Sunday, December 26, 2004

I've not been able to hunt the last 2 days because, well, yesterday was Christmas (and I've got family after all) and today is Sunday. Sunday hunting is still illegal here in VA.

Friday, I went out and the temps were down about 16-20 degrees. It had been 56 the day before and rained so there were puddles and a good amount of standing water and the ground was soaked just before it started to freeze. This created ice crystals that jutted from the ground and crunched underfoot (if you weren't careful). I carefully moved through about 3½ to 3 miles of deer trails and saw only a couple of old rubs, no scrapes (the last time I was here there was a scrape that was now clearly long abandoned) and crossed one, small, fresh track. Pretty disappointing.

This week will be a full 6 days of either sex but I have competition for my time. Tuesday I will be visiting with friends and discussing model trains (the wife's new hobby), Wednesday I will be visiting with my God-son and Friday & Saturday (maybe) will be spent at work.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The last 2 days of hunting (well partial days) have provided none of the traditional measures of success, like a buck on the ground! However, they've been informative and interesting and, above all, calming.

Yesterday, I didn't get out until late but had plenty of time and pretty good conditions to check a number of trails on an often hunted piece of farmland. It was informative because it was clear that there had been only those 2 doe had seen the other day in the weeks since "regular" gun season. NO new scrapes, NO new rubs, nothing to indicate that there was a buck in the vicinity. I hope he got some before they shot him in the regular season.

Today, was a bit rainy. Didn't look too bad at the house but the rain was really coming down on "the mountain". Still, I had taken the necessary precautions and tried to hunt. Other than getting wet, I did myself no good in the bring a buck to bag category. I did decide to see if my charge had been as well protected as I thought and proceeded to light one off at some very soft ground. She smacked the ground hard, at the mark, at 50 yards and went right off. Quite pleased at that, I didn't so much mind the early ride home.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Well, quite a bit of today was spent on awaiting delivery of a Christmas gift. All was not lost. Although it was very windy, I did get up to my mom's, do a bit of a chore for her and get out and see two doe. Unfortunately, doe aren't legal today but where the comely female of the species feeds, the male is not far behind. Tomorrow may be a better deer getting day than today.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Muzzleloading Hunting, My Gear

The next big thing on the calendar (actually it started December 18!) for those of us in western Virginia, aside from Christmas and New Years Day, is the late muzzleloading season. For those of you not from Virginia, we're limited to single barrel muzzleloaders with a .45 or larger bore. In-lines, telescopic sights, aperture sights and sabots (projectile .38 cal or larger) are all allowed. See the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries for more information. As late as last year my Brown Bess Carbine wasn't legal (a smoothbore flintlock) but an all up scoped, Knight .52 in-line (reportedly accurate to 200 yards, see the data at the link) was legal. Any wonder that more hunters hunt our two muzzleloading seasons with their liberal "doe days"?

My choice is a combination of the modern and "period" hunting rifles. About 17 years ago, I bought (from MidSouth Shooting Supply) a Thompson Center Arms New Englander (now discontinued). Mine is a .54 caliber gun with a 1-48" twist rifling and a TC hunting tang sight. Yes, another aperture sight. I do like them! It has slim lines so that it carries well and the recoil isn't at all bad due to the design of the stock and the broad buttplate. Apparently, I like the rifle too as I've never been moved to get another, newer, different rifle.

For me, such hunting is about the challenge and so, while the rifle groups well at 100 yards, I tend to think in terms of 75 yards as my working maximum. The gun is accurate. When loaded with patched round ball and 60 gr. of Pyrodex RS it is accurate enough to take squirrels with headshots at up to 40 yards. The rifle "hangs" well for such shots, too. However, my hunting load is 90 gr. of Pyrodex RS or GOEX FFg with the same patched round ball OR 100 gr. of either propellent with a Buffalo Bore 325 gr. or Hornady Great Plains conical. So, this rifle is roughly the equivalent of the .45-70 black powder express load of the 1890s. Not bad that!

As you can see, I do use some modern conveniences such as the TC Quick Shot for the conical bullet loads. I use the Blue and Gray Quickloads for the roundball loads. The little belt bag is sufficiently large to carry about 10 loads which is more than enough for a days deer hunting (I've never fired more than 2 shots). the knife is a Russell Canadian Belt Knife made by Grohmann in Pictou, Nova Scotia, Canada. I really like my knife and bought it from a sporting good store in downtown Monterey, CA in 1974. I've carried that knife around the world but it is still in excellent condition.

Can't hunt today but for the rest of the week and NEXT week! Whoo hooo!

This year, the law has changed to allow smoothbore guns that otherwise meet the criteria of single barrel, single projectile and over .45 caliber. Thus my Brown Bess carbine can go with as well.

This baby shoots a .715" lead round ball at only 1000 fps and requires 100 gr. of powder to do so, but it is FUN. With a bit of muck about one can pull the charge and reload with shot or replace shot with ball. It takes practice to be proficient at 50 yards and somedays I won't take a shot past 25 yards. If using shot 25 yards is about the limit as one should use charges of no more than 1¼ oz of shot and 85 gr. of powder. It has taken squirrel and groundhog but no deer yet.

Nearing Year's End

Well, we're coming to the years end. Only a few (15) days left in 2004 and there have been many interesting things that happened this year.

My love of the lever action rifle has re-awakened and I am encouraged to find some of those guns that I always wanted when I was a kid but never found due to circumstance OR had and let go.

From top to bottom: Marlin 1894C .357 Magnum, Marlin 39-A Mountie .22 LR, Marlin 336T .30 WCF (.30-30 Winchester), Winchester M94 .30 WCF and Browning 1886 .45-70 Government

The first rifle was the first I bought this year and I got it from a forum member. Lever action rifles, particularly those made before the current legislated spate of add-on safeties, are difficult to find in this area. They can be found but I think that the majority either sell them to family and friends or hold on to them! When Lubbockdave offered this one I was on it! Of course he'd shot it a lot, apparently with .38 Specials (and kept the chamber clean) and it was well broken in and slick! I immediately installed a Williams Foolproof Receiver Sight (you might notice that I have this habit!) and went to the range. I quickly discovered that the rifle was accurate and fun and the .357 Magnum cartridge in the rifle is a winner. My load for this rifle is 15 gr. of Hodgdon's Lil'Gun under the Remington 180 gr. SJHP lit by the CCI550 primer. This load produces about 1675 fps and is adequate for all Virginia game to about 100 yards. Loading 18 gr. of Lil'Gun under the Hornady 158 gr. FP/XTP also lit by the CCI550 primer produces 2000 fps! This is the load for those who want to maximize velocity while retaining the suitability of the rifle for deer and the FP bullet holds together better than the HP version of the XTP.

The second rifle illustrated is actually the last I purchased this year. I found it on with a "Buy It Now" price of $300 but a minimum bid of $250! I bid the minimum and nobody else bid on it! This is an outstanding price for my area and I was offered $300 at the shop when I picked it up.

I'd always wanted a Mountie but, when I was a kid, you didn't spend money on what you did not NEED. Dad had a .22 I could use and I didn't have the money for one. When I turned 18 and had money I did buy a .22 but it was a Winchester M320, a bolt gun with a detachable magazine (and I still have it!). Yes, I already had a Williams Foolproof and mounted it. I then rushed to the range to try it out. At this point, I'm using the Winchester PowerPoint and it did very well at the range. Even with the factory bead sight, I was able to shoot groups no bigger than a squirrel's head at 25 yards. I think it will do better than that. It does have one flaw in that the tube magazine catch needs some work but it functions well (and is smooooooooth) and is accurate and I'm glad I bought it.

The third gun from the top, the Marlin 336T is a straight grip version of the rifle I had bought in 1970 (or rather my DAD bought for me). I liked that gun (also with a Williams Foolproof) but foolishly traded it off. The .30 WCF (.30-30 Winchester) cartridge needs no description by me. My load in all 3 of my .30-30s is 30 gr. of IMR 3031 under a 170 gr. FP lit by the CCI200 primer. I get 2100-2200 fps from my rifles. I killed my first deer (which dropped where it stood) with the rifle I owned earlier and I've got complete confidence in this rifle. After all, it will put a magazine into just 2½" at 100 yards even though the factory bead subtends the target bull at that range. I think it is a great gun.

The fourth gun is a Winchester M94 in .30 WCF. This gun was built (shipped) in 1943 and is a flatband, i.e. the front band is flat rather than curved. the gun was probably produced so that people could hunt for food during the rationing period of WWII. It isn't marked as such and so it is unlikely that it was used by the bridge or railroad guards. I traded a sofa for it in 1977 and when I got it it had a pine 2x4 that had been carved, very roughly, into a stock. It still worked but needed a new carrier spring. I also had it reblued and installed the Williams Foolproof. This is a great gun and because the front bead is smaller than the Marlin, it is easier to hold and shoot 2-2½" groups at 100 yards. I have killed deer with this rifle and after my divorce it was my only deer rifle.

The fifth and bottom rifle in the photo is a Browning 1886. Made by Browning as a reproduction of the Winchester 1886 and chambered for the .45-70 Government cartridge this is a Saddle Ring Carbine (SRC). I bought this one from another Leverguns forum member and it is a good one indeed. NIB when I got it I've already carried for a whole deer season and the stock has picked up the inevitable nick or two. Not to worry, I've already got a Williams Foolproof to mount but await the end of the deer and Christmas seasons before taking it to my gunsmith for drilling and tapping. Not much to say about the .45-70 cartridge either as it is well know and much has been written. I'm currently shooting the Federal factory 300 gr. "express" load (for which the gun is zeroed) or my reload equivalent. I wanted to get this gun for elk and/or moose hunting (if the opportunity ever presents itself) and for that purpose I think I will load a good 400 gr. bullet at about 1800 fps. I imagine that that will be all the recoil I will want!

These are wonderful rifles but I will be seeking three more. I like having examples of everything.

The first of those rifles I've yet to buy are a clone of the Winchester M92 in .45 Colt set up for me by Steve of Steve's Gunz who will buy a rifle or carbine at wholesale, set it up and ship to my dealer.

The second of those rifles is more up in the air. I'm thinking that I'd like a Savage 99 and would prefer to get one in .358 Winchester. I'd also like to get a Winchester M71 in .348 Winchester. These two cartridges are almost identical in performance. This makes the decision very difficult so I'm hoping that I get some clarity as I approach the time when I can actually afford one!

I could do it all with the rifles I have already but we know that being merely practical isn't the point.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

I sure would like to go shooting and hunting but it is once again pouring down rain and I have another bunch of things to do. Bummer.

Guess I'll read about shooting/hunting and reload some.

Friday, December 03, 2004

I love shooting. In that love of shooting I've accumulated some firearms. Those firearms have one thing in common with every other firearm I own, they are in some way dis-similiar from every other firearm. They mostly differ by action OR by chambering. The one exception is the .30-30 of which I have "3". A Winchester M94, a Marlin 336 and a TC Contender. Still, these 3 .30-30s have dis-similar actions. What I want is examples of every firearm type which interests me and of the different cartridges. In as much as I can, I try to meet both goals at once in every firearm I buy. Lately, my passion has been for leverguns! My latest such goal is to buy a Winchester M92 in .45 Colt.

I don't have either a M92 or a .45 Colt. I thought I'd get both in an M92 clone in .45 Colt. I plan to have Steve's Gunz order a gun for me and work his well-known magic on it. That way, I'm assured of getting a working example that will meet my specifications.

Problem is, what should those specifications be? I've thought about rifles, carbines, "trappers", full and half mags, different buttstocks, sights, finish, etc. Seems to me that I'd like something that is a bit less than 38" LOA. I've thought about having a carbine converted to a round barrel half-mag trapper but am concerned that the abbreviated barrel won't be legal in every community and that the half-mag will unnecessarily reduce capacity (for what I don't know, how many shots does one take at big game anyway?). I thought about a 24" round barreled rifle with full-magazine and my concern then was that the rifle wouldn't fit under the seat of my truck. So, I'm now leaning towards a standard carbine.

However, I'd like to get something different. Color case would be nice, walnut would be nice and a must have is an aperture sight. The color case would probably limit me to a good tang sight. I can't imagine putting a Williams Foolproof on a carbine set up to look old. Just wouldn't look right. Fortunately, Steve has a tang peep that is fully adjustable. That's a must as I expect I'll be doing some load development work.

The only other thing is that it CANNOT have a tacked on safety. The abomination that Rossi puts on the bolt is disgusting, more disgusting than even the Miroku tang safety. That alone limits me to one of several brands made by Rossi.

So, let's see, a Winchester M92 SRC carbine clone in .45 Colt with color case receiver, no add-on safety, walnut stock, and an installed, adjustable, tang peep.

Of course Steve will slick this up. I want sureness of functioning over slickness but I think he'll do a great job based on what I've heard and what little of his work I've seen. The only problem is cost... That means I've got to wait for it while I save up!

Of course, as with almost every gun I get, this means reloading dies, brass, a variety of bullets (until I run down the best loads), and a lot of range time. It all adds up.