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One That's Been Good to Me...

Posted: Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:25 pm
by Stephen A. Camp
Hello. I was piddling about the safe just now looking for a particular Browning 9mm Hi Power to take a measurement via an email request I'd received earlier in the day. I got the information for the fellow and replied before returning to wipe down my pistol and relock the safe.

I'm not really sure why, but I thought of a particular 1911-pattern pistol I've had for nearly a quarter-century but have not shot much at all in the last few years so I dug about in the "1911 pile" until I found its gun sock and retrieved it.

I am the first to admit that this particular custom 1911 setup is very similar to what comes with many stock pistols in more recent times, but back then, if you wanted adjustable Bomars "buried" in the slide or an enlarged "Gold Cup type ejection port" with the scallop, you had it done. Likewise with a wide grip safety or about anything checkered.

The slide is a Colt Series 70's that I had about $30 in, if memory serves. I also had a new-wrapped-in-brown-paper Kart match barrel and bushing. I think I "horse traded" into that for about $20, too. Well, with that much already "invested", I just had to have a new gun, didn't I?

Cutting to the chase, I had Lou Williamson of Williamson Precision Gunsmithing in Hurst, TX, build me one up. I decided to go with the "two-tone" look similar to what Col. Cooper and other 1911 fans were using in competition and like some I'd seen at the Dallas Indoor Practical Shooting Club and shot against on Friday nights! What fun we had! (I'd use a Hi Power one week and then a .45 1911 the next. "They'd" think I had finally "seen the light" and then I'd show back up with my 9mm Browning! They'd act disappointed and I'd act surprised; all in good fun!)

Oh well...back to the picture: I don't even recall the manufacturer of the grip safety, though it was popular at the time. I am not even sure if it is still produced. The single-side thumb safety is an older design and one that I just "like". I have never had much trouble "hitting" standard 1911-pattern pistol thumb safeties; maybe due to my shooting the older, classic Hi Powers with their tiny thumb safeties? Don't know for sure. The Commander-style hammer is all-steel and the long trigger is aluminum. I measured the trigger-pull before photographing the thing at 4 1/4 lbs with very, very little take-up, a clean break and no perceptible over-travel. An oily surface is what makes some blued areas appear blemished. The top of the blued slide is a fine matte while the flats are polished. At one time there was considerably less blue visible on the slide, but I had it refinished about 12 years ago. (I didn't ask for the serrations on the rear of the slide. Mr. Williamson just threw that in at no charge!)

The bushing is fitted to the barrel and slide, but can be removed with only finger-pressure, but lots of it. It is not "easy" but it is doable as per my instructions way back then. When at the bench, I just use a nylon barrel wrench because it's easier, but I have always preferred my 1911-pattern pistols to be able to be field-stripped w/o tools. I've never been in any "emergency" with one where it was a necessity to be able to field-strip it, but I just preferred it so...and still do. The serrated ramp front sight was cut out of steel and formed by Mr. Williamson and is silver-soldered to the slide.

When discussing this pistol with Lou, I asked who made the best aftermarket 1911 frame and he replied, "Caspian", without hesitation. He then asked me if I wanted cast or forged? I asked which was better and was told that it as far as he'd seen, "None, except you save about a hundred with the cast." I opted for the cast frame and it has held up fine to lots of shooting.

The last records I had indicated something over 20K shots zinging downrange from this pistol, mostly handloaded 200-gr. home-cast H&G No. 68 SWC's over 4.2-gr. Bullseye for paper or 7.2-gr. Unique for everything else.

All was not trouble-free however; the pistol would fail to feed on occasion. It worked better with some magazines but initially couldn't be "trusted" for anything "serious" in my opinion. (That said, the thing always worked fine in competition, which was a surprise to me.) The fix was simple; the extractor had too much tension and would not let a rim slide up behind it without undue pressure. "Re-tensioning" seemed too simple but it worked...and has worked just fine for years now.

This pistol barrel's tight chamber has not proven detrimental to reliability with factory ammo or handloaded so long as the cases were properly sized. Much as I like this old thing, I do not think that this frame is as "nice" as more current ones. Note how the rear of the frame and the grip panel are not perfectly parallel. This is minor to be sure, but given a preference, I would prefer the two to be "right" if for nothing more than "looks". If memory serves, the checkering was done by Caspian. I believe that Mr. Williamson relieved the frame around it a tiny bit.

This (cast) Caspian frame was used by me in a "home-build" project a few years ago. I believe that its checkering is better than that on my old Caspian/Colt, though the latter is certainly usable and provides good purchase with damp hands. Even so, I have no plans to alter my older "shooter".

This pistol's barrel-to-slide is not a "crush fit". The barrel-to-slide still exhibits no slop but "glides" into place and the gun is capable of more mechanical accuracy than I can wring out of it and always has. To my surprise I have no photos of groups shot with this one...something I'll rectify in the very near future.

Thinking back, besides a bit of competition shooting, this thing used to be a pretty regular range companion. I could pick up used linotype for free from a local print shop and a weekend's casting made lots and lots and lots of H&G No. 68's for the .45's and Lyman No. 356402's for the .38/.357's for me and a friend...who has now crossed over. Money was tight and either of these cast bullets proved accurate in their respective calibers; (I had better luck with either than when using cast bullets in my Hi Powers. Because of this, I handloaded and shot more cast forty-fives due to cost and because I got accurate handloads. I opted to load jacketed for my Hi Powers until I learned that the slower twist in the BarSto barrels worked better with cast bullets...but that's a different story.)

The pistol has drawn blood, none of it human. As best I can recall, it's taken untold numbers of jackrabbits, a few raccoons and fox, a couple of feral hogs and three whitetail deer.

I'm not sure what made me think of this thing a while ago and I guess there's no real reason for this post other than to "show off" a pistol that has served very well indeed, once we got past the extractor-tuning issue.

I need to shoot it again.


Re: One That's Been Good to Me...

Posted: Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:29 pm
by baldeagle
So don't keep us hanging.....have you shot it? :hurry:

Re: One That's Been Good to Me...

Posted: Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:32 pm
by Stephen A. Camp
Hello. Not today, but I will in the near future. In year's past, it has been shot LOTS.

Best to you and yours.

Re: One That's Been Good to Me...

Posted: Wed Jan 04, 2012 2:40 pm
by duallydondon
that looks like a superbly fitted pistol!!!!

Re: One That's Been Good to Me...

Posted: Wed Jan 04, 2012 2:41 pm
by duallydondon
Forgot to ask ,,do you use those recoil buffers?

Re: One That's Been Good to Me...

Posted: Wed Jan 04, 2012 3:34 pm
by AEA
Stephen is no longer with us. He passed last year. May he rest in peace. He is truly missed and will never be forgotten.

As I recall, he did some write-up's on the 9mm Hi-Powers where he suggested a Wolff 18.5# recoil spring for hot loads of +P & +P+ and he mentioned that he also used a buffer in that configuration.

I do not know if he used buffers in his 1911's.