Old Gunnies’ Tales

Sheriff Jim talks about the myths of self-defense carry, and a couple of times I found myself nodding in agreement along with him.  Here’s one of them.

On long trips I carry a backup S&W 637, but it’s not all that easy to get to (certainly not as easy as my 1911), but I always had that nagging feeling about that “Two is one, one is none” trope — specifically, if you’re carrying a second gun in case your primary gun fails, then perhaps you need to have more faith in your choice of primary in the first place, and get a better gun.

That said:  even my faithful Springfield 1911 has failed, twice, and fortunately, both times at the range.  The first time (at around the 25,000-round mark) was when the slide stop broke (snapped halfway through), but the remnant of the pin still held the gun together through the rest of the shot string when the mag was empty.  So in a self-defense situation, that might not have been so bad.

The second failure was more substantial:  at the 35,000-round point the safety catch broke, almost literally disintegrated in the gun, and the gun became inoperable.  (Fun fact:  when that happens, the grip safety also becomes inoperable, so the 1911 is not safe to carry with a round in the chamber.)  It didn’t matter about the rarity of this event — not only had I never heard of it happening, but the gunsmith hadn’t, either;  nevertheless, it did happen, and I have to admit that it left me quite shaken.

So maybe, just maybe, Old Faithful isn’t that faithful after all — which makes an argument in favor of carrying a backup.

OR:

Maybe a revolver makes a better choice for a primary carry gun — I know, six, seven or even eight rounds aren’t the same as the fifteen-round mag in yer Glock — but revolvers are inherently more reliable than semi-autos, so…

Here’s the big “but” (and it’s bigger than Kim Kardashian’s):  would (say) a S&W 686 have been as reliable as my 1911 after 25,000 full-power loads, or is that an apples-oranges comparison?  What about a S&W 625 (which is chambered in .45 ACP like the 1911)?  Would that have lasted longer without a breakage (at, say, 25,000 rounds) than the 1911?

I have to tell you, after the 1911’s safety broke, I first started thinking about carrying a revolver instead of a semi-auto, and it’s something that weighs on me to this day.  I am very much tempted by the 8-shot Mod 627:

Eight rounds is what I carry in my 1911 anyway, and while a revolver loads a little slower with a speedloader than a mag-fed semi-auto, it’s not that  much slower (after considerable practice, which I’ve had).

This is what happens when you start looking at the carry myths (thanks, Sheriff Jim) — you start to rethink all sorts of long-held habits and beliefs.

“The one thing that I got from the professional hunters is that they don’t plan for when everything works right—they plan for when everything goes wrong.  And, just like the smart defensive shooter, it effects their choice of guns, gear and tactics.  And that, I submit, is a good way to stay alive.”

There you have it.

18 comments

  1. Kim, both of the parts you’ve mentioned as breaking on your Springfield, were in all likelihood Metal Injection Molded (MIM) parts. That’s the trend on nearly all sub $1,500 versions of the 1911.

    Now, if you luck into a Colt Series 70s made in 1971 or so, that’ll be 100% forged and machined steel. That’s the good stuff. And you can still buy forged and machined steel parts, with some careful digging around. Doing so, part by part, your “Old Faithful” can truly become exactly that.

    Revolvers alas, are the same. Most of the fiddly bits in a newer S&W are MIM. They’ve vastly improved the process and the product, but I think the crystalline structure of the genuine, forged part will always remain superior.

    My S&W Model 28 Highway Patrolman has +75k rounds through it. Even with a primary diet of bunny-fart wadcutters, it’s showing visible flame-cutting of the top strap. I’m no longer shooting Magnums through it as a matter of course.

    I’m also beginning to shop for its replacement. What cost me just over $200 in 1980, is now going to boink my wallet to about a thousand or so, for the same gun, today.

    Gotta have one though. I came up shooting Model 28s, and I’ll go out shooting a Model 28. Who knows? With enough practice, I might actually get good with it, one of these days.

    Jim
    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

    1. I love N-frames, especially the 27 and 28.

      It seems to be most of what I shoot these days.

      Mostly, a diet of range ammo 38 sp., though.

      Occasionally, I’ll run a box of 357 mag through them for shits and giggles, but mostly just friendly 38 sp.

  2. I think you nailed the “but” perfectly, Kim. Revolvers do go out of time, springs can break, 25,000 rounds is a high round count for any gun. Heck, even the Glock, considered by most to be the Chuck Norris of handguns, has failures at high round counts like that. Most people don’t shoot 25,000 rounds in their lifetime, I’d be willing to bet.

    I’ve never really gotten involved in the 7-8 versus 15 rounds arguments, or the Glock vs 1911 stuff, everyone in those fights seems to have their mind made up anyway. But I’m fine carrying one gun as a civilian (as an LEO, I would definitely subscribe to the 2 is 1, 1 is none philosophy sheriff Wilson espouses, but I’m not an LEO) and I’m not likely to get caught in a gang crossfire, given my habits.

    For carrying at the local mall, theater, the grocery store, church — if I’m not proficient enough to get myself out of trouble with whatever I run into with 7 (my 1911 carry is a compact) + another mag of 7, then I haven’t been to the range enough and I’m being what I would consider an irresponsible concealed carrier at that point.

    Granted, I don’t own any box-stock 1911s, all mine have Wilson Bullet proof slide stops and safeties, and I’ve had a smith go over it to do a few little tweaks I consider necessary (another rabbit hole discussion), but I’m as comfortable carrying my 1911 as I would be a S&W 686 or a Glock. As confident perhaps I should say. That said, at 20,000 rounds I’m likely to replace the slide stop and safety and have a smith go over it again anyway, I’m anal that way. But I’d have a smith look over a 686 or a Ruger sp101 I used for daily carry as well at 20,000 rounds. Or a Glock.

    Get a decent gun of any type you like to shoot, and practice with what you will carry, go to the range at least a couple times a year (I’m not talking us here, I’m talking the average concealed carrier—it should be a lot more, of course, IMO), and have a smith go over your carry piece every 20,000 rounds or every ten years if you don’t get that high and, as the song goes, “Don’t worry, be happy.”

    I carry a 1911 because I love them, like you, I’m a traditionalist (which doesn’t rule out revolvers), and I’ve shot them for 40 years, so I can run them in my sleep, safely. Revolver, semi-auto, 9mm, .45 ACP, Glock or some other brand, who cares, says I. Get a good, reliable gun you like to shoot (I admit a 1911 likely should have a little done to it, but Springfield is close to good out of the box), practice, and FFS get it gone over at 20,000 round count. You have a mechanic look at your car every now and then, right? This stuff is a lot simpler than most people think.

    -JC

  3. Jim posted while I was composing. Amen. The metallurgists all tell me the MIM stuff is just fine, and I’m not qualified to disagree with them. But that’s why I swap out the slide stop and safety on my 1911s. I also swap out the ignition parts, so any new 1911 I get has a new hammer, disconnector, and sear, as well, and a smith has gone over it, of course, at that point. But that’s also why I’m not swayed by the reliability argument as some are. I pays my money (all my 1911s are ridiculously expensive by the time I’m done with them) and makes my choice, but I feel just dandy with my 1911 as my EDC piece.

    -JC

    1. I’ve been doing the same thing when I buy a SA or a Kimber.

      I would buy a $800 – $900 gun and spend $400 with my smith to get premier parts in it and a good trigger job.

  4. re:
    PH earns his tip

    After watching this a dozen times in slow motion, I am still amazed at the video of the stop of a charging lion.
    After the dust settled, the guest only needed to wipe the cat drool off his boots.
    The video is on YouTube:
    “Head shots on a charging lion”

    Trust your skill, trust your equipment.
    And two PHs are better than one.

  5. I had a revolver lock up once, but it was the fault of my ammunition and not the gun. I was shooting some warmish 240 grain hand loads out of an old Charter Arms Bulldog and my first shot locked up the cylinder. I realized that I hadn’t crimped the cast bullets and when I fired the pistol the cases and bullets backed apart just enough to keep the cylinder from turning That was my lesson on hot loads in a revolver and the only failure that I’ve ever had with a wheel gun. I carried a five shot J-frame as a back up for my 686 duty pistol back in the revolver days. The relatively limited capacity of both guns made me think lots harder about shot placement instead of throwing three or four magazines worth of 9mm downrange. My old captain reminded us constantly that every bullet we fired had a sleazeball lawyer sitting astride it. He didn’t tell us not to shoot – he just told us to hit.

  6. My $0.02. Every machine with moving parts has a maintenance cycle. That includes guns. Note that cleaning is not maintenance. Unfortunately this is far from an accepted fact; tell a Glock fanboy that if he stakes his ass on his gun he needs to replace his recoil spring every 3-5K rounds and he’ll just screech “gLuCk PeRfEkShUn!!!” IMHO, every X number of rounds a gun needs to be detail stripped and closely inspected for cracks, excessive wear, excessive headspace, etc. X depends on the gun, obviously.

    1. Yup, ya gotta maintain ’em. I graduated US Army Small Arms Repair School in ’74. Built my first AR carbine in ’93 in Kalifornia (sitll have it) and have been building custom AR’s ever since. Yes, I actually am the pro from Dover. And about a decade ago, I got my comeuppance (again).

      We were enjoying a day at the outdoor range. I was holding the aforementioned AR carbine (unloaded) and just on a whim, ran a function check. Cock and pull trigger. Click as hammer falls. Hold trigger down and cock again. Release trigger. Click as disconnector releases hammer to trigger nose. Pull trigger. Click as hammer falls again. Cock again. Safety on. Pull trigger. Click. WHUT?

      Got home and checked it out. The tail of the trigger that goes under the safety had broken off. Close examination revealed that it had been cracked when I originally installed it. Good thing (sorta) is that is was loosely captured in place did not disable the carbine. Embarrassing thing is that I had no idea how long it had been that way.

      There are a couple of random guns in my safe with a fired case in the chamber. I don’t remember which ones. This is deliberate. When you get complacent, and one of those empty cases jumps out at you, it tunes you right up.

  7. I run a 625 in ICORE and in IPSC; there’s a reason I have two of them – I’ve not made it through a season without both the primary and spare making visits to the gun hospital. Tam Keel once described revolver innards as a delicate ballet and she’s right; there’s a lot in a wheelgun that requires professional experience to resolve. I can swap parts myself, and do it often, but for the stuff that requires precision fitting, and there’s more of that in a revolver than one immediately realizes, I contract that out to someone who’d been doing it successfully for 30 years.

    I occasionally shoot a G17 in IPSC or use one for 3-Gun – I have 3 G17’s for use as student guns in my classes, so “spares” are always available – and I can do all the maintenance on them myself: recoil springs, trigger, both parts and assemblies, striker, etc. The only thing I can’t fix myself in a few minutes is a broken slide, frame or barrel (which is why I also have a spare barrel in my fairly extensive”instructor gun parts & tool kit,” and keep meaning to get a spare slide; if I run out of spare G17s, I’ll give the student one of my CZ75 student guns. Those croak, and I’ll loan one of my personal G19s. Remember, “two is one and one is none.”).

    FYI, running any gun 1,000 – 1500 rounds/month requires plenty of maintenance, well beyond “cleaning.” Tam has said “if you’re not breaking your gun occasionally you’re not shooting it enough. The late and much missed Todd Green “tested to destruction” several guns; notably he gave up on the H&K45 when it never broke (which is partly why I sprung for my own USP in 45 when I was working), and a 4th Gen G17 ate an extractor early, then finally showed hairline cracks in the slide bolt face at 85K. Todd detailed round counts and maintenance performed, and there was a lot of maintenance.

    RE: the 627 – I ran one for most of a season in ICORE, and sold it. Before you drop the cash, try reloading one with dummy 357 ammo and your choice of speedloader (best 8-round speedloader I’ve found is a precision-machined aluminum one, $60 each, plus shipping). Use your timer, or borrow one if you don’t have one (disregarding practice needs for competitors, why anyone serious about practicing self defense techniques doesn’t have a good shot timer eludes me, but it does happen), set what you think is a proper par time for reloads in a self defense scenario and let me know how often you beat it. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

    ICORE has a 125 power factor floor, which is LOW. Garden variety budget 9MM ball is in the mid-130s. So, the 8-shot guys usually run 38 Short Colt brass – it’s almost the same length as 9MM brass (nominal for 9X19 is .754″, Short Colt is .765″) and if one uses the right brass and thick moon clips (Brownells sells .041″ and a couple custom makers produce .043″) AND the right bullets it’s a snap to reload (I used 140 grain hard cast truncated cone bullets over enough Unique to get 910-930 FPS (892.9 FPS made power floor) which meant recoil was just above .22 Magnum (the 627 is NOT a light gun; Smith does make the 327, a Scandium “tactical” version that’s a lot lighter).

    Needless to say, 140 grains on a hard, pointy bullet at ~900 ain’t what I’m using in a .357 when Things Go Bump In The Night (Speer used make a 160 grain half-jacketed swaged SWC – long out of production, sadly – that at 1250-1300 FPS turned in very impressive performances on feral hogs and deer. If you’re listening, Speer, please bring it back, along with the 240 non-HP grain version in .429 diameter).

    The 627 is a great gun, especially after the gentle ministrations of a wicked-good ‘smith, and so is the 327, but you damn well better solve the problem with the first 8 because there’s going to be a long pause before you start hearing loud noises again. Me, I’ll take a LotsaShots in 10MM or 45ACP with plenty of full magazines.

  8. My carry piece is a charter arms bulldog in .44 special. Light, small, 5 shot, internals simple as a butter churn. I shoot it enough to be proficient, but it’s not my recreation gun. .44 special is tough to come by these days. Thank god for small shops like Gunmasters.

    Why do I do this?

    It’s powerful, loud, and it cost me $200. If it’s confiscated, I’ve lost 200. Although, I live in Texas ( not to far from Kim actually). Still. I need it to do a 4” group at 25 feet or so, which it exceeds.

    It’s not a gun I treasure. It’s a tool.

  9. The Fugitive was a more forgettable movie than people wanted to give it credit for at a time (IMHO Harrison Ford looks completely unprepared the entire movie, like he showed up expecting Star Wars 7 and was reading the script just before the takes…).

    Back to guns, it has the all-time movie backup gun scene. Harrison Ford takes away Tommy Lee Jones’ Glock 17, and backs out of sight. TLJ calmly unzips the fanny pack, and pulls out Glock 17 #2.

    Currently, I need to go back on the diet so I can fit in my slim guy pants. When I lost down originally, I invested in a Berea TPR9C, because it’s almost an IDPA BUG gun in size, but can carry 13 +p 9MM (you can get a .40 or .45 version if you want). Now, SIG, Taurus, Springfield, etc. are selling several different guns in this category, and at prices where 2 of them won’t kill the budget. (Heck, KyGunCo still rarely has blemish Millenium G2s new under warranty for $130.) Buying 2 and keeping one in a less-accessible place (ankle, briefcase, etc.) is quite possible. My goal is to be able to carry gun #1 at 3 o’clock, #2 around 8 o clock, and still have some weight to spare for a third mag at 9 – 11.

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