Taurus/Colt machining rumors update

A few days back I posted about the rumors that have gone round the internet about Taurus purchasing Colt machining to start their 1911 production. At the time, I reached out to Taurus directly to see if they could shed some light on the situation; due the holidays and how busy everyone is prepping for SHOT Show, it took a bit for them to get back to me. I spoke with their PR/Marketing Director, Tim Brandt via email, and on the topic he had this to say:

I just wanted to let you know that I was able to confirm that no Colt machinery was purchased.

Taurus PT1911 9mm

After noodling on this, I do have a theory on how all of this started. It’s a well known fact that Springfield Armory, a reputable maker of 1911s, sources some of their slides/frames from Imbel, a Brazilian company. It’s also a well known fact that Taurus did buy the Beretta factory/tooling to make the PT92. So when you add those two factors together, with the internet being the delightful source of half-truths and misinformation that it is, I can see how people would end up spreading a rumor about Taurus buying Colt machining.

As it turns out, it’s 100% not true, just as I speculated in my earlier post. Thanks to Tim at Taurus for confirming the conclusion we had arrived at via a little detective work.

Did Taurus buy old Colt machining to make their 1911s?

While I’ve been working on the PT1911 Torture Test I have come across an interesting bit of internet folklore regarding Taurus’ 1911 production. Apparently, some people believe that Taurus bought old Colt machining when they started making their 1911s. I thought this was a fascinating rumor, so I decided to run it down.

PT1911 failure to extract

First things first, I popped over to Taurus’ website and checked out their history page. It mentions the Bangor Punta era, it mentions the Beretta factory in Brazil, but there’s no mention of Colt. Nothing on Colt’s website either, and other sources don’t turn up anything about it either. I’m actually 100% comfortable calling this one “myth busted,” because there aren’t any credible sources that say it happened.

The big reason I’m calling it myth busted is because of Taurus’ website. On their website they reference when Taurus and Smith & Wesson were both owned by Bangor Punta, and they also mention the famed Beretta contract that lead to the Taurus PT92. For a bit of a history lesson for my readers, way back in the day, a company named Bangor Punta owned both Smith & Wesson and Taurus. Both of the companies were separate, but you can see the influence of the joint ownership in some of Taurus’ legacy revolver designs. The Beretta story is a lot more interesting – Beretta won a contract to provide 92-series pistols to the Brazilian military, but one of the contract stipulations was that the guns had to be built in Brazil. So Beretta built a factory from the ground up in Brazil, and when the contract ended, sold the whole thing, lock stock and barrel to Taurus. This resulted in what is still Taurus’ best gun, the PT92.

As I mentioned, Taurus mentions both of these facts directly on their website, so if they’d somehow acquired Colt machinery, I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t call that out as well. The second big reason that I don’t buy the Colt/Taurus link is because Taurus owns two important things: its own MIM production facility and its own forge. In fact, Taurus is one of the largest supplier of MIM parts to the firearms industry, and you’d likely be surprised to know where some of those parts end up. Taurus’ forge also produces all their own 1911 slides and frames. But not all of the slides/frames that come out of that forge end up with Taurus stamped on the slide. Many are sold to domestic 1911 manufacturers who then finish the parts, install their own internals, and stamp whatever logo they want on the gun. Again, the names on that list might surprise you.

When you look at those two facts, Taurus buying old Colt machining to build their 1911s just doesn’t quite add up. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but you have to remember that there’s no such thing as a special “1911 building machine.” It’s all just cutting metal and installing parts, so a company that can manufacture their own CNC machines doesn’t really need to buy someone else’s tooling.

Army’s Modular Handgun System to cost over $1 billion dollars

The Army is currently deep in the weeds in the process of trying to replace the venerable M9, which has served the US for nearly 30 years. The initial estimates placed the cost of the replacement program around $300-500 Million dollars, however a new report shows that the cost to taxpayers will likely be over a billion dollars.

Sen. McCain puts the total value of the MHS at not $350 million, or even $400 million, but a whopping $1.2 billion for the winner.

The big factor here is that the Army’s RFP calls for the gun and ammo to be manufactured by the same company/partner companies. That means if, for example S&W won the gun contract, they’d need to also produce the ammo. Interesting, S&W is set to do this, by partnering with General Dynamics to offer a joint RFP to fill the potential MHS contract.

P320C_Striker_L

Another company that would clearly be in the running would be Sig Sauer, with their (pictured) P320 modular handgun. Sig also produces their own line of branded ammo, meaning that they also have the capacity to meet the RFP’s requirements. Sig is also the apparent front-runner in the FBI’s new handgun acquisition, which if selected might, or might not, help it in the Army’s MHS competition.

Of course, the real issue with the MHS is “why?” Even if the program continues on its current pace and hits its milestones, you won’t see a new pistol in soldier’s holsters until late 2017/early 2018, and I’d sadly expect the cost to balloon even further. What’s deeply frustrating about this process is how the military, of which I’m proud to be a part of, can manage to make the per unit cost of a $500 handgun balloon up to $1,000 per unit before the ammo cost. It’s just silliness.

What do you think? Do you think the MHS is an unnecessary waste of taxpayer dollars? Or do you think that the Army, and eventually the military at large really need a new handgun?

5 reasons the Beretta M9A3 will be the next service pistol

Yesterday, much to the joy of Beretta fanboys (like me) Beretta USA announced the latest update to the venerable M9 pistol line, the M9A3. This pistol represents Beretta’s answer to the requirements for the Army’s proposed Modular Handgun System (or whatever they’re calling it this time around) and I am willing to bet that the Beretta M9A3 will absolutely be our nation’s next service pistol. But first, here’s what Beretta has to say about the new gun:

M9A3-b1

After delivering over 600,000 M9 pistols to the DOD and on the heels of being awarded a new contract for up to 100,000 M9s, Beretta USA announced today the presentation of the M9A3 to the US Army. The M9A3 introduces major improvements to the M9 that will increase the operational effectiveness and operational suitability of the weapon. The improvements include design and material enhancements resulting in increased modularity, reliability, durability, and ergonomics. They are being submitted via an Engineering Change Proposal (ECP) in accordance with the terms of the current M9 contract.

Made in the U.S.A. by an American workforce since 1987, the M9 has been the sidearm of the U.S. Armed Forces for nearly 30 years; serving with U.S. service men and women in training and combat operations throughout the world. The M9A3 is designed for the next 30 years – delivering 21st century capability and features while increasing usability and reliability.

“The M9A3 represents the next generation military handgun utilizing the best of the legacy M9 combined with proven COTS modifications that increase performance and durability” stated Gabriele de Plano, Vice President of Military Marketing and Sales for Beretta USA. Mr. de Plano added, “After listening closely to the needs of U.S. Army and other Service small arms representatives, we determined the M9, much like its counterpart legacy weapon systems (M4, M16, M240, etc.), was capable of being upgraded through material and design changes. The resulting M9A3 we are offering to the DOD will likely cost less than the current M9 and answer almost all of the Services’ enhanced handgun requirements.”

The M9A3 features a thin grip with a removable, modular wrap-around grip, MIL-STD-1913 accessory rail, removable front and rear tritium sights, extended and threaded barrel for suppressor use, 17-round sand resistant magazine, and numerous improved small components to increase durability and ergonomics, all in an earth tone finish.

“Furthermore, the M9A3 benefits from having a law enforcement and commercial variant that will be launched at S.H.O.T. Show 2015 in Las Vegas, NV” stated Rafe Bennett, Vice President of Product Marketing for Beretta USA. Mr. Bennett added, “The M9A3 offered to the DOD is the exact gun that consumers will be able to purchase in the second quarter of 2015.”

The M9A3 follows on the heels of Beretta and Wilson Combat’s collaboration, and represents a lot of the features that end users have been asking for in their Beretta pistols. The backstrap will allow users to switch from a traditional Beretta profile grip to the smaller and easier to manage Vertec style, the sights are replaceable, and the safety is convertable to a G-style decock only model. With this feature set, here are five reasons why the Beretta M9A3 is going to be the US service pistol for a long time.

1. Money
Hey, did you know that the military is currently undergoing all kinds of budget cuts? The Air Force (for example) by the end of FY 2015 will be at its smallest size since its creation in 1947, the Army is cutting costs wherever it can (despite getting new uniforms) so when Beretta presents a solution to the DoD’s desire for a new toy that doesn’t involve wholesale replacement of holsters, magazines, and small parts, the odds are that they’re going to go for it. Unless Sig nails the baksheesh.

2. Seriously, the money
Beretta did a smart thing: they submitted the M9A3 to the Army as an ECP, and engineering change proposal. What that means is that the M9A3 is part of the existing M9 contract now, assuming that the DoD accepts the ECP, which they will because follow the money.

In the Modular Handgun System proposal, the Army asked for a certain set of features on the new gun. The M9A3 has all of those features, which means that some bean counter in the Pentagon is going to look at this ECP vs the cost of an entire new handgun and go “well, this is a no-brainer.” Essentially, the M9A3 is presented to the Army as fait accompli by Beretta. “Oh, you want all these features in a gun? No problem Holmes, let’s just make that for you as part of the existing contract.”

3. We are not going away from 9mm any time soon
There are entire graveyards full of dudes that have been killed with 9mm ball ammo. Despite what the Warriors of the Keys will tell you, we don’t really need to switch up to .40 or .45, because in the FMJ form our line troops would be required to use, they still suck. To get serious though, we’re not ditching the NATO standard round any time soon. Everyone uses 9mm, and we are going to keep using 9mm as long as we’re the Big Kid at the North Atlantic Treaty Table.

If anything, the trend in rounds is towards smaller rounds. It wouldn’t surprise me if when I’m getting ready to retire in 30 years for the military to be issuing pistols that fire 5mm tungsten core beads to pierce power armor or something.

4. The M9 is fine
The big problem with the M9 (and the M4) isn’t the gun. It’s the way the military trains people to “maintain” their weapons. But that’s a post for another time. Fastidious attention to cleanliness at the expense of lubrication isn’t good for guns.

5. Logistics
All those mags. All those small parts.

Conclusion
There are circumstances where the M9A3 might not make it. The Army could, for reasons that are unfathomable to me, reject the ECP and force the MHS competition to go forward, and then pick a different gun. Sometimes they do things like that because of reasons, none of which make any kind of sense. But like I said above, I’m willing to make a considerable wager that in 2017, when the Army is supposed to pick its new handgun, the M9A3 will already be riding in frontline holsters, and doing just fine. Then it will be “this gun gives us what we wanted, so let’s just keep it.”

What do you think? Will the M9A3 effectively end-run the MHS competition?

USPSA’s accountant resigns over un-accounted for expenditures

The following was provided to me by an anonymous source, and has since then been posted on the Area 6 FB page as well as other forums. USPSA’s accountant resigned from USPSA, with an effective final day of September 30th because corporate funds were not being properly accounted for. Here is the entire text of her resignation letter:

September 16, 2014

Dear USPSA BOD members:

Each year I work closely with out accounting company and bookkeeper to ensure that the accounting records are in order. At the end of last year I started to notice charges on a company credit card issued to Kim (Williams, USPSA Executive Director – ed) for which there were no receipts. I have requested the receipts but she has not provided them. The bookkeeper comes in every month to balance the bank statement. Each time she comes in she finds a charge on the bank statement for the credit card payment must put the item into the suspense account. She has expressed concern that this is not being handled properly. The suspense account is now at $144,632.18.

Kim has become quite defensive about this issue. I contacted my attorney some time ago and he advised me to send a letter to the BOD with my concerns. I have documented everything concerning the missing receipts, and my attempts to resolve this issue. I have attached a copy of the suspense account for 2014.

I’ve enjoyed serving the membership of USPSA for the last 21 years. I am just trying to do the right thing. Therefore, my last day will be September 30, 2014.

If you have any questions or would like copies of the documentation I have in my possession, please contact me at your convenience.

Sincerely,

Barbara Kennedy
Accounting Specialist, USPSA/IPSC Inc.

Essentially, what’s happening is that there are charges on the corporate card that are being made without receipts provided to accounting, and when the bill for the corporate card is paid each month, the money must be filed into the suspense account. Wikipedia has an excellent summary of what a suspense account is used for in accounting practice: “A suspense account is an account used temporarily to carry doubtful receipts and disbursements or discrepancies pending their analysis and permanent classification.

For those interested, here is a pdf copy of the letter of resignation as well as a current look at the suspense account – no account numbers or damaging financial information is contained in this.

Kim Williams had recently come under fire when two members of the Board of Directors put forward a motion in a recent BOD meeting calling for her immediate resignation. The motion failed, and the members immediately resigned.

As of press time, we have contacted Phil Strader, USPSA President via email for a statement on this matter.

More on the IDPA ban of the CZ Accu-Shadow

Yesterday, the day before IDPA Nationals kicked off, IDPA announced via email to members and a post on their facebook page that the CZ Accu-Shadow was not legal for SSP. The internet reacted predictably, with at least one shooter affected by the decision voicing his displeasure here in the comments. Many other shooters not affected by the decision, or even shooting IDPA Nationals, also voiced their objections. Objections to the decision fall along two fairly broad lines. 1st, the timing of the announcement by IDPA, and 2nd that the ruling banning the Accu-Shadow is not consistent with IDPA’s other rulings. Let’s take a look at both of those.

cz accu-shadow

Timing
IDPA released the ruling in social media on Monday, and via email to their members on Tuesday. We published it on Tuesday to make sure that any affected shooters would have access to the information prior to leaving for the match. The timing of the ruling is undoubtedly terrible. It leaves affected shooters in the position of needing to find a new gun and possibly magazines to compete with in the match, or to use one of the loaner guns provided by IDPA. I have argument with anyone who objects to the ruling based on the timing of it.

However, let’s look at the options. Option 1 would be to say “screw it, the Accu-Shadow is legal for this match, we’ll ban it afterward.” That would have been better in my opinion, but would have created the inevitable push-back from shooters that would used the Accu-Shadow’s legality at Nationals as a reason to keep it legal in SSP forever. Alternatively, IDPA could have simply DQ’d every shooter who showed up with an Accu-Shadow. I think we can all agree that would have been the worst choice of all.

The question raised by this is “why does it matter?” Well, it matters because a strict reading of the IDPA rules would actually make the Accu-Shadow illegal for SSP. That’s the second part of this, the consistency of the ruling.

Consistency
To understand why the Accu-Shadow is illegal for SSP, you have to understand what the Accu-Shadow is. It is a custom variant of the CZ75 Shadow, which has an external barrel bushing fitting to it in order to improve accuracy. Barrel bushings are on the list of prohibited modifications in SSP.The Accu-Shadow is made by CZ Custom. CZ Custom is not a division of CZ-USA, but is in fact an independent company. CZ-USA may list the Accu-Shadow on their website, but because the bushing is not an OEM part made by CZ and fitted by CZ, the modifications to the Accu-Shadow make it illegal for SSP, and by default then illegal for IDPA. It’s the difference between a Roush Mustang, which is modified by a third party, and a Mopar Challenger. Dodge owns Mopar, Ford doesn’t own Roush.

Some of the objections have noted that IDPA allowed guns from the Performance Center which have illegal modifications to play, specifically, the PC 1911s with the cool slide cuts are legal for CDP. The reasoning behind this ruling is that those slides are OEM, they’re made by S&W and if you want to buy one, you order it from Smith, not a custom shop. Those slide cuts are functionally the same as the hogged out slides on Glock 34s and XDm 5.25 pistols – factory original equipment placed there by the manufacturer.

That’s the big difference here – the bushing modification to the Accu-Shadow isn’t OEM. Yes, it’s in the CZ Catalog, but just because a thing is listed in a catalog doesn’t make it OEM. As a sharp commenter pointed out yesterday, you can frequently buy Roush Mustangs from the Ford Dealer, that doesn’t mean that Ford offers those parts.

This is a frustrating issue for many shooters, and I believe that the timing makes it worse. I honestly feel that if this ruling had been made after the match, and the affected shooters allowed to shoot in SSP with their Accu-Shadows, that would have been the best choice. As it is, there are at least four people affected by this ruling who will now need to bring alternate guns to the match.

Breaking: CZ Accu-Shadow not legal for IDPA SSP

This literally just in from IDPA HQ prior to Nationals:

The Rulebook Clarifications for Q3, 2014, have not been finalized for publication. We would like to publish this completed update for those of our competitors who will be attending IDPA Nationals. Since the CZ Custom Shop is not an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), the CZ SP-01 Accu-Shadow will not be deemed SSP legal, based on the following rules in the current rulebook: 8.2.1.4.1.

Competitors planning to shoot this firearm at the IDPA Nationals will need to make other arrangements. Please see Robert Ray for more information on borrowing a firearm if needed. Comp-Tac has generously offered to lend holsters for borrowed firearms and HQ has an assortment of SSP legal firearms to lend for the match. Any competitor who arrives with an Accu-Shadow and chooses not to shoot the match will have their entry fee refunded. We understand that this is a major inconvenience due to the late nature of this decision. We apologize and are striving to fix our process so that this will not happen in the future. We thank you for your understanding.

Sincerely,

Joyce Wilson
Executive Director, IDPA

We are publishing this so that anyone attending IDPA Nats and planning on using an Accu-Shadow in SSP has access to this information and hopefully has time to make alternate plans on what gun to bring with them to the match. For reference, the rule cited states:

8.2.1.4.1. Externally visible modifications other than those listed in the Permitted Modifications
section.

Essentially, the Accu-bushing is what knocks it out of SSP. Again, this information is being published so that shooters planning on using an Accu-Shadow will have an opportunity to get a different gun.

U.S. ARMY ACQUIRES ADDITIONAL BERETTA M9 9mm PISTOLS

Editor’s Note: Rumors of the M9’s demise appear to be untrue. This is my shocked face.

Accokeek, MD (July 28th, 2014) – Beretta Defense Technologies announced today the purchase by the U.S. Army of a quarter million dollars worth of additional M9 pistols from Beretta U.S.A. Corp. The Army acquired the additional pistols by issuing the 6th delivery order to date against a contract for up to 100,000 pistols awarded by the Army to Beretta U.S.A. Corp. in September 2012.

800px-M9-pistolet

The Beretta M9 is a 9x19mm caliber pistol adopted by the United States Armed Forces in 1985. The M9, which has been in U.S. production since 1987, is manufactured at the Beretta U.S.A. facility located in Accokeek, Maryland. To date, Beretta has delivered over 600,000 M9 pistols, with 18,000 already scheduled for delivery under the new 5 year contract.

In addition to receiving the delivery order for additional M9 9mm pistols, Beretta U.S.A. has been fulfilling U.S. military orders for M9 parts during the past year. “Throughout 2014 Beretta U.S.A. has been performing First Article Testing on new M9 parts and has begun the delivery of thousands of these components to U.S. military depots,” commented Gabriele de Plano, Beretta U.S.A.’s Vice President of Military Marketing & Sales. “We are, as always, honored and pleased to be able to serve our U.S. Armed Forces by providing our service men and women with a reliable and accurate pistol that has been proven in combat time and time again.”

“Beretta has set an unprecedented records for reliability with the M9 pistol,” added de Plano. “The average reliability of all M9 pistols tested at Beretta U.S.A. is 17,500 rounds without a stoppage. During one test of twelve pistols, fired at Beretta U.S.A. under Army supervision, Beretta-made M9 pistols shot 168,000 rounds without a single malfunction. The average durability of Beretta M9 slides is over 35,000 rounds, the point at which U.S. Army testing ceases. The average durability of M9 frames is over 30,000 rounds and the average durability of M9 locking blocks is 22,000 rounds.”

About Beretta Defense Technologies
Beretta Defense Technologies (BDT) is the strategic alliance of five Beretta Holding defense companies (including Beretta, Benelli, Laser Devices, Sako and Steiner) that provide products and services to enable superior performance in the Defense and Law Enforcement communities. State-of-the-art machinery, extensive research and development capabilities, and long-standing worldwide experiences allow BDT products to respond to the ever-changing needs of defense and security personnel. These Beretta companies employ nearly 600 individuals within the United States with locations in California, Colorado, Maryland, New York, Texas, and Virginia.

Palmer vs. DC and concealed carry in Washington, DC

You may have heard over the weekend that the district court for Washington DC recently overturned the District’s ban on carrying handguns. For more details, I’ll refer you to Alan Gura’s blog, since he’s the guy who won the case anyway. The meat of the decision is that in light of Heller and McDonald, the District court ruled that DC’s ban on carrying handguns was a violation of the Constitution and that DC must implement a system for lawful concealed carry. I assumed that DC would either 1) appeal the decision to the Supreme Court and that this would drag on forever, or that 2) they’d go the Illinois route and try to implement the most odious, Byzantine permit system possible. Then I read three tweets I thought I’d never read:

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