Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine. A police officer, working in the small town that he lives in, focusing on family and shooting and coffee, and occasionally putting some people in jail.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hammer Bite.

You have GOT to be kidding me.

I've been shooting the 1911 or 1911A1 type firearm for a long time. Simple fact. I know how to use the pistol, and it's my preferred main duty gun.

Dad introduced me to it (as he had 40 years ago introduced it to a certain now-famous gun writer). I learned to shoot it the way Dad taught me, which was largely influenced by his personal instruction from Jeff Cooper in 1980, and in Dad's nationally-ranked participation in IPSC during that time.

When I went off to be a ranch hand for a summer at age 17, I took a Series 70 Mk IV 1911 of Dad's, and carried it and shot it enough to remove almost all of the parkerized finish from it. I got pretty familiar with its trappings.

As I grew into my manly size, I found that my orangutan-like hands wrapped all the way around a big pistol. While I can shoot a big double-stack pistol, I still prefer the single stack 1911. But that big hand comes with a large web between thumb and forefinger. When I grip a 1911 in its original configuration, I have to take care to roll my hand into the grip safety so that the tang will cover the top of the webbing of my gripping hand, lest the skin of the web of my hand overlap the tang and receive the dreaded Hammer Bite.

Hammer Bite is caused when the spur on the back of the hammer on an exposed hammer design firearm bites the bit of flesh between the tang --in this case the top of the grip safety-- and the back of the hammer. For many years it was a common modification to put shorter Commander hammers on Government Model 1911s and later to put custom "ski jump" extended-tang grip safeties onto them.

In the early to mid 1990's, Kimber revolutionized the handgun world by marketing quality 1911 firearms with custom features for reasonable prices. While this seems like old hat today, it is a simple fact that "custom guns" came at custom prices before Kimber created this market that others (especially Springfield Armory) hurried to get into.

I've been hearing some (admittedly anecdotal) unfavorable reviews of some of the newer Kimbers, these days. If quality has slipped, that's a sorrowful thing, but Tamara spoke correctly when she said that 1911 owners owe a debt to Kimber, for what it did to the industry of affordable "off the shelf custom" fighting handguns.

When I bought my Kimber Stainless Classic new in 2001, I specifically went looking for an older Series I (they were at that time in transition, and both Series I and Series II were in stock). I did not want a firing pin interlock device, though Kimber's grip safety technique is novel and reportedly reliable. I wanted a stainless version of the Series 70 I had been carrying on duty, that was easy to disassemble and reassemble.

The pistol came stock with a slightly extended safety, a loop hammer spur (not a true Commander style, because it's too long), and an oversize grip safety/tang. It came with a flat mainspring housing that I discarded for an arched knurled mainspring housing (with loop, of course), and a full-length recoil spring guide rod that I gave away in favor of a proper short guide rod. Other than that, I did nothing to it, besides attempting to wear it out.

This pistol immediately became my go-to pistol. I carried it on duty. I carried it a lot off-duty. I carried it hunting. I carried it to pistol matches. I shot it in turkey shoots (and won turkeys). I pretty much quit carrying my beautiful old Gold Cup except for weddings. My early Kimber Series I feeds everything I put in it, and is more accurate than I am. I actually had to add weight to the trigger, which broke the scales at 2.25 lbs from the factory. It's now a perfect 2.75 lbs or so, and loves semi-wadcutters.

Then I went to an agency that issued and mandated Glocks for duty. I focused on the Glock because, frankly, I needed to. I've gotten fairly decent with it, but still have some work to do to improve my skills with it. It's just not my preferred piece. So even my trigger time with my beloved Kimber 1911 was diminished.

I went by my Dad's today to chat and do a little reloading. We eventually (after coffee and tacos and gorditas) loaded a couple of hundred rounds of .45 acp. While in Dad's reloading room, he handed me a decent-looking 1911 and asked "What's wrong with this picture?" I looked at it. It had a nice black parkerized-style refinish, and fresh import marks. It was a Sistema, complete with knurled trigger, short tang, original style 1911 beaver-tail type hammer spur, tiny blade front sight and...

"It's missing its rear sight," I responded. Nope. Can't get one past me. Trained observer.

Dad said that he'd picked it up last month for a decent price, and hadn't even shot it, seeing no point until he had a rear sight on it.

"I wonder how the trigger is," I muttered as I racked the slide to check the chamber, feel the action, and cock the hammer.

Ow. OW! That hurt.

What the hell?!?

Oh, good Gawd.

Remember how I said that I had had to learn how to carefully roll a 1911 into my huge hands to keep them from getting hammer bite?

And remember how I related that I've been kinda spoiled by using my Kimber, with its extended grip safety?

And remember how I've been focusing more on my duty Glock, lately?

Well, I have managed to achieve an injury from Hammer Bite, from a single cycling of a pistol, without even firing it.

I put the pistol down, lest I get blood on it.

Crap .
_ _ _

Gripping my Kimber (loosely). Note extended tang on the grip safety, protecting the web of the hand.
_ _ _

Top view of my hand holding my Kimber Stainless Classic. Even with the ski-jump grip safety, one can see how the webbing bunches behind the tang.
_ _ _
Oblique view of my hand holding the Kimber, with good view of the extended grip safety guarding against Hammer Bite.
_ _ _

The injury. My hand is basically in a shooting grip here... but the lower fingers aren't curled in, so really, it's just a really mutant-looking picture.
_ _ _

See? I'm not really a freak. This picure shows a normal hand. Not a great pic, though, because you can't see the dead piece of skin that was initially pinched by the the Sistema. Okay, maybe I'm just a baby.
_ _ _

Okay. Maybe I am a freak. My... my hand doesn't really look like that. That picture is a lie.

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At Thursday, January 17, 2008 3:48:00 AM, Blogger Tam said...

I didn't know Kimber made a .380.


At Thursday, January 17, 2008 5:08:00 AM, Blogger Matt G said...

Smart alec.

That's what a full-sized 1911 looks like in a Man's hands, missy!

At Thursday, January 17, 2008 6:12:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Tam beat me to the punch. When I saw the pictures, my first thought was, "Damn, that 1911 looks like a Colt Mustang in that hand."

At Thursday, January 17, 2008 6:35:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first duty pistol was an H&K USP .40, good gun, accurate enough to pass the bullseye test at FBI firearm instructor's school, barely. I then got to carry my Kimber Custom II 1911 for a couple of years on duty. I love that gun, I carry it as my off duty pistol everywhere I go still today. I recently switched agencies and they issue and mandate the H&K USP .45. Again, a good gun. They issued it to me brand new and with no warm up I was able to shoot a 96with it. When I qualified with my off duty on the Kimber I shot 100. I'll acclimate I guess. I miss my 1911 at work but hey at least I don't have to carry the Glock. LOL In a perfect world they'd let us carry what we want.

At Thursday, January 17, 2008 9:38:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a Kimber Custom Stainless as well. I bought mine in 1996 when I began shooting IDPA and IPSC. I've over 10,000 rounds through it now and the only change is that I added some custom walnut grips instead of the stock rubber ones.

Great pistol.

At Thursday, January 17, 2008 12:00:00 PM, Blogger breda said...

Oh, come on...those hardly qualify for orangutan-like.

Gorilla, maybe. ;)

At Thursday, January 17, 2008 12:03:00 PM, Blogger breda said...

also, can I mention that I'm disappointed that this is your only post under the "I'm a freak" label?

At Thursday, January 17, 2008 12:38:00 PM, Blogger BobG said...

I've never had hammer bite, but I do prefer the beavertail safety because the narrowness of the standard configuration tends to dig into the web of my thumb after a few rounds.

At Thursday, January 17, 2008 4:39:00 PM, Blogger HollyB said...

Your hands aren't freakish. Your feet...

At Thursday, January 17, 2008 6:21:00 PM, Blogger John B said...

nasty little nip there. I wish I'd thought to photograph my first injury there. My most noticeable were the rails of a Jennings .380

But you got me paranoid enough to get a beavertail grip safety for my llama .45

At Thursday, January 17, 2008 10:36:00 PM, Blogger Rabbit said...

The first thing I thought was "Why is Stephen Camp's hand in that picture?" until I figured out it was your lobster claw in picture 4.

One word of advice from someone who knows- you should never, ever go near a Walther PPK with those hands. You'd never survive a slash from that slide.


At Thursday, January 17, 2008 11:41:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

Breda, I tend to think of gorillas as having stubbier fingers. And I just thought of the "I'm a freak" tag. I'm sure I'll backtrack and slap it on some stuff. And there's always tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

John B-- that ain't nothin' at all, compared to some bites I've had in the past from long shooting sessions with long spurred exposed hammer guns. Some small pistols get me with the slide, too. I've many times had to improvise bandages with range tape. That's actually one of the main reasons that I've made a point of always carrying a Band Aid in my wallet for most of the last 20 years. I actually have a whitish spot that won't tan on the web of my right hand, due to scar tissue there. It just amazed me that I could injure my hand AT ALL by simply racking the piece.

And Rabbit? Why would you think that's Steve's hand? He's generally not mutant-sized.

At Friday, January 18, 2008 1:11:00 PM, Blogger Ambulance Driver said...

Jeez, Lurch!

That's not a hand, it's a catcher's mitt!

At Friday, January 18, 2008 3:36:00 PM, Blogger Assrot said...

I have really big hands too and I have received a few hammer bites here and there.

I'm guessing that the hand fits the man heh? I'm 6'-4" and about 315 pounds. I'm guessing you're probably close to the same.

I love them all. If it is anything based on the 1911 design I like it. It's just the best darn design for a handgun I've come across.

I don't know how you got used to those Glocks. I don't like their feel. I don't like their looks and I don't care much for the way they shoot either. I never spent more than a few hundred rounds with one though and got rid of it for something better.

I guess if you have to use it for work, you darn well better know how to use it good.

Good post Matt.

At Friday, January 18, 2008 4:00:00 PM, Blogger Matt G said...

Close. I'm about an inch taller and 40 lbs lighter.

The real mutation, though, is the feet.

Glocks are okay. They earned my grudging respect in that they always go bang when you pull the trigger, and they're easy to obtain a minimum proficiency with. It's difficult to be great with one, but it's easy to be be good with one, which makes it a perfect armory gun. It also has the benefit of being light on the belt, and relatively free of extraneous dohickeys. I've often said that a Glock 17 and 19 are to the '90s and 2k's what the M10 4" and 3" roundbutt were to the '60s and '70s.

In the case of the .357 Sig round, the Glock 31 really is an easy-shooting pistol, with very little perceived recoil from a rather powerful round. The nexus of recoil pulse to bullet weight to bullet speed (time from ignition to muzzle exit) to frame weight to slide weight to width of the grip to frame grip angle all come together to make for a surprisingly mild shooting experience, when one considers that the ballistics are equivelent to a medium-to-light .357 magnum revolver cartridge. It's no trick to keep all shots in the A-zone while pulling the trigger as fast as you can pull the trigger at 7 yards-- something I can't say shooting magnums out of a K-frame.

But it's not my 1911.

At Tuesday, March 02, 2010 8:43:00 AM, Blogger Suburban Hippie said...

Brother you got off easy! Like you, I have fairly large hands 9can palm a basketball) but more slender fingers. Mostly shoot a big-grip Glock 20, some single-stack 1911.

Well I took a lady friend to the range for her first shooting experience about 2 months ago. Did about 20 minutes of safety and dry fire, started her off with a Ruger Mark-III .22 and everything was great, she was a natural. Let her pop one off with the 10mm and at 10yd, dead center of the bull. Amazing!

About 45min of shooting and we were wrapping up, I had another mag of .22 already loaded so I put the target out to 50yd to see what I could hit. Flicked the bolt release and YELP it tore a 5mm circle of skin right off. Healed now but the dark scar will probably be with me for a year or so.

Great blog! I've enjoyed reading your posts. Check me out at


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