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I know it’s an odd title for a thread – but please bear with me.
Are jet fins the Colt 1911 of the SCUBA world? This is a real question - I’m actually considering buying a pair.
A bit of background - The Colt 1911 .45 cal handgun has been around, well, since 1911. It was and remains very popular and was the official sidearm of our military until 1985. However, since 1911 there have been many advances, and there are many sidearms that out perform the 1911. The military got wise and changed – and you don’t see many law enforcement officers that carry the 1911. However, there are tons of people out there that just can’t let go – there are a million articles written, modifications galore and many spin-off guns based on the 1911. I even fell for the hype years ago and bought a very expensive SS Colt 1911 Officers Model – worst gun I’ve ever owned! Jammed constantly and never performed well. Sold it and bought a Berretta .40 cal…
Anyway, enough gun talk since this is a SCUBA forum… And on to my question… The Jet Fin has been around since the 60s, in about the same form, and again, there have been a lot of advances since then. I know there are a lot of die-hard fans that swear by them… But is it the same type of situation as the 1911? Are these people ignoring the better performing fins and just not letting go for sentimental reasons?
Another issue is the price of some of the “high performance” fins… Out of control!
First, I was by a well known gun manufactuer just by chance on a recent trip, this past week and you know I understand the armed forces want a .45 again. Seems the 9mm is just not stopping the crazies.
As to advances in the "flipper" world there really have not been any. OK, they split them and now they got hinges and rubber bands in them and there is that weird 800 dollar Force Fin. Boring. The two best fins ever made are the Voit UDT in gum rubber and the JetFin XL, the so called Super Jet. Everything else, for scuba purposes, pales in comparison and oddly they are two of he oldest designs. The old Nemrod Super A Profesional is a good fin also as is the Voit Viking A66.
Regarding the 1911, .45 ACP is my personal caliber of choice if I have to stop someone immediately with a handun. It has proven stopping power even, in the FMJ non expanding "ball" rounds specified by the Hague Convention where the 9mm round used by the M9/M9A1 does not.
The 1911 Government model in .45 ACP is also my favorite pin gun (for bowling pin shoots) and for general practical pistol competition. Properly built, tuned and fed with quality ammunition it is very accurate, very reliable and very effective.
Now to clarify, I did not state the Colt 1911 was a favorite as Colt's current or even recent production is less than great. The Series 80 trigger is creepy feeling due to the firing pin safety and in general even their highly accurate Gold Cup model, will not stay that way very long.
This is not all Colt's fault, as a stock series 70 or 80 is based on the US military 1911A1 which was designed to function only with 230 gr ball ammunition. You need a lot of tweaking to the basic design to get it to be 100% reliable with 185 gr JHP's, 200 gr SWC's, ect in addition to 230 gr FMJ ammunition.
The quality of the various 1911 clones varies greatly and while some companies make exceptional copies that far exceed the performance of the Colt original, many are very poor quality with even poorer assembly.
And make no mistake, the 1911 is one of the most copied pistol designs in history.
That is one of the things it shares with the Jetfin - which is one of the most copied fin designs in history. Another is that the 1911 is well suited to a wide variety of roles just like the Jet Fin.
The US military switched to the M9 in what remains a controversial move as the M9 lacks stopping power and is either one of the most loved or hated weapons in the sandbox - with the people hating being the ones most often having to use it in combat.
The advantage of the M9 - which was based on the design of one of the first "wonder nines" offering high magazine capacity is the doubel action capability and the related reduction in taining needed to get the average soldier to be abel to shoot it without blowing a toe off. It is however way to large for a 9mm pistol and offers very little - other than DA capability over a Browing Hi Power - a descendent of the 1911 that the Hi-Power delivers in a smaller and more durable package. And unlike the 1911 and Hi-Power, the M9 is not freindly to shooters with small hands.
The Glock expands on this offering mediaum and large frame sizes and uses a similarly idiot proof fire control system so it is easy to train Law Enforcement Officers to use it. And most LEO's are not gun people and do not shoot more often than the minimum require to qualify 2-4 times per year so having an idiot proof gun is an important quality.
.40 Smith and Wsson (aka:Short and Whimpy) is a compromise cartridge. It offers more stopping power than a .45 ACP with magazine capacity in between a 9mm and a .45, it is slightly more controllable than a .45, but has more recoil than a 9mm (and a sharper recoil than a .45) so it does everything ok but loses in speed to the 9mm and in stopping power to the .45. When you put a .40 in Glock you get a compromiose cartridge in a pistol optimized for minimal training in terms of fire control and immediate action - which makes it wel suited for LEO use, but you almost never see them in a practical pistol competition as neither the Glock nor the .40 short and whimpy do nothing exceptionally well.
So in the end, I shoot a Kimber 1911 clone in .45 ACP as it is better than the original Colt, and I recently switched to OMS slipstream clones of the SP Jet Fin as they are a bit stiffer, back kick a bit better and have a foot pocket size and shape that is superior to the foot pocket on the Jet Fin. In both cases it is a situation where an excellent design is slightly better executed by a company making a newer and slightly improved clone.
Sorry I left out the Plana, the full foot Power Plana has been a favorite of mine for years. I tore the foot pocket out on my current pair so I will need another. I only use them for "tropical" diving. They are more comfortable since I can wear them barefoot for warm water boat diving. Whenever I have to wear boots, warm or not then I regrettably reach for the Jets. I do ok with them in warm water (no exposure suits) but they are a touch heavy in that they will make your feet drop. I hate buying anything from Mares but I guess I will have to make an exception. The other problem is that I like to dive traditional and something about the Mares Plana just is offensive, it is plastic and has not the history that the UDT or Jet has. The Plana is a good free dive and snorkel fin too.
I've been using Mares Avanti Quattros for 8-10 years, but got a drysuit last year. My old fins just didn't fit over the boots, so I tried a bunch of different fins. The Jets were by far the best for me with the drysuit -- didn't need additional weight on my ankles, and the fins are just a great versatile design that works well with any kick, plenty of thrust.