Monday, March 26, 2012


I love swaps of all sorts.  My penchant for investigating every garage sale or swap I spot has been known to drive my girlfriend crazy when we're out driving or walking. I've been known to come home from a bike ride with a stereo receiver balanced on my handlebars. Luckily I also like selling gear, which keeps my house relatively uncluttered.

My friend Bill and I shared a table this past weekend at the Oakland County Sportsman's Club's annual gun and knife show. We had a load of books, fishing gear, reloading tools, muzzleloaders, .22s and air guns, many from a friend's estate. I had expected a big turnout, what with the temperature expected to drop into the 40s and 50s after two weeks in the 80s, but Michigan weather surprised us yet again, and it zoomed up into the high 70s.... hence a much smaller crowd turned out for the swap. C'est la vie.

Top to bottom there's a 50 cal Hawken that came, I think, from Dixie Gun works, a T/C .36 cal flintlock with a peep sight and a spare .50 cal barrel, my 20 ga. double percussion gun, an old unbuilt CVA .32 cal kit- or part of one, at least, and a Chinese made clone of the Classic Crosman CO2 rifle. (These guns are so popular they prompted Crosman to start selling their gun again after a long hiatus.)

We did manage to sell a lot of books, a pair of rubber boots, some pistol grips, reloading gear, a few .22s, and my old Cabanas rifle I'd written about before- the one that uses crimped blanks to fire .177 caliber round balls. And this time I didn't leave with more gear than I arrived with.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The First Plastic Gun

When the Glock 17 was announced in 1982 much was made of the fact that this was a "plastic" gun Of course, it was mostly metal, and many other guns with plastic frames have come on the market since, but it was the first plastic gun, right? Wrong. Back in the mid-1950s, Remington, who had no .22 auto to compete with guns from Colt and Winchester, looked at traditional .22 auto designs to see if there wasn't some way they could make a quality gun at a lower cost. They decided on a radical path: Replace the traditional carved wooden stock and machined receiver with a single injection-molded plastic part.

At the time, Remington was owned by DuPont. (This may seem strange to modern day readers. But DuPont got its start in 1802 as a maker of black powder, and only became a modern materials science company in the 1920s.) This relationship gave Remington designers good access to DuPon't chemists, who were able to suggest a Nylon resin that they thought would have the necessary properties for the gun Remington had in mind. The first gun was tested by firing 75,000 rounds through, and  and had a reported failure rate of  .005%.

Several prototypes were then distributed to their sales force, who spent the next three years field testing them. The word came back: You could drop this gun, dunk it in water, stick it in the dirt, never clean it, never lube it... and it just kept on firing. Remington was finally ready to take it to the market. They did so with a massive marketing campaign, putting on public demonstrations designed to show off the ruggedness and reliability of the gun.  But would the public accept a plastic gun?

They did, buying around 1,058,000 Nylon 66s and variants guns over a period of 22 years, from 1959 to 1989. (Besides the original tubular magazine fed  Nylon 66, there was also the magazine fed Nylon 77, and two bolt action .22. ) They were especially popular with Arctic hunters, who discovered that the Nylon 66 was the most reliable- perhaps the only reliable .22 when the temperature dropped well below freezing. With no lubricants to thicken up, it just kept on cycling.

While the numbers for the Nylon Remington look impressive, they're a lot smaller than those for the Ruger 10/22 (5 million units since 1964) and the king of them all, the Marlin 60 (11 million units since 1960.) But it remains a great gun, and there are still countless Nylon 66s out there being used to bag small game. A solid shooter will cost you at least $200 today, and a mint collector's gun will run you $450 or more. Are they worth it? A lot of shooters seem to think so.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A particularly dumb idea

If you read any of the shooting press magazines you've no doubt seen ads for these fake badges that advertise the bearer as the holder of a concealed firearm permit. When I first saw the ads, it struck me that this was a product that was worse than useless. The whole point of carrying concealed is to conceal the presence of a firearm until there's no other choice but to bring it out and use it. It's a last ditch, emergency reply to a threat, when everything else has failed. Your ace in the hole, as it were- something that an armed attacker isn't aware of. When you draw that weapon, it's because you have no other choice. Why in the world would you want a badge that advertises the fact that you're armed?

In Massad Ayyob's excellent book, In the Gravest Extreme: The Role of the Firearm in Personal Protection, he notes that some concealed permit holders are what he and other cops term "gun-flashers." They take every opportunity to show off the gun they're carrying. Mas says he considers such behavior just above that of the other kind of flasher. It's a display of insecurity, a desire to be perceived as having a certain power that is granted by the possession of the weapon. 

People who flash their gun, or carry a badge, are in effect playing cop. That's a very bad idea. As a citizen with a permit to carry you have no special privileges other than being able to carry that weapon. If anything, you have to be even more circumspect about your behavior. In most states there are specific laws about where you can and cannot go while carrying, and producing a weapon in an altercation that does not justify even the possibility of the need for lethal force would generally be considered an aggressive act that escalates the situation.

So if you have a permit to carry concealed, keep it concealed. And stay away from those flasher badges. If you want to wear a badge, become a cop. And if you haven't read Ayoob's book, do so. It's the single best thing ever written about the legal, ethical, moral, and emotional aspects of armed self-dense.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Grip Safeties

Grip safeties, like those found on the 1911 or the P7, are a relatively new invention, right? Not necessarily. Take a look at this 200 year old percussion shotgun from a friend's collection. See that lever protruding from the bottom of the grip? That's an early grip safety seen on a few early 19th Century English percussion guns. This gun is a Manton, I think; I've also seen a photo of a Dooley with an identical safety. I suspect that this was a mechanism supplied by another 'smith, and purchased by makers like Manton and Dooley for their best guns.