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Vickers Hackathorn 1911 Centennial Class AAR

Discussion in 'Training' started by seanmac45, Aug 21, 2011.

  1. seanmac45

    seanmac45 1911 Junkie

    42
    Aug 21, 2011
    Vickers Hackathorn 1911 Centennial Class
    August 6 through 8, 2011
    Marietta, OH.





    Day One;

    Everyone met up at 0800 hours in the parking lot of the Marietta Holiday Inn. The group formed two groups of vehicles to caravan for the 30 minute trip to the Fort Harmer Range. The ride was interesting in that there was not one straight level shot in the whole trip. By 0900 everyone was set up at the range and Ken and Larry gave what I thought was a fairly flippant safety brief. Larry’s first rule of safe gun handling is know your target and what’s behind it. Not the way I was taught. I think I will stick with the original version, thank you. I was surprised to find that Bill Wilson, his wife, and son Ryan were amongst the shooters. One of the first men I met was Tim, a double amputee in a wheelchair. Turns out he is a West Point graduate, a Colonel and sustained his injuries in Iraq. The guy was hard as nails throughout the course, refusing aid from anyone, including those times he was spinning his wheels on wet gravel.

    First course of business was the disbursement of promotional bags by Wilson Combat. Nylon briefcases containing ear plugs, 1911 takedown wrench, an ETM 1911 magazine, T shirt, notepad, pen, a complete set of the Wilson lubricant and cleaning product line and each bag had a personalized metal dog tag with the shooters name and the event information imprinted thereon.


    It rained heavily on both shooting days in the morning with the sun and humidity arriving thereafter each afternoon. Staying dry was an issue, but not a deterrent to the group.

    The first day evolved with mostly square range shooting, conducted by both Larry and Ken, along with one interesting side shoot. It was homage to the exploits of Sgt. Alvin York. Ken conducted the intro lecture which was full of interesting details about the war, Sgt. York, weapons fielded and the actual incident being replicated.



    The shooter approached a table holding an 03 Springfield rifle and a 1911 pistol exactly as would have been carried in WW I including the terribly small and difficult to acquire sights. At the timer beep the shooter (wearing an appropriate steel helmet for the era) would pick up the rifle, sight a target and press the trigger. Click. The shooter would then rack the action, find it empty and proceed to pick up the 1911 and use it to engage five reactive steel targets, going from the rear farthest to the nearest, just as Sgt. York did to the Germans. The pistol had seven rounds in it and there were no reloads allowed. Time penalties were added for targets left standing. I cleaned them with five rounds. Shooters in groups of five came off the line during the day to participate in this side match with the overall winner receiving a prize. It was great fun, and you gained a real appreciation for those who utilized a pistol with such challenging sights to good effect. My time was 10.43 for the event and the winning time was 9.34. Not too bad.

    The square range drills were basic but extremely accuracy oriented. Larry claimed to be the Accuracy Nazi and he lived up to the title. Skill building with timed groups, ball and dummy drills, and dry fire with casings balanced on the front sight (with and without timer beeps) were the order of the day. There were a few pistol novices in the class but overall the skill level of the shooters was extremely high. My partner for the drills was a friendly guy who I did not find out until halfway through the first morning was Bill Wilson’s son, Ryan. He currently runs the company. All of the Wilson group were hot shooters as you might expect.

    Shooting drills for the day included the El Presidente and Bill Drills conducted at varying distances 3 to 15 yards. Bill Wilson himself gave the lecture on the genesis of the Bill Drill and its’ original intent and goals. Round count for the day was a little under 200. The El Presidente was also performed a five man team contest to turn up the wick on everyone. No one wants to let their team down.



    The first day ended around 1700 hours with some close accurate drills to end on a high note and reinforce yet again Larry’s insistence on fine accuracy while shooting.


    Day Two;


    Under rainy skies day two commenced at the range at 0900 hours. Larry and Ken went over the plan for the day which called for two relays to be formed. The first relay would work with Larry on the square range for the morning until lunch break. The second relay went with Ken to do a shoot house and Dozier drill competition. My group was the morning with Larry group. If anything he turned up the accuracy pressure from the day before. Instead of requiring all A zone hits on the IPSC target this days shooting utilized a small bullseye pasted onto the center of the IPSC thereby reducing the size of the acceptable A zone hit area. Also introduced this session was shooting on the move. Due to the class size and time constraints this was limited to forward and aft movement, with no lateral exercises being done. Of course, the movement was conducted using the reduced Bullseye A zone throughout. Exercises requiring speed reloads were utilized as well.


    After lunch my relay went down to the far end of the range for the shoot house and Dozier drill. Once again, the historical precepts for this exercise were explained to the shooters so that they could appreciate the real world application of this task. Shooters were given a lecture on the function and manual of arms for the Uzi and each shooter was allowed two magazines of practice with the weapon. I was congratulated for being the first shooter of the day to have utilized the sights on the weapon. Apparently my predecessors all engaged in spray and pray hip shooting with less than stellar results.


    The Dozier Drill

    The Dozier drill was set up with a table facing five pepper poppers. To the left stood a shooter representing General Dozier, and on the right was a shooter standing in front of a range bag containing a fully automatic Uzi with wooden stock in condition three. The action began when the terrorist moved to withdraw the Uzi from the bag in order to cock it and bring it into action. Once the terrorist moved Gen. Dozier was free to draw his 1911 and engage the five poppers. If the General knocked down all five poppers first he lived. If the terrorist knocked down any one of the poppers the General was dead. Each two shooter team was allowed two runs with both shooters playing both roles. I was two for two as the terrorist, and got shut out both times as the General. Moral of the exercise; it sucks to go up against a sub gun with a pistol but it can be great fun to practice.


    My group was the last to go through the shoot house for the day. Ken ran it and he did an excellent job in my opinion. You could tell some of them were nervous engaging in this type of shooting exercise. Ken used me as an example on a dry run in the first room of the house for my group utilizing a blue gun. He was patient but extremely dialed in and very safety conscious. It was fun for me but really didn’t raise my pulse rate as it did some.

    The second day of shooting ended at about 1630 hours with an approximate round count of 175. Everyone returned the hotel to clean up and eat prior to the 2000 hour show and tell session.
     
  2. seanmac45

    seanmac45 1911 Junkie

    42
    Aug 21, 2011
    Day Two Evening;

    The evening session was held in the conference room of the Holiday Inn and included John Miller, the craftsman who trained Bill Wilson, Wayne Novak, and Larry Vickers on the intricacies of the 1911 pistol. He is also renowned for his work on the M-14 rifle. Larry, Ken, John and some of the students all provided pistols for the display tables, and the collection presented was stunning. A rough estimate put the value of the pistols on display in the area of $200,000. All of them were available for hands on inspection by the class members. Two of my favorites are pictured below.




    Also present were pistols by Armand Swenson, Charlie Devel, Jim Hoag, Pachmayr, and original WW I and WW II specimens with historical and retail values that are impressive to say the least.
    Once everyone was finished examining the collection, Larry Ken and John began their presentation.


    John Miller was an incredible source of information on the development of the 1911 pistol and its’ implementation and various configurations for service and competition use. He has an astounding base of knowledge and has personally mentored some of the biggest names in the history of the 1911 gunsmithing field.


    Larry and Ken were also very knowledgeable and forthcoming with their opinions on a wide variety of topics relating to the pistol, its’ design and the various companies both past and present involved in the production of commercial variants.

    Interesting Historical Points

    • The 1911 pistol underwent its’ first endurance test in 1910 and passed 6,000 rounds with no major failures
    • Browning modified the extractor groove in the 45 ACP round to provide a beefier gripping area for the extractor
    • The 45 ACP round was standardized in 1909 by the Frankfurt Arsenal
    • Luger made two .45 ACP pistols for the 1911 trials, with one destroyed in testing and the other recently selling at auction for just under $1,000,000
    • John Browning’s 1910 model had no thumb safety
    • The thumb safety was ordered by the Army with its’ principal function being to lock the slide and render the pistol safe for mounted troops to safely holster the weapon while on horseback
    • The 1911 was adopted by the Norwegians as the 1914 and many were produced for the Nazi’s during their occupation in WW II
    • Argentina was also an early adopter of the 1911 with their Ballester Molina pistols
    • The first 1911’s produced were plagued with soft slides that wore out too soon. Browning’s design was sound but the heat treatment and metallurgy were lacking
    • Singer produced their 1911’s before Dec. 7th, 1941 and delivered them to the military in January of 1942, thereby rendering them NOT to be WW II production
    • During WW II the pistols had to be modified to prevent the firing pin from extruding metal out of the firing pin hole in the breech face, thereby causing a ledge that would induce feeding stoppages as the round rose up under the extractor
    • The first live fire shoot house in the United States was established in 1943 at Camp Ritchies, and was used to train OSS operatives
    • The next shoot house in the U.S. was built in 1975 in Prescott, AZ by Jeff Cooper at Gunsite
    • By the end of WW II all of Colts’ tooling for the production of the 1911 was worn out, but they did not change it and continued using the same dies and machinery for commercial production
    • The rarest of 1911 issued by the military is no longer the Singer, but the USMC Det 1 pistol
    • Most of the Det 1 Kimber pistols were destroyed by the Corps as being unsafe, rendering the approximate 260 pistols in civilian hands the rarest extant
    • The Det 1 Kimbers are the ONLY 1911’s roll marked property of USMC in existence
    • In 1960 Colt built fewer than 2,000 1911 pistols. Demand was low and new Colt production sold for $68 per unit while WW II specimens were available used for $28
    • Bullseye shooting came along in the post war period and started the resurgence of the 1911 in that arena
    • Bullseye gunsmiths worked to make the 1911 more accurate, NOT more reliable. Courses of fire were only six rounds and speed or tactical reloads were not conducted
    • Ken Hackathorn and John Miller have been friends since high school
    • John had to be reined in during shop class as he was building a Thompson sub gun from scratch
    • As stated previously John Miller instructed Wayne Novak, Bill Wilson, Larry Vickers and Steve Nastoff in the basics of building 1911’s
    • King’s Gun Works in Los Angeles was one of the first smiths to modify 1911’s for combat efficiency as a result of the innovations of Jeff Coopers Southwest Pistol League
    • Next in the game came Armand Swenson who started as a bullseye smith but changed over to specializing in combat weapon craft
    • Jim Hoag was another of the early 1911 combat smiths
    • Hoag had no place to fire his weapons so all of his pistols went out to customers unfired
    • Austin Behlert was an early East Coast 1911 smith with his shop being located in New Jersey
    • In 1975 Roy Chapman won the title in the Southwest Pistol League and was awarded a Pachmayr Combat Special, which to this day is a rare and desirable piece
    • Paul Lieberman was a smith at Pachmayr and he set off and founded Pistol Dynamics which did a booming business in producing copies of the Pachmayr Combat Special pistol
    • Steve Nastoff was the innovator of the swaged magazine well for speed reloading
    • Ed Brown produced the first commercial memory groove grip safety
    • IPSC was founded by Jeff Cooper in 1977 to promote combat tactical shooting methods

    Notes on Current 1911 Production

    • Sig P220’s are dogs and not worth owning
    • Best custom production house is Wilson Combat
    • Second best is Springfield Custom Shop run by Dave Williams
    • Best one man shops; Jim Garthwaite, John Harrison, Chuck Rogers, and Jason Burton
    • Recommended base guns; current Colt production, Springfield Armory, Caspian Arms
    • Caspian frames are very durable and tough as per Larry
    • Three 1911 weak spots; mags need to seat higher, plunger tube needs to be fixed, and the internal extractor
     

  3. seanmac45

    seanmac45 1911 Junkie

    42
    Aug 21, 2011
    Larry on the future of the 1911

    • The shootability, durability and adaptability of the 1911 is what keeps it going and makes it heads above the rest of the current guns on the market
    • The 1911 thumb safety and design is the best on any modern pistol
    • 1911’s require hand fitting on just about every single part by a qualified and knowledgeable armorer
    • Because of that you must be your own armorer and know how to diagnose and repair malfunctions if you are going to marry yourself to this platform
    • The number of qualified gunsmiths who KNOW what they are doing with the 1911 is dwindling rapidly
    • This lack of gunsmith knowledge coupled with the intensive need for hand fitting are what has rendered the 1911 unsuitable for organizations to use on a widespread basis
    • The future of service arms rest with those pistols who have a consistent pull for every press of the trigger, i.e. Glock, S&W’s M&P line, Heckler & Koch etc.
    • DA/SA pistols are dead due to the proliferation of the above pistol types for large agency use
    • 1911’s will continue to rule in the competition arena due to the trigger

    Day Three; Gunsmithing

    The final day commenced at 1000 hours in the same conference room as the evening before. All of the students followed as Larry took them through the proper way to detail strip a 1911 pistol. Along the way students who had difficulties or who had clarifying questions received individual attention from Ken, Larry, Bill, or one of the Wilson staff on hand. No one had to figure anything out alone. Larry brought along a belt sander and some other gear and cheerfully modified almost everyone’s guide rod to remove sharp edges. Quite a few of the students were assisted with a variety of issues they were having with their pistols right there on the spot. Larry and Ken discussed what modifications were useful on a carry pistol and which were to be avoided. Nothing in the course was geared towards the gamesmen. Every effort was made to inform and assist the individual who carries a 1911 in the real world to ward off evil. I liked that outlook immensely.


    During the disassembly process there was a loud report as one student lost his grip on the recoil spring and it launched straight into the overhead, taking out a fluorescent light fixture in the process. It was amusing to see the LEO’s and military types turn around grinning while the civvies ducked thinking a round had gone off. Experience tells. Pity the lad who did it, Larry will be talking about him for years to come. All of the pistols were disassembled and cleaned by lunch break. The class was slated to reassemble them after meal, but I had to depart due to time constraints so I reassembled my pistol and said my farewells.


    My Overall Impressions

    As has been noted by the instructors and students, this was an entertainment venue, not an instructional class. Students who had no base of knowledge would not have found the content useful. As an event for the 1911 aficionado it was excellent. There was entertainment value and historical content throughout. There were prizes given on the range for top performers in the side shoots. During the classroom lectures students who could answer trivia questions regarding the development and use of the 1911 were awarded prizes ranging from kydex holsters to magazines up to and including a grand prize of a $1,000 gift certificate from Wilson Combat.

    Wilson Combat was impressive throughout the class. They seem to be genuinely proud of their product. All of them unholstered their carry pistols and laid them on a table in the pouring rain during the lunch break on the second day of the shoot. These guns and their new ammo line were provided for unlimited use and evaluation by the other students. When I asked one of the staff why they didn’t table the pistols under the overhang out of the rain he replied that rain doesn’t bother their pistols, they are made to shoot. The Tactical Supergrade that I tested was smooth, well configured and accurate beyond my abilities. In addition, their staff members and Bill himself were most helpful during the gunsmithing portion on the last day. Whether it was disassembly, tweaking, diagnosing a problem or reassembly they were all right there for the students as were Larry and Ken. I know they were there to market a product, and they did that well. However, getting to know them I would not mind spending my money with this company since they really believe in their product and I watched as carefully as the circumstances would permit and I did not see any of their guns malfunction, not once throughout the course.

    The one sour note to me was the presence of a film crew throughout the shoot and for part of the classroom sessions. Larry’s TV crew was filming the course for his television series, and I wasn’t too keen on that. Paying students shouldn’t have the onus of performing for an audience added to the self-induced mental pressure to excel during an event such as this.

    In closing, I am very grateful to have participated in this event. It truly was a once in a lifetime opportunity and it was rewarding to find that there are others who would enjoy delving into the minutiae of the 1911 pistol as much as I did.
     
  4. Quack

    Quack it's mmm, mmm good... Staff Member Admin

    Aug 15, 2011
    Nice!!! wish i would've been able to go.
     
  5. Hokie

    Hokie Active Member

    Aug 17, 2011
    WOW. Great writeup Sean. Thanks for taking the time for such a detailed review of the class. Well done, sir. :thumb:
     
  6. seanmac45

    seanmac45 1911 Junkie

    42
    Aug 21, 2011
    I had a feeling that the members of this board would appreciate a review of this event. Glad you liked it.
     
  7. SkDmRkLcY

    SkDmRkLcY Active Member

    Aug 17, 2011
    Good read! Thanks for taking the time.
     
  8. rsxr22

    rsxr22 Member

    484
    Aug 17, 2011
    It is awesome that you got the opportunity to go! I wanted to go so bad, but missed out signing up for the class on the first day. Then when i got the notice from my rep at Wilson that a few spots opened up, i had already committed to instructing an off base course for AF Security Forces. I was extremely bummed!! It would have been heavy on the wallet, but definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity.
     
  9. Sir Guy

    Sir Guy Sharpening Ockham's Razor Supporting Addict

    Aug 20, 2011
    Great writeup, i appreciate the effort you put into it.

    I hoped to go as well, but time constraints and short notice wouldn't allow it. It sounds like it was a blast, though. The second evening stuff sounded like it would have been the most fun to me. :smilie:

    Andy
     
  10. Blayglock

    Blayglock Supporting Addict Supporting Addict

    Aug 18, 2011
    Yes think you for sharing. I had to cancel my Vickers class due to moving to a new state :doh:
     
  11. Mythree

    Mythree Banned Supporting Addict

    418
    Oct 9, 2011
    Would love to take that class
     

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