Sunday, December 12, 2010

Future is now!

My Mateba revolver came with an hilariously-translated owner's manual which read like Italian stereo instructions, complete with the slogan "Future Is Now!"

For some reason, I think of that phrase every time I see a "retro custom" 1911. I can't deny that I'm not completely immune to the Old School Look; after all, when I had my '66 Colt painted, I went with a black slide and gunmetal-colored frame as a sort of homage to those early '80s customs, which sported a hard-chromed or matte nickeled frame practically as a matter of course.

Anyhow, the retro custom 1911, best epitomized by these from Ted Yost, is very much the "flavor of the month" right now.

If you look carefully, you'll note that the hammer is bobbed to prevent bite and the sights are huge (and therefore actually usable) compared to GI units.

Once upon a time, beavertails and extended safeties and Novaks looked "custom" because regular 1911's looked GI. Now that every Filipino slag gun on the market comes with a ski jump, how are you gonna differentiate your multi-kilobuck custom from the herd?

The retro trend started back in the early 'Aughties, and will peak as soon as a factory house starts making them. My bet is Kimber. Then the fashionistas will be looking for something else, I guess.


Wolfwood said...

Okay, so possibly dumb question:

Is there any reason for non-matched color frames and slides other than looks? I personally thing black frame with silver slide looks great and the reverse looks hideous, but that's just me. Am I missing some sort of advantage either option has?

Tam said...

I'm assuming that it originally was for corrosion resistance on the part of the gun that had sweaty paws all over it all the time.

Carteach said...

Thing is.... 'Styling' is so far down my list of wants from a weapon, that it normally falls right off the bottom.

If 'Style' was all that important to me, I would never have sold my Beretta Silverhawk double barrel. That thing had 'Style' by the bucketful.

Even my satin nickel plated Combat Commander, gloriously beautiful thing that it is, doesn't have anything done to it chosen with 'style' in mind.

I carry a Glock now. That should sum it up nicely.

Ed Foster said...

We do our target guns all over in electroless nickel, which I am really fond of, as it goes on .0001to .0002 thick and smooth as a baby's bottom, not lousing up my nice tight fit-up. Maybe I'm missing something anent finish on the carry guns.

Also, the 24 karat gold slides and fixings Teddy had me do for the presentation grade were a stone cold bitch to fit up after plating, and I'm hoping he'll consider titanium nitride on the next batch.

Bob Delmore did an Isonite finish on one of our carry guns, and I suspect it's going to end up in my own personal holster really soon. I was thinking. Always gets me in trouble, right?

O.K., suppose we get Bob to do a batch of Isonite slides and frames. Case hardening .003 deep, with virtually absolute rustproofing.

Then we mill up a bunch of stainless extractors and black them. Titanium nitride all the pins, sear, disconnector and trigger, then black chrome the hammer, and Teflon-S all the springs.

You could store the thing for 20 years in a vat of battery acid, take it out, rinse it off, and shoot it. I wonder if there's a market, military or civilian, for a totally rot free, grot free pistol?

Since we didn't get to see you during your last trip back east (Several really good steaks gone to waste/waist, and I wanted to introduce you to Ten Penny Ale), can I send SN:xxxxx2 out to your favorite FFL dealer and have you shoot hell out of it for a couple of weeks? Or, to make it interesting, I'll send you a list of 50 or so serial numbers and let you choose at random. They're all sweethearts.

Anonymous said...

Ed, Tam says I can do the break in for her. :) No snow here in South Kackalacky.

Tam, good write up. Wonder if we will see triple port comps, mud flaps and extended slide releases again?

Al T.

Anonymous said...

My experiance with a GI 1911 Remington Rand in the 80's was so poor that I never wanted to handle one for twenty years. I could not keep 7 rounds on a B27 at 7 yards.

After the SgtMaj repeated the same event he told me it might be best if I would " keep it loaded and use it as a club."

GI 1911 still brings a grimace to my face. It wasn't till 2008 that I got over the twitch when someone asked if the wanted to shoot their .45.


theirritablearchitect said...


Anywhere on 1911 that one might want to apply a coating. It's pretty utilitarian, being similar, I think, to the Glock tenifer process, and it couldn't be further from the Armand Swenson look of matte, hard-chrome.

Joe in PNG said...

You know, maybe the current trend will mean the end of front slide serrations, and Thank JMB for that.

Ed Foster said...

architect: Pretty much the same critter, a salt bath nitriding process, done all around here (central Connecticut) on a pretty regular basis in aerospace.

It's just that Bob, down at Coal Creek Arms, does a really superb prep and, through trial and error, has just about eliminated the warpage factor.

I suppose I could do the same thing here with Sousa Heat Treating or one of our other vendors, but the learning curve would eat up several month's profits.

Or, I could do what the competition does and make the guns loose enough that the warpage doesn't matter, but that kind of makes the entire "custom" fit idea fly out the window.

I get a range time and ammo comp at Hoffman Guns in Newington (they really want some of these toys).

I was shooting/sighting in a gold carry gun, an electroless nickel target model, and Bob's Isonite carry gun last Friday night, and the rangemaster tried them all.

He had a buddy cover for him, went and bought some Federal 230 gr., and shot hell out of all three for half an hour, then two of the floor guys came in and did the same. He's a serious IPSC shooter, and I was quite impressed.

They talked me out of a carry gun and a target model, which they're going to rent out to customers. All I'm asking is a really good round count. When the barrels are finally gone, I promised to rebarrel them and let the guys have them for a major discount.

I still am interested in a completely rot free gun. Anybody think it would sell?

Brian said...

"I still am interested in a completely rot free gun. Anybody think it would sell?"

Yes. Retail's around 450 here in North Cackalacky under the trade name of Glock. Jeeze you think the head of security at a major metropolitan airport would make more money than that in a month.

Ancient Woodsman said...

I don't think there's anything 'wrong' with retro as long as it works.

Can't say as if anyone is going to make a new-production Stevens miserable loader, Chauchat in 7.62x51, or for that matter a new-production Corvair with which to haul your retro guns around. Some retro is cool because it works; there is still a primo market for good 1911s, original Garands, and Model A pickups because they worked then and (if maintained & sound) work just as well today.

BTW, thanks for the sharing. Not all of us can have such a collection, but it sure is nice when those that do will share photos of their tools & toys.

Ed Foster said...

Some like horses, and some like motorcycles. Me, I wouldn't buy any plastic gun, and I spent 6 months of my life at Colt's making the reciever on the .22 semiauto happen. I own serial number 47.

Glocks have a history of catastrophic failure (latest incident, New Mexico State Cops scrapped them all out after they started busting in half across the mag well and went to S&W M&P's).

The number of serious Glock shooters I've seen with replacement CCF stainless steel frames is testament to the basically silly idea of a synthetic frame on a high round count centerfire pistol, and if you're not going to shoot a lot with the pistol you carry, a lot of the reason for carrying a pistol goes away.

I know the problems I had with the Colt .22 frame, and Kevin Kaminsky, one of the best gun engineers in the trade, told me of his problems with the Colt 2000.

The Smith M&P series is arguably the best plastic gun in the business (see above New Mexico fiasco), and Sean Sullivan, the Chief Armorer for the Springfield P.D., has given me a long list of things wrong with it.

The weight difference between a plastic reciever and an aluminum one is about 2 ounces, and the aluminum reciever isn't filled with hundreds of little pieces of amazingly hygroscopic E-glass, ready to turn into sponges at the first nick.

It also doesn't need little steel pins cast in place inside it to stiffen it up the way plastic guns do. Parenthetically, all Glocks manufactured before September 1990 were recalled for replacement of their recievers, because the pins were non heat treated roll pins that bent and caused slamfires when chambering a round.

I suspect whomever is doing Glock's advertising also handles that of the Democratic Party. Only 10% of the nasty stuff ever sees the light of day.

I can do a reciever in 7075 aluminum with a T-6 heat treat that will last as long as the slide, and I will in February when we start our 4 inch carry gun.

I don't like the ergonomics on a Glock, but that is a personal choice. I also think the factory trigger is kinda sad, but it's safe enough with a steady diet of the 9mm Europellet or .45acp.

In .357 SIG it's a bomb looking for a place to blow.

og said...


You have a Mateba.


On purpose.


Not that there's anything wrong with that.


theirritablearchitect said...

Ancient Woodsman,

If you maybe know of someone who has a good supply of stockModel B's, with 221 flatties, I'd be forever grateful. ;)

Oh, and Ed, how much we talking about parting with for yer 'rostfrei' 1911, all dunnup like you are talkin'?

James said...

Totally uncalled for slam on the "Filipino" 1911s. I own 3 and they function perfectly, and shoot where I point them. This is far beyond what the "quality" 1911s were doing in the 80s, where I wasted a big chunk of my money.

Ed Foster said...

Architect, get my e-mail from Tammy and we can talk. Looking forward to it, by the way.

Tam said...


"You have a Mateba."



"I own 3 and..."

I'm working off a bigger sample size than that, but if yours work, then cool! I'm not slamming your guns, just the ones I've seen that didn't work. In my experience, the better Filipino brands have a lemon ratio that's better than Para's and probably not too much worse than Kimber's. I'd be a lot less peeved about having to do a bit of work on a $500 gun than on a $1000 one, no? :)

og said...


At least you didn't say you had a J**ge

Anonymous said...

For $4200 it should be able to shoot itself! Beware the man with one gun, for he will be constantly upgrading it...


Tam said...


Hand labor costs.

Hand labor by someone who is in high demand costs more.

Isn't capitalism wonderful?

From a pure function standpoint, you can get a handmade 1911-pattern pistol built from the ground up to your specs for something not too much over two grand. Anything much over that comes down to which master pistolsmith's signature you want on the build sheet.

There are people who really can't tell the difference between, say, a factory Taurus PT1911 and a hand-built custom from Hilton Yam or LAV; in their case, they should go with the Brazilian, and good on them. :)

NotClauswitz said...

My retro gun is still all 1943 Colt, and even retro'er now with the new old original spec barrel. Anybody want to buy a '43 High Standard barrel for a RemRand or Ithaca?

Anonymous said...

ED! ED! Tam still says I need to break that puppy in! Pop me an email and we'll get the road to heaven an other couple of feet longer paved with .45 ACP brass!

Al T.

George said...

re: furrin' owner's manuals...had a friend who bought a new rice-burning car in 1976. The owner's manual gave explicit instructions regarding passing a larger, heavier, load bearing vehicle,or, as it said "When passing a Turk..."

Discobobby said...

I understand that the Isonite only adds .0002-.0004 of surface growth, which makes me wonder if you could apply it to the barrel as well, both inside AND out? I've seen some benchrest chatter about it, but I'm unaware of anyone trying it for a hammer-forged FMP HK-91 barrel in the white. Perhaps because it's such a blindingly bad idea I'm the only one dumb enough to suggest it in public.

I was going to call CCA this week anyway to get a price to Isonite refinish the metal on a PTR-91 that I endlessly tinker with so that all the parts actually match for the first time. If the bath means they can do it without pulling the barrel, and perhaps even treat the inside of the receiver without throwing the roller-lock system out of spec, my geek meter would be pegged on 10.

It might be a strange idea, but this rifle collects my strange ideas to protect the rest of the flock. Amazingly, it actually shoots better than it did originally, all credit to the craftsmen who do the work of course.

I'm interested in your rot free gun project as well. Do you mind if I send our hostess my email to pass along so we can chat?

wv: unesture - the feeling the poor PTR gets each time I get a creative look in my eye.

Ed Foster said...

Disco: Great idea, please write. The Isonite doesn't actually build up, it causes minor warpage to the tune of a few tenths.

For the barrel I'd suggest chrome, if you can find someone who knows what he's doing. The outfit we use up in Springfield Mass is absolutely brilliant. Maybe I could call in a favor and get a private barrel run through with some of Stag Arm's tubes.

Write and we'll kick it around.

Jayson said...

wow. i'd like to learn more about all the different finishes and stuff, but i have no clue where to start.

Black Hat said...

Disco, bring that PTR in and we'll fix you up.

Tam, we have had a horde of new Rhino owners lately. They all think they have the new best thing since sliced bread. I laugh at their Mateba like objects and think of you.

Kristophr said...


I'd buy a Mateba and a Rhino just because I can.

Every collection needs a few items that are just downright weird.