The Guns of ‘Fire Eye’ and ‘Web of Crimes’.

Both of my novels share two main characters in the form of Alexander Dulaine and Jed Mitchell. They each have baggage and qualities that draw them together, including the urge for the occasional adrenalin hit. This can mean danger. It helps that Jed knows his way around guns. For him they’re a tool to get a job done, just like an axe, knife or a chain saw. All those tools demand respect. Used safely and responsibility, they are a valuable asset for work, pleasure or survival. Used carelessly, they’ll bite the user just as easily as any intended target. He has no patience or respect for anyone who would choose to misuse the privilege of owning a firearm.

Jed’s knowledge and comfort around firearms is valuable. He’s a calculated risk taker, using his skills, experience and judgement to evaluate a situation and weigh up the odds before sticking his neck out. Considering options in advance provides a range of choices if things go bad. In his world a firearm is a useful thing to have. When fronting a bad guy, situations have been resolved because three things are obvious – he’s got a gun, he knows how to use it and he’s prepared to use it. That means he usually doesn’t have to use it. Sometimes the bad guys don’t get the message, so let’s have a look at the guns involved in his adventures.

In ‘Fire Eye’ the Colt Model 1911 semi-auto pistol is a major character. It initially belonged to Alex’s grandfather, Lt. Karl Kilchelski as standard issue from the US Army Air Force. Alex uses it in a final confrontation with her abuser.

The reasons for the longevity of this pistol design are varied and complex. The basic excellence of the gun and the cartridge are important, while other contributing factors combine to reinforce its reputation. Designed by John Browning the M1911, also known as Colt Government 1911, is a single action, semi-automatic, magazine fed and recoil operated pistol chambered in .45 ACP. It was first chambered for the.38 ACP. Following experiences in the southern islands of thePhilippines, from 1899 to 1913, whereU.S. troops were engaged against the Moros, an intensely independent Islamic tribe with a history of resisting foreign invaders, the issue was reconsidered. The Moro’s were fierce warriors and often fought under the influence of drugs and took a lot of stopping at close quarters. After this experience, the U.S. Army wanted nothing to do with a .38 calibre auto-loading pistol.  They demanded and got a .45 calibre weapon, following in the footsteps of the highly respected Colt .45 single action revolver.

The M1911 was widely copied and its DNA can be found in the Polish Radom, the Russian Tokarev, Spanish Star Model BM, the Norwegian Kongsberg Colt, the Argentine Ballester-Molina, the Mexican Obregόn and the Turkish Girsan, among others.

The U.S.military acquired around 2.7 million M1911 and M1911A1 pistols during its service life. It was widely used in two World Wars, as well as the Korean and Vietnam wars right up to 1986. Due to its popularity the M1911 hasn’t been completely phased out. Modernized derivative variants of the M1911 are still in use by some units of the U.S. Army special forces, U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy. Many soldiers and shooters still enjoy the feeling of security when carrying the reliable, hard hitting Colt 1911.

It’s still popular with civilian shooters in competitive events such as the International Practical Shooting Shooting Confederation. Compact models are popular civilian and police concealed carry weapons in the United States because of its relatively slim width and the stopping power of the .45 ACP cartridge. John Browning was born and raised in the state of Utah so unusual respect was awarded to the design when in March 2011, Utah adopted the Browning M1911 as the states ‘official firearm’, high honour indeed.

In a combat situation, Jed would feel comfortable with a Colt .45 auto resting in his holster. I used one in competition IPSC shooting and found no fault with it. In shooting matches, the 7 round Colt magazine could still compete against high capacity 9 mm pistols because the .45, with its greater recoil, is classified as a ‘major’ calibre (against the 9 mm ‘minor’ calibre) to score more points. An added aid to competition is that the magazine change is fast and instinctive, particularly with a bevelled magazine well to aid insertion. Like most semi-autos, care has to be taken when hand loading ammunition to avoid a feed malfunction, but that applies to most cartridges.

The 204 Ruger isn’t one of Jed’s guns. It was used by his antagonist Nigel Decker as a long range varmint rifle in his final confrontation against Jed, Alex and Joe. To make the .204 Ruger, the 222 Remington Magnum case was necked down to .204 inches (5 mm), the shoulder moved forward and the angle increased to 30 degrees. Bullets in .204 range from 24 to 55 grains. The 40 grain V-Max load is listed at 3,774 ft/sec but the 32 grain bullet can be pumped out at a whopping 4,225 ft/s (1288 m/s). Users have found the cartridge to be an accurate, low-recoiling round well suited to long range shots at varmints. Decker used it in a Ruger Model 77 bolt action rifle, showing that he also knew his stuff. Jed discovered he used light frangible bullets that break up on any solid impact. He used this knowledge to protect Alex against the disabling shot he anticipated Decker would take to knock her down but keep her alive long enough to face his revenge.

The outback ringers Alex located recognised what was going on and offered the only extra firepower available to them. Webley revolvers were, in various marks, the standard issue service revolver of the United Kingdom, the British Empire and the Commonwealth, from 1887 to 1970. The six inch barrel of the Mark V1 isn’t a major weakness. While not great for concealment, the better front sight of the Mark V1 compared to the Mark 1V worked well. Some consider that the grip of the Webley Mark V1 makes it the best .455 revolver ever made, resting comfortably in the hand for control in close combat situations.

The Webley is a top break revolver. Breaking the revolver open drops the barrel to operate an extractor to remove cartridges from the cylinder. The Mk VI was introduced in 1915 during WW1 and is probably the best known model.Six Marks of Webley pistols were approved by the British Government using six types of .455 ammunition. That should have led to confusion but the Brits seemed to manage.

Jed’s .455 Webley rimmed cartridge fired a slow moving .45 caliber bullet at a relatively low velocity of 650 ft/s (190 m/s). Surprisingly it is rated by some as superior to the .45 Colt in stopping power. It represents an excellent combination of a service revolver and cartridge with relatively mild recoil, good penetration and effective stopping power.

The Webley wasn’t meant to be a long-range firearm. Intended for use at close range, the .455 ammunition made a big hole and often tumbled after impact. The bullet was intended not to exit but deliver all its energy into the unfortunate target. With a modified, ‘shaved’ cylinder and the use of a half moon clip, the Webley Mk VI was modified during the desperate times of World War 2 to fire the .45 ACP cartridge used in the Colt 1911A1. After Alex faced her tormentor, Jed used the Webley to good effect to bring the showdown with Decker and son to an end. Maybe the ringers still have it or perhaps it was tossed into the billabong with the other evidence of what occurred.

In my second novel ‘Web of Crimes,’ Jed has the opportunity to select a preferred rifle of choice to carry into the Australian outback. His gun safe contains a variety of firearms but when he picks up the Winchester Featherweight he knows its right for the job. The superb handling and quickness of the Model 70 Featherweight is famous among hunters. The Model 70 action offers the well respected pre-’64 style Controlled Round Feeding, a Three-Position Safety and a jewelled bolt body with knurled bolt handle. Inside the action is the M.O.A. (Minute of Angle) trigger system, considered the finest trigger ever offered in a commercial bolt action rifle. It has zero take up, zero creep and zero over travel. My Featherweight .270 trigger breaks at a perfect 2.5 pounds, just like Jed’s.

The Featherweight is a lightweight version of the Model 70. A premium Pachmayr recoil pad helps soak up felt recoil. It’s available in the most popular long and short action rifle calibres.  Generations of serious hunters have used the Model 70 Featherweight as the iconic all round mountain rifle. The rifle is easy to carry, accurate, reliable and in .270, .308 or 30/06 calibres, able to handle a full range of game that includes deer, varmints, pigs and antelope.

There are other features of the rifle appreciated by hunters, especially Jed who is a left hander. The Model 70 has the famous 3 position safety which is convenient to operate with the thumb of a firing hand. When the safety is in the intermediate or middle position, the action can still be operated, allowing unfired cartridges to be cycled with the safety on. It's smooth to engage and easily identifies the safety status of the rifle.

A Blade Type Ejector offers full control when ejecting a fired case. When the bolt is pulled back slowly, empty cases don't fly away. You can catch it in your hand and the case isn’t damaged or lost as it hits the ground. If you pull the bolt back quickly, it ejects the cartridge with more force, throwing it well clear to avoid a jam.

The steel receiver begins as a forged unit from a solid block of steel. It’s expensive to make but the Model 70 is worth it. Each finished forging is precisely machined, creating a strong, stiff, solid receiver to resist flexing and deliver excellent accuracy. The bottom of the receiver is flat to offer greater surface area for bedding. The action is bedded with epoxy in two places to keep things from shifting around during firing.

Most rifles have a recoil lug installed between the barrel and the action. It’s a metal piece that extends below the receiver and fits into a matching recess in the stock. This helps spread the jarring effect of recoil to reduce impact on the rifle and scope. The recoil lug in the Model 70 is forged and machined as part of the receiver. The barrel is crucial to rifle accuracy. Every Model 70 barrel is cold hammer forged from a solid blank of high-grade steel, shaped by heavy, massive rotary hammers over a mandrel. Each barrel is then stressed relieved to ensure accuracy is consistent, even during the heat of rapid firing.

Accuracy is enhanced by free floating the barrel. Free floating means no part of the forearm wood touches the barrel. The slightest pressure from the forearm as it cradles the barrel can adversely influence accuracy. Try pulling a five dollar note under your rifle's barrel. Does it slip all the way to the receiver without hanging up? If not the accuracy of the barrel may be affected.

You can expect 1 MOA (Minute of Angle means shots hitting within an inch circle at 100 yards) accuracy from a Model 70 Featherweight using premium ammo and quality optics under suitable weather and range conditions. Three shots are commonly used as the thin barrel will heat up after long strings of firing, with a resulting rise in the point of impact. If three shots aren’t enough to deal with a problem, perhaps golf would be a better choice of activity for Jed.

The terrorist group engaged to eliminate the annoying problem of Jed and Alex use the Czechoslovak machine pistol called the Škorpian vz. 61 (also referred to as the Scorpion). It’s a compact, selective fire design intended to be fired from the shoulder using a wire stock. Although developed for use with security forces, it was accepted into service with the Czechoslovak Army as a personal sidearm for low ranking army staff, vehicle drivers, armoured vehicle personnel and special forces, a bit like the U.S. M2 carbine during World War 2. It has also been sadly used by various armed groups, including the Irish Republican Army, Irish National Liberation Army and the Italian Red Brigades.

The Škorpian is a neat little unit. It’s a blowback operated weapon firing from the closed bolt position. It uses the 7.65×17 mmSR Browning Short (.32 ACP) cartridge with low recoil, enabling an unlocked blowback operation to be employed. There is no delay mechanism and the cartridge is supported only by the inertia of the bolt and the strength of the return springs. The Škorpian's compact dimensions were achieved by using a telescopic bolt assembly that wraps around a considerable portion of the barrel. As the bolt is relatively light, an inertial rate reducer device housed inside the wooden pistol grip lowers the weapon's rate of fire from 1000 rounds/min to a more manageable 850. A fire selector lever is installed on the left above the pistol grip with three settings: ‘0’, means the gun is safe; ‘1’ indicates semi-automatic and ’20 is fully automatic fire.

While the Škorpian is a short range weapon, it’s a serious threat to Jed as its rate of fire puts a lot of bullets down range with sights that stay on target because of the low recoil. It shines when used at close range on full auto – it’s like a shotgun firing ‘000’ buckshot on full auto. He can’t underestimate it, even in the hands of mercenaries with limited combat experience. This compact gun does mirror the sting of the scorpion!

Matovich adds to Jed’s complications with his Russian designed Dragunov sniper rifle, a semi-automatic chambered in 7.62 x 54R. The Russians based the Dragunov on the action of the AK47 (AKM) and modified it to fire the longer cartridge. A semi-auto rifle offers a useful advantage as a sniper doesn’t have to move to operate a bolt handle to reload. Movement, more than noise can give a sniper away. This produces the main problem with semi-auto sniper rifles. To avoid a double fire, the trigger pull is heavier than on a bolt action. The slamming action of the bolt may also affect the scope and its mounting.

The trigger pull is little better than that on the AKM. The safety is slow to engage and as noisy as the AKM. The long barrel and receiver (necessary to accommodate the 7.62 x 54R cartridge) make for a somewhat unwieldy weapon.  When using a sling, the barrel’s weight and hand guard setup may shift the point of impact. The optics aren’t as good as commercial American scopes made in the mid 1980’s but good enough to match Jed’s 3 – 9 hunting scope.

The Dragunov is the standard squad support weapon of several countries, including those of the former Warsaw Pact. China produced an unlicensed copy by reverse engineering samples captured during the Sino-Nietnamese. Overall it’s a good match for Jed’sWinchester as it’s designed for the sniper role rather than hunting, so Jed and Matovitch are forced to engage in a battle of tactics.

Matovich also carries a respected handgun in the form of the CZ75. The Czech’s designed it for export and many military and counter terrorist police use it. It’s a combination of the Browning High Power and the SIG P210 and spin offs are produced all over the world. It has the double column magazine of the High Power while using the slide receiver system of the P210.

It has the advantage that it can be carried in Condition One, loaded with the hammer down. For a snap shot the trigger just needs to be pulled when the sights are on target. The safety can then be applied to avoid running around with a cocked weapon. This avoids the need to restart from the self cocking position. There are a couple of negatives – the trigger is complex and the Czech’s have a habit of loading their ammunition pretty hot. The bores are therefore a little larger so after a few thousand rounds accuracy may decline a bit. That’s not really an issue in military service but civilian competition shooters would notice.

Finally, we mustn’t forget Miek’s Luger. This pistol has a small but significant part to play in the story. Over a period of forty years, millions of Lugers were produced. It was the primary arm of the German army until partly replaced by the P38 in WW2. While having some eccentricities, the Luger was always highly regarded as the grip angle made it a natural pointer in close combat.

While it is usually associated with the 9 mm Parabellum cartridge, in the early twentieth century it was tested by the US Army in .45 calibre. Apparently two, or possibly three were personally handmade by Georg Luger in .45 for demonstration purposes in the 1907 hand gun tests. In the end the M1911 won the trials and the only surviving example of the .45 Luger carries the serial number ‘2’. It’s a highly valuable specimen. ‘Web of Crimes’ allows for an additional example to survive, presented to a friend of ‘Teddy’Roosevelt.

As in every war, equipment doesn’t necessarily determine the outcome. Training, tactics and most importantly, motivation can produce unexpected outcomes. All of these guns are fine firearms when used in the context they were designed for. These situations may be for good or evil but that’s not the fault of the gun. To paraphrase a famous saying, ‘God created man but Colt made them equal’. After that it’s down to motivation, tactics and just plain guts and luck.