Thursday, August 17, 2006


Just to keep you updated on what's happening at Chez Geek:

I've removed "Matt Burkett's Shooting Thoughts" from the sidebar. The last past was October, 2005. Apparently Matt hasn't had a thought since then, and while that's okay by me it doesn't make sense to link to Plymouth Rock when nobody has a reason to go there. Those who are interested can do an Internet Search, which may bring them to this article, from which they can go read whatever they find.

Future Posts: Cooper's Corner
I usually just rant here, as you may have noticed, or talk about The Church Of What's Happening Now.

But once in a while I Get An Idea, and follow it up.

The last time this happened, I posted three or four Kipling poems. I did that because I had been buying and reading Kipling books, and I was very impressed with what I found there.

Problem was, nobody else was buying. I got a dozen hits on the articles, and interest quickly dropped off.

However, a few weeks ago a couple of months ago way back when I mentioned that I was going to buy the 2-volume set of Jeff Cooper's Gargantuan Gunsite Gossip books, and I did, and I've been reading them.

In the process, I kept finding cogent comments, phrases and entries which I found particularly interesting. So about a quarter through Volume I, I began stuffing bookmarkers on those pages with the thought that I might quote them in future nothing-happening-here-but-don't-move-on moments.

The trouble is, by the time I got halfway through the first volume, I had so many bookmarks stuffed into the book it was greatly increased in volume. (Pun intended.)

Bigger problem: When I'm reading in bed, I stuff the book with kleenex. Well, that's what disposable, plentiful, and close at hand.

When I'm reading in The John, I stuff the book with toilet paper.

Thankfully, it's unused TP.

But the book is becoming cumbersome, so the next time I'm moved (sorry!) to include a blogmeat article, you'll be treated to a bunch of direct quotes from the book.

Hopefully, you'll be urged (sorry!) to buy the books for yourself, because what I'm going to include is just the tip of the iceberg. Or the top of the pile. (Sorry!)

While reading the books, I've been impressed that the periodic contributions presented a micro-view of the issues of the day. A glimpse of history, so to speak, because the first book starts with the Guns&Ammo articles of 1981.

The other impression is that Cooper's Corner (as the recurring column was called in the G&A editions) constitutes the first Blogger.

You may compare the series with Ruark's columns in Field and Stream, which went on and on for 20 years and resulted in such published volumes as "The Old Man And The Boy". You may compare them unfavorably. But they weren't the same thing.

You can talk about O'Connor (The American Rifleman), and Skeeter Skelton (I miss all of these excellent shooting-sports writers too much!), but they aren't the same thing as Cooper's Corner.

Cooper didn't write vignettes, as the others did. He wrote stream-of-consciousness. He wrote short, fragmented concepts. He didn't write short stories. Much of what he offered was highly opinionated, confrontational, opinionated and rarely Politically Correct. (He got booted from G&A, came back, refused to kneel, was ultimately booted For All Time. ) I often disagreed with Cooper, occasionally was outraged, found him barbaric and/or offensive ... and upon rereading for the third time, I still do all of the above.

But I found him eminently readable.

Go to the sidebar. You'll find the link to his current writings. I still read him every month, even though he's become less productive in his later years and we are lucky to find a new article every season.

How often today do you have the opportunity to read a man who still writes in the Editorial "WE" (even though he 'gave it up' in 1991)? And how often, within that vanishingly small community (Does Buckley use "WE" any more? I think not!) do you find it so difficult to determine when he is using the Editorial "WE" and when he is using the Imperial "WE". I think it is trending to the latter, and I don't consider it A Bad Thing.

After all, The Man DID start IPSC.

Bearing in mind that he increasingly distanced himself from the trend toward gamesmanship which he found so egregious in the '80s and the early '90s, and did in fact sever all connection to IPSC in the late '90s because the sport had lost, in his opinion, all connection to the concept of "Practical" competition, his is still and shall for evermore be ...

The Guru

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Even though I went to The Dark Side three years ago, I did so because I just couldn't see Iron Sights any more. I would have preferred to compete in Limited 10, which is the class in which I made B rating in 1999 (before I couldn't read without glasses any more.)

I would like to think that Cooper, in his eighties, would use a red-dot sight if he could just get past his outrage.

On the other hand, why should he?

After all, he's right.


I've been shooting IPSC for a long time. While I'm just barely good enough not to quit, I have long ago learned that what I see and what I learn are often more interesting than what I do.

One of the things I have learned is that ISPC competition usually involves a LOT of shooting with many different kinds of pistols. Not all of them were originally designed for this kind of continuous shooting.

One of them is the Glock.

Another is the .38 Super, as produced by just about anybody.

I know what you're thinking. You've read the title of the article, you got this far, and your knee-jerk reaction is probably one of the following:

  1. Yeah, but Glock fixed that!
  2. Yeah, but STI (SV, name your own favorite manufacturer of .38 super pistols) fixed that!
  3. It wasn't the gun, it was reloading brass which had been used too many times!
  4. It wasn't the gun, it was using the wrong powder!
Okay, you may be right. But These Things Still Happen, and I want to spend a little time on IPSC History so indulge me a while, okay?

(In keeping with the "These Things Still Happen" concept, I'll probably be telling you a few things you already know. There may be some folks who don't already know this stuff, and I want to use this opportunity to put a bug in their ear.)

This will be a certified Geek-Length Article, and I can do that because I'm a big mouth. You are an honored and invited guest, but everything I do is for me.

One of the things I do for me is the sidebar links. You may think I put them there to draw your attention to information resources which you may find interesting. In reality, I put them there so I have a quick-link to information resources which I find interesting. As such, I spend some time almost every day revisiting them, and often I learn from them.

One of the interesting links I have included is The Gun Zone, the love child of veteran gunzine writer Dean Speir. I've delved into TGZ from time to time, but never really surfed it thoroughly. I devoted some time to that pleasant burden recently and found the site to be rich in knowledge, experience, wisdom (not the same think as knowledge or experience ... it depends on the man), and information. Your enjoyment of the information depends in turn on whether you click on the many links provided in the text of Speir's articles.

Reading his lead article, I found a reference to what Speir calls kB!. To my delight, I found this to be a fairly rigorous and eminently informative white paper about the phenomenon which I have, in various other writings, referred to as "KaBOOM!" ... the tendencies of nervous, high-strung or over-stressed pistols to blow up during shooting.

There are a lot of reasons for guns to blow up.

One of the more esoteric reasons is that you have jammed your rifle barrel in the dirt, and thus plugged the barrel with said dirt. (We saw that in the John Wayne western movie Rio Lobo, essentially a 1970 remake of the 1966 Wayne Western El Dorado, in which Dirty Sheriff "Blue Tom" Hendriks gets shot in the leg in the Shootout Scene and uses his Winchester Rifle as a crutch until he is confronted by the vengeful Amelita. Note to Self: never use your Winchester as a crutch, especially if you've slashed the face of a fiery Hispanic Ho.)

There are many less exciting ways to get a KaBOOM! out of your competition gun, though.

Historically, the KaBOOM! phenomenon wasn't a big factor in the early days of IPSC.

Sure, it was sometimes possible to get a double-charge in your .45 acp 1911 if you were using one of the flat-leaf shotgun powders, such as Alliant Red Dot. But most of us who used this type of powder were more likely to use the slower-burning powders such as Green Dot. And sometimes folks using Hercules Bullseye (a fine-grain spherical powder) could overcharge, too.

.38 Super-Face

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usThe KaBOOM! factor was never important until some daring young man (probably Brian Enos) realized that the all-but-forgotten .38 Super cartridge could be used in a pistol which had higher magazine capacity (akin the the 9x19 nine millimeter parabellum, but with a longer cartridge case it had the capacity to legally "make major" ... if loaded with MORE POWDER and which avoided the IPSC rule relegating 9x19 cartridges as "minor power".)

At about the same time, they discovered compensators.

This was a device which could be attached to the muzzle of the barrel. It was a steel cylinder with holes cut in the top. The weight helped keep the muzzle from bouncing with recoil after each shot ("Muzzle-Flip"), but the holes in the top allowed excess gasses to exhaust and, similar to a rocket motor, exerted an "equal but opposite" force DOWNWARD to reduce the muzzle-flip even further. The result was that you could fire a Major Power round and the muzzle pretty much stayed on-target.

Major Power, fast double-taps; what more could a young IPSC competitor wish for?

Well, he could wish to retain his boyish good looks without facial scaring, because the compensator required a LOT of gunpowder to provide the excess gasses, and competitors were loading more and more very fast powder into their long .38 super cartridges for the sole purpose of jetting the exhaust through the compensator.

The result of this daring experimentation was that the .38 super cartridge, which had not originally been designed for such high pressures, was sometimes unable to contain all of those excess gasses. Something has to give, and occasionally the case split laterally along the web of the case base. The gasses vented against the breach, which in reaction opened sufficiently to vent them up and back resulting in what has colorfully been termed "Thirty Eight Super-Face".

What this is, is that the hot gasses, the burning powder fragments, and pieces of brass from the bursting cartridge case blew UP and BACK to where the competitors face was conveniently (or not, depending on your point of view) waiting.

Facial skin is not designed to endure this kind of physical assault. While I never heard of anyone being actually blinded while acquiring a .38 SuperFace, I strongly suspect this is only because of the mandatory requirement to wear protective glasses. However, full-face motorcycle helmets were never mentioned in the USPSA Rule Book, so a lot of this hot crap scrap found fertile ground for flesh-rending and burning into the underlying musculature. The result was pain, secondary infection, facial disfigurement and a few IPSC competitors who decided that they would grow a beard to hide the scars.

Super Rob and I both wear beards, but it isn't necessarily because we have Super-Face. We're just styling.

The other guys, well, they're doing what they can to look 'normal'.

Eventually, the .38 Super shooters realized that there were a couple of things they could do to avoid this unfortunate down-side to hi-cap/major-power expediency:
  1. use slower-burning powder, to avoid pressure spikes
  2. install a barrel with a fully supported chambers, to help the case retain the pressure

Handgun manufacturers, especially STI and SV, built their business on .38 Super competition guns with fully supported chambers.

The cartridge manufacturers chipped in to the obvious marketting message, and provided a case with a thicker web.

These cartridge (not ammunition) manufacturers such as Winchester, Remington/Peters and others completed the third leg of the .38 super Road to Salvation.

  • Slow-burning powder allowed the generation of high gas-pressure to make the compensators work, without generating it in the first few thousandths of a second after ignition.
  • The fully supported barrels (now standard on such competition-specific guns such as the STI Competitor) helped hold the pressure in without stressing the case unduly.
  • the stronger case design accepted more of the pressure burden, and not only prevented lateral case-splits but helped contain longitudinal splits in the case.
We were saved! No more 38 Super-Face! We can go back to developing hot loads to make major power, and we don't have to chance facial disfigurement and injury to hands because your ammunition may cause your gun to blow up!

Glock and the .40 Slow and Wimpy
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThen Glock introduced the Glock 22 in .40 S&W cartridge, with performance riveling the .45acp and magazine capacity riveling the 9mm guns.

Unfortunately, instead of chambering the strong Glock 21 .45acp gun for the smaller .40 S&W cartridge, they chose to chamber the weak Glock 17 9mm gun for the more powerful (and higher pressure) .40 S&W cartridge.

Well, it was a marketting thingie.

The consequences: KaBoom!, The Next Generation!

What are we looking at here?
  1. Barrels without fully supported chambers.
  2. Barrels which are intentionally built 'loose', so they can accomodate cartridges with varying diameters (eg: "you can shoot anything in a Glock!")
  3. Handguns deliberately built on a 'weak' frame, instead of the readily available 'strong' frame.
Perhaps we're being too critical here.

Or perhaps not.

Glock was at a decision point. They could use a design which was stronger than the (new, relatively untested) .40 S&W cartridge ... the frame designed for the powerful .45acp cartridge .. or they could use a design which was lighter, less robust, but cheaper to make and intended for the poodle-shooter 9x19 (9mm Luger, 9mm Parabellum, etc.) cartridge.

Let me see: over-engineer for safety, or under-engineer for profit. What are the chances that somebody will over-load a .40 S&W round? What to do, what to do ...

Ultimately, Glock built the Glock 22 on essentially the same frame as the Glock 17.

MAYBE this decision was based on the lesser amount of material used in the 9mm Glock 17 as opposed to the 45acp Glock 22 21 [corrected].

MAYBE this decision was based on the fact that the cartridge diameter was closer to the 9mm (.35*") than the .45 (.45*"), so they had less machining to deal with.

My guess is that they were looking at the ejector placement.

The .40 S&W cartridge uses a small primer, as does the 9mm.

The .45acp uses a large primer.

The ejector is sited in the frame relative to the primer diameter.

Could it have been as simple as a reluctance to change the tooling on the Glock 22 to a position more appropriate to the Glock 17?

I don't know, but essentially the major difference between the Glock 17 (9mm) and the Glock 21 (.40S&W) is the barrel. No retooling for the rest of the gun is needed or desired, except for the stamped model and caliber markings.

Go look at the cited links for the Glock 17 (9mm), Glock 21 22 [corrected] (.40S&W) and the Glock 22 21 [corrected] (.45acp). What you will see, if you look at weight, is that the Glock 21 is several ounces heavier. More robust. Perhaps even more able to resist both recoil and internal pressures.

Except that the as-issued Glock 21 22 [corrected] had the same barrel design; the chamber was not fully supported.

Add to that the popularity of the new Clays powder, which was working just fine for both 9mm and .38 super ammunition, and as it was the new hot powder-de-jour there was a lot of of forty-caliber ammunition loaded with Clays.

I refer you now to one of my favorite reloading pages: The Reloading Pages of M.D. Smith.

Smith's pages are especially notable for two links:
  1. His article on "Light Loads in Big Cases Can Blow Up!", (which curiously he originally created 10 years ago as part of his "reloading for the 10mm" page), and
  2. his "Powder Burning Rate Chart".
Here's a reproduction of his top ten fastest commercially available gunpowders:

  1. R-1 Norma
  2. N310, Vihtavuori
  3. Bullseye, Alliant
  4. N312, Vihtavuori
  5. Solo 1000, Accurate
  6. Clays, Hodgdon
  7. Red Dot, Alliant
  8. N318, Vihtavuori
  9. Hi-Skor 700X, IMR
  10. N320, Vihtavuori
(Curiously, and appropos of nothing at all, I use the VV N320 as my powder-of-choice for the 10mm.)

This is beginning to look familiar, isn't it? We have (a) a new cartridge, which hasn't been through the years of testing that more familiar cartridges (such as 9mm, .45acp, etc.) have experienced ... and which the .38 super failed miserably until the case was strengthened!; (b) 'HOT' loads (pressure spikes from fast-burning powders designed for robust cases/chambers), and (c) hambers which are not fully supported.

But in the case of the .40 S&W, we have one more factor:

The literature provided the reloader with an optimal Over All Length (OAL) which was predicated on slower burning powders. When you push the powder charge in an attempt to be 'as good as the forty-five', you need just a little more room and a little less grip on the bullet to slow down that pressure spike.

BTW, here's an interesting item. One of the ways Glock moved to avoid these problems was administrative. Glock does not recommend reloaded ammunition. In point of fact, if you use reloaded ammunition, it voids their warranty!

I had thought that this was another 'yester-year' thing, but in a conversation with a prospective new IPSC-shooter last month, I mentioned that he may find competition prohibitively expensive, considering the cost of store-bought ammo. If he tries IPSC and decides he likes it enough to continue, he may want to consider the "Roll Your Own" solution. It's expensive to get into, but in the long run a new loading press pays its way.

His response was to tell me that he couldn't load his own ammunition because the Glock Warranty forbids it, yatta yatta yatta. I was nonplussed. I couldn't believe that clause was still on the books.

And then I reconsidered.

If you have no confidence in your own product, you can either beef it up or let your lawyers remove your liability concerns.

You will notice that neither STI or SV ( and probably not Colt, S&W, Ruger, Beretta, Sig, Kahr, Taurus, Star, or most other pistol manufacturers you can name) demonstrate so little confidence in the strength of their product.

Yet, people keep buying the ugly duckling.

Ya gotta wonder.

We now return control to your computer.

How do you solve a problem like KaBOOM!
In the case of the Glock/.40S&W combination, four changes were required:
  1. Fully supported chambers. It took Glock YEARS to make this design change ... which essentially reduced their manufacturing process by the one step which made the cut in the chamber-end of the barrel, but to take that step implied some falacy in design, some responsibility for problems ...
  2. Reloaders had to find a slower burning powder than Clays. Today those who use Clays powder for .40S&W are relying on the other changes to the reloading process, either out of a desire to demonstrate machismo or a vote of confidence in the cartridge "anyway";
  3. Slower burning powders often mean that you can more completely fill the case. This does have a slight effect in reducing pressure spikes, and it is offered only in an effort to ease the pain of the last, most difficult revelation which was painfully (literally) slow in coming;
  4. Longer OAL than lighter factory-produced loads.
I don't have the recommended OAL for 'hot' Shorty Forty loads immediately at hand, but even if I bothered to look them up I wouldn't present them here. I'm not inclined to make myself liable for lawsuits by recommending a load, because I don't have the experience in my own reloading and because you never know how someone else will take your perfectly good load data and switch the numbers around to their own detriment and your own legal exposure.

But the Common Wisdom became that ammunition which was loaded longer didn't spike as badly, and this was probably one of the most productive reloading changes for this caliber, in terms of reducing the KaBoom! factor ... after the introduction of the fully supported chamber.

Yes, the M.D. Smith admonition about "Light Loads in Big Cases Can Blow Up!" was a bit of a misdirection. It probably doesn't apply with this cartridge. It probably doesn't even apply to the Evil 10mm cartridge (which I load to .40S&W power levels and have fired tens of thousands of rounds with no problems at all. This may in part be due to the much more robust design of he 10mm cartridge compared to the .40S&W case ... which is why I insisted that the STI Edge I bought be chambered in 10mm.)

War Stories:
I can't leave this subject without telling at least one story.

At a Tri-County Gun Club match several years, I witnessed first-hand a certifiable Glock/Forty KaBoom!

Friend "Dangerous Dan" came to a match with a borrowed Glock 22. The ammunition, also, was borrowed. While engaging targets on then-Bay 5, he suffered a KaBoom! Experience.

Dan had been competing in IPSC for many years. He was primarily a Revolver shooter, but while engaging the "Christmas Tree" classifire the previous month he had a high-primer situation, which required about five minutes of banging the revolver against the prop to get the cylinder open and change his load. He was ready to try the pistol in favor of his beloved revolver, which lead him to borrow the "hot, new Glock Forty".

Smack in the middle of the stage, there was a strange KaBOOM! sound, and Dan started Dancing.

He shifted the pistol from a two-handed grip to his left hand. Then back to his right hand. Left. Right. Finally he was able to hand the pistol off to the Range Officer, move back a few steps, drop to his knees and sink his hands into the cool, soothing mud of a puddle. Thank Goodness this happened during the Spring season when the range abounded with convenient mud-puddles!

After several minutes of said salve-application (and not a little creative profanity), Dan arose in a manner not unlike Godzilla from the mud with reddened dripping hands and retrieve the offending Glock from the Range Officer.

It took a while to remove the magazine; it was busted up pretty good.

A couple of tries were required to rack the Glock Slide; the case was badly bulged.

The case was also showing a latitudinal split along the edge of the (unsupported) chamber.

The magazine was toast .. burned, partly melted at the top, and the baseplate was blasted out along with the spring and the entire ammunition load.

After he had an hour or so to cool down -- literally -- Dan came back and finished the match with the same gun. Miraculously, there was no fatal damage to the pistol. Or to Dan, although he was obviously in pain from the flash-burns on his hands.

Later, Dan bought his own Glock .. in 10mm, which was the only Glock I have ever fired (I didn't like the way it fit my hand, or the muzzle-flip, but that may have been because he was loading the cartridge hotter than I though was necessary.)

I never did learn what he did with the magazine; at least, the parts which were left unmelted.

UPDATE: February 19, 2007
Reader CW notes that I have, from time to time in this article, entered incorrect Glock model numbers for pistols in .40 S&W and .45 ACP calibers.

I have found an excellent internet Glock resource in The Glock FAQ, and I am correcting my errors.

Essentially, the standard model in .40 S&W is the Glock 22 (not 21) and in .45 acp is the Glock 21 (not 22). Corrections have been identified by striking through the old text and entering the correct model in bold, followed by the notation [corrected].

In reviewing this article, I noted that several reference links to specific Glock models are no longer functional, because the website referenced no longer is present. I've replaced these links with similar webpages from Glock FAQ. You can see a summary of the physical characteristics of various Glock models here, also a Glock FAQ source.

I also added a link to Jeff Maass' IPSC reloading page, but I note with sorrow that he is retiring this website. If the link on "Shorty Forty" does not work, please let me know. I doubt I can find another internet reloading resource of such high quality and reliability, but I'll try. (I'll also see if I can contact Jeff to solicit his suggestions. This is a sad day for reloaders, when Jeff takes down his website.)

I appreciate the feedback and the corrections. It's embarassing to demonstrate my ignorance, but it's worse to confuse the reader. This article is one of the most often read because of internet searches on the subject; it should at least be accurate. I count on the readers to correct errors, because you are my editors.

Please feel free to report broken links. My email address is written on the tailgate of my virtual pick-up truck at the bottom of the website page. Or just comment on the offending article. I'll find it. After all, I found CW's comment on this six-month-old article the same day he posted it.

My thanks and gratitude to CW and Glock FAQ.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

IPSC Video - Dundee 7/2006 SWMBO

I've not posted for a couple of days, because I'm working on an extended article about the "KaBOOM!" factor in IPSC competition.

Be prepared to be alternately bored and outraged.

In the meantime, it occurs to me that I haven't been posting many IPSC Videos lately, so rather than do a "BlogMeat" post I have provided you with a nice little shoot-em-up.

In this video, SWMBO is engaging targets including lots of steel (Pepper Poppers, US Poppers and plates) plus mostly appearing or moving IPSC targets. It's a stage which challenges the shooter to move quickly, pick up a pre-positioned pistol (rather than the typical draw-from-the-holster scenario), and engage a wide variety of target types.

It's a challenging stage, and I thought SWMBO handled it very well. The timing of target engagment was so good it deserves to be set to music; I chose the Miami Vice theme, because that instrumental theme is almost an iconic representation of breathless, heart-stopping action.

Plus, I'll never get the image of flamingos and bikini-clad beauties out of my head every time I hear this theme.

Seems appropriate to me.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Field Strip The 1911 Colt 45 - and other stuff

This is a cogent set of instructions on how to clean the 1911 pistol, and its magazine.

I wish this had been plainly available when I first started pistol shooting. Instead, I had to learn it the hard way.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usIf you're a tyro, a word of caution: the instructions say NOTHING about cleaning parts other than the breech face and the extractor. (Note: every part needs to be cleaned with a solvent such as Hoppe's #9 Powder Solvent, and lightly oiled. If you're not sure what "lightly oiled" means, just oil the heck out of everything you can see, and wipe it with a clean, dry cloth. And if you forgoe the "wipe with a clean, dry cloth" part, you won't hurt a thing except the pistol may tend to make your hand oily, and make it hard to hold onto the gun when firing it. Use your best judgement.) Also, the instructions don't show all of the parts (noticably missing: barrel bushing, firing pin, there are lots more), they don't make it clear when you change from disassembly to reassembly.

About reassembling the firing pin: there's a spring around it. One end of the spring is loose, the other end is tight. The way to know how to reassemble the spring around the firing pin is to check whether the spring comes off easy or tends to hang on to the firing pin. You want to reassemble them so the spring tends to hang on to the firing pin. You'll probably want some kind of pointy pin-pusher (a 1/8" punch works best) when removing the "Firing Pin Retaining Device" (also known as the "Firing Pin Stop", and "that darned flat piece of steel that comes out easy but goes back together after I've let the firing pin fly out of the gun and under the sofa a couple of times").

Come to think of it, it's probably a good idea to check out The Sight's 1911 .45ACP Use and Care Page. The link to Tuley's page is there, along with links to several other websites which help you understand how to disassemble, clean, and reassemble the 1911.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usOne helpful link is The Sight 1911 Cut-Aways. Here you can see all the parts in correct relative positioning, along with pictures of each part and the correct name for them. If you're a 1911 owner, I highly recommend that you study this 'phantom view' schematic and learn the names of the parts. It makes it a lot easier to talk to your gunsmith if you use the same language as he does. This will come in handy when, after disassembling and cleaning your 1911, you discover you have either (a) failed to understand how to put them back together, (b) discovered that you're missing a part ... which may or may not be found under the sofa ... or (c) ended up with parts still on the coffee table.

Some pointers, taken from personal experience, would include:

When re-installing the Slide Stop, make sure you align the aft end with the SMALL notch on the slide, and push the slide stop all the way in until it goes *click*. You can halfway install it, and the gun will work. That is, it will work until the slide stop works it way out again, and sometime when it is least convenient the slide stop will fall on the ground. Immediately after that, the slide assembly .. including the barrel, and the loaded round in the barrel ... will also fall on the ground. You can find the slide assembly easily enough, but (trust me on this) it doesn't do you a bit of good without the slide stop holding it together with the part that has the trigger and the hammer.

Just thought I would mention that.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usAnother thing is Tuley's caution that it takes a competent and experienced gunsmith to 'tune' an extractor. Not so. Any bozo can tune an extractor. You don't even need any tools, just three rocks.

Here's how you do it.

First, using a high-powered magnifying glass, carefully examine the 'hook' on the muzzle-end of the extractor. If is badly worn or ... more likely ... one corner of the 'hook' has chipped off, the extractor is worthless and must be replaced. The replacement hook, however, may need to be tuned. That is, if you can FIND a replacement extractor. This is a part which should be considered a "consumible", so you should always carry an extra one in your range bag. You don't have a range bag? You don't have a replacement extractor?

You're screwed. Have a nice day.

No, I'm just kidding. Let's assume the extractor isn't broken; it has just lost it's 'tune'.

Remove the extractor from the pistol, and find three rocks. Two of them can be as small as 3/4" in diameter, the third should be at least 2" diameter. That's the "hammer".

(Note: if you actually have a brass hammer and a vice with you, you don't need the following instructions. In fact, if you are that prepared, you probably have a replacement extractor which has been pre-tuned to your gun, and everything that follows is not necessary. Good On You, Cobber!)

Put the first two rocks on a flat surface, no more than 2-1/2" apart. Bridge them with the extractor, with the point of the hook facing up. (If you don't know what the hook is, the "point of the hook" is, or what the "extractor" is, this operation is not for you. Go home and start boxing up your 1911 to send to your favorite gunsmith.)

(Actually, that should be your first and best choice, but shooters are ever optimists despite repeated experiences which invariably come to "Bad Ends".)

Take the third rock ... "The Hammer" and pound the unsupported center of the extractor a couple of times until you're pretty sure you have bowed it a little bit.

Note: if the extractor and at least one of the rocks has bounced off the table and you can't find it, never mind. That's just John Moses Browning's cure little way of telling you that you're hitting it too hard. Also, you'er a dork and should leave the gunsmithing to someone who has at least replied to a "Be A Gunsmith" advertisement he has seen in a magazine.

If you can find your extractor, re-install it and put an EMPTY cartridge case in the slide, under the hooks of the extractor. If it stays in place, it MAY work for you. In that case, reassemble your 1911 and go back to the match.

If it doesn't stay in place, start over and do all the steps until that requrement is satisfied.

Chances are, even if you do correctly tune your extractor, it won't last long. That is a good indication that it has lost its temper. (No, that doesn't mean it has become cranky and intractable; that means that the metal is too soft to retain the "springiness" necessary for it to do its job of extracting brass out of the chamber.) It may never have been tempered correctly, so you're reduced to the point of having to (assuming you're an IPSC competitor) re-tune your extractor between every stage.

I realize that is an unlikely event, but this actually happened to me in the 2001 Dundee Croc Match, and I made a public laughing stock of myself by going down to the safety table between every stage, finding three rocks (I actually kept them in my pocket after the first time the gun didn't eject the brass; I still have them in my gun safe!) and re-tuning my extractor. However, I did manage to finish the match.

This is probably the best time to mention a few useful habits I have developed in my [mumble mumble] years of IPSC competition.

  • Keep spare small parts in your range bag
  • Learn how to install them
  • If appropriate (eg: extractor, firing pin stop, slide stop) learn how to fit them to your gun
  • The moment one of them fails, replace it
  • ... then, as soon as practicle, replace the spare
  • Know and suck up to a good local gunsmith who competes in the same shooting sports you do. (This is probably not always possible, but strive, STRIVE~!)
  • If the part may possibly require fitting to your gun (extractor, firing pin block, etc.), do so and try it out in practice. Make sure it works. Then put it back in your bag and replace it with the original part. That way you'll always know that the replacement part will work.
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usNOTE: much of this is satire. Much of this is good advice. If you can't tell the difference between satire and good advice, err on the conservative side.

The point of the exercise is, there are some details about small-arms maintenance which may be referrenced on The Internet. Unfortunately, it doesn't always tell you "The Rest Of The Story".

If you're handy with machinery, you may be able to translate the usually stunted procedural descriptions to your advantage. But if you're just another Bozo (as am I), you will probably find that you have caused more problems than you have fixed.

You know yourself best. And the best advice is to find a competent gunsmith who can make SURE you are using a safe, reliable firearm.

Or, you can do this (5mb download)

UPDATE: 8/30/2006

I've received comments from the owner of the website which was the source of the original article and owner of the first photo displayed above. He notes that I have misspelled his name, which I have corrected. He also notes that I have used his photo without permission, for which I humbly apologise. Finally he tells me that a "casino site" will "pop up" on this webpage. I have no idea how, why or where that happens, as I cannot get it to popup at all. If you have had that experience, please email me (see the email address at the very bottom of this page) with enough information so that I can find it and remove it. It is not my policy to allow commercial messages here, let alone deliberately insert the dispicable popup code.
(H/T Michael Bane Blog)

Thanks to Lucky Video and, we have a live-action video (animation, y'know) of what goes where, when, when assembling a 1911-type pistol.

I love this stuff!

(No, I don't have permission from them to link to the demonstration. Since it can only provide more traffic to the website, I doubt they will mind.)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The General, Redux

Maybe you don't remember Mike Jones.

I do.

I first wrote about him the week of his death. The post was intended to tell the story of one of the exceptional people I have met during my IPSC career, but it ended up being a personal eulogy of a man whom I had come to love and respect.

This, even though I had never seen him outside of the environs of a shooting range, with the exception of one time when I met him in a mall parking lot to deliver some ammunition which I had reloaded for him. (He insisted on paying me $100 for 1,000 rounds of .45 acp ammunition, using his brass, even though this exceeded my expenses. He refused to be petty and, while he accepted that I was reloading for him as a personal favor I think he felt uncomfortable not giving me SOMETHING in recognition of my time and labor.)

I considered him not only a respected senior citizen of our community, but something of a mentor. More, I appreciated his contribution in being the driving force which brought IPSC competition to Oregon.

Late that Summer, the Practical Rifle group at Tri-County Gun Club (his home range) initiated a First Annual Mike Jones Memorial Rifle Match, in his honor.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usThis weekend was the scheduled Second Annual Mike Jones Memorial Rifle Match, also in his honor. (It has been renamed from the "Classic Battle Rifle" match.)

I don't know much about the match ... I received the announcement, but I see that I have failed to forward it from my office email to my home email address. I don't compete in Practical Rifle (also known as "Tactical Rifle", at least at TCGC), so I can't give you details. However, if memory serves me correctly, it was intended to encourage use of 'older' military rifles. The organizers (notably Mike's friend Randy Schleining) even changed the usual practice of forbidding the use of 'ferrous ammunition', made possible by restricting the target selection to cardboard targets rather than the typical mix of cardboard and steel targets.

I'm not SURE whethere Garands were allowed, but I suspect they were. If so, this would have been an excellent opportunity for me to try my Garand in a 'match situation'. That, or my 1903 Springfield, or my .30-40 Krag, either of which (bolt action) rifles would certainly have been acceptable and perhaps even competitive.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usI used the excuse that "I'm too old to shoot Tactical Rifle", but I admit that I'm a bit shamed by The General's invariable willingness, even into his 70's, to go to the match every month and compete, with a variety of rifles including his modified Garand, with the younger men.

When I say "Modified Garand", I refer to a conversation which I had with The General a year or two before he DEROS'd to a better place. Apparently, somebody will modify an M1 Garand to accept a magazine from an M14. I know that Beretta offers that variation (which they call a "Type E" Garand), but a quick perusal of the Internet doesn't reward my search argument of "Garand With Magazine" except to refer me to websites using that term to describe an M-14. (A short discussion of the M1, modified M1 and the M-14 is available here.)

Which, of course, is not accurate. The M1 Garand used the venerable long .30-06 cartridge. The M-14 uses the newer short-case 7.62 Nato (.308) cartridge. I've been tempted a number of times to get an M-14, but just couldn't force myself to pay that kind of money on a 'lesser cartridge'.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usNeither could The General. I know more about the Internet, but he knows more about Guns. Not being able to ask him for the name of the modification at the next match is just one more way in which I still miss Mike Jones.

(Photos courtesy Randy Schleining)