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GUNS Magazine June 2010 - Page 82
A HAlf Century WItH: Semi-Autos ebruary 1957. The first nuclear powered submarine, the F Nautilus, is launched; France refuses to allow the United Nations into Algeria; Patsy Cline is singing I Go Out Walking After Midnight; and I am 17 and have a gun pointed at me for the first time. I hit the ground in record time and no shots were fired, however I did learn several most valuable lessons. I have often spoken about three of us going shooting every Saturday afternoon after work. We all had military surplus 1903A3s and 1911s, and we could not only buy military ammunition for a buck a box, the elevator operator, a WWI vet, brought it to us at work every payday. This particular day we invited a new kid to come along. It was a cold, wet, snowy day, but that made no difference to us as we were all still invincible and we shot no matter what the weather. The new guy was given a 1911 with a magazine full of hardball and all three of us stood behind him as he got ready to shoot. He hit the target on the first shot and was so excited he turned 180 semi-automatic. When it came time to teach my kids and later their kids to shoot I always started out with only one round in the magazine until I knew for sure they were capable of safely handling a firearm. When all of my grandkids were quite young I started them out shooting with semi-autos by using a .22 Ruger. Only when I was satisfied they were safer than most adults were they allowed to load a full magazine, insert it, and function the slide on their own. degrees sweeping all three of us with a cocked .45. Simultaneously we were all on the ground from where we shared more than a few choice words with him as we told him to slowly turn around and face downrange. Obviously we made several mistakes which could have been very costly, even deadly. Can you say, “dumb teenagers”? We assumed he knew what he was doing, we assumed he knew how to handle a semi-automatic 1911, we assumed he knew to always keep any gun pointed downrange. Any one of our assumptions could have gotten one of us killed. From that day forward I have always been leery of any new shooter handling a Col. Cooper In 1958 I bought a copy of a book by a then relatively unknown by the name of Jeff Cooper. The book was Fighting Handguns and, just as Elmer Keith’s Sixguns three years earlier, this book also had a tremendous effect on my shooting life. This was Col. Cooper’s first, but definitely not last, words on the value of the .45 ACP 1911. I read and re-read that book until I had to tape it together. Since I was 17, I have always had a 1911 on hand and I can’t imagine any handgunner not doing so. For many years they were the most inexpensive while at the same time one of the best big-bore handguns you could acquire. It was not unusual to find military surplus .45s for well under $50 when I was a teenager. Just before the GCA ’68 went into effect and most of us thought that would be the end of gun sales, I purchased two Colt Commanders, one a .45 and the other a .38 Super. During the time I was in graduate school, the summers of 1969 to 1971, I made the 800-mile roundtrip between Southwest Idaho and the University of Montana every weekend. Undergraduate school was tough working full time and taking full-time classes, but those three summers being away from my family were much worse. My traveling companion through the mountains of Idaho and Montana was a military 1911 stuck inside the belt in the middle of continued on page 81 Taffin’s Series 70 Colt .45s rest on his well-worn 1958 copy of Jeff Cooper’s fighting Handguns and the 2008 reprint by Paladin Press. 82 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • JUNE 2010