Monday, August 31, 2009

Gun School: 1911 Geek Post

So there were seven 1911's in our class; just less than a third of the shooters. Interestingly, all seven were full-size, 5”, steel-framed guns. The deputy carried his in his duty gear; Shootin' Buddy, myself, and one other shooter carried in our street CCW rigs; the three remaining students used “range/training”-type holsters.

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...
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
One may correctly assume from this that I don't much care for “extended” slide stops. Besides, 99 times out of 100, I “slingshot” the slide to release it anyway.

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.


Anonymous said...

Interesting stuff. Thank you. I hadn't heard about that mag-less malf phenomenon. So; next time you'll insert a mag before firing? -- Lyle

Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, How did the Hi-power handle this drill, or had it been modified?

sam said...

Interesting. Keep the gun school stories coming, Tam.

While you were describing how you set up, and handled the no-mag malf drill, I was thinking how I would handle it.

Since a cursory glance would show "low brass," I would have treated it as a type 3 malf:

1. Look (and move to cover!)
2. Lock
3. Strip (no mag!)
4. Rack, rack, rack
5. Load
6. Rack

Of course if the extractor is broken, it's time for your backup.

Your drill might be a good one for those with extended mag releases.

Tam said...

"Just out of curiosity, How did the Hi-power handle this drill, or had it been modified?"

I dunno if the High Power shooter went for the immediate shot or if she inserted a mag first. The guy with the SIG P-239 had the same malf.

Since this is an unlikely malf to begin with, were I ever in the same situation, I'd probably still take the gamble and shoot before juicing the gun.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the follow-up, I have a Hi-power, an FM that I picked up at a gunshow based on the $225 price tag. Little did I know it would become one of my favorite guns. I have thought about changing out the trigger, but am reluctant to muck about with what has been a highly reliable gun.

Tam said...

If it ain't broke, there's no sense in fixing it. :)

Tango Juliet said...

Hmmm... that's a new one on me. Not that that is hard to do. :)

I'll have to drag the mighty Wilsons to the range and see how they behave magless.

Tam said...

Louis stated that it was very much a "sometimes" kind of thing. Just one of those possibilities of which to be aware...

Anonymous said...

TAM: Now faster than GRAVITY

Will said...

As a southpaw 1911 shooter, I would say #1, with perhaps a bit of assist by #3. When I got my first Colt (Officers mod), I very quickly encountered the same problem. The actual cause is using the first joint (crease) to press the trigger. Putting the trigger finger this far in brings the base of the finger close to the frame, where it occasionally touches the slide stop during recoil. I had to train myself to always use the pad for trigger activation, which eliminated the problem. It has never happened again, in twenty years.
I suppose someone with short and/or fat fingers, might still have the same problem of having the hand too close to the frame, even with a correct trigger placement. A shorter trigger would help move the hand away from the frame. I use long triggers, as I have long, thin fingers.

Homer said...

Tam - RE: your malf. It sounds like the case droops into the magwell when the mag isn't there to support it, and either the ejector doesn't get a solid hit on the case head or the case begins to slide or rotate out from under the extractor, also leading to a weak ejector strike, and without the mag to support it, the "ejection energy" gets wasted. I can easily envision the ejector simply pushing the case off the extractor and leaving it in mid air to be trapped by the closing slide.

Seems both rare, and unavoidable on those rare occasions.

But...Para has done much bragging about their new, wider extractor. Anyne know if that reduces the probability of this type of malf? It would seem that a much wider extractor and shiny new brass with a clean base ring might be the only way to reduce the probability of this; I don't think it can be totally eliminated.

Which is why we always, always practice malf drills. I don't know how to purposely create this one, though, so clearing it can be practiced.

Word verif: "unlater" I guess that's someone who's always early?

Anonymous said...

The kid with the Kimber SIS had problems, remember?

Remember Louis explaining the problems with ball in those guns?

Shootin' Buddy

Tam said...

I seem to recall he had a premature slide lock or two, but I hardly notice that in a Kimber.

They're bad for their icky, nasty, un-fitted MIM slide stops contacting cartridge noses.

There is a reason that all my guns get Greider or Wilson Bulletproof slide stops as a matter of course.

Anonymous said...

"They're bad for their icky, nasty, un-fitted MIM slide stops contacting cartridge noses."

They are all John Browning's children. Where's the love?

Shootin' Buddy

buzz_knox said...

For those interested, Sheriff Campbell did an article in SWAT about the 1911s his guys use.

Louis is a fantastic instructor and Boone Co. is an excellent location. Put the two together and you get something that can't be missed.

Noah D said...

They are all John Browning's children. Where's the love?

Heck, all I've got is two RIAs, and I love 'em.