Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pistol Particulars

A posting for the gun folk; if you aren't interested in handgun minutia, you can skip this one.

I got a note from an LEO I know in South Louisiana regarding a problem with his off-duty carry gun. 

His issue sidearm is a Glock 17, and if ever there was a place where a plastic pistol is useful, it is the tropics, even if Louisiana is only considered semi-tropical.

When he is off-duty in the summer, he needs something a bit more concealable, and remember, this is a climate where, if you are wearing shorts, sandals, and a T-shirt, you can often be considered overdressed ...

So for a time, he wore a belly pouch with a Glock 26, which is a chopped-down version of his duty gun. Same ammo, same operation, easier to hide. Worked okay, but in some circles, a belly pouch is a give-away that you are carrying a handgun, and he has a bit of a muffin top, so the thing wasn't really comfortable when he was sitting.

Plus he didn't really like Glocks all that much. 

Eventually, he did what a lot of concealed-carry people do, he got a small-frame semi-auto and put it into a wallet holder that he stuck into his back pocket.

This is not a wallet that folds, but an open-top holster designed to slip into a pocket to disguise the shape of the pistol while allowing relatively-quick access.

Being a gun-guy, he wanted to personalize the pistol, and so he bought a nice set of custom wood grips and was good to go.

After a few months of carrying this way, he was pleased enough–until he ran into a mechanical problem. One fine day, as he was getting ready to head out, he checked the action, which worked okay, but when he went to eject the magazine, pushing the button didn't work. It unlocked, so he was able to pry the magazine out, but it wouldn't drop on its own.

He got out the Break Free CLP, lubed things. 

Still no love.

He had seven rounds, but if he needed to reload, not being able to extract the magazine in a hurry could be bad. And if something was wrong, something else might be wrong.

So he field-stripped the pistol and had a look. Nothing apparent, the mechanism of the release seemed to be working just fine, but the magazine was binding.

He took the grips off, and voila! it worked just fine.

Sometimes, it's the grip screws are too long, but the customs came with shorter ones that seemed to fit right.

After a bit, he puzzled it out: The custom grips he had installed were much thinner than the ones that came with the piece. A selling point in concealment, since they allow for a flatter package. However: In some small-frame pistols, parts of the mechanism in the magazine wells are actually kept in place by the grips. (The tolerances here are not what you'd call precise.)

What had apparently happened was, the pressure of his butt when he sat on the gun had slightly deformed the thin grips so they pressed one of the tie-bars against the magazine, causing it to bind. 

Easy fix–he re-installed the old grips, and it worked just fine. 

This points at a couple things you need to consider if you carry a concealed handgun. First, realize that changing the configuration of the weapon might do something to its function. Had he carried this gun in a waistband holster or a belly pouch, chances are the thickness of the grips would not have mattered–there'd be much less pressure against the thin wood.

Second, you need to check the operation of your weapon frequently to make sure it is doing what it is supposed to do. Supposedly, Wild Bill Hickok would get up every morning and fire off the whole cylinder load of his old cap 'n' ball revolvers, then reload 'em, to make sure the powder was fresh. The notion was that when you needed to hear bang! you did not want to hear click! which is, I am told, the loudest sound in the world ...


Rory said...

Might not work for this issue, Steve, but on the team we used Armor-all on the mags to get a quick drop. Just a throw away detail for your next book.

Steve Perry said...

I'd heard of using a film of STP, but not Armor All.

Like the first thing to go out in the field is communications, another little gem to toss in, makes me sound like I know what I'm talking about ...

I'll take it. Thanks.

Jim said...

I carry a Glock 27 concealed. Usually in a pancake holster on my waist. (I'm a big believer in keeping things that I have to do under pressure consistent. Duty gun is a Glock; off duty the same. Duty gun is on the hip, off duty is on the hip.)

The rear sight on a Glock is simply a friction fit; no glue, no pin or screw... just shove the peg into a slot. This is important to know... Because if that gun on your hip gets banged a bit, that rear sight can move. In my case, about a 1/4 inch to one side. With a slide a shade over 6 inches, that's a VERY big deal. (In fact, looking straight down the barrel, instead of seeing rear sight/front sight/rear sight, I saw front sight/rear sight/rear sight, all about equally spaced.)

I only noticed it by chance... but it's now something I check regularly, and especially if I've fallen, bumped something, or otherwise suspect I jarred it.

Reinforcement for your story, or another little piece to throw into a book somewhere.

Steve Perry said...

Good stuff to know, about the sight.

I borrowed a pistol once I wanted to use in a novel. An oddball, it was a 1911-pattern but in .357 Magnum. Had a bit of kick so the maker had milled in two gas ports near the muzzle to help hold the recoil down. But they didn't think it through. The front sight was glued into a drilled-through hole in the slide. Second or third round I fired, the pressure from the vents blew the front sight into orbit ...