Friday, June 23, 2017

The Katrina Pistol

Ever since I dedicated one of my ARs to what I called a Katrina Rifle, the idea of a Katrina Pistol has been rolling around my bug out loadout. So when Glock read my mind and released their MOS or “Modular Optics System” pistols, I knew the time was right to build a Katrina Pistol.

Based on much the same survival philosophy as my Katrina Rifle, the Katrina Pistol would need to be good enough to sit at the top of my short list of things to grab when running out the door for possibly the last time.

Symptoms and Solutions
The features of the Katrina Pistol are based on the need for a firearm that has many jobs including that of personal protection, personal protection and of course personal protection. But to be clear, a feature of the Katrina Pistol is not to be the simplest gun on the planet. If that were the case then the Katrina Pistol would be an overbuilt revolver in .22 or .357 or heck even .500 S&W if we are overlooking the obvious. Instead the Katrina Pistol is a hard working gun with features specifically chosen and included to make it excessively effective yet manageable. The Katrina Pistol needs to be something that needs no instruction book (although I am including one), fires when the trigger is pulled (no external safety), lights up the night (with several hundred lumens minimum), paints the target (with a bright green laser), floats a red dot on the point of impact (with the world’s toughest micro red dot), and launches jacketed lead downrange with extreme prejudice (in 15 to 33 round bursts as desired).

To put a finer point on the Katrina Pistol, the major details fell into place on their own fairly quickly. Choosing a Glock for the platform was an easy choice. Perhaps the only choice. No other pistol has the reliability and lack of external safeties as the Glock. The cartridge was another easy choice with the 9mm. The ubiquity and global popularity of the parabellum round minimizes that this bullet will be in short supply when the reloading equipment is back in the shed.

Glock to the Rescue
The two Glocks that seemed most likely to claim my Katrina Pistol title are the Glock 17 and Glock 19. Both are 9mm, both have rails, and both have double-stack magazines so there is exceptional interchangeability among them. Also of note here are the low Glock numbers. The very first Glock was the 17, and the second Glock was a full-auto (select-fire actually) version of the 17 named the 18. Continuing the 9mm trend, Glock produced a compact version of the 17 and it was named the Glock 19. So in essence, the Gen4 Glock 19 is a solid gun that has been evolving steadily since 1988, and the Glock 17 for six more years than that.

And since both the G17 and G19 are available in MOS, or Glock’s Modular Optics System, it was a no brainer to move in that direction since the capabilities of an optics-ready pistol really changes the game. In the same vein as the Aimpoint on the the Katrina Rifle, a red dot on the target can make all the difference in the world for the shooter and the next world for the bad guy.

The rail is necessary for a weapons-mounted light. And if a light is possible, so is a laser. And if a laser is possible, so is a green laser. And now for the explanation. Running a weapon-mounted light is essential for one-handed operation and positive target ID. If two hands are needed to operate both a light and a pistol, then you are flat out of hands when it comes to climbing, carrying, and breaching. Without a weapons mounted light, there is a very real chance of needing to put the gun down in order to light the way. And that’s just not in my plan.

Follow The Laser Brick Road
Adding a laser is an excellent way to provide a sighting solution that does not require any alignment of front and rear markers, or even a red dot superimposed on the target. Lasers can mark the aimpoint right on the target so there is no need for the gun to be aligned with a dominant eye. Or any eye for that matter. A laser-aimed Katrina Pistol can be fired from the hip, around corners, off balance, and pretty much by anyone who can see.

The point of a green laser over a red one is an important psychophysical distinction that while not a deal breaker if unavailable, is a decided advantage when possible. The human eye is much more sensitive to shorter wavelength green than the long wavelength red so finding the laser on the target is faster and easier. There is an issue with green laser light than can be both an advantage and a disadvantage in that particles in the air will reflect (or Rayleigh Scatter) the shorter wavelength green laser light more than red light. This bit of physics is the reason a green laser visibly shoots a line through the air, and even into outer space if you point your gun skyward. The danger is that a bad guy can trace back the green line to its source. But that can be to your advantage if you work it right.

Back on Task
The the Katrina Rifle article followed two lists, one of what I did, and one with things I avoided and why. So to begin, here are the five things I think are important when putting together a Katrina Pistol. The semi-auto handgun, like the semi-auto rifle is a mainstay of any modern planning whether in official capacity or bug out related. And Glock rises to the top immediately. So here are seven deliberate choices I used to begin my Katrina Pistol journey.

Number One: The cartridge of choice is the 9mm. No questions asked. The parabellum round is likely the most common defensive round in the global arsenal. It’s a battle-proven round with plenty of bullet options. Other considerations included the .45, the .40, the .22 Long Rifle and the .380. But those other calibers, while effective, each carry their own inherent disadvantages. So to simplify the start of this project, 9mm is it.

Number Two: A Weapon mounted light. There are small lights available today that fit small pistols, produce small lighting areas, and have short lives from their small batteries. For my Katrina Pistol, I want a huge light output while still a lighting solution mounted directly on the pistol. One that blasts out hundreds of lumens across a wide area for a long time. CR123 batteries are fine since they are powerful and have a 10 year shelf life. Plus they work in freezing temperatures. Just because the last Katrina happened in summer, not all Katrinas will.

For this build I went with the Streamlight TLR-2G. It’s a rail-mounted 300 lumen light with integrated green laser. The TLR-2G uses a pair of CR123 batteries which is the same battery compliment I run in my tactical flashlights. Three hundred lumens is bright enough to travel fast over uneven terrain and still ID targets, but not so bright as to kill your own vision unless you Barney Fife a hallway mirror in the dark.

I played with smaller light/laser options like the TLR-4, as well as slimline brighter lights including the Surefire X300-Ultra. But in both cases, I felt the green laser was necessary for a pistol to be Katrina-worthy. And if needed, the laser can be turned off or run in isolation of the light should that option be desired, in daylight for example.

Number Three: A Green Laser. The concept behind a laser is simple, but the execution of using one is a little more complex. Painting a target with a laser mounted on the same weapon that will do the shooting means that there is only one single three-dimensional intersection between bullet and laser light since light does not follow a ballistics table.

Where a laser really comes into play is when using the pistol away from your face. While red dot sights negate all discussion of sight radius, lasers negate the need to have your eyeballs behind the gun. A further benefit is that the laser can be one point-of-impact distance, and another sighting option can be for a different, likely much greater distance. For instance the laser can be point-of-impact (POI) at 10 yards while the red dot optic can be a 25 yard sighting option. In reality there is little difference between the two, but in a hostage situation, being dead-on is kind of important.

Number Four: Red Dot Sight. As anyone who uses a red dot on their AR 15 knows, it simplifies the aiming process to epic proportions. One eye, two eyes, blurry eyes, daylight, darkness, through a gas mask, offhand, weaver stance, flat on your back, strong hand, weak hand, both hands, it doesn’t matter; the bullet hits the dot.

For this Katrina pistol build I am going with the toughest micro red dot sight I know of, the Trijicon RMR. The RMR is a battery operated reflex red dot sight that is small, lightweight and one of the top choices for the Glock MOS system. Running for years on a single 2032 battery, the RMR or Ruggedized Miniature Reflex sight is an adjustable-brightness red dot optic available in several MOA dot sizes. Further, the containment of the projected red dot system is contained in a excruciatingly tough aluminium housing with specially engineered corners to distribute the force of any serious impact directly on the glass and electronic sight.

Number Five: Suppressor-Height co-witnessing iron sights. Co-Witnessing is often overrated. Mostly it is used to guarantee that the backup sights or iron sights will work fine with the optic in place. In other words, a single sighting plane must contain both the red dot and the post-and-valley of irons.

For this Katrina Pistol, I selected the all-black Ameriglo Tall Flat Black Sights. Besides being on the inexpensive side, the Ameriglos are a fast and simple replacement for the factory Glock hard sights. Rising above the fray, they are easily visible through the Trijicon RMR and a necessary inclusion since standard-height sights are not visible with an optic and barely worth having on board unless you have a quick-detach red dot. Alas, the Glock MOS for RMR does not entertain such indecision.

Number Six: Super-high capacity magazines. Sometimes called “Happy Sticks,” the Glock-branded 33 round magazines are worth every cent. While it’s true that some other guns will run oversized mags, there none to my knowlege that do so with the reliability, durability and capacity of the Glock’s. But that should not be surprising.

In reality, the Glock 19 will happily accept any magazine sized for the Glock 17,19, 34  and larger. In fact the only double stack 9mm Glock mag that the 19 won’t eat is the 10 rounders for the Glock 26. This particular Katrina Pistol will be running mags with 15, 17, and 33 round capacities.

Number Seven: T-Reign Retractable Lanyard. Ripping a page from military history, this Katrina Pistol will have a lanyard option in the form of a T-Reign retractable lanyard. Using the factory-installed hole at the base of the Glock’s grip, the retractable lanyard is easily attachable using a Nite-ize mini-S-Biner and just as detachable. It has the retention necessary to keep the pistol tethered under reasonable conditions as well as not putting up much resistance when aiming the gun. And if unwanted, it can be detached or cut off with little effort.

Katrina has presented many reasons for a pistol lanyard. The easy answer is that all the unknown unknowns of a Katrina-level event will provide plenty of opportunities to lose one’s grip on a pistol. Whether falling, taking blows, or tumbling down the stairs or a dark muddy hillside, having a gun at most a yard away is always a good thing. Further, the lanyard will not interfere with holstering, nor put up excessive resistance if muscles needs to overpower and break the lanyard mechanism for some reason.

Taking it Home
The next step was to assemble the components and take them from theory into practice. Not that I could initiate a Katrina-Level event to test the gun, but I could work with it to see what it tells me within the philosophical framework of a Katrina Pistol.

Putting together a dedicated Katrina Pistol to complement my Katrina Rifle was an entertaining exercise in apocalyptical scenarios. But seriously, a deadly extension of the human hand with a semi-auto pistol and adding a few enhancements will ensure your particular holstered force multiplier will be more firepower than most foes would expect. And it is for that very reason that my Katrina Pistol will be the last surprise in a bad guy’s life when the SHTF.

Dead Ends
There were also some loose ends and dead ends. As this Katrina Pistol effort unfolded, some directions were not pursued, and still others took longer to resolve. Two areas where I chose not to enhance the Katrina Pistol include suppressing it with a screw-on silencer, and tinkering with the internals pistol gears including the trigger. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s take a closer look.

Gut Check
The gun of choice was an Glock 19 MRO. As of note here is the low Glock number. The very first Glock was the 17, and the second Glock was a full-auto (select-fire actually) version of the 17 named the 18. But unlike the Glock 18 used in the opening train scene of the James Bond film Skyfall, a real G18 eats through a 33 round magazine in under two seconds!

Continuing the Glock 9mm trend, Glock produced a compact version of the 17 and it was christened the Glock 19 because it came after the 18. So in essence, the Gen4 Glock 19 is a solid gun that has been evolving steadily since 1988, and the Glock 17 for six more years than that. To add some closure here, the Glock 26 is a subcompact double-stack 9mm and the Glock 34 is a long-slide 9mm. And the most recent Glock, the 43, is a single stack subcompact 9mm. 

And, of course, there are many variations of the above including threaded barrels, compensated or ported barrels, Modular Optics Ready (MRO), colored frames, Cerakoted slides, various generations of some numbers, and a new Glock 19S (presumably S for SEAL or Special Forces, or just plain Smooth (or slippery) given that it has no finger grooves in the grip).

Except for the select fire switch on the driver’s side of the Glock 18’s slide, all the Glocks are pretty much the same. However, there is often a tremendous urge to mess around with inner workings of your gun. Or at least that’s what the after-marketers want you to believe. While I’ve been known to “Barbie Up” a gun on occasion, I’m going to leave the dark parts of my Katrina Pistol Glock alone at the moment. But if I was forced to make a change, the trigger is an good starting point since it, like almost all other Glock triggers, drives like a pickup truck. No more, no less.

Shut Up. Or Not.
Silencing the Katrina Pistol seemed like must-do for any total makeover. And I had planned on going that route when Katrina was still on the drawing board...well actually a bar napkin. That is, until I hit the wall of reality. It quickly became apparent that a suppressed 9mm Glock was neither quite, nor small, nor light, nor simple, but with plenty of conspicuous reasons to lock up whoever is carrying it when the thin blue line is at it’s breaking point.

A suppressed Glock 19 is twice as long, near twice as heavy, and maybe only a third as quite on a good day. While subsonic 147 grain and heavier 9mm bullets are finding their way onto local gunshop shelves with occasional regularity, it is not really the ammo I’m worried about with the Katrina Pistol, it’s the silencer. A suppressed Glock 19 has a total barrel length in the realm of an SBR or short barreled rifle. Now consider that unless the suppressor lives on the Glock through thick and thin, there are two components that must be managed in addition to mags and ammo.

And remember that lanyard? Well that’s for those times when the gun takes a hike on its own. Although suppressors are fairly durable, a not-too-hard blow to the far end of the gun might just be enough to allow a baffle strike rendering the suppressor useless. And the last thing, the very last thing you want to worry about with a Katrina Pistol is a fragile component, especially one that is longer than the gun itself and twice as expensive. But building a suppressed Katrina Pistol is only an aftermarket-threaded-barrel away should that feature be desired later. I still have the napkin.

Going Home...Again
An recently resolved component of the Katrina Pistol was the holster. Finding something reasonable in looks, function, retention, and price has thus far been near-elusive. There were some off-the-shelf solutions on my radar, but the custom options seemed the only clear route. I started with a Fobus holster that fits the Glock with a laser/light as well as a pile of other pistols. 

The Fobus was not expensive so I am quick to take the hacksaw and utility knife to it in order to explore optics options. Instead, the Fobus ended up on the Island of Misfit Toys. Why? Because I discovered a wonderfully effective and intimately customizable Bravo Concealment Kydex holster that not only met my Katrina Pistol holster needs, but also asked me directly exactly that I wanted in a Katrina Pistol holster. Every choice from color to belt width, to specific weapon light to specific optic to hard sight height was offered. And then there is the military/LEO discount. I searched high and low of what really might be my very last holster, and the Bravo Concealment answered the call with zero complaining and zero issues. As much as I love new gear, I really will not be looking for another holster for my Katrina Pistol anytime soon.

One added benefit of the Bravo Concealment Kydex holster I had not thought much about until I discovered it was essential during one wet adventure and that was complete coverage of the muzzle. Not that I was worried about putting a ding in the crown, but instead packing the pipe with mud should I need to bug out on a rainy day. So without knowing it, I took another page from the WWII playbook and enclosed the barrel of my pistol inside a holster. It’s not perfect coverage, but plenty good enough that any barrel-plugging debris would have to squeeze through a Kydex crack first.

Another layer of protection I employed was to add the Trijicon RMR Adapter Plate. Its literally nothing more than a thin sheet of metal that sits between the exposed battery housing of the RMR and the mountain plate that comes with the Glock MOS. Without it, you can see just a hint of the rubber gasket peeking out along the edges of the RMR above the slide. Under magnification it appears there is a complete seal, but the exposed portion of rubber O-ring is of concern. I don’t see it lasting all that long unless able to fully seat against a flat surface. So for a few more bucks and a couple more grams, I now feel more confident in the mounting interface between electronics and cold, hard, fast moving steel.

Take the Fork in the Road
The Katrina Pistol is a self-contained fighting tool that must function independent of everything else in the universe. That means it can be part of a bug out loadout, or run solo as a grab-and-go package. While I considered this duality of survival, I opted to place the Katrina Pistol in a Pelican case and surround it with some necessary kit. And then I filled in the remaining space with a few components that if needed are true lifesavers.

Inside the Box
In addition the the 17 round mag up the grip of the Katrina Pistol Glock 19, three 15 round Glock mags are included as is one 33 round Glock mag. And on one of the 15 round mags is a Glock loader which is nothing more than a plastic collar that depresses the top round in a mag allowing the next one to slide in easily.

Filling out the extra space in the box are a compass, a few pairs of ear plugs, the T-Reign Lanyard, an oversize Ferrocerium rod, a Bic Lighter, a Boker neck knife, four CR123 batteries (for the Streamlight TLR-2G), a pair of CR2032 batteries (for the Trijicon RMR), a couple 1/16” allen wrench for the Trijicon sight, and possibly most important are 120 rounds of loose 9mm ammo (that’s eight 15-round mag refills), and an aftermarket Glock manual of arms. Oh yes, and a few hundred dollar bills stuffed under the lid foam.

For the record, the Glock manual is for those who might need some lessons. It is a spiral bound book about pistol shooting in general and the Glock’s care and feeding in specific. I know my way around the this Katrina Pistol and Katrina Box since I built it, but others who depended upon me will need help when if I’m not around. I cannot overstate the importance of planning beyond you. Giving a Katria Pistol is a gift. Giving the Katrina Pistol to a loved one who has limited experience with guns and security is a potential disaster. And that would be on you...or me.

Think Outside The Box
Next to the Katrina Pistol Box is a Bug Out Bullet Bottle containing another 300 rounds of 9mm FMJ. Since the Katrina Pistol Box already weighs in at 12 pounds, adding a quart of ammo increases the Katrina Pistol loadout another 7.7 pounds. Of course you can always dump out weight but you cannot dump out what you do not have.

The holster presented a problem in the smaller Pelican case. I could fit it inside the case but would have to scrub the 33 round mag and the 17 rounder. Also some of the smaller kit would not fit except under extreme Pelican pressure. I opted to kick that problem down the road, but will likely just use a larger Pelican case and reassess the theory behind the box in the first place.

Katrina Means You are On Your Own
There were many lessons from the original Katrina event, and many...make that most were true SHTF implications. If this Katrina Pistol truly comes into its own, then not only are you on your own, but you are likely your own thin Red White and Blue line. Don’t be scared, but do admit the reality when it presents itself. No matter the direction the future takes, a multi-use, near-indestructible pistol with light, laser and optic is now on my short list of what to grab for any situation.

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