Sculpting The Elephant

“A fool-proof method for sculpting an elephant: first, get a huge block of marble; then you chip away everything that doesn’t look like an elephant.” – Author Unknown

Ok, so maybe it didn’t take that much fitting, but it was a bit involved.
The slide release cleared the grips afterall. In my quick fit, I confused the lever’s failure to move downward with it’s being forced as far down as it would go. There is a tab that needed clearance from the back of the slide. In fact, this tab is what holds the slide release in when the slide is anywhere but at the magic take down notch.

The thumb safety took a little more work, though mostly because I wanted to sneak up on the proper relief and not risk over cutting and having to build it up again or discard it.

In the safe position, the safety must engage the sear with zero clearance. The sear and hammer engage with 0.020 inches or less. If the thumb safety allows the sear to move at all when it’s engaged, it can make the trigger extremely light or worse, make the pistol fire immediately when the safety is disengaged. There are several places online to see an extensive safety testing procedure.

Besides very carefully stoning the safety lug, I had to remove a bit of metal so it could swing past the spring plunger housing.

I found the machined edges of the lever to be uncomfortably sharp against my thumb. I spent a bit of time melting some of the edges. The thing could use a lot of surface sanding before it gets refinished.

In any case, I’m pretty pleased with the functionality of both pieces. Now it just needs a range test and a bath.


More parts

The new extended slide release and thumb safety for the 1911 lanquished untouched in my range bag for a whole week. One evening this week, I sat down to do a quick installation.

Now, I already expected that the quick fit I was doing would only verify that I needed to *actually* fit these parts and in that, I was not disappointed. 🙂

So far as I can tell, the slide release will only need some relief on the top of the left grip panel, which is fairly typical. I may even have some old grips somewhere that have already been cut away, though my cutting away skills have developed significantly since those old grips were done. I probably wont just hog it away with a bench grinder this time.

The thumb safety will require a little more work. It looks like the spring plunger engagement will need a tiny bit of filing. It looks like it will be a sharp snap and may benefit from a very small amount of rounding off. I don’t want it too easy to move, just not too hard.

The lug on the safety is, as typical, oversized. It will require substantial fitting work. At first blush, it will probably only need relief on the back of the lug to clear the opening in the frame. Usually, the rest of the lug is very close to the proper shape and position, but until it’s in there and everything else is out of the way, ya just can’t tell.

The fit between the sear and the lug on the safety when engaged must be zero. The sear must not move at all with the safety engaged, especially if hammer and sear work has been done to lighten trigger pull.


First the Glock, then the 1911…

I ordered a Lone Wolf 10mm to 40S&W conversion barrel for my Glock 20C. I missed the bit about how some Glockstore products are not in stock and may take longer to arrive. The barrel turned out to be drop shipped directly from Lone Wolf Distributing. I had paid $31 extra for 2nd day shipping and the only part I was actually in a hurry for arrived 11 days later. Glockstore was super nice about it and refunded a significant part of this shipping even before the barrel arrived. I was disappointed with the barrel taking so long to arrive, but I certainly can’t fault them on service, especially when I had missed the pretty clear notice on the page.

I installed all the rest of the parts while waiting for the barrel. I now have an extended slide release, extend slide lock and a 3.5 pound trigger connector. These were all very simple to install.

It’s surprising how much easier the pistol is to field strip with the extended slide lock. It seems to be a problem I didn’t know the platform had 🙂

I have always thought the stock slide release was a little difficult to operate. I am trying to train myself to pull back on the slide to release the slide after a reload, which is arguably faster, but having the extended release will help in those situations where the off hand is not immediately available.

Before I installed the 3.5# connector, I used my semi-fancy trigger pull scale to get an average on the “before” trigger pull. The hook on the scale did not want to sit where it would properly engage the trigger safety. I ended up hooking the trigger at a low angle to press the safety, then once partial pressure was on the trigger, I moved the scale so that it was pulling correctly. Even so, a couple of readings were suspciously high, so I threw them out of the average. The “final” before average trigger pull was about 7 pounds, measured in this way. After the connector was installed, the trigger definitely felt better, but measured out at about 4.5 pounds, using the same technique. Next time, I will use a bit of tape to engage the trigger safey then pull the scale in a more consistent manner.

Once the barrel arrived, it was essentially an instant drop in installation, especially with the extended slide lock.

My only concern at all is that this conversion uses the stock G20 10mm magazines loaded with 40S&W cartridges. Apparently, the G20 and G22 are different enough that magazines can’t be interchanged. All indications are that it is a reliable combination, but lets just say that until at least several hundred trouble free rounds have been run through it, when the G20C is at my bedside, it will have the stock 10mm barrel and ammo in it.

In any case, now I have an IDPA legal Glock 20C, for the ESP division. I think the first opportunity to shoot it in a match will be the first week of December.

About all that’s left on this pistol is to replace the sights.

I also did a good bit of work on the 1911.

Most visibly, I added a Wilson Combat drop-in beavertail safety, Commander-style hammer and a mainspring housing with a magwell funnel attached.

Just ignore that comp barrel for now. It happened to be in the gun rug when I took that pic 🙂

You may recall from a previous post that I accidentally ordered the wrong beavertail. Once it didn’t fit, I dug into it and finally saw that I had ordered the beavertail for a Commander. It was a simple matter to order a replacement. In the interest of fast shipping, I chose not to pursue an exchange/refund for the wrong part at that time, but I may look into it now.

Once I had the right part, fitting the drop-in beavertail took a little more than expected. Due to my own oversight, I ended up trimming the engaging tab too much and was able to correct it by filing both the bottom of the safety and the top of the mainspring housing where they meet. To correct for this correction, I will need to braze/weld a tiny bit on the bottom of the engaging tab and refit better. As it is, the safety works, but it takes only the smallest press of the grip safety to allow it to fire, which meets the letter of the system, but doesn’t really meet the intent. 🙂

Internally, I polished a lot of trigger group parts, pretty much everything that touches each other. Trigger pull is much nicer and down to between 4.5 and 4.75 pounds. The firing pin safety even works.

I have ordered (and had arrive just today) an extended thumb safety and extended slide release. They will hopefully be really drop in pieces.

Assuming those last two bits work, I will work on the fit of the slide. It is perfectly functional, but there is a little bit of metal on metal screech and the recoil spring is a little noisy. Racking the slide slowly sounds a little like opening a screen door. Having fondled a reeeeeally nicely fitted 1911, I’d like to pursue more of that, at least part way down the rabbit hole.

That and some nicer sights and I think I’ll be done with parts on it. It will then be ready for a new finish, probably Cerakote. It’s unlikely to be zombie green, so you can relax. “Blue Titanium” or “Socom Blue” both seem likely, though.

My First IDPA match

It was not my first match to observe, but my first IDPA match to shoot in. It went pretty well, with a kinda major hitch at the beginning.

I arrived, officially joined the club (which wasn’t technically required, but I see no reason not to do it) and signed up for the match. First match is free and membership is prorated annually, so I was out a whopping $5. Well, there was the discounted range fee. $8 I think. Frankly, I wasn’t concerned hehehe.

I was there with two other new shooters and it should come as no surprise that we three were the bottom scores. Then again, it was our first match ever. I’m pleased to have completed all four stages.

There was, however, a moment….

I was in the middle of the squad, so I had time to observe several shooters and I had formulated a plan. At “Load and Make Ready”, I methodically inserted a magazine, racked a round, removed the magazine, holstered my pistol, dug out a round to top off the magazine, unholstered the pistol, inserted the now full magazine and reholstered the pistol, all of course closely observed by the Safety Officer (SO). We stepped up to the first shooting position. I was ready. “Stand by”. beeeeep.

I drew my pistol, drew down on the first target, squeezed the trigger and…. click.  Not bang.  Click.

I cycled the slide and tried again. Click.

There was obviously something going on, so I made the weapon safe and stepped away to go troubleshoot.

Attended by a couple of experienced members, it was pretty easy to determine what had happened.

You may recall from my last post that I had done some work on the Colt. Turns out that I had reassembled the Series 80 firing pin safety with one component out of place. In proper configuration, pressing the trigger moves a lever that engages another lever that presses up on a plunger in the slide. In its resting position, that plunger engages a ring in the firing pin to block it’s movement. My specific error was that the lever that contacts the trigger bow was positioned such that the trigger would never touch it. So, the firing pin remained blocked. Click, no bang.

The only spare pistol I had on me was my Glock 20C, which in stock compensated configuration, is prohibited by IDPA rules ( for the curious) and while I may have been able to correct this issue with some tools, it was better to accept the kind offer to borrow a pistol.

How very kind that offer turned out to be.

I was loaned an exceptionally nice pistol. He did not reveal the cost, but from what I know, it would not surprise me to find it was a $2000-3000 pistol. What a nice way to shoot my first match!

Due to the delay, I ended up shooting the first stage with the other squad, then scooted back over to my squad for the rest of the match.

For the most part, I think I did well for my first match. The shooting and even the movement was not so much an issue as the hyperawareness of safety rules.

There are really only two ways be be disqualified at a match… for being a pretty serious ass or for violation of gun safety rules. IDPA takes safety very seriously. All the safety rules are very sensible, but as a new competitive shooter, their enforcement is a new consideration for me. It’s remarkably easy to do something that, if the shooter were alone, might not be particularly unsafe. At the range, in a room full of people, those same actions present clear danger to others. Violation of those rules means you are immediately disqualified and your are done shooting for the match.

So, I didn’t DQ. I did not handle my pistol except when the SO instructed me to do so, I kept my pistol pointing downrange and not at an body parts (mine or others’), I kept my finger away from the trigger except when actively engaging targets.

A bit on IDPA scoring. The SO activates a timer device which beeps when time starts. It counts and times your shots by detecting the sound with a microphone.The time elapsed from the beep until the last shot is your raw score for the stage. Then the targets are scored and penalties assessed, all adding to the raw time for your final score. Target zones are 0, 1 and 3 “down”. A miss is considered 5 down. The target count adds a half second for each point down. Other penalties include Procedural Errors (minor violations of the stage description, 3 seconds each), Failure to Neutralize (no 0 or 1 hits on a target, 5 seconds each), Hit Non Threat (some stages have targets that are specifically *not* to be hit; 5 seconds each) and Failure To Do Right (basically, cheating; 20 seconds first time, DQ for second).

I did suffer some procedural penalties. Specifically, one stage required engaging a target while retreating and I simply forgot to start moving. In another stage, I violated cover. The rules require that you shoot from cover if cover is available. In that particular stage, cover was a “Bianchi Barricade”, a 2 foot wide panel. It’s real easy for your feet to come out from behind cover, especially if you take a relatively wide stance. Another penalty was a Failure to Neutralize (FTN). assessed when a target has no hits in the -0 or -1 zones. You can have two hits in the -3 zone, so no misses, but still get an FTN. I had a target that I managed to completely not hit. So, not only did I get 10 points down (5 seconds) for missing it, I got an additional 5 second penalty for FTN.

All the stage times are summed for the final score. My overall score was 137.25, placing me 2nd from last 🙂

Overdue Update

Quite a lot has happened in the last month. I finished off loading all my 10mm and 40S&W brass, bought a 1991A1, ordered a gob of brass for me and my friends, rediscovered USPSA and discovered IDPA and airsoft. And all that is just the gun stuff. I make custom pens on a lathe, too, and that has been busy with Christmas coming up.

Reloading components have generally become more available lately. Panic abates. While their prices aren’t necessarily the best, I’ve had pretty good luck with Cabela’s having *something* in stock lately and the Fort Worth store is not too far out of my way home. As of my last trip out there, they still limit daily purchases to 2000 primers and 1 container of powder. On the other hand, they had an 8 pound jug of Alliant Green Dot. Green Dot is not technically a “pistol” powder, but a lot of shotgun powders work quite well in pistols and there are a lot of recipes for it. And 8 pounds of any powder will load a lot of cartridges. I didn’t happen to buy it.

But between Cabelas and all the usual online suspects, I have enough components to replenish my supply, which in light of my IDPA/USPSA interests, I suspect will be dwindling somewhat.

My brass source is cheap enough that, even with shipping, it’s pretty attractive. I ran him completely out of 10mm and coworkers jumped on for 9mm and 45ACP. Now that I have a 45 of my own again, I have my own 45ACP brass order in place.

A good friend reacquired a Colt 1991A1 that he had once owned.

Once he had it in hand, he decided to sell it to help finance a different venture and I jumped on it for way less than retail. It didn’t take long for me to start getting hopup parts for it, like a drop in barrel with a compensator, a beavertail safety, commander style hammer, nice trigger, etc. The first thing I installed was the barrel and that was pretty cool. Using a 100 ct box of Federal American Eagle ammo, I shot a magazine or two through the stock barrel then the rest of the box through the compensated barrel. The difference is significant, though I’m not likely to confuse it with a 22.

So, I shoot with the comp on Tuesday night, discover IDPA on Wednesday and find the rules say that I can’t shoot IDPA with the comp. Well, that’s why it’s removable and why I didn’t do any fitting of the frame itself. Actually, I needed only to fit the barrel link. It shot accurately to point of aim immediately.

Ages ago, I was a passive USPSA member, but never got a chance to shoot and failed to renew the membership. Recently, I either renewed or got a new number. Since I don’t know the old number, I presume they gave me a new one.  Anyway, I got that and had been looking for a club, hoping there would be something near home since a lot of that sort of activity tends to be on weekends. Weekday evening stuff would be ok in or near Fort Worth proper, but living nearly an hour north of Fort Worth changes that perspective a little.

I emailed with a couple of contacts with the Cross Timbers Action Shooting Association and showed up to one of the weekly matches. This particular evening, they were doing a low-light match and required a minimum classification to shoot, so I could only observe, but I had a great time anyway! Bunch of very friendly folks. I asked questions and never turned off my brain recorder. I will definitely be there this Thursday night with something to shoot.

On that subject, as mentioned a little earlier, IDPA rules prohibit shooting with a compensator and another pistol I want to use is my Glock 20C. The rules do allow for barrel changes from stock, so I had the option to run with a non-compensated Glock 20 barrel or a conversion barrel to another cartridge. I went with Lone Wolf 40S&W conversion barrel ordered from The Glock Store. Unfortunately, they had to drop ship it, so I while I have received the other items on that order, the barrel itself is not here yet. Hopefully it will arrive today, giving me a chance to check it out before I try to shoot a match with it. If not, I will be shooting the Colt in the match. Honestly, I’m fine with either 🙂

The other items in my order were an extended slide lock, an extended slide release lever and a 3.5 pound connector. I put all of those in last night. All do what they are supposed to. The longer slide lock makes disassembly easier, the slide release makes it easier to drop the slide after a magazine change and the connector makes the trigger pull substantially lighter and, I think, smoother.

The Glock trigger is a little problematic to measure for pull. You need to depress the trigger safety, but the little hook on the trigger pull gauge doesn’t naturally sit in the right place to do that on its own. In any case, I measured the “before” pull at nearly 8 pounds and the “after” pull at about 4.5 pounds. I need nothing so precise as the scale to detect the improvement with my finger.

Also this week, I installed a couple of hop up parts on the Colt and attempted to install a couple others, but was prevented for one reason or another.

It was pretty easy to put in the mainspring housing and removable magazine well funnel. The stock unit is plastic; nothing really wrong with plastic, especially in the role of mainspring housing, but the Ed Brown unit I put in has 25 LPI checkering (can’t we just say 1mm?) and the magwell funnel, so there it is.

I expected to find that the beavertail would need some relief on the frame, so it wasn’t a surprise to verify that. It will need to be a later project.

It did surprise me to find that the spiffy Wilson hammer I got would not clear the stock grip safety tang. Once the pistol was completely reassembled, there was enough interference between the hammer and the tang that the hammer would not clear the slide. I got to pretty much completely disassemble the pistol again to change the hammer back to stock.

In looking around for the links to include above, I may have discovered my error. Looks like I ordered the drop in safety for the Commander. More research….


Flow vs Batch

I have a couple of handloading books, most notably the 18th edition of “Handloaders Digest”, wherein there is an article by Patrick Sweeney, “Reloading in Volume”.

The big takeaway for me was the need to kind of abandon my batch-like loading limitations. I got the Lee Pro 1000 specifically to load faster, then I end up still working in a kind batch mode, loading one box at a time, just faster. I tended to sort out 50 alike headstamps, load 50 rounds, put 50 rounds in a box and do the next 50 rounds.

Following much of the advice in Sweeney’s article, I instead loaded the press up with 200 primers and a full powder measure. I had all the components close at hand. I cranked out rounds until my plastic output bin was full. Having at this time just the one such bin, I stopped and transferred two and a half boxes, labeled them with the load info. I topped off the powder and primer hoppers and resumed cranking them out until I reached a reasonable stopping point.

In the end, I had loaded 5 full boxes and had about 1/3 of box in the output bin in just under an hour. With the “one box at a time method”, I could finish a box in 13-15 minutes, but I didn’t time the preparations done between boxes.

The Lee Case Collator makes loading the case tubes much faster. Putting 200 primers in the primer hopper mean that process stops less often. I found that having very close, the box of fresh bullets, the output bin and the press, arranged in a gentle arc meant I could watch the press for problems, such as the primer chute not staying full or approaching the end of a case tube while blindly reaching for a bullet. As the carrier assembly approaches the bottom of the stroke, I check to see that the column of primers moves at the proper point. At the bottom of the stroke, I feel the primer set, visually verify that the right powder charge was dropped, sweep out the occasional completed round that didn’t fall all the way to the bin, set the bullet, turn the case feeder if needed and begin the cycle again.

The only interruption was to reload the case tubes and the occasional primer glitch. Most often, this was because I missed that the chute was not being replenished from the hopper and got too low. If the column of primers is not high enough in the chute, it does not feed the primer. Actually, it most often misfeeds the primer by half, meaning the priming stroke crushes a unit under the shellplate, requiring a full stop to clear the damaged primer out before resuming. Consequently, I am irritated with myself when that happens.

The hour worth of reloading I did was in two separate 30 minutes sessions, performed while I was waiting for horses to eat. I intentionally reached a stopping point and just stopped, walked out of the shop and returned hours later to feed the horses again and resume where I left off, with no specific preparation for the 2nd session. I imagine that I can streamline the operation a little bit more if I have a couple of continuous hours. And a bigger output bin.

I want to cycle through all this 40 S&W then set the press back up for 10mm and run through that batch. By then, I expect to have a 9mm batch to load.

10mm uses a large primer… ’til it doesn’t….

I’ve shot a lot of 10mm. Probably not a lot compared to, say, the FBI, but quite a bit of it. I’m also familiar with the story of the development of the round, as well as it’s shorter brother, 40 S&W. The 10mm utilizes a large pistol primer, much like the 45ACP.

When I was sorting and measuring the 10mm brass, I stumbled across a few cases with small primer pockets.

Note the “NT” on the headstamp. Turns out that Federal Cartridge makes the a line of non-toxic ammo. Seems counter intuitive to think of non-toxic pistol ammo, but they mean non-toxic to the shooter, especially frequent indoor range shooters. Lead free (or at least completely encased) bullets, powders, primers, etc. I’m not sure what the small primer advantage is, especially since the product webpage above indicates that the round uses Federal 150 primers, which are large pistol primers. Shrug.

There is also some discussion on the ‘net about manufacturers finding that with today’s primer and powder chemistry, there is no particular advantage to large primers. If you have to buy a few million of two sizes when could get by with a few more million of one size, it starts to make monetary sense.

Once I got through all the brass, there was just barely short of 1 box of these particular cases. I’m gonna load’em.

Note that the small primer was crimped in. I will need to ream the primer pocket, but I have the technology.

back in ’84…

Ages ago, I did a little handloading…

I had always been interested in firearms, particularly pistols. I eventually purchased a S&W Model 28 with an 8-3/8″ barrel. It was a tack driver. My wife acquired a Model 19 and we became the Magnum couple hehehe

I loved the Model 28, but I wanted a 1911, too. I eventually saved and purchased a Llama IX-A, a workalike clone of the 1911. It was not a bad pistol, thought it could have used some work that I wouldn’t learn how to do until after it was traded off.

I vividly remember the day my buddy Buddy and I went out to shoot the Llama the first time. We lined up a few plastic jugs filled with water. I shot one of them, a half gallon size laundry detergent bottle and was disappointed to the point of dismay. The magic all-powerful 45 knocked the jug over without penetrating and to add injury to insult, a piece of the copper jacket hit my left shin. It was with the force of a thrown saltine, so there was no actual injury except to my soul. Other shots fared better, but none actually had the effect I was looking for. That moment made it clear that I needed to handload.

Being young and only a notch or two above broke, I got a very basic Lee single stage press and dies for 38/357 and 45 ACP, and those yellow scoop powder measures. I had the Hornady reloading manual, which I could every nearly quote after a few weeks. I worked up a couple of  45ACP loads using Unique (which was then “Hercules Unique”), though what I really did was make 10 rounds with an entry charge, 10 rounds of the next higher charge, etc, until I had about 100 rounds of 230gr hardball and 50 rounds of 185gr hollow points, each ramping up in power. It was time to go shoot.

I took it pretty seriously, recording the feel and examining the brass for each of the 15 loads. I did not have a chronograph. Luckily, that first round of handloading worked up to a decently hot load that I would later verify was just almost as hot as I could go before I started getting some signs of over pressure. Even then, slightly flattened primers was the only sign. However, the same essentially undamaged detergent bottle suffered the appropriate degree of damage for an estimated 1000 fps 185gr hollowpoint. My faith in the 45 was restored.

Handloading with a single stage press is an exercise in repeating details in groups of 50. Set out 50 ready-to-load cases on a reloading tray. Prime each case, placing it back in the tray. Throw a powder charge into each case. Press and crimp a bullet in each case. Box’em up. Shoot.

Handloading/reloading allowed me to shoot much more than I would otherwise have been able to afford, even then. Unfortunately, various influences took more of my time and eventually, the reloading equipment was scattered or damaged and discarded.

Today, ammo is more expensive, and frequently, the shelves are empty, particularly of popular types. Handloading components are also higher and frequently out of stock. For the casual shooter, it’s hard to beat some of the bulk ammo prices. As I write this, Cabela’s has PMC 40S&W for about $21 a box. I can’t buy the new components and handload them for much less. Some types are cheaper than that.


My favorite round these days is the 10MM Auto. At $32 a box for commercial ammo, I can start to make a difference handloading, especially with once fired brass.

I found a seller on Gunbroker that had a couple thousand once fired 10mm cases for about 15 cents each. I gathered the other components and a Lee Pro 1000 press from various sources. At the time, primers and powder was the thing everyone was out of, but having a local Cabela’s that is not very far out of the way home meant I could essentially stop there every day and eventually, they had the stuff.

I’m not quite as broke as my younger self was, so I have a few other non-critical but very nice tools and resources such as a digital powder scale, a vibratory tumbler for cleaning brass and a chronograph for tracking my results and a home on 12 acres in the country for shooting

I deprimed and cleaned the 10mm brass shortly after receiving it. Various things delayed the actual commencement of handloading, but in the last couple of weeks, it is finally underway.