I thought some of you might be wondering. Who I am not is an expert on guns or gunsmithing. I am not a self-defense guru. I’m just some schmuck with a good few miles on the odometer that has had a life reflecting insatiable curiosity and poor impulse control. I’ve been around guns and the ‘gun culture’ pretty much all of my life, despite the fact that my parents did not allow guns in the house.
I grew up in 1960’s suburbia. There were acres and acres of woods and swamp nearby, and there were working farms within easy walking distance of my elementary school. At some point my friends started getting BB guns, and we spent a lot of time shooting them. A favorite game was to try and clip the stem of a dandelion at 10-15 feet with a BB. Shooting came easily to me- line up the sights and don’t move the gun when you pull the trigger. How hard was that?
We graduated to pellet guns, mostly Benjamin pump-up guns. When a friend developed an interest in taxidermy we shot birds for him to practice on, and occasionally a bunch of squirrels or rabbits would show up in a friend’s kitchen. Not my moms; I cannot even imagine how apocalyptic her reaction to this would have been! We caught frogs and let them go, caught crawdads and boiled them in coffees-cans over a fire and ate them. Suburban and rural overlapped a lot more then than they do now.
In high school the BB-gun wars started. We wore protective clothing, goggles, thick leather gloves and boots. Heavy doubled-flaps of canvas protected our faces, and we had rules for how different BB-guns were used. Two pumps for pneumatics, three if you were loading three BBs to use them as a ‘shotgun.’ We’d meet, get geared up and pick teams then run around in the woods shooting each other. It was a fore-runner of Paintball, and not really much more dangerous. When semi-auto CO2 pistols were introduced that took some of the fun out of it. Then someone got a freon-powered BB machine-gun with an absurdly high rate of fire and that was the end of the BB-gun wars.
After school my best buddy, Tim Bacus and I would get a 2-liter of orange soda and a big candy bar and sit for hours reading his dad’s old American Rifleman magazines. We would shoot his bow in the back yard or experiment with making tiny rockets out of aluminum tubing. His .22 rifle and the M1 Carbine he got from his dad were objects of endless fascination but we were careful as hell with them. We experimented with duct-taped-potato silencers (which work surprisingly well for one shot) in his mom’s backyard, but we exercised safety- knowing our backstop and handling the weapon as if it was always loaded.
After High School Tim and I both joined the army, where I learned a lot more about firearms than I expected to, and we’ll just draw the curtains of charity over that portion of my life. When I was stationed in Kansas I hunted Coyotes, prairie-chickens and Pheasant. I was on the battalion rifle team and I developed an interest in cap-and-ball revolvers. I had some nice ones, but by the mid-80’s I was kinda’ tired of messing with them and they slipped away one-by-one.
When I got our of the army I was never voluntarily unarmed as there was a not-insignificant chance that someone might take it into their heads to look me up and kill me. Never mind why, suffice it to say it was not an irrational fear.
Across the remainder of the 80’s I worked as a sheet-metal fabricator, a pizza-delivery driver, an ultrasound model, a tobacconist, a meat-carver at a restaurant, a bodyguard, private investigator and for a time as a small-town cop. I occasionally went deer or grouse hunting with friends. I was curious about all types of handguns and since I could generally only afford one or two at a time I swapped them a lot to try different things. I had one of the first Glock 17s to come into the country, and while I was impressed with it it wasn’t my style. I owned 1911s, Detonics Combatmaster .45s, Italian CZ75 clones, a variety of pocket pistols and revolvers including a Dan Wesson, Rossi, Astra, H&R, Ruger and S&Ws. I had a Walther PP, Manuhrin and Erma PPKs- a Walther P38, a Manuhrin P38K… I also loved SAA army clones and owned several, but weirdly never got an actual Colt of any kind. I was the first cop in the state to carry a compensated pistol on duty as far as I know, but eventually my department decided I should carry something more conventional so I obtained a Model 28 and carried that for a while before switching to a 1911a1.
During this period I became intensely interested in self-defense, use of a handgun as a martial art and studied everything I could about shootings, self-defense theory and doctrine and terminal ballistics. I shot IPSC competition, practiced ‘Mini-Sniping’ with my friends and even shot some bullseye and NRA Action Shooting matches.
When my first wife and I moved to NYC we agreed to leave the firearms behind, so I found new homes for my Remington Nylon 77 rifle, a Grendel P10, my S&W model 36 and Astra Jovino Terminator .44 magnum snubby. I was embarrassed to own that Astra; a .44 magnum snubby is just… well, dumb, but I got it for an excellent price and it was a sweet shooter.
When I returned to Seattle to become a medieval knife and sword-maker (sans first wife) there was always a pistol or revolver of some kind around, but the consuming passion of my life was studying medieval swords and later how they were used. I ate drank and slept swords. When I wasn’t making them I was studying them or experimenting with them.
When wife number 2-and-forever came along it turned out she liked shooting, and she liked buying me presents so naturally the gun collection expanded. I had some nice SAAs of various kinds (again, no Colts) but had to give them up as time went by. I developed an interest in antique doubles and have some interesting examples. Eventually the standard Christmas and Birthday presents were firearms. I’ve done some deer hunting and have intended for some time to go after upland birds but never seem to get around to it…
In the last few years I’ve developed an interest in hobby-level gun-smithing, antique S&Ws and finally had a space to set up reloading. It’s sort of shocking how guns have accumulated over the years, and I keep finding new interests in firearms and gun-smithing. Reloading has opened up whole new vistas of ‘guns I don’t need’ because caliber is no longer a hang-up.
So that’s who I am, when it comes to guns at least. I think I’ve hit most of the high points, but there’s a lot that has slipped my mind or there wasn’t room for it in this post. Don’t worry, I’ll doubtless fill you in as time goes by…
Michael Tinker Pearce, 23 July 2017
Hang around people that carry concealed and you’ll hear this a lot. “If I draw my gun someone is getting shot.” There are a lot of variations on this theme but they all boil down to the same thing. This is not only a dangerous sentiment to express, it’s a dangerous mindset to have. Yes, you do need to be mentally prepared to shoot if you draw a gun on another person. But- and this doesn’t get said enough- you need to be prepared to not shoot as well.
Imagine you have had to shoot in self-defense and an adversarial prosecutor has taken the matter to trial. Suddenly there on the witness stand are four people you know, all testifying that you said this or some variation of it. This calls into question your intent- did you shoot because you needed to or because you decided that you would in advance?
Civilian self defense is a very different thing than law-enforcement. It’s not your job to control a situation; your role is responsive. A police officer may draw his gun as a tool to help control a situation, to dissuade a subject from violence or as a tool to help force compliance. It can be done as a response to a perceived threat; it can allow the officer time to evaluate the validity of the threat while being ready for a worst-case scenario. It can be drawn as a matter of prudence before entering a potentially dangerous situation like a building search.
An armed citizen should probably not do some or most of those things most of the time. If you need to search a building because you suspect there might be an intruder don’t. Call the police- it’s their job. There might be a burglar in your home? Don’t hunt them down. Call the police- it’s their job. You firearm is for self-defense in a worst case situation; it does not make you a police officer or entitle you to do their job.
There are specific things that you, as an armed civilian should not do, and the biggest mistake I see reported is drawing a firearm to control a situation or compel compliance. A firearm is not a magic wand. You feel a situation is getting out of hand, draw your weapon preemptively and the person refuses to comply- now what? You can’t just shoot them. Now you look like an idiot and more importantly you’ve damaged your credibility, which decreases your effectiveness at diffusing the situation. You’ve also opened the door to being charged with Brandishing a Weapon.
On the other hand a situation could arise where you draw your weapon under completely justified circumstances and don’t need to shoot. I’ve had this happen both as an off-duty law-enforcement officer and as a civilian. In both cases I could have gotten away with shooting in a legal sense, and in both cases it proved unnecessary. I’m just as glad I didn’t; if I’d had the mindset ‘If I draw I shoot’ things would have turned out much worse for everyone involved.
The standard for using your weapon- and I keep saying this because it is important- is that there is immediate danger of death or grave bodily harm to yourself on another innocent. In most situations that you, as a civilian, will encounter you should not draw your weapon until this circumstance exists. In other words when it appears that you will be justified in shooting someone. This doesn’t mean it’s the only thing you can do at that point, however.
In a hyperstress situation you will do as you train, and mental preparation is an important part of that training. If you are constantly telling yourself that if the gun comes out you will shoot you will probably shoot when the gun comes out. In many, even most, civilian self-defense situations this is not inappropriate. You are probably being confronted by someone with the expressed or implied intent and capability to seriously harm or kill you at near-contact distance. You don’t have time to do anything but draw and fire. But if you do have time to evaluate the situation and scale your response appropriately it could save you a lot of trouble.
Michael Tinker Pearce, 17 July 17
My friend Don came by for a little show-and-tell, some coffee and a range-trip. Got to try something new- the Advantage Tactical Sight. This stock photo will explain it better than I can:
It’s pretty simple- put the point of the pyramid where you want the bullet to go. Don had just gotten this installed on a Sig P320 .45 and it was the first time either of us had tried it. It works, and I can see that with practice it would be a fast sight. My first group was dead at point of aim and reasonably tight at seven yards. I’m generally pretty skeptical of new-fangled sights, but I think this one shows real promise; fast, easy to use and intuitive. I like it.
The Sig P320 .35 was a pleasure to shoot- the grip had an excellent ergonomic shape and the trigger was decent. Recoil with WW 230gr. FMC White Box range ammo was pleasant. Unsurprisingly it’s a very nice, good-shooting gun.
As usual there were things to test- The S&W m1903 .32 Hand Ejector and my first reloads of .32 S&W long, the repair of the Helwan and the Beretta 1951 Egyptian Contract, and a new, heavier load in .355/19R.
First was the S&W m1903. It has some minor issues, but accuracy isn’t one of them. Despite the tiny sights tight groups weren’t difficult at seven yards but the gun manifested an odd issue- occasionally you’d pull the trigger and the cylinder wouldn’t budge until you jiggled it. Some of the cartridges exhibited a build-up of lube on the bullet and were seating a few thousandths short. Pressing the rounds firmly into the cylinder largely solved this. I was unable to replicate this problem dry-firing or with expended cartridges. By the end of 100 rounds or so this problem had basically disappeared. Examination of fired cartridges did not show any primer-bulges or other issues. Bit of a mystery.
The load used was a 96gr. LRNFP over 2.7gr. of Unique with a CCI Small Pistol Primer. While these loads displayed good accuracy- not much of a trick at seven yards, really- they did not seem to do a good, consistent job burning the powder. There were a lot of un-burned powder flakes and while there weren’t any true squibs the sound of the shots varied- through my sound-cancelling headphones some would ‘bang’ and others it was more of a ‘PFHOT’ sound. I’d been advised that small charges don’t always work well with Unique in this cartridge unless using deep-seated wadcutters. Loads of 3.3 gr. were suggested for this bullet but I was being perhaps too cautious. I will try a moderately heavier load next time.
The gun is a pleasure to shoot; the trigger-pull is quite nice and the grips, while small, work well with the addition of a T-grip style adapter. The sights are tiny but the gun shoots to point of aim. The only other note is that the cylinder-gap seems a touch large on this gun; I may take steps to remedy that but I’m going to leave it as-is for the moment.
The next item for testing was the new .355/17R load. these retained the 155gr. TMJ-RN of the previous load. Everything was the same except the powder charge, which was 4.5 gr. of Unique rather then 3.5gr. in the previous load. As you would expect there was noticeably more recoil, but it was by no means unpleasant. A bit like shooting target wadcutters from a 4″ .38. Accuracy was identical to the previous load, producing nice tight groups at seven yards- certainly acceptable from a 1-3/4″ barrel DAO revolver like the Taurus m905. From a 4″ gun this might make a very nice small-game load; enough punch without tearing things up excessively.
Up next were the m1951s- a Helwan and a Beretta Egyptian Contract gun. The Helwan had suffered from peened lugs on the locking block- totally my fault. I disregarded the advice to avoid +P ammunition in these guns, and five shots was all it took. I repaired the locking block and over the afternoon fired about 75 rounds through the gun. Works a treat and is back to being as sweet-shooting as ever. Firing the Beretta was more of the same- accurate, reliable and sweet-shooting. The larger sights of this gun were nice, but didn’t provide any notable improvement in accuracy or target acquisition; the smaller stock sights of the Helwan are quite adequate, which is undoubtedly the reason Maadi didn’t bother with the larger sights when they began production.
All the 9mm was my standard reloaded ammo- a 115gr. TMJ-RN on 5.3gr. of Unique with a CCI primer.
Not much to show in the way of targets; Don and I were sharing them and they filled up with holes rather quickly…
A highlight of the afternoon was the fellow the next lane was shooting a 6″ Python; beautiful gun. He offered to let me run a cylinder through it and it was about what you’d expect- excellent. The heavy barrel tamed the .357 loads nicely and the trigger was exquisite. Wonderful gun, though in truth I think I preferred the 4″ gun my partner carried back in the day.
It was great shooting with Don, and I had a good time with the show-and-tell and visiting.
Michael Tinker Pearce, 7 July 17
I just watched some video footage from a smoke-shop in Nevada. The store clerk was behind a counter at the rear of the store. Two middle-school aged boys rushed in the front door and began grabbing items off the shelves. The clerk instantly drew a semi-automatic pistol and shot one of the boys seven times from a distance that appears to be 25-30 feet away. The other fled suspect fled. He then called the police, reported that he had been robbed and, in fear for his life, had shot one of the robbers. He is now up on charges for murder, and on the strength of the store’s video footage he is likely to be convicted of homicide, if not 2nd Degree Murder.
Damn right I am going to ‘Monday-Morning Quarterback’ this one.
‘But Tinker,’ I hear you cry, ‘The man feared for his life!’ I seriously question this; events moved so quickly I don’t think there was time for fear; he drew and fired immediately. No challenge, no demands for surrender. The gun came out and he opened fire. It’s irrelevant anyway; the standard for the use of lethal force in Nevada (and most places) is that you must have a reasonable fear of imminent death or grave bodily injury to yourself or another innocent. Even if the clerk did fear for his life his fear was not reasonable. Why?
First and foremost neither suspect was displaying a weapon.
The suspects moved straight to the shelves and began grabbing merchandise , offering no direct threat. Were they, perhaps, going to assault him with their armloads of loot? Or were they going to bolt right back out the door, as is usual in snatch-and-grab theft?
The shooter had time to assess the situation. He was behind a counter 25-30 feet away, and could move freely to his left or through the open door to his immediate right, giving himself more time to make an accurate assessment of the situation. He did not take that time, but instead opened fire as soon as he had a shot. He did not issue a challenge.
Now a child is dead and a citizen, whom for all I know is a decent person, will spend several years in prison. Not only will he lose his right to bear arms and bear the stigma of a convicted murderer, he will have to live with the knowledge that he killed a kid when he didn’t need to.
Now the clerk might have been justified in drawing a weapon while he evaluated the situation; startled by the abrupt and fast entry of the thieves it would arguably not be out of line. But he did not evaluate the situation. He opened fire and now life as he knew it is over.
I cannot say what he felt in the moment. Maybe he was terrified of being pelted with random merchandise. But whatever he felt in that moment it was inarguably not a ‘reasonable fear.’ Perhaps he panicked. Perhaps he had enough and resolved to make the next thief pay. Most of us are not aching to shoot someone, but we cannot know.
I suppose I’m being rather hard on this fellow. After all it’s not as if he shot an unarmed child with his arms full from twenty-five feet away. Seven times. Oh wait, yes he did.
I am a strong proponent of self-defense. I generally have no sympathy for criminals. I generally feel that they get what they deserve. If that child had a knife in his hand and blood in his eye I’d be saying, ‘Yay team!’ But he did not. He had an armful of things that weren’t his that he barely had time to grab before he came under fire. He deserved to be apprehended and prosecuted and to pay for his crime. Instead he was killed.
Reasonable fear of imminent death or grave bodily harm to ourselves or another innocent. That is the nearly universal standard in this country, and it is a moral and ethical rule. But it’s a line in the sand- the line between justifiable self-defense and prison. Between a life ruined and another ended. Over maybe as much as $100 worth of merchandise.
If you are going to carry a weapon you need to educate yourself as to what constitutes a reasonable threat. Research this, take classes, read books, watch videos- think about it. Be mentally prepared not just to shoot- but to not shoot. This is- literally- life and death. There is no margin for error.
You have a right to defend yourself- but there is no right that does not carry responsibility with it.
Michael Tinker Pearce 4 July 2017
Two m1951s- a Beretta and a Maadi, both from Egypt. The lower gun is an Italian-made Beretta M1951 Series 2 Egyptian Contract gun. The Egyptians were interested in the M1951 but requested a number of changes; a slightly longer barrel, a simplified grip, larger sights and a heel-magazine release.You can also see the Egyptian crest on the slide. 50,000 of these were made for them in this form; this is a relatively early gun with an EC3000-series serial number and the slide is marked ‘1955.’ Mechanically this gun is smooth as butter despite it’s hard-used cosmetics. It also has no importer or import marks; one wonders exactly how it got here…
After that contract was completed the Egyptian arms manufacturer Maadi licensed the design and bought tooling from Beretta to do their own production version, the Helwan. Strangely the Helwan did not include any of the modifications requested on the Egyptian Contract guns- it used the shorter barrel, smaller sights and magazine release from the standard m1951. The grip is unique to the Helwan, but mimics the shape of the Italian production M1951s. This particular gun was a commercial gun imported by Interarms, probably in the 1980s.
The M1951 is a design based on the Walther P-38, and uses a very similar tilting locking block under the barrel. It is a single-action auto, and the unconventional cross-bolt safety looks awkward, but is actually very easy to remove with the ball of one’s thumb. These guns feature an 8-round single-stack magazine. They are the immediate ancestor of the Model 92 and all of it’s descendants.
These guns attained a reputation for infallible reliability in the desert, and variations of the M1951 were used by a number of middle-eastern nations including Israel, Tunisia and others. The Iraqis produced their own licensed version.
While the Italian guns will tolerate a limited amount of high-pressure rounds their middle eastern counterparts will not; the materials and heat-treatment are inferior to the European product. This Helwan required repair after a single magazine of +P ammunition.
Helwans can usually be bought for $200-$300 dollars, with the military-marked guns fetching a premium as they are reputed to be of higher quality.
An M1951 in decent condition will run considerably more- if you can find one. They were imported to America for a short time, but the high-capacity Model 92 was introduced in the same period and totally eclipsed it’s older sibling.
The gun became famous for a time as one of Mack Bolan’s guns in ‘The Executioner’ series of novels, and over the course of dozens of books he used it to dispatch enough Mafiosos to populate a small city.
These are rather flat guns, easy to carry, accurate and comfortable to shoot. The Helwans can be a great bargain- or a dreadful mistake- as quality can vary considerably.
Michael Tinker Pearce, 1 July 17