Wednesday, January 12, 2005

629 at the Range

The weather was beautiful today, 63F at 1 PM, and I took the opportunity to go to the range. Took my M629-1 and 100 rounds of the 8 gr. Unique under the Hornady 240 gr. swaged SWCHP. It was immediately apparent that the gun had been zeroed with the heavier loads (I hardly ever take this one out). Also apparent (after ONLY 3 cylinders full) was another reason I did not like these grips. I got a very healthy blister! I guess these grips just rub me the wrong way. So I got a piece of slick paper and electricians tape from my shooting box and taped over the blister and kept shooting.

Shown below is the 12" target I used. The range was 25 yards. I shot from standing one-handed (strong hand) about 60-70% of the shots fired and the rest are fired with my arms supported by the bench. Please remember that I switched from fun off-hand to supported zero and back to off-hand.

Shown is today's target and the revolver responsible. Please note that the gun is capable of good accuracy.

There are about 15 shots off the bull, almost all to the upper left of the target (which managed to be hung upside down). I "drooped" a bit and that is what causes the low hits on target. Note the several tight clusters particularly the one on the right (I'd over corrected the rear sight). I believe the gun is capable of some decent accuracy, even if I'm no longer up to the task.

I have been using 8 gr. of Unique with the Hornady bullet (HP or FP) and 9 gr. with the BullX 240 gr. SWC (of which I still have some few, the company is out of business). I don't know but that I will load all at 9 gr. of Unique. I will no longer use the heavier loads in this gun. I never need them and they are never comfortable to shoot with any of the grips I've used.

Not to dwell on that subject again, but I think that my average size hands must be a bit "un-average" in proportions as none of these grips has ever felt comfortable. In any case, I will stick to the aforementioned 9 gr. Unique under a 240 gr. lead bullet OR 22.5 gr. of H110 under the Hornady 300 gr. XTP which I use in my rifle. This later load is safe in the Ruger Super Redhawk (a friend's gun) but is too long to be usable in my revolver. Fine by me. I have a quantity of loads using 2400 but I'm going to shoot those as position practice with my carbine (a Contender).

I think you can see as well as I that I am still capable but need practice. I can tell you right now that I'm nowhere near as good as I once was because I've let my physical conditioning slide. Even though I CAN run 3 miles, I'm sucking wind at the end and my speed isn't exactly on the fast side. My weight has gone up 10 lbs and I haven't been doing any weight training. My eyesight gets a bit iffy some days, too!

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Reloading Area

Sometime back, I started to write about my loading set-up and some of the circumstances with which I've had to deal and my solutions to certain problems. I also had a couple of photos of my layout. However, I was distracted by something else and didn't capture all the data. I hope to do that here, now.

I've been through a lot of different set-ups as I moved around and gone from a Lee Loader to RCBS Rockchucker. I've accumulated die sets for 26 cartridges and a lot of brass, bullets and primers (when in doubt of what to get at a gunshop and feel a need to buy something, I get primers). I've also loaded a pile of ammo, more than I expected to do, for every firearm I shoot. Well, I think it is a pile, usually about 500 rounds per and there are few duplicates indeed. This requires a storage facility and system that must also resist moisture as it is in my basement (despite the constant use of 1-2 dehumidifiers). Systematic storage also makes for a safer environment and the ability to lay your hands on what you need when you need it.

The equipment my bench must house or must be used on its surface include my tool box, 2 MEC 600 Jr presses, 1 SAECO lubricator-sizer, an RCBS Rockchucker, scale, trickler, 26 sets of loading dies, and a Lyman trimmer. I also have a supply of primers, bullets, and powder. I also have molds and casting equipment and a number of miscellaneous tools. For me, the bench has always been a cobbled together assortment of hand-me-down furniture and lumber. Seems that things still have not changed that much.

As you look at the photos you can see that I have shelves on the left of the "bench" (really a low desk type "construction") and an old child's desk (mine from 1963 or 1964!). From left to right I have component and die storage, tool box and working bench and shotshell loading setup. In the second photo you can see how I store my ammo in GI 5.56mm or .50 Cal ammo cans on a shelf designed to take either 7 of the aforementioned cans or twice that number of the .30 Cal (7.62mm) MG ammo cans. Those shelves hold much but not all of my ammunition.

My Ammo Storage Shelves

My "Bench"

My Component Storage Shelves

I think that anyone can see from the photos that I'm not bragging. It more closely approximates a rat hole and isn't in any way luxurious, but my reloading set up works and produces good ammo.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Do I NEED a New Revolver?

The recent release of the Ruger New Vaquero initiated several topics on many forums. The gun personally interests me because it is usable by my, I feel, small hands. The release of this new gun thus instigated a new round of introspective analysis concerning the use of a large bore revolver.

Currently I own a Smith & Wesson M629 4" as my large bore revolver. Chambered for the .44 Magnum, I have to admit that I've only fired some 500 full .44 Magnum loads through it most of the rest of some 2000 rounds being a load of 8 gr. Unique under the Hornady .429" swaged 240 gr. SWCHP. This load produces about 8-900 fps from my revolver and works ok. I also load 9 gr. of Unique under the BullX (now defunct) 240 gr. SWC. For some reason, these two loads produce almost identical ballistics despite the difference of 1 gr. in the powder charge.

I bought the revolver in 1985 from an officer serving in my Brigade. He needed the money and I "needed" the revolver. It came with the Pachmayr Presentation grips and there were no factory grips, box or papers. It is a 629-1 and so I think it was produced before S&W released the computer engineered guns that were supposed to have increased durability under the strain of the .44 Magnum. That's one reason that I've not used .44 Magnum loads exclusively.

The other reason is that it hasn't been that comfortable a gun to shoot, at least double action. I've used it mostly by cocking for each shot. I've never felt that my trigger finger could reach the trigger. I tried different grips. I tried different grip styles. I just never felt comfortable. Even my scoped .44 Mag Contender 10" felt more comfortable than the 629! This kept me looking for a replacement, constantly looking.

Among the guns considered were the Ruger Redhawk, Super Redhawk, Blackhawk, Bisley, Vaquero and Bisley-Vaquero. I wasn't limiting myself to the .44 Magnum cartridge either. The .45 Colt is fully as capable and just as exciting. Even the .41 Magnum was in the running. However, each had their shortcomings. Barrels too long, gun too heavy, grip uncomfortable, etc. Even the Colt Anaconda was considered but dismissed as being unnecessarily expensive. Every time I walked into a gun shop I would peruse the pistol case. The worst part (perhaps the most telling thing) is that this has gone on for nearly 20 years!

Now that's pitiful. I can't make up my mind after 20 years! Well, then here comes the New Vaquero, whoo-hoooo and boy am I excited. BUT, it will require that I sell the 629... uh, oh... can't bring myself to do that! So, last night, I get the 629 out again, pull the Pachmayr Presentation grips and install Pachmayr's open back version of the Gripper. I figured this would get my trigger finger as close as possible to the trigger. Of course I had to dry fire with the Presentation grips installed. Guess what...

Come on, guess what happened next...

Yeah, that's right, I've got plenty of reach to the trigger. So, why does this moron now find that he can shoot the gun double action? Well, I think that I rejected these grips because they expose the backstrap and are very narrow. Thus, they are punishing to shoot with full power loads. I like shooting but I'm not particularly into pain.

Now, I think this will be my large bore revolver for the forseeable future and I'll just stick with the load of 8 or 9 gr. of unique under a 240-250 gr. SWC. I have a feeling this will do me just fine, for at least the next month or so...

My S&W M629 4" .44 Remington Magnum

Saturday, January 01, 2005

I've hunted out the rest of the year with no luck. First it was so cold that I was crunching my way into a stand or unable to find a good location for the deer. Today, it was so warm I imagine the deer thought they had gone to Cabo San Lucas on vacation and were headed to the shade. Skunked this year.

I think that a full year of scouting (beginning with the good old shed search in February) will not only help work off some of this years holiday joy but also be a big help for next year! Meanwhile I'll get out and shoot the muzzleloaders (especially Bess now that she can go too!) and set up for bow practice. I should not have to do all the up and down the road during hunting seasons that I had to do this year. Sadly, my father-in-law has passed now.

I also need to see if I can find a good hunting partner. Getting a little old hunting alone.