The GI .45: a Classic Single Action Only

The GI .45: a Classic Single Action Only

My old man and his crew chief, Corporal Matheus, in the Korean war. They called that Mustang The Loganberry Lancer. The weight of the M1911A1 is practically pulling dad’s belt off his flightsuit.


Over a hundred years ago, John Moses Browning developed a pistol that the US military adopted as the M1911. It was modified a bit between the World Wars. The later version was called the M1911A1. Although production of the M1911A1 ended shortly after Japan surrendered, it remained our nation’s standard sidearm well into the 1980s and even beyond. Some units carry versions of it to this day.

A “cocked ‘n’ locked” US Army 1911A1 with a few aftermarket parts. The hammer is back, with the thumb safety in the up / on position, in what Jeff Cooper called Condition 1. This is how the M1911 was designed to be carried.

The “civilian” version, made by Colt, became known as the Government Model. It is one of the most widely cloned and imitated pistol designs in the world. For variety, I’ll refer to all the different versions of this type as M1911s, Government Models, or GI .45s (even though they come in different calibers, from 10mm to .38 super auto to 9x19mm) here. Unless otherwise noted, the same statements apply to all versions of that series.

Almost all GI .45s have a “single stack” magazine. Some (such as those made by Para-ordnance) have a higher capacity, double stack magazine, although that tends to make the gun almost too big to hold.

This fantastically expensive, modern production Staccato is basically just a highly customized M1911 style pistol with a double stack 9mm magazine and a squared off trigger guard (see The Chopped M1911s below)

A few Government Model copies have been made with Double Action triggers, but as Andy Williams said about regrets in “I Did It My Way,” too few to mention.

The trigger pull of the Government .45 is quite short and relatively light. It can be made dangerously light, but it’s usually in the 5-pound range. Pulling the trigger only does one thing: drop the (pre-cocked, external) hammer. That makes it a Single Action trigger.


External Manual Safeties

Before the M1911 was adopted, the US Army’s horse cavalry troopers were used to having to thumb-cock the old Single Action Army revolvers before each shot. Double Action revolvers existed, and some were issued, but most of those were of smaller caliber and had lost favor during the Philippine Insurrection.

Ruger Vaquero, a modern production clone of the Colt Single Action Army revolver

Military handgun training was marksmanship oriented, so targets tended to be distant; thumb (or slide) cocking was the rule. Double Action, even with Double Action revolvers, was an exception.

The Army and Marines, for the most part, issued M1911A1s, until the Beretta M9 took over in line units. The second-string benchwarmers of the ‘Guard and Reserves took longer to covert to M9s. Ironically so did Tier 1 operators, although their Government model .45s tended to be custom built and of much more recent manufacture than GI M1911A1s.

Until the GI .45 was replaced by the Beretta M9 (or the SIG P226 for the SEALS, or the SIG P228 / M11 for Army CID and AF OSI), every one of those Army and Marine shots was Single Action, always.

Thumb Safeties

These here newfangled M1911 self-loaders re-cocked their own hammers after every shot, which scared the Army of the early 1900s. The jefes insisted that Browning install additional safety devices. John Moses settled on an external manual thumb safety that is fairly ergonomic for us right handers.

With the Government Model pistols, including the M1911 series, the hammer MUST be back in order to place the external manual thumb safety into the “up,” or on, position. When it is Up / On, the thumb safety blocks rearward movement of the slide.

In Gunsite’s API 250 General Pistol Course, which Jeff Cooper built around the M19l1 style pistols, they taught us to wipe the safety down / off just after the “smack” when our forward pushing gun hand T-boned the palm of our support hand on its way to a fully extended position. That was when the gun was still close to our bodies, but the muzzle was forward of the support hand.

While I was at Gunsite (that first time) I bought an aftermarket thumb safety with a slightly larger shelf that was lowered to make it easier to reach–and more importantly, harder to forget, since my stubby right thumb fell on it naturally. I’m pretty sure those lowered thumb safeties were manufactured right there in Prescott at the Ruger plant.

Well into this century, when the military adopted the SIG P320 as the M17 and M18, they once again demanded an (unnecessary) external manual thumb safety. Having learned how stupid the back of the slide is for the location of a safety (/ decocker) with the M9 (Beretta 92), the thumb safety of the M17 & M18 is more or less back where it was with the M1911 series. A few differences:

  • The M17 / M18 safety is ambidextrous; there’s one on each side. Some controls, such as the slide catch, do NOT need to be ambidextrous, but the thumb safety (if you insist on having one where none is necessary) should be. “Ambo” thumb safeties were an expensive aftermarket gunsmith’s modification for the Government models, and darned-well worth it, not only for southpaws.
  • The M17 / M18 safety does NOT impede the movement of the slide, as it did on the M1911 series. That, at least, is a step in the right direction. 
M17 with its anachronistic, superfluous thumb safety on the far right.

Grip Safeties

The M1911 series also has a quasi-passive grip safety. In theory, just grasping the gun should disengage it. However, it may not work as advertised if you are shooting over your shoulder, under your arm, or at otherwise awkward angles.

If your pistol has a grip safety, you may not be able to get the web of your palm up against it hard enough to disengage it, if you must shoot from an awkward angle.

Some custom grip safeties have additional material, a raised “palm swell,” to make disengagement of the grip safety more likely, but it’s still not a 100% certainty in all circumstances.

This silver colored grip safety has a palm swell at the bottom. You don’t feel it as much as one would think from looking at it.

Springfield Armory sells numerous M1911 style handguns. Their XD series pistols, which are more like Glock clones with extra bells and whistles than Government Models, also have a grip safety. This is only a selling point for the inexperienced.


Passive Internal Safeties

Half Cock

Government Models have a large, three-part flat spring tucked in behind the mainspring housing (see Adjustable Grips below). Because the flat spring is, well, flat, it adds almost zero bulk to the highly ergonomic grip of the M1911 series.

Browning’s genius is evident in the way the same split flat spring moves different parts in 3 different directions.

  • The right-most fork of the flat spring (lowest in this image, and closest to the camera) pushes back (out) on the grip safety.
  • The middle fork pushes upward on the disconnector (a small part at the uppermost end of the middle fork). It actually pushes forward against an angled camming surface on the bottom of the disconnector, which moves the part upward (see disconnector below).
  • The hooked left fork of the flat spring pushes forward on the bottom of the sear, keeping the sear engaged with the hammer (see Half-Cock Notch below). Through the sear, the left wing of the flat spring also returns the trigger forward after the shot is fired.

It’s not the only multi-purpose spring in the Government model. The coil spring which powers the plunger for the slide catch also powers the plunger for the thumb safety in the opposite direction. But that is far less unique to the M1911 series.

Gov’t Model flat spring (top) and plunger spring with plungers on each end (bottom).

The shelf in the bottom of the hammer which engages the sear was, until the era of laser-guided CNC machining, hand-fitted to the surface of the sear. It could be “tuned up” or cleaned up as it wore. With a strong flat spring, and a responsible trigger job (not a “hair” trigger, which some competitors used), the hammer was unlikely to slip off of the sear.

Sear (bottom left) engaging the fully-cocked notch on the hammer.

But if the hammer slipped off the sear (say, because of worn springs or sudden jarring), or if the fully-cocked sear notch in the hammer sheared off (say, as the result of being dropped from a great height onto a cocked hammer), M1911 series hammers have a hooked half-cock notch.

Sear engaging the half-cock notch of the hammer.

The half-cock notch on a pistol hammer serves more or less the same function as the second notch on the op rod of an M60 (for those of you into that sort of thing).

My classmate Deo L with one of our M60s during Op Desert Shield (the buildup to Desert Storm).

Parts of a belt fed machine gun firing .30 caliber bullets on full automatic are under enormous stress and heat loads. When the trigger is released, the sear of the M60 raises up, catching the notch in the op rod and holding the bolt to the rear. If the op rod notch shears off, the second notch should catch the sear, preventing a “runaway gun.”

SHOULD is the operative word here. If your M60 (or M240, or other belt fed machine gun) keeps firing even after you release the trigger, keep your “hog” pointed in the correct direction and yank hard on the belt, which should starve the system.

Sear in the hooked half-cock notch.

Unless the sear of a Government Model pistol is held out of the way by the trigger held to the rear, the sear will slip into the half-cock notch, keeping the hammer from falling all the way onto the firing pin. Unlike the full cock shelf, which is almost like a step on the stairs, the hooked shape of the half-cock notch prevents the hammer from falling farther unless the hammer is re-cocked first.

The robust, “none shall pass” shape of the half-cock notch is evident in this photo.

Even if the half-cock notch was to break and shear off, the hammer should not have enough kinetic energy falling from the half-cock notch to set off the military primer of a cartridge in the chamber.

Condition 2 Carry

Some “old schoolers,” distrusting a cocked hammer, or not wanting to make a scene with an openly carried cocked pistol, will chamber a round and then manually lower the hammer. Hammer downwhat Jeff Cooper called Condition 2–is the natural habitat of Double Action handguns, but with a Single Action pistol, it requires thumb-cocking before defensive use, which is a giant leap backwards to the same disadvantages faced by Cav troopers of the 19th century (except that’s only required for the first shot).

Pre-war M1911A1 in Condition 2, with the hammer down, safety in the down / off position.

Heloderm does NOT recommend manually lowering the hammer of a Single Action pistol, except in certain very narrow circumstances. Your thumb could slip off the hammer as you attempt to do so, and you will hear a loud noise (then the slide will jam your thumb; it’s a toss-up as to which you will perceive first). But I’m mentioning Condition 2 carry here so you will be able to intelligently NOT choose that carry method. See Alert Carry Conditions for more.

One thing we see a lot in movies and on TV is bad guys pointing Single Action autopistols like the M1911 series at good guys with the hammer down. Unless a gun with the hammer down has a Douoble Action trigger, it can’t go off that way. If your bad guy is stupid enough to do that,

  1. off-line the gun,
  2. take it away from him,
  3. beat him senseless with it, then
  4. tap the base of the magazine,
  5. cycle the slide (cocking the hammer),
  6. perform a press check, and
  7. keep him covered with it as you dial 911.

Half-cocked Carry

Some choose to lower (or pull back, on a Double Action pistol) external hammers to the half-cock notch. That makes for less distance the hammer has to come back (either thumb cocked on a Single Action, or trigger cocked on a Double Action) before it can be shot. We don’t recommend that either, but some choose to do so for reasons that make sense to them.

Star BM quasi-clone with the hammer in the half-cocked position. The thumb safety of a BM will NOT go up / on when the hammer is half-cocked, but it will if the hammer is all the way forward, or all the way back. The circular wear mark on the slide above the thumb safety notch is probably from the thumb-snap of a Spanish Guardia Civil holster.

The photo below shows the same Star BM hammer fully cocked (“cocked ‘n’ locked,” with the thumb safety in the up / on position). Comparing the two photos, you’ll see that “half”-cock is really 3/4 UN-cocked, which is why, even if the hammer was to fall from there, it would not be likely to set off a primer.

Technically, most of the modern striker-fired polymer pistols, like Glock’s “Safe Action” systems, are always half-cocked.

You would NOT be able to safely carry a round in the chamber with the hammer all the way down, if your system did not have an inertial firing pin, like the M1911 series.

Inertial Firing Pin

The firing pins on older guns are long enough to punch the primer of a chambered round when the hammer is just resting against it. This was problematic for a number of reasons, most of which should be obvious.

The first version of the Star BM, a Colt Commander sized Single Action auto pistol mostly based on the M1911 design, had a long firing pin that protruded through the breech face when the hammer was down. Star upgraded to a shorter inertial firing pin about halfway through the BM’s 20-year production run (’72 to ’92).

An inertial firing pin is short enough that it will not reach the primer even when the hammer is resting on it. It depends on the inertia imparted by hammer hitting the back end to launch though the firing pin channel like a torpedo starting to leave the tube in order to strike the primer with enough force to set off the primer.

Firing Pin Catches

One piece of technology that was not available when the M1911 was adopted was a firing pin block or catch that would have kept it from moving forward on its own momentum if the gun was moving and then came to a sudden stop (like an unrestrained passenger in a car collision).

In the mid-1980s, I met with a man who had been a soldier at Aberdeen Proving Grounds. To answer allegations that the GI .45 would go off when dropped, they were tasked with testing that theory scientifically. He and several other GIs sat in a bunker, cocked ‘n’ locked M1911A1s, and threw them over the lip of the bunker–all day, every day, for months. If memory serves, the M1911s went off when they hit the ground something like 6 times out of 20,000. Each time, it was pointing at the ground and hit muzzle first. Each time it had been tossed high enough to have been dropped from the second floor of a building or higher.

Dropping onto the dirt wasn’t too dangerous, even if the pistol did go off, but onto the metal deck of a ship from atop a ladder might be a problem. A sailor was killed that way by a Smith & Wesson Victory Model .38 in WWII.

Smith Victory Model on display at the Musée Mémorial des Combats de la Poche de Colmar (

In the 1970s and 1980s, Colt marketed a “Series 70” and “Series 80” Government model, virtually identical to issued M1911s except for better fit and brighter finish of the parts. The Series 80 was like a Series 70, except with a firing pin block that kept it from going off when dropped.

Firing pin blocks (or “catches”) have been standard equipment on pistols manufactured since the 1980s, and they are a good idea. However, on the Colt Series 80, the retrofit was complicated, with several small parts like an inner ear. Gunsmiths detail stripping the frame of a Series 80 found it easier to reassemble the lower half of the firing pin block assembly, ironically, by inserting a magazine into the frame to hold the parts till they could be pinned in place.

That is, an empty magazine. A gunsmith I knew who was helping out a customer who couldn’t get his own Series 80 Colt back together didn’t have an empty, and was in a bit of a hurry, so he used one of the (fully charged) spare mags on his belt to hold the parts in place. Which went fine, till he quickly reassembled the pistol by muscle memory and reflexively function checked it.


It worked, alright. 

As with aircraft crashes, most negligent discharges are caused by operator error–either from lack of familiarity, or over-familiarity. That gunsmith was one of the most knowledgeable people I knew about guns. The Series 80 was relatively new, but there was nothing exceedingly high-tech about its firing pin block lever. It was pretty straight-forward, just tiny and hard to reassemble.

Technology cannot possibly fix a Rule 3 problem. In this case, technology designed to make the pistol safer actually contributed to a dangerous situation. Fortunately, having Rule 2 ingrained in his muscle memory, the gunsmith was pointing it in a safe direction when the negligent discharge occurred, and the only thing that got hurt was a merchandise case, the wall behind it, and his reputation.


If the cartridge of a self-loading (“semi-auto” or “auto”) pistol discharges before the thin, soft metal case holding the gunpowder is completely surrounded by hardened steel in the chamber of the barrel, it will turn into a brass fragmentation grenade. We call this firing “out of battery”–battery being the condition where the cartridge is fully seated in the chamber and the breech, if locking as most are, is locked up.

To prevent this, the M1911 pattern pistols (and many since) use a disconnector: a device that prevents the sear from releasing the hammer till the slide is all the way forward. The slide going all the way forward does two things for us:

  1. It shoves the cartridge all the way into the chamber
  2. In 1911 pattern pistols, it shoves the barrel forward, rotating it over the link so that the locking lugs in the top of the barrel lock into matching recesses in the top of the slide.

The Government Models “know” they are in battery when the slide is so far forward, the disconnector rises up into a recess cut into the underside of the slide. Specifically, it’s cut into the back of the stripper rail, the central lug that runs along the underside of the back third of the slide, aft of the breech face. The stripper rail is named for its job: its forward edge pushes the next cartridge in the magazine forward, stripping the cartridge out of the magazine, and stuffing it into the chamber in the back of the barrel.

An inverted M1911A1 slide with barrel, view from its left rear quarter (muzzle pointed away from us). The triangular notch in the closest side is the recess for the thumb safety when it is in the up / on position. Just beyond that, in the rear of the central stripper rail, is the semi-circular notch of the disconnector recess.

The disconnector itself, is just a short, skinny, irregularly shaped piece of steel that is constantly under tension from the flat spring pushing up.

The tiny but important disconnector. The flat spring presses forward on that wedge on the bottom, pushing the top end of this small part up into the recess in the slide, which allows the bottom of the disconnector to move out of the sear’s way.

It gets pushed down by the bottom of the slide’s stripper rail when the slide is not in battery. When it’s down, it prevents movement of the sear, which wraps around either side of it.

The disconnector is shaped like an inverted T. In this view from the back of a detail stripped frame, with the sear and other parts removed so you can see it, the bottom of the disconnector is resting behind the trigger bar (the rectangle near the bottom of the picture–you can see wear marks on the back of the trigger bar). The disconnector extends up through that oval hole in the frame and pops out the top of the frame in the center.


The GI Trigger

The trigger of a Government Model doesn’t move very far. There is a short, mushy feeling of slack, followed by a stiffer resistance before the sear is moved out of the way of the hammer. This is called a two-stage “military” trigger.

After the shot breaks (fires, or the hammer drops in dry practice), there is more slack as the trigger travels the rest of the way to the rear. In live fire, most people don’t even notice this. It’s sometimes called overtravel. Government model triggers do not have very much overtravel, but if it bothers you, you can get a trigger that has a set screw in it. Adjusting the set screw limits your overtravel, but if it is adjusted incorrectly, it may prevent the trigger from moving far enough back to release the sear from its engagement with the hammer. I had one of those adjustable overtravel triggers in my M1911 for a while, but eventually removed it as one more unnecessary thing that could go wrong. Set screws are more likely to back out than to tighten themselves, but why take chances?

Overtravel, even lengthy overtravel on different systems than the GI .45, is not an much of an impediment to Marksmanship, since you should be following through on both the sights and the trigger after the shot breaks. Overtravel is only an impediment to speed if you’re one of those lightning fast, Brian Enos / Rob Latham type world class Action Shooting competitors whose trigger fingers are a blur.

The Government Model trigger is unique in that it slides straight to the rear as a unit. Almost all other pistols, including the Tokarev T-33 ComBlock equivalent of the M1911 series, have a trigger that is pinned at the top and pivots toward the rear. The GI .45’s trigger has a stirrup shaped yoke or trigger bar behind it that goes all the way around both sides of the magazine in the grip.

The back of the yoke–where a caballera hooks the heel of her boot in a stirrup–pushes back on the bottom of the sear, pivoting the top of the sear forward, out of engagement with the bottom of the hammer.


Long and Short Triggers

The original M1911 had a long trigger. “Long” here only refers to the distance between the front surface of the trigger and, say, the backstrap of the grip. When the US military upgraded the system to the M1911A1 between the world wars, they converted to a shorter trigger. The trigger still moved the same exact distance; the front of it was just a little closer to the back of the pistol. This left more room inside the trigger guard for GIs wearing gloves.

In this photo with a red background, the top pistol is an original M1911 with its long trigger. The bottom pistol is an M1911A1, with a short trigger. Other differences:

  • “Diamond” patterns around the escutcheon crews in the wooden grip panels of the M1911. The -A1 had simpler plastic grip panels.
  • The M1911A1 had a longer tang on the top of the grip safety, to prevent “hammer bite:” getting the web of one’s thumb pinched between the hammer and the top of the grip. It worked better, but not as well as an even larger “beavertail” grip safety (see photo near the top of this article).
  • The frame of the M1911A1 is bevelled slightly behind the trigger guard.
  • The M1911 has a wide hammer spur. Some M1911A1s may also have had these, but the WWII production A1 on the bottom has a “slab” (flat) sided hammer, which used less precious steel and was easier to manufacture.
View from the top. Slab sided M1911A1 hammer (left), and original wide-spurred hammer of the M1911 (right).

The shorter trigger and beveled frame behind the trigger guard of the M1911A1 may have been intended to make it easier for those with tiny hands to reach the trigger, but I think gloves were more of a concern. The military would not have altered the design of a weapon to accommodate smaller males, much less females, between the World Wars. It’s a moot point, anyway: I have small hands and I never had problems reaching the front of a long trigger on a GI .45, even with a larger, arched mainspring housing.


Adjustable Grips

The coil mainspring which powers the hammer is in the bottom half of the rear side of the grip, thus the part that held it in place was called the mainspring “housing,” rather than just the backstrap of the pistol.

Decades before the Gen 4 Glocks came out with a different sized backstraps for different sized hands, the US government went from a flat mainspring housing on the bottom half of the grip to an arched mainspring housing which filled in more space at the bottom of the palm. 

The arch made the diameter of the bottom 1/3 of the grip slightly larger.

Original M1911 (NOT A1) with its smooth, flat mainspring housing (back of the bottom half of the grip). Military mainspring housings had a lanyard loop on the bottom.

This may have been the result of feedback from the field, saying that most GIs would be able to control the gun better if the shape was a little more ergonomic. Either version feels good in my hand, though.

M1911A1 arched mainspring housings. These were textured for a more sure grip in rain-soaked, sweaty, or bloody hands. The WWII production type with vertical grooves (left) is far more common than diamond checkering (right).

There were still 1911 parts laying around in “benchstock” bins, so a WWII or Korean War or ‘Nam era GI could probably finagle a flat M1911 mainspring housing for his issued M1911A1, if he had small hands or was otherwise so inclined. Might cost him a bottle of liberated French Bordeau, Japanese sake, Korean soju, or Vietnamese rượu sim, but the armorer would probably have settled for a captured enemy canteen or bayonet, or perhaps a case of LSA oil you may or may not have found laying around another outfit’s supply room. The flat M1911 mainspring housings were smooth surfaced, but they could easily be stippled (roughened with a pin punch) if grip in a sweaty palm was a concern.

By the time Desert Storm rolled around, aftermarket mainspring housings came in a variety of different shapes and styles. When there’s a war on, most smart commanders aren’t sticklers about having regulation parts on the guns, if the “custom” parts work as well or better, and it makes the soldier more confident in his or her piece.

“There are many like it, but this one is mine . . .”

–from the Rifleman’s Creed

I’ve been running a semi-arched (halfway between a flat M1911 style and a fully arched M1911A1 style) Pachmayr mainspring housing on my GI .45 since the 1980s. The back of it is rubberized like the Pachmayr grips I have wrapped around the sides and front.

Pachmayr semi-arched mainspring housing.

Carl W, the original owner of the Pachmayr grips that wrap around the sides and front of the GI .45 in this photo, beveled out a divot by hand to make it easier to get to the mag release button. Later, Pachmayr made a set of grip stocks that were pre-beveled in the same spot, and looked much nicer than this hack job. Carl traded up to a set of those but I ain’t proud; these ones work and have some sweat equity into them. A gunsmith at Gunsite zipped off the back edge of the left grip panel to make room for the lowered thumb safety.


My M1911A1 Journey

I worked at the Marksman Pistol Institute, a civilian shooting range and firearms instruction business, from 1984 to 1986, when I was a starving college student.

Marksman employees were armed. We had glass cases full of guns for sale, and others (including, eventually, submachine guns) for rent. It would not have been responsible of us to have made it easy for criminals to steal them. We also supervised safety on the shooting range, which was in use all day and well into the evening.

I thought I had learned about firearms from the Air Force and the Army. It wasn’t till I worked at that civilian pistol range that I realized how very, very little I knew about firearms (particularly firearms safety) in general, and handguns in particular. Hundreds of firearms “experts” came through our doors. A few of them actually were. Some of the big names in 1980s IPSC competition came in to practice or shoot in matches.

Carl W, the proprietor of the range, was a Gunsite graduate and competitive shooter. Carl–not the military–was the first to teach me that it’s dumb to leave your finger on the trigger when you don’t want to hear a loud noise. We espoused Cooper’s (Gunsite’s) Four Universal Rules of Firearms Safety (which were not adopted throughout the military until later):

  1. ALL guns are ALWAYS loaded. Even if you think your friend just “unloaded” it, if you treat it like it is loaded, you won’t have any negligent discharges.

  2. NEVER let the muzzle (the business end) point at anything you are not willing to destroy. The NRA states this more positively: ALWAYS keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

  3. Keep your FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER, indexed up alongside the frame, until your sights are on target and you have made a conscious decision to fire. Even if you are not using the sights per se (“point” shooting), this rule applies.

  4. Know your target. Know:

  • What (or who) it is;
  • What is behind your target; and
  • What is between you and your target.

Essentially, Rule 4 means you are responsible for the final resting place of every bullet you launch. Because,

There are no misses; every bullet hits something.

These 4 rules apply at all times, even in a gunfight. We’re not violating rule 2 if we point our gun at a murderer who his massacring others, because we’re willing to destroy him, if necessary, to stop his killing spree.

Rule 3, in particular, was new to me. Once, when I had been on a LRRP (long-range reconnaissance patrol) exercise at Army RECONDO school, I tripped and cranked off a blank round. “Rosa Linda,” my issued M16A1, had not been pointed at anyone (Rule 2), so it would not have ended tragically had it been live ammunition on a real combat patrol. But it certainly would have given away our position. “That’s why you keep the safety on till you make contact,” a cadre NCO had told me. The concept of not having your finger on the trigger was foreign to the military in those days (see Rule 3: You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby).

Later, in the Smithy (gunsmith’s workshop) at Gunsite, I saw a sign on the wall. It read


  1. Keep your finger off the trigger.

  2. Keep your friggin’ finger off the trigger.

  3. Keep your friggin’ finger off the friggin’ trigger.

  4. Finger, trigger: NO!

OK, it didn’t say “friggin,” The words on the sign were more R rated. But you get the point.


Handgun Options in America in 1984

At first, all I could afford was a used Smith and Wesson revolver (see The Smiths). But it was clear to me, after interacting with police, former spies (including an OSS agent and a CIA officer), federal special agents, IPSC competitors, and others who used our range, that auto pistols were the choice of professional pistoleros.

There were not as many options back then. The high – capacity Wondernine (staggered column, usually Double Action, 9x19mm) revolution had just begun in the early ’80s (see upcoming posts The Berettas and The Glocks).

Although the older Smith & Wesson revolvers were quality guns, I was unimpressed by Smith’s semi-auto pistols, such as the 39 and 59. For one thing, they had a safety on the back of the slide, which is a dumb place to put it; that’s the part you grab to cycle the slide, and chances of inadvertently wiping the safety on or off are high when it’s in that location–plus the safety is hard to manipulate intentionally with the shooting hand when it’s so high up.

Ruger semi-autos (other than their .22s) had not yet appeared on the scene.

The Walther P-38 / P-1s had really heavy triggers, as did the PP series, which were too small. There were a few Makarovs, mostly war trophies, floating around before the wall came down. These were essentially clones of the Walther PP series, with the safety lever reversed and in an odd caliber (9x18mm) that was very hard to come by then (and is still not common in the US).

The Heckler & Kochs (except for the VP-70, which had a horridly heavy trigger) really impressed me. Our boss had a P-7 (the P-7 M8 and P7 M13 were like the original P7, only with a mag release lever up by the trigger guard, instead of the back bottom of the grip). The M8 had a single stack magazine that held 8 rounds. The M13 had a staggered column mag that held–you guessed it–13 rounds.

H&K P& M13, a double-stack, higher capacity version of the original P7.

The P7 had a fixed barrel with a very low bore line over the grip, which made it both controllable and accurate.

We had a coffee can full of mixed 9mm (reloads & factory) with lead bullets, semi jacketed, hollow points, round nose, truncated cones–all kinds. The only universal constant was that they had wound up on our range floor, often when they had failed to feed in other pistols and the operator had cleared the stoppage. Some were dented and dinged up. It filled up about every 6 months. The boss told me to get rid of them by running them through his H&K. A torture test, if you will.

That H&K P7 ate EVERYTHING. Every single round fed. Some had bad primers (already had dents) and two failed to chamber completely, since they were reloads that had not been properly sized. But every single round fed from the magazine of that P7.

The H&Ks were all well made, but who could afford one of those on minimum wage?

Likewise with the SIGs, which were the gold standard for law enforcement auto pistols in the 1980s. But for what they cost, they might as well have been made of gold. Most of the SIG P-series pistols were DA / SAs which had no manual external “safety,” but instead had a de-cocking lever on the left side. FN Browning and Beretta made a knock-off of the SIG P220, the BDA, that was only slightly more affordable. The Astra A-80 (and later, A-90 and A-100) were essentially poor man’s copies of the SIG P series, made in Spain.

Spanish pistols, in general, were more affordable, but of less consistent quality than, say, German pistols.

There were several offerings from Beretta. and various licensees. For example, license-built copies of the Beretta 951. The Beretta Model 92 had done quite well in the US military JSSAP tests. They were not quite as pricy as the SIGs and H&Ks, but they were still a little out of my league.

Beretta 92, predecessor of the M9. My old department issued these to SWAT cops when Lethal Weapon was in theaters.

Taurus made their own versions of Berettas and Smith and Wessons, using older tooling cast off by those companies. Tauri were less expensive, and therefore assumed to be of lower quality, than the Berettas or Smiths they imitated. I wanted my steel life insurance policy to be something I could absolutely depend upon.

This man in BDUs and a blue beanie is Andy Brown. On 20 June 1994, SrA Brown bicycled as fast as he could to the Fairchild AFB hospital, where a madman was murdering people with an AK in the parking lot. Brown hit him with 2 out of 4 shots from his issued Beretta M9, at a measured distance of 71 – 68 yards–WHILE the idiot with the AK was advancing on and shooting at him! Like me the decade before, Brown could not afford a fancy brand-name pistol. Unlike me, Brown bought a Taurus clone of his issued Beretta M9, and practiced with it incessantly. Brown’s training, preparation, and cool head under fire saved many lives at Fairchild AFB.

Back in 1984, I had read a review of what author Peter Kolkalis wrote was hands-down the best autopistol he had ever shot. It was called a Glock. But the Glock invasion of the US had barely begun in those days. I don’t remember shooting one till ’89 or so.

My Ranger buddy Max with an earlier (Gen 1 or 2) Glock (and a Ruger AC-556) at Ft Campbell in 1989.

CZ pistols had an excellent reputation. For a double stack, the CZ-75 had a very ergonomic grip copied from the Browning Hi-Power (see below). Like the SIGs, CZ-75s had a full-length rail, which made for excellent accuracy but potentially made them more dependent on being clean and lubed, since more rail surface area in contact made for more friction. Unlike the SIGs, the rails were on the inside of the frame, which left only a narrow strip–the top half–of the slide, for the user to grab. As with the Smith auto pistols and the Berettas, limiting the user’s access to the most important part that needs to be manipulated, the back of the slide, is a no-go. But it wasn’t all that relevant to me at the time: as with Cuban cigars, Warsaw Pact pistols like the CZs were harder to come by in the US before The Wall came down. Spare parts, magazines, holsters, etc were also harder to come by.

The Browning GP-35 Hi-power was combat proven. The SAS used them, and they were THE premier counterterrorist outfit in the ’80s (GSGN and GIGN and the SEALs and Delta Force were also premier, but were not as famous as the SAS were after the takedown of the Iranian Embassy in London).

I could not afford to buy and try several different guns, but working at that range, all I had to say was “Wow! Is that a _______ ? I’ve never shot one of those!” and the owners almost invariably let me try them out. I found out what worked and what didn’t, what felt good in my hand and what didn’t, what was easy to manipulate and what wasn’t.

Most of the Browning GP-35s (Hi-powers) I handled had a really teeny safety that was stiff and difficult to manipulate, despite its ergonomic location (for right handers) on the top back left of the frame. I found the recoil of the Browning Hi-power to be unusually savage. George Balthazar, former OSS (or very early CIA), agreed. “For a nine millimeter,” he said, “It’s pretty uncivilized.”


Caliber Options

Almost all of the above semi-autos came in 9x19mm, which had a mediocre reputation as a man stopper in those days. True, the SAS were murderously effective with 9mms, but they either put a burst of 9mm into a Tango’s chest with an MP5 SMG on full auto, or they shot him in the head with their pistols.

H&K MP5 at our old National Firearms Unit range in Altoona, PA

These days, 9mm loadings have improved greatly, but they still don’t hit quite as hard as bigger / faster bullets. This is a topic of debate in gun magazines and with ballistic gelatin testing but anecdotal evidence with real people indicates this is still true. Not long ago I was having dinner with a former partner, then a deputy director of the Border Patrol, who reviewed all their agent shootings. He had been a highway patrolman on the east coast, and was a SIG guy when most of the rest of us were carrying issued Berettas. “How do the troops like their new Glocks?” I asked. Along with new pistols, the Patrol recently converted from .40 to 9mm.

“We’re still winning the gunfights,” he allowed. “Only before, in the .40 days, the fights ended when the bad guys went down. Now, with the nines, the fights end when the bad guys give up: ‘Ouch! That hurts! Stop that!’ ” He was being only partially facetious when he said that.

In the mid-1980s, when I started working at that civilian pistol range, 10 mm auto was about to burst onto the scene (with much fanfare but much less availability). .40 had not yet been developed. There were a few other odd calibers out there, like .30 Luger and .38 Super, but for the most part, our defensive autopistol options in 1985 were .45 ACP and 9x19mm. Everything I’d read told me that .22, .25 ACP, .32 ACP, and .380 (9x17mm) were unacceptably underpowered for defense. 

The Marksman had a professional development bookshelf, that I read from voraciously. Two of the books on it were Mas Ayoob’s StressFire and the classic police textbook Street Survival: Tactics for Armed Encounters (Adams, McTernan, and Remsberg, 1980). Andy Brown, later the hero of the Fairchild hospital shooting, said he was heavily influenced by Street Survival.

Page 215 of Street Survival has a photo of a liquor store robber who was hit 33 times with 9mm. I learned elsewhere (I think it was at a Calibre Press law enforcement seminar) that he was still on his feet till he was hit in the head with a shotgun slug.

There was a similar contrast in our local law enforcement.

Tucson Police Department was carrying .38s in .357 revolvers (ballistically, .38 is about identical to 9x19mm).

Rookie Pima County deputies had to carry a revolver their first year, but after they passed probation, they could take a course and upgrade to a cocked ‘n’ locked Government Model .45.

I knew one of the directors of the County’s firearms program, who was a frequent visitor to our range. The word on the street was, “If the City has to shoot a guy, he sues. If the County has to shoot a guy, he dies.” This was partially due to the width of the bullets hitting them, but mostly due to the superior tactical training, speed, and accuracy of the deputies. A self-loading gun with a relatively light, crisp, consistent Single Action trigger is much easier to hit with quickly than a Double Action revolver, even if the recoil of a .45 was commensurate with pushing a bullet that weighs nearly twice as much. Duty .45 rounds typically weighed 230 grains, as opposed to typical 100 grain, 125 grain, and 158 grain .38 / .357 projectiles.

I’d read about the Army’s experience with smaller calibers against the Moros in the Philippines. I’d read about Hatch’s experiments shooting human cadavers and live cows with different calibers. Back in those days (1984), hollow point technology was not nearly where is is now. Skinny hollow points might or might not expand to become fat. If ball ammo feeds more reliably than hollow points, it’d be better to use ball ammo that starts fat to begin with, thought I.


.45 options

SIG made the aforementioned P-220 in .45. I’d shot P220s and BDA 220 clones. They were single-stacks that felt nice in my small hands, but they had DA / SA triggers and were prohibitively expensive.

I packed a friend’s H&K P9S in .45 ACP for a while, and found the caliber to be just as controllable as the hot-loaded .357s I’d carried on duty.

H&K P9 in .45 ACP.

The majority of the pistols on the US market in the mid-1980s were variations on the US military’s M1911 series.

Colt made a Lightweight (aluminum framed) Commander and a Combat (steel framed) Commander, which was a Government model with a slightly chopped slide. A Commander was to a Government model as the mid-sized Glock 19 is to the full-sized Glock 17.

Colt also made the full-sized Gold Cup, a “match grade” pistol. It had tightened tolerances for more accuracy, but tightening it up also made it slightly less reliable when clean, and even less reliable when dirty. I knew the biggest requirement of a defensive arm was that it go “BANG!” each and every time one pulled the trigger. Plus, Gold Cups were pricey.

My friend Scott had a Llama (Spanish) GI .45 clone. The edges of the slide and other parts were sharp.

Star was another Spanish company, mostly making clones of the GI .45 that were a step up in quality from the Llamas. Stars did not impress me in the 1980s, but well into this century, I bought a Star BM (9mm Spanish equivalent of a Colt Combat Commander), and was surprised at the quality & features, considering its low price.

Star BM. Unlike most M1911 pattern pistols, the thumb safety can be in the up / on position with the hammer all the way forward.

Randall, a company formed by retired Air Force BGen Russell Randall and airline exec Ken Lau, made a stainless steel GI .45. Stainless was experimental in autopistols at that time. There were concerns about long-term galling where the stainless slide rubbed against the stainless frame rails. Not much of a problem with a stainless revolver, but potentially one with stainless autopistols. My friend Max had a Randall that we shot.

I worked evenings (and weekends) at the Marksman during the school year. I wrote a term paper about the development of the M1911 series, and their use in combat, for a course I took called Comparative Development of the US and Soviet Armies in the 20th Century. I interviewed several people for that paper, including a Huey door gunner who’d fought in Vietnam, a Marine who’d manned a flamethrower in the Pacific during WWII, a paratrooper who’d done most of the major drops in the ETO, and the aforementioned OSS or early CIA operator.

Artists’ impression of a ‘Nam Tunnel Rat with an angle-head flashlight and a GI .45.

Been-there, done-that heroes. The most remarkable was when I spoke on the phone with General Curt LeMay himself about the OSI’s chopped .45s. True to his reputation, he was no-nonsense and straight to the point, even in his later years.

Painting of Gen LeMay at the Strategic Air Command & Space museum, Omaha, NE.


The Chopped M1911s

Although they are common today, “chopped” M1911 style pistols were only starting to be produced in the late 1970s and early ’80s. They held 5 or 6 rounds in the magazine (plus one in the chamber), as opposed to the then standard 7 round GI .45 mags.

Randall’s chopped .45 had a roughly Colt Commander length slide, but a shorter grip. It also had a squared off trigger guard. They named their chopped .45 the “Gen. Curtis E. LeMay 4-Star” pistol. General LeMay, formerly the USAF Chief of Staff, and before that commander of the Strategic Air Command, had led bomber forces against Germany and Japan in WWII. LeMay shot one of his friend Russell Randall’s chopped .45s and influenced the USAF Gunsmith shop to cut down M1911A1s to similar dimensions, for issue to plain-clothes OSI Special Agents.

Image from

I learned about those, and got to shoot a few of them, at the Marksman when OSI agents from the local AFB came in to maintain proficiency. They had a lot of custom features (stippled front straps, for example). Unlike customized civilian guns, they had a Parkerized finish and were not shiny.

Like the A-10, they were not pretty but they shot a big bullet and you did not want to stand in front of one.

I’m not sure what purpose that squared-off trigger guard served, other than to make it harder to find holsters that fit. It did make it look cool.

Plus, it has THE LOOK, which is important.”

–BPA Ian E, former Navy SEAL, about a tricked out M-4

Hang the Booger Hook?

For about 10 minutes in the 1980s it was popular to hook the index finger of the support hand around the front of the trigger guard, which is a main reason why Glocks and Berettas that came out in those days had a hooked, forward curving front to their trigger guards.

M9, with its hooked trigger guard (top). Compare that to the trigger guard of the earlier Beretta 92 (bottom) upon which the M9 was based.

When you lift weights, do you do it with your index finger stretched out? Neither do I. Your support hand grip is much stronger if all your fingers are together, and any leverage you get with your splayed finger on the front of the trigger guard gets negated when the less controlled recoil yanks it out from under your finger.

Heloderm does NOT recommend hooking your support index finger on the trigger guard, squared-off, hooked, or otherwise, unless your mitts are just so huge they engulf the frame of a pocket pistol and you can only get two fingers around the grip.

The main issues with the OSI’s chopped .45s were, their magazines were not factory manufactured as “shorties” from the bottom up. Instead, they were chopped down from GI mags and had a slight bend to the toe (front) of the floor plate to accommodate the pinkie of those with larger hands. Agents carried a shortie mag in the gun. Regular (7 round) GI mags were carried as spares. There were some issues with reliability of feeding from the mags of any size. Magazines are the Achilles heel of any mag fed system; especially when the same mags you drop on the ground in training are used for duty carry.

The OSI chopped .45s had ambo thumb safeties; the right-side safety (for left-handed shooting) would sometimes work loose. Also, the frames of the OSI .45s sometimes cracked, which was not surprising since they had been hacked and welded from original WWII manufacture M1911A1 frames.

Detonics made a Government style .45 that was chopped not only on the front but also on the bottom and even on the top of the slide in back. Don Johnson carried a Detonics Combat Master as a backup on Miami Vice.

It’s easy to spot a Detonics; the rear quarter of the slide has been scalped and the rear sights have been moved forward to the front edge of the divot. Image from

Colt eventually jumped onto the chopped .45 band wagon with their Officer’s Model.

It should be noted that like the Glock 26 and 27, the chopped GI .45s were the same pistols as the full-sized guns in the middle. They were just as wide, and hit nearly as hard (the .45 ACP bullet gets most of its momentum in the first couple of inches of barrel anyway). They were just missing the front and bottom ends of their longer taller cousins.

There were (and have since been more) miniaturized “pocket pistol” versions of the 1911 style pistols, like the Colt Mustang, usually shooting micro cartridges like .380 and smaller. I don’t include those here.


Duty M1911A1, ’85 – ’86

Anytime you go to a shorter slide (and hence, a shorter stroke) than the original design, there is a potential for problems. If nothing else, you must have a tighter recoil spring to compensate (Detonics had used a dual recoil spring, now standard on Gen 4 and later Glocks). Reliability issues with the Detonics and OSI baby .45s, as well as less sight radius (I was all about marksmanship in those days) convinced me that if I jumped on the auto-pistol band wagon, it should be with a full-sized gun.

Jim Kennedy, a Vietnam vet and former police officer who I worked with at the Marksman, and for whom I had the greatest respect, carried a Government Model. Jim’s girlfriend Terry, a tiny waif who did our bookkeeping and weighed about 90 pounds soaking wet, carried a GI .45 and shot it quite well. Our boss Carl carried a Commander. 

All of us were heavily influenced by the earlier writings of Jeff Cooper, “the father of modern pistolcraft,” who concluded that the GI .45 was the ultimate fight stopping tool. Many SWAT teams nationwide were carrying them, as did FBI HRT. It was the chosen pistol of most American professionals who had a choice of what to carry.

But I made minimum wage, was a starving college student, and never quite had the dough to afford one. Government Models were less expensive than SIGs and H&Ks but still out of my price range.

Working at that pistol range paid very little but I got to shoot a lot, and bought ammo at wholesale prices. My girlfriend (and later, fiancée) worked at a jewelry store and got shiny things at wholesale. Between the two of us, we were always broke!

The father of a high school classmate had an M1911A1 that had been sold as surplus after WWII. He was interested in trading it for a revolver, preferably a Smith and Wesson. I swapped him the Sarge, my Smith 586, straight across. That M1911A1 was a rattle trap, but the looseness of the parts inspired confidence in its reliability under austere conditons. Rosie the Riveter had made it at the Ithaca plant in 1943. Unlike, say, Herr Schindler’s Jewish slave laborers, Rosie wanted every single piece of ordnance she made to work, even if a lieutenant dropped it in the mud of some blood-soaked foreign field.

WWII poster on display at the Strategic Air Command & Space museum in Omaha, NE

I eventually bought and Earnie Hill Speed Leather friction rig for it, and it became my constant on- and off-duty companion. Most duty rigs of the day had a thumb snap that went across the back of the slide, in front of the cocked hammer, which made Condition 1 (a term coined by Jeff Cooper for hammer back, safety up / on, as it was designed to be carried) look safer. The Earnie Hill came with one of those, but it was flimsy and only for looks; the real retention was in the custom metal clamp inside the leather. The two-part thumb strap would frequently come undone and hang down from its bottom snap, which looked stupid, so I eventually stopped using it.

There was no (legal) concealed carry in Arizona in those days. It was not unusual to carry openly, but some who saw my GI .45 “cocked ‘n’ locked” in Condition 1 freaked out. “Did you know your gun is c-cu-cuh-cocked?”

I found a legal compromise, at least during the cooler months of the year, wearing an MA1 flight jacket over the pistol. The bottom half of the holster could still be seen, which meant it was NOT legally considered concealed, according to Arizona Revised Statute 13-3102.


Off-Duty, ’86 – ’92

Throughout my first two hitches in the USAF Security Police (1986 – 92), we turned in our weapons at the end of each shift–except when deployed during Desert Shield / Storm; there, we were supposed to put them in the armory but after the war started, we didn’t always.

The M1911A1 was my primary go-to gun when I was off duty Stateside, although I also carried a Ruger .357 revolver (Security 6, Speed 6, or GP-100) from time to time. I was a rifleman by trade, except when I worked the base entry control points; that M1911A1 was really my go-to handgun, as it was with me off duty more than pistols were on duty.


Off- (and sometimes On-) Duty, ’93 – ’96

While I was still at the University of Wyoming, my first civilian law enforcement job was working summers as a seasonal state park ranger. Wyoming law stated that in order to write tickets (the real reason they created the program), we had to be sworn law enforcement officers. Since most of us had not yet been through a civilian law enforcement academy, they gave us 40 hours of training, a badge (on a temporary POST certification), a ticket book, and a can of pepper spray, before sending us off to do the governor’s justice.

About halfway through our first week, dispatch (we used the same state dispatch system as the highway patrol) sent us on a “crazed man with a gun” call. I believe my exact words to the dispatcher were “And what exactly did you want us to do about it?” The seasonal rangers were not issued nor officially authorized to carry firearms. I had my GI .45 in my POV (privately owned vehicle), but not in my patrol rig.

We had one pickup truck at Glendo State Park, but our other patrol vehicles were Dodge Ram SUVs. “They never run worth a damn,” said my 1st line Sup, Ross, “but they always run.”

It was rural law enforcement. You went with what you had (that scene in Wind River, where the FBI agent says “Shouldn’t we call for backup?” and the police chief replies, “This ain’t the land of backup. This is the land of you’re on your own,” seemed hauntingly familiar to me when I watched that movie decades later). We paired up with a deputy, game warden, or highway patrol officer whenever one was available–which wasn’t always the case.

On one of my first such calls, it was to a drunk who had been waving a gun around, scaring the other campers nearby. As we pulled up, the Platte County deputy I was with said “Nothing bad’s gonna happen. But if something bad happens, there’s a .44 in the glove box.”

Shooting my M1911A1 at Gunsite, the school of the 1911, in the first half of the ’90s.

Eventually, my park ranger boss, who had been through the Academy and was armed, and who also knew:

  • I was a Gunsite grad, as well as
  • a former military policeman
  • I’d supervised firing at a pistol range for 2 years
  • I still qualified with handguns in the National Guard, and
  • I shot competitively,

told me “George, I know you have a gun, and I know you know how to use it. Next time they send us on one of these nutjob with a gun calls, you f___in’ well better bring it.”

Ross J, my first line supervisor, and I at Glendo after I got on with the Parks “full time.” This photo was after I went to the Academy and was (officially) armed; those are Glock mags in my belt pouch.


Retiring the Old Warhorse

My friend and mentor Max M, an Army Ranger who has forgotten more about guns than I will ever learn, told me that one should always 

Beware of the man with only one gun. He may know how to use it.”

Max also taught me that when I was issued (or acquired) a new duty gun, I should “treat it like a jealous lover, forsaking all others,” till I had its manual of arms (the ways you manipulate it to make it go bang) down cold, i.e., till the specific manipulations for that weapons system were reflexive.

The small town I worked for as a patrol officer required that we provide our own equipment, including duty pistol, belt, magazines, etc. Single Action .45s like my M1911A1 were not authorized as duty pistols. I carried a Ruger P94DAO (Double Action only) in .40 till I was able to pick up a Glock 19, which I carried for that department and later, when I got on “full time” with the State Parks (my state job was funded for 11 months out of the year, rather than the four-month summer seasonal gigs I had at first).

The DAO Ruger, the “Safe Action” Glock, and the DAO Beretta I later carried all were “slick slides”–as were the H&K USP-Cs we issued (with LEM triggers) and the DAK (Double Action Kellerman) SIG P229s we were later issued. None of the duty pistols I carried in 2+ decades with the Feds had manual safety like on my M1911A1 to manipulate. Somehow that did not create any “safety” issues.

The Beretta Centurion (96D) the Patrol issued us starting in ’96 was fat and particularly hard to carry concealed. I still practiced with my GI .45 when I could afford the ammo (I got 9mm and .40 for free), but twice in training I forgot to disengage the safety. When I’d carried it for a living, I practiced so much that wiping that safety down and off was reflexive–consistently done, without conscious thought. After the second failure to disengage it, I decided to relegate that M1911A1 to inactive reserve status.

I’ve thought about carrying it when I have to go behind the Silicon Curtain (into the People’s Democratic Republic of California) or other places with a stupid, unenforceable, and most importantly ineffective magazine capacity limit. But after years of carrying polymer framed pistols, I wonder how I ever used to wearing that steel framed M1911 around town without noticing the weight. When I carry it now, it feels like I’m lugging around a ship’s anchor. I find myself humming that Marty Robbins song “Big Iron.”

Now I use my M1911A1 almost exclusively as a demo prop for teaching educators and others how important and doable it is to off-line gun stuck in your face before the bad guy can drop the hammer on you.

Because the M1911A1’s hammer is external, it makes a good visual aid. The students can SEE, as well as hear, that the gun can be off-lined (pointed in a safer direction than at your face or your friends) before the bad guy can react to your movement, pull the trigger, and drop the hammer.

We use a highly visible barrel insert to prevent the chambering of any live ammo, ‘natch.

 Close up of a barrel insert in a Beretta M9 used for training off-lines and disarms.

–George H, lead instructor, Heloderm LLC

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