Monday, August 17, 2009

Pistols Too Tight to Use

Over at Better and Better blog, Elder Son writes of handling a fine Les Baer Thunder Ranch Special .45 pistol which was set up too tight to even field strip. That particular pistol currently lists at $1990 - - Really not TOO out of line for a high-grade "premium name brand" .45. Matt was a bit miffed to find he couldn't readily disassemble it.

Allen Wayne Damron

Only a year or so before friend Allen Damron died, his bride gave him an Ed Brown .45 for his birthday. Holly and I were visiting in Terlingua and Allen insisted that I shoot his new pistol. I'm pretty sure it was the E-SS Executive Elite model, which today lists for $2395.
We went over to Art Eatman's range and put up a target. I handled the new pistol with the reverence due such a fine piece of ordnance, admiring the fine finish and fitting. Before I could shoot, though, I was distressed that it was difficult to load the pistol. It was so tight that I couldn't unlock the action without striking the muzzle against something solid. I kept looking to see if I hadn't locked the safety. Once I finally got it loaded, though, the pistol shot very well. I was suitably impressed that, at 20 yards, even I was able to shoot a couple of rather tight groups.

While reloading magazines, I mentioned to Allen that he probably wouldn't be carrying it until it loosened up a lot. He said he'd been cautioned that, "it'll take a couple of hundred rounds to loosen up and break in." He said he'd only shot a hundred or so and he actually wanted my help, breaking it in. Unfortunately, the only .45 ACP ammo I'd brought on this trip was in my loaded Commander plus two spare magazines. I had come prepared to shoot rifles and a couple of revolvers. We had less than 100 .45 cartridges that day. Once these were gone, the pistol didn't seem much looser. I had no bushing wrench with me, and Allen had left his at the house. Now, I can usually manage to take down a .45 by using a magazine lip to depress the recoil spring plug, but that didn't work with this one. I just flat couldn't disassemble the pistol for proper cleaning that day.

Now, Allen had other handguns to use for carry and for home security, so it's not as if this Ed Brown was the only one he had for self defense. It was a little daunting, though, to contemplate that this pistol, a high grade 1911 clone, touted as one of the very best combat pistols available, just wouldn't serve for the purpose. At the rate it was going, it would have taken at least another 300 -- 400 rounds, or the ministrations of a gunsmith, to make it carry-worthy. And, at current ammunition prices, ten or a dozen boxes of factory ammunition can be a bit spendy.

For those who want to shoot tiny little groups on the range at the club, this sort of thing may well be acceptable, and I have no argument with them. For the person who wants a service-type pistol for personal defense, for a law enforcement sidearm, or other serious use, the necessity of a concerted effort to loosen it up might well be a little discouraging.

In fairness, I should add that this was my one and only personal experience with a new or near-new Ed Brown pistol. The one other I've shot was a well-used specimen, which operated flawlessly. Come to think of it, though, I didn't clean that one, either.


Crucis said...

Good points, JPG. I have a BHP in .40S&W that I can't reassemble without a LOT of effort. I had to buy a special tool from C&S to be able to re-insert the recoil spring! I'd never had that issue before on any of my pistols until then. I had intended to use it for carry along with my Para CCO. Instead, it's turned into a safe queen. I'll use it as a trade in sometime when I see something I've just gotta have.

On the other extreme, I handled a friend's Makarov once. It was a Yugo product and he was proud of it. It felt funny and when I shook it, it rattled sounding like gravel in a tin can. I could see the slide move when I shook it.

Some months later, my friend shot himself in the leg with that Mak. He had it on the seat and had to make a sudden stop. The pistol slide off and fired when it hit the firewall (so he says.) It's certainly not a pistol I'd carry cocked 'n locked.

Old NFO said...

JPG, I have an Ed Brown Kobra, and it is a range only pistol for the reasons you discussed! I also dislike the Les Baer for the same reason; they are WAY too tight! You saw my carry piece in Dallas, that C&S Agent. It is tight, but loose enough to handle some grit and fouling from carry and still work; AND I can break it down with minimal trouble in the field if necessary.