A Nurse with a Gun

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Old Guns

There is something gratifying about a gun that has honest wear. It does not create concern over the first patch of silver peeking past the finish. It asks for no special treatment, just a bit of lubricant and a steady diet of ammunition.

Click to enlargeI find myself more and more attracted to basic 1911s. To make their pistols stand out from the competition, many manufacturers have produced 1911s that border on the pretentious. Weird two tone frames. Strange slide serrations. Flamboyant curves and blended edges. Browning's masterpiece is not a pretentious pistol though. It's a basic tool designed to save a soldier in a last ditch effort when his rifle is empty.

The more I shoot my Colt M1991A1, the more I like it. I have had a couple of failures of the slide to lock back on a Chip McCormick magazine, but a magazine change remedied that quickly and effectively. The pistol has been otherwise reliable, and surprisingly accurate. I had considered changing out the rear sight for a Yost Retro sight, but at this juncture, I don't see the point. I like the pistol as is. A set of walnut double diamonds and a plain black aluminum trigger put this gun exactly where I wanted it to be. Simple. Durable. Reliable. Accurate. Less is more.

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Blogger midnight rider said...

I feel the same way, especially about my old S$W revolvers. Model 19-3 from 74 has salt and pepper at the muzzle. Shoots better than me (all my guns do). Model K22 from 52 awesome fun. Model 36-1 early 80's is the bedroom drawer gun. And latest senior citizen is a real peach of a find at a local gun show. Sitting there all alone in it's original blue cardboard box from 1967 (instructions and warranty card included!) surrounded by Glocks and CZ's and some fancy new little 9mm from Flodia was a model 36 snub. It looked unfired. We took care of that. It hasn't left my hip in 4 weeks except for victim disarmament zones.

Have to switch it out for my "hammerless" 642 when the warmer weather hits, though. Dammit.

9:08 PM  
Blogger tom said...

Happy Shooting! These girls like exercise at times or they get bored in the safe.

9:37 PM  
Blogger freddyboomboom said...

Can I hear an "amen", brothers and sisters?


I really liked my Colt M1991A1 Commander that I got in '97.

My experiences with it mirror your experiences with yours, except I got some smooth cocobolo grips from Hogue and kept the original trigger. Hey, it worked fine for me...

I traded it for a Sig P220 a couple years ago, and am happy with the trade.

When I got the hankering for another 1911, I got an RIA M1911A1.

Some would argue that it's a junk Philippino gun, but I've read several reviewers give it decent marks.

For my purposes, a plane jane 1911 is what I wanted, and what I got.

Inexpensively, too.

So far it's only got 100 rounds through it, and had two failures to go into battery, bone dry from the factory so I'm not too concerned.

Right now it's getting a grease soak like you talked about a while back.

I expect it to fill my desires of a plane jane 1911 range gun admirably.

I may even decide to try some of the simpler gunsmithing stuff you've talked about (new trigger, hammer, grip safety).

But then again, maybe not.

For carry, and home defense, I've got other options that I like a lot better than a single stack 1911, but there's no arguing that the 1911 has sweet lines, and can have an even sweeter trigger.

Thanks, again, for allowing me to live vicariously through your "pen".

9:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Xavier, as you are my 1911 go-to guy: Saw TomSelleck in a TV movie last weekend. The character, Sheriff Stone, has been wounded in the right arm and is later seen with the two members of his staff shooting at targets in a quarry. "Stone" is using his left hand and appears to have a full-size 1911. A deputy asks him why he doesn't have an ambidextrious safety, and Stone says there's too much torque and the safety could break. As Selleck knows a few things about firearms, I wonder about your take on this. [Should note that the assailant fired a full magazine from what may have been a Glock, then calmly pulled the empty magazine out, inserted a new one, and continued to walk towards his intended victims. All shot in a rainy alley. Very well done.] OldeForce

10:30 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Nice looking pistol. I was invited to a local indoor range by a co-worker and he and a friend of his let me shoot some of there pistols. I shot a .45 for the fist time. I've shot at one outing each - a Desert Eagle .44 in the past - couldn't hit anything with that and I have shot a 10mm Glock but not a .45. It was a small Glock - it was ok and I did ok for not shooting in years. The first pistol I shot was their Sig .22's. Boy did I flinch from that first shot - unexpected feel. They like those .22's because the recoil is somewhat similar in ways to shooting bigger calibers - it is different. I did not shoot great with them but did shoot better after the initial shot. I like heavier .22.s - Browning Buckmark or Rugers - though I would like to try a - no longer produced - Trailside. Anyway I ended up renting a Kimber .45 for $5 and bought and shared a box of ammo and the pistol. I shot better than I thought with that. I liked the feel of it very very much. I will get a Colt or Springfield someday - maybe a Commander or the GI 4inch. That was a fun time. I will invite them shooting when I payoff the old Victory - I'm getting real close.

11:37 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

I had one myself, it was a wrench to lose it. I think you've talked me into the stainless Colt series 70, though, I'll probably order that pretty soon.

12:05 AM  
Blogger Xavier said...

It's an interesting concept. Most ambi safeties have a two piece pin that dovetails (actually a finger joint) inside the pistol. I suppose it could be damaged from too much torque, but where is that twisting force coming from?

No, most 1911 folks who carry a 1911 avoid the ambi safety because it raises the risk of the thumb safety becoming disengaged if smacked on doorways and such.

12:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel the same about my Sig 226. Second hand from some law enforcement agency I would guess.

It has a wonderful wear and patina on the outside and very little actual wear.

You know it will run, you know you can't make it any uglier, so you carry it everywhere!!

7:16 AM  
Blogger Stoney Pete said...

Old school 1911's thrill me too. I just picked up a MKIV Series 70 last month. I have yet to get any feed or ejection failures. It just rusn perfect with every mag I use. I had intended to put a military thumb safety, trigger and hammer in it, but since it functions flawlessly I'll probably end up leaving it alone.

7:23 AM  
Blogger Farm.Dad said...

I am down to two 1911 pattern pistols, and neither is really true to the pattern . One is a Detonics and the other an early stainless Colt XSE. The detonics i got in the early 80s new for an off duty gun and the colt i picked up last year just because of the deal i was offered on it . I like about any 1911 with good sights ( not the original design sights which i find pretty useless ). Tho i prefer flat mainspring and long trigger i can shoot about any setup pretty good . The Detonics now wears flat and short and my bride carries it for her ccw.

8:14 AM  
Blogger David Blue said...

AMEN! Happy shooting. :)

8:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a 1991A1 Commander, and tried some Shooting Star magazines in it once; the follower didn't engage the slide stop properly, something to do with the zig zag shape of the McCormicks while the USGI followers are more rounded.

I need to shoot this more often; right now it sits in a safe hidden in the floor with some spare mags and a couple of hundred in twenties...Lord knows what I might need it for, but there it sits ;-)

St Paul

11:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm not ashamed to say that my first 1911A1 was a Chinese Norinco, since it was all I could afford at the time (about $300 brand new-in-the-box). The finish was never great, and it now looks like heck. It's been all over with me, often rattling around in it's holster in the trunk of the bike. The parkerized-looking "bluing" is gone in several spots, and my corrosive sweat has worn it away on the front of the grip frame.

But it eats anything you put into it, and shoots more accurately than I'm capable of doing. I've only put new springs into it 2 or 3 times, but it shoots just like it did when new...with monotonous regularity.

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My dad bought me my first handgun, as he'd done for my older brother, as a Christmas present.
Mine was/still is a Glock 23.
He even enrolled and attended the CCW class with me when I turned of age although his handgun was a old, old Ruger .357 6" Blackhawk.
Here, we can openly carry, which is what he did the few times he'd actually carry.
The Glock is with me everywhere I can take it. I don't know how many rounds I've put down range through it and it does it without fail.
My dad still openly carries the few times he actually does carry.
He bought a CZ-40B (?? the 1911 like style CS) as a welcome to the family for my brother in-law. That thing is dead on in the hands of everyone who's shot it.
But for himself, seems things were never quite in place to make it happen for him to purchase a 1911 - which is what he'd decided would be his next handgun - he'd never really settled on a manufacturer.
So, I had to tell him Well Done when late last year he came across a great deal on a NIB Fusion Hunter -- it's a bit more fancy than a basic 1911, but not that much.
I wish it could have been me to get him such a present. For the moment, it's range fees, targets and ammo he does allow me to occasionally pickup the tab for -- says, "sure, you're a man now".
For all "evils" of guns/gun ownership, I really love the range time with him.

8:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One mans' boring and old fashioned is anothers' simple and effective.
The 1911 reduces target and practical shooting to the basics. Mastering those basics is up to the operator. There are no fancy gizmos, complicated manual-of-arms, or cheats used to mask what is the essence of perfection - putting lead on target. There are no excuses for failure.
The 1911 is pure, unsullied, pistol Zen.

10:36 PM  
Blogger maclean3 said...

Another excellent read Xavier. I've got one "bone stock" 1911 these days, it's a second hand SA Mil-spec of '89 vintage. I carried it daily for about a year and now it's the bedside gun. It's not pretty, the parkerized finish is worn and it frequently gives me hammer bite but I have other, newer vintage 1911s with bells and whistles when I want to shoot large volumes. My only customizing has been an Ed Brown thumb safety (to correct the previous owner's add on crap) and a set of nice walnut grips from Hakan Pek. It'll likely remain in this configuration.

Just recently, I picked up my latest addition, a blue 1991 Commander - a nice compliment to your '91 Gov't. Something about the Commanders really "does it" for me it seems. The balance, the way they ride in a fine leather IWB holster, a combination of those maybe ...

I'd like to add Commanders in .38 Super and 10mm to round out my basic collection but each 1911 I buy seems to have its own distinctive character and it keeps them all interesting and relevant.

9:24 AM  
Blogger daddymax said...

I wish I had your counsel yesterday. While making the pawn shop circuit in my town I thought I had hit the jackpot.

They were offering a 1911A1 Ser# 725xxx for 700.00 (850 list). The gun was badly pitted along the slide. The pitting was deep enough to obscure most of the rollmarks along both sides of the frame. The lanyard ring was intact. The grip panels were smooth wood and showed a great deal of wear. The gun appeared to be complete and unmolested, but I did not submit it to the full function test. I am sure you come across these GI guns that are too old to be a shooter, yet too badly worn to hold any collector value. Any thoughts?

1:18 PM  
Blogger Xavier said...

It is so hard to say, without actually handling the pistol. If the pitting is as extensive as you describe, then you are probably talking about a $500-600 pistol, assuming it is all original.

If it is not all original, a $200 USGI slide can make it into a $500-600 mix master pistol.

If you are incorrect about the amount of pitting, then the pistol could be worth $700. I'll assume for the sake of speaking that you are correct on the pitting.

The 1911A1 had plastic grips, not wood, so we know one thing is not original. Chances are other things have been swapped too.

Would I pay $700? Probably not, unless it was a US&S or a Singer. Would I go $500? It's likely.

All of this is relative. To many people, the gun might not be worth $500. The truth is it's worth what someone will pay for it. $500 is worth the investment of time and effort a man must make to earn $500. USGI pistols are getting harder to find. When they do pop up, people think they have something. Perhaps they do.

9:04 PM  

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