Gun Review: Smith & Wesson’s 1911TA eSeries

One of the design goals of the eSeries line was elegant, but not gaudy, appearance.

One of the design goals of the eSeries line was elegant, but not gaudy, appearance.

There’s always something appealing about a nice 1911. While carrying a full size, all steel 1911 isn’t always fun, shooting one sure is. This particular eSeries model is a blend of traditional and modern innovation. Like the origin government model, it’s got a 5 inch barrel, single stack .45 ACP magazine and single action trigger. Unlike the original, it features Tritium night sights, tactical rail and other internal design changes that we’ll discuss later.


Let’s start with the most noticeable features. With that criteria in mind, I have to mention the grips first. They’re gorgeous. The specs say the grips are wood laminate, but it’s sure hard to tell. The grain pattern is beautiful and the finish is well polished. There is a small diamond with the eSeries “E” logo. Surrounding this is a traditional diamond checkered pattern. Above and below the diamond pattern area you’ll see a fish-scale pattern that matches the scallop pattern carved into the slide. The grips are not only really attractive, but functional. They won’t rub your hands raw, but do provide a positive grip through recoil.

It's a personal opinion, but I think the grips are, well, awesome.

It’s a personal opinion, but I think the grips are, well, awesome.

The slide also falls into the “cool looking” category. The cocking serrations at the rear are the same fish, dragon or snake scale pattern – choose your favorite reptile. There are matching scale serrations on the front. Some people don’t like texture on the front of 1911 slides, but I find them handy for press checks. Even if I grab the front of the slide overhand, I can still easily see the chamber. But using front serrations or not is a personal preference thing. I happen to like them, but get that others don’t. The top of the slide is flattened and has full length grooves. Whether or not you think this “looks” cool is not really the issue. The practical purpose is to reduce glare that can interfere with your sight picture. Another thing to mention while we’re talking about the slide is that there are horizontal serrations at the rear also on both sides of the hammer cutout. Again, the purpose is to minimize glare.

The extractor is an external design, so that varies from the “purist” 1911. Personally, I don’t favor internal or external, as long as it works. You’ll also notice that the ejection port features a scooped cutout at the front to assist with easy ejection with a wide variety of load types.

The SW1911TA ships with two magazines with 8 round capacity, so the total carry load is nine including one in the chamber. The magazine release button is aggressively checkered and .145 inches is exposed above frame level. It’s easy to reach with your firing hand thumb if your’e right handed. When shooting left handed, I was able to operate the magazine release with my trigger finger without breaking my normal firing grip. Magazines easily fall free of the magazine well when empty.

Both sides of the frame behind the trigger are beveled to allow an unhindered reach to the trigger. The front of the grip is contoured and recessed to allow a high grip and secure resting place for your firing hand middle finger.

The front and back of the grip area are checkered with good, but not sharp texture. I counted somewhere in around a 17 or 18 lines per inch pattern, but all those dots kept getting blurry when counting, so let’s call it 17.5 lines per inch, OK? I’ll schedule a visit with my eye doc before the next time I have to count checkering patterns.

Read the rest at OutdoorHub!

Grab a copy of my free eBook, A Fistful of Shooting Tips. It will help make you a better shooter and the envy of your range in no time.

Win a Wilson Combat 1911 From Brownells

Ryan models the Brownell's custom Wilson Combat CQB 1911. That's OK though as I don't think he's eligible to win.

Ryan models the Brownell’s custom Wilson Combat CQB 1911. That’s OK though as I don’t think he’s eligible to win.

At the recent NRA annual meeting, the Brownells booth was busier than the door of Michael Moore’s refrigerator. Fortunately, the inside of the Brownells booth was a whole lot safer than the contents of Mikey’s Frigidaire. The Brownells team is nice, respectful and knowledgable, unlike the other extreme presented here.

Why the crowd?

Brownells is celebrating their 75th anniversary with a bang. To mark the occasion, they’ve had Wilson Combat build a custom CQB 1911, and they’re gonna give it away. Yep, this could be yours.

It. Is. Gorgeous.

I entered. And since I am such a nice guy, I’m going to reduce my own chances of victory and tell you about the contest too.

You can enter here.

Most Elegant Award, SHOT Show: Cabot Guns

Classy and absolutely gorgeous. These displayed on rotating pedestals…



New From Springfield Armory – 9mm Range Officer 1911

This is a sweet shooting gun. 9+1 rounds of 9mm ammunition. Large enough to shoot easily under control and good capacity for a single stack design.

Swap the adjustable rear sight and you have a great carry gun.


A Comfortable Holster For Big Guns: Blackhawk! 3 Slot Pancake Holster

The Blackhawk! 3 Slot Leather Pancake Holster features not 2, or 4, but 3 belt slots. Tricky huh?

It’s for good reason. The placement of the belt slots allow for side, behind-the-hip, appendix or cross draw positioning.

The Blackhawk! 3-slot pancake holster spreads out the weight of a large gun like this Springfield Armory 1911.

The Blackhawk! 3-slot pancake holster spreads out the weight of a large gun like this Springfield Armory 1911.

The holster backing is large and does a great job of distributing the weight of even large and heavy pistols. We’ve been using one with a full sized Springfield Armory TRP 1911 for quite some time and it makes a perfectly comfortable all day carry option.

The 3-slot belt loops allow a variety of traditional and cross-draw placement.

The 3-slot belt loops allow a variety of traditional and cross-draw placement.

The holster, especially the trigger guard area, is nicely molded to the specific gun model so we found fit to be excellent. There is a thumb-break snap at the top to aid gun retention. We found releasing the snap to be, well, a snap, with a natural draw motion.

It’s a nice holster — especially for larger guns.


Be sure to check out our book, The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters. It will teach you all the major methods of concealed carry and walk you through pros and cons over 100 different holster models. It’s available in print and Kindle format at Amazon:

Now available in print! The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters

Now available in print! The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters

23 Things You Can Do With A Leatherman Rail Tool For AR-15s

Today’s gift idea for you or your favorite gunnie is the Leatherman Rail tool for AR-15s and lots of other stuff.

The Leatherman Rail holds a lot of tools per square inch.

The Leatherman Rail holds a lot of tools per square inch.

The Leatherman Rail is a nearly flat tool that is nowhere near flat when it comes to versatility. Just under 5 inches long, 1 ½ inches wide and ½ inch thick, it packs a lot of uses for space taken in or on your range bag. You can even clip it on the outside of your bag, pack or belt using the built-in carabiner.

A ⅜" will allow you to drive a standard socket. It's a bit awkward, but will work in a crunch.

The ⅜” open-ended wrench will allow you to drive a standard socket. It’s a bit awkward, but will work in a crunch. And of course it’s a handy open-end ⅜” wrench.

Here are just a few things you can do with it:

  1. Adjust the front sight on an AR-15 or similar rifle.
  2. Change grips on your 1911.
  3. Remove the bottom of pistol magazines using the pin removal tool.
  4. Open taped ammo boxes. The AR-15 front sight adjustment tool is sharp and pointy like that.
  5. Lovingly and gently encourage stubborn push pins to move.
  6. Measure group sizes – the center of the tool is *exactly* 1 inch wide; the front sight adjustment prongs are 5/16 inches apart and there are ¼ and ⅜ inch drivers. With all those, you can estimate a lot of measurements.
  7. Mount Magpul Back Up Sights on your AR-15 using the flathead screwdriver tool.
  8. Remove the carrying handle on an AR-15 A3 model.
  9. Check / tighten / loosen your scope rings.
  10. Dig a bullet out of a log. While not listed on the Leatherman web site, I find this a valuable feature.
  11. Uncap a bottle. After the shooting is done, you can use the carabiner hook to open a cold one. It’s a little tricky, but if you tackle that, you can also…
  12. Shotgun a beer. Remember that sharp and pointy front sight tool? It’ll go through an aluminum can like butter.
  13. Open and close an oxygen tank valve. If you really choked on that last Steel Challenge stage, take a few hits of O2 and compose yourself.
  14. Tighten or loosen anything you have a ¼” Hex bit for. The hex driver is universal for all sorts of bits.
  15. Remove staples from a target backer.
  16. Remove an AR-15 firing pin retaining pin when cleaning the bolt and carrier.
  17. Pull a nail out of a target stand.
  18. You can open an AR-15 ejection port cover when the bolt is already open – without tearing off your thumbnail.
  19. Remove your AR-15 trigger group.
  20. Peel a banana when the top doesn’t want to separate.
  21. Easily remove the bottom from a PMag
  22. Scrape carbon from your AR bolt in the field.
  23. Use it as an emergency toothpick. Yep, done that. I’m not proud. Just resourceful.

You can buy the Leatherman Rail here for less than 30 bucks.

The rail includes a phillips and flat head screwdrivers, a Torx #15 bit, pin punch and 7/64" drivers. Those fit in a special slot in the compression handle.

The rail includes a phillips and flat head screwdrivers, a Torx #15 bit, pin punch and 7/64″ drivers. Those fit in a special slot in the compression handle.

Gun Terminology of the Day: 1911

One of the reasons I started writing Insanely Practical Guides was to help acclimate new shooters and gun owners to the confusing world of guns, shooting and etiquette. Here’s a quick excerpt from The Rookies Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

If you talk to a couple of gun aficionados, you’re likely to hear about what sounds like yet another type of handgun – the 1911. No worries, it’s just a type of semi-automatic pistol. People tend to get pretty passionate about 1911 style pistols so they tend to get placed in their own category.

Gun Terminology Alert!


You’ll hear gun folks talk in reverential tones about something called a 1911. Yes, it’s a year. It also sounds a little bit like a famous model of Porsche. But in context of this book, it’s a pistol design. Not a manufacturer or a specific model, but a design. Kind of like how a pickup truck is a design. Lot’s of car manufacturers make them, and you can get them with different size engines, but they all have some common features, like seats in the front and a cargo bed in the back.

Here’s a 1911 model pistol made by Springfield Armory. It’s the TRP Armory Kote model.

Springfield Armory TRP 1911 Armory Kote shown with Galco Miami Classic II

The Springfield Armory TRP 1911 Armory Kote shown with Galco Miami Classic II

It’s not a perfect analogy, but 1911’s are kind of like pickup trucks. They are all based on a semi-automatic pistol design, invented and brought to market in, you guessed it, the year 1911 by one John Moses Browning. 1911’s have a number of common design elements, regardless of which manufacturer makes them and often parts are interchangeable. For example, classic 1911’s are all single-action semiautomatics, have a thumb and grip safety, and a similar design to lock and unlock the barrel during recoil.

1911’s have a lot to live up to. They have been known to take down both a Japanese Zero fighter  and German Storch observation plane in World War II. In fact, some believe that a stray 1911 .45 ACP round inadvertently destroyed the city of Dresden. OK, the Dresden thing may be a slight exaggeration, but the 1911 has been a phenomenally successful and long-lived design.

The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition is available in print and Kindle format at Amazon:

The Rookie's Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

The Rookie’s Guide to Guns and Shooting, Handgun Edition

Crimson Trace Master Series Lasergrips: Lifesaving Technology Made from…Wood?

Wood is an amazing construction material. It’s renewable, looks great, feels even better, and makes a handgun look really dapper, dandy, and dashing.

Does anything complement a sweet 1911 like wood grips? Better yet, wood Lasergrips?

Does anything complement a sweet 1911 like wood grips? Better yet, wood Lasergrips?

Did you know that…

  • Redwood bark can be up to 24 inches thick.
  • Each year, the average American “consumes” enough wood to fill the cargo area of 4.11 AMC Gremlins, assuming you fold down the seats.
  • Wood, when converted to paper at the Mead-Westvaco paper plant in Charleston, South Carolina, is really, really smelly.

The only visible parts not made of rosewood are the laser housing and activation button.

With all these nifty qualities, why is the industry steadily moving towards more plastic, and fewer wood offerings? Yeah, I know. Plastic is inexpensive, easy to manufacture and durable. But, but, but…wood!

Enter the Crimson Trace Master Series Lasergrips.

Available in G10 composite, walnut, and rosewood, the Master Series Lasergrips are the Cadillacs of the Crimson Trace offerings.

Read the rest at!

Holster Review: Blackhawk! Serpa Concealment Carbon Fiber Finish

Blackhawk! Serpa Concealment with Carbon Fiber Finish - 1911

Blackhawk! Serpa Concealment Holster with Carbon Fiber Finish – Shown here with a Springfield Armory TRP 1911 Armory Kote

The internet is an empowering place when it comes to guns and shooting. If you can type, you’re an expert. If you have broadband internet service, you’re a guru. If you own an X-Box, you’re a genuine strategy, tactics, and equipment ninja. While we would never want to disrespect a well-trained internet ninja, we’ve heard lot’s of opinions about Blackhawk! Serpa holsters. Some great. Some awful. Many second-hand and/or uninformed. So we decided to find out for ourselves whether the Serpa is a winner, or not.

The Serpa Holster is designed to offer what gun people call “Level II Retention.” In Average Joe’s English, that simply means that there are two separate methods in use to secure the gun into the holster. For most Level II Retention holsters, the first method is simple friction. The second method is almost always some form of mechanical lock that must be disengaged for the gun to be removed from the holster. This sounds complex, but holster makers like Blackhawk! have gotten really smart about engineering ways for the person drawing the gun to disengage the lock as part of the natural draw, while making it difficult for someone else, like an attacker, to remove the gun.

The Blackhawk! Serpa uses both methods. The Kydex is molded into a perfect form-fitting design that provides plenty of friction on its own for solid retention. In fact, the Blackhawk! Sportster Standard holster is essentially a Serpa design without the second level lock retention. For the second retention level the Blackhawk! Serpa utilizes a mechanical lock that grasps the trigger guard from the inside. To disengage the lock, the trigger finger applies pressure to a paddle that is mounted directly over the slide of your pistol. While drawing, simply apply a little pressure to the paddle button and the lock releases.

Here’s where the fun starts. Many important couch commandos with thousands of hours of Gears of War and World of Warcraft experience have speculated on potential downfalls of the Serpa design. Some folks don’t like it and claim it’s dangerous. When you sort through all that hard-earned internet knowledge, the controversy boils down to the following line of reasoning. If the retention release button relies on your finger pressing towards the frame of the gun, it’s possible for this motion to lead to your finger pressing into the trigger guard. Add a trigger pull to this motion and the gun may discharge.

Umm, yes. If you pull the trigger, a gun will discharge.

Bypassing the plethora of knowledge from nameless X-Box players commenting on internet stories, I decided to try the Serpa myself with a Springfield Armory TRP full size 1911. After getting the appropriate size Serpa holster from the folks at Blackhawk!, I proceeded to perform hundreds and hundreds of draws – with an unloaded gun. I used an unloaded gun so I could intentionally draw a bit faster and perhaps a tad more carelessly than normal to see if I could find any truth to the internet controversy – trigger finger lock deactivation causing a discharge during the draw.

Personally, I don’t see the problem. Here’s why.

With any drawing motion, from any holster, your hand is performing a grasping motion. That means at least five, and maybe six in some rare cases, fingers are closing around the grip of your pistol. If you are hooking your index finger while you grab your gun from a holster with ANY type of holster, you run the risk of negligently pulling the trigger.

What I find with the Blackhawk! Serpa is that the placement and motion of the activation lever causes my trigger finger to do two distinct things. First, it encourages my index finger to be straight. It has to be extended in order to reach the retention disengagement lever. Second, it encourages my index finger to line up with the slide. In order to release the catch, your trigger finger literally can’t be in a hooked position over the open area of the trigger guard. If you choose to deliberately press your finger back into the trigger after the holster release is complete, that’s an operator error issue possible with any type of holster.

In my opinion, this is more of an issue related to sympathetic motion of your fingers. When you grasp something, your fingers will all want to close. Heck, with some excitement, the fingers on your other hand may exhibit a closing motion also – another concept of sympathetic response that has been explored by many people with numerous letters after their names. It’s how the fingers work and why practice is mandatory with ANY gun and holster combination you choose. Practice, practice, practice.

Bottom line? I don’t see the issue. After billions and billions of draws with the Blackhawk! Serpa I see no discernible difference in likelihood of a draw related discharge than with any other holster.

Reholstering is a snap. No lever manipulation is required and a positive click lets you know that the gun is secured.

Blackhawk! Serpa Concealment belt and paddle mounts

Blackhawk! Serpa Concealment holsters include both belt and paddle mounts. Belt width and can’t adjustments allow personalization

Now, with that out of the way, let’s look at this holster in more detail.

All Blackhawk! Serpa holsters come with both paddle and belt loop mounts. Both mounting systems allow the holster itself to be oriented vertically, with a forward cant, or a reverse cant. The belt mount features an adjustable slide, allowing the user to create a perfect fit for various belt widths. You can easily swap the paddle and belt mounts via three anchor screws.

The Blackhawk! Serpa Concealment holster is available in multiple configurations. The evaluation holster was the Carbon Fiber finish. This one features a holster body with a textured weave appearance. It looks great. A matte finish version is also available. For less money and consumer oriented use, Blackhawk! offers an injection molded Sportster model which is a flat grey color. Last but not least is a Serpa configured for use with a limited number of pistols with the Blackhawk! Xiphos NT light mounted.

With an MSRP of $59.99, even the most expensive Serpa – the Carbon Fiber finish model – is a great value. This is a solid holster and mounting flexibility is excellent with the highly adjustable paddle and belt loop options.

Read about more carry styles and over 120 different gun holsters in The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters - available at! Learn more about our Insanely Practical Guides!

Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters

Holster Review: Blackhawk Leather Check-Six Gun Holster

Our Holster Review of the Blackhawk Leather Check-Six Holster

Blackhawk Leather Check-Six Holster

The Blackhawk Leather Check-Six Holster is versatile and comfortable

The Blackhawk Check Six holster can tell time.

The “Six” in “Check Six” refers to the six o-clock position in reference to the circumference of your waist. This is otherwise known as a small-of-the-back holster design. It can be worn on the belt, outside the waistband, right in the center of your back. Hence the Six o’clock reference.

Small-of-the-back Holster Lovers and Haters

Small-of-the-back holsters are one of those topics sure to create a good old-fashioned internet argument. Some people love them. Some people hate them.

The lovers, who are also fighters, might be folks who spend a lot of time standing, wearing garments like sport coats, and are fairly mobile throughout their days. For these types, concealment and comfort are outstanding.

The haters, who are fighters too, are convinced that a gun held in the small of your back can be dangerous for two reasons. First, in order to draw, you have to bring your gun around to the front of your body. This action can cause the user to muzzle, or point the fiery end of the gun, at other people or things on its way to the firing position. The second concern is the risk of back injury if you fall, or are pushed, to the ground. There’s a big hunk of steel, polymer, plastic, bullets, and magazine between your spine and the ground. It you hit the ground back first, it could certainly leave a mark.

For me, this is not a concern, because the Blackhawk Check Six holster can tell time. Meaning I like to use it as a Check 5:30, Check 4:17, and usually a Check 3:52. Simply put, the design lends itself to placement in different positions.

As you can see by the photo, the design of the Blackhawk Check Six has the gun aggressively raked forward. This is a fancy gun term meaning that the holster, and your gun, are tilted clockwise if you’re a righty and counter-clockwise if you’re a lefty. This design accomplishes a few things. First, it makes the holster work as a small-of-back design. A vertical holster placed in the center of your back would be, well, kind of dorky. Second, it makes concealment easier. The tilted design means that the muzzle of the gun is not nearly as far below the belt line as it would be if vertically mounted. This comes in handy if you mount the rig in different times as well. For my own Check 3:52 use, a shirt easily covers the holster and full size Springfield Armory 1911 TRP shown here. Third, the forward-raked design helps create a smooth, rotational, draw.

There is one other thing I particularly like about the Check Six design, especially when used as a Check 3:52. The top is open – there’s no retention strap going over the back of the slide. Normally, a retention strap is a great feature. However, I like to carry a 1911 with oversized, ambidextrous safety levers. Why? Because I can! I find that some holsters with retention straps can flip the safety into the off position while you’re going about your daily routine. Of course, this is not an issue for most polymer gun designs, or most 1911’s with standard safety levers. It’s just something to be aware of for certain handguns.

The Check-Six features a retention adjustment screw that allows you to adjust how tightly you want the holster to grip your gun. This feature mitigates any disadvantages of an open top design as you can secure your gun as tightly as you wish.

One other thing. If you’re a professional tactical type, the Check-Six mount placement allows you to carry a long gun without the frustration of it getting hung up on your sidearm. As your handgun is placed well behind the hip, your rifle is less likely to get caught up on it. This feature is also useful for shooting competitors and hunters.

The Blackhawk Check-Six Holster is a versatile – and comfortable – design.

Our Rating

4 Nuns Four Nuns! Versatility, construction quality, and comfort get this design a four nun rating in our holster review. The Blackhawk Leather Check-Six is highly recommended.
Check out other My Gun Culture product reviews here!

Read about more carry styles and over 120 different gun holsters in The Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters - available at! Learn more about our Insanely Practical Guides!

Insanely Practical Guide to Gun Holsters

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