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Massad Ayoob on Guns

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Archive for the ‘Firearms’ Category

Massad Ayoob


Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Here’s an entry promised earlier…

After a shooting, witness’ recollections may vary widely.  Add to that what we would now consider sloppy investigation – the way it was done on the Frontier in Old West times – and 19th Century history starts to get a little fuzzy by the time it filters down to 21st Century readers.

While doing some research recently on the Northfield Bank Raid in Minnesota in 1876, that became apparent. No two historical accounts place the exchanges of gunfire at that hectic scene in the exact same order. “Jesse James was inside the First National Bank and killed the cashier!” “No, Jesse was outside, and it was his brother Frank who murdered the cashier inside!” “No, Jesse wasn’t even there, and he was turning his life around anyway…”

“The gunman killed by an armed citizen with a skillful 80-yard rifle shot was Bill Chadwell.” “No, it was another bad guy, named Stiles.”  “You’re all nuts, Stiles was just one of Chadwell’s aliases!”  And so it goes.

Hell, historians agree that Jesse James was killed by the “dirty little coward,” Robert Ford, but no one seems to agree on what he killed him with. Some historians can’t even agree with “they’s own selfs.” In “Jesse James: Legendary Outlaw” by Roger Bruns, we find on page 83, “…Bob Ford drew his Smith & Wesson .45 and shot the infamous outlaw through the back of the head.” However, turn the page and on P.85 we find this photo caption: “Bob Ford, the assassin of Jesse James, posed for this photograph with the weapon he used to kill the infamous outlaw.” The revolver in that photo is clearly a 7 ½” barrel Cavalry Model Colt Single Action Army.

In “The Escapades of Frank and Jesse James” historian Carl Breihan wrote, “Without hesitation Bob drew his Smith & Wesson and sent a slug crashing through Jesse’s head. This nickel-plated revolver, Serial No. 3766, Model No. 3, was the same weapon Jesse had given Bob as a present some days before.” (P.277)  He adds, “Inquest records show that the gun used by Bob Ford was a Smith & Wesson and not a Colt as generally believed. Charley Ford said, ’Bob had a Smith & Wesson, and it was easier for him to get it out of his pocket.’ Bob Ford admitted, in part, “I could see that it was all over with Jesse when that Smith .44 slug tore through his head.” (P.280)

And some would have it that Ford killed James with one of James’ own guns, snatched from a two-holster gun belt James had just unbuckled and set on a table.  Colt or Smith & Wesson? .44 or .45? Bob’s gun, or Jesse’s?  A gun snatched from Jesse’s holster, or given to Bob by Jesse, or …?

Ah, history…

Massad Ayoob


Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Every now and then, even those of us who make our living with words are rendered speechless.  I offer you the press release:

Cabot, PA

January 29, 2014


Pennsylvania based Cabot Guns transforms the 1911 into a work of fine art depicting the great American debate of gun control on a mirror image set of left and right hand pistols featuring President Barack Obama, President George W. Bush, Piers Morgan and Ted Nugent.


A mirror image set of 1911 style pistols featuring artistic renderings of President Barrack Obama and Piers Morgan was displayed earlier this month at SHOT, the world’s largest consumer firearms tradeshow in Las Vegas, NV. The pistol set is named “The Left and the Right.”


Cabot Guns crafted this rare left and right-handed set of iconic 1911s over the last year. The pair are true mirror images of one another with the exception of the images on the handles. The grips of the right-hand gun depict President George W. Bush on one panel and Ted Nugent on the other while the left-hand pistol grips feature President Barack Obama and Piers Morgan. The pistol set illustrates elements of a great American debate on firearms. Fine art Scrimshander, Darrel Morris, was commissioned to carefully handcraft the art on each grip.


Cabot Guns President and Gun Designer Rob Bianchin had been contemplating the project for some time and wanted to use scrimshaw to detail the work. “As the guns are positioned in opposite directions, the grips show President Barack Obama facing to the left while President George W. Bush faces right,” said Bianchin. “While oriented towards one another, the right-hand pistol depicts Ted Nugent and the left-hand gun depicts Piers Morgan, representing the great ongoing debate in 2013.”


Nugent viewed the pistols during their exhibition at SHOT and described the work of Cabot Guns as ballistic art. “Cabot Guns treads the line between firearms and art. The medium of our art is our guns,” added Bianchin.


“The art of scrimshaw – engraving on bone or ivory – dates back to the 1700s,” noted Bianchin. “And the detail in Darrel Morris’ scrimshaw work is just fantastic.” Morris explained the process of scrimshaw; “Scrimshaw works are created by punching tens of thousands of tiny holes in the surface of the ivory and filling them with black oil paint. This technique takes hours and hours of meticulous labor, but it makes it possible to achieve very delicate gradations of tone resulting in incredibly lifelike images.”


It should be noted that the Cabot left and right pistol sets are true mirror image pistols. The left-handed pistol is built from the ground up from a block of billet steel; it is not a converted right-handed pistol. Not only is the ejection port engineered to the left, but all small controls have been inverted. Even the rifling in the barrel has been reversed.


A three-year-old start-up, Cabot Gun Company is based in the rolling hills of western Pennsylvania. Cabot utilizes Penn United Technologies Inc. to produce its 1911s. Penn United Technologies is a world-renowned manufacturer of precision components for aerospace, nuclear, and other industries requiring precision manufacturing. “Each Cabot represents the work of over 70 of America’s finest engineers, tool makers and master craftsmen,” added Bianchin. “Our objective is to build an important and enduring American brand,demonstrating how the finest products in the world are built right here in America.”


Cabot Guns was launched in 2011. In a short time, the company has won two consecutive NRA National Pistol Championships. The Cabot 1911 has been described as “the Rolls Royce of 1911′s” by S.P. Fjestad, Author and Editor of the “Blue Book of Gun Values.


Media Contact: Robert Bianchin, (724) 524-1002 or

For additional information on Cabot Guns please visit For information on Scrimshaw artist Darrel Morris visit



Robert A. Bianchin, President


While I’ve never shot a Cabot 1911, they have earned high praise among those who are experienced with them.

I worry that my left-handed friends in the gun owners’ civil rights movement might take the Obama/Morgan version as an insult.  Perhaps they can come to terms with it by picturing each of their grip panels shedding a tear every time they press the trigger.

Personally, I’ve only met two of the four men depicted, and I respect them both: I’d be proud to own a pistol bearing President Bush’s image or Ted Nugent’s.

But there’s a reason why I should have the one with the pictures of the two of those men I haven’t met. Being right-handed, it occurs to me that I should buy the left-handed one with the pictures of President Obama and Piers Morgan…install an ambidextrous safety since I’m right-handed…and enter a quick draw contest.

In theory, I should have an advantage, since any self-respecting holster would want that pistol to be gone from it sooner.



Massad Ayoob


Monday, January 20th, 2014

Looking through the relatively thin pickings of meaningful new gun designs in this year’s crop, I noticed that one I mentioned here, the Glock 42, a seven-shot .380 pistol, got a ton of comment on the internet. Much of that commentary was on the theme of “if I’m going to carry a gun that size, I’d want it in full power 9mm Parabellum, not a wussy .380 a/k/a 9mm Short.”

Let me make it clear: I’m not a .380 fan. In 40-plus years of studying gunfights – not just reading books, but personally debriefing survivors and going over autopsy reports – I’ve come to consider the .380 marginal if not sub-marginal as a defensive weapon. I’ve just seen too many cases of the bad guy sucking up bullet after .380 bullet in vital zones and still coming. But, I’ve also seen cases like the recent controversial Tampa shooting, in which a senior citizen dropped the man he shot with a single .380 to the chest.  (I’ve seen one-shot stops with well-placed .22 bullets, too, but I don’t recommend a .22 for self-defense, either.)

If you go on the gun forums, you’ll find that a recurrent theme is “how much is enough to use for self-defense, and how much is too much?”  And you’ll discover that there’s some ego investment in those discussions.

The meme seems to be, “If you carry more (more powerful ammo, more cartridges, even more guns) than I do, you’re paranoid.  And if you carry less than I do, you’re a pathetic sheeple.”

Oh, good Lord…

First, if you’re carrying a seven-shot .380, you are better prepared to defend yourself against a homicidal armed criminal than a high 90th percentile of the population, who are carrying nothing at all which could realistically stop such an attack.

But, second, if that attack actually comes, you might wish you had something a little more than than a .380.  The saying is: “You’ll never meet a gunfight survivor who says he wishes he’d had fewer, less powerful rounds.”

Having shot the new Glock 42 with more .380 rounds than most folks outside the Glock factory, I was impressed with its ease of operation, extremely mild “kick,” and accurate delivery of rapid fire. There are a helluva lot of people – petite females, the elderly, the disabled – who will shoot faster and straighter with this gun than with something more powerful. There, I think, is its market niche…wait a year or two, and see, but I expect it to become a best-seller.

Will I carry one? Probably not. Whenever a gun magazine asks me to test a .380, I feel like Ralph Nader test-driving a Corvair for Motor Trend. But as someone who trains others to shoot, I am going to see about buying my test sample to keep it on hand so students who don’t think or function as I do, can try it.

As I write this, I’m wearing a different Glock pistol. It’s much more powerful than a .380, and holds far more cartridges than the slim little G42, and I have a spare “high capacity” magazine on the opposite hip.  That works for me, but I have to accept that some other people need something different to fit their abilities, their lifestyles, their dress codes.

God save us from BS memes.  A center hit with a .380 beats a miss or even a peripheral hit with a .44 Magnum.

Something is better than nothing.

Discussion invited.


Firing one handed, I found recoil quite controllable with the new little Glock .380.

Massad Ayoob GLock42


Note the best four of these 5 shots from benchrest at 25 yards. The one outlier may have been unnoticed human error. Sights have since been drifted for center hits. This is unusually good accuracy for pistols in this class.  


Glock 42 Remington Golden Saber 

Massad Ayoob


Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Last summer, I got to sit down with SIG-SAUER CEO Ron Cohen and the engineers, and got to play with a prototype of their new striker-fired pistol.  I promised them I wouldn’t discuss it in public until they announced it at the SHOT Show this week.  Some in the business didn’t hold to that agreement.  I did.

And, it has now been announced:

This is the first striker-fired SIG pistol, and is of course designed to compete with the hugely successful Glock and Smith & Wesson Military & Police semiautomatics.  It’s built on the chassis of SIG’s familiar P250, and in fact the prototype we photographed six months ago is actually marked P250.

The P250 had growing pains, particularly in the area of the trigger bar.  It had one of the smoothest double action only trigger pulls in the semiautomatic pistol industry and still does, but today’s market seems to want shorter trigger strokes, which the P320 certainly delivers.  The widely copied Glock trigger safety – which SIG calls a “tabbed” trigger – will be only an option on the P320, since some folks don’t care for that design.  The P320 will share the P250’s modular design, allowing quick changes of grip length and configuration, slide and barrel length, and caliber.  Now, going back to the Dan Wesson revolver of decades ago, it turns out that quick-change barrels are not a big draw for American police and handgunners, but the feature is there for those who want it.

The early bugs seem to have been worked out of the P250 design…I liked what I saw of the P320 prototype in New Hampshire…and the P320 is going to be a handgun to keep an eye on.  Congratulations to Ethan Lessard, SIG’s in-house genius who led the P320 design team.

Ethan Lessard, left, fills Mas in on new suppressors, the just-announced P320, and other matters SIG, August 2013, Exeter NH. Photo from forthcoming Second Edition of Gun Digest Book of SIG-SAUER.




 Prototype P320, photographed in summer 2013.  Note that frame is marked “P250.” Photo from forthcoming Second Edition of Gun Digest Book of SIG-SAUER.


Massad Ayoob

More new introductions that may tickle shooters’ fancy…

Saturday, January 11th, 2014

Burris brings out some interesting high-tech riflescopes geared for the hunting market. They call the series Veracity. Info here: .
I’ve been an enthusiastic advocate for active hearing protection for many years. It lets you hear small sounds while reducing loud sounds. They’re great for everything from hunting to building searches, and of course, very effective on the firing line. SportEar promises to be “unveiling the most innovative” such devices at the SHOT Show this coming week, so you might want to check out their website in a few days: .
Finally, in the interest of transparency (chuckle), Taurus has announced a new snub-nose five-shot .38 Special revolver called The View. It derives its name from a clear sideplate on the right side of the frame, through which the mechanism can be clearly seen. Some are already deriding that as a gimmick, but I can see handgun instructors buying this gun just as a visual aid to better show how double action revolvers work. (Double check with your accountant, but my understanding is that any gun you buy to teach with as a firearms instructor is a business expense you can write off.) What a lot of people are missing about this gun is that at the weight Taurus has specified, it should be the lightest .38 Special revolver ever made. +P ammunition is not recommended. Barrel is much shorter than the classic two-inch length. The ejector rod is a mere stub. That would be a deal-breaker in terms of quick reloading, but a great many people who carry these guns don’t carry spare ammunition for them anyway, making that issue a lot less relevant. Information is here: .




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