Wednesday, January 2, 2019

THE LOSS OF A HOUSTON LIVE MUSIC INSTITUTION

I read in the Houston Chronicle yesterday about the sale and impending closing, with a final NYE show, of a venerable, if not THE surviving live Houston music venue with great sorrow for the loss of such a cool venue but with happiness as well for it's owner Sara Fitzgerald, and I can understand the writer's description of Sara that after 42 years of operating this venue, Sara feels both "sentimental and not."

I can understand that well. Operating a night club is no easy thing. Music trends change, the generations of crowds that have lined up around the block to get in there have changed and our society has drastically changed over the lifetime of Fitz's, which is how regulars referred to it as.

This generational split over the years became nowhere more evident when an occasion arose in the early 2000's where on the same night and at the same time and with a sparse if not older crowd, I was watching a favorite Austin blues/funk band of mine, Papa Mali a/k/a Malcolm Wellbourne (sp?) And the Instigators, was playing the downstairs room and a "modern" screamo type series of bands was playing the absolutely packed main room upstairs that my then 14 year old daughter and her friends her watching. We "carpooled" to the gig. As I recall, they were *thrilled* to have me there at the same venue with them and thrilled beyond beyond that an act I liked was playing there the night they needed just a ride. Beyond. 

I've met the owner Sara numerous times, mostly in the mid to late 80's and early 90's, but was never close to her, although she was the kind of person that I would've liked to have known better. Funny, sarcastic, hospitable, and at the same time, an overwhelmingly decent human being who gave lots of folks who achieved fame and fortune their beginnings.

And she was ultra cool to a lot of local bands who didn't make it, or at least were not regional favorites capable of packing the second floor.

Through my playing drums for lots of acts that appeared at these places, I also knew the booker for the Fitzgerald's, and her contemporary over at the long gone but equally legendary jazz-folk-blues-rock club Rockefeller's. Like Sara, my bandmates were bigger buddies with these ladies than I was, but I knew them well enough where I could get in shows SRO for free since I was a gigging poor musician and law student.

If I recall, she owned the home behind and adjacent to it, and there was an elevated, second story walkway leading from the band backstage areas to her home. It's been a long time since I was walking backstage at Fitz's in a carefree manner like the late 80's and early 90's, but I was always welcome in those areas by Sara and the other musicians who might be hanging at someone else's gigs.

So I wish her luck, and I'm glad I got to play upstairs a couple of times in 1988, as well as many, many gigs downstairs at her place.
I spent a lot of time there listening, as well, but there was nothing like the big stage she had with pro lighting and sound, each of my drums with microphones and everything going through a house mixer (which made excellent cassette tapes, gratis, just for the asking by the band I played upstairs with).   That guy in 1988 was a great mixer and soundboard man. 

Like everyone else, I have a lot of stories from Fitz's, but one from my single, young twenties days, many years ago that I can't forget involved a date with a University of Houston classmate of mine, we'll call her "Nancy Penny". Nancy and I likely ate somewhere and then went to Fitz's. I could tell Nancy was the type of suburban Houston not experienced to the then relatively safe Heights area where Fitz is located. It wasn't gritty at all, as many parts of Montrose, across Buffalo Bayou, were. Nonetheless, she advised me upon arrival that the area was sketchy and she was not pleased with the venue.

Said venue, of course, had been chosen by her, by virtue of the regional/college radio star Joe King Carrasco whom she wanted to see. So that is why we were there.

Joe King, of course, was playing upstairs and we timed it just right to get there after the opening act and in time for Joe King, the main act. Slam dancing was a *thing* at the time with Joe's fans, with a mosh pit in front of the stage with some 50-60 people slamming around.

I stood cautiously back, way back, behind one of the large post that was a support beam for the roof and partial floor (I think) that ringed the main seating and dancing area. My memory fails.

But what I do recall is keeping myself out of harms way by being behind this 2'x2' beam protecting me from random, drunken slammers flung from the herd.

And I continually cautioned Nancy to do the same, but she chose repeatedly to approach the most pit, until finally getting knocked solidly on her arse by some spaced out spud flung from the herd with great velocity.

And then she began to cry. Not an "I'm embarrassed" cry, or "my butt hurts" type of cry, but that special wailing and struggling for breath as they cry that tells you *this date is over and I wanna go home right now*.

And yet we didn't. In between Fitz's and a place called the Comedy Workshop, I talked her into having a drink at the Comedy Workshop and seeing whatever stand-ups they had going on that night.

Ah, but that's another long and convoluted story, and to cut to the chase, poor Nancy found herself the innocent and unnecessary target and indeed, attack, of a drunken but later famous and now deceased comic and we left there in worst shape then we did from Fitz's. With firm resolve on her part to end the date immediately and to say as few words as possible (i.e. none) during the car ride to her home.   

Saturday, November 17, 2018

THE RETURN OF THE ROBAR GLOCK 19 PROJECT

I'll just briefly post here, but after having it back for about a month now, I am VERY IMPRESSED with the grip work done by Robar.

The grip is now unlike any other polymer framed gun I've ever held. 

I've got medium sized hands, but I always felt I was holding a rounded off 2x4 with my first Glock, a Gen2 M21. 

Until I started shooting. And then grip feel became irrelevant. 

The Models 19/23 are not as boxy feeling, although the 4th and 5th Gen interchangeable grip options are irrelevant to me, as I choose the smallest size anyway. 

So with the Robar, the grip of a Glock feels like it should from the factory, at least as an option. A reduced grip Glock. 

My Robar M19 has a great feel to it. It's substantially smaller all the way around, and is really lots more comfortable to shoot than any other M19 I've ever shot. 

To review, I had the following grip work done on a NIB 5 year old Glock Gen3 M19:

1. Total frame reduction;
2. Removal of finger grooves;
3. Double trigger guard undercut;
4. 360 degree stippling except thumb area;
5. Frame flats stippled.

They do fantastic work. They mention on their site that the reduction is even more dramatic and apparent on the large frame Glock pistols, such as .45 ACP and 10mm.

Which, of course, pics my curiousity...

I also had an Apex trigger installed, and some Glock night sights.
Since the time I sent the Robar Glock off for the work, I bought and learned to use (successful the first time), with the $40 cheap blue universal sight tool I bought, and have learned how to replace Glock triggers myself.

The gun feels great in my hand. Even LEO friends who favor S&W M&P or Sigs because of their grip or action agreed it was the best feeling Glock they'd felt.

I've put about 200 rounds through it, and although I discussed adding a bunch of internal Zev Technologies parts to the frame and slide, I think I like it the way it is.

I will, however, be adding the Tango Down Larry Vickers extended slide release and magazine release, as I've already done to every Glock I own, except for the Zev Spartan, which has it's own extended mag and slide release. Which are excellent also.

I already use the excellent Tango Down Larry Vickers magazine base plates that feature staggered and flared sides for easy mag extraction. The only Glock 19 they don't work with is the Zev Spartan, as it has an attached flared magazine well that doesn't accommodate the flared Vickers mag base plates.

I very much like the Apex trigger replacement kit I bought with the aluminum trigger and safety. Much smoother than the stock trigger and a major improvement. I won't say it's better than the Zev Technologies trigger on my Zev Gen4 M19 Spartan, but I like it just as much.

Overall Rating of Robar: Five Stars. Grade A work. Great feel. Fits my hand perfectly, and is truly the perfection Glock advertises, but Robar delivers. Great customer service. Great communication as to receipt and completion of the work. Great telephone and email communication when placing the order.

I'll have to delay my Robar Browning Hi-Power projct until later next year, but it's a mandatory to-do for me. In fact, the delay is that based on the quality of their Glock work, I think I'll have them do finish work and internal coatings, and perhaps even splurge for some backstrap checkering.

But first, a great candidate for another, much cheaper project came along, and thus my next project is underway. Read about it in my next post.



Sunday, September 2, 2018

KIMBER K6 GRIP LENGTH FAIL, BUT ONE THAT COULD BE EASILY FIXED BY KIMBER

The Kimber K6 six shot .357 Magnum revolver is a magnificent revolver, and highly impressive for Kimbers foray into revolvers.

I've always had good luck with my Kimbers, except the short kept Solo, which only liked Silvertips and did not like anything but FMJs with the too large extended magazine. Great idea though. Just needs some more engineering.

At the other end of the grip complaint spectrum is the Kimber K6. It's wooden grips are too small, leaving my little finger groping around for a handhold.

Like the Glock Gen 5 problem mentioned in the previous post, I'm sure that Hogue or Pachmayr or some wood grip makers will rectify this problem with a slightly longer grip, and I'm talking right at an inch or slightly less. Not too much at all.

The plastic Kimber grips seem even shorter to me, and although there are several aftermarket wood grip makers making grips for this gun already, they're all the same size as the stock grips.

I have heard that certain S&W J frame round butt Pachmayr grips might sort of fit the K6, but from the pics I saw on a forum it looked like there was a gap at the top of the grip. 

We've been very busy lately but soon, I'll find that pair of J frame Pachmayrs I have around here and see how the fit is.

So heads up Kimber! You're making an excellent revolver. Very heavy duty at a light weight. How about a set of grips that gives me some little finger purchase so I can shoot some hotter loads?

GLOCK GENERATION 5 M19 AND M17 FRONT GRIP FIX

I know, I know, I'm just a flurry of activity here after years of just posting every now and again. 

This post concerns an excellent firearm with an inexplicable feature. When Glock decided to do away with the finger grooves, which fortunately fit my hand but I would rather not have them, I was overjoyed. As soon as they hit the nearest GT Distributor, I was there.

Glock is the only firearms company I know that gives LEO prices to prosecutors as well. I got on the waiting list for one with the Ameriglo night sights and bam, less than $470 (before tax) I've got new discount Glock Gen 5 M19 in hand.

When I got home, the first thing I noticed was the not popular half moon shaped groove on the front end of the grip at the bottom. It's sorta roughly finished and my first order of business was turning the edges of the half moon cut out a little softer and better angled.

Obviously, it's a feature designed to aid magazine extraction. Frankly, in any Glock, even my Zev Spartan M19 with the added magazine well, I've never had a problem with mag extraction. I don't need a cutout on the front of my magazine. It's uncomfortable on my little finger of my right hand and even though smoothed out, it doesn't feel good and it's a bit irritating when shooting.

I like the Glock Gen 5 way more than the Gen 4. I have sold the two Gen 4 Glocks I had because I did not like the Gen 4 trigger feel at all, especially as the trigger put my index finger to sleep while shooting it. On both those Gen 4 guns, the trigger surface and safety were roughly finished.

I've never had my finger put to sleep shooting any gun before or since. 

I knew it would be a matter of time before Pearce Grip or the excellent Larry Vickers made a Glock magazine baseplate that would have an insert and solve this problem. And sure enough, Pearce Grip came out with this very solution, a Glock magazine base plate with a half moon size piece in the front to fill this hole. BAM! Problem solved for $10 bucks a mag. 

Obviously, you can only use mags that are so outfitted with the Gen 5, but the Gen 5 can still take any Glock mag.  Most importantly, it solves the problem and makes the grip really comfortable, like the finger groove-less Gen 5 Model 19X.

You just have be be careful if you have multiple Glocks that you don't take the Gen 5 with the Pearce base plate for use with almost every other Glock in existence.

See, that's the strange thing. Glock wisely omitted this cutout feature on the Glock 19X, as well as on the Gen 5 Model 26, but they have it on the Gen 5 Models 19 and 17.

I do like the design of the Vickers base plates for Glocks. They are flared and serrated on the sides, where one would naturally grab a magazine to remove it if it didn't pop out on it's own. Mr. Larry Vickers is a renowned designer and manufacturer and shooter and so many other things, I hope to see him adopt this same solution with a Gen 5 model of his Vickers Glock baseplate for those of us stuck with this Gen 5 M19/17 issue. 

Going back a moment, the trigger pull is, to me, greatly improved over the Gen 3 trigger I've become accustomed to. I'm glad they fixed what was wrong with the Gen 4 triggers (to me, anyway) and again, except for this at times painful groove on the front strap of the grip, Glock hit a home run with this gun.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

THE GLOCK 19 GEN 3 ROBAR PROJECT PART 2

As I discuss below, after the Robar Model 19 gets back from Robar, it's next stop after a little shooting with the trigger being installed will be Zev Technologies. 

As I discuss below, I daily carry a Zev Spartan Model 19 and it is one of the finest firearms and shooting irons I've carried for self defense over the past 30+ years in law enforcement. It takes the Glock to a new level. 

So since Zev will install all their parts that you buy, my reduced grip Glock will go to Zev, perhaps where I can get it back as a Christmas present.

At Zev, I plan to have all Zev internal parts installed, along with their dimpled match barrel. I'll keep my stock Glock slide on the gun, since I don't plan on running an RMR on this gun. I love the Zev slides, but that's a big expense and will keep the Zev part of the project far cheaper. 

After I recover financially from all the Zev work discussed above on the Model 19 Robar project, the second Robar project I want to do will be a bit more expensive, but still reasonable, but is also something I've wanted to do for quite a while.

I've got a nice 1989 Browning Hi Power that I'd like to do a few mods on. I don't have several thousand bucks to get full stippling of the fore and back grip and a light jewelers stipple on the top of the gun. Or a carry job removing all the sharp edges.

I plan just to get some trigger work and hammer replacement done. Perhaps a coating on the internals of one of Robar's durable finishes, as thats a service they offer, and of course replacement of other internal parts like springs, firing pin, etc with some high end products.

The IWB holsters I use are leather and do a great job of preventing contact of the gun with my torso/belt line. So I'm not concerned about a carry job or any of the plethora of other fine features this gun has that don't directly concern the trigger mechanism.

My gun that I'm sending in runs a set of Pachmayer grips that feature both a rubber front grip strap and a rear grip strap rubber covering as well. It's a nice feeling grip. I'm a big Pachmayer fan and have been for 37 years now, so it's no surprise I favor these grips on the Hi Power.

What I do want Robar is:

1. A magazine safety disconnect job;
2. Install/tune the  Cylinder and Slide trigger assembly/job;
3. Have the Cylinder and Slide round hammer installed;
4. Install night sights (I'm not sure of what kind yet but I'll have them install some modern night sights);
5. Install a left side only safety;
6. Replace all internals springs, guide rod, firing pin, etc parts
and have them coated in one of Robar's durable finishes.

Then I'd like all the external pieces gold plated by Robar, i.e. :
-Trigger
-Hammer
-Slide Release
-Safety
-Mag release button.

Just 'cause. I'd like to end up with the "non-external work" version of the Hi Power featured in this article

I don't see on the Robar website that they doing blueing, and particularly the type of DEEP rich blueing for which some BHP's are famous for, and although my gun features sort of a flat gray finish of some unknown type, I want it deep blued after the trigger work.

So I need to find a place to send it to for a deluxe blue job. Then that would be that.

The third project I'm contemplating with Robar is a similar grip reduction job like the one being done now but with a Gen 3 Model 21 SF. I don't know if the SF would make for a smaller grip than the regular 21 via the Robar reduction process and finger groove removal, but I've got one so that's whats going to go. Again, I'll go with light texturing, or may ask them to leave it reduced but untextured for the next step in the process.

The 21 will leave Robar and then go to Zev Technologies.

My carry gun for the last year has been the Zev Tech Spartan model Model 19. About the only thing left Glock about it is the frame. The Zev trigger is fabulous, and really just a perfect trigger for a striker fired gun. The only thing my Zev Spartan lacks is the reduced grip, as Zev does remove finger grooves.

I particularly like Zev's grip stippling, so I'd like to have this Model 21 Robar project stippled at Zev after reduction at Robar. Zev will install FOR FREE all parts you buy, and in the future Model 21 Robar project, as well as my current Model 19 Robar project, I'll be using the stock Glock slide.

I don't plan on putting RMRs on these guns, as they will be purely carry and are being downsized to accentuate their concealment quotient as well as be more comfortable in the hand. Thus, I'll use a stock Glock slide.

I DO like the Zev barrels, and I plan to ultimately get both the Model 19 and the Model 21 to Zev for a barrel, internal parts and their trigger. Springs, stainless steel guide rod and all those other parts that Zev makes.

Friday, August 17, 2018

THE ROBAR GLOCK 19 GEN3 PROJECT HAS LAUNCHED

Recently, a friend of mine who owns a gun shop and who is quite the machinist, artist, mechanic and all around good guy, Iraq/Afghan Special Forces type fellow, showed me a Glock he had done a frame reduction on.

After hours of whining on my part for him to sell it to me, as it was a work of art, he agreed to do one for me, but advised that it would "take some time", meaning, quite a while. I intend to take him one of my G19 Gen3s as I have several. 

The Gen3 G19 is one of my carry favorite guns, and until the G19 Gen 5 came along, it was the stock Glock that had the best trigger for me. With exceptions where I wander back to my roots of various calibered Colt 1911s, Browning Hi-Power or the occasional revolver carry, its my G19 that is with me every day.

I didn't like the Gen4 triggers at all on the 19, the 34 or the 41 that I have. I traded both the 19 and the 34 and put an Apex Trigger on the 41. Big improvement. 

I really think the Gen 5 trigger is a huge improvement over the Gen4 and even the Gen3, but I've moved to installing Zev triggers on all of my Glocks save for a few kept stock. 

And onto the Robar project. After seeing my friends G19, which had a grip reduction (rear hollow space) and a finger groove elimination, resulting in a FAR THINNER grip on the G19, much closer to a Commander with fat grips than a regular G19. His had a lot of other custom frame features, such as double undercut trigger guard, grooves on the side of the grip to aid mag extraction (I didn't care for this) and a very cool area on the front right and left side of the front vertical part of the trigger guard, a slightly scalloped area where I normally rest my finger when it's not on the trigger.

I did some research on the internets and then ran into an LEO buddy I work with who had just had his G34 done at Robar. The grip reduction and finger groove elimination were well done, and the aggressive texture he chose was nice.

I myself went with the light texturing on my order. I sent a NIB G19 Gen3 OD frame/Tennifer Slide to Robar to have the grip reduction and finger groove removal and texturing, including the frame flats, double undercut trigger guard and having some night sights and a new trigger installed. 

I'll keep you posted on the update. They got the gun last week and I'm looking at several months til I get it back, although they are known for beating their estimated work time significantly.

I can't emphasize what a different feeling gun the Glock 19 is with the hollow of the rear of the grip removed. Not only does it make the gun smaller in an area that aids concealment, it's far more comfortable to shoot a gun that fits your hand well. It fits my hand well, anyway.

Robar mentions that the grip reduction is far more noticeable on the large frame Glocks, but I found it dang noticeable on the 19. I'm pretty sure I'm going to like the work Robar does, since I've already seen it and felt it, but the next gun I send will be a Gen 3 G21 SF to see how significant that reduction is. What I'm wondering is whether the SF would make a smaller grip than a regular Gen 3 G21.

Glock should be doing this themselves, along with the flat front grip of the Gen 5.  To me, the hollow space has always been a mystery, and I've long thought that a much better grip could be had by eliminating it. Soon, I'll find out.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

GOD BLESS TRANQUILITY AND HER LOYAL SECRET SERVICE AGENTS

I was moved beyond belief when I read various articles in this mornings papers about how many former Secret Service Agents who had served Mrs. Barbara Bush, the former FLOTUS of our great land.

In a time of bad news after bad news, and even in the sorrow of the passing of an American Icon like Mrs. Bush, it's the kind of story that made my day and nothing can take away that kind of feeling of pride and joy in the acts of some Secret Service Agents showed just how far their loyalty goes.

One former agent penned an article for CNN about his personal experiences with Mrs. Bush. You can read some other articles about the agents coming out to protect her here, and especially here, where you can see numerous photos of agents protecting her.

The articles I've read don't reflect whether there were any of the current Bush family protective unit with her body, but I suspect they might have been busy with President Bush and all of the travel involved in this funeral for him. 

It's so touching, in these times, to see the camaraderie and esprit de corps of these fine agents as they come, likely from other parts of the USA, to do their final duty for their principal. No telling what kind of personal things were going on in their own life, but likely some had some important milestones or issues going on in their life, yet they hear the bugle call to duty and here they are.

As an American, a Texan and a former Houstonian, I salute these agents for their loyalty and respect.