Friday, May 06, 2005

Range Day

Spent most of today at the shooting range fooling with a couple of extremes. On one end is my little Ruger 10/22, the other end is my Cimarron Single Action Army clone in .45 Colt.

My 10/22 is a $75.00 used rifle that I have some $500.00 into, so far. The stock and barrel are stuffed in the side of my 'stuff' closet, it's wearing a Hogue Overmolded Synthetic stock now and a $300.00 Shilen Match Grade Stainless Steel heavy barrel, the trigger, sear, hammer and extractor are Volquartsen. Ever wonder why shooters are always broke? Oh, let's not forget the two scope sights in quick detachable rings so I can switch from the 2-7 X variable power small game hunting scope to the 36 power benchrest scope.

Trouble is the wind was gusting from almost nothing to a bit over twenty MPH, right in the middle of each group. Every time I had a real nice five or ten shot group going, the wind would switch from straight in twelve o'clock to around three o'clock.

The good news is that I was testing function, mainly. It's hard to test accuracy when cinderblocks and anvils are blowing past in a Texas Spring Breeze. All my modifications seem to work and, maybe even better, the cheap 'by the brick' .22 ammo seems to shoot almost as well as the expensive match ammo.

I had a little more luck with the .45, the ranges are shorter and those big fat, heavy bullets don't get blown around as much. I haven't fooled around with single action revolvers much since I was a kid, I'm still getting used to this one. I had two different handloads that I was fooling with, both with my home-cast 250 grain round nosed flat points. The modern load is six grains (note to the curious, a grain is a measure of weight, one ounce equals 437.5 grains) of Hodgdon's Titegroup Powder. I mostly use Starline Brass and this load was sparked by PMC large pistol primers. These bullets used Lee's tumble lube and were sized to .452 inches. The alloy is a mix of half pure lead and half cleaned up wheelweight metal with one pound of tin to each twenty twenty pounds of alloy to improve the way the metal fills out the mold.

This load clocks about 850 feet per second out of my five and a half inch barrel and is destined to be my favorite load for just loafing around the woods or blasting at the range. Titegroup is going to become THE powder for small charges in big cases. Many, perhaps most, smokeless powders give erratic ignition when used in small charges in cartridge cases designed for Black Powder. Not Titegroup. I tested for any tendency toward being sensitive to position in the case by holding the loaded gun muzzle down before one shot, muzzle up before another through several groups, and compared them with groups that I just shot holding the revolver normally. It would take a much better shot than me to tell the difference.

Recoil is noticeable but not unpleasant. Best of all this load hits right over the front sight at ten yards, about four inches high at twenty-five and about two inches low at fifty that I've spent months trying to find a load to make other fixed sight revolvers shoot where they looked, I'm ecstatic.

The other load needs more work. I'm gathering up the toys to get into Cowboy Action Competition Shooting and would like to compete in the class that requires black powder or the black powder replicas, I'm fooling with Pyrodex P for now. This is a replica black powder, it's chief virtue is that it's not quite as easy to blow my fool head off in an accidental explosion as real black powder. Since black powder and the replicas are measured by volume, not weight, I'll simply refer you to Hodgdon's website and not give any numbers on how much powder I'm using. I'm using the same bullet but with SPG Lube instead of the Lee. Because of the way Black and replica black powder stains the cartridge cases I'm using Remington nickel plated brass for easier cleaning and lighting it all off with Winchester WLR Primers. I haven't run this load through my chronograph but it should clock about 900 feet per second.

This load works fine, for about one cylinder and a half, then the fouling builds up on the face of the cylinder and it gets really hard to turn. Apparently I don't have enough of that soft lube in the bullet's grease groove to both prevent leading and keep the fouling soft. My next batch I'm going to try a 'grease cookie'. This is a little dab,about the size of a pea, of that same soft bullet lube. It gets inserted on top of the over-powder fiber wad and then is smooshed flat as the bullet is seated. That *might* keep the fouling soft enough so that the cylinder won't bind.

I did get the old fashioned BOOM! of the old-timey loads and the satisfying cloud of sulpher-stinking white smoke instead of the wimpy bang of modern loads, so that's a start. Note to self: when testing black or replica black powder, try to remember not to shoot directly into the wind.

Now, excuse me while I clean my revolver and ponder that age old question, how does a cloud of white smoke turn everything it touches black?

And another question: Does anyone in the entire world, besides me, care about the details of handloading tests?

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