Tuesday, February 24, 2009

You were warned

My apologies to those who've been checking in here to see what's shakin' only to find that nothin's happenin'.

I really do get the winter blahs, jus' like I toldja, and when that happens I hole up with the critters and read a bunch and drink coffee and eat ice cream and whatever else tickles my palate. Just can't get ginned up to do much writing, don't want to hear what people think about what I think. Just an ole hermit and curmudgeon.
During all this cold nasty weather I've been seriously preoccupied with the
Engineer Trilogy by K.J. Parker.

It's an absolutely BRILLIANT fantasy series (and I say that as one who absolutely loathes most fantasy literature!), three books of great complexity and completely unapologetic examinations of the lives of the characters. I found myself again and again re-reading a passage and saying 'damn' - just plain old 'damn'. There were so many situations that really hit home. Even though it's set in a fantasy world, the manner in which Parker plots the evolutions and the individual events that dot the story line are so very bleak and unequivocal, so hard-edged with unblinking reality that it's unsettling, compelling. Parker makes no attempt to soften the edges of the narrative. Lives are wasted, fortunes destroyed, nations wiped away - just like real life, with no pretending or gilding to make anyone the least bit comfortable about any of it. I've never read anything quite like it.
So while I've been having the blahs and Bloggo has been absent from the keyboard, the time hasn't been squandered, at least not from my point of view. There're going to be things to read and think about on the ol' blog in the days ahead. Just didn't want anyone to think that I'd vanished or anything like that.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

"I told you I'd come for you."

Wow. Talk about your non-stop slam-a-matic movies.

Liam Neeson's new action flick "Taken" winds up just a bit slowly in the beginning, but when it busts loose it just keeps on rockin' and rollin'. I'd read some positive reviews of it from friends, so I took a chance on the roads being passable and went to see it at the matinee this afternoon. I'm glad that I did.
Basic story line is simple - Neeson is an ex-spook whose daughter is kidnapped on a trip to Paris. He goes to get her back. Along the way he lays waste to a significant number of bad boys. It would be easy to nit-pick some things in the movie, such as the fact that it's hard to accept that one man can take down so many guys, especially at the last of the movie. On the other hand, the violence that he employs is so direct and believable that you can cut him some slack on some things. His gun handling is good - solid, no weird techniques, no messing around - very direct and businesslike. That's pretty much how he handles it all. He's smart and has experience with the technical side of the business but when he goes at the guys who've stolen his daughter he goes HARD and never lets up. From what I've learned about this stuff over the years, that's what works.
Then there's all that footage of Paris, which is my favorite city in the world. I don't like cities, but I love Paris and going back there this spring after almost twenty years away from La Belle France was great fun for me, despite some problems with one of the folks who was along for the trip.
More than anything else, the movie speaks to me on a personal and emotional level. I have a daughter whom I love to distraction. If anything ever happened to her I would want to be able to go after her just like he does, an avenging force of nature - implacable, unswerving. That's not realistic, of course, but it's what every dad would like to think that he'd do for his girl if she was counting on him to bring her home. When he says "I told you that I'd come for you" deep down in my gut I know it's what I'd want to tell her. Not just to say it, but to mean it and to deliver on it.
Great stuff. I loved it. I recommend it to you - especially to you dads.

Speaking of 9mms

I would have loved to go out to the range during all this crappy weather but the roads were the pits.
It would have been grand to take some of the guns out to see how they performed in the colder temps we've been having. But the road to my gun club where I shoot isn't in the best of shape and I don't have an SUV nor nuthin' like that. Both my station wagons - excuse me, my station wagon and the DOGS' station wagon - have road tires on them so they don't go in the snow like they had oughta. Sideways, sometimes, yes, and without phoning ahead to let me know.
But all that sliding around (and my screaming) annoys both the dogs (it IS their car, after all) and my insurance agent and since right now I'd rather be buying mags and ammo and a really nifty little steel-framed Commander (that is going to be a limited edition from a major maker who agreed to make them that none of you know about yet - heh, heh, heh), I just can't afford to be paying higher insurance premiums.
So I'm staying at home except for rare forays out onto the more well-maintained roads.
I am getting in some dry-fire on the Para LTC and the Noveske carbine, dropping the hammer on the talking heads on cable news shows (I never shoot Fox News - they're on our side) so this weather isn't a total waste. Maybe all this front sight - press will have them slicked up when I can get back out to the club, and then we'll see if I can still remember that stuff about sight alignment and trigger control and all that jazz.
The Para feels nice. I like it. Wish I could shoot it here in town without annoying the neighbors. They wouldn't say anything to me, but I'm purty sure that nice young patrolman just up the street at the PO-LICE station would wanna discuss it with me. So I won't.
Hope you guys are staying warm. Front sight - press.

Name this pistol - and win it.

Our friend Bill Wilson has a new gun over at his web site at Wilson Combat firearms. But it doesn't yet have a name.
(click photo to enlarge image)

So Bill is running a contest on their web site where you can suggest a name for the pistol and if your entry is selected you win one. Such a deal!
When I first found out about this I contacted Bill to get more info about the gun, since there weren't any specs on the web page, just a nice photo of what appeared to be a slick polymer 1911. I was curious to know if it was intended as a replacement for the KZ45 polymer framed .45 ACP that they sell. I reviewed a KZ45 a few years ago in an article in a Harris magazines publication. I took it with me to Gunsite for the GAS (Gunsite alumni shoot) and I liked it so much that I bought it after the review was done. While I was very positive about the one that I T&E'd, the gun hasn't been a big seller for Wilson Combat and has received mixed reviews in various quarters. It's a shame, because despite being a double stack it fits my hand well, more like a Browning Hi-Power than a 1911. It's also lightweight and gives you 10+1 rounds in the gun while incorporating all the major attributes of the classic 1911 platform in the design. If the one you have runs right, it's a fine pistol.
So the question was, is this the gun to replace the KZ45? I fired off a quick email and these are the answers that I got back from Bill.
First, it's a double stack pistol but it's chambered in 9X19mm, not .45 ACP. It has a magazine that's a completely new design and has a capacity of 17 rounds. The slide is narrower and lighter than a traditional 1911. The lock-up barrel-to-slide is like that of a Sig, but it retains the swinging link of the 1911 design. The frame is a new design and is made in the USA, unlike the KZ45 which is made under contract for Wilson Combat in the Republic of South Africa. (I forgot to ask whether this one is made of Kevlar and Zytel like the KZ45 is, so I'll have to get back to you on that.) The frame is smaller in diameter than the KZ45, which should make the folks who like slim guns happy.
As yet there's no price point set, but Bill says that it's going to be hand-made alongside their custom 1911s so it won't be cheap. And as of this moment, there's no plan to produce it in .45 ACP. (Somehow, I think that will change in future, but that's what he said in his email.) Finally, they plan to start deliveries of the new pistol in July.
It's going to be an interesting gun. On the one hand, it reflects the new interest in the marketplace for 1911s chambered in 9mm, which is fueled both by a desire among shooters for guns that are easy to teach with because they're easy for novices to shoot, and that use less expensive ammunition while allowing the shooter to keep his 1911-specific gun-handling skills intact. Being a high-capacity gun it's right up there with the Glocks and others in the number of rounds that you can take to a fight.
On the other hand, it's going to be more expensive than other 9mm 1911s such as the Para LTC. While people who own and shoot Wilson Combat guns tend to be very satisfied with them (and Bill has an absolute guarantee that you WILL be satisfied with your gun, no matter what he has to do to accomplish that), will people pay custom pistol prices for a 1911 with a polymer frame that's not chambered in .45? Does this gun fit some niche in competition that I don't recognize? If so, that would be typical of Bill since he knows all about the ins and outs of action pistol competition.
Among some folks with whom I correspond there has long been a stated desire for a single stack, lightweight polymer 1911 in .45 ACP. The Glock G36 didn't fill the bill, and to date no one else has ventured to produce one, so far as I can recall. All the polymer .45s have been double stacks and, excepting the K45, aimed mostly at the competition market. They've been criticized, sometimes unfairly, for being too big in girth. That hasn't stopped some excellent shooters from burning up the ranges with them in IPSC matches, but those folks who carry pistols for personal defense don't want heavy or bulky .45s. How else can you explain the continued popularity of the basic, original M1911 design among serious pistoleros after all these years? I carried and competed in USPSA with a Para Ordnance P14-45 with a steel frame for awhile several years ago. It weighed a TON. With an extra magazine along I almost needed a gun bearer to tote the thing for me. I gave it up muy pronto and swapped over to an alloy framed P13-45 that I absolutely loved. The S&W 1911PD I carry on occasion now has a scandium frame and is a single-stack. I gave up the extra capacity in trade for the lighter weight, and I don't list to starboard or give myself a herniated disc when I carry it.
I hope that I can get one of these new no-name pistols while I still have the Para USA 9mm LTC in house so that I can compare them side by side. In any case, I'm going to get in my entry so that I have a shot at wining one, and you can enter your suggested name for this new Wilson "Wunder 9" here.

Bloggo say - shut you face!

Climate alarmist and professional Chicken Little James Hansen has now been rebuked by his former boss at NASA - read it here.

Seems that his now-retired boss, Dr. John S. Theon, says that computer climate models such as those that Hansen and his chums are using are unreliable. He has announced that he, Theon, now aligns himself with the climate skeptics who don't accept a human-based cause for climate change.
Now if only NObama and gazillions of wailing left-loonatics can stir themselves to start paying attention to this kind of info - naw, it'll never happen. On the other hand, folks such as you and I can take comfort in knowing that more and more of the world's rational scientists are making their voices heard in opposition to The Goracle and his minions.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Union Switch & Signal M1911A1 pistol

My father was a man who loved military weaponry.
He served as an infantryman in World War 2 and never lost his interest in the guns that equipped the American and German armies. He paid scant attention to collecting the guns of the Japanese, British and Italians although he was conversant with their technical specifications. Pretty much all guns interested him to some degree, but the personal weapons, the small arms of WW2 absorbed him. I acquired the bug from him.
After he passed away my younger brother and I inherited several of his firearms, and one of those which I was fortunate enough to acquire was this M1911A1 made by the Union Switch and Signal corporation - (click on photos to enlarge them)

Generally speaking, military issue M1911s are judged to be more or less collectible based on the number that were made by a particular manufacturer. By far the most collectible from WW2 are those made by the Singer Sewing Machine company. Singer produced only 500 to prove to the US Ordnance Board that they could meet the specifications, make the gauges and pass the inspections. After delivering the pistols and all the required parts and dies to the board they then decided that they'd rather make other materiel for the war effort - and they never made another M1911A1. That fact, and the fact that many of those 500 were issued and then lost in the war makes them supremely collectible. A Singer M1911A1 can fetch $30,000-50,000 at auction!
In contrast, other makers turned out hundreds of thousands of M1911s, so their basic production models have less cachet and less collectible value. Of course, Colts that are uncommon because they were limited runs, commercial production or had special features or unusual characteristics also fetch high prices.
But Union Switch and Signal made only 55,000 M1911A1s in 1943, which makes their guns second only to the Singer pistols in scarcity among
production M1911A1 models. Every other maker - Ithaca, Remington-Rand and Colt - produced more pistols than USS did.
I believe that this pistol is one that my Dad had had since the early sixties. It's in excellent condition, with minor blemishes to its exterior finish. The interior is spotless. It's possible that the only time that this gun was fired was when I shot it for the salute to Colonel Jeff Cooper on the anniversary of his death in 2007, done in concert with a number of other Ravens, which is what some of us who've graduated Gunsite like to call ourselves since that's the symbol the colonel chose for his school.

This pistol has all the correct markings and so far as I can determine from the reference texts which I've consulted is a true and correct USS M1911A1.
The pistol is shown in the photographs with a Boyt military issue holster from 1942 and a British-made magazine pouch from 1943 carried on a genuine military web belt. Those belong to my brother, and have a history of their own which I plan to relate to you in future.
Compared to the newest generation of whiz-bang 1911s that's on the market now, with every conceivable gadget and "improvement" built into and onto them, the gun seems almost primitive.
Almost, but not to the discerning eye. These guns were built to a very high level of precision for a firearm in mass production. The lines are clean and the parts are tight, made to close tolerances. The finish is durable and had to meet very specific standards. The slide fits tightly and glides smoothly on the frame, closing with an authority compelled by the sixty-five-year-old recoil spring. The trigger is crisp and light.
The sights are small, yes, but for the uses to which this pistol would have been put, fighting at close quarters and often in the dark, hand-to-hand and nose-to-nose, the reliability of this pistol would have been far more important than the size of its sights: that, and the caliber for which it was chambered. Alone among the armies of the world, the United States relied on a caliber pushing a wide, heavy bullet that dealt a solid blow to the enemy. The British also had large-bore pistols, but their velocities and impact energies were anemic compared to the .45 Automatic Colt Pistol (ACP) round.
Hefting this gun you have an appreciation for the men who carried them on patrols, in the trenches, through the mud and everything the weather could throw at them. You can understand why they held this solid fighting pistol in such high regard, even to this day.
All that, and it was my Dad's. It stays in the family.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Haiku Feb. 2009

Tiny yellow cat -
lying still in padded box
she snares a sunbeam