Monday, December 31, 2007

Kids, Savages, Getting Started & Getting Restarted

I was thinking I’d better post something before Buckshot wrote something about loading a 300 Weatherby with Bullseye and soggy dog biscuits behind a cast lead bullet and blowing his chronograph over with the muzzle blast at 20 feet. I hope I’m not too late.

I thought about explaining why I haven’t posted in months but every blog I’ve looked at the last few days is starting out “sorry for the light posting…” I ain’t sorry about it. I’d be sorry of I had posted something when I had nothing worth saying.

Here’s how I did my part to get a couple of innocent youngsters initiated into the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. Well, they are home schooled and say “yes sir” and “yes mam” so maybe I didn’t initiate them. I sure did my best to slick up the slippery slope and push ‘em down as far as they wanted to slide.

While at the in-laws for the obligatory Christmas Dinner, my brother in law (the one from the Light Side of the Force) said that he wanted to go to the Hernando Sportsman's Club so his 2 oldest kids could learn to shoot. He was off work all last week and we were slow at my office so we went on Thursday. Unfortunately, because my dog took a lot longer at the Vet’s than I had anticipated, I made us run an hour late. By the time we gassed up and bought a pile of 22 LR at Wally World we wound up getting to the range at 1:30. They close at 2:00. Fortunately, they shoot in the evenings on Thursdays so we killed some time and came back at 5:00 PM to shoot. It turned out to be a good thing.

We staked out 3 benches, put out our targets and had a serious safety talk. Under close supervision, the kids started with my wife's Marlin Buckaroo. At first they tried to work the bolt gently but it was hard to close fully like that. It cocks on closing and uses a camming action. I showed them the angled edges, explained that it took a little force to get it done and suggested using the palm of the hand instead of fingertips. Once they weren’t concerned about breaking anything, they cut loose and got into working the bolt with authority. Pretty soon, the oldest was almost like a miniature sized right handed version of the left handed sniper guy in Private Ryan. Bang, clack – clack and an empty lands on my bench.

I wanted to sight in my NEF 22 Hornet but kept having trouble because we were shooting at 25 yards for the kid’s sake and it kept putting all the bullets in the same hole. Even with binoculars it was hard to tell what it was doing. The kids went nuts over that and burned through half a box of Hornets before their dad quietly asked them to go back to the 22LR because it is less expensive. (He doesn't know anything about reloading yet. To me they were just "making brass" so it was no big deal).

The day wasn’t all about the kids though. I brought a few works in progress to test drive myself. To make a very long story short, while looking for a Savage Model 99 in 250-3000 Savage, I stumbled on a Savage Model 1899 in .303 Savage at my favorite local gun shop. Its bore was dark and foreboding but showed some signs of lands and grooves in a generally spiral pattern. I must have paid too much attention to it because it followed me home before the 250-3000 was even delivered to my dealer. I wound up with both of them. The .303 Savage actually cleaned up pretty well. Grooves still dark but sharp, shiny lands. .303 Savage is a pretty obscure caliber these days so components and tools took a while to accumulate. Things eventually came together but it was a long time before I got to do anything with it. This was my first real opportunity to do any shooting with it.

There’s a little data on the .303 Savage on the internet and my Lee manual has some that is really 30-30 data reduced 10% (why its reduced is beyond me but that’s what they give you). I used regular data for a 30-30 with 170 grain bullets loaded into .303 Savage cases. Before I even tried any of those I had some 190 grain bullets made by Hawk. The .303 Savage was originally loaded with 190 grain round nose bullets and it just seemed like the thing to do. I couldn’t find any data for 190 grain jacketed bullets so I bought Quickload and let it make some suggestions. Those 30-30 data loads proved to be wimpy. There was no sensation of recoil at all. After just a couple of those I switched to the 190 grain Hawk round tips and things livened up. You could tell you were shooting a center fire rifle. Having been beaten black and blue by a 50 Beowulf moments before (another work in progress), I could feel the Savage’s crescent steel butt plate every time the rifle fired. Not painful but definitely more there than with the 30-30 data loads.

In using the 190 grain data from Quickload and had loaded up a few in 1/2 grain steps (3 cartridges per step with the charge weight and powder type written in magic marker on each case) starting at 10% below what it said should be maximum right on up to the max. It was either that or fire 3 rounds and drive an hour and a half back home, load 3 more rounds and drive back to see how they shot. I have bullet pullers so taking the unused ones apart is no big deal.

By the time we got them set up and going, there wasn't enough light for my chronograph to work. I also had it set up way too close. Sometimes it read my muzzle blast or the flash from the AR10 next to us but never the bullet. When they turned on the fluorescent lights over the benches it read them. Whatever. I haven’t chronographed anything in 10+ years so a few more days won’t hurt (much).

I never did get near the maximum because the primers started to get flatter than I wanted for a low pressure round like the 303Sav. I switched to the 250-3000. I had loaded 75 grain and 90 grain Barnes X bullets (the old kind, not the TSX) with data out of the Barnes manual. I considered it a little suspect because my (new Winchester) cases wouldn't even hold the book's maximum charge when filled to the case mouth. The most they would hold with a 75 grain bullet seated was 2 grains below the book's maximum load. I loaded several rounds in increments of ½ a grain from the starting load up to 2 grains below their max. (since that’s as close as would fit in the case with a bullet seated). Again, I stopped shooting well short of the hottest load due to pressure signs. I reckon that’s why they say to start low and work up.

On Saturday, I dug out the empties to compare pressure signs. I know that you can’t tell anything with any degree of accuracy from flattened primers or case head expansion but if your starting load isn’t flattened or the case head overly expanded with one load and one with 2 more grains of powder is, you CAN tell a couple of things. You can tell that the second load is hotter than the first one and you can tell that you shouldn’t be shooting the hotter load. You can’t tell how hot it is but you can tell that its too hot.

Again, the 250-3000 ammo was loaded with data right out of Barnes’ manual. Just for fun, I plugged their max load with H 414 and the 75 grain X bullet into Quickload. One of the things it does is predict pressure. It predicted over 65,500 psi. Is that number accurate? Who knows? I don’t have any way of measuring pressure (yet). It does tend to agree with the primers and the case heads on the hotter of the loads that I fired so if its not accurate to the last pound psi, its still accurate as far as telling me not to put that much H 414 in a 250-3000 Savage case again. That kind of pressure might be OK in a 25 WSSM or a 257 Weatherby but not in a 50 year old Savage Model 99.

I also wanted to swap scopes because the one on the 250-3000 was canted and I just didn’t like it all that much. The guy that I bought the rifle from claimed to have hunted with the gun often but I no longer believe that. I think he stuck a crummy, used old scope on it when he sold it. I put a nice, new Leupold 4x scope on it the day after we went to the range. The rifle has a Buehler mount on it. Its similar to a Redfield in that it has the two opposing screws at the rear of the base that can be used as windage adjustments. The rear screws were not even tight. Sure. I always leave the back end of my scope wagging around the receiver when I go to hunt. Gives the deer a better chance to escape. Rather sporting of me, don’t you think?

So I don't have any chronograph readings to report (yet) but the rifles told me everything else I expected of them. I've never been able to approach a max book load with the X bullets in my 25-06 and the 250-3000 behaved the same way. Nothing earth shaking there. My main concern with the 250-3000 was bullet stabilization in my rifle’s slow twist barrel. All the bullet holes in the target were nice and round so we did confirm that we don't have to worry about that. I wasn't trying to shoot a decent group with either rifle. I was just trying to get the bullets over the chronograph and was using the target as a general aiming point. No grouping info either but who cares? I didn’t shoot the chronograph, I found out what I needed to know and we all had a blast. While I wasn’t looking, the kids and their dad went through more than 350 rounds of .22 LR. What could be wrong with that?

More on the various Savage rifles later.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Range Report

Despite made up, speculative misinformation provided by a friend not involved in the range building project, no specific visible progress was made on the range over the last few days. The exact site is again up for speculation due to some large trees that suddenly grew up in the way and the guys with the earth moving equipment were very honest. Their boss told the Rangelord that he was welcome to ask them to do some work for him and he could pay them cash. He just forgot to tell them that. They didn't want to talk about it until their boss said it was OK. I think that's really cool. The boss will tell them its OK so its not a problem.

The site should be worked out by the weekend and even the site work should be done by then too.

Hope springs eternal.

Get in the Kahr

A Kahr PM40 followed me home yesterday. Those who know me know that I am a big fan of the "if it ain't broke don't fix it"school of thought. That means revolvers, 98 Mausers, 99 Savages and 1911 autos mostly and calibers like 300 Savage, 30-06 and 45 ACP. So why did I order the thing in 40 in the first place?

I really wanted the Kahr 45 but I saw a lot of talk on the internet about problems. Several people that love their 40 or their 9mm Kahr were very unhappy with the 45. One guy reported that his frame broke and it took 2 months to get it replaced. He said he was afraid to shoot the new one because he didn't want to go through that again if it broke. Mentally, I chalked that up to early production difficulties that were probably already worked out. Many fine firearms have hit the market over the years and then been found to have inherent problems that cause production to stop while slight changes are made. Not a big deal. It can happen with any precision machine. Then I started to wonder how I would know whether the 45 that I order would be one with a problem or one without. I mean before finding out the hard way.

On the other hand, nobody had a problem with the 40 or the 9mm. They are a tad smaller than the 45 too.

The idea kind of sat there until a few days ago when a woman in Orlando was killed in her own back yard by a neighbor's pit bull. The TV news interviewed her husband (I think that showing people in anguish must boost ratings) and he had run out of the house to try to help. Unarmed against a dog bread to beat up bulls, there was nothing that he could do. The neighbor tried too and lost a thumb for her efforts. Closer to home, a friend's prize winning Llama was killed a few months prior to that in the same way by a pit bull while she was away at work. It does happen.

Through the broadcast and the subsequent re-broadcasts of the Orlando story I kept wondering why no one had a gun or a knife. That's not to belittle the tragedy, it just made me wonder why nobody involved had a tool that could stop the dog in time to save the woman's life. A big butcher knife would have been better than nothing. One of our neighbors has a huge, vicious dog that does get out of their yard occasionally. I have seen it in my back yard late at night and it did try to attack me and my wife one evening as we tried to walk down the block. (Perhaps that will be in another post some day). It does happen.

Because I live in Florida, I don't have the option of carrying a pistol in a holster under a jacket or sweater more than a few weeks out of the year. I have an Officer's-sized Kimber in 45 ACP but, heaven help me, the gun that's always with me all the time except in the shower or in bed is a 380. Specifically, its a Kel Tec P3AT. This is absolutely a fantastic little pistol that is perfect for concealed carry and pretty inexpensive. It is small and light and while the the 380 round isn't known for its stopping power, it isn't quite what I'd call a pipsqueak. Still, if I had to rush out of the house to keep the neighbor's dog from killing my wife or a neighbor I'd most likely be armed with a 380. Would it do the job? Yes. Is there something the same size that will do the job better. Well, pretty close.

The Kahr 40 (the PM40 model) is about 1/2" taller, about 1/4" longer and 1/8" wider than the Kel Tec 380. Its heavier and its boxier so the overall dimensions don't really tell the whole story. I mean, Dolly Parton and Rosie O'Donnell may have similar Overall maximum circumferences but Dolly's isn't the same from head to toe. She has other dimensions. Lots of them. The other dimensions do influence the suitability for the intended purpose. I'm talking about the Kahr, just so you don't misunderstand. The Kahr's slide isn't tapered and sculpted like the Kel Tec's so its not as close in ease of carry as the slight overall dimensional differences would make you think. The Kel Tec is as close to perfect in that respect as I have seen. I have a Seecamp and I carry the Kel Tec. OK? The Kahr is just close, and its a 40.

So why not just carry the Kimber? I mean, that's why I bought the thing - right? Simple. I'm a chicken. I can't wear layers of clothing to conceal a pistol so it either has to go in a pocket or in something like Thunderwear. Carrying a cocked and locked 45 in Thunderwear just sounds like a good way to get myself castrated. It doesn't bother me in a holster that protects the thumb safety but I had a brand new Springfield mil spec 45 slip off safe sitting on the front seat of my Jeep as I drove down a dirt road. It moved enough to disengage the safety. The same thing could happen either of the ways that I can carry a pistol most of the time. So, a DAO pistol in a respectable caliber that's easy to carry made the most sense. To me, the Kahr is the only thing out there that fits the bill so well.

With all that said, upon returning home I very quickly found out what time, remodeling and just plain apathy can do to a supply of brass that you haven't loaded for in over 10 years. (Yes, I had a Glock Model 22 once. Its like the married man told his girlfriend: "I have my favorite flavor of ice cream but I do like to try new flavors now and then." I'm sure that John Browning has forgiven me). I have managed to scrounge up exactly 24 empty 40 S&W cases and about 2/3 of a box of Nosler 135 grain 10mm hollow points to load into them. Still have plenty of Power Pistol and some other suitable propellants but most of the empty cases have evaporated. I know that I gave a few of them to a friend some years ago. He used them as jackets for some super heavy bullets that he made for a 44 magnum. Maybe I gave them all to him. I don't know. Perhaps he will write about that experiment on his blog someday.

I did have presence of mind to buy a box of FMJ practice ammo so I will have some once-fired brass as soon as the range is ready. That, unfortunately, is another story. For now, I like the Kahr. When the range is ready, we will find out if it likes me too.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Range Report

I realize that when Kim du Toit and most of the other real gun-bloggers call something a range report they are about to tell you about what they did at the range, who they took along, new shooters and all that. Right now that would be hard for me to do because I am chronically De-Ranged. I don't quite have a range yet. This range report is about progress toward getting a new, private range set up.

I had my friend, realtor, benefactor and soon to be Rangelord trying to find a sliver of worthless, unbuildable land that I could buy cheaply and use for a range site. We did find one parcel of a few acres that was completely underwater, way overpriced (South Florida investor paid about 20 times what it is worth and has listed it for sale trying to make a profit) and surrounded by people who keep horses and already call the Sherriff every time anybody fires a gun. That was the best one.

In desperation, I suggested putting a range on the future Rangelord's own land, at my expense, and he liked the idea. His "boss" didn't have a problem with it and neither did their kids. Go figgure. The plan was hatched and we worked on the big questions such as liability, hold harmless agreement & all the things you need to even walk down the street without getting sued these days.

This past weekend, the folks behind the Rangelord started clearing some 80 acres right in back of him and let it be known that the guys running their equipment would be glad to do some work for him pretty cheaply while they were there.

Conditions would never get better. The theoretical issues were worked out and the equipment to do a lot more than we needed was sitting right in back of his house. We met for lunch yesterday and decided exactly where we were going to put the range, the direction it would point & so forth. He walked the site last night and saw that it was good.

The equipment will be there for another few days and we should have our little 100 yard rifle range bulldozed and disked over with a nice berm at one end before they leave. A little pressure treated lumber, some concrete and a few pieces of galvanized roofing will wrap it up.

I can hear things stirring in the gun safe and my chronograph is already humming!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

This blog is by two guys who shoot a lot less than they like, reload a lot less than they want and needed an excuse to do more of both. One lives someplace out to the left of the big river and one lives in what used to be Florida. I'm the Florida one. Buckshot lived here for a while and then went back where he belonged. "Lantry" is a pseudonym. If you've read South Moon Under you know "where I'm from." If not, don't worry. It ain't there no more anyhow. (Well, actually, THAT specific place is still there and I'm told it can be bought for less than $500,000. I'm not kidding).

Hopefully, somebody somewhere will find some of this interesting or informative as the posts start piling up. If not, well, we started it to make ourselves shoot and reload more so who cares! We'll be at the range and the bench more and that's really what its all about.

I might start tinkering with a low pressure load for a 12 gauge Fox Sterlingworth that I don't want to shoot to pieces or I might play around with a 50 Beowulf that followed me home one day. I might work on a nice .358 Winchester load or my Savage Model 99 or I might use the blog as an excuse to buy that one at Bullseye Sports in .303 Savage so I can write about that. Maybe I'll start with the range I'm trying to get my buddy up in Daisey to let me build on his mini farm. You'll know as soon as I do. Maybe sooner.

One thing I do know is that Buckshot will hit his goal. I hope he uses Nosler or Weatherby headstamped brass since it has always held more powder for me than other brands. I just hope I don't have to send him any of mine to get it done.
I am putting this down as a goal to reach toward in the near future. I recently purchased a .308 cal. bullet mold with gas check. Also purchased a .308 sizer die. I want to use this in developing a 300 Weatherby Mag. load, that far exceeds factory specs. The die is for a 165 grain bullet. I plan on quenching the hot bullet in water to harden it, and will be using, what I call, super-lube.

After molding the first batch, I will let you know what the real bullet weight turned out to be.

Factory specs are: 3450 f.p.s. (4360 f.p.m.e.) My goal is 3650-3700 f.p.s.