Monthly Archives: September 2019

Got Shorty.

Recently I’ve been weeding out my collection, passing along guns I don’t shoot. I have actually managed- only just, mind you- to part with more guns than I have acquired… Among the guns I didn’t shoot was my EMF New Dakota .45 Colt, made by Armi San Marco.

EMF New Dakota .45

It’s a nice enough gun, but somehow when I am hauling the .45s to the range it always gets edged out by something else. So, part with it… or maybe do something a bit more interesting?

Digressing a little I used to have a Cimarron Thunderer 3.5″ barrelled .45 Colt. I liked it a lot, but the short ejector stroke was occasionally irksome. The price you pay for an 1873 with a 3.5″ barrel… but I got to wondering, does it need to be? I got to measuring things and thought, ‘Maybe not…’

I had an ejector housing from another gun and experimented. As you can see in the photo below the housing protrudes a good 1/2 on the muzzle end to accommodate the mounting screw that attaches it to the barrel. It also has quite a bit of space on the end that meets up with the frame.

Standard 1873 Ejector rod housing… longer than it needs to be.

If I could figure out a different way to attach the housing to the barrel and trimmed it from each end I would be in business. I cut the muzzle-end back to just short of the extractor groove. I cut the frame end almost to the end of the opening at the back for removing the rod, then relieved the end to fit into the frame. I shortened the ejector rod to match, and shortened the ejector spring as much as I dared. Good enough- but how to attach is to the barrel?

I superglued the shortened housing into position, wrapped it and the barrel in thick leather to protect it and clamped it in place with vice grips. Then I drilled a small hole through the housing and into the barrel, being very careful not to drill into the bore. I used a slightly larger bit to enlarge the hole on the bottom of the housing, then used a #3 Coarse tap to thread the inner wall of the housing right into the barrel. I then shortened a #3 Coarse screw to about 3/16″, and gripping it in pliers used a fine cutting wheel to cut a slot into one end to make a threaded stud.

Using a very small screwdriver I inserted the stud into the hole in the housing and screwed it in as far as it would go. Since the threads run continuously through the housing into the barrel this secured it nicely. Since the stud does not protrude into the housing the ejector runs right over it, so no length of throw is given up.

The recessed threaded stud secures the housing, and the ejector passes right over it, allowing maximum length of travel (throw) for the ejector rod.

I put it all together and discovered I hadn’t gained much after all… the ejector paddle was now hitting the cylinder pin, which restricted it’s rearward travel. I studied on it for a few minutes, and using a 1/4″ sanding drum in the Dremel I relieved the inside of the paddle enough that it would pass over the cylinder pin. Problem solved. I still couldn’t get the paddle all of the way to the frame because of the ejector spring, but I was short the stock throw length by less than .100″. Good enough!

Relieving the inside of the ejector paddle so it can pass over the cylinder-pin. Photo was taken after the barrel was shortened and crowned and the new front sight installed.

Photo shows the ejector paddle passing over the cylinder-pin.
This shows the ejector at full extension- damn near as long as on the stock gun!

The more astute among you have no doubt noticed the gun now sports a birdshead grip. I replaced the original trigger-guard/front strap of the grip with a slightly shorter one from an 1851 reproduction. My buddy Marc had provided me with a steel back-strap that he had forged straight with the intention of making it into a birdshead frame. I bent it into the desired shape, drilled it for a screw to attach it to the front-strap and modified the stock grips to the proper shape.

I finished the steel by polishing and heat-bluing it somewhat irregularly, then giving it a couple coats of lacquer. I think the result is quite attractive, and a nice change from simple blue steel.

Heat-blued bach-strap. The photo does not do it justice!

In keeping with the ‘concealed carry’ motif I was working towards I heated and lowered the hammer-spur to a position approximating a Bisley, then shortened it so it would be less likely to snag. I aggressively checkered it for positive cocking. The checkering came out rather badly, but it does the job.

Last was the front sight. Carefully establishing the center-line of the top of the barrel, I used a cut-off wheel in the Dremel to make a slot for the sight. I cut a strip of bronze the right width, rounded the bottom to match the groove and super-glued it in place.

Oh, stop screaming! The superglue is just to hold it while I stake it in place. Which I did once the glue had cured. Then I trimmed the strip to the height I wanted and shaped it. It’s my practice when doing this to err on the side of too tall; if the point of impact is too low it’s a lot easier to remove material than it would be to add it if it shot too high! If it still shoots too high… well, I’m screwed, and there will be nothing for it but to replace the sight. Fortunately I’m pretty good at guesstimating these things.

I like a bronze front sight; it shows up well in a broad variety of lighting conditions; I suppose it’s almost a signature of my modified guns at this point. I think it looks good, too. At this point the gun is finished except for touch-ips and a new grip. I love the way it handles, like the looks and adore the near-full length ejector stroke.

Did I say that the front sight was the last thing? It really should have been and almost was… As I was admiring it and working the action the cylinder suddenly refused to turn and I could not cock the piece. Bugger- the lock had broken.

This had just happened on another Armi San Marco gun not two weeks ago, and I was pretty annoyed. I’d ordered a new part for that gun from Numerich Arms, and when it arrived it had required extensive fitting. I looked up the part for this gun, and it was $35 including shipping… after which I had no assurance that it would not also need extensive fitting.

Bugger that for a game of soldiers! I grabbed a scrap of 5160 spring-steel, bored the correct-size hole in that and used it to line up the original part. I superglued the part in place on the steel (you may be noticing a theme here…) and traced the outline with a scribe and headed for the bandsaw. Between that, the Dremel and some files I shortly had a pretty good copy of the original part. I fired up the torch and oil-hardened it, then cleaned it up and gave it a spring-temper. In less than an hour I had the new part installed, and it worked a treat. Being hardened and tempered 5160 I’ll wager it won’t break any time soon!

Top- the new part- you cannot see it in the photo but the other arm of the lock is broken off at the hole on the original. The crud on the original is the residue from the superglue.

Next I’ll be looking for some suitable exotic hardwood or- God willing- antler to make a new set of grips. Tomorrow after I finish the week’s work I’ll hit the reloading bench so I can take Shorty out to the range over the weekend.

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Michael Tinker Pearce, 12 September 2019


Yep, this was legal. yep, he was within his rights. Yep, this person and people like him are just as dangerous to our rights as anti-gun voters.

In Alexandris, Virginia this fine fellow showed up at a local farmers market to assert his 2nd Amendment rights and make a display of his stance, his patriotism and his tricked out AR15. As a result he frightened people into calling the police and apparently drove off some potential customers from the honest merchants trying to make a living. The police of course, could do nothing because the man wasn’t breaking any laws.

Actions such as this are counter-productive. They do not persuade anyone that they should become ‘pro-gun.’ Very likely they have the opposite effect, scaring uninformed citizens into calling for legislation against such actions, and against private ownership of such weapons. In today’s political climate and given the spate of recent spree-shootings this man’s actions are a bad idea, arguably a very bad idea. It’s likely to produce exactly the sort of reaction among non-gun people that it is purportedly trying to prevent.

I’m a gun guy, am pretty well informed and have a background that would allow me to assess the potential threat here accurately. But most of the folks at that market didn’t have that ability- all they see is a man who, incongruously, is carrying exactly the sort of weapon the press has told them is used in spree-shootings, and doing so for no apparent reason.

In the 1960s the Black Panthers took to carrying long-guns to events to encourage people, specifically law enforcement, to behave themselves. They were alaso making a point that they, too, had rights under the 2nd Amendment and would exercise those rights in their own defense and the defense of their family, friends and neighbors. The result? The Gun Control Act of 1968, which was supported by the NRA by the way. In the current political climate this person and people like him are only adding fuel to the fire started by spree shooters, and are likely to form a part of inspiring the next major, nation-wide gun control law or laws. For which we will blame Liberals and Democrats instead of spree-shooters and people like this.

I have no problem with someone wearing a pistol in public. I think open-carry in such a venue is a tactical error, but to each his own. I myself open carry when hunting or other outdoor activities, and think nothing of walking into a rural store wearing a pistol in such circumstances. Typically the people present also think nothing of it. But in urban and suburban venues like my own neighborhood I carry concealed. The reasons that I do so are for the advantage of surprise and to avoid unnecessarily alarming my neighbors and the general public. To the majority of these folks the sight of a firearm, openly carried, is a signal that there is danger present. It would be nice to live in a place where this was not so, where the sight of an armed citizen was reassuring, but I do not live in that place, and neither does the person in this photo.

You may look at the photo above and see a patriot standing up for his rights and ours. The overwhelming majority of people present at that event saw a person they didn’t know carrying a dangerous weapon that they have been taught to associate with spree-skillers. Understandably this made them afraid or at least uncomfortable, and neither of these reactions are liable to persuade them to support our 2nd Amendment rights.

Personally I look at the photo and see a thoughtless attention whore trying to ‘scare the straights.’ The most likely result is that he will scare them straight into the ballot box to vote away our rights. As such this person is not my friend, ally or comrade in the struggle; he is an active threat to my rights.

Our 2nd Amendment rights are under an exceptionally high level of threat right now, and we are very likely to lose some of our rights. When we do I will blame this person and persons like him before I blame Democrats, ‘sheeple’ etc., because he should know better. Adults are supposed to assess the likely effects of their actions and work towards their desired outcome. Actions like this are counter to our interests and should not, in my opinion, be undertaken. The mere fact that we can do a thing does not mean that we must, or even should, do that thing.

If I see a person like this in such a venue I will approach them, present myself as a gun owner and proponent of 2nd Amendment rights and politely, respectfully, explain why I think their actions are counterproductive. I feel that as a responsible gun owner, 2nd Amendment supporter and adult it is my responsibility to do so. I do not anticipate a positive reaction, but I feel I should at least try. I hope that each of you will consider doing the same.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 11 september 2019

Something Old, Something New…

…that’s also old. Like 135 years old!

Took a trip to Champion Arms indoor shooting range this afternoon. I realized it had been roughly forever since I had taken my 1911 to the range. This was given to me many years ago by a dear friend, who has since passed away. I’ve kept it in exactly the condition it was when he gave it to me- baby-puke green Teflon finish and all. Thinking about it I realized why, despite my love of the 1911, it had been so long. I hate the GI sights, and the checkering on the safety is actively painful.

OK, both things are fixable. I used a cutoff wheel in a Dremel to cut a narrow slot length-wise in the front sight, then filled it with yellow nail polish. I took needle files to the rear sight and enlarged it and squared the opening. Much better. I put a 1/4″ sanding drum in the Dremel next and took down the checkering and sharp edges on the safety. No more pain.

Big improvement to the GI sights.

Shooting was, um, interesting. I couldn’t shoot a precise group at seven yards to save my life. I realized I was jerking the trigger, anticipating recoil and probably several other rookie mistakes. I took a deep breath, said ‘Screw it,’ and just started blazing away rapidfire. OK, not going to win any awards, but once I relaxed groups were consistent and not unreasonable for rapid-fire. Oh, and it was fun. I can knuckle down and try for precision next time.

Seven yard rapidfire groups,

I’ve been making more brass for .44-55 Walker and had fifteen rounds with me. Thumper worked a treat but I only got to fire one cylinder. Newly formed brass always sticks in Thumper’s chambers after firing, and knowing this, I made sure to have a 1/4″ brass rod to take with me to the range… which I forgot at home. Well, it was fun for the one cylinder I got to shoot. Now when I clean the gun tonight I’ll meed to retrieve the brass rod to drive the cartridges out.

I only got six shots, but they were pretty good shots…

After the Action Shooting International match in May I made some minor changes to the Detonics Combat Master Mk.1. It had the original three-dot sights, which I have never preferred; I find it difficult to achieve any real precision with them. I filled in the dot on the front sight and painted it with orange nail polish. I also improved the grip by contact-cementing a piece of 120-grit emery-cloth to the front-strap of the grip.

Sic gloria transit the three dot sights. The big orange square worked excellently. I ignored the dots on the rear sight.

Precision has ceased to be a problem. Firing standing/unsupported using a modified Weaver grip I put five rounds into a single hole. Quite satisfying.

I’d say the modification to the front sight has been effective…

Last but not least was the newly acquired, and newly modified, S&W .38 Single Action 2nd Model. An online friend has one that he snubbed the barrel on, added ivory grips and re-blued. I’ve admired it for some time, and when another internet pal found one in a local shop at an excellent price the game was afoot! By it’s serial number this gun was most likely made in 1884-85, but mechanically it is excellent, with a very crisp action.

So far I have made a set of antler grips for it, snubbed the barrel at 1-5/8″ to match my .38 Safety Hammerless and made and mounted a new front sight. It’s a little hard getting used to the spur-trigger, but accuracy is quite respectable at seven yards. The gun seems to point very well in my hand, so I tried point-shooting a 3-yard target, basically blazing away without aiming. Three of the five shots were clustered in the center of the paper, with the other two several inches away in random directions. I think with practice that will improve.

My first target with the .38 Single Action. Aside from the one flyer it’s not bad.
A second target at seven yards. Quite reasonable, I think.

Once I got past the oddness of the spur-trigger I really enjoyed shooting this little gun. Next week some supplies should arrive so that I can strip the nickel and rust-blue it. I think this is likely to become a favorite!

The loads used today were:

.44-55 Walker: 200gr Heel-base LSWC over 55 grains (by volume) of FFFG Triple-7 powder with a Federal #150 Large Pistol Primer

.45 ACP: 200gr. LRNFP over 5.6gr. of Unique with a Federal #150 large Pistol Primer.

.38 S&W: 125gr. LSWC over 2.5gr. of Unique with a Federal #100 Small Pistol Primer.

As always you use this reloading data entirely at your own risk.

I’d been a bit out of sorts all day, but leaving the range I was in much better humor. I’ve had a pleasant dinner, and will now more on to cleaning the guns. A good shooting session can be wonderfully therapeutic!

Michael Tinker Pearce, 09 September 2019