Monthly Archives: March 2023

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

I’m a walking case of ‘do as I say, not as I do.’ I have an apprentice (a student really) in my knife-making shop. I frequently remind him to follow the rules even when he sees me breaking them, and I’ve explained that I do so because I’ve been doing this forever and know what I can get away with. He needs to follow the rules because he does not have that experience.

The Colt detective Special, a classic 20th C. self-defense pistol. Will it still work? Probably. Is it the best choice for you? Probably not.

I’m in a similar (though less expert) position when it comes to defensive pistols. I have been known to carry obsolete pistols for self-defense, including revolvers and 1911s. Some people regard me as an ‘expert’ and might take that fact as advice to do so themselves. It isn’t. It totally isn’t, and don’t take that as a recommendation!

I often stress that we are individuals and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to self-defense pistols. What I sometimes forget to mention is that there are a plethora of one-size-fits-most solutions, and I recommend that new owners avail themselves of them. When asked what they should look at I usually tell new gun owners to look at Glocks, S&W M&Ps and Sig P365s. These are good, modern guns that have proven themselves in use and have good features for the purpose. They are very well-suited for the task and should be the place most people start.

CZ P-07. Classic operation, modern features. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but a modern, very capable gun.

I have long maintained that the 1911/2011 platform is for advanced users; yes, it can yield exceptional results but it has more points-of-failure in use than more modern guns. A dedicated user who trains properly can overcome these issues. I’ve had people point to the use of these pistols as a military service weapon to counter this point, but context is everything. The military carried hammer-down on an empty chamber, and trained us to draw the weapon and rack the slide. The safety was there to make the gun safe after shooting, not before or during.

Here’s this posts first ‘mic-drop’ moment: We kept the 1911a1 as our service pistol for 70 years not because it was the greatest thing since sliced bread, but because it was literally the least important weapon we used, it was good enough mostly, and it would be a big, expensive hassle to replace it.

The Glock 19 has become the standard by which all other self-defense pistols are judged. There are reasons why that is that bear consideration.

Don’t get me wrong, while I view the platform as obsolete a properly prepared 1911-based gun can return extraordinary results in the hands of a skilled user. But a new shooter is not, by definition, that person. Another thing to consider is that the average person employing a pistol for self-defense needs ordinary results, not extraordinary ones. It needs to go bang every single time and put the bullets approximately where the user needs them to go. There are any number of models and configurations that qualify among modern pistols, and no compelling reason not to use them until or unless one achieves an extraordinary level of skill. Even then it’s arguably not necessary.

So yeah, my carry gun of choice is a custom 1911 tailor-made for me. This is despite it’s antiquated features and relatively low capacity. I have great confidence in the gun and my ability to use it effectively. This is because I have decades of experience to rely on, and in my hands the gun can deliver extraordinary results. I am also extremely comfortable with it, and the manual-of-arms is basically hard-wired at this point. Does that make this an entirely rational decision on my part? No, and here’s why.

I can get good enough results for civilian self defense with a large variety of pistols, notably pistols that are more modern, have better features and are generally better suited to my needs. But it’s not always about need. I feel more confident with the 1911a1 because of long familiarity with the platform and knowing it can return those unnecessarily good results.

The Conventional Wisdom is never absolutely correct for every single individual and situation, but it’s the Conventional Wisdom for a reason. It applies to most people in most situations and odds are better than not it applies to you. In a gunfight any gun is better than no gun, but a lot of very smart people have spent a lot of time and effort making guns specifically for self-defense and they are very well suited-to-purpose. Odds are good one of them will work for you. Why wouldn’t you use it? It had better not be because some old fart with unusual and largely obsolete experience tells you different. That would be just dumb.

So start with the go-to guns from Glock, S&W, Sig, Beretta and others. Find what works for you and train with it. If those options don’t work for you by all means venture further afield, but start with the standard options. They’re standard for a reason: they are fit for task for a very large majority of people.

Stay safe and take care,

Michael Tinker Pearce, 7 March 2023

Manual Safeties Dangerous? Really?

Last year an instructor told me, “I’ve had well-trained people forget to remove their safety under stress.” I responded, “No, you haven’t.”

See, to my way of thinking a well-trained person will remove the safety every time they need to without thinking about it. Because training. Under stress we do what we trained to do, good, bad or indifferent. If you are going to carry a pistol with a manual safety if your forget it under stress you are not well trained by definition.

Most modern handguns have a lever in the trigger as their only, but some guns include them for importation purposes, and they can effectively be ignored. But a wise person with such a gun will incorporate it into their training to avoid finding the gun is inadvertently ‘on-safe’ when they need it.

Most modern guns have a manual safety of sorts in the form of a lever on the trigger or similar arrangements that prevent the trigger from being pulled accidentally. These guns have proven overall to be as safe as any other gun, and for most firearms nothing other than basic firearms safety is required for the gun to be handled and operated safely. Glock re-introduced this feature in the Glock 17, and it has been widely adopted since (the original trigger-safeties of this type date back to revolvers from the early 1890s.)

The average owner has neither need or desire for a traditional manual safety, and that’s fine. Many modern designs do not require one other than that trigger-dingus. So why would one opt for a gun with a manual safety?

Guns like the Staccato C2 can be awesome tools for duty or self-defense… but the manual safety is essential to this design.

I can think of some reasons. They may have inherited and older-style gun or a gun with a safety was the best they could afford. Or the gun offers qualities and capabilities that make the manual safety worth putting up with, like superb accuracy and rapid-fire capabilities. Pretty much everyone agrees a good trigger is a huge aid to accuracy, and the best triggers are on single action semi-autos like the 1911 and 2011.

Yeah, yeah I hear people say, “My aftermarket Glock trigger is just as good.’ I think they believe that. I had a friend who was into muscle cars, and he insisted they handled corners just fine. Then he got a modern car with a sport suspension and realized those old cars did NOT actually handle corners well. He just hadn’t any experience with other cars to base his opinion on.

Of course if you grew up with Glock triggers that’s your standard for comparison. You can get a pretty darned decent trigger on a modern striker-fired pistol, and that’s perfectly OK as long as it gives you the results you desire. But I have known more than a few competitive shooters that thought their aftermarket Glock trigger was fine right up until they fired a Staccato or something similar and found it was a great deal easier to get good or even significantly better results with the 2011.

That’s fine too, but the truth is a standard modern trigger will do just fine for most people and even many competition shooters. Nobody else needs the kind of performance that a gun of that *ahem* caliber offers. But it’s not always about need, is it?

OK, we’re getting off into the weeds a bit here. The point is a manual safety works fine if you train properly to use it, and thousands of properly trained people under the stress of action-shooting competitions never forget their safety. If you think that sort of competition isn’t stressful I encourage you to try it.

Of course there are safeties and then there are safeties; some are good and easy to use and some of them, well, suck. Slide-mounted safeties that have to be flipped up for example. In my experience these are usually a pain in the butt and often difficult to use.

Slide-mounted safeties that flip up for off-safe can be difficult to manipulate for many people.

For myself I have been carrying a CZ P-01, and I replaced the manual safety with a de-cocker. I feel the double-action on the first pull is adequate as a safety for me. But I am soon to be replacing that with a custom 1911 variant. It’s slightly smaller than the CZ, about the same weight and holds only nine rounds instead of fifteen. So why would I take the hit in capacity and deal with a manual safety when I have the CZ?

Because we’re all individuals and I value the qualities and capabilities of the new gun over the capabilities of the very, very good CZ. I can shoot it more accurately faster than the CZ, and the training for the manual safety is a non-issue since I cut my teeth on 1911s four decades ago. For me I feel the better shooting qualities and long familiarity of the 1911-based gun outweighs the extra six rounds the CZ carries. Your mileage will absolutely vary of course and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

QA custom alloy-framed 1911 isn’t the best choice for everyone, but it’s the best choice for me. To each their own.

I still hear people say they would never carry a gun with a manual safety because they might forget to deactivate it. These people are genuinely better off not having one, I think. Honestly on most modern firearms they are superfluous so there’s no reason they have to or should. But thinking the very idea of a manual safety is inherently bad? Hogwash. It’s simply a matter of a well-designed safety and correct training.

Stay safe and take care,

Michael Tinker Pearce, 6 March 2023