Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Pete's in the Hospital

(A guest post by Harvey of Bad Example)

I got an e-mail from Shakey Pete that was a little disjointed, so I'll clean it up a bit for clarity, but here's what he said:

I am in the hospital, the morning after my last post, I had some kind of stroke attack. One of those awful things where I can't hardly make sentences. They did a big deal MRI and found that my left ventrical in my neck is way blocked. They're going to save that, and then try do get my speech back. I will be going into surgery, maybe tomorrow or the next day. I'll send more later.

If you're the praying type, this would probably be a good time.

I'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, Pete, I tidied up your work area for you :-)

Friday, August 26, 2005

Happy "Birthday"To Me.

It was kinda caught up and ignored in the excitement of goin' to town for a medical adventure but yesterday, the 25th, was my AA 'birthday' marking twenty years of sobriety. I'll be going to a Midnight meeting to pick up my medallion at the group that helped me sober up.

It's funny, the first AA meeting I ever attended was a Saturday night 'birthday meeting'. I wasn't sure I'd make it to the next afternoon, much less twenty years. Sure did make a difference in my life.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Out of Pocket

I'm going to be out of pocket at least all morning tomorrow. One of the downsides to not dying young is wear and tear on the body. Linda Lou is having an allegedly minor medical procedure tomorrow involving some kind of shot of steroids into her spine to relieve pain that is downright crippling at times. This procedure involves an epidural, that shot beloved of Moms everywhere.

We have no idea how long it will be before things wear off and we can start the journey back home, nor how long it will be before I can revert to my usual sloth. This may mean no Carnival of the Cordite post this week. There is a one hundred percent chance that Linda Lou will milk this for all it's worth, she enjoys being waited on.

To those of our family and friends that are inclined to worry and borrow trouble, the nurse that gave us the instructions about when to stop eating and drinking, etc, tells us that the biggest problem people report is that they try to do too much immediately following the procedure and end up with other parts hurting. There is absolutely no danger of that here.

There is considerable danger involved here, though. Two people who simply never go to bed before about two AM have to be up and on the road by seven, at the latest. Prayers should probably be better directed for the poor souls on the road betwixt here and Dallas.

Update: 2:00 PM, 08/25/05...Home safe, the procedure went without a hitch, so did the drive. Linda Lou reports that the worst pain was when the nurse put the IV in. The epidural hasn't worn off yet so we won't know whether or not it works. The Docs say that there's about a fifty-fifty chance of significant pain relief.If it works, well about three of these procedures per year will control her back pain. If it doesn't, we're looking at back surgery fairly soon, within the next year or so.

Thanks for the good wishes, that means a lot to us both.

Baby Boomlet?

Anybody else wonderin' if the now-fixed server outage at will result in a baby boomlet in nine months?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

New Link

I was getting an order for some gun cleaning supplies ready to go with one of my favorite companies, Sinclair International , when I realized I needed to ask a question. So I E-mailed their customer service people and, toward the end of the note I asked if they minded if I linked them. As usual, the answers to my questions were quick and authoritative.

The link to Sinclair will put you in touch with a company specializing in products for the accuracy minded shooter. The company supports high power rifle and benchrest rifle competition but the casual shooter and hunter will find much to look at there, too. Especially in their lineup of cleaning products. More shootin' irons are ruined by improper cleaning than any other single factor.

I'm not privy to their business plan but from the outside it looks as if it's pretty simple, only the best products, fast delivery and a staff that knows what they're doing. Don't shop Sinclair for the cheap shoddy stuff, though, you won't find it.

I'm proud to endorse them. The link is on the sidebar.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Don't Draw Conclusions From The Rockets

Surfing around yesterday I was struck by the desire from both the Left and the Right to draw conclusions about the state of al Qaida from the firing of three rockets in Jordan. Some on the Right wants to conclude that the ineffectiveness of the attack is proof that alQ is on it's last legs while some on the Left want us to believe that just the fact that the rockets were fired at all is proof that alQ is as strong as ever. I didn't bother collecting links, if you missed it Michelle Malkin has some, those links have other links which have links. She's right there on the sidebar.

Both conclusions are flat wrong. The first mistake both sides make is thinking of alQ as if it were one big organization. It's not, and never has been. Instead it is a loose confederation of many groups, loosely bound by by similar ideology. Some of these groups are deadly competent, others would screw up a two car funeral procession. Some have been completely wiped out or badly beaten by our, and other, military and security forces. Others have managed to avoid defeat, usually by not picking fights with the big boys. To try to draw conclusions about the whole confederation from one action of one affiliated group is a mistake.

We cannot even draw conclusions about this one small(?) part of al Q, the Abdullah al-Azzam Brigades of alQ, from this action. The only way to draw conclusions is to know the tactical and strategic goals they had in mind. From where I sit it was a miserable tactical failure. They missed the Navy's big gray canoe, and didn't draw a drop of Infidel Blood, except in Israel and that was a minor wound.

This points to some real incompetence by this particular group, if indeed the goal was to hit the boats. It starts with the choice of weapons, those three Katyusha Rockets. The Katyusha is an area weapon, designed to be used in a mass attack. It was hated and feared by Hitler's Wermacht on the Eastern Front in WWII. Mounted on those Lend Lease Studebaker Trucks, hundreds, and later in the war thousands, of them landed near simultaneously over a good-sized area. The concept was so good we Americans still have a much-modernized version in our arsenal. Yet those rockets are, unlike missiles or modern artillery guns, area weapons. An American Artillery unit, using guided shells would have gotten three hits on the boats, even using unguided rounds they would have hit with at least one.

So, if the goal was to sink the boats, utter failure. Suppose, though, the goal was simply to cause the ships to pull out of port? I can see a lot of propaganda and recruiting value in achieving that. In that case, the operation was a near total success. As I understand the Katyusha, one can set up the launchers, set the timers, which can be as simple as a long fuse, and leave. There's no reason the people that set the fuses couldn't be miles, countries or continents away by the time the rockets actually flew.

The Mideast is littered with Katyushas, both the real thing from the old SovBloc Days and homemade. One doesn't need to be a brain scientist or rocket surgeon to make them, all one needs is a rudimentary machine and electrical shop and the fuel and explosives, the Mideast has no shortage of any of those. The rockets are cheap, compared to other weapons and low risk. Put three on a truck, cover them up with cowsh, um, fertilizer, and drive them through the checkpoints, set up someplace semi-private, light the fuse and split.

So, what about this grandly named outfit that I've never heard of before? Are they dumber than a box of rocks, picking a small amount of area weaponry to hit a point target? Or are they diabolically clever fiends, achieving their goals with an absolute minimum risk? How does this relate to the overall strength of the other loosely confederated groups that comprise alQ?

I doubt even the people giving the President's Dailey Briefing know, I certainly don't. The only thing I know for sure is that I don't want to jump to a false conclusion guided only by my partisanship. I reveal enough of my own ignorance by accident. Partisan zealotry is not a replacement for solid information.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Dressed Up For The Next Comment Party

The Carnival of the Kidz is coming up soon. Let's jump in the time machine and visit early Spring, 1951. Here I was, just waiting for Algore to invent the internet so I can rescue the Bad Example Girls at a comment party.

Then there's Beauty and the Beast. Alexandra Dawn and Gramps in front of Outback Steakhouse. Just a note to all those future Lotharios out there. Gramps is old and his aim might not be what it once was, Alex has six (so far) brothers and cousins who won't be shakey.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Range Day, No Wonder I'm Wore Down

Up too early, sneaking 'round the house trying to avoid waking up Linda Lou and Captain Fatbob, the spoilled rotten Pug. Check E-Mail and Drudge, Malkin and Mudville. Okay, the world hasn't ended while I'm unconscious. Check my pulse while I get on the outside of my paltry coffee ration that my Docs let me have. Okay, I'm alive so it's safe to start the day. I might as well get dressed.

Start humping stuff to the car, rifle, a hundred rounds of ammo, cleaning cradle, cleaning gear. Since it's a hot day already, load the .22 so I'll have something to do while the barrel cools.

Targets, more ammo, front rest, rear bag. Little cooler, have to stop for ice and cold drinks. Car is loaded, do I have time for a nap? No? What a shame.

Hit the road, the most direct highway has got construction going so take the long way. First stop, load the cooler. Stomache flapping in the breeze, stop and get breakfast. Drive the long way, been a long time. Houses going up where we used to hunt birds, bunnies and deer.

Finally arrive at the range. Start carrying stuff, wondering why I wasn't born rich instead of so good looking, I could hire someone to carry all this crap. Pay my range fees, engage in grandbaby picture duel with Frank, the proprieter. We finally call it a draw and get to the important thing, checking out the new shootin' iron.

Finally set up on the fifty yard line, trudge out and set up a target, fire a three shot group to make sure I'm close enough to do the accuracy test at a hundred. Close enough, move the '06 to the hundred yard line, set the .22 on the fifty. Trudge out and get set up with targets for the .22 at fifty, the '06 at a hundred. It's hotter than the hinges of Hell. Barrel is too hot yet for another group so I shoot a couple groups with the .22. Realise that I forgot to bring my target scope so shoot with the little two to seven power hunting scope with that all day. A half a box of .22s and the Springfield's tube is cool enough for another group. Looking through the scope it looks like it's real close to an inch and a half or so. Woot!

Shoot the .22 some more, my bud Ace shows up. Another grandkid picture duel. I won. He thinks he won. Fire another group while Ace is setting up his Thompson Contender in .22 Hornet. This group even smaller. Back to the .22 while the tube cools down, that skinny barrel heats up fast.

The load of 59 grains of H4350 and the 150 grain Hornaday is a keeper, a little fine tuning on seating depth and I'll be able to blow the balls off a bull butterfly at 200 yards. Let the barrel cool some more, go in the range shack and soak up the air conditioning.

Try the next level up, 60 grains behind that same bullet. Holy Crap! Terrible group, over three inches. Me? The load? Scope mounts or rings came loose? Check the screws for tightness, they're okay. Go shoot the .22 while the barrel cools.

Another group with the 60 grain load, again terrible. This load just plain won't shoot. Funny how one small increment of powder can make such a difference. The people with big brains say that it's because of barrel harmonics. The barrel whips around and vibrates like a tuning fork under the stress of firing. The 59 grain load must spit the bullet out the muzzle in a 'dead spot' at one end or the other while the 60 grain exits during the maximum movement. Or something. I get headaches from trying to figure out why one load won't work while another will. All I know is that another rifle might shoot the sixty grain load better.

After the tube cools down again, Ace tries a group with the 59 gr. load, it's the diamond target. Both those targets pictured have one inch grids, both groups are minute of angle (In gunny talk, MOA). I'll fool with the seating depth a little and see if I can improve them, I doubt that I'll see a lot of improvement, though. To get much better than MOA takes a stronger scope than is practical in a hunting rifle. Just can't SEE the target well enough to aim much closer than an inch with the low power hunting scopes.

Anyway, the rifle shoots. It's sitting in the cleaning vise with a barrel full of Butch's Bore Shine busily disolving the copper fouling. My ass is dragging about three steps behind, everywhere I go. Still, it's been a productive week. I'm going to pull the bullets from those 60 grain loads and reload them at 59.

Next session I'll set up at two hundred yards and make sure the accuracy holds out. And those beautifully streamlined Hornaday A-Max Match Bullets are whispering to me.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Wore Out, Plumb To The Bone.

I'm too old and decrepit for this. I'm so wore out I can barely use my fingers to type. Saturday's Adventure (see post immediately Previous) started the process. Between the heat and the walking I tottered around all day Sunday like a little old man.

Monday I was halfway recovered so I spent the day futzing about with cartridges, trying to find a big enough batch of .30-06 cases big enough for the first real range session with the Springfield Sporter. Yes, I'll have a couple of pictures up in time for the next Carnival of the Cordite.

Somehow in the chaos of my gunroom I've managed to lose the tool that I use to set my seating depth. Now this is hardly a tragedy and it will eventually float to the top as I rummage around looking for something else. It's merely the result of having way too much stuff in too small a space. At any rate I found two batches of cases that were usable, 50 each of PMC and Federal cases that were more or less load-ready. The fifty Federal cases were pretty much 'as is' with nothing done to them in the way of match prep. The other fifty were from PMC and they had complete match prep done to them. Now, match prepping cases is of dubious value in the average sporter rifle and to thoroughly describe each step would make for the longest post ever in a blog noteworthy for excruciatingly long, technical posts. Someday I'll do a series on each step.

Until then, though, I'll just list the steps in the match prep process:. The primer flash holes had been deburred and the primer pockets uniformed. The case had all been trimmed to the same overall length and weighed with any case varying more than 0.5 percent from the weight of the 'perfect' weight discarded from the batch. Finally, all cases had been neckturned, ie, excess metal shaved off the outside of the caseneck in a little hand-powered 'minilathe' for uniformity and concentricity. I'd bet that there was at least sixteen hours total of handwork in those fifty cases. Some of those steps can now be done faster with power tools. Trouble is, given that I already have the hand-powered versions of these tools, I can't really justify the expense of shifting to the power version. Especially since the actual improvement in an off the shelf hunting rifle is fairly minor. The time spent in doing the work and the money spent on buying the tools could be more productively spent on the rifle itself, tweaking the bedding, lapping the bore and locking lugs and getting the trigger to a light, crisp two and a half pound pull. I really only match prep cases so as to have something to do with my hands while listening to the radio or watching TV, I smoke less that way.

Anyhow, with a hundred cases ready to go, I got busy. Those particular cases had last been messed with back more than five years ago so they went into the vibratory case tumbler to shine them up. Then I got busy cleaning the rifle. All I'd done was to wipe it down, put some Birchwood Casey Sheath rust preventative on the metal and run a few cleaning patches through the bore, leaving it wet with Butch's Bore shine is my normal practice in cleaning rifles, I wipe down the outside, wet the bore with Butch's and leave it overnight. Normally I then just dry patch the bore until I get fairly clean patches, run a couple-three more wet patches through and leave it again I think about it I'll dry patch again in a few hours, otherwise I leave it overnight and repeat the dry patching, then wet patch and leave it again. I like to let the solvent do the work instead of assing around with brushing and scrubbing. Most of the time it takes a week or more to clean a barrel. This time it was different, I wanted to catch the Tuesday crowd at my favorite rifle range. Why Tuesday?

Well, for years my days off were Mondays and Tuesdays. I shot every Tuesday, plus some little extra, but Tuesday was my day to go to that particular range, Gibson's Outpost in Mesquite, Texas. There are a hardcore few weekday shooters several that show up nearly every Tuesday, over the years I've become friends with them. One in particular is another retired lawman, Asa, H. We call him Ace. Ace is the best rifle shot off the bench I've ever seen and this includes people I've seen shoot in the formal Benchrest Competition. He regularly cusses at the blown shot in a group that I would cut out of my target and carry around to impress people with. If anyone can show me a rifle's true potential, it's Ace. Plus he loves to shoot. He'll happily shoot anything with a trigger, all he wants to see with an unknown combination of shootin' iron and load is to see the owner of that combo shoot it first.

So, I had to do the quick clean, scrubbing and brushing. That sure is a lot like work. After the cases were shined up, I lubed them and full length sized them, then back in the tumbler to get the Imperial Sizing Wax off them. Scrub some more on that bore while that's going on.

Finally, after the sizing lube got cleaned off, I got them out of the tumbler and primed them. Using the RCBS Hand Priming Tool, that was short work, about ten minutes.

It was also quick work choosing the load. What I had on hand were two hundred Hornaday bulk packed 150 grain flat based spitzer soft points. This is as good a bullet for white tailled deer as any on the market. In the over four and a half decades I've been messing with the .30-06 I've found that any bolt action '06 that didn't shoot well with a near-max charge of one of the various 4350 powders in the 150-180 grain range probably won't shoot anything very well. I had a fresh jug of Hodgdon's version, H4350. I usually do. H4350 is one of those powders that when I first crack a new jug, it means it's time to buy another canister. I flat don't understand how a man can keep house without a jug of H4350. Some do, it's a mystery.

Now there are other powders that give near universal good results in the '06 with this weight bullet, why do I go first for the 4350? It's simple. In the '06 case we get the maximum load by running out of room to put more powder in, not by maxing out the pressure. Give me a choice of not blowing an expensive rifle (and me) up because I can't or because I'm so smart, I'll pick 'I can't' every time. My smart quotient is variable. I'm quite capable of putting on the stupid hat and wearing it around all day.

The max allowed load is 61 grains of H4350, I chose to load fifty rounds at 59 grains and fifty at 60. I avoided trying to get that last one-seven-thousanths of a pound in, it simply raises the level of the powder into the charged case to where it's a pain to try to work with. No critter is ever gonna notice that twenty feet or so per second velocity gain and no shooter alive will ever be good enough to care about the near imperceptible difference in trajectory that a small difference like that would make. Since I had been unable to find the Stoney Point tool for picking the longest seating depth for a particular rifle's chamber and throat, I just seated the Hornaday bullet to the top of the crimping cannelure. One of the tweaks for improving accuracy in handloads is the adjusting of seating depth. Seating to the top of the cannelure makes for a fairly short overall length (OAL). This means that in further load development I have lots of leeway to go to a longer OAL. My experience is that fooling around with the OAL will not magically turn a bad load good. What it can do is turn an accurate load into a load that we brag about.

Finally, it's close to two in the morning, the rifle is clean, the ammo loaded and I fall into bed. Big day tomorrow.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Housekeeping , Scouting And Shooting.

I'm derelict in mentioning that the Carnival of Cordite has been up since Saturday. My apologies to Gullyborg, who does yoeman's work in assembling this.

I was out of the house all day Saturday. Seems that a member of my Son-in-law's church has a pretty good-sized piece of land about, oh, eighty miles or so due east of Dallas. The land has a small lake teeming with bass and catfish as well as some pretty good deer hunting. My SIL has wangled himself an invitation to go deer hunting and a half dozen of the the bunch that will be hunting there this fall spent the weekend camped out there. The plan was to shoot their rifles in, do a little fishing and to scout out the lay of the land.

Only one problem, my SIL has no deer rifle and has never hunted before. He's never even shot a .30-06 or other of the myriad cartridges suitable for light to medium big game. Nor did he have the time and money to score a suitable hunting rifle. Enter the hero of this piece, Gramps. There are a lot of things I don't know much about, rifles and tight money are things that I have intimate familiarity with.

The first obstacle was finding a proper rifle in the less than a week notice we had. As my first step in springing into action I arranged for the loan of a beater rifle. Still, not wanting the kid to be handicapped, we talked about what he'd like. An all-around cartridge, capable for any game in the US was the starting point. That means two cartridges, in my mind, either the .30-06 or 7mm Remington Mag. They are about the top level of recoil the typical new shooter can handle without much danger of picking up a hard to get rid of flinch.

A package rifle, from Wal-Mart was one option. Remington, Winchester, Savage and now even Weatherby all have rifles complete with low end scopes in the $400.00- $600.00 range. Call that option # one. Option # two was the used racks at a well-stocked gunshop. I got lucky with option # three.

I stopped by my gunsmith, Koenig's gun shop in Terrel, Texas. He had several sporterised Mausers and 1903 Springfields on his rack. One of them started screaming my name, a nicely sporterised Springfield, reminding me of the fine examples of shops like Parker Ackley and Griffin and Howe. This was the golden age of American hunting rifles. I decided right then, and bought this rifle. After all, if he doesn't want that rifle, I do. (Update: he loves it.) The trigger has been replaced by an adjustable Timney one stage and the military safety replaced by a Buehler. The scope mounds and rings are quality, they hold an inexpensive 3-9X BSA scope with a 50mm Objective lens. This will do until we can afford the better-quality Leupold. The barrel is a slender 23 inches long. The stock is a traditional American Walnut, with some nice figure. It's got a cheekpiece but no gawdawful Monte Carlo hump. The stock free floats that skinny barrel with a fairly pronounced pressure point at the forend tip.

What I didn't have was any factory ammo, nor time to work up a load for this particular rifle. My own .30-06 is an older Remington. The ammo I had on hand was necksized and the bullets were seated long to fit the rather generous chamber and throat of my rifle.

Some of the ammo was difficult to chamber, not impossible so I threw a couple of hundred rounds in a box, loaded up some other shootin' irons and ammo and drove out to where they were camping. I got halfway to Wills Point before I realized I'd forgot my thermos of coffee and my .45 Colt Ammo. Okay, I might someday need to be better-versed on that particular road.

Between some good directions and a cell phone network that covers a lot of open country, it wasn't hard to get there. First we all went for a walk, checking some likely hunting spots. We found one spot where the deer seem to pass as they go to and from water and a power line cut that looks likely.

We then went to a spot where the owners had bulldozed a dirt backstop. The range was about seventy-five yards or so, with a couple of very rickety 'benches' to shoot off. Trouble is, the bench, besides moving a lot, was too high to shoot sitting and too low for standing. Naturally I didn't have a prone pad along, either. Dumbass. Well, this meant a lot more ammo expended in getting sighted in. This being Texas in August, the handguns and .22 rifle got a lot of work while we waited for barrels to cool. Especially since there was no shade.

My generic open country deer load shot well. This load is 59 grains of H4350 behind the Sierra Prohunter 150 grain flat based soft point. I've never seen a bolt action .30-06 that shoots anything at all well do pretty fair with this load. Some might need a little tweaking with seating depth, primers or small adjustments in the charge, this time we managed several three shot groups with two holes touching and the third within an inch. Under those conditions, not bad at all. We shot until it was time for a late lunch, then everyone but me and my SIL got into the beer. Mmm, campstove chile. Yum. We spent some time in the shade and then shot some more, between passing large quantities of gas.

I'm getting off this now, I've got to full length size a batch of .30-06 cases and load some ammo that chambers easily and shoot off a real, solid bench to finish checking out this iron. I've two hundred of the Sierra bullets to work with, plus a hundred of Hornaday's 168 grain A-Max Target bullets. I'll shoot some pics, too, for the real range report.

Update: Not that it's terribly important in the grand scheme ogf things but I misidentified the 150 grain bullets, they're Hornaday, not Sierra.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Powder Charge In Handloading.

Much is made of the mystery of powder charges in handloading, it's actually the simplest step in the process. It's simply a matter of deciding what a particular load is for, deciding on the appropriate bullet and then picking the powder charge off the menu in the manual(s). Set the powder measure, check the charge weight that it actually throws, and we're in business. Handgun ammo is ridiculously easy with the Lee Autodisc Powder Measure. When used with the Lee Powder through expander Die the measure drops the charge right through the die as it bells the mouth of the case so we can start the bullet. Once my measure and die are set I can charge fifty cases and inspect them while the top of the hour news is on the radio and have a start on putting bullets in the cases before Rush comes back on.

Let's start with our favorite handgun. Mine is the .357 Magnum but it doesn't matter. The process is exactly the same for any cartridge. What do I want my loads to do? Well, I want a nice, easy on the hand and ear load for just plinking, informal target shooting and maybe teaching new shooters. I'll be burning up a lot of this ammo so economy is a priority, as is mild muzzle blast and fairly mild recoil. This means a cast or swaged lead bullet and a fairly small charge of fast burning pistol powder. Velocity isn't an issue as long as it's fast enough to get to the target before I'm tired of waiting around.

I also want a hunting load. My mild load is fine for small game but I want something that will put venison in the freezer. This calls for a heavily-constructed bullet and the highest velocity I can get with good accuracy. Since the .357 is a fairly small bullet, I'd like some expansion, on our smallish Texas Whitetails, this might be the Hornaday XPT Hollowpoint in 158 grains. For a bigger critter, like a Mulie, maybe the same weight Speer or Hornaday Jacketed Soft Points.

Last, I want a defense load. In today's climate most authorities insist on using factory ammo in a defense gun. I'm not going to argue about it. I'll just note that factory ammo is too expensive to practice with, so, whether or not I choose to carry factory ammo, I want a handload that recoils the same, has the same kind of muzzle blast and hits to the same point. That's not difficult, my preferred load in a service-sized revolver is the Federal 357B, their 125 grain jacketed hollow point at 1450 fps from the normal four inch barrel. The manuals are full of loads like that, 125 gr. at 1450 fps. It's not particularly difficult to find one that shoots and feels like the factory.

Note: At top pressures the load recipe should be followed exactly. The further away from the max load we are, the more we can change bullets, cases and primers.If I'm at the starting load of almost any recipe it is perfectly safe to use my own home-cast bullet of the same weight in place of a particular bulletmaker's swaged lead bullet, for instance. There will be a pressure and velocity difference. At starting pressures it won't be enough to cause safety issues. Once we get to the maximum loads we back down if we must change any component. They all have an impact on pressure, primers, cartridge case and changing bullets of the same weight. It's actually quite rare that changing from one bullet or primer to another will have disastrous results. It only takes once. Never change any component of a maximum load without dropping to the starting load and working back up.

So, lets open up a couple of manuals and see what we have to choose from...Hmm, my mild load is a 158 gr. cast bullet, , I'd like the velocity somewhere between 800 FPS and 1000 fps. My Hornaday Manual doesn't have cast bullets but does have swaged lead, close enough. Hmmm, seven powders to choose from. Nosler and manuals, no cast or swaged. Skip them. Speer Manual, wow. Six powders to choose from plus 14 (with some duplication) in .38 Special PlusP. Awk! An embarrassment of riches! Lyman Manual? Nine powders, fortunately some outside my velocity range. My Hodgdon Manual? Five powders, plus six with the same weight bullet in .38. I can go on, I've a LOT of manuals. Assume that I look in every manual I have, plus the websites. I come up with a bewildering array of powders, so now what?

Let's start by ignoring all the powders that give a higher listed velocity than what I want. That cuts down on the list some. Now, write down the powders and range of charges from each manual and website. Speer has Bullseye from 3.5 grains to 4.8. It's got others, too. Write them down, go to the next source of data, write them down. Once we've mined the data, let's look for the powders listed most often in our velocity range. This gets a little confusing sine the bullet makers list different kinds of powders and only their bullets and the powder makers list only their powders and different kinds of bullets. Don't let it bother you. Just make the list.

Now take that list and check off the duplications. If every bullet and bullet mould maker says that Alliant's Bullseye will give us what we want, it's a pretty good place to start looking, right? We aren't quite done yet, though, so we continue with the list. Since economy is important, lets look at the charge weights. Powder is sold by the pound and mostly costs pretty much the same per pound. Another Alliant Powder that fits our velocity window is Unique. Hmmm, same velocity window with a charge range of 4.7 grains to 6.0 grains. All else being equal the per charge cost of our handloads is going to be half again as much. Let's put Bull higher on the list than Unique. We're trying to save money, right? The only reasons to use a less economical powder charge are if we're loading for several cartridges and one powder will fill more slots than another or, if the most economical powder doesn't give acceptable accuracy. Unacceptable accuracy is fairly rare, the folks that write the manuals do a pretty good job of weeding out loads that don't work.

We're almost done choosing our powder. Now it's time to go shopping. Go to the gunshop that stocks powder with your list. It's financial madness to pay the $20.00 Hazmat fee to mailorder a pound of powder. What's on the shelf? There are some GREAT powders that have come out recently, the Ramshot and VhitaVouri lines come to mind. Trouble is, they haven't really the wide distribution that more established brands like Alliant, Winchester, Hodgdon and Accurate Arms. We can mailorder them but there's that pesky Hazmat fee. Don't be afraid to ask if the top powder on the list is one they always stock. It's frustrating to spend time and money working up a load only to find that we can't buy another jug of that powder when we run out. I've quit using Winchester Powders entirely because they keep introducing, and then dropping powders. I know they've kept 231 in their line since Columbus was a cabin boy but they've just ticked me off too many times. Too bad I'm so stubborn, 231 is great powder for light loads.

Now, we've bought our first jug of powder. Set the measure according to the directions and charge the case. Throw that charge back in the hopper, repeat three or four times more. We're settling the powder in the hopper. The first few charges are always erratic. Now, check your charge weight on your scale. It should be fairly close to the starting load. NEVER START WITH A MAXIMUM LISTED LOAD!!! Ever. As we learn to use our powder measure constantly it's a pretty good idea to weigh each charge. Variations on the handle pressure make for variations in the charge weight. As we learn consistency we can go to weighing a sample, say every tenth charge. With the Autodisc powder measure, once I learned consistency I weigh the first and last charge of a box of fifty when I'm not at the ragged edge of max pressure. The more complicated measure I use for my rifle ammo gets checkweighed more often. Once we learn enough consistency to keep our charge weight variation smaller than about two tenths or so of a grain, we're ready for check weighing rather than weighing individual charges. The more expensive electronic scales are well worth the money, they're so much faster and easier to use. The PACT BBK is the most economical of the electronics.

Set each charged case in the loading block. Take a little flashlight and look into each case. Make sure you see a powder charge and that they are all about the same level. It's probably not a good idea to use a match or candle. Note, there will be slight variations in the level between a charge thrown directly from the measure and a weighed charge, even though they weigh the same. It's all in how fast or slow the powder drops as to how it compacts. Trickle the powder very slowly through the funnel and a long drop tube we can get a lot more of the same kind of powder into a case than just throwing it from the measure. Not that this is important on these light loads, it makes a difference on some maximum loads, though. What we are looking for is missing charges or double charges. Slight variation in the charge level is normal. Double charged cases are disasters. It's a good idea to drop a normal charge and a double charge and look at the difference. Just don't forget to dump that double charge.

The process of choosing a powder charge is exaxtly the same, no matter what firearm we are loading for and whether or not we're loading for top velocity, mild recoil or extreme accuracy. We look at all the data we can and start with what seems to work best for the most people. Many sources of data will mention things like the most accurate load tested with each bullet. Beware of any data that seems out of line with other sources. Be especially careful with load data from internet sites like M. D. Waite's and Steve's Pages. I've never found bad data on those two, still I always check their data with other sources. I HAVE found bad data on the Internet, some from typos, some from idiots. I'm not linking websites that have data in this series, this is on purpose. Buy the latest editions of a couple of the big bulletmakers like Speer, Sierra and Hornaday. The bigger powdermakers offer free pamphlet-type manuals, usually available where powder is sold. This data is pressure tested. The data drom my forty+ years of handloading is not. I have data not found in manuals in my notes. I would never share that as it was worked up in individual firearms while I relied on very imprecise and subjective means of jusdging the safety of those loads. I accepted the risks of doing that for myself, I have no right to accept those risks for others.

Once we've shot up a pound or two of powder we can start experimenting. I've gone to Hodgdon's Titegroup for just about all my mild loads, the reasons for that are in the June Achives of this site, titled "Titegroup And LilGun, Two Powders From Hodgdon".

Okay, we're ready to seat the bullets, that's next week. It's a whole lot easier to do the charging of cases than it is to explain how to charge cases. Actually, it's a lot easier to do than to explain pretty much every step of the loading process.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Black Powder And The .45 Colt, A Range Report.

Picture One: What a mess! Fired cases in soapy water.

Pictue Two.Typical five shot group with Smokeless. The load is a 252 Lee cast bullet with Lee's Tumblelube over 6.1 grains of Hodgdon's Titegroup powder. Winchester Large Pistol primer in a Starline case.

Picture Three: Typical black Powder Group. Same bullet, 35 grains of Goex FFG Black Powder.

Picture Five: Loading Sequence. Left to right, Bullet, Empty Case, Case with the mouth belled and powder charge, Beeswax overpowder wad, 'grease cookie, card wad, complete round.

Picture Six: Cimarron Arms Model P. A Clone of the old Colt Single Action Army.

Note: Please don't ask why the pictures won't go where I put them, I'm still learning this posting pictures thing.

Those interested in my doings know that I've been fooling around with the .45 Colt cartridge, aka the .45 Long Colt to distinguish it from all of the other .45 cartridges out there, like that newfangled Automatic Colt Pistol cartridge that John Browning came up with in 1911 or so.

The .45 Colt was developed in 1873 to go with the first Colt Single Action Army Revolver, the old 'cowboy six shooter'. The original load was 40 grains of Black Powder behind a 250 or 255 grain lead bullet. That loading pushed the bullet at right around 900 feet per second making it the most powerful handgun cartridge in the world. It remained the most powerful right up until Major Doug Wesson, with the advice of Phil Sharpe and Elmer Keith, brought out the .357 Magnum in the mid-1930s.

I don't know that the Docs will ever get me steady enough to be able to compete in cowboy action shooting, if that miracle should happen I'd like to compete in the Traditional Class, meaning that I have to use the old Black Powder loads. So, I've been fooling around trying to teach myself how to load safe and accurate BP loads in this cartridge.

Things are different today than in the old days, the cartridge cases aren't the old 'balloon head' anymore and they're much thicker so there is simply no way to get that much powder into the cases. Also different is the quality of the powder itself. In order to keep our revolvers functioning we must now add something to the load in order to keep the fouling soft enough that it doesn't bind everything up. Actually, I'm not positive that this harder fouling is due to problems with the powder or we've just lost the formula for the bullet lubes used in those days. I'm also not sure if we've not changed the design of the bullets themselves. The grease grooves may not hold as much lubricant. Whatever those changes actually are, there is a lot of extra messing around to do if we want our BP loads to function for an extended shooting string. With smokeless powder it's merely a matter of sizing the case, belling the mouth so we can start a bullet, adding the powder charge then seating and crimping the bullet.

With Black we must add a beeswax overpowder wad, a 'grease cookie', and a card wad. This is what the sequence looks like and click the pic tiled 'loading sequence'. The good news is that I managed to fire one hundred rounds of both Black Powder and Pyrodex replica Black Powder loads without having to take the revolver down for cleaning was perfect. The bad news? I'm still learning how to keep the extra lubricant in the 'grease cookie' from contaminating some of the powder. Some of the loads were noticeably weak and examination of the fired cases of those showed a big ol' lump of half-melted wax stuck on the side of the case with a big lump of greasy unburned powder stuck to it.. Apparently I need to find a better way to keep the overpowder beeswax wad from turning sideways as I compress everything during the bullet seating. Still, I'm making progress. Look up there for a typical five shot group from the BP loads and a comparable group from the same bullet and 6.1 grains of Hodgdon's Titegroup (smokeless) powder. I suspect I'm using too much powder and squeezing some of the lube past the wad, into the powder. Those BP loads are REALLY compressed. Look at the loading sequence again. See how the nose of the bullet has been swaged into a somewhat different shape during seating?

Just for fun, here is the bucket of fired cases in soapy water. Yes, one hundred rounds of BP ammo does make a mess. I should have taken a picture of the shootin' iron, it was barely recognizable.

I'm trying to decide if all this extra work is worthwhile. I can see why Grandpa was so happy to see Smokeless come along.

Lessons learned? Several. Never shoot one hundred rounds of BP ammo in a session again. I can't recall workin' this hard to get a shootin' iron clean since 1964 when it had to pass inspection by a gimlet-eyed Drill Instructor. A little less BP in these loads for less compression. Work a little harder at getting the beeswax overpowder wad started straight in the case. Learn how to make the pictures post where I click the icon. And never, ever try to put this many pictures in a post until we get something faster than this poor ol' dialup out here in the sticks. I'm flat sick of sittin' here playin' solitaire, waitin'.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Kindness of Strangers

Woke up this morning in a pool of sweat. Seems our air conditioner had bitten the dust, or so I thought. The inside unit was blowin' and blowin', nice warm Texas August air. I took a look, the fan in the outside compressor unit wasn't moving. Oh, foo and many other colorful expressions. I spun the fan, it wasn't a bearing. I messed with the circuit breakers, no joy. More colorful comments.

I know a lot of people, unfortunately none in the AC biz so I did what any other technology-challenged individual does, called someone in the Yellow Pages. The feller I spoke with said it would be at least a couple of days before he could do much more than look at it and order the needed parts and that it was about fifty bucks for that call.

He asked me what the unit was doing told him that the outside fan was not working but that it spun freely so it wasn't the bearing.

He told me to take the cover off and see if the ants had gotten into the switches, preventing the switches from making contact. That was the problem, some Raid, some Fire Ant bait and a good spray with canned air and we're blowing cool air again.

The house is cooling off and the AC repair guy didn't make a dime. I wonder what kind of pie he likes? With what I know about air conditioners he could have soaked us big time. We owe him at least a pie.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Always the Last With The News

I don't know why but I haven't clicked on one of my usual daily reads, Ma Deuce Gunner, for a week or so. Mike , a Corporal in either the Idaho National Guard or the Army Reserve is a gunner, specifically he sits atop a truck and operates one of John Moses Browning's brainchildren, the M2 fifty Caliber Machine Gun, Ma Deuce. His blog seems to be mainly a way to let his family and friends know what he's up to. Since I've never met Mike I cannot count myself as his friend, which is my loss, not his. He's family, though, as are all the young men and women wearing Uncle's suit. We're different generations and the shade of green he wears is slightly different than the shade I wore, but family none the less.

Mike is home in Idaho on his R&R from the Sandbox, to return in about ten days or so. Those who are inclined to have an occasional libation, raise a glass toward Idaho. Those of us who don't drink might wing good thoughts his way. Me? He's one of the young men who puts a name and a face to use in my daily prayers. I am not nearly arrogant enough to think that I know God's plan. I do know He hears my prayers, the popping and cracking of these arthritic old knees as I assume the position just has to get His attention.

Mike is one of the good guys. One of many who made it possible for my grandchildren to sleep safe in their beds again last night. Thanks, Mike. Enjoy. May your R&R be memorable and your next homecoming even better.

Note to self: Update that blogroll!

Friday, August 05, 2005

Take The Kids To The Carnival!

The latest Carnival of the Cordite (#25) is up at Resistance is Futile. As usual, loads of range reports, gun reviews and Second Amendment information and opinion.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Ethan and Gramps.

This is Ethan, one of my Grandsons. Anybody doesn't think he's a handsome and sturdy lad had best be out of rifle shot. The less said about the old fart holding him, the better.

Priming the Case.

The next step after sizing or resizing the cartridge case is priming. Every loading press has some way to prime the case. I know we're trying to pinch pennies here but forget that. The loading press has far too much leverage for the job, so much so that we can't feel the primer bottom out. Anyhow, unless one buys the automatic primer feed, priming on the press is just way too slow. If we want to buy the auto primer feed we might as well buy the hand tool. RCBS and Lee each make one. I prefer, in this case, the RCBS. The Lee is actually a bit faster but the pot metal lever tends to break after five or ten thousand rounds. That's okay for the box of shells a month shooter, maybe, but not for the guy, or gal, running through a thousand or more rounds per week. Whichever priming tool you choose, read the directions. Three times.

The RCBS hand priming tool has another feature I like, a steel stamping that keeps the primers in the tray from contact with the primer being seated. In the forty-five plus years I've been rolling my own I've only had about three or four primers pop while being seated. Still, that tray holds a whole box of one hundred primers, the detonation of one could cause more to pop off. One primer going off didn't ever hurt me, a hundred at once? That would cause damage. Now is a good time to put this in...Pardon the raised voice. ALWAYS, ALWAYS WEAR SOME GOOD EYE PROTECTION WHEN PRIMING CARTRIDGE CASES!!! As a matter of fact, wear eye protection when engaged in anything to do with shooting or handloading. Even something as mundane as getting clean cases out of the tumbler. I once spent an hour with an eyewash thing getting a piece of ground walnut shell out of an eye, I was shaking the tumbling media out of a case just a bit too vigorously. This was before these durned bifocals. Think I'm woofin' about eye protection while doing anything shooting related? Try getting a drop or so of bore solvent in an eye while cleaning your shootin' iron. If we have enough solvent in the bore to do any good it will spray when the brush exits the bore. That stuff smarts.

Okay. I haven't yet mentioned this in this series so now I will. Every time you go to the range, scrounge around for those plastic inserts they put in the cartridge boxes of factory ammo. There's no such thing as too many of them. They're useful in holding the brass in between stages of loading it. I have some eight or ten thousand .357 and .38 Special cases, every one that isn't loaded is either in those inserts or those coffee cans with plastic lids. I've only been shooting and loading the .45 Colt cartridge for about eight months, I only have 750 or so of those. They too are in those 'blocks' and coffee cans. Don't drink coffee? Buy some Tupperware, or the supermarket equivalent.

Okay, ready to prime some cases? Clean off a space on your bench. Set a box of cartridges in that plastic block down. Lay the tray from your priming tool down and take the clear top off your box of one hundred primers and lay it over the tray. Now slide the box out of it's cardboard sleeve, slow and easy. The primers are in ten rows of ten. You'll feel and hear each row drop onto the tray. If you're only priming one box of fifty (or twenty for that matter) drop only fifty primers.(or twenty). Now, close that box up if there are primers left, if you're priming a hundred, throw it away. All of the primers must be anvil up on the tray. They won't start that way. Shake the tray gently, in a circular motion. Gently, we don't want primers flyin' all over Hell's half acre. See those circular grooves on the tray? The feet of the anvils catch in those grooves and flip the primer over. Once I'm down to the last two or three upside down primers I usually give up and flip the last couple by hand. Make sure your fingers are clean and dry before touching the primer. Before we put the clear cover back on and insert the tray into the body of the tool, take a primer and give it a close look. See how the feet of the anvil stick out past the cup a tiny bit? A primer isn't fully seated until those feet are flush with the cup. Don't worry, you'll feel it when it happens.

Note: In the old days the slightest bit of sweat, skin oil or case lube could kill a primer. Primer sealants have improved a lot over the last few decades but it's still best to handle those primers as little as possible.

Okay, we're almost ready...before starting did we scrape out the thick carbon from the primer pockets? If we have a case tumbler, look to see if there's any tumbling media stuck in a flash hole. Last chance to get it right. Take that block of cartridge cases, put one hand, or a piece of cardboard over the cartridges and flip it over on the bench. Slide your hand or cardboard out from under and now lift the block off. Most of the cases will be standing base down. Don't worry if some fall over, it doesn't hurt anything, just slows us down a tad. Lay the block back down next to the cases. As we load a few boxes we'll adjust the placement for speed and to minimize fatigue. Now, pick up the priming tool in your strong hand, a cartridge case in your left. Slide the case into the shell holder and squeeze the handle. You'll feel the primer start into the primer pocket, then as those feet bottom out, you'll feel a slight increase in the resistance as we push the lever through to the stop. Voila! A primed case. Put it in the plastic block. As we develop a rhythm our speed increases. Don't force the speed, it will come. As you prime, work on eliminating wasted motion. I pick up a case in my left hand, slide it into the shell holder, and, unless it's a real short case like the 9mm Lugar, never turn loose, I seat the primer, slide the case out, put it in the block and pick up another case on the return trip. Starting from scratch I can prime a hundred cases in less than five minutes.

Note. Do NOT have the mouth of the case pointing at your face while seating a primer. Don't have your finger over the mouth of the case, either. It's real rare to have a primer pop, it's not unheard of. That primer flame is hot enough to give a real owie. It won't kill us, but there is enough unavoidable pain in life already.

Until we're experienced in seating primers, there is one more step. Lay a piece of glass like a hand mirror down and set those primed cases mouth up and give the mirror a little shake. Just do a few at a time at first so you can see if they wobble. Any case that wobbles has a high primer. High primers are a Bad Thing. They cause misfires and unintended Loud Noises. They can cause a KABOOM! That primer should be about two thou below flush with the casehead.Any cases that wobble should go back into the shellholder and get scooched down where they belong. Take your time with this, after a thousand or so, you'll develop such a feel for the operation that you'll be able to omit the step. If it feels funny when I seat a primer I set that case aside, when I finish the box, I give it a close look. Anything wrong I fix it then.

Remember, don't hurry. Speed comes with rhythm and eliminating wasted motion.

There are several brands of each size of primer. There are also Match Primers available. They vary as to each manufacturer's idea of the 'best' cup hardness and tiny variants in the priming compound. There is often a noticeable difference in pressure, velocity and accuracy found when we switch primers. I own one revolver that misfires when using CCI primers, their cups seem to be harder than the Winchester and Federal primers I use instead. I just avoid buying small pistol primers in the CCI brand, that way I don't have to worry.

Unless your load is already at max pressure, we don't really have to worry about switching primers. If we're at the red line then back off on the powder charge a little before experimenting. This is true of any change in components. We can always work back up. Rule of thumb: Changing primers will not make a horribly inaccurate load good. Changing primers can make a good load better.

As we load, fire and reload our cartridge cases the primer pockets will eventually loosen. The higher the pressure, the faster this happens. At the very max pressure a primer pocket will start getting loose after only two or three firings. There is no reason to run those kind of pressures my loading, if I can't get at least six loads out of a case before the primer pocket loosens, I back the charge down a little until I can. I've done a lot of chronograph testing and there is little velocity gain in the two times before they're loose and the six time loads. Since ninety percent of my handloading is for putting holes in a paper target, I tend to use new cases for max loads, only using them once or twice more at that level before I relegate them to easy shootin' mild loads. There's no reason to load max loads all the time, just like we don't drive a hundred miles an hour to go grocery shopping. Not one shooter in a hundred owns a chronograph, not one chronograph owner in a hundred owns an Oehler Model 43 Personal Ballistics Laboratory. Google that, check the price and see why. Us po' folks have to rely on case life to tell when pressures are getting too high. Don't go 'round eating up your safety margin for no good reason.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Joining the Blogswarm

I'm joining a blogswarm. Venomous Kate of Electric Venom has had a nasty bike accident and has wiped out eight of her front teeth. Her insurance company is being difficult and, although an appeal may eventually force her insurer into covering at least some of the repair, that does her no good right now. Go over and help if you can.

Kate was one of the very first bloggers I ever read and the very first blogger to allow me to guest post, actually she posted a letter I wrote her about a fallen Marine. Please, though, don't hold it against her that I'm blogging. Kate opened up a new world for me when I badly needed a way to fill a lot of empty hours. She gave unstintingly of herself helping new bloggers get going. (Much like Harvey does) I would go so far as to say that there are at least a hundred or so very good blogs that never would've gotten off the ground without her help.

I know Kate as well as I know any blogger that I've yet to meet in person, I know she wouldn't be asking for help unless she badly needed it. I know something else, too. If, after receiving this help, her appeal of her insurance coverage is successful, all or in part, what money she's collected won't be used for personal gain.

Kate is one of the good guys, well, gals.

Test for Pictures

Okay, let's see if this works...
Well! Except for the slight problem of thinking this picture from 1951 of your humble host being somewhat out of focus, there it is. WOOT!

Now I can bore you with pictures to go with my interminable posts.

Monday, August 01, 2005


I have lost my speaking tongue, sort of. I am in the hopital now. I'm not quite speaking Parsetongue, but something. I will be back later, after my roomate has gone to bed. I had a stroke, it doesn't seem too bad except I can not spell, or hardly speak.

Personal Ad? Sort Of.

I need a co-blogger. There are a variety of reasons why, chief among them include the rather narrow fields of interest and knowledge that I have, and my inability to post pictures.

I do not require any co-blogger to march in complete lockstep but a generally conservative/libertarian (small 'L') viewpoint would be needed.

What would be required is that once, perhaps twice, per week, this co-blogger be willing and able to post pictures that I'd send via E-mail on shooting and handloading posts that I write. Please don't ask why I can E-mail pics and not post them, it's a mystery that neither I, nor my engineer son-in-law can figure out. Nor can my blogpappy Harv.

The only editorial control that I demand is that there be no grandchild-unsafe words used. I have been known to use ugly words from time to time in my life, some say that I use more than my share. Just not here, on this blog. The main purpose of this blog, from my point of view is that a person with no experience with firearms or the safe handloading of ammunition will, even without a hands-on coach, be able to learn these essential skills. Since shooting is very much a family sport it is my policy to have no words on this site that Mom or Dad can't read to younger children or feel safe in letting older children poke around this blog unsupervised. (Umm, careful with the blogroll, mmkay?)

So, anyone that would like to dip a toe into blogging and is somewhat computer and internet savvy is cordially invited to look 'round this site. If you think that you'd fit, drop me a line. I'm not particularly interested in your age, race, gender or sexual orientation, nor would physical handicap be an issue. Mental handicaps are already pretty well represented, though. This theoretical co-blogger need, and probably shouldn't, feel compelled to blog about guns and shooting, this blog is already of narrow interest. Someone writing about other things than what I do would probably make for a more interesting site. I may draw the line at catblogging, although huntin' dogs might be fun.