Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Volquartsen Volthane Grips

My new Volquartsen Volthan grips arrived today, and I wasted no time in installing them on my customized Mark-III Hunter. The gun already has a Volquartsen trigger, Clark hammer and bushing, LCI filler and removal of the magazine disconnect; the grips just sort of complete the package.

I'd been using the Hogue wraparound grips, which are very good, but I wanted something larger as I have largish hands. These fit the bill- they're almost too big for my hands. I can get a very secure grip and I think I have a steadier hold with these than with the Hogues or the stock grips. They're $60, which is a lot for synthetic grips, but not a lot for target grips. Volquartsen's wood grips are $130, and the adjustable anatomical wood grips I found were $180. I suppose if I was a serious Bullseye competitor I'd spring for the $180 grips, but these will do fine for my informal shooting. (Herrett has some nice wood bullseye grips for about $80.00.)

The grips come with an extended magazine release button that slides into the grips, an extended bolt release, and a set of blued screws and washers.  Installation of the extended bolt release (some call it a slide release, but the gun doesn't have a slide) requires partial disassembly of the lower unit, something I didn't bother with although I may do it later. Having the extended release does make it a bit easier to lock the bolt open, something you may need to do at a match or when doing a target check at a range. Releasing the bolt when it locks open on an empty magazine normally doesn't involve touching the release; you just insert a loaded magazine, pull the bolt back, and release it.

Installation of the grip itself is a snap. Slip the extended magazine release button into the grips, and attach using the supplied screws and washers. One installation tip: Don't overly tighten the screws, or you'll pull the washers through the soft grip material. Just snug them- they won't work loose.

While I like the look at the feel of the grips, the proof, as they say, is in the shooting. I'm heading out to the range tomorrow or the next day and we'll see if they improve my shooting. BTW, if you're interested in getting a set to try on your Ruger, has good prices. If you're looking for a set for your Mk-II, Amazon has them as well. Incidentally, if you're looking for in-depth info on Ruger .22 auto pistols, I would recommend The Ruger .22 Automatic Pistol: Standard/ Mark I/ Mark Ii Series for info on the Mark-I and Mark-II series guns.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Altamont Pistol Grips

I've been searching for wood grips for my Beretta Bobcat and my PPK for some time. Beretta grips were just about impossible to find, and the only PPK grips I found were Hogue grips that were either out of stock or custom order or cost $70. Then I happened to notice a mention of Altamont on one of the shooting forums. Their grips were said to be of high quality, reasonably price, and buyers were effusive in their praise of the company's service. I decided to order two pairs.

All their grips are made of composite materials- the Beretta grips above were ordered in "Super Rosewood," which appears to be made of laminated veneers, sort of like a really high quality plywood. It looks for all the world like solid wood. You can also get Super Walnut, Bonded Ivory, white pearl and black pearl. Several varieties of checkering and scrimshaw are available. The grips above cost $45- very reasonable.

(n.b.: I've since discovered that these grips can cause malfunctions when used on the Bobcat- see the comments below. They should work perfectly on the Tomcat, though.)

The PPK grips, which were ordered in Super Walnut, required a tiny bit of fitting- note the lugs on the grip frame:

I marked the area with a Sharpie and used an extremely sharp 1/4" wood chisel to relieve the affected areas. This only took about 10 minutes and afterwards the grips fit perfectly:

The additional thickness of the wood grips, compared to the factory plastic grips, along with the nicely done rear wraparound, should make this gun a lot more comfortable to shoot:

You'd think that these grips should cost a few bucks more than the Bobcat grips, but in fact they cost less- only $30! They also have grips for 19112, the Browning Buckmark and High Power, most Rugers, S&Ws, Colts, Charter Arms, Taurus, and more.

Update (May 2015):

I ordered a set of their target grips for my Mark-III target:

These are the same grips that Ruger uses on the Mark-III Hunter, though they use a different laminate. I liked them- but they were just a bit too small for my XL hands.

The Case of the Missing 22/45 Extractor

My ace Ruger 'smith pal  Ric and I had just finished several hours work on my new/used Ruger 22/45 (see earlier post) when he picked up the bolt, which we hadn't touched at all,  and exclaimed "Hey- where's the extractor?" Sure enough, there was an empty slot where the extractor should have been. Now this is not a part that can pop out accidentally. To remove it properly you have to (1) remove the recoil spring assembly (2) remove the bolt stop pin (3) lift out the firing pin (4) pull the extractor spring back with a dental pick or some other small tool that can be slipped in, and (5) rotate out the extractor with a tiny pliers or magnet. It's a two-handed operation, and even then it's not easy.

We'd also found evidence that the gun had been worked on before (file marks on the hammer and sear) all of which pointed to the fact that this gun came from Cabelas missing the extractor. The replacement parts are not expensive- $2.49 for the extractor, $1.99 for the spring, and I think $1.49 for the pin. I immediately ordered replacements from Midway (along with some other items I'm been meaning to get) and sent a polite email to Cabelas suggesting that they might consider compensating me for this expense ($6.97). I received a reply just ten minutes later suggesting that I contact the store where I bought the gun. It's not quite what I wanted, but it seemed reasonable. I'll phone them tomorrow and report back on what they say.

Update: I phoned Cabelas and spoke to the Firearms department. A fellow there said they'd buy it back, or send it to Ruger for repair. Seemed very reasonable, but I noted that  I'd already invested time and money in customization, it's a 120 mile round trip, and most if all, the parts arrived today and I'd already fixed it! They switched me to the Gun Library, where I laid out my story again. They asked me to send copies of my receipts for the parts and the purchase of the pistol, and on receipt of those they'd take care of me. I thought that was very reasonable.

I sent a letter off to Cabelas the attention of Gun Library with the requested information this morning (4/18/12). Assuming they receive it at the Gun Library by Friday at the latest, I should hear from them early next week.

Update:  I just (4/27) received an envelope from Cabelas containing a register receipt dated 4/25 showing a refund for the parts I had to replace, along with an indication that a Corporate Check would be mailed within 30 days. Assuming the received my letter and documents last Friday, they managed to process it, make a decision, and mail a reply in only three days. I'll report here again when the check arrives.

Final Update: The check arrived today (5/12), just over two weeks after the date of the last letter. Again, reasonably responsive for a big company, and they processed the refund with no questions or difficulty.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

.22 Snap Caps: Almost free

Dry firing is a necessity when you're adjusting a trigger, and it's good practice for bullseye shooting when you're not at the range. Problem is that if you do it too much with a lot of guns, like this Ruger Mk-III Hunter, you'll eventually damage the firing pin or peen the surface of the breech. Ruger says it's okay to dry fire their pistols, so long as the firing pin stop is in place. But that stop will gradually get peened over time with dry firing, and eventually the firing pin will hit the breech face. To be on the safe side, it's best to use a snap cap.

Now .22 snap caps are not very common, and most are only good for a few impacts. My friend Ric showed me a great snap cap that works in any .22,  costs pennies, and is available in any hardware store:

It's a #6 plastic screw anchor, something familiar to all our readers, no doubt. You can use them just as they come, or if you want to make multiple shots without having to constantly chase down and reload the screw anchor, cut or file a notch on one side and line that up with the ejector when you insert the anchor. As a plus, that bright yellow really stands out, and you can tell at a glance that you've got a plug in the chamber and not a live round.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ruger 22/45 Target

Even though I have a perfectly good Ruger Mark-III Hunter that's been tuned and customized by a talented amateur gunsmith friend, I couldn't resist this used 22/45 Target model I saw in a display case while shopping for reloading supplies. That same talented friend has a pair of 22/45s he's tuned, and the combination of the light polymer frame and the 1911 style grip really worked for me. It points much more naturally in my hand than the Mark-II does. And so it followed me home.

If you follow these things you probably know that Ruger has two different version of the grip frame of the 22/45. One version- the preferable one- has removable wood 1911 style Cocobolo grip panels that I'm told are sourced from Altamont. The other has molded-in grip panels. They still list the gun with the Cocobolo grip panels on their web site, but no one seems to stock it anymore, and I suspect it might be discontinued- why would Ruger make two different grip frames? Thus I jumped at this one when I saw it.

The first thing I did was remove the stock panels and replace them with this nice Hogue wraparound grip I bought from a friend for $10. That made a huge difference in how the gun felt in my big hands. Next, I ordered a Volquartsen trigger in stainless steel (about $35 from Midway) and a blued filler piece ($21) to replace the plastic "loaded chamber" indicator. When those arrive I'll take it over to my friend's house where he's going to instruct me in the mysteries of tuning the 22/45.

Here you can see the ugly plastic indicator that became a standard feature in all Mark-III guns. It's one of three annoying changes Ruger made that have created a cottage industry in making parts to return Mark-IIIs to the Mark-II configuration. Another annoying change is the new bolt lock release- the button next to the grip. In the traditional Ruger design, the bolt locks open on an empty chamber. Put in a full magazine, pull back the bolt, release it, and it strips a cartridge off the magazine and slams forward into battery. 

Not on this gun, though. You have to switch hands, hold the gun in your left hand, pull the bolt back with your right, pull the bolt detent down with your left thumb, and now you have a gun ready to fire... in the wrong hand. Hypothetically you should be able to reach the detent by reaching around with the thumb on your firing hand... but I couldn't easily do it, and I wear XL gloves. You can simply remove the detent, and the lock will fall when the bolt is pulled back, or you can add a simple torsion spring that will make the movement more positive.

The third questionable "safety" feature is the magazine safety that is a feature of all Mark-III guns. The gun will not fire without a magazine in. That's a feature that makes the gun more inconvenient for careful shooters while doing little to protect careless idiots, so out it goes as well. This mod requires removing the magazine disconnect bar, and replacing the stock hammer with a Mark-II or Volquartsen hammer, or inserting a custom spacer. to take up the space left by the disconnector

There are several desirable mods that make the gun a better shooter, and that's what we'll concentrate most of our attention on. The first is fitting tighter pivot pins that remove slop from the hammer, sear, and trigger. You can buy commercial hammers and other parts with fitted pivots, or you can make your own.  A Volquartsen or Clark trigger adds a pair of set screws that limit the travel of the trigger, which means less hand movement is needed to fire. Last, the engagement area of the sear is shortened and polished, reducing trigger creep. Again, you can buy prepared parts, or modify the stock parts.

Once the new parts are in I'll revisit this topic and document the progress on this gun, In the meantime, everything you need to know about disassembling and reassembling the 22/45 can be found on this tremendously helpful web page.

Monday, April 2, 2012

How to Permanantly Lose a Customer

Twice in the past year I've gone into a gun shop where I'd purchased a used gun some time before to see if they were interested in buying the gun back, or taking it in as a trade towards something else. Now I realize that these shops have to make a profit on every sale, and I expect to take a loss if I sell that way. And I expect that not every dealer in used guns wants to buy everything that comes their way. But on two occasions when I approached the owners about a sale or trade I was treated rudely- almost insultingly so. How difficult is it to take a few minutes to discuss a potential deal, and decline it in a polite way? I smiled, wished them good day, and left... for good.