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January 2003 Ask the Experts

January 4th, 2011 1

Can Three-Inch 1911 Be 100-Percent Reliable?

Q. My question is for Richard Heinie. I’ve heard that in extensive range testing the spring systems of three-inch-barreled 1911s are prone to failure. I’ve also heard that the dwell time is much too short for these pistols to be reliable. Is it possible for a competent pistolsmith to make a three-inch-barreled 1911 100-percent reliable?

Name And Address
Withheld By Request

A. I have no experience with most of the micro compacts that are now on the market, but I do have experience with the forerunner of these pistols–the Detonics. My sample is 100-percent reliable. These little pistols can be made reliable. However, several things must be taken into consideration: These pistols are very prone to malfunction with a weak grip (limp wrist). This depends on the person shooting it. The smaller the pistol, the more susceptible it is to a weak grip. I have seen men who could shoot a Government Model .45 and never have any malfunctions but who cannot shoot a Lightweight Commander in .45. That’s something to think about if you need your pistol in a hurry.

As for caliber, I would never have one in .40 S&W or .357 SIG; .45 ACP, 9mm, or .38 Super would be my choice. Caliber has much to do with slide velocity, which affects how the pistol functions–or malfunctions. The amount of shooting you will be doing with your micro-compact 1911 is another consideration. If you shoot it a lot, you will need to change the springs regularly.

My opinion is a 1911 with a 3.9/4.0-inch barrel, e.g., Kimber or Springfield Compact, with an Officers Model-size grip is the best choice for a small 1911-style pistol. I would look at the pistols that are designed to be small to start with. For instance, STI’s LS9 is very small and flat and is available in .40 as well as 9mm. I have both chamberings and suggest the 9mm over the .40. But this is only one man’s opinion.

Richard Heinie
Heinie Specialty Products

If you would like any of the experts on our panel to answer your question, mark it to their attention and send it to Ask The Experts, Shooting Times, P.O. Box 1790, Peoria, IL 61656. Individual responses cannot be made, but questions of general interest may be published.

Why Doesn’t Handload Cycle Semiautomatic Action?

Q. My favorite .223 Remington handload, a 60-grain bullet over 21.0 grains of IMR-4831, will not fully cycle the action on my gas-operated semiautomatic rifle. Factory loads with 55-grain bullets work fine. Doesn’t that mean the pressure generated by my handloads is lower than that of factory ammunition since pressure is what operates the action?

M.R.
Thomasville, GA

A. Port pressure is important regarding the cycling of a gas-operated semiautomatic rifle action. You’re using a powder that is not ideal for the cartridge and bullet weight. IMR-4831 is considered to be too slow for this cartridge. (I know of no data source that lists IMR-4831 for the .223 Remington with a 60-grain bullet.) If you use a propellant that is more standard and faster burning, you should have no problems. There are many choices listed in popular loading manuals.

Rick Jamison

If you would like any of the experts on our panel to answer your question, mark it to their attention and send it to Ask The Experts, Shooting Times, P.O. Box 1790, Peoria, IL 61656. Individual responses cannot be made, but questions of general interest may be published.

What Gun Did Kristofferson Use?

Q. I recently saw the movie Lone Star in which Kris Kristofferson played an old-time Texas sheriff. Was he carrying a Ruger Blackhawk in that movie?

Dale Turner
Lubbock, TX

A. I had to go dig out my copy of Lone Star just to be sure, but it looks to me like Sheriff Wade (Kristofferson) is carrying a 71/2-inch Colt New Frontier. Colt brought out this adjustable-sighted single action in 1961. It was discontinued in the late 1980s. During that time, Colt manufactured the New Frontier in .38 Special, .357 Magnum, .44 Special, .44-40, and .45 Colt. I have a New Frontier in .45 Colt with the rare 43/4-inch barrel. I’ve always liked the New Frontier, but for some reason the gun was never quite as popular as the Single Action Army.

Sheriff Jim Wilson

If you would like any of the experts on our panel to answer your question, mark it to their attention and send it to Ask The Experts, Shooting Times, P.O. Box 1790, Peoria, IL 61656. Individual responses cannot be made, but questions of general interest may be published.

When Was My Stevens Shotgun Made?

Q. I recently acquired an old Stevens single-shot 12 gauge with a 36-inch barrel. Nowhere on this gun can I find a serial number. The only distinguishing marks I’ve found are the model 94C and the letters “EZ” on the underside of the barrel along with the number “2″ in front of the letters. There is no screw to hold the handguard in place, only a pivoting steel prong. The location for Stevens-Savage Arms given is Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts. When was my gun made? In good or better condition, what is this gun worth?

Kenny Belyea
Bynum, TX 76631

A. The Stevens Model 94C shotgun was produced from around 1937 until 1984. Pinpointing the exact date of production of your particular gun is difficult due to the fact that it does not have a serial number as well as the fact that very little production information is readily available. However, we can narrow down the time period when it may have been produced.

Since it does not have a serial number, we know that it was produced prior to the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968, which mandated serial numbers for all firearms. In addition, Savage closed the Chicopee Falls manufacturing facility around 1960 so your gun had to be produced prior to that date. We can also eliminate the World War II period because Savage-Stevens was heavily involved in the production of military firearms and production of civilian firearms was virtually eliminated. Because of these factors I believe it is a fairly safe bet that your particular 94C was produced during the 1950s.

As for value, guns of this type have very little appeal to collectors. They are still considered primarily good, reliable hunting guns. Generally, in good or very good condition, such a gun would sell for no more than about $100 in most areas.

Reid Coffield
Brownells

If you would like any of the experts on our panel to answer your question, mark it to their attention and send it to Ask The Experts,
Shooting Times, P.O. Box 1790, Peoria, IL 61656. Individual responses cannot be made, but questions of general interest may be published.

Where Can I Find Vickerman-Style Bulletseating Dies?

Q. What became of the Vickerman Company of Ellensburg, Washington? Where can I find an open-faced bulletseating die like the Vickerman?

Bob Goldsmith
Redmond, OR

A. The Vickerman Straight-line Bullet Seating Die was a very popular reloading item with accuracy buffs for many years. While Wilson and others were proponents of hand dies for precision reloading, the Vickerman was designed do be used in a conventional reloading press.

The design of the Vickerman Straight-line Bullet Seating Die was unique in its day. It featured a spring-loaded sliding alignment sleeve in the die body and a cutaway on the side of the die body that created an opening, or “window,” through which the bullet could be inserted into the sleeve. In operation, a cartridge case is placed on the reloading press ram. As the ram is raised up, the cartridge case comes in contact with the spring-loaded sliding sleeve within the die body. The sliding sleeve is machined to match the shoulder and neck configuration of the specific cartridge. In addition, the sleeve has a precision-bored hole that holds the bullet in snug alignment with the case neck mouth. The bullet is inserted into the sleeve via the convenient “window” in the side of the die body. Further upward movement of the press ram moves the cartridge case and bullet, now held in precise alignment by the sliding sleeve, into contact with the bulletseating stem. The Vickerman design was so well respected that it lives on today. At one time Weatherby offered a seating die patterned after the Vickerman. Anyone who has reloaded the long .300/.378 Weatherby family of cases in the typical loading press can appreciate the convenience of the die body “window” for getting a bullet into the seating die. RCBS currently offers its Competition Rifles Dies, which are an adaptation of Vickerman features. And the Vickerman Straight-line Bullet Seating Die is available in its original design format from Gemmell’s Machine Works, Dept. ST, P.O. Box 25, 4 Portway, Dayton, WA 99328; phone: 509-382-4159. Bob Gemmell, an eminently talented machinist, is the guiding force of the firm. Bob’s father had used Vickerman Seating Dies for years, and Bob was more than familiar with the merits of the Vickerman design. When the opportunity arose in 1996 to purchase the rights and plans for the Vickerman Straight-line Bullet Seating Die, Bob jumped at it. Visit www.castingstuff.com for more information on reloading products offered by Bob’s firm.

Randy Bimson
MidwayUSA

If you would like any of the experts on our panel to answer your question, mark it to their attention and send it to Ask The Experts, Shooting Times, P.O. Box 1790, Peoria, IL 61656. Individual responses cannot be made, but questions of general interest may be published.

Most Common Cause For .22 Autoloader Feeding Malfunction?

Q. What’s the most common cause of a failure to feed for a .22 Long Rifle autoloader?

William F. Hodmy
Mandan, ND

A.The magazine is probably the place to start looking for trouble on most popular .22 semiautomatic pistols. When you buy extra magazines at your local store, you might have to tune or adjust the lips to make the magazines feed properly. Without this adjustment the bullet might hit the chamber high and shave off a small amount of lead that will remain between the barrel and the boltface. This gap will cushion the hammer strike and cause misfires. When you have a misfire, check the bullet nose for a cut, or “smiley face,” on the tip of the bullet. This will let you know that the magazine needs tuning. On your malfunctions, you might try the bullseye trick of putting a drop of light oil on top of the first round in the magazine. Remember, your gun is a piece of machinery so lube it.

Jim Clark Jr.
Clark Custom Guns

If you would like any of the experts on our panel to answer your question, mark it to their attention and send it to Ask The Experts, Shooting Times, P.O. Box 1790, Peoria, IL 61656. Individual responses cannot be made, but questions of general interest may be published.

  • Gregg Presnell

    Ihave a Stevens model 311 410 gage. If I sold it what could I expect to get? It is in good cond.

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