by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

Today’s blog is going to be a BIG one, so settle back with your coffee cup and make sure the pot is still hot. At the end of my report I’m going to do some editorializing, because there’s something I have to get off my chest. This will sound like a rant, but I believe I can expose something that is seriously wrong with some companies today. Read it if you like. I will warn you before I launch.

For those just tuning in, a while back I wrote a post about a .45 automatic I bought that didn’t live up to its hype. Since I can usually steamroll my way past most airgun problems, I thought I’d use this experience with a new firearm to let you watch what I do when life hands me a lemon. And what a lemon it was! Read part one to learn what an uphill battle this turns out to be.

Just a quick reminder, the problem I experienced was a failure to feed fresh rounds from the magazine. Eight times in 84 rounds a round failed to feed properly. I took a picture to show you what that looks like. Okay, now you’re up to date.

You readers offered advice about 1911s. Some of you told me to go easy on Taurus because you had good experiences with their guns, but a couple people told me Taurus guns had let them down in the past. Well, I checked into this deeper. I have an acquaintance who used to do work for Taurus, and he still has some connections inside the company. He placed a call and learned that Taurus knows all about the PT1911 problem. What I experienced is apparently not that uncommon.

Then I did some more research on the Internet. The problem with that is you can’t tell whether a person is telling the truth or just has it in for a particular company, but when you encounter the SAME problem being discussed everywhere, there is a reason for it. PT1911 feed problems are being talked about in many places. And there seems to be a common solution – the Wilson Combat 8-round magazine!

Boy – if that isn’t ironic! I bought the PT 1911 BECAUSE it offered the same features as a tricked-out Wilson, only the Taurus retails for under $600 (street price) vs the Wilson that STARTS at $2,100. Big difference there! Yes, I could have really stretched and bought the Wilson (by giving up a couple birthdays, maybe Christmas and perhaps by mowing the lawn extra times), I suppose. And if I had, what would I have had to talk about? Wilson Combat guns are the gold standard when it comes to 1911 reliability. The phrase “As good as a Wilson” would be used, except there aren’t any other guns that good. Oh, that’s not true at all – I’m just crying in my beer now! But you guys who want me to conspire with you in a lie that a Gamo CF-X is just as good as a TX200 – THIS is what I am talking about when I rant at you! One gun really is the standard to which all others are compared and the other is just a good value for the money.

Only the PT1911 wasn’t turning out to be such a good value, after all. It is a defense gun that cannot be counted on to operate. That’s as useful as a nuclear hand grenade with a three-second fuse!

So I gird my lions and place the call to Wilson, expecting a lecture on sow’s ears from some good old boy who puts me on speakerphone so the office can have a good laugh. Instead, I get Traci, who seems to know exactly what I need when I tell her what gun I own. She’s new to Wilson, so she checks with one of the techs, but it turns out she has heard this problem enough times that she has it down pat. I placed my order and yesterday evening the new magazine arrives.

Today I was at the range for many different things, but one of them was to see what kind of difference a different magazine can make (you Umarex shooters getting this?). Well, instead of 8 failures in 84 rounds, there were 3 failures in 116 rounds. I call that an improvement. We’re not out of the woods yet, but we’re heading in the right direction.

Now some something else has come from my research. Apparently, some new 1911s with trick tuning have to be broken-in before they shoot reliably. Nothing was said anywhere about the Taurus PT1911 being a tight gun, but I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt.

Some of my research has been in books written about the 1911. As I mentioned in part one, I used to tune 1911s, but I know nothing of the post-1980 models that Colt added a fourth safety device to. However, in my reading, I learned that it’s a good idea to shoot a new gun without cleaning it for several hundred rounds, which is exactly what I have done. It seems that a gun that’s allowed to get dirty and still forced to function wears in better. Then you are supposed to clean the gun thoroughly and lubricate it well.

The airgun equivalent to that would be to NOT add chamber oil to the transfer port for several thousand rounds, and to clean the barrel with JB bore paste. SEE – there is an airgun tie-in!

Where do I go from here?
I’m looking for reliability, and this pistol is not there yet. When I can feed it 500 handloads with lead semi-wadcutters with nary a bobble, I’ll call it macaroni (Americans, sing the lyrics to Yankee Doodle – everyone else, I will be satisfied). I will be very happy then, because I will have a $600 pistol that’s almost as good as a Wilson.

If I can’t get to my goal of reliability, I will sell the pistol and buy the Wilson I should have bought in the first place. Someone else will have to rationalize the occasional mis-feed. Either way, I will continue to report to you on my further research and experiences.

NOW COMES THE EDITORIAL – Look away if you don’t want to know what I think is wrong with retail sales today.

Taurus knows there is a problem with this pistol. Do they tell customers they might need to expect a break-in period? No, they don’t. Had they done that, I would have shut my trap and soldiered on in the knowledge that what I was doing would result in me getting what I wanted in the end.

One BIG problem with the PT1911 is the Taurus magazines. They don’t always work reliably. Neither of my two are reliable. But does Taurus tell their customers that? Of course not! That would be an admission that their stuff doesn’t work, and if they know that, why aren’t they fixing the problem? Wilson Combat obviously knows it, and they have a solution ready to go. So, instead of stopping to fix a problem that is obviously fixable, they continue to pour thousands upon tens of thousands of guns on the market and ignore what has now become a black eye on their reputation – at least for this one model.

What Taurus is doing is taking out full-page $50K full-color ads in American Rifleman, touting the wonderful features of this pistol. And more people like me are wondering whether it is possible to get $2100 worth of value in a $600 package.

Want to know why it isn’t? Because a part of that money Wilson charges is for the labor of human beings checking things after assembly. They can afford to do that, and they HAVE to, because their reputation is on the line with every gun that ships. Taurus, on the other hand, has cut the price so close that they haven’t got the same time to devote to after-assembly work that Wilson does. It’s nothing they should be ashamed of – they are selling a product for a price, and there have to be certain efficiencies to hold the line on costs when you do that.

Well THERE YOU GO! There are airgun manufacturers who also do not have the time to spend testing each and every gun they produce. They are selling for a price and there will be guns that slip through the cracks. In just the past three days I’ve heard of a Crosman 1077 and a BAM B40, both of which I have touted long and hard as excellent guns, only these two have problems – barrel problems, it seems.

Up to this point, I have no beef. This is the way the world turns and anyone who thinks otherwise is a pollyanna.

HOWEVER – when there is a known problem and a company does not reveal what they know about it, I do have a problem. When a manufacturer ships a gun that cannot meet an advertised specification and they know about it, I get mad. And this happens everywhere! The Gamo Hunter Extreme that they advertise in American Rifleman as being a 1600 f.p.s air rifle, when all the reports I have heard point to it perhaps being a 1400 f.p.s. gun, for example. I don’t care that nobody would WANT to shoot 1600 f.p.s. – just that they are claiming it with nothing to back it up. Oh, well, they do have a televised spot that shows the gun going 1600. Well, next week I will test one for you with PBA Raptors and guess what? You’ll just have to wait and see.

I have worked in organizations where the ship was full of holes and taking water fast. It broke my heart to see a hopeful customer with cash in hand about to make the mistake of his life. Could I warn him? Of course not! But after the sale, I was often the guy who had to take his vehement (and deserved) tirade. It’s sad to be in the wheelhouse and see that the ship is running aground, yet not to be able to do anything about it. It’s sadder to steer a customer towards a product or service that you know is wrong for them, but it’s all your organization provides.

That’s what’s wrong with retail sales today, though it doesn’t affect every organization. Land’s End and L.L. Bean are two companies that have set the retail world on its ear with service that astounds both the average shopkeeper and the huge chain store. It also takes their business, each time they decide to play games.

Anyway, that’s the way I feel today.