Taurus shine-up

This is a UK-legal Taurus long-barrelled revolver, or LBR. The configuration you see here, with 12″ barrel and peculiar “dough paddle” at the rear, is the only lawful remainder of centrefire pistol shooting in this country.

Made in Brazil, these revolvers have been a staple of British LBR shooting for decades.

There are other types of LBR out there, such as Alphas and, very rarely, converted Smith & Wessons, but most long-barrel shooters go for a Taurus. This is because there are quite a few in circulation and, although expensive, they aren’t as cripplingly so as the other makes.

The only trouble is, Taurus has stopped making LBRs for the British market, so prices have spiralled upwards.

Another major issue is the finishing, the quality of which varies a lot, especially internally. The Model 66 and Model 980, on which our LBRs are based have a couple of besetting issues to do with their cylinders and, if these aren’t slicked out, owning a Taurus can become an exercise in frustration.

Then there’s spares. Taurus parts are not easy to come by in the UK. 

All that said, you can take one of these revolvers and turn it into something really pretty to look at and you can make them work.

This is mine:

It’s the 44 Magnum version. I sold this gun to someone who got it all sorted out and was intending to keep it. Then he changed his mind and sold it to a friend of mine and I eventually bought it back.

Just recently, I got handed another 44 Mag Taurus. This one had only seen light usage and for very good reasons. Nothing worked smoothly and the cylinder was barely rotating. Not good for a nearly-new gun.

I decided to give this revolver the makeover of its lifetime and sort out its rotational problems.

Here it is:

All stripped down and ready to be sorted out.

The sideplate was a pig to remove, because it hadn’t been finished well and was way too tight. A sideplate should be a snug fit, but shouldn’t require a sledgehammer and dynamite to remove.

These guns are always supplied in a brushed finish. That has charms of its own, but is poorly set-off by the uninspiring rubber grips that come with the gun. They’re narrow too, which means they transfer a lot of nasty recoil to the web of your hand.

The cylinder. Meh.

The ejector (the odd-looking angular thing sticking out) was so stiff it was barely operating. The centre pin (which pokes out the centre of the ejector and locks the cylinder into the frame) was stuck in its hole and couldn’t do its job. Dreadful!

Day one. I was still considering how far to go with this revolver when curiosity got the better of me and I polished the top of the vent to see how hard it would be to get it mirror-bright.

Damn. That’s torn it. Now I’ve got to do the rest of it!

OK… here goes.

Really getting stuck in now. No turning back.

By now, I had sorted out the grotty cylinder release problems and that ejector. All working smooth as butter.

This first bit went more quickly than I had anticipated. I refined my technique as I went along; learning  how far to go with polishing before calling it done.

Not totally done yet – still some scuffs and lines to get out, but we’re nearly there!

Internally, I had got to grips with the poorly-fitting sideplate. I’d made it snug, but without the nasty peening at its leading edge resulting from over-tight initial fitting at the factory. Unfortunately, the sideplate is on the opposite side to this photo.

And that’s Jenga.

Some crud and oil on the gun make the bit around my thumb look duller than it really is.

The revolver is now away having some finishing touches added by my good friend David at Shooting Shed. Click the link for David’s journal.

This was a labour of love, initially to see how long it would take (about 2 weeks on and off), but I now think there could be a new lease of life waiting for dozens more Tauruses out there.

Once I have it back and new grips on (those may take some while to get), I will post an update.

The Limehouse Golem

I haven’t said much about films lately, but not because I haven’t seen any. In fact, if anything, I’ve been watching quite a few but I tend to only pick out ones which have really made an impression to talk about on here.

Let me say right away that I’m no big fan of murder mysteries/whodunnits (or Victorian period pieces) but The Limehouse Golem (2016) sticks out as an extremely well-made piece of drama with a solid evocation of the period.

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I won’t spoil the story for you, but this film recreates the seedy world of Victorian East End London so well that you won’t have to suspend disbelief.

If you’re the kind of viewer who grew up devouring Agatha Christie and enjoys second-guessing mystery dramas, then you may work out what’s actually afoot in this film. I can never be bothered to puzzle it out. I just like to sit back and enjoy,  so for me this was a solid 105 minutes’ entertainment.

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The film centres on the goings-on in and around a popular London music hall company. A string of grisly murders takes place, pre-empting Jack the Ripper’s infamous doings and so horrible that the killer is nicknamed the Golem; a legendary creature of dark and murky origins.

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The narrative is ever so slightly non-linear, at least in the beginning, but the threads are skilfully woven together by director Juan Carlos Medina, who also elicits some terrific performances from Bill Nighy,  Douglas Booth and especially rising star, Olivia Cooke.

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Not for the squeamish and definitely not for young children, The Limehouse Golem is a little bit like the Sherlock Holmes films with Robert Downey, but minus the daft contrivances and laugh-aloud gags.

Bill Nighy is Inspector John Kildare, a very clever and capable policeman whose career progression has been quietly capped, owing to bitchy rumours about his sexuality. Olivia Cooke is the young actress married to a cruel and domineering man. Her career has also been stunted, because of her husband’s interfering.

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There isn’t a wasted talent in this picture. All the supporting cast turn in fine work and the story zips along nicely. For nearly two hours, you’ll feel transported to the Limehouse of the late 19th Century.

 

James Boyd – concert guitarist

For quite some time, I’ve been meaning to mention James Boyd, a virtuoso concert guitarist based here in Norfolk. I’m fortunate enough to have lessons with James and he is, without a doubt, one of the most extraordinary people I’ve ever met.

When I first went along to see James, I don’t mind admitting I was very, very nervous. I hadn’t had much luck with teachers, was petrified of playing in front of other people and, aware of how good James was, was worried he would simply confirm my fears: that I was actually rather crap and should stop playing altogether.

Boy, was I surprised.

Within the first lesson, James had got right to the issue and got me actually playing. I’d been struggling along, on and off, for decades and had always stalled at the same page on the same book… and then eventually given up.

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I’d gone along to that first lesson with some preconceptions; scales, grades, strict regimens of practice and so on. However, the conversation ran something like this:

“Do I need to think about grades?”

“Do you want to?”

“No.”

“Well don’t do them then.”

“I guess I’ll have to study scales?”

“You can, but why not just do them when they crop up in a piece of music?”

James won the Julian Bream prize at the Royal Academy of Music when he was there and now travels all over the world giving recitals and concerts. He knows what the pitfalls are and his emphasis is always on being a good musician, not on “producing notes”.  More to the point, he’s overcome all these obstacles in the context of world-class performance.  This is why I’d always recommend learning from a pro player.

I’m aware that this post could become a hagiography, but when you’ve had the frustration of never quite getting it right and then come across someone who helps you succeed and  tells you you’re a good player (and James never bullshits people)… well, those moments are gold dust.

I’ll leave you with a link to one of James’ executive training sessions. He’s taken all that he’s learned over years of playing the guitar professionally and applied it to business development and corporate learning strategies. I think you’ll agree, he’s someone you could listen to for hours.