sig p210 trigger function

The SIG S.P.47/8 was developed to compete for succession of Georg Luger’s Parabellum pistol that had been adopted by the Swiss Army in 1900 as the first automatic pistol to be issued in military service. Although the Luger has been simplified, and arguably perfected in its 1929 embodiment by the Waffenfabrik Bern (W+F), it was deemed too expensive for continued production. Its successor was to cut down on the costs while maintaining its stellar accuracy. The legacy of the Luger is clearly seen in one of the modifications of the Charles Petter design that SIG licensed for that purpose in 1937. While Petter’s Modèle 1935A pistol imitated the M1911 in its slide rails riding on tracks in the frame, SIG replicated the Parabellum arrangement that made the upper assembly reciprocate inside the frame tracks. Sig also designed a two-stage trigger that imitated the trigger pull of the Luger, while decreasing its trigger weight, as witness the following test results.
    On the Lyman electronic trigger gauge, the trigger of a heavy frame SIG P210-6, serial number P79608, yields a weight of 1.2kg, averaged over 10 pulls. Its immediate heavy frame successor, P79609, fitted with a National Match hammer, releases the sear at an average of 1.23kg. Likewise the heavy frame P210-6, serial number P79103 in 7.65 Para, at 1.24kg. That’s about as good as you can get in a tuned service grade self-loading pistol, and much lighter than Swiss pistol target shooting competitions allow, by requiring a trigger weight above 1500 grams. More typical are the measurements of the heavy frame SIG P210-6, serial number P79136, which yields a weight of 1.82kg, averaged over 10 pulls, the Borchardt C93, serial number 1774, releasing the striker at 2.59kg, and the Krieghoff P08, serial number 3249, weighing in at a hefty 3.48kg.
    More Swiss service pistol trigger pull weight measurements follow:

  • P06/1929 SN 71644: 3.80kg;
  • P06/1929 SN 77493: 2.57kg;
  • P06/1929 National Match SN 59951: 2.64kg;
  • P06/1929 National Match SN 65721: 2.15kg;
  • P210-6 SN P86618: 1.78kg;
  • P210-2 SN P79980: 1.67kg;
  • P210-1 SN P77209: 1.94kg;
  • P210-2 SN P74064: 1.86kg;
  • P49 SN A204931: 2.88kg;
  • P49 SN A156213: 2.90kg;
  • P49 SN A107159: 2.75kg;
  • P49 SN A105553: 2.56kg.

All are two stage, with a very crisp stage transition (Druckpunkt). It is obvious which pistols have been resprung. As witness P06/1929 National Match SN 59951 and 65721, W+F was either unwilling or unable to equal, let alone best the measurements of a factory tuned P210, in preparing for the 1949 ISSF competition in Buenos Aires.
    The double pull lever is the part responsible for regulating the transition between the two stages of the trigger pull of the P210. After the trigger, part #28, takes up the slack to engage the sear, part #23, by way of the trigger rod, part #26, the first stage of the trigger pull is determined mainly by the weight of the trigger spring, part #31, with additional resistance provided by the sear spring, part #24. As the sear rotates around its pin, part #22, it brings all the way back the hammer, part #14, and contacts the double pull lever, part #21. At that point, the double pull lever connects the sear with the mainspring, part #20, providing considerable additional resistance in the second and final stage of the trigger pull, just before the release of the hammer by the sear.

    Double pull lever adjustment method
click on the picture for higher resolution

    The double pull lever is individually hand-fitted to the sear and the hammer to regulate the pressure point (Druckpunkt) of the two-stage trigger pull system. If the pressure point is too soft, i.e. if the second stage of the trigger pull has to be strengthened, the top surfaces of two support arms furthest away from the pivot pin of the double pull lever, part #22, must be evenly worked down with an oilstone at the point of their contact with the hammer action housing, part #13. This operation brings the body of the double pull lever closer to the sear. In performing this operation, both sides of the double pull lever must remain perfectly square at the points of their contact with the hammer action housing. The hammer action housing itself should not be modified. If the pressure point is too hard, i.e. if the second stage of the trigger pull has to be weakened, the two projections in the middle of the double pull lever located on either side of the stirrup, part #16, must be evenly worked down with an oilstone at the point of their engagement by the sear, part #23, in the course of the trigger pull. This operation postpones the engagement of the double pull lever by the sear. In performing this operation, both projections on the double pull lever must remain perfectly square at the points of their contact with the sear. The sear itself should not be modified. Never attempt any modification of these parts, unless you are certain of your gunsmithing competence.
    In late production, forged and deep hardened milspec sears and double pull levers were gradually replaced by metal injection molded (MIM) parts of slightly modified profiles. This image is taken from Armbruster, p. 193:

    Double pull levers used during the SIG P210 production runs. Nos. 1-4 are milled and hardened. From No. 2 the area between the anterior and posterior pressure ridges was reinforced by adding material. No. 5 is the latest version, produced by metal injection molding.
click on the picture for higher resolution

As with all MIM components, these parts are superficially case hardened. They are therefore unsuitable for hand fitting that is liable to cut through the hardening and expose soft core metal in the working surfaces.

exit pp41; enter pp14

SIG P210 barrels are designed to shoot standard Swiss Army pistol ammunition, the Pistolen Patrone 41, made by RUAG in Thun. This 124gr. NATO-spec FMJ 9x19mm round originally came in 24-round boxes, which sufficed to load three magazines. Like the RUAG rifle ammunition, it has replaced its original nickel alloy bullet jacket with a jacket made of copper. Its headstamps are the same as for the RUAG GP90 rifle round, comprising a T for the factory location in Thun, placed above the last two digits of the year of manufacture. The Pistolen Patrone 41 was originally produced for the P49, loaded with WIMMIS, a slow burning pistol powder. According to the KTA Reglement 53.103 d, it develops 2600 bar chamber pressure. (The published maximum chamber pressure for 9mm Para per CIP is 2350 bar.) Available for purchase at pistol ranges throughout Switzerland, and distributed to Swiss citizens during Schützenfesten, unlike other RUAG ammunition, it is restricted from export, but may be found in small quantities on the collector market. It is a high-pressure combat round, accurate albeit not optimized for target shooting.
The PP41 was originally meant to be used with the then newly introduced, toggle-operated W+F MP Model 41 (Furrer Model 1941) and the Solothurn MP 41 (Suomi Model 1931) submachine guns, at the time when the standard issue KTA pistol round was 7.65mm Para. The idea to adopt the Pist Pat 41 as the new standard issue came up at the pistol trials held in 1942, in connection with the ill-fated W+F 9mm Pistol 29 prototype. The Furrer 41/44 SMG was gradually decommissioned after WWII, but the Suomi lingered until at least  the late Eighties. It's likely that the pressure of the Pist Pat 41 was kept well above the CIP and NATO standard for SMG compatibility, which probably also accounts for KTA proving 9mm Para arms at 50% overpressure instead of following the CIP practice of 30% overpressure proof loads.
pp 41 14

Earlier in this year, RUAG introduced the PP14 under the brand Geco Sintox as the cartridge meant to succeed the PP41. It is currently manufactured in Switzerland and copied under license by MSF in Hungary. Accordingly, the current 50-round boxes are labeled EU or Switzerland.

best pistol ever?

Dick Metcalf waxes lyrical about the Colt Government Model 1911. I agree that the Colt 1911 is to autoloaders what the Colt Single Action Army is to revolvers: an obsolete design sustained by sentimental attachment of nostalgic fanboys. Here is why:

  1. Far from the “Best Pistol Ever”, the 1911 design is demonstrably inferior to its descendants. Locating the barrel with a bushing at the muzzle and a swinging link at the breech makes it easy to tune for accuracy or reliability but hard to standardize for drop-in spare part replacement and tricky to take apart and put back together. A 1911 built tight for accuracy will not shoot reliably until it has been broken in with thousands of hardball rounds, at which point it will have loosened up to become less accurate. The exterior of the 1911 bristles with hard edges and delicate notches. Its ergonomics are so poor that only collector editions are made without beavertail tangs, memory groove grip safeties, extended thumb safeties, and cut or arched mainspring housings. Its construction standards are so lax that three generations of gunsmiths have put their kids through college by charging fees for hand-fitting for accuracy and reliability tune-ups. Its lore is akin to that of Harley-Davidson Big Twin, the flagship product of the oldest surviving motorcycle manufacturer in the world, which putters around in grand style as long as the rider abstains from going too fast or turning too abruptly.
  2. “Its straightforward, user-friendly design cannot be outclassed for reliability, accuracy, endurance, and effectiveness.” Oh, really? In the late 1960s, the US Navy ran a test using an accurized softball competition 1911A1 pistol shooting Remington 185-grain .45 ACP jacketed wadcutter match ammo. At the outset the gun printed 20-shot 2.5″ groups at 50 yards out of a machine rest. About every 5000 rounds, it was put back into the machine rest and retested. In each of these tests through 25,000 rounds, it still shot the same size groups. At 30,000 rounds, the groups had opened up to about 3.5″; at 35,000 rounds, the groups were about 4.5″. For comparison purposes, numerous Swiss shooters report no degradation of factory-grade accuracy in a SIG P210 after firing 250,000 rounds. These milspec guns were tested on behalf of the Swiss Army to put 10 rounds into a 50mm circle at 50 meters, and did so consistently over five times the lifespan of a 1911. As Ken Hackathorn and Larry Vickers pointed out while explaining the supersession of the 1911 by the HK45, “at 50,000 rounds, a 1911 needs a severe overhaul. It’s going to need to be rebuilt and it’s going to have a lot of parts that are worn out.” Back in its heyday, that was a reasonable expectation of of a military sidearm’s lifespan. Thus Julian Hatcher described in the 1953 Gun Digest a 5,000 round endurance test administered by the U.S. Army around the end of WWII to a number of service autopistols. Only the Colt M1911A1 passed. The German P38 came in second with 10 malfunctions, one broken extractor, and 2 other parts replaced. Among the blowback pistols, including the Walther PP and PPK and the Mauser HSc, each had at least 36 malfunctions, with the PPK coming in the worst at 83. All of the blowback frames cracked before completing 5,000 rounds. The PP outlasted the rest, firing 4,142 rounds before cracking the frame. This was par for the course for pistols that could be expected not to fire more than 50 rounds in annual qualification, but totally inadequate for entrants in the modern offensive handgun weapon system, as evaluated by Hackathorn and Vickers. Put simply, Colt’s beloved relic fails to live up to the standards of accuracy, reliability, and ruggedness, maintained by modern service auto pistols.
  3. “How well can a Government Model 1911 pistol shoot? Generally, a top-of-the-line Colt-manufacture .45 Gold Cup new from the box can be reliably expected to deliver 2.5-inch, five-shot average groups at 25 meters from a rest. Give it to a top-grade pistol-smith for refinement and you’ll get a gun that will put match-grade loads into a 1-inch circle at that distance.” This is no tribute, but a reproof. The factory-accurized Colt Government Model National Match Gold Cup is far too tight to merit the accolades for reliability earned by its predecessors in military trials; all the more so once it has been “refined” by a top-grade pistol-smith. Four decades ago Colt tacitly acknowledged these shortcomings in their stillborn SSP design, which dispensed with the separate barrel bushing and barrel link of the 1911, taking its design cues from Charles Petter’s French M1935A and its successor, the Swiss P210. The one-piece slide differentially-bored to support the tilting barrel cuts in half the clearances required by the replaceable barrel bushing; the barrel cam that superseded Browning’s swinging link in the Radom ViS-35 and the FN GP35, as derived from the his own 1927 patent for the Grande Rendement prototype of the latter, enables drop-in barrel fit for a unit construction slide; the integral hammer action that can be removed and replaced without tools, as introduced in the Tokarev TT30, simplifies maintenance and allows for drop-in unit-level armorer repair of ignition malfunctions; and the Luger-patterned frame with its rails enveloping the slide makes for their far more consistent alignment. These design changes amount to genuine corrections of John Moses Browning’s venerable masterpiece. To maintain its ongoing supremacy over its successors is an insult to the intelligence of modern handgunners.

Crossposted to [info]larvatus and [info]guns.

sig p210 checklist

The SIG P210 is a remarkably rugged and durable handgun. Accordingly, the following checkup list is mostly applicable to Danish military m/49 variants likely to have been used with surplus submachine gun ammunition
  • Cracks at the junctures between the frame and the rail housing, fore and aft;
  • Cracks at the junctures between the slide and the dust cover, fore and aft;
  • Cracks inside the muzzle end of the slide, around the muzzle of the barrel;
  • Wear on barrel and slide coupling lugs;
  • Wear and cracks in the firing pin plate;
  • Chips in the extractor hook;
  • Eroded breech surface;
  • Peened or eroded firing pin tip;
  • Cycling wear on the muzzle end of the barrel;
  • Peening inside the frame, from contact with the dust cover at the end of the recoil cycle; and
  • Dings on the sights.
The function check includes:
  • A tight barrel lockup with no play at the muzzle in battery;
  • A tight fit between the slide and the frame, with nil play in battery;
  • Smooth slide cycling, returning into battery under recoil spring tension alone;
  • Smooth hammer cocking and trigger pull; and
  • A correct double pull transition, with the hammer returning to full cock upon releasing the trigger before the sear breaks.
The correct configuration is checked as follows:
The SIG SP 47/8 is primarily distinguished by its frame forging with a vertical front tangent of the trigger guard. (Attention: some early P210 variants, observed running into the SN P55XXX range, used the same frame pattern.) Other distinguishing characteristics include:

  • a polished finish; 
  • the slide marked "S.P. 47/8 SIG."; 
  • the guide rails milled down at the muzzle; 
  • the firing pin retained by a transverse pin in the earliest models;
  • the first pattern hammer actions with a horizontal shoulder at the outer top of the rear wall, mating with a corresponding cutout in the frame; 
  • a flat checkered slide stop; 
  • a rounded safety lever pad;
  • a milled trigger; and
  • grooved wooden stocks. 
Swiss military SIG P49 pistols are classified as follows:

1. Ausführung, 1949-1952; satin polished; fire blued stock screws; first pattern hammer actions; slide stops have flat checkered thumb pads; safety levers have thumb pads with a smooth edge and grooves on their upper and lower flats:
  • 1. Lieferung, 1949, from A100001 to A103200; no half cock notch on the hammer;
  • 2. Lieferung, 1950-1951, from A103201 to A107210; no half cock notch on the hammer;
  • 3. Lieferung, 1952, from A107211 to A109710; hammer with a half cock notch.
2. Ausführung, 1952-1975: 
  • 4. Lieferung, from A109711 to  ~A120500; brushed slide finish; sandblasted frame finish; most slide stops have flat checkered thumb pads; mostly first pattern hammer actions; some safety levers have thumb pads with a smooth edge and grooves on their upper and lower flats:
  • 5. Lieferung, from ~A120500 to ~A213110: early slides have brushed finish changing over to sandblasted finish; sandblasted frame finish; second pattern hammer actions; all slide stops are forged and have grooved thumb pads with a curved profile; early slide stops are unit construction with a Rockwell test dimple; late slide stops have press-fit pins.
On military P49 variants, the frame, the slide, the barrel and the hammer action should all be numbered en suite. The hammer actions of the first three deliveries that comprise the glossy polished first KTA series should bear the last four digits of the full serial number that appears on the frame and on the slide. They are also distinguished by a horizontal shoulder at the outer top of the rear wall, mating with a corresponding cutout in the frame. This shoulder is omitted on pistols in the subsequent series; accordingly, later hammer actions may be retrofitted to earlier pistols, but typically not vice versa. This retrofit, with unnumbered hammer actions containing hammers with secondary half-cock notches, is often found in the pistols of the first series, originally equipped with single-notch hammers. 

The original design of the slide stop specifies integral construction milled out of a single piece of steel. This construction is retained in the second model of the slide stop with a curved thumb pad, distinguishable by a Rockwell hardness test mark on the side flat, atop the pin. The next issue features a two-piece construction, with the pin staked into the forged lever of the same curved profile. This construction can be detected by inspecting the surface of the slide stop under magnification, for evidence of a finely fitted circular gap about 4.4mm in diameter, located on the outer surface of the slide stop lever, and traces of tool marks inside it. Later on, a cast lever replaced the forged part. This construction can be detected by observing the finely cast sandblasted external surface of the slide stop lever, free of tool marks that characterize its predecessors, with a finely fitted circular gap about 3.7mm in diameter on the outward flat, and minute traces of casting flash inside it. See Vetter, p. 175. The final variation features a relief cut inside the lever on the collar that retains the pin, matching a reinforcing rib on the frame. This type of slide stop is the only one that fits late production frames, distinguished by the presence of the reinforcing rib.   

Almost all P210 variants were hot salt blued. Evidence of refinishing includes pits, scratches, and dings under the blue finish. The P210 hammer, trigger, and slide stop are finished in the white, as are the hammer action internals, i.e. trigger bars, sears, and double pull levers. The controls become patinated in use. Care must be exercised to avoid scratching the frame when removing or replacing the slide lever. A scratch appearing on the frame under the slide lever attests to negligent maintenance. Cold blue touchup is often used to disguise the scratch, and can usually be identified by a characteristic chemical smell. 

Early frames were milled out of steel forgings. Starting from SN P97601, they were gradually replaced by frames CNC milled out of bar stock. An easy way to tell the difference on standard weight frames is by looking under the slide rail housing. If it is faceted, the frame is CNC machined; if it is curved, the frame is forged. Rare variants include a few polished P210-6 pistols were with the sport trigger and hammer action, and a trigger stop. One such batch bears serial numbers in the early P300XXX sequence, built both on forged and CNC milled frames.
Early P210 hammer action casings were milled out of steel forgings. A cast hammer action housing made by Grünig and Elmiger gradually replaced the forged part around the SN range of P311XXX onwards. The forged military proofed firing system components were phased out in the early Eighties production, and in the Nineties, milled forging were gradually replaced by MIM components.
All comments and corrections will be warmly appreciated and gratefully acknowledged.
In the foregoing spirit, I offer my readers the following Swiss military and commercial handguns:
The photos are huge, so click on the thumbnails two or three times. Combat veterans and active duty military and law enforcement personnel will receive a 10% discount from the listed prices. The first “I’ll take it” will trump all prior tire-kicking. 
— | | 7576 Willow Glen Road, Los Angeles, CA 90046 | 323.363.1860 | | "All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." — Samuel Beckett

shot 2012

I went to the SHOT Show. Here are my impressions.

Sauer’s Legendary P210 is back in three variants. The standard fixed sight model is complemented by two adjustable sight variants, the Target with its standard 120mm-barrel and the 150mm-barreled Super Target. This lineup suggests that the original Swiss micrometer sight fitted into the standard milspec dovetail is no longer cost-effective. Since Dobler’s dovetail-mounted compact adjustable rear sight can be had for around half the cost of the traditional unit, Sauer’s new adjustable sight shared by the Targets and the Super Targets, with its housing milled en bloc with the slide, is also an instance of deliberate branding. The new integral rear sight is a less dedicated target shooting setup, moderately compromised in its sight picture, stability, and adjustment in comparison with its dovetail-mounted predecessor.

The safety lever of the Super Target has been made more familiar to M1911 shooters by relocating its pivot behind the hammer action retained by a Torx T15 screw, from its traditional forward position in the foregoing P210 variants. As explained in my Legend review, this arrangement appears to have been derived from an Ergosign design exercise long touted by Karl Nill. In addition to this modification, the Super Target’s frame also differs from the standard frame employed by SAN in its 2003 longslide version of the P210, in its newly extended dustcover, presumably adding a little extra precision to its alignment with the slide. The retail pricing of the new Super Target model, at $3,626.00, is set on par with similar going rates for previous P210-5 variants, cutting in half the current collector value of the original P210-5LS long slide pistol. Its street price in Germany is around 2,300.00 €, including the 19% excise tax, which may be refunded for export shipments.

While Sauer may have the capacity to improve on the Swiss originals in the long run, its initial efforts to do so failed in several ways. Five shot test targets fired at 25m have shown a spread comparable to that of SIG’s original ten shot test targets fired at twice that range. Initial changes in the control levers of the Legend left them poorly secured, while the lateral magazine release caused the omission of the trigger stop. Newer Legends appear to correct these shortcomings with their reconfigured slide stop spring, augmented safety detent, and abbreviated trigger stop free of interference with the lateral magazine catch. In this connection, I recommend consulting Barhin Bhatt’s excellent review of his fixed sight Legend variant, briefly available on the SIGforum.

All Sauer P210 variants are built on heavy frames, descended from P210-5 SN P54980 designed by the Swiss marksman Reiny Ruess and his friends at SIG. A special series from SN P79101 to 79150 has a heavy frame. Around three hundred of P210-6 pistols with forged heavy frames, for example those numbered between P76521 and 76620, or between P79621 and 79720. They can readily be found in Europe, at around twice the prices of comparable standard forged frame specimens. According to Vetter and Armbruster, CNC guns with heavy frames are found numbered P309600, P309650, P309660, P312382, P316550, P321108, etc. All P210-8 variants made by SIG, and all P210-6S and P210-5LS variants made by its Swiss Arms Neuhausen (SAN) successors with a lateral magazine catch, also had the heavy frame. If the newly reconfigured spring can secure the slide stop in the frame of the P210 Legend, the Sauer heavy frame design will represent an improvement over the Swiss standard and heavy frames, in virtue of deleting the slide stop spring retaining pin, originally press fitted into a hole drilled in the frame at a location subject to stress during the firing cycle. Nevertheless, reports of fractured Swiss heavy frames are conspicuous by their absence in hundreds of thousands of recorded individual round counts, so the structural benefits of this arrangement are likely to be moot. Besides, stainless steels used by Sauer in the construction of their pistols, are unlikely to exhibit the same wear characteristics as carbon steels formerly used by SIG and SAN, in particular appearing to be considerably softer than their predecessors. Along similar lines, it bears notice that unlike the traditional Swiss oxide finish, Sauer’s Nitron, a vacuum furnace heat treatment of physical vapor deposition, creates a surface buildup that results in tolerance stacking and complicates the assurance of proper clearances, consistently with anecdotal reports of various malfunctions observed in the Legend by European and American shooters.

A NIB P210-6 might fetch between 900 and 1400 € on, more for special variants. I don’t know of a comparable online resource in Switzerland, but Kessler’s prices for vintage SIG P49 and P210 pistols are running high. The SIG P 210-S, “Versuch Schweden” SN P59699, which the auctioneers had estimated at Sfr. 7,000/14,000, sold for Sfr. 19,000 plus the auctioneer’s premium. Its approximate counterpart among Swiss Lugers, the W+F P29, “Versuch” SN 100000, of questionable authenticity according to Bobba’s study of its kind, and estimated at Sfr. 18,000/36,000, sold for Sfr. 43,000 plus the premium. These prices are likely to represent world records for a SIG P210 and a W+F 06/29 Luger. As ever, the ongoing economic crisis is continuing to inflate the values of high-end collector items. Notably, these values suggest the ongoing emergence of the P210 as an object of serious collector interest.

I have been assembling published materials and tracking U.S. online sales on the P210 Facebook page. I invite my readers to contribute to this resource, as well as similar pages for Korth, Korriphila, and Manurhin MR73. Among notable trends, sporadic availability of newly manufactured P210 Legend magazines does not appear to have affected the $150-200 going rate for used originals. California shooters will be heartened to learn that IGB Austria now lists 120mm and 153mm P210 barrels for 245.83 €, with P210-5 front sight threads and slots and CIP proofs costing 45.84 and 12.08 € extra. (Ready availability of unthreaded 6" barrels make the P210 eligible for circumventing the CA DOJ drop test via the “single shot exemption”.) In Germany, Waffen Verwertung, a.k.a. Schäfer & Schäfer, continues to offer 120mm polygonally-rifled P210 barrels at 198.00 €, while Harald Berty lists like items at nearly three times the price, along with complete 6" top ends, at 1,995.00 €. Note that all claims on behalf of barrels stabilizing lead projectiles should be evaluated against the twist rate specification.

In related news, Fabryka Broni Łucznik-Radom returned with its elegant 2010-rollmarked Wz.35 VIS Semiautomatic Pistol, once again projected to retail for $450.00, less than one tenth of the current value of a decent Polish Eagle specimen. Regrettably, my inquiries about a wholesale import order in response to the 2011 appearance of the Radom VIS have gone unanswered by its makers. I would welcome the return of this classic M1911 derivative, second among them only to the SIG P210 in intrinsic accuracy, ruggedness, and durability. If I may be allowed to daydream, the revival of the long-lost 1937 Argentine test .45 ACP prototypes, would stand a good chance of rendering M1911 variants obsolete in the U.S. civilian gun market. The VIS Radom now benefits from a handsome Study and Photographic Album of Poland’s Finest Pistol, compiled by William J. York, more than sufficient to alert a new generation of shooters and collectors to the virtues of these remarkable handguns, documented among the official Swiss 1941 inspirations for the SIG P49 replacing the W+F P06/29 Lugers and M1882/29 revolvers in military service.

The sole Swiss gunmaker in attendance was KRISS Arms Group, with its subsidiary Sphinx, claimed to be the last remaining swiss handgun maker. Previously imported by ill-fated Sabre Defense Industries, Sphinx handguns, designed by the late Martin Tuma, have been absent from the U.S. market since 2005. It remains to be seen whether their customizable target handgun can succeed where Tuma’s previous design for ASAI failed, offered at less than one-fourth of the price projected by Sphinx for its deluxe CZ-75 derivatives. Likewise, I am not holding my breath for the XXIst century revival of the Tommy gun, touted by KRISS since 2008.

Italian gunmakers were well represented in both the traditional formats of double-barreled shotguns and black powder and cartridge historical replicas, and novel designs exemplified by the Chiappa Rhino revolver firing from the bottom chamber in the manner of its Mateba Unica and Stechkin OTs-38 predecessors. I was not surprised, though sorely disappointed, to see French firearms industry missing in their entirety. I would have loved to see such classics as sliding breech Darne shotguns, traditional doubles and up to date self-loaders made by the venerable Verney-Carron, or the constabulary wheelgun counterpart to the P210 service pistol that is Manurhin MR73, still produced in small batches by Chapuis. But that was not to be, as yonder cheese-eating surrender monkeys made themselves scarcer than accordions at a deer hunt, at the world’s most important gun show.

By contrast, the Germans invaded Nevada in force. I was pleasantly surprised by the presence of Korth, though their handguns, custom-made at the annual rate of around 300 units, are still not officially imported into the U.S. The most exotic piece on display was the Niebelungen Magnum revolver made out of Damascus steel pattern welded by Markus Balbach, and pre-sold for $32,500.00. Korth’s “classic revolver” with its externally adjustable trigger and cylinder yoke retained in the frame by a quick-release latch, starts at 5,000.00 €. Its current version is mechanically similar to the final iteration of Willi Korth’s design, and should be likewise capable of delivering the same accuracy even after firing 50,000 rounds of full-powered .357 Magnum ammo. I would not expect the same performance from revolvers made out of pattern-welded steel, but Korth’s top of the line products are clearly not made for such shooting duty. Zombified presence of Mauser’s latest incarnation was once again distinguished by the outrageously priced, traditional controlled round feed M98 rifles punctuating the banal lineup of their switch-barrel, push-feed M03 would-be successors. Among the real players descended from their Oberndorf am Neckar original, HK showed its piston-operated Stoner rifle derivative, which struck me as unremarkable despite its commercial success.

Surefire showed its innovative, 200 Lumen hard-anodized aluminum-bodied 2211 wristlight powered by a lithium-ion battery recharged through a mini-USB port. Like many of its other impending offerings ranging up to the 2,000 lumen UDR Dominator, it features an LED fuel gauge reminding the operator to recharge his light long before it begins to dim. If all goes as it did with its Invictus, we can look forward to Surefire delivering these lights before 2015. In the meantime, I invite my faithful readers to visit the web pages dedicated to my favorite service and sporting handguns:

Shooters and collectors seeking advice or assistance in this regard are very welcome to address me with all their questions and requests. Lastly, I have a small assortment of Swiss, French, and German handguns available for adoption in good homes. Please look below for addressing your inquiries. | | 7576 Willow Glen Road, Los Angeles, CA 90046 | 323.363.1860 | | | “All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” — Samuel Beckett

french and german revolvers for sport and social work

I own and shoot a good number of Korth revolvers that I personally imported from Germany on an ATF Form 6. I have a similar number of Manurhin revolvers, which I am able to compare to a passel of Colt Pythons, Bankers and Police Positive Target Specials and Single Action Armies, as well as a good selection of Smith & Wesson’s best, ranging from prewar Kit Guns to Registered Magnums and a Triple Lock Target.

As a preliminary evaluation of these revolvers, here are some talking points.

  1. Based on my experience, the quality ratio of Colt to Smith & Wesson is proportional to that of Smith & Wesson to Harrington & Richardson. The Colts are much better made and more precisely fitted, of finer and stronger materials, than Smith & Wessons. I base this statement on the personally observed differences in working internal parts with a diamond file, and wear and peening in contact surfaces with comparable round counts.
        The Smith & Wesson single stage lockup is not nearly as precise as, but much more durable than, the Colt double stage lockup. The Smith & Wesson bolt is softer but less stressed than the Colt bolt. The S&W action is much easier to work on than the Colt action. All the more so for the Manurhin MR73 action, a S&W derivative relentlessly rationalized in the true Cartesian tradition. The Korth is easy enough to work, but the need never seems to arise. As with the MR73, the only part subject to wear on it is the forcing cone that erodes from firing Magnum ammunition. In principle, the shrouded barrel of the Korth should be relatively inexpensive and easy to replace. In practice, I wouldn’t know how to go about it. The MR73 seems to resist this erosion a little better. The only part liable to break on it is the floating firing pin.
  2. The Colt V-spring action as used in the Python with its “Bank Vault Lockup”, is a licensed derivative of the Schmidt Galand patents. As the trigger of these revolvers is pulled, the double hand forces the cylinder against the locking bolt. The harder the trigger is pulled the tighter the cylinder is locked. Consequently, as the cylinder recoils, it compresses the hand, eventually peening it out of spec. This is all the more applicable to Magnum chamberings never contemplated by the original European inventors. The ensuing requirement for periodic maintenance is the price you have to pay for shooting a Python.
        The basic features of Colt double action revolvers are well summarized by Grant Cunningham: “Colt revolvers have actions which are very refined. Their operating surfaces are very small, and are precisely adjusted to make the guns work properly. Setting them up properly is not a job for someone who isn’t intimately familiar with their workings, and the gunsmith who works on them had better be accustomed to working at narrow tolerances, on small parts, under magnification.” On the other hand, by referring to a copy of Kuhnhausen’s shop manual, I was able to fit a new bolt to one of my Bankers Specials using NSk calipers, S&W screwdrivers, the diamond-coated file of a Leatherman Charge TTi, and a wooden shaft. So I agree that Colt actions are highly refined. I also agree that they require working at narrow tolerances, on small parts, under magnification. But much of that is within the reach of a hobbyist equipped with a $30 manual and $200 worth of hand tools.
        In this regard, Grant Cunningham says: “On a properly timed Colt, the cylinder bolt (which is the piece in the bottom of the frame window) will drop into the cylinder’s locking notch just before, or just as, the hammer reaches full cock (in single action) and just as the sear releases (in double action.)” On the other hand, every Colt double action revolver that I own, including unfired and factory overhauled guns, fails to carry up when thumb-braked in the course of cocking the hammer, though it carries up when the cylinder is free to rotate in the course of cocking the hammer, no matter how slowly I cock it. So either this tuneup represents a factory error, or the factory rightly or wrongly considers this condition normal.
  3. The Manurhin MR73 is the best fighting revolver ever made, designed as a significantly improved S&W, crucially strengthened at the yoke, ingeniously refined at tensioning the hammer and the rebound slide, and manufactured to the quality standards of 1950s Colts. I have tried the current S&W revolvers. There is no comparison. In a nutshell, an early Python is a better revolver than a Registered Magnum, in the same sense whereby a Ferrari 330 P3/4 is a better car than a Ford GT40. But the MR73 is the only revolver I would take in harm’s way, in the way I would choose the Citroën ZX over the Ferrari and the Ford for entry in the Paris-Dakar rally.
        American shooters tend to be impressed by popularity. Smith & Wesson is the most successful revolver maker in history, and the biggest handgun maker in the world. But these ratings attest to the quality of S&W handguns in the same way, and to the same extent, as the international market proves that the Big Mac is the king of burgers. To disparage Manurhin for refining the S&W Hand Ejector instead of following the example of Willi Korth in designing a revolver from scratch, is to disparage Colt for copying Schmidt-Galand designs in the wake of its homegrown failure to develop a robust and reliable double action revolver. The problem with S&W is not design, but quality. Their basic action layout is capable of uncompromising performance, as witness this Manurhin chambered in .32 S&W Long, beating match guns by S&W, SAKO, and Walther. But in order to get a current production S&W to perform like that, you would have to rebarrel it and replace its MIM lockwork with increasingly unobtainable forged parts. And even then, it will not approach the quality of Manurhin’s hammer-forged frame, barrel, and cylinder.
        The SIG P210 remains my favorite autopistol. I consider the Manurhin MR73, the last and best revolver to be designed and adopted for constabulary service, as its wheelgun counterpart,. Apart from the gloomy Olivier Marchand polar, my favorite MR73 story unfolded on the day after Christmas of 1994, when Captain Thierry P. of GIGN entered the hijacked Air France Flight 8969 plane, grounded at the Marseille airport. He served as the point shooter, armed with a 5¼” .357 Magnum Manurhin MR73 and backed by his partner Eric carrying a 9mm HK05 submachine gun. Thierry killed two Islamist terrorists and wounded a third with his revolver, before taking seven bullets from an AK47 fired by the fourth hijacker. In spite of then absorbing a full complement of grenade shrapnel in his lower body, Thierry P. survived the assault, as also did 171 hostages. Not so the four terrorists, who had been planning to deploy the plane as an incendiary missile against the Eiffel Tower. Thierry could have armed himself with any firearm. He chose an MR73. I have mine at my side right now.
        You cannot appreciate a tool without considering its intended purpose. Like the SIG P210, the Manurhin MR73 was designed and built for an administrative market that formally required extreme precision and durability orders of magnitude greater than that expected from and built into contemporaneous U.S. police sidearms. The aesthetic sensibility of most American shooters derives from an appreciation of fancy sporting goods and service sidearms meant by their makers to be surplused after firing several thousand rounds. Although that is no longer the case owing to the worldwide decline of revolvers in constabulary use, throughout its history Smith & Wesson and Colt never had an economic incentive to forge their gun parts out of tool steel. It was far more cost effective to sinter and machine softer materials, replacing the products under warranty in the rare instances of their being put to hard use. That was not an option for Manurhin in making deliveries to GIGN and SIG, to KTA. Hence the unexcelled durability and precision of their military and constabulary service handguns, combined with a more or less utilitarian finish in most of their variants.
  4. The Korth is by far the best made modern revolver, comparable in quality only to the best of the pre-WWI classics, from the French M1873, the Mauser M1878, and the Swiss M1878 and 1882. It is equal in mechanical precision to a Target Triple Lock, and far superior to it and the Registered Magnum alike in ruggedness and durability. Among post-WWII revolvers, only the first generation Colt Pythons compare to it in fit and finish. It is arguably the best sporting revolver ever made, as distinct from a social work tool such as the MR73. Its lockwork is hand ground out of steel forgings and deep hardened. It is nowise stressed at ignition, resulting in unexcelled durability and enabling Willi Korth to guarantee the same accuracy even after firing 50,000 Magnum rounds. Its design incorporates some Colt traits such as clockwise cylinder rotation, within an original layout that bears some resemblance to S&W two-point lockup and transport. Its ingenious hand detachable yoke is a great boon to regular maintenance, and its spring tensioned ejector built into the optional 9mm Para cylinder is the best such system that I ever used with rimless ammo in a revolver.
        Korth revolvers are a breed apart. For all its mechanical excellence, the MR73 is fitted and finished like a Seventies handgun. Whereas the fit and finish of Korth revolvers rivals that of an S&W Registered Magnum, if not quite coming up to the standard of a Triple Lock. Speaking of the latter, it was obviously easier for S&W to achieve their superb surface preparation before they belatedly followed the example of Colt by starting to heat-treat their revolvers in 1920. Doing it nearly as well with steel hardened to a remarkable grade of 60 RC is a testimony to the diligence of Willi Korth. Like the MR73, a Korth revolver never wears in normal use, except for the inevitable forcing cone erosion caused by firing Magnum ammo. Every S&W revolver I ever saw suffer a high round count had its cylinder notches thoroughly peened. Every double action Colt revolver I ever tested, including brand new and freshly factory tuned specimens, failed to carry up in hand-cocking the hammer while braking the cylinder. Nothing of the sort is evident even in hard worn MR73 or Korth revolvers. And unlike the MR73, the Korth is refined to a fare-thee-well, with mirror finish on the major components and barely discernible joints between them. It is, however, a quintessentially sporting handgun, with the tightest possible clearances between its moving parts and a finely tunable two-stage double action trigger pull that is not meant for fast combat style shooting in the Bill Jordan fashion. If you want a range toy, the Korth is your finest choice. If you want a top notch tool for social work, get an MR73 or a P210.

I cannot answer the question of subjective value. In Germany, used Korth revolvers of the latest design cost between 1,200 and 3,500 Euros, depending on the condition, configuration, and luck of the draw. By contrast, you would have to spend between 700 and 1,800 Euros for a used Manurhin MR73, and between 400 and 1,000 Euros for a used Colt Python. To put this in perspective, my nicest blue steel Korth cost me around $2,200 to acquire and import in a large combined lot. I wouldn’t part with it for three times that price.

p210 legend

The following is a draft version of my review of Sauer’s new P210 Legend pistol. It will be updated in this space with photos and text as my study continues.


“You William Blake?” yells U.S. Marshal Marvin Throneberry at the rapidly approaching outlaw, while cycling and shouldering his Winchester Model 1873. “Yes, I am. Do you know my poetry?” responds the killer as he raises his 4¾" Colt .45 Single Action Army revolver and shoots Marvin in the heart.

Guns and poetry. None better illuminated their interplay than Jim Jarmusch in his 1995 movie Dead Man. To talk guns is to talk poetry. What follows is a riff on the latest incarnation of my favorite poem. Continue reading p210 legend

the rules of engagement

If I had my druthers, any citation of the AK47 as a winning battle arm would be made in the historical context of Russian wartime casualty rates ranging from 2:1 to 10:1 in favor of the eventually vanquished adversary. Since I have but one life to live, it is best safeguarded by more precise weapons.

der stand der dinge

28 October 2010, 19:44 p.m. around 4759-4799 Prospect Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027, heading east in a red 2005 Cadillac CTS-V, about to turn left on N. Vermont Ave following an LA Metro 180/181 bus, followed by a Toyota sedan. All windows in my car are down, Nick Cave’s “John Finn’s Wife” blaring out. A stocky tattooed skinhead runs up to the driver’s door and reaches inside:
—Let me in, let me in, they’re going to shoot me!
—What do you think I’m going to do with this?
(This is my SIG P49 with its hammer cocked and safety off, held across my chest aimed at his sternum.)
—Let me in, let me in!
I thrust the gun into the window:
—Don’t repeat yourself. Fight or run.
The spaz staggers back and slows down long enough for me to follow the Metro bus up Vermont.

Lesson taught: An unarmed carjacker in Hollywood goes home empty-handed.
Lesson learned: Pack a big gun. I’d rather drive away than shoot an unarmed man. To that end, I wouldn’t have wanted to back up my commands with anything smaller than a service pistol.