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.