A Nurse with a Gun

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ring Tailed Boogie Cats

Hi doggie readers, it's Ilsa with a BOLO and a safety update. Sometimes when you are providing protective services, the nutritional byproducts just hit the oscillating blades. When that happens, you have to know how to take care of yourself. It's something that can happen to any serviceman, or service dog.

Last night during a home invasion, I was chasing a boogie cat in the back yard when it tried to get away by running under the deck. It was one of those ring tailed boogie cats with a mask on it's face. I wasn't going to let that happen, after all, I'm a German Shepherd Dog. As I was diving under the deck at full tilt to corral the boogie cat, I felt something scrape me near my eye. The boogie cat had co-conspirators under that deck, and I was being ambushed! The oscillating blades were starting to spin.

I jinked to the side and as I squeezed under the next level of deck to get at the boogie cat. Then I felt something dig into my back, right at my butt. It didn't bother me much, German Shepherds wear a pretty tough coat, almost kevlar. I kept going, but that darned boogie cat scooted under the other side. I did get some of his tail in my teeth though. My sister Vivi went on through, pressing a level response, and chased him up a tree. I was too big though. I could hear him up there talking trash to her, and I backed out as quick as I could to help out. I have her back, you know....... By the time I came out the other side, she had taken care of business. She's learning quick.

After Vivi and I barked the ring tailed boogie cat out of the yard, we went to pee. Then Vivi said "Ilsa, what's that?" I didn't know.... "I think you hurt yourself," she said. We went in to find Daddy, and my back started to hurt. It wasn't too bad, kind of like a big flea bite. Vivi was kind of scared, and she keep babbling on about the ring tailed boogie cat having a concealed weapon or something. I don't know about that, but if he had a concealed weapon, it wasn't legal. There is no way a ring tailed boogie cat could get through the application process.

I nuzzled Daddy's hand and he scratched me behind my ears. I stood up and rubbed against him, but he had gone back to his reading. So, I sat down, and Vivi started to examine my injury. She's pretty good, but she's not a nurse like Daddy. He's highly trained, plus he has opposable thumbs and they just work better than a tongue on some things. I got back up and rubbed against his leg, and finally he took a look. When he saw the blood on his leg, then he knew.

To make a long story short, Daddy got a friend to help him, and I ended up getting my butt shaved. Then they poured some really cold foamy stuff in there, and they taped me up. This morning I went to see the white coat guy, the one with all the dogs and cats. He's a friendly sort.

He gave me some good drugs, and started poking and prodding around in there. Then they took little metal fingers, pulled me back together and put a weird pair of pliers on me. Pow! Pow Pow Pow! Ouch! Pow Pow! Ow! Pow Pow! Eight times they snapped those pliers on my back.

I snoozed a while after that, and when I woke up I really needed to pee. Daddy was there to take me outside to pee, and he got some little green bottles of really strange kibbles for me too. He gave me a couple of them tonight. One of them was like plastic, but he wrapped it in bacon and it was OK.

So here's the deal doggie readers, be on the look out for ring tailed boogie cats with concealed weapons. They are probably traveling in gangs, and the modus operandi is to lure you in and attack you from behind. They are vicious little sons of bitches. If you get into an altercation with one, take the fight to him. The gang will separate pretty quickly. They don't work in packs very well. Use your pack instincts and persevere, but if one of them nails you, then go find your daddy. He will know what to do.

This afternoon, Daddy got his hammer and crawled under the deck and started pounding away. I'm still trying to figure that one out. Maybe he was putting no trespassing signs for ring tailed boogie cats under the deck. I don't think that will work, those guys are criminals with no regard for the law, and half of them can't read anyway. When he lets me outside again, we will see.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Unscrupulous Rumours

From a forum post:
So far all my gun purchases have been new. I'm not above saving money but I never felt right about pawn shop purchases. Do you trust them? Have you ever been burned in a pawn shop deal? Stolen merchandise? How do you tell a reputable pawn shop?
I buy a lot of guns from pawn shops. Some are dusty with high prices, others are clean and motivated to move merchandise.

There are several things to understand about pawn shops.

First, they are primarily financial institutions. They are lending agencies with a license to protect. They will protect that license to lend money, as it is their livelihood. They are not likely to risk it knowingly selling somebody's stolen second hand stuff. Being a FFL is second to being a financial institution with these guys. They do not have to sell guns. They do not need to sell guns to make a living. They make a living lending money. If they can break even on selling a gun to a fellow they like, they will. They already made their money on the loan in interest. Let them make a bit on the gun too, and you will become a cherished customer. If you treat him with respect and he believes you will return again, there is a fair chance he will sell you the gun for a small profit over what he loaned on it. Treat the pawn broker with disdain, and you will never find a deal there. He doesn't have to sell to you. Remember.......He may have made his money on that gun in interest and having it go in and out of hock. It is not merchandise. It was collateral.

Second, in most states the Sheriff's department has a pawn detail that regularly goes to pawn shops comparing the serial numbers on pawned items, including tools and guns, to lists of items reported stolen. Pawn brokers are pretty adept at spotting a thief. They do not want to loan money on a stolen item and then lose their collateral. If someone walks into a pawn shop with a Fender Telecaster and can't play it, chances are he won't be pawning it either. Pawnbrokers do not work as fences for known thieves. Doing so places their license as a financial/lending institution at risk. Plus they lose their collateral on money they loaned.

Third, pawn shops help people. Let's suppose you need money. Suppose your engine just blew up in your automobile, and you do not have the money it takes to replace or repair it, and you need to get to work so you can go on living. You have no money in the bank. Your friends don't either. You either don't want to go to the bank and take out a loan for the small amount needed, or your credit sucks and you can't. You can take out high interest pay day loans, you can use a high interest credit card, or you can see a pawnbroker.

At the pawnbroker's shop, you can walk in with an item of value, whether it be a firearm, a piece of jewelry, a camera, or whatever. He will appraise it, offer a loan based on that appraisal, and if you accept his offer, you sign a few documents to make certain you understand the deal, and you walk out with cash. That's it.

Pay back the loan at any time, or on schedule with the interest contained in the deal, and you get your property back. It's that simple. On a firearm, yes, you go through NICS.

Now let's suppose you experience a downward turn of fortune, and have a problem paying the loan back. You will not have a black mark on your credit score as a result. Try that with Visa or a pay day loan place. At the pawn shop, you just lose your property if you default on the loan. That's all. You have a clean slate. If it was a family heirloom that you pawned, either you should not have pawned it, you should have paid back the loan, or if neither of those are possible, you have the option of pawning something less precious to you and buying your heirloom back before someone else buys it.

While your property is in pawn, it is kept in a place that is reasonable for it's security, and the pawnbroker is responsible for it's condition. If it's a gun or jewelry, it is kept under a double lock, same as a FFL. Most likely, that entails a walk-in safe. I was surprised to learn how many hunters pawn their favorite rifles in the off season for safe keeping. In August, they pay off the remainder of the loan, take the rifle out of pawn, and go hunting. If it is burned, damaged, or whatever, the pawnbroker's insurance covers it, not the owner's homeowner's insurance. I know construction workers and contractors that do the same with their tools in the off season.

After hurricane Katrina, the pawn shops in my area were hopping for about two years as people who evacuated......... Good people, respectable people, who had a driver's license, a credit card or two and a car full of belongings and family, went about re-establishing their lives. Would the banks loan them money for gas or a hotel room? No way. They had no address any more. Would the cash advance places loan them money for gas or a hotel room? Not without a job. They could, however, walk into a pawn shop along their way to a final destination with a driver's license and a small item of value such as a diamond ring, or a handgun, and leave in 15 minutes with money for gas and a hotel room. If they never came back with their property, and a lot of them did not, it was simply resold. Folks like myself came and purchased the collateral.

Think about this....... The next week could bring any number of us to a situation where we need cash right then. It could be an auto accident, a natural disaster, a death in the family, or even a great deal on a once in a lifetime firearm that we need cash for. Cash right then. You could use the Visa or go to a pay day loan place. Or you could take something to into a pawn shop and learn a new tactic of survival in a declining economy. Your choice.

To decide for yourself whether pawnbrokers are unscrupulous thieves, go here. To read my pawn shopping secrets, go here. To hear the rumours about unscrupulous pawn shops, just go to your local gun store and ask. Then follow the old guy behind the counter, you know, the one with the nice gun collection....... to his favorite pawn shop and watch him check the latest wares on his way home.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Lost Light

Riding the bike to work has become routine now. Several of my co-workers are in amazement and awe that I would do such a thing. They ask where I lock up my bike, and I laugh and say it's the $30 bike in the parking garage with a $70 chain around it.

Today, however, when I got home and rolled the commuter bike up the porch stairs I noticed one of the Planet Bike Super Flash blinkies had separated from it's base and fallen off somewhere along my route. Crap........ I had paid eighteen bucks each for those. There was nothing to do but retrace my route.

I ran a strip of Scotch tape around the seam of the remaining blinkie, climbed back on my bike and began to pedal back to the hospital. I scanned the pavement along the way where I had just ridden the bicycle thirty minutes previously. Would the light be lying crushed by a car's tires? Would it be picked up by a curious bum? At each intersection, especially the ones with a rough bump, I scoured the tarmac. Thankfully, the sun was still out.

As I neared the train tracks that intersect my route, a freight train was thundering through. I had to wait in the sun, bathed in the rushing clackety clack the speeding train pounded out on the rails. Then.... Between the wheels, I spotted the Super Flash. It was still blinking brightly among the ballast.

As the freight train's horn wailed in the distance, the last car passed, and I rescued my blinkie. I placed it in the bag inside my rear basket. When I got home, it too received a strip of Scotch tape around the seam.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Morton Grove Repeals Handgun Ban

In 1981, Morton Grove Illinois, a northern Chicago suburb, banned the possession of handguns. This evening, the Village of Morton Grove Board of Trustees has voted 5-1 to repeal its ban on the possession of handguns in response to District of Columbia, et al. v. Dick Anthony Heller.

How ironic, when I go to the village's website, that I should find a photo of the minuteman......

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Get 'em Dick!

Dick Heller and two other plaintiffs have again filed suit against the District of Columbia for violating their rights to keep and bear arms.

The lawsuit states DC's revised gun laws continue to violate individual rights guaranteed in the second amendment, and that the regulations still make it impossible for a home owner to keep a firearm ready for self defense in the home.


The JohnO DIY High Visibility Front Sight

Tired eyes? Old eyes? Need some way to see that front sight again? Or do you just want to make certain you don't miss it in a crunch? Go to Pistol Training.com and check out how to do it yourself. Then read some more and learn a few new drills.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Choosing Your First 1911

"My next purchase would like to be a 1911, What do you recommend as a first 1911?"
It's not unusual for my opinion to be requested by people who are considering buying a 1911 for the first time. In many ways, the 1911 is emblematic of the gun world. It has it's aficionados, it's true believers, and it's know-it-alls. There are few experts. I often wonder why people ask my opinion, but it happens often enough that it must seem valuable to some. I want to quantify this blog post by stating I am no expert. I have owned a lot of different 1911 style pistols. I have shot a lot of 1911 style pistols. I carry a 1911. Those are my qualifications. I have not owned or shot them all though, and I'm certain there is much I do not know. This, however, is my opinion and advice, if you think it may be valuable, take it. It's your's. If you think it's opinionated crap because I don't fall to the altar of your particular brand of gun, you are welcome to your own opinion.

I do not mean to disparage anyone's pistol of choice here, only relate my experiences. This is not a blog post about what a 1911 is and is not. If you want to read my opinions concerning that, go here. In this blog post, "1911" and "1911 style pistol" are synonymous.

The problem with choosing a first 1911 is there are so damned many of them. The 1911 is not just a pistol. Kimber Aegis 9mmIt is a weapons platform. The original patent expired years ago, and almost every major firearms manufacturer has produced at least one 1911 style pistol, often several. Some manufacturers, at any given time, can deck out an entire gun store in multiple variations of the 1911. Gun stores are unable to carry every possible variation, and they need to sell what they have in stock. The guy behind the counter will give you his opinion. He may be a seasoned shooter of the 1911, or he may be a know-it-all true believer of a particular brand. Unless you know him personally from the range, it's difficult to determine if he knows what he is talking about when your own knowledge base is spotty. He may have vested interests, and that's a bad thing when it's your money being spent.

Realize too, that your first 1911 may not be your last 1911. Some people feel like they got burned when the 1911 they chose did not live up to their expectations. The truth is, they just chose poorly. This blog post is about how to make the right choices for that first 1911, and how to continue to make subsequent wise choices on the next ones.

Explore the Possibilities

When one considers the myriad variations of the 1911, including custom guns, the problem of selecting only one quickly becomes apparent. There are too many possibilities to check them all out. The mind quickly becomes overwhelmed. Not having shot the pistol, it's difficult to know what you want. It's even harder to know what you need. But, to buy wisely, a person needs to know what they want, and have an idea of what they need. Saying "I want a 1911" is like saying "I want an automobile." You should invest some time in research, and you have to look within yourself.

Like an automobile, the 1911 is often called an expression of a shooter's personae, and it's easy to get caught up in the expression of one's self when a person does not yet know their specific wants and needs. The difference is, with a mature 1911 shooter, the 1911 arrives at that expression honestly, over time. The trick is to get ahead of the "I just want a 1911" idea. Get some hands on research done. Try some 1911 style pistols out. If you have a rental range near by, go there and rent several 1911s to shoot. Try different sizes, calibers and examples from different manufacturers. Ask your shooting buddies if you can shoot their 1911s. Ask their opinions. If you are unable to shoot a few 1911s before buying, at least know what you do not want. Go to a gun show. Handle as many variations as possible. See what feels good, and what comes to sights readily for you.

Know your Purpose

The first problem of choosing a 1911 is narrowing down the field of bewildering candidates. It's a process of elimination. The 1911 performs many shooting tasks extremely well, but it is often modified from it's basic format to perform some tasks better than others. Knowing your reasons for wanting a 1911 as well as your intended purpose for it's use can narrow the field of candidates quickly.

Do you want the 1911 to have one in your collection? Yes, that's a valid reason. Do you admire the tradition and the history? Another valid reason. Click to enlargeIf these are your reasons, then a military styled 1911 is your meat. Look for parkerized Government Models with small fixed sights a lanyard loop and high ejection ports. In order of expense, these include: Rock Island Armory, Springfield, Colt, and genuine GI guns. Each of these manufacturers make a GI styled 1911, and they will float your boat if you want a GI styled 1911. Such a pistol will serve admirably as a carry gun, although the finish must be oiled, the sights are small, and it requires a bit more effort in concealment.

Do you want a general purpose gun? Are you someone who just can't leave the tools in the tool box when you buy a gun? Do Brownell's and Midway regularly send you flyers? Are you looking for a gun to "grow with?" Look towards the Springfield Mil-Spec and the Colt 1991. These are pistols that are frequently purchased and later upgraded. If you already know you want a beavertail grip safety and swept back sights, consider a Smith & Wesson 1911 and a Kimber Custom as well. Not the Custom II, the Kimber Custom. Just Custom, no Roman numeral II. No external extractor, and no Swartz firing pin safety. Combat Elite and Gold Cup, Click to enlargeYou will have to buy used, unless you are extremely lucky and find the last bug free Kimber for sale on a dusty gun store shelf in Nowheresville.

Do you want a range gun? Is this gun one that will travel in a box to the range and shoot targets at a wide variety of distances? Then consider a 1911 with adjustable sights. In my opinion, this is the only reason to have adjustable sights on a 1911. You might consider a long slide gun for the greater sight radius and reduced recoil, and you may also want to consider a beavertail grip safety for ease of shooting for extended periods.

Will this gun be a carry gun? The Government Model is a pistol that carries very nicely in the right leather. If you are planning to pack your 1911 though, consider the smaller versions. The Commander has a shorter slide, but the same length grip frame, allowing you to use standard magazines. The Officer's Model has both a shorter slide and a shorter grip frame, and must use a shorter magazine. Avoid any pistol outside of these parameters. Occasionally a manufacturer will produce a version of the 1911 with an odd grip frame length that demands proprietary magazines. Click to enlargeAvoid those like the plague. Finding magazines will be a pain in the neck. Many of the mini 1911s also have proprietary recoil assemblies that wear out quickly and cost money to replace. Reliability goes down as the slide and barrel shorten to less than four inches. Consider lightweight frames in a Commander sized pistol instead. Colt, Kimber and Smith & Wesson are all producing the 1911 in lightweight carry versions. Colt seems to make the most reliable micro 1911s. Springfield versions have less than stellar reports. Consider stainless pistols for corrosion resistance if you plan to carry your 1911. Think fixed sights. You will not have time to dial them in on your attacker, and you don't want them knocked out of adjustment on door frames.

One thought to consider is the 1911 is a weapons platform requiring specific training. In my opinion, your first 1911 should not be chosen for the purpose of being a carry gun. You should learn the weapons platform first, under experienced instruction, and then make the decision whether you want to carry it on your hip. If your first 1911 becomes your carry gun over time, great. Just don't choose a lightweight three inch 1911 and then complain because the recoil is to strong for you.

Will this be a gun to compete with? You need more specific instruction than I can provide here. Knowing the rules, regulations and needs of your form of competition is paramount. I advise you to consult with shooters who are already using the 1911 in your choice of competition. I will say this. Shoot the guns of other competitors. Do your research, and consider true bespoke custom guns. They are money well spent if the gunsmith is widely recognized. There are off the rack "semi-customs" from the likes of Wilson Combat, Les Baer, and Ed Brown among others, and then there are true bespoke custom guns from the likes of Clark Custom, Nowlin and other notable gunsmiths. Remember, repeatable accuracy costs money, and spending your money in the right place to start with is wiser than taking your pistol back and forth to Joe the neighborhood gun hack time and again.

Set Your Budget

The 1911 is an expensive pistol. The frame and slide can not be popped out of a mold like polymer guns and quickly assembled into a functional firearm. There seems to be several dividing lines in the price ranges of 1911 pistols. Sticking with your budget is important. Extending it a bit to get what you want may be more important. If you must wait an extra pay day or two before you can purchase the right gun, then do so. The right gun in a month costs less than the wrong gun now. The sting of a high price tag hurts less than the ache of a poor choice due to financial expediency.

Below $500 you will find pistols that have cast frames and slides, often manufactured in the Philippines. Many 1911 guys sneer at these pistols, but they can present an attractive means of determining whether you like the weapons platform. I have never owned one of these pistols, but many shooters are quite happy with them. Rock Island Armory seems to make some of the most reliable 1911s in this class. They are available in GI versions as well as updated versions. One issue that I have regarding these pistols is quality control of the castings and long term durability. Products from third world nations invariably have touch and go quality control. It's just the nature of the beast. One year, the quality may be adequate, the next, abysmal. Caveat emptor. Resale value on these guns is low, but then, you don't pay much for them to start with. Upgrading them is possible, but do not expect to recoup the investment if you sell.

In the $500-$700 range, Springfield is the prime supplier. Their offerings include the GI45 for the traditionalists, and the Mil-Spec for those who want updating. For a general purpose 1911 in this price range, it's hard to beat a Springfield Mil-Spec. Click to enlargeThe frames are forged, the fitting is good, and the warranty is second to none. If you want to know my usual recommendation for a person new to 1911s, that's it. The Mil-Spec is durable, accurate enough, and upgradeable if you have the inclination.

Other manufacturers sometimes offer upgraded 1911s in this entry range. Remember though, if they have an offering here, they cut costs somewhere. The frames may be cast, the small parts may be made of poorly formed MIM, the barrels may be cheap, the labor may have been outsourced overseas, or any combination of those concerns. The manufacturer struggled to reach this price point. Figure out how, and decide whether you can live with it. The Taurus PT1911 can often be found in this price range. I have not shot one beyond a couple of range try outs, but they seem to be well made, and they get good reviews. Among the Philippine cast frame 1911s in this range are the Charles Daley Field 1911 at $649, and the STI Spartan listed at $660. I have no experience with either of these pistols. 1911s from the higher price brackets will occasionally fall into this range used. If you are interested in a used 1911, go here to learn how to check one out.

Many 1911 shooters advise a $700-$1100 budget to get started. This is because the choices really open up in this range, plus you have the lower price ranges to consider as well. You have a wide choice of materials and sizes. Most of the frames and slides will be forged. Click to enlargeIn this range you will find beavertail grip safeties, dovetailed sights, a wide choice of sights, a variety of finishes, different calibers and more. Many of the small parts, and even barrels, are out sourced to aftermarket suppliers. The question is which ones. You will have to decide whether you can live with forward slide serrations, firing pin safeties, bushingless systems, full length guide rods and skeletonized hammers. Make peace with MIM or resolve to slowly purge it from your pistol piece by piece.

In this price range, as long as you stick with a major manufacturer and purchase a gun suited to your purpose, you should be satisfied. Those players are Colt, Springfield, Smith & Wesson, and STI. Kimber used to have my recommendation until they began the Series II guns. The Kimber Custom and all the Series 1 guns raised the 1911 bar and forced Colt off it's laurels. The Series II Kimbers suffer from a poor reliability history. Sig Sauer made some of the ugliest 1911s ever and deposited them in this price range. Those are not known for reliability either. Paraordnance...... What can you say about Para? Cast slides from Canada and mutant double stacked double action pistols that revolutionized competition.

When a 1911 buyer has a budget above $1100, the choices really expand. This is the world of the production "semi-custom" gun, and the domain of diminishing returns. Wilson Combat established this arena, followed by Les Baer and Ed Brown. What the buyer of these guns should expect is superior fit and finish, and extraordinary customer service. In the domain of diminishing returns, the proof of these guns is on the paper. These guns shoot, and they shoot accurately. Most shooters will never harness the potential that these guns possess. Indeed, to demonstrate this accuracy, the guns are benched or locked in a Ransom Rest. Many people love these guns. They worship them, they crave them, they swear by them. They compete with them, and God help the man who disses their gat.

If you, as a person new to 1911s are considering one of these pistols, you probably did not do your research very well. You likely have heard horror stories of unreliable 1911s and you hope to avoid that with a bit more cash. Guess what? These guns fail too. They are not magic talismans against the nefarious 1911 gremlin. They just cost more money, look a bit prettier, and give you empty bragging rights at the range. The real measure of a 1911 is no failures with repeatable holes in the X ring. Other 1911 pistols can do that too, if the shooter can.

What many shooters fail to realize is that for the price of some of these off the shelf "semi-custom" production guns, they could purchase a true bespoke custom. Click to enlargeOf course, if they were going to order such a gun, they would be expected to inform the gunsmith of exactly what they want. That is where buying and shooting one of the other 1911s comes into play. You will not, you can not know what you want and need unless you shoot the gun, and shoot it over a number of months if not years. Still, if you want to spend this kind of scratch on a first 1911, give Nowlin or Clark Custom a call. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Another note.....genuine GI guns, Colts, Ithacas, Remington Rands, Union Switch & Signals, Singers and Springfields (the other Springfield) also fall into this price range. These are shootable investments if you ask me. Like any investment though, you had better know what you are doing, or you will lose your ass. These historical firearms are not reasonable choices as a first 1911 for a person who plans to shoot the gun.

Choose a Caliber

Once you have set your intended use and your budget, consider caliber. 1911s come in many calibers. .22 Long rifle; .38 Super; 9mm; .40 S&W; 10mm. .45 ACP (who woulda thunk it?) 460 Rowland, and even 50 caliber. The usual calibers you will find available though are .45 ACP and possibly 9mm and .40 S&W. The 1911 was designed to shoot .45 ACP. It seems to be most reliable with that load. If the price of ammunition is a concern, consider ordering a 9mm 1911. Other than that, in my opinion the first time buyer is best advised to stick with .45 ACP.

Those .22 conversion kits? Buy a used Ruger MKII or 22/45 instead. The target practice will transfer over and the Ruger will be more reliable. If you are thinking a 22 conversion kit would allow you to train with your carry gun for less, that is true. But you are training without the recoil. You may as well dry fire in the comfort of your home.

Many people find that the recoil of a .45 is surprisingly manageable compared to other calibers. In a full sized gun, it gives more of a push than a snap and torque. In a heavy pistol such as a Government Model, most people do not find it to be unpleasant, especially if they are trained to grasp the weapon with the web of their hand as high beneath the grip safety as possible. This effectively lowers the bore axis of the pistol to be in line with the wrist, making for a easily controlled recoil impulse. More important than the caliber (at least between 9mm and 45 ACP) is the size of the pistol. The Government Model pushes the shooter's hand in recoil. The Commander has a bit more snap. The Officer's Model has both snap and torque. Strangely, I found lightweight frames to not be much of a factor regarding recoil. For me, when it came to managing recoil, it was the length of the barrel and slide that mattered, not the weight of the frame.

Roll Your Own

I don't advise this for a new 1911 shooter. Period.

What to do when you get your 1911

Lock up the Dremel. Buy ammo. Use up. Repeat. Buy a holster. Invest in experienced instruction. Resist the temptation to purchase anything, anything for your pistol from Brownell's Midway or anyone else. Buy more ammo. Use up. Repeat. Field strip your weapon and learn to clean and lubricate it properly. Then learn to detail strip it. Put it back together and buy ammo. Use up. Repeat. Let the gun you have teach you about the gun you want, and the gun you need. Finally, after shooting the pistol for three to six months, allow yourself to purchase a new pair of grips if you like. Buy a couple of extra magazines. Fill them with ammo. Use up. Repeat. If the gun doesn't point for you like you think it should, try a different mainspring housing. If you want to change the sights, and you have a dovetailed slide and the mechanical aptitude, swap them out. Let the pistol become your own depending on your needs and desires. Or don't. It might be the perfect pistol from the beginning. I doubt it though.

Related Posts

What is a 1911?
The Best 1911 for You
1911 Sizes
Buying a Used 1911
Chris Byrne's Primer on Buying a 1911
The "First Handgun" question by Chris Byrne
The 1911 Forum

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Ugly Gun Sunday

This little custom carry gun presents a conundrum. Pretty is as pretty does. It's a single action 1911 style pistol highly modified for carry. The question is whether the man modifying it understood it's purpose. It appears to be stainless steel. Corrosion resistant. That is good. It is likely .45 ACP, also good.

The gunsmith flattened out the slide stop to a checkered panel, to decrease the width of the gun. Good in theory, until one realizes the thumb safety is still sticking out there. Hard to remove much of that though....... But this gunsmith did. The big problem with removing the means to manipulate these controls is the gun will be difficult to take off safe to fire, and then difficult to reload quickly. In other words, difficult to use.

The gunsmith ported the pistol, and moved the rear sight forward, effectively decreasing the sight radius, and making sure the owner would be injured if he was forced to fire the weapon close to his body, or blinded if he used it at night.

Then, he trims off the hammer. This is a technique used frequently in double action only pistols to make them more snag proof. The only time it makes sense on a 1911 is when the 1911 is double action only. Cocking and locking such a pistol only makes it more likely to snag.

The ejection port is hogged out in an unusual fashion, leading one to believe extraction problems plagued this design. The gunsmith modified the frame of the gun with great relish, but he neglected to trim down the dust cover to match the slide cuts. The really telling indicator that the gunsmith did not understand the problem is the brass knuckle style trigger guard and grip. Years ago, men familiar with gun fighting would trim away their trigger guards in a conversion known as a Fitz Special. the idea was that the first accurate shot in a gun fight often is the defining one. These knowledgeable men wanted the trigger guard out of the way so their finger could make it to the trigger first. Now we have a pistol not only with two trigger guards, but also a hook at the bottom of the grip frame ala' the Beretta 1934. Again, the gunsmith in his zeal to create a unique solution made the pistol difficult to use. Trying to get your second finger through a false trigger guard while keeping the first off the trigger on a draw from concealment is a skill few people are likely to have, and one that would deteriorate quickly if they ever achieved it.

This pistol was apparently used by Angelina Jolie in the movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith. But while it was used in the movie, it is no plastic fantasy movie prop gun. It was built 15 years prior. This pistol would not only be difficult to grasp and draw quickly, but also difficult to take off safe and fire quickly. The magazine, if stuck,could not be stripped out using the forward tab, and the porting would blind the shooter. Like Hollywood, the gunsmith knew some techniques and executed them skillfully, but he failed to understand the problem. That's why this pistol is ugly.


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Best Friends

Vivi came to our home under tragic circumstances as a rescue dog. Her only owner of three years could no longer keep her due to an unexpected diagnosis of terminal illness. Little Vivi was taken from her owner and kenneled at the veterinarian, where she remained for two and a half months. Unwanted, she was scheduled for euthanasia when she came to us.

Initially we were concerned that Vivi would have problems accepting her place in our pack. She had always been an only dog, and a pampered one at that. She and Ilsa made instant friends though. It seems Ilsa believes she had a puppy through immaculate conception. Maybe Ilsa thinks her mommy and daddy went to the vet to get her a little sister. I don't know what's in her head, but she has claimed the three year old Vivi as a litter mate. Ilsa chews on her head, and Vivi gnaws on Ilsa's ankles. Vivi is definitely the instigator, and Ilsa strives mightily to keep the short legged scamp's record clean. They are constant companions, sharing the sofa with daddy and curling up together at night to go to sleep.

Vivi has been attending Beginner 1 obedience class with Little Darling. Little Darling worked independently in the class with Vivi. She learned about dog training, canine motivation, and a little about herself. They graduated on Thursday, and I'm proud of them both. That's what this post is really about.

The bond between humans and dogs is an ancient one, it's origins lost in the shroud of time. Whether it was a cave dweller who found a litter of wolves, or a wolf who approached the fire in search for food, the symbiotic relationship between man and dog perhaps changed history. The dog provided an alarm and protection against predators, and greatly assisted in the hunt, allowing man to survive. Man gave the dog the protection from the elements and a sense of greater purpose. Without the other, both dog and man are lessened. There is a lot to which man gives the dog, but it is repaid in triplicate immediately and without hesitation.

Properly trained, a man can be dog's best friend. ~Corey Ford


Electra Amsterdam Recall

Electra Amsterdams are being recalled. It seems the really cool chain guard is causing the chain to derail. Bad juju with a coaster brake.......

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Pawn Shop Circuit: Another SW1911

I went by Neil's pawn shop today and I found a standard fixed sight Smith & Wesson 1911 among his wares. It was in great shape. It looked as though the past owner had ran a few rounds through it and put it away. The pistol was pristine.

It's slide had the later, more discrete laser applied markings. That was a good thing. It also had the original box, both magazines, and the documents. The only things that I didn't like about this pistol were the forward slide serrations and the zebra color scheme that S&W chose.

I turned over the price tag to see what Neil was wanting for the gun. $649. Quite a bit more than he was asking two years ago when I purchased my first SW1911 from him. I wasn't surprised. The pistol, which would sell for $750-800 new, was worth that.

Over the past two years or so, I have shot Smith and Wesson's version of John Moses' brainchild among my other 1911s. I was hesitant to take the plunge into SW1911s, even though the pistol was produced by a major manufacturer, simply because the external extractor gave me the heebie jeebies. Click to enlargeUnlike other manufacturers who tried such an extractor in 1911s and failed, Smith & Wesson had a history of successful external extractors in their double action pistols. As a result, their external extractor in a 1911 works. Smith & Wesson 1911 pistols do have MIM parts. Some shooters see MIM as a step above bat guano, but there are well made MIM parts, and then there is crap. Kimber tried to go cheap and lost their stellar reputation to internet reports of failing MIM parts. Smith & Wesson continues to utilize top quality MIM parts. Having seen machined steel parts fail, MIM is a non-issue to me, as long as the parts are well made. Over all, I have found the 1911s from Smith & Wesson to be reliable, accurate and durable. In fact, if a person wants an updated 1911 with a beavertail and low profile sights, it is one of the best deals going.

I offered Neil $500 on the gun. "I'm only making thirty bucks on this one Xavier," he protested. I wasn't born yesterday. I know a haggling parry when I hear one. I started to say I would bring one of my SW1911s in for resale, but I have never lowered the price of a gun through argument. I asked Neil how firm his price was. "Sorry Xavier, I just put the gun out this morning. The price is firm. It will sell at that price," came the reply.

I looked the pistol over some more. Neil was right. At $650, it would sell. I thought about the Charter Arms Undercover I had missed out on last week. I thought about sending this pistol off to Jimmy Clark for a Meltdown. Another customer, a man I had seen at multiple gun shows, was loitering silently nearby. He was feigning interest in the MP3 players under the glass farther down. "Yep. At $650, it will sell," I told Neil. I handed the pistol back to him.

"How's about $140 on a lay away?" I asked as I reached for my wallet. As Neil banded up the pistol in it's box with my name on it, the loitering customer walked out the door without asking to see a thing.

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The S&W Heller Commemorative

In case you have not seen Smith & Wesson's Heller Commemorative revolver, here it is. Click the photo to see a close-up of the laser engraving. I'm not big on Commems, and even less keen on laser engraving, but I like the fact that Smith & Wesson is producing this little carry gun. I suppose it's fitting that their choice would be the S&W 442, one of the finest concealed carry guns available. It's an acknowledgement by Smith & Wesson that they understand the second amendment is about the right to self defense, and not about hunting. God knows Ducks Unlimited has put out enough hunting commemoratives. It's nice to see a gun maker advocating self defense for a change.

The first six revolvers will be presented to the six original plaintiffs in DC vs Heller, Shelly Parker, Tom Palmer, Gillian St. Lawrence, Tracey Ambeau, George Lyon and Dick Heller. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Second Amendment Foundation.

$575 MSRP

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Update on Riding a Bike with a Dog

It was a cool Saturday morning, with dew on the grass. Ilsa had been waiting several days to go for a ride, watching mournfully as I rolled the commuter bike out on the porch each morning to ride to work. Ilsa at SpeedThis morning though, was her's. She lept into her training vest as soon as I removed it from the hook beside the door, jerking it out of my hands in the process. "Settle down girl," I told her, "We're going to ride......." The word ride just made her tail beat the floor more vigorously.

Ilsa is a large exuberant dog now, and the possibility of disaster increases with every day she doesn't get her ride. I also wanted to take photos this morning, so I was looking for a safer way to manage Ilsa's enthusiasm than simply holding the leash in my right hand on the handlebars with the loop around my bicep. After some experimentation, I found that I could run the leash from my bicep to my right hand, then around the bike's handlebar stem, and finally to Ilsa. This arrangement gave me the mechanical advantage I needed to to better control the dog while using the camera. New Leash RoutingI have decided to use this arrangement at all times now, and I have wrapped the quill of the Raleigh cruiser with electrical tape to prevent the leather leash from chaffing the black finish of the handlebar stem.

Here are a few more pointers I have learned along the way. Remember your riding buddy is running barefoot. Avoid taking your dog biking when the pavement is hot. Monitor your buddy's feet. The pads of a dog's feet wear down at a faster rate on pavement. Be aware of glass and other sharp objects in your path not only for your tires but also for your dog.

Your canine is going to get thirsty. They will become thirsty faster and to a greater extent than yourself. They are running in a fur coat. You are riding in comfortable clothing. Take an extra bottle of water for your dog, as well as a collapsible dog dish.

All of the other advice about training and using a cruiser bike with a coaster brake still applies. Make the ride fun. Let your dog set the pace, you set the direction. Take treats. Play some games at your destination. Enjoy the ride. Your canine certainly will.

Read the original post on Bicycling with a Dog.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Randy Pausch, Last Lecture

Randy Pausch died this morning. This video of his last lecture is long, but worth it.

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Captain James Langenhahn Fired

US Airways pilot James Langenhahn, whose gun discharged in the cockpit of a plane landing in Charlotte , N.C., was fired by the airline and removed from the program that allows pilots to be armed, federal safety officials said July 24, 2008.

"The individual is no longer a federal flight deck officer," Kip Hawley, administrator of the Transportation Security Administration and assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said after testifying at a House aviation subcommittee hearing. Hawley refused to say say whether investigators had decided the negligent discharge was caused by pilot error. He did say unrealistic regulations and poorly designed equipment, specifically the Holstervault, were not a contributing factor.



Recycled Houses

Dog Days

For those who are unfamiliar with the South, there is an old expression....."It ain't the heat, it's the humidity." How humid does it get? Ilsa can no longer see through the condensate on the windows created by the air conditioning.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Alien Elements


Fruit of the Century

The Century plant's flowers have faded and fallen, but it now has some type of fruit on the stalks. Interesting.........


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cloud Chasers

When I finished cases today, I went directly to my locker and changed out of my scrubs and into my biking clothes. I was eager to get home. During one case, there was discussion regarding a hurricane in the Gulf. A cat 1 girl named Dolly. I knew nothing of her. I guess I should have been monitoring the weather since I resolved to bike the commute, but I had not. I knew it had rained during the night because Ilsa came in wet. It was dark when I left home this morning, however. The stars were out, and the air was cool. I had no clue that the weather might turn on me.

The wind was whipping between the buildings, pulling at my T shirt as I exited the front of the hospital. Black apocalyptic clouds roiled low overhead, and the occasional rain drop smacked me on the head as I hurried to my locked up bike in the parking garage. I quickly unchained my ride, and wrapped the links around the seat post, securing them with the Kryptonite lock. I fastened the front wheel to the bike, placed the lights back on it, and rode out of the parking garage.

As I pedaled past the hospital, I tried to alter my route so I could duck into a protective alcove or a donut shop for protection from the looming torrent of rain. The humidity was hanging in the air like cigar smoke in a New Orleans pool hall. Occasionally, a rain drop splattered across my face, almost like a warning that I had better not tarry.

The clouds continued to dance overhead, mocking me with glimpses of clear blue sky and a sun illuminating them from above. To the East I saw a the grey slash of an isolated deluge. I continued to pump the pedals until I reached my residential district. There were no safe havens from the coming rain there. Homes of unknown neighbors flaunted porches that would be a taunting refuge should the heavens open up.

Finally, I swerved into my own driveway. I looked up at the skies. The clouds had left. The crystal blue void smiled upon me. Sweating, I hoisted my bike onto my porch and went inside to the cordial embrace of air conditioning. Grateful to be home, I scratched Ilsa behind the ears and let her out. I climbed in the shower to wash away the sweat, road grime and scum. When I was done, I let Ilsa back in. She was wet.


Wilmette Illinois Handgun Ban Dead

Wilmette`s handgun ban is gone. The village board voted Tuesday night 7-0 to repeal the 19 year old ban, after deciding they would get their asses stomped in litigation over whether they had a right to infringe on the Constitution.

Shoot a few rounds at the range for the citizens in Wilmette.

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Analysis of a Victory

From a current auction on Gun Broker. The seller says:

Click to enlarge
US Navy marked Smith & Wesson M&P.
This is not a "Victory" model.
Frame serial number: 969XXX
Parkerized finish that looks near mint. Based of the sharp clear lettering, in my opinion, this is the original finish.
This gun looks unfired (but it has been) and I think it would be very hard to upgrade. As with all military weapons they do get test ("proof") fired.
BARREL: 4". Rifling appears to be sharp with no pitting (bore is dirty, could use a good cleaning). Marked "38 S.& W. SPECIAL CTG" on the right side, "SMITH & WESSION" [sic] on the left side and a two line address with patent dates on top. No import marks.
Click to enlargeFRAME: Marked "PROPERTY U.S. NAVY" on the left side under the cylinder release latch and the right side has the S&W logo with "MADE IN U.S.A." No import marks.
SERIAL NUMBERS: matching on the grips (stamped into the wood), butt and cylinder. Assemble numbers matching on the crane and frame. This is all as it should be.
Hammer, trigger and lanyard ring are case colored.
Matching numbers on the butt, cylinder, barrel, grips and extractor rod.
Matching numbers on the frame and the crane.
This revolver is presented for auction as an original finish gun in the seller's opinion. It clearly is not. It has a parkerized finish, which also covers the ejector rod and most likely the extractor (which the seller is careful not to show.) Original finish Victory revolvers have blued extractors and ejector rods. The original finish of these revolvers was not parkerizing.

The Property of US Navy marking on the left of the frame is interesting. Genuine Red Victory marking, Click to enlargeThese markings were applied by the US Navy, after receipt of the revolver, resulting in a damaged finish. The letters were often filled with red paint, as shown at right, to prevent rust in the bare metal at the bottom of the stamping. The commonly used red paint led to the moniker "Red Navy Victory" among collectors. This mark is also perhaps the most commonly faked marking among S&W revolvers. Finding this marking filled with parkerizing is a certain indication of a refinish.

The seller hedges his bets, stating his offering is a "US Navy marked Smith & Wesson M&P" True enough, but marked by who? He goes on to state "This is not a "Victory" model." Again, true enough. He even states it is parkerized. It appears to me this seller is guarding against a return on the gun, banking on the buyer's enthusiasm and ignorance at the time of the transaction.

The seller claims a serial number of 965XXX, and states that the grips match. There, the serial number can be discerned. 965675. Only Roy Jinks can say for certain whether this revolver shipped from Springfield to the US Navy, but since the seller gave his opinion on it's authenticity, I'll give mine. It didn't. Someone at sometime though, wanted to make it appear as though it did.

Postscript: The auctioned revolver went for $717.00.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Power of Association

My son, whom I'm very proud of, knew everything as a teen. I told him then that he should make notes because he would never again be as smart as he was at nineteen.

One pearl of adolescent wisdom that he sowed among my middle aged furrows of bigotry is that it did not matter how he dressed, nor did it matter much how he and his friends behaved, as long as they were law abiding citizens. Thankfully he never went for the gangsta sag look, I would have never allowed that. Connor was too much of an individual anyway. He was more of a Goodwill store "I don't care" type who saw clothing as the malicious trappings of a society that judges on appearances. He viewed the clothing industry as a cog in a vast hidden machine of systematic mind control.

Recently, he has spent several weeks in Paris. Not Paris Texas, but rather that other Paris, where all those Frenchmen run around. He has decided to leave his job teaching applied mathematics at a major state university. He is joining an international corporation that uses mathematics to somehow determine where to drill for........oil. ....... Ah, Capitalism......Good old Capitalism. When a young man finds the girl he loves and decides to settle down, there's nothing like having a few greenbacks in your pocket instead of a bunch of philosophy in your head.

Connor called me to enlist my assistance on his resume and to garner some advice on what to wear to his interview. Shave off facial hair for the interview? Darned right. Get a Republican haircut. I'm rather proud that he didn't ask whether he should wear shoes or sandals. Instead, he asked what type of shoes, and if he really needed a tie. I informed him of my opinion. My son is approaching wisdom, not because he now understands why he needs a good paying job, and why he needs to act and dress appropriately to obtain it, but because he now knows that there is much that he does not know.......Without the knowledge of one's ignorance, the search for enlightenment will never be undertaken.

This afternoon, as I was re-photographing a small revolver, I thought about that......How much the trappings of our personal personae affect how others perceive us, and ultimately the direction our lives take.

I thought about my own choices, the one time artistic prodigy who enlisted in the US Navy, sailed the world, who became a rabid imperialistic Republican expansionist, and then left to become a nurse. The guy who now sports a French forked Balbo and rides a bike to work. The guy who advocates for the care of those who do not speak for themselves.
I thought about the son who has gone from voting for Al Gore and saving the rain forests from the horrors of human indifference, to a burgeoning Capitalist ready to do some expansion of his own.
Yep. That's my son. I'm proud of him. I hope he's proud of me too.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Alien Elements

Everyone who has frequented gun forums online has seen them. Gun photos. Gun pron. Some good, some woefully bad. Some so large that it takes the file three minutes to try to appear before degenerating into a red X of relief. Some photos bring to mind the Dutch still life painters of the Renaissance, others have gnarly toes of the photographer intruding into the frame, a backdrop of dirty carpet surrounding a miniature handgun in the center of the frame.

Then there are the conventions.......Those damned conventions. A watch. A flashlight. Expensive gun leather. Watches. Speedloaders. GI gear. Watches. Keyboards. A cigar. A watch. A pocket knife. A Rambo knife. A watch. A watch. A watch. What the hell is up with the watches?

I really have to hand it to Breda for her gun pic with flowers. How refreshing to see something different. Then i took a photo of a revolver with pearls. Hmmmmmmm not bad. Interesting. Several months ago, I wrote an article on taking gun photographs. In that article, I recalled a quote by surrealist painter Max Ernst....."The association of two or more apparently alien elements on a plane alien to both is the most potent ignition of poetry." I toyed with the idea of doing just that in gun photography, as I had in still life painting years ago.

Sometimes I think gun owner/photographers take themselves too seriously with their conventional approach to gun photography. Today I decided to push those boundaries.......To gather a few elements alien to one another. To have a little fun with gun photography and poke a bit of fun at myself and us all. Click to enlarge. Enjoy.

Primary Colours with a Five

Study in Ochre, Umber and Blue

Pyrogliphics and Python

Chicken Trap