Product Reviews

Saturday, 02 October 2010 / Published in Product Reviews

HBO chronicles the WWII island battles against the Japanese.

GUNS Magazine, October 2010, p. 52 – 57
By Mike “Duke” Venturino
Photos: Yvonne Venturino, David James/HBO

 

Like millions of others I recently finished watching the 10-part HBO mini-series The Pacific. Its subject was the US Marine Corps’ campaigns in the Pacific Theater of Operations (PTO) during World War II. The Pacific was based on three non-fiction books: Helmet For My Pillow by Robert Leckie, With The Old Breed At Peleliu And Okinawaby Eugene Sledge and Black Sand, Red Blood by Charles Tatum.

The wartime experiences of three US Marines are collectively traced from the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, until Leckie and Sledge returned to civilian life after the Japanese signed the surrender on September 2, 1945. The third Marine, John Basilone, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his combat performance on Guadalcanal in October 1942 but was killed the morning of Feb. 19, 1945 on the first day of the invasion of Iwo Jima.

The Pacific is focused on the three men, because all of them served in the 1st Marine Division. (Basilone was with the 1st Division on Guadalcanal but was serving with the newly formed 5th Division on Iwo Jima.) The USMC’s 1st Division, the “Old Bleed” made America’s first offensive move against the Japanese when Guadalcanal was invaded on Aug. 7, 1942. It also hit the beached of Okinawa on April 1, 1945 in America’s last island invasion of the Pacific War. In the interim, the 1st Division also invaded Cape Gloucester on New Britain late in 1943 and attacked the island of Peleliu on Sept. 15, 1944.

As the story of Leckie, Basilone and Sledge spanned almost a 3-year time frame, viewers interested in weapons history could watch as The Pacific showed in detail how the firearms the US Marines carried into so many island campaigns evolved. All in all, The Pacific’s makers led by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks did an excellent job in what must have been a most difficult undertaking. In regards to firearms they made only one glaring error that I saw, which will be detailed later.

When the 1st Marine Division invaded Guadalcanal, the issue remained in doubt for several months. Only a couple of days into the operation, the US Navy was forced to retreat by the Japanese Navy’s surface ships and air forces, which left the Marines on shore short of everything from food to ammunition. Even at the time the Guadalcanal invasion was characterized as a “shoestring operation.”

Captured Japanese rice augmented US food supplied, but in regard to ammunition their small arms needs in 1942 were simple in variety if not quantity. USMC infantry at that time used only .45 ACP for handguns and submachine guns and .30-06 for rifles and full-size machine guns. Although the US Army had adopted the semi-auto M1 Garand as early as 1936, the US Marine Corps clung to their bolt-action Model 1903 “Springfield.”

They considered the ’03 more accurate and reliable than the new semi-auto, despite the fact the M1 could fire eight rounds with a pull of the trigger for each, while the ’03 required bolt manipulation for every one of the five rounds its magazine held. In the close range jungle combat that was more the rule on Guadalcanal, precise accuracy was not as important as firepower, as ordinary Marine infantryman quickly realized. The .30-06’s long-range capability was not needed in the jungle, but its ability to penetrate foliage and even trees was appreciated.

Perhaps the most important infantry weapon on Guadalcanal, as well portrayed in the mini-series, was the belt-fed Browning Model 1917 water-cooled heavy machine gun (also .30-06). Both Leckie and Basilone were machine gunners on “the ‘Canal” as Marine lore came to call the island. Respectively, they participated in stands against fanatical Japanese attacks at the Tenaru River in August (it was actually the Ilu River; Marine maps were that poor), and on a ridge south of the all-important American airfield in October. The Marine’s defense in both fights centered on those big tripod-mounted Brownings. Also at that time, USMC machine gunners’ personal weapons were pistols. They were the 1911A1 .45 ACP and The Pacific showed both Leckie and Basilone using theirs.

Gun savvy viewers probably noticed much firearms detail in the Guadalcanal segments of The Pacific. I saw at least one Reising submachine gun in the hands of an officer leading a patrol, and several scenes with Thompson submachine guns fitted with drums. Marines liked Thompsons but detested Reisings because combat conditions made them very unreliable. They were withdrawn from service shortly after Guadalcanal.

The Model 1928 Thompsons available in 1942 could use 50-or even 100-round drum magazines while later versions took only 20- or 30-round stick magazines. Also in the scenes showing the night fighting, for which Basilone was rewarded the Medal of Honor, was a Marine helping to defend the machine gun position. He is shown firing a Winchester Model ’97 pump action, 12-gauge shotgun.

In late October 1942, the US Army’s 164th Infantry Regiment arrived on Guadalcanal with its riflemen carrying M1 Garands. Marine were famous for their pilfering of Army stores whenever possible and one of the mini-series’ scenes shows how disgusted a young Marine was upon opening a crate of Garands while raiding a supply dump. He says something to the effect, “The Army gets these while we fight with rifles my grandfather would have used!” Soldiers of the 164th Infantry have said if they set down their Garands and turned their backs for just a moment a Marine’s arm would snake out of the jungle and swipe it. So many were taken that when the 1st Marine Division finally left Guadalcanal in December 1942, US Army officers were stationed at embarkation points to confiscate all M1s carried by Marines.

When the Marines tuned to the offensive in the Pacific War they begun using the M1919A4 much more than the water-cooled 1917s because of the former’s lighter weight.

After recuperating in Australia from their ordeal on Guadalcanal, the 1st Marine Division’s next invasion was Cape Gloucester on the soggy, swampy island of New Britain. This was just after Christmas 1943, and by this time the USMC was re-equipped. Now the average rifleman was also packing an M1 Garand, while members of crew-served weapons such as machine guns and mortars had M1 Carbines. The weapon used its own dedicated cartridge, so Marine supply officers had to add .30 Carbine ammunition to .30-06 and .45 ACP.

It is also very interesting how Sledge’s handgun was portrayed later after the 1st Division landed on Peleliu. By then, the Japanese seldom engaged in those life-wasting, nighttime, “Banzai charges” so common early in the war. Instead they held up in caved and bunkers, trying to inflict as many casualties on the Marines as possible before dying themselves. At night infiltrators were sent crawling into Marine lines, with the hopes they could slay sleeping Marines in their foxholes or at least keep them so on edge no one rested. Those infiltrators were not expected to return. In nighttime Peleliu scenes in The Pacific Sledge is shown gripping his Colt New Service, notably with his finger off the trigger. (Evidently they had good firearms instructors for the young actors of this production.)

The gun handling shown in The Pacific was realistic. Nowhere was there wild hip shooting with Thompsons, Carbines or rifles. Most shooting was aimed fire from the shoulder as befit US Marine WWII training in rifle marksmanship. During the scenes of the wild melee on that October 1942 night when John Basilone’s fighting resulted in his Medal Of Honor, they do show the machine gunners swinging their Browning 1917s to and fro instead of having them being locked into set fields of fire. Those who have fired such machine guns swinging loosely know how badly they spread bullets in that manner.Still, with the entire front covered with Japanese attackers, it is possible the Marine machine gunners did have to fire like that. Also, during those battle scenes Marines are shown working their Springfields’ bolt with the rifle still shouldered. That is how they would have been trained.

Also, it was refreshing to see how the M1 Carbine was used in The Pacific. The little 5-pound .30 Carbine was not meant as an offensive weapon. It was intended for officers, dog handlers, corpsman, wireman and members of weapons crews to defend themselves from the enemy while going about their duties. Such duties didn’t usually mean fighting with a rifle. During Part 8 of the mini-series, Sgt. Basilone is shown rushing about the Iwo Jima battlefield directing his machine gun crews as to where to set their guns and where to place their fire. He carries an M1 Carbine but doesn’t actually fight with it. When he does decide to fight himself. He is shown handling off his carbine to one of his men and picking up a 1919A4 from its tripod.

American fighting men were blessed in WWII as the only nations’ troops almost universally equipped with autoloading weapons or at least so after 1943. In Part 9 there is an instance when the more intricate mechanism of the semi-auto was not so beneficial. With Eugene Sledge on Okinawa, a Japanese charge occurs, right after he has fallen in the mud. (During the fighting on Okinawa in one 15-day period over 17” of rain fell.) His M1 Carbine is covered in slime, so he picks up someone else’s dry M1 Garand. When it is empty he draws the Colt New Service revolver. The history of the 36-day battle for Iwo Jima is full of stories of both M1 Garands and M1 Carbines clogging with the island’s black volcanic ash.

The primary defense on Guadalcanal was the Browning water-cooled M1917 machine gun in .30-06, shown here being fired by Duke and Clint Smith at Thunder Ranch.

Expect for the part about Robert Leckie’s Japanese Type 14 Nambu, not much is made of Japanese small arms in The Pacific. In fact few close ups of Japanese soldiers were shown at all, and mostly then their rifles were bayoneted. In WWII, Japanese infantry doctrine stressed bayonet fighting as much as the USMC stressed rifle marksmanship. I did spot in one Peleliu scene one Japanese rifle lying on the battlefield, with its action’s dust cover still in place. Both Japanese Type 38 6.5mm and Type 99 7.7mm infantry rifles were issued with such dust covers.

All in all firearms coverage in The Pacific was excellent. The M1 Carbines all were sans bayonet lugs but did have the L-shaped rear peep sight proper for the time. Those are tiny details but significant to sharp-eyed gun people. So then one has to ask why The Pacific’s firearms’ advisor, whoever he was, had the Marines on Guadalcanal armed with Model 1903A3 rifles, instead of the proper Model 1903s? The rear peep sight of a Model 1903A3 sticks out like a sore thumb and several close-up shots show them. That alteration of the Model 1903 was not approved until May 1942, and the Marines did not have them on Guadalcanal.

That one mistake aside, The Pacific was an excellent production, at long last showing just how hard the climate, tropical diseases, and the fanatical enemy hammered America’s Marines on those Pacific Islands. After viewing HBO’s The Pacific anyone meeting one of those veterans should feel humbled.

HBO plans the release of the The Pacific DVD on Nov. 2, 2010. For those of you with cable, episodes are available for viewing On Demand. — Editor

Tuesday, 02 September 2008 / Published in Product Reviews

A show-gun you can shoot!

On Target, August/September 2008, p. 48 – 51
By Bob & Sandy Rodgers

Those of us who now look wistfully at the Grecian Formula commercials remember a time when manufacturers could afford to lavish huge amounts of skilled hand labor on their guns. It was a different era, with a slower pace of both life and industry As amazing as it seems today, trained craftsmen—artisans of their trade—were less expensive on the line than were machines. It was a time when firearms were actually fitted, parts hand-honed to mesh, created rather than mass-produced. And the finishes back then were a sight to behold. Bluing so incredibly rich and deep that the surface actually looked wet. That kind of surface preparation, which is of course the key ingredient to a great finish, doesn’t come easily. There’s little doubt—since a gun can be either made or ruined during the finishing process—that companies put some of their very best and most highly trained personnel in the polish and finish areas.

Heavy hands on a buffing wheel can blur lines, dish-out pinholes, smear roll marks, and manage to put waves in flats—and they can do it all in an instant. Great work takes time, and as always, time means money. In reality, the manufacturers had little choice but to simplify the entire process in order to deliver a product at a price the public could stomach. The shooting public has learned to live with less—with the requisite amount of bitching and moaning, of course.

 

A-O Presentation Grade 1911 A1 Velocity f.p.s. Energy ft.-lbs. Smallest Group Largest Group Average Group
MagTech 230-gr. FMJ 751 288 3.59″ 3.77″ 3.67″
Black Hills 200-gr.LSWC 814 294 2.35″ 2.71″ 2.56″
Federal Am. Eag|e 230-gr. FMJ 805 331 2.69″ 2.92″ 2.81″
Speer 185-gr. GDHP 945 367 2.19″ 2.55″ 2.37″
Velocity is the average of four 5-shot group, measured with a Beta Master Chrony chronograph, set ten feet in front of the muzzle. Groups are fired from a sandbag rest at range of 25 yards.
Abbreviations: JHP(Jacketed Hollow Point); SWC(Semi-Wadcutter); FMJ(Full Metal Jacket); LSWC(Lead Semi-Wadcutter); GDHP(Gold Dor Hollow Point)

 

We’ve reviewed pistols from Auto-Ordnance in the past, and when the box containing this gun arrived we expected something similar, a mil-spec recreation 1911A1 in a Parkerized finish. Not this time. Instead we got a high-polish, royal-blue, presentation-grade 1911 that—with the exception of its bright nickel accents—looked like a relic from the past. Digging a little deeper into the shipping container brought us to a glass-topped, padded, wooden presentation case, finely crafted with brass hardware, including lockable clasps. Inside this box was another complete top-end for the gun—complete as in slide, barrel and all other small parts—that was almost a dead ringer for the one already on the frame, with a couple of little additions. The left flat of the installed slide was roll-marked “Model 1911A1 U. S. Army,” while the right side was blank. In contrast, the flat on the right side of the dress slide was engraved with “Presentation Grade 1911” and the Thompson logo, while the left side flat was engraved with the name of the owner and the year of presentation. With the exception of some find-line scroll work to set off the script, the engraving was filled with nickel to match the accents on the gun. Just above the owner’s name, in small print, was the legend “Hand Crafted for.”

The bluing looked like black oil, and the flats were straight and true, The transition lines from the round top to the flats were crisp. This was definitely not the work of a rookie, A note in the box from our editor asked that I call Bob Holmes at Auto-Ordnance for some background on this latest offering. It was his name on the side of the pistol we received, and he is also the person in charge of the Auto-Ordnance custom shop. I’m glad I called. Bob is one of the industry good guys. He’s enthusiastic about the products the company produces and is always on the lookout for ways to improve. He, too, remembers the glory days of gun building and their remarkable finishes, and this pistol is his brainchild as well as his tribute. His goal was to not only duplicate that incredible finish, but also to make the pistol both affordable and shootable. This is where his idea of offering two complete slide assemblies entered the picture: one to be used for fun; the other to be used for display. Purchase of the personalized display slide and presentation box are not mandatory, however, as both are sold separately, or as part of a package.

Auto-Ordnance pistols differ from those of many other makers by the addition of a trigger-controlled firing pin safety. Unless the trigger is pulled and levers inside the frame are activated, a spring-loaded plunger resting in a hole machined in the slide stops the firing pins forward travel. This system has been in production for many years and has been tested and proven on the streets. Other than that, it’s exactly what you’d expect from a 1911A1 pistol, including a wide spur hammer, arched mainspring housing with lanyard loop, Al sights, and a longer grip safety spur to help prevent hammer bite. The frame is cast and the slide is machined from a forging. As mentioned earlier, the small parts are bright nickel, and include the grip screws, thumb safety, barrel bushing, recoil spring plug, trigger, plunger tube, magazine catch, and slide stop. In a later conversation with Bob, I mentioned that I thought the gun would be even more spectacular completely blued, without the addition of nickeled parts. I’ve since heard a change is in the works. He listens! Both versions will be available.

I’ll confess right up front to only test firing this pistol with the “stock” top end. My conscience wouldn’t allow me to put rounds through that presentation slide. This is not marketed as a target-grade gun, but I still found group sizes to be totally acceptable. Mil-spec sights are tough to shoot. I’ve said it before and it bears repeating: tiny sights make precise work virtually impossible. There are those who, in their quest to keep things “original,” insist that fine work can be accomplished with tiny sights. “Balderdash” is a word I’ve wanted to work into my writing for years, and this certainly seems like an appropriate place. The miniscule A1 sights wash out against the target no matter what the light. Precise work with them is highly unlikely, and fast work is a fantasy. This is not a knock on the pistol. It’s a period piece with faithfully reproduced sights. This is simply a way of saying that the gun could easily be a better shooter than the results show. I fired several different brands and bullet profiles through the pistol without a failure of any kind. Not one.

I recently received some 185 grain Gold Dot Personal Protection hollow points from Speer, and have been waiting for a chance to test them. I shot them last, and when the first round tore. downrange, the woods went quiet. Really, Even the cicadas, which have been vocally complaining about the midsummer heat for weeks, momentarily ceased their serenade, shocked into silence. The report’s return, after a quick journey to and from a distant hill, carried enough authority to be heard through my shooting muffs. These rounds speak with gravitas! I like ‘em—a lot. And they shoot. Thankfully, their roar was much greater than their bite. Recoil was extremely mild; less than a mid range 230-grain load. I’d have to assume the 185-grain bullet has a lot to do with that, in spite of it passing over the chronograph at 945 f.p.s. The pistol showed a definite preference for lighter weight bullets. It turned in its best accuracy with 185- and 200-grain loads.

The Auto-Ordnance Presentation Grade 1911A1 would make a great gift for a special occasion, but why wait for someone else to take the hint? Buy one for yourself!

Friday, 02 May 2008 / Published in Product Reviews

Long arm of the Law that won’t bust a budget — it’s a sub-MOA carbine!

GUNS & WEAPONS FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT, May 2008, Page 38-44 and 87
By Matt Berger

SEVERAL SHOOTINGS AND EVENTSin the past decade or so have served as a stark wake-up call to law enforcement. LAPD’s North Hollywood shootout has become synonymous with the cry for patrol rifles and carbines. The simple fact of the matter is that if you’re on the receiving end of a long gun, you need a long gun, and nothing else will do. Few would argue the wisdom of outgunning the bad guys, or at the very least, meeting firepower with equal firepower.

SWAT units are very good at what they do, and typically have access to equipment the traditional patrol officer doesn’t have access to, but realistically speaking, a good response time for a tactical team is at least an hour. Patrol officers are the ones who’ll be first on the scene, often within minutes. Waiting for SWAT isn’t always an option when an active shooter is firing on victims or officers. Seconds can matter; let alone minutes, or an hour or more.

A shotgun is a very powerful, versatile weapon, but it does have limitations exceeded by a rifle, and in some instances, a carbine. Some law enforcement agencies have implemented pistol-caliber carbines, tactical rifles, submachine guns, and even lever-action rifles.

The vast majority of America’s police work for smaller agencies. It’s not uncommon in many of these departments for officers to have to purchase their own duty gear and sidearms, let alone “supplemental” weapons such as shotguns and rifles. A common scenario is that of a new patrolman anxious for a long gun, but struggling to make ends meet. A new tactical rifles or carbine with all of the bells and whistles is always attractive, but not always affordable. One option worth considering is the M1 Carbine.

M1 CARBINE HISTORY

The M1 Carbine is a gas-operated semi-automatic carbine that was being developed on the eve of World War II, going into production in September of 1941. The weapon became a mainstay of US troops throughout the war, reappeared in the Korean War, and even saw some service in the early days of the Vietnam War. The M1 was revered for its light weight, lighter ammunition, and rugged reliability.

Loved by many, but despised by others, most of the M1’s detractors dismissed the gun as inaccurate and ineffective as a stopper. Much of this opposition had to do with unfair comparison of the carbine with battle rifles. The little M1 is most appropriately considered an intermediate weapon whose ballistics place it somewhere between a powerful pistol carbine and rifle. With a bullet weight of roughly 110 grains and a velocity in the range of 1970 feet per second (fps), its kinetic energy is in league with the .44 Magnum revolver, and only a bit less than that of the .223 when the latter is fired from short-barreled carbines. Much of the criticism leveled at the M1 was no doubt due to troops attempting to employ it at distances for which the rifle was more appropriate, and due to poor marksmanship.

In reality, the .30 Carbine is an effective penetrator, and even those who malign the weapon will concede that it’s a workhorse, functioning even under the most adverse conditions. The military would claim the gun’s effective range to be 300 yards, though a more realistic range for delivering accurate and capable stopping power is 200 yards and less.

PERFORMANCE
AUTO-ORDNANCE M1 CARBINE .30
Load Velocity Accuracy

Cor Bon 100 DPX 2017 0.69

Remington 110 MC* 1979 0.81

Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in feet per second (fps) by “Chrony” Beta chronograph, and accuracy in inches for 3-shot groups fired bench rested at 100 yards (* 50 yards).

FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT

This brings us to the M1’s value for law enforcement applications. Barring certain exceptional scenarios encountered by some rural agencies, most police will never have occasion to engage targets beyond 100 yards, especially in urban and suburban venues.

Another factor law enforcement officers have in their favor is that of modern defensive ammunition. While an officer may want to keep some FMJ ammunition on hand for certain situations (this ammo will work quite well at penetrating car bodies and certain intermediary barriers), there is certainly no comparison between the performance of WWII-era ball ammo and today’s expanding hollow points in terms of wounding capabilities.

The M1’s “handiness” factor cannot be overstated here. If you haven’t hefted one of these guns, you simply cannot appreciate how light and “wieldy” they actually are. At 5.4 pounds, there’re lighter than even the smallest “shorty” AR15 carbines. The recoil of the carbine is very modest, and length of pull on the short side, making the gun friendly to even officers of smaller stature.

There were more than 6.25 million of these guns manufactured beginning in 1941, so 15- and 30-round surplus magazines are plentiful and cheap, and likely to remain so.

Lastly, one of the modern iterations of these carbines being rendered by companies like Kahr Arms can be had for the price of a decent pistol in today’s market, making them a viable alternative to more expensive rifles, carbines and sub-guns.

Kahr acquired Auto-Ordnance in 1999, and presently manufactures the Auto-Ordnance M1 in their state-of-the-air ISO 9002 certified plant in Worcester, Massachusetts. The guns are of newly manufactured parts using high-precision computerized machinery.

The M1 uses a short-stroke piston operating system. Charged by a reciprocating operating handle on the right side of the weapon, the bolt can be locked open by retracting the operating handle and pressing the locking pin down on the top right of the receiver.

Receivers are CNC machined from 4140 steel investment castings. Markings include “US CARBINE CAL 30 ML,” at the top front, and “AUTO-ORDNANCE WORCESTER, MA,” at the top rear. Serial numbers are marked on the left front.

The 18-inch barrel is machined from bar stock, and manufactured for Kahr by Green Mountain Barrels. It features a twist of 1 in 20 inches, and a 45-degree chamfer at the muzzle.

Stock is two pieces, from American walnut, handsomely grained with a stamped sheet-metal butt plate. The stock itself is recessed for the attachment of a sling at the rear. A swivel is mounted on the barrel band at the front.

Sights will be easily assimilated by those trained on the AR15/M16, combining an ear-protected front blade with a rear peep sight. The rear aperture flips from its 100-yard height to a taller 300-yard peep. The front sight is retained by a roll pin; windage is adjustable by drifting the rear sight in its dovetail.

Controls are ergonomic. The safety is situated just forward of the triggerguard, easily deactivated by the right index finger, and the magazine release is located just forward of the safety, also accessible by the trigger finger.

Trigger is a two-stage military unit with no take-up, letting off sharply at 8 pounds. The triggerguard and operating slide are CNC-machined investment castings.

Overall, fit and finish is very good, probably better than the original guns. The stock is also well finished. Barrel, receiver, trigger group, and operating handle are all evenly parkerized.

The weapon is shipped in foam padding with one 15-round magazine, cable lock, and rubber guards to protect the muzzle, operating handle and front sling swivel. Available accessories include a stock magazine pouch, carbine oiler and sling.

RANGE TIME

We headed to the range to see how the little carbine would perform. Champion Targets’ 8-inch VisiColor targets were stapled up at 100 yards, and we prepared to test the M1 for accuracy, benched on a sandbag.

The first thing noticeable about the M1 is its light recoil, in league with that of the AR15 rifle. The rear peep and front blade were also familiar, and easy to use.

Getting most of our rounds into an 8-inch pattern with all ammunition wasn’t a challenge; however, the 100-grain CorBon DPX impacted quite high, by about a full foot at 100 yards. We eventually solved this problem by stapling a second row of Champion VisiColor targets a few inches below the top row; aiming in at the bottom targets, we began shooting three-shot groups for accuracy. We soon managed an impressive 0.69 of an inch pattern with two rounds touching. The CorBon also turned in the highest velocities, averaging 2017 fps.

I had a deadline to meet, and things hadn’t exactly gone well before I made it out to the range. As a result, I was cutting it close, with the sun beginning to set as I started testing the Remington 110-grain MC. With the daylight fading, I decided to aim in at 50 yards with the Remington because one can’t hit what can’t be seen. My second group funneled into just 0.81 of an inch.

The carbine hammered away, never failing to cycle or go bang throughout my accuracy and velocity testing. The action was smooth, and the controls easily manipulated. Nothing is complicated about the M1. There was a definite fun factor present in shooting the gun.

Our only criticism of this gun is that we’d have preferred to have elevation and windage adjustable sights. This would easily regulate the sights for the ammo, which proved to be the most accurate in this case, the CorBon.

Overall, the Auto-Ordnance M1 Carbine acquitted itself well. It was reliable, comfortable and easy to shoot, and quite accurate for 100 yards. This featherlight gun would be very easy to maneuver in and out of a patrol car with its overall length just under 36 inches. This, coupled with its short length of pull and soft recoil make it a great candidate for officers of varying statures. Most of all, an officer could afford to purchase a gun like this for the same cost of their duty pistol.

It would seem that 66 years after the .30 caliber M1 Carbine was first produced, its original assets are still going strong.

Tuesday, 02 October 2007 / Published in Product Reviews

THE NEW SEMI-AUTO CARBINE FROM KAHR ARMS TAKES TOMMY GUN SHOOTING OUT OF THE LUXURY SUITE. AND THERE ARE SBR AND DUMMY GUNS, TOO, WITH LOOKS THAT DELIGHT.

The Thompson Submachine Gun is arguably the most recognizable submachine gun is America, even 86 years after its initial introduction!

Although the Thompson is best known, aside from its gangster use, for its employment by U.S. and Allied forces during World War II, it was originally conceived during World War I. Many different military weapons were developed during the First World War all for one purpose … forward movement our of the trenches.

An Army Ordnance Officer, John T. Thompson, conceived the American version of a submachine gun, although the original concept originated in Europe. To design his submachine gun, dubbed a “trench broom” for sweeping the enemy from the trenches, Thompson enlisted the help of several talented individuals, including Theodore Eickhoff and Oscar Payne.

Although the resulting submachine gun was named after John T. Thompson, it was largely the efforts of Payne and Eickhoff that created it.

In 1921, John Thompson’s Auto-Ordnance Corporation signed an agreement with Colt’s Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Co. for the actual manufacture of the Thompson. This was subcontracted to Colt because the Auto-Ordnance Corporation, which developed the gun, did not have any manufacturing capabilities.

The very first production run of the Thompson submachine gun only ran from 1921 to 1922. All of the original 1920s production Thompsons were manufactured by Colt under contract with the Auto-Ordnance Corp.

Only 15,000 Thompson Submachine Guns were manufactured by Colt, all as the Model of 1921. The original run of Thompson guns was manufactured to the very high commercial standards of the day.

The 1921 model had the famous Colt blue finish, and fine walnut stocks. The rear sight was adjustable for windage and elevation. The barrel of the Thompson featured radial cooling fins and a milled blade front sight. No compensators were originally fitted to the guns.

The actuator knob, fire mode selector and the safety levers were finely checkered. The original retail price of the 1921 model was $200, supplied with one 20-round box magazine. The first production Colt Thompson came off the assembly line in March of 1921.

By this time, World War I had ended and there was no demand for new arms. Sales of the Thompson were extremely slow. It would take almost 20 years to sell all of the initial production lot. The $200 list price of the Thompson was quite a sum of money in the 1920s. The National Firearms Act of 1934, aimed at keeping the guns out of the hands of criminals, added an additional $200 transfer tax to the cost, effectively ending Thompson sales to the public.

THE ORIGINAL COLT 1927
SEMI-AUTOMATIC CARBINE

The original 1927 carbine model is one of the rarest variations of the early Colt Thompson Guns. The 1927 model, like the 1921AC, 1928 Navy Model and others, were created by altering off-the-shelf 1921 models. The 1927 model fired only as a semi-auto. The gun was created to offer a Thompson to law enforcement organizations who, for political reasons, did not want to arm their officers with a submachine gun.

The conversion was accomplished by redesigning a few internal parts. The full-auto markings were neatly milled out of the receiver and remarked to fit its new semiautomatic configuration. The 1927 model is still regarded as an NFA firearm because of its short barrel and submachine gun receiver. The 1927 model was available with or without the optional Cutts compensator installed.

After 1922, there was little manufacturing activity or subcontracting by the Auto-Ordnance Corporation until World War II broke out with the German invasion of Poland in 1939.

WORLD WAR II

In the year following the initial run of the Colt-made Thompson, the financially troubled Auto-Ordnance Corporation fell into the hands of businessman Russell Maguire. In the late 1930s, Maguire had anticipated a major war in Europe, and a demand for modern arms.

Maguire at first tried to interest Colt in another production run of the Thompson, but the Hartford manufacturer declined his offer. Maguire eventually negotiated with the Savage Arms Corp. of Utica, N.Y. to manufacture the Thompson. By 1941, Auto-Ordnance had opened its own facility in Bridgeport Conn., to assist Savage with the increasing wartime demand for Thompson submachine guns.

Despite the success of government sales by Auto-Ordnance from 1940 to 1945, when World War II ended, the company’s assets were boxed up and placed in storage, destined to become but a footnote in history. Reportedly, during the post-World War II years, the remaining assets of the Auto-Ordnance Corporation changed hands several times.

In 1951, George Numrich, president of the Numrich Arms Corp. of West Hurley, N.Y. purchased Auto-Ordnance’s remains. The Numrich Arms Corp. specialized in selling gun parts, and often bought up the remaining inventories of defunct gun manufacturers. Included in the sale were a large number of parts for the Thompson Submachine Gun.

The company was able to assemble a few operable Thompsons from the surplus GI parts. By 1961, it had run out of many of the essential parts needed and could no longer assemble any Thompsons.

NUMRICH ARMS CORPORATION

In 1974, after obtaining the approval of the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Numrich Arms began manufacture of the Thompson. They manufactured both semiautomatic and full-auto versions of the Thompson 1928 model, under the Auto-Ordnance name.

The receivers, trigger frames, bolts and barrels were new, while the remainder of the parts on the early guns were GI surplus, made by Savage and other wartime contractors. As production of the West Hurley guns continued, many original parts became unavailable, thus forcing the company to manufacture whatever parts it needed to maintain production. In 1985, the company also began the manufacture of a select-fire M1 (M1A1) version.

The majority of the 1928-type semiautomatic and select-fire Thompsons manufactured by the West Hurley, N.Y. company were fitted with a compensator-equipped finned barrel, vertical foregrip and a replica of the adjustable rear sight. The West Hurley Thompsons were finished in a dull “brush” blue color.

There were also special commemorative versions of the 1928 Thompson, made in both select-fire and semiautomatic configurations. Some of these commemorative West Hurley guns were accepted by the BATF for inclusion on the Curio and Relics firearm list, the manufacture of the full-automatic guns ceased in May 1986, when the ban on the manufacture of automatic firearms was enacted.

The Thompson Submachine Gun remains very popular with collectors today. However, the mid fire-figure prices of the fine 1920 era Colt guns are similar to that of a luxury SUV. The World War II M1928 and M1-M1A1 models have also greatly escalated in value, comparable to a nicely equipped full-size sedan. Today’s market prices place a Thompson well out of the reach of all but the most affluent collectors. However there is an alternative … a semiautomatic-only replica.

SEMI-AUTOMATIC THOMPSONS

 

In addition to the full-automatic Thompsons, Auto-Ordnance, West Hurley manufactured a number of semi-automatic versions of the Thompson. Mechanically, the semi-auto guns were quite different from the full-auto guns, firing from a closed bolt and having longer barrels, to comply with Federal requirements.

Manufacture of a semi-auto version of the 1928 model, designated as the 1927A1, began in 1975. A new 1927 A-1C model with an aluminum alloy receiver and trigger frame was introduced in 1980. These Thompsons had the suffix LW for Light-Weight on the serial number. There was also a 1927A5 “pistol” variation. These guns had no buttstock, and were fitted with a short 13.5-inch barrel. Production of the 1927A5 “pistol” ended when the gun was included in the 1994 assault weapons ban.

First introduced in 1985 was a semi-automatic-only version of the M1. These guns are identified by their long 16.5-inch barrels. Although the outward appearance of the semi-automatic-only M1 Thompson is similar to a full-auto version, they are quite different mechanically.

There had been quite a few reliability and quality-control issues reported with the West Hurley-manufactured Thompsons. Some of issues included cast aluminum components and pop rivets to secure the rear sights. The barrel compensators were held in place by a thread-locking material. The compensators and sometimes even the barrels worked loose after a time.

In February of 1999 another chapter in the Auto-Ordnance saga was written, when the company once again changed hands. Kahr Arms of Blauvalt, N.Y., purchased the company, manufacturing rights and tooling. Kahr is currently offering several models of the Thompson carbine in a semi-automatic-only configuration.

Kahr Arms has worked hard to improve both the quality and reliability of their products. Their Thompson carbines are made on modern machinery using CNC technology.

New for 2007 is the Kahr 1927A-1 cal. .45 semiautomatic deluxe carbine. Designated as the T1B model in the catalog, Kahr’s latest carbine has a number of improvements and innovations that make it worthy of attention.

The frame and receiver are both machined from solid steel. The wood is fine American walnut. The removable buttstock is the same design as the original Thompsons, and the stock hardware is all manufactured from steel. The front and rear grips have been redesigned and no longer have the unsightly “slab sided” design seen on many West Hurley manufactured guns.

The rear sight base is manufactured from steel and secured to the receiver by machine screws, not pop rivets. The sight ladder and sight aperture are identical to those found on the M1917 Enfield rifle. The receiver markings are nicely struck and are similar to those found on the World War II guns.

The flat black finish is also reminiscent of World War II production. The barrel is 16.5 inches in length as required by law, and is finished in a dull blue like the originals were. The Cutts-style compensator is also blued and is marked with the Thompson “bullet” logo, the compensator is now secured to the barrel with a crosspin. The redesigned cocking handle safety-fire selector are blued and nicely checkered.

The overall length is 41 inches with the buttstock assembly installed. The unloaded weight is a hefty 13 pounds. The carbine is shipped with one 30-round box magazine. The box magazines are refurbished GI surplus reconfigured to function in the semiautomatic carbines. The Kahr carbine comes with a one-year factory limited warranty.

There are a number of options available for the 1927A-1 carbine including extra 30-round box magazines, and the classic drum magazines in 10, 50 and 100-round configurations. For storage or transporting there are replica FBI hardcases, “violin” cases and a “Tommy Gun” padded rifle case available. All Kahr Thompson carbines are .45 ACP cal.

THE FIRING TEST
The final step in our evaluation of the new Kahr carbine was the test firing. The weight and barrel length of the .45 cal. carbine results in a low felt recoil and superb accuracy for a pistol caliber long gun.

Those more familiar with the operation of the open-bolt Thompson submachine gun will find cocking the carbine requires more effort, and the distance the cocking handle travels is less. Additionally after cocking, the bolt returns to a forward, closed position.

The first round of testing was done with the 30-round box magazine. At first the carbine was fired slowly taking careful aim, there were no malfunctions, the magazine was reloaded and fired as quickly as the trigger could be pulled, again no malfunctions.

Next the 100-round new manufacture Kahr drum magazine, serial No.000656 was placed in the gun. The loaded 100-round magazine was heavy, weighing 8 pounds, 4 ounces. To place a drum magazine into a Thompson the bolt must be locked in a rearward position, (caution make sure the safety is in the on position).

With a drum in place, the bolt does not remain rearward after the last shot. The “third hand” supplied with the drum was used to hold the bolt rearward, making drum removal easy.

Together, the loaded 100-round drum and the 13-pound carbine were quite heavy! The drum was tested by firing in slow single shots and rapid-fire. I am pleased to report that the drum performed flawlessly. Next a 50-round drum magazine was placed into the carbine, again with no malfunctions. The only problem encountered during the test was rear sight retaining screws worked loose.

ACCURACY AND VELOCITY
Accuracy of the Kahr Thompson was very good for a pistol caliber carbine, despite the gun’s heavy 8.5-pound trigger pull. Velocity was measured with a Pact chronograph. Ambient temperature was unseasonably cool 39°F. There was a slight intermittent crosswind on the day of the test that may have affected accuracy.

The carbine was fired from a bench rest at a range of 50 yards. The smallest group that could be achieved under the test conditions was 2.5 inches, the largest group was 3.7 inches with an overall average of 3.1 inches.

For the firing test several types of caliber .45 ACP ammunition were used: Wolf Gold, Wolf steel case, Fiocchi, Winchester (White Box) and American Eagle (Federal). All fed and functioned in the carbine, including the Wolf Gold 185-grain hollow-points. The velocity from the 16.5-inch barrel ranged from 878 fps to a high of 930 fps.

There are several other models of the Kahr Thompson carbines available.

THOMPON1927A-1 DELUXE SEMI-AUTO
This model is similar to the 1927A-1 model, tested having a 16.5-inch finned barrel, Cutts compensator and vertical foregrip. The primary difference between this model and the one evaluated is that this one has a non removable M1 style buttstock.

THOMPSON 1927A-1 COMMAND MODEL T1-C
This model has the same feature as the 1927A-1 variation above except the wood stock and horizontal foregrip are have a durable black finish. Included is a 30-round magazine and a black nylon sling.

THOMPSON M1 SEMI-AUTO
This is Kahr Arms’ military M1 Thompson carbine, styled after the famous M1 and M1A1 Thompson submachine guns fielded during World War II. The barrel is 16.5 inches in length and lacks the cooling fins and muzzle compensator featured on the 1927 series. The rear sight is a military fixed aperture type with protective side ears. The front sight is a blade style.

The cocking handle is located on the right side of the receiver. The walnut stock is a fixed M1 type, the foregrip is horizontal. The overall length is 38 inches. The gun is shipped with one 30-round box magazine. The M1 series, like its original military counterpart, is not designed to accept drum magazines.

THOMPSON M1-C LIGHTWEIGHT SEMI-AUTO
This is the lightweight version of the semi-auto M1, weighing only 8-pounds unloaded. The weight reduction was achieved by the use of an aluminum receiver. Other features are the same as the M1 model above.

SHORT BARREL RIFLES
Recently, semi-automatic carbines with short 10.5-inch barrels, like the original submachine guns, have become quite popular with enthusiasts. However, the installation of a short barrel on a semiautomatic carbine requires prior approval and registration with NFA Branch of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Possession of an unregistered short barrel rifle (SBR) is a felony.

Kahr Arms offers factory short-barrel versions of most of their carbines. These short-barreled versions require a $200 Federal transfer tax and must be shipped to a qualified dealer in the customer’s home state. Kahr also offers smooth and finned 10.5-inch replacement barrels for use on properly registered guns.

THOMPSON SBR MODEL T1SB
For those that desire the look of the original configuration, this model is the same as the M1 and 1927A-1 models described earlier, but is fitted with a short 10.5-inch finned barrel, with compensator. This model requires registration and approval by the NFA Branch of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and a $200 transfer fee. Some states prohibit sale or transfer of short barrel rifles (SBR).

DUMMY GUNS
Kahr also supplies dummy Thompsons, and these are just the thing for display in the home without the bother of federal paperwork. The cover gun is a dummy with authentic 10.5-inch barrel and original stock and fore-end. If you can’t afford an SBR or state laws prevent it, a dummy mat be a viable choice for you.

Saturday, 02 June 2007 / Published in Product Reviews

Auto Ord’s GI Gem

Recreating the M1 Carbine

GUNS MAGAZINE, June 2007, Page 40-42
By Jeff John

Auto Ordnance has faithfully reproduced a late WW2 M1 Carbine for those of us who appreciate its excellent handling qualities and petite characteristics such as simple flip sights and lack of bayonet lug. Repro buttstock pouches and sling/oiler combos are readily available from Auto Ord and others.

Perhaps no other firearm has been as maligned and praised as the US M1 Carbine. It has been cursed for lack of power and praised for its reliability and ease of carry. Its .30 Carbine cartridge has been equally maligned for its lack of efficacy and knowledgeable people have gravelly opined you should never fight men with a round you wouldn’t hunt deer with. The .30 Carbine has been used on deer, but is not considered a good choice because the deer may travel far even mortally wounded.

Still, the efficacy of the cartridge is proportional to the attitude of the shootee towards being shot. Whereas a Japanese soldier bent on a suicidal Banzai charge might absorb plenty of the little pills before falling, the average Wehrmacht trooper would be more inclined to seek medical attention after absorbing a round. Deer don’t have any such options, which is why we now consider the .30 Carbine round unqualified as a deer round. In hunting, it is our duty to use a round adequate to anchor the game animal.

Nonetheless, if you ever want to bring someone into the shooting sports – especially the fairer sex – there is no better than the M1 Carbine. It is light, easy to shoot for someone without a lot of upper body strength, kicks just enough and makes just enough noise to keep the shooting interesting. Ammo is still relatively inexpensive and plentiful with all of our major players loading a generic-brand FMJ round. In fact, the biggest argument I ever had with my high school sweetheart was when I traded her carbine for something. Of course, I didn’t know it was her carbine, but I should’ve. The little Winchester M1 was her favorite when we went shooting. I never forgot that lesson (and I’m still learning others).

Alphabet Soup

The Carbine has long been a fun collectible and manufacturers with such aberrant names as National Postal Meter, Rock-Ola, Underwood and IBM are among the makers. It was a post-war staple for firms like Universal and Iver Johnson, but both firms modernized the little rifle too much for my tastes with the stamped, perforated steel upper handguard and light-colored hardwood stock.

Auto-Ordnance, the Tommy Gun makers, finally got it right. They’ve given us basic, late WW2-era M1Carbine. It is sans bayonet lug and adjustable sights, but with later “low wood” as guns issued around the Normandy invasion would have looked. Parts are very evenly grey Parkerized and the wood is walnut finished with linseed oil. It comes with one 15-round magazine or one 10-rounder for us here in California where we ain’t allowed to possess so much deadly firepower.

Accessories available include a sling with oiler and a magazine pouch for the buttstock for two 15-round magazines. I’m not a big fan of the buttstock mounted mag pouch. It unbalances the gun and makes an otherwise naturally pointing gun a little squirrelly to shoot. I will not deny it looks cool and was often seen on the battlefield (and wound up on this one). A GI could carry quite a bit of .30 Carbine ammo – one of its endearing features – and keep the gun on a grab-and-go basis. Were you to choose one of these rifles for defense, there is some comfort in having 45 rounds at your disposal without having to scrabble around for an extra mag.

I hadn’t shot an M1 Carbine for years and this one was as much fun as I remembered. A good quantity of UMC ball ammo and Federal softpoints were obtained for the accuracy testing. Accuracy was pretty much what I’ve come to expect from the average Carbine. The best 50-yard 5-shot group was 3″ even with UMC and just 3 1/2″ with the Federal. At 100 yards, a 5-shot group was with the Federal softpoints was 8″ with four rounds going into 5 1/2″. It doesn’t sound very special, but all the shots were on target and to point-of-aim. In a fighting situation, I would’ve had a lot of unhappy customers. One nice thing was the groups were pretty much to the same point of aim at 50 and 100 yards.

Standing offhand, it was no trick to quickly and regularly ring the 100-yard steel targets 10 times. The Carbine swung smoothly between them and the sights were easy to align.

The trigger was perhaps the greatest detriment to accurate shooting. It is a heavy two-stage type and the short, heavy, spongy first pull ended in a gritty, creepy final 6-pound let off, according the RCBS Military trigger pull gauge. This one could do with some attention, but I don’t think I’d bother if it were just for me. It’s not that heavy, it just needs to be smoother and such might be accomplished by just shooting a lot more rounds through it. Not to step on the toes of you gunsmiths out there, but I much prefer to shoot guns into smoothness rather than pay to have same done. It’s not like this gun doesn’t work, it shot decently well – at least as well as the old Winchester my girlfriend grieved after.

It’s not to say the M1 Carbine can’t shoot well. Holt Bodinson reports 1 1/2″ 50-yard groups with his Universal M1, so it’s possible. Once again, I believe it might be more productive to spend the money on ammo and enjoy the shooting rather throwing money chasing ultimate accuracy.

I wiped down the exterior and bore with Hoppe’s No. 9 prior to shooting and experienced no malfunctions for the first 80 rounds or so. Then, as the parts wore a bit, a few shiny spots began to show on the bolt. As soon as a round failed to feed all the way, I stopped and oiled the shiny spots with Kal Gard KG-4 oil. No further malfunctions occurred over the next 200-plus rounds.

Operation

If you’re not experienced with how the M1 Carbine operates, it is really simplicity itself. Remove the magazine and cycle the bolt. While holding the bolt to the rear, press down on the button on top of the bolt to lock the bolt open. Ensure the chamber and barrel are clear of obstructions. The safety is a push-button mounted on the trigger-guard just behind the magazine release button. Pushed in from the left, the Carbine is on safe and, pushed flush from the right, is off safe. With the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, apply the safety, insert a charged magazine, pull back on the bolt and let go. Allow spring pressure of the bolt to chamber the round.

When ready to shoot, remove the safety with your forefinger (you lefties will have to work this out yourself) and squeeze the trigger. Note: GI mags allow the bolt to close after the last round. The 10-round mag supplied by Auto Ordnance holds the bolt open after the last round. Removal of the Auto Ord mag is easier if the bolt is first locked open. If you’re using GI mags, cycle the bolt to ensure the chamber is clear.

With the cost of original WW2-era GI Carbines skyrocketing out of sight and the cost of Korean War versions climbing steadily, the new Auto Ordnance M1 gives re-enactors a fine copy to work with, while the rest of us get a fine shooter, plinker or defensive rifle. Just remember: If the little lady puts her brand on it, it’s hers – no matter what you think.

Friday, 02 September 2005 / Published in Product Reviews

Sureshootin’ 1911s – now from the folks at Kahr Arms!

COMBAT HANDGUNS, September 2005, Page 42-47
By Mike Detty

At the 1999 SHOT Show, Kahr Arms announced the purchase of the Auto-Ordnance Company. I have to admit that I was dumbfounded.

Auto Ordnance’s Custom models are available with either a stainless steel frame or a lightweight aluminum frame, bottom.

Kahr Arms, a relative newcomer to the firearms industry, had already firmly established themselves as an innovator capable of producing top quality pistols. Auto-Ordnance, on the other hand, did not share such a sterling reputation.

Best known for their semi-auto versions of the famous Tommy Gun, Auto-Ordnance also produced several variations of the 1911 pistol.

Unfortunately, these guns possessed a reputation for sloppy fitting and mismatched finishes, and were generally ignored by the savvy 1911 market.

As I approached their booth that year at the SHOT Show, I wondered just how Kahr Arms would match up with Auto-Ordnance. It was a union that I didn’t understand. I met with Kahr’s President, Justin Moon, and Frank Harris, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, and was impressed with their exuberance over the purchase. During the course of our conversation I asked, as tactfully as possible, about the quality of Auto-Ordnance guns. Moon reassured me that all manufacturing would be done in-house and to Kahr Arms’ standards rather than assembling parts from a myriad of suppliers, as had been done under the previous regime. His goal was to rid the Auto-Ordnance Company of its lowly reputation and make its name synonymous with quality.

Within a year I had a sample of the company’s new 1911 PKZ, a pistol designed to replicate our military guns from the WWII era. I have to admit that I was impressed with the fit of the parts. It possessed a very nice frame-to-slide fit and an even parkerized finish throughout. It was 100% reliable and capable of placing 5 rounds into a 2-inch group at 25 yards. I liked my test gun enough that I purchased it. Shooting the gun gave me a nostalgic feeling for my service days and I wanted to own one 1911 that had issue sights and no beavertail or extended thumb safety.

But I was intrigued with what Kahr had been able to do with its first 1911. During a time when Kimber was so dominating the market, I asked Frank Harris if Auto-Ordnance would ever offer a comparable pistol. “It’s in the works, Mike,” was always his reply. Each year I’d dutifully stop by their SHOT Show booth and look for a 1911 wearing low profile sights, a beavertail and an extended safety, and each year I was left wanting.

Gun Details

Finally, at the 2005 SHOT Show I found the 1911 that I had always hoped Auto-Ordnance would produce. Well, sort of. What I saw were 1911s wearing beavertails and extended safeties, like I had hoped for; however, their fit and finish was so lacking that it reminded me of the old Auto-Ordnance guns. Some of the guns bore evidence of heavy-handed buffing, while others displayed rough machine marks. Light showed around the sloopily fit front and rear sights, and the checkering on the front strap left much to be desired. The frame-to-slide fits were bad enough that the guns actually raffled when I shook them.

When I expressed my concerns and doubts to Justin Moon he patiently smiled and explained, “These are tool room samples, Mike. Not production guns. My goal is to make each gun that leaves our factory better than the last.” That was in January of 2005 and just two months later I received two evaluation guns – the Stainless Custom and Aluminum Custom. Both are full-size 1911 production guns.

The first thing that I checked was the frame-to-slide fit, and it was rock solid on both guns. No longer could I see daylight around the front and rear sights, and there were very few minor tool marks visible. Moon had kept his word; my test pistols were significantly better than the samples I had seen at the SHOT Show.

Auto-Ordnance machines their stainless frames from stainless 420 castings at their plant in Worcester, Massachusetts. The first castings were imported from Korea, but Frank Harris has informed me that they have recently found a domestic source. Quite frankly, I don’t care about the origins of the castings, as long as they are good metal and these stainless frames are plenty hard. While the frames are still in their CNC fixtures, the frontstraps are machine checkered, 20 lines per inch (lpi).

The Aluminum Custom’s frame is machined from a billet of 7075 aluminum to the same specs as the stainless frame. It is then anodized with a flat black finish.

Auto-Ordnance uses Chip McCormick’s slide stop and mainspring housing, and the beavertail and extended safety are from STI. All other small parts are manufactured by Auto-Ordnance.

The slides of the Auto-Ordnance Custom guns share a classic style with wide cocking serrations fore and aft, and are machined from 416 stainless forgings. Harris tells me that a different type of stainless steel is used for the slide, so there won’t be any galling as the slide reciprocates on the frame rails. Its left side is tastefully laser engraved with the Thompson bullet logo, while the opposite side, just under the ejection port, bears the legend “Thompson Custom 1911.” The port itself is of the enlarged and flared style so as not to impede the empty casing as it’s ejected. Breaking the current trend among 1911 manufacturers, Auto-Ordnance chose to stick with the traditional style internal extractor. They are also using a conventional style bushing and full-length recoil spring guide. Both front and rear sights are dovetailed for Auto-Ordnance’s excellent low profile sights.

Auto-Ordnance machines their one-piece, stainless barrels from rifled blanks in-house. The muzzle end of the barrel is slightly enlarged for a tight lock-up with the bushing. The chamber end of the barrel is throated and well polished, as is the feed ramp. One minor irritation that I had with the Custom guns is that the barrel hood was left unpolished. It took just a couple minutes for me to polish them bright with a piece of emery cloth, but for a gun that wears the name “Custom,” should I really have needed to do this? It would have taken just a few seconds for someone at the factory to polish the hood bright on a buffing wheel.

The fit of both guns is pretty good. Frame-to-slide fits are solid without any vertical or horizontal play. With the slide in battery the pressing down on the barrel hoods displayed no movement. While the thumb safety on both pistols securely blocks the sear and is well fit, both disengaged too easily. By removing the thumb safeties and stretching the plunger tube springs I was able to increase the amount of pressure necessary to disengage the safety. Problem solved!

Trigger pull on both pistols is about what we’ve come to expect from a stock production gun these days. Both guns had pulls that broke at just over 5 pounds after some gritty take-up. Triggers are of the lightweight aluminum variety and are adjustable for overtravel. Unfortunately, the trigger on my Stainless Custom had considerable vertical play. Probably the easiest way to fix this problem would be to replace the trigger with any of the many aftermarket parts available, if in fact, that extra play bothered the shooter enough. The trigger on the aluminum-framed gun was perfect for fit.

To prevent the gun from firing, in the event that it is dropped on its muzzle, Auto-Ordnance decided to add a firing pin safety. Modeled after the Colt Series 80 Firing Pin Safety, the Auto-Ordnance parts appear to be identical and interchangeable. Incorporation of this additional safety is most certainly tied to product liability.

Shooting Impressions

Despite the less than match quality triggers, I certainly had no problem shooting tiny groups with both Auto-Ordnance pistols. Both guns’ sights were well regulated and did not need to be drifted for windage. The Custom’s low profile sights present a clear and precise sight picture, and every load fired grouped five rounds under 2 inches at 25 yards.

I took the two pistols and a few hundred rounds of reloaded ammo out to the desert along with a steel target. Shooting at the steel plate at a distance of 15 yards, I fired both guns just as quickly as I could get a sight picture and press the trigger. Using a LaserCast 200-grain round nose bullet and enough of Winchester’s 231 powder to propel it at 850 feet per second (fps), I rang the steel with nearly every shot, stopping only long enough to reload the magazines. What I found was that I actually preferred the way the aluminum framed gun handled. While the pistol recoiled in a more lively manner than the stainless framed gun, my double taps were every bit as fast. I had absolutely no problem controlling the lightweight pistol. Weighing 8 ounces less than its stainless counterpart, the aluminum frame gun would be my pick, between the two, for carry. If the gun were to be used as a house gun or for sport shooting I’d probably choose the heavier, stainless-framed model.

I put over 300 rounds through each gun without cleaning them and I would have thought that my desert outing would have induced some stoppages just from the accumulated dirt and grit, but that wasn’t the case. Both guns ran perfectly even during the rapid-fire exercises with the reloads and I didn’t encounter any jams or problems.

I detail stripped both guns and inspected them for any undue wear. I was particularly interested in seeing if the aluminum frame showed any indication of peening or places where the hardened slide displaced aluminum on the frame. I wasn’t able to find any problem areas or even bright spots where the anodizing had been rubbed against.

Final Thoughts

My criticisms of the two latest guns from Auto-Ordnance are relatively minor and easily correctable. The parts are of good quality and, like any 1911s, may benefit from some judicious polishing. In any event, both pistols displayed excellent accuracy and reliability.

Suggested retail for both guns is $753 but I’m sure that you’ll find them in your local gun shop for considerably less. Justin Moon’s commitment to make each 1911 better than the last provides serious shooters with yet another 1911 option. For more information on Auto-Ordnance’s latest offerings, check out their website.

Performance: Thompson Custom 1911 .45ACP
Stainless Aluminum
Load Velocity Accuracy Velocity Accuracy

Black Hills 230 JHP 851 1.35 842 1.65

Cor-Bon 165 Pow’R Ball 165 1245 1.53 1263 1.77

Federal Hydra-Shok 185 HP 942 1.34 982 1.55

Hornady 230 FMJ 975 1.42 953 1.34

Remington 185 JHP 1090 1.52 1082 1.68

Winchester 185 Silver Tip HP 1010 1.68 1023 1.81

Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in feet per second (fps) by PACT Chronograph, accuracy in inches for 5-shot groups from 25 yards.

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