Category Archives: Pistols and Revolvers

Before There Were Many 9MM Ultra Compacts, There Was One

Devel ASP 12Before there was the current rich supply of ultra compact 9 mm pistols, someone had to have the idea for the first time. In fact, the idea of a small 9 mm carry gun was widespread long before any factory produced one.

The market answered, after a fashion: cut-down versions of pistols were produced. Some of them weren’t cut down much, like the P-38K and the Colt Commander. Others were not really practical, like Baby Lugers, and always appealed more to collectors than self-defense carriers.

SW-semi-model-chartBut the natural host for these first-generation pocket nines in the 1970s and 1980s was America’s first pistol designed for what was then a European cartridge, the 9 mm Smith & Wesson Model 39. The M39 was a postwar design that sought to blend European and American design concepts, and not only did that but produced an attractive firearm at the same time. It combined a Browning-style tilting-barrel, and a Walther-like SA/DA operating system with a slide-mounted safety/decocker. Mag release and slide stop were also Browning style, and the barrel was positioned in the nose end of the slide by a collet bushing modeled on the one in the Colt Gold Cup.

The M39 was single-stack before single-stack was cool, and entered the market in 1954-55 after years of development. If you want to foray into the weeds of Smith auto pistol history, Chris Baker took a shot at decoding Smith’s nomenclature mess with the M39 and its legions of successors at Lucky Gunner Lounge last year, also producing the infographic on the right, which appears correct but incomplete.

But the reason that the M39 yielded those early conversions were (1) it was readily available, and (2) there was nothing vital and hard to relocate in the parts of the gun that a compact conversion hacked off. This picture from an S&W forum shows three cut-down 39s: from l-r, an Austin Behlert special on a Smith 59 (basically, a double-stack 39), a full Devel on a 39 with ambi safety, and a full devel (no ambi safety) on a 59.

Behlert Devel Devel

The first, and most exotic small Smith was the ASP, made beginning in 1970 by New York artist and espionage agency hang-around Paris Theodore, who partnered initially with George L. Nonte. This ASP picture comes from the same forum as the shot above, and illustrates the somewhat industrial finish on ASPs.

asp2

The magazine was patented, specifically for the unusual laid-back pinky rest. The open side made the transparent/translucent segment of the grips practical.

One of the ASP features that will never show in a side view is that about 40% of the width of the reshaped trigger guard was milled away on the strong side of the customer, to provide faster access to the trigger. Theodore claimed that an ASP had 212 modifications from the factory M39.

Theodore’s spy stories seem to have been cut from whole cloth, but he died young — here is an interesting, if credulous, obituary in the late, lamented New York Sun. A definitive ASP was trimmed in height and length, dehorned and softened in its angles, and fitted with a patented “Guttersnipe” trough sight and see-through grips to facilitate round counting.

The Devel was devel-oped (you may groan) by Charlie Kelsey. They tended to be better finished and often had fluted slides to reduce weight. Here are three Devels, a 59 and two 39s.

Three Devels

This is a Devel on a Smith 39-2 from a current GunBroker auction, but supplied with two ASP magazines.

Devel ASP 09

The seller says this about it:

Smith & Wesson Model 39-2 Devel Custom chambered in 9mm with a 3.5″ barrel. Used but in good shape! Frame and slide have some handling wear, couple scratches, and little bit of finish wear around the edges. Comes with two hard to find ASP magazines! Please look at the pictures for details.

Devel ASP 05

The cut-down for Devel and ASP alike was usually 3/4 of an inch to the barrel and slide, and about a half inch to the butt. The package usually included replacing the collet bushing with a plain bushing, on reliability grounds, and bobbing the hammer.

Devel ASP 06

As you can see, the gun is not only shortened but also “softened” or “dehorned,” but it’s not what Devel called a “full house” custom, as it lacks the squared-off trigger guard and lightening flutes in the slide.

Factory compacts like Smith’s own 3913 crippled the market for these niche firearms, and both ASP and Devel folded, victims of the success of their own product.

Like Paris Theodore, Charlie Kelsey died prematurely, but while Theodore lost a long and debilitating battle with disease, Kelsey was found shot and burned in a ditch in Georgetown, Texas. While there were indications he may have been suicidal, he certainly can not have set his own dead body on fire. His murder has never been solved.

 

Of course, true Dedicated Followers of Browning would not be caught dead with a 9mm flyswatter: their pistol-shrinker of choice was Detonics, or Behlert (who called his bobbed .45 the Bobcat). But that’s another story!

 

Names for Malfunctions

“I’ve never had a malfunction on paper.”

George M. Chinn

On this page at the international website all4shooters, we noted the following paragraph from Andrea Giuntini:

American experts invented names and achronyms for all kind of gun-related malfunctions, yet there isn’t one that suits this. That was definitely not an FTF (“Failure to Feed”), as the round were fed and fired properly, nor an FTE (“Failure to Extract) since, as a matter of fact, the case was extracted and ejected; nor it is a stovepipe malfunction − if it was, the case would be stuck vertically in the ejection window.
May you, ALL4SHOOTERS.COM readers and followers, invent a name for this kind of malfunction? Tell us about it, and about any peculiar kind of malfunction you may have experienced in your everyday shooters’ lives!

The article actually looks into a screwy, one-off malf of a Glock 17, in which a fired casing got turned around backwards and jammed the slide from going into battery on the next round:

Glock-jamming

We couldn’t duplicate the jam with a G17 and dummy rounds in the office, but Andrea traced it to a piece of metal debris under the extractor (his Glock was brand new).

A gun is a machine, and a machine does the same thing every time, given the same input; therefore, a machine never fails for no reason, and the reason is always discoverable, given the right theory, concept, and inspectional technique. Basic troubleshooting, which worked for Andrea Giuntini and should make a good post here some day. But meanwhile, it got us thinking about what are the types of malfunctions?

Most of what an Internet search will find is the same stuff repeated endlessly, which probably comes, ultimately, from Cooper. We leave finding it in Cooper’s voluminous bibliography as an exercise for the reader; his Commentaries are online, for example.

Cooper, in turn, followed Chinn. But an even earlier taxonomy of malfunctions comes from then-Captain Julian Hatcher and his assistants, Lieutenants H.J. Malony and Glenn P. Wilhelm,  at the Machine Gun School of Instruction at Harlingen, Texas in March, 1917.

Jams, Malfunctions, Stoppages

Distinguish carefully between these terms, and use them correctly. Any accidental cessation of fire is a stoppage. It may be due to a misfire, or to the fact that the magazine has been emptied, etc. In this case it is not a malfunction.

A malfunction is an improper action of some part of the gun, resulting in a stoppage. For example, a failure to extract the empty cartridge case.

A jam is some malfunction which causes the mechanism to stick or bind so that it is difficult to move. Do not use the word “Jam” too much. Most troubles with the guns are merely temporary stoppages due to some malfunction, and real jams are comparatively rare.1

An alternative version comes from the Royal Armouries of England and Great Britain. In the 1960s, its standard report format (which we saw in the Vz 58 report) contained this boilerplate key2 to malfunctions:

ABBREVIATION STOPPAGE OR MALFUNCTION DESCRIPTION
1. b.f.c. Breech Block fails to close. The round has been fed into the chamber but breech block not fully home.
2. b. f. r. Breech Block fails to remain to the rear. When the trigger is released the breech block fails to engage on the sear.
3. d.t. Double Tap. When the mechanism of the weapon is set to single shot firing two rounds are fired with one pressure of the trigger.
4. f. e. Failure tc Eject. This occurs when the round is correctly fired and fired case is extracted from chamber but not thrown clear of the weapon.
5. f. e. c. Failure to Extract Fired Case. This occurs when the round is fired correctly but the fired case is left in the chamber when the breech block moves to the rear.
6. f. f. Failure to Feed A conplete failure of the breech block to contact the base of the round and remove it from belt or magazine i.e. breech block closes on empty chamber. Position of round in magazine or belt indicated where possible i.e. 19th
7. hf.      Hangfire This occurs when the time interval between the striking of the cap by the firing pin and the firing of the round is apparent to fixer. Definite time lag in milli seconds is however used by Ammunition personnel.
8. l. s. Light Strike This occurs when the cap of the round receives a slight indentation from the firing pin which is insufficient to ignite the cap composition.
9. p. f. f. Partial Failure to Feed or Malfeed. This is a partial failure in that the round has beer taken partially from the magazine or belt by breech block but has not chambered.

Position of round in magazine or belt indicated where possible, i.e. 19th round etc.

10. mf. Misfire. This occurs when the cap of the round has been correctlv struck but fails to ignite the charge and fire the round.
11.  r. g.  (3),(4),(5), etc. Runaway Gun. No. of rounds in brackets. When the mechanism of the weapon is set either at single shot or auto and continues firing after release of trigger,
12. s. c. Separated Case This occurs when a portion of the fired case is left in the chamber, the remainder being extracted normally. The succeeding round will fail fully to enter the chamber and breech block will fail to close.
13. s. n. r. Snubbed Nose Round. This occurs when the nose of the bullet does not enter the chamber correctly but on striking the barrel face is crushed by the foiward movement of breech block. This snubbing may take place at various points on the barrel face or lead in and where possible, is indicated as SN 3 o’clock SN 9 o’clock etc.
14. t. f. c. Trapped Fired Case. This occurs when the fired case is correctly extracted but on ejection the fired case rebounds into the mechanism and is trapped between some portion of the moving parts (usually the breech block) and the body of the weapon.
15 Failures through Breakages These will obviously cause stoppages and will be described in full.

The fact is, malfunctions are conceptualized differently by the engineer, by the armorer or gunsmith, and by the firearms operator. From the operator’s-eye view, you don’t need to get wrapped around the axle trying to name them al. What you really need to know is what sorts of malfunctions a particular weapon is prone to, and how to correct them. And there is no better way than experience to master the art of malfunction correction.

Notes

  1. Hatcher, et. al. p. 1.
  2. UK Ministry of Defence, Inspectorate of Armaments, Woolwich, Small Arms Branch Testing Section, RSAF Enfield Lock, Form 7248/1. Retrieved from: http://weaponsman.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/RSAF-SATB-Small-Arms-Trial-Report-Vz58-1966.pdf

Sources

Hatcher, Julian S., Wilhelm, Glenn P. and Malony, Harry J. Menasha, WI: George Banta Publishing Co., 1917.

UK Ministry of Defence, Inspectorate of Armaments, Woolwich, Small Arms Branch Testing Section, RSAF Enfield Lock, Form 7248/1.

Keeping Your Remington .45s Straight

10x10_Remington-Logo_V01We recently read an article by Philip Schreier that corrected a bit of confusion that we didn’t even know we had about “Remington” made M1911 and 1911A1 pistols. The article was a sidebar to an article on Remington’s 200th anniversary in the current (April, 2016) American Rifleman. 

Remington is the oldest industrial firm in the Americas still making its original kind of product, which reinforces, perhaps, how important firearms manufacturing was to early American industrial development. But the company’s long and tangled history explains how three different runs of “Remington” 1911s have come to exist.  Here’s a timeline:

 

remington_history_and_1911s

Note: Timelines ending in “2017” are ongoing. Who knows where they will end… or where they will go next?

Simple, eh? All the corporate history is in the lower part of the timeline — at the top, you can see the three 1911 production events, including the two wartime production contracts. The first contract was actual for half a million .45s, but on the German surrender in 1918, the contract was canceled and only 22,000 Remington .45s had been made, making it a relatively rare GI .45. These pistols were made in Remington’s ancestral Ilion, NY plant. This rather battered example, Serial Number 2900, has retired to the National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Virginia:

Remington UMC M1911 Nº 2900. Source.

Remington UMC M1911 Nº 2900. Source.

The Bridgeport, Connecticut plant whose location was marked on this slide was one of four 1,000,000+ square foot plants constructed by the company between 1914 and 1918 (the others were small arms plants in Ilion, Eddystone, PA, and an ammo plant also in Bridgeport). Both of the Bridgeport factories were destroyed in approximately 2010-13. As the National Firearms Museum recounts, Remington-UMC did not find it easy to fulfill its contract. Prior to 1917, only Colt, Springfield Armory (in very low quantities), and the Norwegian State Armories had produced the .45 pistol, and the Norwegians didn’t expect their modified pistol to interchange with American 1911s. Colt’s technical data package was wanting:

Colt provided technical assistance in the form of sample pistols and production drawings, but problems quickly arose. In addition to numerous discrepancies, these drawings contained only nominal dimensions and no tolerances. Finding it easier to make their own blueprints based on measurements obtained from the Colt-produced sample pistols rather than reconcile more than 400 known discrepancies, Remington-U.M.C. created a set of “salvage drawings” that were later used by other contractors as well. The Army suspended its contract with Remington-U.M.C. on December 12, 1918, but allowed the company to manufacture additional examples to reduce parts inventories on hand. All told, nearly 22,000 M1911s were delivered to the government before Remington-U.M.C. shut down its production line.

In the summer of 1919, the company turned over its pistol manufacturing equipment to Springfield Armory, where it was placed in storage until the Second World War.

The problem with the data was that Colt processes in 1917 were little improved from processes in the Civil War, with drawings mediated by the tribal knowledge of skilled workmen and foremen on the shop floor. For a modern, high-throughput plant with less-skilled labor, this wasn’t going to work.

In the grand scheme of things, the trickle of pistols from Remington-UMC in 1918 was a thunderous success; other contractors failed to produce anything, produced only hand-fitted prototypes (North American Arms of Quebec), or produced only parts (Winchester and Savage, to name two). Winchester had a contract, like Remington’s, that initially called for half a million pistols; like all WWI production contracts, it was voided after the Armistice, and the parts produced went into spares bins at Springfield Armory. And for the rest of the 20th Century, Remington Arms and its gun-making successor firms would not make another .45 auto.

Remington-Rand, on the other hand, was the spinoff of the sewing-machine-and-typewriter part of the company. (It’s also the company that gave us the Remington electric shaver, not part of this version 1.1 graphic). In World War II, Remington-Rand got a contract to make M1911A1 pistols, and they definitely delivered, thanks in part to a far superior technical data package. Remington-Rand was set up not far from Ilion in the larger industrial city of Syracuse, NY. Remington-Rand was the largest single producer of WWII M1911A1s, with 900,000 produced. Here’s one of them:

Remington Rand M1911A1 Serial 091674. Source.

Remington Rand M1911A1 Serial 091674. Source.

Ergo, there are no Remington M1911A1s, and no Remington-Rand M1911s, except insofar as GI rebuilds and part shuffles have created mixmasters.

This was all pretty simple, straightforward, and easy to keep track of, until Remington, which hadn’t made pistols since the excellent Model 51, re-entered the pistol market in 2011 with a bang — from a .45 caliber 1911. These pistols, available in several models and finishes, are not GI .45s but incorporate many currently popular features, especially in “enhanced” trim. Even the base version (shown) has larger, more visible sights.

remington_1911_r1

The initial run of 1911 R1s was produced in Remington’s ancient plant in Ilion, New York.

At the insistence of the triumvirate that ran New York at the time, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-Too Big To Jail), Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-BOP Inmate Number Pending), and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-BOP Inmate Number Pending), Remington relocated 1911 production and the associated jobs to Huntsville, Alabama in 2013. The 1911 R1 remains in production there.

Sources

“JPM, Jr.” M1911A1:The Homepage for the Collector of the Model 1911A1 .45 Cal Service Pistol. Retrieved from: http://www.model1911a1.com

Remington Outdoor Company. Remington History, n.d. Retrieved from: http://www.remington.com/about-us

Schreier, Philip. Remington, Typewriters, M1911s and The Rand Co. The American Rifleman, April, 2016, p. 82.

Torres Occasio, Keila. RemGrit Buildings Set to Fall. Connecticut Post, 1 April 2012. Retrieved from: http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/RemGrit-buildings-set-to-fall-3451511.php

Uncredited. Remington Knives. All About Pocket Knives. Retrieved from: http://www.allaboutpocketknives.com/remington_knives/  (This information was used in the timeline only).

 

Everybody Loves a Baby… 1911.

Michael Bane's shot of a "real" 1911 and the Baby Rock.

Michael Bane’s shot of a “real” 1911 and the Baby Rock. This picture seems to understate the size difference.

Micro-1911s are all the rage now, as compact carry guns, and Michael Bane has got a great post on ’em on his blog. He compares in depth three .380 ACP micro-1911s, the Rock Island “Baby Rock”, the Colt “Government Model,” and the Browning 1911, and mentions at least in passing everything from the old Colt Pocket Hammerless .380 and the late lamented Llamas to the SIG Sauer P238. The post is good enough to Read The Whole Thing™… keep going or you’ll miss the zinger in the specs.

But before there was even the first Colt Mustang, before there was a Llama (the Spanish/Basque guns, not the Andean camelid), Colt made a completely different gun that has been called the Baby 1911… because it is, exactly, a scaled down 1911, in a smaller caliber. It was the Colt Model 1910 in 9.8 mm.

Colt 1910 98 RIA 01

The 1910 was Colt’s name for the pistol that the Army would adopt as the 1911. In hopes of landing European contracts, Colt made 7/8 scale 1910s in a 7/8 scale round, a proprietary 9.8 mm cartridge (also called a .38, it measured .380 across the bullet, not the .357 of typical American “.38s”). While a quantity (perhaps as few as a thousand rounds) of ammo was made, only a few guns were hand-crafted. At least two of the firearms were left in the white at Colt; one was in the Springfield Armory collection (and may still be), and one, Serial Number 4, later passed into the collection of Edward S. “Scott” Meadows, who had it professionally refinished (!). Curiously, Meadows’s book, US Military Automatic Pistols, says that only Serial Numbers 1-3 and one unnumbered piece are known. Colt 1910 98 SN 4 icollector

Colt 1910 98 RIA 02

In any event, Serial Number 4, whatever its provenance, is generally accepted as authentic, and was sold by Rock Island Auctions in September, 2012. This is the RIA description (noting that RIA later corrected the description, noting that the finish was a reblue).

The experimental Colt Model 1910 pistol was developed by Colt as a possible replacement for the Colt Model 1903 Pocket Hammer Pistol and to compete against Fabrique Nationale in Eastern European markets. Although Winchester manufactured several thousand rounds of 9.8 MM ammunition for the experimental pistol, it did not enter production and only five examples of this pistol were manufactured by Colt circa 1911. Four of these ultra-rare handguns are in museums and private collections. An example of a Colt Model 1910 9.8 MM Pistol is illustrated and described on pages 472-473 of “U.S. MILITARY AUTOMATIC PISTOLS 1894-1920” by Edward S. Meadows. The 9.8 MM Experimental Pistol is a scaled down copy of the very rare Colt Model 1910 .45 ACP Pistol. The slide is shorter and narrower and the 4 1/2 inch barrel has four concentric locking rings. The hammer has flat sides and a checkered spur. The slide has the early rounded rear sight. The slide stop and safety lock appear to be Colt Model 1911 Special Army components. The magazine is a modified Model 1902 Military magazine with un-marked floor plate and a full blue finish. The checkered walnut grips have small diamonds surrounding the screws and are similar to those on the Model 1911 Special Army. The pistol has the high polish Colt commercial blue finish on major components and the bright niter blue finish on the rear sight, hammer, slide lock, trigger and other small components.

As noted, RIA was contacted by a smith who noted that he had blued the gun (not “reblued” because it had never been blued. Because the slide stop and safety of the pistol-in-white shown in US Martial Handguns were also 1911 Special Army parts, this may be the same gun.

The right side of the slide is marked “AUTOMATIC COLT/CALIBRE 38 RIMLESS SMOKELESS” in two unequal lines. The left side of the slide is marked “PATENTED/APR.20.1897.SEPT.9.1902.DEC.19.1905” in a two-line block followed by “COLT’S PT. F.A.MFG. CO./HARTFORD.CT. U.S.A.” in two lines. The left side of the frame is hand-stamped with the serial number, “4” above the trigger guard. “40 CAL/MODEL” are stamped in two vertical lines beneath the slide stop; “40 CAL” is hand-stamped and “MODEL” is stamped with a single die. “RAD 40” (Research and Development) is hand-stamped vertically above the magazine release. “98” is stamped on the lower left side of the barrel chamber above the lug. The pistol is complete with two cartridges with the head-stamp “W.R.A. CO. 9.8 m/m A.C.” and a “U.MC. .38 A..C.P.” cartridge. Included with the pistol are a First Place Award from the 2007 Colt Collectors Association (CCA) Show at Reno, Nevada, a CCA 2007 Display Award, a Texas Gun Collectors Association Spring 2008 Most Historical Award, a Texas Gun Collectors Association Display Award and a notebook entitled “LOST BABY FOUND/COLT’S 9.8 m/m AUTOMATIC PISTOL” which contains the specifications of the pistol and copies of articles written about the pistol’s development.

The nice color pictures are from the Rock Island Auction and illustrate how one might never tell this pistol from a 1911, without having them side by side.

Colt 1910 and 1911 RIA

Serial Number 3 showed up in a June, 1988 American Rifleman article by William H.D. Goddard, who noted at that time only two complete guns, counting one held by Springfield that was made of parts. He did use several A-B comparison pictures.

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 12.09.40 AM

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 12.09.27 AM

Goddard took an interesting view of the Colt project. In his view, it was never that serious a product for the Hartford firm; instead, it was a bargaining chip to be use to pose a credible threat to what Fabrique Nationale saw as their home market for Browning designs, Europe. Colt representative Eugene Reising (later of H&R and the Marines’ least loved weapon, ever) was  a distinguished marksman and demonstrated the pistol at Bucharest, Romania, outperforming entries from Luger, Mauser and Dreyse, as well as a hapless Steyr entry that failed immediately.

Whether the 9.8 and Reising’s trip (“nothing looked so good to him… as when the Statue of Liberty flashed into view” on his return) was a bargaining chip or not, FN executives, who’d been dragging their feet, quickly cut a new non-compete deal with Colt dividing up the world into two spheres of influence again.

The Romanians? They bought Model 1910s…FN Browning Model 1910s, a simple, sweet blowback pistol. Later, they bought Model 1922s, the same basic gun with a longer barrel and grip.

FN took a similar path to make a gun that they called the Grand Browning in a different proprietary caliber, 9.65 mm. The sources disagree about how many of them were made, but they were made in 1914 just before Herstal and Liège were overrun by the Kaiser’s merry men, which put paid to the idea of production. It is possible that the Grand Browning was another entry in the Colt vs. FN cartel wars, as the five-year agreement concluded after the Romanian competition was signed on 1 July 1912, and would have been up on 30 June 1917. As it happened, the war intervened and made a mess of all orderly arrangements to divide up arms sales.

Still, you can’t look at the 1910 and not want one, although perhaps in a more popular caliber. “We can lament that this design was not produced in quantity, as it is a most appealing size and weight,” Goddard wrote. Indeed. If anyone made them, we bet Michael Bane would race us to be first in line for one.

Sources

Not in the office at the moment, so we’ll give you .pdfs of the relevant pages of US Military Pistols and American Rifleman, June 1988. If we get to the office we’ll replace these The original .pdfs have bee replaced with OCR’d versions.

When You’re Offered a Cross-Dressed Pistol, Part 2 of 2

Yesterday, we looked at a deliberately faked Ithaca M1911A1 being offered by a probably unwitting consignor. Now we have an apparently witting seller misrepresenting a clone as a genuine Browning Hi Power. Buckle up, ’cause it’s going to get ugly here.

Item II: The Phony Browning

Here you have a Hungarian FÉG 9HP Browning Hi-Power Clone, extensively gunsmithed, misrepresented on GunBroker by a Texas seller (M118LRShooter) who is not an FFL  as a genuine Browning and sold for a genuine Browning price of about $1400.

Fake BHP from Texas 1It was only on arrival in Connecticut that Mike, the buyer, realized that he had a mismatched parts gun on an FÉG frame, a disclosure the initial sale did not make. The initial auction was not billed as a Browning clone or an FÉG, but, as you can see, Custom Browning Hi Power 9mm Pistol! Mike began to get a sinking feeling that he’d been had. 

fake_browning_auction_screenshotNot only was this breathed-on clone called a Browning Hi Power in the title of the auction, “Browning” appeared four times and “Hi Power” seven in the description (count them yourself, below). “FÉG,” “Hungary,” “clone” and “copy” are  conspicuous by their absence. We’ll make it easy for the 90% of you that are not red-green color blind with a little color highlighting.

This Browning Hi Power has a custom carry package…all the sharp edges are rounded and smooth…the pistol has been tuned for total reliability and function, as well as accuracy. The sights are a combination of tritium Novak rear night sight, and XS Sight Systems tritium express front night sight…this Browning was meant to be carried and used. Special slim line grips are fitted to this pistol. A Cylinder and Slide trigger kit has been professionally installed resulting in an unbelievably smooth combat trigger. The magazine disconnect has been removed so this pistol will fire with the magazine removed. Browning Hi Power specialists, and defensive shooters will immediately note the custom beavertail on this frame. There is no Hi Power out there that will feel as good as this one in your hand. It is so well done it looks like it came from the factory this way. A commander hammer has been professionally fitted as part of the defensive carry package. Your hand will never get chewed up again….Hi Power shooters will know what I mean…. This pistol has a custom satin black Cerakote finish that will not wear off, or chip. This pistol will come with two original Hi Power 13 round magazines. Add the features up and see what a value this pistol is. If you’re considering buying a Hi Power and having all this custom work done….get ready to write a big check….or win the auction on this one and go to the range…. This is the Custom Browning Hi Power you are searching for.

Mike contacted the seller of the misrepresented pistol, thinking it might have been an inadvertent error.The response he got made him realize that there was no error involved at all, except maybe his. The seller insulted him, standing behind his “as is” boilerplate, and refused to take a telephone call to sort the matter out. “Finders keepers, losers weepers” as gun-sale code of conduct?

There are two mental exercises that will steer you to understanding the integrity level of the seller, M118LRShooter. Put yourself in his position,

  1. If you made an honest error, and inadvertently misrepresented a gun, and the buyer was unhappy he did not get what you falsely advertised, would you take it back?
  2. If you set out to be dishonest, and deliberately and knowingly misrepresented a gun, and the buyer was unhappy he did not get what you falsely advertised, would you then take it back?

Now, we have no way of knowing what was in the mind of Texan seller, M118LRShooter. We only know that he acted as he would if he were operating in Case 2 above.

Then when Mike entered negative feedback — a fair response to a seller misrepresenting a gun about a dozen times in a single listing, the seller — previously quite happy, presumably, to have gotten nearly $1400 for a $400 gun — changed his feedback for the buyer. His initial feedback was:

A+: Excellent buyer! Payment and communication were fast and correct…would do business with this man again…no hesitation…

But that was before the Connecticut buyer found out that he had been defrauded, and left negative feedback for the scamming seller:

Item was clearly described as a Browning Hi Power. Received a FEG PJK-9HP with a Browning slide. Contacted seller w/no resolution. Seller stated that I should’ve asked more questions about its origin.

Then, the seller responded with the same message, essentially, “it was as-is, FU” and changed his earlier feedback to punish the buyer for exposing the fraud:

F: If a buyer has specific questions about things that are important to him…he should ask them, not blame a seller for his mistake. This guy is a 10% buyer…watch out. I will always block this bidder!

Well, yeah, scammers tend not to respect or like their marks.

The story may not be over yet, although it seems to be at an impasse at this time. The whole sad tale is here on the 1911 Forum.

In practical terms, the seller buyer (duh) has no recourse. It’s too hard to prove criminal intent. It doesn’t yet seem to be a pattern of behavior from the seller. No sane lawyer would take an interstate civil case for such a small amount in dispute.

The Factory Frauds

As it happens, a lot of FÉGs are inadvertently misrepresented as actual Hi-Powers, because they are very close copies (the parts interchangeability of these reverse-engineered Iron Curtain clones is practically 100%), and because FÉG themselves mislabeled entire runs of these pistols during the Iron Curtain era. Here are two images of different FÉG clones bearing spurious FN rollmarks:

feg fake browningMost of these clones that are found in US and European collector circles are not in good condition; many of them came from Israeli stocks, and seem to comprise both weapons Israel bought and issued to police (which are heavily holster worn) and weapons Israel recovered from Arab nations and guerrilla movements, which tend to signs of Arab (i.e., no) maintenance.

feg fake browning IISome of these guns were imported directly into the USA like that (by Kassnar), and Browning and FN apparently let them get away with it, back in the 1980s.

Why these guns were made is uncertain, but it seems probable that large numbers of them were intended to be used as “deniable” weapons by Warsaw Pact clandestine services and by Soviet and Satellite supported terrorist groups in the 1980s. Some may also have been sold directly (or indirectly) to Israel in contravention of the bloc’s pro-Arab policies, for the private profit of those doing the deal. FÉG did cut a deal later with Israel to support Israeli production of the BHP, and that deal was almost certainly done under the table.

Others may have been injected in international commerce at a premium price over the FÉG clones, with the delta between what FÉG earned and what the middleman got from the end user nation probably going to some secret policeman’s or Politburo member’s offshore bank account.

A great many of these clones are going to get sold as Brownings sooner or later, and a great many of them already have. Note that the misrepresented FÉG parts gun in the first part of this story was not one of these guns, it appears to have a genuine Browning slide on a FÉG frame.

When You’re Offered a Cross-Dressed Pistol, Part 1 of 2

The current fascination with trannies has, if nothing else, alerted people to the idea that all is not as it seems. That is true, too, in the world of collector pistols. We’re going to look at two cases — one, where a buyer almost got burned, and one, where a buyer did get burned. Today, we’ll display a 1911 that the buyer got alarmed by, and that the gunshop handling returned to its consignor. (It was priced low for a genuine gun in this condition, suggesting that the consignor and shop were no part of the fraud, which may have taken place years ago). Tomorrow, we’ll show you a “Browning Hi Power” that wasn’t, and unfortunately left a GunBroker buyer stuck with a fake gun and little recourse. To add insult to injury, the bad-faith seller has given the buyer he ripped off bad feedback on the auction site!

ITEM: The Minty 1911 that was a hair “off.”

You seldom see a GI 1911 in such high condition any more. Most of them are locked away in private collections and museums, despite all the millions of them that were made. (Hundreds of thousands still in US possession were destroyed during the 1990s). Most of this comes from a two-page thread at a single collectors’ forum — and not even one that specializes in guns or 1911s.

Ithaca 1911-FAKE03There are five things that are very subtle, but suspect, in that picture, but they point to a gun that was deliberately modified or remanufactured as a fake, and a gun that is as it sits there is likely to be a serious violation of Federal criminal law.

Here’s the other side of the suspect firearm:

Ithaca 1911-FAKE02Why, it’s a rare Ithaca Gun Co. 1911, in really superior condition! (Or is it?). Can we see the whole thing? Why, sure:

Ithaca 1911-FAKE01

Everything looks right, even the color change in the parkerizing reflecting the heat treating of the slide. So this is one of the 335,466 1911s Ithaca made during the Big One, right?

Wrong. Here’s the left and right sides of a real Ithaca, close to this gun’s putative production date. (Source of information, this great gathering of Ithacas on Model1911A1.com).

Ithaca 2075739R Ithaca 2075739LOK, here are the reasons the first gun is bogus:

  1. Look at the grips, specifically, how much of the frame is showing in front of and behind the grips. This is not normal variation: most GI 1911s look like the last two pictures. How did this happen? When the receiver was shaved or planed narrower, the curve of the front- and back-straps made the “margins” around the grip “grow.” (The frame was shaved to allow it to be remarked with new and different markings).
  2. Look in front of the trigger guard, at the side of the receiver there towards where the slide enters the frame. (This area is called the “dust cover,” by the way). Compare the height (top-to-bottom) of that flat surface in the known good gun and in the suspect gun (red background). Shaving the sides of the frame, due to the curve of its very bottom, means that the flat gets broader (or, oriented to three dimensions, “higher.”)
  3. Look at the M1911A1 finger cutouts. They’re very distinct on the factory gun, and you can imagine how thinning the frame would reshape these — and require the forger to recut them. The cutouts on the suspect gun have not only been recut, they’ve been smoothed in and don’t show the distinct edge of the factory gun.
  4. We’re holding one back. Don’t need to overeducate the forgers, eh?
  5. The serial number is a outside the known Ithaca serial number range, and that range is known to be complete.

Legal Issues with This Gun, and the Moral(s) of the Story

The gun was made by shaving a frame (possibly a more common GI frame, possibly a no-name commercial frame) to remove the rollmarks and serial number in entirety before engraving new information on here. The legality of that is not in doubt: it is stone cold illegal to alter the serial number on any firearm, period, full stop.

Moral of story: beware, beware, beware. If you just want a .45 for a shooter this “Ithaca” one is OK, except for the presumably altered serial number, which makes it contraband. (It may be legal if it was made not from a factory lower but from a blank or incomplete lower. But if that was how it was done, why would it have been shaved?)

Second moral of story: this gun was exposed for two reasons: 1, because the maker took the short cut of using some existing 1911 frame. If somebody started with a frame blank he wouldn’t need to shave (and alter the appearance) of a 1911 frame. And 2, because he used a fictitious serial number. The first thing that exposed this firearm was that its serial number was outside the known Ithaca range, which is known by historians to be completely and correctly documented. Bottom line: you can’t know too much about a gun you’re thinking of buying. Heck, you can’t know too much about the guns you own already.

White-Filled Serial Numbers etc.

Incidentally, there are two reasons at least that serial numbers and other markings may be filled with paint or chalk in auction pictures:

  1. The seller wants to bring out the markings for the benefit of the seller (99% of the time); or,
  2. The seller wants to conceal the fact that the markings were made by engraving or individual character stamps, not factory rollmarks.

And an exit laugh…

The phony Ithaca situation would be funny, if people hadn’t been taken by products like this. But not all fakes are that well executed. There’s this one, for instance.

uniteted_states_property

Lord love a duck!

What Does this Rock have in Common with These Guns?

It’s poll time! What does this funny looking rock have in common with these guns?

Cabot Rock Guns

What do the rock and the gun parts have in common?

 
pollcode.com free polls

Answer? You know it: after the jump!

Continue reading

Small News Items on Army Small Arms

There’s a bunch of little news bits going around the Army about maintenance issues and problems. We’ll cover them from most to least serious:

Item: Somebody Blew It

Beretta_M9_FAIL

File photo of failed M9 slide. Not the mishap firearm.

In late 2015, a very high (but unknown) round count M9 pistol had a catastrophic failure of the slide. With the Army scrimping on O&M money, especially on the ripe-for-replacement Beretta handgun, failures are not unusual and usually turn out to be fatigue failures from parts that have been carelessly used long past their service life. So was this one. The pistol was older than the soldier shooting it, and, as it turned out, someone, somewhere had pencil-whipped the maintenance records.

Slides fail every week, somewhere in an Army with hundreds of thousands of pistols that were almost all bought 30 years ago. But what happened next wasn’t supposed to happen. When the pistol slide failed at the slide’s weakest point, the locking-block cuts, the rear half of the slide kept on motoring, striking the GI in the cheek and upper jaw area and causing non-life-threatening injuries.

The investigation determined that a mandatory maintenance work order, MWO 9-1005-317–30-10-1, issued twenty-seven years ago in March, 1989, had never been complied with. They couldn’t track where the pistol was at the time it was not repaired; Army units and activities with M9s had until June, 1993 to comply.

Somebody reported that his M9s were in compliance, when they weren’t. This is what you get when a zero-defects, up-or-out culture undermines integrity while at the same time penny-pinching undermines maintenance. The soldier who drew that defective M9, and every soldier that’s been drawing and shooting it since 1989, is damned lucky to be alive. (Fortunately, when a slide fails on most pistols (or a bolt on a Mauser C96, etc.), gravity usually  ensures that the part hits below the eye, on cheek, jaw, chest or shoulder).

Meanwhile, the Army sent an urgent Safety-of-Use message mandating an Army-wide inspection of all M9s for completion of the MWO. Since the resources for completing the MWO no longer exist, the remedial action is to immediately deadline and turn in the offending M9 and draw a replacement.

How many units pencil-whipped their response to that ALARACT message?

Item: Safety? Sometimes it’s Evolution in Action

FOOM!Word is, some genius removed himself from the breeding population of Homo sapiens in 2014 by “improvising” M203 ammo (may have been 320) by cutting the links off of (higher-pressure) Mk19 belted ammo. The links were actually designed so they couldn’t snap off by hand, to prevent that.

Can we get a “FOOM!” from the assembled multitudes?

And oh, yeah, trying to belt up 203 ammo and fire it in an Mk 19 leads to FOOM also, of a different variety — out of battery ignition. Another opportunity for poka-yoke missed.

Item: Ambi Selectors Reaching Troops.. slowly

The Army has finally woken up to two facts:

  1. About 10% of the troops are left-handed, and
  2. There are lots of good ambi selectors available.

So the Army chose one and put it into the pipeline. So far so good, right? Not entirely. The selectors are only being replaced when the weapons are overhauled. And they don’t fit in the M12 racks many units still have. Work around is to cut a notch in the rack with a torch, or with a file and plenty of time, or to bend the part of the rack that hits the right-side selector out of shape so that the selector clears the rack.

Also, the slow migration of the ambi selectors means not all M4/M16 weapons in any given unit have them. Why don’t they just push the parts down to the unit armorers? Three reasons:

  1. The big one: they’re afraid of armorers stealing parts if they take rifles apart
  2. It doesn’t fit the concept of echeloned maintenance, even though that’s being streamlined;
  3. They don’t trust the armorers let alone the Joes, not to botch the installation.

On top of that, of course, it’s not penny wise and pound foolish in the great Army tradition.

Item: New Stuff Coming in, Old Stuff Going Out

A number of new arms are reaching the troops, and old arms are going away.  We’ll have more about that in the future, especially the M2A1 and the coming “rationalization” of an explosion of shotguns and sniper rifles. We just broke it out of this post to keep the length manageable.

ITEM: MG Maintenance Problems = Operator Headspace & Timing

m249-PIPThe biggest single problem the Army has with the current pair of machine guns (M240 and M249) is burned out barrels. That’s caused by not changing barrels, either in combat, or especially on the range. Often, units go out without the spare barrel so it’s not like they gave themselves any option.  (The M2 version of this is going out with only one set of gages for the M2s. The gages are not required for the M2A1). The Army is falling back into the peacetime mindset of “leave it in the arms room and we can’t lose it.” True enough, we’ll just destroy the one we take out instead.

The fact is, and it’s a fact widely unknown to GIs, MGs have rate-of-sustained-fire limitations that are lower than they think. (Remember the MGs that failed at Wanat? They were being operated well outside their designed, tested envelope).

The M249 should never be fired more than 200 rounds rapid fire from a cold barrel. Then, change to a cold barrel, repeat. The Army being the Army, there are geniuses who think that they can burn a couple belts in a few seconds, change barrels, burn a couple belts in a couple more seconds, then put the original honkin’ hot barrel back in and burn — you get the idea. If you have a situation where you’re going to fire a lot of rounds from a single position, like a predeployment MG familiarization for support troops or a defensive position, you might want to lay in some extra barrels (and yes, Army supply makes that all but impossible, so you have to cannibalize your other MGs).

The M240 is a little more tolerant but should still be changed every 2 to 10 minutes of firing, and even more frequently if the firing tends towards real sustained fire. (The deets are in the FM, which is mostly only available on .pdf these days).

One last thought, your defensive MG positions need to have alternate, displace positions, and you need to displace after sustained fire from one position — unless you want to share your hole with an exploding RPG, ATGM or mortar round. “Where’s your secondary position?” or “-fallback position?” should not produce the Polish Salute.

As ordnance experts have observed ever since World War II, a barrel can be burnt out due to overheat and still mic and even air-gauge good. You only know it’s hosed when it can’t shoot straight.

Well-maintained MGs are more accurate than people seem to give them credit for. Some SOF elements have selective fire M240s and really, really like them. (The standard M240 has no semi setting). They’re capable of surprising accuracy from the tripod.

ITEM: For Want of a Cord, a Career was Lost

GIs frequently lose or throw away the idiot cord on the PVS-14 night vision monocular. If these sights were being properly inspected, which they usually aren’t until a team comes in just before deployment, they’d be tagged NMC (non mission capable) for missing  that stupid cord. You don’t want to be in the bursting radius of a unit CO who’s just been told 85% of his night vision is NMC… especially when that news is delivered in earshot of his rater and senior rater. It’s a bull$#!+ requirement but it’s in the book, and if the Army ever has to choose between following the book or winning the war, the book comes up trumps every time.

You’re not going to stop GIs from losing cords, but replacement cords are in the supply catalog.

Why Your Professor Doesn’t Let You Cite Wikipedia, and Other Misfacts

What was the first Double-Action/Single-Action self-loading pistol? We think we know the answer, but let’s check with Wikipedia. In the article on “Trigger (firearms)” they tell us several times what it is:

This is an original WWII-era PPK. Note the short grip frame and the fragile wraparound grip.

This is an original WWII-era PPK. Note the short grip frame, safety with 90º of rotation, and the fragile wraparound grip. The circular marking above the magazine release (all PPKs were made with the Browning-style release used on all but the earliest PPs) is the logo of RZM, the Reichszeugsmeisterei — literally “Imperial Thing Master” but really the Nazi Party’s quartermaster store. (It later was part of the now defunct McGraw Kaserne in Munich). 

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Walther introduced the first “double-action” semi-automatics, the PPK and P.38 models, which featured a revolver-style “double-action” trigger, which allowed the weapon to be carried with a round chambered and the hammer lowered.

Umm… conventional wisdom is that it was the PP, in 1929 (although as we’ll see, the conventional wisdom is almost as wrong as Wikipedia on this).

Very Early Walther PP. This one has a heel magazine release like its forerunner, the internal-hammer SA-only Model 8. (It's for sale in Pennsylvania).

Very Early Walther PP. This one has a heel magazine release like its forerunner, the internal-hammer SA-only Model 8. (It’s for sale in Pennsylvania). PP stood for Polizei Pistole, and the shortened (in both grip/mag and barrel) was the PP “Kriminal” or “Detective Police Pistol.” (Plainclothes detectives were and are called the Kriminalpolizei). 

The PPK didn’t come along until 1931, and design of the P.38 didn’t even get rolling until the mid-thirties. But they repeat this “fact” that isn’t a fact, in the same article:

There are thousands of examples of DA/SA semi-automatics, the Walther PPK being the first, followed up by the Walther P-38.

Again, the PPK wasn’t even the first Walther. Wikipedia has no PPK article, (the PPK links above go to the Walther PP article), but the PP article is a dog’s breakfast of random and contradictory claims. It does note that the PP began to be manufactured in 1929 but elsewhere (on the same page!) claims it wasn’t used as a German service pistol until 1935, was produced in France from 1945 to 1986, was produced in the USA from 1945 for Interarms (Interarms didn’t exist yet, and there was no need for a US-made PPK before the Gun Control Act of 1968), and a few paragraphs from the French production from 1945 claim, they date the onset of French (Manurhin) production to 1952, and that the PPK is much more popular than the PP. (Not if you count German police sales).

See, this is why your professor goes ape if you cite Wikipedia on a term paper. Because if you use it to look up something you already know about, you see how crummy it really is. There are literally dozens of mistakes on the two pages we cited and linked.

Starting with, “What was the first double-action semi-automatic pistol?”

However, Wikipedia is not alone in crediting it to Walther. Some other outfits that do include:

In 1929, the company revolutionized the world of semi-auto pistols with the introduction of the first double-action (DA) model, the Walther PP. This was followed in 1930 by the slightly more compact Walther PPK.

Why this little bit of Walther historical trivia?

Uh, cause it’s wrong? That’s probably not why he included it, eh. He probably didn’t know. Who else didn’t know?

The Walther PP, introduced in 1929, was the first commercially successful double action (DA) pistol.

Well, to his credit, he didn’t say PPK and he included “commercially successful.” But even given this weasel-wording, he’s wrong, as at least one DA/SA auto pistol was made in quantities of tens of thousands before the Walther PP saw the light of day.

Jeez. Did anyone get this right? At least, that the PP wasn’t the original DA/SA automatic?

Well, yeah. Garry James at the American Rifleman, come on down:

Introduced in 1929, Carl Walther’s PP (Polizei Pistole) was by no means the first double-action semi-automatic ever designed—several had appeared since 1905—but unlike most of the earlier attempts it worked, and worked well.

James is right. Who else? How about no less an authority than Edward C. Ezell?

Walther was not the first company to introduce a double-action, self-loading pistol, but they were the first to create a commercially attractive and economically practical double-action self-loader. ….

Although the PP can be viewed as a simple evolution of design– it has the same disassembly system as the Model 8 –it was really a revolutionary product at the time.NOTE

We do think even Ezell overstates the case for the uniqueness of the PP.

And next week (after we’ve sorted the gunsmith special on our bench) we hope to have some info on the real first mass-produced SA/DA autopistol:  the Little Tom of Alois Tomiška, which we mentioned last month in a post that featured images of two .32 ACP versions.

A .32 Little Tom produced by Wiener Waffenfabrik in Wien (Vienna), Austria in the 1920s.

A .32 Little Tom produced by Wiener Waffenfabrik in Wien (Vienna), Austria in the 1920s.

Oh, and the Little Tom? The most unique thing about it is not its DA/SA lockwork, because other designers went on to copy that.

In Praise of the Single Shot Firearm

We have never had the patience for single shot firearms. That is exactly why we like them.

Here's a vintage Stevens single-shot pistol. It doesn't get simpler than this.

Here’s a vintage Stevens single-shot pistol. It doesn’t get simpler than this. All images from GunBroker.

We probably should explain that. Patience, you see, is a virtue, but it’s one that is unevenly distributed. (It can be developed, to a degree, but like any other talent you can only build on the foundation you already have). And like any young guy with limited patience, we always sought ways of firing MOAR BULLETZ MOAR FASTLY.

Here's a rifle for the confident hunter: Ruger Nº 1

Here’s a rifle for the confident hunter: Ruger Nº 1. Available in calibers for squirrel to dangerous African game.

It took a while to dawn on us that time spent practicing speedloads so that you could burn another mag (or belt) in the general direction of the berm, while fun, wasn’t necessarily productive.

You see, whether you are shooting in a competition (and in SF, shooting was always a competition, even if only with your teammates for who’d buy the beers), or shooting for real (which is the ultimate competition), only hits count. 

There are antiques out there, like this M1885 Winchester High Wall (designed by John Moses Browning).

There are antiques out there, like this M1885 Winchester High Wall (designed by John Moses Browning).

There’s something about the necessary discipline of loading a single round, aiming it, firing it, extracting and repeating as needed. It seems to settle the mind and encourage attention to the fundamentals of shooting.

In these days of .22 ammo shortages, it’s nice to have a natural rhythm, and get an hour of shooting out of a box or two of ammo.

This beautiful prewar Mauser-Werke single-shot .22 is a sporter on a target action.

This beautiful prewar Mauser-Werke single-shot bolt action .22 is a sporter on a target action.

The funny thing is this: any repeater, semi-auto or revolver can be a single shot if you want it to be. Simply single-load the rounds. This can get fiddly with some auto actions where the follower activates the bolt hold-open, and it doesn’t work with some tightly-enclosed actions, like many lever actions. But while it really does work with most guns, it doesn’t force on you a deliberate rhythm, the way a single shot firearm does.

There’s something about a single-shot firearm. The guy shooting a single shot is serious… he’s like the guy that rides his bicycle to work, or the guy who disdains a guitar collection for one simple Telecaster because he hasn’t found all its tones yet in the forty years he’s owned it.

Shooting single-shot is doing things the hard way, not because there’s no alternative, but simply to rise to the challenge of it.