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I’m sure you have noticed a recurring theme on posts here. Somebody reports a bad experience with a product- it doesn’t matter what kind- and that product is forever damned and worthless.

Not too long ago someone mentioned one of the problems all writers face: the statistically significant sample of one. Pity the poor guy who gets the only one ever made that really did work and writes it up honestly.

Conventional wisdom is that writers get guns that are cherry picked and tuned twelve ways from Sunday to make sure they work. While I’m sure that happens it isn’t really common and most competent writers should be able to tell. I have been known to go to a shop and pick up a gun off the shelf to compare with one sent me though.

One of my favorite stories involves a couple of guns I had gotten from a big company that had experienced problems- not grave- that I duly reported. The next gun I got from them had a hand written note on the order that I’m pretty sure wasn’t supposed to come with the gun. It said, “please try to get this one right. Charlie doesn’t lie.”


Snake made a good comment awhile back when he referred to, “what isn’t said.” Not long ago I read a writeup where the author said not one word about function. What do you think that is telling us?

The comment that condemned Charles Daly 1911s because the slide stop fell out could be nothing more than a gun that didn’t have a plunger spring. That doesn’t make it right but it didn’t happen to the two I got, one of which I still have.

Criticism is fine but shouldn’t we investigate a problem and report that too?

I’m sure most of you remember the hate campaign waged against Smith & Wesson for putting locks on revolvers. They still do it and sales are up.

Remember when Kimber went to external extractors on their 1911s? They worked well enough but they were different so sales dropped. Kimber went back to the old style and prospers. But here’s a puzzler… both S&W and SIG use external extractors and nobody mentions it. Why is that?
 

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Charlie Petty said:
Snake made a good comment awhile back when he referred to, "what isn't said." Not long ago I read a writeup where the author said not one word about function. What do you think that is telling us?
A couple years ago I discontinued reading one particular magazine--oh hell, it was Gun World--because two of its prominent reviewers refused to print group sizes. One of the two would plink at boulders on a hillside, or coffee cans, or draw a buffalo or something on a sheet and shoot at it from improvised field positions, and if he hit the target more times than not, he'd declare his satisfaction with the "accuracy." The other fellow would do a very thorough writeup including chrono results from a half-dozen types of ammo but never give a group size in numbers. Oh he would show photos of groups, so if there was something of known size in the pic, and you had a dial caliper, you could make a good estimate, but he refused to print the numbers. He showed up on another board I used to frequent and defended his position by saying, "The groups I get could not fairly be considered typical of the groups you could expect from every single example of the breed, so it wouldn't be fair to publish group size numbers." I asked him why then he published chrono results when those ALSO wouldn't be "typical" of every single gun, and why he printed a functional writeup when, by his own reasoning, how that gun worked for him could not be considered "typical" of how every single example would work in every shooter's hands. He got real quiet at that--never did return to that thread, IIRC.

In start contrast to this is John Taffin of Guns and American Handgunner mags. Taffin doesn't often write about the kinds of guns I own and shoot, and I'm not a huge fan of his prose or writing style, but I can say this for him: Every single time he's written up a gun that I have personal knowledge of, the group sizes he reports are almost identical to the groups I've shot with the same gun. I mean within 1/8", seldom more than 1/4" difference. The guy has a lot of credibility with me for this reason. If he says such-and-such gun shot such-and-such a way, I believe him.
 

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I rather like the NRA approach: go back to the manufacturer and let them make it right, if possible, and write up the entire episode. Everybody makes the occasional clunker. Seeing how they respond to an issue is helpful, even if the NRA gets more consideration than we might. I recall Jack O'Conner noting that he'd once bought a scope that just couldn't be brought to zero. It was either left or right of zero, never on. He never named the maker.

During our service pistol trials in the early '90's, we had a several samples of one that would take your breath away. The prize winner was the maker who sent a DA revolver to a trial where the requested weapon was a DA semi-auto. As garnish, it had a note to the effect that the action on the sample had received special attention and we should expect stiffer trigger pulls on production guns. We didn't have a scale that went that high, the DA pull had to approach 20 lbs.

Possibly Kimbers mistake was starting with the internal extractor and then making a change. I recall a thread on another board where this issue was discussed in depth. The internal extractor was a good design for the ammo, conditions and materials of the day. Given advances in ammo & materials, and changes in conditions, the external extractor is an acceptable way to do business. It's certainly reliable.
 

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The comment that condemned Charles Daly 1911s because the slide stop fell out could be nothing more than a gun that didn't have a plunger spring. That doesn't make it right but it didn't happen to the two I got, one of which I still have.
:oops:
You're right, Charlie. I shouldn't condemn a company based on the examination of just one of it's products. I'm sure that an occasional lemon comes off the Rolls Royce assembly line.

But, (and I freely admit to rationalizing here) I've got a hard time coming up with a grand, or even half a grand, of disposable income for a firearms purchase. I don't have the wherewithal to test, or sometimes even examine, multiple examples of a company's product, so I sometimes make decisions based on minimal information. Not the best way to make a decision to be sure, but sometimes you just gotta work with what you got.

I don't always pay attention to a lot of the stuff on the various gun boards. I traded in a Kimber series II stainless with the internal extractor on a TLE/RL II with the external extractor despite all the screaming on the various gun boards. It worked just fine. The only reason I don't have that gun anymore is because I traded it in on a Raptor (see a pattern here?) because I thought the Raptor was just freakin' pretty as hell, and as close to a custom gun as I was probably ever going to be able to afford.

I'll try to be a little more even handed in the future. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #5
That wasn't a personal criticism at all but you just gave me such a slow pitch right over the plate that I couldn't help myself.

And you make a great point because any "new" gun is a bit of a gamble but most manufacturers know that if they put something out before it's ready they may suffer.

I have seen too many times where internet posts seek to promote an agenda rather than to inform. The old, "you get what you pay for" kinda fits here too because the magazines are very much aware of their need for subscribers. I daresay some of the people who said they were going to cancel their subscription because I could find no mechanical fault with the S&W lock, did so. Oh well...

I didn't get to read many letters to the editor unless they were published but many times we would get glowing praise and flaming hate mail over the same story. Apparently logic and common sense sometimes don't get turned on :?

Kimber's external extractor worked just fine but was an example of fixing something that wasn't broke. It worked just fine but may not have been the best business decision. They traded one part for four so my guess is that it cost them more to do it but they simply misjudged the market based on some few savants who said Browning had gotten it wrong. I always thought it was interesting that Browning went from an external extractor to the internal design in 1910...
 

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William R. Moore said:
..........................
Possibly Kimbers mistake was starting with the internal extractor and then making a change. I recall a thread on another board where this issue was discussed in depth. The internal extractor was a good design for the ammo, conditions and materials of the day. Given advances in ammo & materials, and changes in conditions, the external extractor is an acceptable way to do business. It's certainly reliable.
Some are still upset with FN for going to an external extractor on the Hi Power in 1962. Others swear the forged frames are so much better than the cast frames when the cast frames test out harder on the Rockwell scale. Change is hard! :wink:
 

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Discussion Starter #7
There are dozens of examples in the firearms world of ANY change being criticized without regard to merit or value.

Kimber's plastic mainspring housings were cussed as worthless but every time I asked for someone to report on a failure nobody could. They weren't bad just different.

The external extractor didn't even exist when Kimber started but they were promoted by some as an "improvement" and I believe you can still buy a slide so equipped from Caspian.

MIM parts stir hate and discontent even in the face of very credible evidence that they may be better- in terms of precision- than machined parts with a rate of failure no worse.

S&W revolvers require little or no hand fitting these days because of improvements in manufacturing from computerized equipment and they are equal to or better than stuff made in the "good old days". The only thing missing is the bluing.
 

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In the gun world, change is sometimes not welcome.

For years I've heard, and still hear, people bitterly complaining about Colt's sharp edges on their 1911 pistols.
Some years ago, I read a gun writer who asked a Colt exec why they didn't round off the sharp edges.
The Colt exec replied that a few years before, they quietly made a run of standard guns with slightly rounded edges without saying anything about it.
The exec said that they got letters complaining that the guns looked and felt cheap.
Colt went back to the sharp edges.
 

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About the internal extractor on what became the 1911. In the context of the times and the projected usage, it was the better design by far.

Ammunition in those days had corrosive primers and the early smokeless powders could be highly erosive. As a result, prompt and thorough cleaning was required. The internal extractor allowed the slide to be detail stripped with nothing more complex than a horseshoe nail. [Remember that in 1910, horses were far more common than cars and most everyone carried the means to tighten a loose shoe (for want of a nail, a shoe was lost.......).] The smallest part from the slide was the firing pin retainer, there were no itty-bitty parts requiring special tools or great care to deal with. All the slide parts could be removed, cleaned, lubed and reassembled without much ado. A defective extractor could also be quickly changed in the field.

In fact, the entire pistol can be detail stripped with nothing more than a horseshoe nail and the 3 fingered spring. I have no idea if this was intentional, but it's true-even if it's not advisable in the field.

I should also note that ammunition tolerances weren't anywhere near what they are today. I expect this also played a role in the design. At about the same time, JMB felt it important to give his machine guns field adjustable headspace to allow them to be adjusted to function with particular lots of ammunition.

We don't truly appreciate just how good we have it.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Very good points although I still think the internal extractor is best today.

It is true that the extractor is easily changed in the field and IMX GI extractors needed no "tuning" they worked just as they came. For the match guns we just made sure there were no points to snag the rim and ran the nose over a stone a couple of times to smooth it. It was rare to have to adjust the tension.

In a little less than a year we get to blow out the candles on a 100 year cake. I have studied and lived with that gun for a long time and JMB definitely had it together when he did that. Most of the changed people have tried just messed it up.
 

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Charlie knows pretty-much how I feel on the External Extractor but to recap. I've worked on exactly four Kimbers with External Extractors, all in .45ACP. In three of the four the Extractor was the problem. My thought on the matter is that the problem isn't how the extractor works but the caliber. On two, the spring was either wornout or weak from the factory and on the third it was bent outward. To be fair, I've not heard of an External Extractor being bad on a 9mm or smaller handgun. My feeling is that the .45ACP case is just too much for an External to handle. The External Extractor, not being as substantial as an Internal, has to do alot more work to remove that huge, by Semi-Auto pistol standards, case smartly. I'm sure John Moses took this into consideration in designing the 1911 and went with the more reliable Internal Extractor.

Also, to be fair, one of the Kimbers was fed a steady diet of Rem. 185JHP+P loads(Bent Extractor) and one of the others was used with 230gr.Hydra-Shocks. The third though, ate mostly plain-jane Win.White-Box loads. While this has some bearing on Extractor-wear, it's not what I would consider a major cause. All three owners were experienced shooters, one shot in IPSC regularly. However, these were carry-guns, not competition guns.
 

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Sounds more like an indictment of Kimbers design. Both Sig & Smith have external extractor designs that are reliable.

The internal design does have an edge in the mud, blood & beer environment though.
 

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When one person on the internet says a particular pistol is junk, take it with a grain of salt, especially if several other posts praise the piece.

When there are multiple posts from different people reporting trouble, it's a good indication of a problem. Maybe the manufacturer will eventually get it worked out, maybe they won't. Keep an eye on the forums to get an indication. (Needless to say, don't believe everything you read here unquestioningly, either.)

When the firearms press uniformly heaps lavish praise on a firearm, and in the next year or so there are quite a few people reporting problems, it's an indication that something fishy may be going on . . . I remember once, years ago, a gun writer (Bob Milek? Don't remember for sure) wrote that he'd received a test gun with a note in the box that read something to the effect of "Special fitting - gunwriter sample." The note sure wasn't supposed to be sent out with the pistol, but it was an indication that guns reviewed aren't always the same as the ones you'd buy over the counter.

Charlie Petty said:
. . . I'm sure most of you remember the hate campaign waged against Smith & Wesson for putting locks on revolvers. They still do it and sales are up . . .
Maybe without The Lock sales wouldn't just be up, they'd be WAY up?

Charlie Petty said:
. . . In a little less than a year we get to blow out the candles on a 100 year cake. I have studied and lived with that gun for a long time and JMB definitely had it together when he did that. Most of the changed people have tried just messed it up.
Yeah, funny how a gun that was exceptionally reliable when introduced eventually spawned a whole cottage industry of "reliability packages" and such . . . something happened along the way, and it wasn't pretty.
 

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HankB said:
.
Yeah, funny how a gun that was exceptionally reliable when introduced eventually spawned a whole cottage industry of "reliability packages" and such . . . something happened along the way, and it wasn't pretty.
Well, JHP ammunition for one. I do believe that the "something" you refer to was the abandonment of quality control by a certain gunmaker. Although, the popular perception of semi-autos as "jammatics" was also a factor.
 

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abandonment of quality control by a certain gunmaker.
I can't begin to count the number of stories of new guns that wouldn't work with ball. Frankly I never saw that because I never tried to shoot one. We just assumed it wouldn't shoot and fixed it :shock:

With the original barrel ramp configuration it only took five minutes to make them work and if a gun would feed 185 JSWC ammo it would feed anything. I still have the modified end mill for the job. It only took a minute with an electric drill to cut the ramp and a few more to polish it with a Dremel or its' predecessor. That was almost always enough to have a reliable gun. Sometimes the "reliability" work was just eyewash.
 

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William R. Moore said:
...[T]he entire [1911] can be detail stripped with nothing more than a horseshoe nail and the 3 fingered spring...
What do you need the horseshoe nail for?
I was taught to use the hammer strut, as a field expedient to remove the mainspring housing.
 

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Never tried that. The nail was used to depress the firing pin to allow removal of the retaining plate, removing the extractor and could be used to press out the hammer, mainspring and sear pins. Arguably, you could probably use the safety stud for those, but it makes a poor prying tool for the extractor.
 

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Charlie Petty said:
abandonment of quality control by a certain gunmaker.
I can't begin to count the number of stories of new guns that wouldn't work with ball. Frankly I never saw that because I never tried to shoot one. We just assumed it wouldn't shoot and fixed it :shock:
Charlie, I wish I'd encountered you some years back, when I had a Colt Mk IV Series 70 Government Model Jammamatic - purchased new - that wouldn't feed ball ammo - and I tried all brands available. (A variety of magazines, too.) I averaged 2-3 stoppages per magazine. :shocked:

That's when I found out that Colt's warranty service consisted of "Take in defective gun. Sit on it for a month or so whilst doing nothing. Return jammamatic to customer. Repeat until frustrated customer gives up." :censored:

I've had guns that needed repair under warranty from the factory in the past, and how they resolved the problems does a lot to color my attitudes towards the companies. For the record, I will consider purchasing products from Bushmaster, DSA, Kahr, and S&W in the future.

But I will never - never - buy another new Colt.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
They lost me one year at the shot show when I went to their booth with an assignment but was told they were too busy to talk to writers.

Back in the day I called their 1911s "starter kits"
 

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What I don't understand with all of the smiths offering reliability packages is just who was slapping together all those Rem Rands, Ithacas and Colts during the war. One never hears about those guns failing to work.
 
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