I have a simple rule about pistols. If I like the looks, I'll buy it. There's also Robert's second rule of pistols. If I pick up enough brass at the range, I need to buy a pistol to match. As I've gained experience, a third rule has evolved. If it's not a 1911, it's mostly worthless. (Hi-Powers are exempt for aesthetic reasons.) Then there's the forth rule. Old guns don't shoot for shit, but see rule number one.

c93 Borchardt casedc93 Borchardt Pistol, Waffenfabrik Loewe

The Borchardt is generally considered the first commercially successful semi-automatic pistol. If nothing else, it established certain trends in auto pistol design which are still followed today, including placement of the magazine in the grip. The toggle lock was "lifted" from Hiram Maxim's patented system, and formed the bassist of Georg Luger's redesign, which ultimately lead to the P.08. While introduction of the Mauser Broomhandle certainly had to impact sales to some degree, it was the Luger which firmly and forever killed the Borchardt. Much has been said of the bulk and awkwardness of the c93, and while I'll never shoot this gun, it certainly feels reasonably well balanced in the hand. It also points better than I expected, although the razor thin front sight blade is a little hard to see. Based on feel alone, I would actually rate it better than the Broomhandle. Sets included a board type shoulder stock with a leather holster strapped to the back side. This gun, and the Mauser Broomhandle are in many respects perhaps better thought of as light carbines. Sadly, this pistol and it's original magazines have long been separated, and today it has only one mismatched magazine. The case and hold open device are replicas. Also included are the original holster in fair/poor condition, and a reproduction holster. Additional views.

Borchardt c93 Pistol Ludwig Loewe

Mauser c96 (cone hammer)

Why they call this thing a Broomhandle I don't know. Its an insult to the ergonomics of a broom. The c96 Mauser pistol is awkward and ungainly, but it has an enduring fascination. This is the early cone hammer style, identifiable because the hammer has cone shaped protrusions to either side. Workmanship is as good as the Germans could make it, which in the late nineteenth century, means extremely good indeed. This minty example, with its matching holster stock, is a hanger queen. It gets dragged out for show, but is much to nice to shoot today. In My Early Life: 1874-1904, Winston Churchill expresses a deep affection his personal Mauser pistol, which he used to some effect as a journalist in the Second Boer War of 1899-1902. Considering the timing, the pistol seems likely to have been an early cone hammer type. Additional views.

Mauser c96 Broomhandle cone hammer

Mauser c96 (large ring hammer)

Before the design finally stabilized, Mauser went through numerous detail iterations of the basic gun. We have here a shallow milled panel large ring hammer style. The reason for the hammer's name is obvious. I believe the concept was to allow an individual to cock the hammer against a saddle, or the thigh, while mounted on a horse. At various times, the side panels ranged from flat, with no milled reliefs, to "shallow milled", to the later standard milling depth. There were innumerable other mechanical and physical variations as well. The markings in the center of the panel above the trigger say "Von Lengerke & Detmold New-York" These were the US importers and it is common in the States to see guns so marked. Photo with holster stock fitted

Mauser c96 Broomhandle large ring hammer

Karl Pfund

There I was, wasting time on Auction Arms, when up pops a "German 22 Parlor Pistol." I've never shown the slightest interest in 22 pistols, but for whatever reason I clicked the auction title. Here was this cool gun, in minty condition, made by a "famous" German gunsmith I've never heard of. In and of itself that's not a big deal as I've never heard of most German gunsmiths. For that matter, I couldn't name many American gunsmiths. Anyway, I put in a ho-hum bid and won. The gunsmith was Karl Pfund. I still know nothing about him, but apparently he made pretty little 22 target pistols.

Karl Pfund Mannheim 22 Parlor Pistol

Colt 1911 Government Model

What color is a mirror? There's high polish, like a Belgian made P35, and then there is mirror polish like on this early 1912 production Government Model. It appears to be whatever color is reflected in the photo. As best I can tell, the bluing has a subtle light blue cast. The lower photo attempts to show this as a reflection of bright white paper. The fire bluing on these early guns is spectacular, although a poor choice for a military weapon. In fact, making a highly reflective pistol in general probably isn't the best choice for combat, but obviously, Colt took great pride in their successful design. As a three digit serial number example, this is the 1911 I don't shoot. Photos don't really convey just how shiny this gun is, it looks wet.

Colt 1911

Mauser c96 (Red 9)

The 9mm Broomhandle pistols are, for obvious reasons, commonly referred to as Red 9 pistols. It's interesting that the one substantial German military order for C96s came after the gun was technically obsolete. With the pressing need for military hardware, Mauser accepted an order for 150,000 pistols in 9mm parabellum. The change from .30 Mauser to 9mm meant commonality of ammo with the P-08. Interestingly, in spite of not finishing the contract prior to the end of hostilities (around 135,000 produced), Mauser continued to make broomhandles in .30 Mauser throughout the war. Typically equipped with a wooden holster stock and leather harness, the pieces with this example are correct for era, with a 1916 dated harness, but mismatched stock. Construction quality is the poorest I have seen among Mauser produced guns, with obvious chatter marks from well used machine tools. Compared to the wartime commercial below, even in 1918 more effort was lavished on the commercial pistol than this military piece.

Mauser Broomhandle Red 9

Mauser c96 (wartime commercial)

I believe guns are to be used, but the early Mausers are a little too nice to shoot. While looking for a Model 1930 Commercial shooter, this late wartime Commercial appeared. Although there were slight variations on this hammer style, all the later guns are generically lumped together and described as small ring hammer. My knowledge of Mauser lore is limited, but I get the impression this gun was manufactured right at the end of pre armistice production. Taken alone, it is a beautiful and well made gun, but when placed next to the earlier examples, it becomes clear workmanship had declined. The Broomhandle is awkward to shoot and it takes great care to realize its full accuracy potential. The little 30 Mauser BBs were the highest velocity handgun round available until the advent of the .357 magnum.

Mauser c96 Broomhandle pistol

Luger 1920 Commercial

My first try at shooting a pistol was with my friend's Luger. I couldn't hit a 2 foot square target at ten yards. There was nothing wrong with the gun. Put it all down to operator error. I'm not a huge Luger fan, but felt there should be at least one in the collection. This example is a 1920 commercial model in 7.63. It is all matching, except the magazine, and is marked "GERMANY." The caliber was necessary instead of 9mm because some time previously I had accidentally bought 100 rounds of.30 Luger brass (I meant to buy .30 Mauser). Got the brass...gotta have a gun with which to shoot it.

Luger 1920 Commercial

Colt Gold Cup National Match

A friend bought this beautiful early Colt Gold Cup National Match pistol, but I managed to convince him he would much prefer a parts bin race gun with lots of skateboard tape on the grip. Fortunately, being a competitive shooter, he agreed and sold me this Colt. I was at the rifle range one day and some punters showed up with a couple pistols. They set up a silhouette at about sixty yards and began pasting everything but the target. I pulled out the Colt and nailed it in two shots, gave 'em a smile, put the Colt away, and went back to shooting my rifle.

Colt Gold Cup National Match

Browning P35 Hi-Power

The classic Belgian P35 Hi-Power. What more can one say about this pistol. It's reliable, and strong, and popularized hi-cap magazines, and it looks great, and it's fun to shoot, and it has cool wood grips. Hi-Powers need cool wood grips. We associate the design with John Browning, but Dieudonne Saive at FN deserves most of the credit for what we today know as the "Browning" Hi-Power. John Browning started the design to meet a French military specification. The original concept used a striker rather than hammer, and incorporated a double stack magazine, which had been originaly conceptualized by Saive. Saive continued work on the gun after Browning died in 1926. Typical of the French, they ultimately abandoned their own original specification and adopted a single stacker in 7.65 calibre. The french gun remained in service until 1950, and is largely forgotten today. They still make Hi-Powers.

Browning P35 Hi-Power

Browning P35 Hi-Power

The classic Belgian P35 Hi-Power...oh wait, I'll already said all that. This is a slightly later version of the exact same thing. With better sights and a scratch or two, this one is the shooter. Now that my buddy Hearth has embarked on his Hi-Power tuning career, I had him practice on this gun. It's no 1911, but it's miles better than stock. A minor chage, which makes a big difference, is to simply remove the magazine disconnect. This is a throwback to the original French military specification, and serves only to worsen the trigger pull. If you're worried about the safety of a home defense weapon, might I suggest a either Glock, or better yet a wheel gun instead.

Browning Hi-Power

Colt Mk IV Series 70 Government Model

This is your basic (circa 1970-80s) high polish blued 45 auto. The slide rattles, and the finish, though good, is not going to win any beauty contests. At the time, Colt couldn't even be bothered to get the medallions straight in the grips. I've heard over the years the commercial models were built from parts rejected for military service. True or not, the quality of this gun fits the story.

Colt MkIV Series 70 Government Model

Sig Sauer P230

I'm sure there was a good reason at the time, but I can no longer remember why I bought this pistol. It is by no means the first time I've had this scenario, but whereas the other examples have been slowly weeded out, this gun hangs on. As .380s go, it shoots well and is extremely well made. And of consideration too, If I sold it, what would I do with all my .380 brass?
Sig Sauer P230

Colt Mk IV Series 80 Lightweight Commander

The Lightweight Commander was my first Colt. People accuse it of having a weak frame, but I don't shoot it that often and then usually with my less than massively powerful target loads. It kicks a little, but is a good accurate gun. With the light loads, a recoil buffer and the amount it gets fired I expect the frame will out live my lifetime. I wanted to be Mr Clever and install a flat mainspring housing with built in magazine guide. Ignorance is bliss. When I pushed out the mainspring retaining pin, the spring missed my face, but hit the ceiling and ricocheted around the garage. Never would have seen it again were it not for the fact I never bother to clean up cobwebs. I spotted it a few days later hanging up near the ceiling. Lesson learned.

Colt MkIV Series 80 Lightweight Commander

Browning Hi Power 40

If two Hi-Powers are good, aren't three even better? Why yes, especially if the third one is a 40 S&W. Although not immediately obvious from the side, the 40 has a wider slide and ever-so-slightly less pleasing looks. The finish quality of this Portuguese assembled example is just a tick below the older guns. I'm not sure if you can even buy new high polish 40s any more, so I won't complain.

Browning Hi-Power .40

Springfield 1911-A1

The only thing wrong with most 1911s is the trigger. This soda can killer (I like shooting at a place affectionately known as the glass factory because of all the broken bottles) is an out of the box Springfield Model 1911-A1. Its had a set of diamond pattern grips added, and a Hearthco hammer and trigger massage. There's nothing like a reliable 24oz. trigger pull to make a gun accurate. Dave Hearth makes his own 1911 hammers on a wire EDM. Although he is primarily known for making the best moon clips on the market, if you're really nice to him he'll do up an awesome trigger job.

Springfield 1911-A1

Para-Ordnance P16-40

I've always had a thing for .40 cal. Not sure why, but there you go. The P16 combines several of my favorite things; .40 S&W, hi-cap, and the classic 1911 action. Toss in a Hearthco trigger job and one of his classic hammers, and you've got some good shootin' fun in your future.

Para-Ordnance P16-40

Glock 22

All right, who let the Glock in here? Not exactly a thing of beauty, but the .40 cal Glock 22 is a capable device. I don't use it for self defense, so it has had slight mods to the trigger which render it a fairly accurate piece. While not at all collectable or pretty, it'll come in handy for coastal defense when the Grand Army of the Falkland Islands invades California.

Glock 22

Glock 19

All right, who let the Glock in...oh wait, I'll already said all that. This is where I would like say you couldn't hit the ground if you aimed at it with one of these, but I know there are a lot of folks shooting them with excellent accuracy. In my case, it's operator error.

Glock 19 pistol


I've never much cared for mouse pistols, however, the Seecamp appeals to me. Most .32 autos beat the hell out of your hand, but for some reason this tiny gun is quite pleasant to shoot. Maybe its due to the recoil spring. Its all I can do to rack the slide on this little bugger. Although the photos on this page are not to scale, to give you an idea, the relative size of this picture is about when right compared to the 1911s.



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