Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Year!!! The Centenial Year of the Colt Model M1911 has begun.

Best Wishes for a happy and propersous new year for you all!!! I'm working on some great Model 1911 centenial stories for next year. Don't forget this is the sesquicentenial of the start of the Civil War (War of Northern Agression)!! We'll talk aboaut some of those classic guns also! Now I'm going to take the rest of 2010 off........

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Vintage Clothes for Zoot Shooting

I've been working on my Zoot shooting clothes in anticipation for next spring and summer. So i'd thought I'd pass on what I have discovered. Here are several places to get some vintage style clothing. Here are the basics as I have discovered them.
1. Most vintage and vintage style clothing is quite expensive, and not durable enough for Zoot Shooting.
2. Reasonable rugged vintage style clothing can be had inexpensively if some research and hunting is done.
3. The essentials are a hat, shirt, tie, vest, pants and shoes/boots.
a. The typical hat associated with the period is the Fedora, prices range from $50 to $400 depending on quality. A great place to look is the Stetson Outlet Store in St. Joseph Missouri. Lesser cost options are the flat brimmed Straw Boater and Newsie Caps. A boater can be had for about $30 to $50 and a Newsie cap is about $15 to $45. It depends on the character’s look, but all of these will pass for period.
b. The next items are easy, a white dress shirt (long sleeve), dark tie, and suit vest . About any bargain brand will do and the shirt and tie can be found in thrift stores or Wall Mart. A skinny tie is preferable. The best deal I’ve found on a vest is in Burlington Coat Factory Stores. I purchased a dark gray suit vest for $10 off the rack.
c. Next are pants and a belt. Wall-mart, Dollar General , and thrift stores are a great source for pants. Dollar General and Wall-mart have new black canvas style work pants for about $10 a pair. These can pass for 1920s-30s pants. They don’t have to be a great fit and baggy is better. They make great shooting pants as they are rugged. Any black dress belt will do. These can be found in thrift stores. If the belt loops on the pants are 1 ½” the Cabela’s leather belt in brown or black is a great holster belt and will pass for a period belt.
d. Shoes. For the 20s and 30s traditional outdoor boots will pass. If shoes are needed here is one suggestion, Kmart sells Tom McAn Kent Leather Dress Oxfords for about $20. This is a great deal. Thrift stores usually sell nice looking dress shoes for $10 to $50 depending on style.
e. Overcoats, plain black wool overcoats can be had for attractive prices at Burlington Coat Factory.
f. Other clothing options can include bib overalls, and a straw hat or Newsie cap , boots. Or a law enforcement type of uniform.
g. Or a genuine “Zoot Suit” not prohibition period but a fun costume.

Other vintage clothing links

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Please accept my heartfelt wishes for a the very best to you and your family for the Holliday Season. I hope everyone is looking forward to a great year of shooting, and reading about great classic guns!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Odd Ball Calibers

Odd ball calibers. Back in the old days we used to call foreign, out of production, and obsolete cartridges, “odd ball calibers”. Usually these were old military numbers like 9mm Glisenti, 7.65 French Long, 8mm Nambu, 7.63 Mauser, 30 Luger, and the list goes on for both handguns and rifles. Old rifle cartridges like the 7.65Argintine, 7.35 Carcano, 50-70 Government, and 577-450 Martini-Henry were hard or impossible to get as loaded ammunition or as components. Now the new term is “exotic” calibers. That’s fine; I never like the term oddball anyway. Looking over my list of “exotic calibers” I own I came up with these, 30 Luger, 303 Brit, 30-40 Krag, 577-450 MH, 7mm Mauser, 7.65 Argentine, 7.5 French, 6.5x55 Swede Mauser, 7.35 Carcano, 32-20 Win, 32 Win Spl, 38 S&W, 380 Auto, 25 ACP, 38 Long Colt, 44 Special, 50 AE, 38 Super, 7.63 Mauser, 7.62x25, 8mm Nagant, 45 Auto Rim. Some of these calibers threw in the towel on because I just don’t shoot them enough to make hand loading economical; examples are 25 ACP, 8mm Nagant, 7.5 French, 7.35 Carcano.
I usually get pulled into exotic calibers because of the gun chambered for them. Watch the movie”Zulu” with Michael Cain and Stanley Baker and you’ll want a 577-450 Martini Henry. Then have a heart attack because of the price of ammo (if you can find any) or hand loading components. Another prize was a good deal I got on a 30 Luger. I made a great deal but when I saw the price of loaded ammo, I realized I’d been had. But since I love these guns and I am very interested in their historical periods, I just take the challenge and enjoy it.
One caliber that defies this model is 38-40 Winchester
Center Fire. The guns available for it are the standard fair for classic revolvers, Colts, Smith & Wesson and the like. I found a Ruger Blackhawk 38-40/10mm convertible, and I just had to experiment with the caliber. I like it very much and I find it useful, but did I need another six gun caliber? No but I wanted to be a member of the 38-40 WCF club. It’s a great caliber and a nice gun.
I also had the opportunity to buy an original Winchester 1873rifle, made in 1889, a number of years ago. I came from a family I knew as boy in the very rural area where I grew up. The only problem was its chambering, 32-20 WCF, another exotic ! Well, its yet another project, and I’m still working on it.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Top of the List!!!!!

1. Colt 1911 Pistol. Simply the best. A pistol that crosses the ages, disciplines, and is a genuine legend. Every new auto pistol is compared to the Model 1911. It has ergonomics that have become standard. It served for an unprecedented 75+ years as our service automatic. The Model 1911 has served our military with distinction everywhere, from its first operations in Mexico, to the swan song in Desert Storm It can be a police sidearm (It serves as the sidearm of elite SWART and hostage rescue teams), or is a first rate target pistol, or an uber-reliable competition race gun. It Still one of the thinnest and most concealable full size .45s. The Model 1911 also introduced the legendary and most popular .45 ACP cartridge, the best auto pistol cartridge ever devised. It has been successfully cut down to compact and sub compact sizes. It’s been around and can do it all as the best. It’s something to be said that every manufacturer that has the capacity manufactures a Model 1911 pistol in some form. Each year a new manufacturer introduces a M1911 to the market, incredible for a 99 year old design.

2. The M1 Rifle. The greatest battle implement ever devised. The m1 rifles reputation for excellence is second to none. The M1 brought the Axis to its knees and armed many countries in the free world during the early days of the cold war. It was the backbone weapon of the UN forces during the Korean War, and it served in the early days of the Vietnam War. It lasted until the mid 1970s in the hand of the National Guard was routinely seen in the hands of guardsmen during the upheavals of the 1960s. Once released to civilians, the M1 has become a great target rifle and a historical treasure gifted from the greatest generation.

3. The Mauser Model 1898 rifle. The rifle is the progenitor of all modern bolt action rifles. It’s been produced in numbers that exceed even the AK-47. Mauser 98 rifles served everywhere, China to South America, Europe and Africa. Mauser 98s are still seen in trouble spots around the world. It may be the most durable and reliable rifle ever made.

4. The S&W K frame Revolver. The hand gun for everyone, the K frame in its many incarnations was on the belt of nearly every policeman for 6 or 7 decades. A favorite of target shooters and sportsmen, military aviators, federal agents, and ordinary citizens, it was simply known as a Smith & Wesson .38 Special. Reasonably powerful, uncommonly accurate, very durable and reliable, it’s nearly the perfect revolver.

5. The AR-15 Rifle. Some people hate it, some people love it, and everybody fears it. The AR-15 has become Americas’ rifle. A 50 year old space age design that used new design principles and materials. It has evolved into a world beater that is the most modular and accessorized rifle in existence. The AR-15s ergonomics are second to none, even it potential successors have AR-15 style grips and controls. It also introduced the now nearly world standard 5.56 NATO cartridge. Although produced in smaller numbers that its arch rival the AK-47, the AR-15 trumped the enemy when the AK redesigned to become “AR” like, including a new cartridge which approximated the performance of the 5.56.

6. The Winchester Model 12 Shotgun. The first modern pump shotgun it dominated the market for 50 years. It was discontinued because it was too good (and expensive). The Winchester Model 12 embodied the quality of design, materials, and manufacture of a 20th century classic firearm.

7. The S&W N frame Revolver. This is another copout. The N-frame covers great revolvers from the Triple Lock to the new scandium frame PDs, included are such giants as the Model 29 (Dirty Harry anyone?), the 357 Registered Magnum, the Model 1917, the Model 625, 38-44 Outdoorsman, Model 28 Highway Patrolman, and the list goes on. All these great are based on the great lock work and smooth action of the N-frame. It’s the gold standard of revolvers.

8. The M14/M1A rifle. These two are grouped together because they are so much alike. The M14/M1a was the last great American wood and steel battle rifle. It has the best iron sights, trigger pull, and reliability of the 7.62 battle rifles. Its short range power and long range accuracy have made it the choice of people wanting a versatile, powerful rifle. It’s no accident that the M14/M1A dominated service rifle target ranges for decades. Nor is it an accident that 40 years after it was replaced as the U.S. Military’s general issue rifle, the M14 continues to soldier on during the Global War on Terror.

9. The Luger Pistol. The first practical service automatic sized handgun. The Luger was adopted by Switzerland, German and others in fairly short order. The Luger is also the number one war souvenir pistol all time. Remarkably, the Luger continued in Finnish service until the 1980s. It introduced the now world standard 9mm cartridge and the interesting, but seldom seen, 30 Luger.

10. Colt Single Action Army Revolver. The Colt SAA is the benchmark for all other modern revolvers. It is one of the most recognizable handguns in the world. It has nearly perfect balance, good trigger pull, ease of loading and shooting. It has served as the pattern for subsequent single action revolvers. Every new single action is compared to the 1973 Single Action Army, and usually found slightly wanting, in one way or another.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Only 10 left on the countdown.

11. The Remington Model 700 rifle. This rifle is the great bolt action of the late 20th century. It’s success as a hunting rifle and as a military sniper rifle are storied. The Remington 700 is the gold standard for modern bolt action rifles. Nearly every custom rifle manufacturer has or currently uses the 700 action as a basis. From simple no frills hunting rifles, to cutting edge sniper rifles, the Remington 700 does it all.

12. The M1903/03A3 Springfield Rifle. It’s a legend. The Springfield 1903 introduced us to another legend the 30-06 cartridge. Through two world wars as a battle rifle, and subsequent conflicts as a sniper rifle, the Springfield and its variants performed superbly. It was responsible for introducing millions of Americans to the bolt action rifle, and a high performance cartridge. The name 1903 Springfield evokes rifle excellence.

13. The Model 1847 Colt Walker. This was the first great Colt revolver, built after the success of the underpowered and fragile, but successful Colt Patterson. The Colt Walker and it descendent, the Colt Dragoon were true horse pistols, carried in pommel holsters mounted on saddles. The Walker and Dragoon held powerful powder charges (60 grains for the Walker and 50grains for the slightly smaller Dragoon. They were both sufficiently accurate and powerful to bring down a enemy’s horse.

14. The Model 1873 Winchester. This long lived lever gun was made by Winchester from 1873 to 1920. It was the “Gun that Won the West”. Today great versions are made by Italian gun makers and are heavily used in Cowboy action shooting. An icon of gun collecting are “One in One Thousand” special order Winchester 1873 rifles.

15. Colt Model 1903 Pistol. This hugely successful auto pistol set the standard for pocket automatics for forty years. Introduced in 1903 when the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk, the Model 1903 was produced until the dawn of the jet age. It was a movie star in the 1920s and 1930s, appearing in numerous films, and it was issued as personal protection to U.S. Military General officers in WW II.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The next 5, only 3 installments left!

16. Winchester Model 1894 Rifle. The Winchester 94 was the first center fire rifle for millions of Americans, and I’m one of them. Something like 6 million have been produced over 110+ years. The 94 in its iconic 30-30 cartridge, proprietary 32 Winchester Special, and early 38-55 was powerful in a light package. However, it has manageable recoil and is pleasant to shoot.

17. The Sharps Rifle. The sharps rifle and its variants were an early breach loader design that evolved from percussion caps to metallic cartridges. It was the quintessential light weight cavalry carbine in the Civil War, heavy long range target rifle that was victorious at Creedmoor, and destroyer of the great buffalo herds. Quite possible the most versatile rifle ever. It has enjoyed a rebirth, and is possible the finest black powder target rifle ever made.

18. Browning High Power Pistol. This masterpiece was designed by John M. Browning and D. Saive and was produced first in 1935. The BHP was produced and used by both the Allies and the Axis in WWII and served world-wide since. It’s still in the hands of the Canadian Army (and possibly others) in the war on terror. The simple fixed cam design, high magazine capacity, and ergonomic grip have been incorporated in almost every pistol design since.

19. The Mauser C-96 “Broom handle” Pistol. The C-96 was designed when nobody really knew what an auto pistol should look like. As there were no viable designs to copy from, the Mauser C-96 is completely original. It’s simple grip earned it the nickname “Broom handle”. The broom handle looks like a it came to like from Jules Verne or H.G. Wells novel. Although the design is awkward and unconventional, the Broom handle is very accurate and reliable. It was on nearly every battlefield in the world from 1898 to 1945.

20. The double barrel shotgun. There are so many different makers of the SxS shotgun that I’ve grouped them all here. In every western movie, the double barrel graces the stagecoach and saloon. For nearly 100 years from the 1850s to the 1950s the double barrel was the shotgun most people relied on to put game on the table and protect the home.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Over half way!

This is the fifth installment of a countdown of the 50 greatest classic firearms of all time. I have eliminated guns that are not generally available to the American public, such as the select fire Soviet AK-47 and World War II German STG-44 assault rifles. To make this list, the firearm in question has to be available to the public, made a significant contribution to the shooting sports or the national defense. Here are the next five.

21. Colt Model 1851 Navy Revolver. This beauty was the first widespread belt revolver. The design descended from the magnificent Colt Dragoon, scaled to .36 Caliber. The 1851 Navy is still one of the best balanced and best pointing revolvers ever made. Used by Wild Bill Hickok and other shootists of the old west, the legend of the 1851 Navy is immense.

22. The FN FAL Rifle. The FAL used in over 90 countries, then unceremoniously dumped in favor of 5.56 weapons. Their loss was our gain. The FAL performed brilliantly on the battlefield, especially in the Falklands. This success was duplicated in thousands of surplus parts kits and rifles built on semi auto receivers that put inexpensive FALs in the sights of American shooters. The FAL is a 1950s-60s classic that has put excellent performance in our hands today.

23. British Lee Enfield Rifle. From Queen Victoria to the Mau-Mau insurgents, this rifle defended the empire. It has continued to soldier on in India, Pakistan, Africa, and against the Soviets in Afghanistan. On our shores, 40+ years of surplus sales have made the SMLE and its variants classics. AS game getters, the SMLE has taken for every type of North American game, it can also operate in the harshest climate and conditions.

24. U.S. Model 1917 Rifle. The rifle nobody wanted, over and over again. When it was apparent to the “Brass’ that there were not nearly enough 1903 Springfield rifles for WWI, this British design was modified for the 30-06 round and put into service. It equipped 75% if the American troops in France in 1918. The M1917 put into war reserve and called out again in WWII. Mainly used for training in the U.S. a few got overseas with our troops. Mostly, though, it fought with our allies, British, French, Chinese, and Fillipino. After the war it was used in Denmark.

25. Ruger Blackhawk Revolver. This was the first real update of the classic Colt 1873 Peacemaker. Coil springs, adjustable sights, and a beefy frame made the Blackhawk capable of high pressure loads and incredible durability. Blackhawks made in the late 1950s are still banging away with few if any problems, these guns just do not wear out.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The next 5!

This is the nextinstallment of a countdown of the 50 greatest classic firearms of all time. I have eliminated guns that are not generally available to the American public, such as the select fire Soviet AK-47 and World War II German STG-44 assault rifles. To make this list, the firearm in question has to be available to the public, made a significant contribution to the shooting sports or the national defense.

26. The Desert Eagle Pistol. This is the king of auto pistols. The most powerful and the most visually striking auto pistol ever made. It’s been featured in more movies and TV shows than I can count. The great thing about the Desert Eagle is that it works and that it is deadly accurate and powerful. All of that performance comes with a price of weight and exclusive use of jacketed bullets for its gas system and polygon rifling. It is the auto pistol for hand gun hunters. The DE is rugged and simple to operate and maintain. Over the years it’s been offered in a variety of calibers, most famously, the 50 Action Express. The 50 AE was the first commercial mass produced 50 Caliber handgun cartridge. Finishes come from a stealthy black oxide to a wild gold titanium tiger stripe.

27. The CZ-75 Pistol. The Cz-75 sent shivers up peoples spines in the 1970s. How could a bunch of communists come up with such a simple, robust, and effective design? They were smart, that’s how. By taking some great design elements from the Browning Hi Power, the Sig 210, and the Walther P.38 , they created one the best pistol designs of the late 20th century. Pistol legends such as Jeff Cooper and Chuck Taylor extolled it virtues. The CZ-75 is still considered excellent and agree.

28. The Walther P.38 Pistol. The Walther P.38 was the first large double action service pistol adopted for military use. It has set the trend for all modern pistols that are carried with a round in the chamber. The P.38 is also a movie star, being seen in nearly every WWII movie. It functioned well with blanks and has a modern, sinister appearance. So many were brought back by returning servicemen at the end of WW II, that for years the P.38 could be had inexpensively on the used gun market. The post war versions of the P.38 were used by the German Government until the early 1990s, and have since been on the U.S. civilian gun market.

29. The Walther PP & PPK Pistols. These pistols introduced the shooting public to practical, sleek and concealable double action pocket pistols. They a just exude coolness and sophistication, even James Bond used one. The German police and military used them until the 1980s. Discriminating shooters and undercover law enforcement agents have carried the PPK and PPK/s (stateside version) for decades. The PP and PPK are the pocket pistols by which all others are judged.

30. Remington 870 Shotgun. This was the shotgun for the 2nd half of the 20th century. Both police and civilian flocked to this gun and made it exceedingly popular. It may be the most produced American shotgun. The 870 has a unique blend of quality, reliability and affordability that makes it a classic.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The next 5 of the 50.

This is the fourth installment of a countdown of the 50 greatest classic firearms of all time. I have eliminated guns that are not generally available to the American public, such as the select fire Soviet AK-47 and World War II German STG-44 assault rifles. To make this list, the firearm in question has to be available to the public, made a significant contribution to the shooting sports or the national defense. Here are the next five.

31. Winchester Model 1897 Shotgun. This was the first modern pump action shotgun. A refinement of the model 1893 pump shotgun, the ‘97 has achieved legendary status among civilians, police, and the military. It has served with distinction in two World Wars. The ’97 set the standards for durability and reliability for all subsequent pump shotguns.

32. The Browning Automatic Rifle. This is not the military BAR, but a civilian rifle of the same name. The civilian BAR was a very successful chambered in magnum calibers such as 300 Winchester magnum and 338 Winchester magnum. A first for a hunting style semi automatic rifle. In addition, the BAR is uncommonly accurate for a semi automatic rifle.

33. Springfield Model 1922 Rifle. This was the first modern and a great .22 LR bolt action target rifle. It still feels better than anything made since (at least to me). The rifle was superbly accurate and it’s just a joy to shoot. Unknown thousands were introduced to target shooting by this sleek rifle. Since it comes from an age of quality and craftsmanship, the Springfield M1922 is very well made masterpiece.

34. High Standard .22 Pistol. This Series which evolved into the Hi Standard Citation, Victor and Olympic models were America’s true world class .22 target pistols in the 1950s and 1960s. They are highly accurate, and excellent trigger pulls, and great Iron sights. They were mainstays during the hay day of bulls eye pistol shooting. The Hi Standard has withstood the test of time and is still competitive in bulls eye shooting today.

35. Kentucky Rifle. This distinctly American weapon actually evolved in Pennsylvania but gained fame on the frontier as the Kentucky rifle. Its large caliber, robust construction, and outstanding accuracy made it a natural for hunting and defense in North America. It’s the gun that gave us the title “A nation of riflemen”.

Monday, November 15, 2010

3rd installment of the top 50 guns of all time!

This is the third installment of a countdown of the 50 greatest classic firearms of all time. I have eliminated guns that are not generally available to the American public, such as the select fire Soviet AK-47 and World War II German STG-44 assault rifles. To make this list, the firearm in question has to be available to the public, made a significant contribution to the shooting sports or the national defense. Here are the next five.

36. U.S. Model 1861 Rifle Musket. This rifle was a stone killer in the civil war. It was used by both sides and set a standard for accuracy and power that following military rifles were forced to live up to. Although it was time consuming and dangerous to load (the loader had to stand up to seat the powder and ball. It was supremely reliable and durable. I had become an icon in American history.

37. Henry rifle. The Henry was the first practical lever action rifle. Had the North used it in large numbers during the Civil War, it might have changed history. The Henry did, however, set the pattern for subsequent lever guns like the Winchester 1866 and 1873. For 1860 technology, it was simply a marvel.

38. M1 Carbine. This handy little rifle has held a special place in shooters hearts for years. Designed as a replacement for the pistol, the M1 carbine was lightweight and reliable. The M1 carbine’s service in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, has made it a sought after collectable. It’s detractors point out the weakness and lack of stopping power of the .30 M1 carbine cartridge. But to many Americans, its flaws are forgivable. The M1 carbine introduced shooters to military style semi automatic firearms with detachable magazines. The M1 carbine set the standard for intermediate cartridge self defense rifles.

39. Mosin Nagant M 91 rifle. The long obsolete Mosin Nagant can still be found on distant battlefields today. Not as a primary battle rifle, but as a sniper rifle, militia or police rifle. Tens of millions were produced by Tzarist Russia, the Soviet Union, Red China, and even a number under contract in the United States during World War I. Thousands have been sold to American sportsmen and civilian shooters at very attractive prices over the last two decades. To people on a budget, the Mosin Nagant 1891 series of rifles and carbines has opened the door to high power rifle shooting.

40. Remington Rolling block rifle. The Rolling Block was the perennial “2nd place” rifle of the 19th century. It was second to the legendary Sharps in fame during the great era of buffalo hunting. The Rolling Block also placed second to the Trapdoor Springfield series of rifles in U.S. service. However, the Rolling Block accrued a very respectable number of foreign military contracts and it was used all over the world in latter half of the 19th century. The rolling block also did something that the Sharps and Trapdoor could not do, it was successfully adapted to smokeless powder cartridges. In 7mm Spanish Mauser, it was sold in numbers to Mexico and in Central America. As late as World War I, the French purchased Rolling Blocks in 8mm Lebel for rear echelon troops. Not bad for an 1868 Black Powder design.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

More of the 50!

This is another installment of a countdown of the 50 greatest classic firearms of all time. I have eliminated guns that are not generally available to the American public, such as the select fire Soviet AK-47 and World War II German STG-44 assault rifles. To make this list, the firearm in question has to be available to the public, made a significant contribution to the shooting sports or the national defense. Here are the next five.

41. Weatherby Mark V Rifle. This is a Cadillac of big game rifles. The Weatherby tell everyone that its owner is serious, well heeled, and successful. The Weatherby had its own special cartridges, the word Weatherby on the end of a cartridge designation means extra POWER. For years, the Weatherby was standard equipment for top big game hunters. It’s the Rolex of hunting rifles.

42. Ruger .22 Automatic Pistol. This item put Ruger on the map and provided the public with a rugged, reliable, and low cost .22 pistol. It has served as a basis for hunting and target .22 automatics to the present day. The Ruger has become the best in it’s class.

43. Beretta M 92/M9 Pistol. The pistol that finally unseated the Colt Model 1911A1 as a U.S. service arm. The M9 has been derided by 1911 fans since its introduction. However, it’s performance that counts, and the M9 delivers. It’s had a few problems, overblown problem with a few cracked slides in the 1980s, and some bad magazines (not the fault of Beretta!) in Iraq. The pistol is deadly accurate and highly reliable. The Beretta M9 is the quiet professional.

44. U.S. Krag Rifle. The U.S. Army’s first modern smokeless powder bolt action rifle. Although it was quickly obsolete, the Krag acquitted itself well in the Spanish American War and the Boxer Rebellion. The Krag introduced American shooters to the modern bolt action rifle. It is still revered for it quality of manufacture, great cartridge (30-40 Krag), smoothness, and accuracy.

45. Colt Detective Special Revolver. The first and most famous modern snub nose revolver. The Detective Special has it all, power, concealment, and 6 shots. The detective special set the pattern for all “snubbies” to follow. Plus, it has had a great movie career since its introduction in 1927.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Countdown of the 50 greatest guns.

This is a countdown of the 50 greatest classic firearms of all time. I have eliminated guns that are not generally available to the American public, such as the select fire Soviet AK-47 and World War II German STG-44 assault rifles. To make this list, the firearm in question has to be available to the public, made a significant contribution to the shooting sports or the national defense. From the bottom to the top, here are the first five.

46. S&W Chiefs Special Revolver. For years this small revolver was the gun carried by police chiefs, detectives, undercover operatives, and other armed professionals. The Chief’s Special was also popular with civilians; doctors, lawyers, and businessmen carried the chief’s special. It’s J-frame descendents are still excellent choices for concealed carry.

47. Browning Baby Pistol. This little .25 ACP pistol was the standard for deep concealment for decades. It’s a gun that could be carried concealed when everything else was too big. The Baby Browning was also a great back up gun, the modern equivalent of the derringer. After it could no longer be imported after 1968, several companies tried to copy it, but the quality and reliability of the original were never equaled.

48. Colt Python Revolver. The Python is the finest double action revolver ever made. From 1955 to the end of production in 1999, the Python was essentially hand built and fitted in the Colt factory. This resulted in the smoothest double action ever in a factory gun. Coupled with the best styling (ventilated rib and royal blue finish) and outstanding accuracy, the Python was and is a winner. It’s Colt classiest snake.

49. Ithaca Model 37 Shotgun. The first true pump action ambidextrous design, the Model 37 was the successor to the Winchester Model 97 trench gun and the Model 12 trench gun in the military. It was a regular item in police cars for decades. It’s a rugged and useful design for civilian hunting applications. The Model 37s’ high quality of manufacture gave the Model 37 excellent reputation for durability and reliability.

50. Winchester Model 1895 Rifle. This was a favorite of Theodore Roosevelt. In the potent .405 caliber, it accounted for African Lions and other dangerous game. In 30-40 Krag (.30 Caliber U.S. Government), the Model 1895 served law enforcement and was a private purchase item used by military officers in the Spanish American War. It’s greatest accomplishment, was the nearly 300,000 that served Tzarist Russia in 7.62x54 caliber. This was probably the largest military use of lever action rifles in history. It was the last and the best of the 19th century lever action rifles.

Friday, November 5, 2010

45 Auto Rim: The unloved lovely.

It’s ironic that one of the best revolver cartridges is descended from an auto pistol. It’s also ironic that it’s one of the least known and least popular revolver cartridges. But that’s the way it is with the .45 Auto Rim (.45 AR). Even the cartridge development was backwards. Usually revolvers introduce new cartridges or and are redesigned for existing ones , in this case the revolver existed for 4 years before the cartridge was introduced.
This happened, because the in 1917, the United States declared war on the Central Powers. We were short of weapons of all types. We had the best combat handgun in the world, the Model 1911 .45 Automatic, but we did not have enough, nor could enough be made in time. Smith & Wesson chambered their large N frame revolver for the 45 ACP cartridge used in the Model 1911 pistol. Since the .45 ACP does not have a rim, it did not extract from double action swing out cylinder revolvers. A spring steel half moon clip was developed to hold the cartridges and engage the extractor. A collateral benefit was ease in loading or speed loading in combat situations. Both Colt and Smith & Wesson chambered their revolvers for the war effort and thousands served in the trenches with distinction.
After the war, a number of surplus Colt and Smith & Wesson Model 1917 were available, as well as post war production from Smith & Wesson. The .45 Auto rim cartridge was introduced in 1921 as a way to lead the revolvers with a conventional cartridge without the using the half moon clips. The .45 Auto Rim is exactly that a 45 ACP with a large thick rim. It can be hand loaded using .45 ACP data but it can handle 250 gr. bullets as well as full wad cutter designs.
Handguns chambered in .45 Auto Rim usually possess uncommon accuracy, easy to hand load, shoot well with cast bullets, have mild recoil. It may be unloved, but it’s a winner.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The AZSA link to us.

Special thanks to The American Zoot Shooters Association (AZSA) and a hearty welcome to visitors from the AZSA site. The AZSA has added Old School Guns to their links. This is an honor for me and I hope it will generate interest in classic firearms and their use in Zoot Shooting. It’s great to have a shooting sport that focuses on these great pre 1939 guns and a very interesting and romantic era in our history. The 1920s and 1930s had it all, great guns, great cars, great movies, great radio, and great fashion. It also had the Great Depression, which gave rise to some of the most exciting criminals and lawmen in our history. I have a feeling this is going to be great.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Thompson Model 1927A1

I always loved the gun that made the 20s roar. I grew up watching “The Untouchables” on TV. Robert Stack as Elliot Ness was my hero. Of course, if I had been of drinking age, I might have had different priorities! A long time ago, the prices for the original full auto Thompsons went way out of sight and my price range. I resigned myself to one on the long barrel semi auto M1927A1. Boy I’m glad I did. When I saw the machining on the finned barrel and the deep blue in the compensator I was very impressed. Overall quality was very high. It was like taking a trip back in time.

That was over 15 years ago, and I’m still crazy about the M1927A1. I have found a few things I would correct, the wood was not as contoured on the vertical grip as are the originals, the butt stock is more like the later M1 Thompson, and the rear sight was not the Lyman adjustable site that was on the original Model 1928 Thompson. So, I bit the bullet and changed out the site for an original Lyman, the butt stock and vertical grip will be addressed at a later date. The Lyman sights can be found for about $200 as of this writing. If you need one, get it now, they won’t be around forever.
There is no felt recoil, and the Model 1927A1 is very accurate. It fires the legendary 45 ACP cartridge and happily, it digests lead round nosed bullets without a problem. The hardest job is loading the magazines. The 50 round drum is a hoot, but it really is heavy. Since the Model 1927A1 fires from the closed bolt position, removing the empty drum is difficult and required the use of an metal “ third hand” device available from Auto Ordnance. The price is $7.00 and here’s the link;

The Thompson is big, heavy, beautifully made, and a classic in every sense. I can’t think of a gun that is more fun. Kahr Arms, which now owns Auto Ordnance, makes a couple of versions of the Model 1927A1. They include the standard model, a lightweight model with an aluminum receiver, a WW II military model and pa parkerized “Commando” model with black wood. There is also the factory made short barreled rifle(SBR) that can be purchased with additional BATF-E paperwork (in most states). The cost of this SBR is $2,500, a lot less than the conversion cost for a standard Model 1927A1. Very fun!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Up swing in activity!

This blog is catching on. Feel free to leave comments or become a follower and get the latest information. Here are some places on the web I go to get information.
For Zoot Shooting and the 1920s-1930s lifestyle I go to:
For Cowboy action and Western History:
For military rifles and pistols:
For single actions and black powder:

Monday, October 18, 2010

I took the plunge and joined the Zoot Shooters.

A few weeks ago I wrote about a new shooting sport centered on fun and enjoyment called Zoot Shooting. I took the plunge and joined and I can’t wait to get started, first match for me will be in the spring. The emphasis is on 1920s-1930s costuming and the fun of shooting some classic firearms like the M1927 Thompson and the Model 1911. However, there are a large number of great classic firearms that fit the period and cost a lot less. Some great values are .38 special revolvers made by Colt and Smith & Wesson; these can be found with at used gun counters all over the country at attractive prices.
As long as it is mechanically sound, these guns with some finish wear will look and perform great in Zoot Shooting. The list is too long to name but the number of firearms available as pre 1939 style is immense. Of course the gun can be of later manufacture as long as it is in approximate 1939 configuration. There is a place for revolvers and semi autos, and I think there is no clear advantage to either. For CAS shooters, the usual cowboy guns (revolvers and rifles) will work just fine, in fact so will some of the leather.
For rifles, the Thompson is available and reasonably affordable; Winchester Model 92 clones are plentiful and comparatively inexpensive. A few of the more interesting choices would be the Winchester M1907 semi auto rifle and stocked Mauser or Luger pistols.
Zoot Shooting has not yet added stages or defined in the rules which shotguns might be eligible. Cowboy double barrel and lever shotguns and the Winchester 1893,1897, 1912, would seem logical, along with Remington, Stevens, and Ithaca offerings could be very interesting.
I think the best advice is to assemble the guns now, and avoid the rush later on.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Great War

The trenches, a cold, wet, muddy world of barren landscapes, where the air was filled with poison gas, and angry steel tornados. Death, heroism, and desperation were everywhere. The trenches were the inspiration for Tolkien’s middle earth. A barren pitiless world, it was a model for Armageddon. A whole generation was lost there. It was hell on earth, which we can only imagine or see in nightmares. The Great War, it touched lives around the globe, it changed the physical and political face of two continents. It was the graveyard of several empires.
I have several guns from the Great War. Their history is unknown, except for one. I know its history; it was there in the trenches. I know this because my Grandfather carried it “Over There” and back. It’s been in our family since it was issued to my Grandfather, an Army Officer, in early 1916. He was part of the Army of the West, whose last operation was the pursuit of Poncho Vila after the infamous raid on Columbus, New Mexico.
This pistol stayed with my Grandfather from the heat and dust of Mexico to the mud of France, and 30 years beyond. It’s really in remarkable shape considering its journey through an incursion into Mexico and two World Wars. The pistol is a testament to Colt’s manufacturing and of course, John M. Browning’s timeless design. This particular one was made in 1914, almost 97 years ago. The pistol’s wear and scars bear witness to the desperate circumstances of the war. It barked at the enemy, and was in my Grandfather’s hand when he was grazed by a machinegun bullet. Now, it sits in a quiet and admired retirement. But make no mistake, it can still kick out 7 rounds of 45 ACP was well as it did in 1918. The very few people who I let view ot hold it ask me how much it’s worth. Of course, it’s priceless.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

People are Reading and Watching!

This blog has had an increasing number of page views since its inception in late august. We’re up over 600! If you like what you see please comment. If you disagree please comment also. I love the classic firearms of years past and I like to recall their times and adventures. Please recommend us to others! I believe there is a whole world of great guns that have been pushed to the background by modern tactikool fads. Somehow a U.S. Krag Carbine excites me more that a TAPCO cluttered AK.
I also believe that while firearms serve a serious purpose, guns should also be fun, a connection to history and our nation’s exciting past, and a bridge to the next generation of shooters. Take a kid shooting! After safety and marksmanship fundamentals, encourage them to shoot the guns of history. Even in a video game infested world, the real thing still has magic. They will remember these times for life.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Colt Style Cap and Ball Revolvers

I really enjoy shooting Cap and Ball revolvers. They are in some ways the essence of “Classic Firearms”. There are several things to know if you want to have a trouble free shooting session with cap and ball revolvers. First, don’t use petroleum base lubricants, I have found that they encourage fouling and have poor performance. Thompson Center Bore Butter is an excellent lubricant. There are also good non petroleum based cleaners on the market, if you have a Cabelas or Bass Pro Shops near you these can be bought off the shelf. Second, know how to safely handle, load, and disassemble your revolver. Follow all the safety rules for shooting any other firearm. Third, here are items, supplies and techniques I have used:

o Hornady "One Shot" Muzzleloader Cleaner and Lube Protect ant
T/C Bore Butter
o Mobil 1 synthetic grease.
o Crisco (inexpensive), or Ox-Yoke revolver seals (sort of expensive), or Cabelas BP lubricant
o Lubricated Felt Wads
How to lubricate a Cap and ball revolver for shooting.
o I lubricate the revolver by putting lubricant on a patch and running it in the bore and each chamber (not too much).
o I also put lubricant on the revolver base pin, and a little on the front of the cylinder.
o I place a very little on the nipple threads prior to instillation.
o Lubricants I‘ve used are Mobil 1 synthetic grease (a non traditional lube) and Thompson Bore Butter. I can also make a good one with 1/3 olive oil and 2/3 bees wax.
o I make sure the nipples are clean and not blocked (either by firing caps with and EMPTY chamber or using the straightened paper clip).
o Hornady swaged lead balls (.375 for .36 Cal) (.451 or .454 for my .44 cal 1860 Army revolvers) (.454 or.457 for the Walker and Dragoon revolvers).

Propellants and Caps
o Remington #10 percussion caps (very good caps)
o Pyrodex "P" grade Black Powder Substitute
o .44 cal Pyrodex 30 grain pistol pellets for my 1860 .44s
o Goex FFFG Black Powder
o American Patriot Powder BP Substitute
o I use Goex FFFG black powder as it is the most accurate I've tried. I have found that Pyrodex P is nearly as good as Goex FFFG. I've used APP (formerly "Clean Shot") but it is not as accurate. Remington #10 caps work well in revolvers and they're hotter that other brands giving good ignition. I’m still experimenting with Pyrodex 30 grain pellets.

o Nipple Wrench for Walker /Dragoon and a smaller one for 1851/1860 models
o Spare pistol nipples (sometimes sold with the wrench in a packaged deal.) The best nipples are Treso bronze nipples, but I use Uberti and Pietta successfully also.
o Powder flask (type and style is up to you)
o Powder measure or an empty spent 38 Special casing (44 Special for 44 cal)
o Paper clip straightened out (to clean nipples in the revolver)
o Capper for percussion caps

• To charge the revolver, I use a powder measure to measure the FFFG BP or Pyrodex P for each chamber. I go from the flask to the measure. I use a felt wad seated by the loading lever, and then I seat the ball with the loading lever. I cap the chamber with Mobile 1 grease, Crisco, or an Ox-yoke .36 revolver seal. Make sure the revolver cylinder turns freely (i.e. the balls are seated deep enough) Repeat for each chamber. The revolver must be on half cock for this operation.

• To cap the revolver, I use a capper and cap each nipple, I use a small piece of soft wood or antler to give the cap a second push to make sure it's fully seated.

• After the revolver is fully capped and loaded it's ready to cock and fire. In between loadings it’s a good idea to clean the nipples with the paperclip. There are other ways to load these great old revolvers, some people do not use the felt wads, and it's possible to use to make combustible paper cartridges for them. I never lead from the flask to the chamber, that's why I use a cartridge case as a measure.

• Given the difference in revolvers and techniques, the revolver will have to be cleaned at intervals if it's being shot all day. In my experience it's every 18 to 30 rounds.

Some Tips
o Keep your supplies organized in a good shooting box; this is especially important if several calibers are being shot.
o Chain fire prevention. Chain fires occur (they are very rare) when two chamber ignite at the same time. To prevent this make sure your ball shaves a little lead circle when being seated in the chamber. This will seal the chamber. Next, make sure the percussion caps are a snug fit on the nipples. Caps and nipples vary so some experimentation may be required to find the correct combination for a particular revolver.
o Keep your eye on the wedge on Colt type revolvers. It can work loose during shooting and cause a misfire or fall out of the revolver.
o Keep a rag handy in your shooting box. It helps remove fouling during the shooting session.
o Most Colt style cap and ball revolvers shoot high at normal pistol ranges. If in doubt aim low until you can see the point of impact.
o Lead balls tend to bounce off hard (metal) targets
o Keep a screwdriver set handy as screws may loosen during the shooting session.
o HAVE FUN!!! These revolvers are a unique way to experience history.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

It happened to me.

An encounter with the bad people (there is no dramatic shoot out or heroes in this story). Here is some background. This goes back to my pre driving mid teenage years, the Vietnam War was ending and Richard Nixon was just reelected President of the United States. In attitudes and actions it was a different world than what we have today. I lived on my parents’ cattle ranch in a large rural county (the kind where law enforcement took at least an hour to arrive if called). It was modest, working cattle ranch, with large open spaces, where I could roam, and hunt. I had a list of daily chores after school that included feeding animals, repairing fences, and other maintenance tasks.
My parents were in town with my younger brother and my older brother was due back from college late that evening. In this low crime environment, being on the ranch by myself for a few hours was not a big deal. I usually hunted birds, squirrels, or just plinked in the afternoons after the chores were done.
One fall day after school, I was repairing an irrigation ditch next to the county road, a simple but, wet and muddy task. Due to the nature of the work, I didn’t have my usual companion, a lever action .22 rifle with me. I frequently carried my .22 rifle in the afternoon for snakes, or squirrels. But when in the mud, the .22 was left in the house.
While finishing the work in the muddy ditch, I heard the unmistakable sound of crack!, crack!, crack!, from a .22 rifle. I looked in the direction of the sound and about 200 yards away was a car on the county road and one man was shooting at some of our cattle in the pasture. This is a very big deal in cattle country, cows and calves represent significant value and economic investment. In a flash the car was heading down the county road towards me at high speed. I was separated from the concealment of trees and safety of the house by two fences and the road. I crossed these but the car was so fast that I was only 20 feet from the road as the car arrived. I could not get away fast enough. I looked back as it slowed down, three men (late teens early 20s) were inside looking at me grinning and yelling something like “-------be back” and pointing their fingers at me like hand guns (index fingers as barrels and thumbs like hammers) the way a child would. They speeded away and I got a partial license number.
I ran back to the house, not really knowing what to do first, our telephone line was actually a “party Line” in which every house on our road shared the same line. It was busy so I had to break in and get everyone off before I could call the sheriff’s office. I called the sheriff office, described the incident, gave them a partial plate and described the perpetrators, and was met with complete indifference. It was not until over an hour later when my parents called the sheriff that the incident was taken seriously.
Here is what went through my mind at that point. The perpetrators were armed, I was the only witness to their crimes. They had threatened me (with fingers, not guns), and I heard them yell “be back”. I had access to three guns at the time, a single shot .410 (useless for defense) a Browning .22 Lever action, and a Winchester 94 30-30. I grabbed the 94 and loaded it and put the rest of the box in my pocket. Not wanting to be cornered in the house, I went outside and moved into the trees. I had a green plastic trash bag (a ranch hand had shown me how to make a rain poncho out of this) I made a poncho as a form of primitive camouflage. And I waited. The perps never came back (fortunately!), my parents dealt with the authorities. Life returned to normal. Shortly after this incident, the perpetrators were arrested on several charges including drugs and alcohol. They were, in fact, out of ammunition (a rifle and shell casings were in the car) when they passed me on the road but were too drunk and high to return. While they may have just been “joy riding and hell-raising”, I feel fortunate they were out of ammo when they passed me on the road.
Things I learned that day. Expect the unexpected, don’t trust the law enforcement can or will respond in rural areas, always have the means to escape or of defense from multiple assailants. Have a tool kit of weapons that facilitates security and defense. I was lucky to have a Winchester model 94. While Winchester model 94s are great rifles, a 7.62 NATO battle rifle (like my M1A) with a 20 round magazine or a 30-06 M1 Garand, would have shredded their car and the people in it. Even low crime “sleepy” rural places have crime, just not as often.
Things are more dangerous today than, nearly 40 years ago. Having a good, reliable, and powerful, rifle or handgun in the country is important. Just as important are situational awareness and contingency plans.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Single Actions!

Why do I have such affection for single action revolvers? I honestly don’t know. My pistols and double action revolvers are much more evolved. The single action seems old fashioned and quaint in comparison. But when it comes down to it, single actions just exude “classic” in classic firearm. Single actions are so much greater than the sum of their parts. They were a huge part of the Wild West. They have been in the hands of Hollywood heroes and villains alike, for almost a century. During the hay days of TV westerns, the single action revolver was king. No westerner was fully equipped unless he had one. My own experience started in my teens, with a holster worn Ruger Blackhawk flattop in 357 magnum with a 4 5/8 in barrel. The very different world of my youth included guns of all types, and since I lived on a ranch, a revolver in my teenage hands was not unusual. I do have to admit that I was not a great revolver shot as a boy, and while I thought revolvers were cool, I greatly preferred rifles, like my Winchester 94 30-30 and Browning lever action .22. However, in time, I grew very fond of the Ruger and its mythically powerful 357 magnum cartridge. I soon found the Buscadero holster was almost useless, I had to walk everywhere in those days, and that 38 specials were cheaper and more comfortable to shoot than the expensive 357 magnums.
Over the years I’ve added to the stable of single actions, the flattop of my youth is still in my possession and has several companions. One of those is my late father’s Ruger Super Blackhawk. He was a busy man but we’d go out a couple of times a year and shoot that revolver. Dad would line up 6 soda cans at about 25 yards and hit every one, with the first shot. It became something of a happy tradition. I give anything to have one of those days back. (Note to everyone, shoot with your kids! These are lifetime memories, for both of you)
I’ve also acquired a taste for cap and ball percussion revolvers. Dad and I always wanted to get into these in my youth, but sadly, we never found the time. Thumbing back the hammer on a single action cap and ball revolver is like opening a bottle of expensive wine, the first step across the threshold to a treasure. These guns exude history and maybe they did not win the west, but they won Texas from the highly trained Mexican Army, and the fierce Comanche Indian warriors. In a future installment I’ll go into the care and feeding of the Cap and Ball Revolver.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Break out the Thompson and Fedora!

There is a new action shooting sport on the scene, Zoot Shooting! Zoot for the type of baggy ostentatious and flamboyant suits associated with gangsters, and Shooting, for 1920s-1930s flavored action shooting. I have long been interested in the Prohibition and Depression eras that lasted from 1920 to World War II. I love the clothes, the history, and the classic guns of the period. This shooting sport may be the best one yet. First of all it means that the Thompson 1927A1, semi auto is a main match gun. I can’t wait to break mine out! Second, of all the M1911, Luger, Webley, Mauser broom handle, numerous Colt and Smith & Wesson revolvers, a bunch of .32 ACP semi automatics, as well as single actions and lever guns all have a place. The rules specify the gun must be pre 1939 configuration. One alibi, pistol cartridges for rifles, except the (351 win SL in the model 1907 Winchester rifle). Third, it’s a great excuse to wear the coolest hat ever, the Fedora.
One of the best things about Zoot shooting is the emphasis on fun and costume. The ladies can be gangsters, gangster molls, flappers, or anything else. The ladies have a great excuse to get great outfits and have as much fun as the men. Men can have gangster or police personas, or private investigators, adventurers (think 1930s pulp magazine heroes) or anything that fits in the era. This promises to be fun and exciting, a logical extension of Cowboy Action Shooting. However, according to the Zoot shooters website, , fun is the main ingredient and the point of this sport. In my opinion, the gamesmen, who try to shave a 1/100th of a second off their time, need to go somewhere else. Ditto, with all the expensive gun modifications and other trick gear nonsense that has crept into every other shooting sport. My prediction is that Zoot Shooting will be very successful, IF, AND ONLY IF it does not become another gear race. Another thing that will help is a rule change that would let the ladies shoot .22 LR weapons. Many gals just trying out the sport will be happier with lighter smaller rifles and pistols. The .22LR fills the bill and the cost of guns and ammo is minimal. I hope the leadership of the American Zoot Shooters Association (AZSA) are listening!
This sport has the ability to bring in the lady shooters in a big way. The fashions of the 1920s and 1930s were dazzling, I can see the matches held in conjunction with dances, antique car shows, dinners, or other events. The idea of Zoot Shooting, has the potential to be something really different in the shooting sports. I have wanted a less competition intensive and more fun oriented sport for a long time. This is a great way to shoot classic firearms and have fun. Go to the Zoot Shooter’s website for the rules, matches and how to join. I’m going to try to start a group in my area, we’ll see what happens……

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"The Survivalist Family" a book by Joe Fox

How many times have you heard the phrase “if you see only one movie this year (BLANK) is it”? Well if you read only one book this year, or this decade, read “The Survivalist Family” by Joe Fox. This book is the best guide for preparing a family for surviving and coping with a disaster. Since the beginning of the Cold War, our government has told us, as citizens, to prepare for the worst. IT’S ABOUT TIME WE LISTENED! The book’s author is a retired U.S. Army Special Forces officer, who commands a vast amount of practical knowledge. Due to his lifetime of serving our country, Joe grew up facing difficult situations every day. He has seen how quickly things can go from bad to worse. The book is not a list of must have expensive gear, in fact it’s the opposite. Joe stresses knowledge, training, planning and the use of things at hand in everyday life. Autographed copies of the book can be had at . Buy two of these books, if you loan it out you probably won’t get it back. It also makes a great gift. Do your family a favor.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Smith & Wesson Model 1917

I have newer guns, I also have “better” guns, but I love the S&W Model 1917. Why? Because it’s just about perfect. Compared to other real N frame Smith revolvers, the 1917 is the lightest of the bunch, I’m not talking about the new scandium-titanium high viz sight things here. I’m talking about real, steel, pre lock revolvers. The 1917 has a shorter cylinder and slightly longer barrel. This savings in weight makes the Smith & Wesson 1917 a very handy and surprisingly easy to carry. When Smith & Wesson adapted the N frame revolver to the .45 ACP cartridge, they created a masterpiece. The Model 1917 has excellent balance, light weight for an all steel revolver, powerful, deadly accurate, and a superb trigger pull. Why is it light weight? Well the 45 cal chambers are large, the barrel is the older thin contour, and the cylinder is shortened for the .45 ACP cartridge. There is less steel on this revolver than other N-frames, but there is enough for the job.
Just after our entry into the Great War, it became obvious; there were not enough of the new M1911 pistols around. We hadn’t made enough to equip the Army and Marines, nor could we make enough to meet the demand of our military engaged in the World War. Enter Smith & Wesson; they invented the half moon clip, a small piece of spring steel which held three of the rimless 45 ACP cartridges. Insert these in the revolver cylinder, and the same ammunition could be used in M1911s and revolvers. Colt soon adapted their large New Service Revolver to the same system and thus the Colt Model 1917 was also born. Keep in mind that the Colt 1917 and Smith & Wesson 1917 are two different revolvers, they are different designs and no parts interchange. All they share are the half moon clips, .45 ACP ammunition, and the designation Model 1917.
After excellent service in the “War to end all Wars” the Smith 1917 went on to serve the Federal Government and law enforcement. In World War II, these old war horses were refinished and had a support role. Finally the 1917 was retired from service but it continued to be popular with civilian shooters and it spawned several post war S&W N-frame 45 ACP target revolvers.
About 20 years ago a large cache of 1917s were imported from Brazil. The Brazilian Navy has purchased about 25,000 1917s in 1937. These revolvers can be identified by Brazilian Navy crest on the right side of the frame. They sold cheap with prices from $150 to $250. The Photo on the right is my M1917 Brazilian. I had it refinished and added the grip adapter. The bore is not perfect, but man does it shoot! It prefers lead bullets both 230 grain lead and 200grain SWCs shoot close to point of aim. I usually use 45 Auto Rim cases for my hand loads. These were designed after WWI and are simply a .45 ACP case with a thick rim which does not need half or full moon clips.
Mine has been one of my favorite holster, woods bumming, and take in case of trouble guns. I also like the looks it gets at ranges from the ping & tink shooters with their plastic semi auto hand guns. I’d take it anywhere with confidence.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Top Shot = Bottom Drawer

History Channels’ show Top Shot was a big disappointment to me. It should have been called “Slop Shot”. The History Channel, which brought us fictitious nonsense such as “Jesse James’ Lost Gold Treasure”, gave us another inferior product. Here are the reasons I didn’t like it.
1. Too much childish reality show behavior and “house” antics. This makes shooters look like just another bunch of drama ridden simpletons. I hope nobody judges the entire sport by these buffoons.
2. A conspicuous lack of shooting talent with the competitors. These guys were pretty terrible overall. I laughed when one “big time” shooter could not hit a 100 yard target with a M1903 Springfield, one of the most accurate service rifles ever made. Or how about the cowboy action shooter that could not hit with a Colt Peacemaker.
3. Goofy “elimination challenges”. Again, usually politics, drama, and antics ruled this nonsense.
4. Mismatched shooter skill sets for challenges. These people were not well rounded shooters, in fact, they were actually gamesmen that were dedicated to one specific sport.
5. The show was held in California, a gun unfriendly environment that restricts weapons choices. Why would anyone pick such a gun unfriendly environment? It’s unbelievable.
6. Whinning. I just don’t want to hear “ Its not my thing”, or “I’m not familiar with this type of gun”. I’m so tired of cry babies.
7. The Cop Chick. Just disgusting, she could not shoot well and when it was apparent she could not slide any further in the competition, she quit. I have sympathy for a potentially terminally ill family member, but why was the Cop chick even there if this was the case? Just more drama. With the number of accomplished female marksmen around, why settle for the Cop Chick?
The show started on an auspicious note when I noticed nearly all the contestants were 30 some things, a few older and one younger. I don’t know what the selection criterion was, but it did not really include well rounded shooters which have a basis in several shooting sports. It seemed the producers were pandering to the same demographic that watches all the other reality show junk. All of the shooters seemed to be single dimensional shooters, with expertise (or sometimes no expertise) in one discipline. Will I ever watch it again? No never.

Monday, August 16, 2010

.36 Caliber 1851 Colt Navy Revolver

It was a bitter and cold December day in Gallatin Missouri. Several young men in overcoats, tall leather boots, and large hats huddled together and entered the bank. The first man in the door had hard steely blue eyes, a confident and purposeful gate; he commanded attention from everyone in the room. The young man reached under his coat, pulled out a revolver, and cocked the hammer. “Cox!” he hissed, thinking he was talking to Samuel P. Cox, “caused the death of my brother Bill Anderson (Bloody Bill Anderson, a Missouri Partisan Ranger), and I am bound to have my revenge.” He aimed directly at the clerk and squeezed the trigger. The thunderous bang echoed in the small room, flame and acrid smoke belching out of the muzzle. An instant later, the young man aimed squarely at the clerk’s forehead and fired again. The unlucky clerk was John W. Sheets, a former Union Army Captain and the current cashier at the Daviess County Savings Association in Gallatin, Missouri. The first shot hit Sheets in the heart, the second hit him squarely in the forehead. John W. Sheets was dead before he hit the ground.

Given John W. Sheets previous service to the Union during the Civil War, and his position at Daviess County Savings Association, a rumored Unionist institution, Jesse James probably did not lose any sleep over this case of mistaken identity. It is lost to history what revolver Jesse used that cold December day, but chances are it was a Colt 1851 Navy, a weapon which Jesse was very familiar with. During the Civil War, one of the most common pistols in use on both sides was the Colt Model 1851 “Navy” revolver. The 1851 was made in large numbers and widely available before the war. During the war it was even copied by the South. The 1851 was the first practical “belt gun” or revolver which could be carried in a belt holster.

Previous Colt Revolvers such as the massive Walker revolver and the slightly smaller Dragoon revolvers were meant to be carried in pommel holsters on the front of the saddle. Carried in this manner, the large size and weight of the Walker and Dragoon are not a problem, for a soldier mounted on a horse. However, the size and bulk was a problem for a soldier or civilian afoot. In addition, the 60 grain powder capacity of the Walker, and the 50 grain powder capacity of the Dragoon, and .44 caliber weren’t deemed absolutely essential in a belt pistol, intended for close range use.

Up until the Model 1851, Colt’s most successful revolver for the civilian market was the model 1849 Pocket revolver. Many of its successful characteristics were used in the design of the Model 1851, however it’s puny .31 caliber chambering, left a lot to be desired in stopping power. The diminutive size of the 1849 was best suited for concealed “pocket revolver” carried in a pocket or otherwise hidden.

The Model 1851 was in the larger .36 caliber (actually .375), the .36 was known as the Navy caliber. Hence the Model 1851 was also known popularly as the 1851 Navy. Ironically many more Model 1851s were used by the Army and on land than were ever used at sea. But the name 1851 Navy has become a part of legend.

During the Civil War, mounted cavalry or raiders, carried multiple revolver on their person and their horses, reportedly and many as eight. The nature of the cap and ball revolver like the Model 1851 Navy was while it could deliver six quick aimed shots, it was tedious to reload. Fighting on horseback or in a quick lighting raid precluded reloading the revolver. Even the practice of carrying spare loaded cylinders was a poor solution for reloading the revolver on horseback.

Frank and Jesse James carried and used the Model 1851 Navy during their raiding days with Quantrill and Anderson. It’s probable they each carried several. Cavalrymen and raiders usually carried several revolvers as many as four to eight on their person and horse combined. Having six quick shot per revolver gave raiders a lot of close range firepower compared to dismounted troops with their slow and awkward single shot muzzle loading rifles.

Jesse would come to know the business end of the 1851 as well. The chest wound he suffered while attempting to surrender in 1865 was inflicted by .36 caliber ball (actually found during the 1995 exhumation of Jesse’s grave). This .36 caliber ball was certainly fired from a Model 1851 Navy.