My opinions are based on hundreds of thousands of rounds through quite literally thousands of guns since I was 6 years old. Every year I try (and have been successful for the last 5-6 years) to attend at least 1 and preferably 2 classes at a name gun school, because in all honesty, the list of what I don't know is longer than the list of what I do know. I hold credentials from four of the acknowledged best shooting/training schools in the world, GUNSITE, MID-SOUTH INSTITUTE, LFI and ROGERS SHOOTING SCHOOL, and have attended probably a dozen others, plus special classes and instruction not available to the public. I graduated from the very first "test class" for range officers before the creation for the National Range Officer Institute, then helped shape that first cirriculum.
Through SHOOTING GALLERY, I have been blessed with (as Walt Rauch once said) a "post-graduate degree in gun." Because I have a background with a manufacturing consultancy, I have been able to spend time with firearms design and manufacturing engineers and go through how guns are created and built at a level most people would find as boring as fingernails across a chalk board. I've been to most of the U.S. manufacturing facilities and some in Europe, and every one is fascinating. My direct input is, I'm proud to say, in use in several guns on today's market.
Each of us in the field have different personal standards when evaluating a gun. Mas and I have been friends for more years than either of us care to count, but there are guns Mas swears by that I simply won't own...not that they're bad guns, but I have shot them and I don't like them...it's that simple. But should I get on my blog or on other Forums and rail about how I hate such and such? I don't believe so, because there's absolutely nothing wrong with the guns involved, except that for whatever reason they don't work for me.
It's like the disucssion Dave Spaulding and I had about sights on the Ruger SR9 and sights in general...coming from a law enforcement background, Dave feels very strongly about fixed sights — they can't be knocked out of adjustment (well, it's harder to knock them out of adjustment) and a patrolman with a screwdriver can't cause unlimited havoc. I, coming from a competition background, in general want adjustable sights, because it allows me to vary loads as much as I want. Okay...which of us is right? Both of us, of course...
A second point...most of us have ties to specific gun companies. Usually, those ties involve people we've worked with over the years or decades. In some cases, those people work for sponsors of the magazines we work for or the shows we do; in some cases, the opposite is true. In my own case, Ruger, Sig Sauer and Para USA have been big sponsors of my show, and I have spoken well of their guns and featured them on the show. Alternately, Glock, S&W and Kimber have never put a penny into my shows, and I have featured their guns on the show anyway. I am to the best of my knowledge the only show to feature guns not from sponsors...it is an ethical issue for me, and my sponsors understand and are in agreement with my stance. Do I give my sponsors better play? Are you crazy? Absolutely!
On the Ruger SR9, when I shot the factory prototypes back in September, I (along with Dick Metcalf, Patrick Sweeney and Jim Wilson) told Ruger the mag catches were unacceptable, and Ruger assured us they would be redesigned — which they were. We also noted the stiff magazines, which is a function of the narrow width of the receiver. I said then, and I still say, I'll take a hard magazine to load over at fatt-butted receiveer (of course, with apologies to Queen) any day of the week. Also, the magazines do loosen up...we were using most original mags at GUNSITE...Spaulding loaded every single magazine the whole week with his fingers, and he didn't spontaniously combust.
I would like a bigger thumb safety, but it's not an issue with me for two reasons:
• It's a redundant safety...that is, the gun can be run just like a Glock, not using the thumb safety at all. For holster carry, I would not engage the thumb safety; for bag or off-body carry, I would as an added layer of safety in something that's going to be bounced around. IMO — and note that I said opinion — the "trigger safety" on a Glock is more of a marketing device than an added level of safety. That said, I have never had a problem carrying either my Glock 19 or M&P 9mm in holsters. I have also written that the absence of a secondary mechanical safety disqualified those guns from a bag-style carry (the XD, with it's grip saftey, is not included).On the SR9 trigger, if you want that zero take-up, glass-rod breaking trigger, I refer you to multi-thousand dollar 1911s from Bill Wilson, Wayne Novak or Bill Laughridge...stay away from striker-fired guns! The Glock trigger can be more-or-less civilized through aftermarket parts because it's been around the longest. However, as Dave Sevigny has catagorically proved, an out-of-the-box Glock trigger is no detriment to high-quality shooting. In fact, the same can be said for all of the striker-fired guns' triggers...while they are nowhere near that glass-rod-breaking standard, they aren't a detriment to marksmanship, either. Ask Dave Spaulding — a far better shot than me — who won the GUNSITE class shoot-off against a host of finely tuned 1911s. Hey, I got no complaints after a week and 1200 rounds!
• I have no trouble at all sweeping the safety off; it's size and placement on the slide do make it more difficult to put back on. But — and I can't say this enough — that is a training issue as opposed to a design issue. A percentage of 1911 shooters who choose not to use a high thumb grip have issues with bumping the 1911-placed safety back on, which is a far more serious issue than a stiff return on a redundant safety. If a slightly larger thumb safety becomes available from the aftermarket for the SR9, I will probably get one.
BTW, for those of you who want a better trigger on the SR9, the guys at GHOST, Inc., who create some of the finest Glock triggers on the planet, will be starting in on the SR9 trigger system next week...watch this space for announcements!
Finally, all new products have problems. One recent striker-fired pistol had a return rate of more than 30%. 1911s have been around since the friggin' dinosaurs, and new 1911s have bugs (look at the Sig GSR experience). There's a quote, I believe from Samuel Johnson, something to the effect that if we were to address every eventuality before we began, we'd never begin. New products, and especially new guns, get tested extensively...then they send them out to people like me who break them in new and imaginative ways the engineers never thought of.
The companies address our issue, put out a new product and then you guys get a chance to break them in new and imaginative ways nobody thought of. Ideally, a new product is 100%. Realistically, no product made by humans, be it new or ancient, is 100%. Machines break. All machines break. Here's how I look at firearms failures:
1) 80-90% of all firearms failures are OPERATOR-INDUCED. Sorry...that's the gospel truth. In a semiauto pistol, you are part of the operating system, and that operating system expects yout to operae in a specific manner. Every so often, you run across someone who can't shoot a specific type of semiauto because of biomechanical issues...I know a very proficient woman hunter who jams every Glock that's put into her hands, including mine, which I know to be fiercely reliable. It's not the Glock's fault...the blame lies in the wet part of the system!Finally finally finally, when any of us go into a factory and talk to the designers and engineers, we are under a very strict nondisclosure document...that is, we cannot tell you what was discussed under penalty of law. This isn't unique to firearms...every factory I visited as a consultant required me to sign a nondisclose before letting me in the door. It makes perfect sense...a lot of the processes and manufacturing solutions we see are proprietary, often developed at a cost of hundreds or thousands or even millions of dollars. Except in the most general terms, I can't tell you what I've discussed while inside the doors of a gun factory.
2) Ammo is a bigger issue than most shooters realize or accept. Anyone who shoots ammo he or she got from a gun show needs to also obtain a plastic explosion shield to place between their faces and the gun. In the other 10-20% failures in revolvers, the ammo is usually at fault.
3) In the remaining 10-20% of firearms failures in semiautos, magazines are usually the culprit.
4) Sometimes, even the best designer can't beat the laws of physics. In the case of "walking pins," polymer frame guns are notorious for loosening up pins, because frame flex is built into the system. All frames flex, but polymer frames flex more than steel or any of the aluminum alloys. Flex puts more stress on pins. The result is thsat sometimes pins back out. The solution? Pay attention to your gun! If you don't believe me, go buy a classic Colt Gold Cup, an all-steel gun which will invariably launch it's adjustable sight, which is held in by a pin. Whatever pin your replace the factory pin with, sooner or later it'll break that pin, too.
4) One data point is not a trend. Think about what a firearm is...a device for containing and channeling explosions. All explosions, including the ones that happen in cartridges, are chaos systems, that is, a sigularity...every explosion is different, and the combined stresses on the gun for each shot fired are slightly different. The result is that a certain set of stresses will cause "X" to fail. If you replace "X" with a duplicate part, it may never fail again because that exac t set of stresses won't be repeated. Multiple data points are a trend...for instance, I once had a short slide 1911 that broke firing pins...three in a row. That's what one might call a "clue," some set of parts in the gun was enough out of spec to stress the firing pin to failure.
Anyhow, I hope this gives you a better view of how I work.
Again, your results may differ...