(Updated with video and shooting results on 10/12)
I've been shooting open division guns for about six months now. For those who aren't aware, the Open Division is the competitive division classified by the USPSA to allow the greatest range of handgun and sight modification. Handguns used in Open Division are the competitive shooting equivalent of a souped-up race car. These guns are custom built and often expensive, but if you're serious about shooting competitively, you should consider saving your cash.
Suffice to say, there's a whole lot about this sport I have left to learn and who knows, perhaps someday I'll be able to use my equipment to its full potential. I'm not holding my breath.
I got started in the Formula One of shooting sports with a Springfield Armory custom shop pistol based on a very early Tripp frame. It had a lot of rounds through it, so many in fact that the barrel looked like it had polygonal rifling.
Recently, however, Predator Tactical owner Matt Burkett offered me the chance to replace that worn-out open division gun with a Predator Tactical Wraith race gun (I guess you could also call it a pistol or handgun).
Burkett's a seven-time MGM IronMan Overall Champion, three-time World 3-Gun Champion, two-time European 3-Gun Champion and 2003 National IDPA ESP Champion. Bottom line, he is recognized around the globe as a world class shooter who's approaching legendary status. Predator Tactical is his brainchild, and he's building some of the best Open Division tools out there.
So, I thought, who am I to turn down an opportunity like that? The only downside was that I'd have to pick it up two days before a major match and have no time to do any load development, but what the Hell, right?
The Wraith in 9mm is built on an STI 2011 frame and features a chopped commander length slide with a 4 5/8-inch bull barrel threaded into a fairly compact compensator. Despite the added length of the compensator, it weighs less than a steel-framed Government model and points like a magic wand. All the usual refinements you'd expect from a mechanical device of this quality are present; Scheumann Ultimatch barrel, Dawson magwell, undercut and stippled grip frame, six-port compensator, Extreme Engineering fire control parts, Ed Brown beavertail, etc, etc, etc.
While visiting Predator Tactical's Tempe, Ariz., shop, I watched gunsmith Lynn Harrison (no relation) heat treat a custom made slide stop that would result in an ultra-tight lockup, then engineer Scott Towner used the part to hand fit the barrel locking lugs, a couple of thousandths at a time. Pronouncing it done, a C-More was bolted up to the proprietary 90 degree mount and the gun taken for its inaugural lap around Scottsdale gun club.
But enough of the technical details, it was time to find out how this high-class gun shoots. We'll take it to the range in my next post.
For now, anybody have any questions or comments about Open Division or the custom guns like this one used in competition?
Enough of the technical details, how does it shoot?
Compared to my older, full-sized race gun, this one points faster and transitions quicker — one thing that became apparent was that I was getting noticeably more "A zone" hits on fast transitions, implying that I was over-swinging the older model. It feels, for lack of a better term, more nervous in the hand and the recoil impulse is more punchy. I noticed a bit more muzzle flip, but as the two guns are using powders with two different burn rates, I'd hesitate to read too much into this. My current load is 7.2gr of Autocomp under a Montana Gold 125gr CMJ at 1.165 OAL - if anyone out there has a better formula you're willing to share, I'm all ears; right now, I'm looking for a little more gas at the comp. Please note, if you're dumb enough to use this load in a stock 9mm, there's a good chance you'll be picking pieces of brass out of your hand, or worse. Don't do it.
I originally loaded long at 1.185 inch and suffered a few failures to feed (on camera, natch), but since shortening the OAL, the gun runs 100%. When it fed and ran on factory 125 grain fodder, that should have been a clue, but nobody has ever accused me of being a rocket surgeon.
The trigger breaks right around two pounds and has a very short reset — hammering steel targets has never been so much fun. Dot movement is straight up and down, though its amplitude is currently more than the full size gun exhibits. One cool feature of the C-More mount is that it's a two piece system, allowing a spare sight to be pre-mounted to the upper plate. In the event of the original sight going down during a match, it can be switched out for the spare which has already been zeroed; locator pins on the mount ensure that zero is maintained.
I was initially skeptical that I'd be able to make use of the Wraith, due to being accustomed to something heavier and longer. Like most gear decision however, it pays dividends to look at all the available options, and while I won't be getting rid of my old gun, this one going to be accompanying me to the next few matches.