Monday, July 24, 2006

Hornady Bullets and Fort Kearny

So, there I was in Grand Island, Nebraska. I got up early and, since no one else wanted to go, drove to the Hornady Bullet Co plant alone. The Motel was in the same area so that was a short drive. The office had about a hundred stuffed critters. I', not really sure how well I could work with a dead Moose staring at me but these folks managed. I guess after a while one learned to ignore the critters. I had to leave the camera in the car, they would allow pictures of the critters but then, everybody has seen a stuffed critter.

I got a tour, by myself with one nice lady from the Hornady staff as a guide, only through the bullet making shop. I did not see where they make cartridge cases or loaded ammunition, of course the bullets were what I was interested in so that is fine. A jacketed bullet starts as a long strip of bullet jacket materiel, a compound called gilding metal. This is an alloy of copper and zinc, mostly.the strip of metal is sent through a bunch of machines, starting with one that punches out precisely sized cups. These cups are run through a series of dies that stretch and thin them until they become a bullet jacket.

Meanwhile another set of machines turn large cylinders of lead alloy into lead wire. A different alloy depending on the projected velocity of the bullet, a fast rifle bullet needs a harder core than a slower rifle bullet which needs a harder core than a handgun bullet.

The most interesting part of the tour was when I actually saw some of Hornady's new Leverevolution bullets.These new bullets, not yet available to handloaders, are the Next Big Thing for hunters. The Hornady people have figured out the kind of plastic that is hard enough to hold a point during the bullet's accelleration down the bore yet is soft enough that it can't set off a primer in the magazine of a lever action rifle. For the first time since the 1860s a lever action rifle with a tube magazine can shoot pointed bullets without the risk of the rounds in the magazine lighting off. These new bullets add a hundred or two hundred yards to the effective range of the Marlin or Winchester toting hunter, depending on the particular cartridge. With these rifles the problem is not whether or not the hunter can kill the critter it is the trajectory of the bullet. Past about 100 to 150 yards the old style bullets start dropping so quickly that a hunter needs to know the range to withing fifteen or twenty yards or the bullet misses the vitals.

These new bullets extend the range, a lot. The Hornady people say that it will be at least a year or so before these bullets are available to handloaders. Until then they are available as loaded ammo in .30-30 Winchester. .35 Remington, .444 Marlin, .45-70 Government and .450 Marlin. The .30-30 is now a reliable 250-300 yard deer rifle.

I resisted the temptation to load up on caps, T-shirt and factory second bullets, thanked everyone and went and picked up Linda Lou and Brian and we got on the road, early still. I did ask, those are soybeans growing everywhere that corn doesn't.

Next stop, Fort Kearny. Oddly this fort had no battles but it was important none the less. It was a major stop for both the Mormans going to Utah and the folks going on the Oregon Trail. Unfortunately we lost all the pictures in some sort of electonic camera accident.

The most amazing thing about Fort Kearny, to me, was a look at the handcarts with which the Mormans crossed to Salt Lake. No covered wagons, they walked, pushing and pulling handcarts with everything they were allowed to take, seventeen pounds of stuff per adult, ten pounds per child. I presume this included one big ol' Morman Bible per family. Each train had a couple of wagons for food and other supplies.

Driving off from the Fort we had a flat, I drove on the low tire to a place where we could safely pull off and air it up. We drove into Kearny and found a Wal Mart and bought another tire as we had weakened the sidewall. This is where the wheels started coming off the whole trip.

Anyway we got the tire on and drove on, we passed the museum at the Buffalo Bill Trading Post in North Platte as the tire took the time we would have spent there.

We turned southwest onto I-76 and drove into Denver where we spent the night.

More of the saga tomorrow.

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