Saturday, February 27, 2010

One lost screw = new revolver

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

I was reminded of this old proverb yesterday when I went to shoot a pistol match today only to find that my trusted Smith and Wesson Model 66 Combat Magnum that I have written about previously had suddenly developed a problem in the form of a missing thumbpiece--that little control on the left side that you push forward to unlock the cylinder for loading and unloading.

<--This is a thumbpiece.

I took the pistol out of it's case on the ready bench, went to open it up, and jammed my thumb on the sharp threaded screw post the protruded from the frame where the thumbpiece used to be. The thumbpiece was gone and I saw my chance to shoot today going right along with it, all because a $15.00 part and a $3.00 screw had dropped off. Gee, I was sure glad that I drove all the way over there just to look like a fool. And I'd just opened that pistol's action as I was casing it up the night before so I know the piece was on there then. But it wasn't on there during my prep period, nor was it in the case.

For want of a screw, the thumbpiece was lost.
For want of a thumbpiece, the pistol was lost.
For want of a pistol, the match was lost.

But wait--there might still be a chance to save the day...

I quickly located another shooter I knew, a friend of mine who was also a deputy with my county's Sheriff's Department. We'd talked guns quite a bit whenever we shot or chanced to meet at the local 7-11, and I knew that he had a somewhat shopworn but serviceable Smith and Wesson Model 19 that he'd been looking to sell. The Model 19 is a blued-steel version of the stainless steel Model 66 and otherwise identical in every way. I asked him if he'd brought that Model 19 to the range today, and he said that he had; he was hoping to find a buyer for it. I asked if I could please borrow it for a bit, and being a pal, he handed it over. I got back just in time to finish getting prepped, and managed to shoot what wound up being possibly the best match that I've ever shot with a revolver. When the scoring was done, I was not among the prize winners but I was definitely much closer to the top of the ranking than the bottom. I was quite pleased, both with my shooting and with this pistol.

A tentative deal was made--he'd come to my house afterward and take a look at British Enfield #4 rifle that I'd been planning on selling, and if he liked it, we'd trade. Well he liked the Enfield so now I have two Combat Magnums. Here's the newest addition to the armory:So...

For want of a screw, the thumbpiece was lost.
For want of a thumbpiece, the pistol was lost.
For want of a pistol, a trade was made.
And because of the trade, I'll never want for a .357 Magnum revolver when I need one again.

Oh--and when I got back home, I found that missing thumbpiece and it's screw on the floor beneath the workbench where I'd cased the Model 66. It's in place again--secured with loctite--and the Model 66 is back in the safe, making friends with it's new blued-steel sibling.And a quick note about why I like these pistols so much. The Combat Magnum was probably one of the best pistols that Smith and Wesson ever came out with. It was basically the brainchild of Bill Jordan, a larger-than-life man of action who spent thirty years on the Border Patrol and served as a Marine in two wars. Jordan knew shooting and he knew what our cops needed, and he was instrumental in getting Smith and Wesson to create this new gun for the then-new .357 Magnum cartridge. It was strong, it was light, it was balanced, and it looked good. It was a no-nonsense working tool for a generation of American law enforcement, giving the cop on the beat more power than the old .38 Special could deliver. Smith and Wesson made the Combat Magnums in blued or nickle-plated steel (Model 19) and stainless steel (Model 66) for years. The Model 19 was made from 1957 until 1999, and the Model 66 was made from 1970 until 2005. Both are now out of production, having been replaced by newer models, the Model 586 and 686 respectively. However it's my opinion that these newer guns lack the elegance and high standards that went into the Combat Magnums. Granted, many shooters today are enamored with autoloading semi-automatic handguns that give them more shots and offer countless over "advantages" over the venerable old wheelguns, but I'm old-school and I like the simplicity, reliability, ruggedness and aesthetic qualities of these revolvers, and that, couple with the fact that they offer a greater range of ammunition options than any semi-auto out there--everything from light cast loads for practice to full-power rounds that will punch clean through things that will stop most auto-pistol rounds--is why I will continue to love these classics and rely on them for my own self-defense needs.

Additionally, generally speaking, redundancy in firearms is a good thing. If you're serious about shooting, you don't just have a firearm, you have a full system built around it, including but not limited to a holster or holsters, speedloaders or magazines, unique tools, ammunition and everything else needed to make that firearm do what it's supposed to do. Now if you have all of that for one firearm and that one firearm breaks or is lost, now you have a lot of useless stuff that will do you no good whatsoever. However, if you have back-up firearms that can utilize that stuff, you're back in business. And personally, I'd rather not have to buy all of that stuff several times over for each different handgun that I own. I'd much rather standardize around a few types and just own and shoot multiple firearms of that type. For me, that means that I own and shoot 1911 .45s, H&K P7s, and Smith and Wesson K-frame revolvers. Now I've got all of the handguns I could ever need for sport shooting and self-defense and I only need a small number of holsters and other accessories because what fits one will fit the other members of that type.

BTW, excellent article on the Combat Magnums here:
Xavier Thoughts: The Smith & Wesson Model 19 Combat Magnum


  1. You all are just so cute when you start talking guns!! Your eyes light up like a kid at Christmas.. And if we let you have the ones you want, you think we're wonderful women..
    It's all very easy, really... :):)

  2. The tip of the extractor in my wad 1911 disappeared near the end of today's 900 match.

    Gun no workee.

    It's a bit more then a simple screw but the effect is the same. And it's happened before. This time I'll get a replacement, and a spare.

  3. I feel ya, Ed. I've been burned the same way by my Springfield Armory .45 way back in the day. Extra extractors are essential in any 1911 parts box.

  4. Forgive me for smiling, but it's comforting to know those things don't just happen to me.

    Oh, and congrats on the new (to you) gun!

  5. Very nice. Be sure to bring it along when we next get together. I should have a new bloggable acquisition myself shortly.