Category Archives: Pistols and Revolvers

ICE Pistol Decision: SIG 320

When we first saw the ICE Pistol solicitation, we confidently said it had been written for the S&W M&P. On 30 Mar 15 our headline was: How To Sole-Source a Contract: ICE’s Next Pistol, S&W M&P. This produced an indignant response from an individual we believe to be associated with the ICE firearms office, the Office of Firearms and Tactical Programs (OFTP):

Read the draft SOW. Carefully this time. Words have meaning.

By this he probably meant that some of the characteristics that we believed would be used to exclude Glocks and SIGs, were OFTP’s “nice to have” preferences, not “must have” requirements. Further responding to our post, he wrote:

This is absolute nonsense and hype. Just about all the big names in military grade handguns now have at least one model that can meet the requirements of the SOW.

We followed up that post the same day with a correction: CORRECTION: ICE Bosses Deny Shooting for S&W, in which we said:

[I]nsiders say that we were totally wrong — not about whether they had written the contract with one particular gun in mind a cursory read of the specs makes it pretty clear they did just that. Nope, we were wrong about exactly what handgun they were trying to buy.

OFTP wrote they spec, so they thought, to explicitly exclude everything but the SIG P320 Compact.

A third post in October, 2015, ICE New Pistol Solicitation Proceeds, noted that OFTP was seen, rightly or wrongly, by the rank and file as an outpost of SIG fanboys (this may have been largely a function of unhappiness with the issue SIG P229 DAK):

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).

Since that date, there have been a number of changes in the approved off-duty pistol list.

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

The latest rumor in the ranks is that the decision is in, and it’s the SIG P320. The P320 is SIG’s polymer-framed, striker-fired modular pistol.

Specifics we have been told by One Who Should Know:

  1. OFTP has selected a new weapon.
  2. Weapon selected is the Sig P320 in 9mm (not clear what form factor(s) or interchangeable frames will be involved. Probably the mid-sized version).
  3. The 320s will come on line, starting with issue to new agents in initial entry training, in the current fiscal year (FY 2017 runs from 1 Oct 16 to 30 Sep 17).
  4. No caliber other than 9mm will be approved for the 320, for on- or off-duty carry.
  5. In fact, all .40 cal pistols are going off the approved list. No idea whether current carriers are grandfathered or when this happens.
  6. Sig MPX to be issued as a warrant-service gun, g-ride carbine, etc., in FY 2018. This will also be in 9mm. Presumably this was a sweetener in the handgun package.

Given ICE’s thousands of armed plainclothes agents, this a very large win for SIG.

Assuming that this information is better than our original certainty that the fix was in for S&W. We were wrong about that.

Additional Information

Back in 2014, we were bemused by the short list of approved off-duty weapons for HSI (it has changed since).

Glock Slide Stop Failures: Another View

even_glocks_breakWe were contacted by a longtime readers who is a professional firearms user after our post on the Glock slide stop failure (the original post is here).

(Larry A.) Vickers, Kyle Defoor, and Mike Pannone taught me to use the slide stop to release the slide. It is faster and LESS likely to induce a stoppage, despite what one of your commenters said.

You can hesitate and delay your slingshot of the slide. You take it off target by doing it!!

Boat guy said he does it on everything but his M9. So he trained heavily in one manual of arms when his duty weapon required another!

Slide mounted safety = Slingshot bad!!

The reason being, you can put the safety on with the over-the-top slingshot method. Pistols with slide mounted safeties include most first generation SA/DA autos, including P.38 and derivative Walthers, Smith & Wesson M39s and derivatives, Berettas and their clones, and others.

At this point he wound his body up with his left hand on his head and extended his right hand through the crook of his left elbow, asking, “How do you shake hands?”

“Huh?”

I don’t know who taught you to shake hands but their is another way.

How do you shake hands? Well, just because I can do it with a big retarded gesture does not mean it is the best way.

Slingshot bad/retarded! Slide stop good.

How fast can you hit a slide stop and engage? How fast can you slingshot the slide, hope you got it right, get back on target, and engage?

At this point, we couldn’t resist a shot, and said, “Well, I don’t need to slingshot the slide, because my P-01 has a slide release machined from steel that fits right under my thumb.” He disregarded the gibe, and stuck to Glocks.

I forget which instructor it was, but one was teaching the SEALs. He was pushing slingshot to deal with the poorly placed slide stop [on the SIG 226].

He was pushing it to the Army later and another instructor pointed out that leads to bad things with a Beretta! Had to remind him that he came up with that as a way to deal with a Sig deficiency.

But using the slide stop wears through the Glock OEM part hence the Vickers upgrade.

Interestingly enough, this guy does not run any non-Glock parts on his work Glock.

cutaway_ghost_3_17_copy_revisdedI have been using a Glock OEM extended because my job wants OEM parts.

I put Vickers on my [personal] pistols and on [a particular SF unit’s] Glock 19’s.

As for the Vickers mag release that was a fix for the too short button a Glock Gen 3. It is not needed on most of the Gen 4 pistols.

[The unit in question] even bought new trigger systems for the Glocks.

For the record, the triggers they bought were Ghost Inc’s (image right).

One cold, hard fact that lurks in the background of this whole pistol parts debate: everyone is ever seeking to get more hits, reliability, heck, electrolytes with a simple gadget. The simple gadget is ammo and range time. Anything else, and you’re one of the 99% whose pistol shoots better than you do. (We resemble that remark).

Even Glocks Can Break

even_glocks_breakAnybody recognize this little bit? If you run a Glock you probably do.

It’s the thumb button from what people trained on 1911s or other classic firearms tend to call a “slide release” and what Glock insists on calling a “slide stop.”

Why does Glock call it a “stop” and not a “release”? You’re looking at the reason. The cheap stamped part is not designed or manufactured to take the load of being used to release the slide. Official and canonical Glock practice is that you close the slide on a fresh mag by pulling it to the rear and letting it go — like a Luger or P.38, not guns that have Browning’s handy slide release. 

Of course, the slide release of a 1911 or BHP is machined from steel billet and heat-treated appropriately. JMB Himself intended you to mash your opposable thumb down on it to close the slide, because you needed your left hand to manage the reins of your cavalry mount anyway!

This image comes from Kyle Defoor’s Instagram, where he says:

Seeing some military and LE Glock 19 Gen 4 slide stop levers breaking more than a few times. Never seen this before so often.

A lot of his commenters are… well, we’re not willing to trade commenters with him, let’s just say that. But one of them had this observation, which gibes with what we’ve heard about Glock training.

I’m a factory certified Glock armorer and at my last recert they discussed their position that the slide stop is not a slide release and using it in this fashion can, over time, lead to failures.

And couple more had the sensible comments that,

If not a slide release why the ridges on face for grip?

…and…

It seems to me that it would get more abuse from going into slide lock than slipping out of the notch to send the slide foreword again. What am I missing?

To which the Glock armorer guy replied:

[T]hat’s a valid point and an acute observation. I am remiss in failing to ask my Glock rep, who was in my office just yesterday, for clarification on this.

OK, let us offer our own opinion (note, opinion) on this.

  1. In our opinion, the “don’t use it as a slide release” is a retrospective position that was created by the Glock organization ex post facto when someone broke a slide release. But the oldest official Glock documents we have on hand (a January, 1992 armorer’s manual, and a Glock G1 exploded view dated 1991) already refer to the part as a “slide stop lever.” (The part owners often call a “takedown catch” is, officially, a “slide lock,” not to be confused with the slide stop lever).
  2. Re: “why the ridges on face for grip?” On p. 14 of the 1992 armorer’s manual, it describes how to lock the slide back, and includes a picture. “[L]ock the slide open by pushing up on the slide stop lever while pulling the slide to the rear with the non-shooting hand.” (It then tells you to “Pull back slide to release slide stop lever and close action.” But it doesn’t warn you not to use the slide stop lever to release the slide).
  3. “Why does it break?” OK, here’s a couple pictures of Glock slide stops. First, here’s an OEM slide stop, photographed from the inside. glock-oem-slide-stop-insideNow, we didn’t have a handy photo of this from the outside, but this photo of a Vickers Tactical extended slide stop (we’ve got this part on our own Glock) shows what the other side looks like. glock-vickers-slide-stop-outsideCompare this to the failed stop at the top of this post.

We now have several clues as to why the stops are failing.

  1. People continue doing something the manufacturer says not to do.
  2. The slide stop is made from a single piece of sheet metal, stamped (“pressed” for Europeans) and folded to net shape.
  3. There is a small rounded notch, adjacent to the part of the stop that folds over to the inside, right where the part Kyle photographed began to fail (see where the failure crack is kind of gray at the top? That’s the oldest part of the failure. When it weakened the slide stop enough, the rest failed all at once — that’s the shiny part of the crack). The reason for the notch is to prevent a “stress riser” from causing the part to begin failing at this point, and it obviously is not working in 100% of use conditions.
  4. And that the problem just started showing up with greater frequency, suggests that some aspect of the manufacturing of the part may have been changed recently. Manufacturers are always making small changes in parts to improve something about them (often something that matters to the manufacture, like lower cost, or increase speed of manufacture, and doesn’t matter quite as directly to customers). Manufacturers also are known for making parts in-house and outsourcing other parts to subcontractors. These subs can change at any time.
  5. Putting thumb pressure on the slide stop stresses it several different ways. It can load it in torsion (twist), for which the engineers probably didn’t do the math on this part. It will definitely bend the part laterally (per the gun’s orientation). That stresses the outboard (left) side of the slide stop in tension, and the inboard (right) side in compression. Another way to think about it is when you bend a plate or bar, the side bent convex is loaded in tension, and the side bent concave is loaded in compression. Our best guess (and based on one picture of one part, it can be no more than a guess) is that this part began to fail from tension at the upper outboard corner of the slide stop.
  6. It’s a trivial physics or engineering problem to calculate the stresses on the part, but to know whether they exceeded the design strength of the part, we’d need to know the exact materials and heat-treating condition of the part.

A question on the Instagram page about whether this is happening primarily in high round-count guns isn’t answered, but round count doesn’t necessarily load the slide stop. A lot of cop guns are seldom fired, but are loaded and cleared at least once every shift. If they’re thumbing the slide stop a lot, they can bust their slide stop without even firing a shot.

One last thing: the failure of this actuating button end of the slide stop makes it impossible (or very difficult, requiring tools) to lock the slide back without an empty mag in the pistol. However, without the end of the stop, it looks to us like the basic running of the gun would still be OK, until you needed the slide stop to handle a malfunction. So in combat terms, this failure of the slide stop is fail safe.

Out of the Depths, a Glock 27

What is the story on this firearm? Hint: it’s not a mash-up between the World of Glock and the Southern California “rat rod” phenomenon. The “rat Glock” is a 27 and was fished up by a fisherman in an unknown location. He sent the photo in to the the maker of his lure, SlabZone in Oakland, which has a “what have you caught on our lures” feature on social media.

slabzone-g27

There are a number of reasons a compact Glock might come to reside in the drink. People actually do lose guns in boating accidents — it isn’t just a running joke. (Your Humble Blogger lost a wallet in a diving/boating mishap, containing a lot of junk paper and cards, a few bucks, a Group coin and his original gold-plated metal SF Association life membership card, but no Glocks yet).

Three questions come up:

  1. Would it still work?
  2. Was it used in a crime? Would it have evidentiary value?, and,
  3. How come I never catch anything like that?

Okay, that’s really four questions… but we’ll answer ’em, or try to.

Our guess is that the answer to 1. is a qualified “yes.” Qualified in that it may need to soak in lubricant for a while for the slide to be moved.

The answer to both parts of 2.? “It’s complicated.” Guns are valuable things, especially to criminals, and despite the risk that a criminal exposes himself to by retaining a crime gun, most of them still do. The exceptions are, or at least include, such professional criminals as organized crime gunmen. Street punks are more likely to sell, trade or even give a hot-as-in-got-a-body-on-it Glock to some other street criminal.

Apart from the boating-mishap scenario, we’ve known more than one guy who’s lost a firearm to an angry wife of girlfriend. “You love that Glock more than me! So I threw it off the Tappan Zee!”

LE could quickly check NCIC to see if it has been reported stolen, and local LE could call ATF to do a trace. Traces aren’t magical, they take a while, and experience says that it’s most likely that the ATF’s trace dead-ends at the gun’s first retail sale.

Then, assuming that the gun can be made to fire, it could be fired for ballistics and the result entered in NIBIN, but it’s likely that there’s corrosion inside the barrel, and to the firing pin, extractor, ejector, and breech face on the slide, so a match would probably be difficult (and could be challenged by a defense expert). The chance of tying this gun to an open case is very small, and if the case is closed, the ballistic evidence may no longer be active in NIBIN.

It would be worth trying the forensics approach just to see if anything usable could be recovered. It would make an interesting paper!

And as far as Question 3 goes, we’re happy enough to catch a fish. We’ve been known to get skunked even on that. 

Hat tip, Chris Eger at Guns.com.

 

 

 

The Strange Times of the “Suicide Specials”

“The poor,” the Bible advises us, “have always been with us.” And they have always had as much right to life, and as much right to protect theirs, as the rich — and perhaps,, more need to protect themselves, given that the poor workingman is economically sorted into the same neighborhood with the criminal class, crime paying rather poorly at levels below that of elective office.

A Hood Arms "Robin Hood" in .22. Not safe with modern ammunition!

A Hood Arms “Robin Hood” in .22. This is better than average condition for a Suicide Special — they are very prone to nickel flaking and rust. Not safe with modern ammunition!

In those lands and times when the crown does not forbid to the working man firearms, a large and legitimate demand arises for cheap firearms, and features of styling and gimmick are often applied that either imitate higher-quality firearms, or are flashy and appeal to people who know little about guns. In today’s environment, you have Hi-Points, Jimenezes, and to some extent Taurus firearms. Before 1968, you had cheap Spanish and other imported .25s and .32s. But in the period from approximately 1870 to 1890, you had suicide specials.

suicide-specials-websterThe term itself was coined, sources agree, by Duncan McConnell almost 70 years ago, when firearms collecting was, as always, centered on high-end guns. McConnell wrote about these guns and was the first to apply the term Suicide Specials; ten years later, in 1958, Donald B. Webster, Jr., of Bangor, Maine, published a book about them with Stackpole. Webster’s book was, he writes:

[A] culmination of over three years’ work. Most of the material has been compiled… from personal information, or information supplied by other collectors. Almost no documentary material was available, and what little there was was often found to be incorrect.

Suicide Specials are such a complex subject that this work is only an introduction…. a great deal is still unknown. Thee are a great number of problems left to confront the student of Suicide Specials, and the field is wide open.

Nowadays, of course, we have documentary evidence… even if it’s Webster, a secondary source. Webster notes that there was good reason for collectors to neglect these guns for many years: they simply weren’t that important.

A Lee Arms "Red Jacket." in .22. By far the most popular caliber for these rimfire revolvers -- it was cheapest!

A Lee Arms “Red Jacket.” in .22. By far the most popular caliber for these rimfire revolvers — it was cheapest! Engraving is common on some makes and never seen at all on others.

For one thing,Suicide Specials are unique in that they have almost no historical significance.They never won any battles, neither had they any part in the winning of any frontier, with the exception of an occasional brawl. Their only purpose was to provide a gun-toting era with concealable armament at the least possible cost.

A couple years after that, Rywell’s short pamphlet (which we just picked up for 30¢) was published. Rywell’s pamphlet is a somewhat disorganized history of Suicide Specials (which made us pull out Webster, and write this post), and a detailed history of one manufacturer, the Norwich Arms Co. of Connecticut.

This Bacon Governor was also made in Norwich.

This Bacon Governor was also made in Norwich.

After you’ve seen one or two of them, like pornography, “You’ll know ’em when you see ’em,” but the primary characteristics of a Suicide Special are:

  1. Single action revolver
  2. Solid frame, pull cylinder pin to reload. The cylinder pin is your ejector.
  3. Spur trigger
  4. Rimfire (in descending order of frequency found: .22, .32, .38, .41, .30).
  5. Nickel plated

They are often found without a maker’s name, sometimes with a brand or trade name. (The same manufacturer would sell retailers and retail chains an “exclusive” brand name, so that they needn’t fear the hardware store down the street underselling them by a penny or a dime). The brand names often are somewhat threatening, and a little optimistic, given the quality of the guns: Arbiter, Avenger, Defender, Excelsior, Faultless, Old Reliable, Penetrator, Protector, Rattler, even Terror. Everyone who has written about these at length has tried to compile a list of these fanciful brand names, and, some of them, to match names to manufacturers; and every one of them has given up. The purpose of the name, of course, was to sell the gun. (That’s unchanged. How many modern equivalents of Suicide Special customers bought a Taurus Judge?)

The other side of the "Robin Hood" shown above. There's a grand name for you.

The other side of the “Robin Hood” shown above. There’s a grand name for you.

They also tend to be cheaply made, of inferior metals and workmanship. They were made in various small factories, mostly in the Gun Valley, and these factories didn’t pay as well as Colt in Hartford, or Smith & Wesson or the national Armory in Springfield. (If the Armory had orders; if not, it laid men off and they found work in the other factories, at lower wages). Buyers of these guns were extremely price-sensitive.

Not all of them were junk: Forehand and Wadsworth of Worcester, the sons-in-law of Ethan Allen, whose production of Suicide Specials was small, made high-quality ones that Webster compares favorably to Colt pocket revolvers. The company was sold to Hopkins & Allen, which in turn sold to Marlin-Rockwell.

It is no accident that Suicide Specials appeared on the market in 1870. There were a few attempts before, but Rollin White had sold his 1855 patent on the bored-through cylinder to Smith & Wesson, which produced revolvers resembling the Suicide Special (but of higher quality) from 1858 on. Other Gun Valley makers were quick to try to imitate the Smith .22 Nº 1 and .32 Nº 2, only to learn that S&W intended to defend their patent in court. After the first couple infringers lost, the remainder settled quickly, or at least, responded positively to a Cease and Desist letter from Smith’s lawyers. But White’s basic patent expired in 1869. (That patent, by the way, is why Union cavalrymen had breechloading and even repeating cartridge carbines by 1865, but not cartridge revolvers). Thus, the explosion of Smith-alikes from 1870 onward.

White continued to contest other patents until his death in 1892. As Rywell records, it “kept him agitated.”

The small revolvers are found with five, six and seven-shot cylinders, with the lower count common in the larger calibers like .41, and the seven-shot common in .22s.

This unfortunately cut-off picture is a .32 rimfire Otis A. Smith.

This unfortunately cut-off picture is a .32 rimfire Otis A. Smith. As you can see, it’s a five-shot gun.

By 1890, the Suicide Special was too far behind the public taste, and, many municipalities and states were trying to outlaw gun-carrying. While this often was masked as a “good government” or “taming the frontier” measure, what really drove it was animus to the sort of people who bought these guns: immigrants, especially Irish, Italians and Eastern Europeans in the North, and blacks and “white trash” in the South. Most cops would not dream of enforcing local gun laws against a local, say, banker or landlord; but those guys could buy the Smith or Colt.

And this one is a "Dog," that is also marked, "Cast Steel." Or maybe that's the instruction book? If it doesn't fire, "cast" it at your assailant....

And this one is a “Dog,” that is also marked, “Cast Steel.” Or maybe that’s the instruction manual? If it doesn’t fire, “cast” it at your assailant…. The engraving and shape of the side plate mark it as a bit upscale (and is the grip ivory?). The cheapest Suicide Specials had a circular sideplate with a slot — because it doubled as the hammer screw! Here, they’re two separate parts.

And, technology had marched on. By 1890 “revolver” implied double action, and the more rapid reload of a swing-out cylinder, break-action revolver (in the small, Suicide Special follow-on type, they were called “Bulldogs”), or at the bare minumum a loading port and ejection rod arrangement like Colt’s single- and double-action revolvers of the day. In addition, foreign competitors began importing very inexpensive firearms into the USA, taking advantage of lower skilled labor costs in Europe than in Gun Valley.

While the Suicide Specials died a cold market death, a couple of the makers survived well into the 20th Century, notably Iver Johnson and Harrington & Richardson. They continued making small, cheap revolvers (and nickeling many of them) but followed the market away from the pull-pin solid frame single action. (H&R, at least, did make some pull pin revolvers into the 1970s, if not beyond). Unlike the Suicide Specials, an Iver Johnson or H&R from the 20th Century smokeless powder era is safe to shoot. (Do not be beguiled by a modern .22 fitting in a 19th-Century Suicide Special. Those two things were not made to go together).

One thing that continues to puzzle us is this: why were they all nickeled? (There are exceptions, but they are rarer than nickel guns in current production). Because the market demanded it? Because the buyers were easily gulled by shiny surfaces? Because the nickel finish would take, at least initially, more handling than traditional bluing? Because it cost less? Because it could be done with unskilled labor? Because the process was new, and created a fad? None of the sources we have read can really answer this question.

(Thanks for bearing with us on images. They’re in place now. -Ed).

Sources

Buffaloe, Ed. “Suicide Specials.” The Unblinking Eye. Retrieved from: http://unblinkingeye.com/Guns/SSs/sss.html

Rywell, Martin. The American Nickel-Plated Revolver 1870-1890: A History of and a Guide for This Classification for the Firearms Student or Collector. Harriman, Tennessee: Pioneer Press, 1960.

Uncredited. “Suicide Specials. Gun-Data.com. Retrieved from: http://gun-data.com/suicide_specials.htm

Webster, Donald B. Suicide Specials. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1960: Stackpole.

 

A Historic Revolver Hangs in a Museum

In England, guns are really outlawed, and have been for twenty years (all handguns) or longer (semi rifles). Sure, whatever remains of the upper class can still shoot grouse with a £50,000 shotgun if they’re so inclined. But even historic and heirloom firearms were destroyed as part of the UK’s failed attempt to heal human hearts by taking guns out of human hands.

tolkien_revolver

One firearm that was spared from the smelter was this .455 Mark VI Webley, the service revolver of one of George V’s subalterns who would survive the slaughterhouse of the Somme as a signal officer, and go on to such distinction in the literary world that every reader of this knows of his concepts and characters, and most if not all of you have read his books or seen movies made from them.

tolkien-left-2

 

While this article in The Grauniad is three years old, we just saw it mentioned over at Ian’s place, ForgottenWeapons.com. JRR Tolkien’s heirs surrendered the pistol during the final British firearms amnesty.

The Webley Mk VI was the standard issue gun for British servicemen at the outbreak of the war. In 1996, Tolkien’s family gave the gun to the Imperial War Museum during a firearms amnesty in the UK, following the Dunblane school massacre, in which 16 children and one adult were killed. As a signalman, Tolkien took charge of communications for his battalion; it is not known if he used the weapon in battle.

Garth [John Garth, author of Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth,2003] continued: “An Oxford-educated man, he went to war alongside labourers and miners, like Bilbo among the dwarves. He saw and probably experienced war trauma – and Frodo’s psychological journey is remarkably like the ones described by war writers such as Siegfried Sassoon. Tolkien witnessed pitiable waste of life in the mud, which shaped his famous Dead Marshes scene, where bodies of warriors appear like ghosts in the marsh pools. His passions were medieval, but his work was a response to indelible experience.”

“He also said that Sam Gamgee, in The Lord of the Rings, was ‘a reflexion of the English soldier, of the privates and batmen I knew in the 1914 war, and recognised as so far superior to myself’.”

One thing that draws readers to Tolkien’s fantasies a century after he faced the horrors of the trenches — no, a signal lieutenant in a combat arms battalion is not in a safe position — is his accuracy in depicting, not the fanciful world of orcs and elves and mages, but the very real world of men’s hearts in combat with mortal enemies and eternal temptations. In Tolkien’s world, as in ours, weapons are tools that may be forged to serve good masters or ill, and men themselves have a choice as to which master they serve, at least spiritually.

tolkien-revolver_2

Most people, perhaps, see this pistol only as an artifact that connects a dusty war museum with the popular culture. (Indeed, it was placed in the museum on a schedule timed to exploit a movie release). But look a little deeper and in its honest forged British steel you might see a symbol of the eternal battle of good and evil, which takes place in the hearts of all mankind.

tolkien-left

FMI:

Surplus City “Holiday” Sale

Surplus City, in Feasterville Trevose, Pennsylvania, is the go-to dealer in the Keystone State for police turn-ins. Surplus City sends:

Holiday Sale starts tomorrow Tuesday Nov 15th at 11am. Some items are very limited so get in early and grab up these specials!

“Holiday” is one of those things that puts our teeth on edge, as our nation has a number of specific holidays that honor very specific people and things. But some businesses feel like they have to operate under the heavy weight of state atheism as established religion.

Here’s their newspaper ad. Note that they have the Ruger LCP-II for $269.95but the $210 price in their ad seems to be for leftover LCPs (which we guess are retroactively renamed LCP-I.

surplus-city-nov-15

If the Star and Beretta pistols are really Excellent and VG Condition respectively, they’re a good deal. (Note that they used the wrong picture for a Beretta 92S. The 92S has a push-button magazine release, but it’s at the bottom rear of the grip, not the back of the trigger-guard bow). If the SIGs are German, they’re a hell of a deal. But the Smith revolvers are probaly the best deal going, especially the Model 15s and 64s.

And is two hunge a great deal for a 12-gauge 870, or what? Even a beater ex-cop 870.

Along with the stuff in the ad, they also have some Bushmaster fixed-carrying-handle LE trade-ins (like a Colt 727), which are good guns if they pass inspection, and two specials that didn’t make it into the ad:

  1. Anderson AM-15 optic ready carbines. Brand new only $565; and,
  2. USED Taurus stainless .38 cal. Model 82 revolvers. Good condition only $175.

“Optic Ready” is a marketeer’s way to say. “iron sights not included.” But at that price, that’s okay, and most buyers will want a red dot or other optic anyway. The Tauruses… well, all we’ll say about them is this, that their products often are priced as if they were disposable. Make of that what you will.

Civil War Era DA Revolver: Cooper Pocket Model

The Cooper Pocket Model is an interesting and rare revolver, and this high condition example displays the generally attractive lines of the firearm. It adopts much Colt design language, but introduces a large trigger guard and double-action trigger.

cooper-pocket-model-lh

It’s rare in any condition. This one is in incredible condition. It’s for sale by James Cohen & Son Antiques, on Royal Street in New Orleans, and is only one of very many high-condition rare antique firearms in their inventory. (We mean to write about the shop more generally soon).cooper-pocket-model

Cohen’s web site does not do their inventory justice, but several of the firearms that struck us were on it, including this Cooper. They post minimal information about the gun; our references tell us that most of these Coopers were made in the second half of the 1860s. Collectors distinguish among variations.

Cooper Pocket Model
.36 caliber double action, five shot
Manufactured circa 1864
Serial No. 2081
British proof-marked on barrel and cylinder
Original blue finish

The British proof marks suggest it was exported to England or somewhere in the Empire, but it was made in Frankford, a Philadelphia suburb.

cooper-pocket-model-inscription

While the pistol is rare and, as an early American double-action revolver, a historic curiosity, it’s not as generally sought-after as more common Colts or Remingtons of similar vintage. That said, condition is everything to collectors. Cohen is asking an eye-watering $5,500 for this pistol, and another dealer sold one that was intact but rattly, with all bluing long gone, and faded to gray-brown overall, for $650.

beater_cooper

That dealer, The Horse Soldier, also has an interesting site, and like Cohen, sells other Civil War memorabilia like documents and currency as well as antique firearms (neither sells modern firearms; “antique” a term of art in American law meaning pre-1898 arms, or exact reproductions of pre-1898 muzzle loaders). The Horse Soldier posted a little more Cooper history and detail, which we’ll shamelessly crib from him:

Presented here is a Civil War secondary martial sidearm produced by the J. M. Cooper Company of Pittsburgh, PA. Known as a Second Model Pocket Revolver, this specimen was one of the handguns produced by the company’s Philadelphia facility between 1864 and 1869 and it closely resembles the Colt Model 1849 Pocket. In very good overall condition with even wear, this Cooper sidearm is a double-action, .31 caliber model with a three-screw frame and a 5-shot rebated cylinder matched to a 4” long, octagonal barrel. Cylinder is plain with no engraving but has the five rectangular safety notches. Revolver retains just scant traces of original bluing in protected areas. Serial number “1135”marked on the brass butt strap, cylinder, barrel, loading lever, and frame. A large, brass trigger guard fits the frame.

The revolver’s grips are one-piece unvarnished walnut in good condition with minor chipping at the butt edge and at the frame point. Shows smooth even wear. Barrel address marking of “COOPER FIREARMS MFG CO FRANKFORD PHILA, PA. / PAT. JAN 7, 1851 APR 25, 1854 SEP 4, 1860 / SEP 1, 1863 SEP 22, 1863”. Mechanics loose. Revolver wears a dark gray patina overall. Exterior metal surfaces show just scattered light pitting and consistent wear. All screws are in good condition, not buggered. This Cooper .31 caliber Pocket Model DA revolver is priced right, and would add to any military sidearm collection.

Examples of this gun are out there. The Horse Soldier sold another, nicer condition example (SN 13532; they say Cooper made a total of about 11,000 revolvers) for $1,375. Dixie Gun Works has one in stock, in about the same condition as The Horse Soldier’s $1,375 example, asking $1450. Gunderson Militaria has a worn and broken (mainspring) example, SN 380, for $950.

The clean lines and attractive condition of the Cohen example caught our eye. It’s a really attractive old gun. Do we want it? Sure, but not enough to drop five-and-a-half large on it. Gun blogging doesn’t pay that well… we should have taken up rap or something.

We jus’ rap ’cause we can’ sing
We can’ hole a job or anyfing
We jus’ hangin’ out ’cause we don’ care
That wiffout a doubt, our momma on weffare….

OK, maybe not rap.

 

A Very Unusual Cottage Industry Gun

It’s a .410 pepperbox. Made from a staple gun.

From Clinton Westwood (odds on that being a pseudonym?) of CCW “Clinton’s Cheap Workshop”. Here’s his Yoot Oob channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0VCN0pkJ-k6dVhdG9bbC1g/featured

And here’s a photographic build log:  https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/101083597357673892226/albums/6054216427539139489?sort=1

He has since done several other builds, all showing a blend of creativity and improvisation, and perhaps a taste of laughter.

Rifling Technology Videos

In keeping with our recent discussion of Rifling Methods, we thought we’d show you some variants of production rifling machines.

First, here’s how a modern small-to-medium sized-business does it — Krieger Barrels, which uses cut rifling, in a high tech way:

And now for old school, as in a century ago, cut rifling. Here’s a Pratt & Whitney sine bar hook-cutter cut rifling machine, restored. (Krieger, as you’ve just seen, also uses a similar P&W machie). This represents an example of World War I vintage technology, but can still produce accurate barrels. The single-point hook cutter was not replaced because the newer tech (in this case, mostly, broaching, a WWII vintage technology) could make barrels better. It could make barrels faster, an important benefit in wartime production.

The big oval structure above the bed of the machine is a marker of the Pratt and its foreign clones. The owner of this one comments:

This Sine bar hook cut rifling machine was originally owned by “old man Savage”. It then was bought from him by an Arizona gunsmith named Bill Sucalie. The diamond rifler, gundrill and gun barrel reamer was bought by Bill from Old man Savage all at the same time. Bob Blake my grandfather purchased Bill’s Gunsmith buisness in 1966 to where Bob and my father Dave Blake ran a Barrel Making shop for about 5 Years. We had kept the equipment all of these years and have remained gundrill speacialist ever since. We have now restored the rifling machine and here is the first barrel it has cut in over 40 years.