Cinema Of The Gun THE WILD BUNCH

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I love a good shoot out movie. I have always loved them and very few are as iconic and legendary as The Wild Bunch. It was, at one time the most graphic and intense shoot out on screen.  It  was controversial at the time and a lot of people complained about it as being ultra violent.  It is certainly  violent but it has a lot more going on than just a great gun fight at the end.  It is one of my all time favorite gunfight/western movies and not just because of the guns.

If you have not seen it, i will be talking about a few plot points and spoiling the ending here so be warned on that.  Anyone who has not seen it needs to do so as fast as possible because you have been missing out,

The Wild Bunch is mainly about a gang of aging  outlaws and gunfighters after the turn of the century. The movies starts with them robbing a bank to get enough money for possible retirement but it turns out to be an ambush where almost all of them are killed. They then take refuge into Mexico where they realize their days of living like they had been, are about over and they are a dying breed.  They get mixed in with some Mexican revolution Hi-jinks while a former partner now working for the rail road who they stole from in the past  is trying to hunt them down,  they steal 1903 rifles from the US Army for the Mexicans to use, in return for gold payment from the Mexican general ravaging the countryside.

After they steal the guns they do  let one of their gang members keep a case of the rifles for his poor villager friends and family to defend against same Mex general.  He is found out, and is taken by the Mexican army and tortured while the rest of the gang goes on with the gold since there is nothing they can do.

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After building guilt for abandoning their friend, they decided to go take him back from the Mexican General and his men, though they really know it is going to be their end in a blaze of glory. And that is exactly what happens after their pal is killed by the Mexican army after they demand his return and  the leader guns down the General. They do kill about 1/4 the population of Mexico before being killed themselves.

The ending shoot out is intense and hyper violent with  very graphic for the time, blood splattering from the gun shot wounds.  it is a really great pay off, but there is some great stuff in the middle.

The movie has always really resonated with me in a few ways with some powerful themes and moments.

THE WILD BUNCH, from left: Ernest Borgnine, William Holden, 1969
THE WILD BUNCH, from left: Ernest Borgnine, William Holden, 1969

One of the things that appealed to me is the friendship between the gang members, Especially the leader and his right hand man.  They stick by each other and defend each other from the other members of the gang during tense arguments. His friend never questions his leadership and is loyal to the end. Indeed even his last word is the name of his friend Pike’s name as he dies. Still concerned about his friend even at the end.

At one point in the middle of the film, the leader, Pike, tells his pal why he limps. He was shot in the leg by the jealous husband of the only woman he ever loved. He was caught by the husband with her and was hit in the leg and the woman killed. Pike was not able to kill the man, and it has haunted him ever since.

The outlaws relationship with women in the film is interesting as well. As above, PIke is shown to be very tender toward his dead lover. At another point, they have arrived at the home town of the mexican member of their gang to find out his sweet heart has ran off with the corrupt Mexican General. Later when they meet the General he confronts his one time love and sees her laughing at him in the General’s lap.  In a rage he stands and screams “Puuuuttttaaa” and shoots her in the chest with his 1911 killing her.    At the end of the film, in the final climactic battle Pike turns his back to a Mexican prostitute and is shot in the back by her. He turn to her and exclaims “bitch”! and guns her down.   This comes after minutes earlier, he paid a poor young beautiful mexican prostitute with a young child more money than she expected after being with her. Then deciding to go out in a blaze of glory.

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After the final fight, the village square is full of the dead ad wounded. PIke still has his hand wrapped around the Machine gun he had been mowing down Mexican bandits with even in death.  His old partner who had been reluctantly  hunting him for the rail road to avoid spending his like in jail comes across his old friend.   He looks down and sees his old friends Colt 45 revolver still in its holster unfired.

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Throughout the movie, Pike and the rest of the gang had been using the new, at the time, Colt 1911 Automatic pistol, caliber 45 ACP.  The revolver was the sidearm Pike had spent the most time with. No doubt it was his baby and well loved it was from a time before his 1911 came along and with it more modern guns obviously signifying the end of their era. Pike had still carried his older Colt because he loved it and was not willing to forget it or the memories of his prime it no doubt reminded him of.  Pike and the boys all used 1911s for the entire movie. But PIke still always had his Colt Peacemaker on his hip.  This is where it  was when the outlaws who had outlived their age came to their end.  Never even fired.

The times had moved on and changed without the outlaws changing with it.  They refused to adapt into a new world they did not like. Pike still held onto his old shooter and died with it on.

His old best friend and partner comes across his body and removes the Colt and takes it with him.  He stays in Mexico with the last survivor of the old gang and goes to fight in the revolution trying to preserve or hold onto the old days the best he can while he can, with Pike’s relic from a past age.

The Wild Bunch is a great movie but it is not just a great gun fight with great old actors. William Holden plays the outlaw leader, Pike and does it so well, you really see the pain and regret in his eye and the seriousness and resolve as he leads his last friends and gang to their last suicidal glory filled fire fight.

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Frank Proctor Way of the Gun Sling

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In looking for a sling for my Colt 733 clone I wanted something that had both modern two point adjustability and an appearance that didn’t look out of place on a quasi retro AR. I hadn’t had much luck finding anything that really suited me until I stumbled across the Way of the Gun sling from Frank Proctor. Liking what I saw, I ordered one in ranger green to try out.

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The sling itself is the absolute definition of minimalist. A basic 1” nylon strap, two buckles, two paracord attachment loops, that’s it.  Total weight of the sling, including the paracord attachment loops, is 1.98 oz.

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Close up of the para cord attachment loop.

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The length adjustment slider. Push forward to lengthen, pull back to shorten.

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The only stitching on the entire sling.

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Comparison photo of the Proctor sling next to a Magpul MS1.  Note the slings opposite function.  On the WOTG sling push the slider forward to lengthen the sling and pull back to shorten, while the Magpul slider pulls back to lengthen and pushes forward to shorten.  Not that either way is good or bad, just something to keep in mind.  Earlier I mentioned the WOTG sling with paracord attachments has a total weight of 1.98 oz, in comparison the Magpul MS1 with two quick disconnects has a total weight of 7.71 oz.  A 5.73 oz difference.

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Comparison of the length adjusters and attachment methods.

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Difference in width between the slings. 1” for the Proctor WOTG sling vs. 1.25” for the Magpul MS1.

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Proctor WOTG sling mounted on my 733.

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Here are a couple of photos of the sling mounted up on other AR’s to show the versatility in mounting it to different weapons.

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I’ve been using the sling for a couple of months now and have been pleased with it.  I’ve found the sling to be simple, lightweight and efficient.  The strap doesn’t bind up or get in the way, and the length adjuster slides smoothly.  It gets the job done with no fuss or drama, which is all I ask in a sling.

My only suggestion for improvement would be to, due to its small size, make the serrations on the sides of the length adjuster more pronounced to give the hand something to really grab/lock onto.

One bit of caution, the strap is thin and the material is flexible, I can see the potential for the sling strap to dig in and become uncomfortable if carrying a heavier weapon slung for long periods of time.  Given I’ve mostly run the sling on a sub 6 lb SBR it’s never been an issue for me, just something to think about.

All in all if you’re looking for a lightweight minimalist sling that won’t get in the way, a sling that can easily be switched between weapons that don’t have provisions for quick disconnects, or a sling that gives modern two point quick adjustable function with an old look the Frank Proctor Way of the Gun sling is a solid choice.

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Colt 6940 Piston Carbine Test & Review Part 1

The  idea that the piston operated AR15/M4  would be an improvement that fixes all of the perceived short comings of the weapon has been something that has gained ground in certain corners since the dubious “dust tests” and H&K marketing from a bit over 10 years ago now. Miss-use by users in the GWOT and careful lobbying by certain companies has put the idea that the DI system is sub-par in the minds of some of the lesser educated.   In fact ,if you did not know better you would think the piston operated AR15 did not exist until HK came out with the 416.    Truth is Colt had already developed a piston operated AR15 since the 60s and had been playing around with it ever since. If you look close at the front sight, you will see some details that pop up a lot later.

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Later Colt, in 2005-2006 colt started showing pictures of another piston gun they called the LE1020. It was a monolithic railed upper very close to the current 6940 uppers. It lacked the QD sockets,and some other small refinements but it was clear the idea was being refined. All this before others had started with their piston campaign.  Yes, colt had been making and refining piston AR15s for a long time. Getting it the way they wanted it before deciding to offer it.  We did not see the LE1020 hit the market back then because it was found the market and the Military was not that interested in a piston gun.  It took ignorant gun writers and HK marketing to convince a lot of people that they could not like without a piston operated M4.  Never mind some of those early piston ARs chewed up receiver extensions, suffered from carrier tilt, weighed a ton and were not very easy to modify.

If you are new to AR15s you may have missed the bright spike that was the peak of people wanting piston guns because so many believed a little dust caused a M4 to malfunction and History channel documentaries that were more or less HK 416 advertisements.  That has craze has evened out now a days and while some SOF use piston M4s, the rest of the army found out the M4 with its DI worked just fine witht some oil and not trying to use the M4 as a SAW.  But in that time, companies had some time to tweak the piston guns to get them to work right.  Among those was Colt, who refined their piston model from all those years ago before any one else had even thought about making a piston AR15.

With that, we come to the present day. A few weeks ago, Colt once again was nice enough to send me a shiny new Colt 6940Piston for my grubby little hands to test and abuse for other peoples amusement. We will take a look at it in this first part of a longer review and test. just to get to know it a little. stick our nose in its nooks and crannies and put on the old rubber glove and tell it to bend over so we can get to know it a little deeper….

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The Colt 6940P ( Piston) is essentially a regular 6940 from the outside. The lower is standard Colt milspec minus the full auto FCG of course. The buffer that comes with the P is the H2. This is standard issue with the gun as it comes with the the heavy SOCOM profile barrel we talk about in a moment.  The SOCOM profile M4A1 barrel is always combined with the H2 buffer in Colt models. Piston guns with standard A2 flash hiders will have a bit more felt recoil than DI guns, and the H2 buffer can smooth that out, Though to be clear that it not why it is in the gun.  As I said, with colt, the H2 buffer always is paired with the SOCOM barrel, but it is a nice side effect.

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Looking at the picture of the buffer you will note there is no shaved metal from carrier tilt or eaten up lowers which was common on some other companies piston conversions.

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As mentioned, the barrel is the SOCOM profile, which was  made for the use on M4A1 full auto carbines.  The cut flats a few inches from the front sight are for the M203 to mount around. The barrel is free floated in the monolithic upper. The free float 6040 uppers will give you every bit of accuracy the barrel is capable of. I have never seen a Colt monolithic upper that has given mediocre accuracy when using good ammo, but the piston parts may make a difference. We will see in part 2 with accuracy testing.

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The upper rail is standard 6940 and the lower rail removes the exact same way.  You can see just like the DI guns, this one has the QD sling points. The piston parts are hidden under the FF rail.

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The piston comes out very slick  and is retained neatly with a push pin much like those used for the lower. You simply push it to the side and slide the piston out.No muss no fuss.

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The piston is Colt’s design with the articulating link. Not much to say about it since its a piston. Very robust.

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Since we have a piston, we don’t need a gas carrier key.  The early Colt P guns had a bolt on part, just like the gas key, this was changed to the current model. It is machined out solid on the carrier . No bolts or staking to worry over. Not that you ever really had to worry about a colt stake job in the first place.   The Bolt carrier group fields strips for cleaning just like the standard non-piston   BCG

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The rear of the carrier has rails machined on it to make sure you get no carrier tilt. No tilt means your lower will not get chewed up like some of the early HK416 and conversion kits rushed out on the market.  The truth is, the AR16 was not meant to be a piston gun, so careful changes had to be made for it to work out in the long term. With the rails to the rear of the carrier and a steel block added to the upper receiver, tilt is a non issue on the 6940P.  In the picture below,  you can see the part added to the upper.  Buyers of even DI guns will notice this on newer 6940 DI guns and the 901 as there are plans to make piston 901 eventually and it simplifies production to make them all the same.

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Above is the upper with lower rail hand guard removed with piston and bolt carrier.

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From the outside, it looks like the regular 6940 until the educated eye looks at the front sight. The gun handles and balances no different, thought the SOCOM barrel adds a little more weight.  To get ready for long term hard shooting, accuracy testing and full auto torture tests, I have added my favorite TD grip and Colt factory ambi safeties.  For drills and general use it now has a CompM4 a B5 stock and a Knights  600 meter BUIS.  Part 2 of the review will be the accuracy testing for group, long range to the weapons extreme limit and more.  Full auto fire may be in part 2, or it may be moved to a part 3 for torture test and taking a look at cleaning the piston gun. Less fouling is often touted as one of  a piston gun’s biggest advantages so it is possible I do a part devoted to that.

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A rare failure, the broken AR15 forward assist.

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Pictured above is the broken forward assist from my Colt 6933.

I’ve see a few forward assists break. Every time it has come as a surprise to the shooter. Usually what happens is a shot is fired, and the action ends up locked closed, and no one is able to open it using normal clearing techniques. In my case the action locked open after ejecting a shell.

It can be hard to diagnose a jam caused by a broken extractor simply because you can’t see that is what is preventing the bolt carrier from moving.

The best procedure we have found to free up a stuck bolt carrier from a broken forward assist is to:
1. Remove magazine, keep muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
2. Hold rifle with the ejection port down, barrel parallel to the ground.
3. Shake rifle while attempting to move bolt carrier.

Then usually it wont take much to get the action moving again. Immediately clear the chamber and remove the bolt carrier group from the action and remove any loose parts(like the forward assist pawl shown above).

Over the years, I have come to believe that the forward assist should be reserved for emergencies. In practice or on the range if a round does not chamber discard the round or inspect the firearm. I have met many(most former Army) that hit the forward assist after every reload. If your rifle isn’t chambering the round under its own power, there is something wrong with either the rifle or the ammo. Forward assists very rarely fail, but there is no point in slapping it around unless it is an emergency.

Modern-Retro Hybrid Colt 1911 Project

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I have always liked the look of the pre series 70 commercial Colt 1911s just as much as the US military issue guns. There is no doubt that those older vintage guns have a huge amount of appeal.  I have been  looking for a near mint example of one for my own collection and uses for years but they are hard to come by at a price I am willing to pay.

So over the last year I got the idea to sort of create my own, at least in spirit.  The idea was to take a modern plain Colt government model and slowly put it together to resemble a gun one might have walked into a store and bought before WW2.

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The first thing I did was change out the main spring housing.  Colt was kind enough to send me a MSH from their no discontinued line or re-issue 1918  WWI pistols. It is beautifully blued and highly polished with the lanyard loop.  Looking at it shows the amount of polish and beautiful bluing that went into those early guns that went to the trenches in the Great War.  Like all colt made military parts for the 1911, it dropped right in.

The next thing I wanted was the early original pattern of the safety lock.  Unlike modern safeties, it has a smaller shelf for the thumb to hit. There is a reason it was made this way despite what some thing. It acts as a surface to tap against for when detail stripping some of the other pins and parts on the gun. You can read all about it at rangehot.com  in the posts by John Travis on the 1911 and  the genius and thought that went into it.   That aside, it is correct for that time period. And I personally love the way they look. It is not a bit hard to hit to take the safety on and off. Once again Colt came to the rescue for me when I could not source one any where else. Midway sales them, but are currently out of stock, so if you want one keep checking back under their listing of colt parts.

The safety came off the line and had yet to be fitted for 1911s so I had to do about 30 seconds worth of careful filing and fitting. With that very little bit of work I got it fitted correctly and after function checking it. I shot it to make sure.

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Lastly, I found a WW1 reproduction 7 round magazine to go with the gun. These original mags came with a lanyard loop as well. I have heard a variety of reasons why the mags had loops as well as the gun. One theory is that the  US issue lanyards at the time meant for revolvers would not fit through the loop on the new automatic pistols so the asked for a loop on the mag in the meant time while they sorted it out.  I am skeptical about that, but I have no idea. I think it is for cavalry being able to not lose the gun or the magazines during a reload while on horse back.  In those days magazines would not have been looked as as nearly disposable items like they are now. So it seems reasonable to me to think that the cavalry wanted a way to retain the mag without having to use both hands while riding a horse on a full gallop.

Eventually I will replace the hammer with the original style and I may or may not go to a shorter trigger,  I think it will be more of a hybrid of a 1911A1 and a 1911 than fully one or the other. Call it a 1911A0.5 for my purpose. Of course it will still have its colt SS forged barrel and bigger high profile government model sights that can actually be used just as effectively as any other modern sights.  So maybe I need to think up a better name.

For now I am in love with this pistol. The new gun  is a plain model as it comes, but it has a very attractive highly blued finish. Not as mirror like as a TALO model, but not flat black. It is basically the modern day government model from the past, Before it was the MK IV series 80 and before that the series 70.  It is very close to the plain USGI 1911 of the past 100 years but with a bit of improvements for modern shooters. Example being a SS barrel, taller sights that are very easy to use but still can pass as GI sights for those who want that look, a slightly beveled mag well on the inside that helps with faster reloads but does not change the outward looks and a slightly enlarged ejection port.  It is the last pistol in the lineage of the GI issue pistols and it is fully capable of going out of the box and right into a fight but with no frills. No ambi-s safety or forward slide serration. But thats OK.  It is meant to be a throw back to an earlier gun but still be  capable as if if you need it.

I carry this pistol often, for special events, I guess it is essentially a BBQ for me., though I shoot it a lot. I enjoy shooting it for pleasure and for formal target or bulls eye type marksmanship. I do train with it just to stay on top of using a 1911 without a ambi safety, but not like I do with my more modernized every day CCW 1911.  My EDC is a Colt 1911XSE in stainless steel. I do love carrying this pistol that is my loving tribute to an earlier time.

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