Category Archives: Pistols and Revolvers

SIG P320: The “Super SIG”?

Even as all the Feds are squirrelly about the prospect of adopting the SIG P320, something else is happening: people who try it seem to really like it. So far, we haven’t had a replay of the debacle that occurred with SIG’s modular hammer-fired gun, the P250, and the Federal Air Marshals Service (although FAMS is still feeling the opposite of enthusiasm for SIG these days). Tam put a couple of thousand rounds through one and at Michael Bane’s Downrange.TV blog, Ed Head reports on having one worked on by Bruce Gray of Grayguns. He calls the result the Super SIG. Why “Super?” Maybe this picture explains it:


Head is pretty happy with his modified modular striker-fired SIG. Here are his comments on the trigger:

What I got back was a pistol that looks completely stock except for the sights. But the trigger is now the best striker fired trigger I have experienced. The trigger wasn’t bad to begin with – it had a bit of take-up and broke at around 7 pounds. It was a good, usable trigger with a smooth face and no safety-thingy lever. Gray states he can get a 4-pound trigger on these pistols and that is exactly what he delivered.

Okay, full disclosure here; I find it difficult to measure striker fired pistol triggers with my Lyman electronic trigger gizmo. It’s, essentially, a strain gauge and will give different readings depending upon what portion of the trigger it contacts. For single action triggers like a 1911 it’s easy to get consistent readings by placing the arm of the gauge in the center of the trigger. I’ve found the best consistency with striker fired triggers occurs when I place it on the lower third of a trigger, and using that method I arrived at a 4 pound, and maybe an ounce or two, average trigger reading for the Super Sig.

We agree with Ed that the Lyman gauge is fiddly, and we can throw ours a lot farther than we trust it. We note that at major factories and custom shops including SIG’s own (and Smith’s), the gunsmiths use weight sets, like the weights used in technical inspection of NRA and international bullseye competitors’ guns. Right now, all we’ve got is the Lyman and we’re not loving it especially.

Grayguns call this level of trigger work Competition Action Cleanup Perfection, which is another way of saying they go through the entire action chassis of the pistol and cleanup, adjust and polish the parts. It’s way more than a “trigger job”.


SuperSIG3The other mods that Gray applies are less desirable, in our humble opinion. They include replacing the night sights with shooting-game daylight-only sights…


Factory sights on right. Better for defensive use; customized sights are daylight-only gamer sights. 

…and replacing the captive recoil spring with a 1911 style non-captive rod. Here are some of the rods, from the Gray website:


According to Head, they don’t say why they replace the spring and guide; he speculates that it’s because lots of different weights of 1911 springs can be had, and perhaps to add a half-ounce of muzzle weight. In fact, they do say why on their website (perhaps they didn’t when Ed was writing his piece):

The stock P320 Fullsize 9mm pistols come with a highly durable flat-wound recoil spring and guide system that provides the excellent reliability you expect from a SIG Sauer. However, our shooters agree that it is over-sprung for serious competitive use, causing the muzzle to both flip and dip undesirably during sight return.

We designed a simple solution: a new FAT guide rod that accepts most standard 1911 recoil springs. This new FAT rod lets you tune your recoil spring to your load, grip style and desired sight return characteristics. We include a 1911 15 pound recoil spring, and the rod is guaranteed for life.

So that was their justification: reduce muzzle flip and dip. The Grayguns website does explain more of what they do to gun and shows examples of micropolished and teflon-bathed internal parts. And, of course, results:


Or this:


Ed didn’t mention the cost of all this (maybe he was comped), but Grayguns’ price list says the Competition Action Package with the clean 4-pound break is $295 (reasonable, if you think you’re outshooting your gun, which you probably aren’t). The trigger’s a bit light for duty or carry use, so there’s also a Carry Action Package for $195 with a six pound break. The illustrated guns include the non-combat sights, the recoil spring and guide, and in some case, grip mods, all of which are, naturally, extra.

We haven’t actually tried one yet, but the idea of the P320 is growing on us.

Polymer 80% Glock Frames Available for Pre-Order

Well, it had to happen, and sooner rather than later. An ATF-approved Glock-off frame that a home hobbyist can complete himself, producing a legal “Ghost Glock.”


Like any Glock frame, it’s adaptable to multiple uppers (and therefore calibers) that suit the same generation (it’s made for Glock G3 parts) and length (full length, a la G17) receiver. One frame supports two slides, three calibers, and nine Glock model-equivalents.


The frame is not only incomplete, requiring several areas to be milled or drilled out, but also Glock spare and aftermarket parts just went up in price, and some enterprising fellow that can assemble complete kits is going to have a good business. (Polymer-80 promises them, too, in the unspecified future sometime after the January, 2016 predicted date for the lowers).

Here’s some of what they say about it on their intro page:

Let’s switch gears now and briefly talk about the pistol frame design and all of its features and benefits.

The high level overview is this frame is designed as an 80% frame, and includes all the necessary end mill bits and drill bits, along with the Jig to assist completing your pistol project accurately. Most people use a drill press with a cross vise to mill out the product, many folks have drill presses sitting in their garages, or can find someone who has one available to borrow. The frame accepts Glock17 9mm slides, as well as the Glock 40 caliber slide. The Smith and Wesson 40cal slide is also compatible with the Sig357 barrel configuration, which essentially gives you 3 different calibers to choose from.

Unlike the Glock, this frame includes a uniquely extended beaver-tail, and most notably a super tactical 1911 pistol grip rather than the standard glock styled pistol grip. Even better, this pistol grip includes a built in flared magwell for speed loading. This feature will surely be a favorite amongst competition shooters who require speed and accuracy.

We note that the original 3D printed (yes!) prototype they submitted to the ATF to approval had a more traditional Glock grip angle, as this ATF photo shows:


“NFC” is a reference to the ATF’s reference collection of firearms. This image is not entirely square on, but you can see how the angle of the grip has been reduced:


The front of the trigger guard appears now to be orthogonal to the barrel axis (that’s 90º for you CMF 55 ammunition handlers). The Picatinny rail and aggressively flared magwell of the prototype have been retained.

Finally, the areas that need to be milled out to complete this project include:

  • The barrel bridge
  • The top rails of the receiver
  • The slide guide rails

Once completed, you insert the custom locking block which comes with the kit, it provides additional metallic rails up front.

We assume (that dread word) that the locking block has weight enough to meet the so-called Undetectable Firearms Act metallic minimum.

They also have a Q&A here, promising “build, buy, shoot” kits later, and multiple colors.

The ATF letter for the Polymer-80 “Spectre” [.pdf] (formerly called the GC9) demonstrates that the part is approved by Firearms Technology Branch (FTB) as “not a receiver”  (the pistol reciever blank is discussed after the firm’s .308 “Warhogg” polymer receiver blank).

In case Polymer-80 is hit by a truck, here’s our OCR’d copy of the letter: ATF Determination Letter for Polymer 80 OCR.pdf

Lessons from the ATF Letter

There are three points we learned from the ATF letter that are extremely interesting to us, and probably each is worth a post on its own to explore in depth:

  1. The submission was not a final injection-molded partial receiver. (Polymer-80 is up front about the fact that they’re using customer deposits to have the complex multi-part mold made). Instead, Polymer-80’s attorney submitted the part in an additive-manufactured form that was dimensionally identical to the proposed injection-molded part, but possibly manufactured from different plastic. This was insightful on Polymer-80’s part opens up a lot of possibilities for both firearms and near-gun part designers to submit for ATF designation earlier in the design process. (An approval letter will help with fundraising).
  2. As is customary for FTB, The letter goes to great lengths to disclaim any applicability to any other case. It is the ATF’s position that these decisions are non-precedential, and can change any time with the whim of FTB, or more seriously, the real managers of ATF, the chief counsel’s office. This is their document, in the instant case, today; they do not wish to be held to it at any future date or in any future location.
  3. The FTB letter goes into depth about the part’s non-firearm status under the Gun Control Act, 18 USC § 921(a)(3)(B), but also fires a shot across Polymer-80’s bow, noting that they are also regulated by Washington’s latest anti-gun agency, the State Department:

Please be aware, while not classified as a “firearm”; the submitted items are each classified as a “defense article” as defined in 27 CFR § 447.11. The US Department of State (USPS) regulates all exports from, and particular imports into, the United States. Firearms, parts, and accessories for firearms are all grouped as “defense articles” by the USDS and overseen by there Directorate of Defense Trade Controls. Information regarding import/export of defense articles can be found on their website at

This also comes, no doubt, from the extremely anti-gun Chief Counsel’s Office in conjunction with their fellow DC anti-gunners at State. It represents not only State’s grab for extra-legislative anti-gun regulatory powers, but an attempt at implementing the signed, but unsubmitted for ratification, UN Small Arms (gun ban) Treaty.


Hat tip, Mike at ENDO, one of our 2013 Wednesday Weapons Websites of the Week. Mike notes that it might be a bigger seller at a lower price. Our guess is that the firm must recoup its mold-making expenses. (Priced injection-molding molds lately? They’re a task for a very limited subset of machinists and machine shops, although for small parts and short runs you can improvise a mold with epoxy facings on an aluminum frame). In the long run, prices may come down, especially if there is market competition.

Hmm… who’s got a good 3D file of a G3 Glock lower?

Ultra Rarities: Dardick 1100 and 1500 Pistols

In the history of firearms, one of the obscure yesterday’s “weapons of tomorrow” whose morrow never dawned was the Dardick “tround” (triangular round) system. The idea was for the weapon to use special trounds, or tround adapters that took a round of conventional fixed ammunition — .38 Special, for the standard Dardick, although an attempt was made at a .50 Dardick gun for aircraft usage. There was also a triplex tround.


The ammunition’s unusual sectional shape made it easy, at least in theory, to design feeding mechanisms.

Dardick never successfully commercialized his product, instead surviving for some years on R&D money from the military.

A seller at GunBroker has not one, but two, of these for sale in a single auction: a Model 1500, the most common Dardick (although “common” in Dardick terms means there may have been three dozen made), and a rarer Model 1100.


I don’t think it gets much more obscure than this! Up for auction are my two Dardick pistols and small collection of Trounds, pamphlets, etc. Both are original and complete.

The more scarce of these two is the Model 1100. It is said that only 40-50 firearms total were ever produced by the Dardick Corporation and only a small handful of those were the Model 1100, one of which was presented to JFK by David Dardick. This 1100 has not been test fired with live ammo but functions/cycles flawlessly in both double and single action.


The Model 1500 is complete but will need some work to get it running smoothly. As it sits, the cylinder and other components rub on the frame and do not rotate/cycle without assistance.


Both pistols have the complete adjustable sights and fully functional firing pin selector/adjustment features in-tact. These pistols have NOT been refinished and the factory etched/white information is clear and not painted over on the barrel and receiver of each.

Included in the collection are a selection of several live Trounds (one .38 HiVAP, Two Well Busters, a .50 caliber and a standard Tround with what appears to be a smaller projectile than the usual .38 projectile, possibly a .32?). Also included are an original box for the Model 1500 and several original/old stock pamphlets and booklets.

via Dardick 1100 and 1500 Pistols : Other Collectible Guns at


The initial bid requested on the auction is $5,000. There are two ways of looking at this. It’s a lot of money for a couple of guns you’ll likely never have ammo to fire, that’s one way. And then there’s the other way: two guns from a remarkable dead-end lineage of firearms history, guns which personify 1960s Space Age firearms design, for about the price of one relatively common WWII rarity like a Johnson or a modern replica like Ohio Arms Works BAR.

Only you know if it’s worth $5k to you. We regret we can’t buy every firearm we feature in these pages. (Hmmm… how long till we qualify for a reverse mortage, we could monetize the Manor….?)

Perp Locked Up, Guns Remain At Large, in the Case of the Filched Firearms

500px-US-FBI-ShadedSeal.svgBecause the newspaper reporter missed it, we have to drag it out of her story for you. The Worcester, MA, Telegram: 

James Walter Morales of Cambridge was arrested without incident Wednesday night in New York by the FBI and the Nassau County Police Department, authorities said.
According to an affidavit filed in connection with the case, Mr. Morales was at the Army Reserve facility on North Lake Avenue on or about Nov. 12 to obtain copies of his discharge papers.

Want to bet it was bad, or borderline, paper?

A surveillance video from a nearby building depicts Mr. Morales spending about six hours, from 6:43 p.m. until shortly after midnight, going back and forth from his car to the armory with duffel bags. The FBI declined to comment when asked if the six M-4 rifles and 10 Sig Sauer M11 9 mm pistols that were stolen have been recovered. According to the affidavit, the M-4 rifles are capable of firing a single shot, or a three-round burst for each single pull of the trigger.

That’s the indicator that they haven’t recovered the firearms. If they had, they’d be crowing about it. Ever known the FBI to be reticent about a success? We neither. If the Bureau is being reticent, the success didn’t happen.

At the time of the theft, Mr. Morales was wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet, according to the affidavit. Investigators said he cut off the device at 8:48 a.m. Monday.

We’re getting a vibe here that he’s not one of nature’s noblemen, and when the postman comes, he’s not bringing the monthly MENSA chapter newsletter.

Authorities said Mr. Morales got into the building by breaking a window of a kitchen located near the drill room. They were able to identify the suspect through a DNA analysis of blood the thief left after he used a power saw and pry tool to cut a hole into the roof to access the gun vault.

FYI, a “drill room” or “drill hall” is a large, gymnasium-like concrete-floor area in an Army Reserve or National Guard building. It normally has a big door so large trucks can be loaded inside, and its wide floor is used as a place to hold formations during monthly training “drills.” Off the drill hall, smaller rooms are used as offices, supply rooms, and armories. The Arms Room is usually accessed through the supply room’s outer door, and is strongly vaulted and equipped with a moderately sophisticated alarm system, which regulations require to be in use at all times.

This drill hall had a de facto waiver for the alarm system during ongoing construction, which someone must have told Morales was the case. Not real bright, that.

Morales was ID’d by DNA. For decades, the military has taken a DNA swab of all personnel. The claim was that it was for battlefield ID, but the real reason was to build the FBI’s DNA database. (The same mechanism used to build a national fingerprint file). As veterans commit fewer crimes than their non-vet cohort, this tool has been limited for crimefighting, but the FBI is also attracted to its potential for population control, as they keep getting greater and greater domestic warrantless surveillance powers.

In this case, though, the DNA swab they took from Morales paid off in a crime solution — or part of one. The guns are still out there.

Investigators were able to obtain Mr. Morales’ phone number from his Facebook page. They located a second phone number for him from the Probation Department at Middlesex Superior Court. Authorities executed a search warrant to track the phone to Mr. Morales, according to the affidavit.

Is that how they got the warrant, or simply the “parallel construction”? As always in cases with Federal agencies tapped into NSA’s universal domestic surveillance, you’ll never know — even if you’re Morales’s defense attorney. (Probably a Designated Diver from the Public Defender’s Office, anyway).

It’s not like Morales is a sterling character. He’s enough of a perv that even Massachusetts has laws against him, although note they kindly enabled this crime wave by dropping his bail:

Mr. Morales was indicted by a Middlesex grand jury on May 19, on charges of aggravated rape of a child, forcible rape of a child, and indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14 (two counts). His bail was later reduced from $25,000 to $5,000. A condition of his release was that he wear an electronic monitoring device. A warrant was issued for his arrest on Nov. 16, after the Probation Department notified the Middlesex District Attorney’s office that he was not being monitored by GPS. Mr. Morales was scheduled to appear at a previously-scheduled pretrial hearing on Nov. 17.

Well, that was the day after he cut off his GPS anklet and burglarized the armory, so at least they caught the dead bracelet quickly.

Mr. Morales is expected to make an appearance Friday in U.S. District Court on Long Island and then to be taken to Worcester to face charges in U.S. District Court. He is charged with unlawful possession of a machine gun, unlawful possession of stolen firearms (two counts), and theft of government property.

via Arrest made in theft of weapons from Worcester armory – News – – Worcester, MA.

Note that the criminal-friendly MA prosecutors are already dealing him some wild cards. He stole sixteen firearms, but they’re not piling on with 16 counts. He isn’t even in court yet, and he’s already had 13 felony charges go away.

keep-calm-and-carry-a-fbi-badgeAnd he has something the FBI really wants: knowledge of where the 16 missing Army guns went.


We’ve seen the FBI’s warrant affidavit, and this story tracks it closely. We did note that the FBI agent, Colgan Norman, apparently can’t spell “hangar,”  and it made us wonder if he was one of these FBI agents (YouTube link).

Washbear 3D Printed Revolver Update

Back in September, we introduced the Washbear, the first successful 3D printed .22 revolver (although it looks like a pepperbox, it has a rudimentary barrel), and we promised you more information, including the files, when it was time.

It’s time.

James R. Patrick has continued to develop theWashbear and he now has it working even better. In addition, the files are available. This is his rendering of the current version:

Patrick Washbear Release Rendering

It is all 3D printed, except for one roofing nail (firing pin), one elastic band (mainspring), and a grip-enclosed steel mass if one must meet the requirements of the United States’ Undetectable Firearms Act.

This video is a design analysis by Patrick himself, followed by a brief video of a shooting session of a version printed by FP (FreedomPrint) of the FOSSCAD group. There are two separate cylinder designs: a eight-shot cylinder, with steel liners, for printing in ABS filament; and an six-shot cylinder that requires no liners if printed in nylon filament. The cylinders are interchangeable. There’s no reason you couldn’t print a nylon, lined, 8-shot cylinder, too, for increased strength.

It is designed with more attention to safety than to perfect function at this point. The clever mechanism rotates the cylinder half-way on trigger release, so that the DAO trigger only has to move the cylinder half-way — but also so that the firing pin rests on the cylinder between chambers, in between shots, rendering the firearm drop-safe. (We would suggest making a notch in the cylinder’s rear face to receive this firing pin, locking the cylinder between shots and ensuring the cylinder can’t be torqued sideways and initiate an out-of-battery fire, for added safety. That would not be a factor in a center fire version, which would probably require materials advances). James Patrick notes that the current mechanism leads to a suboptimal trigger press.

Well, it’s early days.

Again, back in September, we promised you the files when James was ready to release them. He released them this past weekend. You can download the zipfile from Sendspace here. Follow that link and click on the blue button:

Note that James’s own website remains blocked by some antivirus software. Should you not be under that handicap, it’s here:

Are we still the best place to get technical firearms news on the web, or what (they said modestly)?




Source Document: FBI Pistol Solicitation

500px-US-FBI-ShadedSeal.svgGents, you saw it here first. The complete FBI new pistol solicitation, which we mentioned back on 7 November, is now available verbatim and in full detail.

Have at it:

FBI Pistol Solicitation Bid, Oct 2015.pdf

Don’t say we never gave you nothin’.

We’re impressed by the thoroughness of the document. For example, it gets into the weeds on just about every facet of the firearm’s design. It goes so far as to suggest the color of magazine followers, and the design of floorplates:


Not only must all mags have a “toe” on the floorplate (as shown in Fig. 1)  to aid extraction, but magazines for the Inert (red) training pistol and Simunitions (blue) force-on-force training pistol must have color-coordinated floorplates.

As previously reported, the FBI knows what it wants in terms of safety, or at least a safety: none. No safety catch, no decocking lever, no grip safety, no magazine safety, no way to cock the pistol except by manipulating the trigger. Sounds like it’s right up Glock’s alley, except, as our previous report noted, no finger grooves.

For a government solicitation,the FBI’s is quite legible. As we said, have at it.

Three Guns You Don’t See Daily

The first is, if not a Bubba job, or at least a really screwed-up M1 carbine. What you’re looking at is the receiver ring (into which the barrel is secured) on the right with the operating rod in the foreground, and the receiver behind, looking like squirrels have been gnawing on it.

Hosed M1 Carbine

Most likely reason the receiver is messed up like that: note the name. It’s a Plainfield commercial M1 carbine, made on a cast receiver with a mix of GI and copy parts. And the receiver is not, shall we say, heat-treated to GI standards. Source: Reddit’s /r/guns.

The next is also from /r/guns but it’s the antithesis of a shoddy Plainfield carbine. It’s an uncommon M1911 clone, the Norwegian pistol Model 1914.

Norwegian M1914 Colt Auto

As you can see, these pistols, which were made in the Norwegian Kongsberg armory, were close copies of the M1911 (made under license) with the only modifications being the large, glove-friendly slide stop. Some of them were used by the Germans after the Norwegian defeat in the spring of 1940.

Finally, another oddity (or maybe, rarity is the word) for sale on GunBroker — a rare, registered Destructive Device M29A1 mortar. (The heading at the auction mistakenly calls it a 60mm mortar — this is actually an 81mm mortar).

Live M29 destructive device mortar

The Blogbrother recently motivated his son to a higher standard of effort in high school by having him tote something heavy around the block. “This is what manual labor feels like. Manual labor is what high school drop-outs and flunk-outs do.” What better way to illustrate the importance of an education than introducing the education-resister to the glories of least common dollar employment?

Now, anyone with any time as an 18B or 11C will have some memories of carrying components of this system, and perhaps having that carrying serve double-duty as penance for something or other. NCOs are good like that.

Let’s Peruse Pending Pistol Purchases

Shall we? Music, Maestro, please! Welcome to the occasional WeaponsMan recap of pistol purchases pending in the Fed, and what people are saying about ’em. Taken as a whole, these three projects illustrate nothing so much as the United States Government’s ability to mess up a junkyard. It would be hand to make this mess any bigger if you were trying. (Lord, please don’t let these agencies take this as a challenge, because they probably could). In retrospect, the early 20th Century pistol trials make you wonder where those 20 points on the procurement wallahs’ IQs have gone in a century. Nobody expects the next 1911 to come out of this.

US Army Modular Pistol Contract

Army LogoEverybody hates this doorstop of a solicitation that’s the size and weight of a Russian novel, but doesn’t even specify what caliber the Army wants. “Surprise us!”

No $#!+, surprise us. Could they have thought up any way to signal more forcefully that they have no idea what they’re doing?

Former SecDef Bob Gates said, “This is absurd… it’s a handgun, for God’s sake.” But the Army requirements document is longer than the D-Day base op order… by about 50 times.

John McCain threw a wobbler about the contract last week, as has been widely reported. Here’s Soldier of Fortune magazine on his complaint, just because we’ve seldom linked to SOF mag before. (Huh, they just reused a Shooting Illusrated story. Well, they got one link out of us).  Better yet, here’s McCain’s own press release on it at his official site, and best of all, here’s the actual McCain document that everybody’s writing about, but nobody has read. Frankly, it’s hard to argue with about half of it. Sample:

[P]erhaps that’s the whole point, and the Army already has a preferred outcome in mind and is just going through the motions with this “competition”. By purchasing both handguns and ammunition from a single vendor on a single contract, the total value of which could exceed $1.2B, the Army’s selection process favors larger companies over smaller ones and increases the risk that the Army will not select the best performing weapon, ammunition, silencer, holster and training system components available. In fact, with this contract structure, the Army will assuredly be forced to field one or more inferior components of the handgun system to the troops because there will be no way to pick and choose the best of each component received from various bidders without causing protests and legal actions from the losing bidders.

Another serious flaw with the Army’s selection process for its new handgun is that there are currently too many opportunities for vendors to be disqualified for paperwork or technical reasons before our soldiers get a vote. The Army plans to conduct early handgun tests without actual human shooters (using fixed mechanical platforms) to narrow the selections to only three weapons before front line soldiers get to provide any feedback whatsoever. This means that back-office bureaucrats will have more say in selecting the next handgun than our front line troops.

We disagree that the Army has a single preferred pistol in mind, but we think the lack of a caliber spec is a somewhat inept signal that the Army wants to be sold the 9mm again. (Or, God help us, a multicaliber-interchangeable-Man-From-UNCLE gun). But the way the MHS run-off is set up, you can get bounced from the competition if one of your documents has the wrong size margins, but not if your gun doesn’t work.

There’s something deeply pathological about that.

Industry powers and industry little guys are still planning to submit. Along with great theropods like SIG and S&W, Kriss USA is going to enter the competition, according to Bearing Arms — with a steel DA/SA CZ75 clone. In an age of safetyless striker-fired plastic, some stand athwart fashion, yelling “quality!” They won’t win, but neither did Travis at the Alamo.

FBI Pistol Contract

500px-US-FBI-ShadedSeal.svgThe FBI pistol contract is for a new 9mm pistol for the Bureau and other DOJ (mostly) agencies. Aaron at Blue Sheepdog thinks the fix is in:

The truth is revealed! The FBI RFP seems to be blatantly tailored to fit one particular firearm, the Sig Sauer P320. There is no doubt that government agencies often write tight standards when a RFP goes out, having specific requirements and needs for the product to be purchased. However, this RFP appears to be so specific that only the Sig Sauer P320 would fit all the FBI requirements. Let’s examine the RFP and show how many fine handguns are eliminated by the FBI requirements.

SIG’s definitely in the running, but the contract is not in the bag for them. For one thing, some of the requirements in the FBI document — which McCain holds out as a model of brevity, but is actually 150 pages long itself — are matters of personal preference, which makes them bogus from a contractual point of view. Any contract that hinges on such a flimsy pin is guaranteed to be disputed by excluded bidders, and the bidders may win in arbitration or in court, throwing the whole procurement into chaos. Then Congress can’t help sticking its air-is-free nose in, and can you think of a single example of a weapon improved by Congressional micromanagement? (See the Montague v. Capulet history of the USAF tanker replacement buy for numerous examples of both arbitration overturns and Congressional thumbs on the scale).

An example of the bogus requirements is the requirement that the grip not have finger grooves. These are very much a matter of personal preference; we have seen Glock shooters who had theirs removed because they weren’t in the right place. But Aaron sees these being the cause, or partial cause, of the removal of six competitors pre-testing:

Glock 17 & 19 – DISQUALIFIED – Finger grooves on frame
Smith & Wesson M&P 9mm – DISQUALIFIED – Trigger pull is 6.5 lbs.; Barrel Length is 4.25″
Smith & Wesson M&P 9c – DISQUALIFIED – Barrel length is 3.5″; Capacity is only 12.
Heckler & Koch VP9 – DISQUALIFIED – Finger grooves; Lever magazine release; Barrel length is 4.09″
Heckler & Koch P30 – DISQUALIFIED – Capacity only 15; DA/SA action; Finger grooves on frame
Ruger SR9 – DISQUALIFIED – Barrel length is 4.1″; No compact model or adjustable frame sizes
Springfield XD9 – DISQUALIFIED – Grip safety; Barrel length is 4.0″
Springfield XDm – DISQUALIFIED – Grip safety
Walther PPX – DISQUALIFIED – Finger grooves on frame; Trigger pull is 6.5 lbs.
Walther PPQ M2 – DISQUALIFIED – Capacity only 15; Finger grooves on frame
Walther P99 – DISQUALIFIED – Finger grooves on frame; Lever magazine release; Capacity only 15
FNS 9 – DISQUALIFIED – Trigger pull up to 7.7 lbs.; Barrel length is 4.0″; No size changes for frame
FNX 9 – DISQUALIFIED – Decocking lever; Barrel length is 4.0″; No size changes for frame
Beretta M9 – DISQUALIFIED – DA/SA action; Capacity only 15; External manual safety
Beretta Px4 – DISQUALIFIED – External manual safety; Barrel length is 4.0″; DA/SA action
CZ75 SP-01- DISQUALIFIED – DA/SA action; External manual safety
CZ P09 – DISQUALIFIED – DA/SA action; External manual safety-decocker

The finger groove requirement will not withstand a challenge by Glock, HK or Walther. We are not procurement lawyers, but we’d bet a new Glock, HK or Walther that those companies’ counsel have already told them that (just as SIGs has told them not to count on finger grooves eliminating their competition).

Other requirements, such as mag capacity or barrel length, are trivially modified and don’t be shocked if these “excluded” companies introduce new models that meet the requirements of the FBI and Army contracts at January’s SHOT Show.

The ICE/DHS Handgun Buy

ICE badgeHere, they vehemently deny tailoring the requirements document to the 320 or any specific pistol. ICE firearms managers have insisted that nobody has a thumb on their scales, and that, while the 320 meets their needs, so do a lot of other pistols.

One thing they’re not apologetic about is excluding Glock. While it’s not the only brand excluded by this rule, the ban on trigger manipulation during disassembly was targeted square on the Glock 17/19/26 series of 9mm pistols. While the ICE handgun instructors tend to personally prefer Glocks, they’re much less confident in the ability of the general run of agents — whom, after all, they see at the range — to get the sequence “clear, then disassemble” right ten times out of ten. Police and investigative agencies have always had gun-cleaning accidents, going back to the days of DA revolvers with wagon-train double-action pulls, but no one can deny that agencies that go Glock have more of them.

The problem isn’t the pistol, it’s complacency with the pistol; PA State Police had an instructor shoot and kill a guy while demonstrating the new SIG 227s they were changing to, because they had too many NDs with Glocks.

We’re Not the Only Ones Who Expect the Army Contract to Crater

A little paragraph in the FBI contract is… interesting. It mentions that, if it’s pistol is approved, other departments and agencies can buy using the FBI contract if they like.

Including DOD.

Now, they may have intended that only for the military’s criminal investigators (who currently carry SIGs). But the ingredients are there, assuming that the FBI in the end does buy a pistol through this vehicle, for either the Army or Congress to say “screw it” when, not if, the modular handgun project implodes in a welter of squandered dollars and ill-planned requirements, and just buys what’s on the FBI’s contract already.

That would be a sad commentary on the Army’s inability to manage contracts, but the number of people who think the Army’s “just flat got this,” is a small number indeed, and they all seem to be located in the relevant contract office.

Considering that it’s a weapon that’s not what you pick up when you’re expecting a gunfight, a whole lot of cerebral clock cycles are being wasted on these pistol buys. Every agency — especially the Army, which has blown tens of millions on its loopy proposal already — ought to sink the money into training instead. But training doesn’t give a Congressman a press opportunity, and for all 535 of those self-serving, corrupt hosers that press release is worth more than the lives of any of the people that will carry these pistols.

Two Coming Auctions from Rock Island

We’re not affiliated with them in any way, except as a satisfied customer. But RIA has two auctions coming up that may be of interest to you. Even if you are not a buyer now, you can benefit greatly from the catalog photos and descriptions, and they can be highly entertaining reading.

Note that in our experience all auctioneers’ estimates on most lots are lowballs, designed to encourage bidders.

RIA Online Auction Friday 6 November

First things first: you can get your bids in now (and sign up, if you like, for Outbid Notification) for the nearly 900 lots in this upcoming auction. Of interest to our readers, perhaps, is this unusual piece of history, a Remington-made French Mle 1907/15 carbine.

Remington 1907-15

French weapons are under-loved by collectors. But this is a rare Remington foreign contract gun, a much rarer survivor than the Remington Mosin-Nagants which didn’t leave on schedule, which means it’s likely to sell well despite being in what might be called, uncharitably, beater condition. (Indeed, it has a crudely applied recoil pad, so it may not be a factory carbine at all, but a Bubba sporter. The sling swivel looks aftermarket, too). Still, it’s a century-old artifact that comes with several stories you can use it to tell — WWI production by “neutral” US for the Allies; Remington contract manufacturing; the loss of a generation of French youth in fruitless trench war, leading to mutiny in the short term and French enervation in the long. Or you could tell the story of the “sporterizers” that Bubbafied a generation of military rifles in the 1950s through the 70s. All these stories and more can be told with the prop on hand, one short rifle that would have its own story to tell, if only it could speak!

Perhaps less interesting to you, but remarkable to us, is a collection of derringers and small pistols including a knuckle-duster and a Remington-Eliot four barrel, and quite a few wall-hanger vintage and antique shotguns like this Parker Brothers Damascus-barreled 12-gauge:

Parker Brothers shotgunThat, hung over your mantel with your own BS story about how it was Great Uncle Ichabod’s, would instantly vault your stock higher with the upland hunters around here. Guns of this era are also interesting to study as examples of the gunsmith’s art in an era when most machinery ran from steam, water power, or the smith’s own muscle and sinew. Of course, this 1889-era antique is not safe to fire, but isn’t every home better for the incorporation of original art in its decor?

There are dozens and dozens of Winchesters, including this 1907 Police Rifle that just shouts, “Stop in the name of the Law!”

Winchester 1907 police rifleTake that, evildoers.

There’s also 14 Walther lots, 76 Colt lots, 12 Mauser pistols including 4 Broomhandles, a lot of three Mauser rifles (a WWI G.98, a WWII K.98, and a K.98 converted to a single-shot .22), and all kinds of other oddities and endities.

December 4-6 Premiere Auction

If the Rock Island online auctions are cool, the Premiere Auctions are absolute zero. It’s a bit mind-boggling. Want a rare Volcanic pistol? They’ve got two to choose from, of this incredibly historic firearm that is the nexus between the legendary names Winchester and Smith & Wesson. More of a long gun guy? They have a rare Volcanic detachable-stock carbine — but no, not exactly; they have consecutively numbered pair. (Alas, the stocks are missing from both).

There are over 400 Winchester lots, including many rare and unique pieces.

To parallel our statement about the online auction, the Premiere auction offers 29 Walther lots, including this rare-as-unicorn-ivory VG1 “last ditch” rifle:

Walther-coded VG1 rifle

….and a P-38 prototype, 830 Colt lots, 69 Mauser pistols including 7 Broomhandles, and all kinds of other oddities and endities, almost all of which are finer, rarer, or better provenanced than their online-auction counterparts.

The Rock Island Auction Blog is a great way to stay in touch with upcoming auctions, and they have great little historical articles.

ICE New Pistol Solicitation Proceeds

Old ICE badge

It’s a subject of extension discussions around the campfires of HSI and ERO as one agent after another tries to read the tea leaves. “Hey, a Glock fits this.” “Hey, the SIG 320 still fits it.”

They’re looking for a 9mm striker-fired polymer-framed pistol that meets some specific requirements, and they want specific promises from the manufacturers.

Despite the fact that new rumors are being stirred up, there isn’t a whole lot to add here to the post we wrote in March and the correction that ICE OFTP asked of us at the time (although it’s embarrassing to see the incomplete sentences and paragraphs on those hasty posts. Ow).

Many ICE agents prefer the Glock platform, and retain a deep distrust of an agency firearms bureaucracy, the Office of Firearms and Tactical Programs (OFTP). OFTP is perceived — rightly or not — as so biased towards SIG as to practically be in the pocket of the firm. The current issue weapon is the SIG P229 DAK, but it is broadly disliked and many agents carry one of the approved personally owned models instead, most often Glocks. (That the G19 — Glock’s 9mm in the general form factor of the P229 — has never been approved for personal or off-duty carry by OFTP is seen by agents as more evidence of SIG boosterism).

Is this what they want? The SIG P320 family. The compact is the "Goldilocks" midsize -- about the same size as a G19.

Is this what they want? The SIG P320 family. The compact is the “Goldilocks” midsize — about the same size as a G19.

A third option liked by many is the S&W platform (indeed, when we first wrote about this issue back in the spring, we thought the Smith was the target). It may not have the mindshare of the Glock or SIG, but it has been winning contracts based almost entirely on S&W having produced a reliable and accurate service pistol, after decades of missteps.


The 9mm is enjoying a resurgence in law enforcement circles thanks to improved terminal ballistic performance of new rounds, which has been documented by thorough tests, combined with the fact that many agents shoot better with the 9 rather than the .40, thanks to a more manageable recoil impulse and speedier return to target after firing. The round is already authorized in some approved personal pistols. A change to 9mm for the agency’s issue firearm would benefit the agents who struggle to qualify with the .40 — disproportionately small-framed and female agents. It would probably raise everybody’s scores a bit (“although not as much as getting to the range and practicing, and listening to your instructors f’r Chrissakes” we can hear the instructors say).

There are other reasons to look at new pistols. Unlike pistols in private hands, pistols in agency service are prone to wearing out. Basically, a well-designed pistol never fails, except “crib death” from manufacturing defects, or “senility” from wear or fatigue. Few privately-owned pistols have the duty cycle of an agency gun, and none have the toxic environment of being handled and used by multiple people who don’t own them. You may say you treat others’ property with equal care as you do your own, and you may try to, but most people don’t; and really, when was the last time you took a rental car through a car wash or vacuumed its carpets?

If wear-out is a problem, why not just buy more 229s? They have plenty of 229s… the agents aren’t drawing them. And, frankly, the pistol is a 1980s design. They’d be failing in their duty if they didn’t check to see whether newer technology hadn’t produced a better firearm in the last 30 years. (It’s interesting how many people carry guns whose designs are 100, 70, 50 or 40 years old. Even the basic Glock design is over 30 now!)

OFTP officials have vehemently denied any bias, to us as well as to their own field agents. They claim the G19, unique among Glocks, failed durability testing. The Glock does meet the minimum standards in the initial Statement of Work, but falls short of some of the preferred features. For example, they prefer an ambidextrous slide release, an option not available in the Austrian pistol, and they prefer disassembly without trigger-pulling (so do we; taking apart a Glock or Sigma still gives us the willies and makes us super clearance- and backstop-conscious, not entirely a bad thing).

Still, the 9mm solicitation is causing distress among the minority of agents who are firearms enthusiasts and who like and shoot well with the .40 S&W round (regardless of which approved weapon they use). They fear an agency selection of a 9mm service pistol threatens their continued ability to carry a personally-owned .40.

There have been no official documents since these in January, and we’re honestly not expecting OFTP to generate the non-draft Request For Proposal and Statement of Work until January, 2016. But here are the links:

Request for Information:

Statement of Work (draft; this will have to be finalized before anyone sends a set of pistols to OFTP for testing):