Hatch Valley Road Trip—Clint Eastwood was hanged near here


Along the Rio Grande

One of our favorite weekend day trips is along the back roads between El Paso and Hatch, New Mexico. It’s scenic. It’s historic. It’s delicious. Deliciously spicy, that is. Hatch is home of the world famous Hatch chile. And what is Hatch’s green chile good for? Glad you asked. A while back I posted my chile rellano recipe using poblano chiles, but Hatch green really makes that recipe shine. And let’s not forget that modern culinary miracle, the green chile cheeseburgers. You’ll see one of the best of those on this week’s Fun Food Friday.

Chile field

By the way, did you know that Clint Eastwood was once lynched here in the Hatch Valley? That occurred along the banks of the Rio Grande not far from where these photos were taken, very close to Fort Selden (topic of a future blog article). The year was 1968, and poor Clint was mistaken for a murderer by a posse that included, of all people, kindly Skipper from Gilligan’s Island (Alan Hale, Jr.) in the movie was Hang ‘Em High.

Surrounding hills

But to heck with Clint Eastwood. This is chile country! And lunch is right up the road!

Chiles

Another great feature of this recent road trip is that the foliage was just beginning to succumb to fall.

Mesilla Valley fall colors

We’ll continue with narrative on Wednesday, but for now I’ll leave you with some more sights from this drive through the country:

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Filed under travel, Photography, Automobiles and Driving, R. Doug Wicker, vacation

Fun Photo Friday — Another spectacular El Paso sunset


El Paso sunset — 11/4/2017

We love the views from our home here in El Paso. As you can see from this backyard view, we face out over the Mesilla Valley to the left, and the Franklin Mountains form our backyard view to the right. Frequently we are treated to some very spectacular sunsets.

El Paso sunset — 11/4/2017

All the pictures you see today are pretty much untouched except for some mild tweaking of contrast, however on one photograph I upped the saturation level ever so slightly. This is the one on which I upped the saturation:

El Paso sunset — 11/4/2017

As you can see, the others simply didn’t need saturation boosts straight out of the camera.

El Paso sunset — 11/4/2017

In addition to changing the composition and framing, I also played around with orientation. Here’s a portrait view from that evening (I may have to consider this image for a future book cover):

El Paso sunset — 11/4/2017

This last image I cropped to simulate a panoramic view:

El Paso sunset — 11/4/2017

This sunset series was taken in raw on a Panasonic FZ-1000 developed in SILKYPIX Developer Studio 4.4 SE. The subsequent JPEGs were then tweaked in Google’s now defunct Picasa 3. That’s a real shame, too, because Google really had this program right when they abruptly quit supporting it several years back.

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A Tale of Two Berettas — 92FS and 92FS “Reverse Two-Tone”


Standard Beretta 92FS (top); uncommon 92FS “Reverse Two-Tone”

The Beretta 92 family of handgus  is a design that until recently I hadn’t much interest. It’s big, bulky, and heavy, and there are smaller, lighter high-capacity pistols out there — the exceptional Walther P99 comes readily to mind (for a review of the P99c AS compact see: When Fashion Goes Macho—Walther P99c AS in 9mm). And while Beretta would love for you to believe they invented that locking block system that keeps the barrel parallel to the frame during recoil operation, first with their M1951 (1949-1980) and later with the more famous Model 92 (1976-current) the fact is that Walther beat them to it by eleven years with the P38/P-1 (designed in 1938, produced 1939-2000).

Beretta 92FS with 15-round magazine; 17-round magazines also available

 

But, darn, if that Beretta isn’t just one sexy looking pistol with that beautiful, sleek, naked Italian barrel peeking up through that indecent, open-top slide.

Open top slide with exposed barrel

Indeed, exposed barrels are a bit of a thing with Beretta. Another way to put it is that Beretta makes the world’s largest ejection ports. To illustrate what I mean, here’s a family portrait featuring a 92FS, 85FS Cheetah, and a 3032 Tomcat (for additional information of the latter two see: Shooting a Pair of Cheetahs — Comparing the Beretta 84FS and 85FSPocket Pistol Week — Beretta Tomcat  and  Fun Firearms Friday — Pocket Pistol Shootout: Colt Mustang vs. Beretta Tomcat):

Three different Berettas — all with open slides

Beretta Family Portrait

So, when one day I stumbled across a used (2013) 92FS in good shape at a reasonable price, I was intrigued. That this particular 92FS was actually manufactured in Italy rather that the U.S. made me reconsider my previous reluctance in acquiring one. Yeah, I’m a bit funny that way — if I’m going to get an Italian pistol then I prefer that it come from the original Italian factory. Consequently, that particular 92FS followed me home like a forlorn puppy looking for a good home, complete with the original box, both magazines, and all the extraneous goodies:

Used Italian-manufactured 92FS

While this example may be “used”, it certainly is clean:

Italian-made Beretta 92FS

Field stripping and cleaning the Beretta 92FS is pretty straight forward. Step one in disassembly is locating the take-down button on the starboard side of the pistol and push it:

Beretta take-down button

While holding in the button, locate the take-down latch on the opposite side of the pistol:

Beretta 92 take-down latch

Rotate the lever clockwise 90°:

Beretta take-down latch rotated to disassembly position

Pull the slide and barrel forward off the frame as a unit. Unlike a SIG P22(x), FNX, and many other pistols, you don’t even need to lock back the slide to engage the take-down controls. Taking apart the barrel, guide rod, and recoil spring is a straight forward operation from this point:

Disassembled Beretta 92FS

As previously mentioned, the 92FS uses a falling locking block system that keeps the barrel parallel to the frame during recoil operation rather than John Browning’s more familiar tilt-barrel design used in most locked breech pistols made today. Here is the locking block in both positions:

Locking block engaged (position when the barrel is locked with the slide)

Beretta locking block dropped (the position when the barrel disengages from the slide)

The 92FS is a combat pistol. It’s the M9 version of this pistol that in 1986 began replacing the famed Colt M1911, which had been in common U.S. military use for the preceding 75 years and which some U.S. military units continued to use until just recently — over 100 years in service! Being a combat pistol, the 92FS uses rather basic but functional three-dot sights:

92FS rear sight

92FS front sight

I’ve not yet fired this pistol (or any other 92 for that matter), but I have studied its operation and manipulated the controls. I rate the double action trigger pull as fair, about what one would expect from a double-action/single-action hammer-fired pistol (rated at 11.3 pounds)/5,100 grams). Single action pull is a tad on the heavy side for what I would expect (rated at 6.6 pounds/3,000 grams), but it breaks cleanly and predictably. In comparison, a SIG P22(x) trigger is rated at 10 pounds/4,400 grams double action and 4.4 pounds/2,000 grams single action. The double-action/single-action striker-fired Walther P99 comes in at 8.8 pounds/4,000 grams and 4.4 pounds/2,000 grams respectively. No wonder I love my P99 pistols and variants!

As for use as a concealed carry pistol, well . . . . Did I mention that the 92FS is huge? And heavy? The Beretta 92FS weighs in at a hefty 33.3 ounces/944 grams empty, even though it sports an alloy frame. The SIG P229 also has an alloy frame, yet weighs in at 29.6 ounces/839 grams. And that polymer frame Walther? An empty full-size P99 comes in at a relatively svelte 21.3 ounces/605 grams. Nevertheless, I’m sure the Beretta will acquit itself quite well at the range. Watch for a firing review at a future date.

Now let’s take a look at that other reason I bit the bullet (pun intended) on this example, the roll mark:

Beretta Gardone V.T. (short for Val Trompia) — Made in Italy

Are Italian-made Berettas superior to those made here in the U.S.? No. But that isn’t the point. Would you rather have a Walther PPK/S stamped “Made in Germany” or one marked “Houlton, Maine”? A SIG P225 proudly bragging “Made in Switzerland”, or one from Exeter, New Hampshire?

Which brings us to this next 92FS, which I stumbled across at my favorite local gun store (Collector’s Gun Exchange). This one is rather unique and somewhat hard to find in that it’s a “reverse two-tone”, meaning that the slide is Bruniton, the barrel matte blued, and the alloy frame set in “Inox” finish even though it’s not an Inox (stainless) frame. If you decide to track down one of these pistols for your collection, the model number is SPEC0523A.

Beretta “Reverse Two-Tone” 92 FS

Unlike its all Bruniton (slide)/black anodized (frame) brother, this pistol also comes with an ambidextrous safety:

Beretta “Reverse Two-Tone” 92 FS with ambidextrous safety

And, yes, this one also comes from Gardone Val Trompia, Northern Italy.

Beretta Gardone V.T. — Made in Italy

The reverse two-tone 92FS appears to have come to the U.S. in very limited quantities, and I believe none have been imported since around 2012. This particular example was made in 2011, and like its 2013 Bruniton brother it was never registered with Beretta by any previous owner. That’s my tip of the day for collectors, by the way. Always check to see if a used firearm has been registered by the previous owner with the manufacturer or distributor. You would be shocked at how many times this isn’t done, and you become the “first” owner in regards to warranty as far as the manufacturer/distributor is concerned.

This 92FS has been fired, and there are a couple of minor scratches on the left front frame and slide, but otherwise it’s in excellent condition. As such, this pistol’s days at the range are over. It’s been cleaned, treated with Renaissance (museum restoration) Wax, lubricated, and slides greased, and now officially retired.

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