Back in my airplane days, a trip to the shop hopefully resulted in an effective, inexpensive repair that was documented with a logbook entry that ended in something like “Ops check normal”. The thing was fixed and tested, and everything was OK. Well, everything wasn’t always OK and it was never inexpensive, but within the limits of human and mechanical frailty, ops checks are a good thing . . .
So guns are tools…we all know that. They can be much more than that, and we all know that, too. As tools, guns are unique. A wrench doesn’t take any thought at all to deploy. Owning it does the trick. There is always time to fetch it when you need it, and I don’t worry about my 10-year-old picking it up. And I have never, never, ever had a wrench fail to, um, wrench. None of that is true for guns. This is why people that are freaky about guns don’t buy it when we say “guns are just tools”. There is a little more to it than that, isn’t there?
Keeping a gun deployed (“in service”) so that it will be useful when needed takes a little effort. This is not much of an issue if you’re punching paper or just goofing off. If you have a problem then, you can do whatever needs to be done at your leisure.
But consider a gun that’s “in service” for defense. The object is to be able to shoot something or someone that needs to be shot right now. Little bits of metal flying through the air can’t solve very many of life’s problems, but they can solve a few of the really bad ones like nothing else. If you keep a gun or three “in service”, you might wonder if it your tools are ready for work. At least, I did.
At the moment I keep three guns in service. They are a Kahr PM9, a Browning High Power, and a SIG 229, 9mm all. The Kahr is in the car or in my pocket, the Browning in my briefcase or on my waist, and the SIG by the bed. It’s an odd collection, with a story behind each one. It’s odder still when I remember that I think of myself as a 1911 .45 guy, but there it is. That’s what’s actually in service.
I had a really great .45 stolen, another one rendered inoperable by a coating that could not possibly affect function, and another that throws brass into my left eye often enough to be annoying. I may get poked in the eye when I have my gun out for fighting, but I’d rather not have it done by Mr. Kimber.
I decided in a rare moment of organization and forethought that it would be good to see if my in service guns were actually ready for…service. So I resolved to go the range once a month and find out. Six months later, I’ve been three times for this purpose, which is three more than the Six months prior to that. A stellar performance, far as I’m concerned.
The protocol was to take each of the three weapons and shoot them as they are carried. They’ve been riding around wherever for a month or more, un-oiled, dust-collecting, getting more hot and less hot (this is South Texas, after all), bouncing around in a car or in a briefcase. Except the SIG. It sits by the bed subject to the temperature extremes of the nocturnal arctic environment my wife demands for sleeping. It goes in and out of hiding if we’re showing the house and gets carried around the property some. Overall none of the in service trio are in demanding service, I suppose, unless an unrestrained paper clip or something finds its way somewhere it shouldn’t.
So off to the range I went. One by one, I fired each pistol without doing anything whatever to them, just as I would if it counted. I was sort of wondering how it would go. My recent 1911 experiences have left me in a sort of gloomy dread when I get ready to pull a trigger. I was totally ready for failure.
And I was completely disappointed in that expectation. It went well. Wonderfully well. Prefectly, in fact. Everything went “bang” on demand. It was pleasant shooting. I cannot perceive recoil when I remember what the Gold Dot ammo cost per round. I went through a couple of magazines each of the Gold Dot, then finished up with some range ammo. Couple hundred rounds overall.
Shooting the three weapons back to back was illuminating. I don’t usually do this sort of thing. The Kahr is small and only has room for a three-finger grip. It doesn’t feel as good as the Hi Power, but then nothing else does either. The chief virtue of the Kahr is that it fits in front pockets easily and works every time. That’s enough. Despite that being enough, the thing is also ridiculously accurate. The sight radius is short, but it goes where you point it, assisted by a pretty great trigger.
I’ve owned Hi Powers for years. I wish I had never sold any of them. The particular weapon I have in service has a seriously crappy trigger, thanks to the magazine disconnect, which I haven’t gotten around to removing. Need to do that soon. Nothing feels as good or points as well as a Hi Power in my hands. It’s a dead stock Mk III, and the sights are OK. It’s sort of accurate, and will improve a lot as soon as I get the trigger halfway reasonable. And if feels great, points wonderfully, and looks…OK. A MK III Hi Power is an ugly sister to an old Belgian Hi Power in the pretty leather case. But it still looks OK. It IS just a tool, right?
I got the SIG when I finally started wondering what was up with all of these new wonderguns. I remember when the BDA came out. It was a curiosity. Over the years we’ve gotten GLOCKs and HKs and M&Ps and a raft of other stuff while I soldiered on with 1911s, Hi Powers and absolutely no curiosity about any of the rest.
When my curiosity finally woke up, I decided I’d buy something “new” and check it out. I ended up with a SIG. SIGs are not really “new” unless you’re me. My SIG (one of many to come, I’d guess, all ending in “SAO”) is a 229 EE, and it’s a wonderful weapon. It is accurate, feels pretty good and has good sights. I will never like a DA trigger but it’s still a fine weapon. Did I say it’s accurate?
And I have to say that this new stuff represents some real progress. With some SIGs, and most any other wondergun you can swap out top ends and get a .357 SIG or a 40 S&W. Two new calibers to fool around with. You couldn’t do that when I was a kid.
The SIG P320 is part way out, and with that one you can switch everything but the trigger group. Irresistible. When all the different parts are out, I’ll have to try that. They’ve announced 10mm Sigs coming soon (or not so soon), and I’ll have to have a slice of that, too. These are good times. You can still do pretty much anything that needs to be done with a pistol using a 1911 or a Hi Power, but more is better.
It struck me how different all the weapons are. I have shot them all a fair bit, but never back-to-back before. The “manual of arms” (in quotations since I have never been exactly sure what that means…is there a real “manual” somewhere?) is completely different between all three, and it gave me pause. I also shot each of them left-handed — first time ever for that, which also gave me pause. If I had to do it for keeps it might be a problem. Will need to do that some more.
So they all worked as hoped. They are now all cleaned up and back “in service”, loaded up with new, expensive and recoiless Gold Dot. I learned a few things and gave myself something to think about. Best of all, “ops check normal”. One part of my life is now in good order. Now we’ll see if I can get a .45 or two running.