The old saying is, ‘Man makes plans, God Laughs.” Well, we’ll see how that works out in 2017.
Thanks to politics we can look forward to more minorities, liberals and members of the LGBT community joining the ranks of gun owners and 2nd Amendment supporters. I will be happily welcoming them, and doing what I can to help out with safety briefings, range trips, advice etc. The more the merrier, eh?
I have decided, to much snickering from those who know me, that the best thing I can do to advance my gun hobby is to stop buying guns. There’s a lot I want to accomplish in the coming year, and every mother-loving bit of it will take money. Things I’d like to do this year include:
*Get started reloading. I have arranged to trade for an RCBS single-stage with a piggyback turret and .38/.357 dies. That’s a huge step forward… but then of course need components and accessories, .32 S&W/S&W Long, .38 S&W and .45 Colt dies… maybe even .44 Colt dies (Using the original heeled bullets.) It ain’t gonna be cheap.
*Run a 220V line to the shop and install a 3-phase converter to get the milling machine running, which will run about $500. Then I need to acquire various hardware to use the mill effectively. I also need to get the lathe set up and buy some tools for it. All in furtherance of…
*Gunsmithing projects. These will include things as ‘lightweight’ as making a pair of stag grips for the m1903 .32 Hand Ejector to as heavy as (hopefully) making my first revolver. Maybe even a semi-automatic pistol. ‘How hard could it be?’ he said, then ducked. Other things I would like to accomplish- refinish the S&W M1903 .38 Hand Ejector, the .38 Steampunk Snubby, fabricate and mount the rear-sight on the 12-gauge ‘slug gun’ etc.
*Hunting and shooting clays- really want to press the shotguns into service this year, do some upland bird hunting and start shooting some clays. This goes back to the reloading- but I have a quite capable shotgun shell press for 12-guage; I just need to fabricate/purchase some powder bushings and buy components. I’d also love to take a deer, either with the Ugly Duckling Carbine or the slug-gun.
That at least scratches the surface pretty well at least; there’s likely at least a half-dozen things I have forgotten. Anyway I hope you all have your own plans in order, and I wish you all the best and happiest New Year.
The Hi-Point pistols have two defining characteristics- they are cheap and they work. Mostly. The broad consensus is that they are a turd, and best used as a boat-anchor. As I stated previously I never anticipated owning one, but $75 (used) for a service-caliber handgun with a lifetime guarantee? Why not?
Owning one has changed my perspective. The manufacturer’s started with a question- how can we manufacture a service-caliber handgun that anyone can afford? They weren’t the first to try, but they were first to succeed on a large scale. The key to that success is twofold- the guns are reliable and they have an excellent guarantee and customer service. The guns typically have an MSRP of $199, but if you can’t find one quite a bit cheaper you aren’t trying.
So, my change of perspective- am I a HiPoint fan-boy? Not really- but after having and examining it thoroughly and firing a few hundred rounds I have come to respect them. They are cheap and made of cheap materials but they are thoughtfully designed for the role they are intended to fill. They are big, heavy, ugly, low-capacity, basic handguns that work and with a little shopping around pretty much anyone can afford one. Mission accomplished.
It goes without saying that they aren’t perfect out of the box- they were never intended to be perfect and nothing you can do will make them so. But there are some issues that are easy to address and take nothing but a little time. Over the holidays I had some time and thought, ‘What the hell.’
The first and foremost is the grips. Out of the box they are slippery, with a somewhat greasy feel. This actually exaggerates the weight of the gun because a firm grip takes a lot of pressure and never feels really secure. The simplest and easiest solution is a Pachymer grip-sleeve, but why spend money on a HiPoint? I actually have one lying around that came on a used gun, but it only partially solves the problem, and it adds size to what is already a fairly large grip.
I mounted a 2mm carbide ball in my engraver and stippled the grips. With the burr spinning at 450,000 rpm you touch the plastic and there is an instant divot. It took maybe a half-hour to do both grips. I cut in deeply all around the safety, which made it much easier to operate. There are some panels of cast lines on the polymer frame which are pretty ineffective, so I invested another 15 minutes stippling those as well.
It certainly looks a lot better, and the feel of the gun is remarkably improved, Somehow not needing to have a death-grip on the gun makes it feel less top-heavy. It looks better, too. I also stippled small sections of the frame at the top of the trigger-guard as a secure place to rest the trigger finger. Totally needed, but I was a bit stipple-happy by then…
While I had the grip panel off I followed the advice of YouTubers and removed the magazine disconnect safety. This prevents the gun from firing when there is no magazine inserted, and I loathe them. With the grip panel off there is a bar of metal exposed and you simply lift it out. Dead easy, and it improved the trigger-pull significantly. Mind you there is still a ton of creep, but it’s a bit lighter and less crunchy. I could see that there were places I could smooth out the trigger-parts but I just didn’t bother. Maybe another time.
Next was the magazine. The only functional issue with this- and other HiPoints from what I have seen online- is for the first round out of the magazine to nose-dive in the magazine on feeding. Being a 1911 guy from way-back tweaking feed lips on magazines is second nature, so I did. Problem solved.
Last I took off the slide (pretty easy, but requires a punch) and polished the feed ramp. It’s not badly shaped but it’s covered in the same powder-coating as the exterior of the gun. Smooth and clean now. As a note- when you remove the slide everything falls out. Springs, striker, the retaining thingy etc. Make sure you do this in a place where all the bits can easily be found. Reassembly is a bit tricky, but not too bad once you figure out where everything goes.
I took it (and several other guns) to the range yesterday and it functioned flawlessly. Fr a blow-back gun in a snappy caliber (.40 S&W) it surprisingly soft-shooting. The adjustable sights are OK. Nothing to write home about, but they are easy to pick up and use. Accuracy was dead-on. Here’s a rapid-fire group on a 3/4″-size IDPA practice target at 7 yards. Not too shabby.
So the HiPoint- still heavy, clunky and ugly, but better. Weird as it is to say it, while it would not be my first (or second or third…) choice I would actually bet my life on this gun. It’s accurate, reliable and does the job.
I love old guns; I don’t think that’s much of a secret. I’m particularly fond of old Smith & Wesson top-breaks, not the least because they are still relatively inexpensive. They have other advantages though; they were the highest-quality guns of their type made in America, they have lovely, smooth double action triggers and a high level of detail and finish. They were also, most of them, ‘Drawer guns-‘ shot very little and consigned to a drawer so they tend to be in good mechanical condition. Unfortunately this ‘benign neglect’ means that finishes, particularly nickel, suffer.
This Smith & Wesson .32 Double Action (4th Model) had a nickel finish that was pretty far gone and a semi-competantly shortened barrel. After shortening the barrel further and re-crowning it, a new front sight and custom grips it needed refinishing. I stripped the gun and ‘slicked’ the frame (ground all the pins flush) then went to work.
The bulk of the stripping was done with 800 grit sandpaper and a hand-held electric sander. I’m sure that fine gunsmiths the world over are turning over in their graves, but this cleared off the old nickel in record time. Then I went after it with needle-files and more sandpaper to get at the nooks and creases. This is a bit problematic because bare metal looks a lot like nickel. A touch of cold-blue here and there quickly reveals any spots that need more work.
The next step was a sisal buffing wheel with Stainless Steel Black rouge. Sisal is super-aggressive, so never buff across a crease or ridge or it will be gone- buff with the direction of the ridge or crease. Just kiss the parts with he wheel and let the speed and rouge do the work- too much pressure will erode the parts. Don’t be skimpy with the rouge either, or be tempted to substitute pressure for time.
A tip- buff the frame with the side-plate in place; one of the tell-tales of a badly refinished guns is rounding the edges on this plate. By buffing it flush with the frame you avoid this.
Parts were then cleaned and degreased and immersed in Van’s Instant Blue for several minutes, then soaked with WD40. You can see the results in the photos-
The end result is a gun not much bigger than a .22 or .25 ACP pocket-gun. .32 ACP is pretty anemic, but out of this short a gun it’s at least the equal of most such guns, and a whole lot more fun and interesting.
With my back on the fritz I’m stuck doing light-work so I decided to finish this project today. Didn’t get pictures of the process this time unfortunately.
First step- the raised block at the front of the barrel has become ‘ears’ for the front-sight. I mounted the barrel in the milling-vise on the drill-press. Using a 3/8-inch end-mill I carefully removed the material from the center to a depth of about .100 inches. Since the drill-press is a seriously crappy milling machine I carefully filed it to finish. I used a .062″ drill to make a hole centered between the ears and mounted a piece of .062-inch music-wire for a front-sight and trimmed it to height.
That finished I attacked the rear sight. First I milled and filed a groove at the top-rear of the barrel with a 3/16-inch end-mill. Again this was sloppy as hell, so I squared it up with files, then undercut it with a cutting-wheel in the flex-shaft tool, then filed it to shape with a triangular file.
I grabbed a piece of 1/2-inch mild steel, measured the sight-slot and sliced off an appropriately-sized piece. I carefully ground it to match the slot. Since the slot is very slightly tapered I tapped the sight into place with a drift until it is roughly centered. This is a serious force-fit; pretty sure it’s not going anywhere. Mounting the barrel on the drill-press again I mounted the 3/8-inch end-mill and undercut the back of the sight to produce a vertical surface, then used a cutting-wheel and files to cut the rear-sight aperture.
I refinished the gun by the simple expedient of immersing all of the external parts in Van’s Instant Blue for 3-4 minutes, then thoroughly hosing everything down with WD40 and rubbing off excess oxidation with paper towels. The reassembled gun has a lovely charcoal-gray finish that is rather darker than the pictures show.
This is not at all a large gun- the frame is only 1/2-inch thick, and the barrel is just a slosh wider. The fore-grip is the widest part of the pistol at around 7/8-inch wide. The barrel is 4-1/4 inches. If I remember correctly the gun weighs about 19 ounces. The trigger-pull is light and pleasant and the gun points to a sight-picture naturally. The gun balances on my trigger-finger, and the grip fits my hand extremely well. Hardly surprising since I made it for me…
Quite happy with how this has come out. The only thing left is to polish the chamber a bit. I’ll make a field holster for it; it would make a useful companion for hunting or the like.
I finished this gun last night, a Pietta 1858 Remington ‘Pug-nose’ revolver. Sort of a western ‘Belly-gun’ or ‘Shopkeeper’s Special.’ I posted pictures on some of the gun forums, as I often do. Commentary was positive, though after tendering his complements one fellow commented, “I just can’t see how you’ve improved over the original here. After a lot of work it seems you’ve created something less accurate and less comfortable to shoot?”
It’s a fair question, I suppose. The tempting response is, ‘If you don’t get it I can’t explain it.’ That’s a bit of a cop-out though, isn’t it?
Whether I’ve improved the gun is very subjective; if one wished to carry the gun concealed it’s certainly better for the purpose than if it still had the original 8″ barrel and grip-shape. That leaves aside the fact that you’d have to be a bit daft to do so; there are certainly better options in this day and age.
This is obviously not intended to be any sort of modern, practical gun. First of all it’s a cap-and-ball gun, which has been obsolete for over 130 years. Even if fitted with a conversion cylinder to fire modern metallic cartridges it’s still quite a bit less efficient than a Ruger Blackhawk or Vaquero. What we have here is an historical ‘what if?’ What if someone living in the 19th C. wanted a full-frame .44 as a concealed carry weapon? Shat would they base it on, what would it look like and be like to shoot? I understand the appeal, obviously; I like ‘cowboy’ guns and I like snub-nosed revolvers. If you are not a fan of either or both you will probably not ‘get’ this gun.
There’s nothing wrong with that, of course; I only dimly understand the idea of taking a utilitarian service pistol and turning it into and ultra-high tech tactical race-gun. The thing is we’re all in this hobby, this common obsession together. I don’t need to understand something to appreciate the passion and creativity of it’s construction.
Of course there is often more to it than simply the gun itself; there’s always a story that goes with it, a learning experience that I just don’t get from a standard, stock pistol.
The story here is that some years back a gun-writer did a similar gun and posted it to YouTube. A friend of mine liked the idea and asked if I would convert one of his guns in a similar fashion. He had a pair of 1858s and offered me one in exchange for the work. It was a fun project. To make a long story short I practiced on ‘my’ gun to work out the details, then made his. For me the work was the point of this project; I got to practice my hobby-twice- with virtually no expense to myself and got a free gun into the bargain. Even after I spend $350 on a cartridge conversion I’ll come out ahead on the deal… I also get the added fun of making a custom holster or two for the gun.
While there are more practical options I’m a lot more likely to strap this gun on for woods-walks or as a hunting companion than I would be the full 8″ barreled gun, and while harder to shoot accurately it will probably be more than adequate for my purposes.
As for being unpleasant to shoot I have a pretty good suspicion that this gun in it’s current form is as heavy as a 4-5/8″ Single Action Army, and with standard loads .45 Colt is pretty much a pussycat. I had a 3-1/4″ Cimarron Thunderer that wasn’t at all unpleasant to shoot; even my recoil-averse wife was OK with it.
I really enjoy working on guns, seeing a concept come to life and overcoming the challenges (like the shortened loading-lever.) Turning a vision into a reality, as it were. It doesn’t hurt that I wind up with a unique, interesting firearm that is the work of my own hands.
Did I improve the gun? From my perspective and uses I most certainly did; I took a common, inexpensive reproduction gun and turned it into something unique, fun and that I can justifiably take pride in. You may not, and don’t need to, understand that. The important thing is that I do, and since it’s my gun that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?
This is the ‘home-stretch’ of this build. Lot’s done, and little left to do at the end of it.
Here is the hammer In the cocked position. The half-cock notch is recessed so that the trigger cannot be pulled.
After the sights are mounted I’ll refinish the gun with a darker blued finish. Currently there is no extractor; while I can do some very limited milling on the drill-press I cannot achieve anything like sufficient precision for fitting the extractor. Once I get the correct power-supply set of for the milling machine I’ll attend to that.
The 3/8″ barrel-liner will also be replaced eventually; the chamber is very ‘sticky’ owing to the lack of a proper reamer. I’ll polish it as best I can, but I am dubious that i can achieve a satisfactory finish. right now empties must be driven out with a brass rod inserted into the barrel. This means that right now the barrel is secured with glue; once I fit a new barrel-liner with a properly reamed chamber it will be silver-soldered into place.
I’m very satisfied with the trigger; in the half-cock notch it is quite impossible to ‘pull through’ and drop the hammer. At full-cock the trigger-pull is extremely light and breaks sharply, and while there is significant over-travel it doesn’t bother me. Eventually I may fit an over-travel screw if it becomes an issue.
This build is going to be in-progress for some time to come, but it is finished enough now that it will be going on the next range trip. I’m really pleased with it, and with the progress that I have made so far. It feels great in my hand and points naturally. Once it’s fully refined and finished it’s going to be a really nice little pistol.
Since, aside from a few details, the gun is essentially complete this is the end of the build series, though there will be updates as more work is done. I am also looking into getting video and/or more detailed photos of future builds; a friend has offered to be a photographer/videographer for the next build so we’ll see what happens.
Between doing things that actually make money I got a few more hours in on this project. Having a bit more experience this time around is making a difference; this one is going rather faster than previous builds. The work shown here was spread out over a couple of evenings, though some odd small bits were done while glue was drying.
The next build is… Surprise! A single shot pistol! A bit stir-crazy the other night, so I ripped off a quick sketch and headed into the shop. The new pistol has derringer-like features but is definitely not a derringer. Doing some new things with this one; for example since I won’t be using a flat-spring for the hammer the shape of the grip-frame is arbitrary. I decided to do a ‘generic’ grip frame that could be fully enclosed by the grip, which opens up a lot of leeway in the final grip-shape. There will be some other refinements on previous designs, but things that work- like the plunger-type lock- will be retained from other builds.
I haven’t decided whether to leave the barrel protruding or to trim of off even at 3-1/2″as I had originally planned; I suspect the final decision will be based on esthetics as much as anything. The grip will almost certainly be walnut, as will the fore-stock. Yes, there will be a Contender-like fore-stock. Mostly because I thought it would look cool that way.
Not sure when the next installment will be; sooner than it ought to be most likely; I’m getting pretty excited about this build.
I was watching a Youtube video comparing some polymer-framed gun to a Glock 19. The reviewer liked features of the other gun better, but had to give the nod to the Glock 19 because if was 3 ounces lighter. “That can make a big difference when you are carrying a gun all day!” he proclaimed. This guy was not tiny, wasted away from disease or a death-camp survivor- and he’s worried about 3 ounces? Are you kidding me?
I’ve recently seen other healthy specimens of humanity proclaim that an all-steel J-Frame was too heavy for all-day concealed carry. Never mind that tens of thousands of cops and others managed to do so for decades at a time. Suddenly it’s too heavy. Another said a steel-framed gun he was reviewing was a fine range or house gun, but of course it was too heavy for daily carry. This obsession with lightness seems more and more pervasive in gun culture- or at least among the talking heads of said culture.
It’s been ages since the halcyon days of my youth when I carried a full-size government model (or other comparably-sized handgun) on a daily basis. Typically I just drop a small revolver in a pocket- or in a pocket holster- and call it good. I don’t have any alloy-frame revolvers, and I wasn’t hip enough to modern thought to realize the weight of these guns should be causing me discomfort.
The other morning on a whim I decided to carry the Helwan Brigadier. This is a full-sized steel-frame service gun. I selected a stout, broad leather belt and a good IWB holster and strapped up. At lunch I went to use the restroom and was surprised- I had forgotten that I was carrying- despite the fact that I am unused to the weight of the gun and this holster. Neither my house-guest nor my wife noticed that I was carrying. OK, admittedly I am a brute. 6’4″ and 300 pounds. But even at a svelte 210pounds the weight never bothered me or was uncomfortable. By the end of the day, despite the stupendous weight of the steel dinosaur strapped to my hip, I was not uncomfortable in the least.
OK, I don’t hate light-weight guns. You can get eight rounds of 9mm in a lot smaller and lighter package than a Helwan. So why wouldn’t you? Well, in my case because I don’t have one. Another reason might be some of the tiny 9mm guns have some pretty snappy recoil, which might bother some folks. Even if it doesn’t bother you it makes for slower follow-up shots, and the short sight-radius isn’t conducive to great accuracy. Not to mention that if a gun is unpleasant to practice with people tend to not practice. Yes, one can always go with a smaller caliber- .380 or .32 ACP- and have an even smaller gun… not that some of the smaller .380s aren’t pretty snappy in their own right.
Lightweight guns do have advantages, especially for police and soldiers that carry a lot of stuff along with their service handgun. Let’s face it, the Glock became ‘the new 1911’ because it was a better mousetrap. More firepower, much lighter yet still not so light that it’s unpleasant to shoot. Simple and intuitive to operate, and with the expanding variety of sizes and calibers, not to mention the ever-expanding after-market support, it’s a hammer for every nail. But when it comes to a tiny gun in a service-caliber if you get any smaller than the CC Glocks recoil and handling become genuine issues for a lot of people. It’s easier to CC a lighter gun; you can take liberties that you can’t with say, a 1911 or a steel-framed revolver. But practicing with them can be a whole other problem.
An example would be the S&W 442. Short-barreled, ultra-light .38 Special. Dead easy to carry… but not what you would call pleasant to practice with. Most folks I know that carry one will admit that it’s a handful, especially with full-powered loads. And if you are recoil sensitive? Forget it; even target loads will feel abusive. This gun weighs in at 14.7 ounces- 1.3 ounces under a pound. A steel frame gun like the model 36 weighs 19.3 ounces- not an awful lot heavier, really. But those extra 4-5 ounces translates into a gun that is much easier and more pleasant to shoot and no larger; you just can’t be as casual about carrying it. Size-wise it’s just as easy to conceal, but comfort-wise? If you do it right, yes. The problem is that people seem to have forgotten how to do it right. Just in case we haven’t turned into a bunch of wusses and people simply don’t know here are a few tips that will help wether you carry a plastic-wonder-gun or something heavier:
*Wear enough belt. I can’t tell you how much difference a really good belt makes; it’s the anchor of your entire system. Forget flimsy military style web-belts and normal dress belts. Thick, honest leather, ideally at least 1-1/2 inches wide. Something stiff enough to keep everything in place and not be distorted by the weight of the gun. A purpose-built gun-belt from a company like Bianchi will be life-changing, and will make nearly any holster work better.
*Wear enough holster. Something that holds the gun securely in place, and protects you from the gun as much as it protects the gun from you. Fabric and thin, flexible leather holsters may be cheap and easy to hide, but you pay for that after a day of having an edge or control digging into your tender flesh. Heavier Leather or even Kydex will serve you better. Thicker leather might be slightly harder to conceal, but will be more comfortable and easier to draw from or to re-holster the weapon.
*Wear the right holster. People come in all shapes and sizes and at least two sexes (last time I checked.) Not every holster or every method of carry will work for everyone. Experiment, find out what works for you and your wardrobe. Practice deploying the gun and replacing it, move, jump up and down. Don’t be afraid to adjust your wardrobe- all-day comfort should be more important than fashion. And don’t buy a holster just because it is ‘the hot set-up;’ what works for one person may not work for someone else.
*Choose the right gun. Find something that fits most situations for your physical size, needs and climate that you enjoy practicing with. The ability to reliably put rounds on target is more important than materials, weight or even caliber– which means you need to practice. If you don’t enjoy shooting the gun you probably won’t. This is really important for ‘summer-carry’ guns; you still need to practice. Arguably more, since smaller guns are harder to shoot accurately. If you can’t find a service-caliber gun that meets your concealment needs that you will actually practice with, drop to a smaller caliber. Fast, accurate, repeated hits with a .32 ACP will do more for you than slow, bad hits with a 9mm.
Remember that the way you carry is a system, and all of the parts- including your own body- need to work together
Both Linda and Aeryn (our house-guest) said, “You’ve been under a lot of stress- go shooting!” Yeah, twist my arm why don’t you… The obvious guns to shoot were the .22 Derringer and .45 Derringer since both had been modified to increase their reliability. The .22 target pistol needed to go too since I modified the front sight. So, testing… what else needs testing? The Helwan is pretty new and hasn’t had gobs of ammo through it yet, so that for sure. I also took the Shopkeeper’s Special and the M&P .38 Hand Ejector just because they are a delight to shoot.
First up was the TD22 derringer. This had abysmal reliability in the first outing owing to the firing pin striking both light and too much towards the center of the base. With a new spring with better leverage and the firing pin adjusted to strike the rim it was reliable even with the crappy Remington Bulk ammo- only one round needed two strikes to ignite. The target below was shot at 3 yards. It is not an easy gun to shoot accurately, even at 3 yards but by the end I was learning to point-shoot it fairly well. It’s fun because it’s difficult.
Next was the TD45 derringer, shooting Freedom Munitions 230-grain copper-plated hollow points. These have a ‘jacket’ of thick copper plating that completely covers the lead core. Recoil was predictably snappy but not painful… until it wore a hole in my hand after about 25 shots. 100% reliable, BTW. The target was shot at 5 yards. I borrowed a band-aid and soldiered on.
Sorry about the crappy picture- didn’t realize until I got home.
The Helwan functioned flawlessly with Freedom Munitions 115gr. Hollow-Points- basically the 9mm version of the .45 hollow points described above. Freedom Munitions XTP self-defense loads also ran without a hiccup. So far this gun has been 100% malfunction-free with ball and three types of 115grain HPs through both magazines. Accurate, mild recoil with a decent trigger and good rapid-fire groups at 7 yards; I am really enjoying this gun.
The .22 Target Pistol shot good ten-yard groups- still unfortunately high. Didn’t do a lot of shooting with it as it was having head-space issues; the barrel was slipping forward against the set-screws which resulted in unreliable ignition. A thorough cleaning and some lock-tight will hopefully solve the problem.
The Shopkeepers Special shot pleasing palm-sized rapid-fire groups at ten yards with Freedom Munitions 158 grain HPs- Fully plated like the 9mm and .45 loads. I also shot these out of the .38 M&P hand-ejector, producing this five-shot rapid-fire group at ten yards. Yes, the hole on the left is actually from three bullets. A twenty-five yard rapid-fire target produced two five-shot groups about twice as large as this one with two flyers about 5 inches low. Oops.
In the course of things one of the rangemasters recognized me from the internet and we had a pleasant chat. He tried out the TD45 (one shot was sufficient, thanks) and the two .38s. He remarked on the trigger of the M&P; it really is light and exceptionally smooth. The century-old workhorse did herself proud tonight! He also let me try out his 1911A1- an old-school IPSC comp-gun with a double-chamber compensator, full-length guide-rod etc. Delightful gun, very accurate. I ached to do double-taps with it, but sadly that’s against the range’s rules. Damn.
Finished things u at home cleaning all the guns while catching up on NCIS:LA with my Sweety and a good, strong cup of coffee. All in all a great evening.