Category Archives: Weapons Themselves

Seeing Double?

We dunno. We think we like the Arsenal double-pistol better, but you have to admit these are easy on the eyes:


It’s just a pair of decent custom 1911s… on Gunbroker… but wait… one’s a perfect mirror image of the other. You know, for when you go run IDPA stages dual-wielding like an action hero.

Oh, wait, IDPA doesn’t allow that? Sissies.

Here’s the GunBroker listing blurb:

If perfection saw double it would be this: a perfectly inverted pair of Jones 1911s.


Cabot Guns is committed to doing the things others believe to be impossible. Unlike other manufacturers, Cabot doesn’t stop simply with mirrored control surfaces and a reversed ejection port. They engineer their pistols to be perfectly inverted true-copies of one another, going so far as to reverse the rifling in the left-handed model to guarantee smooth, true felt recoil and follow through directed towards the shooter’s palm.These guns feature everything you’ve come to expect from ultra-premium craftsmanship; precision checkering at the front and back straps, a national match grade barrel, finished with blued steel, artist crafted cocobolo grips, and gold bead front sights.

These are sold strictly as a pair.

Model :Jones Mirrored 1911
Caliber : .45 ACP
Action : Semi-auto blowback
Feeding : 7-rd magazine
Barrel : 5″
Finish : High Polished Blued

“They are sold strictly as a pair.” Yeah, do you think someone would go, “Er, I want the left one only, please?”

In case of jihad, break glass:


Now for the bad news. (You knew there was going to be bad news, right?)

Yeah, it seems that all you guys who couldn’t afford last week’s Johnson MG semi conversion can’t afford this, either.

In fact, you’d need to afford three of the Johnny guns to play in this league, as the fixed price is $26,500.

But if you ever wondered what Gulf Arab princelings with diplomatic immunity buy when they’re gun shopping, this may be the answer.

Here’s what Cabot Guns says about the Jones 1911:

The Jones 1911 is Cabot’s flagship pistol, the gun that started an obsession, and the project during which we re-wrote all the rules. The introduction of Cabot Guns and the Jones 1911 to the firearms market has done more than turn heads; it’s turned the industry upside down.


This is the base Jones.

Our history as a firearms manufacturer begins during the recession of 2008, with the economy slowing and the primary customers of our manufacturing facility – Penn United Technologies – tightening their belts, the engineers, machinists, and nano-technologists at Cabot found themselves with some extra time on their hands. From men and women who dedicate their lives to servicing the needs of America’s precision-demanding aerospace industries, sprouted the idea to apply that same attention to detail, near excessive dedication to quality control, and pride in our craft to the creation of the perfect firearm. We’re a company with deeply seeded American roots and an unwavering commitment to American prowess; there was no question as to which firearm we would produce – it had to be the Browning pistol, model 1911. We’ve introduced more than “just another 1911” to the firearms community, we’ve created the new standard in precision pistols – we’ve brought the 1911 into the 21st century.

It takes more than machines to make art, more than precision to create perfection; we’ve understood this since our beginnings over 40 years ago. Penn United’s founder, Carl Jones, was a man with an unmatched belief in American excellence. A passionate innovator and stalwart supporter of American industry, Carl taught us that by perfecting our craft and investing in our people; we could not only be the best in the world at what we do, but that we could in fact build the impossible. This is our promise, this is our creed, and this is our livelihood. We’ve poured our souls into creating the Jones 1911. Hold one. As it warms to your grasp you will feel the welling pride of American excellence that it represents.

The design, manufacture, and perfection of the Jones 1911 is a process we’ve approached without regard to time, cost, or materials; our only concerns are to “do it right, do it better, and to do it American.” Where others create their firearms using forged frames and cast slides, Cabot starts with a solid block of American 4140 Billet Steel and uses computer controlled machining and EDM technology to shape our frames and slides – progressing then on to precision grinding machines to create perfectly consistent fits which leave no tooling marks on our final product.

The Jones 1911 is as innovative as it is historic. One glance and you clearly see the pedigree of the 1911 embodied in the Jones – one stare and you come to realize that it’s a revolution in firearms manufacturing. We’ve pioneered a precision technology for sophisticated industries, a feat which not only enables us to guarantee the precision-fit of the Jones 1911, Though we never intend to become a high-volume manufacturer, we continuously strive to improve on the perfection that is our product.

If you’re ready to meet the new standard of excellence in the engineering and elegance of the 1911 pistol, Mr. Jones waits to greet you. Say hello to art in action.

Please also see our ultra premium Jones Deluxe 1911 model, perhaps the most beautiful 1911 ever crafted.

The guns are a unique combination of high tech and handcraft. The technologies include CNC Machining, EDM wire, EDM Sink, CNC Jig Grinding, and CNC Surface Grinding; the polish is done by hand, and their claim is that there is no tooling mark on their pistol — anywhere. They further claim that the high-tech machining gives them a perfect fit and perfectly interchangeable parts without hand fitting. That leaves the gunsmiths to concentrate on the art of the pistol.

Cabot has a history of making out-of-this-world 1911s, with grips of meteorite metal or mammoth tooth, or a slide of Damascus stainless. The prices are also firmly orbital. A base Jones 1911 will leave the well-heeled pistolero less well-heeled to the tune of $6,450. The one-of-a-kind exotics make the Jones look like a bargain.

Exercise for the reader: imagine John M. Browning back from the dead, and seeing this. Is he more likely to be wowed by the worksmanship, or bemused that nobody has completely replaced his century-old design? You know if he had miraculously lived all this time, he would have kept designing better and better guns. Imagine what he could do with Cabot’s manufacturing technology — this guy who made his prototypes, mostly, with files and other hand tools.

Meet the Gladius

ga_precision_logoRecently, a friend commented, to a third guy looking for an accurate rifle cheap, that cheap wasn’t the right way to do it.

“Look at GA Precision. George builds really accurate rifles. And he guarantees them.”  George is George Gardner, who founded GA Precision in 2007 and has built it into a thriving business that supplies a who’s who of long-range target shooters and law enforcement Must Not Miss Ever marksmen. And yes, George guarantees them:

G.A. Precision guarantees the accuracy of its rifles to be 1/2 MOA at 100 yards with match grade ammunition. This guarantee applies to any complete build or partial builds where G.A. Precision both barrels the rifle in combination with bedding it. As long as GAP agrees that supplied components are quality.

There are some exceptions for this. The Templar-action Crusader model is guaranted to shot 3/4 3/8 MOA and the GAP-10 7.62-NATO-caliber AR variant, 1 MOA — all with match grade ammunition. And the Non Typical Hunting Rifle, a build with a much lighter barrel for field use than a typical target or sniper rifle, is guaranteed to shoot to 1/2 MOA, but only for three shots (due to our oft-discussed bugbear, barrel heating, a bigger issue in a hunting barrel).

We’re pretty sure we’ve talked about GA Precision’s rifles before — friends of ours who came from a Marine Scout/Sniper background and continued their service under different sponsorship, shall we say, like ’em — but we thought we’d take a look, and we found one we really liked, the Gladius. (The name came from Frank Galli of Sniper’s Hide, it’s a Roman twist on GA Precision’s usual Crusades-themed gun names)


The Gladius is designed from the outset to be suppressed. It comes with the muzzle brake/ suppressor mount for Surefire systems. It has a short barrel (hence the name!) but still comes with the 1/2 MOA guarantee.


Now, if you are asking, as our friend did, for a “cheap” accurate AR-10 clone, GA Precision probably is not where you want to shop. Even their gas gun (reasonably priced for its quality) is a $3,000 system before optics and suppression, and a bolt gun like the Gladius is $4k plus, similarly bare of the glass and can that it will wear when fully dressed. (The glass can easily match the gun dollar-for-dollar, if you want the best brand names).

But if true precision is what you’re seeking, this is what it looks like. This is what it costs.

GA Precision has wait lists for most of its firearms (a few built-on-spec or customer-remorse firearms are always available on the site, but a popular one doesn’t stay there long).

The GA Precision website also contains a true illustration of what a class act George (and the company) is. Employees are listed on a Meet the Team page, but when employees leave in good standing their bios move to the Alumni page, and they’re remembered. Even George’s ex-K9 Malinois, Rocky, gets the Alumnus treatment.

To twist the tagline of some long-gone chicken farmer, it takes some tender guys to make a tough precision rifle.


This post has been corrected. We originally stated, incorrectly, that the guarantee on The Crusader was 3/4 MOA. While 3/4 MOA is pretty good (especially for a guaranteed performance with, not custom loads, but factory-loaded Match ammo), the Crusader is in fact guaranteed to 3/8 MOA, a much smaller (and tougher-to-guarantee) group.

We regret the error and apologize to the fine folks at GA Precision.

We also regret that we were unclear about the reason Rocky is on the Alumni page. While the other Alumni have gone on to other jobs, careers, or locations, Rocky has gone to the Great Dog Park Beyond. He’s baying in the Pack Invisible. He is an ex-dog — but warmly remembered, as anyone who has ever loved one would understand. The ancient Greeks believed that as long as one man remembered you, your spirit lived yet. Ave atque vale, Rocky (yes, we’re mixing Greek culture with Latin sentiment, so what? Go ahead and sue us, and find a blog that keeps thing Classically correct).

It’s oh-dark-hundred here and tomorrow’s posts may lag. Still trying to rescue a tech investment and playing Can This Company Be Saved? is time-consuming.

Can This Gun be Saved?

This classic old Colt Mustang .380, the original Colt knockoff of the Llama pocket-pistol knockoff of the 1911, has seen better days. Can it be saved? A customer brought it to a gunsmith who told the story on Reddit and Imgur (all these photos came from Imgur, and are linked in the Reddit thread).

Colt Mustang Before

The old Colt is still functional enough, but it’s fugly. The steel slide and barrel are pitted. The alloy frame is also corroded, and the trigger guard, integral to the frame, is nicked and generally chewed-up looking.  Can it look like new again? Click “more” to see!

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Sometimes the Worst Gun Wins, and other Lessons from History

In Smith’s The History of Military Small Arms, the author claims to see a  parallel between the introduction of the Dreyse Needle Gun and the history of military small arms in general. To wit:

Dreyse Needle Gun with fabric cartridge and projectile showing primer location at projo base. From The Firearm Blog.

Dreyse Needle Gun with fabric cartridge and projectile showing primer location at projo base. From The Firearm Blog.

When the Dreyse was introduced into the Prussian service it was a “military secret” of the first order. Like most “military secrets” it was a secret only to those naive branches of the military who never seem to be aware of what has been done in their line—those artless individuals with which every country is regularly afflicted, and who strangely enough seem to be nearly always in a position to make policy while submerging the real experts who are present in any army.1

The Dreyse shouldn’t have been a surprise to anybody, as the technology had been patented by a Swiss circa 1830, when the Prussian generals who would command Dreyse-wielding riflemen were subalterns. And while the Dreyse Needle Gun had an edge on the French Chassepot, it wasn’t that big an edge, really.

The Chassepot. Funny: the Scandinavian museum that has this one thinks it's a Dreyse.

The Chassepot. Funny: the Scandinavian museum that has this one thinks it’s a Dreyse.

The edge was that the Dreyse was able to use a metallic cartridge, even though these images show a fabric one (even though the illustration shows it with a fabric cartridge). But in the Americas, Union cavalry was armed almost exclusively with breechloaders, and in significant part with breech-loading repeaters, generally firing fixed rim- or center-fire ammunition, by war’s end. Having the Dreyse gave the Prussians a momentary advantage over the muzzleloader-toting Austrians, who soon thereafter followed such leaders as Britain (with the Snyder) and the US (with the Allin conversion) and rebuilt its muzzle-loaders into breech-loaders.

Here's another view of the Chassepot, action closed. The stylistic resemblance to the much later Mosin-Nagant repeater is eerie; did it inspire that design?

Here’s another view of a Chassepot, action closed. The stylistic resemblance to the much later Mosin-Nagant repeater is eerie; did it inspire that design?

Out in the real world, small arms development is seldom secret, and when it is, it is seldom kept secret for long. Engineering and science have long been observed to proceed, worldwide, at the same pace, and weapons of war face something akin to the evolutionary pressures faced by animals under natural selection (minus, perhaps, sexual selection, although the natural competitiveness of armies leads to a pursuit of bragging rights and pride internationally that has some parallels, but with much less power).

1898 .30-40 Krag carbine

1898 .30-40 Krag carbine

It is an interesting fact that, when two armies meet in the field, both sides are almost always convinced that their equipment is superior. When it turns out not to be for one side, an even more interesting fact is that weapons superiority is not always, or even often, decisive. No grunt came away from Cuba or Puerto Rico still believing that the .30-40 Krag, selected by the USA over the Mauser because the Krag had a simpler and easier-to-inspect magazine cut off “to save ammunition in combat,” was the superior rifle. Ordnance’s error in prioritizing that, or perhaps in accepting the priorities given to it by the generals, was clear, and the guns were scarcely still before Springfield was directed, although perhaps not in the words of a later Smith & Wesson executive, to “copy the m’f’er!”

Yet, as deficient as the US mix of Krags and trapdoors was vis-a-vis the 7mm x 57 Spanish 1893 Mauser, a technically superior rifle was not enough to make up for the many other technical and tactical deficiencies the Spaniards faced in trying to hang on to their colonies. Weapons are complex enough to present many features and capabilities, and survival-oriented officers and soldiers quickly learn to exploit their system’s strengths and overcome its weaknesses. The Germans learned to fight against the superior mobility of American and Russian tanks; the Allies learned to fight against the German’s better armor and armament. Meanwhile, a “secret” weapon is only secret until it’s used; after that, the enemy knows its effects, and his own engineers and ordnance men can figure out what the weapon was — as every nation’s scientists and engineers are at, to a first approximation, the same level of knowledge. (The classic example of the limited life of a  secret weapon is the way the Soviet Union went from ignorance of the potential for a nuclear weapon to leapfrogging US/UK development of fusion weapons in 4 years).

Napoleon’s maxim about the relative weight of the material and the moral in war is as good an explanation as any for the phenomenon: sometimes the guy with the worse gun wins.


  1. B. Smith (2013-07-13 00:00:00-05:00). The History of Military Small Arms (Kindle Locations 910-914). Kindle Edition.


Here’s a Good Gun Review

The editors of Shooting Illustrated did something wicked smart — they gave one of those new “guns for gals” to an actual gal to review, but even more cleverly, they gave it to one who was able to appreciate the engineering, not only the feminine colors (wait. How many of the women you know drive pink cars? Not knowing any Mary Kay reps, my answer is ze-ro. Interesting fact, that). But in this case, the designers of the gun, European American Armory (and their production partners, Italy’s Fratelli Tanfoglio) redesigned the firearm around the fact that there is sexual dimorphism in the human species.

Di-what? That means, men and women tend to be different sizes and strengths. While there’s a lot of overlap in the distributions, both the mean and the positions of the tails of the distributions of things like size and strength skew far higher for men than for women. Which is why you’re going to see a woman on an NFL offensive line around the time a man wins the ladies’ gymnastics gold at the Summer Olympics, and Satan stops burning coal because he needs the carbon credits.

There was a time when metalflake was a guy thing, on cars. Just sayin'.

There was a time when metalflake was a guy thing, on cars. Just sayin’. Some EAA Pavona colors.

Here’s what our distaff, engineering-wise reviewer has to say about the EAA Pavona:

[W]hat sets EAA’s offering apart from so many in the field, is how the company handled the other half of the equation: the engineering side of things. Mechanically, what EAA needed to accomplish was to design a pistol that would be easy for a new shooter—perhaps with small hands and below-average grip strength—to operate, and still have it appeal to more experienced shooters as well. Fortunately, the platform EAA started with was a solid one.

The gun is based on the CZ-75. Back when the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic was being stingy with export licenses to the Evil Capitalists, the licensed their design to the Tanfoglio Brothers, whose early pistols were close copies, and whose current pistols are, like current CZs, more in the line of evolved derivations.

The Pavona is a single-action/double-action semi-automatic, with a long trigger pull for the first shot, and a shorter, lighter pull for subsequent shots. My trigger scale only reads to 8 pounds, and the Pavona’s double-action trigger broke just past the end of the calibrated area. The single-action pull broke consistently right at 4 pounds. The double-action pull, while heavy, was not gritty on the test sample, and the single-action pull had minimal take-up and broke cleanly.

It is just stupid-easy to shoot well, especially for a compact pistol in a service caliber.

Firing controls are also intended to be unobtrusive and snag-resistant. Unfortunately, they are not ambidextrous, although a southpaw might find it easier to activate the slide-stop lever with their trigger finger than a righty would with their thumb. This is a roundabout way of noting the reach to the slide-stop lever is a long one. I

The safety was easy to use and fell naturally under the thumb as the pistol was grasped. Further, unlike a 1911, the Pavona’s slide can be worked with the thumb safety on. That’s a good thing, because it means administrative chores like unloading the handgun or taking it apart for cleaning can be accomplished with the hammer cocked—so the shooter doesn’t have to fight the resistance of the mainspring while running the slide—and still have the safety on as an added layer of precaution.

That’s a CZ-75 feature, as is the ability to carry cocked-and-locked. If you carry cocked-and-locked, why carry a DA pistol? In our case, it’s for a second strike at some Third Worldian primer. The rest of you, keep toting those 1911s. The tradeoff is, as our reviewer notes, that you don’t have a decocker. Some people prefer a decocker to a safety (like in the Beretta 92G). Some want both as independent controls (hence, the fans of SIG’s service pistols). Some of us just live dangerously and point it at the dog while dropping the hammer with our thumb on it (just kidding! No dogs were harmed, or even threatened, in reviewing this review).

Conscious of the needs of new shooters or those with less grip strength, the folks at EAA took a two-pronged approach to remedying this potential pitfall. [The Petter rails-inside-frame design leaves little freeboard for grasping the slide to operate it — Ed.]

First, the company reshaped the serrations on the slide. Despite appearing cosmetically pretty with their shallow, scalloped cuts, when I gripped the slide, I was impressed by the purchase they afforded. There was no problem getting a sufficient grip, even with a thumb-and-forefinger pinch instead of my preferred over-the-top, whole-hand grab.

Another aid built into the handgun is the use of lighter recoil and mainsprings. The reduced-power mainspring (which is accompanied by a heavier firing pin to ensure reliable ignition) also makes it easier for those with less grip strength to cock the hammer before racking the slide.

You know we are going to tell you, especially the chick yous, to go and  Read The Whole Thing™. It’s also a pretty good example to illustrate the kind of stuff to cover in a review. Things like:

  • What’s special about this design?
  • Who is it best suited for?
  • How does it compare to a few guns everybody knows (or thinks he knows?)
  • When you shot it, and it didn’t jam, exactly how many rounds are we talking about?

Finally, a review has places for both subjective impressions and cast-iron facts. An extra plus in this review for trying to verify some of the manufacturer’s specifications. Sure, the manufacturer says it weighs this, has a trigger pull of that, and holds so many rounds in its magazine. I greatly prefer reviews where they verify these factory numbers. The ugly fact is that the numbers that come in the press packet (for those firms turned-on enough to have a press packet) come from the marketing department and they may have nothing but a nodding acquaintance with the numbers the engineering department is using when they QC the guns.

So we always like it when a reviewer gets the trigger gage out and that sort of thing. This was a good review. We liked it. We’re not the target demo for the gun, but we know people who are. And she’s dead right that the gun-store guys recommending snubby revolvers to women as EDC guns need to reexamine their preconceptions.

Oh, did we say who the reviewer was? Tam of A View From the Porch, one of the folks who made gun blogging look so easy that we followed ’em in. As we close in on three years, it’s a damn sight harder than we expected….

A cool 1911 graphic

We saw this blurbed at Instapundit:


The full thing by artist Jacob O’Neal is something you have to see. Because as cool this is, even clicked-to-embiggen, this is just one small part of it, as a static graphic. The real thing offers several views, and is animated. 

Boy. Sure wish we’d had this back in Weapons School, when two of us ran a study hall late into the night to try to save the guys who had been recycled from the class before us. (We did, but it was hard work — mostly by them, we just happened to be college boys with good study habits who could help out).

Go to his animations site, and enjoy Jacob’s artistry. Along with the gun he’s got jet and piston engines and a tarantula. Then come back, hear?

Back now? Was that 1911 animation cool, or what? So, now go see the animated infographic he did for SilencerCo some time back. (And all you 1911 bashers who wanted a Glock, guess what’s hosting the SilencerCo Osprey in the graphic?)

Guy’s a talented artist. Some website looking for differentiation ought to commission him. (We don’t think we can afford him without crimping the toy budgets).

Colt M4LE Model 6921 Unboxing

Objective: build the best possible transferable replica of an Afghanistan, early war, Special Forces carbine. Specifically the one we toted around Kandahar, Bagram, and on Operation Roll Tide with the 3rd Battalion of the Afghan National Army in the Khamard and Madr Valleys of central Afghanistan.

We started with noting what a young(er) WeaponsMan toted around the hills: an early M4A1 to which the SOPMOD I kit came as an afterthought (and because our company was remote from, and in a different state from, Battalion and Group HQ, we didn’t get the whole kit until we returned, because the Group S4 ratholed it and forgot about it. Supply, a most under-appreciated field of endeavor). We figured the nearest we could come to it was a Colt LE M4, as it would have roll marks similar to the combat-carried weapon, and the correct barrel length. We ordered the gun two years ago, and it came quickly to our FFL.


The trip to the workbench was long and eventful. An attempt to set up new trust came unglued, and after a second attempt, we moved forward with an individual purchase. (And yes, that means when we get the trust straightened out we’ll have to pay another two bill transfer tax to put it in the trust). Then, of course, ATF fell far behind in approving NFA transfers. They finally got the paperwork after all of our delays in March, 2014; in October, at the 6-month point, we called NFA Branch for an update.

“It’s all good,” the examiner said. “There’s nothing wrong with your packet, and it’ll probably be approved.”


“…in January.”

“Oh. Well, thanks. Out here.”

But the examiner underpromised and overdelivered. In November, we got a call with the welcome note: “Your stamp’s here!”

Cool. Two months early! We couldn’t pick it up till this month, so it was like getting an early Christmas gift.

You’ve seen the box; overleaf, there’s a photo-rich set of detail pictures of the carbine after the jump below. The photos are unretouched except for cropping, setting levels, erasing serial numbers (a bit silly, as the guys who scan the net for serial numbers already have this one) and stripping EXIF data.

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Gun Oddity: Beretta ‘Combo’

We prowl the halls of GunBroker, half looking for stuff to buy, and half looking for edutainment. This is an example of the latter, in that we never knew it existed: a Beretta 92/96 Combo, which appears to be a factory set with slide/barrel/recoil-spring units in 9mm and in .40 S&W.

beretta 92-96 combo case

Here’s the seller’s blurb:

For sale a Beretta 92/96 Combo, 9mm and 40s&w. As far as I can tell it is unfired, Has the original blow-molded case, original box and all paper work. Barrels and lower are stamped COMBO. Also has extra grips. I will pay for transfer using my local FFL if picked up locally. When I say rare, look around, you won’t find many… IF any! I can send more pictures if you are a serious buyer.

beretta 92-96 combo

Looks legit to us. The number of these that were produced isn’t visible in any official document, but web pages here and there offer up claims of 500 or 2,500. They come up for sale from time to time, at a premium over a 92 or 96 in equivalent condition.

There is a great deal of modularity in the M92 (etc) design, and the 92 and 96 have identical frames. Therefore, they are convertible simply by swapping complete upper (slide-barrel assembly-recoil-spring), and, of course, the magazine. The recoil spring assembly can be reused, but it’s easier to just have a whole unit to swap. (Also, the recoil spring is probably the single most life-limited part in the Beretta, especially the 96, which has the same spring as the 92 but punishes it more).

There are some limitations on swapping, mostly involving odd-lockwork guns and early (pre-92FS) guns. You can even get some use out of just a 92 barrel in a 96 slide, although the reverse won’t work. However, the newer “Brigadier” slide (the one with the thickened area by the locking block) may have fewer interchange options.

What’s amazing is that guys will still write that you can’t swap uppers from 9mm to .40 on Berettas. This Combo is living proof that Beretta thought you could!

Forgotten Weapons on the Development of the 1911

Through blind luck, the current Rock Island Premier Auction has one of every major variant of Browning-Colt production (even, very low production) pistol from the earliest Model 1900 “sight safety” locked-breech pistol through the 1911, 1911/24 Transitional, and 1911A1 issue pistols. These are three of the oldest: a 1900, a 1900 converted to 1902 (lacking any safety whatsoever), and a 1902 military (square butt and lanyard ring).

early_coltsThrough blind luck and directed expertise, but mostly directed expertise, Ian McCollum of Forgotten Weapons noticed this, and used those pistols — and a Savage 1907, one of Colt’s competitors — to do an impromptu video on 1911 developmental history.


Except… it’s not least bit impromptu. It’s a real pro job! A half hour plus of awesome gun history. Go thither and enlighten thyself.

And you’ll know what you’re looking at when you encounter one of these, somewhere down the road:


It’s the granddaddy of them all, the “sight safety” pistol that Colt just called the Colt Automatic Pistol — after all, in 1900 it was their first and only one — and that collectors call the M1900 Sight Safety. The name comes from the safety, which was the rear sight: with the hammer cocked, it can be rotated down to block the firing pin.

Normally, we’d embed the video, but we’d really like you to go check out Ian’s presentation, because he also links to each pistol’s page at the RIA auction. At RIA, each pistol’s page also includes links to other vintage Colts.

The Education of Bubba

Here’s a thread in ARFcom’s Build It Yourself forum where the consequences of gorilla (no, not “guerrilla”) gunsmithing come home to roost.

The modular nature of the AR let Our Hero (who just joined ARFcom, and thus dwells in Baby Duck World) assemble a working one first shot:

I built my first AR, took it to the range and it shot great. No malfunctions and great groupings.

Since he titled his thread, “Shouldn’t have messed with [it]” we have already had some foreshadowing of the fact that he did not leave well enough alone, and he didn’t:

I didn’t like the compensator I had though so I bought the standard A2 style flash hider. Put my upper in the action block and into my vise.

Anybody see what’s about to go wrong here? Class? Bueller? Anyone?

We’ll explain. The action block is for protecting the receiver, which although forged 7075 is still only a thin-walled alloy forging, while removing, installing, and especially torquing a barrel. We’re going to emphasize what’s next: action blocks are not for removing muzzle devices. Why not? Well, consider the following as a crude illustration of an AR barrel, with the letter E being the chamber and barrel [E]xtension, the letter A being the gas block or FSB, and the letter D in brackets being the muzzle [D]evice:


So what our novice protagonist did was secure “E” and apply torque at about “D” — 16 or 20″ distant. The barrel is fairly stiff and acts more like a torque tube than a torsion bar, delivering most of that torsion efficiently to the interface between the barrel extension and the upper receiver — where nothing resists that torque but the barrel nut, a little, and the locating pin on the extension which fits into a matching groove in the upper receiver. The locating pin is just for lining the barrel up consistently; it’s not made to bear torque loads, but it is steel and the aluminum alloy slot it rides in is even less able to resist. The pin can bend, but it’s steel. What usually happens is that it springs the upper receiver or cuts the metal of the upper.

What happened here:

The comp came off no problem but the crush washer did not so I got a screw driver gave it a few taps and it came off but damaged the threads on the barrel a little.

Repeat after WeaponsMan, please: “The right tool for the right job.” In fact, write that down. There will be a test. Because all of life is a test — an IQ test.

If you have a crush washer that will not come off, you can thread it off. Don’t worry if you have to mark up its perimeter with pliers or even grind flats on it to get purchase with a wrench, because then you’re going to throw it away. Many fasteners, from the rod bolts on your 350 Chevy to the crush washers on muzzle-devices, are made for one use only.

If you gouge the threads, the right thing to do is to chase them with the right size die. WWBD, though — What Will Bubba Do?

It didn’t look too bad so I put on the new flash hider and it wasn’t too hard to get on I attributed it to the damaged threads but when it got down to the crush washer I had to put some serious torque on it to get it to line up but it went on.

Yeah, ’cause nothin’ fixes threads like cross-threading something else over them. Note also the calibrated Bubba torque wrench, with its precsion torque meter:

  1. Faint city-boy torque;
  2. Some torque;
  3. Some serious torque;
  4. King-hell torque.

Well, “some serious torque” may not be what the -50 says but the proof of the pudding, etc., so how did Our Hero Bubba do at the range?

at 25 yards it was shooting 8 inches high and 6 inches to the left I knew it would change my POI a little but I had to adjust my sights as far as they would go to zero it again and I know that is not right and I am not okay with that since I didn’t have to adjust the sights at all the first time I went out.

He didn’t say anything about the size of the group changing yet, just point of impact (POI) shift. any muzzle device causes a point of impact shift. Ceteris Paribus asymmetrical devices cause more of a shift than symmetrical ones. The M16A2 flash suppressor is asymmetrical — two “slots” are not milled out, so that no gas escapes in that direction. Those slots should be oriented down, to reduce the amount of dust that’s kicked up when the gun is fired. And so you do have to expect

Quick rule of thumb: a fresh AR upper should work with the windage and elevation near the center of their travel. (A few clicks off absolute center is OK. Most of the way to the end of travel, is not OK). If it doesn’t, Bubba is In Da House.

He’s also violated the Golden Law of Troubleshooting: change only one thing at a time. But for a Bubba, he wises up quickly, and makes one change:

So I took of the muzzle device off and found out I cross threaded it and thought that was the issue so I shot it again with no muzzle device and same thing 8 inches high 6 inches left but still a great grouping its just not where I want it to be.

He found the POI change was the same with the A2 flash suppressor and without it:

i dont think its anything with the muzzle because I shot it with the cross threaded flash hider and with no muzzle device just exposed threads and it shot in the exact same spot for both

Ergo, it wasn’t the A2 cage per se that changed his point of aim. But something did it. Without examining the bubba’d upper, we can’t diagnose it, but our guess is that it was a consequence of either damaging the muzzle crown in his enthusiastic attack on the crush washer, or of torque damage to the barrel assembly or its seating in the upper receiver.

Amazingly — it is ARFCom, after all — he got good advice about what his problem might be, and he began to take it. His responses:

[D]oes this mean I need a new barrel or upper receiver or just take it all apart and re torque everything down to specs?

…I will take it apart as soon as I get home from work and see what she looks like. And my die to re thread the muzzle is supposed to come in today….

Barrel is a gov profile barrel. I learned my lesson and ordered all the correct equipment for my next build….

Ok took it all apart and everything looked fine except for the feed ramps but I could hardly tell they didn’t line up its barely noticeable. Put it back together torqued it all to specs and took it to the range. its shooting in the same exact spot maybe just an inch lower this time but still way off. So I have no idea whats going on

The bit about the feed ramps not  lining up tells us he did torque the barrel out of its place in the upper receiver, and the consistent and continuing shooting to a point of impact eight inches out from the point of aim strongly suggests the receiver is hosed, probably where the barrel alignment pin sits.

In the end, he (with a lot of help from the board) came to the understanding that he needed to try a new upper. He lacks the tools, information and skills to inspect his present upper.

Update: I can zero the rifle but I have to adjust the front and rear sights to their extremes which I am not ok with. It is to the point that when I shoulder the rifle I need to remove my cheek from the stock to get a clear sight picture (sure optics would work) but the poi is out of my comfort zone. So I ordered a new upper from Anderson and just my luck the upper is botched and my bcg hangs up about halfway in and my charging handle won’t fit either. So I’m calling them on my lunch break to see what they can do for me.

One suspects that he’ll learn a lot, and in the end have a shootable rifle, but right now he doesn’t. Contrary to what is said in the thread, a displacement of point of aim can come from a damaged crown (without necessarily opening up the groups) but his problem is almost certainly a bubba’d upper receiver.

Eight inches is rather badly out of spec. He can’t even use this thing as a burglar defense gun now, unless the burglars where he’s at are broader in the chest than the skinny meth heads we have around here.

What he should have done, and the things he did right

So, what should Bubba have done, and his rifle would be good and accurate?

He should (as he undoubtedly knows now), have clamped the barrel forward of the FSB (or, with an FSB block, at the FSB) before R&R’ing the flash hider. He definitely should have gotten some advice before putting his back into the wrench on the flash suppressor.

But he did some things right. He asked for help, and most of the comments in his thread gave it to him. He didn’t act on his first impulse, which was to reef on the barrel again, clamping it with a Reaction Rod instead of an action block. (A Reaction Rod is the cat’s ass, but doesn’t address the problem of applying force 15-20″ away from where the barrel’s anchored). Few things can produce more expensive scrap metal faster than impatience at the armorer’s bench.

And a Final Warning

One last warning. Many people take on a flash suppressor replacement as a first attempt at customization. There are a million different kinds to try out. And it’s so tiny, it’s trivial, right?

No, not right. This guy’s results explain why that’s not necessarily a good idea: Just because of part is small, doesn’t mean it’s easily handled, or susceptible to trivial customization. Make your first experiments in AR-smithing on some part of the firearm that is not critical to accuracy and reliability. (That means, not the barrel).