Friday, August 31, 2007

Mine! All mine! I'm a GReeeeedy little shooter......

We had some business up in the Poconos today, and once done we were free to explore a bit.

There is one particular shop I like to visit, as the 'honey hole' syndrome strikes often there.

Todays bundle of joy is 32 boxes of Yugoslav 8x57 on stripper clips.... out the door at $2 per box.

It's Ok if you hate me... I understand.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Harrington + Richardson top break .38 S+W

(click photos to enlarge)

A recent acquisition for the collection, and presented as received, is this little bit of history. A Harrington and Richardson top break revolver in .38 S+W.

H+R built these little jewels from the turn of the century till just before WWII. Coming in .32 Smith+Wesson, .32 Long, and .38 Smith+Wesson, they were never over powered by any means.

The top break revolver did not have a cylinder that swung out, but a frame that pivoted open revealing the rear of the cylinder. The early models did not have an automatic extractor, instead using a manual rod like a typical modern revolver with a swing out cylinder. Later models, like this, used an automatic extractor that ejected the shells rather smartly if the pistol was operated with authority.

One issue that plagued the concept was occasional jamming. If the star extractor managed to get above a case that did not get thrown clear, the case would fall back into the chamber and the extractor would seat above the case. This effectively jammed up the gun till it could be cleared manually, which took some small effort. It was something that happened rarely, and usually only when the shooter failed to let the extractor eject the cases as it was built to.

This particular pistol is in excellent mechanical condition. The grips are original and intact, something mildly unusual as the plastic often got damaged over the years. It has known some rust, but not too badly. All in all it’s a decent example that will clean up nicely and is fully functional.

This later model is chambered in .38 S+W, an anemic cartridge by today’s standards.

I have pictured it next to a .38 special, a round considered minimal for defensive use today. It’s practically dwarfed alongside the ,357 magnum, although the family resemblance of all three is unmistakable. They are in fact a continuation on a theme, in each instance the case being extended to increase capacity, velocity, and stopping power.

Pictured alongside its contemporaries, the .32 S+W and the .32 long, the .38 S+W does show why it might have been preferred in its day. While the .32 long tossed a 100-grain lead slug along at 650 fps, the .38 S+W hit the same velocity with a 158-grain bullet.

Today a 158 grain .38 special moseys along at 850 fps and is considered just barely adequate.

This pistol will be stripped down, detail cleaned, and then spend some time at the range.

While not a whiz bang polymer high capacity high intensity wonder gun, it is a solid piece of history with generations of enjoyment and service left in it. Ammunition is available, and even when not it’s especially easy to make from its offspring, the.38 special.

The American public purchased these pistols in the hundreds of thousands, with over a million being produced. While some makes were of questionable quality, the H+R built top break pistols were nearly on a par with Smith and Wesson.

Favored by shop keepers and home owners desiring some simple protection generations ago, this type of pistol is frequently found today in decent usable condition, and can be had for reasonable prices. There is a collectors market, but its usually a low dollar one. A pistol of this make and condition can often be found for under $150 with a bit of searching.

Another neat firearm for the collection!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

7.62x54 Bulgarian light ball

Years ago I read an article. The subject was precision hand loading for accuracy. This article appeared in a magazine devoted to hunters who typically shoot at long distances. As might be guessed, the piece was all about the details of building very special ammunition. The key to exceptionally accurate ammo is keeping every factor, every component, as close to perfect as possible.

The title of this article was “The name of the game is the SAME”

In taking a ‘Look Inside’ the 7.52x54 Bulgarian light ball recently available, I was thinking that another phrase might be more fitting. “The name of the game is..... close enoughski”

Tearing down and examining various ammunitions I have come to expect most to have some component, or some factor, less than perfect. With few exceptions this has been true.

With this Bulgarian offering every single component and chosen measurement factor had accuracy issues. No attempt is made here to be mean, and it must be remembered that this is only 10 rounds, out of millions produced.

Let us take a look at the subject:

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As usual, components were weighed with an RCBS 10-10 scale. Components were measured with Mitutoyu digital micrometers and a Central caliper. The bullets were pulled using an RCBS collet type puller mounted in an Ammomaster press.

The components found:

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The ammunition is brass cased, and berdan primed. Neither bullet nor primer is sealed in any way. The bullets pulled with very little effort, but erratically. This was due to the case mouths being crimped into bullet cannelures inconsistently. On most loading equipment the case mouth crimp depth is dependant on case length. The longer the case, the heavier the crimp, all other things being equal.

The components were measured in as consistent a manner as possible, but some measurements were made two or three times. It’s easy to move along quickly when each measurement is the same, but when they vary so much extra care must be taken to be accurate.

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While making neck diameter measurements, something special was noticed. It seems the cases were sized quite small, then the bullets were seated in a non-concentric way. In other words, they are not centered in the necks. On seating, the bullets stretch the case neck. In this example the necks were stretched all to one side, to the tune of .003” off center. This proved difficult to photograph, but here’s my best attempts:

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The neck diameters were also out of round by over .001”, but this was mostly caused by the bullets varying at least that much in roundness.

Some data on case and cartridge dimension:

Over all length of loaded cartridges: From 3.000” to 3.020”, with a spread of .020”. The optimal specification is 3.010 according to the Handloaders guide to cartridge conversions.

Case lengths: 2.100” to 2.110” with a spread of .010”. Optimal is 2.050 based on the same source. This case length variation accounts for the inconsistency of case mouth to bullet crimp, in my opinion.

Cartridge base diameters stretched from .4821” to .4850”, with a spread of .0029”. Case neck diameters varied from .3330” to .3358”, doing my best to deal with the uneven neck stretch.

Once pulled down, the powder was checked and weighed. It’s a medium length extruded grain resembling IMR 3031, but clearly not exactly the same. Charge weights varied significantly, from 49.5 grains to 50.1 grains. The powder appeared in decent condition despite its 50 year life in an unsealed case.

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The bullets were interesting. They are a hollow base spitzer design. The indentation in the base measured a whopping .160” deep. Bullet weight variations were on the heavy side ranging from 150.5 grains to 151.9 grains, with a 1.4 grain spread.

The bullets have a lead core, with a copper plated mild steel jacket and a deep cannelure.

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Bullet diameters measured from .3092” to .3112” with a surprising range of .0020”. That’s quite large by any standard I have ever seen. While these bullets should be safe in any 7.62x54 rifle, accuracy of any kind would be amazing. Nominal bore diameter in this round is .311”, with many hand loaders looking for .312” or even slightly wider in the quest for accuracy. My own Mosin bores slug from .312” to .315”. A bullet that much undersized must simply bounce down the bore.

There is a chance the very large indent in the base acts exactly like the one in the Minne ball of civil war fame. Pressure pushes the bullet base walls outward against the bore, sealing it and forcing it into the rifling. If this is the case, then accuracy might not be horrendous after all.

Also noted was the depth of bullet seating in the case neck. With variations, it averaged a very short .217” deep. This is not even one bullet diameter. With rough treatment the bullet will shift in the neck, once again damaging accuracy. Treatment as ‘rough’ as chambering a round from the magazine might do this.

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Case weights were the widest ranging of any one lot I have ever seen. The lightest was 145.6 grains, the heaviest at 152.5 grains, with a spread of 6.9 grains. External measurements found no large difference, so I can only guess the weight variation is due to case wall thickness.

My conclusions are.... well..... just mine. To be honest I am no trained scientist nor do I play one on television. I don’t have a big sweaty brain. Heck, I’ve never owned a pocket protector in my life! I’m just an interested hobbyist attempting to understand my interests a bit better, and share my interest at the same time.

I see nothing in this ammunition that screams *unsafe* to me. In fact, I suspect it will be completely dependable. My only criticism is from an accuracy viewpoint. I fully expect this Bulgarian 7.62x54 to be as reliable as fifty year old military ammunition can be. It’s probably 100% sure fire, I’m guessing it will function perfectly. That said, I am as curious as a hound in a sausage factory to see how accurate this ammunition is. I also want to run it across my chronograph which I have found to be a good indicator of accuracy potential, or lack of.

I’ll report back after that range day....... this should be interesting. There’s always the chance my conclusions are completely wrong. This might be the most accurate ammo ever fired in a Mosin Nagant.

Stranger things have happened. There was the time I ate all those bean burrotos.............. I was wrong then too.

(Follow up note: Pay attention!!!)

I have shot this ammunition quite a bit since writing this article. Two things need to be mentioned.

1) It proved to be exceptionally accurate against all predictions. I stand amazed.

2) In my shooting I found it has a high incidence of leaking primers (about 10%) and shooting glasses must be worn without fail! Others report split cases. Be careful!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Book review: Ball's Mauser military rifles of the world, 4th ed

Robert W.D. Ball

Military rifles of the world
Fourth Edition

Do you collect military rifles?
Do you collect Mauser's?
Do you own this book?

If the answer is no to the first two questions, then the third makes sense. If the answer to either or both the first two is yes, then how can you live without this book?

I hadn't owned this book a day before I was racing to a local gun store trying to secure an old Columbian Mauser gracing their
rack...... and of course it was gone.

Through my own lack of knowledge I had missed what could have been the star of a Mauser collection.

This book is full of things like that.

448 pages of excellent documented research and high quality photos by someone who truly loves the topic.

For a Mauser addict, this book is a narcotic combined with a shopping list that could bankrupt a small nation.

While I spent several hours browsing the book after (and before) buying it, I find myself going back again and again. Not to read it's entirety, as it's no great novel, but to brush up on a countries offerings, or the results of a Czech contract.

The information is not deeply in depth, but between the data and the excellent photos it's enough to make informed buying and collecting decisions.

Would I recommend the book? Most certainly. It it easily worth twice the $29.90 retail price I paid at Barnes and Noble (minus the 10% discount, and minus another 10% with a coupon (G)).

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Military rifle shoot Sunday......

No pictures this trip. I was too busy shooting, having fun, and it was raining a bunch.

No.... I just wanted to mention something....

The shoot theme this time was 'Vietnam War era rifles'. Since I own a Chinese type 56 SKS that has most likely seen a whole bunch of Vietnamese countryside, I figured I would honor the theme. I shot the SKS for score rather than my Grand Old Turk or the Swiss K-31. Both of those rifles are tack drivers and well suited to match shooing.

No, I shot the SKS carbine instead, using cheap Wolf ammunition.

Here's what has me perplexed...... I scored a 364 2x... With an SKS carbine.
Last shoot I took out the K-31, and scored a 372.... With one of the most accurate service rifles there ever was.

I don't know what to make of that.....

Monday, August 20, 2007

Shooting mats on sale!

Midway has their shooting mats on sale again.
I have one of these, and it's well worth the price.
Want it..... better act quick!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Update: M+P 9c Magazine Catch wear

Click on photos to enlarge

It's been a few hundred rounds since I got the M+P back from the factory. They replaced the magazine catch as I explained here.

I said I would provide updates with photographs on a regular basis, and here it is!

As the photos show there is some edge wear starting with a nice shiny line of metal showing through whatever S+W coated this magazine catch with.

The last photo shows the catch as it arrive in my hands from the factory. It's just possible there was a slight bevel to the edge under the coating, that is now worn off.

Time will tell.... at the moment I haven't experienced a single incident of the magazine releasing unintentionally.

Keep checking back for up dates!

Found my load for the M+P 9c 9mm, and for my .45 Colt too.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Range time today!

This morning I set up the chronograph and checked some new loads I have been working on.

On advice I have been trying out Power Pistol powder, and it's not bad stuff! For high velocity defense loads, and matching the potent factory defense loads, it's just about the ticket.

With anything else I have tried in my 9mm M+P the velocities have been lacking, the pressures creeping up, or efficiency lacking with lots of unburnt powder. With Bullseye, 231, blue dot, red dot, and several others about 1050 fps has all I have been able to get reliably before pressure signs begin to rear or maximum loadings are reached. That's with my bullet of choice, the Speer Gold Dot in 124 grains.

This bullet at 1200 fps should match the Gold Dot ammunition in favor with police across the country right now.

Here's what I found: Loaded in RA military cases, with a Winchester small pistol primer, I arrived at 6.6 grains of Power pistol for an average of 1181 fps. This is with an over all cartridge length of 1.065" which my M+P feeds perfectly. I also taper crimp the bullet for sure feeding, and to prevent the bullet being pushed back into the case.

This load is not book maximum, but it gives me all the velocity I want while functioning perfectly, being quite manageable on firing, and giving excellent accuracy. The target shown above is twelve rounds off the bench at fifty feet, while chrono testing. All but one fell within two inches, and the single one that makes it three inches I pulled and knew it. That's really not bad for a short barrel fixed sight carry pistol.

I'd like to mention this about the M+P compact. Notice the nice tight group? Thats with fixed sights using a traditional six o'clock hold on the white center of the bullseye. The pistol shoots exactly to point of aim at fifty feet, with excellent accuracy. To my mind there are two things that lead to confidence in a firearm. Unfailing function, and exceptional accuracy. This M+P shows promise on both counts, if the magazine drop issue is now fixed.

For the .45 acp, I wanted 1000 fps with a 200 grain bullet. Using 7.8 grains of Power Pistol and CCI 300 primers, I got 959 fps averages with both Berries plated flat points and Speer jacketed hollow points. That's close enough, considering it's a comfortable load with decent accuracy.

This colt will keep moderate velocity (650 fps) lead bullet loads shooting in a rough inch at fifty feet, and managed about three inches with the defensive hollow point at nearly 1000 fps. That's acceptable to me.

Again, that 7.8 grains of Power pistol is not a maximum load, and I'm fine with that. There's no reason to push the limit when reaching the desired goal can be done without doing so. I can live without knowing 'just how much' the gun will take. I know it will shoot just fine with anything I choose, so be it.

Now, something that needs to be mentioned..... Like with the Colt .45 acp, I also tried pushing the Berries 9mm 124 grain bullet at the same velocity as the Gold Dot bullet. My goal here is cheaper practice loads that exactly match in velocity and recoil the more expensive rounds loaded with the Gold Dot. With the .45 acp I was able to achieve that easily, with accuracy being acceptable and 'point of aim - point of impact' matching.

Not so with the 124 grain 9mm Berries bullet. While it shot decently at 950/1000 fps, once bumped to 1200 it went wild. Of twelve rounds fired over the chronograph only seven were in the black. The others just nicked the wide edges of the paper. I was looking at 12" plus groups with the Berries pushed at speed.

I marked that box "Shoot up in draw practice" and stowed it away with a sigh.

For the "Brotherhood of Brass Scavengers', and you know who you are, I make this report: After policing up my shooting bay, I started the hunt. Thirty minutes netted me about five pounds of assorted pistol brass from the weeds.
I have considered taking a weed eater along and chopping back this bank, but the prickers and thorns keep the light weights away from the hidden treasure.

That's MY brass under those there stickers............

Friday, August 17, 2007

Consider casting your own bullets!

For hand loaders watching the price of components rising steadily, there is an option to the high cost of jacketed bullets.

Not only is it an option, but an appealing one to the technically minded folks who enjoy the hand loading process at least as much as the shooting that follows.

As long as firearms have been in existence, shooters have been casting their own bullets from lead.

As a hobby, it's every bit as technically challenging as hand loading is. What it delivers is a fascinating and engaging past time, as well as reduced shooting costs.

In fact, should jacketed bullets become scarcer, then casting our own is one way to ensure continuing our joy in shooting sports.

Lee reloading makes a line of molds, melting pots, and other
gear that functions well and is relatively in expensive. A bottom pour pot, a few molds, a tumble lube sizer and lube setup, and the hand loader can really be rolling their own for about $100.

Of course, like any hobby, it doesn't end there. They never do.

More molds, a lubrisizer press to size and lube your little creations, books on cast bullet building, new guns just for shooting cast bullets, a new interest in old lost calibers no manufacturer makes anymore...

Casting your own bullets is rewarding and fun. In addition, it can make it possible to shoot when other sources of bullets are drying up.

Stop in to this site, and make sure you call them 'Boolits'. These folks are always willing to help!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Refired the postal match with the M+P compact....

Carnaby Fudge has this E-shoot running, and I have already shot it with my .45 Colt.

Yesterday I got my Smith M+P 9c back from factory repair, so today it was OFF TO THE RANGE!

Since I was at the range, testing my repaired carry pistol, why not re-shoot the match?

Here's the results: 129 points shooting under the revised rules.

Six shots at six targets at seven feet, point shooting rapid fire.

Six shots at six targets at twenty five feet, aimed rapid fire.

Six shots at six targets at twenty five feet, aimed slow fire.

These results are somewhat better than I did with the Commander, which surprises me. The M+P's magazine catch issue does not negate the fact that it's a very accurate pistol, and very easy to shoot well.

Got my S+W M+P 9c back from the factory

As I discussed here, I had to send my Smith 9c back to the factory. The magazine catch design is defective and the pistol drops mags.

Not a good feature in a self defense carry pistol! Certainly not a good feature in a law enforcement carry pistol either.

Yesterday, without notice, and lucky we were home to sign for it..... the Big Brown Truck brought a package. My 9mm had returned home.

Smith and Wesson enclosed a one sentence letter. They replaced the magazine catch. Checking out the pistol, that is exactly what they did. No more, no less. It now has a new catch, of exactly the same design as the previous one. The only difference being the new catch might have a coating on the metal part. Maybe. Perhaps.

It might just be a darker type of steel for all I can tell. If it's a coating (and I think it is) then it's pretty thin as the steel clearly shows through it.

There seems to be no other difference. Engagement tension feels the same, release distance still measures a hair over .030", and it does not leave me with supreme confidence.

I wish I could say otherwise, as I really like this pistol. I like it a lot. I would like to say it's the best carry weapon I have ever owned (and I used to say that), but now I can't honestly make that report.

I'm going to put another five hundred rounds or so through the weapon on the range and re-evaluate it. I will probably carry it a while as well, and watch it closely. Maybe I will regain the confidence I had in it.

We'll see. I'll report here whatever the case.

I plan on examining the magazine catch for wear on a regular basis. I'll photograph it and chronicle the results right here on the blog for all the world.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Today, a visit to 'THE' museum..... Aberdeen Proving Grounds Ordnance Museum

The ordnance museum at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland.

If you ever get the chance to go... GO.... and take the kids.
Any kids. Borrow some if you have to.

We spent a few very enjoyable hours there this afternoon. I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Atwater, the man most often seen interviewed on the History channel when they do anything weapony. I shook his hand and thanked him for his work.

Pack a lunch.... for those interested in the subject, it's a day long Ohhh and Ahhhhh.