Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Brass Frame and Lead Balls.

Like many people with a Confederate heritage, I have an interest in the weapons of the War of Secession. It’s particularly interesting that Pietta and Uberti have produced brass framed revolvers like those used by the Confederate States of America. In truth, the South did not produce revolver in the number required by the CSA. However, the ones they did produce have a glamour and mystique in proportions beyond the numbers produced.

I recently purchased a second hand unfired Griswold and Gunnison revolvers made by Uberti years ago. The revolver is essentially a .36 caliber brass framed, round barrel, copy of the famous Colt 1851 Navy. It has all the positive 1851 Navy shooting and handling characteristics. In addition, the brass finish is hard to overlook.

In regards to the brass frames, there is a lot of conflicting information. Most people report success and a few claim to have worn out brass frame guns. With the .36 caliber guns, as the originals were, I don’t worry about wearing them out. Brass is better quality than in 1860s and it’s impossible to overload a .36 caliber chamber.

The modern, and historically inaccurate .44 caliber brass frame guns, may be a different story, I’d keep these at 25 grains and below, just for safety’s sake.

In any respect, the old cap and ball guns are fun and very enjoyable. They provide a first-hand experience connected with a sacred part in American history.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Stuff of Legends!

The Model 1911 and 1911A1 pistols have become legend in the hands of our fighting men. The finest and best combat pistol in the world, in the right hands, has performed amazing feats.
The 7th Bomb Group, equipped with the B-24 Liberator bombers was based northwest of Calcutta, India. On March 31, 1943, the 7th BG’s 9th Bomb Squadron mission was to destroy a railroad bridge at Pyinmana, in Burma. One B-24 was piloted by 1st Lt. Lloyd Jensen the copilot was 2d Lt. Owen J. Baggett. On that mission, Lt. Baggett was to earn a distinction believed to be unique in military history, and became a legend.

B-24 Liberator in Action

Lt. Baggett’s B-24 was hit by attacking fighters and heavily damaged. He signaled the gunners to bail out. He next remembered floating down with a good chute. He saw four more open canopies before the bomber exploded. The Japanese pilots immediately began strafing the surviving crewmen, apparently killing some of them and grazing Lieutenant Baggett’s arm. The pilot who had hit Baggett circled to finish him off or perhaps only to get a better look at his victim. Baggett pretended to be dead, hoping the Zero pilot would not fire again. In any event, the pilot opened his canopy and approached within feet of Baggett’s chute, nose up and on the verge of a stall. Baggett, enraged by the strafing of his crew members, raised the Model 1911A1 .45 automatic concealed against his leg and fired four shots at the open cockpit. The Zero spun out of control and crashed.

Model 1911A1, Holster and Belt.

Later a fellow POW told Baggett that a Japanese colonel said the pilot Owen Baggett had fired at was thrown clear of his plane when it crashed. The Japanese pilot was found dead of a single pistol bullet in his head.
Other evidence supports Lt. Baggett’s account of that day: No friendly fighters were in the area that could have downed the Zero pilot. The incident took place at an altitude of 4,000 to 5,000 feet. The Japanese pilot could have recovered from an unintentional stall and spin. There appears to be no reasonable doubt that Owen Baggett performed a unique act of pistol marksmanship and personal valor. The greatest generation, uncommon valor was a common virtue.

Japanese Zero

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Another Great Day Shooting at the James Farm!

September 17 was an uncharacteristically cold day at the James Farm. However, that did not stop the shooters from having a great time stepping back into history and firing on the same ground where Frank and Jesse James learned to shoot.

It’s one of the few places where Cap & Ball and Cartridge revolvers shoot side by side in a traditional test of marksmanship. Shooting historical revolvers, in historical clothes, at a historical place, it just does not get any better! Details for the next shoot are at

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ten Long Years

In ten years since 9/11 everything changed. I went to war as a result of 9/11. Of course I was a military man already, having served since 1979 in one capacity or another. Everything, meaning our weapons, personal gear, uniforms, and our mindset.

Out were the goofy Bianchi UM-84 holsters, Long rifles like the M16A2, plastic canteens, black spit shined boots, FLAK jackets, ALICE packs and the conformist cold war attitude.

In were short M4 carbines, optical sights, hydration systems, functional packs , Interceptor body armor, Good pistol holsters. Soldiers were not required to look alike, they were encouraged to use what worked. Another good idea was COTS (Commercial Off the Shelf) purchases of proven civilian equipment.

These changes have made our military stronger and more effective, coupled with improved and realistic training we have delivered severe blows to the coward perpetrator and planners of 9/11. Amen

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pretty Boy Floyd and the Model 1911

I don’t condone robbery or stealing, but I didn’t live through the crash of ’29 either. Anyway, Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy “ Floyd was a motor bandit and a pain to the banks that were repossessing ranches in Oklahoma. Pretty Boy was rare among bandits, he was actually like Robin Hood and gave away money he stole to the needy. By early 1932, his bank robberies and mayhem in his home state had made him Oklahoma's "Public Enemy No. 1."

The Oklahoma Bankers Association had announced a $1,000 reward for the capture of Floyd. Three other organizations offered $1,000 each, making the total bounty $4,000. Former Sheriff Erv Kelley had led many successful manhunts, but the one for Pretty Boy Floyd promised the biggest payoff. The bankers made Kelley a special agent and gave him a new Thompson submachine gun. Kelley's plan was to Ambush Pretty Boy Floyd three miles west of Bixby, a small community near the Arkansas River.

Floyd was expected for a secret weekend rendezvous with his wife, Ruby, and 7-year-old son, Jackie near a small farmhouse. Late in the evening during the cold, Kelley gave most of his six man posse a break and remained on the scene with only two deputized farmers.

At 3 a.m., a car pulled up to the gate, its headlights suspiciously off. When the beams were abruptly turned on, they exposed Kelley, shouting his futile order to halt. Floyd fired his model 1911 .45 automatic handgun seven times, striking Kelley four times, twice in the chest. Kelley's Thompson Submachine gun fired 14 times, most shots stirring up dust at his feet. He collapsed and died. Floyd was hit four times -- painful but not life-threatening slugs that all struck below his waist. He and crime partner George Birdwell sped away.

In the aftermath it was determined that the two farmers either did not know how to use weapons, or they cowered in the dark. This left Kelley “mano el mano” with Pretty Boy Floyd and his 1911 .45 Automatic.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Great Peice of Hand Loading Equipment.

Hand loading for different guns of the same caliber can be a challenge. Cartridges that will chamber and fire in one gun, may not work in another. Why is this? Well, like everything else, firearms and ammunition have a set of specifications. Factory ammo uses new cases and is loaded to industry standards, including published dimensions and length.

Hand loading has several unique situations that complicate this. First is the use of the fired case. It has to be returned to usable dimensions by the sizing die. Next the primer is seated to below the edge of the primer pocket. Another tricky part, the case is flared slightly to allow the base of bullet to enter the case for the seating process. This flare must be reduced during the crimping process, or chambering problems can result. Add in the factors of powder charge, bullet design, and the reality that the hand loading process must be repeated hundreds (or thousands) of times for satisfactory results. Given the cumulative error of all these variables and specifications, it’s no wonder that there can be problems with hand loads.
The Lee Factory Crimp Die

There is one piece of equipment that can help. The Lee Factory Crimp Die. My 45 ACP loads have to fit into several revolvers and pistols, plus two carbines. The Lee Factory Crimp die actually has a carbide sizer ring that will bring the hand loaded round back to factory specifications. The die also puts a good crimp on the cartridge. This allows the round to chamber in all guns just like factory ammo. It also guards against bullet creep in revolvers, and bullet set back in semi autos (an dangerous situation).
Get the factory crimp die, it’s well worth the money.