Thursday, May 31, 2007

Boomsticks: Who cares what it looks like?

There has long been a cult of purists among 1911 buffs who deride various modifications, mostly beavertail grip safeties, because they "look ugly". This is something I've never understood; sure, the beavertail looks a little goofy, like someone thought the gun needed a spoiler on the trunk lid or something, but it's not there for looks. It's there to locate your hand properly when you take a firm grip high on the gun, and especially if you shoot with your thumb on top of the thumb safety. The Commander-style hammer is also not just there for looks, since it goes hand-in-glove with the beavertail; a GI spur hammer would bottom out against the enlarged grip safety and prevent the gun from cycling.

As you can see in the picture on the left, with the thumb actually bearing down on the thumb safety, the beavertail prevents the pistol from being pushed down into the hand. I suppose there are people out there who want a beavertail for the looks (after all, there are people out there who bought Pontiac Azteks and who like the designated hitter rule,) but I just like what it does.

Lately, however, the Crusty Purist Cult has spread from the Church of the 1911 and infected the world of AR-15 owners, too. It was one thing to want an old "no-fence, no-forward-assist" Colt SP1 to collect for its retro 1970's SWAT cool, but soon the purists were demanding the old triangular handguards because the new ones were "ugly", as though someone was actually concerned with what the AR-15, not a particularly attractive rifle to begin with, looked like. Look, buddy, if you want flimsy, rattling, gotta-be-kept-in-matched-pairs A1 handguards on your rifle, be my guest. The A2's are infinitely better: sturdier, quieter, and it doesn't matter which goes on top or bottom since they're both the same. And as far as a railed forend goes, you don't buy those for looks; you buy them... well, let me quote Lyle, posting at Oleg's blog:
The forend rails aren't there for the nifty looks (at least not for some folks). They're there to hold your PEQ-2, and etc., so you have more of an advantage over your low-tech, dirt-sucking prey.
I buy old Mausers and prewar Smiths for looks. My 1911s and ARs are built the way they are for different reasons entirely.


GeorgeH said...

A gunsmith once told me 1911s are like Harleys, no one wants one stock.
I can remember when Harley dealers wouldn't work on a modified bike, but those days are gone and so are those dealers.

Anonymous said...

I thought that another major function of the beavertail grip safety was to prevent "hammer-bite" for people with big hands.

For me, with very small hands, it's never been an issue.

On the other hand, the nifty new "speed bumps" or whatever they're called on the tail of a lot of beavertail grip safeties give me a big pain in the palm. When I got my last Springfield "loaded" version it came with one, which I had them swap out for me for one with a regular profile. With small hands, those big bumps on the back of the grip safety makes painful to shoot more than a few rounds.

Les Jones said...

Lately I've noticed some oddball posts at THR. Things like "Are iron sights on AR-15s a fad?"

theirritablearchitect said...


I have the exact same thoughts about the safety issue.

I've seen plenty of people in my time, all of which had much bigger hands than me, who, when grasping the butt of their 1911, couldn't keep the web of their hand out of the action of the slide without it.

I have small hands, and at 160, don't have any extra meat hanging on the frame to get in the way.

I've actually tried to get hung up in the works. I can shoot my Springfield Mil-Spec, stock grip safety and hammer, with my right thumb riding on top of the left grip/plunger tube, and the web of my hand never gets anywhere near the cycling parts.

The speed bump is also an element of the devil, and completely unnecessary in my estimation. Its purpose isn't to help assure disengagement, as any recalcitrant safety can easily be sensitized for proper function. The genesis of the damn thing eludes me, but I seem to recall bits about it being a controllability and "memory" feature for indexing the pistol in your hand. I find all of it fairly specious, but it has caught on in the mainstream, and is probably here to stay, in all but the most basic guns. (shrug)

To each their own, but mine can do without.

Kim du Toit said...

I have a scar on the web of my thumb from 1911 hammerbite, so let me assure you that the beavertail has nothing to do with cosmetics.

Sigivald said...

I've never seen a need for a beavertail on my 1911, but I won't deprecate anyone who finds one useful. (By which I mean, my "natural" grip doesn't get me any hammer bite; if it did, I'd have a beavertail put on.)

(Then, I also think the A1 fore-end is more aesthetically pleasing on an AR, though not enough to go out and get a set for mine.

[I also don't care about the matched pair thing... I have one AR, and I don't need to take the fore-end off enough for putting it on upside down to be a turnoff. I could see that it, and the rattling, could annoy someone in other circumstances, though.])

Guns should be appropriate to the user and circumstances; which any of them can be, depending on same.

(Same reason I don't have a rail system on my AR - for me, it's a plinker, not a home defense or tactical weapon. If it was, that'd be another matter, but I have Mr. 870 for that.)

Anonymous said...

Speaking for myself of course, I've always loved the look of the more or less Plain Jane Government Model 1911A1. For me there's always been a sort of sense of nostalgia, history, and perhaps even mystique that comes with it. The first 1911 I ever shot was a WW2 surplus pistol that belonged to a friend's dad when I was 14. I loved the look, feel, heft, and kick that came with it. That was the way the 1911s looked in the case at Ridge Guncraft when my dad took us into that shop and I stared at them through the glass. And that's the way the 1911s looked in old photos and in the movies I grew up watching. And, as you've guessed by now, my tastes are generally kind of old fahioned.

However, from the practical side, I've never had my thumb webbing bitten by a 1911 and desired the upgrade for that reason either. I plan on keeping my Colt 1911 stock other than maintenance related parts swaps. But, I've also given serious thought to buying a Springfield GI or Mil-Spec 1911 and making that into a personal tuner pistol with beavertail safety, better sights, trigger job, Commander-style hammer, etc.

When it comes to the 1911, as with all the classics, it's about what works for each individual shooter as others wiser than I have already said.

Hobie said...

The A-2 forearm is infinitely better. The only thing the rifle needs changed is the chambering and that is as easy as pie nowadays.

BTW in the FWIW department, I had one of the original no-forward-assist carbines and it had the neat round forearm. Liked it, too!

Anonymous said...

Given the era, I had just kinda assumed the funky triangular handguards were a pullover from the early benchrest type riflestocks of the same era - they give a nice flat surface to lay across sandbags (or a rucksack) for some nice leisurely rifle-range type shooting.

And grain of truth to that?

Anonymous said...

A niceley fitted one is a thing of art and a joy to be held..

I can say from back in the day when I shot alot more, was nice to have the gun fitted to your hand...

I guess if the shoe fits,enjoy walking

mine all have beavertails from my standard 5" Gold Cup upper "stock" .45ACP gun to my .38Super and 10mm Delta Elite raceguns

Some call it Evolution...

I say,..anything to get them out on the line burnig powder..

Anonymous said...

I want a Colt SP1 over a newer Colt full length rifle for one reason: It's lighter.

A stock SP1 is what, six, six-and-a-half, pounds? That's much lighter then a stock full length rifle in A2 configuration.

Granted, a M-4 clone might be lighter, but it also has a shorter barrel and collapsible stock. My wife has tried the M-4 clones and finds the standard stock more comfortable.

She also likes light rifles and I think a stock SP1 would be just the ticket. The only upgrade we might want is one of those red dot mounts that puts the optic forward of the handuards. Put a little Aimpoint there and it would be "modern" enough for our uses, without being big and ungainly.

I think something was lost in the transition from the M-16A1 to the M-16A2 and I don't think the M-4 gives it all back either.

NotClauswitz said...

I just want an AR service rifle to shoot that's more accurate than my Garand so I can make Expert - there's no laying it on sandbags but offhand is an important stage.
My 1911AI is an old GI made '45 and I've never had hammer bite.

Tam said...

I used to not get hammer bite (my hands are not at all "meaty") but then I started choking way, way up on the gun because it really cut my splits...

theirritablearchitect said...


Speaking seriously here, do you have any pointers, better yet pics, of the hand position you are using.

(There, I managed not to get the Beavis and Butthead gutter humor into the question by mentioning how much you were "choking up on it".)


theirritablearchitect said...

Excuse my doltage for not using correct punctuation in the previous post.

SpeakerTweaker said...

When did owning mil-type firearms become a matter of asthetics? Isn't the whole idea of a further A1, A2, etc. a matter of improving the design for FUNCTIONALITY?

Forgive the bluntness here, but the idea is to drop bad guys better. Anyone thinking that Senor Badguy is gonna look at your triangular handguards and think (his last thought), "Wow. At least the guy/gal who's sending me to my maker is gonna do it with some class. Look at the originality of their "old-school" AR! What style!" It's not a fashion show, folks. It's a Boomstick! Collect it if you will, but don't knock folks who want something that has improvements to ensure consistent bang, improved grip, etc.

How is it you don't have 'em lined up at your doorstep?


NotClauswitz said...

By splits I'm guessing that refers to a timing on-target thing? My only rapids are sitting and prone with the M1, but I can see where that would make a difference.