Strayer’s 40K “Blue Flame”
January 10th, 2020
6 minute read
In the Ford Motor Company’s long history, its most famous and most effective advertising slogan was probably “Ask the man who owns one.” The same slogan could work well for Springfield Armory. It would be particularly valuable to ask a man who has not only owned them, but has carried them for years, shot many tens of thousands of rounds through them, and won shooting championships with them.
One such man to ask would be John Strayer. I’ve known him and shot with him for more than twenty years, and have lost count of how many matches I’ve seen him win with Springfield Armory pistols. He has owned John’s Lawn Equipment in Live Oak, Florida for many years, and since 2008 he and his wife Terri have also owned the ProArms Gun Shop. Here’s his story.
A longtime recreational shooter, Strayer was married to a lady who had won a national championship title in NRA Hunter Pistol, and finally got into competition himself in 2004. He started with IDPA, the International Defensive Pistol Association, and quickly became one of the first of the few to earn the title of Five-Gun Master.
John got his first Springfield XD in 2008, when he opened the gun shop. He had shot my XD Tactical .45 ACP that I was testing at the time. John said later, “I fell in love with the XD’s grip size and shape, and thought ‘Man, if the .45 fits me that well, the 9mm should be off the chain. I ordered the 4″ XD 9, and later turned it into a competition gun for IDPA Enhanced Service Pistol. It really shoots nice.’”
That led him to his next personal acquisition from Springfield Armory, the XD-M. He won so many matches with that one that the gun earned a nickname — “The Blue Flame.”
I shot a lot of matches with John then, and in the southeast he became one of the men to beat. At matches you’d hear one competitor say, “We’re doomed. Strayer’s here,” and another reply “It’s worse than that; he’s shooting the Blue Flame.”
The Blue Flame
John remembers, “The Blue Flame is an XD-M 9mm with 4.5″ barrel that went to Springfield Armory Custom for a competition magazine well and trigger tune-up. It has a Dawson adjustable rear sight and fiber optic front. It was the first custom semi-auto I’d ever had done. It was right around when the XD-M first came out. This pistol’s “blue flame” motif was done at same time as the rest of the work, on a whim. Gail Pepin, the producer/editor of the ProArms Podcast, designed it and used it for the avatar on the website. I had good luck with that gun, and won a lot of matches with it.”
Strayer adds, “The Blue Flame has roughly 40,000 rounds through it. It was my sole competition gun at the time, for about four years, through 2012, and I shot about 10,000 rounds a year. I had no malfunctions with it except with too-light experimental handloads. When I went to a straight thumbs hold I sometimes overrode the slide stop, so I just trimmed the slide stop myself with a grinder.”
For everyday carry, John created a hybrid XD-M. He explains, “I wanted a longer slide with a smaller grip for easier concealment. At work, I carried in a belly band under my uniform shirt for years. With a short barrel, the muzzle hit a bad spot on my sciatic nerve. So, I bought a 3.8″ Compact and just took the barrel/slide assembly off a 4.5″ and put it on the compact frame. That gave me a 13+1 capacity 9mm with a barrel that took full advantage of the velocity of the Winchester Ranger-T 127 grain +P+ I prefer, with a longer sight radius and more comfort, along with concealment under a tucked-in shirt.”
Back on the competition side of John’s gun needs, he added a 9mm XD-M 5.25″ to his battery to replace The Blue Flame because, after shooting more USPSA run-and-gun matches, he preferred the longer sight radius. Arredondo base pads extended cartridge capacity to 22 rounds.
In addition to the XD series, the 1911 is among John’s favorite guns. He uses a .45 caliber Springfield TGO-II he purchased many years ago in the Custom Defense Pistol class and in USPSA Major for four Single Stack Matches in Illinois. He comments, “That gun’s probably got 50,000 rounds through it, with nothing but regular maintenance. It has an action job from Springfield Armory, TGO mag well, and southpaw mag release by Mitchell Custom.”
When he got into USPSA, John wanted commonality and went all 1911 for a while. He used a Springfield Armory 9mm in its less expensive Range Officer format for IDPA’s Enhanced Service Pistol division. He added a right side mag release from Mitchell, Custom Shop trigger, and a TGO mag well. “I own several more expensive ‘boutique’ 1911s in .45 and 9mm,” he explains, “but I just shoot better with these particular Springfields.”
That said, though, since the Single Stack Nationals have passed into history, John has gone back to the XD series as his exclusive platform. He has shot a handful of Concealed Carry Pistol division matches with his XD 9 Subcompact, including an overall win at the famous Leesburg, Florida BUG (BackUp Gun) event. He has spent a good bit of time with that same 9mm Subcompact as an everyday carry gun. His petite wife Terri also carries an XD Subcompact daily, hers being chambered for .40 SW. When Terri, a former state champion woman in IDPA, finds time to shoot a match these days it’s either with her 4″ XD or her 9mm 1911-A1 Range Officer.
By the time you read this, Strayer says, “I’ll probably have switched to a Hellcat. I love the sights, and I’ll be able to carry it in a pocket holster. And I just like the feel of the gun!”
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