
  • The easy-to-load magazines and easy-to-rack slide make this model perfect for many individuals who might otherwise have trouble with those two operations.
  • The grip safety is a feature many will enjoy, especially those who may have trepidation when reholstering a loaded pistol.
  • The grip texture is better than is found on many other similar models.
  • It’s built on a proven design from a proven line of guns from a reputable company.

Cons:

  • The sights—front sight especially—is not optimally design and begs for a replacement model.
  • Eight rounds is fairly anemic for a pistol of this size; these days especially.

As you can see, there are few problems with this design and it’s hard to find something really wrong with this pistol. I would not hesitate to recommend the M&P 9 Shield EZ to anyone who wanted an easy-to-load and easy-to-rack slide for their carry gun. If you’re interested in these features, I recommend you rent the pistol and give it a try yourself!

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About The Author
Shooty McBeardface is a denizen of Twitter and flexes his beard on his personal website. He trains at Eagle Gun Range and elsewhere a few days a week to hone his shooting and defensive skills.
Like an MLB Hitter Facing Jenny Finch

Like an MLB Hitter Facing Jenny Finch

One Quirk of Using a Red-Dot Pistol Optic

A few weeks ago, I pulled out my Glock MOS slide, put a Vortex Venom red-dot optic on it, and put it on a G19 frame and started practicing with it. I had tried a red-dot optic a couple years ago and did not warm to the experience. This time, though, I committed to the learning experience and aim to push though the initial uncomfortable phase to get at least to near-current competence using this optic; just to see if I can find any superiority to irons in the approach.

For whatever reason, this time I had little trouble in quickly finding decent competence using the red dot. I expect that it’s easier this time because I’m using a decent-quality optic, while last time I was using a cheap one. But within a few hours I had no trouble at all drawing, pressing out, and finding my dot right where I expected it. Muscle memory counts! But I had less success in doing the nonstandard movements, like pressing out one handed or performing a reload and then pressing out. Clearly, this is going to take work.

As an experienced and continually practicing shooter, I’m able to push through the little difficulties a new sighting convention brings as I’m able to rely on much-practiced fundamentals. There is, however, one issue particular to the red-dot (or at least it is, so far as I can tell) that conflicts with my fundamental approach to pressing out and breaking the first shot. I’m talking specifically about fast first shots out of the holster.

I don’t know if this technique is common to many pistol shooters or just particular to me, but my habit for achieving a quick first shot is to see the sights as I begin to press out and the gauge the instant where they’ll be properly aligned with my target at the end of the press so that I can time the terminus of my trigger press with the alignment of the posts on target. In this way, I don’t have to wait to get a good sight picture, recognize the alignment on the target, and THEN press the trigger—which would take many milliseconds longer. Rather, I’m estimating a few things all at once and completing several actions at one point, at which time my shot breaks on target.

Using this technique, I’m able to routinely get good hits on 8” or 6” steel at 25 yards while stepping to one side, clearing my garment, drawing from concealment, and pressing out for the shot…all in less than 1.4 seconds.

Here are some examples:

But with the red-dot optic, I can do none of this. Unlike irons on the top of the slide, I cannot pick up the red dot in the window until I have completed a proper press-out. So I’m not able to calculate the variables of dot, press-out, target, and trigger press to coalesce at a single point. Instead, with the red-dot optic, I must complete the draw and press-out and THEN find and place the dot on my target, and THEN press the trigger to break the shot. The difference in time between the two approaches is quite small, but it is rather significant when we’re talking about milliseconds. From my little practice so far, my average time with the red-dot for the shot described earlier is around 1.7 seconds. That’s a difference of 30+ milliseconds (which could possibly be huge in a defense situation).

Pro Analysis

Last weekend I told one of my instructors about this quirk of the red-dot and he said, “Oh, you’re like a major-league hitter trying to hit a softball pitcher.” I looked at him like he was crazy. I had no idea what he meant.

So he went on to explain: it was some years ago, but women’s softball pitcher Jenny Finch faced 24 big-league baseball hitters and struck out all but one. Not no-name players, we’re talking the monster hitters of the MLB. Of the 24 hitters, only Scott Spezio managed to get a base hit off her. Her underhand-style pitch totally baffled them, and with good reason.

The technical keys here are reference to the fact that baseball hitters don’t follow the ball onto their bat—the ball is moving far too fast and often with far too much movement to gauge the proper point of impact by following the ball. Instead, they typically watch the pitcher’s mechanics and point of release to tell them what’s coming, how fast, and where the ball will end up. They’re performing a calculation based on the coalescence of a few factors.

My Dilemma

So in my case, I’m the big-league hitter who is used to seeing certain elements and estimating the point of conversion. But with the red-dot, I’m unable to see the pitcher’s mechanics or point of release. I have to wait until the ball is at the plate before I swing (or just break the shot at the end of my press-out based on nothing recognizable for accuracy—not gonna do that).

His analogy makes perfect sense. Those baseball hitters had no relevant frame of reference to hit Jenny Finch’s underhand pitch. At best they had to make a snap guess (and only Spezio got lucky—yes it was pure luck).

Obviously, this is no bar to the red-dot, it’s just different in that it does not allow for any estimation before the sight picture is visible at the end of the press-out. But I chafe against this limitation; that quick estimation is a much-practiced component of my fundamental technique and it relates directly to my method of practice and measurable ability. But when it comes down to it, it merely changes my expectation. It’s something I could learn to live with. But I’m trying out the red-dot to see if I can prefer it to iron sights.

So the question is, will I decide to live with this limitation or decide not to. We’ll see.

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About The Author
Shooty McBeardface is a denizen of Twitter and flexes his beard on his personal website. He trains at Eagle Gun Range and elsewhere a few days a week to hone his shooting and defensive skills.
First-Shots Review: The Kel-Tec SUB2000

First-Shots Review: The Kel-Tec SUB2000

Kel-Tec is ever the innovative maker of odd and interesting firearm variants, most of which are comparatively inexpensive and seem to capture the imagination in some compelling way. With the SUB2000, they took the idea of the pistol-caliber carbine and made it compatible with Glock and other magazines. But other manufacturers have done that. So, even though it has a 16” barrel, they made it fit easily into a small backpack without disassembly. That was kind of a neat trick.

I’ve had my eye on the SUB2000 ever since they first came out and have long contemplated picking one up. Something else always took precedence and I never actually got one. This month, though, I had the opportunity to spend some time running the Kel-Tec SUB2000 Glock 9mm model at both static-indoor and practical-outdoor gun ranges, and now I get to share my thoughts on the experience.

Why Consider the SUB2000

The Kel-Tec SUB2000 is a full-sized pistol-caliber carbine (PCC) that folds in half to pack easily into a backpack or bag, or stows away in a vehicle, for relatively quick deployment at need. It is made specifically to be a utility rifle that conceals and/or pack for easy daily or situational carry.

You might consider the SUB2000 for its small footprint in basically any backpack or duffle (folded, it’s just a bit larger than a laptop computer). You might also consider it for the fact that it comes in a Glock-mag-specific (G19/27 or bigger) or “Multi-Mag” configuration in either 9mm or .40 cal chambering. So feeding the rifle should be easy. Otherwise, you might consider the SUB2000 for the fact that, unlike other small-footprint PCCs, it sports a full-length 16” barrel.

Kel-Tec SUB2000

Note that the SUB2000 is not what I consider to be an ordinary PCC. When I think of a PCC I think of an AR platform with receivers made to run pistol rounds. I’ll confess that I am not and have never been a fan of pistol-caliber AR rifles. I say if you’re gonna have a rifle, get one made for rifle rounds and do rifle things with it. I believe that if you don’t need a rifle round, a plain old handgun is just fine…even better than a PCC.

The SUB2000, however, is a bit of a different animal. It is lighter than a typical AR-platform PCC and it has the peculiar talent of packing a full 16” barrel in a package that folds down to just over 16” overall and can be deployed from a ruck and fired on target in less than 10 seconds. That alone is compelling and the SUB2000 has long piqued my interest.

Anyway, let’s start with the specs:

  • Caliber: 9mm (or .40)
  • Length: 30.5” (16.25” when folded)
  • Height: 7”, open or folded
  • Barrel: 16.25” with 1:10” or 1:16” twist ratio
  • Weight: 4.25 lb
  • Sights: Barrel-affixed steel front, rear peep sight
  • Capacity: varies with magazine used (Glock & others)
  • Color: Black
  • MSRP: $556

Kel-Tec SUB2000 folded

Shooting the SUB2000

I started out standing in a static-indoor range lane just learning how to operate the thing. Not that it’s difficult, but its odd configuration means some peculiar controls. Owing mostly to the bottom-of-stock-arm charging handle I had to learn which hand should do what and when for basic manipulations, like sending home the bolt for an initial loading and then what changes when performing a speed reload.

The charger locks up into a notch at the rear-right of the stock arm. After a couple of trials I found that for an initial loading with a locked-open action, you pretty much have to grip the gun up front on the handguard with your secondary hand and slap the charger down with your right hand (similar to how an MP5 works). However, for a reload, it’s best to keep your primary hand on the grip, then with your secondary hand load the mag and reach back to charge the handle, then re-grip the fore-end and fire. For reloads, it’s kind of like running an AK-47. Heh, it’s easier than it sounds. At just over 4 pounds, the gun is light and easy to shoot and manipulate.

The front sight is fixed to the end of the barrel and the rear peep sight pops up into position when you unfold the rifle. It is not terribly difficult to get a proper sight picture, but it’s neither as easy nor as comfortable as doing so with a real rifle. The “stock” is just molded hard plastic and it does not have anything like a smooth, rounded, elevated surface for your cheek to weld. It’s all rather uncomfortable and I immediately found myself wishing for a red-dot optic so that I didn’t have to get my face down quite so far onto the hard, bumpy stock. In fact, my third outing to the outdoor range with the SUB2000 I did mount a red-dot on it, and found shooting it to be far more enjoyable.

The trigger is a bit heavy and not so smooth, but I didn’t notice it causing any problems when running drills. The trigger breaks at about 10 pounds and it has a very plastic feel. The charging spring is pretty darned stiff and you have to charge it like you mean it. The bottom-of-stock-arm placement is a bit awkward, but not a dealbreaker. I soon learned to run it pretty smoothly for basic manipulations.

That folding lock at the rear of the stock is NOT an inviting cheek rest. This is definitely a utility gun and not a fun plinker or main range gun.

When the magazine runs dry, the bolt does not lock back and, instead, you get the “thunk” of a trigger falling on an empty chamber. Reloads are accomplished in much the same way as with a pistol. The mag release is in the same position as for the average pistol and I had no trouble running reload drills, as seen in this video:

I spent quite a few rounds running deployment-drill reps and reload-drill reps. Took a minute to get the hang of deploying quickly from my backpack, but that was due mostly to figuring out which way was best to stow it in the pack pocket to make deployment as quick and easy as possible. The video above shows that it took me roughly 8 to 10 seconds from “go” to get a round on target. Not bad.

Features and Components

The SUB2000’s main feature is that it folds down from a 30.5” rifle down to a 16.25” stowable assembly. Barely larger than a laptop computer, it fits easily into nearly any backpack, shoulder bag, or day bag. In this way, it’s the kind of rifle one can keep with all day, concealed, without fear of detection. At just over 4 pounds, it’s no great encumbrance either.

For folding the gun (with a clear chamber, only), you pull forward on the trigger guard a bit and the lock releases allowing you to fold the barrel back on the action and stock arm. Easy peasy. To unfold, give the plastic lock that holds the front sight a slight tug and the barrel is again free to fold down and lock into operational position. It’s all quite easy.

Kel-Tec SUB2000

As mentioned earlier, the trigger is just okay and breaks at about 10 pounds. The safety is a crossbolt style button on the rear of the receiver. It is not placed for ergonomic operation—as with an AR selector—but I’ll argue that it shouldn’t have a “safety” mechanism anyway, and should be left in the fire position so there’s no need to interact with it (safety is a human behavior, not a lever on the receiver).

The model I used was fed by Glock magazines, and you can use anything from the G19 size, up. When ejected, the magazines dropped free for me and I had no trouble with quick reloads…except where the only way you know it’s time to reload is when the trigger goes “thunk” on an empty chamber. The charging handle is kind of ugly, but serviceable.

Mine had a threaded barrel for mounting a muzzle device or a suppressor. Not sure either is warranted, as they would mar the small fold-down size of the stowed rifle. The handguard has M-LOK slots on the sides and picatinny on the top and bottom, so there’s room for accessories. However, putting anything on the top picatinny rail means you can’t fully fold the rifle. There are aftermarket accessories to mitigate this issue, but out of the box, the top rail has to remain clean.

Conclusions

I think the Kel-Tec SUB2000 is pretty darn good at being exactly what it’s supposed to be: an easily concealable, packable, full-length pistol-caliber rifle. It is quite bare-bones and utilitarian out of the box, but with some aftermarket love it can become quite a bit more effective and easier to use well.

There are some tradeoffs as compared to AR-style PCCs, but the full-length barrel, weight, and packing-size of the SUB2000 make it compare fairly well. And the fact that it will take your mid-size or larger pistol magazines, and thus sort of maintain your platform efficiency, is quite a boon. I wouldn’t want to fight a foreign insurgency with this thing, but I think it’d be good in a pinch, and it makes for a helluva survival rifle.

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About The Author
Shooty McBeardface is a denizen of Twitter and flexes his beard on his personal website. He trains at Eagle Gun Range and elsewhere a few days a week to hone his shooting and defensive skills.
A Review of “Concrete Jungle – A Green Beret’s Guide to Urban Survival” by Clay Martin

A Review of “Concrete Jungle – A Green Beret’s Guide to Urban Survival” by Clay Martin

As I write this review, much of our nation—especially in the big cities—is in chaos, as various communist insurgent groups work to cause mayhem, destroy history, loot and destroy property, and continually attack and intimidate American citizens with whom they merely disagree. These groups are aided hand-in-glove by nearly 100% of the staff at media outlets and large corporations, who either suppress facts and run interference for the insurgents’ crimes or they make widely publicized genuflections toward the groups’ inane and disgusting demands. All the while, big-city governments are either cowed or offering full-throated support for this violent, anti-American evil.

As a result, cities are on fire and American culture is crumbling. The pace and spread of this evil is alarming. It seems all of media, business, and much of government is arrayed against ordinary, decent American citizens who simply want to be left alone to live their lives free from tyranny, violence, and mayhem. The forces arrayed against us continually promise that we may not do so.

What if things deteriorate further, as they’re sure to do? How do decent Americans prepare to preserve normalcy or to just survive when the rule of law fully collapses? What works well and what doesn’t? What is practical and what is fantasy? Few of us have professional experience in such matters and the clock is ticking.

Amid this increasingly grim saga comes Clay Martin who out of a self-professed sense of moral duty offers the plainspoken, practical advice good folks need, as many find they must prepare against a violent tide. His book, “Concrete Jungle” is, as described on the back cover, “a down and dirty guide [on how] to survive the most extreme environment imaginable.” The book offers hard-won insights on practical matters like, how to plan and budget for your preparations; how to build an information network; how to build an effective team; what training to pursue, and which kinds; food and fitness preparations; stores and equipment; which actions work well and which don’t…and much more.

The author, Clay Martin, served in both the US Marine Corps and the US Army. He was, among other things, a scout/sniper and a Green Beret. He explains in the book’s introduction…

“As a retired Green Beret, I feel a moral obligation to help those that want to help themselves, which is what this book is about. Like a return on your investment for your tax dollars. I don’t have all the answers, but I can at least say my opinion is tempered by real world experience both spotting unrest, and surviving to tell the tale.”

Given his experience and success, it is perhaps best that we pay attention when he speaks to these topics. I enjoyed the book and learned a great deal. Here, I have some observations to share on the author’s effort—the good, the bad, and the ugly—and hope that you might find them useful.

While some may imagine that a review of a book will deal exclusively with the content, I’m reviewing the entire effort here involved with the paperback version of the book: The content and its organization, the language, the design, the “furniture” (cover and ancillary bookish-info-things at the starting and ending pages of the book), and the defined architecture of the book. I’m doing these things because reading a book is a physical experience—a user experience that involves tactile, visual, and navigational input. Since these things are component to my profession, I know how important the whole of the experience can be to reading a book. So here we go.

First, the specs:

“Concrete Jungle – A Green Beret’s Guide to Urban Survival”
By Clay Martin
?? pages
Published June 15, 2020
Available on Amazon.com (and perhaps elsewhere)
Kindle: $5.99
Paperback: $8.76

  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Not the Guns
  • Chapter 2: Common Sense Planning (I think this is chapter 2)
  • Chapter 3: Building Your ODA From Scratch
  • Chapter 4: With Our Own Powers Combined
  • Chapter 5: Greenhorn to Wyatt Earp
  • Chapter 6: Nunchucks and Throwing Stars
  • Chapter 7: Stabby Things
  • Chapter 8: Fitness, Food, and Water
  • Chapter 9: Rumble in the Bronx
  • Chapter 10: Savages on the Warpath
  • Chapter 11: Balkanize Before They Rise
  • Chapter 12: Weapons
  • Chapter 13: Care and Feeding of Your Gat
  • Chapter 14: Becoming a Harder Target
  • Chapter 15: Blow the Escape Hatch

eating advice

Heh, some of the chapter names are kind of whimsical. Guess the author was having a good time when he wrote them. If a chapter name doesn’t make sense to you, I can say with reasonable certainty that the content that follows it will. The author has a knack for explaining things in simple, practical terms with plain language.

Since I’m no expert on most of the topics, I can only say that what the author shares here makes a lot of sense to me, and the occasional caveat rings true. Some of the nice surprises included things most of us never think about or would ever have experience with, given that we grew up in a highly civilized, prosperous nation. Things like, what happens to a person when they’re very hungry from not having eaten in a few days, or admonishments on how to eat in the hellscape and how not to get caught doing it.

These insights speak to some the really horrible aspects of conflict, when things we take for granted are suddenly gone, cut off, run out, or turn septic. They’re things we don’t think about because they’re too horrible to imagine. The author takes pains to address these unimaginable horrors and offers strategies or tactics for dealing with them in proven and advisable ways.

I found the more I read, the more I was glad that I was reading this book and being exposed to these issues and the accompanying advice. As is the purpose, it made me understand just how much there is to do in order to better and more responsibly prepare. I also appreciated the advice against doing some things in favor of other things. Better choices mean a better, more comfortable survival. The author seems to have a lot of valuable insights into these matters.

advice on fortifications

The Good

Reading this book is a piece of cake. The prose is simple, inviting, and endearing. The author’s delivery makes it seem like the two of you are hanging out on your back porch enjoying cigars and cold beer while he offers some advice. This quality is a huge win for the book, and for every reader.

Another good choice by the author, I think, was to directly translate many military conventions into systems and choices for your preparations, especially regarding how you build and maintain your team and your community network of information. It is best that laymen rely on proven systems utilized by professionals rather than merely inventing them out of thin air, and I think the author does excellent work solving vital issues for you. He lays out some clear, proven templates that you can use to survive and live more successfully than others may.

In support of his suggestions, the author relates some personal anecdotes and illustrative fictional stories to show the practicality of what might seem like bs or fanciful ideas to some readers. In doing so he does a good job bridging the gap between military lingo/SOP and regular-folks’ needs. Like the subtitle of the book describes, the book really does read like a Green Beret’s guide to urban survival, and I believe you couldn’t ask for a better instructor in these matters.

Not every reader will already be a firearms expert or seasoned prepper and the author easily takes this fact into account with the scope and quality of his advice. That said, those of you who are expert in such things won’t be left bored or nonplussed. There’s seemingly something for everyone here.

advice on supplies

The Bad

Along with the hard-earned insights and surely solid advice comes some incongruent content, I believe. Given the topic and context of the book, I think the author spent far too much of the book dwelling on the spectrum and comparative qualities of various empty-hand defensive systems. From my own decades of experience in a handful of them I see that his observations ring true, but for a book about strategies, tactics, and preparations for the NOW, it seems out of place to devote so much of the content to efforts that genuinely take years, often a decade or more of continual practice, to be automatically useful in a violent situation. Moreover, the financial cost of that continual training in a quality academy tends to dwarf the costs of other, more immediately useful preparations. I believe the author even touched on that fact.

Don’t misunderstand; pursuing this training is something every man should do, but it’s something you should have started decades ago and not as a last-minute prep for impending social unrest. Again, it’s good advice and worthy of inclusion, but the large percentage of pages dedicated to it is just perhaps misplaced in this particular book.

This last complaint is perhaps just my opinion, but the ending of the book seems oddly abrupt. There is no summation or “conclusions” section…nothing to neatly tie the preceding content up into a bow at the end. I think the author could have really used something like that to drive home some key points and perhaps direct readers to other resources. I just know I felt like the ending was a bit wrong. Maybe it’s just me.

The Ugly

“Concrete Jungle” was independently published and I’m disappointed to say that pretty much everything about the book’s format, design, and state of text makes that fact achingly clear. I purchased the paperback version of the book and while it’s likely a bit harsh to say, this book seems more like a voluminous pamphlet. I get that we’re moving quickly into a world where printed matter is more and more an afterthought, but if one is going to publish a printed book there are a few important conventions one should follow as a matter of course and out of respect for the customer. This book lacks most of them.

There is no index, no glossary; nothing but the text. In fact, there is nothing inside the front cover other than …the book. The Introduction starts on the very first page. It’s an efficient start, but the traditional first info-pages conventions are conventions for a reason. Sometimes folk like to browse by chapters and get a sense of where things are. Of course, to do that, you’d need page numbers. This book doesn’t have those either(!).

There are chapters, but they are only vaguely hinted at; there’s no contrasting text to give your eye purchase on the fact that a new chapter has started. In fact, chapter 2 isn’t even vaguely hinted at; it is apparently nonexistent. You’re reading chapter one, then later there’s an unlabeled page heading that seems to be chapter-like, but a few pages later you’re in chapter three. Likely just an editing error. Also concerned with editing, there are several misspellings and space/punctuation errors throughout the book that should have been caught before publication. Again, expediency has its place, but not at the cost of the fundamentals.

Now, I’ll admit to the possibility that the omission of page numbers, an index, contrasting chapter notations, etc. were all thematic components of a broader point the author was making. But if that’s so, I’ve got no clue what that point could be. I just think it’s more likely that these were omissions of expediency—to get the book out and into the hands of patriots while we still have a country to defend; an effort for which I am sincerely grateful!

the back cover

Finally, from a design standpoint (as a design professional, I can be a total snob with this stuff), the cover is just heinous! Red text on gray is a horrible choice and an assault on the eyes. The text composition on the back cover looks like random words were thrown haphazardly onto the canvas; hurts to try and read. Haha, so much is wrong with the design here, but like I said, I’m a design snob. That said, it really is the content inside that really counts. My overarching point is that there are a lot of things that count.

Conclusion

This is a much-needed book and I’m glad that we got it delivered in the voice and style that Clay Martin offers up. This book doesn’t exclude anyone in voice or delivery, and I think that was a solid choice here. I also like that it’s not a huge tome, but a relatively quick read. Time is short and offering a stripped-down and practical take on strategies and advice based on first-hand experience is a great choice for those “who want to help themselves.” Those of us who have read Clay’s book and want to know more can now seek that further information from a far more informed stance.

Along with what’s good here, there are obvious less-than-awesome components that I thought need to be recognized. Part of the reason for publishing a review…of anything…is to take advantage of opportunities to point out how subsequent efforts might be revised for better effect. Since I care deeply for both the medium and the topic, that is most certainly one of my aims here. As such, my review may come off as more negative than is deserved so please don’t get the idea that I didn’t like this book or that I don’t recommend this book. On the contrary, I strongly recommend that all responsible Americans purchase and read this book. It deserves your attention and I dare say you may be in more dire straits than is necessary without it.

I want to sincerely thank Clay Martin for writing and sharing this book, blemishes and all. The things that are occurring in our nation seemingly have only one eventuality and I’m already using the advice the author offers here to improve my preparations and my family’s situation in the face of a potentially grim future.

As someone who cares a great deal for our American culture and our nation, I hope that you read this book and act on the author’s advice.

* * *

About The Author
Shooty McBeardface is a denizen of Twitter and flexes his beard on his personal website. He trains at Eagle Gun Range and elsewhere a few days a week to hone his shooting and defensive skills.
First-Shots Review: The Springfield Hellcat 3″ Micro Compact

First-Shots Review: The Springfield Hellcat 3″ Micro Compact

When Sig Sauer created a 10+1-capacity, subcompact pistol it sent the industry reeling. Not long after, about 9 months ago now, Springfield introduce the Hellcat, a similarly sized 9mm pistol with a capacity one-round higher than that of Sig’s P365. Playing one-upmanship will eventually have diminishing returns, but having 12 rounds of 9mm in a tiny subcompact pistol is nothing to sneeze at!

The Springfield Hellcat is just that: a tiny, 11+1 round 9mm pistol that is basically the same size as the Sig P365. Is that a good thing? Does it work? What many folks have discovered in the months since the Hellcat was first released is that the answers to these questions would seem to be yes. But what’s it like to shoot and run the Hellcat, even in a defensive style of drills? Here follow my first impressions.

Springfield Hellcat

Why Consider the Hellcat?

The Springfield Hellcat is a subcompact double-stack, striker-fired pistol. It is meant specifically for deeper concealed carry. You might consider the Hellcat for its 11+ 1 capacity (13+1 w/extended mag), which puts it head and shoulders above almost every other comparable pistol and at least a bit above any other competitor. You might consider the Hellcat for carrying in non-permissive environments or for times when you’re wearing lighter clothing. Basically, it is for when deeper concealment and higher capacity are essential to your preference.

I spent some time shooting the Hellcat and getting familiar with its capabilities & performance, and want to share my thoughts on that experience here. As this is a first-impressions review, issues of durability and reliability are not addressed. Others, if you’re interested, have put the Hellcat through a truly grueling 10k-round test, which the Hellcat endured with no reported problems.

Anyway, let’s start with the specs:

  • Caliber: 9mm
  • Length: 6”
  • Height: 4” w/ Flush Mag, 4.5” w/ Extended Mag
  • Barrel: 3” hammer forged steel, Melonite finish 1:10
  • Width: 1”
  • Slide: Billet Machined, Melonite Finish
  • Weight: 18.3 oz w/ Flush Mag, 18.6 oz w/ Extended Mag (unloaded)
  • Sights: Tritium/Luminescent front, Tactical Rack U-Notch rear
  • Capacity: 11+1 (flush) or 13+1 (extended)
  • Color: Black or FDE
  • MSRP: $569 Black, $610 for FDE

Springfield Hellcat

Springfield Hellcat

Note that the Hellcat comes additionally in a fiber-optic front sight version and there are also versions pre-cut for a micro red-dot optic (and combination thereof).

Note also that regardless of the positives and negatives cited in this review, the Hellcat is a subcompact pistol and, as such, is appropriate only for experienced shooters. If you’re a novice shooter or brand new to everyday carrying, always avoid subcompact models of any brand in favor of compact or full-size pistols.

Shooting the Hellcat

I started out shooting the Hellcat for groups at short range, just to get a feel for firing rounds. It’s a subcompact, so it’s a bit snappy. Given the magnified felt recoil and the short grip, you’ve really got to—how should one put it?—grip the hell outta the gun to maintain a proper grip and control. It’s really not so terribly bad, but like all small pistols it requires you bear down a bit. I was able to rest my support-hand thumb on the takedown lever, which proved to be a good home and helped with control.

Groups at short range were fine and when I missed, I missed low, due mostly to the longer trigger press combined with me trying to compensate for the muzzle rise. That’s my fault. I did shoot some groups at 10 yards and they were acceptable for a subcompact, but the stock sights—rear sight in specific—were not awesome for precision, for me. Were I to own this pistol, I’d swap out the rear sight for a 2-dot model. I did not enjoy the rear u-notch site so much when trying to keep tight groups. I find it imprecise as compared to a 2-dot rear sight, which for me allows for a better gauge of proper vertical lineup. But I have old-man eyes and simply found it more difficult to know where to place the front dot in relation to the “U” at the rear. The top extensions of the “u” do not go all the way to the top of the sight, so my eyes didn’t efficiently and precisely line up the tops of the front/rear structures without me making adjustments after what seemed a proper sight picture. But that’s me and you may have no trouble at all with a precise sight picture.

Springfield Hellcat sights

After some groups, I did quite a few fast shooting strings that included: moving off the “x” and 4 shots in 1 second, followed by a moving reload, followed by a followup shot. I wanted to see if I could control this small, snappy pistol in something that approximated a defensive shooting context. I had no trouble keeping fist-sized groups at 5 yards for those 4 fast shots, provided I did my part to bear down. The reload was not at first very smooth, as the shortened grip tends to make the empty magazine catch on the palm of my grip hand rather than drop freely. After some practice I was able to modify my grip while ejecting the empty magazine. It’s not ideal, but it’s certainly doable with practice. I didn’t try those fast strings at 7 or 10 yards, but I’m quite sure they’d have opened up considerably.

I should note that I shot this pistol with the pinky-extension mag and the extended mag, but did not shoot it with the flush magazine. I was just able to just barely keep my pinky on the grip while shooting, but I don’t generally mind if the grip is too short for all fingers. The Hellcat’s grip has a mild texture that for me was not optimal. Especially for a pistol this size and chambered in 9mm, a rougher texture would be much better.

The controls seemed to be well located and none got in my way for grip or running the gun. Overall, while it was not entirely pleasant to shoot, it was no big chore. That’s generally what one gets with a 9mm subcompact, so nothing exceptional to report here.

Springfield Hellcat models

Features and Components

The Hellcat’s main claim to fame and selling point is its 11-round standard magazine (either flush or with a pinky extension) and 13-round slightly extended magazine. This capacity puts it in rarified air as compared to other subcompact 9mm pistols. The stock sights include either a Tritium or fiber-optic front sight, depending on the model, and the rear sight is a u-notch.

The Melonite slide features front and rear serrations, which I found to be just fine for manipulating the slide. Melonite is perhaps the best possible treatment for a pistol slide and it’s nice to find it on this pistol. Though I did not run such a model, there are Hellcats available with a slide that is pre-cut for a micro red-dot optic.

The polymer frame is simple in design and adorned with large, well placed textured areas. The texturing is a sort of micro stippling that is in my opinion not adequate. Like nearly all poly pistols, this one will need proper stippling for better purchase; especially on a snappy little pistol like this. There are even textured rest/index areas forward on the frame that one might use for gripping. I found the takedown lever to be a better thumb index area while shooting.

The trigger is adequate, but not great. The takeup is long and the break is a bit “thunky” and plastic feeling. I didn’t notice it as a problem while shooting the pistol, except where I was used to a shorter press and I sometimes dipped my muzzle low in expectation of a shot that came an instant late. With practice, surely that would not be a problem. The shoe was quite comfortable for me. So, again, this trigger is okay.

Springfield Hellcat

Conclusions

It seems Springfield has managed to fit 12 rounds of 9mm into a tiny subcompact pistol without any major problems. Provided it’s reliable in the long run, it would seem to be—as of this writing—the ultimate expression of a high-capacity subcompact for deep concealment.

I’m not a huge fan of the sights or the trigger, but sights can be replaced and the trigger, though not awesome, works just fine and causes no problems when firing the gun. There’s no getting around the fact that a subcompact 9mm is going to be a bit snappy, so I again recommend this or any subcompact only to experienced, strong shooters who know how to properly control a violent little meanie in their hands.

If you need a tiny gun with lots of capacity, I recommend you try out the Springfield Hellcat. Rent it at Eagle Gun Range or your local gun range and see what you think.

* * *

About The Author
Shooty McBeardface is a denizen of Twitter and flexes his beard on his personal website. He trains at Eagle Gun Range and elsewhere a few days a week to hone his shooting and defensive skills.
Eagle Gun Range

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