Thursday, June 19, 2014

Notes from the fun shop.

Just documenting a couple of things for future reference.  (There will probably be more on most of this at some point.)  Some erranding with the girls today in Soldotna yielded some useful intel.

To wit:

  • Holy freakin' cow.  It's here.  (Browning's 1911-22 in modern trim.)
  • I actually found five boxes of 16 gauge buckshot on the shelf today.  Which means that I bought five boxes of 16 gauge buckshot today.
  • .22 availability is still stupid.  Stoopid.  (Are regular people even buying .22s any more, with no way to feed them?)
  • Availability of other ammo and components actually seems to be improving.  It's ridiculously expensive, sure, but it's there.
  • Got a chance to meet an XD-S 4", in person.  This one had a distinctly sweeter trigger than the one I met the other day (another data point), and more importantly I got to look at the extension magazine.  In short:  I was impressed.  I'll keep looking every time I see one, but the "new Commander" appellation seems to be very appropriate for the Springfield.

More later, of course.  Deadlining in other areas, and playing Mr. Mom for a week, I do have to put off the fun of writing this all up properly.  (Maybe it'll be after neighbor C. and I get some range time together.  Another find today was a stash of Buffalo Bore ammo for his 460 Rowland 1911...I can be an enabler sometimes...  :-)

There will be more on this.

A jaw-hit-floor moment today while erranding in Soldotna with the girls.  I was not expecting to meet one of these:

Click to embiggen The Awesome.

To be more accurate, I didn't even know these existed yet.  Apparently they do.  (Look closely, sports fans.  That's a Browning 1911-22, in modern trim.  And they even offer it in "Commander" length, too.)

No, of course it's not perfect.  The worst news is that the lawyerphobes put a friggin' magazine disconnect in it.  The trigger on this sample was...rough.  And of course, what's the point of  even buying a .22 these days, when ammo is nearly as expensive as reloaded 9mm--or would be, if normal humans could find any.

Still...triggers can be improved...stupid gizmos can be ignored...and at least in theory the ridiculous hoarder-caused drought will end someday...  And I held this in my hands, today;  it's here, now.

Not only that, but I had my five-year-old with me, and in placing her hand on it properly, I suspect it will actually start to fit her hand within a year's time.  Wow!

There will be more on this, but it'll take me a bit to get around to writing it.  This is just the initial squee working itself out.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Here's a question for fellow gunnies...

Several times now in recent months, I've had different counter-jockeys hesitate to let me dry-fire a piece I'm looking at, to try the trigger.  (I always make a point of explicitly asking for permission to try a trigger, just as a courtesy.)  I've even had a couple of people now try to tell me that it will damage the firearm.  (It's always a centerfire that I ask about.)

Is this craziness now happening everywhere?  And for how long?

Okay, so the people that seem to do this are almost always young enough that maybe they just don't know.  Okay, maybe.  But still--this isn't something that they're going to come up with on their own.  Someone has to be telling them this, else they probably wouldn't say anything at all.

So: who is that?  Is it maybe the same corporate brainiacs that won't allow you to do so much as remove a bolt from a bolt rifle to look down the bore?  Is it gungrabbers, wanting to plant the seed that guns will fall apart if you use them?

Any wisdom there?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Did a direct compare of Shield and XDS...

...and results were a bit surprising.

At least for the two examples I happened to pick up, both trigger pull quality and reset quality favored the Shield.  I had remembered both a crisper trigger and shorter reset when I first met an XDS, but not so on this one.  (I may now make it a point to try out every one I see, just to have a sense of how variable each one can be.)

The Shield's trigger is indeed the partial-cocking striker-fire variety, and I was impressed.  At least on this example, it was superb--it reminded me very much of the impression I'd got the first time I saw an XDS.  :-)

Other variables went back and forth.  The trigger guard on the XDS is better for gloves than the Shield's...  The Shield actually felt slightly slimmer in the grip than the XDS, but recall that the Shield's magazines have a slight stagger that make them noticeably thicker than the XDS' true single-column tubes...  There's the whole 6+1 .40 versus 5+1 .45 comparison...  The Shield has the potential for a manual safety, but without a 1911-esque thumb extension, I might actually prefer the sans-lever model...  The XDS is very slightly smaller in height when both guns use their short magazines, but it's very much taller when the long magazines are used...

Really, it's kind of a wash, with all things considered.

And if I'm honest, I can also compare both the Springfield and the Smith to my Kahr CW40, which is 6+1 .40, 0.94" wide, 4.6" tall and 6.3" long (read:  effectively the same), and realize that its only real disadvantage is the revolver-length reset, which frankly only matters to me because of the (potential) glove problem.  The Kahr's trigger pull quality is better than either of the other pistols, it's lighter, and its grip frame is one length, rather than "extensible" by a longer magazine that also tries to replace grip space.  The grip is also large enough to get the whole hand on comfortably.

All duly noted.  I suspect that one would be well-served by any of these three choices.

I admit I'm still intrigued by the idea of the XDS 4 playing the role of LW Commander, with the ability to suddenly become a subcompact in grip profile, as a newbie's first and most-flexible piece.  .45ACP is pretty forgiving for a general purpose cartridge--moreso than .40--and in the end that might what sways a recommendation.

Looking forward to my first range experience with either of these newer designs.  :-)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Gunsmoke projects may be completed soon!

As it happens I had several fairly exciting phone calls today.  Of those, the one I was not expecting was the one from Gunsmoke in Denver, and boy, was that an exciting call.  It seems that my last two 'smithing projects--the ones I left when we moved to Alaska nearly six years ago now--have now come up for completion, and I wound up talking with the smith actually working on each piece.

Want to get me giddy with excitement?  Discuss the details of a 1911 or scout rifle construction project. about a twofer?

Sounds like the 1911 project (LW Officer's frame, Commander slide) is already nearly completed, and the smith felt the existing barrel should be replaced (locking lugs were worn), as long as we were doing all the extra work.  This certainly should not hurt the accuracy of the piece, which is already probably better than I am, and as the saying goes I have never regretted an investment in quality in Things Gun.  So, in addition to the frame slimlining (a feature I have become a firm believer in), improved sights, and general smoothing things up, this piece will now come with a handfitted barrel.  Yeah, I'm looking forward to confirming that it runs;  after that it will probably only rarely measure much below body temperature.  :-)

That news was awesome enough by itself, but then I got handed over to the fella working on my 03 Springfield, which I'm having done up as a "Springfield scout" as the late Col. Cooper would have called it.  After all this time it's almost hard to believe it's actually happening.  The rifle was my grandfather's, and I wanted to turn it into something that I would reach for frequently--which is not a trivial consideration, given that my stable also contains the magnificent Marlin 45/70 (another Gunsmoke project from some years back) and a Steyr Scout.  I had a definite image of what I was after here...and in the end it looks like we may do even better than that.

I'd requested an improved trigger and a more ergonomic safety than the 03's original swing-over design;  I hadn't realized that the replacement trigger unit actually incorporates its own Remington M700-style safety, solving both problems at the same time with just a little fitting.  The smith discussed how to feng shui the '03's bulky cockingpiece and removal of the original safety lever, and I think the result should both be very aesthetically pleasing and highly ergonomic.  (I was impressed in listening to his eye for design--which sounds counterintuitive but it came through nonetheless.)  We discussed the barrelband front and ghost-ring rear reserve iron sights, and the mount for the forward glass.  After discussing it a bit, I think I will indeed have him acquire and mount one of the new Leapers glasses out there, and will revert to a standard Leupold scout scope if for some reason the Leapers doesn't work.  He wanted to confirm that I really did want a short length of pull on my stock (I requested 12.5" even though I'm a pretty big guy;  I became a fan of short stocks years ago and see no reason to change that now...), and we set the barrel and Ching Sling specifics.

Then he made a suggestion that I'm still squee-ing over a bit:  he suggested that he might be able to incorporate a detachable magazine not just on the rifle, but in the buttstock as well, a la the Steyr.  Oy vey!  I'd figured I'd stick with the 03's standard, blind, 5-round magazine, which features the very clever cut-off system that permits single-loading above a full magazine, and simply use the 5-round buttstock cuff as the reserve ammunition supply.  But hold the phones, now...a 5- or 10-round magazine in the rifle, and a 5- or 10-rounder in the buttstock as backup...that would indeed be quite a nifty feature.  He asked me if I would consider converting to .308, since he might be able to adapt it to M14 magazines, and if I didn't already have the Steyr I'd be tempted to do that.  But I want this to remain a .30/06, mostly because I want to run 200-grain bullets for hunting large critters, and while the .308 is essentially the same for most loadings, with bullets of 200+ grains the '06 really does have a measurable advantage...and critters up here do tend to run on the extra-large side.

I told him I'd mull that magazine idea, and he's going to get me an estimate of how much extra that would add to the cost of an already extensive project.  I'm sure it will not be cheap, but again, I've never regretted spending for function, and if a detachable 10-round magazine can be done well, then...daang.  I admit I'll then have something I've never seen before.

But the prospect here is so exciting, I may have to start loading for '06 starting, to keep from getting overheated.  :-)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Okay, I admit, I find this significant.

Recently, quite by accident, I ran across my first reference to the new Springfield XD-S 4-inch .45.

My first thought wasn't all that kind.  "Wait, they took an outstanding tiny .45 and made it bigger?  WTF?

But then my brain said "Hang on a moment, and take a fresh look at what we have here."  A 7+1 .45ACP, 5.4" high, 7" long with 4" barrel, 24.5 ounces, and only 0.9" wide.  Excellent ergonomics.  Quality short-reset trigger.  Good sights.  Multiple passive safety systems designed around the opening (safe) and closing (bang) of the human hand.

That's essentially a Colt Commander, in dimensions and concept.  (!!!)

And the promise goes farther.  The trigger guard is conspicuously more glove-friendly than the 1911's is.  The overall length is at least half an inch shorter than the Commander's, for those who rely on the length of the cover garment for concealment, but barrel length is still a service-length 4".  It's several ounces lighter than even the aluminum-framed 1911s.  It's flatter even than my deliberately "slim-lined" 1911 frames.  There are interchangeable backstraps to adjust for different hand sizes.  With a two-sided magazine release and no manual thumb safety, the gun itself is ambi-friendly right out of the box.  The feed system was designed from the beginning for high-performance hollowpoints.  Takedown is simpler.  And simply by changing magazines, the gun changes from 7+1 and 5.4" high, to 5+1 and 4.4" high, which makes a huge difference for concealed carry.

And it's cheaper than a good Commander.  Even before considering the idea of two-guns-in-one for the price of a magazine change.

Well now.  That does seem significant.

Cons?  Well, I admit I'm still a little leery of the idea of using the magazine as a grip length extender.  I would think that this must somehow affect the practice of magazine changes, but I have not run such a gun to see how it holds up in actual use, and who knows, maybe it's not a problem at all.  As well, as nice as the XD-S trigger's just not the same as a good 1911, because nothing else is.

But really, that's about it. 

The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that this might be the way to go for someone starting out.  A single gun that could serve both as a full-sized service sidearm and a very viable concealment piece (with one full-sized reload, one would have 13 rounds available).  Provided it runs (and I'll assume that with Springfield's reputation, it will), it's like a modernized Colt Lightweight Commander, but with some useful extras, and less expensive to boot.  The trigger is good enough to do nearly anything you'd want to do with such a weapon, and up here at least the glove-friendly trigger guard is not a trivial consideration.

And for someone who can afford a second piece as well, having both an XD-S 4" and the shorter XD-S 3.3" (for those times when another 3/4" shorter would make a difference), sharing the same magazines and leather, would represent quite an efficient overall system to cover all the bases.

Now I need to try one, to find out.  If the concept is viable, I'd want to recommend with confidence, and that would seem to be an important recommendation for noobs, who do tend to ask.

While I'm daydreaming, I do wonder how viable the XD-S system might be to a .460 Rowland conversion, which would add mid-level .44 Magnum power to the same platform.  :-)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Perhaps I'll just start calling her "Blue" now.

One of the completed projects I was able to pick up at Gunsmoke Guns in Denver, on our recent trip Outside, was my Browning P35 (the "Hi-Power" as some insist).  Among the work to be done, I requested she be blued.  So imagine my amusement when she came

Hi there!

Hee.  Well, I'm sure it's a fine, modern finish, and I don't anticipate getting any further work done, so we'll leave it.  Hell, it'll be something to talk about, especially since this piece is perfect for a "barbecue gun". 

It's good to have her back;  The P35 was the very first gun I ever lusted after, and the very first gun I bought.  If I'm going to carry a full-sized 9x19mm, this is the one.  And when I work with noobs, this is the one gun that everyone loves.  As you might imagine, the work done (trigger/hammer, upgraded sights, extended safety, and ducktail tang) turns a great base gun into a pure joy to shoot.

Click to embiggenate.

So, cool!  Now I'm looking forward to getting some range time with my neighbor;  we've got several things we'd like to wring out, and I can now add my P35 to the mix.  With age I seem to grow more and more fond of bestowing names on things, and I think I may just start calling her "Blue".