Category Archives: Guns

Quest for the Holy Handgun: M1911

To start out my fact finding firearm mission, I wanted to start with the pistol that is most attractive to me initially:

The M1911.  This particular one is a Smith & Wesson.

Before going into pros/cons, let’s learn a little about the history of the gun, shall we?
Back at the beginning of the 20th century, the United States was using a revolver in .38 Long Colt.  During the Phillipine-American war, we were going up against some pretty badass Filipino guerillas who used drugs to dull the sensation of pain.  Our .38 revolvers were having a hard time taking them down.  There was a lack of “knockdown power”.  The bullets would wound but weren’t taking our adversaries out of the fight fast enough.
This prompted the US to commission a series of trials for a new service pistol that fired a bullet preferably .45 inches in diameter, preferably with a semi-automatic action. (Semi-autos to this point hadn’t really caught on with the exception of a couple models)  Colt submitted a pistol/round combination designed by John Moses Browning, which fired 6,000 rounds over two days of testing with no malfunctions. (The other design up for consideration had 37.)  When the pistol got too hot, they just dunked it in water and kept going.
The pistol was adopted in 1911 (strange coincidence with the name and all right?) and has served the US military in every major conflict since.  It was replaced by the Beretta M9 in the 1980’s as the standard service pistol but is being used by various special forces groups in the Middle East today.
(History lesson paraphrased from Wikipedia.  Be careful reading it though, it’s easy to get sucked into hours-long stumbling through related gun wiki entries.)
So let’s take a look at the criteria I had laid out in my previous post:
  • Reliability:  The 1911 is a 100 year old design.  While current gunmakers have found ways to bring the 1911 up to speed in most aspects, there is still a slight stigma of finickyness.  Take a look around some of the popular gun forums to see this stigma blown way out of proportion.  It seems fanboys of any other platform make a HUGE deal about the 1911 being fragile and very complicated to strip down.  I left a comment as such over at Huey’s Gunsight, to which Huey made a post just to take my ass to school and show that there aren’t THAT many more parts than a Glock when broken down.  (BTW, check out Huey’s site, it’s alot of quality gun content without alot of the political BS that you see on some sites.)  Even if 1911 isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be, there are accounts of many lower cost 1911’s not being compatible with hollow-point ammunition, which is what I’d look to shoot for self-defense.  Couple that with it not being able to match the legendary reliability of a Glock or Sig and you have to count Reliability as a: CON
  • Price: It’s not uncommon to peruse a gun magazine or online article and see $2000+ custom 1911 pistols.  Mid-range pistols run from $700-$1200.  There are some no-frills pistols available for roughly $400 that are very functional but have been known to have some issues with hollowpoint (hereafter referred to as HP) ammunition as I pointed out earlier.  After spending ALOT of time researching the best values in 1911s, it seems the Taurus pt1911 stands out.  For $500-$600, you get a pistol that already has alot of the aftermarket upgrades that people usually spend their money on such as a polished feed ramp (allows the pistol to reliably feed HP ammo), a beavertail safety (helps keep the hammer and slide from “biting” your hand like you’ve seen on CSI a million times), skeletonized hammer/trigger, and quite a few others.  Still, that’s a pretty good chunk of change.  And we’re talking just the pistol and 2 magazines.  With my roughly $600 (imaginary right now) budget, that leaves little to no money for ammo to practice with. Since it’s right at my limit for a pretty basic gun, I have to say price is another CON.
The Taurus pt1911.  From what I’ve seen, the best value in the 1911 market.
  • Capacity: Alot of pistols nowadays ship with magazines that hold 13 (for the large .45ACP) to 17 (for the more compact 9mm) rounds.  Most 1911s ship with 7 or 8 round magazines in 45ACP.  The 1911 platform uses a different kind of magazine (called a single-stack) that makes the pistol slimmer and easier for smaller hands to grip but severely limits capacity.  You can get high capacity mags but they stick out of the bottom of the pistol and usually only increase your round count to 10.  I’m sure proponents of the .45ACP round would argue that 7 is all you need but in a pure contest of capacity, the 1911 fails.  CON
  • Caliber: Not as important in my opinion as capacity but still a deciding factor.  The .45ACP cartridge was designed by John Browning to go hand in hand with the 1911.  With current defensive ammo, anything above a 9mm will generally penetrate the recommended 12″ necessary to stop the fight with a good hit.  However, if two bullets will both penetrate about the same, wouldn’t you want the bigger, heavier, wider bullet?  This kind of goes hand in hand with capacity, which is why I don’t put much weight in caliber.  If you give up some stopping power by going with a 9mm, you get a few more shots in your magazine to make a fight-ending shot.  Still, capacity being equal, the .45ACP comes out on top in my opinion. PRO 
Comparison of some handgun cartridges.  Ignore the .50AE and 22lr unless you’re expecting to gunfight  a rhino or a squirrel, respectively.
Penetration comparison of several popular self-defense handgun cartridges.  See how everything goes past the FBI-recommended 12″? 
  • Carryability: As stated before, the 1911 is a very slim handgun.  If I were to carry (which once again assumes IL pulls it’s head out of it’s ass and legalizes CCW, AND that my employer allows CCW to make daily carry a possibility), I don’t see that I’d have any problems concealing a full size 1911.  I’ve read many reports of guys 6’1″, 6’2″, etc, having no issue with it.  With my 6’5″ Unhealthy Outdoorsman frame, I shouldn’t have an issue.  Shouldn’t have any big impact on my decision (especially till we have CCW) but it counts as a PRO 
  • Misc: There are a bunch of little things that probably shouldn’t have a major effect on which pistol I end up with.  However, when you put them all together, they can really turn the tide one way or another.  I’ll break them down a little:
    • Looks: Dammit, that pistol is sexy looking.  In my mind, when I think of a pistol, I think of the 1911.  I’ve seen it in every video game/tv show/movie depicting any conflict the United States has had in the past 100 years.  I also like the look of a hammer on a gun, something missing from alot of modern pistols, as it’s been replaced by a hammerless striker-fired design.
    • History/Track Record: I’ve already mentioned how many conflicts this handgun has been a part of.  It has eliminated countless Nazis/Vietcong/Terrorists/Criminals from the face of the earth and continues to do so.  There’s something cool about having basically the same pistol my great-grandfather used in WWII.  Just because a world army used a pistol is no specific reason to buy one for protection (Nambu anyone?) but such a long track record definitely lends a positive recommendation. 
    • Customizability: There is a HUGE market for custom parts for 1911 pistols.  Want new fancy sights you can see in the dark?  Here you go.  How about some “sweet” Punisher grips? Got 3 pages of them.  (In fact, grab a sweet compensator to go along with those sweet grips, you can pretend you’re Thomas Jane at the range.)  You can get just about every part in a 1911 to make it shoot/look better.  It’s nice to know you can take a gun and really make it one of a kind.  
As you can see, there are a few Miscellaneous factors that weigh in to the decision process as well for me. With what I’ve come up with, it all works out to a big PRO

So with it all laid out, we have 3 PROs and 3 CONs.  It’s actually not as close as it seems, as reliability, price and capacity are all much more important to me than how a pistol looks and whether or not I can make my pistol like the ones that The Comedian from Watchmen uses.  
Then again…
Do you agree/disagree?  Are my pros your cons?  Am I talking out my ass in your humble opinion?  Feel free to let me know.
Coming soon in QHH: Glock 17, Sig SP2022, and one of the Ruger pistols (probably the SR9).  I wonder how they’ll break down.  Let me know if you have any other suggestions under the $600 rough price limit.  I was honestly thinking the 1911 was going to fare a little better than it did but when I really break it down to what’s honestly important to me, it kinda comes out in a negative light huh?  I guess we’ll have to see how the others play out.

Quest for the Holy Handgun

Sunday, my post on buying your first gun got picked up by (see the badge on the right) and I got a mini-boost in visitors and a few new comments. 

One such comment came from Mark who laid out a few of his favorite handguns and arguments for each.  I hadn’t discussed handguns in my post, mostly because I haven’t bought one.  I don’t feel comfortable putting my advice out there for something I haven’t experienced yet.

However, I am planning on making my next firearm purchase a handgun.  I laid out a couple of the guns I was looking at and I think it might help my decision making process to do a series of posts detailing each option and weighing the pros and cons.  I’m thinking it may help me narrow down my choices a little more than just reading countless reviews and forum posts.

The point of this post is to lay down some criteria.  The categories in which the guns will be judged and why said categories are important to me.  Here they are in current order of importance:

  1. Reliability:  The number one reason I’d buy a handgun is for defense.  A pistol that doesn’t go BANG and shoot lead when you pull the trigger is useless.  Period.
  2. Price:  Major factor.  I just can’t afford a $1000 pistol.  Just doesn’t happen when you’re saving for a downpayment on a house and working on commission.  I’ll set a rough $600 limit but that’s honestly too high as well without a few months of saving.  If only I could convice my wife I should open a credit card for guns……
  3. Capacity: It would suck to get into a gunfight with a couple of crackheads and run out of rounds.  I also would like to try out some shooting sports like USPSA and it seems like the more rounds you can carry in a magazine, the better. 
  4. Misc: Things that probably shouldn’t matter but will probably have a say in the decision.  How the gun looks, the history of the gun or design, it’s use by law enforcement and/or military, how easy it is to customize the gun and make it my own, etc.

Then there are a couple things that people factor in very much that probably won’t make a huge difference to me:

  1. Carryability:  We can’t carry in IL so this is currently a nonissue.  Even when things turn around here and we can carry, I don’t don’t think it’ll be a big issue.  At 6’5″ and 464lbs, I’m sure I can figure something out.  (Honestly this is something I’ve thought about and if I got a CCW license I’d probably carry in a shoulder holster since I sit on my ass in a call center all day. That’s assuming my employer would even let me carry at work.  I have totally received death threats over someone’s cable going out by the way.)
  2. Caliber:  Anything over 9mm will do it seems.  From everything I read, all handgun calibers suck compared to rifle/shotgun rounds for self-defense.  Once you get to a 9mm and above, it seems as though everything can get the job done.  If I were smart I’d limit myself to a 9mm to start since ammo is roughly 40% less expensive than bigger calibers. As discussed in my last gun post, cheap ammo = more practice = better marksmanship.  Noone ever claimed I was smart though.
  3. New vs. Used:  Honestly, I’d probably prefer used because of the cost factor.  If a pistol meets the reliability requirement, it shouldn’t matter if it is used as long as it wasn’t abused.

So there you have it, I’ll be putting some popular firearms under the microscope over the next few months to see if I can narrow things down a bit.  Should be fun as my interests for different models kind of ebb and flow as I read different things about them or check one out at the local Gander Mountain.  Maybe this will eliminate those temporary longings and plant the seed for a more concrete decision.

So here’s where I need your input.  What guns should I look at?  What was your first handgun (or what would it be if you were to get one?)

So you wanna buy a gun…

… but you have no idea what to get. 

Luckily for you, I went through the same conundrum a year ago as I was anxiously awaiting 2+ months permission from the state to buy said firearm.  I’m by no means a firearms expert but I have read dozens upon dozens of articles written by experts, bought a couple guns, and shot 2500ish rounds/shells over the past year.  I feel qualified to at least share my opinion on the process. 

First thing’s first.  Before you even think about what firearm you want to buy, you need to check your state/county/city’s laws on owning a firearm.  These laws can vary wildly.  For example anyone in IL has to submit an application and wait a couple months while the state police check to see if they’re a felon or mental and mail them out a Firearm Owners Identification Card.  However, there are a great many states where you can just walk in to a gun store, run a background check and you’re good to go.  (Must be nice.)  A few states and some cities will limit  magazine capacity to 10 rounds or make it illegal to have a detachable magazine.  As much as you might disagree with the law, you still have to follow it.

Although it doesn’t factor at all into gun selection, I would be remiss to not advise an aspiring gun owner to learn the 4 rules.  If you have done much research into the world of firearms, you’ll find these are universally preached. (And for good reason.)  They consist of:

  1. Treat all guns as if they are loaded.  Don’t be “that guy”.  You know, the one who shoots himself in the junk by stuffing a gun “he could’ve swore” was unloaded into his waistband. 
  2. Never point a gun at something unless you  to destroy it.  Goes hand in hand with #1.  If you assume it’s loaded, you should always be cognizant of what direction the gun is.  If you failed to treat the gun as if it were loaded, following this rule will put a hole in the wall or floor instead of your TV or cat.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target and ready to shoot.  No matter which gun you choose, as long as it was made in the past 20 years, it was made to only go off when you pull the trigger.  If you failed to follow rules 1&2 and you’re pointing your loaded gun at your cat while cleaning it, it won’t go off unless you pull the trigger.  (In most cases, even if you drop it!)  So don’t touch it dammit!
  4. Identify your target and what is behind it.  So you’ve successfully bought a gun and cleaned it without killing the cat.  You and buddy go to a family member’s field a mile out of town, toss some cans on the ground and go to town right?  Not so much.  You have to be sure your bullets are going to go into the dirt when they go thru that can or you miss.  You are responsible for every bullet that leaves your gun.  Depending on the bullet, it can travel up to 5-6 miles and still mess someone up.  Make sure every bullet goes into the dirt.

I know none of that makes a difference in what gun you choose, but these are all unspoken rules as far as firearms.  If you walk into a gun store, ask to see a gun, and then point it at the employee with your finger on the trigger he’s gonna think you’re a tool and not take you seriously.  Plus I don’t want you to go to all the trouble of buying a gun and then accidentally kill yourself.  Be careful.

Ok, now that we got all of that out of the way, what do you want a gun for?  For me, it breaks down into 3 categories:

  • Home defense 
  • Hunting
  • Because this is America, I’m an American and I can.  (This would include zombie preparedness, OMG the sky is falling, I need a gun for when the Chinese come collect their debt, and other theoretical scenarios.)

Unless you’re in an area that allows you to use rifles to hunt (IL doesn’t for the most part), my reccommendation for self defense is the same as my reccomendation for hunting:  a 12 gauge pump shotgun.  One of the most versatile guns out there, with it you can hunt everything from squirrels and doves with birdshot to whitetails with slugs.  Put five shells of 00 (double ought) buckshot in it and you have one of the most formidible home defense guns available.  (It even comes with the built in “SHIK-SHIK!!!” noise that universally says GET THE F*** OUT!!!.)  For roughly $225 (new), you have a hunting gun and something to put under the bed in case something goes bump in the night.

If your state allows you to hunt with a rifle, I wouldn’t say that I reccommend going out and buying that rifle right away, first thing.  I would recommend a .22 in a similar configuration to what you see yourself hunting with. 

For example, if you plan on hunting with a Remington 700 bolt action in .308 someday, get a Savage Accutrigger or Ruger 77/22. 

Savage .22, alot of fun to shoot.  My gun nut uncle has one.

Why would I suggest such a thing?  Well, because you have to do your part to be a successful marksman.  You have to learn how to squeeeeeze the trigger, where you need to weld our cheek to a stock, etc.  Practice makes perfect.  Practice requires ammo.  A box of 20 rounds of .308 will run you $15.  A box of 500 rounds of .22 will run you $15 dollars. Plus a quality .22 bolt action is less than half the cost of a similar quality .308 rifle.   While you will need to practice some when you move up in caliber, you can spend alot less learning the basics and getting some experience with your preferred hunting system.

Ah finally, the OMFG, when SHTF (Shit Hits The Fan), its TEOTWAKI (The End Of The World As We Know It), Zombpocalypse gun.  Or if you prefer, just a gun for fun.  Get whatever the hell you want.  I will say that you shouldn’t listen to internet hype.  There are fanboys for every system out there.  Just like any other piece of equipment, there are fanboys and they will trash a product just for being different.  Don’t let the AR vs. AK, Polymer vs. Metal, Battle-tested vs. New Hotness, 1911 vs. Glock, 5.56 vs. .308 arguments sway you.  Pick a gun that you like and go with it.

In fact, take my word for what it is, just my opinion.  If you feel like getting a super accessorized AR10 as your first gun to protect your home (and your neighbor house 800 yards away), go for it.  It’s your money. I will say that it’s probably a good idea to look for something in a similar configuration in .22 for the same reason as the hunting rifle, cheap practice.  For example, when I got my first gun, I knew I’d want a centerfire rifle of some kind but I had no idea what.  So my first gun was a Ruger 10/22. It was only $200.  Firing 2250+ rounds thru it and taking it completely apart a couple times has gotten me familiar with how semiautos work.

With any gun that you’re thinking about buying, try to find a few honest reviews (preferably from somebody who as put several hundred to a couple thousand rounds thru the gun in question. I’ve found to be a pretty legit site.  They tell it how it is.).  It’s important to know that something you’re going to spend your money on and possibly stake your life on is reliable and worth the money.

With everything laid out, I suppose my suggestion for a first gun would be a 12ga shotgun.  Perfect for home defense, adequate for most hunting situations, if you never bought another gun you’d be pretty well off.

Jack of all trades.

What about you?  What is your suggestion for a good first gun?  What WAS your first gun?  Feel free to ask any questions.  Like I said, I’m no expert but I’m happy to give an opinion or find out the correct answer for you if I don’t know.

Finally something to post about.

The universe has conspired against me lately, seemingly finding endless obstacles in my personal life to sidetrack me from doing anything outdoorsy.

The only thing I’ve done since my last post is show Clif from Lunker hunt my local go-to pond.  As you can see in the comments of that post, the only thing I accomplished that night was falling on my ass and missing a few fish.  Didn’t think it warranted a post with my version of events.

(Although, I can speak to the effectiveness of Owl Jones’ flies that Clif was using.  After Clif pulled in about a half dozen fish and I had no bites, I borrowed the other one he had and started getting hits.  You should check out Owl’s site and have him make you some.  They caught fish when nothing else did.)

After fishing with Clif, a mixture of personal health, the weather and my job kept me from doing anything else until yesterday when I went out to the shooting range with my buddy Jason.  I brought along a generic version of a Flip Camera that I won recently at work, hoping to get some bitchin’ video of milk jugs exploding and such.  Sadly, the camera personifies why the word “generic” has negative connotations.  Nothing on it worked.

So, instead of bitchin’ footage of explosions, I’m left with a blurry image of explosion aftermath.

The middle one got it good. 12 gauge slug from about 15 yards away.

I’m going to try to work in some more shooting posts as we go along.  This is the first time I’d been shooting since last fall I believe so I haven’t had alot to post about really.   Hopefully I can get some fun footage and info up soon.

Also, the RNG picked me to review some Sufix fishing line in the recent “Loser’s only” OBN review opportunity so as soon as I receive it I’ll post some impressions and I’m going to try something I haven’t really seen done before as far as a fishing product review goes so be on the lookout.

Oh by the way, a few of you noticed I started following you on Twitter.  It’s my personal account, nothing strictly related to the blog or anything.  I usually just use it to keep tabs on sports news and my favorite poker players, figured I should start following some of my favorite blog buddies.  (I was feeling left out after Clif and Mike from Troutrageous! posted about it this week.)  Feel free to follow me if you want (@themarkvivian), just don’t expect alot of blog related stuff up there (or even many tweets at all).  At least not right away.  I have a hard enough time posting here and on Facebook more than once a month as it is.  🙂

Here’s to the sun staying out for awhile, hope you all are getting more time outdoors than I have been lately.

Just want you guys to know…

That even though I’m going to be introducing a little more gun related content over the warmer months (like the CCW post from earlier in the week), I’m going to try to leave politics out of it as much as possible.  It seems too often “gun” blogs are 80-90%  politics, not enough guns.

The generic “eff you Liberal Hippies!”  and “gun control advocates are clearly insane because they can’t understand our point of view” rants get really old really quickly.  (Besides, I’d describe myself as Libertarian, so I’m part Liberal Hippie.) If someone has an opinion different than mine, I’m happy to hear it.  I might debate it, but I won’t tell you you’re wrong.  On the whole tho, I’ll be avoiding political topics as much as possible.

For a couple examples of gun blogs that don’t get bogged down with politics, check out:

The Firearm Blog – The tagline is “Firearms not politics.”
The Next Chapter – Zack’s blog covers a little bit of everything that affects his life but the thing that originally attracted me to his blog are the couple dozen gun reviews on the left hand side ALL THE WAY down the page.  I think I spent a workday or two just checking out all the different write-ups inbetween calls.

Concealed Carry in IL?

My heart hopes yes, my head says no.

I would like it because:

  1. It takes police a few minutes (on a good day) to arrive after you call 911.
  2. I live in a large-ish city where shootings/robberies aren’t uncommon.
  3. The day we moved out of our old apartment a man was shot in the face and killed in our building, followed by a shootout with police.  (This is actually why I started getting into guns and got my FOID card.)
  4. Now that I’m married, I feel the need to protect my wife and our property.

I don’t think it will happen because:

  1. Governor Quinn is governor solely because he won in Chicago.  The republican candidate seriously won like every other district in the state.  Chicago is all he has to please.
  2. See number 1.

Illinois politics are all kinds of eff’d up and I won’t go into the details.  There are bills in the House and Senate that would allow Concealed Carry but unless they get a certain amount of votes to overcome a veto, I’ll still be dreaming. 

As I said my purpose isn’t to go into the details of the politics, but rather to get your opinion.  If you live in IL, would you carry if allowed?  If you live in another state (except WI), do you carry?  If you would/do, why?  If you wouldn’t/don’t, why not?