To get ready for one of my classes with a ballistics laboratory, I headed out to the range and test-fired the laboratory supplies. Turning in the bills for range time and ammunition to the department administrator is always amusing. They get paid, sure enough, and after years the powers that be should be used to it. It makes for some interesting conversations, though “You paid sales tax, couldn’t you buy the ammunition on a purchase order?” Well, yes. Via mail order. We will save $9.50 on sales tax. We’ll get killed on the hazardous materials fee and shipping, and we’ll have to keep hundreds of rounds of ammunition somewhere. They pay the tax.
The first order of business was to get Salome checked out on the 1911A1. She had some difficulty at first, the grip safety gave her some problems, and had many failures to feed with the slide not fully returning to battery. After some experience in clearing jams, and the “tap-rack-bang” failure to feed drill, her grip improved, and the holes in the paper started clustering within the 9 ring.
Secondly, the M1917. This had had headspace problems earlier. The chambers are double-bored, with a lip where the .45 ACP casing rests. If the cylinder is not really clean, the cartridges won’t seat well, and then the whole cylinder won’t rotate. This has a really heavy double-action pull. When combined with the really small handle (particularly for my mitts) and the lack of any slide or springs, this one still beats up your hand. Second shots are…interesting. They always hit the backstop. Single-action shooting is more controllable. Just. This one is a Brazilian contract model.
Finally, the M1903 pocket hammerless. I looked up the serial number on this beast, and it was made in 1925. It’s still going strong. Evidently Bonnie Parker liked one of these, and Kasper Gutman had one in the Maltese Falcon (the movie, not the book). Most of these were not heavily used. The .32 ACP was a dream to handle after the .45s, even in a straight blowback pistol. No failures to feed, no stovepiping, no jamming, works every time. Groups were reasonable–everything stayed in the 8 ring at about 12 feet. Which, considering the sights and the cartridge, is probably the maximum useful range for this beast.