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Letters Re: Beretta 9mm Model 92/Centurion Owners — .40 S&W Kits Now on the Market

Dear Jim,
For what it’s worth, I think your new blog is excellent and I’ve read your book Patriots [1] numerous times. I find them both entertaining and educational at the same time.
Please continue with dispensing your knowledge to us “new guys”.

I have a question about your 08/20/05 post regarding the Beretta 92 upgrade to .40 S&W. You stated that one should have 2500 rounds or more of ammunition if this is your primary weapon. My question is this: What do you suggest as far as FMJ [2] or Hollow Point? Should all of that be either one or the other (FMJ / HP) or if not, what percentage do you suggest of each configuration. Thanks for your insight. – D.

JWR’s Reply:
Since .40 S&W is IMO a barely adequate stopper, I recommend that you primarily buy all jacketed hollow point ammunition. If you ever get into a gunfight with looters that are wearing body armor, .40 S&W FMJ projectiles will not penetrate anyway, so there is no reason to stock anything but hollow points. (And, BTW, if you suspect an opponent is wearing a vest, take head shots!) The .40 S&W Federal Hydrashok is reportedly excellent. Perhaps some of the readers of the Blog will have other suggestions on other factory brands that feed reliably and blossom out well.

At this juncture I should mention that my usual approach with any newly-acquired handgun is is to first buy just ONE box of your proposed premium self defense ammo.Then shoot that entire box, using at least three different magazines. You will be testing both for accuracy and reliable feeding and ejection. Make sure that you shoot at least one magazine–preferably the last one, since much of your earlier testing will be for accuracy–in very rapid fire. If there is even a single failure to feed or eject then you should dispassionately move on to another brand until you find one that both functions flawlessly, and has good accuracy. Once you’ve established that, if you can afford it then buy your entire planned stock of ammunition for that pistol–all from the same lot . (Lot numbers are typically printed inside the flap of cardboard pistol ammunition boxes.) Regardless of your budget, as time goes on, you will purchase ammo from different lots. So mark the ammo cans accordingly. (Such as: “.40 S&W, Federal HP, LOT 1”) Then as you use up ammunition, expend one lot completely before you start shooting up the next lot. Be sure to confirm the point of impact (“zero”) whenever you change lots.

James –
I am concerned about your post regarding the slide change on Berettas – the 9mm has a nasty history of frames cracking at 5,000 rounds in the service – using the .40 on a 9mm pistol sounds like a guarantee of broken guns. As a measure of experience, one of my mentorees (I sat on the congressional board that selected him for attendance at USMA [2]) who is in Iraq for his second tour, has shared stories of he and his troops plinking at the tires of a shot up truck with their 9mm Berettas. When they could get the magazines to allow the pistol to cycle upon firing, their 9mm ball rounds BOUNCED OFF THE TRUCK TIRES!!!

My advice is to sell the Berettas (isn’t that Italian for malfunction?) and buy Glocks. For $600 you get a pistol that will run – period! Why pay twice as much for a 1911 that will still need to be tweaked and fitted with additional items? (an ambidextrous safety, for example) My Kimber compact self destructed when its two piece recoil rod unscrewed and wrecked the trigger. Sure, the factory was prompt at fixing it and returning the thing, but then I had no confidence in it, so out the door it went, to fund a Glock purchase. Besides, 10 or 13 rounds of .45ACP (vs. 7-8 in a 1911) in a Glock 21 is pretty good medicine for bad circumstances. Obviously shot placement, shot placement, shot placement, however, wolves travel in packs so 13+1 is comforting to me.

I also noticed that in all of your profiles no one mentioned PT [2]. You will be much more likely to survive an illness or the stress of TEOTWAWKI [3] if you are in good shape. After initial defense needs, FOOD, FOOD, FOOD. MEDICINE, MEDICINE, MEDICINE. After all self-reliance stuff is secured, then maybe it is time to upgrade the C&R [2] Mosins/Mausers to FAL [2]s? If I had to do over again and could keep my love for rifles out of the preps, I would do it that way.

I have been looking for self-winding watches for 5 years! Where are you getting yours? All that Chinamart and other stores have these days is EMP-sensitive wrist jewelry. – The Cavalryman


JWR’s Reply:

On Berettas: IIRC [2], slide cracking was only an issue with the early production lots of military contract 9mm M9s–all of which had their slides replaced by the factory. I have not read about any slide failures with the later 9mm models or any of the .40 S&W variants. (BTW, in fairness I should mention that it has been documented that some of the .40 S&W Glocks had their own problems, involving rear frame rails [4].) But I do concur with you that Glocks are “more gun for the money.” If I were to buy a .40 S&W it would most likely be a Glock Model 22 or 23. However, there are people that intensely dislike Glocks because of their lack of a manual safety. (Some even irrationally fear them, for the same reason.) For folks in those categories, I believe that a Beretta in .40 S&W is a viable alternative. OBTW, in case you are wondering, I don’t currently own any handguns chambered in either 9mm or a .40 S&W. All of the primary handguns in our family battery are .45 ACPs. We also have a variety of secondary handguns in .22 LR and various big bore revolver chamberings–the latter in deference to being in bear and wolf country.

On PT: I agree that physical condition and watching one’s weight are both very important and should not be overlooked. Coincidentally, I added a new Profile [5] last night that specifically talks about PT. (Mr. Delta’s profile.)

On self-winding watches:
I’ve been successful at finding used self-winders on E-Bay [6]. Used ones, (brands such as a Bulova, Caravelle–also made by the Bulova works, Benrus, and Hamilton) with scratched or cracked crystals often sell on E-Bay [6] for under $100. Next, a quick trip to the local watch/jewelry shop for a new crystal and a cleaning, then add a “Tommy Tactical”-looking nylon band Velcro closure flap and you’ll have a relatively bomb-proof watch that should provide decades of service.

OBTW, I know nothing about the Russian self-winders that are currently on the market, so I don’t feel qualified to talk about those. Perhaps one of your fellow blog readers that has owned one for at least a year will drop me a “review” e-mail…)