Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Beretta CX-4 Storm Carbine

Lately I've taken a shine to 9mm as a carbine cartridge. It's relatively cheap, easy to find, reloadable, and effective for defense out to at least 50 yards. Plus, it's relatively quiet from a carbine length barrel and has minimal recoil.

A couple months ago I got a TNW Suomi which is a blast to shoot, but weighs 12 lbs. and has a trigger nearly as heavy. Both factors would prevent my wife from ever shooting it, so I went in search of a lighter, more modern alternative. I settled on a Beretta CX-4 Storm in 9mm setup for Beretta 92 (M-9) magazines, and bought one from Bud's Gun Shop last week. I picked it up fro my FFL last Friday and took it to the range Sunday for the first time. I'm very happy with the purchase.

It is not obvious from the pic, but I set the rifle up for left side ejection, and left handed safety operation. I'm a southpaw, while my wife and one daughter who shoots are both RH but left eye dominant.

With me I had the two Beretta 15 round mags, plus four Mec-Gar 20 rounders. All worked just fine but I like the longer Mec-Gars a bit better, because they are easier to fully seat, since the base isn't recessed as much in the bottom of the pistol grip.

The gun digested 255 rounds without a hitch: 100 Federal 115 grain FMJ bulk pack, 145 Brown Bear (lacquered steel case) 115 FMJ, and 10 American Eagle 147 grain FMJ-FP loads. I shot at 50 yards and from the bench, I'm able to keep my group inside the black of an SR-1 target. The short sight radius and heavy trigger pull are limiting, IMO. Also, last night I opened up the apertures on the rear sight so that they now provide a ghost ring sight picture. The original factory apertures might tighten my groups a little but they are too small for anything other than target shooting, again IMO.

(I pulled the IDPA target out of the trash to use as a cleaning mat. I didn't shoot it.)

In the second pic above, the long bar under the top half of the gun is the bolt. It uses a telescoping design similar to that of the Uzi. This, combined with the magazine well location in the pistol grip, result in a carbine with an OAL under 30". The short OAL and light weight (under 6 lbs. empty) make it a very handy little gun.

Aside from the trigger it's a real pleasure to shoot. There is well-known hammer mod to reduce the trigger pull but didn't want to tinker with the gun's innards before I tested it.

After I got home I ordered a Bushnell TRS-25 red dot sight from Amazon to go on the Storm. I have a couple TRS-25s on other guns and IMHO, they are the best deal going in an inexpensive micro-RDS. I also have a light mount, rail mount sling loop, and tactical sling on order. Overall, I am very happy with the Storm and look forward to shooting it a lot more.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Suomi in the Rain

This month’s Practical Rifle match at my club was shot on the 50 yard range so I decided to shoot my TNW M-31SA Suomi. As a pistol caliber carbine, the Suomi is best suited to 100 yards and under.

The course of fire was three magazines of 5 rounds each from behind 5 different barricades. The first barricade was a picket fence. The toughest stage required a very low prone that had me canting the rifle to the left so I could shoot under the barricade. The one stage each strong side and weak side, and finally, one through a window.

032914_LRGC_2 (1024x576)

The coat is a German surplus Sympatex (similar to Gore-Tex) rain coat, which is about the best deal available in a breathable membrane rain coat. At $30 or less it’s a steal. I bought it several years ago specifically for shooting in matches where I’d be getting muddy. I’ve also used it when camping and hunting. My hat is an old REI Explorer, which is similar to a Tilly Hat. I treated it with Tectron waterproofing spray this week and it kept my head dry in today’s light rain.

To carry my 36 round sticks mags I used a French MAT-49 pouch that I bought from Keepshooting.com.

The targets were IDPA targets with yellow duct tape on them to simulate the spine and brain. Only hits on the tape counted, because they represented zombies. ;)

We had some drizzle early on and then it started a light steady rain towards the end of the match. My groups were good but the gun shoots several inches high at 50 yards so my score was only OK. It was a lot of fun though.

The ammo I used was Brown Bear 9mm 115 grain FMJ. The Suomi eats it like candy. Zero malfs except for when I charged the gun for the first time a live round ejected. I've had that happen with the same magazine previously so it needs some tweaking. I didn't use it for the rest of the match and had no more issues other than that it's awkward to cock left handed, which slowed down my reloads.

I had a friend shoot some video with my iPhone on my final stage.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

TNW Suomi Video

TNW Suomi

Here’s a short video of me shooting my TNW Firearms M-31SA Suomi. This is a  9mm Parabellum semiautomatic carbine based on the Finnish KP/31 Suomi submachinegun. This TNW reproduction is an inexpensive way to experience a cool piece of history.

My TNW Suomi functions perfectly when using 36 round box magazines but my 72 drum needs some fitting. The ammunition used in this video was Russian-made Brown Bear 9mm 115 grain FMJ. I've also shot it with Federal 9mm 115 grain FMJ.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

The TNW M-31SA Suomi Carbine

For several years TNW Firearms of Oregon has made the M-31SA carbine, which is based on the KP-31 Suomi submachinegun adopted by Finland in 1931. The KP-31 gained famed during the Winter War of 1939 – 1940, and saw extensive use during the Continuation War of 1941 – 1944.

Click the pic for full size photo.

The KP-31 was a very influential weapon. Before being exposed to the Suomi, the Soviet Army didn’t employ SMGs in significant numbers. They were regarded as “gangster guns.” However, being on the receiving end of fire from Suomi SMGs wielded by Finnish troops changed Soviet leaders’ minds. For example, the drum magazine of the PPSh-41 is a nearly straight copy of the Suomi’s 71 round drum.

The specifications of the KP-31 are:

  • Operation: Blowback, selective semiautomatic or fully automatic
  • Weight: 10 – 11 pounds
  • Cyclic rate of fire: 750 – 900 rounds per minute
  • Barrel length: 12.6”
  • Feed: 20 round box (“stick”) magazine, 40 round drum magazine, 71 round drum, or 36 round stick.

Specifications of the TNW M-31SA are:

  • Operation: Blowback, semiautomatic only
  • Weight: Approx. 12 pounds unloaded
  • Barrel length: ~16”
  • Feed: Same as the KP-31

Because the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act of 1986 amended previous Federal laws, no new fully automatic weapons for civilian, non-law enforcement ownership may be brought into the United States. Therefore, when Finland sold off their stock of Suomi SMGs in the 1990s, they had to be demilitarized into torch-cut parts kits before being sold on the US market.

18 U.S.C. Section 922r also restricts the number of imported parts that may be used in the construction of a new semiauto firearm for American civilian use, so when building new rifles from the Suomi parts kits, TNW had to use the following US-made parts:

  • Receiver
  • Hammer
  • Trigger
  • Disconnector
  • Barrel

As a shooter with a background in military history and a long time interest in the Winter War, the Suomi has long held a fascination for me. TNW’s semiauto version caught my eye several years ago. Their primary online dealer, Centerfire Systems, has been out of stock for a little while now but the M-31SA remained available directly from TNW. Not wanting to miss my chance of owning this piece of history, a couple weeks ago I decided to pull the trigger (sorry) and order one.

A note on purchasing firearms over the Internet:

There has been much misinformation spread about buying guns on the Internet. I.e., calling it a “loophole.” In fact, unless you have a Federal Firearms License, the only way for you to buy a gun online is to have it shipped to a local FFL, who will then have you come in and complete the same paperwork and go through the same background check as if you go into a gun shop and buy something from their stock. The Internet merely gives buyers access to a wider variety and better prices. The local FFL will charge a fee for processing the paperwork. The FFL I use charges $30.

I already own a Suomi parts kit for another project, so I was already familiar with the quality of these guns as originally made. What was done to them was a crime from an historian’s perspective. They are a product of a bygone era. The metal parts were machined from large pieces of high-grade steel. The steel was given a nice, blued finish. The wood stock was well-crafted and fitted.

My initial impressions of the TNW M-31SA are as follows:

  • Suomis are heavy sumbitches. Twelve pounds for a gun shooting 9mm Parabellum ammunition, by current standards, is excessive. But remember, the KP-31 was originally adopted 83 years ago. Manufacturing methods were a lot different.
  • As a corollary to the weight, the Suomi feels solid in your hands. Holding the M-31SA gives you the impression that no matter the abuse that it suffered on the battlefield, a soldier armed with a Suomi could rely on his gun.
  • TNW’s semiauto trigger mechanism gives a heavy trigger pull. Parkerized parts don’t help this. In fact, the trigger pull is more than weight of the rifle. It arrived bone dry and copious lubrication helped this, and I’m hoping it improves as the finish wears. I did some careful polishing inside the trigger group to improve it, however. I think I have figured out a way to reduce it further, and will do a follow up post with details once I’ve tried it.
  • Instead of bluing, TNW parkerized the outside. This is a more practical finish in that it’s more protective but it isn’t as attractive.
  • Other reviews have mentioned that TNW also parked the bolt and inside of the receiver tube. They should have left it bright, as with the originals. This would make the gun easier to cock and reduce break-in period. The bolt on my rifle appears to have been matte blued, which is an improvement over Parkerizing for this application.

TNW included with the rifle one 36 round stick magazine. This is actually a post-WW2 design, originally made for the Swedish m/45 Carl Gustav SMG. During the Winter and Continuation Wars, the Finns used 20 round stick, 50 round “coffin,” and 40 and 71 round drums with their KP-31s. The 36 round mag wasn’t adopted by the Finnish Army until the 1950s. It is one of the best SMG mags ever made. Because they are a double column, double feed magazine, it is easy to load. They are very well made. This 36 round stick was later used in the S&W Model 76 SMG, which itself was a copy of the m/45.

The 71 round drum is the magazine most associated with the Suomi. I have one, which required fitting to the rifle before it would latch in. As I understand it, the Finns individually fitted and serial number drums to their KP-31s, so this wasn’t a surprise.

The rifle was shipped with the barrel and shroud removed so the package would be shorter. Removing and installing these pieces is easy. To remove them, rotate down the latch that’s in front of the magazine well, then rotate the barrel shroud and pull it off. You can then pull the barrel straight out. Reinstalling these parts is simply the reverse of this procedure.

To remove the bolt and clean and lube the inside of the receiver, first remove the trigger group. This requires removing the screw behind the trigger guard. Then, with one hand pull the cocking handle back a couple inches and hold it, then unscrew the receiver cap. Make sure that you have a good hold on the cap because it’s under a lot of pressure. (Note: Early M-31SA’s made by TNW were striker fired and had two springs in the receiver. The later, hammer-fired guns have only one.)

Reassembly is basically the reverse but you need to be careful that the cocking rod doesn’t jump over the bottom of the bolt. Getting mine back together took a few tries. I don’t anticipate removing the receiver cap after each range session. I generously lubricated the bolt and it should be good for quite a while.

My rifle’s stock has evidently seen a lot of use. It was rough sanded and has several repairs. The sling swivel on the left side of the butt is in a different hole that it originally was. It looks as if the swivel somehow got torn from the stock at some point. The length of pull would be considered short by most Western shooters, but this is for good reason. It allows you to properly shoulder the rifle even if you’re wearing a thick winter coat. Given Finland’s climate, this is important. The stock from my parts kit is in better shape and has nicer grain, so I’m going to swap them.

TNW also included an original Finnish sling made from leather. It was in fair shape. I gave it a healthy coat of Sno-Seal to preserve it. The sling is a simple carry strap about an inch wide.

The front sight is a simple blade. It isn’t protected but it’s thicker than many other military blade sights and looks sturdy. The rear sight is an open tangent. The notch on mine was a little buggered so I cleaned it up with a file and widened the notch a little to make it easier to use with 45 year old eyes.

Today I took the TNW Suomi out to my friend's place to shoot it. We put 150 rounds through the gun with only a couple of issues:

  1. After the first shot the trigger failed to reset. This may have been related to my tinkering with the trigger group yesterday in an effort to reduce the trigger pull. A nudge on it with my finger reset it, and this problem did not recur.
  2. Two or three times we failed to properly seat the magazine and it fell out when we charged the gun. This is purely operator error and can be prevented by firmly seating the mag, then pulling on it to verify that it's latched in. Because I haven't finished fitting my drum magazine to the gun, we used 36 round stick magazines.

We shot from about 10 yards in my friend's yard. Recoil is like a .22 and the report isn't much louder. We put 100 rounds of Federal 9mm 115 grain FMJ from a Walmart bulk pack, and 50 rounds of Russian Brown Bear 115 grain FMJ with steel cases through the gun. There were no function issues other than what I mentioned above. It fed, fired, and ejected as expected.

SMGs may be obsolete for the military, but shooting this was just plain fun. Assuming it'll feed JHPs and continues to be reliable, it would work fine as a home defense gun, albeit a very heavy one.

If you’re interested in historic military arms, the Winter War, or Finland’s military history, the TNW M-31SA Suomi carbine is a fantastic buy.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Making a Wool Blanket Capote

Over on Survival and Emergency Preparedness, I’ve started a series of posts on making a wool blanket capote. Parts 1 – 3 are up.

Check it out.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

My Frankenstein AR15

Yesterday I received the PSA AR15 lower build kit that I’d ordered from Amazon and built of the lower receiver that I milled out from an 80% unit. The Spike’s Tactical mid-length upper that I ordered for it from AIM Surplus has arrived yet, so to test fire the lower I mated it with the top half of my Colt 6520.

Sorry for the pic in potato-vision.

I shot it this morning at the monthly Langhorne Rod & Gun Club practical rifle match. At the December match they allow for sighting in of new rifles and optics, and so they let me put a few downrange during this time to function test it. The rifle ran fine so I shot it in the match. (I brought the Colt lower just in case there was a problem but thankfully I was able to leave it in the case.) So far I have close to 90 rounds on the lower and it’s looking good. Zero malfs.

The Spike’s upper should arrive Monday and I’ll post a follow up pic after it’s all together. Initially, I’ll need to run it with irons using the carry handle from my Colt 6721. For an optic, I am pretty set on getting a low power variable such as a Burris Tac 30 or Nikon M-223.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Hobbit–The Desolation of Smaug

I don’t recall posting any movie reviews here on the blog before but there’s a first time for everything.

When it first came out that The Hobbit was being filmed it was supposed to be two movies, which made sense. "There" and "Back Again," ya know. When I heard it was a trilogy I questioned it.

For example, The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey had way too much padding that didn’t add anything to the story, IMHO.

I saw The Desolation of Smaug yesterday. IMO it's much better than the first movie, even though there is a lot of stuff in it that was not in the book.

Beorn was really well done, IMO. Smaug was fantastic. The CGI is excellent and Benedict Cumberbatch did an wondeful job of vocalizing him.

I've read The Hobbit and The LOTR 4 or 5 times. I was pleased with how faithful the LOTR movies were to the books. For The Hobbit I'm looking at them as movies inspired by the book and just enjoying them. It's not like Jackson went all Paul Verhoeven on them, the way the latter did to Starship Troopers.

I’d say that if you like fantasy movies or Tolkein in particular, go see TH-DOS. Just keep in mind that it’s not a faithful interpretation of the book.

New MacBook Pro

The MacBook Pro I’ve been using at work since 2009 has been getting long in the tooth. It’s still usable but running apps like MS Office, it has noticeable lag. Since it’s out of warranty I was able to put in for a new machine.

Of the standard builds we can order one is a 13” MacBook Pro, non-Retina model, with a 750 GB hard disk, onboard Ethernet, and a SuperDrive (DVD burner). My old MBP has a 15” screen but I use a 24” external monitor at work, so I figured I’d save a little weight and go for the 13” model to make it nicer to schelp back and forth.

Well, a couple weeks passed and I got informed that my new machine was ready. Instead of ordering the machine I asked for, someone in the purchasing department ordered me the 13” MBP with Retina display, 2.9 GHz Core i7 CPU, and a 256 Gb SSD.


This model comes with two Thunderbolt ports, two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, and an SD card reader.s

There’s no SuperDrive or onboard Ethernet. I did get ahold of a Thunderbolt to Gig-E adapter, and we have a USB DVD burner at work, so I’m OK there. I’ll have to keep an eye on disk usage, but I had a Western Digital 640 GB USB drive laying around at home that I added to my bag, so that I can offload stuff I don’t use a lot.

The new machine is fast. Really fast. Redonculously fast. A cold boot to the login screen takes about 5 or 6 seconds. Word and Excel launch almost instantly. Outlook takes a bit longer but it’s bloated compared even to Word and Excel.

It was also setup with Parallels Desktop and a Windows 7 VM, which runs much faster than the Windows 7 VM in VirtualBox on my old machine. My primary uses for the Windows VM will be accessing MSDN and running Visio, which unfortunately isn’t available for Mac OS X.

Battery life is great. I haven’t really wrung it out but when fully charged it shows about 9 hours remaining. Depending on usage I could probably go all day if I happened to leave my power supply home.

I figure it’ll last me about four years.