Category Archives: Pistols and Revolvers

Wayward Python Slithers Home… after 28 Years

When the police didn’t soon solve a storage-unit burglary in Phoenix in 1985, the owners of two stolen guns — an engraved Colt Python and a GI 1911A1 — resigned themselves to the fact that they’d never see them again.

For the 1911, that remains true. But look what showed up last year in a Nashville armed robbery:

Wayward Python


Yes, despite interim possession by the criminal class, the Python was recovered little the worse for wear — “not a scratch on it,” the owner confirms. It is a little out of time, probably from generations of cons dry-firing it. (Pythons are very prone to timing problems). The picture and story came from this thread at Reddit. Some of the owner’s comments:

I posted this in /r/pics when I first started with Reddit, well before I learned of gunnit – I thought you might like to see it too. It was stolen out of a Phoenix storage unit in 1985 during a move – long story short, it was recovered in Nashville after being used in an armed robbery – perp pled guilty, cops didn’t need it for evidence, and they returned it to its home. Still missing a Korean War vintage 1911 stolen at the same time. Maybe I will try and dig up some photos and see if Gunnit can help me find it.

…my dad liked the engravings, and we have a lot of handguns that have a similar look. This came back to us in perfect condition – amazingly not a scratch on it.

The wheel is a little out of time, which can happen to these after a lot of use. I imagine it was possibly dry fired hundreds of times while some dude sat on a sofa watching tv

A good Mesa cop followed up and searched us out when the main guy over the case decided he couldn’t find us.

As far as the original burglars escaping justice, we wouldn’t sweat it. The police only close a small percentage of burglaries, because burglars are the most prolific of violent criminals, but the cops arrest all burglars sooner or later.

Don’t you guys just love a happy ending?

A Little Gun with Big Consequences

His last words were, “It is nothing.” But he was terribly wrong.

Even as badly maintained and pitted as it is, this FN M1910 Browning in .380 ACP has the classic lines John M. Browning designed into it over a century ago. It’s still a not-bad choice for a backup or concealed carry pistol, although most of them are in the hands of collectors. Not many collectors would want one in as terrible and pitted condition as this one, but then, this is not just “one.” It’s “the” pistol that fired the shots that ended the Age of Kings, mortally wounding Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Habsburg Dual Monarchy and his wife Sophie.  That assassination, by a Bosnian Serb pan-Slavic nationalist named Gavrilo Princip, led Austria to threaten Serbia (which had sponsored the assassination, providing this gun and other arms) with invasion. The Austrian threat produced a Russian counterthreat, a German counter-counterthreat, and Franco-British agreement to stand by their treaty obligations to Russia — if it came to that.

Gavrilo Princips Browning 1910

In the end, as we all know, it did come to that, to the detriment of nations and of generations.

Franz Ferdinand was an important figure. For one thing, the Emperor and King, Franz Josef, was old and unwell, and FF was his designated heir (he himself came to the position through tragedy, when the then-heir, his cousin Rudolf, committed suicide in 1889). From then, Franz Ferdinand was ready to take the reins. No one in the Habsburg court had thought out the fate of the monarchy beyond that, except that Franz Ferdinand’s and Sophie’s children were not eligible — their marriage was a love match between unequals, and so morganatic, a dynastic term meaning the kids’ blood was permanently attainted with the non-royalness of Sophie. It was only after the murder of FF and Sophie that Franz Josef began preparing Franz Ferdinand’s nephew Charles, who had been enjoying himself as an Army officer, for national leadership. They didn’t have long, as Franz Josef passed away in 1916, catapulting Charles onto the dual throne. All these consequences from a few pistol shots!

The murder is described in a book called Sarajevo, quoted at length in Wikipedia:

One bullet pierced Franz Ferdinand’s neck while the other pierced Sophie’s abdomen. … As the car was reversing (to go back to the Governor’s residence because the entourage thought the Imperial couple were unhurt) a thin streak of blood shot from the Archduke’s mouth onto Count Harrach’s right cheek (he was standing on the car’s running board). Harrach drew out a handkerchief to still the gushing blood. The Duchess, seeing this, called: “For Heaven’s sake! What happened to you?” and sank from her seat, her face falling between her husband’s knees.

Harrach and Potoriek … thought she had fainted … only her husband seemed to have an instinct for what was happening. Turning to his wife despite the bullet in his neck, Franz Ferdinand pleaded: “Sopherl! Sopherl! Sterbe nicht! Bleibe am Leben für unsere Kinder! – Sophie dear! Don’t die! Stay alive for our children!” Having said this, he seemed to sag down himself. His plumed hat … fell off; many of its green feathers were found all over the car floor. Count Harrach seized the Archduke by the uniform collar to hold him up. He asked “Leiden Eure Kaiserliche Hoheit sehr? – Is Your Imperial Highness suffering very badly?” “Es ist nichts. – It is nothing.” said the Archduke in a weak but audible voice. He seemed to be losing consciousness during his last few minutes, but, his voice growing steadily weaker, he repeated the phrase perhaps six or seven times more.

A rattle began to issue from his throat, which subsided as the car drew in front of the Konak bersibin (Town Hall). Despite several doctors’ efforts, the Archduke died shortly after being carried into the building while his beloved wife was almost certainly dead from internal bleeding before the motorcade reached the Konak.

It took about a month of cabled threats and ultimata, and then it was game on. Game would stay on for the next four-plus years, ending with Northern France and Belgium in ruins, Russia in an unholy revolution that brought forth a new Dark Age across Eurasia, Britain and Germany spent, with the cream of their youth interred in distant fields — if their remains were found at all. The last unconstrained kings in Europe were gone, Nicholas II and his whole family shot down like dogs, and Wilhelm II and his whole family in comfortable, if bitter, exile. Accidental king Charles I of Austria-Hungary died shortly after his family’s exile to Portugal.

But hey, the Serbs got their Serbian-dominated pan-Slavic Balkan nation.

Princip didn’t live to see it. He died soon after being sentenced to 20 years (the enlightened Habsburg were soft on crime, especially when committed by yout’s — Princip was 20), of complications from TB.

In the end, of course, Yugoslavia was short-lived, as nations go. It would be torn apart by civil war started by another malignant Serb, but that’s another story. (And against those two monsters, the Serbs did give us Nikola Tesla, so their accounts balance, unless you ask Edison).

The murder weapon fell, with a collection of Franz Ferdinand and Sophia artifacts and ephemera, into the hands of a priest, who dreamed of helping Austria-Hungary establish a museum in the memory of the murdered royal. But he hadn’t reckoned on Austria-Hungary and the dual monarchy themselves falling to the continental cataclysm that would extinguish as many hopes as it did lives over the next years. On his death, it passed to his order, and a group of Catholic monks had no real use for it, and no idea of how to get rid of it, so they hung on to it until quite recently. They didn’t take care of it, and it rusted deeply and badly. In time, the religious order passed the old father’s Franz Ferdinand collection to a museum in Vienna, perhaps fulfilling some portion of the late priest’s earthly desire.

There is something that draws one’s eyes to this Browning. It’s just a gun, just a tool. But the unintended consequences of the few shots this old gun fired should remind all of us never to shoot without due consideration.

One wonders what Gavrilo Princip would say about that.

Hat tip, John Richardson, who said:

If you don’t think the .380 Auto aka 9mm Browning isn’t a powerful round, show me another pistol cartridge that was used to start a world war. For it was with a FN Model 1910 chambered in .380 Auto (or 9mm Browning to be more precise) that Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg 100 years ago today in Sarajevo.

via No Lawyers – Only Guns and Money.

Napoleonic Flintlocks Rise from Watery Grave

Napoleon & Sphinx-Jean-Léon_Gérôme_003Alexandria, Egypt, is a bustling, modern third-world city with few visible reminders of its past. But many archeological treasures in Alex have been spared the assault of the bulldozer and cement mixer — because they’re under water. This includes anything from Alexander’s time, later sculptures and other artefacts from the Ptolemaic dynasty of Hellenized Alexandria, and then, some reminders of later colonizers from the 19th and 20th Centuries.

This cannon is part of the scattered wreck of the burnt and sunken flagship L'Oriente.

This cannon is part of the scattered wreck of the burnt and sunken flagship L’Oriente.

Napoleon’s ill-fated 1798-1801 campaign in Egypt at first brought him land victories, and booty aplenty, some of which is still in Paris. But the French Navy was a perennial 2nd Place finisher vis-a-vis the Royal Navy, and in an 1801 battle at Aboukir Bay, the results were cataclysmic for the French: only recently has the sequence of the disaster, in which an anchored French squadron was caught napping by Horatio Nelson’s British fleet, been decoded from the clues available in the Frenchmen’s wrecks.

But the ship in question here is not one of the ill-fated ships of the line or frigates from the Battle of the Nile. It’s unclear whether the ship in question, yclept Le Patriot, was military or commercial, but it was probably commercial as there was another ship named Le Patriot in the French Navy — and not in Egypt. We don’t even know who sank Le Patriot What we do know is that the shipwreck on the sands of Alexandria Bay has yielded a lot of flintlock-era small arms, like this:


As you can see, the arms are somewhat the worse for wear after a couple of centuries in salt water. There may be nothing holding this flintlock pistol together but the encroachments of sea life.

Here’s a similarly rough long gun:


Russian underwater excavators, working in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, have found dozens of 18th century firearms near Alexandria’s harbour during an underwater search for sunken ships.

Divers with Napoleon guns

The weapons are believed to date back to the 18th century when Napoleon led an expedition to Egypt to protect French trade interests, undermine British access to India, and establish scientific enterprise in Egypt, Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh El Damaty said

Discovered Napoleon weapons from sunken ship Patriot by Luxor Times 2

El Damaty said the sunken French artillery was once on board “Le Patriot”, a ship in Napoleon’s fleet that sank near the eastern harbour of Alexandria.

The site lies close to Pharos Island, once the home of Alexandria’s ancient lighthouse, which was considered one of the seven ancient Wonders of the World. It was the third longest surviving ancient structure of the world, until it was destroyed by earthquakes in the first millennium. The rubble was later used by the Mamlukes to build Alexandria’s Citadel of Qaitbay.

El Damaty said the discovery opens the door for more research into this era.

For now, the artillery has been sent to the Restoration Centre at the Grand Egyptian Museum for further study and restoration, he said.

via Napoleon’s sunken artillery recovered from Alexandria harbour – Daily News Egypt.

A friend of ours who’s an archaeologist of sorts has a kind of mantra that he swears by: “There is always something left.”

French arms of the Napoleonic period were the equal of those of any other nation in the world, but like their peers, they had no corrosion protection to speak of, which makes stabilizing the recovered guns a very critical matter, or they’ll soon, if left out of water, flake away to nothing.

The 1911 in .38 Special

There’s a post at The Firearm Blog where one of the regular contributors, Nicholas C, is intrigued by a gun that a customer brought in to his shop: a Colt 1911 National Match in .38 Special. He couldn’t even find ammo to fit it as regular .38 Special defense rounds wouldn’t go in. We explain what it is, and why.

As you can see it looks just like any other target 1911 of the period (and that word “target” has real meaning here):


The give-aways of a 1960s-70s target gun include the adjustable sights, the marking “National Match” (this gun predates the Series 70 Gold Cup), the adjustable trigger and the target grips. If you look closely at the gun, you notice that the toolmarks are less prominent and the polish and blue better done than a bog-standard Colt.

It was definitely made as a factory .38 Special target gun. The barrel is marked with NM and .38 Special, and as you can see, so is the slide:



There’s always something good at The Firearm Blog. It is rare for them to have an article so incomplete as this one, but then, by 2014 standards this fifty-year-old relic is a forgotten and obsolete gun.

“Automatic .38 Special Mid Range?” What’s that? Well, it’s a clue to what goes in the gun and what it’s for. These Colts were made for one purpose only: bullseye target shooting. At the time, it was the most popular pistol sport by far, and the rules required shooters to shoot in several calibers: .22 Rimfire, Centerfire, and .45. (In addition, a “Service Pistol” category requires you to use, naturally, a service pistol which then meant a 1911. Now you can use a 1911 or M9 in Service Pistol).

“Centerfire” was loosely defined but a minimum of .32. A low-recoiling round was best for rapid fire accuracy, and by the 1950s the hot ticket had become Colt or Smith revolvers in .38 Special, firing low-energy cylindrical lead “wadcutter” bullets. These bullets come out of a 4.5″ barrel at about 710 fps, compared to the 920 or so of old GI .38 FMJ ball. But they’re manufactured for consistency (although, most of the serious bullseye shooters handloaded for more consistency, even then).


The wadcutter ammo was once extremely common and popular. It’s still produced, but has been overshadowed in the market by FMJ for practice and  hollow points for defense. And other sports have taken most of the popularity away from bullseye. For example, the only wadcutters LuckyGunner has in stock right now are Fiocchi; but this page of Remingtons that are out of stock has some pictures showing what the rounds look like. The idea was that the truncated, sharp-edged (for a bullet, anyway) bullet neatly punched holes in paper, making scoring certain.

In the 1960s or so, the .45 auto began evolving into a superior target pistol and replacing the revolvers previously used. Likewise, .22 auto pistols like the Colt Woodsman and High Standard series replaced the Smiths and Colts on the firing line, and shooters began asking for a .38 automatic pistol. The .38 Super didn’t have the accuracy potential of the .38 Special, given the tools of the time, so the question was: can a smith do the impossible, and make a 1911, of all things, feed rimmed-case, flat-faced wadcutter ammo?

The first to respond were custom gunsmiths, who built guns using 1911 frames and custom barrels, and fabricated their own magazines. See, you couldn’t make a 1911 feed .38 special ball, because the rounds would be too long to fit in the factory magwell. But wadcutters solve that problem: they don’t extend beyond the length of the case, so if you can get them to feed, problem solved.

colt_gold_cup_manualArguably the first to make a working .38 Special 1911 was Jim Clark, Sr. of Clark Custom Guns (currently run by Jim Jr., a talented smith and competitor in his own right). Clark Sr. was a lifelong competitor, and he built .38 Specials from Colt .38 Supers with a lot of custom work.  The magazine, like Colt’s later mag, is sufficient to accommodate a bullseye stage — five rounds.

He did not try to maintain trade secrets, and it does not seem that Colt paid him when they began producing the National Match .38 pistols. However, the Colt is very different from the Clark! The Clark retains the locked-breech Browning design, and the Colt uses a slightly retarded blowback (via a floating chamber). In addition to the standard National Match and Gold Cup .38s, there are some handbuilt AMU .38s made for the Army Marksmanship Units that were, as we understand it, prototypes for the .38 National Match.

Smith & Wesson also made a very heavily reworked version of their Model 19 39 (corrected typo -Ed.) as a five-shot .38 Special semiauto target pistol, the Model 52,  at around this same time for this same reason.

In time the National Match was replaced by the Gold Cup Series 70 in .38 Special. (See manual cover at right). These guns remain in demand by the dwindling number of bullseye shooters, and by Colt and target-shooting collectors.  The Colt that was brought into Nicholas’s shop is a valuable rarity that is probably worth several thousand dollars if auctioned. (These are never seen with a spare mag, and a mag from a parted gun is worth many hundreds). We hope Nicholas sees this and can contact the owner (whose father’s gun it was) and hook him up with some wadcutters. The guns are world-class in accuracy, and that makes them a thrill to shoot, whether you’re trying to murder an X-ring for Master, or splitting crab apples in the north forty.

Choosing a 22lr Pistol as a Suppressor Host

Chris at LuckyGunner has a great post up that runs through his thought process on choosing a .22 as a suppressor host, and he came up with a gun we’d never even heard of (the Smith 2213/2214) after considering a lot of guns we knew well.


Right now, this is all a bit theoretical with .22 ammo sightings coming in midway between unicorns and chupacabras on the rarity scale, but at some time the hoarders will be sated (or broke) and the supply will be flowing again. A .22 pistol is a great way to work on marksmanship for short money (previous comments on .22 ammo availability taken into account) and a suppressed .22 is of little practical utility, unless you’re the Mossad (and you already have one), but it’s a threaded barrel of monkeys’ worth of fun.

Right now, the only .22 LR semi-auto pistol I own that has a threaded barrel is a GSG 1911-22. It’s fun to shoot and pretty reliable, but a bit large. I wouldn’t plan to use any semi-auto .22 for concealed carry, but I do like the idea of having a more size efficient pistol that isn’t any bigger than it needs to be for the task. In this case, that task is to very quietly make lots of holes in produce and soda cans, and I don’t need a handgun that’s large or “target” accurate to do that.

So, I started shopping around for a compact .22lr compact suppressor host with the following criteria:

  • Compact size: I wasn’t looking for a pocket pistol, but I did want something significantly smaller than the average service-size semi-auto.
  • Reliable: A “reliable rimfire pistol” is somewhat of an oxymoron, but some designs have a reputation for being more ammunition sensitive than others.
  • Durable Construction: None of this zinc alloy slide nonsense. A .22 plinker needs to withstand an extremly high round count without serious risk of major parts breakages.
  • Threaded barrel – Or at least a barrel that can be easily threaded by a gunsmith. Some designs make this a difficult task.

If you’ve looked at the compact .22 semi-auto market any time lately, you will have noticed that there really aren’t a ton of options. Adding the above caveats certainly doesn’t broaden the possibilities, so I decided I would consider both out of production used models as well as current ones. And the candidates are…

Do we need to tell you to Read The Whole Thing™?

Our favorite .22 suppressor host was an old High Standard, but unfortunately the once-common-as-dirt threaded barrels aren’t so common any more.

Timeless Advice on Point Shooting

The original Remington Model 51 designed by Pedersen.

The original Remington Model 51 designed by Pedersen. Hatcher considered it an archetypically well-designed pistol for instinctive shooting.

Sometimes the age of a document shows. But the underlying principles may actually be timeless. Take, for instance, this brief excerpt from p. 487 of Julian Hatcher’s 1935 Textbook of Pistols and Revolvers, a bonus bound in a single volume with his Firearms Investigation, Identification and Evidence, a wide-ranging book whose title does not truly do it justice. The subject Major Hatcher is discussing is one of great interest here — shooting without sights, and whether the ergonomics of some weapons (he is specifically talking pistols) enable this more than others. Here’s what Hatcher said:

While I fully agree with the ideas of Mr. McGivern about the necessity of sights, I consider it important for the practical pistol shot to know how to get fairly good results without using the sights at all, but rather, pointing the gun entirely by instinct, as the finger is pointed in indicating an object. This is really very important, because any shooting that may be done at night will have to be this kind. Also pistol shooting on the battle field or in holdups is more likely to be at night than it any other time.

Ed McGivern, who passed away some 20 years after Thatcher’s book hit the shelves, was already all but retired, due to rheumatoid arthritis. McGivern is less famous now than he was when Hatcher penned those words, but he was a legendary trick shooter capable of prodigious feats of shooting speed and accuracy. How good was McGivern? Watch the NRA’s National Firearms Museum’s senior curator Phil Schreier wax rhapsodic about him:

And in 1935, night shooting meant blind shooting. Night vision equipment was unimaginably futuristic at the time, and even the laser was decades in the future as a laboratory device, and decades more before anyone could do anything practical with one.

And it’s understood it when Hatcher speaks about holdups, he’s talking more about interrupting or resisting them, than he is dispensing advice on how to  commit them. (One hopes).

The sort of instinctive shooting Hatcher is talking about here, the sort made famous by McGivern, is even more out of favor these days. Modern instructors teach you to acquire and use the sights at all but the shortest — contact! — ranges. But the fact is, in 1935 as well as today, you can engage targets at quite a considerable distance without using the sights at all. The Major continues:

You will find that if you will suddenly extend your arm and point your finger at any object near you, the finger is pointing pretty closely in the direction of the object in question. In the same way a pistol or revolver can be pointed without looking at the sights. One thing that makes it hard, however, is the fact that pistols and revolvers are of so many different shapes and that most of them do not point in the same direction that the finger would — without considerable practice.

The Remington Model 51 automatic was carefully designed after months of study, with the object of having it point just where the finger would point if it were not on the trigger. Many other pocket automatics point the same way, and the Colt Woodsman and the Luger are among the best in this respect. The .45 Government Model Automatic also closely approaches this ideal, especially with the improved mainspring housing adopted about 10 years ago.

Now that’s dated. The “improved mainspring housing” he’s referring to is the arched housing, introduced as part of the M1911A1 upgrade in 1926. Even with that, we never found a 1911 pointed as well as a Luger or another gun with a similarly raked grip, like the Woodsman Hatcher mentions or the High Standards that he doesn’t, because they weren’t designed yet. That said, some prefer the 1911 grip, which is why High Standard diversified from its traditional grip (that was exactly the same rake angle as the Woodsman’s) and later added the Military product line with a grip angle that was an exact match for the Government Model .45.

Celebrate Diversity! we always say.

Hatcher goes on to describe how to develop the art of pointing a gun, like a revolver, that may not point as naturally as some of those early-20th-Century self-loaders.

If you use one type of revolver and stick to it, you can easily learn to point the barrel accurately without using the sights.

He suggested a five-step program to master point shooting:

  1. Select some distant object as a target, and then close your eyes and point the gun. Open your eyes. How near are you pointing to your target? With practice, you’ll get better at it.
  2. Standing about 10 feet from a mirror, point the pistol at your own eyes. The reflection should tell you how close you are. Again, the more you do this, the better you get at it.
  3. Once you’re “accurate” enough just drawing and pointing, it’s time to add dry-fire: snap the gun when you present it. What happens to the muzzle when you do this? Practice, again, is the key to muzzle control.
  4. Move to live-fire, working on shooting without the sights. This requires a range that’s safe enough; back in the twenties, Hatcher had used the ocean off a then-undeveloped Florida.
  5. Optionally, continue at night, with white targets. You’ll be sble to see the target, but not your sights, forcing  you to shoot by instinct.

In the end, Hatcher promises that such a program will lead you to success:

Such practice as this, especially if you will stick to one particular gun, will rapidly train the subconscious mind so that the hand will always hold and point the gun so as to send the bullet into the right place.

It is surprising how soon you get so that you can simply extend the gun toward the object in question, at the same time smoothly contracting all the muscles that do the trigger pulling, and strike just about at the mark.

We have mentioned several times, both in this chapter and elsewhere, that the best way to aim is to extend the revolver straight out the object you are going to shoot, and not swing it from the shoulder in the old western style. This gesture had a reason in those early western days and was necessary. The reason was that the muzzle-loading or cap-and-ball revolvers were used, and when a cap was exploded it split in fragments which were liable to get into the revolver mechanism and clog the works. Swinging the gun with the muscle vertical when cocking allow these pieces to fall off the nipple and drop to the ground.

We can confirm that practicing instinctive shooting, which the Army once taught as “quick kill,” does rather rapidly show up as improvement in your instinctive fire results. But we didn’t know that percussion Colt trick before reading of it here.

Hatcher continues (p. 489 and following) with a discussion of the pros, cons, and methods of instruction for “hip shooting,”  which he considers “spectacular and interesting,” but more or less completely lacking “practical value.” There is no royal road to Ed McGivern level skills, Hatcher explains: “Lots of practice is what really counts in acquiring ability in hip shooting.”

You could substitute any other modifier for “hip” in there. Or leave it out entirely. Lots of practice is what really counts in acquiring ability in shooting.

Of course, it has to be focused, disciplined practice with concrete objectives, but that’s a post for another day.

Is this Bubba the Gunsmith’s Luger?

Is this a case of Bubba the Gunsmith devaluing a collector gun?

Nickel Luger

The ad says: LUGER, NUMBER 42, 9MM, DRESS/PARADE NICKEL, MATCHING #. Parts of that are true, and parts are not. Here’s the other side, and then we’ll comment a bit:

Nickel Luger 2

The true parts: It is a Luger; since it’s clearly a P.08, it’s almost certainly 9mm; it’s definitely nickel-plated; and it appears to be matching, serial number 7190.

The uncertain part: Code 42. We’ll take their word for it, but it also makes sense for a 1940 production Luger to be coded 42 (Mauser-Werke).

The false part: “Dress/Parade.” The Wehrmacht did have some dress bayonets that were plated, but (unlike US veterans organizations) they never inflicted that treatment on their firearms. Also, why would there be a “dress” version of a pistol that was carried in a holster? It makes as much sense as

Furthermore, if you look closely at the firearm, you can see that the finish is somewhat beat up with scratches and abrasions, but also is letting some rust come up:

Nickel Luger 3

It sure looks to us like plating overlaid over holster wear (on the side plate and takedown latch, for example) and possibly even pitting (on the slide under the serial number, but also along the barrel, if you look at the left-side picture blown up). Here’s another fishy-looking angle on the gun:

Nickel Luger 4

No German plated this gun, unless it was after he emigrated to the US and set himself up as a gunsmith. It looks like it might have been polished and plated perhaps to cover up a bad finish, extensive holster wear, or surface rust. Whoever did it, though, wasn’t Bubba, because the plating is generally well done and has held together for quite a long time. Crap plating is slapped on over the extant bluing, and flakes off in a couple of decades; quality plating is done in three layers, usually on bare metal, and is how the factories did it (albeit not the Mauser-Werke with military P.08s).

It’s also perhaps halved the value of the pistol, now.

So who did it? It was almost certainly done in the period from 1945-70 or thereabouts. Lugers were common pistols in regular commerce (TV shows and movies of that era often armed bad guys with Lugers and P.38s, even if the bad guys were, say, Russian). And nickel plating was the third most common gun finish at the time (after rust bluing and Parkerizing).

But in 1960, a Luger wasn’t anything special. It was just another used gun. It had a little bit of war-trophy cachet — we remember a guy who carried one as a young SF troop in Vietnam, because Luger, which you either get or you don’t. And, decades before stainless-steel firearms, the first of which stuttered haltingly into the market in the mid-70s, nickel was enormously more popular than it is now: the whole Smith and Colt catalogs, basically, could be had in blue or nickel, and nickel had a durability and cleaning edge.

A Luger was just another used gun. It’s hard for 21st century collectors to get their skulls around this idea, especially if they came late to the 20th (and soon, we will have a generation of collectors for whom the 20th century might as well be the 16th in terms of personal experience).

So some guy with a beater Luger took it to a smith he knew, or some Smith bought an el-cheapo, cosmetically-challenged Luger, and plated it up. And the new shiny Luger went on the shelf — maybe it had the bullshit “Dress/Parade” story already attached, a story impossible to check in those days where there was not only no Intertubes but also no 18-pound three-volume comprehensive Luger collector books — and it sold for more money than it would have done in its “original” condition, because better original condition Lugers were in every gun shop in the land. It was just another gun.

The Luger in these pictures, on a Florida gun site, has already sold. The asking price was $1,150, and maybe the guy got it, which is a lot less than the gun might have drawn in original worn condition.

But there is a silver lining in all this. We have all seen how collectors treat their most prized arms: spotless cleanliness, an OCD level of attention to temperature and humidity, handle with cotton gloves. There’s an awful lot of cherry-condition Lugers that will never fire another shot, and this P.08 isn’t one of them. Its buyer can shoot it to his heart’s content, and get the peculiar delight that comes from watching a toggle action eject spinning brass cases from behind the gun. Lugers are fun to shoot. Now, it’s a free country, and if you want to take rare Lugers and lock them up in a dark room, you’re welcome to do so. Knock yourself out. Meanwhile, we will buy the plated, reblued, numbers-mismatching or otherwise “polluted” guns that a collector disdains: and shoot the living daylights out of ‘em.

After all, it’s a free country.

Stricken with Gleprosy — infectious agent: Bubba the Gunsmith

Bubba is in da house! Check out this case of Gleprosy. Also called Handtool’s Disease.


Words fail. Well, maybe except for one word: FUGLY. And what can that thing feel like? Nothing good. It looks like a marital aid for frigid Komodo Lizards.

"Yeah?! Bet you wouldn't say that to my face!"

“Yeah?! Bet you wouldn’t say that to my face! I’m way better looking than that abortion.”

Hat tip, Miguel at Gun Free Zone.

Aimo Lahti

Aimo Lahti

Aimo Lahti with a Suomi KP/31.

Aimo Lahti was born 118 years ago today in Viiala, Finland. He was the greatest gun designer in Finnish history, which makes him a big frog in a pretty small pond. But he was influential far beyond the borders of his Scandinavian homeland.

As a Finnish biography by Simo Kärävä says:

Asesuunnittelija Aimo Johannes Lahti (28.4.1896 Akaan Viiala – 19.4.1970 Jyväskylä), jonka suunnittelemat aseet tulivat 1930-luvun sotilaille ja suojeluskuntalaisille sekä sotiemme veteraaneille tutuiksi usein toistuneen koura- ja olkatuntuman kautta, on jäänyt ihmeteltävän vähälle huomiolle sotia ja puolustusvoimia käsittelevässä kirjallisuudessa sekä tämän vuoksi myös melko tuntemattomaksi muille suomalaisille, sotilaita ja aseharrastajia lukuun ottamatta.

via Aimo Lahti.

Lahti-designed 20mm AA gun VKT 40.

Lahti-designed 20mm AA gun VKT 40.

Yeah, that. There’s really no run-on sentence like a run-on sentence in Finnish. Anyway, Aimo is little known in the Anglosphere, but his name rings a bell because two of his best-known guns bore his own name: the Lahti M/35 automatic pistol (also adopted in Denmark and in Sweden as the M/40) which combined the natural-pointing grip angle of the Luger with a completely different mechanism, and the Lahti M/39 semiautomatic antitank rifle, advertised for years in the pages of American Rifleman and other 1960s gun magazines. The M/39 was the object of every boy’s envy, later, even if by 1939 it was already marginal medicine on tanks. Lahti would use the same basic mechanism in the beefier VKT 40 anti-aircraft gun, usually seen as a twin mount.

He also co-designed the standard Finnish light machine gun of the Winter and Continuation Wars, the Lahti-Saloranta L/S 26. (It would be replaced by Russian DP LMGs which were captured in vast quantities). He was also responsible for some of the Finnish improvements to the Mosin-Nagant rifle, and for a modified Maxim for aerial and AA use called the VKT. All in all he designed over 50 weapons, counting designs like the M/27 rifle (a modified Mosin).


Lahti’s most influential gun did not bear his name at all. It was the Machine Pistol (“Konepistooli” or KP) 31, the famous “Suomi” (a word which just means “Finland.”) While by 1931 this submachine gun was not entirely revolutionary, we need to bear in mind that the 1931 model was an update of a 1926 model, which in turn was an update of a 1922 run of prototypes. That makes the Suomi, for all intents and purposes, a contemporary of the early Thompson, yielding primacy only to the Thompson and the German MP18.

Like those guns, the Suomi featured sturdy, machined parts and a wooden stock and was very heavy, especially with a loaded drum magazine. The first Suomi drum was unreliable; it was replaced, while a new drum was being designed, by the four-column “casket” mag, that squeezed the four columns down to a single feeding position. The casket mag was a Suomi original that has echoes today in some Russian designs and the Surefire 60- and 100-round magazines.

Suomi 50-round Casket mag. From ARFCOM.

Suomi 50-round Casket mag. From ARFCOM.

The Russian submachine guns of the mid-20th Century all owed a great deal to the Suomi design. The PPSh drum is a rather direct copy of the second, reliable Suomi design and shares its 71-round capacity. The Soviet designers were never slow to adapt a foreign idea that could be turned to Soviet military purposes.

Sweden, which built Suomis under license, used the Suomi mags as the feed system for their indigenous submachine gun, the M45 Carl Gustav (and M45 “Swedish K” mags work in a Suomi). But that’s another post.

After the Continuation War ended in 1944, Finland was occupied by a Soviet-dominated Allied Control Commission (there were a couple of token Brits) and by Finnish communist quislings who had been indoctrinated for years in the USSR and were determined to bring the joys of the Russian Revolution to Finland. However, the Finns had hidden tens of thousands of arms, and the thought of the whole nation rising in guerrilla warfare terrified the Soviets a little and their puppets a lot. The Finnish communists reinvented themselves as a political party, competing at the ballet box, and their secret police withered away when their Soviet puppetmasters withdrew.

The spiteful Soviets, whose troops had been shot full of holes by many Lahti designs, demanded that that the Finn retire from arms design, and he did, living on a pension until 1970. His only child became a Finnish Air Force aviator and perished during the Continuation War.

There is a biography of Lahti, Aimo Lahti: Finnish Weapons Designer by Maire Vaajakallio, but it is, alas, only available in the Finnish language.

The FBI Teaches Defensive Shooting — circa 1955

We’re guessing the date from the 1955 Chevy we see in one of the role-playing scenes, where Officer Friendly nails a couple of deserving burglars with his .38.

Many of these techniques have fallen out of fashion — after all, a newborn baby then might be drawing Social Security now. But that’s not the same thing as saying those tactics don’t work. Well applied, those tactics are quite capable of winning gunfights. We’re just pretty sure we have a better way to do things now.

One thing that has changed a lot is trigger discipline. In those days, the FBI had their students get on the trigger quickly. Nowadays this is not as popular, in part because it’s a lot easier to accidently touch off a round from a modern striker-fired trigger-safety auto pistol than it is reef back on an old Smith or Colt revolver’s double-action trigger.

If you want this film to use in a training class, you can probably get a higher-res version at the Internet Archive, using the following catalog information:

Fundamentals of Double Action Revolver Shooting – National Archives and Records Administration 1975-04-28 – ARC Identifier 4523715 / Local Identifier 330-DVIC-27541 – Department of Defense. Office of the Secretary of Defense. (09/18/1947 – ). Synopsis: Explains fundamentals of handling double action revolvers. Illustrates various positions, correct grip, methods of aiming and sighting. Shows how to acquire confidence, speed and marksmanship. Emphasizes the necessity of having great respect for the deadliness of the revolver. Simulated gun battles afford tips on boosting the chances of survival when “playing for keeps” with the underworld.

Indeed you can. Here it is, available in .mp4 or hi-res .mp2.