THERE is an old shooting range joke about the Dremel tool being every gunsmith’s best friend. It’s true.
It is not because every gunsmith uses one, although I saw one in Mario Abangan’s shop the last time I dropped by.
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Rather, it’s because a lot of people use the tool on their perfectly good firearm, mainly nineteen-elevens, to the point that the unit no longer works and a trip to the nearest gunsmith becomes necessary.
Given the number of people with nineteen-elevens, the phenomenon has sent good business down a lot of gunsmiths’ way over the years that they began proclaiming this indispensable rotary tool their best friend.
It begins innocently enough.
A new shooter buys a new nineteen-eleven and has fun with it with boxes upon boxes of “ball ammo.”
After the session, the new shooter takes out a box of “carry load” hollow-points and, with the intent to carry cocked and locked, racks the slide back and let’s go, shack-shuck.
But the gun simply refuses to swallow and chamber the specially-shaped round.
Distraught that the shiny new gun is turning out to be a lemon, the new shooter goes home and consults Mr. Google and is led to a site about the need to throat the barrel and polish the feed ramp.
Several keystrokes further on and the new shooter gets transported to a nice do-it-yourself website, complete with photos. That the website contains an advertorial with terms like “real man” and “power tool” should have been warning enough.
Anyhow, the new shooter then takes out the big, bad Dremel, flicks the switch and starts putting it to work on the barrel, whirr-whirr, and then on the ramp, whirr-whirr.
Look at ‘em sparks flying. Hell, yeah!
The following day, the new shooter brings the gun to the range, slips in the magazine of hollow-points, goes shack-shuck on the slide and, unbelievably, still gets a jam.
Unload, reload, take two, shack-shuck, still a jam. Take three, shack-shuck, and still another jam.
By now, the new shooter has realized that he made a boo-boo going postal on the gun with the Dremel tool.
He then takes out some leftover ball ammo, loads it into the magazine, slips the clip in, racks the slide shack-shuck and, while the gun chambered the roundhead perfectly the previous day, now gets a jam.
John Moses Browning, may his soul rest in peace, designed the nineteen-eleven around the .45 cal. ACP round that, during his time, only came in one variant—with a round-nosed slug.
Hence, it is a foregone conclusion that guns built around the original design (stress on “original design”) may have problems chambering bullets with a profile other than “ball.”
This, mind you, is not the only consideration. Other factors—bad magazine is chief among them—may also be at play. But let’s leave that for another edition.
What is important to remember is that introducing any modifications—and a throat and polish job is a modification—on any gun should be left to professionals who know the proper depth, angle and dimension of the intended cut.
Turning an otherwise perfectly serviceable gun into a jamamatic piece of overpriced paperweight by an overly aggressive application of the Dremel tool, by the way, should be the least of our worries.
Cutting too much out of the barrel throat could result in a bullet being successfully chambered but left with inadequate support resulting in the risk of case rupture upon firing.
And, while this will not necessarily wreck the gun and one’s hand with it, a case-head separation on any firearm will certainly give the user a scare, if not an intimate encounter with hot gun powder.
I am reminded of all this because of an email I received from John Lofland (JL619@aol.com) of Claymont, Delaware.
No, John didn’t go postal on his nineteen-eleven. He was smart enough to check if the nineteen-eleven model he intended to buy—the Armscor Spartan—still needed a throat and polish job before it could shoot hollow-point ammo.
In my experience, the Spartan doesn’t.