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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Transforming a Springfield Armory Loaded 9mm into a better mousetrap

Recently I was able to come in to a Springfield Armory Stainless loaded 9mm with fixed sights.

Springfield guns normally don't appeal to me for a variety of reasons-a multitude of sharp edges, non-standard dimensions (Brazil uses the Metric system after all..) and lots of low bidder parts (ie:MIM) begging to be replaced. This gun was no exception-gritty and sharp, it exhibited zero fitting, but after a tedious extractor replacement it was reliable and accurate enough for a little home gunsmithing.

I have been digging through my parts box and have replaced most of the flash chrome plated carbon steel parts (WHY?) and just about everything else but the barrel and have come up with a pretty decent 9mm loaner or range gun.

So far I have:

Replaced the trigger, hammer, sear and disconnector with Wilson bar stock parts.


The original trigger pull was about 8 pounds. SA uses a very funky hammer/sear angle that defies home gunsmithing to get any semblance of a good trigger pull. The parts looked liked they were cooked in an easy bake oven and sprayed with silver krylon. The original trigger had lots of up and down play and an impressive amount of pre-travel.

I have also replaced the ILS housing with a Wilson 30 LPI ss mainspring housing. The ILS is a bad idea in so many ways-it uses a short mainspring which never quite feels right and you usually immediately lose the little key that unlocks the thing. Bad JuJu.

The ambi thumb safety went in the trash also. Poorly fitted, the right side would barely disengage the safety and the left side was sharp enough to clean your nails with. Sorry, I hate most ambi safetys as a rule. Replaced with a properly blended, radiused and fitted Kings cast part.

The MIM slidestop was replaced with a Greider stainless part. The slide stop is the most important pin in the gun-it is the bedrock for the barrel/slide fit. Don't use MIM here-ever.

The firing pin stop was replaced with a Wilson bulletproof square bottom and the extractor was replaced with an SVI barstock piece. It took forever to fit since it seems the extractor tunnel was a bit far away from the centerline of the breechface.

Replaced the mim, plated mag catch with a Greider unit, deburred.

Replaced the chrome plated bushing and plug with stainless parts, also from Wilson.

Replaced the chrome plated grip screws with a set of VZ Slex screws.

Replaced the Titanium firing pin with a real steel one.

Replaced all chrome plated pins with Wilson stainless pins.

Tuned the ejector to clear live rounds. Restaked the grip screw bushings and plunger tube.

Oddly, the gun feeds 100% after the extractor work. The slide and frame fit is sloppy, and the barrel is a drop-in fit that doesn't lock up like a real fitted job, but who cares, this is a beater. A range gun that will likely be loaned out to others to shoot cheap 9mm ammo in.

PS-I also have a Kimber take off .38 super barrel that fits like a glove. :)

Pics to come after I get the small parts bead blasted by Phillip at Innovative Arms. Hopefully tomorrow.

PS-Please don't add up how much all these parts cost. I might cry if you do.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Smart Part-Liebenberg Designed Pistol Dynamics ISS 1911 sight system

Paul Liebenberg is a smart guy. After shaking up the custom 1911 world while an innovator at the famed Pachmayr gun works in the 80's, at the S&W Performance Center in the 90's, or now at his own Pistol Dynamics, Paul is always brimming with ideas. IMNSHO One of his best ideas is his ISS interchangeable sight system.
In his words:
Our proprietary interchangeable sight system (ISS) is the only fully secured
replaceable front sight design available for the 1911. This unique design relies
on a precise press fit of a dedicated dovetail sight to a matching longitudinal
dovetail machined into the slide. The front sight is also trapped by a retention
tab integrated into the design of either a solid or spherical Pistol Dynamics
keyed bushing. The fit of the front sight to the slide is precise enough to
ensure that the sight will not dislodge during field stripping and cleaning. A
tombstone-bushing wrench is supplied with the system. Numerous front sights
options are available that include height variations and a myriad of inserts.
System includes one standard front sight ..............$195.00 installed, plus
shipping The ISS System is available as a factory install only. We will need your slide and barrel assembly in order to fit the system. Please call for a compatibility check before mailing your assembly.
This is a VERY slick setup and allows easy front sight changes in the field depending on conditions and/or height adjustment depending on POI. Brilliant! My Ned 10mm wears this sight. I love it-I would change all my guns over if I could.

Monday, December 28, 2009

.22 Conversion Kit Redux

After a good showing today I think that for now I am going to stay with the Marvel 1 and 2 for Steel Challenge -they are reliable enough after my mag tuning efforts and are well known for their intrinsic accuracy.  The Advantage Arms Target Unit had a few bobbles that I believe were related to a heavyish mainspring in the particular frame I installed it on.  Will try again..for best results you should use a 19 or 20 pound hammer spring with .most 1911 22 Kits. I am also not too keen on their polymer mags-hard to load... I will stay with metal for now....just call me a Luddite.
At any rate, the I am ready to take on all comers with my iron sighted .22! LOL

Here is the one I really want

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Further testing .22 1911 Conversion Kits today

.22 1911 conversions have been an interest of mine for 20 years.  I have owned just about everyone available: Kart (5" and 6"), Day, Colt, Ciener, Marvel 1&2, Pachmayr (yuck!), Jarvis, and Kimber.  One thing you immediately learn when messing with these things is that they are incredibly finicky. My most reliable unit is a Marvel Unit 1, but it doesn't fit in a standard holster, so I typically shoot the unit 2, that fits the holster well but gives me some sort of bobble about every 75 rounds.  Not good enough for match winning scores in my opinion.

My new pistol shooting passion is Steel Challenge with my iron sighted 9mm EGW gun.  Part of my practice regimen is using the .22 unit to lessen the expense and try to "push the envelope".  My best runs are typically with the .22, but not always.

To optimize reliability I use only CCI Mini-Mags.  They aren't the cheapest, but they are clearly made to a higher standard than most other .22 ammo and have enough energy to cycle any unit briskly.

My metal mags (Marvel) have all been tuned in accordance with Bob Marvel's protocol-what a pain in the butt.  I have 3 polymer mags to test-Marvel, Kimber and Advantage Arms.  I think the Advantage will be the winner, but we shall see.  If these don't perform to my standard I am going to bite the bullet and buy a Tactical Solutions.  Their mags are rumored to be the best.  I have handled them but never used them...will report back...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

How to test a Tactical Folder-Videos!

Andrew Demko the designer of the Cold Steel folders with the TriAD lock shows us how he tests his creations for strength and repeatability.  I have long advocated properly produced alternative locks to framelocks and liner locks and these videos easily prove my point.  Andrew shows us that his lock design can hold over 2000 pounds of force at the pivot with zero damage.  Lockbacks, especially those by Cold Steel or Spyderco RULE.  This test would easily EAT your Strider, Emerson or Sebenza for lunch!

What is old is new again.

Anyone interested in custom 1911's should know the name of Bruce Gray. One of the tenured talents of the 1911 world, Bruce has worked at such famous shops as  Devel, Behlert Precision, and for a spell worked with the smartest guy to ever work on a 1911, the late Jim Boland. Bruce has been a consultant to many companies in the industry like SIG, HK, and Lasercast bullets.

 Bruce is well known for his analytical skill and prowess with welding torch and checkering file.  I own a Gray compgun from the late 80's and will share some pics soon but for now take a look at this: The Gray "Hardtail" conversion.  Bruce has been doing these for years-I will assume that he learned this from Boland as many of the Boland guns were built with a vaguely similar, but non functional "SpringBoard Tang" as he liked to call it.

The hardtail is functional and elegant-it is actually easier to consistently depress than a standard grip safety.
I covet this! My dealings with Bruce have always been informative and pleasant-he is a real gentleman. Even though he is doing more SIG and HK work these days than 1911 stuff, I am real tempted to have him build me somethin'! I got the "gotta haves" real bad for this!

More Stainless Ugliness!

Found on Brian Enos Forum "A few weeks ago, while cleaning my STI Trojan 5" Stainless Steel in 45ACP, I noticed a crack in the front of the slide (see the two attached pictures). The crack fully penetrates to the inside of the slide. The pistol is slightly over a year old and has had about 9,000 rounds fired through it, almost exclusively WWB 230gr hardball. I have been running a 16 lbf recoil spring, a DP tungsten guide rod, and an AFTEC extractor."

Friday, December 25, 2009

1911 slide failures

What do these guns all have in common?

Broken Ed Brown 1911 Strut

"Perfected" geometry.

Code words for "Improper heat treating"

Broken S&W 1911

Everyone is secretly attracted to my collection of "broken stuff" pics.  here is a good one.  Looks like the "Scandium" didn't help..this is where most lightweight guns crack, fyi at the junction of rail and dustcover....

Thursday, December 24, 2009

New blaster from Hilton Yam of 10-8 Performance

I always like reading Hilton's thoughts on 1911's and other fighting guns.  He is a savvy guy.  I first met him when he was selling Mad Dog Knives at gunshows and still in college.  Over the years he has developed the skills to build a first class 1911 even though he rarely does anymore with a hectic career and developing new parts to sell.  Here is his latest concept gun.  I particularly like the hammer/beavertail junction and the way Hilton performs the beveling and barrel crown Good stuff! Here is what he says about this gun:

I still receive requests for custom 1911 work, and unfortunately always have to reply that I no longer build guns to customer order. With a full duty schedule, designing parts, and running 10-8 Performance, there is not a lot of time left to do any gun building. While I don't foresee this situation changing much in 2010, I do still build some 1911s for my personal use and to further research on more 10-8 products. The latest of these research projects showcases a few new designs that are precursors to some exciting stuff we will be unveiling at SHOT 2010.

Hilton's 10-8 sight is an excellent retrofit to Novak sighted guns. Great sight picture and U-notch for fast but precise shooting.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Updated Mike Poulin's link

Mike Poulin, maker of the best ivory grips has a new website-click his link on my sidebar to check it out!

New Doubletap .38 Super load!

I really like Doubletap ammunition (  They are the leaders in specialty pistol and rifle ammunition and are best known for loading calibers like 10mm (15 different loads!), .41 magnum, 9x25 Dillon in addition to more mundane stuff.

Their quality is very high and on par with the best producers like Black Hills and the now defunct Pro-Load.

They are now loading .38 Super with my favorite Barnes XPB (115gr) loaded to 1425 fps for 519 ft. pounds of energy... I have a few boxes enroute. Expect a range report soon.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Who's been reading my blog?

From Statcounter:

Tempe, AZ
Three Rivers, MI
Mountain Home, AR
Omaha, NE
Fremont, NE
Montezuma, IA


An all star list :)
I am flattered!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The worlds most powerful revolver? Bowen 500 Maximum Super Blackhawk

Whoa.  This may be the worlds most powerful revolver.

Built by Ham Bowen on a Ruger "Maximum" chassis with Bisley frame, it launches a (and I quote John Taffin) serious payload.

"Both John Linebaugh and Hamilton Bowen have offered the .475 and .500 Maximums on full-size 5" Ruger Maximum frames weighing close to four pounds. Recoil is absolutely awful with full house loads using 400 grain and larger bullets, and muzzle velocities exceeding 1,500 fps. There is absolutely no way to describe the recoil. It has to be experienced to be understood. I will say this, when I tested these guns 10 years ago I never fired more than 40 rounds in each one per day and in every case those sessions made me physically ill. This never happened with the .44 Magnum, heavily-loaded .45 Colt, .454 Casull, or even the original .475 and .500 Linebaughs. However, the Maximums are a totally different game and after a morning of shooting I would spend several hours recuperating by reclining on the couch."

Needless to say, I have 100 rounds of .500 Linebaugh and no .500 maximum loaded.  Should I venture down this path?  Maybe I will save this thing for my son.....he's gonna be a biggun..

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Another HOT Custom 1911 This time a COMMANDER

I bought a like new Series 1 Kimber Pro Carry just for the frame.  I am crazy that way.  A few years ago the only quality alloy frame I could find for a Commander was Kimber. So I bought one, scrapped the top end (which sold for close to what the gun cost, go figure) and sent it to Garthwaite with a Shuemann AET .38 Super barrel and a host of good parts from Caspian, Kings and STI. 

This gun loves Corbon DPX and Winchester Silvertips.  One thing you quickly learn is that 9x23 has plenty of pop for a carry gun. At 28 ounces, this is one of the more size efficient 10 round packages out there. Robar applied NP3 finish to the whole shebang.  It looks good and resists corrosion although if your gun isn't checkered, it can be a little slick. I regret not checkering this gun. Pennywise and pound foolish I guess.
I like Wilson .38 Super mags and use metal baseplates with them.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A proper 10mm 1911 carry gun

Here is another 10mm (one of several).  This is a Jim Garthwaite creation. Jim salvaged a beat up old Delta Elite, added a Bar-Sto barrel, snugged it up and fitted some of his perfect sights-a reworked Heinie with a the gold bead front on a serrated ramp. Shoots great with most loads.  Great trigger. Like all of Garthwaite's guns, great metalwork and bluing.  Notice the subtle high cut? And the front strap serrations? Rubber grips on a 3K pistol?  I know I know...that's an affectation of mine. The only negative is that they hold moisture.  Otherwise they are hard to beat for a knock around carry pistol.

10mm can be a finicky cartridge-the long OAL, the extreme Power factor and pressure and smallish rim all add up to trouble in a 1911 platform if things aren't just right. GO to an experienced 10mm pistolsmith with your 10mm project and you will be much happier in the long run.

The kind of gun that wins IDPA Matches-EGW Single stack Caspian

Before Jim Milks left EGW he built me a few "shooters".  These were planned to be range queens, not safe queens.  After handling a few of the Caspian frames with tactical magwell I quickly decided that would be a fine path to take.  Jim expertly checkered this one, front and back, 20 LPI, added a Caspian slide, Kart barrel and my favorite Heinie sights with a black serrated .110" wide ramp front. 3lb trigger on Extreme Engineering components and EGW"s E-treat finish (similar to Tenifer).  It is chock full of EGW parts along with a Greider slide stop, SVI bar stock thumb safety, Brown mag catch and Wilson beavertail. Everything is pretty well seamslessly blended.  The barrel(Kart)/slide/frame fit is perfection.

When I first got the gun fresh from the finishing I had a few rough spots-the finish added some friction and was occasionally failing to feed-a little 2000 grit paper on a dowel smoothed the frame ramp enough that it went away.  It now basically feeds like a marble on greased glass-slick. I like the way the finish resists corrosion and kydex wear, but pretty certain I won't be having it done to any more guns in the future.

Its a super shooter and 1/2 ounce under the IDPA CDP weight limit.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A 10 from Ned

When my name popped up on Ned Christiansen's list a few years back I decided he was just the kind of quirky guy to build be a 10mm longslide.  After messing with a plethora of 10mm pistols over the years, I really came to appreciate the longslide in this caliber for the long sight radius and enhanced reliability.  A major benefit to building a 6" is the ability to use longslide springs, which are as long as buggy whips and will never go flat.  This gun was concieved as a "Combat-Hunter Longslide" with lo-profile adjustables and Ned's Conamyd treatment everywhere.  Ned does awesome machining and fitting.  This is one of the finest guns I own.  It is ridiculously accurate (Sheumann AET barrel).  I opted to use Paul Liebenberg's ISS sights for ease of front sight replacement-I have a gold bead, fiber optic and plain black post that can be switched out depending on range conditions. I look forward to doing more hunting with this guns.  Its favorite load is the Doubletap 155 grain XPB.  Not for sale at any price!!!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Do you like CUSTOM 1911's?? Then you have come to the right place!

Do you like custom 1911's by the top makers?? Keep watching this blog, the best is yet to come!

Jim Hoag-Custom 1911 Gunsmith to the stars

Most people don't really appreciate Jim Hoag. Hoag's guns however, are the MOST desirable custom 1911's to most pistolsmiths. Richard Heinie, Bill Wilson, Ed Brown-they all collect HOAG guns. Why? Well, he was the first 1911 pistolsmith who cared about fit and finish. Hoag was a contemporary of Swenson who started out working for King's Gunworks. After moving out on his own, Hoag's proximity to LA enabled many a Hollywood star to get custom 1911's built. Hoag is known for building James Caan's longslide 1911 in the movie "Thief", a pistol that heavily influenced other budding pistolsmiths, notably Heinie.
Hoag's attention to detail was far superior to Swenson and rivaled only by Pachmayr's Combat Special builds. This gun, my second Hoag is typical of a late 80's era gun built on a Colt '70 Series. It has a Bar-Sto barrel, Hoag's signature squared triggerguard, bordered checkering (Hand cut) and stubby (but practical) beavertail. A masterful example of what a bespoke 1911 should be. Unlike other masters of the era, the quality of the work stands up very well today. Mr. Hoag, pushing 80, still builds custom pistols in Canoga Park, CA.

Jim Hoag-1911 Gunsmith to the stars

Old Friends, New Blaster

My old friend Shawn died a few years ago suddenly and his guns were lost to some knuckledhead family members. Recently I heard that there was a neat gun a in a pawn shop 50 miles from where I live, about 300 miles away from where Shawn lived and died.
It was this gun, his holy grail. A Steve Woods custom circa 1991 built on a pre-'70 Colt Government, .45 of course with more than enough bells and whistles. Loads of checkering. Perfect checkering. bank vault fitting. Great trigger. Machine work by the BEST in the business, Pete Single. Uber-detailing and massaging by Steve Woods. One of the best makers of the '80's and '90's. If you ever see a gun with his mark, the Griffon-BUY IT. It will be worth more than the asking price. Shawn, I have given your "Grail" a good home. This time it will not get cast to the wind-I promise.

Original 1917 Military Issue Colt

This is my original 1917 Government Model Colt in 97% condition. They really knew how to build them back then. Even though this is a military production gun, all flats are flat and all rounds are round. Barrel fit is impressive. With a current magazine, this gun will feed ANY modern hollowpoint which tells you its more about the specs of the base gun than any extraneous doodads.

Garthwaite CCO-a Classic CCW 1911 pistol

Jim Garthwaite built me this gun over a decade ago. At the time, and now its pretty much state of the art. I purchased 2 brand new Colts-an "enhanced" Officers ACP and an enhanced Lightweight Commander and swapped the tops. I sold the bastard child for an exorbitant amount and sent Jim the parts and pieces. We settled on a ramped barrel made by my friend Fred Kart, whose shop I had previously visited. A Melange of Wilson and McCormick parts finished her up. I recently had the tritium front sight replaced with a Gold bead and had Jim install the solid trigger which I prefer. The only problem ever with this gun? A cracked firing pin stop that Jim replaced with a Caspian. Colt Series 80 parts have been (wisely) removed. NP3 makes her pretty and slick.

My favorite range gun-EGW "Waterhose" 9mm SVI

At one time I was shooting 2-3 IDPA matches a month and wanted to build a really competitive 9mm. I found that the S_I widebody frames fit my big hand better than any single stack and were easy to shoot well. I aquired an SVI frame (The best of the breed), a Caspian 9mm slide, Shuemann AET Barrel and sent it off to EGW in Pennsylvania. EGW had a great reputation for building competition guns and their turnaround was quick. While the gun was being built I sent 6 SVI 9mm mags to Beven Grams for his tuning services and spring/follower kits and ordered a grip from Jim Shanahan at Advanced Performance Shooting. This gun has over 15,000 rounds through it without a malfunction. I retired it for a while but am now shooting it in local Steel Challenge competitions. It's a one-hole shooter at any range! Hyper accurate and hyper reliable. Jim Milks was the head EGW gunsmith that built this superb gun-I recommened his work for these kind of blasters his shop is now and EGW no longer performs gunsmithing for the public.
The Nastoff Supercomp was THE gun to own if you shot IPSC in the 1980's. Jerry Barnhart was Steve's best known shooter and American Handgunner heavily promoted Nastoff as tops in the fit, finish and style department. Back them it could take 5 years to get one. Nastoff now works for the Government and no longer builds guns.

My Supercomp is built on a Colt 70 series gun and exhibits flawless metalworking skills. Nastoff was known for his sharp checkering, sculpted beavertails and swaged magwells. This is an early Nastoff magwell that was copied by S&A to make the S&A mag guide.

I confess that I have only shot this gun once. It is way too pretty and rare to leave the house. A true "Safe Queen".

Jason Knight Damascus Bowie-Just In

I was able to score a massive new Damascus Bowie from ABS Master Bladesmith Jason Knight recently. To say this knife is world class is a gross understatement.
11 inches of random Damascus with a stainless guard and blackwood handle=Masterpiece.
Jason is the undisputed crown prince of the Custom Bowie world right now. He focuses solely on hunters and bowies, and this laser dedication has elevated him to the top of the game in less than 10 years.

Wilson Combat- Why they are the best of the Custom "Shops"

When it comes to higher volume production shops, Ed Brown, Les Baer, Nighthawk, and Wilson Combat are the usual names tossed around with Fusion, Uselton, Volkmann and a few other fringe players occasionally mentioned. After trying most of the others, I strongly believe that of the "Big" shops, Wilson Combat is the clear winner. Why?
1) Customer service-1911's can be tricky-Wilson's has an impressive reputation for making things right, cheerfully and quickly.
2) Innovation-their parts quality is the best in the business. What other custom shops makes a fully machined beavertail but Wilson and Liebenberg? Machined thumb safeties besides Wilson?
Fully machined slide stops? The Wilson slides and frames are absolute precision with flawless checkering and sexy contours. When it comes to the big shops-Wilson has no peer.
3) Experience-Bill Wilson is one of the most experienced shooters in the business. With Vic Tibbets running his shop, I imagine we will see some great new items in the future. GO WC!

Garthwaite 9x19/9x23 switch barrel deluxe carry 1911

Jim Garthwaite has been building guns for a long time. He is well known for his flawless checkering and meticulous attention to detail. This is one my Garthwaite guns with fine checkering built on a Briley forged frame and Caspian slide. With a 9x19 and 9x23 barrel it is fun and economical to practice with. The 9x23 shines at long range and achieves .357 Magnum ballistics in a soft-shooting 1911 platform. Jim is an unsung hero in the 1911 world-while others have multi-year backlogs, Jim is content to maintain a fairly low profile and can usually deliver a nice gun in 6 months or less.  He is truly one of the best in the world at what he does.

Liebenberg-Briley 1911

This is an interesting 1911-Custom built by Paul Liebenberg for Briley USA, it has many of Paul's signature features such as high grip machined beavertail, fine (flawless) checkering and several of his new parts like sights, action set and extractor. This gun has a beautiful two-tone finish and the Accurails ensure a long-lasting tight fit. Any gun built by Liebenberg is rare-I highly endorse his work.