Gunner’s Journal

The 1911 Worlds Finest Handgun!

Archive for November, 2007

S&W Model 27 357 Magnum

Posted by Gunner on November 12, 2007


  S&W Model 27 8 3/8th inch barrel made in 1958

   The S&W Model 27 is the original .357 Magnum revolver and was first produced in 1935; production ceased in the 1990s. The Model 27 was built on Smith and Wesson’s carbon steel, large N-frame and was available with 3 1/2″, 4″, 5″, 6″ or 8 3/8″ barrel lengths and had adjustable sights. The model 27 came about from the 38/44 Outdoorsman which was an N frame chambered in the 38HV round. This round was a 38 loaded to maximum pressure and was to powerful for the K frame so S&W chambered the N frame for the round. Later the 38 case was lengthened to prevent it from being chambered in a K frame chambered in 38 special. Thus the 357 was born.
   When first introduced by Smith and Wesson in 1935 it was known as the .357 Registered Magnum. The model was essentially a custom order revolver. Barrel lengths could be had in quarter inch increments from 3.5″ to 8.75″ in length. In addition to the different length of barrels available there were different grips, front sites, triggers, hammers and finishes available. Each Registered Magnum came with a certificate of authenticity.
  Even though it was introduced in the middle of the Great Depression, and was extremely expensive at $60 to $65 a great sum at that time. Smith and Wesson found itself backlogged with orders for the four years that it produced the Registered Magnum. The Kansas City Police Department issued the Registered Magnum to its officers and many other law enforcement officers across the United States carried the Registered Magnum. In 1939 S&W stopped producing the Registered Magnum. It was replaced with the .357 Magnum. The .357 magnum was available with barrels lengths of 3.5″, 5″, 6.5″ and 8 3/8″. It has been reported that these were the most popular barrel lengths for the Registered Magnum. Essentially the .357 magnum (the ancestor of the Model 27) was still the Registered Magnum, but standardized for ease of production and economy.
   It was noted for its durability and reliability. The 3 1/2″ barrel length was extremely popular with FBI agents in the 1940s through the 1960s. Skeeter Skelton considered the Model 27 with a 5″ barrel as the best all around handgun. General George Patton carried an ivory handled Model 27 with a 3 1/2 inch barrel (along with his ivory handled Colt Peacemaker); Patton called the Model 27 his “killing gun.”
   Workmanship on this gun was of the highest standards of S&W. Much of the gun was handcrafted and had a deep blue hand polished finish which was the pinnacle of gun finishes of the time. The trigger was finely tuned and is so smooth it’s hard to believe even the best craftsman could achieve results like this. Of course all older S&W revolvers had excellent triggers but this gun surpasses even those. This 8 3/8th inch barrel version is accurate in the extreme and is such a joy to shoot especially at longer distances. With the N frame even the hottest 357 rounds are comfortable to shoot. One feature this gun has is unique to this model and that is the cross hatching on the top strap to reduce glare.


 Photo Courtesy of Xavier

Overall it’s just one beautiful revolver without peer.
   In later years a new model was released in order to be an economical alternative to the model 27 and that’s the model 28 Highway Patrolman. This gun was for the most part a standard N frame without all the extra features, handwork and fine bluing of the 27. This gun was intended as solely a working law enforcement gun. The most common was the 4 inch barrel.

   This was a very popular law enforcement weapon for many years. Between the model 28 and the later model 19 S&W had the market all to themselves as far as law enforcement guns are concerned. In later years the model 19 became very popular and supplanted the model 28 with the exception of the devoted N frame shooters.
   If you can find an older model 27 grab it since they are pretty hard to find these days. Most shooters that own one won’t part with it so there are few traded. You can find a model 28 much easier and a lot cheaper. Both guns are well worth the cost if you run across one. To me the older model 27’s are works of art but should be shot and enjoyed!

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Posted in S&W Revolvers | 16 Comments »

S&W Model 642 Airweight

Posted by Gunner on November 9, 2007

   The S&W model 642 is the biggest selling gun that Smith & Wesson makes. It has far outsold all other guns in the S&W lineup for years and for good reason. There is no gun made past or present which is handier to carry and provides a potent loading in 38 special +P and even 357 magnum. When I started in police service in 1974 we all carried revolvers of course. The standard issue for patrol officers was the S&W model 10 bull barrel whereas detectives were issued the model 36 S&W snubby. Later (1979) when stainless steel was perfected for firearms we traded our blued guns in for model 64’s and the snubby model 60. Of course times have changed but the snubby revolver still has a very large following. In fact the two largest police departments in the USA, New York and Chicago still authorize and issue the S&W snubby as a backup and off duty gun for patrol officers as well as detectives. Since 1952 the model 40 Centennial and it’s descendants have served us well.
   I bought my first model 36 as an off duty gun in 1975. Of course like most shooters you are always trading and this is one gun I wish I hadn’t traded. It would make a nice keepsake to remember my police service. Fortunately I did keep a S&W model 19 revolver from my early service which after 28 years still serves me well. With the model 36 if you carried it in a front pocket or jacket pocket you had to place your thumb over the hammer to keep it from hanging up on your clothing during the draw. With the hidden hammer of the 642 this is not a concern. You just put the gun in your front pocket and draw. I don’t know of any gun that is faster to get into action. It’s just like pulling your hand out of a pocket and pointing. A very simple, practical and potent gun and method of carry. The most practical holster is the DeSantis Nemesis synthetic holster that fits in a front pocket of your jeans and is shaped such that it will not come out with the gun. The holster lining is very smooth allowing for a fast draw. This holster is an excellent choice and has a modest price tag of $15 from MidwayUsa. As far as ammunition is concerned a great choice is the Speer 135 grain +P loading made specifically for the short barreled revolver.
   This particular model 642 is the Airweight version which to my way of thinking is the best choice. At 15 ounces you don’t even notice it’s there. It certainly doesn’t give itself away by pulling your pants down on one side as full size pistols often do if you don’t purchase a good holster. You might think that at 15 ounces the recoil would be punishing but I can assure you it’s not at all. In fact it’s very comfortable to shoot even with +P ammo. I watched a training video the other day called the “Snubby Summit”. It’s restricted to law enforcement only but I can tell you that the top trainers in the country where present and all of them carry a snubby revolver as a backup gun or as a primary off duty gun. Massad Ayoob is a particularly big fan of the snubby and that’s saying something since he is in the top five instructors in the country. The 642 is his favorite snub nose revolver.
   Shooting the snubby revolver is just downright fun. Of course it’s not a target revolver by any means but with practice you would be surprised at the accuracy you can obtain with this gun. Being double action only takes some practice to get used to but it is certainly possible to shoot small groups at reasonable distances. This target was shot at ten yards slow fire at the head of a standard B27R police target.

   The small black squares used to cover previous shots are one inch by one inch square so this gives you an idea of the group size. I’ve shot many thousands of rounds from a revolver but I’m convinced that anyone willing to put in the practice time can shoot just as well. This is five rounds or one cylinder of Winchester +P 38 jacketed hollow point ammo. Using the old method of drawing and firing from the hip you can obtain a group well within the 9 ring of a police target. That is more than sufficient to be effective in protecting yourself or a loved one. Reloading is faster than one might think. Using a speed loader and practice will make you very fast in reloading. Another option is the speed strip. This is a device made out of a rubber substance that holds five rounds of ammo. You simply strip two rounds at a time into the cylinder until you’re reloaded. While not as fast as a speedloader they are very flat and you can carry several in your pocket without anyone noticing.

My standard stance for up close target engagement

   These S&W’s fill a nitch that no other gun can. The proof is in the numbers of guns sold and the longevity of the design. They are as popular as ever and probably will be for many years to come. If you’ve never considered a snub nose revolver for your carry or backup gun you really should. I’m sure you’ll find it a very valuable addition to your gun collection or if you don’t collect guns it will certainly serve you well as a home protection gun.

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Posted in S&W Revolvers, S&W Snub Nose Revolvers | 6 Comments »

Charles Daly Compact 45 ACP

Posted by Gunner on November 7, 2007

   It’s been many years since I owned a compact 1911. Honestly I’ve missed not having one for deeper concealment. I found this new Charles Daly Compact at a local pawn shop which can be a great place to find about any gun at a very good price.
   The Charles Daly 1911’s are made in the Philippines by Armscor the same company that makes the fine Rock Island Armory 1911’s. That in itself gave me confidence I was buying a fine pistol. As it turns out my confidence was well placed in this compact pistol.
   This compact 1911 has sights which are very easy to see and are modeled after Novak Low Mount sights and use a Novak slide cut as Rock Island Armory guns also use. The front sight is dovetailed into the slide. The rear sight has a set screw which can be loosened for windage adjustment. It comes with lots of features we expect in a fine 1911 these days. A well fitted beavertail grip safety is standard as is a combat hammer, match trigger and a slightly extended mag release. The magwell is also beveled for easy seating of a magazine. The grips are hand checkered and are the slim variety which is fitting for a concealment 1911. This pistol is all steel with a forged slide. The barrel is 3 1/2 inches long and has a bull barrel which does not use a bushing. The recoil system has duel springs for reduced felt recoil. This particular gun was well finished with excellent fitting of all parts and sports an attractive blued finish. These are series 70 type guns without the idiotic lawyer inspired so called safety systems of some other 1911 makers. This makes for a much better trigger pull. In fact the trigger on this gun is very crisp with little takeup and a trigger pull of 3.75 pounds. The pistol comes with two magazines made by ACT of Italy. These are the same magazines used by Novak and Wolff Gunspring company. They are excellent magazines and feed very smoothly. Of course you can also use any full size magazine in this gun for your extra magazines. These pistols also have a lifetime warranty. These days that’s rare!
   On to shooting. After bringing the gun home I broke it down and examined it then lubed it and reassembled it. I took it to my local police range and setup a standard police B27R reduced size target. My shooting was from the ten and fifteen yard line. I used a variety of ammo from Winchester white box 230 grn ball, Federal Hydra Shocks as well as Federal Personal Protection 230 grn rounds. I also fired one mag of Hornady 185 grn +P 45’s. I shot a total of 100 rounds. I fired my first magazine slow fire from ten yards and a second magazine also slow fire at fifteen yards then moved back to the ten yard line and fired one more magazine. Normally I never shoot slow fire but with this short barrel I wanted to see just how accurate it was. The target below shows the results. I had two flyers both of which were from the fifteen yard line. As you can see this little gun is pretty darn accurate for such a short sight radius. Honestly I was pretty impressed. I didn’t expect it to shoot groups this small. This is a Birchwood Casey 5 inch target. That gives you some idea how small this group really is!

   The target shown was shot with Winchester white box 230 grn ball ammo. During the entire shooting session of 100 rounds there were no malfunctions of any type. I fired some magazines as fast as I could pull the trigger and others somehwhat slower. Recoil of course is a bit more pronounced than with a full size 1911 or a commander size but by no means unpleasant. Getting back on target after a round was fired was no problem at all. The only small gripe I had was the thumb safety was a little sharp at the rear edge. I can easily take care of this so it’s not a significant problem at all. Also, mentioning the safety it functioned well and was very crisp and easily manipulated.
   I’m very pleased with this 1911 not only because of the workmanship but the way it shoots. This gun is a real quality gun at a great price as are all Armscor products. For anyone in the market for a small concealed carry gun with a lot of punch I can certainly recommend this one!

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Posted in 1911 45's, Charles Daly 1911's | 8 Comments »

Rock Island Armory Tactical By Horace Lambert

Posted by Gunner on November 7, 2007


As promised I am giving my second range report on my Rock Island Tactical. This report was from my shooting yesterday(Friday) 11-05-07. I started out early in the morning at 8:00 the weather was clear and the wind was calm. My Rock has previously had 100 rounds through it with no failures to feed or hang ups of any kind. The pistol was field stripped, cleaned and lubed after my last shooting session. I changed grips for some black double diamond rubber grips with finger inserts. Shooting positions were Weaver stance or sitting with no rest. In the first target I used 185 grain SWC  hand loads. I used 230 grain round nose white box ammo with no problems prior to this outing. I was having feeding trouble throughout the shooting session with lead semi wadcutters and will discuss that later. I loaded three of my own Power Star magazines with 6 rounds and the Novak magazine that came with the gun with 8 rounds. Shooting the Tactical was a pleasure and I was happily surprised at the groupings. After the initial 80 rounds the wind picked to a 5 mph breeze it was still bright and sunny. At this point I changed target and ammo to the 299 grain SWC and continued shooting, I shot 100 rounds of this weight bullet and the accuracy is still holding true. I found out that the Rock Island did not like these bullets and was still getting the same feeding difficulties. The difficulty ratio had gone down to 2 out of 8 failure to feed from 4 out of 8 failure to feed. This hole in my target was getting larger so I changed to the 160 grain SWC ammo. I was happy to see that I had almost no problems with this weight ammo so I proceeded to shoot 50 more rounds. I had maybe one or two failures to feed and the target will show how much my frustration had subsided. My accuracy was best using this weight bullet and it didn’t take me long to finish the whole box. As you will see on my target, I was able to keep all of my shots within the three inch diameter target. Observe also how accurate the pistol allowed me to shoot at the heart drawn on the target. I have never shot this good and am looking forward to going again. The distance for all shooting was 25 feet. I field stripped the Rock Island after shooting and found nothing wrong with the internals. Nothing loose and no metal burs. Compared to the Thompson 1911 that I own the Rock Island is much better as far as accuracy. The Rock is a lot better shooter. It’s comfort level is as high as its accuracy. I have never enjoyed myself as much as I did yesterday. Next time I go I’ll bring 100 rounds of round nose and practice double taps, I am also going to shoot rapid fire to see how the Tactical performs. I have a feeling I won’t be disappointed Well that’s about all for the range report. There was a couple of guys there that asked me to shoot it and after shooting 8 rounds each they asked me for my Center fire systems catalog because they were going straight home and order one for themselves. Another shooter turned up his nose when I told him much it cost me but after shooting it he changed his mind quick . I guess a dream job would be a Rock Island salesman:-) Phil thanks a lot for telling me about the Rock Island Tactical! It has been a valuable addition to my weapon arsenal. Above all it is a definite keeper.

Horace I hope that’s not a self portrait–LOL!


  Just a note I’d like to add to Horaces review. This concerns feeding problems with lead semi wadcutters. Most any 1911 will have difficulties with these type of bullets. If you intend to shoot a lot of lead semi wadcutters it’s a good idea to take your 1911 to a competent gunsmith who can polish the feedramp and if needed change the feed angle to accomodate the semi wadcutter bullet.

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Second Range Report

Range Report- Rock Island Tactical 1911

This range report is on my recently bought Rock Island Tactical 45 acp 1911. I purchased my Rock on October 17th. I bought it from CenterfireSystems and paid a total take home price of $429.00. This is my second 1911.
I shot a total of 150 rounds through the pistol. They are hauling dirt at the pistol range section so I measured 30 feet distance for my shooting. I was using a shoot n c 5 inch target. The ammo was 100 rounds of Winchester 230 grain FMJ and 50 rounds of 200 grain SWC reloads. I also had 25 rounds of Doubletap Ammo 185 grain Gold dot rated at 1225 fps from a 5 inch bbl.I figured if I can shoot this ammo then all of the other defensive round ammo would not have a problem.


30 foot target

After setting up I proceeded to empty 5 different magazines on the Winchester ammo. Next I loaded 4 magazines with the reloads with the same results, not one ftf,no problems whatsoever. I shot two-handed and one handed with my strong hand. It seems that the more you shoot the Rock the better it gets. Next I tried the doubletap ammo. I used 5 magazines with 5 rounds in each one and shot rapid fire. I was very impressed. Some people that have used some of my doubletap ammo in their Kimbers and Springfields had a few problems with feeding. Again I must say that my Rock Island fed the high impact rounds flawlessly with no hiccups.
After shooting I field stripped my pistol and checked it over with a magnifying glass. I did not find any metal shavings or cracks at all. There was the normal grime and dirt from shooting this amount of bullets and everything was in order. I have now shot over 500 rounds of different types of ammo in the Tactical and am confident enough to use it for my daily carry pistol. I am planning on changing most of the internals and replace the beavertail, trigger,hammer,slide stop and slide safety’s with Wilson drop-in parts. This will be done after the next 100 rounds. I will post a picture of my Rock after this is all done. One thing I did after this shooting is install a patch of skateboard tape over the frontstrap. I will continue to use the black rubber double diamond grips until I can afford a set of alumna- grips for it. There is also a duracoat job in the future but I haven’t decided what color I will use on it. I want to thank Phil White for all of the assistance and guidance he has given me these past few months. He is an inspiration to me and I trust his knowledge and ability in the use of a 1911. This blog is a valuable to use in the upkeep of your weapon and also a real good reference point. I hope to remain a good friend of Phil for a very long time.

Posted in Contributed Gun Reviews, Rock Island Armory | 4 Comments »