Monday, January 6, 2014

Modifying for the Sake of Modifying vs. Proper Fit

Most men don't play with dolls, we don't wear eye shadow, and we couldn't give two poops about making sure our wallet and shoes match.

However, when it comes to Gun Culture 2.0 as well as the high-speed gun gamer sets, it seems we are constantly playing with Tactical Barbies. The 1911 platform pistol is more customizable than a Jeep and the AR-15 style of rifle has become the poster child for firearm customization.

And, just like our Jeep-driving compatriots, we're hard wired to think that spending $2000 and up on a handgun is "a good starting point."

I recently learned a hard lesson about "modding" my expensive 2011-frame STI Limited gun the way someone tells me I need to, despite knowing the changes aren't going to work for me.

I dropped hundreds into custom gunsmith work I am now regretting and am finding ways to resolve with minimal further expense. Maybe this will help someone avoid the same...

Fit vs. Function
If you know for a fact a particular part or modification doesn't work for you, don't let anyone talk you into it.

In my case, I have stumpy little T-Rex thumbs and need as much relief as possible to get to the mag release on a 2011 frame. However, I've got meaty paws and bump long mag release extensions in match shooting under pressure and on the move. I HAVE to roll the gun to drop the mag. Period. Yup, sucks to be me... boo freakin' hoo.

I had a local gunsmith talk me into a slight grip reduction and application of grip tape, against what I already know about me and grip tape. I HATE it! While it is a good solution for locking your hand to the grip, it is very hard to disengage your grip and move it around.

At the end of the day, the grip wasn't reduced nearly enough, the grip tape broke apart on my grip, and I couldn't drive my now-$3000 race blaster like the boss I know I can be. It's one thing to mess up a Glock frame or an M&P backstrap but after my last match I immediately ripped my STI apart to get that grip off and prepped for a reduction and re-texture that actually WORKS for ME.

I can spot that gunsmith's work a mile away now and while it's popular for many of my local clubs' top guns, it certainly isn't for me. I drank the Kool-Aid and killed half of my 2013 season fighting my pistol. Not bueno. For the record, that gunsmith does good work, but we didn't do what was best for ME. While that might sound like a platter of whine and cheese, it was an EXPENSIVE plate.

Competition Trigger Weight
We all know there's nothing like a finely-tuned single-action 1911 trigger. They can be made to break crisply under 2# with next to zero creep or over-travel, which can be ridiculously light for someone transitioning from USPSA Production guns to Limited and L10 equipment.

The same gunsmith who did the grip work I'm replacing also worked some serious magic on my fire control system that I could swear has to be at or under two and a half pounds. Combined with my complete lack of confidence from my grip issues, I ran into a couple dangerous situations last year which thankfully didn't injure me or anyone else.

After the changes were made, I was sent into the berms with the warning to "Just be CAREFUL." As condescending as it sounded, he was right. I now had a gun I could not drive with confidence which wore a trigger that broke far lighter and shorter than anything I've shot before. I really should have put a thousand practice/training rounds through it before it ever hit my holster in a match.

If I could offer a bit of advice based on my experience, be completely honest with yourself if you're relatively new to competitive shooting or are changing equipment - particularly if you're moving on to the 1911/2011 platform. These guns require full focus, full attention, and more than an occasional range session to become comfortable with.

Going Forward
I hope to get my grip over to a different guy this week who can re-texture it and help fit it to MY hands. That will help to solve the big problem - confidence.

Once the pistol fits and works with my shooting style, I will decide if I can quickly come up to speed with the go button or if those expensive internals can be re-tuned to bump the break weight up a pound or so.

Much of the other work I've had done (reworking the safeties, slide stop modification, replacement of the recoil system, etc.) has been good and have helped address other fit and function issues. However, I think I'm ready for a gunsmith who is willing to listen, and not just talk over me.

The photo below shows the grip AFTER I was able to remove the grip tape, adhesive, and sand down the rough areas. I'm hoping an undercut trigger guard, a little more reduction (if possible), relief near the mag release, and texturing the grip itself without adding any material will get me to where I need to be with this pistol.

- Posted from somewhere on this big blue marble.

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