Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Fifty rounds of GECO FMJ. No malfunctions. Total now at 1250. Scored some gun show kydex because the lack of a holster was making me itch.

So, let me get this straight...

Americans are rightly leery of getting into yet another land war in Asia (I mean, other than some bombing, which apparently isn't "war"-war, in a Goldbergian sense) despite arguments that could be made about national interests, such as the proximity of the short-fused neolithic goatherds to the world's oil spigots as well as more mundane things like trying to build a successful YouTube empire based on shortening American citizens.

So the White House, sensitive to public opinion about "boots on the ground" jerks a general's leash short for even hypothetically suggesting that such a thing might be necessary to fight an overseas contingency kinetic-aliocious, or whatever it is we're calling not-actual-"war"-type-wars these days...

...and then turns around and orders 3,000 troops (that's six thousand individual boots on the ground, in case anybody's counting) to West Africa to... I don't know, shoot Ebola viruses or something.

I was going to get outraged and say "The military is not there to boost the president's poll numbers!" but that would be disingenuous; of course they are, and presidents have been using them for that since George had to make a standing army to go shake down Pennsylvanian farmers. But they should at least be used for military-type missions.

The administration says that the troops in West Africa will be there for logistical support reasons, to build hospitals and refugee housing and whatnot. But haven't I just spent a whole damned Iraq war hearing about how KBR and DynCorp and Spacely Sprockets can do that stuff cheaper and more effectively than the lumbering dinosaur of the DoD?

Are we sending 3,000 personnel into even theoretical danger so that congresscritters in tough races can go pose with carefully-selected-for-diversity photo-op platoons of ACU-clad troopies stacking rice bags and building hospitals among throngs of smiling wogs right before election time? It's cynical of me to think so, but if true, then for shame! (As though the parties responsible would know shame if it bit them on the ass.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hey, look what's on newsstands now!

I bet that article right there is especially insightful and witty and worth reading. You should buy a copy for yourself, and maybe one for each of your loved ones and pets, too!

(Although I have to give somebody else credit for the best cover blurb in the history of cover blurbs, which I am still kicking myself for not coming up with on my own...)


So, one thing I'd been curious about was the effect of, not only barrel length, but the presence or absence of a barrel/cylinder gap on various rimfire loadings. So I scooped up four different firearms and four different rimfire loadings I've used a lot in the past and headed to the range. There were Smith wheelguns in both 2" and 4" flavors, my trusty and much-abused bargain-basement fixed-sight 4.5" Ruger Mk III 22/45, and my beloved little Papoose, now sexied up with an inexpensive Tasco red dot.

For ammunition, I brought 20gr Aguila Super Colibris, Remington's 40gr Target blue box standard velocity, my ammo can of Federal Champion 36gr High Velocity bulk pack Wally World fodder, and a box of CCI's 40gr flat-nosed SGBs.

Aguila Super Colibris generate a bit more velocity than regular Colibris, making them usable in rifles, but they still have no powder and rely on the primer to propel the little conical 20gr bullet. This doesn't mean they turn the gun into a harmless toy, however; they will kill a possum or a groundhog deader than a hammer, especially if you walk up and shoot them behind the ear while the dog's got them cornered and you can guess how I know that.

From the 2" revolver, they averaged 522 fps; they were a little faster from the medium-sized handguns (543 from the 4" revolver and 532 from the 22/45) but the surprise was that they gained velocity in the Papoose. With only the primer to burn, the point of diminishing returns was probably halfway along the barrel someplace, but nevertheless they still managed a 623 fps average. They were probably moving at similar rates of speed from the Browning BL-22 I used with good effect on garden pests some years ago.

Remington's Target ammo did not much like short barrels or B/C gaps. It averaged 863 fps from the 2" Smith and 933 fps from the 4" gun and in both cases it had a velocity spread of ~100 fps and a Standard Deviation over 30 fps. From the Ruger pistol, the Extreme Spread and Standard Deviation were cut roughly in half relative to the 4" wheelgun, and the round averaged 946 fps.

It was ever so slightly more consistent from the 16¼" barrel of the Papoose, but in the carbine-length tube it belied its Standard Velocity descriptor by turning in an average velocity of 1124 fps, which is probably flirting with being supersonic at 68° and ~700' above sea level and I don't know what the humidity was but it wasn't too bad yesterday.

The Federal bulk pack ammo was a reminder that cartridges packed loose in cartons of five hundred or more and sold inexpensively aren't packed and sold that way because they were carefully assembled and weighed and sorted by white-gloved hands.

The Federal plated 36gr hollowpoints averaged 917 fps from the 2" revolver and 1021 from the 4" gun and had the rather dubious distinction of a velocity spread of 162.7 fps in a ten shot string from the 4" Smith, which is the largest I've yet seen in my chronoing experiments.

From the Ruger, they averaged 999 fps, and 1203 fps from the Papoose. It's hard to say too much based on a ten-shot string from ammo where the outliers can be so outlying, but in general the longer barrel and lack of a B/C gap again seemed to have a positive influence on consistency.
I am very fond of CCI's rimfire ammo in general and the SGB in particular. The 40gr LFN bullet will whack a critter but good, by all reports, and you rarely hear any complaints about the quality. I was prepared for it to show good, consistent numbers over the chrono, but what I was not prepared for was how consistent those numbers would be.

Even from the 2" snubby, the round averaged 911 fps with a spread of less than 50 fps between the fastest and slowest, and 978 fps with a similar spread from the 4" revolver. From the Ruger pistol, the average was 971 fps, and it was 1190 from the Marlin carbine. In no case was the Standard Deviation for a string over 20 fps, and it was actually 14.86 in the Kit Gun. I'd be nodding my head approvingly if that was centerfire duty ammo from a service pistol; for rimfire loads from a 2" revolver, that's freaky good. Good enough that I want to get some from other lots and see how much of a fluke it was.

I've got a fair amount of 22 match ammo, Wolf and Eley and Gold Medal Match and suchlike, squirreled away, and now I want to sacrifice some of it for science, too.

Anyhow, the takeaway from this, broadly, is you get what you pay for in consistent performance from ammunition. If you're plinking cans and it doesn't matter if the speed of your bullets varies by almost 200 fps from shot-to-shot, it's probably not that big a deal. If you're shooting a bullseye for score or a squirrel for the pot, you want the next bullet to go to the same spot as the one you used to sight in the gun. And that's why some kinds of .22LR cost more than others.

"The signal is coming from inside the house!"

Slowly, in the dark of night, the robot orbits your house. Using entirely passive "x-ray vision", without emitting telltale RF beams of its own, it builds a map of the floorplan, the furniture, and where everybody is.

It doesn't need to use an active emitter for its see-through-walls magic, you see, because it's using yours.

It's still right at the edge of SciFi, but only barely.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Gratuitous Gun Pr0n #111...

A 1955 Smith & Wesson K-22 Combat Masterpiece and a 1957 Smith & Wesson Model 34 Kit Gun. It was an excellent and relaxing morning at the range, thank you very much.

Weird dreams...

Renting a room in a seaside resort town. Riding my bicycle to a little cafe to do writing. The bike path skirted city parks and wended under the soaring overpasses of a tangle of highway interchange. While the scenery was SoCal, the weather was suspiciously Portland/Seattle. Apparently there are cool, wet deserts in dreamland.

It was raining and there were flash floods. Some of the tire ruts on the bike path were flooded and much deeper than you'd think: Only as wide as a bike tire but filled with water and deep enough to swallow a bicycle wheel to the axle. And ISIS was putting mines in the bottom of some of them. I think this is what comes of dreaming while the news is on.

There was this old Bosniak guy at the cafe every day with one dead eye and his skull obviously deformed from a long-healed injury. The guy behind the counter told me that he'd been hit in the head by a Nazi rifle bullet when he was with the partisans as a kid, and now he was going to head to Syria to fight jihad.

I decided to look for a new apartment closer to the cafe and the seaside, so I didn't have to ride under the interchange. LabRat had a car and offered to drive me around looking for places with good balconies; I wanted something in town, but with an ocean view where I could sit outside and look out over the buildings at the sea and write.

Then I woke up.

I'm doing this for you, internet!

(Or at least that's what I'm telling myself.)

In the interest of chronoing All The Things, I've got other things I'd like to try...

  • .22 Stingers or SGBs or similar loads from my M&P15-22, 4" Ruger 22/45, and 2" revolver. I'm curious to see the difference between latter two, especially; how much velocity is left after the Kit Gun's stubby tube and barrel/cylinder gap have taken their toll?

  • .32 S&W, .32 S&W Long, and .32 H&R Magnum out of the same gun. (I've also got .32 S&W Long revolvers with 3" and 4" barrels...)

  • This gun needs to meet the chrono. For science.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

QotD: Understatement Edition...

Regarding the latest statements from Vlad, Aaron golf-clapped:
"Great example of the results of sophisticated adult soft-power diplomacy there guys, very nicely done."
I LOL'ed, but ruefully.

Thanks, internet.

Jesus wept, I was lying there in bed waiting for the Sunday morning grownup shows to come on TV, surfing a forum on the tablet, and I've already got so much ‪#‎sheepdog‬ and ‪#‎fitandfinish‬ derp all over me that I've completely lost heart about going back to the fun show to pick up some more .32 Magnum ammo later today. Some Cletus in the aisle would make a comment about racking a shotgun to scare burglars off or flashlights giving away your position* and I would just completely lose my $#!+, which I had just succeeded in getting back together into a tiny little ball after a deadline.

Thanks, internet, for ruining my plans for the day; now I'm just gonna drink beer and bitch on the Facebook.

At least I have the ammo guy's phone number so I can get the hookup for a weekday face-to-face delivery.

*No kidding, Bobbi and I walked past this couple of guys yesterday, and Jasper was earnestly explaining to Cletus about lasers giving away his position. "Did you hear that?" I asked Bobbi, "He was saying that if Sumdood used a gun with a laser on it, he'd..."

"Go hand-over-hand back up the beam and stab him with his ninja knife?"

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Fun Show Time!

Let's sing the Fun Show Song!
Flintlocks and Flop-tops
And Number Three Russians
Black-powder Mausers
From jackbooted Prussians,
Shiny Smith PC's from limited runs
These are a few of my favorite guns.

Socketed bay'nets
On Zulu War rifles,
Engraved, iv'ried Lugers
That make quite an eyefull
Mosin tomato stakes sold by the ton
These are a few of my favorite guns.

Rusty top-breaks!
Smallbore Schuetzens!
And all of Browning's spawn
I just keep on browsing my favorite guns
Until all my money's gone.
I've pretty much shot my gun show bolt for the month, but there's no harm in going to look, is there? The little show at the National Guard armory at Stout Field is one of my favorites. Mostly old guys with collectables and light on new stuff. No Beanie Babies. If you're looking to comparison shop plastic Glock'n'Wesson .40 cals, this isn't the show for you. If you're hoping to stumble across a good deal on a Martini Cadet or a Savage 99, it's more your speed.

Polite requests.

As Glenn Reynolds is fond of pointing out, the courts follow where the culture leads. Hopefully it will not become the cultural norm to discourage personal carry of firearms.

Panera Bread and Target are making polite little coughing noises at you.

God's Own Pistol Caliber

If America had a vote for the National Pistol Cartridge, the only contest would be for second place, because .45 ACP is the handgun round Mom would use to hunt wild apple pie from the back of a giant bald eagle. In the list of Great American Institutions, John Browning's thumb-sized thunderbolt falls somewhere between baseball and Mount Rushmore, and it's associated with one type of pistol.

The .45 ACP cartridge and the 5" barrel of the Colt's M1911 Government Model are as evolutionarily intertwined as Thomson's gazelles and cheetahs. But the round is available in every sort of firearm these days, from 2" derringers to 16" carbines; what effect does barrel length have on the velocities of your classic 230gr projectiles?

'Murrica! (and Spain.)
Here assembled we have three .45 ACP pistols with barrel lengths ranging from under four inches to over six. I also brought a box of standard velocity Winchester Ranger 230gr Bonded JHP and a box of Federal Tactical HST 230gr +P. Winchester claims 935fps from a 5" test barrel for the bonded Ranger loading, versus 950 for Federal's +P HST. Let's play with the chronograph!

My personal stable of handguns chambered in .45 ACP has dwindled to a handful of full-size 1911-pattern guns and a 6½" Smith & Wesson Model of 1955 Target, so Bobbi was kind enough to contribute her Star M45 Firestar to the cause of science.

The Firestar is a chunky little thing. With its 3¾" barrel and 6+1 magazine capacity, it's about the physical size of a Colt's Officer's Model, but its all-steel construction and beefy frame with full-length rails that the slide rides inside, a la the CZ75, give it an unloaded weight of 35.6 ounces, only a couple shy of a full-size Government Model.

Consequently, recoil was not unpleasant for such a tiny launch platform. Winchester's Ranger loading averaged 855.9fps from the stubby barrel, while the Federal +P HSTs turned in an 865.1fps average. These velocities were close enough that the fastest of the ten standard pressure loads was actually a couple feet per second faster than the fastest +P. Clearly there's still some powder left to burn.

My Jedi light saber. Built from the ground up on a bare Rock River frame by Gunsmith Bob, it was my last carry 1911. It's sat, unfired, un-lubed, and unloved on a shelf for almost three years and was drier than a popcorn fart. Not gonna lie: I took the bottle of FP-10 out of the range bag in anticipation of having to lube the bejeezus out of the thing to get it running, like a Briggs & Stratton for the first mowing of the season.

I needn't have worried.

From the 5" Kart barrel of the CCA gun, the Winchester Rangers averaged 941.1fps, almost exactly as advertised. The Federal +P load also slightly exceeded expectations, with an average velocity over ten shots of 963.9fps.

As an aside, I had forgotten how good the trigger on this pistol was; measuring a consistent 3.25 lbs on my RCBS fish scale with minimal takeup and no overtravel, it transparently converts the mental desire to fire the pistol into a loud noise and a hole.

If modern custom 1911s can see so far, it is because they are standing on the shoulders of giants, like this Hoag/Auto Shop custom 6½" longslide Colt's Government Model, borrowed from Mike Grasso.

Jim Hoag's longslide conversion is cosmetically seamless and looks factory, completely belying all the welding and refinishing that goes into such a project. It gave the pistol a pleasantly muzzle-heavy feeling, like a heavy-barreled target revolver, as well as providing an extra inch and a half of sight radius. But how much would it affect velocity?

Hardly at all, as it turns out. The standard pressure JHPs averaged 945.5fps, while the +P loads averaged 962.8; essentially the same as the 5" gun. In other words, while going from 3.75" to 5" gains almost 100fps, adding another 1.5" doesn't really gain more speed from these two loads, obviously tuned by their makers to run in a specific type of pistol.

As a footnote, I was well on the way to the range when it occurred to me that the borrowed longslide did not have a magazine in the pistol rug with it, and I'd grabbed my own 1911 without running up to the attic to snare a magazine. I was on the verge of detouring to Premier Arms to grab a couple 47Ds when I remembered there was one magazine in the car, after all. See, that first AFHF class I took with ToddG, back in 2010, I was loading magazines on the morning of the first day and one of the brand new Les Baer mags I'd just pulled out of a baggie felt less than perfectly smooth as I was thumbing rounds into it. Knowing Todd's reputation as a 1911 hater and unwilling to give him a chance to bag on my heater, I tossed the suspect mag in the side pocket of my range bag with the sunscreen and handi-wipes and foam earplugs, where it has remained, lo these four years. As it turned out, I was probably unnecessarily paranoid and yet uncannily prescient at the same time, because who knows when you might find yourself needing a 1911 magazine?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Gratuitous Gun Pr0n #110...

Classic Hoag longslide Government Model
How about the effect of different barrel lengths on .45 ACP? Post to follow...

Not thinking this through...

I don’t feel justified in shooting somebody, so I’m going to spray nerve gas in their face instead” said no sane person, ever.

They were playing that idiocy on the Today show the other morning and only an extremely somnolent state kept me from throwing something through the screen while yelling "No! Who told you that was a good idea? Don't listen to this $#!+head!"

Seriously, in most imaginable scenarios, I'd rather stand in front of a jury having shot a home invader as opposed to having filled his eyes with insecticide or oven cleaner. If you don't have any business busting a cap in a dude, you don't have any business giving him a facefull of organophosphates.

(H/T to Unc.)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

They also scare off pirates.

It's got electrolytes!

Beginning as "Decoration Day" for the custom of tending to the gravestones of the war dead, a loosely-organized grassroots day of observance for the casualties of the recent bloody Civil War eventually became established on May 30th as Memorial Day. In 1968, Congress moved it to the last Monday in May where it now serves as the endcap of a weekend full of motor racing and barbecues and the beginning of summer.

"On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the guns fell silent" and this was incorporated in the U.S. official calendar as Armistice Day, until Congress changed it to a day to remember all American veterans. Too late in the year for good picnicking, it's now a good time for sales at Macy's.

Similarly, Mike at Cold Fury asks how long it will be until people are wishing each other "Happy 9/11!" on the way to get a discount on mattresses or linens.

If history is any guide, probably another thirty or forty years.

The venerable...

So, the other day we looked at some modern loads for .44 S&W Special, a cartridge that dates to 1908. Instead of looking at a newfangled cartridge like that again, today I'm going to take a gander at modern self-defense cartridges for a really old handgun chambering...


Seriously, DWM introduced the now-ubiquitous 9mm Luger 'way back in 1902 by blowing the existing bottlenecked .30 Luger cartridge out to a (more or less) straight case. Ponder that every time you hear the .45ACP, two years the Nine's junior, referred to as "venerable".

Here we'll look at three different JHP bullets from three different eras and see how they stack up, velocity-wise, to their advertising claims in two different Smith & Wesson autopistols with differing barrel lengths...

Back in the day, Federal's 115gr +P+ jacketed hollow point, cataloged under the designation "9BPLE", was the ticket in 9mm rounds as far as many people (including your humble correspondent) were concerned. The loading claimed a 1300fps muzzle velocity out of a 4" test barrel, and tended to live up to its claims.

The 10-round string fired through the 3" barrel of my Smith & Wesson CS9 averaged 1247fps, and moments later another 10-shot string averaged a blistering 1369fps out of the 4¼" barrel of a full-sized M&P 9. It was very consistently loaded, too, with the extreme velocity spreads of each string being under 50fps.

The 9BPLE, however, uses a jacketed hollowpoint bullet that was state of the art back before anybody knew what Gene Simmons looked like without makeup. In addition to a susceptibility to clogging if fired through heavy clothing, the lightweight bullet would expand violently, sometimes shedding the jacket or bits of the core, and under-penetrating.

S&W CS9: Last of a forty-year evolution of single-stack 9mm pistols from Springfield, MA.
The second load tested was the Remington Golden Saber, in 124gr +P flavor. The Golden Saber bullet, which debuted in the '90s, uses a thick brass jacket to not only control the projectile's expansion, but also as part of the wounding mechanism. The spiral petals of the jacket protrude out past the lead core as they fold back, in much the same fashion as Winchester's "Black Talon" bullet; perhaps unsurprising considering that the same guy was behind the design of both bullets.

The 124gr +P Golden Saber (also known as the "HPJ" for "High Performance Jacket") was a newer generation of hollowpoint, whose design benefited from computer modeling not possible a decade or two earlier. More resistant to clogging, with more reliable and consistent expansion, the bullet was claimed to leave a 4" test barrel at 1180fps according to Remington. At the range yesterday, the Golden Sabers averaged 1091fps from the 3" CS9 and 1208fps from the 4¼" M&P 9.

Federal's HST is among the current state-of-the-art self-defense pistol bullets, and in its 147gr configuration it is claimed to launch its projectile at 1000fps from a 4" barrel and deliver reliable penetration and expansion whether through heavy clothing or not.

From the little 3" Chief's Special, the 147gr HST turned in an average velocity of 954fps, while the 4¼" barrel of the M&P upped that number to 1032fps.*

Incidentally, there was one malfunction during this range session: A round of 9BPLE (the oldest hollowpoint design tested) suffered a failure-to-feed in the CS9 (the older of the two pistols tested.) Make of that what you will.

*Incidentally, from the longer barrel of the M&P, the HST was extremely consistent, with an Extreme Spread of 33.15fps and a Standard Deviation of 9.27fps. That's match ammo consistency.

Would you say we are headed into a zone of danger?

This is why TV was invented, in case anybody was wondering...