Friday, January 30, 2009
In the quest to be better, I keep learning new skills. In this lies much of the interest I have in shooting and firearms. There is always more to learn, room to grow, and new horizons to scan. The Carteach0 blog has encouraged me to take on it's own demanding necessary skills. Writing (which I have so much room to grow into) and photography. Recently the latter of these occupied several hours of a day off. Setting up in a spare room, I tried to build a light stage. Diffused lighting from several lamps, along with natural lighting from a large sunlit window.
This rigging challenged Murphy in epic ways, but turned out to be highly educational. As a bonus, It didn't set the house on fire. I learned that my camera is not up to full size high detail rifle sized images, but does fairly well on pistol sized images. Witness this shot of a 1934 Beretta, seemingly suspended in mid air. In reality, it's balanced on a twelve gauge shotgun shell above a neutral muslin cloth.
After the Beretta pistol, it's magazine proved to be no challenge (again, balanced).
Next, a vintage top break revolver .38 S+W. It too is balanced on twelve gauge shells. In this case, a change in exposure allowed the fabric background to join in the photo, although in a minor way.
Finally, the same 1934 Beretta, only this time resting directly on the background fabric. I think the texture lends interest without distracting, while the 'suspended' look of the previous image looks a bit like a 1970's gun magazine.
Monday, January 26, 2009
On a recent weekend came a chance to go to the range. Despite twenty degree temperatures and stiff breezes, I jumped on it.
The AR180b came along, with several types of ammunition to try out. In this case, Privy Partisan 55 grain FMJ, and Silver Bear 55 grain FMJ. I have been meaning to try both, and that was the lucky day!
That is... till the cold really bit home, and the shivering started in. Can I get a BRRRRrrrrrr?
But... forge on we must, and I tried to be fair to both. The rifle sports an Eotech 512 holographic sight on a StormWerkz base, and while it has no magnification the 1-moa dot allows fairly precise shooting at reasonable ranges. This time, I stretched that out to 200 yards... a little far for a 'dot' sight and my old eyes.
I have to say, the silver bear functioned fine, but other than that did not impress me. It gave mediocre accuracy, which seemed to fade with range. At one hundred yards it held four inch groups... not terrible for $6 a box ammo, but at two hundred yards that got worse. A lot worse... like maybe hit the paper. In addition, I am unsettled about the way the case obdurates to seal the chamber, as I saw plenty of powder marks down the side of the case.
The case on the Silver bear is zinc plated steel, and also seems to have some form of poly coating as well. They certainly feel sticky to the touch when hot, after firing. That troubled me more than a little. It must foul the rifles chamber to some degree, and I can envision it causing feed and extraction issues on some rifles.
The Privy Partisan has traditional brass cases and traditional bullets as well. It's performance is on par with most any generic American made .223 FMJ ammunition, which is to say pretty darn good. On a day when I could shoot without shivering like a chihuahua in heavy traffic, it gave MOA tight groups with this rifle at one hundred yards.
Function was 100% perfect and accuracy was good too. At $8.50 a box locally, and sometimes cheaper on line, it seems a pretty good deal.
As for accuracy... here's an indicator... The target following was fired from the bench at 200 yards. The sight is unmagnified, with a 1-moa red dot surrounded by a 65-moa ring. The wind cost me two inches of left drift, but I was still able to keep most rounds in a group about the size of a twenty round magazine.
Given the shooting condition that day, and weapon used, I am not unhappy.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
So many of the new K-31 owners share the same opinions regarding the Swiss GP-11 round. It always begins with: “Wow, this is incredibly accurate!”, closely followed by: “Where can I get some more of this?”
The 7.5 Swiss is an interesting cartridge. It has features that echo other notably accurate and powerful rounds over the last century. Its case is shorter, stouter, and quite tapered when compared to it’s contemporaries. The sharp shoulder and squat powder space remind me of the ‘Ackley Improved’ series.
P.O. Ackley thought we could take most standard rounds and make the shoulder sharper and the powder room a bit bigger, instantly improving performance. In almost every case it worked. The 7.5x55 might have been built by Mr. Ackley. It’s every bit as powerful as the 30-06, while also having the easy to find accuracy of the .308. In addition, it functions smoothly with the unusual straight pull K-31 action.
As usual, the measuring arsenal for this investigation includes an RCBS 10-10 scale, Mitutoyo micrometers, Central vernior calipers, some other assorted goodies, and a large cup of coffee. Starbucks beans, ground at home and brewed in a drip type coffee maker. Add a shlop of cream in a big cup, and we are good to go.
GP-11 7.5x55mm is brass cased with a magnetic steel jacketed bullet. The bullet core is solid lead with no voids, and seems very well bonded to the jacket. Several bullets were sacrificed to the cutting wheel (monkey curiosity strikes again!).
A feature of the GP-11 noticed by most people immediately is the unusual sealer applied to the bullet/case junction. Unique in my experience, the Swiss painted on a heavy band of wax. While it’s not uniform by any means, the sample I looked at had wax about .012”thick and .030” wide.
This wax seal was easily removed with nothing more than a rough towel and a bit of pressure. It’s a soft wax, even 25+ years after it was applied. Once removed it revealed a very heavy bullet crimp. Looking for all the world like a ‘LEE factory crimp’ its a very firm and uniform clamping of the case into the bullet cannelure. Many precision shooters swear by such a crimp to encourage consistent powder burn.
Two questions came popping into mind while looking at that wax seal... (A) Where does it go when the rifle is fired? Is it perchance smeared down the case walls, making extraction easier? If this is the case, why hasn’t a problem with 7.5 handloads in the K-31 surfaced, such as tough extraction? (B) Could it be possible that this wax sealer serves to center the round in the chamber? This might help account for the phenomenal accuracy of the cartridge.
It’s time to look at some case dimensions.......................
In the run up to writing this, someone mentioned “It’s going to be boring....” Friends and neighbors, why would someone say this exploration will be boring? Because... when we see the same thing every time, there's nothing interesting going on. This ammunition saves everything interesting for the range, and nothing for the loading bench. It’s so uniform that no time was wasted making graphs. If the reader wishes flat lines..... check out the average politicians brain scan.
The largest variation was found in overall loaded cartridge weight, mostly due to the non-uniform wax sealer. Weight spread was 415.5 grains to 420.2 grains. About 2.2 grains of that can be accounted for with case weight variations, and another 0.5 grains in bullet variations. The rest seems to be the wax.
Over all length measurements were the most boring of all. It measured 3.045” Exactly. No variation, *0*, Nada, Zilch, Sigh........
Case base diameter measured from .4941” to .4952”, a .0009 variation. The horror of it! Almost a thousandth of an inch! Those crazy drunken Swiss!
Case neck diameters ranged from .3360” to .3372”, a variation of .0012”. This was, of course, measured after the wax was removed. The variations seem to be due to the very firm crimp distorting the case slightly. Still minimal by military ammunition standards, and certainly not bad at all by commercial standards. There was almost zero variation found in neck diameter. They were round.
Case length began at 2.180” and ended at 2.184”, a range of .004. This measurement found no wild fliers, but was spread evenly across the range.
The bullets pulled from the case with extreme force. The first one took four attempts, till I realized a ‘pull’ was not going to do it, and a ‘jerk’ would be required. (Please hold all jokes till the end of the post!). Even so, many bullets required two or three attempts to get them out of the case. Not because they are glued in, but simply that very heavy crimp set deep into the cannelure.
The powder appears quite fresh. It’s an extruded grain not unlike IMR 4895, but with a shorter grain. In size it looks like AA2015br powder, but has the same shiny coating 'look' that IMR stick powders have.
Powder charges weighed in from 49.9 grains all the way to a whopping 50.1 grains. A 0.2 grain variation. You graph it.... I’m going to take a nap.
Once pulled down, cases were weighed. They ranged from 193.2 grains to 195.5 grains. This is a variation of 2.2 grains, and the largest spread of any single component. The cases were mirror bright inside. Berdan primed, the twin flash holes were very clear inside the case. Looking at the pristine flat base inside the case, a question came: How in the world did the Swiss form the anvil for the Berdan primer while leaving the inside of the case flat?
Using the wildly dangerous 'torch trick' to blow out the live primer (nothing too dangerous in search of data for our readers!), an extremely uniform primer pocket was found. In fact, the pocket appeared to be milled rather than punched. If so, this is incredible precision and care for a military round. The flash holes also appear to be drilled rather than punched. Stunning quality and meticulousness for a military round!
The bullet, as stated, is a steel jacketed number with a lead core. Full metal jacket with a strong boat tail. Weights ranged from 174.3 to 174.8 grains, a 0.5 grain spread. Most notable were the diameter variations: Only .0004”. The bullets measured from .3076” to .3080”, and were perfectly round. No variation at all in diameter was found.
It would be an interesting day at the range, passing a few handfuls of this ammo across a chronograph. By all reports, this is the most accurate standard military ammunition built, and frequently wins matches. Perhaps that has something to do with the general lament over the lack of GP-11. What supplies that do show up, vanish almost instantly. In fact, if anyone has a case they’d like to contribute to the cause, I’ll happily continue testing it!
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Does your Mosin rifle shoot high? Well? Does it Punk?....
Oh never mind......
My Mosins all shot about a foot high at 100 yards. Maybe this makes sense on a rough and tough battle rifle meant to shoot peoples, but I don't shoot peoples. I shoot smaller things, like paper targets and clay birds. Sights a foot off are a problem for me.
If the rifle shoots high, then lower the rear sight or raise the front, right? Well..... the Mosin rear sight was already buried and the front is not adjustable. So, if the rear sight can't go down, then the front must go up, somehow.
I have heard of folks who took off the front sight, popped out the sight pin, and replaced it with a taller blued steel pin (made from a nail). Being lazy, frugal, and loath to make big changes in my old military surplus rifles, I came up with another fix.
I found that common Q-tips have a tube diameter that just slides over the original Russian sight pin, with a very tight fit. Cut the Q-tip..... tip..... off on one end. Use the rest of the Q-tip as a handle to force the tube down the sight pin using the hole in the top of the sight hood.
Once it's buried in place, use a small pair of scissors to trim the tube off. Go a little high, as the sight can be file adjusted at the range to bring the zero dead on at whatever distance you wish.
I chose to leave mine high enough that a 600 Meter rear sight setting put it in the bull at 100 yards. That gave me a better and more natural sight picture while shooting from positions.
I understand Mosin sight extensions are sold at the drug store, of all places. 500 for about $5. Who would'a thunk it!
(click on photos to enlarge if desired).
Monday, January 19, 2009
Yesterdays match was themed for the Battle of the Bulge, although it seems the Russians became involved this time around. As befitted a military match in the snow, there were several Soviet 91/30's and a M44.
Myself, I shot a Mauser in 8x57mm, and managed to score a 362/500. That is decent for me, especially with that rifle and 60 year old surplus ammunition. It wasn't my usual match prepped Mauser (the grand old Turk), but a battle ready Mauser with awful sights and a crummy trigger (taken along as a more fitting rifle for the theme). I dropped a few rounds from scoring, but other than that I was pleased.
There were enough shooters that a third relay had to be tacked on. I shot in the first, and spent the second spotting for a young first-time shooter. By the third relay it was cold enough the fun was dwindling, and I took my leave for home. The burn barrel helped, but the cold still penetrates. I had to remove my coat to shoot well, and never really got warm again after that.
In the short video of the M44 firing (slow motion), notice the ground effect it has, lifting snow for several feet around the muzzle. That was 'my' shooter, that I was spotting for. There was no trouble distinguishing his shots from the others on the line :-)
This is a seated rapid fire stage. The shooter starts from standing, with five rounds loaded. On command, the timer starts for a 60 second run. The shooter drops into position (In my case, more like flops into position), fires five, reloads, and fires another five. Bolt action shooters have an extra 10 seconds, but rarely need them. The shooter in the foreground, with the Garand, placed his ten rounds into a group I could cover with the palm of my hand and have a lot of meat left over. Dead center on the bull. He scored a 95/100 on that stage. Very, very impressive.
The last image in that series shows the range conditions that crept in during our first relay. We started in the clear, and by the final prone stage we were brushing snow flakes from the sights every few rounds. I enjoyed it immensely! The snow provided an atmosphere to the themed shoot, and a welcome one.
And, finally, a target of my own. I was shooting a bone stock military Mauser. The sights and trigger were not well suited to target shooting, but would be fine for battle, I'm sure. This was my prone target, fired without a sling.
To put it in perspective, I could cover almost all the bullet holes with my hand.
Not great shooting, but decent shooting, especially for me.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
At last count I had nineteen different types of .22 rim fire ammunition. Today, I have to make that an even twenty. Once again I have fallen to the curiosity of an offering previously unknown to me.
This time it was, perhaps, the most unusual .22 rim fire I have seen. Aguila, a company not afraid to offer something different, brings us it's 'Sniper Subsonic' round with a 60 grain solid lead bullet. Yes.... 60 grains. The heaviest .22 rim fire normally encountered is 40 grains. Higher velocity rounds usually drop that to 36 grains, or even 30 grains.
Aguila managed to squeeze that huge slug into a long rifle sized package by taking a unique route. They used a .22 short case, with a reduced powder charge, and loaded a very long lead bullet into it, bringing the whole cartridge out to .22 long rifle length. The SSS round looks the part too, with half the cartridge length being lead bullet. That's more than unusual, it's down right strange looking.
The idea is fascinating, with the heavy bullet retaining substantial energy while the low velocity and charge give greatly reduced noise. The problem with this approach is one of bullet stability.
Heavier low velocity bullets require a rapid twist rate to stabilize the bullet in flight. Lighter high velocity bullets can use a slower twist rate to accomplish the same stability. Bullet design also comes into play in the equation. Even the type of rifling can have an effect.
Typical .22 rim fire firearms shooting a 35 to 40 grain bullet at 1000 fps work well with a 1 in 16" twist rate, and this is standard for these weapons. A .223 center fire shooting a 60 grain bullet at 3200 fps usually works well with a 1 in 9" twist.
A .22 rim fire shooting a 60 grain bullet at subsonic velocities? A rapid twist would be in order, and its doubtful that 1 in 16" will do it. The test is simple. Load an accurate .22 rifle with the new ammunition, sight on a reasonable target, and note the results. That is exactly what I did, and the results are shown here.
The rifle chosen was a CZ452 Trainer, and is exceptionally accurate. It has shown a tolerance for various cartridges, without being overly picky about what it will shoot well. The long barrel and deep rifling may have something to do with that, as well as the tight bore. This rifle, even with open sights, constantly surprises shooters with it's consistent ability to group tightly.
Setting simple 4"x6" card stock targets at 50 feet, several rounds were fired. Only a were needed to answer the basic question. The very first round was a classic keyhole, as was every round after. The Aguila 60 grain bullets simply would not stabilize in the 1 in 16" twist CZ barrel.
Fired at both a paper target and a block of pine, the imprints are clear sideways impacts of a bullet tumbling in flight.
Perhaps this ammunition would be better suited to a .22 wearing a custom rapid twist barrel, as many folks have fitted to Ruger 10/22s. Also, it might be a perfect round for an AR equipped with a rim fire conversion, especially if it has a suppressor can installed. For my .22's, all of which have 1 in 16" twist barrels, I'm afraid this Aguila offering is useless.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
We've all seen it. The Old Shotgun, perhaps standing in the corner of an attic. Maybe behind the seat of an ancient pickup truck, usually owned by an ancient farmer. Even, sometimes, laying on the shelf of a closet, long forgotten by some family member.
In our case, this one was found shoved muzzle down in a plastic barrel beside a dozen of it's brethren. Alongside other cheap single shot and bolt action shotguns, and ignored in todays high-speed/low-drag world of automatic and pump action scatter guns. Once taking a place of honor on many a young mans wall several generations ago, these are now considered just too plain by most folks.
This article is about one way of cleaning up a rusty old firearm. It's not some fancy chemical stripper, or electrolytic action. No, it's just simple elbow grease and old fashioned know how, which seems fitting for an elderly break action shotgun like this. (Please note: Try this at your own risk. It's possible to damage a firearm's finish by doing this improperly, so you are on your own!)
The trick to removing surface rust is to leave the original finish behind, or at least as much as still remains. Nothing short of rearranging the surface metal will remove pitting, but light surface rust can be removed gently while allowing the bluing to stay where it should be.
First, the firearm needs to be stripped down as far as you are comfortable doing. At the very least it needs to have the wood separated from the metal. The metal parts are going to be carefully scrubbed with very fine steel wool, and little bits tend to get into any mechanisms left assembled.
Use 4-O (0000) steel wool soaked with gun oil or lubricant, such as break-Free CLP or Ballistol. Also used, with excellent results, is plain old fashioned automatic transmission fluid. The steel wool does not need to be dripping, just wet enough to leave a heavy film as you work.
Make certain that only '0000' steel wool is used. Nothing rougher, and not Scotch Brite pads. Anything rougher than 4-0 will strip and scratch the finish, and even 4-0 will do it if used harshly or dry.
Working on one section at a time, say one side of an action, scrub gently but firmly while keeping a close eye on the work. Don't let it get dry, and watch for edge wear on the bluing. Do not apply excessive force, but let the steel wool do the work. As the steel wool is used it will get 'dull', so rotate the pad often, and don't hesitate to grab a fresh pad. It's not uncommon to use an entire six pack cleaning one rifle or shotgun.
As each section smooths and the rust lifts, wipe it with clean paper towels. Re-lube the steel wool and keep working that section till it's done. Don't be stingy with the towels either, and plan on using most of a roll.
Do all the exposed metal a section at a time, till all possible rust and crud is removed. Once done the scrubbing, begin detail cleaning the metalwork. Use paper towels, Q-tips, and a cleaning rod with patches. A toothbrush would not be out of line as well. Dig into the nooks and crannies, searching out the rust and debris collected over generations.
Once the outer metalwork is fully cleaned, scrub and swab the bore as well, as during any normal cleaning.
Since the subject of such a cleaning project is not likely to be a fine firearm, but probably an old workhorse, It's common to do something with the wood as well. Even if it's just a rub down with the same 4-0 steel wool dipped in linseed oil, followed by buffing.
Reassemble the shotgun (or rifle) and check for function with action testing dummies or snap caps. Make sure the bore is clear and clean, and no bits of steel wool remain.
This is not something done every day, but can be a real enhancement to an old work gun that comes into your possession. One should hesitate long and hard before going after anything really old, or really valuable this way, but for a cheap shotgun or old .22 rifle, the difference can be astounding.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
The JC Higgins Model 80 is a Sears branded High Standard Duramatic pistol. High Standard had a close relationship with Sears, to the point where the Sears decision to stop selling firearms seriously damaged the High Standard Company and contributed to its demise.
Researching the Higgins Model 80 is best done by researching the High Standard M-101 Duramatic. The Model 80 is a M-101, with the Sears brand stamped in place of the High Standard.
The Duramatic .22 semi-auto pistol was designed as a low cost plinker and informal target shooting pistol. One interesting feature was the easily removable barrel (something High Standard designed into most of their .22 autos). Production began in 1954 as the M-100, with a barrel mounting change in 1957 resulting in the model change to M-101.
The Sears Model 80 is the High Standard M-101, so the earliest it could have been sold in Sears stores was 1957. Sears dropped the JC Higgins name in favor of Ted Williams in 1961, which limits the sale run of Model 80’s to 1957 thru 1961. Given leftover stock, that means a 4-5 year period of retail sales on the JC Higgins Model 80. Not a long run!
The pistol has some interesting features. The barrel can be swapped out without tools, and in fact is normally removed as part of field stripping. There were two barrel lengths available, 4.5” and 6.5”. The original box was cut out to accommodate both barrel lengths. High Standard sold the pistol as a set, with both barrels.
Another feature, or curse, is the unique grip design. The plastic oversized target style grip is held on by one screw through the base.
The grip itself comprises the entire lower part of the pistol, including the magazine housing. Alternative grips were not available.
Sights are usable, but minimal. A target width blade front is combined with a drift adjustable square notch rear. The trigger is actually pretty decent for an inexpensive plinker pistol, with a crisp and relatively light let off. The rear of the firing pin and bolt is visible at the rear of the slide, and acts as a cocking indicator. Another fun-fact... there is a "Silvery" plate inset on the left side of the grip. This is billed as a great place to have the owners initials engraved to personalize the pistol.
I bought this pistol from a local gun shop for my collection. It came as pictured, and I picked it up for a reasonable price that practically guarantees a healthy return on investment should I ever sell it. These bargains are out there, if we look. It takes time, spent stopping in at local gun shops, reading classified ads, and being ready to jump on the bargains as they come into sight. Time also has to be invested in study, to understand both the basics and minutia of this field.
I think it’s time well spent, not only in terms of investment, but in interest, enjoyment, and the ability to hold history in our hands.
The pistol shoots like a dream. It can hold one inch groups at fifty feet, which is better than I can normally shoot a pistol.
I've decided to sell it..... please allow me to explain.
Judging by serial numbers, it seems that only a few hundred of these JC Higgins (Sears) branded High Standard Duramatics were sold. This one is in the original box, with the original magazine and papers. Frankly, it belongs in the hands of a High Standard collector. Everything I own is a shooter... period. As will this be if I keep it.
I'll sell it for $275 plus shipping, or trade for a Ruger 22/45 or Mk3.
Friday, January 9, 2009
I have two 1938 Turkish Mausers. Having typical 1898 Mauser actions, these are robust and simple. The same techniques used by generations of shooters on Mausers work just fine on these old Turks.
One Turk is set up as my ‘military rifle shoot’ competition piece (known and feared on rifle ranges everywhere as ‘The Grand Old Turk’). I have about 1000 rounds of 1950’s surplus 8x57mm ammunition for this rifle, the idea being to use the surplus for practice, and my quality hand loads for competition.
Sounds like a plan, doesn’t it?
There is a fly in the ice cream with this plan…. my Turks won’t shoot the Yugo ammunition reliably. I get what appear to be good firing pin strikes, but every other round fails to fire. The same ammo, even the FTF rounds, will all shoot with 100% reliability in my Yugoslavian M48B (another version of the 98 Mauser).
Clearly the ammo is good, and there’s an issue with the Turk’s that I needed to find.
My first thought, and a good one, was firing pin spring strength. The M48 is about fifty years old, while the Turks are much, much older. Springs weaken with age and the Turks are noted for it. New 24 pound springs were ordered, received, and installed. Immediate range tests revealed no change at all in function. The Yugo ammo still had about a 50/50 failure rate in the Turks.
Careful side-by-side inspection of the M48B bolt vs. the Turk bolt showed the problem to be one of firing pin protrusion. The M48B was 0.058” while the Turks were 0.030”. Since the spec for firing pin protrusion on a model 98 is .055" to .065", No matter how hard the pin struck on that Turk, it simple wasn’t hitting deep enough to set off the stubborn and hard Yugoslavian primers.
Mauser 98 actions do not offer ready firing pin protrusion adjustment like a Mosin does. It’s built into the engineering, and pretty much soldier proof. That left me with a problem and no easy solution. New firing pins cost roughly what I paid for the rifle to start with, and were not guaranteed to solve the issue.
I needed a tinker fix.
I determined the limiting factor on firing pin protrusion to be the striker stopping against the bolt shroud. Modifying that requires disassembling the bolt and some careful dressing with small files. This work is touchy and must be taken slowly. Too much metal removed means a trashed part and a trip to the Internet for new components.
It might also mean pierced primers and a dangerous rifle.
If you chose to follow in my footsteps, be careful. If minor gunsmith work is something you fear, leave this job to the pros.
The following photos show the process in fair detail.....
Follow up adventures in Mauser bolt workings:
Using the procedure detailed above, I continued a step at a time till I arrived at 0.055” protrusion on the firing pin. This should be acceptable with a Model 98 Mauser action, which calls for 0.055” to 0.065”.
The results are thus: From a 50% fail to fire with 1950’s Yugoslavian surplus, the rifle now has a 10% fail to fire. While not perfect, it’s far better than it was. Since the firing pin protrusion now stands at only 0.003” different between the M48 and the Turk, any more fail to fire with the Yugo surplus ammunition is probably caused by another factor. (I suspect the shape of the firing pin tip….)
More to the point, the old Mauser shoots it’s favorite hand load considerably better. Fliers are a thing of the past. I have since shot a military rifle match that entailed a fifty-eight round course of fire. Eight sighter rounds, with fifty for score. In that entire match I did not have a single flier. On top of that, my score came up substantially from previous matches with little else changed but what is detailed above.