Wad Gun

Okay, I’m convinced. My Springfield Armory “Mil-Spec” 1911 in Parkerized finish is becoming an impediment to my learning to shoot, but perhaps not in the way many would think.

The obvious reason that gun would be a problem would be its lack of precision. Indeed, as a “Mil-Spec” weapon, it is built to approximate the specifications the U.S. military laid out for a field weapon. It must have some degree of accuracy, that is true, but it must also continue to function after being dropped in water and mud, gone through a sandstorm, or having gone through days or weeks of shooting without being cleaned.

And to do that, the gun must be “loose”. There must be enough play between the moving parts that no matter what gets in there, the parts can still move, perhaps not in the exact same manner as when completely clean, but it will work.

And that’s where the problem arises for Bullseye shooting. In order to hit the center of the target time after time after time, the gun (and the shooter!) must do exactly the same thing, time after time after time. The looseness that makes for a reliable service weapon takes away from the repeatability that the Bullseye shooter needs.

But that’s not the primary reason the gun has become an impediment to my progress.

More importantly, or more detrimentally I should say, the gun is beginning to hold me back because when I shoot a bad shot, I’m excusing it by thinking, “Maybe it’s the gun, not me.”

I’m using the gun’s lack of precision as an excuse and as long as I have that “out”, I lose the motivation to fix “me” which is far more often the cause of a bad shot.

In other words, I’ve reached the point where my mind is holding me back with the gun as the excuse. In order for me to continue progressing, I’ve got to make the gun as accurate as possible and remove that mental block from my mind.

So, Monday I called a local gunsmith, Frank Glenn of Accuracy Unlimited. Frank had been highly recommended by several Bullseye shooters and he is also well known in other pistol disciplines. I briefed him on what I had, what I thought I wanted, and then asked what he thought about that and what could he do.

I said I thought the gun needed:

  • A competition-grade barrel and bushing;
  • Tightening of the slide-to-frame fit; and
  • Installation of a slide-mounted rail for a red dot sight.

Frank asked about the trigger. I said it had previously been done by another local gunsmith and that I was happy with it for now. (It is “crisp” with no roll. I’ve been shooting a different gun that has a “roll” trigger and I’m starting to like that feel. I’m thinking about changing the 1911’s trigger but, at least for the moment, I will wait.)

I asked Frank for an estimate on the cost.

He said he preferred to use Kart barrels and, including labor, that part of the job would run about $300.00 [barrel included].

Tightening the slide-to-frame fit would run about another $100.00 and attaching the rail would be “not very much.”

I said, “It sounds like we’re around $500.00,” and he agreed.

Asking how he wanted payment, Frank said, “For jobs costing more than the initial gun is worth, I have to ask for something up front. I’ve been stuck with a few jobs.”

I somewhat jokingly asked, “What do you have that you’ve been ‘stuck with’ — maybe we could work a deal?”

He laughed but went on, “But for this job, you can just pay me when the work is done.”

Comparing calendars, we agreed on a time to meet at his shop.

Yesterday, I drafted the letter detailing the agreement that I will give him along with the gun. It includes the gun’s identification (make, model and serial number), the modifications listed above to which I added:

  • Perform any additional accurizing and/or reliability modifications as you see fit for a “wad” gun; and
  • Acquire or otherwise provide any needed parts and include their cost in your total billing for this work.

And the letter ends with: “My spending cap for this project is $600.00, all parts and labor. Please let me know if you find something needed but that would exceed this amount, and do *not* proceed with my written authorization.”

In so doing, I’m giving Frank the amount of leeway that I can afford, setting a limit on my expenditure, but leaving the door open for other considerations I might not be aware of.

For someone of Frank’s caliber, no pun intended, I am confident of his expertise in gunsmithing, and confident in his business acumen to provide good product at a fair price.

In other words, I trust him.

I will meet Frank later today and turn over the gun.

With that, he will have my 1911 for a while. We did not discuss delivery dates — I’m simply in the queue and it will be done when it is done. And my Smith & Wesson Model 41 (22LR pistol) is back at the manufacturer being repaired for repeatedly losing its extractor hook — I received a form letter from S&W yesterday saying they had received the gun and that repairs normally take 2-3 weeks, so both guns are certainly gone for the rest of October with the 41 returning sometime in November, and the 1911 … ?

If it weren’t for the Ruger Mark II that I bought for my son for this Christmas that is still in my possession, I’d be gunless. I shot the Ruger last night at the Nighthawks league and enjoyed it. I had a couple of jams, however, with the upcoming round snagging the outgoing empty shell — could be a magazine problem. That’s the gun with the “roll” trigger and it gave concrete meaning to the phrase, “keep the trigger moving”. The S&W and the Springer both have “crisp” triggers and, other than the take-up, there’re no movement before it breaks. The time with the Ruger will let me figure out if I want to have the other two guns modified for the same feel or not.

I ordered the discrete parts for three Mark II magazines from Ruger in Prescott AZ yesterday. Ordering them that way and doing the final assembly myself, they are less than $10 each plus a small amount for shipping. When they arrive, I’ll figure out if the magazine is the cause of the Ruger jams or if I need to sample some other brands of ammunition. For what it’s worth, I was shooting CCI Standard Velocity last night.

Also last night, Don Plante asked if I would carry one of his revolvers to Frank. It’s a beauty in .38 Special, just what I’ve been dreaming about. Don wants some work done on the trigger and had already spoken to Frank who is expecting me to deliver it today.

Does this never end?