Saturday, October 29, 2005

Misc Reloading Fun

I've been pretty busy lately and mostly not with shooting. Had a spot of trouble with the boiler and home heating but have that sorted out now. I've also been running up and down the road to get some of Mom's chores done.

However, I've not been all a dull boy and have been able to accomplish some reloading and shooting fun.

One of my big projects was to break down and reload a large quantity of .35 Remington ammo that I'd loaded for the Contender. It FINALLY dawned on me that all my .35 Rem ammo should be loaded for the weak sister, my Dad's (Granddad's, Great Uncle George's) Model 8 Remington. The load that works best in that gun is 38.5 gr. H4895 under the Hornady or Remington 200 gr. RN. I used the Hornadys this time. It took a while but I broke down about 200 rounds and got them loaded fairly quickly. It helps that they were loaded with the 200 gr. Hornady so new bullets were not a requirement. I also had another 100 cases to load and got those loaded as well. Now I have plenty of practice ammo for both guns. Only a re-zero of the Contender is required. Velocities are (IIRC) in the 2200 fps vicinity with pressures low enough to avoid beating the old Remington to death.

Remington M8, a good, old, deer gun

Another project was the loading of all my accumulation of .44 Mag brass. Since I have enough full-on .44 Mag ammo I decided to load the remainder with 8 gr. Unique under the 240 gr. Hornady LSWC (a swaged bullet) or my remaining stock of BullX 240 gr. SWC. Either load is accurate and shoots to the same POA in my revolver. This is mostly what I use anyway. They are a great practice round in the Contender pistol and suitable for 99% of the targets that I'm likely to encounter with my M629.

That M629 S&W is another project that I'm carrying on. I finally received the rig I ordered from Levergun Leather Works and a fine set up it is. The belt is particularly comfortable and will work with other leather. You'll note that it isn't adorned and that is my style. Basketweave is OK, but the floral carving does nothing for me one way or the other and I certainly won't pay for it.

Levergun Leather Works holster with belt and S&W M629 with new Hogue wood monogrips

I've also been shooting the New Vaquero and found that my technique needs refinement. However the gun is comfortable and fun to shoot. I think it handles better for me than the M629 and I think it will be more comfortable to carry.

For the New Vaquero (NV) I've ordered a Sourdough Pancake, belt and cartridge slide from Simply Rugged which should serve well for daily carry/wear. I may also get a Threepersons holster from some other maker to ride on the LLW belt for this gun and use while hunting. We'll see.

I've also been reloading for the NV. I first tried the Winchester Cowboy loads in this gun. At 7 yards, they are right on POA. That's pleasing but, let's face it, these aren't the most energetic loads possible in this gun. Now, I know that the NVs aren't up to the New Model Blackhawks and Vaqueros built on the larger Super Blackhawk frame but they can handle Colt SA level loads (SAAMI approved) which do run a bit over the cowboy stuff. So, I tried 9 gr. of Unique under the Cast Peformance 265 gr. WFNGC (I'd already loaded this for my M92 EMF/Rossi) and this worked well but because I load the very similar Beartooth 300 gr. WFNGC over 23 gr. of H110 for the M92, I REALLY, REALLY, don't want to be in a position where I confuse the loads. With this as a consideration I looked about for another bullet to use as standard in the .45 Colt revolver only loads and I think I may have found it.

The Mt Baldy Bullet Company located in Cody, WY is one place to get the original Keith 250 gr. bullet with a hardness of 11 BHN. Prices are reasonable and Frank ships in the USPS flat rate boxes. That really cuts down on what could be expensive shipping of the heavy bullets. I bought 400 of the Keiths which I intend to load over 8-9 gr. of Unique. I was also able to score an uncataloged bullet, the "collar button" for use in light .45-70 loads!

Thanks to Frank "Sore Shoulder" S_____, without whom I wouldn't have known about the collar buttons, I placed an order and these are good quality bullets. It will be real fun to shoot these in my .45-70 Contender rifle with scope.

250 gr. Keith on left, "collar button" for the .45-70 on right

The collar button is lubed with liquid alox and loaded over about 9 gr. of Unique in the .45-70 case. I don't have velocity figures as I've not loaded or shot these yet. I've been too busy to even weigh the bullets! However, I can tell the 100 that I got are well made and very consistent. If this works out I may need to order another 400. They would make great training/play bullets for young folks using the .45-70 for the first time. Lots of fun to say you shot the .45-70 without having to nurse a bruise.

I've also been busy processing a bunch of range brass. I got started because I wanted to use some of it. However, not all of it is of interest to me. What is interesting is the cartridges that you find from what are, presumably, non-reloaders. By far the most common case is the good old .30-30 followed by the .243, .30-06, .270, .260 Rem, .25-06, .35 Rem, .44 Mag, and 7mm Rem Mag. What is surprising about this year is that some cartridges that showed up that I would have assumed would only be owned by reloaders. These include the .460 S&W, .22-250, and .270 WSM. Of course, there are hundreds of .38 Special, .357 Mag, and .45 ACP. I also get a few .32 ACP, .380 ACP (quite a few of these), .40 S&W (I don't think ANYBODY even bothers to pick these up, I know I've stopped), .45 GAP, .357 Sig, 7.62x25mm Tokarev, 10mm Auto, .308 Win, .300 Win Mag, .280 Rem, and .30 Carbine. There are also lots of Russian made and Berdan primed brass and steel cases mostly in 7.62x39, 7.62x51, 7.62x54, 9mm Makarov, and .223 Rem but also in 5.45x39, .30 Carbine (!), and .45 ACP. One sees the 8mm (7.92x57) stuff sometimes but it is pretty spotty. I even found 6 .50 AE cases. I'm tempted to put the brass cases I don't use in the recycle drum and cart them to the metal recycler's for the few bucks I can get for scrap value. All the steel cases are trashed. There is zero market here for those cases. Most can be easily IDed and left on the range.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Packing Gun

I’m looking forward to using the .45 Colt Ruger New Vaquero on a daily basis and all I need to do that is to develop a single load to use in the gun and to acquire good leather in which to pack it. As noted earlier, I think I’ve got the leather deal worked out for daily packing by getting a Sourdough Pancake (don’t you just love the humor in that) from Simply Rugged run by Rob Leahy.

Rob’s shop is just north of Anchorage, AK and I’m sure he gets to test his stuff on a regular basis. If pretty is what you want, you know, with all the floral carving, etc., well this might not be for you. But, if what you want if performance and comfort I think, based on comments by users, that you’d be well pleased. Prices are VERY reasonable for high quality leather. Rob’s talked about getting his own boat and I’ve done a bit to help out by already forwarding my order for holster, new belt and cartridge slide (I just might need more than 6 rounds). All I need to do now is wait.

While waiting, perhaps I can work up a good load for the gun that will be accurate, repeatable (components will be easy to replace) and effective. At least that last will be relatively easy to accomplish as the large caliber is effective without depending on expanding bullets. Big holes in and big holes out equal effectiveness. However, one must put those big holes in the proper place.

Properly placing those big holes is why accuracy is a goal. We should at least remove the firearms system (gun and ammo) from the causes of inaccuracy. Put it all on the shooter! Fortunately, preliminary testing with the Winchester Cowboy loads indicates that there is potential for excellent accuracy. That’s very heartening. All one has to do is find bullets of the proper hardness and size (diameter) to work in this gun. The first thing to do to that end was to measure the chamber mouth. The chamber mouths on this gun measure .4516” to .4517”. Stupidly, I didn’t measure the bore but as most revolver shooters know, the chamber mouth and barrel leade must work together for best accuracy. Widely varying measurements, differences from the bullets and many other things can affect accuracy. It is very important that a bullet be sized to correctly fit both chamber and bore. I believe that a .452” bullet which hasn’t been cast to be overly hard will probably work. We won’t really know until we try. Sometimes one has to fiddle around a bit to achieve the best possible performance. Not just any bullet design will do.

Some bullet shapes aren’t conducive to accuracy and some aren’t as effective as they could be. A broad meplat makes an effective bullet. This is particularly important with non-expanding bullets. I had the idea that I’d love to use a genuine Keith bullet for a couple of reasons. First, they’re effective. I think they have a proven record. Second, they’re appropriate to the gun. What better way to load the .45 Colt SA than with the first really improved cast bullets as used by Mr. Keith? Third, this bullet will visually identify these loads as different from those loads for the EMF/Rossi 92. This is important as the NV loads MUST be within SAAMI specifications. The loads for the 92 will probably destroy this revolver. Not a good thing. These bullets can be difficult to find.
However, after a bit of a search, I think I’ve found the bullets that are most like what I want to use AND most likely to be successful in this gun. From Mt. Baldy Bullets in Cody, WY, I finally found a 250 gr. Keith style bullet of the proper hardness (11 BHN). I’ve placed an order for 400 (to really ring them out) and now await delivery.

Colt 1991A1 Government, Colt Combat Commander and Ruger New Vaquero are all caliber .45 guns and of similar size. The New Vaquero's size is comparable to the more "modern" pistols.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Ruger New Vaquero

Well, I've FINALLY gotten the Ruger New Vaquero .45 Colt 4-5/8". I'm pretty impressed although I should add that I've not yet had a chance to shoot the gun. Tomorrow or Wednesday, maybe... The gun seems well put together and locks up well without much slop. The front sight seems to be square and plumb, everything seems to function as intended AND the sights are easy for me to see. The finish is nothing special. If you expect Ruger's applied Color finish to match the Turnbull color-case you'll be disappointed. I've also read that the finish will wear rapidly. Fine with me, I might expect to send it to Turnbull for refinish after it is pretty worn. I sure do like this grip better than those the Ruger SAs have had for years. Based on this I might get 50th Anniversary or preferably, if they come out next year, a .44 Special or .45 Colt with adjustable sights.

Now I need to order leather. First, I'll get a set-up I can use in the field and for daily carry. This gun seems handier than my S&W 629, but that could be just me! I've already got an order ready for Rob Leahy at Simply Rugged. I'm going for a Sourdough Pancake, a cartridge slide and belt. I think the prices are good (excellent) and Rob repeatedly gets kudos for his quality.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Diagnose Your Handgun Shooting

I really need to return to my target shooting roots with this target (click on the pic for a full size image, print on 8-1/2x11 paper)...

Shooting Corrections/Diagnosis Target for Right Handed Shooters

This baby is great for figuring out your shooting problems with properly zeroed handguns. Reverse for Left Handed shooters.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

I went to the range today with my Colt Combat Commander and a box of reloads consisting of .45 ACP brass trimmed to one length, 7 gr. of Unique and a Hornady 200 gr. CT Match lit with a CCI 300 primer. This is a pretty accurate bullet up close and cuts a .45 cal hole in the target. Unfortunately this load only fed from one magazine I had on hand. That's a big bummer! Now need to clean the gun though.

Nobody else was on the range and I had a good time exploiting the situation by firing on the 150 meter target area. I was easily able to smack a 2 liter bottle somebody left littering the 50 yard line and these rounds stayed on a silhouette at 150 yards, once I found the range. You have to know how to hold.
I've been wanting a .45 Colt SA with a 4-3/4" or 4-5/8" barrel. I'd like the older, smaller frame size so that it isn't too much gun to pack on a daily basis. I about decided a Ruger New Vaquero .45 4-5/8" Blue but can't find one anywhere to look at. Have found the USFA Gunslinger and Nettleton but that's a hair out of my price range and neither were 4-3/4" guns. So, I went into a local dealer to re-look a 4-5/8" STAINLESS New Vaquero. However, it too was in .357 Mag so, I had a long talk with the owner and his wife. Explained how I didn't really want to pay upfront for a gun I might not like but that I understood why they'd want some sort of confirmation that it was sold before ordering (in the form of $$$$). Not really keen on that, but he called his distributor and quoted me a price of $428 on a CC & Blue New Vaquero .45 Colt 4-5/8". I guessed that when the gun arrived and I couldn't find any flaws I'd be getting it. I'm not enthused about paying more (it seems) for the Taurus, Beretta, etal than for a USFA or Ruger. Then again, one can pony up for a COLT or one of USFA's really cool tricked out guns. I figure with the Ruger that once I wear the finish off I can send it to Turnbull for a real CC job. I'm looking at a pancake holster for the Ruger which I may carry cross draw under the hunting coat (legal for me).

What surprised me is the number of .357 Mag guns on the shelves. Now, do the shooters want .357 Mags/.38s or are they simply not selling. Can't get the dealers to say. They've tried mighty hard to push the .357 Mag guns my way. Heck, the 50th Anniversary guns are even showing up in the shops USED! That's pretty quick turn around.

Unfortunately, that wasn't to be. As noted above that dealer told me he placed one on order and it was $428 to me. As his cost was $398, I figured all was ok. Apparently, he was just stringing me along. I say that because he didn't call when the revolver was supposed to be in, his help didn't know anything about the gun, his distributor didn't have any guns (as I waited for 1 hour for the help to get around to making the call to check availability). He was all hot to get my money but couldn't produce. Lost sale.

Instead I went to a shop owned, in part, by a highschool acquaintance. Prices aren't the best but aren't the worst either. New crew when I walked in the door. So much so that I thought they had a new owner! Not the case. However the young lady knew what I was talking about, got the details right, got right on the phone to the distributor, wrote up the sale, made the order, thanked me for my business, confirmed contact info 3 times, and acted like she, only an employee, was glad to have my business. THEN I allowed as to how I knew the owner. We had a pleasant conversation about 5 minutes long and I left. Total elapsed time, 20 minutes. This beats every other shop including this one with the previous employees all hollow. So now I've got an actual gun on hand at a distributor and on order. $459.90 + tax.

I don't take crap when I'm buying. I don't like to be lied to. I don't go back to stores where I'm so treated. I hope that all business owners note that SERVICE is what differentiates their business. Poor service loses sales, good service makes sales.

Ok, too much ranting. Back to the gun.

I'm going to need leather and I'm thinking that a simple pancake might work for me even though I've not had a lot of success with others of the genre. From Simply Rugged owned by Rob Leahy I think I might order the Sourdough Pancake (I get hungry just thinking about it!) which has the additional slot for crossdraw carry. This would be useful for me under my coat while hunting. However, I'm holding on to the order until I get the gun!

I have already ordered bullets, a 250 gr. Keith style, from Mt. Baldy Bullet Company in Cody, Wyoming. I like them just because they're in Cody! Anyway, I ordered 400 and we'll see how they work.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

This week I've been busy.

First, I had a full "tub" of fired brass which had to be run through the polisher, first inspectioned and sorted by cartridge and stored. I bagged over 300 .38 Special, .30-30 and .45 ACP and a quantity of 7mm Rem Mag, .270 Winchester and .30-06. I may have to build additional shelves for my collection of ammo/brass.

Second, I've been trying to decide between a Ruger New Vaquero and a USFA Rodeo as my packing big-bore revolver and possible replacement for my S&W M629. The main considerations are quality, large caliber (.45 Colt), short barrel length (4-5/8" and 4-3/4" respectively), fixed sights, NOT stainless and single-action. The gun has to be within my budget as well. I can't afford more than about $500. I'm thinking (and a little bit of hoping) that one of these will do for what I'll carry a big bore revolver. Knowing that they are limited as to the power of the loads they can handle I'm more than willing to stick to loads in the 8 gr. Unique 255 gr. cast genre. Heck, that's what I've pretty much gone to with the M629.

The trouble is that you just can't find one of these guns around here. I've looked high and low and multiple times. Interestingly, nobody is interested in ordering one of these guns on spec. You'd think they would be hot with the CAS crowd but apparently not! However, I finally found a shop that would sell me a Ruger New Vaquero for $428. Now I'm waiting on it to come in. Fingers crossed.

As noted earlier, I'm waiting on my belt and holster rig from Levergun Leather Works for the M629. Although I was told the wait would be about 6 weeks, I'm still on tenterhooks. The anticipation is killing me. I ordered without carving though as I didn't want to put money into something that didn't thrill me. Dad used to carve leather and he was good at it but I never felt that I particularly liked it. The carved initials and animals were interesting, simple borders look good, but basketweave and especially the floral carving just didn't make me like the goods. Now I'll have to get a holster (or two) for the NV as well.

I also explored the possibility and feasability of ordering bullets from a new-to-me bullet caster, Mount Baldy Bullets. I was particularly drawn to the .45 Keith style SWCs at first. Those bullets will be loaded just for the NV. This will enable me to tell at a glance which loads are for the pistol and which are for the rifle! Necessary since the rifle loads will rapidly disassemble the revolver! Not a good thing.

Also interesting me were the .45 "collar button" bullets for the .45-70. These short cylindrical bullets are intended for light vermin and practice loads in the rifle (and for short ranges). This will make my two .45-70 rifles much more flexible when hunting. Should be fun to play with as well.

I also was lucky enough to be able to talk to a friend who has some 5.56 ammo cans that I might get from him. I store my ammo in these cans as they fit the shelves well and keep moisture, dirt, etc. from the ammo. I could now use some more cans.

I've also been loading some ammo. First, I loaded up some .38 Special 205 gr. LBT over 2.5 gr. Bullseye loads for silent loads for the .357 Max Contender. Of course I had to try them in the 1894C and then talk about it at the Leverguns Forums. If you follow the link you'll see that this topic generated quite a bit of interest.

I also finished loading all the .45 Colt bullets that I had on hand. This will give me more than enough for practice and to use during the deer season. I also have a quantity of plinking loads for the rifle (which might also be usable in the revolver).

I also started loading my collection of .44 Mag brass with 8 gr. Unique and the Hornady 240 gr. swaged SWC. This bullet doesn't do as well with 9 gr. and with 8, thus the load. This has become my general use load in the 629.

The Lee C309-113-F from Lee Precision

Next, I have to set up the bullet molding apparatus to cast some Lee C309-113-F (shown above). I figure this bullet will help me make a good small game load for the .30-30 and .30 Herrett. Thanks to a Leverguns Forum member who GAVE me the mold. I will probably also try this as a silent load.

This coming week I hope to get the reloading finished, bullets molded, make a trip to the range (or 2 or 3!), and get ready, more ready for deer season. As the weather cools, I hope that the hunting will improve.