By Roy Huntington
Kurt Golloway walked through the front door — fast, the bell tinkling hard. Scout and Amelie both jumped to their feet and ran toward the front door, ears sharp, until they saw Kurt’s face. He was in uniform, his sergeant’s police car parked out front. Amos put down the blue-worn Model 29 he was working on, and began to wipe his hands on a red shop rag.
“Amos, I need your help,” Kurt’s face looked anxious as he walked to the counter. Out of habit, he reached down, scratching Amelie and Scout’s ears. “I got a helluva problem and I need your help to save a young cop’s career.”
Kurt put a zippered handgun pouch on the worn wooden counter top. “Kurt, calm yourself or you’ll blow a gasket. Want a cup of coffee? It’s that good stuff Jeff Hoffman from Black Hills Ammo sends me.”
“You’re right Amos, I need to settle myself, and yes, a cup of coffee would be good. A young cop on my squad had an accidental discharge with a junker 1911 he was using as an off-duty gun and the chief is taking a hardline on it. Young Cody may get fired over this, and it’d be too damn bad, as he’s a good cop; although I’ll be the first to admit has a lot to learn yet, especially about guns.”
“That doesn’t sound like Chief Blakely. Why the hardline for an AD?” said Amos, looking down at the zippered case. Amelie and Scout both stayed at Kurt’s feet, their eyes on his face. He kept reaching down, patting them, calming himself as he did.
“Well, we had a SWAT trainee do something stupid the other day, letting fly with a burst from an H&K when he didn’t intend to. It could have caused a serious injury to another officer, but he had good muzzle control so it was just a lotta unexpected noise. It really torqued Chief Blakely though, and I think he’s overreacting on this one because of it.”
Amos looked as if he was remembering something. “It’s scary to almost lose a man,” he said. “If I can help now, maybe we can help two people get over the past. What happened with the young cop, Cody?”
Kurt unzipped the case as he spoke. “Cody’s been on the department for about a year-and-a-half and he’s just out of training. He’s doing okay, but he fancies himself a ‘gun-guy’ and wanted a 1911. I told him that’d be fine, but to talk to you about it before he bought anything. Well, he dug around at a gun show and came up with a box of parts, then presented the parts and one of those terrible Ranger frames and a beater GI slide to some guy he knows who said he could put ’em all together. The guy did, but it didn’t go well.”
“What do you mean, it didn’t go well?” said Amos.
“Cody evidently carried the gun without shooting it for a few days. I know, I know, I told him what an idiot he was for that. Then, a couple of days ago, he unholstered and put it on his locker’s top shelf at the station. When he slammed his locker door, the gun went off. The 230-gr. HP went through the back of the locker and into the adjoining detective’s office area. Nobody was hurt, but it could’ve been bad. Cody says the gun was cocked and locked and the safety was on for sure.”
Amos looked down and saw a beater of a parts gun, obviously unfitted, a real conglomeration of gun show parts. “I sorta borrowed the gun from the property room,” Kurt said with a nervous smile. “Mind taking a look at it and telling me how a cocked and locked 1911 can go off like that? Is it even possible? The Chief thinks Cody was messing with it, maybe doing fast-draw or something. I say no. I say it happened just like Cody said it did.”
Amos picked up the gun, checking the chamber. He noticed the recoil spring was light and so was the main spring. He moved the thumb safety on and noticed it was mushy. With the hammer cocked he made sure the grip safety was engaged, clicked the thumb safety off and pulled the trigger — the hammer fell. He cocked the hammer again, snicked on the safety and with the grip safety depressed, pulled the trigger gently. He felt it move, grittily — and then the hammer fell. His face got serious.
“Kurt, this gun is a wreck, but I need to check a few more things,” said Amos. Scout and Amelie watched Amos intently.
He cocked the hammer again, pulled the trigger then slowly lowered the hammer as he let the trigger go. The hammer should have caught on the half-cock notch, but it went all the way down, resting on the firing pin.
“Mind if I take it apart?” said Amos.
“Do what you need to do, Amos,” Kurt said, looking at his old friend.
Amos’ practiced fingers had the gun into bits in a few seconds, his eyes going over the grip safety, thumb safety, hammer, sear and sear spring. He noticed the sear spring was old and bent incorrectly, offering virtually no pressure on the sear. He stepped away, returning with his digital caliper. Amelie whined a tiny bit as her bright eyes watched Amos. She likely remembered the hours she had spent as a puppy on his work bench, watching as he used that very tool.
Amos carefully measured the sear’s length top to bottom, then from the sear pin hole to the top of the sear.
“I think I know how this happened Kurt,” said Amos.
“For God’s sakes Amos,” said Kurt. “Tell me it was an accident.”
“It was a sort of ‘perfect storm’ of what could go wrong,” said Amos seriously, as he lined the hammer, sear, sear spring, thumb safety and grip safety in a row on the red rag. “These were gun show parts and young Cody obviously didn’t know enough to realize they were bad when he bought them. The thumb safety was either bunged-up to begin with, or the guy who assembled the gun fitted it badly. The camming surface doesn’t fit correctly to stop the sear from moving when the trigger is pulled. The grip safety’s extension to prevent the trigger from moving back has been ground off, something some misdirected people do to disable it. Foolish, if you ask me. The hammer’s half-cock notch is badly chipped so it doesn’t catch the hammer if it slips from full-cock.
“The real issue is the fact the sear is too short by several thousandths. It means it doesn’t engage the full-cock notch much at all. Basically, Cody had been carrying a 1911 with no safeties, on full-cock, with a sear that could have been jarred off easily. Watch.”
Amos quickly reassembled the gun. Cocking the hammer, he put the thumb safety on, made sure the grip safety was not depressed, then dropped the gun onto the wooden counter top from a couple of inches. Once, then twice, the gun thudded against the wood. Then, on the third time — the hammer fell.
“Bang,” said Amos.
“I’ll be damned,” said Kurt. “The slam of the locker door could have jarred it, knocking the sear lose.”
The two dogs looked up at Kurt and smiled their Australian Shepard smiles.
A few days later a young cop parked his patrol car out front and walked in.
“Mr. Grundy?” said the young man.
“That’d be me.”
“My sergeant said I had you to thank for getting me out of hot water. I got a good tongue lashing — and I deserved it — and a note in my file, but it’s a small price to pay for what I did.”
The young officer’s name was Cody and he put $500 in cash on the counter. “That’s a down payment on a custom 1911 I’d like you to build for me if you would. My sergeant said you and I need to discuss what a 1911 should really be.”
Amos smiled and said, “Let’s chat some and we’ll sort out the details. It’d be my pleasure to help you out, but only if you’ll come by off-duty and lend a hand building it.”
Cody grinned as he looked down at the two dogs who kept leaning against his legs as he scratched their ears.