There were two Kimbers: A stainless Gold Combat and one of the new “SIS” guns. I used my Springfield Pro on Day One and switched to my '66 Colt Government Model for the two subsequent days. Shootin' Buddy had his newest Les Baer Thunder Ranch Special; unlike his other TRS's, this one hadn't been to school yet and was still pristine, and I didn't miss a chance to tease him about his “Minnie Pearl Gun”.
The other guy using his street rig was using a 5” Colt, and was having serious issues with the standard grip safety. Like many with adult-male-size hands and the traditional grip safety, when he used a high grip, he wasn't reliably depressing the safety. He solved this with electrical tape. Nobody else had this issue,but almost all the other guns used a safety with some form or another of “speed bump”, or raised pad at the bottom of the safety, to ensure that the meat of the firing hand depressed it completely.
The deputy was using what appeared to be a “Franken-1911”, a common sight amongst Boone County cops, since the sheriff is an adjunct instructor at Gunsite and managed to acquire a bunch of ex-military pistols from the .gov and set them up as Gunsite-esque duty guns. As a matter of fact, the sheriff's son was in the class and shot a beat-to-hell early Yost-era Gunsite Service Pistol, which is, to a modern 1911 buff, about the dead-sexiest thing you could see on a Gun School firing line. There's nothing sadder than seeing a bucks-up fighting 1911 like a GSP, Baer TRS, Springer Pro, Wilson CQB or what-have-you that is all pristine because the owner is too scared of dinging up their precious 'combat' handgun by actually carrying it or using it. Conversely, there's a certain cachet to a gun like the kid's GSP or Shootin' Buddy's older Thunder Ranch Specials that show a lot of good, hard use.
The only gun that seemed to experience mechanical issues was that belonging to the deputy; its slide locked back prematurely a few times. While this malfunction could almost certainly be traced to the aftermarket “extended” slide stop on his gun, its exact source could have been any one of three things...
- His hand could have been contacting it under recoil. This is the least likely reason, however, as he was a southpaw and this malf usually happens to right-handers shooting high-thumbs.
- The interior part of the aftermarket slide stop could have been incorrectly dimensioned and was being contacted by the nose of the next bullet in the magazine, especially if it had been jarred forward slightly under recoil.
- The additional mass of the extended stop may have occasionally bounced up under its own inertia when the gun recoiled. This will be familiar to any Glock shooter who's had the fussy little spring on their slide catch fail.
I only experienced one malf with my Colt. During one exercise, we started with a round in the chamber and no magazine in the weapon, and had to engage the target with two shots. We could either fire off the round in the pistol, juice up the gun and engage with the second round, or slap in a full mag and then fire twice. I went with the option that would put steel on target the fastest, despite Louis warning us that sometimes firing a pistol with no magazine can cause a failure-to-eject malfunction that looks like an inverted “stovepipe”, with the spent case dangling into the mag well instead of poking out the ejection port.
I fired and, like magic, there was the spent case, showing base-first out of the ejection port, aided (no doubt) by the stock, stubby, GI ejector in my gun. I locked the slide to the rear and popped in a new mag and fired off my second shot. It wasn't till after that string that I really realized what happened, when one of the RO's said “You got lucky there...” It turns out that I locked the slide back and my weak hand came up with the fresh mag fast enough that the spent case hadn't had time to fall free from the mag well; the new mag forced the empty out the ejection port. I'd been so fixated on the target that I hadn't noticed the mechanical drama.