Tag Archives: self-defense

I Now Have Another Gripe…

The title reminds me of an old mock up cartoon drawing of Daffy Duck in a foul mood (as if he had alternatives) saying, “Daily I am forced (forthed) to add to the every growing list (litht) of people who can just kiss (kith) my … [- uh – tailfeathers]!”

I like Brownell’s company for firearms parts and tools. I’ve used them. I have an account with them. They’re good people. But the advertising…

The ‘catch my attention’ line in the email is “Don’t settle for the same old gun!” So I’m already a bit chaffed. I’ve carried this old Colt (lightweight) Commander in .45 Awfulmatic for a number of years and had it longer. I like it. I like what it does. I have no intention – and regardless of ‘deal’ – to change it for something – Lord help me! – new.

Then I opened the advertisement. It shows a pistol – looks like a Glock – with ‘enhanced’ sights, a holographic sight along with the sights, an extended barrel with a boss or lug on the end, a flashlight or laser beam attached under the slide/barrel, fancy decorative milling on the slide and and oversized base to the magazine. I cannot see it, of course, but I would imagine a beveled magazine well.

I carry my Commander as a concealed weapon. It is already big enough to hide. I do not need all that foo-foo crap to hide as well.

I do have high visibility fixed sights and some work on the trigger. That does not add any weight or size to the pistol. The pistol is sighted in with the load I carry and I am confident of hitting a human silhouette from the muzzle to in excess of fifty yards (depends on how the eyes focus that day; I’m getting old.) Head shots only to twenty-five to thirty yards.

No, I’m not ‘settling’. No, I do not require a ‘new gun’!

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The Last Savage

I should qualify the title. The pistol of which I write is the last production variation of the Savage Model 1907 pistol in .32 ACP. The Savage 1910 and 1917 were still in production until the middle 1920s or so and Savage continues to build rifles to this day. Savage made the Model 101, a single shot .22 pistol made to look like a single action revolver for about 10 years in the 1960s. They also made a Model 502 Striker pistol, which is a pistol length bolt action single shot in choice of .22 long rifle, .22 WRM or .17 rimfire something. It was a fairly recent arm, but is not on the Savage Arms site, so I presume it is no longer in production. (I don’t follow ‘new’ guns much.)

However, the Savage model 1907. variant 19, modification 2 was the last of the models 1907. According to the serial number, the one here was made in 1919. This seems to be the year more Savage 1907 pistols were made than any other. The 1907 ceased production in 1920. The 1915 and 1917 carried on longer.

Left side - rear - view of the pistol.  Very good condition.

Left side – rear – view of the pistol. Very good condition.

As Savage pistols (of that type and vintage) go, it is pretty much the same as all the other models 1907. It does of course have distinctives which distinguish it from other variations.

Probably the major telling differences between this variant and the earliest variants is the hammer is a spur type with the rear of the spur exposed, vice the burr version; and the small and more dense cocking serrations on the slide, vice the fewer and wider serrations of earlier versions.

This variant has no legend on the side of the frame proudly displaying the Savage name. (That marking seems to be a bit uncertain. Many of the variants did have the name either on the right or left side of the slide, just above the respective grip and many did not.)

Atop the slide is the usual legend of

SAVAGE ARMS CORP. UTICA N.Y. U. S. A. CAL. 32
PATENTED NOVEMBER 21, 1905 — 7.65 MM

This slide top legend also varies from variation to variation, but is consistent in message.

Grips are hard rubber – possibly gutta percha. They are black, tending to a very dark brown probably from ‘fading’; that may not be the correct chemical term, but it suits the common usage.The grips on this example are intact; they are not cracked or chipped and show no wear. Reportedly, the grips can be removed by gently prying each grip to bend the panel (fore and aft) which will release the grip panel from a groove arrangement in the frame. However, the material of the grips does not age well and tend to break when manipulated in such manner. If the grips are in good condition, don’t fool with them.

Finish on this variation is a matte bluing. It is not the bright bluing of the earlier models, nor is it the ‘paint’ finish attempted at one point. On this example, it is rather complete with a few spots of light rust over the pistol. There is some wear on the front muzzle and on exposed edges. The magazine is a double slot (for magazine catch) type and rather worn of bluing. I have a small suspicion the magazine may not be original; however, as the magazines were not serialized to the individual pistol, I cannot tell.

Note the clean and unworn appearance of the engraved markings.

Note the clean and unworn appearance of the engraved markings.

The case hardening on the trigger is visible and not too badly faded.

The sights are the later type.

The rear sight is machined into the top of the slide. The rear sight ‘notch’ is an almost “U” shaped groove. The sides of the groove are slightly slanted outboard; giving the appearance of a compromise between a thin “V” and a “U”. The bottom is rounded.

The front sight is a separate piece, fitted into a mortice milled into the front of the slide, then riveted from the bottom; much like the front sight on a traditional Government Model. It is tapered, wider at the base, and does have a flat top. However, when aimed, the top of the front sight exactly fills the top of the rear sight notch. Consequently, the ‘windage’ is just a bit vague.

To be fair, this pistol was designed as a close use arm. I’d be willing to bet the sights are nearly unused.

The bore is in amazingly fine condition. Many of these pistols have bores ranging from ‘somewhat worn’ to ‘nasty’. No doubt some combination of corrosive primers (primers leaving a salt deposit, attracting moisture; therefore rust) and lack of cleaning (to remove those salts) are to blame for this condition. This example was obviously cleaned. Or perhaps never fired, just carried a bit. The breech face is also rather clean and fresh.

Shooting this pistol was rather ordinary. I chronographed five shots from my secret stash of Privi Partizan brand .32 ACP ammunition – that lot which I use only for velocity comparison between various pistols. Average velocity was 721 feet per second. (Advertised velocity for the .32 ACP is 900 feet per second; no pistol I’ve tested does that.)

I shot five rounds (not the velocity lot) slow fire at 10 yards for accuracy. The group was just under 2.25“ wide by just under 5 “ high. The group was centered to the left (from the shooter’s view) of the aiming point. As the accompanying photo shows, the group was neatly contained in the head of the target. Then ten shots rapid fire into the main area of the target, also from 10 yards, one handed;. I think I missed once – can’t find the tenth hole – but the nine hits measure seven inches wide by eight and one half inches wide, with one flyer another four inches out to the right. All were within the “C” area of the target, albeit centered lower than one would desire.

Five shots @ten yards on head section of combat target.

Five shots @ten yards on head section of combat target.

Ten rounds fired 'rapid fire' at ten yards.  One missing shot.  Circular pattern indicates I was focusing on target more than front sight.

Ten rounds fired ‘rapid fire’ at ten yards. One missing shot. Circular pattern indicates I was focusing on target more than front sight.

Savage used the marketing phrase “Ten shots fast!” in connection with the Savage pistols. It was more or less true. The M1907 (and the following M1910 and M1917) in .32 ACP utilized a ten shot, staggered magazine. (This was some twenty-eight years BEFORE the FN P-35 (High Power) was released with its thirteen shot magazine. It was also eleven years AFTER the Mauser Broomhandle with a staggered magazine, but since the Broomhandle was loaded via stripper clip and the magazine was not removable, I’m not sure it counts.)

Not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but the Savage M1907 is just a bit small for my hand. I quickly say, my hands are not large by any stretch. Holding the pistol in firing position I find my trigger finger extends through the trigger guard and my trigger finger rests with my first joint (from the tip) rather than the ‘pad’ of my finger on the trigger. Normally the pad of the trigger finger is to be on the trigger. (Of course, with the hideously heavy trigger pull, attempting a ‘target’ trigger pull with the pad of the trigger finger is quite difficult.)

Speaking of trigger pull, this example breaks at twelve pounds or so. Fairly normal for these pistols; they were not made as target guns, but for self defense. One presumes the heavy trigger pull was to discourage premature discharges and may owe some to the somewhat complicated trigger mechanism.

Again, I am amazed at the utility of this design. Okay, the trigger device – that is, the linkage between pulling the trigger and releasing the sear – is probably more complex than needed. (Which never seems to bother advocates of the FN P-35.) The sights, by modern standards, are rather small and not prone to quick acquisition and the caliber is, again by modern standards, pretty anemic. Still, it is very easy to use. The ‘delay’ device is functional and quite positive.

And it is a very good looking bit of ordnance.

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Mr. Zimmerman “Not Guilty” (Was there ever any question?)

Okay, the show trial for the purpose of political correctness has run its course and Mr. George Zimmerman has been judged ‘Not Guilty’.

Which is what the police department said in the first place, if anyone remembers.

Then Al Sharpton got involved, remember?  I have a serious question for anyone willing to chime in:  Who in the world would take Al Sharpton seriously?  I really want someone to answer this question.  Sharpton was the spearhead for the Tawana Brawley case, remember?  Remember the completely fraudulent claim of rape?  Remember Sharpton’s comments on the Bernard Goetz case, where Bernard Goetz was approached and threatened with violence to surrender his money?  Mr. Goetz shot the four stickup men in self-defense and Sharpton declared Mr. Goetz a racist because he didn’t surrender his money.

Why is anyone going to take Sharpton seriously?

George Zimmerman was a citizen legally in place and legally armed.  Trayvon Martin was a huge (four inches taller than Zimmerman), tattooed, thug-looking man of only seventeen years.  Martin took exception to Zimmerman looking him over and attacked Zimmerman, throwing Zimmerman to the ground and beating Zimmerman’s head against the ground.  In fear of his life, Zimmerman shot Martin, ending Martin’s life in the course of the attack.

The local police investigated the event and concluded Zimmerman acted in self-defense – as did, one notes, the jury in the recent court case.  So why was Mr. Zimmerman later charged with murder and put on trial?

To placate Al Sharpton.  To placate the parents of Trayvon Martin.  To placate the demonstrating crowds of racist minded people who were demanding revenge on an honest man who resisted being beaten by a black thug.

Much has been made of the fact Martin was ‘unarmed’.  What is important in self-defense is the actual ability and willingness to commit harm.  Mr. Zimmerman’s physical condition following Martin’s attack demonstrates both the ability and willingness to do bodily harm to Mr. Zimmerman.  For the period 2007 to 2011, 811 people every year were killed by ‘bare hands’ (officially ‘personal weapons’ which include feet and teeth).  Martin not being in immediate possession of a ‘weapon’ does not diminish the threat to Mr. Zimmerman, nor protects Martin from self-defense.

Now Mr. Zimmerman has been acquitted of the charges.  Already the racial hatred group called the NAACP wants the President to pursue ‘civil rights’ charges against Mr. Zimmerman.  So, defending oneself against a violent attack by a black man is racist?  What a curious idea.

The Attorney General of the United, Eric Holder, made a public statement wherein he stated Mr. Zimmerman’s killing of Martin was “… unnecessary and tragic…”  Unnecessary?  How so?  The jury in the case said it was self-defense.  What isn’t necessary about repelling an attacker?  Also, how can the Attorney General make such sweeping comments – a conclusion, by the way – PRIOR to an ‘investigation’?  It seems the results of the investigation are not in doubt; just finding the facts to support the conclusion is left.

And for those who have been able to avoid the news, the FBI did an extensive investigation in the lead up to the Zimmerman court case and found no evidence of ‘racial’ prejudice.  Of course, since a white (more or less, George Zimmerman is also Hispanic which is not white) man defended himself against a black attacker, there MUST be white prejudice involved.  At least, that’s the claim of the Sharptons and Holders of the world.

How about this:  Let’s have an end to violent attacks and see if the number of self-defense caused injuries abate?  How about if the citizens of the United States start teaching their children to operate within the law, not commit crimes and conduct themselves like proper people?

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The Italian Candidate

An ‘icon’ is a picture or representation of an object or person which typifies a concept.  The term originates in the religious paintings of the Eastern Orthodox Church.  The word has broadened in meaning to include a general representation of a class by a single example.

Such is the 1935 Beretta.

“That” Pistol

See?  Most people recognize this, saying something on the order of “Oh, yeah; ‘that’ one…” even if they can’t remember the exact details.

The pistol is more easily recognized – if not exactly identified – thusly:

1935 Beretta pistol

Many folks will think of it as ‘James Bond’s gun’.  It wasn’t, but why destroy a perfectly fine fantasy?  Since I’m already off on a tangent, this pistol was featured in the original ‘The Saint’ television series (1962-1969) with Roger Moore as Simon Templar.

Title card from “The Saint” television program starring Roger Moore

  But I digress…

In fact, this pistol is the model 1935 Beretta, in caliber .32 ACP – or for the Europhiles, 7.65 mm (Browning).  I find the derivation of this particular model interesting, as it is an exact duplicate of the model 1934 Beretta, except the ’34 model was in caliber .380 ACP (9mm Corto [short in Italian]) and represents a downgrade of power.  Oddly, the pistol was originally designed as a pocket pistol, and was then used as a uniform belt gun.

The configuration was developed at the behest of the Italian Air Force in the period between the First and Second World Wars.  All jokes about the Italian Armed Forces and air forces in general aside, .32 ACP was considered a ‘proper’ handgun cartridge for personal defense in those days.  The cartridge was quite common in Europe for both military and police use until the middle 1960s and wasn’t quite gone until the late 1970s or so.  (It may still be in use – as an official sidearm – in some areas.)

The pistol itself is marvelous in design and execution.  It is simple, elegant in function and appearance and soothingly ergonomic to the hand.  The single flaw in the design is the rather horribly designed ‘safety catch’.  It is located on the left side of the frame and must be rotated 180 degree from ‘Safe’ to ‘Fire’.  This cannot be done with the firing hand with the pistol gripped in firing position.  With that exception in mind, this pistol is at the apex of small pistol design.

Safety lever and slide markings. Safety lever is in ‘fire’ position.

Following the days of World War II and ‘Il Duce’, the pistol remained in production as a commercial offering to those who felt the need for a personal defense weapon.  The example pictured in this report is such a pistol showing a proof date of 1952.  The finish is exemplary and the bluing is both excellent and present.

However, it isn’t ‘perfect’.  Somewhere along the line, the trigger/hammer interface has developed a glitch.  When the trigger is pulled, the hammer can be observed to ‘cock further’.  What causes this is a mis-shaping of the sear hook (the ‘shelf’ portion of the hammer which is engaged by the sear to ‘cock’ the pistol).  The sear hook on the hammer is not cut exactly perpendicular to the centerline of the hammer pivot.  In effect, the release edge of the hammer hook is ‘higher’ along the plane of movement of the tip of the sear.  The sear must then ‘climb’ out of the lower area and one can see the hammer move when this happens.

The net result is what I call a “Michael Moore” trigger pull:  too heavy and lots of creep.The trigger pull breaks – releases the sear and drop the hammer – about 9 ½ pounds as best as I can tell.  This can be ‘fixed’ by re-cutting the angle of the hammer hook.  That is currently beyond my ability, so I’ll live with it.

The sights are typical of the era, fixed, the front sight blade milled into the slide, the rear sight being mounted on a dovetail and adjustable for windage.  The only elevation adjustment is to carefully file down the rear blade to lower point of impact or remove a bit from the front to raise the impact (or purchase a ‘higher’ rear sight).  Since the sights are regulated pretty well to begin AND I have no intention of using this pistol for serious work, I’m not going to alter anything.  These sights are small and discrete.  This is a small pistol and not intended for formal target work, so the sights are ‘reasonable’.

Front and Rear Sights

The front sight blade is squarish, slightly narrower at the top, the rear notch a flat bottomed  “V” shape.  Both would be better if square on all corners and flat on all sides.  These sights are functional as is.

Sight Alignment – the view from the shooter’s perspective

With a box of my Prvi Partizan ammunition and a B27 target, off to the range…

I had planned on sticking with my standard programme of shots on a B27 target.  However, Murphy struck and I had to improvise just a bit.  For clarity, all groups except as noted are fired two handed and slow fire; the goal is to get the highest level of accuracy possible.

The first five shots – without any preamble or warm up – were fired at the upper numeral “8” in the scoring rings from a distance of seven yards.  (I gave up firing at three yards as it is just too close and invariably shows good results.)  The picture (enhanced only to show the bullet holes) shows the group is on for windage and centered about one and one half inches low.

Seven yard group of five shots

From fifteen yards, five shots at the small silhouette in the upper left corner of the target sheet.  (In the past I have directed this group at the lower numeral “8” in the scoring rings, but I felt this group tends to blend in with the final rapid fire group and confuses the matter.)  This group is three inches high by two inches wide; centered three inches low and two inches to the right of the aiming point.  This is acceptable accuracy for a defensive gun.  If desired, the sights could easily be modified to regulate shots exactly.

Fifteen yard five shot group

At twenty-five yards, five shots at the center of the head portion.  The center of the group is roughly five and one half inches low and three and one half inches right.  The group is just over five inches wide – a bit loose in my mind – and three inches high, which is acceptable.  One notes the five shots seem to form two sub groups; I’m not sure why this occurred.  (It could just be me, I suppose.)

Twenty-five yard group of five shots aimed at center of head portion

Returning to ten yards, I fired five rounds in point-shoulder rapid mode.  Shots were ‘pointed’ rather than aimed at the X ring.  The group is comfortably in the more-or-less center of the target but I find myself throwing shots to the low and left.  I need to work on that.

Ten yard group of five shots, rapid fire from point shoulder position

Firing five shots over the chronograph, the Beretta 1935 gets an average of 735 f/s from the Prvi Partizan ammunition.  (This is the same ammunition as used in all the testing of the .32 ACP pistols in this blog.  I bought it all at once just to remove variables as much as possible.)

Prvi Partizan Uzice Ammunition, as marked

The failings of the pistol – the sights and trigger pull – are typical of the era, rather typical of all contemporary pistols.  (The U. S. Government Model of 1911 had hideously small sights and trigger pulls between six and twelve pounds.)  The awkward safety is probably worse than most.  The Colt 1903 and the Savage 1907 pistols had a very usable and positive manual safety.  However, the safety is probably no worse than other common European manual safeties up to the time of the Walther PP.

Overall, the pistol handled very well.  There were no malfunctions or misfires during the twenty-five rounds fired.  I don’t recall getting ‘bit’ by the slide or hammer – this time.  The fired rounds went pretty close to where I thought I pointed them.  Recoil was enough to disturb the sight picture, but not abusive by any stretch.  Muzzle blast is sufficient to destroy one’s hearing – not all at once, but cumulatively.

I like it.  It strikes me as the perfect pistol to carry as a gentleman walking the streets of Roma in the evening.  Which reminds me, I need to put on the Dean Martin disc.

For the children, this is Dean Martin. This is an album cover featuring the song, “On An Evening in Roma”

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The Savage Firearms Company Model 1917 Pistol, Caliber .32 ACP

1917 First impressions first. All my shooting life I’ve been warned of and suffered from ‘hammer bite’ while shooting a Government Model Colt or any of the copies or clones thereof. I’ve been ‘bitten’ by a Beretta 418 pistol, when the slide rails nicked the web of my shooting hand. I even heard ‘Beretta bite’ mentioned on a television program – the same day, in fact. I’ve never heard of “Savage bite’ – but it occurs as well! Not serious, but enough to get one’s attention, the slide rails again dug into the web of my shooting hand enough to draw blood. Sigh. Photo of wound incurred included.

The Savage autopistol is one of those near genius designs. It is a retarded blowback action, claimed in early advertising to be ‘locked’ at the moment of firing. The short version is, the barrel must be rotated a few degrees in order for the slide to move in recoil. The bullet travelling down the barrel, being spun by the rifling in the barrel is rotating the same direction the barrel must turn, imparting a radial momentum preventing rotational movement of the barrel. So until the bullet leaves the bore, the barrel cannot turn to unlock the slide. Or so the advertising says.

The system worked well enough to allow a pistol chambered in .45 ACP to function properly and pass the first set of trials for the ‘new’ Army pistol – which resulted in the adoption of the M1911, designed by John Browning and built by Colt Firearms (and others). Savage had a chance to be the M1911 pistol, but didn’t want to commit the money and machinery to build more pistols for testing.

The series of pistols known as the Savage autoloading pistols began in 1907, utilizing a patent granted in 1905. It was designed by a gentleman named Elbert Searle, who was not at the time part of the Savage Firearms Company. It’s a somewhat complicated story and not in the scope of this report, so I refer the reader so interested to the book Savage Pistols, by Bailey Brower, Jr.

The first pistol was called the model 1907. There was a design revision which concealed the manually controllable striker called the model 1915 and finally the model 1917, which brought back an exposed ‘hammer’ attached to the striker.

The pistol being the subject of this report is a model 1917. The biggest single identifier of the model 1917 is the near triangular grip profile. I must say the grip is very comfortable. One feels a grip which affords ‘total control’ over the handling and recoil of the pistol. (Just for comparison, my hands are just big enough to fully grip a Colt Government Model pistol. I can shoot a Government Model one-handed and feel in control of the pistol. I feel my grip is rather ‘incomplete’ shooting most double stack magazine pistols. Including Glocks. Don’t ask.)

This particular pistol found its way into my life and collection in a gun show in Orlando, Florida. It was just sitting there on a table with a modest price tag. It is in fairly good shape, not perfect, not in box, but in fair finish, a shootable bore – some dark in the grooves – and complete. The grips are very sharp in the fine detail; one can read the ‘trade mark’ legend in the now politically incorrect American indigenous native logo. Of note, the grips are not broken or cracked. There is some bluing loss and a bit of ‘freckling’ on the top of the slide. Most of the frame is quite well preserved and there are no gross bumps, bruises or dings, save one bit of rub wear on the right side of the slide near the muzzle; not normal holster wear. It came with one magazine which if anything, is a bit more worn than the pistol proper. One never knows, but I conjecture the original was lost and replaced.

With a box of my standard Prvi Partizan ammunition, chronograph and a B27 target, off to the range.
In spite of the over eight pound trigger pull, it shoots fairly well. The trigger pull is about 8.25 pounds, according to my trigger gauge. I noted the trigger travels about 1/8th inch of slack, then about 1/16th inch to release the sear; over travel is minimal. Sadly, the sear is unreliable and will be explained later.
As with all pistols of this era, the sights are rather small and unobtrusive. As is the norm with this class of pistol, the sights are fixed and in the case of the Savage, are milled from the same stock as the slide. One can do some minor adjustments for windage by carefully filing out the rear notch but I’m not going to do that.
The three yard group was fired at the upper “8” in the scoring rings and is encouragingly tight and on target.
The seven yard group was fired at the lower “8” in the scoring rings. This grouping is also encouragingly tight, and just a bit removed to the left; not enough to cause concern.
The fifteen yard group was fired at the “X” and is all within the “10” ring. Sufficient for self-defense use, I should say. This group shows a bit of leftward incline, but is still sufficiently centered.
The five shot group fired from twenty-five yards is nicely contained on the head of the target. Frankly, I was just a bit surprised it grouped as well as it did. To be fair, this was fired (as all other groups) outside in broad daylight. I could find the sights and line them up properly. Of all criticisms of this pistol, accuracy is not a concern.
The ‘point shoulder’ group was fired at ten yards. There were only two shots fired, both off to the left and low – no doubt a result of my clutching the pistol as the shots were delivered. Still on the target.
This brings up a troubling development.
While shooting the previous groups, I noted the pistol would end on occasion with the hammer down on the empty chamber following firing the last round in the magazine. When I charged the chamber for the last string of ‘point shoulder’ shooting, the pistol discharged when I let the slide go forward. For some reason, the sear is not consistently engaging. Upon inspection, I found the hammer to follow when the slide was dropped on an empty chamber. So I’m looking into the matter and not shooting this pistol further. Happily, I had already fired the five shots over the chronograph – without incident, I add.

Chronograph results of five shots gave me an average velocity of 755 feet per second. According to Savage advertising of the era, the ‘locked breech’ action gives all the power available from the cartridge. It is not notably ‘faster’ – more efficient – than other .32 ACP pistols I have examined. So much for advertising claims.

Other than the mechanical deficiency noted regarding the sear, this pistol is a well built and useful pocket pistol. The safety mechanism (thumb operated analogous to the Colt type) is positive and can be easily applied and released. Accuracy is quite good, in spite of small fixed sights and a heavy trigger. Were the sear reliable – I’m sure they normally are – and I had more confidence in the power of the cartridge – which I do not – this would be an excellent carry pistol. It does pretty much what is needed and without extraneous frills and doodads.

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Finally! One of my Most Desired Holy Grail List Items! [Insert Evil Laugh here.]

I have wanted one of these since the early 1970s at least. I never had both money and opportunity in the same portion of the Space-Time Continuum prior to this occasion. But there it was; left in the display case and no one wanting it.

Actually, there was another fellow fondling it on the counter – but he hesitated and said he really didn’t want it. I pounced!

Smith & Wesson model 27 with three and one half inch barrel. J. Edgar Hoover, eat your heart out.

I will post a better picture of it when I have good light. The grips have been replaced as well.

For those out of the cognoscenti, this is one of the fabled Smith & Wesson “Three Fifty Seven Magnum” revolvers. After 1957 or so, they became known as the ‘Model 27’. This particular specimen has the most coveted barrel length of three and one-half inches. Smith & Wesson serial numbers are hard to identify as to year of manufacture; I can say this revolver was made between 1969 (has “N” prefix on serial number) and 1982 (changed to cheaper non-pinned barrel and ceased recessing chambers.). It is the older style ‘pinned and recessed’ manufacture.

This is better than sex.

More details and shooting report to follow. It does have a nice trigger pull, both double and single action.

UPDATE!
Here are pictures with better lighting and the proper grips installed.

Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum revolver – model 27 – with 3.5 inch barrel and Fitz grips

Shooting report to follow in a few days.

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The Three Basic Rules of Gunfighting

I put this together some time ago and just realized I’ve never posted it here. Therefore:

Rule One: Cooper’s Law
Have a gun.

The late Jeff Cooper needs little introduction. He was an advocate of self defense for the common man. This rule comes from an essay he did on self defense.

Please note a firearm is not a magic talisman or amulet; simply having ‘a gun’ is not the totality. “Have a Gun” connotes possession of a properly maintained firearm, loaded with proper ammunition and the holder possessed of the ability to properly effect use thereof.

Cirillo’s Corollary:
When you need a gun, a bigger gun is better.

The Jim Cirillo worked for NYPD on the Stake-out Squad for a number of years. He’s shot more people in line of duty than most of us don’t like. This might be considered odd, as he carried a .38 Special revolver most of his career. Still, the point is well taken. When a defensive gun is called for, one desires the most gun one can get. It’s your choice.

Rule Two: Pittock’s Law
Be Alert! The world needs more lerts.

Tim Pittock ran the best gun shop in the known Universe once upon a time. He has long since sold out the shop and moved away. I’ve lost track of him and don’t know if he’s alive anymore. However, in that marvelous gunshop hung a sign displaying Rule Two. It wasn’t described as a Rule of Gunfighting, but it applies and so I have applied it.

Just as in driving in traffic or on a freeway, keep track of what is going on about. Especially ahead and closing quickly. Keep looking around and pay attention. One can either avoid or make better preparations when one can see trouble on the approach.

Rule Three: Tuco’s Law
When you have to shoot, Shoot! Don’t talk!

Sometimes, direct and ruthless action is required. Any questions on that one?

Old Man Montgomery’s Corollary
Any one worth shooting is worth shooting well.

It is not possible to ‘shoot someone a little bit’. Shooting in self defense means there is an immediate, deadly threat to one’s person or family, and all other means of avoiding the problem have been ineffective. Therefore, the ultimate, final and only option left is deadly force. If that is what is demanded, that is what must be delivered.

These are just basic precepts, not a full and comprehensive course of instruction. I’ve tried to keep it simple.

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True Confession: I Bought a Plastic Gun!

I have remarked, on more than one occasion, ‘new’ guns just don’t do much for me. Most of the new crop of plastic framed, multi-shot blasters are far too large in grip circumference, are lacking in suitable power and simply lack grace, style and soul. I just bought and shot a new technology pistol and like it. Will wonders never cease?

It’s a Heckler & Koch USP Compact in caliber .40 Smith & Wesson. This pistol avoids some of the common pitfalls of ‘new’ guns. I bought it on purpose after much thinking and checking – some might call ‘research’. I quickly add, none of my ‘research’ involved talking with other shooters and asking what they thought of either the pistol or the caliber.

Allow me to explain. I’m an old school Government Model and Smith & Wesson revolver man. Oh yes, proper built single action revolvers – notably Rugers and good copies of the Colt Model P are acceptable in specific roles. One of my personal problems is that of hand size. My hands are of ‘average’ size in terms of finger length. I can grip and control a Government Model very well, but that’s about the biggest grip – in circumference – I can positively grip and control. Anything bigger feels like I don’t have a decent grip and is – at least feels – unstable.

For instance, I have a Heckler & Koch USP (full size) I bought a number of years ago to carry as a duty weapon. The USP has a double wide magazine made of plastic. I mention the magazine is plastic as the walls of the magazine body are therefore thicker than the metal walls of the USP Compact magazine. This results in the USP (full size) having a grip that is wider – therefore greater in circumference – than I comfortably can hold and shoot. (Okay, I did always qualify with that sidearm and always shot a possible score of 150 on the qualification; but it wasn’t as secure and comfortable as I like.)

For another instance, the Glock 17. Somewhere in the vast brain trust that runs the firearms program of the agency for which I used to work, someone got the brilliant idea to issue the Glock 17 to all hands. Everyone knows about the basic Glock 17. It’s a full size belt gun with a grip suitable for people with fingers about an inch longer than mine. It is chambered for the 9×19 NATO round – or 9mm Luger for the classicists – so the recoil doesn’t intimidate those of our number who are recoil shy. Of course, those who are ‘recoil shy’ typically have hands smaller than mine. However, since ‘qualification’ has everyone shooting with both hands – except for the three yard powder burn stage – the lack of control is not problematic. When qualifying, that is. Reality is different, but I’m getting off on a tangential tirade and should get back to the topic at hand. The bottom line is, holding a Glock 17 feels like holding a 1”x1” piece of furring. By the way, shortening the grip does nothing to reduce circumference; the ‘small’ versions are just as bad.

To be fair to the ‘vast brain trust’ I somewhat defamed in the last paragraph, a couple of years ago, they made a good – nay – excellent choice of issue firearm to replace the Glock. They acquired and issued the Heckler & Koch P2000 pistol, chambered in .40 Smith & Wesson.

The P2000 has a grip size somewhat – but just enough – smaller in width than other ‘high capacity’ magazine pistols. I can grip it and control it. Kill the fatted calf! Not only that, but some of the female officers – who are even smaller than me – seem to be able to grip and control it better as well. The .40 S&W chambering – avoided in the prior Glock decision on the grounds recoil would be a problem – does not seem to be a problem with the P2000. (Probably would not have been with the Glock, either; but I digress.) Not to mention a higher caliber and heavier bullet moving at about the same velocity as the smaller and lighter 9mm bullet provides a greater chance of ending a deadly threat. (No guarantees in life, but a wise person goes with the odds.)

The only fly in the P2000 ointment is the action style. The P2000 is a double action only (which is how it was issued) – OR – a conventional double action first shot/single action subsequent shots (known as ‘DA/SA’) with decocking safety only proposition. I don’t like that sort of control mechanism. As I mentioned earlier in this essay, I’m a Government Model sort of fellow.

The H&K USP Compact – Variant One – is a double action/single action design with a single control that will either decock the hammer – OR – will place the pistol on ‘safe’ in the manner of a Government Model or traditional single action semi-automatic pistol. AND – Fraptious Day! – the USP Compact has a grip size just like the P2000 – small enough for my hands! On the down side, the smaller grip size of the USP Compact carries fewer rounds than the full size USP. Well, carries one less round. The full size USP has a thirteen round magazine while the USP Compact has a twelve round magazine. Frankly, that’s not going to be the difference between surviving and losing a gunfight. Nor are the magazines interchangeable with the ‘bigger’ capacity just sticking out the bottom. I just checked.

So, with all this knowledge in hand, I decided a Heckler & Koch USP Compact in .40 S&W was what I wanted as a full time concealment instrument. I should point out the pistol is also available in 9×19 and the venerable .45 ACP chambering. My personal opinion is the 9×19 is not quite suitable for self-defense and the .45 ACP chambered pistol is larger in size and weight. If your preferences differ, it’s okay. You’ll learn with time if you’re lucky.

Therefore, I went to see my local gunshop owner – the honorable Clark Williams of Old Market Firearms in Hastings, Nebraska – and by the cunning artifice of throwing money at him, I prevailed upon him to order me such a sidearm. I picked it up last Wednesday (the fourth day of May in the year of our Lord 2011).

Upon receipt of the pistol and getting it home, I did look it over and read the owner’s manual. The manual describes the finish on the metal as “…corrosion resistant “Hostile Environment” blued finish…” It’s black. It’s the same color as the black “Corrosion proof fiber-reinforced polymer frame”. I mentioned earlier my distaste for new guns having to do with a lack of style and grace. This pistol does not have the flowing lines of a Smith & Wesson revolver or a Browning High Power or a classic Luger. It does have the business like look comparable to a Government Model – but without the simplicity of line or deep blue of finish. It has style, but it’s the style of a working pickup truck, not the style of a Mustang coupe. It’s not nearly as ‘clunky’ looking as the full size USP. The slide serrations are cast into the body of the slide, not machined like a classic Government Model. The hammer has an obvious seam mark from the casting process, as does the frame. The backstrap – integral with the frame – and the front strap have checkering cast into the frame. The side panels are also integral and feature a textured portion not unlike skateboard tape. As in nearly all modern polymer frame pistols, there is no provision for personalized grips. I suppose those faux ivory scrimshawed grips with the buxom lass holding a Confederate Battle Flag would be out of place anyway.

I examined the pistol for obvious defects, obstructions in the bore and general function checks. Not surprising, it all seemed normal. The controls are simple and direct. The trigger is deeply curved – reminds me a bit of the trigger from a Mauser HSc. The trigger pivots at the top as opposed to pushing rearward. There are three small ridges in the center of the trigger serving as ‘grooves’. I think I’d just as soon have it smooth, but I probably won’t mess with it. The slide stop is pretty normal; pretty tight to the frame but grooved so one’s finger or thumb can activate it. (Which always makes me wonder about those who demand the slide stop never be manually depressed to release the slide; why do manufacturers make them to so operate?) The slide stop is also the retainer for the slide in the same fashion as the Government Model. However, the retaining portion is located on the shaft, not the loose end. The manual thumb safety – ‘control lever’ – is tight to the frame but suitable for manipulation; both as safety and as decocker. Mine is set up for a right hander – just as well as I am right handed – and looks as if it could be reversed for a lefty. The parts list shows parts for an ambidextrous safety, but neither reversing the single lever or the ambidextrous option is discussed in the manual. The magazine release is ambidextrous. It releases the magazine when pressed down toward the bottom of the pistol on either side of the trigger guard at the frame. The magazine drops free without restraint. All the controls are pretty intuitive to one familiar with semi-automatic handguns. The possible exception being the magazine release and it’s not difficult to figure out, even without the manual.

I note with pleasure the trigger guard is squared off and grooved on the forward edge. Since I shoot with finger on trigger guard, I find it proper. I also take some amusement at those who decry the practice as outmoded or ineffective.

I took it to the range on May Fifth and shot it.

Scrounging a cardboard B27 target and a supply of ammunition suitable, off I went to the Four River’s Sportsmen’s Club just east of Hastings. I set up the target at what I understand to be the fifteen yard distance. Far enough to note any sight setting discrepancies and close enough to see what I’m doing.

I loaded the two magazines to full capacity. Need to make sure the magazines work full to empty. (Note to self: I probably want at least one more magazine and perhaps a total of five. At $35.00 each, I may have to budget for such purchase.) I have a stash of Winchester Ranger SXT 165 grain HP ammunition from when I carried the full size USP on duty. So that’s what I used.
Shooting from a standing, two-handed modified Weaver stance, the first five rounds went into a group the size of the X-ring, but slightly to the left of center. All in the 10 ring. Okay, at fifteen yards this should not be anything amazing. However, I took out my brass drift and hammer and gave the sight a whack in the appropriate direction. Another five shots showed me I whacked too hard. So I gave the sight half a whack back in the other direction. There. Centered to my satisfaction. Fifteen rounds of the SXT ammo while adjusting the sights and all in the 10 ring. (At near powder burn range admittedly, but shows promise.)
I dug into my ammo stash and pulled out some reloads I had put together some eight to ten years prior. Some 170 grain FMJ truncated point bullets over a suitable dose of WW231 powder. Not maximum pressure loads, but practice stuff that will operate the pistol reliably and shoot to the same point of impact as the SXT ammo. I also have some Oregon Trail cast lead 155 grain SWC bullets and some Bear Valley cast lead 180 grain truncated point bullets loaded in similar fashion; WW231 powder at moderate pressure levels.
I shot twelve rounds of each at the center of the target. All four loads – one factory and three reloads – all shoot to the same point of aim. At least at the fifteen yard mark.

My accuracy criteria for a concealed carry pistol is the gun and ammo must be capable of headshots at twenty-five yards. Before anyone gets all worked up, I’m not suggesting normal defense shooting will entail any shots at twenty-five yards, let alone a head shot. Nor am I suggesting I could perform such a shot under duress. (Actually, I probably could, but I hope never to determine the question.) It is merely a criteria for accuracy. If I know the pistol and ammunition is so capable, it gives me more confidence and will certainly deliver any reasonable shot I may have to attempt.

So I drug the target stand out to the twenty-five yard line and returned to the bench. Loading up five more of the Ranger SXT rounds, I carefully – using both hands – fired five rounds in a slow fire cadence at the head of the B27 target. Four shots went into a group 2”x2” and centered nicely on the head of the silhouette. The fifth shot (actually the fourth in the series) hit the head off to the right of the others, but still enough to ring the bell. I felt it pull off when I fired it. The pistol certainly passed the criteria.

I went out and pulled the target and stand back to the five yard area. Loading a mix of my reloads in the magazines, I fired twelve sets of shot ‘pairs’; one double action and the second single action. This duplicates the first two shots fired from the holster in a conventional DA/SA pistol.

To explain the exercise, the trigger finger movement is different between the double action pull and the single action pull. The late Jeff Cooper opined this was a near insurmountable problem and caused all sorts of unwanted side-effects including wild shots, loss of control and voting Democrat in extreme cases. Experience of numerous people, including your humble servant, have shown it is a problem but not so insurmountable as formerly thought.

The shot pairs I fired went monotonously into the high center area of the target, which is pretty much where I was pointing. This was – again for clarity – at a range of about five yards; no more than seven. This is not the sort of exercise one performs casually at twenty-five or fifty yards. The hits show to be most suitable for close up point shooting. To be fair to the late Brother Cooper, this is not the technique one would employ for a string of Timed or Rapid Fire on the NRA National Match Course.

Back to the USP Compact. I fired a total of sixty-eight rounds; twenty of the SXT and forty-eight of my mixed reloads. All rounds fed through the magazines, chambered, fired, impacted on target, extracted and ejected just like in the script. The empties landed mostly about ten feet to my right. (The firing line is cement, so the cases do bounce and roll.) Some three or four empties ejected to my left. These were NOT the final shot from the magazine; I’m at a loss to explain the phenomenon. However, it really doesn’t seem to make any real difference. Except to a fat guy who doesn’t bend well picking up the brass for reloading.

Looking at the fired factory loaded brass with a magnifier one can see scuff marks where the case was pulled from the chamber. One notes the firing pin impressions are off center; however, when aligned with the ejector mark – noted on some but not all cases – the firing pin seems to be striking just a bit high from center. Some, but not all primers show a firing pin drag mark; as if the firing pin was not fully retracted as the case was being ejected from the pistol. I’ve seen this on other pistols as well and have never been able to discern any difficulty or impending problems as a result.

Not directly related to the gun itself, I noted the cast bullet ammunition produced considerably more smoke than the jacketed ammunition. I pulled the barrel out following each string of cast bullets to examine for fouling. There is residue, but no discernable leading. A few passes with a bristle brush took out all the smudges in the barrel. As I examine the barrel sitting here in my office, I can find no sign of leading. The interior of the bore is bright and looks burnished or polished.

All in all, I’m very pleased with the pistol. It fits my hand(s), delivers a suitably strong blow accurately and doesn’t seem to be very finicky in function. I will be carrying this one a lot. I will be shooting it in the bi-weekly action pistol shoot at the gun club and probably in the bowling pin match as well.

Anyone considering a dedicated self-defense pistol for either home, concealed carry or even open carry is encouraged to look this firearm over and measure it against one’s own criteria and tastes. It’s a bit spendy, but so are hospital stays and funerals.

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