Friday, December 30, 2011

Best Gun Handling Actors: Jimmy Stewart

One of my favorite movies is Winchester ’73 starring James Stewart, Shelley Winters, Dan Duryea, Stephen McNally. The plot centers on two brothers, one good (Stewart) and one evil (McNally). The evil brother has killed their father, the good brother is out for justice. AS the good brother pursues the evil brother, the chase becomes entwined with a stolen 1 of 1000 Winchester Model 1873 rifle.
The movie is great entertainment even with Will Geer (Grandpa Walton) portraying Wyatt Erp. Geer has to be the lamest Erp portrayal in movie history. Overall this is a small flaw and the movie is exciting and logical. Jimmy Stewart, great actor and war hero, convincingly handles his Colt six gun and various Winchester rifles with equal aplomb. Clearly Jimmy’s military training and skills as an outdoorsman aided him in this convincing portrayal.
Westerns with James Stewart also have a gritty streak of realism and determination. His authenticity allows his audience to identify with him and his roles. I have always enjoyed his movies and I believe he is one of the greatest gun handling actors ever.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Astra Model 600

I came across a compadre with an interesting gun, the Astra 600/43 more commonly known as the Astra 600. Manufactured in Spain and chambered in 9mm Parabellum at the behest of the Germans in World War II, the Model 600/43 is a development of the very successful Astra Model 400 in 9mm Largo and the Astra 300 in 380 ACP. About 50, 000 model 600s were produced in 1943-1945, but only the first 10,000 were delivered to the Germans before the Allied invasions at Normandy and Southern France. The remainders were held by Spain and a large number were subsequently sold to the nascent West German Police in the early 1950s, the Chilean Navy, and Portugal. Undoubtedly some were sold on the civilian market.
Astra Model 600/43, made in 1944, with custom wood grips I’ve always liked the Astra 600s unique looks. The quality of manufacture is high, as the Spanish were out to impress the German military. The German military were already satisfied customers of Astra, having used the compact model 300, the larger model 400, and Model 900 (a copy of the Mauser C-96). Shortages of 9mm largo ammunition for the Astra 400 caused the Germans to use 9mm Parabellum ammo. Surprisingly it worked in many instances. Most Model 400s had generous chambers and could accommodate the shorter tapered 9mm Parabellum and the power of the ammunition cycled the Model 400s action. Thus a myth was born, that the Astra 400 would safely chamber 9mm Short, 9mm Parabellum, 38 ACP, and 38 Super. This is untrue and unsafe. The 400 should be used only with 9mm Largo!
The Model 600/43 has a tublar design that makes it look like a squirt gun! The Model 600 is the ultimate of the Astra tube design, it started in 1912 with the Campo Giro and ended win the 1980s with the less than successful Model 8000 Condor and Model 4000 Falcon. The Model 600 is the apex of fit, finish and reliability for Astra pistols. Shooting one is not an experience one soon forgets.
The first of the Astra tube pistols, the Campo Giro Model 1912

Monday, December 19, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I hope each and every one of you who reads this has a very Merry Christmas and the best New Year!!!
Christmas in Richmond

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Best Gun Handling Actors: Steve McQueen

One of the best I’ve seen is the legendary Steve McQueen. Steve was real man who overcame a tough childhood and boy’s reform school (where he loyally helped boys after he became famous). He joined the Marines at 17, and although initially rebellious, Steve became a model Marine. It’s safe to assume this is where he learned how to handle weapons.
Steve starred in many great movies, my favorite is The Sand Pebbles , a taught action drama set aboard a U.S. Navy gunboat in China in the 1930s. Steve’s handling of several weapons, including a BAR and a 1903 Springfield are excellent. Steve was not a pushover in real life, after his friends Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring were murdered by the Manson Family, Steve was rumored to be on their “Kill” list. He wisely carried a handgun for protection.
Although it’s impossible to know, had the Manson butchers confronted Steve, I’m sure he would have given a good account of himself, and fewer of the Manson clan would have been alive to go on trial. Steve died of Cancer in 1980, but his films and performances live on.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Another Movie for the Holidays

One of my favorites, the original “Die Hard” with one of my favorite actor Bruce Willis. It’s set at Christmas during a terrorist attack at a large multinational corporation. Of course the real star is the Beretta 92 pistol. With it Bruce dispatches several bad guy terrorists.
The Beretta became an icon of the late 80s in that movie, the same way the S&W Model 29 became an icon of the 1970s in “Dirty Harry”. The Beretta 92 became the archetypical wonder 9 pistol, even equipping the U.S. Military since 1985. The 92 is a great gun, and Die Hard is a great movie.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Remember Pearl Harbor

Remember Pearl Harbor My Grandfather traveled through Pearl Harbor 2 weeks before the December 7th, 1941 sneak attack. I say sneak because that’s what it was. My Grandfather visited his old friend, Admiral Kidd, the commander of the battleship division on the Arizona. They had lunch together and reminisced about the times when they were stationed together in the Panama Canal Zone in the late 1920s.
My Grandfather returned to the states, Admiral Kidd Never left Pearl Harbor. He was killed on the bridge of the Arizona on December 7th. His body was never found, only his Naval Academy class ring, which was fused to a bulkhead in the ship. It was returned to his family. Admiral Kidd was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions on December 7th 1941.
I proudly own a M1903 Springfield (Modified) and an M1 Garand both made in January 1942. They were made at the beginning of a long war, after the sacrifice of Pearl Harbor.

Friday, December 2, 2011

An Example of The Mighty M1Garand

I went to the range recently just to shoot an M1Garand and enjoy it. The rifle and ammunition were performing well, producing small groups at 100 yards. The samples are in the photos in this post. My M1 is an old warhorse made in July of 1942 and rebuilt in 1952. I assume it was used in combat in WWII and maybe early in the Korean War. The rifle shoots better than I do, its finish is worn, but it’s mechanically sound as good a weapon as it ever was.

As I was enjoying my range time, the predictable thing happened. Another shooter shows up, he unpacks a very tricked out M1A SOCOM II 7.62 NATO rifle. This rifle had all the rails and some very expensive looking aftermarket stock and an Aimpoint sight, it looked pretty top end also. To complete the picture the shooter is dressed like a Blackwater agent, with all the expensive clothes and jacket.

A 100 yard Group by my M1 Garand

Of course, being a nosey person I walked over and checked out his gear from a distance. I wondered if this guy was some sort of executive protection guru or high speed shooting instructor. I should have known better. He seemed unable to hit a target at 50 yards, the same at 25yards. He had “Maggie’s’ drawers”, meaning no hits at either distance. He seemed to be understandably upset by these events. When I last saw him he was at the pistol range trying to hit a 7 yard target with his $3000 rifle. Now you know where this is going. This guy was clearly gear collecting “wannabe” He had made the classic mistake, thinking expensive gear can compensate for practice and sound techniques.

The basic rifle the other shooter used.

That usually ends badly in bitter disappointment. A certain level of equipment is necessary. However, the BEST investment an aspiring marksman can make is investing in proven equipment, practice, and instruction. If a shooter must spend money, buy ammunition!

Good training does not have to come from an expensive shooting school, the Appleseed program, NRA High Power Rifle clinics, or help from local gun clubs does not cost much and can greatly benefit a shooter. Don’t fall into the temptation of trying to buy better scores. Simple, good equipment works the best, I learned this in combat.

As it turns out, my iron sighted old school M1 Garand, shot the pants off his fancy junk loaded rifle. I does not matter how much it costs, but it does have to work, just like the magnificent M1 Garand.